The plane shuddered as the engines sputtered from the strain. "Aw, man! We’re going to lose the engine! I told you we should have took the Aerowing!" said a blonde-haired duck sitting in the pilot’s seat.
"No. That would be too obvious, Nosedive. We need to look more native when we get there," said a gray duck with a eye patch over one eye. He added under his breath, "Wherever ‘there’ is…."
Nosedive was too busy to comment. He was trying to hold the stick steady and adjusting the foot pedals of their old single prop plane to keep it steady through what they now called the gateway.
Finally the plane stopped shuddering and the fog cleared. They saw miles of ocean before them.
"Lucy, we’re here," Nosedive commented.
The gray duck looked around, then leaned down and picked up a telescope and looked around again. "I see some land ahead, an island with some kind of sign on the top…. Can this thing make water landings?"
Nosedive looked out each window and nodded. "Sure, Duke. The pontoons are still in one piece…" It was then that the engine stalled. "But I can't say the same for the engine, aaahhh!!!!"
The plan started to make a nose dive for the ocean below. Nosedive pulled back on the stick and managed to turn it up enough for the plane to skip across the water before coming to a stop.
Duke groaned and rubbed his head. "At least we’re down."
Nosedive nodded and undid the strap to the seatbelt. He heard a voice over the radio. "Hey there, you boys need a tow?"
They looked outside and spotted a yellow Conwing L-16 flying toward them. Duke picked up the mike and grinned. "Sure thing, friend! What's your name?"
They could see a large gray bear sitting in the pilots seat now. The voice responded, "Name's Baloo, and this here is the Sea Duck. I'll just take ya in to Louie's so you can get fixed up."
Duke nodded and opened the door as he stepped out onto the pontoon. "Name’s Duke L'Orange. My friend here is Nosedive. We appreciate the help, Baloo."
When they entered the Louie’s, they were surprised by the sounds and what they saw. The crowd was obviously made up of pilots and they all seemed to be laughing and talking as if they were at a endless party. There was a band playing lively bluegrass and swing music, and a large orangutan at a bar. Baloo made a bee-line straight to him, waving a hand. "Hey there, Louie!."
Louie smiled and fixed a large drink for Baloo. "Hey there cuz! Who's the stiffs?"
Nosedive didn't take long to find a way to enjoy himself and went up to join the band. Duke walked over to Louie. "Name’s Duke, and our plane was damaged. Baloo here says you can fix it."
Louie looked him over and rubbed the bottom of his muzzle. "If you got the green, I can do it."
Duke nodded and pulled out a small red stone. "I don't have the local green, but maybe this will do."
Louie pulled out a monocle and looked at the red stone. "Crazy man… a ruby, nice too! You got a deal, cuz."
Duke nodded. "Fine. By the way, I’m looking for someone. Maybe you know where to find him."
Louie was still looking at the ruby. "Sure cuz, I know where everybody lives."
Duke said flatly, "I’m looking for Don Karnage."
The room went silent. Baloo choked on his drink. Nosedive beat a conga drum for a little while, then looked around. "Wha--what?"
Louie looked right at Duke. "What, are you an Air Pirate too? Must be, to be looking for that snake! Get out of my place, cuz!"
Duke held up his hands. "Hey there, easy now! I'm not a air pirate, I just want to find him."
Louie hmmed and looked at the ruby. "Well no one here knows where he is, cuz. No one can find Pirate Island."
Duke nodded. "I see. Well, is there a place for us to stay the night?"
Louie pointed to Baloo. "He brought ya, he can room ya."
Baloo blinked."Hey now! ya know Beckers don't like it when I bring guests!"
Louie just poked Baloo's chest. "Ya know the rules Baloo. If I don't want ‘em here, the pilot that brought ‘em takes ‘em."
Baloo grumbled, adjusted his pilots hat and stood up. "Ok. Lets go."
As they flew to Cape Suzette, Duke sat with Baloo in the cockpit as Nosedive entertained himself with some comics he found in the back.
"So tell me about the air pirates Baloo, what do you know about them?"
Baloo shrugged, as he veered the plane left to correct their course. "Not much to tell. They attack every cargo plane they come across, and if it wasn't for their ship, the Iron Vulture, old Karnie would most likely have been stopped years ago."
