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8 December 2006

The adventures of Ensign Halli Amura, RINS

Chapter Five

© 2006 by Walter D. Reimer

May 11, 1937:

        More than a week later Halli was sitting on her bunk, reading letters from home.  Her parents, brothers and sisters were all doing well, and her brother Hanao was planning on following in her footsteps.  She smiled at that.  Hanao was a year younger, and had shown that he was good with engines and other machinery.  She could almost picture him working with Ari in some noisy ship’s engine room.

        The day before, she and the other junior officers had been called into a meeting with Captains Smith and Kahr.  Their security clearances had come in from Seathl and had been approved, so she and the rest of the ensigns could now be told a few things.
        Maps were shown giving the locations of fuel, ammunition and parts caches scattered among nearly fifty small islands and atolls.  These were to be used in emergencies and in wartime, as part of Rain Island’s defensive strategy.
        Captain Kahr called it ‘the hornet’s nest plan.’  Pointing to likely routes to be taken by an attacking force, he explained, “Our fleet may look good on paper, ladies and gentlemen, but it’s our air power that we’re really counting on – at least, until the crash building program we’ve instituted finally bears fruit.  The defense plan calls for aircraft to be scattered in small groups all through this area, with orders to attack any enemy target of opportunity.  As you know, the KV-3s can be fitted with bomb and torpedo racks on a few minutes’ notice if necessary.  The KV-9s can carry lighter armaments, but will still be effective.”  The fox smiled, his brush flicking back and forth.  “Naturally, these locations and details of our defense plans are classified, and you’ve been told the penalties for telling tales out of school.  Dismissed.”
        And that, apparently, had been that.

        “Ensign Amura?” Halli looked up from her letters to see the bear she had seen when she had first come to Blefuscu.  He was part of the base’s administrative detail.  She also noted that the mid-afternoon sun highlighted traces of gold in his brown fur. 
        He looked cute.
        “Yes, Ensign Calley?”
        “Do you recall the trawler you and your crew spotted last week or so?”  At her nod he gave her a small envelope.  “This is for you,” and after making a note on his ubiquitous clipboard, he walked off before she could say anything.
        She looked at the envelope, then opened it and blinked as she found a ten dollar bill inside.  Halli took it out of the envelope and smiled to herself.  So, the trawler had been smuggling something, and this was her share of the prize money.
        The rabbit thought about going out to celebrate, and slipped the money into a pocket of her duty jumpsuit.  There was a bar next to the mess hall, and she knew well enough by now that Naval Issue ale always rode better on a full stomach. 
        And it was her day off, too; a perfect chance to relax and unwind.

        The bar was a fairly large place, with walls and ceiling stained with cigarette smoke and its radio tuned to Radio LONO on Spontoon.  Hula music performed by native bands made her think of home and made the beer she drank go down easier. 
        As she drank, a pair of paws came down over her eyes and a voice whispered in her ear, “Guess who.”
        Her nose twitched as she set the mug down.  “Trina?”  The paws released her and she turned around on her barstool and grinned.  “Trina!” she exclaimed at the sight of the feline.  “What are you doing here?”  The two ensigns hugged and Halli waved her friend to a stool next to hers.  “Come on, sit down and tell me all about it.”
        The orange-furred tabby smiled and sat down, then signaled the bartender for a beer.  “Well, you know I was assigned to a fighter squadron?”  Halli nodded.  “One of the pilots here retired, and I was the one they chose to send to take his place.”
        “Aboard one of the carriers?”
        “No, here on the base,” Trina replied, taking a long swallow of the tasty ale.  “So, how are you and Robbie doing?” she asked in a wheedling tone.
        Halli shrugged.  “He doesn’t write,” she said.  “After all, it was only that one night.  What about you and Zimmerman?”
        Now it was the feline’s turn to shrug.  “Well, we – tried, I’ll say that much.  It’s like – well, remember that time we took that engine apart and one of the gears got broken?”  At her friend’s nod she said, “That’s how it was.”
        “Ugh.”  After it had been reassembled the engine had seized up, and only fast action had saved it from flying apart in a rather spectacular fashion.  Halli thought back to earlier conversations she’d had with Trina, and something connected.  One ear dipped, intrigued, but she shelved that topic for later.
        When she could arrange for the two of them to be alone.
        The conversation turned to catching up on what they had been doing since the end of their flight school.  Trina had been doing fairly well in fighter training before being transferred.  “But I’ll tell you one thing,” she declared, “it sure is nicer weather here.”
        “Wait till you sit through your first typhoon,” Halli countered.
        “I’ve heard about those,” Trina said as she licked a line of foam from her upper lip, “but I was dreading having a tour of duty up north.  Zimmerman told me that his greatest fear was having moss growing in his fur.”
        Halli nearly spit out her mouthful of beer, then coughed and started laughing.  “With his fur, I could see why.”
        Trina leaned close and whispered something, and this time beer sprayed out of the rabbit’s mouth while the tabby feline laughed.  As Halli coughed, Trina patted her back until she could breathe again.  “So, what do you do around here after sundown?”
        Halli accepted a bar towel from the bartender and as she mopped up the spilled beer she looked at her friend curiously before replying, “Well, there’s the club here, and there are movies some nights.  To be honest, I really haven’t had the time to do anything much.  I’ve been in the air five days out of seven.”
        “But you’re off today, right?”  At her friend’s nod Trina said, “So show me around.”
        After settling the bar tab, Halli started to show Trina around the base.  By the time they got back to the western island the sun had set and the Moon was starting to rise.  “Getting a little late,” Halli said, glancing at the radium dial of her wristwatch.
        “Nonsense,” Trina said.  “We don’t have to get up early, and it’s a nice warm night.  I know,” she said, snapping her fingers, “let’s take a walk on the beach.”

