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Posted 16 July 2014
The Gaze: The Glass Goose
Story & art by Warren Hutch

Spontoon Archipelago, 1939
Story & art by Warren Hutch
© 2010 Warren Hutch


    The wary silence aboard the Glass Goose was finally broken by the sound of the radio coming to life, a thin, tinny voice speaking urgently from the headphones that dangled between the pilot and copilot's seats."SP P seven one three this is SS Palomino Bay. Come in, SP P seven one three. Repeat, this is Palomino Bay calling SP P seven one three. Do you read? Over."
    Loretta reached down to pick up the headset and microphone, putting them on as she leaned past Vanya to tune the reciever. "This is SP P seven one three. We read you Palomino Bay. Over."
    She grinned at her comrades and flipped a switch on the console, activating a speaker. A gruff voice could be heard coming from somewhere near the ship's radio operator. "... me the microphone, son. SP P seven one three, this is Captain Francis Herriman of the SS Palomino Bay. Do you require assistance? Over.

    Loretta looked out the windows at the seaplane's smoking engines with a sigh. "Thank you very much, Captain. Yeah, I think we could use a tow back to the service station, if you don't mind. Over."
    The voice replied over the speakers. "Mind? Young lady, that was probably the most amazing thing I've ever seen in my thirty years at sea. I think I speak for my crew in extending our heartfelt gratitude to everyone aboard that beautiful plane of yours. We'll be sending down a launch as soon as we've seen about this submarine you've dropped into our laps. Over.

    Loretta shared a grin with the others and spoke into the black plastic microphone trumpet around her neck.  "Take your time, Captain. We're not going anywhere, obviously. Over and out." 

    She pulled the headphones and microphone off and looked at her companions with a wry smile. She jerked a thumb over her shoulder as she patted Gwen's arm. "C'mon, Gwen. Lets go up and get those engines put out while we wait for our cab."

    After shutting everything down, Gwen and Loretta climbed up onto the wings and doused both engines with white foam from the fire extinguisher, emptying the dented copper canister out and tossing it into the sea. They were shortly joined by Dorothy, Jane, and Vanya, who clambered up to stand with the plane's owners on the broad platform of the wings and watch as the Palomino Bay cautiously brought itself around, wary of what the sub's next move might be. It was dead in the water, its tail section obviously smashed, but the anti-aircraft turrets still presented some danger. They watched as the periscope rose and looked around atop the long, black shape with it's undulating white serpent design. 

    Dorothy nodded to her self. "A better look is a good idea." 

    With that, she touched her fingertips to her glittering amulet and her eyes began to gleam. The black armored hull of Jormungandr became as thick fog, then faded to nothingness, revealing inner structure of the submarine clearly to her. 

    Inside, all was turmoil. A furious battle raged between haggard, sweat drenched wolves and equally bedraggled dogs in the midst of what seemed to be a general riot. The drab furred canines, chained by their collars to their work stations, were wrenching themselves free and running amok with whatever improvised weapons they could lay their hands on, overbearing through sheer force of numbers the wolves and burly dogs with spike collars who tried and failed to quell them with batons. She watched, both fascinated and horrified, as the submarine's enslaved crew turned on their masters and overseers, beating and biting with a mixture of rage and desperation etched on their faces. Many on both sides were left bloodied and lying insensate, particularly the dogs who's job it seemed was to police their kindred.

    As the tide turned against them, many wolves with a better sense of self-preservation surrendered, falling on their backs with their tails tucked between their legs, throwing themselves on the canines' mercy, which left the rebel dogs confused and amazed. 

    Only in the rear compartments of the submarine did the fighting gave way to frantic cooperation as both wolves and dogs struggled to close valves and patch gushing leaks in the hull. The rear compartments were flooded and sealed-off. 

     In the sub's small galley, a grey haired, rawboned female dog huddled between the stove and the icebox, her arms wrapped protectively around a hysterical canine girl with dark brown fur and a tangled shock of dark hair. The older female clutched a carving knife in her hand, bristling and baring fangs at a wounded wolf who clutched at a bleeding eye-socket and slumped against the bulkhead across from them. 

