Time Like the Present
TaleSpin and its characters are property of Disney. All other characters are mine and cannot be used without permission.
The Dragon's Den
Great. Just great, Kit thought, not daring to even whisper out loud for fear the of alerting the dragon to his presence. It'll take me days to dig through that, if I can dig through it without bringing the whole wall down on me. He pounded his fist against the solid, rocky barrier dividing him from Baloo and Dunder in frustration. Maybe there's another way out of here, he thought. His eyes wandered to the other side of the cave, towards the source of the hazy orange light. He gulped. Past the dragon...
Loathe as he was to enter that deadly chamber, the stifling hot cavern was filling up with smoke. If he didn't get out of there soon, he'd suffocate.
Eyes stinging from the smoke, he cautiously crept towards the mound of rocks half-blocking the entrance to the next chamber...and the dragon. Every tentative, crunching footfall seemed to echo forever. As he drew closer, Kit's legs started to tremble and his heart began to thump so loudly that he was sure that the dragon could hear it.
The earth shook violently, knocking Kit off his feet.
I guess it can hear me. Swell, he thought, coughing into his sleeve to muffle the sound.
Kit sat there for a while, thinking. He didn't know if he could handle going head-to-head with a fire-breathing dragon that was obviously angry at him for trespassing.
Using his time travel watch briefly crossed his mind. He could definitely use it to escape.
But it was too risky. Because he didn't know how the watch worked, he could wind up someplace worse.
Though it can't be much worse than being stuck with a dragon, he thought wryly. He pulled out his watch and looked at it for a moment. Then, with a shake of his head, he returned it to his pocket. I can't just leave Baloo here.
Gritting his teeth in determination, Kit crawled towards the mound of rocks at the entrance to the next chamber. When he reached the base, he looked up at it, and, with a weary sigh, started to climb, forcing himself to swallow his yelps of pain whenever the jagged rocks gouged his tender, bruised skin.
At long last, he reached the top. With perspiration oozing from every pore, he slowly raised his head for a half-fearful, half-curious peek into the smoky room.
What he saw made him gasp in astonishment.
Through the thick orangish haze, his eyes could barely discern the outline of something shiny that seemed to stretch from one side of the chamber to the other, presumably the dragon's scaly back. Just as he leaned forward to get a closer look, there was a sudden spurt of fire.
Startled, Kit lost his balance and toppled off the wall. He had just shakily pushed himself up off the ground and was trying to gather what was left of his courage when he heard...
"Shoot! Burnt to a crisp again!"
What? Kit thought in astonishment as he wiped his brow with his sleeve. The dragon can talk?
He eagerly listened for more.
"They just don't make metal like they will."
There's something familiar about that voice, Kit thought, his mind racing to place it. But I'm not going to find out by just sitting here. Taking a deep, hitching breath, he quickly climbed up and over the mound of rocks.
Upon reaching the dragon's chamber, Kit crouched at the base of the wall for a few moments. He blinked furiously, his eyes watering from the smoke.
Then, he spotted something moving towards him. Instinctively, he froze. Every muscle in his body was tense, prepared to either fight or flee.
His vision was partially obstructed by tears and grimy sweat as he watched the oddly-shaped shadowy figure glide closer and closer.
What is it? The dragon's tail? Foot? Head? What is it?
Suddenly, Kit breathed an enormous sigh of relief and leapt to his feet. "Buzz?"
"Did someone say my name?" the inventor, who had just emerged from the smoke, wondered calmly. He was awkwardly toting an armful of firewood.
"What are you doing here?" Kit asked. He picked up a piece of wood that Buzz had dropped and fell into step beside the short-legged, googly-eyed inventor.
"Trying to fix my time travel watch," Buzz said matter-of-factly as if he wasn't the least surprised to see Kit. "It broke when I accidentally landed on it."
"No. I meant what are you doing in Hammalot?"
"Oh, that," Buzz said, smiling. "Ever since I was a kid, I've always wanted to visit Hammalot. Knights in shining armor bravely riding to battle on noble steeds, mighty sword fights, jousting matches, slaying dragons..."
Kit had to jump back as Buzz jabbed at an imaginary dragon with a stick. He peered through the smoke thoughtfully. "By the way, where is the dragon?"
"Dragon?" Buzz yelped, dropping the firewood.
"Yeah, the dragon causing all the earthquakes and fire and smoke and stuff."
"That's just my welding machine. Come see. It's really neat-looking." He pointed eagerly to a large, odd-looking contraption.
"I'll say..." Kit said, awed.
