Written by: Kristof
Character Rudder (although only mentioned once) is property of Dan Green (whose fics always seem to move me)
'San Flamingo' and 'Windward' are property of High Flight in general and Constance Cochran in particular (permission came through 3 minutes after request! Talking about fast!)
This story is my attempt to write Kit's past. And though it takes up a large part of this fic, it's not the last you'll hear of it. I close a few threads and open a few morejust trying to get you hooked for the next fic =)
By the way, emotional stuff coming up, keep tissues within reach or refrain from reading AND SEND FEEDBACK!
Night reigned over Port Green. Even in this city it is the quietest part of the day, especially now the military has seized all patrols and given the streets back to the police. They didn't leave yet though: not until that bombing was explained.
Rebecca Cunningham couldn't care less about what was going on outside. For the hundreth time tonight she made her trip to the sink to moisten and cool off Kit's compress. The IV units were gone and so was the oxygen, but the boy was having a serious fever attack because of his infected wounds. She returned, planted a kiss on his hot forehead and replaced the compress. Never had she been so angry at someone as she was at Kit's doctor right now. With the sedatives gone, the only thing keeping Kit from screaming in pain was Rebecca's loving care. Kit was still trembling like he had been when she found him this morning. How furious had she been when she found out…not to mention how she found out
Baloo and Rebecca had booked a small room in a hotel of questionable reputation. They didn't care. All they wanted was to be close to Kit as long as necessary. The route through the hospital had become routine: they'd find their way to the Intensive Care with their eyes closed now. They passed the usual elevators, corridors and staircases to finally reach their destination. Halfway down the hallway, a trembling cry made Rebecca's motherheart break
Recognising Kit's voice in a second, they both hurried to his room. Kit lay curled up in his bed, the IV units gone, the oxygen tank gone and not a nurse in sight. The boy trembled and desperately cried out again
"I WANT MY MOMMY!"
Rebecca quickly sat down next to the cub and stroked his hair…his forehead was burning up while his hands were icecold
"Mommy is here sweetie"
"I…I'm co…cold…mom…mommy…hold me…pl…please" he looked at her with large, pleading eyes that gave away his fear and desperation
Extremely careful, Rebecca wrapped his covers around him like a coccoon and placed him in her lap. His legs dangling off one side, she pressed his head against her chest and slowly rocked him in her arms. Kit closed his eyes, feeling safe at last. Nevertheless he kept trembling and clappering his teeth. Baloo shot out the room, across the hall and practically knocked the doctor's door down. The lion calmly looked up from his newspaper
"Sit down mr. Baloo, I've been expecting you"
The grey bear threw the door shut with a slam and menacingly banged his fist on the doctor's desk "I bet you would!"
"First of all *Baloo*, sit down and then we'll discuss things" the lion kept his calm, Baloo sat down
"That kid was crying out for some attention and you were right here? How long has this been going on?"
"About the entire night…we had to lock his door: it's soundproof"
"Did it ever occur to you that there might be something terribly wrong with him? And why did ya take his medication away? He's burning up in there!" Baloo's eyes shot fire, the lion didn't even seem to care. All he did was take a bunch of papers
"Mr. Cloudkicker's outstanding medical bills are astronomical Baloo. The operation was 20 000$ in itself, the room costs 500$ a day, the sedatives 300$ a day and the medication 200$ a day…frankly I don't think you can afford that. I had all the equipement removed for patients that are willing to pay. With your permission I'll switch him to a ehmm…'more affordable' treatment."
"More affordable? Sunnofa…"
"No need to go there Baloo. You don't have the financial power to keep him here any longer, the other treatment consists of a bed in the pediatrics ward and one IV unit with nutrition. That's enough for his survival"
"Aw, come on, he doesn't know where to crawl 'cause of the pain. What have ya got in yer veins? Icewater?"
"Baloo, he's shot…what did you expect? We can make it less painful but that has financial consequences…."
"I can go as high as 40 g's…but that's all I have. Been savin' fer my plane but I'd rather spend it on him"
"40 000 will cover the expenses for another 13 days if I deduct the current costs…I suggest you and Rebecca consider my proposal, because your money will run out. I must insist in on a cash payment within 24 hours…and no, your insurance doesn't cover this"
"I'll be back with the moolah, you just make sure my son gets what he needs" Baloo stood up and was ready to leave
"Pay me Baloo, and we'll fullfill his every need. Fail a payment like on your loan and we'll have him switched in three minutes…his chances of survival are a lot smaller down there"
"You make me sick" Baloo left, slamming the door again
The lion grinned, smirked and finally laughed. He was going to squeeze a lot of money out of these poor suckers. After all, who wanted his own child to die?
"uhhnn…mom…" Kit stirred, his head rolling from one side to another. The fever was getting too high to even get some rest. Ever since Rebecca arrived, she hadn't seen a single nurse get close to this room…it was almost as like they had been instructed to make Kit suffer. She couldn't blame the doctor either: 27 000$ was a bit much to overlook. -even I wouldn't fly for a customer anymore with that kind of money due- Her mind raced to come up with a way to get more money for Kit. Baloo was sacrificing the money he had saved for over a year, his only chance of buying the Seaduck back. Maybe she could loan from the bank again…but her expenses were high enough as it was. It was hard, but she couldn't afford the business she had created herself to go bankrupt over one employee. Maybe this was exactly what her father was protecting her from: not having to choose between her business or her personal life -why are you always right daddy?- A strange thought entered her mind. Maybe her parents would…-ridiculous. I started this, I'll have to live with it-
"…turn down the heating…it's too hot in here…turn down the heating" Kit was starting to babble unintelligably. Once again, Rebecca changed his cold compress, only to prompt a moan from the boy. This couldn't go on much longer. Although she could understand the doctors decision she had hoped he would reconsider when he saw the condition Kit was in. Instead of even checking up on him when his complaints could be heard all over the hallway, the doctor had closed his door again.
"I don't feel good mommy…can I stay home from school tomorrow?…my head hurts now too"
"Don't worry, we'll get you all better, you'll see. Try to sleep"
She could have asked once or a hundred times, Kit couldn't sleep. He was plenty tired, exhausted even, but sleep was a luxury that didn't belong to him…not in this state. The cub looked at Rebecca expectantly, waiting for her to say or do something to take all his pain away. All she could do was hold his hand and stare back.
Morning. Baloo hurried through the hospital, briefcase in hand. He had taken a skycab to Cape Suzette and collected his money…the money he had been saving for over a year. Although there had been times Baloo would've doubted to use it all, this wasn't one of them. With a loud bang he slammed the black briefcase down on the doctor's desk and opened it.
"There! That'll cover the expenses"
The doctor stood up and studied the bills closely
"Yeah…that oughta take care of things for a couple of days"
"A couple of days? You said 13 days!"
"Honestly, Baloo, don't forget my fee…I'm a highly skilled physician…I can put Kit back on the previous treatment and keep him on it for…let's say one week"
"You said 13 days!"
"Maybe I'll just decide you were too late with the payment and pretend I never saw this"
"Ten days…give him at least ten days"
"Because you're such a nice guy" the lion closed the briefcase and started a few phonecalls. Baloo left to check on his son. "Hello, Port Green airfield? Can I talk to an airline representative please?"
The situation had changed completely when Rebecca came back from the cafeteria that afternoon. The equipment had returned to Kit's room and a nurse was taking the temperature of the sleeping cub. But it didn't make the woman happy. She realised very well that things would rapidly change back once the money ran out. They were being extorted by a doctor that knew he was Kit's only hope and the problem was that they couldn't afford it for very long. Baloo sat next to Kit, paw in paw with his son. Rebecca took a seat next to him
"Hey Baloo…how is he doing?"
The grey bear smiled at her, which was always a good sign
"Look at 'im…sleepin' like a baby. Nurse says his fever is comin' down and best part is, he's not feeling a thing"
"Baloo…we can't keep this up"
"I know, but I'll keep it up as long as possible, even it means I go broke…let's not talk about it now, allright?"
Rebecca sighed and took a bag she was carrying. With a smile she fished a small stuffed bear out of it "Do you think he'll like it?"
"He's gonna get a charge out of it…thanks a lot Beckers"
"Well, I was downstairs anyway and I passed that giftshop"
"Fer me? Aww, you shouldn't have" Kit had woken up, his mind still as fogged over as usual. For one week now he had been acting like he was four, something neither Baloo nor Rebecca objected to. They knew it was temporarely but were still grateful to have seen Kit act like a child at least once. As Rebecca gave him the little plush bear, Kit hugged it close to his chest, rolled over to his right side and closed his eyes. The doctor walked in…not the usual lion, but a bear this time. He slowly rolled Kit back on his back
"Don't make us tie you to the bed again" it was a mock stern tone, this doctor obviously knew how to talk to children. Without further ado he sat down next to the parents and extended his paw
"Lou Bagher…you must be mr. Baloo" he shook the bear's hand "and Miss. Cunningham" not only did he shake her hand slightly, but he also planted a little kiss on it "enchanté Madame"
Rebecca blushed, Baloo grinned. But there was something he had to know
"Where's the lion? Doctor Grimes I mean…"
"He quit! Phoned in this morning saying he had earned enough and was taking the next flight to Honulolo. The last time I saw him was when he left the hospital carrying a black briefcase"
"WHAT?!" Baloo shouted at the top of his lungs, startling Kit awake. The bear in the doctor's outfit looked at him with a serious expression
"Mr. Baloo, this is a hospital and you are in the presence of a seriously ill child. Don't deprive him of his rest again or I'll be forced to evict you. What made you scream like that?"
"THAT…"Baloo bit his tongue "that sneak swindled me out of 40 g's! He said he needed it to keep Kit here"
"Well, this treatment is expensive but we make it policy to cure first and ask for money later… if you really paid him then I suggest you report him to the police"
Rebecca suddenly sat down and cried. In spite of her better judgement she had withdrawn the entire Higher for Hire account to pay the bills. According to the doctor he only needed it as a collateral pay…now she had nothing more. Her entire business gone. Baloo noticed her tears
"Baloo…he left with all my money…all our assets, the entire Higher for Hire account…it's all gone" Rebecca cried even harder and Baloo tried to comfort her. Kit heard something about money
"You can have my entire piggybank if you want" he offered, not knowing how serious this really was. Lou stood up and have him a small injection
"Goodnight Kit, pleasant dreams" The bear figured it was best they could talk without the cub overhearing them. Kit was asleep in a matter of seconds and Lou sat back down
"I hear this situation is more serious then I expected. I will call the police and ask them to watch the airports. Maybe you need something to calm down, Miss. Cunningham?"
"I'll be fine, call the police already"
Lou shot up and ran for a phone.
In the Police HQ, officers just started settling in. Now the military had left these parts, they could finally use the old HQ again. Jerry now had his own office as a token of gratitude from the community. He liked his office a lot: it belonged to Wilsis and the bulldog had to leave his desk and furniture behind. It was lavishly decorated with a heavy rug on the floor and beautiful paintings at the wall. Wooden sculptures were scattered around the large room, giving the whole a calming atmosphere. For the first time in his ten years of duty, the dog decided to kick back and sleep on the job. He tilted his chair, placed his boots on his desk and pulled his cap over his eyes. The phone rang and made the shepard dog jump, almost falling back with chair and all. After making sure his chair was stable again he answered
"Jerry O'Connor PGPD, serve and protect. How may I help you?"
It was so typical. Ever since the Marshall law was lifted off the city, hundreds fled with the profits of their little scams. They weren't the type of people the military had been looking for during these long years, but their businesses trived nevertheless. Now the police was back and performing active searches for their type, most tried to make one last huge profit and make a run for it. So this case wasn't very different. When the caller identified the victim as Rebecca Cunningham however, Jerry's blood started to boil. It wasn't bad enough Kit was in the hospital because of a criminal, now another one had taken the money he needed to be cured.
"Don't worry sir, I'll attend to this matter personally" No sooner had he put the receiver down, or he straightened his cap and hurried out the office. His office gave out on another deskarea where most officers were gathered. They were a bit envious at him for his office offcourse, but they still held him in the highest regard
"All napped out already Jerry?" Chowalski was second in line after Jerry and was pretty mad when he heard there were no more offices available, so he took every opportunity to make a quick joke.
"Actually I just got a complaint about another swindler. Busy Chowalski?"
"Just show me the way mister high and mighty"
Chowalski took his cap off his desk and both dogs left. This HQ was huge compared to the other one and the cops finally got all their material back. To make up for all the destroyed material the military had been forced to replace it with theirs. So it wasn't much of a surprise that when Jerry went to ask for a patrolcar in the garage that he got the keys to a refitted army jeep. 'Refitted' was actually saying alot: all that was different was the sirene and light. They didn't care because the jeeps were much stronger and faster than the old squadcars. It took the two officers exactly ten minutes to get to the airport. After flashing their badges they got access to the transit area. The two had to see every face at once, knowing very well they wouldn't have another chance and there was no chance that the airlines were going to delay their flights. Where were they going to find one lion with only a vague description between this mass?…It was like trying to find a needle in a haystack
"You try the westwing, I'll take east"
Both dogs split up, not too optimistic to find anyone
Back in the hospital, Rebecca had left Kit's room to make a phonecall. For some reason she refused to tell the bear who she was going to call but at least she had calmed down. Baloo was staring at his son…he was *his* son from now on, a thought that still caused mixed feelings. He had hoped he could take care of Kit in some way, but an adoption was so final. Maybe Kit would just run again…but somehow seeing the boy in this condition, sleeping and holding on to that little stuffed bear made all the worries fade away. Well, almost all of his worries. Maybe it was the anxiety of the last few days or maybe he just had too much cherry-sodas, but nature started calling the grey bear. Not willing to leave his son far behind, Baloo decided to use the toilet in the room…it was for patients only, but he figured nobody would care. He had just closed the door behind him when a nurse walked in and noticed Kit was all alone. She took an empty syringe and approached the sleeping cub. Without disinfecting it or at least giving Kit a warning, she planted the needle in his arm.
Kit jolted awake and quickly pulled his arm away. The wound in his arm started bleeding and the nurse checked the needle. Baloo heard the painful cry of his son and opened the door a crack. A nurse was standing next to his bed, yelling at him
"Now look what you did, you little brat! You broke the needle! Can't I at least take a decent bloodsample from you?"
She pulled the remains of the needle out of Kit's arm and took another one. To be sure Kit wouldn't break the needle again, she brutally tied his arm to the bed with a leather bond. Once again without disinfecting it she pushed it in on the same spot. Kit cried in pain as the needle entered his veins
"OUCH…mommy, it hurts"
"Will you shut up about your mommy, brat! She's dead, that woman next to you is your boss!"
Blood started gathering in the container as the nurse pulled the suction back. Kit closed his eyes, gritted his teeth and clutched the plush bear tightly to his chest with his free arm. Baloo wanted to act but he had to know how his son was treated when he wasn't there. He pushed the bell for the doctor, knowing that Lou only had to open his door to see what was going on. The nurse pulled the container out of the syringe and inserted another. Kit cried again, holding on to his bear even tighter this time. The nurse looked at the toy he was holding
"What have you got there?" she pulled the bear out of Kit's hand "mighty cute, my sister's daughter is going to love this" the nurse put the bear in her apron and pulled the second container out of the syringe. Kit noticed his bear was gone
"Hey, my bear…THAT'S MY BEAR, YOU STOLE IT!"
"Shut up pipsqueek"
"I'LL TELL EVERYONE YOU STOLE MY BEAR…THAT'S MY BEAR, GIVE IT BACK!"
"You won't tell anyone" The nurse bound his other arm to the bed and took a menacing looking injection out of her apron. Baloo recognised it: it was the same as that doctor had injected in Kit's blood when he went berserk over Chris, only bigger. With a wicked grin the nurse pushed the needle in Kit's arm and emptied the liquid completely in his veins. The boy let out a soft moan and rolled his head erratically
"I'm supposed to inject this in your IV, but you won't tell huh?"
It took almost a minute to empty the injection completely. The nurse smiled when she saw Kit completely drugged. His eyes were still open, but rolling to different sides, his head was rolling from one side to another and he started drooling. She put the injection back away and turned around, only to be stopped by two large bears.
"So, miss. Starsky, is that the way you treat patients when I'm not around?"
"Come on, he's as good as dead anyway, he won't miss a stuffed bear ten feet underground"
Baloo hurried to Kit and saw how he was acting "What did you inject him with?"
"Something that will calm him down for a few hours"
Lou grabbed her by the shoulder "Miss. Starsky, stealing is bad enough, don't tell me you gave him unauthorised medication"
"It wasn't unauthorised! Doctor Grimes instructed me to give this to him if he complained"
The bear figured he had lost enough time and reached in her apron. He threw the bear back to Baloo and fished out the injection
"MORFINE? You shot Kit full of morfine?"
"Yeah, and a good dose of it too. That oughta keep him asleep for some hours"
"Or kill him. Out of my way" Lou pushed the nurse aside and hurried over to Kit. Miss. Starsky turned to the scene
"Either way, he's better off. I'll be at my post if you need me, but don't expect me to come running" she left, Lou let her.
Kit was deluding now, babbling about strange shapes and figures. Baloo tried to calm him, but the morfine in his system was having the same effect as cocaine. Baloo desperately turned to Lou who could only diagnose a serious intoxication. Kit's breathing became irregular, almost stopping completely. Lou hurried to the oxygen tank and strapped the mask to his nose and mouth. Kit suddenly started producing strange sounds
"Doc, what's going on?"
"You're a cargo pilot, you must have seen this before. Kit's on a bad trip…that morfine wasn't ment to be administered in such high doses, let alone delivered directly instead of filtered. You can compare it to taking an overdose of drugs, or getting really drunk. This can go two ways…"
"Fear or agression, I know"
"He might hurt himself…help me for a minute here please"
Lou untied Kit's arms and pulled up the sidebars of his bed. He tied Kit's wrists to the bottom bar and motioned Baloo to do the same. After that, Lou focused on Kit's feet and tied them securely to the end of the bed. Lou pulled out Kit's IV's and set them in a corner. Baloo focused on the tables next to Kit. He made sure they were clear of every heavy or sharp object. The two bears sat down, knowing they had done everything they could and awaited the coming attack. Baloo still had the little stuffed bear in hand…
Rebecca walked back in the hospital, followed by a rather handsome brown bear in a leather flight jacket. Her telephone call had unexpected results, and she was so thrilled when she ran into Jules. Jules was one of her father's best pilots, but for some reason he got fired. None of it mattered now: he had his own plane and was willing to work for her. Once in the reception area Rebecca was stopped by a panicking nurse.
"Doctor Bagher wants to see you in Kit's room as soon as possible…something is going terribly wrong"
Rebecca ran for the elevator while Jules put an arm around the nurse
"What's going on up there?" his voice was loud, but low and calming
"Nurse Starsky shot him full of morfine. I can't believe she hasn't got fired yet"
"In the administered dose it has the same effect as an overdose of drugs or alcohol. Doctor Bagher figured it would be better if Kit's parents were both there to calm him down"
"What's his roomnumber, luv?"
"Thanks!" Jules ran up the stairs, not willing to wait for the elevator. To his horror, the fifth floor turned out to be the intensive care department. Jogging through the hallway, he passed people and situations he hoped never to see again in his life. The few patients that were walking around wore a face of exhaustion and desperation. Nearing room 54106 he heard a voice shouting, not making much sense and terribly out of place. Rebecca had told him Kit was her youngest employee but he never expected to see this. A 12-year old boy, desperately crying out, escaping the loving arms of both his father and Rebecca.
Kit was indeed trying to escape the deathgrip of the strangers. Their faces were hideously deformed and their tentacles shot out for him. All the while they were saying something he couldn't understand. Rebecca was baffled to see Kit squirm away from her. She had untied his hands to embrace him, but he had just pushed her away over and over. Everytime she asked him to calm down he acted as if she was saying something he couldn't understand. Baloo had tried to give him his bear back, but Kit had just thrown it in the corner. Nothing they did could calm him down and Kit started to act agressively. Lou was thinking about a tranquiliser but realised that he had to detox from the morfine first. Kit turned his head briskly to the stranger…his face was normal, he didn't have tentacles like the horrible creatures close to him and a ray of light illuminated him. Jules slowly made his way to Kit's bed and was surprised when the boy embraced him, trembling in fear.
"Papa Bear…I love you Papa Bear…keep these monsters away from me"
Baloo's eyes widened. Kit hadn't called anyone Papa Bear but him before. Jules returned the embrace and sat down on Kit's bed. They sat there for over ten minutes. The overdose slowly wore off as Kit calmed and was caught by its calming effect. His eyelids grew heavier and after mumbling one last 'I love you Papa Bear' he fell asleep. Jules let him go and made way for Lou and Baloo. Lou pulled down his covers and noticed the bloodstain on his bandages. Baloo gave Kit his bear back and kissed the boy on the forehead.
"People, I must ask you to leave for a while"
The trio was practically pushed out of the room by Lou, and led into a waiting room. They sat down to start their long wait again. Rebecca figured this was the time to explain who Jules was
"Baloo, I want you to meet Jules Crane. Since you won't be able to fly for me for some time, Jules is taking over your schedule. I was able to contract a new big client, so I needed to replace you. The new contract is worth a lot of money…"
"Who is the customer? Khan?"
"Cunningham holdings" Rebecca muttered it under her breath, Baloo didn't pay attention
"How did you get Kit to calm down like that? And why did he call ya Papa Bear?"
"I don't know Baloo…I've never seen him before in my life" Jules was thinking but couldn't place him
"Jules, I heard some pretty amazing things of you! It's a good thing you don't live in Cape Suzette or I could no longer say I was the best pilot there"
"Really?" Jules looked at him dubiously
"Come on man, don't be modest! Yer one of the finest!"
The door opened again, Lou stuck his head in
"Ehhm…we're restitching that wound, but he woke up. Miss. Cunningham, I'm not working on him until you calm him down"
Rebecca shot up and followed Lou to Kit's room. Jules looked at Baloo
"Thanks for not mentioning my problem"
"I owe you that much…but if I ever catch you drinking on the job, I'm telling her"
Over in Kit's room, Rebecca saw him without the bandages for the first time. He clutched to the stuffed bear he got from her, his left side blooded with a gaping, halfstichted wound visible. Rebecca sat down at his right side. He looked at her and smiled
"Where were you ten minutes ago mom?"
"I'm sorry I couldn't be here, but I'm here now" she turned her head to Lou "why don't you just give him a painkiller?"
