Story (c) 2000 by Keith Dickinson. All rights reserved.
Sabrina the Skunkette, Amy the Squirrel, Tabitha, Carli, Tammy Vixen
Vixen, Clarisse, and Carrie Squirrel (c) Eric W. Schwartz. Character
John Barrett. Character Thomas Woolfe (c) Michael Higgs. Characters
Susan Felin, Cindy Lapine, Debbye Squirrel, Clarence Skunk, Mr. Canis,
Collie, Angel Collie, Sarge and Endora Mustelidae, Wendy Vixxen, and
Vixen(c) Chris Yost. Character Florence Ambrose (c) Mark Stanley.
ZigZag (c) Max BlackRabbit. Character Cyberhorn (c) William Morris.
Terl Skunk (c) Rodney Stringwell. Character James Sheppard and Marvin
James Bruner. Character John Silverback (c) Himself Character Kittiara
restaruant "Callahan's" (c) "Kittiara" Character Katja (c) Herself
Mark the cheetaur (c) Mark White Eric W. Schwartz (c) Mr. and Mrs.
Michael Jones (c) Martin Pedersen. Arden Eastridge (c) Keith
Dickson. All rights to additional characters
reserved by their respective owners.
Tigger had helped me to dye my fur matte black. Adding splotches of dark brown intermingled with stripes of gray, the pattern helped to break up my profile in the shadows. Now I didn't look like a walking target. Lending her a hand, we re-did the dye job that she was wearing using a similar combination of colors and patterns.
Zig Zag had timidly come out of the room to see what we were doing. Once she caught on, she tried to help out some, though she still gave me a wide berth. I gave her credit for trying.
I don't know where Tigger got it from, but she had a set of ballistic combat armor that was actually too big for me. Looking through all the stuff that she had in the footlockers, I'd say she had the equipment for a small tactical unit. When I queried her on this, she just smiled and went back to work.
Camouflaged, equipped and armored, I sat in the corner to meditate on the coming assault. Tigger had suggested that we go after Khansman. He was their money and without him, they might break it off. Sounded good to me. I had a bone to pick with this guy. Adjusting the Katana and Wakazashi on my back I closed my eyes and turned inward.
Approaching the barrier, I tried to push my way through. Although it gave like plastic, I couldn't penetrate. There was resistance on the other side. Giving a roar, I yelled, "Let me pass." From around me, a voice answered, "Accept the geas." It was the voice of the dragon. Raising the middle finger on my paw, "No! No geas. I'm not you're slave. On my terms, or not at all." I yelled. The barrier before me became solid as rock. "Then you may not pass," declared the dragon.
Leaving the barrier, I found my center and began trying to relax. I was angry from my confrontation with the dragon, and I didn't want to burn out before we were ready to go.
Hearing the perimeter alarm, I broke out of my meditation and approached the monitors. Checking the cameras in the building, I saw Tigger climbing the stairs. Switching to the stair-top camera, I saw her give me the pre-arranged signal indicating no problems. Deactivating the security system on the door, I moved over to the edge of the partition, covering the door with the MP5. Glancing back at the monitor as Tigger unlocked the door, I verified that nobody was coming up the stairs after her. Once she was inside, I reactivated the security system.
Joining her at the table, I watched as she spread out the documents she had just picked up. Unfolding one of the maps, she put it in the center. Curious, Zig Zag came over and joined us. "This is the layout of the subdivision that he lives in. It's a gated community with armed patrolling units that run in a varied pattern," Tigger explained, pointing out the entrances. "The walls are topped with razor wire. Behind them is a row of coniferous fur trees to block the 'unsightly wall.' Beyond the wall is an open street, well illuminated followed by the front yards of the houses. Each house sits on a one eighth acre lot. Some are surrounded by hedges others are fairly open." She continued, documenting the design of the complex. Pointing to a house deep inside the perimeter, "This is Khansman's house. I wired it up about a week ago. I can activate or deactivate the security system in his house at will as well as triggering the panic alarms. Before we're ready to penetrate the perimeter, I'll set it off a few times. After about the third or fourth time, security will ignore it."
