After having been paraded in front of the video camera in a scene rife with death threats and ransom demands, Ludwig is marched back to his cell. His hands are still numb, a detail that worries him because it has probably been about thirty minutes since they’d thrown her back in the cell (having somehow acquired a man’s t-shirt) and taken him down from the pole he’d been hanging from. Now, at least, his hands are cuffed in front of him rather than behind him, but he is afraid that might change when they put him back in the cell. There are six men, four around him, and then another who seems to act as a bodyguard for the man who organized the video. They are carrying Russian-made AK-47s, and Ludwig itches to get his hands on one and let loose on the lot of them, but he doubts he could be very effective with his hands still so numb. So he goes with the men quietly, causing as little trouble as possible. If he is lucky, they might decide to free his hands, and he can see if there has been permanent damage done. His anxiety surges, at the thought of permanent damage. If his hands are useless, he is useless. He would be unable to fight, to hold a weapon, to rescue, hold, and handle her- He stops his thought process before it goes too far, feeling the rising tide of panic and stemming it as he flexes his fingers. There is a slight pins-and-needles sensation that he welcomes and hopes will grow.
They stop before the cell; speaking in a language he doesn’t understand, attempting to unlock the heavy wooden door. From this angle, Ludwig can see how it has been sealed on all sides to block the light and just how heavy and thick the door is. In order to know that they were coming for her, the girl must have incredible hearing. He wonders what she is doing, if she did hear them coming, if, perhaps, she has been listening for his return. The bodyguard pulls the door open, using both strength and weight, and light shines into the dank cell along the widening gap between the door and the frame, its dark, gleaming stone a stark contrast to the pale, matte, blank walls of the hallway.
There is a flash of disorienting movement; the bodyguard’s rifle is snatched from his hands, the sling for the gun across his shoulder pulling him off balance and into the reach of the girl and her clawing fingers. With a snarling scream of rage akin to that of an enraged puma, she digs her fingers into his eyes, enucleating the screaming man in a heartbeat. He doesn’t even have a moment to react before he is blinded for life. She is no sooner finished with him before sliding past the first pair of guards, her heels flying out with terrible, murderous precision and slamming one of the rear guards’ kneecaps backward into the space between femur and tibia. With a shriek of agony, the man goes down, clutching at his grotesquely disfigured leg. This is it, Ludwig senses, and throws his manacled hands around the throat of one of the forward guards as the man turns, spinning with the guard and jamming the short chain into the vulnerable windpipe. Ludwig braces his elbows against the man’s back, pulling his wrists that much tighter against the soft flesh of the man’s neck, flexing his biceps against the man’s clawing hands. Meanwhile, the girl has literally leaped over the second rear guard’s rifle barrel like some massive cat, vaulting over his shoulder with the help of one hand, fastening the other underneath his chin as she comes down, pulling to the side violently so that his neck breaks with a sickening crack. The last guard, the second forward, is pointing his gun wildly, in a panic and without a clear shot as the girl and Ludwig keep the bodies of their victims between them and the gun’s firing line.
“Shoot them!” the man in charge shouts again and again, his voice rising to a shrill, high-pitched scream as he draws a pistol only to find the sidearm jamming on him in his panic. Ludwig’s man began sagging a few moments ago, the lack of oxygen finally causing him to pass out, but Ludwig’s hands are still bound and he is unable to handle the rifle that is now available to him. The girl, however, is small and fast, faster even than Gilbert, and she darts toward the guard, zigzagging and weaving over the floor and the bodies as she bears down on the man like a cheetah, teeth bared and blood-stained claws extended, eyes lit with the sharp, pale glow of bloodlust. She dives at the man’s middle and appears to climb his body in mid-air, her body curling so that her feet are planted on his chest, her hands buried firmly in the collar of his shirt. They land together, and she uses the impact to rebound off of the guard’s ribcage, snapping it like matchsticks as she tumbles away, getting to her feet in moments. The man gurgles, unable to scream because his lungs are probably both punctured and he is likely drowning in his own blood at the moment, hands hovering, shaking, above his broken torso. Ludwig drops the man in front of him and lunges for the man in charge who is still struggling with his handgun, obviously unfamiliar with it. A handgun can be handled despite handcuffs, and Ludwig wants it, even if his hands are tingling like mad at this point and only barely able to hold it. He drops his shoulder and buries it in the man’s stomach, fingers closing clumsily around the pistol, but he has it now and the man is gasping for breath on the ground. Ludwig gets to his feet laboriously, adjusting his grip on the pistol and sliding his finger around the trigger as he trains the barrel on the wheezing man under his foot.
“Are you alright?” he asks rather unnecessarily, because the girl is patting down each guard, two of them dead, one wailing over the loss of his sight and the last one still writhing in agony from a mangled leg that he will never walk on again. Her second pat down yields up the key to his handcuffs, and she smiles impishly up at him, her eyes still bright and fierce.
“Yes!” she replies, her voice winging up in elation, almost singing. It warms Ludwig’s heart as she comes toward him, the dirty hem of the oversized t-shirt swinging around the tops of her thighs. She unlocks the first side of his cuffs, and he switches the handgun to his right hand.
“Do not move,” he warns the cowering man on the floor, “This is my non-dominant hand, but I’m still a very good shot with it.”
“You’re talented,” she purrs, gaining Ludwig’s attention as she looks up at him with feline satisfaction and purposely sidles up against him while she flips the second cuff open. Ludwig finds the temptation too great and slides his arm around her waist, pulling her onto her tiptoes as he covers her mouth with his, a growl rumbling from deep in his chest with the satisfaction of being able to do so finally. She mewls in response, and pouts in protest when he pulls away.
