Cleo walks down a country lane with an open polkadot umbrella over her right shoulder. It’s a warm, spring day with a gentle breeze that plays with her plum-colored curls. Her long, yellow sundress flaps around her ankles as she strolls barefoot over the packed earth. Her left hand plays idly with random items in her dresss pocket: a half-empty packet of tissues, a tack nail, some spare change that jangles nicely with the one-two-three-fou paper clips she found just
a moment ago. A small smile playes on her pink lips. The day is barely begun and already she has a fair collection for her quest.
Her pale gold eyes sharply scan her surroundings, giving lie to her languid movements. The game has been on for less than an hour. She can almost feel the others scouring the lands around for the allusive items from today’s list. Amateurs. Even with all their training, they have yet to grasp the most imperative lesson: “Look and ye shall not find.” One cannot search for the list. It is why she wons so frequently. Cleo doesn’t look for the tiny objects that have been scattered throughout the compound. She walks casually and waits for the onjects to come to her.
A rustle in the long grass downwind and a dark face appears. Cleo recognizes the vivid green eyes and the scarlet-red mohawk, today secured in a tight braid, as belonging to the runt of her litter “Cleopatra,” the other greets her with a stiff bow, careful not to make direct eye contact and also not to look away. The runt is too weak to challenge her, but a sign of submission would be equally dangerous.
Cleo does the other the great honor of barely inclining her head. “Good morning, Cassandra,” she replies coolly, giving every indication that the woman’s sudden appearance is an amusement rather than a threat.
“It is a lovely day today,” Cassie says woodenly. She doesn’t even spare a glance at the bright red sun pinned to the sky overhead. Cleo subtly adjusts her stance to be ready for sudden action, trusting on her long skirt to camoflauge the movement.
“Yes,” Cleo concedes after an uncomfortably long silence. “It is a nice change from the sulfer rains.” she smiles, or rather, bares her razor sharp teeth at Cassie. Her bare feet flex on the path, testing it with her clawed toes. She is confident here, confident that Cassie is the one at a disadvantage. Cleo casually closes her umbrella and slides it into her standard-issue black satchel slung across her back.
The wind ruffles the tawny, spotted fur of her bare arms and tickles her whiskers. Cassie’s rounded ears twitch on either side of her braided mane. The sun glints dully off of something shiny pushing itself out of the packed red clay.
Cleo scents it first and sets off, Cassie a moment later. It’s one fifty meters away, though it is slightly closer to the runt. This is of no concern. Cleo has the advantage of natural speed. Her wide nostrils wuck huge amounts of air into her cavernous lungs. Her stride lengthens with each step and her claws, never retracted, dig into the ground to give her superior traction. Cassie, battling through the long grass, soon abandons all semblance of civility and drops to all fours. It is a desperate and foolish attempt to out-sprint Nature’s master sprinter.
Cleo easily pulls ahead and uses a last burst of energy to double the distance between them. Then she falls into a slide to grab the little packet in a cloud of dirt. Her momentum is enough for her to regain her feet, swing around, and rake her claws across Cassie’s face. The runt reels back with a shriek of pain and lands in a crouch, ready for battle. She’s caught off guard by Cleo, who merely straightens up and brushes the dirt off her skirt. The synthetic cotton is stained with the red dirt, she realizes with a sigh. When she notices Cassie’s ready stance, the woman gives an incredulous snort of amusement and retuns to dusting herself off. Cassie, clearly insulted, gradually straightens up.