Dana Bell

Duncan was owned by a cat. He had been since the day he'd heard the grieving mewling in a dark, urine reeking alley. He'd been one of thousands displaced and living on the streets in Portland, OR. The Race Riots had all but destroyed the United States.and every other country in the world. The newly formed Earth Gov was frantically scrambling to restore order to a heavily broken people. The gunfire and bombings had stopped, but the emotional and psychological toll hadn't even begun to heal.

The Highlander paused. Alleys were a dangerous place. Predators lurked in the litter-strewn ways awaiting unsuspecting victims. He'd heard tales of cannibalism, rape or, for the very lucky, just theft. The mewling grew quieter. Something tugged at his lonely heart and he risked the shadowed alley. His rough hand on his kitana, Duncan carefully pushed aside the huge cardboard box blocking the entrance. Using centuries of warrior skill and training, he strode confidently into a potential trap. Better to be bold then act cowardly. It might just put off any would be attacker. The short alley ended against a tall already cut chain link fence. He stopped, straining his ears for the pitiful cry that had brought him here. He heard

Page 2 it again behind him. He whirled, sword in hand. The dragon eyes on the handle flashed in the darkness. Finding no attackers he relaxed slightly. Duncan allowed himself the luxury of looking around. Cardboard boxes everywhere. Fragments of soiled rugs, dirty pans and torn clothing suggested at other times this place was inhabited. Using the tip of the kitana he cautiously moved bits of rubble about. The mewl sounded again and he pushed aside a heavy metal barrel. Under it he found the body of a lifeless cat. The fur was matted and dirty and he could only guess at the color. Nuzzling next to it was a scruffy, filthy kitten. Two round yellow eyes peered up at him. The tiny black body shivered in the cold October wind. Taking pity on the tiny orphan, Duncan scooped the kitten up and tucked it inside his coat. He could feel it trembling against his chest. He moved quickly out of the alley, sheathing his sword at the entrance. No need to call too much attention to himself. He strode on down the street headed for.for where ever. It hadn't mattered then. Duncan shook himself out of his memory. Bad habit that. Liza scolded him for it, even though she enjoyed hearing him tell her stories of his past. Best thing he done. Marrying her and adopting her two sons, Adric and Mason and her infant daughter Carina.

Page 3 The Highlander stretched his long legs and rose from the white couch, covered with a red and green afghan his wife had brought with her from Earth. Her mother had crocheted it for her as a parting gift. Something to remember her by so far from home. Duncan lifted dark eyes to the ceiling window. He could see the heavy, clear dome covering their city. It was reinforced by a high-density shield to protect them from meteors. Hanging prominently in the star- studded sky was red striped Jupiter. The Highlander still wasn't quite certain why the Immortal Council had chosen Callisto as their new home. The dirty ice ball moon didn't have much for resources, nor would any of the mining corporations take an interest. They were virtually isolated from Earth, the Mars colony and the rest of curious humanity. "Rowl." A warm furred body brushed against his jeaned leg. Duncan reached down and scratched Tumbler behind his mangled left ear. Yellow eyes half- closed in pleasure. A deep rumbling purr escaped the small black, brown splotched body. As he knelt down to pick up his long time companion, Duncan frowned. How long did cats live? He'd had Tumbler at least fifty years. Thirty of which had been here on Callisto. He'd asked the vet that question last time he'd been in. She'd smiled at him tolerantly. "Somewhere between fifteen and twenty years," she'd said. Page 4 Hmmm, he wondered how his cat could be so old. Maybe his Tumbler was a son, or grandson, of his original pet. It was possible. Many of the Immortals had cats and they had all noted, including him, how all the felines disappeared every ten years for a few weeks and then reappeared as if nothing extraordinary had occurred. They'd all speculated on where the cats went and how, but no one had yet figured out anything. In some ways, Duncan was glad they hadn't. After such a long life he was glad to see there were still mysteries in the galaxy they didn't understand. It left some mystic to the universe. The boys happy shouts bounced into his home. He couldn't believe he only been married for five years. It seemed like so much longer. Carina was now almost six, and the boys twelve and ten. "Daddy!" They shouted running and piling themselves on his lap. His wife's lovely blue eyes met his before she went into the kitchen to prepare their dinner. He hugged each precious child, and then sat them down to help with their homework. They only had two certified teachers on their colony. Parents were highly encouraged to be active in their children's education. "Where's Uncle Conner?" Adric queried as he sprawled his fast growing five foot six inch frame on the rich brown carpet. "A meeting on Earth." Connor served as their Senator. No doubt he'd bring back all the silly rules Earth tried to inflict on her colonies.

