Chapter 1

What a strange world he had landed on. Six trotted along the dusty streets, staring in wonder at all of the strange and bizarre creatures. He had never seen anything like them before. But then again, being stuck in a laboratory for most of his life really didn't help. At least he knew Common, which was what he was hearing a lot of among these odd creatures.

Trotting past vendor after vendor, he finally stopped around a corner and looked out at another street. This one was even busier. He perked his ears when he heard two of the strange creatures near him start talking.

"I hear the Ssala want to try to take over Lawless again," stated the tall, hairless humanoid with slate blue skin and nostrils like slits in its face. Its ears were ribbed and the cartilage stuck out of the skin, swirling downwards in delicate, graceful spirals. He glanced at the stout, stocky, heavily furred humanoid standing next to him. It seemed to take a moment to speak, its mouth broad and lacking lips, and nearly a tongue, so it probably found speaking difficult.

"T'ere's no way t'ey could. T'at would be foolish. T'ere's no way t'ey could get pas' t'e space ring! T'ey should know t'at by now! Last time t'ey tried t'ey got blasted from t'e sky!"" He spoke slowly, concentrating on every word. Suddenly, a huge furred humanoid beast bent over and looked the furless one in two of its three eyes. He backed off, being so thin and the furry tall one being so muscular.

"Where'd you hear this, Vorishki?" The canid type humanoid brandished his giant axe.

The hairless humanoid, a Vorishki, grinned crookedly in fear, showing the flat teeth of an herbivore. "Um, from a zaz slave. He said his master was talking about it during a formal dinner. I don't know if he was just joking or not, but I figure it should be taken seriously. You know, just in case!"

The short furry humanoid stepped in between the two. The canid humanoid was starting to look aggressive. "Hey now. Back off t'ere, Dog. He was just sharin' some gossip. No need to get mad at him!" Despite the size difference, the Dog's glare was one more of caution then of anger. He backed away. Obviously this little creature was one to fear. He was probably very powerful, not to mention quite ugly.

"The zaz are spineless cowards, bowing at the feet of their masters ... and it was your kind, torint, that put them there!" The Dog turned and left, his thin reptilian like tail whipping about madly.

Six had stood silently and completely still as the events had unfolded. Storing away all that he had witnessed, he left the scene and wondered away down the busy street. He passed all forms of unbelievable creatures. Some looked alright but others he couldn't even have had nightmares of if he wanted to. After dodging a ten-hoofed creature that groaned strangely at him, he finally caught the smell of food. His stomach growling, he went for it.

He was digging through some sacks, going after some salted meat he could smell when he felt a sharp sting on his back. He whipped around with a yowl, his long ears laid back. A smaller humanoid was holding some long snaking tendril type object in his hand and glaring at him. "Shoo, you rabid beast!" He raised the object back over his head. Six, not knowing that this was where the first sting had come from, lunged at him, angered by his insult. But the resulting sting and the force of the blow knocked him off the wagon and onto the hard earth. Dazed and confused, he struggled to his paws and staggered away. He had never encountered anything like that before!

He wandered for several more hours. The stinging weapon had left some open wounds on him, which had caked with blood. He stopped a few times, panting in the heat. He wanted water desperately. He had never realized how harsh life really was, having been cramped up in the laboratory. He had never experienced heat like this, or this kind of pain. He got up and started looking for water. He had not eaten in days and that did not help his ill temper.

He wandered some more until he again caught the smell of food. He trotted over to an open door and peered in. He looked up at a fat little humanoid that appeared in front of him. "Shoo, creature. Go on home." He snarled and the little man backed off in fear. Six stepped into the building after him, but a gentle feminine voice interrupted him. He glanced up at a tall, young female humanoid, who appeared to have soft plum colored tattoos all over her body. He didn't really know if they were natural or not, but they were extremely intricate. She looked down on him with a gentle smile.

"Aww, Jarrin, the little guy is just hungry. Look at him; he's nothing but skin and bones! C'mon little kitty. You look like you've had a rough day."

The male, Jarrin, snorted. "I don't run a soup kitchen for every stray animal that wonders by. If you feed him it'll be off your tab, Cyoba!" He waddled off further into the building where the food smell was coming from, and the sounds of many people enjoying themselves. Six glared up at this female, Cyoba, expecting her to try and shoo him off as well. But she just smiled and reached out her hand. Immediately, Six's hackles rose, and his extremely long, furry tail stuck out behind him rigidly, adding more than twice his body length to him. His thin mane puffed out to protect his throat, and his ears, the same length as his body, shot back against his head. He bared his long vampiric fangs and exposed his black gums. Startled, Cyoba drew back.

"It's alright little guy. I won't hurt you. I've never seen your kind before. Are you sentient?" She glanced him over, and stared in wonder at his black gums and tongue and throat, which contrasted sharply with his pearly teeth. They were like any felines, but for the top fangs that could be called sabers if they stuck out of his mouth, but lytins had evolved the ability to hide all of their natural weapons very well. Of course, she didn't know this and was greatly surprised.

