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




The Gathering of The Clan

"There he is!" The small paw pointed towards the horizon ahead.

A tail wagged once, slowly, in excitement. "Where?"

A pause. "Uhh... about one oíclock, high."

Joe smiled evilly. He could smell blood in the air. "Can you guess how far?"

"A couple of miles?"

Joe scanned the horizon to his right and ahead. He could see the twin-engined aircraft ahead of him, about a mile and a half off and about a thousand feet above. He glanced at the airspace around him, making sure no other aircraft were sneaking up on him as he closed on his victim. The sky appeared empty except for the two of them. Joe quickly scanned his instruments, paying attention to the power systems indications, and then looked up quickly to reacquire the target.

Joe banked to the right a bit to position himself to come up from below and directly behind his target aircraft. As their ship moved directly behind the twin ahead he briefed his right-seater on the impending attack strategy.

"OK, your job is to keep my tail clear. Weíre going to close and gun him down, no missiles. Your job is to make sure nobody sneaks up on us, Iím going to concentrate on the target. Clear?" Joe banked left, directly behind the target far ahead.

A high pitched voice betrayed excitement in the one word response. "Yep!" Joe glanced at the canid to his right out of the corner of his eye. His ears were up, nose alive in anticipation of the chase, a bit of his tongue hanging over his bottom teeth from a slightly open mouth. His grin was so wide it looked painful.

Joeís smile broadened into a roguish grin, fangs bared. His right paw advanced the twin throttles of his own aircraft to the firewall, the ship surged forward as if in afterburner. Joeís adrenaline kicked up a notch, but outwardly he was calm. His eyes were a brilliant blue, almost seeming to glow. His erect ears and nose formed a gunsight of sorts, tracking the target as their aircraft maneuvered, jinking a bit to avoid presenting anyone with a stable target.

As they quickly closed to less than five hundred yards Joe broke his concentration long enough to ask "Traffic?"

His right-seaterís head was in constant motion, swiveling around, looking high and low. "Weíre clear."

The twin ahead suddenly banked left. Joe skidded out to the right, trying to stay in the targetís blind spot directly behind, to avoid detection. The target reversed bank and resumed his original course, Joe skidded left a bit to stay in trail. As they closed rapidly detail of the target became apparent. The rotating beacon on the belly, the high T-tail empennage, even the faint exhaust traces were readily observed. As they closed to less than two hundred and fifty yards antennae became visible on the fuselage.

"How close are you going to get?" a mildly concerned third voice asked.

"Closer than this," Joe growled, concentrating on the target.

"Is that wise?"

"Iím not going to miss," Joe said flatly. "I owe this fur a debt that I intend to repay in full, with interest."

Paws on the throttles, retarding them slightly, Joe squinted through his sunglasses as the shape of their target began to fill the windshield. Their ship bounced a bit in propwash. They were closing to less than a hundred yards and now climbing slightly above the other shipís tail.

"Traffic?" Joe barked, glancing about quickly himself before returning his unblinking stare to the twin ahead.

"Clear!" came the immediate response.

"Here we go, gang," Joe muttered under his breath as he nosed his ride over a bit. His left paw came up to a button on his control yolk and hovered there for a scant second as his right paw drove the throttles to the firewall once again. The target swelled in the windshield as they closed to fifty yards in trail, accelerating. As his thumb jammed down on the yolk button Joe hollered "Yee-haw! Guns! Guns! Guns!" This was followed by a maniacal laugh as he rolled the yolk to the left, breaking hard, zooming past the left side of his target as he dove away in a bank, flashing his belly to their victim.

# # #

In the King Air B-200 Timmy Riggins grinned at the receding shape of the Beechcraft Duke as it banked away below and ahead of them, the maniacal laugh still dying away in their headphones. As the Duke dove away he turned to the two passengers he carried with a smile on his muzzle.

"Your daddy," he told Marie Latrans, "is a nut job."

"A what?" the seven year old coyfox asked in confusion.

Janie Riggins smiled at Marie. "Uncle Timmy thinks your daddy is goofey." She giggled briefly.

The Duke was now banking right and climbing, slowing to allow the King Air to catch up.

