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.
Stretch. Preen. Fidget, half-uncoiled on the smooth cliff ledge newly warmed by slanting rays of the early morning sun. Streeetch wings–ooh, shiny!–and carefully nip off the specks of sand and soil that mar the shiny. Then, lift slender, snake-like head.
Tide sounds wrong.
Sunlight glittering along sleek cerulean scales, rear up, flaring wings for balance. Peer out with albino-pink eyes into the bright–bright hurts–blinkblink and then blink again. Shade eyes with one wing–lose balance and flop onto flank. Titter in annoyance, voice sprightly and bird-like, then simply slither right off the ledge.
Whoosh!–wings open and catch the newborn thermals that rise from the warming sands of the beach below. Whee! More pretty shiny–sun good on skin and wings–warm.
But then, sound of disruption in the waves again. Twist mid-air–change course. Swoop as though trying to dodge the unimpeded sunlight that comes over the ocean’s great, glittering expanse–bright!–dodge–warrrm…–dive towards the beach.
Backwing very quickly, very rapidly, then pool serpentine length onto the heated grains of sand. Rustle of sand against glistening hide–dirty bad–flutterflutter. More sand kicks up because of wing-wind. Sigh. Stop fluttering.
Then, fasten pink eyes onto the hills of white-topped waves come in. Tide still wrong. A greyish-brownish lump–larger by far than the flier–floating lifelessly in. Whassat? Pause. Carcass?
Rear up again–flutterflutter–somehow springboard long body into the air and flap furiously to get high enough to zip forward on a tiny current of air. Bright bad! Zoom over the ocean, into the sun, past the floating thing–then twist and come back. Bright behind–shadow on water–can see now.
Feathered-hunter-landwalker-critter! A Tyce. Floating. Not moving. Dead critter? Pause. Why in water?
Don’t bother to hesitate–zip down and buzz just a hair’s-breadth above the water-soaked, feathered beast. Lumpy. But keen hearing picks up the faint sound of a heartbeat. Critter not dead. Twist–bad bright!!–pass and turn–shadow on water again. Ahh–relieved sigh. Dive–smack the critter’s nose (barely above water) with tailtip. Critter half-dead–annoyance.
Waves carry the Tyce to the shore, slowly pushing at its toned, ocean-cleansed body, shoving it further towards the edge between dry and wet sand.
Flutterflutter. These-type critters friends. Pause–flutter–shadow on wet sand as the wave rolls out again, oh-so-briefly. Friends. Dive–backwing–hover–then carefully land on the big quadruped’s heaving flank. It coughs violently–flutterflutterflutter!–and up into the air again. Yikes! Hover–sun on back–warm.
The half-drowned predator coughs, retches up saltwater, then blearily opens one amber-golden eye. The eye is glazed, but slowly rolls upwards and attempts to focus on the cerulean Budram, hovering above–damp from seaspray with curiosity shining in its serpentine face. No danger.
Friend-critter awake! Zip down, chirruping merrily, and pool length onto dry sand, just a little ways away from the greybrown beastie. Watch avidly with wide, unblinking eyes as the Tyce laboriously pulls itself upwards without fully rising, towards the little flier.
The Tyce lets itself fall once the waves cease to pull at its hind limbs, lupine muzzle creating a little trough in the sand a mere inch from the Budram’s winged form. Not-awake. Sigh. Wait with friend-critter.
The tide begins to roll out.