Six nodded only once to her question, slowly letting his fur settle and his tail relax. She smiled again at him, showing her teeth. Immediately Six backed off, snarling at her, not realizing it was a kind gesture. She hid her teeth and waved her hands. "Oh no, feline, I wasn't snarling at you. It is the way my kind shows kindness. I'm sorry." She waved her hand for him to follow, which he understood well enough, and he followed cautiously.

He stopped in the doorway as Cyoba went further in over to a fire and poured some liquid into a bowl. She then came back with it and placed it in front of him. She smiled again without showing her own long canines. Six glanced at her in surprise, but didn't need any encouragement. He immediately dug in, gobbling up the food quickly, his stomach demanding it. He lapped up the remaining stew and, licking his thin black lips, he glanced up at Cyoba who looked down on him, smiling the whole time.

"Well, I'm glad you stumbled across here, cat. You look like a few more days and you'd be dead. It's all I can give you though, so maybe you should go home, if you have one. I know there are plenty of places to sleep, like under homes and the like, where it's warm. I hope to see you again." She grinned at him, showing her teeth again, and turned away, going back to work. Six cocked his head, watching her leave. He looked down at the empty bowl and over at the pot that she had gotten it from, then thought better. She had obviously gotten in trouble for feeding him already so if he took more than she had given, she might get in bigger trouble. With great effort, he trotted off down the street and away.

It was nighttime. The sun had gone down and Six was searching for these places that Cyoba had told him of, but all the houses he had looked at where closed up underneath. He glanced behind some garbage bins when he heard some snarling. This sound he knew only too well. He whirled around to snarl back, but it wasn't directed at him. At the end of the alley, a pack of dark colored canines had cornered a humanoid. It was trying to hold them back with a small lantern, but the strange beasts kept coming closer. Finally, the humanoid started calling for help and Six recognized her voice.

Cyoba had not had to deal with Dark Dogs for years, as the city patrol was fairly good at keeping them out, but tonight they had her cornered. She waved her small light, hoping it would cause them to back away, but they didn't even seem to notice. Their sightless sockets did not see her as she was, but their noses told them where she was, their torn ears could hear her every pounding heartbeat. But they were too busy to notice that they were being stalked. Just as Cyoba started screaming for help, one of the Dark Dogs screamed in pain and fell snarling, trying to turn to fight whatever had landed on its back. The other dogs turned as well, snarling and leaping onto their comrade. But the intruder had leapt away and they ended up tearing their own pack member to shreds.

Then another one yelped and the pack turned on it, driven by the need to kill all weak creatures. The smell of their own blood drove them mad and they turned on each other. Suddenly, one pulled away from the battle, having caught the scent of the intruder and leapt at him. Cyoba raised her lantern as some shouts sounded down the street. More humanoids came with their torches and lights and shined it over the battle. Cyoba gasped.

"It's the cat I fed earlier." She could hardly believe her eyes as Six tore and tumbled with the far larger beast. The fur of the dogs began to sizzle in the light and they howled eerily in pain and took off for the woods. But the one stayed, driven by pain and the smell of blood all around it. Six was driven by hunger and anger, the relentless training of a half a dozen decades, hatred at a creature he didn't know, and some strange sense of honor that he had never had before.

The Dark Dog lunged at him and knocked him off his feet, tearing at him. Yowling and hissing and snarling, he fought back with his teeth and his claws until finally, blood loss and the burning of the light against this nightmare beast's skin took its toll. It collapsed on top of Six, breaking some ribs. Six began to choke, suffocating under the weight of the giant canine. His vision began going dark as he saw Cyoba looking over him, hearing the males who had come with their lights trying to heave the beast off of him. Finally, he passed out, the world slipping from his mind.

[Chapter 2]

Six heard a fire crackling. It was near him, and he could feel its comfortable warmth. He also had something like fur over his body. He tried to move but his body was tightly bound. He struggled to open his eyes, to see where he was. He could hear three sets of heartbeats, and he could smell several strange things in the room with him. He heard the soft fluttering of feathered wings and something small land in front of him.

"Hey, Cyoba," the creature said in a high pitched voice, "I think it's waking up." Six felt something poke him on the side of his pounding head, but all he could do was growl softly in warning. It immediately stopped and he could tell the little creature was cowed.

"Decay, stop that. Don't touch him. He's probably in a lot of pain. Leave him alone; let him rest. He still has a lot of healing to do!"

Six couldn't stay awake long enough to hear the rest. The pain took him back under, back into a dark and miserable world, a world of needles, of tests, of probing, of endless battles for survival against much larger and stronger opponents. A place surrounded by the strange and repulsive Albinos, the scientists of his species. They didn't even resemble a lytin, their fur colorless, their eyes a watery blue, their noses unable to smell much of anything, their tails and ears almost missing, their back legs much shorter than their front as they could stand upright for long periods of time, and had real hands. They had no male or female, all of them cloned in the laboratories. And he saw their ugly white flat faces, hovering over him, laughing, inspecting, finding every little problem with him, causing the pain that had become his existence.

