by Katie Sullivan
As they walked back through the jungle toward their planes, shadows lengthened further, and the forest came alive with mysterious chirps and croaks. Scarlet held the gas lantern high to ward off the darkness. "So," she began amiably, "does this Cabo Orgulloso of yours have a jungle?" Her pronounciation was smooth and correct, "Kah-boh Or-goo-yo-soh," and pleasant to Karnage's ears. It had been so long since he had heard that name pronounced correctly!
"Oh, yes," he said. "Is not a large island, but there is a small forest with many natural springs and waterfalls."
"It sounds like a beautiful place. Do you still have family there?"
He tensed and let his smile fade. "Yes." His voice was flat and invited no elaboration.
There was an awkward pause, and they walked some distance in silence. Scarlet was about to try a different conversation topic when Karnage held up a hand for quiet and gave a hard stare into the shadows.
"What--?" she began, but he shushed her.
"I heard something," he whispered.
He frowned uncertainly, drew his sword as a precaution and peered warily into the dark
jungle. Following his lead, Scarlet readied her dagger. She strained to hear something,
but all was silent. Even the birds and insects. That was never a good sign.
Suddenly, there was a crashing in the bushes behind them, and before she could react Scarlet found herself sprawled in the ferns, dazed by a blow to the head. There was a noise of a struggle, then a thud next to her. When the blizzard of color lights cleared from her vision, she saw a hulk of an otter standing over her, wielding an iron bar. Karnage was on his back beside her, the wind knocked out of him. He reached in all directions, searching for his sword, but both their blades were now in the hands of their attacker.
The otter before them was a swarthy-looking character, towering a good seven feet tall, but deferred immediately to his shorter companion. The other was a raccoon, greying but obviously muscled, and had a pistol aimed at the two foxes at his feet.
Scarlet put a tender hand to the growing lump on the back of her head and scowled up at him. "Javier de la Valle," she said, pronouncing her name like a profanity.
"Scarlet Hindenfur. We meet at last, my dear," de la Valle said. He wore a pinstripe suit that made up in price what it lacked in attractiveness. His voice was full of gravel and menace, and it was clear from the frown on his dark face that he meant business. "Where's my diamond?"
"In Hell. Go look for it," she quipped.
An ominous click came from de la Valle's gun, and both captives flinched instinctively. "Now, now, Miss Hindenfur. Don't make this any harder on yourself. Hand over the rock or we'll see how you like deep-sea diving with cement shoes!"
"I stole that diamond fair and square. It's not my fault you were too slow to get it first," Scarlet said.
de la Valle took a step closer, his gun still aimed squarely at her head. "I'll warn you right now, missie, I'm not a patient man. Hand over the diamond."
Karnage put a hand on her arm and cleared his throat. "I do not want to sound pushy, but give him the stupid diamond, señorita! You have more than enough holes in your head already!" he hissed.
"No," she whispered angrily.
"You are a member of my crew now, and I order you to surrender that diamond, inmediatamente!"
de la Valle interrupted. "Hey, I know you. You're that crazy air pirate whatsisface...Karnage."
Don Karnage glowered at him, baring his sharp teeth. "I am not crazy!"
The gangster chuckled. "You may have fallen in with a bad crowd, Miss Hindenfur, but that doesn't excuse your actions. No one interferes with me and gets away with it. I'm going to count to ten, and if you don't hand over the Humberfeather Diamond, I'm going to shoot both you and your friend, here."
"Me?" Karnage sputtered. "I have done nothing!"
"Maybe so, but I'm in a bad mood. One...two...three..."
Karnage whispered to Scarlet. "Look, señorita, there are other diamonds existing."
"Do you want us both to be dying?"
"Of course not, but--"
"Do it!" Karnage snapped. He leaned forward to whisper in her ear. "Tengo una idea. Ten confianza en mi." ("I have an idea. Trust me.")
Scarlet bowed her head, frowned deeply and reached inside her leather flight jacket. "Fine, de la Valle. You win. Here it is."
He grinned cockily. "I knew you'd see things my way." She held up the giant diamond in a trembling hand, and he snatched it from her. "Ha! At last! Take a look at this baby, Guillermo!" He turned to his companion, still keeping the gun on the captives.
"It's real purdy, boss," Guillermo said with a vacant grin.
Javier de la Valle grinned maliciously. "Give them a little souvenier."
Guillermo nodded and lunged at her. One hard punch landed on Scarlet's head before Karnage threw himself at the brawny otter. The pirate managed to knock the goon away from Scarlet, but received a blow to the jaw that sent him backwards, tipping into her. Guillermo wound up for another punch, but de la Valle halted him. "Don't waste the energy on those losers. They've learned their lesson." Guillermo looked disappointed but ceased the attack. "But if you ever cross me again, the only stone you'll need will be your tombstones! See you on the wanted posters!" With that, de la Valle and his lackey were gone, taking the Humberfeather Diamond, Karnage's sword, Scarlet's dagger and their lantern with them.
The two foxes sat, stunned, on the jungle floor. Scarlet was the first to speak.
"Some protection you are!"
"Hey! I would have been my usual, stunningly alert self if you hadn't given me the knock-knock-out gas!"
