cork & curls

3

a few commissions for @confetti-curls-n-cork​ for his wonderful story Smell a Rat and boy is it a good one. This is one of the few that you sit down to read and don’t get up until the end (or in this case, the cliffhangers). As can be seen, the story follows those two gentlemen rodents agents on an incredible case mystery, murder, and justice; think Mission Impossible by the way of The Secret of Nihm.

Synopsis:  Floyd Colby and Milo Pitman are two of the best agents that MI6 have at their disposal, but when the death of no less than three different officers in the highest-ranking “Delta” team suddenly hurls them into the big leagues, Floyd and Milo must rely on their wits and each other to survive against a murky world of tiny, rodent espionage.

Now I know 98% of my followers come for my Zootopia stuff, however, this is not, but don’t let that turn you away. If you’re looking for something to read over the summer, which I know many of you are, and take a break from the monotony of WildeHopps romcoms, then I highly recommend adding this story to your reading list.

Blog Link || Story Link

Commission Me Here

Smell a Rat Update #30: Drone home

The drone they embarked was a much larger and more intimidating model than Milo had seen the air force use before.

Although, until a few years ago, the UK didn’t actually have an air force - at least where its rodents were concerned.

A few years back, the MOD had begun getting their paws on drones and had started fitting them with what armaments that could work on such a device and over the years had gone through a rapid number of different models, with the aim to add more armament and capacity.

The one he and Floyd had found themselves in had no less than eight rotors and a large, heavy-duty black body, below which a similarly large gondola was suspended on four struts.

Perhaps most impressive was the armament that had been fitted to the gondola: on each of the four corners, a gas-powered rifle fashioned from a human pellet gun was mounted, allowing the crew to take shots at any targets on the ground or in the air.

He’d seen the same weapon mounted to a remote control car and around other rats’ bodies in MOD tests, but neither of those cases had actually resulted in the pellet guns ever seeing action and closer inspection revealed the same breech-loading mechanism that had been the downfall of those prototypes.

More impressive by far, were the pair of bright yellow shotgun cartridges that lay by the side of the loading ramp, next to the pilot, and were so large that they required a specially built cradle that could be moved into place and locked into a slot on the gondola, against which the brunt of the recoil would be dissipated.

He could only imagine that the drone they had been picked up in was some manner of gunship, though the sense in developing such an aircraft escaped him, owing to the fact that the kind of conflicts that rodents fought were never on the kind of scale that warranted massive air superiority.

Still, he wasn’t about to complain.

The five mice that left hadn’t returned, leaving them to take off with just the two rats that had apprehended Angela, one other rat and the pilot.

With a loud whooshing sound and the whir of an electric motor, the drone lifted off, generating a powerful wind that whipped at his fur for a second or so, until they gained a little altitude and the pilot backed the drone up, causing his stomach to lurch as he saw the ground below him fall away.

He’d been on flights before, but at no point had they gone backwards, neither had he actually been able to see what was happening.

A quick glance at Floyd told him he was feeling just as unnerved, though the two soldiers that guarded Angela seemed just about as at home in the exposed gondola than they would on regular land.

He wondered just how much time they’d spent in such situations to be so cool about it.

The drone spun round and he impulsively gripped the handrails on the side of the gondola as it did so, before pitching forward and forcing him to lean against it.

This all seemed to cause much mirth to the soldiers, but after a couple of minutes flying, Milo found himself relaxing enough to enjoy the view.

He could see The Shard in its full glory now, lit up and teeming with activity, and as he looked out of the side, he could see all the little streets going by that he’d not been able to see before, as well as humans going about their business if he looked closely enough.

He saw a group of pigeons flying below them and watched as they all flew together, then glanced at Angela, who also seemed to be enjoying the view.

She seemed relaxed now.

He looked out again, this time trying to spot any humans in offices or flats, but unfortunately didn’t see much of interest, save for something darkly coloured, which flew in front of one of the rows of flats and caught his attention.

It moved like no bird he’d ever seen and on second glance, was definitely gaining altitude.

Another drone? He wondered.

It was possible - after all, rats and mice had adopted them but they were still predominantly a human thing - but still it struck him as unusual that a human might want to fly one so late.

Surely whoever was flying that must not be getting much of a view, he reasoned; as good as portable cameras had become in recent years, they still struggled to capture video in lighting conditions like this.

Unless it wasn’t a human flying that.

It flew in front of a window again and he saw its silhouette clearly again and this time there was no mistaking it; like the one they flew in, this drone was also fitted with a gondola and carried a small crew of rodents, but the design of the craft was different.

Perhaps if what he was flying in was a gunship of sorts, then the other one might possibly be more of a rapid attack aircraft.

What kind of situation could possibly be unfolding that the air force needed to call in a second drone?

He then realised that he was trying desperately to push the notion that the drone wasn’t hostile from his mind and felt a kind of dread like he’d never experienced before sink in and paralyze him entirely.

As it climbed to a few metres or so below them, he turned round to look at Floyd and gave him a gesture to convey his worry, then called to the pilot.

“”Hey! There’s another drone up here!” he shouted above the din of the rotors, but between that and the pilot’s helmet, his words fell on deaf ears.

He called again - louder this time - and looked round the gondola in the hope that somebody else had either heard him or noticed; still the pilot remained oblivious, but the two rats in charge of Angela seemed to take notice and the one closest to him leaned back out of the gondola to look for the drone he spoke of.

