A/N: Fair warning. This will be a very dark story with intense, disturbing, and for some, upsetting, scenes. Read only if you want to go on a thrill ride of terror and don't mind reminding yourself from time to time, that it's only a story. Care to take a plunge into the darker side of my twisted mind?
Oh yeah, this is my love letter to Hamato Yoshi, for writing him so harsh and cruel in my other stories. Some readers even thought I wrote him evil. Well, sweeties, be prepared to find out my definition of cruel and evil . . . buckle up, pups.
(P.S. Don't own them. Probably a good thing.)
"A father knows his child's heart, as only a child can know his father's." – Kazuo Koike, Lone Wolf and Cub, Vol. 1
What Makes a Father
He crouched, hidden and frightened, in the confined shadows between the stacked metal boxes as the Men who were Not Men spoke in lengthy sentences about their destination and reasons for going. Over and over their grating voices scraped inside his head, adding another layer of pain to the never-ending pulse that drove him to the edge of madness. Wincing, he brought his claws up to cover tattered ears and pressed down hard. The sound was barely muffled by his action. All of his senses were much increased with the recent set of injections he'd endured just before he managed to memorize the code to unlock his cage. A whimper bubbled up, but he swallowed it back. He could not risk them discovering their stowaway. They would surely kill him, or worse, bring him back to the white room with the silver cages.
Clever and quick he was, his survival owed to that fact, and ever more so since the needles with the colored fluids, but the pain . . . the pain was a constant companion that he began to fear he may never escape. But he couldn't succumb to the sweet call of the empty blackness, with its promises of relief from the pain, which swirled in the back of his mind. Not yet. He still had a long way to go. Finally freed from the metal cage that had been his home for four years, there was no way he'd allow himself to break now. Not with freedom flashing from beneath the crack of the van's double doors as the vehicle rolled along towards its destination. He watched it with his good eye, the eye that was clear and sharp and focused; unlike his other, nearly blind as a side effect of one of their burning injections.
The van came to an abrupt halt and he braced himself, muscles in his legs quivering, pink clawed toes scrambling for a grip along the rubber mat. Patience. Patience. One wrong move and all his efforts would be for nothing. If they captured him again, he would fight. He bared his fangs at the thought. They would have to squeeze the life from him before he allowed them to put him back into that cage, in the lab. He tensed. Movement around him as his captors rose from their seats. Sunlight flooded the interior as the double doors swung open with a loud creak. The Not Men filed out and he had his chance!
Scrambling to the edge of the back of the van, he hesitated. Something was off. The air was suddenly crackling with anxiety and . . . he paused, listening with his body more than his ears. The strange double senses he'd acquired from their experiments tuned sharply to the end of the alley. White whiskers twitched. He turned his head to see better with his healthy eye. Something wasn't going right for the Not Men. They'd been spotted. Their plan, whatever it was, interrupted.
A man, a human, stood at the mouth of the alley. In his arms, a glass bowl. His attention trained on the Not Men around the van. He pointed and shouted and Scrag flinched; black oily fur rippling as he snarled. He did not chose his name, but had been referred to as 'scraggly' many times, so he'd adopted it as his own. Better than no name, no identity. The Not Men brought their glinting, humming weapons to their sides and opened fire on the man in the alley. Damn him! He had to go, now, while there was still a chance! Before he was noticed!
But as the black rat moved to leap down to the alley floor, the van rocked to one side as one of the Not Men slammed into it. The metal boxes tipped and tumbled. Scrag leapt and dodged as one burst open, the gleaming canisters rolling out and over him. One clattered and struck his back sharply as he frantically scrambled out from the back of the van. Pain shot through him as he felt the weight of the canister smash down on top of him with the gravelly cement beneath him. For a terrifying moment, he could not move his rear legs. He lay flat as the man fought with the Not Men.
A glass bowl dropped down and exploded on the cement next to him, missing him by inches. Blinking and removing his claws from the sides of his scar-covered head, he saw four small turtles struggling in the ruins of their glass home; a different colored ribbon tied around each one's middle. Three were on their shells, their scratched legs pin wheeling pathetically. One stood still, swinging its small head from left to right. Scrag felt their confusion and fear. Smelled the rich coppery blood and moist scent from their small bodies. His stomach lurched. He hadn't eaten in days.
