The warehouse-like garage at Trenton Hall was buzzing with activity; or, at least one part of the shop area that had been draped with rolling sections of temporary canvas wall was buzzing. The walls nearly blocked the view of poor Austin Healey and Big Foot's truck bed loaded with gold bars and constant bright arc welding flashes plus Freckles Katz, Great Cat and his Executive Assistant and Admiral, Peter. Peter's view was further impeded by the need to wear a welder's protective helmet or mask with a black glass faceplate because he suffered from having human eyes while Freckles had need of his eyes since they were in part the welder or caused the welding to be done somehow. The mechanics on duty all wore their own helmets and were intent on watching Freckles' activities from spaces between the portable wall sections. Listening to the odd couple bicker and bitch was also amusing.
"Damn Freckles," Peter protested, "I thought we were making you a cat crapper and it's beginning to look like plain gold cylinders that are way too small for your furry butt to sit on." The mechanics sort of agreed by not being able to stifle their laughter completely. All that Peter was doing to help was to levitate gold bars from Big Foot to the area where Freckles was staring at the bars on the floor.
Freckles glared at Peter with his full arsenal of teeth showing that Peter could see while looking through the small rectangle of black glass in his welder's helmet, "That is a disgusting observation, any human should be able to see that these are food or drink containers for my use when we travel, exactly as you suggested!"
"WHAT?" Peter snapped as he took off his helmet, "You started to do this in Big Foot's backseat the other night when we were sitting in the truck!" he recalled, "Good thing I stopped you or we'd all be dead from the fumes if not the flames!"
Freckles rolled his eyes and his head, "Peter, Peter, Peter, you are just so human," the Great Cat chided, "For your information the fumes you complain of are simply free gold atoms attempting to escape me and what you thought were flames were not hot and were caused when I recaptured most of them to make my food container. So there!" He concluded and before Peter could say anything further, he laughed like Buck, "If you don't believe me, just look at your cloth coverings and your silly hat."
Peter looked down at his clothes and then at his welder's helmet. His flannel shirt and denim jeans had become cloth of gold, and his helmet including what had been the blackened glass had acquired a mirror bright gold finish and should have been too heavy to wear along with his altered clothes. "How–how did you do that?" Peter stammered his question.
Freckles pulled Peter close with his tail and then laughed again. "I would tell you, but then I would have to kill you," he joked; at least Peter hoped he was joking.
"What is happening out here?" Dr. Meriwether asked as he parted the canvas curtains dramatically and barged into the scene. "Ah, my favorite Great Cat, what are you doing out here Freckles? Why are you so over-dressed Peter? Although I think you look quite fetching. My word, is that all gold?" He asked when he looked in the truck with its tailgate down.
Instead of answering all of Doc's questions, Freckles asked, "Does anyone have currency?"
"Of course," Peter replied, "I carry some of yours, but why do you need money here on the property?"
Freckles used his tail to part the canvass curtains where most of the mechanics had been hiding to watch whatever Freckles was doing. The guilty each had a stripe of gold down their jumpsuits that gave them away and one side of the protective canvas walls looked like mirrors that had been lifted from a side show fun house. "Does everyone enjoy Slurpee's? We must test my new drink container and all here are invited for Slurpee's and Slim Jims!" he announced and went to Big Foot's back door, boarded, and got comfortable with his tail waving from the back window as the truck rumbled to life.
Of course the mechanics were supposed to be working and couldn't go, although they were tempted. Peter thought about changing clothes briefly, but then thought he was just making a very quick trip to the nearest convenience store so changing probably wouldn't be necessary. Doc climbed in Big Foot to ride shotgun and Peter had yet to close the driver's side door when it suddenly began accelerating, steering straight at the big overhead door that was already halfway up and rising quickly.
"STOP GODDAMN IT!" Peter screamed.
Freckles applied the brakes with his head tipped to the side to glare at Peter. "Humans are so excitable," he observed sarcastically. "What is wrong?"
