Love Pilot # 9

by Joseph Greenlee

 

TaleSpin is property of Walt Disney Co.  The characters of Kit

Cloudkicker, Baloo, Rebecca Cunningham, Molly Cunningham, Wildcat, Una, Plane Jane and others are

all property of Walt Disney Co. as well.  This is being written

without permission, and absolutely no money will be made from it as

well, so for the love of everything decent DON'T SUE ME!!  All of my

characters, as well as this story, are property of I, my *most*

glorious self, and is not to be used without my permission. (If you

want it for your site, just ask...:)  

Rated PG 13 for sexual innuendo, language, and overall fiendish goofiness.

 

             Baloo walked away from the pastry shop in frustration.  They didn’t have any of those éclairs he liked!  What kind of store was it that couldn’t keep track of things like that?  Moodily, he looked down at Kit, who was smiling at something in the newspaper that he was scanning as they walked down the sidewalk somewhere on the opposite side of the city from Higher for Hire.  

“What’re you so jazzed about?  The Socks win again or somethin’?”  

“Yeah, like I care about baseball scores...” remarked Kit.  “All they do is stand around anyway...it’s so boring.”    

“Hey, I’ll have you know it takes a lot of skill...like piloting,” commented Baloo, as he chomped a bite out of his club sandwich.  

“Right,” said Kit rolling his eyes without Baloo seeing. “But no Baloo, look!”  

Kit folded the paper and shoved it up so Baloo could see the caption:  

 

 “PSYCHIC FAIR TO BE HELD TODAY”

 

“Psychic??” said Baloo, snorting.  “Oh great, all I need is more mumbo jumbo.  Last time someone told me my fortune I wound up...”

 

“Oh, c’mon Baloo, it sounds fun!” said Kit.

 

“Yeah, fun if you like wasting your money away on useless scam artists.”  

“Hmm.  You never had a problem with it before...”  

“You’re a crackup this mornin’, Kit, you know that?”  

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

Meanwhile, on the other side of town...  

“Sergeant Dunder!”  

“Yes, my inspiring commander, sir?” said Dunder, saluting.  

“Make sure to take close observations today, Thergeant!  We can’t let our guard down for a second... You can never tell what kind of depra-a-aaved mind would plan to set their eyes on one of Thembria’s most esteemed citizens!  Especially since the High Marshall threatened to dip me in hot tar if anything went wrong...” Spigot said, concluding that last note with a whine.  

“But doesn’t he always threaten to tar you??”  

“Yes, and my tail is still sore from the last time!!!”   

Dunder recoiled. “Yes, sir.”  

“Now where is Iliana?”  

“Getting her luggage, sir.”  

“Unh!  Women!” said Spigot, rolling his eyes.  

“But sir, I mean...doesn’t she need a lot of stuff?  Being so important an’ all?”  

“Are you implying that I am not as important??”  

“Well, no sir...I mean you’re not a female sir...or a psychic that thousands of adoring Thembrians look up to...”  Spigot narrowed his eyes and was about to charge at Dunder with his riding crop, when Dunder  redeemed himself.  

“Of course people look up to you, too, sir.  Um...so to speak.”  Spigot stopped his riding crop midair.  

“I know that!  And why do you think I was chosen to escort her in the first place?”  

“Lottery numbers?”

 “It’s because of my charming nature!!!”  

“Oh.  That was my second guess,” said Dunder reproachfully.  “But sir, why are only escorting Ms. Iliana?   The passenger list indicated two civilians...”  

“Hmm, yes.  It’s a shame Thembria’s most famous radio host couldn’t make it as well.”  

“Maury Povovitchingpowder?”  

“Yes.  Unfortunately he was just sentenced to two hundred years in a salt mine.  However!  I’m still more than confident this will go off well.  I mean...how hard can a simple speech and a festival be??”  

“Well, the last time we were here.—!" 

“Shut up, Dunder!  Get back inside and help the passenger!”

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

Becky looked over her papers in dismay.  Today was just not a good day.  Why did Baloo’s day off have to be today?  Molly ran past the open front door with Wildcat chasing her from behind.  She glanced back to her work.  Molly ran past again in the other direction, Wildcat at her heels.  

            Sighing, she walked up and over to the middle of the doorway.  Glancing outwards, she saw neither Molly nor Wildcat.  Then, in a sudden burst of laughter, Molly bolted towards her mother from behind the corner of the building and making high pitched noises, stopped as her mother held her up for inspection. 

“What are you two doing?” she said.  

“Wildcat and I are playing hamsters!”  

“You are?!”  

            “Uh- huh!”  

Wildcat peeked up from his hiding place and wandered back over to the office area.  Rebecca was already talking to Molly by the time he had.  And that moth looked just like a wrench he had several years ago!!  After the moth flew off, Wildcat was no longer distracted and so made his way over to them.  

“Wildcat, I appreciate you taking care of Molly today.  I know it’s your day off, and—!”  

“Oh, no problem, Miz Cunningham!  I can look for hamsters aaaany day of the week!  Except blue ones.  I haven’t seen those yet...” he admitted.  

“O...kay.  Well, how about you take Molly somewhere, like the park.  I was going to, but I’m so bogged down.  But...” she said, anticipating Molly’s disappointment, “I’ve already arranged plans so that next week we can go out for your class’s field trip!”  

“Really?”  

“Uh huh...it’s already taken care of.  We’ll have plenty of fun then, I promise,” she said with a hug.

 

*                                                          *                                                          *  

 

“Baloo, what are you doing??”  

“I’m not takin’ any chances...” said Baloo, as he fished out his rabbit’s foot from the drawer full of assorted materials.  “No hexes, no curses, no prophecies, no nothin’...” he said, shoving the thing in his pocket.   

“I thought you didn’t believe in that sort of stuff.”  

“I don’t.   Let’s get going.”  

“So why are you so in a hurry all of a sudden?”  

“Didntcha see?  Look for yourself,” said Baloo before they got to the stairs. “Free food, kiddo!” he said, shoving the paper in front of Kit’s face again.  

“Oh...” said Kit, with lowered eyelids and a slightly critical “I should have known” look.  

The big pilot declared, “Don’t even think about anyone suckering me in today!”  

Outside, Rebecca was giving Wildcat instructions on looking after Molly.  The park was nearby, but still...this was Wildcat.  You couldn’t be too careful.  He got into more accidents than... Suddenly she saw Baloo and Kit.  

“Baloo!”  

“No.”  

“No what?” she said innocently.  

“No I’m not gonna do it, whatever it is.  This is one day off I’m gonna enjoy.”  

“Why, I wouldn’t dream of imposing.” she continued sweetly. “May I ask where you’re headed, though?”  

“Psychic fair,” Kit told her.  

She blinked. “Psychic fair?? They actually have one of those?”  

“Ya coulda beat me over the head with a waffle maker...” said Baloo.  

TOO easy...thought Becky.  Be nice, she repeated to herself.  Nice, nice, nice, cordial, nice...  

“I don’t suppose you’d let Molly and Wildcat come along?  They were going to the park, but—“ she began, whispering in his ear as Molly clambered over Wildcat some yards away, “I sort of promised her to take her out for the day.  And now I feel guilty.  

Kit inwardly groaned.  It wasn’t that he didn’t enjoy spending time with Molly or anything, but...well, couldn’t everyone just have their space from time to time??  

Baloo walked down the street, now alongside Wildcat and Kit, and with Molly, who was riding on his shoulders.  

“Kit, how did I...”  

“Don’t look at me!” Kit interrupted.  “You’re the one who’s jinxed.”  

“Funny.  Ha, ha...”  

            “What’s Kit talkin’ about?” asked Molly.  

“Baloo thinks he has bad luck...” Kit said, hiding a grin.  

“Maybe you can wear a clover!  That’s what my teacher said brings luck.”  

            “Hey, Baloo...what was that you were saying about not getting...”  

“Shut up, kid,” Baloo said, unamused.

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

The fair was being held in an area with long venues along some of Cape Suzette ’s field area, on the outskirts of an area with respectable stores.  Baloo and Kit stood on the last street that came before the festival area.  

“Hey, I wonder if they have any bakeries around here,” Baloo said.  

“I wonder why Rebecca didn’t let us borrow her car,” Kit replied.  