Up close, he could now see that the shiny thing that he thought was the dragon's scaly back was actually a long piece of metal tubing that looked suspiciously like the arms and legs from a suit of armor spliced together end to end. The skinnier end was capped with a gauntlet. The opposite end was stuck into a hole in the wall above a huge fire blazing in a natural recess. On the floor, in front of the 'fireplace', was a pair of gigantic bellows.
"I'll show you how it works," Buzz said excitedly. He was giddy as a schoolboy for a chance to share his contraption. "The bellows pump the fire up into that metal tubing. When I'm ready to weld, I pull the cap off the gauntlet's forefinger here," he demonstrated by pulling off the cap; "and a concentrated flame comes out, allowing me to weld this metal together." To himself, he added, "At least it should. Works in theory, but not in practice. Maybe if I...Hmm..." He shook his head. "No, no, no. That would never work."
"Uh, Buzz?" Kit interjected. "Why don't we just use my watch?"
But Buzz, intent on tossing firewood into the fire, didn't hear him. "It'll be easier with you here. You can work the bellows while I man the torch."
Realizing that it was useless to argue, Kit shrugged. "Okay."
Buzz wrapped strips of his cut-up lab coat around his hands to protect them from the heat of the metal. Then Kit helped him to don the helmet and cuirass, otherwise known as the breastplate and backplate, from the suit of armor. The armor, which hung from his skinny shoulders to his ankles, weighted him down so that he could barely stand up. The tip of his beak comically protruded out of one of the slots in the visor. He then picked up the gauntlet and, in a tinny voice, told Kit to start pumping.
Kit stood between the bellows and, putting his hands on the handles, started to squeeze them up and down alternately. First, the right one. Then, the left one. Right. Left. Right. Left. With each concentrated puff of air, the fire grew in intensity. Sweat rolled down Kit's face and his arms grew weary, but he continued to pump steadily.
Smoke billowed from the fireplace as well as the seams of the makeshift welding machine. The cave started to shake from the pressure building up within the metal tubing. A steadily-growing roar filled Kit's ears.
"Cover your eyes!" Buzz shouted over the din.
Kit squeezed his eyes shut just before Buzz pulled the cap off the gauntlet, allowing an uncontrolled stream of fire to shoot out.
When the earthquake and roar subsided, Kit ventured to open his eyes. He peered through the smoke in Buzz's direction.
"Another failed experiment," Buzz's tinny voice said glumly. The charred ashes slipped through his fingers. "I'll be stuck in the Dark Ages forever without electricity, running water, and worst of all, no Uranium 238. I'll have to wait until the Renaissance to even read a book..."
"What if we used my watch?" Kit suggested. When he pulled the helmet from the inventor's head, the visor caught on his beak, causing it to vibrate like a diving board.
"What watch?" Buzz said, shedding the rest of the armor.
"The watch you fixed for me." Kit retrieved his pocket watch from underneath his sweater.
"My spare!" Buzz cried gleefully. "Now we can get back to Cape Suzette and tell Mr. Khan that his invention works."
"Why would Shere Khan want a time travel watch?"
"To correct any business mistakes he made in the past and get further ahead in the future."
Sarcastically, Kit said, "I should have known."
"Let's go," Buzz said, taking the watch from Kit.
"No!" Kit snatched the watch back. "We can't leave Baloo and the Sea Duck here."
Buzz looked around. "Where? I can't see them through this smoke," he said, coughing a little.
Kit shook his head, marveling at the fact that although Buzz was a genius when it came to inventing, he was a little slow on the uptake when it came to ordinary common sense. "They're not here in this room, but they're in the cave, on the other side of the wall. The ceiling came down during one of the earthquakes, and now we can't get out that way."
Philosophically, Buzz said, "Then we'll go the other way."
"Buzz, you know I'm not a sorcerer," Kit exclaimed. "I can't 'magic' us outside."
"I was planning on using the door, but if you know some magic..." Buzz said, his googly eyes shining with excitement.
"Never mind. Let's just go," Kit muttered.
They exited the cave using the 'back door' and climbed over the top of the hill, to the other entrance.
Meanwhile, Baloo and Dunder were trying to quickly, but carefully, dig through the rock wall separating them from Kit.
"See anything yet?" Baloo asked for the hundredth time.
"Aye," Dunder replied, using his sword to chip at the rock.
Hope sprung to Baloo's face. He stopped tugging at a small boulder to say, "Really?"
"I see rocks, rocks, and more rocks."
Exasperated, Baloo muttered, "That ain't what I meant." He returned to wiggling the rock. "If anything happens to my boy, I don't know what I'll do."
Just then, Kit strolled up behind them, smirking. "Find anything?" His grin grew wider as he watched his father frantically working.