"After that morfine we have to wait three hours before giving him anything else, but we have to get this wound stitched again"
"Kit" Rebecca looked at him, making sure she looked straight into his eyes "this is going to hurt for a while, but it's good for you"
"What is going to happen mom?" he crawled closer to her, a hint of fear in his voice
"They have to close that wound again. It has to happen, but don't worry: I'll be right here. Now show me you are a big boy" she nodded to Lou and he started to restitch the wound
"NGHGH" Kit's hand shot out to Rebecca's and he squeezed
"That's right, just squeeze my hand if it hurts" Kit squeezed her hand tightly, Lou did his best to make it painless. Rebecca stroked Kit's hair, feeling his sweat drip down like pearls. She decided to distract him a little "Boang has a new type of plane out, heard of it?" Kit didn't answer "I think it's called a Clapper…431 or something"
"314" Kit corrected her, taking fast shallow breaths. Rebecca gave him his oxygen mask
"Yeah, that's it…it can carry 15 passengers with all luxury of a regular home"
"The engines…are suppostabe..NGNGN…state of the art. Faster than Superflights"
"Do you think we can expect competition from them?"
"Naw…ouch…they can't haul cargo" Kit closed his eyes, squeezing out a tear. He pressed the plush bear closer to his chest. Somehow that always made him feel better. It wasn't much to look at, just a regular brown little bear wearing a shirt that read 'I love you'. It was most likely all that Rebecca could afford, but Kit appreciated the gesture. Lou kept stitching the wound and was almost done. Rebecca kept talking about airplanes with Kit, not knowing what she was talking about. It didn't distract Kit much from the pain in his side, but once again he loved her for trying. Lou pulled the string through for the last time and was done stitching. He gestured Rebecca she could stop bantering now. The bear bandaged the wound back in
"And hold still now Kit. Anytime you tear those stitches we'll have to go through this again"
"Yes sir…thanks for being with me Miss. Cunningham"
"Ow, no more 'mom'?"
"Not unless they drug me again…maybe Mommabear, but nothing closer"
"Just give us three hours: you'd be surprised how the sedatives in those IV's can play mindtricks on you. Take it easy Kit, that's all I ask you to do" Lou stood up and left with his equipment. He quickly came back "Oh yeah, that reminds me: Rebecca, would you mind setting Kit on your lap for a few minutes? We have to change his sheets"
"Come here you" She gently lifted Kit out of his bed, making the boy grunt. She took his blanket and wrapped it around him. For some reason Kit didn't mind to being treated like a little child…at least not by Rebecca. He snuggled his head closer to her and she didn't mind: she even started rocking him in her arms. The cub smiled contently
"This is familiar…you look a lot better than last time I did this to you"
"Mmm…what day is today?"
"Today is the 20th" the nurse chimed in as she entered. She pulled off Kit's sheets and started laying others "that's some stain you left here" the blood had made his way to Kit's matrass and the nurse turned it around
"Sorry to be such a bother, but that morfine really gets to you…"
"Was that nurse fired?"
"No, we're short on staff as it is"
"She's not…she's not gonna come back in here is she?" Kit grabbed his bear with two hands now, pressing it tightly against his chest. Rebecca noticed how he tensed up and hugged him tighter, kissing him on the back of his head. The nurse looked at him and smiled
"Don't worry, she won't even come near your room again" The nurse left, leaving Rebecca and Kit alone.
"Well Kit, your bed is made again"
"Can't we just sit like this for a few more minutes?" Kit settled his head against Rebecca's chest and she wrapped her arms around him protectively
"Offcourse we can, hon, offcourse we can"
Baloo had spent some time talking to Jules…until the bear left. He was a nice guy until he started drinking. The grey bear hoped from the ground of his heart that he had finally sworn off alchol although that wasn't likely… He entered the room but quickly stopped. Kit was sleeping in Rebecca's arms and the woman motioned Baloo to be quiet. The bear decided it would be best to follow his heart and don't interrupt this moment with his knowledge of Jules. Lou however decided otherwise.
"Sorry to interrupt" he kept his voice down, knowing better than scaring a sleeping child awake "but Kit has to be reconnected to his IV's now. He needs his medication"
"I know, sorry. I didn't have the heart to put him back in his bed…he normally doesn't let me treat him like this" She gently put him back in his bed. Lou started putting the needles of the IV units back in his arms
"Yeah, well, being high on sedatives does that to someone, especially on his age. The medication is a derivative of Sodium-Pentathol and it keeps its prime quality"
"Huh?" medical talk was lost on Baloo
"Truthserum mr. Baloo. It erases all cognitive barriers and allows the expression of true feelings. If there's anything you want to know, ask now. Whatever he has said so far was the complete and utter truth"
Baloo considered asking Kit about his past but shook the tought off
"Whatever he keeps from us, he'll say it himself sooner or later"
"Quite right" Lou had finished hooking Kit back up to the IV units and looked around the room "he'll be asleep for some time now, I suggest we leave him alone. My shift is over. I'd like to talk to you about Kit in the cafeteria if you don't mind"
Rebecca and Baloo followed Lou down. In the hall they passed a fat leopard. He stopped at the nurse's room and knocked. Miss. Starsky opened
"Yeah, whaddya want?…Oh, sorry Hawk…I didn't recognise you"
"Do you have what we asked for?"
"Ehm, sure" She handed Hawk a small cannister of blood "what do you need it for anyway?"
"We'll decide what you need to know and what not. Was the assault succesful?"
"Shot him full of morfine and the brat survived. He has some guardian angel"
"A guardian angel called Baloo…show me his room"
"I'm no longer allowed anywhere near his room"
"We are paying you enough, that's an order!"
"Allright, but no longer than five minutes"
Starsky led him through the hall to the room of the sleeping Kit. He was sleeping soundly and not even a gunshot next to his ear would have woken him up. Hawk opened the window that oversaw the courtyard and the other building. A flash came from the roof of the other building. Hawk responded with two short flashes of a mirror.
"Stand back Miss. Starsky" He moved backwards himself. A lightbeam entered Kit's room and slowly inched its way up to Kit's arm where it stopped. The leopard cursed softly
"Miss. Starsky, help me move his bed three inches to the left please" they moved his bed with Kit still in it. The cub stirred a bit but kept sleeping with a smile on his face. The lightbeam overshot him, but moved back down slowly until it stopped on the bear Kit was holding in front of his chest. Hawk grinned.
"When will his parents return?"
"When doctor Bagher stops talking to them"
"Is there any place I can hide?"
Miss. Starsky opened the nearly empty closet. Hawk climbed in and gestured nurse Starsky to leave. He closed the door, but left it open a crack so he could see Kit clearly. There was no way the cub was getting rid of Fang that easely. Hawk took a small radio out of his pocket
"Hawk to Eagle, Hawk to Eagle…come in Eagle"
On top of the other roof, a leopard in black clothing looked up from the aiming telescope of his rifle. He had planned this action carefully for the last week, contracted informants and operatives…phase one was now nearing completion. The leopard took his radio to respond
"Eagle to Hawk, how was the aim?"
"Right in the chest, through a stuffed toy bear"
"Man, he's going soft! Didn't I tell you he was going soft?"
"Even better: he almost cried when Starsky tried to steal it"
"God no! No wonder he wouldn't kill anyone. Time to terminate, wouldn't you say?"
"Absolutely. Oh yeah, I have that blood you wanted"
"Great! Now I'll get rid of Baloo too"
"You never even met him!"
"No, but he's the reason my protégé is hanging on to a stuffed toy bear!"
"Understood. Gotta break contact: parents of victim one are returning! Good shooting"
"Hey, it's me!"
The leopard put away his radio and refocused his attention to the sniper rifle. His left hand started adjusting the telescope while his right switched of the safety catch. Just a few more seconds and his revenge was a fact…his revenge on Kit at least. There were others he had to get rid of too…
In the closet, Hawk could hardly wait for the final moment. Baloo and Rebecca sat down next to Kit, holding his hand. It was a touching moment, but to Hawk it was an expression of pathetic weakness. Kit slowly woke up, nuzzling his head closer to Rebecca again -jeezes kid, act your age!- Hawk looked forward to the bullet about to buzz in through the window and killing Kit.
"Hey Li'l Britches, how ya feeling?"
"Sleepy Papa Bear" Kit didn't even open his eyes
"Just rest, okay honey?"
"Okay…mom" Rebecca smiled and leaned forward to hug Kit. Kit rolled over to the right to make it easier for her. Suddenly the window shattered, the bullet whizzed through the room grazing Rebecca's shoulder and Kit's hip. It impacted with incredible force against the metal pole of an IV unit and continued its altered path in a collision course with the wall. Shards of chalk flew everywhere as it drilled its way in. Bleeding at her shoulder and clearly in pain, Rebecca still had the clarity of mind to pull Kit out of the bed. The trio hid under the bed as bullets kept flying through the window. Hawk jumped out of his hiding place and dropped the cannister of blood. Panicking and dodging the incoming bullets he grabbed his radio
"Hawk to Eagle…ABORT, target missed, abort, abort!"
Bullets kept flying in, perforating the walls. Under the bed, Baloo held Rebecca close. Rebecca on her part, was keeping Kit in her arms, trying to calm him down. Both were bleeding quite heavily. Baloo looked at them and saw they were about to lose conciousness. He hoped help came soon. From out of the closet he saw two feet appearing. The figure dropped something and was shouting to noone in particular. The bullets kept coming in, some perforating the matrass.
"Fang, STOP IT! You missed"
On top of the adjacent roof, Fang was firing in the room, outraged. Shot after shot he kept going in the hopes of killing Kit even after his initial miss. The desperate cries in his radio couldn't stop him. He fed another clip into his rifle and resumed fire at a faster rate than before. Hawk kept calling on to make him stop. Fang didn't pay attention…all he heard and saw was that second when Chris shot him in the shoulder. He wanted revenge and he wasn't going to let it slip away now. Hawk decided to give it one more try
"Fang, cut it out! You hit him!! YOU HIT HIM ALLRIGHT?! But he's just wounded, we can come back later!"
Fang kept squeezing the trigger, his rifle only clicking instead of firing. Hawk was right…this mission was lost, but they could always come back later -later…yeah, later…there's still a chance…later, why didn't I think of that?- Seeing the stupidity of his ways, the leopard gathered his empty shells and clips and got ready to flee the scene. Suddenly he got an idea. He took a bullet out of one clip and engraved something with his knive. After some time, the result pleased him and he threw it as far away as he could. Miraculously it flew in Kit's room. Hawk had made a run for it once the bullets stopped coming, Baloo had crawled from under the bed and dragged Rebecca and Kit in the hallway. They were both unconcious now, having lost lots of blood.
"HEY, CAN I GET SOME HELP HERE"
Doctors and nurses watched at the scene in horror and now came running as fast as they possibly could. Lou was one of the doctors that came running. He crouched next to Kit and checked the wound
"No bullet in, get them both to an operating room to stitch it…serious bloodloss" he looked at Baloo and the grey bear nodded in understanding…time to donate some more blood.
Hours had passed since the sniper attack. Police was there pretty quick, but not fast enough to catch the sniper. The reason Jerry had been there so quick was because he was on his way back from the airfield. Chowalski didn't understand why he insisted on waiting in the waiting room, but sat with his superior nevertheless. Baloo was guided to the waiting room with the news that he had visitors. He wasn't too surprised to see Jerry
"Hey Jer…got that sniper giftwrapped for me?"
"Sorry Baloo…he got away, and he's not the only one"
"Don't tell me Grimes slipped through yer fingers"
"Practically left before our eyes. By the time we had spotted him he was already onboard a starting airliner. There is no way you'll be able to prove he's using your money in Honulolo so technically he got away for good. What happened here anyways?"
"Some sniper perforated Kit's room with us in it. Beckers an' him were hit with severe bloodloss. He wasn't doin' too good in the first place"
"Can I see him for a second?"
"Sure, why not? But I'm warnin' ya now: he ain't lookin' too good"
Jerry stood up and so did Baloo with a long sigh. Chowalski wasn't sure wether he was invited but followed anyway. As they walked through the hallway, his eyes fixed on the shot-up room. He split from the small group and snuck in to investigate. A few rooms down the hall, Baloo opened a door. Rebecca had requested to be put in the same room as Kit and no doctor seemed to object. Her wounds weren't so bad, but she needed a blood transfusion nevertheless. She wasn't lying in her bed, but sitting next to Kit again. The boy lay in his bed, oxygen mask on, an extra bag of blood connected to his right arm. He was now under heavy sedation and wasn't even stirring. His breathing was silent, almost non-existant. The window was closed, the shades pulled down and closed. Jerry put a hand on Kit's shoulder and sat down
"How bad was it?" he kept his voice down
"The bullet went through without hitting anything, but he lost a lot of blood. I think it missed because it hit my shoulder"
"I told ya already Beckers: he's my son. Let me take a bullet for him next time"
"Any idea who did this?"
"No idea whatsoever…but he must be a pretty sick mind to start shooting at a defenseless kid"
They stared at Kit for a minute, thoughts racing through their heads. Jerry was kneading Kit's shoulder and Rebecca did the same with his ears…it was something she knew felt good to him but he never allowed her to do. Silently, obviously struck by the intensity of the situation, Chowalski entered the room. He whispered something in Jerry's ear and the dog's eyes widened.
"Excuse me for a second" both dogs stepped outside and closed the door. Jerry grabbed Chowalski by the collar "WHAT did you find?"
Chowalski held out his paw, a shining object visible. Jerry inspected it…it was indeed a sniper bullet with Kit's name on…
"I'm afraid we should expect him to return sir"
Jerry let his officer go. He got carried away with the seriousness of this matter. -Who would attack a child in the hospital and then leave a warning he'd be back? Baloo was right: this *is* a sick mind- "Why did you find this and the rest of our officers didn't?"
"What other officers? That room is a mess! It wasn't sealed or searched properly, the telemetry wasn't checked and they didn't even bother to dust for prints. I'm afraid they have been sitting on their duff so long they forgot even the most basic procedures"
"I'm afraid you're right…listen, get a team in there, I'll get you the warrant later. Turn everything upside down, I even want the caliber of those bullets, every trajectory and the exact position of the shooter. If you find anything, come to me and me only. Meanwhile I'll call for a protection team and explain Miss. Cunningham that someone is now living it up with her money while she is here risking her life and getting shot at"
The dogs split up, Chowalski to his search, Jerry to his sad duty as a good officer. Luckily, when he entered Lou was present. He was pretty miffed Rebecca wasn't resting as ordered and had threathened to shoot her full of sedatives if she kept disobeying him. To be on the safe side, she had crawled in her bed. Kit however was a different case. The stuffed bear lay next to his head on the pillow, but Kit didn't move. When Lou shone in his eyes with a light, they didn't react. The bear closed his eyes, a stray tear rolled out. -Not now…he was doing great, not now!- This was never easy to say but he had sworn he would. To stall a bit, Lou looked at the gunwounds to see if they hadn't infected. Unfortunately Jerry didn't interrupt him. Lou Bagher turned to Baloo and Rebecca
"This is never easy to say…if people wake up from a…coma…they usually do so in the first few days. Kit lost a lot of blood and personally I like to think of this as a 'prolonged sleep' where the mind retracts itself to get rest. All I can do is check his vital signs until he wakes up"
"My boy's in a coma? *Kit* is in a coma?"
"I'm sorry sir…but he's though, he'll pull through. It might help to talk to him. Some scientists believe he can still hear you, even now"
Baloo took Kit's hand and hugged him close "I'm here fer ya Li'l Britches, don't be scared…ye'll be allright, ye'll see" they were locked in an embrace, Baloo refused to let go. Lou figured it was for the best and after casting one more look at the two he left for home…he longed to see his children after today. Jerry stood up and turned around, not willing to disturb these people further.
"Mr. O'Connor" a soft feminine voice cut off his retreat "I take it you didn't find that swindler"
"I'm sorry…he was gone before we got there" Jerry silently weaseled out. He couldn't bear to talk to them face to face after all that had happened. And so as night fell, four people felt miserable and one couldn't even tell anymore
Nightfall. A sportscar drove by the sandy road at an excessive speed, sending dustclouds high up in the nightly sky. The bulldog inside no longer gave a damn about the law or this town for that matter. All he needed was his car, a clear road in the sunset and his big house in the suburbs. No woman ever liked his lifestyle and he preferred it that way. It was with squeeking tires and the feeling of safe solitude that Wilsis arrived at his mansion that night.
As he got his keys, a strange feeling overcame him. His years in the military and the battles he had fought had given him a sixth sense for such things. The bulldog looked around him, seeing nothing but his frontgarden and the trees lining his driveway. He shook the feeling off, disregarding the figures in the shadows. His mansion was still as beautiful as it has been when he left it. To his surprise, his phone started ringing.. Somewhat reluctantly Wilsis approached his phone and picked up
"Hello" he was afraid, no doubt about it, but he barked it in the phone nevertheless
"Hello Wilsis…remember me?" the bulldog almost dropped the phone, but dropped himself in one of his couches to compensate "I wasn't even near when your little boobytrap blew…too bad for you. To show to you I'm serious, your car will explode in three seconds from now" a beep announced the end of the conversation. Wilsis shot out of his couch, only to be knocked down again by a deafening explosion. The windows at the front of his house shattered, burning shards of metal flew in. The bulldog checked for any wounds, but found himself miraculously spared. The phone rang again, Wilsis picked up
"Hello" his voice was now trembling, no longer emanating the self-confidence
"This was merely the beginning. Your entire mansion is mined and I have the controls at my fingertips. Come outside, unarmed, and I have a business proposition for you"
Wilsis opened his front door, sinister looking individuals slowly forming a half circle around him. A fat leopard stood in front of the bulldog and gave him a punch on the nose. The bulldog shot up and prepared his answer. Before he could swing his fist, a shot resounded and Wilis spun around a half circle to the right, a bullet in his right shoulder. He cursed loudly, another leopard became visible and clapped the fatter one on the shoulder.
"Well Wilsis, it seems we are finally even. Go in and attend to that shotwound"
"No! You'll blow up the house"
"Why would I do that?"
Fang helped him up and straightened his shoulder that was twisted out of its socket. Wilsis let out a small yelp but kept his posture in the face of his attackers. The leopard hung the sniper rifle he was carrying on his back, a sign his hostilities were over
"Wilsis, I hate your guts for trying to blow me up. I could even kill you if I wanted, but I'm not gonna." The bulldog looked at him, almost expecting a bullet "No sir" the leopard continued, pacing in front of Wilsis "I am never the one to waste a good operative. The way I see it you have two choices: either you join me as an inferior operative…a snitch, a lowlife, a streetdog" Wilsis became infuriated and showed it "OR!" Fang noticed the bulldog's anger "You don't, kill me on the spot with the little spies you have posted all around your domain, go back in the house feeling safe and get blown to smithereens by the timer on the main bomb that will blow in exactly five minutes"
Wilsis was caught and he knew it. What Fang said about the spies was so true, but as it ironically seemed most of his most trusted operatives were standing here pointing a gun at him and it would take him more than five minutes to find and disarm that bomb.
"Fang, you are a lowlife bastard…but you're my kind of bastard. I'd be more than glad to join your operation"
"Great, so that's settled" the group simply turned around and walked away.
"Hey, what about that bomb?"
"Bomb? There's no bomb timed to go off"
"SUNNOFA!" Wilsis shot forward, his fist ready to strike. Before he hit Fang, the leopard turned, caught his fist, twisted it around and forced him down on the grass.
"GET THIS STRAIGHT WILSIS…next time there will be a bomb primed to go off" Hawk pulled the bulldog off the grass and forced him to look at his house. Fang took a small detonater with multiple switches in hand and continued his explanation "as for now, why don't you…" Fang's thumb switched a safety cap up "get some rest?" he pressed a button and a small portion of the first floor blew up. Burning pieces of what once used to be Wilsis' bedroom came crashing to the ground and Hawk let him go after one last shove to his back. They left him lying there, the first floor of his once so beautiful mansion devoured by flames that danced like demons…
Night. Baloo had fallen asleep, his head next to his son's belly. Rebecca looked at the two…they had so much in common, even their bloodtypes. They loved eachother no doubt, and since Kit was in the hospital Baloo showed it like never before. Yet she knew it could be that Kit never woke up again, a thought she preferred to ban herself. What would Baloo do then?
Other things entered her mind. She had been in Port Green for an entire week now and Molly had been staying with a friend in Cape Suzette. Plus, she had to go back for the company. Now that her father allowed her to handle that shipping contract it didn't matter anymore if Grimes got away or not although the next payment on the loan would be cutting it rather tight. The insurance didn't cover Kit's treatment and theoretically she wasn't supposed to pay for it but Baloo couldn't and nobody else would. Now what? There was no more money
Lou walked in, probably working double-shift after an hour with his family. He glanced over at Rebecca who motioned she was allright. A nurse followed him to change her IV. Lou checked Kit's pulse and let his wrist fall back, hoping it would have moved. He sat next to Rebecca while the nurse put a blanket over Baloo. She left after a small nudge from the doctor. Rebecca knew this wasn't good news
"Rebecca" he almost whispered not to wake anyone up "there are things I have to tell you without Baloo hearing it and I figured now was the time. It's clear that you will have financial problems and I want you to tell me straight if you have any hope of paying this treatment within the month"
"I wish I could say there was a way, but my company isn't that succesfull and Grimes left a serious financial wound. I have a new contract that will ensure payment within three months though"
"I see. I trust you on your word offcourse, but I have a boardmeeting tomorrow and they want to see options. I know I'm not supposed to ask you this, but would you write me down a financial plan? Anything to assure them you will pay?"
"Give me a pen and paper and I'll give you exactly what you need. Anything else I can do?"
"Yeah, kinda embarassing to ask you this, but I normally don't treat kids" Lou took a vile with some sort of liquid "and we gotta make sure he won't hurt himself by lying in the same position for too long" She looked at him with a strange look "Would you mind helping me rub his back with this lotion?"
Rebecca smiled and couldn't help but wondering if all men were such babies when it came to taking care of a child. She slowly got out of bed, still a bit weak because of the bloodloss and sat down on Kit's bed without waking up Baloo. Gently she set him up straight and took the lotion. While rubbing his back she figured it would be the last she'd be doing for the boy…tomorrow she would explain to Baloo that she was returning to Cape Suzette
"YER DOIN' WHAT?!" Baloo yelled again, tears streaming down his face. Lou looked at him again to warn him to keep it down or leave. The grey bear didn't care, not after what he had just heard.
