Fiction~~The Last Pure Human~~Ch. 27
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Chapter 27 - To the Rescue?
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Max took a step back and licked his lips nervously. The two cats
smiled at him, but their ears made the grins into something not so
nice. He didn’t want to think predatory, but it popped into his mind
anyway. Their eyes had nothing but rage behind the thin pupils, like
tigers in a zoo that were no longer behind bars.
They were really freaking creeping him out.
“What- what want?”
Waran’s smile spread across his face until his fangs gleamed in the light. “You, human. We want you.”
“Me?” Max backed up another step. They watched him like he’d crawled out from a rock and pissed in their breakfast; there was no way they meant this sexually. And any other way… Kasan wouldn’t -
Keeping track of both of them as he retreated another step he held onto the thought. Kasan wouldn’t. No matter how mad Kasan was at him, or how badly Max had screwed up, Kasan wouldn’t toss him away. Or- or at least he would have told him. And all Kasan had said was stay in the room. That was it.
He would have said something. Wouldn’t he?
What the hell were they here for? “Go- go away.” Max pointed at the door, but even he could see how badly his hand shook.
Waran sneered at him. “What, exactly, do you think you’re going to do to make us leave? Kasan’s not here anymore, human, and you’re pathetic.” He and the other guard held their spears low and to the side, ready to jab out with them. And they were coming closer. Shit!
Androcles stood up from behind the bed, growling, and both guards froze.
“What the hell-”
Max was so grateful to hear that terrifying growl that his knees almost gave out. Androcles jumped over the bed and down beside Max, his growling so loud that Max could feel it vibrating his breastbone.
Burying his hand in Androcles’ scruff, nearly shoulder level now, he tried again. “Go away. No you here.”
They stopped, crouching lower. Their ears flickered. The other guard spoke first. “Why isn’t it attacking him?”
Waran growled back. “Who cares. We knew the human was unnatural, didn’t we? As long as we can still get him and the shokan doesn’t poison him, it doesn’t matter. We just need to get him away from it. Don’t panic, Quim, it’s just one last obstacle.”
The two men separated, crouching lower as they adjusted their overhand grips on the spears. Max fell back onto the bed with a grunt as the dog shoved him with its head. Androcles lowered himself nearly flat, his tail twitching. His body tensed, the growl changing to something lower. Scarier.
“Is it guarding him?” Quim whispered.
“It’s in the way. Try to lure it to the side; I’ll get the human.”
“It’s a fucking shokan!”
Waran growled again. “So go for the side, then. You know they can’t turn as quickly as they can charge you from the front.” The cats spread farther apart; Androcles whipped his head from side to side, trying to keep track of them.
They looked like they were going to kill him! Max stumbled off the bed, falling against Androcles. He had to help. “No! Leave Androcles alone!” He tried to get on front of Androcles but the dog blocked him, crouching in front of him every time Max moved.
Waran stabbed out with his spear and pulled back. Androcles snarled, snapping at it. Waran repeated the motion, then again, while the other guard stood crouched and watching. Androcles was growing more irate, growling and snapping, the spear close to drawing blood every time. Max didn’t know what the hell to do.
He had no weapons, and they weren’t listening to him! Could he get out and get help? Max looked to the door, trying to figure out if he could make it past the other guard when Quim darted in and grabbed for him. Max kicked out at him and the cat caught him by the heel. Knocked off his feet by a strong yank, Max pounded at the hand with his other foot, yelling.
Androcles whipped around and slashed at Quim. The bastard lost his grip as he flung himself back, spear up. Both guards stood still, spears pointing at them, panting heavily. Growling and snarling, Androcles crouched over Max, covering him with his body. Watching carefully. Max tried to crawl out from underneath and one large hind paw planted itself on his ass, pinning him until he stopped struggling.
The stupid dog wouldn’t let him help!
And now Waran and Quim were talking again. He couldn’t catch everything they were saying, but he was sure it was something that would hurt Androcles. Dammit! Waran sidled around, trying to work his way behind them. When Max couldn’t see him anymore he gave up and started yelling. “Kasan! Kasan! Help!”
