SMUGGLER’S BALOO

 

A TaleSpin Fan-Fic

By

Herodotus

 

 Chapter 2

 

            Seated in the Sea Duck’s cockpit, Baloo studied his checklist carefully.  A checklist was not the kind of thing he would ordinarily use.  He was more the “fuel and fly” type himself, even for a trip as far as Macadamia.  But Rebecca was adamant about it.  Baloo had to admit that he was not the world’s swiftest learner, but if there was one thing he had learned in the time he had known Rebecca, it was smarter not to argue with her when she decided to be really pig-headed.

            Fuel, check.  Battery level, check.  Extra emergency starter cartridges, check.  Have Wildcat work on engines, check.  Food and water, check. New navigational charts… no check.

Where’s the new charts?  Kit was supposed to bring those. Speakin’ of Kit, where is he anyway?  He shoulda been on board by now!  

Baloo had not seen him since after breakfast.  Rebecca had told Baloo she needed to speak with Kit just as they were washing the dishes and that was the last he had seen of him.  She was probably warning him to be careful, or some such foolishness.  Like Kit needed that kind of advice.  That kid knew more about life on the rough side than their boss could ever imagine.

            But where was that kid?  He knew what time they were planning to leave, and he was cutting it close, even by Baloo’s standards.

            Kit!” Baloo bellowed without even looking up from the checklist.  “Kit, where are ya?”

            The Sea Duck rocked gently as someone entered the cockpit through the starboard hatch.  About time, Baloo thought. 

            “Finally.  Where have ya been, Ki--!” Baloo’s comments died in his throat as he looked up.

            The figure standing in the hatchway was not Kit.  It was...

            “Becky!  What are ya doin’ here?”

            Rebecca smoothed the front of her outfit and squared her shoulders.  “What does it look like?”

            His boss was dressed in a new leather jacket with a fleece collar.  A pilot’s hat rested atop her head with the brim facing backwards.  Her usual violet slacks had been replaced by sturdy canvas riding breeches.  Tucked under her left arm was a large briefcase.  She spun around, modeling for him.

            “Well, what do you think?  Kit helped me pick it out.”

            Well, that would explain why she was wearin’ the hat backwards.  Navigators always...

            “Wait a minute, Becky!  Ya don’t mean what I think ya mean!”

            Settling into the navigator’s seat, she did not look at him. Instead she opened her briefcase and began removing navigational charts.  The charts that he had been expecting Kit to bring with him.

            “It depends on what you’re thinking, Flyboy.”

            “No way, lady!  This is going ta be seriously tough mission.  I need a navigator.  I need my real navigator.”

            Rebecca spun in her seat and fixed him with a steely stare --- a look that pushed him back into his seat.

            “And that is exactly why I’m here.  Kit is only thirteen years old.  He’s still a child.  You couldn’t possible expect me to let a child go on a potentially dangerous mission!  I swear, Baloo, sometimes you can be so thoughtless.” 

            Someday he was going to have to take the time to have a long talk with Rebecca about Kit’s past.  Of the two of them he would be more worried about her than Kit if things went sour.  Kit he knew could handle himself in a tight situation.

            “Becky, I need someone who knows how ta be a navigator.  Not someone who dresses like one.”

            “Don’t give me that.  You know I’ve been studying navigation as part of my flying lessons.  Besides I’ve already put all my luggage in the Sea Duck.”

            “Wha... when did ya do that?”

            “This morning, while you and Kit were eating breakfast.  Kit will be too busy to go on this trip anyway.  I need him to baby-sit Molly for me.”

            “Why?”

            “Because I’ll be navigating for you this time and I need someone to watch Molly while I’m away.”

            “Well,” Baloo said, confused.  “Can’t argue with that.”

            Folding her arms, Rebecca smiled smugly.  Sometimes she just had to take a firm hand with the big pilot.

            “Hey, everybody.”

            A young bear in a blue baseball cap with a red bill and a green sweater was leaning in the doorway of the cockpit, his left forearm propped against the side of the hatchway.

