She woke up from the nightmare of blood, to find herself in a nightmare of pain.
It had been the usual dream, the pile of bodies, smoking and smelling of burnt flesh. She would cough and choke on the horrible smoke, claws scratching at the steel walls of the room, desperate to find a way out. But the walls were solid. There were no doors to allow her to escape. Eventually the smoke thickened and she tripped over the bodies, falling into them, dead arms and legs tangling with her own, trapping her, choking her, until she woke up again in the Relentless’ bunkroom, trying not to scream and earn another beating.
She blinked, realized she was awake. A brief bout of panic overcame her as she felt the harsh florescent light shine in her face. Was she late for duty call? She tried to roll out of bed to her feet, only then discovering the heavy nylon straps holding her naked to an examination table in an unfamiliar sickbay.
Her tail lashed in panic again, and she let out an inarticulate growl, feeling waves of pain emanating out from a central point in her belly. Had she been shot? She must have.
She heard the sound of footsteps, and a gliten, with brightly died vestigial feather running up his forearms, entered the room, dressed in blue hospital scrubs and carrying an electronic clipboard. That wasn’t right. If she’d been shot it should have been Doc patching her up, perhaps literally, since his usual method was to slap a smart bandage on the wound and otherwise let nature take its course.
“Ah, you’re awake,” it clicked at her. “Good. If you’re wondering, you were shot in the stomach by Lt. Zan. I was ordered by the captain to patch you together enough to talk. Enjoy your time while you can.” It noted some readouts on the display panel beside her bed, then stepped out again.
A moment later a foxen like herself entered, a vixen with deep red fur, dressed in tight leather pants dyed blood red, a red leather bustier, and a matching bolero jacket with long leather fringes hanging off the arms. Four golden rings climbed up her left ear, and her bright blue eyes looked down at the table with what seemed to be mild amusement.
“I am the Red Vixen, Scourge of the Spaceways ™,” the vixen announced, “and you are my prisoner, little one. What’s your name?”
She coughed once, let out a brief squawk of pain as her wounded belly spasmed, then finally worked up enough spit to answer, “Ali-Kat.”
“’Ali-Kat,’ well that certainly fits your fur pattern and your golden eyes.” A white enameled claw stroked the fur along Ali-Kat’s arm, stopping where her primarily black fur changed to white socks. “What’s your real name?”
“Ali… Alinadar,” Ali-Kat replied.
The Red Vixen raised an eyebrow. “Just Alinadar?”
“Yeah,” she gasped, pulling at straps wrapped around her wrists as another wave of pain washed over her.
“Well, Just Alinadar, or Ali-Kat, or whatever your true name is, you have three fates waiting for you, depending on the answers I get. Be uncooperative, and I’ll chuck you in the airlock sans spacesuit and cycle it open. It’s a messy and painful way to die, and my engineering chief will not love me for cleanup job I’ll be giving him, so it’s not my first choice. Be cooperative but not useful to me, and my chief medical officer will give you an injection that will let you die in a painless sleep. Be useful and you may earn a place on my crew. Thanks to you I’m short a cook’s assistant, and I hate losing crew,” the Red Vixen pressed a claw against Ali’s right shoulder, shaved of its fur to show off the spiral allegiance mark carved into her skin, “especially to anyone working for Bloody Margo.”
“Okay,” Ali-Kat answered. She didn’t imagine for a second that the Red Vixen’s third option was for real. She remembered firing at the pirate captain as the raiding team blew through the front doors of the refueling base. A human had leaped in front of the shot, falling to the ground dead, as a big wazagan fired back at Ali-Kat, catching her in the belly with a lance of plasma from his pistol. It must have cauterized the wound, which explained why she was still alive, even after the shot penetrated her clamshell armor. The Red Vixen wanted to question her for information, and then kill her. Death was the only possible escape from Bloody Margo’s service, Ali-Kat knew. Any other options were lies or dreams.
“The most important question first: Did Bloody Margo know that she was attacking my refueling station, or was she just taking an opportunity that presented itself?”
“Don’t know. Sgt. Jack said that it looked like a pirate base, out in the Nowhere, encoded nav beacon, no habitats or mining ops nearby.”
“So, likely not,” the Red Vixen said, her posture seeming to relax. “And we wiped out your attacking force, so no word is going to get back to her. Good. Next question: How long have you been working for Bloody Margo?”
“Six,” Ali-Kat answered, her concentration wobbly from the pain.
“Six years? Six months?” the Red Vixen prompted.
“Since I was six.”
The Red Vixen blinked. “That’s impossible,” she stated, her voice flat with annoyance.
“’s true,” she mumbled. “’m Ali-Kat, Margo’s pet Ali-Kat.”
“I thought that,” the Red Vixen touched the D-ring riveted to the front of the leather collar around Ali-Kat’s neck, “was for show. You mean it isn’t?”
“Means I’m Lady Margo’s,” Ali-Kat replied. He belly spasmed again, and she growled in pain.
“Since you were six years old?”
“I see.” The Red Vixen’s brow furrowed briefly, then she nodded, as if coming to a decision. She turned towards the doorway and called out, “Doctor!”
“Milady?” the ship’s doctor asked, coming back into the room.
“Give her the injection,” the Red Vixen ordered.
The gliten cocked his head. “You’re certain, Captain?”
“Yes,” the Red Vixen replied.
“As you will.” The gliten took a syringe from a nearby refrigerated cabinet, and injected the contents into the saline feed inserted into Ali-Kat’s arm. The cold drug entered her veins, and blackness shortly followed.
This is probably my third or fourth attempt to write the first meeting between Ali and teh Red Vixen