Written By: Kristof E-Mail: Kristof.email@example.com Disclaimer: All characters expect Chris 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. Chris and others is the property of the writer of this fanfic and may not be used without the writers prior consent. You may give copies of this fanfic as long as they are not altered in any way and proper credit is given to the writer. Rudder is the property of Dan Green. Special Disclaimer: My humble thanks to the High Flight Crew for giving me permission to use the Windward theory. If anyone is unfamiliar with it, go read Tail Winds NOW! Special thanks to Dan Green, not only for letting me use character 'Rudder' and the continent of 'Eporue', but he's also a good chat partner, great friend, excellent writer and ideal moral booster in though times. Even more special thanks to David Kimble for putting up with me every time I bothered him when I got stuck in the middle of a sentence. Just as Dan a good chat partner, great friend, yes-a writer-, moral booster and soulmate. Wish ya the best Dave! I'm not gonna forget all my other TS friends here, who indirectly helped me write (you all know who you are!) The poem near the end of story, recited by Kit and Chris is one I heard during a playstation ad on TV, so don't send any comments about it: I DIDN'T WRITE IT! Somewhere around the 15th page you'll notice a short flashback in Kit's life...I'm warning you ahead, it ain't pretty, and neither are his flashbacks on the 19th page. If you are uncomfortable with such material, feel free to skip it, you won''t miss too much of the story. You will miss a lot of Kit's past though... Ok, enough with the scaring part: ENJOY THE STORY (and please send me feedback!)
The burning question of education and parenting. Who is a mother or a father? Is it the one that possesses your birth certificate and other legal papers, or is it the one that looks after you when things go bad? The one that the judge called 'mother', or is it the woman that loves you? The one willing to take care of you, or the one that already does? Burning questions indeed. Finding an answer is never easy, and usually accompanied by broken hearts and childhood dramas.
This is for the ones that weren't as lucky…
It was six o'clock in the morning. The moon still shone brightly in the dark night, not willing to surrender to dawn yet. A warm breeze blew to the shore, and the harbor buoy danced on the rythm of the calm sea, chiming its monotonous tune. All was quiet in Cape Suzette. The ones out already were most likely adventurers and people on the wrong end of the law. The only ones out in this part of Cape Suzette, the suburbs, were police officers, mailmen and milkmen. The inhabitants of these parts felt safe at night knowing that only a few cases of criminality were known to the police. Several reports had been made of a lone burglar prowling the streets, but no owner of one of the luxurious houses and appartments in this neighbourhood lost any sleep over it. The one and only exception to this was Rebecca Cunningham. Although owner of a fine appartment with matching security system, there was another reason then the burglar why she was sleeping with only one eye shut.
For ten days now, she had been taking care of three bearcubs. She was used to parenting, but never for anyone else but her own child. The other two moved in there just recently, and their stay is only temporarely, but the healing process from an ammonia is one accompanied by high fevers, lots of medication and constant care. For ten days now, Rebecca had spent her days making sure she did everything possible for a quick recovery of the two. They were now in a much better shape then the first week, where their condition had deteriorated, but still Molly was not allowed to enter their room to avoid her contaminating the two with a common disease like the cold. Diseases healthy children would soon shake off, but the immune system of the two brothers was not yet fully recovered and neither were they.
Through the silence of the night, a noise reached Rebecca's ear. She reacted instantly, being used to getting up most nights to comfort Molly when she had a nightmare, or more recently to take care of one of the two ill bearcubs when they were delirious from fever. Her mother instinct told her this was neither of the two. She grabbed the frying pan she had near her sofa-bed (Kit and Chris occupied her own bed) and quickly but silently approached the noise. She glanced in the kitchen, switched on the light and beheld two squinting bearcubs. She put down her 'weapon'.
"Why aren't you two in bed?" It was a worried tone, rather then an accusive one
The two brothers looked at each other, seemingly embarrased to be caught redhanded
"We wanted to make you breakfast" Kit replied and let out a small cough
"Yeah…you've been doing so much for us lately, and we thought we'd surprise you"
Rebecca smiled and felt her heart melt as she looked into their eyes
"You can make up for it when you are healthy…" She gave them a gentle push in the back "But now you should be in bed!"
"Aww…it's so boring to ly around there without being able to do anything" Kit complained
"I'll ask Baloo to bring over your comic books, but you need your rest! The doctor will be here in five days to check how you two are doing. If he says you're healthy enough, and only when he says that, I'll let you out of there, no sooner. Too much risk in letting the both of you run around already."
After she made sure Kit and Chris were asleep again, she got to her bed for one or two hours of sleep…
The job of spokesman of the Child Welfare Department was a hard one, especially in this case. The eyes of the white furred dog that assumed this position were mostly clouded by sadness. The case he just got thrown on his desk was one in direct conflict with his conscience. His mood was heavy while he picked up the phone for one of his difficult conversations
"Good morning miss Cuningham. Sorry to disturb you this early, but I call in the name of the Child Welfare Department"
"Good morning sir, how can I help you?"
"Are you the legal caretaker of Chris Windward?"
"I sure am. I take care of both brothers"
The spokesman let out a small sigh, knowing Rebecca just made everything more complicated for him. Hearing that Chris had a brother made him want to throw down the phone and quit his job…
"It is never easy to say this…but I have here the report from your doctor, stating a severe illness after his second day with you. It is standard procedure that such cases are immediately reported, and are unfortunately always the subject of a thorough investigation."
"Are you suggesting I abused that child?" Rebecca was now very angry
"I am not suggesting anything miss Cunningham. But the result of this investigtion revealed several previously unknown facts…such as…how should I put it…your regular encounters with Air Pirates. We see this as an occupational hazard for you, but exposing a child to these risks is intolerable."
"I try everything to avoid these 'encounters' sir. I just spent ten days looking after Chris and his brother, making sure they were okay. I was with them day and night!" Rebecca's voice trembled. How could anyone doubt her good motifs?
