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.
Michael Jones had just gotten what had to count as the strangest call of his life. Arden had called his cell phone and given him directions to a rural farm. The last part was the most disturbing. Come alone and be prepared for a firefight.
He didn't have a clue as to what was going on, but the bear sounded deadly serious. He was about to call in every chip he had with the boys in SWAT and probably have to hand out a few to top it off.
Hurrying to the armory, he made a mental list of equipment he'd want.
"Target inbound. Old four door Ford POS. Four occupants," I heard Tigger say over the headset. Waving to Zig Zag, I said, "Show time." Helping our captives up, we walked over to the top of the hill and watched the car approach.
As they stopped at the bottom of the hill, I saw two very large wolves get out, one from the front and the other from the back. They were wearing combat body armor just like we were. Opening the other doors, they hauled Bjorn and Sheila out. Using the scope on the rifle, I verified that they appeared to be unharmed.
Looking at Zig Zag's MP5, I saw the safety was still on. Reaching over, I flipped it off and chambered a round. Her eyes wide, she looked at the gun and then me. Nodding, I returned my attention to what was going on before us.
As they closed the distance the full harvest moon illuminated the scene eerily, allowing all of us a good solid look at each other. When they were about 30 meters away, I yelled, "That's far enough." Stopping, one of them called out, "So how do we do this? One at a time, or simultaneous?" He asked. Removing the blindfolds from Khansman and the leopard, I let them take a look around. "You'll send the two actors over here. Once I'm satisfied that they're safe, I'll send your boy and his girl down to you." I explained. Laughing, he yelled back, "Just what the hell makes you think I'm going to do something like that?"
Good question. Hitting the radio, "Got anyone yet?" I asked. "Negative. They didn't drop anyone off, and I show nothing on IR. They're alone." Tigger stated.
"All right," I agreed, "The women first." Putting my hand on the back of the leopard, I gave her a small push, "Go ahead, but if I yell freeze, you stop in your tracks." I ordered. Marching away slowly, I saw Sheila moving away from the two mercenaries.
As they approached mid-point, I could hear the rattle of the equipment harness as Zig Zag began shaking. Speaking without turning my head, I told her, "Take it easy. Everything is going according to plan. They want Khansman more than they want Sheila or Bjorn." Still hearing her shake, I barked, "Don't screw this up. Just take a deep breath and hold it for a few seconds, then let it out. Do that a couple of times, it will calm you down." I instructed her. Listening, I could hear her take a deep breath, hold it, then release it. She was calmer by the time Sheila reached us.
As Sheila reached us, Zig Zag motioned her to follow her up to the car. Once they were over the hill, I tapped Khansman. "You should feel honored. It's not often Tigger calls in help. I'd like to make a suggestion to you: Quit while you're still alive." Giving him a rough push, I brought the rifle up to my shoulder and tracked him. Biting down on the mike switch, I told Tigger, "Alpha package en route." As I watched him walk, I saw Bjorn limping towards us. As they reached the mid point, Tigger came back, "Nobody on the ground. Something's very wrong. This is too easy. Keep your eyes open," she instructed. Targeting the two wolves, I responded, "Affirmative, I've got the guy on my left targeted. You target the right. If they try anything, I'll key off of your shot." Hearing her click acknowledgement, I felt the adrenaline really start to kick in despite my attempts to prevent it.
As Bjorn reached me, I saw the terror in his eyes. He looked like a hunted animal. He had no clue who I was. "Over the hill is a car. Get to it fast. You'll find Sheila there." Staring at me, he had a shocked look on his face, "Move it shorty, or I'll leave you behind." I barked at him. Overcoming his fear, he quickly raced up the hill, limping all the way.
Continuing to watch the two wolves, I saw them returning with Khansman to the car. As they had almost reached the bottom, I heard Tigger on the radio, "Helicopter inbound. Take the shot?" Damn, with a helicopter there was no way we could evade them, "Roger, take 'em out!" Slowly exhaling, I saw the head on the wolf to the right explode. The one on the left froze for a second, then grabbed for Khansman. Squeezing the trigger, I was pleased to see my target's head snap forward, followed by his body. Khansman stood there stunned. As I was about to bracket him, a spotlight illuminated the area around me.
Diving to the side, I narrowly avoided a burst of .30 caliber machinegun fire. Continuing to roll towards the helicopter, I sprang to my feet, running in a zigzag pattern, sniping at the light as I ran. Hearing the boom of Tigger's .50 caliber sniper rifle I was plunged into darkness as she hit the spotlight. Now partially blinded, I simply dodged towards the sound of the helicopter.
