UNITED STATES—The sound of heavy machinery woke the Mountain Lion up. Link noticed that Shail wasn’t next to him. He scrambled to his feet and moved cautiously towards the noise. Shail was at the cliff, watching as large machines leveled the next hill, the hill she had grown up on. Link walked up beside her, nudging her with his nose. Lok had warned them about venturing too close to that hill, because the up-rights were getting too close. They would come into an area, remove all the trees and build their nests. Lok was very old, and very wise. Everyone listened to him. Link nudged Shail again.

“Come on, before the up-rights see us.” She took one last look, before turning around. She rubbed her face in his neck.

“Honey, I have something to tell you.” He sat down, and looked into her large, beautiful eyes.

“What is it, Shail?”

She pounced on him, and they rolled, and laughed. She pinned Link to the ground, and whispered. “I am pregnant.”

Just then, they heard movement on the hill behind them. Link scrambled to his feet. It was Lok. He walked over to them.

“Good day, Link.” He looked over at Shail, and gave her a concerned look. “What brings you to the edge of the forest, Lok?” He could hear the sound of machines in the distance.

“I fear for your safety, the up-rights are getting closer everyday. It is time for you to find another home.”

Lok was their leader, all of the mountain lions listened to him. She pleaded. “But Lok, this is my home.”

“You know our creed, Shail. The up-rights destroy everything in their path. They are spreading into this area now, and it is time for us to move again.”

Link said. “I have been scouting out an area on the other side of the next hill. We will move there; there is plenty of food, and water.”

Lok looked at Shail. “Believe me, it is the best thing for everyone.” Link lowered his head. “You have been a wise leader, and we will do as you ask.” Lok nodded. “I am sorry, Shail. I know this is where you grew up.”

He looked back at Link. “Again, I apologize. Good day.”

They both nodded. “Good day, Lok.”

Food was plentiful on the next hill, but Shail still missed home. She knew that she had to be careful, especially in her delicate condition. It was getting cooler at night, the Cold Time was drawing near. Link had to make sure his family would be warm enough, and was constantly searching the area for a warmer place.

One morning she woke up, and the white crystals were falling from the sky. She decided that before she got too far along, she would see her home one last time, before it was gone forever. Link was nowhere in sight, so she began her quest.

Shail slowly walked up to the cliff. She didn’t hear the machines anymore. She looked down and saw thick sticks had been put together. She assumed the up-rights were making their nests. Her entire hill was now bare, and they had moved even closer. They were stripping the land all around her hill, and headed their way. If they came to the next hill, it wouldn’t leave any place for them to go. She had to warn the others. She turned to leave, when something knocked her right rear leg out from under her, and then she heard something that sounded like thunder. It knocked her over the cliff, and she was hanging from a tree root. She saw up-rights coming down the hill carrying shiny sticks. Suddenly the root broke, and she began to roll down the steep hill. She rolled to a stop at the bottom. The land all around her was now bare. She got up and saw she was surrounded by up-rights. She tried to run, but her leg hurt too much. Then something stung her on her side. It looked like some kind of yellow flower with its stem sticking into her. All of a sudden, she didn’t feel so good. She felt extremely tired, and her vision began to blur. Everything began to spin, then went dark.

When she opened her eyes, she could feel that she had been bound. She raised her paw, and saw that animal skin had been tied around it, going up her arm, and around her back. There was also something over her mouth that was tied behind her head. She tried to free herself, but couldn’t. Then she saw a female up-right standing with her back to her.

Doctor Leeds was doing blood work on the cat, when her eyes got big. “She’s pregnant.” She turned around, and saw the cat had wakened. She smiled. “Hi, Samantha, how’re you doing?”

She walked over to the cage and opened it. Shail was still groggy. She tried to move when the cage opened, but there was something around her neck, then pain shot through her leg.

“Easy, girl.” With her long nails, she scratched her rump. “Are you hungry, Samantha?”

That was the second time she heard her say Samantha, and she was referring to her. Why was she calling her that? She turned around and put thick animal skin on her hands and picked up a shiny round disc, which had fresh meat in it. It smelled wonderful, and she was starved.

She carefully removed the guard from her mouth, and placed the bowl down in front of her.

“There you go, Samantha.” There was that word again. Why does she call me that? She ate every last bite, and then licked the bowl.

The doctor picked up the bowl and took it away, then came back with a bowl of water. A large wooden plank opened, and a male up-right walked into the room. There was something about this one that Shail did not like.

