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Furred Fiend

I woke up feeling sick to my stomach, literally sick, but I didn’t open my eyes. Sophie was dead. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t want to believe it. I… I’d been told it by the Erasers and I trusted them about as far as I could throw them. So maybe there was hope. I wasn’t being rained on anymore at least, of course that begged the question, where was I? Another cage knowing my luck.

I breathed deeply through my nose and was immediately overwhelmed by the scent of cow and faeces. So in the barn. Maybe? Or at least that was what I guessed from the echoes. Better than the lab at least. My head was still swimming because of the sedatives but I could just hear a murmured conversation at the far end of the space. I flicked my ears and strained to hear. Maybe I could figure out where I was before they knew I was awake.

“When we get back you are so getting it for mentioning her sister,” I heard an Eraser’s voice say. My hackles went up so I guessed it was the one who sedated me.

“You said provoke her,” another muttered defensively.

“Yes. Provoke,” he said bluntly, “Not tell her everything.” I reckoned he was the leader. He was certainly acting like one

“She wasn’t that tough,” a third interjected, I flicked my tail in annoyance then stopped, remembering I was supposed to be unconscious. “You had us all hyped up for nothing.”

“Her body count’s higher than yours, Four,” the first pointed out shutting him up.

I cracked open my eyes and looked around. I was right, I was in the barn. It was still raining; I could see it through the half closed door, which the Erasers were sitting next to in a rough circle. None of them were watching me, so I got quietly onto all fours, noticing that my wrist didn’t hurt anymore, and looked for another way out.

Which there wasn’t. There was a row of cattle pens next to me but whoever had designed the barn obviously didn’t think they’d need more that one exit. Terrific. I slipped through the bars of the nearest pen which was occupied by an old cow who quite sensibly stayed quite. Thought that might be more because she was petrified than smart.

“That’s why I insisted on taking her blood now,” I heard the lead Eraser say, as I considered which way to go and whether I could get to the entrance by slipping through the bars of the pens. “It’s easier when they’re unco…” the Eraser petered off, presumably as he saw where I should have been.

I whirled to see him rising to his feet, quickly followed by the others.

“Where the hell is she!” he yelled angrily. “She should be unconscious for at least another two hours.”

That was interesting, but not important right now. I dived into the next pen, slipping under the bars and keeping low. I may be camouflaged slightly but that was useless under the florescent strip lighting. The Erasers were running to where they’d left me but two were still guarding the door. Someone has to tell me when the Easers got smart. Maybe it’s the wings.

I kept moving, I did not want to take six Erasers on at once so I needed some way of hiding, but under the lights there was nowhere, short of hiding behind a cow, and that would probably get my skull kicked in. There was a yell from behind me and I guessed I’d been spotted; there was no time to look round. If only I could kill the lights I could hide, but the switches were conveniently mounted next to the door and so next to the Erasers.

I leapt at one of the metal I-beams supporting the roof and tried to scramble up, the switches might have been at ground level but the cables ran right up to the ceiling. A gun roared and something ricocheted off the beam just above my head, I paused and immediately lost my gip, slipping down several feet, my claws skittering on the metal and wrapped my arms round the beam.

“Moron!” I heard the lead Eraser yell and I looked down to see him grab a gun off another and point it right at me. I moved, and quickly, shimming round to the other side of the pillar and dragging myself painstakingly up all the time waiting for the shots to come.

“Now Kit,” the Eraser yelled into the rafters as I pulled myself onto a supporting beam and collapsed gasping for breath. Next time I’ll take the stairs. “This is stupid. Where are you actually planning to go?”

“Congratulations, you got my name right!” I called back, scrambling along a beam towards the light cables. I didn’t look down; it was slippery enough without adding vertigo to the equation.

A shot pinged off the metal next to me and I jumped in surprise, losing my balance and had to throw myself forwards to grab another support to avoid falling the one storey drop. I crashed into the beam catching it in the stomach, knocking the wind out of me and leaving me dangling. That could have definitely gone better.

“See Kit,” the Eraser continued in an almost reasonable tone. “You can’t escape. Now come down before you get hurt.” I growled in annoyance and pulled myself back onto the beam. Like my safety was important. They obviously hadn’t seen what I’d done to their friends.

I heard him whisper something along the lines of. “Another couple of warning shots should do it.”

And I dropped flat on my stomach clasping my hands over my ears and shutting my eyes as gunshot roared around me, pinging off the metal beam and embedding themselves in the roof. After a moment the Erasers stopped firing and I opened my eyes and immediately got hit in the nose by the rain trickling through the holes in the ceiling. I shock my head and looked around, my little leap had left me on a bar leading right to the light cables.

I stood up as another shot whizzed past my head, significantly less warning than last time and I almost slipped. My balance on two feet still isn’t very good but I needed the acceleration. I started running, my claws skittering on the metal and holding my tail high to keep my balance. More bullets screamed around them, deafening in the confined space and I slammed into the wall right next to the cables digging my claws into the wall for grip.

“Give it up Kit,” the Eraser yelled up at me, motioning for the other Erasers to cease fire. “There’s nowhere to run.”

My eyes flashed, and I bared my teeth in what could just be called a malicious smile, nowhere to run, huh? I neatly severed the cables with one sweep of my claws. The lights flickered and faded slowly to black and I did my best Cheshire Cat impression. Plenty of places to hide.

I threw myself forwards on to a bar and blinked rapidly to get my night vision in, with the storm outside it was practically pitch black in there, now if I just knew how good the Erasers night vision was. A couple of torches immediately flicked on, illuminating the wall where I’d been standing and I padded along the bar on all fours, careful to stay out of sight and regretting not using all fours before. The lead Eraser cracked open a glow stick and the barn was filled with a weak phosphorescent light that only served to deepen the shadows.

“Find her,” he roared, holding the stick higher and actually making the shadows darker. “And don’t leave the door unguarded.” I rolled my eyes; I was really hoping they wouldn’t remember that. Some of the Erasers started roaming around the barn, shining their torches into the rafters.

I picked out one as he walked beneath me and shadowed him across the bars. He took a sudden left and I looked daggers at him as he walked obliviously away from my beam. I eyed the next rafter along, gauging distances, squatted down and leapt across a good twenty foot gap, landing hard and scrabbling for purchase on the metal. Torch beams swung towards me and my Eraser looked up in confusion.

I lay flat on the bar as the beams swept over me; none of them paused, after a moment they swung away. I sighed in relief and looked over the edge. My Eraser had looked back down and was now shining his torch into the shadows of a discarded plough. I waited until he had walked directly beneath me and waited. Sitting back on my haunches and just watching.

He started to wander off and I dropped out of the rafters head first. I crashed into the Eraser’s back, locking my claws into his shoulders and holding on for dear life and we smashed into the concrete.

There was a stunned moment as I remembered just how much that trick hurt. The Eraser beneath me moaned slightly but didn’t try to get up and the nasty blood stain on the floor said he wouldn’t for a while.

