TALE SPIN: SUB-MEDITERRANEAN SEAWRECK BALOO

Fan-fiction story by jb

Disclaimer: The following story is based on the television series, characters and situations created by Jymn Magon & Mark Zaslove, Tale Spin © 1990, 1991 Walt Disney Company/Buena Vista Television. Fan-fiction story and non-Tale Spin characters are creations of the author and may not be used without permission. This is a work of fan-fiction using characters and property of the Walt Disney Company without consent and for non-profit use.

   

                                                    PART THIRTEEN

             

In the S.S. Prowler’s galley, the ship’s chefs worked on making breakfast for its two hundred crewmembers and passengers. The hefty golden retriever head cook, Emil, who wore a ponytail underneath his regulatory netting cap, prepared the captain’s table menu of scrambled eggs sprinkling a portion of shredded cheddar cheese on top, was distracted for a moment by a kitchen helper going over the details of the luncheon menu.  

Returning back to his task, Emil discovered much to his shock that a big scoop had been taken out of the scrambled eggs with the ladle in the tray. Looking around, he saw no one else carrying a plate of eggs. The cook then could have sworn he saw a pair of hands quickly swipe two hot biscuits from another holding tray out the corner of his eye.  

The retriever gritted his teeth. So…the ‘Phantom Nibbler’ makes a bold morning raid!           

Discreetly using a series of hand signals to some nearby staff that were near the galley exits, he ordered them closed quietly.  

“Look alive, sailors!” Emil announced in a thick Eastern Zooropean accent, after the doors were locked and menacingly holding two meat cleavers in each hand. “The ‘Phantom Nibbler’ is back!! Spread out and find him! He’s not going to get away from us this time!”  

The galley crew began the search for the elusive thief, looking through all the nooks and crannies that would be a hiding spot for the next two minutes, until they heard a large clattering sound coming from the far left corner of the kitchen. Rushing over to the commotion, they found a pile of steel holding trays, utensils and such sprawled all over the floor.  

Not mine clean utensils!” Emil bellowed.  

They thought they heard a scurry of feet running on the floor from behind them, but upon turning around saw no one there. Then they heard a door lock being unbolted and an exit door swing open, to which Emil shouted: “He’s escaping! After him!”  

Two kitchen helpers, a panther and a bobcat, hurried to the open door and rushed out into the connecting corridor, only to find a small contingent of sailors wondering what the noise was all about that would make their comrades charge out of the galley like that.  

“Did you see anyone run out of here?” asked the panting bobcat. A series of ‘no’s,’ ‘uh-uh’s,’ shrugs and head shakes were their only responses. Looking at each other with defeated expressions, the kitchen helpers slowly went back to tell Emil the bad news while some silent guffaws and snickers filled the corridor by the crew members knowing that the ‘Phantom Nibbler’ – which was making quite a reputation all over the gunship – had eluded capture once again.

 

 

The male bears’ V.I.P. stateroom door opened with Baloo stepping out into the corridor with a yawn and placing his hat on his head. He turned to hear Rebecca’s stateroom door open and walking out was the brunette she-bear herself, dressed in a black rayon blouse with a colourful tropical flower print, the same khaki shorts she wore the day before in Velveeta and her hair done up in a modest bun with a ponytail strand trailing behind.  

“‘Mornin’ there, Becky.”  

“Oh, good morning, Baloo,” she responded pleasantly. She looked a little bleary-eyed, but cheerful.  

“So, uh…how was yer slumber party last night?”  

“Oh, pretty good. Best fun I’ve had in awhile. Where’s Kit?”  

“Aw, ya know kids at his age,” he chuckled, “spendin’ the last ten minutes jus’ ta fix-up one strand o’ hair on his head before he looks good.”  

“Ba-loo!” protested the navigator’s voice from the stateroom.  

“Ah, those were the days,” replied Rebecca, rolling her eyes. “Before long, it’ll be Molly’s turn to be doing the same thing.”  

