The Sun Always Shines in Lactolia: Part 4
A wheezy couple of breaths. Nugget stretched all four of his paws out, extending his claws while doing so, and bending his spine so far back it looked like he was about to snap. Then he folded himself into a compact circular shape, tiredly licked his lips, and proceeded to bury his head into the side of his kitty bed. The gentle whirring of the bladeless fan pushing air around the noise was a pleasant white noise to drown out the rest of the incessant machinery and factory churnings, and he satisfied himself to remember that he still had an hour left before he had to rouse himself for the day. Nugget twitched as his mind subconsciously brought his attention to his current job situation. What was it? What was it that bothered him? Why did his confrontation with Fidget keep replaying…keep replaying? And why did his mind then fast-forward to a new event—this one almost tangible in its realism, yet it had never happened. That Nugget knew of.
It was a repetitive nightmare of Fidget and Philly laughing. But they weren’t laughing about something more as they were laughing over someone—they were mocking someone—him…
Nugget cracked open one kitty eye with an intrinsically cat-like glare, scanning his room, reminding himself of reality. He didn’t know why these scenes kept replaying in his mind, but frankly, they made him terribly uncomfortable. Why would Fidget and Philly be mocking him—was it something they had said—was it something they had lied about that he had actually bought? Nugget’s heart started racing despite himself, and he gasped down a couple more wheezy breaths. He couldn’t think straight after he reached this conclusion—this same conclusion he always reached. It was as though his mind went in a million directions at once, and ultimately nowhere. At this point it seemed that unbridled fear took over. It was as though, to save him from the painful truth, his mind was blocking him from accessing it. Nugget stayed his eyes on his fan and let his breath out slowly. What am I doing to myself? Nugget laughed uncomfortably. Robbing myself of my own sleep? I really can’t process things at this time of night!
Then Nugget took a deep breath and buried his head back into his kitty bed. It was only moment before his stomach was thrust up, revealing enticingly soft orange fur and a content kitty. Altruist. Nugget’s heart was beating faster just at the word. Why was he even thinking about it? Nugget rolled over completely and stood up, resigning his hopes of sleep to pace around the small, cluttered apartment. What was it that bugged him so much about that subsidiary? Which, Nugget reassured himself, is really all it is… Nugget’s stomach seemed to flip, convicting him inside. There was too much to this ‘Altruist’ stuff to just give up the search—to just decide that it was a random subsidiary and give up! Nugget had still never even discovered the function of Altruist. Although, Nugget justified himself, I’ve never understood the purpose of the milk bars that some corporations put into their lobbies, either, although Clay Jars R Us was considering constructing one—Nugget knew this because the application for approval had been sent down from Funds & Management. Of course, he hadn’t sent it back up yet. (The entire corporation of Clay Jars R Us would thank Nugget later for this action, when they came to their senses and realized what terrible traffic congestion milk bars caused. Until then, he would stoically hold on to the paper and refuse to sign it). After all, it seemed to Nugget that milk bars were always a bad idea. We’ve survived this long without one, and we’ve been doing fine. It just takes a milk bar and all our workers will be slacking off, lounging around all day over their water-milk. Nugget paused to disinterestedly bat a jingle mouse across the room.
“Maybe Altruist is just like the plan for a milk bar,” Nugget reasoned,“Maybe I’ll never understand its function. Maybe it just doesn’t have one.” The weird feeling that wells up within you when you know your lying to yourself seemed to swell within Nugget. But I’ve already tried finding information on Altruist Nugget suddenly protested, trying to justify himself. He *had* tried researching more on Altruist, after all. In fact, He had spent all of the last day looking, searching for clues about the ambiguous ‘Altruist,’—to no avail. Even after recruiting Qwerty for the task, no paper or record (not even a sticky note) was found bearing the name of the alleged Altruist. Nugget was beginning to wonder if he had even read the record right in the first place. But if this subsidiary isn’t just someone else’s joke, then someone must have put a lot of work into hiding the information on it. And if someones is trying to hide-
A great shudder shattered Nugget’s thoughts as he struggled to maintain balance. Was the whole building wobbling, or was he that sleep depraved? His clay jars were knocking together violently as he was tossed onto his side. He could hear things dropping and being smashed around him. Shrieks and hisses were rising from every side of the tower now, and Nugget closed his eyes tight, the tremors vibrating through him.
Something not far from Nugget toppled over and smashed on the floor. He could feel shards of plastic fly towards his cowering paws. He only had one tall, lumbering plastic piece in his apartment.
