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 TWENTY-TWO

 

“C’mon, ladies!” shouted Baloo. “Let’s go free the Cap’n!”

The pilot and the vixen were making their move away from the on-deck battle on the Prowler now at hand, but it was Rebecca who stood her ground, watching the Moltese Guardian Leader lead his men against the Air Pirates that gave a thrilling rush to her senses. Baloo looked back when he noticed that his employer wasn’t with them and saw her still standing there, watching in absolute awe like a sports spectator.

With a grunt, he returned, grabbed her by wrist and pulled her away from the scene, saying impatiently: “C’mon, Beck! This ain’t no pirate movie we’re watchin’!”

“Isn’t he dashing?” she sighed dreamily, not taking her eyes off Jordan .

Avoiding the fight between the Air Pirates and the Guardians of Molta, the three of them rushed past to head for the holding brig that housed Captain Hotspur. Karnage, fighting back some of the Guardians, who managed to spot them; panicked with rage.

 Stop them!!” he ordered his men. “They’re after the treasure!”

Running further down the deck, Baloo said to his companions: “I think we lost ‘em!”

But turning around a corner, their pathway was blocked by a medium-sized group of very mean-looking corsairs. The big pilot gulped and laughed nervously.

“Then again…”

“Heh-heh-heh,” laughed a scruffy-looking jackal pirate. “Looks like we caught a creampuff and two helpless dames!”

“Yeah,” one of them, an Afurkaner Wild Dog, added, “he’s pretty puffy alright!”

Incensed by that remark, Baloo balled up his huge fist and decked the cocky jackal clear off his feet, right overboard and sent him into the water below screaming.

He shouted before turning his attention to handle some more pirates: “Looks like the ‘creampuff’ jus’ creamed ya!”

“‘Helpless dames?’…” Rebecca said, raising an angry eyebrow at the Air Pirates that now surrounded her and the archaeologist. “Mister, you couldn’t be more wrong.”

 “C’mon, Tiny,” the Wild Dog pirate said patronizingly. “Make it easy on yourself.”

“You know, Katie…I never met so many stupid people in one day.”

“Yeah,” her friend agreed. “And ugly, too.”

The look on the pirates grew uglier than usual hearing that. One of them, a huge hulk of a bear, marched right up to the vixen and got right into her face.

“You oughta watch that tongue of yours, girlie, or it’s gonna get ripped clean right outta yer mouth,” he said slowly and menacingly. Katie returned with an unflinching stone cold glare right at him in defiance.

“Yeah!” encouraged one of them. “Teach ‘er how to behave, Bongo!”

As Bongo raised his fist, the vixen swiftly slammed an upper cut palm to the bruin’s chin then conducted a flying roundhouse kick at her opponent’s torso area that sent him hurling across the deck and crashing into some of his comrades.

“I know how to behave, Bongo,” she replied coolly.

Some pirates were backing the businesswoman right up against the nearest corner, with the Afurkaner Wild Dog leading them, but she refused to show any fear. Giving her a frightening leer, he hissed in his Afurkaner drawl: “Well, we’re not gonna be so nice with you, baby.”

Rebecca then noticed next to her was two rag-mops standing in an empty metal bucket. Thinking quickly, she grabbed one of the mops by the handle, gave a sweeping upward swing to one brigand’s chin that sent him backwards, slopped-whacked another very hard across the face then drove back the remainder with a few circular motions with the makeshift weapon defensively before finally thrusting the bristle end defensively at them, her eyes narrowed in determination.

Nobody puts ‘Baby’ in a corner, buster!

The marauders charged at the she-bear, who then ran with the mop and slammed the bristle end firmly on the deck, pole-vaulted upwards with a high battle cry but not letting go of the handle, made a mid-air leg split and the two taller pirates met the business end of her heels in their faces, knocking them down. Landing on the deck, Rebecca spun around to face the Wild Dog, who brandished out a gun that sounded off a deadly click. First she knocked the firearm out of his hand with the mop, who then proceeded to swipe at her but missed as she then spiralled downwards and under-kicked beneath his ankles that made him crash onto the deck, blacking out.

“And don’t call me ‘Tiny,’” she growled as she got to her feet.

Hoo-wee!” exclaimed Baloo who had his hands full with one pirate he placed in a headlock and easily slugging out a few pirates here and there, all the while watching in sincere admiration of the ladies’ martial prowess, in particular of his employer’s. “There’s nuthin’ like a gal that can cook an’ clean!”

Wasting no time, the she-bear hurried back to the bucket, took the other rag-mop and called out to the vixen: “Katie! CATCH!!

Tossing the mop towards her, the archaeologist saw it coming, snatched it in mid-air and quickly slammed it into the face of an oncoming attacker in full force, who fell back instantly.

“Thanks, Rebecca!”

Then came a grisly growl from behind her, which Katie turned cautiously and saw the return of Bongo, the pirate whom she had first taken out; only with two other bruin companions and all three of them were carrying very big clubs.

“Hey, girlie!” Bongo called out. “Meet my brothers, Mongo an’ Zongo.”

“Yeah,” said Mongo, standing on the left side. “An’ we’re gonna clean your clocks!”

Zongo only smacked his club firmly into his palm, punctuated with a grunt.

Katie and Rebecca, who had just joined the vixen; looked baffled at each other and mouthed the words: Mongo and Zongo?

The three bears surrounded the women and the two of them went back to back circling in a clockwise pattern, holding up their mops in defence.

“Great,” Katie commented disdainfully at their opponents. “From Cro-Magnon to Neanderthal. The evolutionary process takes a tumble down to Piltdown.”

Not knowing what any of those words meant, Bongo took it as an insult anyway, saying: “Ya got quite a hook there, babe…anybody ever mistaken you for a man?”

“No… how about you?

Mongo snarled darkly: “Dames or no dames, yer both gonna spit teeth!”

That reminds me, Rebecca thought, I’ve got to upgrade Hire for Higher’s dental insurance plan when I get home…

Zongo, on the right and definitely the dullest of the three, lunged first with his club at the she-bear, who in turn with a battle cry blocked the blow with her mop, then pivoted the handle bottom directly into the brigand’s stomach, causing him to double over in pain, then elbowed him in the left cheek and finally felled the giant with a bop on the head, knocking him out.

Twirling her own mop like a majorette’s baton, Katie took on the other two bears by clashing with Mongo’s club to the right and Bongo’s on the left. Mongo made another swipe at the vixen’s head that clipped her ear, making her yelp in pain. Growling, she twirled around, went backwards a bit and managed to get him right in the ribcage with the shaft, sent him crashing into the ship’s railing, then flipping over and plunging right into the sea. Bongo whipped around to face his opponent, but in doing so found himself getting a mouthful of the mop strings that Katie stuffed it with and rolled it around inside a few times before pulling it out with a popping sound, much to his chagrin.