"Miss Cunningham, I'm sure you'll understand that this matter can't be settled over the phone. I would like to schedule an appointment with you and Mr. Levrai so you can defend yourself. I must warn you that if he feels you pose too much of a risk to this child, he has the authority to have it removed from your custody. I suggest you prepare well for this meeting. Another pair of parents will be there too and if they convince Mr. Levrai it is in the best interest of the child to have it placed under their custody, he most likely will."
"So you would just break up two brothers who just recently found out about eachother?" Rebecca was crying
Kit had sneaked out of bed again and heard the entire conversation from around a corner. A tear rolled of his cheek as he understood what had happened. He turned around and started back towards Rebecca's room. He took a look at his sleeping brother, buried his head in the pillow and cried.
Rebecca walked in the bedroom, to check on the brothers. When she got in, she noticed Kit staring at the ceiling.
"Hey! How are you feeling today"
She sat down next to him
"Lousy…" was Kit's only answer
"What's the matter? Do your lungs still hurt or are the medicines twisting your stomach again?"
Kit turned his head aways from her and faced his brother
"It's not fair, is it?"
He turned his head again and looked her in the eyes. Only now she saw his tears
"I may be sick, but my hearing is still fine. I heard you on the phone…"
"It's nothing to be worried about. It was just a routine call. They always do this when a recently placed child gets seriously ill."
The tears now streamed down Kit's face
"I don't kow what's worse: losing my brother or hearing you lie to me about it"
He turned his head away again. Rebecca closed her eyes and left.
Chris woke up and saw his brother crying
"You had to be there to know…In this and four days, you'll know…"
Kit closed his eyes and Chris decided not to ask. He turned around and tried to get some more sleep.
Two weeks. Two weeks had passed since the two first met in the San Flamingo Orphanage. And now, the doctor declared the two healthy enough to leave quarantine. They had violated it several times, but at least now they got to run around without Rebecca sending them back to their room after 2 minutes. No resuming normal activities though. That would take another two weeks. The doctor wanted to give them ample time to recover.
"Another two weeks of doing nothing" Kit sighed
"Hey, at least I'm doing nothing with you" Chris laughed
Rebecca had left for Higher for Hire and Kit felt the coast was clear to tell Chris what had happened
"Not if the Child Welfare Department can help it…"
Chris turned around in the sofa
"What do you mean?"
"That our good doctor has filed a report. The blooddogs jumped on it and traced Rebecca's entire past. If running a cargo business means regular meetings with the pirates, they feel it's safer for you to be placed with other parents." Kit said it all in a mocking tone
Chris just sat there, not moving or speaking. Tears formed in his eyes
"They can't do that!" His voiced was a bit rasping, almost breaking "They can't do that…they can't…" He broke down in tears
Kit put his arm around him, and put Chris' head on his shoulder
"I'm afraid they can…"
Chris looked him in the eye
"What about you? Why didn't they try …and…"
"Nobody ever cared about me" Kit chuckled " And nobody does now"
Chris sat up straight and wiped of his tears
"Not true. Baloo and Rebecca do. And I do too."
"Then why are they doing this to me? And you? I'm not going to let them!"
Chris looked at him with a puzzled look? Kit saw the look and smiled.
"You'll see in ample time my brother."
Four bears stood on the corner facing the grey building of the Child Welfare Department. All four tried to dress their finest, but the smallest two were wearing winter jackets for no obvious reason. All four wished they were somewhere else right now…
After a long hesitation, Baloo rang the bell. The door buzzed open.
After the usual introductions and wrong directions, Baloo, Rebecca, Kit and Chris entered the bureau of Mr.Levrai.
Baloo took off his cap and twisted it nervously, trying not to show his nervosity to the costumed weasel sitting behind the desk
"Good morning mr Baloo, miss Cunningham…please sit down" The weasel didn't even look up. "are the children with you?"
"They're outside in the hallway…"
"Please let them in. They will have to hear this."
Baloo went outside and came back with Kit and Chris. The weasel looked a bit surprised. The two weren't exactly what he understood under 'healthy children'. He made some quick notes and pressed a button
"Would you show the Vanderauws in please Gerda?"
The door opened again and two whealthy looking bears strolled in. They took their seat, cautiously not to wrinkle their expensive clothes. The weasel cleared his throath…
"Let me start by saying that this matter is never easy. In good faith we entrusted two children to you miss. Cunningham, only to find two days after we placed the second child under your custody that both were very ill. Offcourse, it is possible that this was just bad luck, but thanks to our thorough investigation we know better then that. It seems that both were attacked by pirates! Maybe that is your idea of a good education, but it certainly isn't ours! I invited you here to provide us with a plausible explanation, a chance to redeem yourself. I must warn you that the Vanderauws have already convinced me of their good intentions. And I am sure you have already noticed that they can provide the Windward twins with an education impossible for you to afford."
"Aw, that's not the education they want!" Baloo interrupted "Have you ever asked these kids what they want out of their lives? Do ya think they want to learn how to behave in front of some high ranking twerp? Or how to chat about nothing while trying to boss everyone around?"
"Mr. Baloo, whatever these children want, the Vanderauws can provide it. They have no children of their own, so they can count on complete attention"
"Mr. Levrai, I know how to take care of children. I have one myself. Nobody ever complained about my parenting. I spent two weeks by their side, constantly looking after them. Do you know what it is like waking up at night, trying to calm them down because the room is turning around them? Or to comfort a six year old after she dreamt of a giant condor? Money can provide everything but love! I pay them constant attention. I picked Christopher of the streets. I was the first to care about him. The first in his entire life!"
