Restless Tails

By Desert Mouse

Nina sat with her sister Mina beside the window of one of the smaller homes. The top floor of this one held mostly female children that had been orphaned before reaching the forest holding colony. The bottom floor was just some of the many little girls that still had family. The dorm was filled with ten child sized beds on each of the floors but without room for anything else on its two floors. The twins sat staring out the window at what had been so kindly named a colony.

"Things are quieting down for the night." Mina observed. The daylight hours were fading so all the work had been stopped for the day. However there was an uneasy feeling in the air before nightfall.

"It's not going to be long before the next session. It's always boring around this time." Nina complained.

"Everyone tries to hide." Mina started

"Or be with family." Nina finished for her.
"Why should we be stuck in here? We need to do something." She decided. Upstairs the twins heard the gentle mewing of sick children. Not everyone was taking to the magic well, or had a family to help take care of them.

"Poor kids." Mina commented.

"They haven't been able to eat." Nina said.

"Because they are too ill to get to the mess halls." Mina replied.
"What are they doing to us?" she questioned. It wasn't the first time and it wouldn't be the last, very few people in the colony didn't ask that same question. Mina looked at her sister wondering what changes might happen with the next session. The two of them, as well as everyone else inside the colony's large walls were no longer exactly human. Short forty-five centimeter long tails grew out from above their butts. And their ears shifted positions, getting a little higher and started to change shape slightly. They took on a more catlike appearance. The girls also noticed that their finger tips had started hurting a lot. Most of these symptoms were true for everyone in the Forest Holding Colony, to varying degrees.

"I think they are turning us into cats." Nina teased. She made a little roar noise and swiped her hand at her sister like a paw.

"Soon we will be crawling around on all fours hunting for food." Mina added.

"Impossible, we will become someone's pet. Why else go through all the trouble?" Nina grinned.  She thought for a moment.
"Speaking of food, the girls upstairs haven't eaten for awhile."

"Maybe we should try and get them something from the mess hall?" Mina picked up on her sister's idea. There was a simple rule in the colony that food was never to leave the mess halls, so getting some for the sick kids would be both fun and against the rules.

"I'm sure they wouldn't mind." Nina chuckled. She thought about what they were going to do, and what she knew about the colony around this time.
"I don't think it will be impossible. But it won't be easy. We should check around the storage area first and see who might be around." She suggested. The two of them both knew that the storage area was guarded by two soldiers at all times, and they had a clean view of the back doors for the mess hall kitchens. But with the session not far away they didn't know where people had chosen to relax.

The twins slipped out of their dorm and headed to the far side of the walled off colony. Past the cluster of official buildings there was two large mess halls designed to seat more than seven hundred and fifty people each. They approached the front door of the southern of the buildings, and Mina was going to peek inside to see how many people might have a view beyond the serving counter.

"Someone is coming." Nina whispered. Her sister turned away from the window a split second before a woman approached them. She eyed the two of them suspiciously.

"Good evening Miss Frost." Nina said politely. She recognized one of the five generals that acted as the colony's leaders immediately and gave her an innocent smile.

"And I suppose you two are just out for a stroll?" Dawn guessed

"Yes ma'am, we didn't want to be stuck in our dorm." Nina replied.

"What are you two girls really up to?" Dawn asked.

"What do you mean?" Mina acted shocked. The general snickered at them.

"I almost believe you, but word gets around about the two of you and now you are playing around outside the mess halls." Dawn explained to them.

"What kind of things have you heard?" Nina was interested.

"You don't take your chores seriously for starters. Now what are you doing out here?" Dawn demanded more seriously. Nina looked at her sister and shrugged.

"If we tell her."

"We can't play." Mina finished.

"It isn't as much fun, but the generals are not intentionally cruel. She probably doesn't know." Nina decided.
"We need to get some food, for the top floor." She admitted.

"The kitchen is closed." Dawn pointed out.

"Some of the girls are sick, they aren't taking well to the changes," Nina explained.

"A lot of people have gotten ill from the magic. But everyone is expected to come to the mess halls to eat. I saw a few sick children tonight, and they made it to the mess." Dawn replied. Suddenly she found herself intimidated by the cold, dark stare that Nina was giving her, mirrored almost exactly by her twin sister.

"Not all of us have families to help us when we are sick." Nina said almost accusing the general.

"Half our dorm is orphans like us, and eventually it will be our turn to get sick. Are we going to starve to death just because our parents were killed when Sutherland's soldiers came to kidnap us for this place. They just wanted to protect us. Your rule's forget those of us that are alone." She said coldly.

"Take us in if you wish." Mina told her, she turned to her sister.
"It was a good game, but wind turned on us."

'That is going to have to be addressed. We can't have either children dying of starvation, or little thieves running around swiping food." Dawn replied.
"Your technique is poor, but your hearts are in the right place. All I can offer you for tonight is that I won't interfere. However I won't help you either, if you get caught by someone else you will be judged like any other." She warned them.