“Hey!” he shouted, spitting out the foul-tasting strings. “No fair playin’ dirty!”

“Aw, shut up!” she sneered. “Your teeth needed a good brushing – not to mention getting rid of your bad breath!”
            Now consumed with rage, Bongo charged at her in full force. Katie ran towards him too, only she leapt about a few paces before the bear, sailed through the air and cleanly whacked him good and hard across the jaw with the mop, causing him to be knocked off his feet and knocking him backwards onto the deck where his head landed first, where he finally slipped into unconsciousness.

The redhead landed on her feet, turned and was pleased to see saw her opponent was defeated.

 As Master Yuen would say: “The harder they come, the harder they fall!”

“I never knew that mopping could be so much fun, Rebecca!”

The businesswoman grinned back at her. “Neither did I!”

Baloo had successfully ploughed his way through the last remaining Air Pirates on his watch easily with his huge fists until he grabbed one canine and readied to punch him straight into next week who then begged: “Y-y-yipe! Hold it, tubby! I-I-I was gonna hit ya, b-b-but I didn’t!!

The pilot just grinned maliciously, saying: “Fer that li’l courtesy, you get the biiiig prize!”

Picking him up with one hand, Baloo held up the pirate momentarily, hurled him like a football across the deck and the hapless canine landed buttocks-first into a nearby air-scoop ventilator, struggling hopelessly to get free.

The grey bear dusted his palms as he walked away. “Bulls-eye!! You’ve won yerself a butt-buffer!”

 As the last standing Air Pirate trembled in fear of the three before him, Baloo noted: “There’s the last one…either of you gals wanna handle him?”

“Nah, I’m good,” Katie said. “Rebecca?”

“Nope. Be our guest… Iron Paws.”

Iron Paws…I kinda like that name!

“With pleasure, Boss Lady,” the pilot smirked, loudly cracking his knuckles into one palm. The pirate immediately dropped his weapons and scampered off, howling for his mother.

“Ladies,” Baloo laughed boisterously, “we make a swell team!”

Rebecca jokingly made a face at him. “No, we don’t.”

“But, Rebecca and I do,” chuckled Katie, as they gave each other a high-five slap.

The grey bear looked around at the pile of unconscious pirates lying at their feet and then his face brightened.

 “Hey, strip these two guys down to their skivvies.”

His employer was shocked. What?!”

He winked at her as he took the fallen pirates’ weapons. “I got me an idea.”  

 

 

Ghal il Misser, Salib u Molta!!! For the Father, Cross and Molta!!!”

The clash between the Air Pirates and the Guardians grew fierce. Jordan and others were suddenly hunkered down behind some metal barrels after the pirates had found a new supply of bullets and began to fire at them, whose swords were no match for guns. They had managed to free some of the Prowler’s crewmembers that had joined them from behind the barrels for their protection.

“We’re just sitting ducks out here!” shouted the Prowler First Mate Troy to Amante over the whiz of bullets snapping above their heads and ricocheting off the barrels. “We must get to the arms locker!”

“How do we get there?!” Jordan yelled back, lying next to Amante.

“If you can provide cover for me and some of my men, we can get to that doorway into the ship and collect enough rifles to counter them!”

 “All right then! My men will block some of the pirates’ fire with our shields and barrels, while the others will accompany you with cover!”

 “Sounds good to me!”

“Okay! I’ll signal my men to block the pirates and get ready to move on my word! Amante – you’re going with them! Protect these men with your lives! It’s the only chance we have to save the Cache from these bounders!”

“Yes, Grand Leader!”

“On the count of four,” barked the Moltese to his shielded Guardians over the din, “you block and charge! Get as close to the pirates as best you can and for as long as possible – we will follow!”

Nodding their heads, he turned to Amante and Troy . “And you go when I tell you – no looking back!”

“Understood!” Troy responded and turned to instruct his own men.

“Get ready, men! On the count of three…one…two…three!

With a rise and a cry, the shielded Guardians ran forward with the ones pushing barrels, bullets bouncing off of metal and ricocheted sparks flying everywhere.

“Go-go-go!!” commanded Jordan , as Amante lead both the remaining Guardians and freed Prowler crewmembers across the deck.

Karnage saw the breakaway and shouted to his pirates: “Shoot at them, you ninnies!”

But his order came too late. By the time the first bullets approached them, Amante and Troy ’s team had already cleared past to the nearest doorway safely.

 

 

“Man, why does Khanny always gotta build his ships so gul-darned big?” muttered Baloo aloud. The three were now in the bowels of the Prowler and had sort of lost their way searching for the holding brig that kept Captain Hotspur hostage.

“It’s a Freudian thing,” said Katie, looking around with disdain. “You wouldn’t understand.”

“What’s fraud got to do with it?”

“I rest my case,” the vixen smirked to the she-bear, who was stifling a giggle over her pilot’s ignorance.

 “Hold it!” he hushed them then, backing up a bit around a corner. “I think we found the brig!”

The women peeked around the bend with Baloo and there stood two Air Pirates guarding the door.

 “Great,” whispered Rebecca. “Two of Karnage’s idiots – and armed. What’s your plan now, Baloo?”

Her pilot then presented the clothes of the two pirates they had overcome earlier on deck that he was carrying under his arm and said: “Suit up, ladies.”

The businesswoman and the archaeologist looked at each other uneasily at first, but they figured what he had in mind. Taking the clothes and putting them on over their own, Katie said quietly: “You think dressing up like pirates and relieving the guards will work?”

“If all else fails, we’ll go ta Plan ‘B’.”

“What’s Plan ‘B’?” asked Rebecca, zipping up a pirate’s jacket.

“How do I know? I’m jus’ makin’ this up as I go along.”

The she-bear just closed her eyes and sighed, continued dressing.

The vixen tucked her red locks under a flying cap and goggles, strapped on a holster and joked: “This is one thing they never taught me in archaeology. I’m going to have a long, long talk with my mentor after this is all over, provided I can find him.”

“Where is he now?” queried the she-bear.

“In Kneepal with his daughter, last I heard. Something about searching for an Ark of some kind.”

“You gals look rarin’ ta go. Ya ready?”

“Wait!” said Rebecca. “What about my hair?”

The pilot studied at her for a second and then promptly placed his treasured pilot’s hat on her head. She felt honoured and a little flushed, if not touched, by his gesture.

“Thanks, Baloo.”

