Chapter 1 - Be Prepared
Catra walked quickly down the corridor. No one questioned her or attempted to stop her. Sometimes there were advantages to being the second-in-command. A lot of advantages. And Catra took each one as far as she could.
"Is everything ready to move out?" Catra asked as she entered the hangar.
"Everyone is present and ready to go!" Scorpia replied with a sharp salute, the grin on her face betraying her excitement.
"Including Entrapta?" Catra couldn't help but ask as she glided over to the overlook and leaned on the railing.
"Yep! She's all packed up and ready to move out."
Catra hummed in response as she looked out at the sight below her.
An entire battalion, about a third of the Horde's forces, were armed and ready to go. Tanks, carriers, supply vehicles, runners, motor bikes, Entrapta's special mobile lab, all of them were fueled up and on standby. Each member of the battalion had been handpicked by Catra. She'd sought each of them out, tested each of them in her own way, and she'd found that all of them were the exact people she needed for this task. Surprisingly, her old squad mates were included, but even Lonnie and Kyle had proven that they had a place here.
Everything was going according to plan.
Entrapta swung up onto the overlook by her hair. "Everything's all set!" She clapped her hands together. "Ah! The things I will be able to do! Who even knows?"
Catra snorted a bit. "Well, hopefully you."
Entrapta paused. "Hmm, you do have a point, but even I don't know the full extent!"
Catra and Scorpia shared a fond look. Unfortunately, it was time to get back to work.
"Alright, Scorpia." Catra glanced at her. "Send the signal to start moving out."
"Can do!" Scorpia saluted again and reached for the signal and -
"Commander!" The voice snapped out behind the three.
Catra frowned and turned, studying the soldier coming up to her.
He wasn't one of hers.
"Yes?" She raised a single eyebrow.
The soldier pursed his lips but wasn't deterred. "Lord Hordak has requested you in his chambers."
Scorpia and Entrapta stiffened on either side of Catra, but she didn't even twitch. "I'm about to lead my troops out. The plan has already been approved."
"He said it cannot wait." The soldier was sweating, and his hands trembled as he brought them behind him. It was almost funny how scared he was considering he was probably twice Catra's age.
Catra noted that he was already well above the average age of a Horde soldier.
"Alright. I'll be right there." Catra nonchalantly said with a roll of her eyes, ignoring the softs gasps from Scorpia and Entrapta. "Just allow me to get things moving here and I'll be up."
"Of course, Commander!" The soldier saluted and quickly hightailed it out of there.
The moment he was out of ear range, Scorpia turned to her, her pinchers fiddling with each other. "Catra…"
Catra looked out once more on her troops. "Send the signal; we can't afford a delay."
Scorpia's face crumbled slightly. "But…"
"Catra." Entrapta appeared serious for once. "Given what we've just been told, the statistical likelihood shows that - "
"Don't tell me the odds." Catra snapped slightly. Upon seeing her words had no effect other than making them deflate slightly, she sighed and reached out to take one of their hands each. "We've worked far too hard and too long for this. Move everyone out."
They both gave her a long look. Then Scorpia reached out and activated the signal.
Below there was a flurry of movement as people got fully settled for the long ride ahead and vehicles started up. In no time at all and with perfect Horde precision, the battalion started rolling out.
Catra let go of the others' hands and faced the activities down below again, her fingers now curling around the overlook's railing. "Go."
Entrapta nodded with a surprisingly grim look and flipped her mask down, but her silence as she swung down onto her mobile lab spoke more than any words could.
Scorpia hesitated once more. "Are - are you sure you don't want one of us to stay?"
Catra chuckled. That was the first time someone had asked to stay. "I'm sure."
"Okay." The soft clanks indicated that her orders were being followed.
"Scorpia?" Catra heard her pause, her own ears flicking back towards her. "Stick to the plan. If I haven't joined you within a week, proceed without me."
Hesitation filled the air, but Catra refused to look back.
"If that's what you want." The words were even quieter than Scorpia's last, but she was finally moving away. Within moments, Catra watched her hop on to a tank passing below, easily taking command, in Catra's stead, of the whole battalion.
Catra smiled. She'd come a long way since they'd first met.
For a moment, Catra searched through her feelings, waiting for a familiar pang to hit her upon seeing her two… friends… leave her behind. She expected to feel indignation and pain once more over such a similar scenario.
To her surprise, she felt… relief. And assurance that they would do what they had to.
"So this is the difference when it's actually my choice." Catra mumbled to herself, leaning back for a moment and closing her eyes.
Because it was her choice. After all, there had been a few other times when she'd ignored what Hordak wanted and did what she wanted instead. Luckily, her results had always been good enough that it had turned out fine.
Besides, it was just as well that she had chosen to stay behind this time.
She had some final business to take care of before she could join her troops.
