Written By: Kristof E-Mail: Kristof.firstname.lastname@example.org Disclaimer: All characters are copyright 1990/1991 Walt Disney Company and are being used without premission. The writer of this fanfic has made sure that no money was made in the creation of this fanfic and that all material is used with the upmost affection and respect to the Walt Disney Company and the Tale Spin Team.
"Keep going, keep going!!! We have to get to the coast!"
Three figures ran through the charred woods of the Birkini Atoll. There was a good reason for their haste, just like there was a very good reason for the spacesuits they were wearing. All three were running for their lives, only two of them werenít trained to do it.
"Time?" the one in the front shouted to the one behind him. The youngest one checked his watch.
"4 minutes, 35 seconds"
"We gotta pick up the pace or weíre toast!" the first one started running, quickly followed by the third one. The smallest of the three followed not far behind, but his condition wouldnít allow it for much longer, not after what they had been through.
"Come on, slow it down a bit."
"Jelly, you take care of this. Iím not waiting for him" The leader yelled to the one behind him. The youngest was still trying to follow but stumbled and nearly missed a tree. Trying to pull himself together, he noticed something had changed at his left arm.
"My watch! My watch is busted!"
"We can always get you another watch!" the largest one picked the smaller one up and urged him to run on.
All the youngest could think about right now was how he got mixed up in this. It had all started so innocently....
The yellow and orange plane, affectionately known as the Seaduck came in for its final approach. Its wings were covered with ice, something that happened more often everytime it got near this particular destination. Both pilot and copilot hated this moment. Nervous and dressed in warm coats they ignored the cold from the cargo hold and focused fully on the task at hand.
"OAT is completely in the negative.....gosh Baloo, why didnít we just forget our schedule and head on south?" Kit complained, blowing his hot breath into his folded hands. The pilot just smiled back weakly.
"Because you just had to tell your boss you wanted to be treated like a normal employee. We could be on the shores of Rimono right now, getting a tan or eating pizza." Baloo had his warm gloves on so his hands wouldnít freeze to the controls. Unfortunately they didnít block out all of the cold.
"Allright, allright. I know what I said...but I didnít mean this!" The cub pointed out of the windshield and checked the pontoons "I guess weíre all ready to go."
"Ya got yer seatbelt on tight Ďnuff?" Baloo looked at his son. Just because he was lucky once didnít mean it would happen twice. The grey bear decided not to press his luck. Kit gave a good tug at the belt he had been strapped in for hours.
"Itís fine! Donít worry. Itís bad enough that you donít let me cloudsurf or even walk around anymore on these trips" Kit pouted, folded his arms and gave his father an indignant look.
"Last time you almost hit the roof. I canít help it that Rebecca does everything by the book nowadays."
"Yeah, yeah, I know. But I couldnít help that old thing from tearing apart."
"Well, this triple-strength, titan steel buckled, double-stitched leather belt wonít."
"That doesnít mean I canít unbuckle it!" Something rocked the plane, both pilot and copilot focused back on reality.
Outside the plane, windgusts blew in the engine compressor, causing a very rough flight in. Baloo corrected the trim and throttle and started his harrowing descent. Ice and rain blasted the fuselage and before long all portholes and windshields were iced over. The landing was now fully on instruments.
"Rate of descent 50 feet a second, whatís our altitude?" Baloo was always very professional about IFR landings. Kit checked the altimeter.
"900 feet" While he was at it, the cub glanced at the OAT gauge. He regretted it immediately: it was below readable value which meant a temperature lower than -20 centigrades. The rumbling outside the plane grew louder. Normally that meant the ground was drawing closer, but there was still over 500 feet to go "10 degrees more north Pappa Bear, we donít want to hit that glacier."
"What glacier Kit?" Baloo asked, puzzled. Moments later, the Seaduckís starboard wing clipped a large object.
"That glacier!" the cub was suddenly grateful that he had this new seatbelt "I canít see if thereís any damage through these windows."
"Whatís the worst that could have happened?" Baloo levelled off "we couldíve lost a ski or pontoon right?"
"But itís also too late to glue Ďem back on, right?"
"Right, but....." Kit didnít like the way this conversation was going.
"So Iíd say.....brace for impact" Baloo gripped the controls with a twinkle in his eyes. The ground drew closer and the port ski contacted with the frozen surface...
The crew of the plane lurched forward in their seats. The port wing slowed down fast while the starboard wing dragged itself forward. A mad spin was the result. As a toy to the cold ground, the plane worked its way to a clearing. Only after a long while it slowed down enough to stop spinning.
The door was opened quickly, and two figures dropped out. They lay in the snow for a minute, catching their breaths. Baloo came to his senses rather quickly and scrambled to his feet
"Liíl Britches?! Where you at kiddo?" his loud voice boomed over the icy plains and a small figure moved under a blanket of snow. The grey bear helped his navigator up "Are you allright?"
"Iíll tell ya....in a minute" Kit stumbled around and fell back down, disoriented "Note in the logs that there was a collision with a glacier, ten miles from the landing spot. We threw a ski, mildly damaged a pontoon and note in the side....that I hate this place and suggested a more southern flightpath to the Sahambra desert."
"Hehe, I donít think Iím gonna note that kiddo."
"I swear Baloo, Miss Cunningham has something with snow."
When they were sufficiently recovered from the semi-crash, both pilot and copilot started a job neither of them found useful: shoveling pure snow and ice into the constantly cooled cargo hold.
"Who needs three tons of pure snow from the Southpole every day?" Kitís question only brought silence to Balooís mouth.
Rebecca was waiting on the dock. Inspecting every square inch of the sky with binoculars, she anticipated the return of her plane. Now that the Intertran contract was agressively taken over by Khan, she needed her usual sharp business sense to survive. Sure enough, her employees thought of it as another get rich scheme, but who couldnít use fresh ice? A familiar roar filled the air, and the seaplane approached its destination. Baloo pressed a button and a spring-release threw off the remaining ski for a safe landing. The landing went smooth and when the plane rested, a cold steam rose from the cargo hold.