Page 5 Mason chewed on his lip as he pet Tumbler. The cat's loud purr seemed to fill the room. The younger boy was more of the creative type and was always drawing pictures. His many creations, including several of their cat dancing and playing on a strange planet, decorated the walls of his bedroom. "The cats will all be going away again soon," Mason informed him. "And how do you know?" He shrugged, scratching the top of his blonde head. "Tumbler told me." Duncan shifted uneasily. There was talk on Earth about forming a special Corp for children with Psi ability. He and Liza had discussed what to do if any of their children developed telepathic powers, but hadn't come to a firm decision. Duncan hoped all the talk about Tumbler was just a healthy imagination. "Our cats are smarter than we think." "They're only cats, son." "That's what you think," he muttered as he attacked his homework. Carina demanded his attention then and he forgot about his son's odd remarks.

Their evening routine was usually the same. Tuck each child in bed, give hugs and kisses, say nightly prayers, and make sure the doors were open so Tumbler could patrol their rooms at night and make sure each and every charge was safe.

Page 6 Now where ever did that thought come from? Duncan wondered. He stood in the kitchen with his wife and helped with the dinner dishes. Liza smiled at him her eyes dancing as she pulled red curls away from her face.

"Mason said the cats would all be leaving again soon," Duncan commented. Liza frowned. "Lois and Mary said their children were saying the same thing." She leaned her slight form against the sonic dishwasher. "Do you think we really have that many possible telepathic children?" Duncan scratched his cheek. He needed to shave. He probably also needed a haircut. He'd cut his black hair short back during the riots and hadn't bothered to re-grow it again, like a proper Highlander. "In a way, I hope so. I think I'd rather the children were telepathic and not the cats." "Has Mason been telling you the cat talks to him?" Liza smoothed her plain brown dress. Duncan liked the way the dress showed off her womanly curves. "Not precisely, no." She waved a hand. "He goes on and on, about their mating dances, and their stories. How they train their," she scrunched her face, "kitlings, I think was the word he used." She looked at her Immortal husband. "You don't suppose the cats are really an intelligent species?"

Page 7 Duncan's dark eyes darted toward Tumbler as the cat ambled into the kitchen and helped himself to a drink. There was the unusual age of his cat to consider. Earth had encountered some new races with their slow expansion out into space. The Centauri for instance, who had introduced them to jumpgates and interstellar travel. "Its possible, Liza." She shivered. "It's an uncomfortable thought, Duncan. I'd hate to think the household pet was actually an alien spying on us." Spying? No. Duncan think they were spies. Maybe just some genetic experiment that got loose or maybe the children were all just playing an elaborate invented game. "I wouldn't worry about it, dear," Duncan hugged his wife. "They've never given us any indication they're more than just cats." He kissed her and they shut off the lights and went to bed.

"Daddy," Carina complained several weeks later," the air smells funny." Duncan sniffed but didn't detect anything. He double- checked the air circulator. It was fine. "Probably just the toast your brother burned." Carina shook her head. Her red curls whirled. She had a scattering of freckles and her eyes were like her mom's. He'd have to really watch her once she started dating. He had no doubt many of the young men would be chasing her. At least he didn't have to worry about that for a few more years. Page 8 "Where's Tumbler?" she asked frantically looking around the kitchen for their cat. Duncan leaned down and looked under the table. No cat. He wished Liza were home this morning, but today she doing the marketing and she preferred he watch the kids. The boys were over playing with Connor's children. It was just him and his daughter. Come to think of it, he hadn't seen Tumbler for several days. Nor had he seen any other cat that normally inhabited Callisto. "I'm sure he's around somewhere. Probably hiding under a bed napping." "Mason said they'd all gone away. They won't be back for awhile." "Your brother has a wonderful imagination. He and some of friends are just playing a game." "No." His daughter shook her head. "He always comes and says goodnight to me and says he's watching over us." Duncan started. Now his daughter was hearing the cat? He decided to distract her. He'd look for his long time companion later. "What do you want to do today, sweetheart?" "Can we go to the zoo, daddy?" Duncan smiled. "Finish your breakfast. When you're done, we'll go." She dove into her cereal and toast.

