Chapter 1: Yet Another Stopover

He lay still waiting for his head to clear from the disorienting travel through dimensional portals. Keeping his large body huddled in a ball and unmoving insured he made as small a target as he could from any of the dangers a new world presented him. He had learned the hard way during his first few jumps which had nearly killed him. He had found becoming a huddled lump, his head protected by his arms, made the difference between survival or death during those first few moments when he was helpless.

Sometimes, like now, he got lucky and arrived somewhere quiet and empty of life. He raised his head and tried to see where he was. His vision was only just clearing enough to make out a huge city some miles from his location. Where he sat was a grassy verge that abutted a long ribbon of road.

Turning his head he saw a forest behind him. A loud rumble reached his ears. Without thought, he dropped into his huddled form, hiding his head from view. The roar got louder and louder until it was nearly beside him then moved off just as fast as it had arrived, getting quieter as it headed away from him.

He dared to lift his head again and was able to see a big rig quickly vanishing from view. It looked just like the eighteen wheelers of home but he didn't cheer at the hopeful sight. His hopes had been dashed far too many times by the sight of the familiar only to find those familiar things were being utilized by creatures he didn't recognize; from walking dog-like things, to scaly things, to things that looked like all the non-sentient animals from his own world standing on two feet. The strangest had been intelligent non-flying birds.

It was disconcerting to see strange creatures living in similar surroundings found on his own home world, similar building designs, nearly the same type vehicles and planes, similar foods and drinkable water, as well as medical gear but after that the similarities ended. Besides the strange creatures, there were worlds with skies that ranged from blue to blood red, having one or more suns or moons, and with oceans of blue, green, orange or red or no above ground water at all. Mountains of black or deepest red and one world with no moon at all leaving the nights nearly pitch black with just a sprinkling of stars to give off meager light matched with searing mornings so bright and hot there was no way to see nor be out in it because one would suffer third degree burns.

He was becoming disheartened by the constant traveling and still not finding his home. For a moment tears of frustration and anguish fell but he ignored them as he cautiously rose to his feet and began to search around him. He soon spotted who he was looking for some minutes later.

His companion was still huddled on the ground. He was worried, the other had been injured badly at their last stop. It had been a truly brutal and deadly place and they had barely escaped with their lives. As he dropped to his knees beside the smaller male, he swallowed hard as he saw fresh blood oozing down the tom's side.

He may have hated this Kat before on their home turf but after being forced to endure all manner of dangers with only each other to keep them safe, he had gained a healthy respect for the tom's resourcefulness. He hated to admit to himself that he would be devastated and lost if the tom died on him.

He had to find food, shelter, and medical aid for his companion but it seemed they were a long ways from anything that would provide that. No way was the tom able to make it to the city he could see in the distance. They would have to find some kind of vehicle and soon. This road apparently wasn't traveled that much since the huge truck was the only thing he'd seen for the past twenty minutes.

While he tried to think of a plan for getting his companion up and where they should go, the little male groaned.

"It's okay, you can move now," the bigger tom said quietly.

The small tom succeeded in rolling to a seated position, one paw pressing against his side as he grit his teeth against the pain.

"You're hurt pretty bad," the bigger tom commented.

"Yeah, I know," the small tom grunted then looked around them. "Humph, at least this is a quieter landing place. Seen anything of interest yet?"

"An eighteen wheeler came roaring by scaring me into huddling so I didn't get a chance to see what was driving," the big tom admitted.

"Don't beat yourself up about it. We've both learned not to expose ourselves to soon after arrival," the small tom said firmly. "We're kinda of exposed out here...." he noted, uneasily.

"Yeah, I know. I was trying to think of what to do next. There's shelter and possible safety under those trees but that puts us too far from any possible help," the big male said, frustrated.

The small tom sighed and winced as an sharp pain cut through him. "I'm not going to be able to help with our defense so I'd opt for the trees for now.

The big tom frowned but saw no other alternative as he carefully helped the small tom to his feet then kept an arm around his waist to keep the male from falling. They made their slow way toward the trees as the big tom kept close watch around them.

About halfway to the trees, there was the sound of a plane as well as some vehicles coming down the road. The big tom quickly drop to the ground, pulling the smaller tom with him but cushioning his fall to prevent more pain to the other male then they both went completely still.