"He's pealing off; head back for the car." I heard Tigger order. Sliding to a halt, I determined which way was up hill and began running for the top. "Zig Zag, if you see that damned helicopter, let us know." I said into the microphone.
As I neared the top, I could hear the helicopter coming in fast from the side. Blinking, I looked for the silhouette against the stars, but everything was still too dark. Before I could reach the top, I saw the muzzle flashes from the .30 caliber again as it strafed the car and surrounding area. Stopping, I flipped my gun to three round burst and began trying to lead the muzzle flashes. My night sight was totally shot, and I couldn't see if I was even coming close.
Flying on, the helicopter swung out wide for another pass. Getting to the top, I saw Bjorn on the ground; Sheila and Zig Zag were standing over him. Grabbing both of them, I hauled them away from the car, yelling "Run for the tree line, now!" Sheila tried to run back up. Grabbing her arm, I threw her down the hill. "Damn it! I'll get Bjorn, you just run," I ordered, shoving Zig Zag towards Sheila.
Turning back up, I heard Tigger, "They're moving too fast. I can't target them. You need to get to cover," she informed me. Clicking the mike, "I'm making a pickup, let me know ETA on return," I replied. Getting to the top, I reached down for Bjorn. Hauling him up into a fireman's carry and turned from the car. Behind me I heard the whooshing sound of unguided rockets.
Time began to slow down for me. I knew I was going to be in the kill zone. Looking behind me, I saw the stream of rockets come flying from the pods underneath the helicopter headed for the car. Diving away, I was struck in the air by the force of the explosion behind me. Flying in an uncontrolled dive, Bjorn's body flew from my grip. Landing hard, I had the wind knocked from me.
Stunned, I watched the outline of the helicopter as it passed over in slow motion. Shaking my head, I rolled over and looked for Bjorn. Spotting him a few feet away, I crawled over to where he lay. Reaching him, I saw that he lay face down in the grass, unmoving. A large chunk of metal from the car was imbedded in his back.
They had killed one of my objectives. They had killed Bjorn. Even as I thought this, a small part of my mind was screaming at me, "He's more than an objective. He's a friend." Startled, I realized that with all that had happened today, I hadn't been worried about Sheila as a friend or lover, but simply because she was my objective. Even as that realization hit me, another part of my mind clamped down on it. I had a mission. I was hunted, and they needed to die.
Looking around for my carbine, I saw it laying in a twisted mess where I had landed on it. It was of no use to me anymore. Drawing the Desert Eagle, I chambered a round. Searching for the sky, I could hear the helicopter circling, but couldn't see it.
In my mind I heard the Dragon, "Accept the geas and you will have my eyes." He wouldn't let up would he? "No geas. You need me alive. Give me the sight," I demanded. The Dragon growled, "Not without the geas. You will perform the task or you are useless to us." Off behind me, near the base of the hill, I heard the sound of the machine gun strafing Zig Zag and Sheila. "All right damn it! I'll do your quest. But you've got to grant me everything. No piecemeal shit!" I demanded in return. The Dragon chuckled, "You can't handle all of our power even if we could give it to you," he answered. Firing at the helicopter with the pistol, I tried to draw their fire. "Fine," I replied. "Give me all that I can handle and not an ounce less and I'll do your damned quest!"
"DONE!" echoed through my head as my body exploded with fire. Falling to my knees, I felt every bone, every fiber of my body changing, surging with the energy he poured into me. Finally, the torment ended. Dropping to my front paws, I took a deep breath. The world around me was alive with brilliant colors. I could hear the helicopter circling around for another pass. Turning my head, I saw it illuminated by the heat of the engine against the cold night air. I could see the pilot was planning on circling the hill again to make another pass.
Holstering the pistol, I stood and removed a fragmentation grenade. Pulling the pin, I waited for him to circle further around the hill. As the helicopter came into sight, I released the spoon and began counting. I could smell and hear the fuse burning down. Reaching the count of three, I began running towards my planned intersect point. As my count reached six, I threw the grenade in a high arc towards the path of the helicopter. I had misjudged slightly, as it detonated too soon. Still it had the desired effect of deflecting the pilot from his run.
