DoD Sample


DAMSELS OF DISTRESS SAMPLE

by James Turbett

Copyright 2013

A black automobile large enough to warrant a curious glance but not suspicious enough to warrant a stare pulls up to the sidewalk in front of the bank. The car’s back doors swing open and two women on the younger side step out with a wooden crate in between them. One of them wears a tan leather jacket and the other a trench coat. Their denim trousers make them look more like cowgirls than ladies.

A boy fresh out of school for the day runs along the sidewalk and passes the black car with a funny-book in his hand.

Anya looks to the boy and then to her companion and says, “They print ‘em in color now, you know.”

“What’s that, now?” Jen asks.

“Comics. A few companies started printing theirs in color.”

“Keep your mind on the job, Anya. You can buy all the comics you want after we get this job done.”

Anya turns her head to the front of the bank. She lifts the wide brim of her cowboy hat to see it better. She has seen a lot of buildings and this is definitely an important one. The overhang is supported by fluted columns that harken back to an ancient school of architecture.

Jen’s attention is on the people around her. There is not much traffic in the street at this time in the afternoon. The bank is about to close and it will be some time before the other local businesses close for the day and the people will crowd the streets with their autos and buggies as they drive home. A few pedestrians walk by on afternoon errands.

Neither of the two looked like they are the sort to bank at an establishment like this. Anya, in particular, is six and a half feet tall with a frame that is thin but well-muscled. A four foot long tail with dorsal fur sticks out from behind her trousers and sways in anticipation. Brows are particularly large and defined.

Jen stands at five foot six, which is modest compared to her fellow humans, but a dwarf compared to her companion. She lets Anya push the crate towards the bank as she is the less physically impressive of the two. It is a heavy thing, but the wheels on the bottom make it go easier.

A security guard from the bank walks towards the two.

“Just like we planned it,” Jen whispers to Anya as the guard approaches. “Let me do the talking.”

“You always get to do the talking,” Anya grumbles.

“That’s ‘cause you always muck it up. Now shut your trap.”

“What’s this, then?” the guardsman asks. He scowls in a way that expects trouble.

“We’d like to make a deposit,” Jen says as cheerily as she can. She pats the top of the crate.

The security guard narrows his eyes at the young women in suspicion. He is taller than Anya at roughly seven feet from head to heel. He has a similar heavy brow and jutting chin, but his features are even rougher and his fang-baring scowl does little to help.

“You can enter,” he says to Jen, “but wendigos are not allowed.”

“But you’re a wendigo,” Anya says. “You came from inside.”

“I work here,” the security guard says.

“Tsk, tsk,” Jen says as she shakes her head. She is a modestly built woman with black hair tied behind her head and a beige skin tone. “Allowed to work here, but not allowed to bank here. Ain’t that just the stereotype?” She hopes that receiving pity from a simple human will irritate the guard.

The wendigo rolls his eyes and glances away from the women. He must not feel like getting into an argument about civil rights with two mouthy upstarts who look like they come from the frontier.

“The two of you can take your business elsewhere if you want to be hard about it,” the guard says through his yellowed fangs.

“Elsewhere?” Jen asks. “That can be a long ways away. And banking hours are almost over.” She puts her left hand behind her back so the guard cannot see it and motions for the car to move. The driver hopefully sees the signal. “We need this package deposited today.”

“Then you can enter with it while your friend waits outside,” the guard says.

“What, like a dog? She could bite someone if I leave her by herself and I can’t find a muzzle that fits her.”

“Also, I’m housebroken and I need to use your restroom,” Anya adds as a matter of fact.

The car then drives off and around the corner.

“Uh oh, now our means of transportation has left us here and there’s nowhere for the crate to go but inside.” Jen places her hands on her hips in a firm gesture.

The guard is not humored by this.

“I mean, really, canine treatment of wendigos,” Jen continues, despite the fact that Anya’s wild silvery hair does make her look rather bestial. “Inhumane, I say! What are they paying you, good sir?”

“Not enough to put up with you two,” the guard growls.

“Enough to buy a comic book?” Anya asks. “Cause I imagine it’s gotta be a boring job.”

