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18 February 2007
The adventures of Ensign Halli Amura, RINS
BY WALTER D. REIMER
© 2006 by Walter D. Reimer
June 20, 1937
“I thought I’d find you here.”
Halli glanced up, then twisted around and looked up at Lt. Wolfe. She was on her knees in the chapel before the tiki of Warrior-Shield, and her face was still damp with tears. She started to get to her feet, but stopped at his gesture and resumed facing the idol as the weasel sat beside her.
“It was a mistake, you know,” and she glanced at him. Wolfe closed his eyes. “There was too much noise on the radio, and they both thought that it was their turn to land. Nobody’s fault.” He sighed and bowed toward the tiki. “Not that it helps.”
Halli bit back a sob and drew her uniform sleeve across her nose before sniffling loudly. “N-no, it doesn’t,” she agreed. She sighed. “I was going to ask her to marry me when we r-renewed our T-Tailfasting in December,” she quavered. She gazed at the tiki a few moments longer and asked, “Why?”
“That’s the great question, isn’t it?” Wolfe said. “When I was young, we were told in Sunday school that things happen according a plan, and sometimes we don’t know or can’t guess why they happen,” and he paused, scratching under his chin reflectively. “It’s not exactly a good thing to tell little kids, but there it is. The pastor meant well, I suppose.
“Later on I was told that there was no plan, and that we have it in ourselves to determine what happens.” He smiled at Halli, who was looking closely at him as he spoke.
His woolen cloak rustled softly as he reached out and touched her paw. “I know only a small bit of what some might call the truth, Halli, but I do know this. You loved Trina, and she loved you. Am I right?”
She blinked back tears and nodded. “Then both of you are better for it,” he said. “Love is a beautiful thing to bring into the world, no matter who is loved. Take that love and your memories of your lover, and cherish them forever.” He smiled. “Would you like me to pray with you for a while?”
“Yes, sir,” she said quietly, and started a low chant in Spontoonie, aware of his whispered chanting in one of the Tillamookan languages.
“Oh, my God,” Brenda whispered, “you poor dear.” The Labrador stroked the rabbit’s headfur gently as Halli finished crying and sat back, sniffling. Covina offered a small glass of brandy and after coughing over the first sip Halli drank it down.
“I’m sorry,” Halli said, “for coming in here and depressing all of you.” She looked up at the ring of sympathetic faces around her. “I’ll leave – “
“No, you won’t,” Covina said firmly. “Brenda, we still got that room open upstairs? The one by the bathroom?”
“It’s hers,” the Malinois said. “Halli, my dear, you look like you haven’t slept a wink. So go upstairs right now and get some rest.” The canine smiled, showing her teeth as her tail wagged. “Tonight we’ll hold a proper wake.”
June 21, 1937:
The funeral was over, a simple ceremony where blessings were pronounced and people took turns telling stories about Trina. Halli had gone first and the crowd had been silent as she told them about their relationship. When she was done she resumed her seat facing the simple coffin, draped in the red and black Rain Island flag.
She would not be buried here. The body would be flown to Seathl, and from there to her hometown in Norwood. A telegram had been radioed to Seathl, and a shaman and a representative from the Syndicate would notify Trina’s parents that their daughter was coming home.
“Hey, Halli,” Niho said as he sat down behind her.
“I know you probably want some time alone,” the antelope said, looking down at his paws, “but me and a bunch of other people were thinking of having a drink in her memory. Would you – like to come with us?”
Halli turned around in her seat and smiled at him. Her paw reached out and touched his shoulder as she said, “You’re a good friend, Niho. I just want to spend a little time alone, please.”
“Okay. But that offer’s open anytime you want it.”
Halli stood at attention as Captain Kahr read over the papers she had submitted. Commander Edensaw sat nearby, looking at the rabbit with mild interest.
Finally the fox looked up. “At ease, Ensign. You are requesting two weeks’ bereavement leave, under Rule Seventeen.”
“Rule Seventeen applies to spouses.”
“I know, sir. Trina – Ensign Demjanjuk and I were Tailfast.”
Kahr glanced at Edensaw, who said, “It’s like an engagement, Milo.”
“Oh. Thank you, Edensaw.” Kahr thought it over, recalling what he’d heard at the memorial service. Finally he nodded and jotted a note on the paperwork. “Ensign Amura, you’re approved for two weeks of bereavement leave. That leave will start when you leave this base, and I will expect to see you when you get back.”
