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7 July 2007

The adventures of Ensign Halli Amura, RINS

Chapter Twenty-two

© 2006 by Walter D. Reimer

        The vixen froze, eyes staring in shock at the half-naked rabbit as her brush bottled out to almost twice its normal size.  The assembled women cheered as Halli grinned at Lisa.  “Surprise, Ambass-adorable,” she whispered in a tone that only she and the vulpine could hear.
        “Er, ah,” was all the Ambassadress could say at the moment as she struggled to regain her composure.  The exposed skin in her ears was a bright shade of red, and her expression ran an interesting gamut of emotions, from shock to fear to a brief glimpse of desire.

        Off in a corner, the whitetail buck leaned over to Ranua and asked, “Is that one of the pilots who - ?”
        Ranua nodded.  “Yes.”
        “Hmm.  How very . . . singular,” the buck said, sitting back.  He said nothing more, and the soft snort and the gentle scrape of his hoof against the wooden floor were lost in the crowd noise.

        Lisa stepped back, still very surprised as Halli was helped out of the remains of the cake.  Another, much smaller cake was brought in and cut up to be served to anyone who wanted it.  As the others started helping themselves, Halli walked over to Lisa and asked, “Are you okay?”
        “Yeah – er, yes, I think so,” she stammered, shaking her head and starting to brush icing from the fur on her arms.  “It was a bit of a shock,” and she looked at the rabbit who smiled up at her.  “Could you, um, get dressed, please?” she asked in a quiet voice.
        “I’m not tempting you, am I?” Halli asked teasingly, then nodded when she saw the look in the vixen’s eyes.  “I’ll be right back,” and with that she went upstairs, returning several minutes later wearing a skirt and blouse.  By that time Lisa was seated at the bar, drinking a rather large pink gin.
        She glanced to her left as Halli sat down on a stool beside her.  The rabbit ordered a beer before turning to Lisa and saying, “Look, I’m sorry if I’ve made you uncomfortable.  Covina thought it would be a great joke.”
        Lisa smiled.  “It was, but seeing you jump out of the cake was a bit of a shock.”  She took a sip of her drink and leaned a bit closer, pitching her voice so that it couldn’t be heard over the music.  “One hell of a shock, actually.  To be honest, I’ve been thinking.”
        “Yes, I could see the smoke coming out of your ears,” the rabbit teased.
        The vixen favored her with a sour look, and Halli stopped laughing.  “You know damned well what about, girl.  I’d really love to know what went on that night – and so do you.”
        Halli sipped at her drink, determined not to get drunk.  A glance around had shown that the cheetah and her beau had left, while Ranua and Miri were still there.  The black and brown furred canine was sitting quite close to the terrier, and whatever she was whispering in Ranua’s ear was causing him to blush.  “Yes, I’d like to know too,” she admitted.  “Any chance we might find out together?”
        “No,” came the firm reply, and Halli nodded.  Lisa said, “Look, Halli, you’re very sweet, but we both got drunk at a very bad moment.  I still feel like I took advantage of you that night.”
        “Well, I don’t remember it – but if you did, I forgive you,” the rabbit replied.  She watched the party, and noted that now Ranua and Miri were gone.  “I think the party’s starting to wind down.”
        “So it is.”
        “I think I’ll turn in for the night.”  Halli set her beer bottle down and looked at the vixen.  “Care to join me?”
        “Just sleep?”
        She nodded.  “Just sleep.  I think we both need a hug.”


        The next morning Halli rolled over and found her face pressed into a tangle of reddish-blond headfur.  “Pfui.”
        “Hmm?”  The vixen rolled over and blinked sleepily at the rabbit.  “Good morning,” she murmured, then blinked a bit as her eyes focused.  “Halli?”
        “Why are my panties on your head?”
        The rabbit shrugged.  “M’ears were cold.”
        “Uh-huh.  Well, give them back; I need to get up.”
        “But my ears will get cold.”
        “Here, then.”  This statement was followed by a pillow dumped on the rabbit’s head.

        “You know, people will start talking about you two,” Brenda said as Halli and Lisa came downstairs a bit later.  “Breakfast?”
        “No thanks,” Halli said.  “And what can they talk about?  Nothing happened.”  Lisa merely sniffed in mock disdain and headed over to the coffeepot.
        “Oh, so now you two are sharing the same alibi, huh?” the Labrador teased, winking to show that she meant it as a joke.  All three of them laughed.  “So, Halli, you leaving today?”
        “I have to get back to the base,” the rabbit replied with a smile.  “I want to get back into the air again.”
        “Well, take care of yourself, and remember you’ve got a room here if you want it.”
        With a cheerful wave Halli left the Lotus and walked to the water taxi stand, getting on with a few tourists headed over to Eastern Island.  As the boat made its way through the anchorage she watched a KV-3 fly overhead, and breathed a wistful sigh.

        When she got inside the base she made for the longhouse where she put on her duty uniform, then went to the base hospital.  On the second floor of the building she went to a certain room and knocked on the open door.  “Niho?”
        “Hi, Halli,” the antelope said cheerfully, laying aside the magazine he was reading.  He was sitting up in the bed with strips of bandages wrapped around his chest.  His left arm was strapped against his body, leaving only his right paw free.  A few smaller bandages dotted the left side of his face where he had been cut by flying glass.  “How are you doing?” he asked after letting her hug him.
        “I should be asking you that question.”
        Niho laughed.  “This?  The doctor says that I could go back on flight status in a week, ten days on the outside.  I’m already cleared to go back to the base.  I’d like you to arrange transportation, if that’s okay.”
        She smiled, taking a seat on a corner of the bed.  “Sure.”
        “I was out of it at the time,” he said, “but Bill and Jack have filled me in on what you did, Halli.  Quick thinking, and great work.”
        The rabbit blushed.  “Like I told a friend of mine, Niho, I was cornered into it.”
        “Well, remind me never to back you into a corner then.”  They both started laughing.