I leapt off him and dived for the nearest patch of shadows as the other Erasers came running. The old plough looked the most promising, so I slipped behind it and stood as still as possible.

“Shit,” one said bluntly, pointing his torch at the downed Eraser who was quite definitely unconscious.

“And that’s why I say she’s dangerous,” the lead Eraser said bitterly. “Now find her.” He began to morph, soon followed by the others and in unison they flicked off their torches leaving the barn dark except for the filmy light from the glow stick which the lead Eraser quickly dropped to the floor and smothered with his jacket.

The darkness was near total; a little light came through the gap in the door but nothing else. I could just see the Erasers fifteen feet away as vague shadowy forms, it was too dark to make out anything else and tiger night vision is better than humans or even wolves, so just what where they planning, they couldn’t catch me if they couldn’t see me?

I flicked my ears as I heard one of the Erasers drop to the floor and begin snuffling around. Of course being wolves they could probably smell me. Shit. I ran out from behind the plough, relying on sheer luck to stop me running into a wall. How well could you fight by scent? Couldn’t be that well. Could it?

I heard the Eraser long before I saw it; its claws clicking on the concrete as it ran straight at me, so much for keeping moving to blur my trail, and I skidded to a stop, wheeling to face it, and straining to see in the darkness. I could hear that the other Erasers were running towards me, all of them, but mine was closer. I’d deal with them when they got to me.

I readied to spring, just waiting for him to get to me, if I timed it right it could all be over in one swipe. The Eraser loomed out of the darkness, fully morphed and massive and I leapt at him without thinking, suddenly realising that the Eraser was on all fours and I had aimed as if he was walking upright. I had about half a second to contemplate this before I went flying over him, he flailed wildly at me and managed dig his claws deep into my leg.

I hit the ground hard and sprang back on my feet, whirling round to face him with a growl in my throat. I didn’t give him time to recover, just leapt, crashing into his side and bowling him to the floor. I dug my claws into his back, scything through flesh and fur and grating along his ribs. He roared in pain and slammed his arm into my face and I felt a stream of blood burst out of my nose. I growled in frustration and took a wild swipe at his throat but missed by a mile and dug my other hand deeper into his back in retribution.

I heard the second Eraser come running a second before he hit, and spun round to face him, desperately trying to untangle myself from the first one, fell back on my haunches and sprang. This one was upright and I crashed into him bearing him to the floor and tearing out his windpipe with my teeth before we even hit the ground. We came to earth with a crash and I leapt off him as he flailed in his death throws.

I took a deep breath, and was rugby tackled by the first Eraser who dug his own claws deep into my sides. I gasped in pain and raked my claws across his face, gouging my hind claws deep into his legs. He staggered backwards howling in pain and I leapt at him again, driving my claws deep into his chest and grabbing his throat in my jaws. He hooked his fingers into my hair as he fought to keep his feet and I tried to jerk my head enough to tear his throat but was stopped short as he yanked on my hair.

I bit down harder, feeling his blood flowing into my mouth, it tasted foul but I didn’t care, I just squeezed harder. He tried to shake me off, but I dug my claws in deeper and clung on doggedly. He sunk to his knees and began hammering on my back with his free hand, and I snarled in frustration. Why wouldn’t he die?

His fingers loosened in my hair and I whipped my head to one side, finally tearing out his throat and spat out the flesh and blood in disgust. He collapsed in a heap at my feet, his eyes staring sightlessly into the dark, and I sat back on my heels, clasping my arms round my head and breathing deeply. Fighting like that can take really take it out of you; especially if you’re really a one hit predator.

There was a thunder clap of noise and a bullet passed clean through my arm. There was a brief moment before I realised what had happened and then doubled up in pain, fighting the urge to scream. It hurt even more than last time, if that were possible. Two torches flicked on, almost blinding in the darkness and I had a moment to register the two Erasers me who were guarding the door striding towards me before I squeezed my eyes shut to preserve my night vision and threw myself out of the circle of light.

I open my eyes a moment later, and started running to stay out of the torch beams, bullets whistled around me and I ducked instinctively, I wasn’t partial to getting shot again but if I stayed out of the light I might be okay. A ricochet traced a burning line across my leg and I stumbled, falling flat on my face, right in the light and I braced myself, waiting for the shots and death to come. That healing was good but I doubt it could heal death.

Nothing happened.

I raised my head to see the Erasers desperately reloading and sprang to my feet, ignoring the pain in my leg, arm and the wooziness in my head and sprinted towards the Erasers. The torch beams were dazzling but I didn’t need to see them, I could hear them well enough to aim and even so I could see the fear in their eyes. I leapt into the air as they slammed another cartridge into their pistols and I barrelled into the closest one, jarring my injured arm and slicing my claws neatly through his throat.

He crumpled to the floor and I sprung from him as he was falling towards his partner who was just bringing his gun up. I crashed into him and the gun roared, the bullet slamming into the ceiling as I bore him to the floor. I tore his throat out with one swipe before we even hit the floor and watched the light fade out of his eyes before carefully getting off him and, after listening for any more Erasers sneaking up on me, keeled over.

That was it, I realised gasping for breath, I couldn’t take any more, if another one came I doubted I could even raise my arms.

“Weak as a kitten,” I observed feebly and chuckled. It wasn’t funny. Good thing that was all of them, I would be able to fight or even move for a while.

I sat bolt upright as I remembered that there were six of them; I grabbed the nearest torch and swung the beam around full circle. A few spooked cows, a lot of blood, no charging Eraser. I swung the beam into the rafters remembering my own trick, still nothing. Maybe I’d got lucky. And maybe pigs would fly.

“Make a snack for the flying wolves,” I murmured to myself faintly. Another not funny joke. It was probably the blood loss and the exhaustion talking.

I collapsed backwards, feeling the skin knit on my leg. That was a good sign. Healing away my tiredness would be good too but it didn’t feel like it was forthcoming.

I closed my eyes and was instantly asleep.

Feral

I woke up about two hours later and stayed in the barn, waiting for the rain to stop. When it finally did I walked for the rest of the day, in the end bedding down in the lea of a hedge which looked at least reasonably dry.

The next morning I cracked open my eyes, looked up into the sky and groaned.

I really didn’t want to get up. I’d been on the run for the last week. Hadn’t I earned at least one day off? A shiver rippled through me as I realised just how cold I was and that my back was soaked through. I leapt to my feet, almost collapsing as both my legs cramped simultaneously and rubbing my arms furiously, trying to warm up. Winter isn’t exactly the best time of year to sleep rough, and I have fur.

I took a furtive look around and took my shirt off, shaking myself all over to get rid of any lingering moisture out of my fur. The shirt was looking very sorry for itself, covered in blood, gore and general moisture; it wasn’t the most pleasant thing to look at and had seen far better days. I rooted around in my backpack and after digging past layers of Sophie sized clothes, I don’t know why I was still carrying those around, I pulled out something wearable and pulled it on. So that was my morning routine, take off anything too fetid to keep wearing and find something new. Perfect.

