<———Chapter 21. Not the most talkative crowd Chapter 23.——>
The bush and foliage, if anything, grew thicker as Maverick and Scratch-Ear continued their journey.
To the Earthling it was as if the jungle was becoming more savage. Sweltering heat, blood thirsty insects, and the occasional deadly predator increased.
This was originally Gapachu land, or had been before the Cali pilfered it and made it their own.
Maverick looked over his shoulder at the Russian-blue cat. Scratch-Ear was short and looked like he belonged in some girl’s stuffed toy collection. He showed no obvious talents and Maverick had no idea what the cat’s role in this job was.
As they avoided a thicket of berries, Scratch-Ear arched his back and his tail raised. To Maverick it was as if he was watching some ally cat trying to stare down a rival. “Cali.” The feline hissed. “Maverick thing needs to be careful.”
‘Yep.‘ Maverick’s little demon said in a sarcastically. ‘The retard has some skills.‘ But his less asshole self reminded Maverick that not everyone had a map in their head.
For the thousandth time that morning, Maverick concentrated on the map Sydney had placed in his head.
Five red dots surrounded the pair in an ambush pattern with two more dot up a head of them.
It seemed that the bastards had been waiting for them from the moment the group went outside the picclo tree.
The Cali were pack hunters, first disabling their prey with darts laced with either poison or tranquilliser.
The prey would then run and spread the poison faster though its body, during this time the Cali would chase after it, herding the victim into an ambush or trap.
It was only recently that they had modified these hunting patterns to better suit their neighbours. No doubt they had something planed for a Gapachu who favoured the trees.
Maverick had to pretend that this was some kind of gang sting operation because showing fear was the last thing he wanted to do. He was just going for a walk, nothing more.
“You’re being paranoid.” Maverick said as casually as he could, “Here.” he picked up Scratch-Ear in an overly friendly manner.
The cat squirmed and fought hard to become free but Maverick needed none of it. If a chase did occur, separation was not an option.
But why was that?
Scratch-Ear was nothing to him, and he had long ago removed any passion of friendship. Friendship was just the prelude to tragedy.
Again he saw Nancy’s bitch face in his mind. She had taught him what friendship meant and that being dickless was not necessarily a bad thing.
“Anyway.” Maverick said giving the squirming cat a pat, “Anything tries to mess with us gets one fucking big shock when Incisor jumps down on their heads.” he pointed to the trees above which showed no sign of their comrade.
The Damu-Sarmi gazed upward but was not so convinced.
Gapachu were better suited towards stealth. One against one where the opponent would be unaware and let down their guard.
As he climbed over a log Maverick used this time to again examine his map, the two red dots up ahead had separated. One staying close to his previous whereabouts while the other raced towards them.
Maverick, having a good devious mind had a fair idea what this signalled and he held Scratch-Ear closer to his chest.
“Hey.” The cat protested and tried to get free of the suffocating experience. The cat’s squirming tested Maverick’s grip and patience.
The teenager gave a mental sigh of exhaustion.
The red dot that had tracked them last night was only a solitary scout. Maverick had no doubt that if he was alone that the scout would have attacked.
As it watched from the safety of the ferns and the rain, Maverick used half his strength to move the surrounding fallen trees and boulders. He let out that he intended to clean the area so that the rest of his treasure hunting crew would be comfortable.
It was a short term bluff, but he did let out that he received information on the whereabouts of the lost Gem of Castro.
The scout had watched him for most of the night till it ran in the direction of the Cali camp.
The rest of the night had been Maverick talking to Incisor about Cali tactics and behaviour and wait for the Cali to storm the picclo tree.
“Shit.” Maverick soothed trying to calm the brat in his arms. “I think I heard something.” This of course was a lie as Maverick had not caught a single glimpse of anything they might scream ‘dangerous predator.’
At first Maverick had the sinking suspicion that he was putting far too much faith in the gifts given to him by a squid alien right out of a monster movie but his paranoid mind, honed from years of dealing with contraband, told him that he was not wrong.
He was being hunted and he did not like it.
As if Maverick’s words held a magic, the environment became sombre and still.
The birds became silent, the vermin in the area stopped what they were doing, and the only sounds came from the breeze passing through the trees.
Scratch-Ear sensed the change and his cute cat ears bent back in anticipation.
Neither Maverick nor his partner had to wait long as a rustle of leaves signalled the arrival of something mean and pissed off, was right behind them.
Maverick didn’t wait to turn his head, he ran like he just got a call a runway model was a block away and completely nude.
Just as Incisor had told him, the Cali let out a barrage of poisonous darts upon his person. Most hit his back but due to the missiles being constructed from bone they bounced off grey spandex.
Two darts, however, managed to penetrate Maverick’s unprotected skin and injected their venomous payloads into his blood stream.
“Son of a bitch.” Maverick cried, not because of the drug but from the shock of being hit.
“Run like a bitch.” He screamed knowing that the Cali were right behind him, enjoying the thrill of the chase.
“Scratch-Ear would.” Scratch-Ear her shouted back trying to fight the giant’s grip. “If you would let Scratch-Ear go.”
There was no time to do anything but run and curse.
Maverick had no idea what a Cali looked like but he was sure they were big, mean, and drank scorpion venom out of the skulls of infants. He was also sure they were close enough behind him to bite a large chunk out of his ass in a comical fashion.
The bastards were herding the pair.
