The B Team

Please note that the character of Zig Zag is copyright © Max Blackrabbit, and the character of James Sheppard is copyright © James Bruner. All other characters are mine, steal them if you must. This story is a work of speculative fiction based upon certain events occurring in chapters 54 and 63 of Zig Zag the Story, copyright © James Bruner. In no way should this story be considered canonical to Zig Zag the Story. Hell, it's just not that good...!

The B Team is copyright © The Silver Coyote
2003, 2005


Custom image courtesy of Cirrel,
posted with euphoric delight on my part.

"So what's she like?" Slam asked straight away. The five of them had just collapsed on bar stools around a table in a lounge at the main terminal. Randy was missing, he had stopped off at the company dispatch center to visit his locker and grab another flight suit and clean up.

Rick looked askance at Slam, a smile on his face. Normally these gatherings were overloaded with discussion centered on flying. Not tonight...

"You just survived a flight of dubious conclusion with the B Team, and all you're worried about is Zig Zag?" Rick put a look of amazement on his muzzle. Meanwhile, several heads in the vicinity of their table, mostly male, turned to look at them at the mention of the star's name. "You should be kissing the ground and thanking your local deity that all your limbs are still attached and functional."

"Well..." Slam started slowly, looking chastised.

"It's OK, Slam," Joe consoled. "I want to know about her, too." Joe turned to his fellow pilot. "What about her, Rick?"

"What about who?" Randy asked as he passed around the table to the last remaining stool and seated himself.

"You look a lot better," Joe commented, rubbing the back of his own neck.

"Thanks, Joe, I like you too." Randy grinned at him. "Who are we talking about?"

"Who have we been talking about all afternoon?" Steve asked with a laugh, looking at Slam.

"Slam asked about Zig Zag," Joe replied encouragingly, looking at Rick. "Rick was about to fill us in."

Rick Carter was a young and trim badger, age twenty nine, a graduate of Embry-Riddle University. Single and loving every minute of it, he was arguably one of the most qualified pilots Intermountain had. Educated as an aeronautics engineer, he flew by choice. While not rated for command of the C-130, he knew the systems of "the Bitch" as well as any of them. He was loosening his black tie and undoing the top button of his white uniform shirt as he gazed at Slam. His unbuttoned jacket bore the epaulettes of captain's rank.

"Well, she's nothing like she makes herself out to be in the movies." Rick held up his paw as the faces around him took on looks of incredulity and disbelief. "Hold on, furs, don't get excited, that's not what I mean. If anything, she's even better looking now than she was on video. Same fur pattern, same figure, same eyes, same tail… it's all there. And guys," he paused for emphasis, "it looks better in real life."

The furs around him were silent. Some nodded in contemplation.

"She is absolutely gorgeous. And I don't mean in a purely carnal sense, although there is that." Rick paused in brief contemplation, choosing his words. "Her markings, her face, those incredible eyes…" his voice trailed off, his eyes had focused on some unseen distant vision in his memory.

"We got that visual," Steve grinned, elbowing him in the ribs.

Rick recovered quickly. "I was mildly surprised by her class and cordiality, given her... ah... professional background" he continued, finding his train of thought. "She carries herself confidently, speaks well, and exudes a presence that is almost palpable. She's polite and friendly, but not in any way trashy or even forward. She dresses fashionably but a bit conservatively, typical upper scale business attire. If you didn't know what she does for a living, you'd guess her to be an executive for any large corporation."

As the collected furs absorbed this, a tabby waitress appeared and asked for their drink orders. While she was young and cute, she was barely noticed by the assembled aviators, save one. Randy looked up and smiled at her as she turned to fill their orders.

Tim Riggins, "Timmy" to everyone at Intermountain, was a dark eyed, golden brown marmot from the high country of Colorado. He and Joe were great friends, they often got together at home on the front range of the Rockies for a little flying, four wheeling, or back country adventure. Tim's wife Janie and Joe's wife Annie did a lot together in the absence of their furs, and would include whichever the call schedule left behind on occasion. Tim was another of those furs that had been over-blessed in physical development. Not quite as tall as Slam, he was as broad shouldered and muscular. He cut an imposing figure, and gave the appearance of one not to be trifled with.

Timmy spoke up as the waitress departed with their order. "I did the safety rundown with them on the flight down to Knoxville," he growled in his baritone voice. "For something she's probably heard a hundred times, she was attentive and polite. She seemed a bit nervous, I think. I was stowing some of our gear in the locker at the forward bulkhead as we taxied out to the active and happened to notice her holding hands with her gentleman friend."

"Another actor?" Randy asked.

"Oh no. This guy was executive all the way. Very classy in a rough-hewn sort of way, well dressed though." Timmy paused, trying to remember detail. "A coyote, I think, but he didn't look anything like you guys," he motioned with a paw towards Joe and Slam, who were sitting on adjacent stools around the table.