"I am going back to Cape Suzette to take care of my business"
Reality hit Baloo as he almost fell back in his chair, head in hands. Rebecca was packed and ready to leave but waited until the very last second, when Jules came to pick her up, to tell Baloo. She sat down next to the bear
"I'm sorry Baloo, but there are things I gotta take care off and I can't do that here"
"Somehow…somehow I always hoped ya'd be here fer me yaknow? When Kit woke up an' asked fer his mommy, when he got a fever again an' all…ta tell me what I was doin' right and what I was screwin' up. Beckers, I can't face this without ya…I can't. I've gone through some dangerous stuff, but I can't handle this! What if he won't ever wake up? I swear ta god I'll be here every day until he stops breathin' but not without ya Rebecca…" He grabbed Rebecca by the hand "Stay. Please, stay. Not fer Kit, fer me!"
"I'm sorry. I'm truly sorry" she got up and walked to the door. Jules made way for her and watched her leave. The brown bear walked up to Baloo
"Have faith this will turn out okay. I'm with you in thought and prayer"
"Means a lot ta me JC. Take care of Beckers ya hear? An' if she sends ya on one of them get rich schemes go along allright?"
"She's in safe hands" Jules turned around and was near the door when Baloo called him again
"JC…Stay away from the booze"
Without answering, Crane walked past Lou and into the hall. Baloo knew very well Jules was doing everything he could to quit drinking but somehow his best wasn't good enough.
The reason he got fired was that his boss had caught him flying drunk on several occasions. His last escapade ended in a crash that completely wrecked his plane and killed his copilot. Jules never got over that accident but hadn't quit drinking either. After meeting a reverend he somehow tried to turn it all around, attended AA meetings and avoided bars as good as he could. Yet still he got arrested for flying drunk and endangering others on several more occasions. Baloo thanked the stars Jules wouldn't be flying with the Duck.
Lou was puzzled by Baloo's sudden silence but decided not to ask. The task that awaited him was a near impossible one, but one he had to go through. How on earth was he going to convince fifteen rich guys that a patient with extreme financial problems would still pay the most expensive treatment they had? The figures Rebecca had written down for him weren't helping too much either. So far, Higher for Hire hadn't had one single succesful month and yet she vowed to pay in three months…Lou could only hope her connections and credentials were impressive enough. Thinking of Rebecca suddenly reminded him of something he was supposed to do for her
"Baloo…I know this is hardly the time, but Rebecca asked me to give you this" Lou handed the surprised grey bear a small cigarette box
"I don't smoke, but thanks anyway"
"You don't understand: Rebecca found it in Kit's sweater. She figured it had some kind of value for him. I didn't open it and neither did she…respect Kit's privacy please"
"Gotcha" Baloo placed the box on the table, out of his reach and sight. He refocused on his son, softly talking to him
"Hey, Li'l Britches, if ya feel like napping, I ain't gonna stop you but please wake up soon allright? Yer gettin' me worried a bit here and we got's ourselves an entire shipment waitin'…Whatever yer gonna decide on me, always remember that I love ya and I'll be right here, day and night. Just hope yer having a good dream an' all so ya won't need me ta chase some kind of monsters away…I hate monsters, ya knew that kid? Yessir, had a nasty run-in once with these really mean…"
Lou smiled when he heard Baloo doing his best not to cry but wondered if he was actually helping signals get across or boring him to sleep. It wasn't his call to pass judgement on that so he left to check on other patients. Keeping up with the neverending line of visitors, Jerry walked in, looking rather serious. He checked everything from the closet to under the bed. After he had ended his thorough inspection round he called in a few codes in his radio and opened the window. Three flashes came from the other roof and Jerry closed the window again and pulled down the shades. He looked at Baloo
"Perimeter secure sir"
"Yer gonna tell me sumthin' I already know or are ya here ta see Kit?"
"Both actually" Jerry sat down where Rebecca always sat. Baloo didn't know if he approved of that: Kit might wake up, look at his mom and see Jerry instead. "How is he?"
"Same as when ya last seen him. He's not moving Jer…spent the last ten hours lookin' at 'im and he ain't moving"
"Guess I won't be able to interrogate him huh?"
"Is that all ya kin think about right now?"
"Kit opened a case against Fang, and with the search for him once we knew he was head of a crime syndicate we kinda lost track of the initial case. He is our only witness and without him, Fang will be untouchable. Now we know Fang shot him, but we're also kind of hoping he confessed other things to Kit in the aftermath, thinking that he'd die anyway. All of that got us rethinking that sniper attack and we are now 98 percent positive that the sniper was Fang. We found several clues to prove that and others to prove Kit's complaint, but without his testimony we don't have a case! That makes him a material witness and my new best friend. The protection team is guarding the hallway and main entrance on the lookout of any suspicious characters so that when Kit wakes up I can interrogate him and bust Fang behind bars for good."
"Ya mean" Baloo looked down at Kit and stroked his hair "IF he wakes up…there's a good chance he won't remember a thing, bein' heavily traumatised an' all…I'd rather see you leave my boy alone"
"Can't do that Baloo…I want to see Fang rot in prison for the rest of his miserable days and I'll do anything to get him there, even if that means staying with the witness 24/7 until I got a full testimony. I ain't leaving Baloo!"
"In that case make yerself comfortable and get ready fer the wait of yer life"
"Who knows, he might wake up sooner than you think"
It was silent in the old building. Waterdrops from a broken waterline dripped down to the floor, rats scurried around and disappeared in the dark corners of the large, unfurnished room. The silence was occasionally ripped by soft thuds. Hawk was practicing his boxing skills against a sack of flour he found and suspended from the ceiling. Small white clouds escape with each punch. The leopard tried to lose the extra weight his forced stay in Freeburg had produced. Fang, his nephew, had asked…nay, had ordered him to infiltrate Rudder's circle and bring them to the idea of starting a colony. When another leopard appeared to seek shelter and disappeared mysteriously in the western part of the island nobody cared. All Hawk had to do was make sure nosy kids kept away from the plant in the woods…something he excelled in. After a while the plant got bigger and Fang needed to build. During these works however, part of his storage tanks exploded levelling the entire westside. For Hawk it was now just a matter of feeding them a line about a tornado and vendictive ghosts to scare them off the island. The core that stayed remained on the eastside from that point on, giving Fang half an island to build on. Gradually they all left, except Rudder and three dogs…three dogs that turned out to be CSIA officers. Hawk remembered very well how Fang reacted when his tanks exploded
CARMALINA ISLAND, TWO YEARS AGO
All was quiet on the island. Rescue workers were rummaging through the rubble that once was the west settlement. Hundreds were wounded in a mysterious blast, some were killed. A plume of black smoke rose up from the woods, a fire raged through the trees. Rudder and Hawk, the two founders were overseeing the works, helping out wherever they could. Hawk was the leader of the western colony. His group, his town, his settlement…it was all gone.
Hawk felt a strange feeling of nausea and exhaustion overtake him and started back to the tent he had set up himself. Rudder clapped him on the shoulder and both shared a look of sorrow to the rubble before Hawk disappeared in his temporary quarters. Feeling beaten, he fell in his army bed and slept.
A dark figure satlked through the woods. He was wounded, his back completely burned but he was determined to make it to the west side. Throught the fire, through the woods. The leopard ran as quick as his feet would carry him, stumbling over every elevating root or bump in the soil. A light became visible in the night before him…he blinked and was overjoyed: he had made it to the westside! Keeping his balance by leaning against a tree, the leopard considered his odds to act like a blastvictim. They were slim: the rescue workers would recognise him as the disappeared leopard and it wouldn't be long before they started to ask all kinds of questions…questions he didn't have the answer to. His eyes moved rapidly across the scene in front of him, his face blackened and scarred. Suddenly he beheld the tent, a light was still on. From out his boot he took a survival knife, determined to kill whoever was in there, use his supplies to get back on his feet and run from this stinking island. With an agility betraying his current state, he crept across the open plain without being seen. He stumbled rather clumsily in the tent, his strength leaving him on the critical moment. Hawk shot awake and threw the intruder roughly to the ground. He was rather surprised to recognise his own nephew, seriously wounded. Fang dropped the knife and heaved himself on the bed. Hawk looked at him from all sides
"Hold on nephew, I'm getting help" Hawk started in a run outside
"NO!! NO HELP!" Fang stopped him, the leopard looked at him with strange eyes "I did it! I DID IT!"
"Did what?" Hawk demanded the explanation, rather than asking it and getting nothing in return
"You know I told you about that stuff the last meteor shower left on this piece of rock?"
"Yeah, why else are we on this island in the middle of nowhere. It had scientific value right?"
"Screw the scientific value! My guesses were right! After a long and complicated process it becomes and explosive that detonates on contact…BY THE MERE SHOCK OF CONTACT ALONE! No more proximity settings, no more timers, no more missed targets. All that I need is somewhere safe to store it!"
"You look like hell…what happened?"
"The same thing that happened to this side of the island. I was working on a storage compartiment and had stored the finished explosive in a preliminary tank. Maybe a branch of a tree fell on it, maybe the wrench I threw away hit it, but suddenly the tank exploded. I thought I was dead for sure, but somehow survived. I just woke up half an hour ago and figured out what happened"
"So you are responsible for this tragedy? I got five casualties, hundreds of wounded of which twenty serious and material damage that will take us years to rebuild! And you need a doctor, like it or not!"
Hawk stepped outside, disregarding the shouts from Fang and whistled to a couple of doctors. He motioned them that he had found another victim, they ran in his direction. Rudder followed them, having seen the signs. Hawk turned back to look at his nephew, but found the tent completely empty with the knife as only exception. Half of his medical supplies were gone and so was his food. Rudder arrived with the doctors
"Well, where is he?"
"Gone…" Hawk scratched his head and searched about in his tent "he was here a minute ago. Wait a second" he checked his supplies and acted like he was surprised "my food is gone and half of the medication" he stepped back to allow easier acces to the three and stepped on the knife. He cursed loudly as it cut in his foot, the three looked down
"Hey Hawk, is that your knife?" Rudder picked it up and studied it. It wasn't a typical survival knife: it had beautiful ethnical designs on it "beautiful piece of craftmanship!"
"That ain't mine! You know I don't care for weapons, not even knives. He must have left it here"
"That guy that was here" an idea hit him, an idea to give his nephew full access to this side of the island. After all, there was money to be made with a new explosive that makes others obsolete "that spirit of the forest"
"Allright, enough with the spirit thing already. You've been trying to make me fall for that one since we got here, stopped a search party from finding that leopard and objected time and again against the build of the western colony, all because you believed in forest spirits! I'm sick of it Hawk"
"Do you have an explanation for this? We're all counted for, and the eastern colony is one day walking from here! There was nobody that could have been here, yet my food and medication are gone and you find a knife that ain't mine but looks like it has been used frequently. And think about this: why does everybody that goes into the woods disappear? I'm not taking anymore chances: my people are going back to the eastside, like it or not!"
"THAT'S FINAL! Gather them around, we're out of here"
Hawk stepped out of his tent, leaving Rudder behind, baffled. He had never acted like this before and tried to be a good leader for his group. Now this made an end to all that…
PORT GREEN, WAREHOUSE DOCKS, TODAY
Another puff of white flew in the dusted and damp room. -You destroyed my life- a punch hit the sack of flour. Hawk was infuriated by what Fang had done, but went along with his schemes anyway. But there would be a time things would change…when his nephew would pay the price. -You destroyed my future- the punch hit the sack again, a flashback of a shot in the dark and a gun forced in his paws replaying in his mind. -You destroyed my hopes- the sack of flour started to tear with the punch, another flashback of a screaming woman in a burning car flying off the cliffs in his mind.
"YOU DESTROYED MY CHILDREN'S LIFE!"
He punched the sack harder than ever, tearing it and sending the contents to the dirty floor. Rats gathered around the feast, Hawk collapsed on the ground, the ultimate flashback replaying in his mind.
"…this court sentences you, David, to life in the maximum security prison of Alcalaz" A hammer came down, the young leopard was dragged away, kicking and screaming. Hawk nearly fainted in the second row, but this trial wasn't over yet
"And for your crimes against humanity, and your ongoing despise against this trial, this court sentences you, Daniel, to death by electrocution." Hawk stumbled back, he needed something to support him, or something to sit down on. The judge continued mercilessly "Your sentence will be fullfilled the 29th in the maximum security prison of Alcalaz. May God have mercy on your soul"
"DAD! HELP ME!"
A switch came down, Hawk pounded against the glass like a madman. It was too late…
Hawk briskly came to his senses and rose with the renewed energy of a tormented man. He threw his boxing gloves in the corner and marched determined to a door in the far corner. He knew who was in there, he knew what to do now and so helped him god he wasn't going to delay it any further. The kick was swift, faster than anyone with his heavy frame could muster and the door came crashing down. Inside, Fang didn't even turn around. He was trying on one of his new disguises, his bare back still bore the scars of heavy burns. Hawk was steaming
"Surprised to see me, nephew" his words were deliberate. He was going to pick a fight and end it now
"Not at all: you knocked didn't you?" Fang answered laconically, knowing for sure he could take Hawk on any day of the week. Hawk marched over to Fang who had just finished putting on a lab coat, looking remarkably like a doctor of some sort. He turned around
"Well, what do you think?" A fist flew in his direction, Fang caught it "Be honest, don't spare the comments"
"What on earth are you doing"
"I thought about a little kidnapping. Got my eyes set on a young comatose patient I still have business with"
"Haven't you done enough already? Leave that kid alone"
"Not in your life!"
"I SAID" Hawk walked over to a table and toppled it over, sending the bottles of scotch to the floor where they shattered in a thousand pieces "leave that kid alone"
Fang threw off the coat and walked to a faceoff with his uncle "What is getting into you Hawk? You always obeyed me without problems or questions but lately your behavious has been far from satisfying. I demand an explanation"
"I did a little conscience and morality check and I'm not going on with this any further. There is now way my own nephew is going to command me what to do. It's about time you payed for what you did to the family too"
Hawk gave Fang a quick upwards hook in the gut. The leopard cringed and sank to the floor. His uncle assumed a battle stance, Fang shot up doing the same. The two were almost equally matched, Fang having the youth, Hawk the experience. Neither of the two seemed ready to give in and punches started flying. Both received as well as they dished out, not showing how it affected them. Hawk was ready to finish Fang off and threw his entire weight in one punch. Fang turned around his own axis, avoided the punch and viciously smashed his elbow in Hawk's face. The older, fatter leopard fell to the floor, holding his nose.
"Dammit…you broke my nose"
"Next time you cross me, I'll break your leg with a sledgehammer"
Fang grabbed his labcoat and disappeared out the doorframe. Hawk was mad, no doubt about it, but he decided to strike again when his nephew was at his weakest. Right now, he had a nose to straighten out.
It was late afternoon. Fang had cooled off, Hawk had apologised with hatred burning within him. They were family, not to mention Hawk was Fang's best operative so it was without suspicion that Fang had allowed him to attend the briefing in the main storage room. He had blueprints of the hospital, security plans of the PGPD and the name of every employee that would be present at the time. This was planned to the very second. Hawk had given him some pointers, figuring it would be best if they pulled this off. After all, it was easier to protect Kit here than in the hospital. He was still puzzled what Fang needed that blood for, but figured it didn't matter anyway since he lost the cannister.
"Heyhey" Fang snapped his fingers in front of Hawk's face "no dreaming. Pay attention old man. What was I just saying?"
"That it would be best if half of the group would wait in the reception area disguised as family members of other patients that recently died so that they could stall the staff down there by demanding an explanation. Offcourse it is imperative that they fully know the background of that patient by heart"
"Right" Fang was slightly surprised but didn't move a muscle. He expected such engagement and knowledge from all his men, especially his best "but the other half will fullfill a very special mission. And to make sure nothing will go wrong" Fang unsheethed his claws and planted them into the wood of the table "Hawk will lead"
Clouds gathered outside while criminals conspired. The sky was pitch-black, blocking out vision at 5 PM. A heavy thunderstorm was coming, the consequences would be hard, swift and more importantly…permanent. Forces seemed out of balance and for a second it felt like even time froze. People ran for shelter, protection from the coming rain in the hopes of not having to feel and witness the wrath of sky coming down. The windspeed picked up as the invisible but everpresent element raced the streets, tormented both man and nature as the messenger of the coming wrath.
Inside the hospital, both Jerry and Baloo were asleep next to Kit's bed, the boy still in his seemingly unending slumber. The sky cracked open, a bolt of lightning bringing down the so long expected rejuvenation of elements. During the following roll of thunder, the sad and broken cub opened his eyes and took a deep, rattling breath. His vision blurred, fear struck him. The elements outside were on a rampage, nobody was around to protect him. Much to his surprise, a warm and gentle hand wiped the hair out of his eyes. The hand placed itself on his eyelids and closed them. When Kit opened his eyes again, he could see clearly again. A young bearcub was sitting next to him on the bed, familiar blue eyes looked back at him.
"Chr…" Kit's voice refused as if it wasn't his place to talk right now. Chris smiled broadly, taking Kit's hand in his
"My time is limited, so sorry about your voice" Chris' voice sounded warmer than usual, clearly unwilling to frighten Kit "I've been staying in 'the great beyond' for some time now, but the first I went to see was our mom. She wasn't happy to see me yet, but she was happy you weren't with me. She's wonderful Kit, I'm sure she'll want to meet you someday in the living world. But I went to have a little chat with your guardian angel. He doesn't know you at all Kit, and if the head honcho wouldn't set him straight from time to time he'd sleep on the job every year. With your approval, and yours only, I'd like to keep an eye on you. 'He' already gave me permission to try for two months…it's not like riding a bike Kit, you have to learn a lot and one mistake can make for another inhabitant that shouldn't have come yet. I saw all the routes laid out for you, some great, some sheer walks of terror. I can't give you details, but I will come back and interfere or I'm afraid you will walk the wrong path"
A ray of light illuminated the room, Chris looked up. The wind picked up again, Chris smiled one last time at his brother and let go of his paw. His figure faded until it became transparent and finally disappeared. Kit reached up, hoping to pull him back to his view. It felt like his eyes burned and after a brief view of what lay beyond he was forced to close them. When he opened them again, his vision blurred like it had before. It almost seemed like light hurt his eyeballs, Kit desperately tried other means
"Chris…come back man…Please! Don't leave yet, please!"
Baloo startled awake, Kit was trying to sit up. The grey bear looked around him and found the bear he was looking for. Pushing it in Kit's arms, he let the boy ly down again. He smiled to see him awake and hugged him for quite some time. Neither spoke, Kit cried
"I saw him Papa Bear…he was here! He said he was coming back"
"Oh Li'l Britches…how are ya feeling? I'm so glad ta see ya awake"
"I can't see."
It was almost a bombshell. Baloo wasn't expecting to see Kit wake up 100%, but somehow he didn't want to see this happen. He was no doctor, he didn't even understand half of what they were saying…but he did know that going blind would kill Kit.
"Nuthin' at all? Hold on kiddo, I'm getting a doctor"
Kit felt Baloo's arms leave him and heard steps run away from him. Willing to see more than the faint blur, he squinted in the direction of the sound but saw absolutely nothing clearly. He felt alone, afraid. Muffled voices resounded. Parts of a conversation drifted his way
"He can't see dammit!"
"Was only to be expected. Frankly I saw it happen"
"Saw it happpenin'? Ya could have told me"
"I didn't know for sure yet! But now it's a sad truth"
"Whaddya talkin' about?"
They were talking about him as if he wasn't there. The voices came closer. Two 'feelings' approached Kit. He no longer had his eyes, but it was almost as if he had been provided with a natural radar, guided only by his gut instinct. One of the two was Baloo, he_knew_that, the other was most likely a doctor. It wasn't Lou, somehow Kit knew that too. Two fingers pulled his eyelids up, a light flashed at him. Kit pulled his head away, the light vanished.
"It's about what I expected…acute pseudo-blindness"
"Make sense doc!" Kit knew he had caught them by surprise, the silence following his reply alone gave that much away. Soft whispers again, they were discussing wether or not to tell him. Baloo's voice rose a bit, overpowering the other.
"Kit…you're going blind" the voice wasn't Baloo's although he did feel a paw engulf his "for the next few weeks, your vision will come and go. At first it'll seem fine, but slowly the periods of blindness will prolongue and the healthy periods shorten. Until finally, after about a month and a half, the light will vanish forever. There's nothing I can do, I'm sorry"
"So what you're saying is that no matter what I'll do, I'll never live normal again?" there was a hint of coldness in Kit's voice
"You will be able to live quite normal once it's…final, but I suggest you make as much as you can from the time you have the privilege to see."
"Yeah, kiddo, it won't be that bad! I'll take ya to see the sunrise in Southland, the construction works in Benishore from Reporter's Island…they have cleared an entire mountain pass ta build a city, did ya know that? And after a month or so we'll go and…pick out some…cool shades. Don't want ya ta…" Baloo wiped away a tear, Kit pressed his head against the bear's chest "wouldn't want ya ta look outdated in front of yer friends. Mebbe ya kin choose up front….money ain't the problem kiddo…just wanna seeya happy…"
Kit held out his arms, Baloo held him close. The doctor left silently, his heart heavy with emotion. But there were other matter to attend to. True, it was always hard to give this kind of news to a patient that young, but before the grey bear came to ask him to examine Kit's eyes, a nurse had called him downstairs rather panicking. It was hardly the time for any of this: an autogyro was scheduled to land on the roof in five minutes. A doctor's job was stressfull indeed. He hurried through the hall, ran down the stairs to save time and lost himself in a crazed mob. Thirty or forty men and women stood at the reception desk, yelling and cursing. The nurse behind the desk was about to breeak down in tears, the doctor hurried forward, pushing people aside. As he finally got behind the desk, the yelling intensified
"Hey medboy, why ain't I gettin' some details here? My brother died on the operation table for christ's sake!"
"What's your name please? I'll provide you with whatever information you need"
"Mr. Jefferson, please understand that this might take a while to explain, why don't you follow me to a quieter place?"
"Was about freakin' time"
"HEY, WHAT ABOUT ME???" the yelling came from further down the line
"Nurse, what is going on here?"
