Sea Song was docked at the Customs Pier at George Town, the capital of the Cayman Islands, located on Grand Cayman, the largest of many islands that make up the island country. There were many Customs Officers present on the dock and more in the hold where they checked each pallet of currency to be sure it was in fact currency. After inspection, each pallet was covered with black plastic, and then carried by forklifts to the waiting armored trucks in assorted sizes – including semi-trailers. The pallets appeared to be innocuous black plastic cubes, although the number of nervous armed guards wearing uniforms from twenty-five different banks belied appearances.
With the last of the pallets offloaded, the Customs Officers completed their paper work, because no one on board planned to disembark and nothing was to be loaded. Sea Song had visited before, so it was known to be a yacht, despite his size, and after each visit a bank or banks experienced a substantial increase in deposits but the number of banking institutions involved this trip was indeed extraordinary solely because of the currency's bulk. After all, there was only so much room in each vault.
Regardless of the reason, every man on the pier looked up at the decks to see all the boys and young men gathered at the rails watching the activity below. All those gathered on deck were dressed – some casually; others barely – so there was no way to pick out the owner based on how they were dressed, until a large group appeared on the main deck to stand above the open double hatch to watch the frenetic activity of unloading. Those on the pier gawked at three handsome smaller boys with darker complexions and identical over-turned 'bowl' shaped haircuts, these boys were preceded by a giant spotted cat who seemed to be leading the boys and sat down to peer down on the mob who were staring back until one after another, they felt the cat's green eyes on them individually, no matter how briefly, without exception, they turned away to look elsewhere.
"There is no danger or evil here," Freckles advised, "only envy and questions of who owns this Big Bad Boy Sea Song boat and who you three brave warriors might be." The three boys in question broke into fits of giggles, apparently without reason from the point of view from those on the dock. As the boys carried on, a cat tail stealthily approached the back of the slightly shorter boy's shorts, hooked its tip into a belt loop and pulled down.
On the leisurely trip from South America to Grand Cayman Island, the Family had great fun in dressing their three newest members for the first time, occasionally holding one, two or all three down, of course with Freckles' help. They started in Medi and Sean's stateroom since they, with Huss and Harman, and their bodyguards had relocated to Medi's new, beautiful yacht (which was anchored in the harbor waiting its turn to be unloaded) so Medi and Sean's clothing were undefended. However the only outfit that Bani could actually fit in was Medi's robes, which no one could ever remember seeing him wear and no one could hazard a guess why he brought formal Arab court regalia along on a trip where it was unlikely that shorts would be needed. The only things that Bani admired were the bejeweled golden dagger, only it wasn't sharp, it was unbalanced so it couldn't be thrown and a half blind enemy could see the sparkling hilt on the darkest night. But it was pretty, according to Freckles' discerning tastes. The second item of interest was a custom shoulder holster, sans weapon, that lined up perfectly with an almost invisible slit stitched in the robe.
Bani, Kad and Sidi were carried from stateroom to stateroom until they arrived at Buck and Doug's. Buck's clothes fit all three boys perfectly if inappropriate scratching and frequent adjustment of certain newly encumbered body parts was ignored. That morning Kad and Sidi dressed in Buck's shorts but Bani decided to wear a pair of Doug's. He found that if he moved carefully, his bubble butt would hold them up and since the shorts were roomier, his junk had more freedom of movement and there seemed to be fewer itches, real or imagined, so there was less need to address those issues in public (civilization) for the first time, ignoring the missionary school adventure.
While Bani had lightening reflexes that all Cat People possessed, Freckles was faster. When Freckles pulled the too big shorts down, Bani was left grasping two handfuls of air as the shorts puddled around his bare feet. The surrounding Family laughter attracted the attention of the people on the pier, all but one thought the harmless prank was highly amusing and wondered why the boy couldn't seem to simply pull the shorts back up; they seemed to be glued to the deck. Of course no one standing below the main deck, looking up, could see the cat tail that was holding them down and the owner of that prehensile appendage at the moment was staring off into space, a sure sign of innocence, as Buck taught Freckles.
One officer on the pier shouted something and began to run toward the open hatch. Freckles ears flattened against his head as three inches of his incisors appeared. "That person is one who likes boys and plans a closer look at one in particular; perhaps the guilty party should bail."
"Bail, what does this mean?" Bani asked out loud while he frantically pulled up his newly freed, borrowed shorts.
Freckles looked at Buck, his mentor and wordsmith, "Is this incorrect?" he asked.
"Nope that's the one," Buck affirmed. He looked at Bani and advised, "Bail means RUN!"
Hans and Herman suddenly appeared from the main deck lounge, "On Sea Song, no guests run from anyone. Please stay and watch; we will address this minor problem." Hans promised. The boys who had first boarded Sea Song, met Anton, the Master and his two bodyguards; Hans and Herman, thought that they were seeing things. The men were again dressed and armed identically with perfectly pressed khaki shorts and tailored shirts, custom shoulder holsters that held smallish automatics and side holsters with a pair of matching Desert Eagle .50 caliber semiautomatics worn conveniently low on their hips. These were the dreaded Doberman, reincarnated. The two men were joined by their protégées, Barry and Henry, who were identically dressed and equally well armed. The foursome stood with their backs against the rail, facing the open lounge doorway. To make the group look even more formidable, Freckles inserted his body between Hans and Herman since he was charged with protecting Tara Bani and his prank caused the problem in the first place.
By the time the older Customs Officer reached the lounge, he knew he had made a dreadful, impulsive mistake. As soon as he stepped aboard he was escorted by a pair of armed men, one on each side. Although each man seemed to hold their small automatic weapons casually, even negligently, each weapon was constantly pointed at him as they politely herded him deeper into the ship, up the wide spiral staircase walking three abreast, and into the lounge. The man stopped at the doorway as four guards in two sizes drew their huge side arms and chambered rounds with synchronized clicks, while Freckles felt free to display his complete set of sparkling white, very sharp teeth.
"Is there a problem, Officer?" Herman asked.
The man glanced to the side to see that the beautiful boy had regained his ill-fitting shorts and was holding them up with one hand. The man did not see that the boy's opposite hand held a blowgun. The boy was surrounded on three sides by the full complement of very attractive young men and boys who were arranged by height from short, to very tall in the back. None were laughing or even smiling.
"It appears that I've made a mistake, what I thought I saw was a case of indecent exposure. Surely I am in need of glasses," he said as he backed into the lounge to be followed by the four guards with Barry and Henry in the lead.
"It appeared to us as if you got overly excited by the sight of a naked boy and wanted to get a closer look," Barry said. He continued while he and Henry began to unbutton their shirts; "Well, today's your lucky day. All four of us are boys and we're all very much into older guys just like you. We like to take turns normally but we don't have the time today, so how about some two on one? Fair warning though, if you bite one of us while you get fucked by one of these really big guys," he tossed his thumb over his shoulder, "then we'll have to apply some serious discipline in places where the marks won't show when we let you wear clothes again…" Barry got no further. The officer turned and ran so fast, his escort had to hurry to catch up and the man didn't stop running until he disappeared from the pier.
When the four returned to the deck, they paused to laugh at Bani, a hundred pound boy, who was standing in front of seated Freckles, a five hundred pound cat, shaking his finger up at Freckles' nose. "We have not yet reached America and you are already causing me trouble with your jokes," Bani couldn't help but grin, "but I must admit that was a very good joke. Just be warned, as our friends say; pay back is a bitch."
Freckles extended the laughter by prostrating himself and covering his eyes with both of his huge paws as a public act of contrition, however fake. "Oh, I am so afraid," Freckles sent everyone.
"Look at the guys on the dock," Doug told the group as he laughed, "they're amazed to see Bani scolding Freckles, of course they don't know the reason and now Freckles looks like a beaten kitty."
"Freckles and Bani, could you please come down to the boat deck?" JC sent. JC was organizing the transfer of all the currency to the assorted banks since most of it was his. The officials on the dock were disappointed to see all the boys, the cat and the fearsome armed guards disappear into the ship.
"Is something wrong with our pocket change, or our walking around currency or our pin money?" Freckles asked as he entered the boat deck. John had just finished removing the old banded bundles of currency from one of the stonewood cases and was frowning as he opened and closed the lid of the empty case.
"No, the money is fine," John said while squatting, "the problem is the box."
Freckles sniffed the empty box. "Is it defective, like brother Spot's nose?" he joked and blinked. John fell backward on the deck when the box collapsed in on itself so it appeared to be a rectangular board about two inches thick, intricately carved on both sides. "This Cat sees no problem," Freckles argued and looked puzzled as he hauled John to his feet.
"That's the problem," John pointed, "now more of a problem. Boxes don't do that normally. We noticed that these cases don't have hinges to keep the lid in place and like open and close and now we find that they also collapse when not in use and there are no hinges on the sides or the bottom either."
"What is hinges?" Freckles asked Buck as his personal language advisor.
Pettie went to the open hatch and swung it almost closed, "See these things? These are hinges. They hold this barrier or door in place and allow it to be opened or closed. Your Ancient boxes don't have any hinges, at least none we can see," he explained.
Freckles almost frowned, "There are none of these hinges in the City. Perhaps these boxes should have remained there. The outside humans would ask why our cases are not more primitive." He opined.
Harman scratched his head, "You know, now that I think about it, I don't recall seeing any hinges on those massive stone doors either, although I wasn't paying attention to the doors, I was looking down the corridor as we entered the City. How do you make the board back into a box?"
Freckles rolled his eyes and the flat wooden board obediently unfolded to become a box with the lid, the last side to drop in place with an audible click. "You must will it to become useful," he instructed.
Of course nothing would do at that point until everyone succeeded in collapsing and then restoring the hapless box at least once. JC restored order by suggesting the use of trash bags in lieu of the Ancient's versatile boxes. Kad and Sidi were unusually eager to run to the galley to ask Chef Chou for the bags and returned just outside of fifteen minutes later still chewing on cookies taken from what was once a bag full.
"Sidi is fucking swine," Kad accused before anyone could complain about not getting at least one cookie. This comment evoked a quick round of rough and tumble between the Cat warrior partners and soon to be officially, the Katz brothers while all other eyes moved to Gregor.
"He would be the logical choice to teach them English," Evan made the mistake of commenting. Gregor grabbed Evan and soon had him crying for mercy between giggles.
Freckles found the common plastic trash bags with 'draw string' closures fascinating and much more convenient than the Ancient's folding boxes. He even found that he could use his tail to pick up and carry several at one time but resisted the temptation after his first try. In his capacity of Admiral; he was careful not to spoil his image as the ultimate supervisor, using Angus as his role model.
Once unloading completed that afternoon, Sea Song moved to an anchorage in the harbor and was quickly replaced with Medi's new, as yet un-named yacht. Unloading was faster because the currency was packaged in easy to carry bundles, the crew was all British subjects and the island nation was a member of the British Commonwealth so the crew was eager to help. The fact that each crew member received at least one of the bundles, depending on rank, was all the encouragement they needed.
Pavlov transferred to Medi's yacht before the two yachts departed George Town harbor because an experienced pilot would be needed to safely get into Dagger Cay's lagoon the first time. Medi watched Pav with growing concern as his tender approached because Pav kept looking up at the mast and frowning.
"Is something wrong up there?" Medi asked anxiously as Pav stepped aboard.
Pav shook his head, "No, not really, but I noticed that there is no fly bridge or fun deck as Freckles refers to it."
Medi was visibly relieved, "You are correct; we must have a fly bridge," he grinned hugely, "and a fun deck. I will have the crew build one to be completed by the time we reach Dagger Cay," he assured Pav as he looked at his Captain, Captain Nigel Winston, with a raised eyebrow to indicate that he should proceed with the renovation at once, thereby dismissing the problem from his mind.
It was Medi's turn to frown when both Pav and Nigel laughed at him. Both joined in explaining the impossibility of even attempting such a complicated feat while at sea, plus the complete lack of necessary materials should someone be foolish enough to attempt the task. It was clear to all listening that the little crown prince still refused to be thwarted by what he considered other people's problems as the wrinkles in his forehead deepened.
"I might make a suggestion," Huss, Medi's sixteen year-old uncle, spoke up, "if you recall, the naval architect, Josh Edwards designs and builds beautiful motor yachts; why not engage him to do all the renovations you have planned? His facility is located in Ft Lauderdale and I believe his dry dock could accommodate a boat this size."
Captain Winston agreed, "This craft was not maintained properly by the former owner, it needs bottom paint at the very least and a thorough stem to stern survey, after which all deficiencies could be addressed while he is in dry dock." The Captain still had difficulty in thinking of his boat as a 'he' instead of the traditional 'she', but with four tightly packed bundles of yet to be counted American currency (all large bills) in his stateroom as motivation, he was learning.
Medi shrugged, another problem solved, "Very well Captain, see to it. Just remember, all interior furnishings and even plumbing fixtures that… that cretin is likely to have used are to be disposed of and replaced. Everything else is to be done at your discretion," he advised, then added, "While in Ft. Lauderdale, in dry dock, give the crew a holiday, including yourself and your officers. By then you should know which of the crew wish to remain and which wish to leave us so you can hire capable, more open minded young men as replacements."
Captain Winston looked surprised, "I know of no one who wants to leave us as yet. While the majority of the crew was outwardly straight when they first boarded, we have been together for three years with infrequent holidays. Relationships have developed and grown closer over time and many of the so called straight boys have experimented, shall we say? I, myself have found my first officer and chief helmsman, who I find most attractive and value as a companion during our off watches. You have made it perfectly clear concerning your personal tastes and our liberties to decide. I will allow no one to raise their eyebrows or frown if they are to remain aboard."
Pav requested and received permission to take the helm of Medi's new yacht, tentatively named the 'Oasis', just before they departed George Town because he wanted to get a feel for just how the yacht handled in tight places before entering Dagger Cay's lagoon. They already knew that Oasis wasn't as fast as Sea Song but with only bow thrusters, Pav was concerned about maneuverability in tight quarters so while Sea Song prepared to up anchor and get underway, Pav toured the small harbor, including several tight turns around Sea Song, all completed at heart stopping, maximum speed.
Captain Winston didn't hear the cheers from Medi and the other Family members or most of his crew on the bow; he was too busy holding on and attempting to resume breathing again. "Well," Medi asked as he thumped Pav on his back, "will Oasis be able to enter the lagoon properly?"
"I believe so," Pav responded as he turned over the wheel to the regular helmsman as well as move away from the wheel to expose his erection. He looked down and grinned, "At least my indicator says he handles quite nicely."
"I say, indicator?" Captain Winston asked weakly as he stared, "Are such ah, hair raising maneuvers required to enter and exit this Dagger Cay lagoon?"