“Yeah, I’m getting bored just talking to this guy,” Jen says. She quickly turns her head from side to side to see that no one else is close by. The guard only barely catches a glimpse of electric arcs dancing in between the fingernails on Jen’s hand before she grabs him. The large wendigo’s muscles tense as electricity surges through them and he collapses onto the crate.

“That’s mean,” Anya observes. There is a look of disappointment on her pale face.

“I’m a mean girl,” Jen says plainly. “Now wheel the load in before we attract too much attention.”

Anya grunts as she pushes the crate with the guard on top of it into the building. At least Jen opens the door for her.

***

Tsubaki watches her accomplice knock out the guard from her lookout post. She is perched on top of the building across the street from the bank. Anya pushes the crate into the bank with the unconscious guard draped over it.

The heist is underway.

The lookout turns her gaze to the telephone pole behind the bank. Now it is time to do her job. She kneels down on one knee and levels a sniper rifle with her hands. She braces herself with the feathered limbs that protrude from above her pelvis to steady herself more. Those are in addition to the talons on her legs. Four limbs on the ground make her very steady. Most snipers will use a scope but Tsubaki’s slanted eyes are as keen as a hawk’s and she pulls the trigger. The gunshot is loud but only a few people below give it any heed. No one thinks to look up. The telephone cable connecting to the bank breaks and both ends fall down. No one inside can call for help, now.

***

Minerva sits on a chair in the bank’s lobby. It is deathly quiet and she is the only person in the building who is not an employee. Only two teller windows are open. Her small purse rests on the table in front of her and her hands are folded on her lap with her fingers tapping nervously against each other.

“Madam Kensington,” a gentleman in a black waistcoat says as he walks up to her.

“Yes?” Minerva asks, probably a little too quickly.

“My name is Mr. Hallard. I can escort you to your deposit box. Please follow me.”

“Ah, thank you.” She stands up and takes her purse with her.

Minerva’s heels tap against the marble tiles of the lobby’s floor. She is led down a hallway towards the rear of the bank.

“I apologize for the inconvenience, Madam Kensington,” Mr. Hallard says. “But all withdrawals from the vault require a senior teller.”

“Of course,” Minerva says. “Security and all that.”

The teller gives the lady a quick glance up and down. Minerva averts her eyes. He is probably wondering about her appearance. Her skin is a dark gray color that is almost violet. Her hair is silvery with a magenta sheen that is hardly common. She wears a long skirt down to her angles under a short ruffled skirt that fans out behind her and makes it look like she is wearing a bustle, which she is very conscious of.

Before long, the two come to the vault door. It is a thick steel circular portal with a round handle in the middle like the door on a ship. Two keyholes are on either side of the door. Another employee stands by the vault along with a wendigo wearing a security guard’s uniform. Both men produce thick keys from their pockets and insert them into the door at once. They turn the keys in synch with one another on the count of three. The muffled sound of gears turning is heard. They take their keys from the locks and nod to each other.

“Thanks, Ralph,” Mr. Hallard says.

The other employee nods his head and then goes on his way back to the lobby. The seven-foot tall guardsman then turns on the handle and opens the door. It slowly swings open and Minerva can see that it is two feet thick.

The teller enters the vault and says, “This way, Madam Kensington.”

Minerva steps into the vault. It is hardly the treasure trove that she expected. There are no bank notes nor precious gemstones nor gold bullion visible. Every wall is lined with metal drawers with keyholes. The middle of the room is stacked with safes with combination locks on the doors.

“What number is your deposit box?” Mr. Hallard asks.

“Ah, number one three five.”

The teller’s eyes turn to the wall on the left. “The one hundreds are over here.” His eyes rove over the numbered drawers. “Ah, here we are.” He points to a box at chest height.

“Thank you,” Minerva says.

Mr. Hallard steps aside as the lady pulls a key from her purse. She sets it into the lock. It turns after some fiddling. She pulls it open and looks inside.

A small jewelry box six inches wide and made of lacquered wood sits inside of the drawer. Minerva picks up the box and opens it. The inside is lined with red velvet. A long necklace of malachite stones the size of marbles sits inside. Natural green markings of varying shades swirl on the stones. This is the first time that she has laid eyes on the necklace. Minerva has seen prettier, but not many. It is what she came for regardless of what it looks like. She quickly closes the lid of the box and puts it in her purse. She then closes the drawer and locks it.

