When Pippi Longstocking was a little girl, she made a pact with her friends Tommy and Annika, and they each swallowed a chililug pill (which looked suspiciously like a yellow pea).
Indeed, Pippi Longstocking is still a little girl. That was rather the point of the pact. For a while, Tommy and Annika too remained the same, but it only took a few years before Tommy grew several inches, and Annika started showing curves where previously there had been none.
Pippi was in the middle of a game of tag in the garden when she noticed, but she halted the game to have a serious talk with her friends.
”This won't do,” she told them. ”If you don't take better care, you'll soon be adults, and then what will become of you? What's wrong? Were the chililugs too old to work?”
Annika bit her lip. ”Oh, Pippi!” she said. ”They were just ordinary peas, weren't they?”
”No, no, no!” Pippi said sternly. ”You mustn't ever believe that! In order for the chililug to work, its effects must be believed, must be fully wanted...”
Annika glanced at Tommy, who looked down, smoothing the ground with the tip of his shoe.
”Oh,” said Pippi, catching on. ”Well, then.” She patted Tommy lightly on the shoulder. ”Tag, you're it!”
With that, she ran off, back into the game and away from the discussion. It seemed, to her, the best course of action.
Later on, she tried to feed chililugs to Mister Nilsson and the horse. They both ate obediently, and she wasn't sure if they didn't believe it enough, or didn't realize
they were supposed to believe, but either way, it didn't work right.
Later still, Annika approached her with a suggestion. ”I have my own flat now,” she said. ”It's just a tiny thing, but you could come stay with me. If you want.”
”You and me and Mister Nilsson and the horse in a tiny thing,” said Pippi. ”We'd trample each other's toes.”
”No,” said Annika, awkwardly. ”Not them, just...”
Pippi sniffed the air and hurried over to the oven, where she wrapped the hem of her dress over her hand so she could take out the macaroni pudding. It was a perfect brown that became rainbow-coloured as she grabbed the box of sprinkles and poured them liberally over the surface.
”Macaroni pudding with sprinkles is the national dish in Kuala Lumpur,” she revealed to Annika. ”It's all they ever eat, from early morning to late night. We once took on a sailor in Kuala Lumpur, who turned out to be a former maid looking for new prospects. Her previous employer had turned her out on the spot after she had overslept so late she forgot to sprinkle the macaroni pudding. Poor thing, but of course, from his point of view it was an unforgiveable crime. She wasn't a very good sailor, but I gave her a golden coin and she used it to open an exotic herring shop. Which of course meant she never had to worry about sprinkles again, just whipped cream, and she was a champion at cream-whipping.”
”Pippi,” said Annika. ”I can't stand seeing you here all alone.”
”I'm not alone,” said Pippi. ”Really. Thanks anyway, but there's much better room for my horse on the Hoptoad.”
”The Hop... your father is coming for you?” Annika said, sounding very relieved.
If Pippi recalled a time when Annika had cried at the same news, she didn't say. ”Of course,” she said instead. ”I'm spending Christmas on Kurrekurredutt Island. So don't worry about me. I always end up on top!”
Pippi had been sailing with her father again for several years when the Hoptoad first spotted the legendary Flying Dutchman. It wasn't flying, but apart from that it was every bit as exciting as she had always believed. As her father shook hand with the crusty old crew, Pippi climbed all the masts and inspected all the cannons, whistling a jaunty tune to herself as she did so.
The Dutchman's captain watched with a melancholy smile on his pleasant face. It was the sort of face that would have had Annika stumble over her words, though to Pippi the sheer physicality of it meant very little. She just thought he looked nice, given the givens.
Having explored everything above, she moved down to the galley, where she tried to lure out a mouse from the paneling so she could tame it. The possibility that it might be a ghost mouse made the attempt all the more interesting, to her mind.
”Pippilotta, my dear,” boomed her father from above, and she stuck out her head to see what he wanted.