"You two are five minutes late."
The crew disembarked, frost on their faces. They gave their boss an indignant look. Several fast remarks entered the grey bearís mind but he swallowed them down. To his surprise, it was Kit who started.
"We were half an hour early, but have you ever tried to take off with a fifteen foot walrus on the tail rudder?" His boss gave him a puzzled look "donít even answer that" the boy continued in a monotonous voice.
"Oh come on, think of the profit. I sold yesterdayís ice without problems."
The two kept staring at her, both thinking the same: Ďif youíre so concerned about the profit, then why donít you go get it yourself?í
"Listen up bosslady, weíre tired, frozen, and weíre not taking off for that frozen hole again until we get some decent warm clothing and a heater for the cockpit. Weíre gonna get some shuteye now, please let us pass."
Rebecca was effectively blocking the way to the office and she knew it. As long as she was their boss, neither of them would dare push her aside. It wasnít her habit, but muteny had to be stopped.
"No, you listen Baloo! I canít help it that the Southpole is not to your liking and I sure canít help it that ice is cold" She stepped forward, pushing Baloo back with only a finger to his chest "but as long as you are on my payroll, thereís no way youíre gonna..." Something interrupted her tirade. Rebecca sniffed "Whatís that smell?"
"Dunno" Baloo smelled it too "smells like sumthiní burniní"
"No kidding" Kit interrupted, pointing at the black smoke rising up from the Seaduck "The cooler is on fire!"
Baloo pushed Rebecca aside and ran for his prized airplane. The grey bear threw open the cockpit doors and jumped in, followed by his copilot. When both opened the door to the cargo hold, a thick black smoke cut off their breaths. With tearing eyes, they tried to peer through the thick fog. They saw their fears confirmed and noticed that the entire cooling unit was on fire. Rebecca had followed them and grabbed a fire extinguisher. Much to her surprise, it didnít contain extinguishing foamÖbut cherry soda. Baloo saw no alternative and shut the door, ordering both of his companions to get out immediately. They soon found themselves on the dock, staring at the smoke rising
"Now what?" Rebecca sighed
"Now nuthiní" Baloo simply answered
"What do you mean with Ďnothingí?"
"Easy: we donít do anything. The hold is insulated, the door is fireproof and the oxygen in there will run out" Kit clarified "Basically, we just wait until it stops burning. Weíll close off the dock and check back tomorrow."
"There has to be something else we can do!" Rebecca panicked
"If there was, Iíd have done it Becky" Baloo simply put an arm around her shoulder and led her away.
"Papa bear, Iíll be inside on the phone, advising the air traffic controllers that thereís a burning plane on our dock, allright?" Kit stated, noticing the pained look on Balooís face.
"Yeah, you go do that Liíl Britches....and while yer at it, tell them to suspend the Duckís entrance clearance for a while" Baloo turned back to look at his burning plane "donít seem like weíll be needing it soon."
On the other side of the world, a snowcat carrying two observers sped over a frozen surface. This was not their lucky day and they were carrying the object to prove it.
A metallic structure, completely covered with ice and snow came into view. Search lights travelled their way and the radio crackled alive with chatter. Periodically, a message for them was heard, but it was like they had expected: yells, insults and a courtmarshall treath. When the tirade over the radio was finally finished, they were instructed to drive to hanger B1. After what seemed to be a neverending trip, they were finally on the base again. They got out and the tirade started all over again.
"I CANíT BELIEVE IT! 30 *MILLION* DOLLARS DOWN THE DRAIN!" the general barked, the two observers jumped into their positions
"Sir, an unexpected..."
"BE SILENT WHEN YOUíRE TALKING TO ME!"
"YOU ONLY HAD TO PRESS A BUTTON! HOW COULD YOU SCREW THIS UP???"
"Sir, a civillian aircraft entered the area without warning. We tried a general warning on all radio frequencies, but it just kept going like it didnít have its radio on. A few seconds later, it hit our boradcasting antenna and thus disabled our control functions over ĎBig Thunderí."
"Do you expect me to believe that some stray pilot got the idea of making a trip to the South Pole ?! Youíll have to do a lot better than this."
"While it hit the antenna, it lost a landing ski" one of the observers removed a broken ski from under his jacket and handed it to his superior. The general ripped it out of his hands and turned it around. Engraved in the wood was the name of its owner. Silence fell for a few moments
"How close were they to ground zero?"
"40 to 45 metres at most"
"Then we better track these hotshots down..."
"Weíre here!" the first of the three shouted back to his two companions. He pointed in the direction of a partly concealed door. The structure visible above the undergrowth didnít seem very sheltering
"This is where weíve been running to all this time?" The youngest panted, looking for a safe place to sit down
"If you brought us all the way here ta sit down aní rot..."
"Have little more faith in your olí superior Jelly."
"Just like you claimed the Trinity would be there? If we hadnít crashed the Firefly, we would have spent hours trying to find our ship! We would be stuck here anyway.." The youngest interjected.
"So we might as well try our luck in the underground bombshelter."
"Underground bombshelter? I donít see anything!" the youngest started to peer in the distance, still seeing nothing but the old shack.
"This is a military site! Do you think we werenít prepared for this?" the leading officer turned and looked in the youngest oneís reflecting visor.
"Well..." the leader scratched his helmet "all my shipmates and most of the admiralty would agree with you, but most of the admiralty are unaware of this project. Whatís our timeframe?"
"Donít know, my watch is busted."
"Then we better head on inside. I need to do a Geiger reading on both of you."
"íNeed to knowí only, Jelly, you of all people should know that."
The sun beat down mercylessly on the port town of Cape Suzette. But it was not the sun that provoked the steam rising from the hold of the docked plane. The fire inside had blistered the yellow paint completely black. Much to the pilotís frustration, the cockpit windshields had completely molten. In an attempt to assess and control the damage, the pilot and copilot entered the crippled metal bird. Both wore wet cloths in front of their mouths to avoid breathing in hot air. Kit reached for the doorhandle, Baloo stopped him immediately.