But then there was a gentle hand and a soft voice that broke through his feverish nightmares. It kept him afloat, kept him above the drowning in the cruel experiments the Albinos put him through to test his incredible strength. And he looked for that hand, whimpered for it, purred when he felt it. He tried to listen to the voice, to make out the words, but he couldn't, they mingled with the words of the Albinos. But it was always there, keeping him from leaving this plane.

Again the sounds of the world came to him. Six struggled and managed to open his bloodshot tawny eyes. He rolled his eyes around to look at the room in which he lay, bound in bandages and tucked into a fur blanket, resting on a soft bed of furs. He was still very weak, but he managed to look over at what he realized was a door. It had a small flap in it down near the bottom. The wind howled outside, and Six could tell it was dusk. He only heard one heartbeat, which suddenly appeared next to him. He strained and turned his head to look at it. A pair of giant golden eyes stared back at him in curiosity.

"Are you a lytin?" The little black cat with the feathered wings reached out and touched one of his long, pierced ears. He batted at one of Six's golden loop earrings. Six growled at him, showing his fangs weakly. The cat backed off.

"Hey now, I'm not going to steal it! Why does everyone think Meowls steal everything they touch? Oh, um, here." He hooked the earring back into its hole carefully. "It apparently fell out. Better get some new ones that don't fall out so easily!"

Suddenly, the door opened and the Meowl grinned and leapt into the air, fluttering over to Cyoba. "He's awake!" the Meowl announced all importantly.

Cyoba came over and knelt down next to Six, reaching out her hand to touch him. Six bared his teeth again weakly, snarling. Cyoba drew back and shook her head. "I won't hurt you. You saved my life. I saved yours. I suppose we're even."

Six eyed her suspiciously, then glanced over at the small cat. He knew what Meowls were. He had learned that they were relatives of lytins. A feline like himself. That he might be able to trust. But the humanoid? Probably not.

Looking back to Cyoba as she stood with a sigh, he watched her move over to the fire where she took a cauldron from next to the hearth and handed it to the Meowl. "Decay, go get some water. And if you see anything edible..." She didn't get to finish her sentence. The Meowl had vanished in the blink of an eye. He already knew what she was going to say.

Then Cyoba picked up a knife from a counter in the corner and disappeared into another room. She emerged with some dried meat strips and began to cut them into small pieces. She didn't look at Six, who watched her with interest and distrust. "Were you hurt a lot, little guy? Did someone abuse you? You have whip wounds on your side, and you have the number six tattooed four times on your left leg. Did you escape from a prison?"

Six huffed quietly. A prison it had been indeed, but likely not the kind she was thinking. And abuse didn't begin to cover all the things he had been through since he had been taken from his parents. What abuse is worse than watching your parents gunned down before your young eyes so that your corrupt government could take you and experiment with you? Six couldn't think of anything. But he didn't respond. He didn't feel strong enough, or even inclined to say anything. He didn't think she needed to know anything about him.

After a few moments of silence, Cyoba spoke again, quietly. "You can at least tell me your name."

Six glanced at her. He pondered for a moment. He didn't really have a name. The Albinos called him Six for the four six's that they had tattooed onto this left rear leg. In his society, six meant evil, and four meant death. It took Six some effort, but he finally managed to croak out, "Six."

"Six? That's a number, not a name." She watched him carefully now, hoping to see some emotion from this cold and strange creature. Six neither looked at her nor gave much indication that he had heard her.

Suddenly, Decay reappeared and dropped the cauldron filled with water on the ground. He then vanished again, then reappeared a few seconds later with some green plants his arms, then again and again vanished and reappeared with some things, including wood, herbs, an apin –which was larger than he was and must have taken all his skill and strength to catch- and some roots. When he was finished, he plopped onto Cyoba's shoulder and curled around her neck and went to sleep. Cyoba smiled and scratched him behind his giant ears. "You're as helpful as you are annoying and adorable!" Of course, he was already snoring softly, so he didn't hear it.

Moving so as not to dislodge her little furry cargo, Cyoba got around to making a hearty soup. When it was done, she poured some into a wooden bowl and placed it in front of Six. He strained his long thin llama-like neck and gobbled down his food, then lowered his head back onto his bed and fell asleep, lulled by the good food, his full belly, and his comfortable warm bed. Cyoba only smiled and touched him gently. He looked so peaceful when he slept. Such an incredible transition.

Six awoke all alone. There was a wooden bowl sitting in front of him, but its contents were cold. Feeling stronger, Six raised his head and looked around. Sunlight streamed in through the far window near the door and the two windows on either side of the hearth. The fire had died now, but it was fairly warm without it. Struggling, his legs trembling under him, Six stood and hobbled over the door. He needed to go outside and relieve himself. He studied the door, and pushed the little wooden flap with his head. It swung open easily.

