I was crouching low, every muscle of my feline body taught for the jump. The very tip of my tail was swishing back and forth as I take one more careful step forward and pounce. My prey never new that I was coming. I landed perfectly on top of the rabbit that I had been stalking, and quickly dispatched it. Looks like rabbit stew was on the menu for dinner tonight. I carefully pick it up in my mouth and try not to get any of the blood into my midnight-colored fur.
I am just about to turn around and head back to my house when I hear the snapping of a coupe of twigs in the distance. I didn’t think anyone else would be out here. While we cat shifters do tend to be a little more nocturnal in our behavior, I hadn’t ever heard or seen anyone else hunting in the middle of the night. I listen closely to try to pick up any other sounds and carefully scent the air. At first, all I can smell is the blood of the rabbit in my mouth, but after dropping said rabbit, I smell a hint of human. The communal cat-shifter land is close enough to town that that there is an occasional person who wanders through these woods, not knowing that they are private property, but it is around 3 am and nobody should be out here.
Deciding not to approach in case whatever hapless human that happened to get lost in the middle of the night sees me in my panther form and freak out, I head for home with the intention of shifting a coming back out here to investigate. I don’t even make it 5 steps before I hear a loud gasp behind me as someone get’s close enough to see me. I turn to face them and freeze at the sight of a gun pointed straight at me. A heartbeat passes as I stare at the person with a gun pointed at me. They are decked out in all black stealth gear and are wearing night vision goggles. I turn to flee. I make it a few steps when I feel a small pain in my back leg. It was a tranquilizer not a gun, which is worse. I can fight through the pain of a bullet, I know, I have done it before, but if the dosage is high enough, I can’t fight the drug induced haze that is about to set in. Making an attempt to call for help, I yowl as loudly as I can, but I doubt anyone would hear me or get here in time. I keep running, trying to get away as fast as I can, but the darkness is slowing starting to set in and I know that I am slowing down and stumbling around a lot. “How on earth did poachers find us,” is the last thought I have before I collapse onto the ground, and I lose conciseness.
While my shifter abilities don’t help with the initial onset of the tranquilizer, they do help me wake up faster. When I slowly blink awake, it was clearly sooner than anyone expected me to be awake. I was in the back of a vehicle and there were three people sitting around me. I try to be inconspicuous and pretend I am not awake yet, but a sudden sneeze blows my cover. I hear some muttered exclamations along the lines of, “Oh shit, he’s awake” and “Rodney, I thought you gave him enough to sleep till tomorrow”. I start growling as I slowly get to my feet. The people around me all try to get as far away as possible, but the space is tight with three people and a panther. The advantage that a humans had was that they were spread out enough that I couldn’t watch them all at once, and that was my downfall. I was just about to incapacitate one of them, when I feel a familiar poke in my hind leg. I turn to try to stop the injection, but the person was fast because it was already in me, and the darkness was once again closing in around me.
My captors must have quickly realized that I was quick to wake up, because they managed to keep me in a dug induced haze for the next several days. There were a couple of times when I was cognizant enough to understand what was going on around me, but those times were only for a short period of time before the next wave of blackness settled in like a comfortable blanket.
I could tell that I was being held in a warehouse, and it sounded and smelled like there were other animals there, but I couldn’t tell what kind. I was in a cage that was just big rnough to fit my long body when I laid at an angle. The biggest worry was what they were going to do with me. I was so drugged that I couldn’t even attempt an escape and I couldn’t shift back to my human form with so many people watching me. Time just became a blur to me, and I don’t really know how long I was held there.
When I finally became fully conscious, I was no longer in the warehouse. Instead, my cage, and those of a lot of other animals were in a hallway that leads to a curtain. On the other side of the curtain was a lot of noise. It took my brain a few moments to piece apart the sounds enough to identify them. I was at an auction!
