The B Team

All characters that appear in this chapter of B-Team are my own. This story is a continuation of the original four part "B-Team". My special thanks to Tigermark for his continued assistance, participation, and encouragement in the crafting of this story.

The B Team is copyright © The Silver Coyote
2003, 2004

New Day Dawning

It was raining in Wichita. Annie stared out the windows of the small office at Cessna’s factory airport, a PCS phone held to her ear. Across the room Joe was using a desk telephone to file his flight plan and get permission for their impending departure from McConnell Air Force Base, which was just a couple of miles away to the southwest. The room's typical steel office furniture was efficient but hardly comfortable. Annie sat upright, her tail carefully looped to the side and underneath the chair’s seat. It was cool in the room, but not uncomfortably so.

"What do you mean, the material isn’t on site? We contracted for that a week ago, and Mountain West told us it was all in stock!" The fox’s voice betrayed the exasperation she felt. The remodel project in Arvada had started off well, but this was the second major material problem her company had faced in the past three weeks with that contract. The manicured claws of her right paw drummed lightly on the formica veneer covering the steel desktop next to her. "What’s the excuse this time?" she asked in mild annoyance.

"Two of their three trucks are out of service," a smooth tenor voice said in her ear. "The one is still catching up with deliveries scheduled before ours."

Annie growled under her breath for a moment as she stared at the rain falling from the gray sky outside.

"That’s not all," her business manager said from his desk back home in Englewood. "The Fultons called again, they want to schedule a meet for their home in Aspen again."

"Again?" Annie asked. "This is what, the third time?"

"Yup," Clark replied with a trace of humor in his voice. "Hey, at least you didn’t actually make the trip out there before they cancelled last time. Not like the first time." Quite some time ago Clark's boss and her husband had flown to Aspen in their own private aircraft to meet with a customer who met them at the airport to tell them that they had changed their minds and didn’t want to remodel after all.

Clark’s tail flicked briefly. A hyena in his mid-thirties, Clarkson Randsburg was a business major from Pepperdine University in southern California. Annie had found him through a referral from a business associate eleven years ago. Young and eager to learn, he had gladly accepted her offer to help run her business. Annie’s talents ran strongly in interior design and architecture, but her business acumen was moderate. As Clark learned about interior design from her, she released more and more of the business operation to his capable paws. Clark now ran the day to day operations of Annie’s business, Design By Fox, and had been doing so since Annie’s first pup Joshua was born. This freed Annie to do what she did best, meet the customers and design their dreams.

"Well," Annie sighed briefly, "I’ll give them a call and try to gauge their seriousness and intentions. I still have their number in my phone."

"There’s some good news," Clark interjected.

"Oh?" Annie inquired, her mood brightening as she picked up her PDA from the desktop beside her and removed the stylus.

"That Italian tile you asked me to order for your own bathroom has arrived. It’s here in the storeroom. Would you like me to drop it off at your home?"

"Could you?" Annie asked. "That would be so sweet, Clark. Thank you!"

Clark’s smile broadened slightly. "No problem, boss. I’ll leave it in your garage, OK?" Clark had been trusted with a key to the Latrans home a few years ago, after proving himself a trustworthy and reliable employee and friend. His relationship with Annie and Joe had grown over the years, well past that of employee. He socialized on a random but regular basis with Annie, usually as a foursome with Joe and whomever his own lady friend of the moment was. Lately he had been dating a wonderful hyena he had met on a ski trip to Park City, Utah. It turned out they lived within thirty minutes of each other in the greater Denver area.

Annie paused, jotting a note about the Fultons and Mountain West Construction Supply in her PDA with her free paw. After a moment she asked "Anything else, Clark?"

Clark paused in turn, mentally reviewing the active jobs their company was working on. "No...," he glanced at the crew schedule on the LCD display before him. "Jack’s crew is at the Arvada job now. They’ve got at least two more days in the kitchen there, so the material issue for the great room isn’t really an issue just yet. Don and Miranda are at the office job downtown, they’ll be done tomorrow. Leslie’s crew is starting at the Reynolds home, I’ll get a report from her before the end of the day." Clark took a breath. "Everything else is rolling along..."

"Good," Annie smiled finally. "I expect we’ll be home in a few hours. Would you like to have dinner with us?"

Clark considered but briefly. "I’m picking Lynn up after work tonight, but we had no real plans..."

"It’s settled then," Annie replied, grinning. "We’ll see you around six, OK?"