Joe grinned. "Thanks, I think..."

"No, that's not what I meant," Timmy rumbled, smiling. "It's his coloration and markings. I've never seen anything like it. He looks sort of like a coyote but the build is wrong. He's bigger. He's varying shades of black and white, from black to almost a cream color, and lots in between. It's hard to describe." Timmy scratched his muzzle, recalling information. "He's the one who placed the charter. Ordered on company letterhead but paid by personal check... aw, what was it? CSC? Something?"

"Sheppard Computer Systems," supplied Rick.

"Yeah, that's it," Timmy agreed, nodding. "SCS. Fairly large outfit, good at what they do from what Angie tells me. Computer networks and stuff. On today's flight back they seemed to be discussing business quite a bit. I offered refreshments while we were over the Lexington area, and they seemed to be deep in business plans and profit and loss predictions. It sounded like a new enterprise in the making."

"A grayscale coyote?" Randy asked, grinning himself. "I'd like to meet him. Young?"

"Not as young as you, but not that much older, either," Timmy replied. "He seemed the perfect counterpoint to the lady. They made a charming and engaging couple. They both thanked us on arrival at Knoxville last week and again this evening, and greeted us like friends when we met them this morning."

Slam leered. "Engaging, eh? I'll bet."

"Hey, watch that stuff," Steve spoke up half seriously. He lowered his voice and leaned towards the center of the table, looking at Slam in a friendly but authoritative way. "You're not in the barracks or on the flight deck, this is a public place. Be careful."

Slam looked hard at Steve for a moment, trying to decide whether his leg was being pulled or not. He let Steve's comments go.

"So she's a lady, huh Timmy?" Joe asked.

"As much as my Janie is," Timmy replied.

"Whoa." Joe exhaled. This was no small comparison for Timmy, Joe knew. He was a devoted husband who adored his wife.

"Yeah, ditto. What Joe said." Steve ran a paw through the fur on his head.

The tabby brought their drinks. Spying her name badge on her blouse, Randy decided to kick off his evening. "Melanie, isn't it?" He smiled at her again, she smiled back and nodded as she passed drinks. "Weren't you here the other evening when we landed in that thunderstorm?"


Two hours and several rounds later the boys were still talking. The "B Team" had finally begun to unwind from their day. The maintenance crew had called Steve on his cell phone with a damage report on "the Bitch", but he had yet to bring that up for discussion with his fellow aviators.

Randy had already arranged to meet Melanie at the end of her shift. The furs were still kicking the subject of Zig Zag and her companion around when an older wolverine approached the table. The boys looked up at his approach.

"You guys with Intermountain?" the wolverine asked.

"Yeah," Steve replied, picking up his beer.

"Thirty Six?" the wolverine asked again.

"Yeah, what of it?" Steve said shortly. He took a pull on his beer and looked over his bottle at the wolverine in the sport coat. He was getting tired, the day was catching up with him, and he didn't feel like talking to strangers.

Joe, however, recognized the voice. As he set his beer down he smiled at the wolverine and asked "You're our Approach controller, right?"

"Yes I am," replied the wolverine. "Chuck Darkfur. Nice to meet you guys." He held out his paw as Joe stood and shook it. The other furs stood also, and introductions went around. Steve nodded meekly as he shook Chuck's paw, a little embarrassed by his initial brusqueness.

"Stay and join us," Rick offered. "After all, you were instrumental in today's story being a smashing success, so to speak." Rick smiled at the controller as he chuckled, the other furs around the table offered giggles, snorts, and chuckles of their own as they seated themselves, appreciating Rick's play on words. Chuck remained standing.

"I can't guys, but thanks. My sister is in the hospital and I need to go be with her. I just got off shift, and your dispatch center said you might be here. I just wanted to say that I'm glad you got down OK this evening."

"We couldn't have done it without your help," Joe offered. Steve nodded in assent.

Chuck glanced at the carpet momentarily, then looked up to each of the pilots in turn as he spoke. "Thanks, guys. Mostly when we field comment from pilots it's rather negative. It feels good to get some positive feedback now and then." After another moment he looked at Rick and Timmy, or more precisely their uniforms. "You're Zero One, right?"

"Yes, we are," Timmy replied somewhat guardedly.

"I heard about you guys, too. Famous trade, as they say." Chuck grinned briefly.

The controller's discretion was appreciated by the company aircrew. They all knew how easily rumors could be started from idle conversation.

"How does this stuff get around?" Rick asked aloud to no one in particular, smiling faintly.

"Angie. Has to be. She has access to the manifests and loves a secret." Timmy mused. Angie managed the dispatch center for Intermountain Charter.

"What's she like, anyway?" Chuck asked. "Your customer, I mean. I already met Angie."