I stuffed my old shirt in my bag and pulled out a water bottle, draining it in one and then realised I was hungry. I would have thought that that stag would have lasted me longer, but then again I’d been active. I pulled out my map and glanced at it. Not a forest for miles, so I had no chance of catching an early breakfast. And it wasn’t like I could stop at a super market. Maybe I could pick off a farm animal, but people might get suspicious and I didn’t like the idea of leaving so obvious a trail.

I slipped my backpack on and dropped onto all fours. I wasn’t going to get anywhere standing here moaning about how long a walk it was, I’d deal with each problem when I got to it. I tried to ignore the fact that home was still a hundred miles away.

Four hours later I was wishing I’d stayed where I was. My feet hurt; all four of them, and my pads were doing nothing to help, if anything it they just made it worse and I knew better than try to scratch them. I was still hungry too. The landscape I had been travelling across had had sweeping fields, rolling hills and more farms than I knew existed but not one place to find a meal beyond a few scraggily rabbits, and I speak from experience when saying hunting rabbit is not worth the effort.

I paused to listen to whether anyone was nearby and, when I couldn’t hear anything, sat down angrily with my back against a stile growling to myself. What now, find a drive-through or maybe just raid a fridge? I could see a line of trees in the distance but really I couldn’t be bothered to get up to find out; it was just another border along someone’s bloody field. A shame because I really feel like mauling something right now.

A shadow past over my head and I looked up to see a bird circling high above my head. I glared at it suspiciously; I wasn’t believing anything I saw in the sky was a bird anymore. It was too far away for me to see properly but it was circling me and I was fairly sure I didn’t look dead yet. I closed my eyes and made doubly sure I couldn’t here anyone sneaking up on me, which I couldn’t and I couldn’t smell anyone either. Maybe it was just a condor and I was being paranoid.

I heard the bang a split second before something lanced into my shoulder and I roared in anger, leaping forwards onto all fours and lashing my head back and forwards to see where the shot had come from, growling all the while. My chin brushed against the dart and my growl intensified as the wound burned, I took the dart in my teeth and yanked it out, wincing from the pain and growling all the louder as I spat it away.

I couldn’t see anything that could have fired but I still snarled at the nearest empty space, scanning for movement, any movement, I just needed one twitch to latch onto and then I’d have them. Nothing stirred, the hedges rustled in the wind but I couldn’t see my shooter, couldn’t hear anything either. There was another bang and I threw myself to one side, landing in a ditch but dodging the dart that embedded itself vertically into the ground a couple of inches away.

I started running, I could see a line of trees in the distance, if I could reach those I would get some cover and be safe. I was still straining to hear the shooter but all around me was silence save for a few surprised birds, a third shot boomed above me and I accelerated, hearing a tiny thump as the dart hit a few inches behind me. I glanced up, the bird was still circling above me but there were no guns, a small part of my mind suggested that it might be the bird shooting at me but that was stupid, only humans had guns.

I burst though another hedge and snapped my attention back to the ground to stop myself falling into a ditch, digging my claws into the earth for traction and darted left as another shot splashed into a nearby puddle. That little voice was still screaming that I was being attacked from above but that was ludicrous. Nothing attacks from above. Or at least nothing attacks with a gun from above anyway. I sprinted along the edge of the field, where I was being attacked from could wait until I could get to where was I going to hide.

Another hedgerow loomed in front of me and I dived into it, snagging my claws in the branches and dragging myself to a stop. I crouched down low and checked to see if anyone was hunting me, nothing moved but I had no idea who was shooting at me. I began skulking along the line of the hedge, pausing occasionally to double check for something following me.

There was a loud woomph as something landed in the field a few dozen yards away and I whipped round to face it, dropping flat on my stomach to make best use of the shadows. The ‘thing’ didn’t make any sense, my eyes were telling me it looked like a human but it was furling huge black wings behind its back and my nose was screaming “Wolf!” not to mention a little aggravating voice at the back of my mind yelling “Eraser you dolt!”

I readied myself to spring but something stopped me, and it was probably for the best as the Eraser turned to reveal a long hunting rifle held in the crook of its arm. I felt a growl rise in my throat which I quickly silenced. He was the one that got away, but the gun would hurt and I wouldn’t be able to reach him before he fired.

He looked round once more in frustration and shot wildly into the hedgerow, hitting a good hundred yards away. I bared my fangs and twitched my tail in amusement, now if he’d only walk along the hedge. The thing spread its wings again and began to run away from me, labouring into the sky and then was gone. I checked above me and saw it still circling above me, that would get annoying but I had more pressing issues to attend to. My stomach growled. And that was one of them.

I skulked off towards the forest. With any luck the thing would get bored and fly away, that annoying little voice didn’t believe it though.

Half any hour later I was growling to myself even though I was supposed to be hunting. There was nothing in the blasted wood, it didn’t even deserve the word forest, and so far I hadn’t seen tracks for anything bigger than a rabbit and those barely deserve the title of food. I paused suddenly as I caught a scent on the wind; it smelled almost like… chicken. Barbecuing chicken to be precise, sure that meant someone was cooking it, but I was hungry enough not to care. Besides being a tiger stops people complaining when you take their food, though that little voice was kicking up a storm about my plan.

I followed my nose to a clearing and lurked in the shadows watching what looked like a perfectly normal family making a barbecue lunch. I was surprised it was lunch time, maybe I’d slept late. Two adults were busying themselves around a smoking grill and a little girl was happily playing around the edges of the clearing, I briefly considered changing my menu but decided against it. That annoying voice was making enough of a fuss already.

“Hey,” the girl said, suddenly right on top of me and making me crouch down in surprise. “What are you supposed to be?”

I froze for a moment and then roared, sending the girl running screaming, “Muuum!” then leapt after her, landing about an inch short of her and only because that voice ruined my pounce.

“What the heck is that thing?” the woman screamed as her husband pushed her roughly behind him and brandished a toasting fork at me.

“Get to the truck!” he roared as I looked at him quizzically, wondering if he was going to try anything, surely that voice wouldn’t protest to a little self defence. He began to retreat, not taking his eyes from me and I snorted in displeasure. Oh well, the grill was at least left unprotected.

I stood up next to the barbecue and speared a few choice pieces of chicken on my claws, keeping a careful eye on the man and his family in case they tried anything funny. They didn’t look like they would; it looked more like they were barricading themselves in their pickup. I swallowed a piece of meat whole and then realised that the man was pointing a shotgun at me.

I moved quick as a flash, leaping over the grill and kicking off it, sending hot coals flying everywhere and sprinting towards the man who flicked the safety off his gun and took careful aim. The gun roared and I felt the buckshot tear into me as I leapt into the air, partly I’ll admit to get the weight off my legs, and bared my teeth in a silent snarl as I soared at him. He didn’t flinch, just reversed his grip on the gun and swung it like a baseball bat.