“Later, Kätzchen,” Ludwig murmurs, his smile wicked and promising and her answering smile is brilliant and ferocious. She nods down at their hostage, tipping her chin prettily and Ludwig forgets to breathe for a moment. She is more catlike than he expected, her features delicate and pointed, with a personality to match.
“Hostage?” she asks, eyes narrowing as she presents the option, “I say kill him now.” The man begins to babble something in his native tongue that neither of them understands and that both subsequently ignore.
“How many more of them are there?” Ludwig asks, “I saw three others. They should be coming soon.” Ludwig is right, and there are faint cries echoing in the distance. The girl’s head tilts the other way as she listens.
“That sounds like more than three,” she says briefly, “I still say kill him. Using him as a hostage will only give them more time to call in backup. Ambush?” Ludwig finds himself charmed by her decisiveness, and secretly thankful for some of the things that he’s had to do in the past that haunt him still. Those things allow him to kill the man beneath his foot in cold blood without much remorse. What little remorse he might have felt is negated by the surge of anger that his Kätzchen was at their mercy too. His hands are still tingling badly and he wonders if he will be able to help her ambush the coming opponents. She is already scooping up one of the rifles, digging in several pockets for extra ammunition, her ear cocked toward the corner at the end of the hallway.
“Did you have something in mind?” he asks. She fires off single shots into the temples of the two still-living guards and they ceases moving. There’s something casual about the way she does it, something feral in the ease with which she kills.
“No, but you’ll need to stand back,” she responds with a smirk, her impassive expression passing as if it had never been. She saunters forward, past him, swaying her hips temptingly. She sets herself up just in front of him, rifle butt settled deep into the pocket of her shoulder and waits, her stance solid and good. Her body is very slightly angled to present a slimmer target, but she leans into the gun, perfectly balanced. When the first two men stumble around the corner, she fires two neat, precise volleys of three rounds each, repeating the process when three more stumble into sight. She pauses, all alertness as she trains the iron sights at chest height on the corner of the hall, advancing silently on bare feet, avoiding the puddles of blood as she swings wide of the corner, turning the barrel down that section of the hallway, Ludwig in close pursuit to back her up if necessary. Thankfully, it’s not, and she lowers the rifle with a little laugh of relief that Ludwig can’t help but echo.
“Somehow, I doubt that’s all of them,” she says, “But I don’t hear anything else. Do you?”
“No,” Ludwig says through gritted teeth, as his hands get particularly tingly. She shoots him a concerned look, and then realization cross her face. She slings the rifle across her shoulder, barrel extending along the curve of her leg as she plucks the pistol from his hands and tucks it deftly into the belt of his uniform.
“Let me see,” she says, and he presents his hands without question. She prods at various points, watching his reaction carefully with narrowed eyes. Ludwig wrinkles his nose
“Pins and needles?” she asks.
“Yes,” Ludwig grumbles.
“If you have nerve damage, we need to get out of here as fast as possible. I have no one to call. Do you?” She asks. Ludwig finds himself surprised that she has no one to rescue her, but nods.
“Yes, if we can find a phone, we could be out of here quite soon,” he says, shaking his hands a bit in order to move the blood back into them a little faster. The tingling is intensifying from his middle fingers to his pinkies, but fading from his thumb and forefingers. She surprises him by catching his hands and kissing each of his fingers and then she leaves him to double back and pick up another rifle.
“Carry this,” she commands, handing it off to him as she sweeps by, pausing only to dump more clips in his tunic pockets. He slings the AK-47 across his back and then pulls the pistol from his belt, taking a deep breath and following her down the hall.
There is perhaps some forty minutes of searching rooms for a working phone though it feels much longer. In the process, the two run across several more men who attempt to fight and take them out with the trained ease of soldiers at war. They make a good team, communicating with looks and hand motions and quickly whispered words. At last, they arrive in a room with not only a working phone, but also a desktop computer that appears to be plugged into the second phone jack. Ludwig opts for the phone after exchanging a nod with his Kätzchen, and she takes up her post in front of the door, rifle lowered, but at the ready. Even clad in only that t-shirt, she looks dangerous, deadly even, her body language both aggressive and defensive, an unearthly, pervasive calm and self-possession charging the air around her. Reassured that nothing will get by her, Ludwig puts in his call, booting up the computer.
Of course, it is Alfred who comes to pick them up, Alfred who has to play the hero, with Gilbert by his side, murder in his crimson eyes. Sadly, there is nothing left to fight, the little cell of terrorists utterly decimated by Ludwig and Kätzchen. It is while Gilbert and Alfred are prowling through the stone building and appropriating the computer at Arthur’s request that Ludwig realizes that he doesn’t even know her real name. He asks and is rewarded with a terse smile that betrays her weariness, but she tells him anyway. She comes from a tiny country that has had frequent, bloody civil wars throughout its short history in addition to the violence surrounding its declaration of sovereignty and subsequent war for independence. Men and women alike are drafted into the army, some staying only for the required amount of time, others staying longer and becoming proficient in the art of battle, like her.
Once even Gilbert is appeased the there are no more monsters to slay, they all pile into the spacious vehicle and leave the place to find medical attention for Ludwig’s still numb fingers. Ludwig dozes off almost immediately in the backseat, his Kätzchen leaning against him as her eyes flutter closed.