Peter glared back, "Great Cats are so forgetful; you forgot to bring your drink container!"
"Gottcha!" Peter declared with a giggle. "But to show you how human I am, I'll just get your new pot." He actually found three pots nearly the same size that had been neatly nested together somehow.
Freckles was going to wait in the truck until Peter made the mistake of asking what flavor Slurpee he wanted in his new travel bowl. Doc, Peter and Freckles hadn't quite reached 'Fred's Fast Serve' convenience store door when the cashier began screaming. By the time they entered, the cashier was standing on the counter and screaming in an unknown language, possibly Chinese, to someone unseen in the backroom. That someone emerged and revealed himself to be the proprietor, Fred, an apparently elderly Asian gentleman.
"Out, out, you must get out, no animals in here, no, no, no!" The man, Fred, screamed and boldly made shooing motions as if to scare or drive Freckles from his store; until Freckles sat down and looked down and the man suddenly had a view of what small prey saw just before it became Great Cat food.
"He must accompany me wherever I go," Peter hastened to explain while thinking on his feet, "He's a trained service cat. He helps me out." He admitted with a straight face, "When I go out like now, sometimes I forget where I am or what I'm doing. What are we doing in here anyway?" He asked with a wink.
"What does service cat mean?" Freckles mind-spoke Peter. "You and your thumbs are here to help ME out," he protested silently, accompanied by a nasty look.
"I can certainly attest to that, I am this poor boy's personal physician," Doc tried to bolster Peter's claim of mental incompetence and eccentricity (His cloth of gold wardrobe worth $1000's also helped.) Doc held up a new near weightless golden bowl. "Today we came in for Slurpee's and snacks," he cajoled.
"Slim Jims," Freckles corrected using Peter's voice while attempting to look disinterested, disdainful and bored, a look which any house cat could do extremely well from birth. He was emulating Lucy, Doc's 'rescue' cat although the question remained; who adopted who.
"You have money to pay, you can shop very quick like bunny, then get out," the proprietor pronounced, "Health Department Inspector very bad man," he added as his reason for encouraging speed while he kept a nervous eye on the door.
Peter reached into first one pants pocket, then another before he offered Freckles a sickly smile. "I must have left the money in my other pants when I changed clothes to work in the garage." He looked at Doc hopefully.
"Sorry," Doc apologized, "I didn't bring any money or my billfold with me either."
The store owner had gotten stuck on Peter's earlier comment and made a counter offer; "You give me those clothes to pay; then we have deal," he offered. He thought of white people as inscrutable, incomprehensible and of course they all looked exactly alike, but who wears clothes like Peter's just to work in a garage?
Peter was about to argue about stripping down to his thermal undies when Freckles issued hurried instructions via mind-speak using Pettie's Texas twang; "Y'all scurry on out to Big Foot and bring in one of them big bars to pay this some bitch. The really big one's are on the bottom. I will lighten their weight."
It looked like Peter was tossing aside short lengths of lumber that had been painted gold from inside the store, while he worked his way down through the neatly stacked gold ingots in the back of his truck. He even had the nerve to wave one of the biggest; about 18 inches long by four inches square over his head before he closed the tailgate and returned to the store with the weighty bar tucked under one arm. He placed the massive bar on the counter near the cash terminal and stepped back before Freckles returned its normal weight with the blink of an eye and a toothy yawn.
The proprietor was unimpressed until his wife, the cashier, disdainfully attempted to push the bar off the counter amid a babble of Chinese and related hand motions that indicated that the raised middle finger and its meaning was not unique to the USA. Meanwhile Freckles the service cat, pushed Peter with his nose to the back of the store where customers poured their own drinks, straight to the Slurpee machine. That was when Peter started laughing and pointing at the hand written 'out of order' sign that was taped to the front of the machine.