Pav laughed, "Oh yes, but just now I would say, more the result of operating in close quarters. Do not worry Captain, you will find that it is quite fun," Pav looked down again, "and exciting. I am here to advise you and after a few practice trips, you will do fine."
The Captain shook his head and looked at the young helmsman, "I say Kevin, I believe I saw you laughing when we nearly clipped Sea Song's stern, ah, both times, perhaps you would be interested in learning the entry and exit courses while Pav is aboard?"
Kevin nodded eagerly and offered the wheel to Medi, who was happy to take command whenever it was offered. Medi watched the course with one eye and kept glancing back at Pav and Kevin as they stood with their heads together as Pav brought up his Dagger Cay charts on the navigation monitor. It wasn't long before Pav agreed with something Kevin said with a lingering hand on Kevin's back and Kevin responded with a hand on Pav's shoulder. Their smiles broadened as they made eye contact more frequently with each other in preference to the intricate course Pav was explaining on the digital chart.
Captain Winston cleared his throat as he stood beside Medi, "Perhaps Prince Medi, it would be a good time for me to relinquish my command to younger blood. I am too old and conservative to change my ways; you need a captain far more daring than I ever was or ever will be. I would stay aboard to see to the refit if you wish, but then as you young chaps say; I am history."
Medi looked back again meaningfully, "Is this because of the relationship that seems to be developing between Kevin and Pav?" Medi asked.
"Only in part, I realized that I may have been holding Kevin back both in seeking relationships with lads his own age and professionally. He has his papers and I highly recommend him as my replacement. You have very generously provided the funds to purchase a sailboat of some sort, which I could live aboard and use to slowly putter about, exploring these beautiful waters."
"Excuse me," Harm intruded in the conversation, "I couldn't help overhearing. Are you a sailor? If you are, you just might want to talk to Curt as soon as he gets Doog back home in a day or two. My brother loves sailing and I heard him telling Curt that the Marine Academy should have an active sailing program. Curt said they would if they could find someone to run it. Curt's into stinkpots and submarines, not rags."
The Captain's eyebrows arched, "Doog, Marine Academy, I thought we were going to a private island?"
It took over an hour to explain everything to Captain Winston and by then even Pav, Kevin and the rest of the Family surrounded Medi to join in the conversation and further the explanations. By then Kevin discovered that he had been promoted to Captain and that Captain Winston was retiring.
While Oasis was first to depart the Caymans, Sea Song soon caught up and disappeared over the western horizon. The plan was to round Cuba from the west and approach the Bahamas through the Florida straits. Sea Song would use the extra time in the lagoon to have his temporary armament and armor removed.
The Gatling's would be returned to their racks under the fly bridge bench seats and the mini-guns would be secured in Sea Song's armory. The rocket launcher on the bow had already been changed in both form and function so it was once again an accurate reproduction of a seventeenth century, wheeled, smooth bore deck cannon, with the deadly modern fittings stored carefully in the machine shop of the engineering department so they appeared to be nothing more than innocuous supplies.
During the trip home, Evan decided that he would resume Anton's hobby of collecting and restoring castles. He set Dieter and Billie the task of locating and acquiring interesting ruins particularly those where some image or detailed description of the original structure could be found in drawings, paintings, books or tapestries to make the restoration easier. Billie complained about the extra work until Dieter reminded him that they already had a staff of historians/buyers who were constantly acquiring art and period furnishings, so it would be easy to charge these people with the job of locating appropriate ancient sites, redeveloping the ruins and then displaying the collections of the period.
Evan then looked at Castle Falconburg in Columbia, Jorge's former residence. JC contacted those in authority in that country to assure them that the former owner had unfortunately been lost at sea and would no longer be making lease payments. The advisory was a subtle way of saying that the conflict between Jorge and JC, two rich and supremely powerful drug lords had been concluded and there was no doubt who the winner was. At any rate, the Columbian government was most anxious to lease the abandoned castle and the surrounding twenty thousand acres to Evan in perpetuity and with JC's influence, the property would be virtually autonomous as long as additional monies were paid as insurance for protection and privacy.
There was no need for JC to tell Evan to remember the account numbers should a problem arise similar to the one he'd just endured. JC and the rest of the Family were still laughing about the extra two hundred blank passports, and laughed even harder when he found that his demand to lease five million acres across the river sent to three individuals resulted in the leasing of an additional ten million acres of probable oil rich swamp land, further insuring the safety and privacy of the Great Cats and the People.
Evan's suite quickly became a favorite hangout for Bani, Charlie, John and Freckles since it was where Edvard worked, which also had an independent sound system that Freckles used to 'talk' to his friends to avoid broadcasting his side of a conversation all over Sea Song when he used a local speaker that was a part of the ships' PA system.
One morning Freckles noted that John seemed to be staring at him more than usual. "Does this Cat have food on his whiskers?" Freckles asked. He knew that John loved him since he was the only human ever to kiss a Cat.
John giggled, "Nope, I was just thinking that there should be a way to modify a cellphone that could be attached to your neck chain so you can use it to talk to anyone out loud but privately."
"How would this be helpful to this Cat? This Cat can converse privately with mind-speak."
Edvard seemed to grasp the idea, "Yes, you can, but when you reach America, there will be some like Mr. Trenton, who know the secret of mind-speak, but cannot use it. A personal speaker would be useful to talk with him and other friends privately."
Bani became excited, "If this could be done, we could send the technicalities back to Spot and soon all the Great Cats could speak with any of the People, so there would be no need for the few mind-speakers to relay thoughts."
While Bani talked, John speed dialed JC and placed the call on speaker. "Good morning Love, why are you using your phone to call, are we about to have phone sex? I am willing, but it seems wasteful," JC responded.
Freckles snatched the phone from John's hand and held it up to reply using the room's sound system, "Good morning to you as well Tara. This is Great Cat Freckles Katz," he announced as if JC wouldn't recognize his unique augmented 'voice' and accent, "speaking to you using Love's small primitive machine thing called a cellphone. Can this Cat be heard clearly?"
"Ah, yes, is something wrong with Love?" JC asked between giggles.
"No, Love is fine although his manhood is becoming excited on hearing your distant voice. Now most of his body turns red as one part turns blue. Not to worry, this Cat will assist." Freckles assured JC.
"You will not!" John shouted and ran from the room laughing.
"How rude!" Freckles declared, "Expect incoming at your current location, Kirk out," he warned. Then he ordered, "Beam me up, Scotty."
"Freckles have you been watching someone's DVD's?" Edvard inquired.
Freckles placed John's phone on the desk before he answered. His tail massaged the thing carefully while he also stared closely. "This Cat assisted warriors Hans, Herman, Barry and Henry in coupling as a reward for driving that excited human away from Tara Bani. Tara Bani still argues that if no humans wore cloth coverings, that there would not have been a problem." As Edvard, Charlie and Bani watched, John's cellphone separated and tiny electronic parts began to escape the small case to line themselves up on the desk with no visible assistance.
"Freckles," Bani accused, "you have broken John's cellphone."
"Master of Machines John suggested its use to provide this Cat with a speaker using this primitive communicator," Freckles countered.
"He suggested adapting 'A' cellphone but perhaps not his personal device."
"OOPS! This Cat will reassemble this and Love will not know. Could you remove this Cat's communicator and place it on the surface please," Freckles asked Edvard.
Edvard found the clasp deep in Freckles' luxuriant neck fur but couldn't open it until the Great Cat instructed him to 'will' it to open. Edvard studied the beautiful gem and the micro fine gold wire setting while he had the opportunity. "How are these powered?" he asked.
Freckles' tail wrapped around Edvard, the tip began to massage his chest, particularly his nipples and both watched his smaller emerald begin to glow greenly along with Edvard's entire body in bright red. Edvard broke free to run from the room while the sound system advised, "Love and Tara are in their resting place!" Bani and Charlie followed with their sympathy erections bobbing. Freckles rolled his eyes in great amusement as he went to work using his eyes and his versatile tail.
While the boys were away, Buck and Doug stopped in to find Freckles alone and watching a very enhanced close up Snoopy recording of the battle that he and his brother, Spot, was involved in. It was clear to the boys that Freckles was reliving his first documented human kill as his tail lashed out to bring down his victim both on the screen and in the room simultaneously. Both boys winced when Freckles in the room audibly snapped his jaws closed on the fiend's face since Snoopy did not provide sound.
"Hey big furry dude, where is everyone?" Buck greeted Freckles.
"Hey yourself Bucky Boy, give me five," Freckles returned using the room speakers, as he held up a paw with the pads showing. Buck had to jump to connect his palm to Freckles' raised paw.
"You know Buck, if you forget and do that in public, you'll have some serious explaining to do," Doug warned while he giggled.
"Chill out Douggie," Freckles retorted, "this Cat must be Americanized by the time we reach school, so this Cat will fit in with the other students. The Geeks are coupling with Tara…" he began to explain.
Buck interrupted, "Remember, he's JC from now on and Tara Bani is just Bani," he cautioned.
"Oh yes, this Cat should be clearer; Love, Bani, Charlie and Edvard are fucking with JC. Would you please reattach this Cat's communicator while you dudes are here?"
Doug shook his head and took the tail offered chain, "Did the clasp break?" he asked as Freckles bent his head down. He was surprised to see that the two ends of the chain seemed to pull away from his fingers and join together without his actual help. Freckles sat up and shook his head.
"No, the communicator required modification," Freckles glanced at a wall speaker and the constant faint humming sound stopped. "CAN YOU HEAR THIS CAT NOW?"
The shouted question caused both boys to jump and stare at Freckles with renewed amazement. "Holy shit!" Buck exclaimed, "YES!" he shouted in Freckles' ear. "Is that how you modified your communicator, you added a speaker?"
Freckles nodded. "Where did you get a tiny little speaker with that much output?" Doug asked and laughed when Freckles pointed his tail at a cellphone on the desk. "Does the cellphone still work?"
"Oh yes, this Cat was very careful to restore it perfectly," Freckles was careful to answer using a normal voice level. Although his unique accent remained, he seemed to be imitating Doug's voice. He also didn't mention that the phone in question worked perfectly except it no longer contained a speaker or other questionable elements.
Buck giggled, "Man that is so cool, you have Douggie's voice down perfectly."
Freckles let out a gravelly giggle just like Buck's, "Thank you Bucky Boy. How do you sound?"
Doug and Buck originally stopped by to ask about a swim before lunch and since the Geeks were occupied, Freckles went with them to the sun deck and pool after he assured them that he could get his new voice wet. The Family had fallen into the habit of having orgies at night and by morning, being satiated, couples and small groups tended to do their own thing during the day. All the boys noticed that with regular use, they did not require as much sleep – yet another benefit of Stuff.
Doug, Buck and Freckles eased into the pool and held sea battles that Admiral Freckles always won and which always degenerated into one on one love-making on the side of the pool with the Admiral's assistance, once the pool surface was covered with foam. Once sated, Doug got out bath sheets and spread them on the deck to work on their winter tans while they had the opportunity. The boys each used one giant towel but Freckles required two, placed end to end. Freckles was one of the boys. When Doug and Buck stretched out on their backs Freckles joined them in the same position.
Of course cat joints didn't function the same as human joints, so while Freckles' hind legs were spread somewhat, they still stuck up in the air. His front legs wouldn't spread at all, so they were held straight up and only bent at the paws. From Snoopy's view he would appear to be in an advanced state of cat rigor mortise, or 'stiff as a board'.
The peace on the sun deck was interrupted a short time later, "There he is," John announced while hiding his grin and holding his cellphone. Doug and Buck sat up while Freckles rolled to one side still stretched out, but on his belly and instantly alert. John was joined by the other Geeks and accompanied by JC, who was also holding a cellphone and openly laughing his ass off. "Okay, JC, try to call me again," John instructed and looked at his phone.
JC speed dialed and after a second delay, Freckles appeared to be imitating a rooster; John's selected ringtone. Two seconds later, Sea Song's PA system joined Freckles in waking the entire ship, except it was eleven-thirty in the morning; not dawn.
"Imagine that," Freckles managed before his personal communicator and the PA system sent JC's call to voice mail. "If there is a similar system at school, you will never lose a call," he assured John optimistically, using John's voice.
The sundeck suddenly swarmed with guys, both Family and crew. Gregor and Meesha appeared from the fly bridge to look down over the aft rail and when what happened was explained; those with cellphones and John's number; just had to try, so the rooster calls became continuous. John terminated all calls by tossing the renovated phone into the sea before thinking about removing the SIM card first.
Bani looked up at Gregor and called, "Would you please set a new course for the nearest mountains? We have a very bad Cat to drop off."
The fun quickly progressed to a bout of rough and tumble that Freckles almost lost until he began whipping opponents into the pool using his tail and they began returning for a second flight. He ended the game by announcing, "It is food time!" using Chef Chou's gruff voice.
Freckles went into his personal restroom since he was there. The engineering department had rigged shower curtains for privacy around the open sundeck shower, removed the drain grill and had installed a hose with a trigger style nozzle for him to use to 'flush' his jury-rigged toilet. He stuck his head out between the canvass curtains to watch the boys who brought cellphones. All had been placed somewhere strategically well out of splash range. Just as they were about to file down the stairs, the cellphones all rang in some distinctive way. They frowned at John before they answered. Freckles advised all of them: "Calling this cellphone number now will result in talking to Great Cat Freckles Katz personally. Have a nice day…"
At lunch, all the boys took the time to find and bring their cellphones with them and took turns calling John's former number. John was the first to call, using JC's phone. Freckles managed to answer before the ringtone rooster cawed a second time, "Hello," he said tentatively, "This is Great Cat Freckles Katz."
John snickered, "Do you know it is very rude to use a cellphone at the table?"
Freckles looked across the table at John with a slightly raised lip to expose one incisor; as close as he could get to a mild human frown. "Then why do you call this Cat at this time?"
"PAYBACK!" John shouted and disconnected with a very evil grin.
The rooster ringtone continued as the boys took turns calling Freckles. They also remained unusually quiet so that the repeated cawing seemed much louder in the very large dining salon. As expected, the galley door swung open to be filled by Chef Chou who was wearing a very deep frown of displeasure as he scanned the room, clearly looking for the cellphone offender. It was never a hard and fast rule that cellphones shouldn't be used at table because it just hadn't been done before as there was no need, especially when Sea Song was underway or for that matter, at any other time considering that with Snoopy, the ship was equipped with one of the most advanced communication systems in the world.
It was Pettie's turn to call. He winked at John and keyed 'send'. Freckles actually rolled his eyes when his communicator began to caw incessantly. He blinked to end the call as Chef Chou bore down on him. "Ah, you beautiful creature, I see and hear that someone gave you a cellphone of your very own, but I suspect, intentionally didn't tell you how to use it. At table, it should be turned off, muted or perhaps switched to vibrate so it doesn't disturb others while they enjoy their repasts." Chef Chou advised as he sent his frown up and down the long table in search of the offender or offending callers. Unfortunately, everyone looked guilty.
