Chino and Harper

All posts tagged Chino and Harper

The aisles of the cargo bay were cramped, even for someone not Chino’s size. His shoulders were brushing against the stacked boxes and a crushing sense of claustrophobia threatened to overtake him in the tight environment.
In front of him, Harper glanced back and forth, his nose twitching. His paws were clenched, a sure sign that he was agitated as well.
“It’s cold in here,” Chino said.
“No shit,” Harper said. “They barely heat it because it wastes energy. They toss stuff in here that’s supposed to be cold anyway, right?”
The overhead lighting flickered, drawing an involuntary gasp from Chino. A part of him expected the room to have been filled with guards, but as Harper had described, it was only ship’s supplies. Unless someone needed something specific from inside it, they wouldn’t even come in the bay. That made it ideal pickings for an enterprising pair looking for a few pharmaceuticals to slip in their luggage before landfall.
“I hate space travel,” Harper announced. “I don’t think I want to do it again.”
“Is this it?” Chino asked, interrupting Harper’s woolgathering. The elephant was tapping at a polymer box large enough to be a coffin. Harper glanced at the data tag strapped to the end and a wide grin split his muzzle.
“Even better,” he said, his voice in a whisper.
“What’s better than free drugs?” asked Chino.
“Free guns.”
Chino flipped the latches on the crate and popped open the cover. Inside, gleaming dully in the dim overhead light, rested two dozen of the short pump-action shotguns the ratings had been seen to carry. A separate section of the crate held a similar number of matte grey handguns.
“Holy shit,” Chino whispered.
“Promised land, baby,” Harper added. He slapped the big elephant on the back.
Carefully, he peeled away the data tag from the end of the crate and replaced it with one from within his jacket – a tag indicating it as personal belongings owned by Chino. He rolled the other into a thin tube and slipped it into his pocket for disposal. Bringing the parts for the printing machine along in their carry-on had been a wise investment.
“Now we find the ammo.”
It took a little time to make that discovery, and in the process a crate of assorted medical supplies, two boxes coded as ‘Emergency Survival Kit’, a case of personal hygiene items, and a large box filled with rechargeable batteries in standard sizes also got a special label reassignment. At long last they found boxes of ammunition for the weapons, and assigned a couple of those for redistribution as well.
“Think that’ll do it?” Harper asked. Chino nodded his big head.
“I can’t carry all of it,” he said. Harper held out his paws in a calming gesture. When he replied, his amusement was obvious by his tone.
“We don’t carry any of it at all,” he said. “Not one damn bit. Planetfall is in two days. We’ve got the whole ‘make sure all your shit is ready for drop’ speech to look forward to, and we can say that we’re missing some stuff. They know that some items got sent to ship’s stores for the cold storage, and they’ll check here. The Navy will move our shit for us, pal, and they’ll apologize for the trouble!”
“That’s a mighty fine plan you got there, pup,” declared a raspy voice from near the door. Harper and Chino whirled to find a scarred lion watching them, his mane shaggy and a black hat jammed on his head. A bottle of amber liquid was in his paw and a cigarette hung from the corner of his lips, although it was currently unlit.
“Who are you, pal?” Harper demanded. His paw itched for the knife in his back pocket, but he kept still as he awaited a response. If anything broke loose, it would be a race to see if he could get to it before Chino was swinging his crowbar anyway. For a giant that lumbered around as if he had no muscle control, the elephant was surprisingly quick on his feet when the occasion called for it.
“Just call me Jack,” the lion said.
“Yeah? Well, Jack, what do you want?”
The simple answer caught Harper off guard for a second and then he grinned.
“In on what?”
“Don’t fuck with me, coyote. There’s crates and crates of free liquor here if you know where to look, and I know where everything is stored. Got a couple friends setting up a bar on planet and smuggling out a bottle or two at a time to boost their supply is a serious pain in the ass. Your system, though? Sounds like a quick way to get a little something for everybody with nobody but the Navy losing anything.”
“What’s in it for you?” Chino asked. He had taken a half-step away from Harper, increasing the space between them so the lion would have to choose a target if there was a fight.
“Free liquor,” Jack repeated, waving the bottle he held. “With ears that big, you’d think you could hear.”
“Fuck you, furball,” the elephant spat. “I heard your mom begging for more the other night.”
“Maybe if you’d been hung like anything bigger than a mouse she wouldn’t have had to beg for more.”
“Hold up,” Harper said, raising a paw to stop the argument before it could flare. “You say you know where everything is?”
“Spent a few nights in here,” Jack said with a tight nod. “Nothing to do but drink and read labels.”
“And these pals of yours, they wanna open a bar?”
Harper leaned close to Chino and whispered. “We can move a lot of goods through a bar.”
“Yeah. I just… He pisses me off.”
“Relationship of convenience,” Harper said. “When we get down to the surface we’ll need new channels to run products.”
Chino rubbed at a tusk and then nodded.
“Fine,” Harper said to the lion. “Let’s get back to the hab blocks, and then we can get started by you telling us what kinda shit is stored here that we missed. After that we’ll see about setting up some new labels. Five Folk in means we can divert even more.”
Jack grinned around massive teeth. “Now you’re talking.”