"I said I was sorry for overdoing it! I've never kidnapped anyone before. How was I supposed to know?" she grouched. "Now I'm stuck in the dark in the middle of the jungle on this armpit of an island, my head feels like there's a thousand hyperactive elephants dancing inside it, and I've lost my favorite dagger and my diamond!"
Karnage stood stiffly, smarting from the otter's blows. "In case you hadn't noticed, I am having a not-so-good day myself, señorita!"
"At least I kept my end of our bargain." She also got to her feet, swaying dizzily.
"Those puny little stones? No, no, no. You cheated me."
"I gave you what I promised I would!"
"Look, señorita, let us not argue about this again. There will be time for flickering later."
"Bickering," she corrected, frowning in annoyance.
"That, too. Are you not curious about my idea?"
Scarlet rolled her eyes and leaned on a palm tree for balance. "Oh, do tell."
Karnage reached for his sword, remembered it was gone, and muttered a Spanish curse. He would have to detail his plan without the theatrical flourishes of his blade. "You forget, my pretty new pirate, the Iron Vulture also is moored offshore. Señor de la Valle has a yacht, yes-no?"
She nodded. "As far as I know."
"Which do you think would win a fight?"
"The Vulture, of course, but if you sink his yacht, the diamond will sink, too."
Karnage paused and lowered an eyebrow. "Well, yes, but, uh... We can solve that riddle more later. Let us get out of this fetid jungle first."
"I can't argue with that last part," she said with a sigh. "Lead on, mi Capitán."
Without a lantern it was no easy task maneuvering through the unfamiliar forest, but by
holding hands and staying on the meager path they managed to find their way to the beach.
Once free of the foliage, the moonlight allowed them a better view of their surroundings.
The gentle hiss of the surf was in complete contrast to their enflamed emotions.
The first thing they noticed was that their CT-37's were no longer on the beach. This immediately led them to wonder if the Iron Vulture was still waiting.
There was only an empty, moon-slicked ocean, a few fibrous clouds, and a small peice of driftwood.
"Those unfaithful idiots!" Karnage raged. "They left without me!"
"When I get my hands on those blockheads I will hang them by their nose hairs over a pit of crocodiles!"
"I suppose when you didn't come back they thought--" Scarlet began.
"When I didn't come back because you kidnapped me!" he yelled.
"Yeah, yeah. Drop it, will ya?"
"Do not speak to me that way! I am your Captain!" he scolded.
"Without a sword, a plane, an airship, a crew, or a clue what to do!"
"Why you little--"
"Now can we stop fighting long enough to figure this out? We've got to get off this island and get the diamond back from de la Valle!"
"You do not give the orders around here, señorita! And our deal is over! I helped you get here to your estupid diamond, and kept you from getting killed by your raccoon friend. That is it! You are on your own!" Karnage fumed.
Her tail frizzed out in anger. "Fine, Felipito. Chicken out on me. I...I don't care. I'll get my diamond back by myself. I don't need you!" she screamed, her voice breaking.
"The name is Don Karnage, and do not forget it!"
"I wish I could!" She turned and stalked off down the beach.
Karnage stood, rigid with fury, and watched her go. The truth was, he had
promised to protect her from her enemies, and breaking his word of honor was not something
he took lightly. He was mad at himself for letting that otter goon disarm him so quickly.
He was mad at his crew for deserting him and, in all probability, not searching for him
when he disappeared. He was mad at Javier de la Valle for calling him crazy. He was mad at
his string of bad luck.
But he really wasn't mad at Scarlet. Seriously annoyed, yes. But he couldn't help but admire her spirit, her bravery, her self-sufficiency and her determination. She would make a fine addition to his crew...and to his life.
And she was walking away from him.
"Señorita Hindenfur, espera!" he shouted. ("Wait!")
She didn't even look back.
"How about a truce...and another deal?"
She acted as if he had never spoken.
"I'll help you get your diamond back if you do one or two little thingies for me."
Finally, she stopped and turned aroud with her hands on her hips. "What?" she said crossly.
He swallowed the distance between them with a few sure strides. "You will never tell my crew about my kidnapping. It would be too embarassing! And..." He took a step closer and smiled slyly, looking her straight in the eyes.
"And?" she said, narrowing her eyes in suspicion.
"And you give me a rematch at the fencing."
She raised her eyebrows in disbelief, then gave an exasperated sigh. "You, Captain Karnage, are one of the most enfuriating people I have ever met."
"That wasn't a compliment."
"But is it a deal? My help in exchange for your silence and a rematch?"
"I suppose so."
"Ah. Very good. Then let us go find Señor de la Valle and show him what
real pirates can do!" Don Karnage started off down the beach, and Scarlet grudgingly
followed. Some distance down the coast, a faint glimmer of light marked the location of
the gangster's yacht.
Author's note: Javier de la Valle is a Spanish name, although he doesn't really have an accent or anything. It's pronounced "Hah-vee-air day lah vye-ay." (Rhymes with "Friday.")
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This story and the characters Scarlet and Javier de la Valle are © Katie Sullivan and may not be used without permisson. Don Karnage, the Air Pirates, Tale Spin, Mad Dog, Dumptruck, Cape Suzette, Tale Spin and all related indica, etc, are © The Walt Disney Company and are used without permisson for non-profit entertainment purposes only.