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Run, Akira, Run! - Part 1: The Color of Corn

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Akira bowed his head as Hikage placed the pouch around his neck. Akira 
felt the pouch's weight grow light as the drawstrings shortened, 
moving the bag from between his forelegs to a snug position at his 
chest.

	"You spoke truly, Father. The pouch _is_ magical."

	Hikage, whose name means Wind Shadow, nodded gravely.  An elder 
female checked the pouch to see if it was secure, then once more 
tested the bindings holding the message tube on his foreleg. Akira 
bore this with all the solemnity of a pup being fussed over by his 
mother. "Hold still, my son." she said. 
	"Aw, Mom, it's fixed already!" 
	"AKIRA!!" Hikage intoned, voice cold as the arctic winds. "Mind 
your manners, boy, or I'll knock you so far through the ice, you'll 
think you were a seal!" 
	"Yes, Father. 'Sorry, Mom." 
	Inwardly Aya, Akira's mother, smiled. The responsibilities of 
being pack leader weighed heavily on Hikage's lean frame, and the 
times when the three of them could act as a family were all too few; 
and all the more precious for their rarity. 
	Akira then turned to his packmates, his brothers and sisters. 
They gathered around him, nuzzling, poking; some giving him playful 
nips about the ears. Akira was young: too young to bond with a female, 
but old enough where this kind of pack-play seemed a bit babyish. He 
welcomed it, though, and nuzzled and nipped in return. 
	As one, the pack howled, their voices rising to the firmament and 
uniting in a cry of kinship; their voices celebrating life, not loss; 
beginnings rather than endings.  Akira felt his spirit soar as it 
never had before, so high, he left he could touch the Northern Lights 
and see the face of his grand sire, the legendary Akashige, whose name 
meant Red Storm. 
	He moved away from the pack toward the direction of the ice arch, 
with Hikage following closely behind. 
	"You know the road to take" Hikage said, not so much a question 
as a statement. 
	Akira nodded. 
	"You know what you must do." 
	Again he nodded, his breath turning to white mist in the pre-dawn 
cold. 
	"Are you afraid?" 
	"No, Father" Akira said. 
	Hikage chuckled. "You are a lousy liar, my son. What is it that 
you fear?" 
	Akira stared fixedly at the ice below him, absentmindedly pawing 
at it. 
	"Not seeing you or the pack again." Akira finally answered. "But 
I accept that possibility, and so I do not fear." 
	Hikage nodded gravely. "Remember the pouch and the lesson it 
holds. Now go, before the wind rips a tear from my eye."
	Akira ran full speed for the arch as the pack watched. As he 
leaped into it, the whirling snow seemed to envelope him as he 
disappeared from sight. And the pack howled again - a howl not of 
sadness, but of pride and ferocity.
	A howl that said "Stand aside, Gatekeeper! A Son of the Akita is 
coming!"
*****
As Akira hit the gate, any sadness at leaving his family and friends 
evaporated in a rush of youthful exuberance. His first solo quest! And 
to rescue a real, honest-to-goodness Princess, yet! He had to hurry 
and complete the first leg of his journey; there was no telling how 
old that note was. Truly, there was no time to lose!
	He came though the gate at full speed, expecting to hit the 
ground on a dead run straight towards Rainbow Palace.  He didn't 
expect anything to be directly in _front_ of the gate...
	Murky Dismal sneered as he surveyed his prizes: Red Butler, 
Canary Yellow, La La Orange and Shy Violet, manacled against the outer 
wall to Rainbow Land, in the direct path of his most insidious 
destructive device yet!
	"This is your finish, Color Kids!" Murky gloated. "Once you've 
been hit with my Color Leecher (tm), your colors will be mine -- and 
you will obey my every will!"
	"Rainbow Brite will find a way to stop you, Murky!" Red Butler 
scowled, pulling at his fetters to no avail as they held fast.
	"Hah! By the time Rainbow Brite figures out what's going on, half 
of Rainbow Land will be under my control - and not even her color belt 
will be able to restore the damage fast enough!"
	"Duh, gee Murky," Lurky said as he lumbered towards the device, 
"can I fire the gun?"
	"Get away from that, bone-brain!" Murky rudely shoved the lovable 
but dumb brute away from the machine. "This is a very delicate work of 
art! One wrong move, one button pressed out of sequence and it will 
explode! However, that will not happen if I fire it!" Murky peered 
through the scope, fixing the Color Kids in his sights. "And I'm going 
to fire it NOW-- what in the!?"