Timmy pressed his own push to talk switch with his left thumb. Laughing gently, he called "Clean kill, Joe. I never saw you coming."

In the near distance they saw the Duke waggle itís wings a bit before it banked away again to the left, still climbing.

"Thanks, Timmy. Iíll form up on your port side."

They were high over the very southeast corner of Arkansas, following the BNSF mainline from Chicago to Kansas City. They were VFR at ten thousand five hundred feet on an achingly clear winter morning, playing the games that pilots play when multiple airframes are involved.

They had departed Midway less than three minutes apart, but it had taken all this distance for Joe and his "crew" to find them. Once clear of the congested Chicago airspace, the pilots had switched over to an air-to-air radio frequency, chatting briefly about position and speed as Joe endeavored to find the King Air ahead of him.

Joe and Annie and their pups had flown Timmy and Janie out to Chicago Midway in their Duke to pick up Intermountainís newly refurbished King Air. The pilots had shared the flying chores while the ladies occupied the rear-facing club seats of the Duke. Annie and Janie had chatted about many things, including quite a bit of dialog regarding the staffing of Intermountainís new office in Denver. The Latrans pups, ever the happy travelers, had been in the forward facing rear seats, dividing their time between the scenery and a couple of small video games they had brought along. The two-channel intercom installed in the Duke allowed all of them to wear headphones and communicate with the pilots, yet Janie and Annie could maintain a separate conversation without interfering with the "work" of flying going on up front.

Before departing Chicago Midway little Marie had asked to fly with the Riggins on the new ship, so Joshua had flown copilot on the Duke leaving Midway, with Annie being the voice of reason from behind.

Timmy looked to his left. The Duke had swung well away from the King Air. Tim observed Joe about a quarter mile off, paralleling his track about fifty feet above his altitude, and slowly drawing closer. Within a couple of miles the Duke was firmly in formation a hundred feet off the King Airís port side wingtip and slightly in trail.

"You guys look good!" Joeís voice called over the air-to-air radio channel. "How's she fly?"

"Great," Tim called back. "Like a dream. No anomalies so far, everything works as advertised. She's a sweet ride."

Tim turned his attention to the cougar sitting beside him as her voice sounded in his headphones. "I've never seen their airplane in flight before," Janie commented with a bit of wonder in her tone. "It's very sleek looking, isn't it?"

Tim nodded to her, winking just before he returned his attention to the Duke hovering off his left wing. Pressing his push-to-talk switch once again, he complimented his wingman. "Damn, that is a sexy bird you and Annie fly in! So says my copilot!"

Joeís laugh returned in the headphones of the King Airís occupants. "I had to find something to fly worthy of my fox, didnít I!"

Timmy laughed quietly as he looked again to his own wife. "Always ready with the good line, our friend Joe is," he said to her on the intercom, shaking his head slowly. "Wish I could think up those things to say about you as quickly as he does."

Janie smiled. "There are other ways you have of expressing your love, honey. Ways I much prefer to talk."

Tim Riggins laughed again as his right paw came up to touch the small coyfox head hovering between the front seats. He ran a paw gently across the side of Marie Latransí head as she stared out the port side window at the Duke nearby.

"I see Joshie!" she squealed, and in a flash of a little fox tail she was back in her seat behind Tim, nose to the plexiglas, making faces at her brother.

# # #

"What are you doing?" Annie asked her son.

Joshua was making raspberry noises with his nose pressed against the starboard forward window of the Duke.

"Iím making faces at Marie," he replied matter-of-factly.

Annie sat in the middle, rear-facing seats of the Duke. Her belts were off, and she had arranged herself in such a way that she was semi-reclined, facing the starboard side. Her left arm was over the seat backs between she and her husband and her forearm was draped across Joeís upper torso, her paw gently scratching his chest.

She watched her son for a moment as he attempted to stretch his mouth in some horrid way with his paws, then absently asked "How long until we get to Kansas City, Joe?"

Joe glanced at the CRT before him briefly, then replied "Not too long. Weíre going to have to start listening to the ATIS soon to get a picture of whatís happening." He reached up with his right paw to pat the foxís paw on his chest.

Annie patted his chest in reply and leaned forward to give his left ear a brief lick. The small gesture brought smiles to the muzzles of both the coyote and the fox.