“Jus’ don’ get it fulla bullet holes, Beckers, that’s all,” he advised with a smile.

“I…I promise.”

“Come on, you two,” prompted Katie a little hurriedly. “We can’t expect Jordan and his Guardians to hold off Don Karnage forever, unless help arrives on time!”

 “Let’s go,” whispered the grey pilot, “an’ act manly, ladies.”

The two guards saw Baloo with his hands held up high and being marched by gunpoint by the disguised women, his hands held up in the air in surrender.

 Halt! Who goes there?” asked the first guard, a dog.

Rebecca cleared her throat and lowered her octaves a few notches down, saying: “Uhm…we’re Roe and Wade, send to relieve you and place this prisoner with Captain Hotspur. Karnage’s orders!”

“I didn’t hear about being relieved at anytime,” asked the other, a scruffy-looking tabby with an eye patch.

 “Are you questioning the captain’s orders?” spoke the vixen in an equally gruff voice.

 “Of course…not,” replied the feline a bit nervously and then looked at them. “Say…how come I haven’t seen you guys before?”

“We’re…new recruits!” Rebecca explained. “Just joined you three weeks ago!”

“Yeah!” Katie added.

The dog eyed the archaeologist. “You look kinda different for a new recruit.”

Realising he was looking at her chest, the vixen responded: “I…I bench-press my own weight, buddy!” She accented this with a hork and spat on the deck soundly. “A lot!

Oh, brother, thought Baloo, trying very hard not roll his eyes in case it gave them away.

“And you sound real funny to me,” the cat guard addressed Rebecca.

She started to get very sweaty and nervous, so she coughed a few times and explained to her inquisitor: “I’ve been recovering from a bad cold, that’s all.”

The guards had looks on their faces that weren’t buying anything what was coming from this poor excuse of a Vaudeville act in front of them. Moving closer, both canine and feline pointed their weapons at them.

 “I think we’ve got ourselves a couple impostors here, matey,” said the dog.

Rebecca exhaled a resigned sigh and turned to the grey bear, saying in her normal voice: “Plan ‘B’?”

“Plan ‘B’??” repeated the cat.

“Plan ‘B,’” affirmed Baloo and the husky pilot very quickly took both guards by the heads, slammed both their skulls together, knocking them senseless and collapsing onto the floor in a heap.

That was your Plan ‘B’?” said Rebecca incredulously. “Knocking them out?!”

Baloo shrugged. “It worked, didn’t it? Now let’s tie up these two bozos an’ look fer the keys to that brig!”

 After a brief frisking, they found them on the feline pirate. While the women busily tied up the guards, Baloo promptly unlocked the brig door and greeted the prisoner inside with: “Cap’n Hotspur, I presume?”

“Baloo!” said the lion captain, rising to his feet. “What just happened out there?”

“Oh, jus’ yer average, ordinary rescue mission, sir.”

“Have we gotten help already?” Hotspur inquired, walking out.

“Not quite, Captain,” grunted the she-bear as she pulled her bound-and-gagged pirate into the brig. “We’ve got a small contingency of the Guardians of Molta fighting against Karnage up on deck, but we don’t know for how long.”

Hotspur looked confused. “The Guardians of what?

“We’ll explain everything later,” said the archaeologist impatiently as she hauled her own captive inside. “Right now, help us get these lugs into here. We’ve got to get the Cache before Karnage takes off with it!”  

 

 

 

Kit felt a little light-headed for a brief moment as he flew with Khan’s Elite Pilot Squadron towards the Prowler. He shook his head a bit and squeezed his eyelids tightly, trying hard to stay alert.

  “Are you feeling okay, Kit?” asked Melita worriedly.

“I’ll be alright…just a…little tired,” answered the young pilot carefully, avoiding the word “dizzy.”

“I warned you about flying with that nasty bump on your head…” Myra began to lecture him.

 “I said, I’ll be alright,” he repeated irritably. Jeez! Who is she, my mother?! Becky’s enough as it is!

“She was only concerned about you,” said the she-canine, touching his shoulder tenderly. “And so am I.”

Kit’s features softened after that and turned to his two friends. “I…I’m sorry,” he apologized. “I’m just worried about Baloo and Rebecca…I just want to get back to them, that’s all.”

Myra and Melita just looked at him.

“All right, all right!” he confessed with a laboured sigh. “I admit…I’m a little dizzy, too.”

“Fly lower then,” suggested Molly, sitting in the navigator’s seat. “That’s what Mom does whenever she starts feeling tired when she takes flying lessons from Baloo.”

“Okay, okay, I’ll drop a few altitudes then. We’ll make it to the Prowler in one piece, I promise.”

As the Sea Duck lowered a bit below the convoy, the squadron captain radioed the Con-Wing.

Sea Duck, is everything  alright? You seem to be lagging behind us, over.”

“All is fine, Captain. I’m just…conserving fuel. I had quite a dogfight on the way to the Swiftsure, you know, over.”

“Understood. I saw you flying out there and you’re good, Kit. If you ever get tired of flying cargo when you’re older….I’d like to have you fly with us. I can personally recommend you to Mister Khan on your behalf, over.”

 Kit smiled. “Thanks, Captain. I’ll take that into consideration. How much longer ‘til we reach the Prowler? Over.”

“Estimated time at our current speed: ten minutes. Over.”

           

 

 

 

First Mate Troy had unbolted the Prowler’s weapons storage room and was quickly distributing rifles and ammunition amongst his men. He offer one to the Moltese Guardian Amante, but flatly declined the firearm.

“No thank you, I prefer my sword – it’s a family heirloom.”

“Very well, suit yourself,” Troy responded as he passed the rifle to the next man and grabbed one for himself. As they exited the weapons storage and locked the door, the young lion thought: That guy is either incredibly crazy or incredibly brave…

Racing down the corridors to aid their comrades up on deck, the Prowler and Guardians’ team leaders after awhile collided into something that felt soft and heavy that went: “OOOF!!”

Picking themselves up from the deck, they both recognized the object they had literally ran into and exclaimed…

“Baloo!”

The Prowler First Mate saw the others in his company and along with his fellow sailors, snapped into a sharp salute. “C-captain! You’ve been freed! Thank goodness!”

“Save the courtesies for later, Troy ,” his commander dismissed with a wave of his hand. “Status report!”

“Sir, the Guardians of Molta have freed some of us and helped us in getting to the weapons storage room just now and we were prepared to take on the Air Pirates. We wait for your orders, sir!”

“Where does Khanny get his sailors from?” Baloo muttered. “Military surplus?”

