Absence Makes the Heart Go Plunder

Tale Spin Fan Fic

by Katie Sullivan

Chapter 3

Scarlet and Carlotta strolled along the riverbank while the younger vixen composed herself. "Why you help of me?" she asked. "I do not know you."

Scarlet smiled and lent the girl her handkerchief. "I may be a pirate, but I'm not heartless. I couldn't stand by and watch him treat you like that. Besides, I need a guide. You said you know the area."

"Si, si, yes, signora! I do! I live here in Firenze...Florence, you call it...all my life. I take you any place you want to go to see!" she said eagerly, wiping at her teary eyes.

Scarlet pulled out her traced map again. "You said you recognized this area?"

"I think so. Si. And my mother might know more."

Scarlet could hardly believe her good fortune! "Can you take me there?"

"You saved myself from Baltsaros. I do anything for you, signora! What are you called by again? Starlet?"

"Scarlet. And you're Carlotta."

"Si. Would you tell me, signora, why you are going to this place? I think you are not a tourist," the girl said shrewdly.

Scarlet couldn't help but grin at her perceptiveness. "Well, no, you're right, I'm not exactly a tourist. I'm a pirate. But before I tell you more, you have to swear to secrecy."

"Swear?" Carlotta said with a confused look, apparently translating it as "curse."

"Promise you'll keep a secret," she rephrased.

"Oh, yes," she said, nodding in comprehension. "I promise. You saved me, I owe you much. I keep all the secrets." Young though she was, Carlotta was clearly intelligent, not to mention perceptive. Scarlet couldn't help wondering how she had gotten mixed up with that hulk of a lizard.

She lowered her voice and drew close. "I'm searching for a buried pirate treasure. I have a map. But I need you to show me where the map leads."

"Buried treasure?" she whispered back, her eyes alight with excitement.

"Yes," Scarlet said, putting a finger to her lips for quiet. "But don't tell anyone!"

"Not even my mother?"

"Not even your mother."

Carlotta displayed a sly smile as if tasting a delicious stolen chocolate. "I promise. Let's go!"

"Can you leave right away?"

"Yes. My mother will not be worrying. Is not unusual for me to be missing for a time. I like adventure. You like to fly?"

Scarlet raised her eyebrows in surprise. "Yes. Do you?"

"Yes! I have my own plane! It was my father's. Is small, but I love it! Want to see?"

She was taken aback. Carlotta...really no more than a child...could fly her own plane? Finally, she said, "I'd love to."

"Wonderful! Come with me!" The young vixen grabbed Scarlet's hand and ran off down a side street toward the airfield.

Back in a nearby alleyway, a shadowy figure stood with chameleon-like obscurity. A lack of external ears did not mean he was deaf. Far from it. He had heard some very interesting things. With calculating coldness, he considered jumping the two vixens right then and there, killing them and stealing their map. But, no, that would be inefficient. She might not have the map on her. And it would be far more satisfying to let them do all the work. Find the treasure...dig it up... Then he would make his move. Flat reptilian eyes glinted with anticipation. He had always sensed that miserable hybrid wench would be useful someday...

It was certainly different around the Iron Vulture. So many things were missing. Scarlet's laugh. Scarlet's smile. Scarlet's kiss. The men keeping their most lewd tendencies in check in front of Scarlet. Amused corrections on his English from Scarlet. Scarlet's bushy tail. Scarlet.

Not that it bothered him. No. He didn't care. She was halfway around the world now, but it was irrelevant. He was a pirate, and so he would do what pirates always did: pillage. Often. Wantonly. Copiously.

The pilots of Cape Suzette hardly knew what hit them. It seemed the Air Pirates were making up for their many-week-long absence. Hardly a flight went unscathed. The Iron Vulture was everywhere at once, ruthlessly preying on anything that flew. No nationality or company was spared. Private planes, Khan cargo planes, and, inevitably, the Sea Duck, fell victim to the pirates' wrath.

