Luck of the Dragon: Hedging Bets© 2011 by Walter Reimer
(Sergeant Brush courtesy of E.O. Costello. Thanks!)
(Songmark and characters courtesy of Simon Barber. Thanks!)
Brush glowered, his tail snapping back and forth. Before he could say anything, however, a short, burly feline with dark gray fur and a pronounced scar on his face walked up. “Anything wrong?”
“Who wants t’know?”
The feline smiled. “I’m Wang Jin, captain of this boat. You are?”
The vulpine flashed his badge in answer, and the feline nodded. “Is there a problem, Sergeant?”
Brush turned away to glare at the Shar Pei. “Just keepin’ an eye on a guy.”
“I see. Do you wish to help him?”
“Nah. I got a job, see?”
The feline nodded. “Then please allow him to do his,” he said. He crossed his arms over his chest and cocked his head to one side. “I am certain your superiors would not appreciate a complaint?”
Brush scowled and walked away. “Sorry,” Wei said after he’d gone.
“No matter, Hai Wei,” Wang said, “he is only a barbarian. While he can cause trouble, he need not bother you.” The others stepped in, then, to help in scraping the rest of the marine growth off of the hull.
It was sometime after one o’clock in the morning. The weather, while holding a bit of a chill, was fairly clear and windy.
The sound made excellent cover, so Red Dorm were on alert.
“Wonder when they’ll try for it,” Liberty mused aloud. She and Tatiana were on foot patrol while Brigit and Shin watched the gate. The trained watchdogs were on the other side of the compound, which suited Liberty just fine.
One of them kept looking at her in a very peculiar fashion. While she discounted the rumors about the dogs, at times they did seem to know more than feral canines should.
If anything, Shin seemed even more wary around the dogs, for some reason.
Liberty paused as Tatiana said, “I wish I knew.”
By this time, they had reached a section of fence that wasn’t as well-lighted as the rest of the school’s perimeter. One of the lamps had burned out, leaving a dark area. The New Havenite half-coyote’s ears twitched.
The sable saw her and went still. After the brief pause, Liberty stooped to check her bootlaces while she went on in her previous conversational tone, but in the polyglot language Red Dorm used amongst themselves. “Hear that?”
“Off to the left, you think?”
“On our two o’clock.”
Without showing any preparatory tensing, the sable and the canine threw themselves behind cover as several feathered darts struck the ground where they had been standing. Shapes started to scale the fence.
Tatiana peered out. “Landing Forces,” the sable hissed. “I’m sure of it. Two of them.”
Liberty took a look. “Yeah, they move that way.” She had snatched at one of the darts and still had it in her paw. She sniffed at the tip before touching her tongue to it and spitting immediately afterward. “Not poison.” She grinned at the sable.
Tatiana grinned back. “I’ll stay under cover.”
“Right.” The half-coyote slithered through the underbrush.
One of the shapes paused as she heard a groan coming from behind a bush, and she spotted a shape moving slowly. She moved closer as the canine groaned again, coming to rest on her back. A dart was in her shoulder.
The dark-clad shape came closer, then knelt to examine the Songmark girl.
Liberty’s eyes opened.
She smiled, and closed her eyes.
There was a sudden blinding flash and the half-coyote struck upward with the bat in her paw.
The Russian and the New Havenite were both armed with Kilikiti bats, usually an unwieldy thing to be used as a weapon. It had been developed from an earlier war club, however, and with the right training could be very effective.
Red Dorm were very good at Kilikiti.
Flat on her back as she was, Liberty didn’t have enough room for her trademark ‘Scythe’ swing, but she did the best that she could. The wooden bat connected solidly with the assailant’s chin, sending her reeling backward as the half-coyote kicked up with one steel-toed boot.
One intruder went down and stayed there.
Liberty got to her feet in time to see Tatiana squaring off with the second intruder, who appeared to be a male. Possibly a wolf, from the look of his tail, and taller than either of them.
Well, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. She plucked the dart from her clothing and ran toward the fight.
He was armed with a knife, but the Kilikiti bats gave the two Songmark students a reach advantage. The fight was quick, and Liberty was sporting a bruised nose and was favoring her left knee before the man went down hard.
The flash and the commotion brought Brigit and Shin at a run. “Two, huh?” the Irish setter asked.
“Da,” the sable replied as she examined Liberty’s knee. “Came over the fence there,” and her tail swished in the direction of the unlighted area.
“Okay,” Shin said. “Brigit and I’ll take our shift.”
“We’ll drag these two to the guardhouse,” Liberty said. “A little interrogation might be fun.”
Miss Devinski looked up at the members of Red Dorm the next morning. “Two intruders came over the fence last night,” she said in a frosty tone. “According to your reports, under questioning they stated they were members of the Landing Forces.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” Brigit said. She was dorm leader.
“Liberty, you mention in your report a bright flash.”
“Yes, Miss Devinski,” she said to the older canine. “Tatiana was concealed, and arranged a distraction.”
“Flash powder, Ma’am,” the sable replied. “An effective distraction, particularly at night. It would impair night vision for a crucial moment.”
Devinski nodded. “Good work, all of you. I believe your final exams are this afternoon. Get some rest, and study.” She glanced down at her reports. Dismissed.”
“So,” Fang said later that evening. “How were your exams?”
His wife looked haggard as she threw herself backward onto their bed with a heartfelt groan. “Rough, as usual. My arm aches – and my brain hurts.”
“About normal, then.”
The red panda femme’s left paw raised and made a rude gesture at her husband. “We passed.”
“No, not good.” Shin sat up and looked at the tiger. “We came in almost bottom of the year on the exams. I think it’s because of those four weeks of ‘advanced training’ I was stupid enough to ask for.” She muttered a curse. “Me and my big mouth.”
The big tiger sat down on the bed beside her. A paw stroked her headfur as he asked, “How did the others take it? Coming in almost bottom of the year, I mean.”
A snort. “Liberty wouldn’t even look at me. Tatiana just shrugged, and all Brigit could talk about was spending her holiday with Michael.” Shin shook her head. “Just one more term.”
“And then you graduate.”
“Still have that business plan in mind?”
A slow grin twisted her muzzle.
“What do your teachers think of it?”
“Oh, they haven’t seen all of it yet, but I’m sure they can guess at the missing parts – maybe even as well as you can.”
“You know,” Fang said, “I had been meaning to ask – “
“Yes?” and she snuggled up close to him.
“Did Peng-wum help you draw that plan up?”
His wife laughed. “Nope.”
Friday night was pay night.
Hai Wei sat at a bar, spending a portion of his pay envelope on cheap beer and a bowl of stir-fried beef and noodles. Other furs around him were doing much the same, with a quiet poker game going on in one corner and a noisy craps game in an opposite corner.
There were quieter places to drink, but he wanted to be around people (even if they were still a bit unsure of him).
Besides, the quieter places he knew of were frequented by members of the Constabulary, and it had been made very clear to him that he was no longer welcome. And the only other quiet place was his apartment.
Wei finished his dinner and carefully nursed his third bottle of Union Maid while musing about what else to do on a Friday night in the off-season. Madame Wu’s, he decided, might be open this early. All he knew was he wasn’t going to Jumping Jimmy’s.
Just then a voice rose above the other noises in the bar, and Wei’s ears swiveled.
“Wei! I gotta score ta settle wit’ ya!”