A favela in Rio.
Sfx: The Overture to Tannhauser plays over the credits.
The knock on what could politely be described as a door at first elicited nothing but silence. Then, after a few more patient knocks, a rumble was heard from within the squalid, filth-ridden excuse for an apartment. Eventually, bolts were unlocked from within, and the door was opened a crack. The beady black eye affixed itself on the occupant below. The voice that issued from behind it muttered something in broken Portuguese. The visitor replied, apologetically in English:
"I'm sorry, sir, but I don't speak..." The voice cut him off.
"I said: you're a little short for my usual clientele." On hearing this, the petite Cpl. Bird smiled.
"Oh, I'm not here for any services, Colonel. I'm here on business."
At the word "Colonel", the eye narrowed and pulled away. The chain was removed from the door, and Tweety was allowed to enter. It was also his first chance to get a look at the bear, though the light from the room's sole, bare bulb was undoubtedly not doing him any favours. Ruxpin's once proud, tall figure had become hunched and weathered. Excessive nicotine use had yellowed his fur, and the smell was one of soured gin. The fur around his mouth and paws was severely singed from cigarette burns, as was, for that matter, the apartment. A single room, it contained a squat, dormant fridge with it's door ajar, a few sagging cupboards that were mostly empty, a husk of a table with two rough stools between them, and in the corner, a stained, lumpy bed. It was not a room to inspire confidence. Ruxpin rested his massive frame on one of the stools, and issued for Tweety to do the same. Hampered by his small stature, Tweety was obligated to alight himself on the table instead. He watch in silence for a time, as Ruxpin methodically, expertly disassembled a handful of filter less cigarette butts, transferring their meagre contents to a fresh piece of rolling paper. This task completed, he rolled it up and lit it, shuddering visibly with relief as the tobacco hit his system. After a while, he appeared to notice Tweety, and shifted his attention to him.
"I'm not a colonel anymore." Ruxpin said at last, his low growl wistful and pained.
"But you used to be, sir" Tweety said demurely. Ruxpin again narrowed his eyes at the bird.
"I know you from somewhere?" Tweety nodded.
"I served with you, Colonel. I was there when the- when they flanked us in Land Four. At Wario's Landing. I was there when... when the world ended." Ruxpin stared off into cigarette smoke.
"Apt way at putting it." he said at last. There was another silence. "Bird. T. Bird, Corporal. I3324-12. 2nd Company. Putt-Putt's platoon." Tweety nodded in agreement. Another pause. "How'd you find me, Bird?"
"Panther. And I found him only 'cause Bunny was having a lucid moment. Panther may have been running guns for almost thirty years, but he wouldn't forget his old 2ic. He's the type that looks after his own. He sends a check to your account once a month, in lieu of your pension. Just enough to live on. Every so often you get desperate enough and make a withdrawal. I just traced the money flow."
"And how'd you do that, exactly?"
"My late wife, Elmyra, she was in finance. I learned some... techniques from her." Ruxpin nodded, and rubbed out his cigarette between his fingers. The smell of burnt fur hung in the air.
"Why? What'd you want me for?"
"Colonel Ruxpin... the MacGuffin ring is gone." Ruxpin's shadowed face betrayed not a single emotion. Tweety proceeded to tell him what he knew, adding in the visit from Luigi and what little he had gleaned from Bunny's inane rambling. Ruxpin's only response during the story was to bring out a bottle of foul smelling liquor and to drink from it heavily. It had no discernible effect.
"So what do you want me to do, Bird? I don't know where it is." At this Tweety grew quite grave.
"Sir... anyone with half a brain can see where this is leading. The great Wars, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Gulf War ... all these events because people only knew where the ring wasn't. And now it's gone again. Tensions are heating up. It doesn't matter why people are going to take sides about this- they just are. And then people are going to die. Colonel, we need someone who can rally people, inspire people. We need someone who can end this thing faster than anyone. Sir... we need the Old Lady."
"And you think I know where she is?"
"No. But I think you're the best person to find her. You know her better than any of us left. That's what Slaghoople said. I tried. She... doesn't use her bank account." Tweety finished weakly. Ruxpin gave him a stare. Then a long, bitter laugh emitted from his lips.
"Me? I'm the best person to find her? Look at me, boy! I'm in a fucking hovel, turning tricks for vacationing frat boys and and fearful bureaucrats who have the sort of fantasies no one must ever know about. Look at me, Bird. I'm your hero, off to find your fucking savior? I have to go out there every god damned day, with that fucking Redentor staring down at me, staring into my skull. What makes you think I have any will left? Wash-up, that's what I am. Go lay your geis on someone else." Ruxpin sank back on his bed, his face in what passed for a pillow. Tweety asked quietly:
"But your airship..."
"It's in hock." Ruxpin said in a muffled voice. "You think I'd be here if I could flee this hell hole? Cidade Maravilhosa my furry ass..."
"And if I could get it out?" Ruxpin's head snapped up angrily.
"Then I'd be a fucking wash up with a mothballed airship. What makes you think I can fin her then?"
"Colonel, you were trained by Smokey himself. You worked in Yogi's Rangers for three years before they bumped you up three pay grades to be the XO for the 2nd Irregulars. You were one of the best intel men they had. You must have contacts from here to Guam if you bothered to get out there. I thought I saw some worth is you after Sonic got his head blown all over you, and you still pulled us out of that rout. Christ, Ruxpin, we didn't loose four hundred men at the Landing just so you could curl up here and die." Ruxpin remained buried in his pillow for a while. Then he spoke.
"Airship money. Where's it from?"
"Bunny cut me a check. They gave him quite a pension, but he sure as hell ain't using it." There was another, thoughtful silence.
"Get me some real, filtered, honest to god Morley Lites."
"Does this mean you'll do it?" Tweety asked hopefully. Ruxpin gave a laugh.
"It means.... I'm sick of hand-rolled."