Taking out another map, Tigger unfolded it. "Here's his house. Fortunately the man likes his privacy so he's got a very high hedgerow. Even the neighbor with a three story can't see below the roofline so we don't have to worry about spectators from anywhere but the front. I have no clue about any security by the neighbors, so we've got to be careful not to trip their alarms." Continuing her description of the house, she pointed out his bedroom, spare room, study and other important parts to the house. Apparently he had a live in with him that took care of the domestics.
Checking her watch, Tigger set the timeline, "It's almost ten o'clock now. If he stays true to form, he's probably at some party letting people brown nose him. Last Friday he didn't get home till almost two AM. Let's hope he keeps this schedule." Looking at Zig Zag, "Are you up to doing some driving?" She asked. Surprised at the question, Zig Zag nodded, "Yes, I think I could do some driving," she stated. Nodding, Tigger handed her a pair of keys, "Bear boy and I are going to be using the van roof to get over the wire. Afterwards you'll have to drive around so as not to raise suspicion. I'll show you how to use a tactical radio headset before we go. You're going to be our backup, so don't screw up, OK?" Watching Zig Zag swallow and nod, Tigger folded up the maps.
Checking her watch, Tigger spoke to Zig and me, "OK, we leave in 10 minutes folks. Take care of any personal needs you have because we won't have time afterwards."
Zig Zag stopped the van by the security wall. Using fiberglass poles, we placed them over the wall, and then stepping off, shimmied down the pole while they were vertical. Laying them in the grass behind the trees, Tigger tripped the latest panic alarm on the house. Listening on the security company's radio frequency on the B channel of our radio, we heard a bored dispatcher send the local supervisor to Khansman's house. One or two more and they'd just ignore them.
Taking the small backpack I was wearing, I extended the straps and re-arranged it so it was tucked close to my stomach. Putting on a heavy sweatshirt, I looked over at Tigger who was putting on a lose windbreaker. The pack held our two MP5's and the equipment harnesses had all the other equipment we'd need. Pulling a wig on her head, we now looked like a respectable couple out for an evening walk. Turning on our "safety first" flashlights, we began to stroll casually down the street, hand in hand.
Twice patrol cars passed us by with the security personnel returned our waves each time. Arriving at the front of Khansman's house, Tigger used a remote to deactivate the motion sensors outside the house. Casually strolling up to the house, we walked around back and ducked into the utility shed in the backyard. Stripping our outer disguises, we removed the MP5's and placed the clothes in the packs. Pulling on our masks, she triggered the panic alarm again, this time eliciting no response from the security company.
Approaching the back door, Tigger isolated the remaining sensors from the control panel. Anyone looking at the alarm system would see a live system that tested good, but wasn't actually talking to anything anymore. Watching the perimeter, I waited for Tigger to open the door. Once open, we slipped into the kitchen.
Closing the door behind me, I relocked the deadbolt. Standing there, we heard the sound of the television on in the living room. Signaling me to go check on the living room, Tigger headed for the garage to verify if Khansman's car was here.
Carefully stalking up to the doorway leading to the living room, I made sure to be as quiet as possible, while keeping an eye on the other entrances to the room. Standing next to the doorway, I pulled the Tanto from my belt. Using the blade as a mirror, I scanned the room looking for occupants. The only person in the room was a young, female leopard. Re-sheathing the Tanto, I watched keep an eye on the other entrance to the living room and the dining area I was in.
Waiting on Tigger, I heard her signal in my headset. Khansman's car was not there. This confirmed the telemetry we had gotten earlier. One can never be too careful. Sending an acknowledgement click, I continued to watch the leopard while Tigger cased the rest of the house to make sure nobody else was home.
Seeing Tigger in the other doorway leading to the living room, she gave me the thumbs up. Re-slinging my MP5, I withdrew the Katana and stepped into the room. Walking up behind and to the right of the chair, I reached around and placed the blade on the female's throat. "Don't move, don't scream, don't do ANYTHING and you'll live through the night." I instructed her in a low voice. The scent of her fear permeated the room, and I could see the whites of her eyes as she looked at my masked face.
Lifting up on the blade, I pressed it against the junction of her throat and jaw. "Stand up," I ordered, lifting the blade as she stood. Directing her with the blade, I led her to the center of the room where Tigger proceeded to bind her hands behind her. Once she was secure, we sat her back down in the chair.
