This is set in the "Tales from the Blind Pig" universe. This chapter also contains acts of violence, profanity, and whatever else my evil mind can think up. You've been warned.
It was about two days after Kerry and I had given the interview to that person. While the interview went ok, something left me with a nagging feeling that I had forgotten something. It also left Kerry with very much the same feeling, so we were pretty sure something was up. I had Sam digging though what records he could access on people by that name, but pretty much everything we wanted to know was the official property of the Independent Nation of Arizona, and therefore inaccessible to automated searches. So, we made sure when we went out on our "sanctioned" trips (i.e., to the parole office, or other things with the officer's permission), we made sure to be extra careful about the house and everything else. Kerry would give me a hard time about it occasionally, but she saw the look in my eyes when I told her that "It is not paranoia when they are out to get you." So she put up with it. As it turned out, they came to us. They blew the upper door in with a door breaker (the big police thing-y that looks like a battering ram), and nailed both of us with tranquilizer darts before we really even had a chance to do anything.
I woke up strapped loosely to an upright platform in an empty room. I looked around groggily for a clock, which I found and read as 11:30. lunch time for the morons, I thought. I looked at the straps. They were the usual leather that is reserved for the psycho cases. A quick mental check indicated that I was groggy but unhurt, essentially. I curled my left hand, and slowly extended a claw. Full length. I repeated the experiment with my right hand, and smiled. Fortunately, there was no one in the room, as this smile was known to scare children, pets, and caused policeman to chug pepto-bismol by the quart. fools didn't bother pulling those out. This should be easy. I had the restraints off in a flash, and 15 more seconds had me waiting behind the door awaiting the return of whoever was keeping me here. I used the time to stick a claw in an electrical socket, and I started drawing electricity from it to finish purging the rest of the tranquilizer out of my system, and to build up a pool, should I need it. I mentally thanked The Beast for telling me about this trick. I got a mental shrug in return. *Wait until you see what I use it for.* I tweaked his nose mentally, and went back to waiting.
About ten minutes later, the door opened, and two norms in white coats came in, shuddering to a stop as they noticed that their subject was no longer where they had left him. Ten seconds later, the door was closed, and 15 more after that found both of then on the ground, with a large hind paw on their chest. "We can do this the easy way, or the hard way. The easy way means you get to fucking live. Choose one." They both were slightly panicked, but both chose the easy way. "Good. In order to live, you need to tell me where they are keeping my mate." The one on the left stammered "W- We don't know. She might be on the next level down. There is another lab there." I nodded sagely. "Ok." Transferring my right foot to his leg, I stood up and found a syringe with what appeared to be the tranquilizer in it. "You put this shit in me?" They both nodded. I nailed both of them with half the remaining contents, and soon they were both in sleepy land. Afterwards I tied both of then to the table, and looked around the room. Spying a breaker panel, I opened it. Looks like the panel for the entire floor. This should be fun. Extending my claws on my right hand to their full length, I ran a nice cut around the breakers. There were plenty of sparks, but those didn't bother me one bit. Not even when the lights went out, and the breaker started making a very unhappy hissing/growling noise, indicating that I shorted two phases together. Leaving the panel open, I opened the door, and locked it shut behind me as I went down the dark hallway to the stairwell.
The next level down had power, but not for very long. A quick swipe to the panel (although not nearly as artistic), and the lights went out. Darkness, the true friend of bastards everywhere, was interrupted only by a couple of EXIT signs which flickered briefly, then went out. I smiled again, and opened the door, and slipped past most of the people milling around the hallway. The security guard who managed to catch me with the NV goggles (and who was obviously way too paranoid because he had them) was lying on the ground, shot in the knee with his own pistol. His screams only added to the confusion. The level was laid out just like the floor above, so finding the lab was not a problem. The two guards behind the door were not much of a problem either, going down just as quickly as the one in the hallway. As they lay on the ground with blood pooling around their knees (and the arm of the one stupid enough to fire back at me before handing over his gun), I found Kerry, strapped to the table just as I was. "Sorry I'm late sweet. The rush for the door was pretty heavy" I said, as I gingerly clipped the straps holding her down. I also took a sniffed and determined that nothing ill had befallen on her. She looked like crap, but managed to smile. "You took long enough. Is there a bathroom somewhere?" She replied back with a wry look on her face. I chuffed in amusement. "I'll escort you there." This is exactly what we did on the way out, although she was cranky that I stepped inside the room and held the door shut. "This way", I said as she used the fixtures, "I won't be distracted waiting for you outside." I was taking quick peeks outside, though, just to make sure there would be no unpleasant surprises waiting for us. Apparently, people were too busy getting out of the building due to the electrical fires that I had started. On the way down, we grabbed the NV goggles off the hapless guard (who took at least one sharp jab to the groin before he would give them up. Go figure.) This gave Kerry the same advantage that my night vision gives me, so we both manage to make out way outside without too much hassle. We did leave the goggles for the poor guy; I think they were his personal ones.