"Miss Cunningham, nobody doubts your intentions. But you have to admit your occupation contains a risk. Mr. Vanderauw's job is a steady one. They have so much more to offer them"
The female bear had already taken a brush and started combing Kit's hair. As soon as she was finished, he rubbed his hands through his hair to mess it up again. He shot her a killing glare and turned to face Mr.Levrai
"Yeah, but nothing I want! Nothing WE want!" He jumped on his chair "We're Windwards dammit!" He slammed his fist on the desk, prompting a frown from the weasel "We were born free! Our lives are ment for aviation, not to be wasted in boardmeetings and receptions. You're not going to latch us with these overstuffed yuppies! I am proud to have spent three years on my own and still be here today. I refuse to be tied down like that" Kit's voice trembled with anger and Chris stood up too, trying to vent his own opinion
"Although my brother may seem somewhat emotional right now, I must say I share his opinion. I have spent half of my youth in an orphanage, locked up inside a building. These last few weeks have been the most exciting of my entire life! I have found a brother and a destination in life. These people can provide us with nothing we want. I refuse to be locked up again."
"I can understand that you both want that right now, but what about your futures?"
"Lads, we can give you a fleet of airplanes, and the finest education money can buy" Mr.Vanderauw spoke slowly, almost looking down on them
"Mr Vanderauw" Kit started "You have no idea what you are talking about. It was never Miss.Cunningham's fault we got attacked by pirates. They were never after the cargo, Don Karnage is after ME! I know better then to think that only my brother will be placed under your custody. I'm sure you'll want the full package. Both cubs and their talents. Lemme tell you something money-for-brains, the ful package includes a criminal past and the constant attempts for revenge by pirates. You can wake up in the morning, tied up while Karnage is robbing you blind. Don't think he'll leave you one penny. And the twins you just adopted? Dead! Miss.Cunningham has accepted these risks without complaining. She is the closest thing to a mother I ever had!"
Mr.Vanderauw followed Kit's explanation with an unbelieving frown
"Tss…such foul language for a child. My dear lad, let me assure you that nobody is personally after you. I realise you must have had a rough time, but to think that pirates would even be interested in you…No, I think you are exaggerating. About everything: your parents, your past and your pirate period."
Chris put his hand on Kit's shoulder. Both cubs' eyes shot fire
"Who are you to doubt my brother? You with your perfect life, your millions…what do you know about suffering?"
"And who are you to doubt our bloodline? The Windwards are a proud race! I don't have to take this"
Baloo found it was time to act. He stood up and pulled the two brothers near him. He looked the cocky bear in the eyes
"Listen up man, these cubs have had it very rough an' I'm not going to sit around here and let them take that crap from you. Mr. Levrai, you can't possibly consider this stuffed hot-air balloon for fatherhood."
The weasel was busy making notes. He didn't even look up while he answered
"The board of adoption declared him and his wife more than adequate to raise children Mr. Baloo. And may I assure you your language isn't working in your favour."
Mr. Vanderauw smiled
"What the heck is going on here? Don't tell me the decision was already made…"
"Mr. Baloo, please understand that…"
Baloo grabbed the weasel by his tie
"How much are they paying you fer this?"
"More than your average paycheck" the weasel hissed
"Can we take them along right now? They're so cute"
"These children are still sick. At least let me take care of them for two more weeks until they are in a condition for such a change"
Mr.Levrai straightened his tie and let out a small laugh
"Not a chance. Can't run the risk of you helping them escape. Mr.Vanderauw, you may take them along immediately."
Baloo gave them a push towards the door and took off his jacket
"I'm sure you will understand I have no wish to get physical with you" Mr. Vanderauw sighed
Kit and Chris started to run out to the front door
Mr. Levrai pressed a button on his intercom
"Security to my office please"
Kit and Chris had run out to the street. Once they had passed several blocks, they came to a halt, coughing and trying to catch their breath.
"Can't believe what just happened."
Chris looked at him with a strange smile
"Yeah…off to being a street kid again. Exciting isn't it?"
"What?!!" Kit stood in front of his brother, holding his shoulders and looking him in the eyes "Chris, do you realise we just lost everything? There is nothing exciting about the world we're about to enter!"
"Look at it on the bright side! You can do whatever you want! No limitations or curfews, or…"
"You don't really plan on staying in Cape Suzette, do you? By now every squad car in town is looking for us. It's not that hard to find two brown bearcubs walking on the pier. We have to leave, and we have to leave NOW! We're not improving our chances of escape by standing around here"
Kit let go of his brother and started to walk down the pier leading to several big warehouses. This place was known by freelancers who hardly ever visited Cape Suzette. The chances of meeting someone they knew were very slim
"Come on man, this isn't all bad. You did it for three years!"
Chris had caught up with Kit
"I never wanted you to go through this too. There's no telling where we'll end up…and stop running, you're drawing attention to yourself."
"Sorry…what's wrong about running?"
"Look around you Chris. Do you see anyone here in a hurry to get where they want to be? NO! The only ones running are those escaping from the cops. Where we're going, your first mistake will be your last and I won't be around 24 hours a day to look after you!"
"Aw, come on. You're such a pessimist"
"CHRIS!" Kit came to a halt "You don't seem to understand what's going on here! The cops are after us! If they can't find us by the end of the day, they'll signal our descriptions to every known port. If I estimated the Vanderauws right, they'll probably offer a reward for whoever finds us, so tomorrow we don't only run from the cops, but from every lowlife and streetpunk too. Easy cash isn't it?"
"Sorry…it's just that I've never been in this situation before…anything else I need to know?"
"Yeah, we'll have to lose these sweaters. Maybe put something over it, I haven't figured that out yet. The less we look like our own description the better. You'll have to wear some sunglasses too."
Chris looked at him, not understanding
"Only few bears have blue eyes Chris" Kit explained " It's a sight most people don't forget and that's exactly the opposite of what we want. As long as we don't leave a permanent impression on people we're safe. Rest assured they're already tracking us down…"
"Man, this is weird"
"Yeah, it sure is. Never planned on doing this again. Come on, we have to hitch a ride"
Kit started walking again
"Why don't we…why don't we just take your plane?"
