by Katie Sullivan
Juan Ricardo Felipe Gonzalo Hernan Karnage knew every inch of the Iron Vulture, far more than his parents realized. He had been born on the giant airship, and had been exploring its shadowy depths since he first learned to crawl. He was also aided by the fact that, at age nine and a half, he was already smarter than most of the crew. So it was no great trick to sneak on board undetected.
The boy crawled through the air ducts until he was directly over the bridge, then settled back for the ride. Here he could hear his parents giving orders to the crew, and if he laid flat he could just barely see a corner of the window through the screen in the floor.
He had heard his father tell the story of his previous exploits in Cape Suzette at least a million times. First there was the time with the Lightning Gun, then the time when Juan himself was ready to be born. He knew every detail by heart. He was tired of hearing the stories. He wanted to see it all for himself.
Juan squinted through the screen, surveying the action below him. His father was in the command chair, of course. His mother stood next to him, talking to Aunt Katarina. Carlotta was also nearby. The crew scurried around, following the Captain's orders. Juan smiled. Someday he was going to do that. The crew barely tolerated him now, but one day they would flinch at his slightest frown, the way they did for his father.
He felt the vibration deep in his chest. The airship's engines had
kicked in. He mentally went down the checklist, anticipating each step of the process. His
father signaled for the doors of the island to be opened...they did, and sunlight flooded
in...the ship slowly inched forward... Juan closed his eyes, ready for his favorite part.
There was a strange sensation like falling and floating at the same time as the airship
ascended. They were on their way to Cape Suzette! He was almost too excited to sit still.
Don Karnage was too excited to sit still. He rose from the command chair and went to the front window, watching as the cliffs of Cape Suzette grew larger on the horizon. The sea was rough, but there was no sign of the tidal wave that had caused so much damage. He turned to make a comment to Scarlet, but stopped, pointing a condemning finger at his sister-in-law.
"Get out of my chair!"
Katarina crossed her legs and leaned back. "But it's so comfy!"
A wolf-like growl started deep in his chest.
"Okay, okay! Don't get your eyebrows in a knot!" Katarina vacated the command chair.
"Cap'n, look!" Mad Dog called. "The cliff guns ain't there no more!"
"I know that, you brain-lacking lackey!" Karnage snapped, then returned to the window. "But it is true! Lookey!" He pointed, and the three vixens rushed to his side.
Not only were the cliff guns gone, but large sections of the cliff face itself had crumbled away. The pirates stared in disbelief as their airship sailed, unopposed, through the pass.
Cape Suzette itself was in ruins. Much of the waterfront had been obliterated, and there was damage well inland. The worst of the devastation was directly in line with the pass, where the tidal wave had been funneled into even greater intensity.
Karnage's eyes darted toward a certain building, and saw that, although the edifice itself was damaged somewhat, both the yellow and green seaplanes were unscathed. Apparently they had been in the air when the wave hit. That could complicate matters...
He scowled. Let them try. They wouldn't ruin things again. Not this time.
"Look!" Scarlet breathed in horrified awe, pointing at a stretch of muddy rubble to the north of Higher for Hire, where the worst of the wave had gone. Nothing resembling a building could be seen in that corridor. "I hope there's something left to plunder."
Karnage showed a thin smile. "Oh, there will be, querida. The sea did not wipe out the whole city. Just the waterfrontage. The rest will be our playground."
"So that's what Cape Suzette looks like!" came a young voice from behind him.
"Yes, my boy! Come see!" Karnage said, stepping aside to give Juan a better view. "Hey! Wait just a cotton-splitting momento! You are not supposed to be here!"
Juan put on his most adorable, innocent face. He had had plenty of practice.
"You are supposed to be back on the Island! What are you doing here, you sneaky little stowaway?"
"I wanted to come plundering with you, Dad," Juan said simply.
Scarlet laughed and put her hands on Juan's shoulders. "Well, at least he's honest about that!"
Karnage spluttered angrily for a moment, saying nothing coherent. Juan did his best to look cute. "You deliverately misobeyed me and stowed away!" He raised a scolding finger, then sighed, the anger fading from his face. "You know, my boy, when I was a bit older than you, I did the same thing. My father threw me overboard and made me swim home."
Juan's dark eyes grew wide.
"But I think I will be more..." He paused to search for the right word, thinking to his Word-A-Day calendar. "Magnamonious."
Juan looked confused.
"Kind and forgiving," Scarlet murmured.
