Bari Boyd, Creative Writer
Ta’chee’ah opened her eyes to find that she wasn’t in the cavern anymore. Now she saw with a greyed tunnel vision, the point of focus of which was a man’s face. Later, Te’a never could have described the face. Yet, it evoked such a torrent of emotions, fierce anger, raw hatred, crushing fear, and intense pain that the cat-girl felt as if her head would explode.
Memories are strange things. Te’a saw through the much younger self who had experienced it at the time. However, she felt a strange sense of disconnection. The eyes she saw through were strange and uncomfortable. Details blurred, while movements came into sharp clarity.
Te’a heard a voice speak and realized that it was her own.
“Whrat did you do to me?” Instantly her focus shifted to herself. She saw again as if for the first time the small tight black shorts and the mid-section revealing top of the same material. While her hands and feet bore webs of scars, the rest of her body was not as disfigured. A single line traced every joint and a thick weal ran up her spine. Her gaze shifted to her hands and then back to the man’s face.
“I fixed you. Made you better. You’re no longer weak. You’re strong. The perfect servant. Human weapon.”
Te’a felt hot pressure build behind her eyes, but she couldn’t cry. The tears wouldn’t come. The world went black, but the cat-girl knew what happened next. She felt her muscles tense as she flew through the air, springing for his throat. And then there was pain. An agony of fire filled her senses, blotting out all else. The girl had never felt pain like this before. But after this point that changed.
Suddenly it was over. Her eyes snapped open to see Chimp’s face. He studied her intently.
“Your cardiograph and EEG were off the charts. You O.K.?” Body shaking from the intensity of the experience, Te’a glared at him, before snapping her bonds derisively and reaching up to yank off the sensors. She stood, every joint on fire, only to almost run into Kodiak Bear. She backed away.
“Whrat?!” He shrugged, scrutinizing her for an instant, and turned around carelessly.
At that moment Tom Cat and Red Fox returned.
“What’s going on?” Chimp shook his head.
“Trying to help Puss with her memories.” T.C. growled something under his breath and turned to Te’a.
“You alright?” The girl did not look good. She was holding her head, eyes pressed tightly shut, shaking slightly. Her mind was far away. He took a step toward her. Suddenly she exploded with an inhuman yell. The cat-girl tore up the stairs and flung herself out the door. Her claws slid out and she ricocheted between the two walls. Her claws retracted even as she hit the barely angled rooftop. Then she was flying along, a lone figure starting to blur.
“I’m going after her.” Tom Cat said and started to move. But Red Fox stopped him.
“Any idea what she saw?” she asked Chimp. The man shook his head.
“You all stay here. I think it’s time I had a little chat with our cat friend.” The woman used a high-tension micro-cable grappling hook to ascend to the roof. Then she was off, following the girl at a much slower pace. Meanwhile, Ta’chee’ah raced over the city. It didn’t take long for her to reach the first real gap between the roofs. The cat-girl didn’t see it until too late. By then, she was going too fast with no way to balance herself.
Te’a flung herself across the gap. Unable to compensate, her body slammed into the far wall. She fell only a story, dropping onto an ancient fire escape, one of the few remaining from a much different time. The entire contraption, dislodged from it’s somewhat precarious hold on the brick wall, crashed, girl and all, six stories onto the pavement below.
The racket elicited unwanted attention from those undesirables who defied the city’s 11:00 curfew law. Hearing footsteps, the cat-girl’s eyes snapped open. She drug herself to the brick wall. Her heightened senses easily allowed her to diagnose her multiple injuries. She found several broken and cracked ribs, and a cracked scapula, besides a severe concussion. She slowly and painfully clawed her way up the wall, barely avoiding the self-appointed investigators. Collapsing on the rooftop, Te’a was still.
Ta’chee’ah sat up. Her entire core throbbed with pain. She stood, unsteady at first, with a grimace. That’s when the girl noticed Red Fox. The woman stood with one foot braced up on the ledge of the flat cement-slab roofed building. She was gazing out at the darkened city, hair blowing slightly in the breeze.
“Whry did you frollow me?” The girl demanded accusingly. Red didn’t answer right away. Instead, she sighed.
“You know, you’re not unique.”
“I fround thrat out today.”
“Not your claws. The amnesia. And the feeling that you’re all alone in this world; you’re scared, but you have to be strong.” The cat-girl snapped to attention, every muscle tensed.
“You would know tis hrow?”
“Because I don’t know who my parents are, assuming they’re still alive, where I was born, or what my real name is. Red Fox is the only name I go by now. My first memories are of coerced dancing in a…ahem…club. Everyone has a story, kid. It’s time you grow up and face facts. We’ll find the people who did this to you. You might even figure out who you are…you were. But this is who you are now. It’s a tough life out here. Nobody’s going to be pulling any punches. If you don’t learn to accept who you are and knock off stunts like tonight pretty quick, then you’re going to be dead, healing or no healing, real fast.”
Ta’chee’ah just stood there, eyes wide, staring at the redhead.
“Whry are you telling me tis? You do not trust me.” Red threw back her head and laughed.
“Girl, I don’t trust anyone. But, you know, I think, for the first time, that you’re real. You know, you mean what you say and you say what you mean? I respect that.”