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Katie MacArran
-by John Urie-

A Spontoon Island Story
By John Urie

Part One.
On Your Marks...

Chapter 58

What neither Striper McKenna, nor any of Katie’s other lieutenants could have expected was the harsh treatment awaiting Shang Li-Sung.   Ji Su-King was in for a rough time of it; that went pretty much without saying.

It had been only by the thinnest of whiskers that he'd been taken alive.  When the two guards had burst in through the door of Katie’s house, the black cat had immediately done a fast draw for his belt -- and the phial of cyanide concealed within.  Had he still possessed a right paw, he would have gotten to it in time.  But, as such was no longer the case did, he’d been forced to make the grab with the other one...and in those few, awkward seconds, the sentries had been able to knock it from his grasp.

Ji was then hustled off to thenumber two storage shed and then the guard-house, where his wounds were crudely sealed with hot tar.  Shortly thereafter, sentries had been observed fetching to the guardhouse, the same items that had been brought for the benefit of Le Ho-Chang -- including an extra case of soda pop.

Only this time, it wasn’t merely for show...as Katie had taken no small pleasure in pointing out the black cat, just before he was hauled away.  “We had to go easy on Le in order to flush you out, Ji..” she had nickered in a voice of low menace, “But YOU’RE not needed for that purpose.”

The cat had responded by spitting in her face.

“You will be reamed out and roasted alive for this, one-blue-eye cunt.” he’d hissed, “You dare not touch me, I am of the S...”

That was when Katie had driven the butt of her sword into his gut.

“That’s enough out of you, I think.” she’d said, wiping her face with the back of her hoof, and then turning to the guard nearest her, “Gag him.” she’d said, and feline’s jaws were duly cinched around a piece of bamboo.  That was when Katie had grabbed the cat and pulled him close, whispering vitriol in his one, remaining ear...softly, so that only he could hear her.

“I know you’re a Snakehead, Ji....and I also know what’s supposed to happen to anyone who touches a member of your lodge.  But what YOU don’t know is that I don’t give a flying lizard’s ass...and even if I did, it’s too late, anyway.  What do you think happened to Chu Lung Kuo, a nasty fall?”

With that, she’d thrown him to the floor and neighed a sharp order to the guards.

“Get Shang Li-Sung in here...now!”

“I am here, Your Grace.” the red panda had answered, stepping into the room with a look of palpable relief on his face, a look that instantly vanished when Katie rounded on him.

“That’s Mistress to you!” she’d snapped, and an expression of profound shock had come over every face in the room.  ‘Mistress’ was a term for ones superiors utilized by servants, not trusted lieutenants.

“Take this filth to the number two storage shed,” she’d said, jabbing an angry finger at the prostrate Ji, “then take him to the guard house and have his wounds dressed.  I don’t want him dying on us...yet.”

“Yes, Your...uh, Mistress.” Shang had said, clasping his paws and bowing.

Katie had immediately stepped forward and swept the red panda’s feet out from under him with her sword-scabbard..

“From now on,” She’d hissed, “whenever you enter or exit my presence...you kowtow!”

“Yes, Mistress.” Shang had responded, prostrating himself before her as ordered...while everyone else made haste to avoid her gaze.

And that was to be only the beginning of the red panda tribulations.  No sooner had Ji been deposited in his cell than a message had arrived from ‘the Mistress’, summoning her security chief back to the big house.

What followed was not an interview, but an inquisition.

“And when did it first occur to you that something was wrong at Ji’s?” Katie was asking, expressionless as the Sphinx.  She was seated in her big, wicker chair, on the veranda of her house clad in black silk pants and a bright, cadmium yellow blouse, a long, bamboo rod clocking back and forth in her grip, with slow, metronomic precision.  To the Striper, and Drigo, who were also present, her mode of garb meant nothing.  Shang, on the other hoof, knew that not so long ago in China, cadmium yellow had been a color reserved only for royalty...specifically, the hated Manchu Dynasty.  His employer’s blouse was both a calculated insult, and a harsh reminder of her superior station in the mine.

“I first became suspicious when Quan told me that Ji had no more of your pain medication available, and needed to prepare some more.”  He was standing before her, straight as a plumbline, arms pressed tightly to his sides, “‘Why?’, I wondered.  Why wouldn’t he have prepared enough to last for several days?  He must have known that you would be requiring it for at least that long.”

Katie stood up rapidly, her one blue eye blazing like a gas jet.

