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All characters, concepts and settings not directly mentioned in the cannon and copyright 2008 to James Coughtrey. All items recognisable from the cannon are copyright James Patterson.

Kit-Cat

I could hear the steady squeak of the approaching trolley; they were coming for us, me and my sister. I looked at Sophie huddled in her own cage through the bars of mine, she hadn’t heard them yet, she just sat nestled in her wings staring into space. She shouldn’t have to be going through this; we’d been kidnapped about a month ago by a group of so called scientists, we’d been taken away from our family, put in cages and recently crossed with animals.

My claws sprang out of their sheaths when I thought about this. Yes the crossing with animals worked, there were eighteen other kids in the same room as us at the beginning of the month but now they were all dead, only Sophie and me worked. She got crossed with a bird and I picked a tiger out of the species lucky dip. I have fur, fangs, claws, a tail, big rounded cat ears and what felt like a short muzzle, and according to Sophie my eyes are now yellow.

The door to the room opened and two White Coats wheeled the trolley inside. I growled fiercely at them, out of the corner of my eye I saw Sophie cower inside her cage; she shouldn’t have to be going through this, it was my job to protect her, I’d been doing that since she was born.

The White Coats stopped in front of us and one mimed making a decision between us. I growled louder, as if he didn’t already know, they’d requested one of us for ‘tests’, and he knew even if we didn’t.

“Her,” he said pointing at me; I showed more fang and growled louder. They manhandled my cage on the trolley, the smart ass White Coat got his hand too close to the bars and I lashed out at him, one of my claws biting deep into his finger.

“They’re in for a challenge,” he observed dryly, sucking his finger. I grinned, I hoped it got infected. Sophie in her cage whimpered in fear. I wasn’t surprised, the last time they took us for ‘tests’ Sophie got strapped to a table and I got a black eye, though I did put an Eraser in the infirmary.

“Don’t give up Soph,” I mouthed at her as they wheeled me away, she just sat there whimpering. I didn’t know whether I wanted to hug her or kill everyone in the building for doing this to us, maybe both.

“Bloody thing scratched me,” one of the White Coats grumbled sucking the tip of his finger, once we were out of the room and the door was closed securely behind us. I growled again, they didn’t let us talk but growling isn’t talking and almost as satisfying.

“So where now?” I snarled, I wasn’t really expecting an answer, but what the hell, talking annoys them.

“You’ll see soon enough,” the one I scratched said, rapping the bars of my cage with his cattle prod and grinning almost as viciously as me. “And no talking.” I growled again, I really hated him. We passed the door to the lab where they did all the experiments and I breathed a sigh of relief. Though knowing the White Coats, they had something even more nasty planned.

They opened a door and pushed the trolley inside and then dropped my cage on the floor with a bone shaking crash. They have never put my cage down gently, though I should probably be more annoyed about the whole cage thing more than anything else.

“Out,” said the other White Coat menacingly, unlatching my cage and rapping his cattle prod on the top of my cage, sending a tingle down my spine. I growled a curse and pushed open the door and slipped out, ignoring just how easy it was to walk on all fours.

“Now let’s see just how vicious you really are,” he said grinning and backed out of the door holding the cattle prod between us at all times. I growled again, seriously thinking of pouncing anyway but I’d learned after all the little ‘tests’ they’d done just how much those things hurt. The White Coat stepped out of the room and pressed something on the wall and the door slid shut, the smug smirk never leaving his face.

I stopped growling with a sigh and looked around. It looked like I was in a cloak room of some sort. Totally empty of course, so no chance of finding a weapon, but the real question, why leave me here? I got unsteadily to my feet, really unsteadily, I couldn’t get used to what they’ve done to my feet. I took a tentative step forwards and fell flat on my face.

“Stupid paws,” I snarled getting back on all fours; it was easier, I could learn to walk properly later; and went to check out the door.

It was useless though, an ugly key pad lock crouched on the wall next to the door, and no way that was going to open. I rested my hands next to the lock and regarded it angrily, wondering if I hit it hard enough it would open. Suddenly there was a pneumatic hiss from behind me and I whirled, only just keeping my feet, but it was just a second door opening emitting a bright shaft of sunlight.

I smiled slightly, that was probably my first sight of the sun since the Erasers captured us, so long ago now. I didn’t move though, just stayed frozen, tensed, and waiting for something to come through that door, probably an Eraser with a gun given my luck.

A full thirty seconds passed. Nothing. I took a tentative step towards the door. Still nothing. Another step. Zilch. I couldn’t hear anything either, just the whisper of the wind as it slipped past the open door. They couldn’t be letting me out could they? I squashed that thought before it could take root. What they’d done was illegal on too many levels just too let us go. I’d have to escape on my own if I wanted out.

I reached the door and, after a moment’s hesitation, stuck my head out and glanced around quickly taking a deep breath of free air. The world had more scents than I remembered, probably to do with being part cat now, though it was still poisoned by the rank of antiseptic. I couldn’t see anyone, just the edge of the building and grass fading into forest two hundred yards away. Oh, and a large enclosure made of fencing topped with razor wire attached to the side of the building, which I was slap bang in the middle of.

I took a step outside and immediately regretted it as the door slammed shut behind me almost catching my tail. Great now I was probably going to be picked off from a window or something. I walked slowly around my enclosure, looking for a way out I guess, it was about fifty yards square and had just been put up judging from the disturbed earth by the fence.

I spun around as I heard the door open and two Erasers emerged, attempting to walk nonchalantly, and failing miserably I might add.

“Hello kitty,” one said smiling horribly and showing his too large teeth. I snarled, the corners of my mouth lifting to show my own fangs. They started to walk towards me, still trying to look casual; I think I fazed them though because they tensed, ready to move at a moments notice.

“It’s not kitty,” I told them with a growl, taking a few steps from the fence. My tail flickered in the edge of my vision, probably in annoyance; I’m still not used to the stupid thing.

“You look like a kitty cat to me,” he shot back menacingly.

“And you look like some ugly mutt,” I snarled in response. “But we can all have our good days.”

“You’re dead kitty!” yelled the touchy Eraser who began to morph.

“Kit!” I hissed, throwing myself forward onto all fours and sprinting towards him. The shock registered on his ugly face, halfway between man and wolf, a half second before we collided. Not nearly enough time. I leapt towards him baring my claws, hitting him in the chest and knocking him over like a skittle. He yelled in pain and surprise as I brought my legs up and dug my claws deep into his stomach. I clung on desperately as he toppled over and was almost thrown off when he crashed to the ground like a tree trunk.

He lay there looking stunned, seeing stars. I didn’t pause. I unhooked my claws from his chest and delivered a quick punch between his eyes. Something cracked and his eyes rolled back in his head a trickle of blood flowing out of his muzzle.

I took a deep breath which turned into a hiss of surprise as I dodged a blow from the Erasers buddy that I only just heard coming. I struck out wildly with a forepaw and sliced though his jacket as he leapt backwards and then snapped at his arm as he raised it defensively. He scrabbled at a holster that lay empty at his side and backed away as I untangled myself from his fallen friend.

“Nice kitty?” he said hopefully, trying to smile, something totally ruined by his overlarge canines. Genuine panic shone in his eyes, he wasn’t even trying to transform fully. I growled again, tensing to spring and digging my claws further into the unconscious Eraser, fresh blood welling up under my claws.

“N-nice…” he started and then bolted for the door. He got about five paces before I caught up with him, leaping on his back and hooking my claws deep into his flesh. He screamed in terror and then in agony as I bit into his neck. He stumbled and then fell to the ground still screaming for help, I bit down harder and shook him like a doll. Something gave way under my jaws and there was a sickening crack. He stopped struggling and went limp.

I got slowly to my feet, wiping the blood from my mouth and pulling my tail out from under him, how he managed to fall on it I’ll never know. There was a yell of rage from the door and I whirled round to see five Erasers rushing towards me. Great. I took a few hesitant steps backwards as they rushed at me, spreading out slightly in order to surround me. A snarl picked up in my mouth as I flicked my head backwards and forwards, trying to keep them all in my field of vision.

I don’t know how it happened but somehow I stumbled and lost my footing thanks to my new feet. I landed hard on my butt and hit my head on the fence making the razor wire jingle.

