Darek's War Part III
© 2005 by pantherevolution

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:
If you've gotten this far, you'll like the rest. This is the final part of this story. Read the other two parts first if you haven't.

You've been warned enough. Here it is.


Darek's War: Part III

Darek awoke slowly, the morning sun stroking his face in the ever lightening blue sky. He stretched, yawned, and sat up in his unrailed bunk bed, the steel frame probably hot from the rays it reflected. He looked lazily at the short brick walls, a few feet taller than his head, and took a deep breath of the fresh air. It was his compound at last.

His room wasn't too bad. He had gotten most of the furniture requisitioned from the Corps, and most of it was better than his originals at his former desk over there. The room could barely hold all of it, being only 10 feet by 8 feet, and having a bed, a fine, smoothly cut desk, two wooden chairs, and his padded officer's chair. The entire compound, though, was even better. He had built it as a simple design to house about 50, and it was barely full. Those 50 were from the general outskirts of the original society already, so he thought it didn't matter too much about why. Felix, apparently, was here because he broke out of jail, he guessed, the way he just made people hate him. But almost everyone else had chosen to leave more or less of their own free will, beacuse of some opinion difference or another. He did go to the bother of interviewing them all.

"Ryan," Darek called as he stood up and walked over to his desk, sitting down at his desk fine, wooden desk with his feet propped up. Ryan plodded in quickly, bowing a bit as he stopped. "Yes, sir?"

"How is everyone doing?"

"They all seem content, except for Felix, of course." Ah Felix; that trouble maker hadn't left Darek alone since he started this place. "What's he doing now?" Darek sighed. "He's talking badly about you in the city again."

"Well, he's been doing that for weeks now. What does it matter?" Without waiting for an answer, he continued. "How are the supplies for the roof coming along?" was his next question. They should all have bean allocated by now, thanks to Gareth. "They're still coming. It takes a few days to get over here, you remembe-- "

"Yes, yes, I know," he repeated, cutting him off, since he had heard it all before. The roof's iron seemed slow getting here, even though he knew it took a few days. Everyone in this small complex wanted badly to keep the rain out, and the hot sun, too. That's what the windows in the wall were for: light without the extreme heat. Andrew, his second in command, started standing by the door, obviously wanting his attention. He had Ryan wait for further instructions, letting him sit in his chair across the room, and waved Andrew in. "Yes?" he asked, looking up at him from the start of his seventh requisition request. "Everyone is getting a bit angry about the roof," he stated dutifully, repeating his thoughts, "and the agitation is starting to give you a bad name."

"What? Don't they remember what it was like in the old city?"

"Yes, but at least the buildings had roofs," Andrew sighed with a bit of mock sarcasm. Darek was now getting quite agitated. Why should a roof be such a big issue?

Darek stepped out of his quarters and went down out into the centeral courtyard where eveyrone was gathered. He stepped quickly over to a small wooden supply crate, and got up on it to speak. "Alright everyone, he would like to address your concerns about the roof," he began rather directly, trying to let his charisma work on them as usual. "I know it's slow, but so is everything. Bureaucracies take time to get things done, especially when it's one as big as the Corps. And besides, all this is a secret from them! Do you really expect instant results? Now, I'm doing everything he can. Just give me time!"

However, just as he finished, he heard another voice. It was harsh, dark, and painfully recognizable. "Oh time!" it snarled loudly from the crowd, "Give it time! Give everything time! Eventually it will get done. It sure takes a lot of time to sit around and do nothing, eh? Does our leader's doing nothing help this situation advance it any? I think not." Sure enough, there was Felix, the taller than average male his age standing in the center of the crowd, people backing up around him as he spoke in his gravelly voice. "Where is your great Darek when he tells us to slave away at the roof? He certainly hasn't been helping the cause. The hypocrisy is astounding!"

Unfortunately for Darek, Felix's charisma was of similar strength as his, despite its scorching dark overtone. Darek felt he had no choice to defend himself for fear of being undermined in the minds of his entire group. "What am I to gain from doing nothing?" he asked rhetorically, calling upon the sense of logic he had seen in his candidiates, "I would be just as hot as you. I want a roof too. I want everyone to be cool enough!" He ended up shooting the question back at Felix instead of truely addressing the people. That made him a bit uneasy as he waited for his reply.

"How can you tell us to slave away for you, while you sit back and do nothing?" Felix next shot. "You aren't doing anything directly beneficial to the rest of us! You simply sit there, writing papers or giving orders. What do you really do for us around here?"

That was easy. But he had to shut off this debate, so he could get back to his work. "I have the contacts so we can have a roof or a compound at all, for a start. These papers keep us in buisness and supplied. There are dozens of things I do concerning the old socitey. Any one of you can come by and ask me sometime. Now if you'll excuse me," he snapped sharply, stepping on whatever Felix was about to say, "I have to see why the iron is late, which is actually doing something, by your defenition, Felix." Darek marched off quickly, admist the mass of his followers in a mumbled jumble amongst themselves. He wasn't sure if anything worked, but he could do nothing but hope it did.

He walked out of the courtyard, after which he rand quickly back to his office. Ryan was waiting. "They sound pretty worked up over there."

"I hate Felix," was all he growled, as if it was a perfectly logical answer."

"Well, sir, I'm sure every society has had a troublemaker or two. You just have to put up with them. You can handle that ex-prisoner." The words were indeed reassuring; they were surer than he was. However, Darek's self-confidence did recieve a rise, and he was glad about that.

He was about to resume his seveth requisition, when he just looked down at the page. He thought about what Felix had said. If that was anything of a popular sentiment, he would just play into it. THe first six for this roof should have been enough; he needed to go look at it himself. Hen fact, he realized he could make a big thing out of it and really show Felix.

So Darek marched himself down the corridor of his office, Felix's voice still growling its way across his ears from the courtyard. He just walked out the front gate, knowing exactly in which direction The City was. He start trotting that way. He had it figured they must have processed his requiest by now; they were just slow in physically delivering the iron here.

Sure enough it was half way to the City that he found the iron he was waiting for. There were four panthers, all with a sky blue stripe or two on their arms. Each one was all flattening the grass in front of him with a stack of around six parchment-thin, iron plates at least 30 feet high and a foot or two wide. The soliders walked the tall boards in front of themselves, rotating their edges like soliders stepping in a marching line. "What's taking so long?" he snarled at them in his commanding voice. "Simple, sir," was the calm reply with a hint of sarcasm, "we're tired." And then, something astonishing to his eyes: all four of the soliders let go of all of their plates, letting them tumble down to the ground with the loud clang of ringing metal. "Pick those up!" he shouted in his drill instructor voice.

One did decide to pick up one board, at least. But then, he swung it at Darek! He barely managed to roll under the giant piece of metal and rush to him, slashing his arms. The other three immediately jumped at him, but he saw them coming and tried to fight them off one by one. Four wasn't exactly easy, though, even with his training. He couldn't split them up, or dodge them all, so he was forced to take a hit or two and roll a few feet away so they weren't surrounding him. In the process, however, he took a mild slice to his chest near his shoulder on his left -- not serious, since it wasn't too deep -- and a large slash on his left paw, which made him wonder if he could still use it. That was the worst wound he had gotten to date.

Never the less, he was out of their ring. They all immediately all came at him with a flying tackle, which was the logical thing to do. Given his training, however, it was also the stupid thing to do. He simply waited for them all to get in midair, and he just ran a deep slash down two of their faces and necks. The other two he simply dodged by diving forward and then rolling to his feet. When he watched the two he slashed land, their position indicated they no longer had muscular control, as did the splatters of blood on ground under their flight path. He was down to two.

From the look of fear they were trying to hide, he knew they weren't going to try a flying tackle when they landed. Instead, they tried to fight him in melee combat. He managed to get rid of one of them immediately, by shoving him down as he dodged a blow from the other. Now he could fight one enemy at a time, as he was taught. He dodged blow after blow, looking for his chance.

It was as the other got up that a clap of thunder came from the gentle blue sky, which had all of a sudden turned quite dark with brewing clouds. That did nothing but rattle him a bit, and got him struck once, a knick in the face being added to his list of wounds. The pain in his paw, however, was far greater than that, so its attempt to stun failed. How these Special Service workers knew so much about combat in the first place, their punches and kickes being of reasonable timing, he didn't know. He would sort that out later, along with the reason they attacked him.

