Letting the Fox Out of the Bag

Tale Spin Fan Fic

by Katie Sullivan


Chapter 2

Early the next morning, Don Karnage ordered that the Iron Vulture be made ready for a long voyage. No other details. Just "a long voyage". The great airship would be manned by a skeleton crew, meaning as few pirates as possible would witness...whatever it was.

Karnage avoided Scarlet as if she had a contagious disease, which both angered and hurt her further. But she could tell he was troubled. Bellowing orders and berating the crew was his way of hiding it.

The stranger, Dolores, kept out of sight most of the day. A pity, since Scarlet would have liked to have questioned her. She doubted her inaccessability was a coincidence.

Sunset was fast approaching, and all was ready for the next day's journey. The crew had still not been informed of their destination, but Scarlet was positive it was Cabo Orgulloso. That much she had gleaned from the Spanish conversation.

The lone female pirate stood on the natural rock balcony on the west side of Pirate Island. Few of the others appreciated scenery, so the outlook was usually empty, making it an ideal place for solitude and reflection. She leaned on the stone railing and gazed out over the limitless ocean below.

For the thousandth time, she reviewed the conversation, trying to extract further meaning. It was useless, though. They had spoken so fast, and with such natural flair, that her mind couldn't keep up. The words ran together.

Why was Karnage being so evasive? All her attempts to learn about his past had been thwarted. What could be so terrible? He was a pirate, after all. She didn't expect him to have a pristine history. She accepted that. It even contributed to her affection for him, in a strange way. But what secret could possibly be that vital to keep?

Unless...

Scarlet rested her chin in her hands and frowned thoughtfully. Unless this Dolores really was his sister. She did say "our parents". "Nuestras padres." Clearly. Yet Dolores had gray fur and distinctly wolfish features. But her fur markings where more foxlike. Just as she sometimes caught glimpses of unfoxlike traits in Karnage.

Could Don Karnage be a hybrid?

The very thought felt like mutiny. Interspecies marriages were illegal. If such a mixed union did somehow occur, it usually ended in abortion or abandonment for the unfortunate offspring. No hybrid was ever accepted in society. They were outcasts, shunned. One of the greatest scandals of modern times was the discovery of a mule in the Usland Congress.

Scarlet closed her eyes to block out the thought, but it persisted. The man she was becoming increasingly fond of...a hybrid?

Somehow the idea wasn't as revolting as she might have expected. So what? Neither were pirates accepted in society, yet she had turned her whole life upside down to become one. And since doing so she felt so much at home. This was her destiny. This was where she belonged. She had already thrown so many of society's ideals and standards out the window... What was one more? Her brain had been trained to hold disdain for hybrids, but her heart had learned no such lesson.

There was a sudden voice behind her, and she jumped, as if whoever it was could read her risky thoughts. Realizing the identity of the speaker did nothing to calm her nerves.

"Ah, there you are, my buccaneer blossom."

She turned and tried to smile innocently. "Oh, er, hola, Capitán."

Don Karnage quietly came up beside her and put an arm around her waist. Remembering how angry she was with him, she stiffened and looked away.

He sighed and withdrew his arm. "Look, Scarlet, I... It is nothing against your person, really. It is a matter solely between Dolores, my family and I. It is having nothing to do with yourself."

She shook her head at him and brought her eyebrows together in puzzlement. "But it does have to do with me. I'm your girlfriend...aren't I? I mean, we kiss, and you call me your lady, and last week when we hijacked that florist's delivery plane you gave me that huge boquet of roses, and I thought... I thought you really cared about me."

He took her by the shoulders and looked straight into her eyes. "I do. Believe this. I do. But this matter with Dolores is something...is not easy. Is very personal. Please understand." He gave her a long kiss that nearly wiped the curiosity (and pretty much everything else) from her mind.

She put a hand on his cheek and said softly, "Please, Felipe, querido, you can trust me."

He broke eye contact. "With this secret, I trust no one."

"But I...I love you."

He stepped backward and abruptly resumed his self-important, commanding attitude. "Then respect my privacy."

"I do, but--"

"Scarlet, please. It is not for discussion."

She closed the distance between them again and put her hands on his shoulders. "Just, please, for once in your life, trust someone. Trust me."

He took a deep breath and released it slowly. "Perhaps someday. But not this day." With that, he turned and left her standing on the balcony, bathed in the ruddy twilight.


Once the Iron Vulture was in the air the next morning, Don Karnage finally divulged the coordinates of their destination: a small island about 150 miles off the southeast coast of Cuba. Cabo Orgulloso.

It was a long journey, even with the Vulture's engines at full power. The Pacific alone took a full two days to cross, until at last they reached Central America. They found a fuel tanker to plunder off the coast of Panama, along with a much-needed stint onshore.