It was only then that he noticed the smug grin on Angela’s face.

The next few moments all unfolded in what he would have sworn was slow-motion: with a short yelp of alarm, the rat began to turn round and get up, before his life was extinguished instantly in a shower of blood as an air rifle pellet went through his head and he dropped limp on the ground with massive and ugly wound in his head, then as Milo rushed to secure Angela, he saw her grab the knife from the other rat’s belt and drove it straight into his neck.

The other one fell to the ground now and Floyd got up in a flash, drawing his sword before lunging for Angela.

Unfortunately his attack connected with nothing but thin air, as the drone swung round and began climbing aggressively and three more pellets hit the body of the aircraft in a volley.

Two penetrated the main body, while the last one glanced off the side of one of the rotor arms and as the drone lurched to the side again to try and put distance between them and their aggressors, Angela made a fast attack towards Floyd.

Milo desperately swung his arm between them and managed to get underneath her arm to stop the blow just short of Floyd’s shoulder, but Angela quickly turned her attention to him and swung the knife at him erratically, before another volley of pellets came in.

Four came this time, with two of them tearing through the side and floor of the gondola, one more finding its way into the main body of the aircraft and the last one hitting the middle right rotor, stopping the motor instantly and smashing the rotor blades, fragments of which whizzed through the gondola at colossal speed, causing the one remaining rat to duck before she took a fast shot at the incoming craft, but as the lift from the rotor failed on the right hand side, the shot went low as the whole drone pulled to the right and towards the other drone at a startling rate.

The pilot managed to wrestle the craft into some kind of level flight, but by the time he did so, he and Angela were already on the floor of the gondola and Milo found himself fending off frenzied slashes and stabs as Angela tried to overwhelm him like she’d tried with Floyd.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Floyd prepare for a fast and wild swing with his sword and Angela responded quickly, hurling her knife at him and causing him to abort his attack to avoid the incoming weapon.

With a snarl, Milo took his chance and threw a hard punch at her body, but she rolled off him quickly and his blow merely glanced her arm, causing her to yelp, but nothing more.

He scrambled to his feet now as Floyd went around him to try to keep the pressure on her, but as Floyd got into striking distance, the other drone collided with theirs with quite some force and knocked all but Angela and the pilot to the floor.

As he pushed himself up, he caught sight of Angela leaning over the side of the gondola as Floyd got up from his awkward heap, then he watched as she mounted the guardrail and leaped over into the other drone.

And before he could process what was happening, Floyd ran as hard as he could after her and jumped, landing on the guardrail and using it to propel himself forward.

He gasped as he watched Floyd sail through the air without any semblance of grace; flailing his arms and legs around and screaming incoherently, until he came down on top of one of the mice in the other drone and drove his sword clean through his body as he did so.

He felt compelled to leap too, but as soon as he managed to get to the side, the other drone peeled off and began descending.

He watched as Floyd quickly dispatched one of the rats onboard the enemy craft, then gripped the side again as the pilot gave chase and all but flipped the drone on its right hand side, using the failed rotor to force them round quicker.

“After them!” Milo roared as the pilot wrestled the stricken drone back into fairly level attitude and pitched forward.

The drone threatened to drop out of the sky again as they picked up speed, but after some careful redistribution of thrust, the pilot managed to get them heading forward at a fairly constant speed.

He saw one of the mice on the other drone clamouring for one of the mounted rifles and saw Floyd’s sword dash across his face, but it didn’t connect, as a second blade flashed momentarily and he caught sight of Floyd being brutally pushed against the side of the gondola.

Angela’s paw came into view and he gasped in horror as he saw her begin pushing him harder against it; trying either to strangle him or push him over.

He watched with baited breath as Floyd struggled and thrashed to get away, until eventually he thought he may well pass out, but at long last Floyd managed to grab hold of the gunner beside of him and pull himself free of Angela’s grip, then disappeared from view as the three of them fell below the wall and the pilot pushed the throttle open.

By now the rotors were making a din that he didn’t think possible as the two aircraft lost altitude dramatically, with Angela’s ride now diving rapidly in an attempt to lose them in the streets and Milo holding on for his life in the wounded gunship.

With a sickening swinging motion and a heavy rightwards roll at the very bottom of the maneuver, the drone he rode in pulled out of its dive seconds after Angela’s drone did and now whined and howled its way down a busy road, with the lights from the cars now only a metre or so below him dazzling him as they passed by.

The gunner with him took another shot at the fleeing drone and he saw a big chunk of plastic fly off, but as much satisfaction that he gained from that, the risk of firing at them dawned on him all at once.

Sure, that shot had gone into the body of the drone, but had it gone just a little low, it could well have hit Floyd.

“Hold your fire! Floyd’s on there!” He screamed, as the gunner opened the breech of the gun.

She stopped and gave him a confused look, then loaded the next pellet and closed the breech.

“Not my problem” she replied, tersely, then leaned forward to better aim the shot, but stopped as she noticed the pilot’s raised fist, which must have been the signal not to shoot.

Moments later, Angela’s drone veered aggressively to the left and disappeared down a small side street and Milo’s heart stopped as he lost sight of them momentarily, until his pilot rotated them around to the left and used their inertia to carry them round the corner, where they caught sight of them again.