It was during a spinning kick, which he dodged easily, that Darek was able to get in a large slash to his back, digging his claws deep into his soft flesh. He could feel his spine as he merely scraped over the bones, and knew he had hit something serious. As the spin continued around, finishing itself, he stared up at him, eyes wider than anything he had ever seen as he screamed silently in pain. He was merciful enough, however, to slit his throat and end his misery quickly. He got up quickly, and turned to the last one as the pain of his bloody paw ceased, as did his ability to move it. Darek just growled at him, appearing to return to the killing mindset of his ancestors. He waited until the fear upon the face of the other was complete, before he gave the command. "Go back and tell Ryan and Andrew to help him get these iron plates over here. Now."

The turncoat bounded off with more speed than he could have produced had he wanted to; that's what fear will do, Darek knew. As Darek waited, it started raining, the volume of blood on the ground from the three bodies seeming to expand from the extra water added to it. The thunder and lighting came soon after, roaring and snatching down at far off trees in this grassland. The pitter patter of rain saoked him, but it got him to think, somehow, returning him from his wits to his thinking faculties. These four who attacked him probably were spiteful of him, from their old city. But why were they trained in combat? They were supposed to be Special Services workers; the brains of the City, not the muscle. Then, it occured to him: Felix. He could have traine them, or perhaps at least painted their stripes over and sent them. But why? To kill him? What would he gain from killing him?

It was as he was pondering that question that the disobedient soldier returned with Henry and Andrew...and Felix. "Ryan, Andrew, and yes, you too, Felix, get those loads of plates." However, no one moved, not even Ryan. "We're not here to do your work, sir," he snarled, his mocking tone befitting to the gravelly voice, "we're here to kill you."

"We? Yeah, right. Ryan, restrain him." Ryan, however just bowed his head. "I'm sorry, sir, but what he says is true."

Darek was stunned; why would Ryan ever desert him? Especially after that promise?

"Ryan! What are you doing!? Why?" Unforunately, Andrew took the opportunity to pin him down, and restrain him. Darek soon lay on his stomach, unable to move, brain too busy spinning over Ryan's betrail to realize with any seriousness what was happening to him. "Ryan! Ryan! Listen to me! Don't do this!" Darek yelled. Felix then knelt down over him, kneeing his chest as he extended his claws. "Any last words?" The question got him to the current subject: his legacy. Since he would leave nothing, his asnwer was simple. "Tell me why," he demanded, spending his last ounce of charisma on the command.

"Why?" he began with mock indecesion. "Oh why, indeed. Well, you see, good sir, you have indeed done a noble thing. You have bred a society of thinkers. You have indeed created a powerful force to serve you. However, he feel they would be more efficient as laborers...and serving him, instead of you. An entire nation of thinkers and loose controls is what allowed him to enter your little state in the first place, Darek. He shall ensure that never happens to him. And now, Darek, good bye." Darek felt the gentle gust of wind as his arm came down.

But before the pain came, his eyes popped open to new scenery, the inside of the wildcats' hidout, as another clap of thunder echoed overhead.

***

"Are you alright?" was the gentle voice which first plucked Darek's ears. He was staring at the wall, but he knew who the voice so gentle, yet strong and quiet, belonged to. He realized his arm was in pain, and being blotted by a cloth rag again. "Ouch," he let slip reflexively, before he finally answered, "I'm fine, Gareth." He didn't turn to Gareth. The fear he felt in his nightmare was still painted on his face. Yes, he was afraid of death deep down, he supposed. But that, in addition to the dream itself, had to be put away for later thought.

The blotting was painful, as it always seemed to be, making Darek grit his teeth every time the wound was touched. "You were calling his name, sir," said another familiar voice. "I must have been dreaming, Ryan," he answered calmly, his teeth still clenched. It was now, that he had put all of his thoughts away, that he tured toward the blotter.

This time, it was Gareth who had the cloth. His sharp brown eyes met his green ones, and the two of them exchanged their thoughts in silence. All of the times they had competed and cooperated pulled themselves up from his memory like ghosts from their graves. Each one haunted him for a second before the next took its place. Darek saw their recruiting drills. He saw bowing down to the commanding officer. He saw promotions, Gareth getting more than he. Until the last promotion seperated them by a lone hallway, which neither of them dared tread to see the other, until his one fateful day of leaving.

With thoughts all tied up, Darek asked a simple question, trying to drag his own mind back to reality. "Where's the wildcat?" The subject did not appear to be in the room, which Darek found surprising. "He gave me this job," was the short-as-possible reply. Darek knew Gareth wasn't much for talking; that's why his eyes could say so much. In fact, Gareth didn't say anything after that. It was as if he was waiting for Darek to ask a question. Darek decided not to.

Instead he would feel the thunder and maybe hear the rain outside, as he tried to ignore the pain of his wounds as they shot him sharply in an otherwise gentle scene. He decided to think about that dream, why he had it, and maybe what caused his subconscious to invoke such a ghastly consequence.

Felix had assassinated him. What did Felix want to gain? That was simple, Darek suddenly knew, he wanted control of the place. What he would have done with it Darek didn't know, but it seemed to be an ominous trend. Charlie was about to get killed baecuse Ross wanted power, and he had been killed because Felix wanted power. It seemed that such freedom is the freedom to have it lost.

Darek felt a wave of dreariness roll over him along with the next thunder rumble as the pain of his wounds seemed to fade away to a dull growling of nerves. The blotting had stopped. If he couldn't have a free soceity, then what could he do? He couldn't have a dictatorship; that would get him killed too. What he would really need would be something to make everyone want to keep him in power.

It was at this point that Gareth suddenly broke the silence. "So, what have you been up to, besides trying to get yourself killed?" He asked smuggly. Oh, what a question; one asked the way only Gareth could. Darek was almost too tired to answer, the thunder outside almost lulling him to sleep as its shockwaves gently brushed his body. "I'm trying to get rid of Ross," he began, the standrard speech fuzzy. "But I don't think that's what we need," Gareth interrupted suddenly, as if he knew about it already, "what we need is a fundamental change in government. And besides, Ross can be sent packing with a process they have now. You don't need to kill him."

"But the process is too slow," Darek found himself whinning, "and all of the force in the system is working against change. One needs to get it done within his own lifetime." he added, knowing how short that could in fact be, given his age. "Sometimes, you have to start things which you'll never see, and will never have your name on them; that's how society really changes enough to let the process fix itself."

"But I want a legacy!" he snarled, barely managing to stop short of tellling him about his plan to leave and build one. "In that case, you're simply doing this for yourelf; you don't really believe in the process." It was a starkly accurate point. Darek didn't like that government anymore. He did in fact wonder if it would ever change itself.

Suddenly, Darek heard a familiar voice from the doorway. "Sir?" he knew instantly who it was. He was absolute sure who it was; it was the fact he heard it he wasn't sure about; that voice couldn't be down here. He had no reason to come here. Darek just called out for him, to see if he would answer. "Scott?"

"Yes, sir?" It really was his voice, but Darek still didn't believe it. "Come here," was Darek's next gentle command. He wanted to see Scott. "Gareth, he want to talk to Scott alone." Gareth just nodded, rather slyly, and walked out, as if he knew what Darek was up to before he did. That look always creeeped Darek out, including at that point.

Indeed, there was Scott's body, attached to his throat which made the words. Scott sat at the edge of his bed, and looked at Darek with his innocent eyes. Darek turned his head to avoid staring at that face, like a kit still. He wanted to say something to Scott, as tired as he was; it was a desire he couldn't describe. "Scott," Darek began. However, nothing seemed to follow. Scott filled in the gaping pause with a "yes, sir?" Darek thought of a common topic first, his brain dragging itself away from sleep: Miles. "Could I talk to you -- about Miles?" he asked quite lazily. "Yes, sir. Go ahead," was the obidient response. Darek didn't like his peppiness in the midst of his droop one bit, but he still wanted to talk to Scott. "What was Miles like?" Darek never really knew himself; he thought it was his distance from Miles that kept him as a friend. "He was a good friend, fun to talk to. But he had a more than serious attitude toward his job."