Freckles pushed Peter and his laughing face out of the way to sit down in front of the machine that was running but growling a mechanical protest of some sort. Freckles listened to the complaints briefly before he stretched his neck to stare at the checkout area generally. It seemed that while Fred and his wife appeared aged, the reasons, all ten of them, their children, in a complete range of sizes and ages in one year increments, had been called from the back room with a hand truck to help move the bar from the counter to somewhere less obvious/conspicuous. Freckles waited until as many hands as possible were pushing the ingot before he decreased the weight and then returned it just before the bar smacked the ceramic tile floor with a weighty thunk.
"It is no wonder that Fred is concerned about the Health Department Inspector," Freckles pronounced, "this unfortunate machine has not been cleaned in a great length of time. The sweet stuff feeder lines and the control valves are clogged." He turned his attention back to the machine and suddenly the view ports that showed only white swirling slush turned different colors and the machine stopped complaining.
Peter and Doc held the new pot under the spigots that Freckles designated and when it was full with a combination of flavors, Freckles drank his fill while Peter and Doc filled cups for themselves. Peter began laughing again when he saw that the ten kids, Fred, the hand truck and the gold bar had disappeared, he assumed into the backroom. He answered Doc and Freckles' raised eyebrows; "I wonder what they're going to use to give us change for our purchases?" he asked and offered Freckles an unwrapped Slim Jim while Doc tore the wrap from a package of Twinkies. He ate one and Freckles begged the other and begged more by nudging both Doc and Peter to keep on unwrapping treats.
"There will be no change," Freckles decided, "but we will take all the treats and Slurpee machine and his supplies with us in exchange. We will put Slurpee in the garage for the mechanics to use and we will all eat the treats."
What Freckles decided was far easier said than done. The mother of all present and future Chinese cashiers looked blank after Peter explained the very sensible and extremely lucrative proposal, "What gold bar?" she asked. "You crazy boy must pay cash money!" she demanded.
Freckles' reaction to that demand was instantaneous; the building began to shake, merchandise began to fall from shelves, the lights flickered on and off and the electronic cash terminal suddenly developed a mind of its own by flashing digital vulgarities in English, meaningless numbers and pleas for help across its screen all while the cash drawer opened and closed on its own terms with the lady incapable of stopping the phenomena by attempting to hold it closed. The children screamed when the hand truck and its precious load that had been hidden in the walk–in cooler, developed a case of home sickness and emerged into the store balanced on its own two wheels while the golden bar glittered like a beacon.
"That gold bar," Peter answered simply.
Fred and family agreed with the proposal without further ado. The children were mustered to bag and carry everything as directed by Doc and Peter, the very dangerous and crazy white boy and his doctor, while Freckles disconnected the Slurpee machine's utilities and it made its own way out of the store to the back of Big Foot where Peter miraculously loaded it on top of the remaining gold bars single handedly.
Freckles was late for swim practice. After he, Doc and Peter returned to the garage and the mechanics installed one very happy Slurpee machine in their break room, they joined Peter in watching Freckles manipulate plain old heavy raw gold atoms into lighter and useful items. What came to be called a cat crapper looked very much like a very large training potty for baby boys in that it was equipped with what could be described as a raised hood in the front of the seat. Its purpose was to catch and divert Freckles' urine into the toilet and not spray anything or anyone in front of his squat. The rest of the seat was typical of human toilet seats except it was far larger in scale, was supported on short legs and was designed to fit over a shower drain so the results could be flushed with a hose.
After Freckles actually worked to create the first crapper it seemed to duplicate itself three more times. The only help or supply required was gold in close proximity to the constant flashing. The mechanics had pushed the canvas screens aside so they could see more clearly so the garage uniform of the future became genuine light weight cloth of gold jump suits, and their individualized mirrored welding helmets that looked like they came from a Star Wars movie, were carefully displayed on a shelf in their work area.
