Chapter 1: The Love Lab
The laboratory was… unusual. A Costco-sized warehouse, filled with the whirring echoes of humming electricity. There were cavernous vats of jelly laced with with clear tubes pumping what appeared to be blood.
The floors were sticky like a movie theater’s. The lab notes, loose papers, doodles, and drawings were sticky, too, pasted to the countertops like lollipops to a sidewalk.
Commander Cortasche peeled a book up off a desk, and flashed an incredulous look at Dr. Wildadoo.
“The Love-A-Lot Bears and the Magic Rainbow Romp?” he asked
“Yes. It’s my daughter’s,” Wildadoo replied. “It’s what gave me the idea.”
An awkward silence ensued. The doctor fumbled with his glasses as he pulled them from his labcoat and slid them onto his face. He put his hands in his pockets and then quickly pulled them back out, gesturing towards the commander.
“These bears, you see, they love… a lot. I mean they love evvvvverything. They use the power of love to solve all of their problems – from petty arguments to sinister outside forces. Reading this book, to my little girl, I thought: ‘What an amazing idea! What if we could do that? Maybe love, love like these bears possess, is all we need to defeat ISIS.”
Cortasche had been a commander for 25 years, and this was the dumbest thing he’d ever heard. He adjusted his monocle, took a closer look, and frowned a discerning frown.
“I don’t like it,” he said. “I think we should use grizzly bears. Angry, wild, genetically enhanced grizzly bears. We could drop them down with some parachutes.”
“No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no,” Wildadoo said “No!”
“No. Those bears would die in that climate. Even if they didn’t, they’d just get shot. These bears are different. The terrorists won’t shoot them right away. They’ll at least, you know, hear them out first. They’ll come to realize that they’re going about things all wrong.”
“I see,” Cortasche said. “Well, what if the terrorists don’t listen?”
“In the unlikely event that the terrorists don’t respond to the Love-A-Lot bears positively… And, again, from what I’ve seen in these books, and the cartoon, that is a very slim possibility…” Wildadoo went on. “Well then, in that case, I’ve rigged the bears to explode. They’ll blow up and kill as many enemy combatants as they can.”
Cortasche struggled to get his mind around what he was hearing.
“How did you get funding for this?” he asked.
“Let’s just say, we at Amore Armaments have made some very generous campaign contributions.”
Cortasche chuckled, too.
“Haha. Of course,” he said.
Dr. Wildadoo laughed.
Then, Cortasche laughed back even louder.
Soon both were laughing.
Then they got tired and stopped. It grew awkward once more.
“Oh,” Dr. Wildadoo said, noticing an open valve. “I left the Happy Gas on. That’s what gives the bears their congenial spirits.”
“Gives them?” Cortasche asked. “So they already exist?”
“Oh yes,” Wildadoo replied. “They’re very real. I had a few…. um… mishaps… early on… Some what, I think, more unforgiving observers might call… abominations, I suppose. But these are good. I believe in this latest batch. Initial interactions with them have proven quite pleasant indeed… Would you like to meet them?”
“Yes,” Cortashe said. “Yes, I most certainly would.”
“One moment,” Wildadoo said, walking briskly towards a door.
The doctor pulled a lever and left the room. Minutes later he returned holding the door open behind him.
“Come in. This way. Don’t be shy,” he said.
Five four-foot tall bears came bounding into the room. They were each different a color: blue, red, green, yellow, and purple.
“Commander Cortasche, allow me to introduce, Sprinkles, Ruby, Ollie, Sunshine, and Milkshake.”
“We’re the Love-A-Lot Bears!” they shouted in unison.
“The pleasure is all mine,” Cortasche said. He was totally stunned.
Stunned… and moved. He could feel the warmth radiating from their little teddy tummies. Their bodies were soft as marshmelllows. Their fur was as gentle as a kitten’s. Their affectionate enthusiasm was infectious.
“Are you with the military?” Sprinkles asked.
“We LOVE the military!” Ollie interjected.
“I taught them that.” Wildadoo whispered.
“Yes. Yes, I am,” Cortasche told the bears.