Duke nodded and looked at a chart. "Sounds like you've got a grudge against them."
Baloo grumbled. "Well, I've had more than a few run-ins with them."
Duck nodded. "I see. Well, according to this we just keep this course and we’ll be there. So what else is there? I mean, why would they show interest in you?"
Baloo grumbled again. "Well, besides me being the best pilot there is, probably L’il Britches."
Duke blinked, "Come again?"
Baloo looked Duke in the eye. "Look, I don't know why I'm tell ya this, but there's something that tells me I can trust you, so keep your beak shut about it. Kit, L’il Britches, was Don Karnage's prize pupil ‘til he chose to leave him and live with me."
Duke nodded and patted Baloo's shoulder. "I'll keep my beak shut about him. A kid, huh? That explains the comics in the back. So why don't they attack Cape Suzette?"
Baloo looked ahead and grinned. "See for yourself."
Duke looked at the cliffs ahead and blinked when he saw the numerous Howitzers lining the cliffs and the narrow pass they began to fly through. "The guns?"
Baloo nodded, "Yup. They only managed to raid the city once, but that's not likely to happen again, since me and L’il Britches destroyed his lightning gun."
Duke nodded slightly and looked ahead as the mist from the cliffs parted and they looked at the large city that was Cape Suzette. Baloo circled a few places before pulling into a old wooden watch tower with the sign, 'Higher for Hire' hanging from a post on the dock. There was a female bear standing there, wearing jeans and a long sleeve shirt, tapping her foot on the pier as they pulled up.
Baloo had just stepped onto the pier when she started yelling at him. "You’re late again Baloo! You had better have a good excuse this time!"
Baloo just tipped his hat. "Had to help a downed pilot, Becky."
Duke stepped off first, followed by Nosedive. Becky just looked at them. "Ok fine, Baloo. Hi, I'm Rebecca Cunningham, owner of Higher for Hire"
Nosedive beat Duke to the punch and shook her hand. "Nice to meet ya, dudette! Coolela place you have here."
Becky just blinked. "Come again?"
Duke shoved him aside. "Cool it will ya! Forgive my young friend here, he gets enthusiastic at times."
Becky nodded slightly. "Duke, right? Well, what can we do for you at Higher for hire?"
"Well madam, we were just looking for--"
Baloo cut him off. "A place to stay for the night, while their plane is getting fixed."
None of them noticed Nosedive wander inside as Becky crossed her arms and tapped her foot. "What's wrong with Louie's, Baloo?"
Baloo calmly said holding his hands up. "Now Beckers, Louie is filled up for the night, and since I brought them in, I thought that…."
Duke added in rather quickly, "We'll pay for the stay, ma'am."
Becky looked like she was about to yell again, when they heard a crash from inside. Going inside, they found Nosedive facing down a little bear cub in some blue coveralls. The cub was yelling, "No, I'm Danger Woman! You're the bad guy!"
Nosedive just shook his head. "Nah lil dudette, I'm the hero around here."
Duke rolled his eye, as Becky walked over to the cub. "Molly…"
Molly looked up at Becky and rocked slightly on her feet. "Aw...Mommy, we were just playing."
Becky picked her up. "I know, sweetie. But it’s time to go home." She looked at Baloo. "Fine, they can stay. But I want to know the real reason why in the morning, Baloo."
Baloo followed her out. "Now Becky…"
Becky carried Molly outside. "Now then. What where you two playing?"
When they were alone, Duke looked at the knocked over books, then at Nosedive who just responded, "What?"
Duke just looked at him. "Clean it up Nosedive. I'll look upstairs to see if there's an empty room."
Nosedive nodded and started picking up the books when Baloo came back in. "You guys can crash in the spare room though the door there. The only room upstairs belongs to Kit and me."
Duke blinked. "Well ok...I just thought that, with the way you two argued--"
Nosedive put his hands together. "--that you guys were hitched!"
Duke glared at Nosedive. "To put it that way."
Baloo laughed. "Oh that's rich! Me and Beckers!"
Duke nodded and yawned. "Yeah well, I think I'll be getting some sleep. You too, Nosedive."
Nosedive nodded quickly, "Sure Duke, sure." But after Duke and Baloo went to bed, he slipped outside to look around.