“My fan!” Nugget cried, forgetting all about his own safety and rushing thoughtlessly into the middle of the shaking room. Ceiling dust rained down on him, and another shudder reverberated through the tower. In the center of the room was a picture that seemed to cut Nugget’s heart worse than any potential shrapnel ever could…
Instead of any impassioned cry, Nugget just stared, blankly, uncomprehendingly, at the heap that he beheld.
Pain. Shooting pain. Was it that the loss of his beloved fan could hurt so physically? Gradually conversations around Nugget seemed to fade in and out of reality; Nugget knew he wasn’t in his apartment anymore. In fact, the white lights illuminating the room were just like the white lights in the… Nugget rolled off the bed he hadn’t been conscious that he was laying on. I’m in the trading room! Nugget exlaimed with a wild surge of joy.
He was home again—his only true home! But how had it come about? Very well it could have been that he was suffering from amnesia; that some amount of time had gone by, and he had regained his position as one of the Clay Jars R Us stockbrokers during that lapse in memory. Actually, the possibility was enormous! With so much insufficient sleep, most Lactolia suffered from random blackouts and amnesia attacks. Maybe he really did have his old job back!
Only a moment of reason dashed Nugget’s hopes, though. The searing pain splitting up his side, the bandages wrapped around him, the (as Nugget tried to focus, he could see more clearly) surprisingly small whitewashed room he was in.
Someone with his tail not held up in confident warmth, nor low in quivering timidness, but held straight back in urgency, raced down the hall and past Nugget’s door, blood-stained, filthy, shredded coat flapping as he went.
Then, stopping for a split-second to do a double take, he turned around. He shook his head with apparent disgust and muttered something under his breath while doing so.
“If you’re going to try escaping from here, don’t suck so bad at it!” The cat grunted, grabbing Nugget by the scruff and thrusting him back into his dirty bed. Nugget landed with a bounce on the uncomfortable, springy bed, the fur around his neck still hurting as the bed regained some of its meager stability.
“Lunch’ll be served soon,” The cat glared menacingly at Nugget, turning to walk out of the room. “Bring your appetite or leave it,” He was already in the hallway as he finished,“Because there’s more than one way to get food into a cat.”
Nugget winced at the last part of the cat’s statement. But at least he knew where he was, now:
Clay Jars R Us-Pendulum Hospital
Nowhere in the entire galaxy was care so infamously brutal, underfunded, unclean, understaffed, untrained, undersupplied, and unrefined as a Lactolian hospital. But why was he here? Another stabbing pain a and glance at the bandages nearly engulfing Nugget’s side made the question needless.
“Nugget!” A voice, as out of breath as it was distant, seemed to play tricks on Nugget’s ears. Was he really hearing someone calling his name, or amid the turmoil of the busy hospital halls, was he imagining things? “Nugget! Can you hear me?!”
It was a moment before Nugget realized that someone was waiting upon him to answer.
“Yes-yes, I can hear you! Who is it?!” Nugget called back, his diaphragm aching just to speak so loudly.
“I’M NUGGET—,” Nugget tried to stifle his pain and quickly scanned the room, his eyes locking onto a number by the door. “—And I’m in room 455!”
“Nugget? Nugget?!” A relieved voice, “Nugget!” Nugget could hear paws racing frantically down the corridor.
“Over here!” Nugget called, trying to give whoever was looking for him a chance to follow his voice. A disheveled mess of tangled LaPerm curls and consternation burst into the room, holding a warped yellow folder.
“Nugget!” Qwerty grinned, too distracted with the happy thought of having located his friend than to ask the obvious. His frantic mind got to it, after a moment. “Are you okay?”
“I guess—I don’t know. I was in my apartment—everything was shaking—and the noise was so loud… Things were smashing all around me… My fan broke… I can’t remember anything after that. What happened?” Nugget looked up pleadingly into Qwerty’s flickering eyes, realizing for the first time just how frightened and confused he was. He felt like Qwerty knew the answers.
Qwerty made a couple jerky movements, and with eyes half-frightened themselves, managed to sputter out a couple sentences. The paper folder in his paw trembled as he spoke.
“Nugget—they-they bombed the Glass Tunnel! The loss is colossal—the hospital is so overflowed they’ve set up operation tents in the streets and-,”
“What do you mean, ‘they’ bombed the Glass Tunnel—who is ‘they’?!”
“Nobody knows! There were no markings on the jet—,”
“You mean helicopter?” Nugget corrected.
“No! It was a real, legitimate, bona fide jet!”