He growled, knowing that it was going to be a tight squeeze. He struggled, but finally managed to get his whole body out. He was still wrapped in bandages, which were itchy and restrictive, but he would deal with those later. He made his way to the bushes and answered Nature's call. Then he looked around, glad to be out of that tiny cabin. He hobbled his way around the cabin, stretching his cramped legs. When his muscles and joints felt loose enough, he stopped in front of the door and pondered whether or not he should even go back in. Certainly, he owed the humanoid for helping him more than she needed to to repay her debt to him.

Something struck Six in his side. Snarling and yowling in surprise and some pain, he turned to attack whatever had struck him. He looked up at a strange, black beast. He had no idea what it was, could never even have imaged such a creature. It was the pitchest black he had ever seen and it looked like a starved version of what he had seen in the town called a horse. It had scales along its belly and no eyes in its eternal sockets. Its nostrils flared and it snorted and whinnied as if in fear. It pranced on long gangly legs and looked behind it before dodging around Six and hiding behind him.

Six didn't have much chance to worry about the black creature for some strange horned canines came galloping out of the woods after it. They snarled and stopped before Six, bristling and showing their fangs. Six knew what this was: a threat!

Six forgot about his pain and his wounds and leapt into action. Before any of the canines could react, he had torn through their ranks and had slashed and bitten most of them. Confused and dazed, the leader barked and fled back into the woods. The rest of the pack began to follow him when another beast emerged. This was a larger version of the black creature still hiding behind Six. It neighed angrily, a demonic sound, and reared, bringing its huge hooves down on the heads of the nearest canines, which flattened with a wet crunch. It stomped its massive skirted hoof and snorted angrily at the other canines that were fleeing for their lives back into the forest.

The creature then turned toward Six, its eyeless sockets never blinking or showing emotion. Six stood with his hackles raised, his bandages hanging on him loosely, a few of his wounds opened and oozing slightly. He was still unbearably thin, his ribs clearly visible through his shaggy green tinted fur, his hips and shoulders protruding disturbingly, his gut pinched in unhealthily. But he was ready to fight, ready to do whatever he needed to do to protect himself. That had been trained into him.

The horse beast reared suddenly with an angry neigh, bringing its bloody hooves in position to crush his skull, when the little black horse leapt in front of Six. It whinnied and pranced about in front of Six, staying between its parent and its savior. Startled, Six took a few steps back, waiting to see the next move of the larger horse. After a moment, it brought its front hooves back to the earth and snorted at Six, shaking its head. Then it nuzzled its child and turned, cantering off back into the woods. The little one stopped and glanced back at Six with a soft whinny before bounding after its parent.

Pondering this, Six looked down at the great hoof prints. He could have curled up in one with room to spare. It was twice the height of Cyoba, at least. And with its apparent eyeless sockets it seemed to be more like those Dark Dogs that he had fought.

"Great Mother Maerin!" Six whirled with bared fangs at the little Decay that had appeared near him but smartly out of his reach. "Did you just make friends with a Night Horse? I don't believe it! Wait 'til Cyoba hears about this!" He fluttered over to the dead canines and shook his head. "Poor Volves. They should have known better. Night Horses are extremely protective of their babies. Oh well." He then fluttered over and landed in front of Six. "You shouldn't be out fighting anyone! Your wounds are all open again! Cyoba won't be happy!"

Six snorted with a bared fang, showing he didn't consider it a big deal. He limped back to the house, squeezing in through the door, which wasn't as hard this time with his stiff joints having been exercised. He limped back to his bed and spun around a few times before lying down and curling his fluffy tail around his body twice. If his head were not poking out he would have looked exactly like a pile of leaves with his many shades of brown and some green and a couple of white dapples like sunlight. The patterns were just like leaves piled atop one another, the top ones being still somewhat alive while the rest were rotting away. His tail fur was even rough and added texture to the camouflage.

The black Meowl pushed open the door after him, even though he easily could have just teleported into the house. But he peered in after Six to make sure it was safe. He then hopped in and stared at him with his huge golden eyes. His giant ears and tiny muzzle marked him as nothing more than a 50 year old, and among Meowls, that was not even old enough yet to breed. He was a kitten still, even though he acted a little older. If he acted like a kitten, Six would have killed him by now. But he remained at a distance, far enough to be able to teleport in case Six turned on him, but close enough to start pushing Six's bubble.

"I've never seen a lytin like you," he stated, coming a little closer and sniffed his tail fur before retreating when Six bent his head to sniff back. "I never thought a lytin was all that mean like you, but you just beat up everyone! Why do you do that? And why are you mean to Cyoba? She's just trying to be nice!"