Catra took a deep breath and let it out in a whoosh.
Then she opened her eyes and turned on her heels to walk further into the Fright Zone. The hangars, naturally, were on the outskirts of the Zone. Hordak's tower and center of operations was, of course, in the center, with both his work and personal chambers being in the highest rooms of the Zone's tallest tower. By the time Catra made it to Hordak's tower, her battalion was already beginning to disappear over the horizon, to lands that weren't covered in perpetual smog and glowing red.
Catra did feel a quirk of jealousy over that. One of the best benefits of being a commander was that she was usually able to leave the Zone as she pleased, but it seemed that would have to wait for now.
As the elevator took her to the top, Catra again took a deep breath and composed herself. She had to be in total control when she faced Hordak. He hated it when people were overly emotional. She would have to be prepared to deal with whatever problem he had with an unusual amount of stoicism for her.
Then again, she'd grown used to it.
"You needed me for something?" Catra asked as she entered and kneeled before his throne.
"Catra." Hordak's usual monotone gave nothing away. "How goes your plans?"
"Everything is proceeding as planned." She reported. "My troops have already left and are approaching their destination now."
"I see. It sounds excellent."
"But is this truly for the betterment of the Horde?"
Catra froze where she was still bent over, her eyes snapping open and widening. Slowly, she looked up at Hordak. "Whatever do you mean?"
She saw now that he had been turned away from her, looking at a monitor showing the path that her battalion had taken to get away. However, as she watched, he faced her. "What I mean is," he stood up from his throne, staring down at her, "if your plans are going as you intended, do your plans align with those of the Horde?"
Catra stared at him. "I don't know what you're talking about." Her voice was as dry as a desert.
"Really? Do you?" At his words, his creepy little pet emerged from the shadows to hop up onto the armrest of the throne to curl up. Catra narrowed her eyes at it until he spoke again. "Catra, I believe you are smart enough to know not to play dumb."
She had thought she'd been careful, always checking to make sure Hordak's pet wasn't around as she had gathered her people, made her plans, kept such tight secrecy that only Scorpia and Entrapta knew the full extent of the plan. Most of the troops had the general idea of what they were doing, but only those two had known the real reason for why it had to be now.
Her troops, her people, were all of the members of the Horde who wanted to leave. And the easiest way Catra had thought of to do it was to walk right through the gates on a supposed mission.
Catra dropped the facade as she stood up. "Is this really a surprise?"
Hordak hummed. "Not truly. It was clear that you never quite believed in our purpose, but I had hoped to utilize you for a bit longer."
"You mean until you could try to use me as leverage against Adora?" Catra rolled her eyes.
It had been quite obvious once she'd adjusted and gotten used to the fact that really only one person could touch her now. It hadn't made sense otherwise. After all, she could understand wanting to get rid of Shadow Weaver, she'd practically revelled in her fall from grace, but promoting someone who'd recently graduated from cadet to Force Captain and all the way to second-in-command, no less? There had to be more to it than the fact that she'd done more to get them closer to their goals than anyone had in years.
The members of the Horde tended to be young, but Catra just knew that there were soldiers among them who had much more real combat experience when she first started as his second and could make a half way plausible plan.
When she had figured it out, she'd almost laughed out loud. Even when Adora was gone, Catra's fate in the Horde was still inexplicably tied to her.
Though, she could see the intelligence behind the plan. Adora was a big enough sap to fall for it.
"How astute of you to notice." Despite his words, the way he folded his hands told Catra how displeased he was to be found out. "You know I always thought it would be her that would turn you against me."
Catra couldn't hold back a snort at that. It was true that at one point she had based her life decisions on Adora; it's why she had remained in the Horde even when Shadow Weaver made her life a nightmare.
But that had ended the moment Adora left.
"Still, I wouldn't have expected this." If Catra didn't know better, she would almost say that Hordak was smiling. "Children, Catra? That's what it takes to betray me?"
Catra tried so hard to still herself, to suppress her reaction, but her hands still curled into fists.
The Horde lost soldiers at a surprising rate given the technology at their fingertips. The rates had gone down since Catra had taken over as second-in-command but the fact remained that no one lived long in the Horde. At least not the same length of time as an immortal queen and power-filled princesses. And with losses, new soldiers had to come from somewhere.
She hadn't given the orders for it, but recently, she'd been informed that she would be in charge of overseeing the training of the "recruits." Ones that had recently "decided" to join.
They were literally children stolen from their homes.
Catra had always suspected as such. Sure, wars produced plenty of orphans, but as many to fill the barracks of her childhood? With such ease as well? Maybe some of them were abandoned and orphaned, but not all of them could be. And none of them could ever remember what came before the Horde. They were simply told that they had been saved, and in gratitude, they would serve.
Catra had looked at the kids that she was apparently supposed to mold into good little soldiers and seen herself, a younger, less jaded version, staring back.