“Shi…” I started then was cut off as the Erasers charged, the middle one drawing ahead of the others and pulling his fist back ready to strike. I threw myself forwards, darting through his legs and lashing out at his calves, my claws tearing through skin and muscle. He bellowed in pain and then toppled over backwards crashing into the ground like a tree trunk. I accelerated away, just avoiding him falling on me. The other Erasers scrambled to turn around as I shot past, one falling over in his haste. It would have almost been comical if they hadn’t been trying to kill me.

I came around sharply; digging my claws into the earth to stop myself from overbalancing and then picked the closest Eraser and charged at him. He saw me coming and bared his own claws, still halfway through morphing. I leapt into the air, going for his head. The shock registered on his face and he tried to throw himself out of my way. He managed it; just. My paw clipped his muzzle, gouging out long strips of flesh and sent me spinning out of control, smashing into the ground and rolling over and over.

I lay there for a stunned second and then a dark shape loomed over me. The Eraser kicked me hard in the ribs with a heavy booted foot and the breath rushed out of me. I leapt away from him, rolling on to my front and scrabbling to my feet. He lashed out again, this time aiming for my head. I threw myself to one side and then bit deeply into his leg as he tried to recover his balance, not stopping until I reached bone.  He screamed in pain and flailed wildly, trying to shake me off. Something gave and I went skidding away, taking a chunk of his leg with me. I spat it out in disgust, Erasers really don’t taste nice.

I heard heavy footfalls from the building and saw another eight Erasers running towards me. This was getting out of hand, not to mention the two now fully Eraserfied ones stalking towards me. I looked round anxiously; the fence was at least twice my height but the only other way out was back into the lab, so fence it was. I caught a flicker of movement in the corner of my eye and saw an Eraser struggling to his feet right by the fence. Maybe I could jump it with a springboard.

One of the Erasers dived at me, his overlarge claws scything through the air. I accelerated away, neatly dodging a kick from his comrade and charged at the rising Eraser. He heard me coming, whipping round and wincing when he put weight on his bleeding legs. He didn’t have time to do anything though and didn’t even try to, just stood his ground, rage burning in his eyes. No one has ever accused Erasers of being smart.

I hit him hard, digging my claws into his chest and pushing up with all my might. He fell backwards and I soared into the air clearing the razor wire by scant inches and even then nicking my tail on the way down. I hit the ground running, ignoring the bellows of rage from the Erasers, and dashed for the trees. There was a muffled bang from somewhere behind me and something embedded itself in the earth in front of me. ‘A dart,’ I realised before I’d whipped past it, still accelerating, amazed at just how fast I was running.

I crashed into the forest a few seconds later.

Free.

Break In

I crouched in the bushes waiting, watching. The lab squatted on the top of a low hill, somehow managing to seem more sinister than Dracula’s castle. Most of the windows were dark but I didn’t move. I was cold, wet, hungry, and it had been five days since I escaped this nightmare of a place, but I wasn’t even going to try and go home until I’d got Sophie out.

Hours crawled past; I didn’t move, just waited for it to get dark enough for me to risk breaking in. There were cameras mounted strategically on all the walls, hopefully they didn’t have an infrared setting but even so there was a blind spot running right up to the building every two minutes. So I sat, and waited, and watched.

And ran.

I sprinted out of the bushes; I had about ten seconds to cover two hundred yards. I could do it, I could outrun anything on all fours. The cameras were all pointed in the other direction, I just had to run and I’d be safe.

I past the mid point with about four seconds to go, I should have stretched before I’d started, my legs were half asleep. I ran faster, the building was coming up fast but I couldn’t slow down, no time. Three seconds, I was going to make it. I had to make it. Two, the wall was rushing towards me but I could see the cameras swinging back around, couldn’t stop. One second.

I dug my claws into the turf to stop myself, skidded, spun round once and hit the wall hard. I pressed myself against the side of the building, looking out towards the forest, gasping for breath. No alarms wailed; no Erasers came out to investigate; the cameras whirred as they continued their slow sweep. I relaxed, taking a deep breath; that had been too close. My back yelled at me for crashing it against a wall as the adrenaline filtered its way out of my system. That was so going to hurt in the morning but I couldn’t worry about that just then.

I peeled myself from the wall and inched my way along the side of the building, ducking under the windows. After a little while, I finally found a darkened window and suddenly realised I didn’t have a clue how I was going to get in. I ran a claw down the window and barely made a scratch, the frame was plastic so maybe I could rip that off, but then again it wasn’t double glazed. I growled slightly, this was going to hurt a lot as well, and balled my fist. I checked where the catch was, pulled back my arm and put my hand through the window.

There was the tinkle of broken glass but nothing else, no alarms, no investigating voices; maybe a silent alarm had been set off though, so I had to move quickly. I opened the window wide and stuck my head in, inhaling deeply and looking around for a camera. There was one; nestling in the shadows above a bookshelf but thankfully it was pointed towards the door.

I slipped into the room, wincing as I realised I’d gashed my hand when I’d broken the window, yet another thing I would have to worry about later. I recognised the room as an office almost immediately, computer, desk, bookshelf, not large but home to… I took a deep draught of the scents in the room, a middle aged woman with two kids, who’d hopefully gone home for the night. But first things first, I climbed up the bookcase and sliced the wire coming out the back of the camera with a claw.

Someone would have noticed that, but hopefully they wouldn’t send anyone to fix it for a while. There was light spilling out from under the door and I pressed an ear against it. I couldn’t hear anything so I cracked open the door and winced as the light seared my eyes; there are some things I like about having night vision and some things I definitely don’t.

I was right, the corridor was deserted and just as bad as I remembered it, bare white walls with constant reek of antiseptic. Fiery pits of damnation have nothing on this. I took a step out and froze; there was a familiar scent in the air. I closed my eyes to concentrate better. There; faint, weak, crisscrossed with other scents but there; two, three days ago tops. I would recognise it anywhere, a mix of dirty feathers, Sophie’s own personal scent, and fear, lots of fear.

I growled; she must have been terrified for her scent to stick around for that long; I was going to make them pay for what they did to us. The trail ran both ways down the corridor but it had been far to long to be able to tell which way she had gone, so I picked a direction at random, right, and followed it.

After a few minutes I heard the tread of shoes on tiles and then an angry muttering coming straight at me.

“Fix the camera they say,” a voice grumbled, echoing down the corridor. “Sure, pick on the new guy. Heavens forbid I could actually get any work around here.”

I looked around frantically, picked the nearest door, and pressed my ear against it, listening for half a second and when I couldn’t hear anything flinging it open and rushing inside just in time. I leant against the door and breathed a deep sigh of relief as I heard the footsteps pass and then fade into the distance. I looked around the room, some kind of flashy lab, very sleek, very expensive looking; I could probably cost them millions if I smashed this place. I shouldn’t though, seeing as I was on a stealth mission.

It was at that point, I spotted the camera looking right at me. I swore, there was no chance in hell they would just mistake me for a lab worker, what with the fur, fangs and tail. I bolted, ripping open the door and dropping onto all fours to run faster. If I could stay away from the cameras they wouldn’t know where to send the Erasers and I could still rescue Sophie.

I tore down the corridor; I just had to find one person in a building full of Erasers and then sneak out without being killed. It was still simple; I just had to keep telling myself that. On cue two Erasers rounded the turn at the end of the corridor and looked at me in surprise for about half a second and then charged, one reaching for a radio. I picked him and accelerated, digging my claws into the tiles and launched myself at the Eraser. I caught him in the chest with one paw and with the other caught him right in middle of his forehead and bore him to the ground.

His head hit the tiles with a crack and his partner yelled in surprise. I didn’t stop – new plan: find Soph and run for it. I came to a T junction, took a guess as to which way Sophie’s scent went and got lucky. I had to find her; I just had to find her. Suddenly the trail stopped and I skidded to a halt, my claws skittering on the tiles and backed up to where I’d lost her. The trail lead through a door, the door to the cage room if I remembered correctly. I swallowed hard; I never wanted to see that place again but Sophie could be right behind that door.

I slipped into the room, the lights were off but that hardly mattered. The cages were empty, just sitting there waiting for their next occupant. They looked even smaller from the outside; had I really spent two weeks in one of those? I snarled, Sophie wasn’t here, I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not, maybe she had escaped on her own? I smashed my fist against one of the cages in frustration, futile but satisfying. She was probably at the other end of the trail and between us there were a whole facility of Erasers.

I sat down in the middle of the room to think, there were cameras in the room but hopefully they couldn’t see in the dark, there must have been a reason they kept the lights on twenty-four seven beyond simple cruelty. I didn’t have long, they would look in here sooner or later, it was just common sense that I would come back here. I wondered how heavy those cages were. Quite heavy as I found out when I piled them up in front of the door, though that did mean I had to find another way out.

