Feral

(A MORFS Universe Story)

by: Shrike

 

 

Chapter 1 - The change

 

The man in front of me motioned quietly to his left. I looked there but didn’t see anything. As silent as possible we crept forward till I could see what he meant. There was a very big black cat lying unconscious on the ground. And it wasn’t a normal cat too, as it didn’t look like any other large cat I knew. It wasn’t a normal panther, though I had read somewhere that black jaguars as well as black cougars are referred to as panthers.

Our standing orders were to take any unusual animal we encountered on our security searches, and if we were able to, to transport it back to the Base, so we quickly assembled the lightweight, but extremely strong cage and put the possible cat hybrid in it.

As we got ready to go back to the Base, my shift partner said, “I hope this is the last one we have to haul back. I’m getting tired of the experiments they’re performing. What do you say Lando?”

I looked at Corporal Levin Smith, I knew he wasn’t lazy, just bored in the jungle of South America. “I think they’re doing some good work, though they should be focusing on eradicating the disease, not trying to replicate it.”

 

We made good time getting back to the Base, and after depositing the still comatose animal at the wildlife shack to be tagged and processed, we went to our CO to debrief. Major Skiggs heard our report and was interested in us finding the big cat. Then he gave us an unpleasant surprise, “Get some rest men, tonight you are both on guard duty.”

I groaned, I really didn’t like guard duty, especially with Smith. He could be a real asshole. Still it was part of the job. Major Skiggs had heard me, “Is there some problem Sergeant Johns?”

“No problem sir, just feeling a bit tired and hungry.” I quickly responded.

“Good, dismissed both of you.” The major looked at the papers on his desk ignoring us.

We quickly exited his office and headed to the mess hall to get a snack. “Lando, you almost got us into more trouble there. Good thinking though on the reply, but next time keep the groans to yourself, okay?”

I grunted an acknowledgement and went over to the food dispenser to get a snack. After eating my sandwich I went to my bunk and lay down thinking about how I got here. I thought back to what happened after a mission with my former team to recover a MORFs survivor from a Russian-Chinese crime syndicate.

 

●●●●●●

 

Several months earlier, Okinawa Japan.

 

I had just gotten back from the border between China and Russia. Now I really wanted to get some R & R. Too bad one of my teammates had gotten seriously hurt during that mission. I hoped that Sergeant Bartlett would be okay. He was a good soldier. As I was about to enter the barracks, someone behind me called out, “Sergeant Lando Johns, wait up please. I need to talk to you.”

I groaned, when would they give me some time off? But I turned towards the man that had called after me and saw a Major wearing a Special Forces uniform run towards me. He quickly reached me and said, “Can we talk privately?”

I showed him an interrogation room that I knew had a recording device on 24-7. I wanted to have proof of what I was getting into this time. I had been on enough missions that went sour and one time one of the chaps had been left behind as a scapegoat. I was going to make damn sure that something like that wouldn’t happen to me. As we sat down the major looked around, “This is a secure room, right? What I have to tell you is top-secret.”

“Sure it’s secure, I picked this room, because it’s bug-free.” I lied to him. I knew where the recording device was hidden and planned to get the recording as soon as we were done here.

The major visibly relaxed, “Okay good. I’m Major Skiggs, I want you on a team that I’m getting together. It will require for you to disappear from the radar completely though. You would be reported missing. Are you interested?”

“Why the hush hush on this, what is it all about?” I asked being suspicious.

He looked around, though it was obvious that we were quite alone in the room. He softly said, “We are guarding and assisting a group of scientists to research the MORFS disease and how to prevent our children from becoming animals.”

Now I was interested. I was quite upset about the MORFS disease. Some of my friends that I grew up with had been stricken by it and a lot of them had turned into half or full animals. I didn’t want to know them anymore and shunned them. My big half-brother Lars was even more outspoken. He really was a pure sympathizer. But last thing I heard was that a kid of his had come down with it. His wife divorced him and he was looking for her and her impure offspring. I had gotten the idea that he wanted to kill them both.

Well I didn’t support that decision. Though I was still young with my 31 years, I already had quite a lot of experience with killing. I didn’t like it, but as a soldier it was my job sometimes to terminate someone so others, including myself, would live. I turned my attention back to the major, “Okay, suppose I am interested, why do you want me Major?”

“We know your qualifications and your beliefs Sergeant. We are looking for people that believe in the cause as we do. We can’t condone animals having the same rights as us people and perpetuate the situation where more children are born with this horrible disease, especially our children.”

“Okay, so how are we proceeding, I can’t very well just leave here. I’ll be listed as AWOL. I don’t want that on my record.” I exclaimed.

“You’ll be sent out on a mission, we’ll have someone pick you up from there to our destination.”

I looked at him with suspicion and curiosity, “What is the destination and who is ‘we’.”

Major Skiggs looked at me with a calculating look, “The destination is secret for now, though it is on the South American continent. As for ‘we’, we are a group in the military that wants to put a halt to the threat of these so-called humans, which are in fact no more than animals.”

I nodded in agreement with some of his beliefs. We agreed on me joining his team and how they would pick me up.

Finally when he was gone I secretly went to the recording station and secured the recording of our entire conversation. This would be my bargaining chip if things got out of hand and they decided I was to be the fall guy.

 

●●●●●●

 

Present day, somewhere in a South American Jungle.

 

With a jolt I woke up, and scolded myself for falling asleep. Then I smiled, I had needed the rest. I looked at my watch and saw that I still had a few hours. So I turned and slept a little more. I woke up just before the alarm would sound and quickly showered and dressed in a clean uniform.

In the middle of our watch we heard our supply plane coming in for a landing. Moments later the runway lights began shining their light and the C-17 began its landing cycle. I yelled at Corporal Smith, “I didn’t know that we were expecting the cargo tonight. Did you?”

He shook his head in denial.

We watched as some of the scientists and some other members of the team went out to the plane. Soon they returned with about half a dozen people that looked like kids to me. As they got closer I could see them better. There were 3 girls and 4 boys aged from 10 to 15 by my guess. I sneered to one of the scientists, “What is this, why are these kids here?”

He gave me a cruel look, “They are our new test subjects. They have a high chance of contracting MORFS. We want it to happen so we can study them.”

I looked with contempt at them, but couldn’t say or do anything. Alone I had no chance of helping any of these kids. I may be a pure sympathizer, but I draw the line at experimenting on helpless kids. One girl looked straight at me, “Please help me! Why don’t you help me, please?”

I looked away from her, I couldn’t do anything, nor would I be of help if I started protesting here. I might get a chance later. Smith was a real bastard sometimes, I already didn’t like him very much, not like the members of my previous team. But now he even smacked the girl and told her to move her butt. I didn’t show anything on my face, but internally I was boiling.

After our shift ended I headed for my bunk without saying a word to anyone. Smith did find it a bit odd, but didn’t say anything.

The next morning I got called into the Major’s office. He asked straight out, “What happened last night? Smith said that you were angry about something.”

“I was under the impression that the research here was done to stop MORFS, not to imprison small children, have them go through it and then experiment on them. You never told me anything about that, Major.”

The major growled, “As you were soldier. We’re here to follow orders, I didn’t know it before either. Besides it doesn’t make any difference. If it helps our cause then I don’t have a problem with it. Now, am I going to have a problem with you? Do you need reassigning?”

I forced myself to stay calm, “No sir. I just don’t think it’s right. But I’ll follow orders and I agree that it should be okay if it really helps.” Internally I was seething. ‘How dare they do that?

The major relaxed a bit, “Okay, I won’t make an official note of this conversation, but I will be watching you Sergeant.”

I just saluted and waited for his next order.

He almost immediately barked, “Dismissed soldier!”

I hurried out of his office and went to the gym to work of my frustrations on a punching bag. I worked up quite a sweat, till I had to get ready for another briefing. There I was assigned to internal guard duty. I guess they didn’t trust me that well anymore. Well the feeling was mutual.

I was roaming inside the Base watching if doors were closed and such, when one young scientist came out of a lab and asked, “Hi, can you help me for a moment? I need to have these specimens brought to lab 4, but I also have a time-critical experiment going on. Could you bring them there for me? It’s a rush job, thanks.”

And he went back inside after giving me a tray of some syringes and vials. I shrugged and started walking towards lab 4. As I was walking down the corridor, suddenly a door flew open, right into me making me drop and spill the vials and syringes. One of those kids, a boy that looked about 14, sprinted out. I felt a little sting in my leg, but didn’t think much of it. The vials and syringes had all been smashed against my clothes and to the floor. It was a real mess.

Some fellow soldiers chased after the kid and caught him within moments. They were about to beat him, when I stopped them. “He has a right to try to escape, don’t punish him for that!”

They a look of contempt,  but heeded my words before hauling the boy back to his feet and into the lab they came from. I watched them go and wished I could have done something to help that boy.

Instead I went to find something to clean the mess up. After doing that, I took the remains and what was still in one piece to lab 4. I tried to explain what happened, but the scientist there started yelling really loud at me. When he didn’t want to hear anything I had to say, I slapped his face, he tried to hit me and I took him in a sleeper hold. As I held him immobile, I hissed in his ear, “There was nothing I or anyone else could have done. Now let it go and get some new samples.”

Then I released him and went back to doing my rounds. Afterwards I wrote up my report and handed it over to the major. He read it and said, “What is this incident with the vials and such?”

I explained him the circumstances and he reluctantly agreed that there was nothing I could have done. But he did say, “Next time don’t let them use you as a delivery boy.”

“Yes, sir,” and I got dismissed again. I went straight to my bunk, not feeling too well. I figured that I was just a little tired and would feel fine after some sleep. I didn’t know yet how wrong I was.

 

I woke up in the middle of the night feeling really nauseous. I also really had to go to the toilet in a hurry. As I was doing my business I realized that I wasn’t just tired. I had contracted some sort of disease and knowing the symptoms I had a real good idea what that disease might be.

On my way back to my bunk I went into one of the deserted labs and swiped a MORFS detection kit. Back at my bunk I made sure no one could see what I did and let the device prick my finger to get a blood sample. I knew these devices weren’t a fool proof test, you need a microscope and a lab for that. Though they were both available here, I couldn’t take a chance of using them, even if I knew how to do it. I waited for a few minutes and looked at the result of the test. It clearly was a positive for MORFS. I was stunned with the revelation. ‘I have MORFS?’ I had already suspected it, seeing as this was a MORFS testing facility. But I had thought that I was too old to get it. Now I wasn’t so sure about that anymore.

I was getting a bit scared, but that didn’t distract me from making a plan. I knew that I needed to get away from here. I was sure that they wouldn’t hesitate to experiment on me, when they found out I had contracted MORFS. So I needed to get out of here, but I also needed some stuff that would help me to get through the change. Whatever change that might be that I would have to go through. I hoped that I wouldn’t change too much and most of all I didn’t want to become some animal hybrid. Still I had to be prepared for the worst. I forced myself not to look too sick and put some of my stuff in my Alice pack.

Avoiding the patrol that was on duty I raided a supply locker that contained energy bars and sleeping pills. I knew enough about what was needed for a change and like the good soldier that I am, I prepared for almost every possibility. After finding everything I thought I’d need came the hard part,  getting out of the Base and avoiding being followed. I knew I couldn’t get out unseen. I helped design the guard schedule and knew all the alarms and weak points. To my knowledge there weren’t any, not even for flying MORFS animals, though some places could use better alarms, like the ventilation system.

I knew of one entrance that wasn’t much used and was only guarded by one man. I had been guarding that door once and felt bored and tired after a few hours. The guard there would be relieved at 23.00 and again at 03.00. It was now already 23.55, so I would have a three hour head start unless someone noticed the incapacitated guard earlier.

I strolled leisurely up to the guard and as he noticed me, he challenged me. “Who goes there?”

“At ease private, it’s just me, Sergeant Johns. I’m just doing a surprise inspection. Everything okay here?”

The soldier was still suspicious, “Uh, yeah. Everything’s okay. I’ve never heard of a surprise inspection sergeant. What’s going on and why are you carrying an Alice pack?”

I was almost close enough to him, “Oh I thought that I could put my laundry into the machine at the same time, save some time, you know.” I smiled at the private, I recognized him now, his was name Butler and he was a bit older than me.

He relaxed a little, still looking at me closely though. At least he lowered his gun. Then as I got closer, he frowned, “Are you feeling all right Sarge? You don’t look okay.”

Did he notice something wrong? Better not take any chances.’ I couldn’t use my gun as it would make too much noise, so I got even closer and he tried to raise his gun again. I kicked it out of his hands and followed through with a roundhouse kick straight into his chest. He slammed against the wall and bounced back a bit. Next came my fist into his solar plexus and I finished him off with a karate-chop in his neck. I could have killed him, so he wouldn’t tell them that it was me who snuck out. But they’d find out anyway that I wasn’t inside anymore. I didn’t like killing that much anyway, so I just left him unconscious. I was taking a chance though, he could come around earlier cutting my escape time short.

I took his RA-M101 assault rifle, as I couldn’t very well have walked up to him with my Barrett 110 and still pretend to be making inspection rounds. I didn’t like it that I had to leave my sniper rifle behind. But it was too cumbersome to take with me. I quickly opened the door to the outside and quietly slipped out of the Base. This doorway opened up to a minefield, which was the reason for it not being guarded that intensely. But as we had laid the mines ourselves, I knew the way through. There were a few motion detectors, but only closely to the building so they wouldn’t be disturbed by the animals. I quickly but carefully made my way through and soon was able to disappear from view through the trees.

Carefully I made my way in the dark through the forest and tried to make as little tracks as possible. I even camouflaged most of the tracks I made. There weren’t a lot of good trackers in the team, but at least one had been a hunter back home. I had learned reading tracks and tracking prey as well as unarmed combat very well from my friend Paul Bartlett. Maybe I should pay him a visit after I had gone through this ordeal. That is if I didn’t change too much from this disease, or maybe it wouldn’t be a problem if I changed a lot. If I remembered correctly he didn’t mind hybrids. Maybe he even liked them.

After setting up some false trails and masking my real trail as best as I could, I retreated into a cave somewhere up a mountain ridge. I laid out all the things I had with me meticulously so I wouldn’t have to search for something later when I really needed it. I also camouflaged the entrance as much as possible, I even laid a few booby-traps. Then I ate a few energy bars and even hooked up an IV to be ready just in case the bars weren’t enough. I also swallowed a few of the knock-out pills and soon was out like a light.

 

●●●●●●

 

The Base.

 

An alarm sounded and Major Skiggs woke up startled, ‘What the hell is going on, what is that infernal racket all about?’ He got out of bed, put his clothes on and just went into his office when there was a knock on his door. “Enter,” the major said.

A sleazy looking lieutenant Bonnett came in with a worried look on his face. “We either had a break in or a desertion, major.”

“What do you mean? Elaborate on this lieutenant.” The major snarled at the soldier.

“We found Private Butler unconscious at entrance F3. His gun was taken and though there are no prints visible, our experts say that there was at least one person there.”

“Coming in or going out? We need to know for sure lieutenant.” The major was getting frustrated at the incompetence of his men.

The lieutenant was clearly flustered, “We can’t tell, whoever it was, he or she was skilled at covering tracks. I already ordered a headcount, so we should know soon if anyone is missing or if we have to find an intruder.”

Just then a junior grade lieutenant entered the room. “Sorry to intrude sir, we have ascertained that we are missing one man.”

Major Skiggs barked angrily, “Who is it?”

“We can’t find Sergeant Johns anywhere. And some personal items of his are missing according to people that know him.” The junior grade lieutenant was visibly not at ease saying it.

The major started pacing his room, “So it seems we have a deserter on our hands. I want a patrol out searching for him.”

“Yes sir,” the lieutenant hastily said, “but I don’t give a patrol much chance of success. Sergeant Johns was very skilled.”

The junior grade lieutenant spoke up again, “Private Butler said that the sergeant looked a bit ill. Maybe he won’t be that good in hiding his tracks. He might make some mistakes.”

The lieutenant looked at the major, “You don’t think he has come down with…”

“Nah, he’s too old, or is he? What is the max age that anyone has ever morfed?” asked the major.

“I don’t really know sir, maybe 20?” the lieutenant was caught unaware by the question.

“Well, sent out the patrol and have Mr. Frantz come to my office ASAP. Dismissed!”

Both men acknowledged and disappeared from the office leaving the pacing Major alone.

 

●●●●●●

 

The cave where Lando Johns is hiding.

 

I woke up startled, not knowing where I was for a moment. Then my memory returned. ‘I’m going through MORFS and I’m hiding in a cave!’ Then my bowels started to urge me to empty them. I had found a place in the cave to do just that with some water nearby to clean myself. So I took care of business but felt a bit strange doing it. I found the next batch of energy bars and pills by touch and chucked them down. ‘I’d better not be too curious till it has run its course.

 

Sometime later I woke up again but felt even more strange. My feet weren’t responding right and my fingers and wrists felt, well odd is the best way to describe it. Also my face and ears felt a little odd, but I still was a bit groggy from the meds, so I didn’t pay much attention to those feelings. I just did my business and washed up. The place was starting to reek a bit, I hoped it wasn’t noticeable outside though. I reached around to the place where I put the supplies, but I couldn’t find another batch of energy bars. Strange, because I had laid out enough for several days. Instead I just hooked up the IV and the included sedative knocked me out again soon enough.

 

I woke up again and for a moment wanted to stretch my legs like I normally do, but something was wrong. My legs felt wrong, as did my whole body. I did smell several odors though. And I heard noises, a lot of them. My body didn’t feel hurt or anything, my guess was that the change was complete. I wanted to get up and walk out of the cave, but I had some problems with that. It was rather pleasant to walk on all fours instead of walking on my feet only. I smelled the odor of explosives. ‘But I am not that close to my booby-traps yet. How can I already smell those? Oh, I guess my sense of smell has increased.’ I kind of walked on all fours past the traps and into the light outside, I listened carefully during the short trip and heard only my very soft footfalls and the normal sounds from a forest. But they were a bit different. Sharper and more defined. I could identify several sounds, though I wasn’t anywhere near them. Only then did I notice that I walked kind of on my knuckels and fingers and my fingers were bent into my palm? This was weird, very weird.

 

As I finally got out of the cave and into the light, I saw that it was probably already late in the afternoon judging by the warmth and the dying light. Now I could really have a look at myself. I looked down and saw that my arms were now covered in black fur. Even worse, they ended in what looked like paws. But I could still feel my fingers beneath them. I tried and after a few tries succeeded to stand on my feet, or rather what used to be my feet. I could see now that my entire body had changed a lot. And I didn’t have normal legs anymore. I noticed a small pool of water to the side and dropped on all fours again to go over there to have a look at my face. As I bowed down to it, I saw my reflection and felt as if a bomb had been dropped on me. I was a spitting image of the black panther we had brought in to the Base earlier.

I quickly stepped back towards the cave entrance and thought fast and hard on what had happened. ‘I’m a freak, a real animal now. I don’t deserve to live anymore.’ But I had a lot of self-preservation, so suicide wasn’t an option. I felt disappointed in the cards fate had dealt me, but I felt really angry about it. I wanted to scream out, but instead I roared, “Graaoow,” really loud. ‘Shit, I even sound like a big cat now.’ I’d better see if I can still speak or am I just a dumb animal now? Well I can still reason well enough, I think! I tried to speak a bit, “Wgreswgring, wgreswgring. Wmy nawme is Whandho Shons.”

Damn it, I couldn’t speak well enough now. Maybe if I practiced more I could improve it somewhat. It got me thinking, ‘This means that I have to change all my views on what I believed. I guess I have been a bigot treating all those hybrids as animals. Now I have joined their ranks and I still feel like a human. Or should I? I don’t know anymore, this is really confusing. Still I’ve always been a practical guy, so I guess I could do that.

I looked at my front right paw, strangely enough I could still feel my fingers there. I looked at the bottom of the paw and the pads did look a bit strange. I tried to stretch my fingers and they folded out and my paw became a bit more like a hand again. I put them back into their holding place and back out again several times marveling at how it looked like a normal cat’s paw when my fingers were folded into my paw. But it functioned well enough when I extended them. I gripped my other front leg, uh… maybe it still is an arm, and my grip was much harder than before.

As I was examining and testing my paw, I felt something else there as well. I thought about what that could be when suddenly four vicious looking claws extended from what should have been my knuckles. ‘Strange, shouldn’t there be 5 claws? I had read that cougars and jaguars have 5 front claws.’ I marveled at the sharp looking claws. I really could do some serious damage with those. They were shiny and black. I absently scratched the wall behind me and saw that I made scratches in the stone. ‘Maybe these are carbon Nano-tube reinforced?’ Than another thought seized me, ‘Am I still a guy?’ Quickly I looked down and though nothing was visible, I could feel that I was still male. I smiled in my mind, ‘Well at least I didn’t become a girly kitty cat.

I heard something and sniffed the air. I smelled people coming and they carried with them the smell of iron and gun oil. ‘Must be a patrol out searching for me, good thing I got out of that place when I did. They would have loved to experiment on me. I already felt bad for those kids, but now I really thought that I should do something about that. I retreated back into the cave to get my things, but realized that I didn’t have much use for most of them. I wasn’t a regular human anymore. In fact I didn’t look like a human anymore. To a first impression I looked like a big scary panther. I almost felt like crying and giving up. But a cat doesn’t cry, and neither do I. And quitting? That’s not in my nature either. So I toughened myself up. I am now a big black panther, a cat that had gone back to the wild, a feral. ‘Hey that doesn’t sound half bad as a nick name. Maybe I should start calling myself Feral.

Searching through my meager possessions I found my flak jacket made of Nano-carbon reinforced threads and adjusted it so I could wear it like a vest. I would like to use it to carry my pocket army knife and maybe my guns on it. Since I was going on a recon mission, I only attached my army knife and my combat knife on the vest for now. For the moment I put the guns in an oily bag and hid it quite well in the cave. Some useful things like lamps and food I put in another bag and hid it there as well. The rest I gathered and disposed off in a hastily dug hole.

 

When I got outside again, night had fallen and though it was a very dark night, I had no problem seeing things. ‘Guess these cat eyes are even better than I thought.’ Also my acute hearing and enhanced olfactory sense were very helpful. Even weirder was the fact that I could also feel things and air currents with my whiskers. I planned to go straight to the Base and reconnoiter the place to see what I could do for those children they were keeping prisoner there, but something interfered with my plans.

