Chapter 8: Sink or swim?
"Man, did you really need to bring all this stuff?" asked Greg.
"It's not my fault you offered to carry all our stuff," said Julie. "Keep this up and people might think that you're a porter."
"And that's bad how?" asked Anne. "We can just use him for manual labor and other things."
"You have a libido problem," said Greg.
"That's not a problem," said Anne. "It's a blessing."
"How do you figure?" asked Angie.
"Well," said Anne, "it keeps me from taking anything too seriously."
"So I noticed," said Julie. "Who's that guy?" A large badger stood at the top of the ramp, wearing a white uniform.
"That would be the captain," said Greg. "Isn't it obvious?" Greg looked over at Anne; her eyes glazed over as she stared at the captain.
"Anne, dear," said Angie. "You're drooling."
"What?" asked Anne, as she snapped back to reality.
"I thought you didn't take things seriously," said Greg. Anne shot him an evil look and continued to stare at the handsome badger. They arrived at the top of the stairs, and the captain greeted them.
"Ah, it is such a lovely thing to see such beautiful women boarding my vessel," said the captain. He looked at Anne and did a double take. "And to see such lovely young badgers, a treat for all the senses." He reached out and kissed her hand. She visibly melted.
"Smooth," said Julie. "Hey Greg-o, why can't you be more like that?"
"Because I'm carrying a hundred and fifty pounds of stuff on my back?" he said.
"And whom is this porter?" asked the captain. "I've not seen him before."
"Actually," said Anne, "He's with us."
"Your own personal porter?" asked the captain.
"Not quite," replied Julie. "He's um... Angie care to explain?"
"Not really," she said. "Can you tell us where our rooms are?" She handed the captain the tickets. He looked down at them and laughed. "Something wrong?" asked Angie.
"Not really, but these are the worst cabins on the ship," he replied. "We don't have a full passenger list this trip, so I can upgrade you if you'd like."
"Sounds like a plan," said Greg. "Can we get to the rooms now, or will I just have to die here?"
"Certainly," said the Captain. He said something or other to the squirrel standing next to him, and he scurried off. "But only if this lovely creature has dinner with me tonight."
"Who, me?" asked Anne. She looked around to see her partyís head nodding. "Gee, Angie, I guess it's my turn for a break."
"Is that everyone?" asked the captain.
"Yes, Captain Badge," replied the skipper. "We'll be heading off shortly."
"Good," said Captain Badge. "Get my personal table ready for Anne and I."
"Yes sir," replied the squirrel. He scampered off to tell of the preparations to the crew, when a tall skunk wearing a black skirt walked up the ramp.
"You're nearly late," said the captain. "A few minutes more and we would have left you."
"Thanks," replied the skunk. "Where is my cabin?" she asked as she handed him her ticket.
"Its down those stairs," replied the captain. "Do you need a porter?"
"No, thank you," replied the skunk.
"All right then," said the Captain. "Geno will lead you to your cabin." She felt her fur stand on end. It couldnít be...
"Marita?" asked the old fox.
"Iím sorry," said the skunk. "You must have me confused with someone else."
"So sorry," replied Geno. "Itís just that your eyes reminded me of someone who isnít with us anymore."
"Iím sorry to here that," said the skunk.
"Well, let me show you to your cabin," said Geno, as he picked up her bag. She snatched it from his hands and clutched her briefcase tight. "Sorry, maíam," he said. "Follow me please." He walled down the stairs and opened the door for the lady. At least Greg didnít have to see her. Itíd probably send him into a drinking rage.
"And bring out a bottle of Cher Mardueí 94," said the captain. The waiter nodded as the captain turned back to his dinner guests. "So what brings you on this trip?" He asked in general. Greg was drinking water, Anne was too busy staring at the captain to listen to him, and Angie was talking to the waiter.
"Well," said Julie, "I got a call a few weeks ago from my brother here asking me if I wanted to go on a cruise. Of course I said yes."
"How about you Anne?" asked the Captain Badge.
"Who, me?" she asked, coming from her daze. "Well, Iím with Angie here. Someone gave her tickets and she didnít have anyone to go on a cruise with."
"Well, Iím glad you came," said the captain taking her hand. "I shall enjoy this trip with you aboard. I shouldn't tell you," he continued, "but one of the last remaining princesses is coming with us back to America. I doubt that she will be as lovely as you, though." Angie noticed her nose twitch.
Smooth, thought Angie. Real Smooth. He looked at Greg who was looking about at the band playing in the background. He turned about and looked at Angie.
"You know," he began, "I would ask you to dance..."
"So why donít you?" asked Captain Badge.
"Well," began Greg, "Itís considered rude to dance before the host."
"Actually," said Captain Badge," I was just thinking of that. Care to dance?" He extended his hand out to Anne, as they both stood. He led her to the floor and began to swing to the music.