Waran laughed, a nasty snickering. “Kasan help,” he mimicked in a high, whiny voice, and laughed again. Androcles snarled at him, shifting over Max as he struggled to see both men at the same time. With one last growl, Androcles’ head darted down. He clamped his teeth over the back of Max’s loincloth and lifted him up into the air. Quim and Waran cursed as the dog charged towards the door, dragging Max with him.
Max squealed before he could stop himself, scrabbling to reach up and hold onto Androcles’ muzzle and take the pressure off the hideous wedgie crushing his balls. He swung in an arc with each leap from Androcles, once, twice, and then almost slammed up against the closed door. Growling, with Max still in his mouth, the dog pawed at the door with his claws frantically, missing the trigger. A spear just missed them both as Androcles rolled to the side dragging Max along the floor. Max’s head smacked the ground and his vision went white for a second.
Quim pulled his spear back from the door, turning to them.
“Be careful! You nearly got the human!”
Androcles looked around wildly, Max slapping against his body as the head moved. The sharp motion was like an uppercut to his brain. “Androcles! Stop!”
Max felt the jolt as he leapt. Androcles skittered across the floor, slipping once and barely avoiding a spear in his side from Waran this time. They made it to the log that Androcles always used and Androcles started to climb, dragging Max up with him, scraping him against the wood. Max swung wildly, unable to get a grip and help, and saw both cats coming up behind them, spears raised.
“Androcles! They’re coming! Get out of the way!”
Androcles yanked him up one last time, with a groaning fully-body twist, half-tossing Max above the dog onto a higher portion of the log. The moment Max grasped the bark, Androcles leapt down to meet the two men. Max scrabbled desperately, trying to hold on, or move up, but his head was swimming. He had to close his eyes and hang on with a deathgrip, and he wasn’t strong enough. There was nowhere for him to put his hands, and the log was so huge. Hugging it wasn’t going to keep him on long. He could feel his legs begin to shake against the stupid log after a few moments, listening to the snarling and snapping of Androcles underneath.
Nauseated, fighting to keep himself attached so at least Androcles didn’t have to worry about him too, Max could feel when his arms started to go. They began cramping and he felt himself slide an inch. He hugged the big pole tightly and it did no good. He wasn’t going to be able to-
Max lost his grip entirely, twisting off the log so that he fell to the floor with a sickening thud. Dazed, he looked up in time to see the fight, Androcles whirling back and forth between the two guards, and Quim… standing right in front of Max. Max stood, but his balls pulled up as Quim whipped around to look down at him. The big cat’s eyes widened and then it was a blur.
Androcles charged, Quim and Waran yelled out, and they all move so fast Max could barely follow it all. The spears were shining streaks, the cats and Androcles intermingling flashes of fur and flash and ears. He could tell Androcles was trying to get over to him, his body a blur of motion that never quite made it through Quim’s block.
Max had to help him. He shifted, taking the first step to the door and help. Waran went for Androcles, drew his attention, and Quim suddenly snapped out an arm to grab him. Max cried out. He could just barely see it coming, the blur of motion that he knew he couldn’t dodge. He wasn’t going to be fast enough!
Androcles flung himself Max’s direction, dodging Waran’s last stab as he shoved up against Max and pushed him out of Quim’s way. Max hit the floor and heard Androcles scream at the same moment.
Quim’s spear was still quivering, buried in Androcles’ side, and Androcles gave another snarling scream as it was yanked out. Blood spattered over the floor; Androcles’ body hit the ground. Screaming, Max scrambled back to his feet and both cats slashed down again.
“No! You freaking bastards!” He threw himself at Quim as the spear pulled back for another jab. Waran caught him around the waist before he got there, yanking him off his feet. He could feel the bare flesh of Waran’s chest, sweaty and hot, slam against his back as the cat anchored him there. Androcles snarled weakly, trying to get to him, and couldn’t seem to get his back legs to work. Waran stepped away, into the middle of the room. “Androcles!” Oh god, there was so much blood!
The dog dragged himself forward in an abortive, clumsy leap of his front paws, still snarling. Quim cursed, caught off guard, and lashed out sideways, catching Androcles against the side of his skull with the butt of his spear. All growling ceased, Androcles’ head collapsing against the floor. He stopped moving.
