Chapter 1: Family


Balto woke up to the smell of bacon in a pan, then to the smell of Boris. Who was snoring way happy in a basket next to him, thankfully Stella made him take baths more often. Balto looked up at the wall behind him, dozens of newspaper clippings hung above his head.

Surprise Dog Saves Nome

Hero Dog Balto Takes Gold

Dog Team Outruns Plane

Dog Team Saves Wounded Pilot

Speaking of that last one, "Balto, Balto, breakfast is ready!"

Balto leapt up and charged into the galley, where Duke prepared his breakfast, good man Duke, ever since Balto saved his skinny human rump; Duke took in Balto and even spruced up his old boat, it actually felt like a warm home now.

"Here you go, not every day someone has a birthday, right?" he said putting down a bowl full of eggs, bacon and sausage. Balto responded by devouring his delicious food.

"Hey Balto, you eat like that much longer and you end up like Russian country lady named Olga, trust me you don't want to see that." Boris said, as he entered the galley.

"I remember you eating twice as much on your birthday Boris. Stella made sure everybody knew."

"Eh, details, but I do like what this human has done with the old place; it is very, well not falling apart." Then Balto heard a familiar bark outside.

"Looks like I'm not the only one that remembered your birthday, take a look." Balto ran up and stuck his head out a porthole. Outside was the red and white husky that Balto adored.

"Jenna!" A smile sprang onto his face; Jenna was just outside holding something in her mouth. Balto bolted out the door and skidded to a stop in front of her.

"Happy Birthday, Balto" he now saw what was in her mouth, a scarf similar to hers but instead of orange it was bright blue with a silvery line running its length.

"It's beautiful, thank you Jenna" he said giving her a nuzzle under her chin.

"You're welcome, since winter is not quite here yet. What do you say we talk a stroll around town before it gets too cold?"

"You bet, but I'm more of a dog of the forest myself." Balto said happily, Jenna was easily the best thing in his world. Just then, Duke walked out of the boat with a goofy smile on his face, looked up at his sky and thankfully he did as he barely dodged a piece of bird poop as it hit the ground.

"Man, those two geese sure have been making a lot of noise lately." Balto cringed at the thought of the source, ever since Stella came around Boris was acting like a new goose.

"Hey, what have you got there Balto, a present no doubt, here let me give you a hand." Duke then tied the scarf around Balto. "Pretty as a painting." Balto gave a confirmatory bark and then glanced at Jenna, she was glad dogs could not blush. They then took thier stroll, walking past Dukes most beloved thing in the world, (other than Balto) his plane, the one he hand-built to replace the old one that crashed in the wilderness. This marvel of engineering was black and yellow, and it bore the name 'The Balto Flyer' on its side. Other than Jenna and his family, Balto couldn't think of a better experience than flying. The next thing they passed was the totem pole, representing his lineage, his fear, cunning, instinct and life. This was over-shadowed by something far greater than just him

"How do you think Aleu is doing?" Jenna asked.

"I think she having the time of her life, doing what she does best."

"What is that?"

"Other than driving us insane, anything she sets her mind to."

"That I think she got from you, among other things," Jenna said with a little chuckle.

"Well, she got her good looks from you."

"Good boy. I knew I trained you well. Speaking of good boys, Kodiak said he wanted to see you."

"Really, I thought he liked Kodi these days." Balto stated,

"To me it's Kodiak." They then broke into a jog and made it to town. Finding Kodi was not hard as he was almost as red as his mother, it is even easier if he is in the center of town. Easier still if he is running directly towards you.

"Kodi, hi son!"

"Mom! Dad! Happy Birthday! Hey, come on I want to show you something, close your eyes." Balto did so with a smile, Jenna pulled the scarf over his eyes for good measure.

"Oh, so that's why you gave me a scarf."

"Yep that's me, diabolical." Balto heard the sound of a large door open, and then they stopped. Jenna pulled back the scarf and all of his children as well as half the town dogs, and even a couple of geese shouted

"Happy Birthday!" then Duke came around the corner and jerked the sheet off of something, what was revealed lit up Balto's eyes, a gleaming sled with Balto's name etched into the front crossbar. Duke then knelt down in front of him.