“Uh, let’s just say she and I have differences right now...”  

“You dented it?!”  

“She told you!” Baloo accused.  

“No, but I saw it... I just figured she did it!”  At this, Kit burst into peals of laughter.  Baloo (now free of Molly’s weight on his shoulders) returned the laughter with a look of bored misery.  

Meanwhile, Wildcat and Molly had entered the dirt paved festival area.  A series of acrobats juggled sticks across to one another.    

“Wow, Wildcat!  Horses!”  Molly gazed at the animals staring at her from the pen.  A white, tall, sheep-like animal twitched its ears and looked at her, surprised for a brief couple of seconds, then resumed its chewing of leaves and grass.  

“Oh gee, Molly.  Those aren’t horses...” said Wildcat.  “They’re...um...giant caterpillars?!”  He scratched his head.  

“They are llamas, my friend,” said an older, accented voice.  

Molly and Wildcat turned towards the table.  The woman had a red shawl around her head and was dressed in a shirt with baggy sleeves and a dark ultramarine vest, completing the ensemble with gold hoop earrings.  

“I am Una...” she said, stressing the syllables of the name. “Perhaps you would like your fortune told?  Or a fruit shake?  I sell both...” she explained, presenting her blender in full view on the table next to the one with the crystal ball.

“Wow.  Are you like...psychic or somethin’?”  

“Well, this is a psychic fair,” replied the woman simply.  “Although --- thank goodness for me --- it’s not just psychics.  They really should be more explicit of that in the paper,” she said, batting said paper with her hand.  

She was in fact, right.  Game booths lined the venue, but even more so a prevalent theme of the supernatural had popped up in the likes of “The Werewolf’s Lair” (maze) and “The Mummy’s Revenge” (a maze with a chili dog stand next to it) and “The Creature from the Black Lagoon’s Cove” (halibut stand) Wildcat pricked his nose up into the air.  He remembered how mummies smelled and he was still trying to forget.  Yuck.

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

“Wow, they have a roller coaster...” said Kit in surprise, as he ran over to the fence.  Looking at the cheesy green dragon motif on the small carts and the passengers (mostly small children), and last but certainly least the small height of the coaster, which couldn’t have been much taller than Baloo, his excitement evaporated.  “Oh,” he said.  

“Hey, now that’s the kind of roller coaster that’s more Baloo’s style...” commented Baloo.  Kit, disappointed and annoyed, leaned on the fence and after getting over the suckiness of the first sight, surmised the rest of the fair.  It didn’t look too bad.  The Halloween theme blended perfectly with the psychic motif.   

Una, taking careful measurements of Wildcat’s palm, forehead and eardrum, carefully consulted her cards.  

“You will have a very interesting year,” she said.  “Do you do a lot of travel?”  

“We went to Thembria once!” Molly piped in.  

Una laughed.  “Well, that must have been fun...” she said.   

“It was!” said Molly.  “Except for the prison...we were gonna stay there for two hundred years.”  

            “Or maybe even life,” Wildcat added.  “We would have missed ‘Danger Woman’ for sure!”  

Una laughed nervously.  “What an active imagination...imagine that! A Thembrian prison, ha ha!”  Molly stood there unresponsive, happily oblivious to Una’s incredulousness.  

“But back to you, my friend.  Your fortune seems to be directed very much by strong forces from various parts of the world.  It is mooost interesting.  Hmm.” she said, continuing to study her subject.  “You will meet a dark force soon.  But it will be a force that you will tower over.  His force will be hot like the desert wind and fierce like the crying of baby eagles.  Hmm.”  

After this she told Wildcat where he could find a good hot dog stand.  

“Wow, she really iiiis psychic!” said Wildcat when they finally arrived at one.  Molly didn’t care; she was too busy staring at her future lunch being prepared.  

Kit decided he was going to do some exploring so Baloo took it upon himself to look for the promised free eats.  But when he got to the sampling tables, he found that only a few had been set up.  One woman was offering free bran muffins.  Another carrot sticks.  He looked in disappointment at both.  

            “Well, never say I look a gift horse in the mouth,” he said, digging in to the muffin.  “Hey, that’s actually kinda good...”  

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

Kit, in the meantime, was peacefully minding his own business, humming slightly and as he came to an intersection of stands, he heard an all too familiar voice.  

“Dunder!  Be careful with that!”  

Coronal Dipwad, Kit immediately thought.  

“How many times! Do I have to tell you to you to pay attention!!”  

“Sorry, colonel...”  

“Now, I’m going to take our guest to the speakers forum, where she will maa-arrvel the crowd in the name of the Glorious People’s Republic!  You will patrol the grounds and keep on the lookout for suspicious characters...And no dawdling!” he said, practically shouting Dunder’s head off.  

            Poor Dunder, thought Kit, cringing.  

            When Kit was sure Spigot was both out of sight and earshot (luckily the place was filled with people taller than the colonel) he went up to say a friendly hello to Dunder.  

“Kit!”  

“Dunder...I haven’t seen you in a while,” Kit said grinning.  

            “Yeah.  Well...every time we meet the colonel winds up shooting at you...”   

“Or trying to anyway...  So, are you here on leave?”  

            “Nah.  We only get leave when we’re extra special good.  I’ve never gotten leave, actually...” Dunder said, thoughtfully.  “But I have to be on the lookout for...ya know, thugs and stuff,” he said.  

“In other words, Spigot’s paranoid over something again.  What is it this time, a silver noseplug?”  

“Nah.  It’s not a what.  It’s a who.”  

“Who?”  

“What?”  

“Who?”  

“Oh, I can’t say who.”  

“Why?”   

            “Can’t.  Not until Iliana makes her speech...” Dunder said, clapping his hands over his mouth immediately and let out a self-reproaching gasp.  

“Um, don’t worry...I won’t say anything?”  

“Good...please...the colonel would feed me to killer whales!” Kit smiled, but then reconsidered the remark as having been meant literally.

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

 

Baloo spied the hot dog stand just in time!   

His stomach was growling, and he didn’t take any chances in offending one of his best friends.  

“Hi, Baloo!” squeaked Molly.   

            “Well, howdy pumpkin,” he said, handing money over for a chilidog.   

“Baloo, we saw llamas!”  

“Ya did??” he said, gesturing for more mustard.  

“Uh huh.  And that lady said that Wildcat has special dest’ny.”  

“Well, I’m sure she’s right... And the Sea Duck would agree with me...” he said, taking out a bite.  They walked along the promenade.   

“Baloo, can we go in one of the mazes??”  

“Don’t see why not...just lemme finish this first...”  

“Hey, do...ya wanna see the giant caterpillars?!” said Wildcat, as Baloo scratched his head.  “I mean...llamas?” he said, correcting himself.  Molly giggled.  

“Sure...” replied Baloo, who was really more interested in his meal.  And they better have more free food, later, he thought.  

As they were approaching her, Una recognized him before he even turned around.  

“So then I was telling Kit that Becky...” He stopped, glancing at her, a smile of recognition.  “Well, I’ll be darned!” he exclaimed.   

“Grrrrreeeeat Llama!” said Una standing up, and coming over to embrace him.  

Taking her hands, he said, “I shoulda known you’d pop up here...ya made the trip all the way to Cape Suzette ??”  

“I have been traveling for years now,” she said in the Eastern Europanese accent he remembered so well.  “The Andes were but one stop of many...and besides, they give prizes here,” she said more dryly.  “But come, come, sit down and be refreshed!”  

“You know her?” asked Wildcat.  

“Yeah, but it’s a...long story,” said Baloo, rubbing his neck. “I’ll tell ya about it sometime.”  

            “Great Llama, I see I have already met your acquaintances.”  

“Oh yeah...this is Molly.”  

“Hi!” Molly chirped.  

“And...”  

“Wildcat.” she said.  “Yes, I did a very interesting reading for him.  Much in his future.  Much excitement.  Much passion.  But you?  Would you like me to consult the stars as to what course you are bound towards according to their alignment??”  

“Oh, I don’t know...” said Baloo, sounding embarrassed.  “The last time you saw me I wound up running around and almost being run down in my plane and—!”  

Molly and Wildcat exchanged a look of “huh?”  

“Well, that was not my fault.  It was all a matter of your...”  

