Silence roared over the night-cloaked docks, not even a shard of moonlight glittering along the sleek hulls of the few spaceships still left in the on-world port. A figure of shadow nestled into the niche in one craft’s landing gear, nary a sound betraying its presence, and darkness-obscured eyes gazed into the seemingly calm midnight air–fresh and cool, so markedly different from packaged oxygen that spacers breathe in their ships and space stations–waiting.

A soft-metal noise echoed through the quiet–pause–rang out softly again. There.

The shadow-robed figure’s keen hearing didn’t pick up on the nearly inaudible touch of unshod pawpads on the thickrubber-lined walkway between individual docks until a tall, muscular form could barely be discerned against the greyish bulk of background shapes. By then, the midnight walker was nearly upon the hidden one, and the chance was nearly lost. But not quite.

The walking creature sprang backwards in lightning-quick reflex as a piece of the night’s darkness detached from its shadowy brethren and lunged at her. Thick, guttural laughter rolled out, rough against sensitive ears, and the walker landed in a defensive crouch, a silent snarl baring long, pearly fangs.

A small light–far dimmer than even a candle’s fickle flame–burst into existence with a sharp click, casting relatively stark shadows against the docks and temporarily blinding night-accustomed eyes.

A shot rang out, and more laughter came with it.

The assassin grinned mirthlessly at seeing the beautiful white body of a feline, so delicately striped in thin charcoal streaks, sprawled bonelessly on the walkway. In a second, he imagined, a pool of fresh, crimson blood would stain that lovely pelt and begin seeping towards his booted paws. “Not much of a warrior, after all,” he hissed under his breath, eyes devouring every inch of his kill hungrily. “Just a rogue who managed to fool everyone into thinking she was some sun-blessed–”

One full-body convulsion threw the feline into the air–she twisted–landed on all fours–shot forward like a bullet from a high-powered sniper rifle, like the bullet with which he had shot her–

Only there was no blood on that perfect fur, no gaping hole in her flesh–

“Gllgrrgh!” the assassin choked, finding his prized weapon knocked from shock-loosened fingers and one strong hand gripping his throat with the strength of a steel vice. A feline face stared into his, the faint, musical ringing of silvery earrings the only sound in a suddenly-silent night. The hand-held light rolled with precise slowness down the slight slope… the same way her blood should have trickled in a lush scarlet river…

The cat said nothing, clawtips pricking her enemy’s skin just hard enough to draw four tiny beads of blood, as golden eyes stared into stormcloud-grey ones with the ferocity of every feral beast to ever prowl a primeval jungle–


The assassin wanted desperately to swallow, but found that he couldn’t.

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