"Heyhey, you wanna burn yer fingers? That metalís hot Liíl Britches."
"Whaddya mean? The floor isnít hot and that water should have cooled off by now" the cub dismissed the objection of his best friend and reached for the doorhandle anyway
"I warned ya."
"Yeah, yeah" his fingers wrapped around the doorhandle, his face went pale "YE-OWW!"
"Told you so..." Baloo watched halfly amused as Kit danced around the cockpit, desperately trying to cool off his hand. The grey bearís amusement made way for concern "yíallright kiddo? Lemme see that."
"ís okay....Mind if I go get some ice?"
"No prob, but leave some in the fridge for tomorrow."
"Donít worry.. Besides, we have loads of it in the basement."
To the outsider this conversation had been extremely strange, but for the inhabitants of Cape Suzette it was bitter reality. The power had been out for the last week and the main turbine that had always provided the island with electricity was far from repaired. Every electronic device was useless, including fridges. The biggest problem on the tropical island got worse with the day as the inhabitants found themselves unable to find cooling. No more air conditioning, no more working fansÖand no more ice. Outside suppliers found the market niche in no time at all and sold the once easy to acquire substance for prices nobody was willing to pay....and that was why both Baloo and Kit were hauling fresh unspoiled ice from the South Pole.
Unfortunately, authorities had supplied pilots and ground stations with diesel generators from day one. Most had the clever idea to split the generatorís power over the radio and their fridges. When Khan heard of Rebeccaís plan, he generously offered to provide free generators to those in need...and the once so much needed fresh ice was stored in Higher for Hireís basement.
Baloo saw his son leave and couldnít resist the temptation to tease him a little.
"Aní remember ta keep that hand cold fer 10 minutes."
"Ask Beckers ta keep the time. Sheíll take care of that hand."
"Iíll get ya for this one Baloo."
"Iím yer dad, I can say these things." Baloo shouted after a leaving form and smiled both externally as internally. The ear to ear grin on his face was no match for the joy in his heart. Looking at the remains of his plane, it suddenly seemed less dramatic. Unlike his unfortunate companion, Baloo headed for the hatch release to allow the hot water to flow into the bay.
A powerful landingcraft with four occupants slowly made its way in between the cliffs. Even though small vessels like this would be required to wait for a clear passage, this one was granted top priority. It didnít take them long to reach their destination and one could argue that it had been better to just sail in with the entire ship instead of just a launch....but sailing a Destroyer into a civil harbor was a violation of the Usland charter. So, it was just this launch representing the Trinity, the name of its mothership proudly painted on the side of the green hull.
They had strict orders concerning their objective and were instructed to accomplish it Ďby any means necessaryí. Offcourse, since they were now dealing on civillian grounds, they had to be something the Navy never taught them to be: subtle. The familiar from near the rising steam was at least something to go on....
"HEY! Jelly!" the voice shouted out of nowhere. So familiar...why was it hard to place in the grey bearís mind?
"Who do ya think yer calliní'Jelly'" Baloo turned around to see the launch approaching. He recognised one of the occupants, he just had difficulties placing a name with the face "why do ya look familiar ta me?"
"íCause Iím the one that made ya scrub the deck, sailor!"
"Ripper! I mean, zipper...I mean Cipper....ehmm...Sir!" Baloo panicked and quickly saluted his old superior.
"Hehe, at ease Jelly. I donít outrank civilians" the sailor smiled and climbed onto the dock. Two of his companions followed him, the fourth one stayed behind to keep the landing craft from drifting off.
"I donít receive visits from my old XO often...what brings ya to these waters?"
"The olí barge offcourse. No matter what a rustbucket you think it is...."
"The Trinity? Here?" Baloo started looking over the harbor waters.
"No, not here, a few miles from the coast. I suggested to ignore the international charter and steam a military destroyer right into a civil harbor, but the captain denied my request. Donít tell me you forgot about the Navy rules already?"
"Donít know what all da commotionís about. I can set my bird down on any military airport if I really wanna."
Prompted by this response, Cipper started inspecting the docked plane and laughed.
"Really now? Interesting Ďbirdí. Whatcha call it? The Black Hawk?"
"The Seaduck..." Baloo responnded dryly, knowing where the pantented humor of his old XO would take them.
"Hmm...smell this boys" Cipper adressed his companions "fried duck!"
"Hey, come on. Itís a good plane, I just had a bit of an accident."
"Jelly, weíve got a proposition for you...."
"There you go" Rebecca finished bandaging Kitís hand "better?"
"I told you I could take care of it myself" Kit protested, Rebecca just smiled at him.
"I just wanted to make sure" the bearess closed the first aid kit and walked back to her desk.
"Didnít we agree on something?"
"Yes, but even my employees have to be in top shape. Besides, if I do myself it doesnít show on your insurance."
"Oh, so now I have insurance?" Kit implied.
"Baloo too! What did you think?"
"Dunno, but you told us a while back we were low on cash"
"The policies were purchased....ehmm...during the Intertran contract..." Rebecca lied...poorly.
"Right." Kit rolled his eyes and sat down into the easy chair. Both bears looked at each other, laughed and shook their heads. They just learned that outsmarting each other was out of the question. The cub looked out of the door opening.
"Hey, who are these customers Baloo is talking to?"
"*Baloo* is talking to *customers*?" Rebecca blurted out "I better put an end to that before we really go bankrupt."
"I donít think youíll have to....theyíre heading this way."
"And those donít look like customers of mine" Rebecca looked out of the window and noticed the naval uniforms.
"Aw no, not the military, not again" Kit grunted, just loud enough for the entering sailors to overhear.
"The future of our country has already turned against us? Tsssk, what an attitude."
"The draft has been suspended, you canít force me to go along..."