A flash of light from the gate momentarily blinded everyone as Akira 
shot through smack into Murky's back, sending him, Murky, and the 
machine head over heels. the rays from the machine shot out wildly 
hitting trees, rocks, the wall holding the Color Kids - and Lurky! The 
wall turned grey and crumbled, freeing the kids. As the ray passed 
over Lurky, his fur went from dirty brown to dirty grey-and his eyes 
went even more vacant than usual.
"You miserable mutt!" Murky screamed. "I'll have your hide for this!!" 
As murky advanced on the still-dazed Akira, the Color Leecher (tm) 
exploded, the force knocking murky down to the ground. The explosion 
was enough to clear Akira's head. He had no idea what it was or who it 
was that he ran into, but he knew evil when he smelled it -- and that 
little guy with the big mustache and steel helmet fairly reeked of it!
	"GRRRRrrrr.." 
	"Now, now, boy -- niiiice doggie, nice doggie.... Here, you want a snack?"
	<Just what I had in mind...>, Akira snarled.
	Moments later, the color Kids laughed and cheered at the sight of 
Murky hotfooting back up the path towards his dark castle, hypnotized 
Lurky in tow, with Akira looking on, tail wagging and the seat of 
Murphy's pants between his teeth! 
	"Did you see Murky run?" 
	"Serves him right!" 
	"Oooh, what a brave doggy you are!" 
	Now, Akira had heard stories from some of the older pack members 
about the rambunctiousness of human cubs, but this was the first time 
he'd ever experienced it first hand! Being gang tackled*hugged*petted 
by humans was a new experience for him - not altogether unpleasant, he 
found.
	"My name's Canary Yellow, you cute thing! Do you have a name?" 
	<Yeah - my name's Akira!> He licked Canary Yellow's face, causing 
her to giggle. 
	"I wish I could understand dog language, " Red Butler said. "It's 
not as if we see that many dogs around here!!" 
	<Wait! Can't you understand me? I have to get to Rainbow Palace!> 
Akira shouted, jumping up and down frantically. 
	"Calm down mon petite!" cooed La La. "We'll find a way to get you 
home, don't worry!" 
	<BUT I DON'T WANT TO GO HOME! I'VE GOT TO RESCUE PRINCESS 
KACEE!!> Akira sighed. Why is it that humans can have such empathy 
with dogs and yet not understand what they say? 
	"Uh guys", Canary Yellow said, "He looks upset about something. 
Maybe we should take him to the Palace. Rainbow Brite should be able 
to talk to him." 
	"Wait a minute!" cried Red Butler. "Shy Violet knows animal 
speech! Violet - we need you over here!" 
	Shy Violet poked her head up out of the mass of smouldering 
technology. "Guys, this machine is really fascinating! Murky really 
outdid himself this --" 
	"Not now, Violet mon chere" La La said. "We need you to translate 
for us." 
	Shy Violet reluctantly pulled herself out of the wreckage and 
went over to the group. "Oooh, what a cute husky! <And what's your 
name, you adorable little husky, you!> 
	<I an NOT lit-- hey! You can speak - I mean, I can understand -- 
but Humans can't speak...> Akira stammered, slightly unsettled by the 
girl with the purple hair and glasses. 
	<I'm Shy Violet, and this is Red Butler, Canary Yellow, and La La 
Orange>, Violet said, motioning to her friends as she spoke. <You're 
in Rainbow Land, but I think you already know that. Thanks for saving 
us from Murky's Color Leecher (tm), by the way...> 
	<Color Leecher (tm)?> 
	<Long story. Anyway, what's your name, and why are you so far 
from your arctic home? does it have something to do with the pouch 
around your neck?> 
	<THE POUCH!!> Akira started jumping again. <Please, Shy Violet, 
can you tell me how to get to Rainbow Palace? I have to see Rainbow 
Brite so I can rescue the princess and there's no time--> 
	<Hey! slow down! I can barely keep up with your talking!> Shy 
Violet said, trying to calm Akira down. "What's he saying?" asked 
Canary Yellow. 
	"Well, he has to see Rainbow to save a princess or something like 
that..." 
	"Tell him we'll take him to the castle." Canary Yellow said. Shy 
Violet stood up and motioned to Akira to follow her. 
	<C'mon, boy! We'll take you to Rainbow Brite!>
 The group ran into Rainbow Brite, her sprite Twink, and her horse 
Starlight on the way to the palace. The color sprites had alerted here 
to the Color Kid's capture and she was rushing to their aid. She rode 
down on her rainbow towards them.
	"Red, Violet! Canary Yellow! You're all all right!" Rainbow 
jumped off Starlight and ran to the group, closely followed by Twink. 
"What happened?'
	"Murky was about to turn us into his slaves with his Color 
Leecher (tm), but we were saved by this dog!" Red Butler said, rubbing 
Akira's head. 