“No! You killed him! You killed him, you rotten, freaking, sons of bitches! You bastards, you fucking bastards! Let me go!” Waran started towards the bed with Max. Quim kicked out once at Androcles’ head and turned to follow.
Max struggled wildly, cursing, crying so hard he could hardly see. He was still struggling, trying to bite the arm that was taking out something tucked into Waran’s loincloth, when the door opened.
They all froze as large, red-headed cat walked into the room with a confused smirk. “Hey, what’s all the noise-”
“Aosh!” Max kicked out at Waran,
Frowning, Kasan’s brother looked around, and then his eyes widened as he saw Androcles, lying prone and still behind them. “Holy hell, it got in! Shit, Waran…”
Ears flat against his head, Aosh came towards Max, looking for wounds. “Is everyone all right? Did any of you get clawed?”
“We’re all fine-” Waran started to say.
“They killed him!” Max shouted, still struggling to pry himself out of Waran’s hold. Aosh’s body relaxed.
“Yes, I see that, little one. How the hell did it get into the room, though?”
Max gaped at him. Androcles was bleeding out on the floor and Aosh was freaking happy? “Help him! Androcles hurt!”
Aosh looked from the dog to Max and the other men, tensing up again. “Who’s hurt?”
“Androcles! They hurt him!”
“Androcles?” Aosh looked at Quim and Waran and back at Max. “Max, I’m sorry, I don’t know who that is.”
Aosh made soothing gestures with his hands, frowning again. “Max, calm down. It’s all right, we’ll fix everything, but you need to calm down. Waran…here, let him down. He’s only getting more upset.” Aosh smiled ruefully. “Trust me, I’ve been able to see him doing that a lot lately.”
Waran fixed his grip over Max, shifting to put Max on the opposite side from Aosh. “We can’t let him down. He keeps trying to get to the shokan and it isn’t completely neutralized yet. Besides, we need to take him to be checked by the doctor. He fell during the fight.”
Aosh paused, staring at the shokan who had started to shudder, growling and whimpering in turns. He looked back at Waran and Quim, eyes narrowing. “Give Max to me, then. I’ll take him out and get help while you take care of it. I have something to talk to him about, anyway.”
Waran exchanged a glance with Quim and smiled. “I’d better get him checked, first. Quim can take care the shokan.” Max cursed at them all, biting and clawing at Waran’s arm, trying to get him to drop him.
“Shit but he really is a little firebrand when he’s angry, isn’t he? Come on, little one, you need to calm down. Max?” Aosh sighed, shaking his head. “Here, I’ll keep him from the shokan, but you really do need to let him down. Kasan doesn’t like Max to get too upset. He knows me. I’ll take him.”
“He’s my responsibility,” Waran said, tightening his grip. Max cried out as it bruised his ribs.
Aosh frowned and his ears lowered. “Waran, you’re hurting him. Put him down.” Aosh walked forward, watching both men carefully.
Quim stepped to the side as Waran shook his head, still smiling. “He’s fine, just high-strung.”
Aosh’s ears flattened completely. “He wants down, Waran. Let him go. He’s not-”
Max managed to sink his teeth into Waran’s arm and the guard cursed and cuffed him alongside the head. It made his head ring. He could just barely hear a growl welled up in Aosh’s throat. “Drop him right now, Waran.”
Quim stepped between them, holding up his spear, and Waran spoke as he wrapped a hand around Max’s mouth. “Just walk away, Aosh. ”
Aosh snarled. “What the hell are you doing, Waran? The Elders will stomp you to little pieces if you hurt Kasan’s consort! Let him go!” Quim raised the spear up and Waran looked between them both, suddenly earnest.
“Aosh, just walk away. We don’t want to have to hurt family.
“Have you gone insane? Max is family! Let him go-” Aosh watched the spear in Quim’s hand carefully, shifting his weight.
Max could feel the growl in Waran’s chest, and he coughed as the arm around him tightened painfully again. He tried to scratch at him. “This… this abomination is not family! It’s a human!” Max wheezed as his breath was squeezed out before Waran relaxed his grip.