“Thank you,” Minerva says to Mr. Hallard. “My business is done, here.”

“Will madam require the continued use of the deposit box?”

“Erm, yes, I think I will.” She drops the key into her purse along with the box. “I’ll come back another day to deposit something else inside.” This is a blatant lie, but it avoids the problem of going through unnecessary paperwork.

“Well then, after you, madam,” the elderly teller gestures with his hand out of the door.

“Heh, of course.” Minerva does not want to be the first out of the vault. At least the wendigo is not looking inside. She walks forward as if to leave, but when she gets to the portal, she bends her knee in a quick reaction, as if she has stubbed her toe. A sharp, “Ouch!” completes the effect.

“Are you all right, madam?” Mr. Hallard asks. He leans forward to support her elbow. At that moment, a long lithe arm shoots out from under Minerva’s ruffled skirt. It wraps around the teller and pierces his back with a small needle.

The man lets out a weak gasp. He looks confused and then his eyelid droop. His legs give out. Three more arms extended from under the skirt and catch him before he can fall.

“Sorry about this,” Minerva whispers as she gently rests the man onto the vault floor. The needle still sticks out of the man’s back. It pierces his clothing and skin to the left of the spine, close to the heart. The lady quickly pulls it out. The venom will render him asleep for some time. She picks his pocket and takes out the vault key.

Minerva acts fast. She drops the needle and key into her purse and then pulls out a bomb. She lifts up her skirt with her thin arms and reveals another hidden appendage. Her tail is what gives her the appearance of wearing a bustle. It is two feet long and one foot at its widest point. A sticky white substance extrudes from the spinnerets on the tip. She wraps the bomb in the tacky silk and then applies it to the inside of the vault door where the locking mechanism is. She makes certain that the fuse touches the steel door.

Minerva takes a deep breath after the act is done and hides her tail and spidery limbs underneath her skirt again. With the appendages hiding, she simply looks like an off-color human woman. She picks up poor Mr. Hallard in her arms and swings his arm around her neck and carries him out of the vault.

“Mister guardsman!” Minerva says in a distressed voice, which comes rather naturally to her.

“What happened?” the large wendigo asks when he sees the two.

“He fainted inside,” Minerva says. “He said it is difficult to breathe.”

The guardsman swears under his breath and takes the load off of Minerva. He sets Mr. Hallard onto the ground and puts his furry ear to the old man’s chest and says, “He’s still breathing.”

“Maybe he’ll wake up soon, then. Is there a couch where we can lie him down?”

“In the back.” He looks to the vault door and asks, “Are you done in there?”

“Yes, very much so.”

The guard nods and closes the door without looking inside. He turns the handle and Minerva once again hears the muffled sounds of mechanical parts move. The door must be designed to automatically lock without a key. The guard easily picks up the teller in his arms and says, “Please follow me, miss.”

Minerva does so.

***

“Found him asleep outside,” Jen says to a human guardsman in the lobby. “Guess he is just tired. I blame the long work hours.”

“Long hours at a bank?” the guardsman asks.

“Umm… well, different standards and whatnot.”

“In any case, the bank is closing. Whatever business you have here will have to wait until tomorrow.”

“But it’s urgent that we deposit the contents of this crate.”

“What’s inside of it?”

“That’s a secret.”

“Lady, I can’t let you deposit anything if we don’t know what it is.”

Jen’s mind races for excuses and explanations, but then she sees another wendigo enter the lobby with an old man unceremoniously draped over his shoulder. Minerva follows him. Her eyes see Jen and then she tips her hat.

Jen recognizes the signal and asks the guard, “You want to know what’s inside the box? Okay, I’ll show you. Anya, open it.”

The wendigo easily tears off the nailed lid.

“Sic ‘im, Tawny,” Jen says as she points at the guard.

The contents leap out of the box like a coiled spring. Clawed hands grab the guard’s arms to restrain him. The man falls to the ground but his fall is cushioned by the scale-coated muscles that have coiled their way around him as fast as greased lightning. He finds himself staring into the venomous golden eyes of the naga. Tawny’s coppery face is framed with black hair that reached passed her shoulders. A forked tongue shoots out of her mouth as she hisses at the guard.

