Bird’s Eye View: Chapter 6- Tact and Tactical

[Akagane the Exchange Program’s tanuki lawyer as drawn by Yoghurt Stripper

I’d like to think I’m a patient man.

But as it turns out, I have my limits.

I really don’t know how things had gotten to this point, but here I was furtively glancing out the window of a home that wasn’t even mine.

The sound of more sirens filled the air and were getting closer. Reinforcements, no doubt.

Time to think through my next course of action very carefully- although if I had bothered to stop and consider the consequences of some of my decisions earlier, I probably wouldn’t even be in this situation.

Another glance out the window showed police cars pretty much everywhere I looked. My window of opportunity to make a clean getaway had slammed shut. Can’t lurk around the doors and windows, either- it would only be a matter of time before they had a sharpshooter set up. Like it or not, this was where I had to make my last stand.

Some movement and noise on the other end of the room drew my attention away from watching the police getting into defensive positions outside as more and more of them were arriving.

“Mmmph!? Hmm mmphhgm!!”

It was Perri. Each of her wings were hastily but securely tied to a sturdy wooden bar that was draped horizontally across her shoulders. Her teeth bit down on a cloth gag as she tried incoherently pleading with me.

For some reason, I’m not sure what bothered me more- seeing Perri like this or looking out the window of this strange home to see the long arm of the law closing in on me.

After giving it some thought, it turns out looking out the window would bother me more.

I mean, shit- it looks like the cops even brought in a Blackhawk and a couple of MRAPs to dislodge me.

I suppose I should be flattered.

What their next move was probably had everything to do with how badly they wanted me. If they thought time was of the essence, I could expect the door to be blown off its hinges in the next five minutes. If they were in no hurry, then they’d use someone to drag on negotiations until I was tired, distracted and fatigued, then make their move or coax me into surrendering.

But surrendering wasn’t an option.

If it’s going to come down to that, then I don’t want Perri to see it- nor did I want to have her caught in any crossfire…. although there’s no reason the heavily armed officers outside needed to know that.

The more I consider my dwindling options, the more uncomfortable I am keeping Perri against her will inside this strange home. If the clock is ticking, I had only one option to resolve this without further endangering her.

Nothing left to do but go out in a blaze of glory, I guess.

“Change of plans. This is where we say goodbye. It’s been a blast, little lady- sorry it has to end this way.” I said apologetically to my ‘hostage’. Instead of sounding cool and resigned, I sound nervous and hesitant. Fuck- I can’t even bring myself to utter Perri’s name.

This feels so wrong, but this whole situation was of my own doing. Even though the die was cast, I didn’t want the woman bound and gagged in the corner to think of me as a complete monster who got what was coming to him once this was all over.

Giving Perri a fleeting glance while I pick up the WASR-10 and throw the front door open, I quickly make my way down the steps on the front porch. Right away, I spy two officers in full tactical gear and facemasks breaking from cover and running straight towards the house as the sound of rotor blades from the circling Blackhawk get louder.

Here goes nothing.

Despite the overwhelming advantage in firepower they had, I don’t think the cops were expecting me to take the fight to them. This gives me a brief advantage as I quickly make my way off the porch and down the front steps of the house.

Levelling the Romanian Kalashnikov, I line up the closest of the two approaching officers in the iron sights and….

~~**BOOM!**~~

Before I can even pull the trigger, something from behind knocks me to the ground. It must have been a gunshot, but it certainly wasn’t from the gun I was holding.

Ow! Motherfucker….I know I’m a suspected extraspecies trafficker wielding an AK-47 clone with no serial number, but a shotgun blast to the back at near point-blank range? That’s a little harsh….

However- as much as it hurts, I’m not dead yet.

As I roll over and struggle to get up, I see standing on the roof of the porch above me a svelte, tanned woman in tactical gear with frosted pink hair and…..wings?

More to the point, I notice the pump-action shotgun she’s clutching as she racks another round in the chamber before gliding down to the ground.

Son of a bitch! How long had she been there? I ponder as I’m faintly aware of the spent shell landing somewhere nearby with a hollow, plastic clunk.

I….thought….cupids…used bows and arrows….” I wheeze, my defeat apparent as the first two officers close in, shouting orders.

“Hands where we can see them!”

“Don’t move!”

“Where’s the hostage!?”

“Suspect neutralized- you two secure the hostage and clear the residence!” the Cupid ordered. “He may have accomplices!”

“Don’t move!” the cupid said, turning her attention back to me as I was clearly trying to crawl away. Somewhere along the way she had slung the shotgun over her shoulder and had produced a pair of handcuffs.

Without saying a word, I could see the two officers communicating with hand signals and quick nods before continuing, sprinting up the front steps of the house that I was just holed up in. Their faces and bodies were obscured by body armour and ballistic helmets.

“Interspecies task force! Nobody move!”

“Front Hallway, Clear!”

“Hostage is secured.”

“Kitchen is clear!”

Among the features of many of the officers in armor and tactical gear now moving in on our position, I could see what appeared to be a myriad of tails, scales, claws and talons.

“Team Osiris- check for booby traps and IEDs. Be wary of anything with an oak leaf on it.” another woman’s voice crackles over the radio. It’s not Smith. I didn’t think it was possible, but she sounds even scarier than Smith. “Team Horus- cover the exits and entryway of the residence. Don’t touch any desktops, laptops, smartphones, smart speakers or any other electronic devices- Team Bast is on site and will be going through them.”

“Roger!”

“Copy that.”

“Who are you working for?” the cupid snapped impatiently. “There’s no way a dumbass like you could traffic all those extraspecies by yourself!”

Nope- not gonna dignify that question with a response. I keep quiet as I suddenly catch a whiff of formaldehyde.

“You’re making this too easy, Custer.” a voice familiar taunted.

God damn it- of course it had to be Zombina. FUCK! That smirking ginger zombie had to be enjoying every moment of this.

“Tell that chopper to move to the assembly area- I can’t fly five feet thanks to the rotor wash!” the cupid barked to somebody over the radio.

“Ma’am- this is a crime scene.” I can hear one of the other officers say. “I’m going to have to ask you to keep back.”