“Heh-heh – that’s gotta be nothin’, compared to you havin’ ta share the same bathroom with two other gals.”  

“Hmm,” agreed the businesswoman, remembering this morning’s chaos in her stateroom with the vixen archaeologists. “Good point.”  

Although the small talk between them was friendly enough on the surface, but deep down inside each other held back just one thought: What was last night on deck all about? Did something really happen to us…or was it just one of those crazy things?  

“Good morning, everyone,” said Myra in her usual bright mood and khaki attire as she came out. “All set for breakfast?”  

“An’ how!” replied Baloo boisterously, patting his stomach. “The ‘Big Guy’s’ ready ta do some serious eatin’!’  

“I’m surprised with that appetite, the ship’s food stocks haven’t been fully depleted already,” the she-bear quipped.  

“I can relate,” the Aridian laughed, remembering the first time she met the pilot when he visited her country. Baloo was about to retort to this banter, when Kit finally joined the others, wearing a light blue shirt and holding his cap in one hand while smoothing down his hair with the other.  

“Sorry I’m late…are we all here?”  

“All ‘cept Katie, Li’l Britches.”  

“Katie’s right here, Baloo,” she said, sounding rather agitated, tucking in her khaki shirt into her pants. “No need to get all impatient.”  

“What s’matter, Red? Ya look all worked up.”  

“I’m fine, really,” she answered with a strained attempt at a smile. “I just haven’t had my first two cups of morning coffee yet. Let’s hit the mess hall – I’ m pretty sure that the captain will be waiting for us there with some update on the dredging so far.”  

The pilot regarded the archaeologist with concern. If he didn’t know any better, he thought she sounded like the Katie Dodd he remembered in Ghaphia – snippy, brusque and ardent. Even though she did look beautiful when she was angry, he preferred the current version even more. Or maybe it was just one of those “women’s problems” his father had warned him about when he was Kit’s age.  

As they made their way to breakfast, Baloo hoped that the vixen got her caffeine fix soon. Hopefully, a gallon o’ java should be enough…  

 

           

By mid-morning, the September Weed had broken the surface as the hydraulic lifts worked their long, arduous task in dredging up the wreckage. In the operations room, the archaeologists and Higher for Hire team surveyed the scene with anticipation, except for Baloo, who had nodded off in boredom about an hour or so ago, lightly snoozing away on the room’s sofa.  

Captain Hotspur, in attendance with the others; looked amazingly at the sleeping bruin. This was the ace pilot that had defeated the Air Pirates several months ago at the Master Route – through cognizance by the media, the report on the incident from Khan Industries and by sheer reputation – plus saving his vessel, crew and himself from sailing into a deathtrap; was now aboard his ship and…well, he just couldn’t believe the person he was seeing before him.  

“Does he always fall asleep like that?” he asked, turning to Rebecca.  

“Constantly,” she sighed, clasping her hand over her eyes in embarrassment. Oh, how can that bear fall asleep at a time like this? He’d sleep through a tropical storm, I’d bet that much…oh, yeah – he did once.  

“That reminds me,” said Katie, peering through her horn-rimmed spectacles that gave her the somewhat odd and nebbish appearance of an average public librarian than that of a world-renowned archaeologist, “I hope I didn’t bother you with any my snoring last night, Rebecca.”  

“Oh, that’s okay. I’m used to snoring from Baloo all the time.”

“Really now?”  the tall vixen grinned with a knowingly raised eyebrow.  

The she-bear folded her arms across her chest and smirked back, as if she could read her thoughts.  

“Get your mind out of the gutter, sister…I mean, he likes to take naps all the time, especially during working hours.”  

“Aww, I think he looks cute, sleeping there like that,” Myra said with real feeling.  

Myra …how can you overlook such shortcomings in someone like…that?” Rebecca finished by pointing to the pilot.  

