Noah and David returned to Trenton Hall with Edvard following as everyone was finishing dinner. They had entered the house from the garden, which meant that the snowplow equipped Hummers were parked in the garage. By then there was six inches of snow on the ground already and Buck and Doug were ready to begin plowing while accompanied by as many backseat drivers, the other boys that could be fitted or jammed in their trucks. Bucky was just as excited as all the boys and was about to lead the boys from the dining room, upstairs to share out whatever winter outerwear the residents had on hand.
"Wait," Freckles commanded, after lifting his head from his second bowl of wine, "before cloth coverings; cover your bodies with paste…"
"Stuff, goddamn it," Charlie snapped. He saw Victoria frown, "I'm sorry Victoria but these jungle types are really hard learners." He looked at the three 'jungle types' just mentioned, and waited for their initial assault. He forgot about the fourth 'jungle type' who was frowning at him while having Peter wipe off his pink tinged whiskers.
"Cut the shit Charlie," Buck warned silently, "now is not the time to start a rough and tumble." Aloud, he agreed, "Yeah Dad, if we wear a coating of Stuff, we could actually go outside naked. Doug and I already tried it and we didn't feel the cold at all; we just kind of glowed blue all over." No one noticed that Peter and Edvard had both turned red, but at least Buck didn't mention their participation in the earlier test. "We can wear raingear over our clothes to keep dry, until we get into the garage, and then we won't even need that. We'll all be more comfortable inside the trucks." He decided to see if his parents had experimented with his father's supply of Stuff, "Come on Dad, we can go up to the apartment and get each other painted blue."
"You certainly will not," Victoria intervened, "I will coat your father and he will meet you in the garage later," she promised. She took Bucky's arm and began to lead him from the room. Bucky developed a huge anticipatory grin and offered Buck a thumbs up behind his back as the snow emergency abated in his mind.
"Wait," David said, "I may have exceeded my authority, but I bought some snow blowers too."
Bucky turned Victoria, "How many is 'some'?" he asked.
Edvard spoke up, "That is why I am here, Evan sent me to buy snow removal equipment since unfortunately I have too much experience in that area. I met these guys at Tractor Supply. David and Noah bought all the larger models already."
"We bought two that are three feet wide, two are four feet and two that an operator rides on that will clear a six foot swath," Noah explained, "and a flatbed trailer to transport them," he added.
"The guys at Tractor Supply told us that snow blowers in the winter are like generators in the hurricane season, if there aren't any storms, the machines sit around until the next season, so they don't really stock up; they'd rather sell out," David concluded.
"Good," Bucky agreed, "ask the mechanics to get them ready to go," he suggested, and once again allowed his wife to steer him out of the room.
"But Evan's upset," Edvard pled to Buck, "He is willing to pay 500 thousand for one of the big ride on models. I can't go back empty handed."
Buck giggled, "Well, I guess today he's going to be both upset and disappointed. You may as well stay here until the daffodils start blooming; we'll sell him both machines then, two for one," he hesitated, "Or, just wait until we get this whole place cleared, we finish Wilcott's next door, then the Henderson's and then while we're in the neighborhood, we'll clear out Somerset Farm, before we move back here and start all over again," he suggested. "Come on upstairs guys, we'll get coated with Stuff, take a little break and then see what kind of foul weather gear we've got that will fit everyone."
On the way up to Buck and Doug's apartment, innocent Hayden whispered to Bani; "Why do we need to take a break before we plow any snow?"
"No explanations will be necessary after you experience Stuff for the first time," Bani promised cryptically as Freckles bounded past the group while holding laughing Charlie in the grip of his tail, clutching his ever present backpack that contained the all-important gallon mayo jar of Stuff although everyone had their own hoarded supply.
David, Noah, Pettie and Scott along with Will and Joe diverted into David and Noah's suite as the group of boys picked up speed in the hall. They planned to get 'showered' there properly, coat each other with Stuff and then take their own mini-break before rejoining the boys in and around the big boat bed.
By the time the boys entered the lounge, Freckles not only had the computer out and in operation; the screen was playing early scenes of Edvard and Peter's first meeting on Buck's boat bed with Freckles assisting in ways that never blocked the camera's view. Hayden and Justin's steps' slowed then stopped as their mouths dropped open. They remained stunned and apparently unaware of being hustled bodily into the bedroom by three little warriors who were becoming adept at removing their cloth coverings as they ran, including their jeans, after all, hopping on one leg was as easy as merely walking on two.
Charlie was already naked and waiting in the bedroom and the boys could hear the showers running in the big bathroom, which explained Freckles' whereabouts. Buck sent the others to the other showers in the suite to prevent overcrowding so the hallway was littered with clothes, except for jeans. Hopping wasn't as easy for humans as the Cat warriors made it look and within 15 minutes, everyone was back in the owners' bedroom to find Justin and Hayden with Peter and Edvard together as couples, glowing blue on the bed.
At first, Hayden and Justin renewed their interest in the popup TV at the foot of the bed until both realized that the guys on the screen were the same ones who had joined them on the bed. That fact eased neck and eye strain considerably plus a Great Cat tail encouraged tactile examination of the other couples' bodies which Peter and Edvard felt free to reciprocate based on their experiences, earlier, their first time, with Doug and Buck.
Those two worthies stood behind the bed and at first seemed content to direct traffic on the bed, which Freckles was happy to fulfill by using his tail to boom Charlie and the three warriors in, out and around the growing pile of blue-glowing bodies. Curiously, Charlie was left on his back while his partners changed. When he sent a mental question out, Bani was quick to reply; "This is for referring to us as 'jungle types'."
If the jungle types thought Charlie would protest, apologize or plea his case, they were very wrong, he merely grinned and called out, "Who's next?" Then he sent, "If a name caused this, I'll have to think up a bunch more; anyone got any suggestions?" He added, "Hey where's Pettie and Scott?"
Doug and Buck realized too late that they had yielded their space in the thick of things to guests, so together; they decided that they would occupy Patrick's former favorite space, across the foot of the bed. After asking Freckles to spread some pairs of legs to improve their views, they discovered why Patrick liked that space so much before they lost interest when Freckles turned his attention to them.
Two hours later, after slogging through the garden in at least a foot or more of snow, the boys decided the wisdom of buying snow blowers; no truck mounted plow would fit on Victoria's garden sidewalks or any other tight places such as the helipad. In the garage, the warriors wanted to operate the walk-behind blowers although they had no idea what would happen in dry blowing snow with the odd looking machines in operation. Charlie seemed to know but of course wasn't about to tell and after he discovered that yet another property of Stuff was continued warmth and comfort, he volunteered to take control of the fourth machine.
He saw at once that the chutes' direction and elevation could easily be changed by the operator, so he would have some advantage initially, and since dry snow couldn't be compacted into snowballs; a constant, unrelenting snow stream would work as well before the warriors figured out what they were or weren't doing to retaliate. Charlie didn't feel Freckles' very brief visit into his mind and was blocked from 'hearing' the transfer of his plans to the warriors as well as all other humans who could mind-speak since it was agreed that they would take turns driving or operating the assorted snow removal equipment as the night and following day wore on, the length of time, snow, not rain had finally been predicted by the National Weather Service.
It was agreed that David and Noah would take first turns on the two big four wheel drive self-propelled blowers and they were busy explaining the controls contained in the tiny glass enclosed, heated operators' cabin when Bucky finally appeared, all smiles and eager to start pushing or scooping snow with his massive frontend loader; the Mean Green Grading Machine.
Buck saw his father coming and turned into Doug's body so Bucky couldn't see him laughing while he mumbled, "That raincoat is one of Mom's, see how long it is, it's almost brushing the floor. I wonder what he's wearing under it; he's got it completely buttoned up." No one ever mentioned that Bucky was easily a head shorter than Victoria (or vice-versa) within his hearing that Buck could recall. Father and son were both naturally sensitive about how tall they weren't and Bucky was in a position and ready to do something about such a foolish verbal observation.
Bucky sent the equipment hither and yon over the entire property and then mentioned that he would clear the front of the house himself, "You can't Dad," Bucky reminded, "remember the last time you tried to drive under the portico, Mean Green doesn't fit. We were planning to back in there from both sides and push snow away."
Strangely, Bucky seemed to be at a loss to suggest an alternative plan, so he agreed with Buck, but was already talking to someone on his cellphone as he climbed the ladder to get into the cab of his machine, with difficulty since he was hampered by his too long, fully buttoned coat. He was going to rough clear the main drive while two boys cleared all around the house and garage. The blowers would clear the parking areas by lofting snow over the parked cars and then the helipad and hanger end of the building. Then everyone would move to clear the University roads and parking areas used by the construction crews, the pool residence staff and live-in residents.
To be helpful and involved, Will and Joe used a Suburban to tow the snow blower trailer so that equipment could be moved over cleared roads from the main property to the University and eventually to Wilcott's, the Henderson's and Somerset Farm.
Freckles seemed preoccupied as he boarded Peter's truck quietly. He could have revealed that Bucky was naked under Victoria's coat and that he planned to pick her up at the front of the house so they could continue what they started in their bedroom after both were coated with Stuff; both, completely, for the first time.
Freckles blinked to change individual GPS screens to real time views of their exact locations, minus the snow, and did the same type of thing to the individual blower operators; only limited their views to their minds. Of course Freckles kept Snoopy at a distance that only the control room operators saw and even prevented Evan and his Snoopy operators from preempting control, but did allow them to see where Snoopy was watching more and more intently, and much closer, until individual faces were clear, photographed and stored.
Gregor called Freckles via mind speak to advise him that the crewmen who were helping the security force unload and store artifacts reported that individuals in the human conveyor belt between the ship and the warehouse were taking more and more 'breaks' from the line for what seemed to be an infinite number of reasons. For example, one holding a particularly choice piece would suddenly have to take a leak and when the individual returned, the artifact had disappeared. This anomaly began with two guys and had grown to twelve. There was no problem with transferring the gold bars that were hand stacked on pallets and then transported by forklift into the warehouse. The reason soon became clear; whatever was stolen had to be light enough to throw over a six foot privacy fence between the building and the employee parking lot.
The entire complex perimeter was fenced with ten foot privacy fence to preclude truck drivers on the street, with the advantage of height, from peering in, and that had been topped with an additional two feet of razor wire to prevent climbers. Since no semis or box trucks could get into the employee lot, the secondary fence was lower. Of course there were conventional cameras everywhere but in the storm, they were worse than useless.
In early evening, after Gregor and Meesha reported their astounding arrival and docking, Freckles had a private conversation with his friend, Sea Song boat. After that discussion the main engines refused to shut down and joined the generators in sending additional power to all metal parts throughout the ship. First the superstructure warmed up and then all the steel decking under the teakwood deck, until it too grew warm enough to prevent the buildup of snow anywhere exposed to the elements.
After the ongoing theft problem was reported, Freckles sent Gregor up to the crow's nest after first coating his body with Stuff. He would use Gregor's eyes and mind as an adjunct or substitute for Snoopy from the highest point on the ship. Meesha coated Gregor first and after Gregor returned from the closest snow free weather deck wearing a huge grin and a rampant erection, Gregor coated Meesha so he could keep Gregor company in his lonely, lofty, but totally private perch so one pair of eyes would always be available to peer almost directly down through the snow to the busy dock area. Thanks to Freckles' long distance help somehow, the blowing snow had disappeared from their enhanced vision.
News of the thievery spread rapidly, Freckles advised the warriors first, then the other guys. The control room called Will and Joe and they appraised Bucky, who, after the plows had moved on, had just returned to the portico and picked up a passenger. Bucky and Victoria looked forward to a long erotic night in the toasty cabin of the Mean Green Grading Machine. Bucky was already 'plowing' while parked in front of the house, when he received the news from Will by cellphone. "Handle it," was his tierce reply, accompanied by a moan.
The three little warriors were ready to arm themselves and run to Port Newark on foot since all major roads and highways were clogged and impassible with rush hour traffic and blowing snow. That is, as soon as someone provided them with directions. The concept of theft or stealing was new to them and still was among the People at home. The fish stealers and the fat fiend were always thought of as enemies and there was only one way to deal with an enemy.
Bani opened a broad beam mind-speak discussion when no one would provide directions beyond information that it was somewhere east of Trenton Hall, this side of New York City with a human population of millions in that metropolitan area, "What is to be done?" he asked with desperation in his mental voice.
"This appears to be a spontaneous conspiracy," Will sent, "that could only happen at a time like this; under cover of extreme weather in the presence of so much loose treasure that is just too tempting. If it was a clear night or had all been photographed, cataloged and boxed as Harmon and Spencer suggested, this would not have happened."
Harmon agreed, "That would have been impossible on Sea Song. We planned to do all that now, after everything was in the warehouse and we could have taken our time. What I'd like to know is how these assholes are planning to get the stuff out of that snow drift and transported to somewhere safe. And where is safe?"