Nosedive wandered around until he heard some music similar to what he heard at Louie's and wandered over to find the source.
He found a little night club, not much to look at outside and by the look of the inside, it catered to the rougher part of the locals. Nosedive saw that the music came from a record player and looking around, he went up to the bar. Man! Really bordelic, there's no night life here.
He spotted a large-looking Great Dane, wearing a dopey little top hat, sitting in a corner with a mutt wearing a vest and a pilot’s hat.
"This is boring Maddog! Let’s do back to the island and do something there," said the Dane.
Maddog just shook his head. "No way. The captain sent us to get a new recruit, and we can't go back empty-handed."
Nosedive decided that maybe he could get some info on Karnage out of these two. He walked over and sat down. "Hey there, dudes! How's it hanging?"
They just blinked, and the Dane was the first to respond, "Fine, I think…"
Maddog prodded the Dane in the arm and whispered to him, "Look at the mark on his shoulder. He's one of those ducks that stopped us a while back. I'll keep him talking and you get him from behind."
The Dane nodded and stood up. "Excuse me, but I have to use the bathroom."
Nosedive nodded. "Sure thing, dude."
Maddog looked at him. "So how about we play a nice game, ok?"
Nosedive blinked, then nodded. "Sure thing dude! What do you want to play?"
Maddog stood up and walked towards the back door. "Come on! I hope you brought a gun."
Nosedive blinked again and followed.
Out back, the alley was dark and smelled of bad beer and worse. Maddog walked over to the other end and placed a few glass bottles up on a board, then walked back to Nosedive. "Ok! Get them all on the first try and I'll give ya a prize!"
Nosedive grinned and pulled out his puck blaster, "No problemo." He twirled the blaster around his finger then fired a couple of pucks, blowing up the bottles. "So what's my prize, dude?"
It was then the Dane hit him over the head from behind with a lead pipe. "The one where I hit you good, ya betcha." He looked at the unconscious duck. "So now what, Maddog?
Maddog looked at the Dane. "What do you think, Dumptruck? We take him to Karnage. Come on."
Duke called out as he looked around the dock. "Nosedive! Damn, where is he?"
Baloo stepped out of the building and looked at Duke. "Relax! He couldn't have gotten far."
Duke patted himself and pulled out a small metal box from his pocket. "Come on Nosedive, still have it on ya..."
Baloo looked over Duke's shoulder at the small screen on the box. "What's that?"
"A homing beacon," Duke replied. "Tanya made one for each of us if we got separated." A dot appeared on the screen. "There we--" Duke looked up suddenly at the cliffs. "He's headed past the cliffs and fast, too."
Baloo had just put on his flight jacket and walked over to the Sea Duck. "Well come on then, let’s see what your pal has gotten into."
Duke hurried into the Sea Duck, just as the props came to life and closed the door. "According to this, head south-east past the cliffs."
Baloo swerved the plane around. "Heading?"
Duke looked at the compass. “Hold here and straight.”
"How far, partner?"
Duke shrugged. "It only gives the heading. It can’t read any range past a mile, I'm afraid."
Baloo nodded. "Well, if we’re headed this way, your friend is going into big trouble."
"We’re headed right for Pirate Island."
Duke blinked. "What?"
Baloo sighed. "Kit showed me how to get there once. I never thought I'd be headed back there."
As the small grey plane flew over the sea, its cargo signs flapped loose and fell off, revealing the Air Pirate logo on the sides. Dumptruck sat in the back watching two other canines and Nosedive, all whom were tied up.
Nosedive blinked as he regained consciousness and looked around. "Wha… where am I?"
Dumptruck looked at him. "Yer are our prisoner, that's what."
Nosedive struggled at the rope binding his arms. "This is very un-cool."
Dumptruck looked though a open hatch behind him to Maddog, who was flying the plane. "The duck is awake."
"Yea so? Just keep a eye on him then, lunkhead."
Dumptruck turned back and looked at Nosedive who quipped, "When I get loose, you guys are going to get it, with extra cheese!"
Dumptruck scratched the side of his head, "There's no cheese here, duck."
"The name's Nosedive, dude."