We left as fast as we could, because as we were leaving, I heard the same eerie blood curdling cry that I had heard so long ago in Arizona: Owen's mutts were on the loose. Ah Shit, not again. I picked up Kerry and held her bodily and started running as fast as this form would let me dispite her screaming. As I started putting space between that place, I tried to remember their tactics.
James Owen was the nastiest, most racist, and meanest son of a bitch that came out of the hickville towns of Arizona after the Flu. Before the Flu and SCABS came along, he was racist against just about anyone who was not white, straight, or right wing. About the only thing he was good for was his skill with guns. I knew for a fact that he habitually carried a 5 shot revolver loaded with .50 cal armor piercing bullets. He was also a hypocrite. He had a bunch of worlf-morphs that would do just about anything he asked them to do, even though he hated SCABS. We had a brief run in with him and his gang on our way out of Arizona during the riots. I manged to distract him and the pack of mutts while Kerry, Grumpy, and Jose got out of the nation and into New Mexico, where the feds were waiting for us to provide some form of protection from the rogue state turned country. Because of this, they swore that they would hunt me down, which caused me to laugh at the time. And now this...
Kerry smacked me to get me back into the here and now. The packs had managed to find our hiding spot, along with the police (Who had raised the civil emergency alarms when my ankle braclet went out of range from my house off schedule). I looked at Kerry with all seriousness. This was my fight now, no matter how much she wanted it. She simply did not have the defences. "Kerry, listen to me carefully. I have to put you in a shield. Things will go dark for a bit until I finish with these clowns. You won't be able to move, so just get comfy." She started to argue, but she noticed that my eyes had gone from the pale blue-green to a glowing jade color. She nodded. "Be careful, kitty. I love you." I licked her face. "I love you too. I always have, and I always will." I stood up, and let The Beast invoke the shield.
The shield is of those things that can be best described as "that freak SCABS power". It absorbs kinetic energy, and uses that energy to maintain itself, otherwise it drains on the person who created it. It can also pass light, air, and sound, but I had made this one opaque to light and sound, so as not to bother Kerry with what was about to happen. I did set it up to filter air, otherwise she would have been dead after 15 minutes or so. After invoking the shield, I heard a low growl behind me. The Alpha was stepping up. I had already shifted to "ultra-1" mode, (armor, maximum regeneration, and the full 4 inch claws). His growl was matched and exceeded by the low rumble of my growl. I spun to face him, and motioned him forward with my hand. "Come get some." The wolf roared and lept, but I was ready for him, and slammed my open hand into the side of his skull, slamming it into the brick wall in the alley. The leader hit the ground and started twitching. The rest all attacked at once.
The fight was bloody, violent, and quick. By the time it was finished, All the mutts were dead or dying. How I managed to remain standing, though was another thing. I had taken massive damage. I was leaning against the wall, blood dripping from the stump that was my right leg and tail. The left leg was stripped to the bone armor below the knee with chunks missing from the armor itself. The flesh resumed at the ankle. My right arm was broken below the elbow with bones sticking out, and my right eye and ear were gone. I was still bearly maintaining the shield, but the black was slowly fading out as my body diverted the engery that was feeding it to healing and cauterizing my wounds. I was panting from the effort at this point when I heard James Owen himself cleared his throat behind me.
