FIGHTING DARKNESS

Chapter 6: Guarding the Celestial Hinge Pin

Asar continued to gape at Bast, unable to wrap his mind around what she'd just told hm. It seemed inconceivable that Feral, of all people, could hold the fate of the universe in his paws. Adding to that, was the fact the tom most likely didn't know it himself.

Though, come to think of it, Feral had to know something as Asar's brief probe told him the tom had broken from his family over failing to embrace his destiny, whatever that was. That he came from a magical family with a very long history of guarding Kat kind was equally surprising to the Guardian. There was a lot about the Feral family he needed to get informed about ASAP, he realized.

Shaking his head, he finally got his thoughts corralled and focused on the unenviable task he knew they, he and Bast, were now given without a choice on their part of whether or not they even wanted it.

"Sorry, ma'am, I was momentarily overwhelmed by the information," he said rather lamely.

"Understandable, my warrior," Bast sighed, giving Asar a commiserating look. "Believe me, I feel exactly the same way. But we are committed down this path and can't turn away which truly bites my tail. I hate it when the Fates do things like this and expect the rest of us to just fall in line and do what's required to fulfill whatever prophecy they give us. What makes this truly upsetting, is they say this is a test for the Gods and it will be up to us to stand or fall with this Feral as the deciding factor in it all. I'm fairly certain none of the other Gods are aware this is even going on. What's worse, I'm not certain our enemy knows what's truly at stake, still most likely assuming this is some anomalous power he'd just happened to stumble upon."

The cinnamon warrior grimaced. A test? Joy, that always means a huge conflict between mortals and Gods, an always messy prospect and many would die along the way. He hated those times and he'd lived through many of them. He sighed in disgust. So not fair! I was enjoying this relatively long period of peace.

However, from what he'd witness over the centuries, the Universe seemed to loathe stagnation which peace could generate so after what might be a decade or a century, adversity, conflict, war, disasters or cataclysms would roar in and destroy the golden period forcing the beings living within it to fight to find peace again and again. Shaking his morbid thoughts off, he returned to the matter at paw.

"If they don't know, then it's going to be an even bigger mess than I thought. I already know we can't let this God, whoever they are, to ever get their paws on this hidden power," he summed up the task. Sighing, he gave her a regretful look. "So peace is once more being snatched from us and I was so enjoying it."

She gave him a wane smile. "As was I, Asar." Then grimness returned to her eyes, mouth tightening. "Unfortunately, it is time to gird for war once more. It will take all our cunning and skill to keep this power out of our enemy's paws which is why you must remain by this mortal's side at all times until this ends for good or ill."

Asar nodded briskly. "Yes, ma'am, understood. I'll be his bodyguard for the duration. Meanwhile, I'll learn everything I can about his family and the destiny he was supposed to fulfill and did not. Should I guide him in anyway?"

"Absolutely not! This whole situation is very delicate and I'm flying blind as it is with no way of knowing what action is the correct one. We must tread very cautiously, Asar. And remember, the Fates have said he is returning to the path destined for him. You will have to find out what that is."

Asar nodded his obedience to the command but something else troubled him. "Forgive me, ma'am...but how is it we didn't know anything about the Feral family's importance?"

Bast looked annoyed but not at him. "I have no idea and don't like it. It brings up all kinds of unwanted questions ... how did they remain hidden? Who are they? Who protects them? What is their purpose in all this?" Shaking her head in anger, she eyed her warrior, thoughtfully. "I do not like any of this. Dig as deep as you can, Asar. The answers you find may help me figure out what guidance we dare to give. However, as you will be closest to the problem, I leave it to your discretion as to whether you should play a more active part but tread carefully, my warrior, and always keep me informed."

"Yes, ma'am. As soon as I know something you will also and I'll be sticking like glue to Feral but he will definitely hate it." He smirked a little knowing just how much Feral was going to hate seeing a SWAT Kat hanging around him every minute of the day.

She smiled as well knowing the dynamics of the life her warrior had built during this time in the mortal world. "Try not to distract him from his task, Asar. It is bad enough he will resent your presence or fear it without adding more stress to his life which has changed so drastically for him already," she warned him gently.

"But he makes it so easy..." Asar couldn't help but say. She just gave him a stern look. He shrugged. "Yeah, I know. I'll do my best, ma'am."

She sighed, her thoughts going back to the mess they were in. "I hate that we are forced to stumble around trying to determine if we are supposed to protect this mortal or not. I would prefer to just let events unfold as they may but our enemy made sure that wouldn't be possible."

"Whoever it is has managed to set in motion something we can't stop, only attempt to detour or end it. I'm sorry to say this, but what an idiot they are."

Bast smiled mirthlessly. "You are not wrong, Asar. Their stupidity and thirst for power have set the stage for a cosmic showdown."

"Are you going to tell Horus about this," Asar asked, suddenly.