I found another door at the other end of the room but it just lead into a small storeroom but it was what in the storeroom that was important.

“Finally,” I said, with deep relief. “Clothes.” I could finally get out of the filthy gown they’d put me in, I’d been wearing my favourite T-shirt when they took us as well, maybe that was here. I dug through the vast piles of clothes scattered around the room. Just how many kids had they done this to and how long had they been doing it for? It was staggering. I found my old clothes at the bottom of a huge pile, my not so lucky anymore black T-shirt and jeans and pulled them on gratefully. I found my school backpack in a heap of others and emptied it onto the floor; it wasn’t like I’d ever need my school stuff again anyway.

The main door banged against the cages as someone tried to open it. Time to get out of here. I grabbed Sophie’s old clothes and some stuff that looked like it might fit me and cast my eyes around the room. There was a grill near the ceiling that I could probably squeeze through and that was probably my best option. I began unscrewing it carefully with a claw, in the other room I heard the cages shift as someone tried to force the door open. I couldn’t hurry though.

The third screw dropped to the floor and I moved on to the last one as the cages toppled in the other room, any second now. The screw fell away as the lights flickered on and I ripped the vent off the wall. I pushed my rucksack through the hole and slipped through after it before resting the cover back on the hole. Hopefully they wouldn’t look too closely. Then I dragged myself way away from the grill, it would hardly have been a great escape if my tail had given me away.

“She’s not in here!” I heard a gravely voice bellow. Perfect, now to find Sophie and get the hell out of here.

Venting

It turns out vents are narrower than in movies, but at least I gave the Erasers the slip. Unless of course they were planning something nasty for me but I’d deal with that when it came up. I crawled round yet another corner. My elbows were bruised black and blue and I’d already whacked my head half a dozen times. It turns out tigers were not meant for vents. I groaned as I saw a fan spinning lazily in front of me. That was it; I was getting out of there; besides backing up in a vent is almost impossible.

I looked around, there was a grill to my left but light was filtering through it. I’d just have to risk being caught then; I couldn’t stand much longer in the vents anyway. I put my ear to the grill, footsteps, voices, not Eraser though, human, definitely human. I unscrewed the screws, only possible because no one ever thought to cover them from the inside, I’d gotten some quite nasty scratches from some of the others, but this time I was glad of it.

The grill came away and I quietly pulled it into the vent, I could hear the voice more clearly now, someone talking on a cell phone, I recognised the voice and not in a good way, as my hackles rose.

“I don’t care how she got away,” the voice, a man, snapped. “Just find her.” Good, they didn’t know where I was. There was a pause then he spoke again.

“Well then, get her out of there. Turn up the fans and blow her out, or something.” Okay, maybe they had some idea of where I was.

“Well how was I supposed to know that only works in movies. I’m a geneticist not an air-conditioning repairman.”

I dropped out of the vent and landed silently on the tiles, I took one look around the room and realised in horror it was the tank room, the place where they done this to us. I forced myself not to snarl, I wasn’t going to give myself away, but if this was the tank room that meant that he was… I took a deep breath for the first time. The room stank of fear, so much fear, how long had they been to this to kids, months, years, decades? It didn’t matter, the man who had done this to us was standing right in front of me, it would be so easy to kill him, claw, fang, fist, I could snap him like a twig.

But I had to save Sophie.

“Fine,” he barked into his phone. “Just tell me when you get an update on the situation.” He snapped the phone shut. “Idiots,” he muttered. “Can’t they catch one little girl.”

I grabbed him, wrenching his arm behind him and sending the phone skittering across the floor, I pinned his other arm to his side and brought my claws to his throat.

“Can you?” I growled. I was so close I could practically taste him, his scent filled my nostrils, I could hear his breathing steady and calm and his heart thudding in his chest. It would be so easy to kill him, but I think he was in charge, he would know where Sophie was.

“Ah,” he said slowly. “Kitty, I presume.”

“Kit,” I corrected menacingly, the Erasers had been calling me that for five days now, and I was sick of it. For a start, I’m a tiger not some kitty cat.

“Ah, you’re very much like your sister aren’t you?” he asked, his voice still perfectly calm, as if he were the one in control.

“Where is she?” I growled, if he’d laid one hand on her.

“She’s dead,” he told me simply, heart racing. I dug my claws a little way into his neck.

“No she’s not,” I said darkly, hearing his heart race. “You’re lying. Where is she?”

“Very sharp aren’t you my dear.” I growled. I’ll just assume he wasn’t talking about the claws. “We don’t know where she is. She’s gone to ground; we don’t have a lead or a trail.” There was definitely a lie in there somewhere but I didn’t know where. I’d just have to be wary.

“If you’ve hurt her…” I began, leaving the rest to his imagination. I would have made a cut throat gesture but that would have involved him dying, horribly. Maybe later.

“She was fine last time I saw her. But what about you? Chest pains, trouble breathing, shooting pain in your limbs?”

“Why the sudden interest in my health,” I snarled. “You should really be interested in your health.”

“Ah, threats,” he said with a slight sigh. “Have we really come to that?” I twisted his arm further behind his back. “So we have. Can I assume from this the rewriting process was a success?”

“I am not just some experiment,” I said growling.

“My dear,” he said loftily. “You are the experiment. One of the first recoded, and I see you have been enjoying your gift.”

“Enjoying,” I said, my voice shaking. “Enjoying! I have been on the run for the last five days, you took me and Sophie away from our family, I have blood on my claws, I have been sleeping in a ditch and I have been discovering the joys of eating raw rabbit. Tell me which part I should be enjoying.” I was snarling with rage at this point, my claws tightening around his throat and pulling his arm further behind his back. I was enjoying that at least.

“Maybe you should be enjoying experiencing something no other human has ever experienced,” he suggested, as if this was obvious. My snarl deepened and I pulled harder on his arm, something snapped and suddenly it went limp, he hissed in pain but stayed standing; having claws pressed against your neck keeps you upright.

“Of course,” he said raggedly, after a moments pause. “You’re not really human any more, are you?”

“I’m still human,” I said coldly. That was too far, he was the one that did this to me. Him! He was the monster not me.

“Really my dear. The blood running down my shirt; my almost certainly broken arm; the monster snarling at my back; all say otherwise.”

“Are you trying to make me kill you?” I asked slowly, trying to keep my calm. It wasn’t like I needed any help killing him anyway.

“No my dear. I’m just trying to keep you talking.”

My eyes widened suddenly as I realised what he’d done. The door behind me banged open and the White Coat rammed his head into mine as I tried to slice his throat so I only caught a few layers of skin. I dropped him and whirled, the bastard had pressed a silent alarm. He crumpled to the ground behind me, but I was focused on the Eraser sanding in the door with a long barrelled rifle.

I bared my fangs at him; one of us would have to move first, the gun was pointed at the ground. Maybe I could reach him in time, if I moved first, well no time for second guessing. I charged at him, he was too close to bother going on all fours so I just ran. His eyes widened in shock; that’s one thing, the Erasers never expect to be attacked, and he tried to bring the gun up in time. He failed and I crashed into him as he was still raising the gun and tore at his chest with my claws. The gun went off and something bit into my leg, I snarled but kept fighting, hitting open handed across the face.

He fell to the floor with a thud and I stood unsteadily above him facing a corridor full of Erasers, all with guns. I groaned internally, not a snowball’s chance in hell. I charged at the closest, well I always planed to go down fighting, something roared and a dart embedded itself in my shoulder. I staggered but kept running, crashing into him rather than pouncing and knocked him to the floor through sheer momentum.

My head swam, I had such a headache. What was I doing again? There was an Eraser beneath me, I blinked and suddenly there were two swimming around each other. I batted at one of them but my claws caught air. The images reached up and abruptly something smashed into the side of my head. I collapsed and lay on the floor. I was sure there was something I was supposed to do, but I was so tired, I couldn’t remember.

I closed my eyes, just a little nap, what harm could it do?

Break Out

“See you in the morning Kit,” a voice said, hazy and indistinct and a door clicked shut.

I moaned softly, rolled over and threw up. Every inch of me ached. What the hell had happened? Suddenly I remembered and I flung my hand to my shoulder where I felt a small hole in my T-shirt. The dart was gone. It must have been full of tranquilisers. They’d been shooting those things at me since I escaped, but that was the first time they’d actually hit me.