Rebecca gave her pilot a sharp, warning jab to the stomach that silenced him while Captain Hotspur thought very quickly and gave his orders.

 “We’ll split into two teams. Troy, you lead seven from your detail and go to the upper left deck to take position and standby for my order to open fire. I’ll take the rest and have them head to the upper right – and remember, no one fires unless I say so. Understood?”

“Sir, yes, sir!”

“Baloo, Miss Cunningham, Doctor Dodd, you’re with me for your own protection. Guardians, we would very much appreciate your assistance with your own available weapons.”

“Fine with me, Captain,” said Amante.

“It’s yer ship. Lead the way, mon cappy-tan.”

“Agreed, Captain,” said Katie. “But we must hurry now – the Cache of Molta’s still out in the open!”

As they made their way to face the battle ahead, Hotspur asked the two bears: “Is she always this impatient?”

“Yep,” said the pilot.

“Absolutely,” Rebecca agreed.

“I heard that!” the vixen protested.

 

 

 

 

Fists flying and swords with battle shields clashing, the Air Pirates and Moltese Guardians were fully engaged in a knock-them-down, drawn-out brawl on the upper main deck of the Prowler. In the midst of it all, their leaders Jordan Ducina and Don Karnage regarded each other, almost seeing into the other’s mind.

Jordan could remember that day clearly on Isla de Alboran-over years ago…  

 

 

Don Karnage, formerly Don Juan Carlos; had lured the Guardians of Molta into invading and stopping the fascist Nationalists’ dastardly plan to attack the mainland Iberian Republic with an armed airship unlike ever seen or created – that would unfortunately be made up for with the bombing at Gernika much later on during their Civil War – but the mission to destroy it was all false.

He had been with his father, Gabriel Ducina, in the mission as a Guardian-in-training, merely a boy approaching manhood. He sensed something was wrong from the start. Although they had overcome the guards and construction workers that were building the airship, it seemed a bit easy to be able to take on lightly-armed soldiers and defenceless workers in that cavernous hideaway in the Sub-Mediterranean.

A bit too easy...

As they approached the airship that would become the dreaded Iron Vulture in order to destroy it, suddenly the “soldiers” that they had tied up behind them had gotten loose from their confines somehow and were right behind the Guardians when Carlos, a few steps ahead of them; shouted: “Okay, my men – fire!

“An ambush!!” someone yelled. “We’ve been betrayed!

Bullets screamed from behind, felling a few. Trying to find cover the best they could, the Guardians fought back; but they were pinned down by fire and to make matters worse, grenades were dropped upon the pockets of resistance. Jordan had been behind one particular party that got bombed upon, killing a handful and wounding him with pieces of shrapnel in his one of his legs. The youth fell down in agony, but nothing more agonizing than what he witnessed before him...

His father and Carlos were standing confrontationally at each other amidst the chaos about them. Angered by the betrayal from his most promising Guardian, the Grand Leader and the lupine traitor engaged in conversation.

“I’ve should have seen it coming all along, Don Juan – driven by greed and ambition,” shouted the Grand Leader. “Now you have become the very thing you swore to destroy!”

“Don’t be lecturing to me, Gabriel! I be seeing through the lies of the Guardians by holding me backwards! I do not have fearing from my own ambitions of what we could become – now I shall take it with my own men and myself! Join with me, Grand Leader, and we could become richer than richer men!”

Never! My allegiance is to the Order…to democracy! The very democracy that the Fascists are going to destroy! And we were once pirates before, if you remember, and we will not go back into that again!”

“If you are not with me, then you’re my enemy!”

“Only the truly evil deal in absolutes,” the elder Ducina sighed, shaking his head sadly and drawing his sword. “I will do what I must, Don Juan.”

“Don Juan?” said Carlos, grinning viciously as he drew his own cutlass. “Don Juan Carlos died alone in that sour gas-laden trench in abandonment years ago! I am now…um...Karnage! Don Karnage! With a ‘k’! Hey, that’s sounding pretty good there! I should write that down!”

“I’ll write it on your tombstone, traitor.”

“You will try.”

The two Guardians then got into a heated swordfight. Jordan struggled to crawl to the nearest weapon to help his father, but the pain in his leg made this task hopeless. The Grand Leader held himself defensively, but the younger ex-Guardian was much too quick. Catching a position down, Karnage used the hand guard to bash the Moltese canine’s muzzle, weakening him completely and then he delivered the mortal wound that sealed his fate, crumbling to the ground.

Jordan cried out as he saw his father fall down. “Papa!! Nooooo!!!”

Sheathing back his cutlass, Karnage sneered satisfactorily over the Grand Leader’s lifeless body, giving it a solid kick with his foot.

 “You always were such a foolish-type person, Gabriel, yes-no?” he said. Then turning to his men, the wolf raised his voice: “Men! Fall back! Fall back into the airship! We must skedaddly away from this place! There’s a whole new world for us to be a-plundering and the Guardians will be no more, si?”

Within a few minutes, the aerodrome snapped from its tethers and headed upwards into the sky hovering above through the open entrance, heavily dusting the emaciated Guardians of Molta. Karnage spoke from the external speakers that boomed into the ears of the survivors, especially that of the teary-eyed canine who managed to crawl over to his father: “Just a reminder that you don’t be forgetting me now, that this is Don Karnage addressing to you in my own marvellous voice! Just roll the ‘r,’  and put a ‘k’ in front of ‘carnage’ okee-dokee? Arriverderci, sciocchi!!

Sobbing, Jordan draped himself over his dead father, vowing angrily: No matter what, I will avenge you, Papa – even if it takes the rest of my life doing it!

“Oh, and one more little thingie,” Karnage added, “in casing that you are think about getting revenge on me, here’s a little souveniric assurance to take with you to your gravesites! Bwaa-ha-ha-ha!!!”

Looking up, the younger Ducina saw in horror the bomb bay doors open and saw a plethora of bombs spilling out of the airship. Screaming out to his surviving comrades to fall back, Jordan hobbled as quickly as he could out of the way despite the excruciating pain, reluctantly leaving his father’s corpse behind but taking his sword with him; as the projectiles slammed into the cave, shattering and showering rocks, dust and dirt everywhere, encasing him in darkness and debris that he and only ten other Guardians would live to tell about the betrayal at Isla de Alboran-over…

 

 

 

The pirate leader now brandished his cutlass and pointed it towards the current leader of the Guardians of Molta, which prompted him to follow suit. Coming together, they stood in a silent defensive stance until Karnage spoke: “You will soon be joining your father, young Ducina! I will personally see to it!”

Jordan just narrowed his eyes at his adversary. “You will try.”