Freckles 'spoke' up, "The assholes just rested and there was very much whispering. Four more fiends laboring inside this storage hut have reported that they are too sick to continue working. One has a hurt leg, one has a bad back and two report colds. One of those is too cold and the other has a cold. This is very confusing; cold is cold."
"I'll explain the difference later," Peter told Freckles.
"Please tell these brave warriors too," Sidi asked.
"Will these sick fiends be exempt from killing?" Kad wanted to know. Even Freckles snickered at that question.
"One of these fiends has a big foot truck," Freckles interrupted, "he has moved it close to the discarded treasure and all four are now digging in the wind--piled snow."
"You mean a snow drift?" Peter asked, just for fun.
Freckles answered as expected, "That is what I said," but his reply was accompanied by the painfully clear image of Peter's head in a Great Cat's mouth with a limp, dead body still attached. The body was still sitting behind the steering wheel of Peter's Big Foot. Peter forgot that Freckles had his chin resting on his shoulder.
"Okay," Peter capitulated, "no more jokes."
Suddenly, Freckles sent a Buck style, gravelly giggle before a video of one man pawing industriously in the snow bank, and then getting bonked on the head by an incoming statue of a leaping Great Cat (The flying Great Cat was shown in painfully slow, slow motion so even its emerald eyes could be seen.) The man ended his career as a thief half buried in snow. Two of his accomplices rushed to the man's aid only to discover that none was required. They took the time to load his body in the back of the truck with the artifacts, while the third man felt through the snow seeking the guilty golden Cat, a very choice piece. When he found it, he wiped the blood off on his coat, looked to see that he wasn't being watched and placed the statue in the cab of the truck, apparently under a seat. Freckles dimmed the video and allowed the mind-speak conversation to continue; he had other things to do, and when combined, they were taxing his abilities.
Bill Henderson sent word to his construction superintendents that the next shift was canceled and that any workers on site could find rooms in the pool residence until the emergency was over. He had attempted to consult with Bucky, but for some reason his cellphone remained out of service so he used his authority as the future University President to extend the courtesy. When the workers arrived at the residence, they were welcomed by the full staff, since they were also marooned. They were led to vacant apartments after being shown the pool, the dining room and all the amenities available to the athletes and coaches who already lived there.
Bill's workers at first balked at the nudity rule in the pool, but after they found rooms and got comfortable, a few ventured forth to try swimming and were joined by others and when they got hungry, they accompanied several swimmers to the dining room before thinking about their clothing left in the locker room. By then, the workers' nudity just wasn't a concern; it was a very small price to pay for living in a four star hotel free of charge. The staff that worked in and around the 'big' house that didn't live on the property; the mechanics, the chopper pilots and ground crew on duty, were similarly treated to guest rooms in the house.
The boys rallied their equipment briefly after finishing the estate proper, before moving to the pool and University roads. The back seats of both Hummers were folded. Pettie and Scott the next Hummer drivers, rode with Buck, prone, in the enlarged, commodious, storage area; there, Pettie rode Scott and then Scott rode Pettie. Hayden and Justin rode with Doug and being new, rode each other several times before they took their turns behind two of the blowers after they were transported to the pool.
Bucky, Victoria and the Green Machine arrived late to the party, and simply parked in the big empty, recently cleared lot to resume 'plowing' in more and more creative positions, given the cramped confines of the Green Machine's, operators' cabin. The only thing that the boys saw of them were their blue glowing bodies that appeared to be one slightly wreathing 'lump' seen through the steamed glass.
All the gates had been opened and left open so they wouldn't be blocked, and while the cameras remained useless, the infrared sensors worked exceedingly well. The control room was able to see the cavalcade leave the University driveway and when the boys found the public road hadn't been plowed; they cleared it as far as the Wilcott's driveway.
In the bunk house, Marc and Alex, an inseparable couple, first became aware of the snow removal effort when they heard the sound of a small engine approaching. "Hey in there, you cheap mother fuckers," Buck called using mind-speak so he could be heard clearly but not seen, "Turn on the fucking lights!" he ordered.
Marc and Alex were cuddling, watching television and both hauled ass to the closest French doors, snapped on the terrace lights, and, as hoped, didn't look outside before opening the doors. The small engine sound was actually four racing engines combined, with the impellers placed in neutral just before the machines were precisely positioned with the chutes all aimed carefully at the door, behind large piles of accumulated snow.
Doug and Buck, operating the bigger machines, aimed low, while Pettie and Scott aimed high with the small blowers. The warriors, with Charlie, Justin and Hayden stood by looking on with wide eyes. "Buck you rotten bastard!" Marc screamed as he and Alex backed away from the deluge of snow that followed them since they didn't think about just slamming the doors on their tormentors. After the storm stopped and the machines shut down, Alex bent over hugging his body while Marc stalked closer along the snow pile inside the room and while trying to hide his grin, asked, "Can we go with you to get Evan?" Then before anyone could answer, he blinked in surprise, "Hey, how come all of you cocksuckers are naked, aren't you cold?"
Buck ushered the new guys inside, while the other guys manhandled one of the big blowers inside to blow most of the mess back outside before it melted. The younger guys were immediately drawn to the back wall and the fireplace wall that had been covered with Marc's current collection of favorite photos that he had blown up to giant assorted sizes. Doug noted that the walls and posters had been accented with the addition of track lighting and only a few remained of the original group from the day he and Buck first visited. He grinned when the boys and warriors gravitated to the biggest pair, centered on the back wall. The only change Marc made there was the rumored to exist, long sought after by teenyboppers, addition of his brother Paul, stretched out on the rings, seen from the front that had been hung alongside the published rear view.
"Paul Wilcott the gymnast, is your brother?" Hayden asked in amazement, "I bought one of these posters right after the fan magazine first came out and I kind of imagined what he looked like, ah, from the front," he reddened through his tinted blue skin, "in my fantasies," he concluded weakly and wished he'd kept his big mouth shut. He was relieved to see that the other guys listening agreed with nods of their heads before he became envious.
"Paul is very good at coupling too," Sidi assured Hayden happily with additional nods of agreement from everyone but Justin.
"Is there a gymnastics place in our school field house?" Sidi asked Pettie, "You didn't take these warriors there," he accused after everyone nodded.
Pettie protested, "I couldn't, there's always a bunch of guys and a coach in there, an' they'd discover that you guys are better than they are at the sport they been workin' at for years, just like basketball, tennis or wrestlin'. They'd see you three weren't quite right from the get go."
"You guys can come over here and use Paul's equipment anytime you want," Marc volunteered, "if I can take a few shots of you," he qualified hopefully.
"No way," Freckles intruded into the conversation from his post in Big Foot.
Marc looked all around the room nervously and switched to mind-speak, "Come on Freckles," he argued to the ceiling, "Just look at all these pics of the guys I took, lots are nudes but they've never been published, err, seen by anyone else outside our Family. Cock shots are no-no's." He pointed to his brother, "See this one? Or Doug over there, do you know how much I've been offered for just one of these shots that no one is really even sure exists? I would never betray the People or any friends that way."
"Stand still for a change," Alex demanded of Marc. He was trying to coat Marc's front side with Stuff while Doug and Buck were intent on coating his back, all from a commercial size coffee tin that Marc had 'found' unopened in ships' stores. He still hoped that Chef Chou hadn't discovered the culprit who transferred the coffee to a properly labeled trash bag.
The warriors stared at individual images of their naked human friends to help Freckles decide favorably. Not that they were vain or anything of the sort, but they looked forward to seeing their images hanging among their friends', and hoped Marc would provide them with wallet size photos to show friends at home in addition to the treasured school photo ID's they received that morning.
Freckles agreed after a pregnant pause, but qualified his agreement with a warning to Marc; "Just remember, Great Cats do not care for the taste of human, but there can be an exception."
Since Marc and Alex were newly coated with Stuff, they ran from the bunk house to the parking area in front of the house, straight to the back of the closest Hummer, without taking the time to marvel at the phenomena of being warm and toasty, outside, in the middle of a blizzard while being stark naked. Further, they were so anxious to get supine; they didn't bother to find raingear before they left the bunk house.
John and Elise Wilcott watched the boys operating their snow blowers from window to window, as they moved around the house. They looked at each other and grinned before John snapped off the outside lights briefly to confirm his suspicions. The naked operators were all glowing blue and he received waves from the guys and back flips from the warriors in response. They ran to their bedroom, to their own coffee can filled with Stuff, an inelegant gift container from Paul and Marc, but John followed Paul's halting directions and brief explanation of Stuff, before he left for school in Boston. After the boys departed, Wilcott's planned to just walk around outside at first, while confirming their suspicions completely before finding a big undisturbed snowdrift to experiment further.
The boys found that the Henderson's driveway had been partially cleared, which was to be expected since the construction company had a number of idle machines due to the growing economic decline, plus Doug knew that his father already owned a snow blower. They did not know that Bucky had called sometime earlier in the evening to reveal yet another of Stuff's benefits, so they found Bill just finishing up clearing the front of the garages, having already finished the walkways around the house all while wearing a coating of Stuff and a Yankee's baseball cap.
"Hi Dad, where's Mom?" Doug asked as he climbed from a Hummer, wearing only a huge grin.
If Doug thought his father would be embarrassed, he was wrong. "She was out here helping me until we saw your lights," Bill responded with a giggle, "so she's inside until you guys leave, so we can finish up and get on with other things. Since you can see that most of the work is already done, when are you leaving? Somerset Farm still needs some help although I sent the loader that was here up there to get Evan roughed out for you. Have a nice rest of the night," he added, "We won't expect to see you again until tomorrow, will we?"
"You think we can't take a hint?" Doug asked through his giggles, "Stuff works pretty good, doesn't it?" He didn't wait for answer. The cavalcade moved on to Somerset Farm's service drive, the main driveway that ended at the completely renovated, greatly enlarged Georgian house, Evan's home in New Jersey. Surprisingly, most of the front of the house had already been cleared.
When Edvard failed to buy equipment, Evan sent guards out to Wal-Mart, K-mart, the local hardware store and any other store they could think of to buy the next best things; old fashion snow shovels, all that any store had on hand. The boys from Trenton Hall found all the rest of the Family who had taken up residence at Evan's, were outside, naked, coated, and mostly shoveling snow. Mostly, was because while the snow was too dry to compact into snowballs, the shovels were used to pour snow over the heads of the unwary, which worked quite well except for the fine coating of Stuff that repelled the traditional freezing cold feeling, plus then they had to shovel the same snow again.
Freckles finally budged from the back seat of Big Foot, and after a few shovels of snow on his head, showed his tormentors what a Great Cat could do to retaliate. He started by just flinging snow to the side with the swipe of his paw -- extremely fast, to shower individuals and relocate snow already shoveled or blown, back into the area just completed. He ended torrents of snow aimed at him by blower operators whenever he got within range by simply stopping the machines' engine before he worked to bury the idle machine and the operator. Then whichever boy was laughing the hardest, found his body clenched around the waist by the end of his tail, dunked completely under the snow and held there as he began to spin his whole body around, once again extremely fast, much like a centrifuge. The boys lined up for this ride of a lifetime.
Freckles stopped the fun suddenly near the garden in the back of the house. The helipad landing lights were on, highlighting Billy's chopper and one lonely figure, Billy, as he attempted, futilely, to keep the paved surface clear by using a shovel to throw snow downwind as even more was blown into the area behind him. "Billy needs our help," he exclaimed over the wind, "Black Widow is exposed to the elements."
Billy's beloved helicopter was so named after Billy made his first flight from school to Somerset Farm with passengers, illegally, at night, since he wasn't licensed to fly at night, or anytime with passengers. They were transporting surviving assassins who had attempted to do away with JC while he slept in his dorm room. JC required a very private, quiet place to question the miscreants, and Somerset Farm was the place of choice since parts of the big house were still under construction and Evan had yet to take up residence. The first night flight with passengers in his brand new, gleaming black helicopter was the last flight for the assassins after JC finished his interrogations; in one case using the whirling chopper blades to remove one's head in slices or threatening to.
Billy heard the boys coming. "I thought there was just going to be some wind and rain," he complained, "so we buttoned it up and tied it down. I should have landed at Trenton Hall the last time, so she could be in the hanger."
Freckles noted that the battery charging umbilical had been installed and that all engine ports had been fitted with their covers. No one knew that Sea Song had remained snow free so he had a similar 'conversation' with Black Widow's systems while the boys with blowers moved in to clear the pad out to and around the surrounding lights. Billy set about removing small pockets of built up snow by hand, in the few remaining nooks and crannies around the sleek machine and was the first to notice that the built up snow was melting and the metal skin was warm to the touch. The boys saw that small amounts of snow left by the blowers was also melting and that there was no buildup anywhere else on the pad just wet and that began to steam as it dried.
Freckles rolled his eyes to Peter, "We will get one of these machines so we don't have to depend on Chief Bucky," he said.
"Here we go again," Peter mumbled, before he asked, "Sure we will. Just who do you expect to pilot it?" Freckles didn't answer; he just grinned hugely and stared. "Don't look at me like that. Not me, nope, no way, forget it," he protested.