Freckles confessed, "This Cat borrowed…"
"Borrowed is the wrong word," John interrupted, "try stole, filched, snitched or maybe appropriated parts from my phone, so now when someone calls me, a certain Great Cat receives the calls."
"Appropriated sounds very nice," Freckles agreed blithely, "but this Cat did not know of these other features." He looked at Buck hopefully, "Could this Cat appropriate your cellphone Chief Buck?"
"No, you can't, but I think we have spare phones somewhere. You can have one to add the improvements to your custom, um, voice system; I guess you could call it."
As usual, Sea Song made lazy eights just off Dagger Cay's reef waiting until morning to enter the lagoon even though they could have entered when they arrived at mid-afternoon the previous day. Tradition demanded that they wait to give the school time to prepare the welcoming flotilla of boats to usher them in. Of course, on Sea Song, there was no such thing as a truly lazy eight; it was play time and the ship was a magnificent toy.
All the Family got turns at the wheel as well as members of the crew who were interested in advancing in Sea Song's officer hierarchy and the fly bridge was the place of choice. Hugo was completely at home in the 'fucking chair' by then but he had yet to take manual control on the fly bridge. He'd studied all of Pavlov's notes and charts and while Gregor or Meesha would take Sea Song in the first time, the co-owners and captains assured him that he would bring the ship out to greet the Oasis when he arrived a day later and then have complete control when Sea Song led Oasis into the lagoon for the first time.
Freckles spent a good deal of his time sitting on the forward edge of the padded box with his eyes traveling everywhere no matter who had the wheel but also could frequently be found in the engineering departments, the bow peering down into the dark water, Evan's suite or the control room. Since the crew knew he was sentient and there was no doubt more intelligent than any of them, when he asked questions using his new voice they answered his questions and listened to any of his very valid suggestions or comments.
At daybreak, Freckles was again sitting on the box when Gregor asked; "Would you like to take a turn at the wheel? I see the gang has retreated to bed, so there would be no laughter."
"There would be no laughter; this Cat did not laugh at them. This Cat learned from all the young warriors. Yes, thank you, this Bad Boy Sea Song boat is ready to show humans what he can do."
Gregor moved to the side with only one hand on the wheel. He expected Freckles to jump down from the box and use his tail to turn the wheel but Freckles didn't move. Sea Song was traveling at twenty knots when the jets reversed so he stopped with a rocking motion, fore and aft which began a combination unique solo water ballet and precision military marching drill in place, considering that the huge yacht had no legs. Gregor found his hand removed from the wheel when Sea Song began what Gregor thought was going to be a hard, almost stationary turn to port that lasted actually three hundred-sixty degrees before it was repeated to starboard when the wheel reversed. The throttles moved and the appropriate side thrusters engaged and disengaged all with Freckles just moving his eyes.
Gregor was tempted to take control just before Meesha called from the bridge to advise him that Sea Song was in some sort of comprehensive self-analysis mode and the computers were working too fast to read the monitors' flashing data. The amazing thing was, Sea Song didn't possess that kind of software, or didn't before Freckles made 'friends' with the giant Big Bad Boy.
While the watery gyrations continued, Sea Song's lights, both exterior and interior flashed, toilets flushed and even Chef Chou's oven and surface burner controls were tested along with each individual cooler and freezer thermostat was accessed for accuracy.
Gregor pulled his eyes away from the busy console when he heard some laughter and received images of a primitive or perhaps modern dance. He looked back to see all the Family and many of the crew were mustered behind Freckles and were experimenting with the synchronized dance moves. He joined Bani, Sidi and Kad on the padded box since they seemed to be leading the dance.
The boys' legs were spread, bent at the knees and flat feet had toes pointed right and left. All arms were bent at the elbows with flat hands facing in and were revolving around in the air, much like an official signaling a player in motion in an American football game. All arms moved in time with the engines and direction of thrust; clockwise forward, counter-clockwise reverse and stopped when the engines were idled. Heads first turned in the direction Sea Song turned and with a leap, bodies followed. Erections grew and bobbed violently as pelvis' thrust in growing excitement.
Suddenly every system went silent or dark. The PA system thundered, "All warriors have a small amount of time to couple while Sea Song rests. Do not be concerned, he will come to no harm," Freckles announced to the ship. To Gregor he advised; "Meesha awaits you in your resting place," using his artificial voice.
Gregor looked around before he ran for the stairs. He wasn't surprised to see the dagger-shaped bow pointed directly at the cut through the reef and apparently holding station as the schools' welcoming armada began to emerge single file from the pinchers.
Tommy made sure that he and Spencer finished their bedroom activities first, at least enough to calm Spencer down so he could concentrate on something besides sex. "Where are we going now," Spencer asked petulantly.
"To the armory, to get ammo for the cannon, hurry up before anyone else thinks about the salute."
"What kind of ammo; isn't that thing a muzzle loader; you know like stuff it with powder and a wad? Or are we actually going to fire cannon balls?" Spencer asked.
Tommy grinned up at his big lover; as soon as he said 'we' he knew that Spencer was eager to help. "Nope, just blank black powder rounds and they're made just like any cartridge. Remember this thing just looks old, but it has a modern breech that they switched out so it would fire missiles. You know, speaking of missiles, I wonder if that Jorge dude was even alive when his guards changed course after they got well over the horizon and they thought we couldn't see them with plain old surface radar?"
Tommy led Spencer unerringly to a stack of wooden crates that were lashed to the bulkhead, like everything else that could be dangerous if the ship heeled suddenly. He released the tie downs and opened the top box to reveal six short, fat, brass cartridges nestled in foam before he looked up at Spencer and fluttered his eyes. "Tommy, goddamn it," Spencer groused, "You pull this shit all the time. I can't wait for your first growth spurt so you can carry your own shit. I feel like a pack mule. Should we take two cases?"
"Nope, just one will be enough; I don't think we'll have time to fire more than one round each before the whole mob gets down there. If they want to shoot more, they'll just have to lug their own shit." Tommy giggled.
Spencer looked down on Tommy adoringly, "You know I love to hear you giggle and laugh and be able to talk for the first time. Freckles is one fantastic Cat; he studied the junk inside the second phone and modified your communicator without adding any parts after he understood the boards or whatever. That setting is really Ancient circuitry that he reconfigured just by staring at it and all the stones are powered by our bodies so they'll never need charging."
"I agree; I'll never get tired of saying I love you either," Tommy peeked under the box Spencer carried and added, "Or seeing the beautiful result."
"Now Baby, don't start trash talking when my hands are full," Spencer returned with a leer.
The two boys were surprised to find that the bow was already populated with sailors who mustered there to watch the show that wouldn't begin until the school fleet formed an escorting convoy and whoever was driving went to full power to charge through the cut in the reef. As soon as they saw the box containing the ammo they were eager to help but Tommy, always a prankster, happily advised them that should be ready to hold their breaths to avoid the blue-gray smoke before it cleared by blowing back and maybe up to the crowded fly bridge if they were lucky. He amended that when he thought it over briefly, "But we have four more rounds in this box. If they aren't here when the mob shows up, they'll have to run down to the armory to find more, so these rounds are up for grabs and you should be able to fire them before the guys get back."
Tommy's offer started furious games of rock-paper-scissors until only four competitors remained. These guys took their rounds and placed them out of sight as the fleet of small boats took up positions off Sea Song's sides and way to the stern to avoid the pending rooster tails.
Those on the bow felt Sea Song rock slightly before he lurched forward with screaming turbines as they reached desired speed. "DUCK!" Spencer shouted as Tommy yanked the cannons' lanyard. The booming sound was horrendous and the resulting smoke began to rise and blow back as expected.
"TOMMY!" Gregor shouted from the fly bridge so he could be heard throughout the ship.
Suddenly, there were three answering booms from the cliff above the pinchers and the amount of smoke was multiplied by three as it blew away harmlessly in the prevailing wind. Tommy and Spencer rushed forward, opened the breech, ejected the spent brass, reloaded, closed and locked the breech and lastly cocked the hammer all within seconds. Spencer backed away from the cannon as far as the lanyard would allow and pulled before he thought about shouting a warning.
"Remember to look innocent when the guys get down here looking for ammo and wait until they all head back inside before you fire again!" Spencer shouted, just before he raced Tommy down the portside rail to avoid meeting the flood of guys pouring from the hatch.
There were three more answering booms from the pinchers as the Family emerged from the forward deck hatch and when they found two spent casings but no additional ammo, they reversed course as expected. The four winning sailors waited a cautious minute before they resumed firing their salutes that were answered by the guns guarding the pinchers. The sixth smoke plume had just cleared the fly bridge when Spencer, with Tommy sitting on his shoulders appeared to stand by Freckles' side on the padded box as Sea Song with Meesha driving, and Hugo watching intently, took aim at the pinchers by adjusting course.
"Where is everyone?" Tommy asked wonderingly and innocently as he stared off in space, the picture of innocence, exactly as Buck had advised Freckles about the art of 'appearing not guilty, but far from innocent.'
Meesha glanced back and giggled without hesitating to change course and adjust the thrusters as necessary to begin the final 'squirt' into the lagoon. As Sea Song began its approach, he was greeted by two of the biggest helicopters that the boys had ever seen. They rose from the mooring area to hover about three hundred feet over the lagoon.
"Where did they come from?" Spencer asked.
Doug and Buck were the first to rejoin Meesha when they realized there could be no further cannon fire because the mooring crew needed to work from the bow. "Those are Dagger Cay's new passenger and freight choppers," Doug explained, "we ordered them from Evan this summer after we started hauling the folks from Black's Cay to Nassau and back. We told Evan we wanted something big enough to haul people and supplies from the States rather than ship from the States to Nassau and then Nassau to here on the old one. Because there wasn't enough room, we had to make multiple trips. Now the folks can shop anywhere around Ft. Lauderdale and we can haul everything from there to here. Aren't they beautiful?"
Spencer laughed, "Yup, in a bulldog sort of way, but they will be useful. I think I saw something like them in old Viet Nam war specials but these look commercial, not painted in puke military green."
"Exactly," Doug confirmed, "they're called Chinooks, the dual rotors give them incredible lift. That's how those fucking cannon got up on the cliff by the pinchers. We were going to put up battlements, but they're too much trouble, so we'll use the money for the new dormitory." When he saw Freckles' eyes moving everywhere, he hugged him, "Welcome to Dagger Cay, Freckles, this is my home and the home of the Marine Academy."
The small boats in the fleet, with the big sport fisherman in the lead, seemed to race into the lagoon unusually fast and head straight to their slips without first circling Sea Song at least once as they usually did. "What's with them?" Buck asked.
Meesha laughed as he shut the engines down, "You should hear the radio chatter. Some of them noticed a giant Cat sitting up here and once someone saw Freckles move and they knew he wasn't stuffed, they want to get to shore to see him close up when we get to shore."
"Stuffed," Freckles wondered, "what would this Cat be stuffed with, except morning food?" He looked at Buck and nodded, "That reminds ME, I have not yet enjoyed morning food," he was careful to say in first person, "would anyone care to join ME?" he asked. He looked at Buck again, "Did this Cat say it correctly, Bucky Boy?"
Buck giggled, "Close enough for your first try. And yes, we will join you for BREAKFAST while Meesha prepares Sea Song for his rest."
"Did Big Bad Boy Sea Song give you a list of his needs?" Freckles asked Meesha.
"Oh yes he did, several hundred pages, I never knew how many light bulbs there are. Fortunately all but seventeen were burning, but have now been replaced. More importantly, Sea Song wants his impellers replaced, that delta muck was very abrasive and of course the bottom paint has also been scoured to below minimum standards so after we unload the treasure in New York we will head to Hamburg for dry docking." Meesha explained.
Freckles nodded, "The barrier will no longer be a difficulty to boats friendly to the People and Cats. A Great Cat will come out to the blue water to open the way now that this…um, I opened the barrier the first time," he corrected himself proudly while Buck scratched his ears to congratulate him.
Freckles assumed what had come to be a Great Cat's position on the first tender's bow after he made sure Bani, Charlie, Kad and Sidi were also on board. There was no doubt that word had spread in the two small island communities as boats from Black's Cay were still arriving while even Jess Conner found the few patients in her infirmary suddenly experienced miraculous recoveries to see Charlie, a huge speckled cat and three foreign boys, although Freckles took top billing.
At first, the dock was packed with boys and residents of Black's Cay alike until someone figured out that the Cat was unrestricted and a leash wouldn't make much of a difference anyway – then there was a mass evacuation. Only the black dock attendants and Ace, Doug's majordomo or Head Man, held their ground as Freckles leapt ashore before the dock lines were thrown. The attendants cleated the lines and backed away to the fish cleaning station while Ace was frozen in place, he appeared to be scared shitless while actually, quite the opposite was true; he was scared, but shitless only by consciously clenching his muscles.
Freckles gave Ace a thorough sniff and then placed his head under Ace's hand. "He likes you Ace," Doug assured, "scratch his ears. His name is Freckles. Please spread the word that Freckles can sense danger and evil and he's both a friend and bodyguard of these three boys and Charlie." He turned to Freckles, "Freckles this is Ace, he's the chief of all the black people you see here."
Freckles began to purr in response to Ace's vigorous scratching when he began using both hands as his fear dissipated. Ace assured Freckles that he would find no danger or evil among his people; just temporary fear. "What language does this warrior chief speak? I am just learning American," Freckles complained in open mind-speak.
Ace frowned when he was surrounded by laughter, "You need to speak slower Ace, so Freckles can understand you, he's a native of South America and is just learning English."
Ace accepted Doug's instruction at face value, "I surely try," he told Freckles, "Yo' need anythin' while yo' here, jus' ask, an' Ace get it fo' yo'." Freckles nodded as if he understood and Ace didn't even blink as they began to walk along the dock with the crowd.
Whistles had been blowing as the Family reached the dock and by the time they stepped on land, the student commanders; Kurt, Kevin, Mark and Kyle had the whole school standing at attention by approximate class. Students weren't placed in classes automatically according to age; they were tested and interviewed when they first arrived.
The goal was to challenge each individual regardless of age, so a highly intelligent twelve year old could be placed in a class with far older boys of average intellect or perhaps even in a class where the 'air' was extremely rare if the individual's IQ and level of education warranted. Conversely, seventeen year olds could find themselves sitting in front of classes of fourteen year olds or younger. The prominent positions for older students was no accident, the front row seats provided the impetus to 'graduate' to a higher class at the first possible moment and prevented bullying or disturbing of classmates.