"Oh." His face brightened. "Does that mean I can go plundering with you, Dad?"
"No. But you do not have to swim home."
"Aww, but Daaaaaaaaaaaad--" Juan, like many children, was able to make "dad" into a thirteen-syllable word when the need arose.
"No butting. You stay here on the Iron Vulture. You can watch while we do grown-up pirate-type things."
"That's not fair," Juan whined.
"You would rather swim?"
"No," Juan said with a dark scowl.
"Then you watch from here."
"Yes, sir," Juan said dejectedly.
Don Karnage stood in the street, grinning smugly as his men looted stores around him. Most of the windows in downtown Cape Suzette were already shattered due to the earthquake. The Air Pirates had some competition, as even normally law-abiding citizens joined in the looting. Law enforcement had their hands full helping the injured and stopping the spread of fire, and so had little time to spend on discouraging them.
In the park at the end of the street, Scarlet was loading bags of toys into her plane. She was much lighter on her feet than the last time she helped ransack Cape Suzette. Juan sat in the cockpit with a grin that perfectly matched his father's. Karnage shook his head. That boy could be every bit as manipulative as his mother. No matter how firmly he had insisted that Juan was absolutely, completely, totally and unquestionably not allowed to come plundering with them, the boy always seemed able to wear down his defenses. He was spoiling him.
He watched as Juan got out of the plane to make room for more plunder. Scarlet spoke to him, and he nodded, then headed toward his father. When he was clear, she took off and flew the load of booty back to the Iron Vulture hovering above.
"Dad, I got the entire set of Captain Cosmos action figures!" Juan said jubilantly. "Even the super-rare, limited-edition collectors' kind! And I got a pogo stick, and a toy firetruck, and a kite, and a bunch of toy planes, and a boomerang!"
Karnage smiled in spite of himself. "Very nice, my son."
"This is even better than Christmas!" Juan threw his arms around Karnage's waist and hugged him. "Thanks for letting me come along, Dad!"
After all his protests, it seemed ironic, but he replied, "You're welcome, Juanito." Yep. He was spoiling the boy rotten.
"Hey, Captain!" Katarina called. "Look what I found!"
Karnage turned and let his smile disappear. There was always something faintly mocking about the way his sister-in-law said "Captain." "What is it?"
Katarina walked up and held out a small display box full of--
"Tweezers!" she said cheerfully. "I think there's even enough to get your eyebrows under control!"
"The only thing out of control is my temper, you red-haired wretch of a wench!" Karnage's growl was drowned out by Juan's laughter.
"You're funny, Aunt Katarina!"
"And your father is funny looking!" she said cheerily.
"What?" Karnage sputtered.
She smirked and handed the box of tweezers to the boy. "Here, Juan, knock yourself out."
"I will knock you out if you do not shut up about my eyebrows!"
Scarlet's voice came from behind. "I can't leave you two alone for a minute, can I?" she said playfully.
"Well, you can, theoretically...if you don't mind the blood splatters... Besides, I can't help it if I'm concerned about my brother-in-law's hygiene," Kat said with an innocent shrug. "I make one helpful little suggestion, and he bites my head off. What's his problem today? Or any day, for that matter?"
Scarlet hugged his arm partly to calm him and partly to keep him from slapping her sister. "He's just a little cranky because he thinks we're domesticating him."
Katarina smirked and said under her breath, "And hopefully housebreaking, too..."
"What?!" Karnage sputtered.
"Just ignore her, querido," Scarlet said, trying not to laugh.
"That is usually my plan, yes," he muttered.
Now that his wife was back to keep an eye on their son, Karnage stalked off down the street to vent his annoyance on some hapless lackey. The sound of giggling behind him made him grit his teeth. Women.
"Cap'n, can we raid that donut shop, there?" asked a pirate.
"No!" he snarled, soundly bitchslapping the unfortunate interloper. "You would stuff yourselves so full you could not run from the law or even fit in your planes!" He kicked the hapless pirate in the shin, and he went scrambling away toward a jewelry store with a loot sack. Karnage smiled again. He felt better now.
"Ooh! Donuts!" Juan called out suddenly, running past him into the donut store. Scarlet scurried after him.
Karnage ran a hand down his face in exasperation. He was about to seek another crew member to slap when the ground began to shift under his boots.
"Terremoto!" he gasped, lunging forward to pull his wife and son out of the bakery.
"Another earthquake!" Scarlet yelped, helping to pull Juan clear of the building.
"That is what I said!" Karnage snapped. They gathered with Katarina in the middle of the street.