            “Kit! What are you doing here?” Rebecca demanded.  Then, somewhat nervously: “Where’s Molly?”

            The young bear cub smiled.  “With me, of course.”

            “Give me a lift up, Kit.”  Molly’s disembodied voice drifted in through the open hatch.  “I can’t see Mommy!”

            Kit disappeared from view for a moment, only to reappear with a seven-year-old cub on his shoulders.  She smiled gleefully and waved at Rebecca with a bright blue ribbon that matched the one she wore around her left ear.

            “Hi, Mommy.”

            “Molly Cunningham, what are you doing here?”

            “I made Kit bring me so I could say goodbye.”

            Rebecca gave Kit a very stern look.  It was obvious that she was not happy he had brought her daughter down to Higher for Hire.

            Kit shrugged, a small smile tugging at the corner of his mouth.  “What can I say, Miz Cunningham?  She takes after her mother.  When she gets an idea stuck in her head it’s usually better to just go along for the ride.”

            Shaking her head, Rebecca beckoned to Molly.  “Come here, young lady, and I’ll fix your ribbon for you.”

            With a squeal of joy, Molly launched herself into her mother’s waiting arms.  Rebecca hugged her warmly before setting her down on her lap.  Taking the ribbon, she began fastening it around Molly’s right ear.

            “Now, Molly, after this I want you to pay attention to whatever Kit says.  He’s in charge while Mommy’s away.”

            “Okay, Mommy.  But where are you and Baloo going?”

            “Well, er... “ Rebecca looked uncomfortable as she tried to think up an explanation for her daughter.  “I can’t tell you right now, honey, it’s kind of a secret.  I’ll tell you when we get back.”

            “When will that be, Miz Cunningham?” Kit asked, just a little too casually.

            Rebecca looked at Baloo, who merely raised one eyebrow.  She was on her own with this one.  Darn that bear, this was probably his idea of a joke.  Just wait, she would get even somehow.

            “I really don’t know, Kit.  Baloo and I have something important to take care of.  It shouldn’t take more than a week.  I’ve written checks for all the bills and they are in an envelope by the phone.  I’ve stocked the kitchen so there should be enough food.  If it takes longer than that you can dip into petty cash in the safe in the office.”

            “I know, you’ve already told me all that.  But do you think there will be enough money in petty cash?  I mean you usually don’t keep that much cash in petty cash.”

            “Trust me, there is more than enough.”  Ten thousand should be enough, Rebecca added to herself thinking of the packet of money Vulps had given her.

            Kit looked at Baloo.  The big bear smiled and shrugged.  Kit did not like that response at all.

            It was not like Papa Bear to keep a secret from him.  It must be something really important for Baloo not to let him in on it.  His whole purpose in “letting” Molly talk him into coming down here was so he could hopefully find out what Baloo and Rebecca were up to.  He knew it had something to do with Macadamia.  That was what the charts Baloo had him pick up were for.  He had just assumed that he would be navigating, like he always did.  But then Rebecca had taken him aside and informed him that she would be navigating for Baloo on this run, that she and Baloo needed to do something important together in Macadamia.  Then she had asked if he would mind watching Molly while they were gone.  Rebecca going somewhere for a week and leaving Molly behind?  The whole thing smelled as fishy as the harbor on a calm day.

            “Are you okay, Papa Bear?”

            “I feel fine, Kit.  And I’ll feel even finer once I get back.  Just eager ta get gone is all.”

            Baloo, eager to get started on a job?  Something was definitely up.  The big bear was nervous about something.  He was doing a really good job of hiding it, but Kit wasn’t fooled.

            “You sure there’s nothing you want to talk to me about?”

            “Heh, hey, Li’l Britches, like Becky said, we’ll tell ya all about it when we get back.”

            By the look on Kit’s face it was apparent that he was not satisfied by the answers he was getting. It was equally apparent that neither one of the adults in his life was going to be any more forthcoming about what was going on.