Only she wasn’t talking to Zombina.

Hold up! Hold up!” another familiar voice called out.

The pushy raccoon-dog drew incredulous glares from the cupid and zombie as she made her way through the police cordon as though she was daring anybody to stop her.

“I’m sure you girls would get in really big trouble with the U.S. Attorney’s Office if their big case got thrown out because my client was roughed up while in your custody.” Akagane continued, looking around reproachfully at Bina, the cupid and other officers still in tactical gear.

“You can discuss matters with your client after we process and book him.” the cupid said to her churlishly.

“Or if you forgot to read him his rights- wouldn’t want that now, would we?” she continued with her eyebrow cocked.

“Well what do ya know…? That sounds like my ring-tailed guardian angel!” I announce jubilantly from beneath the cupid’s boot.

“Ma’am- if you don’t clear the area right now, I’ll have you taken into custody as an accomplice.” the cupid said tersely.

“Yeah.” Another officer spoke up. Her face and upper body were concealed by bulky body armor and a ballistic helmet with a darkened visor on it. However, there was no disguising the arachne’s lower body. “Seems pretty convenient that this guy’s lawyer just happens to be a block away as all this is going down….”

“You don’t have to tell them anything, Buckaroo.” she said to me before turning her attention to Zombina and the cupid. “As Mr. Andersen’s legal counsel, I was attempting to negotiate his peaceful surrender when you trigger-happy bozos decided to go full Shock and Awe with my client.” she snapped at the officers.

The cupid genuinely looks perplexed. Zombina appeared more irritated than anything. The tanuki’s audaciousness had genuinely thrown them for a loop- although the cupid was quick to find her voice.

“Kind of hard to convince me your client is interested in peaceful anything when he’s holed up with one of these!” the cupid hissed at Akagane while she used her free hand to hold up my discarded rifle. “Your client is wanted in at least three states or multiple charges of kidnapping, extraspecies trafficking, impersonating an officer, burglary, assault with a deadly weapon…..not to mention he was about to open fire on our officers before I stopped him. If you don’t believe me, you can check the body-cam footage of any officer here, so you’ll have to pardon us for not being able to work within your timetable.” the cupid continued before regaining her composure and turning her attention back to me.

“So help me if you withhold medical care from him or anything happens to him while in custody, every last one of you are looking at a wrongful death suit and maybe even manslaughter charges.” The tanuki shot back.

The cupid says nothing right away, but judging from her facial expression Akagane has gotten under her skin.

“Bryce Andersen, you’re under arrest for kidnapping, extortion, resisting arrest and multiple violations of the Extraspecies Anti-trafficking Act. You have the right to remain silent- you have the right to an attorney-” the cupid began uncertainly before she was starting to hit her stride.

“That would be me.” Akagane interjects.

“All right, people! Weapons safe! That’s a wrap! After-action review will be in ten minutes at the command post.” Zombina shouts as even more officers in tactical gear seem to come out of the woodwork.

By this point, there were dozens of police officers with body armour, helmets and face shields were milling around, grumbling that they weren’t the ones who got to take me down. Even with just a glance, I could tell that a majority of the officers present were demihumans and mostly female..

Even though I was somehow able to walk, I still wasn’t sure what exactly was in store for me as the cupid and the others led me away in handcuffs.

 


 

Sitting handcuffed in the interrogation room at the police station gave me some time to reflect on how I ended up in this situation.

You see, it all started shortly after Smith’s timely arrival at the Spur.

She had taken me aside shortly after the big commotion resulting from Akagane’s funny money and the gruesome twosome. I was expecting her to read me the riot act while away from the others, but she surprised me with what she had to say next.

“Oi, cowboy-kun. I need a favor from you.” she said, her eyes peering at me over the top of her dark glasses.

Seriously- who wears sunglasses at 10 PM?

Judging from her tone, it didn’t seem like I would have much say in the matter. And the fact that she was so calm and nonchalant somehow made it even worse.

“What did you have in mind?” I ask, almost as if whatever she wanted from me was open to negotiation.

“It seems the facility we’re supposed to inspect is shorthanded…” she began.

“Hang on- what facility?” I ask.

“Zombina or Akagane can fill you in on the way there tomorrow.”

‘Facility’ sounds kind of ominous. Like a mental asylum or infectious disease research lab.

“Wait- what about Perri?” I ask.

“Tio can look after her….or I can issue her a pass.”

“A pass to where?”

“It’s a training facility south of here.” Smith said, seemingly exasperated that she had to spell it out for me, even though she was being as opaque as possible.

“What would they need me for?” I ask her.

“Like I said, Zombina or Akagane can give you the details on the way down. Think of it as picking up some part time work…”

Well, Smith is being as evasive as always. But it seems like there’s some expectation that I’m going to at least get paid for whatever it is.

“That is……” Smith continued as though in contemplation. “Unless I had to write Akagane up for insubordination. I mean….she could always appeal and go before a review board- she’d probably win, but that’s less time she could be spending….say…. with you, for example. That would be a real shame, wouldn’t it?”

Blackmail- and not the least bit subtle about it, either. First Smith was showing me the carrot, and then the stick.

“So- how about it, cowboy-kun?” Smith asked sweetly, as though I actually had a say in the matter.

We both knew there was only one answer she was willing to hear.

“Will you be there?” I ask.

“I may stick around here with Tionisha and look after Perri-” the raven-haired human began.

“Deal.” I interrupt. “I’ll be there.”

I may have had zero idea of what I was getting myself into, but it was almost worth it just to see the confused and slightly annoyed expression on the irksome woman’s face.

“We’ll have Zombina pick you up tomorrow morning at eight, then.” Smith said- perhaps a little disappointed that she didn’t browbeat or extort me into doing something else she wanted.

Before Smith could excuse herself, I suddenly remembered something in all of the chaos that night.

“Hey- before I forget, there’s something I gotta show you.” I say as I dig around in my pocket.

After finding my phone, I pull it out and start scrolling for the image I wanted to show Smith.

It was a screencap of the apparent death threat on the social media post of Amanda and the other cheerleadings posing for selfies with Perri.