As I was trotting through the forest I smelled prey. My mouth started salivating and my stomach growled a bit. I abandoned the path to my target for the moment and went after the critter that I had smelled. Soon I saw what it was, a Capybara. The small water hog animal was about to go into a pool when I caught up to it. I swiftly jumped at it, almost overshot it as I wasn’t used to my new powerful hind legs. Nevertheless I swiped at it with my powerful paw and had my claws extended. My claws held it securely till I could put my maw across its neck and crushed it into a pulp. ‘Wow, I read that the big cats are quite powerful with the jaw muscles, but this will take some getting used to.

Out of instinct and driven by my hunger I tore into the animal, tearing the meat from its bones and devouring it raw. As I was eating I caught myself doing it, and recoiled in my mind. ‘What the hell am I doing? I’m acting like an animal nothing more and nothing less.

I stopped eating and reflected on what I had just done. The memory made me lose my appetite and I turned away starting to feel sick in my stomach and mind. ‘I really shouldn’t be counted as a human anymore. Even though I have seen a lot of so-called humans do worse things.’ I left the corpse there on the edge of the pool and started to head back to the trail towards the Base. I heard several scavengers move in to feast on the dish I had left for them.

 

Trotting through the jungle I was thinking about what I should do, when I suddenly smelled explosives and close-by too. My hackles rose and I decelerated quickly but not quick enough as I saw the glinting of a metal line across the path. ‘Booby-trap, they mined the path here!’ I knew I couldn’t stop in time. I didn’t want to just jump over the wire as they usually used to put another trap right behind the wire. So I jumped up, trying to get to a tree branch I saw hanging above. I would like to make it to the branch, so I could observe from above what they had done and if there were any other surprises waiting but I never thought I could make it, as it was at least 15 feet above the ground.

As I leapt upwards I suddenly realized that I had been mistaken about not reaching it. I was going to pass over it. I quickly extended my claws and halted my upwards motion. With some noise and groans from the branch I managed to find my balance on it. As I perched in the tree, I looked down at the ground and saw that my fear of a double trap wasn’t unfounded. From up here I could see that the ground looked different behind the wire. They probably had dug a hole or put some sharp poisoned sticks or both there. Then I realized I had jumped up a lot more than 15 feet!

I remembered reading that a cougar could jump up 17 feet. The cat that Smith and I had brought in might have been a hybrid. I think it might have been just after stage 2 when we found it. It could have been a hybrid of a cougar and a jaguar, as it was too big to be a normal black cougar and too much of a jumper to be a black jaguar. Suddenly my memory caught up to me and held me in an iron grip, ‘I had that accident with the vials of blood, and I had felt a sting of some sort. If that cat was still in stage 3 and I got infected with its blood, than that might explain why I’m now a spitting image of that cat, since stage three is supposed to cure illnesses with the enhanced immune system.’ My thoughts led me to another dangerous path, what if the scientists figured that out too? They would start experimenting even more on innocent kids and with better results. I now knew that they wouldn’t stop at just discovering how the disease was started, they would use it for military purposes. ‘How blind could I be, it was all about using MORFS in the military from the beginning. I should have seen that much sooner.’ I really needed to get into the Base now.

From the tree branch I leapt down past the trap and turned back to it. With my left paw I raked the leaves away. I immediately recognized the shallow pit with the pointy sticks. They made a real nasty trap with dirty sticks so anyone stepping on them would get an infection. I marked the spot with a scent flag, warning animals to stay away from it. Then I went on towards the Base.

 

A short time later I lay waiting on the ground looking at the Base building. I was approximately 30 yards away from it. I could just walk across to it, but I would get noticed and be subject to being blown up or shot at. I knew where the mines where, and even if I didn’t, I could still see and smell them. The real challenge would be the infrared detectors and motions sensors. I would expect that the path I took out of the building was now more watched. So that path was out of the question.

I looked carefully where the motion detectors were placed and the infrared beams that alerted those inside of any movements. I observed the field for quite a while, till I knew where every mine, motion detector and infrared beam was. I was confident that I had discovered a path through it and started my run. I raced across the field zigzagging my way between the mines and detectors and was exhilarated at the speed that this body could achieve in a sprint. I almost flew across the ground. Moments later I arrived at the 15 feet high wall.

In one fluent motion I jumped up and landed softly on top of the roof. I managed to slip between two infrared cameras and avoided the laser beams on the roof as well. I quickly and softly made my way to the ventilation intake on the roof. The cap with the fan was screwed to the shaft, but that was why I had the vest with my knives on. I quickly unscrewed the cap and after deactivating the alarm sensor, I lifted it up to make room for me to get in. It was handy that I still had fingers to do things, I would have to look for another way in if I didn’t. I doubt a real panther, even with a mind like mine could get in through here.

I slowly let myself into the ventilation shaft and put the top loosely back on. Quietly and carefully I crawled through the ducts searching for an exit point. Soon I came up to a grid, looking through it I saw that it opened up to storage room 3, which didn’t have a lock on the door as far as I knew. I pried the grid off and slid into the room. I put the grid back on the ventilation hole before walking to the door. I sniffed and listened intently, but nobody seemed to be on the other side. So I opened the door and trotted down the poorly lit corridor towards the cells where I knew they had the kids locked up.

As I went past the major’s office I heard voices. Curious I stopped to listen. I heard the major say, “So you think that Sergeant Johns got infected with MORFS because he came into contact with blood? With this blood in particular?”

My blood froze in my veins and I listened on, afraid of what I would hear next. I wasn’t disappointed by them. Another voice, probably one of the scientists spoke up, “It all adds up, we know he went AWOL. We know he looked ill, and that he might have contracted MORFS. Our patrol heard a loud roar yesterday, I think he got infected by the blood of the panther that is in stage 3.”

 “If what you are saying is true, then we have our breakthrough. We have what we need to make our MORFS-soldiers.” I heard the major say.

 ‘Damn it, they already figured out that I got infected by the blood of the MORFed panther, and they just admitted that they wanted to use it for military use.’ I knew that I had to act now before this knowledge spread. I didn’t have any more time to waste on a further recon of the base. I started to get ready for action when the major asked, “When are you ready to start testing the disease on the children? And who else knows about this?”

The scientist answered, “So far only you and I know it. I don’t trust all the other people. We can begin testing the infection right now if you want. I just need to fill a syringe with this blood and inject it into a test subject.”

I almost couldn’t resist growling. Then through the gap of the door which was ajar, I could see the major looking at the door. ‘Did I make a sound?’ I couldn’t wait any longer. I burst through the door and jumped straight at the two men. My main target was the major, but my trajectory was close enough to the scientist that I took a swipe with a claw and with satisfaction noticed that I made some deep cuts into his torso. But my main focal point was the major, and he was already reaching for his sidearm.

I hooked the claws of my right paw into him and used my momentum and weight to push him back into the wall. The impact was quite big, and it took a moment for me to recover, but I recovered faster than the major. He shook his head and was about to yell for help and at the same time he tried to draw his gun or knife to stab me. Instinctively, I started to growl a little but managed to keep my cool thanks to my fighting experience, I had only a few seconds to act. I closed in with my jaws wide open and closed them around his head. I bit down hard and without mercy through his skull driving my powerful teeth into his brain.  I didn’t even knew why I did that, but I guess it was something a big cat did to kill his prey. I didn’t like it much, ‘Better go for the neck and jugular next time.’ I thought.

For a moment I halted, thinking, ‘What have I done? I just killed my commanding officer like an animal. Maybe I am nothing more than just a wild beast and should be locked up as one or even burned at the stake for being an unclean freak.’ But that moment passed quickly as I realized that the scientist wasn’t dead yet. I turned to the scientist, whose name I didn’t even know. He was still holding a vial of blood clutched in his hand. With the other hand he was trying to keep his belly from losing its guts.

I growled, “I can’wgr whewgr you experiwmenwgr anywmore. I’wm shorry, buwgr you have wgro die here.”

He looked at me and uttered in fear, “Sergeant Johns?”

I nodded, that must have been a strange sight, seeing a big black panther do that. He continued, “Please don’t kill me. I can reverse it. I can make you human again.”

I snarled at him, “No way, wgrere is no giure. Nice wgrry.”

He looked fearfully at me and I could smell the stench of his fear, along with something even more insulting for my olfactory sense. He lost control of his bodily functions. I didn’t want him to suffer anymore, neither did I want to smell that horrible stench. So I quickly raked my claws across his jugular and sliced open his carotid artery. I extended my fingers from my other paw and took the vial of blood. I needed to dispose of it quickly and effectively.

 

I ran on all fours out of the office with the vial in my mouth and sprinted to the heating unit. There I tossed the vial into the fire. Next door was a cell block where I knew they kept the animals we found on our security rounds. Quickly I dashed in there and found myself eye to eye with my spitting image. The black panther that was the cause of MORFS giving me this body, looked at me and half growled, half purred at the strange similar cat. Wasting no time I opened its cage and it quickly jumped out, fortunately not at me, like I had expected, but just happy to be out of the cage. ‘This cat isn’t a normal one, he doesn’t attack a rival.’ Well I wasn’t about to look a gift horse into its mouth and wanted to get to the other cell block where the kids were held.

But as I stormed out of the cell block with my new friend, my luck ran out. Some soldiers came walking around the corner and saw the two of us lose. They started pulling out their guns and started shouting. I growled at my new companion and together we sprinted in the opposite direction. We turned a few corners, making it impossible for the chasing soldiers to start firing at us and ended up running towards an exit. It was guarded of course, but the soldiers standing guard just stood there in shock. Well it’s not every day that you get to see two very large black panthers running towards you. I imagine it would throw most people of guard. We quickly reached the three men and both of us attacked with a ferocity that was unprecedented.

Quickly the guards were bleeding to death or dead already and I opened the door to the outside. My companion wanted to jump outside in a hurry, but I growled a warning. He turned to me, looking at me strangely. I went past him and showed him the way through the minefield. I think he must have understood, if I could smell the stench of iron and explosives, then he could do it too. He might not have understood it before, but he did now.

After the minefield we proceeded to sprint to the tree-line and I heard some gunshots behind me, though I heard nor felt any bullets fly in my neighborhood. Just as I thought we had gotten away clean I heard engines and three soldiers came riding from a different exit towards us on quads. Again I growled at my companion and I think he understood, He went right, while I went left. One soldier went after him, and the other two started chasing me. I did my best to get away from them, but I was getting tired. This cat body was good for a sprint, not for a marathon.

Then I noticed a familiar scent as I ran along the path. It was where I had marked the trap in the path. Just in time I noticed where I had raked the leaves a bit to the side and jumped with all my power up and ahead. I easily cleared the wire and ran for about 20 yards more. Then I slowed down and looked behind me. The first quad rammed into the spikes and the guy lost his control, but his momentum carried him further onto the wire. The Claymore exploded and the blast and shrapnel seriously injured the guy on the second quad. The shrapnel came dangerously close to my position, so I didn’t wait there, but trotted off on my way again.

Free from pursuers at the moment, I knew that they would soon be on my trail again. That was if they could find it though, there weren’t too many good trackers and I had been one of them. For a moment I wondered if my friend was lucky enough to get away. I was going to use a different tactic now. Most times it pays not to run straight away from the people chasing you, but to double back and let the pursuers go past. So that is what I did, I doubled back, climbed a big tree and hid within the leaves and branches waiting for my former teammates to come looking for me. I was sure that they wouldn’t hesitate to shoot me or my companion on sight. I found myself wishing him good luck, He was a bit like family now, sort of a brother. ‘Gee there I go again considering myself an animal. That reminds me, what should I do after I’m finished here? I can’t very well go back into the army. Hell I can’t even go back to any normal life, because I’m not normal anymore! I’m just a guy in the form of a dumb animal.’ I shook my head, this thinking was getting me nowhere. I needed to focus on getting out of this mess and do my best to free the innocent kids in there.

The waiting wasn’t as bad as it used to be. Somehow I had more patience as a panther. I just lay there on a big branch and without thinking started to clean myself like a kitty cat. After a while I noticed what I was doing, ‘Shit, what the hell am I doing now? I’m cleaning and licking myself like a normal cat. I must have taken up over more feline instincts than I thought. This isn’t good, not good at all.’ I was torn between the desire to stop and the unwillingness to leave a job half done, so I continued with it, thinking a little more about it, but resigning myself as I did.

 

Finally my waiting got rewarded as I saw a squad exit the base and move carefully through the minefield. I recognized Sergeant Goldbaum in front, I was a bit nervous as he is an excellent tracker, but then again so was I. I just hoped that I managed to cover my tracks well enough to stay ahead of him. I knew that he was too good a tracker to be fooled for long. Eventually he would find where I had been and follow me there.

I had been planning to let my pursuers pass me by and then go back into the base, but I saw that the security there had been tightened. I could make out some patrols on the roof and they had installed more sensors. Because that plan was foiled I needed some more firepower, but I had left that in the cave which would soon be found by Sergeant Goldbaum. After letting the squad pass the tree I was hiding in, I quickly bounded down and started following them, just out of sight. I didn’t need to see them as I could smell and hear them quite clearly.

They were getting close to my hide-out cave due to the skills of Goldbaum, so I was forced to do something. I hadn’t even taken into account how good a tracker Goldbaum was. It took him much less time than I had expected. If I had gone straight to the cave to get my possessions I would probably have been caught by surprise exiting the cave. As things stood now, I would have to do something or they would discover my cave and take my guns.

As I had made my decision, thought became action and I started my move. Silently I sprinted towards the squad and raked my claws across the behinds of two soldiers. I knew the pants weren’t reinforced, so I could do the most damage there. As the soldiers I had just mauled, started screaming, I bumped with my considerable weight into the some others soldiers knocking them down. At the same time as I was doing that, I roared loudly trying to scare them even more into confusion.

It worked quite well too, most of the soldiers were so surprised and frightened, that they either didn’t think of shooting, or shot around wildly. I quickly jumped away from them, satisfied that I caused enough confusion for the moment. Now it was time to get away and let them try to follow me while I led them away from my cave. That even worked though Sergeant Goldbaum wasn’t scared enough by my sudden appearance and started shooting at me. He even hit me twice, though fortunately for me both bullets struck my Flak vest. The impact still hurt a lot though, and I was screaming as a big cat would.

My right arm or rather front leg was hurting from the impact and I limped quickly away from the squad, with them following me closely. My speed wasn’t as fast as I wanted and I continually had to dodge bullets fired by my former teammates. I was forced into a new direction. I now ran for my life in front of them along a ledge of a mountain. I hadn’t planned to go this way, but couldn’t change directions now.

As I ran from my pursuers I rounded a corner and received the scare of my life. Right in front of me there was a group of natives ready with bows, arrows and blowpipes. I had no doubt that those darts would be poisoned. In my haste I hadn’t even noticed them as I was running towards them. Of course it didn’t help that they smelled a lot like the forest and were downwind of me. As I scrambled to go back the way I came, the pursuing squad of men came into view. ‘Now I’m really out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Both the natives and the squad opened fire on me and I got hit several times with bullets and darts. I had to get out of here through any possible way. In near panic I jumped at a tangent from the path, down a steep slope going straight for the yawning abyss.

 

●●●●●●

 

On the ledge of the mountain.

 

The army men saw the panther jump away towards the abyss and then some crashing noises and afterwards a thud were to be heard, though most of the men didn’t pay attention as they were too busy defending themselves against a bunch of natives firing poisoned darts and arrows at them. Hastily they fired back with automatic weapons and soon the natives retreated. But not without causing several deaths in the squad. The tracker Goldbaum was lying on the ground with an arrow through his side. The lieutenant in charge ordered the men to take the wounded and deceased men back to the base and looked in the direction where the panther had fled. Goldbaum said, “You don’t have to look that way, I heard a thud. He must be dead. And even if he isn’t we can’t follow him down there anyway. Besides I’m sure that with the injuries he sustained he won’t live long even if he managed to survive the fall.”

The lieutenant still looked as far as he could down the mountain, but couldn’t clearly see the bottom. There was no trace of the panther anywhere.

 

Chapter 2 – Payback

 

I stifled a scream as I headed straight for the edge. Wildly I flung my arms around me to find some kind of hold, but I was unable to find anything solid that would hold my weight, as I went over the edge. Plummeting downwards I shot past a branch of some kind of tree growing in a fissure. I grabbed it and held on for dear life. A big rock that had come loose during my downward motion went past me, missing my head by inches. Seconds later it impacted on the ground with a sickening thud. I shuddered hearing that. ‘That could have been me. In fact it still can!’

That became evident as my arm seemed to go numb and my fingers started slipping. I saw a vine a short distance away. So I swung myself over to the vine to grab it, but as I flew past it, I missed horribly and started to fall downwards. Then in a flash I saw another vine hanging, but it was just out of reach. As I was thinking, ‘That vine! My last chance! But I can never reach it.’ Thinking that, by some unseen force or wind it swung slightly towards me and I got suddenly quite a headache. With my already stiffening fingers I grabbed it and held on for dear life. I even wrapped my tail around it to get more hold on the vine and rapidly but in control I descended towards the ground.

The poison from the darts the natives shot me with was making everything more and more numb, and the last 15 or so feet I just dropped. With a soft thud I landed in a pool of mud, and just lay there thinking, ‘Well this is it then. Maybe just as well though, I don’t know if I can live the life of a full hybrid cat. Everyone would either be scared of me and would want me dead or locked up. Now I know what my friends have gone through. I shouldn’t have shunned them as I did. I guess there is nothing else but to lie down and die here then.’

I felt kind of sleepy though I knew that giving in to that might hasten my demise. So I tried to stay awake by trying anything I could think of. I even practiced speaking. And though it was troublesome, as more and more muscles went numb, I did manage to speak a little better. Finally my mind gave up the fight against the approaching sleep and everything went black.

 

Startled I woke up from my deep restful sleep. ‘I’m not dead?’ For a moment I thought that everything had been a dream, but soon I felt that I was still in my new panther body. ‘At least I can feel something again, even if my muscles all hurt, like there are pins stuck in me. I am glad that I managed to turn in the air like a cat to land on my feet, I’d hate to have my back broken.’ I tried to move my arms and legs, but apart from some twitching, I couldn’t move them much.

Then I noticed a movement from the side, with difficulty I moved my head a bit, so I could look in the direction. I was surprised and a bit scared seeing my companion, walk slowly towards me. He had a capybara in his mouth and laid it down before me. For a moment I was worried that he laid it down so he could kill me, but then he sat down and looked at me. I uttered something between a growl and a purr and he made the same sound back. Then he got up and left quickly, leaving the dead animal behind. I guess he wanted to repay me for the rescue by giving me food. I couldn’t reach it yet, so I laid my head back down began assessing what I felt in my body. I should’ve felt much worse, I had been shot with bullets and poisoned darts, but somehow I was regaining my strength. Then it hit me, ‘the stage 3 has the body produce a very strong immune system, which is why I got stricken with MORFS. But it is primarily to heal the body. And since I’m still in stage 3, my body is healing from the wounds and the poison.’ I tried to smile, but that was hard to do in this body.

After a few more minutes I managed to get up  and since I was ravenous, I devoured the capybara. Soon I had filled my belly, but felt thirsty now. I could smell the water near me. I dragged myself over there and soon drank from a cool stream. Feeling sleepy again I lay down near the babbling brook.

 

Sometime later I woke up and I could already move most of my muscles again. However I wasn’t up to much yet. So I stayed where I was and practiced speaking again. It did became easier the more I tried and I could almost speak normally again, though with a thick accent betraying my catlike speech patterns. I wasn’t speaking as bad as that old cartoon anymore. They had a Great Dane or something like that speaking in that show.

Then I remembered what happened during my fall, that vine wasn’t blown towards me by a gust of wind. I knew that much. 'So why did it move towards me? Was it me? Do I have some sort of power?'’

I concentrated on some plants not too far from me and tried to influence them to move towards me, or to see if I could feel the plant. But nothing happened. ‘That means I’m not a plant elemental then.

For a moment I was lost in thought, then I smiled, well inwardly at any rate, I guess my panther head will not show much emotion. I remembered some old movie and said, “Use the force, Luke.”

Of course my name wasn’t Luke, but wasn’t there a Lando in those movies? Well anyway I tried to focus my attention again, this time to try and feel the substance of the plant and maybe it was my imagination but I thought the stalk of the plant moved a little. I felt quite tired because of it, so I rested for a while.

 

Then I thought, ‘Maybe it was too heavy for me?’ So I looked for something smaller, and focused my attention on a small round pebble. I concentrated very hard and this time I had a result. The pebble started to roll a little and then picked up speed as it rolled further on. I smiled inwardly again. ‘Yes, I did it. I probably have a weak telekinetic power. Too bad it is not that strong, but it is nice to be able to do something like that.

After practicing speaking some more and occasionally moving little light things with my TK power, I felt well enough again. Getting up I inspected my surroundings. I was on the bottom of a gorge, which stretched out in two directions. My companion had gone to my right, so I followed his path, I could still smell the trail he left. It didn’t take me long to find a path back up the mountain and I started climbing.

Fairly soon I reached the trail I had used to flee from my former teammates. All my senses told me that there was no one around anymore. Even the dead had been taken away. My nose did tell me lots of guns had been fired though as I picked up the distinctive smell of GSR. Then I picked up the scent of something metal with gun oil on it, I had learned the smell of that right after I had changed in the cave. Maybe someone had left behind a gun or it might have been lost. Quietly and cautiously I made my way over there, fearing a trap of some kind.

 

Fortunately by the time I reached the gun, I didn’t find a trap. The gun was hidden in shrubbery and as I dug through the leaves and branches I saw something very familiar. ‘Someone took my Barrett 110 from my quarters and tried to hunt me with it?’ Taking the gun out of the shrubbery, I inspected it. It was still in good condition. The clip was still full and with the safety on, I knew nobody had fired it yet. Sniffing at the chamber confirmed it, as I only smelled the cleaner that I had used the last time I serviced my weapon. I broke the weapon down in the customary pieces for travel and secured them on my vest. Then as I was about to get underway, I saw something else laying where my Barrett had been. It was a com-set that we used for short distances.