With a flash of steel and swath of blades, a duel between the rivals was at hand. Both concentrating on their own and each others’ moves, the Moltese noticed that the wolf pirate leader had been a little out of practice with his swordsmanship and was now more of a “flash and brass” type of swordfighter, mainly for show and effect much like a stage actor with a prop weapon, taking advantage of his opponent’s inability to put up a real fight…

Two armed canine Air Pirates that were guarding the Cache of Molta nearby, watched the swordfight before them until they heard a seductive feminine whistle from behind them. Turning around, they saw a long, elegant and shapely bare leg sticking out from a corner with a hand above it and a finger temptingly beckoning them.

Completely losing what little common sense they possessed – and the fact they hadn’t seen a woman in over six months – the brigands were instantly seduced by the attractive appendage, dropped their weapons and blindly followed the hand, drooling and slobbering with anticipation as the leg retracted away.

Turning around that corner, they unexpectedly saw a whole bunch of stars explode in their heads and then drifted into complete unconsciousness with comical-looking expressions of bliss etched on their faces as they fell onto the deck.

“Now that’s what I call a leg ta fall for!” said Baloo, holding an empty and newly-dented sand bucket that he used to knock out the pirates with. “Thanks fer the use of the gam, Red!”

“Anytime,” Katie grinned, slipping on her sock and rolling her pant leg back down to her ankle. “The Cache’s ours again – and the box containing the Moltese Eagle’s still there!”

“Stupid men can be so typical, right, Captain?” Rebecca commented. When she got no response, she turned around and to her surprise saw that Captain Hotspur and the other men on his team were too still transfixed by the vixen’s recent exposed leg with their eyes glazed over.

Captain! Snap out of it!” the businesswoman barked, snapping her fingers repeatedly which brought them all back to their senses instantaneously. 

“Huh? Um, ah…sorry, Miss Cunningham,” Hotspur replied a little feloniously. “We…haven’t had shore leave for a while.”

“So I noticed,” she muttered. Men!   

Meanwhile, Karnage countered Jordan ’s blows upon his cutlass blade fiercely, deliberately allowing the Grand Leader to overtake him, to use his thirst for revenge to be his weakness and cloud his judgment, waiting for the moment to exploit it. Within under a short minute, the opportunity came.

As the Moltese made an upper stroke, the wolf pirate slashed him downwards from his chest to his abdomen. The Guardian leader cried out, dropping to the deck along with his sword and grabbing his wound. Thankfully, the cut wasn’t fatal but it did put him at Karnage’s mercy.

But that wasn’t going to happen...

Holding the cutlass over Jordan ’s head, he gave an evil grin; much like the one he showed when he had defeated his former leader.

“One Guardian shish-kabobby, coming right up!” he shouted gleefully, raising his sword.

Jordan crossed himself with his free hand, his soul prepared for the glistening blade to fall. Forgive me, Papa. I’ve failed you…

A shot rang out above the buccaneer’s head and suddenly felt his cutlass blade vibrate so violently from his hand that he let go and it fell onto the deck. Cradling his aching wrist, he looked up to see several armed men on the upper decks, rifles aimed upon him and his men. The multitude of clicking rifles filled the air, forcing everyone to stop fighting immediately.

“Hey, Karny!” bellowed a jovial voice. “Ya better quit while yer way behind!”

Baloo was with Rebecca, Katie, Captain Hotspur, two divisions of Khan’s crewmembers and Amante’s Guardian team, now standing around the remaining still-bound comrades and guarding the prized Cache of Molta, much to his utter dismay.

“Looks like yer out-manned, out-gunned an’ out-smarted again. Now why don’t ya surrender like a good li’l pirate an’ call it a day?”

The pirate leader just gnashed his teeth and quickly cocked his pistol that he whipped out from his holster, shouting: “Never! The pirates of Don Karnage do not retreat nor surrender to anyone! And besides,” he added, now pointing his gun at Jordan’s head who was still clutching at his chest wound, “I have this bargaining poker chip here to play with, yes-no?”

A thunderous roar from above then sounded off the forward bow and to his shock, Karnage saw Khan’s Elite Pilot Squadron bolt from the skies, approaching his still-crippled Iron Vulture.

“Squadron Captain to the Swiftsure! We have reached the Prowler and are in full view of the Air Pirates! We are waiting for your orders, Mister Khan, over!”

“Excellent, Captain,” acknowledged Khan over the captain’s speaker and then ordered coldly: “Get those pirates off my ship and out of my skies. Over.”

“With pleasure, sir! Captain, over and out!”

“Swiftsure, over and out.”

 Going into formation, the Elite Pilot Squadron Captain addressed his subordinates: “You heard the man, boys – let’s earn out pay. Sea Duck, you keep your distance and let us do our job, okay? Over.”

“By all means, Captain,” Kit replied.Sea Duck, over and out.”      

Half the squadron concentrated on the Iron Vulture, giving it a sound pummelling against the partially-operational aircraft who were hopelessly trying to defend themselves as best as they could, while a couple of fighter planes soared above the deck of the Prowler in a show of force, firing a few warning shots overhead of the Air Pirates. All that Karnage could do was just stand there dumbfounded with his mouth agape.

“Then again,” he said slowly, “retreat is not being such a bad idea at all…”

“Huh?” began Mad Dog, standing beside him. “But, Boss, I thought you just said –”

“Never mind what I just said, you pointed-headed idiot!” shouted the wolf leader in agitated panic. “Just do as I say! Hit the road! Scram! Run for your hides! Vamoose! Agitate the asphalt! Run away!”

As the remaining Air Pirates raced for their docked planes by the docking moor, the grey bear guffawed after them: “Bye-bye, Karny! Better luck next time!”

Karnage spun around to face his arch-nemesis briefly to say: “Believe me, Baloo, there will be a next time! Count on it!”

He theatrically jumped right over the railing, right into the cockpit of Mad Dog’s plane with the mangy pirate upfront at the controls, where him and the other brigands took off into the skies with the Iron Vulture tailing them away from the Elite Pilot Squad chasing them off. Everyone onboard cheered at the retreat of the Air Pirates, including on the Sea Duck where Myra hugged Molly and Melita embraced Kit still at the controls as he prepared to land the seaplane on the newly-liberated Prowler’s deck that was already clearing a pathway for him.

As Captain Hotspur and a couple of armed seamen and Guardians checked the artefacts of the Cache of Molta to see they were all accounted for, Katie joyously embraced Baloo which he did in return.

 “We did it, Baloo! We beat them! The Cache of Molta is safe once more!”

“Ha-ha! Sure did, Red!” Then he remembered his boss. “Say, where is Beckers?”