They had gained a little ground on them and Milo feared the gunner would fire again and risk bringing Floyd down in a fatal crash, but as he caught a flash of the fierce fight going on in the escaping drone, Milo found himself almost entirely out of options.

The two little aircraft raced towards a large multi-storey car park and just before Angela’s drone flew into the entrance, he saw that Angela had now began to attack Floyd with her bare paws.

The hostile drone dropped down under the entrance and squeaked between the threshold and a car emerging from it.

With a significantly less graceful motion, the drone he rode in swung lazily towards the entrance, where the pilot banked the drone round to the left heavily, to squeeze through the gap.

If Angela was using fists and claws and teeth, then he feared Floyd wouldn’t be able to keep up the fight: he was small next to her, and while he possessed incredible stamina, he lacked the strength or skill necessary for the kind of brutal fight she was now trying to force him into.

“Alright let’s end this. Cannon! Now!” the pilot commanded as they pursued Floyd and Angela up the first of many ascending ramps.

On command, the gunner left her position and operated the release catch on the loading ramp, then ran to the waiting cradle, which she pushed along its little track and locked into place.

There was no possible way they could fire that without totally obliterating everything on their target, and Milo felt utterly mortified as he saw her pick up one of the shotgun cartridges.

“Stop! Please!” he begged, but still she carried the loathsome cartridge with her and in spite of his wild gestures and repeated cries, dropped it onto the cradle.

As she pushed it into place, Milo was left with no other choice: if he wanted to save Floyd, then he would have to risk killing him.

It was better than the alternative.

He saw Angela land a nasty blow on Floyd’s body and push him against the side of the gondola, and before he had any time to think, he heard the pilot call out, “lock and brace!”

Without any further hesitation, he took hold of the rifle and bellowed like he’d never done before.

“NOBODY SHOOTS A FUCKING THING!”

He pushed his head down on top of the gun and picked out the drone’s body, as to minimise any risk to Floyd.

With any luck, he’d manage to just sever a power cable and drop it to the ground.

With a trembling paw, Milo gripped the trigger and fired, just as Angala’s drone turned left to ascend another level.

The recoil was relatively small, but the effect the pellet had was greater than he would ever have anticipated, as part of the drone’s shell was smashed and the projectile carried forward and hit the battery.

For a moment or so, the drone continued to fly normally, but a thick cloud of smoke began pouring out only a second after the shot found its mark, until with a loud bang, the whole body was engulfed in a fireball and the whole thing dropped out of the air, plummeting about half a metre to the ground without any semblance of power or control.

The pilot quickly took them down and landed next to the wrecked drone, which was already beginning to melt.

The worry he felt now was overwhelming and he got down on all fours to run over to the wreckage, where he saw two familiar bodies lying on the floor, dazed, covered in blood and struggling to get up.

Floyd managed to roll over and awkwardly pushed himself to his knees and Milo cheered at the sight, then grabbed Angela by the scruff of her neck and pulled her head up so that she could meet his gaze.

Then he punched her in the face as hard as he could and let go as she dropped the the ground totally limp.

Once he was sure she wasn’t going to move again, he reached out a paw to Floyd, who had finally managed to just about get to his feet as the fire alarms started up and the sprinklers began to spew out water.

Floyd took his paw and slowly returned his sword to its scabbard, then pretty much just flopped onto him.

They remained like that for a while; silent, save for Floyd’s breath and the sound of the wailing alarm, which finally fell silent as the wrecked drone was extinguished by the sprinklers.

Floyd looked up slowly and in a fairly feeble voice, he asked, “is she dead?”

Milo took another good look at her lying on the floor, then shrugged.

“I hit her and she stopped moving. Works for me.”

Floyd seemed to accept that and smiled weakly, so Milo looked back to the drone crew and gave them a nod.

“Take her away. She so much as groans, toss her over the side. We’ll be alright.”

He brushed Floyd’s forehead and gently stroked his ears as he said that last part, then once the crew had finally left, he finished his sentiments.

“We’ll be alright, Floyd. I’ll be here for you.”


———————————————————————-

You thought it was over, didn’t you? Ha! We’re almost done with act 2 now. Act 3 will be coming up in a few weeks and I’ll keep you all posted about that, but either way, I hope you all enjoyed a drone chase.

you know what you’ll definitely enjoy? Reading the story so far in this big tasty link.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1treeXxTUiGh4FL8lmcx-zqVQ7NJ03sdLGip1vA3U3cE/edit?usp=drivesdk

Smell a Rat Update #28: On the case

“Hey Floyd! I hit the motherlode!”

He would rather not have to wash somebody else’s blood off his jacket and fur, but the jubilant tone in Milo’s voice offered some relief.

They were, at least, heading in the right direction.

Floyd shook his head vigorously, in order to scatter the last of the water from his fur and quickly rubbed a towel over himself to dry whatever remained, then turned round to rejoin Milo in the main room.

Carefully, he stepped over the body of the rat he’d killed and walked over to Milo, who now held a piece of paper in his paws and stood on top of the bed, which he’d torn to pieces while he was gone.

“What did that poor bed ever do to you?” he smirked, before turning his attention to the paper that Milo had found.

Like the letter he’d received in Scotland, the first thing that struck him was the quality of the paper used - it was thick and smooth, not unlike what MI6 used on their own internal letters.

She was an international assassin after all; it wasn’t as if she didn’t have an obscene amount of money, but he’d somehow never expected her to spend any of that money on stationery.