Freckles made believe he hadn't heard Peter's refusal, "It will be like driving our Cat Mobile, you will sit in the pilot's seat and I will drive with Snoopy's help. What color should we get?"
"Just color me out," Peter retorted, "Just today you made me learn to speak and write a dead language. I'm done."
"Ancient Tongue is not a dead language," Freckles corrected, "repeat to these brave warriors in Ancient Tongue, what you just said," he instructed.
Peter was halfway through the short sentence of guttural sounds, tongue clicks and burps before the three warriors and JC began to laugh, nod and answer in the Cat People's Tongue. "You speak much better than me and I have had many years of practice," JC complemented.
The Cat warriors were amazed, but not because Peter could suddenly converse with them in their own language; they were astounded to discover that the Cat People had been speaking Ancient Tongue for untold millennia and didn't know it. After a short gab fest, Peter called a halt in English, "Cut it guys, your language is straining my tongue, any more and I'll have to get it splinted," he joked.
"It would be best for me if you do not do that," Edvard protested without thinking, "I will not risk getting splinters…," he stopped suddenly when he realized what he didn't want splinters in. The boys all laughed.
"Wait," Bani protested to Freckles, "why didn't you ever tell the People that we speak the Ancient Tongue?"
Freckles smiled, "The subject never arose, but it is logical if you consider that the Ancients were few in number and conversed among themselves in mind-speak while the Cat People could not, so there was a common spoken language among friends. How else would one ask; 'Please pass the salt'?"
The Cat warriors, JC, Peter and Edvard answered with a burst of guttural sounds and a tongue click all while pointing at an imaginary tiny golden bowl, heaped with coarse sea salt that was a part of each Ancient place setting. "That's enough of that language," Evan declared, "Grandfather had Gregor teaching me Russian, but I didn't get far. I only learned a few words before Meesha and Gregor began learning English."
"Give us a sample," Doug asked with a grin. After Evan answered Doug with a short phrase in old Court Russian, with a giggle. He waited. "And that means what?"
"FUCK YES!" Evan sang. "Come on in, it's break time, we have food and drink and we can all take a soak in the spa," he invited.
"What is a spa?" Freckles asked as he led the way to the closest entrance into the house after plucking the information from Evan's mind.
"It's like the waterfall in Cat City's pool, only the water is warmer and the bubbles come up from below." Evan turned mean, "Don't you guys have spa pools over at Trenton Hall?" he asked innocently, always ready to play the 'one uppsmenship' game; in this instance it was spas - 'mine's bigger than yours'.
"You know we do, but there's room for four of us or one Great Cat, but not both in any of ours." Buck responded, "There hasn't been time yet, to introduce Freckles to the big one in the Residence; so far we've just used the showers since one of us, known as the Pampered Pussy, enjoys shampoos."
No one had the time to laugh before Freckles pounced on Buck, held him down in a pile of shoved snow with his tail and washed his face with a paw before whisking him away into the house and straight into the old reclaimed, rehabilitated conservatory and Evan's monstrous spa. Freckles paused briefly to admire the luxuriant tropical plantings while he made friends with the home's systems and of course the highest powered most advanced, resident Snoopy, before he launched his body into the pool. When the mob arrived a short time later, all they saw of Freckles was his tail that was still clutching Buck; alternately waving him around in the air so he could fill his lungs, before he disappeared below the completely roiled pool surface with every jet in full operation. This process was repeated three times before Buck disappeared for good.
"He must have found the grotto," Evan surmised. "Come on guys, it must be play time; food can wait." He was first to dive but was followed by one big splash that was most of the others.
Doug stepped down to the bench seat that followed the pool contours around the oval while Hayden and Justin looked lost. "What's a grotto," Hayden wondered.
"Evan had an underwater cave installed in the bottom, right over there. The whole interior is cushioned for instant use, or there's a door that leads to the locker room that's actually more like a Greek or Roman passion pit." Doug explained, sat down to enjoy the spa and invited the two new boys to join him. When Hayden and Justin were comfortable sitting at his two sides, he asked, "Since you guys just joined the Family, our extended Family that we spell with a capital 'F', we were wondering if your parents know about you? Do they know you guys are gay?"
Both boys tensed suddenly, which answered Doug's question. "I really wasn't sure myself, until this afternoon," Hayden admitted just above a whisper, "I kind of got into wrestling because, well, I liked, um, like," he corrected, "the uniforms and then there's the body contact, one on one, touches happen. I imagined lots of things happening late at night, in bed, wrestling with another guy without the singlet or anyone watching; then this afternoon, just about everything that I imagined, happened for real, with Justin and the warriors." He forgot Doug's question, "They really are warriors aren't they? I mean, not just like common Indian warriors from an undiscovered tribe in South America, they're warriors from somewhere else where we'd probably have to wear space suits."
Doug laughed, collared both boys with his arms and pulled them in tight against his body, which seemed like he was giving permission for them to touch him as well. He sighed when their hands began to explore. He said, "You do realize that the human race, is both pompous and arrogant; we actually believe that the only life forms in the Universe are located right here on earth and we humans are the most supremely intelligent. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think man has actually traveled any further than the moon and our telescopes reveal almost nothing but speculation about whether there are or aren't planets around other stars.
"If we found another planet that was close enough to get to, that could support our kind of life, I'd bet the first explorers would get out their microscopes and start taking water and soil samples looking for single cell critters. How would they react if a native appeared out of thin air that looked human, tapped them on their shoulders and told them to get the fuck out of his garden?"
"And take their heap of shit space vehicle that landed in the middle of his begonias with them," Hayden was quick to add.
Justin giggled before expanding on Doug's scenario, "Or what if the superior native life form who looked nothing like us, showed up with a can of insecticide to wipe out some new kind of bug before the explorers started sampling it's plants?"
"Or was a Great Cat and he ate them," Hayden countered.
"Never happen," Doug informed, "Great Cat's don't like the taste of human, fortunately for us. Now back to my original question; I assume that your parents don't know about you, so we have a problem. Everyone in the Family, including parents are cordially invited to my island in the Bahamas for Christmas and the day after Christmas day, we're heading out to Bachal, Medi and Huss's country until New Years. You guys could go by yourselves, without your parents, but…"
"But is right, mine would never let me go alone," Hayden agreed. "I kind of mentioned to my dad that I thought I kind of liked guys better than girls, but he was preoccupied with work and I don't think he was really listening. He said something stupid like, 'That's nice,' and didn't even blink."
Justin nodded and blushed, "I haven't said anything to my dad, but my mother knows, I told her, I live with her mostly; they're divorced. She just looked at me sadly and nodded; she still has my sisters. I guess I could tell my father and he couldn't say too much to complain, since the reason they divorced still lives on the horse farm my dad kept to live in. Whenever I'm there for a weekend, my father's best friend officially lives in a cottage on the property and he sneaks in to spend the night after my dad calls to tell him that I'm asleep. It's kind of funny really, the guy, his name is Ethan, doesn't really have a job on the farm, my father calls him his 'jack-of-all-trades' or sometimes his 'handyman', if you can believe those titles. One of his official jobs is to act as a lifeguard when I go swimming, which I kind of like since he's got a real nice body that he packs into a Speedo as small as yours, Doug." Justin made jacking off motions with one hand while actually applying his gentle stroke on Doug with the other.
Doug removed his arm from Justin's shoulders so he could push the younger boys' hand away, "How nice to hear you've been coming to swim meets," he joked.
Justin giggled suddenly, "But all is not lost, I'm supposed to spend the holidays with dad, we were heading out to Vale, I guess Ethan would carry dad's ski pole when they thought I was asleep, but if I came out to them, and told them I knew what they were up to, could they come with me, or us, as a couple?"
"Fuck you Justin," Hayden objected, "your problem is solved, but what about mine?"
Doug shrugged, pushed both boys out into the deeper water, followed and suggested; "How about inviting your parents out to Trenton Hall next weekend? Your dad and his friend too," he invited, "Our parents could meet and even if they didn't become friends, they'd be good enough friends for the trip. Now let me show you two the grotto and how soft the fake rocks are," he hesitated, "that is if you want to," he added. He was pleased to see that he lost the race to the underwater, brightly lit portal, the entrance to the grotto.
Between the do-it-yourself 'entertainment' in Evan, the ultimate hedonist's home, with a touchup of Stuff, and an incredible amount of food, the gang spent over four hours enjoying themselves before they were ready to resume their snow removal duties. All the equipment was left parked willy-nilly in front of the house and of course the snow didn't stop falling or the winds abate while the boys were inside enjoying themselves. The resulting sight that greeted them were a series of white bumps in assorted sizes, with one glaring exception -- Big Foot, Peter's truck was bare, only wet where snow melted before it was blown away.
All eyes fell on the one responsible. "Do not look at me," Freckles protested, "My ride is clean, come along Peter we have much to do before we visit the helicopter store." It was obvious that he sought to change the subject while the mind-speakers sent a barrage of accusations first, then pleas for help in clearing the trucks and finally, insults that included many 'f' bombs related to Great Cat's sexual relations with close female relatives. All this occurred while Freckles and Peter sat warm and dry in Big Foot.
Freckles finally agreed to modify the trucks and the ride-on snow blowers after they had been mostly cleared of accumulated snow. He couldn't treat the walk-behind blowers because they had no intelligence so a problem arose; what to use to dig everything out of the snow drifts. The shovels that Evan and his guests had been using had been left hither and yon when the operators decided that they were no longer needed with the arrival of the power equipment, so the first task was to recover the lost tools.
"They look much like the swine rooting for tubers and insects in our lands," Freckles related to Peter with a snicker and several images of boars and sows pushing up earth with their snouts, although the boys were on their hands and knees searching with their hands. They first tried feeling through the snow banks with their toes, but found the first early successes quite painful; Stuff kept feet warm but not immune to physical injury.
"Holy shit Freckles, those pigs are huge and so are their tusks," Peter said, "can you really take one of them down?"
"Almost," Freckles sent a revised image of a half-grown pig, "This is the perfect size for food. Great Cats prefer to leave those of breeding size alone to reproduce more of their kind, except boars for sport, because like all species, fewer males are required to maintain populations."
"From what I can see of your home lands in those hunting images, you come from a very beautiful place," Peter observed.
"Yes, thank you, they are. While we wait, I will give you a tour of our home place, the People call Cat City and the boys call El Dorado." Freckles pulled in his tail from the small opening in the back window and began to massage Peter's temples.
He began his video tour in the canyon that led to Cat Place, the actual main entrance into Cat City, from the beginning it seemed that any one of the Family might be holding and operating the camera. It took Peter a minute to realize that Freckles was relaying whatever any one of the guys found most interesting or fascinating as seen through their eyes and plucked from their minds. He elaborated when necessary, like when the boys and People first entered what was simply called the Gathering Place, the pyramid interior, he gave Peter a botanical tour by naming the plants and lightly touching on their many and extraordinary uses, knowledge that no other human had, not even Bani, as yet, or any of the other People, there hadn't been time for Bani's proper, very thorough education in Ancient ways, means and purposes, so far as they were known by the current generation of Great Cats.
Suddenly Peter knew the purpose of the central column of light; the Ancients used it to leave Cat City with an entourage of Great Cats, People and a wealth of unknown baggage, but the Cats left behind didn't know the reason they left, their destination, or if they would ever return, nor did they seem to know the means used to first arrive at that particular spot in South America. The Cats knew that they departed with the Ancients from somewhere else but weren't sure where that somewhere else was. However the Great Cats assumed that the column still functioned like everything else in Cat City, which was the reason that Fang warned Doug about swimming in the very tempting circular pool.
Peter was jarred from his exciting and intriguing mental tour by pounding on the window near his head, "What the fuck do you want?" he demanded sourly after he opened his eyes to glare at the intruder.
Doug and Buck backed up a step, surprised. Freckles intervened, "Peter was learning things of future value to the Great Cats and People and was thinking of nothing else."
"Hey guys, I'm sorry I snapped at you," Peter apologized, "what can we do for you?"
"No problem," Doug quipped, "since we know who you work for. We cleared our trucks, and we were wondering if you can do your thing to make them snow repellant, like yours?"
"Who me…" Peter began to deny the ability that was obviously the Great Cat's, until Freckles whispered in his mind.
"Just point in the general direction and mumble something, I will do the rest," Freckles instructed silently.
"Abracadabra!" Peter intoned dramatically while waving his hands way over-dramatically. The Hummers' diesel engines roared to life and the bit of snow that had accumulated began to melt and evaporate while new flakes just blew away. "You have to remember the leave the engines running to keep the batteries charged," He said knowledgeably, "that trick takes a lot of energy. Should we just get started; the blowers and trailer can catch up?" He asked as if what he did was an everyday occurrence.
Marc got one of the blowers running and was actually enjoying the job when his machine made a horrible screeching sound and stalled. "Utoh," he broad beamed, "Evan, I think I found one of your missing shovels!"
