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15 December 2006

The adventures of Ensign Halli Amura, RINS

Chapter Six

© 2006 by Walter D. Reimer

       “Now,” Niho said after he and Halli had suited up and completed their preflight checks on the plane, “I want you to take off, charge the weapons and head straight south by your compass.  Let’s go.”  His normally easygoing manner was gone now; he was more businesslike and his tone didn’t allow her to ask him questions.
        She waited until he was secured in his seat before she cast off and switched on the engines.  Niho warmed up the radio and said crisply, “Sugar Maple 6 to Great Tree, requesting takeoff permission.  Flight plan filed with Operations.”
        “Roger, Sugar Maple 6.  Crosswind to your left, about six knots, moderate chop.”  At his gesture, Halli pushed the throttles forward, keeping an eye on the small buoys that marked the lane.  The plane skipped like a stone through the choppy water of the lagoon as it gained speed, the impact of the waves feeling like hammer blows through the hull.  Once she lifted off she didn’t waste time with a banking curve to gain altitude, but pulled back on the controls and the plane rose.
        She was careful to keep the plane above its stall speed – no need in repeating her noseover from training – and she steered the plane to a southerly heading.  A solid yank on the arming lever and she test-fired the twin machine guns in the bow.
        “Where are we going?” she finally asked.
        “I’ve arranged to have a target sled taken about fifty miles out and left there for you,” Niho said with a smile.  “According to the training schedule, you’ll do this once a week,” and he chuckled when he saw her slightly feral grin.

        After a while she saw it, a small boat alone in the open ocean bearing a huge bed sheet marked with a target’s concentric red rings.  “Now, show me what you know, Halli,” Niho said as he tightened his seat belt.
        She nodded, bringing the plane into a shallow dive to give any defender the smallest target possible and pulling up just feet above the water.  The rabbit closed one eye as she lined the gun sight up with the target and she fired a long burst from the Bruinings before banking up and away.  As she turned, she heard Niho hiss suddenly.  “What?”
        “You hit the target, but you almost put the starboard wing in the water,” he said.  “Next time, pull up straight before you make your turn.  That’ll give you enough altitude.”
        “It’ll make me one hell of a target,” she protested.
        “Then make your attack run faster,” he said.  “When you start throwing fifty-caliber bullets all over the place, they’re not going to be in much of a mood to shoot back immediately.  That gives you time to get away.”  He smiled encouragingly.  “Let’s go around for another pass.”

        By the time she perfected the use of the KV-3’s guns, the target boat was a listing wreck and it was nearly noon.  “We’re getting close to the red line on fuel, Niho,” Halli remarked, waving at the gauge with a paw.
        “So we are.  Okay, Halli, back to base.”  Niho gave her a light punch on the shoulder.  “Good job for today.”
        “What else do we get trained on for the KV-3?” she asked as she brought the plane around.
        “Bombing and torpedo practice,” he said.  “The KV-3’s a robust little plane, and we use it for a variety of things.”
        She nodded, recalling Captain Kahr’s briefing the previous day.  “So the bomb and torpedo shackles go on either side of the hull, right?”
        “Of course,” he replied.  “The attachment points are set slightly forward.  About a half hour with some tools and you’ll have this thing loaded for bear.”
        For several minutes there was no sound except for the droning of the engines, then Halli gave him a sidelong glance as she asked, “So, can we go back out this afternoon?”
        Niho laughed.  “Patience.”


        A different movie was playing at the base theater that night; apparently the Shirley Shrine feature earlier in the month had been less than well received.  Instead, someone in Base Administration had managed to acquire two films, an American ‘Western’ movie titled The Old Paddock and a two-reel comedy that was aptly named Disorderly in da Court.  The first featured a singing cowboy named Gene Ottery, and the second starred a trio of comedians named The Three Dupes.
        When she had finished her supper Halli went to the theater, and after paying the admission fee she bought a bottle of Orca-Cola and a small paper sack of popcorn before finding a seat.  She settled into the chair just as the screen flickered to life.
        While the newsreel droned on about the unpleasant goings-on in the rest of the world, she felt someone ease into the seat beside her.  “Hi,” Trina said, and Halli grinned at the sound of the feline’s voice as her scent caused her nose to twitch.
        “Hi,” the rabbit said, offering her friend some popcorn.
        Trina politely demurred and whispered, “How was your day?”
        “Pretty good,” Halli said.  “Firing practice,” and the conversation stopped there as Disorderly in da Court came on.
        Halli wasn’t very familiar with Harry, Joe and Surly, the aptly named Dupes in the movie, but she caught on quickly.  The action was frenetic, violent and accompanied by interesting sound effects.  Some of the dialogue was so fast that Halli had a bit of trouble keeping up, but the movie had the entire audience laughing so hard at the antics of the porcupine, terrier and turtle that it was hard to hear what was being said anyway.
        The feature wasn’t bad, and Halli found herself leaning up against Trina as the two held paws in the darkened theater.  The star of the movie, Ottery, sang quite a bit, and the story was a rather straightforward crime drama.
        But the paw in hers and Trina’s scent kept distracting her.