Like many tardy teenagers, Freckles attempted to sneak into the pool after racing full tilt from the garage, leaping the 12 foot gate, and by the time he crossed the pool deck he looked much like a large lumpy jaguar skin rug complete with a head, legs and extended claws, except the rug kept creeping forward until it slithered into and under the water. He had to keep his tail down to avoid being seen so he didn't see the swimmers attacking from the rear until they were on and all around him. Brave John made the mistake of grabbing his tail so he was thrown the farthest, almost out of the pool entirely and with the element of surprise gone, the swimmers took the most heat. While Coach Bill would never berate an assistant in front of the boys, a look of disappointment and a shake of his head was a far worse punishment for Freckles than being cuffed to the moon by his irascible sire, Fang.
Peter and Doc arrived in Big Foot a few minutes later. Peter stripped without hesitation but Doc wasn't aware of the rule. He stood rooted to one spot while his eyes bulged and his head seemed to swivel like an owl's, a full 270 degrees. The Trenton pool and its environs were the stuff a frustrated gay man's dreams were made of; beautiful, muscular, athletic boys and young men, swimmers and divers all, pursuing their sport while stark naked.
Pettie swam to near Doc and Peter then vaulted from the pool to grin at Doc's facial expression. "Y'all need to get naked, Doc," Pettie informed, "after practice we'll have us a free swim and y'all can join us if you want to. Most of the younger guys come over from school and the rest of us live here," he pointed at the residence windows, "up in the Residence. Those windows are mine and those are where Buck an' Doug hang out sometimes, although they have a big apartment in the big house and a room in Homo Hall at school too. That window there is the control room if y'all want to try burnin' a personal DVD of the guys; although there's some really good DVD's circulatin' that you can see after lights out, but before y'all fall asleep – if y'all can fall asleep after," he added.
It was clear that Doc's mind was elsewhere and somewhat behind his roving eyes when he and Peter were joined by the three warriors. They proved themselves as expert valets by divesting Doc of all his clothing nearly as fast as they were able to get rid of their own because they were intent on comparing Doc's body and his coupler with Pettie's while the two were standing up, standing together and they finally had Doc completely naked for the first time. No DNA testing was necessary to prove lineage in their minds, no matter how distant. All that was required was matching overall appearance, comparable height and the size of their couplers.
"What are you guys doin' out here in public? Get your little hands away from me or suffer," Pettie demanded uselessly while he tried to defend his privates, two big hands against six smaller, much faster and far more experienced was not much of a contest until Sidi and Kad moved on to Doc. Bani was about to join them when Pettie grabbed him and tossed him overhand into what was a race; smack dab on top of Doug.
"SCORE!" Buck shouted without sympathy.
Doc got into the spirit of the game by shoving Kad backward to Pettie. "Show me how you did that please," he asked Pettie.
"No problem Doc; first you grab one by the back of the neck, like this. Hold on tight with that hand and with the other you just lift the little varmint up by gettin' that hand almost between his legs with your palm flat on his ass. Then y'all just lift, haul back and toss like this." He demonstrated. Kad's scream was cut off when his body hit the water and Harm, who was stopped in the lane beside Doug. "I use this toss to slow down my competition," he admitted with a laughing shout at Doug and Harm who were his competition and were then chasing Bani and Kad uselessly, but for the exercise.
Sidi suddenly stopped trying to escape Doc's clutches. He backed up to Doc instead, waiting for him to replicate the toss. Doc followed instructions, but something went wrong when the middle finger of his tossing hand sort of sank prematurely before it was in the perfect position. Sidi moaned his pleasure at being fingered but was still able to announce his independent research findings; "It is as we thought," he shouted, "Pettie and Doc are related! Their fingers are the exact same length just like their couplers!"
Several things happened then:
Doc and Pettie both turned red from head to toe although Doc was the brightest red because he was the whitest while Pettie still had a residual tan. Pettie collared Doc who was still fingering Sidi and dropped them all into the pool so only two heads were showing above water; fortunately for Sidi, he didn't have to breathe because he was intent on giving Doc a 'light' couple in return for the many services Doc had provided all the boys on the Cat Mobile during the return trip from Newark after the latest riot there, which cleared that city of at least one more city block for urban renewal.
