Chapter 3: Initiation and Explanation

"I think this is a good spot."

Sly's voice broke through the darkness Alex was suspended in. A relieved sigh escaped him as the thought of regaining his sight sounded too good to be true. To put it all simply, Sly was a terrible seeing eye dog.

"Thank God," he muttered, removing his blindfold and seeing where the raccoon had taken them.

Another seedy neighborhood he noticed, near dilapidated buildings surround them from all sides. It was much like the place where he had escaped Inspector Fox, just as abandoned, and no doubt with its own rich history of less than legal activities.

"And there's still plenty of moonlight to burn," Sly commented, looking up into the sky to see that dawn was far from coming.

Alex huffed agitatedly. "We would have even more time if I didn't have to play your games." It was hard not to be somewhat cross with him. The hybrid had lost count on the number of times he had nearly broken his nose from running into random obstacles while Sly led him, or the number of times the master thief thought it would be funny to play another rousing game of trip the crossbreed..

"Think of it as one big initiation," Sly chuckled. Turning his gaze upward once again, the raccoon pointed up toward the nearest building. "Now, we climb." Without another word, he jumped into the air and latched onto a nearby pole of a streetlight. With his arms and legs wrapped around the metal pole, he shimmied up the light and poised himself at the very top, balancing on the tip of the post with perfection. Then, with a one large jump, he caught the ledge of the building and pulled himself to the roof.

Only moments passed by before Sly's black and gray face peeked over the edge and down toward Alex, looking at him expectantly. Giving building a quick once over, Alex bolted toward it. Jumping quickly, he aimed for a trashcan set just beside the building and used it to push himself even higher onto the structure. Already making it past the halfway point, Alex caught the sill of a window and began to climb. Using every detail that marred the wall from being a flat surface, the crossbreed found many hand and footholds to scale the rest of the way up.

After Alex had joined him on the roof, Sly slowly nodded his head at the performance. "Not bad," he said, his voice intentionally lacking any real sort of praise, "a little slow, but there's always room for improvement."

Alex was about to comment when a sudden screeching ripple tore it's way through his eardrum and vibrated into his brain. With a yelp, he clutched at his ear where the small radio was still resting. As the crackling static died, the nasally voice of Bentley came forward.

"Sorry about that," he apologized, "had to adjust a few settings. It's been a while since I've used the group function on this thing." Surprised by the clarity in his voice, Alex had to peek over his shoulder to check that the turtle wasn't right beside him. "Now, Alex, Sly will take you to the target destination. I'll monitor your progress from here, and I'll help out if needed. But I'm certain if anything in your file is true, then you'll do just fine."

"Alright," Alex answered, feeling awkward that he was addressing someone who wasn't even there, "sounds good. "

Sly smirked as he pointed off toward the horizon. "This way," he said, taking off and leaving the hybrid in the dust.

Not wanting to be shown up too badly, Alex charged after him in a full sprint. In only seconds, they each made it to the edge of the building. Luckily, many of the Paris rooftops were close together, making only a simple leap needed to cross between the buildings.

Sly was surprised when he found himself running side by side with the crossbreed. He was much faster than he looked. Though bulkier than a fox, he was far off from being the size of a full grown tiger. The raccoon began to think what advantages he might have with his split genes.

"So, Alex," Sly said, eying him as they ran, "how did you get into the larceny 'business'?" Alex looked confused at first, wondering why the master thief would start up a conversation in their current situation. Sly knew it was coming, seeing the oddity in the action. But, their rooftop race would go on for some time anyway, he figured the time could be used to get to know the criminal that might end up with his gang. And with Bentley and Penelope listening in from the hideout, it wouldn't have to be repeated at a later time.

The fox-hybrid frowned for a moment, not meeting the raccoon's gaze as they ran in silence for a few moments. "Well," he started, "for the same reason most people become a thief, I really had no choice."

It was then Sly's turn to frown. Though a criminal himself, there were many things that could get underneath his skin when it came to matters that the law frowned on, dishonorable crimes were one of them. But one thing he didn't like about criminals, especially the ones in this day and age, was that they always seemed to divert blame for their actions onto something other than themselves.

