Cheating at Solitaire

“Right this way,” Rusty said, almost dragging one of his companions up to the crack. Rusty himself was small and wiry, but the man he had by the arm was burly, built like a bikerwhich, he claimed, he was. None of the Liliren had bikes in the cities, of course, but everyone gathered at the dusty hall’s dead-end was from out of town except Rusty himself.

“You sure this is safe?” one of the other two said. She was as lanky as Rusty, but stood five-foot-nine inches to his five-foot-three. She was, in fact, a perfect visual complement to him: her ears thin and pointed, his wide and round; her fur immaculately groomed, his unkempt and none too clean; her tail long and near-perfect, his missing a good foot from its tip. She also looked more dangerousas dangerous, perhaps, as a mouse-like Liliren could expect to look without carrying weapons.

“We’re here ’cause it’s not safe, girl,” the biker grunted. “You want safe, this isn’t the kinda game you should be playin’.”

“I’m looking for an adrenaline rush, not certain death, fat man,” she snapped, jabbing him in the stomach with a finger.

“Oh, it’s not certain at all,” Rusty said cheerfully. “After all, I’ve lived here for a year.”

“With psycho kitty, huh?” The biker looked back down the hallway. It was barely two feet wide, walls crisscrossed with wide, thick planks. The ceiling was far too high for illumination by the dim, torchlike electric lamp hammered straight into a foot-thick cable some twenty feet up. “And this is your home, huh?”

Rusty nodded.

“You city folk are damn strange.” He clapped Rusty on the back, hard enough to jostle the smaller mouse. “Don’t think I’d be able to stand makin’ a livin’ as a parasite. No offense.”

Rusty smiled. “I prefer to think of Liliren and Rhas as being in a symbiotic relationship.”

The one who hadn’t spoken until now, a male a bit over Rusty’s height with pitch-black fur and a matching outfit, cleared his throat. “Only because they suffer our existence.”

“They couldn’t get rid of us if they tried,” the biker snorted, looking around.

“Oh?” The quiet man grinned, thrusting his hands in his pockets. “Perhaps we fill the niche of cockroaches for them? We survive because it’s too difficult to kill all of us, and really not worth the effort?”

“What, you here to die?”

“Aren’t we all?” He smiled enigmatically.

The biker pushed himself through the small opening. “I just call it temptin’ fate. If I do go out, I want it to be with a bang.”

The rest of the group followed. On the other side of the cracked wall, the room opened onto a vast expanse of tile, stretching out in all directions but behind them for a hundred yards or more. The wall itself rose like the sheer face of a cliff, well over a hundred feet, to meet not the sky but a ceiling. Before the room’s actual purpose registered, it could have passed as a majestic, ancient temple. However, it was obviously neither ancient, nor sacred. It was a kitchen.

“Wow,” the woman said, looking around.

“Never been in a Rha house before?” the biker chuckled, striding forward.

“Not this large.” She stayed close to the baseboard they’d emerged from. “It’s… really open.”

Rusty nodded, with the expression of someone who’d seen it many times before. “The living room, and her bedroom, have more furniture to hide around.”

“Don’t you have exits that lead into those rooms?” She looked up nervously.

“I have exits all over. But this particular one’s extremely useful. She’s not home during the day, after all.”

“Yeah. Well. When’s she get home?”

“Any minute.”

The biker was looking around. “What’s she got in her refrigerator?”

Rusty laughed. “It’s not like I can open it.”

You don’t. You let her do it, and rush in an’ grab somethin’.”

“Are you mad?” the quiet man said. His tone remained level; if he spoke with agitation, it showed only in the folding back of his ears.

“No,” the biker said, turning to him with an earnest expression. “I’m not mad, I’m walkin’ the fine line between wild abandon and dangerous insanity.”

“Right.” The thin man folded his arms across his chest. “So you’re suggesting we risk our lives for stolen cheese.”

“No, man,” he said, his tone even more serious. “For seein’ if death blinks first when you stare hard enough.”

A soft noise came from beyond the tremendous entrance to the kitchen, fifty yards to their right.

“That’s the front door,” Rusty announced.