"It's not my plane anymore" Kit chuckled "We lost everything. From this point on, neither you or me can use our names in public again. Have you got any money with you?"
"Got some cash at … man, this IS weird"
"Okay, nothing to bargain with…this is not going to be easy"
"One question… If we got no cash…where are we going to eat?"
Kit smiled wryly
"You got a tab at Louie's"
"Remember this Chris, from now on we can't show ourselves in any place where they might know us. In my case, that's half of Cape Suzette, San Flamingo and Louie's. They'll probably expect us to go there"
"I sure would…I'm starved"
"Gotta wait until we find someone to latch on to for a while. Just pray we find such a person. I hope you don't mind working for your food"
Kit's ears suddenly twitched and he jumped behind a stray wooden crate, dragging his brother with him
"Hey, what's wrong?!"
Kit put his hand on Chris' mouth
"Be quiet. Cops!"
He removed his hand and pointed to two figures in the distance, moving towards them
"How did you know?" Chris whispered
Chris pointed his ears and listened closely. From the direction of the cops, he heard a faint humming noise
"Their scanner gives them away. They always have it with them, even when they're off duty" Kit whispered to Chris. "After three years, you hear them from miles away. Just don't let them see you. If you ever hear them coming and see no place to hide, don't run. Whatever you do, don't run! Once we are in disguise, they'll probably just walk past us"
The two officers turned around and left, clearly looking for something
The cubs stood up and resumed their way towards the warehouses
"What are our chances of finding a decent pilot?"
"Without money? Not too good. But I'm not planning on spending the night here"
"Why are we going to the old warehouses anyway?"
Kit got a strange look over him
"I'm just hoping to meet someone there…"
Chris was puzzled but didn't ask. The two approached the warehouses.
'The warehouses' as they were commonly known among the people of Cape Suzette were a gathering place for all kinds of visitors. Most were freelance cargo pilots, hanging out in the only club they know in the city. The actual warehouses were a place for hobos, or people down on their luck. The cubs both knew very well they couldn't enter the club without money so they headed for the rotten warehouses. The dull grey warehouse at the end of the pier was buzzing with activity and Kit spottted a familiar plane among the many. He turned around and looked his brother in the eyes
"Wait here for a second, I'll be right back"
He turned and walked towards the cargo pilots, glowing with selfconfidence. Chris stared, shrugged and observed a few stray fishermen
Kit approached the pilots and scanned the crowd. He walked towards a group of departing pilots. He jogged to make sure they wouldn't leave without him.
The group came to a halt and a black furred bear, wearing a white scarf and goggles on his forehead, turned around. He took a long look to the approaching bearcub and raised his eyebrows
"Cloudkicker? What are you doing in the dump of a tropical paradise?"
"Good to see you too Rudder"
The two shook hands. Rudder's paw engolfed Kit's paw completely
"What have you been up to kid?"
"Little roaming, some navigating, having some serious fun… But money runs out and so does time, if you know what I mean…"
"Know it all too well" He gave Kit a tap on his back
"Hitch a ride on Air Freedom? Why not? Hop onboard!"
Rudder opened the cockpit door to a Conwing Classic.
"Wait a sec…Things have changed. Can't leave alone"
Rudder gave him a strange stare
"What are you getting at?"
Kit smiled and pointed to Chris
"Can't leave without my brother."
Rudder smiled back
"You always surprised me…He's welcome on Air Freedom too"
"Thanks a lot Rudder"
Kit turned around and jogged towards his brother. Rudder smiled and looked at Kit jogging. He shook his head and climbed into his plane. He started the engines and saw the two cubs returning. He opened the door and helped them in. Chris shook his hand
"Thanks for giving us a ride sir"
"The name's Rudder. Where's your stuff?"
Kit had settled in the navigator chair
"Got none. Had to leave… ehmm…on very short notice. Where we headed?"
"All this stuff for Freeburg? Things going that great?"
"Can't complain. But you know where it ends up!"
"You're still a saint Rudder!"
"Am I the only one that has no clue what you two are talking about?"
"Sorry kid, forgot you were new." Rudder turned around in his chair and faced Chris "You know what it's like to have nothing." Chris nodded "Well, several 'wanderers' got together and decided to settle on a desert island they baptised Freeburg. I was one of the founders in my young years and started a little air ferry service. I earn a few bucks freelance in Air Freedom…"
"That's what I call my plane son. Anyway, I ship some and earn some. With what I earn I buy stuff for our colony. Everything you see in the cargo hatch is for Freeburg. And since you seem to be going there anyways…take your pick!"
"Thanks a lot!" Chris hurried to the back
"Energetic fella isn't he?"
"It's his first time on the streets. Cut him some slack…"
"I got a message over the radio…Two cubs wanted, approximately 3 ft 9, male, brown, one with blue eyes, wearing green and red sweater, one with backwards baseball cap…have you seen either of these two?"
Kit smiled and looked at Rudder
Rudder smiled back
"Haven't seen anyone that even remotely looks like them…Just tell me, what happened?"
"A deal gone bad. Two richo's bribed the board of adoption. We're wanted now, great isn't it?" Kit said the last in a mocking tone with a wry smile on his face
"You found a family and your brother, and you had to give it up for two richo's? Man, what a waste…"
"I had everything I dreamed of! I found a family, a good home, a job, I found my brother, I went to school…I even had a pilot's license and my own plane…Almost got adopted…WHY DID THOSE RICH HOT-AIR BALLOONS INTERFERED DAMMIT!"
Rudder put his hand on Kit's shoulder and tried to calm him down. The gesture reminded Kit of Baloo.
"It's just not fair Rudder"
"Life never is…You of all people should know that by now. When do you plan on going back home?"
"When this thing has blown over. After the rich lice have forgotten about us"
"Got any idea what kind of reward they offered?"
"100 g's. If I didn't know it was you, I'd turn you in myself. That's not the kind of money people forget about easely"
"Rudder…I don't mean to press you, but shouldn't we be leaving?"
