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Go To Chapter One.

The hoodlums whipped around when they heard Carl yell.  Cruel sneers spread over their faces as their surprise disappeared, and they erupted into laughter at the unarmed teenager rushing toward them.  Brenton turned back to his victim, and two of the others flicked out Slicerblades and stepped forward to meet Carl’s mad charge.  All at once the sadistic humour evaporated as water drops on a hot stove to be replaced with looks of shock.  When Carl saw the change in their expressions, he stopped.  The first hoodlum was only a couple of yards away, but now the hand holding the Slicerblade hung limply at his side as if he has lost his will to kill.

Suspiciously, Carl eyed them.  What was going on?  Was it some kind of a trick?  Was it just a game before they closed in for the kill?  His heart was pumping in his chest like a prisoner banging on a cell door.  His anger at the injustice he was witnessing was being infiltrated with the realization of the danger of his situation.  What now?

Everyone Can Learn To Read

Then Carl noticed their eyes.  They weren’t looking at him anymore.  The eyes, full of alarm, were focused on something behind him.  Carl was about to turn around when a voice commanded, “Everyone’s going to make like a statue!”

Everyone froze, including Carl.  The hoodlums switched off their Slicerblades without being told.  They let them fall, making clanking sounds as they landed on the cement floor.  The only other sound came from the victim.  Coughing a little blood and putting a hand over a wound in his chest which was seeping blood, he slid to the ground, then remained motionless.

“You’re doing good,” continued the voice with its hard edge.  “Now you five dogs put your hands on your heads and move over to the other side…slowly.  That’s right.”  When the five hoodlums were standing along the opposite side of the corridor, the voice added, “Carl, go and see how bad off that man is.”

Carl was too shocked at hearing his name called out by this stranger that he did not react.  His mind was spinning.  Only a few people knew he was on Hesnortor, and he didn’t recognize the voice.  The voice didn’t even sound completely human; it was softer and smoother somehow.

“Carl,” came the voice with a touch of rebuke in it.

Remembering the man, Carl moved to kneel by his side.  He was lying so still.  His unseeing eyes staring straight ahead told Carl that he was beyond help, but he felt for a pulse, first at the wrist and then at the neck, anyway.  There was nothing.  A few drops of blood trickled on Carl’s fingers as he tried again.  A chill crept up Carl’s spine.

“He’s…he’s dead,” he managed to choke out.

It was the first time he had seen a dead body, let alone touched one.  Clumsily but quickly, Carl wiped the blood off his hand, as if it was burning acid, onto the man’s pant leg.  Slowly Carl stood up and began backing away, his eyes still fixed on the lifeless form.  What a useless death!

Careful,” warned the voice.

Glancing around, Carl saw he had been retreating in the direction of the killers.  If he had gotten between them and his rescuer, they would have undoubtedly leapt forward and taken him hostage.  For the first time, Carl turned to face his rescuer.

Human-like cat called Purr with gunbelt

He was standing about 10 feet away, and as Carl had suspected, his rescuer was not human.  Pure black fur covered his 5-foot 4-inch body, and a long, thin tail twirled behind him.  He was obviously a member of the feline race, which had come into being in the cruel Genetic Wars near the beginning of time.  His short, pointed ears stood erect, listening for any sound.  His light-green eyes, with black cat-like pupils, were fixed on the killers.  A gun belt hung low on his hip.  The pistol was easily held in his right paw.  The paw was like a hand with long fingers and a thumb, although it had razor-sharp, retractable claws.  It was covered with soft fur, except for the pads, which had leathery skin.

“How about 50 dices apiece to let us go?” suggested the leader of the hoodlums.

“Money can’t buy your freedom,” said the cat in his velvety voice.

“I’m sure we can work out some kind of a deal.”

“Interesting.  That’s what Sokin said…before I killed him.”  The cat’s finger tightened on the trigger.

Panic spread across the young men’s faces as they realized death was staring at them.  Without being told, they slipped to their knees, hands still clasped behind their heads.

“You can’t kill us,” the leader whined.  “We’ve thrown down our weapons and surrendered.  We give up.  You’ve got to take us in alive!”

“Go to?” came a dangerously quiet voice.  “Why is that?”

“If you killed us, it would be murder.”

The cat put his left paw over his heart as he said mockingly, “Your sudden concern with the law touches me.”

“Murder isn’t a capital offence on Hesnortor…”

“It is now.  Those who show no mercy should seek none.  Stripe for stripe, pain for pain, death for death.”  As he said, “death for death,” he pulled the trigger four times.  Each time a human body collapsed to the cement floor.  

The cat was about to fire again when Brenton held out his hands in a vain attempt to stop the coming shot as he pleaded, “I’m a minor…”

“And I’m a lumberjack.”

“No, no.  I’m too young.  I can’t be held responsible…”

“Old enough to do the crime, old enough to take the consequences.”  The cat fired one last time, and Brenton dropped to the floor.  “Now, see if the Judge of the Universe cares about your minorship,” he spat out in contempt.

Calmly the cat holstered his gun.  Twitching his whiskers, he turned to Carl and smiled or, as least, as close to a smile as his cat mouth could come.

“My name is Purrrrrrr…” said the cat, rolling his r’s as only a feline can.  “But I suppose you’ll have to call me Purr.”

Carl didn’t respond as he looked around, dazed, still in shock at all that had happened.  To his right was the dead victim, and to his left were the five dead killers.  His eyes focused back on Purr.  Everything had happened so fast, trying to help the man, being rescued himself, seeing the killers killed - his mind was a whirl.  He had wanted adventure, but not like this!