Baloo was more annoyed than frightened when the giant maw of the Iron Vulture materialized out of the clouds in front of him yet again. Kit yelped in surprise and dropped his compass. The beak closed tight, trapping them inside. Grumbling under his breath, Baloo landed on the floor of the airship and tapped his fingers impatiently on the control panel. "Don't these guys ever give up?" Within moments, the side door banged open, and a band of pirates streamed into the plane. Baloo and Kit stood and held up their hands in resigned disgust.

Don Karnage stormed aboard, his boots loudly echoing on the metallic floor. He was clearly not in a good mood.

Baloo frowned. "C'mon, Karny, gimme a break! This is the fourth time this week! What've ya got your shorts in a knot about?"

The pirate jammed his sword in the bears' direction. "My shorts are none of your business!" he growled. He whirled on his men and bellowed, "Well? What are you waiting for? Pillage! Get their cargo!"

Mad Dog slouched. "Aw, but Cap'n, it's just a bunch of booooorrrrrring light bulbs!"

"I don't care what it is! Just take it!" Karnage yelled with such vehemence that his tail frizzed out as if charged with electricity.

The cowed pirates scrambled to comply.

"Hey, Karny, whatever happened to that blonde you used to hang out with?" Baloo asked cheekily. "Did she finally realize you were crazy and leave you a 'Dear Juan' letter?"

A red haze misted over Karnage's eyes, and a growl reverberated low in his chest. "I TELL YOU A MILLION TIMES! NEVER CALL ME THAT WORD, THE NAME IS DON KARRRNAGE, AND MY SOCIAL LIFE IS NONE OF YOUR FLOORWAX!!!" he screamed with such volume that his voice turned hoarse.

Baloo was startled by the extreme reaction. He expected Karnage to be annoyed, of course, but now he wondered if his life was in jeopardy. The doubt was quickly erased as Karnage swung at him with his sword. In his fury, however, his aim was sloppy, and the pilot managed to duck out of the way. Baloo placed himself between his attacker and Kit. "Take it easy, Karnage! You wanna put someone's eye out with that thing?"

"No, my bulging bruin, I want to put your entrails out!" Karnage snarled, lunging again. As he did so, however, the room seemed to spin, and his vision blurred. He suddenly found himself on the verge of fainting. He couldn't let that happen! Fierce pirates did not faint, for heaven's sake! Instead, he inconspicuously steadied himself on a cargo crate and took a deep breath.

"Ah," he scoffed. "You are not worth the trouble. Clean the plane out, men, from bottom to top! Then let our best customers go, so they may bring us more riches another day, yes-no?"

Dumptruck blinked stupidly. "Vhat riches, Captain? All dey gots is light bulbs!"

"SHUT UP, YOU IDIOT!" he yelled on his way out the door.

Don Karnage hastened to his quarters, slammed the door behind him, and sank to the floor with his back against the door, shaking. He closed his eyes and tried to regulate his breathing. What had just happened? He hadn't let his temper get that far out of control in ages! And nearly fainting? True, he hadn't slept in days, and he hadn't been eating well, but the insomnia wasn't his fault, and...

What was going on? He was losing it! This was stupid! Stupid, stupid, stupid!

He knew what part of the problem was. That strange dream last night. How infuriating, to have the only two hours of sleep he had captured in days invaded by nightmares! It had been stuck in his mind all day, disturbing and irritating...

He was standing in a thick fog on a featureless landscape, and somewhere far in the distance Scarlet was standing, alone. She was clothed in a gauzy blue gown...practically naked, really--but it wasn't that sort of dream. Instead, there was an overwhelming sense of terror emanating from her. A strong wind was blowing, making it nearly impossible to stand, but it did nothing to disperse the fog. It was a bitterly cold wind; she was shivering uncontrollably. Or was that from fear? Suddenly, out of the mists, a dark, towering--of all things--dragon materialized. Scarlet shrieked but appeared rooted to her place, unable to flee. The look of utter horror on her face rent his heart in two, but no matter how fast he ran, he drew no nearer to her. She looked so completely helpless! He yelled her name, but no sound came. It was as if he didn't exist! Worst of all, the dragon was getting larger, nearer, or some combination thereof. With a cry like metal being twisted in two, it lashed out with gleaming talons. As it slashed into Scarlet, she disappeared in a swirl of blinding red light, with a scream that echoed through the fog like a banshee.