“Laurel, I’m going to have to take that beast with me.” “First off, to you, my name is Dr. Leeds, and second, Samantha is going nowhere.”

She opened the door. “Now please leave.” He walked to the door, and turned around.  “You haven’t seen the last of me.”

She pushed him out the door, and closed it. She walked back over to the cage. “Don’t worry, Samantha, I wont let him get his hands on you.”

Without thinking, she began scratching her behind her ears. She felt a tongue on her hand, and realized the cat wasn’t gagged. She smiled. “Thank you, Samantha. That was a beautiful kiss.”

Shail thought to herself, what a noisy up-right this was, always babbling on, but she could see that she had a good heart, so she listened.

Laurel wrote in her journal. The subject: Samantha shows a high intelligence level. After hearing the name I gave her only twice, she responds to it. Shail watched with curiosity. The up-right put on layers of fabric. Then she clicked something on the wall, and it got dark. Then she clicked a box, and it lighted up.

She walked over to the cage. “Samantha, I’ll be back tomorrow.” She walked out.

The box that lighted up had images of up-rights, babbling on and on. She watched for hours. She would hear a word that she’d heard before, and she began to associate some of the words with objects. The sound they made was some weird form of communication, awkward perhaps, but not as hard as she had first thought. She woke up the next morning when the lights came on. “Good morning, Samantha, I brought you a surprise.” She set a strange looking box down and opened it. She brought out a bone with lots of meat on it. Shail was hungry.

Laurel set the bone down inside of her cage, and noticed something very interesting. The cat, instead of looking at the bone she had given her, was looking into her eyes. She smiled. “Did you miss me, Samantha?”

She began scratching her head, when she rolled over, and let Laurel rub her belly. This was very unusual. All animals instinctively protect their vital areas, and for only having known her for one day, it was unheard of. She decided it was time. She unfastened the straps, and took off the claw inhibiters. She picked up one of her paws, and placed it against her skin, and said. “No.”

Shail had heard that word many times now, and knew exactly what it meant. To show that she understood, she tucked her paws under herself. Laurel smiled.

“Samantha, you are amazing.” She leaned into the cage, and kissed her on her head. She’d seen that several times on the light box, and knew it was a means of showing affection.

Laurel decided from then on, she would talk to her as though she were talking to another person. She wrote in her chart. The subject: Samantha’s intelligence level goes off the charts. From that day forward, she left the TV on for her at night, and after a week had gone by, Samantha could understand about half of what was being said. Her leg was healing well, but she needed exercise. Laurel took the restraint off her collar and put a leash on her.

“Come on, Samantha, let’s go for a walk.” She jumped down from her cage. She was still favoring her leg. She opened the back door, which led to an enclosed yard. She removed the leash.

Shail saw that the up-rights’ nests, which rose much higher than those she had seen on her hill, surrounded her.

Laurel watched her run and jump, but she still favored her wounded leg. After an hour, Laurel stood up, and called.

“Samantha, it’s time to go now.” Shail stopped, took one more look around her, and walked over to her. Laurel bent down, and put the leash back on, and scratched her head.

“Come on pretty girl, let’s take a look at your leg.” Laurel opened the back door, and saw Mike Potts looking around. He was carrying a piece of paper. When he heard the door open, he turned around and saw she had the cat unbound, on a leash.

“Are you out of your mind, Laurel?” She took the leash off and said softly. “Samantha, go to your cage, honey.”

She walked over to her cage and jumped in. Laurel looked at Potts. “It’s Dr. Leeds to you. What do you want?” He handed her the piece of paper. “This is a court order. I want you to secure that beast. I’m taking it with me.” “Samantha is staying right here. Her leg may require surgery, and besides, I haven’t medically released her yet.”

He looked over at the cat, who was watching very closely. “Would you please shut the beast’s cage?” “I will not! I think it’s time for you to leave now, you’re upsetting Samantha.” “You can’t just ignore a court order.”

“She’s unfit to travel, look it up.” She opened the front door. “Now please leave.” On his way out, he said. “I’ll be back with the authorities.” She slammed the door in his face, and walked over to the cage.

“I think he’s going to cause us trouble, Samantha. I’ve decided I’m going to take you home with me. What do you think of that?” Samantha nodded. Laurel looked at her in surprise.

“Did you understand what I just said?” She nodded again. Laurel smiled. “Samantha, you are amazing.” That evening, Laurel turned everything off and put her coat on. She looked at the cage, and Samantha was gone. She looked around the room and saw her by the door, with the leash in her mouth.

Written By S. F. Proctor