 

Later in my lair in the cave where I had gone through my changes, I inspected all my weapons and other gear. I still had my knives, and now the RA-M101 assault rifle, my Barrett 110 and my Glock 9 mil. I only had the inserted clip for all of the rifles and two spare clips for the Glock. It would have to be enough. Besides I had my claws now as weapons. The com-set had a GPS module, which I disabled quickly.

I relaxed a bit and stretched out before going to sleep. However while I was sleeping, I was still aware of my surroundings. A few times even my senses went blank as I was fully asleep, but most of the time I was kind of aware of everything around me.

 

It was nearing dusk when I woke up and stretched . I felt quite good and invigorated, and decided to go back to the base once more. I still wanted to try and save those children from a horrible fate. I left the RA-M101 assault rifle behind, as it would hinder my movements. But I might need the Barrett for shooting someone at long range. I hesitated about the Glock, but decided that it was more of a nuisance then advantage to take it. After all I couldn’t shoot well and run fast on all fours at the same time. I hid the unused weaponry and donned my flak jacket with my Barrett and my knives attached. Now I was ready for some payback.

 

Creeping silently through the jungle I neared the base, when my sensitive ears picked up the distinctive sound of rotors, the kind from a modern helicopter. As I reached the edge of the forest, the helicopter flew over me and prepared for landing near the base on the tarmac. With ease I grabbed my scope and peered at the helicopter to see who was dropping by for a visit.

I didn’t recognize the men, but one was a one-star general. The others were probably his aide and soldiers to do the work for him. The pilot got out and I recognized him, he was a really mean SOB by the name of Bert Sampson. Our paths had crossed before, he had beaten a kind woman for helping a MORFS survivor. I had been a pure then, so didn’t report it, but I didn’t condone something like that as well. Well now he had his punishment coming. Quickly I took out my Barrett 110 and readied it for use.

I took aim and adjusted the sight for the winds by using the movements of the leaves and what my whiskers told me. When the moment was there, I steadied my breathing and calmly squeezed the trigger. My rifle hit my shoulder lightly, as it was quite good at suppressing the kickback. With a thunderous sound the bullet sped on its way and a fraction later slammed into the head of the asshole. He dropped dead immediately with a sickening thud, just as the sound of my rifle reached the group of men.

The men all dropped to the ground with automatic reflexes they had acquired through their training . The general gave some orders, most likely to one of the soldiers to figure out where the shot had come from. As one of the soldiers got cautiously to his feet, I shot him in the shoulder. I didn’t want to kill him yet. Maybe he was just following orders. After this second shot, I changed my position, so they wouldn’t be able to pinpoint my location and counterattack.

 

●●●●●●

 

General Haggen was laying on the ground. ‘Where had that shot come from. According to the Intel there wasn’t any enemy activity in this area.’ He turned to sergeant Susting, “Try to ascertain where that shot came from. We’re sitting ducks out here.”

The sergeant got up slowly, and promptly another shot rang out. The sergeant was spun around slightly by the impact and hit the ground with a grunt. He was moaning a bit from pain, indicating that at least he was only wounded. Haggen didn’t see exactly where the shot came from, but he did have a rough idea of the direction. Now if this sniper wasn’t a skilled one, they would be able to pinpoint the location with the next shot. The trick was to get the sniper to shoot again without jeopardizing another soldier.>

Thinking quickly, he took off his uniform and flak jacket and made it into a sort of facsimile of a body. It would have been better to have one of the men do it, but that might take too long and maybe the enemy could overhear it. He threw the facsimile body with a precise angle and sure enough it drew out another shot from the sniper.

The general cursed, this time the shot came from a totally different direction then he had thought. Clearly this sniper was a skilled one and knew to change positions after firing. Now he didn’t even have his flak jacket on anymore. He cursed again, he was running out of ideas.

 

●●●●●●

 

 “Damn, how could I fall for that one!” I cursed softly. I saw too late that it was only a uniform jacket with something inside. Well at least he couldn’t get my position from the shot as I had just moved to a new location. I was sure that that was what the general had been after.

Then the door of the Base building flew open and several former fellow soldiers sprang out, firing their weapons at the tree line. Some bullets came a bit too close for comfort and quietly I retreated from my position. I just managed to see that the general and his remaining troops hurried inside the building under the covering fire laid down by my former colleagues.

I needed a new plan and soon. I doubted that I could penetrate the building again as easily as the last time. Surely they had beefed up the security since the last break in. But I really wanted the experiments on innocent children to stop and get them all out of there. Now how should I do this?

 

●●●●●●

 

With barely contained anger in his voice General Haggen asked Lieutenant Bonnet, who was in charge after the demise of Major Skiggs, about the situation. “What the hell is going on here? First I get a call that Major Skiggs and several other men are dead. Then when I get here, my pilot gets shot dead and we’re taking fire from a sniper. I want some answers and I want them now!”

Lieutenant Bonnet looked fearfully at the general, “I’m not sure where to start, I mean I think it started with …”

 “It started with what? Get on with it boy!” the general rudely interrupted the lieutenant.

The lieutenant got even more nervous and started to stutter, “W..w..well, fi…fi…first the sergeant went AWOL, and th..then th..there was the break in by that weird panther. And then….”

 “Wait,” interrupted the general, “which sergeant and tell me how an animal like a panther can break into a facility like this. Why would an animal even want to?”

“I…I…I don’t k..know,” stammered the lieutenant, “Some say it was the brother of the panther we captured that came here to break him out. Others say it is a MORFS trying to shut us down. I don’t know what the real story here is, or what the missing sergeant has to do with this. His name is Lando Johns, by the way.”

“Why did he go AWOL?” asked the general.

The lieutenant looked at his men for some help, but they pretended not to notice. “Come on, speak up Lieutenant Bonnet!” urged General Haggen.

“We don’t really know, but he did have a problem when we got that batch of children for experimental use. He didn’t liked us using children. At least that is what I heard. I also heard that he looked sick when he went AWOL, you don’t think that he…?”

General Haggen picked up a file, “It says here that he is 31. There has never been a MORFS case this late. He may be the first or we are on to something here. What are the chances of him being that panther that broke in here?”

The lieutenant’s face lit up, “You mean he might have morfed into a panther? That would explain some things, but not all of them. I mean…”

At that moment Lieutenant Bonnet got interrupted as a com-set laying on the desk came to life and a growling voice said softly, “Come in General, I want to talk to you.”

General Haggen picked up the com-set, “This is General Haggen, who are you and what do you want from us?”

 “Are you responsible for the operations?” the voice asked, this time it was between growling and mewling.

The general looked at his men and gestured that they should try getting a fix on the other com-set, before answering. “Yes I am, now what is your beef, son? I am curious to who you are and why you were firing at us. That was you firing at us, right?”

 “Guilty as charged, who I am is not important, what I want? Simple, stop experimenting on the children and set them free. If you don’t I will take other measures. Oh and you can stop trying to get my position.” At that a gunshot sounded and the screen of the operator trying to locate the com-set went dead.

The soldier operating the equipment yelled, “He shot the antenna. I can’t get any reading anymore.”

The general cursed, “Okay, you have made your point Sergeant Johns. Come in here and we’ll talk about the terms.”

A growling chuckle sounded briefly, “You really don’t expect me to come in do you? And who is this sergeant? One of your men lost in the jungle? Maybe I had him as a snack! You can call me Feral by the way.”

 “Okay Feral. So what do you propose we do then?”

“Send out the kids unharmed and unshackled. Then stay inside for half a day. We’ll be gone by then and you can go back to whatever hole you crawled out off.”

The general didn’t hesitate, “Okay, give me a moment to set things in motion. We need some time for that.” With that he switched the radio off and asked, “Options? I want to see that man dead. If it even is a man, he probably is one of those accursed hybrid animals. Most likely that panther you mentioned.”

 

●●●●●●

 

I didn’t really expect the general to do as I asked him, so I tried to guess what they were going to do. Anytime now I expected a break out attempt to try to get me. Or the general might try a desperate dash to the helicopter to try to get away. That is why I had set myself up in a tree. From here I had a good view of the roof, just in case they tried to set up snipers there to try and kill me. But I also had a perfect view of the helicopter and the path to it.

What I didn’t expect though was what happened next. Three kids got out the door and started walking towards the jungle’s edge. But they were heading straight for the minefield! Those bastards send them out on purpose to draw me out!

 ‘What can I do now? If I go down there, I’ll expose myself to them. If I don’t, those kids will get killed because of the mines. And even if they manage to get through it unharmed, what then? I can’t let them run around in the jungle just like that.’ But first I had to warn them about the mines.

I rechecked my ammo, I was getting low on bullets for my Barrett. Still I had to use it. I aimed for a mine not too close to the kids. I squeezed the trigger and with a loud bang the mine exploded. The kids fell down from the blast and shivered, as they understood that they were in a minefield. The explosion threw up a lot of dust and smoke so there was a little cover. Not enough to approach the kids though.

I shouted, “Stay put and don’t move. Wait there patiently please.”

I looked through my scope at the kids and the oldest one, a boy about 14 years old nodded and held the other two, both girls, in his arms. It looked like he tried to comfort them. I saw that the youngest girl was clutching a stuffed bear in her arms.

Next I inspected the base through my scope. I could see them peeking out the windows, but not clear enough for a shot. I didn’t try anyway, since I was getting low on ammo.

What to do now? I probably can get to them later under cover of darkness and guide them out of the minefield to a safer place. Maybe I should have them hide in the cave, till I can get the others out. That would mean that those bastards have free reign while I’m gone. But I can’t very well let them run around in this jungle by themselves. There are too many traps and dangerous animals in here.

I waited till sunset, I had already shot the lamps along the rim, so it was very dark in the minefield where the kids were still waiting for what was to come. I left my Barrett in the tree and quietly made my way through the minefield towards the kids. My paws made almost no noise at all and through the hairs that cats have on their feet, I could feel everything on the ground that might make a noise and so avoided stepping on it.

As I neared the children I smelled an overpowering scent of GE-3. This highly explosive material was not as much in use as the old C-4, but it has applications where C-4 isn’t used, because it has a structure of grain seeds.

For a moment I was confused by the smell. The landmines are not filled with that and we hadn’t used any of that stuff in the defensive ring. I came a little closer to the kids and the scent got stronger. Then it hit me, they must have planted a bomb on the children. The bear, it must be the bear that the girl is holding.

“Throw away the bear, now!” I shouted at the children. I could quite clearly see them with my light sensitive eyes.

The boy looked in my direction in confusion and clearly didn’t understand. Then I heard the sound of a detonator charging to go off. I jumped away as far as I could and went to the ground protecting my ears and eyes as good as I could when a large explosion went off. I was still close enough for the blast to blow me several feet away and flip me over in the process.
I was dazed for a moment before I looked up, with my sensitive ears ringing from the close proximity blast. The children had been ripped apart by the explosion! There were parts of them everywhere around. A white hot rage started to rise inside me and I roared with my full animalistic voice.

At that moment a door opened with some soldiers coming out with guns ready. ‘There going to finish it off? Those rotten…’ I didn’t finish that thought as I began to see everything in red.

 

●●●●●●

 

Inside the Base.

 

Corporal Levin Smith was waiting with 2 men by the door. Quite some time earlier they had send out three kids, one carrying a hidden bomb with her. They kept an eye on them to see when Feral would get close to them. The fact that he had taken out most of the lights put a hamper into their plans, but still with night-vision goggles they could see more than enough.

They planned to take him out using the children as bait. Smith asked himself again and again, ‘Could it be sergeant Johns, who morfed into that monstrous black panther?’ A sound outside got his attention, someone saying something, ‘It must be him calling the children. He sounds close by.’ Smith pressed the remote for the detonator, and the bomb went off. It was almost immediately followed by a loud roar, just as he threw open the door. For a moment the sight of the mess that the explosion had left and the roaring panther stunned him. It was all the time the panther needed to get out of the way. The speed and agility of the animal surprised all of them, they managed to get off only a few shots, though none were close enough to be a threat to the panther.

As they swung their weapons around to train them on Feral again, he surprised them once more. He didn’t flee back into the jungle as they expected. They had even hoped that in his blind fear he might get caught in the minefield. Instead Feral disappeared around a corner of the building. Quickly Smith ran after him with private Butler on his heels.

As both men rounded the corner, they fired their weapons hoping to catch Feral by surprise. The surprise was on them though They could see that there was no trace of Feral anywhere in sight. Both men looked around in confusion, till Smith thought to look up. It was too late though as something dropped out of the sky on top of them. Butler received a blow from a massive paw, hard enough to break his neck. He smashed into the wall of the building, though that didn’t matter as he was already dead.

Corporal Smith lived a little longer, as he felt two rows of sharp teeth puncture his neck on opposite sides. His life flashed before his eyes, just as a crunching bite ended it.

General Haggen heard with satisfaction the blast signaling springing the trap they set for that animal Feral. Then his smile evaporated hearing the roar following it, followed by gunfire. To no one but himself he swore, “Damn, the blast didn’t take him out.”

He cursed again and thought, ‘I can only hope that he’s too injured to come for revenge.’ He turned on the intercom and yelled, “Get ready for action, watch out for that animal trying to get in.”

Private Klein saw the corporal and Butler go around the corner after the panther. He heard them fire their weapons doing that and for a moment he thought that they got him. But then the guns fell silent and something dark came from behind around the corner of the building. Wildly Klein fired half his clip into the body, only to realize that it was the body of corporal Smith without his head. Distraught he went over to inspect the body and never even saw the paw with the vicious claws that ripped open his neck and carotid artery.

Lieutenant Bonnet had mounted a solid defensive position with the remaining men that were still able to fight. Only Goldbaum was still in the infirmary, the rest of the men that were still alive had been set up in positions to cover the entrances and a crossfire in the main intersection. The lieutenant thought, ‘Surely Feral won’t be so stupid to try to get into here? Then again it is just an animal, so who knows.

Then something unexpected happened. A dark cloud seemed to come in through the corridor. It was like a shroud expanded throughout the whole building. Lieutenant Bonnet looked at it with unbelief, ‘Does Feral have powers? That would make this a whole new ballgame.

Then the door on the other side opened and a bloody growling black panther appeared.

Just as the shroud of darkness engulfed everyone, the lieutenant shouted, “Fire at will!”

The darkness was not natural, as even the muzzle flashes were only visible for a one and a half foot at best. Several rounds were fired in the direction of the panther, but there was nothing to indicate that any of them hit the target.

 

●●●●●●

 

Feral inside the Base.

 

The animalistic rage subsided a little as I stepped through the door into the base and saw the committee waiting for me. I was just about to curse my animal instincts for leading me into this mess when a pitch black shroud engulfed the whole corridor. I dropped to the floor and rolled to the side as the shots began to ring out. Strangely enough I couldn’t see anything even with my sensitive cat-eyes. I couldn’t even see the muzzle flashes of the guns.

But I had other senses that were more acute then a human’s. My olfactory sense and hearing guided me well enough. Then I thought of something else, carefully I tried to feel around with my Telekinetic power. I couldn’t move anything, but solid objects were something I could feel it with. Soon I knew where most of my adversaries and obstacles were, though I got quite a headache as result.

I jumped lightly into the middle of a group and slashed around. I didn’t have to be accurate, I would hit someone in any case. As soon as I started slashing, people started to scream and yell. I jumped out of the way as people started to turn around and fire their guns at the position I had been. All they accomplished was that they managed to hit their own or nothing at all. This only added to the confusion. Especially when I picked up a gun and fired it at someone, letting them know that I was handling a gun as well.

Soon everyone was shouting, shooting and adding to the melee, as I danced my deadly way through their ranks. I slashed everyone in range, killing and maiming indiscriminately. I was feeling very murderous in my rage. This total darkness was helping me immensely. I wondered where it came from. ‘Maybe one of the kids morfed and got powers?

I kept up my slaying of soldiers till almost all were dead or dying. Only one person remained alive and unharmed, I heard him calling out orders. It was Lieutenant Bonnet, I had never liked him.

Just as I was stalking him silently, the shroud of darkness lifted and everything was visible again. The lieutenant sighed with relief, till he saw how close I was to him. I hadn’t expected to see things as well and had to adjust my eyes too, but I recovered faster than he did and jumped at his throat. Fortunately I was faster there than he could bring his gun to bear on me. I severed his head from his torso with one bite, growling with satisfaction as I did.

I inspected the carnage I had made and realized that there was someone missing. The general wasn’t amongst them. I quickly searched the offices and other rooms, but came up empty, till I reached the infirmary. I couldn’t rely on my sense of smell, as the stench of the dead people was becoming overpowering. But I heard some talking inside.

Slowly I pushed open the doors, walking on my hind legs with a gun in my hand. General Haggen was there all right, talking to someone to his left. ‘So there are two people in here, not counting the children.’ The general was holding an unconscious boy in front of himself, using him as a shield. Haggen turned towards me and raised his gun. “Not a step closer Johns!”

I growled, but didn’t move. “Hiding behind a little kid? How brave you are, General!”

He snarled back, “You are an animal, what do you care. You killed all your comrades. That makes you a murderer. Now drop your gun!” He motioned with his gun.

I had no choice, I had to drop the gun and kicked it away at his next command. I was tensioning my muscles to move out of the way as soon as he would shoot. But I had little doubt I would make it before getting hit. Then the boy squirmed a little, he was waking up. And tendrils of black sort of went out of him. I prepared for the total darkness again, but the general noticed it also and quickly pointed his gun and shot the boy through the head!

The boy’s head exploded on the other side due to the hollow point and the black tendrils disappeared into nothing. I roared my battle-cry, just as the general aimed at me again. I started to jump to my left and was expecting to be shot. The gunshot sounded, but I didn’t get hit. Instead I saw the head of the general explode on the right side. ‘What the hell?

The body of the general crumpled to the floor and from my right came the voice of Goldbaum, “You made a real mess of things here, sergeant Johns.”

Slowly and on my guard I went over to where he was lying on a cot. “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t kill you?”

 “You mean despite the fact that I just saved your life?”

I stood up on my hind legs towering over him, “Yes. You did try to shoot me earlier in the jungle. In fact you hit me a few times.”

Goldbaum smiled, “And I did shoot you on your flak jacket as you might recall. That wasn’t luck, I aimed for that.”

Now I was really confused, ‘Why did he do that? What is he up to?’ I cocked my head, “What are you getting at Goldbaum?”

He lowered his gun that was still aimed at me. “My name isn’t Goldbaum, it’s Dawes. I’m with an organization that deals with MORFS survivors. We help people and protect the public from very dangerous MORFS that don’t have control of their powers or are using them for criminal activities.”

I sat down on my haunches, “And what is that organization called?”

“Classified, you don’t need to know that.”

“And what was your mission here then, Gold… Dawes?”

He grimaced, “I was here undercover to find out about the military experimenting on children with MORFS. We heard rumors about an operation like this.

I interrupted him, “Well you did a bang up job then.”

He made an indignant sound, “Like you did so well? I lost touch with my contact outside. But I was about to do something when you went AWOL. I couldn’t get out anymore after that. And then you broke in here killing the Major and a scientist, which hampered my case even more.”

“I had to kill them. That scientist had figured out why I had caught MORFS at this late age.

Dawes nodded, “I know about that. I did what I could to spare you, but I had to go with them to keep my cover.”

I was getting upset again, “I could see that, you led them right to the cave where I had been hiding!”

“Hey, even a blind man could follow that trail. I couldn’t risk someone else finding those tracks and lose my credibility.”

I tried to snort, but it came out more like a growl, “I hid my trail as best as I could. I don’t think any of the others could have followed it.”

Dawes just shrugged. I cocked my head, “So what are we going to do now? There are still some innocent children in here that need to be rescued. We are the only members of the military that are alive and well. And there is a helicopter waiting outside.”

“How about you go gather and plant explosives to blow this place sky high and make a burial mound for the dead. I would help you with that, but I’m still recovering from that arrow. I was fortunate that it had little or no poison on it.” Dawes said while trying to lift himself off the bed.

I got up, “Maybe you should keep laying down then?”

Dawes smiled, “I would like to, but I have to get the remaining children. I don’t think it is such a good idea if you did it. You’re a bit odd looking and all that blood on you isn’t giving any friendly signs as well.”

I looked down at myself, he was right. I was covered in blood from all the people I had killed. “Okay, I’ll get the mines and whatever else there is in the magazines. I don’t want to leave the mines out there as well.”

Dawes acknowledged, grunted from pain he got up from his bed.

The first thing I did was take a bath to clean myself from all that blood. I still liked the water fine, but it clung in my fur. And cats don’t shake it off like dogs do. Afterwards I had more than a day’s job with putting the bodies into a few rooms and getting all the explosives out and ready. I did stop a few times for a meal, and got stared at by the surviving children, a little girl and 2 boys. I could imagine their interest and curiosity as well as apprehension at seeing a very big black panther at that distance without anything in between.

 

Finally I had finished wiring all the explosives and everything was ready to go. Dawes had re-fueled the helicopter and checked my work and the whole base for survivors or surprises. He said we should have a last meal before setting off, and I agreed.

I sat with Dawes softly talking about some things, while the children sat across the table from us, eating their meal together. Then the little girl got up and walked over to me. I got up as well and lowered myself to all fours to wait for her. She stopped in front of me and threw her arms around my neck, “Thank you mister black cat. Elias said that you saved us from those bad men.”

Softly I said to her, “Thank you, I just wish I could have done more.”

She smiled, Dawes said to her, “Please get back to your seat, Sophie.”

I got back to my seat as well and asked Dawes, “Elias?”

“Shhh, I don’t tell my first name to just everyone.” Dawes tried to give me an angry look but I could see the smile behind it.

I nodded, “Okay, so now what? You’re going to take them back to where they came from? Or find them a nice home?”

Dawes nodded, “The organization will do its best, what are your plans now? I could ask if they have an opening for you in the organization. You’d make a hell of an agent.”

I had been thinking about that, “Maybe, but I’m not ready yet. I would like some time to reflect on things. Maybe go to my friends or family. I don’t know yet. I would like a lift to a bit more populated area though.”

Dawes smiled, “I know that working for military or other organizations has lost its appeal for you. But I can assure you that the organization I work for isn’t like that. At least let me know later how you are. We can talk about things then.”

