What was it like growing up with Hell Kat? Personally, I don’t know how anyone could survive it, but somehow Tongue made it out alive. Would you like to know what it takes to survive a childhood with Hell Kat? So would I.
Tongue: Good, a little sore, but good.
Me: Why are you sore?
Tongue: Late night sparring with Kat.
Me: Well that explains a lot. Like why your jaw’s swollen and you aren’t sitting up straight.
Tongue: She had a lot on her mind and Shooter was busy with Archer International stuff so the job of punching bag fell to me.
Me: Why do the two of you let her beat up on you like that?
Tongue: Because we’re stupid!! Every single freaking time I think to myself, “This will be the day. Today will be the day I get the best of Kat.” And every single freaking time I get my ass handed to me.
Me: You’re not very smart are you? *He rolls his eyes at me* What was it like growing up with Hell Kat?
Tongue: Hah! I know you want me to say it was a daily struggle to stay alive, but it was actually freaking awesome! Kat was the best brother a guy could ask for. She knew how to fight, play ball, cuss, and shoot. In fact, I didn’t really start to think of her as a sister until she turned thirteen. After that it all went to hell.
Tongue: Puberty!! She went from super cool to hormone hen overnight! Deep down I knew she’d never kill me, but I’d have nightmares of waking up to see her holding our mother’s severed head in one hand and a butcher knife in the other. You don’t know what it was like Harper. She had this look in her eye that made you think she’d enjoy gutting you like a fish. She never actually hurt anyone in the family, unless we were sparring, but that look could make Satan himself rethink stepping up on Kat. I ran out the front door when I turned eighteen.
Me: I’m glad you survived. The Rat Bastards wouldn’t be the same without you. What do you do for the Rat Bastards?
Tongue: I’m the translator. That’s how I got my name. *He pauses* I speak in tongues. I know your readers were hoping I’d earned my name from being particularly adept at intimate oral acrobatics. Sorry, I speak a whole slew of languages, that’s it.
Me: I know a few people who will be disappointed.
Tongue: That doesn’t mean I don’t know how to use my tongue. I do. *He winks* You want a demonstration.
Me: Tempting, but I’ll pass. I have stuff to do today. How long have you been a Rat Bastard?
Tongue: Seven years.
Me: And how many times have you been deployed?
Tongue: Five, no six. Yeah, six.
Me: What’s the best thing about being a Rat Bastard?
Tongue: The Rat Bastards are closer than brothers. I know they’ve got my back no matter what and they know I’ve got their back. It’s not just something we say, it’s something we know. They’ve saved my life more times than I can count and I’ve saved theirs. It’s something you can’t really explain. It’s like we’re lovers, without the sex and drama.
Me: OK, I’ll let that comment turn into a future therapy bill. What’s the worst thing about being a Rat Bastard?
Tongue: Being closer than brothers. When we lose a Bastard, it’s like being force fed your own heart. The bond is strong. When a Bastard dies, it’s physically painful. You feel like you’ll never get over it. And you never do.
Me: What reminds you of home when you’re out?
Tongue: Don’t tell Kat I told you this. She won’t like it. Every week while I’m away I get a package of Neiman Marcus cookies. She makes them. Kat makes them herself. It’s the only thing she knows how to cook. She sends the cookies but never admits to sending them. How do I know it’s her? Most people grind a Hershey bar up into the dough. Kat uses a Symphony bar with almonds and toffee. They’re the best cookies in the world.
Me: Um, do you know if she has any here? Now.
Tongue: *Shakes his head* Nope, I’ve already raided the kitchen. Couldn’t find a crumb.
Tongue: I know right.
Me: I’m surprised that she’d actually do something like that. It makes her seem almost human.
Tongue: She’s not human, she’s a bitch, in a good way. What I mean is, Kat can be the kind of mean that makes Dr. Mengele look like Mother Teresa. But she uses her powers for good. She’s only a bitch if you deserve it. And if you deserve it, you better start running. Fast.
Tongue: For me it’s not a big deal. I grew up with her. Some of the others had a difficult adjustment period. She’d tell them to do something and they’d instantly look to Shooter. That pissed her off more than I can tell you. She led them on a few missions, kept their asses safe, saved a few dozen civilian lives, and now they respect her. With the Bastards you have to earn respect.
Me: So the rest of the Bastards are OK with taking orders from a woman?
Tongue: They are now. And it has nothing with her being a woman. It’s about trust. They already trusted Shooter, they had to learn to trust Kat. Don’t let her know this, but some of them went into New Orleans and had a Voo Doo doll made of her. They used it for target pract….*Tongue’s eyes go wide* Ooooohhhhh, crap.
I turn to see Hell Kat standing in the doorway ending the interview. I feel bad for the Rat Bastards right now. Kind of. Not really. OK, fine! I’m popping popcorn and claiming the best seat in the house.