"Thisisis…These are all the relatives of every fatality in this hospital for the past two months…"
"God no…" the doctor knew this was going to be a very, very long day
On the roof an autogyro landed. It was nothing out of the ordinary: the blue flying machines with red cross painted on the hull landed here everyday at least once, being the ideal patient transports they were. This time, however, none of the usual medical staff was present. Five persons jumped out, two in doctor's outfit, three in the rags they always wore. The three followed the fake doctors down to the fifth floor. Three, one doctor and two thugs ran down the hall and blocked the access. The two others went straight for Kit's room.
Baloo was still trying to comfort Kit a little. The little will to live he had left seemed to have vanished. The cub lost himself in crying. Baloo let it happen, soothing him all the way, showing him he would never leave him. The last thing he needed now was another doctor showing up.
Kit was happy to feel the warm presence of Baloo, especially now. Although he couldn't see him, and pretty soon would never be able to again, it felt good to know he was there. He felt new persons at his side, Baloo tensed and stood up
"What's this about? Hey, I'm talkin' to ya…whoa, no need to go there bud…what's tha…leave me alone!…NO!"
The rest was silence. Kit could only guess what exactly had happened, but he knew it wasn't legit. Squirming and estimating the distance of the agressors he tried to make a quick escape. His condition was below all standards, he even had problems moving his legs. Everything hurt, his stitches pulled and Kit decided to wait for what was to come. All his faith was now directed to his new guardian angel.
"Is this him? Doesn't seem half as dangerous as the boss says"
"He ain't. Gimme the knife"
"You're not gonna…are ya? I'm having second thoughts about this one man"
"Good! That's what I need the knife for"
"Kn…knife?" Why did everybody seemed to ignore Kit? "Guys, I can't recognise faces, but I'll recognise those voices when you're lined-up!"
"Keep quiet and I'll see what I can do for ya boy. Where's that knife"
Kit tried to get a glimpse of what was going on but he didn't even get a blurred image. The voice of the obvious leader sounded strangely familiar, as if he had heard it before and not too long ago. Maybe in the army, maybe before…the one thing that was obvious was that they were sent to eliminate. Maybe some bluff could convince them to leave
"If you would direct your eyes to your left, you'll see a sleeping police officer. All I hafta do is scream and he'll wake up"
The room went silent for a minute. It wasn't until someone grabbed his arm that he realised he had made a very bad move. These guys obviously played hardball and he wasn't going to shut up, they'd make him.
"Last chance sport: keep quiet or I'll get ugly on ya"
"Leave him alone, there are more efficiënt means to keep him sedated…literally"
"Punch on the nose? Chokehold? Bodyslam?"
"Barbarian! Where does Fang get you guys?"
"LEAVE ME ALONE!"
Much to Kit's surprise, nothing happened. The two didn't move, Jerry didn't wake up and nobody came to check on him from the hall. It occured to him that they had probably drugged both Baloo and Jerry and had closed the soundproof door. Out of the blue, his eyesight brightened and sharpened, slowly at first but faster as time went on. Kit saw a leopard checking his watch and a lion holding a knife. He remembered that leopard all too well. None of that seemed to care when he noticed a familiar form on the ground…two forms actually. Kit silently took a metal object from the nightstand next to him. Baloo had insisted on keeping some familiar things in his room and luckily had kept his airfoil within reach. Kit opened it and brought his hand back to throw. A blinding flash hit him, the airboard fell. It stopped in mid-air.
Chris stood in front of him, between him and Hawk, looking rather concerned. Slowly and silently, he walked to the airboard, and set it back where it belonged. The cub sat down on Kit's bed, time still frozen…everyone but Kit.
"Why brother? Why?! Why would you attack and injure someone whose intentions you don't even know yet?"
"They threatened to hurt me, one of them is holding a knife and they cut me off from all help! That's enough reason for me!"
"Has life been so cruel that you can no longer trust someone? I didn't check your past, they didn't let me. You must learn how to trust someone unconditionally or your future looks grim…very grim. Since I'm breaking the rules anyway and can afford to do for some more time since you're my brother and I'm the new guy, I'll show you the consequences of your actions as you go along. Let's assume for a second you threw that airboard…
Another bright flash, time went on.
Kit had his airboard behind his head, aiming to get a good blow from the first time. That leopard was Hawk allright, and he knew Fang. Now, Kit even saw some similarities between them…they had to be related. Anyone that knew Fang was scum, no doubt about that. Without thinking twice, Kit threw his board, hitting Hawk smack on the head. The leopard fell to the ground, lying there motionless.
No longer did he breathe, no longer did he know anything, Hawk was dead. Blood ran out of a open headwound, coloring the floor red. The lion looked at the small cub, wondering how dangerous he really was.
"I told ya I was going to get ugly on ya if ya tried anything stupid…and this is about as stupid as it comes"
The lion advanced on him, knife ready to strike. The cub seemed insignificant to him, only the threat he posed mattered. He had killed Hawk, the very person that had convinced the lion to let him live. Kit cringed, expecting the inevitable to happen very soon.
"Sorry, but you're more dangerous than I gave ya credit for. Do me a favor and don't scream. Hold though and this'll be over before you know it"
The knife came down slowly and without much remorse or ceremonial, the lion ended Kit's life. He cast a last look at the lifeless body, wiped off the knife and killed himself.
Chris took Kit's hand, the disgust on the boy's face was obvious. There was just one thought that crossed Kit's mind: he like this guardian angel a lot better than his other one. It didn't make sense
"Why did you stop me?"
"Frankly, I'd be out of work if I hadn't…just kidding. I told you, I'm bending the rules here. Being a guardian angel means more than just looking down and let the master plan roll out. The Bossman is great, but he can't keep track of everyone. To set the years of neglect straight, he gave me temporary permission and ability to interfere with whatever means possible. That includes freezing time, going back in the past, alter paths and influence people. Hawk is already altered…He's not bad per se, but an influence had shaded his lighter side, just as it shaded yours. In both cases, the influence is the same. Erasing it from both your lives is my first priority"
"So basically I get another shot at this?"
"For now. Don't think you're invulnerable: I can only interfere once a day…kind of a learners permit. Just have faith in people for a while allright?"
"Chris…I got one more question. The doctors say I'm going blind. Don't tell me that's true…you know the future, tell me, I can take it"
Chris smiled, let go of his brother's hand and snapped his fingers. Another flash, time resumed from the point of intervention on.
Kit had the airboard in hand, aiming to get a good blow from the first throw. The metal object weighed heavily in Kit's hand, but even more heavily on his conscience. He would kill someone now, and that would mean he finally gave in to Fang's 'education'. There wasn't anything he hated more…the airboard slipped out of his limp hand and clattered to the floor. Leopard and lion turned, strange looks on their faces
"I told ya I was going to get ugly on ya if ya tried anything stupid…and this is about as stupid as it comes"
"Leave him be" Hawk stopped the enraged lion "he didn't try anything…It's time for the getaway anyway, give me the knife"
"I'm allergic to knives aimed at me. How about you let me live?" Kit knew his pleads were having little effect:if they were sent to kill, they would…but then again , they probably would have already. This simply didn't add up
"Don't worry little guy, it'll just be a small cut"
"Yeah, but let's discuss were exactly this cut is going to be"
Hawk got closer, knife in hand. His free hand brushed Kit's hair away a little while his index finger marked a spot. After checking the knife for impurities that might infect a wound, he made a quick small cut just above Kit's forehead.
"Ouch…that hurts Hawk…a little"
The cut wasn't particulary big or deep but started bleeding instantly. The trickle of blood ran over Kit's forehead, making it look as if he had just been in a terrible accident. Hawk was pleased with the result and handed the blooded knife back to the lion. For the finishing touch, he took a small injection
"Sweet dreams kiddo"
Three seconds after he had been injected, Kit felt lightheaded and relaxed his neck, making his head sink in his pillow. His body felt numb and though he could see and hear everything, it was as if a cloud of silence had enveloped him. The fog began to thicken when Hawk and the lion rolled him into the hall, leaving the IV's behind.
Chris looked and smiled. Things were going his way, but to achieve the higher goal, he needed someone else. His 'puppet' had just arrived, unprepared for the role he would play in the scheme of things.
Walsh smiled from ear to ear. Wilsis was gone, he had been promoted, earned another medal on the Carmalina mission and his friends called him a hero. But he'd only feel a true hero once he had completed his most difficult task yet: returning Kit's cap and try to apologise for all that had happened. In all the fuss, nobody had bothered to give Kit his cap back and he himself only remembered it while they cleaned out the HQ.
The fifth floor. Intensive care…why did that word sound so awful all of the sudden? Of all the missions he had ever completed, this one was indeed the most difficult one. Two doctors rushed by him, running to the patient elevator while pushing a bed. The victim's face was covered in blood, Walsh wanted to throw up on the spot. The cub looked like Kit, but the cat convinced himself that it couldn't be. -has to be a traffic accident-
Finally arriving at the room he knocked on the door. No answer. After waiting some more he took the initiative and went in. The bed was gone, Baloo and Jerry lay stunned on the floor. He threw down Kit's cap and started a pursuit for the two doctors he had just passed. The lion appeared from behind the corner, put a piece of paper in the cap and ran for the stairs.
Walsh was a trained soldier, he didn't need much to catch those doctors. Unfortunately the elevator doors slammed shut before he could enter. The indicator showed they were going up and there was only one thing above the fifth floor -they're going for the autogyro landing pad!-. There was no stopping the cat as he rushed up the stairs to the roof. A blast of wind knocked him down when he opened the doors. All Walsh could do was wonder what had happened and look at the kidnapping go to a succesfull end.
Chris was on his way back from 'work'. The environment here still looked strange to him, a paradise like in his sweetest dream. Although he felt sad for his brother, the fact that his mother would be home waiting for him made up for everything. The walk back seemed to last an eternity, yet he was home pretty quick…he still had to adjust to the strange time calculation up here. Everything was eternal, yet time went on as usual. The only that didn't happen was aging: everybody stayed forever in the form he entered in. For Chris that meant he would never celebrate his 13th birthday, but would never have to worry about age limits again. Even here, everyone was obsessed with earning their wings to become a full angel. It required serious deeds of goodness that most guardian angels took centuries to attain. The drawback: angels had to stay up here and never got to see their relatives again unless they had permission of the highest authority: the Bossman himself. Only those that were worthy and remembered their relatives got such a permission.
"How was your first day honey?" A woman shouted from the kitchen, delicious odours entering Chris' nose. The cub sat down in an easy chair, exhausted
"Didn't know there was so much to being a guardian angel. Kit seemed to like it though"
"You know" the longhaired, blue-eyed woman walked into the living room and sat down next to the cub "you might have to do something to him you won't like. Your job isn't about keeping bad things from happening, but monitor one person and make sure he fits in the plan"
"But that plan is so vague. Kit's life has so many different versions and I don't know what is supposed to happen. Like I have to direct an actor without knowing the script fully…mom, what's the meaning of life?"
"I don't know. Only angels do"
"How come you haven't gotten your wings yet? You're a good person"
"Yeah, I was kind of 'pre-approved', just like you. Kit is a different story: if he doesn't prove himself worthy he won't be able to enter. I was offered wings, but I preferred coming down to earth every night to watch you two sleep or knock some sense into Kit. Even I could influence dreams down there"
"Do dreams have such a great impact?"
"One nightmare, and Kit decided to get out of the pirate band. As for Fang…Kit wanted a father so bad he banned me from his heart and thoughts. It was out of my hands"
"Was his meeting with Baloo orchestrated? Was everything meant to be?"
"Sometimes, Chris, miracles do happen"
She smiled, Chris smiled back. There were so many things he didn't understand and so much he still had to learn. It was harder to be dead than to be alive. At least his mom had given him some good advice. A moment of concentration and his task was completed…Kit would dream like he had never dreamt before
It was late afternoon, the sun shone brightly on San Flamingo. Kids were playing outside, the world seemed in perfect balance for once. It was a day nobody wanted to miss, the perfect day for a birthday. One kid however was forced to miss out on all the fun. In the orphanage, Kit lay in the infirmery feeling miserable.
They had noticed it yesterday: he stopped eating, refused to help the staff and the little he ate was later found in a distasteful puddle on the floor. A quick examination revealed the first victim of a lurking flu epidemic. To keep other kids from getting infected, they transferred him to the quarantined infirmery. Nobody came in, nobody came to comfort him. He quickly found out that the only person he'd see in two weeks would be a nurse. Conversation with her was almost impossible: all she did was come in, take his temperature, give him some food, water and medicine and left.
It was dark in the infirmery, there was no way to tell wether it was day or night. The door opened, the light almost blinded Kit. The very same nurse appeared once again and started her routine. The last plate of food was still untouched but she took it away anyway.
The nurse turned around, a bored look on her face. She had a hard time convincing this kid he wasn't dying…yet. Although she knew how rough this could get with such a fever, it was best never to get involved personally: when the child did die, at least you didn't feel bad about it. Her curiosity won from her common sense and stonecold heart
"How am I supposed to help you? I can't do anything else but give you your medication…maybe if you wouldn't spit it out everytime you'd feel a whole lot better"
The medication she was giving Kit was indeed not known for its pleasing taste. But it was cheap and effective, something that interested her boss. It wasn't more than normal a kid his age refused to take it but why would she try twice? It wasn't her fault…or so she figured.
"I might be able to get you a cold compress or a bag of ice, but that's it. I don't promise anything but quit bugging me!"
"T..Thanks. Give…Josh a happy birthday from me"
"I'll see what I can do"
"Can you bring me my part of the cake?"
"You know very well there isn't enough for everyone. Just be glad I still bring you something three times a day. I'll be back in four hours, eat something"
The nurse left, not even looking at him again. The food she brought him looked distasteful, the little appetite Kit had left vanished immediately. There was nothing else to do except feeling miserable once again.
The days passed, every single one seemed to last an eternity. As his condition got worse, Kit was unable to sleep and screamed for some attention. One time he screamed so hard even the nurse couldn't stand any more and gave him what he asked: a simple bag of ice. From that day on, she gave him one every time she came in…not so much out of commitment, but more to be rid of his screaming. Days turned into weeks.
Kit felt like he had been released from prison. In comparison to the everyday orphanage life however, infirmery soon felt like heaven. After they let him go back to his room, routine pounded on him again without remorse.
Wake-up at five AM…it took some time to adjust to that again. Ten minutes to wash and get down to eat. Unfortunately, most of the breakfast was gone by 5.05 so all kids hurried to get to the table. Kit felt out of place the first few days: he could no longer keep up with the pace, and the only friend he had had vanished.
Josh usually kept an eye out for Kit, and saved something when he overslept. The last few days Kit hadn't seen him though. He was one of the older kids and somewhat of Kit's protector. Without him, things were going to get difficult for the short cub. At the breakfast table, Kit finally got one of the other kids to talk to him, be it after bribing him with a sandwich
"Josh is gone" The cougarcub stated it coldly, devouring the sandwich
"They kicked him out. The day he turned fifteen they told him to clean up his room and buzz off. We finished the cake and by the time we got back up he was gone. Must be wandering somewhere around the city. They didn't give him any money so he can't go far. It's the way this orphanage works: once over nine you can forget about being adopted and once you turn fifteen they kick you out to make room for other kids. I think Oliver got Josh's room"
"It was about time…although I needed it more, that kid next to me is driving me crazy"
"Yeah well, maybe you shouldn't have stayed in the infirmery that long, lazy slob"
"Hey, I work as hard as everyone else here"
"Face it, without Josh you wouldn't have survived your first week. You're short, weak and always late. The teachers love you, the kids hate you. Get your act together or get lost"
"Thanks for the advice, but don't ever expect to get anything from me again"
Kit hurried back up to his room. Nobody would miss him in school today, nobody would miss him here. With Josh gone there was no reason to stay in this godforsaken hole. There was no future here, the school was the equivalent of third grade and repeated over and over again. More important, Kit had just turned nine…that meant no more adoption for him, only an uncertain future at fifteen. He took the sweater Josh had given him out of the closet. It was bright green, only the right elbow was wearing a little thin. All orphans get one like it once they turn twelve, Josh had installed a secret pocket in it. After Kit had saved his skin by taking the blame for a stray ball that flew through the window, Josh gave it to him, knowing full well how much Kit liked that sweater. Kit felt like he owed Josh for it…now he was gone. He put on the sweater, hid the metal object he owed in the pocket and left. Today was soccer practice…he would pretend he wanted in the team. The soccer team often practiced on the unsupervised field behind the orphanage. It was only a matter of time before he would see a chance to escape, IF he could make it in the team.
School had started already but Kit went out anyway. The coach saw the cub approaching. Normally the rhino would send anyone back in, but he needed a striker now that Josh was gone. Kit ran up to the coach, already out of breath. The rhino shook his head
"Hiya coach…got a place in the team for me?"
"With your condition squirt? No way. But I need someone, so you're in luck. Get on that field, grab a ball and let's see how good your aim is"
"Thanks a lot coach"
The cub ran up the field, the team looked at him. The keeper stepped forward, the defenders joined him. They had been playing with the same team for years, there was no place for outsiders…especially not for short nine-year olds. Silent whispers were spoken followed by a handshake. This kid was never going to make it in the team
"Yeah coach?" the keeper ran forward
"We got ourselves an applicant. He's a good friend of Josh, let's see if any of his talent rubbed off. Let's check how his penalty shots are"
The three walked to the penalty area, Billie took his place in the goal. This was all new to Kit: he hadn't played soccer in his life. He had no idea where or even how to kick that ball. The cub took a few steps back, ran forward and swung his foot, eyes closed. Kit fell flat on his back, missing the ball completely. The team laughed out loud, even the coach had to fight the laughter
"Oh yeah, real nice kid. Wanna try again?"
"You betcha, I will make it to the team"
Kit hopped up, replaced the ball on the spot and stepped back. This time he kept his eyes open during the entire run, developed serious speed and kicked the ball. The keeper jumped and stopped it with some effort.
"Not bad for a second time kid, but you'll need some serious practice. Let's see your dribbling" the rhino led the bearcub to the center of the field "you start from here, the centerline, run forward, evade the two defenders and shoot"
'That's it! But don't underestimate it kiddo: it took Josh two months to develop an attack style worthy of that name"
Kit started something that had to resemble dribbling, or so he hoped. The defenders stormed forward to intercept. Kit tried his best to circle around them, but they were on top of him before he could blink. Taking advantage of his superior speed, the cub ran for the goal, the defenders flanked him. Nearing the goal area, Kit shot for the goal. The defenders tackled him at the same time from both sides as they had agreed. The shot flew off course, Kit fell down. Billie didn't even have to move as the ball flew past his goal. The defenders clasped hands and walked to the keeper, Kit stayed down, slowly getting his bearings. He knew he had a weak ankle and checked it. As he suspected it hurt when he got up. The coach was already helping him up before he had to ask
"What's with the ankle? It's not broken is it?"
"No, it bothers me all the time. It doesn't take much to twist it…nothing some ice won't cure, why?"
"Wouldn't want my new midfielder to get hurt before a match. Sit down on the bench for a while and look at the training" Kit hopped to the side of the field and sat down on the reserves bench. The coach stepped to the defenders
"What's the story on that double tackle guys? You could have broken his foot"
"Come on coach, the other team won't hold back either"
"No, but such a foul is usually punished with a red card. I don't like it when my team conspires against a newcomer"
"He doesn't have the potential to be a striker, you saw that"
"He'll make a nice midfielder though: he outran you. If his ankle isn't better tomorrow, we'll have a little chat about your rooms and training privileges. And I want to see those training results go up or we'll be searching for two defenders and a keeper soon"
Kit loved to see the rhino stand up for him, although he quickly realised his only concern was winning the next game. He felt exhausted from these few minutes. Kit hopped from the bench and started back inside…maybe he was going to check wether that nurse was still on duty in the infirmery…he needed some ice for that ankle.
Trainings weren't so bad. One of the privileges of being on the soccer team was that the coach always made sure his players had enough to eat. They didn't have to go to school when a training was sheduled, and that was often, almost every day. The kids on the team started talking to Kit, the hostility disappeared. They looked at him as Josh's friend though, not as Kit.
Escape opportunities were sparse as Kit had feared. Only when they had to play an away game there was a small chance. It wasn't until the game against Redrow field that a true chance popped up.
The game was tied, five minutes before the end. The entire team was exhausted, the coach had pushed them over their stamina. Sweat ran over their faces, but this strike had to be right. The defenders on the Redrow team were just as exhausted, their only goal now was to stop the coming attack. The ball passed from foot to foot, the play required Kit to get within striking distance by dribbling and pass to the strikers. The Redrow defenders knew of the play and focused on Kit. The cub darted forward, still a little clumsy with the ball at such speed. It was his chance of escape, he ran towards the defender. A tackle followed. The defender hit Kit's foot instead of the ball, the cub fell to the grass literally head over heels. The referee paused the game, Kit grabbed his ankle although this time he didn't feel a thing. Redrow defenders weren't known for their agressivity but the coach had warned the referee of Kit's ankle anyway. The defender got a yellow card, Kit was helped off the field. His replacement got the honor of shooting the penalty. Offcourse, the coach wanted to give some pointers and left Kit alone on the bench. He slipped off the bench and ran away from the field.
His escape was now a fact
Kit quickly learned his first lessons. First of all, he was sweating incredibly hard and he had been stupid enough to try an escape in mid-winter. The days were warm enough, but night was falling rapidly. It would cool off and he had no place to sleep. Furthermore he had no money and he knew he would be extremely hungry tomorrow like everytime he had played a game. Exhaustion overtook him as he ran into a park. All the kids were playing, their clothes relatively clean. Kit collapsed on a bench, his grasstained and torn sweater contrasting sharply with the other kids. Some parents looked at him distastefully, some sympathetically. He needed money fast…it was time to set his dignity aside. He looked around to spot a parent that was looking rather worried about him. He made his way to a friendly looking lady, faking a limp. He sat down on the bench next to her.
"My god, what happened to you?"
"We just played a game against Redrow, my mom dropped me off. They're poor losers though: they stole my busmoney. Could you spare a dollar M'am?"
"I don't know, there are a lot of streetkids around here, and you don't look too fresh"
"Allright, I'll walk home…it's only five miles" Kit slid off the bench and sunk to his knees. This time it was no show: he was really exhausted. The lady quickly helped him back up. He sat down again
"Whew, didn't realise I was that tired…The coach pushed us real hard this time"
"Poor thing" the lioness took a handkerchief and wiped off the sweat "I'm not going to send you home by bus, it's not safe this time of day. I have an open guestroom at home. You can call your mom there and tell her you're allright. Tomorrow she can come over and pick you up, how does that sound?"