Clark laughed briefly. "Sure thing, Annie. I’ll bring the tile around then." He looked up as their receptionist strolled through his open office door with the morning mail. "You and Joe be careful coming home. Lynn and I will see you this evening."

"Thanks Clark. We’ll see you tonight."

"Bye Annie."

Annie closed her phone and looked up towards Joe as she placed the phone and her PDA in her purse. He was still holding the pawset to his ear, but staring vacantly out the windows at the wet airport on the other side of the glass. Parked on the small ramp directly in front of the office they occupied was a large, single-engine, high wing aircraft. According to Joe, this was their ride home.

For a single-engine aircraft it was huge. A boxy affair, it stood tall on the landing gear legs, the flight deck well forward of the wing and about head level. A fur sitting on the flight deck would look down upon a fur standing along side at the window. The vertical fin stood quite tall, almost fifteen feet high. Joe had told her the name of the aircraft, it was called a Caravan. It looked as large as some of the smaller twin-engined commuter planes she had seen Joe fly, it was certainly as large as their own Beechcraft Duke. It looked like it could carry at least eight furs and their cargo comfortably.

Annie heard Joe speak up into the telephone.

"Yes, that’s correct. We are slash alpha golf." Joe paused, scribbling some numbers on a sheet of paper. "Right, one three four point eight after liftoff, maintain runway heading to intercept the two six zero degree radial off the Wichita VORTAC, maintain four thousand." Another pause, then "Will do. Squawk seven two two four, and we’ll be looking for you in about fifteen minutes. Thanks, two zero eight fox delta." Joe hung up the phone and turned to his wife.

"Well my love, your chariot awaits and we’ve got the permission of the United States Air Force and the blessing of the FAA to proceed on our way home." He smiled at her, blue eyes shining, his tail wagging briefly. "What do you say we blow this joint and go somewhere where there’s a bit of sunshine?"

Annie glanced out the windows at the gray skies and falling rain before answering. "Sounds good to me, lover." She smiled back at him as she rose from her chair.

Joe slid off the table he had been sitting on / leaning against. The coyote and the red fox met at the door opening out onto the ramp. Annie flipped up the hood of her suede jacket and zipped it up while Joe donned his leather A2 jacket, leaving it unzipped. As they joined paws Annie leaned in to quickly kiss Joe on the side of his muzzle.

"For luck," she said in reply to the question on his face.

Joe put his free arm around her and drew her close. He kissed her for real, briefly but energetically. Smiling as they separated he said "With that kind of luck we can go far, kid."

Releasing her, he held the door open for her, and paw in paw they scampered together through the rain to the aircraft waiting on the ramp.

# # #

About ten minutes later they were at the end of the runway of the small airport. Annie sat quietly in the leather seat next to her husband while he made his last minute checks and prepared for takeoff. She was impressed with the Caravan. It was as large inside as their Duke, if not larger. The wide panel contained two CRTs, one in front of the pilot and one center panel. Many other instruments and displays were visible, but the width and height of the big panel made things look roomy and uncomplicated. The surprise had been what lay behind them, or rather what didn’t lay behind them. The rest of the cabin behind their two seats was completely empty, just a flat floor all the way back to the rear bulkhead some thirteen feet away. This was obviously a working aircraft, a large door in the back opened out to facilitate loading cargo.

Annie turned slightly in her seat, her movement somewhat restricted by the lap and shoulder belt she wore. She watched Joe as he placed a claw on this instrument or that switch, reading down a checklist as he did so. After a few moments of this, he glanced over to her and, motioning with a paw to the headphones that hung over the control column in front of her, said "You may want to put those on, Annie. This turbine gets loud at power."

She reached for her set as he put his own over his head, wiggling his ears slightly for fit. She imitated his movements, and positioned the boom mic of her headset for comfort.

"All set?" Joe’s voice sounded slightly mechanical through the intercom.

She nodded while replying "All set."

Joe winked at her as his left paw moved up to the control yolk. As he scanned the horizon about the approach end of the runway his thumb sought and pressed the small button on the yolk’s top.

"Cessna Field, Caravan two zero eight fox delta, rolling into position runway three five for takeoff."

Joe waited for a count of ten and then advanced the power lever slightly. The big single rolled slowly through a right turn into position on the short runway, straddling the center stripe. Joe smiled at his wife, taking his paw off the power lever long enough to pat her thigh reassuringly. "Here we go!" his mechanical voice said.