“Shit,” the woman said, dashing toward one of the cabinets. Rusty and the lanky man followed her closely, ducking under the overhang, out of obvious sight. The biker followed at a more leisurely pace.

He had barely gotten under the cabinet when the Rha walked in.

She was pretty, although not beautiful. Large, light blue eyes perched over a strong, rather than delicate, feline muzzle. It matched the appearance of her body: slim but not thin, busty but not overbuilt, andeven if feminine, especially in the knee-length skirt that showed off admirable legsnot at all delicate. Overall, she was snowy. Not from her pure white fur color, but from the way she moved, the coolness she projected. The tired, exasperated expression on her face dulled her attractiveness, but only by a mere whisper.

And she was frightening. In some ways, subtly soan unsettling glint in her eyes, the way she made throwing her purse against the counter an act of violence, a feeling that her coldness was less that of a draining frost than of a raging blizzard. But you could find a much less subtle reason for fear. She was in scale to her kitchen.

Though they were hidden from her line of sight, it was difficult not to believe she was already after them, purposeful strides carrying her across the football field-sized tile floor in a few seconds.

Rusty had seen this before, many times, although he still couldn’t keep himself from glancing at the approaching giantess a bit nervously. His interest, though, lay in observing his guests.

The woman seemed the most nervous. This didn’t surprise Rusty; she seemed the most stable, and stable people had second thoughts about taunting an eighty foot tall woman when they fully understood just how big eighty feet really was.

The biker looked impressed, but also thoughtful. His expression had sharpened, showing calculating wariness, trying to compute exactly what he could get away with and still have a better than average chance of surviving.

And the thin manhis expression was hard to read. He didn’t look frightened, though. Under other circumstances, one might think he had fallen in love. Rusty grinned a little to himself. He’d seen this type before. The biker might enjoy flirting with death, but this one had been out-and-out courting her.

“Just looks like a young girl,” the biker said softly. “High-strung, maybe, but not sadistic.”

“I don’t look like I killed someone when I was fourteen,” the woman murmured, her tail flicking over Rusty’s legs. “Maybe the thrill’s enough for you twoor three.” She glanced over at Rusty. “I want something more than a warm, fuzzy feeling after this is over.”

“Gettin’ nervous?” the thin man said, his smile almost as unnerving as the Rha.

“Call it a sudden attack of common sense.”

“I don’t have anything to offer you,” Rusty sighed, not bothering to hide his irritation. This wouldn’t be as interesting with less than three others; he was usually good at finding people who weren’t looking for prizes, though, and didn’t have any stock temptations.

“How about this, then. One thing that you do have, you’ll give to me tonight.”

“Like?”

“I’ll tell you then.”

Rusty nodded after a moment.

The Rha was busy doing something on the countertop they were huddling under. Then she stopped, and sat down, her back to the cabinet.

“Damn,” the biker said, watching. The cloth of her skirt cascaded down over the tiles, coming to within a foot of their hiding place. Her tailbig even in scalesnaked gently behind her, a fluffy, moving wall a good five feet high and stretching out fifty feet from base to tip.

As the tail went past once, it came so close its fur almost brushed over them. The thin man held out his hand, then stepped forward a little. He had a blissful expression for a second as thick, white fur enveloped him. Then it pulled him over. He landed with a soft whuff!, skidding out from the safety of the cabinet.

Well, the first one might be disappointingly fast, Rusty thought, watching the other mouse get to his feet. He scurried back under the cabinet.

“I guess I should be

Before the man finished the sentence, the Rha slapped her hand down on the spot he had fallen, palm flat against the tile. The hand was just over eight feet long from the tip of the middle finger to its heel, and it made a noise like cannon fire when it hit.

Almost a full second passed, during which none of the Liliren breathed. Then the giantess moved her hand again, and continued what she had been doing.

“More careful,” the biker finished in a voiceless whisper.

After another moment, the Rha stood again, now barefoot. They didn’t see her throw her shoes into the living room, but they heard the clatter.

“She’s not lookin’ for us,” the biker said, his voice no louder than before. “Lucky enough, skeleton man. That was reflex. Wasn’t even quite where you’d been.”