She paused and frowned. The leader of the Gods should be apprised but she was reluctant. It was remotely possible he was at the center of this and until she had more information she'd rather not come across stupid in front of him. Shaking her head, she finally said, "No, not just yet. I think I'll wait until you give me all you can on this family first."

He nodded, knowing exactly why she didn't want to speak to the head cheese and agreed with her reasons. Crud! This was going to be a crap shoot and he wished he could just bow out now. Sighing, he girded his loins and prepared for battle. That was why he was one of Bast's Eyes, nothing was too big for them to handle and they would give their lives for their Goddess rather than shirk that duty.

However, he felt he was going into this with far less ability to get to first base. These were Gods he was expected to battle and he simply was not powerful enough to do more than irritate them for a little before he was turned into so much cattle fodder in the very first engagement.

"There is one problem for me in all this, my Goddess. Though I know I can chase Shezmu off, I also know I can't make him leave the mortal realm nor get him disentangled from the God manipulating him. And what if this God decides to step in personally?" He shook his head worriedly. "Do you have any suggestions on how I will keep Feral safe and alive if I'm eliminated in the first clash of powers?"

"That is a valid concern, Asar, and one I plan to remedy by giving you a significant boost in power so you will be able to take on Shezmu while I go after whoever our elusive God is. He must be stopped before he attempts to snatch that power and either absorb it to become the most powerful thing in the universe or inadvertently destroy every thing in existence. I believe the latter is more likely as I have a premonition that power will not allow itself to be controlled by anyone but the one it abides within."

"What an amazingly deadly situation we're in," Asar sighed, shaking his head. "Pardon me, ma'am, but I would like to try to make Shezmu realize he's being used. If I succeed, he'll either help so he can get revenge or he'll just leave...either way, he'd be out of our fur."

"An excellent idea...though I'm not certain either scenario will work, however, there is no reason for you not to at least make the attempt. I would be far happier if you simply made him leave the mortal plain altogether," she said, thoughtfully.

"I will do my best, ma'am."

"I know you will, my warrior. Now I need to make sure you will be able to defend our important Kat so be very still a moment," she warned him, raising a paw and gesturing toward him.

Asar froze and waited. Suddenly his body was infused with a tremendous amount of energy that caused the air to explode from his lungs and his body to glow like the sun for only a moment. He blinked rapidly and tried to adjust to the greater power influx he now possessed, his body feeling rather full.

"There...now you should be equal to the task of dealing with Shezmu and be able to at least fend off the attempts by our unknown enemy to take over Feral," Bast said with satisfaction.

"I'd say so, ma'am," Asar gasped, still a bit overwhelmed but gradually getting used to his greater strength.

"Best be off my warrior. I don't want Feral to remain alone any longer."

"Yes ma'am," Asar said quickly, turning briskly and leaving her company. No one could simply appear and disappear from Bast's throne room as she had a defense shield around it so he had to return to the outside to leave. He hurried through the office area and outside the temple without acknowledging anyone. Once he was on the marble stairs he immediately sent himself back to Aristal and the mortal plain.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

Rubbing his face, Feral sighed tiredly after working for hours on his research. He had other work to attend to so sequestered the information he'd found, placing it under a special security code then spent the rest of the day in meetings and clearing his desk until dusk began to fall outside his wall of windows.

He shut down his computer for the day and dropped the finished correspondence into his out-basket. Standing up, he stretched the kinks out of his body. Next shift had already begun as he could hear the choppers taking off for patrol outside his windows. Stepping down from his pedestal desk, he strode across the floor to the coat rack near the door.

Pulling his coat on, he made sure his weapon was secured then went out, locking his office door behind him. He let his mind drift back to his earlier research as he headed for the elevator. The information had been depressingly meager but what he had found did show a pattern and he couldn't wait to tell the guardian about it. However, until Razor returned, he would have to sit on it. Meanwhile, he had other important business to attend to tonight. A promise he'd made that morning to himself meant a long drive into the mountains.

He didn't think he should stop home first and was going to skip getting a meal when his stomach grumbled an objection. Sighing, he punched a different button on the elevator and instead of going to the lobby, he was sent to the floor where the mess hall was located. He nodded at officers he knew as he made his way down the food line, picking up a roasted tuna sandwich, milk, and a side to go.

Armed with food, he went down to the lobby and out the door. A small army of foot patrol passed him going in and out through the double doors. He briskly went down the stairs heading for his hummer parked beside the sidewalk in front of the building.

Setting his meal box on the seat next to him, he opened it, then started his hummer. With seatbelt in place, he headed out into the heavy evening traffic. Once on his way, he reached down, without looking, and grabbed half his sandwich. He munched on it as he maneuvered out of the city with ease then made for the Megakat Bridge. At the far end, he took the turnoff that led away from the bay and toward the mountains.

