by Fur and Fantasy
NC-17 for M/F
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file
It was a hot, muggy night in MegaKat City. It smelled like rain was looming over the metropolis, just waiting for the right conditions to come pouring down.
If they were lucky, it would bring a break in the broiling heat wave. About the only good news about it was that, despite the increasingly short tempers and increase in brawls and domestic violence, major crimes and Omega attacks were at a record low.
Even Dark Kat, it seemed, didn't want to do anything during hundred and nine degree temperature with near-hundred percent humidity.
That was why Felina was off-duty that night, the blazing sun well beneath the horizon, the stars shining between breaks in the clouds high above the city. She'd stopped off at MegaKat Central Park briefly, taking a few minutes away from the refuge of her air conditioned car and apartment to get a different sort of break. Leaning her head back, she groaned a bit, thinking that it was about time to head home. The trees were nice, and it wasn't too horrific at night, but it was still more than she wanted to deal with for long.
A frightened shriek from deeper in the park changed everything. She was on her feet at a sprint towards the sound, her hand instinctively brought her off-duty blaster from its holster. Her sharp brown eyes searched the darkness along with her equally sharp ears that swiveled to catch and place the sounds of distress and its cause.
She heard what sounded like snarling orders, though she couldn't make them out. By the time she'd reached the copse of trees the noise was coming from, it wasn't hard to put together what was happening. A gang of young punks of all breeds and markings were surrounding a young Caracal fem, her back pressed against a tree as she looked around with frightened eyes. It was a scene Felina had seen often enough before; the next step would be the thugs moving in on her, and if she was lucky she'd get away without losing anything more than her purse. One of them, another Caracal, said something in a language Felina didn't recognize, and they started advancing slowly, cautiously.
"Backup required at MegaKat Central Park, GPS location." She ordered quietly but forcefully into the radio she was without even less often than her badge.
"Acknowledged, lieutenant." The muffled voice from the Command Tower responded.
"Freeze! Enforcers!" Felina roared as powerfully as her uncle as she stepped into the edge of the scene. At a minimum, the girl should be able to bolt with her as a distraction. The Caracal who seemed to be in charge turned to look, glaring at the chestnut-furred Enforcer in civilian garb.
"You have no idea what you're dealing with, Lieutenant," he growled. The girl tried to run for it, and he turned back towards her, snarling some sort of order before diving to the side, fully expecting to be Felina's first target as his men moved to block the girl at every movement. His hand slipped into his pocket; he hadn't been moving like he was carrying a gun, but Felina couldn't think of anything else it would be and she fired on reflex.
Three shots in perfect order right on target; shattering his forearm and shoulder even as she flicked her gaze around for anyone else that might be an active threat. He howled in pain, and the rest of the gang seemed to be a lot less interested in the young woman they were after than they were in Felina. The young woman bolted deeper into the trees, but there was no move to follow her. Two of them moved towards the injured Caracal, who managed to grind his teeth together, clutching at the bloody ruin of his arm.
"You'll regret this, Feral," he snarled, biting back another wave of agony before they all ran off as quickly as they could, scattering in different directions.
"Damn it." She cursed the slowness of her backup and made a snap decision to follow the victim. The perps' leader wouldn't be too hard to find with that damage if it was deemed worthwhile. "Damn it all."
It wasn't hard to follow the trail through the copse; the Caracal was more interested in getting away than being stealthy about it. Finally, just as she heard the wail of sirens behind her in the park, she also heard the sound of terrified sobs and skidded to a stop next to a thick bush.
"It's okay, Miss," she tried to sound as soothing as she could with her heavy breath and slipped her blaster back in it's holster. "They're gone. I'm Lieutenant Feral."
"Th-thank you," the frightened woman said, looking at Felina with strange eyes. She was a Caracal all right, by her markings, but her wild eyes were a striking crystal blue, except for the white 'rim' around her dilated pupils. She was alternating between panting and sobbing, near hysterical. The smell of sweat and terror poured off of her, along with something else, harder to place.
"Come here," she knelt by the victim but didn't reach out to touch her. "You're safe now."
"They're gone?" She asked, glancing around nervously, moving towards Felina slowly and carefully.
"Yes, they are gone," she nodded and offered a hand. "And there are now enough Enforcers in the area to make sure they aren't back for some time."
"Enforcers?" She pulled back slightly, her eyes uncertain. "I ... I haven't done anything," she said, though something about her manner suggested she wasn't entirely sure if that was true or not.
"No, you haven't done anything." Felina tried to soothe her. "We're here to protect you."
"All right," the Caracal said warily, reaching out to take Felina's hand. Her fur was soaked with sweat, from the oppressive heat and her own terror. She let herself be led out of her hiding place, giving Felina her first good look at her strange outfit and otherwise uninjured appearance.
"What is your name?" Felina asked softly, curious just where this young woman was coming from. For all she was dressed in loose, airy robes and eye paint befitting one of the great movies about the Middle Kingdom, she didn't have any mannerisms of the wealthy the costume went with.
"H-Heather ... I think," she said softly, licking her lips nervously. "I don't ... really know everything."
"Well, Heather," Felina smiled at her as four Enforcers burst onto the scene with paramedics on their heels. They stopped and relaxed at Felina's nod. "Let's just let the medics look you over and we can get you home."
"I don't even know where that is," the Caracal admitted softly, letting herself be led over to the paramedics easily.
"We should take her to the hospital, ma'am." The lead paramedic informed Felina after a quick examination. "She's dangerously close to heat exhaustion and the amnesia warrants observation." That caught Heather's notice, and she glanced between the paramedic she was sitting next to and the Enforcer that rescued her.
"All right," Felina nodded. "Which hospital?"
"Not a hospital," Heather said nervously. "I-I'll be fine ...."
"It will be all right, Heather. They know what they're doing." Felina touched her arm gently and felt a shiver run through her. She wasn't sure if it was the heat getting to her or fear ... she couldn't help but hope it was fear, given what the other meant. "I'll follow the ambulance."
"Don't trust doctors," the Caracal said quietly, looking over at the paramedic almost guiltily. "You'll be right there?" She asked Felina hopefully.
"I'm going to follow right behind you." She nodded firmly, all her authority as a Lieutenant Commander and the forceful nature of her Feral heritage shining through.
"You can ride in the back with her, Lieutenant." The paramedic offered.
"All right," Felina nodded.
"Thank you," Heather said, relaxing noticeably. "I'm sorry," she added, looking back at Felina as she let the paramedic lead her further into the ambulance, "for the hassle."
"It's all right." She smiled and squeezed Heather's shoulder while the paramedic set up an IV drip. "It's not like I had anything planned."
"That's good," the Caracal chuckled weakly, holding still and licking her lips as the needle was inserted into a vein. "Sounds like I might be there for a while ...."
"Only overnight," the paramedic smiled at her. "Then you can go home."
"Assuming I know where that is by then," she murmured quietly, looking down at the floor and unconsciously leaning towards Felina slightly.
"We'll run a fingerprint scan, see what comes up," Felina tried to reassure her. "Do you know who those guys were?"
"They were familiar, I think," Heather said, trying to think about it and shuddering some. "I don't know why they were after me, but the one you shot ... he knew me." She reached up with her free arm, putting her hand on her shoulder in a sort of self-embrace.
"We'll find him." Felina tried to assure her. "Every hospital and Enforcer out there is looking for that damage and his description. He needs medical attention right now."
"I hope so. I just wish I could remember why they were after me! I mean ... what if they weren't the bad guys?"
"Then I'd know them." Felina told her firmly. "And they'd have ID'd themselves after I did."
"I just remember being worried when you said you were an Enforcer," Heather explained quietly. "Like that was a bad thing, somehow. Everything's scrambled," she sighed. "Should probably stop thinking."
"Thinking, and talking, is a good thing," Felina smiled at her gently. "You really do need to remember more than your name."
"I know," she admitted. "Just hard. I remember the big things, like where I am, what the Enforcers are ... most of the rest is jumbled, sort of like trying to look at a painting through thick fog, and make out what it is. I've got impressions, but I couldn't give you a name or an address for anything."
"The Lieutenant is right, Heather." The paramedic smiled at her. "Keep talking as long as you feel up to it. General impressions can become real facts in time, or at least give you enough peace of mind to let the time go."
"I tell you guys some of the things I think I remember, you'll want to keep me at the hospital for psych," she muttered. "The guy who was in charge back there called me Hethra or something, by the way ... Heather might not be my real name, I guess, or something like that."
Felina grew silent, her slightly tightening expression one of recognition and displeasure. "Would you mind talking to a couple friends one mine? Between your dress and that name, it is starting to sound like you might be a cult victim."
"What ... type of cult?" Heather asked cautiously, looking at the much taller woman with a worried expression in her eyes. Despite the question, it didn't sound like she was too surprised by the possibility.
"That I don't know," Felina admitted. "But I recognize a little too much not to check out the possibility. Their behavior towards you and your amnesia are not good signs that they are following the traditional forms of worship."
"Maybe it's not so crazy after all," the Caracal murmured, shuddering a little bit at half-remembered fragments of the terror that had happened before she could remember what was going on.
A soft, incessant beeping drew Felina out of a rather pleasant dream comprised of a soft bed of clouds drifting over the bluest tropical waters she'd ever seen.
"Damn," she muttered softly and looked around while she stretched. She was half surprised she didn't have worse kinks in her neck after sleeping in a chair yet again. At least Heather had finally calmed down enough to sleep, but there was no way she was going to disappear on her.
"Hey, Heather." She touched the slender Caracal on the shoulder, surprised when her eyes snapped open, focusing on Felina almost immediately. The thin, worried smile she got a split-second later was almost endearing.
"Morning ... you have to go, don't you?"
"My shift starts in an hour. I've got just enough time to grab a shower and bite to eat there." She nodded regretfully. "I'll be by to see how you're doing at lunch, okay?"
"They're not letting me go yet?" Heather asked, swallowing hard. The IV had been taken out long before, once she was rehydrated properly, but the doctors had already put a chart on the foot of her bed, detailing a battery of scans and tests they wanted to run, when they realized that her memory wasn't coming back already the night before.
"No," she shook her head. "They need to know where you are going first, or at least your real name."
"Hurry back ... okay? I don't want to be alone around here too long."
"I'll do my best, Heather." She paused before quickly writing a phone number and extension down. "Do you know how to use the phone?"
"Yeah," she nodded. "Not totally helpless," she smiled weakly.
"Good. This number will put you through to me, unless I'm in the air. Then it will forward to Abi Sininan. She's a good friend of mine."
"Okay," Heather nodded, taking a deep breath. "I'll be okay, as long as they just expect me to sit here and tell them I'm not about to pass out or something."
"I'm not sure what they have planned, but rest should be at the top of the list."
"I'll see you later then?" Heather said hopefully.
"On my lunch break and after shift's over." Felina nodded. "I'm not going to abandon you."
"Thanks," the Caracal smiled. "You're a good kat, Felina. Don't know why you're going to the trouble, but thanks."
"It's my nature," she smiled slightly and squeezed Heather's shoulder. "I'll be back when I can. You focus on recovering."
"I will," she nodded, leaning back in the bed. "Maybe I'll be able to give you a last name by the time you're back."
"That would be great," Felina smiled and left. A nod to the officer on guard at Heather's door was returned and she turned her mind to getting to the Tower, a shower, breakfast and making it through yet another shift in the blistering, unnatural heat.
"Lieutenant Feral!" One of the doctors called as Felina walked down from the roof where she'd landed her chopper just a few minutes before. "Lieutenant Feral!"
"What?" She broke into a run right for him, assuming the worst about her uncle or another uniformed Feral.
"It's about the woman you brought in last night," he said, once she was close enough he could talk without shouting. "Seeing her right now isn't going to be possible, I'm afraid. We had to sedate her earlier."
"What happened?" She demanded as she guided him in a fast walk towards Heather's room.
"We tried to take her for some tests, to make sure there wasn't any permanent damage. She seemed fairly calm up until then, but when we said what we were going to do, she became hysterical." The black-furred tom followed her briskly to the elevator, explaining as they rode it down to the proper floor. "She tried to escape, we had to tranquilize her to keep her from injuring anybody."
"Is she a competent or trained fighter?" She asked, all business.
"Not particularly, and she was asleep the last I heard. But when she does wake up, even without being very skilled, there's a good chance she could be dangerous. When she first started fighting, a desk flew across the room at the duty nurse in the room with her."
"As in she picked it up and through it?" She raised an eyebrow.
"As in something did. She seemed as surprised by it as anybody else, but according to the nurse, she'd also motioned for it to happen, whether she realized it or not. You might have brought in a telekinetic."
"Just what we need," Felina sighed. "It makes the list of those who want her more dangerous as well as her."
"Especially if she lacks control," the doctor agreed. "I don't like the idea of keeping her sedated constantly, but while she's here, it may be necessary. We don't often get Omegas through here," he mused.
"I'll get the paperwork done to transfer her to Serenity Thorn if she needs continued care." Felina told him. "They're equipped to handle them."
"Good thing you've got the contacts," he chuckled slightly. "Though the good news is, the CAT scan showed no observable brain damage. No physical reason she should be amnesiac, for that matter, now that she's over the heat."
"Which leaves what I expected to be the cause, emotional trauma." She nodded. "Cults aren't the gentlest of captors."
"No, they aren't. Unfortunately, it's also the hardest form of amnesia to treat, of the sorts that can be treated. We did run her description against missing persons cases, nothing's come up yet."
"No real surprise. She's not in any system as far as my resources can find. Which does leave some serious questions as to what to do with her. Hospitals aren't a good place, but setting her loose may be even worse."
"Almost certain to get her caught by whoever's after her. Nobody with the injuries you described last night has checked in here either, by the way. One thing I do wonder about though ...." He paused, then continued at her glance. "Well, given what she apparently did with the desk, why couldn't she fight back last night? It sounded like she would have been amply able to defend herself." The elevator opened, letting the two of them out a few doors down from Heather's room.
"I don't know, but if she was startled, maybe she doesn't know she can do it."
"Or doesn't remember she can," he admitted. "Do you have any ideas what to do with her, after we've exhausted the limits of our legal ability to keep her here? If we haven't found any family or a home for her by then, we've only got a month or so that we can keep her here, unless she's demonstrated an inability to care for herself."
"I can pull some strings, especially at Serenity Thorn." Felina nodded, her voice low. "A material witness order or something. It is now a cult investigation. They tend to get high priority."
"Second only to serial killers and Omegas," he nodded. "Would you like to see her alone? It sounds like she's still asleep, but I would imagine that you'll be safe without the guards on hand if she wakes up."
"Thank you." She smiled slightly and entered to assess the girl she'd rescued once again. She was lying in bed, a frown on her face as she tossed and turned slightly. Apparently whatever they used to tranquilize her was either wearing off, or it didn't do anything for dreams.
"Heather?" Felina called out, her voice the low, soft one she'd developed on beat patrol to encourage frightened children to trust her. "It's Felina. Are you all right?" The Caracal stilled after a few moments, her eyes half-opening as her mouth worked soundlessly.
"Where am I?" She mouthed, her eyes frightened.
"The same hospital as before," Felina told her gently. "Would you like some water?" Heather nodded, licking her lips.
"Please," she managed to croak.
Felina nodded and lifted the glass of luke warm water on the nightstand to her mouth. Heather drank eagerly, licking her lips once she'd gotten some moisture to them.
"Do you know what happened with the table?"
"You heard about that?" Heather closed her eyes, shuddering a bit. "They were coming to do something to me. I ... fought back, I guess. I was telling them to leave me alone, when I felt something burning my arm, and the table flew across the room." She wrapped her arms around herself, looking up at Felina guiltily. "I didn't hurt anybody, did I?"
"Not seriously," she assured her gently. "Nothing you'll be in trouble for. Is your arm injured?"
"That's good. I didn't want to hurt anybody, I was just scared. And no, just ... tingling, I guess. It's the same spot I felt the burning before."
"May I see?"
"Sure," Heather nodded, sitting up and letting go of her left arm, turning so Felina could see as she rolled up the sleeve of the hospital gown.
"I'm no expert, but I think it's Middle Kingdom script." Felina scrunched her brows and slipped a pen and pad from her uniform pants pocket to make a copy of the black markings that showed clearly even through the dense golden-orange fur.
"That's weird," Heather said, wrinkling her own brow. "That guy called me after some old God, I was dressed like something out of a movie, and now I've got Middle Kingdom script in my markings?"
"All Middle Kingdom," she nodded. "Abi will be able to translate this for us. Maybe it means something that will give us a clue who you are, or at least what they want with you."
"I hope so," Heather nodded. "It'd be nice to have a clue what's going on. You have to get back to work soon?"
"In half an hour or so," she nodded. "I'll have a word with them not to do anything test wise. At least not until I'm back."
"That'd be good," the Caracal sighed in relief. "I know they mean well ... really I do. Just thinking of having some doctor poking at me ...." She shuddered again. "I don't know why, but it makes me sick to think about it."
"I'll do my best to see it's kept to a minimum, and while I'm around." She promised. "Have you eaten yet?"
"Hospital food," Heather chuckled, making a face. "Which means it's up to debate."
"It's better at Serenity Thorn," she chuckled back. "It's also safer there."
"If there's a chance I could get out of hospitals, I'd prefer that," Heather sighed a bit. "But I'm guessing that's not happening. What is Serenity Thorn?"
"It's the Enforcer's hospital." Felina relaxed in a chair. "The best medicine experience can produce."
"Think there's any chance they could help me get my memories back, or at least figure out what happened that made me lose them?"
"A very good chance of it," she nodded. "My rank carries a bit more authority there too, which will help."
"How would I pay for something like that though? I don't know if I even have insurance."
"Don't worry about that," Felina chuckled. "As far as they're concerned, you're the key witness in a major investigation. Which isn't far from the truth, just not the real reason you'll be there."
"You won't get in any trouble for that, will you? Or trying to make what happened into a major investigation?"
"It already is." Felina shook her head. "Any time 'Omega' or 'cult' enter the reports, it's automatically bumped up to Major Crimes. It doesn't hurt any that the CO on scene is head of that unit." She chuckled.
"No, it wouldn't," she smiled. "You've got a full plate, don't you? Major Crimes, Special Response, being Lieutenant Commander in general."
Felina had to chuckle. "Yes, it's a full plate. And you are remembering things. At least a little. Unless the staff was talking to you. No one's addressed me by my full rank, or mentioned Special Response as even existing."
"Yeah, I am," Heather nodded, still smiling a bit. "Nothing personal to me, but I'm remembering a few more things about what's around me."
"It's a good start," Felina smiled. "It means you'll be able to function a bit better when you get out."
"I can remember most of that sort of thing, I think. Things like how to drive, or do things I can remember. It's where things are, what they're called ... that's off. All those things that make me me."
"Well, the first can be learned again, and the second ... well if nothing else you can rebuild a sense of yourself."
"Just be nice to know if my name really is Heather, and what the rest of it is."
"Yes," she smiled and patted the shekat's shoulder. "I can't imagine what it would be like without my name and family. But where there is life, there is hope, and you are very much alive."
"And I've got at least one friend, I hope," she added, putting her hand over Felina's shyly.
"Yes, you do." The dark shekat smiled back and squeezed her shoulder gently. "You'll be fine, you'll see."
"Thanks, Felina," the Caracal smiled, squeezing her hand lightly. "I know I keep saying that, but there's plenty to be saying it for."
"You can thank me the best by focusing on healing and remembering who had you, and why."
"I will," Heather promised. "I don't know if it means anything, but the more I think about it, the more I think I knew the guy who was running things last night."
"It means that we're probably right about the cult angle on this." Felina nodded. "If you know him, then we have that much better a shot at capturing him."
"Especially if I can remember his name," she nodded. "Assuming he's still alive, he might not be, with what you did to him last night."
"That injury won't even hinder him when he heals, if he gets even half-competent medical attention." She shook her head. "I hit his arm, not anything vital."
"Hope nobody minds if I hope he doesn't," Heather shuddered. "Don't know what he had planned for me, but I know I wouldn't have liked it."
"I won't," she nodded with a grim set to her mouth. "The city can also use fewer of his kind."
"Always seem to be more to take their place, doesn't it?"
"Yes, there are." Felina nodded with a sigh. "It's why I still have a job."
"Well, there is something to be said for job security."
"I'll take a safe city over job security," she chuckled slightly. "But as long as there's trouble there will be Ferals to handle it."
"Family means a lot to you, doesn't it?" Heather observed, cocking her head slightly.
"It's a big part of who I am," Felina nodded. "You don't grow up Feral and not know what it means to be a Feral, risks and rewards in all."
"For me, yes," she nodded. "It's not the life for everyone though. It can be rough to be an Enforcer, or Enforcer's mate."
"I'll bet," Heather nodded. "At least you get along with them. I ... don't think I really did, with mine."
"Not a real surprise," Felina said gently. "Most people who end up in cults don't. It's something of a standard, especially when you aren't listed as missing."
"You think I was a member?" Heather looked at her with a worried expression. "What does that mean if you catch the rest of them, if I was?"
"That you escaped and helped us shut them down," she shook her head. "Being a cult member isn't a crime in and of itself. From what I saw, you were not there willingly, at least not at the end."
"Don't know why I'd be running if I was there willingly," The Caracal agreed. "Felina ... what happens if we can't find where I belong?"
"We build you a new place," she said simply. "The future is what matters, after all."
"Guess one of the first things to remember is if I have any job skills, huh?" She chuckled slightly. "Probably right after my name and where the heck I put my ID."
"Job skills are at least fairly easy to test for." She reminded her. "They're skills after all."
"And most of those I can remember," Heather nodded. "At least when I have to use them. At least I can be pretty sure I wasn't an Enforcer," she chuckled.
"I can guarantee it. You weren't a government employee of any kind and you've never held a job with a security clearance and you've never been arrested or suspected of a crime. Your prints would be on file if you were."
"Which still leaves a lot on the list," she mused. "Maybe somebody from work'll file a report or something when I don't show up."
"Assuming you're local," Felina cautioned her a bit. "And assuming you were recently kidnapped. Neither is exactly a fact right now. For all we know you joined the cult voluntarily and changed your mind."
"Which means the only people looking for me would be the ones who were after me last night," Heather nodded, sighing a little. "And there's a good chance nobody else would really care." There was a sad tone to her voice, almost like that bothered her more than the possibility she would never remember who she was again.
"You're young, Heather. You'll make friends again."
"Just hope they're better than the ones I lost last night," she laughed slightly. "With friends like those, I'd never need enemies."
"No one in this city need enemies with the Omegas around," Felina chuckled. "But I'm sure you'll have better friends this time. At least if they know what is good for them."
"One of these days I'm going to try and make up for everything you've done, Felina," Heather promised with a smile. "You might not think it's too much, but I think anybody who can call you a friend is luckier for it, and that's only the start."
"Most people don't think that after they've met my uncle." She chuckled ruefully. "You be good till my shift ends, okay?"
"Promise," Heather nodded. "As long as they don't try pulling me in for any more 'tests.' Even if they do ... I'll try. And I think you'll be worth handling your Uncle," she added with a shy smile, to which Felina had to laugh in good humor.
"I would like to think so, but Commander Feral has a way of intimidating people. I'll be back in a few hours."
"I'll be here," Heather smiled, watching as Felina left the room. "Definitely worth it," she murmured to herself, leaning back in the bed and wondering about what had happened to her.
"Why am I just not surprised you're still here when I get off duty?" Felina's cheery voice caught her friend off guard in the depths of the MegaKat City Natural History Museum's vast storage vaults.
"Because it's air conditioned and I've got new bones?" Abi suggested, barely looking up from the one she was inspecting at Felina as she approached. "You sound like you're in a good mood."
"I made it through an entire shift without having to calm my uncle down from a snarling fit." She chuckled. "And that cute Caracal dressed up in Middle Kingdom clothes that I rescued last night is hitting on me, I think."
"Now the Past Master hasn't revived any old girlfriends lately," Abi said, looking up with an entirely new interest, "so this is definitely new business. And good luck, if she is," she added with a wink.
"I'm just hoping someone else isn't getting into his game," she shook her head and pulled the piece of paper out. "I think this is Middle Kingdom, as is the name Hethra."
"Script definitely is," Abi said, taking the paper and looking at it, cocking her head. "Though out of context, it doesn't make much sense. Hethra? Is that her name?"
"The context is a tattoo on her arm that sort of itches normally and will glow painfully when she can throw things telekinetically. At least that's so far." Felina explained and leaned back against a sturdy shelf. "Hethra is what the guy trying to capture her called her. She's going by Heather. She's got pretty complete amnesia. Right now it's looking cult-related from my perspective."
"From mine as well," Abi nodded. "Basically, the 'tattoo' is counting. One through three, with about half the character for four. You're familiar with the Middle Kingdom cult of Hethra and Ebritha, yes?"
It took a moment before she nodded. "The twin eclipse goddesses. I can't say I know much more though."