And she couldn't do it.
She and Adora may have been on the polar ends of how bad things could be for recruits, and she had realized that Adora had had her own troubles as well, but all recruits and cadets had it bad in some way. Catra had just received the worst of it at the hands of Shadow Weaver.
Catra refused to be like her.
And it had been easy to hide all of the recruits and cadets among the hustle and bustle of a full battalion and its supplies heading out.
"I've noticed that all of the recruits and cadets are missing from their facilities, but no matter." Hordak continued, glancing back at the monitor. "It'll be simple enough to collect them back along with the traitors you've collected. You've just made it easier to identify who should be punished for their heresy."
Catra slipped a device from her pocket to her hand. "You think?" She pressed the trigger.
The shockwaves of multiple explosions rocked the building with their force and sound. Hordak stumbled a bit as he practically ran to his monitors. Catra almost admired the displays' visuals of the infernos that had developed in a good portion of the Fright Zone's hangars and weapons factories. She was glad that she had borrowed half of Entrapta's explosives as well as ordered most of the remaining soldiers, the ones she knew actually preferred being here over anywhere else, to return to their chambers after her troops left. Most should've been kept out of the crossfire.
She watched realization dawn on Hordak's face. "You…" He snarled, and it was the most emotion she'd ever seen on his face.
"It might be hard to pursue my troops when you have so few vehicles and weapons on hand to assist you." Catra deadpanned, becoming more calm the more agitated he got.
"I gave you everything you wanted, and this is how you repay me?!"
"Not everything." She muttered. "And you were just using me." Just like she had used him and her new position.
His armor glowed slightly, but he appeared to calm down a bit as he stalked his way down the stairs from his throne. "You're certain this isn't because of She-ra? This seems like the sort of action she'd condone."
Catra resisted the urge to roll her eyes again, but the annoyed noise that slipped out was answer enough.
Why did everyone try to make this about Adora?
Adora was naive. She hadn't seen what the Horde was like when atrocities happened right in front of her nose until people from outside the Horde had pointed it out. She'd then been naive enough to leave and think that other people wouldn't pay for it, namely Catra. Adora couldn't really see the big picture or play the long game. She charged right ahead in all she did as soon as she got an idea in her head, without much thought on whether there was an easier or simpler way forward.
It's easier to change something from the inside rather than the outside. And when you survive long enough and gained a position of power, it became even easier.
Catra had tried to tell Adora that.
After all, just look at what she'd been able to do as second-in-command.
"You will pay for this, you know."
Of course, Catra knew. To survive in the Horde, you had to think three steps ahead.
Admittedly, she didn't know how this part of her plan would turn out.
Catra fell into a fighting stance.
She leapt into battle.
AN: So this is the first chapter of Catra's redemption arc. This chapter is from her perspective, but most of them are actually going to be from Adora's perspective, with Catra flashbacks throughout (probably). Just sort of the way I imagine her redemption arc really kicking off. I'm not quite sure how long it'll be but I've got a basic outline of how I want to write all this. However, I won't be able to return to this to work on it until Femslash February is done at the very least, so please be patient if you want more. By the end though, I do hope for Adora and Catra to become closer again.
It's gonna take something big to make Catra change sides. I know a lot of people are banking on something happening to Adora that will make her switch, which is fine, but I kind of want it to be for something else. I mean, clearly Adora still has a huge effect on her, even if she doesn't want her to, but I want her redemption to be for her and her own reasons (after all, you can't really change unless you actually want to).
Something I noticed while watching is that usually, as long as Catra isn't the cause, Catra always starts to reach out to those who are in pain in front of her. She did it for Scorpia and Entrapta (though I will admit that as she was sympathizing and mildly projecting on them both, there was a smidge of manipulation), before Adora left she did it for her, and we've even see her reach out to help Shadow Weaver, freaking Shadow Weaver, when she was in pain. Also, according to the character quiz, while Catra presents "a tough exterior, deep down [she has] a heart of gold."
So if she was put in a position like Shadow Weaver was where she had to train/punish little kids who act as "recruits" like she was (or actually collect them), I'm not sure Catra would be able to do it. Usually, it could be argued that those she attacks have it coming (whether through personal betrayal or simply siding with the Rebellion/enemy), but kids? Nope, I don't think so. And considering how she took Entrapta and Scorpia under her wing, I think she'd just want to take care of them. So I decided that while Catra would try to change things as second-in-command, and seek out those who like her would really like to leave the Horde just in case, there would come a point, in this case the kids, where she would realize that she can't change things fast enough. And I think Scorpia and Entrapta would be on her side.
Anyway, those are kind of my thoughts and what this fic is basing the redemption on.
Later note: Obviously this is now a big canon divergence due to what's happened since I wrote this, but I'm still pulling for a Catra redemption in canon.