It wasn't a secret in the Horde that Shadow Weaver was vindictive and cruel, if you found yourself in the way of her ever increasing ire, you wouldn't last long. It wasn't a secret either that she would often play favorites with a certain cadet. As it stood, there were two ways in order to get into her good graces. Suck up to Adora, although this was often the less efficient of the two. Or two, bully and belittle Catra.
For some reason, Catra was her punching bag. When she walked down the artificial halls of the Fright Zone, she was often jumped on and beat, except when she was with Adora. As a result, Catra often stuck near her, leading people to see Catra as her pet.
That particular day Catra was alone in the halls. She had been caught sneaking around with Adora around the Force Captain quarters, of course Adora hadn't been punished, she was eating comfortably with the rest of their squad. Catra however was punished, she wasn't allowed breakfast nor dinner for three days. It would've been a week had Adora not asked Shadow Weaver to lower her sentence.
Her bare feet silently paced around the green tinted walls of the Fright Zone. Whenever she heard horde cadets walking her way, she would jump and hide on top the pipes and cables adorning the ceiling of the long corridors.
Another pair of feet approached. Catra once again jumped to the pipes and crouched, waiting for them to pass by. When they were under her, her stomach grumbled, the lack of last night's dinner finally catching up to it. "Shit..." Catra cursed under her breath.
The two cadets looked around when they heard the grumble, eventually they looked up and found her eyes. They removed their helmets, only senior cadets had access to a full Horde combat uniform. She still had ten eight years to go before she could graduate to senior cadets. 'Eight more years of shadow filled hell.' she thought.
Catra groaned when she recognized the cadets, she had affectionally named Shiteater and Asssucker, she liked the second name since she imagined it being spelled with three 's'. Shiteater was the taller of the two, he was tan skinned with blonde hair combed neatly to the side, his ridiculously ugly face smirking at her. Asssucker was his brother, he basically looked the same, only that his hair was black and was short, he looked up at her with a smug grin. .
"Hey! Come down here you two-eyed freak!" Shiteater called up to her.
Catra groaned. The poor fool. "You have two eyes you fucking idiot!" Shiteater scowled at her. Can you believe it? 'Scowled', it's funny because he's as dumb as a horse, looked like one too. Catra chuckled at the thought.
"Now, now. What would Shadow Weaver think if the already most useless cadet mouthed off to her superiors?" Asssuckers elbowed Shiteater, smirking. 'The already most useless cadet' Jeez, that sentence composition.
"The only useless shits I see, are you two. I mean seriously, I could beat your scores with a blindfold on." Then another thought occurred to her. "You're even asking me to come down. I could literally stay here and you wouldn't be able to do shit." She smirked and laid down lazily on a pipe to emphasize the point.
"Oh yeah prove it! I dare you to end up first of your squad in the next simulation." Shiteater said and her ears perked up, but then pinned back down. Shadow Weaver had made it clear she could never out shine Adora. She had threatened her, the one time she hadn't held back.
"I heard today simulations will be open for viewing." Added Asssucker, snapping Catra out of her memories. Her mouth narrowed into a line. Would it be worth it? She could prove the whole Horde wrong, if they were open for viewing, she could impress other higherups. Then again, she wouldn't risk it for those two idiots, her pride wouldn't even be on the line, right?
"Oh please, she wouldn't even try to." Shiteater continued to talk as if she wasn't there. "After all, it would make her master sad."
Oh it was on. Catra hated being called a pet, Shadow Weaver did that enough, she would often times have to act like one to her, walking on four legs, eating and drinking from the floor... She clenched her fists, claws digging slightly into her hands. "What are your scores?" She growled out and glared at them
As it turned out, their scores were average, easily beaten. But, no. She was aiming for the top of the class, she would prove she was not a useless waste of resources, she would prove she was better than Adora, or Lonnie, or Rogelio.
She managed to get to the simulation area on time. The others were already there, putting on their gear. She put hers on quickly and flashed a small smile to Adora. "Hey Adora," She drawled.
"Catra! You're early for the test simulation!"