Then the lobby doors crashed open, which effectively ended further swim practice for the day. Bucky led a mixed entourage into the pool area. Will and Joe each carried one of the principle runaways under their arms as if Medi (Mohamed) and Sean, his partner in crime were sacks of grain. They were immediately followed by Medi's very young Japanese Samurai bodyguards, Sam and Jack along with Chad and Rick, who were or had been Homo Hall's housekeepers until Medi and Sean kidnapped them as licensed drivers; they had to drive a borrowed Rolls limo, act as additional guards as necessary and continue to provide 'other services' to Medi and Sean, Sam or Jack whenever desired and convenient for any of the six involved in the impromptu vacation.
Bucky had Medi and Sean stripped to the skin and then thrown into the pool so they could rejoin the school swim team. Coach Bill argued that they had missed too many practices and were no longer a part of the team all while successfully hiding his grin from the boys treading water while their fate was discussed. (It was apparent to Doug and Buck that their fathers had planned everything that was about to happen to Medi and Sean.) Bucky ordered Bill to reinstate the miscreants. He advised that a small apartment in the Residence had been prepared where the two would live with Sam and Jack henceforth. They would attend morning and afternoon practices and they would be driven, not flown to and from school in one of the Trenton Mercedes limos. Further they had been restricted to campus while they were on campus and as a further inconvenience, their thumb prints had been removed from Homo Hall security so neither could get into Medi's apartment or even the building unless someone allowed them in.
"BUT NO ONE WILL LET THEM IN, WILL THEY?" Bucky's raspy voice boomed and echoed in the silent room.
After a moment's hesitation there was a halting chorus of, "No Sir!" to agree even though the straight boys couldn't get in the building anyway and some didn't even go to school there.
Medi and Sean used mind-speak to agree that their punishment didn't seem to be too harsh so far; they were prepared for sanctions, until Will and Joe began expertly searching the clothing and ski parkas they'd been wearing and everything found was placed in a small bag that Chad held open. There were wads of currency, uncounted credit cards and jewelry that included costly watches, rings and heavy neck chains with ostentatious pendants. Charlie was impressed; the two little rich boys had learned well; they remembered to stock up with getaway goods, they just forgot to hide it all. They were allowed to keep their emerald communicators.
"I say there chaps," Medi sort of protested to Will and Joe, "Illegal search and seizure and all that, what?"
"My, my," Joe returned, "just look at what one boy can store in all these zippered pockets! The clothes you need for school will be returned with your books and these coats after the pockets are sewn closed. Everything else will be stored in your apartment until we leave for Christmas holiday."
"But I have diplomatic immunity!" was Medi's last gasp.
"You still have it," Bucky shot back, "all this, your papers, ID and your passport will be returned sometime in the future just before you need them."
Freckles had surfaced his head so he could hear clearly without touching anyone's mind so the closest swimmers felt free to use his back as a floating rest station. That is until he spied Bucky's head helicopter pilot accompanied by the ground crew chief and both seemed to be looking for someone or something in and around the big pool. Freckles looked to see what Peter was doing and found him with his arms stretched out along the pool combing to hold his head above water while his eyes fluttered and his head lolled from side to side. It appeared that he was about to have a glorious orgasm in broad daylight with straight boys watching. Doc was similarly stretched out beside Peter. A quick inventory of brave Cat warriors indicated that Bani and Sidi were providing Peter and Doc with quick underwater couples.
Freckles sank from view quickly but couldn't hide his darker bulk. "There he is!" The pilot said and pointed.