“Looks like she got a friend to tend to right now,” she said grinning, seeing that Rebecca was already at Jordan’s side, cradling his head gently in her lap, and looking at him with adoring eyes and caressing his head; much to the large pilot’s chagrin.

 “Are you okay, Jordan ?” she cooed.

“I’ll live…you ladies are certainly brave enough to stand up to the Air Pirates in a fight, Rebecca. You remind me of my sister and my wife.”

The she-bear turned pale. “W-w-wife?”

“Yes. My wife, Bianca. We’re also expecting a baby soon.”

A wife and a baby, too?

Rebecca threw up her arms in exasperation and got up to her feet, unwittingly causing Jordan ’s head to slip away from her lap and drop right onto the deck with a resounding thud. Still unaware of what she had done, she just kept waking away from the wounded Grand Leader of the Guardians while Baloo tried very hard not to laugh at her embarrassment.

Why are all the good ones always taken?!” she bitterly complained aloud.

Kit landed the Sea Duck on the deck, coming to a halt before the ship’s air hangar doorway. The pilot’s side door swung wide open and out jumped down the navigator, with Baloo, Rebecca and Katie rushing towards the boy who staggered and holding his head.

“Papa Bear! Becky!” he cried out with tears coming down his face as the three bears embraced each other tightly. “Thank goodness you’re both alright!”

“Li’l Britches, ya crazy ol’ ace, you! You feelin’ alright, son?”

“Never been better,” Kit answered, before a sudden dizzy spell made him keel over in the huge pilot’s arms, “although…I could…take a nap right about…now…”

“Whoa there, Kit-boy,” said the grey bear worriedly. “Ya got one nasty bump on yer noggin. Better let someone take a good look at it.”

“That’s what I’ve tried to tell him, Baloo,” said Myra , limping a little with a bandaged calf; leaning on Melita in support. “But he’s much too reckless – just like you.”

“Myra!” he said, giving both the vixen and she-canine a careful group embrace, then taking a good look at the petite archaeologist’s bedraggled appearance. “Man oh man, what happened to the other guy?”

The Aridian just grinned. “Oh, I took a piece of him. And if you’re lucky, you just might find it somewhere onboard.”

Baloo grinned back uneasily. “Uh…I’ll just take an l’il ol’ rain-check, if ya don’t mind, ‘kay?”

Melita then broke away from the three and rushed over to her brother’s side surrounded by the other Guardians including his second-in-command, Amante. Seeing the worried Dame, the ship’s doctor was already attending to him among the other wounded crew, Guardians and left-behind pirates being collected for triage. 

“He’ll be alright,” assured the lynx medic. “It’s just a flesh wound. But we’ll get him to sick bay soon.”
            “An’ count this one in too,” said Baloo, carrying the half-conscious Kit in his arms and placing him down next to the Grand Leader. “He’s got a mild concussion.”

Jordan managed to reach out a hand to the young bear in an offer to shake it in which he did so. “So, you’re the famous Kit Cloudkicker. My sister’s told me a lot about you. I just wanted…” he grimaced a bit before continuing, “…to say thank you for saving my sister’s life.”

“Well,” the navigator began, “I really can’t take all the credit…”

“Yeah, what about me? I helped too!”

Rebecca turned to the voice. “Molly?!”

“Mom!” The she-bear cub charged right into her mother’s arms.

“Molly Elizabeth Cunningham, what are you doing here? How did you get here?! What do you mean you helped?” Her mother sniffed her for a moment before concluding: “And why do you smell like Barbeque Luau Night at Louie’s, young lady?”

Realizing that there was a very serous tone in her mother’s voice, Molly knew she was in really big trouble right now. “Okay…you see, Mom, it’s a long, long story…”

 

 

 

A disagreement had erupted in the Prowler’s sick bay, where Jordan had been stitched up and bandaged around his abdomen while Kit was given a mild sedative and bed rest for his concussion, the Moltese and the redheaded vixen debated over the ownership of the ancient artefacts.

What? Give up the Cache of Molta?” Katie raised her voice. “You can’t be serious!

Shhh – don’t wake up the whole dormitory,” said the doctor who was still tending to the back of the Grand Leader’s head which had a huge bump, thanks to Rebecca.

 “Historically, the Cache is the sole property of our ancestors,” Jordan explained. “And being the sole heirs and former protectors of Molta, we have a duty and obligation to return the property to the people that were once under our care and had abused that trust. We just want to make amends for what we had done, Doctor Dodd.”

“Jordy does have a valid point there, Red,” Baloo agreed.

“I sympathize, Baloo. I really and truly do, but I got permission from the colonial government of Molta to excavate and study for my university, not for the Guardians! Not to mention the fact that Khan Industries bankrolled for this particular venture itself!”

“Most observant, Doctor Dodd.”

Katie nearly jumped out of her fur as she turned to the voice’s owner behind her.

“M-mister Khan! What are you doing here?!”

“Man, I hate it when he sneaks up on ya like that,” muttered Baloo.

“Young lady, one such as I does not operate one of the world’s leading corporations by just sitting around in my office all day long, contrary to any popular rumours that have been said about me. One must move about. Besides, I had some business dealings in Roma, not to mention that I was promoting my latest military equipment for a trade show en route as you can see for yourself,” the tiger said, gesturing to the aircraft carrier Swiftsure now situated alongside the Prowler out the nearby window.

“Figgers,” the pilot muttered again, not hiding his disgust or even noticing that his employer was trying to silence him with a hard glare.

Coming up to the vixen, the powerful tycoon continued: “And I always keep an eye on my investments, Doctor. Now…there isn’t going to be a problem with the claim over the Cache of Molta…” he accentuated the point by holding up one palm nonchalantly with the unsheathing of his razor-sharp talons making a thick air-cutting schwick in an intimidating manner, “…is there?”

Seizing the moment, Rebecca intervened. “Wait a minute, Mister Khan, Katie, everybody…I’d like to suggest some solutions to this problem, if you don’t mind. Do you have a private room where we can discuss this?”

Khan raised a curious eyebrow at Rebecca’s take-charge stance with surprised interest. He’d learned from personal experience in the past not to underestimate her or her pilot, and the fact that her tone was respectful didn’t hurt either.

“As a matter of fact, I do. I am willing to hear your suggestions, Miss Cunningham.”

“So would I,” Jordan added.

Seeing she was outvoted two-to-one, Katie sighed. “Okay, me too.”