The Conwing was still docked. Every pilot and hobo at the warehouses had seen the two wanted cubs. The engines were already started but were still on idle thrust, drawing a lot of attention from the assembled crowd. Through the clear glass cockpit, Kit saw several pilots on the phone. Their expression made it more then clear they were turning the two in.
"You're right…time to punch out"
Rudder reversed the engines and taxied away from the dock. He turned the plane to face the cliffs and took off. Now the tricky part…
"Think the gunners have already been notified of your ehmm…passengers?"
"Most likely. Let me do the talking kid"
Rudder picked up the microphone with a strange smile on his face
"This is Air Freedom, requesting departure clearance"
"Reason?" Rudder sounded mad but still had that grin on his face
"Possibly helping two wanted persons on their escape"
"WHAT?! Now listen up rich boy, you're stopping a non-profit charity organisation from reaching its destination. I know you kapitalists don't like to see me in the air, but if you stop me now there will be political consequences… SEVERE political consequences. I will take this to the mayor…no, to the gouvernor! There will be street wide protest of ever homeless man, woman and child in the city. I will make this an international press scandal and even Thembria will…"
Rudder put down the microphone and started laughing
"See kid…it's all in the mind!"
"Just a matter of goodwill" Kit joked back
Air Freedom winged his way through the cliffs and out of the city of Cape Suzette. Destination: the dream of every wanderer…Freeburg
"Can you give me a heading kid?"
Kit was rummaging through the maps. He frowned and looked through every map again. After a while, he gave up and turned towards Rudder
"It's not on the map!"
"Sure it is…you just gotta know where to look. Map 13/4 grid C5"
"We called it Freeburg, but that doesn't mean the authorities call it that"
Kit took his compass and calculated the course. Chris had returned from the cargo hold, wearing a black raincoat, sunglasses and a black hat. He was devouring a sandwich he found between the food packets.
"Mdya fnk o' mnew look?" Breadcrumbs flew all over the cockpit
Kit turned around and took a long look, arching his eyebrows. He turned back to his maps and tried to suppress a laugh. Rudder clearly had problems not to burst in laughter
"Hey!" Chris protested
"Sorry kid" Rudder said half laughing "but you look like a cartoon mobster"
"Lose the hat Chris. The raincoat and the glasses are fine, but don't push your luck…"
"I thought it fit nicely. Makes me look a lot older"
Rudder got serious again
"The kid's got a point there Kit. I can bring anyone I want with me…but no kids. Freeburg is no place for children to hang out. We don't have anything to care of them anyway. We need to be able to work without having to look after a bunch of children."
"You know I won't give you any trouble Rudder. I'm a good navigator and my brother is a fine mechanic. We know how to work"
"Yeah, but you look too young. Go get some new clothes in the back. As long as they don't find out I can introduce you as my new crew. When they find out, and they will eventually, you'll have to leave. Got that course already?"
"oh-three-niner. I'll be in the back if you need me"
Kit unbuckled and got up. Chris took his seat.
A long silence filled the cockpit. Finally, Chris stopped staring out the window
"Where did you meet my brother?"
"Port Green. He was in some sort of trouble with the local authorities. Burglary I think. Ridiculous offcourse, he was only ten at the time. He hid in my plane. I heard him during the flight. His first idea was too fight his way out. I calmed him down and he stuck around for a while. Never really got to know him, but he was a good navigator. Always talked about how he would be a pilot someday. His bigggest wish was a family though. When I proposed him a permanent job and to take care of him, he freaked and refused to go with me. He stayed behind in a bar. The Parrots Claw if I'm not mistaking. I heard later on he joined Karnage's gang. Sure seems like he got out of it."
"Yeah. He regrets what he did though. He left the pirates over a year ago but he can't seem to get rid of them. Everywhere he goes, he's reminded of his past. The memories still haunt him. I never got through to him. Whatever he went through it was pretty rough. Just recently he had to risk his life for me. Too bad he never seemed to have had the chance to be a kid. He's not only a good navigator, I saw him fly…not bad now he has the landing figured out…Why are those planes following us?"
Chris saw the reflection of the fighters in the window. They closed in fast. They weren't CT-37's nor P39's
"Coast guard…and this isn't an escort. Those gunners are smarter then I thought! Kit, get out of the hold before the fireworks start."
Kit was changing in his new clothes and stood in his white undershirt. He ran to the cockpit.
"Got any rope?"
Rudder looked at him without understanding
"Got one tied to a winch in the back for easy loading"
Kit smiled and put his hand on Chris's shoulder
"Time for some inflight sabotage…open the hatch Rudder, we're going out"
"Sure hope you know what you're doing"
Rudder flipped the hatch switch and the two cubs ran to the back. Kit attached another rope to the winch. After some creaking and hissing, the cargo hatch was finally open. The two jumped out.
"Coast guard to Air Freedom, please land immediately and prepare for boarding"
"Air Freedom to coast guard, whatever you're accusing me of, I'm innocent. Abort your chase or I will be forced to disable you."
"Air Freedom this is your last warning"
"Coast guard…forget it!"
"Air Freedom, you leave us no choice"
"Neither do you"
Rudder gave the two cloudsurfers a 'thumbs up'. They swiveled to the two fighters. Chris got near the cockpit of the first. He waved to the pilot. The pilot, a cheetah, was wondering if he should have had that last drink. Chris reached for a panel near the engine and pulled it open. He ripped several connections and the engine shut down. The cheetah jumped. His companion saw what happened and manouevered behind Chris. Chris pulled himself back in not to be blown away by the turbulence of the propellor. Kit found his way to the remaining fighter and tapped on the cockpit. The pilot looked left and his eyes widened in terror when he saw that Kit had pulled the emergency canopy release lever. The canopy blasted itself away and wind blew in the pilot's face. Kit reached in the cockpit and took the contact keys. The engine shut down, the pilot muttered a curse and jumped. Kit laughed and started pulling himself back in: it was rather cold at this altitude wearing only his undershirt.