Freckles appeared to be looking everywhere and he was but he also scanned the ranked students as the Family walked by on the way to the former multistory hotel; Doug's home. His tail, carefully held erect and bent at the tip, did a more detailed scan. The tip stopped at one taller boy in a group and moved back to remain looking at him as they passed.
"There is one there who has greed, envy and hatred of his position and all of you. He imagines that if he could score just one of our rocks, he could leave here a wealthy man," Freckles reported via open mind-speak. "What are rocks and score?" he asked.
Charlie frowned, "Could you show his image? Rocks are our communicators and score means to steal. I'll just give the motherfucker a smack down he won't forget just before he's loaded on a chopper going back to the States," he promised.
Corporal punishment wasn't a school policy, it wasn't condoned but it also wasn't prohibited; it just wasn't mentioned. Student leaders such as Charlie and Kyle governed and disciplined their fellows without troubling the small administration. Those policies had worked well since the first boys stepped foot on Dagger Cay and were found to be natural leaders, before there was a school.
Charlie blinked when Freckles sent him the image of a tall gangly boy with a few old pimply pock marks on his face, "Thanks Freckles. That asshole has been here a month. He lives in Mark's cottage. I'll check with him later, the only problem I know about was he didn't like to shower when he first got here," he grinned and added, "but he does now after the guys in his cottage showed him how it was done. Ignorance is a terrible thing," he sighed dramatically, "like who knew steel wool would take off that much skin?"
The guys stopped laughing at Charlie when the two doormen bedecked with fresh flower head dresses, leis and low slung girdles, first spied Freckles as the mob approached the heavy teak hotel doors. They began to run in opposite directions until Ace called them back and introduced the Great Cat to them as his personal friend.
Doug rolled his eyes, "Ace, we'll only be here overnight, we don't need doormen or any other servants to wait on us."
"Too bad Masta Doug, yo' put ever one on de payroll so they goin' to earn they keep. The kids is waitin' on yo' inside so yo' bes' be ready to take a welcome drink too." Ace scolded.
"Yes Sir," Doug agreed, "Freckles would like his drink in a bowl please."
"With ice, please," Freckles reminded.
"Oh yeah, with lots of ice please."
As Ace rushed away to get Freckles a drink, the little kids filed into the room, each bearing a small silver tray with a tall frosty fruit drink. There was no competition; Ace had assigned a girl or a boy to one of the Family but Ace didn't plan for absentees; Medi and the others aboard the second yacht, so one boy directed the extra servers and their drinks to Bani, Kad, Sidi and Edvard. After the first drink, service went to hell as all the wide eyed children grouped themselves around the front of the over-stuffed sofa that Freckles occupied.
Doug sipped his drink and shivered, "Look out for these drinks guys, we're either very short on fresh fruit juice or a whole ship loaded with rum came in," he warned and took another larger sip of his drink. "Hey kids, this is Freckles, he's a very friendly Great Cat. Freckles and his family only live in a very small part of South America."
Freckles bobbed his head and the kids bobbed theirs in return. Greetings were interrupted when Ace ushered two older boys into the room, carefully carrying and giant silver tray with a matching punch bowl between them, which they placed on the coffee table in front of Freckles. The bowl's rim was liberally garnished with pineapple wedges. Freckles sniffed the unknown fruit delicately before his tongue flashed out to taste a wedge.
"This is very good; what kind of fruit is this?" Freckles clearly asked the room.
"Haven't you ever eaten pineapple before?" one bold little boy asked with only a trace of sing-song Bahamas's dialect. Everyone marveled at the boy's ability to ignore the fact that he was holding a conversation with a talking cat. "Don't they grow them where you come from?" the boy asked, amazed that Freckles had never eaten pineapple before.
"Not yet, but perhaps we should." Freckles answered and used his tail to collect three wedges at the same time for a Cat sized taste.
By then Ace's eyes were about to fall out, "Yo', yo' kin talk an' use yo' tail like a hand!"
"Yes I know, but I only do these things among friends. It must be a secret to all others." Freckles cautioned.
Doug shrugged, "Right, in half an hour it will only be a secret that all of Black's Cay knows."
"These people of Black's Cay are very friendly as you can see; there is no danger," Freckles sent confidentially. He saw that the children and the bold little boy had drawn closer so he used his tail to lift the boy over the coffee table after making believe that he would be dunked in the punch bowl.
The boy squealed in delight as Freckles placed him at his side on the sofa and then invited all the kids to share the pineapple and the giant cocktail. Ace stopped the kids from using straws that suddenly appeared. "Come on Daddy," the boy protested, "just a little taste won't hurt us."
"Daddy," Doug questioned wearing a shit eating lopsided grin, none the worse for wear from having consumed half his drink, "did he say Daddy?"
Ace shrugged and blushed although it couldn't be seen, "Yup, sho' did, dis here little big mouth, my son Anton, an' if he don't listen up, he goin' to get drowned in dat bowl by his Daddy."
By then, Freckles was demonstrating the art of bobbing for ice cubes. Of course he had more practice as well as a somewhat prehensile tongue so the kids surfaced for air without success but with a fairly large gulp of the potent drink, "Remember Daddy, I can swim," Anton challenged after he swallowed his generous share after ignoring the ice cubes.
"Swim, I like to swim, can we go swimming?" Freckles asked Doug hopefully.
"I guess I better do something or I won't be awake for lunch," Doug agreed. He paused to leer at Ace, "Is it okay if Anton goes swimming with us, DADDY?" When Doug saw all the children looked hopeful he added, "Yup everyone!" Without exception, the girls took the time to fold their little silk, flowered sarongs and remove the flowers from their hair while the boys just tossed aside the leis they were wearing as they ran outside toward the pool.
"Ace you sly dog, we thought you liked guys," Buck teased.
"Yup, I like 'em fine but I love my wife an' Anton, named afta the ole Master. Margo, my wife, knows about my friends an' she don't say it de wrong time o' de month or she don' feel like doin' it, too often. It works out good."
Freckles beat the kids to the pool and managed to get all of them drenched when he jumped in before them. Bani took charge of the kids and ordered instant retaliation except they had to find Freckles first. When the water surface settled they saw him ghosting along the bottom of the deep end using his tail in a swirling motion to propel his body forward.
"Freckles, you bad Cat, come up this instant and give the children rides," Bani sent and then cautioned "Just remember that they need to breathe more often than we do."
Freckles changed course to head for the shallow water where he waited patiently for Bani, Kad and Sidi to seat children on his back before he made a rapid circuit of the bottom to resurface at the shallow end, his starting point. The children, boys and Freckles played for an hour before the boys got tired since Freckles wasn't as gentle in dealing with them as he was with the children.
Even Ace was puffing. He hadn't planned to swim because of his position as Head Man, but he got too close to the edge and within range of Freckles' tail so he had no choice. When Freckles abandoned the pool to sit near the edge, the children joined him after they remembered their duties and ran off to get fresh drinks for everyone, served at poolside. The lip of Freckles' bowl was surrounded with pineapple wedges which he invited them to share, while Ace forbade any of them to go bobbing for ice cubes, since he realized they were really more intent on drinking the potent cocktail earlier.
Suddenly, the quiet was rent by loud screeches and louder scolding expletives, "TOMMY, GODDAMIT SLOW THE FUCK DOWN! OUCH! WATCH OUT FOR THE FUCKING BUMPS! BILLIE CAN'T DRIVE! FUCKING DANGER! INCOMING!"
"Here come the bird brains!" Spencer announced needlessly as he grabbed Tommy and placed him on his shoulders so the birds couldn't use him as their landing perch. Curiously Mutt and Jeff were accompanied by another Scarlet Macaw and a lower flying Toucan. Apparently the birds saw that Tommy's small shoulders weren't wide even to accommodate four so Jeff the Macaw and friend adjusted their landing pattern to laughing and unsuspecting Pettie's shoulders while Mutt and his or her Toucan friend crashed together trying to land on Tommy's head before they hopped down to his opposing shoulders to begin grooming his ears and hair.
"Why me?" Pettie asked the birds by rolling his eyes right and left and frowning at the laughing gang.
"Perhaps they know you made friends with their distant cousins," Bani suggested.
"I don't suppose these is housebroke either," Pettie asked.
Tommy giggled, "There's a shower right over there," he pointed, "to answer your question."
"I thought as much. Which one is Jeff?"
Jeff answered that question in Pettie's ear, "FEED JEFF! JEFF IS HUNGRY! FUCK ME!"
"Damn, can't you birds talk natural?" Pettie scolded Jeff.
"Say love Pettie," Tommy instructed the birds.
"LOVE TOMMY!" Jeff countered, "LOVE TOMMY!" he insisted.
Jeff's new friend let out a sudden wolf whistle followed by, "WOW! BILLIE BIG COCK! LOVER BOY! GET IN HERE NOW!" No one had to be a rocket scientist to know where Jeff's friend learned his words – on the home perch outside Billie and Dieter's bedroom door.
The little girls announced their continued presence by tittering and directed glances at hearing the birds' outrageous words while the little boys covered their immature packages with their hands in total embarrassment when a minute earlier none of them seemed aware of their nudity. Doug, equally embarrassed, sent all the kids off to see if the cook had any cookies for them to eat and some fruit and nuts for the birds.
Anton held back and whistled shrilly. When he saw his father frown he defended himself; "But Daddy, Lem and Em are hungry too!"
"Them two are always hungry and they bring the whole mob wid 'em too." Ace explained to the boys as Anton's whistle was answered with raucous bird calls from all directions, and approaching fast. "Too late now!" he warned and raised his forearm above his head with Anton. The boys followed his example, not exactly sure what to expect. They all knew from the morning noise that there was a sizeable exotic bird population on the island but had never seen them all or mostly all together. Doug had some idea when Bucky insisted that he look at the bills – the cost of running a large island paradise, when he first inherited the archipelago from Anton.
Two flashes of white and pink were the first to arrive and zero in on Anton's forearm. The pair of roseate cockatoos ruffled their feathers and raised their head crests as Anton lowered his arm so they could look at each other in the eyes. "Love Anton," they took turns cooing at the boy quietly until one bird ruffled its feathers a second time, "Fuck me!" it announced to ruin the tender moment.
Anton went on the defensive before Ace had time to do more than frown, "Now Daddy, I didn't teach him that, I know not to use swear words. Lem, you bad bird," he scolded, "You shouldn't listen to Jeff or you'll get me in trouble!"
"'O course yo' don't use 'em if yo' think I can hear yo', but yo' don't always know when I'm around," Ace grinned like a typical all-knowing father.
Hapless Pettie put up both of his arms to protect his head from the hovering flapping wings and succeeded in hosting a pair of sulfur-crested cockatoos on one arm and another pair of the roseate species on the other for a total of six. Just then the kids returned with nuts and assorted fruits. One little girl offered a Brazil nut to each bird occupying Pettie and he was amazed to see each bird crack the incredibly hard, thick shell, and then hold the nut meat in one claw and gently nibble the treat. "Don't that beat all," he exclaimed, "at home my momma buys mixed nuts in the shell for the holidays, and them damn things is always last to get eaten because we have to take them out to the garage and hit 'em with a hammer to get 'em open."
Doug giggled, "If you want to see what they can do with a finger bone, tease one and see what happens."
Just then Doug, Tommy and Freckles froze in place and cocked their heads listening, "Rocket," Doug whispered.
"Comet," Tommy agreed.
"The true Sea People," Freckles announced, "they will be here at moonrise at Sea Song's stern door. We will swim and make friends. And you may couple," he added silently.
The red climbed Doug's body like a thermometer placed in hot water. To cover his reaction he asked, "I don't like to be a spoilsport, but shouldn't you kids be in school?"
"It's Sunday!" Anton protested, "No one goes to school on weekends, our teacher told us we wear him down and he needs all the rest he can get." The other kids all giggled to agree and also agreed that they liked their teacher very much, he made learning new things fun. Anton added, "Mommy said she would take me Christmas shopping in Ft. Lauderdale, in the United States this afternoon, if I didn't have to work. We would fly in the new helicopter for the first time and I will show the officials my new passport." He looked up at Doug hopefully, asking without asking if he could go. The other kids also looked hopeful and held their breaths.
It was Doug's turn to giggle at the little boy's cleverness. "Well," he considered, "you have been working hard all morning. I would say that if you all finish feeding the birds and have an early lunch with us, you should go to take care of your mothers. Meanwhile, I just remembered some unfinished business; come with me please Ace."
There was a flurry of activity along with screams of delight as the kids helped Anton call the birds from the guys' shoulders, sitting on the peaks of thatched roof huts or in palm trees, down to chair backs and table tops. Some kids ran to the kitchen to get more fruit while others went to the roosting house, where all the birds gathered for the night. Fifty pound bags of tropical nuts were stored there. Doug rolled his eyes as he watched the kids return with pails of nuts and shipping cartons of peaches, grapes, oranges, apples, strawberries and even big black cherries. He couldn't guess where the out of season fruits came from at the end of November.
As Doug and Ace were about to enter the lounge they heard Anton scolding Lem. They looked back to see him shaking his finger at his pair of bird friends equally. "You are too smart for your own good young man; I told you both not to say 'fuck me' when adults are around, but you don't listen."
Doug clapped Ace on the back, "I think I remember my mother bitching me out, using pretty much the same words and not too long ago either."
"Dat boy is ah caution," Ace agreed, "Did I do somethin' wrong Masta Doug?" he asked suddenly.
"Oh no, you've been doing everything very well." Doug answered as he picked up a gym bag he'd carried from Sea Song. "I was planning to give you this before we left, but then we left unexpectedly during sea trails. People normally get Christmas bonuses at Christmas time, but by then it's too late to use some to buy gifts, so I thought everyone should get their bonuses at Thanksgiving so they have time to spend some for Christmas if they want to." He explained and opened the bag. There was a single manila envelope on top of whatever else was inside. Ace saw his name written on the envelope. "This one is for you. I think from now on, we should give out bonuses based on merit, or how well someone does their job and since I really don't know about that, I'm leaving that up to you. There's enough in here to give each supervisor ten grand, workers two thousand and kids in school or babies five hundred each, but if a guy is a lazy ass or just doesn't do it as well as another guy, you might give him less or nothing at all; that's what merit is all about. Of course if there's anyone like that, you can always fire his ass and kick him off the island; there should be no free rides."
Ace seemed to be listening with one ear while he gently pried up the two small metal closure tabs as if he was diffusing a bomb. He squeezed the envelope carefully and peeked inside. When he saw five bundles of bills with $5000 printed on each wrapping band, he was speechless and looked at Doug as if he may have made a mistake. "Nope," Doug assured, "I'm your boss so I decide on your bonus, you decide how much everyone else gets because you're their boss. Do you have a list of everyone?"
