They couldn’t have unlocked her collar if they wanted to; she wasn’t, legally, theirs. The girl they called Patches was a foster-kitty of sorts, placed with them to learn what a household was supposed to be like, and what a slave in that house was supposed to act like.
Where they were moving, however, was a small gated community, a step up the social ladder and the sort of place where a moddie slave would be hard to explain, so they left her behind. They made sure she had plenty of water and food, but packed up around her and set her to her room as they left, so she wouldn’t see them leaving her behind. The youngest petted her behind her furred ears for a while, and cried, forgetting, the way the family often did, that their kitty-girl could speak and understand English as well as any human.
The girl they called Patches, whose mother had called her Tanya-Marie, listened to all of it, and murrowled cutely, because her foster-owners were more comfortable with her miawing than speaking, and waited in her room until they were gone. She wondered, for a while, if she’d done something wrong. Raised in the Agency, she didn’t have the slave instincts that the other servants did; raised by other modified beings, cat-people, she sometimes gave in to feral behaviors. But she’d done everything they asked her to, and, despite all the jokes, she’d never peed on the carpet.
They’d left her her clothes, along with maybe a week’s worth of clothes, but they’d also left, by accident, a small laptop. Tanya-Marie hooked into the internet and began searching.
The walk, once she’d found her route, was long, and hurt her feet, used to indoor living. People stopped her, either for the novelty of talking to a cat-girl or for the concern of seeing a runaway slave, but her tags said she had free rein to wander (she was an Agency cat, after all) and there was nothing they could really do to stop her.
Three weeks later, a hungry and slightly bedraggled Patches showed up, miawing sadly, at her foster-owners’ new house.
She went to the back door; that had been one of her first lessons. Slaves went to the back door unless they were escorting their master or mistress. Slaves weren’t seen in the public areas of the house unless they were doing their job.
The cook-and-housekeeper, Ashley, answered the door, and tsk’ed unhappily when she saw Tanya-Marie. “Oh, you poor thing. Come on in here, no, right into the mud room with you. I told them they shouldn’t leave you behind, but, of course, no, they wouldn’t listen. Where have you been?”
Her throat parched, the cat-girl answered only with a weak “miew.” The older slave made a chagrined noise in the back of her throat.
“You’re a mess, aren’t you? All right, sit down, there, shower yourself off. I’ll bring you some clean clothes.”
The mud-room was equipped with a large utility sink, and it was there that Ashley had directed her. Ears flat – she didn’t like showers – Tanya-Marie did as directed. She showered until the water ran clean and her fur and hair were plastered to her, by which time Ashley had returned.
“That’s a good kitty,” she praised her, and, as Ashley always had, fed the girl a couple treats in a flat-palmed hand. Grateful for the food, Tanya-Marie lipped up the treats and swallowed them, then miawed cutely for more.
“Don’t try that on me, kitty. I know better.” Despite the scold, Ashley was gentle as she toweled off the younger slave. “Where have you been?”
Her throat wetted by the shower-water, she managed an answer. “Walking.” She held up one foot to show the old calluses and new blisters. Maybe she’d get another treat?
“Tch. They shouldn’t have left you, really shouldn’t. Why didn’t you go back to the Agency?”
The Agency was a lot harder to track than her foster-family had been. She had done some looking, of course, trying to find a facility to return herself to. In the end, though…
“This is where I was placed. I am supposed to stay with these people.” She headbutted gently against Ashley and the towel. “This is my home.”
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