The fox’s features softened. “And you have my condolences for your loss, Ensign. From what I’d heard, she would have been an excellent officer.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Halli awoke after several hours’ sleep to see the afternoon sun slanting in the windows. She had drooled onto the pillow and rolled over, inhaling deeply.
Tears sprang into her eyes as she recalled her and her lover sharing this bed. She hugged the pillow to her chest and curled up in a fetal position, sobbing as she let the sorrow out of her.
Tomorrow, she resolved, she would tell her parents and find a Wise One to help her heart heal.
She stepped out into the hallway wearing nothing but carrying a towel under her arm as she walked to the bathroom. After washing she soaked in the deep tub, breathing in the steam and relaxing. Drying off, she got dressed in a light skirt and blouse and went downstairs.
“Hi, Halli!” Brenda said as she picked up empty glasses. The main room was crowded with women, and they all came forward to give the surprised rabbit a hug and express their condolences. Halli returned the embraces, accepted a drink and was shown to a seat.
She had to stand up again as Lisa Fallingwater came in, looking distressed. The tall vixen hugged her and asked, “I just heard. Are you okay, Halli? How are you doing?”
The rabbit smiled up at her. “I’m – I’m okay, Lisa. I’m here to tell my parents and to see a Wise One so that I can mourn properly.”
“That’s good,” the vixen said. “Can you tell me what happened?”
Halli nodded jerkily. “I’ll try,” and she launched into her story. The other women stopped talking and gathered around to listen as she told them of the flight exercise, the crash and her lover’s passing.
When she was finished, several of the women were dabbing their eyes and some were openly crying. “It’s hard, cruel hard,” one kept saying as her own companion comforted her.
“Yes, it’s sad,” Covina said. “But tell us another story, Halli. Come on, you said you two met in Rain Island. Tell us about her.”
Slowly the sweet sloe gin she drank loosened her tongue and calmed her down, and the rabbit started telling the crowd about how they met and their experiences. She tried to make the stories light, remembering happier times and wanting to cherish those moments.
Several of the stories made people laugh, and finally Lisa said, “Now we’re in a party mood, girls. How about some music, Halli?” she asked, patting the younger woman’s knee.
“Sure, Lisa.” The vixen stood and downed her gin and tonic in a gulp, then strode purposefully to the bar. She got out her clarinet and started playing a fast jazz tune that soon had many of the women dancing.
Halli sat and watched, laughing as she got steadily more and more intoxicated. It was easy for her, in this state, to imagine Trina seated next to her, laughing and blushing at the activity going on around them.
The wake went on almost to midnight, and started to peter out as couples said goodnight and went home or upstairs to their rooms. A few others also left by themselves, and Halli again had to fend off offers that were well-intentioned but not precisely welcome at this time.
“Lisa,” Brenda was saying, “you’re drunk.”
“Izzat so?” the vixen slurred. She did indeed seem to be drunk; she just barely managed to place her clarinet on the bar after two attempts, and she seemed to have some trouble focusing. “Then . . . I’m goin’ t’bed. C’mon, Halli,” and she helped the rabbit to her feet.
“Lisa?” Halli asked, blinking up at her as she stood up.
“Hush, you,” the older woman said, looking at a spot just to the left of Halli’s left shoulder. “You ‘n I’re goin’ upstairs.”
“But – “
“I’m claimin’ dipple-ma’ic priv’lege. ‘Sides, I need he’p standin.’”
They actually had to help each other up the stairs and down the hall to Halli’s room.
Halli started to drift awake, snuggling into a warm embrace and feeling slow warm breaths ruffling the fur on her right ear. For a fleeting instant she thought that she was in Trina’s embrace again, but the scent wasn’t hers.
If only the demons with sledgehammers would stop trying to beat their way out her skull.
They were making it hard to think.
She tried opening one eye, and the dim half-light in the darkened room still caused her to clamp her eyelids down in pain. Her movements caused whoever was hugging her to slightly tighten her grip, while making soft grumbling sounds of her own.
The rabbit went back to sleep again, only to be jarred awake by a sudden intake of breath by her ear and an almost convulsive tightening of the grip around her waist. “Wha – “
She turned to see Lisa Fallingwater’s face, muzzle agape in shock and bloodshot eyes wide open. The vixen blinked and her mouth opened and closed a few times as she tried to get her brain as awake as the rest of her, and finally words came out.
“H – Wh – I went home with you!?”