“Keep him there, girl,” Jen says to her serpentine companion. She and Anya pull up bandanas that are tied around their necks up over their mouths and noses. Anya draws a pair of auto revolvers from the holsters concealed by her long coat. They are hefty handguns with steel frames and wooden handgrips. The guns are chambered for nine .45 caliber shots each. The barrels are aligned with the bottom cylinder to reduce the kick. Anya christened them Mister Shots O’Plenty and Sir Caps Assalot. She also takes out a tomahawk from the box and hooks it onto her belt where it is easy to draw.

Jen has a revolver of her own hidden on a holster sewn on the inside of her jacket. She draws the gun and fires it at the ceiling before anyone can do anything else. “Standard bank robbery, people,” she says in a casual, yet business-like manner. “You all know the drill. Hands where we can see them and no sudden movements.”

Jen reaches into the box and pulls out an ugly brick of a firearm. It is shorter than a rifle but larger than a pistol and too big to easily conceal on her person. The barrel is short and does not extend far from the hand. The stock is long and rests on her forearm.

The conscious wendigo guard drops the teller to the floor and whips out his own sidearm. He fires a shot that misses and then runs to a table. He kicks it over for cover.

“Oh, please,” Jen says. “Anya, show him that we mean business.”

Anya smiles and aims her guns. She is strong and coordinated enough to fire both at the same time. A bullet each from the Mister and the Sir penetrate the wooden table. The guard yells in pain.

“Why do people keep thinking that works?” Jen asks rhetorically. She sighs as she looks at the foolish guardsman who thought that a wooden table would shield him. She turns to the teller windows and yells. “The hell are you people doing behind there? I told you to get out!”

The bank employees are gathered in the lobby soon enough. People from the back rooms are dragged up front at gun point. They sit down on the sofas and chairs meant for waiting clients. Jen has Tawny look over them.

The naga slithers from side to side over the marble floor. Whereas humans have legs that stick out of their pelvises, Tawny has a pair of fins with five long bony spines connected by a thick membrane. The fins do little out of water, but she easily uses her long serpentine length to propel herself over the ground. The tail is covered in fine coppery scales. A series of white diamond-shaped marks with black outlines run down Tawny from the skin in between her shoulders to the scales on the tip of her tail. Her only piece of clothing is a strip of folded cloth around her chest. She is fifteen feet in length overall and easily intimidates the employees.

Jen takes away the guards’ weapons while Tawny hisses at them with barred fangs. Anya drags a long table against the entrance to prevent any escapes.

“Minnie, bind their hands behind their backs,” Jen says.

“Did you bring rope?” Minerva asks.

“No.”

“Then how am I t—“

“How d’you think?”

“…Oh no, please don’t ask me to—“

“Do it.”

Minerva whimpers but goes to work. While Tawny keeps the employees intimidated, Minerva spins silk right on the spot to tie their hands behind their backs. She worked quickly with all six hands. Both pairs of arms coming out of her lumbar region are longer than human arms, but thinner. Each ‘hand’ consists of a foot-long flexible carpus with four thin fingers on the end. The employees cannot turn their heads around far enough to properly see where the silk is coming from, but if they do, then they will identify Minerva as an arachnekin, which does not sit well with her.

“Is there a problem here?” someone asks.

Jen turns her head to see a man in a snazzy black suit stride into the lobby. He carries a long cane with him that looks to be more for show, judging by the fact that he does not use it for support.

“And where were you hiding?” Jen asks. She thought that she checked every room in the bank.

“Not important,” the man says in a manner that is all business. You cut the phone line so you must be a professional.” His eyes dart from one robber to another. He smirks and asks, “You wouldn’t happen to be the Damsels of Distress, would you?”

Jen’s eyebrows rise. She did not expected anyone to make the connection. Her band is not among the more well-known criminal gangs in Unilia. Then again, how many other all-female bands can there be? She aims her pistol to make a point regardless of reputation. A warning shot passed his head will quell any thoughts of fighting back.

The man holds out the cane out in front of him before she can fire. Jen pulls the trigger. The bullet passes by the spherical cane head and then slows down. The momentum is leeched into the can and the bullet stand suspended where it is.

“Uh oh,” Jen says after she sees that. “Anya, give ‘im a salvo!”