"All things considered, they were a fairly benign heresy in the Middle Kingdom's worship. It was said that they were greater than all the gods, since even Ra's power was concealed by their own when they chose to rule. When the Pharoaic armies marched on their holdings, they did fight back, and there were some rumors of demon worship, but nothing concrete.
"However, I don't think the ancient cult, in any form, has anything to do with your lady friend. Do you mind following me up to my office? These tattoos remind me of something."
"Kind of my impression," she nodded and motioned the smaller, older shekat to lead the way. A brisk walk up to Abi's office later, and the brown-furred shekat was on a step stool, sorting through massive bookshelves with experienced skill. No matter how often Felina saw the inside of Abi's office, she never could figure out how she managed to fit everything into it without making it an utter mess.
"Have you ever heard of the Katra family? Supposedly date back to the fall of the Middle Kingdoms, though nobody's documented the line back past Megalith City."
"A little. Keepers of the secrets and such. You think she might be one?"
"It's very possible," Abi nodded. "Felina, are you sure she's amnesiac?" She found the book she was looking for, pulling it down and flipping through it quickly.
"No," she admitted. "She'd have to be a good actress not to be, but it's possible she's not. I'm not that well versed in such things. Would that be why she freaks out so badly over tests?"
"It could be," Abi nodded. "It could also be that there's some deep trauma that she remembers. The Katras have a long tradition of being sadists as well as demon-worshippers. Here we are." She found the passage she was looking for, opening the thick book to it.
"This book was written by somebody who was unfortunate enough to marry into the family, but lucky enough to get out before they became the guest of honor at a sacrifice. It isn't entirely about the Katras, but this might explain the tattoos. Members of the clan would usually be inducted into the cult during their pre-teen years, then continue their studies. With each 'promotion' further in the cult, they would be tattooed with a number in Middle Kingdom script, since most didn't recognize the symbols for what they were.
"Heather, it would seem, was a member in good standing. Third circle was the highest 'rank' of their initiates."
"So she either bolted during her promotion to full member or they start the tattooing beforehand and finish it then." Felina considered it thoughtfully. "It would explain the guy trying to capture her being so sure he could threaten me for interfering with his retrieval."
"Arrogance is another one of those things they don't have a shortage of," Abi agreed. "What was he? Caracal?"
"The leader was," she nodded after thinking back for a moment. "Not all of them were though."
"That's in keeping with the Katras," Abi nodded. "There was the main family line, and they had their own servants and allies, mostly what we would consider thugs or cultist-wannabes. Felina? I would strongly suggest that, if her family tries to get her back, not letting them do so. There's a good chance that the only kin she has are the people she was trying to get away from. There's also a good chance that she'll have a twin; the Katras frequently took names from mythology and history, but they used them properly."
"Great," she shook her head with a sigh. "At least this is already a cult investigation. On the flip side, if we can get her memory back, we may have some significant information on them."
"There's a good chance of it," Abi nodded. "At least she's not likely to want to go back if she remembers who she was. Be careful, Felina. The Katras haven't survived for centuries by making stupid mistakes."
"They've never crossed a Feral before." She rumbled. "No one threatens a Feral, much less a Feral on duty, and has it not be a stupid mistake. Would you write out the numbers in Middle Kingdom? I'll run them through CRASH for matches. They tend to see these things long before I do."
"I can do better, give you a quick primer on the symbols," Abi said, reaching into her desk for two sheets of paper with the basic "alphabet" on them. "They might have other tattoos they use as well, for more typical purposes."
"Yes, that will be even better," she nodded and moved over to watch the scholar at work. "The more information we have on this the better off we'll be." It wasn't long before Abi had added a few possible tattoos to the list, handing it to Felina along with translations.
"I hope Heather gets her memories back soon, Felina," the older shekat said softly. "But if on the bright side, she shouldn't be capable of much more than what you already described, magically. From what's described, anybody with marks for the sixth circle or higher should be treated as an Omega. They probably qualify as one, at least if they put some effort into it."
That made her pause. "Just how many circles are there?"
"At least seven," Abi explained. "Three initiate ranks, three for the 'outer circle,' that's all that has been described. It is known that there's an inner circle, but whether that's one rank of the people in control of the family and cult alike, or an additional three circles isn't clear. It may even be that there are no surviving members at that level of power; if there are, then we certainly haven't heard from them."
"Would they all be Caracals?"
"Unless there was a change in the power base, yes," Abi nodded. "At least partly. Those who weren't blood members of the family never got beyond the first circles of power; they were strung along with promises until they became sacrificial victims."
"It's the higher circles I'm concerned with. The ones that should get more than a Commando Unit to take down." She nodded. "Is the tattoo the power source or simply an indication of it?"
"There's no evidence that it's anything more than an indication, except for what you described happening with Heather. If it reacted when she used her powers, even unconsciously ...."
"We could be looking at something more like a magical item." She nodded grimly. "Would you be willing to take some time away from those bones to meet with her?"
"Before, or after, she remembers who she probably is on her own?"
"Soon, so probably before."
"I think I can make some time. It's not like these bones are going anywhere soon. I'm not sure how good an idea it would be to try and jog her memory about that, though. At least not yet."
"All right," she agreed reluctantly. "I'll be careful about it and see what the system has to say about these symbols."
"Just for a bit, Felina," Abi clarified. "Think about it from her point of view; she doesn't know anything about who she is, and the first thing she remembers is that she was part of a cult where her family would probably make a career for any psychiatrist out there? I'm not a psychiatrist, but that couldn't be healthy."
"No, but if she's not truly amnesiac, knowing she won't be prosecuted or abandoned for her family ties would be very helpful." She countered, still hopeful that she might get some first-hand knowledge out of her rescue.
"Agreed," Abi consented. "I'll still talk to her, bring it up, but I'm not going to push her to remember something she might not be ready to. That's something better done by someone who knows how to handle it."
"Right," Felina nodded, still a little reluctant as an Enforcer but understanding it all the same. "I'll be careful."
"By the way, something you might want to think about. If she is hitting on you, you'll have to consider the fact that she's also a witness when you think about how to respond."
Felina sighed and shook her head. "And it gives an entirely new angle on why she might be doing it to. Some less savory than others."
"Do you really think she's trying to trick you, Fel?"
"Not really," she admitted. "But I can't discount the possibility either. I could be anything from powerful protection to the prize that buys her rank quickly. Or just the first person to treat her decently without an obvious reason to."
"It's possible," Abi agreed, "but don't second guess things too much on that count. Be careful, but not paranoid, okay? As long as I've known you, you've usually been a pretty good judge of character. More than I can say for your Uncle sometimes."
Felina could only groan. "Honestly, I think he is a good judge of it, just not a good judge of what to do about it when it's a combination of ambitious, spirited and not kin."
"I have to admit, he didn't give Steele his job," Abi consented.
"And wanted him out of it badly." She chuckled. "One thing we agree on very well. SWAT ... that's another matter."
"But the fact is, you are usually right about people. You're probably right about her too."
"I'll keep that in mind," she nodded. "Part of good judgment is not letting yourself being blinded to possibilities either."
"Have you ever let that happen to yourself?" Abi chuckled slightly. "Not in the time I've known you, that's for sure."
"Not in a long time," she nodded forcefully, not wanting to think back to what had driven that habit into her so firmly. "So is there anything else you can tell me about these guys?"
"Just that they'll probably have some rather large political guns to bring to bear. I don't know what it is about the rich and powerful, but somehow, they always seemed to get mixed up in Katra business. Including two high priests, towards the end of Megalith City."
"Great," she muttered, rolling her eyes. "As if we don't fight the mayor enough already."
"With any luck, Mayor Manx wouldn't have the guts to work with them," Abi chuckled. "They're hardly the sort of people you get far working with when you're afraid of them."
"Oh, I expect he's not that corrupt," she chuckled darkly. "He puts survival far too high on his priority list to get knowingly involved. But quietly bribed by them? That's as likely as the mob doing it."
"Very, very true," Abi admitted. "Which means your investigation might run into a little subtle disapproval from high places. Like I said before; be careful."
"I'm always careful," Felina cracked a half-grin. "I just get things done."
"For better or for worse," Abi chuckled. "So, you want to take me back to see your new friend now, or some other time? Technically I should be off the clock."
"Now works fine," she nodded easily. "She's expecting me back soon anyway."
"You mind driving me there? The AC on my jeep burned out on my last trip to the badlands."
"You haven't gotten it fixed yet?" Felina motioned her to come along. "And no problem. Heather's good enough to be left alone, as long as the doctors leave her alone."
"Until the heat wave hit I was getting by without it," Abi chuckled, following Felina along. "Besides, as much time as I spend in here? One advantage of a museum, temperature and humidity are both very well controlled."
"If you don't have a good mechanic, I can suggest a couple that won't rip you off." She offered easily as they worked their way out of the complex backstage of the museum.
"The guys out at the Salvage Yard? Callie pointed me their way already," Abi smiled. "Very cute, by the way, the Enforcers lost some serious eye candy when your Uncle sent them out there, along with some good officers. I'll get it fixed eventually, it's just one of those things where I have to get the time."
"She's the one who pointed me their way too." She chuckled. "And you're definitely right. Those two are top notch from their records, when you read between the lines of the disciplinary notes."
"Maybe when your Uncle retires you can ask them back," Abi mused. "Could certainly think of worse things to do."
"It's crossed my mine more than once," she admitted just as quietly. "But for now they might as well be dead given how long that may be. He's not about to retire voluntarily."
"It could be worse, we could have Steele in charge," Abi pointed out with a roll of her eyes. "I'd move out to the Badlands permanently if that had happened."
"Trust me, he wouldn't last a single shift." She snorted. "Political ties only get you so far when you start to actually command troops in the field regularly."
"One can hope," Abi chuckled, shaking her head. "Every time your uncle went out, probably half the city cringed when they thought about what could happen."
"At least it hasn't happened yet. I do not relish the day I get my next promotion."
"With any luck, it'll be because he finally meets a good fem, settles down, and decides to raise kits," Abi said reassuringly, putting her hand on Felina's shoulder.
"Ulysses Feral, settling down?" She raised an eyebrow, trying to correlate the concept to anything possible. "That'd be ... weird."
"Felina? We're in MegaKat City. Weird is par for the course."
"Yeah, but that's weird even for here." She shook her head and laughed.
"You're back!" Heather said cheerfully, sitting up and putting a magazine aside as Felina and Abi walked into her room.
"Good to see you in better shape," Felina smiled back. "This is Abi, one of the specialists I told you about, and a good friend."
"A pleasure to meet you, Heather," Abi smiled, stepping up to shake hands with the Caracal. "I hope you're not using that to remember current events," she added with a chuckle, nodding towards the tabloid she'd just put to the side.
"Please, I might be amnesiac but I'm not stupid," Heather chuckled. "Just that knowing there are people who believe it makes me feel better; there's somebody out there more messed up than I am."
"There's always going to be that," Felina chuckled. "Trust me."
"Certainly seems that way," the Caracal agreed. "So, Abi ... Felina wanted you to talk to me about the cultists?"
"Well, I also wanted to meet whoever it was that had gotten her attention so thoroughly," the older shekat chuckled, pulling up a seat. "I can see why you have."
"Thanks," Heather blushed while Felina could only roll her eyes. "She's helping a lot so far."
"I do my best." The tall shekat repeated.
"So, have you remembered anything more about the people who were after you?" Abi asked curiously.
"Just that I know I knew the leader, but probably didn't know the others," Heather explained. "It probably doesn't help any."
"Well, maybe you'll remember more about him later on; after all, it sounds like you didn't remember that much before."
"I didn't," she admitted. "Do you know anything about what this cult might be?"
Abi thought for a moment, then said quietly something in a language Felina hadn't heard outside of movies, though she spoke it slowly, as if she wanted to make absolutely certain she was saying the right words. It was, at least supposedly, the language used in the Middle Kingdom, full of low tones that flowed together almost lyrically.
Heather looked at her worriedly, glancing up at Felina as if asking how well Abi could be trusted, receiving a reassuring nod.
"It's all right, Heather," Abi said quickly. "I just didn't want to say anything without saying that first. You understood me?"
"Well ... yeah. But ... why would you ask me to have Felina leave?"
That earned the doctor a very serious look from her friend.
"A little test," Abi said quickly, looking back at Felina apologetically. "Assuming my accent wasn't too bad, if you were a member, you should have asked her to leave so we could discuss business without having an outsider present. I'm not a member," she added at the alarmed look from Heather.
"You were seeing if I was faking," Heather realized after a few moments.
"I'm sorry, but I thought it would be best to be careful."
"I'm guessing this cult isn't known for being gentle with people who know too much about it."
"Not particularly," Abi allowed. "Or with just about anybody, I'm afraid. You're lucky you were able to get away from them."
"She picked the right park to start screaming in," Felina commented. "And the right time."
"A lot of shekats who wish they'd done that," Abi nodded softly. "You did understand what I said though, so that means there's a good chance I was right about what group you were a member of before."
"Any idea why I left?"
"Can I see your shoulder? Those markings you showed Felina earlier."
"Sure," Heather nodded, turning a bit. Abi looked at the black markings in her short orange fur, nodding a bit.
"I think that you were part of one of the cult's ceremonies, and decided that whatever was involved wasn't for you. Whatever happened, there's a good chance it might be responsible for your amnesia."
"What could have been involved that would make me leave then, but do this?"
"Quite possibly attempting to summon something that doesn't belong on this world," Abi said as gently as she could. The cult worships a number of demons, going to them for magical powers."
"You mean that I ... that what I did with that desk before ...."
"Might have been normal magic," Abi tried to reassure her. "As normal as it ever is, at least. Or something completely different. By the time members of the cult were selling their souls, according to what information I have on them, they were long past the point where they would object to summoning a demon."
"Sounds like a lovely group to get away from," Felina shook her head. "It takes a lot of guts to get away, you know." She looked at Heather, getting a dubious look in return.
"Especially when you know what the punishment is likely to be if they catch you," Abi agreed. "You did the right thing, Heather."
"Thanks," she replied after a moment. "Sounds like I have to try and remember what I can about them before they manage to catch up with me again."
"They're not going to get you again." Felina rumbled protectively.
"I know you'll try to keep that from happening," Heather smiled at Felina. "But if I can remember anything about them before they try, it makes the odds better, right?"
"Absolutely," she nodded. "They're now on the radar, they're not about to leave it. The more info we have, the better the odds we can bring them down."
"Which is something everybody'd be better off for happening," Abi added.
"It sounds that way," Heather agreed quietly. "Sounds like life's going to be pretty interesting from here on out."
"Not as interesting as mine," Felina chuckled. "Only the SWAT Kats get that distinction."
"I come close some days," Abi smirked at her friend.
"Only because they have to rescue you," Felina smirked back. "Only Callie gets more attention from them."
"And Ann Gora," Abi chuckled.
"But she goes towrds trouble," Felina counter with a grin. "You two have the sense to run away from it. Usually."
"No offense, but I'll try and stay less interesting than either of you," Heather giggled. "I've done some reading, I don't need any twenty-story monsters trying to step on me."
"Good plan," Felina laughed. "Very good plan."
"Definitely," Abi grinned. "Getting stepped on is not a particularly good way to spend your afternoons."
"I don't suppose there's been any luck figuring out where I'm supposed to be?" Heather asked after a few moments, changing the subject.
"Not much." Felina shook her head. "Other than protective custody. You aren't in the system anywhere."
"Protective custody? What does that mean?" Heather asked warily, not liking the sound of it much. "It sounds like you're talking about me being locked up somewhere, until somebody figures out what to do with me."
"No, it means you're put in a safe house with Enforcers watching out for you." Felina shook her head. "Not locked up."
"Okay," the Caracal said with a relieved tone. "I'll probably need to find a job fast too. From what I remember, I think I might've been a student somewhere, though that'd be pretty weird without being in the system."
"Not really," Felina admitted. "Students are not habitually fingerprinted and without a real name or social to run you wouldn't show up.
"In that case, I hope I didn't have exams coming up or something," Heather chuckled slightly. "So ... if I'll be going into protective custody, like you said, any idea how much longer I'll be in here?"
"Well, unless the doc thinks you're injured worse than you look, probably later today. I have a few details to work out on it yet."
"Like where, I'd guess," Heather smiled a bit. "You two need to get going then?"
"Unless Abi wants to talk a little more?" She glanced at her.
"Actually, if Heather'd like, I could keep her company until we get the final verdict for where she's going, catch a cab later."
"That'd be nice," the Caracal smiled. "Maybe we can figure out something about who I was hanging around with before this happened."
"All right," Felina nodded and turned to leave. "Have fun you two."
"We will," Heather chuckled. "Stay out of trouble!" She called to the back of the older shekat as she walked out.
Pain shot through what was left of Surtr's arm as he approached the audience chamber. Except for the time he'd taken to have one of the family doctors do the most basic repairs, he hadn't had time to deal with it in the past two days since the Enforcer had shot him. He'd been too busy trying to track down Hethra.
The botched attempt to retrieve her would be bad enough; the fact that he'd managed to lose her again would be worse. His only hope was that the Prelate would have some measure of pity on him, give him another chance.
He shuddered as he looked up at the black-furred Caracal who sat at the head of the chamber, calmly in complete control of her surroundings.
Hoping for pity from her was rather like hoping for a gentle rain in the badlands.
"Prelate Ebritha," he said respectfully, trying to keep his voice steady and the wince to a minimum as he knelt in front of the throne she sat in.
"Explain yourself." She said simply, her authority so absolute she did not even feel the need to make a demand as her bright orange eyes fell on him.
"Hethra fled in the middle of her Initiation Rite. We tried to capture her, but Lieutenant Feral of the Enforcers was in the area and interfered. We were not identified, but I was injured while reaching for a sleeping potion. Since then, we have tracked Hethra to MKC General Hospital. It seems she is amnesiac, and cannot reveal any concrete facts about the family."
"Then why do you not have her head for me?"
"We have tracked her there, but reaching her without drawing attention to our activities has proven troublesome. Feral spends a great deal of time with her, and she is not entirely without her powers; our attempts to slay her magically have failed thus far."
"I see," she regarded him coolly for an intolerably long time.
"I am trying to infiltrate some of our initiates into the hospital to deal with her," he said, hoping to find something that would earn him a reprieve from the likely painful fate awaiting him. "She isn't under guard at all times, but attempts to get somebody close enough to visit her under the guise of being a friend have been foiled twice. She seems to be using her magic almost instinctively; if we can discover what room she is in and get a sniper into position, we could likely kill her that way."
"So what part of this effort will benefit from your assignment to it?" She tented her fingers lightly to regard him over them. He swallowed hard, thinking fast.
"M-my skill with magical poisons and enchantments will give us the best chance of our assassin killing her in a way that cannot be traced back to us," he stammered. He was grasping at straws, he knew, but he couldn't come up with anything else that wouldn't obviously be a prayer for leniency.
"Oh?" She leaned forward, a sadistic gleam in her eyes and the quirk of her mouth. "So you consider yourself better than Medea?"
"In the ways that are important to slaying Hethra, yes," he said, swallowing hard. What was he getting himself into?
Ebritha leaned back to consider him for a while, then nodded to herself. "Create a potion for me that will mimic death, or kill, I don't care which, and a second that will counter its effects. You have forty-eight hours. Now go."
His eyes grew wide, and his jaw nearly dropped, but he realized that showing too much surprise would be a good way to lose the chance he'd been given.
It wasn't until he was out of the room and rushing down towards his work room that he realized she'd never promised that being successful would save his life.
"How are you feeling?" Felina's cheery voice was a welcome distraction from the boredom of the hospital room.
"Thrilled to hear a voice that isn't attached to a nurse's uniform," Heather grinned. "Abi left a couple hours ago, by the way."
"Feel up for trying to live in a real place?" She chuckled knowingly.
"With pleasure," the Caracal smiled. "Find one?"
"Yap, if you don't mind crashing with me." The pleasantly surprised expression on Heather's face was unmistakable.
"Not at - uhm, I mean, I won't be in the way, will I?"
"I don't expect so," she chuckled. "I can always arrange for other accommodations later."
"Thanks!" Heather said brightly. "I really hadn't been expecting this."
"Who better to keep you safe?" Felina chuckled. "Besides, I figured you wouldn't be fond of 24-8 surveillance."
"It'd be better than 24-8 stuck in the same room and hallway," she chuckled. "And I can't think of anybody I'd rather have the job," she added with s smile for the older shekat.
"Oh, you don't get that," she shook her head with as laugh. "I still have to pull my shifts, but I live in an apartment complex that's almost entirely Enforcer-occupied." She paused. "You aren't afraid of lups are you?"
"Not that I remember," Heather said easily. "Even impression-wise. And I'd been talking about the 'keeping me safe' job, not the 24-8. You'd get bored pretty fast, I'm sure."
"Or you'd get flattened when trouble finds me," she nodded and handed the Caracal a package. "I think I have your size right."
"Even if you didn't, it'll be better than a hospital gown," she smiled, getting out of the bed and taking the package gratefully. "Thanks," she added on the way to the small bathroom to change.
"Quite true," she nodded with a chuckle. "Especially in public."
"That'd probably raise as many eyebrows as what you found me in," Heather laughed, changing quickly into the jeans, t-shirt, and undergarments Felina had brought her. "Seems you got the size right," she smiled, stepping out of the bathroom and doing a little spin, showing off the way her new clothes complemented her attractive figure.
"Quite true," she smiled. "You look good for just having spent two days in a hospital."
"Well, it's not like I was sick," the Caracal smiled. "Good to get out of that gown though, maybe get the chance to actually do something during the day."
"It won't be that much," Felina laughed in good humor and experience. "But it is better than here. Come on, you're checked out."
"Lead the way, Officer," Heather laughed with her. "I'm ready to get out of here."
Heather spent most of the trip in relative silence, absorbing everything she saw, each feature of MegaKat City's nightscape. There was an eager curiosity in her eyes; if she'd been a Kantin, Felina was sure her tail would have been wagging.
"You live here?" She asked curiously as they pulled up in front of a sizeable apartment complex that was in good repair despite its apparent age and slightly out-of-date style.
"Yap," Felina nodded easily. "The Braberry complex. One of the older ones still standing in this city and probably the heart of the single Enforcer population in this district."
"You weren't kidding when you said it'd be one of the safest places in the city, were you?" The Caracal chuckled.
"Safer than Headquarters; this place isn't a daily target," she nodded with a chuckle. "Come on, I'll introduce you to a few of the neighbors."
"Okay," Heather nodded, climbing out of the car as they parked and making a face at the temperature. "Gods, I hope you've got AC in this place."
"That's one addition we made even before I moved in," she chuckled and unlocked the door to the main lobby. "Heat and AC both work nicely," she added as they stepped into the cool space and its small crowd of people; mostly Kats out of uniform.
"Hey Fel!" A male voice called from their right from a group of uniformed Kats and Kantin
"Who's your friend?" Another male voice asked curiously.
"Hi guys, Klaudus," Felina nodded at the pilots as Heather looked over at them and smiled. "This is Heather. The charcoal-on-black tabby is Shadow, the Dobie is Klaudus."
"Nice to meet you all," the Caracal smiled.
"Nice to meet you too," Shadow grinned, glancing at Felina almost as if to ask why she was there.
"Protection detail of sorts," she chuckled. "I caught the first incident so I caught her too."
"Why is it that every time work follows us home, somebody complains, but you get her?" A Retriever in uniform joked.
"Because every time work follows you home Jerry, it's usually a hundred feet tall and hungry," Shadow shot back.
"And because I still walk a beat most nights," Felina smirked. "You have to talk to people to make friends."
"Hey, no far," Jerry said, mock-indignity in his voice. "It's not our fault the Omegas are lousy conversationalists!"
"Nope, you just have to go out and socialize," she chuckled. "Just keep an eye on things, she can't be hurt, and somebody's hunting her."
"Any idea who?" Shadow asked, all business in a flash. "What sort of people to watch out for, besides the usual?"
"Unknown," she shook her head. "A Caracal is likely a leader in any attempt, but the help is anything. But anyone with markings like this on their shoulder," she slid Heather's short sleeve up," detain and contact me."
"Gang marks?" Jerry asked, getting a good look at them.
"Something like that," she nodded. "Heather has amnesia, so we're a little low on details right now."
"I know I'm not part of whatever they are anymore," the Caracal said softly.
"We know," Shadow smiled. "You wouldn't be here without cuffs on if you were."
"All we do know is that they're persistent, very dangerous and we're both targets right now." Felina informed them. "I can't protect her while I'm on duty, so it has to fall to those here."
"Yes ma'am," Shadow and Jerry both said seriously, nodding at her as similar sounds of agreement came from around the room and bringing a smile of thanks to the Lieutenant Commander's face.
"I knew I could count on you," she smiled at the group in general and a few officers in particular. "Come on Heather, let's get you settled."
"Okay," the Caracal smiled. "Thanks, everybody," she added, following Felina up a flight of stairs to a general round of cheers of support.
"You'll get your exercise around here." Felina chuckled. "We never installed an elevator."
"Probably cuts down on the time you have to work out," Heather chuckled. "What floor do you live on?"