“Harper!” Chino hissed. His attempt at quiet was nearly deafening in the small room. Harper turned to him, an expression of alarm creasing his face. The big elephant was standing by a door that should not have been open.

“Be quiet!” Harper said, holding the pads of his paw toward the floor.

Chino nodded, lifting a limp body into the air for Harper to see. “I think I broke him,” he said, managing to stay relatively quiet. In his arms, the mob guard lolled loosely, head rolling and legs dangling toward the floor.

“What the –“

Harper dashed across the room, abandoning the safe he had approached, and laid his paw on the elbow of the big Shepherd. He gave Chino a glare as the elephant opened his mouth to speak. After a moment of concentrating, he took a long breath and nodded.

“He’s alive,” Harper reported. “What did you do?”

“He came in and saw us, then he went for his gun. I tapped him.”

In Chino-speak, Harper knew, tapping was code for ‘I slapped him in the head with a crowbar’, and it rarely ended well for the party being tapped. When you were strong enough to bench-press a ground car, swinging a couple feet of thick steel was a devastating attack. On the plus side, the elephant had heard the approaching guard and dealt with him before anything happened, and for that Harper was glad.

Rather than belittle his partner, Harper simply removed the guard’s gun belt and wrapped it around his own waist. It hung loosely, as the rangy coyote was nowhere near as solidly built as the Shepherd that Chino was even now laying onto the floor.

“Watch the door,” he said. He returned his attention to the safe, throwing the scope into place and spinning the dials with an expert touch. In moments it was open, and Harper was stuffing piles of cash into a bag. Gems and jewelry went in as well, and although he wouldn’t keep the printed material inside the safe, he took it with him. It could always be shredded later. Certificates of ownership and stock would be problematic in the real world, so proper disposal was important. Money was money, though, and the cash was in fat stacks. Bag in hand, he made his way back to Chino’s side and patted his partner on the back.

“Time to go,” he said.

They slipped out through the door they had used to enter and once more stayed in the shadows as they passed a guard shack. Soon, they were in the clear and broke into a run until they reached the car they had parked behind a stand of wide-leafed trees.

Chino took the driver’s position and Harper leaped into place beside him. The engine rumbled to life and they sped into the night. A half mile later Harper pointed to a telecom booth and Chino pulled over. Harper stepped out and slipped a coin into the machine, using the tip of a claw to punch in a series of numbers and then fitting a scrambling device over the mouthpiece.

“There’s gonna be a hit tonight,” he said when someone answered. His voice was distorted by the scrambler, becoming deep and mechanical. “Blackie’s crew is gonna take down one of yours. He’s saying you owe him money and he’s gonna collect.”

He hung up before anything else could be said or asked, and then reclaimed his seat in the car. Chino drove them away from the booth in a leisurely fashion. Now that it was all done there was no need for speed.