“Her reflex is to squish first, look later?” the woman hissed.

Rusty looked toward the “wall” behind themthe thin baseboard running between the floor and the bottom of the cabinetmeaningfully. “You know that if she does look under here…”

“We might get a lot flatter.” The biker started sliding along the wall toward the refrigerator as he spoke.

“You’re not really going to try to steal food right in front of her, are you?” Rusty said, unable to keep a bit of admiration from his tone.

“Have to start this nonsense off on the right foot.”

“Or under it,” the woman snapped. She followed at a distance, looking back at Rusty. “Why do you keep living here again?”

“I was here before she moved in.”

“And you like living with death,” the thin man murmured, keeping his eyes as much on the giantess as she moved around the kitchen as on the Liliren in front of him.

“Funny, I’d have said the same of you.”

A soft laugh was the only response at first. When he spoke again, he sounded amused. “That’s the reason we’re fascinated with the Rha, isn’t it? At least us four. Perhaps all of us.”

“I lived in a Rha’s apartment once,” the woman murmured, “and even if he wasn’t friendly, he wasn’t psychotic. The most terrifying thing that ever happened to me there was being chased with a broom once. And some of the time he was even friendly. He’d know I was there and didn’t care.”

“That’s tolerant, not friendly.”

“Ah, look,” the biker said, his voice almost gleeful. “There she goes.”

The Rha was heading to the refrigerator. She opened the door wide, and leaned against it, staring at the shelves with a bleary expression.

“There’s enough space between it and the wall,” the biker said, and he charged forward without any further explanation.

She didn’t see him until he had managed, in a matter of seconds, to sprint to the refrigerator and pull himself onto the first shelf.

“Goddamn,” the female Liliren said. The Rha didn’t speak, but her expression echoed the same sentiment.

“You won’t mind if I take this truffle, will you?” the biker yelled. He leapt down to the floor in two hops that Rusty was sure would have at least tripped him, if not broken his legs, carrying a chocolate candy almost half as big as he was.

“Little shit!” the Rha screamed, shaking off her surprise. She slammed the door shut viciously, but the biker was under its edge.

“Temper, temper,” he yelled, dashing for the space between the refrigerator side and the cabinet that abutted it. She stomped her foot down hard enough to shake the floor, butas far as the other three could tellthe biker had moved a fraction of a second too fast for her to catch.

The foot did come down within a yard of the woman, though. She let out an involuntary yelp and backed away.

“What?” the Rha snapped. She stepped back and started to kneel.

“Go,” the woman snarled, dashing after the biker as soon as the tremendous foot had moved.

Rusty and the thin man were following when the Rha got down on her hands. “Four of you!” she said. The anger in her voice had a disquieting undercurrent of glee.

She reached forward and batted at them as they went past, her fingers brushing against the cabinet corner, catching one of the thin man’s legs. He threw himself forward as she tried to close two fingers around him.

The biker had retreated all the way to the wall with his prize; Rusty and the woman joined him well ahead of the last man, who now struggled with a pronounced limp.

The giantess thrust her hand into the opening, but she could not fit her arm in after it. Finally, the hand moved away, and she lowered her face to the floor, staring in.

“Can she see us?” the woman murmured.

“Yes, she can,” the Rha said. She grinned, showing sword-like teeth. “I do hope you enjoy your candy. I’ll certainly enjoy collecting the price.” She stood up, and left the kitchenor at least their field of vision.

“Damn,” the biker said, breaking off a piece of chocolate and shaking his head. “I figured she’d be whacked, but there’s a whole new field of criminal psychology between that woman’s ears, you know? Oh.” He gestured at the truffle. “Enough here for everyone, I’d say.”

“Now what?” the woman snapped, transfixing Rusty with her stare.

“Whatever you’d like.”

“I’d like to keep avoiding that foot.”

“She has pretty feet,” the biker said, munching on a piece of chocolate.

The woman stared at him.

He shrugged. “If she and I were the same size, I’d be tryin’ to bed her. Real sexy, real aggressive. ’Course, I’d want her to tone down the bloodlust a wee bit.”