"You did not see us." Nina suggested.
"And we did not see you." Mina agreed. Dawn looked at them both hesitating a moment before she left.

"Sometimes we forget that families were broken to make this place. Those girls neither asked to be brought here to be changed, or to be on their own. I'll have to speak to the others about the children tonight." Dawn thought. There was a part of her that wasn't sure if she should believe the two of them had been orphaned no matter how convincing they had been. But the twin's words still had meaning.

"I feel a little guilty about using mom and dad like that." Mina commented after the general had gone.
"So do I Moonlight. But I think they would have approved. Just telling her the truth she let us continue, and if we are successful." Nina smiled. Her sister did a quick check inside the kitchen.

"Only a few of them inside, looks like a solider too." Mina said quietly.

"Perhaps the one that's usually inside the kitchen after the women are done cooking for the day." Nina suggested. The kitchen was one of the worst places to be during the sessions. If he had become disoriented from the magic it wouldn't be hard to stumble into something sharp.

"That means those two are our biggest problems." Nina whispered, her sister knew that she meant the two soldiers guarding the food warehouse not far away. The two of them got a little closer to the warehouse, with Nina pointing to an area at the wall beside it to make the soldiers think she had seen something interesting near the wall. They didn't question the girls, but they did watch them carefully until they decided the twins had no interest in the warehouse itself.

"What are you two doing out here?" an intimidating voice demanded. They looked up surprised to find General Fraser was staring at them intently.

"I saw a strange shaped rock during chores. I wanted to find it again to show Mina." Nina replied quickly.

"Don't take too long, this isn't a place for children to be playing." Brian told them seriously.
"Have you seen General Frost?" he asked.

"Not exactly no." Nina replied.
"We heard her voice behind the mess halls." Mina finished.

"There isn't a lot of time, find somewhere safe." Brian Fraser suggested. He left the twins alone without thanking them and went to find Dawn.

"That was close." Nina whispered when they were sure that he was gone.

"We will need to distract the guards before we can get into the kitchen." Mina whispered.

"It's not usually locked because there is supposed to be a guard inside." Nina replied. The two of them nodded

"We could wait for the session. That would distract them." Mina suggested. But her sister shook her head.

"It would distract them." Nina replied.

"But we might not be well enough to go through with the plan." Mina nodded.

"You can distract them for me. " Nina suggested.

"I know just the way." Mina replied with a quiet giggle. She went around the storage building while her sister took the long way, circling around the infirmary to sneak back near the mess halls. She was careful not to get within sight of the two soldiers guarding the food storage.

Mina made sure to give her enough time to get back to the mess halls before approaching the two soldiers in front of the food storage with a worried look, and barely fighting back her tears.

"I can't find my sister… Mina I was just with Mina and..." Mina told them, she glanced around looking for her twin sister.

"Calm down, how did you lose her?" one of the guards asked carefully. He turned his attention to the girl, but his partner continued to watch the mess halls.

"Mina wanted to show me something behind the building. I thought I heard something and when I looked back she was gone." Mina explained.
"I'm scared something…" she didn't finish

"She couldn't have gone far. What did she want to show you?" the guard asked.

"Nina found a strange coloured rock." Mina replied, she let her sister's name slip causing the guard, and his eavesdropping partner to look at her.

"Didn't you say your sister was Mina?" he asked.

"No, I'm Mina, she's Nina." She explained.
"Could one of the wall guards have taken Mina?" she asked, adding to their confusion.

While her sister was distracting the guards, Nina watched from the corner of the southern mess hall. There was no one else around, most of the soldiers were training at the other end of the colony. And most of the men and women were with families inside the dorms or by the unlit bonfire waiting for the session to come and go in peace before the nightly gathering started. She didn't have to wait long before her sister had the attention of both guards and somehow she just knew that her sister had them confused.

Quietly Nina snuck into the back door of the kitchen. It was never locked because during the day each kitchen had no less than seven women cooking in them until suppertime and several more women and girls washing dishes until before the session. In the evening it was under the watchful eye of the two guards Mina was now distracting, with a third located in the kitchen the moment the women were done. However the guard inside was preparing for the session too, he hid in the main mess hall with several of the smaller families so he wouldn't get hurt. Nina took advantage of his caution and snuck around the kitchen until she located a couple loafs of bread and some fruit. She was careful not to make any noise while she gathered them up and got back to the door.

"Nobody grabbed your sister, maybe she just went back to the dorm?" the guard suggested. He was getting a headache from trying to guess what twin this was, it almost felt like she didn't know herself but he might simply be mishearing her all the time.

"But she wouldn't have left without me." Mina complained, she was almost in tears. She saw her sister sneak out of the kitchen so it was time to wrap this up.
"Can't you help me look?"

"I'm sorry miss. We can't leave our posts. But maybe you can ask the doctor for help. She could have even gone there for some reason." The guard suggested.

