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Uploaded 24 February 2014

Stranded Angel
Autumn 1936
Part 16A
A story by Simon Barber & David Reese Dorrycott & Fredrik K T Andersson
A story of Angelica Silferlindh, a character by Freddy Andersson,
(including characters from his comic strip "Silver Angel")
& featuring Oharu and characters by David Reese Dorrycott
and characters from Simon Barber's Songmark Academy stories.

Stranded Angel
  Autumn 1936

Part 16A
by Simon Barber

A story of Angelica Silferlindh, from Freddy Andersson's Silver Angel comic strip
and other characters by Freddy Andersson;
featuring Oharu and characters by David Reese Dorrycott

and characters from Simon's Songmark Academy stories
Art by Simon Barber & Freddy Andersson
Angelica Silfverlindh, Kama, & Shark Hunter are characters by Freddy Andersson

It had been a sight of interest for tourists and villagers for months, the bright silver floatplane incongruously pulled up on the shore of the North-facing Main Island beach. Though aircraft could be found pulled up for picnics on most of the Spontoon beaches from time to time, the demands of high performance aircraft were rather greater than to be tethered on the beach like an outrigger canoe. All through August and well into September it had sat there just above high tide line, occasionally worked on by teams of increasingly baffled mechanics and well-wishers as its feline owner looked on and fumed. Very occasionally it had gone for short hops while the original fuel held out, but almost never piloted by its owner. One day in October it had flown away, while Angelica Silfverlindh looked on in anguish as her beloved Silver Angel left her standing alone on the empty beach.

“And that,” as Angelica was saying to one of the Natives she worked the fishing boats with, “is the problem.”

Monoteha shrugged, the lithe otter rubbing extra oil into her already slick fur as the boat chugged away from shore in the gathering darkness, ready to start another night of fishing. “Missy Ada she take good care of silver aircraft, ho yes! Keep safe and dry in Sky-path hangars, no storm he hit or seagull he mess on aircraft. Finest place for silver bird.”

“I know the Silver Angel’s being looked after. But not by me.” Angelica complained, pulling her oilskins tighter around her shoulders. “Yes, I’m glad it’s in shelter, out of the rain and salt spray. Ada’s got the tools and equipment to look after it, I know. I should be doing my share of helping her. Instead…” She waved a paw out at the wide Pacific, the last of the October light fast fading behind dense clouds. “I’m out doing this.” She reflected for an instant that at least she far preferred fish to her family’s fanatical interest in bananas; that was when they were properly cooked and presented on a plate, rather than won from the sea in the middle of a cold and windy night.

“So what you do, bring Silver bird back to beach, watch she rust, fall pieces?” Monoteha was generally a carefree girl, but she had been putting up with Angelica for a long time. Her ears dipped. “Ada she work hard, ho yes, spend money on aircraft work, is bad way say thank you.”

“No. No.” Angelica looked out towards the beach, and further in the direction of Eastern Island. “It’s best where it is, right now. But I should go and help. “ She stuck her tongue out at the feel of wet oilskins on her fur; the shipboard clothing never dried, and was as sticky as a rubber glove unless one had oiled fur. That was still a step too far for her to take; she might “go native” in some respects, but nothing she could not strip out of in five minutes if the chance of rescue came along.

“Is good fishing weather.” Monoteha waved at the waxing moon. “Plenty fish tonight, make Ice Queen very happy. She come at dawn, in cold-season fish stay good for wait till morning.” The factory vessel spent a hectic summer dashing around between smaller fishing boats to pick up their catch and store it on ice for the cannery no more than an hour after being netted; evidently the advancing season had some advantages.

“Maybe I should transfer to the Ice Queen,” Angelica cast a jaundiced eye at the bow of the Native canoe as it briefly vanished in the swell. “A smoother ride on a bigger boat, with a higher deck that’s not soaked in spray all night – and they might have to get up early, but they’re not out all night.”

“Eeeh, lass, folk they’ll ‘ave to get up early to outwit us,” Prudence Akroyd gave Ada a comradely hug as she looked at the pair of metre-long steel brackets that were taking pride of place on the workbench. “Good work and fast talkin’, that were.” They had arrived in one of their precious before-breakfast slots to find what a complaining Rickshaw driver had delivered to the dockside workshop the night before.