"Jelly, what on earth is he talking about?" Cipper had no idea what heíd start when he adressed Baloo by his old nickname. Within seconds, both Rebecca and Kit were trying to supress laughs.
"Yeah....*jelly*....tell him." Kit tried hard...but gave in to the fit of laughter anyway.
"Real funny....Liíl Britches" Balooís remark stopped Kitís laughter instantly and brought a smile to all other faces "and my olí pal isnít here to take anyone."
"True, I was just paying a visit to my favourite deckswabber" Cipper casually walked towards the easy chair and leaned down to face Kit "do you mind, youngman?"
The cub quickly jumped out of the chair to make way for the sailor, muttering a faked apology under his breath. Cipper sat down and took a look around the room.
"Nice business you got here Jelly, not to mention what a lovely family. The kid takes after his old man, showing no respect whatsoever for his elders, so I can hardly wait for your wife to open her mouth. If she takes after your mother..." the sailor looked at Rebecca with a stupid grin on his face.
"Excuse me, sailor, but do you get your kicks out of ridiculising other people? And Iím not his wife" Rebecca clarified to the sailor while she rose up. Cipper never stopped smiling.
"Ah, a good education and a big mouth, she does take after your mother."
"Watch it Cipper, I ainít one of yer deckswabbers no more." it was a treath, no more. The one thing the grey bear couldnít stand was someone making a fool out of his family, past or present.
"Allright, down to business..."
"Business?" the word worked as a red flag on a bull and immediately sparked the interest of Rebecca "what kind of business are we talking about?" dreams of a military shipping contract flashed briefly before the bearessí eyes.
"Favors. Weíre talking about plain old favors."
"Watcha talking about? I never gave ya a marker....not to you at least"
"Thatís not what I meant, Jelly, Iím not here to redeem a marker. I thought about doing you a favor" Cipper stated matter of factly, Rebecca almost lost interest"...I can make it happen, that your plane, the Seaduck, is repaired within two weeks."
"You can?" Rebecca interjected, her interest returning completely.
"Yup! I can ship the wreckage..."
"Hey! Watch it!"
"My apologies, the remainder of the plane" Cipper corrected, Baloo looked relieved "....to a naval repair yard for a priority reparation. If the order is signed by the Trinity captain, a lot of doors open up...but you oughta know that Jelly" A private look was shared between the ex-colleagues which others could only guess the meaning off "and on top of that, Iím offering Jelly here a little cruise.
"Awright, enough of it already, whereís the catch?" Kit suddenly blurted out.
"Ehm, what you say shorty?" Cipper asked absently, not really paying attention to the little kid sitting on the ground.
"I asked: whereís the catch. You got cheese in your ears or something? Why would the Navy care enough about an ex-deckswabber to offer a *three-hundred-thousand* dollar repair for a plane thatís not even theirs? And why are you so eager to butter up my Poppa Bear and get him on your ship?" Kit leaned on the armrest of the chair with his elbows, awaiting the response of the sailor. When Cipper had ejected the usual vocabulary of Ďuhnnsí and Ďehmmsí, he had come up with a fairly plausible story.
"Well, when Jelly was serving on the Trinity, the captain took quite a liking to him. Frankly, I donít see why Ďcause he once polished the deck...but I learned never to doubt my superiors. We were sailing Ďround the cape and I requested some time to visit Jelly for olí timeís sake. I knew he had turned to aviation and when I saw that burned out bird on the dock...once a sailor, always a sailor and it works the other way Ďround. So if it makes Jelly happy, Iíll have his bird repaired. But offcourse, then he owes me and all I ask in return is that he sails along once more, just to make me happy. The captain wonít mind and neither will I...did ya buy that?"
"If I donít, youíll make up something else right?"
"Right...touché. Anyway, Jelly, how Ďbout it?"
"Dunno, if ya asked me two years ago, Iíd have said no. I donít wanna leave da Duck. Aní now....things have gotten a bit complicated" Baloo walked towards Kit and put his hand on the cubís shoulder. Cipper had his orders and they did state Ďby all means necessaryí. The goons by the door were starting to get nervous, and he wanted to avoid a riot at all costs.
"I see...You know what, Iím sure the captain wonít mind another guest on board. After all, how much does a kid like him eat? You like fish, dontcha?"
"Fish? Eww, no thanks" It wasnít so much his response, but Kitís gesture that caught Cipperís attention. Out of habit, the cub shielded his mouth with his hands, forgetting his right one was bandaged in. All of the sudden, the sailorís orders started to make sense.
"No fish huh? You ainít much of a sailor, more of a mommaís boy. I bet you didnít even take care of that hand yourself."
"I wanted to, but he wouldnít let me" Kit gave Baloo an insulting look "I told him it wasnít a big deal, just a burnwound, but no...."
"A burn? Before or after the last flight?"
"After....whyíd you ask?" the cub inquired suspiciously
"No reason" Cipper smiled while one of his goons noted something. They would find out what he had written later on, but by then the situation was hopelessly lost. "But I bet you could have used that ice in the basement, huh?"
"How do you know about that?" Rebecca asked, curiously. Cipper was once again lost for words. His imagination returned when he saw the two goons at the door reaching for their sides....and it wasnít to scratch an itch.
"Well ehmm....Baloo told me out on the dock" he stared into Balooís eyes intently, the grey bear didnít get it.
"No I didnít..."
"Oops, look at the time, would love to stay and chat but I gotta go" Cipper jumped up, hurried to the door and pushed his two goons outside. When they were out of earshot, he visibly relaxed and turned back to Baloo and Kit "How long do you two need to pack? 10 minutes, 15? Oh hell, Iím not in that much of a hurry, letís make it 20."
"20 minutes? We still gotta cancel our deliveries...." Baloo started.
"....and I donít think my school will appreciate it too much if Iím on board a ship instead of in the classroom on Monday..."Kit continued.
"...not to mention that Iíll need a pilot for the rental plane" Rebecca finished.