“Papa Doctor says you need our help!” shouted Ruby.
“Is there something we can do for you?” asked Milkshake. “We’d just LOVE to help the military!”
“Why yes,” Cortasche responded. “I believe there is.”
“I recently lost an operative… I mean, a friend of mine. He was taken by some… not-so-nice people.”
The bears gasped.
“Yesss. I was hoping maybe you could convince them to let him go…”
“If we can help, it’d be our pleasure sir!” Sprinkles yelled.
The bears cheered.
“With the power of love, we can accomplish anything!”
Commander Cortasche turned back to the doctor.
“Well,” he said. “Nothing else has worked so far. Let’s give it a shot.”
Chapter 2: A Sticky Situation
Flying low through the night, the helicopter churned its way over the barren desert landscape.
Commander Cortasche’s voice came through the bears headsets: “Down there,” he said. “That’s the ancient city of Palmyra. It’s 4,000 years old.”
“I love history!” Milkshake shouted.
“Well, enjoy it while you can,” Commander Cortasche said. “These men you’re going to visit are destroying it. Piece by piece, they’re tearing it all apart.”
The bears were confused.
“Why?” Sunshine asked.
“Like I told you,” Cortasche responded. “They’re not very nice.”
The helicopter ride carried on to the city of Raqqa.
“We’re going to let you off here,” said the commander. “The city is just north. Here’s a picture of the man you’re looking for. Find him and see if you can’t convince him to let our friend go.”
“Will do!” Sprinkles shouted.
The bears climbed out of the copter amid a cloud of swirling dust. They all agreed they loved helicopter rides.
As they made their way into the city, the sun started to rise. The bears were disappointed by what it shed light on.
The city itself was largely a ruin – slightly more modern, but no more furbished than the 4,000-year-old Palmyra. Women and children gathered in long lines, too tired, too exasperated, too hungry and too thirsty to be moved by the sight of five cheery bears meandering through the streets.
“This isn’t what I expected,” Ruby said. “I don’t know what I expected, but this isn’t it.”
“I don’t love this,” Ollie agreed.
None of the bears loved it. They hated it, and as their walk continued, they grew more and more upset.
“It’s okay,” Sprinkles said, trying to cheer up his comrades. “I bet with enough love, caring and generosity we can turn this all around.”
The rest of the bears agreed, albeit half-heartedly.
Eventually, Sprinkles spotted a man that looked like the one they were looking for. They composed themselves and set about their task.
“Hello Sir!” Sunshine shouted. “We’re the Love-A-Lot Bears and we want to be your friend!”
The man looked surprised at first, and then scared and angry. He pulled his AK47 up to his shoulder and pointed it at the bears. They each stepped back slowly.
“Uhhh Sprinkles,” Ruby whispered. “What do we do now?”
“No need for that,” Sprinkles comforted. “We’d just like to talk. We mean no harm. We bring only love and the offer of friendship.”
The man shouted at them in a language they didn’t understand. Then he gestured with his gun and the bears started walking. They went a couple of blocks before being ushered into a shabby building. There, the bears were led into a dark room.
“This is good,” Sprinkles said. “I think this is where we wanted to go.”
The man with the gun left the room and locked the door behind them. About 15 minutes later he came back with another bearded gentleman.
“What are you?” the man asked in English.
The bears were relieved to hear their native tongue.
“We’re the Love-A-Lot Bears,” Sprinkles said.
“Fareeq, here, says he found you in the city,” the man replied. “Where did you come from? Who brought you here?”
“The U.S. military!” Milkshake blurted. “They brought us here in a helicopter. It was lots of fun!”
The man grew very serious.
“Why?!” he shouted. “What do you want?! What are you?!”
“We’re the Love-A-Lot Bears,” Ollie repeated. “And we don’t want anything but friendship.”
“And,” Sprinkles added, “If it’s not too much trouble, we think it’d be really nice if you let us have our friend back.”
The two men looked at each other.
“Your friend?” Fareeq asked. “You mean the American spy?”
“I guess so,” Sprinkles said.