“I didn’t think you could persuade Superior Engineering to do it at cost price,” Belle nodded, looking at the newly delivered components. “Stainless Steel is tough to work, and this alloy’s so new. Good idea of you to persuade them to have their apprentices build the engine bearers as a practice piece.”

Ada nodded. “It’s a material of the future, all right. They needed to order in special drills, and the latest specifications sheets about heat treating the metal. For all that – Superior would have probably thrown them away or sold them to the Japanese scrap merchants if they were regular workshop practice pieces.” The main commercial repair shop on Eastern Island had fanatically high standards; they knew all too well that if a component failed in the middle of the Pacific that surviving customers would not forgive or forget. “It’s three times the weight of the original, but it shouldn’t corrode.” She frowned. “Of course, if tha’ made whole aircraft out o’ this, it wouldn’t get off the water – assuming it floated in the first place…”

“What did you do with the originals?” Carmen looked around for the slightly corroded parts that had been precisely measured before being made into three-elevation drawings under their Tutors’ critical eyes. “Mister Tanaka is always looking out for non-ferrous metals.” For some reason the Pacific was being scoured for scrap metal by Japanese businessmen who had ready money and an insatiable demand for everything metallic. Zinc, tin, copper and lead rarely had time to corrode much on Spontoon.

Ada gave a mischievous smile. “We can’t re-use them ourselves; you know we can’t melt magnesium down without special facilities, inert atmosphere and everything. We’re always being lectured about supporting our classmates, so I did - sold them to Molly. Twenty kilograms of nearly pure magnesium – I’m sure she could find a good use for that.” She sniffed, looking at Prudence’s expression. “Well, maybe not a good use. It’s not my fault she likes setting things on fire. And if she didn’t buy from me, she’d just buy elsewhere. We do need the money.”

Prudence raised an eyebrow. “Ey, well. Reckon that lass should know better by now, third year an’ all.“ She paused, drumming her fingers on the workbench. “Still, the steel bar stock cost us dear enough. ‘Ow much is in us fund, after we’ve tek out the hangar fees till term end?”

Ada fished for her notebook in her overalls. “We’re not badly off,” she said cautiously. “That portfolio still keeps on selling. The publishers said it should be a steady seller once the rush dies down. Trouble is, the aircraft just keeps costing us. We’ve paid Oharu back and all the hangar fees but –“ she looked at the new components, “the Silver Angel has expensive tastes in fuel and parts.” Her gaze flicked towards the land runway and its hangars; she had helped repair her classmate Amelia’s “Sand Flea” the week before with a few cowry’s worth of plywood and canvas sneaked out of Songmark stocks. Stainless steel and high-strength experimental magnesium alloys were in a very different price range.

Belle nodded. “It’s paid our bills, but it won’t make us rich. Not Career-building rich, nothing that’d satisfy Miss Devinski. She’ll be asking us some hard questions before the end of term about that.”

Ada’s ears drooped a little. “She’d be happy enough if Angelica was planning on coming in with us after Graduation. She’d call it a good investment of time and money then, learning the Silver Angel inside out, practicing making components. That’d be such a good aircraft for Adventuring in. But as soon as Angelica’s “put right” she’ll be off, forever.” She dug with her folding spoon into the warm tin of Maconochie that was her breakfast; certainly Songmark made sure students missing the communal meals only did so for good reason.

“Aye? Tha’ reckons?” Prudence cast a critical eye over her friend. “Where’s she going to go, lass? Back to Sweden and t’ banana warehouse, eh? She’s as far from there right now as tha’ gets on t’ globe, tha’ knows. Any further, she starts getting’ back towards the family firm an’ a hundred tons o’ bananas to polish.” Running away from home for good reason was one thing; many of the Songmark students by definition were happy to be away from there – but at Songmark the emphasis was more on choosing what you wanted to run towards. The Pacific had its share of drifters who had run away years ago, and never found stability again. Not all of them were exiled White Russians, “Hula Junkers” and other such folk with a good reason to leave their homelands. The Russian Civil War with its battling Bolsheviks and the shocking decadence of the German Weimaraner Republic with its jazz bars and duelling saxophones were things any right-thinking fur would understandably escape.