“What? Max is Kasan’s consort!”
“It should never have happened! Kasan should never have happened!” Waran snarled again.
Aosh stood very still, ears flat, his face twisted in disgust. “You’re a purist,” he whispered.
“I’m a true Kyashin!”
“So is Kasan!”
Quim growled and brought the attention back to him, closer to Aosh, spear still raised. “Your brother is a disgrace. Out of the way, Aosh. This is too important to let family stand in the way.”
“Family is what’s important! Let him go right now, Waran.”
“No. Step aside, Aosh. You don’t have to do this.”
“I’m not letting you take Max.”
“So be it.”
Quim started forward and Max kicked out with his legs. One foot caught the spear and turned it away just enough for Aosh to duck under and slam into Quim. They went down, cursing and punching. Max bit down on Waran’s arm again. Waran cuffed his head but he held on, digging in until Waran loosened his grip to really hit at him. The second the cat’s arm loosened, Max let go and fell to the floor.
Aosh rolled off of Quim, kicked Waran in the knee and knocked him over, and yanked Max over. He nearly dislocated Max’s arm pulling him out of the way as Quim made a grab for him.
“Too dangerous, little one! Hold on!” Max found himself upended over Aosh’s shoulders, yelling as Aosh tried to dodge between the two men. Aosh tripped over one of the spears, almost eviscerated himself on Quim’s blade. He earned himself a shallow cut and a loss of balance.
Catching himself on his hands and knees, Aosh cursed. Max wheezed against his back, the breath knocked out of him. It was only second, but by the time Aosh got to his feet, the men were too close for him to run from. Growling continuously, Aosh backed towards the door, and a spear stabbed forward. Aosh tried to dodge, but looking down his back, Max saw the tip of the blade plunge out the back of Aosh’s thigh and Max almost vomited.
Aosh collapsed as it was yanked back, but he tossed Max off of him. The world was a whirl of colors as Max rolled, flopping onto the floor.
“Run for Kasan, Max! don’t let them-” Aosh screamed as Quim stepped on his wounded leg. Aosh shifted to the side desperately and the spear aimed at his chest bit into his side.
“Aosh!” Max almost went back, realized he couldn't do a damned thing for him, and sprinted for the door. Waran caught him in three steps in the same hold as before, his arms pinned to his side.
They turned to see Quim pull out the spear and bring it up to Aosh’s neck.
“Quim, what are you doing?!” Waran’s voice expressed the same shock Max felt.
“What does it look like?”
“He’s family! You can’t kill him.”
Quim didn’t move the spear. “He tried to stop us.”
“He failed. There’s no need to kill him. They’ll already know who we are.”
Quim stared at him and then nodded, slowly. Max heaved a huge sigh of relief only to scream along with Aosh when Quim stabbed down suddenly. He ripped through the muscle in Aosh’s other thigh, blood splattering the floor and Quim both.
“He’s not dead. But he’s not a problem now, either.” The man wiped his blade on a clean spot of Aosh’s loincloth. Aosh spit at him, snarling.
Waran swallowed loudly. “You…you shouldn’t have tried to stop us, Aosh. I told you to walk away.”
“Betrayer of family.” Aosh snarled at him again.
Waran’s body stiffened behind Max. “Not me. You’ll see…someday. I’m not the one who’s betrayed the family.” He turned from another curse of Aosh and lifted Max.
Max struggled vainly as he felt the fabric of his loincloth come undone. Kicking out, he cried out as he was battered alongside his head again. He shook himself, still trying to struggle, staring at Aosh and the dark pool of blood growing around his body. Waran pulled the loincloth free and bound it around Max, tying his wrists behind his back and fixing them to his ankles. There was a small ripping sound, and then Waran gagged him so quickly Max couldn’t make a sound. He was squirming, still looking at Aosh, and Androcles coming to awareness behind him – he wasn’t dead! - and then they put him in a heavy cloth sack. He couldn’t move as he was tossed over a shoulder to slam painfully against the man’s back.