“She’d probably handcuff you to the bed.”

“Yeah.” He grinned. “Sure you don’t want any?”

She just snorted.

“Suit yourself. So, what’s she do to get us out?”

Rusty spread his hands.

“Maybe poke a broom handle back here,” the woman said.

“She wouldn’t try to crush you with one,” Rusty said.

She glanced at him, arching an eyebrow.

“I think it’d be too… removed,” he explained, shrugging a little. “But if you’re serious about getting a ‘prize’ from me, you’ll have to expose yourself to a bit more danger than a dusty corner.”

Her eyes narrowed, but she nodded. “All right. What do you normally encourage people to do here?”

“Well, a popular one is to cross over to the front door.”

“Golly gee,” the biker said, finishing another piece of chocolate. “What do we do there, wait for salesmen?”

“There’s another exit for us there.”

“You have holes all over this place, huh?” The biker looked at him curiously. “And she doesn’t try to block them?”

Rusty shook his head.

“Weird indeed.” He adjusted his jacket and strode toward the front of the refrigerator.

“How do you know it’s safe?” the woman said, hurrying after him.

“I don’t see or hear her anywhere.”

“That doesn’t mean anything.”

He snorted, stopping at the edge of the refrigerator and looking around. “Okay, lady, how about this. I get killed, assume it ain’t safe. Simple enough?” He started walking toward the front of the kitchen, ducking his head and walking under the edge of the refrigerator door.

“Wonderful,” she muttered.

They stayed close together, keeping under the cabinets, glancing frequently at the opening to the kitchen as they moved.

When they were almost to the end of the cabinets, the Rha reappeared in the doorway. She had finished undressing, now wearing only a nightshirt. She stopped at the exit to the kitchen, and rested one hand on the wall, looking down at them.

Art by Ken Sample

“You know, you’re really pretty,” the biker said cheerfully, in a loud voice.

“Thank you,” she said, smiling a little.

“If I keep flatterin’ you, will it keep you from tryin’ to kill me?”

“No.”

“Okay, just checkin’,” he replied, giving her a thumbs up.

“What do we do now?” the woman hissed behind him.

“Good question,” the biker murmured, keeping his eyes on the Rha. “My best guess’d be to run like hell in four different directions.”

“That’d be a death sentence for at least one of us.” Her tone grew sharper.

“Yeah, and when she stops watchin’ us and pounces in a few seconds, if we’re still clustered it’ll be a death sentence for four of us, kid.”

“Plotting escape routes?” the Rha said softly. Her plush tail flicked gently behind her as she watched.

The biker stepped forward, into completely unprotected floor space. All three of the other Lils held their breath.

“You think I have a chance of runnin’ past you?” he said, facing the giantess and putting his hands on his hips.

“A small one.” She smiled, not at all pleasantly. “But I’ll still catch you.”

“You really don’t like us very much, do you?”

She moved her hand from the wall and shrugged. “That doesn’t have anything to do with it.” Her eyes unfocused a bit.

“And what does it have to do with, ma’am? You just like killin’ little furry critters?”

“I…”

The biker was moving slowly forward as he spoke, hands in his pockets.

“I’m just askin’, understand. This is all just honestly fascinatin’ to me. I mean, it seems like you kinda enjoy bein’ the monster, at least for us Lils.”

“Yeah,” she said, looking thoughtful.

“And why’s that?”

“My therapist says it’s a power thing.”

“Ah. Seein’ a doctor about it, huh?”

“Only because my father’s made me.” She sighed heavily, now staring off into space.

The biker walked toward her more quickly as she spoke. “So your dad knows about this kinda… game. It’s a game, right?”

“Sure,” she said, her tone becoming defensive. “That’s what it is.” She shrugged a bit. “And yes, he knows. I’ve been doing it since I was a lot younger. I mean, it’s not all that awful. Since I’ve been here, Lils have been coming to the house.”

“Thrill-seekin’, I’d guess.”

“Yeah.” She smiled to herself. “They might get more than they wanted.”

“You never can tell,” the biker said.