"Now are you going to ask me to dance?" asked Angie.
"Nope," said Greg. "I canít dance, I was just giving Captain Badge an excuse to get up." Angie raised her eyebrow at him, then grabbed his arm and jerked him up from the seat.
"Well, itís time to learn," she said as they walked to the floor.
"I hope your wearing steel toed heels," said Greg. "If not, youíre not going to be able to walk tomorrow."
"Itís not that hard to dance. Here, follow me and ow!"
"Sorry," said Greg staring down. "I told you I canít dance."
Julie watched from her seat the table. She was glad to see that Greg now had someone to take his mind off of Marita. Julie never really liked her, there was just something that rubbed her the wrong way.
"Julie?" asked a voice. Julie turned around to see the face of an old grey fox.
"Geno?" asked Julie. "What are you doing here?"
"Ah, retirement was getting boring," he said, sitting down. "I decided to take back to the high seas."
"Itís not like the Navy you know," said Julie.
"Especially since everyone here speaks English," he said. "You know, since I was I was an the captain of my ship I could pilot this thing."
"Itís a bit different than steering a patrol boat," said Julie, with a snicker.
"Hey, I was captain of a destroyer," he said. "But still, I enjoy being on the ocean."
"Iíve never been on a cruise before, but I figured..." She cut her sentence short. A familiar face in the crowd. A tall skunkette was sitting at a table not too far away. It couldnít be...
"Julie?" asked Geno. "Whatís wrong?"
"Her," said Julie, pointing. Geno turned to look at the skunk.
"I saw her coming on the ship," he said. "I could swear that sheís Marita."
"I know. I think I need to have a talk with her," she said as she stood up.
"No," said Geno. "I canít let you do that."
"Why not?" asked Julie. "If it is her..."
"What are you going to tell Greg if it is her?" asked Greg. "What are you going to tell him when you see him again?"
"What?" asked Julie. "Heís right over there," she said pointing to the two dancing couples. Geno looked over to see Greg dancing clumsily with a beautiful red and white raccoon. He recognized her from the hospital, where he was always visiting friends.
"Oh," said Geno.
She sat down and ordered a small salad, Italian dressing, croutons, and no bacon bits. The waitress looked at her oddly.
"Please just write that exactly," she said and smiled. The waitress wrote it down and took it over to the kitchen. A bell rung and Geno got up from the table.
"I got work to do, Julie," said Geno. "Iíll catch up with you later."
"Sure," said Julie. Geno got up and walked over and picked up the ticket. Small salad, Italian dressing, no bacon? Ah, his contact. He picked up the order and walked over to the table where someone hid behind a menu.
"Did you order this pate of eggplant?" he asked.
"Yes," replied a familiar voice. She dropped the menu and looked at Geno. "You? You canít possibly be it."
"And your not Marita are you?" he asked icly.
"Not anymore," she replied. Geno sat down at the table.
"Weíll talk later," said Geno. "But for now," he pulled a small disk from his shirt pocket, "this is the information and the database. Thereís a picture of the target and the escape route. Iím just here to deliver. The disk is encrypted to your laptop. Good luck."
"Thanks," she said. "Look," said Marita, "Donít tell Greg that you ever saw me."
"I wouldnít worry about me," said Geno. "Iíd worry about running into him on the ship." He got up and left the table. What was he talking about? She looked about the room and saw a familiar black and white tail, now regaining it natural shade of grey, dancing next to a rather unique red and white striped tail. A pang of jealously struck at her, but quickly fell away. She didnít ever really love him, he just happened to be a cover. But why did she have to remind herself of that? Ah, well at least he had found someone to make his life happy. She looked around the room again and saw another familiar face. Oh, damn. Julie. She never trusted her anyway.
Julie turned around and saw the skunk staring at her. Their eyes locked and the skunk stood up and quickly left the room. Julie knew it was she. She stood up and walked over to Greg.
"Hey, Iím going to take a walk," she said to him. He didnít hear her, as he was to busy trying to concentrate on dancing. She left the dining hall just to see the black and white tail disappear behind a hallway. Julie ran down the hall and turned the corner to see the skunk running down the hall. She followed after he and spun round the corner. The hall ended and the skunk was standing at the end of it.
"You!" she screamed. "Where the hell have you been for these two years?"
"What?" she asked innocently.
"Donít try that with me Marita," Julie demanded.. "Do you have any idea what youíve done to Greg?"
"Who?" she lied. Julie grabbed her shirt collar and proceeded to shake her.
"I want answers!" she yelled. Marita pushed her hands aside and swung at Julie. She hit her shoulder and applied pressure. Julie, not being trained to fight, crumpled to the floor unconscious.
"Itís bad enough that Iím worried about being killed by the enemy," said Marita. "Now I have to worry about vengeful sisters."
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