Joe reached forward to his radio stack and dialed up 120.950 in the standby window of his number one communications radio. Swapping this frequency into the active display, he then dilaed up 128.200 in the standby window and then checked to make sure that the volume was properly positioned. Dropping his paw to the number two radio, which he had been using to communicate with Tim in the King Air, he dialed up 126.625 in the standby display and then swapped the frequency over into the active display. Immediately a mechanical sounding voice was relating the pertinent information for arrivals and departures at Kansas City International.

Joe listened through one complete recitation of the information and then swapped the frequencies on his number two radio, returning to the air-to-air frequency and calling out to his friend. "Hey Timmy, have you got information Bravo for KC?"

There was a momentís pause, and Joe could see Tim Riggins manipulating something on the panel of the King Air. "Yeah," Timís voice replied, "I just copied it."

"You want to take the lead?"

Joe could see Tim nod. "OK. They wonít give us the overhead break at KCI, so weíll separate before we call in, OK?"

"That works," Joe replied. "Hey, I think weíve got a couple of minutes for a picture before we part company..."

Tim looked over to Joe momentarily. "Sure, slide on in. Lemme comb my fur first..."

Joe laughed. He was about to ask Annie to get her camera when she removed her paw from his chest and began rummaging in her purse. In a few moments she had the digital camera in a window as the Duke gently edged slightly ahead of and in to within fifty feet of the King Air.

"Smile!", Annie called into the intercom.

# # #

A small group of furs stood in a semi-circle in front of a derelict aircraft on the joint cargo ramp at Kansas City International. A wolf, a Lab Retriever, a Calico, and a skunk stared in shock and awe at the hulk of aluminum that sat before them. Oil dripped from nacelles. The finish was several shades of dull gray, punctuated by patches of raw aluminum. Here and there on the airframe fresh gray paint covered old registration and insignia markings. The door on the port side had two by-God bullet holes in it. The brisk breeze that blew across the main runways of Kansas City International moaned through the gaps in the wings and tail surfaces, causing the ancient aircraft to sound as though it were possessed by demons. Which, perhaps, it was.

"Jesus Christ!" the retriever grumbled. "Itís aged ten years in a single flight from Arizona!" He unzipped his A2 jacket and removed it, handing it to the Calico.

"Whatís another ten on something this old?" the wolf replied as he removed a pair of leather gloves. "Hey, count our blessings, Matt. The weather was good and she didnít catch fire!"

The wolf stuffed his gloves in a back pocket of his denim jeans and placed an arm around the skunk. As he hugged her she turned her head up to him, kissing the side of his muzzle. "Iím glad you made it home safely," she said quietly. "I was worried about you."

"Why?" the wolf asked, staring into her beautiful hazel eyes.

"Ever since that flight in the thunderstorm..." her voice trailed off.

"Molly, itís fine. Nothing happened. Itís all good." Letting go of his fiancť Steve Lupus patted his chest while gesturing towards the derelict. "Itíll take more than this piece of crap to knock me down!"

Matt Barstock grinned silently at Steve. That was exactly the kind of attitude he liked to see in his pilots. They would need all the bravado and skill they could muster to keep these birds aloft and financially solvent. He stepped closer to the Calico holding his jacket and put an arm around her. Ducking his head a bit, he kissed her in greeting.

Angie Rockwell sighed as the kiss ended. She was smiling as Matt looked down into her eyes. She knew what he wanted. Information.

"I spoke with Tim Riggins about forty five minutes ago," she said quietly, a hint of a smile on her small muzzle. "They were getting ready to leave Midway. They should be here fairly soon."

"The girls with them?"

"And the Latrans pups, too," Angie replied.

Matt stood tall, a grin lighting up his crusty muzzle. "Good." He winked at Steve and Molly. "One big happy family."

A cell phone rang. Matt and Steve both reached for theirs, but it was Matt who answered his.

"Yeah?"

The others couldnít hear the caller, but could see the smile on Mattís face broaden.

"Weíre over at Joint Cargo. Look for the biggest piece of shit you can see and park next to it." Matt paused for a few seconds and then laughed out loud as a tinny voice could be heard to exclaim "Oh no!" in the cell phoneís earpiece.