The logical side of Maverick’s brain told to not run in a straight line, but right that section of his brain was currently being attacked by Maverick’s scared shitless neurons.
The snap of twigs and leaves were the only warning Maverick and the small cat in his arms had before the ground below them broke away.
“Shit.” Maverick screamed as he fell down and down into the darkness.
The thud and the feeling that his stomach was where his lungs should have been were the only indicators that Maverick and Scratch-Ear had hit the ground.
The Cali had led them to a trap.
That had been the purpose of those two red dots.
Judging from how deep the hole was, the pitfall had been built months, maybe years ago.
It stood to reason that the two red dots had spent the time cleaning out the pit trap and covering it up for it next occupant. Otherwise known as the dumbshits who were currently in it.
From the smell and disgustingly soft ground where Maverick had fallen, the last occupant liked its Mexican food.
“Eww.” Maverick moaned in disgust. By pure will power he held in the urge to vomit and wipe his hands on his soiled clothes. “Sonva…”
Fearing a toe to toe battle with both Maverick and a Gapachu, the Cali had decided to take no chances. They had separated Maverick from Incisor with their marry chase and were now at a clear advantage.
From above, Maverick could see a clear shadow, most likely one of those Cali bastards. “You could have just asked for a chat.”
The teenager looked up to find that Scratch-Ear had sunk his claws into the flesh of his arm to the point that the two had become welded together.
“Get off me, dumbass.” The teenager yelled and tried to shake the pitiful little kitten towards the opening. With luck the bugger would fly up and be greeted by a spear. “Ah. Fuck ya.”
The Damu-Sarmi failed to release his hold and instead ripped horrible gashes into Maverick’s arms, allowing shit, urine, and whatever else was down in that hole to seep in.
As Maverick tried to be free of the offending nuisance a voice that was little more than a growl came above. “Why is it still awake?”
Maverick could answer that though kept his lips sealed.
Doctor Tachibana had taken Incisor’s darts and examined the Gapachu’s body. With the use of futuristic medical equipment she had been able to synthesis a anti-toxin and upgrades against the parasites that made Bracëo their home.
It was just one more thing on his doctor’s bill.
It had taken ten minutes for a very smelly Maverick and Scratch-Ear to get fished out of the pit trap.
The damage was not that bad. His cleaning bill, however would not be as pleasant.
Now all Maverick had to do was remove the shit stained cat that was still attached to his arm and he would able to talk their murderous pursuers like a civilised person.
He was not given time to compose himself, however, as a sharp crude spear was shoved at his throat.
Smelling like a toilet and having a smelly little Damu-Sarmi for an armband. Maverick came face to face with the dreaded Cali.
“Oh, shit.” He said in that way people do when they realise that things just got worse.
If the Damu-Sarmi were tabby cats in shorts and the Gapachu were Aztec panthers, then the Cali were a society of Zulu lions. Very big, bloody lions, that looked as if being pissed off was their default emotion.
It also appeared as if the Cali worked in the same way as their Earth counterparts as there did not appear to be a single male within the group. A pure female hunting party all of whom were pointing their spears at Maverick and his timid companion.
The largest of the pack and the obvious leader pulled back her lips and displayed her teeth. She was a true amazon killer; her golden fur was covered in red war paint and she held a nasty looking crude machete composed of obsidian while her sisters wielded spears.
But what drew Maverick’s attention was that the women in front of him wore nothing more than a loincloth.
The leader raised her machete to Maverick’s throat and though a butter knife had more than an edge to it, he knew getting hit by it was not an experience he would have liked to endure.
But it was not the stone blade that caught Maverick’s attention, it were the Cali, or to be more specifically it was the leader’s twin naked, pointy breasts.
It was wrong. Maverick knew that but he could not help it, but it was like those education magazines about professors who went to live with some Papua New Guinea tribe that had yet to invent shame.
You knew you should be ashamed for skipping the pages to get to the women with odd looking breasts, but at the same time you shouldn’t because it was a completely acceptable magazine to read in class.
It just went to show you that even with a weapon pointed at their head and the possibility of death about to descend on them; reproductive organs or not, a boy was going to stare at a pair, or in this case three pairs of tits, regardless of species barrier.
The stripper lioness growled menacing while showing a set of yellow fangs, but Maverick was still captivated by the woman’s dangling breasts.
Maverick would have felt shame but all he felt was a sense of loss.
All of this confusion awakened a dread within the teenager that if he did not get some familiar reproductive organs and soon he would have no idea how to use them when he changed his body.
An sigh escaped Maverick as he mourned for his lost penis.
“Don’t kill me.” Maverick said half-heartedly. He would have put more energy in his begging but at this point the Maverick was trying to find a reason to go on.
The obsidian blade drew blood. “Give Hunu reason not to kill hairless thing and steal your strength.” Her brown eyes crossed to Scratch-Ear. “Or put Damu-Sarmi in soup pot.”
Monkey cat soup. Hmm. Sounds like it should belong in a Chinese restaurant. Maverick thought and eyed the other females.
The Cali leader appeared the oldest among them, a team leader, the alpha of the pact that had survived were others had died. While Hunu kept her focus on him her sisters glanced up at the trees with suspicion as if they were waiting for something evil to strike down on them.
With nothing else. Maverick played his first, last, and only card.
A simple honest grin crossed his face, the same one he gave to all his clients that asked for that special something they could not get in stores. “Cause I can find the War-Chiefs’ lost sacred weapon.”