I cracked open my eyes and then had to check they were actually open, the room was completely black. How long had I been out? There was no way of telling, I’d had a watch before they’d taken us but it hadn’t been with my other stuff. I knew I’d been hit with two darts but how much had been in them? If just one had enough to knock out an adult human then I could have been out days. Then again, I wasn’t really human anymore, was I.

I sat up and banged my head on something hard. Ow, let me guess. I ran my hand along the bars surrounding me, another cage. Very original. I took a deep breath now to find out where I was and shuddered as the scent of fear and death overwhelmed me. Still in the tank room, close to where the White Coat worked. How on earth could that White Coat work in here? He was the real monster, not me.

I felt around my cage, there had to be a lock somewhere and I was not waiting around for the White Coat to come back. After a moment I found it, a solid block of metal built into the cage, I tried to get my hand through the bars but they were too close. I growled in frustration and shook the bars, I was not going to be caged again, I needed to find Sophie and get out of this hell hole.

I wrenched on one of the bars and felt it give slightly, odd, especially as it was about as thick as my wrist. I ran my hand along the bars again, even if I bent them as far as possible I wouldn’t be able to slip out, this cage was several sizes to small for me, but maybe. I grabbed the bars above the lock, if I could bend these far enough I could reach the lock, and I did have an inbuilt set of lock picks.

I braced myself against the side of the cage and strained against the bars, for a second nothing happened, I could hear the blood pounding in my ears, but the bars didn’t move. Maybe I’d just imagined the bar bending, maybe these ones were too short to bend. There was the sound of tortured metal and slowly, ever so slowly the bars moved.

I stopped as soon as I thought I could fit my hand through the gap and started groping around for the keyhole. After a moment I found it, now how did they do this in the movies? I felt around inside the lock with a claw, a tumbler lock, so if I remembered correctly I just had to push up all the pins.

It turns out it helps if you try to turn the lock while picking it, which I discovered about half an hour and a blunted claw later. The door swung open and I slipped out, staying on all fours to move more quietly. I needed to find the way out and find Sophie, or at least find out where she might have gone. I trusted that White Coat about as far as I could throw him but I was fairly sure he was telling the truth about that at least.

I walked forward and felt a subtle change in the air around my whiskers. Now what did that mean? I took another step forwards and banged my head into the desk. Ah, that’s what it meant. I sidestepped around the desk and found something smelling of me in front of me, my rucksack; that would be useful. I kept walking straight until I felt a wall in front of me and then stood up, felling my way around the edge of the room by running a hand along the wall.

Four corners later I found a change in texture, which hopefully meant I had found the door and groped around for a light switch. After a moment I found it, the lights flickered on and I shielded my eyes. Again the problem with night vision. The door had a key code lock, which I had absolutely no chance of cracking, anyway I wasn’t in the mood for messing around. I dug my claws into the casing and tore the number pad off the wall exposing the circuitry underneath.

Did I know anything about hardwiring doors? No. Did I know that no-one in their right mind would have a lock that would trap them in the room if it broke? Yes. Admittedly the White Coats weren’t entirely in their right minds but I always had the vents if it didn’t work. I ripped the wires to shreds and low and behold the door hissed open.

The two Erasers standing guard were very surprised when the door opened.

“What the…” the one on my left started to say, turning to face me. But I caught him a right hook to the head and he went sprawling.

“Hey!” the other exclaimed, going for a tazer attached to his belt. I didn’t even hesitate, just caught him in the throat with my claws and tore out his windpipe. He went down twitching and I leapt over him, dropping onto all fours and running left down the corridor. Someone would find them soon. I had to get out of there.

I rounded a corner and found myself at the end of a long corridor, a lone Eraser guard at the other end. He yelled in rage when he saw me and started to morph. Did I know him? The four angry red lines across his face certainly said we’d met. I accelerated towards him, I couldn’t slow down and I couldn’t let him alert anyone else.

He didn’t take out his gun, just braced himself, he must have been planning something but there was no time to consider what. I pounced, spreading my claws wide and aiming for his chest. He ducked, grabbed my wrists as I flew over and flung me at the ground.

I hit the floor hard, rolling head over tail until I hit the wall at the end of the corridor. Yep, I realised lying upside down against the wall and looking at him down the length of the corridor. I’d met him before. I leapt to my feet growling, so he knew how I attacked; well let’s see how he handled this.

I stood up, bearing my claws, and stalked slowly towards him. He copied me. We approached each other warily, I could win this, he was just a dumb wolf, all alone, easy prey. I charged, aiming low and swiping at his kidneys, he dodged backwards, flailing wildly with a paw, which I ducked easily.

“Hold still you dumb Kitty,” he growled, rushing at me claws flailing. I sidestepped and tore at his arm as he past.

“Not Kitty,” I growled, as he turned to face me. We leapt at each other, locking claws, our faces a bare inch from each other. I could smell his rancid breath and see the rage in his eyes.

“Kit,” I snarled.

He growled back, showing his canines, I bared my own fangs. It was a deadlock, neither of us could move, I strained against his arms and he strained against mine, it would just be a matter of stamina. I hooked my claws and dug deep into his paws. Or not. He winced, and redoubled his growl, his spittle flicking into my face. Well if that was how he wanted to play it. I opened my mouth and roared, spreading my fangs wide and feeling the sound vibrating through my whole body. That felt good, I should roar more often.

The Eraser flinched backwards and took the pressure off my paws, a fatal move. I swept his legs out from under him and twisted my arms, flinging him against the wall. His head hit with a sickening crack and he slid to the floor, leaving a bloody smear on the wall. I snarled at his unconscious form, and then realised someone would have heard that roar. Damn it.

I leapt over him and dropped on to all fours, so long stealth, now it was time to leg it. I took the first left I came to and found myself outside the cage room, finally some luck. I picked up Sophie’s trail with ease, it had been muddied by a load of Erasers but it was still, for lack of a better word, legible. I growled; when I found out who had made her so scared, I would kill them.

I took a left at the T-junction, still on Soph’s trail. An alarm started wailing in the distance, they must have found those downed Erasers. A corner loomed in front of me and I skidded round it, ignoring a yell of surprise as I slipped past an Eraser running the other way. It was too late to worry about being found, I just had to get out.

Sophie’s trail ended abruptly again and I slid to a stop, there was a key coded door in front of me but I just ripped the lock apart and the door hissed open. I ran into the room which I recognised as the cloakroom they put me in originally. Did that mean they’d put Sophie in her own combat cage. That was a horrible thought, Sophie didn’t even swat flies, she would have hated to hurt anyone else.

I smashed the other lock off the wall and the outside door opened and I started running away from the building, still following Soph’s trail. There was disturbed earth either side of me, sort of like a corridor; I had no idea what they’d been doing to her but she was scared, and angry, very angry.

Suddenly her trail faded away at exactly the same time the corridor of earth ended, there was blood in the ground beneath me, but it smelled more Eraser’y than Sophie’y, or at least that’s what I hoped. I stopped and walked slowly back down the trail. The scent of feathers was stronger here and I don’t think she doubled back and that left one explanation. I looked into the sky. She didn’t like those wings but I bet she could have flown on them and if that was true she almost certainly escaped those stupid landlocked Erasers.

“That a girl Soph,” I said, looking at the stars. A torch beam roved across the ground a few feet away. I looked round to see Erasers swarming out of the building. Oh well, time to get out of here.

I run off into the forest, maybe I could find somewhere comfy to sleep, all this running was taking it out of me. Anyway, I could rest easy now. I didn’t know where Sophie was but I at least knew she wasn’t at the lab. And in all honesty I can’t think of a worse place to be.

Homeward Bound

 

I woke slowly and stretched, digging my claws into the branch beneath me and lashing my tail backwards and forwards to keep my balance. The rucksack on my back shifted and I slipped, yelling in surprise and driving my claws into the branch in an attempt to stay in the tree and failed miserably. I slid off my branch just managing to cling on by the tips of my fingers and ended up dangling far too high above the ground. Now that was a promising way start to the day.

I looked down at the ground thirty feet and some nasty looking branches below. It had seamed a good idea to sleep in a tree at the time; less chance of being found by the Erasers, but now it seemed far less sensible and much, much higher. The branch above me groaned as my claws scored deep gouges in the wood and I dropped lower.

