|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.
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.
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
"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
© 1994, by Hadley V. Baxendale