        The Moon wasn’t quite full, but it cast enough light to see as they walked along the sand.  Halli smiled to herself.
        Now or never.
        She asked abruptly, “So, what do you want to talk about?”
        Trina’s breath caught, then she sighed.  “That obvious, huh?”
        “Yeah.”  The two women reached out and clasped paws as they walked.  “You and Zimmerman didn’t hit it off – “
        “Because I’m not attracted to men,” Trina said, and suddenly giggled.  “Lordy, my parents would have a fit if they’d heard that.  I mean, I think they suspect, but . . .”  She eyed Halli.  “Um, over on Spontoon, how would – I mean, what – “
        “Would my parents have said?” Halli asked, and she could see the feline nod.  “I suppose they’d ask me if I had a lover, and if I planned on marrying her or not.”
        “Wow,” Trina said as they passed a small stand of pines overlooking the beach.
        Halli knew what the feline wanted to ask, but waited for her to say it.
        But what Trina did surprised the rabbit; she tugged on Halli’s paw, drawing her into her arms and kissing her on the muzzle.  The kiss was brief, tentative, as if Trina was afraid of the reaction she might get.
        Halli’s reaction surprised Trina; the embrace tightened as the rabbit returned the feline’s kiss, and her lips sought one of Trina’s ears.  “I think the ground’s pretty soft up there by those trees.”
        The tabby sighed happily.  “Sounds good to me.”

        Much later the Moon was starting to climb down from its highest point in the sky, and its light illuminated a feline and a lepine as they walked back down the beach.  They held paws as they walked.
        “That was wonderful,” Trina said, pressing up against Halli as they walked.  “I never guessed that you didn’t like men either.”
        “Oh, I do, from time to time,” Halli said, her ears flicking as a small night insect buzzed around them.  “Robbie, for example.  I just feel more, I suppose it’d be ‘in tune’ with women.”
        “So are we ‘in tune’ with each other then?”
        Halli grinned.  “Looks like it, Trina,” and they kissed.  “Listen,” she said when they finished, “I think that we might get some leave time at the end of the month.  Would you like to come down to Spontoon with me?”
        “Love to,” Trina almost purred.
        The two parted company at the base, Trina to rejoin her squadron and Halli to the longhouse.  The shower she took lasted a bit longer than usual, because of the sand in her fur and the need to wash out some scents that might lead to comments on the part of the other pilots.
        As she lay down on her bed and swiftly fell asleep, Halli couldn’t keep the smile off her face.


        “Well!  You look pretty chipper today,” Niho said as he sat down beside Halli in the mess hall the next morning.  He gazed down at his tray for a longish moment before attacking his scrambled eggs.  She smiled at him and continued eating her omelet, pausing now and then to wash it down with a mixture of orange and pineapple juices.  “Enjoying your days off?” he asked after washing down a mouthful with coffee.
        “Very much,” she replied.  “I am curious about something, though.”
        She leaned close.  “Where do we get the fuel for the planes and the ships?  I’ve been all over the atoll so far, and I don’t see any tanks big enough,” and she held her tongue as he chuckled.
        “The fuel’s safe underground, up on Brackett Island,” Niho explained, “and it gets piped to where we need it.  Speaking of which, I want to go over a few things with you,” and she reminded herself that he was not only the pilot of their aircraft, but her instructor as well.  He was responsible for her improving her skills, since the Naval Syndicate believed to the fullest extent possible in the concept of ‘on the job training.’
        “What things?”
        “Well, you’re a fairly good pilot, Halli,” Niho said carefully, “but I want to take you up on a check flight to go over some maneuvers that are good in emergencies and in combat situations.”
        “Just you and me?  What about Bill and Jack?”
        The antelope shook his head, not wanting to speak with his mouth full.  He swallowed and said, “They’re over at the photoreconnaissance shop, looking over some new pictures from up around Balimnibarb.  Our patrols were helping the Reclus with its assignment, you see.”
        Halli nodded, drinking the last of her juice and nibbling a piece of toast.  “So, when do you want us to go?” she asked.
        Niho smiled.  “Let me finish my meal,” he said, “and we’ll get suited up.”