"Thatís us!" he confirmed. "See you in a minute."

As Matt flipped his phone closed three sets of eyes looked at him with the same question.

"That," he smiled grandly, "was surprise number one."

A scant couple of minutes later a rather drab looking but healthy sounding Cessna P-210 taxied up to the ramp next to the derelict and shut down. As the doors opened Steve Lupusí jaw dropped.

"Oh my God... it isnít!"

"Randy" Andy Clarkson stepped down from the pilots seat of the Cessna to the ramp. The skunk wore one of those smiles that can barely contain great news. Spreading his arms in a shrug, he asked "Well? Whaddya think?"

"Son of a bitch!" Steve yelled as he jumped towards the skunk and gave him a bear hug. "Youíve been holding out on me, you tight lipped mustelid!" Steve let go of Randy and punched him in the upper arm, causing the skunk to drop into a defensive posture and throw a couple punches back. A brief, friendly scuffle ensued.

While the boys were playing, the far door of the P-210 opened. A pretty young tabby cat stepped down to the asphalt, smiling shyly at the collected furs. The wolf and skunk paid her no mind, continuing to wrestle.

Matt recognized the tabby immediately. "Melanie! Good to see you, kiddo. Welcome to Kansas City."

The tabby nodded as she ducked under the starboard wing strut of the Cessna and approached them. Under the port wing the wolf and the male skunk continued to wrestle, giggling and huffing with the exertion.

"Hi Matt." She turned to the Calico and smiled warmly. "Hi Angie, good to see you again."

"Hello Melanie. How are you?"

The tabby sighed happily, if somewhat tiredly. "Good, thank you." Turning to the female skunk, Melanie smiled again and said "Forgive me, but I canít remember your name. Youíre Steveís fiancť, arenít you? I know Iíve met you before..."

The skunk smiled in return. "Molly Lomax," she introduced herself, extending a paw. "At the bar at Port Columbus a few weeks ago. The night Steve and Joe tried to kill The Bitch." The skunk grinned at that, her tail waving briefly. As they shook paws a glint of light caught Mollyís eye.

"Of course, Molly. I'm sorry." She waved her left paw briefly. "So much has been going on..." Melanie nodded as she dropped her paw following the shake, watching the two males as they continued to wrestle.

The wolf and skunk circled each other, each with a paw on the otherís opposite shoulder, the other arm held out, looking for an opportunity.

Suddenly Steve lunged, but Randy was too quick and spun away and around, wrapping Steveís shoulders from behind in a broad arm, holding on just long enough to gently tweak an ear. Then the skunk jumped back and away as the wolf yelped, laughing as he loudly proclaimed "Gotcha!"

The wolf and the skunk glared happily at each other before standing up straight and shaking paws.

"Good to see you again, Randy," Steve huffed.

"Yeah," Randy huffed back. "Likewise."

Steve nodded towards Melanie and drew a deep breath. "Hiya, kiddo."

Then the two males suddenly bear hugged again, slapping each otherís backs.

Molly looked at Melanie, rolling her eyes. Melanie giggled loudly.

"I guess weíd better get used to this..." Molly giggled as well. She made a point of looking at Melanieís left paw. "Is that what it looks like?" she asked, pointing with a paw of her own.

The tabby blushed beneath her fur and held out her paw for Molly to inspect. Adopting the voice of a young female, the tabby squealed "Yes!" in reply. Her obvious joy was infectious.

Immediately Angie and Molly were all over the tabby, "oohh"ing and "aahh"ing at the diamond engagement ring that graced her left paw.

Matt looked at the wolf and skunk, who were still slightly winded.

"That was fast, Randy. Congratulations"

"Yeah," said Steve. "What gives? You in hyperdrive?" He grinned, gesturing at the Cessna and then towards the tabby. "Congratulations, by the way."

Facing the wolf, Randy began to explain briefly. "Matt knows most of this. After that fire on board, I decided that I was not going to go down without being a contributor. So I sold off virtually everything I had and started taking lessons over at Bolton Field. I got my private and instrument tickets there in six weeks of daily training, flying as much as three times a day. Iím working on my multi- engine ticket now at Rickenbacker. I hope to have my commercial rating by this spring."