“The great thirteenth-century Purrsian poet Sa’di wrote: ‘Whoever is aware of his own failing, will not find fault in the failings of others.’ Baloo reminds of Sa’di’s words and I’ve always lived by that.”

 

The businesswoman looked at her employee again and thought about that. The pilot never did made a habit of judging people on the surface, something that she had to wean herself from doing. Perhaps this was what made people – and certain ladies – take a liking to him almost instantly. It made sense. And admittedly, it worked on her, too.  

“Never mind,” she said, changing the subject and turning to the head archaeologist. “Will searching through the September Weed become a problem?”  

“Hopefully, not at all. I do expect some considerable damage by the explosion and the time spent underwater on the ship, but the vaults should remain unharmed.”  

Poring over the map of the sunken ship on a large table, Katie pointed out the direction of the vault area and tracing the route with a gloved finger, she continued her guidance: “According to the proximity of the way the ship’s being lifted, we should be able to walk on it while the lifts’ locking mechanisms underneath secure the September Weed on the surface. Then, we go down two decks of stairs and I should be able to remember the combination numbers to the locks. If all go well, the artefacts should be dry and intact.”  

“And if they’re not?” asked Kit.  

Katie’s expression darkened. “Then, I’m really going to be beside myself.”  

“I’m sure it’ll be okay, Kit. Let’s not dwell on it, right?” Rebecca said, giving Kit a meaningful look, to which he responded:  

“Uh…yeah, sure. Sure it will, Katie.”  

“I hope you’re right, guys,” she said brightening up a little. “I’m pretty sure.” And the sooner we get rid of that ship, she thought nervously, the better!  

 

 

The onlookers on deck saw the underwater hydraulic lift do its operation in wonder but not so much as Kit did. Seeing the model version in Khan’s office back in Cape Suzette didn’t do it much justice in comparing the real-life thing that gave appreciation to its inventor Buzz, despite his eccentricities.  

It consisted of four two-storey tall yellow cylindrical towers – the two frontal towers already attached to the Prowler – with the Khan Industries logo on each one, detachable railing platforms connecting to one another all around in the mid-section. On top of each tower were the hydraulic cable coils that were hauling up the September Weed with the elevator platforms supporting the shipwreck underneath as was explained earlier and on the water level were circular bases that held four massive pontoons on each side.  

“Some sight, eh, Kit?” said Baloo, who had recently woke up from his nap upon hearing the news that the dredging was nearly over.  

“I knew Buzz was a genius, Papa Bear, but this is like…wow.”  

“‘Wow’ ain’t big enough a word, L’il Britches. Ain’t big enough a word,” the aviator said, placing a gentle arm around the navigator.   

Katie, naturally, couldn’t contain her excitement as the September Weed’s second deck finally emerged from the sea surface. From the looks of the ship, time underwater had not been very kind to it. Disbelief was on the expedition team’s faces as the corroded and blast-damaged metal, plant life, barnacles and rust glimmered in the sunlight.           

Slowly but surely, the ship finally locked under the lift’s securing mechanisms, giving a very loud clunk to keep the ship above the surface. The hedgehog engineer checked the controls that flickered a cautionary amber light, then a reassuring green.  

“The locks are secure,” said the engineer. “The ship is at above reasonable level.”  

Cheers rose from everyone on board, except from the tall vixen.  

“Alright, alright! Save the celebrations until we get to the vault!” she exclaimed impatiently. “Let’s go!”  

Grabbing a rucksack, Katie quickly paced herself toward the widened gangplank that connected the Prowler to the September Weed. Baloo tentatively asked as they followed her to the resurrected vessel: “Um, Red…don’cha think we oughta make sure the ship is safe enough ta walk on?”  

“Baloo’s right, Katie,” agreed Rebecca. “That ship doesn’t look at all that stable...”  

“Nonsense!” replied the archaeologist stubbornly, walking along the gangplank as she prepared to place her foot on the ship’s deck. “Sure, it’s a little worse for wear, but I’m confident the structure is just fine!”

