Chapter 1 – Devil May Care

The air was still, humid, charged with a sort of expectation, yet laced with dreadful promise. Nothing moved, not the trees, not the wind and certainly not any of the animals that may have inhabited the sparse pine forest that littered the grassy mountain and hillside. Nothing dared move. Because something was happening, something un-natural, cruel and opportunistic.

Paws thudded into the ground, in a repetitive rhythm, soft yet heavy and moving at speed. The pine needles were barely disturbed as the creature rushed forwards. Claws sheathing and unsheathing as needed to keep the grip they so desperately sought for on the slightly giving ground.
Eyes as azure as the tropical sea flickered in all directions, searching for an escape route, and breath came quick and quiet, from a slightly gaping maw, two ivory white canine shown jutting from the lower jaw, catching some of the light they moved through the speckled forest.
The paws, eyes and teeth all belonged to a mountain lion, a puma, a cougar; one running for its apparent life, being chased by something or someone unseen and reaching speeds that its' species should not be able too. Not hugely so, but by a margin that spoke of something just a little unnatural about the creature.
Unnatural was certainly the word to be used in this occasion.
The cougar was called Azira Paynn and she was a mutant. Able to shapeshift into any living modern day creature and had minimal powers of speed when in such a form, allowing her to outpace the species she had morphed into, giving her an extra edge. And now, she was using that extra edge, trying to outrun and out manoeuvre her enemy who had been brutally tracking and chasing her for over two days, and had only got close enough to be considered a true threat until now.
So now, she ran, she truly and powerfully ran from her enemy, desperate to leave them behind.
That wasn't going too well for her, to be honest.

A gunshot sounded to her left, nothing more than the hiss of a bullet and a small explosion of debris and undergrowth as it missed her by inches and slammed into the ground by her moving paws.
No sound escaped from Azira, but she braked sharply, turning in the same instant to the right, tail windmilling and whiplashing behind her as she took off again in the opposite direction, claws digging deep into the shallow, loamy soil and then powering away, her energy seemingly endless, her speed only minorly affected.

Again, another gunshot, but this time, to her right shoulder and the same result, no wound, a spray of debris and a change of direction and a small loss of speed again. How many times would this happen? Azira had no chance to gather her thoughts and but the one realisation of the fact that she was indeed, running blind, set her into such a spiral of panic, that she was easy to herd.
Her pursuer did just that, planting bullets to the left and right of the fleeing big cat, pushing her in the direction they wanted her to go, causing her panic to spiral by each passing second, each bullet digging fear and uncertainty deeper and deeper into her spine and lungs.

Her breath rasping now, through an open jaw, Azira was losing power and sense of direction, her head whipping from side to side, ever more desperate to find an opening so she could finally be free of her want-to-be pursuer.
With one more bullet planted to her right left, Azira swerved violently, almost losing control of her balance and in a desperate attempt to right herself, leapt forward on a surge of power, claws now scraping rock as the terrain changed.
The gap in the trees gave her hope, the fading sunlight dancing through their branches, but more importantly, the glare from the sun. She could see through it, and there was a ledge there, on the other side and a jump of maybe 30ft, maybe more, maybe less, but in her mind, that is how she would escape him. No-one could jump like a cougar could.

Digging deep, claws unsheathed, ears slammed flat against her skull, Azira charged forward, accelerating with unmatched force, she steered herself directly for the jump to her freedom, muscle working hard and fast, and the adrenalin thundering in her ears. Hope made her faster, more accurate, it made her want to live, drove her to succeed and drive through any pain or weakness she may have been feeling.

Bursting through the sun rays, she gathered her limbs and sprang, all in a millisecond…but that's where it all went wrong for her.

The blades of a helicopter gunship roared into view and the open side hatch yawned winder than the mount of Satan himself. The chopping of air was like mocking laughter to the cougar who screeched in surprise and desperate fear, angling herself to try and stop. But who could stop in mid-air travelling at top speed? Without wings? Without an engine? She certainly couldn't.

The impact with the far wall of the chopper was hard. Flung into it by her own speed and momentum, stars danced before her eyes, sliding to the ground, her left shoulder numbed by the force of her crashing into the unforgiving metal.

She tried to raise herself but her rear limbs would not listen, and she yowled as something sharp pierced her thigh.

Whipping round to see the bright red feathers of a dart protruding from her auburn fur, Azira slammed her ears back, bared her teeth and let out a shriek of fury, desperate once again for her limbs to work, but horribly aware of her swimming vision and unsteady paws.

Snapping her head back to the opening of the chopper, alerted by the thud of a landing body, fear ran through her, her hackles exploded along her back and neck as the light was blocked out by the figure that had landed in front of her. Their scent was familiar. It was the one who had been pursuing her, undoubtedly male and very much still a threat to her.
But she had been caught, has she not? And the bitter regret and fear of not knowing what the future now held for her prompted one last rash assault on the shadowed figure.

Teeth primed for a killing bite, Azira let loose one more scream, her heart dropping as the sound faded, nowhere near its full potential and her eyes rolled back, just as she had gathered her limbs underneath her to spring, and crumpled to the ground as the drugs took hold.

AN: And the first chapter is now re-written.
Hopefully this is must easier and a lot nicer to read in general.
Please R&R, if you will, I am most interested to hear what your thoughts on this first re-write are, and how you feel the atmosphere has been presented and such.

(&&)Pibble