"Whereíd you get the 210?" Steve pointed at the Cessna, still cooling on the ramp.

"It belongs to my instructor at Bolton. He lets me use it now and then."

Steve nodded. "Sweet." He looked at the cluster of female fur, still virtually drooling while gabbing about diamonds and plans. A smile crept over his muzzle. Nodding towards the ladies he asked "Whatís up with that?"

Randy sighed in a manner very similar to how Melanie had sighed earlier. He glanced back and forth between Matt and Steve as he related the next bit, as it would be news to Matt, also. "She and I were dating when I made the decision to fly. After I sold off my stuff I didnít have any place to stay. I was gonna hole up at the FBO at Bolton, but she invited me over for dinner one night and... well..." Randy blushed slightly. "Well, you see the ring."

Steve stuck out his paw again. "Congratulations, buddy!" They shook firmly.

"Yeah," Matt said, holding out his paw as well. "Surprise number two! Congratulations, Randy." He took the skunkís paw in turn, shaking it warmly.

"Our family is growing," Matt said to Steve, smiling. "Randy will be coming on board with us very shortly, I expect. There's a pilot's job waiting for him at Intermountain, as soon as he's ready for it."

Steve nodded as he began to reply, but his comment was interrupted by Randy's question.

"Where's Rick?"

Matt's face adopted a mildly concerned expression. "He and Dakota were supposed to be here to pick us up with a van. They were supposed to drive in from Columbus this morning so they could rent a van and meet us here."

"Drive?" Randy asked. "Rick? Why would he drive here?"

The two canids grinned at the skunk. Matt gestured for Steve to reply.

"Well, Randy, it's like this..," and Steve began to relate to Randy the story of Rick and Dakota as he knew it, starting with their arrival as a couple at Columbus the morning of The Bitch's last flight out from there. As Steve progressed into his story a look of recognition grew on Randy's face and he began to nod his head slowly.

"Yeah, I know her," he interrupted. "She and Melanie work together, remember?"

"Well," replied Steve, "they're an item now. Pretty solid, from what we've seen and heard."

Randy raised an eyebrow, not knowing that he was still missing a bit of information. "What's that got to do with him driving here?"

"Them," interjected Matt. "They're driving here, together. You'll understand when you see the car. Her ride."

Randy looked puzzled. "The car?"

"The car," Steve said with a grin. "You know what Dakota looks like, imagine an IROC Camaro built for her."

Randy smiled. "Fast, huh?"

"Low, fast, and flame red. She's had a lot of after-market work done to that ride, according to what Rick was telling us."

Randy laughed. "Sweet! So they could be anywhere between here and DC, burning up the asphalt, is that what you're telling me?"

As Steve and Matt both began to nod their heads the conversation was derailed by another ringing cellular phone. Again, it was Mattís.

"Yeah?"

Matt winked to the male furs with him, mouthing "Tim Riggins" as he listened to his phone.

"Weíre at the Joint Cargo ramp," Matt said into his phone. "Howíd she do?"

He listened for a few moments as Tim described the flying characteristics of Intermountainís new King Air.

"Good Timmy. Just taxi on over here and look for the biggest piece of shit you can see. Weíll be standing next to it."

Matt listened for a few more seconds and then said "OK." He closed his cell phone and turned to the collected furs, all of whom were now looking at him.

"Surprise number three coming up!" he said. "Timmy is on the ground with the King Air, Joe is on the approach with his Duke. Itís coming together, kids, all the family will soon be under one roof!"

# # #

As the Latransí Duke rolled down taxiway Bravo northbound at Kansas City International, a familiar shape hove into their field of view as they passed the terminal area and fire station.

"Good Lord, Annie," Joe exclaimed. "Look at that!"

The fox peered out the windshield, her head hovering so close to Joeís that their ears almost touched.

Annie drew a sharp breath. "Is that what I think it is?"

"It canít be!" Joe exclaimed incredulously. "She didnít look that bad before the work started. I canít believe Jerry would outshop something that looked that messed up." Joe's mind raced for an explanation, and he wasn't coming up with anything. "Thatís the sorriest looking C-130 Iíve ever seen!"

 



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