Six cocked his head and flicked an ear in irritation. Now he was acting like a kitten. But he stopped before snarling, thinking about the question. He glanced out the window for a moment, then looked down at the bowl of food that still lay before him. On the small table near him was a brush. He could vaguely recall Cyoba brushing what fur was poking though his bandages. His tail was free of the tangles and mats that had built up over the months he had been on his own in his space ship, and on this planet. And what was visible of his mane was also free of tangles. Even the long tufts of fur at the ends of his ears where soft and mat-free. The bandages that covered him were always clean and fresh, preventing his wounds from getting infected. He remembered her pressing stinging herbs against his worst wounds.

Six looked at Decay, who had been watching him quietly the whole time. "She's nice." He turned away, laying his head on his tail, ignoring the little Meowl. Decay sneered a bit and fluttered away, landing on the counter of the kitchen. He snorted and curled up before licking his paws and face clean. Six watched him through hooded eyes, curious about this strange feline species he had only read of. If nothing else, he had been well educated during his time spent in the laboratories.

Time passed quickly and Six soon realized he had been dozing the whole day. When he woke up, Cyoba was home and sitting in her rocking chair in front of the fire next to him. Startled, he raised his head and looked up at her, blinking at the bright light of the flames. Cyoba looked down at him and smiled gently. "Good evening, Six. I guess you must have been really tired after your fight. You didn't even wake up when I changed your bandages. I was afraid I was going to have to resew some of your wounds. You opened them up pretty badly. But at least that Night Horse didn't get you. Then no amount of bandages could have helped you."

Six snorted and glared at Decay who hung on her shoulder, his paws and head hanging down as he slept. He looked like a little toy, and for some odd reason, Six thought it was cute. He used to have toys, when he lived with his parents. He had a stuffed morith, an odd, semi-sentient feline with three toed hooves and huge ears which lived in the deserts of Lawless, though back then he didn't know that. He remembered sleeping with it, keeping it warm with his small fluff of a tail. It had been his best friend as all the other kipps had been afraid of him and his immense, unnatural strength. And it was that strength that had gotten his parents murdered and his "Mo-Mo" burned with the rest of the house.

Sighing, the memories reminding him how much he had changed, he struggled to his paws. Cyoba watched him quietly, curious and cautious. Six moved over to her side and sat down next to her, his head bowed to be leveled with her hand. Surprised, Cyoba hesitated, then smiled and reached out, laying her hand on his head gently. Six figured it was the least he could do to show his appreciation for her kindness. No one else had shown him much of any kind of kindness at all in all these years. And after a few minutes, he realized he liked the gentle stroking of his head and neck. Without meaning to, a gentle purr rattled his throat, which surprised him more than Cyoba.

Soon Cyoba got up and got busy making dinner. Six followed her into the kitchen and stood at the entrance watching her. Decay seemed to be glued somehow to her shoulder, even though he hung on her limply on both sides as if he were dead. Every now and then she'd stop and scratch his chin or ruffle his ears affectionately. When Cyoba had cut the meat and vegetables and herbs and poured them all into the hanging pot already filled with water, she lifted it and moved it over to the hearth, placing the heavy pot on a swinging hanger which she then swung into the fireplace. She stayed near it, stirring it every few minutes.

When the food was ready, she poured some for Six and placed it on the ground. He lapped it out of the bowl nearly faster than she could pour another bowl for herself. He peered up and she chuckled. "You have a good appetite at least. It's about time, too. You're not much more than skin and bones."

Once she had given him another bowl, she sat down to eat her share. After a while, Six noticed that he could hear the faint beating of a third heart. He looked about curiously but didn't see or smell anybody else. Then he perked his ears and looked at Cyoba. Now everything was more focused and he could hear it louder. Blinking in surprise, he looked at her in confusion. Her belly looked slightly swollen, which he had at first thought was something her species just had, like the Meowl's wings. Now he realized it was something else.

He padded over and sat in front of Cyoba, perked his ears and looked at her belly again, this time very deliberately. Cyoba stopped eating and looked down at where he was staring. Then she laughed and touched her belly gently. "It's a baby, Six. Doesn't your kind carry their babies in their bodies?"

Six glanced up at her grinning face and realized this time it wasn't kindness but rather humor. Finding it to be awkward, he forced himself to grin back, but it was crooked and must have looked chagrin because she only burst out laughing again. Decay stirred and opened his eyes sleepily. He yawned and rubbed his eyes with his massive ungainly paws. "Whaz so funny?" he asked with the slurred speech of exhaustion.

Cyoba scratched his ears as she chuckled. "Go back to sleep, Decay." It didn't take him long to obey. He was soon back to snoring softly and hanging limply. She smiled. "He really can be such a help sometimes, but the rest of the time he's being too cute to strangle for his annoyingness. Meowls are a real piece of work."

Then Cyoba turned back to her belly, which harbored the growing child. She sighed sadly, suddenly depressed. Six felt her change instantly and drew closer, his ears perked, his eyes locked on her unblinkingly. She rubbed her stomach and drew very quiet, and Six could see a memory engulfing her, her eyes going to somewhere far away. There was pain there, fear and pain. Six felt a fury rising in his core, but it was not towards Cyoba. He was angry at the memory that was hurting her. He couldn't explain it, didn't understand it, but he wanted to stop it, wanted to take away her pain.

