The Return of Conan the Librarian
Chapter 14
Claws dug into Conan's back as he and his attacker rolled together into the brush at the edge of the path. They hit the rocks and the creature broke its hold. Conan drew his knife as the Hyper-Cat roared and sprang again. Its claws slashed through his tunic, drawing blood from his chest, but his knife, just as quick, slashed its shoulder. With a terrible yowl the beast twisted away and limped off into the night. 

Turning, he saw Colin on the ground holding off the second Hyper-Cat with a large stick. Conan leaped onto the Cat's back and grabbed its jeweled collar. Colin rolled to his knees and smacked the Cat across the nose with the stick. The Cat hissed and spat but quieted as Conan held the knife to its throat and said, "Enough." 

Every muscle in Conan's body was taut but his breath hissed angrily through his teeth. The Cat settled itself into a sitting position. It turned its head back and regarded him with one of its yellow eyes. Conan tightened his grip on the collar. The Cat laid its distinctively-folded ears back and hissed, but did not move. 

"I know you stole the AACR2," Conan said through his teeth, "now tell me where it is." 

The Cat narrowed its eyes in an unreadable expression. 

"Admit it!" 

The Cat hissed softly. 

"If I may." Colin moved to sit in front of the Cat. His face was bleeding from three deep scratches, one of which had narrowly missed his eye. He rubbed his chin, thoughtfully and said, "Stealing an AACR2 from the heart of a Temple is a near impossible feat. I don't believe you could do it. Could you?" 

The Cat's ears twitched back and forth. "Perhaps yes and perhaps no." 

"Hang on a bit. I know you: Takor and Baylor, the greatest of the Hyper-Cats. You're Takor, aren't you?" 

The Cat's grey tail swished in annoyance. "No," it said testily, "I'm Baylor. And I'm tired of dim-witted humans who can't tell us apart." 

"Enough of this!" Conan shouted. "Where is the AACR2? 

"Clever humans," the Cat growled, its eyes narrowing, "you think you are so close. Much good will it do you." It reached a paw up and gave it a long lick. "But it's nothing to do with me now," it turned the paw and licked it again, "I don't get hazard pay." 

Conan turned purple and took in a sharp breath, but Colin spoke first. 

"You're wasting your time, old boy. You know one can never get a Hyper-Cat to do anything it doesn't want to do." 

In the instant that Conan looked toward Colin, the Cat twisted in its collar and swatted Conan across the right ear, breaking his grip and knocking him down. It was gone in two bounds. 

"Blast!" Conan shouted, leaping up. There being nothing to chase, he stood instead, his hand raised in a futile fist, his scratches throbbing to his frustration and rage. He turned sharply toward Colin, still sitting on the ground, and saw his eyes widen and his arm come up across his still-bleeding face. 

"Blast." he said again as he turned away and dropped to the ground. He sat there a long moment with his elbows on his knees and his face in his hands. 

© 1994, by Hadley V. Baxendale

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