Bucky asked Will or Joe to mind-speak Freckles to come ashore so he could help solve a mystery that appeared on the helicopter pad. Peter heard that. His head snapped around and he began shouting without the aid of mind-speak. "You just couldn't resist could you, even though I told you no!" He looked toward Bucky with a resigned expression to ask, "Is the mystery six or eight passenger and is it painted gold?"
Bucky grinned down on Peter, "I'd say capacity would depend on passenger size and weight, there could be six or there could be eight," he advised and continued, "We don't mind if you keep it here in the hanger if you're going to live here, but you really need to get your own ground crew and a pilot would also be helpful, and yes, it's painted gold."
Freckles' tail sprouted from the water near Peter while he and Bucky discussed the new helicopter. It began to massage Peter's shoulders sensuously. Freckles didn't see Peter wink at Bucky before the tip began to probe one of Peter's ears while the rest of the Great Cat bobbed up at his side. "Can we keep it? Friend Billy helped me buy it and he also found us a young pilot as a condition so you will not have to make believe you are driving, ever!" Freckles assured hopefully.
"Is this guy a real pilot, not just a warm body to occupy the seat?" Peter asked. It was obvious to Freckles that he was wavering. "And what about a ground crew, I hope you weren't thinking that we could do all the maintenance ourselves?"
"Yes, he is a pilot; Friend Billy met him at pilot school. Friend Billy uses a service company at Newark; I thought we could engage them to service Great Cat as well." Freckles replied eagerly with growing enthusiasm as well as announce the new helicopter's name.
"Well, in that case I guess we can give Great Cat and the new pilot a trial. Should we go see it and maybe push it into the hanger out of the way?" When the water around them began to pulse, it meant that Freckles was building a burst of energy to exit the pool, Peter switched to mid-speak, "Don't you dare shake off near Chief Bucky or our clothes!" he warned in such haste that he didn't restrict the communication so all the other mind-speakers heard the warning and began laughing for no obvious apparent reason if you weren't a mind-speaker.
"I won't," Freckles answered as he leapt and ran for the locker room, "Come on brave warriors and friends, we must see Great Cat! He is very beautiful!"
That last was said while Freckles raced from the locker room on his way to the lobby while the boys were still leaving the pool, or had even toweled off, much less gotten dressed. Peter sent him on ahead, since that was far faster than having him 'help' anyone get dressed. The last thing that Peter had to say to the Great Cat's tail was that he should be very careful about scaring the new pilot to death before they got there.
By the time the humans and warriors reached the helipad, they found the new chopper, Great Cat, parked on the pad, the new pilot sitting in the cockpit and the living Great Cat sitting outside with his nose mere inches from the pilot's and they seemed to be having a stare down. The scene and the choppers' interior were clearly illuminated by all the landing lights while the interior hanger lights were off because that was where Bucky's ground crew and all the mechanics from the garage side of the building were hiding so they could watch the anticipated confrontation.
The new pilot guy just laughed when he was told about Freckles and his special abilities. He thought that the guys were joking since he was new. After he landed his beautiful new ride and talked with the guys that he would be working with, he returned to his seat while he waited to meet his new boss and was imagining flying, take offs, landings and how he would compensate for sudden wind gusts coming from any direction. It was force of habit to lock the doors. He had both hands on the control yoke when he banked sharply to the left in an imaginary emergency maneuver and then looked that way, straight into Freckles' eyes and hugely smiling face. Smiling if one knew what a Great Cat smile looked like.
Peter ran up to the impasse. "I thought I told you not to scare him?" he accused using mind-speak.
"I did nothing. He was make-believe flying when I approached and he flew straight into me in his imagination. He is not afraid of me, but he is waiting for a human to intervene on his behalf."
The pilot's side window slid open a crack. "Mr. Katz? Boy am I glad to see you. I thought the guys in the hanger were joking about this beautiful cat until he showed up. I know he's tame and all but I thought I'd just sit here and wait to be sure. I'm Devin, Billy's friend and I'd like to be your pilot. Is it safe to come out now? This bird is beautiful except for the skanky paint job that makes it look like a flying pimpmobile."