Evan ran up to the accident scene just as Marc freed the mangled tool from the impeller. "Son-of-a-bitch," he complained, "You know those shovels cost $12.95 plus tax, EACH, am I made of money?" Evan quoted his grandfather Anton.
Marc quoted his mother right back; "I've told you and told you to put your toys away when you're done playing, haven't I?" He grabbed Evan's ear and lifted him to his tiptoes, "You never listen!" Marc remembered that his 'Hot Wheels' plastic trikes were particularly vulnerable, but where else except the paved parking court was he supposed to ride to build the most speed; he argued that his mother or father could always look before they backed out of the garage. That is, he argued after his mother released his ear and he was safely out of her reach.
"Humans," Freckles said with a roll of his eyes, "how did your species ever progress so far?" He wondered to Peter.
Dawn was announced when the sky turned from black to dark gray and found the snow removal equipment parked in front of Paul Wilcott's vacant gymnastics gym. The warriors would go no further until they experienced the exciting sport that they were perfectly physically designed for. They were small, lightweight incredibly strong, possessed a matchless sense of balance and zero reaction time, plus the gym was private and they could play as they pleased.
Marc sent the gang ahead into the gym, by then the whole gang that included Evan and all the guys that were camping with him decided to come along and followed in their own trucks. The ultimate goal was to have breakfast at Trenton Hall eventually. Marc needed to get his cameras that were stored both in the photo lab in the house and in the bunkhouse. He thought to sneak into the house quietly so he didn't disturb his parents, but he found them in the kitchen having breakfast. They were dressed in robes, looking very pleased with themselves and each other, and he wondered if either realized that their faces still had a slight blue cast. He also wondered if either parent noticed that his father's cock glowed brightly whenever he was erect and it would always be so, according to Freckles. He knew that Paul, his bashful brother, failed to mention that the coffee can full of Stuff was concentrated and to use it sparingly -- or else.
"Hi 'rents," he greeted them happily, "good news, Freckles is allowing me to take a few shots of the warriors and they want to try out the gymnastics equipment so I need my cameras; my underwater stuff too so I can snap them in the pool later today." He grinned, "It's so early, I thought you guys would still be asleep. Since you're up already, come on out to the gym, after you put on some clothes to give the appearance that you didn't use Stuff last night," he jabbed.
John sought to change the direction of the conversation, "Instead of snaps, you should be out there spotting for them so they don't get hurt on the unfamiliar equipment," he cautioned just as any high power lawyer would. "I do not want any law suits plus I sure don't want to see one of the little guys hurt," he added.
Marc laughed, "Don't worry about them getting hurt, instead, you should break out all the equipment warranty information and maybe check to see if the equipment's replacement is covered by our homeowner's policy. They know nothing about lawsuits, if anyone does anything they consider wrong on their lands, that guy is an enemy, and he's dead, messy if a Cat gets him or neat if a warrior sees him first, but still, just as dead."
When Marc opened the door into the gym, he was blasted with a burst of oppressively hot air and saw the whole gang looking up at the ceiling. "Shit, the thermostat was on 55 degrees, it must be broken, and of course on a fucking day like this," he assumed, although it was really toasty warm on bare skin. The foul weather gear had been left off and forgotten by the time they reached Henderson's, the first round of plowing, and hadn't been thought of since. He finally looked up, but didn't see anything at first glance. Puzzled, he guessed the reason, "Don't tell me that the roof leaks too."
"Someone, you cheap bastard, set the thermostat at 55, Freckles fixed it," Buck growled and added, "The roof isn't leaking; the warriors are up there playing on the roof supports."
Marc really looked up toward the roof peak near the sky lights that traversed the building, nearly 40 feet up over the equipment. "Oh shit, Dad and Mom are on their way out here to watch them. Dad's going to have a legal heart attack when he sees them, and I told him, 'don't worry'," he moaned. Although the guys noticed that he had the presence of mind to set his equipment down carefully out of harm's way, he hoped, select a camera and peer through the view finder. "Damn, what the fuck are they doing?"
"Havin' a race," Pettie informed, "they never set eyes on any of this junk before, so they were waiting for you to show 'em what to do. Freckles figured out the trampoline, which is how they got up there."
Bani, Kad and Sidi, at that moment were each hanging below one of the major steel I-beam roof supports and racing each other hand over hand along the beams up to the peak and down the opposite side. Marc zoomed in on individuals as their suspended bodies swung from side to side each time their hands moved on a beam, focused manually and began framing and clicking shots as rapidly as he could all while slowly wandering through the apparatus as if they were minor fixed obstructions.
When Pettie saw the locker room door open and close silently, he warned Marc, "You best get your ass out of the obstacle course or risk gettin' run over Marco." When Marc ignored Pettie's warning, Pettie and Scott grabbed his arms and carried him to the wall out of Freckles' way.
The Great Cat was stalking unwary game. The locker room was his starting point and the imaginary food was diagonally across the room near the opposite wall. Freckles' belly was held inches from the floor as he progressed through the exercise equipment first, and then on to the gymnastics apparatus. He moved at a constant crouch, one moment with lightning speed that could change direction or even backtrack if he selected a better route and the next instant he moved in slow, slow motion or perhaps freeze in place with one paw lifted and not twitching a whisker. The only body part that moved constantly, silently, was the very tip of his tail that surveyed his back trail to be very sure that he didn't become brother Spot's prey.
This was a favorite game the young Cat's played daily when practical if their bellies were full, night or day, fair weather or foul and always supervised by the twin's mother by sight or by mind, through their eyes. A stalk could encompass miles of jungle in any or all terrains. The prey could be a selected distant rock or tree or even their mother, or more difficult and exciting; they would start out from two different points and stalk each other. That always ended in a joyous rough and tumble reunion since there was never a winner of one of these matches. To fail in a real stalk meant starvation or death by gunshot; examples of 'survival of the fittest', bestowed the right to propagate future generations of Great Cats.
Marc hadn't seen Freckles' first stalk in the gym and didn't seem to know where to aim his camera; either up at the warriors or at Freckles, so he attempted to watch both events without photographing either. Marc fervently hoped the three warriors would drop from the ceiling beams after they reached the opposite wall, hopefully before his parents arrived, but that was not to be. They paused to get a close up view of a few of his gym worthy blown up photos that adorned both long walls of the building, before they reversed course to race back up to the roof peak and then return to where they started; high over the trampoline, which seemed to be Freckles' ultimate goal.
John and Elise walked in just about when Bani, Kad and Sidi were once again passing the peak ready for their decent. "Oh no," John moaned, "someone tell them to get down from there before they fall."
"Duh, Dad if you ordered them down right now," Marc explained as if he was talking to a child, "they'd probably obey, but then one of them might really get hurt if they landed on something. They're going back to the tramp, which is how they got up there in the first place."
John sputtered until he saw Freckles slink by in his crouch, with his ears flat back against his head and his teeth bared. His expression might be described as a killing frown. "What's Freckles doing?" he whispered.
The boys explained a stalk, and that his prey seemed to be the trampoline or something close by and his intent was to arrive there at the same time the little warriors used it for their dismount. Meanwhile Freckles had worked his way to a corner and had flattened his body out so at first glance he could be a misplaced trophy, furry rug complete with head, teeth, fully extended claws and staring emerald eyes.
Sidi's chosen I-beam was directly over the tramp. He stopped and waited, hanging there, for Bani and Kad to join him by using the regularly spaced smaller trusses that separated the beams. Meanwhile, Freckles resumed his crouching posture; he was ready to pounce, apparently on the warriors when they dropped to the tramp. When Bani got close enough to Sidi, Sidi released his hold on the steel and jumped to hug Bani's body, and then Kad joined them by latching onto Bani from behind so Bani held both of his bodyguards up with his fingertips clutching the beam.
When Bani laughed and refused to let go, they began to tickle him rather indiscriminately. He really laughed then, and in the instant he released his grip, Freckles went into his attack mode. The moment the warriors began to drop Freckles went airborne. He landed and bounced away a split second before the boys' feet touched the very same place. The warriors bounced straight back up while Freckles landed with 500 pounds of killing force with his teeth still bared, mouth wide open and his claws still fully extended on the back of his imaginary 250 pound half-grown boar. Teeth bit to crush and claws ripped and tore the underbelly -- Paul's innocent pummel horse was thoroughly dead -- a second time.
The whole mob rushed to the imaginary grisly scene, rather, a scene of devastation. "Oh shit," Marc lamented when he saw the torn and shredded horse.
"Oh shit is right," John agreed with a frown, "you can plan on being Paul's prey the second he sees that mess," he advised his son, "or plan on replacing it before he gets back."
"Did I do something wrong?" Freckles asked after spitting out the last bit of residual padding. He'd left the dead horse and joined his charges in the middle of the tramp. He was holding them down, tickling them in preparation for grooming them with his raspy tongue after their recent extraordinary exertions on the ceiling.
"That is, or was, a piece of gymnastics equipment called a pummel horse," Doug volunteered through his laughter. "Show them how it's supposed to be used Marc. I'll hold your camera."
"Paul's the gymnast," Marc protested, "I'm just his part-time spotter and full-time photographer. See," he pointed to the long walls where he'd been hanging many of his pics that he liked, but didn't have room for on the bunk house walls. Plus, Paul was away at University in Boston and couldn't enforce his edict forbidding his brother from hanging anything within his gym.
Of course the gang wouldn't listen to any of Marc's disclaimers. Doug grabbed Marc's camera out of his hands and Pettie pushed him to the ruined horse while Buck ran to Marc's other equipment and selected a video camera. Freckles and the warriors stayed up on the tramp to enjoy the advantage of height. "This is kind of Paul's routine," Marc informed. He frowned in Freckles' direction and added, "You might want to notice that I don't use my teeth and I don't have any claws," he said before he mounted the battered horse and performed a near flawless routine before a dramatic Paul Wilcott style dismount to a round of exuberant cheering and applause from the gang and his surprised parents.
Buck looked around the room and frowned. He told John, "You know you should have a big screen in here for instant replays during practice, and you should kick Marc's ass straight onto the gymnastics team when the new school opens in the fall."
"He's an amazing natural athlete, but he's always been more interested in photography," John lamented. "Still I could give him a nudge exactly like your dad does to you and Evan."
It was clear to Buck that John was thinking out loud and Buck did not like the way the one sided conversation was trending. "What does Dad do to me or Evan?" He asked hesitantly.
John grinned, "I could tie off his purse strings or threaten to. How did Evan react when Bucky asked Evan if 50 dollars a week was too much for spending money?"
Buck shivered, "Oh, well, just don't mention that we ever had this conversation please; you know attorney-client privilege and all."
"Let's see what he can do on the other apparatus before we move him to the mat. I'll get the other guys to use his cameras on him for a change, who knows he might enjoy seeing his body moving under stress, hung right up here beside Paul." He snapped his fingers, "Or, better yet, as the centerfold in Dylan's rag mag." Buck's evil grin announced that, that was a done deal.
John laughed, "Would you do that to a friend if I sign the model release?"
"Payback is a bitch," Buck managed before there was a squabble between the warriors that involved who should be first to reprise what Marc just did on the horse.
Freckles ended the fight before it became physical, "Do it all together, exactly, without touching," he decreed.
Doug raised Marc's camera, but surprisingly Marc pulled it down, "Nope, no pics, you didn't promise, but I did." Doug agreed with a nod and lowered the camera.
Kad and Sidi placed Bani protectively in the middle and the three silently agreed that they would perform all the moves exactly as Marc did whenever the move was in their portion of the horse and they planned to share the two pummels. While two waited for the third, they stood perfectly straight -- up on the horse -- on one hand. John and Elise watched with their mouths hanging open.
Elise felt sorry for them at first until all three began talking and laughing with each other and the surrounding mob whether it was their turn to perform or not. Freckles became the one and only judge when he had to use his tail to prevent Bani from hopping one handed, closer to Sidi, the first of the three to display his inborn talent. Bani planned to tickle poor Sidi. Of course Sidi retaliated when he began to twirl his body around with his hands on the pummel. As he rotated, he attempted to use his extended legs to knock Bani and Kad off their one handed handstands. He was defeated when his targets laughed, enjoying the challenge, by really jumping higher, so their two arms were out of the path of Sidi's flailing legs for a split second it took his leg, or legs to pass their places.
When Sidi's portion of the routine on his end of the horse was completed, he dismounted perfectly without a stumble, with his heels touching and his arms raised to accept his justified audiences' adulation. Surprisingly, Bani dismounted on the other side of the horse to begin the routine once again from the start. He progressed to the two-thirds point without being able to dislodge Kad, before he repeated the dismount, which left Kad to reprise the entire routine alone from the beginning but without the distraction of having one or two fellow contestants to deal with.