The paw slowly advanced the power lever to takeoff power, and Annie felt the seat back press against her. In what seemed like a very few seconds the deck below them tilted up slightly, and the rumbling of the landing gear ceased as the Caravan became airborne. Within a few more seconds they flew into cloud, rain smearing across the windshield. She sat and watched the instruments and CRT displays as Joe reached towards the CRT in front of him. Pressing a single button, the numerics displayed on a corner of Joe’s CRT changed.

The Caravan climbed smoothly through the weather. Joe smiled happily. His orientation flight yesterday had been smooth and uncomplicated, thanks to the time he had spent with the Pilot's Operating Handbooks and the simulator time he'd received at DIA a few days ago. His transition to the turbine-powered single had been effortless after all his stick time with the big iron Intermountain owned. Still, he had studied the POH carefully, and was only now becoming comfortable with the systems on this new airframe.

Joe watched the altimeter wind up towards two thousand feet indicated. Again his thumb pressed his push to talk switch.

"Wichita Departure, Caravan two zero eight fox delta is with you, off Cessna Field at two thousand for four thousand, squawking seven two two four."

A different voice, feminine, sounded in Annie’s headset. "Two zero eight fox delta, good morning, radar contact two north of Cessna Field. Climb and maintain twelve thousand, expect your turn as filed in one minute."

Joe nodded to his instruments. "Thanks Wichita, eight fox delta."

# # #

Meanwhile, out in Colorado, a cool fall breeze was blowing out of the Rockies, pushing the cloud to the east and the temperatures down. At the spacious ranch style home Tim and Janie Riggins owned in an upscale section of Arvada the pleasant morning was interrupted briefly by the chime of the doorbell.

Four faces looked up to each other from around the low table in the great room. Tim shrugged his shoulders in reply to the unspoken question in his wife's eyes, and rose from his spot on the leather sofa. His progress through the room was briefly impeded by a small coyote-fox hybrid pup streaking in front of him on the way to their front door.

Tim smiled as his baritoone voice called after the nine year old. "I'll get it, Josh. Relax."

The coyfox stopped at the door and turned to await the marmot's approach, an expectant look on his face. "Is it my mom and dad?" he asked excitedly. Back near the table in the great room another, smaller coyfox was bouncinig up and down slightly in her recliner, greatly interested in what her brother was doing.

"Let's find out," Tim said, reaching for the knob and stepping back as the door opened.

On the front porch stood a young lop-eared doe in a Federal Express uniform, one paw on a handtruck that supported a single wooden box about two by three by three feet. Out at the curb a FedEx step van idled.

"Mister Timothy Riggins?" she asked, looking up into the large marmot's brown eyes.

"Tim," the marmot said, a slight smile on his face. Tim looked down momentarily to see the coyfox eagerly wiggling into position beside him, watching silently.

"Please sign here," the doe instructed, handing him an electronic device about the size of a fat clipboard, indicating a place where he should apply his signature. "This box is quite heavy, where would you like me to put it?"

Tim smiled. "Just leave it here on the porch, I'll take care of it."

"Are you sure? It's pretty heavy. Books, I think."

"Yeah, don't worry about it. Just leave it here, thanks."

The doe wiggled the handtruck from beneath the box and then accepted her clipboard device from Tim's paw. "Thank you sir, have a pleasant day," she said as she began to turn and head toward her truck.

"Thank you, you do the same," Tim called to her as she walked away from his home. He looked down to his small companion and grinned, the coyfox looked up at him and grinned back.

Tim spied a small envelope stuck on the side of the box and carefully removed it. Opening it and removing it's contents, he scanned the shipping paperwork, recognizing the shipper address as one his boss Matt Barstock had told him to be watching for. He replaced the paperwork in the envelope and stuffed the envelope in his back pocket.

Tim turned to the pup standing beside him. "Want to help?"

"Sure!" Joshua Latrans replied. "What can I do?"

Squatting down to his level Tim looked the pup in the eye, becoming serious. "Hold your end up. But you have to do this the smart way so you don't hurt yourself. There's a right way and a wrong way to lift heavy things, you know. And if you do it the wrong way you can really hurt yourself."

Joshua looked dubious about that. He watched as Tim rose and moved to the box. Squatting again in front of it, Tim held his paws apart as though to grab one end, but kept the paws a few inches away in mid-air.

"Lift like this," Tim instructed, "with your legs. Keep the load in front of you," here Tim reached behind himself and ran a paw down his back next to his spine, "keep your spine straight, and lift with your legs." Tim rose with his empty paws in front of him to demonstrate, and then turned to the pup with a smile. "And don't twist or bend in odd directions when carrying a heavy load. Keep yourself nice and straight and squarely positioned with respect to your load. Think you can do that?"