It was obvious to all listening that Devin wasn't afraid to speak his mind. Peter thought it wise to correct Devin's assumption that he was Mr. Katz before he had more to say about Freckles' taste in paint jobs or the color. He invited Devin to climb from his 'bird' and shook his hand while he kept one eye on Freckles' face. Strangely, he was still smiling down on his new pilot who was grinning back. Peter didn't 'hear' Freckles ask his personal walking dictionary, Buck, to define 'skanky', and when he looked closer at Great Cat's paint job he had to agree that the definition fit.
"Um," Peter began, "I'm not Mr. Katz, I'm Peter, and Mr. Katz's Executive Assistant, because I have thumbs." He tossed one over his shoulder in Freckles' direction generally, "This is Freckles Katz, our employer."
Devin assumed that Peter was continuing the prank, except there really was a huge, obviously tame wild cat involved so he decided to play along. He held up his hand palm out for a high five and then had to jump up to slap Freckles' raised paw pads in response. His feet hadn't quite touched ground when something soft and strong wrapped around his neck and he was lifted for a brief formal Cat greeting.
"Welcome sky warrior Devin," Freckles said clearly through his communicator, "I see that you already love Great Cat, our helicopter, except for his skanky paint color which we will fix at once. They told me gold and I expected gold." Freckles summoned Bani, Kad, Sidi, Charlie and the rest of the Family that was present, forward for introductions to sky warrior Devin, so that he was so busy being nice, he didn't have the opportunity to question anyone about Freckles' ability to speak. He assumed someone was somewhere close by to continue the elaborate prank. All the shorter guys including Bucky were particularly pleased to meet one of their 'own'; Devin was no taller than any of them, give or take an inch or two and after the three brave and inquisitive warriors touched Devin's mind they discovered that he preferred guys just like them, which was the reason Billy recommended him in the first place. Total compatibility was important.
The meet and greet session was interrupted when Big Foot rumbled onto the helipad, sans, driver. "Who's controlling that truck and how do you get Freckles to appear to be talking?" Devin asked Peter just before he really looked at the clothes that Peter was still wearing; his golden work clothes. He had more questions that he asked too quickly for Peter to answer. Peter moved to the side of the new chopper and held up his arm.
"Do you like this color gold better?" Peter asked. He was already mind-speaking suggestions to Freckles. Devin was wearing a black flight suit and had a matching helmet in the chopper. When piloting anything, Devin thought he looked quite stylish.
"Yup, now that color looks real," Devin opined, "I think gold fleck paint on cars went out 50 years ago and I don't think it ever got started on any aircraft, except for this one."
Devin watched as the three exotic guys called Cat warriors and Charlie who obviously was not, each guided a gold bar from Big Foot to near the chopper called Great Cat. Peter handed Devin his helmet and instructed him to put it on and then slide the dark sun shade down over his eyes. "How did you make those gold bars float in the air if they're real gold?" He saw Bani reaching into his belt pouch and heard Kad and Sidi protesting enviously about something called Bani's unique tool; he had one and they didn't. Devin wondered how Bani's cock differed very much from any other guy's, no matter how exotic the guy. He hoped to find out if Bani was willing.
"Everyone close their eyes!" Peter called to the surrounding mob.
Great Cat the helicopter and Devin, Great Cat's pilot to be, disappeared in a tightly controlled cloud of smoke that was accompanied with a long flash of very bright light.
Devin could see that the light was gone from his eyelids as Peter announced that it was safe to look at what Bani had done. Devin raised his eye shield and looked out at the guys grinning back at him before he looked down at his flight suit and then back at the gleaming mirrored golden finish on the entire helicopter including all the windows. He looked at his helmet before he put it back on and lowered the sun shield once again to discover that he could see just as well if not far better; much like wearing night vision goggles, only better when looking through the gold coated plastic.