"Top floor," she chuckled. "Thirty-fifth."
"Now I know why you're a pilot," Heather groaned, shaking her head.
"That and following my uncle's path." She nodded as floors passed. "He was both pilot and gunner before going command, and he still goes out in his own plane often enough."
"I was thinking more of the convenience of landing on the roof," Heather smirked, breathing harder as they reached the sixth floor. "I hope I'm not going to be expected to run for groceries too often."
"The building's not nearly strong enough for that," she chuckled with a shake of her head. "As for groceries, I tend to go for delivery. There's a great service in this city that lets you order on line or over the phone and it's delivered when you choose."
"I'll bet the tip for the poor delivery guy is hell though," Heather chuckled. "Thirty-five floors, each way, ouch."
"I tip well," she chuckled. "But I make this trip at least once a day, so sympathy is minimal. You get used to it."
"I hope so," Heather panted, as yet another of the many floors went by. "I think ... I'm remembering ... not having anything like this before."
"No surprise. Most places this tall have an elevator. But most places this old don't exist any more either. I think the owner expects it to get flattened before the complaints make him."
"I think ... I'm hoping ... for an Omega to hit ... while everybody's at the park."
"Want to rest for a bit?" Felina offered as they reached the platform for the tenth story.
"Thanks," Heather said sheepishly, leaning into a corner, catching her breath. "Sorry ...."
"It's not a problem, honest." She put her hand firmly on the Caracsl's shoulder. "Don't be afraid to say something if you want or need it. Even if I have to say no, it's okay to ask."
"I'll keep it in mind. Think I'll practice about ten floors at a time for the next few days," she chuckled weakly. "Phew, I can see how you stay in shape around here."
"And calisthenics, weight lifting and my job." She chuckled and relaxed against the wall until Heather was ready. "I've got a water bottle you can clip to your belt. You'll want to carry that outside the apartment until you're used to the climb."
"I will," Heather smiled, standing up more steadily. "So, see if we can make twenty before I collapse again?"
"Let's not push it." she chuckled. "There's a large landing every five levels, so let's just go that far."
"That works," the Caracal nodded. "And to think, Caracals are supposed to be climbers."
"Really?" She glanced back in surprise. "I thought you were savanna and desert cats."
"I think most of us are, but we've spent a lot of time in the trees too. Of course, you show me an oasis with thirty-five floors of stairs, and I'll start feeling guilty about getting soft," she added with a smirk.
"Unless you count my home as one, there's no such place." She laughed in good humor.
"See? I get to save my guilt for other things," Heather giggled, looking up the stairs. "Y'know, I'd hate to be living here with a bad leg or something."
"You either learn to make good use of delivery services and friends or you move someplace newer." She shook her head. "This isn't a place for everyone."
"Why do you live here?" She asked curiously. "Not that it's a bad place to live, just ... well, I'd thought you'd be somewhere newer."
"Rent's cheap and I know a lot of folks here," she shrugged. "Mostly the first. Enforcers don't get great pay."
"Rank's privileges aren't always that great, huh?"
"You don't become an Enforcer for the pay, that's for sure." She nodded. "It's cost us a lot of good officers to the private sector and other governments."
"Lemme guess - Mayor Manx's budgets?"
"Yep," she muttered not so quietly. "The Omega's best friend. If we had the budget for decent equipment and the number of officers we need, we'd have them in custody by now."
"If it's any consolation, it sounds like the Enforcers aren't the only public service he's short-changing," Heather muttered. "Don't know how he's stayed in office as long as he has."
"No competition," Felina sighed. "He hasn't had a challenger to speak of in decades."
"Figures. You'd think somebody'd get sick enough of it to try."
"No one that's survived the first round of political jousting," she shook her head. "Everybody pretty much knows it's some of his corrupt backers setting things up, but we've never found any proof."
"Quid pro quo," Heather muttered. "Typical. Hate politics."
"Pretty much," she nodded. "It sucks, but until a Feral likes politics enough to take the post, Manx isn't likely to budge."
"Not while he's breathing," the Caracal nodded. "Pity," she added almost absently.
"Yeah, though Miss Briggs wouldn't be bad either. She already handles almost everything in that office anyway."
"That'd be one of the advantages of him leaving office abruptly," Heather chuckled darkly, pausing on the stairs and shaking her head a bit. "I did not mean that the way it came out," she said, looking up at Felina apologetically.
"Don't worry about it. I'm sure it's crossed every Enforcer's mind at least once when we're rescuing him." Felina shook his head as they reached the fifteenth floor platform and paused so Heather could rest a bit before the next stretch.
"Still, not really the sort of thing to be thinking," she said softly. "At least the person who's doing most of the work is capable of doing it."
"I'm sure she's one of the reasons the city's still standing." She shook her head. "It's not too bad, really, but things could be so much better with competent leadership."
"Probably exactly why there won't be much, if any, for a long time," Heather sighed.
"Something like that," she nodded and motioned for them to start climbing again in the silence of exertion and acceptance of it's effort until they reached the top floor and Felina unlocked one of the two doors along the short hallway into the level. "Welcome to my home, Heather."
"It's nice," the Caracal said appreciatively, looking around at the spacious apartment and the leather furniture. There were some pictures on the walls, and the collection of Enforcer paraphernalia Heather'd been expecting. What was a little surprising, to her, was the amount of material on the SWAT Kats that was up. Some of it seemed to be original devices, even a nearly undamaged helmet and a badly damaged gauntlet. Much of it was scattered about more in the pattern of being studied rather than on display.
"SWAT fan?" She asked curiously, still looking around without touching anything.
"They're good guys," she nodded with a look around the collection with a bit of surprise for its current size. "I'd rather have them on the payroll under a Commander that would use them, but they save this city too often not to respect them for it."
"Good to know not all the Enforcers are like your Uncle about them," Heather chuckled slightly.
"Honestly, most of us wish they weren't needed cause they make us look bad and give Manx an excuse to cut our funding even more, but they get the job done and they do it for the right reason," she gratefully dropped into a chair and clicked her answering machine's play button. "Go ahead and explore. Just don't touch the blades. They're quite real."
"Why would you collect ones that weren't?" Heather asked curiously, looking at the small but high quality collection of swords and daggers hanging carefully on a variety of hooks and displays around the loft. With them were blasters and old guns from the MegaWars and other important models.
"Because most created these days are for display as art, not as weapons." She explained easily between the messages left for her. "A weapon-grade sword is a rare thing most places. Ones of that craftsmanship are very rare unless you know where to buy."
"They're not antiques then," the Caracal nodded. "At least not all of them."
"Most are," she chuckled. "Those are the ones I can afford. You still have to know where to buy. There aren't more than a handful of weaponsmiths in the civilized world that can craft a true quality sword."
"Something marketable?" Heather asked, glancing back over her shoulder at Felina.
"Decidedly," she looked up with a raised eyebrow. "It's a hell of a specialty."
"It's strange ... I don't remember anything big, but I remember working on smaller ones when I was little. I don't think I ever stopped. But I remember being told how many times to fold, how to cool them off ...." She shuddered a bit. "Other things too, when I didn't do something right ...."
"Try not to follow that thought." Felina told her gently and firmly. "Were they decorative or purely functional blades?"
"Both. Making it look good was easier than making it work well and balance right. Like that one," she added, nodding towards a ceremonial knife, "but easier to fight with, when you knew how."
"If you can still do that, you can make a very good living," Felina nodded thoughtfully. "Particularly if you have any skill at sketching from a description and creating from a description or sketch."
"Have to find out," Heather nodded. "See if I can do the sketching. Of course, finding a place to work would be hard too."
"What do you need?" She looked at the slender female curiously. "It might not be as hard as it sounds."
"The heat source is the hardest part," she chuckled. "Though not as hard as working without scorching fur."
"I can ask around, see if there's anything at a decent price. I know it's around. This city has everything." Felina chuckled.
"Might be some place that'd rent out space too," Heather nodded. "Of course, it's not something you do fast," she admitted. "Especially not when you're re-remembering how."
"No, but if you have any talent at it, you can earn a very good living making fine-crafted weapons. Some of those are worth several thousand."
"I'm beginning to regret leaving mine behind," she said, blinking a bit. "Assuming I did ... I remember having one, but I could be wrong."
"Either way, it's over. It's not worth searching for except as proof of where you were."
"Agreed," Heather nodded quickly. "Nothing like that would be. Just surprised they'd be worth that much; you'd think more people would be making them at those prices."
"Those prices are because very few people have the training to make quality ones and the flood of cheep manufactured ones that satisfy the casual collectors." Felina shook her head. "It takes years to have enough skill to compete in the market and a week to months to create a weapon like those, depending on type and decoration. It's a limited field because there's a limited demand. The price is as much for the time it takes to create as anything. Like any piece of artwork."
"And the investment to get into it probably dissuades the competition as much as the time does," Heather nodded, thinking about it. "Have to see if I can compete. You know any other collectors?"
"That depends on how you define 'know'," she chuckled. "I know a lot of names and specialties, particularly the dealers, some of the others like me and where to go to find them. Actually knowing one well enough to trust them, only a couple."
"Knowing them well enough to be willing to sell to them, once there are samples that satisfy both of us quality-wise?"
"Dozens," she nodded easily. "And those I trust enough to teach you how to market yourself and your blades as well."
"Sounds like I've got a way to earn my keep then," Heather smiled. "Once I've gotten started at least."
"And I'm not expecting you to do that right away." She smiled with a nod. "Are you hungry?"
"Yeah," the Caracal admitted, "kind of. One thing you've got to say about hospital food, it's good for a diet."
"True," she chuckled and gracefully rolled up from the chair. "Anything in particular sound good?"
"Anything you've got handy; I don't want to be a hassle," Heather smiled.
"Okay, pasta it is," she nodded on her way to the open kitchen to put water on to boil.
"Sounds good," Heather smiled, standing up as well. "Mind if I look around a little more?"
"Go ahead. I'm not set up for company right now, but it doesn't take long to set up a second bed."
"Okay," she nodded, walking back towards the kitchen area and encountered the half wall and it's light drapery that was all that separated Felina's bedroom from the main living space. Tastefully erotic artwork held prominent places on the two walls that reached the ceiling caught her attention first with their colorful display.
Then she noticed the statue of a stylized life-sized shekat illuminated by it's own light. It's angular yet curvy surface held in fine polish offset the dark greens and blues of the bedding that covered the largest object in the room.
"I like your taste in décor," the Caracal added with a soft murr as she looked back a second time and realized that all three gender pairings were represented in there. Whatever Felina was like in the outside world, she was an obviously sexual and romantic person in that room.
"Good," she actually ducked her head a bit with a blush as she realized what Heather was looking at. "If you want some privacy I have some spare partitions I can set up around the spare bed."
"Do you have visitors come through at odd hours very often?" The Caracal asked, smiling a bit and blushing herself as she noticed Felina's response.
"No one I care if they see me half dressed," she shrugged. "Mostly other Enforcers who've already seen me in less. And not often that doesn't result in me bolting out the door with them."
"I think I'll live," Heather chuckled. "As long as there's nobody from out there going to be looking for a free show."
"No one who values their balls," Felina laughed and shook her head. "I'm not known for my good temperament when I've finally gotten inside."
"You like your privacy when you're at home, hmm?" Heather giggled. "I'll keep my eyes closed when you're changing then."
"More that I don't get a lot of down time and I get grouchy when it's interrupted. It's a thing we have. We socialize in the lobby, but apartments are where we have our private time."
"So it's mostly just you, dates, and guests like me up here?"
"Pretty much," she nodded and stirred the spaghetti.
"Are you seeing anybody in particular?" Heather asked her.
"Nah," she shook her head and opened the jar of red sauce. "No time for it, really. Dating is a lot of time and effort I really don't have. Never mind my uncle," Felina rolled her eyes.
"That's a shame," Heather smiled, watching her cook and inhaling the scents hungrily. "Be a lucky Kat you took an interest in."
"Or very, very unlucky." She chuckled without humor. "I'm not a very safe person to hang out with in the long run. And I'm not in a safe job."
"There are riskier ones. On both ends, really. And for all that it's not safe, you're good enough to come out of it in better shape than anybody who takes some of the chances you do should."
"Usually," she acknowledged. "I've done my share of time in the ER, though. Serenity Thorn has some of the best doctors and equipment in the world, and more experience than even they want to think about most days."
"One of the problems being a healer," Heather admitted. "Your experience means somebody got hurt."
"They think about it as 'next time I can heal them better', or so they say. Probably keeps the job from being too depressing around here."
"Anywhere, really. But especially working with Enforcers, or people likely to get hurt bad when the Omegas hit. It makes sense, only way to keep from going nuts I could think of. Still, if you let things like that get you down too much, you never do anything."
"Quite true," Felina nodded thoughtfully.
"You have to be willing to take a chance, or you miss out on a lot. Even with the odds against you, you're better off living, than just surviving for a longer time. I mean ... if I hadn't been willing to, I'd probably still be back with that cult."
"It depends on what you ran from," Felina pointed out. "You may have been the sacrifice that day. Or chosen to kill her."
"True," Heather conceded, "but even so, I'd probably been there for a while ... it's what I'd known, I think."
"Which makes me curious what it is about you that is different from those that accept that life, even relish it." Felina glanced at her. "Most don't reject their upbringing."
"It could be I'm just one of the first ones to get away who did reject it, instead of being the next one up on the slab."
"In your case, yes." She acknowledged easily. "But I was speaking in general, good and bad. You don't find many Ferals outside of law enforcement."
"True. Though law enforcement, despite being hard and dangerous, is still respectable. Still a good thing to be doing. Not too many people whose families stay in a way of life unless it's worthwhile. Puts a sort of respectability to following it, staying in. Ferals are one of the top examples, really."
"You wouldn't know that listening to our mates unless we meet them at work, or our kids for that matter." Felina shook her head as she drained the pasta. "Yes, it's an important job, but you might be surprised how little we're respected by most people. Mates live in fear of that phone call, kids hate how daddy's never home or at activities, normal people don't see us as any different from the cops that hand out speeding tickets and make their life difficult. And that was before the SWAT Kats made it popular to believe that the Enforcers really aren't necessary."
"The only reason the SWAT Kats have the record they do is because they've got the same sort of resources the Omegas do, they just put it to good use. Nobody in their right mind could think two Kats were enough to protect MKC."
"Kind of explains Manx, doesn't it?" Felina snickered, not all that eager to get dragged into the pit of depression that the conversation could lead to.
"Yeah, MKC's has enough lunatics to swing an election," Heather chuckled slightly. "Sorry, I didn't mean to get you down."
"Welcome to a cop's house," she chuckled and poured red sauce over their dinner. "The strangest topics get bad reactions."
"Well, let me know if I start getting close to one," Heather smiled. "Anything I can help with yet?"
"Until you get a feel for where everything is, we're better off just letting me do it." Felina explained easily. "Just sit and enjoy the view. Grab a drink from the fridge if you want."
"Okay," she nodded, opening up the fridge and grabbing a can of milk for each of them. "The view's certainly a nice one to enjoy."
Felina blinked a couple times, and decided not to say anything while she busied herself combining diced chicken with the pasta and some white cheese and trying to remember just why she was doing this.
Heather woke up the next morning, happy to finally be in a real bed. She stretched out, sitting up and looking around. Felina had already left for her shift, and she was on her own for the day. The Caracal quickly hunted up some clothes from the small pile Felina had told her were for her the night before. A pair of jeans, fresh underwear, socks and shoes that fit perfectly, slightly used t-shirt that was a little too large and the bra from the day before made for a reasonable outfit for a day in the house.
It wasn't said, but she was fairly sure that 'do not leave the building' was in her orders for the day. Which meant she'd have to find some way of keeping busy, finding something to do for the day. She looked around the apartment, thinking.
Maybe she could find something out about her hostess ... after all, Felina had told her to look around, and the things to look at were aplenty.
A shelf constructed to look like a built in drew her attention first with its array of photos, almost all of large Kats in various uniforms; Enforcers, Police, Strike Forces, Rangers and foreign. The oldest, a small brown and cream photo was likely well over a century old. The family resemblance was as strong as any racial one, but the lack of females was curious. Only a couple made it into the display.
"History," she murmured, shaking her head. At least she assumed that was the reason; females in the armed forces of any sort were unusual until recently. She reached out, touching the frame of one of the pictures gently. What was it like, to have a legacy like this to live up to? To overcome, in a way, to be one of the women taking what looked like a traditionally male role?
It took strength, personal and physical, to be sure. In a lot of ways, Felina had probably become as much a male as her body allowed. Except for the tiny holdout of her bed, almost everything, even the artwork, could well belong to a male. Or at least anyone fascinated by the military and dangerous things there.
And family history. All around her, she realized, are objects chosen not just for their beauty, but for their connections to the Feral line. There was art that had no apparent connection, but even there a closer examination revealed them to be gifts, or created by a Feral not taken by the military way.
Was there anything there, not part of the Enforcers or the Ferals?
"The bed," she chuckled softly to herself with a glance over her shoulder to the intimate area. "At least she doesn't have a badge on the comforter." That was something. Smiling a bit, she walked over to the half-room, looking around. What was she like when she did finally relax?
Really, like the main living area, there wasn't much that would suggest it was a woman, once you got past the slight gender-bias in the artwork hanging on the walls. Even her clothing, with the exception of the cut on the dress uniforms and a couple disturbingly conservative dresses that looked like they hadn't seen use since Felina had enlisted, could have belonged to a guy. A tall, skinny one, yes, but it was all loose-fitting jeans, running shorts and t-shirts for off duty wear.
Even so, there was something about Felina's bedroom that felt softer, more relaxed and feminine. It wasn't any one thing you could put your finger on, but more a combination of things.
And it brought up questions, like how much time did the shekat spend here, and if she had any feminine influences in her life.
Below shoulder length flowing black hair and the large, flowing tail of a she-kat not withstanding, Felina had to be one of the most butch females in the city.
"Apparently," Heather murmured to herself, looking around at the pictures of two females together, "not something that's totally outside the bedroom." Not that there was anything wrong with that. Still, it left some interesting questions about Felina's life.
Like when it had ceased to be a show for the outside, and become a part of her, if it had just been a show to start with.
A knock at the door interrupted her reverie, and she turned, cocking her head curiously. Who could it be?
Walking over to the door, she nearly opened it, but quickly thought better of doing so that quickly. Instead, she looked out the small peephole, hoping she could see enough detail to tell who it was. An expanse of tawny fur, khaki shorts and an Enforcer badge greeted her from the other side, so she opened the door cautiously.
"Hello?" She asked, looking up at the Puma on the other side. She thought she recognized him from the lobby the night before, so she opened the door a bit farther.
"Hi," he smiled back but didn't try to enter. "I'm Taller Windbright. Felina said you might like some company when she's otherwise occupied."
"Okay," she nodded, smiling and stepping back to let him in. "Sorry, I should've known. She said she'd ask somebody to stop by."
"Don't worry about it," he said easily and stepped inside with a practiced look around for trouble and changes. "How is the day going?"
"Quiet," she chuckled, heading over quickly to pull the curtain to Felina's "bedroom" closed. She didn't know if he'd seen the inside before, but best not to take chances. "Just got up an hour or two ago."
"Glad I didn't come over when I got up." He chuckled and relaxed into one of the comfortable living room chairs with a familiarity of frequent presence. "Four hours ago would have been a bit early."
"Does every Enforcer get up at the crack of dawn?" She asked, giggling a bit as she came back out and sat down near him.
"Just those of us who work that shift and those who have to keep up appearances with the Commander." He chuckled. "I'm among the former, just on weekend shift."
"Hope I'm not getting in the way of your day off," Heather said, somewhat apologetically.
"Nope," Taller grinned at her with a playful flick of his black-tipped tail. "I like to socialize with non-Enforcers."
"That's good," she smiled. "I know time off's at a premium in the Enforcers. What is it you do?"
"Nothing as glamorous as Felina," he chuckled. "I'm a beat cop around here. Quietest neighborhood in the system if you ask me. The most immediate backup of anywhere short of the Tower too."
"Thirty-five floors of Enforcers, I'll bet I know why it's quiet," she chuckled. "Still, even if it's quiet, or isn't glamorous, it needs to be done."
"That's just this building," he grinned and stretched out leisurely, giving her a fine display of his fit, muscular chest and limbs. "I like it too. We may not get all the press, but it's your beat cop that you turn to when you need help. I like that, and knowing most of the folks I run into."
"It certainly keeps you in shape," she smiled, unable to keep from giving him a rather approving look as he stretched his shirtless body. If he and Felina were good examples of what Enforcers tended to look like, she had to wonder why they weren't more popular.
"Thanks," Taller smiled and relaxed. "So does gym time and living here." He added with a laugh. "It's quite a workout."
"I've found that out already," she laughed, shaking her head. "I'm not too worried about the 'stay in the building' rules I've got, when leaving involves a hike like that."
"Trust me, the leaving isn't bad, it's the coming home that hurts." He grinned at her. "You get strong legs and lungs or you move out in a hurry."
"Not an option for me," she chuckled. "But I'll bet anybody above the tenth floor doesn't need to worry about endurance training. What floor do you live on?"
"Two down, on the thirty-third. Plenty high to regret it, but you can't beat the rent."
"At least it's not the fifteenth," Heather smiled. "Hate to think you'd have had to climb up that much just to get here. From the thirty-third shouldn't be that bad though. Heck," she chuckled, "I could make that!"
"I'd hope so, though I wouldn't put it past Lieutenant Commander Feral to carry you if that's what it took. She takes her job so seriously."
"Yeah, but she's who she is because of it," Heather smiled. "And I made it up here, so I should be okay without doing that to her."
"Good to hear, it takes a strong mind and body to cope with a Feral for very long, even as a roommate." Taller chuckled. "They can be quite demanding even on the best of days."
"Yeah, but she's nice enough," the Caracal said. "Do you know her well?"
"Some," he hedged. "Enough I'm not going to see the wrong end of her blaster for coming up. It's mostly off duty though."
"Off-duty's good though," she smiled. "She puts so much into her job, it's good to know she does have some friends when she's off, even if they are other Enforcers."
"And kin," he chuckled. "But it's hard to be an Enforcer and not know a few of them."
"Sounds like it," she nodded. "If they're not Enforcer, they're other military or law enforcement, almost all of them."
"They've got the bloodline for it too. Ferals breed as big as a lot of Xanith. The toms are seriously impressive walls of muscle and attitude."
"I've gathered as much," she chuckled. "Almost frightening, to think of what it must be like to be one of their mothers, unless you are a Xanith."
"You've seen Felina," Taller chuckled. "They don't breed small. Don't take many small mates either."
"Thank heavens for them," she smiled. "You're not very comfortable, talking about her, are you?"
"She's a good Enforcer, and my superior." He admitted. "It's not ... smart ... to talk about what a Feral doesn't want talked about. I'm not so sure what she's okay with you knowing from me."
"I'll stick to drilling her about herself then," Heather smiled. "Maybe tell me about yourself a bit, instead? All I know is that you're an Enforcer, walk a beat, and stick close to home for it."
"Well, I have a degree in Criminology with minors in Psychology and Occult." He tried to think about what might be interesting. "My family has been in the city four generations, but we still have ties to the Shoeri and the other tribes in Termorin. I spent summers with my cousins there learning to survive, hunt, ride and all that stuff. Divorced and not looking for a mate right now. Any specifics you want to know?"
"Tribal traditions too?" She asked, leaning towards him, her ears perked curiously. "The occult seems like an odd minor to pick up when you're going into law enforcement."
"Yes," he nodded. "As for the minor, it's unfortunately useful. There is a lot of history still living in this area, and far too many cases that involve it to some degree or another. That's not counting the big ones like yours."
"So you don't usually think of the old ways as being a good thing, then?" She guessed and earned a curious look from the pair of deep amber eyes across from her.
"The old ways, the new ways, other ways," he half shrugged. "They are like any knowledge or item, it's in how it's used. None are inherently good or evil. It is how their implementation is viewed by the ruling party that determines their assigned nature."
"You don't believe in an objective good or evil?"
Taller considered it for a moment, thinking about each angle he was aware of again before answering.
"No, I can't say as I do."
"I hope you're right," she said softly, thinking about what little she could remember. "But with what you've seen, what you've learned about, you still think it's that changeable? That good or evil are determined by what people think is or isn't?"
"I am as certain as a mortal can be," he nodded. "Every culture views it a little differently, every viewpoint as valid as any other when you take out your own prejudices."
She thought it over, trying to reconcile the idea of there not being a good or evil beyond what people believed, with the concepts she knew were all too real, even if she couldn't remember how she'd encountered them. Gods and goddesses, demons and devils, things most people didn't believe in anymore. It wasn't easy.
"Then why do you do, what you do?"
"To protect people from the evils of this time and place," he said easily. "Just because I don't believe that Kat sacrifice or infanticide or murder are inherently evil doesn't mean I don't believe they are any less wrong in this time and place, and that's where we all are. In another time and place I may enforce different beliefs and laws, but I would still protect my people."