Finally, unable to hold it in any longer, he did the first thing that came to mind. Why that particular action had been the first thing in his mind, he'll never know. But he leapt to his feet and began to chase his tail. Cyoba blinked in utter surprise and stared at him in amazement. Then she burst out laughing and doubled over, accidentally letting Decay slide off her shoulder and hit the ground, where he vanished and appeared in the air with his eyes wide open. When he saw Six chasing his tail, he grinned and fluttered down, then grabbed hold of Six's tail and was whipped into the circle.

Suddenly, Six couldn't hold it in any longer. He started to wiggle his nose madly, which was his species' way of laughing. And because Decay was grinning and Cyoba was grinning, he grinned too. It was still crooked for some reason, supposedly he didn't have control of the muscle there, but it gave him a charming and shy look. Now he was chasing after Decay who clung to his tail laughing hysterically, and Six could have easily caught him with his tail being so long, but he made wide circles, pretending to be trying desperately to catch the little winged cat. And for that night, after 60 long years of torture and isolation, Six felt whole and happy.

[Chapter 3]

Six awoke and stretched as the sun poured into the cabin. He then noticed that Decay was curled up next to him. Blinking, he remembered how he had been playing with the kitten as if he, too, were a kipp again. It seemed to him as if he had made up all his lost year of kipphood just last night. Now if only he could make up his kippling years, when he was a teenager by most humanoid standards, he'd be the happiest cat on the planet. He was in his 70's and still had no family. In another 20 odd years, if he were still on his planet, he would be forcibly sterilized to be prevented from breeding and overpopulating, even though he would easily live another few hundred years. But he had lost those years, and no amount of pretending would bring them back.

Sighing, Six stood up and wandered over to the swinging door and pushed it open, going out to relieve himself. The sun was fairly high, marking it past Sun Zenith. When he emerged from the bush, Decay was waiting for him. He gave a huge grin and fluttered up into the air. "C'mon, Six, let's play!" He dived in and touched Six's ear, then fluttered away. "Tag, you're it! Now catch me if you can!" Six blinked, then huffed. How easy it would be to catch that little brat! He bound after the black fuzz ball and followed him into the woods. It wasn't long before he lost sight of his prey, but he could still smell and hear the little cat and continued to pursue.

Soon he found himself standing before a small cave, made up of some rocks piled atop one another. He stopped at the entrance and sniffed around, then poked his head into the little cave and bared his teeth in a half grin, half snarl. Decay pouted. "Not fair."

Six snorted. Of course it was fair! What a kitten! "Brat," he growled. He began to trot off when Decay appeared in front of him.

"Whoa! Don't go this way, Six! There's bad critters living out that way! Feral Dog-Birds! They're a mean bunch! They're always starving and kill and eat anything and everything they can sink their fangs into. You thought those Volves were no problem, but Dog-birds are sentient, and hunt in huge packs! I'd steer clear of 'em if I were you." He fluttered off back the way they had come. "Luckily, Dog-Birds don't usually come out this far. The edge of their territory is about a mile from here. C'mon, let's go back."

Six glanced back the way he was about to go, then turned and followed Decay. If the little Meowl was right, then he was in no condition to take them on. Besides, as long as they did not bother him, he would not bother them.

They were almost home when they noticed a szur'rrr, an odd sightless armadillo-like creature with six, hoofed legs and a furless prehensile tail. It hunted insects and such with its long mobile nose and sophisticated sonar. As it came closer, Six could hear the booming calls that not even the Meowl could hear because of how low-frequency it was. It was felt more than heard.

Decay quickly landed as quietly as he could for this creature obviously had very good hearing, probably better than Six's, and motioned to Six that they were to catch it. Without any other instructions, Six hunkered down and lay his tail over both himself and Decay. The thick course fur greatly muffled any sound given off by their slightest motions which would have easily been detected by the szur'rrr. The creature continued to approach until it was directly in front of them. Decay flicked his giant eyes to Six who didn't need to see them to know it was time. He unfurled his tail as the creature heard them, but it was too late. Six pounced high in the air and came down with his front legs stiff as a board. His high leap gave him enough momentum to knock the creature to its side and break its back.

It gave out a booming death cry before Six sank his fangs into the only spot on the szur'rrr that his fangs could possibly penetrate its extremely thick hide. Once it had died, Decay beamed as if he had been the one to kill it.

"I knew it was a good idea! Now we'll have a real dinner, rather than soup!" He stood over the creature that was larger than himself and smiled. Six snorted at him and shoved his face into the little kitten's face with a skull-like grin. Startled, he vanished and appeared some distance away. "What was that for?" he whined.

