Balloons, Bolts and a Battle

Part Twelve: Saved by the Cavalry

Author's Comments: The Empath has left in the stolen TARDIS, destination unknown. While heading back to the Balloon Corps camp, Kim and Ron got left on the south side of the Chickahominy River when part of the bridge washed away;. Then they got dumped in the river when more of the bridge collapsed. After swimming across and getting ashore, they had a slow muddy trek back to the roadway, where they were confronted by a group of Union soldiers who ordered them to halt and identify themselves. Things have to start getting better soon, don't they?

Read on . . .

Kim gave a sigh of frustration. 'Halt?' Stuck in the mud this way, she and Ron could

hardly move! But she remembered how the Doctor had handled this sort of thing and looked

firmly at the soldier who had challenged them.

"When you find people who are stuck in a swamp, soldier, the proper thing to do is get

them out of the muck first, and then find out who they are." To her credit, Kim kept the

annoyance out of her voice.

Amazed, the soldier lowered his musket and peered at Kim and Ron through the rain.

Before he could say anything Ron spoke to Kim in a very casual way.

"Maybe that's army regulations, Kim. They have to say 'halt' instead of 'hello' when they

meet somebody."

"Could be, Ron," Kim agreed. "You might throw us a rope or something, and pull us out

of here," she added to the soldiers on the road.

"They don't sound like Rebs to me, Bill," one of the other men remarked.

"Maybe they're the folks we're lookin' fer," a third man added.

A pair of horses with riders seemed to materialize through the falling rain and a clear, firm

voice called out, "Corporal! Have you found them?"

At the sound of the rider's voice the corporal straightened up, turned around and saluted.

"I reckon so, Lieutenant. Anyway, they talk sorta funny, an' they don't sound like rebs."

The officer rode closer. As soon as he got a clear look at the situation his voice became

stern.

"Pass them a rope and haul them out of that swamp, Corporal!"

One of the other soldiers tossed the end of a rope to Ron, and the four men dragged the

teen up onto the bridge approach. As soon as he could, Ron freed himself from the rope,

threw the loose end back to Kim, and began pulling her out of the swamp with the aid of the

soldiers.

Once she was on the high ― and dry! ― ground of the bridge approach, Kim looked

closely at the officer on his horse. He had blue eyes, a handsome face and wore a large,

bushy mustache. His hair, like the mustache, was yellow with a touch of red in it, and was

fairly long. Kim had already noticed that long hair seemed to be the norm for men in 1862, but

this man's hair was longer than that of the other soldiers she'd seen. His uniform seemed to

be well-tailored, in comparison to the other soldier's clothes.

"Are you the two young people who got left on the south bank when the bridge broke?"

the officer politely asked.

"That's us," Ron replied. "Unless there's somebody else that fell in."

"Yes ― part of the bridge fell and dropped us in the river," Kim explained.

"Well, you'd better come with me, then. Your friend and his wagon are waiting for

you up the road." He pointed along the bridge approach toward the higher ground, and then

bent over and offered Kim a hand. "You can ride behind me for a hundred yards or so, can't

you?"

"She's Kim Possible, General; she can do anything!" Ron said as Kim grasped the hand

and was swung up onto the horse.

"I'm just a lieutenant, lad," the officer laughed. "Aide-de-camp to General McClellan."

Then he told the soldier on the other horse to give Ron a lift. It took two tries and a certain

amount of teetering, but the boy was finally seated behind the trooper's saddle, just as

Kim was seated behind the officer.

As the two horses set off at a careful pace along the road Kim said, "Did Oscar send

you to find us, Lieutenant?

"Yes, Miss Possible. His horse refused to stop until it reached the high ground, where

I met him. The boy was very insistent that something be done to rescue you two. He said that

you and your uncle are guests of Professor Thaddeus Lowe, and he couldn't go back to the

balloon camp and say that he'd lost you both."

"That's right," Kim replied. "The wagon got stuck and when Ron and I got it loose the

horse ran away with it." She went on to explain that they had been dumped in the river,

battled their way out of the water, and then slogged their way back to the road.

The lieutenant seemed to be impressed. "Your friend is right; you do appear to be

able to do anything. Ah, here's your friend and his wagon."

Just then the rain eased up considerably and Kim saw the wagon at the side of the road.

An anxious-looking Oscar was standing in it with Rufus on his shoulder. The boy waved and

called out to them.

"Miss Kim! Ron! Are you all right?"

"Wet and muddy, dude, but still in one piece," Ron answered. The two cavalrymen

stopped their horses alongside the wagon so that the teens could get down directly into

the wagon box. Then the lieutenant turned to the other rider and told him, "Notify the other

patrols that the lost is found, Quincannon; then report back to headquarters. I'll see that

these people get back to the Balloon Corps camp safely."

"Yes, sir!" The trooper saluted, turned his mount and rode off, while Ron retrieved Rufus

and then sat down beside Kim. Oscar picked up the reins, gave a command to his horse and

the wagon headed back up the road.