“Thanks Elias, I will.” I said using his first name on purpose.

“Hey, careful you dumb cat. Or I’ll soon have a nice black rug in my house.”

We both laughed, and the children wanted to know what was so funny. We made them laugh as well with some jokes, taking their minds of what had happened here.

A while later we were up in the air, moving away from the base, and I pressed the remote trigger. With an impressive explosion the whole base went up in a fireball erasing most of the evidence of the hideous operation. The children looked at it with mixed feelings. Sophie buried her face in my fur.

Dawes didn’t land the helicopter for me to get out, I told him that I could jump the last few feet. He shouted a farewell to me, “See you later Feral, stay out of trouble if you can.”

I jumped out. As I waved at him I saw the helicopter turn and pick up speed to fly away to somewhere Dawes didn’t want to tell me. ‘Him and his need to know, that’s what I don’t like about such organizations.’ I headed off without any firm destination in mind, trying to fit into this world as an animal hybrid. I was going to try to find my family although I wasn’t too sure about them since they are pures as I was. Maybe I’d go and look up my old friend Paul. With this in mind I went on my way.

Chapter 3 – Back to USA into trouble

 

It wasn’t really comfortable with the noise and cramped quarters, but it got me to my destination. At least the cargo hold of the airplane was pressurized. I had thought long and hard about how I could arrange my transport from South America to the United States. I came up with the idea of faking a delivery of a caged panther to a Zoo in Los Angeles.

After breaking into the local zoological Center, I hacked from their computers into the Zoo of Los Angeles. Then I wrote an email from a high up clerk to have a big cat caught by one of their suppliers and shipped to the zoo in Los Angeles. As all the orders have to be confirmed vocally, I made an appointment to call them the next morning. Having send the order I hacked into the Los Angeles Zoo phone system to reroute a the call to a number in an empty office at the Center I was in. I had checked the duty roster earlier and found one which’s occupant was on vacation.

From there I placed a call the next morning, to the number I had hacked and got connected to the supervisor. As the phone was answered I started, “Hello? Am I speaking to Mr. Herrera? This is Mr. Gottlieb from the Zoo in Los Angeles. Yesterday I send you an email for a shipment of a big cat, a Black panther to be exact.”

“Ola, si, I have received your email. Are there any specifics on this big cat? How did your people catch him. It is not allowed to catch animals in the wild anymore as you well know.”

I smiled, I had expected that. “Yes Mr. Herrera. This particular cat was caught because it was endangering the population of a village. He already killed several life stock and the villagers were afraid that a child would get injured soon if they encountered the animal. We plan to use him for breeding with our current population of big cats before we ship him back out there and release him back into the wild at a place where he can’t be a danger to people.

“I see Mr. Gottlieb. Very well, I’ll process the paperwork and have him shipped to you as soon as possible.

I had little problems the next day finding a secure cage that I could get in and out off by myself, but looked secure enough to outsiders. I commandeered a truck to transport it to the loading dock of the Zoo and soon imprisoned myself into the cage awaiting further development.

Everything worked out quite all right, nobody questioned the shipment and soon I was loaded onto an Airbus 445 for shipment to the LA Zoo. Now I just had to worry about getting out of the cage unnoticed in time. I didn’t particularly fancied the idea of getting locked up in a Zoo and having people come to watch me.

The landing could have been better, as it shook me quite hard in my cage, but I got unloaded quite fast after that. The handlers were a bit perplexed with the paperwork, of course I couldn’t have provided the receiving end in Los Angeles. But I had to stay in quarantine anyway, so they just put me in the holding area and gave me some food and water.

At night I waited till I had figured out the schedule of the guard before picking the lock with my weak Telekinetic power and quickly exited the cage. Finally I was free again and back home in the US, but I was getting a bit worried about my increase in following my animal instincts. I liked to snooze and relax in the daytime and be a nocturnal hunter. And I do mean a hunter, sometimes I just couldn’t resist going after an animal and have it as dinner or lunch. I really should be careful of my instincts and not let them control me totally.

I walked for a long time and a few times I jumped on an open pickup or truck to hitch a ride towards Culver City. I had a friend living there and wanted to pay him a visit. I just hoped he wouldn’t freak out too much about my new appearance. For all I knew he might call the police or animal control to have me incarcerated or killed.

I had just jumped off a truck near a college and trotted through a suburban area, when I smelled fresh blood. Feeling curious I followed the scent and soon arrived at a recently killed dog lying dead in a yard. The animal that killed it had to be quite big and ferocious, as the dead dog was a Doberman Pincher. As I bowed down to the carcass to get a whiff of whatever killed the dog, an outside light went on and a door opened. I jumped away quickly and not a moment too soon as a shot rang out. I sprinted through the yard and a hedge before slowing down and climbed up a wall towards a low roof, that was high enough to look out over the yard I just fled from.

I watched hidden in the darkness as first the police arrived, followed by other uniformed people. The others probably were animal control or something. They talked to the man that was standing in the doorway with a shotgun. Then they started to search the yard for tracks and clues where the animal, me in this case, had gone.

 

●●●●●●

 

Elisa Wengren with Animal Control.

 

Elisa was a bit anxious. She had only started this job a week ago, and was still learning the ropes from her mentor Milo Quinlan. She knew though that she could shoot a fleeing animal much better than him. She was a MORFS survivor with super quick reflexes which was a great help in her work.

They were trying to catch the animal that was killing dogs around Culver City. So far it hadn’t even been seen yet. So when the call came in that a citizen had not only seen but taken a shot at the animal they immediately set out for the scene. Silently Elisa stood next to Milo as he talked to the man who’s dog had been killed

“Can you tell me what you saw mister eh…?”

The man answered quickly, “ Nutt. My name is Nutt. Well, I heard the dog bark and then squeal. I got my gun before turning on the lights and opening the door. As I did, I saw a big black cat looming over my poor Rickie. I think it was about to eat him, so I took a shot. Don’t think I hit it though. Anyway, off it went through the hedge there.”

With a faint smile Milo asked, “Would you mind if we search for it and go through your yard Mr. Nutt?”

“No, go right ahead, and if you find that filthy animal, shoot to kill. My poor Rickie didn’t deserve this kind of death.”

Milo answered out of courtesy, “Yeah, I’m sure he didn’t,” before going out into the yard to look for tracks.

Elisa went with him, but just a little to the side out of Milo’s search pattern. Soon she found a lone print in a patch of dirt. She called Milo over, “Over here, I got a print here.”

Milo quickly came over to her and saw the paw print. “Looks like a mountain lion to me.”

Elisa examined the print, measuring the size. “I know mountain lions live in this region, but it’s too big for a regular one. In fact it almost looks a bit like that of a jaguar. Maybe it’s a hybrid?”

Milo shook his head, “Jaguars don’t go this far north, unless… I heard about a missing black panther from LAX.”

Elisa looked up, “I heard that too, they flew in a panther for the Zoo and it escaped from its cage in the quarantine holding area. But what is it doing all the way over here?”

Milo shrugged, “Who knows how animals think? Maybe a tamer or a telepath could tell us?”

Elisa looked around, “Yeah maybe, or maybe this cat doesn’t act like normal cats. I don’t know, I’ve got a feeling that this is something else. In any case it can’t be the same animal that has been killing dogs. The panther couldn’t have been here when it all started.”

Milo Quinlan didn’t share her idea, but had to admit that the timing wasn’t right. “Maybe there are two predators on the prowl for dogs. It is a damn coincidence that the panther was seen killing this dog, while the others would have been killed by another animal. Either way, we can get a good price from either the Zoo or a private collector that I know of for such a big cat.”

They couldn’t come up with a sound conclusion, so after some more searching and looking around the neighborhood, they got into their truck again and drove around the neighborhood hoping to catch a glimpse of the animal they were trying to catch.

 

●●●●●●

 

Feral.

 

I watched the people from Animal Control search around the yard before getting back into their truck. The older man seemed to be in charge and the more experienced one. But the woman gave me chills. She moved in a very controlled and efficient way. I think she’s the one to watch out for. She would be far more dangerous to my health than the man would be.

I waited for peace and quiet to return to the neighborhood, before getting down to street level and continuing on my journey. As I trotted through the suburban area, I kept an eye out for possible trouble and pursuers.

I just crossed a baseball field when I smelled something that seemed vaguely familiar. But I couldn’t really place what it was. As I trotted along, the scent got stronger and another scent joined it. The new scent was familiar though, it was a dog. Then it hit me, the unknown scent was what I had briefly smelled at the slain dog before. I hadn’t had enough time to clearly put it into my memory as I was busy running for my life. So I was on the trail of the dog killer again!

I hurried towards the scent and noticed I was downwind of it, so surprise would be on my side. As the scents got stronger and stronger, I came to another smaller baseball field. There I saw some animal that I didn’t recognize attack a very large Rottweiler. Now I know Rottweilers, they are not easy to take down. But this dog didn’t stand a chance against this beast. The unknown animal quickly killed the Rottweiler and was so caught up in the fresh kill that I could sneak up in a quick sprint. Finally I was close enough I could make the jump to silently land on the killer and take it down.

I planned to land on its back and try to quickly gnaw through his neck and spine. But I think the animal noticed something and it managed to turn and squirm mostly out of the way. Still I did manage to get my claws into a side and take quite a large chunk out of its back. The animal screamed a loud yelp almost like a cat, but not exactly the same. As I got ready to continue the battle, I could see what kind of animal the other was. It was a hybrid all right. My guess was a housecat with a Wolverine. It was just as mean and fearless, and it stunk like it as well. ‘But Wolverines don’t come this far south, so how did it come in contact?’ a thought flashed through my mind. And even if it was a part housecat hybrid, it was now totally wild, a feral. Just like me.

There was no more time for reflection or thinking as the animal attacked me viciously. My quick reflexes and strength kept me out of range for it to do too much damage, though it did wound me a few times. But it was nothing compared to what I did to it in return. Within moments it was bleeding profusely and it wasn’t happy. It didn’t stop it from continuing to attack me though.

A normal panther would have its paws full, defending itself against this kind of animal, and probably wouldn’t get out alive. However I had my human intelligence to aid me, which gave me the upper hand. That was even without my added strength from being a MORFS hybrid between mountain lion and a jaguar. All in all I didn’t doubt that I would come out of this fight as a victor. I did have to watch my vigilance as not to get hurt too much.

 

●●●●●●

 

Milo Quinlan and Elisa just stopped for a quick bite to eat when the call came over the radio about a loud ruckus caused by fighting animals in Culver City park between Duquesne Drive and Hetzler Road. Milo tossed his snack away and quickly drove the truck down Duquesne Drive. Elisa conferred with the police units so they would surround the place efficiently.

They came up with a plan and soon everyone arrived at their designated position. Elisa gave Milo a weapon first before arming herself with the new stun-anesthetic dart gun. Those weapons were now preferred by animal control as on impact, they first immobilized the animal with an electric stun. Then the tranquilizer would put the animal under for several minutes to hours depending on its weight and kind. Thanks to that it could be checked and removed safely.

They quickly but quietly walked towards the howling and growling noises that could be heard from quite some distance. After emerging from the bushes into a poorly lit field, she barely managed to see the fight between two big animals and something nearby laying on the ground. As they all got closer to the scene, one animal bolted quickly towards some shrubbery, while the other hesitated for just a moment.

 

●●●●●●

 

We were howling, growling and fighting on the field with each other, but I was clearly winning the battle, when we both suddenly noticed the people coming towards us from all sides. The feral hybrid wolverine-cat directly bolted for some shrubbery, while I hesitated for a moment. ‘Should I stay here and try to explain things? Or act like an animal and run for my life. If I identify myself as a human hybrid, they will find out who I am. And since I’m kinda MIA or AWOL from the military, I would be thrown into a jail cell. Better run then.’

Thought changed into action and I sprinted after the animal I had been fighting. Maybe I could still catch him. However I had waited too long. While I had been deliberating, the people moved in fast. ‘Too fast for me to escape?

The people that were in range to take a shot at me were not wearing police uniforms, but animal control uniforms. To my dismay the closest one was the woman that I rather wouldn’t face.

I tried to slip between both animal control people, but as I got between them, they raised some kind of gun to shoot me. I faked a jump straight ahead, but jumped at an angle towards the man instead. As I expected the man fired his gun to where I was supposed to have landed. But then I felt something hit me from behind. I screamed as a jolt of electricity stunned me into paralysis. Then the anesthetic kicked in and I was out like a light.

 

●●●●●●

 

The big black panther ran with amazing speed towards Elisa and Milo and was about to pass between them as they aimed their Stun-tranquilizer guns at it. Elisa was amazed at the strength and size of the big cat. She had never seen such a big one in her life before and she had lots of experience with big cats. She saw it get ready to jump and aimed her gun at a point of its trajectory.

She didn’t fire it immediately as her mentor Milo did. The world always seemed to be in slow motion to her, so she saw that the panther didn’t move to where it was supposed to go, but instead jumped at an angle towards her mentor. Quickly she adjusted her aim and fired a dart at the cat. It screamed for a short moment before collapsing in a heap on the ground. Quickly Elisa went over to inspect it, and relaxed a bit seeing the male panther was sleeping soundly from the anesthetic. Milo had glanced at the big panther for a moment before going over to the thing on the ground where the two animals had been fighting. Elisa joined him and a policeman and saw a dead mutilated Rottweiler. She examined the body swiftly and concluded, “No way that the panther I shot, did this. First he wouldn’t have made such a mess, he’d just crush the windpipe and be done with it. Secondly, the remains of the dog reeks, it has been sprayed with some stink gland. A panther doesn’t have that. It would either be a Skunk or a Wolverine. I think the other animal that got away did this and not the panther.”

Milo Quinlan snorted, “Well, either way it is good that we caught the wayward panther. He was supposed to go to the Zoo. So that is where we’ll take him if they still want him.”

Both Elisa and Milo went back to the panther to inspect him better and Elisa saw some movement from a leg. Of course that could be just a movement in his sleep, but she didn’t trust the dose of the tranquilizer. After all this really was a very big cat. Still the dose should be high enough to keep it under for at least an hour. Milo asked her, “Can you get the portable cage from the truck please?”

As Elisa walked away from the scene towards the truck, she turned on impulse and noticed that the panther had woken up and tried to sneak away silently. “Milo! The cat!” she shouted. Milo reacted well enough this time, the cat must still have been a bit groggy as he wasn’t fast enough this time to evade getting shot again. Elisa hurried back with the portable cage and they had a hard time getting the big sleeping cat into it.

 

●●●●●●

 

Waking up after being shot with a stun-tranq dart sucks. Specially after being shot twice. This time I woke up inside a cage. I recognized it, it was similar to the one we had used on my friend in the jungle. Remembering him made me miss him a little. He made me all that I am today after all. Suddenly the cage moved, I was being hoisted onto a truck. ‘Are they taking me to some facility to be experimented on or to some place to be put to death? Damn, I need to escape from this.’

I knew how the cage was constructed, there was no way for me to escape by brute force. So I had to open it by pulling the bolt on the door. I tried my best to reach it, but couldn’t quite get to it. It was just out of reach from inside the cage. Instead I tried to use my weak telekinetic power to move the bolt. Within moments I was panting on the floor from the exertion. It was too heavy, I couldn’t budge it with the limited power at my disposal. Frustrated I roared my anguish, and heard the people from animal control talking about the ruckus I was making. They thought I was quite angry, which wasn’t even that far from the truth. Just not for the reason they thought. Resigning myself to the inevitable, I lay down on the floor, to try and rest some. I might get a chance to escape later, and I wanted to be ready for it.

I don’t know how long the drive took, as I stopped wearing a watch when I morfed into a panther, but finally the truck stopped. My cage was offloaded and it swung to and fro for a while, as it and me were being carried to my destination. Suddenly I didn’t have to guess my destination anymore. My nose got assaulted by all kinds of new odors, some my instinct identified as prey, others as familiar and some as danger, to avoid if possible. I guess I had been taken to the Zoo. True, I sent myself here, but hadn’t actually planned on arriving at the place. Well, I guess it was poetic justice that I would end up where I had assigned myself.

As soon as I heard the bolt and latch from the cage release, I hit the door with all my power and mass and bolted out of the cage, straight into a bigger cage with some plants and rocks. They had released me straight into my new habitat. I guess they didn’t want to take any chances with me. I heard the woman from animal control say, “See, I told you that this cat doesn’t react as other animals. He’s got more intelligence than I have ever seen in a cat.”

The man snorted, “Yeah, sure. Next you’re going to tell me that he’s sentient and that we should respect his rights to run around free.”

The woman didn’t answer, so I guess she didn’t have any good reply to that. Well I did, but couldn’t voice it. Because then I had to identify myself and be court-martialed for desertion. My best course of action was to sit tight for a while and try to escape this jail when I got a chance.

I looked around and saw some new people standing with the people from animal control. They would be the zookeepers was my guess. A woman said, “Well, it looks like a fine specimen, well worth the price we’re paying you. I still don’t know who sent it to us and why, but I’m not complaining. Did you do a full examination?”

The man from animal control answered her, “We couldn’t. Somehow he’s waking up much faster than he should from the tranquilizer. We could use a stronger drug, but that might kill him. We do think he’s quite healthy, despite some bruises and minor lacerations from the fight with some other animal. Like my colleague said, this isn’t a normal cat, he’s probably a hybrid of some kind. Maybe when he’s used to the zoo and the people, you could try to sedate him better and do a full examination.”

In the meantime I was pacing through my new cage, or maybe I should call it my new home. Well, I didn’t care much for the decoration. So I paced in front of the people standing outside my cage. I looked them straight into their eyes and all except the woman from animal control looked away with what I thought was fear. She, however looked straight back at me, as if she was trying to see that I could think as a sentient individual. Without knowing why, I growled at her and turned away.

Soon after that they left me alone and I explored my new surroundings. I tested all the possible exits and got nowhere fast. Most were secured with heavy chains and big locks or latches. While others where inaccessible even to someone like me.

The pacing and exploring made me hungry and I wondered when they would give the animals something to eat. As if they had heard me, someone came towards my cage and threw in a big piece of bloody raw meat. I caught it in the air and took it with me to some secluded spot. There I devoured it quickly, before going to a trough filled with cool fresh water. Sated for the moment I laid down in the sun and started grooming myself. Just like before I didn’t notice it at first and just kept on doing it after I noticed, just so I wouldn’t look out of place.

 

I had a very relaxing couple of days at the zoo, I got fed quite well and didn’t have much to do but rest, sleep and sometimes try a little exercise. The quarters were a bit too cramped for much exercising, but I managed a bit of climbing, jumping and running. The only problem were the people visiting the zoo. Some were really annoying, with throwing stuff like peanuts or pebbles to get me to do something. The first few times I roared at the treatment, till I understood that it was just what they wanted. Later I hid behind the rocks or vegetation, where they couldn’t see me.

One time it got real bad, three kids were throwing little rocks into my hiding place. When I came out to see them, they started to throw even more rocks. They only stopped when they didn’t have any pebbles left. As I still hadn’t given them any reaction they walked on towards other cages, to torture other fellow incarcerated animals. Quickly I looked around and saw that no one was in sight. I unfolded my fingers of my right hand and picked up a stone. I threw it towards the biggest of the three kids, who was also the one throwing the most stones towards me. I would have missed him entirely, were it not for me guiding the stone towards the target, the back of the boy’s head, with my telekinetic power. It hit quite satisfyingly and he jumped, crashing into his friends doing so. They all looked around to see were the stone had come from, but saw nothing out of the ordinary, as I had resumed my normal stance. With a little pleasure I saw them scramble away, their plans to torture other animals completely forgotten.

Then I had a feeling that I was being watched. I turned and saw a little girl look at me with an open mouth. When she saw me looking at her, she turned and ran towards a woman talking to someone else. The girl yelled, “Mommy, I saw that cat throw a rock. How can a cat throw a rock?”

The mother picked up the child and said, “Now, sweetie. Don’t go around making things up again. You know that cats can’t throw rocks. I don’t want to hear of it anymore, you hear?”

The girl looked sad and said, “Yes mommy.”

As they walked past me, I saw the girl look at me. As no one else was paying attention to me, I raised my paw to my mouth like I was saying “Shush”. The girl looked at me with big eyes and then smiled. She nodded curtly and put her finger before her mouth. She understood that I didn’t want others to know about me and seemed content to keep the secret to herself.

 

After a week I was getting bored with the routine in the zoo. I was getting a bit rounder due to the good food and the lack of exercise. Fortunately they still hadn’t tried to drug me for a full examination, but that couldn’t be too far away. Then one evening after closing time, a young boy came running through the Zoo. He couldn’t have been more than 2 or 3 years old. For a moment I wondered where he came from, ‘is he a straggler that got away from his parents?

Then he did something that I hadn’t expected. He wriggled through the bars of my cage and ran towards me. He threw his arms around my neck and hugged me. I didn’t know what to make of it. ’Did he recognize me as a human hybrid? Or does he have a power to deal with animals? Or maybe he’s just so innocent and is he just lucky to go into the cage of the one animal that wouldn’t attack him?

I played with the boy and had him chase my tail for a while. Then the woman that I had seen with the zookeepers came running through the zoo yelling, “Zachary, where are you?”

As she neared my cage, she saw the boy play with me, and paled. She sighed almost inaudible to me, “No, oh no. Don’t let him get hurt.”

She looked at us and reached for a key, then thought again and reached for her eCom. She was saying her thoughts out loud, “I need Brendan here with the sniper rifle. I can’t risk a tranquilizer. He may still hurt Zachary.”

As she was punching the number on her eCom, I said, “So you’d kill an innocent animal, for your son’s transgression? How callous of you.”

The woman dropped her eCom hearing my voice and looked around where it had come from. As she didn’t see anyone else but us here, she said on a loud tone, “Where are you? Show yourself and help me get my boy out of the cage, please?”

She looked straight at me when I answered, “I’m right here playing with your son. Now I would appreciate it if you didn’t kill me, or told anyone about me. In fact I would appreciate it a whole lot more if you’d let me out of here and let me go free about my business.”

She looked at me as if she saw rocks turn into water or something. Then she stepped closer to the bars. “You can talk? Who are you?”