I started swinging, trying to build up the momentum to reach the trunk; at least I knew that would take my weight. My claws slipped, I lost my grip and threw myself at the trunk crashing into the tree, knocking the wind out of me and clinging on to the bark for dear life. I hung there for a stunned second and confirmed that I wasn’t plummeting to my death, and then took a shaky breath. Well, so much for the grace of cats; I drove my hind claws into the bark and unwrapped my arms from the trunk before hooking my claws into the wood. Finally I felt secure. Boy I was glad no one had seen that.

I climbed down slowly, paw over paw, I would have rather not plummeted to the ground and broken every bone in my body, or worse alert the Erasers as to where I was. I planted both feet firmly on the ground and looked around, okay so it wasn’t really the start of the day, more late afternoon but then I had been dodging Eraser search parties until dawn.

I couldn’t hear anything, there was a squirrel chitterling high above me, but nothing relevant, and I’ll just assume the squirrel wasn’t laughing at me. I did a slow sweep of the area, checking more for movement than anything else but nothing unusual there either. They could always be wearing camouflage but if they moved I’d see them. Besides, Erasers and stealth don’t really mesh.

After a minute I let myself relax, I’d had too many close shaves recently to relax completely but my claws slid back into their sheaths which for me is pretty relaxed. I suddenly realised that I didn’t have a clue what to do; Sophie wasn’t in the lab, I suppose I could look for her but if she really could fly she could be anywhere by now, maybe she’d even gone home.

That was probably the best place to look, that was where she’d been saying she’d wanted to go for that first week, then of course they gave her wings and then she didn’t say anything at all. I found that I was growling. How could they do something like that? He’d called it a gift. Ha! If it was such gift why didn’t he ask for volunteers or just do it to himself. I lashed out at the tree and left deep gouges in the bark, letting the rumble in my throat fade to nothing. That made me feel a little better, I’d been so close to killing him too. Just a fraction of an inch deeper and he’d have been done for.

So it was a choice; go home and try and find Soph or go back to the lab and kill White Coats. Considering that going back to the lab would probably get me killed or worse captured, it was really a no brainier. I picked the direction the opposite way to the lab and started walking. So, a review of the situation. I didn’t know which way home was or even where I was and for all I knew I could be in China. Oh, and I was still a tiger-human hybrid and showing my face in any towns would probably get me put in a zoo. Not exactly the best set of circumstances but none of those things were bothering me just now and I wasn’t in the lab so I have, quite literally known worse.

My more immediate problem was walking; in case you didn’t know tigers walk on their toes so trying to walk upright is like trying to constantly walk on tiptoes; which is definitely an acquired skill and doesn’t exactly make you graceful. I tripped over a tree root and landed in the dirt, and yeah that kind of thing happens a lot.

I growled to myself and kept on walking on all fours, it was just easier, I think I’m more set up for that kind of thing now anyway. My stomach grumbled loudly, reminding me that my last meal was three days ago when I’d raided those Erasers’ packs, that wasn’t really something I wanted to risk again so I kept my eyes out for anything edible, though without much luck beyond the occasional squirrel high above my head.

I reached a road running through the forest around nightfall and followed it, sticking to the shadows. A few cars thundered past but there was no way I’d be hitchhiking, for a start I’d get a monster movie done about me. As it got darker I drifted away from the road, the car headlights were hurting my eyes and destroying my night vision.

I stalked through the forest; I knew there weren’t any Erasers about; there were just the sounds of the forest and the wind whistling in the trees high above. My paws crunched on the dry earth, and I skirted my way round a dense patch of thicket, I could still hear the roar of the cars in the distance but they hardly mattered anymore it was just me and the forest.

There was the faintest sound of a hoof-fall to my left in the distance and my head whipped round. I hunkered down slightly and scanned the forest, one, twice, three times. Nothing. There was a tiny flicker of movement and I latched onto it, something hidden in the shadows of a tree. I dropped lowed, almost on my stomach and breathed deeply.

I didn’t recognise the scent but I did recognise the shape, a deer, a stag even as I realised when it shook its antlers and looked right at me. I backed off slowly. Could it see me? I knew deer were active at dusk but how good was their eyesight, maybe it could smell me? The stag began to walk away and out of the shadows a female followed it. I guess they must have missed me, stripes aren’t exactly best in a forest but they work, of course I did have a big black rucksack on my back and that can’t have helped.

I watched silently as five more does followed the first and then when I judged they were out of earshot I took off my backpack and placed it quietly against a tree, then slipped off after the deer. I didn’t follow their trail exactly but always kept them in view, never too close, never too far and I knew enough about how animals tracked to keep down wind.

I didn’t have to follow them for long; soon they stopped at a small stream and started to drink. I crept closer and hunkered down in a bush. Tigers are really meant to hunt in grass but bushes work okay too. I crouched lower, just watching, waiting, waiting for some cue to tell me it was time to pounce. I picked out one of the does standing a little way away from the others, perfect target, my ears pricked forwards and I dropped down readying myself to pounce.

The doe looked up suddenly and I sprinted out of the bushes, took three silent steps and leapt at the doe paws and jaws wide. The wind shifted, I could literally feel it change, the doe caught my scent and leapt backwards, eyes wide and I sailed past it and splashed into the stream, snarling in frustration.

I spun around, the does were bolting but the stag stood its ground, lowering its antlers and snorting defensively. I leapt without a thought and the stag caught me on its antlers and tossed me to one side. I rolled over and over and finally came to rest against a tree. Okay, now that was really dumb. I got slowly to my feet and looked daggers at the stag. The does were long gone so if I was going to have a meal tonight it had to be him.

I sided stepped, showing my fangs, my instincts were yelling at me to get out of there and reminding me just how much getting thrown against a tree hurts. I ignored them, I was hungry, tired and I’d been the hunted for far too long. I crouched low and mimed pouncing. The stag flinched, snorting, rolling its eyes wildly and shifting its weight from hoof to hoof. It looked very scared and completely unsure of itself but when had it ever been up against a large bipedal tiger before?

Now that was an idea.

I got slowly to my feet, never taking my eyes from the stag which was looking even more wide eyed at me, it went to bolt and I jerked forward. It froze, keeping its antlers pointed at my head. I smiled, that was its fatal mistake. I leapt forward and landed on all fours just in front of it, the stag tried to smash its antlers into me but I darted between its legs, took its hind leg in my jaws and bit down hard. I felt something go crunch, the stag screamed in pain and tried to lash out at me but I scurried away from it.

I stood a little way off and watched the stag try to turn to face me while keeping its weight of its bloody leg. I waited until it was halfway round and then pounced, digging my claws into its flank and bearing it to the ground. We crashed to earth with a thud and I immediately went for the throat, feeling the vertebrae beneath my teeth and squeezed. The stag kicked desperately and tried to shake me off, I bit down harder, I wasn’t letting it go. It made a choking sound and thrashed one last time then was still.

I let go and breathed deeply. My ribs ached and the blood was pounding in my ears but I’d made my kill, my first kill if you didn’t count that rabbit. What the heck, that hadn’t just been exciting, that had been fun.

I took the stag in my jaws and began to drag it away.

Bravery

It was morning, the birds were singing, the sun was shining, I was full for the first time in a month and I was slowly wakening, curled up beneath a tree. A stick snapped beneath a booted foot and I jolted awake, straining to hear where the sound had come from. The bushes to my left rustled and I shot up the nearest tree. Yes I’m a scaredy-cat but I’m a live scaredy-cat. I crouched in the braches, looking down at the clearing and just waiting for something to appear.

Suddenly I realised my backpack was lying unattended by a tree and I groaned. That was bad, that was very bad, if the Erasers knew I was around they’d blanket the whole area and I’d never be able to sneak down. A kid walked into the clearing, well I say kid, he was probably a few years older than me, maybe as much as sixteen but I’ve never seen a child Eraser so I relaxed slightly, maybe if I stayed quiet he would just wander off and if I was very lucky he may even miss my backpack.

Not a chance, my luck ran out a month ago anyway. I saw him frown as he spotted my rucksack and look around. I didn’t move, I hardly breathed. What would I do if he saw me; maybe I was high enough that he’d just mistake me for a regular person.

“Hello up there!” he yelled and I jumped and grabbed my tail, stuffing it into my shirt in an attempt to look more normal. Okay so I just had to get him to go away, no problem, hopefully he couldn’t tell how weird I was from down there.

“You okay?” he asked, well nothing for it now.

“Yes!” I called back, hoping that my voice still at least sounded human and I didn’t growl too much.