Flying for two days straight was always hard on the nerves, but the tension between Scarlet and Karnage made it doubly so. They weren't actually fighting, but he continued to avoid her. When that wasn't possible he was vague and defensive.

Meanwhile, Dolores remained silent. Once Scarlet attempted to converse with her in Spanish, but Karnage quickly squelched that idea. Dolores merely shrugged and looked apologetic. Frustrated, Scarlet gave up that avenue of communication.

At long last, the Iron Vulture descended in the skies over the little Caribbean island of Cabo Orgulloso. From the air, Scarlet estimated it was about twenty miles wide and thirty miles long. She stood with Don Karnage and Dolores at the bridge window of the Vulture, watching the speck of land approach. Karnage's expression was nearly unreadable. Blank. Perhaps grim. Perhaps sad. But mainly distant. He was looking at the far-off island, but his eyes were clearly seeing something from long ago. Scarlet put a hand on his arm, but he did not react.

As they got closer, she realized why the island looked odd. As a lifetime resident of the South Pacific, she knew what a cyclone, typhoon or hurricane could do. Whatever name locals gave to the storm, there were no words to describe the devastation. What had once been a rainforest was crushed into a sad tangle of foliage and broken wood. A jumble of wreckage on the east end of the island marked the location of the main population center. Whatever population was left. A few lopsided ships were moored in the harbor, but far more were thrust up onto the beach, pushed together like toys.

"¿Ahora veas?" Dolores said quietly. "¿Ahora comprendes porque necesitamos ayuda?" ("Now do you see? Now do you understand why we need help?")

Karnage put a hand to the glass and shook his head slightly, dumbfounded by the state of his former home.

"Puedes aterrizarlo en la cala detrás de nuestra casa," Dolores said. ("You can land it in the cove behind our house.")

It took Karnage a moment to acknowledge her, but when his gaze finally snapped away from the view, he was all business. "Scotty! Heading fifteen degrees north-west. Bring her down in the round cove. Hacksaw, check the bomb bay doors. Make sure they are locked tight, or you will personally bail out every last drop! Mad Dog, ready the planes. We fly ashore. Dumptruck, go into the supply room and find the tents. Scarlet--" He turned to her and was stopped in mid-syllable by her pitying gaze. "Scarlet...there is a package on the desk in my quarters. Go get it," he said with considerably less vehemence.

She gave him a hug, whispering, "Remember...I'm here."

He returned the brief embrace, then nudged her on her way. "Go."

Scarlet hurried to comply, her boots clanging on the metal staircase. There it was again, that uneasy mix of subordinate and sweetheart. At least he was acknowledging her existance.

The door to his quarters was unlocked, and she found the small brown package on his antique desk. Despite her haste, she couldn't help but notice the thick photo album beside it. She laid her hand upon the leather cover, drawn like a magnet, and wrestled with her conscience. He obviously wouldn't want her to see it. But it was right there. How could she not look? How could she expect him to trust her when she snooped in his private photos?

Her dishonorable side won a limited victory, as she flipped open the album to peek at a single page. A series of black-and-white pictures showed an astoundingly young Don Karnage and Dolores, and a third child, a boy. They were sitting on a porch, watching a small turtle. True to form, Karnage was harassing the poor beast with a stick, much to Dolores' amusement. The third youngster looked detached and serious.

This glimpse augmented Scarlet's curiosity rather than placated it, but she didn't have time to explore further. She carefully shut the album and ran back to the bridge with the package. It was small but heavy, and something inside made a light metallic noise. Coins?

As she climbed the stairs, warning klaxons blared briefly, signaling the landing. She stopped and grasped the railing while the airship came to rest on the water's surface. There was a bobbing sensation, as if she was on a giant cork, which was soon replaced by a gentle swaying like a boat.

Don Karnage and Dolores were still at the window, conversing in low tones in Spanish when she returned. They quickly fell into silence as she approached.

"Here's your package, Captain," she said.

"Ah, good," he said.

"¿Qué es esto?" Dolores asked. ("What is that?")

"Algo para Padre," he said cryptically, and Scarlet was glad to see she was not the only person with whom he was evasive. ("Something for Father.") He headed for the door, and Dolores followed. Scarlet stayed back uncertainly until he turned and gestured for her to come along. "I am supposing you can accompany me, querida. If you like. But keep your lovely mouth shut, yes-no?" She grinned and eagerly fell in step behind him.

They soon emerged on the landing strip on the top of the Iron Vulture, squinting as their eyes adjusted to the bright tropical sunlight. For the first time, Scarlet noticed Dolores' plane: a single-engine model with an open cockpit, painted emerald green. Karnage usually made a great show of helping Scarlet into her plane, just for fun, but today he was too preocupied, so she dispensed with the theatrics and climbed in unaided. Karnage's tri-wing fighter shone like new, and she realized he must have had it washed. Appearances, appearances...