"What do you mean?" Darek yawned. "He would work for hours, way beyond his shift. I don't know why," Scott added after a moment.

Just then, guilt appeared on Scott's face. The peppiness seemed shallow, and a fear came out in his eyes. It was obvious there was something he wasn't telling Darek. Darek decided to try and worm it out of him gently. "Do you have any ideas?" Darek asked, still drowsy, and glad that was a good cover. "Well -- I think he might have been eating those strange mushrooms that grow on the rare tree." That seemed a bit odd to Darek; there were very few mushrooms around, and their former farmers were mostly in prison for fear of what it might do to society, based on human texts. All of the effects on the mind were incalculable. "Why do you think that?" Darek asked, seeing if Scott had any ideas. "Well...he would spend his breaks alone in his bunk, and keep anyone else from coming in. Then he would come out feeling perky, and seemed to work all day." It was possible, but Darek thought of a more plausible explaination before too long. "You bunked with him?"

"Yes, sir."

"Did you ever see him with the mushrooms?"

"No. Not even in the middle of the night when I woke up -- once." That guilty look got deeper. What was that? "Well that's odd," Darek continued over his suspicions. "The night is when the mushrooms usually get taken, so no one else will know." Darek was more curious about Scott than Miles at that point. "What if he just wasn't taking them that night?"

"No, it's a pattern I've -- woken up more than once, actually." There was a blush trying to sneak out of Scott's facial fur, now, and Darek still didn't know why. It must be the reason he woke up, that was clear, but what was it? What could someone be ashamed of waking up for? "Why did you tell me just once before that?" Darek asked casually, trying to investigate this. "Well -- I'd rather not say." That was obvious.

So, Darek had to get it out of him. Scott's kit-like aspect seemed to compel it. Darke wanted to wise him up, thinking he had a guess at what it was. Darek could think of no tactful method, so he had to do the only thing he could. "What's wrong? You're blushing." Unforunately, that just made Scott nervous. "It's -- personal," he whined, as if begging him not to drag it out of him. Darek's conviction shown in his eyes, and that squemish look on Scott, indicated to Darek he had the upper hand; the idea that one can get something out of another is a self-fulfilling prophecy if held by the divulgee. "Oh come now, I've had people do some silly things, and some terrible things, before. I've heard of very young members who would have terrible dreams, or would wet their bed, or -- " Darek noticed a flinch. That must be it. He had to give another example and pretend not to notice. "-- or even... attack someone in their sleep." That pause might bave hurt him; thinking of another one was difficult. Scott turned to him. "Really?" He asked, in a way Darek could tell was a reaction to his second guess. "Yes, so whatever it is, you can talk about it with me." Scott must have opened his mouth three times, but no words came out. Darek made another suggeston to try and make it easier for him. "If you can't say it out loud, why not whisper it?" Scott leaned over to him and whispered it in his ear. "I -- I used to wet my bed, but it wasn't -- as wet. It was something else. I never figured it out."

Darek barely managed to contort his expression into one of wise understanding, supressing the cruel laughter he felt in his soul. Scott was over the age of maturity, and didn't know it! What an innocent streak this boy had! Darel felt the need to break this streak right now, teach him to mature a little bit more. It was about time SCott learned the fine art of seeking pleasure within himself he never knew he had.

Darek began slowly. "Scott, how would you like to know a secret?" Scott just nodded regretfully, feeling quite embarrassed about telling Darek. "That is a perfectly natrual part of growing up. You remember when -- did you have any older siblings?"

"I had two brothers, and they fought a lot."

"Well, did they ever teach you about -- reproduction?"

"Yes, of course..."

"Well, this is part of that," Darek found himself whispering in his ear, as if to save embarassment. "What does this have to do with sex?" Scott whispered back, surprisingly flat out. "This is your body telling you that you can have it. And that's not all you can have, in fact." Scott looked up at him in silence puzzled. Darek saw it was the look of the innocent trying to learn -- or should he say, trying to become guilty of all the vices of life. He was still a kit to Darek, but his aspect had weakend. "Would you -- let me show you what I mean? I will need to -- touch your body, for this." Scott's eyes showed worry, so Darek had to smooth over a few feathers. "It's okay, it won't hurt, I just need you to relax, close your eyes -- and trust me." Scott got a little more nervous, but after a soft and gentle look from Darek, which it took a lot of self-control to maintain, Scott took a deep breath and layed down on the bed.

Darek sat up, barely, and then rotated his legs over to the edge of the bed, sitting on it. Scott, meanwhie, was laying down with his eye closed, panting through his chest like these was no tomorrow. Darek knew he had to calm him down, or this would never work. "Easy, easy, just relax. Take a few deep...slow, breaths. That's it." Scott inhaled until his chest just about popped, and then let it out just as slowly as he had taken it in. As Darek watched him take the next deep breath, something inside of him congratualated him on his victory, even though he hadn't begun. There was something about this whole situation, bringing another male into the grip of maturity, that seemed like almost a religious experience. Everything was so quiet, gentle, and the force that was about to be evoked in Scott seemed ablmost mystical. The energy that was within them all, every male, at least, Darek thought, was such a beautiful thing.

It then hit him: Darek realized this was something he could control others with. It was a fundamental drive as powerful as any drug which every male truely lusts after: the right and the ability to invoke this grand response. Perhaps he could make a society based entirely on sex!?

It was at this epiphany that he had to file it away; Scott had taken and given quite a few deep breaths over the couse of Darek's train's journey between two railstations of thought. "Okay, good," Darek whispered, as if he were administrering a ritual, "now just image a girl, laying on the soft grass, with all of her legs apart, on her back." Darek started rubbing Scott's chest, which made him open his eyes. "It's okay, I won't hurt you, just trust me..." he wishpered. This truely felt like he was a sort of -- what did the humans call it -- shaman, evoking one of their "spirits". "Just relax...I'm going to touch you some more, but I just want you to relax. It's okay. Now look over every inch or her." Over the course of two more deep breaths, the kind which always seemed to keep Scott sedated, his panther pink peeked out of his sheath, and grew to a reasonable size. "Good, Scott, good. Now there's one area you want to look at, isn't there? It's okay, don't be ashamed," he cautioned with a purr as he saw Scott blush again. "It's only natural. Every male wants to look at her right there. Now just imagine yourself walking over to her. She reaches out, and touches your most sensatvie part, and that's okay." Darek reached down carefully, and gently gripped his erect penis. Scott shivvered, and his pink throbbed harder. His breaths couldn't help from getting faster, and Darek whipsered several reassurances as he kept his eyes closed. "This is supposed to happen. It's all natural." Darek started massaging his memebr gently, rubbing in circular strokes. "Now just image her rubbing you...yes, that's it, take it easy, go ahead a do what you feel." Scott breathed still faster and moaned in pleasure quietly. Darek felt the spirit rising up in Scitt's body like -- well, like the thing he was rubbing. This felt deeply spiritual to him, and he judged himself a pretty good shaman at that, even though the cause of his demeanor was a completel fraud. He beleived in the force of sex, not the fact it had any sort of mystical nature; everyone else could believe it, though. "Now, Scott, imagine she lets you -- into herself." Darek rather trickily made a clitoris with his paws, shaping the soft pads into the daimond with thumb resisting thumb and digits reisisting digits. He slid it around Scott's panther pink, and boy, did his loove that. Scott started panting with open tongue. "Keep your eyes closed," Darek cautioned, since if he opened them now, everything would fall flat, surely. Darek just moved, and flexed to simulate her contractions, and let Scott enjoy it. Scott soon moaned one last time, sat up, and opened his eyes to see Darek milking his cock gently to get all of his semen out. Scott just stared at his own ejaculate, rather amazed by the whole process as he caught his breath.

When he stopped dribbling all over Darek's paw, Darek gently licked it all off, and Scot was rather disgusted by the thought. "It's fine to taste, " Darek remarked as Scott finished icing his paw. "In fact, many males will lick their own up. But how do you feel?"

"Tired," Scott sighed. "That's normal too. Well you should feel good; this is what most -- if not all -- males do every once in a while. You should be proud, if anything." Scott just stared at the bed. He didn't seem sure what to think of himself.