The security at the Child Welfare department had kept Baloo and Rebecca for a while but decided not to press charges. They were released with the warning they would be monitored to make sure the 'stray orphans' wouldn't contact them. After some idle threats and a refused complaint they decided to go home. Baloo's mood was set on 'cyclone' when he entered the wooden office building.
"These damn rich twerps ruined everything!" He slammed his fist on the desk. Something cracked…it wasn't Baloo's fist. Rebecca sat down, tired and defeated.
"Nothing we can do about it. The papers have been signed and the board doesn't want to listen to us"
Baloo threw his cap in the corner and sat down in a chair
"Offcourse not! They all get big fat checks. What have we got to offer 'em huh?"
"There has got to be something we can do about it. Tomorrow I'll issue an official complaint"
"You do that, I'll try to find Kit and Chris before they do!"
Baloo got up, grabbed his hat from the floor and started towards the door. At that moment he noticed an approaching quartet. He turned back to Rebecca
"Have you figured out what to say to Molly, Firehound, Wildcat and AC yet?"
"Just to let you know, you have about ten seconds to figure it out…bye!"
The Seaduck's engines spurted to life and the plane hurried away to the cliffs
"Seaduck requesting departure clearance"
"Request denied. Turn around immediately."
"What?! What's the reason?"
"Your compatriot already took the orphans to safety. Can't let you pick them up, now can we? Turn around"
"No, YOU listen up! This stomp-on-the-gunner routine might work with the rookies, but it sure ain't gonna work with me. Turn around or we'll open fire Baloo!"
"No need to get ugly Jim. I'll turn, but what happened to those two wasn't my fault!"
"I know buddy…but I'm just doing my job here"
Reluctantly, Baloo cut the throttle and manoeuvred his plane in a turn back to the dock. Rebecca was still standing outside, wondering what to say to Molly when she heard the splash of the Seaduck landing.
Baloo threw the cockpit door open and jumped out, cursing out loud. Rebecca turned to him, not understanding what happened
"Baloo, weren't going to…" She started
"Those damn gunners won't let me!" Baloo barked back "Even my old pal Jim won't let me pass!"
"Probably got orders not to let the Duck pass…"
"We HAVE to do something"
"I KNOW THAT! But for now there's nothing we can do…"
Molly watched the argument with big eyes. She had just returned from a walk around the park with Wildcat. Firehound and AC had some business to take care of with the Airplane Registration Department in the vicinity and the two groups had run into eachother. They observed the strange take off and land manoeuver from a distance and were now trying to figure out what the argument was about.
"Mommy…against what isn't there anything you can do?"
Rebecca looked down to Molly and sighed
"Wildcat, take Molly with you in your houseboat please…I think it's almost time for 'Danger Woman'"
Both hurried over to the strange floating contraption Wildcat called 'home'. Rebecca didn't want to know which of the two was the most exited…
"What's going on here Miss Cunningham?" Firehound asked in his normal low but friendly voice
"Better step inside…don't want Molly to hear it"
"I think you have customers…I saw a car pull over when we arrived" AC pointed out as they stepped towards the office.
Rebecca stepped into the office and turned towards the main entrance where she knew customers always waited
"Sorry to keep you waiting, but…" She stopped as she saw who her 'customers' were
Baloo stepped in, already explaining the situation to Firehound and AC. He turned his head to the same direction as Rebecca
"YOU! How dare you show your face here?"
Firehound and AC stepped in, only to see Baloo yelling to a cocky looking bear.
"Mr. Vanderauw I presume?"
The bear looked away from Baloo and directly into the eyes of AC. He took a long look and sniffed a little
"And how do your friends in the gutter call you…if any…?"
"Mr. Vanderauw, as much as I understand the situation you're the one I should aim my complaints to. May I urge you to leave the premises"
Everybody in the room frowned, not used to hearing Firehound talk like that
"My god…such eloquance for a common cargo pilot. What rat taught you that?"
"Please, sir, I am trying not to lose my patience which would result in physical violence against your person. I strongly suggest you abandon whatever business you have here before my emotions get the upper hand."
"Very well. But I came here to warn you that this property and its extentions, namely the aricraft, are monitored closely from this point forward. This until this matter is settled. Also, your radio transmissions will be monitored to avoid any contact between you and the aircraft known as 'Air Freedom' whereon my children disappeared."
"They're not your children yet!"
"My good man, all papers have been signed and…"
"I am warning you Mr. Vanderauw" Rebecca interrupted "that I shall issue an official complaint. You may expect a thorough investigation towards the adoption of the Windwards and I suggest you start figuring out an explanation for their behavior towards your fatherhood. Now if you would please leave these quarters…me and my staff have some work to do. If you attempt to show up here again, I'll have the judge issue a restraining order. Good day further!" She pushed him out the office and slammed the door behind his back. Baloo stood near the desk, his mouth agape. She turned around and took a deep breath
"Can you believe the nerves of that guy?
"Ehhm…Becky…are you feeling allright?"
She walked back towards her desk
"Why not? Because I just threw out a potential million dollar client? I meant every word! Now instead of standing around here, would any of you mind to find out where 'Air Freedom' went?" Rebecca gave them all a hard stare and the trio hurried outside. She smiled, sat down and turned on the radio. She always seemed a hard businesswoman, but after all those hours of listening to 'Danger Woman' with Molly, she liked to listen too even if only to forget the situation they were in. The final tones of a jazz song rang through the speaker and the announcer started speaking.
"Before we proceed with our daily episode of 'Danger Woman', we interrupt the program for an important announcement by Sir Charles Vanderauw. Since this morning, his children are missing. A thorough police search came up with little or no results. Several witnesses have seen the two near the old Cape Suzette Warehouses where they supposedly boarded a plane called 'Air Freedom'. If you have any information about the two, please contact this radio station. For those who have missed the description this morning, the two are wearing red and green sweaters respectively. One is wearing a backwards blue and red baseball cap, the other is easely recognisible by his clear blue eyes. Both are male, brown bearcubs approximately 3ft 9 in height. They will most likely present themselves as Kit and Chris Cloudkicker. Their real names however…"
The voice startled Rebecca and she looked down to a crying Molly. She got out of her chair, crouched and hugged her tightly, letting Molly's tears roll on her shoulders.