The wendigo fires off a few shots at the man. All of her bullets are intercepted by the cane where they begin to circle around the head in orbit. The air around the cane head looks distorted.

“No fair!” Anya exclaims. “He’s cheating!”

“A’yup,” Jen says with a gulp.

The thaumaturger grins and then points the other end of his cane at the women.

Jen can tell that an unnatural force in the cane is changing. “And now we run for cover,” she says.

The cane’s point has an opening to suggest that the entire device is hollow.

Jen sprints for the only open teller window and dives behind it. Minerva panics and picks herself up with her spidery limbs and follows Jen. Her skirt dangles beneath her as she uses her spindly arms to quickly propel herself towards cover. She immediately crouches down on her legs and humanoid arms when she gets behind Jen and folds her spindly arms behind her.

Anya ducks behind a corner leading to a hallway and Tawny quickly follows her.

The thaumaturger must consider Anya more of a threat because he fires at her first. The bullets in orbit get sucked into a small hole on top of the spherical head. The momentum that they once possessed is quickly returned to them as they are propelled through the hollow cane and out of the tip. There is no gunpowder involved but they are fired at such high speed that they all make a loud bang. The bullets chip at the corner where Anya is.

“Damn it all to the piss-drenched pits of festering hell,” Jen swears aloud. She turns to Minerva and asks, “Did you get the target?”

“It’s in my purse,” Minerva says. “If we run now, we can get out of here and then—“

“Oh, we’re not leaving, yet,” Jen says to her firmly. “The stones are the target, but they’re not the payment.”

“But bullets don’t work on him! Unless you know how to make them hit.”

“Nah, and I left my magic bullets in my other pants.”

“Then we have to fly out of here! He’s a thaumaturger!”

“So? I am, too,” Jen says plainly. She has other things than bullets to work with. She looks down to her other gun. The thing is ugly but it certainly has a purpose to its design. She holsters her pistol inside of her jacket and holds the special gun in both hands. She quickly peers above the window and then ducks back down when the man sees her. She notices that he is not using the receiving end of his weapon.

“Hey Anya!” Jen called.

“Yeah?”

“Give ‘im a few more bullets.

“Uhh, you sure?”

“Oh yeah.”

“Uhh, okay.” Anya quickly turns the corner and fires again. She is met by the remaining bullets orbiting the thaumaturger’s cane. Neither enemy hits the other, but the thaumaturger can fire back every bullet caught in his cane’s field. He uses rudimentary magnetic powers to draw the bullets that hit the wall behind them and add them to his arsenal.

Jen channels her focus into her electrobolter. She cannot do much to manipulate inertia but her magnetic powers are far from rudimentary. She can feel the metal and the workings of the machine in her hands as if they are the muscles of her own body.

Anya empties her guns and then yells, “I need to reload!”

Jen stands up and fires through the teller window before the enemy can fire. Her gun shoots out tiny little metallic particles that are too small to do anything on their own. The particles move faster than sound and conduct a large arc of electricity that makes a brilliant flash and a bang louder than any of the other guns. The electric arc strikes the cane and sends a surge through it and towards the thaumaturger.

The man glows like a light bulb for a split second and then falls flat onto his back.

Anya lets out a loud whoop and Jen leaps out of the teller window and runs toward the enemy with her gun trained on him in case he moves. The man’s fingers twitch and his eyes stare straight up to the ceiling. Every hair on his head stands on end.

“Knocked him straight out!” Anya cheers with glee.

“Meant to kill him,” Jen says, almost disappointed. Her ESP tells her that the man’s nervous system still functions and that he might be a threat. “If he moves, put two in his head.”

“Two what?” Anya asks as she reloads her guns. She uses speed loaders instead of inserting each cartridge by hand. She puts the empty speed loaders into her jacket for future use.

“Never mind,” Jen sighs. “Don’t waste the bullets. Just stab him if he becomes a problem. In the neck.”

“Will do!”

Jen kneels down and picks up the staff. It has been a while since she has seen a piece of equipment like this. Warping inertia like that is a rare ability. She turns to the employees and says, “You and Tawny look after the people here. Minerva and I have a vault to crack.”

Jen walks back towards the teller windows where Minerva pokes her head above to check if the coast is clear.

“You,” Jen says as she points at her accomplice, “Where’s the vault?”