It was about then the others woke up. The two other canines where obviously of the rougher sort, probably small time criminals. One looked around, "Wha…"
Dumptruck then stood and pulled out a small paper and looked at it. "Hello you have just won…."
Maddog groaned. "You’re reading the wrong paper dummy! Here, take the controls. I'll read what we’re supposed to say."
Dumptruck nodded. "Good. I like flying better."
Once Dumptruck had the controls, Maddog came in and pulled out a piece of paper. "Now then. Let’s see, oh yeah… Greeting hon...erd, honored one, you have been chosen to serve as fellow Air Pirates and upon arrival at Pirate Island you will be addressed by the captain." Maddog looked at them. "So shut up and keep quiet or I'll kick ya out of the plane."
The two canines blinked and nodded and Nosedive just said, "Yeah, like they got a choice."
Maddog looked at him. "Yeah well, I don't want to be in your shoes when the captain gets a hold of ya."
It was then that a voice came over the radio, "Incoming aircraft, you bear Air Pirate symbols. Who's there?"
Dumptruck picked up the mike. "It's me and Maddog. Will open up so we can land."
The voice responded, "Sure thing Dumptruck. Oh hey, before I forget, how many did you get?"
Dumptruck looked back, "One, three, four…umm..."
Maddog grabbed the mike. "Give it to me moron! We have two and a duck."
The voice responded, "A duck?"
Maddog just grinned. "Trust me. The captain will love it."
It was then that the Nosedive gulped, "Oh man…"
Duke looked at the volcanic island they circled from a respectable distance. "He's there alright."
Baloo groaned. "Oh man, that's Pirate Island!"
Duke nodded. "So let’s land. Is there a way in?"
Baloo blinked. "Now hold on there. I was already in that place once, and that was more than enough for me. Besides, how do I know you’re not looking to hook up with Karnie?"
Duke looked at him. "Ok, truth time. Me and Nosedive came here to check him out. All we know about him is that he tried to attack the city we live in and failed. So me and Nosedive are here to see just what his numbers and strength really are."
Baloo blinked. "You two are trying to spy on him?"
"To be blunt, yes."
Baloo nodded. "Ok, well then I'll land by the way Kit showed me and go with ya, but I want two of those rubies ya got, OK?"
Duke checked his pocket. "Sure. Sounds fair."
Baloo nodded and turned the plane towards the island, into a small cave in the rear. The two of them soon found themselves looking down a narrow passage. Duke picked up a rock and threw it down, setting off a trap in the floor. "No visitors, eh?"
"Yeah. Me and Kit had to run full tilt to get through there."
Duke grinned. "Well, I’ve got a better idea." He held out his arm and shot a grappling hook from his wrist.
Baloo whistled. "Oh baby! Got any other fancy tricks?"
Duke put a arm around him. "A few. Hope they’re enough." With that, he swung them to the other side of the passage.
When they landed Duke groaned, "Damn, you weigh more then Grin."
Baloo looked around as memories clicked back into place and waved his large hand. "Come on, this way."
They headed down a dark passage.
His boots thumped loudly down the passage as he walked with Maddog following behind. "We actually got one, Captain! he's in a cell waiting for ya."
The larger canine looked at Maddog out of the corner of his eye. "Now let me get this straight. You incompetents caught one of those duck-type persons?"
Maddog nodded. "Yes Captain Karnage, we got one!"
Karnage frowned, recalling his fight with Duke. Only two weeks had passed since then, but he recalled what Duke had said. 'World problems.'
Also, his pride was injured. He had never fought to a standstill before. At least the crew hadn’t found out about it, unless it was him they caught.
Karnage shook his head slightly. That duck was too clever to be caught by those two idiots.
Either way, he would find out.
Nosedive looked out his cell bars at the sleeping guard. "Hey dweeboid!"
The guard, a large hyena wearing a simple pair of jeans and a vest with dynamite strapped to his upper left arm, blinked. "What do ya want?"
"I want something to eat, dweeboid."
The hyena growled slightly. "Name's Hacksaw."
Nosedive shrugged. “Whatever."
Hacksaw grinned wildly, letting his tongue loll out. "You’re going to love it when the Captain Karnage gets here."
Nosedive looked at him. "Oh, no. You’re going to get it."
