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1 February 2007
The adventures of Ensign Halli Amura, RINS
BY WALTER D. REIMER
© 2006 by Walter D. Reimer
June 19, 1937
“Trina . . .“
“Trina . . . what are you doing?”
“Hmm? Hsh, mp'lite fr m' t'tlk wf mouf full.”
Half an hour later the alarm clock rang.
“Come on, keep up!” Halli called out as she slackened her pace along the beach, giving Trina a chance to catch up with her. “Love, it’s only a mile more, and then I’ll cook breakfast.”
Trina panted something that Halli couldn’t catch and the rabbit smiled. “Well, that’s what you get for waking up too early,” she teased.
Later, after a breakfast of eggs, toast and fried sausage (for Trina) Halli asked, “Do you want to clean up first?”
Trina shook her head. “I’ll clear the table and get things cleaned up here; you wash up.” She eyed the clock as the rabbit got up from her chair and said, “I think we’d better hurry, though. It’s getting close to time for us to leave.”
They reached the dock moments before the motor launch was scheduled to leave, and had to hang onto the overhead canopy as the boat chugged across the lagoon to the seaplane bases. The two women exchanged grins as they parted company and Halli practically ran to the equipment shed to get kitted out.
Commander Edensaw was conducting the briefing today, and everyone gave him their full attention as he stepped up onto the stage. “Good morning,” the bear said quietly. “This week starts your last series of training flights using test ordnance. Now, many of you have been training using towed targets or fixed derelict boats, so we’re going to give you something a bit easier to aim at.” He gestured to a lieutenant, who posted a map up on the bulletin board with thumbtacks.
The map showed a small island, roughly a half-mile square and several miles northeast of Blefuscu. “We call this Target Island for very good reason,” Edensaw said. “At least two years’ worth of bombs and bullets have been expended on it so far. It’s almost solid rock, so it can take it. It’s also shaped a bit like a ship – if you squint at it – which makes it a good object to aim at.
“The position is marked on your maps and flight plans, so we will take off, form up by flights and attack the target. Dismissed.”
Halli was reading over the flight plan when Niho, who had been seated beside her, leaned over and said, “No need to be worried – it’s just like before.”
“Bigger target, though,” she said and gave him a smile.
“So you shouldn’t have any trouble hitting it,” Jack said, and all four of them laughed.
They were soon in the air and on the flight out to the island Niho saw Halli cocking her ears at the engines. “Hear anything odd?” he asked.
She shook her head. “No, everything sounds okay. Must be the extra weight,” she remarked.
After perhaps half an hour of flying time Niho pointed. “Target Island, dead ahead.”
Halli looked, then blinked and craned her neck. “What’s wrong with it?”
The island was exactly what Commander Edensaw said it was, a large clump of rocks in the middle of the sea. What drew Halli’s attention to it was the fact that the rocks were a riot of clashing colors, running the spectrum from red to blue and every shade in between. Most of the splotches were considerably faded from exposure to the sun and weather.
Niho laughed. “Oh, that. The practice bombs are filled with small amounts of paint. One of these days some bright boy or girl’s going to take pictures of it and sell them as modern art.”
Halli shook her head. “Who’d buy them?”
The antelope shrugged. “No idea, but like the guy said, ‘There’s a sucker born every minute.’”
Following direction from Edensaw and their own flight commander, Halli brought her plane into line with the others and flew in a holding circle while other planes peeled off and attacked the target, first with guns and then with bombs.
Then it was her turn. She did her strafing pass and ascended to dive altitude so that she could start her bombing run. “Here we go,” she announced. “Bill! Jack! You two ready?”
Both beavers called out that they were strapped in and ready, and the rabbit pushed the nose of the plane down.
The rocky islet grew large in the cockpit windows as she dove, and at the prescribed height she released one bomb and pulled away. She grinned widely as Jack, watching through binoculars, yelled, “Hit! Nice green spot on the rocks.”
“How close to center?” Halli asked.
“Close – maybe a few yards shy and to the left.”
“Glacier to Sugar Maple 6,” came Commander Edensaw’s voice.
“Sugar Maple 6, go ahead.”
“Very close. You’re showing improvement. Well done,” the bear said, and Halli double-clicked her microphone in acknowledgement before starting a climbing spiral turn that would enable her to make her second pass at the target.
The whoop she heard in her headphones told her what she needed to know without having to look back at the island, and she grinned widely. “Direct hit,” Niho said as he reached over and slapped her on the shoulder. “Well done, Halli.”
“It was a fun day,” Halli enthused to Trina as the two ate lunch in the mess hall that afternoon. “That second hit was beautiful.”
Trina giggled and raised her glass of fruit juice in salute. She said, “Wait till tomorrow when we’re up there with you. You’ll think you flew into a swarm of bees or something.”
The rabbit grinned. “How will I know which one is you?”
“Easy,” the tabby replied. “Our radios will be tuned to the general circuit, so we can listen for our call signs. What’s yours?”
“’Sugar Maple 6,’” Halli replied. “I guess somebody thought it was clever to name the planes after trees or something. What’s yours?”
“They assign names to the fighter pilots at random, I think. My call sign’s ‘Seahawk,’” Trina said with a playful growl and a toothy grin as she popped her claws. She pantomimed raking her claws across an imagined enemy and Halli laughed. “Nice name, eh?”