“This way,” Minerva says. She leads Jen to the rear of the building.

They soon stand in front of the circular door. Jen places her hand on the steel and then rests her forehead against it. She channels her magnetic perception into the metal.

“It’s about two feet thick,” Minerva says.

Jen can sense that. It is far too heavy to move with her powers. She traces the gears and cylinders to the center of the door where the locking mechanism must be. Despite how much she tries, the mechanism feels fuzzy to her. It must be made from an alloy with little magnetic properties to prevent people like her from breaking in. She can faintly detect the fuse of the bomb on the other side.

“The fuse is touching the door?” Jen asks.

“It is, but we don’t need to blow it. It takes two keys turned simultaneously to open the door.” She reaches into her purse and took out one of the thick keys. “I have one of them,” she says. “And I know who has the other—”

At that point Jen channels a surge of electricity into the steel. The fuse conducts the surge into the specially made explosive and detonates it. The thick door muffles the boom but it is still loud enough to cause Minerva to cover her ears.

“We did not have to blow the lock!” the lady insists.

“Yeah, but then we’d have to use the boring method,” Jen says as a matter of fact. She puts both hands on the handle. It turns to her delight.

She grunts as she pulls open the ridiculously heavy door. Perhaps she should have had Minerva look over the prisoners and get Anya to do this grunt work. Of course, that will have mean giving Minerva a gun and Jen knew how poor a shot she is.

Smoke issues from the vault when the door opens. The two step inside and look around. The smoke dissipates soon enough and Jen’s eyes narrow in on the safes. She walks up to them and inspects them.

“If we bring in one of the employees, then he can tell us the combinations for them,” Minerva says.

“That is also a boring method,” Jen says. “Look for the safes marked with the Adamant Co. logo.”

“Why Adamant Co.?”

“Because that is the most expensive manufacturer. The best stuff ‘ll be in there. I’m going to get more explosives and the burlap sacks from the car.”

***

Clementine taps her fingers against the steering wheel. She drove the automobile into the narrow alley behind the bank. It is a tight fit and there is not enough room for the passenger side door to open. The car was built as an army infantry transport, thus explaining its size.

Clementine wishes that the others will hurry. She does not want to stay here any longer than she has to. The narrow space makes her feel cornered. She keeps turning her wide green eyes to the side-view mirror on the passenger door which gives her a view of the bank’s back door.

Jen steps out of the door and walks up to the rear of the car.

“Everything all right in there?” Clementine asks as the back doors open.

“Peachy,” Jen says plainly. “I just need me some safe-cracking bombs and a few obligatory burlap sacks.” She climbs into the car. The back of the car has two benches running along either side. Jen goes up to a box behind the passenger seat and rummages inside for the supplies that she needs.

“How’d my bomb work out?” Clementine asks.

“Did its job. Cracked the lock.”

“Wouldn’t it be quicker to take the safes with us and crack ‘em later?” Clementine asks.

“You know how heavy those things are?” Jen asks. “I’m not hauling them all the way out here.” Jen hops out of the car and shuts the doors.

Clementine sighs and turns to look out the windshield. Being on standby with the escape vehicle is not her idea of fun. She would rather have taken a shot at the safes with the explosives. Blowing stuff up is always fun.

“Oh, thunder crap,” she mutters as she sees a car drive into the ally through the side-view mirror. It comes to a stop several feet behind Clementine’s car. It is small enough for both side doors to swing open. Two men step out of the car. One of them walks up to the black car.

“Hiya, fellas,” Clementine says in a casual tone as she rolls down the window.

“What’s your business here?” the man asks in a suspicious tone. His narrow eyes must not like what they see. Clementine’s skin is a sallow tone and high cheek bones indicate that she is not from this region.

“The boss had me and two others come by at closing time to pack up some of the money for him,” she says as nonchalantly as possible. She tries to keep her brown furry ears perked up so as not to appear distraught. “You know how the boss hates to make withdrawals the usual way.”

The man raises an eyebrow and glances back to his companion, who is still near the car. Clementine’s words must sound valid to him but not entirely sound. He puts his hand on his hip and she catches a glimpse of the gun hidden in his suit.

“Why is it that I was told to come here for the same reason?” the man asks.