"Thanks a lot M'am"
"Thanks a lot Greta"
"So, you won against Redrow huh?"
"Yeah, by penalty. They tackled me to the ground in the last few minutes and I had to be replaced. That defender got a yellow card and he attacked me when the game was over…talk about soccer violence"
"My Marc plays soccer too. I'm waiting for him to finish his game. He's playing on a field nearby"
"Don't tell me he plays in the Redrow team"
"My Marc is only five, he plays in his school's junior team…what's your name?"
"You look like you could use some rest. When we get home it's straight to bed for you Kit. I'll get those grasstains out of that sweater and patch that torn elbow"
"You really shouldn't go through that much trouble"
So far so good, Chris started to wonder why Kit described this period as the darkest of his entire life. The dream was far from finished but things were looking great. Too bad he already knew how it was ging to end. Chris laid back in his bed and closed his eyes. As long as his dream was playing in Kit's head, he would get the same images. They might not let him in the archives to look at his brother's past but he'd find out anyway
Kit woke up stiff and sore. He had taken Greta's advice and went straight to bed. Offcourse he hadn't stretched and his muscles were now complaining about the strain from yesterday's game. At least he had found a place to sleep…now came the hard part: explaining someone that trusted him completely that he had lied to her all that time. Still a bit sleepy, he descended the stairs.
Greta was making breakfast when he got downstairs. As far as Kit knew she was a single mother, her husband left her when Marc was born. The small table now had a third chair. Kit was touched to find his sweater on it, cleaned and repaired. For a second he thought about just leaving without explaining.
"Good morning Kit, breakfast will be ready in a minute"
Kit sat down at the table…he might just as well get something to eat before he left. Greta left her pans and sat down at the table with him
"Had a good sleep?"
"Yeah, that was a mighty soft bed. Thanks for the sweater an' all"
"Don't worry about it. When is your mom coming to pick you up?"
"Is Marc still asleep?" Kit tried to change the subject although he had to tell the lioness some time
"We won't see him until noon. Why?"
"I…I have a confession to make Greta" Kit stood up and turned away from the woman. He couldn't tell it to her face, he was too ashamed "My mom isn't coming…I don't have any parents. I was playing against Redrow field allright yesterday, but I was on the orphanage team. I'm sorry I lied to you, but you wouldn't have helped me when I told you"
"You're damn right you should be sorry. And don't tell me what I would and wouldn't do!" Greta was angry beyond belief. For hours she had felt worried for Kit, now she found out it was all one big lie. Yet she was a mother herself and knew very well how it was like to live without one "I thought I recognised that sweater. I oughta turn you in right now and let you have a taste of juvenile prison."
"No, please don't" Kit turned back around, tears in his eyes "I'll leave right now…I'll even try to repay you for that patched elbow but don't send me back"
"Why on earth should I trust you again? If you had told me the truth right away things would be different now…I'm not heartless. You can have your breakfast, but after that I want you out of here. You're not welcome here anymore after that"
Kit quickly found out that life on the street wasn't as easy as he had hoped. He wasn't too popular in the orphanage without Josh, but alone on the streets was even more dangerous. The next two days, Kit refused to sleep, afraid of being attacked by the other streetkids he met from time to time.
At the dawning of his fourth day on the streets, his stomach was complaining like it had never before. He was used to waking up late and missing breakfast for one or two days, but three days without eating anything was too much, even for him. The biggest problem was that he had no money, and nobody wanted to hire a short kid. He had tried begging already, only to be pushed to the side…like he had been pushed to the side of society. In the business district he decided to try once again. It was 12 o'clock, most were on a break or having lunch. There had to be one good soul amongst them.
"Hello sir, could you spare…"
"Get lost kid"
No luck here, on to the next
"Good afternoon. Do you have half a dollar for a hungry kid?"
"My money is tight as it is, beat it"
It went on like that, everyone refused even the slightest help. The fact that he was only nine didn't seem to bother anyone. A cub about his age walked up to him, shaking his head
"Wrong hood kid. These deadbeats never give anything. If you really need money you'll either have to go to the harbor and get a job or you steal whatever you need. And I happen to know that there are no more jobs available at the harbor"
"I never stole anything before"
"You're that new kid aren't ya? Come on, there are a few things you hafta know"
The other kid dragged him in a narrow alley. Behind a dumpster and making sure nobody was around to hear it, he started explaining
"First of all, it's safe to sleep as long as you're not snoozing on somebody else's turf. Small kids like us stick together and help eachother out. Stay away from the big kids: they're usually up to their neck in something dirty. Hobo's are a grey area, some help, some will kill ya.
Stealing is a good way to get money: you either steal what you need or steal something valuable from a store and pawn it. Don't try to deal with anyone you don't trust 100%. There's more, but you'll have to learn that for yourself. Good luck, and if you ever need me, ask for Lucas"
Lucas ran out of the alley at full speed. He was afraid of something or someone. Kit was even more confused now. Stealing seemed like a way out. A dely caught his eye from the alley. It would only take a split-second, nobody would get hurt, nobody would even notice the missing bread. Kit ran across the street, took a bread and hurried away. The storemanager ran outside and started a pursuit. Kit had never thought of having to run for some bread, or even risk prison for one. He skidded into an alley, bumped into a figure and got thrown in a pile of garbage. The storemanager rushed by without noticing the figure in the dirt. Two hands picked Kit up. A familiar face smiled back
"The very same kiddo. Sorry about that, but somehow it seemed best that that creep didn't catch ya. Why was he after you? And what are you doing here?"
"Well, I got a place in the soccer team and ran when I got the chance. There was nothing in the orphanage to keep me there"
"I can't believe you were that stupid. It wasn't fun but everything is better than this! Let me guess: you were begging in the business district and you met Lucas. You stole something and now you were running for your life?"
"How did you know?"
"I didn't but I know Lucas. He steals everything he can and runs from someone he calls Fang. I know a lot of people nowadays, but Fang isn't one of them. As for stealing Kit, don't do that ever again"
"I'm sorry Josh, but I'm hungry. I haven't eaten anything in three days"
"Come on squirt, I got some grub at my place…you look like you could use some rest too"
Night had fallen. Kit was soundly asleep on the strawmatrass and dirty pillow. Josh was actually pleased to see Kit again. Without his little friend, Josh's life had been rather empty. It seemed he always ended up looking after him. The cold in the old house was incredible. At least the fire provided some heat. Generous as ever, Josh had given Kit the only blanket.
Things had to change and fast. Kit was young, but maybe he could earn his keep. Or Josh could introduce him to Mark…if he had work for Josh, he had work for Kit. Even better, a kid of nine years old wouldn't be suspected. Josh wanted to keep Kit out of that business as long as possible, but if there was no choice…
Theoretically there was indeed no choice. Kit had eaten half of what Josh had in store and the boy no longer had any money to buy more. If they both worked for Mark that wouldn't be a problem any longer. A knocking on the door, Josh shot up
"Who is it?" Josh was peering through the cracks in the door
Josh unbolted the door and let the late visitor in. Mark always swung by this late. Maybe the new shipment had come in, maybe he was just fired. Either way he was glad to see him. Mark's eye fell on Kit
"What's that kid doing here?"
"He's harmless. I'm just looking after him for a while, he's new"
"Whatever. Should I write you down for the usual? Three packages?"
"Yeah, for now. I'm thinking about increasing though"
"Think you can sell that much?"
"If you give me part of somebody else's territory I could easely do that"
"Actually, that's not such a bad idea. Jennifer was busted redhanded, so the eastern docks no longer have a provider. Interested?"
"Not today, maybe in a while. I need some more dough for the kid…maybe he'll earn it himself"
"That's slick. No cop would arrest a kid for dealing. But you know you pay what you lose…eight or not, he'll pay"
"He's nine and I trust him completely. And have I ever lost one single package?"
"Yeah, when you first came available remember?"
"Anyway, that ain't gonna happen again. Give me two or three days and he's ready"
"That'd be great"
"But I don't know how I'll live through tomorrow though. I hardly have any food left for myself and I have Kit to look after now"
Mark sighed, he had seen it coming from miles away. But as long as Josh kept selling like he did or even doubled the profit it was well worth it.
"Ten bucks and a pack of smokes…c'mon man, you KNOW I'm good for it"
"I suppose. Regulars or the special brand?"
"The special offcourse, how else am I supposed to convince the kid?"
"Good point" Mark gave Josh some wrinkled bills and a pack of cigarettes. "If this pays off, you can expect more than just your regular cut and tips"
Josh let his 'employer' out into the night. He felt like a lowlife for getting Kit involved like this, but he needed the money for both of them. Besides, it wasn't like the business was dangerous for a kid like him. He would have to learn offcourse, but if anything Kit had the potential to be a great dealer.
"Hey kiddo, wake up" Josh stirred Kit's shoulder gently. The cub opened his eyes slowly and looked conciously at Josh but kept lying, still too tired to really wake up yet "I gotta talk to you about something for a minute" Josh sat down cross-legged, understanding why Kit wouldn't sit up
"Sure, go ahead…want the blanket back?" Kit was so sleepy he couldn't think straight
"No, keep it. But at least you understand we're gonna have a few problems with you around"
"You want me to leave? I don't have anywhere else to stay Josh"
"Kit, listen to me. We go back for five whole years and I'd go through a blazing fire for you. But unfortunately my budget wasn't designed for two persons. Given your appetite because of your growth I'll need at least double of what I can make now…I don't say you're eating the ears of my head, but someone your age just needs more to stay healthy here. I've been talking to Mark, a friend of mine, and we discussed a few things. Kiddo, would you mind working to bring in some cash?"
"I tried to get a job already Josh, nobody wants to hire me: I'm not strong enough"
"What I'm asking you is: are you smart enough? I got a very special job for you"
"I dunno…It's not like I don't trust you, but Lucas warned me of this" Kit regretted it the moment he said it. He felt paranoid: he didn't even trust Josh anymore
"Sleep on it for a while kid. Think about it"
"Allright…are you sure the door is locked?"
"Don't you worry about anything. Just sleep and trust me to keep ya safe"
Morning brought a beautiful sunrise and sunny day. Josh and Kit walked near the harbor, Kit feeling free for the first time since he escaped. They passed several groups of schoolkids, getting envious looks from the uniformed bunch. Nothing could touch them for now, the elements were with them. The weather was too nice to wander around aimlessly, Josh sat down on a bench, looking over the water and the beach. Kit joined him
"Great day, isn't it?" Josh sounded optimistic and had been ever since Kit had agreed to work with him. The cub didn't understand why, but he preferred to see his friend this way
"Yeah. Feels great to enjoy it without being locked up in a classroom"
Time went on…nobody can stop the time from progressing. Josh stared out, Kit fixed his gaze to a point in the distance. Dockworkers were loading cargoplanes. The colorful metal birds were the stars in a beautiful ballet of water and air. The secret attention didn't go unnoticed
"You like planes kiddo?"
"Josh, you're not going to understand this, but one day I'll be a pilot"
"Sure you will kiddo, sure you will…C'mon, we got the beach all to ourselves, we'd be stupid not to enjoy it" Josh hopped off the bench and jumped down the boardwalk to the soft warm sand. When Kit jumped down, he caught him and spun around in circles until he got dizzy. Laughter rose up from the two, some people stopped to watch for a second. They fell down on the sand, no longer able to recognise west from east and not even caring
"Wa-hoo! It seems like ages since I last did this"
"Yeah, my dad always used to…that was until…you know."
"Yeah, I know"
"Heyhey, no looking grim today. Weather's beautiful, the beach is deserted, we got nowhere to go…let's have some fun!"
"Weeeeeelll…..I could throw you in the sea and find out if you can swim, bury you under the sand or we could see who reaches that lighthouse first" Josh left in a slow run, giving Kit ample time to catch up. Jogging, Josh let the cub build up a lead and suddenly sprinted. Triumphantly, Kit reached the lighthouse down the beach first and looked back. Josh was sprinting as fast as he could, only to arrive seconds later. Once arrived, he tackled Kit to the ground and fell down next to the cub. Laughing and catching their breaths, the two kids lay there for a while.
"Damn I'm out of shape"
"I was never in any shape…you let me win!"
"No way! You're too fast for me. I have no idea how fast that was"
"Me neither. It wasn't my fastest though"
"Maybe now you can keep track" Josh put something in Kit's hand. The boy sat up and looked. A watch with built-in chronometer shone brightly in the sun. Kit was stunned
"Wow. Thanks a million"
"Well, thanks five'll cover it. Ten AM and we're playing on the beach without having to answer to anybody"
"This is the life, isn't it? Can't believe we'll be doing this every day"
"Wait up for a second there kiddo" Josh sat up and put his arm around Kit "I'll be at work tomorrow…the entire day. But I'm free the day after, so that's no problem"
"When am I supposed to go to work?"
"Depends. Do you want to start right away or in five days? Or four days after? It doesn't matter to Mark"
"Right away. But why do I only have to work once every four days? What do I have to do?"
There were several reasons why Josh had come here. First of all, it had been easier starting this conversation after Kit had played some, and second, the spot in front of the lighthouse where they were standing now was completely invisible from the boardwalk. Again, he had to stage this perfectly. He took the cigarettes and offered Kit one. Without much hesitation, the cub accepted. As he brought the cigarette to his lips, Josh quickly took it out of his hand
"Hey, what gives?"
"You see how easy it is?"
"What?" Kit didn't quite get it
"It's so easy to get addicted. Those weren't regular cigarettes kiddo. One puff of them and you would have been hooked for life"
"Wow…I had no idea"
"I was just trying to prove my point, but what if someone else had offered you one? You would have accepted and he wouldn't have stopped you. But after one free smoke you had to pay for the next…and you would have wanted a next one. After that, the smokes wouldn't have been enough and your dealer had given you something stronger and doubled the price…You don't have a job or money, so what would you have done?"
"I…I would have taken Lucas' advice"
"Exactly. It's easy to become addicted but there's absolutely no way to quit! That's where I come in, and pretty soon you too. You see, people that can't pay start stealing and become criminals. My boss noticed that and decided to help them…a charity if you will. He practically gives away what they need to keep them from stealing. Offcourse he has to get some of his costs back so he can't just give them away. My job, and pretty soon yours too, is to sell in certain areas. We only do it once every four days because we want to help people and not get them addicted to our product. We get paid a fairly decent amount to live through the days to come and we get to keep every tip we are given. Ain't that a great job?"
"Sure…if you put it that way"
"There's simply no other way to put it kiddo. You still want the job?"
"Allright, I guess there's nothing wrong with it"
"Exactly. Now how about some grub? My treat"
"Yeah, I'm getting kinda hungry of all this running around"
The two stood up and walked to one of the hotdog vendors. No matter how much they paid, in a restaurant they would be thrown out for looking dirty. The vendors thrived on these kids and always overcharged them. The products they sold weren't healthy nor tasteful, but during the day it was the only thing they could get. At night they only had to walk in a store and buy whatever they could without risking getting thrown out.
The two walked along the docks for a while, forcing themselves to eat the disgusting meat…or at least something that had to resemble it. Even Kit couldn't help noticing the dirty looks they got from people passing. He hadn't showered in five days and the smell he produced was probably enough to clear out a movietheater. But something he had learned by now was that they were no longer part of society, so he shouldn't really care what society thought of him. His once bright green and clean sweater was now dirty and faded again. He looked like he had spent his entire life in the gutter, and most people figured he had because of that. After their 'lunch', the kids just wandered around town, avoiding the neighbourhood of the orphanage.
One thing that Kit found strange was that after his escape, nobody had come to look for him. If they had bothered to search, it wouldn't have been long before they found the parents that gathered in the park. Kit would be remembered easely and Greta wouldn't have remained silent. So why were there no posters on the wall? Or flyers going around, or at least a warrant with the police? There was only one conclusion to make: nobody but Josh cared about Kit.
"What are you so gloomy about kiddo? You're free! Enjoy it"
"Josh, am I a pest?"
Josh stopped and looked strangely at Kit. Why on earth would he ask a stupid question like that?
"No! Who said you were?"
"Nobody…I just…well, I figured I had to be a real pain because nobody ever cares about me"
"I care! From the moment I saw you, I cared. I know what you're thinking: you escaped, nobody comes looking for you and things like that…But you gotta understand: it's not you they're against, but the fact you don't have any folks…although, you did come from Norville"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Well, you didn't come to San Flamingo until five years ago. You weren't born here…Sit down for a second kiddo" Josh sat down on the curb, inviting Kit to do the same. What he was about to say wasn't going to be easy to digest "You were brought here during a transfer, you were probably too young to remember. You came from Norville.
Norville is a special kind of orphanage kiddo. Only kids that were placed by the judge stay there unless they were ehmm..'donated' by their parents. Usually, after a placement in Norville, the judge decides which parent the child is going to stay with, happens a lot during divorces. What's so odd is that you were brought here. Norville kids are never brought to San Flamingo. The only way I can figure it is that either the judge couldn't decide and gave custody to the state or both your folks died before a decision was made…so it could be you still have folks out there"
"So what you're saying is that I'm not even a real orphan"
"That's not what I was saying! You're just as real an orphan as I am. But there is a chance your parents are alive and well. There are a lot of orphanages in these parts kiddo, some of the kids in there have parents but they simply couldn't take care of them…or didn't wanna"
"So now even my parents didn't want me? THAT'S A TERRIBLE THING TO SAY, LEAVE ME ALONE!"
Kit stood up and ran blindly away…away from the accusations to his past, away from what might be the terrible truth. Josh ran after him, letting him run for a while. Frustration is a terrible thing, and it's always best to let it out in one way or another. Kit passed many landmarks he had always hoped to see, but now passed blindly, afraid of stopping, thinking and realising Josh might very well be right. This couldn't be, this shouldn't be. Unattentive, Kit didn't notice he was nearing the docks. After a few steps, his foot slipped away and he fell in the water with a splash. Josh stopped and watched the scene with silent amusement, thinking it would cool him off. Kit's head broke the surface of the water, the cub tried to stay at the surface but sank again.
Josh was getting a bit worried now, Kit had been under for quite a while. To his relief, the boy resurfaced, trying to get air. He looked scared somehow. Josh came to the quick comprehension that Kit might not be able to swim…the orphanage never went swimming.
Kit's cry was Josh' cue to finally jump to the rescue. With a few quick strokes, he reached the drowning cub that just went under again. A seaplane taxied to the two while Josh dove. Kit was panicking, trying to swim back to the surface. The strong current kept dragging him to the bottom. The dark waters made it hard for Josh to see anything. After a while, he felt a moving figure near the bottom. He grabbed Kit in his arms and tried to get back to the surface. Josh was a lot stronger and managed to almost get back up without running out of air. The oxygen ran out, however, and Josh reached up with his hand, hoping someone would lift them out. Miraculously, someone did…
Kit coughed up some water as he woke up. He found himself on the floor of a seaplane, Josh and a stranger hovering over him. Before he could move, they wrapped him in a blanket and lay him on one of the beds. Josh sat down next to him.
"Why did you do that kiddo?" Josh was soaked himself. A blanket hung from his shoulders over his back
"I wasn't looking…I slipped. I thought I was gonna die for sure. You didn't have to jump in after me"
"And let you drown? No way kid, it doesn't work that way. I want you to die an old man, having lived his life without a single care. It was a good thing Richard was here though"
"Richard Tusk son, what were you doing in the bay?" The pilot of the plane, most likely the one that saved them, stood in front of the two kids, two mugs of hot coco in hand. The kids eagerly took them, Kit sat up again
"I fell…it was an accident"
"Are you sure? You two don't look too fresh. But aren't you a bit young to jump in the bay already?"
"Hey, what are you getting at?"
"He didn't jump Mr. Tusk. I have a job, I can provide for both of us. Thanks for everything, but we have to get moving"
"Leave the kid here for a while so he can get some strength"
"No, he's coming with me"
"The orphanage ain't so bad. At least let me get him to a doctor"
"I'm fine!" Kit hated it when people ignored him completely. But no matter what shape he was in, nobody would get him back in that orphanage. He stood up and walked a short distance. Josh followed him and gave him some support. He might not have admitted it, but without that support he would have fallen down.
Richard stared at the two leaving. He had been here for a reason and those reasons just walked out of his plane. They disappeared in the assembled crowd
"Yeah, keep the blankets…you'll be needing them again I suppose"
Tusk? Richard Tusk? Where had Chris heard that name before? This dream was turning bad fast. He didn't expect a nice one, but he sure hoped it wouldn't turn for into a nightmare. The cub had problems imagining that this had actually been Kit's life. It gave him a taste of what he missed by staying in the orphanage.
"You sure you don't want a doctor kiddo?" Josh and Kit were halfway home, soaking wet and leaving a trail of water where they walked. People didn't stare now, they just made way, unwilling to have any part in this
"Positive. I…I just needda catch my breath…no biggie"
"It doesn't happen everyday you almost drown. I'd rather have you see a doctor soon"
"And have him send me to a hospital where they find out I don't have any ID? Never gonna happen"
"Nuts to you, c'mon"
Josh practically dragged him to a door. Maybe it was coincidence, maybe it was faith, but when he rang, a familiar face opened. The lioness looked at the soaked duo. Contrary to what Kit thought, she smiled
"Hi Josh…hello Kit"
"Hiya Greta…ehmm, I know you said only to come if there was an emergency, but the kid fell in the bay. He's not feeling well so I figured…"
The living room was still well-furnished and warm. Greta didn't seem to mind one bit that Kit had returned although it seemed she mainly did this for Josh. The woman came back with dry clothes and a thermometer, noticing the two kids shiver on her couch.
"How could you fall in the bay?"
"I wasn't watching and fell over the edge"
"Right, open wide"
Kit opened his mouth, Greta put the thermometer in it. Not only did it keep him quiet for a while, she'd also know how long he was going to stay. He might have lied to her, but sending a sick kid back on the streets was not the way to solve it. She took off his sweater and replaced it with a self-knit one. After tossing the wet green sweater to a chair, she focused on Josh
"And what's your story? Saw Kit in the water and decided to go for a swim too?"
"The kid can't swim, I had to fish him out…"
"Kit, no talking with that thermometer in your mouth honey, I only have one so don't drop it. What is he trying to say Josh?"
"I think he was pointing out Richard's involvement" Josh was half laughing "offcourse there's no way to be sure"
"What has Richard got to do with this?"