 

 

 

As the Prowler and Swiftsure sailed for Molta’s Main Harbour along with the Guardians’ trawlers tailing them, Baloo awaited anxiously along with Molly, Myra , Melita and Amante outside the impromptu conference room where Rebecca, Katie, Shere Khan and Jordan were hammering out the details over the Cache of Molta.

“Will you please stop pacing, Baloo?” said Myra , now wearing her replacement glasses. “You’re about to wear out the deck.”

“It’s been almost four hours. I’ve had shorter waits at the doctor’s office than this. How long does it hafta take to compromise over a coupla priceless trinkets?”

“In our case, we’ve waited centuries,” Amante said to him with Melita nodding in agreement. “I’m pretty sure that your employer can negotiate a reasonable agreement between all parties concerned.”

“Yeah, don’t worry about Mom, Baloo,” added Molly. “She can talk her way into almost anything. You know her.”

“Aw, yer probably right there, Cupcake. Even ol’ Beckers probably could talk Cap’n Ahab outta whalin’.” The pilot paused for a moment then stared at the door, he continued: “I jus’ wish I knew what was goin’ on in there…”

 Inside the conference room, the tough negotiations were coming to a close.

“Give up the Moltese Eagle?!” said Katie. “Forget it! That’s a major find!”

“I must fully concede with the good doctor on this one,” Khan added. “It would be the major attraction for any future travelling exhibit, not to mention the insurance coverage is worth millions on Khan Banking’s part.”

“The Moltese Eagle is very…personal to the Guardians,” Jordan stated flatly. “It’s a reminder to the Order over broken promises…and how to keep them, as we have vowed to do.”

“Look, the ceremonial throne of the Grand Leader and half of the three hundred rare silver plates I’m willing to part with, but not the Eagle! That’s simply out of the question – period!” Katie emphatically banged her fist on the negotiating table.

The Grand Leader of the Guardians was about to protest again when mediator Rebecca stepped in, calmly raising both hands. Khan’s trusted secretary Mrs. Snarly was madly taking down everything on a stenograph machine in order to write out the final agreement later on for the involving parties to sign with fingers flying; suddenly she jerked her head up at the interruption.

“Hold it, hold it, hold it. Let me offer a solution here, people, if I may. I suggest that the Moltese Eagle be returned – ”

“Rebecca!!” Katie protested.

But the businesswoman gave the vixen a hard glance, silencing her; then continued: “– that the Moltese Eagle be returned after the Cache of Molta has completed its travelling exhibit, including the ceremonial throne. When the artefacts have been examined, catalogued and toured, all the contents can be returned in trust to the people of Molta.”

The vixen considered it for a moment and said with a little reluctance: “That… sounds fair to me.”

“I believe the Order and I can agree to that as well,” said Jordan .

“There’s only one thing that I don’t like about it, Miss Cunningham,” commented Khan, strumming his fingers together in syncopation.

 The others looked at the business magnate in unnerving silence.

“W-w-what’s that, Mister Khan?” Rebecca asked tentatively.

“That I didn’t think of it first,” he replied, a brief smile crossing his deadpan features.

The businesswoman wanted to sigh with relief, but feeling she’d lose the moment she managed to keep her composure and merely said: “Thank you.”

Another thirty minutes passed, the conference room door finally opened with the she-bear and vixen beaming along with the others who were exiting out the room, except for Khan’s customary stoic demeanour.

“Well, didja do it, Becky?” said her pilot anxiously. “Didja cut a deal?”

“We have come to an agreement,” the business tycoon announced from behind her, “that the Cache of Molta is under the joint care of Khan Industries and the World Archaeological Society for a seven-year mandate, to which in turn will be returned to Molta after the findings are catalogued and toured.”

“Wow, guys! That’s fantastic!” Baloo said, hugging Rebecca that she returned in kind.

“Thank you, Rebecca!” said Melita also giving her a hug, while Amante crossed himself in gratitude.

“You’re quite welcome, all of you.”

“Well, all well that end’s well, huh?” Baloo yawned then and proceeded to head down the corridor. “I’m gonna get me some well-earned shuteye. Nighty-night, y’all.”  

“What?” snorted Rebecca in sarcastic surprise, “I’d thought you’d be getting something to eat first before anything else, Fly Boy.”

“Hmm…come ta think ‘bout it, that’s a mighty good idea there, Beckers. Anybody needs me, I’ll be in the mess hall havin’ a li’l ol’ midnight snack.”

“But, Baloo,” said Myra , pointing at her watch, “it’s only eight-thirty.”

The pilot just grinned. “Hey, why wait ‘til the last minute?”

The ladies chuckled as the pilot lumbered down the hallway, while the men just looked on in disbelief.

“How can that man eat after such a physically and emotionally taxing experience?” Amante asked.

“That’s our Baloo for you,” answered the petite vixen. “But believe me, his heart is a lot bigger than himself. I hope that never changes.”

Rebecca just shook her head and then turned to Molly. “And as for you, young lady…we have to talk about disobeying me.”

“Uhhh…” the she-bear cub began uneasily, “do we have to talk about that now, Mom?”

“Yes, we do,” said a hulking voice from behind them. Everybody turned to see that it was the ship’s head cook, Emil, looking at Molly with a jaundiced eye which made the little girl squirm uncomfortably. “About stealing from my galleys that should be addressed, ‘Phantom Nibbler’, not to mention being a stowaway on the ship.”

“Hey, Melita was a stowaway, too!”

“Yeah, but at least I lived on my own rations in my sack.”

“With your permission,” Emil said, “I have perfect solution to work her passage.”

“And what might that be?” Rebecca asked.

“She will be my temporary kitchen help until we dock into harbour, starting immediately, sir and madam.”

“A most wise suggestion. Do you agree, Miss Cunningham?”

“Sounds fair to me, Mister Khan. Better get to work, Molly.”

“Mom! But I’m a heroine…right?”

“Trust me…your punishment here will be easy compared to what you’re going to be facing when we get home, ‘heroine’.”

“Isn’t there some child labour laws that could be violated here, Mother?” Molly begged desperately. “And I think it is way past my bedtime, right?”

“Don’t worry, Miss Cunningham,” said the hefty golden retriever, taking the she-bear cub’s hand firmly but gently. “I will work her hard, but treat her fair. Now, let’s go, ‘Phantom Nibbler’…since you like mine cooking so much – which I do most appreciate, yes – we’d be having about ten pounds of potatoes and carrots to peel, two pounds of garlic to crush and dozens of kitchen utensils to scrub sparkly clean. And when you’re done all that, little one, I give you real hard stuff to do....”