"Ow, donít worry, Uncle Samuel will take care of all that. But the Trinity is on a tight schedule, sheíll leave in about an hour and we still gotta pack" Cipper started urging his two Ďguestsí up the stairs.
"You mean that you wanted us to leave right away, no matter what weíd say?" Kit observed once they had reached the top of the stairs."
"Yup, and hurry up, we donít have all day."
The small launch plowed the ocean waves. To the passengers, it felt like they were the toy of the waves and simply advancing because the sea wished so. One big wave and it would be all over. The view of the cliffs was magnificent, unlike anything Kit had ever seen. Even though they passed them almost daily, he had never seen them from below.
The sea got even rougher once they were outside the protected area. Nature was untamed at this distance but still the Trinity was not in sight. Kit reckoned that they could have done the same distance with a plane in under five minutes. The speed of the launch was that of a seaslugÖand it wasnít getting any better.
"Slow tub..." Kit shouted to Cipper over the roar of the engine and the splash of the waves
"Actually, this thing is pretty fast for a seagoing vessel."
"No kidding...the Trinity is faster, right?"
"Offcourse not! She canít begin to match this speed."
"No, whaddya think?" Baloo interrupted "She was refitted in í25 to use diesel. One of the fastest ships in the fleet at that time."
"Those were the good old days, Jelly. In comparison to the newer vessels, sheís a seaslug now. But nobody will ever get me to transfer posts. Ah, there she is!"
Cipper pointed at a dot in the distance that closed in pretty fast. A ship of enormous dimension steamed straight at the nutshell launch. Even though this wasnít the most modern destroyer, Kit couldnít help but fall silent and be amazed what power radiated from this ship. The name ĎTrinityí was painted in fine black on the oceangray hull, the military designation not far to the right. She struck Kit like a soldier that wore his tags with pride and, despite his age, ready to go into any warzone to prove his worth. The Trinity was indeed a rather impressive destroyer and Kit suddenly understood why Cipper never wanted to part from it. A ladder was thrown down to allow the passengers to reach the deck. Once empty, the launch would be hoisted up to the deck. The bags Kit and Baloo had hastily prepared were thrown up to a waiting sailor. If he happened to miss just once, the bag and it contents would be swallowed forever by the cold sea. With this uncomforting thought, both civilians reached the deck. A whistle sounded, followed by a short ĎCaptain on deck!í. All sailors froze into the military greet position. When the captain approached the only duo that wasnít saluting, Kit noticed a faint resemblance to someone he knew very well. It didnít take the captain long to recognise his old deckswabber. The captain was just like his ship: aging but proud with a warm but insistant voice
"Welcome onboard the Trinity or better said, welcome back. Those of you that donít know me" the captain turned to adress Kit without actually looking at the cub "my name is captain Smith and youíll adrress me as such. When weíre not in hot waters and getting shot at, youíll find that Iím a pretty forgiving man that will grant you a bunch of new chances if you screw up. And believe me gentlemen, you will screw up sooner or later. Onboard my vessel, there is no room two things: fights and insubordination. A variety of other things that are also forbidden are listed in the military code of conduct, I suggest you take your time to read it one day. One other thing I despise are picky eaters. There will be no detours to pick up a load of fries and burgers. You will eat what is provided without delay or complaints. Since you two are guests onboard, Iíll spare you the horrors of the galley and invite you to eat with me and my officers in the private messhall. Now please, follow me for your briefing." the captain quickly turned around and walked away, without checking his guests. When he had finally arrived to his quarters, he was relieved to see that they had been able to keep up with him. He opened the door and motioned the duo to go inside. He shut the door behind him and threw his captainís hat in the corner.
"Sit down, make yourselves at home."
Baloo and Kit gladly took his offer and took a seat on the leather couch that decorated one of the cabin walls along with a bookcase. The whole had an atmosphere of certain luxury. Somehow, both figured that the rest of the ship wouldnít be this nicely decorated. The captain found himself a seat on one of the chairs near his private dining table.
"I hope I didnít scare any of you on deck. I have to appear strict in face of my sailors. Between these walls however, the mask can fall off."
"I know...like that deckpolish incident...."Baloo reminesced. The captain started smiling too.
"Oh yeah, I remember that one"
"What was that all about? Cipper mentioned it too" Kit asked. Baloo and the captain looked at each other as if deciding who was going to tell him.
"Well, when Baloo was new to the Navy, he got the most irritating job onboard..."
"Deckswabber" Kit completed. Baloo immediately chimed in.
"íCourse, I wasnít gonna be a deckswabber all my life, so I tried ta prove myself. I got the stupid idea ta polish the deck to make it shiny."
"Whatís wrong with that?"
"Well, son, technically itís a good idea....as long as the ship is not at sea. The entire deck was like a ballroom, nobody could stay on his feet without slipping or falling. Cipper almost fell overboard..."
"And complained to the captain. Believe me, kiddo, never have I heard such a rant. It took Ďim half an hour to finish..."
"Only half an hour? Donít insult me! I ranted for a full hour! And when it was done, I invited you for a Ďchatí in my cabin."
"Man, I was nervous. The captain was in a bad mood, chewed me out for a full hour in front of the crew aní then we had ta go to his cabin? Sumthiní told me I was in fer it."
"So what happened?"
"We laughed. As stupid as the idea may have been to turn my deck into a ballroom, Iíll never forget the look on Cipperís face when he tried to stay on his feet. Even when I was Ďcorrectingí Jelly, he fell down twice and so did the others. I think me and Jelly were the only ones that had figured out how to stay upright. Not that Baloo got away with it though..."
"No, just when I was opening the door, he ordered me ta get the polish of the deck." Baloo and the captain started laughing, again.
"Iím not really an expert in cleaning...how did you get that polish off?" Kit asked, feeling more and more like he was watching a tennis game.
"Easy: with a rake. Not every ship has its own gardener."
"I felt stupid! Imagine this ship pulliní into a military harbor wití me scratchiní the deck. Never lived it down."
"Is that why you left the Navy?"