Ace tapped his head, "Sure do, right up here. I'll be savin' some o' dis for Anton's education now that his teacher is teachin' 'em all to talk regular."
"That won't be necessary; Buck's father is building a big school, a university with a preparatory school attached. We'll all be going there after its finished and any kid on Black's Cay can go there too, for free when they're old enough, I think from junior high school." Doug explained.
Ace retreated to the billiard room and called all the department heads to a meeting to plan bonus lists, he was still in a daze. Master Doug had given him an enormous bonus and offhandedly promised his son the finest education in the same schools he and all the other white Family boys attended. Lastly he was given total control of who lived on Black's Cay and who worked on Dagger Cay so a major house cleaning of itinerant personnel would begin that very day, backed by a few experienced, well-armed men who had killed before in defense of their small community and would do so again to restore peace and tranquility to both islands.
Freckles led the Family into the room accompanied by the major student leaders; Kurt, Kevin, Mark and Kyle. Evan arrived with his mother known by the students as Miss Jessie. All of the Cottage Commanders were frowning with Evan, Tommy and Charlie.
Mark began; "The asshole, excuse that Miss Jessie."
"That's okay Mark; I've heard all the words by now; just minimize the number of 'F' bombs please. Just tell me why I'm here."
Mark grinned evilly, "Because the asshole, a guy named Sam Smith, if you believe that name, is going to need some first aid if he lives through the ass kickin' he's goin' to get."
"Mom, Freckles can kind of scan people's minds for danger," Evan began to explain, "and he says this guy is evil, he hates us all and he's thinking of ways to steal one of our emeralds. Oh, this is Great Cat Freckles Katz, spelled with a 'K' and a 'z' on his passport just to screw with officials' minds," he giggled at the inside joke. His mother did not.
"Evan Conner Falconburg, are you on drugs? Are you all on drugs?" Jessie demanded with a glowering frown, which quickly included placing her hand on Evan's forehead to see if he had a temperature.
Freckles stopped Jessie cold, "Evan does not use drugs, my name is Freckles Katz, spelled K-a-t-z. The evil boy's real name is Allen Sanders; he is nineteen, not sixteen as he claims. He does not like coupling with boys and only seduces older men so he might steal valuables and currency. He came to school here because it is rumored that this school is supported by a man with much currency and treasure, American Chief, Bucky Trenton, also known as the God Father." He turned to Buck, "Is seduce the right word?"
"Woops, I don't think you should go there with Dad," Buck warned, "and yes, seduce is the right word."
Jessie sat in a chair and stared at nothing. Evan sought to comfort her by rubbing her arm. "Come on Mom, you knew things would be strange occasionally after Grandfather passed on, but this trip has been the strangest yet." He pointed out Bani, Kad and Sidi; "These guys are experienced warriors from an unknown tribe called the Cat People. The People and the Cats live together sort of; when Bani's father, the chief, decided that Bani should go to school in America, he sent Kad and Sidi along to guard him and then Fang, Freckles' father sent him along to guard all three of them. At first we could only talk with Freckles using what we call mind-speak; that would be telepathically, but then he ripped off John's cellphone and somehow uses the speakers built into his communicator, the big emerald around his neck. If anyone has a cell with them, call Freckles so Mom can see…"
Evan's rambling explanation was suddenly cut off by a Cat tail wrapped around his neck as Freckles lifted him from the floor to dangle in front of his mother. "This 'ripped off' has a meaning that I am unfamiliar with, but does not sound good." Freckles looked at Buck for a definition, but Buck had his cellphone to his ear and was already giggling too hard to talk. Freckles' communicator suddenly began to caw its rooster ring tone.
Freckles reacted by dropping Evan and grabbing Buck too fast for Buck to get away but instead of just holding him up, he shook him vigorously, "Pay back is a bitch, is it not, Bucky Boy?" he questioned before he dropped Buck to stare off in space.
"The evil boy is planning to steal one stone and then escape by stealing a boat to seek his home place in the United States, called Ft. Lauderdale." He looked at Doug to ask, "Is any treasure in this great hut been missed?"
Doug shrugged, "I don't know, if you look around, you'll see that Anton didn't shop at Wal-Mart and this place is never locked."
Evan rolled his eyes, "You are so innocent, remember I told you to think of small portable stuff as get away cash, something that can be pawned? No hustler is going to steal your furniture, no matter how valuable."
"Oh yeah, well there's Anton's watch collection. He gave away new ones but the old ones are upstairs. This asshole wouldn't have come in here to steal from me, would he?" Doug asked feeling betrayed suddenly.
"Would you go look?" Charlie asked. After Doug ran upstairs, Charlie asked Freckles; "Who's stone is this guy planning to steal? We're always mostly together and if he tried to nab mine, I'd notice and it would be all over for him."
"He will try stealing the largest one from this big, dumb, wild Cat. He thinks I alone would not notice." Freckles followed his observation with an exceptionally toothy grin.
Through all this discussion, explanation and Freckles' demonstration of his abilities, the student leaders generally and Mark and Kyle in particular, looked on and listened, wide eyed. Tommy could speak suddenly and Charlie's daring ploy to stowaway on Doog had worked; he was accepted into the Family and had found a very attractive, exotic friend and it seemed everyone thought it was perfectly normal to hold an intelligent conversation with a great big cat, who had a last name and who could and did talk back. And all of them wore what appeared to be a priceless gem around their necks that they called communicators.
Tommy nudged Charlie mentally, "Look at our asshole buddies, I think they're getting some mind-speak," he sent in the open. All four student leaders looked at him and frowned.
"If you call me an asshole again little buddy; you better have yours on lock down or be wearing a big smile," Mark warned out loud although with a daring smile of his own.
Kyle seemed to understand what was happening and grinned while Kurt and Kevin moved toward laughing Charlie as he stripped off his bulging backpack, apparently getting ready to run.
"Wait up guys," Charlie protested while he dug into his stored treasures. The largest was a gallon jar of mayonnaise; blue mayonnaise, he placed that aside carefully. Further digging produced several full ammo clips and a matching forty caliber weapon, holster and belt, personal items and considerable boy's junk. Last was a small simple stonewood box that appeared to be what he was looking for. He placed that on the coffee table, stepped back, snapped his fingers overly dramatically, Freckles thought, and the elegant box popped open to reveal twinkling green gems nestled in a sea of jumbled golden chain. "Four of these are just waiting for the four of you." He intoned as Bani, Kad, Sidi and Tommy moved forward to gift the four newest mind-speaking boys with their communicators.
The brief ceremony was interrupted, "THE SONOFABITCH!" Doug raged as he tore back down the stairs holding an empty glass lidded case with forty-eight small vacant compartments. He looked at David and Noah in turn and warned, "This asshole is mine! I'll even run him down."
"That will not be necessary Doug; all of the stolen things are in this boy's back pack where he keeps things of value. It is hidden in his hut."
Kyle looked up from staring at his emerald. He remained cross-eyed until Charlie smacked the back of his head. "If we wear these around this place, some new guy is goin' to try rippin' us off," he sent experimentally, "we'll have to sleep with one eye open." He was gratified to see Kurt, Kevin and Mark agree with a nod.
Freckles disagreed, "The gems are yours alone; they cannot be removed or even touched without your permission as you will see this afternoon when we swim from the sand in saltwater with the students and the unfortunate boy."
"What about making out with someone?" Mark asked doubtfully.
"Making out?" Freckles asked Buck silently.
"Making out is touchy, feely prior to coupling in some way or just fucking. It has lots of meanings and I think all involve sex." Buck explained.
"Making out," Freckles continued smoothly, "is touching with permission. Look at these boys, they fuck each other's brains out regularly while wearing their stones and they are still alive."
"FRECKLES!" Jessie screeched, "That was an 'F' bomb!" She and Evan had been whispering together and while no one was sure what they were discussing, Jessie alternately looked doubtful, surprised and embarrassed. It seemed no one except Freckles noticed the small jar of Stuff she clutched or determined that she had every intention to experiment with her math-teacher-resident friend at the earliest opportunity, when he scanned her mind before she ran from the room.
Evan had the nerve to wink and grin at Freckles, "That got rid of her for the afternoon. Now, how are we going to fuck this guy up?"
Doug thought that lunch would have to be served indoors since the kids had fed the birds theirs on the terrace tables and chairs, but when he looked outside, he was surprised to see that the birds were gone, the whole area had been restored to pristine hotel quality cleanliness and the children were seated at immaculately set tables. Ace was moving among the children offering pillows for additional height although most were already sitting on their heels to achieve the same purpose.
Ace grinned at Doug, "There be some rumor about bonuses floatin' round somehow, an' de department heads flashin' wads o' cash. Dis whole place what yo' call 'lectrified wid asses an' elbows, but it too late fo' some; dey be leavin' fo' wherever dey came from dis aftanoon. Mos' be outsiders an' we hardly have work fo' home folk."
"I didn't realize the population was growing from people coming here from the outside to live and work."
"Cor-rection Boss, dey comes to live but not work; dey lazy young no accounts wid boats. They been warned, dey comes back, dey not leave again."
Doug shrugged, "Well, whatever you think best; as long as you don't expect an armed invasion, one of those was enough." Doug shivered at the memory.
"Dey invade be like bringin' ah knife to ah gunfight around here." Ace giggled.
Lunch was to be lobster rolls, but the cook was not about to insult the talking cat by serving him nasty looking sausages that were sent from Sea Song for him to eat while everyone else ate lobster. Doug suggested a compromise; serve Freckles some of each, since he couldn't recall that the Cat twins were averse to eating any kind of people food if offered, and if it wasn't offered, neither was above begging; Great Cat 'royalty' or not. The next question was where Freckles would eat.
While all the terrace furnishings were sturdy, all the chairs and stools were designed for human asses not Great Cat asses, even one that was only half-grown. Enterprising Anton, with the determination to sit next to Freckles, solved the problem by suggesting the use of a large bar-height cocktail table. Tablemates could sit on comfortable bar chairs and Freckles could sit on a thick lounge cushion placed directly on the terrace. This combination brought all diners heads' to the same approximate height. Doug noted that this solution wasn't up for negotiation since a table had already been set and six kids including Anton, already sat at the table with one wider vacant space where a silver serving tray had already been placed.
Everyone watched Freckles surreptitiously, to see him experiment with human foods. He used both his nose and tail tip to 'sniff' the neatly stacked lobster rolls that shared space on his serving platter. He was familiar with hotdog buns but had no experience with a crispy crusted roll or the contents; the lobster-based salad, which couldn't be eaten alone sitting at a human's table with any sort of decorum without eating utensils.
As Freckles watched Anton, he picked up his roll and took a boy-sized bite; he discovered the purpose of all buns and related elongated breads; to get the contents, particularly sloppy contents to one's mouth without the need of normal human utensils. The lobster rolls were about eight inches long; one of which would serve as a meal for a small child Anton's size, but were exactly a single bite size for a Great Cat. Best of all, Freckles could use his tail since his human friends were using their hands. Freckles took the time to chew and savor his first lobster roll before his typical overwhelming teenage desire for food kicked in; then the eleven others disappeared with astonishing speed, but with absolutely no mess and everyone noticed that he accepted a second helping while ignoring the special sausages completely.
Dessert was a universal treat; a hot fudge sundae with real whipped cream and sprinkles. Ice cream was new to Freckles because Sea Song had exhausted its limited supply the first night the Family entertained Tonga and the Cat warriors. Ice cream was the one thing that the ship had not yet loaded before he was forced to race the destroyer to South America. Sea Song's supply remained behind in Dagger Cays' freezers and making enough onboard was impossible because of the need for fresh cream as the primary ingredient.
The kids and Families' eyes lit up when the waiters served their bowls while Freckles' eyes began to spin when his far larger serving was placed before him. Great Cat decorum and fastidiousness was thrown to the wind after his first tentative lap and he buried his nose as his tongue went to work. A Great Cat's ability to hold his breath for long periods proved its worth when Freckles didn't lift his head until his bowl was almost sparkling clean and the only residuals were a neat pile of whipped cream and colorful sprinkles on the top of his nose where his versatile tongue couldn't quite reach and chocolate darkened white whiskers.
John, as Freckles self-appointed groomer and Ace as Anton's father both went into action cleaning their charges, while a frown from Ace sent the waiters scurrying to clean up the other kids. John used a damp towel on Freckles, while Ace used the corner of a napkin dipped in a water goblet to almost give the boy's face and chest a bath.
"Your sire is very strict too," Freckles observed.
"What's a sire?" Anton asked.
"Father," Freckles answered.
"Is your father as big as you?"
"I would say he is two times my size, but I am growing very fast."
"Twice your size, holy s…"
"ANTON," Ace roared, "yo' curse yo' ain't goin' to see no Santa today," he warned.
Suddenly Marc's camera clicked as he sought to document the face cleaning process and just as quickly it beeped forlornly after the briefest glance from Freckles. Marc checked the back of his camera and frowned, "Come on Freckles, that was a good shot," he protested, "you drained my battery again."
Freckles hoisted one side of his lip, recognized as a Great Cat frown, "You were warned. We are foreign students, come to America to study and gain much knowledge. We do not wish to be photographed. If one of us sees that primitive electronic machine again, it will smoke before it melts and bursts into flames."
Marc gave up gracefully, "I assume that was a definite 'no'," he said but still looked optimistic. In answer, a tiny but noticeable tendril of smoke rose from the body of his newest Nikon. "Please no, don't melt it," he begged as he hurried to stuff it in his camera bag to get it out of Freckles' sight.
When Ace decided that all the kids were clean enough, he let them all run off to the helicopter pad to board one of the new choppers for the short trip to Black's Cay to collect clothes for the boys and the mothers who were going shopping in Florida for the first time. That is all except his son, Anton, "Yo' boy, ain't goin' nowhere on foot, yo' step one inch off dis terrace, yo' be all dirt, an' I get the blame. Yo' gettin' carried," he promised.
"May I visit this flying machine?" Freckles asked hopefully.
"Sure," Doug shrugged, "you can go anywhere you want to, but we won't be flying on a chopper, we'll be flying on a jet that won't arrive until late tonight."
Freckles nodded and looked at Anton sitting on his father's arm, "Would you like a ride on a Great Cat's back?" he asked. He didn't have to ask twice as Anton began to wiggle, squirm and reach for Freckles. Freckles' tail reached out to sit the boy on his neck so he wouldn't have to spread his legs so far, and for better purchase, offered his heavy gold neck chain to use as a bridle.
Buck's eyebrow shot up as he watched Anton get comfortable holding the chain. "Did Freckles' chain just get longer," he whispered to Doug, "or was that my imagination?"