"She's as beautiful in person as she is on screen," Timmy began, "and a delight to work for. She totally destroys the preconception most of us have about someone... in her industry."

Chuck stood there staring at him, muzzle open slightly, the unasked questions obvious in his eyes.

Ten minutes later the abbreviated Zig Zag stories of the week had been run down again. Chuck still stood next to the table, but was getting fidgety and eyeing his watch. "I'm sorry, guys, but I really need to shove off." Wallets appeared and business cards came out and were circulated. Promises were made to meet again in the future.

"Good luck with your sister," Joe offered.

"Thanks, Joe." Chuck looked around the table, nodding. "See you later, guys. Take care."


After a couple of more hours the remains of dinner and several more rounds of drinks were scattered around the table. Randy and Melanie had departed the scene. Slam was standing at the bar chatting up a young looking vixen who appeared to be waiting for a plane. Joe, Steve, Rick, and Timmy were still at the table.

Steve took a long pull of his beer and placed the empty bottle on the table in front of him. He was still tense and frustrated by the day's events. "Jesus!" he exclaimed. "What a day this turned out to be."

"Oh, it isn't so bad," Rick ventured, eyes casually roving the room. "Look around you. Lots of pretty furs to please the eyes, a meal with your buddies, no work tomorrow, what could be better?"

"Keeping my job," Steve replied unhappily.

Joe looked at his pilot and friend. "Why are you worried about that?" he asked. Rick and Timmy had turned their full attention on Steve as well.

Steve's reply was tempered with anger towards himself. "Well let's face it, bringing your ship back to base with part of it on fire, leaking hydraulics all over the place, and beat all to Hell doesn't make you look that good as an aircraft commander, now does it?" He glared at each of his comrades in turn, daring them to comment. "I mean, we aren't in a combat zone, there's no excuse for bringing a ship back in that condition."

Rick stared evenly at him, refusing to contribute to Steve's level of frustration. "What was the damage report? You never said."

"Shit." Steve said, marshaling his thoughts. "Basically, everything from the radar power amplifier back to the termination blocks and buss isolators behind and below the panel was fried. The electrical fire damaged the nose gear hydraulics and burned partially through some hydraulic lines. Lots of electrical distribution cable was burned or arced open after the insulation burned away. Jerry said we were lucky none of the flame ate through the skin, we'd have been a fireball with the fire and hydraulic fluid and slipstream." Steve looked at them, his expression suddenly vacant, as if the information related were about nothing more important than changing the oil in his car. "Randy probably saved our ass with that Halon extinguisher. Jerry said we should have fried."

"Steve," Timmy said quietly, "nothing in that sequence was a result of anything you or your crew did or didn't do, I'm sure. You and Joe know that airframe as well as anybody, probably better. You guys know why they call her "The Bitch". She just bit you guys extra hard today. Matt's not going to hold you, or Joe, or anybody else responsible for what happened today. In fact, as far as I'm concerned he ought to commend all of you for getting the cargo delivered safely and keeping yourselves alive." Timmy sat back on his stool and nodded once to Steve, then glanced at Joe and Rick.

"I agree," Rick chimed in. "What happened was beyond the control of the aircrew. It's a maintenance issue on an ancient airframe." Rick smiled at Steve. "Don't buy your trouble, my friend."

Steve seemed to consider this for a few moments. As he did so Melanie's replacement, a squirrel named Dakota, came up and asked "Another round, gentlefurs?"

Four heads nodded in unison. Dakota smiled at Rick. "I'll be right back with them." They all watched her depart towards the bar. As fetching as Melanie had been, Dakota was a goddess by comparison. Despite his consumption so far this evening, Rick was beginning to make plans for later.

Presently Steve sighed and said "Yeah, I guess you're right, Timmy." His face brightened as a slight smile played on his muzzle. "So this guy who works for a computer outfit charters a G-IV to take Miss Zig Zag for a ride down to Knoxville..." his question was more of a statement. "That took some bucks! I wonder what the motivation was?"

"Who knows?" Rick interjected before Timmy could reply. He rubbed his jaw, trying not to yawn. "Who cares, as long as we got the charter?"

"Not 'works for'," Timmy spoke up, correcting Steve. "He owns the outfit. It's his name on the corporate letterhead."

Steve and Joe both stared at Timmy. "Now that's a honcho," Steve muttered.

Dakota appeared with their drinks. She smiled at each of the furs in turn as she placed their orders in front of them, ending with Rick. At his thanks she replied "I'll check back with you in a while." She breezed away to her next table as Rick watched her depart.

"Sheppard, huh? Never heard of him," Joe said.

"C'mon Joe, it's not like we run in the same social circles with Ohio's CEOs, you know." Joe looked at Timmy, who grinned back at him.