“I know.  My destiny.”  

“Which I was very much correct about.”  

He sighed.  “Okay, okay...”  

Una folded her tarot deck and had him cut the deck.  After having him choose cards, she laid them out on table linen in the correct arrangement.  

She studied the cards, revealing bit by bit that Baloo would “seek out a new set of alliances soon” and that “the rise of the storm would generate much in the way of breaking down shields put up long ago.” and “a sword of ice would soon push its way into his heart...But, she added, it would melt with the conflagration of a thousand phoenixes all chiming together for the release of a single spring of hope...”  

Baloo gulped. “Uh...oh.”  

“Well, the cards are sometimes very vague.  But there is so much change in store for you over the next year I cannot accurately predict one single event...” she said, in a tone of some amazement.  (all for show, he bet)  “Also, the Fool card is predominant for your near future.  It means something foolish.  Perhaps something you will do, but I also see someone you know.  Someone from your past.  Have you had recent visits from old acquaintances, perhaps?  But enough of the tarot’s mysteries.  How about we try your palms next, yes?”  

Baloo extended his hand.  Una, whose eyes widened immediately and didn’t say anything, but instead gasped, illicited a response from Baloo, who said “What?  What do you see?!”  

Una reached for a tissue from underneath her table and wiped Baloo’s palm clean.  

“Oh...” he said, and blushed.  She studied it intently for a few minutes.  

“Hmmm...your loveline seems to indicate grrreeeat fortune...”  

“Aw, get outta here.” he said, laughing it off, then pausing.  How great?”  he added.  

“Well, it is not exactly clear.  You are definitely on the track to meet the woman of your dreams.”  

Baloo let out a very loud laugh.  That could be half of Cape Suzette !  

“I see a passionate romance...but at the same time complication...I see...a surge of romantic energy in your near future.”  

            “Lady, I don’t buy it, but I sure like what you’re sellin’...”  

            “Believe or do not believe.  You will see soon enough.” said Una somewhat mysteriously.  “Perhaaaaaps...but no, I should not meddle in such affairs,” she said. “Unless...” she looked left and right, making sure they weren’t being watched.  Going into the wooden wagon, with its main hatch down and a tarpaulin extending outwards from its side, and supported by poles, she rummaged around until she found what she was looking for.  She came out with a dark black, almost blue looking antique bottle.  

“Baloo, can we go in the maze now?” asked Molly.  

“Uh, how about you two go ahead and I’ll catch up,” he said, figuring it would take them a while for them to be in line anyway.  

“Okay!”  Molly rushed off with Wildcat’s hand in tow.  

“This ancient potion...” she said “was kept by the most sacred sisters of a covenant hundreds of years past.  Handed down generation to generation. I thought of it as I was reading your aura... I was thinking that perhaps you could use a dash of something extra to...how do you say...kickstart your love life.”  

“A love potion?  Is that what you’re telling me that thing is??”  

“Shh!” she seriously intoned.  “This is not something I offer every yokel that passes my way...” she insisted.  “But since I know you capable of great deeds, and you fulfilled such a rigorous task...I thought you perhaps were worthy of its magical touch.”  

“I guess it couldn’t hurt to try.”  

Una unscrewed the lid from the jar and took a thin glass tool from the leather pouch in which she kept the bottle.  Taking it carefully in her hands, she scraped the side ever so carefully, and brought only a gleaming trace of the liquid out over to another bottle, filled with different assorted oils.  Dripping the minute amount into the diluted solution, she carefully wiped the glass pestal against the side and swished it around so all of the solution would be diluted as much as possible.  After wiping the glass on the vial, she quickly screwed back the lid on the antique, and put it and the glass piece back in the pouch.   

“Now,” she said.  “Hold very still.”  And she put the top of the perfume bottle back on and sprayed him with a heavy scent, a mixture of flowers and old shoes. Baloo coughed momentarily.  

“Now what?” he said, sticking his tongue out in a gasp, getting clear of the fumes.  

“Now you wait...the right person should come along and when they do the potion will simply...amplify their attraction.  It’s...just how it works.”  

He swallowed and eyed her warily. “So you’re, uh, not gonna…?”   

Una laughed, very loudly in fact.  “Oh, my, no.  As a descendant of the ancient order I am immune to any such effects.” she explained, then after a pause said, smiling widely: “Now, would you like a fruit shake??”  

            “Would I??” Baloo exclaimed, with more enthusiasm for that than when she was talking about a possible outpouring in the romance department.  

            “Seventy-five cents.”   

Baloo looked somewhat shocked and abashed.   

“Air taxis are not cheap, you know,” she said in explanation.  Sighing, he laid out the money.   

Taking any number of fruits from the table and turning on her portable generator, Una churned in a couple of items before remembering that she had left the pineapple in her makeshift wagon.  (from the looks of it, rented)  

It was at this moment that Baloo’s attention turned back to the pouch.  

“Just a minute...I have to cut it up...now where did I put my good knives?” Una yelled from inside.  

Oh, what the heck? he thought.  This moment would later be relived by him in slow motion:  the taking the bottle out of the dark pouch, taking off the stopper, sticking his finger around in the bottle until it was covered in a blue-green smudge, and then, spreading it under and around his neck and shoulders.  It was greasy but didn’t smell nearly as obtrusive as the first spray had.  Musta been all that other extra junk, he thought.  And then quickly he put everything back before Una came out.  The perfect crime!  And what did it matter?  It was probably just some old cologne anyway.  Just a little dab for good luck...heck, every little bit helped, and Una wouldn’t give him something dangerous... I mean, that whole Great Llama thing worked out, and now, he wasn’t even being asked to do anything!  

He sipped on the shake in satisfaction and bid Una good-bye.  The old woman took the pouch, completely unaware of his actions.  Baloo looked around for his friends.  

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

Kit was looking at him funny, Baloo noticed.  

“Uh, Papa Bear?”  

“Yo, kid, you ready to hit that corn dog stand? I—what is it?”  Kit simply pointed for Baloo to look behind him.  Two teenage girls were standing there, looking awkward.  One shoved the other one and they whispered into each others’ ears.  

“Uh, friends of yours?” Kit ventured.  “They were trailing you from down at the end by Una’s.”  

Baloo looked behind him once more, with a clueless wonderment on his face.   The two girls, who couldn’t yet be out of high school, stared at him wordlessly.  After a solid minute or so of silence had passed, Baloo coughed.   

“Ohmigod, you say something.”  

“Ohmigod, no you!”  

“Uh, do you gals need directions or somethin’?”  

In response, one of the girls let out a loud, piercing scream and fell over backwards.  

“Oh great, she’s fainted.  Again.”  Baloo helped the remaining girl haul the other one up.  “Geez, you’re so strong, mister.  I bet you lift weights.  Do you work out?”  She looked dreamily into the distance.  She had pretty brown hair worn in a ponytail and wore a blue and white dress with short sleeves.  

“Uh, well, I am a cargo pilot…”

“A cargo pilot!  Wow, that is so…neat!  I bet you have to be really brave.”  

To this, Kit arched an eyebrow, and wondered if it wasn’t the standing girl that wasn’t in need of medical aid.  

“Oh, well, I guess,” Baloo said, blushing fiercely.  

“You do?  Hey!” The girl dropped her unconscious friend in a sudden fit of forgetfulness.  “My name is Sheena.  Boy, I just wanted to tell you that I think you’re dreamy.”  

“Y-ya do?” Baloo asked, backing away as she moved closer, her hands closed into a fist she held down as she moved forward, batting her eyes.  

“You do?” Kit asked with even more surprise.  

“I’m sure Thea would agree with me if she were awake.  Gosh,” she said as the other girl got up.  “Who’s this?  Your…son?  You’re married?  You don’t look old enough to have gotten married yet.  

“Mommy?  Why are the weasels wearing plaid?  And why are they playing the bagpipes?” her confused friend asked, with a rather dazed expression.  

“Uh, maybe you should get her to a doctor,” Baloo suggested nervously.  “In fact, I’m sure you got to get a move on, bein’ real busy an’ all.  C’mon Kit, don’t wanna keep the missus waiting, you know how she worries so…” He grinned theatrically to both girls, who looked disappointed as he and Kit walked away together.  Kit just let his jaw drop as he was led.  When they were far enough not to be heard, Kit asked:  

“What was that about?!”  