He had awoken in a cold sweat, panting as if he had just run a marathon, and hadn't dared return to sleep for the rest of the night.

And the memory had remained stuck like neural peanut butter in his consciousness all day.

Don Karnage rose carefully to his feet, a hand on the wall, and went to the bookshelf beside his desk. On the top shelf, under a glass dome, was an intricate piece of origami, a flower-like shape of mind-bendingly complex workmanship. Art from his own late brother's hands.

As he stood, staring up at that bittersweet decoration, he reaffirmed to himself: he was not crazy. Nor was he going crazy. No. In fact, things were quite clear. He knew what he had to do.

He didn't consider himself a superstitious person. But that dream had been so vivid...so urgent... Scarlet was in danger. He knew it. He didn't know how, he just knew it! As certainly as he knew his men were stupid, he was brilliant, and the sun would rise in the east tomorrow morning. And he had to do something about it. It was probably crazier than staying here and pushing the crew to their limit, but his mind was made up: he was going to Italy. He would find Scarlet, wherever she was, and protect her. Whether she wanted him to or not.

There was something calming just in having made the decision. He flung the cabin door open and yelled in his most commanding, no-nonsense tone, "Mad Dog! Will! Come here!" Before long his first and second mates came running. "Men, we are going to Italy. Now."

"What?" Mad Dog sputtered. "Why?"

"Never mind why, barnacles-for-brains! Just see that the Vulture is full of fuel and ready to go!"

Will shifted his weight uncertainly. "Uh, sir, if you don't mind my saying so...I wouldn't recommend taking the Iron Vulture anywhere far right now."

"And why not?" Karnage said impatiently.

"Well, we are sort of in the middle of a world war, you know."

"So?" he snapped.

"So we'd probably be blasted out of the sky the second we got into Italian air space, if not sooner."

"You have a point..." Karnage admitted grudgingly. "Fine, fine, then. Prepare one of the cargo planes we have stolen. We will make-believe we are innocent cargo pilots, yes-no?"

Will nodded. "An excellent suggestion, sir."

"Wait just a goldurn minute, here, Captain!" Mad Dog interrupted. "You're going after Scarlet, ain't you?"

Karnage scowled. "That is none of your concerning."

Mad Dog shook his head in disgust. "Cap'n, you've been moping around, all moony-eyed like a lovesick frog ever since she left! It's makin' me sick! I mean, sure, Scarlet was a dish. She had curves that'd stop a moose at fifty paces and a pair'o'legs that never quit, but who needs some blonde wench hangin' around, crampin' their style? She's not worth drivin' yourself crazy over."

The next thing Mad Dog knew, he was flat on his back with a galaxy of stars whirling in front of his eyes. Don Karnage stood over him, quivering with fury. "Never speak to your captain that way, you worthless piece of spitoon scrapings!" he roared. "GUARDS!" Two particularly burly pirates came running down the corridor. "Take that mutinous moron to the brig until he remembers who is the magnificent Captain around here!" The guards dragged Mad Dog away amid whines for mercy. Karnage turned to Will with his arms folded on his chest. "Now," he said with quiet menace, "any other comments about my personal affairs?"

Will raised an eyebrow. "None whatsoever, Captain."

Scarlet patted the old plane admiringly. It was a small, flimsy-looking affair with an open cockpit, badly in need of a fresh coat of green paint. All in all, not a bad plane for a beginner, but nothing in which she would have attempted a long overseas journey.

"Beautiful, no?" Carlotta said proudly. "Old, but beautiful."

"You said it was your father's?"

"Yes. Or, that is what my mother tells me. I never knowed him."

"I'm sorry," Scarlet said.

"Oh, he is not dead. Just far away. And not married. Also...you heared Baltsaros. I am hybrid." Carlotta's face fell in shame.

"I heard," Scarlet said matter-of-factly. "I don't care."

Carlotta looked up in utter befuddlement. "What? I am sorry, my English... You said you...don't care?"

"You heard correctly. I don't care. As they say, 'some of my best friends are hybrids'," she said with an ironic smile.