"Naw, Kit. We're lookin' for...Kit!" Wheeling around, Baloo's eyes moved from Kit to the wall, then back to Kit. The flabbergasted big bear caught his son up in a hug, stammering, "Wha...who...where...how...?"
"Thou made it past the dragon?" Dunder looked impressed. "Indeed, thou art a great sorcerer."
"Not exactly," Kit said with a smile. "Here's the dragon." He gestured to Buzz, who was standing behind him.
"The dragon has disguised itself as that? Truly, it is a crafty beast." The knight drew his sword and, after nervously clearing his throat, said as forcefully as he could, "Prepare to meet thy doom, dragon."
"Eek!" Buzz cried, backpedaling. "I'm not a dragon! At least I don't think I am."
To prevent the knight from skewering his friend, Kit said hastily, "Buzz isn't a dragon. He's an inventor."
"Inventor?" Dunder pronounced the strange word uncertainly. He sheathed his sword. "Is that akin to a dragon?"
"Nothin' like a dragon, Dundee," Baloo chuckled. "Buzz makes doohickies, thingamabobs...stuff like that."
"Doohickies?" Dunder said, scratching his helmet with his forefinger. "Methinks I am confuseth."
"We'll show you." As they made their way to the back door and the 'dragon's lair', Kit briefly filled Baloo and Dunder in on Buzz's welding machine.
A short while later, they stood before the machine as Buzz proudly showed them how it functioned.
"Verily, it is a marvelous doohickey." Dunder then added dejectedly, "But howeth will I explaineth to Sir Spigot and everyone that the dragon was a hoaxeth?"
Baloo snapped his fingers. "Here's what ya tell 'em..."
When the dragon hunters returned to Hammalot, they were surprised to see a line of serfs toting crates into the castle much like ants carrying bread crumbs.
"Hey! That's my cargo!" Baloo exclaimed. He roughly pushed past the serfs as well as the man guarding the door and stormed into the throne room. He marched over to Spigot, who was directing the placement of the crates, and demanded, "What the heck are ya doin' with my cargo, Spiggy?"
The diminutive knight proclaimed exultantly, "I, Sir Spigot, at risk to lifeth and limbeth, single-handedly fetched that liniment from the belly of the great yellow dragon and brought it to Hammalot for the benefit of the royal highnesses."
Clang went an empty tube of liniment as it bounced off Sir Spigot's armor.
"Thank ye kindly for thy token of affection, O Gracious Queen," Sir Spigot said, bowing deeply.
The queen grunted and emptied another tube into her liniment-ringed mouth.
The court jester strummed his lute while he leaned against the king's throne. He was singing to the tune of Greensleeves: "Oh, liniment be tasty and liniment be keen. The goodly liniment will turn thy mouth green..."
The king, seeing Dunder, Kit, and Buzz standing in the doorway, roughly pushed the jester aside and asked languidly, "Didst thou slayeth the dragon that liveth in the Dragon's Den, Knight-in-Training Dunder?"
All eyes were on Dunder as he removed his helmet and timidly approached the king and queen. He glanced at Baloo, who nodded in response, before mumbling, "Aye, sire. The great beast is silenced forever."
Proudly, Sir Spigot said, "I taught him everything he knowest."
Under his breath, Baloo muttered, "Bet that was a shorteth lesson."
One of the knights sitting around the Sound Table shouted, "All hail, Sir Dunder! The bestest dragon slayer in Hammalot!"
"Hippeth hooray!" the knights chorused. "Hippeth hooray! Hippeth hooray!"
Sir Spigot, who had crawled on top of the mound of cargo crates, cried in an injured tone, "But I thoughtest that I wast the best dragon slayer in Hammalot." A wistful, faraway look came into his eyes. "I remembereth the first dragon I slayeth..."
Everyone, save Dunder and Buzz, groaned.
Baloo tiptoed over to Kit and Buzz and whispered, "That's our cue to skedaddle."
Kit nodded and started to sidle towards the exit.
Baloo snatched up Buzz, who was glued to the spot, enthralled by every word Sir Spigot spoke.
Buzz was the only one who was interested. The Hammalot citizens' eyes were fast glazing over as Sir Spigot recounted his favorite tale.
"The battle wast fierce, but I wast fiercer! Again and again the beast breathed its fiery breath at me, but I wast too quicketh..." He broke off when he noticed Baloo, Kit, and Buzz moving towards the door. "The sorcerers are escaping! All their magic will be losteth!"
"Speakin' of quicketh!" Baloo exclaimed. He tucked Buzz under his arm like a football and broke into a run with Kit on his heels.