    On the bridge, a large, white-whiskered wolf officer lay pinned to the floor by a struggling scrum of wolf technicians, furiously snarling and biting. A younger officer with a pistol shoved in the belt of his coveralls leaned on the handles of the periscope, looking about grimly at the situation on the surface. Another wolf technician crouched next to a blood-splattered wolf sailor who clutched at the side of his head and sat slumped in the chair at the helmsman's station, alive but clearly in great pain. Two youthful wolf midshipmen, scarcely older than Vanya by the Dorothy's estimation, huddled in a corner by the banks of gauges and dials, too terrified to move. A battered, bloodied wolf crewman, made his way up the ladder into the conning tower and stumbled into the control room, panting for breath as he reported to situation below decks to his lupine crew mates. 

    With all eyes turned on him, the officer lowered the periscope and stood with a furrowed brow, deep conflict clearly written on his face. At a cautious nod from him, his crew mates pulled the older wolf to his feet and shoved him into a chair, where he glared venomously at the younger male, struggling in the hands of two of the burlier technicians while the two exchanged terse words.

    After a long hard stare in the senior wolf's blazing eyes, the young officer nodded and walked over to one of the consoles, taking up a microphone and speaking into it. Apparently he was on the intercom, because as his voice sounded through the ship, the turmoil settled down, with the dogs looking up with guarded hope as the few wolves still struggling slouched to their knees, defeated. With that, the officer hung up the intercom, saluted the wolves in the control room, and stepped up to the ladder, climbing upward toward the hatch at the top of the conning tower. 

    Dorothy allowed her vision to return to normal as he emerged from the hatch and climbed out onto the observation deck at the top of the black superstructure of the sub. With a grim set look on his face, the wolf unbuttoned his black coveralls and shrugged out of the upper half, letting the sleeves dangle down over his drooping tail as he stripped his sweat-stained white tee shirt off of broad, grey-furred shoulders. Grasping it by the sleeves, he began to wave it over his head, the harsh glare of the Pan Orient sun causing the garment to flash brightly. 

    At the sight of the wolves' surrender, an ecstatic cheer went up among the crew of the Glass Goose. Gwen threw her arms around Loretta, with Vanya soon joining them as they hopped up and down and squealed for joy. Jane turned to Dorothy and extended a hand, which the feline took and shook before being startled as the rabbit pulled her into a tight hug. 

    She spoke softly into the tabby's ear. "Once agin' y'all done good, Dorothy. Edison J. would be mighty proud of y'all..." 

    She leaned back and looked into the feline's brimming eyes as they shared a fond smile. 

    Soon the Palomino Bay came about and was brought alongside the stricken Jormungandr. Without further ado, a parley was struck.

    Captain Herriman was a barrel-chested, red-furred tabby clad in a lightweight suit and tie and a spotless white peaked cap. He was joined on the deck by an iron-grey furred terrier armed with a shotgun, while another hand manned a forward deck gun trained on the sub's conning tower. 

    The feline captain accepted a megaphone from his aide and shouted into it in Jardinais. "< Attention unknown vessel. I am Captain Francis N. Herriman of the SS Palomino Bay, registered freighter from the Spontoon Archipelago. Identify yourself.>" 

    The wolf officer drew himself up proudly, still stripped to the waist as he cupped his hands to his muzzle and replied. "<I am Beta Lieutenant Jurgen Viessberg, First Officer of the Imperial Steppeland experimental submersible varship Jormungandr.>" 

    The tabby nodded and replied. "<Just so, Lieutenant. Is your Captain unavailable for parley?>" 

    A pained look crossed the wolf's face. "<I have relieved Beta Captain Vorner of his command, in direct violation of Imperial Law and the Sacred Hierarchy. Please understand that I now bear no legal status or authority. I speak merely on behalf of my crew, so that I may preserve the lives of the vulfs aboard this vessel.>" 

    He cast a dark look downward. "< I assure you that vere Captain Vorner still in command, ve vould not be having this conversation, as ve vould have scuttled this boat and taken it to the bottom vith all hands.>" 

    Captain Herriman's broad brow furrowed and he spoke loudly into the megaphone. "<I understand. Do you require any assistance, Lieutenant?>" 

    The wolf nodded and cupped his palms to reply. "<Ve vill be ejecting our compliment of thralls, I trust you vill take them off our hands vhile ve vait for proper military vessels to arrive and accept our surrender.>" 

    The freighter captain cocked an eyebrow. After a moment's thought, he nodded gravely. "<Understood. We will be sending launches to receive them. The Sylvanian, Westinglish, and Rain Island navies have been contacted and are sending ships immediately.>" 

    The wolf nodded in satisfaction, and called back to him. "<That is satisfactory. Now if you vill pardon me, I must go below and confer vith the others.>" 

    Herriman gave him a long, searching look, then raised the megaphone once more. "<Very well. For what its worth, Lieutenant, I understand and respect the personal sacrifice you're making on your crew's behalf.>" 

    With that, he handed the megaphone off to his aide and gave a salute. The wolf remained impassive, giving a curt bow before turning and heading back below. 