But as she said that, Katie’s weight gave way to a weakened part of the deck and collapsed underneath her feet, causing her to shriek. Luckily, Baloo was close behind her to grab her wrists and stop her from falling any further.  

“Gotcha!”  

Dangling over some sharp, twisted objects that were exposed to the light in that dark hole, Katie reassessed the situation.  

“Then again…” she conceded quite sheepishly. “A careful safety check wouldn’t be amiss!”  This is so embarrassing…  

Man, thought the flier as he carefully pulled the archaeologist from out of the hole, this gal oughta go on a diet!  

 

 

The safety check conducted by Khan’s structural experts took about forty-five minutes which agonized Katie immensely. I really ought to maintain some kind of patience, she thought. If Baloo hadn’t been there…  

To the relief of everyone, especially the headstrong vixen, the expedition team proceeded to enter the lower docks. Using the ship’s map, Katie guided the team toward the waterlogged corridors and stairwells. Carrying flashlights and trailing a very long rope behind them, the members began to hear many creaking and dripping noises, making them nervous.  

Among the mangled mess that surrounded them, Rebecca commented: “Humph…the last time I saw something this dark, dank and noisy was when I watched Baloo snoring loudly last week.”  

“Very funny, Becky. Ya oughta be in the funnies section.”  

“Oh, is that where you got your pilot’s licence from…or out of a cereal box?”  

“Probably from the same brand ya got yer so-called MBA from,” the grey bear snorted.  

“Now, look you –!”  

Myra turned to Kit and asked, “Are they always like this?”  

“Oh, yeah,” the adolescent moaned.  

“Would you both knock it off?!! said Katie sharply. “It’s hard enough to concentrate in this damp and dangerous environment without you two playing a live broadcast Flibber McGee and Dolly!”  

The two bears looked ashamedly at each other.  

“You’re right, Katie…I’m sorry, Baloo. I…I was just nervous,” Rebecca apologized.  

“This place is kind of giving me the willies.”  

“Aww, ferget about it, Beckers. Why don’t we just help out Katie here an’ get the job done, ‘kay?”  

Rebecca gave a small smile. It amazed – even touched her sometimes – that Baloo could be counted on by being the pragmatist, even under pressure.  

“Okay.”  

“This is all very touching,” Katie said tightly, “but can we please get a move on here?”  

“Lead the way,” the pilot said.  

As they continued, the businesswoman whispered to Baloo: “Is she always this bossy?”

“Only when she hot on the trail of somethin’ big, Becky. It’s like she’s almost possessed an’ like.”  

“Well, she really needs to control that temper of hers. I can’t stand people like that!”  

“Oh, yeah,” he responded, rolling his eyes. “I know whatcha mean.”  

Finally reaching the vault, Katie turned to the others.  

“Now…I want complete and total silence while I’m working on these locks,” she announced, glancing at both the adult bears. “All I want from everyone is to aim your flashlights on the ship’s vault. Not a single peep out of anybody until I’m done.”  

Squatting over the sediment and sludge built over the years on the deck, the redheaded archaeologist carefully studied the lock with her glasses briefly, hooked her fingers and stretched the arms outward making a cracking sound, and carefully began to twist and turn the combination dial.  

Suspense built up in the damp marine air as Katie continued on the combination numbers, pausing every now and then. Minutes passed and finally a click was made. A faint sign of hope came upon her face, that it encouraged Baloo enough to end the sanctioned silence.  

“Um…didja…get it right, Katie?”  

“I think so…” she sighed, rising from her haunches, removing her glasses and turning to her companions. “It has been awhile since I remembered all of this. Baloo, give me a hand here, please.”  

The grey bear lumbered over to the vault lock wheel, standing next to her.  

“Now move the wheel to the left.”  

Baloo then placed his right hand over his chest and muttered: “I pledge allegiance…”  

“What are you doing?!” she asked in astonishment at his strange behaviour.  