Smith didn’t say anything right away, but furrowed her brow as she grabbed my phone.

“Send me a link to this post if it’s still up- I want our tech guys to take a look at this account before anything gets reported to the admins.” she said, her tone far more serious now. “Chances are this isn’t a one-off.”

“You think it’s the real deal or some shitlord blowing hot air?” I ask.

“Ninety nine percent sure it’s some loser playing internet tough guy from their mommy’s basement by threatening some high school girls.” Smith sighed as she removed her glasses and pinched the bridge of her nose.

I caught a glimpse of her eyes for a moment- they looked tired and sad. Suddenly, I felt much more sympathetic towards exchange program functionaries like Smith. Judging from her reaction, this clearly wasn’t her first rodeo regarding things like anonymous death threats directed at homestays.

“Regardless, I think it would be prudent to warn them on the off chance whoever left those messages intends to follow through.” she continued.

“R-right…I think everybody tagged in the original post is local.” I add.

“Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We’ll have someone by to pick you up around eight thirty tomorrow morning.”

So in less than 24 hours, I had gone from boozy fun and games with the trickster tanuki lawyer lady to participating in live-fire training exercises for prospective MON agents.

Apparently my rash decision to basically commit suicide by cop in this scenario instead of hunkering down and playing the waiting game had denied all the MON agents-in-training valuable training on negotiations and making a dynamic entry in a barricaded residence in a hostage situation. However, Akagane’s aggressive lawyering in the immediate aftermath provided them with an unexpected and often overlooked aspect of training.

Seems as though this means I can’t hang out with the popular kids at Club Fed afterwards and I’m left to cool my heels all by my lonesome. That is a bit of a shame, seeing as how I was kinda curious about how many other extraspecies police officers there really might’ve been in this town.

I can only wonder if anything is going to come of that as I’m sitting handcuffed and by myself in the interrogation room of an abandoned police station.

My thoughts were brought back to my current situation by the sound of the door to the interrogation room opening.

It was my ring-tailed advocate.

“Mister Andersen.” Akagane spoke up, with no sign of the jovial demeanor I was becoming accustomed to “Looks like it’s just you and me now.”

“So it seems.”

“And for the record, Buckaroo…..if I thought for even a second you were an interspecies trafficker, attorney/client privilege goes out the window. Never mind ‘guardian angel’, it would be more like ‘avenging angel’.”

“Umm….okay?”

“A demihuman trafficker should know what a blowtorch to the face and rusty hatchet to the crotch would feel like. If it were up to me, there would be no letting up until he’s begging the guards to keep the bad lady away.”

“Owie.” I inhale sharply through clenched teeth.

“I think it’s a fitting punishment for those kinds of people….Human rights should get tossed out the window the second somebody kidnaps other sentient beings for profit. But I wouldn’t want them killed or anything- just reminded of the error of their ways whenever they look in the mirror for the rest of their shitty, miserable, pathetic lives.” she said before pausing. “However, it looks like you don’t have anything to worry about.”

Good to know.

“Hang on- Are we doing good cop/bad cop?” I ask hesitantly.

The Tanuki shook her head ‘no’.

“If you wanna play that game, then it’s gonna be just you and one VERY dirty cop.” the tanuki purred as she closed the door behind her.

Damn it. Even the way she shut the door- gently leaning on it with both hands behind her back until it clicked shut and never taking her eyes off me the entire time- was somehow sensual.

“They’re not going to finish with their after-action review for awhile, which leaves us with alllll sorts of time to kill.” Akagane purred as she strutted across the room.

“That’s great, but…..I’m still handcuffed.”

The mischievous Tanuki flashed me a wicked grin, complete with little fangs as she gently placed her hand on my chest.

“Oh really?” she tittered. “Mmm…pity. And here you are, completely helpless. If only there was somebody around who had the keys….”

“I saw you with a pair earlier, you lying little trash panda-” I snap as I stand up out of the chair with my hands still shackled behind my back.

“Uh uh…. I already told you….” Akagane cuts me off as she presses a finger to my lips. A gentle shove from her sends me stumbling back into the interrogation room’s chair. “Boku wa tanuki….. Ta Nu Ki.” she added in her native tongue for emphasis as she leaned in “Not ‘trash panda’, ‘Rocket’, or ‘Rigby’, whoever that is.”

She now has each hand resting on the arm of the chair she just shoved me into while leaning down and staring right into my eyes. And dear lord, what a view.

“Besides- I seem to remember a certain role-player who had my arms tied to a wooden pole not too long ago. He certainly was in no hurry to cut me loose.” Akagane reminded me as she unconsciously rubbed her wrists.

“Akagane….” I wheeze.

“Hm?”

“C-can I ask you something?”

“It’s just the two of us, Buckaroo. Ask me anything you want.”

“Unless my memory is playing tricks on me, I took a shotgun blast to the back a few minutes ago. So, um……why doesn’t it hurt more? Shouldn’t I get looked at by a medic or something?”

“Ah- that seems to be more a question for the Rotten Girl.” she sighed disdainfully. “But from what she told me, the guns being used in the facility are very much real. However, they use a special ammunition with less gunpowder that works more like paintball than an actual bullet.”

“I see.”

“Don’t worry, Buckaroo. Those MON agents were checking your back for injuries while they were cuffing you and reading your rights. I would’ve said something about it at the time, but we’re not supposed to ‘break character’ during the training exercise.”

“If it’s a fake bullet, it feels like it should hurt less. If it’s a real bullet, it feels like it should hurt a lot more.” I muse.

“Aw- don’t sweat it. You took that shotgun blast like a champ.” she tittered, indicating that she clearly thought otherwise.

“And you played the role of antagonistic lawyer flawlessly.” I replied.

“Oh? And what about your homestay?” she asked as she leaned in a little closer. “Did I portray her convincingly?”

“Mmm- a rare dual role. Perri’s a little trickier to nail down- I mean, she’s nobody’s damsel-in-distress.” I’m quick to point out. “So I wasn’t 100% sold on the premise of me somehow overpowering her like that and coming away unscathed.”

“Is that a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’?” Akagane asked teasingly as she leans closer.