Freckles rolled his eyes at Buck, "Humans!" Freckles declared, "Think longer or shorter, whatever you find comfortable," he advised as he pranced away to give Anton a nice bumpy ride with Ace clutching his manila envelope, jogging along at Freckles' side. Doug gave Ace and everyone else the afternoon off so with Christmas bonuses distributed, there was little doubt that both Chinooks would be flying to Florida.
The Chinooks loaded passengers and/or freight from the rear opening hatch so the chopper crew was unaware of Freckles presence until his big furry head appeared between them to scan the instrumentation, the view through the cockpit windows and lastly nodded to each in turn before he backed his way down the narrow aisle since turning his agile bulk around would expose his ass to the seated passengers, which would be rude.
About half the Cadet Corps was lazing on the beach on Sunday afternoon when Charlie, the other Cottage Commanders and Freckles appeared without any of the known Family members. The thief, Sam Smith, aka, Allen Sanders was laying on a towel off to the side trying to ignore the fun and camaraderie the other boys were enjoying because he'd been ostracized when his personal hygiene habits, or lack thereof were discovered a week after he got to the island, and once identified as a dirt bag, there was no way of redeeming himself; he was declared untouchable.
Sam/Allen made a decision; he would make one more trip into the 'big house' after the rich motherfucking pussy boys left and collect whatever else he could find that was small and portable in addition to the abandoned watch collection he'd already 'found'. It had been Allen's experience that 'Rolex' was synonymous with 'knockoff' but the high quality fakes in his knapsack should be worth at least seventy-five bucks a piece if he sold them individually to as many pawnshops. To add insult to perceived injury; not all of them were 'Rolex's' and some weren't even gold color although he would assert that the few off brands with stainless steel cases were 'white gold'; the words, 'solid platinum' never entered his mind and the annoying off brand was Patek Philippe.
Allen sat up quickly as the so called Cottage Commanders and the dumb wild cat walked by. They were close enough to see that the cat's neck chain was so loose he might be able to slip it over its head. It would be more valuable if the chain wasn't broken; maybe as much as a thousand bucks to some cash heavy pimp who was into bling rather than brains.
The boys generally, and little big mouth and bigger asshole Charlie in particular began horsing around with the cat as soon as they got into the water and the cat seemed to tolerate being ridden while he swam. Surprisingly, when Charlie pushed the cat's head underwater, the cat retaliated by wrapping its tail around Charlie's body and flinging him nearly forty feet to the side. The audience of Cadets in the shallows grew until Kyle invited them into deeper water to actually swim with the cat after he advised them not to hurt the playful dumb cat. Kyle's warning speech was cut off abruptly when he suddenly disappeared underwater to surface by being whipped through the air by the cat's tail wrapped around both ankles.
Allen swam out to where the action around the cat was. The guys seemed to be taking turns being tossed through the air and the most favored method of flying was by the ankles, which allowed the tossed boy to enter the water cleanly in a shallow dive. The cat was non-partisan and when Allen's turn came the cat flung him equally far except somehow the tail only found one of his ankles so when he went air-borne his body spun away like a top and he landed with a splat instead of a dive. It didn't hurt – much. He swam back for another turn and saw that his Cottage Commander, Mark, had climbed on the cats back for a ride and had grabbed the cat's heavy neck chain and was using it as a bridle!
"Fucking perfect," Allen thought, "kiss a thousand bucks goodbye when it's my turn." He planned to fake a leg cramp as soon as he had the chain and gem so he could hide it underwater as he limped to shore, while massaging his calf. The beach was deserted, so he would be ignored as he limped to his towel and could wrap up the new found treasure and make his way to his cottage and his stash.
Allen straddled the cat eagerly and found the neck chain with his fingers through the cat's thick fur. He had no trouble wrapping the fingers of both hands around the chain but when he pulled back to test for looseness, the chain resisted and began to pull his hands and arms forward.
Several things happened at once. The cat swam into deeper water and then dove to the bottom to walk around effortlessly. That hadn't happened with earlier riders. Next, the chain continued to tighten around the cat's neck until Allen's hands were imprisoned in a vise-like grip and he couldn't let go, although he suddenly wanted to very badly. With his hands immobilized, he felt the chain grow warmer and warmer until it was burning hot and it began to etch his skin and flesh like a brand on his fingers and palms.
Freckles timed his resurfacing perfectly; just as Allen opened his mouth to scream from the searing pain so that half the island heard it, but he was happy to breathe air not water and by pulling, he was able to release his grip on the chain, or its unrelenting grip on his hands. As the chain loosened, Freckles' tail wrapped tightly around his neck and as the pair reached shore Freckles unceremoniously yanked him to his feet and kept him upright and stumbling along after a mighty body shake that sent water flying in all directions and all but dried his thick water repellant fur coat.
"Who is the dumb pussy now you stupid motherfucker?" Freckles asked the semi-conscious boy clearly as they marched to the house with Charlie and the newly discovered mind-speakers. Rather Freckles marched while the boy was mostly dragged along as the tail around his neck continued to hold him upright. He sent to Buck; "Did I say this correctly, Bucky Boy?"
"You certainly did!" Buck returned with laughter, "We're in the lounge waiting for you."
The Family was grouped around Doug and Spencer sitting on a sofa. The recovered watch collection was spread out on the coffee table along with the display case. Doug read from numbered inventory sheets and Spencer used his magnifying glass to read serial and model numbers from watch backs before Doug slipped the watch on its shaped holder and put both back into the numbered compartment in the display.
Doug looked up and glared at Allen, "You know this is a lot of work," he stated sourly, "Just where did you plan to sell any one of these?"
Allen held his injured hands in tight fists crossed against his chest. Freckles held him up loosely but if he began to droop, the tail tightened and he was lifted to his tip toes. He shrugged before he answered sullenly, "One at a time at pawn shops," he mumbled, "I didn't want to flood the market for knockoffs."
Everyone laughed at this disclosure, except Doug, he jumped to his feet, once again enraged by the fact that he had been robbed of some of Anton's beloved treasures. He dangled one of the white metal watches in front of Allen's eyes. "My friend here," he tossed his thumb at Spencer, "is a jeweler who only deals in the finest gems and treasures like these watches. I didn't know how valuable any of these were until just now. This is a Patek Philippe; it's almost one of a kind, solid platinum," he paused to look at the inventory, "that was bought at auction for 2.32 million bucks ten years ago. According to this list, the cheapest Rolex here cost three hundred thousand dollars! And you were going to pawn them as fucking knockoffs?"
Freckles interrupted Doug's tirade, "In coming! Now you mind the 'F' bombs Douggie," he announced using Jessie's voice exactly as Jessie walked up behind Freckles.
"Thank you Mr. Katz," she giggled like Evan and reached up to scratch Freckles' nearest ear. His rumbling purr didn't require amplification. "I understand I now have a patient to treat for burns?" she asked as Freckles bent down and turned his head so she could give his opposite ear equal attention.
Allen spoiled the moment without regard to his continued health and personal safety, "This fucking cat burned both my hands!" he whined just before he was flung backward to land hard on the tile floor.
"That was an 'F' bomb!" Freckles screeched using Jessie's voice again.
David and Noah pounced on Allen before he even thought about moving to see what may have been broken. They stood him on his feet and returned him to the group to hold him while Barry and Henry each grabbed an arm and pried his hands open so Jessie could assess the damage. If Allen expected sympathy, he was disappointed.
Jessie frowned up at Freckles, "Did you do this?"
"No Miss Jessie, my neck chain did it. It does not like being touched by scumbags," Freckles paused to look at Buck, who nodded, "scumbags like this. I knew this but not what it would do. The marks are very pretty, but should be very painful for a great length of time as a reminder not to take the possessions of others."
"Pretty," Doug wondered and bent to look closer at the wounds. "Holy shit, look at this guys, you can even see the impressions the individual links left behind and it's all a really nice intense gold color too. This mother…"
"Fornicator of mothers," Freckles interjected before Doug could use the 'F' word to finish his observation.
Doug giggled, "That's what I was going to say. Anyway, I believe this fornicator has the only 3-D tattoo that's gold embossed."
Everyone crowded around to see for themselves after Spencer's beloved magnifying glass was borrowed for a closer inspection. "Wrong Douggie," Buck opined after his turn to look, "that's not 3-D, it's more of a deep etching or a brand, but it does look like its gold embossed."
Jessie agreed after a second closer look, "Yes, but these healed burns are very deep; you should get x-rays and have an orthopedic specialist look at them. You probably have some tendon damage that will make your fingers stiff."
"Okay," Doug announced, "let's get this shit out of my house and off the island. Get it dressed and out of my sight. Billie's chopper is standing by whenever you're ready," he advised David and Noah.
Allen couldn't believe his ears or believe his eyes when his stuffed backpack appeared. The watch collection had been hurriedly dumped on his folded clothing that didn't look like it had been disturbed except for a pair of shorts and a pullover shirt he was forced to put on himself despite the pain in his hands. The rich assholes were going to let him go, apparently, if they were going to dump him in the ocean they wouldn't have bothered with clothing. Best of all, he guessed, no one bothered to look under the clothes after they discovered the watches; below a chunk of crudely shaped cardboard where his earlier acquisitions were hidden.
There were some chains, bracelets, rings and a few hundred dollars, along with credit cards and a collection of driver's licenses. The credit cards, he was sure, had all been canceled and the licenses were mostly useless except as trophies; the only reason he kept them. He was actually hoping to find one from all forty-eight states or however many states there were at the moment. One of the goons carried his backpack after it had been zipped closed while the other one held his upper arm in a vice-like grip. Allen had no plans to go anywhere; the pain in his hands was unremitting and held his full attention.
The flight to Ft. Lauderdale was quiet; Allen was ignored, so he forced one hand open to really look at his wounds for the first time. He was just as amazed as the rich assholes were. He could actually make out where the individual links burned into his flesh and left behind a sparkling gold residue; if only the burns would stop hurting.
Allen was presented with his pack as the chopper touched down. The stupid goons even helped him put it on after asking twice if it was his. Before they opened the hatch they even solicitously cinched the straps up tight so one wouldn't slip off a shoulder since his hands remained all but useless.
It took Allen a moment standing on the black, sun heated tarmac before the burning pain in his feet exceeded the pain in his hands because he wasn't wearing shoes or flip flops; they remained somewhere near the bottom of his backpack! He turned to re-enter the chopper but one of the goons slammed the door and laughed in his face to leave him standing there in the afternoon sun doing an ever faster, violent hopping dance.
A uniformed Ft. Lauderdale police officer appeared from the back of one of the new helicopters where he had been enjoying the shade. That potbellied asshole walked over to view the disturbance before greeting the two fucking goons with handshakes. "What seems to be your problem, boy?" the officer asked after greeting the goons and conjecturing about the state of the ever changing south Florida weather.
"These two motherfuckin' goons won't let me put on my shoes! My feet are burning up!" Allen accused while he continued his dance.
The cop looked quizzical, "You guys got this boy's shoes?" he asked David and Noah.
"No Sir," David assured, "this boy climbed on this chopper dressed exactly as you see him dressed; if he's got shoes, they're in his pack. We were asked to escort him here because someone alleged that he had sticky fingers on Dagger Cay, which is frowned on almost everywhere. He was found with a few watches that he couldn't explain, so here he his."
The officer frowned at Allen, "Boy, yo' getting on my nerves, sit your ass down, dig out your shoes and put 'em on," he ordered.
Allen sat but couldn't release the chinches so the officer helped. Then he attempted to fish his shoes out with an injured hand. When this proved unsuccessful, the officer grabbed the open pack and dumped it on the paving. A pair of flip flops landed on top the pile – almost, they were somewhat hidden by a collection of loose bills, credit cards and way too many driver's licenses for any one person to own. A man's flat wedding band hit the paving on its edge and attempted to flee by rolling erratically away but agile Noah tracked it down with a quick stomp.
"My, my, what have we here?" the officer asked as he stirred the mess with his toe. "What are you boy, one of them new free enterprise, entrepreneurs we hear about now and again; you know, steal from the rich an' spend it as fast as you can before the cards get canceled when your trick sobers up." He frowned down on Allen suddenly; "Well?" he asked and nudged him with his shoe.
"Well what?" Allen returned sullenly.
"Well you was cryin' about shoes, get them flip flops on, and put all that shit back in your bag. Some might be evidence of some sort of alleged crimes. We got to go, by the time we get you booked it'll be time for your supper where y'all can meet some older guys you sort of favor accordin' to these picture ID's. One of 'em will have you callin' 'em Uncle Bubba by mornin' I expect. You like baloney sandwiches?"
When it became apparent that Allen planned to be slow, David and Noah helped and soon had him standing again, with flip flops separating his feet from the hot tarmac. The officer admired Allen's new gold embossed tattoos as he locked on the handcuffs and even complimented the unknown tat artist for having accomplished such advanced work. Although he did think the location; on Allen's palms and fingers, was inappropriate for proper display.
The few boys and Freckles knew when the dolphin pod entered the lagoon as the moon rose over the pinchers. This time though, the entire pod raced across the lagoon directly to the open stern deck. Usually, most of the pod, females with youngsters and others as their guards were more reticent and waited for the four mind-speakers to bring their swimmer friends to them for greetings and play. Even the few newborn chattered as they broached more frequently with their mothers and swam at a slower speed accompanied by younger male and female guards.
Doug and Tommy slipped into the water just before Freckles. Freckles paused to send instructions to Bani, Charlie, Kad and Sidi before he joined the two recognized 'Swimmers'. "Where are you guys going?" Buck asked as the boys started to run back into the boat deck.
Bani giggled, "Freckles wants some of his personal luggage delivered to the stern. Come with us, you can help."
"Personal luggage," Buck wondered, "where'd he get personal luggage?"
"It is your fault," Bani replied, "you have been teaching him to speak American, so now his stonewood boxes are his personal luggage."
"Oh yeah," Buck remembered, "When we came ashore he wanted to know what the red gym bag was that Doug was carrying, so I told him." He frowned, "But everything is packed in stonewood boxes and they all look alike; how will we find the ones he wants?"
It was Kad's turn to giggle, "We all look alike, is what the crew thinks about these brave warriors! Freckles' boxes are marked as differently." He sent Buck the image of a box lid carved with the likeness of a glaring Cat and added, "The boxes are in main deck, stateroom twelve."
The boys had no difficulty finding the two boxes Freckles requested because both were glowing; one so brightly it appeared to be transparent, while its companion less so, more like translucent. Even the Cat warriors had fun 'willing' the agreeable stonewood boxes to open and close on command and all of them sucked in their breaths as they viewed the contents.