I stood up on my hind legs and carried little Zachary towards his mother. As I neared the bars, I said, “Yes, I can talk. I’m a human panther hybrid with a lot of panther characteristics. You can call me Feral. And I’d appreciate it if you don’t reveal my existence to the world. I’m in some kind of trouble with the government. Though I’m not wanted for any crime as you know it. Can you please let me go?”

The woman swallowed visibly, “Can I have Zack back first? Please?”

She was probably afraid that I would use him as a bargaining chip. Well, the thought had crossed my mind. But I wasn’t that callous. Besides the mom might involve others if I did that. So I said, “Well, I could try to squeeze him through the bars again, unless you have another idea.”

She reached for a key and walked to the side, “Sure, here is a door you can use to give him to me.”

I followed her towards a door that I hadn’t noticed before. It was obscured by some bushes and if you didn’t know that it was there you’d almost never find it. She partially opened the door and took the boy from me. Then she quickly locked it again. “I’m sorry Feral, but I can’t set you free just like that. I need some time to think about this. Thank you for not hurting Zachary. I don’t know what I’d do without him.”

I cursed inwards, ‘I had the perfect setup to get out and let it pass because of my bleeding heart. Damn it, I should have bargained or step out of here with the boy.’ With a growl I answered, “Well, I hope you can see it from my point of view. I feel bored here and want to get on my way again.”

Looking at me the woman asked, “why did you stay in here so quietly all these past days? You could have spoken or done something.”

“Like I said, I have some problems with the government and I could use the rest and relaxation. But now I’m ready to leave again. I hope you’ll keep my real identity a secret?” I told her softly.

She looked with guilt on her face at me, “I’ll see what I can do, but I can’t promise anything yet. I’m sorry for locking you up again.”

“Yeah, well. It’s my fault as well.” I turned away to go back to my usual spot to wait for darkness to exercise some more. The woman took her son in her arms and walked away from my cage. With trepidation I looked at them. Then I got a new idea, the door wasn’t that well secured. It didn’t have heavy latches or big chains. True, it wasn’t a big door, and very well hidden. It was locked of course, but in the past week I had been practicing my telekinetic power a lot too. I think I could pick a lock with it. Now that I had a new plan I settled down in my lair to get some more rest and waited for the night with its darkness.

 

Soon it was dark and quiet enough for my plan. I neared the door and felt with my telekinetic power how the lock was constructed and set. Focusing on it, I pushed at the appropriate pins till all were in the opening position. Holding it for a moment was quite stressing and gave me a headache. Now came the hard part of turning the cylinder. My headache worsened till it felt like my head would explode, but at long last the cylinder turned and the lock disengaged. Quickly I stuck my arm out through the bars and yanked the door open. It was fairly easy after that to get out and relock the door behind me, so it would look as if I just disappeared.

Quietly I snuck out of the Zoo, and was on my way towards my friend once more. I needed to see him as he was also my mail drop point. I had mailed him the recording of my talk with Major Skiggs before I joined the black ops against MORFS. Looking back I realized how misguided I had been. I was opposed to MORFS survivors and now I was a case of extreme MORFS myself.

 

As I trotted through the sleeping city, staying in the shadows, I had to duck out of sight suddenly when a police cruiser slowly and silently went by. They were obviously looking for something as they had their search lights on. Then my sensitive ears caught a message from their radio. It was an APB for a missing kid. I relaxed a bit, so they were not looking for me. Still I had to be careful with the police looking everywhere.

Carefully I continued my way towards Culver City and my friend’s house, when I smelled something new. There were two scents, one was like that of a child, but it reeked of fear and the other was a sour stench of decay. Well that was the best I could describe it. Intrigued I started following these new scents and trailed them to a park where they ended at a hidden shack in the middle of a group of trees. As I slinked around the shack I heard a small voice, “I want to go to my mommy!”

A gruff man’s voice sounded, “Quit whining you brat, and take your clothes off.”

The girls voice answered, “Why? I don’t wanna.”

“Because I said so, I’m going to have a good time with you. Now hurry up.” The man’s voice sounded a bit irritated.

I understood that this was a pedophile with his victim. I wondered how he got away with that in these times. There would be telepaths and other paranormal imbued people that could find out these kind of sick people. Well, I wasn’t going to stand by idly. Involuntary I growled. The girl started to say, “What…” but then cut off like she was silenced. ‘Shoot, I shouldn’t growl when I’m on the prowl.’

As I debated what to make of it, I noticed someone slinking through the bushes. Though it was night I had no trouble identifying the person as the woman from Animal Control. My guess was that she was either looking for me, which wasn’t likely yet, or she was hunting the wolverine-cat hybrid.

The woman looked at the cabin, but didn’t seem to have noticed anything. Then she directed her torch on the ground and looked for tracks. As she was moving away from the shack I saw someone appear in the doorway and heard a man’s voice say, “Drop your weapons miss, I’m an expert shot and even you can’t outgun me.”

The woman dropped her stun-tranq gun and turned around towards the man. “I am not looking for you, or whatever it is you are doing here, mister.”

“Doesn’t matter, you’ve seen me. I can fool telepaths, being a little gifted in telepathy. And as a police lieutenant I can divert the investigation, but I can’t have any witnesses. So I’ll just have to kill you.”

The woman didn’t respond anymore, probably thinking how she could get out of this. I on the other hand had heard enough. I knew that this bad cop was a child molester, and a murderer in the making. I could smell the little girl inside the shack. I didn’t growl or anything, just quietly sprinted from my position and jumped the man, closing my jaws around his neck.

As I felt my teeth touch his skin I bit down hard and crushed his neck, windpipe and his spine. As I landed safely and dropped the lifeless body of the man, I saw the woman pick up her gun and point it in my direction. ‘Man, is she going to shoot me again?

Then I noticed a new scent coming from behind me. It was the wolverine-cat hybrid. I prepared to jump away for a defensive posture, when the woman fired her gun and hit the wolverine-cat. I still jumped away, and good thing I did. The hybrid-cat wasn’t down. Instead it was still about to attack me. It was slowing down though. Now that it was hit, it turned its attention to the woman who suddenly saw herself without time to reload her gun. Instead she pulled a normal one and fired twice on the hybrid. It went down, but still kept on coming. I jumped it and finished it off with a quick bite through the thick neck.

 

Finally the threat of the ferocious carnivore was over and I turned to the woman fearing what she would do next. She had her gun aimed at me and I didn’t growl or bare my teeth, I just looked at her waiting for her to shoot me. Then she did something I hadn’t expected. She said, “You are sentient, are you?”

Stunned I answered, “Yes I am, I’m not an animal, I morfed into this fur.”

The woman looked equally stunned at me. “You are a human MORFS hybrid? I should’ve known. Why didn’t you speak up to us earlier?”

I sat down on my haunches, “I have some problems with the government, and am not looking forward to a media circus to clear everything up. There are too much things that don’t need to be out in the open just yet. So I’ll hide my fur as much as I can. I do hope you got a good price for turning me in to the Zoo.”

The woman flashed a thin smile at me, “Yeah we did. Sorry for having them lock you up.”

“Forget it, I did appreciate the rest and good food there. Though I left when it became boring. By the way, you can call me Feral if you want.”

She smiled again, this time a bit broader, “I’m Elisa. So what did that man do, that warranted his death sentence?”

I turned to go into the shack, “That reminds me…” With my sense of smell and cat eyes it didn’t take me long to find the little girl. I had to soothe her a little bit, before she trusted me enough to take her outside. It helped that my fur was so soft, she liked to hold it. Soon I exited the shack with the girl in my arms and said to a waiting Elisa, “I heard an APB about a missing girl and when I encountered both her and his scent, I followed them here. You were here by accident following the rogue hybrid?”

Elisa confirmed that and came closer to us to have a look at the girl. “I guess you want me to take the girl back to her parents or the authorities?”

I nodded, “Yes, I don’t want to be seen and locked up in a cage again. Identifying myself as a human panther MORF isn’t advisable either, because then I have the right to be locked up in prison. I like my freedom to run into the wild too much.”

The girl took a closer look at her rescuer and was startled at seeing a big panther. She started to cry a bit and I put her down with Elisa holding her. Elisa soothed the girl and got her to tell us that her name was Lea. I sat down in front of her on my haunches and Elisa nudged Lea to hug me. She did a bit hesitant at first, but then clung to my neck and she said, “Thank you Mr. Cat.”

“You’re welcome Lea. Can you please keep me being here a secret? There are some bad people out to get me, just like the bad man that took you from your parents.”

Lea nodded a yes to me and then went over to Elisa.

She asked, “So, what are your plans now, Feral?”

I shrugged, “I was on my way towards a friend, I guess I’ll continue on my way.”

“Walking you mean?” Elisa asked with some amusement in her voice.

“What else can I do? Ever see a big cat drive a car? Or ride on the public transportation? I would end up in the Zoo immediately or in jail.”

“Well if you give me the time to deliver Lea, I can give you a lift to where you want to go.” Elisa offered.

I contemplated the offer, ‘That wouldn’t be so bad, I still have quite a walk ahead of me and it’s getting light soon again.’ “Okay, I’ll take you up on that offer.”

Elisa took out her eCom and called the police to have them come to the crime scene.

 

As the people started to arrive I hid in the bushes, and watched them question Elisa about what happened. They were dismayed to hear that a police lieutenant had been the serial pedophile rapist that eluded capture for so long. At first the lead investigating detective didn’t believe it, but the testimony of Lea soon convinced even him. They asked about the bite marks on the dead man. Elisa made a convincing explanation that the dead Wolverine-Cat was responsible, she had even masked my bite marks on the animal with her knife. I hoped nobody was suspicious enough to examine it better. Luck was with me though, Elisa was soon released from further questioning and asked to take the animal to the appropriate place for disposal. The Police took charge of Lea, so soon Elisa set off to her truck dragging the dead animal behind her.

I stalked alongside her through the bushes to where she had parked the truck. Arriving there I took in my surroundings and didn’t find anyone near enough to see me. So I slinked out of my cover up to Elisa. “You want me to ride in the back with the carcass?” I asked casually.

Elisa turned to face me the instant I spoke up, “You shouldn’t sneak up on people like that. Someone might get a heart attack.”

“Sorry, that’s my nature. Can’t really help it.”

She smiled, “You can ride in the cab, just keep out of sight.”

She hoisted the dead animal into a special bin, while I opened the door and found a nice spot behind the front seats. Elisa got in herself and started the truck, while asking, “So where to Feral?”

I didn’t hesitate, “McManus Avenue, Culver City. Please.”

“That’s not even remotely close to here, do you mind if I offload the cadaver first. I don’t want it to stink up the truck too much.”

Sighing I answered, “Sure. I’ll just make myself comfortable then.”

 

Late in the evening we arrived at the street I had told Elisa I wanted to go. The street was quite full with people of all ages. Elisa asked, “Are you sure you want to be here? It’s very crowded, you’d end up in a Zoo or worse before the day is out.”

“Drive to the end of the street, there should be a park there. And with your work as cover you can stop close to it. Just leave your door open towards some trees or bushes.”

Elisa made an amusing sound, “You’ve been here before obviously. Very well, Feral. I’ll do my best to get you some cover. Good luck with your trip to wherever you’re going. I hope you don’t end up locked up again.”

I huffed, “Hope so too. Thanks for bringing me all the way over here. Don’t worry too much about me, I’m nocturnal mostly, and can conceal myself well enough. Besides I had extensive urban combat training among others, so I’ll be okay.”

It didn’t take long for Elisa to park the truck and get out, leaving the door open. She pretended to look for something on the ground, watching the surroundings in reality. I got ready to sprint out of the door towards the cover and sniffed the air to get a reading on people nearby.

Then I noticed Elisa making a vague gesture, like come here, and I took it as my cue to get going.  I quickly sprinted towards some brush beneath a few trees and halted inside the cover staying still. I looked back and saw Elisa slowly walk back to her truck and drive off, waving sort of casually towards me. With mixed feelings I watched her drive away. She had helped me tremendously, despite the fact that at first she was responsible for my incarceration in the zoo. But as nice as she had been, she still was dangerous to someone like me. Still she let me go, I would have liked to have something to eat though. I felt quite hungry. I hadn’t wanted to trouble Elisa much more though. Besides would she be willing to get me a few pounds of fresh raw meat? I didn’t think so.

 

I waited for quite a long time careful to maintain my cover, which was only threatened once when a soccer ball rolled close to my hiding place. The boy picking it up didn’t notice me though, so I was still safely hidden.

Finally it was late and dark enough for me to come out. Slowly I made my way through the back streets towards the house of Larry Darby. He used to be one of us, but one time he went out to get a drink and got wounded by an IED explosion. Even after receiving treatment at the hospital, the outcome was that he had lost the use of his right arm and his skin was blackened all over his right side. But since it wasn’t strictly during his service hours, he got stiffed by the brass for a compensation.

We, his comrades, tried to pitch in for him, but he refused to accept charity. So instead we appointed him our mailman and holding point. He didn’t ask much questions on how and why, he simply kept our messages and stuff. And since we all kept in touch with him regularly, he was also our means of keeping in touch with each other.

 

Finally I reached Larry’s house. With my improved sense of smell I couldn’t miss it. He still reeked of explosives and charred flesh. As I arrived, he just opened the door and put the trash out. I halted my approach, but he seemed to sense something anyway. ‘Damn, his instincts are still good.’ He peered out into the yard, but didn’t seem to see me. ‘Well I am totally black in a dark night, so as long as my eyes don’t reflect the light, I’m quite invisible.’

Then he shook his head and turned around to go back inside, but something was not right with his posture. Just as suddenly he turned around again, but had a nasty looking Glock 9 mil in his hand. “Whoever is out there, know that I’m a good shot.”

‘Damn, he still can’t see me, but knows I’m here.’ Softly I replied, “Hold your fire Larry, I’m a friend.”

Larry pointed the gun in my direction, now that he had heard where I was. “I don’t recognize your voice, and I know the voices of all my friends.”

I laughed curtly, “MORFS did a number on me, Larry. I look a lot different now. Just promise not to shoot me when I come out.”

Larry squinted his eyes, but lowered his gun. “Okay, come out then and tell me who you are.”

Slowly and quietly I crept forward into the light, and though Larry was trying to look for me, he didn’t see me till I was at jumping distance. “Holy…” Larry exclaimed and raised his gun again.

“Hey, you promised not to shoot.” I was apprehensive, Larry was known for his quick and deadly shot with a handgun.

He lowered his gun again, “Oh, sorry. Force of habit. So, who are you exactly?”

I sighed, “It’s me, Lando Johns.”

Larry’s eyes widened. “You are right, MORFS really did a number on you. But I thought only youngsters caught it.”

“Yeah, well I don’t want to talk about that right now. It’s not supposed to get out into the open.”

Larry nodded, he’d seen and heard enough secrets in his past. Then he got suspicious, “How do I know you’re really Lando Johns? Can you give me any proof?”

“Oh, come on Larry? How many of us do you know, and how many others know of you? Fine, I send you my flak vest with personal weapons and my Barrett 110 sniper rifle and earlier a memory device with a recording. Proof enough for you?”

Larry visible relaxed, “Good enough for me. Welcome back Lando.” He motioned for me to come into the house. “Come on in and take a load off.”

 

A while later I was laying comfortably on a sofa while Larry made some tea for himself. “Can I get you something Lando?”

My stomach growled a little, “Well, if you happen to have a raw steak in the fridge, I wouldn’t mind that.”

“Raw eh? You certainly have changed a lot. Let’s see what I still have for provisions.”

Moments later he came back with some ground meat. “Sorry, this is all I have left.”

“That’s okay, I’m not that picky.” Quickly I devoured the meat and licked my mouth clean.

“So, Lando. What are you going to do now? I mean, I don’t think the military has openings for big cats in the ranks.”

“Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that. I mailed you the recording right?” Larry nodded. “That recording is the only thing that will keep me out of jail. I had been declared MIA. But instead I was working for a classified military operation. I was duped though, it was a clandestine rogue operation. So I may get declared AWOL.” Quickly I filled Larry in on what happened in the jungle.

Larry looked thoughtfully at me. “You sure got yourself into a mess. And now? What’s the plan?”

“I was thinking of looking up some people, do you know if Paul still lives at his old address?”

Larry squinted again, “I haven’t heard from him, which is surprising as we had a chess game going on. He just vanished suddenly. Discreetly I have made some inquiries, but nobody has seen or heard anything.”

I was a bit depressed hearing the news. I would have like to visit and talk to Paul. “I’ll go have a look then. Maybe I can find out something.”

Larry chuckled, “Well, better be careful. You wouldn’t want to end up in a Zoo.”

I sighed, “Too late, been there, done that.” Larry looked at me with wide open eyes full of questions. I sighed again, “Maybe I’ll tell you later. I have another plan. I’m going to have a look at my family. I know my brother won’t accept me, but he’s still family.”

Larry gave me an understanding look. “And your guns? I received them in good order. I already had them cleaned and checked. But can you still use them? I mean…”

I interrupted, “Sure I can.” I showed him paw and extended my fingers. “But for the moment keep them, I can’t very well use them here.”

“Okay, will do. So, when do you plan to leave?”

“Well, if you could put me up for the day? I’m nocturnal mostly now,” I explained at his unspoken question.

Larry smiled, “Sure, no problem. I’ll even get you a steak later. Now if you don’t mind, I’ll go take a nap.”

“Sure, go ahead Larry.”

I stayed up most of the night and slept some during the day. I had a few more talks with Larry but couldn’t join in with a beer drinking contest. I discovered that I had no tolerance for alcohol anymore. Still it was a fine day. In the night I would set off towards the house of my good friend Paul to try to find out what happened to him. After that maybe I would try to contact my family. Sadly my brother was an asshole purist., but Naomi had always been sweet and nice to me. I always wondered what she saw in my brother. Well, my plans were ready. Time to get going.

 


 

Chapter 4 - The network affair

 

Softly I trotted through the backstreets of Elizabeth, navigating my way towards Paul’s house. I hoped he hadn’t moved. Since I was avoiding the main streets in my form, and only travelling at night, it had taken me some time to get here.

Finally I got to my destination. The lights were on, so somebody was home. My first thought was to knock on the door and flat out ask Paul to let me in. However, what if it wasn’t him in there? And even if it was, even he might get a scare seeing me as a Panther. Since I had a lot more patience than before, I decided to watch the place first and then make my decision on what to do.

I found a nice hideout in a deserted loft opposite the house and observed the apartment. It wasn’t till late in the morning that I saw some movement. To my disappointment I saw it was a young woman. So unless Paul had a new girlfriend, he wasn’t living there anymore. That put a damper on my mood, but still I wanted to ask the girl some questions. Now, how to do that without scaring her to death?

Suddenly I saw that she had a cat and immediately a plan formed. It was Saturday, so she probably wouldn’t have to go to work. Her getting up late would also be an indication of that. Half an hour later I saw the woman get out the front door and walk off towards where I had seen some stores. I carefully made my way to the other side of the street careful to avoid being seen.

Luck was with me as I arrived at the apartment. The cat had escaped from the house and was wandering around on the roof. The little feline was scared for just a moment of the big cousin she saw in me, but since I was a lot of a cat, she trusted me soon enough. I caught her easily and petted her to keep her calm. It didn’t take long for the woman to come back from her shopping and I heard her calling inside, “Kitty? Kitty? Where are you girl? Did you lock yourself out again?”

The cat in my arms meowed and moments later a window opened fully and the woman was in the opening looking for her cat. At that moment I said, not being in her sight yet, “Hello Miss. Don’t be alarmed. I have your cat here, and I would like to talk to you for a moment. But I don’t really look human. I don’t want you to be frightened of me.”

The woman was startled, I could see that clearly, but she recovered fast. “How do I know you’re not some pervert trying to gain entry into my house, Mister?”

I chuckled, “Well, if that was my intention I would already be inside. Or I would have jumped you going out for shopping.”

“Okay, so you’ve been watching me then. I guess you’re an animal MORFS, since you said you don’t look human. Well, I work with a lot of morfed persons, so show yourself Mister.”

“Okay, here I come.” And I came from my spot into her sight, holding her cat in my arm. I saw her startle as she saw my Panther form.

She recovered very quickly, “I can see why you’d warn me. I never saw a full hybrid like you before. Don’t you have a lot of problems going around like that?”

“You have no idea on how much problems I have with it. I have to stay hidden or get locked up into a Zoo.” I replied dryly.

She laughed, “Well, I can see your point in keeping a low profile then. But please come in and give me Kitty please.”

I climbed into her house through the window and handed the cat over to her. She petted the feline and said, “I’m surprised that Kitty let herself get caught by you, Mr. eh…”

“You can call me Feral. It’s not a big secret, I’m just a big cat to her and she’ll be in heat soon. So, I think she’s already looking for some male companionship.”

The woman startled again, “You didn’t…”

I interrupted, “Hey, what do you think I am? I’m not that far gone!”

“Sorry,” apologized the woman. “Where are my manners, I’m Farrah Novatine, welcome in my home.”

“Thanks, Farrah. Now, as for my business here.”

Farrah interrupted me, “Yes, you said you wanted to ask me something. Well, ask away.”

“Okay, then. I was looking for a friend of mine. Last I knew of him is that he was living in this apartment.” I started.

Farrah interrupted again, “Oh, you mean Mr. Bartlett, the previous tenant. I can’t tell you much though. All I know is that about a month ago he suddenly disappeared and I just rented this place a week ago.”

I sighed, “Damn, I was hoping to catch up with him, usually he keeps in touch through a friend, but he didn’t say anything about going away.”

Farrah looked at me with a mix of worry and sympathy. Then her face brightened, “I did put the stuff he left behind in my storage-shed. Maybe that will help? I kept it just in case he might turn up or I got a message to where I could sent it.”

“Well, I would like to take a look at the stuff. Afterwards could you please have it send to a friend of ours? He’ll store it for us and we always know where to find him.” I replied her.

Farrah agreed, and took me to her storage. There, I took in Paul’s scent from his personal belongings. It was faint, meaning that the trail was mostly cold, still I would try to find out where Paul had disappeared to. I wanted to take my leave from her soon so I gave her the name and address of Larry. She said she would have it send there soon and I told her that Larry would reimburse her costs. At first she wouldn’t hear from it, but after I insisted, she accepted it.