So that's what it was. No wonder viewing was allowed, Force Captains would grade them and assign them new schedule according to their skill levels. That also meant Octavia would be there, she frowned, she would be hard to sway in her favor, but not impossible. Vultak was known to be hard as well. Grizzlor was known to be lenient with hybrids like her. There would also be two Scorpioni captains, it would be their debut and she would make an impression alright. Apart from them, there was also a couple others as well, around 15 or 16.
Suddenly the door to the room opened and Shadow Weaver floated in. Her squad snapped to attention, she followed suit, although a little slower and lazily. "Welcome cadets." She drawled and then her gaze flicked briefly to Catra. "Ah, Catra, you're early. I'm surprised a worthless and lazy cadet as yourself would be capable of basic decency."
Catra said nothing, instead choosing to gaze into Shadow Weaver's eyes, she knew the witch could read her and she didn't hide the challenge behind her gaze. The witch narrowed her eyes at her, Catra was sure she would pay later but for now she relished in her frustration. Adora looked at her with a worried expression.
"Today you will be attempting a different kind of exercise. The setting is as follows: The princesses have captured you and your squad and left you to die in Beast Island." Adora and Kyle gasped, Adora glaring at the simulation before them. "Luckily, the Horde has managed to locate you an sent out a rescue party. Your objective is to get to the other side of the island, where they await. The 'Force Captain' in this simulation will be Adora." Shadow Weaver's gaze washed over them. "I will not be providing you instructions, you are to make your own strategy. I will be watching in the veiwing platform along with the Force Captains and other cadets. Do not disappoint." She added with a pointed look at Adora.
They saluted, and the witch left, leaving the squad to plan out their strategies. Immediately Adora pipped in with orders "We should rush through, escape any razorfins or pookas or anything. Just like in the woods simulation." The rest of the squad murmured their agreements and fake salutes. All except Catra.
"I think we should be more methodical. Be careful, advance quietly avoiding any conflict unless necessary. Walk around the 'shore' until the wind-"
"Don't be dumb Catra!" Lonnie interrupted. "I don't know what got into you, but you never help us, as if your plan could be any good. Adora was chosen as Force Captain 'cause she's better than you, accept it." She crossed her arms and glared at her. You could tell that Shadow Weaver was lenient with her. Catra was going to retort but Kyle beat her to it.
"I th-think...We should d-d-do Adora's s-strategy" He stuttered, it was something he had developed recently, but Catra so far had been patient.
Rogelio opened his mouth to speak up, but struggled to form the words, eventually giving up and resorting to sign language. He went a little slow so as to not confuse the rest. "I agree. Adora was choses because Shadow Weaver believes in her. She is our best bet in the long run."
Adora placed a hand on her shoulder. "Hey, it's ok. We can do this, trust me."
Catra knew that it wasn't going to work, but she kept her mouth shut, teeth grinding as she slowly nodded and agreement. Adora smiled and took the front of the formation. Catra took the back. She wasn't about to let her squad's stupidity hinder her survival. She would slip into the terrain as she often did. Of course, saving your teammates gave you points, so she would naturally help them, if they got jumped.
The door to the simulation slowly opened and they ran in, rushing through the field at top speed. The place itself looked like a more advanced and rundown Fright Zone. There were the occasional vine and tree. Overall the terrain was perfect for stealth, also known as exactly the opposite of what her squad was doing.
She sighed and climbed up a tall tree. It would be easier to follow them from that distance as well as making it easier to see the layout. The room was huge, to big for them to complete in one run. Her squad would get tired quickly. She looked about and saw the drones that acted as the eyes of the Force Captains, three were trained on her. She frowned and looked back down, her squad had encountered their first adversaries. Surprisingly enough, they weren't robots, but instead, cadets, perhaps a two years older than them.
No body had noticed her absence. She slowly made her way down the tree and onto another, using big branches to jump arounduntil she found the battle. Rogelio was protecting Kyle, while Lonnie and Adora attacked from the front, pinning and 'wounding' the animals, but even they were being overtaken by numbers. Catra narrowed her eyes waiting for the right moment to strike.