“But news helicopters are the only aircrafts permitted to operate in Lactolia skies!”
“You think I don’t know that?” Qwerty said, “But everybody is saying it was definitely a jet—a black jet!”
“What do you mean? You didn’t see it?!” Nugget asked. “How could someone miss a giant black jet coming to destroy the world’s most valuable economic and political center?!”
“Of course I didn’t see it! I was too busy looking for your stupid papers!” With that Qwerty slammed the folder down onto Nugget’s bed. Nugget’s eyes fell slowly to the folder. After a moment, he spoke.
“Wait,” Nugget said, trying to regain his composure although his nerves were still on edge. News like ‘the Glass Tunnel was just bombed’ wasn’t exactly something that anybody had braced themselves for. Despite himself, his ears twitched. “What do you mean ‘my papers?’” He looked back up at Qwerty, scanning his face to see if their was any hint of joking or deceit in it. “You can’t be telling me that this is…?” Nugget let his voice drift off, still holding Qwerty’s gaze. Qwerty nodded. Suddenly, Nugget found himself tearing open the folder, desperately scanning to read what was within it.
“Altruist, an official Clay Jars R Us subsidiary…da da da…hereby declares to forward a sum,” Nugget looked up at Qwerty, with an expression of, ‘are you getting this?’. Qwerty gestured to keep reading. “Of the sizable amount of 4,000,000,” Nugget looked back up at Qwerty,“It’s the same amount that Clay Jars R Us gave to Altruist!” He exclaimed.
“Yes, yes! I know! Keep reading!” Qwerty urged on.
“Okay…uh, where was I? Sizable amount of 4,000,000 to the effect that the beholder of this value, New Healing Charity, will find the money most suitable and profitable for the purchase hereto discussed, and proceed to exchange the products as has been previously promised.” Nugget looked up at Qwerty, mouth agape, for what felt like a solid minute. He glanced back down at the paper.
“The date! The date for this agreement—in the top corner-,” Nugget gasped.
“-Yes, I know, it’s been ripped out, but who needs it anyway? Look here.” Qwerty pointed to a signature at the bottom. “This is the key. Whoever signed this document knows all about Altruist and might be able to share some of their information!”
“But I can’t make out the signature,” Nugget said, not bothering to correct his naive friend’s assumption that, if you but ask a high-ranking political officer why he had taken such painstaking efforts to conceal a tidbit of information that was never intended to be found, he would be more than happy to fill in all the details. After all, at least the part about tracing the signature was a good idea.
“I’m a step ahead of you. Remember that program I told you I was building?” Qwerty asked, looking at Nugget.
“Oh yeah! The one about…uhh…,” Nugget’s voice drifted off again.
“The one that can identify numbers and words on all our files?”
“Suurre,” Nugget grimaced, “Let’s say I do remember that. What does that have to do with anything?” Nugget stopped. “Unless—Qwerty, you’re a genius! Are you telling me that your program identified this signature?!” Nugget asked, his face breaking into a grin. Sometimes it was good to have friends in low places!
“Well, not exactly—I mean, my program would have worked if I had had enough signatures for the computer to compare it against, but as of yet, I only have my own signature in the database.” Nugget’s face fell,“But,” Qwerty beamed, extending his words,“I sent the signature up to the lady at Check-In-,”
“Clarice?” Nugget asked, his kitty eyebrows arching in concern.
“Yeah, I guess. Anyway, I figured she’s got to have hundreds, if not thousands, of signatures on hand to compare ours with. She ran our signature through her database and—while my database is obviously still better than hers—she was able to pull up a result,” Qwerty paused to let the suspense mount. “It just so happens that our signature makes a perfect match with a certain Yvette Thomas’s.”
“Qwerty!” Nugget almost shouted. Qwerty winced, his ears angling backwards.
“What? It sounds like you’re upset with me! I somehow managed to find a record that not only mentioned Altruist, but mentioned apparently a very important business deal, and then found out who signed off on it, and you’re upset with me? What gives?!” Qwerty cut his tail through the air. Nugget put his paw on his face.
“You have no idea…,” Nugget moaned.
“I have no idea of what?” Qwerty asked, still swishing his tail with enough precision to paint with.
“You have no idea!” Nugget shouted again. “Look, Clarice is great—seriously—don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. She’s one of my closest friends, in fact—but do you realize the sheer number of people she deals with everyday? Do you realize the sheer number of people she talks to? Just one slip to the wrong person about how the weird basement troglodyte came up and asked her to check a certain signature on an obscure document—and we’re out.” Qwerty’s ears were held perfectly horizontal to the sides of his head, such that it looked like one could balance a pencil on top of them.