Feeling the tingling sensation of pins in his rear legs he scampered and scrambled forward; wasting not a second as he regained control of his rear limbs; dodging the pink rays shooting from the Not Men's weapons as best as he could; half-dragging his left rear paw. The human man was there in front of him, shouting at the Not Men. The van bounced as the Not Men climbed inside. The human man stooped to gather his small reptilian pets, brushing them together with his hands, hissing in pain as the broken glass sliced his palms. Without thinking, Scrag leapt onto the man's foot. His head and front claws reaching up under his pant leg where Scrag clawed and nipped at him in his panic and fury; drawing blood.
It was his fault this went wrong! All his careful planning! He was nearly crushed and now his legs weren't working right! All because of this stupid man!
He bit him once more, savoring the salty flood of his blood along his tongue and lips, relishing the man's hiss of pain, before he turned to flee. He didn't get far when one more of the canisters that had rolled after him crashed down from the van as the vehicle rocked into gear and lurched forward. The canister came rolling and bouncing until finally, it struck against the man's leg. He shouted in shock and pain as the delicate glass shattered across his shin; spilling the glowing contents all over him and Scrag, spurting large droplets over the small reptiles still pathetically struggling to understand what was happening.
The man screamed above him and fell backwards onto his back. But while Scrag could feel the intensity of the man's burning pain, his own matched it in its perfect agony. They writhed and squirmed along the ground as muscles rippled and cramped; bones snapped and popped as their very DNA contorted and shifted. The man's screams dissolved into groans and whimpering moans.
Scrag's only advantage was that he'd been accustomed to torment and pain was something he'd built up a strong tolerance for. His sensitive ears and double senses picked up the vibration of the Not Men's van.
No! Please, no!
They were coming back to collect what they'd lost. He'd be caught for sure. In a panic, Scrag pushed through the haze of pain. Even as his body violently trembled and quaked, he came up onto his hands and knees; only dimly realizing that his body was changing, radically. Panting, he cast about for some place to hide. He found the long shaft that was the opening of a storm sewer just to his right. His stomach cramped painfully, making him grit his teeth. The hunger! The terrible hunger! His eye rolled to the four reptiles squirming; lost in their own pain. In a quick sweep of his hand, he swept them into the opening where he rolled and dove into as the twin lights of the Not Men's van brightened the alley.
Scrag twisted as he fell and landed roughly onto his stomach and chest with a grunt but quickly rolled to one side as the human came crashing down, nearly crushing him. He snarled at him, but stopped as a shocking realization struck him. The man - he was no longer human! For one thing, he had shrunken down, no longer so much larger than Scrag. The clothes he'd been wearing lay long and huge over his bony, shaking frame. He was covered in light grey fur; two rounded ears poked out from the top of his head and a long pale tail lashed around as the thing that was once human still struggled within his private hell of suffering. The human who resembled a rat more than a human now moaned and whimpered as he shuffled sideways into the shadows.
Scrag's nose twitched as he came to stand . . . on his two rear feet. He swayed and righted himself. The pain still lancing throughout his body; making him jerk and spasm. But he was too stunned to give it much thought. He looked down at his arms and legs, not rat-like any longer, but more human-like. Though still covered in his black oily fur, his claws were longer, the joints better positioned for grabbing and griping. A powerful cramp doubled him over. The hunger came again. He was going to die if he didn't eat something!
His eyes darted around. It searched through the useless cans, crumpled paper and empty containers. A large plastic planter lay next to the rat-man whimpering in the corner. Scrag limped over and gripped it by the rim in his strong hands, enjoying the power of his newly developed fingers and thumb. He quickly spun as movement caught the corner of his eye. He snatched up one of the turtles as it crawled away from him; catching it and picking it up by the tail as it cried out in pain. And fear?
Scrag blinked and held it up for inspection. Its legs kicked and short thick arms waved helplessly in the air. A red ribbon with a tag was tied around the turtle's ankle. It was whimpering as Scrag scrutinized it with his good eye while holding it upside down. It was bigger. Now the size of a soft ball. He snorted, more meat for him. He shook it and it made the sound again, like a bark of pain and fear. Scrag's lips peeled back into a gruesome attempt at a smile. He threw it into the container.
Scrag held still and listened all the while his cunning brain spun. Thoughts that he struggled with before slid through his mind more simply without so much effort and concentration. These reptiles seemed to be changing as he and the human had. He shrugged. It made no difference to him. He would eat them big or small human-like or turtle-like.
He then cast around for the others. His double senses picked up the feeling of intense fright. He turned. Huddled in the shadows were two more. One that seemed much smaller than the one he'd just captured had its small dimpled hands over its face; covering its eyes. Scrag noted the two fingers and thumb and frowned. The other was crouching close by and had its arm around the smaller one's shell. Shielding it?