The Rha blinked, and looked down where the biker had been. He wasn’t there any longer. Her eyes narrowed. “You little

“I am genuinely interested, lady,” the biker’s voice came from behind her.

She whirled around, then growled. Then she turned back to the kitchen and fell into a crouching position, her expression angry, almost feral.

“Oh, shit,” the female Liliren breathed. She turned around to look for Rusty, but Rusty wasn’t there, either.

“Now what?” the thin man said, looking transfixed.

“Like the fat man said,” she hissed. “We run like hell.” She took off in a sprint, the thin man on her heels.

The Rha grinned, and rose to her feet, walking toward them with slow, long steps.

“Get away!” the woman shrieked at the thin man, pushing him away from her and zigging off at an angle.

The thin Lil stumbled, and came to a halt momentarily, looking at the running woman, then back up at the approaching giantess. He gulped and backed up quickly, unable to take his eyes off her.

“Well,” the Rha said. She grinned at the woman, and kept walking toward the thin man. After two more steps, she set her left foot down within two yards of him.

At that, the Liliren’s fascination with her was finally overcome by his flight reflex. He turned and ran, trying to ignore his wounded leg.

The giantess slid her foot along the floor, bumping it against him. He flew into the air and went sprawling when he landed, skidding across the floor on his back.

She took another step toward him, standing almost on top of him, and looked down at his figure impassively.

He tried to stand up, but something in his legs didn’t work. He scrabbled back on his hands, beginning to pant.

Smiling a childlike grin, the Rha raised her right foot again, this time holding it over him, perhaps six feet in the air.

He looked up, the sole of her foot blocking his vision almost entirely, and the certainty that he was at her complete mercy brought an odd sense of peace. She does have very pretty feet, he thought.

When he realized she was lowering the foot, he thought about at least turning his head, but it was already bearing down on him before he could move.

The woman had doubled back around the Rha as the giantess had gone after the other Lil, but she had paused at the edge of the carpet. As the foot came down flat on the kitchen floor, she screamed, very loudly.

The Rha turned and looked at her, then laughed. Not a villainous cackle, no hint of mania or even evil glee. Just an amused, happy laugh.

As the woman dived into the carpet, she realized she would have vastly preferred the cackle.

“Rusty?” she hissed, pushing through the thick shag as if it was waist- high grass. No answer. She didn’t know the biker’s name, but she knew he probably wouldn’t answer if she called. No matter how flippant “Fat Man” might be, he wouldn’t keep taunting the giantess now.

Would he?

Well, to hell with him. She could hear the water running in the kitchen; the Rha would stay occupied. At least until her foot was clean.

She gritted her teeth, trying not to gag, and forged on, desperately trying to catch sight of the biker. “Dammit, where are you?”

The living room was, predictably, filled with furniture, but she couldn’t tell what was what. She thought she was making her way toward the side of a long couch.

The water in the kitchen went off before she reached cover; she put on an extra burst of speed and dived, headfirst, for the safe space between the couch’s bottom and the floor.

As safe as she’d find, at least.

Back near the kitchen entrance, the “Fat Man” the woman searched for crouched by the leg of an end table, watching the Rha return to the living room. She took three steps onto the carpet, stopped, and looked around.

She stood perhaps fifty feet from the bikeror perhaps three feet from her perspective, he guessed. He backed a few steps further into the shadows, then froze as her gaze swept over his hiding spot between the end table and the chair it rested against. Well, I guess it’s time for the special effects, he thought, fishing around in one of his inner jacket pockets.

Her gaze traveled past him. Then she stopped, and looked back. And smiled.

“So,” he said as soon as he was sure she was looking at him. “Are we all really small, or are you really big?” As he spoke, he fitted the two pieces he had withdrawn from his jacket together and made sure they latched together tightly.

“Oh, a philosopher,” she said, her tone slightly mocking. She knelt down in place. “Does it make a difference?”

“No. Okay. One more question.” He pulled a third piece from his jacket and slid it into the base of one of the others.

“I don’t think so,” she said, the kneel becoming a crouch. She leaned forward; he realized he was just about within her reach.

“Doesn’t this bother you?”