            “Oh, uh, nothin’,” Baloo replied unconvincingly.  

“Okay, so some randomly crazy girls were following you?  Don’t you think that’s sort of suspicious?  Hey, maybe they were pickpockets!  Check your wallet!”  

Baloo did so.  “Everything’s here,” he said.   

“Well, maybe they were going to rob you, and decided not to when they saw me.”  

“Hey,” Baloo said sounding rather hurt, “Didja ever consider the idea they mighta really liked ol’ Baloo?  It’s not every day they meet a cargo pilot with ruggedly handsome features…”  His voice had taken on its absurdly egotistical tone.   

“Riiiiiight.  And you don’t look old enough to get married.  Why, you look like you’re not a day outta high school!”  

“Ha ha.  Where’re Wildcat and Molly?”  

“They went inside the maze already.  Wildcat said something about wanting the mummy’s autograph.”  

“Oh.  Well I guess we’ll just wait for ‘em then.” A small voice made an “ahem” noise at his side.  Standing next to him was a demure young cat with tan fur, yellow eyes, and exotic looking hair.  She was dressed in a navy blue business suit.  

“My name is Mirage,” she introduced herself, “and I was just about to have dinner alone, when I saw you standing across the crowds.  And I thought, that bear bears introducing myself to, a huhuhuh.” She laughed rigidly with a stoic, dry voice that came across as a little cold.  Baloo was beginning to think that perhaps he shouldn’t have come to the fair today after all.  

“Oh uh, that’s nice.  I always say, a stranger’s just a friend you haven’t met.  Uh, I’d like you to meet my son, Kit.” He shoved Kit forward.   

Kit extended an unenthusiastic hand forward as he dully stated, “Pleased to meetcha.”  

“Oh, how adorable!” she said with widened eyed surprise that didn’t look all that convincing to Kit.  “I take it you’re a single parent?  I mean, he is adopted, right?  Doesn’t look much like you, does he, ahuhuhuh.”  She laughed it off with a dry chuckle and patted her hand on the air.  Kit looked offended.  Baloo looked simply caught off guard.  

“Uh…gee…heh.  Where is Molly and Wildcat, anyway?”  

“Maybe they went to find the missus!” Kit piped up with newfound, yet with mocking, glee.  “You know how she gets!”  Baloo stuffed a hand over Kit’s mouth and smiled nervously and squinted.   

“Heh heh, yeah Kit, I sure do.  Let’s get out of here before she finds herself in a real mess of trouble!”  

“That would be bad, Papa Bear,” Kit agreed.  

“I hate to cut this short, but me and my son, we have to really get goin’.”  

“Oh.  I see.  So that’s it.  You’re just going to walk away and out of my life, forever!”  

“Uh, that was the plan…”

“Well, no one messes with Mirage’s heart, pal!”  Lightning began to cackle around her fingers.  “If I can manage to undo entire universal boundaries and topple kingdoms, bringing you down would be a piece of falafel!”  The intense, burning anger then dropped out of her eyes to be replaced by dreamy contentment.  “Oh but how could I ever be angry with you?  I’ll just catch up to you later, my big banana boat of a bear.”  She lightly touched his nose with a finger and then snapped her fingers together, and in one second a blue wreath of smoke surrounded her and compounded upon itself, accompanied by a loud clap of thunder.  

Baloo screamed the instant it happened.  He and Kit both looked at the spot she had been standing in, in shock.  Their pupils dilated and their jaws dropped.  Baloo was suddenly horrified.  

“Oh man, what did I do…I bet Una did this to get even with me for messin’ with her mojo!”  

“WHAT?  Baloo, tell me you didn’t!”  

“Well she had this stuff for getting yer old Papa Bear some…well, never you mind, but now I think,” he gulped, “I better get back there!”  

The two raced across the Psychic Fair as tarot readers and palmists did their work.  By the time they reached Una’s stand, it was only occupied by a goat.   

“I guess she left to do other stuff,” Kit said, and groaned.  “Baloo, what was it you took?”  

“Just some…stuff.”  

“After all the times you told me not to just take “stuff”, you go ahead and take something someone gave you without even knowing what it would do!”  Kit was shocked.  

“Hey, I don’t need this, I took a love potion and now--!” He clomped his mouth shut and covered it with his hands.  

“You…did…what?”  

“Aw, I thought it was just some old cologne!  If I’d known I wouldn’t put that much on!”  

“Did you try washing it off?”  Baloo blinked at Kit’s question.  

“Kit, you’re a genius!”  

“This is what I keep hearing…”

“Well c’mon, don’t just stand there, I got a potion to get rid of!”  

“Okay.  I think I saw a water fountain…over…there.”   

Kit blinked.   

Kit blinked again.  

“Uh…Baloo?”  

“Yeah, kid?”  

“Don’t look behind you.  When I give the word, just run.”  

“Aw, whaddya mean?  Kid, I don’t got time for games.  Let’s just go before all heck turns loose.”  Baloo turned around and didn’t take more than a step.  His expression dropped.  Standing there, filling up the walkway were a crowd of women, of all ages, all species,some of them psychics that had abandoned their stands.  

Kit sighed.  “He never listens when I tell him not to look behind him…”  

The audience of women stood there, enraptured.  All of them looked expectant and waited upon even the most infinitesimal of gestures from Baloo.  “There he is!” a fat woman shouted, gawking at him.  Soon after, a little under a hundred women started shrieking and Baloo turned around…and ran.  After the sound of his screaming died off in the distance, and a dust cloud followed the women chasing him, Kit got up and dusted himself off.  

Time to find Una, he thought.

 

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

 Lady Iliana brushed her hair carefully and thoroughly.  She had had a bad trip, and the small shrieking man upset her somewhat.  It was the way he was so…jumpy.  She sighed and put her brush in her drawer, got up, and looked in the mirror.  Suddenly her image of a white cat with dark, sleek black hair with blue undertones was disturbed by that of another, a cat woman who separated the glass like water.  Mirage crawled out over the desk and onto the floor so they stood eye-to-eye.  

“I can’t even tell you the jetlag I’m experiencing this week!”  

“At least you didn’t have to deal with ze midget dictator,” Iliana replied.  She spoke with a slight Eurapanese accent that some mistook for French.  

“Who, Napoleon?  I didn’t know he was here.  I would have dressed better.”  

“No, Mirage.  I mean that plumbing fixated little dodo who runs around like a chicken going to ze chopping block.  It eez enough to drive one mad.”   

“You think that’s bad?  I saw this hunk of bear, and I mean hunk, but it didn’t go anywhere.  I’m going to try to meet up with him later for a late supper and get a moment alone.  Uh!  It’s so frustrating.  Why do men have to play so hard to get?”  

“Ah, I am surprised.  Were you not chasing after magical artifacts to help you rid yourself of…oh what iz heez name, I never remember.”  

“Aladdin.  Oh, but who cares about that little nimrod?  This universe has proved more distracting than I’d anticipated.”  

“Well I am ‘appy for you if you ‘ave found a man worthy of your attentions.”  Iliana turned back to her mirror.  “As for me, I am stuck ‘ere until I complete my own mission.  Locating ze Wandering One has been difficult.  Once I find ‘er I can leave zis universe.”      

“Well I’m in no hurry.  But if he really is married…”  Electric charges gathered around her clenched fists.  

“Oh do not be so overdramatic.  And try to keep your temper zis time!”  

“Oh geez, you turn one little village into a horrifying legion of leech sucking fish people and no one ever let’s you forget it!”  

“Innsmouth was hardly leetle.  And zat reminds me.  Your old boyfriend called on my mirror.  ‘E wants to get back together with you.”  

“Cthulu?  That loser?  Ugh, I don’t think so.  It’s bad enough when we dated.  We never did anything.  It was always ‘oh Mirage, let’s do an Armaggedon, you’ll enjoy that, oh Mirage, let’s mess with some sailors and zap them into the slime universe!’  It was never ‘Mirage, you look so dashing in that outfit…let’s go out tonight!  I do so love that scent you’re wearing.’  Men!” she sniffed.  “If he wants me he’ll have to stop staying at home all the time, and you know that’ll never happen!”  