        After the picture ended the two of them walked out of the theater and Trina asked, “Care to take a walk on the beach?”  She had a sly gleam in her eyes.
        Halli ran her paw through her lover’s headfur.  It was so very tempting . . .   “I’d love to,” she sighed, “but I have to get up early in the morning.”
        “Oh.”  The feline looked downcast, then perked up.  “We’ll still see each other around, right?”
        “Of course we will,” and the rabbit smiled as they stepped around a corner.  They took advantage of the darkness to kiss before they parted company.

        Again, she awoke the next morning with a smile.
        She also awoke with an idea.
        The visit to the base administration building didn’t take very long, and Ensign Calley was very helpful.  It seemed that not everyone lived in the longhouses, and to be truthful they were only transient billeting.  Most of the base personnel lived in small, two-person bungalows that were rented for a small sum, and these were mainly on the eastern side of the atoll.
        It only took her a few minutes to fill out the housing request, and to add Trina’s name to it. 
        The bear looked at the paper, then at Halli, and the rabbit explained, “We went through flight school together, and I know she’d appreciate not having to stay in the longhouses.”
        He nodded, realizing the logic of it, and set the papers aside so that the base syndics could approve it.


May 18, 1937:

        Halli was eating her breakfast when a petty officer walked up to her.  “Ensign Amura?”  At her nod he gave her a folded slip of paper.  “This is for you, ma’am,” and he walked off.
        She opened the paper and stared at it momentarily.  The paper announced that she and Ensign Katrina Demjanjuk were now occupants of an officer’s quarters situated at #5, Third Street.  The rent was ten dollars a month and included utilities.  Ensign Demjanjuk would receive a copy of the notice. 
        Halli stared at the paper, reading it through again before folding it carefully and putting it into a pocket of her jumpsuit.  She finished her breakfast before taking the motor launch across the lagoon to the eastern island.

        The numbered streets in the tiny settlement were oriented north and south, streets pointing east or west were designated with letters.  The base hospital dominated the northern end of the village, and a meeting hall and school anchored the south end.  Of course, it made sense to have a school; many furs would likely want to bring their families with them.
        The school also reminded her that she originally joined the Naval Syndicate to further her education, and Halli decided she’d start on that as quickly as she could.  But first, she had to find the house.
        An annex of the base administration had the keys, and all she had to do was pay the first month’s rent and show the order to the clerk.  She pocketed the keys and started looking for Third Street.
        Number Five was at the corner of Third Street and Avenue B, and faced the dune line that separated the settlement from the beach.  It was a rather plain clapboard bungalow with two bedrooms, a sitting room that included the kitchen, and a bathroom.  It also had a small porch.
        She tried the light switch, and was pleased to see that the utilities were already on.  Unfortunately, that was the only thing that pleased her.
        The place was a mess.  The floor needed to be swept and mopped, and the mattresses needed to be aired.  At least the bedding, in a small closet, seemed to be clean.  As she opened the windows she heard footsteps on the porch and turned.
        Trina stood there, looking around and blinking.  “What do you think?” Halli asked.
        The feline wavered a moment, then walked up to Halli and hugged her.  “I didn’t expect you to find us a house,” she murmured.
        “Well, there was no sense in both of us staying at the longhouses for our entire tour,” Halli said reasonably, “and this way we can have some fun.”
        Trina nodded and drew the back of a paw across her nose as she stepped back.  “I just never shared a place with anyone before – other than family, I mean,” she added hastily.
        “Well, you might change your mind,” Halli said with a sour grin, “when you take a good look around.  It’ll take a bit of cleaning up to get it set up right.  My mother would cry if she could see this place.”
        Trina laughed as she looked around before replying, “I don’t know . . . a lick of paint and some elbow grease, and this’ll be a nice place.  I’ll go pay the rent – “
        “Beat you to it.”
        “Then I’ll buy some stuff to get this place clean,” the tabby laughed.  She gave the rabbit a kiss and headed out the door.
        Halli closed her eyes briefly, breathing a short prayer, then busied herself with hauling the mattresses out into the sunlight and fresh air.

        It took the better part of the day to get the bungalow aired and cleaned, but the two of them succeeded in making the place livable.  After moving their belongings out of the longhouses, Trina made dinner (fish for her and tinned vegetable soup for Halli) and they ate together at the small table.

        Later, the two of them sat out on the porch as darkness fell, and Halli felt Trina’s paw on her shoulder.  She reached up and squeezed the paw, then looked back at her new housemate.  “Yes?” she asked in a playful tone.
        “I was just thinking that it’s been a long day, and we really should get some sleep,” Trina said, and the two laughed as they went in, closing the door behind them.

        Shortly thereafter, the lights went out.