UNITED STATES—Harlan said to Laurel, “They’re in.” She grabbed his arm. “Let me see.” He handed her the binoculars. “Here comes the tricky part, I hope this works.” She smiled. “I’ve got faith in them.” Shail said,  “Okay, let’s hook up.”

They stood on either side of her. “Ready? On three. One… Two… THREE!” On three they bumped against her, and spring-loaded clasps hooked them together. Samantha got up on her hind legs and braced herself on Link’s back. She aimed at an antenna array on the roof of the building. She steadied herself, and lined up the shot. She only had one try. She pulled the red line on her vest, and a capsule shot out. When the line was taut, four projectiles shot out of the capsule. One of the projectiles hooked itself on a guy line coming from the antenna array. Samantha said, “Got it! You guys ready?”

Lok said, “Lets hurry up and get this over with.”

She pulled the red line again, and a small motor in her vest hoisted them up to the roof. Samantha pulled the black line on her vest, and the vest dropped off. She took the line that she had carried with her from the tree and hooked it on one of the antennas. She gave it a quick jerk, and the motor they left in the tree tightened the line. Near the front of the building they found the skylight. Link pulled a suction cup out of his vest; Shail licked it, and Link attached it to the glass. Then she put her paw in a band on Link’s vest that was marked #2. She pulled the line, and the band tightened around her arm. Attached to the band was a glasscutter.

She drew a circle and then pulled the line that released the cutter. She pulled a hardened steel rod out of Link’s vest, with a leather grip on the end. Grabbing it with her mouth, she tapped the circle that she had cut, and it broke free, dangling by the line from the suction cup. Link pulled the piece out through the hole and laid it on the roof. Shail pulled a spring-loaded clip form Lok’s vest and attached it to Link’s vest. Lok pushed his vest against the antenna frame, and the spring snapped, hooking it. Lok pulled a line, and the vest released from him. Shail held on to Link’s vest, and a motor in Lok’s vest, on the antenna, lowered Link and Shail down inside the complex. Once on the floor, Shail released the line from Link’s vest. They waited behind the door for the guards to make their rounds.

Harlan said. “They’re in.” Laurel cringed. “Is the hard part over?” He shook his head. “It’s just begun.”

After the guards passed, they ran down the hallway to the steel door that Harlan had told them about. If it hadn’t been for a very good friend of Harlan’s, the mission would have stopped here. Shail pulled a leather piece out of Link’s vest. Attached to it was a card. Shail slid the card into the slot by the door, and it opened. Time was of the essence now. The security door would trigger an alarm at the front desk. There were many different kinds of animals, all locked in cages. “Here they are, Shail.”

They were in a cage marked 18. Shail matched the symbol and pushed the corresponding button, and the cage door opened. At the same time, an alarm sounded, and lights began flashing. Shail jumped down and ran over to Link. She pulled a line on his vest, and nets were deployed on either side of him. Shail put three cubs into each net, and they ran toward the steel door. They stopped suddenly. Guards were running up the hall. Shail looked around and saw the grating over the air ducts. She ran up the side of the cages and leaped, grabbing onto the grating near the ceiling, and pulled the grating off.

“Hurry, Link.” With the added weight of the cubs, Link almost didn’t make it. He was hanging by his front paws. Shail nudged his rear, and helped him up, and then jumped back down. Link yelled. “What are you doing, Shail?”

She jumped back onto the control podium.  “Just go, Link, take my babies to safety.”

She began pushing all of the buttons on the control panel, and cage doors opened all over the place. The first guard to enter the room was knocked over by a Great Dane, who was followed by monkeys, birds, dogs, cats, and other animals she’d never seen before. She jumped down and ran past the guards, down the hallway.

Link found the roof and pushed a cover off. Lok ran over and helped Link up to the rooftop. “What happened, Link, where is Shail?”

He ran to the line that was connected to the tree. “Come on, Lok, there is no time to explain.”

Lok hooked Link’s vest to the line and held on as Link leaped from the roof. They slid down the line to the tree, and jumped down.

“Where is Shail?” Link began running towards Harlan’s SUV. Harlan yelled.  “There they are! Wait, I only see two of them.” They ran up the hill to them. Laurel retrieved the cubs from the nets on Link, and put them into the truck. She looked at the cats.

“Oh my God, where’s Samantha?” Shail ran into the main lobby. There were several animals, looking for a way out. Shail jumped on top of the guard’s desk. There were monitors, and lots of buttons. She began pushing them until she heard the front doors click. She jumped down and pushed on the doors, but she couldn’t get them open. Her feet kept slipping on the just waxed floor. The Great Dane stood up on his hind legs, and together they got the door open. The animals started running out. Shail noticed the guards approaching. She looked at the dog, who also saw them coming. They waited for the last animal to get out, and then let the door go. Shail ran to the fence and leaped, running up the side of the fence, and grabbed onto the tree. The dog was trapped inside. Shail sneaked up to the guard shack. The door was open, and she caught the guard by surprise. He went for his gun, but Shail knocked it out of his hand with her paw. He backed up into the corner, and Shail jumped up and hit the gate release. The gate opened, and the Great Dane ran out. He hesitated at the guard shack, and looked at Shail, then ran off. Shail leaped down and headed for the SUV.

Harlan was watching through the binoculars. “It looks like all hell is breaking loose down there.” Laurel grabbed his arm. “Oh, let me see.”

He handed her the binoculars. She watched dozens of animals run through the open gate. Then she saw Samantha. “There she is.”

They all watched her as she ran up the hill towards them. They drove all night long, and arrived at the reserve at 6:15 the next morning. Harlan got out and walked towards the fence with wire cutters. Laurel opened the back and helped the cubs get down. Shail said, “Lok, get my babies to safety.”

Lok led them through the hole that Harlan had made. Laurel was saying goodbye to Samantha with tears in her eyes. “I’m going to miss you, Samantha.”

She got down on her knees, and hugged her. When Harlan returned, Shail said to Link. “What do you think? Should we?” Link snickered, and replied. “Oh yea.” Link came up next to Harlan, and Shail stood next to Laurel. They showed their teeth, and began to growl at them. Harlan looked in horror. “What are you doing?”

Link took a swipe at Harlan with his claws extended. Shail swung at Laurel, and they fell against each other. Harlan put his arm around Laurel. “I’ll protect you.”

Then Shail walked around, sat down in front of them, and nodded her head. They looked at each other, and then back at the cats. “Well I’ll be damned.” Pput one paw in the air, and waved. Then they ran off.

Laurel put her arm around Harlan’s waist, and they waved goodbye to Samantha. On the way to the SUV, Laurel said. “It’s too bad we can’t do anything about that crook, Potts.” Harlan stopped and smiled. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the file he’d removed from Potts’ office.

Written By S. F. Proctor