The way she’s leaning in, it’s impossible for me not to notice her considerable bosom wobbling and jiggling.

Of course, I wasn’t exactly subtle about it and it soon became impossible for Akagane to not notice me noticing her breasts.

“Oh? See something you like, Buckaroo?”

“M-maybe.”

“Oh….you like them, do you?” she teased. “But didn’t you say I was… and I quote….a ‘trash panda’?”

“That was so long ago- I can’t really remember.” I lie shamelessly.

“If that’s how you want to play it….” she harrumphed. “New rule, Buckaroo- you’re not allowed to do anything with the sweater muffins of a ‘trash panda’… no looking, no touching, no kissing- no nothing.”

“Aw.”

“However, I can think of all sorts of things that I’m sure you’d like to do with a beautiful, sage and benevolent tanuki. Now, are you gonna be a good boy?” she asks confidently.

She kind of has me at a huge disadvantage, and she knows it. And to be honest, that actually makes the whole thing even hotter.

“Y-yes…”

“Yes, what?” she asks as she cups my chin.

“Yes, beautiful Tanuki lady…..” I mumble shyly, somewhat surprised I haven’t shot a load in my jeans after this display.

No sooner had I said that than Akagane suddenly threw her head back and laughed raucously as she clapped her hands together..

“I kind of like it better when you call me Miss Tachibana. Makes me feel like a naughty teacher taking advantage of one of her students.” she softly growled as she leaned in and gently nibbled my ear and began caressing my cheek. “The ones who seem kinda dumb at first, but are actually mature for their age and have some sort of hidden talent.”

Oh fuck….this is almost too much.

“Are you sure we should be doing this, Miss Tachibana? What would the PTA say about you in their next meeting if somebody walks in on us?”

“Hee hee. Don’t you worry, handsome. I used one of my sutras to make it look like we’re in another room just talking.”

“But didn’t you use some of your sutras for the football game? They didn’t last as long as you thought and we saw what happened when-”

“Th-that’s not important, Buckaroo.” the now-pouting raccoon-dog interrupted.

She cupped my cheek and was now thoughtfully looking into my eyes. “But since we’re in the interrogation room I have a question for you….”

“Shoot.”

Poor choice of words on my part given earlier events, but she said nothing further about that particular subject.

“For the exercise, why did you decide to take the suicide-by-cop route?”

“Guess you could blame that last stand on the fact I saw Mr. Majestyk a few nights ago. Are you soliciting feedback for Smith or Zombina?” I ask

“No- it’s just the longer you dragged it out, the more time we could’ve spent together.”

“Yeah- but you were disguised as Perri and we had a SWAT team camped out on the doorstep. Not exactly setting up the mood.” I point out.

“Oooh….I wouldn’t have said anything if you started doing lewd things to me. That’s what baddies would do.” she teased as she moved even closer to me.

“I dunno…..I mean- we haven’t known each other very long, but I didn’t have it in me to see something bad happen to you- or Perri, even if it was just a drill.”

“Mmm- that’s sweet of you.” she said as she’s now straddling me in the chair. “Still- one more question before we get down to brass tacks….”

Oh damn- I had fantasies that started off this way. The thing is, I never considered how it would end since I couldn’t get past the fact that my fantasy of getting handcuffed and teased by a voluptuous and bespectacled woman in a power suit was already off to a pretty unrealistic start.

“Go ahead.” I manage to say calmly.

Except I’m not calm. I can hear my heart beating. I’m sure those pointy little ears of hers aren’t just for show- I’d be surprised if she didn’t pick up on it.

“The other night, when we were in the alley….behind the Spike.”

“You mean the Spur?”

“Whatever- you could’ve done anything you wanted, y’know.” she murmurs as she slowly traces her fingers up and down my chest.

“Anything at all…” she continues with a slight pout. I couldn’t help but notice that her ears were beginning to droop a little. “So why is it when all was said and done, the two of us didn’t end up doing anything more than square dancing in the alley to some music from the jukebox?”

Oh damn…..pretty good question.

“Believe me, It’s not that I wasn’t interested.” I begin. “The thing is, you’re a beautiful woman and it’s been awhile for me, but…..”

There’s always a ‘but’, I suppose.

“C’mon- most people just assume I’m a dumpy raccoon.” the Tanuki lawyer mumbled self consciously as she took off her glasses.

“Dumpy? Nah…. more like curvy.” I correct her. “Don’t sell yourself short like that. Still, a woman like you deserves better than a quickie behind the dumpster in a filthy alley. I thought maybe you and I could’ve slipped away somewhere nicer- but that was before things got really out of hand.”

“Such is a tanuki’s lot in life, I suppose.” she lamented with a slightly melodramatic flair. “Does the interrogation room of a police station in an abandoned town count as ‘somewhere nicer’?”

“Well- we’re not setting the bar particularly high here.”

The Tanuki gave me a playful little scowl before I continued.

“But yeah…”

At this point, I couldn’t help but notice that her tail was beginning to twitch and her ears were beginning to perk up again.

“Good!”

Enough waiting. The auburn haired tanuki leaned in and passionately kissed me on the lips. All details seemed lost to me- I’m not sure how long my tongue was tentatively exploring the inside of her mouth while the tanuki exhaled, letting out a soft moan in the process.

Well now- this was going to be a challenge: Satisfy the curvy tanuki woman and explore her voluptuous body all without using my hands.

But who am I to back down from a challenge?

Akagane broke the kiss and was looking at me with a satisfied grin.

Dear Men’s Magazine Forum- I never thought it could happen to a guy like me…..” I mused out loud.

“Don’t tell me you had those kinds of magazines under your bed when you were younger.” the tanuki asked.

“Oh- I wish. I think I had to settle for the Sears catalog back then. Worst part was there was no raccoo- er….tanuki girls modelling the goods.”

“That you know of. Did you check the pictures for an oak leaf?”

“I gotta admit that was probably one of the last things on my mind when I was looking at those models.”

“Oh my- such a perverted boy.” she teased as she kissed me again, her soft hand gently caressing my cheek before kissing me.

The Tanuki’s sensual and playful caresses are begging to be reciprocated by me, but the cuffs are still biting into my wrists as I struggle in vain to break free.