Darek decided to ask Scott then and there, all of a sudden: "if I started a new state, where you could do this all day, what would you say?" Scotts answer was nearly instant. "I would say maybe. It felt good -- I think." But by looking in Scott's eyes, Darek could tell Scott wasn't guilty; he was full of guilty pleasure. He liked that, even though he didn't want to admit it. "Oh come now, you really would say yes, wouldn't you, now? This is just between us," Darek whispered. Then, Scott nodded, and walked out.

Darek managed to stand up, finding the all of the pain that had haunted him so persistantly had mysteriously disappeared. So, he went to the bathroom and relieved himself, trying to forget what he had just done; not because it was bad, but because it had excited him as well. That was quite invigorating, he was slightly embarrassed to admit to himself. The idea of any male going through that was quite stimulating. If he were going to make the "initiation" into this involve an orgasm, he would have to have a way of release for himself. But, the idea was now firmly cemented in his head that his new state would have a state culture to keep the people in line, and that it would be all about sex.

After he got back into bed, he decided to take a nap, and think it over some more later. He had nothing else to do.

***

The moment Darek awoke, Gareth walked in, as if everyone was trying to keep him from being alone. "Well, that was fun, wasn't it?" Gareth teased. Darek wasn't awake yet. "Huh?" he murmured. "What you did to Scott." Darek had to admit, it was. Not that it was Scott, a young male in his own right, that was interesting, but just another male -- coming to. "Hmm?" Darek asked as he struggled to put on what humans called a poker face. "You must have enjoyed bringing him into maturity. And your new order," he added with a pause and a grin. "Gareth, would you join?" Darek didn't know why he asked the question, but he did. "I guess, but I won't be on -- conventional behavior."

"Huh?" Darek asked, as he really didn't know what that meant. Aside from the fact that he didn't know his conventions yet, he wasn't sure what could be outside of the current social convention that would still allow Gareth to be an officer. "If you intend to recruit a lot of girls to this new -- what should I call it, anyway?"

"My new state."

"-- this new state of yours, then I'll pass."

How would he recruit, Darek asked himself. What would make people want to leave here? Gareth just made him realize that; if so many had known no other way of life than that of the old state, then what would make them change? Before he could almost ask himself this question, much less answer it, he felt Gareth's eyes waiting for his response. "I don't know if I will," he replied, still not sure what Gareth meant. "What I mean is," Gareth explained clarivoyantly as he sat down, "that I -- I love you." And then, he suddenly grabbed Darek and licked his cheek!

Oh boy, that felt awful! Darek pushed him away. "Easy, easy!" he snarled. "I don't mind, just don't get on me!"

"I'm sorry, but -- Darek, I've loved you for a long time, and wanted to be near you for even longer. I've kept this secret for all these years --"

A thought dawned upon Darek, which made him lose his words, despite their importance: the oppressed would want to leave. Everyone who loved his or her own kind, everyone who wanted to love without commitment, everyone who wanted to stay out of a family... everyone who wanted to stay out of society, in short, would come to him. He could get both sexes, and ones open minded enough to do as they felt fit. He could have people leave the old state and come to his new, and then live as he wanted them to live. He would let them live as they wanted, surely, but he couldn't lose control of it. The culture would handle that. Felix had taught him that lesson. He would need them to -- join his society, so they wouldn't overthrow him.

And then, Darek knew, with them doing what they wanted, and him managing the state, and getting what he wanted for social dues, everything would be perfect!

He noticed Gareth spotted his mind drift somewhere else, and was waiting. "Oh, sorry, I -- Gareth, how would you like to join my state? There would be no discrimination at all; you could do what you wanted!"

"Uh huh, and what would I have to do to get in?"

That was tricky, but Darek needed a few members to start the thing; a blank check would do until he got more ideas. "Not a thing, except agree to support the project, and leave the old state when I do and never return to it again!" Darek felt like he was selling Gareth on voting for a new Head of State, and he knew he wouldn't buy in so quickly. "Just think about it," was all he ended up saying. He really felt stupid trying to push something so important on someone not known for snap decisions.

It was in the middle of this conversation that Carl came marching in with some more meat. He threw it to Darek as if he were a lion in prison. Darek got the feeling that he had something important to say once he had finished eating. So, in accordance with Carl's glance at him, he gulped down the meat, barely chewing enough to make it fit in his throat, and then looked up, waiting to hear words.

It was a few seconds of anxious glancing before he managed to say it: "We've got to make another try at the prison." Darek stood up, he didn't really know why. He wasn't sure how to react exactly. He felt like leading men, but still didn't think that the clotted blood over his wound was good enough to hold him in battle. "And?" was all he asked, not letting his indecision come to the surface. "And I want to see if you should lead them." His statement just sounded odd to Darek. Why didn't Carl ask if he would like to? "I think he can," was his open-ended reply. "Then let's see what the rest say. Come on," he gestured.

Darek followed Carl out of the room, back into the hexagonal center. There were two dozen wildcats in lines, at attention. They all flashed their eyes at him the moment he walked it, sizing him up as if he were their enemy instead of their new commander -- at least, he thought he would be. "Alright, Darek will be your commanding officer," Carl annouced, as if he were expecting a great growl in response. What he got was silence, along with some dirty looks, minor angry snarls, and a few stomped feet. It was very obvious they would look for any excuse to fight against their racial enemy, even if it was their commanding officer. So, Darek did what seemed right: he punched one who growled in the front row in the chest. The wildcat moaned, and bent a little, eyes wide open, but didn't double. His glare ceased once he managed to stand up straight. "Anyone else wonder about me?" Another growl sounded near the back. He walked over to the wildcat, but Carl stopped him. "That's enough," he cautioned. "And that goes for all of you," he added. "You're going to take his orders whether you like it or not. And it's because he's not like the others! He's trying to defeat his own government! So if anyone doesn't like it, leave!" Darek wasn't sure about overthrowing the government; a lie, but never the less a good one, because no body left, and everyone shut up. He was rather surprised (and suspicious) at the ease with which it was done, but he would take what he would get.

And before he knew it, he had marched them all to the surface. The march to the tunnel began.

Gareth and Scott were at the heads of each column, although Darek wasn't sure they would fight. Carl was as well. It took a long time to march through the chilly breeze and overcast sky. It seemed to Darek as if all of the darkest clouds of the impending storm hung directory over those grey walls in the distance. One, two, one, two were the only thoughts going through his head, but he could feel others developing. He wasn't thinking about his state, but it seemed as though some things were being built in the back of his brain, and while he wasn't seeing what they were, he could hear the work being done. It was a feeling that made him wish the march, the fight, and even Ross were all over. He just felt anxious and tense as his mind slowly began to engage in the fast-thinking mode of battle. But he couldn't quite get the feel of battle again. His arm wound seemed to make him more weary of getting hit, because it was still very well marked with the consequences in red. He found himself staring at it, making Carl call time to march when each line almost got out of sync. And that didn't help his ego as a leader very much.

He slowly returned through the steps he had made when he left this place. They took him down the tunnel, and then, he bent the door on the floor. Two pairs of feet came running, but fortunately it was the lions that he had left here. "Welcome back sirs," one said straight faced. They were all escorted by the burly guards down the hall to the central ring, only to find an army of lions, of both genders, standing before him. Darek was surprised, but kept his stern look. "Good job," he said simply to the crowd. However, there were no more panthers in this army. Darek looked at the chained panthers, all as before, and said to them with a smirk, "some things never change, he suppose."

Darek left with his two wildcats and original ten lions, because they seemed safer than the wildcat army, plus Scott due to his next destination. He led his smaller group out of the hall, shouting over his shoulder to Gareth he would be back shortly. He shuffled them to the edge of the ring and told everyone to wait around the corner. He now had to play it cool, something which he could do well. He casually walked around the corner to the paper workers, and found four guards in their heavy leather armor pacing in front of them. "Hey," he said quickly, putting on his best in-a-hurry face, "would two of you help him get some lions rounded up over here?"

"Yeah," they said, picking up on his face, and rushed him Darek back around the corner. There, they were chained, but one was allowed to call for his buddies before he was shut up with an arm around the neck with extended claws. Four lions lay in wait for the two elites that came bounding down the hall after their comrades, who were swiftly chained, even though one almost managed to get a swipe on one of the lions. After the elite had been chained, he was hit once over the head by a lion to his left as a form of punishment, leaving only a headache and a bruise; Darek forbade any more injury with a sharp glance.