“But you didn’t know it had any significance at the time, did you Shang?  You were uneasy, but you didn’t bother to explore your suspicions...much less act on them.  It didn’t actually occur to you until AFTER Ji tried to poison me that he should have had more of my medicine prepared...did it?”

“No Mistress.” the red panda answered, humbly bowing his head.

“And it also didn’t occur to you,” the pinto mare neighed angrily, “that the spymaster, whom you were already fully aware was a poisoner, might go well beyond merely spreading a rumour in order to cover his escape.”

“N-No, Mistress.” Shang replied, his head dropping even further.

“Uh, Senorita Duchessa,” Drigo started to say, and was instantly cut off as Katie wheeled on him.

“You can go, Drigo. ”

Por favor...

“You too, Striper...now.”

“Yes, Mistress.” the Tasmanian tiger replied, his voice dripping with sarcasm.  It was mistake he instantly came to regret.  Katie wheeled on him like dervish, ears back, nose wrinkled, and all her teeth showing.


The Striper’s battered hat went immediately into his paws.

“Uhhhh, nothing Y’Grace.  S-Sorry

“That’s better.” said Katie, nodding, “Now both of you, back to work.”

The two of them were exchanging looks as they left the porch.  Katie watch them go, then returned her attention to Shang once again.  She began to move in slow circles around the red panda; a wolf searching for the best angle from which to attack a crippled deer.

“You knew the spymaster was clever, Shang.  You knew what he was capable of...but because he made one, just one slip up, you assumed that you were smarter than he was in ALL things...and that was why you let your guard down.  Isn’t that right?”



“Yes, Mistress.”

Katie abruptly stopped her circling, the bamboo rod snapping smartly against one thigh.
“And that’s also why you neglected to see that I was properly protected.  There should have been at least one guard stationed at my house, isn’t that also correct?”

“Yes, Mistress.”

A number of interminable, steely seconds followed, then Katie’s  voice became a soft purr.

“Which is why, if the Striper hadn’t been there with you, and a long rifle hadn’t been readily available, I’d be dead right now.  That’s also correct, isn’t it?”

“Yes...Mistress.”  The answer came as a long, deep sigh of resignation.

The bamboo rod slapped against Katie’s thigh a second time, and her voice rose up into shrill, irate, whinny.

“Take your shirt off and grab that support post!  Do it...now!”

Shang nodded dumbly and began to unbutton his shirt.  When he pulled it off, Katie saw several long scars, the legacy of knife fights with Shanghai felons, and one, shorter, but deeper  scar, just below the ribcage, the relic of an ancient gunshot wound.

He turned around and grabbed the post, bowing his head once more.  Katie nodded and raised the bamboo rod, held it for a second, then brought it down on Shang’s back with a nasty, whistling crack.

“You FAILED me, Shang!” she hissed.  The red panda grimaced, but made no sound. 

The rod whistled and cracked a second time.

“I’m only still alive, because of sheer, dumb luck.”

Another crack.

“Not because of any brilliance on your part!”


“By the way, did you know Ji’s gun...”


“...was loaded with bullets dipped in cyanide?”


“Which means he’d even so much as grazed me with one of them....”


“...I’d be six feet under right now.”


“Now, turn around!”

The red panda did as he was told.

“I should sack you right now, Shang.” Katie snarled, hurling the bamboo rod away, “I shoudl throw you out the front gate....and I would, except that I happen to need you at the moment.  Someone has to conduct a search of Ji Su-King’s shop and apartment, and then interrogate him.  Like it or not, there’s no one around here but you capable of performing those tasks.  So you are to either get your miserable ass over to Ji’s and get started right now, or be out the gate by sundown, I don’t care which.  Just make sure you’re out my sight by the time I count to ten.  One...two...three..."

He was gone in four seconds...and within five minutes, a furious Striper McKenna was pounding up the steps to Katie’s house and throwing open the door so hard, the knob went clear through the wall.

“I can’t yiffing believe you did that to...!”

That was as far as he got.

In front of him, Katie MacArran was laying, curled up on her couch, shivering and crying, her body intermittently convulsed by huge, racking sobs.  When she looked at the Tasmanian tiger, she no longer had one blue and one brown eye; both of them were red.

“Oh God,” she told him, slowly shaking her head, “I’ve never hated myself so much.”

“Huh?  Wha...?” the big marsupial stammered.  Somehow, his hat had found its way into his paws again.