"There's always a choice," Sly said, his tone missing the dash of slick cheerfulness it usually had. It caught him off guard when a weak chuckle escaped the crossbreed.

"Heh, that line might work in the movies, Sly, but that's not the case most of the time." A sigh left him at that point as he set his gaze forward, not looking at anything in particular, as his mind scanned through old memories. "I was orphaned when I was fifteen."

Sly was taken aback by the statement, not by the truth itself, but how he said it. There was the obvious amount of inner pain there but the words seemed to carry so much weight on them. The master thief was forced to remember his own past, how a similar occurrence helped make him into what he was today.

"In one night," Alex continued,"I lost everything. My parents, my little brother, my home." He spoke with an unnatural matter-of-fact tone, lacking hardly any real emotion from then on. "With no other family to turn to, I was left on the streets. I lived in an American city at the time, it's... much different than what you'd be used to. That city..." he paused for a moment, Sly noticed a subtle twitch in his upper lip, showing his sharp fangs for just a moment, "well, it wasn't a good place for a crossbreed like myself. So I covered myself up, posed as a fox who just happened to be a little bigger than usual, then fell into a gang."

"A gang, huh?" Sly commented, raising an eyebrow at him.

The hybrid merely shrugged. "It's not like what you have here with the Cooper 'Gang', nor were we a bunch of thugs harassing innocents. Just a group of kids who felt like they had no other place to be. From them, I learned how I could survive on the streets through thievery. While I'm a terrible pickpocket, I found I had a knack for moving about unnoticed. I was able to swipe things from flea market stalls and business shelves with ease."

"Conscience never got in the way?" Sly asked.

Alex chuckled lightly again. "Not at all. It's not like we robbed unemployed single-mothers or anything. We took what we needed from those who could do without. But there were always the risks. I learned that the hard way when I ended up getting a shotgun aimed at my head."

"A shotgun?" Sly inquired, unable to hide the subtle tone of amusement in his voice. "Seems a bit extreme."

"Can't really complain," Alex remarked. "The guy holding it ended up giving me a job at the very place I was planning to rob, even gave me a bed to sleep in. But... it ended when he found out I was a hybird. So I was thrown back into the streets, all because of what I was. There, I eventually found my way into an underground fighting circuit."

Sly was surprised by that. "Really? You fought other guys for money?"

"And a bed to sleep in," Alex replied. "It wasn't some viscous sport. It was more like one really messed up family that liked to beat each other up. Though it might be strange to say, it really was a big point in my life. I learned how to deal with a lot of issues in my past that hounded me for a long time. I even met another crossbreed who ended up becoming my greatest friend. Can't even think what my life would have turned out had I not met him."

Sly chuckled as he again found a similarity. "I can relate to that," he said, smiling fondly as he was reminded of his own friendships. "Don't know where I would be today if it wasn't for Bentley and Murray." There was a long silence after that, they simply kept running from rooftop to rooftop. It quickly became unbearable for the master thief, deciding to continue with his earlier question. "So, if you were so well off as a fighter, how did you end up in Paris as a wanted thief?"

Alex's continued silence brought a touch of worry to him, making the raccoon consider he had crossed an unknown boundary. "Well..." he finally said, sounding almost reluctant to speak for reasons Sly couldn't fathom, "I hate to say it, but I really didn't have a choice. It just sort of... ended. And after that, I found out what I wanted to do with my life. That lasted for a few years before I left the country altogether, wanting to put the past behind me, start over as something other than a criminal. Went up north to Canada for nearly two years, complications arose and I had to leave. Came back to the states and through a few unfortunate and rather stupid mistakes, I found myself wanted by the police, it forced me overseas and into Europe were I eventually made it here. Since Paris seems synonymous with the word thief lately, I figured it wouldn't be a bad occupation to try. I was already wanted by Interpol the moment I stepped into the country, so I really had nothing to lose."

"Huh," Sly murmured. "Explains where your talents come from."

Alex shrugged. "It wasn't too hard to get better at bigger targets. What I learned on the streets and in the ring definitely helped." A hand reached down and patted his side, feeling the solid frame of his sword beneath the cloth of his coat. "Plus, these have helped immensely."