As she was dragged off to the ship’s galley, all Molly could do was to look back at the others helplessly and squeak in horror, much to their amused schadenfreude: “Help…

Khan chuckled lightly, then turned to the ladies and Moltese Guardians, asking: “I do realize that you’ve all had a most trying day to say the least, but I very much would like to see the Moltese Eagle.”

“And we, the Guardians of Molta, would like to come see it too,” Jordan added. “After all, we haven’t seen it in almost two centuries and it did belong to us first.”

Fatigued as she was, Katie wasn’t about to argue with anyone. “I don’t see why not. If you’ll follow me, gentlemen, it is right in the secured holding area we’ve placed.”  

 

 

A few minutes later, all seven of them were in one of the Prowler’s secured storage rooms where there were two armed guards both inside and outside the door and corridor. The red-haired vixen carefully unpackaged the bird statuette and gently placed it on the display table for all to see. While the Guardians gasped in awe, genuflected before the sacred idol and murmured reverent praises, the tiger captain of industry remained emotionless as usual, except for a momentarily raised eyebrow in interest.

“Hmmm, yes…most impressive. Congratulations on its hard-earned recovery, Doctor Dodd, Doctor Foxworthy.”

Katie uncharacteristically blushed. “Th-thank you, sir.”

“I was wondering if we could take a look inside the Eagle?”

Rebecca and Katie’s hearts skipped an uncomfortable beat as they looked at each other. And out the corner of the tall vixen’s eye, she swore she could see the same look on the faces of Jordan, Melita and Amante as well. Did they, too, know the secret of the Moltese Eagle as well?

All she could say was: “S-s-sir?...”

“I’ve heard stories that the Moltese Eagle contained an important parchment inside a hidden compartment within. Would it be possible to view it through the ship’s x-ray machine, Doctor Dodd?”

Oh, no! Rebecca thought in horror. The scroll!

“Doctor?” asked Khan just a little impatiently when all he got from her was silence. “Would it be possible?”

Katie didn’t know what to do. She wanted to protect the idol’s secrets inside, but on the other hand she was bound by contract to allow Khan unlimited access to the recovery of the Cache. Her stomach churned at the thought of him learning about the scroll, the possible location of the Holy Grail and the ramifications that could follow if it fell into his hands. She obviously had no choice.

“Yes, Mister Khan. It’s…quite possible.”

“Excellent. Let’s take it over to sick bay, shall we?”

“Yes, sir,” she responded as she placed the Eagle inside the box, trying to hide her reluctance. After escorting the prized statuette under armed guard to sick bay, Rebecca quietly voiced her concerns to her friend who looked very worried, almost ill.

“Katie,” she whispered. “If he finds that scroll…”

“I know, Rebecca…” the archaeologist whispered back. “I…I don’t know what to say…I could delay deciphering the map for years, perhaps…” Her voice faded away with uncertainty.

The medical assistants in the sick bay carefully placed the Moltese Eagle in front of the x-ray screen and prepared to activate the apparatus, while the others looked on from the lead-lined protective shield they stood behind. The she-bear nervously twiddled her thumbs, wondering what would happen next.

As the screen brightened on the subject before them, the tall vixen gave a quick gasp that she stifled it so the others couldn’t hear it in time. The businesswoman looked at the screen as well, just as amazed.

“Odd…” Khan frowned. “It’s empty.”

He was right. The image shown on the x-ray screen revealed the narrow-hollowed cavity of the statuette as clear as day, but only to show the cylindrical compartment to be void of any object placed inside.

“It…it is!” Katie breathed, genuinely surprised, while Rebecca remained speechless.

“Any theories here, Doctor Dodd?”

“I-I don’t know, Mister Khan. Perhaps it was a container, a funerary urn, a certain design by its creator. Just…another unsolved mystery for the ages, I guess.”

The business mogul turned to the three Guardians. “Anything to add to this, Grand Leader Ducina? Miss Ducina? Commander Amante?”

Exhausted by the events of the day and also puzzled by the empty Moltese Eagle, all that the leader could say was: “Sorry, Mister Khan…I have nothing from our history or intelligence that could possibly explain this.”

The she-canine and the raccoon only shrugged in response as well.

“Hmmm, yes…” the tiger conceded, rubbing his chin in thought. “Yes. Yes, I suppose that mystery will be left for the ages as you say, Doctor. Very well then, I imagine that you are all anxious to retire for the day, so I will allow it. Ensign, escort the two gentlemen to their quarters.”

“Yessir!” said a nearby sailor.

He will allow it?” repeated the auburn vixen disbelievingly to the she-bear in a low tone, while Melita affectionately hugged her brother goodnight before the ensign guided the two men away to their own room.

“Welcome to the world of Khan Industries, sister. Your time is his time.” 

“Good night, ladies, gentlemen,” Khan politely nodded to others, then walked out of the x-ray room.

As the women left sick bay and walked down the corridor to the VIP staterooms, Melita questioned, “So where am I going to sleep?”   

“You can bunk with me, Melita, while Katie can still share the same room with Rebecca,” said Myra . “I’d like to talk to you more about the history of the Guardians. It could be quite useful to us with our studies, that is,” she looked back at her friends with mock-sternness, “if you two can tolerate each others’ company until we get back to port.”

“Hey, I can put up with another night of her snoring,” Rebecca grinned at the vixen.

Katie smirked in return. “And I can live her hogging the bathroom longer than me. You two go on ahead. Rebecca and I have some things to…discuss in private.”

“I don’t hog the bathroom that much!” the businesswoman mildly protested, then questioned: “Do I?...”

“Thanks, Myra,” said the she-canine as they continued onwards to the stateroom, “but…I didn’t bring a nightgown with me.”

“Don’t worry, dear. I should have a pajama top for you to wear that should fit you nicely. Hope you like wearing Victorian swirl prints!”

When Myra and Melita were out of earshot, Rebecca and Katie heaved both a collective but silent sigh of relief as the vixen commented: “Well, that was a close shave back there. I don’t know whether to be relieved or concerned…the parchment…how could Khan have known? And what in heaven’s name happened to it?”

“Right now, Katie, I’m so exhausted I can’t even think straight. All I want right now is a nice, long hot shower, a cup of tea and a good night’s sleep.”

“Sounds good to me as well,” agreed the redhead warily. “Maybe we should sleep on it. So, shall we,” mimicking Shere Khan’s patrician baritone, “retire for the day, madam?”

“Indubitably, dah-ling,” Rebecca gestured with a rolling wrist, both chortling over their own silliness. Placing one arm around each others’ shoulders, they marched off in the direction of their shared cabin. As they did so, the she-bear then sniffed the air about her and said: “Strange…why does this corridor smell like my bath oil?”                                               

                                 End of Part Twenty-Two

 

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