	"You should have seen it! He was so brave!" La La cooed. "He just 
came through a light in the air and bowled Murky and Lurky over!" 
	"Well, we'd better put a post on Rainbow Bridge just in case 
Murky comes back anytime soon!" Rainbow said. 
	"Oh, I don't think Murky will be back in quite a while!" giggled 
Violet. 
	"Yeah," laughed Canary Yellow, "not unless he's got a spare pair 
of pants!" 
	While all this went on, Akira padded over to Starlight, looking 
at him with undisguised amazement. <Excuse me, b-but are ... are you a 
horse?> 
	"Why, of course!" he said, shaking out his mutlicolored mane. 
"I'm Starlight the most magnificent horse in the universe! But, what 
brings an Akita-ken to Rainbow Land?" 
	"Yes, I'd like to know that myself," Rainbow said, looking at 
Akira's pouch. "Let's go to the palace; we can talk there."
*****
	"Here it is! I knew I recognized that pouch from somewhere!" 
Rainbow Brite said. The Color Kids, Akira, and Twink gathered around 
the Great Book of Color Lore. "Sidhe's Pouch of Sharing. Fill it with 
whatever food you want to share. As long as you share whatever food's 
in the pouch, the pouch will replicate the food, keeping the pouch 
full.  If the food isn't shared, the pouch will not refill and will 
stay empty until recharged." 
	"But why would Akira have to come here to activate his pouch?" 
queried Patty O'Green "Surely and true, that coulda been done afore he 
set out on 'is quest." 
	<Let me see your bag, Akira,> Violet said. <Maybe we can get a 
clue from what's inside.>
	Akira lowered his head, allowing Violet to take the pouch from 
around his neck. As she poured part of the contents of the pouch onto 
the table, Akira's eyes widened in delight. <CANDY CORN!! My 
favorite!!> 
	"Candy Corn!?" said Violet. 
	The Color Kids looked at the pile of candy in disbelief. 
	"White candy corn?" asked Twink. 
	<Sure! What other color does it come in?!> 
	Realization hit each of the color kids' faces, as it did to 
Rainbow Brite. Of course, in an area where the predominant colors are 
white and grey, orange and yellow _anything_ is rare.
	"La La, Canary, front and center!!" "Okay, Rainbow! WE know what 
to do !" Taking color sprinkles from their pouches, the two Color kids 
sprinkled them over the pile of candy, turning it from snow white to 
its more traditional tricolor form. 
	<Cool! So that's what candy corn really looks like?> 
	"Uh-huh!" Rainbow Brite said. "Now put those pieces back in the 
bag. Everybody add some of your sprinkles to it, put the pouch back on 
Akira, and I'll activate the spell." 
	Once the Color Kids did as they were told and the pouch once 
again shrunk to fit around Akira's neck, Rainbow Brite began the spell 
of activation. from her color belt, a rainbow appeared and quickly 
surrounded Akira. True to his heritage, his facial expression didn't 
betray his fear; his eyes, though, stared wide in wonderment as a 
moving wall of color (Such colors! he thought, like none he'd ever 
seen before) surrounded him, encasing him in a multi-colored cocoon.
	And then, just as suddenly, the cocoon vanished in a flash of 
golden light as Akira stood, slightly dazed. "Are you okay, boy?" Red Butler asked, coming over to the husky. 
	"A little woozy, but fine, I guess -- hey!" Akira, cried. "I can 
understand you!" 
	"Uh-huh!" Rainbow said. " A side-effect of the spell.  One 
that'll come in very handy once you reach Cuddleland." Once again a 
rainbow appeared from the color belt -- this time forming an arch, 
colors swirling inside.
	Rainbow Brite knelt next to Akira, playfully hugging him around 
the neck. "The next leg of your quest lies through that gate. Don't 
forget the lesson of the pouch!" Akira nodded. "Tell Princess Yva for 
me that the red sprites just mined a whole bunch of red licorice-
colored color sprinkles!" Red Butler said. "She shouldn't have any 
problems with shortages for a long time!" 
	"Okay!" Akira turned to the Color Kids. "Thanks, everyone, for 
your help. May the Gods always keep the winds at your back!" The kids 
all hugged Akira, and waved goodbye as he ran through the arch and 
disappeared in the colorful, swirling mist.
	Shy Violet came up to Rainbow Brite, a worried expression on her 
face. "Shouldn't we have told Akira just _where_ that gate leads to?" 
Rainbow Brite shook her head, smiling. 
	"He knows what's waiting for him on the other side," she said, 
"and that's all he needs to know. It's his quest, after all..."

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(C) John T. Carr III ( jtc11@columbia.edu).

Please see the copyright notice.

Last modified: November 05, 1998 by Locksley