Sly chuckled lightly. "I guess I need to remember that not all thieves have ancient family bloodlines for this sort of thing."

"Can't say I'd want it." Alex remarked, eyeing the Cooper. "Being born a criminal seems to leave little room for choice."

Sly stayed quite after that, thinking on what what he had said. "True..." he murmured.

The master thief then stopped, halting in place on their latest rooftop as he could look out toward scenery. A smile crept onto his lips as he spotted a large building.

"What's wrong?" Alex asked, not seeing what Sly was.

Sly turned to him, his smile enlarging into a full grin. "We've made it." With a simple twirl of his hand, the raccoon gestured for his companion to look out the same way he did.

After a moment of following Sly's sights, Alex spotted the same building. It was much larger than the ones that surrounded it, looking much newer as well and lacking the crumbling ruin motif that the other near condemned structures had. It all made certain for the building to stick out like a sore thumb. The neon sign that clung to the side like a flag made blending in impossible. The hybrid read the bright green letters that ran across it, 'Easy Green Pawn Shop'.

"A pawn shop?" Alex said, nearly shouting in his surprise. "That's our target? A damn pawn shop?"

"That's right," Sly replied, his grin never leaving him as he examined the store from afar.

With Alex's curiosity getting to him, he took a closer look at the building. To his surprise he began to notice something strange about the store. What his eye first caught was the very front. Just on the side, aimed at the front door, was a security camera. Not out of the ordinary at a glance, but the hybrid noticed the superior tech that clung to that wall. It was top of the line, best money could buy and certainly not something one would see at such a simple business.

The second thing he saw was the activity that the place had. Seeing through the windows at the front of the store, it was obvious they were closed. Pitch black on the inside without the tiniest shred of movement within. But at the far back, there were bright lights stretching across the dark concrete. Despite it being the middle of the night, in the few minutes they were standing there, they could see several large loading trucks drive toward the back of the building. Alex quickly figured that it was a storage area of some kind, but he soon realized that it didn't add up for a simple pawn shop.

"This isn't a normal place of business, is it?" Alex asked, turning to Sly with an accusatory look.

Sly looked back at the hybrid with a devious smirk as he nodded his head. "This unassuming store just so happens to be one of the few drop-offs for one Mr. Roice."

A feeling of shock was quickly expressed on Alex's face as he looked at the raccoon with a death wish. "Roice? The crime lord Roice? As in the 'God of the Parisian Underground', that Roice?"

Again Sly nodded his head, his smirk still evident on his face as he knew all too well of the reputation their target had. "He uses these drop-offs to bring his illegal goods into the city. We have received information that a very... special item is coming in tonight. You see, Roice is quite the collector of rare artifacts of eastern cultures. What better way to show us your metal than by stealing from the big man himself?"

Sly expected the hybrid to show a hint of fear to the idea. Criminals didn't mess with Roice or his business, or at least they never lived long enough to say they did. The master thief himself understood how dangerous of a man he was, but there was no passing up such an opportunity.

But to Sly's surprise, Alex's own muzzle curled into an excited grin. "Fantastic," he said, eying the shop with a new found interest, "I've been meaning to make myself a thorn in his side for some time. This seems like a perfect chance."

The raccoon was forced to let out a chuckle at his enthusiasm. "Good then," he said catching the eyes of his comrade as he stared down at the pawn shop. Sly could see a spark in his eyes, a spark that any thief worth their salt had whenever they saw something they wanted, and they knew they had the means to get it.

Knowing what was in store, Sly smirked as he pictured the fun that was about to be had.

The opposite could be said for another. Somewhere within the adventurous city was an observant turtle who groaned loudly in exasperation, predicting the impending trouble that was sure to come.

A/N: Okay then, that's chapter three. My apologies for the long wait for this, especially since there isn't really a lot happening at the moment. Had a bit of a... not sure what to call it. Writer's block? Nah, just a bit of a lazy fingers kind of deal.

Anyway, a bit of backstory explanation, a set up for the next chapter etc. Oh, and what's this? A brief mention of a character who may or may not play a role later on in the story? As if it were a... plot point? Nah, probably nobody, pay him no mind...