The stock smashed into the side of my head and I slammed into the man, losing all control and bouncing of the side of the truck then collapsed in a heap on the floor. I vainly fought to stay conscious but my vision was greying out and blood was flowing freely into my eyes. My head was pounding, mostly because that little voice was screaming its head off but I still tried to get to my feet, growling all the while as the blood throbbed in my ears and my legs burnt.

I tired to take a tentative step and my legs gave out instantly, leaving me lying face down in the dirt and my next attempt didn’t even get me off the ground. My growls petered out, fading to a dull rumble as the blackness took me and a bared my fangs at the man as he loomed over me, a last gesture of defiance as I fell into unconsciousness.

That voice was still yelling at me.

Bad to Worse

I woke up with my head pounding and stubbornly didn’t open my eyes. Childish I know, but maybe if I didn’t acknowledge it then reality would give up and leave me alone.

My stomach growled. So much for that idea.

I cracked open an eye, and saw the cold steel grill of a cage above me and leapt to my feet, banging my head on the roof and causing the whole thing to rattle.

I forced myself to calm down as a growl rose in my throat and crouched in the centre on the cage, lashing my tail and half looking for something to pounce out. I didn’t have a clue as to how I’d got there; all I really remembered was being hit by a dart or something then… A flash of memory suddenly came to me, that Eraser that escaped me in the barn landing in a field and me, screaming at someone. I couldn’t quite remember who though.

That was weird; for a start who would I be yelling at? More importantly though when had that happened? I looked beyond the cage; it definitely didn’t look like any part of lab I had seen. Beige walls, the occasional painting and a few old fashioned wooden medicine cabernets that looked almost homely, though I couldn’t read any of the labels from where I was so they might have contained evil medicine. There was also an examination table next to my cage and even posters on the anatomy of cats and dogs on the walls. I did note however that there was only a slim window near the ceiling, but that beat most parts of the Lab and that place looked almost lived in, a far cry from the labs unusual sterility.

My head throbbed and I put my hand to the side of my head where I found a massive bruise. I was sure was I supposed to have healing powers, but maybe it only healed serious injuries, though in my opinion a blinding headache was pretty serious. I growled in annoyance. I really hated being caged. Worst I had absolutely no idea just where I’d picked up that damn bruise. I’d been sitting down when I blacked out for heaven’s sake.

An image of a man holding a shotgun flashed through my mind. Odd seeing I’d never seen him before in my life and I rubbed my eyes, sitting back against the wires of the cage which jingled merrily. It was just too confusing, not to mention the fact I had know idea how long I’d been there, I should get a watch. A door clicked closed somewhere nearby and I froze, flicking my ears to find another sound.

“So you’re sure you have no idea just what it is?” I heard a man ask, a vague memory of him yelling something in panic flittered across my mind but it was gone before I could figure out just when it had happened.

“Your guess is just as good as mine,” another voice answered. A woman this time, and I definitely didn’t recognise her. Their foot steps were getting closer and I tensed, hopefully I would remain caged for long.

“You should probably just put the damn thing down,” the man continued grumpily and I snarled in the general direction of his voice. “It shrugged of a shotgun blast from point blank and was still trying to get up after I’d hit it for a home run.”

“I’ll bear that in mind,” the woman replied curtly and opened the door to the room. My eyes locked onto the man and I instantly recognised him.

The memories came back in a rush and my eyes widened in shock. Had I really been considering eating that little girl?

That was…

Monstrous.

What the hell had been in that dart?

Do you know the worst thing though? I hadn’t really been acting that differently from normal.

It was disturbing that the lab could mess with how I thought, it was a good thing that they’d hadn’t managed to do it before now. Then again, how would I tell? I thought back over the last two weeks, I couldn’t think of anything that seamed irrational, sure I’d killed a few Erasers and devoured half a stag but old Kit would have done that. Wouldn’t she?

Probably not actually. Old Kit felt like a different person, some of her… my memories didn’t even make sense anymore. Like teams, how do teams make sense?

I snapped back into reality and realised the man a woman were still talking. I’d have to think about how I’d changed later, there were more important things going on.

“How’s Elizabeth holding up?” the woman asked the man. Note to self: don’t tune out of your captors’ conversation, who knows what I missed. I actually looked at her for the first time and realised she was wearing a white coat, an involuntary growl rose in my throat though I kept my suspicion in check, lots of people where white coats and most of them aren’t inherently evil.

“Still in hysterics,” the man replied gruffly. “And Kay won’t stop crying.”

“Go take care of them,” the woman told him kindly. “I’ll deal with the tiger.”

“You sure?” he asked. “You’d didn’t see what it was capable of.”

“I’ll be fine,” she said testily, rolling her eyes.

“Okay then.” He left hurriedly and the woman entered and closed the door with a sigh, then crouched down next to my cage.

“You’re not a tiger are you?” she asked bluntly, looking me right in the eyes.

I regarded her coldly for a moment, wondering if I should trust her or not. Sure I’d managed to pick up an instinctive fear of people in white coats over the last month but I wasn’t ruled by my instinct. Hopefully. Besides, I’d managed to get myself into this mess of my own initiative and I doubted the lab could set up me going feral, attacking some random person and getting knocked out.

There was also the little matter of the cage wires being a little too fine for me to fit my fingers through so I was actually going to need someone to open it from the outside.

“How do you figure that? I asked nonchalantly, sitting forward and resting my head on my hands. Her eyes widened in shock and I fought to keep a straight face, that was probably a rash decision but her reaction was worth it.

“You’re talking,” she said after a moment’s stunned silence, kind of answering my question but it was more a shocked statement. “Well you don’t look like a tiger,” she continued stammering. “Real tigers are bulkier. Not to mention the fact that you’re sitting up, wearing clothes and have thumbs.”

“It’s true, my disguise sucks,” I admitted, wiggling said thumbs. “But at least I can still play my console.”

“Who are you?” she asked in shock and confusion. I seem to be getting that reaction a lot lately, maybe it’s the stripes.

“I’m Kit,” I told her frankly. “Who are you, and where the hell am I?”

“I’m Dr Rainer,” she explained, still sounding flabbergasted. “And you’re in my surgery. I’m the one who pulled the buckshot out of you.”

“Oh,” I said simply, coming off my high a little. I’d almost forgotten how I’d ended up here. “Well I suppose I should thank you for that. Any chance of letting me out?” I suggested casually, trying my best to make it sound a reasonable request-

“No,” she said instantly.

And failing miserably. It’s the teeth I swear, it makes my voice all growly.

I sighed and sat back against the grill of my cage, crossing my arms in front of me and trying to look relaxed while keeping a steely eye on Dr Rainer. My tail continued to lash though, as I sized up the various ways to escape so maybe my casual air fell down a little. It didn’t particularly look I was going to able to talk my way out of there, though I was beginning to wonder just how tough the wire really was.

