I

A warm, mild breeze rolled over the shoreline as the conning tower of the Bell rose out of the water like some sea monster from an ancient myth. Water slicked off its bow as it bobbed slightly before settling. It had to remain at least a mile from the shoreline, lest it wished to be detected by radar. In the belly of the iron beast, a young ensign observed through a periscope at the shore, scanning for any signs of potential trouble. When he was satisfied, he turned to his captain, a thirty-something kat named Bloomingclaw. "Shore looks clear, sir." The captain stepped forward and looked into the eyepieces.

"I hope so. You're sure this is the correct spot?"

"I checked the coordinates twice sir. This is where the boatman said he'd meet us." Bloomingclaw looked down at his watch. The glowing numbers on his watch read 11:35 PM. In ten minutes, the boatkat would arrive for the consignment.

"Alright. Have our signaler go up top. Tell him to take a rifle." The ensign raised an eyebrow.

"Sir?"

"Just in case." replied Bloomingfeld.

"Yes sir."

The young man saluted and turned to walk down a passageway. The captain went in the opposite direction, appearaing in the doorway of the third room on his left. Inside, a young kat was preparing himself with a double breasted suit and tie. His name was Jake Clawson, or at least that's what it said on his birth certificate. His new name was Jake Shorthair and so it would for the time he was to spend in the Megakat Republic.

The captain rested his hand against the side of the door. "Are you ready to go, Jake?" Jake Clawson finished straightening his tie and turned.

"Yes sir."

"Alright. We're scheduled to meet the boatman in about ten minutes. You remember the link-word?"

"Hieronymus."

"Excellent." The captain turned and walked down the hall towards the main room. Jake grabbed his overcoat and followed close behind. The two shimmied up the ladder onto the conning tower where the cool ocean breeze wafted gently onto their faces. The signaler had a hand on an Aldus Lamp, an ancient piece of equipment not seen, perhaps, since Mega War II. Using radios at such close proximity to the shore was too much of a risk. Bloomingclaw brought a pair of binoculars to his eyes and peered out into the distance, scanning for any signs of the boatman. A flash of light caught his eye and he immediately turned in its direction. It was coming from the forward bow of a small wooden craft puttering its way towards the giant steel submarine.

"What's he saying?" asked the

"He says he ready to receive sir."

"Signal back. Tell him we have the package." Jake frowned. He didn't appreciate being called a package, especially when the package was about to embark on a mission from whom he was not intended to return. A few minutes later, the boat pulled up alongside the hull and a rope was tossed up. Jake and the signalman caught it and tied it to a mooring loop on the side of the tower. "Do you have my stuff?" asked the boatkat.

"Yeah we got it. I'll have the men bring it up while you take our guy onboard." The captain called down for the "stuff" then turned to Jake and extended his hand. "I suppose this is our farewell. Good luck, and if I live, come look me up after this mess." The kat in the double-breasted suit nodded.

"Assuming that I live too, I'll make sure to do that. Thanks for everything." The two shook hands, then saluted. Jake descended the ladder to the deck and carefully stepped into the boat and sat down.

"Codeword?" asked Jake.

"Easel. Link-word?"

"Hieronymus." The boatman nodded. After four small crates had exchanged hands from the crew to the boatman, he undid the line and fired the engine, slowly drifting away from the Bell.

The pair made it to the shore ten minutes later and beached the small craft.

"Follow me." said the boatkat Jake complied, not wishing to compromise the mission. Roughly 100 yards from the shore in some tall grass was a black sedan. The boatman led him to it and opened the door like an obedient chauffeur. "Hop in." Jake tucked his hands into his pockets and did exactly that. "The papers for the car are in the glove compartment. I also took the liberty of including a few roadmaps. There's also an internal compartment with a .45 automatic and ammunition. Just press the side of the wall."

"What do the roads look like tonight? Who should I expect to see?"

"Police are always out but they're on double patrols tonight. Steele put in motion a new directive: No Jews or non-Aryans on the roads after 7:00 without a permit from an overseer." Jake cringed. The sound of Steele's name sent shivers down his spine and made his blood run cold.

"What about Steele's men? Are they out there tonight?"

"FBSS? Hell no. They'll stay at home tonight and leave the skull-cracking to local police and the Khaki-Shirts. Once you close to the capital, then you'll start seeing them." Jake nodded his head and shut the door. The boatkat tapped the window. Jake obliged by rolling it down. "One other thing. If you need anymore ammunition or anything else, don't go to the stores. Get in contact with our people. The gun's out of a government store so there's no way they can trace it."

"Thanks for everything. Can I give a ride? At least back to the main road. "

"Thanks, but no thanks. I gotta' get that boat back to where it's supposed to be. Well, good luck." Jake rolled up the window and fired up the engine, then watched in his rearview mirror as the boatkat was swallowed up by the seemingly infinite darkness.