The three started their engines, ready to fly ashore. Karnage motioned to Mad Dog, who was standing a safe distance away. "Mad Dog, you are in charge while I am on the island. No one is to leave the Iron Vulture without my permission. Got it?" he ordered firmly.

"Aye, aye, Cap'n," he said.

"Good. If I catch anyone onshore I will dip them in barbeque sauce and throw them to the sharks!"

Mad Dog gulped. "Er, yes, Captain."

With that warning, Don Karnage took off with Dolores and Scarlet on either side. It was only a short distance across the cove, over what used to be a large garden, to a palatial building overlooking the ocean. A landing strip had been cleared in an already flattened sugarcane field.

Once on the ground, there was a sweet smell from all the broken sugarcane, and a much better view of the destruction the hurricane had wrought. Even through the rubble, however, Scarlet could tell what a truly Eden-like island this had been. Once proud palm trees crumbled in the face of the wind... A cream-white beach scoured by storm surge... An old-fashioned Spanish villa a shell of its former self. Ghostly curtains floated in glassless windows. A trellis lay tangled in a heap in the side yard. One corner of the broad porch was sagging due to a weakened support column. The same porch as in the photograph, Scarlet suddenly realized. Despite the deteriorated masonry, shattered timber, and yard littered with roof tiles, this was a house of nobility.

It was only after several speechless minutes of looking around that Scarlet realized Don Karnage had not yet left his plane. Dolores sat on the wing, a hand on his arm. His face was a mask of shock, his eyes glued on the ruined mansion. "Madre de Dios..." he mumbled.

When the initial emotional blow subsided, he tried to recover some of his usual hauteur, with little success. Karnage jumped down from his plane, straightened his jacket and made his way through the rubble to the house. Dolores stayed at his side, but, feeling like an interloper, Scarlet lingered a few steps behind.

As they approached the empty front doorframe, a middle-aged vixen in a dirty vermillion dress emerged. She stood in speechless joy for a moment, her hands clasped on her chest, and stared at him as if he was a holy vision. Her once-black hair was streaked with gray, piled in a loose clip atop her head. Through the scars of age, she was still strikingly beautiful.

"Felipito, mi hijo...¡estás aquí! No puedo creer... ¡Ay, Felipito, ven aquí!" ("Felipito, my son...you're here! I can't believe... Oh, Felipito, come here!")

He stepped up onto the porch and lowered his head in an uncharacteristic show of meekness. "Mamá, lo siento. Lo siento mucho. Yo estaba--"("Mom, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I was--")

"¡Callate y abráze a tu madre, chico necio!" ("Shut up and hug your mother, silly boy!")

It was more a matter of allowing himself to be hugged, but Karnage shared an embrace with the dignified lady who, apparently, was his mother.

[Author's note: From this point on pretty much all the dialogue would be in Spanish, but to spare you the task of reading it that way, I'll stick pretty much to English from here on. You're welcome. :-) We now return you to your regularly scheduled fanfic.]

Karnage drew back and gave her an evaluating look. "You are not angry with me?"

She smiled warmly and shook her head. "I was, at first. Make no mistake about that. But that was years ago. Now I'm just so glad to see you, my son. Look at you!" She stepped back and spread her arms, appraising him. "You have gotten to be a strong, handsome pirate like your father. And blue was always a good color on you."

This ego-stroking put Don Karnage more at ease. "But of course," he said with a vain grin.

The woman turned to Scarlet. "And who is this blonde beauty? Your wife?"

Scarlet's cheeks flushed a rosy hue, and Karnage hastily corrected. "No, no, no. She is one of my crew...and my girlfriend," he added. "Scarlet Hindenfur, this is my mother, Doña Lorita, the feared piratess, and most skilled swordswoman in all the Caribbean."

"Un verdadero placer, Doña Lorita," Scarlet greeted with flawless pronounciation. ("A true pleasure")

Lorita raised an impressed eyebrow. "My, my, Felipe. Leave it to you to find a beautiful Uslandic girl who speaks Spanish." Karnage shifted his weight in embarassment. "Pleased to meet you, Scarlet. I would welcome you to Cabo Orgulloso, but there's not much left of it." Her face fell. "The hurricane was the worst anyone alive can remember. Many died. Those of us who made it to the church on the hill were saved, but our homes, our ships...everything is in ruins. As you can see."

Karnage put a firm hand on her shoulder. "I am here to help, Mamá. Dolores even talked me into bringing the Iron Vulture. I will do whatever I can."

She leaned into him and nodded. "I know you will, son."

Dolores spoke up. "Where is Father?"

Immediately, Karnage's face darkened.

Lorita stepped aside to clear the doorway. "I believe he is in the study, trying to dry out his books. It's hopeless, but it gives him something to do." She saw the hesitation in her son's eyes and gently pushed him forward. "Go to him."