"So what do you do, when you disagree with the people in charge? If they told you to do something you thought was wrong, or not to do something you thought was right?"
"That depends on how big a deal it was," Taller shook his head. "To them and to me. Sometimes I challenge it, sometimes just let it pass, and I assume that I'd leave for more agreeable places if it was severe enough."
"So you don't think the people in charge are always right," she concluded, relaxing a bit. Something about that idea made her very nervous.
"Gods no," Taller laughed and shook his head. "But being wrong and being inherently evil are different things. Leaders are wrong all the time. That doesn't make them, or their actions, inherently evil though."
"But you do believe they have the right to decide issues of good or evil for their people," Heather pointed out. "If there's no external concept of whether or not they're right, then nobody would have the right, historically or at the time, to declare they weren't."
"Now where did you get that idea from what I said?" He raised an eyebrow at her in challenge.
"Which?" She asked simply. "That you thought they had the right to decide, or that others don't have the ability to contradict them effectively?"
"The first, but do answer both since I didn't include either."
"You said that no knowledge or item was inherently good or evil. However, you said that the 'ruling party' assigns whether or not they are considered to be such by a culture. That certainly seems to imply they have the right to do so. As for the second, it follows logically from the conclusion that no objective good or evil exists."
Taller let her talk, his brow furrowing in confusion more and more as she spoke and it made less and less sense.
"How can we look back on a decision and say that, at that point in time and space, it was evil? What gives anybody the authority to make that decision, at least to the point necessary to truly contradict the belief, at the time, that it was not? We could say that, in this time, it would be. However, we would have less authority to declare an act good or evil, inherently or otherwise, than those at the time."
"All right, ignoring the really strange logic and wondering topic you're using for the moment, I never even implied it is the leaders who choose good and evil for a culture. Culture determines its beliefs from history and previous beliefs. No leader has ever changed that for longer than their leadership without a solid foundation in what was already there and the cooperation from the other cultural powers of the time."
"Wouldn't you agree that beliefs about what is good and evil are a part of a culture?"
"Yes," he nodded.
"That changing them drastically, in and of itself, changes the culture?"
"If they are actually changed culturally and not just in law."
"Take the Thulists, for example. We refer to them as a different society entirely. The leaders believed that mass-genocide was a righteous pursuit; as have several other societies. Today, we call them evil. Even at the time, they were considered evil by people outside the society. But without a consensus on what good and evil are, who's to say who was right?"
"Exactly what you said, the general consensus of the time in discussion." Taller told her. "There is a point of this definition you clearly don't have. Leaders do not make cultural choices. They respond to what is already there or they make legal choices that the culture chooses not to accept into its identity." He leaned back and considered her. "Do you believe that every single law and choice our government makes and enforces represents what our culture believes is good and evil?"
"When the culture accepts them, follows through on them, and doesn't turn against them, it at least means they don't feel that it drastically disagrees with their opinions on the subject."
"Or they consider the consequences of not following through are worse than doing so." He countered and shook his head. "And you just managed to argue my own point. It is the people, not the leader, that make the choices of what is good and evil to them."
"That I'll give you," she agreed after a moment. "Choosing by acceptance. Though doesn't that go against the original premise that the leaders designate different acts as good or evil? Unless you mean that they designate, and the people choose to go by their decisions or get new leaders."
"Heather, trying to assign your beliefs to me is not going to work." Taller leaned back and regarded her levelly. "You are the one who originally stated that it is the leaders who assign cultural values. The opposite stance to mine."
She reached up, rubbing her temple lightly, thinking about what had been said already. "Then what did you mean by saying that the views of the ruling party determine the assigned nature of a given act, item, or belief?"
He regarded her, then shook his head with a soft sound. "The ruling party, as in the beliefs at the time and place something is discussed. The culture in charge. That one word blinded you to everything I actually said?"
"It's why I was confused by it," she admitted, as everything came together. "Most of what you were saying seemed to contradict what you'd started out by saying. It makes a lot more sense now, sorry."
"It's common shorthand most places I get talking," Taller said with an apology in his voice. "It covers all the variants of 'who's in charge' that show up."
"Don't worry about it," she said, smiling slightly, "most people probably would have gotten it. I'm not really thinking straight all the time quite yet."
"And I should not have assumed you understood," Taller shook his head. "It's my job not to assume such things." He chuckled ruefully. "So back to the original subject, or a different one?"
"That depends on if you consider the original subject good-versus-evil, or your studies," she chuckled. "I think the former might be a better one to save for some time when we don't have headaches brewing."
"No problem," he grinned and relaxed. "If you ever want to read up on ancient cultures, I have a library that rivals the published one at the Museum."
"Oh, now that is tempting," she grinned back. "All modern pieces?"
"Mostly," he nodded. "I have a lot of replicated or reprinted stuff that's older too. I can't even come close to affording real thing, but I have managed to finagle scans and copies of more than my fair share of them."
"Hey, that's more than most people have," Heather grinned, her tail twitching lightly behind her. "How varied, in the cultures you've got material on?"
"Everything I can get my hands on, though mostly the non-Ethrosian ones. The Old World records are just too buried to be interesting most of the time when it isn't your heritage in question."
"I'll bet," she nodded. "Don't suppose you have anything on the Middle Kingdom they might not have at the museum? Might be able to find something helpful, while I'm working on getting my memory to work again."
"I don't know about things they don't have, but mine is better organized and has a friendlier librarian." Taller winked. "Closer too."
"You know, if you're not careful, you'll end up with a Caracal infestation on your days off," she giggled.
"I can think of worse things," he purred, a deep rumbling vibration that so few Xanith could make. "Felina will probably appreciate the time alone too. She's used to having this place to herself."
"And she could hardly worry too much about me being in another Enforcer's apartment," Heather smiled. "At least if she had a little warning ahead of time. Don't think I'd want to be around if she came home and found the place empty without any word."
"No, not the best place to be," Taller grinned and chuckled, "We'd hear the roar all the way in my place."
"No offense, but I can think of much better ways to find out she's home," the Caracal giggled. "Though if she doesn't mind, I'd love to take you up on the invitation some time soon."
"I doubt she'll mind," he chuckled. "It was her idea I come up and introduce myself after all. Figured we have a few things in common to make the time pass."
"And except for a few minutes there, I'd have to say she was right," she smiled. "Just how much of what you've studied do you believe in?"
"Believe in how?" He cocked his head slightly.
"Think that it's real," she tried to explain. "Occultism includes a lot of weird things, after all. A lot of people still don't believe in demons and magic, even after seeing some of it on the evening news."
"Okay, so do I believe those things exist? Yes." He nodded. "Even before I started to meet them face to face. To I believe all that is written about them? Not nearly so much. There have always been creatures in this world and beyond that we don't understand or can't compete with. Does that make them pure good or evil, or all-powerful? Not really."
"I hope you're right," she mused. "I know there are things out there that really don't like us. Not that it makes them pure evil, but it does make them dangerous."
"Just like being what he is doesn't make Manx evil, just incompetent." Taller nodded. "Or us evil for raising cattle for slaughter."
"That's an analogy that feels a little too close to home," Heather murmured, shuddering a bit. "Sometimes I think I'm lucky for not knowing quite why things mean what they do."
"Sounds like you managed a modern moral code coming from a Middle Kingdom culture." He considered her curiously. "Quite an unusual mental turn."
"Magic is older than the Middle Kingdom, and has been studied and used by every culture since," she explained. "I probably picked it up from different sources. Besides, I really hope that not everything I remember was commonplace in the Middle Kingdom."
"I wasn't referring to the magic," he smiled softly. "Why don't you tell me what you can remember? I can give you a good idea where and when it came from."
"I know," she nodded. "I meant that I probably picked up the morals elsewhere too; philosophy and magic go hand-in-hand fairly often." She paused, thinking for a bit. "You mean of what I was told, or of what I remember happening?"
"What you remember happening. Where all these feelings and beliefs are coming from. Information you've learned out here aren't much use in that."
"No, it isn't," she agreed. "What I remember happening was horrific. I remember growing up and being tortured, beaten and cut up. As much as it hurt, I don't remember thinking it was unusual. I was the one who was different, weak, the one who didn't fit in." She closed her eyes with a shudder. "I ... I think I had a sister. She was as twisted as the rest of them. I had an older brother too ... she killed him. I remember I had to watch ... he kept something from her, something she wanted, so she killed him slowly and made me watch, to make me stronger. Gods, if these are the things I can remember, what were the things I can't like?"
"Honestly?" He looked at her very quietly.
"Had kind of meant that as a rhetorical question, but sure," she nodded, opening her eyes and looking at him.
"Whatever society your family originated in, they aren't following the rules anymore." He said thoughtfully. "Particularly if they did originate in the Middle Kingdom. Only a handful of cultures behaved even close, though it is not uncommon for cults."
"That's actually a good thing, if you ask me," she admitted. "I'd hate to think there was an entire culture out there that did ... those things. Don't have to wonder why I ran though. Just why it took so long."
"The real question would be where you picked up the beliefs that what they were like is wrong. It is rare even in normal society for the abused to realize that abuse is wrong."
"I don't know," she said softly. "I even remember not thinking it was at first."
"When did it begin to seem not right?" He asked gently.
"About two years ago, I think," she said, thinking about it. "That's the time I remember something really feeling wrong, like I had to leave. I can't remember what made that happen, just that it did."
"Think you may have had a boyfriend or someone on the outside?"
"No," she said after a moment, shaking her head. "I don't. Not anymore, at least. If I did, I think I would have gone to them."
"Well, that event two years ago could well have been when they killed him or her." Taller sighed softly. "It's a common cult approach to keeping members isolated when they live in the city."
"They probably did," she nodded softly. "They were certainly willing to kill for less. I can't remember anything about her though."
"Well, you just took out half the population," Taller smiled at her. "The rest will come. It's not like murder has a statute of limitations."
"It's more the not remembering, than that they might get away with it, that bothers me," she admitted. "Somebody important enough to me to get me to turn like that shouldn't be forgotten. Least of all by me."
"Just don't beat yourself up over it," he cautioned her gently. "The memories will come back in time."
"I hope so," she nodded. "Especially those. Might be some good ones I'm missing, for once."
"Quite possible," he nodded. "It sounds like she had a good influence on you."
"Somebody had to," she chuckled slightly. "Certainly wasn't my family. What's yours like?"
"Fairly close knit," he considered what to say. "We try to have a meal together at least once a month with everyone in the area and with direct kin once a week or more. Mom's a real estate agent, dad's in security, siblings are all over the board."
"Not like the Ferals then," she chuckled. "You get along with them, for the most part?"
"Not in the Enforcer family sense, no." He shook his head. "In a lot of ways we are, though. How important family is to us and how we believe in preserving the past and memories."
"And probably a much harder time doing it," she nodded slightly. "How long has your family been in MKC?"
"In pairs and such, six generations. My parents grew up on the reservation though; they came here after they married. Most of my kin still lives back home."
"So you're a part of both worlds, as much as they're a part of you?" She guessed.
"I guess so," he nodded. "It's a family tradition. Those who move away either return to visit or at least send their kits home for a few years to learn our traditions and go through the rites of passage that make us who we are."
"I think I like your family traditions better than mine," she chuckled slightly. "Is that why you went into the fields you did?"
"This is what interested me," he shrugged a bit. "I'm not even a committed lifer Enforcer. But I do like helping people."
"There are far worse things you could be into," she smiled. "Even if you're not a lifer, you take the job seriously; it's not just a paycheck to you from the sound of it."
"No one in their right mind goes Enforcer for the paycheck," he grinned in real amusement. "It's way too dangerous for the money."
"That one I'll give you," she admitted with a chuckle. "You'd have to have at least part of you that wanted to help out, Steele excepted."
"He wasn't really an Enforcer," he shook his head. "He went right into Command. He never saw any kind of non-desk work."
"Is there a difference between Enforcer and Command?" She asked curiously.
"Technically no, but paper-pushers who never saw action have hardly earned the badge so many die for every year. They don't rate the same respect and they tend to make lousy COs."
"I just hope he was the worst of that sort," she said, shaking her head. "At least the worst of them who came close to being in charge."
"Historically, I think so," he nodded. "Certainly the top spot. Between Ulysses, Felina and Greg BrightClaw I don't think we'll have much to worry about on that count for the next generation. All three are top rate Commander material, for all their methods are amazingly different, and similar."
"The micromanager, the soldier and ...?" Heather asked, cocking her head slightly. "Or am I reading Felina wrong?"
"The detective," he chuckled. "It's a fair statement to call Ulysses Feral a warrior as much as his niece. But they are all completely dedicated to this city and their people, officer and civilian. For all that'll change when the command shifts between them, a lot won't be changing. Mostly the good things."
"Nobody could doubt their dedication," she agreed. "Whatever their methods, they want the best. Even if they can't necessarily agree on what that is," she chuckled slightly.
"Or how to get there." Taller smirked. "It's close enough that they generally get along. Which is a good thing. It wasn't a fun time when you dreaded every time the Commander went out for fear his luck would finally run out this time and we'd end up with Steele for Commander." He shuddered. "Seriously creepy thought."
"I think somebody would have put him out of their misery before he'd had enough time to do any serious damage," she muttered. "Enforcer or otherwise."
"We could hope so. Never could quite squish the rumor that he was a Dark Kat plant. He was too perfect as one."
"Please," she chuckled darkly, rolling her eyes. "If Dark Kat was that devious, SWAT wouldn't be enough to stop him. Though he was probably in somebody's pocket. Or pants."
"Or both," he laughed. "It just wasn't Feral's."
"Sweet Bast, I hope not," she laughed, shaking her head. "I remember what he looked like, that's not something I need running through my head, thanks."
"On the other hand, if he was, Feral'd blow Steele's head off when he came." Taller winked at her.
"Okay, so there's a redeeming feature to the mental image," she giggled. "Though I'm not going to ask how you know that," she winked back.
"I'd plead the Fifth anyway." He smirked.
"Figures," she chuckled with a matching smirk. "The entertaining part is what you wouldn't talk about even if I asked."
"I have no doubt," Taller shook his head. "It's not too hard to find out for yourself, though. There are plenty of Feral toms out there happy to fool around."
"No, that sounds like more trouble than it'd really be worth," she chuckled. "I'm already living with Felina, after all."
That raised an eyebrow, and she shook her head quickly.
"Not what I meant," she said, blushing beneath her fur. "I just meant it would probably be awkward, living here with Felina and seeing another Feral."
"Might scare a few of them off, I'll grant you, but for dating choices you're probably not going to get away from Enforcers for a while yet. You could do a lot worse than a Feral."
"Probably," she admitted. "Of course, I could do a lot worse than a lot of guys. You, if you were interested, for example," she added with a smile."
"Interested in fooling around, gladly." Taller smiled at her slightly. "Interested in real dating, not particularly."
"That's okay," she smiled back a little shyly herself. "I'm not particularly interested in real dating right now either."
"And fooling around?" He asked her a bit uncertainly.
"I think I'd like that, if you wanted to," she smiled, blushing a bit beneath her orange fur.
"Well, I'm not going to jump in on Felina's bed, but you are attractive." He smiled. "When you feel like playing."
"I do have my own bed," she chuckled a bit, smiling back. "Though it might be better to use your room, at least in the future. Wouldn't have to worry about whether or not Felina might walk in on us."
"That could be seriously embarrassing," Taller winced. "Or painful, depending on how wound up she was."
"And on whether or not she assumed it was consensual," Heather nodded seriously. "I would not want to be on the receiving end of her in a protective mood."
"That ... goes beyond painful right into slowly fatal." He shuddered. "Never cross a Feral. It's just not worth the grief."
"Noted," she nodded. "I'll see about making sure she knows where I am when I'm not here tonight, make sure nobody gets injured, maimed, or killed because of a misunderstanding."
"It's appreciated," he grinned ruefully. "It's not much anyway. Just a message that you'll be at my place. If you want to go today, anyway."
"Sorry, but I really should make sure she doesn't mind me heading out first," she said apologetically. "Just to make sure I don't end up making her worry or ticking her off."
"Hey, I don't have a problem with that," Taller said easily and relaxed back. "It's not like I came up here planning to get laid."
"I would hope not," she giggled. "That'd be a pretty big leap of logic."
"Not to mention a bad one," he chuckled and winked at her. "You do not even want to know the fallout if Felina heard someone was imposing on you."
"Like that, I can guess," she smirked. "I think the nicest result is making sure that you'd have to be very creative to find a way to do it again."
"I would expect so." He nodded with a chuckle despite the very real shudder at the thought of having his bits removed in such a violent way. "Not impossible, but getting increasingly harder."
"I think you're interested in finding a new subject," she chuckled slightly. "Any ideas?"
"Back to ancient cultures? What ones interest you."
"How about Erinan?" She asked with a smile, the two of them quickly settling in to a comfortable pattern of question, answer, and discussion.
Surtr swallowed hard as he walked into the audience chamber for the second time that week, bearing a small box containing his work from the past two days. He'd heard that something was going on, that Medea knew what he was up to.
No matter; he'd made enough of his new venom that she'd be getting the first dose once he was free to use it as he pleased. And she wouldn't be receiving the matching antidote, either.
"Well, it seems you've finally finished," the dark-furred Caracal rumbled as the door closed behind him. He ignored her, continuing to the foot of the Prelate's throne, kneeling.
"Prelate Ebritha," he said respectfully, only then acknowledging his rival's presence coldly. "Medea."
"And you've forgotten me so soon?" A third voice purred. He looked up at a pale, nearly silver-furred Caracal standing next to Ebritha's throne.
"I-Isis?" He asked, all the fears of the past two days rushing back to him. What was the healer doing here?
"Now that everyone is assembled, let us begin." Ebritha smiled faintly, her brilliant golden-orange eyes flickering with the power of her rank and private joy. "Surtr, explain your creation."
"Y-yes," he nodded, setting the box down and opening it, revealing seven small syringes filled with a clear liquid, six with a black one. "Icefire, a magical poison that can be injected or ingested. Either way, it is swiftly fatal.
"How it kills depends on the ambient temperature; if the body is in an area over seventy degrees, it induces a fatal case of heat stroke, swiftly enough that medical attention to save the victim can't come fast enough. If below seventy, hypothermia comes instead, the blood temperature dropping dangerously low, then returning to normal upon death. Medical attention cannot stop it, even if received swiftly. I do, however, have an antidote that is capable of reversing the process if received within a half-hour of death."
"Amateurish at best," Medea chuckled quietly, earning a deadly glare from her rival and a slight signal for silence from Ebritha.
"How would you advise to administer it?" She prompted.
"Injection would be fastest," he explained. "Ingestion is equally effective, and has the benefit of delaying death until a more innocuous time, but I felt it would be best to ensure it could be tested swiftly, and used for multiple forms of assassination."
"Excellent," she nodded and glanced at Isis.
"It is currently seventy-eight degrees," the Healer responded calmly.
"Then let the test begin." She level her gaze on him. "Inject yourself, Surtr."
"What?!?" He asked, his eyes going wide, his mouth dry as chalk. He should have expected this. The only mercy, if you could call it that, was that the least torturous death would result from his poison.
"You heard me," Ebritha repeated calmly, the eyes of all three females boring into him. He took one of the syringes of clear fluid, swallowing hard. For a brief moment, he toyed with the idea of trying to use it against the Prelate ... but that would only be a more painful suicide than following orders. Besides, there was always the chance they would use the antidote on him, he might be able to get out of this yet.
He found a vein easily, and slipped the needle in. Even as the steel shaft slipped out of his wrist, he could already feel the chills as the heat stroke kicked in, sweat pouring from his body.
It wasn't so much that dying was so bad ... as knowing exactly how much ... longer ....
With a final gasp, the Caracal fell to the ground, his vital systems shutting down as his internal temperature skyrocketed. What took most people hours to build to, passed in mere seconds for him, and each moment of it included the knowledge that each second was closer to his last. Finally, he was still, his death complete.
"It's effective, I'll give him that." Isis acknowledged after a simple examination while she drew a small vial of blood for later testing.
"Effective, but lacking in creativity," Medea admitted, almost grudgingly. "Science over art. And it may not be as effective as he claims in its other mode of operation."
"Then give him the antidote." Ebritha nodded and flicked her fingers to turn the temperature down. "And we will see how it works in the cold." Isis took the black syringe, injecting it into him. Slowly, his body started to repair itself, his breathing starting again and his body beginning to respond. By the time he was awake again, the temperature of the room had dropped the ten degrees the Prelate had lowered the thermostat by.
"Is he fit?" She asked Isis in her habitual tone of authority.
"As much as anybody who'd just recovered from a massive heat stroke can be," she said after a few moments to check him out. "Though I don't think we want to do that to somebody too often, unless we don't mind causing permanent damage."
"Satisfied?" He croaked, trying to get up off the floor.
"Yes," Ebritha smiled a little more and leaned back. "How long did you estimate recovery will take?"
"Full recovery, about twelve hours," he said, swallowing to moisten his throat so he could talk. "The death process causes the normal tissue damage."
"Isis." She nodded to the Healer, who nodded in return and began to weave a healing spell of some potency.
Surtr shuddered as power rushed through him with the frozen fire that repaired his body without soothing the pain of it. He hated spells like this, as much as they had done for him recently. Soon, it had run its course. As much as he still ached, he was whole again.
"You've seen what I accomplished in only two days," he said, getting his spirit back. "And that I am still an asset, despite a setback that can yet be dealt with."
"You have only proven half your potion," she pointed out calmly.
"And you still haven't proven that either half is untraceable," Medea rumbled.
"I have a candidate to test the other half in mind right about now," Surtr growled lowly, glaring daggers back at the older Caracal.
"As do I." Ebritha's tone stopped him. "She will have her turn."
He didn't want to have to test it on himself again. If the last time had been bad, this would be worse; hypothermia didn't kill quickly, and he would be aware through most of it. He knew the body would fight it, and while he relished the opportunity to see it in play on somebody else ... well, he wasn't a masochist. No Katra was.
Sadists, definitely. Something the Prelate had refined to an artform.
It wouldn't help to fight back, not right now. Isis alone was a full rank above him, and the Prelate one above her. He picked it up, his hand not shaking this time; all his will was focused on keeping it steady.
"This will take longer," he admitted, looking up as though half-hoping for some sort of reprieve. Still, he made the injection, knowing it wouldn't be coming.
He could hear Medea's ill-concealed pleasure. The focused, cold interest of Isis. But most frightening was the utter silence from the Prelate. Maybe if she liked the show he'd live long enough to redeem himself. She was a sadist, even more so than her father had been.
There were still rumors of how he had died ... and of whether or not he had, yet.
A pity, almost, that the pain was purely internal, almost numbing. It felt like he had ice-water flowing through his veins; he knew it was close enough to the truth. By now his core temperature was dropping, his fingers and toes slowly going numb. No amount of fur would be enough to save him.
On the other hand, it wasn't nearly as painful a death as heat stroke, if for no other reason than he didn't really feel most of what killed him.
He'd proven both effects in his rigid body ... but would it be enough?
Mercifully, the fatigue of his body trying to save itself caught up with him, and he managed to sleep through death this time.
"I've seen more entertaining doses of strychnine," Medea sniffed.
"Though it was interesting, working in both methods of death. The poison would not lead to somebody dying of heat stroke in winter, or hypothermia in the middle of the weather we have outside," Isis pointed out, almost clinically.
"Yes, and we do not need him to produce more." Ebritha chuckled. "Give him the antidote and rest him until tomorrow afternoon. I want him fully recovered for Medea's creation."
"That will be entertaining," the orange-furred Caracal promised with a wicked grin, as Isis took out another dose of the antidote.
"I wonder why he made more poison than antidote," she mused.
"It hardly matters," Medea purred. "Whoever he was planning on getting the odd dose won't have to worry about it."
"Very true," Isis chuckled, administering the antidote. "Shall we let him crawl back to his room?"
"Yes," Ebritha nodded and stood gracefully. "Let him wake and figure it out, or not, on his own."
"I hope he enjoys his last day," Medea chuckled, as the three left Surtr to recover from his own handiwork.
Heather took a deep breath, ready to try her meditation again. Since Taller had left earlier, she'd been trying to find something that would jump-start her memories. She hadn't had the chance at the hospital, with people bustling about everywhere; too much noise to focus. But now, she had the quiet, and the privacy, to see if it might be possible.
She'd already tried twice before, not finding anything useful before something happened to break her concentration. This would be her last attempt of the day; it was early evening already, Felina should be back soon. She laid down on her bed, closing her eyes and turning her senses inward. Slowly, she began to form her mindscape. It was empty, something that felt distinctly alien to her, but could be fixed when she remembered more. Already there were a few features, mostly 'borrowed' from Felina's apartment.
"*Who am I?*" She asked out loud, her mental voice spreading out into the darkness. As it did so, it seemed almost to spread light, as well as sound. A blackness formed, almost like an object in the middle of the wave of light and sound. As she had before, Heather moved towards it, a dimly lit pathway forming under her every step. It was easier this time; she knew how the mindscape worked. As she approached the void, she felt a growing sense of uneasiness building inside of her.