"Naw, there was a more...profound reason fer that. One we ainít too proud of."
"It was both our faults really...but neither of us is going to admit that."
The atmosphere changed dramatically: from an open and humoristic flashback to a funeral. Both grey bears fell silent. Once again, Kit noticed the similarity between the two. He had an idea why that was so, but he wisely kept his mouth shut. A knocking on the door put the safety back on the firing mechanism....for now.
"Come on in, the door is open."
"Sir" Cipper nervously came in and saluted.
"No need to act like the perfect sailor now Jake, youíre about 10 years late for that."
"Fine captain. I just wanted to inform our guests that their cabins have been prepared. Theyíre right down the corridor. I can show them to..."
"Jake, for the love of god, weíre talking here! You know Jelly and me have a lot to discuss."
"Iím ehmm....Iím sorry, sir."
"Ya know what, take my boy to navigation! Thatíll give you something ta do, and my boy something ta be interested in" Baloo suggested. Kitís eyes twinkled when he thought of the fully equipped navigation room of a military destroyer.
"Iím sorry, but thatís impossible."
"Really Jake? Why?"
"Well, sir, you and I both know that the rules strictly forbid the presence of civilians on the bridge of a military ship, not to mention the potential security risk he poses..."
"Yes, I see. Are you quite all right Jake? Youíre starting to talk nonsense"
"Ya really think my kid is gonna pull out a machine gun once heís on the bridge ta become the youngest terrorist in naval history? Youíve been watching fish too long Cipper"
"Listen here, Jake. We throw them a bone by bending a couple of rules but I promise you that weíll apply the other strictly. Agreed?"
"Yes sir. May I ask the young man to follow me?"
Kit hopped out of the couch and casually walked past Cipper. Just before the XO closed the door, a quick joke entered his mind.
"And donít worry Cipper, Iíll warn you when I see some slippery spots" This said, Kit started a quick dash into the corridor.
"Sunnova...come back here you!" Cipper started a pursuit, skidded to a halt and hurried back to the open door to salute his captain before leaving "Sir!" Without losing too much time, he resumed his chase. Baloo and the captain started laughing, but not after the captain yelled some encouraging words after his overanxious XO.
"Get the raskal Jake!"
"I canít remember when I last had this kind of laughs."
"Neither can I....Baloo. Scotch?" the captain got up and walked to a corner of the room and came to a stop in front of a scaled globe. Like he had done it hundreds of times before, he took off the top half. Inside were several bottles of liquor with accompanying glasses.
"I thought youíd have given up drinking by now."
"A drink now and then doesnít hurt, especially not when youíre at sea. Itís not like thereís anything to bump into out here. Tell me one thing first: why didnít you write?"
"All mail came back....address unknown. Nobody seems ta know a captain ĎSmithí"
"Same here. Nobody seemed to know a Baloo ĎBearí. We can keep throwing insults at each other until the sea dries out. Why didnít you keep in touch?" The captain settled back down on his chair with a glass of scotch.
"Easy, I donít like this navy stuff aní ya know it. Mom didnít like it either."
"Letís not go there, allright? You could at least have sent a wireless to tell me I had a grandson...how old is he? 14? I had to find out through Navy Intelligence."
"Like ya said, we can throw mud until the seaís deeper."
"At least you remembered something I thought ya!"
"Yíalso taught me that when sumthiní Ďs too good ta be true, it is. Why am I here?"
"Because..." the captain shifted in his chair and took his glass in the other hand "and donít tell this to anyone, itís hard for me to accept too...but we need ya."
"If I gotta swab decks again..." Baloo defended, seeing the stormcloud coming.
"We need ya as a pilot."
The last statement brought a bit of joy to the grey bearís heart as he stood up and studied one of the pictures on the wall, his back turned to the captain. Part of the investigative report of the Research and Development division flashed before his eyes.
Ď....have looked into it but regret to inform you that the proposed design changes for the Trinity, military designation SS 951, are deemed unfeasable. The removal of two rear turrets, as suggested, reduces combat readiness and thus the mounting of a single autogyro launchpad can not be carried out. Despite the initial impossibility of this idea, the Navy High Counsil has taken it under advisory and are looking into the construction of an airborne/naval transport. If you wish to defend your idea before the counsil, please report to....."
"They said it couldnít be done, that itíd make any ship a sitting duck.."
"Yeah, but once the duck loses its flavour, thereís not much treath of a sharkbite" the Captain stood up and joined Baloo in staring at the wall "This is the last trip for the Trinity in a combat role. Once we pull into the harbour, sheís officially decomissioned and most of the crew will be transferred to newer vessels. The Trinity itself will be refitted with a medium sized launchpad with one turret left for selfdefence. And then we get to start our new career as scientists."
"We?" Baloo turned towards the captain, the aged bear had turned to Baloo somewhere in the middle of his sentence, his eyes clearly sad.
"Me, Cipper and a couple of others. We know our boat and in a way, it knows us too. Leaving it like this is treason, to me, my crew, the Trinity and all that name stands for.."
"The admiralty forgets quickly, doesnít it? Are we passing ĎUnforgivable pointí?"
The captain put his hand on Balooís shoulder "we never miss it."
The ocean waves slammed against the hull belonging to the Trinity. Calm seas lay ahead, but the ship still succumbed to the never ending rhythm of the ocean waves. Rocking gently from side to side, the ship was almost in perfect rest, but not perfect enough for what sailors tend to call Ďa landloverí.
Not only the ship, but also one of its passengers was succumbing to the sea, ever so slowly....but then again, a small launch and a giant destroyer are not the best introductions to life on the seas. If the movement of the deck didnít tip the scale, the cramped space on board and the never ending stamping and steaming of the engines would do the trick. For all these reasons, a certain guest onboard the Trinity was not enjoying his visit to the bridge
"First Officer on the Bridge" one of the sailors shouted to his companions as he saw the XO approaching. When Cipper entered the bridge, he was saluted by his subordinates, who hardly paid attention to his younger guest. Never forgetting about his duties, the sailor presented Cipper with a situation report and any made course corrections
"Wow, this is certainly worthy of our attentionÖone assumed shipwreck, some debris, a minor oil field and...ah, ĎBlockyí. Alter course East to Southeast, avoid the reef."