“‘Weird basement troglodyte?’” Qwerty echoed, snatching the folder back from Nugget. “If I knew that was what my friend thought I was, I wouldn’t have even bothered doing any of this! You know what?” Qwerty looked down at the folder he had just picked up,“What does a ‘weird basement troglodyte’ need with a stupid folder anyway? Have your dumb files and precious signature! I’m going back to doing what I want to do!” With that, Qwerty dropped the folder on the floor and stormed out of the small hospital room. Nugget was stunned. After a moment, he remembered his voice.
“Wait!” Nugget said, leaning out of bed to yell down the hospital hall. “Qwerty-,” THUD. Something like a brick landed in Nugget’s face, and a warm numbness appeared faster than the soon-to-be welt did. From somewhere, Nugget heard a gruff voice:
“Lunch is served!”
“Is it Nougat or Nugget? I’m terribly sorry, I really just can’t remember.”
“It’s Nugget. My name is Nugget,” Nugget opened his eyes to the feline speaking to him. He had been trying to enjoy a catnap, but between the argument with Qwerty and the unsettling food he had managed to choke down (At the time, ingesting the food in such a fashion had seem much preferable to the alternatives, but Nugget has since reconsidered), such had been far from attainable. Nugget nearly jolted as he recognized the visage. He sat up.
“Why do I have the feeling that you’re not here to reposition me back to my old post, Philly?” Nugget glared. Philly chuckled, nimbly leaping onto the shredded guest-chair, complete with springs exposed and stuffing hanging out in bunches. Somehow, his being there made the chair look surprisingly formal.
“Because you’re a smart cookie. And apparently a curious one, too, given what I’ve heard,” Philly flipped through a stack of papers as though to stress his point. He set the disturbingly thick record down on the side table next to the chair. “You know what they say though, don’t you, Nugget?” Philly didn’t wait for Nugget to try to come up with an answer, “Curiosity killed the cat.”
“Why are you here, Philly? To demote me? It’s hard to be demoted any farther than I already am.” Nugget said resentfully. Philly got up from his seat and began to pace around Nugget’s bed. Nugget might as well not even have said anything, for it seemed that Philly just ignored his questions.
“For people like you, Nugget, it’s Philip.” Philly locked eyes with Nugget to make sure he understood. “And that is, for all people that try to undermine the work of the Clay Jars R Us corporation. Now I don’t get people like that very often—and especially not from such prominent places as former stockbrokers—but when I do, they call me Philip.” Philly kept pacing around the hospital bed, Nugget steaming with indignation as he did. “Now, because of some…contacts, it has come to my attention that you have been a little too curious for your own good down in Accounting. It seems that you’ve upset a certain number of felines. But you haven’t upset me, Nugget, and I want you to know that before I reposition you—again—it’s not for your own harm. I wasn’t granted the authority to reposition certain felines for their harm, you know,” Philly laughed,“But for their own personal betterment. And I perceive that I was in error to send you to Record Keeping & Accounting. That is why, after much consideration and discussion-,”
“Discussion? Who are you discussing my plight with? Is it Fidget? Or someone higher up this time? Maybe Alexandra Cutie-Doo or maybe the CEO or,” Nugget feigned a gasp, “Maybe Pendulum himself?” Philly laughed his irritating, arrogant laugh again.
“You ask to many questions, Nugget. If you just didn’t ask questions you would still have your same old, comfortable job back in the Trading Room. But you keep making the same mistake. Oh, when will you ever learn?”
“So it never was about ‘company loyalty,’ then, was it?” Nugget sneered at Philly, squirming in his bed out of desire to punch the hypocritical liar.
“Didn’t you understand that from the beginning, Nugget?!” Philly shook his head,“How dense can you be?” He seemed to muse to himself. “Didn’t you understand that *you* started this when you first asked Fidget why Clay Jars R Us had sold her stocks? And now that you’re digging into the history of a particular subsidiary, asking questions to certain Check-In monitors,” Philly said casually, but evidently trying to invoke a response from Nugget.
“Technically, I didn’t do that,” Nugget defended himself.
“Technically,” Philly mocked Nugget with a short laugh,“Qwerty said that you did.” His face fell stone hard. “So, for a question-asker and liar like you, I have a special place in mind. I have decided, and been approved, to reposition you to the Clay Jars R Us Penitentiary for Serious Offenders.”
“You can’t send me to jail; I haven’t done anything wrong—it’s against the law.”