The earth trembled again, and part of the ceiling crumpled inward, crushing the display case of donuts and several tables. Juan clung to Scarlet, his dark eyes wide with fright. Karnage put a hand on the boy's shoulder and quickly looked around for other dangers. A power pole weakened by the previous tremors toppled over, dragging snakes of dormant electric wire with it. Fortunately, it fell two blocks away. Juan quivered, but, Karnage was pleased to note, he did not cry or scream--unlike several crew members further down the street.
There was a moment of breathless silence, and the shaking stopped. Scarlet exhaled slowly. "Aftershocks."
Juan looked up at his father. "So I don't get any donuts, huh?" he asked in a small voice.
Karnage paused, saw his son was attempting to make a joke, and smiled. "Not today, Juanito."
"Darn." The child recovered from his terror quickly, but still kept a firm hand on his mother's arm.
Karnage turned to see Carlotta running toward him, dressed in...a wedding gown?
"Are you all right?" she asked.
"Yes, we are fine. You...?"
Carlotta glanced down at her attire, just now realizing what she looked like. "Oh, this. Yes, I am fine. I was trying on some dresses when the earthquaking started. I have to go find my shoes now." Her tone was light but she was pale.
"Sit down for a minute first," Scarlet said. "Catch your breath."
"You look pretty, Carlotta!" Juan said.
She smiled. "Thank you, Juanito."
Dumptruck came hurrying up, nervously looking from Katarina to Karnage. "Derr, Vill is on the radio for you, Captain Karnage."
"He means my husband, don't you, Dipstick?" Kat said, enjoying the terrified expression on Dumptruck's face when she spoke to him.
"Y-Y-Ya!" he stammered, then ran back toward where the portable radio was.
"Better go see what he wants," Kat said. "But tell him if it's about diapers, he can figure it out himself!"
Karnage headed for the radio. Scarlet followed, and Juan stayed glued to her side. Carlotta plopped down on a park bench to rest, while Katarina resumed cleaning out a jewelry kiosk.
Karnage picked up the radio mike and tapped his foot impatiently. "Karnage to Pirate Island. What is so all-falootingly importante that you interrupt my plundering?"
Will's voice came from the speaker. "Captain, there's lava in the mess hall."
"What?" Karnage blinked.
"Lava, sir. Magma. Molten rock. I...I think the volcano's waking up."
Scarlet made eye contact with her spouse, her mouth open in shock.
"Uh...are you sure?" was the only halfway intelligent thing Karnage could think of to say.
"Yes, I'm sure! Wait a minute..." After a moment of static, Will continued. "Gibber just told me there's lava in the barracks, too. I really think you should get back here, Captain!"
Karnage shook his head in disbelief. "B-But...the plunder..."
"This island's coming apart at the seams, Captain!"
He closed his eyes and steadied himself with a hand on Scarlet's shoulder. "All right. Listen. Get as many of our things onto a cargo plane as you can. We are on our way. Karnage out."
He set down the radio and turned back to Scarlet. Both she and Juan regarded him with huge eyes, speechless.
"Well, do not just stand there like bumps on a frog! Get everyone back on the Vulture!"
The next few minutes were a blur as he shouted orders to the pirates, who were understandably confused and reluctant to quit pillaging. As Karnage shooed the last of his men to their planes, a voice rang out behind him.
He whirled around, recognizing the voice. "Cloudkicker."
Kit drew himself up to his full height and jabbed a threatening finger in the pirate's direction. "Listen, Karnage, it's bad enough we've had a tidal wave and an earthquake today. The last thing we need is you guys looting what little there is left. So get the hell out of our city!"
"We were just leaving, you see."
Kit stammered meaningless syllables as Karnage leapt into his plane and started the engines. "All you had to do was ask, my boy. Arrivederci!"
"But...but...but..." Kit stared in utter befuddlement as the pirates all turned and left. "What the--?"
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This story and the characters Scarlet, Juan, Victoria, Vincenzo, Carlotta and Isabella and are (c) Katie Sullivan and may not be used without permission. Katarina, Wenna and Kai are (c) Kayleen Connell and shouldn't be used without permission, either. Don Karnage, the Iron Vulture, the Air Pirates, TaleSpin, Mad Dog, Dumptruck, Cape Suzette, Kit Cloudkicker, Baloo, Rebecca Cunningham, and all related indica, etc, are (c) The Walt Disney Company and are used without permission for non-profit entertainment purposes only.