“You sure?” he asked, apparently not noticing that I was talking through a muzzle. “There are big cat tracks all over this place and there’s a deer carcass back there.” He pointed over his shoulder and I groaned again, I so should have been more discrete.

“Oh, is that why you’re up there?” he said sudden realisation spreading across his face.

“No I…” I began and desperately tried to come up with a reason I might be up a tree at seven in the morning. “Like. Climbing, trees…” I said petering out. As you can see I failed miserably. What the hell was wrong with me? I get crossed with a tiger and suddenly lose the ability to talk. Actually that’s not that surprising; but still annoying.

“Like climbing trees,” he said sceptically. “You’re stuck aren’t you?”

“No!”

“It’s nothing to be ashamed of; lots of people are scared of heights.”

“I’m not scared!” I protested. My strategy of getting him to go away quietly was failing spectacularly but at least it couldn’t get any worse.

“Besides,” he continued. “If you were hiding from that cat then you should know that they can easily climb trees.” You know, I may well have known that.

“Actually,” he said, stepping closer to the tree and running a hand down it. “It looks like something has climbed this tree.” I winced, regretting digging in my claws so deep. That was it; the game was up, unless of course there was some massive distraction.

An Eraser walked into the clearing beneath the tree. Fate hates me, that’s it isn’t it? And I’m pretty sure I said I couldn’t get any worse a few moments ago as well.

“What’s going on here lad?” the Eraser asked walking up to the kid, he was trying to sound placating but it didn’t fool me, I could hear the growled undertone.

“Oh, just some crazy girl stuck in a tree,” the kid muttered to the Eraser. The Eraser looked up, looking right at and grinned viciously.

“Any idea who she is?” the Eraser asked pulling out a gun from a holster at his waist. I leapt to my feet, digging in my claws to keep my balance, I could reach some of the other trees from here if I jumped or maybe I could hide behind the trunk and make a dash for the ground, either way I was not dieing huddled in a tree. It never occurred to me to warn the kid.

“Not a clue,” the kid said resignedly, oblivious to the Eraser raising a gun to his head. “I just found her like this.”

The Eraser cocked the gun and I leapt out of the tree aiming right at him. It was only twenty five feet or so, I’d live, cats just from ceiling height and are just fine. It was only five times my height and, oh yeah, I wasn’t totally a cat. The kid’s eyes widened in horror as I fell, baring my fangs and the Eraser desperately tried to aim the gun at before I hit. I landed with a paw on each of his shoulders and he crumpled, the gun thundered and a blinding pain seared through my leg.

We hit the ground hard and dug my hind claws into his chest to stay on top of him. I tried not to yell in pain, every join screamed from the jolt of landing and my leg was total agony. The Eraser scrabbled for his gun lying slightly to one side, while morphing and showing his own overlarge fangs to match mine. Wrong move, I ripped his throat out with one swipe of my paw.

He gasped, eyes widening in shock, trying to gasp a breath through something that wasn’t there. I watched him die; he was actually going to shoot that kid simply because he’d talked to me. Despicable creatures.

I heard the gun cock and I looked round slowly to see the kid pointing it at me, eyes wild.

“Don’t move,” he said, looking panicky. “What ever you are, don’t move.”

“He was going to shoot you,” I told him darkly. “Why else did he have the gun already out.” I didn’t add the obvious, to shoot me. He probably figured out that out for himself. Confusion flittered across his face and his eyes darted to the Eraser who was slowly changing to half wolf and half man.

“Who the hell are you people?” he asked, his voice cracking. The gun shook in his hand and I prayed he’d put the safety on.

“Look calm down and put the gun down,” I said uneasily, trying to put weight on my leg and gasping when it screamed in pain. Actually that probably just gave him a great view of my teeth, but that couldn’t be helped. “There are going to be more of those coming soon and I assume you don’t want to be here when they get here.”

Confusion and fear flashed across his face again. “He was really going to kill me,” he asked with a bit more composure.

“Well, yeah.”

“Okay.” He put the gun and then turned round, probably to run like heck. I shifted off the Eraser, trying not to put weight on my foot and suddenly realised the kid was shouldering my rucksack.

“Hey, what are you doing?” I began but then he cut me off by putting his shoulder under my arm and lifting me to my feet.

“Like you said,” he said, pulling me back the way he had come. “There will be more coming, let’s get out of here.”

“You’re helping me?” I asked bewildered as we hobbled off into the forest as fast as we could, if I was him I’d be running for my life by now.

“Don’t make me regret it,” he grunted. “Good grief, how much do you weigh.” I didn’t answer that; for one, it’s not polite to ask and two, I didn’t have a clue.

I heard heavy footfalls in the distance, not heading for us but it was only a matter of time before they started searching. Erasers without windpipes tend to spark curiosity. I speed up, my leg was agony and I could swear I could feel the bullet shifting around in my leg. I was almost certain it was broken but where the hell do I go for first aid, A and E or a vet?

I heard the bushes rustle behind us, a lot of Erasers coming straight for us. Shit, how did they know which way we’d gone? I looked back and swore for real, a thin trail of blood lead from my leg all the way back the way we’d come.

“What, what is it?” the kid asked looking round, I have no idea how he could of missed the sound of the Erasers getting very close then again my hearing had improved a lot.

“They’re coming,” I said with a growl. I turned and tired to stand and had to drop into a crouch when my leg screamed. “Go,” I told him, I wasn’t going to let the Erasers kill him. “Just run and don’t stop.”

“But,” he began.

“Go!” I roared. He hesitated a moment then bolted. I breathed deeply; well at least I’d die with a clean conscience. My leg throbbed. So this was how it was going to end, a sitting duck, actually, more a crouching tiger, I bared my claws, well if I was going down I was going to take a few of them with me. Then suddenly the bullet popped out of my leg.

I looked at it in surprise and my hand shot to my leg where I literally felt the skin knitting under my fingers. What the hell was going on? Some kind of ultra fast healing; well what ever it was it was damn useful.

An Eraser burst out of the bushes, took one look at me crouching on the floor clasping a blooded leg, grinned evilly and charged, morphing slightly a baring his claws. I didn’t move, just shifted my weight slightly and lashed my tail behind me. I wonder if he knew that was a warning sign.

He leapt at me, I ducked under him planting my hands on his chest and throwing over my head. He hit the ground and slid several feet finally coming to rest against a tree. I whipped round, ran over and hit him as hard as I could on the back of the head as he tried to look up. Something went crack and he slumped back into the dirt, unconscious.

I heard another running towards me, just about to come through a bush. I started running towards the sound and, without even looking pounced. The Eraser came through the bush and I hit him in the chest, swiping at him with a paw and bearing him to the ground.

We crashed to the ground and I clung on desperately with my claws, took his throat in my jaws and before he could blink, tore. Three more Erasers burst into the clearing, my head whipped round and I growled, spitting out a lump of Eraser flesh. It turns out there are things that make even an Eraser balk because they looked in horror at me for half a second and in that half second I struck.

I tore into the Erasers, hitting one across the face with bared claws, darting around a hastily aimed punch, smashing my fist in the side of one’s head and he dropped like a rock then kicked out at another, tearing a deep gouge in his stomach. The first Eraser, the one who had his hand clutched over a gaping wound grabbed my arm and tried to pull me close. My eyes narrowed and I sunk my claws deep into his arm. He didn’t let go, I growled and dug my claws in deeper. He snarled back and something hit me over the back of the head, I saw stars and dropped to my knees; not loosening my death grip on the Erasers arm.

“Get this bloody thing off me!” he yelled at his partner and I blinked rapidly, trying to clear my swimming vision. This would have been a great time for some supper healing to kick in but nothing happened, I would just have to do it on my own. I wrenched my arm out of his grip and bit deeply into his leg, still watching the world through a haze. He yelled in pain and shock, and I pulled his legs out from under him, letting go just before my jaw was ripped from my mouth and then knocked him out with a solid punch to the temple.

I rounded on the last Eraser growling, he shifted his weight slightly.

“I suppose you think,” he began but I ignored him and struck, slicing through his arm with one hand and then swiping his across the face with the other. He staggered backwards and I smashed him round the head with a closed fist and watched him collapse growling.

I watched him for a second but he didn’t get back up, none of them did. I breathed deeply and checked out the damage, nothing much, there was an egg forming on the back of my head but other than that I was fine. Not bad for someone who’d just been shot.

I set off in the direction that kid went, he was bound to be legging it for home and if it was a town I might just be able to get directions. Maybe even finally start on making my way home.