Carmen gave a start, looking at her watch. “Have to be at first class in half an hour! And our timetable is packed till weekend after that! Friday night, we go on fence patrol.”

Four sets of ears drooped. Prudence gestured towards the engine bearers. “Ey well – no time to fit these; three hour workshop job for all of us that’ll be, wi’ engine testing an’ all. Can’t do that till Saturday.”

Ada coughed. “Sunday. It’s been two weeks since I had my talking-to from Rabbi Miller. With Angelica’s curse, we’ve a lot to talk about. He’s very interested in such things, living here.” It was rare that long-established religions ran into genuinely new problems; the idea that Ada genuinely was helping Angelica to work against her curse (and if that succeeded she would kiss her farewell forever except as a friend) was provoking an intriguing piece of theological debate. She was no stranger to long discussions with the Chief Rabbi, who had been attributing prematurely grey hairs to her since the affair in her first year with the high-speed electric Ouija board.

Prudence raised an ear and an eyebrow. “Sunday for you then, lass. We’ll make a start while tha’s owwer on Casino Island.”

“I can visit Angelica on Saturday, that’s perfectly allowed” Ada’s tail waved as they headed out of the door. “It’s strange suddenly having a family like this – with Kama and her pet.”

“Aye. Well. Umm.” Prudence’s brow furrowed. They had heard the tale from Angelica, of her defending herself from the unscrupulous shell-hunter and the strange encounter in the sacred grove that had apparently brought the bizarre pet back to life. She had looked up sea cucumber biology in the main Casino Island library attached to the High School; just as tiny lizards sacrificed their tails to escape a predator, sea cucumbers really could eject their replaceable innards without coming to any permanent harm. The same book had also said they were simple life-forms whose most complex behaviour was crawling round the ooze of the abyssal floor looking for scraps of food; they could definitely not bounce around on land like a happy puppy, and learning to retrieve sticks was absolutely impossible. Evidently, nobody had told Kama this. “What happened to that French bloke, the one as tried to pinch it for his collection?”

Ada’s muzzle wrinkled. “He ended up in hospital. Nearly went blind, but they cured him in time to deport him down to the French Sandwich Islands. The insides of a sea cucumber are poisonous, and he got it right in the face. Serves him right.” Her tail thrashed. “If I’d have been there he’d have gone over a different bit of the cliff, without such a soft landing.”

“It happens, round here,” Carmen agreed. “Though Miss Devinski wouldn’t like it – the Police might think it was an accident, but she’d know somehow. We’re currently top dorm on points, let’s try and keep that till the end of term.”

“End of term. A nice thought and specially for you, Prudence. In eight weeks you and Tahni will be Tailfast again on Sacred Island,” Belle’s long ears were up as she considered the happy prospect. “Can we come and watch? We’ve never been to Sacred Island, nothing closer than a flyby. It’s not only the happy couples and the Priestesses who get to make the trip, is it?”

Prudence’s own tail twitched at the idea. “Ey, ah dunno. There’s most of the village there to look, cubs an’ all, reet enough. But they’s Natives, there to bear witness in front of local gods, like. Have to ask a Priestess if tha’s reet for it. Tha’s not studyin’ local religion like Helen and Amelia.”

Belle smiled. “I will. If I can find that Priestess Oharu to ask if I can come and watch your big day. She’s nice – and so is her student, Nuimba. I know Oharu isn’t into swimming, but next year … could we ask Nuimba if she’s interested in our swimming club? Just about all Spontoonies can swim, and with those badger stripes she’d look good on camera.” Her long ears went up as she contemplated the idea.