“You too?” Clementine asks, feigning bewilderment. “Think it could be an error in communications?”

“Who told you to come here?”

“Middle management.”

“Who specifically?”

“Barry.”

“Barry?”

“Yeah, Barry the Blockhead. How he got that desk job is beyond me.”

“Huh, and here I thought that Barry had today off.” He eases up. “Say, did he wear that dumb tie that he always has on?”

Clementine’s mind raced to think of a response. What are the chances of the dialogue turning out like this?

“That he did,” she settles on saying. “Makes him look like a complete doofus.”

“Yeah, and those thick-rimmed specs of his don’t do him any favors, either.”

“They really complete the pencil-neck look, don’t they?”

“Yeah.” Then the mobster’s expression goes immediately hard and he draws his gun at the woman. “Only there’s no one named Barry who works for the boss.”

Clementine swallows as she looked down the barrel of the gun. Her eyes dart to the shotgun hidden in between the seats. The goon can shoot her brains out before she can reach for the gun.

“Okay, look, this is really embarrassing, but it’s my first day on the job. If you want credentials, then look in the back.” She jerks her thumb over her shoulder. “The safes that the boss prefers are in there.”

“Okay, fine,” the mob man says, “but if this is bogus, you’ve a lot to answer for.”

Clementine simply nods. As soon as he moves to the back of the car, she does the same. She grabs her shotgun and then hauls her rear end off of the seat. A gunshot may attract unnecessary attention so capping the goon will be Plan B. She positions herself in the back of the car with her rear facing the door for Plan A.

The mob men open the doors at once and both are greeted by a steel-shod hoof for each in the chest. Clementine’s rear legs buck with the force of a pair of sledgehammers. Both men lie flat on their backs on the pavement and groaning. They must have cracked sternums or a few broken ribs.

“How’s that for credentials?” the centaur asks with a grin. Said smile quickly dissolves when someone else gets out of the mobster’s car.

A large wendigo with ruddy skin and a height that is closer to eight feet than seven sneers at her. He bears a large machine gun in his hands. The ammunition belt hangs low and brushes the ground.

Clementine has seen such weapons before, but they have always been used with a stand to steady them. She did not think that a biped could fire such a gun in an upright position… except that the wendigo aims his weapon just like that.

“Oh horseshit,” she mutters. She has just enough time to slam the car’s left rear door shut to cover herself. The sound of thunderclaps moving at a staccato pace is accompanied by several large bumps in the door. “Oh, you did not just dent my car!” she yells. She fires a quick shot from her shotgun from behind the door but misses.

The rear door of the bank opens and Anya steps out with a safe in her arms.

Clementine yells, “Get back!” right when the mobster notices Anya. Her accomplice drops the safe and ducks back into the bank just before a burst of lead slugs hits the building’s rear. Anya quickly draws Shots O’Plenty and fires a return burst at the enemy before ducking back again. She nails the mobster on the right side of his thigh. The bigger wendigo grunts in pain and takes cover behind the mob car.

“No one told me that there’d be shooting out here!” Anya insists.

“I didn’t think there’d be any, either!” Clementine says. She pops off another shot from her own gun and shatters the mob car’s windshield.

Clementine can hear Jen yell, “I thought the damn bird brain shot the phone lines,” from inside the building.

“She did,” the centaur says. She saw the lines drop behind the building. “This is a coincidence.”

“Anya, lay down suppressing fire while we load the haul.”

The female wendigo does just that. Her shots severely dent the mob car. Jen grunts as she loads the safe into the back of the automobile. Clementine helps haul it in. She notices that the front of the safe is blackened as if something has detonated close to it. It appears that she will get to do some blasting to do in the future. Jen apparently managed to get other safes open, as she tosses several burlap sacks of bank notes into the back of the car.

“I’m out!” Anya says.

“Well, don’t just announce it for him to hear!” Jen yells at her.

Too late.

The mobster lets loose another burst from behind the ruined car. Jen and Clementine shut the rear doors just as the bullets hit them. Jen then opens her door again and shoots with her pistol when the burst stops. The bullet hits the mob car and she sees the wendigo duck back behind it. She notices another ammunition belt being taken from the trunk of the car.

“He has more ammo for the damn thing?” Jen yells in disbelief. “Clementine, toss a grenade at ‘im.”