“With ees breath?”  They both laughed.  “Oh Mirage, I ‘ave so enjoyed my time with you here, zo.  But…oh, zey want me to speak at ze conference and accept some key or somesing.”  

“Well, I better be off, too.  Now give your sister a hug.  Ah!”  she said as they embraced.  “It has been too long, indeed.”  Mirage zapped herself away in a portal that zipped itself back up after she disappeared and Iliana left her tent.  Today was, she felt, going to be momentous.   

Call it a feeling.

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

The crowd was gathered and the stage was set.  Dunder stood by while Spigot paced nervously.  His apprehension disappeared with the sight of Lady Iliana, who had insisted on walking around without an escort once they reached the fair.  

“Lady Ilia-a-a-ana!  It’s a pleasure!”  Spigot made to kiss the hand he’d taken but she snatched it away so he kissed only the air.   

“Could you direct me to where I should be zitting, Colonel?”  

“Of course!  Dunder, show her to her seat!”  

“Right away, sir.”  Dunder took her hand and she, with a bored detachment sat and put a hand to her temple.  Dunder smiled nervously at her.  She smiled meekly back.   

“Is everything ready?” Spigot asked the Cape Suzette official mayor who was taking the podium.  

“Yes, yes,” he stated.  “Just have a seat over there.  Ahem.  Attenion, Cape Suzetters !”  he tapped on the microphone.  “Now that you’re all here, we can start the ceremony.  As part of a series of events dedicated to bringing together the collected efforts of Thembrian and Uslandian unity, I would like you to all give a hand to our ambassadors!”  The crowd cheered.  Spigot rushed up to whisper something.  “Uh, make that ambassador!  And her esteemed escorts provided by the Thembrian state.  Lady Iliana has for years been one of the most integral figures working behind the scenes for international co-operation between our two countries…and luckily for us she must have seen that coming, a ha ha ha,.  Now let’s all give her a hand, folks!”  The crowd cheered as Iliana took the podium.  

“For years our two nations have disagreed over many szings.  I am here to say that I predict a great deal of cooperation in ze future, as well as…hmm.  Odd.  I see a medley of wings and potatoes.”  

“We’re having fried chicken at the banquet later!  Isn’t she amazing, folks!”   

“Yes, well as I was saying, ze future is full of bright things ahead for our two countries, provided we each work hard in attaining zat friendship.  I welcome you all to the first International Psychic Friends Festival!  Rates differ per psychic and we on ze psychic committee are not liable for unwarranted or incorrect readings.  Now that has been said, everyone enjoy!”  As she finished her speech, the crowd cheered once more.

The mayor and the host who had introduced her, a brown dog who sounded remarkably like the Thembrian game show host in charge of “This Was Your Life”, approached with a traditional key to the city.  Photos were taken and the buffet table was set up for whoever wanted dinner. 

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

Rebecca was sitting at her desk, crunching figures, when a call came in.  Sighing heavily, she picked up the receiver, surprised to hear Baloo panting on the end of the line with bits of her name strewn in between breaths.  At first she was shocked, then her expression quickly deflated into one of boredom.    

“Hello, Baloo.  Very funny.”  

“B-Becky!  Ya gotta help me!  They’re after me!”  He sounded desperate and scared.  

“Oh my goodness, what is it?” she asked, suddenly alarmed.  “Air pirates?  Mafia goons?  You didn’t get the Thembrians mad at you again, did you?”  

“Well, probably, but that really isn’t the issue right now.  I’m at a pay phone and I need to get to the harbor, quick!”  

“Why?  Baloo, what’s going on?”  

“You won’t believe me if I tell you.”  

“Baloo, I thought we were past all this.  We’re practically best friends.  Anything you tell me, I will believe.  It’s a sign of ultimate trust in our friendship.  Whatever it is, I’m there to help!”  She drew in a breath, inspired by her own speech.  

“I-I took a love potion and now every woman in Cape Suzette is out to pick up ol’ Baloo and steer im’ by the ailerons, if ya know what I mean…”  

Becky blinked.  “Oh, that’s hilarious.  Let’s play a practical joke on Becky because it’s my day off.  Well, I’m not laughing, mister!  You can walk home for all I care!”  

“No, Becky, no, don’t hang up, I’m on the other side of town, BECK-“ Click.  “…y.”  He hung up the phone with a sigh.  He’d lost the crowd of women chasing him earlier, but a woman tiger with cheekily flipped brown hair, pushing a baby stroller smiled at him furtively as she passed, and then asked him for change.  

“Uh, here ya go,” he said, after fishing around his pocket.  

“Wait, maybe I should give you my phone…number…so I can pay you back someday.  Someday soon.”  

Baloo stared, horrified, at the mother and her infant, and then turned around and ran in the opposite direction, screaming at the top of his lungs as if a mummy were chasing him.  

“Was it something I said?” the tigress asked to herself.

 

MEANWHILE, BACK WITH KIT…

   

“Kit, crawl in the duct space, I’m too big to fit.  Kit, help me dodge a bunch of crooks I’m trying to steal from.  Kit, I have no common sense and I drank a love potion, durrr.”  Kit paraphrased the many times that Baloo had said stupid things.  He was angry with Baloo, and mildly annoyed that Molly and Wildcat had mysteriously disappeared.  

“Why do you run everywhere so perplexed, Little Alpaca?” Una’s gentle voice nudged him.  

“You!  Oh, ma’am, Baloo took that stuff and rubbed it all over his fur and now he’s somewhere out in the city being chased by all these, this crowd of women and Baloo is so, so dumb!  I’m really sorry, but…you gotta help!”  Kit pleaded and his gestures indicated so as well as his voice.  

“Oh, no!  This is terrible!”  

“You’re telling me!”  

“Admission rates aren’t as high as they told me.  How am I to pay for the wagon space for only this much?”  Una looked displeased as she wrinkled a nose at the sign by the red and white striped tent.  

“Ma’am, Una, didn’t you hear a thing I said?  Baloo’s in trouble, and it’s all because of that goop!”  

“You worry too much, Little One.  You should be more like your friends over yonder.”  Kit saw Wildcat and Molly approach.  

“Kit!” Wildcat exclaimed.  “I saw the dart booth and I threw them all and won a free necktie!”  Wildcat held up his blue and yellow striped prize.  

“Wildcat, you don’t even wear ties,” Kit arched an eyebrow.  

“But I have a marble collection,” Wildcat answered him, laughing in a secretive way, indicating that he was very pleased and had every reason to be with his win.  

“Uh…okay.  Never mind.  We need to find Baloo!  He’s in trouble!  He took this love potion and half of Cape Suzette is now…uh, chasing him!”  

“That’s silly!” Wildcat said.  “Baloo can’t run that fast!  His legs aren’t long enough!”  

“Yeah, that’s silly!” Molly echoed.  

“This from the girl that said ducks flew her to Cape Suzette from Thembria?” Kit returned wryly.  

“Uh huh!” Molly cheerfully replied. 

Una, you’ve got to help!”  

“I will, Little One, I will.  I will look after your friends while you go look for your Great Llama.  All he needs is a bath…and a lesson not to mess with those powerful forces he took so for granted,” she concluded dramatically. “Now, who wants a fruit shake?” she asked, kneeling down to encourage Molly.  

“Yay!” said Molly.

“Yeah, yay,” Kit said dully as he turned around.  Maybe Baloo was already finding a way back home.  He had to turn around at some point to get back to the docks.  Kit decided to go back to Higher for Hire and see what turned up.  Maybe Miz Cunningham had heard from him.  

 

BACK AT THE RANCH…

 “Yes, hello?” Rebecca answered her phone, sounding not amused in the slightest. “Yes, Mr. Corpuscle, we have your batch of castanets ready for shipment.  Oh, I meant cast holders!  Yes, we have them.  And the bandages, too.  Yes, you’ll get them in Wounded Elbow tomorrow.  You’re quite welcome.”  She hung up the phone, thinking what an odd name for a place Wounded Elbow was.  She got up from her desk and walked over to the crate near the door.  “Whose castanets are these?” she asked, bewildered.  While considering her considerable castanet problem, the phone rang.  Sighing in martyred fashion, she brought herself to answer it, and answered in a miserable tone.  “Higher for Hire, what can I do for you?”  

