Tracker: Prologue – Espionage

        The spy studied the base through his binoculars. Behind him, his handlers held their rifles loosely, confident of their commander’s control over his pet. Jon shifted his weight, flicking his ears as he listened to the quiet whispers of their wagering on the outcome of his mission. Easing back, he curled his tail to the side and centered his weight over canine paws.
        He sprang, backflipping over the soldiers, katana ringing as it slid from its sheath, shattering the ceramic and plastic firearms before they could be brought to bear. One long step forward brought the hilt of the sword cracking against the skull of one soldier, knocking him cold. Another saw the blade reversed, sweeping behind the knees of the second and pulling him off his feet to crash to the ground. Planting his hands, Jon swiveled his digigrade legs around the third soldier and pivoted, driving him forward into a tree trunk. Seconds later, all three soldiers lay bound and unconscious under the edge of the forest. Jon raises his head, listening intently for any sign the skirmish had been heard; nose working to scent any observer. Ripping a white t-shirt off of one of the soldiers, Jon crafted a makeshift flag and planted it by the still forms. Minutes later, Jon again studied the base, this time from a position downwind of the headquarters building. Black lips rose in a vulpine smile as the moon hid itself behind low-hanging clouds. When the cloud’s shadow passed, he had disappeared.
        High-wattage sodium vapor lamps flooded the ground around the headquarters building in orange light. The main entrance stood in stark light and shadow with tall, thin Skyrocket junipers stood surrounded by Dusty Miller speared through with Red Salvia as though each bush were launching into space. Jon was planning his most efficient route up to the door when a man wearing an Army service uniform came through the doors and headed out towards the parking lot. Giving the soldier a comfortable lead, Jon darted across the walkway from his concealment behind one of the Junipers to a heavy bush at the edge of the lot. The click of claws on the concrete walkway caused the soldier to pause, turning to look back towards the sound. Seeing nothing, he resumed walking towards his ground car.
        Jon crouched low. Disguising himself as a large dog, he padded along behind the soldier, then dashed forward, rising to his feet and leaping at the unsuspecting soldier as he opened the door of the vehicle. Jon’s leap carried them both into the cabin of the car, where he brought his tail around and puffed a spray of gas into the soldier’s face. He fought to control the struggling soldier as he waited for the gas to take effect, relaxing a few seconds later as his victim succumbed.
        Jon clambered into the back seat of the ground car and leaned over the seat, bringing his muzzle close to the other’s ear. A quick glance gave him the man’s name and rank.
        “Sergeant Reynolds, straighten yourself up. You’re a mess!”
        “Yes, sir,” the man replied, rising to sit behind the wheel and tugging his jacket straight.
        “You forgot something in your office,” Jon told him. You carried it with you this morning and need to take it back home.“
        ”That’s right. The coffee house gives me free coffee if I use their travel cup. I need to go get it.“
        ”Go get the cup, sergeant,“ Jon ordered. ”But, did you forget anything else? You’ll think of something else as you go through the door. You’re going to hold the door open a few seconds as you try to remember what it was. You won’t even know you’re doing it, and you’ll be so focused on trying to remember that you’ll see nothing. Understand?“
        ”Yes, sir.“
        Reynolds climbed back out of the car and closed the door, hesitating just long enough for Jon to slip out behind him. Resuming his four-footed guise, Jon followed him towards the building again, veering off into the grass and pausing, confident that the hypnotic gas would hold long enough for him to complete his mission. Within seconds, Jon was inside the building.

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