"Reef? Blocky?" the frown informed Cipper that his young guest didnít understand the typical Trinity language.
"Well, assuming you know what a Coral Reef is...."
"I lived near the ocean my entire life...I know what a reef is" Kit defended. His attention was immediately drawn to the navigator, as the sailor motioned him to come look at the map.
"What olí Cipper means with ĎBlockyí, is the Great Blockade Reef. Thereís no way through, so we need to get around it, hence the Blockade Reef. Eehm...Sir!" the navigator quickly saluted his XO, obviously embarassed with the ĎOlí Cipperí remark.
"Allright, knock it off Windsniffer. Just for that little slip of the tongue..."
"Youíre gonna answer any question this kid has. That includes mathematical ones concerning our course calculation. Kid...knock yourself out.. seemingly regardless of the problems the XO left his navigator in, Cipper took his place on the bridge, immediately engaged in conversation with the bridge crew.
"Pretty stuck up, isnít he?" the young guest on the bridge observed, getting a smile from the navigator in return.
"Not really. If he were, he had the authority to destroy my career and throw me in the brig, simply for that little remark. Now, what did you want to ask? Course,gulfstreams, topography, just what the heck navigation is? Name it."
"I am a navi....gator" In the middle of the sentence, Kit paused and held his breath 'sorry' stomach acting up, must be something I ate."
"Must be" the navigator smiled, having his own conclusions "a navigator huh?"
"Yeah" with some bravado, Kit showed his compass "airplanes, not ships. Offcourse, in the sky, there ainít much to bump into...and it never takes this long to get anywhere."
"Quite right, but try to grab a bite while youíre on duty in the sky...Iím pretty darn sure it wouldnít be a pretty sight. Besides, I get airsick....just like flyboys get seasick.
"Flyboys donít all get seasick, look at me....íscuse me." While defending himself, the Ďflyboyí had to lean on the navigator table, his stomach acting up more than just a little.
"Okay, just imagine this ship in a storm.."getting knocked back and forth, up and down, a sudden drop, a hard bang and splash, then go up and do it all over again. Slamming side to side, leaning ot the left, then suddenly dropping on a wave again, getting rocked to the right...BANG, back up, left, right "and thatís a light storm." Everytime the navigator saw his colleague getting sicker, he added a notch. He quickly got the response he was waiting for as his colleague ran outside "HEY! CAPE SUZETTE IS THE OTHER WAY!" the entire bridge thought it was darn funny...all but one sailor.
"Hey, flyboy, wait up!" Cipper dropped everything he was doing and went outside. Coming out of their laughter, all sailors on the bridge started singing, quickly followed by their friends in sections nearby and on deck. Before long, ĎSons of the wavesí resonated through the ship. Cipper found his guest hanging over the railing, and knew up front this would not be an easy conversation.
"íSons of the Wavesí. I should have warned you thereís a little competition between the Navy and the airforce. We think a certain way about the airforce, you think a certain way about us, thatís the way it has been ever since the great war" Cipper stared idly out into the ocean, the wind catching his hair "With the experiments theyíre about to conduct...I donít see much improvement in the near future. One thing you should know, though: you are a guest on this ship, just like an admiral or an ambassador would be, I will inform the crew to treat you like that, and not like the flyboy they despise..."
"Thanks" I wasnít feeling too well, but when the navigator started about storm, it really became too much. Itís like I feel every single movement of the ship....a good thing I didnít eat too much."
"Thatís not such a good thing....címon, letís get you below deck, itíll be a lot better there."
"Feeling better?.."Below deck, Cipper had immediately brought Kit to the quarters he shared with Baloo. The grey bear recognised the symptoms and, remembering his own rookie days, had practically ordered the boy to get some rest. Even though Cipper and the Captain insisted, Baloo had refused their help, knowing for sure heíd know how to help his son.
For several minutes, he had waited for the boy to calm down, but still Kit grabbed hold of the sides of his bed everytime the ship banked over a little.
"Man....these seas are rough" coughing just a little, Kit managed to keep his stomach in check....but just barely.
"Rough?" the grey bear on the other bed laughed "címon, itís practically a pond today. Kiddo, this ainít even a little rocking, I tought youíd be used ta that."
"The waters in the harbour are a lot calmer now that the sandbank has been removed ...these beds were placed wrong, they should have been turned 90 degrees."
"Yer right.....wanna know my secret?"
Balooís eyes got that twinkle again and ever so slowly he got up and walked to the closet. He rummaged a little and found what he was looking for "Try this."
"A hammock?" the solution Baloo held in his hand seemed far from ideal to Kit.
The ex-sailor simply smiled and hung the hammock up by two hooks in the cabinís ceiling. Their purpose was unclear, but somehow Kit realised they werenít meant for hammocks. Baloo picked Kit up and placed him in the hammock, which hung right on the centerline of the ship.
"When I first started service on the Trinity....."the grey bear grabbed a blanket and a pillow, just to make sure his son was comfortable "I couldnít sleep.....ya know, the ship never stopped moviní....kinda like yer problem. But, I brought a hammock frem home, aní when I noticed those hooks in the ceiling......well, da rest is obvious, ainít it? Well?" With only silence and a soft snoring in the background, Baloo looked at his son "Kit?" Rocked softly asleep by the ocean waves he dreaded so much, Kit slept completely oblivious of where he was, or what happened around him.
"Come in, sit down. Drink, smoke?" the captain practically dragged Baloo in and pushed him into the couch.
"I ainít thirsty aní I donít smoke....much. Whatís this about?" Baloo retorted a tad irritated.
"Ow, we can talk about that later, first things first, howís your boy?" the captain poured himself another brandy and sat down too.