"Stupid fucking cat. At least you killed off those goddamned dogs for me. Those fucking scabs ended up just like you are gonna be. Glad I sent one to find ye. Say good bye, mother fucker." Before I could spin around, He fired the revolver I knew was pointed at me four times. The first two impacts knocked me to my knees, with the last two knowcking me down completely. I heard him walk up to me. I heard him fumbling with something, and as he kneeled down to put the final bullet in my head, I heard a male voice behind yell "FREEZE!" James Owens jumped up and spun around, and went to fire the last bullet out of the gun. But before he could do that, he was holed no less the five times by a hail of police fire. I painfully rolled over, and came to rest in front of the almost clear shield.
The shield cleared with a quiet *pop*, and Kerry shook her head to clear the sensation of being in suspension. Then she looked at my shattered, bloody wreck of a body. "Christ! Kitty?" She started to cry. "Kerry... I need you ..."::COUGH::" to get the converter...Bring it to the hospital..." I coughed again, and blood came out my mouth. Kerry looked at me again. I opened my remaining eye, and looked at her through the red tinge of pain. "I love you. I always have... and I always.. will..." I closed my eye, and everything went black.
Need energy. Dying. Start asking for sucrose IV and energy converter. Got reply in english. point to left arm, inner elbow. feel needle enter vein. initiating conversion and coma...
The paramedics were astonished when the warm corpse in front of them asked for a sucrose IV, and guided them to inserting it in his left arm. as soon as they did, an orange light started glowing from the line going into the arm. They started hauling ass to the hospital as the ECG monitors indicated that the big cat had gone into a coma. The varied wounds started to glow orange and heal themselves, and the IV started to empty itself at a rate far exceeding what the paramedics though was possible.
"Hmmmm....", I thought. Better check the limbs, I'll bet something bad happened. Left front, check. Left Rear, check. Right front, check. right rear... tail... Ah. Apparently not. Guess there's a good reason for it. Better open the eyes up and see if I'm mono-vision for bi-vision. As usual, I got the bright white line that slowly resolved itself into the off-white of a hospital ceiling. Well, mostly. there was an odd color shift between eyes. I tried the ol' sniffer, which brought the usual gag of medicinal stench, which cause me to cough a little. Never will get used to that smell. However, I also picked up a few other things. An old and new scent of Kerry, the pungent aftershave of my lawyer (crap), the non-smell of the shrink, Drs. Horse and Bug, the stressed smell of my normal Dr., and the vague zoo scent of my vet. The cough brought a blurred shape that resovled itself into the form of Kerry peering over me. I heard a whirring noice from under me, and the bed moved to put my chest upright.
After a few seconds of grunts, I managed to find my voice, which slowly got stronger. "Looks like the whole cabinet is here. How bad is it this time, besides the leg and tail?" The next half hour was spent by the lawyer informing me that I was at the risk of being labeled feral and tossed into a zoo or worse, despite the fact that my actions were purely defensive. The hearing had been delayed until I was awake, and seeing as that glorious day was today, the judge had decided that a video conferenced hearing would suffice, and had scheduled it for three days from now. Then the doctors (both mental and otherwise) spent a good three hours making sure that I was ok mentally and physically. They were worrited that I could not feel my right leg and my tail. Despite the fact that the structures were there, the nerves had not re-grown, so they were essentially non-existant as far as my mind was concerned. I was annoyed at the fact that the hospital had not allowed the usage of the converter, which was why I was out for three months instead of three weeks. Fortunately, Kerry had managed to sneak it in anyway, and I spent the next two hours in agony as the nerves in my leg and tail re-grew and re-connected with the rest of my body. I also found that the reason my color vision was slightly off was because each eye had a different color. the left was the jade green that I had when i collapsed in a puddle of my own blood, but the right eye was the familer pale orange of the Beast. This also worried me, as the beast has been silent ever since I started fighting. I mentioned this to my shrink. "It's odd. I've alwasy has this voice in my head to bounce things off of, but it's just not there anymore. And I don't know why. I wish I just remember-" my voice snapped short as my eyews shut, the memories came flooding back in my mind.