Within the hour, the Rincon Crime Family discovered the theft and assault of the guard. Calls were made, and Blackie Biggs ended the evening with a price on his head.

“I thought we was going straight?” Chino asked as Harper finished counting the money. The pair had made it back to their apartment unscathed. Orderly stacks of bills took up space on the kitchen table beside an open bottle of beer.

“We are. I mean, soon. We needed a little seed cash for this trip to the Colony, right? So we’ll go straight when we get there. Meantime, just consider us slightly curved.”

The room for registration was packed, but at least they had managed to get in out of the cold wind. Chino rubbed at his ears, made red by the blustery force. The silver caps at the end of his tusks reflected the overhead lights as his head shook.
“Let’s get that door closed!” someone shouted from deeper within the room. “You’re letting the cold in!”
“Kiss my ass!” Harper yelled back, though the coyote was already pulling the door closed. He tugged his jacket closer around his frame and smoothed back the ragged lock of hair that kept falling over his left eye.
“Watch your language! There are cubs present!” said the first voice.
“Can’t be! Your mom told me she was fixed!” Chino replied. Laughter erupted from many of those in the processing center and the protesting voice died off.
“C’mon,” Harper urged, grinning at Chino’s comment. He jerked his head toward the registration desk. There were several Folk standing in line already.
“Hey, they’ve got pictures,” Chino said, redirecting the coyote with a gentle press of his massive hand. The pair stepped around a standing display of images. They showed a wooded land, with yellow soil and a brilliant sun overhead. There were pictures of indigenous lifeforms, mostly reptilian, with some captioned as being “large as a truck”, and others with similar descriptions to indicate size. One image showed the scout team posing beside one of the monsters. Its body dwarfed them all in the same way that Chino would dwarf a puppy.
“This is where we’re going,” Harper said, looking up at Chino’s grinning mug. “Planet of the lizard monsters.”
“Going straight the hard way, huh?”
“Yeah,” Harper said. His thoughts trailed off as a broad-shouldered jaguar bumped into him in passing. The jaguar was accompanied by a cougar with an ugly hat. Both Folk wore long coats that threatened to drag the ground.
“She stands over there,” the jaguar said, his voice low and his words clipped in a precise tone.
Harper turned to look at Chino, shaking his head. “It’s always something, ain’t it?” he said. He turned back to the display. An amplified voice echoed in the small room.
“Hello, everyone, and welcome. My name is Svetlana Krupp. I am one of the three Folk in charge of the colony on Z262.”
Harper leaned around the rack to see a squat dog in an impeccable business suit standing at the front of the room. She was holding a microphone.
“My specialty is administration. I’m the one who will be making sure everything gets done on schedule and that everything necessary takes place both before and during the trip so that all will be ready when we arrive.”
“So you’re pretty important, then?” called the cougar in the long coat.
Svetlana gobbled up the attention. “Oh, yes,” she said proudly.
“You will not see one gemstone on this planet!” shouted the jaguar. He reached beneath the folds of his jacket and a long shotgun was in his paw when he cleared the fabric. “Empire Rodentia will triumph!”
The cougar had gone into his own coat, coming out with a heavy slab-sided pistol. The hammer was coming back under one thumb.
Harper’s hand dropped to his belt and he slipped free the knife from his pocket, feeling as much as hearing the snick sound as the blade locked into place. The shotgun in the jaguar’s paws exploded with fire and sound, and Svetlana fell back, grasping at her abdomen.
Chino wasted no time at all. He stepped forward, grabbed the cougar’s head in his enormous mitts and twisted, throwing his body weight behind his prodigious strength. The neck gave way and the body slumped in his grasp, the ugly hat flying away in the face of the attack by the giant. Harper dropped his knife and snatched the big pistol as it fell. Thumb flicking at a safety that was already disconnected, he whipped the weapon up toward the jaguar.
The blade of the front sight had barely intersected the shotgun-wielding cat when Harper began stroking the trigger. The pistol roared like a cannon with each shot. Fat hollow-point rounds ripped into the jaguar, punching through his hide before expanding inside the big cat. Two of them ripped free on the other side, tearing great holes in the gunner’s flank.