Ada cast her friend a calculating glance. “She might like the idea – but a trainee Priestess? Sparing that much time away from her studies? Might as well ask a Songmark third-year.” Suddenly her muzzle parted in a grin as the irony struck her. “Yes – and we make the time somehow, don’t we? You can surely ask.” Her ears dipped. True, she wore a ring of Angelica’s fur mixed with her own, but getting that had been surely a fluke, happening the one night of the month Angelica would have returned her affections. Judging by the calendar the solstice would not be such a night; whether or not Angelica would ever choose to renew her ring was worrying her. It was almost as if Angelica had been blind drunk at the time; she would not be the first or millionth in history to have woken up hung-over and unexpectedly married. In many ways it was worse – furs chose whether to drink and lived with the consequences, but she had not planned the curse that had got her Tailfast.

“It’s up to us to arrange our replacements for the club. I know it feels like a long way off, but after Easter we’ll be too busy till we graduate, then … we’ll be busy elsewhere.” Belle’s tail twitched. “There’s also that swan girl Ingrid in the first year, the first avian Songmark’s had in two years. It’s strange, really, you’d think we’d be full of them.”

“Miss Ingrid Ledasdottir, from Vanierge. Now, she IS lovely,” Carmen agreed, picturing the graceful white swan with the huge round reading glasses. She was the youngest daughter of Karl Karlsson, the Vanierge dried-fish millionaire whose crispy cod heads had proved the taste sensation of the year in his homeland. “And strong! Miss Windlesham, she’s already had to tell her to go easy with the other first-years in the self-defence classes. Everyone knows a swan’s wing can break a fur’s arm.” Her eyes crossed slightly. “You’re right. We can only ask.”

Just as the sun prepared to rise over Spontoon, it was already rising over Big Island, Hawaii as Jan Van der Veldt prepared to return to Spontoon. The big lion yawned silently, relaxing for an extra minute on the hotel bed. Just as he feared, his previous pearl-smuggling contacts had been jailed for some of their other smuggling deals and he had needed to dive into the underworld jungle to find a reasonably trustworthy replacement. That and exchanging coded telegraphs with Von Krokk to confirm his approval had taken far longer than anyone had planned.

Beside him a smaller feline shape stirred, still deeply asleep. Jan grinned; the hotel room was booked till noon, then the runaway could fend for herself. He had picked her up on the docks at Wake Island on the run from something or someone – he had asked no details, but taken her along for the ride knowing Customs officials always looked a lot harder at lone males travelling internationally than couples. Now he was off again – strictly speaking he could have gone the day before, but a lion in breeding season generally kept going while he could still move. Two days was the full business, a luxury he had not enjoyed in ages. With his usual “huntress” on Casino Island, it would have cost him a fortune even had she been so willing.

His paw brushed the rump of the feline girl, not waking her. She had had transport and accommodation from him, and proven willing enough company – he had promised her nothing else, and owed her nothing. In a European dress she looked like a regular Euro housecat, but in the places it carefully concealed her fur was spotted where some jungle cat ancestry showed through. In all the luridly coloured Adventure books such mixes would be the consequences of a pretty Missionary forgetting herself with a savagely handsome fur-painted tribal warrior, he grinned to himself. A Native would think of her as pedigree; most felines with genuine pedigrees would definitely not. He smiled, though it never reached as far as his eyes. Angelica Silfverlindh would be the genuine article, he was sure – that was why Hsien had put such a price on her.

“They hadn’t found her when I left,” he muttered to himself as he dressed, “but with her aircraft on Eastern Island – it won’t be long. She won’t be able to stay away. Somehow, she’ll make a slip, then they’ll have her.” Leaving the room with a final satisfied sniff of the musk-laden air, he trudged down to reception and paid the bill.

Just as he was leaving, a Western Onion messenger trotted in. “Express telegram for Mr Van der Veldt!” He called out. The hotel receptionist, an odd-looking Native goose, jerked a feather towards Jan, who ignored the discourtesy. This was not the Marleybone or the Grand on Casino Island, and prided itself on low prices and high levels of anonymity rather than courtesy.