"I'd heard of him before," Rick piped up, tearing his attention away from Dakota's departure. "I thought I had mentioned it to you, Timmy. Remember that group we flew down to the computer show in Las Vegas a year ago? Some of them were members of the board for Sheppard Computer Systems. I don't remember their names, but I did cabin service on that flight, and remember hearing them discuss that company and Mr. Sheppard by name." Rick scratched his head, trying to recall detail. "A cheetah, a husky - wolf hybrid, some others. I wasn't eavesdropping, but I recall hearing them mentioning Mr. Sheppard by name more than once."

Timmy stared into the distance over Joe's shoulder, drumming his claws lightly on the table next to his drink. "Nah…" he said eventually, "I don't remember that."

"So how long has it been since Zig Zag has appeared in a video of her own?" Steve wondered aloud as he scratched an ear. He had become somewhat disinterested in James Sheppard.

"Hell, who knows? Years, at least," Rick replied. "She runs that studio, you know, 'ZZ Studios', over there off the interstate," Rick tossed his head to indicate a general direction, "and they produce new stuff all the time. But as far as I know she hasn't appeared in any of it for quite some time." Rick picked up his beer and took a drink. He was a native of Ohio, born in Dayton, and now owned a small farm near Jefferson, southwest of Columbus. He knew the Columbus area well and spent much time in the city visiting friends and recreating.

"How is it you know so much about her studio's product?" Joe teased, tipping his own beer back while waiting for a reply.

Rick looked at him, smiling. After a couple seconds pause, he allowed "I get invited to a lot of bachelor parties." An eyebrow arched as if challenging Joe to dispute this.

"Ah, so!" Joe agreed, beginning to laugh.

Steve took a last pull from his last beer. "Where are you guys staying?" he asked the three furs facing him.

Joe looked at Timmy momentarily, and then replied "Well, speaking for myself, I'd figured I'd probably get some sleep here at the dispatch center and fly out tomorrow." Joe's Beechcraft Duke was in the company hangar on the airport. He and Timmy almost always flew out from Colorado to Columbus for company jobs, unless they could hitch a ride along the way. "Got anything lined up? Need a ride?"

"I drove," Steve said tiredly. "Molly's visiting family in Cincinnati, I'll pick her up sometime tomorrow morning and we'll head back to KC." He yawned hugely. "Maybe I ought to find a bunk at dispatch, too."

"There's some cots in the storage locker behind Matt's office. Shouldn't be a problem," Rick said, stifling a yawn of his own.

Timmy succumbed, yawning himself. It was a lion-sized yawn, complete with curling tongue at the end, but somehow seemed appropriate for a marmot of his size. "Dispatch sounds good to me," he said in his low rumble when he was done. "You going home, Rick?"

"I don't know..." Rick replied slowly, a slight smile on his muzzle.

"I'll tell you one thing," Steve said, smiling as he stood up. "I'm gonna snuggle up to Angie and make sure me and Joe get the next charter from Sheppard Computer Systems. You two," he looked at Rick and Timmy in turn, "will have to settle for a date with 'the Bitch' while Joe and I sip tea and nibble skones with Miss Zig Zag on the G-IV. Isn't that right, Joe?"

"Right, Steve, nibble skones with Zig Zag. Whatever you say." Joe laughed again.

"I'll let that happen on one condition," Rick said, smiling up to Steve.

"Let it happen?" Steve grunted. "What condition?"

"Get us a tour of the studio."

"Oh no," Steve backed up a step with a mock look of horror on his face, holding his paws out as if telling someone to stop. "No way. I like my job. 'No fraternizing with the customers'," he quoted from Intermountain's Employee's Policies and Guidelines book. "Besides, you're the only single guy here. How's it gonna look for Joe and Timmy here, two old married guys, to be seen waltzing into ZZ Studios? Or me? Hell, I'm as good as married already!" He let his paws drop to his sides.

"That's a fact," Rick laughed, standing. Joe and Timmy also stood, sensing the evening was at an end. Joe glanced at the bar, then around the room. He finally located Slam at a corner table with the same vixen he had been speaking with much earlier. He caught Slam's eye and held his paw up by way of saying so long. Slam tossed a casual salute back at him.

Steve nodded to Rick and Timmy both. "Thanks, guys."

Rick smiled easily. Timmy nodded, rumbling "Any time."

"So long, Rick," Joe said as he turned towards the doorway into the terminal area.

"Good flying with you, Rick," Timmy said, moving to follow Joe.

Steve turned to follow the other pilots as he said "Later, Rick."

"G'night, guys. See you next time." Rick turned towards the door facing the parking lot just in time to see Dakota stepping from behind the bar with a coat on. He smiled and strolled towards her as she waited by the door.


To Chapter Five: A Glowing Opportunity.

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