I had to wait till it got dark enough for me to be on the streets and not get noticed. But I had patience and waited long enough. Farrah understood my need and let me stay with her till then. She went to sleep before the time came for me to leave. So, I let myself out quietly.

Out on the street I had a hard time following the scent, it was already very old and most of it had dwindled away over time. I lost the scent only one street away from the apartment and cursed, this was getting me nowhere fast. ‘What to do now? At least I know that something happened to him, only I don’t know what yet. I do know that he would never voluntary disappear like that. He would at least tell Larry about it. Even if we don’t want to be found, we’d tell Larry. We always do.

Well, next up on my list was finding my family, but I only had the old address to go on. As I trotted along the streets, I suddenly found Paul’s scent again, but it was different, like it was changing, there was something feminine to it, and a bit of tiger or other big cat. I had come to know those kind of scents quite well. ‘Does this mean he caught MORFS? But he’s way too old for that. Well, actually so am I, and notice how I look these days. Still, even if he had caught MORFS, he would have given us a signal. If only to let us know that he didn’t want to be found.’ Then there was the undeniable smell of gun oil. That could mean he was taken against his will.

I tried to follow the new scent, but although it was fresher than the old one it was still quite old. I could only follow it for a few feet, then it disappeared in what must have been a car or something. Probably an Ambulance, since there was a hint of antiseptics and bandages in the air. ‘Weird, did he end up in a hospital? But how seriously is he hurt then? If he was conscious he would have found a way to let us know.

I pulled out my eCom from the hidden compartment in my barely noticeable Flak jacket and called Larry, “Hello Larry? Lando here, Paul’s apartment is inhabited by someone else, she’ll contact you soon on how to send his personal belongings to you.”

Larry’s voice sounded worried, “So, he really disappeared then?”

“I tried to follow his scent, but lost it twice. He may have gotten injured or something as I think he was taken away by ambulance. There was a strange change in his scent, but that could have been my imagination, but the scent of Gun oil wasn’t. Please check hospital records near the day he disappeared, at least for a week after.” I summarized for him.

“Wilco, in the mean time I did some digging, it appears your family has moved around as well. There is someone else living at the old address you gave me. I dug around some more and I found some interesting newspaper articles that you should read. I’m sending them to you as we speak.”

I looked at my eCom and sure enough several files were downloading. “Thanks Larry, you’re the best.”

“Yeah, yeah. I only managed to get myself blown up off duty.” He answered bitterly.

I snorted, “We all have our off days, look at me! I can’t even walk normally among people anymore.”

Larry laughed, “Well, aren’t we a sorry bunch. I’ll try my best to get more info, catch you later Lando.” With that he cut the connection.

I found a nice out of the way hideout and started reading the articles Larry had sent me. The first one was of a broken up rally against MORFS survivors. The ringleader, by the name of Lars Johns was arrested and subsequently sentenced to 5 years imprisonment for attempted murder on his own two daughters. ‘Two girls? I thought Lars had a boy and a girl. Or maybe it is a different Lars Johns. Then again how many times does that name appear with the person being a purist.’ I continued and read that Mr. Johns was a known purist and additional charges of discrimination were added. An additional year imprisonment was added to his sentence because of that.

The next article I read was a loftier one, it was about a dance contest and the head line said, Young dance couple takes first prize in contest. I looked at the picture in the article but didn’t recognize the girl. As I read on it said that Lance Thorsson and Maren Zoë Johns had won the first prize in a regional dance contest, beating professional dance couples doing that. It further mentioned the dance school they came from, ‘In-style Dancing’ led by Miss. Naomi Landers.

At first I had wondered why Larry would send this article to me, but now I was intrigued. I knew that Landers was my brothers wife’s maiden name and her first name was Naomi. So that fit the bill, but their children were named Brent and Isabel. There was no Maren in our family. ‘Was this still a coincidence?’ I looked again at the picture included. The girl was a very good looking brunette although the eyes looked different and she had a black belt around her waist. ‘Maybe it wasn’t a belt?

I went on to the last article, this was another report on a criminal act. At a dance school ‘In-style Dancing’, two girls were attacked by their father and another man. Though both girls were severely injured, they were saved by speedy intervention of two women that happened to pass by. They called in an ER MBE, thus saving their lives. The attackers, someone called Jerry Finch and the girls’ father Lars Johns, who had escaped earlier from prison, were charged with attempted premeditated murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, as well as breaking and entering. This time there was a picture with the article and sure enough, that was my purist brother standing in cuffs next to an unknown man. ‘So my brother has two girls? There is no mentioning of any boy, did he morf into a girl then?’ I knew that it happened sometimes with MORFS.

I really needed to check this out. No need to find the residence of the family though, thankfully the newspapers covered that one quite well, my brother’s residence for the next 10 to 15 years would obviously be jail. Instead I would go to Savannah, Georgia to try and find my ex-sister in law and her children. I would like to talk to them and offer my apology for the fuckup that I had been for them as a brother in law and uncle. I don’t know, maybe they’d forgive me for my past transgressions and accept me for who I am today. It would be nice to have some family to fall back to, since my other family, the military, seemed to have been taken away from me.

It is difficult to travel fast if you can’t hop on a plane or other public transportation, so I was already underway for several days, when I came by a grisly sight. I had just caught and devoured two rabbits that came across my path earlier, when I saw it. A pony had been mauled and mutilated so severely that it almost didn’t resemble a small horse anymore. Though some of its innards had been eaten, that clearly wasn’t the objective that the beast that did this had in mind. No, this was the work of an insane out of control beast. I sniffed the area and soon identified its scent. It was canine, probably wolf like.

The scent of the beast went somewhat in my general direction, so I followed it, being curious as to what this thing was. Then I smelled more blood and jumped into a tree to get a view, without leaving my footprints this time. Good thing that I did too, because the beast hadn’t been content with a mere animal this time. It had attacked a young woman, by the looks of it a jogging high school student most likely. She too had been mauled and mutilated. The sight was horrible, even though as a soldier I was used to seeing grisly sights. I grabbed my eCom to call the local authorities. I wasn’t concerned with them tracing my call as my model was not only set to hide the caller ID but also had the GPS disabled and the Digital ID randomized. All this was highly illegal of course but of course I didn’t care, I needed my anonymity. I called 911 and answered the standard question about my emergency with, “I’m near Holtzgrefe Pond just off Mountain Road, I found a dead and mutilated young woman. I think she has been attacked by something.”

The woman in the ER center asked for more details and I knew they were trying to trace my location. “My GPS is not working and I think there are other things wrong with my phone. I dropped it sometime ago. I do know…” Then I cut the connection, to make it seem like it was broken or malfunctioning.

I took up a watching position, far enough away from the site as not to be noticed, but close enough for me to see things happening. A sheriff’s car screeched to a halt nearby soon enough and the sheriff searched the area quickly, but on guard with his gun drawn. He had no trouble finding the young woman and stayed well away, as not to disturb the area for CSIs.

 

Not too long later the place was crawling with people and they found the prints of the animal that had attacked the woman. As the coroner was loading the body into a van and the forensics were wrapping up their searches, the sheriff went off to search the surrounding area. He passed right below the tree branch I was resting on, and an idea sprung up in my head.

I focused my telekinetic power on a small pebble and it rose from the ground. Then with a little more force, that started another headache for me, I shot it at the sheriff. He quickly drew his gun and spun towards the direction the pebble had come from. As he didn’t see anything he slowly looked down to see what hit him. As he picked up the pebble, he said slowly, “Okay, whoever you are, come out slowly and I won’t shoot.”

I answered hesitantly, “Prove it and holster your gun.”

He quickly pointed his gun upwards to where the sound of my voice came from, but he still didn’t see me in the thick foliage of the tree. I kept very still, so I wouldn’t reveal my position. The sheriff then holstered his weapon and put his hands up towards me. “Okay, Mister. I did as you asked. Now, face me if you will?”

“I’m not ready to do that yet and neither are you, let’s just say that I look menacing. Let us talk instead. I’m the one who found the victim and called it in. I can help you track the thing that did it. I’m quite certain that it’s a canine sort of animal.” I replied the sheriff.

“How would you know that. How do I know it’s not you that attacked that girl?”

I laughed curtly, “If I attacked anyone, I wouldn’t make such a mess and certainly wouldn’t wait at the scene. Let alone call it in to authorities.”

“Point taken. Still, you should let us handle this. This is no matter for civilians to deal with.”

“I’m no civilian, I’m military. I just have a bit of trouble with them at the moment.”

The sheriff whistled, “What kind of trouble? Do you expect to be locked up?”

“Something like that. It’s complicated. Now, due to my morfed form I can track the beast, if you will just let me. I’ll do it anyway, but I would like you to know about it, so your people won’t blunder into my path, or think that I’m the thing you’re hunting.”

The sheriff laughed, “Well, I would have to know what you look like then, wouldn’t I?”

I dropped down from the branch I was laying on and landed smoothly in front of him. “Does this answer your question?”

Startled he was about to draw his weapon again. Then he halted his movement and answered with a croaky voice, “Yeah, it does. You’re right, we could have mistaken you for the animal that we’re looking for. But your paw prints wouldn’t match the murderer. Still I can’t have you helping us directly. I will instruct my people not to shoot at a big black panther, but be on the lookout for a canine, or wolf. I did read those prints as such, you know.”

I nodded, “I will try my best to hunt this thing down. I hate animals like that. The girl’s not its first victim I either. Some 5 miles north-east you’ll find a mutilated pony. If you give me your number I’ll call you when I locate it.”

He did that, and after storing it on quick dial on my eCom, I left him saying, “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got an animal to hunt.”

“Good luck,” he yelled after me as I quickly trotted off into the direction the scent of the wolf creature led me.

 

●●●●●●

 

The Network in action in Glen Allen.

 

Charlie woke up startled from his sleep. He hated having morfed. Now he had a weak pre-cognitive power, but it only worked when he slept. Even worse, he didn’t have any control over it. He wished again that he didn’t have this power. He remembered from his vision that a young boy, with some kind of illusion power, was going to be killed viciously within hours. Charlie had been helped a while earlier and was given a card that allowed him to contact someone to repay the service. He rubbed the logo of the card and a smooth voice answered, “Control here, how may I help you?”.

Nervously Charlie answered, “Hello? Control? I had another vision. A young kid is attacked, I mean will be attacked. I saw huge flashing teeth. I think… no… I’m fairly positive that it is somewhere on Cussons Road. I saw some things that I recognize, I walk it every day. Oh, the attacker is some big dark animal. I don’t know when it will happen, but it was night and usually my visions are limited to within 24 hours or so.

“I’ll notify the appropriate people to handle this, thank you for your warning,” came the reply in a smooth controlled voice.

Charlie sighed, “Oh, okay.” As he put his card down, he sighed again, ‘Why did this have to happen to me? At least I can do some good through the Network, still I would love to be normal and sleep all night without having to notify them about something needing to be done so often.

 

A short while later a boy called Lester, who had a power to create shadows, was contacted by Control on his card, “Hello, this is Control. An upcoming event has been called in. Please go to Cussons Road, between Englewood and Lakewood, look out for any dangerous animal. A young boy walking on Cussons Road is going to be attacked by a big dark predator. We will provide a backup operative to sedate or capture the animal, you take the boy to safety.”

A young man named Bart, barely grown up at the age of 17, was also contacted by Control. “This is Control, a young boy is about to be attacked somewhere along Cussons Road, Another operative will be going along the Road, we want you to follow the boy or the operative and when you see a big dark animal attacking, sedate or capture it. A net and tranquilizer gun will be waiting for you in the usual place.”

 

A while later Lester was debating if he should be walking along Cussons Road or not. Control had said that the attack would be somewhere between Englewood and Lakewood. When he saw a young boy walking around the corner going into Cussons Road, the answer became obvious to him. He started to follow the boy silently with his shadow power at full strength, though it was just enough to make it a bit darker around him.

He didn’t notice a big black panther on the other side of the road. Which wasn’t so surprising as the fur of the panther obscured him against the dark background.

He did notice the electric van going slowly along the road after him. He knew that it was his backup and that he would probably take the boy with him into the van. Meanwhile Bart was following Lester in his electric van. Like Lester he didn’t notice the panther either.

 

●●●●●●

 

Feral slinking along the side of Cussons Road.

 

As I followed the trail of the beast, I noticed some boy walking on the streets, though it wasn’t easy to see him. He kinda blended into the shadows more than he should. Did he have a power? He seemed to be looking for something or someone. Just then another boy showed up, he was walking on the street like there wasn’t a care in the world. ‘What the hell are those boys doing out at this time of night? Get back home, you fucking idiots. There is a monster out hunting.

The first boy started to follow the other boy and I kept up with them on the other side of the street. I think neither one could see me, I blended quite well in the dark with my black fur.

I followed them for a few minutes, preparing to get back to following the trail of the beast, when the wind changed direction and suddenly I noticed a strong scent of the monster coming from the direction in front of the leading boy. If I didn’t act quickly he was going to be killed as soon as he reached the place where the wolf creature was lurking.

My actions were forced, and with no time to notify the sheriff, I raced across the street, past the boy with the shadows and quickly bounded towards the other boy, before he could reach the shrubbery, marking the spot where the beast was probably hiding. As I reached the scared shitless boy, who was frozen in place by seeing a big black something racing towards him, I heard an electric car racing towards me and suddenly felt something prick my thigh. I thought, ‘Oh shit, here we go again.

Feeling a bit woozy I fell down partially on the boy. I looked at the thing sticking into me and saw that it was a dart from a tranquilizer gun. ’What the hell?’ Then I saw an older boy coming out of a van. ‘He must have shot me.’ He was running towards to me, with what looked like a net in his hands. As he reached me and the boy, he yelled, “Don’t worry, we’re here to save you. Get in the van, now!”

The boy with the shadows reached us now as well and grabbed the first boy which on closer look appeared to be a sea-urchin hybrid. Meanwhile the older boy prepared to throw the net over me saying, “Take him away from here, now!”

I felt well enough to fight as he reached me though I wasn’t at full strength. As before the sedative from the dart didn’t have the effect on me that it should have had. This had also happened with the anesthetic from Elisa, or so she had told me, maybe I healed a bit faster than normal. Regardless the reason the effect was fine by me. The two younger boys were about to get into the older boy’s van. He in turn threw his net towards me but I rolled out of its path. I quickly got up feeling a little woozy and growled at the three boys in front of me.

The shadow boy messed up his pants as he said, “Oh shit.”

“Oh shit, indeed,” I snarled at them. “What the hell where you thinking of doing.”

Now, they were really nailed to the ground in fear. The sea-urchin hybrid boy, said with awe in his tiny voice, “It talks?”

I growled at them, “Yes, I talk. so what? Now, if you hadn’t tried to capture me, I would have been able to catch that monster that is threatening people around here. I knew he was lurking here just a moment ago. Thanks to you morons, he escaped again. And now he knows that I’m after him. What the hell are you doing here?”

The shadow kid said with a quivering voice, “I’m Lester, what is your name?”

I sat down on my haunches, “You can call me Feral. Tell me, why are you here playing hero? You should all be in bed. You’re way too young to be up at this hour.”

Hearing the irritation in my voice Lester answered quickly, “The Network Control called me to try and save him.” And he pointed at the other boy. He continued, “Then I give him a card, to help someone else later.”

The older boy nodded and said, “Say, why weren’t you out? I thought my sedative would hold you down long enough for me to capture you.”

I laughed, “Well, the sedative isn’t that strong and I heal a little faster. So, what is this about a network?”

Lester hesitated, “Well, I’m not supposed to talk about it. Someone helped me once and gave me this card. Sometimes they call me and ask me to help someone else, like now.”

“I see, so you and some other young people got some powers and decided to save the world. Well don’t! Leave it to the professionals. At least grow up first and then join the police or the military if you want.”

The older boy took offense and started, “Hey, we’re doing all right on our own. Who are you to tell us what to do and what not?”

The sea-urchin hybrid, asked timidly, “Are you the police? Are you going to arrest us?”

“Suppose I am, does that frighten you?” I said menacingly to him.

The boy nodded in fear. I almost laughed, but didn’t. “Well, too bad I’m not a cop. I’m military. Now go home and …” I broke off when my sensitive ears picked up a scream for help and right after that a faint howl combined with an outcry of someone in pain and dying. ‘Shit, the monster found another victim, while I’ve been talking to these brats.

Lester asked, “And what, Mr. Feral?”

I snarled at him, “And stay home. While you were keeping me tied up here, the monster killed another person.”

All the boys looked at me in fear. They hadn’t expected that.

I decided to let them go with a warning, “Well, I think you should all practice using your powers without trying to play hero. Wait till you have more control and know what you’re doing. Now, go on home.”

The boys both scrambled to get underway and I decided to follow the sea-urchin hybrid, just to be sure he made it safely home and maybe the monster would try to attack him again. Quietly I walked behind him, staying just out of his sight.

He reached his home safely and since the trail had gone cold again, I needed a new start. I called the sheriff. He answered quite fast, “This is sheriff Beuling, how can I help you?”

“We talked earlier today, I almost had the monster when I was interrupted and had to save some boys. I did hear him make another kill. Can you tell me where?” I asked him.

“Ah, the big black unknown. Well, I could say that you should leave it to us. But I think I’m going to need your help after all. It killed a boy putting out the trash in the yard at his home. The parents saw a dark something tear their son up, before it fled. It’s in Forest Trace Lane. Can you find your way here?”

I checked the sat nav in my eCom, “Yes, no problem, I need a few seconds there to get a new heading to follow. Can you assist me with that.”

“Sure, no problem. I do hope that I’m doing the right thing. People may still think that you are the monster terrorizing the town.”

I laughed, “I have an alibi this time. Two boys can account for my whereabouts at the time of this murder.”

“Okay. Well, I’ll see you here then. Say, what do I call you?”

“You can call me Feral, see you shortly.” I cut the connection and hastily made my way towards the new crime scene.

 

I waited for a while, so most of the people would be gone, then quietly made my way towards Sheriff Beuling. He was talking to a deputy about how to proceed further with the hunt for the monster responsible. I rose up behind the sheriff and the deputy looked at me his mouth and eyes wide open from fear and surprise. I ignored him and said, “Hello Sheriff, I need a moment at the scene.”

Sheriff Beuling already had a feeling I was there, having seen the look on his deputy’s face. He turned to me, “Hello again Feral. I’ll escort you there, so none of my people will try to shoot you.”

“I’d appreciate that, better not shoot the best tracker you have here.” I replied dryly.

Arriving at the scene, a man, probably the father, started shouting after seeing me. “There it is again! Shoot the damn animal.”

A few deputies drew their sidearms and took aim at me, but sheriff Beuling put his hands up towards them. “Hold your fire, men. Feral is not the one we’re looking for. I can vouch for him. In fact he is going to help us track the real monster that did this.”

The father still didn’t believe the sheriff, “Don’t listen to him, shoot the damn thing.”

I got up on my hind legs, towering over the man, “I’m sorry I wasn’t here to save your kid. I got held up saving another boy. Now if you’ll just let me do my job, I can make sure that there won’t be any more tragedies.”

Startled by seeing and hearing what amounted to a big cat speak and walk on two legs the man backed down, as did the deputies. I went back down on all fours and sniffed the scene shortly before getting the scent trail again. I quickly started trotting off in that direction, while sheriff Beuling said, “Hey, not so fast. Wait for us.”

I ignored the sheriff and trotted on fast and relentless. I didn’t want to wait for them anyway, I could move faster and quieter without them. Alone, I might have a chance to surprise the creature, but with them around I would miss it all the time, which could result in another killing. As I followed the trail further, the scent got stronger quite fast. For a moment the thrill of the hunt caught me, but then a thought sprung up. ‘This is going too easy! Is that thing intelligent enough to lay a trap?’ I reduced my speed a little, and started using my TK power to scan around me, especially behind trees or bushes where I couldn’t see.

 

It wasn’t long till I detected something behind a fallen tree the shape and mass were similar to a wolf’s. Whatever it was it was hidden from view and downwind from me, so I couldn’t see or smell it. Just as I wondered where and when it would make its move, my light sensitive eyes noticed a disturbance on the path ahead. ‘I knew it, it’s a trap! It’s counting on me to focus on the trap in front of me, while it jumps me from the side.

Indeed as I halted my stride, I noticed with my TK power a movement of the creature. It was almost ready to launch itself onto me. As it came sailing silently through the air towards me, I turned towards it, extended my right arm or front leg, ‘I still get confused about that,’ and opened my fingers. I grabbed the beast with my right hand at its throat, while pushing my left paw with the claws extended into its abdomen. In this maneuver, I was able to use the momentum of the animal against itself. With my aid it flew harmlessly, for me that is, over me into the open. My claws had raked some deep gauges into its abdomen and the thing looked at its belly for a moment, apparently not believing it was hurt. For the first time I could see it and not only smell it. As I suspected it was a wolf hybrid, very much like me in that it resembled a wolf more than the human it must originally have been. Still judging by its behavior unlike by me its mind also followed suit. The result was a rabid murdering monster.

It howled its pain, anger and frustration at me and came at me again. It didn’t attack me with its fangs though. Instead it started to box with its paws. This was the last confirmation of its human origins I needed, ‘No wolf I know of knows how to box.’ I ducked a few times and stepped out of its way, till it got close enough to me and I grabbed the right paw as it came at me. With a move from Aikido, called Rokyo, I clamped its paw under my arm and forced the beast to the ground.

The wolf struggled against my grip and with a grinding sound twisted its arm out of its socket. Quickly it stood up on its hind legs again, howling from pain. I faced it calmly on my hind legs, ready to do more damage in a controlled fighting way. The wolf howled again before jumping at me with jaws wide open. Apparently its animalistic nature had taken completely over in the fight. With my intellect on my side I had no doubts about the outcome.

I prepared to sidestep and slash the wolf again, when a gunshot sounded. The wolf stopped as if it hit an invisible wall, before crumbling into a heap on the ground. I looked behind me, from where the shot had come from and saw sheriff Beuling standing there with his gun in his hand. He said, “Good thing I arrived on time. It was about to tear you apart I think.”

In a condescending tone I replied, “I had everything under control, there was no need to shoot it.”