Still, it was what was printed on that paper that worried him the most.

Hastily, he took it from Milo and fixed his eyes on the list of names and the numbers next to them.

“My god, the names on this thing are the stuff of nightmares” he remarked, before continuing, “get a load of this: Lewis Kerner, lot twenty-two, four million dollars. Richard Blake, lot six, four and a half million dollars. Vicky Reed, lot eighteen…” he paused for a moment to make sure the number he was reading wasn’t just some kind of hallucination, then continued, more to confirm the figure to himself than anything.

“Fifteen million fucking dollars.”

Milo looked at him with the same look of astonishment and nodded slowly.

He wasn’t going mad, then.

“It’s the currency that gets me” Milo remarked, “She’s British; if I were her, I’d want all that in sterling. What do you think?”

In all honesty, that hadn’t even been something that Floyd was at all worried about.

He was still trying to wrap his head around the number.

“I think we’re in the wrong job” he replied.

MIlo folded up the piece of paper and put it into his waistcoat, then looked round the room, “Yeah, though I don’t think I’d have met you if that were the case.”

That was true.

He’d wondered for years just what kind of state he would be in if not for Milo’s calming influence: officers in Delta tended to have a shelf life, eventually destroying themselves through drink or otherwise working themselves into the ground.

He was already prone to both of those, so he dreaded to think what he’d be like if Milo weren’t there.

His little turn of introspection was broken when he noticed Milo gazing at him, having noticed that he’d gone quiet for a little while.

He shot him a disarming smile to put him at ease, then straightened up and forced himself back into his usual, cold, focused state of mind.

“Well, how about we ask her about that currency thing in person.

He nodded towards the door and made a flowing gesture to back it up.

“After you.”


He left the room and locked it securely, then nodded to Milo as he headed for the emergency exit.

He knew what to do by now: he’d lurked in the shadows on enough previous missions to know just where he was needed and when Floyd needed him.

Once Milo had disappeared back into the bowels of the tower, Floyd stopped and took a quick, conspiratorial glance round the corridor, to make sure that nobody could hear him, then dug around in his jacket for his radio.

He pricked his ears up as he did so, listening intently for any kind of activity, but he heard nothing, save for the ceaseless hum of activity from the humans above and below and the building’s myriad different systems all whirring away.

All told, it was about as quiet as The Shard could ever be, so as he strode over to the lift, he fished out his radio and took a deep breath.

“Hi mother goose. Encountered light resistance but nothing we couldn’t handle; requesting Cleanup and a taxi service from the observation level in fifteen minutes.”

He needed wait only mere moments before Kevin responded, “gotcha, Ugly Duckling, I’ll send a bird your way” he said, then quickly added, “complimentary waiter service on that ride?”

Floyd watched the light above the lift door begin to slowly change from red to green while he considered Kevin’s offer.

Complimentary waiter service was Kevin’s little code-word for sending in a bunch of marines in as support, incase he needed any backup; a useful little service for times when things got just a little out of hand or for when he required a bit of muscle to mop up after him.

He weighed his options up and realised that the lift had almost arrived, so hastily, he decided to take the detachment of marines, just as insurance.

“Sure. Give me waiter service, and while you’re there, see if you can’t get me a few friends heading up to floor forty.”

He heard Kevin scribbling something on the other end, but Floyd had no other choice but to cut him off with a curt “going radio silent. Ugly Duckling out” as the doors of the lift opened and he had to ram the radio back into a pocket before anybody saw him with it.

Thankfully there wasn’t anybody in the lift to see him, save for the attendant who just gave him a courteous nod.

“Forty, please” he requested and the attendant closed the door for him, before operating the mechanism that took the lift yet further up into the building, with but a quiet whirring and a mechanical grunting sound of a brake disengaging.

It didn’t take long for the lift to reach the fortieth floor and as he stepped out, Floyd found himself overwhelmed by the sheer decadence of the Modus restaurant, which took up the whole floor.

Throughout London, the Modus restaurant was known to be one of the most exclusive, and most expensive places any rodent could ever hope to dine in, and its reputation more than held up: like the last floor he’d been on, the floor was lined with a thick purple carpet, but beyond that, the whole venue looked distinctly different and altogether far more classy than he felt at all comfortable being in.

The furnishings here were all skillfully carved from oak and stained impeccably, with delicate lilac covers fashioned from silk on the tables and seats, while modern, expressive paintings in ornate gilded frames hung from the walls, which were themselves covered in a dark wood he struggled to identify but assumed could only be extremely expensive.

Completing the opulence was a glass and silver chandelier that was far wider than it was tall, and dozens - maybe hundreds -  of lights situated evenly about its unusual inward spiral design, spreading light out all around the room and highlighting the patrons dining there.

Even in his finest suit, Floyd felt considerably underdressed.

The ladies all wore dresses made of the finest cotton, in a veritable rainbow of colours that perfectly complimented their fur tones and wore jewellery forged with an excruciating amount of precision that each probably cost a not insignificant fraction of his salary, while the gents all wore dramatic black, white and grey suits; each one immaculately tailored, and with a prevailing trend of hole-cut trousers to accommodate the wearer’s tail.

He preferred slot-cut trousers himself, but was acutely aware of just how much that small detail must make him stand out now.

A waiter stood at the little lectern, ready to welcome guests to the Modus and Floyd carefully adjusted his walk as he moved towards him, noting his unusually young age and the slight hesitation he made before turning to greet him.