”We will set sail for Islas de Mariposa,” he told her. ”Captain Turner has asked for our assistance in his search for the treasure of Cofresí.”
”Gloritastic!” she said. ”Treasure hunts are my favourite.”
Treasure hunts on an ancient ship meant to ferry souls to the afterlife proved to be another form of adventure entirely, and one that had the entire crew of the Hoptoad bright-eyed with excitement. When the first sea monster rose from the sea, Pippi whooped at the top of her lungs and jumped up on top of the stern to fight the thing.
”Take that, you vile beast!” she yelled, waving her little sword at the creature's wide, pale eyes, but when its tentacled face came closer, she put down her sword and reached out with her bare hands.
”We're just looking for treasure,” she said, grabbing hold of two of the tentacles and yanking them towards her. ”What's treasure to you?” she continued, tossing one tentacle over the other to start off a knot. ”You can't buy anything, and you don't even have a good bag to carry it in. Be reasonable.”
In the end, she sent the creature off with a drooping tail and a big knotted bow adorning its face.
”Bye-bye now!” she called.
”Any particular reason you tied a granny knot?” her father asked. ”I would have expected better.”
”Well, I want him to wriggle out of it eventually, you know,” she said. ”Just not around us.”
Captain Turner laughed softly behind them. ”Quite a daughter you have there.”
”Don't I know it,” Captain Longstocking said, tugging at Pippi's braid.
The rest of the sea creatures and other obstacles were handled without much more trouble, and after they had dug up the treasure, the crews of the two ships had a joyous party as they divided the loot.
Pippi danced around the camp fire, singing, with a tiara from the loot in her hair, when Captain Turner caught her hand and whirled her around in a spin. ”May I have this dance, Miss Pippilotta?” he asked.
”Don't mind if I do,” she said and curtseyed so deeply that her bejewelled necklace brushed against her thigh.
They danced together, a mismatched pair, two feet apart in height and with strange jingles coming from Pippi whenever they made another spin.
”If you ever tire of the Hoptoad, you're more than welcome on the Dutchman,” said Turner. ”I could use a pirate like you on the ship.”
She smiled and shook her head. ”Thank you, but no.”
”I don't mean tomorrow,” he said, ”but some day, maybe. Your father won't be here forever.”
”He could if he wanted to,” she countered. Deciding that Turner had led the dance long enough, she dipped him backwards, causing another of those melancholy smiles to appear.
”And does he want to?”
”No,” she admitted. ”He wants to join my mother someday.”
”Understandable,” he said, his voice even sadder than usual. ”But then...”
He left the question unasked. Pippi sighed.
”You don't want to travel with a ghost?”
”Oh, I'd love to travel with a ghost,” she said enthusiastically. ”It's just that you don't seem to have much fun.”
Captain Turner looked over at the makeshift table where five of the men were having a drinking contest, and at Captain Longstocking dancing with his Kurrekurredutt first mate, his fat belly jumping in rhythm with the music. Even his own ghost crew seemed to be enjoying the night to the fullest.
”I don't suppose I do,” he admitted. ”Not anymore.”
After her final adieus to her father, Pippi continued travelling the world, figuring that there was little reason not to. In Mexico, she found herself running away from some irate bullfighters. Well, riding away, to be precise, and perhaps it is not hard to understand the bullfighters; they were neither prepared for nor amused by the little redheaded girl taking off on one of their prize bulls while singing at the top of her lungs: ”När jag har badat och mamma torkat mig, torr e jag då, torr e jag dåååå!”
They rode after her, cursing, but the bull, after his initial surprise, found that he quite enjoyed running down the road, with or without that howling gnat on his back, and so it was a pretty even chase.
Until the bullfighters suddenly stopped.
”Ptrrroooo, Honey,” Pippi said, digging her heels to force the bull to stop as well. She swung her legs over so she faced backwards. Her would-be persecutors were frozen in their tracks, along with their horses, and two men were walking towards her, one of them holding his fingers against his temple as if he had a headache.