“Oh, but we can send you to jail. You see, Clay Jars R Us still holds executive law making decisions and will continue to as long as this bit with Emperor’s Smorgasbord rolls over. We can change the laws that say its wrong to send an innocent feline to jail. But,” Philly sighed,“That would be more complicated than, say, framing you or, simply making you vanish. Who really cares about you, Nugget? Who would really notice?” Philly hissed. He regained his posture. “But that wasn’t what I had in mind for you anyway. You will be repositioned as a jail-guard. And trust me,” Philly narrowed his eyes at Nugget,“It’s just as bad.” He turned to leave the room, picking up his record, pausing curiously at the yellow folder Qwerty had left behind, and gathering it up, too.
“You’re not a real performance therapist, are you?” Nugget called after Philly. Philly turned on his paws before leaving, winking at Nugget as he spoke.
“And I suppose your not a real bricklayer?”
“But I’m not-,” Nugget stopped short as Philly departed from his room. He got the point.
“Did you lock the hangar?” Snugglebug asked, looking directly at another feline. “Did you lock the hangar?” Snugglebug repeated herself, stressing the question especially, this time.
“I-I think so,” The feline stuttered.
“Go and check it, please do!” Snugglebug waved the trembling cat away from her milk-crate desk before returning to studying whatever paper was before her. Slowly, she looked back up. She scanned the room and gave a nervous twitch of her tail. Recognition seemed to come over her face.
“Hershey, come in.” At once, Hershey emerged from the shadows outside of Snugglebug’s office door. Button came in after him. “I thought I told you to stop doing that!” Snuggblebug said, nodding formally at Button. “How many times do I have to tell you that’s it weird to just sit outside my door and wait until I feel I’m being watched!”
“We did not have permission to come inside,” Hershey reminded Snugglebug in his usual stiff manner of discourse.
“Well, now that your in, I have good news for you: Our cause is growing. We’ve had ten new recruits just since you left.” Snugglebug smiled. “Every revolution has had small beginnings, but this one is taking off fast. I think Altruist is just what Lactolia was waiting for—was languishing for—and I’m delighted to see such a positive reaction to the group from all my underground contacts.” Snugglebug turned toward Button. “I trust the mission went as planned?” She asked directly.
“Precisely,” Button said. “We got in an out without suspicion.”
“Yes, Sir,” Hershey validated Button’s statement. A pleased smile caused the edges of Snugglebug’s lips to curl upwards.
“I thought the news I just told you was the best news—but I was wrong: Yours is. You’ve made my day. What kind of data did you find?”
“We found data concerning the transaction between a charity group called, ‘New Healing,’ and-,” Button squeaked, and both Hershey and Snugglebug turned to face her.
“Button, is there a problem?” Snugglebug asked.
“I’m sorry, but am I the only one who thinks that Emperor’s Smorgasbord donating to charity is odd—at any time, no less when she’s about to be at war? Besides, I’m only a smoke-dweller, but I’ve heard the pickins’ have been slim up top—if you know what I mean.”
“No, I don’t know what you mean.” Snugglebug said, keeping her gaze fixed on Button. Beneath her fur, Button flushed.
“Well, you know, I heard the lake’s drying up?” No response. “The cat-food can is empty?” Snugglebug and Hershey looked blankly at Button. “I’m just saying that I heard they’re not doing too well financially!” Button finally spat out,“And I know all this is just rumors, but it still doesn’t explain why one of the most selfish organization on the planet would just start feeling so generous!”
“Astute observation, Button,” Snugglebug smiled proudly at Button,“But I think I know what all this is about. Sit down—or stand, if you can resist,” Snugglebug gestured to two perfectly square, shallow cardboard boxes in front of her desk. Button and Hershey were quick to take their seats.
“I know what kind of group New-Healing is—,” Snugglebug began.
“You do?! You know that New Healing is a weapons manufacturer?” Button breathed a sigh of relief only to notice the startled look on Snugglebug’s face. Snugglebug exchanged glances with Hershey.
“Wherever did you get such a notion?” Snugglebug finally managed. “No, New Healing is a charity organization dedicated to providing aid to war torn planets. You must have misread something, Button. And as such, it makes perfect sense that Emperor’s Smorgasbord would be donating to them. Emperor’s Smorgasbord must want to apply for New Healing’s aid whenever war breaks out. They suspect that they’ll be put at the top of the list because of their ‘past donations.’ Quite clever, if you ask me.”
“But-,” Button began, shifting uneasily despite herself. Snugglebug cast a warning glance at Button that commanded her to be silent.