Still holding the blade to her throat, I asked, "When will he get home?" Glancing between us, she stuttered out, "W-w-who?" The leopard asked. Sliding the edge lightly against her throat, I was rewarded with a small trickle of blood. "Don't play with us. You know who we want." I told her with a menacing voice. Now crying, the leopard begged, "Please don't kill me. I don't know when he'll be home. Oh god, I never did anything to you people. Please don't hurt me."
Looking at Tigger, I saw her motion me over to her. Wiping the blade of the Katana I put it in it's scabbard and followed Tigger a short distance away from the girl. In a conspiratorial whisper, Tigger instructed, "OK. We camp here and wait for Khansman. Close the drapes in here and keep an eye on the candy girl over there. I'll keep an eye on the driveway and inform unit three of the delay. Check in, every 15 minutes."
Going over to the window, I closed the drapes. Reclining on the couch, I got ready for a long wait. Checking my chronograph, I saw that it was only around quarter till twelve.
At almost one AM, the leopard screwed up the courage to speak, "Hey mister?" She asked. "Yah, what do you want?" I asked back. Squirming in her chair a little, she looked embarrassed, "Um, I need to use the bathroom." Giving a chuckle, I waved to the expensive leather chair she was sitting in, "That looks like a pretty expensive chair." I stated. A look of confusion crossed her face. Smiling behind my mask, "Looks like a good place to me." I quipped. Shooting me a rather indignant look, she pleaded, "Come on mister. Cut me some slack. Please?"
Giving a sigh, I climbed out of the couch and waved for her to stand. Just as I was about to notify Tigger, I heard her on the headset, "Target approaching." Giving an acknowledging click, I ordered the girl back in the chair. Moving to a corner where I wouldn't be seen, I unslung the MP5 and checked to verify there was a round in the chamber.
Hearing him call to the girl, I pointed the submachine gun at her, "Tell him to come here." I whispered. Eyes wide with fear, her voice cracked on the first try, "Danny. Would you come in the living room please?" She yelled nervously. From the kitchen, I heard him yell back, "Just a minute babe." Giving a low growl, I whispered to the girl, "Tell him you have a surprise for him." Holding up a finger, I emphasized what I was saying, "And make sure he believes it." Swallowing, she sang out to Daniel, "I've got a surprise for you Danny. Better hurry." Pleading with her eyes, she relaxed when I gave her the thumbs up.
After a few seconds, Khansman came into the room. Walking up to the chair, he put his arms around the leopard and was about to kiss her when he sensed something wrong. He stood up as I stepped out from around the corner, leveling the machine gun at him. Taking a step backwards, he ran into the muzzle of Tigger's gun. I could hear the glee in her voice, "Hello again, Mr. District Attorney," she said cheerfully.
His ears lay back on his head; he let out a low rumble. Spitting the word out like it was a curse he named his foe, "Tigger." She cooed, "Oh, you remember me. How nice. Why don't you and our lovely switch places? I believe your friend there needed to use the powder room anyway."
Helping his girlfriend up, he sat down in the chair, hands resting on the arms. As I led the girl out to the master bedroom, I heard Tigger chuckle, "Oh, by the way, I wouldn't bother with the panic button on the arm. I think you'll be disappointed with their response time."
Leading the girl back to the bathroom. And using my Tanto to cut the ropes, I leaned against the doorjamb and pointed to the john. Giving me a questioning look she asked, "Don't I get any privacy?" Chuckling, I asked her back, "If you were in my position, would you leave me alone?" Thinking about it for a second, she gave a weak smile and then took care of business.
Leading her back into the living room, I heard Tigger explaining to Daniel the error of his ways. Spotting us, she got up off the couch. "So, are we ready to go? Good." Leading our two hostages out to the garage, we had the girl get in the front of Khansman's car, while the three of us got in the back. Fortunately the side windows were well tinted.