This does not go unnoticed by Akagane as she breaks the kiss more slowly this time.

“Mmm….that’s it. Squirm for me, Buckaroo.” she moans before both of her hands are on the back of my head, pressing my face into her enticing marshmallowy bosom. The curvy tanuki had unbuttoned her top partway but was still wearing a black lace bra that looked a bit too small to contain her considerable bust and had accompanied this with an alluring perfume.

Once that bra is coming off, I’m willing to bet it’s just tight enough that it will leave little lace-patterned indentations along the lady lawyer’s breasts. If I can’t run my fingers over those delicate little marks, then I sure as hell am going to run my tongue over it.

In fact, even though my hands are cuffed behind me, I can still get that bra out of my way.

Eyes closed and jaw slightly agape, I begin using my mouth to start exploring the tanuki’s considerable bosom.

This is met with a surprised little gasp followed by a sudden giggling from the lady lawyer.

“Oh? You’re like a baby trying to help themselves to mama’s milk.” she teases, continuing to let out an involuntary giggle.

I don’t say anything right away because I can’t. My mouth, tongue and teeth are trying to figure out where the tanuki woman’s breasts end and her lacy black bra begins.

Ah….hee hee… come on, Buckaroo.” she titters while squirming a little. “Th-that tickles!”

Is that a fact? She can’t keep these handcuffs on me forever, and when they come off, it’s going to be payback time….

Wait a minute- looks like I just found paydirt. Gently clamping my teeth around some fabric, I bite down and pull my head away from Akagane’s breasts, stretching out the fabric on one of her cups before my teeth lose their grip and it snaps back into place. I open my eyes in time to see up close the enticing jiggle as her bra snaps back into place.

To be honest, I’m kind of surprised that little move on my part didn’t trigger an avalanche of paper talismans, counterfeit money, business cards, house keys and whatever else Akagane kept in her bra.

“Ah….you naughty boy.” she playfully scolds me as she starts slowly unbuttoning my shirt. “If it’s going to be like that, I don’t see why you need to keep this on.”

Akagane starts running her left hand slowly up my chest before stopping at my right nipple, which is surprisingly hard. Her dainty little finger is lazily tracing a circle around it as she’s eyeing me with a predatory gaze. I bite my tongue and do my best to sit still- I’m not sure it’s a good idea to advertise that I’m kind of ticklish to Akagane while I’m still completely at her mercy.

“Buckaroo- I’m starting to think you’re overdressed for the occasion.” she purrs as she scoots back ever so slightly and starts fidgeting with my belt buckle.

“Funny- I was going to say the same thing about you.” I reply while trying to catch my breath.

Strange how I was able to notice the little things during moments like these….well, maybe not so little- like her considerable bosom rising and falling with each breath, her tail puffing up to what looked like twice its normal size, her shallow, rapid breathing and the twitching of her pointy right ear.

“Akagane, I want-” I began before the tanuki softly pressed her finger to my lips.

Satisfied I was going to remain quiet, she gently slipped her dainty finger into my mouth while her other hand went to work unbuttoning the rest of her blouse.

Without any warning whatsoever, the door flew open and a dark haired woman walked in a few paces before coming to a halt upon seeing Akagane and me in such a compromising position.

Deja-vu all over again.

AAAH!” she let out an embarrassed little yelp. “S…sumimasen. I’m sorry Akagane-san. I didn’t know that you’d be in here………doing- uh… things.” she trailed off as she began bowing deeply with her hands clasped before her.

The new arrival certainly looked human enough, but she stopped bowing long enough for me to see that she had only had one large eye- there wasn’t any eyepatch, either.

Our sudden guest was a monoeye.

“M-Manako! What are you doing here?” the clearly startled tanuki lawyer said as she quickly got to her feet and straightened herself out.

“S….Sadeh is going to give a PowerPoint presentation shortly- she said she needed another power strip for the projector and I should look in here.” the woman squeaked nervously.

“Ummm….hi.” I interject shyly, hoping neither one of them would notice the Barnum and Bailey sized tent that had been pitched in my jeans.

Guess I’m ‘things’.

A look of anger clouded the bespectacled Tanuki’s eyes as her lips curled into a very subtle sneer at the mention of this Sadeh’s name.

And before I know it, my hands are free. Akagane had produced the missing set of handcuff keys and walked behind my chair before uncuffing my wrists from behind my back.

“W-will you be joining us?” the dark haired monoeye nervously asked the tanuki and me.

After Akagane helped me get to my feet, I found myself reflexively rubbing my wrists where the cuffs had been biting in earlier.

“I’m gonna be showing the new guy around the facility some more, so I’ll have to take a raincheck.” she said as she grabbed me by the elbow.

It wasn’t lost on me that the raccoon-dog youkai seemed like she was now in a hurry, almost certainly trying to avoid the two of us getting roped into this meeting at all costs.

“We really should get going, but….er… it was good seeing you again….” Akagane excused herself with a little bow she began tugging me while on our way out of the interrogation room.

Manako didn’t have much in the way of a reply aside from blinking and quietly saying goodbye as we excuse ourselves.

 


 

“That damn bitch….” Akagane growled quietly once we were outside.

Perhaps it was my imagination, but her striped tail seemed even bigger than usual.

“Manako? She didn’t seem that way.” I reply.

Judging from her initial reaction, the hapless monoeye certainly didn’t seem like she was in on the joke.

“No- not her. Fucking jackal bitch must’ve known we were trying to get some privacy and sent Manako out on a phony errand to interrupt us and….” she paused, exhaling deeply before continuing- almost as if she was attempting some sort of impromptu meditation or breathing exercises. “You know what? I’m not going to stress about it….”

Holy crap! Akagane’s tail has almost puffed up to the size of a parade float. There’s just something about that tail that made me want to latch on and bury my face in its seemingly impossible fluffiness. Whoever ‘jackal bitch’ is seems to have gotten her pretty worked up. Even though this might end up shrinking her tail, I figured I should probably try and calm Akagane down some.