Page 9 The zoo had been put in after the first Immortal returned from Earth with a wife and her children. Many of them followed his example over the next twenty years and the special area had expanded accordingly. They had an elephant, a couple of long necked giraffes, a show off bear who always begged for food, a couple of tigers, monkeys, and many other smaller animals. The smaller mammals were easier to transport and not as expensive. Duncan hoped in a few years to take the children back to Earth so they could see dolphins and whales. The creatures were only pictures to them in books. Carina pulled at his hand and he followed her to the bird exhibit. "Where are the parakeets, daddy?" Duncan glanced at the sign saying they were off exhibit due to some unexpected disease. That was odd. The animals living here were normally healthier than those kept in the zoos at home. People here respected the animals and didn't try to touch or feed them. "They're not here today, honey." She scrunched face in disappointment and wanted to go see the new turtles. He went along with her to see them. It had been a long time. The amphibians munched on lettuce. Carina was enthralled. She watched until one hid in its shell. "Look, daddy!"

Page 10 He hunkered down and looked, smiling in delight. He hugged his daughter and the two of them wandered through out the rest of the zoo. When they stopped by the tiger exhibit, the huge felines were restless. They paced the length of their cage, making snarly faces, and growling. "They've been like that for days," he overheard one of the keepers, who was standing close to him, say. "Usually they nap a lot." True. Duncan really couldn't remember the last time he was here when the great cats were sound asleep in positions he'd seen Tumbler rest in. Today's behavior was odd. "They're big," Carina said, her face sticky and pink from cotton candy. "Yes, they are," he agreed.

The children were tucked in and Liza had gone to bed early complaining of a headache. Funny, he'd heard other Immortals commenting their human spouses suffering from the same over the past few weeks. The children were irritable, and the animals at the zoo were getting more and more restless. The tigers had tried to jump the fence and run loose the zoo. The keepers stopped them, but they had to use tranquilizers and confine them to smaller cages. Even now his head felt groggy. He sat on the couch trying to concentrate on the book he was reading. His wife was amused he had such a complete library and often asked him how much he'd spent shipping it here. He hadn't

Page 11 actually told her, but there were advantages to being Immortal. Amassing wealth being one. He put his book aside and lay down on the couch. He'd get up in a minute and go to bed.

A rough tongue on his face worked furiously. He tried to push the annoyance away. His hand felt heavy, as if weighed down. 'Duncan. Duncan. Wake up.' Sharp little teeth nipped his nose. "Owww," his eyes worked open. It took a moment to register Tumbler sat on his chest. When had the cat come back? 'Duncan. Wake up,' the voice ordered again. "Huh?" Wearily he looked around the room. No one else was here so who was talking to him. He closed his eyes. He must be dreaming. Sleep beckoned. 'Duncan.' The annoying cat was licking his eyelids. If he had the strength he'd knock the beast to the floor. "Stop," he tried to mumble. His mouth felt like it was glued shut. The cat bit him. The pain jarred into his brain and he managed to open his eyes again. The cat still sat on his chest, round yellow eyes regarding him with an almost intelligent gaze.

Page 12 'Duncan. You must wake up. You and you're family, every family here, is in danger.' Who the hell was talking? He tried to take a breath and found he could barely draw air. Heavy condensation and ice obscured the overhead window. His mind started registering he was extremely cold. Tumbler licked his chin again and then grabbed his collar trying to pull him up. The cats small body strained and Duncan could feel claws in his abdomen. 'Get up.' Just who the hell was talking? Duncan shook his head and saw something moving out of the corner of his eye. Tumbler hissed and growled, then sprang at the shimmering anthropoid creature. His kitana. Instinct took over and Duncan forced himself up off the couch. He stumbled over to the wall and took his weapon, which he no longer needed, from its place of honor. He pulled the blade out of the sheath and tried to steady himself. The room swam and he could barely breath. Tumbler had scored a number of small wounds on the huge insectoid. He was too small and fast for the creature to catch. He bit it again on the foot. The thing shivered. The Highlander pulled every ounce of self-discipline and strength and lunged at the invader. The managed to surprise it and cut it in half. He felt something tickle in his mind and then fade. Dark blood oozed from the two halves of the anthropoid. Liza was going to be furious. Page 13 Liza. His kids. He staggered out of the main room and into the various bedrooms. They were all there, but, dear god, it was so cold! 'They're still alive.' Duncan glanced around. Where was that voice coming from? 'I checked before I came to wake you.' Tumbler stood on his hind legs looking up at Duncan. 'You haven't got much time. They shut down the life support systems. They knew it would kill the humans and put the Immortals into comas.' It had to be his imagination. The CAT was talking to him? "They waited until we left to strike.' Tumbler ran to the door. 'Hurry!' Somehow, Duncan found the strength to follow Tumbler out of his home and into the freezing streets of their colony. He saw others, Richie, Connor, Methos, Amanda, and many others, all being herded by the cats toward the main life support center. The main door was open; hanging on its hinges like it had been forced. The cats all stopped at the doorway. Tails flicked, fur on end, hisses and growls. Duncan noticed he still had his sword in his hand. So did every other Immortal. They went inside, breaking into small groups. Caution and warrior skill served them well in the past. They hadn't forgotten their abilities in the easy technology of the future.