”Could we have a word with you?” the other man asked.
”Of course,” she said, jumping off the bull and scratching him under the chin to keep him calm. ”Good Honey!”
The bull hadn't been scratched like that since he was a very small calf, and it brought back some very delightful memories. He tried to remain aggressive for a few seconds, but then relented and stroke his wide head against Pippi's hand. As far as he was concerned, the gnat could stay.
Pippi walked around the horses to see just how immobile they really were. Very, it seemed. ”What have you done to them?” she asked.
”They're not hurt,” a voice said in her head. ”When this is over, they won't even know that any time has passed. Can we go somewhere to talk?”
Pippi's smile became positively beatific. ”Suits me.” She took some gold coins from her suitcase and placed two each in the hands of the bullfighters. ”There. I bought the bull.”
The men had left their car further down the road, and she followed them on the bull until they were far enough away that the headache one could take his hand down and concentrate on talking to her. Both men sat down on the hood of the car, and Pippi remained on the bull.
”So,” no-longer-headachey said. ”I'm Charles Xavier, this is Erik Lehnsherr, and you would be...” He hesitated. ”Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Ephraim's Daughter Longstocking? That can't be your real name.”
”Call me Pippi,” she said sweetly.
”Pippi.” Erik Lehnsherr looked her over, from head to toe, in a way many adults tended to do. She looked him over right back, toe to head, fashioning her face in a mock version of his scowl, her little potato nose scrunched up.
”We...” He lost his place and started over. ”We're here to offer you a place where you can belong, hone your skills, and be safe from the people who hate and fear you.”
”I paid for the bull,” she pointed out. ”Problem solved! Thanks for that, by the way.”
”That's not quite what Erik meant,” Charles Xavier said softly. ”Like you, we have special abilities. There are more of us than you'd think. You don't have to be alone. We're forming a community. We can help you.”
”Hm.” Pippi reached up with her left foot, scratching herself behind the right ear. ”Are you talking about some sort of orphanage?”
”Orphanage? No, not really.”
”Proper clothes, proper rules, teaching, training, chores, things like that?”
For the first time, Lehnsherr's expression indicated something that came close to a smile. ”She's got you there, Charles.”
”Thanks anyway,” Pippi said, ”but I think I'll take Honey to see Belize, instead.”
People who know things about adventures tend to vouch for graveyards. You can dress up in sheets and go howling at people, or you can bring a dead cat and toss it at a devil, if you find one, or you can wrestle a ghoul.
It was the ghoul-wrestling Pippi was engaged in one dark night, when two people stopped at the gates, opened a large book, and shouted: ”Begone ye foul abomination of the night!”
Pippi burst into giggles, but the ghoul was genuinely startled and tried to wriggle out of her grip, his long cold fingers scratching at her dress.
”Tickling is cheating,” she reminded the ghoul as she pinned him down under her again.
That was when the chanting started. The two people at the gates drew nearer, the woman lifting her arms high over her head, so that her wide sleeves fell down over her shoulders. The man bungled along, muttering phrases out the book, though he had some difficulty finding the right place.
The ghoul moaned and started to disappear under Pippi's fingers, which made her scoff and look up at the two approaching figures. ”This is a private fight,” she explained. ”Invitations only, RSVP.”
It only took a second for the woman to catch up and stop chanting. The man took longer, but his chants were weaker, and even before his voice died away entirely the ghoul started to rematerialize again.
”That's better,” Pippi said. ”Do you yield?”
”I yield,” the ghoul hissed, and she patted him on the bony shoulder.
”Run along, then. I'll have a talk with these two.”
The ghoul slunk away entirely, and Pippi stood up and put her hands on her hips. ”What's this, then?” she asked. ”Can't you leave a girl to her own pastimes?”
”You let it go!” the man complained, his voice cracking on the last word.