"Richard fished us both out of the harbor. Maybe he's just a great guy, maybe we were blocking his spot. One thing's for sure: without him we'd be at the bottom of the bay now"
"So he's a pilot?"
"I guess so…he sure got his own plane"
"I know a lot of freelancers down the harbor but also a lot of Richards"
"His full name is Richard Tusk, he even offered to keep Kit with him for a while"
"Oh god no…I thought he left. Listen Josh, you keep Kit away from him and keep clear of him yourself do you understand me? That man is bad news"
"Allright. Thanks for the clothes"
"No problem" The lioness stood up and took the thermometer out of Kit's mouth. The cub had almost fallen asleep where he was sitting. She eyed the thermometer and placed a hand on his forehead "yep, you'll be staying here tonight"
"I'm feelin' fine" Kit protested weakly, not really against sleeping in a soft bed again for a change
"I don't like that temperature one bit young man and I'm sure not going to send you back to that drafty, damp hole that Josh calls his home"
"Hey, give me some credit!" Josh had hard earned that spot. It was most likely the best sheltered sleeping place of the entire city
"No offence Josh, but there are healthier places to sleep. You're welcome to stay here on the couch yourself"
"No thanks, I gotta get to work tomorrow"
"Are you still doing that? I'm going to put Kit to bed, stay here and when I come back we'll have a long talk about that" She turned to the half sleeping cub, only to find he was now really sleeping. Smiling, she scooped him up in her arms and carried him upstairs.
Unable to face what would come, Josh put on some dry clothes and silently made his way out the door. Outside, he glanced up to see a shilhouet behind the window, stared for a second and left.
"Uhmmmm…mom?" Kit had his eyes half open, a female shilhoutte was by his side. Knowing no better than that he was comfortably at home, he took her hand. Greta smiled
"No, it's just me honey. I thought you wouldn't wake up until ten"
"Is it evening already?"
"Sweety, it's morning! I brought Marc to school already. I take it you'll be wanting your breakfast now?"
"Actually, I'm not hungry. Haven't been ever since my dive"
"The water in the harbor is dirty Kit. You won't be feeling one hundred percent for the next two days but other than that you should be just fine. You didn't actually swallow any of it, have you?" Greta looked rather worried now. A chemical plant dumped its waste there regularely and the sewersystem ended in the harbor. It was a sickening coctail if anything should actually be consumed
"I feel like I swallowed half an ocean. I always thought water would be easier to digest. Anything wrong with that?"
"Stay put, I'll be right back. The toilet is down the hall to the right"
Greta left and went back downstairs. Kit didn't quite understand why she would tell him where the toilet was all of the sudden. He really hadn't been feeling well. The water in the harbor was dark and tasted differently than the occasional gulps of seawater he endured during the trips to the ocean. It made his stomach heavy, but never to the point of actually throwing up. Greta came back with a glass of water with a powder in it. After stirring it some she handed it to Kit. The cub drank it eagerly and handed the glass back. The lioness set it down on the nightstand
"Allright Kit, out of bed. Down the hall to the right remember?"
"Yeah, but why…hmmbbbb" a feeling of nausea welled up and the cub ran for the end of the hall. Greta figured there was only one sure way to get that contaminated water out of his stomach. It wasn't pleasant, but neither was getting sick…and that water had been known to make fatalities.
Kit returned, pale and feeling worse than before. She had set him up, no doubt about it. Maybe it was her way of getting even
"Sorry about that, but you wouldn't have drank it if I told you, now would you?"
"Strong stuff" Kit lay down again, Greta smiled bitterly
"With people like Josh it's better to have it around the house"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"I'll let him explain that himself. Let's just say he needs it regularely"
"When did you meet him?"
"About three months ago…why, do you want to know?"
"Allright" Greta gently placed the covers back over Kit and started telling the story "He wasn't looking too fashionable when I first layed my eyes on him. His clothes were torn, dirty…a bit like you that first day. I saw that he was a nice boy, but something made him lie to me. I took him home, cleaned him up and gave him some food. He stayed for the night, fessed up what was really the matter, thanked me for everything and left. Three weeks ago he came back, begging me to let him stay for a while. We had a long talk that night about his 'occupation' but he refused to give it up. He does earn well for his age, but the risks aren't worth it Kit. I can't tell you exactly what he does, but promise me you won't walk out on me like he did yesterday…don't follow his lead"
"He…he offered me a job. He told me what he does and asked me to do the same. I don't approve of it, but we need the money"
"Nonsense, if it's money that's going to get you in trouble you're more than welcome to stay here"
"Greta, you're not going to understand this…but I wouldn't want to trade in my freedom for anything else. If I'm gonna follow my dreams I have to be able to move easely"
"Like the flower that wanted to grow to the sun…"
"Just a story I was told when I was little. Do you want to hear it?"
"Is this one of those subtle message thingies?" Kit was weary of grown-ups that tried to teach him something without actually admitting they were
"My mother once told me of a flower that desperately wanted to see the sun. It had been grown in a greenhouse and stood in the darker corners. It heard others talk about the sun and how great it was to be in it's rays. Nothing the flower could do would result in seeing that beautiful sun. At long last it became sick and ripped out its own roots to go see the sun. When it finally accomplished its dream it died and realised that the sun wasn't that beautiful after all"
"See, it was one of those messages!"
"There's an important lesson to learn there"
"I don't even want to hear it" Kit hopped out of bed and walked downstairs. When Greta had descended, the cub had messed up the entire living room, walking around with only his undershirt on, muttering and searching. He felt the lioness approaching and turned around briskly
"Where's my sweater? I can't find my sweater, where is it?"
"It's still drying outside"
Kit ran outside, Greta started tidying up her living room. She knew very well what was going on now but she wasn't going to stop him. Nevertheless, her heart was heavy when she turned around to look at Kit. The boy had come back in with a damp sweater and headed straight for the door.
"Thanks a lot for everything, but I really gotta go now"
"You'll always be welcome here if you need me Kit"
"Thanks, I'll think about it"
The door slammed shut, Greta looked down to the self-knit sweater on the floor and started crying
It felt good to be out in the fresh air again. The weather was changing, a chill hung in the air even now. Kit's sweater was still damp and hung heavily from his shoulders almost to his knees. It was just as if Kit had recently been fished out of the harbor…and ironically that was true, be it yesterday. His first order of business wasn't finding shelter but finding Josh.
Strolling along the harbor and docks, Kit recognised most of the scenery. The seaplane that had so miraculously come to his rescue yesterday was gone. -probably better I don't see that guy again-. Greta was so sincere with him, so…motherly. Maybe he should consider staying with her for a while. Not permanently offcourse but just to get a feel of what it's like to have a mother -ARE YOU NUTS CLOUDKICKER????Point your head to the sky and move on!-
A bump, a flash of light and a crash. Someone had knocked him over
"HEY, WATCH IT!"
A gruffy Pandabear in an expensive white suit stared at the cub in disbelief. His new suit ,that had cost him more than Kit would ever see in his entire life, now had a damp, dirty spot on it from Kit's sweater. Somehow the panda didn't look like the legitimate businesstype. He wiped off the stain and approached the downed cub
"You wrinkle and stain my suit, you pay me for cleaner, yes?"
"I don't really have any money…yet, but I could get some in a few…whoaaa"
The Panda yanked him to his feet and lifted him up. His accent only made him more scarier, his voice was a hiss
"Suit was gift of boss. Boss will not be pleased. I not like when boss not pleased. Pay or I not pleased"
"I…I'm sorry sir…I wasn't watching…I really didn't mean to…I'll pay you back, honest but in a while…we don't have much money and I've been sick so…"
"You come with me!"
The Panda grabbed him by the arm and dragged him to an alley. They had to cross a busy street. Kit would never be able to yank himself loose from the Panda's iron grip, but at least he could try to get the attention of someone
"HELP! HELP ME! I DON'T KNOW THIS GUY, STOP HIM…." Nobody even cared. It was the sad truth: nobody in this whole damn city cared about the life of an orphan.
Kit was dragged into the alley where the pandabear threw him in a pile of garbage. The cub brushed off the dirtiest and stood up, ready to run. The panda kicked him against the knee and Kit stayed down, knowing for sure he wasn't going to escape this time.
"Last chance. Pay cleaners or get taken to them"
"I told you I don't have any money!"
"I now set example for others. You remember this and tell others"
"If you would just let me go home to get some money I could pay you!"
"Rat have not family, only other rats. Destruction of young ensures destruction of race"
This said, the panda took an iron bar in hand. His tall figure blocked out the only exit and towered high above the cowering cub. Where black and white reigned this cityscape, a streak of grey sometimes popped out of nowhere. This panda wasn't white as the businessmen, but not black as the streetkids and criminals either. He was worse: darkgrey! A façade of white and a heart as black as ink. Nobody came to help or even bothered to ask what was going on when the cries of the cub left the alley…
"And?" the lioness was rather worried about her little boy
"It's the measles allright. It's a good thing you contacted me so soon" the walrus closed his bag. The lion cub he had just examined shivered in his bed. The doctor knew Greta very well, with a 5-year old child that wasn't uncommon.
"I'll be downstairs in a minute, have a cup of coffee"
"Thank you m'am, I will!" the walrus left the bedroom, leaving a mother and child behind. Downstairs he treated himself to a cup of coffee. "you make some mean coffee Greta" the doctor mumbled to himself. She hadn't come downstairs yet, she was probably telling Marc one of her world-famous stories. Even the walrus had had to sit through many of them. They were filled with moral, but after hearing one you had probably heard them all -the flower and the sun, the snail and the other side of the street…what's the difference?-
The walrus would most likely never find out as the doorbell ended his pondering. Out of his mood now and more than slightly miffed he stood up. Greta didn't have a husband anymore and this sure was a lousy time for a visitor to come by. The front door opened swiftly, Josh stared at the stranger and the walrus looked back
"No beggars" the walrus said it fast and hard and prepared to close the door. Josh paid no attention and squeezed in under his arm "hey, come back you!" the walrus shut the door and ran after the cub. Josh sat down on the couch
"I'm not a beggar, leave me alone. Who are you anyway?"
"Grière? Didn't know Greta knew any cheeses"
"It's Gruère…dumb kid" the walrus sat down next to him but avoided all contact. Merely out of disgust, he moved a few inches to get rid of Josh's smell
"Why are you here? Is Greta sick or something?"
"I'm only a pediatrician. Marc has the measles so she called me. Is that a problem?"
"Not really…I can live with it. Is she paying for the entire visit?"
"Good, 'cause I've been having splitting headaches lately. Any idea what might cause them?"
"My advice: cut back on the glue and you'll be fine"
"I don't sniff glue doctor. Get off your high horse for once"
"And you don't happen to take drugs or drink excessive amounts of alcohol?"
"No!" Josh was more than mildly insulted by all these prejudices
"Hmm…let me take a look at you" the doctor opened his bag with renewed interest in the child.
"Oh, so now you are interested?"
The walrus started to visually examine Josh's head, looking for bumps or bruises. After finding none, he took a magnifying lense and stared into his ears. Some discolorations indicated exposure to toxic fumes. At this point, the walrus had a pretty good idea of what was wrong, but checked Josh's nostrils to be certain. The same discoloration was present. With a sigh, the doctor put down the magnifying glass and looked straight in Josh's eyes
"The truth now boy. You really don't take drugs?"
"Then why do I find traces of volatile liquids and fumes in your nose and ears? You either take drugs or go to a druglab regularely…don't tell me you're a dealer"
"I have to make a living somehow. I don't sell much, just enough to stay alive"
"And I don't see kids survive an overdose much. You don't need much to get addicted, and exposing yourself to these fumes all the time is eating away at your health. Keep this up and in two years you'll die of cancer"
"Then I'll just have to hope to find a better job before that. But as for now, how about something for my headache huh?"
The doctor closed his bag and sat back down as he had before examining Josh
"I can't give you anything for that. I can only hope that if we take away the cause, the symptoms might disappear too"
"Come on man, it's killing me!"
"If you think it's bad now, wait a few weeks. A constant migraine will keep you from thinking straight. You'll become a danger to yourself and anyone close to you"
"I had to live on 10 bucks a week and now that Kit is staying with me we have to make do with five each. Honestly now doc, how much do you spend on food and clothes each week?"
"Around thirty I guess"
"And that's you alone! I can't afford to stay away from work even once, I can't afford searching for another job and most of all I can't afford a doctor if Kit should get sick. That's why I'm now trying to sell in two areas instead of one. One single mistake and my boss will have me shot! So don't give me that 'you're-no-good-because-you're-a-dealer' crap!"
"If it's that bad then why don't you come for help? I'm sure I can find a better job for you"
"Until you tell the owner that I'm a streetkid. All of the sudden that makes me a thief and a beggar…no thanks doc, I'd rather keep my dignity than sweep floors in some two-bit bakery"
"It was your choice…oh, hi Greta! How's Marc doing? No higher fevers yet?"
The lioness stood in the dooropening and had been for quite a while. She overheard every word and was stunned. She knew what Josh's situation was but not that it was killing him. Slowly the lioness walked to the small table and sat down
"Good afternoon Josh. I didn't seem to have gotten my talk with you last night" Greta had the ability to remain calm under stressfull situations. She would never raise her voice or lash out at someone. An approach that had won many hearts but seemed to break even more
"There just wasn't anything to talk about. I gotta do what I gotta do or else I won't live through the day"
"Have you ever thought about the possibility that you might not live through it anyway?"
A nervous ring at the doorbell interrupted the conversation and temporarely saved Josh from answering a question that would destroy his entire life theory. Josh stood up and ran for the door, Greta following slowly behind him. When he opened the door, a child of not older than ten years looked up at him
"Josh? Thank god it's you man…There's something…I hafta…you know, well…it's ehmm…"
"Lucas, calm down…what's the problem?"
The boy disappeared from view for a second. It appeared there was someone sitting against the wall next to the door. Josh clearly heard the conversation between the two
"Come on man, stand up…I know you can do it, it's just a few more feet"
"Don't start with me again, on your feet kiddo…there ya go…I know it hurts, but hang in there for a few more seconds"
Lucas slowly reappeared, a bleeding and bruised Kit hanging onto his shoulder. Josh ran outside to help him
"I found him like this sitting against a dumpster in an alley near the Santa-Christina district. He hasn't said anything but this adres and 'leave me alone'"
"Kit, what happened? KIT!"
"Greta, sundown 35 b…"
"Yeah, we're almost there kiddo, what happened?"
A lioness came into view and viewed the scene in shock. It wasn't until the three kids were inside that she realised what was going on. Mouth agape, she followed.
As they entered the living room, the walrus couldn't do anything but stand up and stare. He knew things weren't easy for streetkids, but this was the first time he actualy saw the results of an unlucky meeting. Opening his doctor's bag and muttering under his breath that a doctor's job is never done he started examining Kit's injuries already. The two kids, Josh and Lucas, lay him down on the couch making Gruère's job a lot easier.
"Greta, why don't you run to the kitchen and get a bag of ice or a bowl of cold water? And bring some aspirine too"
The lioness hurried out of the living room. The walrus smiled a bit and pulled up Kit's sweater. Josh didn't quite understand and neither did Lucas. Gruère noticed it
"You wouldn't want her to see this, do you? She always has problems finding the aspirine so she's out of our hair for at least half an hour. Lucas, I appreciate the help, but Marc has the measles so you better get out of here before you get infected yourself"
"Josh, you keep me posted allright?"
"I will. Thanks for bringing him in" Josh patted the younger kid on the back. Lucas disappeared out the door, leaving only Josh and the doctor behind. Kit was obviously in serious pain, but his face had an apathical look over it. He nearly never blinked and never made a move unless he was asked to do so. Josh and Gruère were both worried, something that drove them closer…so close Josh was even allowed to call the walrus Thomas. The walrus shook his head as he felt one of Kit's ribs go down under the pressure of his fingers.
"Well?" Josh was worried sick. Thomas had been silent all this time…only his face betrayed his feelings
"Call an ambulance, he can't stay here"
"The kid doesn't want to be hospitalised doc. He's an orphan"
"They'd take him away from me again"
"I don't have a choice! From what I can see he's been beaten repeatedly with a heavy object and it scared the hell out of him…so bad he's suffering from post-traumatic stress"
"He's a plant. Something freaked him out so bad he no longer wants to see reality. His mind retracted and left him like this" Thomas pointed at the motionless cub "In this state I can't let him go with you or even let him stay here. He needs professional help"
"Listen to me doc. There are no rights for an escaped orphan. He won't have a choice as of where they'll send him-and they will send him away-. There are worse places than our old orphanage and I'm sure there'll be a 'no vacancy' sign above the door. What if they decide he has to go back to Norville? That place is a deathtrap! I'll never see him again"
"You're not planning on making this easy are you? There's only one other option…I get him in the hospital now, and transfer him to Port Green later"
"What's so great about that?"
"There's a shelter for homeless children there…they admit anyone under fourteen, no matter in what condition, no questions asked. If you really don't want him in another orphanage, at least let him go there"
Josh sat down and brushed Kit's hair off his forehead. Either way he chose, things would change and if there was one thing Josh hated, it was change. Greta had returned and put her hand on his shoulder. She felt for him now. Thomas looked at her intently
"Can I use your phone?"
"Go ahead…come on Josh, I got some hot coffee in the kitchen. Why don't we let Kit get some rest now?"
Dragging his feet, Josh allowed himself to be guided towards the kitchen. Thomas had no choice but to call an ambulance but it didn't make him feel any better. -Don't get involved here Thomas…just like they taught you in medschool-
"Hospital? Thomas Gruère here. I'm at Sundown 35 b and I'm gonna need an ambulance for one of the local kids. It's pretty bad so don't wait as long as last time allright?"
"When you say 'local', do you mean a streetkid?" the telephone operater sat rather bored behind his desk. Nothing seemed to happen in his area "we can be there in ten minutes"
"What if I tell you it's not a streetkid?"
"Did I say ten minutes? I meant two"
"I figured as much"
"Kit? Time to wake up honey…we can't keep the group waiting for just you" the woman stirred his shoulder gently. Days were a haze for Kit Cloudkicker. Ever since his run-in with that panda, very litttle came through. He vaguely remembered a hospital and an autogyro transfer. Now he was lying in a warm, comfortable bed in his own room. Stuffed toy animals crowded the shelves that lined the entire room. The clock indicated 8AM but Kit was still sleepy. Instead of replying or getting up, he turned his back to the woman and kept on sleeping. He was in the psychiatric wing of the shelter but only the therapy gave it away. There were no bars, no bells and no deadlines. Everyone was free to go whenever they liked.
"Honey…your room is cleaned by ten, at least get up by then allright?"
Utter silence filled the room. Kit still hadn't talked to anyone, not here, not in the hospital. The woman tried her best to come across as a loving, caring figure but Kit figured she was just another therapist sent to get him out of his room.
"At least tell me what's wrong"
"Nuthin'. Leamme alone"
The woman got up and walked outside, closing the door gently behind her. She was Kit's counselor, but as it often turned out with traumatised kids he refused to talk back. Post-traumatic stress syndrome…she had had another case like that once, but it ended in a maximum security wing of the psychiatric asylum. A doctor in white stared at her as if asking what the latest news was. She gestured a sad 'no'
"Won't come out of his room huh?"
"No…still too afraid to trust anyone. Maybe I'll be able to bribe him out of there"
"He has a room full of stuffed animals, how much more is he going to need? Any normal child would have touched them by now"
"We're talking about a child that has been denied a childhood. He's just not…'familiar' with this kind of things. Last night I tried to sing him to sleep and he just covered his ears. Maybe I'll be able to find something in his personal records. Essays he wrote in school, poems, things like that. Too bad he has no relatives to call"
"That's why they call him an orphan Sarah"
"I'm going to check his files. Try to make him eat something Dave, but don't use pressure…"
"And certainly no force or agression, I KNOW that Sarah. I'll get him to eat something, don't worry, you just check his files and get him normal again"
Sarah started down the hall, Dave looked at her for a while. His wife seemed to get more beautiful everyday and if she told him to get this kid to eat something, he would. His hand reached in his pocket and took out a candybar wrapped in aluminum foil. He knocked on the door and entered silently -gotta be one though kid that says no to Dave's chocolate-
In the messhall, Dave and Sarah met again. It was noon, Kit was still in his room. The woman looked at him, he smiled back
"Let's see here…hmm: two bars of chocolate, a continental breakfast, a bowl of cereal, some soup and lots of bread on the side. He looked like I was going to kill him if he spilled anything but other than that I'd say it went fine. How about you?"
"Two essays about airplanes, one about the physics of flight, three poems about pilots and a shortstory about the pilots of the Southsea…I'd say I found his area of interest"
"No kidding? What's the connection?" Dave grinned broadly, his head in his paws as he looked at Sarah
"Funny Dave, funny. Serious now, you wouldn't happen to know a pilot do you?"
"Wiley, Richard, Baloo, Rick, Whistlestop, Ace…take your pick"
"Could you get me a flight manual?"
"I'll even throw in a scale model of a stropwith dromedary for you"
"Oh, it's not for me" Sarah stood up "It's for Kit…I'm sure he'll appreciate that scalemodel though" smiling, the woman walked back to her 'case'. This time he was sure to open up to her
"Good afternoon. Slept well?"
Kit had the covers drawn up to his chin and eyed Sarah suspiciously. The wolve of that morning was friendly, but he vowed never to let any adult get close enough to hurt him. If nobody cared about him, he wouldn't care about anyone.
"I got something for you…only if you promise to help me"
"Don't want it"
"Are you sure?" Sarah showed him a metal model of a stropwith dromedary. Kit fought an internal struggle: he wanted that model, but he knew it was a trick. Giving in to his pilot dreams, the cub sat up in his bed and took the model suspiciously
"And that's not all. Dave is trying to get his hands on a flight manual so you'll have a head start over other kids. All I want in return is hearing your voice"
"Who are you?"
"Sarah Dorington. I'm your counselor in this shelter"
"I don't like my room…it's too white. It's like I'm in a psychiatric department"
"Kit, honey, you are!" It was a statement of fact, but one that should never be spoken in the presence of someone in denial. It was taught in the most basic psychology courses, but it slipped Sarah's mind…a slip that would cost her dearly. Kit got mad: he was tricked. They had locked him with the nutcases and idiots.