            Fishsticks, Kit thought to himself.  “Well then, I guess I should get Molly back home.  It’s almost time for Danger Woman.”

            “Danger Woman?”  It was her favorite radio program.

            Molly’s eyes lit up and she launched herself at Kit.  He caught her with an explosive exhalation of air as she managed to almost completely knock the breath out of him.  He laughed in spite of himself as he wrapped his arms around the golden-furred ball of energy.

            “Bye, Mommy.”  Molly waved with her right arm, her left firmly wrapped around Kit’s neck.  “Let’s go, Kit, it’s time for Danger Woman!”

            With another laugh Kit swung Molly back up on to his shoulders and started off, bouncing to mimic the canter of a horse.  Together he and Molly sang the Danger Woman theme song as they disappeared up the docks and out of sight.

            It warmed Rebecca’s heart to see Kit and Molly getting along so well.  She smiled as she thought of them.  It was nice for Molly to have someone to look up to, almost like an older brother.

            “Saved by Danger Woman,” Baloo laughed.  “Now there’s somethin’ I never thought I’d hear myself say.”

            Rebecca let out a sigh of relief and began organizing her station.  First she arranged all the navigational charts on a clipboard in the order in which they would be needed.  Next she pulled a preflight checklist out of her briefcase.  She attached it to its own clipboard.  This was followed by a green metal thermos and two white enamel coffee mugs.

            “If you pull a makeup kit out of there, I’m leavin’.”

            Hush!”

            The next things to come out of her seemingly bottomless briefcase were several pens.  She attached one each to the clipboards and slid a third into the breast pocket of her new flight jacket.

            Satisfied with her arrangements Rebecca picked up the clipboard that held the checklist.  Removing the pen from the board she held it poised over the list in one hand as she studied it.

            “Number one...”

            The Sea Duck’s engines cut Rebecca off as they roared to life.  She found herself being thrown back into her seat as the Sea Duck’s powerful engines launched the plane across Cape Suzette bay.

            Baloooooooooooooo...” she wailed.

 

           

            Far up the hill road a pair of cubs watched the bright, yellow, plane lift skyward.  Their heads slowly turned and tracked the Sea Duck as she banked towards the cleft in the sea cliffs that served as the gate to Cape Suzette’s harbor.  The engines screamed as the plane leveled and leapt forward.

            Kit shook his head.  Baloo was showboating.  Rebecca was getting one heck of a ride.  He just hoped she didn’t take too big a chunk out of Baloo for it.

            “Bye, Mommy,” Molly said in a very small voice.

            Looking up at the cub on his shoulders, Kit squeezed her hand and gave her a reassuring smile.  “Don’t worry, Molly, I’ll take care of you.”

            Molly rubbed her nose with the back of one paw.  She was not crying, but Kit suspected she was very close to it.  Mrs. Cunningham did not leave her behind very often, and it was obvious her doing so now had shaken the little girl.

            “How come Mommy and Baloo didn’t let us go with them?”

            “Wish I knew, kiddo.  They are both edgier than I can remember them being in a long time.”

            “Is something wrong, Kit?”

            “Nah,” Kit said fixing a smile on his face he did not feel inside.  “But we’d better get going or we’ll miss Danger Woman.”

            “Well, okay.” 

            Molly did not sound all that thrilled.  The sight of her mother truly leaving seemed to have cooled her interest in her favorite program.

            “Tell you what.  After Danger Woman we can play horsy.  I’ll even bump my head for you again.”

            Molly’s face brightened.  “Really?”

 

           

            “Uh... are ya still mad at me?”

            Silence.

            “Come on, Becky, it’s been almost two hours.”

            Rebecca continued to scowl out her window with her arms crossed angrily over her chest.  She had as much of her back facing Baloo as her seat would allow, but he could still tell she was scowling.  If the set of her shoulders had not been enough he could see her face reflected in the glass of her window.

            “I said I was sorry.”