He couldn’t breath! His body was contorted, tied so he couldn’t free his face, and for a moment, it pressed up against the fabric so tightly he thought he would suffocate. Even finally freeing his mouth didn’t help, his breath coming in harsh, whining gasps through his nose. Aosh. And Androcles. They were both bleeding to death and Max…
Max was going to hyperventilate again.
“Dammit.” Aosh’s arms spasmed as he tried to drag himself across the floor. He could hear soft, relentless scrabbling behind him as the shokan dragged itself behind him. The big animals always were persistent. If he couldn’t make it to the doorway, and out to the summoning box, the thing would have him. It might have him even then.
And then Max would die along with him, and Kasan would die soon after that.
He wasn’t going to let that happen, not by those kin-killers. Aosh pulled with one arm, one leg useless and the other making his whole body spasm if he tried to use it. The shokan was closer. It was a nightmare in slow motion, Aosh managing a finger’s width of movement, the shokan closing, whining behind him. He could hear the thing's claws digging into the floor for a better grip, moving just barely faster than Aosh, even though the animal had been unconscious only minutes before.
Aosh suspected he’d already be dead by now if the thing wasn’t severely injured. The first nanites tested on animals had been more aimed at healing than the heat, Zonta always said. The damned shokan was likely improving faster than Aosh. Aosh could be torn apart before he even got out the door.
He was shocked that it hadn’t killed Max – couldn’t think of how the animal and Max and the guards had all come together.
Couldn’t think of why Waran would do this. He was their cousin! He’d grown up with Kasan; how could he do this? And for Quim to attack him, and Waran to do nothing at all….
He was dead to Aosh. Didn’t matter what the Elder’s decided; Waran was dead to him. And now the bastard had Max, but they might not be able to retrieve the little one in time unless Aosh got help. Kasan could still smell the trail, if he got to it fast enough, but it had to be quick. Aosh had to keep moving.
Drag, push, spasm, bleed, push.
The scrape and heavy breath of the shokan was so close Aosh didn’t know if he’d be able to open the door in time to escape. He had to try and reach up high enough to touch the right panel on the door, before he was sliced open by claws.
He thought of Kasan, and the look on his little consort’s face as he fought to get to Aosh, as small as he was, and he growled deep in his chest, gritting his teeth against the pain. He envisioned his hands with claws, digging his nails into the floor like he’d like to do to Waran’s eyes. Pulling them out as he dragged himself forward.
His head bumped lightly against the door as he managed the last bit, and he tried to pull himself up. His legs wouldn’t work. The pain made him scream, but even screaming and straining, they collapsed before he could reach up high enough. He was going again, trying not to use his legs, when he felt the animal behind him.
Hot air swept over his legs and he scrabbled for the door panel, wondering why the thing was dragging itself over him further. Going for his throat? Fur slid along his body, heavy paws, bumping painfully against him as the shokan dragged itself closer to his head. Aosh reached desperately one last time for the door panel, failing, and began to fall back when a large, blunt head stopped him. It inserted itself in between his arm and his body, keeping him upright, and with a growling whine, pushed him back up. He swallowed.
The shock of not being maimed was like he’d taken a step onto a lake and stood on the water.
Wheezing from the pain, Aosh whimpered as his body was lifted until his hand could just touch the panel. He pressed and the door opened, both of them spilling out to the hallway.
He lay on his back, staring at the shokan. Dark amber eyes stared back, looked down the hallway with a snarl, and then back at him. And as he watched, unable to move, it came back and began to push at his body again, moving him upright.
He looked up at the summoning box and cursed – it had been smashed. He couldn’t use it. He’d have to make it all the way down the hallway. The shokan already seemed heading that way. Dragging itself along, keeping its head underneath Aosh’s torso as Aosh wrapped one arm around his neck. They moved like a drunken, two headed snake, weaving down the hall on their bellies, the shokan moving under him to help him along.
He didn’t know what to think. It was a miracle. A fluke. He didn’t care. The animal was going to help him get to Kasan, get help for Max, and that was all he cared about. He could figure out what they were going to do about it once he was there.