This was the barrier, what her mind had thrown up in front of everything she had been. What she was feeling wasn't fear of anything real, it was just the past.
At least ... she hoped it was just the past.
Fighting through her building terror, she slowly reached up towards the monolithic blackness. Her fingers were barely inches away. She finally touched, gasping as images flooded into her mind, taking over the mindscape as the blackness was replaced with searing heat and the blood-red glow of heated embers. She ripped her hand away, turning back as she heard a bellowing behind her. Where the path had been before, there was a burning, stinking pit, and she knew that the tiny, Bat-like demons flying out of it were nothing compared to what was at the bottom. She fell back, cringing and praying to any god who might listen that she find a way out of this.
Suddenly, her vision was interrupted by the sound of the door unlocking. Her eyes flew open, revealing Felina's apartment. She was curled up in the fetal position, and the smells of sweat and fear hung heavily in the air. She hurried to one of the large picture windows, opening it up to let the air clear at least a little before Felina walked in.
She really had no idea how to explain what she'd seen. The worst part of it was ... it hadn't felt like just another part of the mindscape. That, she was fairly certain, had happened in the real world ... somehow.
"Heather?" Felina's concerned tone called over the backdrop of at least two lups barking just behind her. "Everything okay?"
"Yes," the Caracal nodded, turning to face the taller shekat and looked at her drawn blaster and blushing. "Didn't mean to worry you. I was ... trying to work on my memories. I ran into something I shouldn't have," she explained.
"What kind of something?" She holstered the blaster and turned to soothe the large lups and send them back on their freeform patrol of the building.
"I think it was whatever put the block up in the first place." Heather shuddered, smoothing down her fur where it had bristled during her meditation. "The event, at least. Something ... evil. Like a pit straight into the underworld, and there was something coming out for me."
"Sounds like you bolted during a promotion ceremony to the Fourth Circle, a full member," Felina said quietly. "You might want to shower to get that smell out of your fur. My shampoo is very good at it."
"Yeah, I probably should. Just glad you got home when I did; you snapped me out of it." Heather grabbed another change of clothes. "You want to get showered down first?"
"You go ahead. I grabbed one at the Tower."
"Thanks," the Caracal nodded, smiling gratefully. "I'll be out quick," she added, before disappearing into the bathroom.
"No problem," she called after her and stretched before grabbing a pair of shorts and simple t-shirt to change into while she had the space to herself. She heard the water starting, and the air started to clear in the main room. At least it didn't smell like a crime scene anymore.
That girl was definitely in a load of trouble if she ever got caught again. Fortunately that was both more and less likely with each day and each discovery.
The Katras were nasty, nasty people with just what Vice, CRASH and Abi knew, never mind what was only hinted at in all the reports. Sacrificing people, drugs, murder ... there didn't seem to be anything they wouldn't sink to. The weirdest part was that they didn't seem to have any reason for half of it.
CRASH had their theories, but they didn't fit with the ones Vice had. Neither group's ideas fit entirely with Abi's. The most frustrating part was that there was so little hard evidence to link their crimes together, and a cop's gut instincts and ancient books weren't admissible in court.
They weren't even all that useful when hunting down a real life cult.
She dropped onto the neatly made bed with a sigh and stretched out, grateful for the effort everyone was putting into this private investigation of hers, the gym at the Tower and most of all that her uncle hadn't deigned to notice what was going on this time.
That was something she was not looking forward to explaining, especially at this point, with nothing to show for it besides the Caracal using her shower and the event in the park.
At least nothing bad had come of any of it so far. It was a real plus that several detectives and officers were very happy to see some interest from higher up and extra cooperation from Major Crimes.
There were days it was good to be a CO.
"Looks like you've had a long day," Heather observed, closing the bathroom door quietly behind her, just finishing brushing hair out in the evening light that streamed into the apartment from it's bank of windows.
"Rather decent one, all in all." She chuckled and stretched out on the bed. "More paperwork than flying than I like, but nothing blew up either."
"Well, that's always a good thing," the Caracal smiled, sitting down across from the bed and watching Felina. "The not-blowing-up part, that is. Hope you got to have some fun, instead of having to sit behind a desk all day."
"I got one tour skyside," she chuckled. "And a good workout after my shift. Mostly I get to order other people to do the paperwork. So besides the nightmare, how'd your day go?"
"Did a little looking around. Taller came by, by the way. Figured out the layout of your kitchen," Heather chuckled. "Then I tried meditating some ... you came in when I made the most progress I've had so far today."
"So ... can you cook?"
"I can try," she offered with a smile. "Might take a little figuring to get everything right."
"What did you have for breakfast and lunch?" Felina raised an eyebrow at her.
"Cereal and leftovers from dinner," Heather admitted. "More because I didn't want to mess around with things too much while you weren't around to okay it."
"As long as you weren't skipping meals." She smiled slightly. "I've got tomorrow off, short of an Omega or major break in a case."
"Anything interesting you're working on, that you can talk about?"
"Not a lot, honestly." Felina admitted. "And your case has a lot of interesting bits and pieces, but nothing that I can repeat yet."
"Can you tell me if you're making any progress yet, at least?" She asked a little hopefully.
"I think we are," she nodded. "I'm missing a lot of the links to put it together. Those come with time and more puzzle-minded folks than me."
"That's good to know at least," Heather smiled. "I'll be glad when you manage to put them away. I just wish I could help more."
"Things are coming along. You're helping where you can. Just alerting us to the issue is a big help."
"Even in a round-about way, hmm? By the way," she chuckled, "you still haven't answered my question from earlier."
"What question?" Felina glanced at her, slightly disturbed that she could have missed one.
"If you'd like me to try cooking tonight," Heather laughed, shaking her head. "Give you a break."
"Sure," she grinned back and stretched along the large bed. "What did you have in mind?"
"Something edible, I hope," the Caracal chuckled, winking at Felina. "I'm not sure what it's called, honestly, but I spotted what I'd need for something I remember. Chicken dish, takes about an hour to put together," she explained. "Mostly the time for the rice to cook and chicken to soak."
"Sounds fairly hard to make inedible," she chuckled. "Go for it."
"Okay," Heather smiled, getting up and heading over to the kitchen. She started pulling what she would need out of the fridge and cupboards; onions, lemon juice, a few small hot peppers, fresh chicken, ground pepper and rice. After a few minutes, she'd chopped the onions and pepper, mixing them into the lemon juice along with the ground pepper for a marinade. Slicing the chicken, she put it into the fridge, soaking in the marinade. Quickly, she started the rice cooking, washing up before she walked back out into the main living space and sat down.
"I just hope I got all the amounts right," she chuckled. "I remember watching somebody make it before, several times, but you only get so far by guessing right."
"From the smell of things, only overcooking could make it unpleasant." Felina assured her easily from her bed where relaxing before dinner was taking on a very pleasant new meaning.
"Thanks," she smiled. "When the rice is done I'll cook up the rest."
"So besides getting you some clothes and a few necessities, is there anything you're interested in doing tomorrow?"
"Maybe hit a library, see if they've got anything that can help me fill in the blanks with the smithing supplies," Heather mused. "What sort of things do you like to do on your days off?"
"Sleep, read, sometimes shopping or hit a big event," she chuckled lazily. "Debate moving or organizing the residents to demand an elevator. Sometimes I'll hit a club or concert for music."
"I'll put in a vote for organizing," the Caracal giggled. "What sounds good to you, if anything in particular?"
"Given the week so far, sleeping." She chuckled easily. "Or heading up to the mountains and the cool waters."
"Either way'd be fine by me. I can keep quiet, let you sleep."
"The mountains aren't safe anyway. Not until we know what we're up against." She glanced over at the smaller female. "Besides, my idea of sleeping in likely still gets me up before you."
"Judging by today, you're probably right," Heather admitted with a giggle. "I don't think I usually sleep that late."
"Do you like staying up late?"
"Not sure," she shrugged. "I think I'm used to doing it, but it's not like I'll be making noise at one in the morning."
"That I don't doubt," she chuckled. "I was just curious, and it's my way of pointing out that you don't have to sleep on my schedule if you don't want to."
"Okay," Heather smiled. "Though I really don't think I'd sleep as late as I did today on a normal day. Just felt really good having a real bed."
"I can appreciate that," she nodded. "I've spent more than my share of nights at the Tower and Thorn."
"And probably had to get up way too early the day after you were home," Heather nodded, going over to check the rice. "Not quite done yet. Want anything to drink while I'm over here?"
"Milk's good." She nodded and rolled off the bed before she drifted off like she had so many times.
"If you're sleepy I could wake you up when dinner's ready," Heather smiled, bringing over a can of milk for her.
"I'm always tired when I get home." She chuckled and relaxed against the counter on the living room side of the kitchen half-wall. "If I nap now I won't wake up."
"Okay," the Caracal nodded. "I'm not about to complain; I like having the company," she added with another smile.
"I'm not surprised." She smiled and relaxed despite the awkward feeling of not being sure what to do now that it was getting domestic.
"You don't know what else to say either, huh?" Heather giggled after a moment.
"Not really." She nodded slightly. "I don't have much company when I'm working."
"Always too busy, too tired, or both," Heather guessed with a nod. "Mind talking about yourself a bit?"
"Largely," she chuckled. "And not really. What did you want to know about?"
"Why you went into the Enforcers?" She asked tentatively. "I know the Ferals are in the military and law-enforcement, but ... well, it seems to be something that the guys do, mostly."
"There aren't many girls," Felina shrugged. "Feral males aren't known for siring them. Being the only kit I was father's girl. There wasn't any doubt, for all he hated that I went pilot-commando."
"Didn't want you doing something that dangerous?"
"To put it mildly," she nodded with a fond chuckle. "Wanted me to follow him into Investigation. Fortunately the Enforcers are large enough I'm not his direct boss."
"Oh my," Heather chuckled. "That would be all sorts of awkward."
"Big time. He's proud of me for making it so far but it would be just a little too weird. I think that's why grandfather retired when Ulysses took Command."
"Yeah. It'd sort of undermine family authority when you have to say 'yes sir,' while you're talking at work," she chuckled. "Though I hope you don't end up making either of them feel like they need to retire any time soon."
"I don't expect so," she shook her head. "Uncle will never willingly retire and Father, he's not in Command so the change of answering to his younger brother to his daughter is fairly minimal. Grandfather was in Command, he just wasn't as good as his son. And for all his faults and what you may hear about him, Ulysses Feral is a brilliant CO. He would be a Fortune 100 CEO if he'd been in business instead of defense."
"As long as he's been in command, I'm sure he is," Heather nodded. "The Enforcers don't seem to suffer morons in charge as well as the public does."
"Too long," she rolled her eyes, "but no, we don't. If your stupidity gets an officer killed and the system doesn't get rid of you, we will."
"Officially or otherwise?" The Caracal guessed, checking the rice and turning it off, taking it off the heat.
"And untraceable," she nodded. "There are an amazing number of ways to make someone so scared to go to work that they quit."
"At least they're still breathing afterwards," Heather murmured, pulling the chicken out of the fridge and grabbing a frypan. "Some folks wouldn't leave them with that."
"We see first hand what happens to the families," Felina shook her head slightly. "No matter how much you hate someone, their kin don't deserve that."
"That's good to know," she smiled softly, starting to cook up the marinade and chicken. "Too bad they don't end up behind bars more often though."
"We can only do as good as our evidence," she sighed. "Unfortunately most of our evidence comes from people coming forward with information on the crime or criminal. Most people are loathe to talk to us."
"They hate the idea of telling you what happened, more than the do the idea of somebody getting away with something like murder?" Heather asked, disbelief in her tone.
"Pretty much," she nodded. "Some are honestly afraid but mostly it's a bad case of not wanting to get involved."
"Bast's blood," the Caracal swore softly, shaking her head, still cooking almost automatically. "They don't get that they could be the next people on the hit list?"
"Some are trying to avoid that," she sighed, curious at the very outdated curse. "Most don't get that, or consider their honor or gang pride or whatever more important. It makes sense when you're in the middle of it."
"Sounds like the only place it does," she muttered, serving up the rice as the chicken finished cooking, putting it on top and drizzling the hot marinade over a plate for each of them. "On a better subject, dinner's ready."
"And smells good too." Felina smiled and accepted her plate before moving to the fair-sized dinning table. "Definitely a better subject," she added with an appreciatively deep breath of the fragrant meal.
"Thanks," Heather smiled shyly, taking her plate over along with her drink. "Weird, the things I'd remember how to do, isn't it? Considering how much I can't, at least."
"From what the Doc says, it's kind of normal for trauma-based amnesia. You remember things that don't lead directly back to the painful subject and you tend to remember them as they become useful."
"Well, something about me had to be normal eventually," she chuckled. "Certainly wasn't how we met."
"For you maybe, but I meet most of my dates in uniform." Felina chuckled. "Most end there too."
"There's so much more to you than the uniform though," Heather smiled. "The Enforcers are a big part of you, but they're just that - a part."
"Try telling my uncle that." She chuckled with an amused shake of her head. "It doesn't seem like it most days."
"It shows around here. It's important to you, your family's important to you, but you're still your own person. A good one, I might add."
Felina nodded with a glance around, looking at her things with fresh eyes and uncertain just how Heather came to the conclusion that she was anything but her job and family. "Thank you."
"What for?" The Caracal asked curiously.
"For the compliment," she answered simply.
"No problem," she smiled. "Sounds like the sort of thing you need to hear more often, sometimes."
"You'll spoil me at this rate."
"You could do with a little spoiling, if you ask me," Heather grinned. The expression widened when Felina blushed and ducked her head a bit.
"You're a good cook." She changed the subject and focused on the meal.
"Thanks. You're pretty good yourself," Heather added with a chuckle, remembering last night's dinner. "If you'd like, I could take over cooking-duty for a while, until I can do something else to help out around here."
Felina regarded her for a while, rolling the pros and cons around her mind on pure reflex.
"I have to admit, it would be nice to have dinner ready when I get home and a real breakfast without getting up early."
"I'd just have to remember to get up early enough to do it for you," Heather pointed out with a smile. "I don't mind doing it, and who knows? It might help remind me of something else. If nothing else, you'd get a real meal a bit more often."
"I'll show you how to order groceries in the morning then." She nodded with a slight smile. "Think you can handle a budget?"
"I think so," she nodded. "Most of the stuff I know how to make shouldn't cost a lot."
"Good enough," Felina nodded thoughtfully. "And if my kitchen has recognizable ingredients it shouldn't be too difficult or different than my usual."
"Kind of what I figure," Heather agreed. "Maybe a little different mix, but that's about it."
"A little different can be a very good thing," she chuckled with a smile. "Just don't let the guys take advantage of you. They'll jump at a chance for a home cooked meal."
"The guys around here? Nah," she winked. "I'm all yours. Don't even have to tell 'em about the new cook."
Felina blinked, unsettled for a moment as she tried to figure out what Heather meant. "Umm, yeah. They'll smell it though. Never underestimate how well Enforcers can home in on good food." She winked back.
Heather seemed to catch on to Felina's slight confusion. "I'll watch out for myself. Did I say something wrong?"
"No, no," she raised her hands in half-surrender. "My brain is just taking things the wrong way. I had a weird day."
"Sounds like those aren't too uncommon," she chuckled. "Probably not going to get too much normal any time soon, really."
"No, probably not," she admitted. "I don't have many of them."
"Just have to hope for a good sort of weird."
"And less of it following me home." Felina lifted her milk can in a toast.
"Except for the good parts," Heather grinned, returning the gesture.
"Except for the good parts," she agreed with a chuckle.
"All right," the powerfully built Caracal tom glared around the mission cannon fodder he'd inherited. "What did he try already?"
"Hunt and capture attempt, disguised as a mugging," a smaller Persian explained, bowing his head respectfully. "Foiled by Lieutenant Commander Feral."
That earned a low rumble of hatred and displeasure from their new leader. They all hoped they wouldn't be on the receiving end of his displeasure ... hopefully, the fact that he was there, rather than Surtyr, was proof enough that he had already suffered for the failure.
"Since, we've been tracking her magically, trying to find out which hospital she was taken to, and what her room was," a large Retriever explained. "By the time we had done so, she had been moved. We are trying to determine where to, but she's blocking our attempts to divine her location magically. Footwork has only determined that she is in an Enforcer safehouse."
"Have you trailed the Feral?" He demanded.
"Of course, Master," the Retriever nodded. "Once we found out she handled the movement of the traitor. However, she has only gone to her apartment, work, and a few locations in between, none of which harbor our quarry."
"We have considered that she might be held at the Feral's apartment," the Persian added, "but the building is literally crawling with Enforcers. Any attempt to remove her would have to be a fast strike, while there were no observers present, and we would have to know exactly where to hit."
"Do we know which apartment is Ferals?" His gaze landed on the Retriever with so many answers.
"We can find out swiftly, Master. I have kin in the building, unaware of my connections. I have not acted yet, because of the risk involved in any action against the Feral."
"Find out, then put her apartment under surveillance. If she is there, timing will be arranged."
"Yes Master," the Retriever nodded, quelling his instinctive response to wag his thick tail in response to the implied approval. "If you approve it, I may be able to have a scrying sensor infiltrated into the apartment, reduce the possibility of our spies being caught."
"Do it," the Caracal nodded, making a mental note to keep an eye on this Retriever. He had some brains in him, a rare commodity in such cannon fodder. Almost a pity he wasn't a member of the family.
"As you wish," he nodded. "We will know if the Feral has the traitor within days."
"That smells good," Felina rumbled as she walked out of the bathroom and towards her bedroom after a shower that filled the large loft apartment with the scents of steam and her shampoo.
It was a moment and two blinks before Heather realized that the tall dark brown shekat was completely nude and still brushing her hair out. She tried not to stare, but she couldn't help but notice the black fur matching Felina's hair and tail between her legs and faint swirling black stripes on her back and flanks. She blushed beneath her fur, another moment passing before she remembered that she was supposed to say something.
"Thanks," she smiled and stirred the sausage and eggs as Felina quickly dressed with the grace of far too much practice at quickly becoming presentable. "Nothing too fancy this morning. Sleep well?"
"Yes," she smiled back with an easy nod as she put her shoes on. "You?"
"Pretty well," the Caracal nodded easily. "Some weird dreams, but nothing like what you came home to last night."
"Good," she nodded and walked over to lean on the kitchen's half-wall breakfast bar until the meal was ready. "Feel up to do a little shopping for necessities today?
"Think so," Heather smiled, turning off the stove and going for a couple plates. She split up the sausage links, putting the scrambled eggs next to them with some cheese melted on top. "By the way, you've got great timing for when to get out here."
"It's part of the job," Felina grinned and accepted her plate and glass of milk before moving to the dinner table. "Enforcers are suckers for free food."
"Well it'd be pretty tacky to try charging," Heather grinned back, sitting down with her own breakfast. "Especially since it's your food, I just put it together. What do you usually have?"
"Leftovers or cold food," she chuckled. "Days off I do cook, but not usually in the morning."
"I'm surprised you're usually up in the mornings, during your days off," Heather chuckled. "Some Kats would try to sleep as late as they could."
"I don't like tweaking my schedule that much." She explained simply. "It's easier to get up on work days when it the same time I usually do."
"Makes sense," she agreed. "At least your schedule means you've got sunrises to watch most of the year."
"And most of the sunsets," Felina added with a grin and went to work on the hot meal. "Have you seen any kind of clothes or things you'd like to check out?"
"Clothes, something simple that looks good," the Caracal said, thinking about it as she ate. "Mostly that, I'm not exactly looking at being on the cutting-edge of fashion. Even without the cost it'd be ridiculous. You mind helping me figure out what works for me?"
"Not at all, but I was planning on snagging a friend of mine that actually has a clue." She chuckled softly. "It's not my strong suit by a long shot."
"Well, you could tell me what you like," Heather smiled. "That'd be a help."
Felina raised an eyebrow at that but nodded with a thoughtful look. "I'm pretty practical; jeans, t-shirts, shorts, tennis shoes and such. Unless you mean dressing up."
"Don't think I'll be doing too much of that, at least not any time soon. But I meant more how you liked particular outfits."
"Umm, sure." She nodded a little uncertainly. "I'm not a great judge though."
"If you'd rather not, it's okay," Heather offered. "I understand if you'd rather not bother."
"It's not a bother, you'll just probably end up looking like an off duty Enforcer." She shook her head. "I'm going shopping with you."
"From what I've seen, the off-duty Enforcer look can be pretty attractive," Heather smiled, before she realized what she'd just said and ducked her head. "Oh Gods," she murmured, blushing deeply beneath her fur.
"Thanks," Felina blushed slightly in return.
"I didn't mean to say it that way," the Caracal tried to explain. "Not that it's not true, but ... I should ... probably shut up now."
"It's okay," she chuckled softly. "I'm not going to freak on you over it."
"Good," Heather smiled, relieved despite the blush still burning beneath her dark orange fur. "Hope this doesn't make things awkward."
"I did just walk naked through the house," she chuckled with an easy shake of her head. "Awkward or not is mostly up to you."
"I'd rather it wasn't," Heather said honestly. "Whether or not anything happens because of it."
"Now you are getting way ahead of things." Felina told her firmly. "For all sorts of reasons."
"Sorry," Heather said, ducking her head. "I know, just ... felt like I should say it. Probably shouldn't have."
"Look, Heather, you're an attractive shekat and I've invited you into my home. But right now this is a professional relationship. You are the central witness and key piece of evidence in what is turning into one of the biggest investigations this century. Even if I was inclined to ignore your amnesia, that I saved your life, the decided power imbalance between us and that I'm involved in your case, we barely know each other."
"I hadn't meant short-term, any time right away or anything. That I knew was going to be a 'not' for most of the reasons you just mentioned."
"As long as we're on the same page," Felina nodded and relaxed. "Have you found anything beyond necessities that you're interested in seeing today?"
"Well, you'd mentioned the mountains. That sounds pretty good," Heather smiled, pushing aside the slight disappointment she felt at being shut down so quickly. Even expecting it, there had been a part of her that had been half-hoping it wouldn't happen quite that quickly, at least. "Or we could watch a movie or something, back here, if you'd rather not worry about the drive."
"The drive isn't bad," she considered the security issues. "Want to try skiing, or a wilderness walk?"
"A walk," Heather said quickly. "I do not want to find out that the reason I don't remember how to ski is because I never knew in the first place once I'm on the hill already."
"I wouldn't do that to you," she chuckled playfully. "You start with the kitten slope and work up from there. I know some great walking places."
"Sounds good then," she smiled. "Besides, walking you can stop when you spot interesting places. Skiing, it's not so easy to do. Besides, you can't afford to break an arm or something today."
"It never stopped me before." Felina smirked. "Life would be way too dull if I was worried about getting hurt."
"I think I've found something I agree with your Uncle on," Heather chuckled slightly, shaking her head. "Though if you want to go skiing, I wouldn't mind watching. Be one way to get out of the weather we've got down here."
"Except he's afraid of me getting hurt because father would kill him." Felina laughed. "Walking in the forest is fine."
"Well if you're not on the clock, I don't think your Dad could blame him," Heather giggled. "Head out after I get the breakfast dishes done then?"
"I'll make the call so our cover knows where we're going," she nodded and quickly finished off the meal.
Fifteen minutes of silent, casual walking in the mixed forest on moss covered, stone inlaid trails that looked like they never saw use ended with the dim splashing rumble of a waterfall not far away.
"This place is beautiful," Heather rumbled, looking around with wide, eager eyes as she followed Felina into the smell of the falls.
"Good," she smiled back at the smaller shekat. "Does it feel familiar at all?"
"The feel is," she nodded after a moment. "The place ... I don't know. But this type of place feels familiar. Natural, free, clean. Places of power."
"Of power?" She looked around curiously.
"Natural places," Heather nodded. She looked up at Felina curiously. "You can't feel it?"
"Can't say as I do." She shook her head. "Waterfalls and such can be very impressive, but nothing more."
"I think you can feel it, you just don't know what it is," Heather chuckled, looking at the waterfall. "Not sure how I do, honestly, but I do. Water, life, change, they're all a part of this place. It's very much alive, though not in the way you might think of it normally."
"Okay," she consented slowly, not sure she agreed with the statements but unwilling to completely dismiss it given how much she'd already seen of the impossible and strange.
Heather walked up to the edge of the pool at the bottom of the waterfall, sitting down next to it.
"Mind if we stay here for a bit?" She asked, looking back up at Felina who sat down on the wet moss nearby.
"Of course." She nodded and leaned back to watch the waterfall, the trees, everything around them.
"Thanks," the Caracal smiled. She watched the water quietly, the fish moving beneath it, the surface rippling as the falls splashed down over the rocks. Despite the relative peace of the setting, she felt the buzzing in her mind getting worse. Questions, statements; if it weren't for the fact that they were all coming at once, Heather would have thought Felina was bombarding her with questions as fast as she could talk.
Thought was faster though.
"Stop it," she muttered under her breath, focusing on trying to quiet the incessant buzzing in her mind. What was going on?