Joshua appeared to consider this for a moment, and then nodded his head slowly, a grin forming and turning up the corners of his mouth. "Sure, I can do that."

The small coyfox and the huge marmot positioned themselves at either end of the wooden box. Imitating Tim perfectly, Joshua squatted, grabbed the box, and lifted with his legs. With Tim walking backwards they carried the box into the great room of the Riggins home and carefully reversed the lifting process to set it down on the floor in front of the low table Janie and Joshua's sister Marie were sitting near.

"What on earth do you suppose that is?" Janie asked her husband.

"Manuals from the refit shop in Chicago, I'd expect," Tim replied. He wandered across the great room and through a small dining room into their kitchen, returning a few moments later with a small prybar. Fitting this to the lid of the box, in short order Tim had the lid off and the contents of the box exposed. He whistled softly as he began removing three- and four-inch three ring binders full of documentation. "No wonder this was so heavy."

Janie and the two pups watched in silence for a few moments. Then, as the last of the binders were removed, the cougar looked up from the binders to her husband, a mildly concerned look on her face. "How much do you think that box weighed?"

Tim looked at her absently, not really thinking about her line of thought. "The shipper says ninety six pounds."

Janie drew a short, rapid breath. "Tim! You shouldn't be asking Joshua to carry that kind of weight."

Tim looked carefully at his wife and winked discreetly. "He didn't," he rumbled quietly. "He maybe lifted about twenty percent of that. It's good practice, but I didn't overload him."

Janie sighed, wondering why she had been worried. As she opened her mouth to ask another question they were interupted by the smaller of the two coyfox pups, her little seven year old voice almost a squeal of excitement.

"Uncle Tim, can Joshie and I play in the box?"

Tim looked at Janie momentarily, smiling as his wife nodded her assent.

"Sure, Marie. You can play with the lid, too, just as soon as I pull the nails out of it." By the time he had reached the end of his sentence little Marie was already in the box, paws on the edge, giggling and bouncing.

"Push me, Josh!"

Janie glanced at the carpet and then up to her husband, who was thinking along similar lines. "Tell you what," Tim said to Joshua. "Why don't we carry her out to the patio, and you can push her around on the deck out back, OK?"

Joshua nodded with a smile as he and his uncle moved towards the box. In a replay of their last work, they squatted as a team and picked up the box, still containing Joshua's sister Marie. The littlest coyfox squealed in delight and began giggling uncontrollably.

Janie watched as her husband and their best friend's son carried the box and it's happy contents out to the concrete patio below the wooden deck in their back yard. After a few moments Tim returned alone. Giggles and small voices could be heard coming from outside. Tim returned to sorting his binders on the floor of the great room.

She watched him for a few moments, her tail flicking occasionally as she glanced at the growing piles of binders. "What is all this stuff?" the cougar asked.

A smile was growing on the marmot's muzzle. "More than I expected," he replied. "Not only are the Pilot's Operating Handbooks for the King Air in here, but they sent us a complete set of service manuals and all the maintenance history on the airframe and engines, including copies of the log books." Tim scratched an ear momentarily. "My guess is that Matt is expecting us to maintain this bird, like he expects us to maintain the Caravan Joe and Annie are fetching today."

"Can you and Joe do that and fly them too?"

"Nope," Tim said with finality. "We're not A&Ps." He glanced up in time to see the uncertainty on her face. "Airframe and Powerplant mechanics," he explained. "You have to be specially trained and certified to do a lot of the maintenance and repair work on aircraft, especially those used in commercial service like ours are." Tim sat back indian style on the rug, facing her. "My guess is that Matt is either going to send us a mechanic, possibly Jerry Kitt with the C-130, or have us hire one locally."

"What are you going to do for pilots and office staff?" Janie asked quietly. "Have you and Joe talked about that?"

"A bit," Tim replied. "We didn't want to get too far into that process until we had gone to the meeting at Steve and Molly's in KC."

"When's that supposed to happen?"

"Soon." Tim picked up the first section of the Pilot's Operating Handbook for the Beechcraft King Air B-200. "As soon as our King Air is ready we're all going to go get it and then stop over in KC on the way back here." Tim looked up to his wife. "It's starting to sound like a real gathering of the clan. It was originally Steve's idea, just he and Joe and Rick and I, but Matt got wind of it, and I think it's going to turn out to be a major orientation meeting for all of us."

"So why are we girls tagging along?"