“Why did you attack Paul?” she suddenly asked, catching me by surprise.

“I was hungry,” I said automatically and then realised just how bad that sounded. “Plus I wasn’t really myself.” At some point I was really going to have sit down to figure out just what they had done to me, and I’m not just talking about my feet anymore.

“Just who are you anyway?” she asked rubbing her eyes.

“I told you, I’m Kit,” I said with a shrug.

“Okay, what are you?” she amended a little testily. See you should be specific.

“You don’t want to know,” I told her after a moment’s consideration. “The last guy who asked was fleeing for his life ten minutes later.” Her eyes widened and I hastily added. “Not from me by the way.”

“Who then?” she asked frowning.

“The…” I began, and then thought of Michael and his sister. “Really you don’t want to know,” I completed.

“I think I do,” she said contrarily.

“No, you don’t,” I assured her. “These people were perfectly willing to kill someone for even talking to me. Hell, they’d probably kill you just for seeing me so I guess it actually doesn’t matter in the slightest.” I paused for a moment after finishing that sentence.

“Shit!” I swore suddenly, just figuring out what even being here implied. “This was exactly why I was trying to keep away from people,” I muttered angrily to myself. “HHHHHhhow could I have been so stupid to get caught by bystanders?”

“I guess if they’re after me already there’s no harm in telling me all about it then?” she suggested diplomatically and I fixed her with a steely glare. She was right but I don’t think she quite realised quite how far in over her head she already was.

“Let me out and I’ll think about it,” I countered, leaning forward.

“I still don’t know that you won’t try to eat me,” she said calculatingly.

“And I still don’t know that your not one of them,” I snapped back. “But I’m not the one that has to worry about Lab goons breaking down that door at any second. I can just escape again.”

“Deal,” she said after a moment’s consideration and pulled a ring of keys out of her coat pocket. I sprang out of the cage the moment I heard the lock click and got slowly to my feet, starching in a way that only felines can truly manage.

“I hate cages,” I said simply and eyed Dr Rainer who’d leapt backwards when I’d rushed out.

“I’m not going to bite,” I assured her, smiling faintly and trying my best not to show too many teeth. My supposedly harmless image was kind of ruined as my stomach chose that moment to let out a loud growl, reminding me that I was still very hungry and there was a potential food source about six feet away, though that last bit may have just been paranoia. Seriously, how can you tell the difference between instinct and your own overactive imagination?

“Hungry?” she asked, as soon as it looked like I wasn’t going to pounce.

“Starving,” I told her honestly and probably redundantly.

“Let’s find you some food then,” she said taking a nervous breath. “And you can tell me all about this grand conspiracy.

“Wait a moment,” I said taking the wire mesh of the open cage door in both hands and twisted. It warped easily beneath my hands and I muttered, “Thought so,” to myself, before following Dr Rainer out.

A Road to Somewhere

You have no idea how good a set of clean clothes and a shower feel after about a month. Dr Rainer turned out to be rather sympathetic to my story as it happens; the kidnap of a thirteen year old girl by evil scientists provokes that sort of reaction apparently, though I edited out some of the violence. Okay, all the violence. I was trying to appear the victim rather than some insane tiger. Which one I actually was is more or less up to you, just I wasn’t going to think about it, something told me I wasn’t going to be particularly happy with either answer.

Anyway, it felt good to get back to civilisation for once, though in this case it was more a matter of being dragged into civilisation. I was more than happy to settle for an open door, a direction to follow and the twelve pounds of meat Dr Rainer had in cold storage for the dogs. She, however, decided that she could be even more helpful so after a few hours of having everything I owned cleaned, preened and pressed I was loaded into the back of her pickup and before I knew it we’d already gone further than I had the rest of my journey combined. I’ve got to learn to drive; that or grow wings.

For some reason though I couldn’t settle, maybe it was putting my fate in someone else’s hands even for a few hours, maybe it was the fact I had absolutely no idea why she was helping me, or maybe it was that I’d been hiding under a tarpaulin for a quarter of an hour and was slowly beginning to broil in my fur. It took about thirty seconds for me to finally come to a decision, and I slipped out from under the tarpaulin, quickly discovering just how windy it is while you’re going sixty miles an hour.

Actually it was kind of fun once I’d gotten a firmer footing and had managed to extract my claws from the ruins of the tarpaulin. There was another thing I was going to have to chalk up to instinct, claws, but standing on the flatbed of a vehicle going at sixty miles an hour down a country road is not a comfortable position for either a tiger or anyone with half a brain. I swung my legs over the side of the pickup and leapt onto the half step under the passenger door, wrapping my toes round it and for once glad that I couldn’t where shoes anymore. My grip tightened on the bodywork as the wind tried to rip me away from the side and I briefly wondered whether I would have done something like this before I got crossed with a big cat. In fairness I probably wouldn’t have, but it was more a matter of me being unable to do it rather than unwilling.

I opened the passenger door a crack and half leapt, half swung through the gap, grabbing and pushing the inner handle to catapult me into the front seat and slammed the door shut after me, trying to relax enough so that it would actually look impressive.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Dr Rainer demanded angrily the second I was inside and I rolled my eyes, trying to extricate my tail which had wrapped round my leg to avoid getting caught in the door. Add another one to instinct.

“I was boiling alive under that tarp,” I explained shrugging. “Besides you said I could sit in the front when we left the town and I don’t see any town out there.” I emphasised that with a wave of my hand and the surrounding scenery which had given way to fields and a few sparse woods.

“I was waiting until we got onto the country roads,” she said tersely, taking a deep breath. “You’re not exactly inconspicuous.”

“Point,” I admitted. “But who’s really going to believe that they just saw a tiger sitting in your front seat. With any luck we’ll be gone before they give us a second glace.”

“Yeah, well let’s just say I don’t particularly share your optimism,” she said anxiously. She’d gotten decidedly twitchy after I’d told her the full extent of the Lab thing. That was part of the reason she was giving me the lift, the further away I was the further away everyone else was from danger. “And what on earth convinced you that getting into the front seat of a moving car was a good idea?”

“The fact that I can do it,” I said simply, not admitting that I had absolutely no idea whether or not that trick was going to work, and that a fall from there wasn’t particularly likely to kill me. That was another thing for my ‘to do’ list, find just how effective these healing powers actually were.

“Now that’s just arrogance,” Dr Rainer said after a moment, shaking her head.

“No,” I countered, perplexed. “It’s true, you just saw it.”

“I know that,” she said. “But you don’t have to be so dismissive, it’s rude.”

“But it is true,” I said with certainty.

“It wouldn’t kill you to show a little empathy,” she grumbled.

I thought about that one for a moment. I hadn’t done anything particularly terrible to her that warranted guilt beyond involving her in this mess and that had only partly been my fault, so I didn’t quite get what I was supposed to be empathising about; all I’d done was correct her.