Katie sat up, covering her eyes with her hooves.

“I HAD to do that, Striper...I had to.  It was the only way to give Shang back his face.  If I hadn’t punished him and punished him harshly, he would have had no choice but to force me to accept his resignation.”

The Striper reeled back as if he’d taken a hard right to the jaw.

“Y’mean all that was just for bloody show?”

Katie dropped her hooves and looked at him.

“No Striper...it wasn’t just for show; it was for Shang’s peace of mind.  Now that he feels he’s been properly punished, he can continue to serve here with no sense of shame.” She covered her face and sobbed again, “But...it had to be harsh...very harsh, or it wouldn’t have been enough.”

The Tasmanian tiger stared at her for a moment, then slowly shook his head.

“I swear...I work with these Chinese blokes day in, and day out, I speak their bloody language like I’ve been living with ‘em all me life...but I’ll never understand the way they think.”

“That,” Katie mused, silently, through her sniffles,”is because you’re not an aristocrat, Striper...or a female.  If you were, you would have had the concepts of manners and face drummed into you from the time you were out of nappies.”  There was a kerchief on the table next to the divan.  She took it blew her nose, hard.  Then she stood up from the sofa, dabbing her eyes with her fingertips, and went over to the big marsupial, taking his paws in her hooves.

“But while you’re here, Striper,” she said, smiling weakly up at him, “I believe you and I also have some unfinished business.  Thank you...thank you for saving my life.”

“Uh, th-that’s all right Y’Grace.” he stuttered, looking quickly away.  There were several seconds of awkward silence, and when the Striper spoke again, it was in a near mumble, his eyes remaining solidly averted from hers. “I’ve had a crush on you since the day y’ first arrived here.  Y’ve known that all along, haven’t you?”

“Yes, Striper,” Katie told him, nodding quietly, “I know.”  She got up on her tiptoes, and kissed him lightly on the cheek.

“Right, well...” the Striper responded, capping his head with his hat, as if that settled everything, “Reckon I’d best be on my way back t’ work eh?  The dredges and extractors wait for no fur, y' know.”

He turned and left without looking back...and all Katie could do was watch him go and hope that somehow, someday, the Tasmanian tiger would know that sort of feeling once again, with another femme..

Only next time, let her feel the same way about him.

Katie didn’t see much of Shang Li-Sung over the next few days, or anyone else for that matter.  With Ji Su-King exposed as the third traitor, her only source of pain medication had vanished overnight.

Even worse, if the black cat’s original prescription for her had not been poisonous, it HAD been highly addictive.  By her second day without it, the pain in Katie’s backside was the least of her unpleasant sensations.  She spent all her time cloistered in her house, not even allowing Hsing to come near her and spending all her time cursing the soul of Ji Su-King.  When she came out of this, what kittums-cat was going to suffer would make Le Ho-Chang’s ordeal seem like a cold shower.

It was not to be; this time Katie would be cheated out of her revenge.  When she finally emerged from her house after five long days, pale, gaunt, and shaking like an aspen, she was told by Drigo Chavez that Ji’s severed wrist had turned gangrenous on him, and he had died of septicemia the night before

“Just our luck, that yiffer was the only guy around here who might a known anything about how to treat gangrene.” he said, “ An’ by the time we figured out what was goin’ on, no one could make sense outta anything he was saying.”  

All they’d been able to do was amputate the rotted section of his arm with a heated axe and hope for the best.  It had been do no avail.  Ji had been raving and seeing visions of demons right up until the moment he’d slipped into his final coma.

“At least you know he’s dead from a cut YOU gave him.” the coati offered, half heartedly, “and at least you still got plenty of the salve he made, so at least  you won’t get no scarring...uh, back there.”

Katie just sniffed and looked at him.

“Did you get any information out of Ji before he checked out?”

Drigo puffed out his cheeks.

“No,” he said, then added, quickly, “but I don’t think we woulda anyway.  He was a tough little yiffer, I’ll give him that.  When he saw what was in storage shed number two, would you believe he yiffin’ laughed?”

Katie, who was prepared to believe anything at this point, just nodded, wanly.

“What else has been going on?”

“Shang’s got that rumor mill of his goin’.  You know about that?”

Katie did.  In fact, Shang had put it into motion even before his ‘interview’ with her.