Just before an animal could strike down Kyle, she jumped in, knocking the guy unconscious, and using her momentum and his body as a spring board she jumped and managed to knock out the other two attacking Rogelio. That gave him the chance to regroup with the others while she held a hand out for Kyle, who took it with little hesitation. Back on his feet Catra led Kyle to the bushes and crouched low, putting a finger to her lips to signal him to be quiet.
Together the watched as the battle was finished. Rogelio, Lonnie and Adora started looking for him, he was about get up before Catra stopped him. She held out a finger to test the wind, and realized it led deeper into the simulation room. The commotion had surely alerted others of their location, and the wind could be used to track them. She frowned and climbed another tree, helping Kyle do the same noticing his ankle had been sprained. She helped him hold steady and he gave her a small smile.
"We need to keep going. He probably got tagged and got taken away." Adora reasoned. "I'll give him some of my points to help him pass if ever."
"Ugh, where's Catra when you actually need her?" Lonnie groaned.
Catra smirked and gave a downcast Kyle a playful nudge. Then she pointed at a few vines in the middle of two trees. She jumped across easily and held her hand to Kyle. He looked terrified, but Catra decided to help him, maybe as to accumulate karma to help her get through Shadow Weaver's sure punishment after. She smiled, a rare sight, and held a thumbs up, urging Kyle. He nodded and swung, almost falling, but Catra managed to catch him in time.
The rest of the simulation went the same until it all went wrong. Rogelio tripped during one of the escapes. Catra quickly urged Kyle to stay while she dove in. Knocking down to animals before they could get to him. Rogelio saw her, she would surely get scolded by them afterwards. Then she turned her attention to the four remaining animals. She jumped onto some tech, narrowly avoiding getting tagged, she rolled and sprung back up with her cat like mobility. She managed to land on top of the one going for Adora and used the speed to save Lonnie. But while Adora was distracted by her sudden appearance she was tagged by the remaining two. Catra and Lonnie went into action taking them down, with Rogelio helping with the flank.
Adora laid on the ground tears stinging at her eyes. "I failed..." She murmured. Catra sighed but looked at her with determined eyes.
"Not yet." She said, everyone looked at her. She could feel the drones examining her. "The only way to fail in life is to die. And you haven't died yet."
"Catra's r-right!" Kyle called out from the tree, being helped down by Rogelio. "Look" He pointed at the red spot on the gear. "I-It's not-t f-fatal! Sh-She c-can still m-m-make it."
"Rogelio, give me your shirt." Catra said, and he did. She placed it on the supposed wound and Adora applied pressure. "Rogelio will carry Adora, I'll take Kyle though the trees and Lonnie will be our defense." She explained hoping that for once these idiots would actually listen.
Surprisingly, both Rogelio and Kyle nodded. Followed by a smiling Adora and a reluctant Lonnie.
With her strategy, they managed to complete the simulation. When they arrived, they were greeted by the Force Captains. But before they could he a word out, a loud roar echoed through the room.
Everyone was baffled by the sight of a rampaging Bullwolf that was racing towards them a top speed. At first they thought it was a part of the simulation, until it passed the threshold, but by then it was to late to react, Catra felt the constricting magic around her, just like every time Shadow Weaver punished her. The bull ignored everyone and slammed right into Catra, throwing her against the wall. She gasped, the air being taken out of her, she could barely hear the voices screaming her name. She felt a familiar chill run up her spine, as was the norm whenever Shadow Weaver used magic on her. Then her vision faded to black.
Catra startled awake, her instincts still on high alert. She gasped and looked around. She found herself on a cot in a lone room in the Horde infirmary, the white lights reflecting onto the metal walls painted white, causing her to wince and screw her eyes shut. A sharp pain erupted from her head, she quickly pressed a hand to it, hoping it would calm, instead, she found bandages wrapped around it. She panicked, she remembered stories of soldiers that hit their heads too hard and forgot everyone.
She tried to remember. 'Shiteater...Asssucker...Simulation...Squad...bullwolf...Shadow Weaver.' She felt tears at well up at her eyes. Of course that witch would have destroyed her victory. She had warned her, hadn't she? It was her fault, she should have heeded the warning. She should have let Adora have this. She should've saved Adora instead of Lonnie-
Her train of thought was interrupted when the doors to her room were slid open. She tensed and whipped her head around, expecting Shadow Weaver but instead she saw her squad shily walk in. Lonnie was the first in, followed by Adora then Rogelio urging Kyle inside. Her ears perked up slightly, in a mixture of happiness, confusion, relief and curiosity. Their eyes flicked over to her and widened.