“Still- it’s pretty nice out. There’s worse things than being outside on a day like today.” I say, fighting the urge to try and dive into her tail like it’s the ball pit at Chuck E. Cheese.

“Tio and Manako have told me those meetings after each exercise take forever.” The tanuki complained as we exited the grounds of what was once the police department. “Since I’m technically not with MON, I’m not required to attend. We’re much better off going for a stroll- trust me.”

Whether it was bogus internet rumors of me abusing my homestay, the gruesome twosome, police brutality or a long and tedious meeting, in the few days since she introduced herself to me in memorable fashion Akagane seemed to relish her role as some kind of savior. So far she had spared me from any of those fates by using her sharp mind and silver tongue along with an almost uncanny knowledge of the regulations and the laws of the land.

“Well- might as well show you around.” Akagane sighed, her frisky mood clearly having passed but still clearly wanting to spend some time with me.

I suppose a quickie in the abandoned town plaza is out of the question given how embarrassed she was when it was just Manako who walked in on us.

“What is this place, anyway? I kinda got distracted during the briefing.”

“I kind of figured you would.” she said with a coy little smirk. “This place is Las Orillas. Used to be a company town for the Cates-Maddox Copper company.”

Sounds familiar.

Even though the town actually wasn’t all that far from where I lived as the crow (or falcon harpy) flies, I didn’t know too much about it other than its name and that it had been abandoned for a while.

“We’re pretty lucky today- this whole area can get high winds and dust storms strong enough to shut down the nearby interstate.”

“Pretty modern for a ghost town, though.” I point out.

Akagane nodded. “I don’t think there’s any building here older than the late 1970s. They built it because their smelters in Tucson and El Paso were getting all sorts of noise complaints. At its peak, this town had their own school, bank, community center, park, movie theater, bowling alley- even a skeet and trap shooting range. Then Cates-Maddox was acquired by another copper company during the Great Recession, and the new owners decided to consolidate operations and basically shut everything down here in Las Orillas.”

That certainly would explain why there were so many modern-looking buildings still standing.

“Ever thought about quitting your day job and becoming a tour guide full time?” I ask her facetiously.

“If that happens, I’ll need a sugar daddy. Think you’re up for that, Buckaroo?” she replies with a wink.

“OK- So no quitting your day job, then.”

Akagane almost seamlessly launches back into her spiel. I don’t know if she’s ever been here before, but she sure knows a lot about this town site.

“Anyways, The nearby smelter was sold, dismantled and shipped overseas- but nobody knew what to do with the actual townsite once all the employees began relocating. So…the state of New Mexico ended up buying the land before they were approached by Homeland Security. The DHS and some other agencies asked to sublease the land and use the townsite for counterterrorism training.”

“So now MON is using this place to train their new recruits, I take it.”

“And train some of the human agencies on how to deal with extraspecies criminals…” Akagane added. “Starting with the different alphabet soup Fed agencies. I imagine it will be only a matter of time before tactical units from the big city police departments rotate through here.”

For some reason, I thought places like this were deemed top secret and off limits to the public, but I’m technically here today as a contract employee, roleplaying as a deranged hostage-taker and demihuman trafficker.

“Well shit- we just used cheesy plywood cutouts for mock villages when I was in the National Guard.” I mused out loud. “But this….this town looks almost like it was purpose built for these kinds of drills.”

“You’re looking at twenty years of benign neglect and arrested decay, Buckaroo.”

She’s right- even if this place had been abandoned for almost 20 years, we’re in the high desert now- with hardly any rainfall or humidity to weather the town’s structures.

“You wanna see a ghost town- an authentic Old West one- you and me should check out Chloride or Shakespeare sometime.” I offer.

“Are we talking about another date?”

“After that clusterfuck that may or may not have been our first date? Hell yes.” I chuckle. “But no chaperones this time.”

“Sounds dreamy, Buckaroo- but these sound like places you should be taking your homestay.”

Damn- I guess she’s right, but some days it seems next to impossible to coax Perri into doing anything besides heading out for the occasional burrito. And after a long day at work, I don’t exactly have the energy to be arguing with Perri, let alone drag her to some tourist trap halfway across the state.

“Peri tends to go off and do her own thing- especially when I’m at work all day.” I point out. “It would be nice if I could persuade her, though.”

“As much fun as you and I are having, it wouldn’t hurt to take her to some of these places you’ve been telling me about.” Akagane said. “She’s supposed to be learning about things like local history and customs- although if I were you, I’d probably give this place a miss.” She swept her arm out to indicate Las Orillas in general.

“So how many times have you been here?” I ask her.

“This is my first time, actually.”

I’m sure I looked surprised when she said that.

“Really? You seem to know so much about it.”

“I helped out with some of the due diligence when MON was looking to lease this place- you know…make sure we’re not actually subleasing a Superfund site. But today I get to see what all the fuss is about for myself.”

“You seemed like you knew what you were doing during the exercises, though.”

“They just told me to ‘be myself’ before we got started.”

“Even though you were also role-playing as my homestay too.” I muse.

“As you already know, I’m quite versatile.”

“Hey- I’ve been meaning to ask, Akagane- does your name mean anything…y’know, in Japanese?”

“Well….” she started bashfully. “You’re not going to believe this, but….”

“But what?”

“It means ‘red gold’…..’copper’, basically.”

“Really?”

She nodded.

“And here we are in what was once a copper mining town.”

“I know, right?” the tanuki added. “My parents told me my hair was much redder when I was younger.”

“Too bad the theater’s isn’t open anymore.” I muse. “We could’ve gotten two tickets to the Pirates of the Carribean reboot.”

“That would be nice, but I’m not really into pirate movies.”

“Me neither, but I was thinking we could’ve picked up where we left off at the police station.” I growl softly into Akagane’s ear. “My treat.”

I follow this up by giving the tanuki lawyer a quick, playful nibble on her pointed ear. To my delight, she reacts with a startled gasp as she squirms a little.

Oh wow- she wasn’t kidding about her ears being sensitive.

“Ho….H-hold up, Buckaroo. Let me check on something real quick.” she squeaks nervously as she excused herself, leaving me by myself in the abandoned town’s park.