“Miz Cunningham, it’s me Kit, have you seen Baloo?”  

“No,” she answered annoyed.  “But if you see him you can tell him I’m not amused!”  

“Huh?  Whaddya mean?”

“He called here earlier with some cockamamie story about how a horde of loooove-struck women just couldn’t leave him alone.  Ha!  Like that would ever happen!”  

“Did he say where he was headed?”  

“To go take a dive off a short pier, I hope.”  

“You may get your wish sooner than you think…”  

“Kit, is Molly with you?  I want to tell her---!"  

“Sorry Miz Cunningham, she’s with Wildcat.  I gotta run!”  Kit hung up the phone.  Rebecca stood there feeling very much alone.  

“No, never mind me, I’ll be fine.  Hmmph.”  She sat down at her desk and tapped a pen.  “I hope for Kit’s sake, he never takes love advice from that bear.  Love potion!  Women chasing him!  HA!”  Rebecca turned on the radio for some much needed distraction.  Broadcast Sally was on the air.  

“And that was ‘There’s a Monkey on my Back and you’re Him’ by the Banana Boat Patrol, the newest swingin’ hit from Guitarra City .  And…we have a news bulletin.  Ooh, this is interesting.  A number of callers have reported a large group of women are in the city hunting down the loveboat fantasy of their dreams.  And one of them has requested we play “You can run, but you can’t hide” by the Fanatics.  This ones for all you girls out there, lookin’ for Mr. Perfect.”  

Rebecca paused from her work.  “Nah,” she said shaking her head.  “Couldn’t be.” 

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

   

Baloo peeked around a street corner.  No females in sight!  If he could just find a cab driver, he would be set.  Rebecca wouldn’t mind if he “borrowed” from the safe since it was an emergency and all.  

Suddenly he shivered and flinched involuntarily.  Spigot’s unmistakable whine.  

“Please, Lady Iliana, I don’t understand why it was necessary to leave the fairgrounds!  I’m sure you will be perfectly content back where Cape Suzette swine aren’t out to get you at every turn!”  Spigot looked left and right, suspiciously.  

“You are very much the distrusting type, aren’t you?” she asked.  Baloo thought it funny she had an accent where other Thembrians didn’t.  And what a looker!  He dodged back behind into his alleyway.  Shouldn’t go peeking where she might see your incredible lookin’ face, he thought.  She might just not be able to help herself.  Then again…maybe with her it wouldn’t be so bad.  Maybe ol’ Baloo should just turn on the charm.  He smiled devilishly, thinking how he would brag to Louie and be able to show her off in front of all the guys!  And boy, wouldn’t they be jealous!  Woo, boy!  

“I have only your bee-e-est interests at heart, my Lady.  The state only seeks to ensure your safe and heavily awaited return to Thembria.  Now, if we could just—!”  

“Hey, hey, Spiggy, you’ve been holdin’ out on me!  Didn’t know you had such lovely friends.”  Baloo bowed and tried to take Iliana’s hand in his.  She impulsively flinched but let him take it, at least for the meantime.  He blushed and smiled deliriously, bending to kiss her hand.  

“Baloo!  What are you  doing here?  And take your hands off her!  She’s important state ambassador type…just hands off!”  Iliana took her hand away and Baloo wound up kissing the air.  

“I am so pleased to be making your acquaintance, Mistair Baloo,” she said.  “But it eez true.  I am not ze state’s business and have no time for…dilly-dallying.”  

“Ya mean…ya don’t even wanna hang around for a little while?  I’m a pilot!  A cargo pilot!”  

“Oh, that’s an impressive pick-up line,” Spigot commented sarcastically, and rolled his eyes.  

“Indeed,” said Iliana.   

“THERE you are!” Mirage’s voice declared triumphantly.  Baloo swung around to see her floating towards him.  Floating??  She landed nearby.  Spigot had his back turned and when he did, all he saw was Mirage batting her eyes.  

“Sister!  Have you come to tell me of somesing important?” Iliana asked.  

“No, no.  I’m here on a personal errand.  Particularly with you,” she said, nudging a finger into Baloo’s chest.  “You round, perfect hunk of bear.  Why don’t we take a stroll…go to a museum or perhaps the local coliseum.”  

“I do not believe zey have one here,” Iliana commented.  

“Hmph!  I’m not surprised,” Spigot said.  Inferior Cape Suzetters…they wouldn’t have thought to build a proper amphitheater.”  

“Oh, and I suppose you have one?” Baloo demanded.  

“As a matter of fact we have several,” Spigot replied smugly.  “We sometimes find it amusing to have prisoners re-enact naval battles.  Except for the fact that the water freezes and they freeze inside it.  Makes for a nasty cleanup, but no one said learning about history was easy.”  

Baloo looked bewildered now.  “Ya know, every time I learn somethin’ new bout your country, it just makes my head hurt.”  

“That’s because no one challenges the might!  Of Thembria.”  

“Mirage…are you sure you are feeling alright?” Iliana asked.  

“Oh, I’m just purrfect, darling.  You two run along and play.  I have to show this bear the universe.  And more.”  Mirage yanked on Baloo’s collar and brought him down to her eye level.  He stared at her, slightly scared.  

“Yes, come, Iliana.” Spigot said promptly.  

“She must be under some kind of magic that I am unaffected by,” Iliana said under her breath.  “Yes, Colonel.  I have some…zings to investigate back at ze fairgrounds.  I must bid you both adieu,” she said, and curtsied.   

“Ya sure ya don’t wanna stay?  Just a little?!”  Baloo’s voice grew more desperate.  Spigot threw him a satisfied smile and stuck his tongue out as they left.  

“Now it’s just you and me.  Whatever will we do to fill the time?” Mirage asked.  

“Uh, go get a burger?”  

“Go get a burger…you really are a meat and potatoes kinda guy.  Let’s go fill up that sexy stomach of yours.  Then afterwards we can have dessert.  Baloo gulped as she led him to the nearby burger joint.   

As they approached, Baloo’s fan club marched up the street.  Baloo faced them.  They stopped, awestruck.   

“No.  Not again!  YAAAAAAAAAAAEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!”  Baloo ran in the opposite direction as the crowd of a hundred drooling gals (and a male waiter who ran from the burger joint) sped and practically ran over Mirage, leaving only a dustcloud for her to cough on.  

“Oh, no.  No one lays a hand on the boyfriend of Mirage’s choosing!  You little mortals better be prepared for my wrath and—!”  Suddenly Mirage got clobbered from behind by a few delivery girls on bicycles, one of whom was carrying a large, long package that struck Mirage down and she was out like a light, barely able to hear Baloo’s screams as he disappeared down the street.

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

Baloo had been on the run for an hour since seeing Mirage again.  He was exhausted, he was out of breath, and he was really wishing he’d had a chance to get that burger.  He slumped down by a mailbox and jumped at the sound of his name.  

“Aaah!” He looked up, cringing, then opened his eyes again to find Plane Jane staring down at him.   

“Well aren’t you a sight for sore eyes!” she exclaimed.  “C’mere, you!”  

            “Oh, no!”  

“Oh, yes!  Your old friend Janey needs some help that only you can give her…”  Baloo cringed.  “Help me move this box, wouldja?  My back is killing me!”  The blonde hippo had last been seen by him when she helped Baloo recover the lost Ruby Wings for Princess Gwace..er…Grace.  And then eaten her words for it, as far as Baloo remembered.  

“You’re…moving?” Baloo asked, seeing the truck.  

“Yep.  Me and my roommate Sam are moving in together and getting all my stuff out of this rat hole has just been taking up all my time.  This weekend has just been a nightmare!”  

“Yeah, I kinda know what you mean,” Baloo agreed.  

“Hey, have you met Sam?  Hey, Sammy, come on out here and meet an old friend of mine!”  

Baloo huffed as he lugged the box up onto the truck’s ramp.  A lanky, thin bearess with dirty blonde hair cut in a buzz cut, military style approached Baloo.  She was slightly muscular and walked very confidently.  

“Yo, glad ta meetcha!  Janey told me all bout’ you!”  She shook his hand.  Real firm handshake, that little girl had.  

“Oh uh…you two are roommates, huh?”  