Six huffed and lifted the szur'rrr and started dragging it home. He had killed it, it was his food. If he chose to share it, that was up to him. Szur'rrr were found throughout the galaxy, being a highly adaptable creature, and just so happened to be Six's favorite.

It wasn't long before they got home. Six stopped dead in his tracks and dropped his kill. There were Volves sniffing around the cabin. His hackles rose and he snarled, bounding at the horned dogs. One of them turned and saw the small cat charging them and seemed to recognize him for it snarled and charged back, soon followed by its pack mates. They closed the distance fast and the Volf lunged at the lytin, who easily dodged and kept going. He would deal with the leader later. There was killing on his mind.

Leaping high again, he landed on the back of nearest Volf and dug in his claws. He knocked the dog off its three toed paws and dislocated a vertebra. The Volf yelped in pain but the pain was soon over when its pack mates trampled it, gouging out its eyes and piercing its skull with their sharp talons. Six ran around to the other side of the cabin, where two Volves were waiting for him. They ran at him, only to miss him as he leapt gracefully over them and turned in midair to land facing them. He barely touched the ground before he had his fangs sunk into the romp of the nearer one. It yelped and turned to fight, but so did its companion. The other was faster, and rushed Six, but he let go and bounded off. The first Volf didn't realize it until its jaws clamped shut on its partner's spine, which snapped easily in its powerful jaws.

Now only three remained and they obviously knew when they were facing a superior enemy. They regrouped and looked toward the small long-necked, fluffy-tailed cat that glared back at them not 6 meters away. After a tense stand off, the leader Volf barked and lowered his head before wandering back into the woods. Obviously revenge was not worth the life of his entire pack.

Once they were out of sight, Six turned to look for Decay. He sat on the roof of the cabin, looking down with his huge eyes. "Wow! That was amazing! You didn't even hesitate one second! I wish I were as brave as you, Six!" Six cocked his head as Decay fluttered down to him. Decay kicked a pebble at his paws. "I just always run away whenever there's a fight. I even ran away when Cyoba needed me! And she saved my life when my mommy blew herself up to protect me and my siblings. I was the smallest and I was always picked on. But we didn't have a pride 'cause my mommy was a black Meowl. My daddy was exiled from his pride for loving my mommy. So my brothers and sisters all learned to hunt, but I was too small and I didn't learn how to use my magic. I only learned how to teleport away. And then Cyoba found me and took care of me. But I still can't fight! I wish I was strong and brave like you."

Six flicked his tail and licked Decay gently between his ears to show his sympathy before dragging the szur'rrr into the house. He then went out and with ease dragged the Volves that were easily triple his weight out into the woods for the scavengers.

They had only been home for a few hours before Cyoba came home. It was still several hours before she was suppose to be home, but that wasn't got the two cats worried. As soon as she walked in the door she nearly collapsed, clutching her belly.

Decay was first at her side, asking a million questions before Cyoba could take a breath in to answer. Six came over and perked his ears, looking at her curiously. He glanced up at the fat bartender, the man he had met at the restaurant where he had first met Cyoba. He was her boss, and was obviously worried about her. He didn't seem to recognize Six as he helped Cyoba to her feet, speaking softly and reassuringly to her.

"C'mon, Cyoba. That's it, hon. Take it easy. Yer almost there. Just a little further." He helped her to her bed and laid her onto the thick furs. She cried out in pain and writhed, holding her stomach.

Six followed calmly, not quite sure what was going on. Decay, however, was greatly distraught and fluttered about crazily, asking a million questions over and over again. Finally, Jarrin glared at Decay and snapped at him. "Quit bothering her! Make yerself useful and go get a bucket of water!" Decay vanished immediately.

Six stood silently at the doorway, still confused. The little heart that had been inside of her no longer beat. It had gone silent. Before he could ponder it any longer, Jarrin turned to him. "Go fetch some more blankets; some rags, more like. There'll be lots of blood." He turned back to Cyoba, trying to soothe her as she trembled and whimpered in pain. For a moment Six was mad that this insolent little man dared order him around, but he obeyed nonetheless for he knew that if he didn't Cyoba would suffer more. He hobbled back on three legs, holding all the rags he could find in one of his front paws, which had long, almost finger-like toes.

Decay appeared over them, landing with a bucket filled with cold stream water. Jarrin dipped a rag into the water and rung it out loosely before putting it over her forehead. He tore up another one and pushed it into her mouth so she could clench down on it. Some of the others he put under her. He told Decay to keep the rag on her forehead cold to keep down her fever and then waited grimly at her legs. It wasn't too much later that Cyoba pushed one last time and the dead, immature child slid out.

Jarrin wrapped it up quickly and hurried outside with it, not wanting Cyoba to see it. She lay on her bed, sobbing helplessly, Decay trying desperately to calm her. As he rushed out, Six saw a little scaly tail swing limply from the bundle and got a whiff of a strange scent. He'd never smelt it before, but put it away for now. He came over to Cyoba's side and laid his head on the bed, looking at her with unblinking eyes. She didn't seem to notice him or anyone.