"I guess…"Mina pouted. She looked worried for a moment then started running in the direction of the infirmary. She got close to the infirmary then started running to the dorms and was able to catch up to her sister.

"Mission" Nina smiled.
"A success." Mina finished. They both knew that they weren't out of the woods yet, but they kept a close eye out for people and did their best to hide the food they were carrying short of hiding it under their skirts.

The hardest part was making it back to the dorms but they snuck around the side of the storage and distribution building and made a break past the back of the female dorms to reach the children's dorm buildings.

The twins didn't realize it, but they had not gone unnoticed. One of the women that usually did laundry during the day saw the twins sneaking around with stolen food, and she went right away to tell General Frost about the theft. The general had no choice but to deal with the matter this time, so she waited for the girls outside the dorm building.

"That was fun." Nina giggled while the two of them walked downstairs. The food had been a hit with the children, and devoured very quickly as it had been at least a couple days since they had last been able to reach the mess hall.

"I'm glad you had fun, but girls if you are going to pull a stunt like that. Don't get caught." Dawn's voice surprised them. She was alone because she wanted to speak to the girls before she brought them in.

"What do you mean?" Nina asked.

"You two put me in a hard position. I wanted to ignore what you were doing, but when someone comes to find me specifically to let me know you two are stealing food. I'm afraid I can't stay out of it." Dawn explained to them.

"I see, we didn't know we had been seen." Nina admitted.
"But if you must."

"Take us in, and then we will go." Mina finished.

"It's too late though. The kids upstairs already ate it all." Nina grinned.

"I'm glad, then I won't have to take it from them. But I'm going to have to ask you both to come with me. General Fraser will have to decide what to do with you." Dawn said firmly. The twins both nodded and followed her out of the dorm and towards the south central wall of the colony. There an administration building had been built beside the brig.

The twins were taken to stand in front of General Brian Fraser, Nicholas Barclay and Adrian White. Dawn stood beside them to describe their crimes.

"Generals these two girls have been caught stealing a small amount of food from the kitchen and bringing it to their dorm." Dawn explained.

"She is both right." Nina spoke up.

"And wrong." Her sister added.

"Let General Frost finish before you can speak your piece." Brian warned them.

"Thank you sir." Dawn replied.
"The evidence was devoured before I could apprehend them however they do not deny that the food was taken."

"They could be part of that rebel group that has been popping up lately." Nicholas commented. He looked over at Brian and then again at the twins. Brian studied them for several minutes.

"The rebels could be stealing food. Has anyone been keeping a close watch on supplies? Has food gone missing before?" Brian questioned.

"Sir if I may." Dawn interrupted.
"These girls are just kids and nothing more. They don't have any parents and stole the food to help feed some of the other orphans in their dorm. Ones that are too sick to make it to the mess halls and have no one to help them."

"Is this the truth?" Brian asked the twins directly.

"We are not all fortunate enough to still have our parents. No one in this colony cares about those kids, so yes we took it on ourselves to help our own." Nina said bluntly.

"We would hope for the same if we become sick." Mina added.

"You could have just brought this to our attention. There was no need to steal food." General White commented.

"Adrian is correct, you choose the wrong way to handle it. However because your crime was only a minor one I have decided to be lenient on your sentence. You can not be allowed to believe this is acceptable though." Brian said.

"We are." Nina said

"Prepared." Mina finished.

"I am sentencing you both to three days in the brig, however you will not be separated." Brian said firmly. He could see that the twins were very close, and the severity of the crime didn't warrant the added punishment of putting them in separate cells.

"Thank you sir." Mina said politely. She had never been separated from her sister before, and couldn't imagine it.

"What kind of example are you setting?" Nina asked. She was rewarded with a surprised look from the three men.

"Excuse me?" Brian asked.

"If we were men you would have us flogged naked in the middle of the colony wouldn't you? What kind of example do you think you are setting for this horrifying crime." Nina pushed. She saw the sparkle of confusion in the general's eyes and suppressed a smile. It was a rewarding feeling for both of them, despite the consequences.

"What are you doing?" Dawn hissed at them. The twins could see her confusion too and fed from it like a drug. Brian was about to open his mouth when Dawn cut him off quickly.

"The girls are confused. They have no one to explain the floggings that have been done previously." Dawn explained. She grabbed both of the twins arm's and forcefully pulled them out of the room. She would make sure they started their sentence before foolishly convincing the other generals to punish them more severely.

"Stupid girls, do you know what you almost did." She growled at them.

"We know, but it had to be done." Mina said. Dawn stopped pulling on their arms and turned to look at them.

"I can't explain, but it was worth the risk. We can serve our sentence without further problems because of it." Nina told her.

"Brian did you a favor by allowing you to share a cell. Don't make him regret it." Dawn warned.  The twins nodded and went with Dawn to serve their three days in confinement. Together they knew that they could fend off the threat of boredom that the brig was so famous for.

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