“You do know what empathy is right?” she asked, cutting through my introspection.

“Sure,” I said off-handly. “I’ve got enough gnawing guilt to keep me sated for years.”

“No,” she said sounding concerned. “Its not the same as guilt, it’s about caring about what another person’s feeling.”

There was another long silence in which I mulled that over and finally admitted, in a small voice, “I don’t think I know how to do that.”

“Seriously,” Dr Rainer asked in disbelief. “I thought you said you were human.”

“What are you suggesting,” I snarled and she flinched away slightly, remind me to kick my self later.

“I remember stuff like that,” I admitted after a moment, the growl out of my voice more or less. “It just doesn’t make sense anymore.” Dr Rainer glanced at me with a look of pity in her eyes and I fought back another snarl. Who needed empathy anyway, it just sounded uncomfortable?

“I’m going to sleep,” I muttered, closing my eyes and curling up with my back to Dr Rainer. “Wake me up when we’re close.”

***

It’s a funny thing but if you spend long enough in a car you get used to the sounds it makes and if you suddenly get hearing like mine it’s extremely easy to tell if something’s wrong.

“What’s going on?” I demanded, sitting bolt upright as the engine roared.

“Some joker’s right up my tail pipe,” she snapped and I glanced over my shoulder to see a large unmarked black van that was practically driving with its bumper glued to our spare tire. It reminded me of a very similar unmarked black van that had first kidnapped me and Soph and the tinting in the windows only really confirmed my suspicions.

“Err, Doc,” I said hesitantly as the van dropped back a little.

“I know, I know,” she said edgily. “I can figure these things out.”

“Can we outrun them?” I asked craning round the head rest again to get a better look.

“Let’s just say I inherited this car,” she said as an explanation and I winced.

“Gun in the back perhaps then?” I suggested as the van appeared to drop back, paranoia convinced me that it probably wasn’t going to stay there.

“I’m a vet, not a freaking vigilante,” she half yelled and I noticed her knuckles were going white on the steering wheel. “What the hell have I gotten myself into?”

I ignored that question, it wasn’t particularly for me anyway and I suddenly noticed an Eraser leaning out of the van window, aiming a very large handgun.

“You may want to try dodging,” I suggested to Dr Rainer, wincing in anticipation. There was no way this was going to end well.

“What are you…” she began just as the gun barked and I wrenched her down, ducking myself and already reacting to get out of the way of any broken glass.

A heartbeat later I realised that there was a definite lack of flying shards of death and hastily let Dr Rainer back up before we ran off the road.

“Missed?” she asked sounding frantic, swerving to avoid a hedge that was rushing up to greet us and I heard something thud into the back of the car, figuring it out a half second later.

“No, they’re going for…” I began hurriedly as the gun barked again and there was an almightily bang followed by an ear splitting screech of what I can only assume was the wheel rim scraping along the road.

Dr Rainer fought for control as the car fishtailed wildly and I grabbed one of those little handles in the roof that seem only to be there for situations like this, hanging on for dear life. The engine roared as Dr Rainer tried to accelerate away, slamming the steering wheel right to try and counteract the burst tire, and I spotted the Eraser’s van closing very fast in the wing mirror.

“Shit,” I thought as the van slammed into the already uncontrollable car, and for the briefest moment we were travelling horizontally down the road which, if you’ve ever watched any action movie of any type you’ll know, is not a direction any car will move in without protest.

The flip seemed to happen at an almost leisurely pace, the asphalt suddenly loomed in my window and I curled into a ball, fighting the urge to go limp which with hindsight might have been better for me. Glass exploded into the vehicle, tracing red lines across my fur and there was a scream of tortured metal as the door crumpled quickly followed by the roof.

I had my eyes closed by this point.

The g-forces were pinning me to my seat though it wasn’t like I really had anywhere to go and I heard the front window shatter, quickly followed by the driver’s and I felt the glass rain on my fur. A jolt shook the car as the tires hit the ground again and my head hit the roof with a crack, that was going to hurt in the morning, but the crash was far from over.

I dropped into the foot-well, my mind reeling from the blow and I think I blacked out for just a moment, though I think it would have been nice to miss the rest of the accident as it felt rather akin to being a penny in a washing machine. After the longest ten seconds of my life, bar maybe those first few moments in the tank, the car came to a rest. It was probably upside down though I couldn’t particularly tell from where I was, and had long ago lost which way was up. There was only a narrow strip of light from where the door had fallen off.

I tired uncurling a bit but stopped, as my arms screamed in protest, I’d probably broken at least a few bones but with any luck they would fix up fairly quickly. Of course that was assuming my healing power was still working, which hopefully it was because otherwise I’d be in serious trouble. Especially as I think I managed to tenderise my brain during that crash.

I think I zoned out for a minute again after that, because the next thing I knew there was something big blocking out my ray of light and I couldn’t hear the van’s engine anymore. There was the sound of boots crunching on broken glass and an Eraser half yelling something angrily and I struggled to listen over the ringing in my ears, not to mention the pounding headache.

“I warned you,” an Eraser growled to someone or other. “I warned you. We could all see they were out of control but no! You just had to ram them anyway.”

“Our orders said neutralise any witnesses and capture the tiger,” another Eraser replied in a surly tone. While my sense of direction was kind of rattled I guessed he was the one standing right next to me. “They say she’s bloody un-killable anyway.”

There was the distinct sound of someone smacking their forehead with their hand.

“Her healing was neutralised,” the first Eraser snarled impatiently. “Hence she can be hurt. Hence we get our asses handed to us if she’s dead. Getting the picture?”

“Okay, okay I got it,” the second Eraser snapped defensively.

“Good. Now I’m going to find some way of getting this wreck the right way up. Stay here and make sure she doesn’t escape.”

“Wait?” the second Eraser cut in, obviously not the brightest bulb in the shop. “You want me to guard someone you think may have died?”

“Yeah,” he shot back. “And I have to scars to justify it.” Hmm, apparently I’d met him before.

I listened to the sound of retreating footsteps and attempted to roll my shoulders, it hurt like hell but I could move most of my limbs and none of them seemed to be pinned. In all honestly I’d gotten out of the accident rather well, and any bones I’d broken were already healing up nicely, even the lump on my head had gone down taking my headache with it. I rolled slowly onto my front, thankful for once for the pads on my hands which stopped me ripping my fingers to shreds on the glass, and eyed up the gap between the floor and the ceiling. I’m not entirely sure which one was which but I could see a pair of those heavy boots the Erasers seem to favour through it and I wasn’t quite sure I could fit. The last thing I needed to do was to get stuck.

I read somewhere that if you can fit your head and shoulders through a gap you can get the rest of yourself through, it was quite obviously wide enough but I wasn’t entirely sure my head was small enough. On the other hand my skull and neck are only remotely human these days so at worst I’d bang my head. I dropped onto my stomach and inched my way through the gap, hanging my head as low as I could and, the moment I felt there was space above my folded ears, burst out, scraping my back on the jagged metal as I did so.

