The Fortune Hunter
Maia gripped the side bars of her hanging cage and drove her weight forward and back, building up momentum to swing herself, pendulum-like, towards the smilodon’s cage. It was slow going at first and the motion made her dizzy, but when she finally got the cage moving in the right direction it didn’t take long to bring herself within reach of the deadly cat.
The smilodon’s snarling lips pulled back from its foot-long, curving teeth as it thrust its paw out to fend her off. The first two swipes missed, perhaps because they were meant as warnings. The swing brought Maia close enough that the two cages touched with an audible click, and then the paw cracked against her cage with the sound like Babe Ruth hitting a home run. Maia’s cage spun drunkenly through the air and came back around, tetherball-like, towards the other side of the cat, who promptly slammed the cage again with its other paw.
This time Maia threw her weight against her momentum to slow herself down and keep from coming back within the smilodon’s reach. When the spinning had subsided, she inspected the bars and smiled.
The cat’s claws had torn deep grooves wherever they had struck. It hadn’t weakened them enough for Maia to break through them, but it had created long, sharp splinters that angled out from the rest of the iron-hard wood. She pried at the wooden shards until the tips of her fingers were raw, and final she managed to strip away two long, narrow pieces. They would make perfect lock-picks.
“Thanks, kitty,” she said. “I owe you one.”
The cat licked his paw and watched her with suspicious yellow eyes that seemed to say if I can do that to your cage, just imagine what I can do to you.
In moments, Maia had the lock open and was dropping herself lightly to the ground. The crashes and cries of battle had intensified outside, and when she darted to the doorway she could see a long stone stairway leading down to an arena that was now filled with a miasma of dust and gun smoke.
If I only had a weapon, she thought. Then she looked up at the cages that contained the deadly and exotic animals. The smilodon paced its cage sullenly. The big reptiles slashed at their bars with curving claws. The hyenadon gnawed at its enclosure, and the giant centipede writhed in its cage, a boiling mass of coils and legs.
That’s when she realized she did, in fact, have a weapon. A whole zoo full of weapons, in fact.