“Sorry…it’s how I tell my left from right.”  

“Okay, okay,” she said impatiently, rolling her eyes and sighing deeply. “Just move the wheel to the left!”  

With Katie on one side and Baloo on the other, they both grunted to turn the wheel counter-clockwise.  

“It ain’t movin’!” grunted the huge pilot through his gritted teeth.  

“Keep pushing! It’s got to give!” It’s got to!!!

 With a heave and a ho, the tightened wheel started to lose its grip.  

“It’s working!” exclaimed Kit excitedly.  

The wheel made several revolutions before the loud clicks indicated the door was complete unlocked. Hearts racing with anticipation, the vixen pulled the door open carefully. Everyone held their breaths and aimed their flashlights into the darkened hold. Both Katie’s and Baloo’s eyes were wide as saucers as they saw a slight disarray of crates and boxes, but still intact and dry.  

“The artefacts…they’re all here – and in perfect condition.” stated Katie happily. “The Cache of Molta is safe!”  

Everyone in the party cheered.  

After a few seconds the expedition leader settled her team down. “Alright now, the Cache is safe and so are we for the time being. Once we get some proper lighting in here, we have to work real fast while the lifts can keep the September Weed suspended. Let’s get every able hand to help us haul all of this away onto the Prowler, pronto!”  

 

As the crew began to install a temporary lighting system on the resurrected derelict, Katie momentarily took a brief detour to the secured first lower deck alone. Memories of her extremely miniscule time onboard the cargo ship before the Air Pirate raid came back to her as he toured through the dank, corroded and burnt-up corridor with her flashlight as her source of illumination.  

She came upon a door and stared at it briefly. Her heart thumping fitfully, she pulled out a key from her shirt pocket. She couldn’t believe she had kept it after all this time, believing she’d never set foot on the September Weed ever again. But here she was, eight years after its sinking, standing in front of the same door now.  

The vixen pushed the key into the lock and daintily turned it. She heard a click, turned the door knob and after giving it a slight push, opened the door. What she saw gave her a mix of disbelief, yet not too surprised feeling either.  

They were modest-looking living quarters with a small bunk bed in one corner, a small closet and desk in another. Everything was a total shambles and sodden with seawater and silt. Slowly Katie walked about, looking at everything in deep, respected silence. She then began to pull out the desk drawers, finding nothing but more silt, seaweed and an occasional dead fish.  

Moving toward what looked something like luggage; she unlocked the case of one water-damaged brown suitcase, seeing a mess of saturated clothing and other effects, looking like it could never be useful. She sighed heavily and closed the suitcase.  

Then she walked over to the closet, opening it quickly, only to step back when a small gush of water spilled out onto the floor. Then she saw it: a huge notebook bound with a strap attached to the cover. The archaeologist undid the strap and opened the book gingerly.  

It was just as she expected. Anything that could be considered writing and some things that looked like illustrations and sketches were totally illegible and washed away on the pages that she tenderly turned, finding nothing worth saving. A total ruin.  

Her eyes started to mist over as she thought: It’s all gone. Really, in a way I should be relieved about it, but…why does it make me so sad?...  

“Katie?...”  

The tall vixen gasped and nearly jumped out of her skin upon hearing the voice from behind her. Turning around, she saw the voice’s owner standing in the doorway. It was Rebecca.  

“You scared me!!”  

“Sorry about that, but just wanted you to know that we should have the lighting up in about a minute or two from now. Then we can start salvaging the Cache onto the Prowler.”  

“Oh…thank you.”  

The she-bear then walked into the room toward the archaeologist, looking around. “Katie, what is this…all about?”  

“Oh…this used to be my stateroom when I was onboard the Weed escorting the findings to the University of Lasagne . Just…remembering….seeing what I could find.”  

“Anything worth saving?”  

“Well, my favourite wool sweater is shot, that’s for sure.” She forced a chuckle.  