“Hershey, you are dismissed. Close the door on your way out.” Snugglebug ordered. Once Hershey had left the room, Snugglebug turned to Button. “‘But’ what? What were you about to bring up?”
“I was…well,” Button paused, still shifty, “I wanted to let you know that I did some investigating of my own—and there’s no doubt about it. I found correspondence between the COO’s assistant and the head of New Healing, guaranteeing a weapons delivery. New Healing is definitely a weapons manufacturer.” Button said.
“Are you absolutely sure about this?” Snugglebug asked, picking up a pencil.
“Then I need to write all of this down. Here, do you know the COO’s assistant’s name?”
“Yes—of course—it was right on his desk: Hobbes Panjandrum.”
“Can you spell that for me?”
“You know what, you write it,” Snugglebug passed the pencil and paper over to Button. “And while your at it, try and see if you can remember any particular date associated with the messages you saw.” Snugglebug got up from her side of the desk, and nibbling on her claws, and walked around to Button’s. She watched as Button hastily spelled out the names and information she could recall.
“Wonderful! You have an excellent memory! Keep writing—I want everything, every detail written down. You don’t realize how important this can be.”
“Yes, Sir! And do you want the fact that your real name is Yvette Thomas written down as well?” Silence. Not even the furious scribble of the pencil filled the air, as Button turned her eyes to fix her gaze upon Snugglebug. Dead stillness filled the room as Snugglebug looked hard at Button. Button’s testing gaze remained unbroken.
“How do you know?” Snugglebug said quietly. Button rose from her cardboard seat.
“Let’s just say that while I was gone I asked some questions. Now, tell me, why would you lie about your actual name?”
“Tell me,” Snugglebug asked, stiffening her shoulders, “Is it safe to ask questions in Lactolia?” Snugglebug locked eyes with Button. With ninja-like reflexes, Button suddenly found herself pinned beneath the nimble frame of Snugglebug. “Is it?”
“But I thought that Altruist’s purpose was to ask questions!” Button gave a mighty heave and lunged upwards. Snugglebug was shaken off, but only for a moment. “Altruist’s purpose is manifold!” Snugglebug shouted, leaning into Button’s ribs. “I thought you would be buttered up and dillusioned just as quickly as the others,” Snugglebug leaned heavier into Button’s ribs. “But I guess it’s true: You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” Snugglebug’s gaze looked more malicious than Button could remember. “Hershey!” Snugglebug suddenly called. As though he had been waiting at the door, Hershey immediately appeared. “Tie her up and put her in the van. You know where to send her.”
“Yes, Sir.” Snugglebug looked down at Button with a pitying gaze.
“Don’t you realize that the word, ‘corporation,’ has all the same letters for ‘corruption,’ save one?’” Snugglebug asked, shaking her head and making a ‘tch-tch,’ noise with her tongue. “Poor smokedweller. Our planet is more…incorporated…than your feeble mind could ever possibly perceive.” Hershey yanked the knot on the muzzle around Button’s mouth, Button shifting helplessly all the while. Snugglebug returned to her desk and sat down.
“Remember the onion, Button. If you ever manage to get to the center, all you’ll do is cry.” Then she turned to Hershey. “Dispose of her as you see fit.”
The Clay Jars R Us Penitentiary for Serious Offenders is much more lovely than I thought it would be. In fact, if I would have known the slammer would have been this nice, I wouldn’t have fudged so many numbers and swept so many incidents under the rug to stay out of. I can do anything I want from—
“Low-life!” A gruff voice pierced the cell walls. Hobbes kept writing, almost as though he hadn’t heard anything, although, in actuality, he had been aware of the jail guard before he had even spoken. “Scum! Birman with the blue eyes! I’m talking to you, smart guy!”
“Ah, I see that you are,” Hobbes said, still distractedly writing his entry. He put down his pen and turned to the guard. “I really am the smartest one in here. You see this one, Yahtzee?” Hobbes pointed to his cellmate. “He’s going bonkers because he can see his reflection in the metal supports for his bed.” At that moment, Hobbes’ cellmate jumped and flew around to the other side of the cell, fur on end and hissing.
“And this one, Giza,” Hobbes pointed to his other cellmate, who was casually leaning against a poster on the wall, examining her claws. “She’s trying to dig her way out of the penitentiary with a spoon.” Hobbes stood up and yanked up the poster. A small indention about the size of a pot had been dug in the cement walls. “Like she thinks she’ll get very far with that. Now, if you will, I’ve been trying all day to get myself into solitary confinement, and I haven’t gotten there yet, but I feel that’s something you and I could work out together.” Hobbes smiled slyly. The guard looked unconvinced. “I have some very persuasive means, if you understand what I’m saying.”