July 14, 1937:

        The Bosanquet transport settled gently into the waters of Blefuscu lagoon and taxied to the closest available dock.  Halli and the rest of the crew parted ways and Halli headed for her home. 
        “Oops.”  She had left a window open on the seaward side of the bungalow, and wind-driven sand had blown in.  She sighed and got a broom and dustpan from the closet and started cleaning up.

        Three days later she was back in the air as copilot with another instructor, a lynx femme who seemed determined to let Halli do everything (which suited her just fine).  Of course, that also meant all the paperwork.
        After a long day, she was seated on the porch with a glass of iced tea.  Through the open door she could see her schoolbooks, a reminder that she had work to do after dinner.  Her ears perked at the sound of footsteps. 
        “Hello – oh!”
        “May we come in, Halli?” Captain Kahr asked.  Standing just behind him was Commander Edensaw.  Both, to her relief, were smiling. 
        “Please, yes, come in Milo,” she said, getting quickly to her feet.  The fox and the polar bear stepped into the bungalow and she followed them.  “I apologize for the looks of the place.  Can I get either of you something to drink?”
        The fox raised a paw.  “Commander Edensaw and I didn’t come here to inspect your home, Halli,” Kahr said with a chuckle.  “And we won’t be staying for dinner.  We dropped by to tell you that we’ve reviewed all the reports from that incident you were involved in, and we tend to agree with Lt. Hohnihohkaiyohos’ recommendation.”
        “What recommendation, sir?”
        The fox’s brows drew together in a puzzled frown.  “He didn’t tell you?”  He glanced back at the bear, who shrugged.  Kahr shook his head and turned back to Halli.  “Hohnihohkaiyohos recommended you for the Award of Merit, along with his share of the prize value.”
        The rabbit’s jaw dropped in shock.  The Award of Merit was the third-highest decoration in the Syndicate, and a double share of the prize would be a hefty bonus.  “Sir,” she finally managed to gasp out, “all I did was – “
        “All you did was display leadership, courage and improvisational skill, Halli,” Edensaw said, then grinned, his muzzle cresting.  “Take it and say ‘Thank You’ when the Vice-Commodore approves it.  You earned it.”
        There was little she could say to that.  She gulped and nodded, then said, “But Niho’s share– “
        “He told me that he’s offering it voluntarily, since he was out of action at the time during the incident,” Captain Kahr said.  “If you like, it can be divided up between you and Petty Officers Hart and Running Elk.  But you do deserve it.”
        Halli looked confused and almost backed away a step from the larger fox, but she finally straightened a bit and said, “With your permission, sir, I’d like it divided up, please.”
        Kahr nodded.  “All right then.  Oh, and don’t worry about Hart or Running Elk either; they’re getting awards as well.  Pending approval by Seathl, you’ll be given the Award next week.  Now,” and he rubbed his paws together as his tone of voice became more formal, “about our conversation concerning fighter school, Ensign.”
        “Yes, sir?  Oh, yes,” she said, belatedly realizing that they had spoken about her cross-training prior to her last mission.  Well, she had come to a decision about that.  “With your permission, sir, I feel that I’m ready for fighter training now.”
        Kahr smiled broadly.  “After your performance against those smugglers, I should say you are, young woman.  I’ll notify Commander McCall that he’ll soon have a full roster again.  Anything to add, Commander?”
        “Just that I’ll hate to let you go, Ensign,” the bear said quietly, offering a paw.  “You have a very good feel for the KV-3.”
        “Thank you, sir,” Halli replied, shaking the paw gravely.  “I may come back to the KV-3, sir – it’s a stout plane.” 
        The usually taciturn polar bear laughed at that.
        The two officers left the bungalow then, and the rabbit gulped down her iced tea as she thought things over.


        All of the personnel from her squadron were present in their formal red and green uniforms as Halli stepped out to face Captain Kahr.  He read out the citation, and took a small medal from Commander Edensaw.  Jack and Bill had already received their awards.
        The Award for Merit was a one-inch wide bronze disc, suspended from a ribbon that bore the red and black of Rain Island bordered in copper thread.  The inscription on the obverse was simply “For Merit” and the date of the incident; the reverse carried Halli’s name and rank.
        Kahr pinned it to her red uniform tunic, just below her pilot’s wings, then stepped back and returned her salute as everyone cheered.


One week later:

        The Kypriakos-Volstead KV-9 fighter was a sleek little machine, a low-wing monoplane that seemed to strain against its twin floats.  It was a bit slower than other front-line fighters belonging to other nations, but a newer design was expected to go into production soon.
        Halli sat on the port wing of her plane, her legs tucked under her as she finished lifting away the last stencil from the fuselage beneath the cockpit canopy.  With the plane bobbing in the gentle swells of the lagoon, she had to move slowly and carefully in order to avoid smearing the fresh paint.  She nodded, pleased with the job, then packed away the can of paint and the brushes she had used.
        Three stencils had been placed on the KV-9.  The first was a generalized silhouette of a ship with a large X superimposed over it.
        The second stencil was her rank and her name, both in English letters and in Spontoonie pictographs.
        The third was her call sign, hers alone by special dispensation:

the end