Darek then was at a loss. He didn't have enough forces to barricade the center, or do anything drastic. What he needed was to work fast and get more troops by scaring a few of the panthers into defection. He sent the lion holding the prisoners back for more troops. Meanwhile, he could get some of the paper workers on his side; not for troops, but just so they wouldn't be on the other side. Darek planned to surround them, and get them all in. It would be easy, he knew, since they had no training.

Darek took everyone and rushed into the middle, surrounding the ring of desks swiftly, now that the guards were out of the way. "Alright, everyone hold it!" he yelled loudly as his troops reached their positions ten feet apart, encircling them all. "Don't anyone move." Darek sauntered forward, the two wildcats at his side and looked at all of the petrified faces staring back at him. He looked at Scott, to signal he should start talking. "Alright," Scott began, "come on guys, it's okay. He's a good guy. I'm still your friend."

"And you would overthrow the state," someone in the back boldly shouted. "Why does that make you our friends?"

"Because they don't want to overthrow the state; they want to save it from someone who IS trying!" Scott yelled aimlessly. "Ross is planning to kill Charles! they can't prove it, but if they're wrong, then we're all on the same side, and -- uh, they do have you surrounded."

That seemed to be somewhat convincing; 12 out of about 40 panthers stood up and trotted over to Darek, many dejectedly, forming a line with Scott. "In that case," Darek said with mock regret, "I'll have to chain all of you to your desks." He snapped his fingers and two lions stepped up behind him. The order was carried out with only one attempt at resistance. One of the panthers tried to make a break, only to be caught by two lions surrounding the area. "Keep track of that one," Darek growled with a growl of annoyance, unsure of what to keep in store for that one, but knowing he would think of something. "Scott," Darek commanded, returning his attention to him, "you and your friends are for information. Now, where is the key for the exit?"

"I don't keep that."

"Who does?"

"One of the fifth rank specialists."

"Do you know which one?"

"Yes."

"Tell me how to get to his office."

"Yes, sir."

Just as Scott was finishing his directions, Darek's reinforcements arrived; Gareth walked in with the prisoners, 50 lions, and 2 more panthers. Since he knew they might have trouble getting there, he took them along. "So," Gareth glowed, "did he do a good job?"

"Yeah," Darek said, imitating it, hoping Gareth's love for him wouldn't flare up again. "Just keep all of these guys at their desks." Gareth nodded in acknowledgement, and started pacing around the rows of desks.

At that moment, two elites came bursting down the hall from each of the directions that had not been secured. Needless to say, they were taken down quickly by the army of lions that sat near their doors, and put in chains with the rest of the prisoners. Unfortunately, one managed to slash Gareth's arm as a lion tried to control him as he was about to leave. He was rather shocked, so he stopped his force and walked over to Gareth. He inspected the two inch claw marks, which were surprisingly shallow for how the blow looked, but felt Gareth could take it giving his training, so continued on.

Darek returned to leading his force of ten, and headed down the hall for the officer's quarters with Scott's directions in mind. Fortunately, the two elites normally guarding the hallway at the door had ran down the hall a moment ago and were now captured. Darek's group walked down to the fifth crossing, and turned down the hall toward the series of offices laying down it. Darek spotted the correct door immediately, with a damaged lock, and was surprised just which one it had ended up being. "That's -- my office," he whispered. "YOu mean HE got MY office?" Darek tried to slide the door, and, finding the lock was damage in his favor, slammed it open. Darek marched into the office, wildcats directly behind, and simply looked for a moment at the panther slumped across his desk, fast asleep. Darek simply elbowed his back, shocking him awake with a groan. "You're under arrest," he snarled. The panther gasped to his feet, and finally managed to speak. "Wait, you're not in charge --"

"I am now. Where's the key to the exit?"

"I-I- I have it right here," he stammered, sliding a footlocker out from under his bunk gently with his left leg. He opened it with a key which seemed to come from nowhere, and picked up a four-inch wide keyring half full, and paged through it. He stopped at the third key, an iron one with a brass handle which was oily. "Here it is," he said nervously, holding it up. "Good. Now you're coming with us," Darek snarled. "What did I do?"

"You got into a position which gave you enough information to help Ross."

"But I don't --" one of the wildcat's silenced him with an arm across his mouth before he could finish. Darek had to admit: he enjoyed that.

***

Now that he had the key, Darek hustled back down the hall to the center where Gareth was busy fighting, along with his entire contingent. Several fourth rank elites had apparently left their wing to try and figure out what was going on out here. He took a deep breath, summoned the taste for blood that lurked inside him, and then charged, jumping on the back of an elite, bringing him to the ground.

But it was only temporary. The elite flipped himself over under Darek, slid out from under him, and rolled to his feet. Darek barely rolled to his own feet in time to block a vengeful slash at his face with his left arm plate; thank goodness for that armor he got from the wildcats. He tried to get an agreesive slash under the elite's left shoulder, but that move was blocked by the his other arm. Darek also barely blocked the kick to his shin with the other arm, which the elite had managed to squeeze in after the slash. He tried to push the elite over with extra force on that block. It failed, however, because the elite balanced himself, and Darek barely stood back upright to avoid a slash to the back of his lowered head.

Darek was amazed at the speed of this elite, as he blocked slashes, waiting for an opportunity to damage body armor. He found one in the moment after a failed attack to the shoulder blade. Darek slid his claw under the elite's armor, who actually tried to knee the attack up, but simply pushed it through the padding with more force. It took one moment for the elite to see his mistake, shoving Darek's arm downward onto his extended claws before Darek could react and retract his arm; it seemed to be half a moment of time, impossibly fast. Darek wondered if a the elites began their officerships at rank five, and if rank four was still training; he had never seen that move before. He returned to blocking, enduring the surprisingly minor pain from his puncture wound as it oozed blood slowly, spreading drops and splatters of it over the floor as Darek blocked. Darek finally blocked two low shots, and got an opportunity for a slash to the face with all the revenge he had wanted. Darek dug his claws in deep with his swipe, putting in his muscle all of the revenge for his puncture wound, savoring the tearing of flesh and pain. The elite grimaced in pain for two moments, time Darek could use. He quickly gave a kick to the elite's shins and a heavy shove to his armor, slamming him to the ground. He shoved his good arm under the elite's neck, about to slit his throat, when he realized what he was doing. He sighed and let the lion chain him up, almost unable to believe what he had just done: let the blood lust go all the way to his head.

But it was then Darek saw an attempt to jump on his back. With a spin, he kicked the elite in mid-air. The elite was sent tumbling in the opposite direction, and skidded into an elite and a lion who were fighting. Both of the elites ran back at Darek once they recovered, and at the same time a third tried to slash his shoulder, which he barely blocked.

Darek had to change tactics. He had avoided dealing severe damage for political consequences, but feared he would have to start dealing it now in order to stay alive. He had to change to fighting more than one target, a simple style which dictated keeping only one target attacking at one moment; the others should be stunned or getting up off of the floor.

Darek quickly tried a triple blow, going for the face, chest and knee at the same time. This elite, fortunately, was only rank one, so he failed to block the lightning-fast kick to the knee. Darek then simply shoved him a few feet on the floor. By now, the other two elites had reached him, both rank ones as well. He blocked their attacks on his chest, and dodged their second attacks to his head and knees. He returned a punch to the cheek for one, and a kick to the chest for the other. The punch was blocked, but the kick was not, sending that elite tumbling. Darek noticed the first elite was getting up, and estimated he had only moments. However, during his attention change, he took a slash in the shoulder of the arm that was punctured. That did hurt, but Darek managed to give him another combination punch-kick on pure adrenaline, which the elite reacted to the same way as the other one, not quite fast enough to block them both. The kick sent him sprawling on the floor. Darek now saw the first elite had reached him, and the second would soon. Darek couldn't deal with those two so close together, so he used the last part of his training: invention of new moves based on judgement. He managed to get the first elite in the jaw, and then spun around back of him. The elite spun with him as expected, but got pushed into the second elite in the middle of his bound at Darek, injuring them both. They fell to the ground, and four lions, two bleeding in the middle of the back, managed to chain them up. The third elite came, but Darek kept dodging, walking backwards, hoping to perform a similar move.