Riding alongside the wagon, the lieutenant told them that Oscar had wanted to bring the

wagon out to the end of the bridge and join the search for Kim and Ron. "I ordered him to

stay here and wait, instead. Turning a wagon around on that narrow roadway would be very

difficult." He glanced at the boy and smiled. "He only agreed when I sent out patrols to find

you."

"Hey, thanks, Oscar!" Ron reached up and slapped the boy on the back.

As they passed the tents and troops clustered around Army Headquarters, Ron asked

why the lieutenant had been on the road, out in the rain, when Oscar had met him.

"General McClellan wanted to know if the bridge would hold, what with the river rising in

this rain," the officer answered, smiling ruefully. ""I've had experience in military engineering,

and I'm the newest aide-de-camp, so I was sent to check on the condition of the bridge." He

gestured toward Oscar. "I met your friend on my way to the river."

"Well, you can't use that bridge now," Ron said helpfully. "It's busted."

"We'll get it fixed," the lieutenant replied. "Soldiers can build bridges almost as fast as

they can destroy them."

When the wagon came to the place where the narrow track led from the road to the

Balloon Corps camp, Oscar stopped the horse and spoke to the officer.

"We'll be all right now, Lieutenant," said the boy. "Thanks for helping me get them back."

"Not at all, lad," the cavalryman replied. "Glad to be of service."

"Thank you for sending out the patrols, Lieutenant . . . " Kim hesitated. "I'm sorry, but I

don't know your name."

"Custer, Miss Possible. George Armstrong Custer, Lieutenant, United States Cavalry."

He gave them a crisp salute, wheeled his horse and rode off toward Union Army headquarters.

"KP! Do you think that's - " Ron began, but Kim made a shushing motion and nodded

toward Oscar.

That soldier will die on a hill beside the Little Big Horn River in fourteen years, Kim

thought sadly. But I can't warn him or it would change history ― maybe for the worse. He's

so polite and handsome, too.

After staring after Lieutenant Custer for a full minute, Kim shook her head, looked up at

the sky, and remarked, "I think we're getting back just in time, Ron. It looks like the really

heavy rain is about to start."

"Huh?" Ron and Rufus chorused, to be echoed by a massive clap of thunder which was

immediately followed by a major downpour. "I think you're right, KP."

The rest of the journey back to the Balloon Corps camp was mostly passed in soggy

silence. The repeated thunder and steady rain made conversation difficult, and water quickly

began to accumulate in the wagon bed.

"Isn't there a drain in this thing?" Ron asked Oscar as the water level rose.

"Nope. It's supposed to be watertight so it'll float if you hit high water crossing a creek,"

the boy answered. "But there's two buckets under the seat if you want 'em," he added

helpfully.

Kim found the buckets, passed one to Ron and started scooping up the water and

dumping it over the side.

"I never thought I'd have to bail out a wagon on land," Ron observed as he followed Kim's

example.

The last mile of the trip back to the Balloon Corps camp was spent bailing out the rain

that fell into the wagon box and trying to keep from getting any wetter. The ponchos and old

hats they all wore helped, but Kim and Ron were still soaked from their accidental swim.

Finally the wagon pulled up in front of Captain Lawrence's tent. The Sergeant of the Guard

was standing under the canvas roof in front of the tent when Oscar brought the horse to a

halt, and looked at them with a mixture of amusement and respect.

"Bejabbers if it isn't the 'drowned-rat patrol' come home again! You'd better put that

horse away, me bucko," he said to Oscar, "and get yourself dried off." Then he glanced at

Kim and Ron.

"You two get over to the guest tent, and I'll bring you some dry clothes and hot coffee."

"Thank you, Sergeant," Kim replied as she and Ron climbed down from the wagon. "Hot

coffee sounds like a good idea, just now."

They squished over to the guest tent where Kim paused at the entrance and called,

"Can we come in, Doctor?"

"Certainly, Kimberly; come right in," the Doctor's voice answered. A moment later he

pulled the tent flap aside and bekoned for Kim and Ron to enter. There was a lighted oil

lamp on the table and the floor was dry, due to the fact that the tent was on a slight rise in the

ground. It was also warm, thanks to a small metal stove with a good fire in it.

The Doctor shook his head at the sight of the two teens.

"You didn't have to swim across the river, I hope?"

"No, Doctor, just half of it," Kim replied. "The bridge collapsed under us."

"Have you got a towel?" Ron asked as he pulled Rufus out of his usual pocket. "I don't

want Rufus to get too cold."

The Doctor handed Ron a rough towel made of homespun wool. The boy quickly

wrapped his pet in it and parked him on the table beside the lighted lamp.

Kim got out the envelope with her 'passport' and was surprised to see that it was perfectly

dry. She opened it and found that the list of dates she had picked up in the Empath's cabin

was also dry and undamaged.

Seeing Kim's puzzled expression the Doctor explained, "It's water-repellent paper,

Kimberly. Guaranteed to keep itself and anything inside the envelope dry."