Fareeq turned to his partner, and nodded towards the door. Together they left.
“What do you make of this Bahij?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” Bahij said. “It’s obviously some kind of trap. The Americans are capable of nothing more than deceit.”
“Yes. We kill them then?” Fareeq asked.
“Part of me thinks,’Yes,’ that is what we should do,” he said. “But another part of me thinks different. For some reason, I feel comforted by their presence. They don’t seem to mean harm. And they smell like babies.”
“Yes, which is why it must be a trap,” said Fareeq. “As you say, the Americans are capable of nothing else… And they want the spy!”
“Yes, yes, yes,” Bahij agreed. “But still, I don’t know.”
“Maybe,” Fareeq said after a long pause. “We kill one?”
Bahij thought for a moment and then agreed.
“Yes,” he said. “We’ll kill one and see how it goes.”
The two marched back into the room.
“You are spies!” Fareeq shouted. “You are spies and infidels and by Allah’s command you will be slaughtered!”
The bears shuddered and stepped back in shock.
Fareeq pulled his gun up to his shoulder aimed it at Milkshake and pulled the trigger. A large glob of jelly plastered the concrete wall behind them.
“Milkshake!” they shouted in unison.
Sprinkles ran over to Milkshake, drenching himself in the sticky goo of his fallen comrade.
“You monsters!” he yelled. “We’re not gonna take this are we Love-A-Lot Bears?!”
Sprinkles looked over at his remaining friends, but they didn’t appear up to the task. In fact, they looked sick… sick and unstable.
Ollie started to shake wildly.
Fareeq and Bahij looked on at first with amusement, and then with concern. Ollie took a couple steps forward, shaking ever more violently.
And then BOOM!
He exploded in a cloud of jelly. Moments later, Sunshine did the same. The room was now dripping walls to ceiling with sugar.
“Ruby?” Sprinkles asked.
Then Ruby exploded, too.
Bahij and Fareeq looked at Sprinkles with nervous anticipation… But nothing happened.
Sprinkles, not wanting to waste a moment more, rushed for the exit.
“Shoot him!” Bahij yelled.
“I can’t,” Fareeq said. “My gun is jammed – jammed with jelly!”
Sprinkles punched Bahij on the way out and he fell to the ground.
Fareeq tried to give chase but his feet stuck to the jelly floor and he slipped, awkwardly pulling his groin as he fell to the ground.
Sprinkles ran through the door and back outside. There, one militant saw him and fired a single shot. Sprinkles felt the impact on the left side of his head and started to get dizzy. But he kept running, the whole time thinking of things he loved.
“Friendship, helicopter rides, history, Friendship, Papa Doctor, the U.S. military, Friendship, and Sprinkles on cake. Sprinkles…. Sprinkles… Sprinkles…”
When he woke, he was back at the base. Commander Cortasche and Dr. Wildadoo were there, too.
Sprinkles cried for the first time in his life.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Cortasche, Papa Doctor, I couldn’t get your friend. And Milkshake, and Ollie, and Ruby, and Sunshine… I don’t know what happened,” he said.
“Oh no,” said Dr. Wildadoo, sitting on the bed to comfort his protege. “I’m the one who is sorry. Commander Cortasche is too. We never should have sent you into the clutches of those brutes.”
“We failed you, Sprinkles,” Commander Cortasche conceded. “Not the other way around.”
“Is there anything we can do to make it up to you?” Wildadoo asked.
Sprinkles wiped the tears from one eye, but when he reached for the other he found only jelly seeping through a bandage.
“It’s gone,” Wildadoo said. “You lost your left eye.”
“Dr. Wildadoo. Commander Cortasche,” he said. “There is something you can do: Send me back.”
“What?” Wildadoo asked.
“Send. Me. Back.”
Chapter 3: The Love of Vengeance
The desert air was hot and I was thirsty. I was tied fast to the chair, where ISIS had been torturing me for weeks.
“We’re going to cut off your head,” Fareeq said.
Normally, I’d be offended by that kind of a threat, but I knew Fareeq was just trying to look tough in front of his terrorist friends.