She chuckled.

“I mean, I know your daddy’s the one makin’ you see the shrink, but you don’t think there might be a reason for it?”

“Because they don’t know how to have fun.” Her tail twitched behind her.

“Oh. Well, yeah, I like havin’ fun, too.” He looked thoughtful, folding his hands behind his back, then looked back up at her. “But isn’t there a difference between playin’ and just bein’ a fuckin’ mean psycho bitch?”

The Rha snarled and launched herself at him. He leaped backward, rolling and praying that he’d manage to pull this off.

Art by Ken Sample

And he did, as well as he could have expected. As he rolled on his side, not quite out of control, he held the gun he had out with both hands and fired blindly.

The gun was so small compared to the giantess that she might have trouble seeing it, but on a Liliren scale, it was mammoth: well over a foot long with a barrel half as big around as a coffee mug. The recoil drove him back against the wall with enough force that he didn’t have the presence of mind to be terrified at the sight of the giantess, still coming straight at him, but now screaming rather than snarling.

She crashed into the wall beside him, and the end table collapsed on her. One of her hands rested right on him a moment, but she jerked it away without grabbing him.

He scrambled frantically behind the chair. He wasn’t sure what he had hitmaybe nothingbut if nothing else, it had distracted her.

“Shit, that hurt!” she was screaming. “I’m bleeding! Dammit! Rusty! There’s not supposed to be any weapons!”

The biker’s eyes narrowed as he stood up. After a fraction of a second, though, he shook his head, and started to jog along the wall. He hoped the hole he’d seen back here wasn’t a mirage. After the Rha recovered, she’d probably be pissed off enough to start shoving around the furniture, and if she saw him before she calmed down, she’d crush first, feel bullets later.

He heard her grab the chair less than two seconds after he got his tail into the hole.

“Goddammit,” she snarled, dropping the chair again. The curse faded, followed by a softer, more plaintive, “This really hurts.”

“Think of it as a challenge, lady,” he muttered under his breath. “I guess neither one of us knew quite what we were gettin’ into.”

The space between these walls had no makeshift lamps; a few steps beyond the entrance hole took him into blackness. After another moment of fumbling, he found the little flashlight in another jacket pocket, and headed away from the hole.

“I’ll come in through the wall,” she said.

He paused, about twenty feet from the opening. “You sound more hurt than threatenin’ now, lady,” he said aloud.

“You nearly took off one of my fingers,” she replied, her tone sulky. He realized she was crouching next to the hole.

“Yeah, well, you nearly took off one of my necks, and I got nine less of those than you got fingers,” he said, backing up from the hole quickly.

Another minute took him to something he hadn’t expected at all: a rope ladder.

He frowned. A loft?

Pausing another moment to catch his breath, he started climbing.

About twenty feet up, he heard noises from the other side of the wall, followed by the Rha’s laughter.

He grimaced, and doubled his speed. “I was hopin’ she’d stay hidden,” he muttered.

The ladder went on for another sixty feet, and came to a landing.

The platform had no furniture, save for a pillow. The pillow sat in front of a small hole, immediately under an air conditioning vent, looking out on the living room. Sitting on the pillow was Rusty. He was watching through the hole, very intently.

The biker walked toward him quietly, realizing that the other Liliren’s attention was so focused on the action in the room outside that he didn’t realize he had company.

The Rha laughed again; this time the sound was punctuated by a high shriek of terror.

Rusty leaned forward, starting to pant. As the biker approached, he saw Rusty’s pants were loosened.

He walked up to stand about five feet behind Rusty, and looked out over the other man’s shoulder. The giantess had the woman in one hand; the Liliren looked pitifully small.

Raising the gun, he tried to judge how effective a shot would be from here. Not a hell of a lot.

“Go on, do something, Arilin,” Rusty breathed.

The biker raised one eyebrow.

As if on cue, the Rha suddenly snapped her head forward. The woman shrieked, staring into a wide open, tooth-filled mouth for a half second. Then the mouth closed over her torso with a noise that made the biker wince.