Tim grinned hugely at her. "Somebody's got to keep us out of trouble..."

# # #

"Get your sunglasses."

They had been airborne for some time now. Annie placed a claw under the line she was reading in her novel and glanced across the flight deck to her husband. The coyote was smiling back at her as he slid a pair of Raybans into position on his face.

She looked forward through the windshield, and then out her window. Flat gray met her gaze, they were still in the clouds. She turned back to Joe. "Why?" she asked simply.

Joe grinned in reply. "You’ll see..."

Not ten seconds later the gray surrounding their aircraft suddenly grew bright, and then the Caravan popped out of the cloud into blazing sunlight. Annie squinted as she reached for her purse to fetch her own sunglasses.

When the Oakleys were in place on her face she turned to Joe once again, a smile on her muzzle even though her tone was slightly accusatory. "OK, wise guy, how did you know?"

The coyote tapped the side of his head as he winked at her behind his sunglasses, then turned to the view ahead through the windshield.

She giggled slightly and returned her attention to the view outside. The cloud raced by below them, a solid cottony carpet. Above them the blue sky arched overhead, the sun almost but not quite directly above them. Behind them a high overcast caused the air mass to the east to look very dark and threatening indeed.

After a few moments sightseeing Annie turned her attention to her husband once again. "Where are we?"

Joe pressed a button on the CRT in the panel between them, and the display changed to something approximating a road map. "Well...," he paused, looking at the display. "Remember that little town you had a job in that involved working with an old caboose?"

Annie smiled. "La Junta. Yes, I remember that job." A retired Santa Fe Railway employee had asked Annie to refit the interior of an old caboose as a guestroom. It had actually become quite a job, requiring the services of an ironworker to fabricate fittings and do some structural welding for her. The customer had been quite pleased with the results, and according to Clark they had received three referral jobs from him.

Joe pointed to a dot on the map with the letters KLHX near it. "There’s La Junta," he said, and when she had nodded he moved his claw to the center of the CRT to a little icon shaped like an aircraft, "and here we are, near the town of Lamar."

"Why are we so far south?" Annie asked.

Joe was, once again, impressed with Annie’s aeronautical knowledge. A straight line drawn between Wichita and their destination at Centennial would have passed well north of their present position, and she was apparently quite aware of this fact.

"There was a big storm up around the Kansas / Nebraska border, just east of Colorado. We came a bit south to avoid the worst of it." Joe paused, pressing a button to return the CRT to it’s previous display of weather radar. "The weather is improving. We’ll be able to see the ground by the time we get up around Castle Rock. Denver is reporting clear at the moment."

Annie sat and watched her husband as he looked outside of the aircraft, scanning the horizon ahead. He looked calm and happy, his ears alert, his nose wiggling slightly now and then, inquisitively. His tail was still, but a permanent smile had been creasing his face since they had departed Wichita some time ago.

Annie thought back to the conversation and intimacy they had shared the night following Joe’s last flight in the C-130. A warmth began to spread from her heart outward to her limbs. She really did need this fur, this aviator. She couldn’t imagine him doing anything but this, couldn’t imagine him being the coyote he was, the fixture in her life that he had become, without aviation being a central part of his life. She grinned to herself. Not exactly the center, she thought.

She unbuckled the belts that held her in her seat. Pulling her left leg up and under her behind, she leaned carefully over the center of the flight deck and kissed her husband gently on the side of his muzzle while her left paw caressed the back of his head, her claws running through his silvering hair.

Joe looked at her, a relaxed but quizzical expression on his face.

She stared into his sunglasses for a moment or two before he returned his attention to the world outside.

Joe scanned the horizon carefully, and then checked his instruments briefly.

"What?" he asked hesitantly, his smile growing as he returned his attention to the fox at his side.

She lowered her eyes for effect. "How come we’ve never made love in an airplane?" she asked with a soft, sultry voice.

"What?" He stared at her in surprise.

"You heard me, how come we’ve never made love in an airplane?" Her paw continued to caress the back of his head, her claws gently scratching behind an ear.

Joe laughed gently. She looked incredibly attractive, even with the bulk of the headset / boom mic combination covering up most of her pretty ears. "Geez, Annie. Somebody’s got to watch where the airplane is going." He glanced forward momentarily, outside and then in to the panel, and then returned his attention to her. "It’s not like we can turn on the autopilot and have some fun..."

She sighed and pretended to pout, but her smile gave away her true feelings. She was teasing him. Wasn’t she?

"OK," she growled quietly. "I can see that." Suddenly her pout disappeared, replaced by a feral look of pure lust. "But if you ever figure out a way..."