”Of course I did! I couldn't keep him down forever, and ghouls make terrible housepets. Such a hassle to dig up fresh corpses every day at suppertime. Not that I've ever tried, but I met an old witch in Kaunissaari once who had a couple of guarding ghouls, and she always complained about them and claimed they were much more trouble than they were worth. They were called Argh and Urgh, and she was quite right about Argh, but Urgh wasn't too bad. He could fetch the newspaper and your slippers – though you had to watch out with the slippers or he'd nip off a toe as he put them on. But then, what do you really need ten toes for anyway? There's no need to be stingy with the toes, I always say. But since I don't need my slippers fetched, and the wrestling match was over, yes, I let him go. It's almost dawn anyway, the poor thing needs his beauty sleep.”
”He's a graverobbing fiend!” the man sputtered.
Pippi looked him steadily in the eyes. ”There's no need to be stingy with the corpses either.”
The woman had stayed quiet, but now she laughed and put a hand on the man's arm. ”Shut up, Andrew, let me. Hi, I'm Willow. Sorry about... your game and interrupting it like that. We're just not used to seeing kids fight as well as you do. Or, well, we are, because we're a part of the Council of Watchers, who deal with things supernatural But the other kids who fight well are all Slayers, and you don't seem to be one. Not unless you've had any weird dreams.. Am I boring you?”
Pippi had sat down on the ground and taken off both her shoes. Now she looked up and explained, ”The problem with big shoes is that there's a lot of room for pebbles.”
”I guess so.” Willow sat down on her heels and said, ”It's kind of a sisterhood. And, well, you're not a Slayer, but you're obviously very strong, and very brave, so maybe you'd like to be affiliated with us.”
”Is that to do with horses?” Pippi asked and shook out two small piles of sand and stone before putting her shoes back on.
”What? No... no, it's not to do with horses. Affiliated means we'll help each other out. With the fighting and all.”
”I like my wrestling matches one on one,” Pippi said and rose to her feet again. ”Well, one of me, anyway. Sometimes the ghouls take it in pairs.” She brushed the dirt off her stockings and peered at first Willow, then Andrew. He had tucked the book under his arm and was now trying to light a big pipe, the like of which would have looked old-fashioned on a man twice his age.
”What's he doing in your sisterhood?” she asked.
Andrew glared at her, affronted, but Willow pursed her lips to stop them from smiling and admitted, ”Honestly, I don't even know.”
”Maybe you should figure that out first,” said Pippi. She waved goodbye to them and left, but stopped at the gates to holler, ”HE LIKED KNUCKLES WITH LINGONBERRY JAM!”
”WHO?” Willow called back.
”URGH! MIGHT BE WORTH TRYING!”
A few centuries later, all of Pippi's gold was filled with latinum and still left enough space in her suitcase to smuggle gemstones and messages all over the universe, until one day she was caught by a grim-looking alien at a faraway space station.
”Aren't you a bit too young for a Maquis?” he asked.
”Wrong twice,” she said. ”Not young, not a Maquis. Why is there a rat on your padd?”
”Why is there...” The security officer turned around and cursed at the sight of a large Cardassian vole using his padd as a toilet.
As the officer attacked, the vole jumped off the pad and onto the top of the chair, then from the chair to the doorframe and back to the table again. Pippi leaped up to follow it, cutting off its path until she could finally grab hold of its tail.
”There you are, darling,” she said, holding the vole under the stomach with one hand and around the neck with the other. ”No, no biting! No scratching either. Where do you want it?”
”Want it?” the officer repeated with distaste. ”Kill it and throw it in the trash.”
Pippi gave him a long, hard look and finally said. ”All right, give me a phaser.”
The look he gave her back was no shorter or softer, but he did unlock a drawer in his desk and hand her a phaser, by which she quickly reduced the vole to a lifeless state.