Darek slowly backed closer, as he kept fighitng to an elite engaged to two lions and winning. The rank two had just sent one lion to the floor, and was in the process of sending the other lion there, when Darek spun around his own combatant, and pushed him into the other elite. Both of the elites and the lion all went tumbling, the lion landing in the middle and barely squeezing out a mere one moment later. The lion's partner, now at his feet, jumped on both of the elites, pinning them down. One managed to escape the pin in almost instantly, but was caught by the other lion. Finally, with that and the resolution of a fight, all of the attacking elites were subdued.

Darek calmed down and surveyed the damage. There were severe injuries on both sides, but no fatalities; the lion who got teamed up on was half way dead. So goes war, he thought. He would remain reasonably well off in any trial, because he had ensured that all of the damage he dealt was in self-defense in addition to being non-fatal.

It was at this point that Darek addressed everyone on his side, most of whom had at least one wound of some sort. "We have very little time. We must get together to defeat Ross and his private army around his quarters. I want everyone in chains except Scott to be put in the empty cells in the east wing, and guards, two per cell, put on them. Everyone else stay here." Darek walked over to the specialist he had captured. "Who has the keys to the doors of the regulars' wing?"

"I do," the specialist mumbled, searching through his keyring. He held up a series of six keys. "Good." Darek called his wildcat bodyguards back to his side, and took the specialist with them. They walked over to the entrances to the troops' quarters, and the specialist picked up the fourth key in the series, and handed the ring to Darek by it. Darek closed it, and locked the bolt in place.

Now the challenge presented itself: the leaders for security were kept in the elites' quarters. Darek realized he would have to take on all of the elites that were assigned to the prison; there were over 200. Even with his force, it would be a challenge. He thought he would arrest everyone area by area, room by room, overwhelming one small group at a time with his large group. Each area was a small enough that his troops could cover it. The biggest area he had to worry about was the mess hall, and that he assumed was empty this late at night. He would then send the prisoners back to the back of the prison where they would be more than safe.

Darek brought his two wildcat body guards and four columns of lions to the entrance. He opened the door, and no one was there. Fortunately, the guards who would normally be here had run out to see what the problem was, and they were in chains now. The group quietly walked past the first empty post, and stuck two lions in the cubby holes instead. Then, they made an immediate right into the mess hall. Darek peeked around the corner of the open iron door and all of the tables were empty expect three. He thought he would only need ten lions for this; there were only nine elites in the room. He counted silently to his troops. One, two three, and they all burst in.

"Alright, hold it!" Darek shouted. The nine elites looked up from their soup without even so much as a frightened look. "Don't attack them, or they'll subdue you more painfully than they would otherwise!" Thy did not move. "Are you guys what the alarm is about?" one of them asked calmly. "Probably," was Darek's simple reply. "Getting in to get Ross, right?" asked another. "Yes," Darek answered coldly. "Well, we won't get in your way," one of the said slyly. He considered it doubtful from his tone, but if they couldn't get out, then there would be no problem. "Good. And to make sure, I'm going to have to chain you up. Now I won't hurt you, just come nicely." Darek's charisma was surging. "Okay," sighed three, however the others remained silent. One of the lions stepped forward, but was putting the claw locks on the fourth of the panthers, when the fifth jumped him. The wildcats quickly grabbed him out of mid-air, and flung him to the ground. The lion put claw locks on him as calmly as ever before proceeding to the rest of them. "Now I hope the rest of you will be nicer," Darek said with a grin just as sly. He had all of then taken away to the east wing as well, where they would be detained.

All that was left now, Darek thought, were the quarters of all of the elites. He and his entire force walked up to the first room, hid behind the corner, and Darek kicked the door in. "Okay you're all under arrest," he shouted to the five troops asleep on their bunks. They all remained still. That was suspicious; it was obviously a trick, since no one could sleep through his voice in that tone as many recruits had testified to from his few days as a drill instructor. As he slowly walked in, wildcats close at his back, sure enough, they all jumped at Darek. He simply backed up and let the sea of lions at the door grab them all. They were slowly chained one at a time as the lions fought to keep them manageable as they subdued them, dodging kicks with outstretched claws like they were doing some sort of dance. The rest of the bedrooms, forunately, had only one occupant who surrendered (peacefully or not was of no object), or were empty entirely. Darek growled at the last one who was captured, "where are the rest of the troops?"

"At a meeting," he answered with a smirk. Darek's mind flashed back to Ross's strategy: keeping his troops behind him. What kind of meeting was it?

Darek went to the last room, one which was newly constructed -- very newly constructed. The extensions to the hall were as clean as the old halls were rusty. The door was closed, but it was a thin temporary version instead of a thick steel sliding one; it was possible to hear through it. It was dead silent for a few seconds, but then a speaker broke out. "The reason we are doing this," a loud voice echoed throughout the audibly large room, "is because our leader Ross has big plans for us. We will be the founders of a new order! It will be without the burden of society to weight down their technological strength with their mindless rules and details!"

Technology was the foundation of Ross's new empire? Darek found that impossible! Society couldn't the thrown out; something had to bind the people together besides steel and brick. There had to be a way to know who should do what, and why. A social heirarchy of some sort was necessary, or anarchy would be the result; technologically advanced anarchy.

But the applause made Darek realize just how many troops were in that single room. "Get more troops, every one you can," he whispered quickly to one of his wildcats. His right hand nodded and dashed back through the columns of lions. He just listened to the speech while he waited for his troops to arrive. The applause was dying down. "I have seen what Ross has done, and you have seen what Ross has done. And it was all because they had a society that had to be appeased. It wasn't his fault! It was the fault of society!" This speaker had charisma; Darek could feel it though the door. "Without it, specialists will provide a better tomorrow too by creating unity and purity for the power of technology to expand beyond the wildest dreams of the greatest inventors and specialists to date!" There was more applause.

Unity and purity? Where did they come from? If there is no social order, then how can there be any unity, or a standard to measure purity? Unity needed ideas, not machines. Purity needed a scale, not a filter. Ross was doing it all wrong; technology was a means, not and end. Society and social order ARE the ENDS to which technology goes, at least so said the humans. And he saw an entirely different end through which charisma was the means: his society where hapiness would be rampant.

The applause died down as the speech continued. "I am sure of all these facts. Are you?"

"YES!" rang out from over 250 mouths. "Do you believe me!?"

"YES!" came the deafening roar. "REALLY!?"

"YEEEEEEEEEEES!" came the echoes from the group of ideologues unaware of their own fallacies. This is how revolution begins, Darek knew. Followers fail to think and always listen. Emotional highs rise up from them and smother their reasoning. Even if the idea is good, there is always something wrong with it, and if there is nothing wrong with it, it's not good. Then, the flaw is in the ends, if not the means.

He knew exactly what his flaws were for the society he was planning. They could not be in the means; he would accept them in the ends.

The troops formed new rows behind the four column, and the wildcat tapped Darek on the shoulder and returned to his side.

This would be the most difficult battle of the whole endeavor.

***

"Okay everyone," Darek instructed in a sharp whisper, "I want you to take the troops as they come out. I want you to pull them to your neighbor who will pull them to his, and so on, until they get to the ten lions that can chain. Do you have enough chains back there?" The lions dripping metal simply nodded. "You guys at the back of the lines, help them if they need it. Got it?" The last 20 troops nodded. "Okay, get ready. Remember throw them to your neighbor." Darek took a deep breath, his desire for proper social order flooding his veins, his eyes ready to see life or death, and his breath coming fast. "For a better state," he whispered for his last words, and kicked the door.

The thin metal door fell off its hinges immediately, sprawling to the floor with a loud wing-wang as it warped from the force. And all of the firey fury that was worked up in the crowd came at Darek and his troops, taking the panthers who it embodied with it.