"Stop what?" Felina's voice echoed the concerned thought that abruptly took the forefront of the buzzing with its companion; alert searching.
"Sorry," Heather said quickly, shaking her head. She closed her eyes, taking a deep breath. "I wasn't talking to you, sorry," she explained further, opening her eyes. "I don't know how, but I was starting to hear what you were thinking ... I've stopped it now."
"You can do that?" Felina's focus was firmly on her now, curiosity and plotting in her deep brown eyes.
"I didn't mean to," she said, a little defensively. "I did stop, Felina, honest."
"Heather, do you have any idea how useful that could be?" She all but purred.
"If I could control it, or if it was right, probably really useful," the Caracal nodded. "The first one I'm not sure if I can do, the second ... it's iffy, Felina."
"So is any skill when you are first leaning," she smiled and relaxed back. "Let me guess, you got hit with about a dozen trains of thought at once."
"I stopped counting at six," Heather admitted sheepishly. "It was sort of like sitting in a room with ten of you all talking at once."
"It gets worse when I'm actually working." She chuckled. "Or you get one voice that stubbornly repeats a cycle of info until you're sick of it."
"Well," Heather chuckled, "now that I'm listening to what you're saying instead of thinking, want to try and handle what you were thinking about one at a time?"
"Sure," she shifted a bit and ran over the ones she could actually ask about. "What about those pretty baubles you got were so interesting?"
"These?" Heather asked, looking down at the small pendants she was wearing, a silver ankh over her blouse and a silver-plated "Eye of Thoth" under it. "Familiar, mostly. Things that remind me of good things in the past. They're Middle Kingdom symbols of power and knowledge, but I remember seeing them in contexts that weren't wrong."
"They were both symbols I saw a lot of," Heather explained, thinking hard about it for a moment. "I think that upset some people, that I was working on those things so much instead of others. The Ankh was associated with healing and life, as well as power in general.
"The Eye ... it feels right. Sort of like when you pick up a sword, and you know it's balanced right for your hand. If what I was doing a couple minutes ago was something I could control before, it might be that I'd worked with magic that was supposed to help me know things."
"Sounds like very useful magic to know." Felina nodded thoughtfully. "Even if it isn't admissible in court yet."
"And just try getting a warrant based off something I saw scrying," she chuckled slightly, shaking her head. "Lucky if you don't get fired for that one. But yeah, it can be. Especially if you're not worried about whether or not it's legal, which I doubt they were."
"No, I couldn't get a warrant much of the time, but a tip from your ability is no different from any anonymous tip or a gut instinct. It can be worth a lot to know what the truth you're trying to prove is."
"It would be a way to save time," Heather admitted. "Ask 'somebody' who's responsible, point things the right way. Finding the evidence could still be a bitch, but at least you'd have an idea you were looking at the right evidence."
"And the right people," she nodded. "Trust me, cops are very accustomed to knowing a truth we can't prove yet. It's what we do."
"Just have to be careful about the method. Some of them are pretty ... chancy."
"I know," she nodded and rolled onto her stomach to watch the falls, content to trust her backup nearby to alert them if trouble came. "But it is what we do. It's not nearly as dangerous as what I do for a living, challenging Omegas."
"Very true," Heather agreed. "Wish there was something I knew I could do that might help with that."
"You're already a help," Felina smiled at her. "Don't go taking the weight of the world on your shoulders. You've got enough problems already."
"I'll keep it in mind," Heather chuckled. "Still, not that strange to want to help, right?"
"Not at all," she shook her head and smiled at her. "It's a very good thing as an indicator of your mental health and innate nature. I just don't want you to go SWAT Kat on me."
"Please, I'd be dead in five minutes," the Caracal laughed, shaking her head. "Want to help, yes. Want to die, not so much."
"Rack up another point for sanity," Felina grinned. "The guys can be a big help sometimes, but they are a royal pain and they are so overdue for trouble of the fatal kind."
"Legends usually are," Heather agreed. "Just hope theirs doesn't come to an end any time soon. Pain or no, you of all people know the city needs them, the way things are."
"That part ... I'm not so sure of," she shook her head slightly. "They're a big help, but the city survived Dark Kat before they appeared and they are the main reason the mayor justifies so little defense funding. It's a double edged sword."
"The city survived Dark Kat, but he was about the only Omega around back then. And we've already been over my opinion of that waste of fur people keep electing. I hope you'd be right, about surviving without them, but I'd hate to find out the hard way if you're not."
"I'm not too fond of the idea of finding out I'm right either." Felina said softly. "But either way it is an inevitability that if my uncle doesn't face, I will have to."
"Whether through retirement or death," Heather nodded. "Preferably the former, of course." She stirred the pond with her finger slightly.
"Not his preference," she shook her head. "Not the preference of many Ferals, honestly. Retirement is a painful thing for lifers like us. Not many are strong enough to go through with it."
"I'd meant SWAT being gone because of one of the two, but it's probably the same thing there," Heather sighed, shaking her head a bit. "Is it because you don't know anything else, or because you can't bring yourself to leave the city in danger?"
"A little of both," Felina considered it thoughtfully. "Enforcers, lifetime Enforcers ... it's a passion. You don't make it otherwise. But it's family too. Retiring ... it cuts you off, not just from everything you know, everything that you are passionate about, but also everyone in your social circle. We keep strange schedules, so we tend to socialize with those of similar schedules. Plus the danger we face every day builds bonds stronger than blood or marriage. Something our divorce rate shows very clearly.
"A few have interests or mates that can take them past active duty. Most hire on as civilian assistants or consultants or PIs. The rest either eat their blaster, get themselves killed doing something stupid or just fade away. It's not something to look forward to."
"Doesn't sound like it," Heather agreed quietly. "I'd ask if you've ever thought about doing something else, but I think I know the answer already."
"I'd go the SWAT Kat route before I really left defending my city." She chuckled a little darkly. "It's in the blood."
"Born protectors, all of you," Heather nodded. "What does the soldier do when there aren't any more wars to fight?"
"Mercenary, preparing for the next war ... but most get into trouble with the law because they can't cope with what peace means for them. They know to fight for what they believe in and without an enemy to fight that turns into fighting those who disagree with them in the civilian population. They become my problem."
"Job security stinks sometimes, huh?" She was beginning to see why Felina had mentioned depression being such an issue with Enforcers. It was a nasty cycle they were a part of, even if they were usually the right end of it.
"Yes, it does." She sighed and dangled her feet up in the air as she lay on her stomach watching the water. "The real job security is the legal system though. It's called the revolving door for good reason. For beat cops especially, a lot of times a criminal you catch red handed is out on bail before you even finish the paperwork that night. It seriously sucks."
"Then, sometimes, you put them away so they can't hurt anybody again for a long time," Heather observed, moving over to put a hand on Felina's shoulder gently. "Better than if you weren't there at all."
"Yes," Felina smiled and looked over at her. "The ones I catch are usually put away for good, both the Omegas and Major Crimes cases. It's still demoralizing as an organization. But it's not like it's a surprise to many who enlist. It's been this way for generations."
"And it's like it pretty much everywhere, so it's one of those problems that isn't unique to MegaKat City. Doesn't matter what Manx or anybody else says, the city's around because of you and the Enforcers. Especially the ones who are walking a beat, and end up arresting the same Kats time and again."
"Thanks," Felina put her larger hand over Heather's slender fingers and smiled at her for real despite the depression in her eyes. Heater returned the smile, moving her thumb a bit to rub Felina's hand.
"Anything I can do to help make these," she asked softly, indicating Felina's eyes with her free hand, "come a bit closer to matching this?" She finished, indicating her smile.
"There are days you'll see it." She promised. "And there will be days you'd do best to let me curl up and cry myself out in peace."
"I'll do my best to recognize which is which," Heather promised. "Just remember, if you ever want to talk while I'm around, or have a shoulder to cry on, I'm willing."
"Just don't take it personally if I snarl after shift. Or if I just don't come home once and a while. It comes with the job."
"I understand," Heather nodded. "You're entitled to having bad days sometimes. I might worry a bit if you don't come home, until I know it's not because you were hurt, but I won't take it personally."
"The guys will know, if I forget to call." Felina promised. "They'll have to take up the time if I'm not there."
"I'll ask if I start to worry too much then," the Caracal smiled. "Did anybody ever tell you you've got a nice smile?"
"No one that wasn't drunk at the time," she said simply.
"Well you do," Heather chuckled. "When you do smile. And I'm sober, unless there's something in the mall's water supply nobody knows about."
"There better not be," Felina managed a chuckle that broke the somber mood a bit. "That would be such a mess."
"Yeah, but it'd be a fun day to sit there and watch," she giggled. "Get folks to loosen up and think about something besides shopping and getting home as fast as they can."
"It could be interesting," Felina admitted reluctantly. "I've just got too much cop in me not to have a gut reaction to that many drunk drivers."
"Well you'd have to keep them from driving out, of course. Of course, it's also never going to happen. Let's face it; there are a lot better things to do with your time than spike the mall's water."
"Quite true," she nodded with a chuckle. "Like running an Eco-Challenge."
"Eco-Challenge?" Heather asked, her dark-tipped ears perking curiously.
"Co-ed teams of four or five members do a wilderness trek of about three hundred 'k in a week and a half or so. You have the gear on your back for food, water, shelter and medical care. The first team across the finish line with all its members and all the checkpoints logged in its passport wins."
"Why would you ever want to do that to yourself?"
"Because it's fun; to push yourself, to prove to yourself you can do it. The camaraderie, the acknowledgement, seeing places no one has seen in years and probably won't see again for years more. You can't imagine the beauty in some of those places. It's an experience like no other."
"Guess it just doesn't strike me as something you do for fun," Heather admitted. "It probably is, but with the badlands around here, you'd have to head somewhere else to get started."
"Oh, they're held all over the world," Felina chuckled. "And draws teams from all over the world too. The Eco-Challenge is the biggest adventure race of the year and the hardest to get into. There aren't three hundred people in the world that make the cut just to get to the starting line and usually only a third of them make it to the finish. It's a true test of endurance, skill and most of all, teamwork."
"I hope the ones who don't make it to the finish still get out okay?" Heather said hopefully.
"Some are injured pretty badly, but no one has ever died." She shook her head. "It'd hard but not that dangerous."
"Is this something you try to do often?"
"Every year," she chuckled. "We usually finish in the top three."
"Cool," Heather grinned. "Ever take it?"
"Three out of ten times." She grinned. "Mine's the only Kat team to consistently finish in the frontrunners. All the other consistent top teams are Kantin. The Wolves have a very strong showing. Their nature is a real asset for them in it."
"I'll bet it would be," she nodded. "Heck, it sounds like a step back into their pre-civilized days, what they evolved to do."
"In many ways it is, though the equipment is very modern and some of the safeguards are as well. It's a grueling pace to keep, much more than any ancient times would dare to try. Most take a month or more to recuperate when it's over."
"And you take ...?"
"As much as the Omegas let me," she chuckled. "Or a couple weeks before I get seriously stir crazy and harass my uncle to getting me off medical leave."
"Well, at least you take some vacation every year," Heather chuckled, shaking her head. "Figures you'd have to be on medical leave to do it."
"Which is still doing better than my uncle," Felina snickered. "He still comes to work with broken arms, legs, ribs ... you name it."
"I hope he's sane enough to stay behind a desk when he's in that shape?"
"Occasionally," she chuckled. "That requires serious sedatives."
"Or being physically incapable of flying," Heather chuckled, shaking her head.
"Then he just gets in a tank and commands from there with someone else driving," Felina rolled her eyes expressively.
"Sounds like being a workaholic runs in the family as much as being an Enforcer does."
"It is," she snickered. "It's frightening to realize I'm one of the less obsessive members of the clan."
"I just hope you're Uncle's one of the more," Heather chuckled.
"Well, he did make Commander," Felina smirked. "Though that has as much to do with his political skill as his military skill. For all he detests admitting it or acting that way."
"If he's a politician, he's the sort I could live with," Heather admitted. "At least he seems to have the best interests of the city at heart."
"He is, just like I am, just don't try to say that to either of us," she chuckled. "And he does. Uncle has his faults but his dedication is unquestionable. Much like the SWAT Kats that way. Questionable methods and ethics aside, it's what we're all here for."
"Well, you said it, not me," Heather smirked. "Pity nobody can get SWAT working with the Enforcers. Or the other way around, I suppose, depending on how you look at it."
"Oh, they work with us when it's possible." Felina shook her head. "I've worked with them directly on several occasions. It's mostly my uncle's problem that keeps them vigilante."
"Doesn't like people who won't follow orders?"
"Big time." She nodded. "Doesn't take too well to folks who are better than him at Enforcer-stuff either and those two are both in a big way."
"Better at the stopping them part. But I'm guessing that the fact there's no way they'd be better than he is at actually running the Enforcers doesn't help."
"Of course not," Felina shook her head. "He doesn't see himself that way. He still likes to see himself as the pilot and squad leader he's best at."
"Forest for the trees," Heather sighed. "Maybe one of these days somebody'll talk a little more sense into him."
"Not a chance in hell," she shook her head again. "Grandfather can't even do that."
"Maybe he'd listen to Miss Briggs," the Caracal chuckled. "After all, she outranks him doesn't she?"
"Yes, she does. He doesn't listen, for all he does obey her orders. But that's getting into a whole new realm of politics, bringing in the Mayor's office. It can get really ugly."
"I'll bet," Heather admitted. "At least it wouldn't be Manx giving him orders."
"Talk about how to get him pissy for weeks." Felina rolled her eyes. "But everybody hates taking orders from him."
"Somehow, I can't blame them in the least," Heather agreed. "Something about the idea of telling people who are risking their lives that they have to do it a particularly stupid way because of that."
"And face it; he just rubs folks who have to clean up his messes the wrong way."
"They're all too aware that they're his messes, but they're going to be blamed for them," she nodded.
"Among other things," Felina nodded. "And it's not like he ever helps us any."
"I'm sure he pictures it differently. I don't know how, but I'm sure he does."
"Of course he does. He has one goal in life: getting re-elected. Every dollar he takes from us is another he can spend on that campaign or things that help it."
"Y'know, you'd think he'd take money away from other things instead. Like any sort of education that'd help somebody figure out how much of a return on investment the city'd get on a bullet."
"I think he's already stripped the education budget as much as possible." She sighed. "He does have to keep the tax base up after all."
"And that'd directly affect a lot of his voters," Heather muttered, shaking her head. "The only way they'd not vote for him."
"Pretty much," she nodded. "So until Miss Briggs or someone else decides to run against him and actually stays in the race, we're kind of stuck with him."
"Or until he does something to get him kicked out," Heather agreed. "Maybe somebody'll look at his books one of these days."
"Not a chance," Felina stared out over the pool. "He may be a bumbling idiot, but he's a crafty bumbling idiot. He's far too survival minded to have proof of anything lying around where it can be found. The guy could give lessons to the mob on hiding facts."
"From people looking normally," Heather chuckled slightly, smiling a bit. Suddenly, her paw on Felina's shoulder tightened, her claws unsheathing slightly as distress-scent started pouring off of her, cause not apparent
"Heather?" Felina tensed and rolled her feet in a crouch, every sense fully alert for trouble or signal from their tail. "What happened?" She focused more on the panicking Caracal.
"I don't know," Heather said, shaking as she curled up a bit, whatever she was seeing terrifying her. "Sweet Bast .... Didn't happen ...."
"Okay," she took a deep breath and wished she'd paid more attention in psych class. "Was it like last time, when you heard my thoughts?"
"No," she said, shaking her head. "It's not - NO!" She shouted, shifting to her knees and grabbing Felina's arm desperately.
"Heather, focus on me." Felina gripped her back. "What are you seeing?"
"Fire," the Caracal whimpered, holding onto Felina tightly, her eyes not focusing. "Screaming, shouting, fire and blood ... twisted bodies and metal. A rolling vault, blown apart from inside. Y-you ...." She whimpered again, shaking.
"Do you recognize anything?" Felina focused quickly. "A symbol, insignia, building, time of day, anyone else?"
"Your Uncle," she nodded. "Th-there's a tall building, around the warehouses. It's in the morning ... you weren't supposed to be there, but then everything started blowing up ...."
"Think about the rolling vault. Is it Enforcer? Is it moving?"
"It was," Heather said, nodding again. "Enforcers were watching it, then somebody started shooting at them. I-I think it's over ...."
"Did you have any sense of when this is going to happen?" Felina didn't object to the Caracal curling up against her and held the trembling shekat protectively.
"Soon," Heather murmured, holding Felina tight. "There was something in the car that blew up ... whoever was attacking had a bazooka or something."
"Where were you?" She asked more softly.
"I don't know," she admitted. "The place I was 'watching' from kept moving around, but not like I was there. I didn't see myself, either."
"Do you think you would recognize this place if you saw it again?"
"Yes," Heather nodded. "There's no way I could forget that," she shuddered.
"Okay," she urged her to stand up. "I think it's time to leave this place of power for less disturbing places. And a photo collection of the city."
"It's not because of this place," Heather said, standing up. "It might have kicked it off, but I think it would've happened either way. Sorry to give you work on your day off."
"Don't worry about it," she smiled gently. "It usually happens, it's just usually shooting at me too."
"This was," Heather murmured softly. "It hit too. Hard."
"We'll just have to see about it not happening." Felina said firmly, her mind already running over counter-tactics for the attack.
"Just keep everybody away from that truck when it hits, Felina. Especially you, please. Don't abandon it, but the most damage was done when it blew up."
"I'll be careful," she promised. "If you can ID the vehicle type and location it would be a help in pinning down when this is going to happen and changing it."
"Armored truck, and we'll have to work on the location. Somewhere near the warehouse districts."
"Just try to remember as many details as you can. We'll go through location and vehicle pictures the apartment. I'm not about to die."
"I hope not," Heather nodded, still shuddering slightly as the two of them started back down the trail ....
Meanwhile, across the city, a Golden Retriever in the plain brown uniform of MegaKat Express Delivery Service carried a large display of flowers into the lobby of the Braberry apartment complex. Ahead of him was a very stern-looking Mastiff in full Enforcer uniform at the front desk that did not look pleased to see him. It was a bit hard to suppress the nervous looks in reply to the scrutiny the on and off duty Enforcers in the lobby were giving him as well.
Security and the general wariness of the residents had increased significantly since he'd come in last. He nearly let out a real breath of relief when he spotted a familiar Black Lab coming towards him. This was exactly who he'd hoped to see here. His cousin was always good for a few tidbits of intel in answer to the expected questions.
He lifted up the display and headed towards his cousin hurriedly.
"Jerry, am I glad to see you!" Louis said, his grin sincere and grateful. "I'm really in a bind here; maybe you could help me out?"
"If I can," Jerry nodded a subtle okay to several others watching the exchange.
"Well, some Doctor from the hospital seems to have a crush on a patient who was in there a few days ago. He orders her flowers," he nodded towards the display, "then expects us to figure out where to find her. You should've seen the scene he made at the shop," Louis snorted, shaking his head. "Ends up my boss says we'll do what we can, then saddles me with the job. If I can't find her, I'll catch hell from both of 'em."
"Which doctor?" Jerry asked calmly as he slipped into his on duty mindset.
"Doctor Henderson," he said, not bothering to look at the slip. "Real jerk of a tom, a Persian."
"Well I can get them to her, but the where isn't for public knowledge." He offered.
"You sure you know where she is?" Louis asked. "It's not an Enforcer," he explained. "Just know that Lieutenant Feral's supposed to know where to find her. Some cute Caracal."
"I know," he nodded, much more evasive than usual. "You're not going to find her anytime soon. Not without going through both Ferals in charge first."
"Don't tell me the Doc's fallen for some Omega or something?" Louis asked incredulously. "Both the Ferals in on this? That's big."
"Yeah, it is," he nodded with a mental grumble about having to be so careful with his cousin. "And they're not talking about it either," he shrugged.
"So you're sure you can get it to her? Maybe I should take it to Lieutenant Feral instead, if she'd know where it has to go. I mean, I trust you, but the guy paid to have it taken to the door, y'know? If somebody signs off on it who can't get it to her, it's my tail."
"If you want to wait for her, then take a seat," Jerry motioned to a padded bench on the edge of the lounge. "I have no idea when she'll be back though."
"Ah crap, she's out?" Louis' tail drooped noticeably as he sighed. "Gods, why'd I have to pull this one? Could you maybe at least give me her address, so I can tell them where I 'left' it? She doesn't have anything listed."
"Felina's?" Jerry cocked his head. "Apartment 3501. As in the thirty-fifth floor."
"And this is the place with no elevator," the Retriever muttered. "Definitely a time to tell them where I left it, and cover for things if they don't work out." He shook his head, setting the display down and taking out his clipboard. "You mind signing for it? Rather it was you than the guy at the desk, don't think he likes me."
"Damien doesn't like anybody," he chuckled and took the clipboard. "It's his job to be like that. He's good at it too," he added and handed the clipboard back.
"Then somebody's bucking for a raise," Louis chuckled, sending the signature in and setting the flowers down. "Thanks for the help, Jerry. This has been a real mess."
"I have no doubt of it." He shook his head. "Have fun with your day."
"You too," the Retriever grinned. "Try not to get stepped on. Seeya later!" With that, he turned and headed out of the building. It took all his willpower to finish the rest of his shift before returning to report to his true master.
Soon, the sensor would be in place. And he had little doubt that Hethra was being kept in Felina's own apartment. If all went well, he had even fewer doubts that he would soon be advancing within the Cult.
He was unaware that the flowers went into a back room on the ground floor for as detailed an investigation as was possible without destroying them. The flowers would indeed make it to Felina. The sensor ... that was not so sure a thing.
"Prelate," Medea smiled as she walked calmly into the audience chamber, a long day after Surtr's test. "It is nearly time for Surtr's final demonstration."
"Yes, and a most delicious one as well," the black furred Caracal purred with delight in her bright orange eyes. "I trust you have a better show for us than he did."
"Oh much better," Medea purred, her eyes dancing with barely restrained eagerness and delight as she looked at the powerful mage. "Though I would rather keep the details for when he's enduring them," she added with a sadistic grin.
"I can agree with that," she laughed and ruffled her fur to settle everything in place for their victim's entrance.
"Thank you, Prelate," Medea rumbled, stepping back into the shadows of the room as Isis joined them.
"Should I be ready to keep him alive, in case something goes wrong?" The light-furred Caracal asked Ebritha quietly.
"If reasonable," she nodded regally. "My Tikqui'kit-si does prefer live meals after all."
"No need," Medea rumbled quietly, before she quieted herself, waiting as the door opened again to reveal Surtr. The Caracal walked in slowly, not harmed by his two deaths, but much more cautious. Still, he couldn't see where Medea hid in the corner.
"Prelate," he said respectfully, bowing to the regal, black-furred Caracal. "Isis," he added, nodding to the Healer, the whole thing closer to the evening before than he liked. Still ... there was a difference.
"Has Medea decided not to appear at her own test?"
"She is here," Ebritha motioned towards the elder Caracal who now stepped into view. "She has much to explain after all."
"Indeed I do," Medea purred, pulling a small hypodermic out of her vest-pocket. She walked up next to him. "Of course," she explained, finding a vein in the wrist nearest to him and pressing the needle against it, "I also see no reason to delay the results. I have confidence in my antidote."
Surtr couldn't help but feel a slight twinge of admiration, though it was drowned out by the pleasure of knowing she would soon be dying. He hoped she'd chosen a particularly painful method; it would be most satisfying.
Then, just as he thought she was about to jab the needle into her wrist, she pulled it back and jabbed it into his shoulder instead, casually depressing the plunger until it was emptied into his arm. His look of horror and desperation grew as he looked up at Ebritha and Isis, and everything finally fell into place.
How could he have been stupid enough not to see this coming?
The looks of approval and amusement between the three females only worsened the feeling. Then the poison started to take effect, like his very blood was starting to burn and itch in his veins. Medea spoke a few brief words in a demonic tongue, stilling his hands as he started to reach for the injection point.
"Bloodfire," she explained, self-satisfied cheerfulness in her voice. "My newest development. Derived from capsaicin, the chemical responsible for peppers being hot. It reacts with proteins to create heat. With a minor magical adjustment, I found a way to make it react only with hemoglobin instead, and not stop reacting until death. Which, as we will see, takes some time."
By now, Surtr's resolve had broken, giving way to snarls of pain and hatred, directed primarily at Medea, though the Prelate herself was not beyond his insults. Quickly, even those snarls devolved to pained howls. He had managed to break the spell binding his hands, but nothing he could do would make the pain stop, as Medea simply raised her voice to be heard above him.
"As you can see," she continued loudly, "I also built in a compulsion for the victim not to use their claws or teeth to bring their pain to an undue, and very difficult to explain, end. Eventually, the body simply shuts down, all autonomic functions slowing in an attempt to stop the pain.
"But what fun is simple death?" At this point, she worked another spell to quiet the aggravatingly loud death-throes of the Caracal on the ground. There was something about her gleeful expression as she saw one of her true masterpieces at work that chilled even Isis' blood. The reeking scents of Surtr's fear, rage, and pain flooded the room, a bouquet the poison-mistress inhaled deeply.