Shattered Lives

I reached the top of a small hill at the edge of the forest and looked down at the town, it wasn’t exactly big, I could see the other side from here; but it would be full of people and I wanted to avoid them as much as possible. Maybe I could disguise myself, of course it would help a lot if had anything that could cover my face, hands and just about everything else or still had feet capable of wearing shoes. I was going to stand out a mile whatever I did and I didn’t look enough like a tiger to pass as one of them either, though that would hardly make me inconspicuous, besides when was the last time you saw a tiger wearing jeans.

I shook my head and sighed, I all honesty I didn’t want to go anywhere near humans, someone could get hurt and Erasers look all too human before they start trying to rip various limbs off and; well, after the White Coats I wasn’t going to be trusting anyone anytime soon. Also, when did I start referring to humans in the third person? I dropped onto all fours and started walking towards the town, it didn’t matter what I wanted to do, I needed directions beyond that of ‘in America somewhere’, and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it.

I reached a garden wall at the edge of the town and leapt over, keeping to the shadows and shrubs at the bottom of someone’s yard. I just wouldn’t let anyone see me; it was the simplest way. I just had to find the town name and maybe state and work from there. I was under no illusions about asking anyone for help or even going to the police; the Erasers would tear through them like tissue paper, whoever I asked.

I squeezed under a fence. There really was no one I could turn to, it’s funny but through out your life there is always someone who you at least think can solve all your problems. But now, there really was no one. I vaulted another wall and landed in about three foot high grass. Geese, whoever lived there had obviously never heard of a lawnmower, then again maybe the lawn had eaten it.

I heard a door slam and I whipped round dropping into the grass and looking intently at the house. Nothing moved; no one came out; so it was just the front door then. I relaxed slightly; I can’t believe how jumpy I’ve gotten later, then again I’ve been dodging Erasers for a week so it might be justified.

An Eraser vaulted over the gate at the side of the house. I looked at him in shock for a half second and dropped flat into the grass, slinking backwards to hide in the shadows of a tree. He didn’t appear to notice me, score one for stripes, and he turned to unlocked the gate letting two more Erasers into the garden. Something was wrong, if they’d known where I was they should have come in all guns blazing, or at least they should have learned to by now. The Erasers snuck along the wall of the house and one put his fist through the glass in the back door. They weren’t even looking for me. Why? Unless, they weren’t after me.

I crept forwards, keeping low, if the Erasers were interested in this place I was. The lead Eraser opened the door and gestured for the other two to follow him. Just as the last Eraser was about to go in I ran forwards, leapt lightly onto his back, put my hand over his mouth to smother his yell of surprise and hit him as hard as I could over the head. I leapt off and caught him as he collapsed unconscious, lowing him gently to the ground without a sound.

I pressed up against the wall listening for the other two Erasers, a door opened inside the house. Apparently they hadn’t heard anything. That means either I’m getting better or the Erasers are getting dumber. I slipped through the door, dodging round the broken glass, no shoes remember, and froze as I heard raised voices.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” a voice yelled, which I recognised as the kid from earlier. Damn it! They must have followed him after all.

“As we said,” an Eraser growled. “We want to talk about something you saw in the woods today.” I crept closer and looked through an open door to see the kid facing down two Erasers along the length of the hall. Brave kid.

“And I told you I didn’t see anything,” he shot back. “Now why are you in my house?” I winced; there was no way this was going to end well.

“I think you did,” the Eraser said threateningly, taking a few steps forward and towering over the kid who backed away. I slipped through the door and snuck up behind the second Eraser, completely silent on my pads.

“I think you saw some monster in the woods,” the Eraser continued menacingly. “That’s why we saw you fleeing like a scared little rabbit with your tail between your legs.”

“I didn’t see anything!” he roared, finally losing his temper. “Now get out of my house!” I took the opportunity to hit the other Eraser over the head while the first was distracted and lowered him slowly to the ground.

“Oh, I think you did,” the Eraser said putting his face right up to the kids; I walked up silently behind him. “And it looked just like a monstrous kitty cat didn’t it?” The kids eyes flickered and the Eraser grinned triumphantly.

“Excuse me,” I said tapping him on the shoulder. He whirled and I hit him right in the jaw, watching as he dropped like a rock. “It’s Kit.”

“You,” the kid said in surprise, then. “Weren’t you shot?”

“I got better,” I said briskly, I wasn’t even going to try and explain that, even if I could. “You should get out of here. Is there anyone else in the house?”

A door opened behind me, conveniently answering my question, I heard footsteps and a little girl ask. “Michael, what’s going on?”

I half turned and something crashed into my leg squealing, “Kitty,” delightedly.

“Kit, “I said with a sigh. “Is this yours?” I asked the kid, Michael I guess, pointing at the young girl hugging my leg tightly.

“Sorry,” he said apologetically, untangling her from my leg and lifting her into his arms. “Amy likes cats.”

“Whatever.” I guess I should start getting used to this ‘Kitty’ stuff but I was called that enough before I was turned into a tiger and it was just as annoying back then.

“Look,” I said turning my attention back to Michael. “Just call the police and find a place to lay low for a while, if they think you know something about me they are not going to give up easily.”

“I can stay with my uncle’s,” he offered and I nodded in agreement.

“Good, watch out though they’re pretty persistent. Oh, and you also still have my backpack.”

“Right,” he said putting Amy down and rushing past me. “It’s in the kitchen.

“A map would be useful too,” I called after him. Amy snatched at my tail and I flicked her with it and followed after Michael.

“Where are your parents anyway?” I asked walking into the kitchen and dodged out of the way as he bustled past me flinging my rucksack at me which I caught with ease and slung over my shoulder.

“They’re at work,” he replied hurriedly, rushing upstairs.

“So why aren’t you at school?” I yelled after him but I don’t think he heard me.

“Because it’s Saturday stilly,” Amy said brightly, trying to get behind me to go for my tail again.

“Hey,” I said defensively. “I’ve been hiding in the woods for a week, so don’t get clever with me.” She made another grab for my tail and I lifted it out of her reach. “And stop doing that!”

“Sorry Kitty,” she said trying to look cute.

“Kit,” I told her automatically and felt guilty for yelling at her. Michael came running down the stairs and shoved a map into my hands.

“There,” he said hastily. “You should get out of here I’ll be calling the police in a moment.”

“Okay,” I said, stuffing the map into my backpack. “Oh, and do you have any bottles of water?” What? It can take hours to find something to drink when you’re in a forest.

“In the fridge,” he said with a sigh. “But is that really the most…” I cut him off by opening the fridge wide and pulling out six bottles of water.

“Fine,” he said resignedly. “Who are you anyway?”

“I said,” I said as I started packing the bottles into my bag. “I’m Kit.”

“Yeah but what are you? I mean, you look like something halfway between a human and a tiger. So what does that make you a were-cat?”

“Well it’s really a matter of less you know the less it will hurt you” I said with a sigh. “But I guess I’m a human tiger hybrid now. I wasn’t born like this so watch out for strangers with syringes and wolf men in the woods.” I paused as I zipped up my bag and waited for another question which didn’t come. “Also, you’re not responding and I’ve just talked over any chance of me hearing anyone sneaking up on us.”

I stood up, leaving my bag on the floor, and looked the Eraser with a gun to Michael’s head and a hand over Amy’s mouth right in the eyes.

“Smart kitty,” he growled, glaring at me, the four pinpoints on his cheek which I’d made when I put my hand over his mouth oozing slightly.

“Not kitty. Kit,” I said calmly, taking a step towards him.

“Don’t move,” he ordered and he cocked the gun. I froze, I might get away with being shot again, as long as it wasn’t too serious but I wasn’t going to let anyone else die for me.

“Just come along quietly,” he continued his voice dead steady. “And I won’t have to shoot the kid and the little girl.” His eyes flickered slightly, uncertainty perhaps.

“And what will happen to them?” I asked darkly, guessing the answer.

“Oh, they’ll be coming along too.” Yep, just what I expected. I took another step forwards.

“I don’t think you’ll do it,” I told him, ignoring the look of disbelief on Michaels face. He’d thank me if he ever found out just how bad the place they’d be taking him to was, hopefully he wouldn’t.

“Oh, I’ll do it,” he said, tightening his grip on the pistol.

“No you won’t. You won’t kill them. People will get suspicious. And you can’t just make them disappear. Two young kids, parents, friends, the whole state will be looking for them. So kidnap’s out of the question as well.” I carefully omitted that that was exactly they had done with me and Sophie.