Kad's congratulatory cheers were marred when Freckles ordered the warriors back up on the horse, and the second time; perform the routine, without any mistakes. The warriors knew that they made no mistakes and that the Great Cat was joking, betrayed by his evil smile so he wasn't surprised when he received six middle fingers from his boys. "We haven't got time right now," Buck countered, "we're supposed to be plowing snow. Let's try them on the parallel bars next, after Marc shows them that routine." The guys holding Marc's cameras raised them after Doug whispered the suggestion. While they couldn't immortalize the warriors; Marc was certainly fair game.
After Marc finished displaying his talent once again, the warriors decided that since there was room on the bars, they would duplicate Marc's moves together and when there was a space conflict; they would synchronize the movement, switch bars or simply hop over the obstructing body. Those times could be decided by mind-speak during the performance. At some point, with the freedom to improvise, gymnastics evolved into an incredible display of acrobatics that no completely human body could reproduce.
Freckles licked his lips in eager anticipation when he first really looked at the vault table that was also sometimes still called a horse. "Don't even think about it," Marc warned, before he started his run to the springboard to demonstrate how a vault was accomplished.
Bani had questions after Marc's near perfect dismount. He wondered if the springboard had to be utilized or even if the vault table had to be touched before a gymnast went airborne. His last question concerned the still rings that were positioned a good 10 meters away from the vault landing pad; he asked if they could be moved or if that wasn't possible, could they be utilized as a part of the vault dismount.
Marc grinned and shrugged, "Forget what I just did, go ahead and improvise." He also explained that the rings had to stay where they were since they were the next exercise in the rotation.
Doug asked Charlie, "Do you think they can get to the rings from the vault?"
It was Charlie's turn to grin. "The day that the warriors brought me to the new village from Doog, they left me in front of Bani's house but I didn't know it. I sat down under a big old tree that didn't branch for at least 30 feet and wondered what Hans was going to do to me. I guess I closed my eyes for a minute and when I opened them again, there was Bani sitting so close to me, we were almost touching." Charlie reddened, "I made a kind of indecent proposal; how was I supposed to know he could speak English? Anyway, I asked him where he came from and he pointed up. That big old tree is one of his resting places. My point is there weren't any ladders or ropes. He dropped from that tree without making any noise, and he gets up there by jumping. This spring, when track and field starts we'll have to hogtie all three of them to keep them from participating. To answer your question; yes I do think that they'll get to the rings from the vault since they have a running start."
Bani, Kad and Sidi already knew how the still rings were used, they'd seen Paul use them in photos, from the back and front in the bunk house so the iron cross became the last part of their dismounts from the vault. No one told them that the rings were so named; because they weren't supposed to move. It didn't matter that they used them as a swing and adapted them to execute perfect dives they'd watched divers perform in the pool; they landed on the mat, on their hands as a diver did when entering the pool.
Of course the high bar and floor exercises were no challenge at all with Marc's permission to improvise. Warrior rumbling stomachs ended their amazing displays, and the noise acted like a chain reaction. Even Freckles' was reminded that it was nearly time for morning food, of course he led the way out the door and by the time the gang reached the trucks Freckles' tail was already out Big Foots' back window and waving everyone forward to their chosen machines. By then everyone was proficient at snow removal and Peter, Buck and Doug allowed the warriors to drive their trucks for the first time as a reward for their one of kind gymnastics performance. At first they were just going to clear the way from Wilcott's to Trenton Hall's gates, but they were having so much fun, and doing such a good job, without playing bumper cars, or plowing fixed objects, they were allowed to finish Trenton Hall and the University since the other drivers were finding that snow removal was not as much fun 12 hours after they started.
During breakfast, Buck, with Doug's help, wheeled a big screen television into the dining room, found an outlet and plugged it in. When Victoria noticed that they were using an 18th century tea trolley as the conveyance, she sucked in her breath but didn't say anything after Bucky patted her hand affectionately. If anyone noticed that there wasn't any kind of receiver or cable hookup, they didn't say anything either.
Bucky and Victoria were trying to maintain a very low profile since Bucky had been less than helpful so far, during the ongoing snow emergency, because he claimed a bad back while Victoria avowed that she had great difficulty getting to sleep and over-slept although both parents were freshly showered, dressed and looked radiant, very pleased with themselves and with each other, just like the Wilcott's and Henderson's.
The TV flashed to life to show Snoopy's, Gregor's and Meesha's view of the night -long thievery that had been ongoing until daylight. The fatality was particularly satisfying and caused the recovery to slow because it was difficult to search the trampled snow drift with one eye and by feel, while watching for additional incoming artifacts that were lofted over the fence sporadically, unannounced. This allowed Freckles to begin a photo inventory of the items tossed, always at the apex of the arc. And a picture-in-picture box opened to display each item until another was tossed.
Victoria became excited for some unknown reason, actually known very well by a few who knew her penchant for collecting. Bucky cringed and rolled his eyes after she ran from the room and took the opportunity to warn Buck about making comments before she returned with a clipboard to begin making notes concerning particularly choice items that she wished Bucky to buy.
"We'll buy that," Victoria kept repeating as the images of artifacts changed.
"We can't buy anything until each item is appraised," Bucky warned, "And they can't really be appraised until someone makes an offer privately, or some are put up for auction."
Harmon agreed, but qualified Bucky's statement by adding that anything that could easily be ascribed to a known earlier civilization could be priced in very round numbers, but it was all the Ancient-made artifacts that would remain in question since the Ancients weren't known to exist.
"I think what we should do," Harm suggested, "is attribute the Ancient artifacts to the Olmec civilization since they predate the Maya, and very little is known about them except they were builders and artisans, AND they built a huge pyramid that's still standing to this day. The Ancients could easily be distant ancestors who predate the known Olmec and were far more advanced, evidenced by their art work; the People's Ancient treasures. All of these civilizations relocated from time to time, for so far theoretical reasons, so there's no expert who can definitely say that the Ancients didn't suddenly pack up and move from Venezuela up to the Yucatan in Central America to start all over again while they left a treasure trove of artifacts behind because they were offerings to their gods, and couldn't be taken back."
Peter grinned and joined the conversation; "Of course no civilization would move entirely, so some of the Cat People's ancestors remained behind and being isolated, they were forgotten and undiscovered until recently. Now the People are mining cities and tombs, unearthing almost unbelievable treasures and putting them on the market for the good of the People. Would that story work?"
Bucky frowned and countered, "It would except it would be impossible to keep all archeologists out once that story got out. I imagine that someone would want to see evidence of a lost civilization; Cat City could be discovered."
Freckles was busy eating a bowl of mixed fruit when he answered Bucky. Talking while his muzzle was buried in food or deep in a bowl of drink was disconcerting until one realized his voice emanated from his emerald, not from a voice box. "Cat Place is the only above ground Ancient construction. That place can be flooded if a Great Cat wills it to be so. If someone can provide images of artifacts made by these Olmec People, likenesses could be reproduced," he volunteered.
Harm closed his eyes to send Freckles several photos of multi-ton, carved, Olmec stone heads that had been discovered in Central American jungles, apparently abandoned without reason, how they were transported such distances from the stones' source before being abandoned or why they were left in the remote areas where they were found remains a mystery.
Freckles lifted his head to smile. "Brother Spot can make those heads, with Father's supervision. He is a very mischievous Great Cat and cannot be trusted to work alone," he assured the table. He looked at the ceiling suddenly and said, "Well you are so!" It was obvious that Spot had been listening and had protested his brother's claim before they got to the business of giant head production. He listened a moment and answered, "Yes, Cat heads would be fine, the Ancients were not these Olmec people, their cities are now rubble, the Ancients were obviously more advanced." He ended the brief conversation with; "In the future, know that it is impolite to call during food times and we are having morning food at this time, Spock out." He glanced at Charlie, "You were correct Charlie, there are jungle types about, but they remain at home." He changed the subject with a question, "What is a pawn store? This one advertises, 'we buy gold'."
The TV screen flashed to show a large building with bars covering the windows and doors, with a line of people waiting outside the doors. It flashed again to show the enemy pickup truck as it entered an alley alongside the building and backed up to a closed and guarded door. Bucky frowned over his coffee cup as he studied the scene. He explained pawn shops in general as well as the fact that with the price of gold climbing so high, pawn shops and many other businesses such as jewelers bought gold items for scrap prices and either resold the scrap in bulk or melted it down to extract baser metals to produce pure gold bars or ingots, which then could be sold at the prevailing pure gold price. He concluded by saying that some less than honest buyers weren't above weighing items to be bought with faulty scales, misreading the scale's true weight or claiming a lower degree of purity to ultimately increase profits.
Bani was horrified, "Would these fiends sell our treasures as junk? They must be stopped at once." He looked to Freckles for the address and also the location of the address. He, Kad and Sidi were busy switching yellow feathered darts for red in their blowguns while Bani asked.
Freckles stymied his boys by sending a street map of Newark, New Jersey with a single blinking light to mark the exact location of 'Gold Buyers' Pawn', the name of the pawn shop, which was no help at all. "Do not worry, Snoopy watched this earlier. This is what happened inside." The TV flashed again and the scene changed to a brightly lit room. There had been a shift change that allowed all the perpetrators to congregate at the shop. Three watched two buyers carefully as each individual item was weighed on one of two digital scales and the weights a third man recorded exactly, while the others worked to unload the truck, take each item after it was weighed and disappear with it through another door. There seemed to be an ongoing argument between the principle buyer and the weight watching fiends. Freckles waited for everyone in the dining room to frown in frustration before he added sound to Snoopy's view for the first time, of course with a dazzling grin, proud of his accomplishment.
"Look motherfuckers, you know and I know that this shit is hot and it's going to be missed. The cops will be all over that warehouse you took it from and the first people they look at is goin' to be you assholes. You were supposed to be guarding the shit not stealing it," the buyer argued.
"How you figure we was guards?" A fiend, who was perhaps denser than his fellows, questioned.
"Duh," the buyer ridiculed, "maybe because of the uniforms and side arms; you should have changed. Do you know the risk I'm taking? Do you even know who you work for? The name Trenton on your coats and shirts is your first clue. I don't know who he is but I know that no one messes with that man or men more than once and lives to brag about it. Those guys don't just die, they disappear. That's why I'm not paying you more than 50 cents on the dollar for scrap, and if you don't like it, stick this junk up your ass and get the fuck out of here; you're lettin' out the heat!"
"No, you look asshole," another fiend joined the argument, "This shit ain't hot and won't be missed, at least not yet, if ever. We had sailors off this big ass yacht that brought the shit in, help us unload, an' they said it ain't been cataloged yet, so you just get your fat ass in gear and melt it down an' no one's gonna get found out." He tempted the buyer with more the next morning after their shift change that would all be smaller and include lots of coins that the sailors called doubloons, taken from bags and boxes that hadn't been counted either as yet. He promised whatever was small enough to fit in backpacks and/or gallon jugs, as much as they could safely carry out to their cars and trucks, night after night until the owners showed up to finally count and catalog whatever was left.
The boss buyer seemed to relent after five more minutes of arguing. He agreed to pay full price for 14 carat scrap gold. Bani, Kad and Sidi almost went ballistic. "Angus told us everything, all of the treasure was pure 24 carat gold!" Bani exclaimed. "That man is a liar and a cheat!"
"Yes, and what of the gems, the fiend is not paying extra for those," Sidi reminded.
"Calm down guys," Bucky soothed, "the man is a fence, not a kind of barrier," he hastened to add another meaning to the word, "here a fence is also a kind of middle man who buys stolen goods from thieves and then sells them to other people for ridiculously low prices while everyone involved knows that they are dealing in stolen property and pretend otherwise. Where there are thieves, there are fences, and there are always buyers who are otherwise honest but can't resist a so called bargain. Since these fiends, as you call them didn't want to take a 50 percent discount off pure gold, the fence is paying full price for nearly half the carat value, and won't mention the gems unless the thieves bring up the subject, the dimwits."
Harm added his opinion, "I don't think that fence guy is planning to melt anything down. If he was, the treasure would be handled differently, probably thrown in boxes, but each piece is being taken away to another room out of sight."
Peter nudged Freckles to asked, "Can you show us what's in that room?"
"I think the view will change in a short length of time."
Snoopy's view changed to follow the men through the door. Everyone was astounded by what they saw stored there. There were goods of every description stacked neatly on pallet steel and the pallet steel was neatly arranged in aisles. Strangely, the men didn't stop there. One section of steel shelving had been pulled away from the wall and the treasure was disappearing yet again, through that opening.
Bucky explained the pawn business in general terms: Customers from all walks of life, not just the poor, that needed a sum of money in a hurry for whatever reason, took a possession that they could do without for a short period of time, usually 90 days or less, to a pawn shop to use as collateral to secure a negotiated loan, that was always far lower than the resale value of the item. They could retrieve their goods by paying off the loan, plus interest, within the allotted time, or if they didn't, the store could sell the goods to pay off the loan, plus the accrued interest and with a generous profit margin tacked onto that. He mentioned that customers could also opt to sell something outright to the store, such as anything made of gold or anything else that might otherwise be pawned. He concluded with the observation that pawn shops flourished in times of economic decline, particularly in depressed areas or cities such as Newark, the reason that there was a line in front of the store before they opened for business in the middle of a snow storm.