He laughed, and she laughed with him.

# # #

It was overcast in central Ohio, but the rain had yet to start falling. The "East Ramp" on the old part of Port Columbus International was relatively quiet except for a particular large hangar on the east side. This hangar exuded noise consistent with furs at work, and lights had blazed into the night from windows and doorways that seemed to be always open.

Inside the main hangar at Intermountain Charter there was much commotion and activity as The Bitch was beginning her bid to become airworthy once again. Various transactions of dubious veracity had been conducted between four different furs of similar age and background, scattered across the country. The locally visible results of these transactions were a replacement wing section and two freshly overhauled Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines coming to Intermountain for The Bitch, and the departure of the Lear 55 business jet.

Matt Barstock was a happy fur these days. Old friends in far-flung corners of the country had once again proven the notion that mutual history did indeed count for something. Old timers with more hours in logbooks than dollars in the bank, with more ratings than fingers to count them on, operated businesses in unlikely places as divergent as the scorching deserts of Arizona and the frigid coast of Alaska. Former Military Air Transport Service jocks all, these guys could maintain an Air Force with nothing more than a couple pickup trucks full of parts, a hundred gallons of kerosene, a healthy vocabulary, and the sweat of their brow.

A small amount of pride swelled within Matt's chest as he stared out the window at the floor of Intermountain's hangar. The noise of rivet guns and welding rigs was suppressed for the most part in the small maintenance office Matt occupied, but the energy being expended below also flowed through his veins and coursed through his nervous system. From his seat at the desk before the window the Labrador Retriever could see several furs on the wing of the C-130, working to attach aluminum skin over the new spar. Others worked with engine controls in the wing box area, while still others were gathered around the nose of the ship, examining the doppler radar system that had been exposed with the removal of the nose cone. Appearing to be almost an afterthought, a lone fur on a furlift was high up at the top of the fin, almost forty feet off the deck, working to secure a new fin cap. There must have been over a dozen furs at work in the hangar, it was a veritable beehive of activity. Matt could see the bulk of his senior A&P mechanic as the brown bear moved between the groups of workfurs, checking the progress of each task.

His baby was coming back...

Matt sipped coffee as he listened to his telephone call connect and heard a familiar greeting. "So Tim," he responded to the greeting, "did you get the package from Trans-Act?"

"Hey, Matt. Yep, it came just today on the FedEx. Quite a complete set, including the airframe and engine logbooks and a very thorough maintenance history. The previous owner was quite methodical and detailed in his record-keeping."

"That's why I snapped these up when they went on the market. I know the fur who owned them. He never flew freight, and his customers are very much the blue sky travelers. I doubt these airframes have ever seen serious IFR!"

"Sweet," Tim Riggins replied. "So what's on your mind, boss?"

Matt smiled into his phone, knowing that he bore good news. "I just got off the phone with Trans-Act. Your bird is ready to be picked up..."

"Hot damn!" Tim interrupted gleefully.

"... and you guys can go shag it down just as soon as you complete your simulator training at DIA. How's that going, anyway?"

"Joe's still got a couple turns in the B-200 simulator, I've finished the program," Tim replied. "But Joe did the Caravan tour first, I have yet to complete my sim time in that."

"OK," Matt grinned, "so you're the B-200 pilot."

"For now," Tim said. "We're both still pretty steep on the learning curve."

"When you guys set up a pick-up date, coordinate it with Steve and we'll all get together in KC and figure out who's doing what where."

Tim paused, unsure how to ask the question and not sure he even wanted to know the answer. "Uh, Matt? Do you have any solid plans for who goes where?"

Matt laughed gently. "Let's cut through the BS here, OK Tim?" Matt paused, gauging his response. "I think I can be pretty comfortable with the assumption that you and Joe aren't going to try and talk me into hubbing you guys anywhere except Centennial, correct?"

"Well yeah..." Tim replied. "Of course."

"And I think we can safely assume that Rick sort of likes hubbing from Columbus, seeing as he lives just down the road, right?"


"So what we're really talking about is Steve, right? And how he's gonna take having his bird moved from Columbus to Centennial, right?"

"Yeah, Matt, I guess..."

Matt laughed. "Timmy, there's stuff afoot that you and Joe know nothing about. Some things have been happening around here while The Bitch was off line. Some good, some better. It'll all come out in the wash in KC."

In spite of himself Tim felt buoyed up by Matt's optimism. He grinned into his phone.