The poor thing was only about as old as he had been when he got into the pathfinders all those years ago. He shouldn’t have to be here, Floyd thought; he shouldn’t have to deal with assassins and the scum of society that they brought with them, and he definitely shouldn’t have to deal with the police raid that would be coming in about ten minutes.

“Table for one, sir? Or are you expecting somebody?” The waiter asked and Floyd felt guilty, just listening to him.

He was expecting an awful lot of somebodies.

He shook his head calmly and pulled out his pathfinders’ badge to present to him, then spoke clearly and calmly to him, as not to alarm him any more than necessary.

“No thankyou. I’m here on routine follow-up; we found poison on floor thirty-six and I’m going to have to look all round, make sure there’s nothing else nasty here.”

In spite of his best efforts, the waiter looked worried and answered with audible disquiet, “oh. I see, sir. I’ll get everybody out if you want.”

Floyd panicked momentarily, but quickly regained his composure and cast his gaze over to the far left corner of the room, where a set of double-doors that led towards the Adonis private dining suite swung open and Angela stepped out.

He snapped his attention back to the waiter and gave him a quick shake of his head.

“No, that won’t be necessary. I just need access to the Adonis suite so I can check in there; if there was anything going on here something would have happened by now.”

The waiter sighed with relief and reached below the lectern to give him the key, but Floyd barely paid him a fraction of his attention as he fixed on Angela’s movement.

She seemed far more formidable now he could see her face properly; the dress she wore swayed and danced along with her stride, resembling more a writhing snake than a mouse, and her eyes bored deep into him, revealing great intelligence but also a dark and empty void where a sense of compassion might otherwise be.

As she strode towards him, she gently brushed her hand against her dress, momentarily revealing the fine cut that ran down the side of the garment and the hilt of the sword that it concealed.

The message was clear: get out now.

“Here’s the emergency key, sir” the waiter said and Floyd quickly took it and gave him a quick nod before heading out into the crowd, deliberately taking a path as far from Angela as possible and watched as she passed him by and headed for the lift.

He saw her get in the lift and caught one last glare from her, then pulled out his radio as discreetly as possible.

“She’s heading down. Get in the Adonis suite, now.”

He muted his handset to make sure that Milo’s voice didn’t come out and arouse any suspicion and continued on his way over to the doors to the suite, but about halfway to the doors, he started recognising faces.

Waiting at their tables like regular patrons, was a veritable congregation of the very worst that rodent society had to offer.

Towards the entrance of the restaurant were all the regular visitors, but past a certain point it was nothing but drug barons, arms dealers, gang lords and international terrorists, each with their own bodyguards.

Floyd felt something like utter disgust as he unlocked the door and an urge to reach for his sword boiled within him: were he to draw it now and start impaling people at random, he would be doing the world a favour.

Sheer numbers and the specifics of the mission kept him from doing so, but he had never seen such a collection of utterly loathsome individuals in one room before.

As discreetly as he could, he slipped into the room and locked it behind him.


“You look like you’ve seen a ghost” Milo remarked.

After going through all that, just hearing his smooth, low voice soothed him and Floyd took a deep breath before he responded, so he could better appreciate the relative safety of the room.

Then, he simply spewed out all his fears in one sentence with hardly a pause for breath.

“She’s onto me I messed up when I got out of the lift and she saw me again and she knows and it’s a fucking who’s-who of interpol’s most wanted out there. I want out!”

Milo offered him a knowing look, but no amount of good intentions could adequately put him at ease and so Floyd just got away from the door as soon as possible and went over to the table that Milo currently lay on, looking infuriatingly confident, though the extra traces of fur and blood on one of his gloves made it clear that was an affectation for his benefit.

Most likely Milo had just thrown whoever he’d had to fight down into the yawning abyss of the shaft.

The Adonis suite was decorated differently to the rest of the restaurant: here the wood was replaced with metal and a marble effect floor stood in place of the carpet outside, leather and contemporary design motifs replaced the silk and traditional stylings outside.

There was also only one table in the room, which Milo had positioned himself on, though it was the case he lay behind that caught his interest.

It was the same case he’d seen Angela arriving with, and Floyd found himself drawn almost magnetically to it.

“I checked it already, it seems safe to open but I thought I’d let you have that honour” Milo said and gestured to it as if he were showing it off as a prize on a gameshow.

In spite of that, Floyd still scrutinised it meticulously, looking for any trace of a trap or any other nasty surprises, but as Milo had said, it seemed perfectly safe to open.

Although it occurred to him that the case hardly needed any kind of added safety measures, considering who it belonged to.

Slowly, Floyd released the single clasp, but Milo interrupted him before he opened it up, “hey, what do you suppose that big old letter C on the front stands for?”

Floyd shrugged, slightly annoyed by his timing, “Charing, I guess? To be honest, I’m not worrying about that too much right now, I’m worrying about whatever the hell’s in this case.”

Milo sensed his irritation and gave him a disarming smile, to which he just rolled his eyes and went back to opening the case.

He couldn’t stay mad at a smile like that.

He opened the case just a crack at first, to be doubly sure that there was no kind of trap lurking inside, ready to spray him with poison gas or electrocute him, then screwed his eyes tight shut, pointed the case away from him and flung it open with force.