"Should I turn on all of the electronics in that great storage hut; that would be a very good joke on those evil fiends," Freckles asked with a particularly evil grin (one ear cocked forward and the other pasted against his skull.)
"Can you do that?" Bucky was clearly surprised but was laughing silently at one very mischievous Great Cat.
Freckles nodded, "Yes, I think so, for a very short length of time, or expressed in human minutes; one or two, longer if I can add energy to all that inferior metal that you call steel."
"Perhaps you should wait until we go there to retrieve your treasure," Bucky suggested.
"Freckles, would you please stop feeding your face long enough to show us what's behind that secret opening?" Peter urged.
Before Freckles showed the secret rooms' interior, he moved Snoopy back outside for a quick overview. The adjacent three story building was twice as large as the single story pawn shop building that once upon a time was an inter-city supermarket. The front or street side was boarded up completely including where the entrance may have been before the former department store closed forever. However, while the back of the building was unlighted despite the storm, with Snoopy's help, everyone watching could clearly see a modern three bay loading dock with matching steel roll up doors and a wide pedestrian door on the side. Further evidence that the building was far from being derelict, was, while the back drive through alley was narrow, the buildings opposite the dock had been removed and the lot paved so semi-trucks could easily maneuver to and from the dock with ease. They also noted that the dock, the alley and the lot had been recently cleared far better than the adjacent streets that comprised a city block.
"Okay, we get the overall picture; now show us what's inside that big building," impatient Peter ordered. He knew that Freckles was playing at being a drama queen and was waiting to be asked to move Snoopy inside.
While Freckles showed the first floor interior, he rolled his eyes down to Peter to remind him; "Do you know that in your position of Executive Assistant to Great Cats, you should not order me to do anything?"
Peter grinned back, "Do you know that I am also an Admiral and Admirals give orders, they don't always ask. Especially mischievous Great Cats. If you don't believe me ask Admiral Angus, I believe he's listening in."
"Aye lad, that I am," Angus cut in at once accompanied by mental laughter. He continued, "I'm thinkin' the boys' got you big time, Mr. Freckles Katz. You should be very happy that your father isn't in paw range of you like he is your brother Spot."
"Cut the shit guys," Pettie butted into the conversation, "Just look at the size of this operation. This guy must be the fence for the whole blamed city an' maybe New York City too."
Even Freckles turned his head to look at the television although the signal emanated from his mind, while Peter was forced to stand up to look around the Great Cat. The first floor was a modern warehouse, with more neatly ordered pallet steel that rose to the ceiling and well over half the shelves covered with cartons of every size. Everything appeared to be individually labeled with all labels facing out. Crews of men accompanied by forklifts were traveling the aisles picking out boxes and loading them carefully on pallets. When a pallet was judged complete it was moved to join others already lined up in front of one of the roll up doors.
Snoopy moved to near where the secret door was located. He zoomed down to see that the newly arrived artifacts were being carefully placed in plastic tubs that were lined up near an industrial size elevator, whose door was wide enough to accommodate six pallets of boxed merchandise placed so they touched. These pallets were quickly being moved to the pallet steel and when the elevator was empty, the tubs containing the stolen treasures replaced the pallets. "Going up," Freckles announced, "second floor, oops nope," he corrected, "the second floor is where the stolen items are boxed." When the elevator kept rising, "Third floor," he announced, accompanied by a chime, exactly like his friend, the Residence elevator, made at each floor. "This is the real time view," he added.
Even Bucky was amazed by the activities carried out on the third floor. Tables and work stations lined the floor. The treasure was being displayed on several tables where there was already a silver tea service, trays, cups, bowls and piles of assorted silver flatware while other tables held high end electronics such as big screen televisions and sound systems, laptop computers and cellphones. Watches and fine jewelry were arrayed in another area and there was a work station near each of the roughly categorized merchandize.
"Can you zoom in on the guy working on televisions, please?" Bucky asked, "We need to get some idea of what they're doing."
Freckles complied then rolled his eyes down to Peter and whispered, "Chief Bucky said please; he is very polite." Of course Freckles forgot to turn down his communicators' volume.
"Bucky is the Chief, while I'm just an Admiral," Peter returned in a mumble. "Hey, what's he doing to the label on the back of the TV?" he pointed as Freckles zoomed in as close as Snoopy was capable of.
A workman was using a small grinding tool to obliterate the TV's serial number that he quickly replaced with a small sticker, 'RECONDITIONED'. Then he carefully wiped the entire unit down with a cleaner (assumed) to remove any dust, dirt, smudges and perhaps finger prints, before he moved on to the next device in line. Another man with a digital camera moved in to photograph the TV from the front and side, checked the images on a laptop and added a typed description before he too moved on to the next newly 'reconditioned' unit to repeat the process.
"They're selling this stuff online," Will observed, "wow, what an operation. Freckles can you access, ah, make friends with that guy's laptop? We need to see where this stuff is being advertised, and how much they're selling it for." Freckles looked up after a glance at Will's open laptop that he always had working during breakfast to review Trenton Security's overnight business. The TV screen split while Will's monitor showed a kind of standard copy form that could be adapted to any flat screen television by entering the brand name, model number, diagonal size, and original retail price, along with additional key selling features, if any. The most important bit of information was last, the reconditioned price, emblazoned in red numbers.
Will's fingers flew for a minute before he reported, "Holy shit, excuse me Victoria, that top of the line model is only three months old, the MSRP was $2495.00, so it was advertised on sale for $2195.00 by retailers, and these guys are selling the same set for $1595.00, that's a fantastic bargain."
"What if I bought that there TV set an' the blamed thing didn't work?" Pettie asked the question everyone wanted answered.
"There's a money back guarantee, and a warranty the buyer would pay extra for, that's offered by an outside company. These guys want to stay under every credit card company's radar. If it didn't work within 30 days or you got a case of buyer's remorse, you send it back in the original shipping carton and get a refund; no questions asked."
"What if that TV was broken when it was brought in?" Buck wondered. The concept of pawning was obviously new to him.
"Anything that comes in that store, front or back door that uses power is tested, even a toaster. If it didn't work, they wouldn't offer a loan or buy it, so it was tested downstairs." Will explained.
"What is a toaster?" Freckles asked suddenly. The warriors were just as interested.
Peter giggled through an answer that he accompanied with the image of a two slice toaster. He concluded with; "Knowing answers is why I am an Admiral and you are a Great Cat. We always share knowledge on request," he assured. Peter expected a tail squeeze; instead he received some very quick sticky, fruit juice laced face slurps that required using a towel on his own face. The room quieted when Freckles picked up a conversation between two men who were studying the newly arrived artifacts.
The men realized that just about everything was very old, strangely some items were so finely wrought, that they looked machine made, but the gold was pure and the gems were flawless and finely cut. No forger would ever make that kind of investment to create obvious modern fakes. It all appeared to be most likely from Central or South America, definitely not Chinese or anywhere in Asia and the quantity was a problem. There certainly hadn't been any museum heists of this magnitude recently or anytime, if there was, the cops would do the advertising for the fence and very private buyers from around the world would seek them out, just like they did after an art gallery was robbed and several modern masters' works, recently came on the market. They decided that they would call in the 'Professor', so he could identify the makers and the time period everything was made. In the meantime they would photograph a few choice pieces and send out emails to discriminating and very discrete buyers on their 'extra special' client list to see if there was any interest.
Bucky's head swung to Will, "Can we access their system? If we can get that list, we have a starting point for our sales. These people won't need any lists shortly," he prophesied with a frown.
"I will open this machine's barriers for you," Freckles volunteered.
"Did you mean firewalls?" Peter asked with a giggle and a poke in Freckles' side.
"Yes, those BARRIERS!" Freckles responded with a tail poke back at Peter that almost knocked his chair over. "You humans are too fragile to make jokes when you are sitting so close," he advised Peter with a Buck style giggle.
"Okay, got it," Will almost sang. "It's being printed up in your study," he told Bucky.
"I'll get it," Buck announced over his shoulder as he ran from the room.
When Buck returned, he was laughing. He looked at his father first and then at Evan. "I'm shocked, my own father buys stolen art works, who knew?"
"My name's not on that list is it?" Evan asked weakly.
Buck laughed even harder, "Nope, not yet, but your grandfather's is, right up here at the top of the list."
Evan beat Buck in laughing, "I think I mentioned a time or two that I had no idea where Grandfather got all his junk; now we know where some of it came from."
Doug started laughing and pointing wordlessly at Bucky, which caused him to frown back, which caused Doug to sober instantly; he still feared Bucky's frowns. "I was just thinking that maybe you and Anton bid against each other if you were both after the same thing, so you actually drove the price up by starting a bidding war."
Bucky thought that over for a moment before he grinned, "Son-of-a-bitch, I always wondered who that other guy was. He usually won, but I made him pay." He looked at the TV suddenly and pointed. "Now I definitely will buy that." He was pointing at a Great Cat that appeared to be about to leap; it was raised up so it was balanced on its hind legs and tail. The statue appeared to be about 12 inches tall overall and it was being photographed with a black cloth background so the gold and emerald eyes glittered at the camera. "If there was a pair, I'd use them on my desk as book ends; they'd be magnificent," he concluded wistfully.
"There is another," Freckles advised while he changed the view to a moving truck that had been used to transport the stolen treasure and the dead fiend. He zoomed Snoopy down through the cab roof, the driver's body and the seat to reveal the golden Cat's mate lying on its side. "This Great Cat is a warrior with his first kill," he announced proudly and replayed the video of the flying statue that administered a fatal skull fracture to the fiend groveling in a snow drift.
Buck was reminded, "Hey where'd the stiff go?"
"What is a stiff?" You know who, asked.
"The stiff, you know, the dead guy, the fiend; he was in the back of the truck, now he's gone."
Freckles really laughed at that explanation, "Oh yes, he is very stiff. That is why he is having difficulty swimming in a river close by. Even Pettie is faster!" he declared at Pettie's expense.
Pettie offered his detractor a finger that he attempted to hide behind the flat of his other hand to keep Victoria from seeing, which made his silent retort more obvious and funnier. Pettie protested, with a glance at the three little warriors, who were still feeding their faces, "I believe we all could go a mite faster if them three mobile underwater cameras would keep their hands to themselves," he accused without mentioning names.
The guilty swimming 'cameras' didn't miss a chew, but suddenly found the frescoed dining room ceiling fascinating, exactly as Freckles instructed. The Great Cat spoiled the innocent moment, "See, just as I advised, Pettie could not be referring to you three brave warriors, you look just like those fat little winged children you are staring at on that ceiling…"
The word "CHERUBS!" echoed through the room several times amid peals of laughter and pointing fingers as everyone sought to be helpful in identifying the 'fat little winged children'. It was obvious to the warriors that there would be rough and tumbles in the future each time one of the gang called them cherubs.
But the warriors took Freckles' attempt at assuring innocence another way. The trio stood up on their chair seats, pulled up their tee shirts and pushed down their borrowed shorts until they puddled at their feet. "FAT!" They exclaimed together, while thrusting their private parts in the Great Cat's direction to refute, and show their disdain for that particularly insulting word; fat, that was not even in the Cat Peoples' or Ancients' vocabulary, either, they discovered the previous night.
Victoria managed a playful shocked screech, quickly covered her eyes with a hand and then immediately spread her fingers so her view of three perfectly formed, living, bronze statues was unimpeded. "ENOUGH!" Bucky roared to calm the pandemonium in his dining room although he was hard pressed to keep from laughing.
The warriors proved that they were as adept at donning cloth coverings as they were at stripping and they resumed eating their breakfasts as if the incident never occurred while everyone else resumed looking at the TV.
The original buyer, Gus, the shop owner, from the first floor, arrived on the third floor from what would have been an elevator intended for department store customers. Someone told him that the 'Prof' (perhaps the Professor) couldn't come to the store because of the storm so a truck was sent and two men with shovels to clear the Prof's way.
The Prof was Professor Emeritus Jonathon Meriwether who consulted regularly with curators at Museum of Natural Histories across the nation and occasionally with Gold Buyer's Pawn, if they had any questions regarding antiquities brought to the shop. He was an unassuming man and a bit eccentric, which he was entitled to be, given that he owned more Doctorates that included an M.D., than some medical clinics. He particularly enjoyed consulting with the pawn shop because he very daringly charged a minimum of $250.00 per visit and they always paid in cash. He kept that tax free income in his vacation fund and when he had enough, planned to venture off into the wilds of somewhere in the perpetual hope and dream of making his first grand discovery, just like all archeologists, past, present and future.
When Bucky saw that everyone, including the warriors and Freckles, were done with breakfast finally, and that the Family had managed to forget that it was still snowing in preference to watching the pawn shop, he called the garage to ask for volunteers to resume plowing and clearing. He suggested, "If we're all done in here, why don't we all move into the media room where we'll all be more comfortable?"