The pain made me gasp and my concentration broke, my foot slipping on a clump of glass and sending me sprawling ignominiously at the feet the Eraser.

“Well, well, well,” the Eraser said smugly, the last well accompanied by the click of a cocking hammer. “Look what we have here.”

I looked up at him bearing my teeth and pulling my legs up behind me, sitting on my haunches in a very cat like way.

“Now don’t move a muscle kitty,” he continued and I began to lash my tail, unsheathing my claws and not taking my eyes off the Eraser. Anyone with experience with cats could tell you those were all bad signs, but apparently the Eraser was a dog person and I hadn’t started growling just yet.

“Hey guys!” he yelled suddenly to the other Erasers, looking up and briefly taking his eyes off me.

Mistake number one.

Instantly I sprang, slamming my shoulders into the Erasers legs and neatly swept them out from under him sending him crashing to the ground. His gun thundered as he fell and I heard the soft ‘ping’ as the bullet ricocheted off the tarmac right where I’d been half a second before. I spun round just as his head hit the ground with a bang, and was practically on top of him half a second later, poised to strike if he moved.

“I would suggest not moving a muscle,” I said calmly, not even out of breath. The Eraser groaned and tried to raise his head off the asphalt. I took a fistful of hair and slammed it back down. He didn’t try and move again.

See, you don’t even have to have made a second mistake.

I slunk on all fours over to the pickup, keeping my ears open for any Erasers sneaking up on me and tried to spot Dr Rainer through the wrecked vehicle. In all honesty she didn’t look like she was in a good way, her seat belt had more or less kept her in her seat but she was decidedly unconscious and I didn’t like the look of the blood pooling on the ground beneath her. It’s times like that I really wished I knew first aid, and wasn’t trying to fight off however many Erasers.

“Experiment!” the first Eraser’s voice called out, right on queue and I rolled my eyes.

“It’s Kit,” I yelled back, poking my head over the ruined car to see the Erasers quite smartly crouching down, levelling their guns at the car. “Call me anything else and you’ll end up like your buddy over here.” I ducked back down as a bullet pinged off the under body of the car, okay so this wasn’t going to end well.

“If you were smart you’d surrender,” the Eraser barked as the echo faded away, and I glanced around. The car had more or less come to rest in the dead centre of the road and there were a good few feet between it and the hedgerows, I could possibly sprint it but getting shot would be likely and a serious problem. Also it hurts like hell.

“Why don’t you come and get me?” I called back, sitting down with my back against the wreck. “I can wait all day if I want.” That was a lie; I really needed to get Dr Rainer medical help and while I had no idea how I was going to do that, getting rid of the Erasers seemed like a good first step.

“She has to come out soon,” I heard him mutter to another Eraser. Yes my hearing is that good. “He said she wasn’t exactly patient.”

“Backup will be here soon,” yet another Eraser pointed out. Okay so much for my waiting until they got bored and tried to take me on hand to hand. I eyed up the nearest hedge more carefully, I might be able to make it without one of them shooting but I would have to be going pretty fast and I didn’t have a huge amount of room for a run up. Not to mention that they may well be expecting something like that.

I rocked forward onto my hands, deliberately letting the tip of my tail show over the top of the vehicle and stalked along the side. There was a tense moment where I waited for the pot shot but it didn’t come and I sat down very deliberately right at the edge of the car and waited a moment, straining to hear the Erasers. A gun clicked softly and I twisted round, practically gluing my tail to my leg so they wouldn’t spot what I was doing and waited a heart beat.

Then I ran.

The wreck flashed by in a blur of red paint and twisted bodywork and I sprang, suddenly appearing out from the opposite side of the car, bullets pinging off the metal and asphalt as I sailed through the hedge and was away.

“No one move!” I heard the first Eraser roar as I skidded to a stop, dropping on to my stomach as I did so. “Do not split up. She’ll come to us.”

Okay, someone tell me when the Erasers started using their brains? Seriously I’m sure they weren’t this smart the first time I fought them. Maybe they were wising up, or finally taking me seriously.

I crept down the line of the hedge; the Erasers were beginning to fan out regardless of the bossy one’s orders and it was only really a matter or time before one of them actually thought to look over the hedge. A cursory glance told me the field I was in was pretty barren; it was essentially just ploughed with a few shoots of green which translates to, ‘no cover’. That was particularly annoying as I could see the trees on the other side of the road, damn my sense of direction.

I kept walking until I was about a hundred yards away and at the end of the field, the Erasers were getting decidedly twitchy in their positions around their van. They were probably thinking about what would happen to them if I got away without them even trying to catch me. As soon as I felt they’d waited long enough to be completely rattled I put back my head and roared.

I still can’t say how satisfying it is to do that, nor why it’s so satisfying, but I didn’t have any time to waste resting on my laurels, I was already tearing back down the field, desperately trying to keep as silent as possible and trying to figure out just what the Erasers were doing based only on my hearing.

It sounded like it was working, I observed, hanging a left and running a short distance into the field. The Erasers all seemed to be facing my roar and none of them were quite paranoid enough yet to look the other way, I wouldn’t be coming from there anyway.

The echoes had barely faded away as I rounded on myself and took a steadying breath. The Erasers were only a dozen yards in front of me and none of them were looking my way. I wasn’t going to get a more perfect opportunity.

To the Eraser’s it must have seemed like I’d sprung out of thin air, actually I just jumped the hedge, but I consider it my job to freak them out as much as possible. I slammed into the nearest Eraser, hooking my claws into him, driving him to the ground and his head hit the asphalt with a sickening crack as I hastily untangled myself from him, readying to spring in one fluid motion.

The next Eraser had barely noticed me as I struck, knocking him backwards and taking a wild swipe at his throat which missed by millimetres, four parallel lines of red blossoming across his throat. He staggered backwards, desperately trying not to fall as I hooked my claws into him, hanging on for dear life and rather obviously balled my fist right in front of his face. Unfortunately for him, his attempt to grab my hand was foiled by my pinning one arm to his side and him holding a gun in his other hand.

There was a smack as my fist connected and he dropped like a rock, stunned or out cold I didn’t particularly care which. A bullet roared over my shoulder and I dropped along with the Eraser, a shot biting into him instead of me and proving that Erasers can be useful after all. I desperately tried to figure out what was going on, the Erasers had retreated back and were surrounding me, all of them with their pistols trained on me. It didn’t look like I’d be able to run and just how many bullet wounds I could heal at once wasn’t particularly something I wanted to find out.

“Aren’t you going to give me a chance to surrender?” I asked, glancing round and creeping my hand over to a dropped gun.

“Being shot doesn’t seem to bother you,” the first Eraser pointed out with a snarl, pulling back the hammer of his gun.