“Yeah,” the rabbit said with a sigh. “I hope I get one just as good when I start fighter training.” She paused and glanced at a splash of color on the hall’s bulletin board.
The color was a calendar pinned up to the board, and it bore a picture of a vixen amid an artfully arranged bouquet of flowers. Artfully arranged, since the vixen was obviously not wearing anything. “Hmm, that’s interesting,” Halli said absently.
“The solstice is tonight,” the lepine said, and smiled as she took Trina’s paw in hers. “I have a question to ask you, Katrina.”
The use of her full name caused the tabby’s ears to stand up. “What, Halli?”
“Do you love me?”
The feline gaped. “Of course I do,” she said. “Why?”
“It’s the summer solstice tonight, and I was wondering if you’d like to be Tailfast to me,” Halli replied, her ears dipping slightly.
“Tailfast?” She looked mystified for a moment, then said, “Oh, yes – like those fur rings Ari and Ranua wore for their girlfriends, right?”
“Right,” and Halli explained the ritual and its significance. When she was finished, the feline looked thoughtful.
“It sounds wonderful, Halli,” she said after thinking it over, “and of course I’d love to be Tailfast to you. But there aren’t any priestesses here.”
Halli nodded. “True, but we can always ask the base shaman.” She stood up with her tray in her paws. “His office isn’t far away – we could ask him.”
Trina’s eyes gleamed with unshed tears as she stood up. “Yes, let’s go ask.”
The office was in the air group’s administration building; apparently the command staff thought that pilots needed spiritual help more than most others. The shaman himself turned out to be a tall, thin weasel whose lieutenant’s stripe was crossed by the silver eagle feather of his calling.
He looked up from the paperwork on his desk as Halli knocked softly on his open door. The name plate on his desk read John Wolfe. “Excuse me, sir?” she asked.
“Yes, Ensign – Ensigns, I mean,” Wolfe said with a pleasant smile. “Come in please, and have a seat. What seems to be the problem?”
“I’m Ensign Amura, sir. Ensign Demjanjuk and I would like to talk to you about something personal.” Trina closed the door behind her and after they had sat down Halli had explained. She spoke as rapidly and accurately as she could, the weasel nodding and gently urging her to go on as he gazed at her.
“Okay,” he said when she finished, “you two love each other and you wish to both consecrate that love and symbolize your devotion to each other.” He grinned. “Am I right so far?”
The rabbit nodded, and Wolfe went on, “And I’ll bet you’re a bit worried I might say no, right?” Both of the young women nodded.
Wolfe smiled reassuringly. “While I’m not familiar with the Spontoonie ritual, Ensign Amura, I take it that you are? Fine. You can help me with any trouble I might have. We’ll meet at the chapel tonight – moonrise, I think, will be appropriate.”
Trina looked surprised and the weasel smiled. “A question, Ensign Demjanjuk?”
“Well, yes, sir,” the feline said. “I thought that two women couldn’t get married.”
“It’s unusual, certainly,” Wolfe said, “but it’s been done before. Usually you see it among personnel assigned to the Spontoons, but it’s happened elsewhere. Of course,” and he chuckled, “you two are merely getting Tailfasted, not married.
“You two meet me at the chapel, and bring whatever witnesses you think are appropriate.” He stood and they stood up he smiled and extended his paws. “And congratulations to both of you.”
June 19, 1937
“So, what is this again?” Niho asked. “A wedding?”
“It’s like that,” Halli agreed, “but you have to renew it every six months, on the solstice.” He couldn’t stop staring at her, which made her blush for some reason. “You act like you’ve never seen native Spontoonie dress before.”
Niho laughed a bit shamefacedly. “It’s one thing to see a girl in a grass skirt down in Spontoon; it’s another to see your copilot wearing one.” Bill and Jack just stared.
Halli blushed again. As soon as she and Trina had left the shaman’s office they had set to work crafting grass skirts from the native plants that anchored the dunes. Halli had selected some flowers for her and Trina’s headfur, and although she was unclothed from the waist up, Trina had insisted on wearing a bathing suit in case her skirt fell apart accidentally.
The rabbit’s one regret was in not having the correct oil at paw for slicking down their fur. She had made do, however, and had bought a small tin of pomade at the base exchange. Her clan and family designs were combed into the light brown fur over her heart.
Trina entered as Niho, Bill and Jack sat cross-legged on the floor of the chapel. The feline looked a little apprehensive but happy as she moved to stand beside Halli and the two joined paws.
One of the shaman’s aides started beating a small drum as Wolfe entered, dressed in a patterned wool cloak and kilt. The weasel’s features were obscured by a carved and painted cedar mask of his spirit guide, the Orca, and he chanted a blessing on the group.
The ceremony was simple, but all the more moving for that; Trina and Halli professed their love for each other, and the shaman carefully brushed symbols over their hearts before the two women exchanged rings made of their braided fur. Another blessing, and Wolfe removed his mask and grinned at them.
“What, that’s it?” Jack asked as he got to his feet.
“No,” Halli said. “Now, Trina and I change back into our uniforms and we go to the club for drinks.” She hugged her lover. “Time to celebrate!”