            Silence.

            “How about if ya just kick me real hard in the shins, or maybe yank out a handful of fur from the location of your choice?”

            Rebecca had to concentrate on maintaining her scowl.  But her lips were struggling desperately to turn up at the edges.

            “How about if we work on yer flying lessons?” 

            The set of the Rebecca’s shoulders changed markedly and her head tilted to the side. That got her attention.  She glanced over her shoulder.

            “Are you serious?”

            “Never more so,” Baloo said, drawing a cross over his heart with his index finger.

            “Well... it depends.”

            “On what?”

            “Can I still kick you in the shins and yank out some fur later?”

            Baloo laughed.  “’Fraid not, lady.  Ya have ta choose.”

            Rebecca laughed as well.  “Too bad, I had already figured out where I wanted to get my handful of fur from.”

            Baloo gave her a curious look.  “Where?”

            “Never mind.  I’ve decided I want the flying lessons instead.”

            There was a clank as Baloo engaged the Sea Duck’s autopilot, a crowbar jammed under the control panel and over the steering yoke.  They swiftly traded seats, laughing as they did so.  It was at times like this that Baloo could see the similarities between Rebecca and Molly.  So eager, shining with a happy anticipation that went all the way to the depths of her eyes.  It made her look ten years younger.  Now, if he could just get her to be like this more often.

            Once Rebecca had settled into her seat Baloo kicked the crowbar free with his left foot.  It twirled end over end and he deftly caught it out of the air with one hand and slung it over the back of his seat in one swift motion.

            “Feelin’ like a pilot today, Beckers?”

            “You bet!”  If her eyes shone any more Baloo figured he could get rid of the Sea Duck’s headlamps.

            “Okay let’s go over the instruments, and what ya use ‘em for.  First, what is this?”  Baloo said pointing at an instrument on the Sea Duck’s dashboard.

            “That is the airspeed indicator, you use it to...”

            That went on for the better part of an hour.  Baloo would point at an instrument or control with a finger or a toe as he lounged in his seat.  Rebecca would call out its name and state its function.  Her answers were almost flawless.  Almost that is, except that for some unknown reason she referred to the prop pitch control knob as the “escalator”.

            “Not bad, Becky, not bad at all.”

            Rebecca puffed up with pride.  Baloo smiled ever so slightly as he studied her out of the corner of his eye.

            “That is if ya ignore one glarin’ error.”

            She reddened.  “I know I called it an escalator, but I did know what it was for.”

            “Nah, that’s not what I’m talkin’ about.”

            Rebecca looked confused.  “Then what?”

            “You still got yer hat on backwards.  Pilots wear ‘em with the bill in the front.”  With that he reached out and lifted up her hat and reversed it.

            “You mean I’m a pilot now?”

            “Well, let’s just say you’re on yer way.”

            “Then if you are sitting in the navigator’s seat, shouldn’t your hat be on backwards?”

            “Nah, the captain of the ship always wears his forward, even if someone else is pilotin’.”

            “Say, Baloo...”

            There was that tone again.  Baloo had a bad feeling about this.

            “Uh, yeah?”

            Rebecca twiddled her fingers on top of the steering yoke.  “I was just thinking...”
            Uh-oh.  About what?”

            “Well, we aren’t too far from Louie’s, and we were planning on stopping there to refuel.  I was wondering if you would let me try a landing?”

            Baloo’s stomach fell to somewhere around his ankles.  “I said ya were on yer way to bein’ a pilot.  I’m not sure you’re ready for landin’s yet.  They’re kinda on the tricky side.”

            “I’ve done landings before.  I just need more practice with them.”

            “But in my baby?”

            “Oh, grow up, Baloo.  Who is more important to you, me or your ‘baby’?”

            “Do I have ta answer that?”  Baloo’s voice cracked.

            Baloo!”

            “ Oh... oh... okay.”  He said, his voice heavy with resignation.

            “Goody!”

