Battery Not Included
By Leia Fee

Having finally been persuaded that infant crocodilians of any variety didn't tend to travel well, Murdock was finishing up a list of instructions to Wally as to where to send postcards.  BA had returned to the inflatable and was waiting impatiently when Hannibal and Face joined them.

"Time to go, Captain." Hannibal called across the beach.

Murdock stood up from here he'd been crouched in the sand for his lecture and gave a final wave before bounding over to the boat.  He leapt in and struck a pose pointing dramatically out to sea.  "Onwards!"

BA yanked at the boat almost toppling Murdock with the sudden jerk.  "Get out, fool!  We gotta get in the water first!"

Murdock bunny-hopped back on to the sand, clicking his heels behind him as he jumped.  BA grabbed his arm.  "Help me carry this thing."

They deposited the dingy in the water, Murdock kicking up sprays of water with his feet as they waded in deep enough.  Face followed fastidiously high-stepping through the shallow waves and somehow getting no more than his ankles wet.

"Bear right, BA," Hannibal called as they paddled out.  "Head for the landing stage, we're meeting the ferry there."

Murdock half-turned from his perch up front.  "Uh, Hannibal?  Haven't we got something else to do first--a lady waiting out at the reef for us?"

Hannibal and Face cast each other a quick glance which Murdock didn't seem to spot.  Instead he continued, "We've got to take the aah..." He looked at BA's glare.  "Uhh... other... boat... back."

Face intervened quickly.  "Oh that, oh don't worry about that.  It's been taken care of we're going to leave that here for the owner to come pick up, it's all arranged.  No problem."

Murdock started to protest but BA beat him to it.  "Ain't no boat, man," he declared.  "I know you guys brought me here in an airplane.  And it's stayin' here too." He finished firmly.

"No, no no nonono," Murdock insisted.  "We gotta take her home, that's someone's lady, Face, she can't stay out here all on her lonesome all night with the wind and the rain and the cold..."  Face looked pointedly at the cloudless blue sky but Murdock ignored him.  "... and the lions and tigers and bears!"

Face rolled his eyes. 

"He's got a point, Lieutenant."  Hannibal grinned, to all appearances enjoying the show immensely.  "Left for the reef, BA!"

Face moved closer to Hannibal and dropped his voice to a vehement whisper he hoped was low enough to not be heard at Murdock's end of the boat where the pilot was now contentedly staring out at the sea ahead.

"Hannibal, that airplane's never going to get out of the water.  In case you've forgotten the battery is entirely flat.  Someone ripped it off to start a tank!"

Hannibal beamed.  "I'm sure you'll think of something." 

Face shook his head in resignation.  "Fantastic.  Your confidence is inspiring."

He wondered at what point this had become his problem.  Using the aircraft battery to get the tank started had been Hannibal's idea, but somehow it had ended up being Face who trudged the length of the island to fetch it and then to sneak it back again afterwards.  He hoped that they could have been gone before Murdock had a chance to notice and that the seaplane's genuine owner would just put it down to a damp night when he collected it the following morning.

Really he supposed he should have predicted Murdock would want to fly back.  He'd spent as much time enthusing about the aircraft as the tank.  Face hadn't bothered to note the type but Murdock had eagerly explained it was just as old as the tank and apparently had decided that they were some kind of long lost war buddies.

They tied up the boat at the reef where the red and white seaplane bobbed beside a jetty.  BA stayed resolutely sat in the dingy.  Hannibal didnít stir either.  Instead he gave Face a wicked grin and waved a cigar at him.  "I think I'll keep BA company on the ferry.  You can Murdock can catch us up after you drop the plane back."

"Hannibal!"  Face all but wailed as they pushed off.  He looked back to where Murdock was leaning out across the tail, checking some detail and wondered whether you could row a seaplane.

Murdock finished his external checks and beckoned.  "Come on Face, let's go let's go.  I want to wave bye bye to Wally and the Old Lady before we go."

Face slowly climbed aboard, wondering whether it would work better to affect complete surprise or earnest apology when Murdock discovered they were going nowhere fast.

Murdock muttered to himself as he went through the cockpit checks and fired up the starter.  Or more to the point, failed to fire up the starter.  He shrugged, pumped the primer a few more times, tried again, then pronounced a loud, "Hmmm."

"What's the matter?"  Face had decided on the 'complete surprise' option.

"No zap in the old zapper!"  Murdock jumped out of the cockpit leaving the craft rocking in the water.  He unlatched the cowling and peered into the engine compartment, tweaking connectors and blowing on plugs.

He jumped back inside, primed it again and held the starter down for long moments.  Nothing happened except that the rocking motion from Murdock's jumping around began to make Face feel vaguely queasy.

"I think we have a dead battery."

"Oh?  Really?"  That sounded pretty natural, Face thought hopefully.

"Yep."  Murdock grinned unexpectedly.  "Guess we'll do this the old-fashioned way."

He jumped outside again.  Face clutched the edge of his seat as the rocking steepened.  "Murdock!  What do you mean, the old fashioned way?"  He did feel decidedly sick now, and more than a little concerned by this unexpected enthusiasm of Murdock's for their situation.

Murdock climbed halfway back in, grabbed Face's hand and placed it firmly on a lever.  "Throttle."  He pointed at a dial on the instrument panel.  "Tachometer." 


"Watch this needle here and close the throttle if it gets higher than there."

"What?  Higher than where?"  Face's eyes widened at he stared at the instrument.  "What are you going to do?"

Murdock tapped the instrument again and didn't answer.  "Just watch that power."

"Which way's closed?" Face yelled.  Murdock grinned and gestured before disappearing.

Face craned his neck and could just about see him stood beside and almost beneath one of the propellers.  He reached up, turned towards the window and jabbed a finger in Face's direction, clearly indicating for him to get his eyes back on the numbers.  Face hastily looked back down at the panel.

From the corner of his eye he got a fleeting glimpse of Murdock giving an almighty heave to the heavy blade and had time for a panicked thought of *Dear God, he'll have his head off!*  Then the engine roared into life, the needle he'd been glued to jumped, trembling, to well higher than the indicated target and the whole aircraft surged forward against its moorings.  Face hastily closed the throttle as Murdock sprinted to the tail to loose the rope there, then ran back to the cockpit and jumped aboard.  He scanned swiftly across the panel and brought the throttle back further until the engine purred smoothly and the lunging, struggling aircraft settled to a steady tugging on the on remaining tether.

Murdock gave Face a satisfied grin.  "Not bad.  Not bad."

Face could only stare at him as he leaned out to release the remaining mooring rope and they started to accelerate smoothly through the water.

"Uh Murdock, you do know you've only started one engine right?"

"Well I won't say I'm not good, but I can hardly tread water and swing the prop at the same time now can I?"  Murdock shrugged as they slid smoothly up from water to air.  "The battery'll charge off of this one and I'll be able to use the starter again."  He looked at Face, all innocence.  "Besides, I haven't done any asymmetrical flying since the last time we had a crash.  Practice makes perfect they say--currency is everything."

Without warning he banked hard until they seemed to be dangling from their one turning engine and the beach and the houses and the big old tank swung past below them  "Wave bye bye!"

Face stared down at the suddenly very close looking ground, then back at the glint in Murdock's eye and wondered just who had been conned here anyway.


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