"I don't belong here! Get me out of here Sarah"
"You were suffering from post-traumatic stress after that beating"
"I WASN'T BEATEN!" Kit threw his model across the room. Contrary to the original, it didn't fly and shattered on the floor. Like he had been waiting on the other side of the door, Dave entered with a glass of water
"Hey, what's the ruckus?" the wolf noticed the shattered model on the floor and the desperate look on Sarah's face "Sarah, were you trying to bribe this child with that model? You know that's not the right way to get things done" He turned to Kit who had pulled the covers over his ears and eyes. Dave gently removed the blankets and waved another chocolate bar in front of the cub's eyes. Kit sat up, and took the present eagerly
"You see? If you plan on getting something done from him, give him some candy. Haven't you ever been young? Now, I'm going to get in trouble if you don't get enough vitamines Kit, so I'll have to ask you to take this vitamine pill"
Trusting Dave, Kit saw no harm in that. Unsuspecting, he swallowed the small pill down. The eternal life lesson caught up with him again: never trust anyone you don't know completely. Moments after the small pill had dissolved, sleep overcame Kit. Strange images invaded his mind…like he was watching a movie aimed at brainwashing him. The happy moments of his life, the very few he had, duplicated and reformed until the originals were gone, lost forever in the depths of the mind. Kit smiled, remembering a dreamlife now instead of the hell he lived.
Dave saw the smile and tied Kit to his bed. Two other doctors barged in and rolled the bed away. Sarah was left bewildered. Halfway down the hall, she caught up with her husband
"What's this all about? Where are they going with my patient?"
"It's my patient now Sarah. We're attempting a new cure for children like him: cure the psychological with the medical. That pill he took was the first small dose of a mind-altering cure. As you can see, he's quite happy now"
"That's horrible! You're trying to block out his emotions and replace them with chemical substitutes. I'm his counselor and I'm formally against this. You can't keep me away from him!"
"I wouldn't dream of keeping you away. You see, he's not allowed to notice anything different. His new room will be an exact replica of the other with only one exception: the mirror is now a two-way. It's imperative that his routines continue unhindered and you are part of them. We'll mix the necessary additives in his food and get him to swallow that 'vitamine' pill every evening. An evaluation team will monitor him 24 hours a day without his knowledge. A medical staff is on standby should anything go wrong. We still need another psycho-analyst Sarah, I suggest you fill that role if you're so concerned"
"I will Dave, don't worry about that. Who authorised this experiment?"
"Soldiers kill more efficiently without emotions…you make me sick, you're not the man I married"
"I'm just trying to help Kit…it was either this or electroshock therapy. The evaluation team is down this hall to the right…the door marked 'no entry'" the wolf pointed down a corridor as they passed. Sarah stopped in her tracks and turned into the corridor. She was steaming: it was her patient so it should have been her call. All she could do now was try to keep the situation a bit humane. Mind altering drugs…she still cringed at the thought alone. She opened the door marked 'no entry' and was greeted by the cold, hard stare of a bulldog in uniform.
"Is that sign not big enough woman? This is a restricted area"
"I'm the counselor of…" she noticed two mirrors: one was marked 'subject a' and showed a young lion asleep in his bed. Behind the mirror marked 'subject b', doctors rolled in a bed "…subject b. I'm also a well-known and skilled psycho-analyst and I was informed you were one man short"
"One man, quite right!" the bulldog turned his back to Sarah "I cannot allow women in my team. They're too weakhearted around the subjects"
"Then I suggest you find another subject because I have the last word over him"
"David Dorington has his say over subject b. I suggest you go back to your pots and pans in the kitchen woman, where you belong"
"Hey!" a wolf walked in, having heard every word "nobody talks to my wife like that. Maybe we should use another subject although I despise your choice of words. Get this through your thick, army skull general: we have custody over these kids and what you are doing here is not only immoral but illegal to boot. My wife will lead your team or you'll have to find another research facility, GOT IT?"
The bulldog listened to the rant without moving a muscle or blinking. Although the snarling wolf was inches away from his face, the uniformed and overdecorated soldier kept his calm.
"Is that your final word?"
"I think you know where you can put it"
"That is a highly irregular place…allright, I shall allow this woman to lead the team, but she better not screw up the experiment"
Morning. The crowd assembled in the observation room had more degrees and ddiplomas than any person could ever own even if he studied from birth to death. Everyone was equipped with clipboards and pencils. They sat down at the central table, Sarah walked to the blackboard between the two mirrors. She was to lead this team in its horrible task, but she had sworn not to let emotion get in the way for now. The woman cleared her troath to get attention
"Good morning crew, welcome to army experiment 'Mindfog'. Our subjects are still asleep, now would be a great time to get familiar with their background. Subject a…" she pointed in the direction of the first mirror, all took notes "is known to the little family he has as 'Roy'. He is delusional and quite convinced everyone is out to get him. Conventional therapy, including electroshocktherapy, has failed in all aspects, his progress from day one up to today is absolutely zero. We'll be treating him with the experimental drug in limited doses and allow a normal routine to develop in his everyday life. Hopefully we will be able to cure his paranoia and make a model citizen out of him. Subject b…" she pointed to the second mirror "is known to some as 'Kit'. He's an orphan brought in for care after suffering post-traumatic stress. He has no more living relatives and is afraid to trust or even face reality. Therapy hadn't even commenced when it was decided he was a hopeless case. Only a maximum dose of the experimental drug might help him out of the shell he's been hiding in. In addition to the oral treatment, we'll be mixing additives in his food. It is imperative that both subjects remain unaware of their current involvement in this experiment. Since subject b appears to be in denial of his entire past, I will guide him personally. Please do not adress me while I am in his room. Oh yeah, this room is soundproof, but it's no zoo: don't tap the mirrors please"
'Subject b' sat up, yawned, stretched and rubbed his eyes. Something made him feel good today, better than all the other days he had lived. He happily jumped to the floor and walked to the sink. His odour was less than appetising, like he hadn't showered in weeks. The cub turned both faucets open and splashed some water to his face. The steam rose up and fogged the mirror. Still happy as a clam, Kit turned off the faucets and drew a smiling face on the mirror.
The psychiater behind the mirror smiled and noted. The uniformed bulldog behind him slapped himself in the face.
The towel felt suddenly very soft to Kit, like they were all trying to improve his mood. He jumped back on the bed and grabbed a stuffed animal. Hugging it close to him, he fell back in his bed and stared at the ceiling. Someone knocked, Kit shot back up
Sarah peeked her head through the door and entered. She knew her every move was being studied but tried not to show it. It was hard to act natural when a crowd of psychiatrists was just a few feet away
"Good morning Kit, how are you feeling today?"
"Top of the morning! Blue skies and birds singing, what more can I ask for?" Kit tapped a place on the bed next to him and sat crosslegged. Sarah sat down
"Maybe a flight manual?"
"What for? Like would ever want to fly"
Sarah frowned. Something was wrong. All Kit ever talked about was flying and now he wouldn't want to anymore? -odd. Don't let him notice something is wrong-
"Ehmm…where was I? Oh yeah, do you now remember why you're here?"
"Yeah, I had an accident with my new bike. Stupid me huh?"
"Hmm, yes. Well, don't worry about it. What do you want to do today?"
"I don't know" Kit frowned…he had no idea what he wanted to do "what do you suggest?"
"Don't you really have any idea? How about fishing?"
"Sounds great…I guess"
"Kit, have you been crying?" she took his head in her hands and looked in his eyes. They were a little red but not really swollen
"Naw, must have slept with my eyes open. I do that sometimes"
A sound entered from the hallway, a wolf walked in, carrying a tray with a few sandwiches on it
"Good morning, continental breakfast on bed for the noble sir. Todays specialty is a cheese sandwich due to lack of salami in the kitchen"
"Thanks a lot Dave, I love cheese"
The cub smiled and eagerly devoured the sandwich. Although the fox at his side detested such eating habits, she was glad to see him eat.
"Had a strange aftertaste. Was that cheese still good?"
Dave made a quick mental note to add more flavour next time so Kit wouldn't actually taste the additive. Now it was time to be creative and feed him a line
"Could have been a bit moldy, I have my doubts about that new cook"
"Will you take me fishing today Dave?"
"I'd love to kiddo, but I'm on duty today"
"I'm sure the boss will give you a day off" Sarah was very sure of that. Both her and Dave had carte blanche when it came to completing the experiment succesfully.
It was thus no surprise that both Kit and Dave sat at the man-made lake that afternoon. The cub had no knowledge of fishing whatsoever and Dave found himself teaching Kit everything like a father would. Patience is a wonderful trait when it comes to fishing, something that always contrasted to the energy of the youth. Strangely enough, Kit sat still and concentrated on the fishing. It was Dave that broke the hourlong silence
"You think there is any fish around here?"
"Don't know" they whispered not to chase the fish away -if any "haven't caught anything yet"
"Maybe we oughta call it a day huh?"
"Yeah…say, did you remember to use bait?"
"Woops, knew I forgot something"
"Sitrep, lady and gentlemen, what's our progress?" the bulldog wanted results at the end of the first day so he had gathered his team in the observation room. Both subjects were asleep again even though it wasn't even 9PM yet. "Team A, what's the status?"
"As far as I can tell from the first results…" the alligator pushed his glasses back higher up his nose and nervously took his notes. He had never performed such tests for the army before and he was easely intimidated by the bulldog "Roy's doing fine. One oddity is that he's now open to everyone…including those he feared or hated before. There are no sideffects as of yet"
"Allright, team B, same question"
Sarah was lost in reading a file and was oblivious of the general that stared at her. Dave poked her in the side, she jumped and looked around. Everyone seemed to expect something from her…it suddenly hit her she was probably asked for a statusreport
"Ehhm…subject b is off worse than he was before. Granted, he had a troubled past, but he woke up this morning like he was someone else. He has now gone in denial of his entire identity and refuses to accept why he's here"
"So the drug is working perfectly?"
"It was supposed to help him accept…"
"No, it was supposed to do just this: override his personality and make him a more 'acceptable' citizen. I say he acted like a normal child for once"
"Yes, but this wasn't him at all. His entire psyche, and most of all ego, is gone! Instead of helping him it is just replacing him"
"Like it was intended. Don't go soft on me, there's inspection in two days. Any side-effects yet?"
"This morning he could taste the additives just fine, but as the day went on he stopped complaining. We assume his sense of taste was somehow altered. His own will seems to have faded and maybe he's been crying"
"Splendid. Night watch, keep b under close supervision and report anything out of the ordinary. That was all team, seeya tomorrow at exactly 6AM"
Just like yesterday, 'subject b' had had beautiful dreams. The contents was quickly forgotten, but somehow he knew they were beautiful. Only one thing could keep him from hopping around in joy, and that was his headache. Some involuntary tears escaped his eyes as he opened them to walk to the sink. It wasn't until he looked into the mirror that he noticed how swollen they were.
The researcher looked closely and noted, keeping in mind to read Kit's file for any allergies he might have
Somewhat dragging his feet, he walked back to his bed and sat down. Kit switched off the light to give his eyes some rest. He had never felt this bad before as long as he could remember…how long was that actually? -I was here yesterday, but what happened before that? How did I get here? Hell, who am I?!-
"Hiya Kit, had good dreams?"
"Yeah…I think so, don't really remember"
Sarah looked at him again. His eyes were red yet again and his cheeks were a bit wet
"Allright, no denying this time: you have been crying"
"Are you allergic to something in this room?"
"No. Maybe it was that cheese I ate yesterday…that's when the headache started"
"Maybe you better get some more sleep. But you do remember when the room is cleaned right?"
Sarah needed no more to know something was going wrong. She didn't know much about the drug and the additives, but there was almost no other possible cause for this. The fox gestured at the mirror, the researcher could hardly believe what she was telling him. That general wasn't going to like this and he always frightened the aligator…double trouble
"I can't believe this! You did what?" the bulldog in uniform didn't yell, but only because both subject a and b would hear it.
"You heard right, I'm stopping the experiment. Do whatever you want with Roy, but you're killing Kit. That dose was too damn high for his age. You wiped his memory clean and erradicated his emotions. Do you have any idea what psychological damage you have done?"
"Do you have any idea what my supervisor is going to do with my stars when he hears this? I'll be busted back down to private!"
"I don't care. I'm stopping that drug supply and hope I can repair some of the damage you have done before he turns eighteen"
"Good luck doctor, that drug is psychotropic"
"You're no better than an opiumdealer. If Kit dies, I'm holding you responsible"
"I don't think he'll die, but you'll have a hard time convincing him"
"You haven't heard the last of this"
The redfurred fox stormed out the door to write a report. The general wasn't concerned: subject a was still responding well to the treatment and that was all that mattered. If his supervisor came along he'd deny Kit's involvement. Besides, if Sarah refused he'd simply ask Dave.
"Sarah?" the wolf peeked his head through the door and scanned the office. His wife was sitting behind her desk, reading glasses on, writing fiercely. He entered cautiously, not knowing how she would react in this state of mind.
"You're not stopping me this time"
The fox didn't even look up from her writing. Her report would close this place down and put everyone out of work, but it would also end these damn experiments. She had delayed it for too long already
"Be reasonable. We can't just go and reveal everything now. We help a good part of these children free of charge, what more can they ask for?"
"I'm not thinking of the 90 happy percent right now, but of the 10 dead percent! Who are we to decide who lives and who dies? At least other experiments had a purpose, this one is just to perfect an army weapon"
"We can't just stop the experiment because Kit is having an allergic reaction!"
"Who says it is an allergy? I can't find anything in his files, he responded well to every known type of medication so why should he be allergic now?! Maybe the drug is just lethal and they're determining where to draw the line. That general has a hidden agenda, and curing psychiatric patients is not one of his objectives"
"He's already addicted, we have to continue"
"It's not like we haven't treated drug addicts here before. He asked you to convince me, didn't he?"
"To be perfectly honest…yeah, he has. And he raises a few good points. His suggestion…"
"I'm not hearing this" Sarah put her hands over her ears and sang something off-key. After humming along for a few verses and overpowering Sarah's voice, Dave pulled the hands away from her ears
"…his suggestion is that we continue until the supervisor has come along and then he'll allow a steady decrease in the dose. That way, Kit will suffer no unexpected damage and he'll be much better off. So what if he can't remember his own life? It's not like it was worth remembering"
"I'll pretend I didn't hear that. He has me cornered and he knows it! I guess I'll play along then…but if this gets worse I'm pulling the plug"
Sarah had a lot to worry about. True, she could close the book on every unsolved disappearance and unexplained disease of the last five years, but she was just as guilty as the rest of the staff. Horrible as it may seem, she saw her subjects die one by one and had the power to stop it all. She was sick of it: Kit would not die and walk out of there a healthy kid. At least, she would try her best to make it that way. But the phone decided otherwise.
"Yes, this is Sarah Dorington…say what? I'll be right there"
Kit lay on his bed, his hands in front of his face. The frantic voice on the other end of the line turned out to be the nightwatch. He had orders to call Sarah when something out of the ordinary happened…and this was out of the ordinary.
He had noticed it when Kit had gotten up for a drink of water and looked into the mirror
Sarah stormed in, Kit rolled away from the sound.
"Not until you tell me what's wrong"
"I don't want you to see me like this"
"Like what honey?"
Kit pulled his hands away from his face and slowly raised his head to meet Sarah's eyes. His eyelids were blue like somebody had knocked him two black eyes. They were swollen, almost popping out of their sockets. Some dirty water or clean slime ran out across his cheeks. The rest of his face was losing its color and was starting to swell.
Sarah had seen awful diseases and strange allergies, but this ranked among the top of them. Either the new drug or one of the additives was causing this, most likely the mix of the two. Either way, it couldn't go on like this. Dave was too late to stop Sarah from entering so he followed her in and braced for the coming rant. Instead of bursting in emotion, she just tucked Kit back in and gave him a kiss goodnight. He wasn't out of hot water yet: Sarah practically dragged him into the hall and shut the door. His eyes met hers, they didn't move away
"No more subject b, no more drugs for that child, finished! Now tell me what the hell those additives were"
"Kalium-carbon-monoxide with sodium as stabiliser"
6AM, the morning briefing. Something blocked the view through the second mirror from the inside, probably a towel or a similar object. The team could only guess why that was important. Now that the nightwatch was present, the entire situation had a suspicious feeling to it.
Sarah sat the head of the table, tapping her pen on the wood. Anyone that dared make a sound was silenced by her stare alone. Only when the general entered she stood up
"It's 6.05, why are you late?"
"Don't question me, I'm your superior! Team A, sitrep!"
"Yeah, Charlie, any sideffects yet?" Sarah didn't usually care for Roy, but she was going to disrupt this meeting as much as she could
"Not really, m'am, although he's complaining of a minor headache"
The bulldog noted carfully, as if expecting something like it. His interest was truly sharpened when he wanted to review subject b. Nobody in this room had to know it, but he was responding better than he hoped. The view was blocked, making it all even more interesting
"Team B…what's the good news?"
"The good news is that Kit is no longer a part of this experiment. 'Some' sideffects made it medically intolerable to continue. And perhaps you would like to tell this team why the additives we've been giving him were highly toxic?"
"They most certainly were not"
"Gentlemen…you too general…open the confidential file please"
All participants had been given a file at the start of this meeting. Sarah knew it contained a bombshell…nobody here would remain cold at the statement of facts contained within. The official permission for the experiment was never given, as it was clearly stated in the first letter. The second contained the opinion of a team of specialists, deeming the drug 'unsafe for use and highly toxic'.
But the third letter was the most effective one. A handwritten message of Dave Dorington, protesting against the additive mix, stating that such a combination was simply lethal. Two pictures were attached: they were taken earlier that day and showed Kit with his swollen face.
Sheer disgust stood on the faces of the research team. They had crossed the line between science and horror…a line that allowed no return.
The bulldog turned and left. His experiment was over.
Kit was trying to find soft spots in his pillow. They were soft, true, but his face was very sore and even the softest feather pillow felt like a block of solid wood. Squirming to get some sleep, he quickly realised it was to no avail. What was happening to him?
Now that his room was empty, he had time to think. The same questions kept haunting him: he had no idea what he was doing here, where he came from and maybe morre importantly, who he was. All he knew was that his name was Kit and that this was some sort of children's hospital. Although he always wished to be left alone for some reason, now he wished for someone to be there with him.
Wishes come true sometimes, this one did. Sarah softly closed the door, turned up the heating and sat down on the bed next to the curled-up cub. She ran her hand across his cheek, Kit winched…her gesture of tenderness had the wrong effect.
"How are you feeling?"
"Bad…I bet it's raining outside"
"Not as long as I have that extra blanket. Dave's cooking is getting worse every day"
"That's because he's a doctor. And I happen to know that his cooking isn't bad at all"
Kit reached for a glass of water, hoping to drown the heavy feeling in his stomach. Sarah felt completely responsible for his condition and reached for it too
"Let me get that for you"
"No, let me…whoops"
The struggle for the glass ended in the object falling over and spilling its contents over the bed.
"Aw, man…sorry about that Sarah, I didn't mean to…"
"No, it's my fault"
The fox stood up and quickly pulled the towel from the mirror. Unfortunately the corner got stuck and pulled the fragile object out of balance. It shattered on the floor, the gap into the research room now left none of Kit's theories undamaged.
Sarah noticed the problem she had created too late…much too late. Maybe she hoped Kit hadn't seen it with his infected eyes, maybe she herself was in complete denial of what had transpired. Kit stared in disbelief
"Was that a two-way mirror?"
"WAS IT OR WAS IT NOT?"
"As in the kind they use in experiments?"
"Yeah, but it was only to keep an eye on you…we always monitor our patients around the clock"
Kit was tempted to believe her explanation, if it weren't for what he was feeling now. He felt his face swelling with every hour and had no recollection of anything before this room or the fishing with Dave.
"Don't lie to me…you were experimenting on me. What kind of experiment was this?"
"A small scale test for a new type of medication, nothing big"
"What kind of medication?"
"Minddrugs…I'm sorry, it was beyond my powers"
"Call my parents. Tell them to get me out of here"
Shocks can be administered in small or extreme doses, but one that destroys every recollection of a happy life and what you believed to be the truth is off every scale. The Big One was about to impact.
Kit didn't respond too well on the news about his parents. Who they really were and how they died was something he heard for the first time, nobody in the orphanage had bothered to tell him. Windward, planecrash, pirates…it seemed likely. The more he thought about it, the more he saw it Sarah's way. Unfortunately he hadn't before and freaked out, so bad that Dave had put him in a straightjacket: he was still in the psychiatric wing, and his preferential treatment was over.
In the middle of the night, the cub was squirming in his bed, lying uncomfortably. If he lay on his back his arms went numb, and if he lay on his side his face hurt. The worst maybe was that a while ago his face not only started hurting more, but that it also started itching. With no way to solve his current problems, Kit sighed and squirmed again.
"Don't tell me you're trying to escape"
Sarah had entered without a sound. For some reason she always checked up on him before going home to get some sleep. She felt awckward at seeing the cub squirming in restraint, even more so because this room was a lot colder.
"No, no…agh, do me a favor and scratch my nose…it itches like crazy!"
The fox saw no harm and did what she was asked. When she started scratching, his nose twitched and Kit giggled. To amuse him, she went on for a brief moment, ignoring the cub's protests
"Aw, cut it out….naw, come on, I'm not joking"
"Allright, allright. Chilly?"
"Yeah. There's an extra blanket in the closet, but I can't reach it like this. You wouldn't happen to do me the favor of untieing me, would ya?"
"Can't do that and you know it"
Sarah walked to the cupboard, took out the blanket and spread it out over Kit, adjusting the first one to cover him completely…his squirming had pushed it aside.
"I'm sorry already. You guys really know how to carry serious grudge don't you? I just lost my temper for a second: it's not like everyday I find out I was adopted and being experimented on!"
"I never saw you that angry. Did that happen before?" Sarah figured she might just as well completely redo his psychological profile
"Not that I can remember, but then again I don't really remember much…could you get me those other pillows? These are way too hard"
"I'll see what I can do…what do you remember?"
"Blue skies, an ocean…some birds, a woman…planes and pilots…that's about it. Only remember that I was happy"
"Hmmm…how are you feeling now?"
"Besides the obvious somewhat strange. Like I don't know what to feel. Maybe it's better if I wouldn't feel anything again. How long do I have to stay here?"
"Under normal circumstances everyone here can go when they please, but with that eye infection and the weather outside it'd be best if you stayed for another while"
"Keep treating me like this and I'll be gone tomorrow"
Sarah rolled her eyes and reached for Kit's back. After some searching, she found the locks that kept Kit's arms in place. She released them, Kit felt his sore right shoulder: he had tried to escape but only managed to hurt himself.