It took too long to make it down the hall. Aosh slipped on the floor as he tried to move. Even holding onto the animal, it was agonizing pulling himself along. The floor was slick by the time his bare feet dragged over it; he was losing too much blood, too quickly, and if he didn’t get to help soon, he wouldn’t even be able to tell them what had happened to Max.
Kasan wouldn’t be able to find him, and then his body would start to die as the kouloc took over when he couldn’t connect with his consort, and then a week of agonizing pain until he passed.
Aosh grit his teeth and held on, trying to move his legs and failing. The shokan whimpered and growled each time it moved, dragging itself on it’s front paws as well, but twice as fast as Aosh could have managed. It would have taken him too long to make it down the hallway just to the corner, and as it was, they were now past the corner and into a main hall.
“I need aid!”
The shokan jumped and Aosh nearly lost his grip. He found himself staring into amber eyes that looked like paintings of god’s nemesis from old temple scriptures. The shokan growled, snorted at him once, and then started moving again.
“Well pardon me, but if we don’t get help soon, we’re both dead, so I’m yelling again.” Aosh hoped it didn’t bite him. “I need aid! Kasan’s consort is in danger! I need aid!”
He listened for a reply that never came. Was it that close to last meal? He would have sworn there was another hour, at least. Where was everyone?
The shokan growled again and Aosh looked at him, the muzzle with teeth bared the first thing he saw. “Son of a bitch. They’re all out looking for you.”
The animal ignored him and continued squirming on his belly down the hall; Aosh did the same. He was not going to die from that family betraying bastard Waran.
His mind was fading in and out before he finally heard the voices. The animal bumped up against him where he lay on the floor, his grip having given out.
“I need aid!” His voice wasn’t strong, but it did the trick. He heard Kasan’s grumpy reply, muted, and then footsteps coming closer. The shokan pushed its head under his arm and he gripped the fur to pull himself a little more upright. They moved toward the voices, and Aosh was staring blearily ahead when a small group cleared the corner. Kasan was first, and he stopped dead, his ears flat and his claws out before Zonta and their father followed behind. Leero stepped out last, clearly swallowing a curse as he nearly bumped into everyone.
Zonta took a step towards him before father pulled him back.
“Go get the antidote,” the Lord King whispered frantically. “We might have time yet, if we get it quickly. The poison might not have-”
“I’m not poisoned,” Aosh said. It came out like a whisper.
Everyone stared at him, not wanting to move with such a large animal’s teeth and claws so near Aosh’s head.
“Not a bad shokan, all things considered,” Aosh said. He thought his words might be slurring, so he tried to pat the shokan’s head with his other hand to show what he meant. The animal lifted one lip to bare a fang at him but otherwise left him alone.
“What the hell is going on,” Kasan whispered.
“Waran took Max.”
Kasan’s face was so still Aosh didn’t know if he’d heard him. He started moving slowly towards them both.
“Away from the shokan?”
Aosh finally let go of the fur and slid down to lie on the floor. “No. I think the shokan actually attacked them because they were trying to take Max. It dragged me here to get help – hell, it helped me open the damned door. Quim is the one who attacked me. And Waran watched him do it. They put Max into a sack and carried him off. Gotta find them. I think they’re with Uncle.”
Kasan got close enough to grab Aosh, while the shokan watched but didn’t move, and he pulled Aosh away so quickly that Aosh screamed. His legs were on fire. Aosh could see Kasan’s face as he looked at Aosh's legs, and then Zonta’s face was above him, worried and pale, and he reached up to pat his cheek.
“You fret too much. I’ll be fine. Always am.” Kasan would look after Zonta. He always did baby him more, anyway.
“Don't be an idiot. You’re hurt!”
Kyoru put pressure on one of his legs as Zonta verbally smacked him.
Kasan worked on the other leg while Aosh thought Leero ran down the hall to get help. Kasan didn’t take his eyes off the shokan, but it had stopped moving, watching them, Aosh thought. It felt like the animal’s eyes were on him, in any case.
“What the hell are we going to do with a wounded shokan who might have just saved your life?” Kasan muttered.
“Give him a nice steak,” Aosh said weakly, and then father pushed down even harder and Aosh finally let himself lose consciousness.
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