Watching her walk away, I wondered what could that ring-tailed minx be up to. Her tail appears to have gotten less fluffy since our abrupt departure from the police station- although it’s still quite robust. I might’ve come on too strong, but that’s pretty mild compared to the fun and games she initiated with me in the interrogation room.

“D-don’t go anywhere.” she turns back to say to me before rounding a corner.

Shit- that would suck if she decided to ditch me for whatever reason. It would certainly make the ride back to the ranch more awkward, that’s for sure.

Deciding my best bet is to wait for the copper-haired tanuki to return from whatever errand she suddenly embarked upon, I find myself pacing back and forth in front of what was once the town’s park. Although it looks a bit shabby and worn down, there’s enough green around the gazebo to leave me with the impression that there’s somebody taking care of it, however infrequently.

With no sign of Akagane, I walk from the street to the park’s gazebo. It looked like it had been there since before the town was abandoned. I was pretty surprised at how well the small structure seemed to be weathering the harsh elements But….

Where did she go?

Walking back to the street, my foot catches on something along the somewhat cracked but otherwise serviceable sidewalk. I didn’t trip on a crack- it’s something else….like I stepped in a wad of bubblegum. Lifting up my shoe, I can see something adhesive and slightly pink sticking to the walkway with some of it still stretching out and stuck to the sole of my boot.

Except it wasn’t gum- at least it didn’t look like it at first. Although it was sticky, this was more translucent. And whatever this is looks like it had been seeping over to the walkway from the grass.

Moving a few paces away, I try removing the mystery goo from the bottom of my boot.

But as soon as I found a stick to start scraping, the strange substance quickly fell off the sole of my boots. Almost like it was…..aware of its surroundings?

That can’t be…..can it?

But I’ve seen some pretty strange stuff here already. As I’m contemplating this, I find myself feeling a bit woozy and smelling something like orange blossoms. It’s a very pleasant smell, but I’m kind of curious why I’m smelling it since there certainly aren’t citrus trees growing nearby.

Also, besides feeling a little lightheaded, for some reason I’m harder than the Golden Jubilee Diamond right now.

My train of thought is interrupted when I’m aware of somebody else on the opposite side of the town’s main square.

But whoever it is, it seems like they have nothing to do with this enigmatic goo.

In fact, this new arrival looks rather familiar. Lo and behold- as I tentatively approached them from behind to get a better look, it turns out that it was none other than Perri.

She’s on her haunches talking to somebody in a voice barely above a whisper.

I’m not going to hurt you, Mr. Fuzzytail…..aren’t you hungry?” she asks in a cloyingly sweet voice.

As I get closer, I can see that there are two squirrels in front of her- just beyond the reach of her wingtips and examining her curiously.

You and your friend must be so hungry after frolicking around like that, right?” the raptor harpy coos. “Would you like a bite to eat?

It occurs to me that if she was going to kill and devour them, there’s no point in trying to lure them in like that when she could’ve just as easily swooped in on them from above and caught both squirrels with her talons.

“You know those things are crawling with disease, right?” I speak up.

Clearly startled, Perri almost jumps straight up to her feet before turning to see who’s addressing her.

“Mr. Host….it’s rude to sneak up on somebody like that!”

I can only scoff at the complete lack of self-awareness from the harpy woman who at some point decided to swoop down and steal my hat as an unofficial greeting.

“Hantavirus, norovirus….hell- even the bubonic plague.” I add, thinking it’s a little strange for any human to be able to sneak up on an apex predator like my housemate without even trying.

She’s scowling at me now.

“I wasn’t doing anything weird….I just thought they looked hungry.” she huffed defensively, sweeping her wing to indicate the two squirrels she had been talking to- except now they had retreated some distance after being spooked by my arrival.

Seeing this didn’t make Perri any less scowl-ey towards me.

“Perri? What are you even-?” I begin to ask before a couple of things grab my attention.

What’s this now? I take in the sight of two pointy nipples outlined through the fabric of Perri’s top as she gets closer. Looks like it was good and cold at whatever altitude she was flying at. To be honest, the fact that she appeared to be wearing a bra underneath her shirt made the visibility of her nipples even more impressive to me.

But how was she able to find me? Granted I wasn’t exactly trying to hide from her, but this place couldn’t have been too easy to find.

“Mr. Host, what is this place?” she asks.

There’s something else I noticed. A leaf in my homestay’s hair.

As soon as I spot that random bit of flora in my homestay’s platinum locks, I realize what’s going on.

This isn’t Perri- it’s Akagane disguised as my homestay.

That crafty little minx. This explains so much. She suddenly goes away for whatever reason and then shows up disguised as my homestay once again. There’s no way in hell Perri would get all dopey and affectionate over some run of the mill rodents she could just as easily murder and there’s no way in hell I could sneak up and startle her like that.

Well now- if Akagane is up for some roleplay, who am I to say ‘no’?

“This is some sort of training facility MON is using, but what are you even doing here?”

“I got bored playing Scrabble with Smith and Tio, so I excused myself.”

“They let you out without a day pass?”

“Smith said if I’m flying from home to any property run by the exchange program, I don’t need a pass.”

Those words were setting off my bullshit detector.

“Really?” I ask her skeptically.

“I…..I may have snuck out.”

OK- I laughed a little at that reply. That actually does sound like something Perri would say.

“So you’re not going to continue showing me around?” I mock pout.

“What are you going on about? I just got here.” the imposter harpy asked defensively.

“Ah. OK then…if you say so.” I tease.

“You’re acting weird…..well, weirder than usual.” Perri clarifies.

There’s that look. ‘Perri’ gives me a skeptical sideways glance, not quite able to suppress a tiny smirk as she turns away from me.

“Well- want me to show you around?” I ask, humoring her.

‘Perri’ says nothing but nods.

“OK- that’s a gazebo.” I point towards the former town square. “That, I’m guessing, used to be the community center and over there is the theater….. we’re just in time for the hot MILF gangbang matinee and somewhere around here is supposed to be a food truck that whips up a killer iced mocha. That’s actually not part of the town- I think it’s some guy who drives out from Demming every day.”

“This looks really new- this wasn’t what I had in mind when they told me you guys were going to a ghost town.”