”Hm,” the officer grunted. ”I suppose this answers the immediate question of what to do with you. You're not old enough to be charged, so you can join the crew in rooting out the voles, and after that we'll be even. Is there anyone to take care of you?”
”Sure,” she said. ”Me.”
”Hm,” he said again. ”I'll discuss the matter with the captain.”
”You do that. And don't forget to discuss the energy with the captain. You can't get anywhere without good energy.”
The space station was large enough, and enough people were running around with phasers in their hands, looking for voles, that she had downed a dozen animals before a woman with a blue and black shirt asked Pippi why she kept sticking the stunned voles in her suitcase.
”To keep them safe,” Pippi said, gently putting another one in.
”And what will you do when they wake up?”
”Ah, that's my little magic trick. I can turn them all into Ferengi.”
The woman laughed, but she didn't press the issue. Instead, she asked, ”Where did a kid like you learn to catch voles?”
”I bargained with a team of exterminators in Leningrad,” Pippi said and crawled into another panel full of blinking electricity. There were sparks coming from where the voles had eaten or peed on circuits, and Pippi turned over on her back to be able to avoid the sparkly places better, kicking herself forward with her heels. ”Sorry, St. Petersburg, I mean. Is it still St. Petersburg?”
The woman was crawling in after Pippi on her hands and knees, and she stopped for a moment, resting her chin on her hands. ”As far as I know, it's been St. Petersburg for hundreds of years. How old are you?”
”Hundreds of years,” Pippi said cheerfully.
”What a coincidence,” said the woman with a grin. ”So am I. Want to join me for a game of Tongo and trade anecdotes?”
Tongo was not an easy game to master, even with enough latinum to cover every possible bet, but Pippi had ten Shirley Temples and filled up her repertoire of tall tales so that at the end of the afternoon, she declared that it had been a day well spent. She even agreed to Lt. Dax's suggestion that she have a full body examination.
”I hope you will tell me if I have tarantism or bubonic plague,” she told the doctor, offering him one of her most tragic faces.
”Tarantism is imaginary and bubonic plague is extinct, so I think you're fine on those counts,” said the doctor. His eyes were fixated on the screens that showed her metabolism.
”You never know,” said Pippi. ”It's all fun and games until the dancing starts. Oh! I think it's starting now!” She jumped off the examination table and started dancing a tarantella, with lots of claps and stomps for good measure.
The doctor caught hold of her faster than should be humanly possible and put her back on the table.
”Should I tie you down?” he asked, but he wasn't angry. ”Your energy is as remarkable as the rest of you. Do you age at all?”
”Would you want me to?” she asked dreamily, tracing figures in the air. ”Maybe a little bit, a decade or so?”
”There are things to be said for adulthood,” he agreed.
”Excuse me, Doctor?” A grey man walked in, and at the doctor's look at him, Pippi raised her head, only to let it fall back.
”Then again,” she said to no one in particular, since the doctor had left with the grey man, ”there are things to be said for childhood.”
By evening, Pippi was called into the captain's offer, where she sat down in the oversized chair, pulled her legs up, and put on a pleasant smile.
The captain had a deep and very grown-up voice, talking about very grown-up things.
”...very impressed with you. As I understand it, you have no fixed place of residence, and though I realize that you're not a child...”
There were few things Pippi found so relaxing as adults droning on about their stuff. She woke in the morning, a bit sore from the uncomfortable chair, but with a warm blanket wrapped around her. Since the captain was no longer in the room, she took the opportunity to sneak out and back to her ship.
Thus she missed the end of what the captain had to say – as well as what the freighter crew headed for Cardassia Prime said when they found the crate of live voles in their cargo.
If you were to ask Pippi about her opinion on aliens, she would say that, by and large, they were fun. Robots could also be a lot of fun. She had even met quite a few aliens dressed up as robots who were fun.
Mister Pepperpot was not fun. Mister Pepperpot was a nuisance who had killed some very nice people and terrified half to death a couple of children that reminded Pippi far too much of Tommy and Annika.