He opened his eyes slowly, fearing that some manner of horrible, chemical death would strike him down now he dared look at it, but all he saw was Milo struggling not to laugh at him and a briefcase containing something that looked like a menu, which bore the same large letter C on the front as the case that contained it.

For a moment, he wanted to scream and hurl the case asunder, believing for however brief a time, that he had risked his life to attain a restaurant menu, but logic came down on him hard, and quickly, he reached out to lift the item from the case.

Milo leaned in to take a look at it as he opened it up; evidently he was equally curious as to the contents of such an item.

It turned out that it was indeed a menu, of sorts.

Floyd’s eyes widened as he read through the contents: contained within the leather-bound covers was a series of images featuring different spies from all round the world, some of which appeared to be official identification images that would have been kept securely by each agency, while others had been taken without their knowledge by an unknown camera operator and each image carried with it a fairly lengthy description of that officer’s operational history, some vital statistics and an astronomically high price.

Floyd began to feel ill as he realised what he was looking at.

“Shit” he whispered to himself as he read on.

He flicked two pages over and selected an officer at random, then read out the text for Milo’s benefit.

“Oh, this is interesting: Samuel Rice. Operational for ten years, with a distinguished record and responsible for the downfall of several organisations, most notably the Mendez-Pelucci group and the Scorpion Ring. Highly skilled and highly dangerous, Rice poses a significant threat to all potential clients…”

He stopped speaking, to make sure that he had indeed read the text correctly as he had done before, then continued, “So let Cerberus protect you and your enterprises today, and order lot number seventy-three now. CIA operative, threat index five, no known accomplices, ten million goddamn dollars.”

Now a fear rose in him the likes of which he’d never experienced before and he frantically began flipping pages while Milo came round to look over his shoulder.

He had to know. He had to know if either of them were in the document.

The entries were listed alphabetically by surname and so for ease of searching, Floyd headed to the start of the menu, where he found himself listed and had to fight the urge to vomit as he read the entry.

“Floyd Colby. Operational for seven years as part of MI6’s general taskforce, and either jointly or solely responsible for the shutdown of numerous smaller operations such as the Crimson Club. Colby is known to be a well trained swordhand and works almost exclusively with officer Pitman, incurring a risk excess of two hundred thousand dollars. Let Cerberus secure your operations against this dangerous individual and order lot nineteen now at a bargain price. MI6 operative, threat index two, known to work with Milo Pitman (lot fifty-four), eight hundred thousand dollars or available as a double pack for just one and a half million dollars.”

Milo closed the case for him before he had chance to hurl it across the room and placed a paw gently on his shoulder, to hopefully calm him from the unfettered rage that threatened to overwhelm him.

Whoever Cerberus was, was offering his life at a discount.

He deserved at least a million.

“Easy now, sweetpea” Milo soothed, “let’s just get shut of this whole place and we can let the police deal with this lot.”

Floyd grasped at his sword so tight that his paw shook, daring himself to draw it and just go outside, but Milo pulled himself in closer to him and he felt his calming influence on him.

“There, it’s alright. I’ll get you a drink when we get back. Just come with me, we’ll take the back way up a few floors, it’ll be safer that way.”

Floyd let out a long and heavy sigh as he let Milo’s words of understanding wash over him, then finally just nodded, before turning round and hugging him tightly.

Then Milo reached into his jacket to pull out his radio.

“This is Ugly Duckling” he began, and Floyd caught a wink, “hurry that taxi up for us and get the entire met over here. Out.”

Milo kissed him gently.

“You’re welcome” he said.

——————————————————————-

Double update because my planned update was actually crazy short to so I had to glomp two updates together.

Anyhoo, who is Cerberus? What does Angela have to do with any of this? Are our heroes going to get out of this cleanly? Tune in next week, because boy howdy is it going to be a doozy.

Y'know what else is a doozy? This link to the whole story so far:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1treeXxTUiGh4FL8lmcx-zqVQ7NJ03sdLGip1vA3U3cE/edit?usp=drivesdk

Smell a Rat update #29: Life on the Cutting Edge

Milo had led him out via the emergency exit and let him carry the briefcase, so that they would have evidence to show to Bradley and lab geeks when they got back, because there was no conceivable way that anybody was going to be able to get him to go back there.

The police could deal with her; by the time he’d got to the second lift, Kevin called through to tell them they were already entering the building en masse.

The main lift only went up to about floor forty-three, after which point there were no other floors inhabited by rodents and the only way to the observation deck was to get into a second lift, which was covered all round in mirrors, so as to be harder for humans to spot as it went past the human deck and up to the few exposed floors not usually accessible by humans.

It rattled and shook as it rose quickly past the higher floors of the massive building and carried them to the top, which did little to calm Floyd’s nerves, but eventually it slowed down and the attendant opened the door for them, before wishing them a good evening and heading down again.

Up here, the wind got up to quite a speed and Floyd was thankful for his outfit, which kept his fur in neatly and prevented it from catching the fierce wind.

From the resistance he felt on his face and tail, he feared that were it not for his clothes, then he may well simply be whisked away by the freezing cold night air.

Milo took his hand and they walked towards the end of the observation deck, where his fears and the bitterly cold night breeze suddenly seemed to fade away as he and Milo stopped and sat down to admire the view over London at night.

All the millions of lights, from shop windows to streetlamps and phone screens, seemed to blur together in indistinct golden lines, with little dots of white and red from the cars that all slowly flowed along in a manner that reminded Floyd more of veins and arteries than of the busy city he knew.