He risked a glance upward again a moment later. A trickle of blood ran down the Rha’s muzzle. The woman’s legs were still kicking when the giantess snapped her jaws again, bringing her victim completely inside her mouth.

He looked away again quickly, shuddering.

Rusty was also shuddering, but he was breathing heavily, his gaze fixed on the Rha.

“Goddamn sonnuvabitch,” the biker said aloud, his voice as much wondering as disgusted.

The other Liliren whirled around, rising to his feet.

“You know each other’s names,” the biker said simply, raising the gun.

“I can explain” Rusty started to say.

“That’s okay.” The biker flipped the gun around, holding it by the barrel. “I’m pretty sure I’ve got most of it figured out.” He swung the butt of the gun against Rusty’s head, hard; the smaller mouse crumpled.

He stepped over him and looked out the opening. The Rha was licking her lips.

“You fuckin’ ate her,” he said, loud enough so he thought she’d be able to hear.

She blinked, and looked up where the noise was coming from. “Yes,” she said after a moment. “That’s part of the game.”

After a moment, he laughed, realizing she was actually as baffled by his disgust as she sounded. “And how’s the game end, lady?”

“I get you.”

“You always do, huh?”

She just smiled.

“Sorry. A game’s not a game if you can’t lose.”

The smile disappeared, and her tail flicked once. “I’m the only player.”

“You’re not supposed to be cheatin’ at solitaire, either, honey.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I mean, I don’t think you’re gonna get the deck stacked for you no more.”

She fell silent, then sighed. “What’d you do to Rusty?”

He looked down at the other mouse.

“You know, those bullets you have can’t kill me,” she said, moving closer to the opening he stood in.

“Maybe not. But they can make it a real painful experience for you if you try to kill me, even if you succeed.”

“I’ve never deliberately let a Lil go!”

“Well, I wouldn’t want to spoil your record,” he said, crouching down near the hole. “Maybe it’s time to negotiate.”


Rusty woke up back in bed.

“What?” He started to sit up, and realized he had a near-blinding headache. That damn biker had whacked him hard.

Then he realized he wasn’t on his bed. It was too bright where he was, the bed was far too large. He focused on it.

It wasn’t a bed, it was a pillow. A very, very large pillow.

“Oh, shit,” Rusty said, beginning to tremble violently as he tried to stand.

“Don’t run off,” a soft voice purred. The light darkened, and the Rha’s face appeared above him, smiling. The bed shook as she lay down on it, propping her head up above him.

“Oh” He backed away, looking down the length of what he could see of her body. She was dressed only in a nightshirt now; he could see cleavage large enough for him to hide in.

Then he stopped moving. He squealed, and looked behind him. He had run into her palm.

He whirled back around. She had lowered her face until her muzzle was almost touching him.

“Please, Arilin,” he forced out, finding it difficult to even get the barest squeak out of his voice. “The gunI didn’t

She gave him a lick.

He collapsed against her palm, shivering.

“The biker,” he gasped after a moment. “Didyou

“No,” she purred. “If he’s smart, he’s trying to leave now.”

“You can’t do…” He realized how foolish that was, and tried again. “IfI can’t help you if

She smiled, and rolled onto her side, trapping him against her palm with a thumb. She lifted him into the air, and began to undress him by slicing off his clothes with a clawtip. “I know.” Her voice lowered to a conspiratorial whisper. “But I’m wondering if maybe I can get that… interesting one to take your place. After all, he got me something I hadn’t been able to get before now. You, Rusty.” She rolled completely onto her back, and held him above her. “So just in case he’s watching, I thought we’d put on a marvelous show.”

He whimpered.

“Don’t worry.” She patted him with a finger. “I know what you do when you watch me. And I bet you’ll climax this time, too. I’m certainly planning to.” She moved the hand holding him down to the lower edge of the nightshirt.

The biker stood at the edge of a hole in the bedroom’s ceiling. He finished dismantling the gun and repacking it. At this point, he could just get back to the kitchen and walk to the original entrance hole; Arilin might be occupied for a long time.

Even though he told himself not to, he looked down at the bed. He had to admit, she did know how to put on a marvelous show.

Art by Ken Sample

May 1998