Damn if Akagane didn’t have Perri’s mannerisms down pat- but it’s kind of difficult to overlook the leaf on top of her head given the shenanigans from the other night.

“Well, Perri. If you’d like we can go someplace like Steins or Piños Altos sometime. Those are more like your traditional Old West ghost towns.”

As soon as I made the offer, I think I understood what Akagane was trying to do. It looks like she’s role playing to get me to get accustomed to asking Perri to go somewhere with me by impersonating my homestay. It’s pretty cute, now that I stopped to think about it.

“I might like to do that some time, Mr. Host.” the faux harpy said. “Would it be easier if I flew and you met me there?”

Not that I didn’t appreciate what Akagane was trying to do- it was kind of sweet, really- but there’s no way Perri would be so readily agreeable to anything I asked or suggested. Seems like everything’s an argument or protracted negotiation with that bird woman.

“You could do that if you wanted, or maybe ride out with me and fly back. Seems like falcon harpies have a pretty good sense of direction. But…”

My train of thought is interrupted as my boot catches in something again.

Son of a bitch- I stepped in more of that pink gelatinous goo. There’s a small puddle of it right by the front of my boot. Whatever is it, can it be seeping up from the ground?

Except this stuff seems to be evaporating before my eyes.

No- not quite evaporating. More like….retreating. Unable to believe my eyes, I blink as the strange tennis-ball sized puddle of goo abruptly stretches across the empty street and disappears into the grass by what was once the park.

That lightheaded sensation is back, along with the scent of blossoms.

“Mr. Host….? Mr Host?” the harpy imposter asks from what seems like a thousand miles away. “I…I feel a little strange.”

Doing my best to regain my senses, I focus my attention on my winged companion. She does indeed look a little woozy and is using one wing to lean against the exterior of one of the abandoned homes for support.

That settles it- there’s no way the real Perri would ever look this vulnerable. Whatever the mischievous tanuki’s endgame was, Akagane is clearly yanking my chain. Might as well have a little fun with it.

“Here.” I tell her as I gently brush a lock of platinum hair away from her face. “Let me check your temperature.”

Instead of using my hand to check her temperature, I gently press my forehead against hers which prompts a quiet but bewildered yelp from the faux falcon.

“Mr. Host…what are you doing?” she asks breathlessly.

From this close, it’s impossible for me to NOT notice her ample chest rising and falling as her breathing became more shallow.

And even if Akagane is play-acting, she does seem a bit warm.

“Oh my- you’re burning up now.” I tease with my forehead still on hers.

“Mr. Host…I….I don’t think we should….” ‘Perri’ begins before trailing off as I gently cup her chin.

Oh this little raccoon-dog trickster was good. She even managed to get my homestay’s striking and hypnotic amber eyes down remarkably well. These were all details I somehow overlooked when we were holed up in the abandoned house surrounded by the SWAT team.

However, it looks like it’s my turn to take charge and have some fun with Akagane.

“C’mon gorgeous……you can’t do what you did to me back there and not expect some payback.” I said as I gently grabbed ‘Perri’ by the shoulders and pinned her against the adobe wall of the abandoned house. “Care to tell me what the hell you’re up to?”

“What are you talking about…?” she began to ask before the rest of her query was cut off by my lips.

One of my hands gently hooks around the impostor’s neck while the other slips under ‘Perri’s’ shirt and begins enthusiastically massaging her right breast.

That cockiness from when she had me handcuffed in the interrogation room was gone, suddenly replaced by shock and this surprising bashfulness that I found almost intoxicating.

The phony Perri lets out a little moan and uses her wing-claws to gently remove my hand from her breast, slowly guiding it down to her waist instead. Before I realize it, she seems to have overcome her initial shock and tentatively returns the kiss before our lips separate.

“You look pretty good like this, but you can go ahead and change back any time if you want.” I growl in her ear.

B…Bryce- No! We can’t do this.” the harpy imposter gasped as she looked away shyly.

Oh God….there’s just something adorable about seeing ‘Perri’ so flustered and at a loss for words. However, she does have a point. Getting frisky with a very convincing facsimile of Perri would almost certainly complicate the relationship with the actual raptor harpy living under my roof.

Still, the intensity of the moment gets the better of me. If the tanuki wants a take-charge kind of guy, who am I to disappoint her?

“On the contrary, we CAN do this.” I growl where her pointy little ear should be.

“How about we continue our fun after we get you changed back?” I ask as I pull the leaf off the top of the impostor’s silky platinum locks.

Instead of a puff of smoke or mist and being face to face with a hot and bothered tanuki, I’m still looking at…..Perri.

That’s odd.

Granted I know next to nothing about Tanuki spellcraft, but from what little I did see over the past couple of days, the leaves served as some kind of catalyst for her shape-shifting or illusory magic. If she didn’t change back to a Tanuki when I removed them, then that could mean-

“Hey Buckaroo- turns out Zombina’s supposed to give you your paycheck, but-” a familiar voice speaks up to our left. I turn and see Akagane walking around the corner.

She stops mid-sentence and I pull my lips away from what I thought was the raccoon dog lady lawyer’s ears.

They emphatically weren’t.

The two of us can see an appropriately shocked look on Akagane’s face as she stood there with a cup of ice coffee in each hand.

Still clutching the leaf I plucked from Perri’s head, I placed it back atop the falcon harpy’s scalp.

She is definitely not changing back into Akagane….because she’s not Akagane.

Even my lust-addled mind doesn’t take too long to connect the dots. If the real Akagane had just gotten back from the food truck, then the imposter Perri I just pinned to the wall before kissing and fondling was….not….an imposter.

“I….uh….got us some ice coffee while I was out.” the tanuki said uncertainty, giving one of the glasses a shake.

Suddenly I’m filled with an overwhelming sense of dread as I turn to the now beet-red harpy.

“Perri- I’m SO sorry. I….I thought you were-”

My words are cut off by a loud ‘SLAP’ as the flustered harpy delivers an open-handed slap.

Well- congratulations, dumbass. I just ‘took charge’ with the last woman in the exchange program I was supposed to touch.

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