"So don't worry, my friend. You and Joe set your schedules for the pickup and the meeting, and just keep me in the loop. Angie and I will fill you all in about everything in KC, OK?"

"Sure thing, boss," Tim replied. "We'll be in touch."

"All right then. I'll catch you later. Say hi to Janie for me, OK?"

"Will do, Matt. Say hi to Angie and Jerry for us. Take care..."

"See ya later..."

# # #

Not too long after Annie's "proposition" her banter with her husband was interrupted by the air traffic control system.

"Caravan eight fox delta, contact Denver Approach on one three two point seven five. Good day."

Joe thumbed his push to talk switch. "Thanks, Center. Eight Fox Delta going to Denver Approach on one three two point seven five, see ya later."

Joe reached towards the panel and turned some knobs. Pressing a button, the numbers on the CRT in front of him changed. He smiled at Annie, saying "This is where things start to get busy, love. You’ll excuse me if I have to stop chatting for a while."

She patted his knee. "No problem, my love."

Joe pressed the thumb switch once again. "Good afternoon Denver Approach, Caravan two zero eight fox delta is with you on one three two point seven five."

A male voice boomed forth into their headphones. "Caravan eight fox delta, good afternoon. Ident, expect the ILS for runway three five right at Centennial. Can you give me one hundred and eighty knots to the outer marker?"

Joe considered this for only a moment as he pressed a blinking orange button on the transponder head in the panel. "Approach, eight fox delta can maintain one eighty to Casse."

"Thank you fox delta, radar contact six southeast of Castle Rock at ten thousand. Your traffic is a Beechcraft ninteen hundred on the approach about ten miles ahead, and we have a seven oh seven coming up from Pueblo, he’ll be on the approach behind you in a minute or two."

"Eight fox delta is taking the ILS for three five right, no contact on the traffic," Joe replied.

As they flew northbound the remnants of the broken cloud deck below them disappeared all together. Annie smiled as she recognized the small town of Parker sliding towards them below.

"Southern four hundred, contact Centennial tower on one one eight point nine at Casse, expect the visual to three five right."

"Southern four hundred will contact Centennial tower at Casse, have a good one!"

Joe trimmed the aircraft for a high speed descent and set up his ILS approach. Engaging the autopilot in approach mode, he turned to Annie with a quick smile. "Know where you are?"

Annie nodded, pointing out her window to about her two o’clock position. "There’s Parker," she said confidently.

Joe nodded and turned to the windshield, pointing. And there’s Cherry Creek Reservoir. Centennial is just this side of it."

Annie squinted through the plexiglas for a few moments. Spying the body of water ahead, she said "I see the reservoir."

A voice with a flat, mid-western accent interrupted their dialog. "Denver Approach, Landstar six is with you on the profile for Centennial three five right."

"Landstar six," the controller replied, "slow to one eight zero knots, traffic on the approach eight miles ahead of you is a Cessna Caravan and we have a Beechcraft 1900 inside the outer marker."

There was a moment’s pause, and then the mid-western twang replied "Landstar six has the Caravan in sight, we’ll follow him down."

Joe looked around, scanning the horizon, and then reacquired the airport in his windshield. He glanced down to his instruments for a moment, and then looked back up to airport. As he was concentrating on the view ahead he felt something soft and warm briefly touch the side of his muzzle.

"I love you," Annie said as he turned to her.

"Caravan eight fox delta, can you take a visual approach?"

Joe winked quickly at his wife as he turned his attention to the controller’s question. "Affirmative, Approach, we have Centennial in sight."

"Eight fox delta, side step to the left runway please, plan to land three five left."

"Wilco, eight fox delta is off the profile, sidestepping to three five left approach." Joe banked the Caravan gently to the left.

"Thank you, eight fox delta. Speed and profile at your discretion. Landstar six, traffic ahead sidestepping to three five left visual approach, you have no other traffic in the area."

"Landstar six has the approach. Thanks, fox delta!"

Joe pulled the power lever back a bit, and the Caravan began to slow as he banked right to align the aircraft with the approach to the new runway. He re-trimmed the aircraft for it’s normal descent speed.

Centennial airport slowly grew in their windshield. Joe disengaged the autopilot and selected approach flaps. He and Annie could hear the whine of the flap extension, which ceased after a few seconds. Joe made visual confirmation of flaps and then rested his paw on the power lever. The large single continued to slide towards runway three five left. Soon Joe and Annie heard the beeping of the morse code identifier for the Casse outer marker in their headphones.