"You don't care?" she repeated in disbelief. "But...I am a hybrid. A cursed one. The mixed blood. Of course you care. Everyone cares!"

Scarlet shrugged. "It's not your fault. You can't help who your parents are."

Carlotta's eyes filled with tears anew. "You are an angel," she said in an awed whisper. "Una visita d'angelo. First you save me from Baltsaros, and now...now...I do not believe... You don't care? Truly? Non fa niente?"

"Yes, Carlotta. Truly."

Sobbing, the girl seized her benefactor in a giant hug. "Oh, grazie, molte grazie!" Scarlet awkwardly returned the embrace, and Carlotta soon released her. She looked away sheepishly at the sudden display of emotion, and cleared her throat. "Mi dispiace. I'm sorry. I just have never meeted with a person who does not care. To be a hybrid..." She shrugged.

Scarlet smiled graciously. "I understand. Now. Shall we get going? My plane is at a different airfield."

"I would not think it safe to fly to Pisa right now, anyway. The war, you know. Is not very safe."

She nodded. "So how do we get downriver?"

"Down the river? We take boat, or train. Mussolini keeps the trains on time, but the boat is better. Less...what is the word? Conspickus? You know, obvious."


"That is the word," Carlotta said, nodding gratefully.

"You said your uncle has a boat?"

"Yes, but... He and my mother, they are fighting now. I do not think she would want me to see him. Better to go another way. The boats are not expensive. Slower, but we get to Pisa by morning, I think."

"Then let's go. I can't wait to get at that treasure!"

"This way," Carlotta said eagerly, grabbing Scarlet's hand and leading her back in the direction of the river.

Basilisk eyes followed their departure with interest.

"Can not this estupid plane go any faster?" Don Karnage said grouchily.

At the controls, Ratchet shook his head. "Uh uh. Sorry, Cap'n. Any faster and the engines'll overheat."

A select handful of pirates had been cooped up in a medium-sized cargo plane since early that morning, and their leader wasn't the only one getting restless. Karnage paced the length of the plane endlessly, his dark brow furrowed into a perpetual frown. If any of the others had thoughts like Mad Dog's, they kept them to themselves. True, they were chasing after the Captain's ex-girlfriend, but there was also a buried treasure at the end of their journey. It was the glint of golden doubloons, not golden locks of hair, that fueled their enthusiasm and kept them from complaining about the long flight.

Don Karnage, of course, was yearning for both. Finally tired of pacing, he flopped into the co-pilot's seat, put his booted feet up on the control panel, and began staring out the window, his chin on his hand. Thousands of feet below, the arid tracts of Persia stretched in all directions, rocky, brown and dull. He sighed.

He hadn't been back to Italy since leaving...what was it, now...thirteen years ago? It seemed like eons. Eons since he had completed his training under a fox named Vincenzo Barzini, the greatest Mediterranean pirate alive. Fitting, since piracy had been born in the region, truly eons ago, in the days when the Parthenon still shone like new. Truth be told, his feelings toward Vincenzo were much kinder than those toward his own father. Gonzalo had ignored his requests to be trained as a pirate; Vincenzo had welcomed him as a pupil with open arms.

And then there was his mentor's niece and ward, Isabella. A sultry Italian rose, as deadly in combat as she was beautiful. But the edge that made her a pirate to be feared had also doomed their romance. Her temper was too quick, too fiery, and too unpredictable. He put a hand to his mangled ear, remembering the sting of her blade. Isabella had not taken their breakup well. Still, for all that, Vincenzo had remained friendly toward him.

Funny, he mused. He sensed his future lay with Scarlet, yet in the last few months, she had helped to dredge up so much of his past. A past that still held secrets of which she knew nothing.

On to Chapter 4
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This story and the character Scarlet are (c) Katie Sullivan and may not be used without permission. Katarina is (c) Kayleen Connell and may not be used without permission, either. Don Karnage, the Iron Vulture, the Air Pirates, Mad Dog, Dumptruck, Cape Suzette, Tale Spin and all related indica, etc, are (c) The Walt Disney Company and are used without permission for non-profit entertainment purposes only.