Death is a way of life outside of the safety of Inner Tulsa, and Jade means to keep flipping Mother Nature off until old age claims her. W...

Feature Fiction || Outfoxed by R.J. Blain

Death is a way of life outside of the safety of Inner Tulsa, and Jade means to keep flipping Mother Nature off until old age claims her. With one eye always on the sky, the last thing she needs is a pack of bounty hunters out for her living head. With no idea of why anyone would want her, her wits might keep her free, assuming she can resist the charming lures of Sandro, one of the men out to claim her as his own.

Left with the choice of being the evening snack of a tornado or taking shelter with the bounty hunter, she does what she does best: she lives on the edge.

Striking a bargain with the handsome bounty hunter buys her another day of life, but it also dumps her into the heart of a sinister plot, one meant to enslave the residents of the storm-tossed city—and the others brave and foolish enough to call the Alley home.

Friday, May 1, 2043.
Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The Alley.
I’d been in the Alley long enough to understand only one thing mattered when faced with yet another twister: survival. The swarm of them headed for Tulsa roared, warning all of their impending arrival. The incessant crash of thunder accompanied the lightning, which struck with such frequency the dark clouds glowed white. I decided to stopped counting after five funnels; one, five, ten—it didn’t matter how many of them snaked down from the sky. If one of them got a hold of me, I’d just be another corpse strewn over the Alley. A day didn’t go by when I didn’t cross a new skeleton in the outskirts.
Death was a way of life outside of the safety of Inner Tulsa.
Another twister joined the party, bringing a cascade of hail with it.
Great. Just great. What was one more? Hadn’t Mother Nature figured out she didn’t need to fling everything she had at Tulsa? A single tornado would’ve done the job just fine.
A few minutes too late to do me any good, the lightning-lit clouds turned a putrid shade of green, a promise that Mother Nature wasn’t screwing around this time. Green meant go, and if I’d had any sense in my head at all, I wouldn’t have left shelter at sunrise; I would’ve stayed in hiding until right before work. Everything would’ve been different if I’d just slept in rather than explore the ruins of Tulsa’s outskirts for salvage.
If I hadn’t been looking for salvage, I wouldn’t have been spotted by the tall, dark, and handsome hot on my heels and determined to ruin my day if he caught up with me.
The swarm would cause me enough problems, but if the bounty hunter caught me, I’d be in worse shape.
Some choices in life were tough, and I hated myself for even contemplating taking my chances with the bounty hunter. Losing my freedom for profit could be reversed. Nothing could reverse death.
I flattened my ears, and I lashed my tail back and forth, the rain whipping off it. While I was part fox, I’d adopted more feline tendencies than canine ones. And I, according the tail and ears I couldn’t banish with any amount of magic, I was definitely a cat trapped in a partly canine body.
I could shift into a full fox, a secret I held close to my chest. The instant anyone learned the truth, I’d go from a common annoyance to a desirable. Nobody cared about powerless hybrids.
Everybody wanted full shapeshifters in their bloodlines, and I had trouble enough as it was.
Since six twisters wasn’t enough, the churning clouds spawned two more, and with unerring accuracy, they surged towards the city in a wall of churning wind, rain, and hail.
Tornado season had come, and it looked like it was going to open with a bang.
I skidded around a corner of a former house, a victim of a twister a few months back when the sky had opted to give us a break for a change. Shacks had sprouted like persistent little weeds, but I expected none of them would survive the storm. I worried for their inhabitants, but if they had half a brain, they’d take shelter in a cellar.
If they didn’t, they’d add to the bodies littering the dying suburban streets.
While I had the advantage of knowledge, the bounty hunter had me beat everywhere else, and he snagged the back of my shirt, yanked hard enough to cut off my breath, and slammed me into the broken brick of the trashed house. “Are you insane?” he screamed over the wind. “You’re not supposed to run towards tornadoes, you little idiot!”
I blinked, checked where I’d been running, and sure enough, Mother Nature had truly had enough of my shit, opting to dump another handful of twisters directly into my path. When the twisters converged, probably where we were standing, it’d puree the neighborhood and leave matchsticks in their wake.
Stuck between a rock, a hard place, and a bounty hunter, I had few options if I wanted to keep my head long enough to figure out if death beat being picked up by a bounty hunter. Fortunately, the sensible had left the area anticipating the weather to sour, leaving their storm cellars open for my use—our use, as I wouldn’t leave him behind despite wishing I could ditch him without losing my freedom.
Sometimes, I really questioned why I tried to meet society’s standards of being a good person. Being a good person was a pain in the ass.
As Mother Nature was a bitch on a mission of destruction, the twisters barreled our way. I cursed myself, cursed the hunk of a bounty hunter making a mess of my morning, and cursed my choice of moving to the Alley in the first place. “There’s a cellar nearby.” I pointed down the street in the general direction of my favorite bolt hole, which I’d have to abandon once I shared it with the man out to profit from my head—living head, at least.
The bounty hunters wanting my living head in their possession was looking to be the bright part of my morning.

RJ Blain suffers from a Moleskine journal obsession, a pen fixation, and a terrible tendency to pun without warning.
In her spare time, she daydreams about being a spy. Her contingency plan involves tying her best of enemies to spinning wheels and quoting James Bond villains until satisfied.