The brightest glowing box contained emerald communicators in two sizes, one Cat size and the more numerous human size. The second box was almost full of gold chain, once again in two sizes; Cat and human but it was all jumbled together and amazingly, all of it was writhing like a mass of worms or small snakes that were eager to escape as chain ends in two sizes drooped over the box lip ready for easy removal. "Get back in there," Bani ordered imperiously. He was experimenting with willing inanimate objects to perform as desired by humans and was gratified to see the chain ends retreat back into the mass in response.
"Damn, you're good Bani," Buck congratulated. He asked, "Now that we found them how do we move them to the stern deck? That much gold must weigh more than we can carry, even for you two very brave warriors," he mocked Kad and Sidi's continued modesty when describing themselves.
Sidi looked down his nose at Buck, "Humans!" he declared imitating Freckles. "We will this luggage to be lighter!" He switched to imitating Gregor with his Imperial Russian accent, "You will lighten up, you motherfucking boxes!" He pointed dramatically.
"I can't imagine a Czar giving such an order using exactly those words," Buck laughed until both boxes drifted up to within easy reach of Sidi's hand. "Well, all righty then, I'm convinced, let's get these to the stern to see how Freckles plans to give them to the dolphin, since they don't have necks. Can they can even use them if they could wear them?"
As Doug, Tommy and Freckles entered the water, all three were instantly surrounded by intense greenish auras of light that emanated from their emeralds. These acted as homing beacons for the dolphin to zero in on and soon as many as twenty adults were circling the two boys and the Great Cat. Rocket and Comet greeted their respective best human friends with sensuous nose gooses and full body rubs before they broke away to glide toward Freckles, who was floating close by.
Freckles loved the buoyancy saltwater offered in addition to the support the millions of air bubbles trapped in his thick fur offered continually. In saltwater, his body floated higher so his back ridge was constantly above water and he floated without paddling using his tail for propulsion if it wasn't otherwise occupied as a periscope. Of course if he chose to dive and/or walk around on the bottom he willed it to be so, salt or air bubbles notwithstanding. He was a young Great Cat, still exploring the limits of his extraordinary powers.
Freckles greeted both Rocket and Comet in turn by rubbing nose to beaks and embarked on a conversation using pictographs which the boys weren't privy to after the initial images. Doug did note that to Rocket, Freckles was 'Tooth'. Although the boys thought that the interspecies conversation involved the possible use of communicators since Freckles lifted his head several times so the dolphin could nuzzle and gently 'taste' his emerald. By then the two requested stonewood boxes had been levitated to the edge of the stern deck. The boys made it a point to dramatize the weight and degree of difficulty by wiping their brows several times.
Freckles saw them coming or 'heard' their laughter and broad beamed, "All but Bucky Boy should keep their day jobs." Even the dolphin tittered at that comment. Buck, the consummate actor, bowed his thanks for the compliment while the others sent Buck mental and actual middle fingers and shrugs – they tried, they would find a better acting coach.
The boxes popped open as Freckles approached with the two dolphins. The end of the heaviest chain once again rose from the mass, bent at the end and appeared to look around imitating Freckles tail. It looked at Bani, crouched beside the box. "You could help you know," the chain seemed to say and when Bani reached for the chain, it reared back like a cobra to strike at his hand. Freckles' snicker betrayed his influence while Bani shook his fist at Freckles' nose.
A third of Rocket's sleek body emerged from the water to rest on the diamond plate deck, holding his body there with his tail as Doug sent reassurances of safety although he had no idea what Freckles planned. The chain seemed to have a mind of its own as it slinked from the box, around Rocket's body just behind his eyes and then proceeded around Rocket's dorsal fin before returning to the loop around the body. There was a flash as the chain joined into two loops; one around the upright fin which kept the second loop around the body from sliding off. The severed chain end dropped into the water briefly before retreating back into the box with only the end still animated as it peeked over the box lip.
"Now what, how does the stone join the chain under his, ah, chin?" Bani asked already holding one of the large emeralds that was barely pulsing.
Freckles blinked and blinked a second time before Rocket's body lifted from the deck so his tail slapped water uselessly, "Put the gem near the chain. It will find its way." Freckles 'voice' instructed that seemed to be strained.
"Help him guys," Bani in turn ordered Sidi and Kad. Those brave warriors closed their eyes and poor surprised Rocket rose even higher. Bani held the stone near the chin area. There was another intense flash when the stone attached itself to the chain and immediately began to glow brightly, perhaps happy to find an owner after unknown millennia of languishing in a stonewood box.
"Now we toss him backward together," Freckles advised.
"Toss, what means toss?" a squeaky voice asked in mind-speak, just before Rocket rocketed backward tail first out over the water before he was released, so he could tip his body to dive cleanly among his gathered fellows. A green glow was seen returning to the deck at torpedo speed, "Again?" he asked as he broached to place his nose on the edge of the deck to eye Freckles expectantly.
"Later," Freckles declined but suggested an alternative activity confidentially after reviewing Rocket's pleasurable thoughts.
"Swimmer Doug, BREED!" Rocket agreed to one and all who could receive mind-speak on Dagger Cay and possibly as far away as Nassau.
"Can't you tell him to turn it down?" Doug bitched at Freckles, although he already floated on his back, ready the receive Rocket's body to assume the accepted position. Modest Rocket whisked Doug away from the mob, out into the lagoon where they could be tracked just by watching the two combined intense green glows that moved slowly and sporadically after they joined.
Comet showed no hesitation as he all but leaped totally on the deck while Tommy watched intently from the water. The process went much faster since the boys knew what to do to assist Freckles and Tommy had to swim furiously to the anticipated landing point so Comet wouldn't have to swim to find him.
In the end, all the adult males and three females, including Momma left the stern deck wearing emerald communicators, and when Freckles looked around, he found the deck devoid of helpers as one by one individual males selected a boy to breed or couple with as Freckles persisted in explaining repeatedly to no avail. He consoled his lack of success with the fact that he screened the word, fuck, at least until the Sea People learned some degree of controlling their thoughts. Even then the experienced boy/dolphin pairs were giving graphic coupling lessons including real time images to the three eager and willing Cat warriors that would have caused even Freckles to blush if that were possible.
Freckles attention rose to over the pinchers as a pinprick of white light resolved itself into the intense white of a jet's landing lights that were fast approaching the island. The jet circled, the usual practice to be sure the runway lights were on and the way was clear for a safe landing. Unusually, it circled lower a second time while banking severely to tip the port windows for a better view of the lagoon. Will and Joe were on board and were fascinated with the possible source of the green lights in the water that moved about haphazardly.
Freckles sent a tendril of questioning thought skyward to see what humans might be in the flying machine. "Master of Machines Will and Great Warrior Joe, welcome! Did you bring my identification? Am I now Freckles Katz officially?" Freckles asked with excitement in his mental query. He'd already met Will on the monitor and a quick peek into Joe's mind identified him as a warrior with many kills and the fact they were bonded warrior mates was already known.
"Freckles, is that you? It's the same accent. Where are you and how are we kind of talking?" Will returned tentatively, "What are the bright green lights we see in the lagoon?" he answered with questions of his own. He added with a mental smile, "Yes, you are now officially Freckles Katz."
"The lights are the Sea People coupling with warriors. We will welcome you in the hut of Doug. I will send transport, Spock out!"
"Spock?" Will wondered as the Challenger gained altitude and circled properly a final time in preparation for landing.
Freckles roused all mind-speakers with a general summons to meet at Doug's hut after first transporting arriving warriors from the flying machine's resting place. With that call he started a flurry of activity. The newest mind-speakers; Kurt, Kevin, Mark and Kyle interrupted their frenetic experiments with the blue mayo called Stuff that Charlie doled out in minute quantities, to scramble all drivers with their fleet of carts. They expected to welcome a flood of new cadets that were arriving by air, not by boat for the first time although it was also the first time that none of them had been involved in identifying and approaching potential new candidates on the streets of a target city. The first thought Family members had was that there was another invasion in progress although all of them heard the screaming jet circling. Lights went on in cottages, and the old hotel and Sea Song lit up like a proverbial Christmas tree when Gregor activated the general alarm from bed after Meesha roused him from 'resting' his eyes with a hearty poke in the ribs.
By the time the dolphins hurriedly delivered their Swimmers back to the stern deck, Freckles was ensconced on the bow of the nearest tethered tender and the boat deck crew were struggling to pull in the very bow heavy boat and two others in the string against the breeze. "Freckles get your big furry butt off there so these guys can pull in that boat." Bani ordered and added, "You know to speed things up you could actually assist, ADMIRAL." That last was said somewhat sarcastically.
Freckles leaped back to the deck, bulldozed the sailors out of the way, wrapped his tail around the line several times and ran up the deck until the first tenders' bow crashed into the upper edge of what would normally be the stern when closed. When he felt resistance, he extended his claws for better purchase on the steel deck to run in place until Bani shouted for him to stop.
"Utoh," Bani intoned in the silence, "I do not think Big Bad Boy Sea Song boat will appreciate the damage his Great Cat friend did to his metal skin. Would you mind telling us what was so important that you interrupted coupling lessons with the Sea People?" He looked around to see a number of bobbing dolphin heads and accompanying green glows. "You might explain it to the Sea People too," he added.
Freckles inspected the edge for damage with his tail before looking around the nearby water. Once again the boys couldn't 'hear' what he told them, but one by one the green glows winked out and the pod disappeared in the direction of the pinchers and once again, he assumed his position on the tender's bow after the pilot started the engine. "HURRY!" Freckles encouraged as his tail slashed the air violently.
"What is the emergency, what is so important that we interrupt coupling and for you to send the Sea People away and what did you tell them that would cause such haste?" Bani insisted as he, Kad and Sidi jumped aboard after they made sure the darts in their blowguns were properly seated and others were ready in their hastily donned belt pouches.
"We are now citizens of Venezuela, students with permissions called visas to gain much knowledge at school. You are now Bani Escobar, brother of Juan Carlos," he looked down on Kad and Sidi, "And you two are the brothers Katz and I am Great Cat Freckles Katz a distant cousin. Master of Machines Will brought our passports and other identifications. We must hurry to greet him and view all these legalities! I advised the Sea People that a great fleet of food fish was passing by and they could use their communicators to scare the food into a tight tasty mass."
Doug scrunched up his face, "And you broke up our orgy for that? Didn't it occur to you that you would be just as legal tomorrow morning? Freckles, if I was as big as you, I had teeth and claws like you, I swear the fur would fly and the fur wouldn't be mine because I don't have any!" He declared petulantly with a shake of his fist. Buck was laughing so hard, he had to use Doug's shoulder to hold himself up, as they motored to the dock.
The Challenger rolled to a stop beside Evan's 747 and was literally surrounded with headlights as the engines died. Kevin had been appointed driver of the new twelve passenger guest cart so he pulled it as close the jets' hatch that dropped down to be steps as he could get. Will greeted the nervous boy with a hand shake and asked why half the school showed up to greet two passengers.
Kevin shrugged helplessly, "Maybe we misunderstood. Us Cottage Commanders are new to this mind-speak business," he waved his emerald under Will's nose, "and we were busy trying out Stuff, when we got a brain call from Freckles the big cat, to meet this jet, so here we are. He didn't say how many passengers and we didn't want to risk pissing off the Godfather if he was aboard, so we sort of rolled out everything. On a brighter note, you got a big choice of rides."
Kurt, Mark and Kyle followed Kevin's big cart after dismissing the other drivers. They had been given priceless gems because they could sort of talk to the Family with their minds and wondered what other benefits could be derived from the new relationship although the use of Stuff was a very good start. At the newly christened 'Hut of Doug', or the old hotel, they parked their carts and followed Will and Joe inside. They assumed that if their presence wasn't wanted, they would be asked to leave. That never happened and they were even served potent rum punch cocktails with all the other guys. The servers were waiters at that time of night and when Doug questioned Ace, he found that the Hut of Doug remained a fully functional four star hotel that was always staffed twenty-four/seven.
If Freckles realized that he'd been a bit over zealous in awakening both islands and Sea Song needlessly, he didn't let on. He did rock his ears back when he overheard Bani questioning Buck about the cost of building a solitary mountain that was high enough to remain snow and ice capped year-round. His primary interest was in seeing his identification.
He greeted Will and Joe formally and then informally by lifting them off their feet to give hugs and abrasive licks of affection, of course using his tail to do the lifting. The boys noticed he lifted them by wrapping their bodies, not their necks or a more sensitive place that was frequently threatened if he received complaints about convenient handles. After greetings, he assisted Will in opening his briefcase. Will blinked when he saw that Freckles wasn't troubled with intricate electronic locks that only his thumb print in a hidden place could open.
Freckles wasn't interested in any documents that didn't include his photograph so he made the rounds to show everyone his passport. Then what to do with the passport to keep it safe arose. He eyed Will's case and then Will hopefully, but Will shook his head, no. Doug snapped his fingers and ran upstairs to the unused vault and returned with four of the seemingly ubiquitous but costly titanium cases, one for each of the official Venezuelan exchange students.
Freckles was delighted with his first piece of American, human luggage; something that he could actually carry himself, far better than trash bags no matter how much they could expand without breaking if the advertising was correct. He first adjusted the locks of all four cases, cleaned out Will's case without touching anything, snapped them closed and locked them before he presented Bani, Kad and Sidi each with a case that contained their identification.
Freckles' new 'cousins' were not as happy with their cases as he was with his. They wanted their hands free and really accepted them as useful after they were told they were useful to keep important papers and other valuable things and carrying them at all times was unnecessary. Freckles was more delighted when Evan, who bought the manufacturer, assured him that they sold a number of larger sizes, and some were even equipped with wheels. These cases would be ideal to carry around larger quantities of pocket currency and pin change.
Freckles started Snoopy with a blink at the big dark screen over the fireplace and invited Will and Joe to join him and his new case on 'his' sofa so they could view the warriors' latest adventure as seen from Snoopy's view, enhanced by a Great Cat. He stopped the show suddenly after looking at Will and Joe in turn. Kad and Sidi immediately rummaged in their pouches to provide the two warriors with communicators before Freckles continued the annotated show featuring a certain Great Cat whenever possible although Kad, Bani and Sidi's parts were also featured.
"CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?" Freckles roared in their minds.
"YES, AND DO NOT DO THAT AGAIN!" Will and Joe roared back instantly in unison while holding their heads.
Doog and his tender, the shrimp boat, arrived unheralded at dawn the next morning and Freckles with Kad and Sidi in tow were on the dock to greet them. Rather, Kad and Sidi waited on the dock until Doog was secured, but Freckles felt free to leap to the deck as soon as the sub was within leaping range while he held his case aloft with his tail. Like the other members of Doog's crew the two sailors on deck holding dock lines, knew of the Great Cats and had seen their images on Snoopy but to actually come eyeball to eyeball with one unexpectedly was another matter entirely. Freckles gave each a cursory glance before plunging through the open hatch to disappear below.