Page 14 Around the main generator, a half dozen insectoids stood. Duncan didn't work here and so didn't understand all the workings, but even he could tell from the gages the power was off. He saw Connor and Richie and pointed. They saw the creatures. In a mad rush, the Immortals rushed the surprised anthropoids and slew all of them in a short and furious battle. Richie took over then, rebooting the computers and resetting the dials. The younger Immortal held his breath as he waited to see if it was too cold for a restart. Duncan found himself doing the same. A collect sigh of relief sounded when the screen blinked on. "We need to wake our families," Connor said, his voice booming through the room. "It'll take awhile for the pace to warm up, so wrap them in blankets, walk them around and get something hot into them as soon as there is enough power to do so." The Immortals began to leave. Tumbler ran up to Duncan. 'Their ship!' Duncan raced after the feline. He arrived in time to see an odd shaped ship rise into the air and soar away by the spaceport. "Damn!" MacLeod wasn't certain who they were, but he had a sense of dread one of them got away. Tumbler angrily flipped his tail. Duncan went down on one knee beside his cat and lightly scratched behind his old friend's ear. "Thank you." 'You're welcome. Let's go wake up our family.'

Page 15 "We were damn lucky the cats came back when they did," Connor stated as he put down his coffee cup. Liza glared at him for using a cuss word and placed a plate of cookies between the two men. Connor had dropped by after sending a report to Earth about their would be invaders. They had been ordered to ship the remains back to Earth in Cyro. "Yes, we are," Duncan agreed. Adric and Mason rushed into the room and demanded attention. The two Immortals laughed and used cookies as bribes to send the youngsters away. "It scares me though," Liza said, her eyes darting to Tumbler, who had made himself comfortable on the forbidden kitchen counter. "to think these cats are all intelligent." "They were enough of a threat to our invaders for them to wait until the cats were gone to attack us," Duncan reminded her. Connor nodded. "I've tried talking to several of cats and asking who those insectoids were, but not one of them have answered me." "They still talk to the children though. You should see Mason's new pictures," Duncan said, pointing to one, which hung behind them. On a large white piece of paper Tumbler was drawn dancing under a violet sky and saffron grass. In the background were tall rocks and a large, white cat lounged, as if he held a place of high honor. A faint face loomed over the scene and Duncan swore it had to be the Egyptian cat goddess, Bast. Page 16 "I wonder where that is?" Connor mused inspecting the picture. 'Home,' the familiar warm voice sounded in Duncan's mind. "Where's home?" Liza and Connor cast surprised looks at Duncan. He pointed his chin at Tumbler. 'Far.' The small black and brown cat stretched his body, looking longer than the actually was. Okay, Tumbler wasn't going to tell him where their home was, but maybe, just maybe, "Tumbler, who were those creatures?" Yellow eyes blinked at him. Tumbler washed a paw as if deciding whether or not to answer the question. 'Your future destiny.' "Our future destiny?" 'In the Great War prophecy states is yet to come.' "Another war?" Liza's face was stricken and Connor gasped. 'As long as we are here. They will not come again. You will not fall prey to their attacks again. You are on guard now.' That was certainly true. The Council had formed an honor guard to protect their most vital areas. "But who were they?" Duncan pressed. Tumbler sat with his tail wrapped over his tiny feet. He tilted his feline head and regarded Duncan with an intelligent stare. 'They call themselves, The Shadows.' This is the second story in the Felcat series. The Felcat universe is an original created by the author and copyrighted. Written permission must be obtained.