"Caravan eight fox delta, traffic a Jet Ranger lifting off from the helipad at the northeast end of the field, he will be departing to the west."

Joe could see the navigation strobes of the helicopter, even though it was far enough away as to be indistinct itself. "Eight fox delta has the traffic."

"Eight fox delta, contact Centennial tower on one one eight point nine, good day."

"Thanks approach, eight fox delta going to Centennial tower. See ya later."

Joe applied another ten degrees of flap and paused, listening to the whine of the flaps deploying. When the noise stopped he re-trimmed for approach, made a final adjustment to his radio system, and pressed his push to talk switch. "Centennial tower, Caravan two zero eight fox delta with you on final for three five left."

There was a brief pause, and then "Caravan eight fox delta, cleared to land. Wind from three two five at seven, traffic a Jet Ranger off the helipad at the north end, transiting west at five hundred feet AGL."

Joe nodded. "Eight fox delta has the Jet Ranger and we are cleared to land, three five left."

Joe pulled off a bit more power as the Caravan continued to settle towards the asphalt runway. He selected another five degrees of flaps and re-trimmed yet again. Their airspeed was now dipping below ninety knots. The approach slope indicator lights glowed along the right edge of the runway, the nearer set white, the far set red.

Joe and Annie watched as the twin engined aircraft on the adjacent runway ahead of them turned off to the right at a taxiway.

Within a minute they were flaring, and then the Caravan's wheels chirped a bit as they spun up on the runway. The rollout was gentle and short.

"Eight fox delta, contact ground control on one two one point eight off the active."

As Joe aimed towards a taxiway exit from the runway he replied "Fox delta." He pulled the flap selector up to zero degrees and he and Annie heard the flaps retract into the wings.

The Caravan rolled to a stop on a taxiway between the two runways. Joe looked back in the direction they had just come from and saw the landing lights of a large jet transport approaching the longer of the two runways.

"Landstar six?" Annie asked, a small smile on her muzzle as she tilted her head towards the distant lights.

"That would be my guess," Joe replied, placing his thumb on the push to talk switch on his yolk. "Centennial ground, Caravan eight fox delta off three five left at taxiway B fourteen, taxi for the east ramp."

An older sounding male voice answered them. "Eight fox delta, hold short of three five right, landing traffic is a seven oh seven."

"Eight fox delta holding short of three five right," Joe replied.

As they waited for the big jet to touch down Joe undid his seat and shoulder belts. Half turning in his seat he smiled at his wife. "Where were we?" he asked playfully.

She grinned at him as she released her own belts again. "Well," she almost purred as she leaned into him, "I was right here." Her lips found his, and they kissed until the roar of the ancient airliner’s turbojets in full reverse roared by as it decelerated on the long runway.

"Mmmm, very nice," Joe said as he sat up straight in his seat.

"Eight fox delta, you are cleared to cross runway three five right. Are you familiar with the field?"

"Affirmative," Joe replied as Annie sat up straight in her seat, running a paw over her blouse and jacket to smooth them.

"Eight fox delta, taxi to the hotel ramp via taxiway A and taxiway C, caution activity in the run-up area at runway one zero. Good day."

Joe advanced the power lever a bit and the Caravan began to roll across the wide strip of asphalt that was runway three five right.

Annie glanced at her watch. It was only a bit past the lunch hour. She looked at Joe again.

"Will anybody be there?" She was referring to the hangar Intermountain Charter had recently leased in the complex of hangars at the east end of Centennial airport.

"I doubt it," Joe replied as they turned onto the long parallel taxiway. They both knew that Tim and Janie Riggins were watching their pups while they had made this ferry flight, bringing the company’s brand new single-engine freighter home from the factory at Wichita. Matt and Angie were in Columbus, as far as they knew, and Intermountain had yet to interview any office staff for the new western operation. No furs should be at the hangar, and the only plane there should be their own Beechcraft Duke, recently transferred there from Jeffco. "The place should be empty," Joe said with a trace of a question in his voice.

Annie grinned, the tips of her fangs were plainly visible. Other indications of her mood were becoming apparent, as well. "You have one small task yet to complete, coyote mine."

Joe looked at her as the Caravan turned into taxiway C, drawing closer to Intermountain’s new hangar. To his wordless gaze she elaborated.

"A matter of a small omission from our lifestyle," she giggled briefly.

Joe grinned back at his wife, his tail casually thumping against the frame of his seat as he slowly shook his head from side to side in happy resignation. It was going to be a wild afternoon.


To Chapter Fifteen: The Gathering of The Clan.

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