Offcourse, the broadcast did not go unnoticed byt the searching trio. Doubting the information, they arrived at the old warehouses. The morning crowd was gone already, off to their dropoff points or wherever the wind takes them. The three entered the bar, hoping to be able to squeeze some information out a wellwilling soul. The bar was empty. Only the barman was still around. The weasel looked up when he heard customers enter. He took a long look at the three.
Baloo couldn't help but wondering if every weasel had such a nagging voice
Firehound leaned his elbow on the bar
"The usual Dan…"
The weasel blinked several times
"Firehound…that you? Man, long time no see. I thought you were dead!"
"Almost Dan, almost…Say, we're here for some info…"
"Y'all gonna drink something or is this a dry conversation…my memory isn't great when I'm thirsty"
Firehound put a ten dollar bill on the bar and sat down at a table with AC and Baloo. Dan, the weasel barkeep, brought them some drinks of doubtful quality and took a chair.
"Whaddya wanna know?"
"You probably heard the description of the missing orphans…"
"Yeah, I heard some pilots and wanderers talk about it. Can't blame you for going after them…half a million shaboozies…"
"I though it was said 100 000…"
"Yeah, that's if you return 'em to ehmm…'the rightful owner'. But check this out!" The weasel grabbed a pamflet off the wall. Firehound took it and started to read. He slammed his fist on the table and passed it on to AC.
"Lemme see that"
Baloo janked the pamflet out of the ferret's hands
"For the sake of piracy. Wanted: the two bearcubs described in this morning's news broadcast. Dead or alive, preferred alive, but not undamaged. 500 000 dollars!" Baloo crushed the paper in his hands
"Got a two-page description for ya, issued to every barman from here to Timbuckthree. If it can help ya…I heard that Karnage pays double if you bring them in dead!"
Baloo shot up from the table and grabbed the weasel by his dusty vest.
"Those are my kids you're talking about! Where did 'Air Freedom' go?!"
The weasel pried his Baloo's fingers loose and dusted of his vest.
"If that's how you're going to play it…you better leave"
"Who was the pilot?"
"Because it's you Firehound…Rudder…that's all I'm going to say. Now scram!"
The weasel got up and disappeared in the next room. Baloo, AC and Firehound left, seeing no further opportunity for information.
"You know anyone by the name Rudder?"
"Not really Baloo…how about you AC?"
"Never heard of him"
"Looking for Rudder?"
The trio looked to their left and saw a young lion, clearly out of work for more then a year.
"You know him?"
"What wanderer doesn't? That guy is a saint! He's head honcho of his own colony…well almost head honcho. He has somewhat of a problem with another founder, Hawk…the two hate eachother and Hawk insisted he be made equal to Rudder. He might be a saint, but sometimes he lets his heart get the best of him…The colony is almost empty now. Most 'residents' left because of their fights…only three left I think."
"Where is that colony?"
"The colony is called Freeburg…but ehhm…why do you want to know?"
"I'm looking for my kids!"
"Why? Are you talking about the two missing cubs?"
"Yeah, that's them!"
"Listen pal, I'm not going to help some bounty hunter hunt down those kids" He took a look at Firehound "especially not where you plan on delivering them"
"They're my kids!"
"You have any proof of that? I worked three years at the Child Welfare Department, I know your kind! Show me a birth certificate and maybe I can help you…I'll be here every day. Don't have a job anyway…"
The lion slowly walked back to his place against a wall. Firehound and AC were keeping Baloo under control. They turned around and started back towards Higher for Hire, dragging Baloo with them.
Air Freedom was nearing its destination. Kit had changed into a bright blue jogging suit. Something still haunted his mind…
"I noticed a lot of equipment back there but almost no food…just enough for about ten persons for one week."
"That's because…well…Freeburg isn't crowded. Some people left because they found jobs, or a better place to stay. We're no more then a safe temporary shelter."
"Any original founders left?"
"Well, there's me…and there's Hawk. He's not a bad guy per se, but it takes time to get used to his…character."
"He's why you can't bring any kids huh?"
"Always on top of things hey? He has equal authority over the colony and he loves to use it"
"And that why most people leave after a short time. Aren't you afraid the others might 'revolt' or something? I mean, you are gone for a week. If they find out our value…"
"You have a point there kid…I'll bring you along every ride to give them less time to figure it out. Now brace yourself for the first encounter!"
Freeburg, or Carmalina Island as it was known with the authorities, was in fact a miniature version of Cape Suzette. The climate was a bit colder and the cliffs were nothing more then underwater reefs, but it almost had the same coastline. Several docks stretched out in the water and houses of all kinds were build all over the island. When the plane approached, Kit noticed the state most of the houses were in. Most were uninhabitable and of the seven once brand-new docks, only one was safe enough to use. Wild grass and other vegatation covered the inland houses. Three dogs were reluctantly working on the doorframe of one house while a fat leopard supervised. Air Freedom docked and the leopard turned around.
"About time you got here Rudder. We ran out of salami sandwiches three days ago! I'm eating cheese for god's sake!"
"Don't worry Hawk…I've got your favourite brand. Only one though…it's hard to get these days."
Chris appeared behind Rudder and jumped out of the plane
"I hope you're not talking about that sandwich hidden next to the food packets"
"The very same…"
"Well Hawk…you have a good taste: that was one fine sandwich!"
"What?! You ate the very thing I've been looking forward to for a week? Who are you?"
Kit jumped out of the plane too
"My bro. We're Rudder's new crew. That really was a good sandwich!"
"Did these guys pay their fare yet?"