I took another step forwards. The gun wavered in his grip as he went to point it at me then swung it back towards Michael. “Not one step,” he growled, uncertainly, his eyes darting around the room.

I crouched down slightly, unsheathed my claws and sprung. He looked at me in horror as I leapt at him, tired to bring the gun round in time and failed miserably. I crashed into him swiping him across the face with a powerful paw, the gun roared and window shattered, Michael dragged Amy to the floor and I bore the Eraser to the ground where I dispatched him with a quick punch to the temple.

“What the hell where you thinking!” Michael yelled when the tickle of glass had faded away.

“I worked didn’t it,” I said, getting off the Eraser and getting to my feet.

“We could have been killed,” he cried desperately.

“Welcome to my world,” I muttered, walking over and slinging my backpack back over my shoulder. “I should get out of here; some considerate neighbour will have called the police about the gunshot.”

“But, but, but,” he stammered. “How do I explain that?” He pointed at the Eraser with four parallel gashes running across his face.

“Don’t be here,” I suggested shrugging. I heard the wailing of sirens in the distance. “I really need to be going. Right now,” I added as he went to ask another question. I ran over to the door and paused then said, “Thanks by the way. For helping.”

I leapt onto all fours and started running, springing over the garden wall and leaving Michael standing stunned at the door.

<!–[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 <![endif]–>

Feathered Fiends

I leant against a tree at the edge of the forest, hopefully concealed by a large bush and unfurled the map. I quickly found where I was; it helped that I’d snuck a look at a road sign on my way out and then scanned the map for my home town. There was the forest, looking much smaller on paper when I wasn’t being chased through it. No sign of the lab, but I wasn’t really expecting that to appear on a road map. After far too long I spotted my home town hiding in the top right hand corner and resignedly measured the distance. Five thumbs and a claw so about… I consulted the scale, one hundred and ten miles.

I groaned, and that was as the bird flies. Good grief that would take me a week; and it wasn’t like I could get a lift so I’d be walking the whole way. Actually now that I thought of it a compass would have been useful but it was too late for that now, and I couldn’t just go back and ask for one.

I stuffed the map into my backpack and slung it over my shoulder. All in all it wasn’t such a bad situation. I had water, I had a map and food wasn’t going to be an issue so now I just had to find Soph and then… Well I’d deal with that when I got there.

Speaking of getting there, I set off, walking upright to stay in practice; I never thought I’d have to say that. I’d follow the roads and maybe cut across a few fields if I felt confident until I figured out some way of finding north. I knew there was some trick involving the sun and your watch but I couldn’t remember it, and didn’t have a watch. I shook my head, sighed and concentrated on keeping my feet.

Midday found me dozing in the sun on the corrugated iron roof of a barn. Not the most comfortable place ever but it was warm and I was tired, plus I think real tigers are supposed to have grown a winter coat by this time of the year and my fur was still quite short. I hadn’t even thought to grab a coat. There were hundreds of coats in the lab, why didn’t I pick one up?

A cloud passed over the sun; I shivered, opened my eyes and irritably regarded the thick black bank of clouds creeping slowly over my head. Perfect, now I wasn’t going to be able to go any farther because I’d get soaked. I grabbed my backpack from where I’d been using it as a pillow, slipped it on and took another anxious look at the clouds. How long did I have to find shelter? Maybe only a couple of minutes; I should have listened to my instincts.

A flash of lightning lit up the sky and I winced as the thunder rumbled. A flock of six birds was briefly silhouetted against the clouds. Probably trying to get back to their nests before the storm broke and I couldn’t blame them. A second bolt of lightning flashed above my head and a tingling spread across my feet, in retrospect standing on a metal roof in a thunderstorm was not a good idea.

I took three steps, realised something was odd and paused, looking back into the sky and straining to spot those birds again. Something was wrong about them, they were moving far too fast and now that I looked more carefully were far too big just to be a flock of pigeons but I’ve never heard of birds of prey travelling in flocks.

The flock dived all at once and rushed towards the ground. No. Not towards the ground. Towards me. I started running, I didn’t know of any birds that hunt humans so it was safe to assume they weren’t birds. I craned my neck back to keep the weird birds in sight and tried to keep my footing on the uneven roof. It was funny but now they were closer and had their wings folded they didn’t so much look like birds and more like. People.

I skidded to a stop right at the edge of the roof and looked more closely at the dark shapes. Sophie had wings, was there any chance at all that she may have found me? There was another flash which lit up the flying shapes and the rain started coming down in stair rods.

I recognised them all too well and groaned. Erasers with wings. That was just what I needed. I watched the leading Eraser swoop down through the rain ahead of the others, pulling up sharply and rocketing along the roof aiming for my head. I didn’t move, just watched, gauging distances and trying to ignore the fact that my bag wasn’t waterproof. Then just as he was about to crash into me I leapt backwards, arching my back and watching him pass scant inches above me, and lashed out claws outstretched.

And caught air, so instead of tearing into his wing like I planed his wing smashed into my right wrist and I felt bones break. The impact sent me flying, spinning wildly and having only just enough time to squeeze my eyes shut before hitting the concrete below with a bang. I lay there for a stunned moment wondering what happened to cats always landing on their feet. It mustn’t count when falling a storey and a half. I tried to get unsteadily to my feet and hissed in pain as I put weight on my wrist; that was definitely broken.

I sat back down and checked to see if anything else was broken, my back was agony from where I’d landed on it but I assumed it wasn’t broken as I was still moving. Something smashed into the side of my head and I went sprawling, somehow managing to fall on my inured wrist. I snarled in frustration and got clumsily to my feet, walking on all fours was out of the question so I stood on two. Why hadn’t I heard that coming? I can always hear these things coming.

The rain drummed persistently on the concrete, drowning out all other noise and I rolled my eyes; it was no surprise I couldn’t hear anything, but that just left me with… I spotted a shadow moving fast through the rain and threw myself out of the way just as an Eraser came screeching by. Sight. And with the rain that wasn’t much use anyway.

I needed to find some kind of cover; I was too exposed here and I couldn’t watch every angle. I sprinted towards the barn and flattened myself against the wall, squinting through the rain. I couldn’t see a way into the barn but at least they wouldn’t be able to sneak up on me. I glanced up to make sure of this and looked back down just in time to see six dark shapes melt out of the rain.

I snarled, baring my claws and trying to let my wrist hang loosely so they wouldn’t know it was broken. The Erasers stopped short, just out of my range and my eyes flickered between them, I could try running but I’d never tried outrunning Erasers upright before but could I really take on six, while injured?

“I thought she be tougher than this,” the one on the far left announced loftily. I narrowed my eyes at him and flicked my tail. Well, if I was going to fight, he’d be the first to go down.

“Yeah,” another agreed boorishly. “Her sister gave us a longer chase.” The first Eraser shot a daggered look at him and so did I. If any of them had even touched Soph they were all going to suffer. Thought that did mean that Soph had definitely escaped but had she been recaptured?

“She squealed a lot more as well,” the first agreed after a moment with a malicious glint in his eye. My growl deepened, I was vaguely aware that he was trying to bait me but couldn’t care less. I just couldn’t get the image of Soph cowering in her cage

“Stop,” I told him, still growling and trying to stop myself from springing. This would’ve been a great time for some ultra fast healing to come along but nothing happened

“Or what, you’ll cry?” he shot back. I bared my fangs at him and he showed his own.

“What have you done with her?” I half roared. “I swear if you’ve hurt her I’ll…”

“Don’t worry,” he said reaching for something under his coat. “No one’s going to hurt her where she is now.”

I roared in rage and anguish and charged at him, failing wildly with my left hand and letting my right hang painfully at my side. He caught my left wrist with ease and I barrelled into him knocking us both to the floor and feeling something stab into my stomach.

I brought my hind feet up and started tearing at him with them; I knew what he’d done but I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of me collapsing without a fight. He cuffed me round the head and my vision span, and went on spinning. He still held my wrist in a death grip but I could feel the damage I was doing with my claws, I just couldn’t quite remember why I was doing it.

I collapsed, still vainly clinging to consciousness. The rain was drumming on my ears and I was conscious that my fur was soaked through and that felt very important for some reason. I couldn’t concentrate on anything outside of me anyway.

“Get this bloody thing off me,” I heard a voice yell angrily very close and yet somehow very far away at the same time.

I knew I’d been drugged and I knew I was in serious trouble but my last thought before I passed out was.

‘Sophie.’

Next

 

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