"Knights of Hammalot, after them! To arms! Raise the drawbridge!" When he tried to draw his sword, Sir Spigot lost his balance and fell off the crates. "Dunder-her-her...!"
Dunder hurried to pick him up. "I cometh, Sir Spigot."
Baloo, Kit, and Buzz sped from the castle and through the village, towards the drawbridge that was slowly closing. They scrambled up the squeaking drawbridge to the edge. Below them, the muddy moat was shrinking. Approaching them were knights with drawn swords. Archers on the castle walls fired arrows at them. In another minute, the drawbridge would be completely closed and they would be trapped in Hammalot.
"Authentic knights with authentic swords," Buzz exclaimed, peeking around Baloo's arm. "How exciting!"
"Yeah, I'm one big goosebump of excitement," Baloo said dryly. He looked at Kit. "Pull chocks?"
Giving a thumbs-up, Kit replied, "Pull chocks."
"Aaah!" they yelled as they splashed into the moat.
A second later, a dripping Baloo pulled himself up on the opposite shore. "We're safe now."
Just then, the drawbridge lowered and arrows flew around them.
"Oops, spoke too soon," Baloo muttered. He yanked Kit and Buzz out of moat, scooped up Buzz and put him under his arm, and took off towards the woods with the knights and archers right on their tails.
As they sped along the wooded path, Baloo puffed, "Them knights can sure move fast packin' that aluminum sidin'. Sure we're headed towards the Duck, partner?"
Grinning, Kit panted, "Trust me."
"You're the navigator," Baloo replied.
At the bottom of the hill, the trees thinned out. Through the branches, they could catch glimpses of yellow.
"There's the Sea Duck," Kit proclaimed as he lightly vaulted over a log.
Baloo ducked as an arrow flew overhead. "Man, these guys don't give up!"
Buzz called to the knights, "If you adjusted your arc fifteen degrees, your accuracy would improve!"
"Don't give 'em any pointers, Buzz." Baloo opened the cockpit door, tossed Buzz and Kit inside, then scrambled in.
There were high-pitched pings and dull thunks as arrows and lances hit the fuselage.
Buzz, with his beak pressed to the window, watched excitedly as the knights surrounded the seaplane and started hacking at the 'yellow dragon' with their swords. "Isn't this wonderful? History in action."
"Takin' off is the only action I'm worried about," Baloo muttered under his breath as he flipped switches as fast as he could. He winced at the sound of the swords beating 'his baby'.
"I sure hope that ice storm didn't do any damage," Kit said uneasily.
Much to the flight crew's relief, the engines roared to life. Frightened by the noise and the sudden gust of wind that the propellers created, the knights scattered into the forest.
"Ha-ha! That's the way ta clear a room," Baloo said triumphantly. He taxied the seaplane around and took off, the fuselage scraping the tops of the trees slightly.
When they were in the air, Kit sat back in his seat, relieved. "So long, Hammalot. I don't want to see it again except in history books."
Baloo said, "Speakin' of history, let's make time tracks, Buzz."
Giving his pocket watch to Buzz, Kit asked, "How do you work this thing anyway?"
"Oh, it's simple." The inventor then launched into a highly technical explanation.
"Easy for you to say," Baloo chuckled, with a shake of his head. "Just get us home."
"June 16, 1938," Kit clarified.
Buzz set the watch hands. Before he pressed in the knob, he said, "Here we go."
"Here we go," Kit muttered to himself. He crossed his fingers and shut his eyes.
With a plane-shaking boom and a bright flash, they were transported to a time and place where it was twilight. A faint stain of fast-fading pinks and oranges were in the west. In the clear, starry eastern sky hung a crescent moon.
Kit peered out the window. He was glad to see that there was no signs of a prehistoric jungle, futuristic city, ice age, or medieval forest. He whispered, "Did we make it? Are we back at the right time?"
"What is the right time?" Buzz said wonderingly. "The right time is different times for different people. All a matter of how you look at things..."
"Looks like Cape Suzette up ahead," Baloo said nonchalantly, belying his anxiety. "We're gonna find out in a jiffy."
Kit nodded. His stomach was clenched in a nervous knot as he watched the familiar dark outline of the cliffs surrounding the city grow closer.
A few minutes later, the seaplane splashed down for a landing in the harbor and taxied up to the dock in front of Higher for Hire.
Kit didn't know whether he wanted to get out of the plane. It looked like Higher for Hire, but what if it was the Higher for Hire of the past or the future? He didn't know if he could stand the disappointment.
Then, he saw a shaft of light spill from the building as the warehouse door opened. The boy held his breath with the terrible suspense.