Turning I ran up the hill towards the burning car. I would make a target for him. In my ear, I could hear Tigger demanding to know what I was doing. Keying my mike, I replied, "I'm going up to the top of the hill. I'm going to give them an easy target. If I'm right, he's going to fly straight for me. That will give you your shot. Don't miss," I ordered her.
Reaching the burning car, I drew the pistol again. Ejecting the clip, I loaded a new one. A smile came to my face as I remembered a scene in the movie Patton where he had faced down an airborne attacker with a pistol. Watching the helicopter I saw the side gunner spot me, yelling franticly to the pilot. The helicopter banked hard towards me, coming in on a straight line. "Please don't miss your shot, Tigger," I said to myself as I moved to the far side of the vehicle. Hopefully the car would provide some cover.
Raising the pistol, I aimed high on the helicopter. Kneeling down behind the engine compartment, I steadied the gun. As he got within one hundred meters, he sideslipped to give his gunner a shot. Firing the pistol at the gunner, I watched as the bullets dropped from the down wash of the rotor. Adjusting my aim, I watched him as he began firing. I could hear the bullets hitting the metal of the car as well as the ground behind me, but none struck me. It appears my patron was a luck dragon. Firing again, I was rewarded by the sight of the gunner rocking back in the doorway as the last round of my clip was expended.
Ejecting the clip, I slapped a new one home and chambered the round just as the helicopter was about to pass over. Turning to aim over the car, I was rewarded by the boom of Tigger's rifle. Looking up at the helicopter, I saw the transmission for the main rotor come apart in a violent shower of parts and sparks. Billowing smoke, the helicopter dropped towards the ground as the pilot attempted to auto-rotate. Only his forward momentum gave him any hope of doing it.
Heading around the car, I began to run down the hill towards where the helicopter had crash-landed. Lying on its side, I saw smoke billow out from the passenger compartment. Holstering the pistol again, I drew the Katana. Anyone climbing out of that bird was going to be cat food. When I was about fifty meters from the bird, I saw the form of a tall bear getting out of the passenger compartment. Falling to the ground, he got shakily to his feet.
Spotting me, he tried to pull his pistol, but it was too late. Freezing as I pressed the Katana against his neck, he slowly took the weapon and threw it away. Looking at his uniform I saw oak leaves. This was the guy in charge.
The bear gave a combination growl and snarl. "So, this is your idea of a fair fight?" he asked. I couldn't believe what he was saying. "And strafing unarmed civilians is I suppose?" I challenged him back. I had been ignoring his left hand. It was almost to the combat knife in his boot.
"They were our targets." He answered. Shaking my head, I disagreed, "No, I was your target. Bjorn and Sheila had nothing to do with this." Hearing this, his eyes narrowed. He now knew who faced him. Blocking the sword away from his throat, he drew the knife and lunged. Ready for this, I spun, using my other arm to deflect the attack. Continuing the spin, I took his head. Stepping back, I looked down on the body and spit. Officers never did have any sense.
Leaping up onto the tail, I walked forwards and looked into the interior. The gunner I had shot was pinned by his weapon. The pilot was struggling to get out of their harnesses. Spotting me, the gunner started to shout out a warning, but it was cut short as I dropped on him, snapping his neck as I landed on it.
Turning I saw the pilot had gotten lose and dropped down onto the left seat. Drawing his weapon he brought it up, trying to aim it at me. Dodging in the limited space available, I felt two hits to the chest as I charged him. Slashing with the sword, I took his paw. Lunging, I drove it through his chest, between the ribs, piercing his heart.
Pulling the sword free, I stepped forward and checked the co-pilot. He was still alive. Preparing to terminate him also, I froze. What the hell was I doing? He wasn't a threat. The guy had taken a hard hit to the head as the helicopter had rolled. Yet something inside me screamed to kill him. As I fought my internal battle, I saw his eyes flutter and open. Groggily, he looked up at me. Seeing the blade poised over his face, he stared at me. His face neutral, he waited for me to strike.
I don't know how long I stood there, staring at him. I had killed hundreds, but I couldn't kill him. He wasn't a threat. Relaxing, I wiped the blade on the pilot's uniform and re-sheathed the sword in its scabbard. Disarming the ferret, I then cut him lose of the restraining harness. Pulling him out into the passenger area, I heaved him up onto the edge of the cabin. Climbing up myself, I sat on the side of the helicopter and tried to raise Tigger.
Not getting a response, I looked down and saw that my radio equipment had been smashed. It must have taken a hit from the machinegun when they strafed me. Checking myself over, I saw that the bear's blade had sliced my arm. It also looked like my vest had caught the two shots I took from the pilot. Reaching in, I felt blood. Strange thing is, there was no pain.