Don Karnage inhaled slowly and went inside, disappearing down a dark corridor.

Lorita shooed Dolores and Scarlet into the marble-floored foyer, which was streaked with dirt. "Here, girls. You can help me scrub the floor. If I ever get all this sand out of here it'll be a miracle," she said with a sigh, then swore under her breath. "There are rags in that bucket there." Dolores turned to Scarlet, who shrugged. The two set to work.

 



The door to the study was open. Don Karnage forced himself to cross that dreaded threshold, to face the one man alive he feared:  his father.

Don Gonzalo Karnage sat at an ancient table in the far corner, his gray-furred body framed by a chair lined in faded red velvet. Yellowed tomes with wrinkled pages were spread around him, water-damaged by the storm.
He was older than Lorita, but his eyes were sharp and afire with a pirate's spirit. Although his left arm was in a sling, his chest and shoulders were broad and strong; clearly he had been quite a warrior in his prime. Now he was a faded version of the man his son remembered, but he still had a majesty about him, an air of authority that demanded respect.

And he was a wolf.

Don Felipe Karnage walked slowly into the room, trying to keep his unease hidden. He laid the small package on the desk, amid the damp books.

The older pirate looked down at it with a questioning frown.

Karnage kept his posture straight and said matter-of-factly, "That is two hundred silver peices. The amount I took from the family treasury when I left twenty years ago."

Gonzalo opened the package and dumped the contents onto the desk. He didn't bother to count them, but they were most definitely silver.

Karnage stood silently, waiting for a reaction. His father sat back in his chair and put his hands together in a dignified, almost prayerful manner. Cold, steely eyes regarded him sternly.

At last he spoke, his voice like the rumble of distant squall. "So you have returned at last."

Karnage nodded simply.

"Why?"

He shifted his weight and folded his hands behind his back. "The hurricane. Dolores said you were needing my help."

"So you thought you would march back here with your fancy aeroplanes and save us all," Gonzalo said sarcastically, narrowing his eyes.

"I thought I would help," he growled.

The elder stood and paced a bit, then faced him with a glare of icy fury. As he spoke, his voice grew in volume and intensity. "You worthless, mutinous, lying peice of seagull droppings. You take away my right of vengeance, challenge my authority, steal from me, abandon us and then...then you have the unparalleled gall to parade around the Pacific using my title!" Gonzalo gave a very wolfish snarl. "'Don Karnage'...hah!" He sneered in derision. "You are the not the head of this family, Felipe! I am, and don't you forget it for an instant! While I draw breath, I am Don Karnage!"

His son clenched his fists in fury. "You are a fool, Father. I have accomplished far more under that name than you ever have. You ask me why I have come back? I have come to repay you for everything you gave me. These coins...to repay the money I took. I will help rebuild this house to repay you for putting a roof over my head. For giving me life...I repaid you long ago, with the blood of Lorenzo Calaveras. A life for a life. Although it was far more Ignacio's name I meant to honor. But there are two things I will not repay. The title of Don Karnage...I keep. And the insults, the disdain, the being ignored...I will not repay, because there is not enough time left in either of our lives, and even if there were, you are not worth the breath. And that is all I have to say. Now I go do what I came to do: rebuild this island. For the family. For those who came before, and those who will come. For Ignacio. But not for you, and not for myself, for this place means nothing but bad memories for me now. Good-bye, Father."

Don Felipe Karnage turned and walked out of the room without bothering to see the expression on Gonzalo's face.


Scarlet knew immediately it had not been a happy reunion. That much was painfully clear from his tense, dark expression. The reasons were beyond her imagining. All she could do was take his hand and give a comforting half-smile.

Don Karnage directed a disgusted frown at his mother, who glanced in the direction of the study and sighed. She dropped her scrub brush in a bucket of soapy water and stood, drying her hands on her skirt. "He is bitter, Felipe. It's not you. He hasn't slept, and--"

"Don't make excuses for him, Mamá," he said curtly. "I stopped listening to them more than two decades ago." He turned to Scarlet without making eye contact. "Go back to the Iron Vulture. Get Mad Dog, Dumptruck, Gibber, Ratchet and Hacksaw, and bring the supplies from cargo bay three. Set them to work gathering any lumber from the wreckage that could be re-used. And have someone pick up the roof tiles from the yard. I want it all done by sunset."

She nodded, then opened her mouth to speak. "Querido--"

But he walked out the front door before she could finish.
 



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This story and the characters Scarlet, Dolores Lorita, Gonzalo, Ignacio and Miranda  are © Katie Sullivan and may not be used without permission. Don Karnage, the Iron Vulture, the Air Pirates, Mad Dog, Dumptruck, Cape Suzette, Tale Spin and all related indica, etc, are © The Walt Disney Company and are used without permission for non-profit entertainment purposes only.