Clementine produces a grenade from a satchel and lobs it at the enemy. The grenade breaks open and releases a cloud of reddish gas that obscures the car and the large wendigo. There is no explosion or shrapnel from the grenade.

A hail of more bullets blows through the smoke and strikes the Buggy’s armored doors.

“Was that supposed to do something?” Jen asks.

“A corrosive grenade,” Clementine says. “Causes iron and other iron alloys to rust.”

“And how in the hell is that going to help?”

“Well… the gas will cause the metal in the car to rust and dissolve.”

“So that saves us five years out of, what, ten? Chuck something at ‘em that’ll maim!”

Clementine sighs. Her work is underappreciated. She goes through the trouble of concocting different types of grenades for alternate methods of warfare and yet all her comrades demand of her are the ones that go boom. How often does she get to use a munition that uses corrosive gas?

At least the gas gives Minerva enough cover to run from the door and into the car. She carries two hefty bags loaded with cash in her six arms. Tawny slithers passed her and gets her scaly bulk into the car.

Jen levels her electrobolter.

“You can’t!” Minerva shouts at Jen. “The bolt could ignite the gasoline and blow up the car!”

Jen stares at Minerva for two seconds before saying, “Meh.” She aims her gun. Anya runs into her line of fire before she can shoot and tosses another bag into the back of the car. Jen might have taken that shot if the sack of money were not endangered. The gas begins to dissipatee.

“Start ‘er up,” Jen says to Clementine.

The centaur moves to the driver’s seat. The back of the seat is lowered so that she can comfortably rest her hindquarters on it while her front hooves hang over the seat to operate the pedals.

“Get us the hell out of here!” Jen yells.

“Aren’t we forgetting someone?” Clementine asks.

“If your fellow hexapod wanted to get away with us, she could have given us covering fire from above.”

Tsubaki drops down on the wendigo from on high as if on cue. She regulates her drop with her black wings and uses her momentum to plunge a thin sword into the wendigo’s right forearm. The beastly man howls in pain. He shoots wildly into the air and causes bits and pieces of brick and mortar to rain down into the alley. The tengu latches onto the mobster’s shoulders with her talons and then pulls her sword out of his flesh. The wendigo dropped his gun to the ground. The pierced muscles in his arm must be too damaged to allow him to fire anymore.

Tsubaki jumps off of the mobster and runs to the car. She swings her blade in an arc before her to get the blood to fly off. She gracefully jumped into the car with a flap of her wings and sheathes her sword into a scabbard on her left hip.

“Drive,” the tengu says firmly.

The Brigand Buggy shoots out of the alley and the six Damsels of Distress are soon on the street and on the getaway.

Jen maneuvers herself into the passenger seat and sighs heavily, “Well done, ladies. The well-oiled machine that is our coordination only brought us two standoffs today.” She holsters her guns.

“Not my fault, for the record,” Clementine says. “I couldn’t have known that mobsters would show up when they did. Just be glad that the Brigand Buggy can take a punch.”

“Fine,” Jen groans. “I admit that it was a good idea to spring for the reinforcements.”

“Hey, if inch-thick steel armor on an automobile is wrong, I don’t want to be right. It only decreases our top speed by, what, six miles an hour?”

“Did we get the target?” Tsubaki looks around as if she has missed something.

“Right here.” Minerva pulls the malachite necklace out of her purse.

“All of this for that?”

“And for an ass-load of cash,” Jen reminds her. “Now we just hand over the necklace to the Cold Fang Boys and we’re squared with ‘em.”

“And that is all they want?” Tsubaki asks. “None of the cash?”

“I don’t know much about wendigo history, but they say that it’s some historic treasure that belonged to their tribe. More important to them than gold. Plus, Zantharos doesn’t have as much leverage over them as he did before.”

“They stole the key to the safe box but could not get the necklace?”

“They aren’t allowed inside,” Jen goes on. “Silly laws and all that. Plus, their gang is well known in the city. They couldn’t have robbed it in broad daylight and gotten away with it. What with our haul, I think we scored a few big points today.”

“So we give the necklace back to the Cold Fangs,” Clementine says. “Then where to? We can’t hang around in this city.”

“I hear that Azure Town is nice this time of year,” Jen says.

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