Hacksaw laughed. "Oh yeah? How?"
That was when a large board hit him over the head. Baloo stepped out from behind him and patted the end of the board in his free hand. "Like that, gruesome."
Duke grabbed the keys and he and Nosedive stuffed Hacksaw into the cell. Then they found some old clothing and headed down a passage in disguise.
Duke looked at Baloo. "You’re sure this is going to work?"
"Hey, have I ever steered you wrong?"
They heard foot steps. "Well, here comes your first test. Let’s keep quiet," said Duke.
Karnage and Maddog walked right by the three of them. Duke looked away, but Nosedive turned and stuck his tongue out at them.
Karnage stopped before the door to the cells. "Un momento. Those are not my pirates…" He turned and saw Nosedive sticking his tongue out at them.
Nosedive in turn, blinked. "Guys, we got trouble!"
Karnage hit a nearby panel as he drew his cutlass, setting off the alarms. Maddog quickly pulled out his pistol and ran at them.
Baloo started running away. "Oh baby! Let’s get moving!"
Duke just threw off the large hat he was wearing. He looked back at Karnage, who in turn stopped in his tracks. Duke gave a quick two finger salute and left after Baloo and Nosedive.
Karnage gritted his teeth, then grinned at something and took off down a side passage.
After a few twists and turns, not to mention a few run-ins with pirates, Duke, Nosedive and Baloo finally found their way back to the Sea Duck and wasted no time in taking off. Duke saw a fog bank shimmering in the distance and looked up. No moon.
"Make for that fog bank Baloo. Me and Dive are headed home."
Baloo nodded. "Good idea. We can lose the pirates in that."
Baloo turned the plane and a thump was heard in the back. Baloo tilted his hat. "What was that? I'm not carrying any cargo."
Duke removed the hilt from his shoulder. "I'll check it out."
He opened the door and stepped inside. However, he didn't see anything. Odd. There’s no place to hide.'
The door suddenly slammed closed. Duke just managed to avoid the blow from the cutlass, falling to the floor. He turned and flared his saber to life, growling. "Karnage."
Karnage growled back at him. "So we meet again, you and I! Duke, wasn't it?"
Duke yelled out, "Fly low, Baloo! We’ve got a pirate infestation back here!"
Karnage blinked, then grinned as he tapped the door with the hilt of his cutlass. "So you are in there, Baloo!" He heard a grumble, obviously Baloo from the tone.
"Oh great. I’ve got garbage in my plane.”
"That is Karnage, Don Karnage! Roll the r!"
Duke stood up and pulled a lever, making the back cargo door open. He could see pirate fighters following them. He chuckled at Karnage's comment. "You really must be crazy, Karnage."
Karnage already fuming, lunged at him yelling, "Crazy? Crazy? Never call me that word!"
Startled, Duke moved his saber to block Karnage’s blow, causing him to fallout of the plane, followed by Karnage. Quickly he shot his grappling line up at the Sea Duck, and hit it. He looked down and saw Karnage hit the water as they flew into the fog bank.
The planes flew by and Maddog called from one down to the figure in the water, "You want us to follow them, Captain?"
"No...I want you to land here and pick me up first, you idiots!"
Maddog nodded and landed to pick his captain up. Then they headed back to Pirate Island.
Baloo was surprised at where they landed. In the distance, there was a gleaming white city, while all around them, small three-foot bears surrounded him and the two ducks. A few more were trying their best to patch the bullet holes in the Sea Duck.
An elderly bear stepped forward. When Duke bowed to him, he asked, "Did you learn what you wanted to learn?"
Duke shook his head. "No elder. But thank you for the chance. We did lose our plane in the process."
The elder looked at Baloo. "And will you keep our land a secret? Your Don Karnage already knows about this land, and while we can handle him to some degree, we don't want knowledge of New Gumbreia spread throughout the worlds the portals connect to."
Baloo nodded as he fished another handful of berries out from a nearby barrel and popped them into his mouth. "Um…*munch* sure… *munch* no problem *munch* can I have some more?"
It wasn't long before they all said good bye and went their separate ways. As he flew the Sea Duck through the cliffs of Cape Suzette, Baloo suddenly remembered.
"Man, I forgot about the rubies!"