The once bright and rich hallways that invited guests to their luxury rooms are dark and bleak now. Most of the emergency lights are shattered, their glass crunching under Andreas’ feet as she runs for her life. The yells and screams of the other passengers seem to echo from everywhere. They are joined by the sounds of a battle and the roars of their invaders, the Cat Clan.
She looks back over her shoulders, seeing if she’s still being pursued. Her legs hits something hard and plastic. She tumbles forward, onto the object then crashes into the wall and falls face-first onto the floor.
The world dims a bit, but she slowly regains herself. The floor is wet as she lifts herself up. She looks back, in the minimal light, she sees an over-turned cleaning cart. Water from it’s bucket covers the floor.
She turns herself over and sits down, flipping her long, light brown hair off her face. She looks at her legs that border between teen gangly and young adult slender. Her adult-disapproving shorts and new favorite T-shirt is soaked. But that isn’t what begins to raise fear in her. She pats down her chest, her shorts, the floor around her, but all she finds is a broken gold chain.
“No!” she almost yells, forgetting where she is and what’s going on.
She gets on her hands an knees and begins a frantic search.
An explosion somewhere reminds her of the current peril. She looks down the hall she ran from. No one is there. No one is chasing her. But someone was there. Or some thing. She had heard of the Cat Clan. They were men dressed up like cats to intimidate their enemies. But what she saw in the dark, it was real. It had to be real! The darkness could have played with her mind, but she could have sworn she saw a cat’s head on the body of a man. His eyes, gleamed at her with predatory hunger. His cat-like ears folded back against his head. His teeth lunged for her.
She turns away from the hallway, closing her eyes tight, squeezing out some tears and hopefully, the image of what she saw.
She continues to look for the only thing that matters, the most important thing in her life. The last thing her father gave her before he died in her arms. A ring.
As a little girl, she remembered that ring never left his finger. She remembers how it glittered in the sun as he watched her build sand castles. She remembers the only time he took it off is when she asked to see it. She remembers how big it was in her hands, how two of her fingers fit inside it. Most of all, she remembers him. His gentleness, his strength, his love for her.
But when they moved from Italy to Australia, she remembers the unpleasant times. She remembers scary, intimidating men visiting her father. She remembers deals being made, and threats being said.
She remembers the night he was killed. She remembers going to him, holding his head, her crying, tears falling upon his face. She also remembers the last thing he ever did. He handed her his ring, he told her it was hers and that he loved her.
She remembers him dying, and how the world became indifferent and hard. In turn, she became indifferent and hard. Nothing mattered, except her father’s ring.
She also remembers the face of her father’s killer, and how much she hated him.
Her hand dances off something familiar.
“There!” Andreas whispers.
She reaches for it, but it’s gone.
“We’ve been looking for this.” an inhuman voice growls.
The Cat Clan that was pursuing her now stands over her. She can barely see him, clad in black. But an emergency light reveals his head, covered in short, black fur with hints of spots, like a panther. His yellow eyes stare into her like flames. His teeth gleam like white spikes of hunger. He holds out his hand, her ring rests in his palm, guarded by jagged, vicious claws.
Andreas moves back, bumping into the over-turned cleaning cart.
The Cat Clan moves towards her. “My master has wanted this since he sent that amateurish assassin to kill your father. Now that we have it, your father’s allies will join us. The profits from his illegal operations will belong to the Cat Clan!”
“You going to kill me?” Andreas asks. She prays that is her fate. At least she’ll be reunited with her father.
“No.” The Cat Clan replies, a grotesque smile in his voice. “We have other uses for you.”
A blur of grey zips over Andreas’ head and strikes the Cat Clan in the chest. He roars and reels back.
Sticking out of his chest, an arrow.
A black figure leaps over Andreas and attacks the Cat Clan. Despite the wound, the Cat Clan doesn’t roll over and die. He tears at Andreas’ savior, using his strength and claws to beat back his foe.
But the archer doesn’t give up. He takes the blows and slashes and gives back, with interest. His bow moves among the shadows with dark swiftness. Soon, the Cat Clan backs up, roaring with each strike from the mysterious bowman.
Finally, Andreas’ hero yanks the arrow from the Cat Clan’s chest, spins and plunges it into the feline’s temple.
The Cat Clan goes silent and falls to the floor.
Andreas watches her savior fall back against the wall. His breathing is winded and deep, but he still breathes.
“You ok?” he asks.
“Good.” he replies and he pushes himself off the wall. “My name is Iron Bow. Come with me, I’ll keep you safe.”
Andreas gets to her feet and goes to the Cat Clan’s body.
“What are you doing?”
“He took something of mine.”
The lights flicker and come on. Andreas sees the violence done to the Cat Clan. She recoils slightly. But when she sees her ring, she ignores everything and grabs it, holding it tightly in her hand.
“Powers on. Looks like we got control of the ship again. Did you find what you were looking for?”
Andreas stands smiling. “Yes I did.”
Andreas’ smile fades as she sees Iron Bow. He’s dressed in black, military-style combat outfit, modified to hold various arrow heads and equipment. But it’s his face she can’t forget. He may be older, has more scars. But she remembers him. How could she forget him.
He killed her father.
Iron Bow’s face changes too. From relief to remembrance. His past crashes into him like an out of control car. His memories from his youth are dark and brutal. Back then, he was reckless and violent. He’d do anything, kill anyone, if the money was right.
Except a little girl crying over the corpse of her father, staring at him with tear-filled eyes.
“You killed my father.” Andreas says quietly, still in shock.
“Yes. I did.”
Tears well up in Andreas’ eyes.
Iron Bow looks away from her, his shameful past washing over him.
A voice from the end of the hallway yells. “Bow! We gotta split!”
“I’m coming.” Iron Bow replies, his voice cracking with emotions that he hasn’t dealt with in a long time.
“You killed my father.” Andreas says again, with a growing confidence.
Iron Bow slips by her and starts to walk towards the end of the hall.
“You killed my father!” Andreas yells.
Iron Bow runs and disappears around the corner.
Andreas stands there motionless for a very long time.
She’s pulled out of her thoughts by one of her bodyguards. “Ms. Pry, we’ve been combing the ship looking for you! Are you ok?”
The bodyguard puts his arm around Andreas and leads her away.
She glances down at the ring and clutches it tight. When she looks up, vengeance fills her eyes.
Tales from the Infinatum Copyrighted © 2011 Mark James MacKinnon. Any use of these characters, without permission, is strictly prohibited. Any similarities to individuals, living or dead, is purely coincidental.