“No…there’s nothing for me in this room worth salvaging anymore. I don’t know why I came in here, Rebecca.”  

“Never hurts to satisfy your curiosity,” the businesswoman said philosophically.  

“Then again, there are some things you just can’t go back to – even if you want to,” Katie responded with a hint of conclusion in her voice, tossing the useless notebook into the closet, closed it and joined Rebecca as the two ladies left the room. “Come on …let’s get busy with what’s really important here.”

           

             

The temporary lighting system down to the vault worked with satisfactory results, allowing whatever available sailors of the Prowler, along with the expedition team, to promptly but carefully remove the Cache of Molta contents back aboard the battle cruiser with ease.  

Checking off their inventory list, both archaeologists oversaw the removal one by one. There was a mixture of relief, happiness and nervousness on Katie’s face. After all these years, the Cache was back in the right hands. The guilt in having to lose it all to save it from the Air Pirates had been a deep emotional and career blow for her and she saw all of this, as a personal redemption.  

But now a new anxiety snuck into her conscience, knowing what she had to do to prevent it from coming into Karnage’s hands. Once the rest of the artefacts were on the Prowler and some on the Sea Duck, they could deep-sea dump this rust-bucket phantom of her memory and then carry on with her life, she hoped.  

Baloo was about to pick up a small-sized box next to her, when Katie suddenly shouted:  

NO!! Don’t move that yet, Baloo! Wait until the rest of these other boxes are onboard.”  

The pilot was puzzled by her behaviour, but shrugged it off. “’Kay, yer the boss.”  

“Here,” she gestured to a medium-size crate nearby. “Take that box over there instead.”  

Doing as he was told, Baloo discovered how heavy it was.  

“Ho-lee jeez! What’s in here – the Guardians’ steel-belted athletic supporters?!!”  

“Close,” answered Myra nonchalantly. “It’s forty Guardian shields neatly packed together.”  

Swell,” winced the pilot, as he staggered out of the vault, just as Kit walked right in.  

“There’d better be a major bonus fer this job so I can pay fer my hernia operation!”  

Courage, Papa Bear!” the navigator jokingly called out after him. Turning his attentions to Katie, he said: “Uh…I was just wondering, Katie…I was looking about this ship and saw this great big hole though the forward deck…”  

“Oh…really?” she said, feeling her mouth go dry.  

“Yeah…and from what I saw the hole pierced about two decks below to the engine room.”  

“And?…”  

“Looking at the damage done, the holes look like they were going down instead of up, not to mention the logic of sinking a ship loaded with loads of loot on board. That’s not the Karnage I know –”  

“What exactly is your point, Kit?”  

“Well, you said the Air Pirates blew up the ship and I was thinking…they were on board for only a few minutes, but they seemed to know exactly were the engine was…”  

“Look, young man!” said Katie pointedly. “I studied archaeology, not criminology or forensic science! And right now, I’m more concerned with getting this stuff out of here! Maybe we can play detective on the mystery sinking of the September Weed some other time, but I’d rather see you busy yourself  now with boxes, please!  

Kit was annoyed at Katie’s reaction and for her ordering him around. But she was a client and this wasn’t the time or place for a confrontation.  

“Yes, ma’am,” he answered, taking a hold of another medium-sized box and making his way upstairs without another word, fuming under his cap.  

“Hey…you didn’t have to snap the boy’s head off like that, Katie,” said Myra . “He’s just inquisitive.  I don’t think he’s trying to accuse you of anything.”  

Katie’s hardened features softened.  

“You’re…you’re right, Myra . Please…tell Kit I’m sorry, alright?”  

“Sure…not a problem.”  

As her assistant headed up to the top, the redheaded vixen sighed and thought: That boy is quite sharp for his age…I’ll explain everything to the others once this expedition is over…I’m pretty sure they can keep a secret...  

A really big secret…  

   

                                                End of Part Thirteen

 

 

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