“I have some very persuasive claws, if you understand what I’m saying,” The guard growled, spitting on the ground. “Now fork over the pen and diary—wherever you got them from. These aren’t permitted in this section of the penitentiary.” Hobbes grumbled as he handed his journal into the uncaring grasps of the guard.
“What about her, then?” Hobbes pointed to his cellmate. “Aren’t you going to take away her spoon?”
“And what?” The guard snarled at Hobbes,“Leave her with nothing to eat with?” The guard shook his head as if disgusted with Hobbes’ cruelty, and hurled the diary into the trash bag he was carrying with him. He was about to throw away the pen, but, upon observing the gold leaf plating, tucked it into his uniform. He resumed his stroll up and down the cell halls, stopping at the third cell down to apprehend another prisoner with an unpermitted possession.
“I can’t believe you just ratted me out!” Giza, a Sphynx cat, shouted as soon as the guard was out of earshot. She stood up and kicked her twisted little spoon across the cell. Yahtzee jolted and ran back to the other side of the cell, where he glimpsed his reflection and began growling all over again. “I was so close to getting us out of this stinking pit!”
“More like ‘so close’ to giving yourself a chronic hernia,” Hobbes mused to himself. “Now I have a much better proposition,” Hobbes leaned in close to Giza and began whispering. “Obviously, your high class,” Hobbes made himself glance away from the metal ring in Giza’s ear while he was speaking,“But I don’t think other felines are going to recognize this. You know what I think? I think that as soon as you’re out of this place, you’ll be thrown right back in like trash in a can. So what if I proposes a different way to remedy your dilemma?” Hobbes inwardly grinned to know that he was reeling in his catch. Giza looked interested.
“I’m listening,” She said cautiously, her bony tail low and whipping back and forth with suspicion.
“What if I told you that I had a Spider Skipper spacecraft in my possession, and for a certain sum of money it could be yours?" Hobbes baited his cellmate. "It could take you as far as the Hewen IV. Maybe even the Solera Station,” Hobbes said, silently adding, as long as you’re not concerned with getting there alive. “I’m talking seats and a control panel that works most of the time…even a silver painted aluminum door,” Hobbes’ finished slowly, allowing time for the scantily painted picture to marinate in Giza’s desire. “Oh,” Hobbes added casually, observing that Giza didn’t looked entirely convinced. “And did I mention that the life support lasts for up to twenty-four hours?” Hobbes glanced up at Giza to see if he had her now. She narrowed her crystal blue eyes.
“That’s only a day. What good can a day do me?” Giza switched her tail faster. Hobbes was quick to counter.
“Ah, but one twenty-four hour day is like the equivalent of four cat days,” Hobbes said, searching his target to see if she’d fall for it. His eyes glinted as Giza’s already stupendously large ears perked up. He felt like one of those trapdoor spiders that was about to leap upon an unsuspecting victim. Who said that jail didn’t have opportunities?!
“And you have access to one of those? Here?” Giza asked, the cautiousness in her voice not enough to hide her yearning.
“Let’s just say I’ve known some friends for a long time. I can you get you a Spider Skipper within a week--provided that you, of course, give me five-hundred thousand you-know-what within the same time period."
“A week?” Giza swished her tail. She looked Hobbes directly in the eyes, something threatening about what she said next: “Then a week it is. I trust that you won’t disappoint me.” Hobbes smirked.
“Then you trust well.” Giza only smiled, her eyes seeming to read, ‘We’ll see,’ before she slinked off to her corner. The hideous sound of the iron door squeaking open momentarily disrupted everyone’s thoughts—even Yahtzee, who had previously looked like he could no longer restrain himself from pouncing on Giza’s tail.
“Inmate 904; It’s time for your interrogation,” The guard’s eyes narrowed on Hobbes.
“Splendid,” Hobbes grinned, standing up from his cell bed, taking his sweet time to stretch, and hopping down. He wiggled his fluffy, brown tail goodbye and fell in line behind the guard. *Now I can get out and meet those friends I’ve known for such a long time,* He smiled to himself.
“I will not ask another time—where are you keeping the ambassador?!” Seethed an infuriated Maine Coon. His mostly tangled, black fur was as thick and bulky as his muscles, and his vicious yellow eyes were eclipsed by giant pupils that glowed dark as coal. No doubt, Hobbes supposed, that he had been exposed to catnip before he came in to perform the interrogation. After all, it seemed that no amount of reason could keep the beast from randomly rolling onto the floor and, with his hind feet, nearly kicking the legs out from underneath Hobbes’ electric chair.