The plane and vehicles seemed to take forever to pass overhead but finally the sound of their engines faded away. Getting to his feet the big tom carefully helped the smaller one again to his feet but the sudden fall to the ground had weakened the tom too much and he couldn't stand and began to fall. The big tom caught him and despite the smaller tom's protests, the big tom pulled him into his arms and cradled his body against his own then walked as fast as he could toward the trees.

Despite how small the male was, he was still heavy enough to wear out the big tom so by the time they finally got under the cover of the small forest, the big tom was exhausted and very thirsty.

He laid the small tom under some shade then staggered off to find water. He sighed in relief as he came across a small creek a short distance away. He dropped to his knees and dipped a finger into the water and allowed just a drop to touch his tongue. He sat for some minutes and waited, when nothing happened, he pulled out a collapsible cup from his tattered clothes and filled it. He quickly drank his fill first then filled the cup and carried it to his companion.

After giving the small tom two cupfuls of water, the big tom put the cup away and collapsed onto the ground to rest. The small tom didn't mention how much pain he was in nor that he could feel he was still bleeding steadily......there was nothing either of them could do to fix his problem anyway.

He listened to the silence around them........his eyes searched the area they rested in but all he could see was a fairly normal looking forest. This world had a yellow sun and a blue sky. White fluffy clouds drifted overhead. It seemed like a much nicer place than they'd come from at least. But, they had learned, bitterly, that looks could be deceiving.

The big tom had no idea how long they had rested when he heard something. He sat up quickly and looked around, his ears pricked up, turning this way and that to try and pinpoint where the sound was coming from.

His companion was asleep he noted and would be difficult to move right now. He was torn on whether to leave and search the area or remain still and guard his companion from whoever or whatever was approaching them.

Finally, he decided he would have to risk it. Searching around him, he found a lot of downed branches laying around and used them to hide his small companion from view as best he could then moved silently toward the sound.

Whatever was making the noise apparently didn't care about staying quiet. He kept to the bushes and hid behind trees as he got closer and closer. Finally, he came to a clearing that was near another part of the creek he had used earlier. There he spied a medium height biped with long golden hair and no fur....just bare skin which was a light brown color. The creature was wearing khaki pants with an over large white shirt and large floppy hat. Its feet were clad in soft brown boots. The creature was talking to itself and to the tom's relief and surprise it spoke his language.

"Damn Jeffery, wait until I catch up to you for dragging me out to yet another wild goose chase. Why I always fall for one of his psychic doom and gloom visions, is beyond me. He's just so convincing its scary but this........what could be out here where there's nothing but nature, the highway and not another soul around? I've stomped around for hours and found nothing. When I get back I'm going to give him a piece of my mind," the creature grumbled angrily as it moved to the water and used its hand to drink.

The voice was feminine sounding and its body seemed slim and willowy like a female but the big male never took that as a given having seen the opposite to be true on other worlds. Frowning, he turned his gaze to the area around the creature and listened hard but could detect no one else.

Now he had to make a choice......should he make contact and hope the creature didn't freak? They needed help and sometimes they succeeded but too often they were attacked immediately. This creature was alone and it sounded like it was going back into the city which meant it had wheels somewhere not far away.

Taking a deep breath and praying he wasn't making a mistake, he decided contact was their best option. "Excuse me. We need help," he said simply.

The creature nearly fell face first into the creek before gathering its wits and whirling around on its legs in the crouch it was still in. What he saw was a fairly pretty face with huge green eyes that gaped at him in horror then screamed, falling backwards into the creek.

The big tom winced at the high pitched sound, his ears folding down in self defense. His first instinct was to go to its aid but he squashed that and, instead, squatted down and showed his paws hoping it understood that he wasn't a threat.

The creature continued to scream and scoot backward across the creek until it was on the other side and backed itself into a tree where it stopped and ceased to scream when it realized the apparition before it wasn't moving.

Panting in fear, the creature stared at the tom across from her. It had large gold eyes in a catlike face with long whiskers and what she swore was a black mustache and it had black hair on its head. It wore some kind of tattered uniform and boots and was covered in dark brown fur with a tail that was wrapped around its feet where it squatted. It was a cat.......a walking, talking cat!

"I won't hurt you but I do need help. My companion is hurt and were lost here on your world," the cat creature said pleadingly.

Though it was big and intimidating, especially those long fangs that flashed when it talked, she realized, if she interpreted its expression properly, it was just as afraid of her as she was of it. A friend was hurt? So that meant there were two of them.

