Catch a Tiger by the Tail

By: Charlie Cochet
Chapter One

HE WAS being hunted.

The shadows around him swirled and drifted as if he were underwater. If he wasn’t careful he’d drown all right, in his own blood.

Calvin kept a steady grip on his rifle. He breathed in slow through his nose and released it through his mouth, his breath coming up warm against his skin thanks to the face mask shielding him from the bitter cold. Thank God for THIRDS thermal uniforms. He would have frozen his ass off by now without it. Three degrees. What the ever-loving fuck? This was New York City, not Canada. Any day now it would drop below zero; he just knew it. These guys picked the wrong day to fuck up. Felid agents enjoyed a frolic in the snow as much as the next Therian, but not in the middle of the night, and sure as shit not when it was cold enough to freeze their whiskers off. Pissed-off Felids equaled epic hissy fits.

There was a faint cackle in the distance, and he turned with exceptional care, his boots sinking into the blankets of freshly fallen snow. His earpiece came to life, Dex’s quiet voice hushed on the other end.

“Calvin, visuals?”

“Negative,” Calvin replied, continuing onward. It was eerily quiet. As if the city itself was slumbering and hiding from the unrelenting cold. The only sounds around him were the howling wind and the snow compressing underneath his boots. The wind picked up, and the snow fell in earnest. It made finding the gang of hyena Therians in Central Park’s North Woods even harder, especially with their own agents in their Therian forms out there hunting. Maybe his Human teammates were having better luck. He doubted it, considering how quiet his com was. Ethan had caught the scent of one of their suspects several minutes ago and disappeared into the woods. Calvin hadn’t heard from or seen his partner since, meaning Ethan was still stalking. Somewhere in the pitch-black night, Sloane and Ash were doing the same. Cael, the lucky bastard, got to sit in the warmth of their BearCat working surveillance.

A perimeter had been set up down E. Seventy-Ninth Street, cutting through Central Park, up Central Park West, across 110th Street, and down Fifth Avenue. If any of these assholes tried to make a break for the city, they’d be met with a shower of tranqs and Theta Destructive’s Therian agents in their Therian form. It was up to Destructive Delta to make sure they didn’t get that far.

There was another distinct cackle, closer this time. Calvin picked up his pace and spoke into his com. “I heard something. I’m gonna check it out.”

“What’s your position?” Dex asked, his tone void of its usual humor. Sparks had been kicking their asses in training for weeks since the whole mess with Shultzon and the facility went down, but no one was getting it as bad as Dex and Sloane. The two were being groomed. They all knew it. Hell, even Dex and Sloane knew it. They just didn’t know what for. In the meantime, his teammates went along with it. None of them were against strengthening or widening their skill set, especially Dex, who was still trying to figure out what his skill set was. In Calvin’s opinion, Dex was secretly enjoying the grueling regime. Eventually he’d get to the bottom of whatever Sparks was keeping from them. Dex always did.

“I’m coming up behind the Blockhouse.” Calvin slowed as he approached the old military fortification. It had been built in the 1800s to defend against the British. Now it was a deathtrap. Any number of Therians could be hiding in or around its stone walls.

“Watch your back,” Dex said.

“Affirmative.” Calvin crouched down by some dense shrubbery draped in layers of fluffy white and scanned the area. Half a dozen or so feral hyena Therians were hiding somewhere in here, all high as kites. THIRDS agents had been issued a warrant and sent to arrest the gang after receiving a tip-off to their location. Before the team could make the arrest, the gang managed to escape by blowing their meth lab into the next town. Luckily there were no casualties, but the group caused havoc through the city before teams from Unit Alpha cornered them in Central Park. That was over an hour ago.

Spotted hyena Therians were anything but the cowards many Humans pegged them to be. In their feral form they were lethal, skilled at hunting at night, had powerful jaws, moved in packs, and defended themselves fiercely. A low giggle met Calvin’s ear, and a shadow moved behind the Blockhouse. He readied his tranq rifle before moving in.

“THIRDS! Come out slowly!” Calvin held his rifle firm and took aim at the hyena growling at him from the shadows, its glowing eyes following his every move. Slowly it crept forward, the darkness following it as if it were some otherworldly spirit. It laughed, calling to its friends. The hairs on the back of Calvin’s neck stood on end, and he spun just as a hyena Therian lunged at him, knocking him off his feet. His body hit the snow, the Therian’s jaws clamping down on his rifle. Shit! Movement from his left caught his attention, and he swiped his backup tranq gun from his vest to fire at the approaching Therian. The tranq got him in the neck, and he yelped before scurrying off.

Calvin wrestled with the hyena Therian attempting to crunch his rifle like a tasty bone. Saliva dripped onto Calvin’s uniform, and he caught sight of a third hyena Therian circling him, looking for the right angle to pounce. All right, he’d had just about enough of this bullshit. Calvin fired his tranq gun at the Therian chewing on his rifle, and the asshat stumbled off him, the dart sticking out of his neck. He shook his head and laughed that creepy sound of theirs. Multiple sets of glowing eyes and dark shapes popped up in the woods around him. What the hell?

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