"Theater," Victoria corrected.
For some reason, instead of standing, everyone frowned at Buck, even Doug. Buck answered their group unasked question by asking one of his father; "What media room? I didn't know we had one. Where is it anyway?"
"Don't you dare play dumb Buckminster," Victoria warned, "you know very well where it is; the THEATER," she emphasized, "is below the ballroom."
Doug thought to inject some humor, "Sure Buckminster Number Four, remember the contractor was doing something around that wing recently, all that noise from jack hammers?"
Bucky cautioned his son obliquely, "You must remember when your mother found that big unused space and decided that it would make a great theater, after tiered seating was installed, so we had to break up the floor and lower that whole foundation without collapsing the ballroom."
"Oh, oh yeah, now I remember," Buck tried to look enlightened. "Come on guys," he invited, "I'm almost sure there's a new stairway going down there too," he looked at his father who nodded and rolled his eyes. He was relieved when Freckles happily led the way after the boys returned the TV to wherever they found it and the delicate antique tea trolley to the butler's pantry, per Victoria's precise orders, with the advisory not to touch it again.
By the time Doug and Buck arrived in the new theater lobby, the others that included Bucky, Victoria and of course, Freckles and the warriors, had all but cleaned out the boxes of candy that had been stocked in the small but elegant refreshment stand. Doug and Buck frowned together until they saw the commercial popcorn popper and it was unlighted and empty.
While Buck was as useless in any kitchen as his mother, Doug was not, he was microwave oven capable, and by trial and error, before sneaking a peek at the printed directions; soon had the machine up and running.
Freckles, in the theater, first made friends with the theater's computer where thousands of movies had been digitized and stored. Then he found that the soft luxurious, leather upholstered lounge seats reclined with the touch of a few buttons. He made his seat flatten completely before he raised the foot rest to the perfect level to rest his furred chin, whether it wanted to or not. Peter attempted to explain that the chairs were designed for the human anatomy not a Cat's, but it was too late; the chair in front row center would be Freckles' until it was repaired or replaced. Bani and Charlie claimed a seat next to Freckles, Kad and Sidi chose a place next to them while Peter sat or planned to sit on Freckles' other side. So he could be most helpful to his Great Cat employer, if needed.
Victoria pushed Bucky into a double wide lounge seat in the middle of the tiers; the host's place and the actual place with the control station, although no one bothered to tell Bucky how to turn on the theater's projector, or select a movie and Victoria couldn't care less, so he snuggled down with Victoria and allowed Freckles to figure out the whole electronic mess. The rest of the gang found seats above and behind the 'jungle types', because it was more amusing watching them than it would be to watch any movie they could think of, either first run or on DVD.
Predictably, a squabble broke out between Freckles and the warriors, concerning which movie to watch. The warriors wanted to see more of John Wayne, the Black Warrior, and a very prolific actor during his lifetime, while Freckles wanted to 'go where no man (or Great Cat) had gone before'; Star Trek, any Star Trek. Freckles won the first round but Bani was just coming into his Ancient powers.
Bani inhaled deeply, scrunched up his eyes and the 'Enterprise' disappeared from the screen in favor of 'Rooster Cogburn' astride his horse and with guns blazing! Freckles looked to the side and smiled magnificently; Tara Bani was beginning to realize his potential! It was then that a delicious new odor penetrated the theater.
Freckles almost disappeared in a proverbial flash. He allowed his nose to lead him to the lobby, the popcorn machine and the exploding corn kernels as increased volume in the heated top gizmo forced them out to drop into a half full glass box, with the level rising and with no end in sight. Another squabble had developed there; between Doug and Buck although both boys were laughing as they backed away from the popcorn machine while Freckles had his nose pressed against the heated glass enclosure, unable to taste the source of the wonderful aroma without breaking or melting the clear, annoying barrier.
"I told you, asshole, you should have read the directions before you added the corn," Buck claimed while he shook a finger up in Doug's face.
"And I told you one full measure didn't seem like enough so I added four," Doug argued back. "Who the fuck knew?" he shrugged helplessly, "Maybe we should open the door and let some out," he suggested.
"Not with my mother sitting so close by; if it hit the floor, it would qualify as dirt."
"Could I have some please?" Freckles asked, just short of drooling.
"You can if you don't mind eating it off the floor," Doug agreed, "sorry, we don't have a bowl, just these cups and they're too small for you," he added.
"I do not mind," Freckles agreed instantly after he sent a video clip of him and his brother feasting on a half grown boar who didn't wish to be eaten and the carcass was not exactly the cleanest after the fight. The Great Cat moved to behind the counter impatiently waiting for Doug to open the containers' doors.
After the popcorn spilled out, a problem arose. Popcorn after popping is extremely light and it seemed didn't wish to be eaten by a Great Cat either. It just skittered away from Freckles tongue. "PETER!" Freckles, Buck and Doug shouted for help simultaneously.
"WHAT, I'm almost afraid to ask?"
"We have a problem here Houston." Doug explained as he and Buck both laughed while they watched the Great Cat persevere; chasing down individual popcorns. The problem was self-explanatory.
Peter rolled his eyes, "You rich dudes are as helpless as a Cat I know." He ignored Freckles growl of protest. He picked up a small empty plastic trash container, placed it on its side and scooped up most of the popcorn before grinning at the rich dudes in question and Freckles' head disappeared into the container.
Doug turned haughty, "Anyone could have thought of that." He turned to look down on Freckles, "Would you like some hot butter and maybe some more salt?" He asked to change the subject. Freckles' grin answered that question.
They topped off the container and added salt and lots of butter. Peter took charge of the container and Freckles hurried him back into the theater by butting him along with his nose. It was apparent that Bani had been experimenting and had successfully switched the movie from Rooster Cogburn to John Wayne wearing a military uniform that included a dark green beret and best of all, carrying modern firearms.
When Bucky saw them coming, he asked, to forestall further argument, "Would it be possible to get back to the pawn shop and the treasure? You can watch anything you want to later, but we might have to take some preliminary steps now, so we really need to know what's happening with those fiends." It seemed that 'fiends' was the magic word. John Wayne disappeared in a blur of activity that didn't include incoming mortar rounds or Viet Cong machine gun fire, to the men working on the third floor. Gradually, the images slowed and cleared until they arrived at real time.
A very tall man stepped off the small elevator, he was so bundled up in a heavy coat, with a hood tied closely around his face that was also protected by a black balaclava, and a very long muffler that would only allow for his eyes to be seen if he wasn't also wearing horned rim glasses and those were fogged. "Oh my, oh my, atrocious weather and so unexpected," the man said while he began to shed his protective clothing that turned out to be several layers that included a second pair of trousers and snap up rubber boots, sometimes called galoshes, that fit over his street shoes. Once rid of his outerwear and with his glasses replaced the man still had a full head of floppy white hair that capped a still handsome face that looked at the world through bright blue eyes. "Now Gus my friend, what is so important, that I just had to see today in this simply horrid…" The man, assumed to be the Professor, never got out the word 'weather' after his eyes spied the tables covered with the Cat Peoples' treasure that had been delivered so far.
He almost ran to the display, bypassed everything to pick up the leaping Great Cat. He was surprised by the weight; he hefted it several times before he looked at Gus in question.
"This is the stuff Doc, and the ones like the cat you're holding are the problem. Can you source it for me? The collector's estate wants it all sold quiet like, to avoid, ah, the publicity," he lied. Publicity was a code word that actually meant the horrendous inheritance tax bite, a believable story. "So they came to me. I can pick out stuff like Inca, Maya and the Spanish junk but some of these have me stumped. The gold is real and pure and every gem is flawless but the cuts are modern and these pieces are so detailed, so finely crafted, they look like they were machine made. I question why any forger would bother to invest this much gold and such fine gems, and I know of no modern artist, living or dead who does or did this kind of work without being recognized."
Doc produced a jeweler's loupe from his coat pocket and turned the cat upside down to look for any identifying marks. He looked at Gus and grinned, "Most extraordinary." He put the Cat down and picked up a 12 inch tall Cat warrior, standing at attention much like the stone warriors who guarded Cat Place, the entrance to Cat City and absently fondled the warrior with his thumb while he began to sort the pieces to different tables with one hand after looking for marks on their bases. "Most extraordinary," he repeated.
"Did you find any marks?"
"Just the disgusting Spanish, their work is usually cruder. They most likely melted beautiful 'heathen' works like these down to make these crude crosses and unrecognizable saints. But that cat and these Indians are very well endowed, if I may be so bold to mention."
"What did that man expect of a Great Cat or Cat warriors?" Freckles grumbled, which caused a loss of concentration so the dialog was garbled briefly. Bucky cleared his throat to stifle all further laughter.
The conversation resumed with Gus shaking his head and answering a question after Freckles recovered from the unintentional slur, "Nope, no provenance at all, no source like who sold it, or a purchase price or any dates. I was thinking that the collector didn't care, that he just liked art made from gold," he hesitated, "or it may be, that the source had to be secret because it was like a lost civilization or culture that created this stuff and he didn't want anyone finding out about it. Like maybe he found the source himself and imported it on the QT to get around the Customs guys in both countries."
The Doc stared off into space before he answered, "Yes, I believe that is the way you should go for now. I will create a civilization for you, perhaps one that includes the source as El Dorado, The Golden One has been found and these are just a few first examples of the mysterious builder's capabilities that we'll suggest predates the Olmec. Between you and I, Gus, there is no other explanation; all of these pieces really were made by a culture far more advanced than any other discovered so far, and there are still cultures being discovered every year so this one is entirely possible, and this culture is or was perhaps even more advanced than ours today in the 21st century."
"Doc, if you can write something up for us along those lines, I'd appreciate it. In return, why don't you keep that little Indian as an inspiration before you wear his golden cock out with your thumb," Gus joked, "I doubt that any amount of rubbing will make that Indian hard," he added with a slap on the Professor's back. Apparently he knew the Doc's taste in antiquities and in guys.
"It would be a very good thing if that Doc guy worked for the People and the Great Cats," Bani suggested.
"I agree," Freckles stated, "I sense no evil, just remarkable innocence and unfulfilled dreams of discovery and of course coupling with young warriors," he added.
Sidi and Kad burst into giggles together, "These brave warriors will show this Doc what warriors made of flesh look like and then when he visits our lands we will introduce him to Admiral Angus and his band of 12 brave young warriors. He will help us."
"By the time he visits," Freckles seemed to agree, "brother Spot will have several heads completed, located in a distant valley, in the style of these Olmec people but in the form of Cat People. This Doc will be impressed," he assured the gang confidently.
"Cat People," Harm questioned, "why not carve the fake heads to look like Ancients?"
"Because their appearance is the same," Freckles answered, "The difference between the Ancient Taras (Lords) and their friends the Cat People is what is inside the head." That was news to everyone, all human eyes and those of two Cat warriors' shifted to Bani, who attempted to disappear into the soft leather seat cushions with Charlie on top for good measure.
Freckles' tail hoisted Bani out of his fetal position and then tickled him into fighting back with his hands while he laughed, "You cannot hide from your destiny Tara Bani, it is futile to try," the Great Cat sent confidentially.
"I don't understand," Buck claimed, "how will the Professor be impressed with stone heads in some valley? The only stone work we saw was the bas-relief carvings in the canyon and the statues of Great Cats and warriors lined up in Cat Place. Everything major in the City is made from gold. That's why we call it El Dorado."
Freckles rolled his eyes, "Who said Spot will fashion the heads from stone except brother Spot; who is a lazy Great Cat because stone is easier."
"You mean the heads are being made from gold, solid gold, in that valley in the middle of nowhere?" Doug squeaked since he was the first to understand what Freckles just implied.
Freckles' simple nod in answer led to other questions. The Great Cat waited until everyone ran out of steam before he answered them all surprisingly simply. "The Ancients left tools behind and the Great Cats taught Chief Tonga, Marta, Carb and Angus, mind-speakers all, how to use them and they are teaching all the Cat warriors. They will have much amusement as they learn," he assured.
Freckles changed the subject suddenly. "Do you think the helicopter store is open yet? The snow is falling less and the wind has dropped, so we will fly to see Professor Meriwether." he advised, as he turned to Peter. "I think we should color our helicopter gold and name him El Dorado. Could I have some more of that popcorn please with salt and extra butter?"
Peter frowned mightily at his employer, "Didn't I tell you no, I'm not sitting in the pilot's seat, making believe I'm flying the damn thing while you do the piloting? If you don't manage to kill us, I'll end up in prison because I don't have a pilot's license, so there, end of discussion! How much salt?" he asked, while he grabbed the empty trash bucket and stomped from the room.
Billy stopped laughing long enough to intervene, "There is no store Freckles, exactly, but there are dealers who sell used aircraft, or you can order a new one from a manufacturer. Either way, you won't be able to just fly away in one this afternoon. Another point I'd like to mention is, before you fly a chopper anywhere, you need to know that you have a big safe place to land in advance."