Memories. I now had both sets. The persona of the Beast, with his set of memories. The persona of the human turned SCAB, and the pain and emotions that came with it. The gestalt that the Beast created to help merge the two into one, and to ensure the bodies survival even if all that was left was a warm corpse of a creature, and the knowledge that this happned. The knowledge of this body's abilities and raw power, and the attendant responsibility that accompanied it's useage in this place. I opened my eyes, looked at Kerry. The fact that both eyes were glowing their mismatched colors was slightly odd, and it was something I felt needed to be fixed. "Kerry, what color do you want my eyes to be? The steel blue of who I was, the green of the shared person, or the orange of the beast? Once you choose, the color will fix and stay like that." She looked at me. "Why? what happened to the Beast?" I lowered my head slightly. "The Beast chose to merge himself with the person you know and love. The person you love did this willingly, even though he knew, as did the Beast, that the result may be something entirely different." I smiled my "harmless" smile. Kerry looked at me. "And that result?" I leaned forward and licked her face. "That result loves you even more, and wants to know what color eyes you prefer staring into." She ended up choosing the steel blue, which I changed both eyes to. The glow faded, and the nurse came in to kick everyone out so she could do her duties, and make sure I got some sleep.
The next two days passed in a haze. I was rated back to solid foods, which was an entertaining experience. Kerry stuck with me the entire time, which made the whole experience bearable. The lawyer came in around noon the second day, and we spent the next four hours figuring out exactly what I was going to say and do during the proceeding. The proceeding would not only determine if I was going to the nut farm, but also serve to determine if I should have charges filed for the things I've done this time. This was the federal hearing. The State hearing was held while I was out, and they deferred to the Feds on the charges, to avoid the double jepordy clause. And on that note, my dinner was brought in along with a datapad filled with a summary of the past three months news, which filled the rest of the time before I was told to finally sleep.
I woke up the next morning at precisly 7:30, and proceeded to get myself ready. Sure, I might not be appearing in person, but I figured that I ought to look me best for the video camera. the nurse was slightly paniced to find me in the shower doing what I could with the fur shampoo that Kerry had thoughtfully left me the night before when she visted. I was fine, I just was a little weak with the right leg. I did notice during the post showering drying and grooming session that the fur that had re-grown was white instead of the usual orange/tan mottle that I normally sported. This was not a good sign, but I figured I'd deal with it later. The two deputys absolutely insisted that I be chained to a wheelchair and wheeled in. I complied without any protesting (as explicitly instructed by my lawyer), and at 10 am, I was wheeled in to the conference room that was set up for the hearing. I was parked in front of the camera, facing the TV. The two deputies locked the wheels of the chair, and pulled up seats on both sides of me. The judge presently walked into the courtroom, and everyone stood (except me, obviously) and started. My lawyer and I had arranged for several very subtle signals that he would give me, which worked out quite effectively. Kerry was also in the courtroom. The judge evantually put me under oath, and asked that I recount from my point of view what happened. I did this, and was interupted a few times by the prosecuter to clarify or explain something. And at least once the lawyer stepped in to recount that something I had done had already been taken care of (like the damage to the building's electrical systems), so in the most part my re-counting too about an hour or so. The two sides asked a few more questions, and then the judge asked for a 15 minute recess, in order to make his decision. The two deputies up and left, leaving me sitting locked into the chair for the duration. At least I don't have to pee, I thought, stifling a giggle when I saw the judge's chambers open and the man himself come strolling out. He came up to the video camera, and asked me why I was still here. I displayed the cuffs, and mentioned that I could not reach the locks, nor propel myself out. That seemed to satisfy him, and he spent the next ten minutes talking with me about life in general.