From here he could pick out different human buildings from a perspective that was completely new to him; he held up his paw in front of him so that he could compare the size of Tower bridge next to it, and suddenly felt overwhelmed by a sense of wonder.

From just below him, he heard humans chattering away over music played at a polite volume from a source hidden away in a corner somewhere, which formed a pleasant overtone to compliment the ceaseless rush of the wind and the indistinct susurrations of the cars and buses below him.

Boats on the river swayed gently beneath him, with some of them lumbering slowly in and out of the city, and if he looked hard enough, he could see people coming out of the buildings.

The view was extraordinary, he just wished he could share it with Milo under better circumstances.

From the river, he spotted a small light that began to rise up; it moved in an unusual manner; different to the little planes he was used to seeing, but clearly a small aircraft of some kind.

Though he couldn’t pick out any features definitively, Floyd felt relief as he realised that the light must belong to the drone that MI6 had sent, realising that the strange rate of ascent must belong to a rotorcraft, rather than anything more traditional.

It was at least ten minutes away, he guessed, and with the chaos that would surely be unfolding several floors below him, Floyd welcomed its arrival, while also finding himself compelled to make the most of the relative calm.

He stood up and leaned over to Milo, so that their heads were about level and slowly went to kiss him, but stopped so close that he could feel Milo breathing, because out of the corner of his eye, he caught sight of something red.

He spun round and released the catch on his scabbard, leaving it to drop down and catching the grip of the sword as it descended, fully drawing his sword in a heartbeat, which he then pointed out in front of him, ready to defend himself.

Angela stopped walking towards them and likewise, pointed her sword towards them, allowing him to finally get a good look at the weapon that killed Petersen.

Like Milo’s armour, the entire weapon was an intimidating, charcoal black colour, but save for that, her sword was fashioned very much like the one he held in his hand.

The only other difference he could see clearly was that the blade on Angela’s sword was a millimetre or so thicker and also slightly wider than his own; no doubt to make it that bit more deadly in use and to strengthen it against the kind of bending forces that Milo had mentioned.

Milo snatched the case from the ground and held it infront of him like a shield with his left paw, freeing up his stronger right, so that he could defend himself.

To this, Angela just seemed amused, “you know, for a secret service, I’d expect the frequency to have changed a bit in the last few years” she mused, and Floyd suddenly felt like the ground he stood on had been grabbed by the hand of some vengeful god and viciously yanked from beneath him.

He’d suspected she was ex-MI6 since he saw Petersen’s house, why the hell hadn’t he thought to change the frequency?

Realising how close to the edge of the observation platform he was, Floyd walked forward slowly, keeping his sword pointed right at her chest as he did so, and looking for even the slightest hint of an opening.

And he had to be sure of that opening too; the look on her face and the way she held her sword told him her mind was exactly as fast and precise as the weapon she wielded.

He’d never seen such a look of fierce concentration before, and in spite of all his experience, Floyd now felt a powerful fear that threatened to root him to the spot.

Momentarily, he glanced toward Milo, who had likewise come back from the end of the walkway and now stood a few strides to his right, dividing Angela’s attention between the two of them and buying them a little extra time.

She couldn’t just go for one or the other now. Not without serious consideration, anyway.

Milo held out his free hand in a fairly loose gesture for her to remain calm and Angela quickly glanced at both of them before turning her head slightly to focus on Milo, who had begun to advance as slowly as he possibly could.

She was working out who was the greatest threat.

Floyd considered just rushing her right then, but her sword was still pointed at him and the way she held it like little more than a piece of cutlery warned him against such foolishness.

He only hoped that Milo picked up on that same warning.

Milo spoke calmly now, keeping his eyes fixed on her as he did so, “put the sword down. Please. There’s a drone coming to pick you up and if you come with us, I can promise you you’ll be treated fairly.”

Angela just scoffed at that and effortlessly flicked her sword round to face Milo, and took a small step backwards as Milo stopped.

Floyd swore silently to himself as he watched her get that little bit further from their reach, but MIlo tried again to reason with her, while he too, began slowly creeping towards her, scouring her movements for any hint that she might be about to attack.

“Come on, I don’t want to have to kill you; I’ve already had to do that to your security and I’m sure that as bad as supermax is, it’s better than bleeding out on the floor, so please… drop the sword.”

Milo nodded to him and once more, Angela darted her sword towards him, ready to attack, should he make so much as one wrong move.

“Do as he says, Angela” he warned, “Because unlike him, I really really want to have kill you.”

Angela bristled a little as he said that and began advancing towards him, light on her feet, so she could get back if he managed to strike at her, and gripping her sword far stronger now.

Then, but a stride or two away from thrusting distance, she spun on her heels and ran towards Milo.

“No!” Floyd screamed as she ran off, then kicked off as hard as he could, sprinting to try to make up the ground she’d already covered and holding out his sword to hopefully strike her before she got the chance to hurt Milo.

He saw Milo hunker down as she came towards him, but as fast as he could be, Angela had managed to take them both by surprise and Milo simply couldn’t mount a proper defence quick enough, leaving Floyd only one option available to him.

He growled as he ran and with one last powerful stride, he drew level with her and pushed his sword across her body and underneath her weapon, until the crossguard caught on her blade and using all of his strength, he deflected the blow away from Milo and gave Angela a vicious shove with his body as he carried through.