Scrag approached and dark blue eyes snapped up from the one crouching. He only hesitated a moment before reaching down and snagging it by the back of its neck. It gasped in fright as he did. He threw him into the planter then snatched the smaller one and did the same with him. This one cried out feebly and trembled as he gripped him by the back of his neck. Scrag shook the planter roughly making the three little turtles bounce and bang into each other. They cried out but he only shook it harder. Finally, they got the idea and fell to quietly sniffling and gasping all piled on top of each other.
He spun as he caught the sound of movement. In a flash, his arm dashed out and he caught the last one by the ankle just as it turned to flee. This one had been standing on its rear legs; a purple ribbon bound its thin ankle. Scrag wrinkled his nose. It was much thinner than the others. Scrag lifted it up by one arm and considered it. The runt of the group. Even the smallest one was round and plump. Succulent. This one, Scrag tilted his head and sneered. It reached up and wrapped its fingers around Scrag's wrist as it whimpered. For a moment, Scrag thought perhaps he'd just drown it since there wasn't much meat on its limbs. Brown eyes, large, intelligent and pleading met his and he felt the fur on the back of his neck rise. With a grunt he threw it into the planter with the other three. Maybe he could fatten it up.
Hoisting the plastic container higher up on his hip, Scrag limped past the human who was no longer a human. He paused and stared at the rat-man shivering and making strange, helpless noises in the shadows. Disdain and disgust filled him. He sneered at the pathetic creature before him. This was no survivor. This was merely an intruder. An interfering, pitiful thing too weak to be allowed to live.
There were bricks and garbage all around them. Scrag reached down to pick up a thick red brick. He stared at it, then at the man who was no longer a man. Men, Not Men, how he hated all of them. A dark idea took root. The brick weighed heavily in his grasp. The imagined vision of bashing in the man's head filled him. A feeling of excitement and anticipation swept through him. It was good. He wanted to see him squirm as the brick came down again and again. A shiver of pleasure went through him. And there'd be less competition for food down here.
He set the planter down and moved in on the whimpering creature; licking his lips as his fur bristled while a delicious thrill went through him. A crooked grin spread across his face, fangs gleamed in the dim light. He raised up the brick and paused. A scent of something caught his nose.
His stomach seized and he dropped the brick. He turned. Tattered ears pricked, whiskers twitched. His milky ruined eye watered and blinked. Yes, the sound of men . . . workers down in the tunnels. And . . . food. Glorious food. The changes his body had gone through had completely drained him of energy and the need for food was more than painful. He smelled it and sensed it. And its pull was magnetic. Oh yes. Sandwiches full of meat and . . . he sniffed . . . fruit, chips and . . . cookies. Sweet things. His mouth filled with saliva. Meat and sweet. He had to get it. Lunches packed and waiting for him. He'd be quick and clever. He always was.
As he turned away, he glanced down at the trembling rat-creature. His lip curled as a wave of disappointment went through him. He sighed. Another day. He'd get to play later. For now, his hunger was too great.
He stopped and picked up the plastic bin; rested it on his stronger hip. He considered dumping them all into the rushing water flowing through the center of the storm sewer and letting them drown. Four pairs of eyes; dark blue, brown, amber and bright blue; huge and glassy with fright, gazed up at him from small, rounded, green faces.
He grimaced down at their trembling, huddled forms. He moved to tip the bucket into the water. But something stopped him.
No, he thought. Not yet.
He'd keep them and see what use they'd be to him. Perhaps he could train them. They could be his servants. And if not, he could save them for food for later. Another thought slipped through his throbbing head making the pain pause.
Yes. That would be good.
He gazed down at them with a hunger that had nothing to do with his stomach. They'd make nice toys for him when bored. The thought sent a wave of unexpected glee laced with arousal through him. He shivered. In the darkness, Scrag turned. He limped and slithered towards the inviting scent of food. Behind him, the man huddled in the shadows hugged himself tightly with furry arms and clawed hands.
"This . . . isn't real. This . . . isn't real," Hamato Yoshi whispered over and over in the darkness.
In the plastic planter on Scrag's hip, four small brothers - the oldest being no more than four, the youngest only a baby, really - quailed and cowered and held on to each other as tightly as they could.
A/N: Well? Still with me? Looking for more? It's coming. I love my readers, especially when you review. xo