“Meh,” I said shrugging. “It still hurts.” I brought the gun up suddenly, training it on the lead Eraser and winced, waiting for the shots to come. Nothing happened.

“Five against one,” he pointed out levelly, unperturbed by the muzzle pointed at him. “I’d drop it if I were you.”

“You want me to drop it do you?” I asked, smirking as they fell into my plan. “Okay.”

I hurled the pistol at the Eraser nearest to the van and was after it like a whippet out of a gun, leaping into the air before they’d even realised I’d moved and neatly caught it in my jaws. The poor Eraser never knew what hit him as I slammed him into the side of the van, knocking the wind out of him and ramming my claws into his throat. I dropped as shots thudded into the vehicle, hastily grabbing another dropped gun and leapt upwards. A splinter of pain shot through my side as a bullet traced its way across my flank but by then I’d hooked my hands over the top of the van and pulled myself to safety.

I lay on the roof panting and spat out the pistol, that hadn’t exactly been the sanest thing to do but then again I’d handed in my pass for sanity a long time ago. I rolled onto my front and looked over the guns, from what I could tell they would work and I reckoned the safeties were off, though I wasn’t entirely sure my hands were big enough to reach the trigger and hold the stock at the same time. Too bad, I didn’t have another plan.

“I wish I had a grenade,” I heard the first Eraser mutter; echoing my thoughts somewhat and I crept to the edge of the roof, taking a pistol in each hand.

“Give me the keys,” he demanded. “I’ll get her off there myself.”

Suddenly I poked my head over the lip of the roof and opened fire, literally just hanging my arms over the side so they didn’t have any part of me they could shoot back at. Now while it may be true I have no skill with firearms whatsoever it’s pretty damn hard to miss at ten feet, even if I was shooting tomb raider style. Both pistols clicked empty just as at long last a bullet clipped one Eraser on the shoulder, and I hurled myself from the roof, crashing into another Eraser who thought he was far enough away from the van to be safe, smashing his head into the ground with yet another crack.

I rounded on yet another Eraser who was already bringing his gun round and charged at him, not leaping for once and feeling a bullet whistle over my back. His leg crunched as I bit down deeply on it, tearing it out from under him and helping him crack his head on the road as he fell, knocking him out cold.

“What was that you said about surrender?” I asked the final Eraser, who also happened to be the first Eraser, rounding on him.

“It’s something you should probably do,” he said smugly, his gun pointed firmly at me. He was admittedly standing just a little too far away for me to rush him properly and I was kind of out of clever plans, so maybe that attitude was justified.

“After you,” I said with mock graciousness, attempting to bow while standing on four legs, something that’s interesting to watch to say the least.

“Ah, but I have the gun,” he pointed out.

“And I have the body count,” I shot back. “Still think you’ll win?”

“Gun beats…” he began and I fainted running forwards, cutting him off mid banter and dived left as a bullet ricocheted off the tarmac in front of me, accelerating towards the Eraser with a barely suppressed roar. Something slammed into my back as I charged and I desperately fought to keep my footing, leaping forwards despite the dagger of pain from what felt like a shattered rib.

The Eraser looked honestly surprised as I crashed into him wildly and sent him flying, hitting the asphalt with a smack, and struggling to get to his feet as I tried to do the same. It turns out getting shot really messes up your ability to land on your feet. I had the advantage though; I didn’t have to go up as far. Another swift, hair grab and slam routine had him out cold and I finally could relax, or more precisely start paying attention to the various wounds I’m managed to acquire.

First things first though.

I limped over to Dr Rainer and, after checking she was still breathing dragged her out of the wreck. In all honesty you really shouldn’t move someone after an accident, but I didn’t particularly think it was healthy for her to be hanging upside down from her seat. A quick search in the foot well managed to net me her cell phone and I reluctantly dialled 911.

“Ambulance please,” I said in my most human sounding voice, the moment someone picked up the phone.

“What seems to be the problem?” a friendly voice asked after a momentary pause.

“There’s been a car crash at…” I began, probably with not nearly as much urgency as I should have had, and the realised that I didn’t have a clue where we were.

“Okay I don’t know where I am,” I admitted. “But I’m using a cell phone.”

“Okay, we can trace that,” the women on the other end of the line said hurriedly, keys rattling in the background. “How many people are injured?”

“Just one,” I told her, glancing round at the Erasers in various states on immobility and began to wander over to one that was showing signs of stirring. “She’s breathing but unconscious.”

“Any obvious wounds, blood loss?”

“Let me check,” I said, clocking the Eraser on the head with a rock and hurrying back to Dr Rainer. “Nothing big,” I confirmed. “Lots of scratches though and I know she hit her head.”

“Right,” the woman confirmed. “An ambulance is on the way, don’t move her and help will be there shortly.”

“Will do,” I told her and hung up.

I sighed as I put down the phone next to Dr Rainer, she really shouldn’t have been dragged into this mess and I should’ve at least done her the curtsy of staying with her until the ambulance arrived but I couldn’t afford anyone else to get in trouble over me. With that in mind I began to pile the Erasers up in the back of their van and after a very quick crash course in driving, parked it half a mile away, setting out over the fields with no particular direction in mind.

I never did find out what happened to Dr Rainer, apart from what happens to everyone who tries to help me. I heard the sirens though. So I’ll assume she was alright.

Epilogue

They say all great journeys begin with…

You know what, forget it; philosophy is another thing I seem to have lost, but that didn’t much affect the fact that I was sitting in the lower branches of a tree trying to catch a glimmer of movement in the darkened windows of a house.

My house, as it happened.

It had taken a long time but I was finally home. Turned out Dr Rainer had gotten me far closer than I’d ever imagined and I was walking in the woods behind my house by sundown. Then I discovered just how many Erasers there were skulking there. At least it told me Soph had probably made it back, that or they had wised up and figured out just where I was going.

That was why I was stuck up a tree at midnight-ish desperately watching for a sign that I shouldn’t have been over the horizon already. I guess at least I had plenty to do, I hadn’t stopped running for a long time and there were a ton of issues I had to resolve over just who I was and whether I was thinking any differently than usual.

Naturally I was drawing a blank and hovering somewhere between zoning out and dozing off.

It was no use really, I knew who I was. I was Kit. Currently a part human tiger and if I was thinking any differently than I used to… Well, old me felt alien these days, not the other way around.

A light flicked on in Soph’s room, and a moment later she appeared in her window looking out into the night. I was fairly sure she couldn’t see me, or at least she didn’t look like she’d noticed a tiger in a tree.

She looked; well. Though, as the last time I saw her she’d been in a cage, anything would have been an improvement. However long she’d had at home can’t have hurt either. I did wonder how Mom and Dad had coped with her having wings now, but very shortly that wasn’t going to matter.

I began to climb down the tree. Frankly I would have liked to just slink off and hope that the Lab would just leave her alone. Too bad there was absolutely no chance of that happening.

It was going to get worse before it got better.

The End


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