One of the elites, the one who had initiated this attack, jumped for Darek. Darek jumped to his feet and hit him in the face and back, shoving him to the ground. He tried to pin the elite down, but his foe rolled out of the way before Darek could secure him. Just as Darek dodged a punch, three more elites ran from the door right for Darek, the rest trying to follow. The lions managed to form a wall in front of their leader, forcing the elites to fight them, but those three still shoved and clawed their way through. Darek jumped back several feet, giving himself time. He had only a couple of moments, now, and noticing a single stripe on his original attacker, did a punch-and-kick in an attempt to knock him down. The elite fell for it, failing to block the kick. That send him to his knees. Two other elites were a moment away. Rule one of multi-fighting, he knew, is there should never be two on him at once, so Darek did what he could. He tackled one of the elites, knocking him to the ground, flipped up from it, and tried to kick the second elite in the chest, but it was blocked.

While the first elite did find a vulnerable time window, giving Darek's black a slash, the claws dug into nothing but his leather. Darek managed to respond by stepping on him, as he endured the pain. That at least stunned him. Darek then managed to get his current sparring partner to block another punch while he kicked him, sending him to the ground as well. As the third who he had initially send sprawling came back up on him, Darek just tripped him, mking him land on the two elies who where about to get up.

Unfortunately, Darek failed to notice a fourth that had disengaged from one of the lions. For his mistake, he took a punch in the chest as a result. The third elite, just getting up from on top of his two comrades, reached up and slashed Darek's shoulder, barely missing his face. Darek endured the pain, having taken far more of that than before. He spun and kicked the first elite, who was then to his feet, into the fourth, and they both went tumbling over. The second elite came back, and was quickly dispatched by a kick to the shin, a slash to the face, and a toss several feet away into the arms of two lions. The third soon followed, and ironically, fell for the same maneuver. The first and fourth came back up together. Darek knew that he couldn't use that move a third time, so he had to change his dodging style the hardest of them all.

They both attacked him. One kicked and one punched twice, all three moves barely blocked by Darek's quickly flinging arm guards. Then they both punched twice, each aiming for a different area. Darek blocked those, and then three more attacks to his chest, leg, and arm. But as a result, he missed the one to his face, and was promptly given a black eye and sent tumbling. Through his eyes, his left slowly closing with the bruise, he ha enough depth perception to see them try and kick him when he was down. He barely managed to do a back flip onto his feet, ripping open all of his wounds, clawing one of them in the face with his left hind foot as he did. This made the elite wince and lose concentration, permitting Darek to grab and swing him into the other elite, and then use the momentum to heave them both into a group of fighting elites and their lion targets. The third elite attacked Darek aggressively now, as Darek waited for a good time to make his move. This elite was the speaker; it was personal.

Darek kept doding and blocking, waiting for the right time to make his move. Soon, he saw a point where a kick was being blocked by his hip plate and a slash was being absorbed by his chest plate, so he tried to kick the standing leg out form under the speaker. His opponent jumped, finished the kick, landed on the other foot, making Darek kick nothing but thin air. He gave another kick, and Darek blocked that one too. Darek himself tried to punch, but the elite grabbed the en route arm and spun him around with it. Darek clawed the ground to stop spinning, but not before the elite rotated a kick into his flight path. This got him in the chest and knocked the wind out of him. Darek's eye was now closing more, barely able to see his flight path as he fell backwards onto the floor. He was beginning to feel quite weak as well, as he saw the streaks of blood oozing out of his multiple wounds and dripping onto the floor.

Darek got up slowly, barely blocking a kick, and jumped over the elite. The elite failed to hit him in midair, fortunately, considering his inside leg was more than prone to a good slicing. Darek's vision was clouding in his good eye, and his bad eye was almost sealed over from a developing bruise. He was gasping horribly from the kick in the chest, and his armor was slit halfway up the middle. He couldn't take much more. He dodged the elite's two punches by rotating his torso, beginning to walk backwards. He managed to block a punch with his claws out, causing minor damage to the speaker's left paw and ran. He bounded toward the sea of lions and their targets, blood running with his every step. He saw a pack of seven elites right in a ring, all engaged to five lions who were losing.

This was the last thing Darek could do.

He sprung, spinning as he did, and hit all seven of the elites in the head with his fists, arms, legs, feet, and body knocking them to the ground. Then he himself landed unceremoniously on them all, his wounds flashing into pain. All of the elites threw him off, causing more damage from a second fall, and as they closed in, several were neck slashed by lions. Those remaining tried to neck slash back with partial success, and those who failed continue to battle them, since they were more of a threat than Darek.

Darek lay there, gasping for breath, tired, nearly blind as the cloudy mess of soldiers turned into fuzz. He could hear the sounds of the fighting around him. There were no yells, only gasps, groans, grunts, and gulps, and blows on flesh and armor.

He closed his eyes. He did not want to see the face of death. Instead, he would rather feel its cold breath on his neck, as it swallowed him slowly into its eternal slumber. He knew it was only a matter of time. Either from his wounds or an execution, he would die. He would face death valienty as a solider should.

So, he waited. Nothing seemed to happen. The constant sounds continued around him as one long sound. But then his feet and arms were lifted! "Okay, you guys pick him up," came the order. It was a panther's voice; he then knew his side had lost. He would be killed if he lived. There was no justice anymore; that would be part of "society" that Ross so despised. He was sure of it. His thoughts turned to his dream; his society. He cried in silence, thinking of what it would be like. Designs that were being built in the back of his mind, during sleep and battle, were coming alive in brilliant color before his minds eye. He would recruit from the old state from opression, indoctrinate with pleasure, and favor those who begged to please him. Everyone could do whatever they wanted, catching food from the wild as they needed, and doing whatever they wanted to to each other in their spare time -- as long as everyone agree to it. It was a pleasant vision, simiple, elegant, and a recepie for pure bliss; truely the antithesis of Ross's technology-only world.

But he knew that before it had even begun, the dream was over. It would die with him.

The party carrying him jogged along quite a distance. FInally, they stopped and another order came. "Put him down here." He was laid down gently, amazingly. This made him open his one good eye. The world was in a fuzzy soupt with yellow dots floating in it, but he could see himself surrounded by black fur. To avoid any pain of death, he would sleep here and play possum. He focused on sleep, hoping for a peaceful end to his life. And despite his tears found it, for what he believed to be the last time.

***

"It's time to wake up," came a cheery, playful voice from Darek's left. He could scarcely believe his ears. Wake up? He thought he was dead! "Wake up?" was all Darek could mumble. "Yes, wake up," repeated the voice gingerly. It was joined suddenly by a nose nuzzling his cheek, and the realization there was something emminating warmth very close to him. His eyelids were also shielding him from a bright light, and there was something soft underneath him.

He opened one eye, only to be blinded by a beam of light in darkness and close it again. He knew he did have to get up, however, for a reason he couldn't quantify, so he tried again. He looked at the darkness this time, and slid both of his eyes opne slowly.

It was a wooden room, mostly dark; the cracks in the wood beamed in sunlight. The soft thing underneath him was a mattress. THe soft fur next to him was that of a male -- who was rather young, surprisingly. His scent was pleasing, his temper seemed gentle, and there was something about the way he looked at him with his soft blue eyes -- a kit-like aspect -- that made him rather attractive. He nuzzled Darek. "Good morning," he said in a sing-song voice.

It then dawned on him: this was what he had envisioned! This was what perfection looked like!

But wait a minute, what was a male doing here? He thought he would ask. "Why are you here?" Darek whispered to him. "Oh, so I might serve you in whatever you need, master." Master? Well, it did make sense. "What have I needed?" Darek asked gently, hoping to learn more about what he had created; he didn't even know the details, remembering only a few brief ideas which flew by. "Oh, you've needed -- me," he mrred with a blush. Him? He -- fooled around, with that male? He saw the male rather attractive, so perhaps it was possible, but it was hard to believe.

But what about girls? "Are there any girls around here?" Someone else stirred from the corner of the room. "Me," a female voice mumbled. It was apparently her that he was smelling, not the male; it didn't smell very masculine in the room. "What can I do for you?" she murmured. "Nevermind, you can go back to sleep." She rolled over and seemed to fall asleep instantly.

Darek reached over to the male an pulled his neck close to him, and sniffed. It didn't smell like the room, far more masculine, but it was still very light, and not heavy like the more repulsive males. He couldn't help but tell him. "There seems to be something about you, you know that?" Darek pulled him up to his body without resistance. The male smiled. "You said that the first time you saw me. Now it is time for your duties." The male rolled back and stood up. Darek figured that was a queue, so he did too.