 

 

            “You know, Cuz, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a landing like that one before.”  Louie said to Baloo.

            “Come on, Louie.  Cut her some slack, will ya?”

            “Sixteen feet of dock, three rowboats, a launch, the mail plane, and a half dozen palm trees?”

            “She just needs a little more practice, that’s all.”

            Louie studied the scene of havoc in front of them.  His crew was busy trying to restore it to some semblance of order.  Several were trying to calm the airmail pilot and collect his scattered mail, others were trying to salvage whatever planks they could from the stretch of ruined pier.  Still others were cleaning up palm leaves and splintered wood from around the front of Louie’s Place.

            “Any more practice and I’ll be able to file for disaster relief!  But what I want to know is, how did she manage to tear up sixteen feet from the middle of the dock?”

            “Talent?”

            The look that Louie gave Baloo informed him that he did not find that last comment to be all that funny.  Baloo grinned nervously and shrugged his shoulders.

            “She did offer to pay for it.”

            “Ahh, don’t worry about it, Cuz.  I just glad you weren’t hurt.  It’s getting harder to replace good friends these days.”  He handed a very relieved bear a clipboard and pen.  “But you can sign for the fuel.”

            Accepting the board and pen from the orangutan Baloo scribbled his usual illegible signature and then handed them back.  Louie handed it to one of his ever-present chimp assistants who scurried off to the office to log the fuel purchase.

            “I’m just glad you’re bein’ such good sport about it all.”

            “No prob, Cuz.  I’m just curious what you two are doing on the road to Macadamia, and what would ever possessed you to let Rebecca do the flying?”

            “It’s a looong story, Louie.  I’ll tell ya about it some other time.”

            “Well, what’s a trip to Macadamia without at least one crash?  I remember the last time we....”

            “Baloo!”  Rebecca called, cutting him off.

            “Gotta go, Louie, boss lady’s callin’.”

            “Yeah, whatever.”

            Louie studied the back of the retreating bear.  Something was up.  That was the third time he had tried to find out what his best friend was up to, and that was the third time he had dodged the question.  That was not like him.  He was usually only this closemouthed if it involved treasure or a good-looking dame.  And even then he usually hinted at what he was up to.

            Whatever it was he hoped Baloo would not get himself into too much trouble.  Well at least Rebecca was along and she was usually pretty levelheaded.  She should be able to keep him from doing anything too crazy.

 

 

            The Sea Duck flew through azure sky that was broken only by an occasional feathery cloud.  Baloo watched small scattered islands slip beneath them.  They were the Archer Pellagos.  That meant that they were about halfway to Macadamia.

            “You aren’t disappointed in me, are you, Baloo?”

            That was pretty much the first sentence Rebecca had spoken since they had lifted off from Louie’s.  He had tried striking up a conversation with her a couple times since then, but she had pretty much replied with monosyllabic answers.  So he had let it slide and had just decided to enjoy the feeling that he got from flying.

            “Ummm, disappointed?  About what?”  he asked lazily.

            “About... about my landing.”

            “Nah, all pilots have their have their fair share of rough landin’s.  Besides, Louie’s crew were pretty much able ta fix the port pontoon, and I’m sure Wildcat will have a spare headlamp lyin’ around somewhere.”

            “Than you aren’t mad I crashed the Sea Duck?”

            Baloo laughed.  “That was no crash, lady.  I could tell ya about some real crashes.”

            “Then you will give me some more flying lessons?”

            “Well, uh...” Baloo thought fast.  “I think those had better wait until Wildcat has a chance ta do a real repair job on that pontoon.”

            “Than you are disappointed in my flying.”

            Rebecca looked truly crestfallen.  The way she held her lower lip look just like Molly when she was upset.

            “Nah,” he laughed. “Not in yer flyin’.  Now the explanation ya gave ta the kids before we left, that was truly disappointin’.”

            “What do you mean?”

            “I use to think ya had potential for creative lyin’.  Couldn’t ya have come up with somethin’ better than ‘it’s a secret’?”