"Sleepiní like a baby....taught him my little trick, whatís this all about?"
"I thought you might want to talk about old days...or the near future."
"I knew what happened in the past, sumthiní tells me you know whatís gonna happen ta me pretty soon" still irritated because the Captain didnít want to come clean, Baloo stood up and walked to the door "so either ya tell me, or Iím outta here."
"Okay, hold up Baloo, Iím sorry. I invited you here to lift a little tip of the veil that cloaks your assignment...sit down" on request of the captain, the grey bear took his seat again
"Thereís a lot of cloak aní dagger stuff going on if ya ask me..."
"Thereís a reason for that. Youíre here because the navy needed the best pilot it could get, and because you know about military secrecy. Your mission is partially scientific, and partially military. In a few weeks, two to be exact, the Usland army will test a new weapon on Birkini Atoll..."
"Why Birkini?" interrupting the captain, Baloo made clear he was still there.
"Because itís remote....you must understand, the sheer destructive power of this weapon is enormous....we canít test it on any conventional site. Our scientists are unsure of the exact magnitude, and thatís where you come in. The details of your mission are still classified, so youíll have to content with what I just said until we pull into the harbour."
"If they expect me ta stand in the middle of a blast zone, holding some kind of Ďroast-o-meterí..."
"I can tell you this: you wonít even be around when the weapon is being tested...all they want you to do, is fly above the testing area and measure a few things, thatís all."
"Aní what about my navigator?"
The clicking increased every time the XO moved the odd piece of equipment. Slowly inspecting entire parts of Balooís body, Cipper frowned at the readout. Thankfully, the shelter had been exactly where he figured it would, be it hiddend under a trap door made of lead. As there was no need for the insulating suits, all occupants of the shelter wore their blue navy battle gear. For some reason, Cipper had insited that the suits be locked away in a special storage shed.
"125 rads....stay where I can see you" the XO announced the readout and ordered Baloo not to go anywhere. He quickly motioned Kit to take his fatherís place and resumed his measuring work. Once again, the clicking increased. Because of Kitís smaller frame, the testing was over a lot quicker
"130 rads....I guess that makes it official" Cipper threw his Geigerteller against a wall and angrily kicked the equipment into tiny pieces. Never having seen the otherwise calm XO this infuriated, Kit sought shelter near his father
"Hey, Cip.....ease up man, weíre in this together, weíll get out of it."
"Sure, sure...." Cipper eased up a little and quickly turned to the calm Baloo "when we lose our way at night, weíll light up the road for a few miles....we glow in the dark Jelly, weíre done for!"
"And youíre supposed to be the expert" Kit bit at the sailor "how about finding a way to get us out of here, without having to walk through no-man-alive-land!"
"If you had found your way back to the Trinity in time..." Cipper started.
"The Trinity wasnít there! For the last time Cipper, I know my way around the skies, but your captain couldnít find the cork in his bottle of liquor!"
"One more word about my captain, and Iíll throw you in the storage shed with the radiated suits. You can blaspheme as much as you want, but in return I expect you to rot! I ainít got nothing to lose, so donít tempt me BOY!" Cipper suddenly snapped back, making sure the last word resonated in the shelter. Kitís eyes started to burn and his blood boiled, but thankfully Baloo stepped between the fighting duo. He gently pushed Kit away from the sailor.
"Donít worry about Ďim, kiddo. He ainít the one to talk to when yer in a bind..."
"What the hell are you talking about Jelly?!" still infuriated, Cipper went paranoid and provoked the argument.
"Unforgivable point, thatís what Iím talking about! You never told my kid why itís called that way, or what actually happened, did ya? Offcourse ya didnít. Thereís a reason why you never made captain."
"Thatís Ďcause I got refused for command three times."
"ENOUGH!" the constant tennis games between Baloo and his former colleagues were driving Kit nuts "Either one of you tells me whatís going on, or nobody says anything at all."
"Being refused for command three times is the toughest thing that can happen to a career officer" Cipper started, depressed now instead of angry "it means you reached the end of the line...after a third refusal you can never be considered for command again. I know why they refused me, they made that clear the first time Ďround."
"It happened near the end of the Great War kiddo. I was just a kid back then..knowing my dad was out on the sea.....I was practically dreaming of the great Captain ĎSmithí guiding his vessel through dangerous waters....how was I supposed to know he despised his wife and son enough to assume a false name? Anyway, the Trinity wasnít the Trinity back then, just some destroyer that got fresh off the assembly line. The Ambassador was the flagship of the battlegroup...."
"In my rookie days, I got assigned to the Ambassador" Cipper started, his back turned to Baloo and Kit, as he reminesced the faithful day "it happened during the night, I can still remember it clearly. The four ships of the battlegroup were attacked....there wasnít even a moon out that night. We started firing blindly, not knowing where our enemy was, but feeling the splash of near misses....we were about to be blown out of the water and we didnít even know who we were opposing! In the confusion, I did something that was indeed unforgivable..." Cipperís voice broke, Baloo completed the story for him.
"....to find his way around the deck at night with no light, Jake lit a lantern and brought it on deck.....a few moments later, the Ambassador was ripped apart by 15 direct hits....all friendly fire...."
"They had led us in a circle, with the Ambassador caught in the middle. The light of my lantern gave the rest of the battlegroup something to aim at. There was no time to verify the target, really no need to either........when youíre being shot at, and you canít see your enemy, youíre glad to have a shiny dot to aim at, to fire upon.....thinking you might live just another day if you eliminate the only target you have" Turning back to his companions, Cipper tried to supress tears "I survived, so did a few others. We killed 300 of our own men that night....the reason I never was courtmarshalled."
"The Ambassadorís captain got promoted ta Admiral. He never forgave Cipper....but he kept his yap shut. In the end, the Admirals need ta decide who becomes captain and who gets a desk job..."
Looking at nowhere in particular, Cipper had only one way to express what he was feeling "Strike three, Iím out..."