So for once in her life, Pippi was having a battle for life or death. The ground around the river was muddy and slippery, but she was a lot lighter on her feet than Mister Pepperpot, and so she ran in circles around him, climbed up trees and jumped down from them, at one point even landing on top of him before rolling off. Mister Pepperpot became so preoccupied with keeping her a target that he entirely forgot that there were other people around – and pretty soon there weren't, since they all had run away.
Pippi had dropped her suitcase on the pier when she got off the boat. The boat had drifted away, too far to swim, but the suitcase remained where she had left it. She dived in the water and swam under the pier to get the suitcase, then ran back with it in hand. Something was making strange noises, almost like a vacuum cleaner, and on the far end of the bank there was a shimmer of blue, but Pippi's attention was on Mister Pepperpot and on making the best possible use of her suitcase.
Gold-pressed latinum was a lot lighter than solid gold, but she still got enough of a swing to bump the robotic shell.
”Get the eyestalk!” someone called, and so her second swing broke the eyestalk in half and sent Mister Pepperpot careening across the pier like a spinning top. With one last solid heave from Pippi, he went straight into the river, where he promptly sank.
She watched the river for a moment, but when nothing rose to the surface she turned and faced the speaker, a man with a wide grin and clothes that she immediately determined were the most beautiful she'd ever seen.
”That must have taken some strength!” he gushed. ”You are quite...” He broke off all of a sudden and gave her the familiar head-to-toe look. ”What have you done to yourself?”
Pippi looked down. Her clothes were muddy, water filled her shoes, and there was a tear in her right stocking. ”Mud is good for the skin,” she said. ”The Alpha Centaurians consider mudbaths a spiritual experience that will bring them closer to their roots.”
”That's Circineans, actually,” the man said, ”and they already have roots, but that's not what I meant.” He took a stick the size of a thick pen from his pocket and started walking in a circle around Pippi as he waved it at her. ”How old are you?”
”What year is this?” she asked.
He lowered the stick, but kept walking. ”You can't keep this up forever, you know.”
”I won't,” she said. ”Just as long as it's fun.”
”And is it fun?”
”Usually.” She was circling him as much as he was circling her, now.
”Who are you, anyway?”
”Hello, Pippi Longstocking, I'm the Doctor.” He was frowning hard now, but his dazed expression indicated fascination rather than horror. ”Do you live nearby?”
She threw a glance over her shoulder and grimaced when she saw how far the boat had drifted. ”Over there.”
”Oh, shame,” he said with sympathy. ”Listen, I have some towels in the TARDIS. Mind if I pop in and get them?”
He pointed to the blue thing, which turned out to be a police box. Pippi cocked her head, her eyes narrowing to slits.
As he turned to walk inside, Pippi prepared the leap, and before the door had closed behind him she had run up and put her big shoe in the gap. Very slowly, she pried it open.
For a second, her breath caught in her throat. Then the grin spread over her face.
By the time the Doctor returned with the towels, Pippi was hanging from her knees from the railing and watching the floor below. ”What's that thing that goes ding?”
”That would be the timey-wimey detector,” said the Doctor.
”Thank you. I always thought so.” He leaned down to get a better view of her upside-down face. ”I think I asked the wrong question before.”
”Yes, I think a better question would have been what are you?”
”I'm a three-headed Mauritian dodo, what else?” she said, letting her hands fall even further down so she could sway to and fro.
”You know, I rather think you are,” he said softly. ”And that still wasn't the right question, was it?”
”Probably not. But don't worry, you'll get there. Do you want me to give you a gold star for effort?”
”Gold star!” He snapped his fingers. ”Of course, that's it! Pippi Longstocking, the right question at last: Would you like to travel the stars with me?”
One of her shoes fell to the floor below. The other one, along with the rest of her, swung back to an upright position.
”Don't mind if I do,” Pippi said.