She snarled and hissed as he knocked her off balance, but she recovered faster than he could ever have expected, swinging her sword wildly after him as he tried to rush past and caught him in the back as he got clear.

Her blade scathed at the back of his jacket and went right through, glancing off his back as it did so and causing him to howl in pain before he got clear of her range and spun round.

Before she could move towards him and follow up, MIlo reached out his right paw and grabbed at her - using the case to shield himself as he went - and managed to grasp her shoulder.

Milo pushed her back as hard as he could to hopefully allow Floyd an opportunity to get at her, but in spite of the force he applied, she remained standing and came at him again.

Floyd dashed towards her once more and thrust his sword towards her body as he positioned himself between Milo and Angela, hoping to get a good opportunity to attack.

Unfortunately, no sooner had he lunged for her, than she ducked down and weaved round to the side and jabbed her weapon towards his chest, forcing him to wheel round to his right and swing his sword into a guarded position to protect against any further attacks.

She came at him again, poking her sword towards him quickly and erratically, trying to find a point where she could make contact and land the blow that would bring him down and against her incredible speed, Floyd had to expend all of his mental and physical energy just to keep himself from death.

MIlo ran round behind her as she launched another fast and nasty attack, but she was too quick for him this time, and moved to the side before Milo swung for her with all of his might.

Seeing an opening as her attacks were interrupted, Floyd sprinted towards her and raised his sword across his body to defend himself.

She returned her attention to him and swung at him as quickly as she could, in an attempt to keep him at bay, but this time Floyd parried her blow hard and used his free hand to punch her hard in the face.

She was stunned for a moment and Floyd kicked at her feet to hopefully force her into such a position that she couldn’t recover from, but she replied with a swift elbow to his chest and swung again.

Floyd darted away and swore at the top of his voice as he realised his opportunity had vanished yet again.

Milo came to his aid again and all but hurled himself at her, but she held her sword out in his direction and aimed for his neck, forcing Milo to duck to the side and use his right arm to deflect the blow as he went round to her side and clumsily swung the briefcase at her.

As she moved to evade his attack, Floyd saw another chance appear and took it, lunging at her as quickly as he could.

She dived forwards and Floyd didn’t want to give her any chance to recover this time as Milo turned round to her, ready to back him up.

Angela scrambled on the ground to get back to her feet after the attack, but Floyd took wild, hard swipes and jabs at her until she finally managed to swing her sword at him again, forcing him to back off momentarily and forcing him to make one last desperate gambit.

She screamed at him as she lunged and Floyd had to wrestle with every instinct he had, not to duck to the side or just get away from her; instead he raised his sword at an unusual angle and caught the incoming blow with the crossguard.

As long as she still had that blade, she was dangerous; he needed to get rid of it.

He forced her strike away from him and moved towards her with their swords still locked, then turned his sword down and pushed it down past her legs, forcing her sword into the ground.

“MIlo! Bend!” he hollered as Angela swung at him with her fists and barged with her body, but she couldn’t get him away from her quickly enough and Milo kicked as hard as he could at the middle of her sword. Exerting a huge force on it and snapping the weapon in two, before he landed a powerful blow on her body, which knocked her back onto the floor.

Immediately, she tried to get back up, but MIlo just threw himself on top of her and forced her head into the ground while Floyd came over and stopped his sword just shy of her left eyeball.

“Go on, move. I dare you. Give me an excuse” Floyd snarled, his temper barely contained.

She didn’t move, but instead gave him a wry smile and laughed quietly.

“Oh you have no idea what you’ve done” she crooned, “If I were you, pretty boy, I’d take that shiny little piece and shove it through your chest right now. You’ll save yourself a whole lot of time and effort.”

Under any other circumstances, Floyd would have just shrugged that off, but the conviction in her voice led credence to her threat that he’d not heard before.

That, coupled with her ability, created some amount of doubt in his mind, which festered and grew the longer he looked at her, until the sound of rotor blades and the wash they created, wiped it from his mind.

Presently, two large and muscular rats in aluminium armour joined them and Milo relinquished his restraint to allow them to haul her off to the drone that had landed behind them.

Almost immediately afterwards, about five mice ran past them, clad in the same armour and brandishing British army-issue sabers and bottlecap shields.

He took note of the regimental markings stamped on the back of their armour as they headed down in the lift and then finally returned his sword to its scabbard.

“Come on, Milo. let’s just get shut of all this.”

Milo nodded his approval and they walked towards the waiting drone together.

Only once they had got on board, did Floyd begin to think about his wound and how Milo would have to care for him and carefully bandage him later.

If that wasn’t love, he thought, what was?

———————————————————————

Poor Floyd, he just can’t seem to catch a break can he, with all these assassins and stuff getting in the way of his little moments.

Curiously enough the whole shard sequence so far is actually the oldest part of the story and was originally way different. It’s changed significantly since it was a germ in my head about this time last year, but this fight here is pretty much unchanged. Fun fact: At one point I’d planned to have the boys take down a couple of humans who were in cahoots or something and have them scale the aide of the building, but I quickly realised that was bogus and scrapped that.

Trust the link. Love the link. The link is your friend. The link lets you read the whole story so far. Become one with the link.
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1treeXxTUiGh4FL8lmcx-zqVQ7NJ03sdLGip1vA3U3cE/edit?usp=drivesdk