Darek opened the door, and followed his guide out into the bright sunlight. This room was one of many in a large courtyard in an immense triangular structure of stacked logs, probably 200 feet on each side. Darek was amazed how many trees must have been cut, given the amount of wood used in the structure! He followed his guide around the grounds, passing occasional panthers, who all bowed slightly as he went by. They seemed so submissive; was this really what he had in mind? He stopped to ask a rather scrawny male. "Are you really happy here?"

"Yes, sir. It's far better than where I used to live. My -- friend and I would probably have wound up dead." Another male sauntered over, and nuzzled the neck of the first. Darek kept walking by, and there seemed to be quite a few wandering, eating, and so on. They all seemed as if they were reasonably satiated, but not nearly ecstatic.

Darek stopped, and walked into a rather dark structure, one put together in a different style than all of the others. It was several dozen feet in both horizontal dimensions, but extremely short. He opened a loose panel, which appeared to be the only way in. What he found was a dark pit, with dozens crawling around! They all jumped up at him, but the pit was over six feet deep, so they couldn't reach. He closed the board immediately.

"What -- are they down there for?" he asked aghast. "Because they made a mistake," was the answer from the male, "they refused to obey the rules. They can still do whatever they want, and they won't be kept long, so don't worry." He smiled, and continued walking. Darek just followed.

Darek wondered, was this really what he had intended? That seemed to be quite a punishment, even for only "not long". "Did I order that?"

"Yes, you did. You said that it was a short time, and they could still do what they wanted down there." The guide did have a point, since sex was central to this society, so Darek guessed this was the least of all punishments.

"I'm tired of wandering," he sighed to his guide. "Isn't there anything else to this place?"

"No, you said it was going to be simple."

"Alright, so what are the rules?"

"For you, there aren't many. For everyone else, there are quite a few, but most of them can be summarized by things they have to do once in a while, not what they cannot do." That seemed to him like a much more logical "code".

Darek stopped, and returned to the quarters which seemed to be his. The male acting as his guide followed. "Wait a minute, you have duties to perform," he protested with a gentle nuzzle. He was rather surprised. "I do?"

"Yes, you have to indoctrinate a few people, and help out a few others progress."

"And how do I do that?" The male blushed. "Well, you have some girls who have to -- get you excited, and there are some males who must continue forward by pleasing you as well." Males pleasing him? When would he agree to that? Darek had to ask. "What do they do to please him?"

"Oh, they -- use their tongues." Darek's future self seemed to have out-thought the current him; he was getting a little excited already. "Well can't I take a day off?" was the next thing he asked, since he felt more like having someone regular -- like that girl his quarters -- pleasure him instead. "Certainly, master. I'll let them all know."

"Good," was all he said, and re-entered his quarters.

Darek walked in, enjoying the wave of sweet smelling air which struck his nose as he opened and then closed the door. "Hello," cooed the female still in here, now wide awake. He just stared at her soft, white fur in the dim light, and her gentle brown eyes which looked back at him submissively. "Hello," was all he could say as he stared. He strode towards her, his member already erect, expecting the best from her.

"Darek?" came a very masculine voice suddenly. It was from directly behind him, but he turned to see no one. "Darek, can you hear me?" it came again. Darek suddenly knew this was a dream, but he didn't know how to get out of it. "Darek? Don't give up now, Darek!" Darek tried to close his eyes, and make it all go away, but he re-opened them to the same girl, same room, and same dimness.

"Darek, come on, wake up!" He couldn't! "Help!" He tried to shout back. It just echoed off the wooden walls. "What is it?" the female asked. "Not you," he snarled. "Can you hear me!? I'm alive! I'm alive!" he shouted. "Who are you talking to?" she asked with a puzzled look. "Shut up!" he snarled. "Hey! I'm alive! Can you hear me!?" he roared.

"Darek? Come on, Darek! Don't die now! You've been through too much!" It was then he recongized the voice: Charles! The Head of State was talking to him! He must be dead after all, if he could talk to him! "Charles! Sir! Please, tell mw I'm not dead!"

"Of course you're not dead," the female whispered, and nuzzzled his neck, "and who is Charles?"

"Shut up, dear! This is important! Charles!" he yelled yet again, his voice getting sore.

Darek decided to take a break, and at that point, he heard the words he had been dreading. "Darek! Please don't die! Don't tell me you're dead!" Doubt was starting to set in; he needed a way out of here! He closed his eyes, and tried again, but he couldn't make this world go away. "Please don't die! Don't die!" came another voice. "You're a hero! You don't deserve to die!" repeated the first one. He wish he could tell them he was not dead, but he didn't know what else to do.

It was in that moment of dispair that the sky opened up, and turned into iron rods. "Darek!?" the voice came through the hole, more frantic than ever, "Darek!" he realized it was his eyes!

He was looking at the corner of a bed! His eyes were open! He tried to jump at the sky, it was his last hope...

And the next thing he knew, he was in bed.

***

"Darek?" the voice repeated agian, softly, as his eyes found themselves in darkness. This time, he managed to answer. "Yes, I'm here, sir." A whisper was all he could muster; he felt so weak, and hot, and tired, like he hadn't slept for days. "Oh Darek!" cried the other voice, obivously Gareth, and something furry and cold by comparison hugged his shoulders. "You're alive!" it exclaimed. "You're alive!"

"How are you feeling?" asked Charles.

Darek managed to open his one good eye to see the Head of State, standing over his bunk, smiling down at him. He tried to sit, and was about to stand, in an attempt at respect, when he was pushed back down. "Easy, Darek, at ease," Charles reassured with a rough laughing smile, "you don't have to get up."

"Thank you, sir," he managed to moan, finding himself in terrible pain with an eyelid closed and a headache. "We didn't think you would make it. You got hurt pretty bad. But like those specialists who were digging in the ground and found all that radation, you are making a nice, but slow, recovery." He guessed that was good, but it didn't feel very reassuring, especially the slow part. "Everything's going to be alright," Gareth chimed in. That reminded Darek that Gareth loved him, and so was surely going to be nursing him, something he could use to his advantage.

"Can I get you anything? Besides, of course, an early retirement?" was the Head of State's next question, with his smiling eyes and cheeks dotted with the proper red paint. Darek new state flooded back to him; he made his request specific. "Well, sir, if I could retire -- out of the city, where I wouldn't be bothered --"

"Outside of the city?" Charles asked quizzically. "Yes, sir. I figure I could set up a nice little place of myself. What I really need is peace and quiet."

"Well, I can see that, but why not seek out the pace of an office and private quarters?" Darek barely managed to think of something in the time allowed, two seconds. His brain, after all, was still recovering from that dream. "Well, sir," he began with a strong but hoarse voice, putting all of the energy he had left into personal charisma, "I need to be bothered by nobody; people in private quarters barge in for all sorts of reason. And besides, the more space the state has for real work, the better. Surely you wouldn't disagree with that, would you sir?"

"No, I guess not. And I guess you did save my life. Very well, you may have it. Take what materials you need -- to a point." Darek smiled, his wish having been granted. "Oh, don't worry sir. I will not make it cost the state much, he assure you." Gareth looked at him suspiciously, because he was telling a lie -- or so it could be plausibly argued.

Darek waited until Charles left before adressing Gareth with what strength he had left. "Would you oversee the construction? I have a very detailed plan." Gareth smirked. "I'm sure you do. But I guess I'll have to go along with this charade of yours, since I'm going to be found out sooner or later, now that I've admitted how much I -- like you." That would be his ticket to paradise, Darek knew: Gareth's work and Charlie's money.

Darek described his dream, start to finish -- at least, the buildings in it. It took a while, and he got some strange looks, especially with the description of the pit, but Gareth seemed to get it all down in his head.

Darek stayed in bed for a several weeks, and Gareth visited him often with drawings. Darek didn't have to do much direction before the final plans were ready, just as he had seen them in his dream.

And with a few final reassurances to Gareth, along with estimations of needed materials, work began as Darek's recovery continued. Darek always looked forward to it from his bed, knowing that his future was -- at long, long last -- secure.

Darek knew it would take quite a few months more for him to recover, but with visits from Gareth, Ryan, and even the long lost Stephanie, he knew everything would be alright.

The End.