“Not cool,” I said. “But if it helps you get that promotion you’ve been gunning for…”
Fareeq nodded his head reached for his scimitar.
“Bahij,” he said. “Get the camera. We’ll put this on YouTube.”
Bahij went to get the camera but couldn’t find it.
“Ugh. I think Ahmed had it last.”
Bahij opened the tent flap and then quickly turned around. He looked as though he’d seen a ghost.
“He’s here,” he said to Fareeq. “He’s back!”
“Who?” asked Fareeq
“The little bear. Ahmed is outside. He’s dead. There is a knife in his throat.”
“How do you know it’s the bear?”
“Who else would it be?!”
Suddenly, there was a loud shot and Bahij dropped to his knees. There was a hole the size of a softball in the middle of his chest.
“I just love this SSK .950,” I heard a small voice say.
Fareeq turned and was terrified by what he saw – a four foot tall teddy bear with blue fur and a high-powered rifle. He had pretty good aim considering he was wearing a rainbow eyepatch.
Fareeq looked for his AK but it wasn’t anywhere near him.
“Untie my friend and put the scimitar down,” the bear said.
Fareeq did as he was told.
The bear approached us casually and handed me the rifle, which I could barely hold. Then he walked up to Fareeq looked him in the eye and punched him square in the nuts.
Fareeq fell to the ground and the bear hit him in the balls some more – about a dozen times by my count.
“This is for Ollie,” he said. “This is for Sunshine. This is for Milkshake. This is for Ruby. This is for me. And this is because I. LOVE. Punching. You. In. The. Nuts.” – each word punctuated by a fierce blow.
There were tears streaming from Fareeq’s eyes.
“I got some girls I want you to meet,” the bear said. “Seventy-two to be precise.”
He pulled a grenade off of his vest and tried to force it into Fareeq’s mouth. It wouldn’t fit, so he reached in and broke Fareeq’s jaw.
“I love that sound,” the bear said.
Fareeq screamed but his chin dangled loosely.
I threw up in my mouth a little.
Having forced in the grenade the bear looked back at me.
“Well,” he said. “Get the fuck out!”
Then he pulled the pin and we started to run. We got about ten paces away from the tent before it exploded.
And that’s when the real carnage started.
Too weak to go any further I collapsed to the ground.
“Yeah,” the bear said. “You wait here. I’ll take care of the rest of these assholes.”
He took back his rifle and started dropping more bodies. A Blackhawk helicopter came into the vicinity. It laid down some suppressing fire while the bear mercilessly tortured his foes like a blood soaked Viking berserker.
“Leave none alive!” he shouted.“I’ll eat my own young, before I see a single one of these camel-fuckers make it out of here!”
The bear pulled his knife out of Ahmed’s throat and threw it right into another enemy’s eye. Then, I’d swear I saw him use it as a phallus to penetrate the skull before taking it out and wiping the blade on his fur.
Limbs were severed. Bodies were burned. The heat was so intense the sand around us turned to glass.
It was bedlam.
I passed out and then woke up in a helicopter. I looked up and saw the bear, leaning out the door, pissing on a fire down below. When he was done shaking he walked over to a cooler reached down deep and pulled out a beer.
“It’s over now,” he said cracking it open. “You want one?”
I did. I really did.
The bear just sat there while I sipped my brew. He closed his eyes and a satisfied smile creeped across his face.
“Wow,” I thought. “Now, that’s a bear that loves what he does, and does what he loves.”
“I’ve got something for you,” Dr. Wildadoo said. “It’s a surprise though. So you must cover your eye.”
Sprinkles did as he was told. He heard Papa Doctor rustle around and then a door open.
“Okay,” Wildadoo said. “You can look now!”
Sprinkles did look and he was instantly filled with joy. Standing in front of him were Milkshake, Sunshine, Ruby and Ollie.
“You’re all back!” he shouted.
The bears hugged and love filled the room.
Dr. Wildadoo took the hand of Commander Cortasche standing next to him.
“See. Love conquers all,” he said.