With five minutes left, he thanked me for my time, and went back into the chambers. At that point, the deputies walked back in, and uncuffed me long enough to go to the bathroom. I got back and was locked back in, when the judge came back out, and started his speech. I noticed the Kerry was not there, when I felt a warm hand start scratching behind my ears. One sniff told me that it was Kerry, obviously providing moral support. She stoped after a few seconds, though, because the judge was coming up to the good part. "... And as the federally appointed judge, I have a responsibility to ensure the justice is served for both those accused and the general public. I have examined all the facts and circumstances surrounding this case. This proceeding will determine the legal status of the defendant, weither or not he is sane and in control of his mental facilities, and also if he presents a danger to the general public. It is my opinion that the defendant is in full control of his mental facilities. As far as being a danger to the general public, it is my opinion that although he can be dangerous, he presents no more of a danger to a citizen openly holding a firearm. The property damage that was incurred was already handled by the defendant's repersentative, hence I am throwing out that charge. For the charges of manslaughter, the defendant acted purely in self defense against SCABS that were known by this court to be feral. The counts..."
Although the judge continued, I could scarely believe what I was hearing. My jaw dropped open as the judge further ruled that I was also to be given my own guardianship back, and that the only punishment was to be on parole for another year. I continued staring at the screen long after the video conference ended, until Kerry finally broke her hug with me. Hell, I wasn't even aware that she was hugging me. I was that stunned. She was looking at me with a bit of concern. "Kitty? You ok?" I winked at her, and startled her slightly by leaping out of the chair, bouncing the tiles on the drop ceiling about a bit at my hand (and head) kostled them, and did a very happy dance, ending in me sweeping her off her feet and around and around and around...
I was finishing up with cleaning the pool pump and filter when Sam announced visitors appraching. I told him to direct the visitors to where I was at, and finished up my task. The visitors were a pair of federal agents, My parole officer on an unscheduled visit, and a gentleman cerring a briefcase. I had just finished washing the grease and muck off my hands and was drying them when they came in. "Good morning. I'd offer a place to sit, but unforutnately there are no clean chairs here. May I ask what this is regarding?" The agents explained that there had been a reward offered at one point for the capture of Owens and his gang. The gentleman with the briefcase had placed it on the work table, and was extracting a small packet of paper out of it when he spoke up. "I represent the Nation of Arizona. At some point, you were wanted for crimes against this Owens charecter several years ago, when he was a civil officer with the Nation. Since then, the government has changed as you may or may not be aware of. and I am here to inform you that Owens was not acting under any authority of the Nation, and in fact was a wanted fugitive from the current government. In addition, we have not only dropped the charges pending against you, but we would like to offer compensation for the crimes that Owen and his gang commited against you and your friends." I shook my head. "The crimes that he commited have, in my opinion, already have been settled by his death at the hands of the local law enforcement." The lawyer shook his head. "We are aware that the legal costs for the latest trial have bankrupted you personally. We attempted to try the crimal Owens for crimes he committed under the previous government, but he fled, and was on the run. We have worked with the Federal Government in an attempt to track him down, but we both had difficulty. When we learned about what happened here, my superiors felt that the Nation owed you something to thank you for bringing him to justice, even if it was his death." He handed me the packet. It was a recipt from my accountant, showing that all the money that I had paid out to the lawyer for the past three years being re-deposited into my account, plus interest. One of the federal agents mentioned somthing to the gentleman. "The other recipt in there is the remainder of the federal reward, which was also deposited with your financial advisor. I also have a letter from your former employer as well." He handed me a sealed envelope. "I... I don't know what to say. 'Thank you' does not seem to be adequate", I stammered. The gentleman shrugged. "I believe this concludes the business I have with you. Good day." He turned and left with the federal agents. My parole officer stayed for 15 minutes or so, with his usual questions and general talk. He asked me if I would open the envelope. I shrugged, and worked a claw under the flap and opened it. as I extracted the letter, He asked same to call Kerry. The ringing of the speakerphone made the background as I read the letter slowly, and then her voice came through. "Kitty! What's up?" I shook my head again. "Not much. How much of this were you aware of?" Her laughter made me smile. "All of it. We have your office ready. You want to start tomorrow? Grumpy is already pissed at you for the state you left your room in." I chuffed, my ears and tail twitching in humor. "Sure. I'll bring the beer." She signed off, and the parole officer had the look of the cat who caught the canary. "You planned this, didn't you." He nodded, a smile growing on his face. "Well, I do have connections." He got up to leave. "I'll see you in three weeks at your place of business. Stay good." I got up and walked him to the door. "Of course. It's harder then being bad, but the rewards are definately worth it."