"Quite true," Ebritha purred, the arousal pouring off of her even more intense to Isis than the agony Surtr was flavoring the air with or the pleasure Medea added.
"Which is why I took a page from Mistress Isis' book," Medea purred. "While it does kill its victim, eventually, it does so only after a lengthy period of agony. Either they commit suicide with some weapon not natural to their own bodies, or they simple die in their sleep, to judge by the medical findings." Surtr was still writhing in near-silent agony. 'Lengthy,' to Medea, could take hours.
"Then there is the final touch," the older Caracal grinned, looking down at him sweetly. "After death, the ka remains bound to the body until some being of greater power comes to claim it personally. And it remains fully conscious, and fully aware - along with the body's nerves. Which means that an autopsy could be performed, and the ka of the victim would endure every slice, every cut, until their silent screams attracted the attention of some being to take them to their final damnation."
"Delightful," Ebritha licked her muzzled and actually leaned forward in excitement, her slender tail twitching in anticipation and thoughts of other applications of the brew. "Truly delightfully useful."
"I'm rather proud of it, myself," Medea agreed with a self-satisfied nod, her own arousal scent gradually getting stronger, though still not matching Ebritha's. Even Isis, while not affected the same way either of them was, found the morbid display Surtr was making infinitely more entertaining than the quiet deaths his own poison had brought him. Screams had given way to ragged sobs of agony, as his body seemed to burn away from the inside out.
"The only real drawback," Medea continued, "is that while my antidote will restore life, and do so instantly, it has a rather more difficult time restoring sanity, if the victim has broken. And it will take some time, I suspect, before Surtr here dies, unless you wish me to ... speed things up for him? This time, of course. I brought enough to give him a second dose, easily."
"Fortunately, sanity is not required for his after dinner fate." Ebritha purred in regal delight. "How long after death will the antidote work?"
"Until the body is in such a state that it cannot support life," Medea explained with a chuckle. "Which leaves quite a bit that can be done to it. I haven't yet found just how much decomposition will affect it, but it's proven out to at least twenty-four hours."
"Excellent. How long will it take to produce six doses, without antidote."
"I could have them completed within three weeks, Prelate," the poisoner grinned. "Easily."
"Excellent," she nodded. "Do so. Just keep him revivable long enough to participate."
"Should I administer the antidote?" Medea asked, ignoring her disappointment at leaving Surtr survive that long.
"Not unless it is unavoidable." Ebritha shook her head fractionally. "Stick him in the deep freeze if it will help." She added with a fractional smile that was as much for her plans for who the other six sacrifices would be as for the thought of what it would feel like to Surtr.
"I'll see to it," Medea smiled. "Is the test complete then? Or should we wait until he 'dies' to declare a victor?"
"There was never any doubt," she laughed lightly, signaling for a servant to bring in refreshments for the trio. "But come, we can dine while we watch your newest creation at work."
Heather and Felina had spent most of the last couple days narrowing down the location of the upcoming attack, and finally pinned down where it would take place well enough to arrange a surprise for whoever was behind it.
Which meant that, tomorrow, Heather would be on her own again, unless Taller came by. Which left the Caracal needing to do one more thing....
"What do you think of Taller?" She asked, as she brought dinner out for the two of them. "The Enforcer you asked to come keep an eye on me the day after you brought me here," she clarified, "big Puma."
"Our local beat cop," she nodded with a chuckle. "He's a good guy. A little weird when you get too deep into the history and social patterns theory, but well educated and bright."
"The weird I noticed," Heather giggled. "Though I did manage to keep up with him, except for one little mix-up. Definitely knows what he's talking about, too. He's invited me down to browse through his library once in a while, when he's home and you're out. Wanted to check it out with you first though."
"Just leave a message at my desk when you go out so I know where to look for you, and have fun."
"Okay," Heather smiled, blushing a little bit beneath her fur, wondering if she should check on the specific type of fun they might be having once in a while. As she thought, she worked at her poached fish.
"Like him that much already?" Felina raised an eyebrow with an amused smile.
"Well, not anything serious, but... he is attractive," Heather nodded, blushing more. "That obvious what I was thinking about?"
"It was a good guess." She chuckled. "You don't seem to be a prude after all."
"I would hope not," she giggled. "That's one thing I learned that seems harmless enough. It's uhm... not a problem, is it?"
"Hardly," Felina grinned at her. "Both ways."
"Okay," Heather smiled back. "I'll make sure to leave notes when I'll be down there, just remember to knock if you come looking for me."
"I will, though I'll probably just call." She chuckled lightly. "I can't think of a reason I'd actually need to get you right away."
"Excuse to look at a hunky Puma with a habit of going shirtless?" Heather guessed with a wink and a grin.
"Well, yes." She hid her grin behind of forkful of fish. "But if you want a good look, catch him at the gym. Hot, sweaty, straining Puma going shirtless is even better."
"Oh I'll bet," the Caracal purred, taking another bite of her own dinner, less to keep eating than to stop herself from commenting that the look she'd gotten a couple mornings ago after Felina's shower was better still.
The next morning, Louis was nervously waiting for his master's command. Their plans had continued perfectly ... except for his failure to get the sensor into the room. Granted that had been an 'extra,' not directly covered by his orders, but he was hardly going to count on that to keep him alive.
Especially if things didn't go well today.
"Master Orion," he said respectfully, bowing to the Caracal. "Our plans progress well, and we are ready for today's capture attempt."
"Good." The mission's leader nodded at his most competent minion and finished setting his camouflaged clothes and equipment in place. "Soon we will have the traitor back." And her pet Enforcer, he added to himself.
"Yes Master," Louis nodded. "I'm sure the Prelate will be pleased to have her back, alive or otherwise. Are we to make an example of Lieutenant Feral, assuming our diversion doesn't do so for us?"
Taller Windbright stretched and smiled as he stood from his reading chair with its negligible view of anything but other windows. That knock was no doubt a very pleasant view and an even more engaging mind.
"Good morning, Heather." He greeted her easily and stepped aside to let her in his hobby-archeologist appointed apartment.
"Good morning," she smiled, stepped inside and looking up at his broad, bare chest with its clear evidence of morning grooming. "Thanks for having me down here today."
"You're fun to have around." He grinned and shut the door with a less than subtle look at her trim form. "Not many are that interested in the past around here after all."
"Well, let's face it," she giggled. "The teacher's hardly hard on the eyes. Makes it a lot easier to pay attention during class. Want to pick up where we left off last time?"
"Works for me," he grinned and made a point of giving her a good look at his flattering jeans and tight ass while he picked up the thick book on the Aztlan that he had been going through the day before.
"So, where were we?" She asked, mostly to make conversation while she took every advantage of the opportunities he was giving her to check out his body and attributes.
"The Royal Zoo in Tenochian," he smiled and opened the book to the chapter devoted to the first such creation known in the world.
"That's right," she smiled, taking a seat near him. "How old did you say it was again?"
"Sixteen hundred years," he smiled and shifted fractionally to bring them a little closer into contact. "The fourth Emperor had it created to have a living example of each plant and animal in his palace, and thus to have more of each god in his presence."
"Ambitious," she mused, leaning a bit closer to him. "Was it a private collection then?"
"It is recorded that nobles and diplomats, those of rank and prestige, also had access to it, though it was at the Emperor's grace." He nodded.
"It makes sense. Especially if you didn't want to take the chance of somebody doing something to them. Were they only relatively local animals?"
"Not from the records," he chuckled and pointed to the partially translated inventory. "Though by modern standards they would have been. The kingdom only covered Mezmerothin after all."
"Transporting live plants and animals has never been easy though," she chuckled, leaning her head against his shoulder to look at the inventory. "Any idea how they did move them? A lot of the animals, at least, were rather dangerous."
"That much isn't recorded, though I would assume they were either captured as babies or crated up." He nuzzled her hair lightly. "Not humane by modern standards, but given the lack of beats of burden or the wheel, it probably wasn't bad. It was mostly birds anyway."
"Of course," she giggled, turning to return his nuzzle lightly. "As much as he'd have wanted all the gods, I doubt he wanted the ones the bugs represented all that much. Birds would fill up most of what was left."
"And feathers were such a huge part of the economy of the wealthy." He chuckled and gave her ear a playful lick. "It costs much less to feed your own aviary than to pay for all those feathers when one can cost more than a boat."
"And with all the uses they have, it's certainly hard to have too many," she winked, thinking of just what some of those uses were. "Clothing, decorations... entertainment," she winked. "Certainly easier to grow your own."
"Bed games," he licked his whiskers and prayed he wasn't moving too fast.
"Possibly," she purred, licking his neck lightly, affectionately. "If you're interested?"
"I was when I first met you," he rumbled with a deep breath. "Attractive, bright, interesting, sexy. There isn't much not to like."
"Mmm... you'd mentioned it before," she smiled. "I seem to remember mentioning that it was just as true of you, maybe more. Still interested though, with just play?"
"Yes," he smiled and shifted to gently press her down along the couch with his weight over but not on her. She turned, laying back easily with a deep, rumbling purr. She wrapped her arms around him, tilting her head up to kiss him tentatively and found it returned with a welcoming passion that washed through her.
"So how playful are you in bed?" Taller whispered in her ear with a lick.
"Don't really know yet," she admitted, flicking her ear reflexively. She licked at his throat, rubbing his back lightly. "You?"
"Generally rather playful," he chuckled and nuzzled her with another lingering kiss. "Unless we're both so hot it's not wanted."
"Don't think we're there yet," she rumbled deeply. She returned his kiss with another, licking at his lips, her own parted invitingly.
"No, we aren't." He agreed softly.
"Is there an alarm on the window?" Louis asked one of his partners as they dropped onto the balcony outside Felina's apartment. Orion was still on the roof, ready to come in as soon as any alarms had been dealt with.
"Of course," the lean Tabby snorted at him from her crouch studying their way in. "Do you really think she wouldn't have security on this place?"
"On the thirty-fifth floor, with nothing but Enforcers around her, she might've thought that was enough," he shrugged. "How hard will it be to take down manually? We're on a schedule here."
"The schedule will just have to make do." She retorted and went to work. "She's good, but she doesn't have nearly the money museums do for this."
"Well I know you can break those, so we should have too much to worry about," the Retriever chuckled, looked up and signaled to Orion and the rest of the group that they'd be inside soon.
"Yes, even with the chattering in my ear." She nodded and stepped away to swing the large double windows open. "Everybody in, and I am out."
Louis was the first one in. He looked around, his senses on alert. He could only smell the traces of old smells, nothing fresh.
On the bright side, that meant Lieutenant Feral wouldn't be there; their diversion had worked. On the other hand....
"Hethra isn't here, Master," he said quietly to the Caracal who followed the rest of the break-in team into the apartment. Even so, he quickly joined his comrades in searching through the rooms the half-walls and curtains created, looking for a sign of where she would be. While they searched, Louis placed another magical sensor, like the one that hadn't made it to the apartment before. If nothing else, they would have that much; the spell was already starting to work, spreading through the walls to let them look in whenever they wished.
"There was a male here, a Puma, yesterday, Master." Riker, a brutal combat monster of an Alsatian Kantin, rumbled. "The females are no where."
"Find what you can that might be of use here," Orion said, his voice soft but firm. "I will find out where they are."
He took a silk-wrapped object from a small pouch on his hip, one he'd brought along for just this occasion. He unwrapped it, revealing a wickedly curved, jagged knife. He took it in his hands, closing his eyes and focusing on the knife... and on its former owner.
"She is with the male," he rumbled deeply a few moments later. "And she is vulnerable. Finish up here, and we go after them. Make sure you take any files you can find related to the Katras, then ready yourselves for a fight.
"Yes, Master." Riker nodded sharply and went to work making sure the others did just that. He was too eager for the promised fight to be as careful as he probably should have been.
"Hethra will be ours again by the end of the day."
"Yes," he grinned, eager in a way only blood could make him.
Fortunately for the initiates, while Riker was distracted by the prospect of a serious battle, they were more focused on looking for files related to the cult. Unfortunately, they couldn't find any.
"Feral has good taste in art," a lean gray tom chuckled as he looked through Felina's 'bedroom' briefly.
"Keep your mind on the job, Roland," Louis growled lightly. Still, he had to admit he was right. "Should we leave a warning for her, in case she lives long enough to get back here, Master?"
"Later," Orion said, focusing on trying to get as much information about Taller's apartment as he could through the scrying with some difficulty. The knowledge of what exactly was going on in the other rooms was distracting, especially given the dagger's tie to the Caracal they were after. "If we aren't cautious, we could attract more Enforcer attention by doing so."
"We're ready Master," Roland said a few moments later. "Lieutenant Feral hasn't brought any of her files on us here, if she has any."
"Pity," Orion muttered softly and focused on weaving the Glimmer spell around them to prevent unwanted attention as they moved through the halls of this Enforcer infested building.
"We will retrieve whatever she has, Master, even if it means entering Enforcer headquarters itself," Louis promised, before the four of them walked out of the apartment as though they belonged there.
Oddly enough, to anybody who knew who they really were, the lups seemed to think they belonged there too.
"Two floors down," Orion said simply. "Let's go."
"Stop playing already!" Heather begged with a plaintive, needy whimper. She was on her back in Taller's bed, cuffed to the headboard, her legs spread. Their clothes had been strewn between the couch and the bed, gradually removed while the two of them worked their way there. Since then, Taller had been proving just how much he meant it when he said he could be very playful; it felt like he'd been teasing her for hours!
"But you whimper so sweetly to the feather." He grinned down at her even as the long, flared tail feather of some brightly colored bird slid from her ass to her belly button, trailing her juices along the way.
"Please?" She whimpered again, her entire body trembling in pleasure. "Gods, Taller, this is... oooh... some places'd call this torture!"
Incredibly, unbelievably, mind-blowingly enjoyable torture, but torture all the same! The scent of their mingled arousal practically burned in her nostrils, and her pussy-lips were soaked with her juices, despite his using them to draw all manner of obscene patterns over her lower body. As good as it felt, her insides ached to feel him inside of her.
"All right, lovely." He chuckled with a rumble of desire he didn't hold back. The feather drifted to the floor even as he knelt between her spread legs, so open to anything he cared to do to her.
Slowly, ever so slowly, he lowered himself over her. His hard cock slid teasingly over her lower lips, wetting itself while her cries and trembling intoxicated his mind and body with desire.
Before she could form the words to beg again he shifted the angle of his hips and pressed forward. As slick and swollen as they were, her outer lips parted easily for him. They pulsed around him, giving a taste of what was to come when he was buried fully in her and his sheath rubbed and pressed her clit into convulsions so near an orgasm he backed off to make the pleasure last.
"Fuck," she groaned, panting hard. She squeezed down around his length; the feel of his barbs against her sensitive flesh was incredible! She arched up, close to his body, her firm breasts pressed against his powerful chest.
She cried out incoherently with each deep thrust that stretched and filled her to capacity. His flesh and fur rubbed her entire body every right way. Despite his attempts to back off, to cool her a bit, it wasn't long before neither of them could control their bodies any more.
Heather cried out, her claws unsheathing slightly into the air above her tied wrists as she came hard around him. Her body spasmed and squeezed at his barbed length as wave after wave of pleasure coursed through her body.
Taller's roar echoed over hers. His body shuddered and tightened, the power of pleasure and instinct that tightened his balls to pour his seed deep into her body also at work across his muscular frame.
"Sweet Bast," Heather murmured, squeezing down around his body. "Mmm ... think you've got enough in you for a second round yet?"
"Yes," he rumbled even as another shiver coursed through his frame and he froze. His ears flicked back, opening to the sound that did not belong in his home; a subtle clink and a door being opened when no one else had a key that would be using it now.
"Something wrong?" She asked with a soft murmur that he didn't have time to respond to with more than a defiant roar of outrage at the stream of intruders that burst into the bedroom, armed with knives and clear intent. Heather let out a frightened half-squeak as her brain caught up with what was going on; they were being attacked, and she was tied to the bed!
Her lover, however, had already pulled himself from her body and turned with a snarl and blaster on the intruders. She could feel into his soul for a moment; the rage on the surface was instantly overshadowed by protective instincts.
One intruder fell to the first shot, a powerful Alsatian male with death in his eyes. Taller didn't get the chance for a second shot, a dark Caracal deftly disarmed him and came back with a vicious slash across the Puma's upper arm.
There wasn't much room for the attackers to gang up on Taller, which was probably the best news he had right now as the fight went claw-to-claw and teeth got involved in an increasingly bloody conflict.
Heather desperately tried to remember to breathe as the odds and the fact that the big Puma was somehow holding his own sunk in. She tried to struggle against her bonds, only to realize as her hands came forward still together that Taller had slashed the silky rope from the bed when he had retrieved his hidden blaster.
She brought her bound wrists forward, taking the rope in her teeth and working her hands free. Taller landed a backhand blow that sent the Retriever who caught it with his head reeling, just as a smaller gray-furred tom tried darting behind the Puma, looking for an opening.
Instincts she didn't even realize she had kicked in as she tried to even the fight out. She kicked up at the tom kat's arm, knocking his knife free.
"Retrieve," she said sharply, focusing on the knife. The tattoos on her shoulder felt like they were burning for an instant as the blade flew into her other hand. Just as the disarmed tom was turning to face her, she lunged up into a sitting position, angling the blade up behind his ribs and leaving Taller to deal with the remaining attacker..
"You'll pay for this!" The Caracal snarled and bolted from the room with a motion of his hand that halted Taller's pursuit for the moment it took him to escape.
Heather heard Taller curse rather fluently in several languages as he stalked back into the bedroom to check on her and the downed attackers. That was when the adrenaline wore off, and she realized she was under the increasingly dead weight of the tom she'd killed. She let out a frightened squawk that brought Taller's attention to her in a hurry. He helped her roll the tom off her body, the knife still lodged deeply in his torso.
"I killed him," she murmured as Taller ignored his own injuries to check on her minor ones.
"Yes," he nodded and kissed her forehead gently. "Thank you."
"You're hurt," she said, trying to focus on something to help suppress her growing sense of panic. "We need to get those cuts taken care of...."
"Are you going to be all right?" He asked softly but firmly. "A CSI team is going to be all over this place soon."
"I'm okay," she nodded. "He might've scratched me after I stabbed him, but I wasn't hurt that badly."
"All right," he nodded and kissed her gently again. "Officers are on guard... we can take a quick shower if you want to clean up and dress before the interviews start."
"That'd be good," she nodded, not having even thought of it yet on her own. "Getting dressed at least. Do you need to do something with him?" She asked, nodding towards the unconscious Retriever, the only one of the attackers who was still there and alive.
"He's not going anywhere." He nodded easily and helped her off the bed and out of the remainder of the soft rope around her wrists. "Handcuffs and officers in the living room will see to that. You worry about yourself."
"All right," she nodded and walked with Taller's silent support into the bathroom for a quick shower. Even with his presence, it was difficult to not shake the entire time.
Louis groaned as consciousness started to come back to him. Damn it; how could he have let that Puma knock him out? At least he was probably dead by now....
No. Not likely.
A hard bed, rough sheets, but soft compared to the floor.
Anger, tightly constrained.
A hospital room?
Maybe the Puma wasn't as dead as he'd been hoping.
A Feral detective standing by the door, glaring at him?
This was so not a good thing.
That much Feral rank standing guard would not be given to just any attacker.
They must have connected him with the distraction.
With a dead Feral bitch. Who carried a badge.
For the first time since he'd helped come up with the plan, he was rather hoping she'd lived through the attack.
Boy was he hoping she'd lived through the attack right about now.
He'd have to stay quiet, keep calm. He wasn't part of the gang they'd hired, and he hadn't hired them, they didn't have any evidence. If he just kept his mouth shut, the Katras would get him out of here.
Or execute him to keep him quiet.
Even so ... it would be a hell of a lot better to be silenced than executed as a traitor.
The very thought of what lay ahead with either fate made him shudder despite his best efforts to be still.
The big Feral didn't come any closer, didn't say anything.
Surely the Enforcer must realize he was awake now?
Maybe he was testing him, seeing if he'd talk first. Well, he could just keep on waiting.
Damn it was unnerving though. Louis sat up a bit, but didn't say a word. Instead, he just worked on piecing together the story he'd use when he had to; one that didn't implicate the Katras.
It was harder than it should be. He could feel the tightly controlled destructive power in his guard's body. The eagerness the tom had to let it loose.
A heavy thump of footsteps drawing near sent them both on alert, the Enforcer more than his prisoner.
Even so, Louis was paying close attention to the sound. It was probably the Enforcer who was going to handle his interrogation. Maybe a doctor coming to wake him up, but that wasn't too likely.
There was the slimmest chance it would be one of Orion's people... but he wasn't going to bet on that. The Caracal would be busy enough explaining why a simple job had resulted in at least one death and one capture.
Of course, if the tide of the fight had turned after he was out, he might also be busy finishing off Hethra. If that was the case, then there was also a missing witness and a second dead Enforcer.
This was going to be a very, very bad day.
The door opened and the day got worse.
It was indeed the Enforcer to do the interrogation, but even if Louis didn't recognize one of the best known Kats in the city, or the number of stripes on his sleeve, the way the guard snapped to attention with a salute was a good indication of who had just walked in with an even less pleasant expression than usual.
Commander Feral was seeing to him personally.
The blood drained from Louis' face and he couldn't help but swallow hard. At this rate, he'd be better off if somebody from the cult just shot him from across the street.
"You are going to tell me everything you know." Feral rumbled with the power of his office and personality fueled fully by the rage of a near dead protégée and an attack on the very heart of Enforcer home-life.
"About what?" Louis half-shrugged, trying to maintain his composure with little success. He'd have to pretend he didn't know a thing about the attack, just the break-in. That he couldn't deny, but there had to be some way of talking around it. "Aren't I supposed to get a lawyer or somethin' before you guys start grilling me?"
"Only for crimes you are being charged for." He rumbled. "I am not questioning you about that. Tell me who organized the attacks."
"Hey, that thing in the apartment wasn't supposed to turn into a fight," Louis said defensively. "Didn't think anybody'd be there."
"Given you started in my niece's apartment and moved to Taller's while hitting none in between gives that lie no credence."
"All right," Louis admitted. They knew about the Lieutenant's apartment ... damn, he'd have to think fast. "All right. Still wasn't supposed to turn into a fight. Riker's a hot-headed bastard, we were just supposed to be in and out of the first apartment, but he smelled what was going on. Should've just dragged him off, but the boss went along with him this time."
"What were you after?" He demanded bluntly, his belief in Louis' words clearly only marginal.
"At the apartment? Somebody hired us to find some files on some big case, said they'd be there. No good; if that's your niece's place, she's better at keeping things under wraps than the guy who hired us thought."
"Who hired you?" He growled with flattened ears.
"I don't know!" Louis said quickly, leaning back and tucking his tail between his legs, half in act, half in real instinctive response to Feral's reaction. "It's how the system works; only the boss talks to the guy signing the checks. All I know is that the guy offered to pay the boss in 'nip, turned him down until we got cash."
"Why did you choose the second apartment you did?"
"I told you, one of my partners smelled what was going on in there, talked the boss into going in with him to see if there was anything to make up for the bust job in the first place. Alsatian, he wound up taking a blaster bolt, and things sorta went nuts from there."
Feral stood fully erect, taking advantage of his natural height and glared at the Kantin to make it very clear that he didn't believe it.
"You need to get better at lying if you want me to believe it." He snapped. "Those apartments are two stories apart."
"What, you think we magically appeared on the roof?" Louis snorted, doing his damnedest to look at least slightly indignant at being called a liar, despite his natural desire to just crawl under the hospital bed and start praying. "We went by it on the way up the building. And no, we didn't take the stairs, we went up the side."
"We found where you came in, and how you got over." Feral retorted a bit smugly despite his annoyance. "Try again."
Louis could tell that there was a very, very thin line left to him before the Commander would decide that it was easier to get a straight answer out of him by beating it out; only the guard by the door had kept him from doing it already. He needed a way to buy some time, preferably without getting killed by either of the two Ferals.
On the other hand, he'd already handed them enough to get him on B&E, aggravated assault, and a dozen other charges connected to the robbery. It would be pushing it, but by the rules, he was supposed to have had a lawyer there long ago.
If there was one thing he might be able to count on saving his ass here, it would be Feral's well-known fondness for the rules. It'd be a hell of a gamble, but it was about the only option he had to keep his teeth without giving them the actual truth.
"Forget it," he muttered. "Unless you're charging me with jaywalking to get over to the building, I've had a lawyer coming for a long time."
"You're right." Feral nodded, the smug look on his face even more unsettling for the confirmation. "You aren't being charged with anything yet. I don't care what you did." He paused and leaned forward with one huge hand on the side of the bed to emphasize his brick wall of an eight-foot frame that was all the more imposing for their relative positions. "But my niece was nearly killed in an attack you know about. You should know me well enough by reputation to realize that nothing will stop me from finding and punishing the ones behind the attack. I know that is the people you work for. You are going to give me the names of those in charge or you are going to find out just what it means to cross the Ferals and then give me those names. It is your choice."