“We’re still in great danger, Kitten,” said Purr with urgency in his voice.  “I’ll explain everything when we’re back in Terminal 3.”


Purr raised his paw to silence him.  His ears had perked up, and the black pupils of his eyes narrowed as he concentrated on what must have been a very faint sound, for Carl heard nothing.  Seconds later, Purr lowered his paw and relaxed, the black pupils widening into circles.  Still, he was silent and appeared to be trying to comprehend what he had heard.  The words “great danger” kept ringing in Carl’s ears.  

“Blow my whiskers; he’s here.  This is going to be challenging,” said Purr to himself in a voice so soft that Carl could hardly hear him.  Carl opened his mouth to ask a question, but Purr continued quickly and quietly, “Not now.  If we wait too long he may suspect.  We can’t afford that.  You must follow my instructions exactly.  Walk about ten feet behind me.  When you see my ears twitch like this,” Purr’s ears bent slightly backward, “then quickly and quietly lay down on the floor.  Your life depends on it.”

Purr drew his pistol again, a Decker - accurate and deadly at close range - as Carl had witnessed.  Turning, Purr slowly walked back down the tunnel to Terminal 3.  Carl was divided about what to do, but there wasn’t time to analyze things.  Something about Purr inspired confidence, so he followed Purr’s directions.

Purr’s paws made absolutely no noise as he moved along close to the left tunnel wall.  Suddenly Purr stopped.  They were at a place where the tunnel took a 90-degree turn, and Carl knew the stairs back to Terminal 3 were only about twenty feet away.  The slight motion of Purr’s ears signalled Carl.  Instantly, he lay down on the hard, cold cement.  He had barely touched the floor when the scarred man lept from around the corner and fired!  It would have caught Carl square in the chest if he had been standing.  One shot was all the man had though, for Purr fired from less than a yard away, and the man rolled to the floor dead.

“Isn’t the game of life interesting?” commented Purr, holstering his pistol for the second time.  “I play to win.”

Carl was still lying on the floor.  Twice in less than half an hour he had been nearly killed.  He wasn’t sure how much more his nerves could take.

“You can get up now, Kitten.  The fun’s over.”

“F-f-f-fun…?” mumbled Carl as he picked himself up off the floor.  His dazed eyes took in Purr standing perfectly at ease.  “What’s happening around here?”  He shook his head to clear his thoughts. 

“I’ll explain everything over a cup of coffee.”

“No, I don’t even care.  Just get me back to the Pure Delight.  Why didn’t I listen to Scott and stay there?”

“You can do what you like,” said Purr casually, “but I have to talk with you first.”

Carl saw in Purr’s eyes that he was not going to take ‘no’ for an answer.  Besides, there was a lot here that didn’t make sense, and he wanted answers.  Carl gave a reluctant nod.

Carl followed Purr up the stairs, across the terminal to a small restaurant called Smokey Joes.  Purr wound his way through the tables to one by a large window overlooking the section of the spaceport where the Pure Delight was parked.  As Carl was seated, he began wondering who Purr was and if he could really trust him.  A mysterious aura surrounded Purr, yet Carl couldn’t help liking the smooth-talking cat.  Mixed emotions swirled inside Carl, fighting for dominance.  Purr had saved his life, but he has also killed five people, maybe six, that he could have taken in alive.  Glancing out the window at the tubes running from the spaceport to the various spaceships, his eyes rested on the Pure Delight.  He knew it wouldn’t be long until Scott came looking for him.  How would Scott react to all of this?

A few minutes later, Purr had his coffee steaming in front of him, and Carl had a glass of sweetened iced tea.  Carl was sitting facing the entrance to the restaurant.  His eyes watched the door for Scott.  It suddenly occurred to him that it was strange that a person like Purr would choose to sit with his back to the door, although it was more on a sideward angle than directly behind him.  Yet Purr just sat there calmly drinking his coffee.

After a few minutes of silence, Carl looked back at Purr.  His mind was reeling with questions.  Purr had promised answers.  But Purr was simply sitting there silently…waiting…for what?

Finally, Carl couldn’t stand those piercing cat eyes studying him any longer.  “That man with the scar, was he in charge of the other guys?” began Carl.  “And you knew he was there all the time, didn’t you?”  The words tumbled out.

“Slow down, Kitten.  We have plenty of time.”

“And I don’t like being called ‘Kitten’ either!”  Carl was surprised by his own sudden emotion.  It was as if his pent-up fear had burst the dam and rushed uncontrollably out.

A low purr revealed Purr’s amusement as he sipped his coffee.  Carl shot him a puzzled look, then took a sip of his own drink as he impatiently waited for Purr’s response.  He wasn’t sure he could trust his own voice again.  

“There was no connection between those five dogs and the man who tried to shoot you.  They were just local hoodlums out for some fun or money.  It doesn’t matter.  On the other paw, the man with the scar is an entirely different story.  It never ceases to amaze me how deaf you humans are.  If not for my excellent hearing, we would both be dead.  When I heard him in the tunnel, it wasn’t hard to guess he’d set an ambush for us.  After all, he was the infamous hitman known as Kilnow.  He is reputed to never have failed an assignment…but then he never met me before.”

“And why was he after you?”

“Wrong, Kitten.  It’s the other way around.  I was tracking him.  I only caught up with him when I learned who his next target was.”

“Who was that?” asked Carl, only half-interested, his glass partway to his mouth.

Purr picked up his own cup and took a sip.  He waited until Carl had set his glass down before replying.

“You were.”

Go to Chapter Three.

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