By the time he'd finished the second half of his sandwich and downed his milk, he was well up a mountain road that led to a large community of semi-wealthy and past that the homes of ancient families of Megakat City.

He'd just turned off onto a broad, private road when he was shocked by a familiar voice coming from right beside him.

"Where are you going?"

Feral startled violently but still managed to keep the wheel straight ahead and not send them hurtling into one of the many trees that lined the road. With his heart galloping in his chest, he risked whipping his head around to stare for a second at the Guardian now sitting there giving him a curious look. The remains of Feral's meal box sitting in his lap.

"Kat's Alive! Don't do that to me!" He exclaimed harshly.

"Sorry. So where you going?" Razor asked again, not sorry, a small smirk tugging at his lips as he stared straight ahead. He might be immortal and a warrior but he wasn't above wanting to make life hard for mortals at times, especially this mortal.

Though still a bit rattled, Feral worked to reestablish his calm. He definitely wasn't happy to see Razor just now. With what he had to do facing him, he didn't want the Guardian a part of his capitulation and return to the fold. It would be humiliating enough. He had a suspicion Razor knew something about what he'd done from what he alluded to T-Bone without giving it away to the tabby. Which he'd appreciated. But how to get rid of him now so he could do this painful and important thing alone? Nothing seemed to come to him that wouldn't anger or insult this immortal.

"Uh...not that I'm not glad to see you but right now isn't a good time," he began rather lamely.

"Sorry to hear it however, neither of us has a choice, Commander. Per Bast's command, I'm to stay by your side at all times until the threat is over," Razor said, grimly.

Feral blinked in shock then quickly pulled over to the side of the road and stopped so he could turn to glare at Razor. Immortal or not, he was not having this being at his side 24/7 ...wait ... he reined his anger and kept his mouth clamped shut. This guy was in his head 24/7 already so what difference did it make if he was here physically? It wasn't as if he could keep the immortal away in the first place.

He turned away and stared into the darkness of the forest surrounding them. Taking deep breathes and letting them out, he calmed himself.

Razor eyed Feral in surprise. He'd totally expected the Enforcer to explode with temper at learning a SWAT Kat would be dogging his steps every moment from now on and it seemed he was about to do that but something made him stop and gain control. Now that was interesting.

Curious, Razor asked, "Are you okay?"

Letting another breath ease out of him, Feral turned to the Guardian again. "Not exactly. I know since I was attacked that you've been keeping a monitoring touch in my mind though I haven't sensed you at all. I just had forgotten for a second when you said you would be physically by me all the time. What has changed to require that?" He asked reasonably.

That surprised Razor even more. Reasonable Feral normally was not. And just how was he supposed to answer that question without giving too much away? Talk about pussyfooting around, he sighed. "The danger is greater than we first thought and I'm expected to find out everything I can about you and your family so that Bast is not in the dark about what is going on."

Feral blinked in surprise. "But she's a God! How is it she doesn't know about me, the enemy, and everything to do with this?"

"Yes, Gods are omnipotent in many ways, but even they can be blinded by others of their kind. Gods have their secrets from each other which is how so many power plays can go on and cause problems like this," Razor admitted.

"Oh, well that certainly makes sense. Uhm..." Well what else could he say. Sighing in defeat, Feral put the car in gear again and got back on the road. "This is just so awkward for me," he muttered after a long silence filled the car.

"Do you mean my being here or something else?"

"I... both I guess. I'm here to deal with something I did in my past which I really don't want to talk about with you. It's bad enough I must face my family and beg their forgiveness without having a stranger being right there to hear it. Your presence will just make my ordeal more difficult," he admitted.

"Ah, I see. I think I understand, but unfortunately it is what it is and you'll have to suck it up and do what you came here to do with me right beside you the whole time," Razor said, shrugging.

Feral grimaced unhappily. "Fine! So how do I introduce you then?" He asked resignedly as he guided the car up a long winding drive then stopping before a large, impressive home hidden well by the forest surrounding it.

"You don't! Once your elders see me they'll know who and what I am in seconds if they are as magical as I've been led to believe."

Feral blinked at him in surprise. He'd thought the Guardian was fully aware of what he and his family were. Things were getting more complicated by the moment and he didn't like it.

Razor sensed Feral's confusion and upset but he was more distracted by the house and its environs to give the tom full attention right now. How had he not known about this place? Power sheathed it yet he hadn't detected its existence despite having flown over this area millions of times on patrol. Such power shouldn't be here! And it was obvious that power protected and hid this home from all Gods.

Okay, this was very bad. Someone is protecting this family and I have a good idea who it might be. Crud! This has just gotten even bigger than Bast knew. So now what do I do? He wondered, as he climbed from the vehicle and began to follow Feral to the front door. Play it by ear...what else can I do? He thought sourly. I truly hate being caught between the Gods like this. It sucks!