As her heart slowed down, she realized this could very well be what Jeffrey had seen in his vision but the cat didn't seem like he was going to cause any doom and gloom. Dr. Marion Runion, shivered inside. Here she was with true to life now what was she to do? It needed help it said. Taking hold of herself, she decided to find out a little more before she allowed herself to get even more involved though how she thought she would get away from the creature if it did decide to attack she didn't know.

'Don't borrow trouble. It's trying to be as unintimidating as it can be, the least I can do is try to be open minded and listen and hope it's not here to cause trouble,' she scolded herself.

"I'm sorry to have screamed. You aren't like anything I've ever seen before," she said carefully.

"Believe me, I can certainly relate to that feeling. I've been seeing far too many strange creatures of late," the big cat said ruefully.

"This is soo weird. You look just like a giant cat. Our cats can be small house cats to large jungle cats but none of them can talk," she said, still reeling from talking to something that just shouldn't exist.

It snorted. "And you are some kind of nightmare I could never have imagined but at least you're a little more pleasing to look at then some of the creatures I've had the misfortune to see lately."

"Really? You've been a lot of places......" she started to ask when she saw it suddenly turn it head and its ears tilted forward toward the direction it was looking. It looked back at her with an urgent, pleading look on it's face.

"My friend is wounded and needs help," it said quickly.

"Oh, I'm sorry. I'll be happy to see if I can help him or her," She said quickly getting to her feet and coming back across the creek.....losing her fear in her desire to render aid.

The big cat stood up gaining an intimidating height of over six feet but it made no move toward her merely turned to head further into the forest. Keeping a safe distance, she followed it. It moved so silently and swiftly that she nearly couldn't keep up with it. Fortunately, it wasn't far to where it had apparently left its companion.

The cat pulled brush off a smaller cat leaning against a tree and moaning. The big cat then moved further back so that she wouldn't be afraid and squatted again, waiting.

Now more certain than ever that the cat meant her no harm, Dr. Runion quickly went to the smaller cat's side. This cat had dark brick red colored fur, its clothes looked like a flight suit of some kind and were a dirty red and blue and it wore a black mask over its eyes and head.

She gave the mask only a moments confused thought before focusing on the deep laceration in the cat's side which was bleeding slowly. Eyes going serious, she knew this creature needed more than she could provide it here.

Frowning in concern, she stood up and looked over at the big cat. "We need to get your friend to my car. I have a medical kit there but that's only going to help stop the bleeding. I need to take it to a better place where I can treat its wounds better," she explained.

"I understand, but how are you going to do this without us being seen? We have no desire to be taken by your government or scientists to be studied over. We won't be on your world very long anyway," the big cat said tightly.

"You've had this happen before then?" She said. It nodded grimly. "I'm afraid you're right to be concerned because that's exactly what my planet would do to you. I have no intention of taking you where you will be seen. I have my own lab where I conduct psychic experiments. I can take you there in my car. All you have to do is stay down so no one sees you and I'll get us there as quick as I can. No one's at my lab right now so you'll be safe there until you leave," she told it.

"How can we trust you?"

She bit her lip. All the hints it had been giving her told a story of being on the run for some time. Were they some kind of criminals on the lam and would she be in even bigger trouble helping them?

"I think I should be the one in danger here. How do I know you aren't a scout for an invasion force or criminals on the run?" She asked bluntly.

The big cat winced and sighed. "You don't. All I can tell you is on my world I'm the leader of a military peace keeping force, sworn to protect my city from super criminals. My companion is a vigilante I barely tolerate, who, with his partner, helps to do the same thing just not on the right side of the law. My name is Ulysses Feral and this is a SWAT Kat known as Razor."

"Oh, so you're some kind of policeman but then why are you running?" She asked, confused, though glad to know her first impression that they were male was the correct one.

"We're not running! We fell into a dimensional portal and have been desperately trying to return home ever since. We have no idea how long we've been gone either," the cat said tirededly.

Dr. Runion's eyes softened at the lost sound in the male's voice. If what he said was true, he was nearly in despair at ever finding home. She couldn't imagine what that felt like going from world to world endlessly, hoping against hope that the next world would be their own. Saddened by their plight, she made up her mind to trust what he said was the truth.

"I am truly sorry you are so far from home. I pray the next stop will be yours until then I will trust you and give you the aid and shelter you need. So I guess that means you're just going to have to trust me too," she said.

Feral stared at her a long moment but, really, he didn't have a lot of options. "Thank you. Lead the way and I'll follow," he said as he moved to Razor's side and gently lifted him once more into his arms and followed the strange female into the unknown.