"Guys! She's awake!" Lonnie exclaimed and rushed to her side. Followed by Adora.
"Catra!" Adora hugged her, she flinched a bit at the contact. She opened her mouth to speak but Kyle beat her to it.
"A-Are y-y-you ok? D-Do-do you re-memb-ber u-us?" He asked worriedly.
Catra rolled her eyes smiling, she went to retort. She opened her mouth but no sound came out. Her brows furrowed in worry and she tried again...And again...And again. By that point her squad mates, yes even Lonnie, were looking at her with worry. Suddenly the door was once again thrown opened. A small, skinny man walked in followed by the two Scorpioni Force Captains. He looked over at the group of kids and frowned.
"Kids not supposed to be here." He grumbled out. "Get out..."
"Now, now." The 'smaller' of the two had white hair and smaller pincers as well, she frowned at the small man. "I think they can be here. They clearly care for her." She gave a pointed look at Lonnie, Catra didn't know why, Lonnie swallowed hard and nodded, looking at the floor. Then she turned her head towards Catra. "How are you doing?"
Catra went to speak again but words wouldn't form from her mouth. She whimpered before she could stop it. The man frowned, Catra guessed he was a doctor or something, he pulled out a flashlight and flashed it to Catra's mouth. "Open" He simply stated. She did, honestly she wasn't in a position to argue. He examined the inside of her throat and then the outside. He frowned again, this time feeling her head through the bandages, finding the place of her injury. Catra hissed and gasped as a sharp pain once again erupted from her head. She felt the familiar warmth of blood slowly expand, matting her mane.
The doctor hummed, his frown somehow getting deeper. "Is miracle she alive." He said taking out a report pad and beginning to write. "It like we believe, she will not speak again. Incapacitating injury." He began dictating as he wrote. "No combat chain progression."
Catra felt her heart drop, the room suddenly becoming too constricting. Catra felt suffocated. She looked around, everything was blurry from the tears she could feel pooling in her eyes. She desperately tried to speak again, to prove the doctor wrong, but nothing came out, eventually her attempts gave into quiet whimpers. Her squad gasped and Adora hugged her tight, while Rogelio patted her back. Kyle looked sad and Lonnie, surprisingly, was as well.
The bigger of the two scorpioni glared at the doctor and then looked sadly at the group. "I know how that sounds," Her voice was surprisingly gentle for being a Horde Force Captain. Catra flinched waiting for her to scream at her, or fault her for the accident. "Normally, the Horde would just send you to the front lines to die." She explained, lacking no venom.
Adora hugged her tighter and Kyle held onto Rogelio, while Rogelio grasped her shoulders, Lonnie just looked down, hands fidgeting. Catra felt herself begin to panic her breathing got ragged and she was sure they all could tell she was terrified. That only made her panic more, after all, you should never show weakness in the Horde.
"Don't worry" The scorpioni quickly amended. "Your performance back there impressed the Force Captains. We're taking your squad's case up to Hordak-" She stopped when the doctor glared at her. She grumbled but continued. "Lord Hordak. He will see if we can develop a 'Strategy and Administration Branch' you will be the first to participate." She smiled. "If everything go well, we will add you to the sign language class, Cadet Rogelio is in." Her smile faltered a bit. "Shadow Weaver however will remain as you keeper, and you will stay in the same barracks."
Catra nodded slowly. She focused to remember the correct signs and signed out 'Yes ma'am'. Rogelio nodded with a small smile and Adora hugged her tighter.
The scorpioni women smiled and the smaller on placed a pincer to her shoulder leaning in and whispering. "Don't worry, we won't let them hurt you." Catra looked surprised and met her squad mates, Lonnie, Rogelio and Kyle nodded with serious expressions. Catra breathed out and and closed her eyes, she was too tired to deal with empathy, or anything at all. A few tears finished falling from her eyes as she felt herself drift away to sleep, surrounded by her squadmates...friends?