Freckles changed the screen with the subject. He switched from the Professor departing the warehouse, to Carb holding and pointing one of odd looking javelins that Kad and Sidi held when everyone first entered the great pyramid. Carb closed his eyes and turned his head away before he fired or activated the thing with it pointed generally at a small nearby hillock across the valley. The bump in the landscape shimmered and disappeared, while all the dense jungle vegetation remained intact; it just settled down. Carb looked back at his handiwork and giggled at seeing and hearing the wildlife who were not as amused by the sudden change in the elevation of their resting places.
It seemed that Tonga wasn't happy about Carb's marksmanship either when he snatched the tool from Carb's hands, aimed and watched the hill reappear, complete with even more aggravated wildlife when their former views of the valley were suddenly restored. The view of the warrior chiefs was from an elevated position quite close by.
"Brother Spot, come down from there, you are sitting on what Tara Bani wishes to see," Freckles ordered via mind-speak. Spot and the view from his eyes went airborne as he jumped on the two warriors, carried them to the ground and perhaps tickled them with his tail at first then wrested the seemingly harmless appearing javelin or tool from Tonga's hands.
"You are very naughty warriors," Spot told the pair, "this Cat told you not to play around, this tool is very dangerous," he scolded, and waved the tool in question under their noses. Tonga and Carb attempted to look contrite but weren't good enough actors; their grins kept leaking through.
"Greetings from the United States of America, State of New Jersey, Father," Bani sent to Tonga. "We see you are learning Ancient ways. We would like to see what you and Great Cat Spot have made, if he would turn and look that way." Spot gave a visual tour of the surrounding trees and dense undergrowth instead of looking at the newly made head. It was obvious that the Great Cat was engaging in a bit of playing around himself.
Bani split the screen so half showed Spot's tour that Freckles controlled, while Bani's half was a view from his father's eyes. Tonga was watching Great Cat Fang emerge from nowhere and he was intent on stalking his hapless son Spot. Suddenly, the view from Spot's eyes winked out when he suddenly went airborne once again, from a single swat that Fang applied as seen through Tonga's eyes.
"Ouch," Freckles said for his flying brother helpfully. "That will teach him to employ his tail at all times. When brother Spot becomes mischievous, he sometimes forgets and becomes very easy prey," he explained confidentially to the gang before he greeted his father, very happy that he was far, far out of range of his father's paw. Spot landed like all Cats, Great, small and normal, on his four paws in a clump of bushes, some distance away. He slinked on his belly to Fang and rolled over to expose his neck. Fang looked down on his wayward son and shook his head before he used his tail to return the tool to Tonga's hands and apparently gave him some instructions.
The split screen vanished when the view switched to Fang's eyes as he studied the so far unseen head while Tonga and Carb walked closer to give some idea of scale. The theater fell silent. Everyone sucked in their breathes as they first gazed on Bani's five foot tall smiling face. As the gang admired the exact likeness in glittering gold, his head began to gain height as Tonga pointed the tool down toward the base. Bani's shoulders appeared, seemingly growing from the earth, then his chest, and so on down his body until the statue was standing on two feet gazing forever at the magical hill across the valley!
"Holy shit," Bucky was the first to gasp, "that is astounding!"
"But Father," Freckles protested meekly, "we only wanted warrior heads, not their whole bodies."
"Not possible," Fang disagreed, "no warrior's head can be shown without his body. That would appear as if he was decapitated in battle and it was an enemy trophy. The Outside will see whole warriors or none." That pronouncement seemed to be the end of the discussion as far as Great Cat Fang was concerned. He looked down on helpless Spot, lifted him to his paws and groomed his face before the pair, father and son, walked further away from the heroic statue that was over 10 times Bani's size with the statues' head five feet tall as requested.
When they turned back to gaze at their handiwork, their view swept down the valley to reveal 12 more statues and because of their size, it was easy to see that they were all slightly different, "Are these the 12 Ancients?" Bani questioned Freckles. Freckles nodded. It was clear that even he was impressed. "How did I, I mean how did it just grow up from the ground? Is there a tunnel under there?"
Freckles nodded once again but also elaborated in general terms; "This area was chosen because it is rich with gold very deep, so none had to be moved from the City. All the other Great Cats are below with an equal number of warriors and those are as mischievous as Carb and Tonga, your father. They refuse to realize what the Ancient's tools can do and according to brother Spot, are constantly experimenting if they are left unsupervised."
Doug cleared his throat, "If you don't mind my asking; what supports one of those monuments? I can't even guess what one of them weighs."
Freckles was silent for a few seconds. The guys assumed that he was consulting Fang, seeking an answer, but he was actually asking how much he was allowed to tell the humans. "As you saw, the tools have great power. They can erase the living rock under that hill as easily as they can restore it or the rock can be made more dense by removing all cracks, fissures, deformities or softness's. It can be made so hard it will support anything. The living rock under each Ancient was restored in that manner just like the City was built. Gold is soft and becomes a dusty residue, while very hard crystals, that you call gems are impurities and drop to the new gallery floor. Do you understand?"
Doug shrugged and grinned, "Yeah, sure, that was as clear as mud," he responded.
Freckles frowned, "Now I do not understand."
Peter returned at that moment. He sat on the edge of his seat so he could hold the trash basket full of popcorn so Freckles could feast. He waited until the Cat's head had almost disappeared before he said, "I have a suggestion; we could all go visit this Professor guy if we use the Cat Mobile. We have three plows that could clear the road ahead and the bus can follow. It will still be slippery but we should make it if we go slowly."
"ROAD TRIP!" was the general shout throughout the theater with Buck and Doug the loudest while everyone scrambled to get out of the theater first with the warriors in the lead.
"HOLD IT!" Bucky countered, which caused the exodus to freeze. The gang turned back to see that cooler, calmer heads; Bucky, Will, Joe, Hans, Herman and the other more mature bodyguards, hadn't budged from their seats.
"Some advance planning might be in order," Bucky suggested, "like the Professor's address would be helpful unless you plan to knock on doors," he added sarcastically.
Kad surprisingly agreed somewhat, "Yes the address, and we must have mid-day food and drink to bring along for our journey."
"Yes, of course we must have food for our trip," Bucky agreed even more sarcastically.
Everyone looked at Freckles to provide the address but he looked at Bani to give silent instructions. Bani closed his eyes to send his mind questing, while Freckles asked Peter out loud if the soda dispenser in the lobby functioned, then he merely looked hopeful.
Hayden seemed to think that since he'd served the Great Cat, Coke, in the school dining room that he should continue to provide that comfort. "How about using an ice chest for the road trip? We could fill it with ice cubes and Coke," he suggested. Peter nodded his thanks, which sent him and Justin off to the kitchen to get a cooler.
Bani brightened the room with a radiant smile as he announced; "Professor, Doctor Meriwether has two huts, one is in a tall building, but he is not returning there. He has a big single hut in a village called Princeton that is where he has ordered his driver to be delivered so that is where we should go." He snickered before also reporting that the Professor was still caressing his golden warrior that he had hidden under his coat beside a very erect manhood.
"Way to go Bani!" Doug congratulated that was echoed by the other boys before they all rushed from the theater with no place to go except to find coats and weapons in the event of need and all they needed to go packing was the slightest excuse. The call to arms sent Evan and company racing for Somerset Farm to equip themselves, and then race back as fast as road conditions allowed.
An hour later, all the boys went to collect the all-important lunch, snacks and drinks that had to be distributed among over 30 vehicles that had been lined up in front of the house, most armored and all occupants armed.
The boys' Hummers were first in line, followed by Big Foot driven by Pettie and Scott; any one or all were prepared to clear their route to Princeton. Next was the Cat Mobile, which Peter appeared to be driving with Freckles' 'help', of course the Cat warriors and only three humans; Buck, Doug and Charlie. Bucky decreed that it would be this small group who would actually make first contact with the eccentric Professor. They wanted his help, not to scare him to death.
He and the rest of the Family would wait outside, maybe out of sight if it was possible to hide a convoy that size. Bucky assumed that if the convoy was seen, it would certainly lend credibility to the warriors' importance and who actually owned the treasure, and that the culture thought to be long lost, wasn't as dead the professor assumed and indeed was more advanced than he guessed. The only real proof the warriors would carry was Victoria's versatile self-collapsing, hinge free stonewood jewel box, sans jewels, that she lent to the effort as long as she could accompany Bucky sitting in the back of a Suburban that was positioned directly behind the Cat mobile. Will and Joe accompanied the Trenton's with Will driving so they could relay mind-speaker's edited conversations and send any directions from Bucky if necessary.
The 35 mile trip was painfully slow going from the start, something the boys would have realized if they'd taken the trouble to look at their vehicles' GPS screens or their laptops which Freckles helpfully adapted to Snoopy's view. Some two lane country roads had been plowed once so they needed to be cleared. Others had been cleared recently but were barely one lane wide, and they hadn't gotten to the highway or the Interstate yet. Impatient mind-speakers began sending the same question to those in the bus; 'When are we going to get there?' Of course those in the bus were able to block if they chose so they did, but they could still feel annoying tendrils of thought 'banging' on their mental shields.
"Too bad we couldn't send them a DVD to watch," Doug groused, "maybe that would shut them up." He sighed, "It would give us something to do too."
Peter was sitting in the bus driver's seat eating a sandwich with one hand and sipping a Coke dipped from Freckles' supply with the other; by then unconcerned that Freckles actually drove the Cat Mobile.
The boys on the bus had the advantage of actually looking ahead to see what the plows were plowing, so the flat screen TV that folded down from the ceiling that showed Snoopy's view from above of the same operation was totally redundant. The big screen and all laptops in the convoy fuzzed, then cleared to show the opening credits of Disney's animated classic, 'The Jungle Book'. The three jungle types were instantly enthralled.
"Not that one," Buck protested to Freckles, "there's a later one that has real people and animals including big cats, if you can find it in our library." The movie froze for two minutes while Freckles stared into space.
"That is a very good choice Buck," Freckles agreed, "I saw the two titles were the same, but I thought it was just another human error. I have made a few alterations to make this story even better," he assured the boys before he started the movie all over again.
It wasn't long before Doug, Buck and Charlie began to laugh, giggle and point. Peter could hear the sound track and the boys but not see anything. "Fuck this Freckles, there's no one around to see if anyone's driving, I want to watch the show too." With that said, he moved back into the lounge area so he could see the screen.
Doug and Buck brought Peter up to speed using mind-speak so they wouldn't disturb the warriors who were packed onto a single lounge chair that Freckles had modified so they were laying on their belly's with their elbows on the elevated foot rest with their hands supporting their chins. Peter saw that Mowgli the toddler didn't look as he remembered. Doug explained that the actor had been replaced by a Cat warrior known as Squeak, the youngest warrior ever who had achieved many confirmed kills all obtained within an hour. The next 'alteration' they saw was Fang, Freckles' sire, played the part of irascible king of the Indian Jungle, Shere Khan, formerly a Bengal Tiger.
The Boys in the bus and Freckles noticed that the mental mind-speak battering had suddenly stopped early into the movie. Freckles reserved a part for himself by replacing Mowgli's lifelong cat friend Bagheera, a panther, while he allowed Baloo the bear and Grey Brother and his pack of friendly wolves to play themselves. These changes were what Doug and Buck were laughing about up until the point that Mowgli matured into a teenager.
Bani had already begun to squirm in anticipation. Freckles looked back to grin hugely at Bani as Bani replaced Jason Scott Lee the actor, the teen Mowgli, dressed and armed like all Cat warriors; a belt, a pouch, knife, blowgun and holding a bow and three arrows, complete with the typical Cat warrior haircut.
Doug immediately asked for Bani's autograph and after Buck defined that word for Kad and Sidi, they demanded Bani's signature as well. Everyone booed the evil fiends although they knew that every movie required villains. They gasped when Bani was attacked by the anaconda guardian and cheered when it was easily vanquished. They jeered at what they considered to be Monkey City's rather paltry treasure collection as compared to theirs before it was combined with what remained in Cat City.
There was a brief pause when the warriors wondered who or what maintained order among the populous of Monkey City in addition to the chief monkey, actually an orangutan. Freckles blithely added an additional character to assume that position; his brother Spot, but only briefly, shown swatting his way around the treasure room gallery.
There was a single yowl of protest that penetrated everyone's, including Freckles' mind block. "Are you sending this home?" Doug wondered.
"Oh yes, Marta called everyone to the Community Center to watch a recording. They are 10 minutes behind what we see. Father is very pleased with his part while brother Spot, not so much."
The end was anticlimactic since everyone already knew that Fang and the Great Cats recognized Bani as an Ancient from the beginning in real life.
Somehow Pettie was able to reach the Cat Mobile's occupants to announce; "We're here, if a sleepin' Great Cat will wake up long enough to open the damn electric gates!"
Once again, my thanks to Emoe for editing my stuff; I know it's not all fun for him, I make unconscionable mistakes but I can never see them.