            “Oh, and you were a lot of help.  You could have come up with some answers yourself you know.”

            “What, and steal your limelight?”

            “Fine, next time someone asks, you can come up with the answers!”

            “Ya got it, boss lady,” Baloo laughed.

            Apparently satisfied that her flying skills were no longer in question, Rebecca picked up her briefcase and reached inside.  This time she pulled out something that truly shocked Baloo.

            “What’s that?”

            “It’s a gun,” she told him, producing a box of ammunition for the revolver form her briefcase.

            “What for!”

            “Well, we’re spies now, so I thought we should have one, just in case.  It’s just like the one Sam Spaniel used in The Multi Falcons.”

            Removing a round from the box she tapped its base against the muzzle.  “Now how do you get the bullets to go down the barrel?”

            “Actually, Sam Spaniel didn’t use a gun in The Multi Falcons.  Yer thinkin’ of the Webby-Forcely his partner was shot with.  Besides what ya got there is a Colt-Scofield.  Sam Spaniel didn’t carry a gun.  He didn’t like them, and neither do I.  Now why don’t ya put it away?”

            Rebecca snorted. “You can be such a big baby sometimes.  All spies carry guns.”

            “Not ta make such a big deal out of it, Becky, but we ain’t really spies.  We are more what ya might call smugglers.”

            “Maybe they go in from the back?” she mused, as she examined the pistol to see if there was some door or latch she could open to insert the ammunition.

            Baloo sighed and shook his head.  If he was lucky she would not figure out that it was the kind that you had to tip the cylinder up to reload.

            “Vulps told us we’re suppose ta remain inconspicuous, remember, Becky?  Flashin’ a piece of heat around ain’t the most inconspicuous thing ya can do.”

            “Oh relax, Baloo.  We’re in the middle of nowhere.  There isn’t anybody around to see it.”

            The first burst of machine gunfire shattered the windshield on the starboard side and blew off their last remaining headlamp.  The second took out the radio and most of the Sea Duck’s flight instruments.

            Baloo yanked the Sea Duck’s control yoke up and to the left as his feet worked the rudder peddles frantically. The Sea Duck made an almost impossibly tight turn for a craft of her size.  Rebecca was thrown violently forward as six CT-37’s flashed passed them.

            Air Pirates!”  Baloo yelled.

            Must be gettin’ old, he thought as he corkscrewed the Sea Duck through the pirates’ next strafing run, lettin’ air pirates sneak up me like that!

            “Don’t worry, Becky, I’ll show these clowns a thing or two about flyin’.”

            More bullets whipped through the cockpit as Baloo made the Sea Duck dance.  More instruments blew, and he was splashed with Orange Fizzie as a lucky shot found his stash under the sun-visor.   But he managed to clip the tail of one of the pirate’s stubby bi-winged fighter planes and sent it spinning to the water below.

            Yahoo!  Did ya see that, Becky?  One down and five ta go.  Watch while I show ya how a real pilot can handle a plane!”

            No reply came form his navigator.  He turned and looked.  Becky was lying limp and still in her seat.

            “Becky?  Beckers?”  Baloo cried frantically.  “Honey, are ya okay?”

            Controlling the steering yoke with one hand he reached over and scooped up Rebecca’s limp form with his other.  It was then that he noticed the large red splotch spreading across the front of her flight jacket and seeping into its no longer white fleece collar.

            Oh God, no!

            “Don’t worry, honey, you’ll be all right,” he sobbed as he hugged her limp body to him.  “You’ll be fine, I promise.  I swear it!”

            There was no way he could take on five pirate fighters and tend to Rebecca.  Is she still breathing?  He thought he saw her eyelashes flutter, but he could not be sure.  He needed to get her help, and quickly.  It took him less than a second to make a decision.  Even pirate aid was better than no aid at all.  Wiggling the Sea Duck’s wings, signaling surrender, he began his descent.

 

 

End of Chapter 2

 

 

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