The sheriff looked at me with unbelief, “But I saw…”

I interrupted him with a gesture, as I heard something coming from the wolf. I bowed down to its mouth and heard it say faintly, “I’m sorry that I couldn’t save more youngsters from this terrible disease.” Then a faint breathing out and its head lolled to a side, clearly the wolf hybrid was now dead. The sheriff came up next to me, still aiming his gun at the wolf. He asked, “Is it dead now?”

“Yes, he is dead. I think he went mad after his change. He told me with his dying breath, that he wanted to save children from the disease. I think he meant MORFS. It would explain his killing spree. I also believe that his animal side was a lot stronger than his human side. Anyway, he is dead now. I’ll leave the clean up to you sheriff.”

Sheriff Beuling looked at me, “What do you mean? I need to have you questioned, things need to be documented. You can’t just leave!”

I snorted, “Watch me. I don’t want to attract attention to myself, so goodbye sheriff.”

With those words I jumped into the shrubbery and took off hastily. I wanted to be gone before the sheriff decided to keep me there with force if necessary. And believe me, they would have to use a lot of force for that. I value my freedom too much, to risk it unnecessarily.

After a quick meal that I hunted down in the fields, I was back on my route to Savannah, Georgia. I even managed to get a ride, there was an open truck going my way, and it was easy for me to jump into the back unseen.

 

It took a few days, but finally I managed to reach Savannah. Now, how to find my ex-family? I already had been looking for a phone number, but Landers wasn’t listed. Neither was Johns, so that was a dead end. The only thing I knew was the dance school. So I set off towards the location indicated by my sat nav.

The school was closed when I got there, so I had to wait. Well, not a problem. I had a lot more patience since I became a cat. Before that I sometimes had to wait long times in the military during a mission. It was nothing new to me. I found a secluded space between a utility room and the wall to the dance school. It was very dark there which suited me fine, with an unobstructed view of the entrance to the school.

While I took a catnap with my hearing and other senses on alert, I suddenly heard faint footsteps. Carefully I felt around with my Telekinetic power, and noticed a man and a woman going up the steps. ‘Are they customers? Or is the woman my ex-sister in law or my niece? Just who is the man with her?’ I inhaled deeply and noticed both cat and dog in the scents. The cat scent came with some perfume, while the dog scent was very faint.

So, the woman was probably a cat hybrid, and that would mean the man was probably some sort of dog hybrid. As the couple neared the door of the dance school, I opened my eyes to see if the woman matched any of the images of my family I saw in the news. I saw that the woman looked like the girl that had won the dance contest. The man was a total stranger though. While I questioned myself if I should make myself known to them now or later, the choice was taken out of my hands.

The woman said, “Wait, I sense something. It’s coming from there,” and she pointed in my direction.

Already I didn’t move much, but now I froze completely. ‘Did she smell me? That is possible, how else could she notice me. I’m totally lost in the shadow here, I doubt even cat eyes can see me.’ I felt and heard electricity crackle around the man, while a bright light shone towards me from the woman’s empty hand. I was blinded by the light for a moment and all my instincts went into overdrive, saying that I should either flee or attack. With all my willpower I kept them in check thinking, ‘Oh, shit! They both have powers?


 

Chapter 5 - Into the family

 

I had to act quickly or I would be a flash fried cat. I almost couldn't believe my bad luck. I thought I had found my niece, but she and her boyfriend were about to use their powers on me. I was still blinded by the light from the woman, while feeling the static electricity coming from the man. It made my fur puff up a bit. I put my paws in front of my eyes and said, “Don't shoot, I'm here to talk to you, please hear me out.”

The man asked surprised, “What? You talk? Speak your mind mister, or prepare to get fried by either me or Synergy.”

The woman stepped closer and doused her light. “Please step into the light and tell us what you want of us.”

I got up and silently slinked into the light in front of them. The man startled as he saw my big panther body. He started to power up again and uttered something I didn't quite understand. The woman, who I expected was my niece, asked me again, “So, what do you want from us?”

“Can we talk inside please? I've been waiting here for some time already.” I said pleadingly.

The woman rummaged in her purse, “Sure, just let me open up. But don't try anything! I can take care of myself very well.”

After we went in, she turned to me and asked, “Well, we're inside now. So, what do you want to talk about?”

I looked around for a moment before answering, “Can I ask you your name please?”

She looked strangely at me before answering, “Maren Zoë Johns, why do you want to know? What's it to you?”

I looked straight in her eyes as I said, “Well, if you used to be a boy named Brent Johns, then it means a whole lot to me.” I saw something like surprise, recognition and a bit of fear in her eyes before she recovered.

“Yes, before I morfed I was a boy with Cystic Fibrosis and my name was Brent Johns. Who are you that you know that?” She asked me with a throaty voice.

“I am, well, used to be anyway, your uncle Lando Johns.”

The man quipped, “I see the cat-gene runs in the family.”

I looked at him indignantly, “Speak for yourself, dog. I can smell your stink from far.”

He powered up once more, “Watch it, furball. I can fry you to a crisp in a second.”

My niece intervened, “Gabe, don't start. And you, if you really are my uncle, which I don't believe, my uncle is about 30 years old. Old people don't get MORFS, so why are you posing as my uncle?”

I exhaled noisily, “Under some circumstances older people can get MORFS, but I can't and will not say anything about that. I am your uncle, remember the time you took apart my radio and put it back together after your father threatened to spank you. I saved your butt that time.”

Maren squinted at me, “I remember. But someone could have told you that story. It really doesn't mean anything.”

I nodded, “I agree, though only your father could have told that, and a pure like him doesn't talk to someone like me. Now, what only you and your uncle know, is that you told me your plans to build a repulsor. You even had some schematics that you showed me.”

Maren looked at me with her eyes wide open. “Okay, you are my uncle, what are you doing here? I thought you were a Purist like my father.”

I sighed, “Well, my views of MORFS have changed somewhat, as you can see. I know I was misguided then. But in my defense, I have not been a total purist at heart. Anyway, I had the army as my surrogate family, but after a big messy clandestine operation, I find myself in a lot of trouble with the military. The operation also resulted in me being like this. I just want to find my family again, and that doesn't include that fucked up brother who went to jail for trying to kill you. Can I just have a talk with Naomi and you? If you don't want to keep in touch with me after that, I'll understand and go my separate way.”

The man, Maren had called him Gabe, said to her, “I guess we won't be practicing dancing today.” Then he extended his hand to me and said, “I'm Gabe Kramer, electrical elemental and Maren's fiancé.”

I shook his hand and replied, “Lando Johns, or Feral as I call myself now. I'm a full black panther hybrid with some extra's.”

Maren asked, “Some extra's?”

“Yeah, but we can talk about that later. So, can I have a talk with your mother now then?” I asked insistently.

“Sure, want me to drop you off at work first, Gabe?” Maren said casually.

Gabe just nodded and started towards the door of the dance school.

“Wait,” said Maren, “How are we going to get you home? I don't see us going outside without attracting a lot of attention.”

“If anyone asks questions, just say that I'm your pet panther and that I was guarding the dance school.” I answered dryly.

Gabe added, “He's right, and with our powers nobody would question that we can't keep a big cat getting out of control.”

“Okay, let's go then,” said Maren.

I followed Gabe out the door and she brought up the rear, locking the door of the dance school behind her. Without any problems we went outside and because of the early hour, there wasn't anyone around to pay attention to us. A minivan beeped softly as Maren pressed a remote and Gabe opened the side door for me. I quickly jumped in, and made myself comfortable. Maren took the wheel and Gabe rode shotgun.

The car hardly made any sound as we started driving. I asked, “Electric?”

“Correct, it made more sense to buy one. Since we can both fuel it much cheaper than a combustion engine.” Gabe said to me, turning slightly towards me.

'That makes sense, he's an electrical elemental. But what is my niece then? She did fire light at me inside the building. Is she an elemental of sorts as well?'

 

A short while later the car stopped, Gabe got out and said, “See you later, Maren. Don't forget, I'm making spaghetti tonight for everyone.” Then he asked me, “How about you? Do you like spaghetti or would you prefer something different?”

“Just some raw steak or other meat would be fine. I prefer my meat raw these days.”

Gabe looked at me squinting a little. “Okay, I can do that.”

Then he walked off towards the entrance of a restaurant, with the name Everybody's Place on it. 'He works in a restaurant? I didn't take him for being a waiter or cook.'

As Maren drove the car away I asked, “So what does Gabe do for a living?”

She answered, “He runs the restaurant and is the head chef. Everybody's Place always was renowned for its good food, but after Gabe took over from the owner, it got even better.”

I was stunned, 'so, her fiancé is a restaurant manager and head chef?'

“And what about you Maren? What do you do?”

She laughed a little, sounding nice. “We are both still in college. But I do some Scientific research and inventions. Can't tell you what I'm working on though. It has been classified by some organizations.”

I frowned, well as much as that was possible with my panther face, hearing her say that. 'She's working for some government agency? Better be careful then. I don't want to be arrested or duped into some service again.'

“So, I heard Gabe say 'Our powers'. What powers do you have?” I asked, changing the subject.

“I'm an Energy Converter, I can convert any energy into some other type of energy. For instance heat into light. For me the possibilities seem endless. There are so many types of energy that I can absorb and send out again. How about you, uncle? You said that you had something extra?”

I hesitated, 'I hadn't told anyone about my telekinetic power. I preferred it to be my secret, so I might use it to surprise my enemies. However I should be able to trust my niece, shouldn't I?' “Well, I still have my fingers, though when I walk on all fours, they are concealed in my paws.” I showed her what I meant before continuing, “And I have a weak telekinetic power. I can't do much with it though. I can move very light and small objects, but it does come in handy sometimes.”

Maren whistled, “That is something extra. Well, here we are, this is where we live now. Mom got remarried, to the fire chief in town. And my sister morfed as well. She's a partial equine hybrid and an empath.”

I looked at the house, it was a nice big house, in a quiet neighborhood. Maren had parked the car in the driveway and we could walk up to the front door without too many people seeing us. Maren got out of the car, and was about to let me out, when I opened the door myself and got out on my hind legs. “I am not a dumb animal, Maren. Just go ahead and tell everyone not to be too startled by my appearance.”

She laughed, “Sorry, didn't think about that. You got to admit, it's kind of strange.”

I grimaced, “Sure.”

She went ahead to the door and called out, “Mom, I ran into someone who wants to see you.”

As I walked up to door myself, my sensitive cat ears heard, “Who is it honey? I thought you were going dancing with Gabe.”

Maren interrupted, “Yeah, I was. But someone was waiting for us. He wants to talk to you. I have to warn you though. He looks a bit intimidating. Please don't act in panic or be too scared when you see him for the first time.”

Naomi asked with confusion, “What are you talking about. Who is there with you? I don't know anyone that looks scary.”

I stepped into her view and replied, “Well, you do now. Hello, Naomi.”

She startled but recovered quite fast. “Who are you?”

“Sorry to barge in like this, but I've been through a lot lately. It's me, Lando Johns.”

Naomi looked at me like I was a ghost or something before angrily replying, “What do you mean you're Lando? I know Lando very well. He is a purist like my ex-husband. And he's too old to have morfed. So who are you and why are you posing as Lando?”

I sighed, “Please, can we sit down and talk? What I have to tell you is not easy for me to tell and can be hard for anyone to believe.”

I could see Naomi mulling it over, then she motioned to the den. “We can sit there. If you can sit at all, that is.”

I chuckled, “I can manage.”

After we settled down, with me sitting on my haunches on the floor, I started, “I know this may seem strange, but I really am Lando Johns.” At her attempt to start interrupting, I quickly said, “Yes, I know I was a purist, but not as far as Lars was. Since the last time we met, I have changed my views radically.”

Naomi quipped, “I can see that.”

I grimaced, “Right, no need to state the obvious. Well, to prove that I am who I say I am. The last time I was with the family, Lars was about to be abusive, I held him back. Later, when we were alone in the kitchen, I told you that if my brother ever got physical with you, you should tell me and I would straighten him out for good. Too bad it got worse before you got a chance to contact me.”

Naomi just sat there with her mouth open, looking at me. Then she said hesitantly, “You couldn't have known that, unless you really are Lando. But how? Only pubescent people catch MORFS.”

“There are some exceptions, and unfortunately, I'm one of those. I cannot divulge the how and why, just that I have morfed and am now a full panther hybrid.”

Maren spoke up, “And what do you want from us, Uncle Lando?”

I smiled, though that wasn't visible to them, “I was duped into an illegal military operation and found myself into trouble with the military. Apart from them, you are my only family. I would like to stay with you for a while to think what I'm going to do with my life now. I don't want to be a burden, so if you think that it's not convenient, I'll leave and not bother you again.”

Naomi answered resolutely, “I'm not throwing you out. Of course you're welcome. You are not to blame for your brother's transgressions. I know that you are not like him. I am unsure however on how to accommodate you. I have to ask my husband first how he feels about you staying here.”

My sharp ears had already picked up the outside door opening and closing, so it was not a surprise for me when a man, probably her new husband, came into view of us and asked, “Ask me what? Who do you want staying here now?”

Then he saw me and startled, “What the …?” He was about to jump ahead to protect his wife, but halted. He probably knew my niece's power and that she was able to defend herself and her mom. He did say, “Step towards me carefully! As docile as it seems, it is still a wild animal and can attack any moment.”

At that moment I spoke up, “Why would I attack? I have no reason to.”

The man looked at me like he saw water burning before exclaiming, “You can talk? Are you a MORFS hybrid?”

Naomi said to him, “This is my ex-brother in law, Lando. He would like to stay with us for a while.”

I could see him thinking, but then he surprised me. “If Maren and Naomi vouch for you, then that's good enough for me.” He took a few paces towards me and extended his hand. “I'm Shane Gannen, welcome in my house.”

Suddenly he realized how useless the gesture of putting a hand out to a Panther was, as if it would shake it. But I surprised him as I rose up to stand on my legs and extended my paw and unfurled my fingers. I shook his hand as he looked perplexed at my hand. “Thanks, Mr. Gannen.”

“My friends call me Shane, and you're welcome.” Shane replied.

Maren got up and said to me, “Let me show you around the house, Feral.”

Both Naomi and Shane cried out in surprise, “Feral?”

I sighed, “Yeah, I took on the name Feral for myself. It suits me, as I have gone back to the wild outdoors and I needed a name other than my own. But you can call me Lando or Feral, I listen to both.”

“Well Feral, don't snack too much on the indigenous wildlife around here, please.” Said Shane mockingly.

Dryly I replied him, “I'll try to constrain eating any of the people and animals.”

Maren commented from the doorway, “Are you coming, Feral?”

I didn't answer, but quickly slinked after her. She showed me the kitchen, bathroom and the living room. Then she led the way up to the second floor. There she showed me the master bedroom that smelled like Naomi and Shane. There was another bathroom, a lot bigger, with a Jacuzzi that smelled like freshener. Next was a spacious bedroom that smelled like prey to me. It smelled like equine. 'Must be her sister's bedroom.'

Lastly she showed me her bedroom, which wasn't as big as her sisters, but still quite large. There I smelled more prey. It was hard to identify though, I couldn't make up my mind if it smelled like dog or squirrel. As I entered her bedroom, I immediately noticed a small animal in a cage. It noticed me as well and fled to the farthest corner of its cage, obviously terrified of me.

Maren quickly went to the critter to calm it down, while motioning towards me to stay back a bit. I went out into the hallway and waited for her to come out. A few minutes later she joined me, “I'm sorry, I should've realized that Cyn would be afraid of you.”

Curious I asked, “What is it? I can't determine if it is a dog or a squirrel. The smells are confusing me.”

Maren smiled at me, “It is both, I call it a squog. It is a morfs of a dog and a squirrel. I think you'd better stay out of my room though. Cyn was obviously very afraid of you.”

“I know, she did smell like prey to me, but don't worry, I'm not going to harm your pet.” I said dryly.

“Thanks, I think,” said an amused Maren “Now, what are your plans, Feral? I have classes soon. So I'll be gone. I know Mom has to go to work as well and Shane just got off duty, so he's going to sleep.”

“I'm going to lay down somewhere as well, I'm mostly nocturnal now, so I'll take some naps if you don't mind.” I replied her.

“Make yourself comfortable, I'll see you later then.” With that Maren went downstairs and was out the door quickly. Naomi followed soon after and Shane came up and disappeared into the master bedroom. I contemplated going down to the den or the living room, but decided to stay upstairs. The my other niece's big bedroom smelled nice and I wanted to have a nap there.

 

A few times I woke from my slumber from a noise that I picked up with my sharp hearing. Every time though it was something trivial like Shane going to the toilet or taking the squog for a walk. I didn't bother to get up, but just listened for a while, stretched and curled up to sleep some more.

 

Quite a while later I woke at the sound of the front door opening. It was with a key and continuous, not like someone was breaking in. So I assumed that someone from the family had come in again. Even the sound of someone going up the stairs didn't bother me, thought the sounds were a bit different than I would expect. I didn't pay much attention, since I still was a bit sleepy. Next thing I noticed was the door of the room opening and someone clomped into the room on clogs or something. I stretched and got up, being a bit curious. As I came from behind the bed, I saw a blond equine hybrid examining herself in a make-up mirror. 'That must be Isabel, Maren's younger sister.'

I didn't make any sound as I came closer and suddenly Isabel saw something in the corner of her eye. She quickly turned around and screamed in terror seeing a big black cat creeping up to her. 'Shoot, why didn't I alert her first to my presence. I'm a menacing big cat to all appearances.'

Shane burst into the room moments after Isabel started screaming, while I was about to explain and introduce myself. Isabel, who was still screaming loudly, turned to Shane. Shane tried to calm her down, but wasn't very successful. I was about to come closer, but Shane motioned to me to back off for a while.

Finally Shane managed to calm Isabel enough to say something to her. He told her, “It is all right, Isabel. This isn't a wild animal. He's family. He morfed just like you and Maren did.”

Isabel didn't believe him at first, but at Shane's repeated talking she looked at me. I rose up on my legs and unfurled my fingers of both hands. I showed her my empty hands and said, “I'm so sorry to startle and frighten you like that. For a moment I forgot how I look to the world. I'm your uncle Lando, can you please forgive me for scaring you to death?”

Isabel just kept staring at me. I repeated, “Isabel? It's me, Uncle Lando. Please say something.”

 

Finally she responded, “Uncle Lando? You morfed? How? Why?”

I sighed, “That's a long story. Please forgive me for scaring you. I didn't mean to.”

Then she giggled, “You do look a lot better now than before. Of course I forgive you.”

I sighed a sigh of relief, though I was a bit miffed that she said I looked a lot better now. I growled, “What do you mean by a lot better?”

She giggled again, “Sorry, Uncle Lando. It is just that I like cats. That's also a reason I'm close to my sister.”

“Very well then, and please call me Feral. I'm in some kind of trouble with the military, so I'm using a new name now.” I harrumphed.

Isabel came towards me and hugged me. “Okay, Uncle Feral”

Shane had already gone from the room when he saw that everything was all right now, and I followed suit. This time I went downstairs and explored the house some more. I also checked the back yard and shed. I saw the outline of a car under a tarp, I assumed that Shane was working on it. I smelled all kinds of interesting things, while stalking through the backyard.

 

After all the women got back home, the front door opened. I smelled meat and other foodstuff, and sure enough, Gabe Kramer entered the room. He said, “Food is here, come and get it.”

Everyone quickly went to the dining room, while I followed a little more slowly.

As I entered the dining room, Gabe saw me coming and said, “I've got a raw steak and some other raw meat for you Feral.” He handed me a plastic container with the meat inside.

“Thanks, if you don't mind, I'll eat not at the table. I don't think it is proper.”

Naomi replied instead, “We wouldn't mind, but it may be for the best.”

Isabel remarked, “I prefer it if you didn't eat at the table, uncle Feral. I'm a vegetarian now. No offense.”

“Non taken,” I replied dryly.

They started eating and I opened my container as well. The smell of raw meat made me salivate and I dug in with gusto. Quickly the steak and ground beef were devoured and I found the gutted fish beneath it. The fish was gone moments later and I felt full enough. I could eat a little more, but that could wait. After putting the container into the sink and rinsed it, I sat down on the floor. Out of my animal instinct I started grooming myself, but halted when it became quiet and I 'felt' the stares directed at me.

“What?” I asked as I looked up.

Shane quipped, “Maybe we should offer you a place in the zoo?”

Dryly I answered, “Been there, done that.”

Maren asked with obvious surprise, “Where? How?”

“Long story, I'll tell you later. If you don't mind, I'll go outside for a while."

Gabe remarked, “I'd advise against it, there's a storm brewing. You might get wet.”

“I'm not afraid of water, but thanks for the warning.”

I went outside where I finished grooming myself, before going for a walk. I stayed in the shadows, which grew ever longer and more available with the sunset.

I surprised a few cats and dogs and even a raccoon, which would have made a light snack. I wasn't hungry though, so I let the critter flee, scared half to death. As I walked onward I realized that I had forgotten my harness with eCom and weapons. I might have a problem later getting back into the house. 'Oh well, I'll manage. I don't need to sleep till daytime anyway.'

My senses told me that the storm could burst any moment. The wind was picking up, as my whiskers reported. I was looking for a hiding place, when I saw a woman with a baby carriage cross a bridge. She was struggling with the wind and suddenly the carriage went over the side. The woman screamed, “Baylie! No, my baby!” A couple that were hastily walking along the bank of the river, trying to get to some place dry, heard the crying and looked up.

The man started to undress, but I could see that he wouldn't get into the water on time to get anywhere near the baby carriage. I didn't hesitate and sprinted from my hiding towards the river.

With a mighty leap I jumped into the raging river, and swam towards the spot where to my calculations the carriage would pass. As I swam, I noticed that something was thrown clear of the carriage and suddenly realized that it was a blanket with something moving inside. Quickly I made the decision to intercept the blanket instead of the carriage.

The blanket went almost under as it neared me. I grabbed the bundle with my outstretched right hand and put it back up into the air. With one look I confirmed that the baby was safely inside the blanket, well, as safe as it could be with all the water around it. It might even have inhaled some of it. Carefully I put the bundle to my mouth and held it in my fang as I tried swimming back to shore.

It was slow going back towards the safety of land, I also had to go around obstacles along the route. I was getting tired but held on with determination and pure will.

