Luck of the Dragon: Jacks Over Kings© 2014 by Walter D. Reimer
(Songmark and characters courtesy of Simon Barber. Thanks!)
The Irish setter reached the slave pens and paused, following her training and looking carefully before rushing into the building.
What she saw made Brigit growl something in Gaelic that would have made her mother’s ears burn.
The pens were little better than stables.
Nearly fifty furs sat or crouched on low pallets, each shackled by one ankle to a long chain that connected them all to cement anchors on either end of the building. The living conditions were appalling.
The canine realized then that the movie Zell had shown them was only a pale shadow of reality.
There was a sound of running feet, and the Bruining swiveled automatically. "Wait, it's me!" and Brigit relaxed fractionally as Liberty trotted up. "Let's liberate these poor people and get to the main house," the half-coyote said.
"I’m waitin’ to see if coast is clear," Brigit said huffily. "Unless you want to go in, and maybe die."
Liberty snorted. "You'd like that, wouldn't you?" She poked her snout into the building and yelled, "Anyone speak English?"
There was a confused babble of voices until one said, "I speak English."
"Good," Brigit said. "When we cut you all loose, head fer th' hills. Got it?" and as she spoke she stepped gingerly into the stable.
A shot rang out and she went down in a heap.
Liberty zeroed in on the muzzle flash, and the guard went down hard. "Brigit!" Liberty exclaimed as soon as she was sure the man was dead. "Are you all right?"
The setter snarled, "Just my luck, ta catch one. I'm thinkin' it's but a scratch ta th' leg." She picked up her BAR and pointed the muzzle at the lock that held the slaves' chains. A three-round burst obliterated the lock, and the chain fell free of the anchor.
"Now, run!" Liberty shouted, firing her own weapon into the roof of the structure. Women squealed in fright and the men started pulling at the chain. Those who got loose first ran for the far end of the stable and bolted out into the fields, headed for the foothills in the shadow of Mount Krupp. A few stayed, either too frightened or too cowed.
"Run!" Liberty yelled again, and sped the laggards on their way with a few kicks. "Honestly, you try to help the proletariat . . . Brigit, are you good enough to walk?"
"I'll run you inta th' ground," Brigit said, biting back whimpers as she probed the wound in her thigh with her fingers. "Just a graze," she said. "I'll live."
"Here, come over to the light and I'll put a bandage on it," Liberty offered. She pulled a rolled bandage from a pocket and started to wrap up the injury by firelight. As soon as she was done, Brigit got to her feet and the two young women headed out to the main house, taking pains to stay out of the range of the grass fire and the flaming wreckage of the generator. One of them was already wounded, and there was no need to be silhouetted against the flames.
Figures were seen, carrying weapons; both dropped prone and began shooting until nothing moved. Then they crawled up to the villa's rear gate.
"About time you showed up," Shin rasped as she joined them.
"Ya perdyet’ va vashem obschem napravlenny. We got busy," Liberty said, her Russian marred by her flat New Haven drawl. She sniffed and her snout wrinkled. "What happened to you?"
The gloom concealed Shin's blush. "I had a little problem," she said. "Have any of you seen Fang?"
"Here," and the Manchurian tiger appeared from around a corner. The flames showed that his overcoat was a bit ragged in spots. "We ready to blow the gate?"
"Getting there," Liberty said as she lashed three more sticks of dynamite together. "The rest of you had better find cover." She low-crawled to the gate as the others scrambled to the corner of the wall and ducked around it.
The half-coyote lit the fuse and ran. At the last second she dove into the ground as all three sticks exploded, tearing the heavy wooden gate to splinters.
She got to her feet, glad that the darkness didn't let the others see her paws shaking. At least one of the fuses had burned faster than the others, so it had been a near thing.
If she had been just a hair slower, the Revolution would have lost her.
And she would have failed.
And that was strictly Not Allowed.
"Good job, Liberty," Fang said as he came around the corner.
The tiger rolled his eyes. "Good job," he shouted in her ear. "Now," he said to the others, "we need to be careful. If everything's gone according to plan, Hao and his bunch have already gotten here, so no trying to shoot our friends, okay?" The others nodded. "Okay. Let's go."
They started through the smoking remains of the gate, leaving Liberty standing there. "What?" she demanded, then shrugged and cocked her shotgun before following them.
Lanterns provided a flickering illumination in the main villa as scattered firefights raged throughout the structure.
Two more of Hao’s crew were dead, having run afoul of the shooters hidden in the entrance hall. It had taken a few minutes more than Hao liked to kill them.
Hao threw himself to one side as bullets chewed at the doorframe, and he returned fire without bothering to aim. From the sound of the weapons being used, very few of the guards had anything larger than pistols, which was good.
Hao pulled one of his crew close to him and said urgently into his ear, "We need to get to Shen's room, and we need to start taking prisoners."
“How do we know who’s who?”
The red panda growled, “Just kill anything that looks like a wolf.” There were no lupines in his crew.
“Right. Start rounding up staff as well?”
“Yeah.” It wasn't enough to destroy Shen. The others at the top of the hill and practically everyone else on Krupmark would converge on the villa like vultures. It was necessary to take over, by getting his surviving lieutenants to knuckle under and swear fealty to the new regime.
A burst of heavy rifle fire gouged holes in the wall. Hao recoiled away from the flurry of splinters, swearing volubly in Cantonese. His ears flicked as he heard a familiar voice.
"Is that Hao, or am I crazy?"
"Yes, and yes!" he yelled.
There was a laugh. "Well, where the hell are you? We don't want to shoot you."
"Someone blew up the generator, I guess." Hao grinned and raised his paws. "I'm coming out, Lee's right behind me."
"Real slow," came Brigit's voice.
"Brigit? No hard feelings now," he said as he stepped into the doorway. In the dimly-lit corridor he could see three young women and a taller man, all heavily armed.
"I'm glad to see you," Hao said, and his tail bottled in surprise as Brigit hugged him. "I've got my people rounding up prisoners. We need to find Father."
"He might be upstairs."
"Shen never invited anyone up there," Fang offered.
"So he's here somewhere." Hao raised his voice. "Search the house!"
The drumming of the Lion Dance had been joined by firecrackers. How nice.
Nothing like a proper sendoff.