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Fighting Instinct

Felisa tried to stay in her hideout in the city wall. And so long as she kept awake, she could keep control of herself, and sate her human-unnatural hungers with the occasional rat she managed to catch. But as she got more and more tired, she couldn’t keep herself from falling asleep. And then, sooner or later, she’d come to herself, and find herself…somewhere else. With a little thought, she’d be able to bring to mind what happened during that lost time. So far, thankfully, she didn’t seem to have been successful in seriously attacking anyone. But how long could that last?

She found out early Friday evening. She came to herself on the floor of a strange building, a stinging pain in her thigh, a throbbing pain in her head, and two adults standing over her with things she’d learned were called “guns.” Fear and realization equally grew inside her. “I…I…” She tried to scoot backwards, but the woman put her boot on her shoulder, dropped the tip of her gun and pointed it directly at Felisa’s chest, questioning, “What town are you in?”

Felisa gulped. “New…New Babbage…”

The man kept his gun aimed at her, though he nodded at her response, “That’s a start…”

The woman nodded, not moving the gun. “Good. What’s the last thing you remember?”

Felisa frowned a little. “I…I was in my hideout in the wall. I…*tried* to keep awake, but…I was so *tired*…I’m sorry.”

The woman, seeming to believe her sincerity, started to lift her boot, giving the man a look over her shoulder. The man sighed, nodding to the woman. “I don’t know what will keep you sane, miss… but you’d best steer clear of people. You really don’t want to regret something tragic…”

Fargazer nodded. “I’ll try. I really will!”

The woman moved her boot completely and brought her gun up to her shoulder, shifting it to extend her hand to Felisa. Felisa looked at it a moment, then took it and got up, keeping her weight off her injured leg. The woman watched her seriously. “Now for the big question,” she said. “Are you hungry? If so, what for?”

Fargazer gulped, afraid to answer the question. While she tried to decide whether or not to do so, the man bit his lip, holding back a smile at the woman. Looking back at her, however, he frowned, seeing that his gun had hit the mark. “Umm, we could bandage that up for you, miss.”

The woman nodded, and said reassuringly, “We’re not gonna shoot ya, either way…”

“I…I do still want…brains,” Felisa said hesitantly. “But I’m *trying* to feed myself with rats. It’s so hard to catch them now, though.”

The man raised both eyebrows. “Uhh…. okay… Look, hop up on the counter, we’ll get you bandaged up… and I have an idea, if you’re interested.” Fargazer looked torn for a moment, then slowly scrambled up on the counter, still keeping a wary eye on the two.

The woman turned towards the bar counter without saying a word, in search of bandages, while the man stepped closer, noticing the blood oozing, careful to reach out for the wound to examine it. Felisa flinched a little, but did her best to hold still. “Just a graze,” he said. “I’m not a very good shot. Not that you have to be when we’re in close quarters.” He looked outside, through the wall that was open to the air. “Luckily I didn’t hit anyone else. We’ll just bandage it up and you’ll be as right as rain.”

“Right as rain,” Felisa repeated, and sighed. Though she couldn’t say it to them, she knew she wouldn’t feel right even after their help. She’d never feel completely right ever again.

Towel and tape in hand, the woman joined the man by Felisa’s side. Grimacing, she set down her gun and began tearing the towel into strips, and bandaging the wound with deft hands. The man stepped back as she continued to work. “Um, yeah. So we have a place that could keep you safe. Or keep people safe from you.”

“Where…where is that?”

The man pointed outside. “It’s an underground area that we came into possession of when we took over here. It’s got a very sturdy room inside. And it only locks from the outside,” he added quickly.

“Locked? Underground?” Felisa drew back, a look of pure panic on her face. She shook her head violently. “I can’t! I can’t!” she cried, beginning to tremble. To be locked underground again, as Ambrose had done to her…she’d never be able to do that, not even if it was the only way to save her life.

The man drew in a breath, holding up his hands, “Okay okay! I just wanted to offer you the choice… and again, not have you do something you may regret. Forever.” He emphasized the last word very clearly.

Quickly backing up a step, the woman looked at her, then muttering calmly with clinched teeth, “It was an offer.” She looked over her shoulder at the man, then back at Felisa. “Just be careful, eh?” She tightened the bandage and put the final tape on it.

Fargazer looked down, saw the bandage is finished, and jumped down, backing away quickly. “I’ll be careful. Truly!”

“If we catch you back here trying to eat us, it won’t simply be an offer. Understand?” The man looked at her sternly.

Felisa backed up, even more frightened than before, and nearly backed into the metal being that had suddenly appeared behind her. She jumped and dashed through the open wall, then ran as fast as she could down the street, ignoring the pain in her leg for the sake of speed. She made it to the city wall and found the opening she wanted, entered it, and ran down the passageway, desperate to reach her hideaway.

She skidded to a halt as she reached the end of the passageway, seeing her sister waiting there. “Tealla!” she cried, panting. “What are you doing? You shouldn’t be here.”

“I brought you some food,” Tealla said, nosing two dead rats. “And I’ve news for you,” she added as Felisa grabbed for the rats, tearing into them hungrily. It wasn’t until she’d finished with them that Tealla’s other statement truly penetrated her brain. “News?”

“I talked to the Elders,” she said. “They said that something like this happened to the M’an-folk about this time last year, with all their strange smells and behaviors. But it only lasted a few days–they *did* somehow get back to normal. Maybe that will happen again.”

Felisa sighed. “I hope so,” she said, still feeling weak in the knees over her close call. She looked down at her sister. “You should go now. It isn’t safe here.”

Tealla lashed her tail. “Not safe? You’re my sister! How can it not be safe?”

“You don’t understand.” Felisa was silent for a few minutes, trying to figure out how to explain. “This human body is sick, but my cat…spirit is not. So long as I’m awake, and my true spirit can keep control, I’m all right. But when I fall asleep, the…sickness takes over. It drives me to seek out something to eat–anything.” She looked at her sister soberly. “Even you, if you were in front of me.”

“Oh,” Tealla said weakly.

“I’ll try to keep awake as much as I can, but I’m tired…very tired…”

“I’ll…I’ll just be going, then,” Tealla said hurriedly, backing away, then turning and running.

Felisa smiled wanly, watching her go. She stood up and began pacing back and forth, fighting sleep as long as she could.

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