Jan slit the envelope with a sharp finger-claw, scanned the paper and grunted. “No reply,” he rasped, and the smartly uniformed civet cat ran off. As he swung his knapsack on his back Jan scowled. It had not taken long to spoil his good mood; just eight words from Spontoon:


Down on the docks half an hour later, Jan checked over his float-plane carefully as ever. But in the back of his mind he thought of the troublesome housecat who was probably walking around in her usual haughty mood totally unaware of the price on her tail. His own tail drooped. “Nothing but trouble for me, that girl. Ever since the day she showed up.” Without such looks and such a pedigree she would not be so sought-after; if Hsien did get her, he growled to himself, everyone remotely associated with her pearl-smuggling career would be pulled in and grilled till they confessed whatever the Spontoon police wanted them to say.

Throwing his bag into the door locker, he sat down heavily in the pilot’s seat and stared moodily out through the windscreen. “I’ll have to get back and find her pronto.” He addressed his reflection. “Hope Black Lotus has heard from the girl’s family in Sweden so we can pack her off home. In a locked trunk if we have to. We get the reward that way, she gets away from Hsien and nobody draws us over the coals about it. Von Krokk will have his nose out of joint and he shouldn’t be able to find out we did it.” He knew from long experience that all that happening together was wildly optimistic. But aiming for the top gave you an acceptable half score if half of it failed – aim high, and you might get there. Aim low, and you never would.

As that morning drifted towards lunchtime on Spontoon, Angelica awoke an hour early and tried to get back to sleep again. It proved hopeless; there was a lively Kilikiti game going on in the street outside, and the excited squeals of cubs and pups echoed through the village from players and spectators alike. It was rather like the sport of rounders she had played back in school in England, though played with a triangular section war club over a metre long – what it lacked in sophistication it usually made up for in energy. The only reason there were not more broken windows in the village was the fact that none of the primitive native longhouses had any glass to break.

“Ahhhgg...” She shook herself fully awake, her salt-caked fur feeling matted and uncomfortable. She stuck her tongue out, grateful for once that there was no mirror in the longhouse. “I’m going to be no good on the boat tonight. Tired out already.” Shuddering, she imagined just what she looked like – a long way from the smooth, elegant figure that had arrived on Spontoon in Summer.

Her ears dipped as she washed in a bowl of barely warm water that had stood at the side of the fire-pit. “At least I won’t be embarrassed if any of my old friends drop by – they won’t recognise me.” She looked down at the locket holding her Tailfast ring. It nestled next to the silver locket holding her parents’ miniature portraits; that was the only thing apart from the Silver Angel linking her to her old life, and the only thing she had that she could touch right now. Her fur was very different; once the salt was rinsed out it shone smooth and glossy as a healthy wild animal’s, and beneath it her body had hardened to lithe muscle over months of daily exercise.

“Day-greetings!” There was a respectful knock on the door-post and Mama Popoluma looked in. “I hear you wake up. Bring breakfast!”

“Thank you!” Despite being officially adopted, Angelica resolutely refused to call the cheerful feline Mother. Although it had only been a dream, she had thought about her real mother, and a sister she had never seen on some far Pacific island. Or possibly not so far; the dream had not specified exactly where, and anywhere in the Nimitz Sea would fit what she recalled of it. “Is Kama around?”

“Ho yes! Kama she down by fishing-beach, talk she with shark-hunter.” Mama Popoluma looked relaxed and drowsy, her sleekly rounded form shining with robust good health. “She in for breakfast with family.”

Angelica yawned, remembering to thank Mama P for the deliciously crisp roasted fish – exactly how she managed that result every time given the primitive fire-pit available was a continuing source of bafflement. “I’ll go and look for her. Tomorrow I want to go over to Eastern Island, we can take a look at the Silver Angel, see what they’re doing to baby. Ada says they’ve got some other aircraft; I want to see if I can fly those.”

Mama P cast a fond look at her adopted daughter; she was the oldest Popoluma daughter currently on Spontoon, with one having married a Euro and another working in Hawaii. “Kama she love travel, water-taxi, metal sky-bird.”

Angelica’s whiskers twitched. Mama P spoke English perfectly well when she chose to; she could recite the Silver Angel’s model number if needed (though in truth Angelica had talked about it a lot) and had no real need to say “metal sky-bird” rather than “aircraft” when there were no tourists around to be charmed by the quaintness of it. “Well, I’ll take her with me anyway. Then maybe Ada can come back for the weekend, if she’s not busy on Songmark.”