"Are you kidding me? These guys are pro's! Just be glad they want to do this for free"
"Oh yeah? If they're that good…what are they doing here?"
"Union boycot. We were too good. Other navigators and mechanics complained, so they kicked us out. Been out of work ever since. Pilots don't hire a crew without a union card these days"
The three approached Hawk, and for the first time he noticed the size of Rudder's new crew.
"Kinda young to be in a Union anyway, right? Rudder, I told you never to bring kids!"
Kit stopped and gestured his companions to do the same. He stared Hawk in the eyes
"Are you making fun of our height? I'm sick of that! ALL OUR LIVES PEOPLE MADE FUN OF US! So not a word about it, CAPICHE?"
Hawk backed off
"Wow…sorry. It's just we have a strict rule around here about kids. I have to enforce it!"
Rudder went to the three working dogs.
"Hey guys, the new shipment is here. First come, first serve!"
The three shrugged and one threw down his hammer
"Give it to Hawk…we're out of here anyways. After this is fixed, we have paid off our depts and you can give us a ride out of here"
"What depts? You don't have to pay for anything. This is charity!"
Hawk hurried over
"No way Rudder! We have supported these guys for years and now they want to leave. I say we make 'em pay for what they used during that time."
"That was never the deal Hawk! These people are free to leave any day, without having to pay us a dime"
"You're so weak Rudder! These guys are going to fix my house completely and then they can leave"
"If you need something fixed, do it yourself Hawk!"
"Shut up Rudder!"
"No, you shut up Hawk. I have had it!" He turned to the dogs "Guys, if you want to leave, I can understand that. But you don't have to work for your ride out of here. Drop everything and go pack"
"And give this jerk something to hang over our heads for the rest of our lives? We'd rather work another week and be free completely!"
"That's right! Work for your freedom!"
Rudder's eyess shot fire, but he quickly controlled himself
"You haven't heard the last of this Hawk. We'll discuss this tonight!"
"No, let's talk about this now…" Kit and Chris had approached without making a sound. They stood behind Hawk to make him defend himself from both sides.
"These people came to be free…not to be bossed around by you Hawk"
"What do you know about that midget? You just got here"
"The kid..ehmm…Kit's right Hawk. You can't tell them what to do."
A light flashed in Hawks eyes. Where had he heard that name before?
"And you can't tell me what to do either Rudder! We're equal, remember that"
"Yeah right! Let's vote now and see how long that lasts…" Kit chuckled
"Why not?" Hawk seemed awfully confident
"All in favour of Hawk's leadership, raise your hand!" On the shout of Chris, only Hawk voted for himself. The two cubs frowned.
"I'd say we have a majority against you Hawk" Kit stated
"WRONG!" Hawk laughed "these three can't vote because they want to leave, and you two can't vote either 'cause you haven't been around for a year yet…that leaves one in favour and one opposed. Should we do a recount?"
"Forget it!" Rudder sighed and walked to his house. The three dogs continued working on Hawk's doorframe and Hawk grinned down to Kit and Chris. The two quickly hurried after Rudder.
Kit opened Rudder's door. A smell of fish entered his nose. The walls were covered with old fisherman's nets and old yellowed pictures. The furniture was sparse but elegant, made completely out of dark wood. Over the smell of fish, varnish filled the air. Two medium-sized rugs covered the floor. The uncovered spots revealed loose floorboards and moss. Nevertheless it was quite spacious and comfortable. Rudder was busy fueling up the heating and sat down in one of the dusty old sofa's. Kit knocked on the open door.
The floorboards cracked under Kit's feet. The rug camouflaged the bad state of the floor, but Kit couldn't help wondering how long it was going to last. He looked down to watch were he put his feet. Rudder saw his concern
"Never mind about those floorboards…if they break, I'll move to another house"
"Why don't you let someone fix them?"
Rudder pointed to another sofa and Kit sat down, feeling the gentle heat of the fire. For a split second, it reminded him of Higher for Hire…the place he had called home for almost a year. A mug offered by Rudder returned him to reality.
"You might be used to chocolate milk, but we only have coffee here."
"What makes you think I got used to chocolate?"
Kit took a careful sip of his coffee. It was still too hot, so he set it down on a nearby table. Rudder kept his eyes on him
"Because I'm not buying your all-though-don't-mess-with-me style. You look a little pale, but otherwise you seem fine…maybe even gained a few pounds. No messy hair, torn clothes…no wounds. Not quite like the last time I saw you. You found a home. And still…here you are. Who did this to you?"
"Sir Charles Vanderauw…the richo wanted a son."
"And what's wrong with that?"
"I already was somebody's son…"
Behind them, the floorboards cracked again.
"Come right in Chris" Rudder had enough common sense to know that one brother would attract the other. "I saved you a seat"
Chris stood nervously…as if embarrased to ask something
"Ehmm…are there any rooms free?"
Rudder took a map of the island and spread it out on the table. "Lot's of free inhabitable houses on this side. The last hurricane knocked out most of the houses on the west side…but if you want privacy I can get you two set there…"
"Two rooms on this side will be just fine."
Rudder looked at him and smiled. At least this way he could keep an eye on them.
Baloo sat near the open fire at Higher for Hire, a tear forming in his eye. For almost a year he had spent every evening with Kit here…now the last time he did that was over two weeks ago. At least during that period he KNEW where Kit was. But now…his only chance of finding Kit was spoiled by an unemployed deskjock! There was no way he could prove he was Kit's father. Charles on the other hand had all the papers he needed…not that that guy was looking for the twins. He just sat in his mansion, enjoying himself while one of his lackeys waited by the phone. If he ever got the same idea as Baloo and met that lion he'd find Kit and Chris before Baloo could, and that's what made the grey bear angry.
Baloo got up and walked outside. Staring to the moon and stars, he felt a strange feeling come over him. On Carmalina Island, Kit stared at the same moon and stars…
END OF PART ONE