Finally I reached the side, but it was too high for me to climb by myself. Even if I didn't have the baby with me, and in calm water it would be a feat to climb an embankment this high. I was about to give up and surrender myself to the water, when an arm reached out to me. The hand closed around the blanket and I opened my mouth so the baby could be taken to safety.

As I saw the arm with the bundle disappear, I felt relieved. It was just a short moment however. Now I feared that whoever was up there would forget about me and that I would still die a horrible death in the raging river. I was almost ready to give up. 'Maybe it is for the best. I'm a freak anyway. This way I won't be causing more grief.'

Then again, I had never given up before and wasn't about to start now. I drove my nano-carbon reinforced claws into the rocks and tried my best to get up out of the water. It was just too much bashing into me and the river seemed to want to keep me as it lost the baby already. I was about to give up trying and just hang on, to gather some strength, when I saw the arm coming into view again. 'They didn't forget me! Don't miss, it might be my last and only chance.'

As the hand was getting closer, it seemed like it was hesitating. It was in my reach, so I wrapped my fingers around the wrist and pulled myself out of the water. The man I saw earlier getting ready to dive into the water was looking at me with surprise. I was still holding his wrist as he was holding mine. He said, “You're a hybrid?”

I was about to answer when the mother of the baby came running and interrupted. “Thank you so much. How can I ever thank you for saving my baby girl.”

She rushed to her little girl, the man, and the woman who was holding the girl, paid attention to her. I saw my chance and quietly snuck away. I just managed to hear the man say, “You should thank the big cat hybrid that went into the water to grab her. Hey, where did he go?”

I didn't halt my stride, but kept on trotting into the night. I was feeling a bit cold, even with my fur protecting me. Then things got worse, it started raining. Hard cold rain. It didn't take long for me to be soaked again. Desperately I looked around for some shelter. I noticed a small rundown shack close by, and started sprinting for it. As I was a few yards away, the lightning struck only a few hundred yards away into a scrawny little tree. The electric jolt racing outwards from the impact still gave me quite a shock.

Fortunately I had reached the shack. From up close it was even in worse condition than I had thought. But it was dry inside and I could wait out the storm there. I jumped into the shack and realized immediately that I wasn't alone. There were two children there. Their clothes looked a bit shaggy and they could use a bath.

The girl stifled a scream and the boy looked around for something to defend himself and the girl with. He didn't find anything useful, he only held a small stick in his hand and pointed it at me, as if that would deter me.

I tried to shake the water out of my fur, not really succeeding, before preparing to talk to them. I kept quiet as the girl started singing before I could say anything. I was really surprised, I hadn't expected that. She had a really good voice, she sang some sleeping songs for children and I felt a bit drowsy. That's when I realized that it wasn't natural. 'Why am I feeling sleepy? Does she have a power?'

I lay down and pretended to go to rest. I even closed my eyes and I heard the boy softly say, “It's working, keep going sis.”

She kept singing a bit longer but trailed off into nothing. Softly she said to her brother, “I'm sorry, I can't any longer. Do you think it's asleep?”

I lifted my head, “No, I'm not asleep. Don't try to lull me into a slumber again or there will be consequences.”

The look on their faces was priceless. It was a mix of surprise, fear, astonishment and awe. I added, ”What's the matter? Cat got your tongue? I'm sure I don't have it.”

They kept just staring at me, while I got up and sat on my haunches. Finally the girl started, “You scared me!”

“I'm sorry, I didn't know anybody was in here. I just wanted a place to sit out the storm. What are you kids doing here? Don't you have a home to go to?”

The girl started crying and the boy shouted angrily at me, “No! We don't!” He stared at me for a moment and then continued, “Are you…”

“Yes, I'm a full Panther hybrid. And I know that your sister has a power.”

The girl stopped crying and asked me timidly, “How did you know?”

“I felt it, I know the way I felt sleepy wasn't natural. So what kind of power do you have?”

“I'm a weak projecting empath. I can make people feel sleepy or good, but I have to sing to use it. If I don't sing, it doesn't work.” The girl admitted.

Soothingly I said to her, “Maybe it does work without singing, but you need the singing to focus. But I'm not angry with you. And you do have a lovely singing voice.”

“Thanks,” said the girl as she wiped her tears away.

“So, how about you,” I asked the boy. “Any powers?”

Bewildered the boy looked at me, “How did you know?”

“I didn't, but you just confirmed it.” I replied dryly.

He looked down and answered hesitantly, “I'm a weak sound elemental. I can dampen sounds. But I'm not very good at it. I can only make it less noisy.”

“I'm sure that you can improve with some training. You probably get headaches when pushing too much, right?”

He looked at me with surprise, “How did you know that?”

I smiled inward, “Because when I push my limited telekinetic power to far, my head hurts a lot. Now, my name is Feral, may I know your names?”

The girl smiled at me, “I'm Sienna and this is my brother Brad. Can I pet you?”

I nodded and she came towards me. “You smell funny,” she said.

“That's because of the wet fur.” I explained.

Brad joined us and hugged me as well. I lay down and they followed suit. As we lay there, I asked, “So, care to tell me why you don't have a home? I lost most of my family, so I may know how you feel.”

Brad spoke bitterly, “Our mother was more interested in the bottle after our dad died in an accident at his work. We had to take care of ourselves and her. When she started beating us, we left and vowed that we would never return.”

“I'm sorry to hear that. But I don't think you're at a legal age to be on your own. Judging by your clothes and smell, I think you need some foster parents.”

Brad objected, “No way! We don't need anyone. We can take care of ourselves. If you report us, we'll just run away again the first time we can.”

“Don't worry,” I said soothingly. “I have no intention to do that. In fact, I'm not on good standing with authorities. I do think that you need some help. But it's up to you and your sister, I don't care either way.”

I felt something on my side and found that Sienna had fallen asleep, lying with her head on top of me. “Your sister just fell asleep on my side. I suggest that you catch some too. I'll watch out for danger and such.”

Brad wanted to object, but I insisted and not long afterwards he fell asleep as well. I stayed awake and watched the rain outside and waited.

 

Early in the morning the rain stopped and the sun started to break through. As I watched and listened to the world waking up, my stomach rumbled from being hungry. It woke up Sienna, who yawned and then asked as she rubbed her eyes, “What is that sound?”

I answered dryly, “Good morning Sienna, that sound would be my stomach. I'm hungry.”

She looked at me with trepidation, “You're not going to eat us are you?”

I tried to laugh, but it came out more like meowing. “Don't worry, I don't eat people. But I do want to get some breakfast. When was the last time you had a good meal?”

Sienna just looked at me, while on my other site I felt someone stirring. Brad asked sleepily, “Did someone say, breakfast?”

“Morning to you too, Brad. Yes, I would like to get some food. I'm sure I can find a place to get some.”

Brad was getting defensive again, “I don't want to go to a welfare house. They'll want to put us back to mom, or worse, into a foster home. We'll stay here.”

Sienna was looking sad at his words, my guess was that she valued food over where to stay. “Don't worry, I'll find a place to eat without getting hassled.”

After saying that I got up and slowly trotted out of the shed. I didn't look back, but I heard that the children were following me. We walked for a little while, till my nose picked up some scents that was making me salivate. Someone was cooking very good smelling food.

I followed my nose and soon found myself in a spacious alley. The children stayed back a bit, hiding behind some dumpsters. Cautiously I slinked onward and it smelled better and better all the time. Now I began to smell the scents of the people as well and one in particular was familiar.

Even more slowly I slinked through the half open door into the kitchen. As soon as I was in, someone looked directly at me and started stammering “A … a … a …” The others looked at him, and then at me and startled as well. 'Shoot, forgot again what my appearance will cause.'

Just as I was about to explain, Gabe walked in through another door and overlooked the situation. He smiled, “Hi Feral, what's up?”

“I'd like some breakfast, please.”

The people in the kitchen first had looked at Gabe with astonishment, but then looked perplexed at me as I spoke. An old guy asked, “Gabe, you know this hybrid then?”

Gabe laughed, “Yes, I do. We met yesterday, he's family of Maren. And don't worry, he's house broken.”

Some people laughed at the joke, though it sounded forced. Others were still eyeing me for every move I made.

Gabe said, “Let me get you some meat for breakfast.”

A tall woman said, “While he's here maybe he could catch the mice that are bothering us.”

Dryly I replied, “I might, as long as I don't have to chase them into small corners.”

As Gabe went to the freezer to get food, I asked him quietly, “I'm not alone, I came across two runaways. They're outside waiting for me to come back with some food for them. Could you give me some for them first?”

Gabe was about to say something to me, when I heard his eCom buzz. He startled slightly before picking up the call. The hologram was of Maren with her back to me. She said, “Hi, Gabe, have you seen my Uncle Feral? I have something to discuss with him.”

Gabe turned his eCom around, so that she could see me, she quickly continued, “Hi Uncle Feral, I was looking for you. I have an appointment with my councilor at the MORFS center. I would like you to come with me. If you don't mind, of course.”

I looked at her mulling over it. 'I don't like it, what is she up to? I haven't been to a MORFS center, but I don't need nor want to. It would only put me on the radar of the government again. I really don't need that now.'

Finally I said, “Why? I don't like government organizations. Have you forgotten that I'm in a pickle with them?”

Maren quickly responded, “No, I haven't forgotten. Gavin told me that he'd keep it confidential. He's not going to report you.”

“How much did you tell him about me, Maren?”

She gave me a guilty look, “I was talking to him and kinda told him that my uncle was here for a visit. I let it slip that you morfed quite a lot. He said that he would like to meet you. I told him that you don't like government people. He told me that he would keep it confidential. He is a licensed shrink, so he's bound by patient-doctor confidentiality.”

I hesitated, “Well, I don't know, I mean, I don't need shrinking and I still don't like it.”

Maren pressed on, “Oh, please Uncle Feral. For me?”

I caved, “Oh, fine. I'll come with you, where and what time?”

“At 10.30, I'll pick you up at the restaurant, if that is okay with you.”

“Fine, now can you tell your fiancé to give some food to the children outside as well?”

“Gabe? What is Feral talking about?”

Gabe calmly replied, “I was just about to find out when you called. Now, I have some work to do, if you don't mind.”

She just blew him a kiss and closed the connection. Gabe turned to me, “So, what's the deal with the kids? We're not a homeless shelter, you know!”

“I know, I just think they are in need of a good meal. I'll pay for them and my breakfast. They are skittish about authorities, so I don't want them to go back into the system just like that. I just hope that they can someday have faith in people again.”

Gabe asked, “What happened to them?”

“Apparently their father was killed in an accident. Their mother turned to the bottle and started abusing them. They ran away from that. I think they also had some bad encounter with child services, but I am not sure about that.”

Gabe thought for a moment, “Okay, show them in. They can sit in the small place in the back till we open. I will need the room later though.”

“Thanks, I'll be back shortly.” I said warmly.

Quickly I darted back out the door and made my way to Sienna and Brad. They were still waiting for me hiding behind a dumpster. Sienna gave me a disappointed look, “You didn't bring us any food,” she said clearly distraught.

Brad didn't look happy at all as well. I rose up on my hind legs. “I can do better. The restaurant is run by a friend. You can sit inside and have a decent breakfast. No strings attached. Please don't insult me and my friend by refusing.”

The kids looked at me for a moment, but then Sienna's hunger won from her fear. She quickly darted towards the door. Brad said, “Wait, Sienna.” Then he followed her and I was right on their heels going into the kitchen.

Gabe was waiting, “Hello, so what would you kids like for breakfast? French toast? Waffles?”

Sienna was excited, “You can make waffles?”

“Sure, no problem, now follow me, I'll show you to your seats.” Gabe went out a door to the side and the kids followed him. I quietly followed them. Gabe disappeared into the kitchen but came out not too long afterwards again with two plates. They were loaded with waffles that smelled really good. It didn't do anything for me though.

The children dug into their waffles and Gabe said quietly to me, “I have yours in the kitchen, I think they can enjoy their food alone for now.”

Quickly I followed Gabe back into the kitchen and smelled some meat waiting for me. I quickly devoured it, and gnawed on the bones for a while. The other people in the kitchen already had gotten used to me being there and were busy preparing food. Just as I thought that I should go back to Sienna and Brad, I noticed movement where it shouldn't.

I looked intently at what was moving in the dark corner behind a cabinet. I focused and my eyes adjusted somewhat to the dark, I noticed it was a mouse. However I couldn't get to it. It was out of my reach and by the time I would get in reach, the critter would have fled to a place where I couldn't reach it. Then I got an idea, maybe that would work.

I remained still and focused my telekinetic power on the mouse. First I felt around it, and then felt the body, the mouse was now feeling something weird and wanted to escape to safety. However I focused more and tightly gripped it with my power. I lifted the mouse up and floated it towards me. As it came into reach I stuck out a paw and extended a claw impaling the mouse. It was dead immediately.

The old guy Mike saw me and asked, “What are you doing Mr. Feral?”

I got up, “Just caught one of the mice that were troubling you.” I put the mouse into my mouth, “Hmm, needs a little seasoning.”

The tall woman exclaimed, “Eww, gross.”

“Hey, you asked if I could catch the mice.”

She said indignantly, “I never said that you should eat it!”

Just then a heavyset man entered the kitchen asking, “Gabe, who are those children in the restaurant? We're not open yet for business.” Then he saw me and appeared so scared that I thought he would have a heart attack.

It turned out I wasn't far off. Gabe shielded me from view and took a pill out of a box for the man to swallow before saying, “He's family. He's a morfed hybrid. Don't worry, he looks menacing but isn't dangerous.”

I thought, 'Well, that isn't exactly true. But it's the best he can say for now.'

The man sat down, and after recovering he asked, “So, the children?”

I spoke up, “Sorry, that is my fault. I came across them. They ran away from a bad parent. I just wanted them to have a nice meal and maybe restore their faith in people again.”

The man said, “Well, I can understand that. However, my wife Brenda took over and she insisted that they needed a bath. I'm sure that she has taken them with her to our house.”

I quickly darted through the door and indeed the children were walking out on the other end with a woman. I could still catch them if I went towards them at full speed. I didn't go however. Instead I turned to the man. “Are you going to call child services on them? That would destroy what I set out to do.”

The man smiled, “No, we're not. Knowing Brenda, they are welcome to stay with us for a while. Then we'll see if they want to go back out on the streets or that someone can have a talk with them.” Then he put his hand out to me, “I'm Andre.”

I shook his hand, “I'm Feral, Maren's uncle.”

“Nice to meet you, Feral. So, are you in town long?”

I sighed, “I don't know yet. I'm looking at it a day at the time.”

Gabe said, “We're not done yet here, could you please sit out there and talk?”

I laughed, “Sure.”

I talked for some time with Andre while the restaurant filled up quickly with people. We had retreated into a small office and weren't noticed by the people. We talked about lots of trivial things till Maren came around the back to pick me up to our appointment with someone called Gavin.

 

As I walked into building with Maren I attracted quite a lot of attention. I didn't like it, but endured it stoically. I smelled a lot of different and interesting scents. 'There must have been a lot of different hybrids through here.'

Maren seemed to know where to go and after nodding to a woman at a desk, walked resolute towards a room. As she opened the door, I smelled two new scents and one was awfully familiar. I rose up on my hind legs and said loudly, “What the hell are you doing here, Elias?”

Maren was looking at me, not understanding, while the man in the room looked at me thoughtfully and with surprise. A door opened to the side, possibly leading to another office, Dawes stepped out while muttering, “That damned sensitive nose of his.”

Then he said more audible, “Hello, Feral. You don't write, you don't call. How else am I to contact you?”

I snorted, “You never gave me your phone number.”

“Didn't I? I must have forgot,” came the reply.

Indignantly I said, “On purpose, no doubt.”

Elias Dawes didn't respond, but changed the subject. “So, Feral. How have you been? And please don't call me Elias.”

“Why don't you tell me? I'm sure you kept records of my whereabouts. How else would you know I was going to be here!”

“Well, if I'm correctly informed, you got locked up in a Zoo, killed a wolverine-cat hybrid, a police Lieutenant and a Human-wolf hybrid. You were also spotted several times across 5 states. How am I doing?” Dawes asked me.

“You forgot the baby I pulled out of the river last night and the two stray children I came across afterwards.”

Maren interrupted, “That is the second time I heard about you being in a zoo, Uncle Feral. You have to tell that story, please?”

The other man got up from his chair, he put his hand out to me and said, “Glad to meet you Feral. I'm Gavin Benson. I'll take Maren somewhere else to talk, so you can have a conversation in private with Agent Dawes. I'll be back later to have a talk with you myself.”

I nodded and watched them leave the room. After the door was closed, Dawes walked towards me. “It's good to see you, Feral. You're looking fit and well.”

“Despite being attacked by a wolverine cat, a wolf, an energy converter and an electricity elemental you mean?”

Dawes sat down, “Ah, yes. Your niece and her fiancé. I heard about them. So, back to my list. It is accurate then?”

I glared at him, “You were fishing and just confirmed that it was me in all those cases.”

Dawes just nodded. I continued, “Well, I wouldn't have gotten caught and locked up in the zoo if I hadn't been fighting the Wolverine - Cat hybrid. After I escaped from there, I came across a pedophile, who turned out to be a police lieutenant.”

Dawes interrupted me, “Whom you killed.”

“He was threatening to kill the Animal Control girl that caught me. To save her and the little girl he had stashed in the shack, I had to stop him with extreme prejudice. He was a telepath and might get away with it.”

Dawes looked thoughtful, “Are you sure that you couldn't have just incapacitated him?”

I growled, “I didn't want to take the chance. As for the Wolf hybrid, I didn't kill him. The sheriff did that. I told him I had things under control, but he was a bit trigger-happy.”

“I got that. So, what was that about a baby from the water?”

I told Dawes in short sentences what happened late last night. He frowned hearing about the children, but stayed quiet. He wrote down a log, and I asked him, “What are you writing down?”

“Just keeping tabs on you and what you did. Don't worry, it's not for public knowledge, you're still off the radar for the government. I do want to ask you, are you still not interested in a job with my organization?”

“I'm not sure, I need some more time to figure things out.” I made a motion with my head, “What's the deal with that Gavin person? Does he know about the organization?”

Dawes laughed, “He's with us as well. But he's not a field op. He's a scout, recruiter, and has a few other functions. Well, I'm done with our talk, you handled yourself admirably.”

“Thanks, I think. So, we're done here?”

Dawes stood up and replied, “Yes, we're done for now. I'm sure that we'll run into each other again. Anything else you want to know?”

“How about a phone number I can reach you?”

Dawes gave me a digital business card, before leaving.

As he left, I prepared to go out as well, but Gavin Benson came in before I could go out. He started, “Ah, Feral. Can I have a talk with you?”

I hesitated but then said, “Fine! But I don't need analyzing.”

Gavin sat down, “Tell me, Feral, how are you feeling.”

“I feel fine. Better than fine even.”

Gavin smiled, “Good to hear, how about your tendencies to groom yourself as a cat? Maren told me that you did it yesterday.”

I laid down on the floor. “Okay, so I've picked up some habits from being a cat. I don't consider it a big deal.”

Gavin said thoughtful, “How about lashing out when you feel threatened? Or scratching on the furniture or walls? And not to forget, chasing prey!”

I growled, “What is wrong with chasing prey? So, I killed a mouse at the restaurant and ate it. Big deal!”

Gavin smiled back at me, “Actually I was imagining you chasing down dogs and small horses. Maybe even some full hybrids like yourself.”

I just snorted, and didn't dignify it with a reply. Gavin asked me, “You've never had a post MORFS exam or test, have you? How about letting me test you? Or even letting me probe your mind for any hidden special powers?”

I growled before answering, “I don't need testing. I know what I can do. And I do not want you poking into my head. I guess you're a telepath. You wouldn't like what is in my head. I have some skeletons that I'm not proud of, but are a part of my past. I'm also very hesitant about revealing secrets that I don't want out in the open. My advice is, don't even try it.”

Gavin smoothed it over, “Easy there. I'm not going to do anything you don't want me to. I just might help you get in a better psychological state.”

I just snorted again. He talked to me a little bit more about what he could do for me, but then quickly ended the session.

Getting out of the room, I found Maren waiting for me. She asked, “How did it go, Uncle Feral?”

“Fine, no need to drag me here again though.”

“Okay, sorry to inconvenience you. Do you want to go somewhere or do something?” Maren asked.

“I could use a nap. But other than that I do not have any plans.”

Maren's face brightened, “Good, I was meeting some friends. I know they'd love to meet you and have a talk with you.”

I groaned, 'Here she goes again, taking me somewhere. I don't need it. But I don't want to disappoint her. Better suck it up and go along.' “Fine, let's go then.”

 

A little later we were strolling in a park. Maren was walking on the path, while I was stalking alongside hiding myself in the brush. As we came to a clearing I smelled wolf. I pinpointed the direction and my hearing picked up some disturbance in the undergrowth. It was closing in on us. Well, actually more in the direction of Maren. I sprinted out into the clearing into the path of the wolf and just in time as well. I totally forgot that my niece can take care of herself though.

The wolf broke out of the bushes and I was startled at the size of the hybrid. 'This is one mean SOB.'

The wolf jumped towards me. I jumped even higher over him and as just as I sailed over him, I extended my claws and slashed him good across his back.

We both landed safely on the grass and quickly turned towards each other. The wolf had some deep gouges on his back from my claws, but they appeared to be healing even as I looked at them. The wolf howled at me and I thought, 'Oh shit, here we go again.'

 


 

Chapter 6 – Bodyguard

 

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Chapter 7 – Relations

 

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Chapter 8 – Hunted

 

Before this chapter begins, please read the last part of Byakko. The previous chapter of Feral ended when Feral went to look for his friend. This chapter starts after his adventure with his friend as is written in Byakko.

 

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Chapter 9 – The search

 

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Chapter 10 – The search continues

 

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Chapter 11 - Mission accomplished but the cost

 

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Chapter 12 - Set up

 

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Chapter 13 – Drugs lab uncovered

 

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Chapter 14 -  Revenge

 

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Chapter 15 - Most wanted

 

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Chapter 16 - Convergence

 

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Chapter 17 - The Justice deal

 

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Chapter 18 - Facts

 

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