“I know not of any ambassador,” Hobbes said, with effort trying to maintain his usual uncaring tone. The Maine Coon smashed a button, causing Hobbes’ fur to inflate to the size of large hedge with electricity. Hobbes closed his eyes tight as the voltage coursed through his body. He had forgotten to mention, before they took his diary away, that there was *one* con to being in prison.
“You will tell me where the ambassador is!” The Maine Coon screamed, evidently trying to frighten Hobbes into breaking. Then the interrogator cranked up the intensity on the electrical chair. “Or else!”
“Or else what? You’ll electrocute me?” Hobbes retorted. It wasn’t that he was ashamed of ‘breaking’, that he lashed back as he did, just that he was going to crack on his terms, in his time. And Hobbes decided that time hadn’t come yet. “Go ahead! What can your interrogation do to me? I lost all feeling in my left hind leg years ago, and my right front leg is numb, too!”
Suddenly, Hobbes felt the surge of wattage Westinghouse through his frame. He gritted his fangs. It was quite the paradox, for it wasn’t so much the electricity that hurt, but rather, the unbearable sting that enveloped his entire self when the electricity was turned off.
“Where is the ambassador you kidnapped, you filthy scoundrel?!” The Maine Coon demanded, another episode of craziness seizing him as he did, for he suddenly trotted up to Hobbes and gnawed on his arm. Hobbes batted at him.
“What ambassador?! You know the truth as well as I!” Hobbes snapped, glaring through his frizzy fur at the callous interrogator. Momentarily, the Maine Coon’s pupils contracted, revealing a searching gaze. Then, with random impetuosity, he shook the electrical chair, causing it to rattle against the discolored cement floor.
“Yes, I do.” Then he added quietly, “But I wish I didn’t.” The harness that secured Hobbes to the electrical chair suddenly unclasp.
“This interrogation is pointless. I’ll tell them you said that you’re hiding the…ambassador in the abandoned Peoria compound. That should throw them off your scent for a little while.” The Maine Coon said in a voice more level than Hobbes even knew his interrogator was capable of. The Maine Coon was holding the other part of Hobbes harness in his paws. “Now, go!” His voice stiffened, “The guard outside’ll lead you to your cell.” Hobbes didn’t need to be told twice, and scurried off the electrical chair. Padding to the door, a curious expression came over him, blue eyes sparkling in mischievous pleasure as he paused to examine his right front paw. Hobbes turned his pointed-brown head over his furry shoulder and opened his mouth to speak, but reasoned otherwise. Instead, he just strolled out the door in typical pompous fashion, marveling at the newfound feeling in his legs. I should have given electrotherapy a shot a long time ago, Hobbes decided, with his ever-present self-satisfied smirk resting pleasantly on his kitty lips.
A hospital bed. Wha…? Why? Again? Nugget’s bleary yellow eyes struggled to adjust to the brightness of the cold, concrete room he was being kept in. A long row of hospital beds lined the endless, grimy wall, but his eyes were too unfocused to see them. Instead, it was the smell of weak alcohol cleaner that told him exactly where he was. Nugget tried to push himself up onto his legs, but a sharp, stabbing feeling rent his stomach.
Button’s paws pressed against the iron door, supporting her as she stood up on her two hind legs and tried to peer down the long, narrow row of identical white cells. The only thing different about each individual cell were the foul creatures that inhabited them, and really, Button thought, even they didn’t seem to vary much in size or demeanor.
Yet another addition to, "The Sun Always Shines On Lactolia."
Another addition to, "The Sun Always Shines In Lactolia."
Like usual, its so long that its painful! (But you know you can't resist reading it, anyway.)
Another addition to, "The Sun Always Shines In Lactolia."
An addition to, "The Sun Always Shines In Lactolia."
A spin off the of the much-loved "Star Cats" series.
The behind-wiggling sequel to 'The Big Dent' Part 1.
As if the threat of a comet bound for the Solera Station didn’t seem looming enough, with the entire ship induced into a nervous, whispered panic, Subcommander Ocee could only keep from biting her claws and resisting the impulse to shrink away into a tight cranny—a box, a nook in the insulation, a raccoon trap—anything would do, really, to get away from this news: Lieutenant Lucky had just confirmed that the comet everybody was worried about was only seventeen minutes from impact.