“Ho yes! Ada she work hard, she good girl. Her class not like some in Songmark, no demerits, they never get into trouble.” Mama P relaxed, stretching. “Must go! See how Ropo’he he going, he work hard dig garden plot.” With that she waved farewell and headed back across the village.

Angelica scratched an ear, watching her. Ropo’he had been sent over by his family from Main Village, and had been “helping out” for the past week. He was a quite nice-looking young feline, and could be seen working in the family garden-plot or helping thatch the roof in daytime. By all accounts in the off-season there were quite a few such; one of her neighbours was a pi-dog lady of Burmese descent who was currently boarding a young greyhound lad who was starting Guide School shortly.

“I suppose it’s good for them to learn to live in a traditional village, if they don’t at home,” she told herself, stretching. “Can’t look good if tourists come round to look at ancient handicrafts and they make a mess of it.” She closed the door, grimacing slightly. There were no keys to lose or forget; there was not a lock in the whole village except for the Constable’s house which she assumed had official documents a Euro might want to take.

Down by the village’s one small jetty she spotted Kama happily playing on the shore, throwing sticks for her pet as they frisked along the tide-line. The bizarre little thing stopped as if it had seen her, and wriggled its non tentacled end disturbingly like a puppy wagging its tail. Angelica sighed, and averted her eyes.

“Shark–Hunter – there he is!” She had been meaning to talk with him for days; it had occurred to her that he shared a lot in common with Kama, and might be able to tell her in more than the kitten’s one word replies. But the Native cat was not alone; he was standing impassively while a large polar bear was animatedly trying to persuade him to do something, or so it looked.

“Just one,” the bear urged as Angelica came into earshot “It’s what you do best, isn’t it? And the whole village will benefit. It’s not just for me.”

“No.” Shark-Hunter shook his head. “If one comes to attack, then yes I will protect our folk. I do not go out to kill the sea-spirit sharks.”

“It’s only a fish,” the bear argued “the boats go out every night fishing, don’t they? But these don’t get caught in the nets too often. It’s been weeks since we brought one in – if we don’t get one soon, there’ll be no hakarl for the Yule festival. What would we tell the cubs?”

Angelica’s mouth started to water. She had heard of hakarl; the favourite Icelandic delicacy was made by taking an otherwise poisonous Greenland shark, gutting it and burying the carcass in volcanic beach sand for months while it fermented and the poison was washed away in the groundwater. Once fermented it was dug up and dried like a side of bacon, though with infinitely more flavour. According to the daintier eaters, it was tasty only in that it had more impact on the taste-buds than anything this side of pure ammonia. The national Swedish dish was very different, a fermented Baltic herring preparation called Surstromming that was still compulsory in many of the Northern villages.

But Shark-Hunter was unmoved. “If I must kill one, you shall have it. I will not go out to kill. The Spirits guide me on the great waters for their reasons, not yours.”

The bear threw up his arms in exasperation. “Very well, we’ll try and catch some ourselves. But when the cubs ask for their hakarl at the Thorrablot festival, remember them!” With that he turned and stumped off, heading Eastwards towards Vikingstown.

“It must be difficult with a name like yours, turning down a commission,” Angelica commented, as the bear went out of sight “I’ve seen you working, in Summer.” She hesitated. Like Kama, he had done things that by any sane or rational standards were simply impossible. “Do the Spirits really guide you?”

“As they wish.” The handsome Native looked her over, his voice neutral. “And only as they wish.”

Angelica’s ears dipped. By most Euro standards he was a star fisherman, a guardian who had saved many lives in the village. And yet not only did he never ask for any reward, but he never explained how he did it. She had heard of Euros who had interviewed Shamans keenly asking how they could learn to do such wonders – the usual replies were on the lines of “Learn? The Spirits choose you to serve them. Pray they never do.”

Her tail swished in frustration. “Don’t you have any other name? What if the Spirits stopped talking to you like they did when Priestess Oharu got mad at those three who cursed me? If you didn’t hunt sharks what’d you be?”