    Not long afterward, the hatches opened up on the submarine's forward deck, and a procession of canines came out into the open air. They huddled on the heaving deck like a flock of drab birds in a rainstorm, their eyes blinking and squinting in the unaccustomed light, their fur filthy and matted, their brown coveralls stained in oil and blood. Some among them were wounded, and had to be helped by their fellows to stand. They watched in silence as ship's boats were lowered from the Palomino Bay.    A launch crewed by a pair of sailors and a petty officer approached the Glass Goose while its sister made its way across, and a tall, broad-shouldered cougar dressed in a peaked cap and blue-denim work clothes stood up next to the helmsman and waved to the gathering of females on the seaplane's roof. "Ahoy the seaplane. We're here to pick you up!" 

    Jane and Dorothy glanced at one another and shared a grin, as Gwen stepped forward and waved back. "Ahoy there! We're much obliged!" 

    With that, the five adventuress' made their way down the stricken plane's spine and climbed down into the doorway, waiting while the launch was brought alongside. The sailors helped them into the boat one by one, obviously pleased to be assisting a group of good-looking females. 

    Dorothy waited until she was the last aboard, accepting the cougar's hand with a warm smile as she stepped down and met his eyes. "It's a pleasure to finally meet you, Mister Jones." 

    The feline male looked puzzled. "If you don't mind my asking, ma'am, how is it that you know my name?" 

    Her eyes glittered as she gave his hand a squeeze. "I'm a friend of your wife's. She's really looking forward to seeing you. This is from her." 

    The tabby leaned forward and planted a kiss on his cheek, and murmured in his ear. "I'd be extra good to her when you get home if I were you, it's all thanks to her that you're able to." 

    A stunned look crossed the cougar's handsome face, followed by a wry look of understanding. "Yeah. I know all about how Huakela looks forward to things." He returned the warmth of her smile. "Don't worry, I don't need any extra reasons to be as good to her as I can be." 

    He helped steady her as she settled into her seat and sat himself down next to the pilot, jerking his head toward the Steppenwulf submarine.

    The longboat pulled up to Jormungandr alongside its sister boat, which was taking on wounded dogs, the sailors helping the stricken canines' brethren lower them gently into the boat. 

    As they raised a gangplank and secured the launch, Vanya stood up and waved to the rest of the dogs standing on the deck, calling out to them in Steppesprecht. A murmur of growing amazement and elation began to percolate through the ragged crowd of canines, as they began to surge forward, cries of "Vanya! Vanya!" on their lips. Almost quivering with excitement, the golden furred girl clambered up the gangplank and was among them before anyone on the boat could say a word to stop her. 

    At a cry from their midst, the crowd parted to allow the older female who'd been Jormungandr's cook to approach her. The grizzled she dog came forward, her legs shaking so much that the young, dark furred girl accompanying her had to struggle to support her. She caught Vanya as she leapt into her arms, her nub of a tail waving rapidly back and forth behind her. The older canine reached out and grasped the other young female around her shoulders, and crushed both girls to her chest, tears flowing freely down her face as she clenched her teeth in a grimace of profound emotion and rocked them back and forth. 

    When the older canine had recovered herself somewhat, she released her hold on Vanya after a brief exchange of Steppesprecht, allowing the young female to turn her attention to the other dogs who stood milling uncertainly about. She moved among them like a shaft of sunlight, embracing the weary refugees, clasping hands, and giving kind words and reassurances in Steppesprecht. 

    After a few minutes of this, Mr. Jones turned to the rest of the Glass Goose's crew with pursed lips. "Okay, this is all very heartwarming, but we really ought to hurry this up." 

    With a nod, Gwen called out to their young friend. "Vanya! Plenty of time for that on the ship! Have them choose who's gonna come and bring 'em aboard!" 

    The golden-furred canine gave a start and turned sheepishly to the others waiting on the launch, giving a smile and a bob of her head. After a brief consultation, the last few wounded dogs were brought down the gangplank along with the ship's cook and scullery maid, and the launch cast off for the Palomino Bay.


        The Gaze: The Glass Goose