Jarrin returned after a few moments and spoke softly to Decay. "Go out 'n' dig a deep hole. Put it inside 'n' bury it up, but put some rocks just under the surface to keep the scavengers from getting to it." Decay nodded and vanished. Jarrin busied himself with cleaning everything up, tossing the bloodied rags into the fire. He stayed the night, sleeping restlessly on the floor. He didn't sleep much, constantly getting up and checking on Cyoba. He didn't really need to, though. Six stayed up the entire night. He stayed up the entire next day, going out only to relieve himself. He stayed by Cyoba's side throughout her feverish nightmares. He listened to her cry out, begging some unseen person for mercy; watched as she clenched her legs together and rocked back and forth as if in pain. He didn't even notice when Jarrin left, leaving Decay with instructions. He didn't even notice little Decay who worked tirelessly to keep Cyoba cool and hydrated, despite her thrashing.

Throughout Cyoba's nightmares, Six stayed by her, purring softly in her ear, hoping she would hear the soothing sound through her fevered visions. It seemed to work sometimes. He brought her brush over and brushed her damp hair clumsily. Day and night blurred together as Six stayed up, purring and brushing, remembering how her humming and her touch had helped him through his nightmares. He was so determined not to let her slip away from him that he stayed up for over a week, not eating, not sleeping, not drinking. When he could no longer purr, he laid his head on her hand, staring up at her dark, sunken eyes. He noticed his vision blur and burning tears trickled their way down his thin face fur, splattering softly onto her hand.

When he awoke, he felt Cyoba's hand on his head. He opened his eyes and looked up at her. She smiled weakly at him. "Decay said you haven't slept all week." Her voice was hoarse and scratchy. "He said you didn't eat, and barely moved. I heard you purring. You kept the darkness away. Thank you."

Six grinned weakly and crawled up onto the bed with her. He laid his head on her shoulder and stayed there.

It took Cyoba another week to recover and gain back her strength. Six finally broke his fast and ate and drank ravenously. He stayed near Cyoba as she started moving around again. Jarrin had visited several times during the week, though Six had never noticed. Now Jarrin came over again, carrying a great big fresh pie.

Cyoba smiled at her boss. "Thank you so much, Jarrin. I'm so sorry about all this..."

Jarrin held up his small pudgy hand. "Don't ye say another word! It wasn't yer fault. None of it was yer fault. I just hope the bastard gets what's comin' to 'im one day. 'N' don't ye say another word about yer payment! I'm payin' ye whether ye like it or not! 'N' that's final!" He nodded.

Cyoba smiled and thanked her boss some more. After he left, she gave some pie to both her furry friends and ate some herself. Six had never had pie; he had never had sweets. He gobbled it down greedily, licked his lips, then glanced cunningly at Decay, who ate his slice slowly and finicky-like. Six tapped him on his other wing with his long tail. When Decay turned to see what it was, the tail was gone, but when he turned back, so was his pie. He glared at Six who was chewing and looking back at the kitten smugly. Decay's lower lip stuck out about a mile and tears swelled in his eyes. He began to whimper and Six realized he was about to start crying. He looked about and spat the half chewed pie back on the kitten's plate.

Cyoba burst out laughing when Decay wailed miserably. He fluttered over to her and tried complaining through his hiccups and sobs. Cyoba just chuckled and cut Decay a new slice. "It's alright, darling. The big bad lytin doesn't get to have seconds!" She gave Six an evil eye and he just grinned innocently.

As they finished their food and settled down in front of the fire, Cyoba's eyes seemed to drift off to another place. Six curled up at her feet and watched her curiously. She was silent for a few moments before stroking Decay's head. He lay on her lap, dozing. He stirred and looked up at her groggily. "Huh?"

"What was it, Decay?" her voice was soft, far away, detached.

Decay sat up and looked up at her, his massive ears limp. "Cyoba..."

"What was it? Just tell me."

Decay lowered his head. "A boy."

Cyoba closed her eyes and single tear fell down her cheek. Decay reached up a big paw and wiped it away in the fur between his pads. She muttered softly to herself. "Maxx. That would have been his name. Maxx. Maxx."

Six stood and came over and lay his head on her lap. "I always wanted a daughter," he said quietly. She looked down at him with a little surprise. It was the first full sentence he had ever said to either of them. Cyoba then smiled.

"I hope you find a lovely female lytin to have a daughter with, Six." Then Cyoba thought a moment. "I don't think 'Six' fits you very well."

Six put a paw onto her hand and looked her straight in her eyes. "Maxx," he said softly, smiling.

Cyoba looked surprised for a moment, then smiled back and took his head in both her hands and placed her cheek upon his head, careful of Decay still on her lap. She rocked Six softly, closing her eyes, feeling the tears fall and sink into his fur. "Maxx," she whispered. "Thank you, Maxx."

Maxx closed his eyes and purred softly.

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