"Hey, what do you say this winter that we go for a run?" Duke asked, rubbing his ears. Balto could hardly contain himself, and did a nod that may have given him a minor case of whiplash. The next piece of news was also interesting.

"Dad there is talk of an international sled race to the North Pole coming up this winter!" now Kodi could barely contain himself

"Really, where does it start?"

"Here, of all places here!" Kodi exclaimed. Balto said nothing; he just smiled and made another glance at Jenna.

"Balto really? A race to the north pole?"

"What, I run races all the time around here, win too."

"I know, you are a great sled dog, but this competition is rough, rougher than anything around here."

"She makes good point Balto." Boris chimed in from the rafters."I have seen Russian dogs, they're closer to size of those two bears that sit on me than a dog"

"That makes them slow; slow I can take all day."

"Those two are slow alright." Boris mumbled to himself, warranting a shove from Stella.

"But the trail must be thousands of miles long, longer than anything you have ever seen." Jenna stated.

"Ya, just think of the sights." Balto said lost in wonder.

"Oh boy, I know that look; it is the one where I know I cannot win." Boris lamented to himself.

"Balto, please, I want you here," Jenna snapped him out of his daydream, "I don't want to see you hurt."

"I'll tell you what, I will think about it"

"Alright, I just want you to be careful."

"I know. So Jenna, how's about we change it up; you and me take a stroll through the woods instead." Balto intimated, giving her a look.

"Sure," she said with a mischievous smile, the pair turned and headed out the door.

"Your parents sure are something," Kodi turned and saw Dusty, a beautiful female husky that reminded him a little of his sister Aleu.

"You said it," Kodi responded. He took a look at her; he never did before as she was usually behind him in the mail team. But, ever since they saved Duke they where the talk of the town, and talk travels fast.

"Do you think your mom is going to talk Balto out of it?" Dusty asked.

"Ha! Did you see look on Balto's face, nothing short of an earthquake could change his mind." Boris flapped down to the floor of the barn

"Really?" Kodi asked

"Last time I see that look, you guys got born." Kodi was somewhat embarrassed by his Uncle Boris and hoped Dusty did not notice.

"Boris, darling, you'll turn the poor boy scarlet, more than normal." Stella said from behind him."Come on let's go see what kind of trouble we can get into." she took flight.

"Oh boy." Both flew out the open door.

"Uh, so, what's up?" For the first time in his life, Kodi did not know what to say. Dusty let out a giggle.

After spending a lovely day in the woods with Jenna, Balto thought he could talk to her while she was in a good mood.

"Jenna, are you still against this?" Balto asked.

"Well if you mean our 'stroll' through the forest, definitely not, we should do it more often." she said, attempting to change the subject to something else that she thought would get his attention.

"You know what I mean, the race."

"Oh well, can't blame a girl for trying. Look Balto, I can't stand to see you hurt, I don't know what I would do if something happened to you or Kodi."

"You have never been against me doing anything like this before."

"It was never this great and far before."

"Jenna I am grateful that you care for me, but I just feel this in my bones. It's like that time with the anti-toxin, I just have to."

"Balto, I don't want to argue, so I won't."

"I said I would think about it, and judging from what we've been up to for the last few hours I haven't done much thinking."

"Ok, ok I'll let you think, let's get home. It's starting to get late." They started on the way back home and finally returned to the boat just after sunset.

"Goodbye Jenna, see you tomorrow." Balto started to say.

"Not so fast, big boy, my humans are moving to the center of town so I'm all yours tonight."

"Hmmm. Come on in." The boat was terrific compared to its former self, this was the first time Jenna ever saw the inside.

"Wow, Duke did a good job on this place."

"Ya, home sweet home." he said as they walked into the living room, which had his bed in the corner.

"This is your bed? There is enough room for both of us and then some."

"I suppose I have been a little spoiled by a human." as if on cue, the human walked inside.

"Oh, Jenna, what are you doing here? Humph, you two," Duke said with a smile, "Well, stay warm kids, first storm of the season is coming." He took off his flight jacket and hung it up, went into his room and closed his door. After a minute his light went out.

Well, you heard the man, we need to stay warm." Balto said giving her a small nuzzle.

"Balto, I don't think he meant this warm, I'm tired."

"Who needs sleep?"

Wind whistled around the boat, the first snow fell. Winter was coming, and more storms would soon follow.