“Well, yeah.  Best friends you could say.  I know Janey in and out, like the back of my hand.”  

“Oh…uh…that’s good,” Baloo said.  Slow thoughts began to whirl in his head.  Janey was never the most feminine pilot he’d ever known.  And he had seen issues of Playbear in the back of her plane.  But he’d assumed those had belonged to a friend of hers.   

Janey slapped her forehead.  “Sorry, Baloo.  I know it must come as a shock, seeing as your skull is thicker than a twin engine, but Sammy is sort of my…”  

“Uh, you don’t have to explain, really.  I mean, I don’t have anything against it, I mean…uh…good luck.  And all.”  Baloo blushed.  

“Yeah, well, thanks.  I mean, we’re hoping that the neighborhood we’re moving to doesn’t go all ape on us,” Sammy said.  “We don’t advertise, but we’re not exactly shy, either.”  

“Yep!” Janey agreed.  “We’re even opening our own pottery and other artsy stuff import store!  I fly em in’ and then we sell im’ to Cape Suzette for a steal!”  

“So where ya gals movin’ to?” Baloo asked.  

“Ah, this great apartment complex on the nice side of town.  Has its own waterfall and everythin’!” Jane answered.  Waterfall?  The only apartment in the city with a waterfall was Rebecca’s building and—!” Baloo stopped.  He’d have to tell Rebecca about this, when he got a moment.   

“Well it was nice meeting you,” Sammy said.  “But we gotta get back to work.  We’d like to finish by sundown.  Then maybe Janey here can get to bed early.”  

“What makes you think I want to?” Jane said coyly, and slapped Sammy on the backside.  Baloo blushed red as when he got stung by a hornet years back and grinned idiotically.   

“I gotta go, see you gals uh…later.”  Baloo departed at what for him was a brisk pace.  

“Nice guy,” said Sammy.  

“Did you see the way you made him blush?”  Jane burst out in laughter.  

“Me?  You’re the one!  You’re terrible!”  

“C’mere, you.  Do you gotta permit for that thing?”  Jane asked as Sammy ran her hand along her gun rack.

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

Kit got to Higher for Hire and ran in to find Rebecca slumped over her paperwork, tediously filling out form after form.  

“Is Baloo here?” he asked, sounding tired, and frantic.  

“No, Baloo is not here.  Nor do I care.  I do not want to see that bear until he offers me an apology for his rude behavior earlier today.  Hmph.  Incidentally Kit, you look terrible.”  

“I’ve been trying to find Baloo.  Miz Cunningham, he did something really stupid today!"  

            “Welcome to my world, Kit. Welcome to my world,” Rebecca said comfortingly and offered him a consoling hug.  Kit’s eyes remained wide as he pondered things.  She broke off from him and began ranting again.  “I mean, out of all the selfish, immature things he’s done, now he’s affecting you, too.  I know he has before and you’ve protected him, but I think it’s time for us to have a talk with that bear and—!”  Rebecca’s speech was cut off by the sound of Baloo yelling at the top of his lungs and then Baloo’s voice trailing off again.  Kit and Rebecca hurried outside.  

They were just in time to see Baloo head for the dock which led to the furthest pier out, past Wildcat’s shed, adjacent to the Sea Duck’s pier.

“Hold it right there, mister!  I have a few words to say to you!”   

Baloo cringed.   

“Becky, I don’t have time, I gotta take a bath!”  

“Well, that’s usually true, and while I commend you for actually wanting to smell presentable for once, I have to say that you were really crude earlier.  I thought we’d gotten beyond these juvenile and irresponsible pranks of yours.  But now I can see that I was wrong!  Baloo, you need to take a good look at what you’ve become and start teaching Kit how to behave.  How is he supposed to grow up without you being a good role model for him?”  

Yeah, Baloo,” Kit prodded.  “You’re just setting one bad example for me after another.”  Kit smiled with a wicked grin as Rebecca hugged him protectively.  

“How is he supposed to just get over this with you having him worry with you behaving the way you do?  You should be ashamed.  You owe it more to him and more to me to act decently, instead of being rash and…and…”  

“Impulsive?” asked Kit.  

“Yes, impulsive, thank you Kit.  Impulsive!  And another thing…”  But Baloo’s eyes were taken off Rebecca as a crowd of women were wandering around, looking lost, and some began to approach Higher for Hire.  

“Uh, sorry Becky, but I gotta do something before you chew me out anymore.”  Baloo ran away and jumped off the pier, sending a large splash outwards.  Rebecca blinked, having wholly unexpected that course of action.  One of the women mulling about approached her.  

“Excuse me,” one asked.  “Have you seen a really, really handsome pilot lately?”  

“Henh?  No, I haven’t.  Get off of my property, all of you!  This is a business!” she said angrily, taking a garbage can away from one very overeager girl who was intent on finding something inside the can that once belonged to the sweet hunky guy who she was chasing.  “Unless you are customers and need shipping done, I kindly ask you all to vacate the premis—!”  

“There he IS!” Several girls screamed and ran down the pier.  Baloo, soggy and dripping, was climbing back up with a miserable expression on his face.  He looked up at the sky and mumbled. “Boy you really do like irony up there, doncha?”  With a panicked expression he made ready to leap in again, when suddenly the women stopped, looking confused.  

“Where is he?  There was this really hunky guy!”  

“Here!  Just a minute ago!”  

“Where is he?  Did you see him, mister?”  There were several dozen more coming up the pier.  

“Uh…he swam away.  Said he was goin’ to uh…find a nice place to go uh, kayaking.” Baloo tried to smile convincingly.  

“Quick, everyone, he can’t have gotten far!”  Several girls jumped in and started swimming toward the horizon of the cliffs and still others swam to opposite sides of the harbor.  Still others meandered away down the streets with disappointed looks on their faces, including the male waiter Baloo was glad never caught up to him.  

When he returned to the front of the office doorway, Rebecca was tapping her foot and had her arms crossed.  “And just what was that all about?” she asked.   

Baloo waited, looked forlornly inexcusable, wiped his finger under his nose, and took a deep breath, and looked sorry.  “I made a big mistake today and did something which I didn’t even think about and I’m real sorry.” He twisted his cap.  “I didn’t even spend any time with Molly, she and Wildcat must be worried sick by now…”  Baloo was interrupted by the sound of Molly and Wildcat laughing hysterically, walking up the way.  

“Boy, Baloo, did you ever miss out!” Wildcat raved.  “The fair was great!”  

“I saw a giant caterpillar!” Molly told her mother.  

“You did?” Rebecca warmed up at once and held Molly in a hug.  

“Yup!  And I ate a hot dog, and Wildcat had three!  And then we went through all the mazes and I wasn’t scared at all, but Wildcat asked the mummy for his autograph, and then we got to ride on the caterpillars!  And then I got my foot stuck on a piece of gum but Wildcat got it all off, but it’s still kinda sticky,” she said, wiggling her foot.  

“That sounds great, pumpkin!” Rebecca said cheerfully.  “Now why don’t you go inside with Wildcat?  I’m making spaghetti tonight and we’re all eating together.  Wildcat, would you see that she freshens up?”  

“Sure thing, Miz Cunningham.  Hey, Molly, look, I’m a caterpillar!”  Wildcat stuck his fingers in the air and crouched down so Molly could ride on his back.  

“Ya! Ya!  Geedyup, caterpillar!”  Molly squealed with delight as they disappeared inside.  

Rebecca turned back to deal with Baloo.  “Well, I hope you’ve learned an important lesson today in manners.  It’s not nice to break promises, luckily for you Molly didn’t seem to mind or I might be angrier.  But, you’ve seemed to have learned a lesson.  I just have one question…who were all those women looking for, really?”  

“Uh…just some guy they saw at the Psychic Fair.  A celebrity, I think.” Baloo said, his eyes pleading with Kit for him to keep his mouth shut.  

“You didn’t happen to tell any of these girls that you happened to be a celebrity, by any chance, did you?” She stared him down accusingly.  

“…Well…”  Baloo rubbed his neck.  

“Ha!  I knew it!  You know, one of these days Baloo, you’re going to get yourself into a pickle and you’re going to have it blow up in your face, all because you couldn’t control yourself from trying to get attention!  And when it does, I want to be there so I can laugh (she laughed as she said this) in your face.  I’ll see you two inside.”  She left them alone as twilight descended on the town.  Kit smiled up at him smugly.   