“Freer.” He treated her to a calm smile. “But while shark-spirits hunger for land furs, I doubt it will happen.” He raised an eyebrow, looking her over.

Angelica sensed the conversation was not going as she had planned. “These spirits, they talk to you when they tell you about hunting sharks. Mama Popoluma says you were like Kama, they used to do it all the time.”

“Yes.” He sat back, evidently satisfied with the reply.

The Swedish feline fumed slightly. It would have been much easier a few months ago; she knew then there were no such things as Spirits or curses, and that anyone who heard voices talking silently to them was on a one-way trip to a padded cell. Although mercifully no invisible forces had started talking to her, she had to admit the rest of it was real. The knowledge did not make her happier.

“Can you hear them? Right now? If they were talking to Kama, could you hear what they said?” She knew she was trying to use logic on the inexplicable, but anything was worth a try. If she could not ask Kama herself and get a two-word reply, there was only one source of information, and she was talking to him. A rather handsome Him, though equally infuriating. The fact that he was making no effort to impress her was equally irritating; she knew she was a sophisticated, cultured feline of wealth, good looks and socially as far above him as a cirrus cloud was over a native mud-hole. He should be tripping over his own tail just trying to get in her good books. She should be able to twist him around her smallest finger, for a chance of something she had no intention of granting.

Suddenly a chill ran down her spine. Something Monoteha had mentioned ages ago – the Native standard of beauty was something far nearer Mama Popoluma than her own slender charms. It was like proudly discovering the suitcase of money you were carrying was not accepted locally. She blinked; the only society he cared about was his own village and island; what Euros thought about him was of less significance than the wind blowing through the trees. Remembering what Monoteha had cheerfully described – the local girls would probably be very keen on a handsome young tomcat like Shark Hunter, and had very different ideas of “virtue” than had been taught in Sweden or Saint Winifred’s. Innocence in a Native girl was valued like pilot inexperience in a front-line fighter squadron in wartime; with a sinking feeling Angelica realised what her competition was, and that everything she valued as a Euro would be a liability here, even her svelte figure.

Shark Hunter stirred, fixing her with a keen gaze. “When they speak to me, I hear. When they want to hear my words, they listen. Other times …” his tail swished descriptively. “A fur can talk to the ocean waves, but not expect an answer.”

Kama came trotting up, her small paws splashing through the shallows with her pet gambolling behind her. “Play!” She squeaked, her eyes fixing on Angelica.

As Shark Hunter and Kama looked at her, suddenly they cocked an ear at something inaudible. Then a few seconds later they both smiled.

They just heard from the spirits. Right now. I wonder what they said? Are they talking about me? Angelica’s eyes widened. It was most unfair. There was nothing like this in Stockholm, and by sane standards Stockholm should beat Spontoon in any way. Except climate. And gentlemen’s wardrobe, or lack of it here, she seemed to hear not exactly a spirit, but a small rebellious voice saying that she recognised as her own.

“Well, it looks like I’ve got my orders, from a higher authority,” Angelica’s ear dipped wryly as she looked down at her daughter. “Tomorrow we’re off to Eastern Island on a surprise visit – to see Ada if she’s in. If not, at least we’ll have somewhere new to look at. Kama can watch the aircraft taking off from close up. She likes aircraft”

“She has reason. Butterfly-lady, Feather-Man her ancestors. Both are out of the air.” Shark-hunter smiled. “But they happy you look after her in village.”

“Play!” Kama tugged insistently at her mother’s Lava-Lava.

“All right, Kama.” Angelica fuzzled a waist-high set of head-fur. “I’m on my way.” She followed the kitten out to the far end of the sand spit where the horizon ahead was wide and the breeze fresh; half an hour of skimming stones and shells for Kama and the improbable pet to retrieve somehow relaxed her.

“Tomorrow,” she decided, “I’ll see Ada. She will be surprised!”


Spontoon Island webpages ©2011 Ken Fletcher
All rights revert to the contributors - their collaborative contributions
are ©2011 Simon Barber, ©2011 David Reese Dorrycott,
& ©2011 Fredrik K T Andersson - rights reserved include story characters.
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