Suddenly, a person was leaning over my cage looking at me. “Welcome back my friend. You were quite a hassle to keep quiet and under control, I’ll be very happy to see you go away. I am still baffled as to how I managed to find a black panther in the middle of the countryside. I looked for information about a lost cat of any kind from zoos, but nothing came up. If you could talk, I would be very interested to hear your story. But alas you are just a dumb animal that doesn’t even no what I am saying. Oh well, have a nice life kitty. You better behave on stage and make me lots of money for all the trouble you’ve caused.”
With the end of his one-sided converstion, he walked away, and my cage was getting move to right in front of the curtain that separated me from the loud noise of the auction. I could hear the announcer talking about me from on the stage. “Tonight, we have a genuine surprise for you all. This lot was found hunting rabbits in the countryside. There is no record of pervious ownership, so no worries about people tracking you down wanting their cat back. Fair warning though, he is a wild thing. Inspected and given a clean bill of health, this 2 year old male cat would be a prize anyone would be envious of. I present to you, lot 67: black panther.”
As he concluded speaking, my cage moved though the curtain onto the stage. There were blinding lights pointed straight at me, so that I couldn’t see the crowd of people in front of me. In irritation, I let out a loud snarl as my tail swished back and forth behind me. The silence that filled the room for a few seconds was deafening. I don’t know if it was due to my presence or the roar, but it was too short for because when the noise started back up, it was loader than before as people began to scramble to bid to me. So much was happening around me, the loud noises, bright lights, a headache from being continually drugged for days on end, plus the fact that I was being sold at an auction, I just couldn’t handle any more and sort of lost it. My panther fully took over as I attacked my cage. The metal bars proved no match for my enhanced shifter strength, and I quickly broke through them. I jumped into the crowd, not particularly caring if I hurt anyone. I’m sure the handlers were trying to get a shot to sedate me again, but I kept jumping around just trying to find a way to get out of there.
My mind must have been subconsciously working to help me escape because I suddenly found myself in front of a guy that was not human. Unfortunately, he also was not a cat shifter, but any shifter would work for me. He would at least be able to identify what I was and hopefully, if I had any scrap of luck left, be willing to help me get out of this mess. I stopped in front of my potential ally and looked up with him. He looked down and gave me a knowing nod with a little bit of a smirk. I could have sworn he whispered, “You’ll owe me” before, quick as lightning, he grabbed a tranquilizer dart that was headed for my back leg, saving me from getting knocked out again. The unknown shifter then raised his voice and said, “I am buying this cat.” He said it with such authority that the room hushed. Even I felt the power of this man and laid down on my belly in front of him, my tail curling so that it was around one of his legs. The shock that was in everyone’s eyes as they looked at the two of us would have been comical if I wasn’t a quick breath away from completely loosing my sanity.
The next hour passed in a blur, I was apparently bought by the shifter, and I was leashed and loaded into a vehicle. The man that captured me suggested that I be heavily drugged in order to transport, but after a quick look at me, my new “owner” gave me the option to behave, which of course I immediately complied with. I loaded into the back of the truck as easily as a trained dog to the utter shock of everyone but my new ally. Then the shifter and a couple of other people, who I realized were also shifters and most likely warriors to protect the alpha shifter, because with the amount of power that that shifter wielded with ease, he was no doubt an alpha, loaded into the front of the truck and we drove off. Once we got far enough away, the car pulled over and the alpha jumped out. He came around back and handed me a shirt, which meant that he was giving me a chance to shift. I began the shifting process, and then let out a cry of pain as my muscles that had been in a state of disuse for the past days tried to change back into a human form. I probably would have stopped, but once a shift is started it is all but impossible to stop. My cries of pain slowly became less feline and more human as the shift finished, but all I could do was lay down, panting. I was absolutely drained from the pain that I just endured, plus the events of the past however many days that had been. I didn’t even have the energy to care that I was still naked in front of this alpha shifter as I started drifting into unconsciousness. Right before the blackness closed in around me, I heard the alpha say, “Rest for now, but then we have a lot to talk about my little kitten.” I felt fabric cover me, and then nothing else.
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