Freckles already knew that there were mind-speakers aboard and they needed communicators at the earliest opportunity. He passed Kurt after a mental feeler while he sat at the conning tower controls and met Paulo and Pablo, the twins and Saul and David, the Israeli Seal team, as they were about to climb to the deck from the salon, happy to get back on land, also at the earliest opportunity. But that was not to be – just yet. The four backed up as Freckles advanced until they stood with their backs to the salon control station; there was no place else to go.
"Kad, Sidi, brave warriors! Where are you?" Freckles wailed when he discovered his assistants missing.
"We are brave warriors," Sidi answered, "but we cannot leap as far as you. This sinking boat must come closer to the dock," he expanded.
"No problem," Freckles returned, "this Great Cat will assist!"
"NOOOO!" the two brave warriors screamed together out loud and by mind-speak as two distinct clunks were heard on Doog, accompanied by what was assumed to be cursing in an impossible language.
When Freckles turned back to the four warriors he had trapped he saw tentative smiles. "Ah, you do understand somewhat," he said clearly in English. "I am Great Cat Freckles Katz," he added to introduce himself. While Pablo translated that to Hebrew, Freckles placed his new case on a settee and willed it to open. He produced his passport opened to his photo and waved it in front of the dumbfounded foursome. "This language barrier will go away as soon as you have communicators. Mind-speak is a universal language," he advised as Kad and Sidi joined them while glowering at Freckles and limping dramatically. "I say again; keep your day jobs," he advised and snickered.
Mind-speakers, new and old knew where Freckles was and what he was doing when they heard; "CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?" They also heard unscreened answers in multiple human languages as well as mind-speak that were most uncomplimentary as Kad and Sidi laughed their asses off and quickly added the new words to their growing vocabularies. Gregor would be proud of them.
Freckles trotted along beside the big guest cart as it motored sedately along the path to the Hut of Doug, (a name that caught on instantly since the ultra-modern/Spanish-Moorish influenced architecture, in no way matched the perceived image of a thatched roof dwelling), when Sea Song's horns let out a mighty blast unexpectedly. Freckles went into a defensive mode instantly that even Kad and Sidi hadn't seen before.
Freckles hackles rose to almost double the size of his neck and the front half of his body. His tail lashed around and his precious identification case flew over the tallest palm trees toward the beach as his tail tip sought the source of the emergency. His thigh and hind leg muscles swelled and bunched and his deadly claws extended until he appeared to be standing on them instead of his thick paw pads and his whole body twitched and quivered with barely restrained energy.
Kad and Sidi had been sitting by Kevin the proud driver and were intent on watching his every move since he'd promised to teach them how to drive one of the motorized carts. Not the cart they were riding in; his personal ride, which he'd explained was faster after he'd removed something he referred to as the annoying governor. The two Cat warriors had been assured that this island or cay (defined for them as land surrounded by water) was completely safe so they, like everyone else were unarmed except they did have their blowguns and knives. They knew Bani was coupling with someone in the Hut of Doug so they aligned their bodies with Freckles'; facing the back path from the dock, the most likely source of danger since the warning came from Sea Song boat. Both held their blowguns to their lips and their knives in the other hand.
That was about the time that the double doors belched laughing, cheering Family members with Bani among them. The mob flowed around them and the guest cart on the way to the dock. The group from Doog joined them and Kevin abandoned the cart when Kurt, Mark and Kyle motioned for him to join them since all four had been invited to join the Family for an evening ending 'jammie' party where pajamas were specifically prohibited and they weren't about to jeopardize the new relationship.
Pettie brought up the rear of the pack and slowed to ask, "What in tarnation are you three dudes doin'?" Before the three could think up a plausible answer, he advised, "Oasis, Medi's new boat is outside an' wants in! We got us a convoy! Come on, this time I'm fixin' to go directly to the armory an' get to the cannon ammo first an' y'all can help."
If looks could kill, there would be one dead Great Cat. Kad and Sidi ran off to catch up to the mob and Bani. Freckles restored his body to normal by shaking several times. He went into high gear to release the pent up energy through his legs so by the time he overtook the mob he resembled the hood ornament of a once popular British sports car and by the time the gang ran out on the dock to the waiting tenders, he was ensconced on a tenders' bow and exhorting everyone else to hurry.
Kad waited until just before their transport reached Sea Song's stern before he whispered to Sidi; "I wonder where Great Cat Freckles Katz's identification case flew off to?"
Sidi answered, again in a whisper, "I have no knowledge of that, but he won't be allowed in America to become a student without it."
They watched Freckles closely and saw that he heard the exchange when his ears flattened and his tail lifted to study the lagoon shore, cottage by cottage. The human 'distant cousins' weren't done twisting their physiological knife. Kad asked Evan if the metal cases would float. Freckles' tail immediately switched from the shore to quartering the lagoon as Evan giggled and assured the warriors that they were sought after because they were indeed waterproof even after being dropped from airplanes at high altitudes while packed with unknown valuable merchandise.
Freckles hesitated with a last tail glance around the lagoon before he leaped into the boat deck proper and had disappeared into the ship before the first human foot touched the stern deck. The gang thought they would find him sitting on the padded box, but when he wasn't there, they rushed forward to look down on the bow. But he wasn't there either.
Suddenly there was a deep voiced plaintive cry for help from far above the fly bridge. Freckles had somehow negotiated the ladders up to the cramped lookout station that was normally only manned when Sea Song is arriving, departing or operating in confined spaces such as the pinchers and narrow cut through the reef. Freckles had managed to join the lookout only by standing on his hind legs, balanced there by placing his forepaws on the well-padded railing with the lookout trapped between the rail, Freckles furry chest and his front legs. Kad and Sidi quickly explained the Great Cat's problem between gales of laughter, which Freckles tried to ignore, he was so intent on finding the missing case, he even rested his chin on the poor sailor's head as a point of reference. Everyone, including Tommy and Spencer, was so intent on watching Freckles that Pettie and Scott weren't missed and no one noticed as Kad and Sidi disappeared from the fly bridge either.
"Freckles, you silly Cat," Bani called, "come down from there at once and allow that water warrior to do his work! You are endangering this Big Bad Boy Sea Song boat and all aboard, including the one you are charged with protecting; this brave warrior! We promise no one will leave here until we recover your identification case," Bani couldn't resist laughing before he continued, "Although all these warriors are wondering how such a smart Cat came to misplace something of such great value."
In returning to the fly bridge, Freckles revealed a Great Cat and perhaps a Cat warrior secret; how they managed to seemingly flow through impenetrable, impassible natural barriers such as the river mangroves and trails that only they could see. In this case, when descending the ladders his body appeared to lengthen and he 'flowed' down the steep steps unerringly, much like a snake can disappear in grass without moving the individual stalks or leaf blades.
The two yacht reunion was uneventful except for Sea Song's new driver, Hugo and Kevin, Oasis' new skipper even though all he did was watch Pavlov intently and sweated for both of them while mad Pav laughed and commented on Nigel's unusual color. Sea Song's cannon began firing rounds as soon as he passed safely through the cut and smoke inundating the fly bridge between bangs wasn't a problem.
Evan looked down on the bow and frowned, "Shit, it looks like Pettie and his band of gunners dragged up every case of ammo to fire this time. They don't understand how expensive those fucking rounds are," he groused.
Doug grinned ruefully, "You should complain; you know the lobster we had for lunch yesterday was Maine lobster?"
"So, the meat is firmer and there's claw meat," Evan answered, "I like it better than the ones we get around here."
"But, we happen to be in the middle of spiny lobster country and I get to pay for importing northern lobster. Then there's the fruit, where do they find those big black cherries we feed the bird brains at the end of November?"
Evan grinned, "Greenhouses maybe?" When he saw Doug's frown deepen, he began to laugh, "Maybe I shouldn't complain about buying ammo when you have a mob to feed whether we're here or not. I look at it this way; Grandfather's enemies, now all dead guys, are actually paying our bills and they funded this school and the new university that your father is building for Bucky. I'm sure if they knew, they'd be very proud." The boy's joint laugher ended the conversation.
The Family was still aboard Sea Song when Oasis approached another mooring buoy. Buck frowned just after Doug as they watched the crew secure Oasis. "I don't remember seeing that permanent mooring before; I wonder why they installed that?" Doug asked no one in particular.
"Here we go again," Buck thought as he scrambled to think up an answer. "I think they installed that so loaded construction barges could be safely tied up without worrying about anchors and them fucking up the lagoon bottom," he suggested and held his breath while he waited for Doug to consider his answer. Buck had the mooring installed for the new catamaran to be delivered Christmas Eve. Now he would have to have another one installed since Oasis had joined Sea Song. Doug was entirely too fucking observant. Buck was pleased to think that once they left Dagger Cay that afternoon; they wouldn't be back until Christmas.
The problem of departing that afternoon arose when virtually the entire island population combined with Family, couldn't find Freckles' case and while his identification wasn't actually necessary to enter the U.S., it certainly was to Freckles and he wasn't about to budge from the island until it was found. The mob fanned out from the point where he tossed the case and walked toward the cottages and to the beach. They back tracked and tried again. They broadened the search toward the dock and inland as far as the runway. They searched the cottages. Bani, Kad and Sidi with Freckles following after a hard warning stare at Evan, entered the lagoon to walk the bottom in the event that the case had indeed been thrown as far as the water and it wasn't as waterproof as advertised, all with no luck much to Evan's relief.
As a last gasp, Curt with the cottage commanders began to question the Cadets as they emerged from classes. Old habits die hard; It was possible that a Cadet with residual slightly sticky fingers, found the case and hid it somewhere until it could be pried open or the locks picked, however unlikely.
Freckles scanned students' minds before they were questioned and already knew that those interviewed were blameless. One boy returned with a red face since he was talking to Captain Curt. "Ah, I just remembered something about this morning, three friends and me were kind of late for classes. We were making out before we left and right in the middle of things, ah, you know; there was a clunk on the roof. I thought it was just one of them clumsy birds that can't seem to light anywhere without crashing…"
"Which roof?" Freckles asked quickly with excitement clear in his artificial, amplified voice. He was on the roof as the boy began to point. It was obvious that the case was not on the near slope but there were three more with two opposing fireplace chimneys. He disappeared below the roof peak except for his tail, which he held erect. The tail disappeared briefly at the far chimney and reappeared almost instantly waving the lost case.
Freckles jumped back down, presented the case to Bani and instructed him, Kad and Sidi to guard it with their lives, before he pulled Charlie along to the helpful boy with silent orders. "Give this student a large jar of paste as a reward after I greet and thank him properly. Also give him some knowledge of its use."
After that, he almost pounced on the boy to greet him formally, complete with a forehead touch, several nose bumps and a direct stare. The boy thought he was being sized up for dinner and when he tried to back away, he found a tail wrapped around his neck as a ritual grooming began. Freckles was so pleased with the boy's help, he extended his licking and lapping down the teen's body. He found the boy very ticklish as well as extremely well hung when he got down that far.
"Freckles, enough," Bani barked, "this brave student does not know our ways and you cause him much embarrassment!"
The Great Cat agreed when he noted that the boy had turned red and that he was panting. He looked at Charlie who was holding a big plastic prescription medicine container provided by Miss Jessie. The container appeared to be painted blue for some reason. When Freckles saw Charlie had plans to do more than tell the lucky student about the benefits of Stuff, he pulled Charlie back and motioned Kurt, Kevin, Mark and Kyle forward while the boy once freed from the clutching tail backed away, he wanted nothing to do with drugs. He changed his mind after Kyle had him sniff the open bottle just once and actually raced the four Cottage Commanders into his cottage.
"Freckles," Charlie whined.
"There is no time; we must go to America to become students!" Freckles shouted and ran off after snatching his case from Bani's arms.
"NOW he's in a hurry," Charlie grumped.
Of course Freckles led the cart parade to the waiting jets, but he by-passed the Challenger and ran straight up the steps into Evan's 747 and had found his way up into the cockpit by the time the others got into the plane's salon.
"Now what," Evan wondered as he looked up the stairway to see where Freckles had gone.
"I suspect he is inspecting the computers and other electronics for safety before he will allow Bani to fly," Edvard suggested.
"Do you think he's going to make any changes?" Evan asked with a frown.
Edvard shrugged, "He did quite well working with Sea Song."
"But not so well with my phone," John interjected with a huge grin.
Evan's grin matched John's as he speed dialed and switched to speaker. Everyone fell silent, listening. They barely heard the rooster from the planes' cockpit but Freckles' voice was loud and clear on Evan's phone, "This is Great Cat Freckles Katz, good afternoon Evan."
"Say Freckles, I'm glad you nabbed John's caller ID too. Is everything okay? We need to take off and can't go anywhere until you get your furry butt off this plane."
"Thank you for calling. Everything is A-Okay on this Big Bird, except these sky warriors are very excitable. Is nabbed a word like appropriated?" Freckles asked suddenly.
John shouted an answer to that question from across the salon; "It sure is, just like filched, or snitched!"
Freckles snickered, "You certainly hold a grudge for a great length of time, Love."
Everyone but John started laughing, John thought because of Freckles' retort, but he found that Freckles was directly behind him when the Cat pounced on him, carried him to the deck and began to groom his face with some degree of Great Cat passion. Freckles moved on to Bani, Kad and Sidi to give them equal attention along with motherly cautions and asking if the warriors had everything; like luggage, identification, cloth coverings and ample pocket currency all as if they would be parted for a great length of time, until Evan reminded him that they would only be separated for a few hours. With that reminder, Freckles bounded off the 747, newly named 'Big Bird', toward the smaller plane he advised them was named 'Kermit', while holding his identification case high.
"I wonder when or where he started watching Sesame Street, and what is going to be named Miss Piggy?" Evan asked no one in particular.
Pettie giggled, "I'm not sure when, but the where was on Sea Song." Evan looked perplexed, "You do know that one of them domes up on the mast receives TV signals from most every station around the world? I understand there's two Miss Piggy's; Doug's two new choppers."
That was news to Evan; "Grandfather always watched what I guess you could call original reality, local programing, Gregor and Meesha were the stars mostly," he blushed, "but I may have been in a show or two myself. I didn't know about the receiver." Evan shook his head and ordered; "Close the hatch and get the steps out of here before IT thinks of something else and comes back."
"How rude!" Freckles sent from Kermit instantly into everyone's mind accompanied by a Great Cat snicker.
Hey guys, friend Emoe my Editor-In-Chief, has come out of hiding to help me improve my scribbles by temporarily turning them red in places, which makes for a superior read, even for me. THANK YOU EMOE!