That cinched it. If they did know, there was no way of lying his way out of this. Still, given the choice between the Katra's retribution and the Feral's....
"You couldn't do anything to me that they couldn't do worse," Louis said simply. "And I don't mean legally." The stories of what were done to people who simply failed at a task were enough to confirm that, the last traitor to the Katras ... according to legend, he was still alive, somewhere, being used as the plaything of the Prelate. Several centuries, and Prelates, after his betrayal. "I give you what you're after, you couldn't imagine what they'd do to me."
"After what I've seen, I doubt it." He considered his prisoner more evenly, clearly calmer and more reasonable now that he was hearing the truth ... and something he could work with. "The Katras?"
"That's a name you already know." And they already knew it was connected to the break-in; none of the Oaths forbid confirming that much. "And I don't think you really can understand it, Commander. I'm already dead, the only question left is how long it'll take for me to get that way, and how long after it I'm going to suffer."
"Then you do not understand what I can still offer." The Commander didn't seem at all phased by the revelations or what he seemed to be saying.
Then Louis realized they were alone in the room.
"If you are not inclined to live, I can still ensure a quick, clean death." He regarded his prisoner evenly. "Or for the right price, a trip to a time when you are not wanted by them."
"What," the Retriever snorted, "talk the Past Master into sending me back with his dinosaurs? You think the Katras are just another bunch of nut-job cultists, Commander?"
The big Feral raised an eyebrow and actually chuckled a little darkly. "They are not the only ancient family that still knows power." He commented and turned to leave. "You have until your lawyer arrives to take my offer. Then you will enter the system with the rest of your kind."
"Hold it!" Louis said after a moment, as Feral almost walked out. "What price are you talking about?"
"Everything you know about the Katras and those who tried to kill my niece." He turned to face the tawny Kantin, his face and body emphasizing just how serious he was. "For a one way trip to a time and place of your choice, past, present or future, and a note of acceptance to the local Feral family head."
"I can tell you about the guys who tried to kill your niece, but I don't know much about the Katras," Louis explained. "A couple names, that's it, what they do, but not much that'll help you. I could give you the ones who attacked the convoy though, they were just supposed to distract the Enforcers, not kill any of 'em. Hell, I could probably hand the Paw over to you on a silver platter."
Feral considered him for a moment before he nodded. "Acceptable. Now. How injured are you?"
"A bit roughed up by the guy in that apartment, but it was mostly the head-hit that put me down." Louis looked at Feral a little warily; he wanted to be sure he knew where he stood here. It wasn't that he didn't trust Feral... it was that he didn't trust that the Katras wouldn't find him even in a different time. After all... if the Feral's had a way, why not them? "I give you the Paw, I'm in the clear?"
"And the name of your boss." He nodded.
"I don't know his full name," Louis protested. "All I know is what the cult calls him; they used these weird names, after gods and stuff."
"I can accept that," he nodded. "Get up and get dressed." He opened the door briefly and tossed the package of new clothes onto the bed.
Louis shuddered, looking at the pack of clothes. If he could get away with just turning in the Paw, he'd be fine... hell, he might even be able to return to the Katras, make up for being captured by taking out some of the competition. He started getting dressed, wincing a bit as his cracked ribs ached and worked frantically on what the best course of action was at this point.
It was becoming a little too clear that he was not going to just get handed over to another Enforcer. With what went down, the Commander was likely to be his new best friend until things were over.
Whether he liked it or not.
"I think it would be best if you stayed here until Felina gets back." Taller said softly as the last of the detectives and CSI officers left and he'd doubled-checked the motion detectors and exactly where the on-duty Enforcers were standing outside.
"Probably," Heather nodded. She was still shaken, both by the interviews they'd just gone through, and by the events that had led up to them.
Especially the two bodies that had been carried out.
"Are you feeling okay?" She asked him, not for the first time since the fight.
"The arm and ribs are sore, but it's nothing serious." He assured her again. "I've been hurt much worse and finished my shift before."
"All right," she nodded, moving close to him and nuzzling him lightly. "Thank you. Lucky I came down here today."
"Even if we were interrupted at the worst moment." He chuckled and drew her into his arms on the couch. "You did very good." He murmured and kissed her forehead. "It won't ever sit right, but you saved both our lives today."
"Hmm?" She asked, looking up at him curiously for a moment before it connected. "Oh... you mean the tom. Thank you... I guess. I don't even know what I did, honestly, it all just happened... and he was dead."
"How it happened is less important than that you saved us." He pulled her a little closer and almost into his lap for a gentle embrace and kiss. "You've got some fire in you."
"Thank you," she said softly, returning the kiss and embrace. "Glad you weren't hurt too badly," she murmured. "Think they'll be back?"
"Not today, but we have a guard and motion detectors for a little more warning next time. Any mission that takes out two-thirds of the force gets re-evaluated."
"I hope the one you knocked out can give them something," she shuddered slightly. "Don't like thinking about what would have happened if I'd been alone up in Felina's apartment. I'd rather not have the re-evaluated mission drop in on me alone."
Taller couldn't help but chuckle. "Given today, you're going to have to put some effort into being alone. It's pretty obvious you were the target."
"Anybody following me into the shower or bathroom gets hit," she chuckled, lightening up a bit.
"That's not fair," he feigned a pout. "Showers can be sexy."
"Mmm... maybe I'll make exceptions in a few cases," she giggled, kissing him lightly. "Though only if I know I'm being followed ahead of time."
"A reasonable demand," he nodded with a smile and gently pressed her down against the couch, much like when their love-making had begun but with much less fire and intent.
"This had better not end up like our last time," she rumbled softly, leaning back easily. "Fight aside, if we go that far again, you are not getting that feather anywhere near me."
"Ah, this time I don't think the ropes will come anywhere near either of us for a while." He rumbled and kissed her. "But I think we can both use a little release."
"Very true," she purred, kissing him back. "Your room clear again, or are we giving the guard a show to listen to?"
"Your choice, beautiful." Taller grinned down at her as one hand caressed her side and breasts. "It's not like she has any illusions about what we were up to beforehand."
"No, it isn't," Heather giggled a bit, blushing beneath her fur. "Here works then," she added, as she spread her legs slightly, hooking one up around his own and moaned at the pleasure his rocking hips created.
"Has anyone shown you the pleasures a tongue can bring?" He winked at her with a mischievous grin.
"Not that I remember," she grinned back. "Though I think I can imagine. Maybe you could jog my memory a little, let me return the favor?"
"It would be my pleasure," he licked his muzzle and slid down her body, taking her pants down along the way. "I do love a well-fucked, clean pussy." He murmured with a nuzzle between her legs to encourage her blood to flow there and keep her mind off of what had happened earlier.
Or, at least, the unpleasant parts of earlier.
"You've got one," she mewed softly, pressing up towards his short muzzle as her arousal scent became stronger.
"Oh, I have only begun to show you what 'well fucked' can mean." Taller grinned against her mons, letting his breath ghost across her sensitive sex in a warm breeze.
"I can't wait," she moaned, her breath growing heavier as she reached down to run her fingers through his short hair.
Louis was about ready to claw his way out through the back wall when they finally came for him. Two Enforcer commandos and five others in a variety of civilian and Enforcer uniforms, including a stark white shekat with ice blue eyes that made his blood run cold in the way her presence so closely matched the highest ranking people he served.
"Time to talk, Louis." The larger of the two Feral guards told him gruffly as the door opened.
"Right," he nodded, looking at all of them, the shekat in particular, nervously. She looked like she'd be willing ... and quite possibly able ... to stare down the Prelate.
Did they have somebody in the Enforcers he didn't know about? It wasn't likely, but it was possible, right?
He tried to keep her in sight without being too obvious about it on the elevator ride down and the short walk to a clean, well-kept interrogation room and everyone settled down. The guards by the door, the five interrogators around the table and him in the remaining chair.
"Let us begin with introductions." A big gray-brown tabby spoke first, taking command of the room. "I am Lieutenant Commander Gregory BrightClaw. I am heading this investigation until Lieutenant Commander Feral can take over again."
"Tasha Moure," the white shekat informed him.
"Samir Khan," a massive Tiger rumbled, looking down at him.
"Amy Roberts," a smaller calico shekat said simply. He recognized her, he thought, from years back when he had been half-considering running with a regular gang.
"Robbie Chi," A sleek black Shiba Inu Kantin nodded to him.
"Louis Travit," the Retriever said politely. It was hellaciously unnerving, being here with the five Enforcers. He had no doubt that that was most of the point of it too. The Commander's niece and second-in-command had almost, or maybe had by now, been killed.
And he knew something about it.
How did he get himself into these situations?
"So what do you want to tell us, Louis?" BrightClaw began easily.
"The Bloody Paw posse was behind the attack," he said, getting right to the point. He had to keep calm about this, keep his head. "I can tell you where to find most of 'em when they won't be expecting trouble, and give you the locations of the leaders with a little time. They aren't supposed to be there with the rest of the gang, as far as I know, but I can find the rock they're hiding under."
"You'll have to do it from inside," BrightClaw pointed out. "You have a death warrant out for you the Commander is taking seriously."
"I might only be an initiate, but I know enough to find them from here," Louis shrugged. "We were prepped in case they double-crossed us."
"We need enough to pin their hides to the wall in court." Moure locked him down with a simple glance. "Some will no doubt surrender when the task force arrives."
"What charges do you want them for?" He asked matter-of-factly. "I wasn't there when it happened, but they're not exactly the best at covering their trails."
"He's right about that," Roberts said softly.
"Enough that none of the survivors sees the light of day." BrightClaw rumbled. "We can nail anyone who was in on the attack once we have them. The rest of the gang we don't have so much on."
"Would weapons and drug stockpiles help? Or I could arrange it so you show up at a particularly opportune moment, your pick if you catch the houngan with blood on his hands or save the sacrifice."
The Enforcers exchanged glances, a silent communication between people who knew each other well enough that words are often unnecessary. What they thought of the offer was much less readable to Louis.
"The stockpiles would qualify," BrightClaw nodded. "Particularly if it can be tied to an Omega, even if not strongly. The laws on such crimes are very strict and the punishments acceptable."
Even Louis, not knowing them well, could read between the lines of how short the lives of those convicted would be once they were in the prison system and safely away from making the Enforcers look responsible. Even he knew how easy it was to get killed in the joint when you weren't an Omega.
Hell, the Katras had arranged one or two 'accidents,' the Enforcers could probably do it even easier.
"I can't promise they'll be Omega-connected, but I can definitely find them for you," he said certainly. "You'll find the gang holing up in the Cock's Heart, half of them probably stoned or drunk. The rocket launcher they used will be in the alley next to the back exit, but they'll probably have the rest of their weapons."
"The Cock's Heart?" Roberts asked dubiously.
"Vice knows the place," Khan rumbled simply in response. "Not its official name, but we know it."
"As for the leaders and stockpiles, I'll need some maps and a little time," Louis continued. "Preferably alone."
They exchanged looks again before BrightClaw nodded.
"Which maps do you need?" Moure asked coolly, her sharp, calculating mind already at work and well past the first dozen contingencies to put in place.
"Worst parts of the inner city should do it," he said after a bit of thought for where they would be storing things. "Down to enough detail that I can pinpoint a building for you. Have to start big, work down."
"They will be delivered to your quarters within the hour." She said primly. Her manner so much like an ice queen like the Prelate it was frightening on the same level.
"Thank you," he said, trying to keep the shivers she sent down his spine to a minimum. "I'll have the information for you within a few hours of that."
"We will come for you then," BrightClaw nodded and stood, motioning Louis to go with the guards. He waited until the Lab was well out of earshot before turning to the others.
"He's evil to the core, but he's honest in his desire to hand us the Paw." Moure commented coldly even as she brought up the maps in the inventory and ordered them delivered to the informant.
"I am sure the Commander has plans for him he does not expect." The sleek black Shiba Inu Kantin that had remained silent through the entire meeting finally spoke up.
"That is a given," Moure chuckled, a sound that made even the experienced Enforcers shiver slightly.
"If he can do what he says he can, it's a shame the talents couldn't be put to more willing lawful use," Khan observed. "Beyond that though, he's despicable. He wants to turn the Paw over, but only to save his own hide."
"Agreed," Roberts nodded. "Fruit fell pretty damned far from the tree in his case. But as long as he thinks he can get something out of cooperating, he will. I almost wish I could see his face when he realizes that he's not the only one who's playing people."
"Given that he's admitted to being involved, if indirectly, with that attack, I think that, perhaps, we're better off imagining what will happen when he does," Khan chuckled darkly.
"Shouldn't Felina be back by now?" Heather asked, hours later, after the two of them had stopped for showers and dinner. It had been enough time for her to look at the clock, realize that, even for Felina's shifts, she was running late.
"Probably," he glanced at the clock, though he knew full well what time it was. "She might have gotten caught up with paperwork if something big went down today."
"Something did," Heather said softly. "That attack they've been preparing for ... I'm pretty sure it was today." The memories of the vision they'd hoped to change came flooding back to her. They'd taken pains to make sure things didn't happen the same way ... they couldn't have happened the same way, she was sure of it.
"What if she was hurt in the attack?" She asked, almost rhetorically. "If it happened today, it would probably be in the news, right?"
"That depends on what else happened today," he shook his head and stood up. "And how quiet the Commander is keeping it. Her reputation aside, even Ann Gora concedes to his wishes when she doesn't capture it live."
"So the only way to find out is to wait?" Heather asked, sighing. Felina should be fine; she'd known it was coming, known what they'd be up against as well as anybody could. They should all be fine, not like what she'd seen.
"If you don't have any contacts on the inside, yes." He nodded and picked up the phone. "Hey, Sara." He began, only to fall silent.
Heather listened silently; the entire apartment filled with a sort of dead, apprehensive stillness, only the faint sound of the shekat on the other end of the line breaking it.
When Taller finally hung up his face was grim and body tense as he turned to face her.
"Felina lead a counter-ambush mission today. It succeeded, but several Enforcers were badly injured."
"She was one of them, wasn't she?" Heather asked, despite somehow already knowing the answer. "Is she...?"
"Yes, she's injured. No one died though." He shook his head. "She'll be in the hospital for a few days though."
"Are you sure you're telling me everything?" She asked after a few moments. "If she's letting them keep her there, she has to be in pretty rough shape."
"I expect so," he nodded. "She's as difficult as any Feral to keep in there. But I don't know."
"Do you know if they're letting anybody see her?" The Caracal asked quietly. "I... I think I can help her."
"How?" He focused on her sharply, knowing just how difficult it was going to be to make it happen without a hell of a trump card to play.
"Magic," she admitted. "My... whatever it is that I was trained to do before, I've started to do it again. The counter-ambush was stopping an attack I saw happening when Felina and I were in the mountains, only in the vision she died. In the fight earlier, I managed to pull the knife to me, I didn't pick it up... I can help her, Taller, I know it."
He nodded, watching her thoughtful as he tried to think of who to call to even try to arrange this. It wasn't like he could call the Commander himself, even if he knew how, and Felina was one of his few real friends in the family.
"If you can't come up with any way to get me into her room, just get me there, let me worry about the rest," Heather suggested quietly. "I don't need long."
"The real question is getting out of the apartment without loosing my badge," he shook his head. "You are in protective custody, you know."
"It's not like I'd be leaving on my own," she pointed out. "If we brought the officer outside along with us, and you, it wouldn't be that much more dangerous than staying here with the two of you as long as we didn't do anything crazy."
"Try convincing the Commander of that." He sighed with a shake of his head. "You're his niece's pet investigation right now, and that will make you his pet project until she's better. Let me make a few calls before you go trying to sneak out, okay?"
"All right," she sighed. "Doesn't he have a secretary or something?"
"Do you actually think he's going to talk to me when Felina is in the hospital?" He looked at her dubiously. "He's probably 'interrogating' what's left of the attackers now."
"If you know anybody else to get in touch with, go ahead," she said easily. "But if he's the only one who could okay it, then one of us is going to have to talk to him."
"The idea is to get someone who will talk to me and he will listen to to get him to okay it." Taller chuckled. "It's how you get to the top when you aren't near it. It's just Felina is my usual contact."
"I hope you can find another one soon," Heather sighed. "I'll let you work on that, do the dishes while you're figuring it out."
"That hopefully won't take long," he nodded and turned to the phone to work on getting Feral's okay before things got dangerous for his career.
Heather hopped out of the helicopter that had brought her to Serenity Thorn along with Taller, who had gotten down just before her. The Puma had managed to get through to the Commander about a half-hour before, and just a few minutes after they'd explained what she thought she could do, three helicopters had arrived, loaded with Enforcer commandos. Even now, their escort was in the air above the chopper they'd landed in.
Taller and Heather, followed closely by a pair of the commandos who'd come with them, hurried into the hospital ICU waiting room. The Caracal's eyes went wide as she saw the Commander there, waiting for them with clear impatience and clear worry to her sixth sense.
She'd seen him in pictures and on television before, of course, even in the time since she'd started rebuilding her memories. She just hadn't really thought of him as being as impressive as he was, even after all that had happened.
It was one thing to see pictures of him towering head, shoulders and some over everyone around him, even the picture of him head and some over Felina, but to see it in person it drove home that only part of his personal power was from his rank and size.
He had a natural aura of command that even in these conditions was impossible to overlook.
It was impossible for Heather to miss how similar he was to Felina either; only older and more jaded.
She could feel him asses her even as she was staring at him in a bit of shock and Taller summed up his courage to commit to introductions.
"Commander, this is Heather." He began with as much smoothness as he could manage.
"I gathered as much." The giant tom nodded curtly, cutting him off. "The doctor will show you to her." Feral addressed Heather directly. "I will be watching."
"I understand," Heather nodded, trying to seem more confident than she felt. Even with the magic she'd done so far, it seemed unbelievable to think of using it. "Though, with all due respect, it would be best if you were the only one. I don't know how the doctors would respond. Which room is hers?"
An unpleasant frown promising much pain for those responsible crossed his face before the doctor, a pure black tom without a hair of color on him, answered. "She is still in ICU. She is not yet stable enough to be moved to a room."
"If you can heal her, do it." Feral rumbled with pent up anger.
"I will," Heather nodded, walking into the ICU and finding her way back to Felina's bed. She bit her lip when she saw the unconscious shekat; she'd taken a hell of a beating.
Fur was scorched in some places, mostly hidden by bandages. Somehow, the Caracal knew instinctively that there were broken bones and internal injuries that were near the limit of what even Serenity Thorn could handle reliably. Felina would probably live through this without her help ... probably ... but it would be months, at least, before she could get back on the front lines.
"I will," Heather repeated softly to herself. She had to. She gently put a hand on Felina's forehead, one of the few exposed areas on her body. It was so much like her vision she was almost afraid that she'd do something wrong, push Felina over the edge.
No. She couldn't do that.
"Hethra," she murmured softly, "light in the darkness, bring day to the false night your sister has brought to this warrior." She could almost feel the haze of death energy in the building ... too many people had died here, it wasn't helping Felina at all. There was life energy as well, the brightest in the room Felina's own, buried deep inside of her, fighting to be given the chance to recover.
"Lady Isis," Heather continued quietly, "bringer of life, restoration of the wrongfully slain, I ask a share of your power, to restore one harmed through the malice of another." Her own energies started to gather around her, and the more of the prayer she uttered, the more confident she felt that she could do this. She knew what she was saying ... knew what she was doing. As she continued the prayer, she began to speak in one language after another, the words coming to her mind, moving further and further back through the history of kat-kind.
While she did so, slowly, Felina's vitals started to improve. Her blood pressure rose gradually, and the battery of monitors hooked up to her all began to register more normal numbers.
A small corner of Heather's mind was grateful that no one interrupted her. No one spoke. No one even seemed to breath, except for the shekat in the bed
She could feel the surprise from everyone, the guarded relief from Feral, the smile Taller wore behind her back.
By the time the words ended in her mind, Felina's vitals were notably better, and despite the fuzz of fur that was growing in to replace the burned sections, it would be some time before her brown eyes opened again.
"Thank you," Heather said softly, taking her hand back and swallowing hard. She felt a little woozy, the world around her still blended between the magic she had seen and the real world. She could feel that she'd used a portion of her own strength to reinforce Felina's, but she could spare it.
"I've done all that I can for now," she said more firmly, looking at her small audience. "I hope it helps."
"Whatever you did, lady, probably cut months off of her recovery time." The black-furred doctor said with a guarded respect. "Can you do that for anyone?"
"I don't know," she admitted. "I should be able to, but this is the first time I can remember doing it clearly."
"Before you get too excited, doc, she's in protective custody." Taller broke in. "She can't just drop in whenever you want."
"Yes, yes, but even a few visits could save Enforcers we couldn't otherwise." He countered.
"I'm willing to try," Heather said softly, looking over at the Commander, leaning over his niece. She wished she'd been able to do more, for both of them, but she couldn't remember anything that would do it. "I'm not sure how much good I can do, but I'll do what I can."
"Understood," the doctor nodded easily, glancing at the Commander for a moment before he focused on the tawny-furred pair again. "Do you think you can help the near-dead or the crippled more?"
"Compared to each other, or more than Felina?" Heather asked, thinking. "I can't restore a missing limb, or change something somebody was born with."
"Who would benefit the most from your talent?" He rephrased his question. "Given the limited number of people you can even try to help, choosing who is the most likely to benefit from it is important."
"The near dead, most likely," she said softly. "Maybe we should talk about this somewhere else?"
"Yes, yes, of course." He nodded quickly and led her to an office nearby. The Commandos positioned themselves inside and out to give the best response time to any threat.
"I'm sorry," she said as they entered the office, "I just thought we should talk somewhere we wouldn't bother the Commander."
"Don't be sorry, kitten." He smiled and patted her shoulder supportively. "I'm Dr. Black. That was a very amazing thing you did in there. I have no doubt you took months off of her recovery, and the entire staff of Thorn and the Enforcers are very grateful for it. An injured Feral is an evil thing to endure for both sides."
"It sounds like it," she agreed, shaking her head. "Even Felina admits to that much. And she's the sort who takes to it worse than most, I'd bet. What happened to her, if you can say? She looked ... well, she looked like she'd been in her jet when it blew up."
"She was caught by a high explosive blast." He shook his head. "It's testament to the Feral constitution and will to live that she made it as well as she has. Three others in that group may never go back to field duty. You turned her 'maybe' into a 'will' be returning. It's a good debate who will be more pleased with the news."
"Is there any way I could help the others?" The Caracal asked. "It could be a good place to find out whether or not I can help others."
"It would be welcomed." He nodded. "This way," he touched her arm slightly under the watchful gaze of both the Commando and Taller. Despite their looks, she followed him easily, the two close behind as she hoped, deep down, that she'd be able to do something for them.
"Okay, that's it." Taller told both Heather and Dr. Black much more firmly than he had any technical right to despite the nearly limp Caracal in his arms.
"I'm sorry," she murmured, her breath coming in deep, heaving breaths. Five more of the injured Enforcers had a better chance of recovering now, though several more were still badly hurt, whether from the firefight earlier in the day or, more often, from older battles. "Think Taller's right this time."
"Do stop saying sorry for doing a good thing." Taller sighed slightly. "Come on, let's get back to the apartment and get you in bed."
"Too much left," she whispered, trying to stay on her feet. She felt like she'd just run up all thirty-five flights of stairs at the apartment without stopping for a break.
"Focus on who you have helped, Heather, not who you could not." Dr. Black told her firmly. "You have helped many lives today."
"Counting the nurses who won't have to deal with Felina for as long?" She chuckled weakly. "Thank you," she said more seriously.
"And the mates and children and squad-mates of those you healed," he added just as seriously. "You rest. The best doctors are those with an alert mind. I look forward to the next time they let you out."
"I'm sure it will be sooner than either Feral would want." Taller chuckled and picked Heather up in his arms to carry her.
"You can have a wheelchair." Dr. Black offered.
"I'm fine," he smiled back. "She's light and it's just to the chopper." Heather, for her part, couldn't respond; she'd just managed to doze off in Taller's arms.
NC-17 for M/F
Het Level is Low Het Smut Level is Low Slash Level is Femslash Level is Low Herm Level is None
260 KB, Story is Closed-Unfinished, Series is Closed-Unfinished
Written November 13, 2004 by Rauhnee Ranshanka and Karl Wolfemann
Setting: SWAT Kats
Primary Races: Kantin, Kat, Xanith
Contents: Furry. Het (M/F). Femslash (F/F). Death, Supernatural, Torture
Pairings: Heather/Taller Windbright
Blurb: When Felina answers the screams for help in a park one night, she becomes the target of an ancient dark power along with the young shekat she rescues.
Disclaimer: All things taken directly from the sources listed under 'Fandoms' belong to the owners of those shows. No harm is intended and we're definitely not making any money. Now, the things we created are ours, and if you see 'Non-FanFic' up there, it's probably all ours.
Page Hit Count from July 21, 2007