To his immense relief, Rebecca and Molly - looking like they had when they left two days previously - hurried down the dock to greet them.
Baloo opened the cockpit door, exclaiming, "Ah, it's good to be back!"
"Where have you been?" Rebecca said frantically, rushing over to hug him. She then hugged Kit and critically looked her menfolk over. "I've been worried sick. Are you all right?"
Before Baloo, Kit, or Buzz had a chance to say anything, Rebecca continued, "Why didn't you deliver the liniment? Why didn't you answer the radio? I've been trying to reach you since the hospital in Lumbago called to say that their liniment hadn't arrived, and no one had seen you, not even Louie. It was like you'd disappeared..." Her voice trailed off when she noticed the lances and arrows protruding from the seaplane's exterior. "Why in the world does the Sea Duck look like a pincushion?"
Baloo rubbed the back of his neck. "Ya see, Becky, we tried to make it to Lumbago on time, but..."
"But?" Rebecca said, crossing her arms.
"We were sorta stuck in Hammalot."
"Hammalot? Hammalot! You expect me to believe that fairy story? That's the lamest excuse you've ever..." Her sentence was curtailed by Baloo's kiss.
When they pulled apart, Rebecca looked a little dizzy. "Don't...don't try to get around me," she mumbled, leaning against her husband with a blissful sigh.
"Man, I missed you, Beckers," Baloo whispered, enfolding her in his arms.
"Hammalot isn't a fairy story," Buzz said, turning the hands of the pocket watch. "In fact, I'll take you there right now."
"No!" Kit shouted. Taking Molly by the hand, he dragged her up the dock, away from Buzz. Baloo did likewise with Rebecca.
The von Bruinwalds looked on in amazement as Buzz disappeared into thin air, accompanied by a flash of light and a sonic boom.
"Baloo..." Rebecca said haltingly. "Would you mind explaining...what...just...happened?"
Baloo winked at Kit. "Believe me, honey, it'd take too much time. Oh, an' we gotta get Kit a new pocket watch."
Rebecca nodded dumbly, her eyes still fixed on the spot where Buzz had been.
Baloo wrapped an arm around his wife's slim waist, kissed the top of her head, and gently led her up the dock.
"Why do you smell like smoke?" Rebecca said suspiciously. "Did you go to a barbeque?"
"Sorta. Kit an' me were almost the roastees."
"Baloo!" Rebecca gasped, aghast.
To calm her anxiety, he added, "They weren't gonna eat us, honey, but they did have strange tastes. Speaking of tastes, what's cookin', good lookin'? I'm starvin'."
Kit smiled as he watched his parents enter Higher for Hire's office/living room through the warehouse, thinking that if he had been a sorcerer and could make anything he wanted, this was the kind of place and these were the people that he'd conjure up. He looked down when he felt Molly slip her small hand into his.
"Kit, did you really see Hammalot with knights and dragons and everything?"
He grinned down at her. "Yeah, I'll tell you all about it later, little sis." His gaze moved from Higher for Hire to the Sea Duck, then past the seaplane, across the dark harbor to the twinkling lights of Cape Suzette. He smiled to himself, reveling in the normal sights and sounds of home. "Right now, I'm just glad to be here."
"Me, too. It's more fun when you're around." She tapped him, then took off, shouting over her shoulder, "Tag! You're it!"
"Not for long!" Kit replied, chasing after her.
A few minutes later, Baloo hollered from the door. "Kit! Molly! Supper's ready. Stop draggin' your feet." When Molly tried to slip past him, he scooped her up and tossed her in the air, prompting the little girl to squeal joyfully.
Kit joined them, panting, "'Dragging your feet?' Don't remind me about dragons."
"Did you meet a dragon, Daddy?" Molly asked eagerly.
Baloo nodded solemnly, though his eyes twinkled. "Sure did, Cupcake."
"For really?" she asked, fixing her skeptical gaze on him.
"For really. Story time'll come after chow time." He kissed Molly's cheek, then put her down. "Why don't ya go help your mama set the table?"
After Molly had hurried into the kitchen, Baloo gently laid a hand on Kit's shoulder and smiled down at him. "What say we join the rest of the von Bruinwalds, son?"
Kit admitted, "It's gonna take a while for me to get used to 'von Bruinwald'."
"Don't worry, kiddo. You will." He couldn't resist adding, "Just gotta give it some time."
"Oh, Papa Bear..." Kit groaned.
Chuckling, Baloo playfully tousled Kit's hair. "What say we sorcerers make that grub magically disappear?"
"Now, that's my kind of magic," Kit laughed as they headed to the kitchen.