Screaming in agony, the jaguar attempted to bring his own weapon to bear on Harper, but the coyote continued to deliver the close-range assault, keeping the pistol targeted on the jaguar’s chest as he fired again and again, riding the recoil and driving the weapon back onto target with every shot.
Eleven rounds thundered from the pistol before the slide locked back. Chino was at his side then, handing him a second magazine taken from the belt of the cougar. The empty mag clattered on the deck and Harper racked the slide again, chambering a fresh round.
The room was awash in gunsmoke and Harper squinted down at his target. The jaguar was down on the deck, his body twitching and quivering. Harper lashed out with a foot and kicked away the shotgun. He pointed to the colonist that had taken the original shot from the scattergun and Chino moved to assist.
The dog had taken a glancing hit from the shotgun, and multiple pellets had ripped through her suit coat. Blood leaked from her torso. Chino grabbed at his own sleeve, pulling hard until the fabric separated and tore. He peeled it down over one tattooed arm and pressed the material to Svetlana’s wounds.
Harper scanned the room, looking for other assailants but coming up dry. He fumbled in his pocket for his phone, one claw tapping the 111 code for emergency services. When he held the phone up to his head, it became apparent that there would be an issue. The entire world was a whine of sound following the gunshots inside the confined area. He could not hear the dial tone on his telephone. Around him, nothing was making noise that carried above the intense background din. He glanced at the screen in time to see it flash ‘connected’ and lifted it back to his head.
He simply dropped the phone to the floor and made his way to Chino’s side. The big elephant had ripped a sleeve from his own shirt and was using it to provide pressure on the wounds of the injured colony executive. Harper patted him on the shoulder and when Chino looked up, tapped at his ears and shook his head.
“I CAN’T HEAR SHIT,” he called. Chino repeated the ear-tap and head shake gesture.
The security response was rapid, even though it seemed an eternal wait for those in the room. The first of the grey-clad security members rounded a corner, his face obscured by a helmet and his arms wrapped around an automatic carbine. Harper sighed with relief and dropped the pistol to the floor, stepping on it to secure the weapon while he raised his paws toward the ceiling. The team stepped in behind the point man, fanning out and moving quickly through the area. Folk were raising paws, whether they were crying, bleeding, or anything else, in response to the sudden influx of security officers.
One of the officers moved into position in front of Harper, kneeling to retrieve the pistol. The officer tucked it away and stood, his fingers twisting into patterns and his paws waving. Harper watched for a bit, confused as to what was occurring, and then suddenly barked a laugh.
The security officer stood still for a moment and then began to rock with laughter. Off came the helmet to reveal the grinning face of the leopard beneath. He gestured for Harper to put his paws down. A moment later and he was scribbling on a notepad pulled from his back pocket. He held the pad out.
“Are you the one who called?”
Harper nodded. He pointed to the dead cougar.
“HE HAD A –“
The leopard raised a paw, grimacing in the face of the volume. He waved gently toward the ground and Harper concentrated on modulating his volume.
“He had the pistol. That jaguar had a shotgun. We were behind a display when they shot. Chino took the cougar and I grabbed the pistol. Shot the shit out of the jag.”
“Robbery?” the officer wrote. Harper shook his head.
“Heard them talking first.” Harper paused to rub at his ears. “Rat-symp stuff. Said the fucking rats would win. They went after that dog over there because she’s some kinda muckety-muck. They wanted to take out the colony before it got started.”
“Doc will fix her up,” the officer wrote. “We’ll need a statement.”
“Yeah. I know the drill. Me and Chino both.” He waved off a medic that looked at him too closely. “We’ll be there.”
He looked at the corpses in the floor and the injured dog and slowly shook his head. When he looked up, Chino was miming the gunfight in front of the security force, a wild grin visible behind his trunk.
“This trip is gonna be interesting,” Harper muttered.