The miners of Iso were not stupid; they knew that tong cells always operated as trios...and with the unmasking of Ji Su-King, that made three spies that had been killed and/or captured in the camp.  Though the dreaded name, ‘Snakehead’ had not yet been spoken in the settlement, the miners must surely suspect that SOME Triad or other was involved. 

Thus, Shang had found it necessary to confuse the issue with a flood of gossip.

And speaking of gossip, word of what Katie had done to Shang was all over the mine by now.  Though Drake Hackett, and Drigo, had been every bit as shocked as the Striper by the stiff treatment she had meted out to the red panda, the miners had viewed it very differently; as far as they were concerned, Shang Li-Sung had gotten exactly what was coming to him.  In fact, more than a few thought Katie had been too easy on her security chief.   However, recognizing the fact that he was still needed here, (now more than ever) the miners decided, in the end, that ‘Grace’ had acted correctly.

Now Drigo was telling her, “That search party Shang sent out to find and get rid a the bodies of Chu Lung What’s-His-Name and the other pirate-guys came back here yesterday evening.  An’ it looks like someone beat em’ to it; no bodies...just a buncha graves pegged with Chinese markers.”

Katie looked away, down the valley.  It was all soft light, and a pastel sky...unusual for this time of year.

They would know, the Snakeheads would know what she had done to Chu Lung-Kuo...and they weren’t going to like it.  They would come again....and this time they would take no prisoners.

Except to horribly abuse them before they died. 

As if reading her thoughts...or rather as if someone else had anticipated them, Drigo Chavez added cautiously, “Shang says he’s not too worried about it.  Most likely they’ll think it was the Gimi who done the yiffers.”

The words were spoken lightly, but there was no mistaking the dark undercurrent beneath them; the Snakeheads might end up believing that it had been a tribe of aborigines who had skinned out Chu Lung-Kuo...but, as Drigo Chavez had just informed Katie by way of his left paw, he and her other lieutenants knew otherwise. 

And if he had accepted it, so had the Striper...and Drake Hackett as well.  It went without saying that Shang had believed her capable of it all along.

But what about Battling Ray Parer?

Katie didn’t know...and she didn’t want to know.  All she knew was that right now, more than anything, she wanted the Brumby here with her.

He came the following day.

Katie knew, from the sound of the Fokker’s engines that it was him...and went dashing out to the airstrip to greet him.

She was only ten yards from her house when she collapsed and had to be helped back inside.  It was there that she told the Battler what had happened...leaving out certain details regarding the questioning of Le Ho-Chang, but telling him everything about Ji Su-King...and Shang.

The revelation of that latter detail turned out the beginning of the end for her and the stallion....though neither one would realize it for some time to come.

“Shang pulled that kind of cock-up, and you DIDN’T sack him?” Ray Parer demanded, with his ears laid back.

“He realized Ji was the traitor in time to stop him.” she answered, her own ears starting to point backwards.  No one told HER how to run her mine, not even him...especially when she was out of pain remedy and still not quite recovered from going through withdrawal.

“Balls!” Ray spat out the word like a spoiled parsnip, “Only coz the Striper was there.  If it hadn’t been for him...”

Katie immediately cut him off.

“Well, he WAS there, so drop it, Ray.”


“I said drop it.”

“Whatever you say.” The Brumby shrugged.

“Anyway,” Katie said, rolling one hoof in a throwaway gesture, “Even if I did want to sack Shang, who the Hell would I replace him with?   You know anyone else around Papua with his skills?”

To her considerable surprise, the Battler answered by smiling sardonically and plopping himself down in one of the big wicker wing chairs.

“No...but I know a bloke who THINKS he does.  And that’s what I came by to tell yer.” His grin became sickly, “That...and to drop off a special delivery of ginseng for guess who?   Ji Su, King-of-all-bludgers.  Anyways, here’s the scoop...”

Katie listened to what he had to say...and then insisted that he repeat the news for her deputies...
including Shang Li-Sung.  At first, Parer balked outright at the inclusion of the red panda in the group, and it was only when Katie put her hoof down, that he agreed.  “But no promises that I won’t take a swing at him.” he warned.  It turned out to be a needless admonition.  When Shang arrived, he was made to kowtow to Katie and address her as Mistress again.  That seemed to satisfy the stallion perfectly.  In fact, he put a hoof aside his mouth and whispered to her, “Oi, whyn’t yer tell me you were gonna have Shang grovel like this?!  I’d never have minded him bein’ here, if I’d have known.”