Kim nodded, and then handed the list to the Doctor, along with her copy of the strange

writing they had found. She explained what they were and added, "I thought you might be

able to figure out what this writing means."

Just then there was a call from outside. "Here's some coffee and dry clothes for yez."

Ron let the sergeant in. He set down a small kettle of hot Union Army coffee, and gave

the boy a sack.

"There's shirts and pants in there for both of yez that should fit, an' the cook'll have

supper ready soon." The two teens thanked him, and the sergeant left.

"You can change behind that partition, Kimberly," the Doctor said absently as he studied

the list and her notes. "Oh, and be careful of that Sibley Stove; it's hot," he added.

Kim found two shirts, two trousers and two large towels in the sack. She picked out a

shirt and trousers that seemed likely to fit her and went behind the canvas partition. There

she took off her water-soaked socks, shirt and trousers and did her best to dry herself. Her

ponytail had come undone and the muddy river had changed the color of Kim's hair from red

to a dirty auburn shade. But there was nothing to do about it, so she pulled on the dry clothes

the sergeant had brought.

The shirt and trousers were about two sizes too big, but Kim decided they would do.

After wringing out her socks three times she took them back to the main part of the tent.

The Doctor was still studying the papers she had given him, Ron was drying his socks at the

stove, while Rufus, asleep and wrapped in his towel, was snoring softly.

"Hey, Kim, give me those and I'll dry 'em out." Ron put his own socks down and held out

a hand to take Kim's.

"Thanks." Kim then turned to the Time Lord with a question. "Can you understand what

that Empath wrote, Doctor?"

"Hmmm? Oh, yes, Kimberly. It appears to be information on Earth's history that he

learned while talking to people at the Columbian Exposition. Also some notations about how

to blend in with the population in different eras. It's interesting, but this list of dates you found

is much more important!" He gestured at the table where two tin plates of boiled meat and

vegetables waited, along with two steaming cups of coffee. "Have something to eat; then we

can discuss your find."

Kim and Ron tackled their food with a vengeance. Both teens were hungry and what

supper lacked in flavor it made up for by being hot and filling. Once they had eaten Ron went

back to drying Kim's socks while she spoke with the Doctor. He was still studying the list

of dates.

"Did something happen on those dates that the Empath would be likely to visit?" Kim

asked.

"Indeed there was. It has tomorrow's date, to start with . . . "

"The Battle of Fair Oaks, right?" Kim interrupted.

"Yes. Then the siege and fall of the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, the Battle of

Bladensburg outside Washington, the siege of Fort McHenry, and the Battle of Cowpens."

The Doctor looked up from the list he'd been studying and added, "They were all important

events with lots of emotional tension in the air. Just what our friend would like to witness."

"But where is he likely to go, now that he seems to have left 1862, Doctor? How do

we find him?"

"We'll just go to the different times and places and scan for the presence of another

TARDIS. If he shows up during the critical times, we'll know it."

"Here's your socks, Kim." Ron handed the now-dry items to her. "Give the Doctor your

shoes; he said he can get them clean and dry for you."

"Okay . . . " Kim broke off with a wide yawn. "Sorry, Ron. I guess I'm tired."

"Swimming a flooded river and slogging through five miles of swamp can do that to you,

KP." Ron paused to yawn himself, and then shook his head to wake up again.

"It was less than a mile, but you're right; slogging is for the birds." Kim got up and went

behind the canvas screen to fetch her soaked and mud-caked shoes. When she returned she

found Ron stretched out on one cot and already half asleep. Without a word she put her

shoes down beside the Doctor's chair and tottered off to her own cot. Suddenly all the day's

activity seemed to be catching up to her. Kim stretched out, pulled a blanket over her and fell

into some much-needed sleep.

TBC . . .

Author's Disclaimer and Notes:

The Disney Company owns the Kim Possible concept and characters.

The British Broadcasting Corporation owns the Doctor Who concept.

The term TARDIS is also copyright by the BBC.

The plot of this story is my responsibility.

George Armstrong Custer (1839 - 1876) was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Cavalry upon his graduation from the U. S Military Academy, West Point, in 1861. He had a marvelous sense of topography, as well as an instinctive sense of direction, both of which he put to good use on tactical reconnaissance missions. As a result of his success at these he came to the attention of General George McClellan, the commander of the Union Army, who offered Custer the position of aide-de-camp on his personal staff. Custer accepted and was appointed as of May 28, 1862, so he would have been at the right time and place for Kim and Ron to meet him.

The Sibley Stove was invented by Henry Hopkins Sibley (1816 - 1886), who was a Captain in the U. S. Army before the Civil War. In 1856 he received a U. S. patent for a conical tent that he had designed, and during the Civil War the Union bought 44,000 tents of this type. However, Sibley never got any royalties for those tents, for he had resigned from the U. S. Army on May 13, 1861, and joined the Confederate Army. The stove was a very practical design, and was used widely.

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