“When did you turn into such a mama’s boy?” Baloo said, looking like he’d just walked away from a fight with a Thembrian: bitter and fed up.  Kit frowned at him and then ignored the comment, and the two bears went inside.   

“Just be careful, Baloo.  Next time Broadcast Sally might be around.  Then you two would have to smooooch all night and, aaaah, Baloo!”  

“Oooh, I’m gonna…”  

“Baloo let go!  Aaah!  Miz Cunningham, help!  Rebecca!  Wildcat!  Aaah!”   

As Kit’s cries for Baloo to not hold him upside down faded into the night, Mirage looked around her, searching for that special bear, before realizing the humiliation of what had befallen her.  

“Ugh.  A simple love spell.  That bear is lucky I don’t pulverize him into plane grease,” she muttered, shaking a fist.  

“But you would not,” her sister said, walking up behind her. “Because you know that no matter what we do, zese mortals, zey are but fools.”  

“That sounds familiar.  But you’re right I suppose.  I lost sight of what I came here for originally.”  

“Which is?”  

“Have you seen Shere Khan?  The man is a walking god.  Or maybe just part god, I’m betting.  I’ll have him in the palm of my hand by the end of the week,” she informed Iliana and smiled a satisfied grin.  

“Then I am ‘appy for you.  I however, must be on my way.”  Iliana said this right as Colonel Spigot ran to catch up with her.  

“I…I…(pant pant) have been trying to keep up (pant pant) didn’t want to…(pant) leave you unprotected!”  

“I very much appreciate all ze help you ‘ave given me, Colonel.  But now is the time for us to part.  I will not be returning with you back to ze Thembrian capital.”  

“What?  NO!  Please, my Lady, please don’t do this to me!  The High Marshall will turn me into killer whale chow!  I can’t be chow!  I just got a dental plan!  Whatever those Cape Suzette swine promised you, I can repay you in double! Triple!  Dunder, get my checkbook!”  Dunder came lagging up behind.  

“I am so sorry,” Iliana said, extending a hand into the air, creating a ripple which became a gateway to another dimension.  “But the Wandering One needs me, and I seek to apprentice myself to her.  I ‘ave much to learn.”  Spigot stood there dumbfounded and his jaw dropped as she stepped forward to disappear forever.  “Do not worry, leetle shrieking man, I will be stopping to speak to ze High Marshall before I depart and will explain you could not ‘ave helped it.  Au revoir.”   

“Bye, sis,” Mirage said casually.  

She stepped through and the gateway closed, seamlessly.  

“But she…how did she!  How did the!  And then poof!  I don’t understand!” Spigot whined and pounded a fist on the ground.  

“Oh get up, you pathetic little wart.  Well, boys, I’d love to stay, but I’ve got a tiger to hunt.  Toodles.”  Mirage was suddenly surrounded by blue streaks of lightning and she then vanished in a burst of light.  Dunder looked at Spigot and Spigot looked back at Dunder, both awestruck.  

“Here, sir.  Let me help you.”  Dunder helped him to his feet.  “Gee sir, do ya think they’re from another planet?  Or do ya think—!"  

“Dunder!” Spigot yelled.  “Are you daring to say that Iliana and her cohort were supernatural, superpowered entities that just vanished into thin air?  Preposterous!  If I ever hear you speak of it again, I will consider it treason and the next thing you know you’ll be forced ice skate barefoot, playing hockey with walrus turds for pucks!”  

“But sir, we do that every month.”  

“Just SILENCE, DUNDER!”  

“Yes, sir.”

 

*                                                          *                                                          *

 

THE NEXT DAY…

 

Una was just getting everything prepared for leaving.  Her things were mostly packed, and she was just putting the blender away when a shadow crept over her.  

“Hey.  Ya need any help?” Baloo asked good-naturedly.  

“Ah, Great Llama.  No, I have assistance already, today.  But I am glad you have come to see me off.”  

“Yeah, I sorta came ta…apologize for…messin’ around with your mojo and all.”  

“It is written.  What is written is done with and over.  So…have you learned anything important from all this?”  Her eyebrows furrowed.  

“Yes, ma’am.”  

“And that is being?”  

“Not to mess around with stuff I’m not supposed to.”  

“Very good.”  

“Uh, Una.  There’s been something buggin’ me since yesterday.  Somethin’ bout the potion.  Well, it didn’t work on every woman I came ‘cross.”  

“No?” Una asked, amused.  

They were interrupted by a softly accented voice.  

“I am finished with the arrangements, my teacher.  If you will but allow me to—oh.  I am so sorry.  I did not know we had ze guest.  Ah, it eez you.”  

“Oh, uh, hi.”  Baloo was surprised to find her here.  

“Yes, Una and I will be traveling together from here on out.”  

“She is to be my new pupil.”  

“Pupil?  Hey…is that why the potion didn’t work on you?  It is, isn’t it?” Baloo smiled.  Iliana politely answered him.  

“I do know many things about the perceptions of reality and nature.  Because of this I knew that magic was at work when I saw you with my sistair.  I am happy, zo, zat everything has worked out for you, yes?”  

“Well, yeah, I guess you could say that, but…that still doesn’t explain one thing.”  

“What is that, Great Llama?” asked Una.  

“Well, okay, that explains Illy here, but…what about my friend Becky?  She was the only one female, female that counted that is, that wasn’t affected.  I mean, all those other gals it worked on, cept for her.  Why is that?”  

“Hmm.  It could be your friend is knowing you too well, Great Llama.  But even then, with so much magic, there should have been some effect.  Unless…”  She paused dramatically while Baloo waited.  “She could have perceptions of magic but that is usually a very understanding person, very patient who has that talent.  Or…if she were to have true feelings of love for you, feelings that were from her heart, then no potion could affect and overpower the natural emotions of her own.”   

Baloo was silent at first, then laughed.  “Ha ha!  That’s a good one!  Becky in love with me!  Aw, it’s probably the first thing ya said.  Becky’s always been the smart one, she probably picked it up from a book somewhere.”  

“If you say so, it is probably so, Great Llama,” Una said reverently.  “Ah, and who is this?”  Kit walked up just in time to rub it in Baloo’s face that he was running late, again.  Baloo gritted his teeth.  Kit had been a little bit cocky lately, and it was grating him somewhat.  Adolescence, here we come, he thought wearily.  

“Well I’ll see ya.  C’mon, Kit.”  

“A moment.  I can offer you a free reading, anything for the Little Alpaca.” Una smiled warmly, and grasped Kit’s palm.  Her expression changed immediately.  

“So tell me, what do you see?” Kit asked eagerly.  

“Nothing, nothing of interest…”  

“Oh, c’mon, tell me what you see,” he said playfully, putting his head on his folded arms on the table, kneeling on the ground.  

“Let me arrange some cards.”  She did so intently.  “Cut the deck.”  Kit did so.  Something strange was happening here, the patterns could not possibly be right.  

Distracted, she said “I see...many things… many new people, you will be coming across many unpleasant people at school.”  

“That’s nothing new...”  

“Do you play sports?”  

“I like track...” he said, hoping that group sports wasn’t going to be forced upon him in the near future.  

“Ah yes, well, you’ll do very good in that this year.  That’s all the cards say, now shoo!  Go on, now.  I must get ready to close...”  

“...Okay,” said Kit.  “See around...” he said waving.  

“Yes.  Around.  See you!” she said, customarily. She waited until Kit and Baloo had walked away and she was unable to see them anymore.  

Then she looked back to her cards, and what she had written down about his astronomical signs.  This could not be happening.  And yet every feeling in her being told her that there was no other explanation.   

“You know there are only a few people that even know of the prophecy...” Iliana said, from behind her.  

“A lot more are going to find out about it soon enough,” the old woman said.  “But enough talk.  If I am right, I will be paying young Kit Cloudkicker a visit sometime sooner than I thought.  I simply hope for his sake he is ready for what is to come.”  

Una got inside her wagon and urged the horse onto the road.  When they were in a sufficiently deserted area, a gateway was made, and the wagon and its two passengers whisked themselves far, far away.

 

THE END

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