It was a question Katie chose not to answer.  Instead she stood up and spoke to the group as a whole.

“Ray’s got some news you all need to hear.”

What the Brumby had to tell them was this: League Mandate headquarters in Buna had finally bestirred itself to investigate the attempted abduction of Katie MacArran....and the events that had followed.

“I’ve never met the bloke they’ve assigned to the case...but I’ve heard of him.  Name’s Pinch...Chief Inspector Charles Pinch.  Wild boar.”

It was Shang and Drake who simultaneously asked the (obvious) next question, “Is he any good. Battler?”

Only the dog got an answer; the red panda was ignored as if he weren’t there.

“Lemme put it this way, mate.  Pinch served four years in Delhi with the Indian Imperial Police...an’ doesn’t speak word of Urdu.  That give yer any idea how well he knows his job?”

“Plenty.” said the heeler, with a derisive yip.

“How long before he shows up here, you think?”  It was Drigo. 

The Battler puffed out his cheeks before answering.  “In all honesty, I dunno mate.  As you’ve probably figured out for y’selves, Inspector Pinch is not one for hard work, so he’s not likely to make much of an effort to pay Iso a visit any time soon.” he stopped, raised a finger and tapped it against a temple.  “UNLESS...well, it’s a well know fact around Buna that he hates New Guinea like it’s his mother-in-law...an’ would give his left bollock to be reassigned somewhere else.  So, if he should get the idea in his head that crackin’ this case might be his ticket off out of Papua...well, you can guess what happens then.”
Katie could, and so could the others.

She and Ray spent that night in each others arms...but nothing amorous happened between them.  she obviously wasn’t up to it yet and the Brumby wasn’t about to press her.

Besides, she was too busy thinking.  So, the inevitable had finally come to pass: Buna was finally taking an interest in the events surrounding the Iso mine.  Well, let them, as far as she was concerned.  There wasn’t a miner, prospector, or a pilot in the whole of Papua who wouldn’t take her side if the Mandate insisted upon making an issue out of the fate of Le Ho-Chang.

 “If those starched-white arseholes had done their jobs after Gordie McIntyre bought it, nothin’ else need ‘ve happened in the first place!”

That was the prevailing attitude in every camp and on every airstrip from Cape Finschafen to Hollandia, according to what Ray had already told her.  And even, then Le’s death was the only one the with which the authorities could charge her; Brian Lu had been poisoned by Ji Su-King...and there wasn’t a court in the world that wouldn’t rule Katie had killed HIM in self-defense.

The Battler had to fly out early the next day to ferry a generator up to Gona.  He had awakened all worked up over Shang again, but fortunately for them both, he did not encounter the red panda before he took off.

In fact, no one at all saw Shang Li-Sung for the next few days; now it was his turn to remain out of sight.  He spent all his time at Ji Su-King’s, conducting his search, living only on snatches of sleep and snatched bites of food.  It was a time consuming task what with the late feline’s large stock of goods.  Not until five days had passed did he come to the main house to report what he had found.

“I don’t think I need tell you that Ji was much better at covering his tracks than either Le Ho-Chang or Brian Lu.  There were no messages to be found anywhere, in either his shop or his dwelling.  I DID find a hidden closet in the apartment upstairs, and inside was a small cache of arms and some explosives.  But none of it had been disturbed for at least several months, by my reckoning.”

“So it’s a dead end, is that what you’re telling me?” Katie queried with her ears turning backwards...and this time, her ire was not forced.

Shang’s response to this was absolutely the last thing the pinto mare would have expected.  For the first time since Ji’s death, he smiled.

“Not necessarily,” he said, raising that Zen finger of his, “Sometimes, it is what you DON’T find during a search that tells you what you need to know.  And in this case, I noticed something odd while going over Ji Su King’s purchase records; all the invoices from a certain Blue Sky Trading Company in Singapore had strangely uneven lower edges, as if the lower section of each had all been pruned with a knife, or a pair of scissors.

“Go on.” said Katie, her face and voice revealing nothing.

Shang did.

“Each of these invoices, as it turned out, was for the same item, a shipment of ginseng.  And if you recall, when the Battler was last here, he brought with him....”

“Son of a bitch!” Katie neighed, almost leaping from her seat, “A load of ginseng for Ji.  And was there an invoice with it, please tell me yes?”