"Whew, that's a lot better…now why don't you show me where my stuff is?" the cub took off the jacket and sat in his white undershirt
"You're not gonna…"
"I'm getting out of here: being doublecrossed twice is enough in my book. Sorry for the cute and helpless charade, but it was the only way you would untie me" Kit walked to the door and opened it, only to see an armed guard stopping him. The fox showed him a badge and was allowed to drag Kit back in his room
"What's going on out there? I thought this was a hospital!"
"This is an army research facility! You expected to just walk out of here?"
"You said I could leave whenever I wanted"
"Exactly, right after we wipe your memory. You know too much Kit…"
As if to mark Sarah's words, Dave and two guards practically knocked the door down. The dogs pinned Kit to the ground while Dave injected him with a clear fluid.
The world went black and faded…
Kit woke up, smelling like a rotten fish. Only after a while he recognised the blurry sight of a dumpster's interior, complete with trash and now with streetkid. His eyes teared like he had peeled onions all his life and robbed him of clear sight. With only a faint recollection of who he was and where he came from, the cub decided to go back to where he belonged: the streets.
"NOOOOOOO!" Kit shot up screaming. Something pulled at his side and hurt immensely. A hand covered his mouth and pushed him back down. When the panicking cub finally turned his head, he saw a leopard looking back
"Hey, ho, calm down sonny" for some reason, the leopard whispered "How am I supposed to keep you hidden if you scream like that?!" the leopard removed his hand
"Hidden from who, from what? Where am I? What am I doing here?"
"In the same order: Fang, his temper, Port Green docks and basic surviving. It's not like we haven't done this before"
"I don't know you, I don't know who that guy Fang is and why I should hide from him."
"You don't remember me?? It's me Kit: Uncle Hawk…you never really saw me when we first met, but I can prove that it's me!
Remember when you had that eye infection? You bit someone on the street and that guy was convinced he had rabies when he saw you. The policeman was about to clobber you because you just sat there without talking. Who stood up for you and brought you to safety? I did! Who washed out your eyes every day to get rid of that infection? I did! You never saw me because of that bandage I used to shield your eyes…"
"It…it itched, and when I complained you replaced it with an all-cotton one. I didn't know that was you, I couldn't see…Oh yeah, I remember who Fang is now: I always thought it was him that took care of me. Your voices must be alike"
"You were a very sensitive young boy once I got underneath your skin. How could you change like that?"
"How could YOU change like that? Why did you harass me on the island? Why did you report me to the Port Green mob-squad?"
"I honestly don't know what got into me. Bet it was the same for you…Fang must have that effect on people. Rest now, I'll see if I can smuggle in some pain medication. If Fang happens to walk in, act dead!"
The leopard hurried out the room, Kit was left behind with only his thoughts to accompany him. After the door fell shut, Kit's eyes went on strike again, forcing him to think.
"NO, NO, NO! This isn't a bad radio show! Who even gave you permission for that dream?" Chris was being chewed out by his boss. He had finally adjusted to life up there and already had a run-in with the big kahuna.
"You're mad huh? Am I fired?"
"Ever since the war, Guardian Angels became pretty bored at their jobs. Nobody still believed in them and went straight over their heads to me! I'm still sorting out messages from 1919, my secretary is on a one-century vacation to the andromeda nebula and the angels allow it to happen! What I'm saying is that very few have the potential to be guardians anymore. Gabriel took three centuries himself to learn and is now trying to train others. So I'm not mad, just disappointed you didn't go ask for advice. Now what? Kit wasn't supposed to know about his true past until 1942: you made his life a mess! Believe me or not, now I'll have to interfere myself and use some sort of regulation factor or Kit won't even leave Port Green alive!"
"Actually, sir, I have built in such a fail-save and influenced someone…in accordnance with his guardian offcourse. Hawk was already such a factor a few years ago and did marvelously. As you know we then interfered to switch Hawk with Fang…with good results if I may add…"
"Chris, my heels are clean enough, stop licking them…I'm not mad, tell me your plan"
"Using a personal interference, some influence and a puppet, I'm sure that this one will go flawlessly…"
"I really don't know how you expected to keep this hidden from me"
The figure had jumped Hawk in the corridor and held him in a chokehold. His voice was now hissing in the leopard's ear. He recognised it offcourse
"Go ahead, kill me but spare the boy"
"I have ethics too: I don't kill my own uncle" the figure let go
Chris glanced at his boss…he was pleased
"That was some nice thinking: we can ask a ransom now"
"Best part is" Hawk thought quickly, realising all too well his nephew had no knowledge of medicine whatsoever "you still get your revenge! Kit is dying, he's gonna need some shots to live through the day. I can keep him alive here for two days, after that he'll die no matter what!"
"So we collect the ransom, deliver the boy and he'll die in their arms…brilliant Hawk! You deserve a prize for criminology!"
"It's not very noble though"
"The Noble Prize…sounds good. So, what do you need? You know what, tell me during dinner, we can discuss demands and ransoms too"
The two leopards disappeared in the corridor
"You call this police protection?!" Baloo wasn't yelling: Lou had warned him for the last time, 'keep it down or get thrown out'.
"My men are just unaccustomed to this line of work. We never did this before"
"No, we always did!" the cat interfered. This mess had gotten out of hand, but not so much due to police incompetence.
The rivalry between the two lawenforcment agencies had increased since the turnover. Cops accused the military of being too rough for 'normal' policework, the military blamed the cops for being too soft for the 'serious' work. Neither wanted to admit they needed eachother on some level, but today's incident made it painfully clear. Jerry wasn't coldhearted, but this was about the honor of the department he had defended -with his life- on numerous occasions. Walsh was the image of reason, but he devoted his life to the military and no 'softie' was going to smear their reputation.
"If you had bothered to call our help in the first place, we would have captured both the swindler as the sniper"
"If you guys had bothered to listen to us, this entire mess wouldn't have happened: we were perfectly capable of maintaining order in this city"
"You lost one third of your men in one night, that proves enough"
"IT ONLY PROVES WE'LL GIVE OUR LIVES IF WE HAVE TO"
"ARE YOU YELLING AT A SUPERIOR OFFICER???"
"GENTLEMEN, PLEASE!" Lou was sick of interfering like this every time someone got an argument "for the very last time: this is a hospital, we have over twenty critical patients in this wing so DON'T GIVE THEM A HEARTATTACK! Keep it down or get out of this section!"
"Mr. Baloo, would you please tell this individual…that we…had….mr. Baloo?"
The grey bear sat on the floor in the corner, head in hands. Tears streamed down his face as he looked at the plush bear, the only thing he had left to remember his son by. He already lost Chris, now it seemed he had lost Kit too. There were no indications as of where he could be and in his current state he'd survive no longer than two days.
"He's…he's half blind fellas…he don't know where he is, he's gonna be scared and I won't be there wit' 'im…How can ya discuss who's fault it is? Maybe you just oughta go out and look for 'im?"
"You're right. Maybe one of the citizens saw that autogyro land"
"Hold on, we still have spies here and there. One of our undercover operatives might…"
"We ask the citizens!"
"JUST ASK BOTH DAMMIT!"
"THAT DOES IT! EVERYBODY OUT!"
Lou pushed the trio out of his office with the simple command: 'Cool off or buzz off"
"What am I worth to him?"
It was an easy effective phrase that startled Hawk. Kit had always been sharp, but lately he had become worse. Nothing got past him although the leopard now knew he was half blind.
"Yeah, Fang already came in to gloat"
"How are you feeling?"
"I'm holding out allright, that shot helped"
"I usually don't mess around with morfine, not with a patient your age" Hawk took a chance earlier that day, but it wasn't confronting his nephew: it was smuggling in serious medication that could easely get the cub addicted
"Quit changing the subject…the moolah, the dough, green ones…how much?"
"Twohundred big ones as downpayement, threehundred 'upon delivery'"
"500 G's huh? Baloo'll never be able to pay that much"
"Don't worry, I have a contingency plan…Plan B if you like…Fang is holy convinced you'll die in two days. I don't think he'll try to kill you himself, so we can just put on a little charade and get you out of here untouched"
"Whatever…I don't really care anymore"
"You're too young to talk like that"
"If you remembered what I just did, you'd wonder how I got to live this long"
A strange electrical sound resounded, followwed by a metallic bang. Hawk sighed: Fang was playing one of his intimidation games again. This time it was a large spotlight aimed at Kit's face while he stood in the shadow.
"SILENCE! From now on you'll only say something to answer my questions. Do you understand?"
"Why would I do that?"
Fang was flustered for a moment: his entire intimidation routine was failing. Hawk laughed
"Nice try, but I'm afraid he's blind at the time"
"DARN! I spent two hours preparing this"
Another metallic bang, a figure approached.
"Allright, guess we'll do it the old-fashioned way. Tell me who squeeled on me about the operation on Carmalina!"
"Jack, the elephant burglar! We busted him in Port Green near the docks and he eagerly confessed. Any other questions?"
"Do you still remember how I took care of you? Why wouldn't you do me the favor of killing someone? You were plenty agressive!"
"One, you didn't take care of me, Hawk did ; two, I despise you and everything you stand for and three; I was only agressive when I had to"
Fang got angry again, something that happened more often every day. He always got delusional in that stage to the point of temporary insanity. Reason was one of the things he rejected then and it was best to keep him happy. Hawk had to interfere or it would turn ugly
"Fang, don't blame him. I gave him morfine and told him it were vitamines. It keeps him calm and incapacitated for a while but it's possible that he says something he didn't mean to. Cut him some slack"
"So he didn't mean that 'despise' thing? Whew…"
"It hate you sunnofa…yer so uggly that whenfmlkjqfmj…WAU-HAUW, g'night" mumbling something incoherent, Kit nodded off. Hawk had timed it right, Fang had returned to his 'normal' self.
"It's best to let him sleep. Forgive him those little slips of the tongue, he's a bit high"
"Hmm…you're the specialist here. Why are you drugging him? He can't go anywhere!"
"It keeps him calm and takes his mind off the pain. Trust me, he's hurting bad and he'd show it clearly if it wasn't for those drugs. The last thing you want is a crying kid on your hands when you're planning something"
"You're redeeming yourself perfectly uncle, let's go make some demands"
"Nice job Chris, but it wasn't exactly what I had planned. To accomplish the greater goal of this century, several changes must be made. Army and police must work together if they are to survive the problems that are coming their way. And Fang must never be allowed to influence anyone again: he is working against everything I have planned"
The cordon stopped in front of the warehouses, followed by several policebusses. By a miracle, both Walsh and Jerry stumbled upon an eye-witness that knew the exact spot where the autogyro had landed. There were only two ways out of the complex they had blocked: one was through the front gate, the other was in the water at the rear. No boats or seaplanes were docked: Fang appearantly had never thought of an imminent invasion. Walsh and Jerry walked to eachother and shook hands: this would be the first joint operation of the two. Cats and dogs were working together…
Two army trucks and a policebus made an ideal barrier to hide from gunfire, marksmen and snipers crowded the rooftops. As an added bonus, the Barkone brothers, convinced by their youngest sibling Jacob, had volunteered to infiltrate when possible.
Fang wasn't stupid nor blind: he had expected this. Machinegun posts were quickly raised, well-trained mercenaries were ready to fight to the death and he himself was wearing his snipergear. For some odd reason he was thrilled to see the size of the force assembled outside. He held an acecard up his sleeve: the bearcub known as Kit. Although it seemed like a warzone now, this was really 'just' a hostage situation.
Hawk ran through the corridors: there wouldn't be time for plan B. Once he reached Kit's room, he splashed some water in the cub's face to wake him up
"Sorry shortstuff, rise and shine, time for the big getaway"
Loud bangs could be heard from the main assembly area: the first guns send their lethal contents to the opposite side.
Windshields shattered, soldiers and cops alike ran for cover. They had both hoped to avoid this. When lethal force is used against cops and soldiers, wars start. Unwilling to yield for the brutality of Fang's menace, they returned fire.
'Execution squad' would be more appropriate. The thin walls of the abandoned factory couldn't stop the heavy caliber army gun rounds and thinned out the leopard's army. Snipers picked out random targets and fired shot after shot…never missing or wounding.
"Come on, get up!"
Hawk tried his best to get Kit to move, but his own remedy was proving his problem. Sure enough he had given Kit that morfine to keep him silent, but it had been ten years since he last had to take care of anyone that was seriously injured and his knowledge of dosing was off. Instead of relaxing and helping the cub, he had put him to sleep for at least four hours…or so he estimated. Four hours…he didn't have that kind of time to wait, if Kit could even walk at all. There was one way.
The leopard had sworn never to use this stuff again, but when all else failed, he had no choice. It was a stimulant of his own devise, given in large doses to Fang's men when they went on an important mission. The liquid provided a long burst of energy but had the sideffect of making the patient psychotic after prolonged use.
Hawk pressed on Kit's nostrils, forcing him to breathe through his mouth. With great care, he slowly poured the liquid in the boy's mouth who instinctively drank it. It was no miracle cure, it took time to be effective.
Yet time was what had just ran out: Fang stormed in, the barrel of his sniper gun still smoking. His army was losing, but for some reason he had a smile on his face. Fang was a big fan of Hawk's stimulant…
"Those Barkones are killing us! Man, they're great snipers…but the games must now end and I must win. Is Kit still alive?"
"Let's see if they dare pull that trigger with him in the line of fire"
Roughly and unceremoniously, Fang grabbed the cub and carried him outside, humming 'up on the roof'. Hawk could do nothing but stare, knowing full well his nephew had finally crossed the thin line between criminal and psycho.
Footsteps from the other side. Hawk decided to give himself up without a fight and cooperate with the authorities in any way possible. But it was neither policeman nor soldier that reached him first
"No time for that, where is he?"
Ryan shouted down to his brother who was leading the upcoming incursions into the semi-fortress.
"Yeah, what's the matter?"
"You're not going to believe this…"
Through his scope, a strange scene started developing on the roof. A head appeared out the hatch that led to the flat roof…but to everyone's surprise, it was Kit's
Fang now appeared, holding the unconcious cub in front of him. Although Ryan was a crack sniper, he couldn't guarantee to hit Fang with the first shot, or miss Kit altogether. The leopard had figured that much and was ready for his demands. Now that he thought of it, he hadn't really considered what demands to make yet. Maybe this was just all about revenge, a kamikaze mission. He walked to the edge and set Kit down, the cub's feet halfway over the edge. Slowly, the boy started to snap out of his trance
"Allright Fang, you got our complete attention" Jerry's calm voice was carried upwards by the hastily set up speaker system, making shouting unnecessary "what are your demands?"
"It's a good thing you ask, 'cause I haven't really decided yet…I think I'll start with a 1920 Palckard Modified, the kind Caplone drove, as a getaway car. I want it here within the hour" It was a good move to ask that car: it was nearly bulletproof and could take a lot of damage to the engine before failing. The tires were fully rubber, making it impossible to get a flat. All that and the 300 horsepower engine, unique in its kind, made the Palckard Modified the perfect escape vehicle. But the leopard wasn't done yet "I've got more where that came from: first you'll withdraw all your snipers. Second: I want a pizza delivered here, extra cheese…"
While the leopard was making crazy demands to buy time, a tall, dark figure appeared behind him on the roof. The incoming darkness made it impossible to see who he was, but his form was menacing, stalking up to the leopard.
"And last, I want that fat Baloo to apologise for what his son did to my operations, or I'll…"
The dark figure remained silent no longer. His rage was visible through his exterior, eyes burning holes through a man's very soul. The voice was low, hatefilled. It was unlike anything Fang had ever heard and he slowly turned around. In the light of the setting sun stood an enraged grey bear, a father standing up for the safety of his son.
Ryan climbed up the policebus, rifle ready and waiting for the green light
"You killed one of my boys and I'm never gonna forgive you for that. Let Kit go or I'll kill you with my own two hands"
"The only thing your two hands have ever killed is a cheeseburger"
The two men stood nearly face to face, Fang pulled a gun and placed it against Kit's head. Ryan couldn't take him out: he just might pull the trigger when he heard the shot. Baloo had better ideas: a hostage is no longer a hostage if opportunity knocks.
"Li'l Britches, are the lights on upstairs?"
"Just like the time Wildcat wired the electricity wrong" Baloo understood all too well: one time Wildcat made a mistake, and every switch in the office turned on the same light…it shone more brightly than ever before. For Fang it ment: no way to switch it on
"Remember what I told you never to do again? Do you understand me kiddo?"
As only reply, Kit sunk to his knees and fell limp in Fang's arms. The leopard sat down to keep his living shield in front of him
"Come on you little rat, get up…great timing…DAMN!"
"Looks like your protection is failing"
"Quite the contrary: this way he can't participate in your scheme!"
Kit's eyes snapped open and he bit fang in the wrist. The leopard dropped the gun. As a little bonus, Kit kicked him in the shins. Fang jumped up on one leg, Baloo shot forward and pulled Kit away from his reach
Ryan opened fire…
Fang is no longer a menace
It was drizzling slightly two days later. A large group was assembled on the San Flamingo cemetery, their hearts heavy with emotion. It was a rare occasion that orphanage kids came to see one of their own buried.
Kit sat in a wheelchair, several sheets of prepared speech on his lap. Baloo held an arm around him, seeing the tears well up in his eyes even when the small coffin was brought to it's final resting place. The grey bear lost a son, the cub a brother. Rebecca had flown in especially for this occasion, her clients could wait for once.
The coffin was made of durable oak and painted white. In sharp contrast with the adults, the kids -including Kit- were wearing their orphanage sweaters. Colors like red, green, yellow and blue made it seem less dramatic somehow. Reality set back in when the priest appeared and quoted the usual verses.
Sobs escaped Kit's chest, Baloo hugged him closer. Neither had known Chris very well and were regretting it badly. Kit had hardly any idea of what to say, but had volunteered to make a small speech. His eyesight hadn't left him in two days and he hoped it wouldn't fail him today. A flash of light…Chris sat at the side of his brother. Their eyes met for a second, Chris smiled and put his hand reassuringly on Kit's shoulder. The priest ended with the famous line
"…ashes to ashes and dust to dust"
The coffin started lowering in the grave. Six feet of cold earth opened to receive it's sad treasure. Rebecca had to wipe the tears from her eyes, Kit just plain cried on Baloo's shoulder. It was time for Kit's speech but the priest figured it would be best not to disturb him in all his grief. He turned to the now crying crowd
"There were a few words from Chris' brother planned, but under these conditions I think it would be better…"
"No!" Kit's voice was just loud enough to make the priest turn. The cub was wiping the tears from his face, Baloo rolled the weelchair to the front of the grave. Kit reviewed the sheets of paper, decided they wouldn't suffice and threw them away.
"Friends, family…dad. Most of you here knew my brother better than I ever have and ever will. He made me see things about myself that were forgotten or things I just didn't care for anymore. Chris was that kind of person that had bigger dreams than we all have or had and stopped at nothing to make them come true" a stray tear rolled down Kit's cheek "the kind of person that helped anyone who asked and tried anything at least once. He has departed us too soon, cut short at the time he was happy. But what I will remember about him is not his violent and tragic death, but the times he helped me through rough days" more tears started flowing, Kit's voice became unsteady "the times I looked in his large blue eyes and saw the happiness and innocence of childhood…again, things I lost a long time ago. We were alike, but also different in many ways. Where I got stuck in the past, he dragged me into the future. Where he saw too far ahead, I filled in the temporary blanks. Only a disaster could tear us apart…a disaster that ,ironically, I introduced into his life. But even in his final moments, he has never blamed me for that, even saved my life by sacrificing his. I tell you this brother, I won't let that sacrifice go to waste: I'll try to make the most out of every day. Farewell, I'll miss you"
Emotions overran the cub, he broke down in tears. Baloo kneeled to hold him in his arms. The coffin had reached the bottom where it would rest forever. Chis oversaw the scene, crying himself. His old friends were crying over him, friends he had always told not to shed tears for him. It was as good a funeral as he could have hoped for.
He would never leave his brother…never
Another shot, another painkiller. How many had he had already? Kit no longer cared: he had lost count two weeks ago. After major surgery, doctors like to keep a patient in observation, but time was crawling for Kit Cloudkicker. He urged for some action but at this rate he'd hardly be home for Christmas. Chris' funeral was the last time he had left the hospital and even got in trouble for trying to walk the last few yards back. Now Lou freaked out when he was lying on his left side.
Baloo had taken a leave of absence. Rebecca wasn't paying him, but wasn't asking him to return either: Jules took care of the cargo for now. The grey bear hadn't left Kit's side in all the time, even though the cub was more asleep than awake. When they spoke in one of his clear moments, conversation was simple and short. It was almost like every time he woke up they put him to sleep again.
He didn't feel it much himself, but Kit was making good progress. His metabolism was stable enough for solid food although the cub hardly considered soup and rice as solid…greasy things had to wait. It did mean that his IV's were gone, which ment he no longer had to be careful not to pull the needles out of his arms.
"How long was I out this time?" Kit sat up in his bed, another thing that always got Lou mad: the wound in his side had infected several times and refused to close properly which was largely due to Kit's movements
"Four hours, your best time yet. How are you feeling today?"
"Sleepy. Don't know how really, this bed is hardly comfortable"
"You better ly down and rest before the doc comes back"
Kit leaned back against his pillow and had the urge to doze off again. But there were things he still had to say. Baloo was first
"Rudder sent a message: he wishes you well, pays his respects to Chris and wanted to tell you Freeburg will be as great as it was in the past"
"The past can be a strange thing… you can hold on to certain memories, base your life on something only to find out it was all a hoax"
"Woho, hold on there kiddo: no matter what you base your life on, it's your choice and whatever reason you use is fine. Why did you say that?"
"I remember things I didn't before. I think I had some serious sense knocked into me the hard way. But I'll have to sort a few things out before I'll tell anyone about it…if I ever tell anyone. Can you understand that?"
"Offcourse. Whenever you're ready"
They hugged again, it seemed like ages since they had last been this close together. To keep in line with their previous conversations, the nurse came in
"Good morning, how are we feeling today?"
"Sleepy, but I don't think you're going to help me any with that injection"
"Sleep is healthy young man. Besides, they're letting you go in a few days"
"Good, 'cause this scenery is getting boring"
The world faded, Baloo smiled one last time at him. Then the blackness set in and he knew nothing more…