The guy on the edge of the skid let out a moan, reminding me where I was. Standing up, I reached down and hauled the injured ferret to his feet. Slinging him over my shoulder, I walked down the trail and jumped of into the grass. Leaving the scene of the crash, I made my way over to where I saw Zig Zag and Sheila. They were crouched over the body of Bjorn.
Setting the Ferret on the ground, I saw Zig Zag turn. She had taken her mask off, and I could see the murderous intent on her face as she raised the submachine gun. Stepping between her and the mercenary, I blocked her shot. Bearing her teeth, she snarled at me, "How can you protect him after what he and the others have done!" Taking the barrel of the gun, I raised it so it pointed at my head, "And what about me?" I asked. "Who will avenge all the people I've killed?" That took her aback. "He's defenseless. He's injured. Killing him now is without honor. Killing him now will make you a murderer," I said, trying to reason with her, "You are defending nobody here."
Slowly she released the gun. Taking it, I set the safety and slung it over my shoulder. Kneeling down by Bjorn, I looked at the little guy. Even if he hadn't been hit with the metal, the stitch line of bullets running up his body would have spelled death.
Sobbing with despair, Sheila yelled at me, "What's wrong with you!" Looking up at her, I saw the tears streaming down her face, "How can you sit there like that when he killed Bjorn! What's the matter with you? Don't you care about anyone but yourself?" She demanded of me.
Standing, I looked at Zig Zag. I could see the same question written on her face. What the hell was happening to me? Why didn't I feel anything? On a mission, I would subdue my emotions, but this was crazy. It was like I didn't have any.
In a daze I stumbled a short distance away and sat down. The sound of an approaching engine caught my attention as Tigger drove up in the van, skidding to a stop mere feet from Bjorn's body; the headlights illuminated the grisly sight.
Feeling the strength fade from my body as the adrenaline ran out, I closed my eyes and lay back on the cool grass. I heard Tigger climb out and check on the others. Seeing Bjorn, she cursed. Listening to the conversation, I heard her do what I could not. She tried to comfort Sheila, promising that they would all pay for their crime. Why couldn't I do that? The hunt was over. Why couldn't I remove the mask?
Standing up, Tigger walked over to me. Shining a light over me, she cursed seeing the damage to my vest. I was too exhausted to even protest my health. Ripping open the armor she saw the mass of blood on my chest. Yelling to Zig Zag, she ordered her to get the medical kit out of the van. Cracking my eyes open, I could see the confusion on her face as she tried to find where the blood had come from. Brushing the lead out of my fur, she knew that there was no way that the armor could have protected me.
Shining a light in my face, Tigger got a good look at my eyes. Slipping in the grass, she crawled backwards from me. "What the hell are you?" She demanded. Thinking quickly, I tried to come up with an answer, "I'm a half-breed." Getting control, Tigger once again shined the light on me, approaching closer, "Half-breed, all right. I can buy that. Obviously you're half bear, but what's the other half?" She inquired. Fighting to stay awake, I laid my head back. "Dragon," I managed to get out before the darkness took me.
A sharp pain in my ear had rudely awaked me. Tigger had used a claw to wake me up. I saw that Detective Jones was there. "Come on, sleeping beauty, time to go," Tigger ordered me. With no small amount of assistance, I made it to my feet. I hurt all over. Looking down, I saw that my chest and arm had been bandaged. Looking over, I saw Sheila still sitting next to Bjorn, his body now covered by a tarp.
As Tigger lead me over to the van, I asked, "How will Sheila explain all this?" Tigger explained, helping me into the back of the van, "She's going to say she had no idea who did it. We're going to clean you up and drop you two off at James Sheppard's place."
On the bench seat I saw Zig Zag sitting, ears hanging low, crying. Hearing Tigger close the door, I reached out to touch Zig Zag. Turning at my touch, I could see the grief on her face at the loss of Bjorn. I remember grief. I once felt it. But now there was nothing.
Sliding over to Zig Zag, I remembered the other times I had comforted her or Sheila. Trying to force an emotion of sorrow on my face, I gently reached out to Zig Zag and pulled her close to me. Speaking softly, I parroted the words I had heard so often, "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry," as she cried softly into my shoulder.
Somewhere, trapped within me, was that part of my soul that would let me feel again. Somehow, I had to reclaim that part of me.