Following Tigger's instructions, the girl backed out and headed for the gate. As we approached, Tigger and I slid down into the floor, still covering Khansman. He had a look on his face I didn't like. He was thinking about being stupid. Placing the muzzle of the MP5 on the edge of the seat between his legs, I stated, "Pull something stupid, and you'll live to regret it. However, you'll never have to worry about birth control again." I said in a low, threatening voice. Glancing at Tigger, I saw her laughing quietly to herself while shaking her head. The way Khansman was glaring at me as well as Tigger who was laughing; I'd say I'd won points with both of them.
Leaving the gatehouse, we drove towards the west side of town. Tigger had a location picked up for the exchange. It was going to be a large, open field where we could see the only approaches. En route, Tigger had Khansman call Echo Team on his cell phone. At first he tried to deny, but after we explained that he'd be of no use to us if he didn't, he changed his mind.
Taking his cell phone out, he dialed a number, "This is Khansman." He said. Before he could continue, Tigger took the phone from him, "Hello Bucky... That's right Bucky... You broke the rules Bucky, and you know how I get when you do that... What do you mean how? You brought innocent third parties into the dispute... Yes, the otter and the vixen. Kidnapping them was sloppy Bucky. You're slipping if you have to resort to that kind of crap... Khansman isn't an innocent; he's paying for this. Besides, if I decide to off him, you lose your funding for the project. You still going to play the game with no cash behind it?... I didn't think so. How about I give you a chance to earn a bonus... That's right, I'll take a trade... You're boss and his squeeze for the two you're holding... Only two of you and the hostages in the vehicle. If I see a third person, I'll pop Khansman personally... " Continuing the conversation she gave directions for the meeting, giving them only forty five minutes to get there. They would have no way of setting up an ambush. We, however, would have plenty of time.
Pulling up next to the van at the top of the hill, we climbed out with our hostages. Blindfolding them, Tigger lead them around to the back of the car and sat them down.
Walking over to the van, I checked on Zig Zag. She was wearing a black body stocking similar to what Tigger had on, including weapons harness. As I adjusted the harness, attaching missing equipment, I heard Zig say in a quiet voice, "I'm not sure I can go through with this." Stopping, I took her face in my hand, "Don't freak out on us now. Bjorn and Sheila's life depend on your being able to do this. There's no way we can pull this off without you." I explained calmly. Giving me a look that begged me, she pleaded, "But why? I don't understand why I have to carry one of those guns." Taking a deep breath, I centered myself; "They have to see Tigger, or someone they think is Tigger for this to work. There's no doubt they're going to try to drop a sniper somewhere that can take us out after the exchange. Tigger won't be able to hunt them if she's not standing next to the hostages. That's why we need you. Dressed like this, they'll probably mistake you for Tigger." "But do I have to carry these guns?" she pleaded again.
Picking up the MP5 from the floor of the van, I held it out, "You were willing to shoot your father because he was going to kill your mom. Are you telling me now that you can't... no won't pick up a gun again to help save the lives of Bjorn and Sheila? If we don't pull this off, nobody will walk away, especially them."
Thrusting the submachine gun into her hands I was rewarded by the fact that she didn't drop it. Hesitantly she drew the strap over her shoulder. Adjusting the strap for the proper length, I set the weapon on three round burst. Showing her where the safety was, I stated, "When they come, flip this up. Until then, it's as safe as a rock." Accepting her nod, I took her shoulder and turned her around.
Grabbing her tail, I began to matt the fur down. "What are you doing?" she demanded. Laughing, I explained, wrapping the tail with a black cloth, "Lady, you have a tail that would be recognized in twenty seven countries. Don't you think it would be a good idea to disguise it?" I asked. It was the little details that would get you killed. Last thing I wanted was ZZ to be recognized by anyone.
Finishing up, I swapped my MP5 for an M16 Carbine that was in the van. Exchanging the 9MM clips for 5.56mm NATO rounds, I was prepared. This rifle had a small scope, and would be much more accurate at longer distances than the MP5 was.
Walking back to the car, I relieved Tigger of the prisoners. Climbing into the van, she headed off to a nearby abandoned barn that would place Echo Team between her and us. It was probable that someone from ET would try to use it for the same purpose, all the better reason for us to claim it for ourselves.
Now all we had to do was wait. Checking my watch, I saw it was T minus fifteen minutes and counting.