“There was.” the red panda replied, still smiling, “and without it’s lower section removed.  As anyone might have expected, there was nothing immediately visible on that part of the invoice, but when it was brushed with vinegar, a coded message appeared.” He frowned, “Unfortunately, it was in a different code than the one Ji used to communicate with his underlings, so I have not yet been able to decipher it...but I can tell you that it was very long and quite detailed.  Rather unusual for such a communique, I thought...but then I noted that the shipment was dated almost three weeks before you were forced down in the jungle.  That’s an extraordinarily long time for any shipment to arrive here from Singapore, so I made an inquiry of Ji’s sometime assistant, Quan Duc Le.  Apparently, it was SUPPOSED to have arrived here last month, aboard the Republic...as have all Ji’s previous shipments of ginseng.”

Katie MacArran let out a short, sharp neigh.

“Except the Republic didn’t COME here last month, Shang.  She was diverted to run that shipment to the Thrak Le Sapphire mine, remember?”

“Yes, I know.” said the red panda, nodding, “and according to Quan Le Duc, Ji became most agitated about it when he heard about the Republic being delayed for an extra thirty days.” He shrugged laconically, “Quan thought nothing of it at the time; ginseng was Ji’s best selling item after all, and indeed, his stocks had become sharply depleted by the time of his death.”

“Speaking of Quan...” said Katie leaving the rest for Shang to figure out for himself.  He immediately shook his head.

“He knew nothing, Mistress.  Quan might not be the brightest of his species, but what he lacks in intelligence, he more than makes up for in his loyalty to the mine.  Had he held even the slightest inkling as to what Ji Su-King was really all about, he would have revealed it to me in an instant.”

Katie snuffled and looked out the window for a second, watching a small gecko-lizard work its way up the frame, in search of breakfast.  Damn, she missed London; in London you had birds on your window-sill in the morning, not lizards, and spiders, and all other manner of creepy-crawlies.  And that wasn’t even mentioning the bugs, and leeches, and....

All right, enough!

“Okay, Shang.” she said, finally turning to the red panda, “then what’s our next move?”

“We need to check out the Blue Sky Trading Co.” he answered, reaching for a cigarette and his trench lighter.  He held back for a second, looking to Katie for permission before lighting up.  She nodded impatiently, and he thumbed the lighter into flame.

“You mean, you want to go to Singapore?” she said.  Shang responded by taking a long pull on his cigarette and nodding tightly as he exhaled.

Katie was about to agree to this, but then a quick, dreadful thought flashed in her mind – that Shang might leave and stay away, out of shame.  She banished the notion at once; even if the red panda were so inclined, she need only to extract a promise that he would return following his investigation and that would be that.

“All right, granted.” she said, “Only we’ll have to figure out a way to get you to Lae.  I’m still not up to flying yet, and in case you haven’t noticed, you’re not someone the Battler holds in particularly high regard at the moment.”

Shang Li-Sung just shrugged again, and took another long drag on his cigarette.

“Not too difficult, I should think.  Let him believe that I’m only going away because you’re forcing me to go.”

This was exactly what they did.  Only afterwards, sitting once more on the verandah of her house, did Katie realize that this was the second time she had intentionally deceived her lover.  What bothered her about it, more than anything else, was the realization that she WASN’T bothered by it...not at all.

And that was when the truth of how much her recent experiences had changed her finally completed its long, meandering journey home to the pinto mare.

Or...had it?  How much MORE was she capable of now than before?  What other actions could she now undertake that she once would never have dreamed of, not before the pair of Loening OX5s had appeared on either wingtip of the autogyro?

She hoped that she would never know.

“But I will know, and soon.” she thought to herself, looking out over the valley -- north, towards the Iso lowlands, where the iron anvil of thunder-squall could be seen advancing towards the camp from the direction of the Bismarck Sea.  Good thing the Republic wasn’t due today.

A flash of lightning and a rumbling thunderclap rocketed up the valley, sending everyone not clad in oilskins scurrying for cover.  It brought Katie back to another day, in another valley...that fateful morning in the valley of Strathdern, when she had sworn on the dirk, in a driving cloudburst, that somehow, by hook or by crook, she WOULD find a way to preserve her family’s legacy. 

She shuddered against the approaching storm, not the one advancing up the Iso valley now, but another, much bigger, much more destructive tempest...a typhoon that would threaten to consume Katie, the Iso Valley mine, and everyone within when it broke.

How far would she have to go to in order to withstand it?

                To Katie MacArran