Freckles suddenly stretched his neck while looking through the garden to the house. "It is time for evening food!" he announced and promptly took off running with the Cat warriors just as quickly in hot pursuit. Peter and Devin were left alone on the helipad with Big Foot and Great Cat.
Peter shrugged his indifference. He explained to Devin, "This happens anytime someone mentions food. Freckles is always hungry because he's a growing Cat and the warriors can eat anytime because they burn calories like 100 a minute. That leaves me to straighten up after them; that's what I do." He looked at Big Foot and pointed, "You can go back to the garage and park yourself out of the way." Devin watched the big 4X4 turn and move away slowly to disappear into the darkness and then watched Peter just staring at Great Cat with his hands on his hips. "Do you have anything inside the chopper before we put him in the hanger for the night?"
"I brought some clothes along. I didn't know where I was supposed to sleep. I'll get them and put my helmet in there. Where do we eat, is there a staff dining room? How do we put Great Cat away by ourselves? It isn't as big as Trenton's but it is heavy. The tow bar is in the ground support package but that won't be here until tomorrow."
Peter grinned. He waited until Devin put his helmet away and retrieved his bag. "Watch and learn Grasshopper," he intoned. "The guys probably told you that Freckles is kind of special, but I'm pretty sure that you didn't believe them. I'm also fairly certain that while you and he were staring at each other, Freckles was making friends with Great Cat and most likely also making 'improvements'" he used finger quotes, "to his systems."
"He couldn't have, the master power switch was off, so everything was shut down," Devin argued. He'd been sitting in the cockpit, and was careful to shut off every system and made sure that the power indicator was burning red not green.
"Want to bet?" Peter asked, and then without waiting for an answer he ordered; "Landing lights on." The paving under the chopper and 50 feet in all directions was suddenly illuminated with harsh white light and the remotely controlled spot light turned to bracket Peter and Devin which highlighted their golden wardrobes. "Not us you silly machine, use that light to see where you're going so you don't hit anything inside the hanger. Hook up the charger line and then shut everything down for the night." The spot light became a head light as Great Cat slowly rolled into the hanger and then slowly backed into a vacant space alongside where Bucky's larger chopper would be parked as soon as it returned from returning the school swim team to the campus so both machines would be parked facing the door ready for the next day's adventures.
Then Devin with his mouth hanging open, and Peter watched as the power cable from the charger played anaconda as it snaked its way from the charger to Great Cat's electrical port and plugged itself in before it stopped wreathing and acted like any normal extension cord. "Good night Great Cat," Peter called out.
"Good night Peter," the chopper's external loud hailer responded then added, "Good night sky warrior Devin."
"Sky warrior, where did that title come from and who said it?"
"I told you Freckles messed with Great Cat, he may have fixed it so you can give him voice commands too; we'll see tomorrow. Come on, it's dangerous to leave Freckles alone at the dinner table too long. He tries but he can really be messy. Oh, he loves titles, I'm also an Admiral," Peter laughed at himself and then continued, "You know that the Cat People, that's the tribe the warriors belong to, are buying two big old Chinook choppers to fly freight into and out of their lands from the nearest city with an airport, so I'll get Freckles to make you an Air Marshal, how's that for a title?"
After Devin laughed, he asked, "Do we need to change? I don't want to look like a fool or have this gold peeling off into the food."
The two walked directly into the dining room from the garden and introductions continued so changing clothes was forgotten in the hubbub. It was apparent that the warriors and Charlie had shuffled their places at the table because Devin found himself sitting between Kad and Sidi with Kad sitting next to Peter who of course sat in his usual place next to Freckles on Bucky's left at the head of the table.
Kad and Sidi were intent on exploring the contents of Devin's flight suit from the very start of dinner while the contents were distracted by seeing Victoria's new gold dinner service for the first time. Kad was the first to notice a subtle difference or distinct similarity in the cloth. He frowned at Freckles who was watching Hamilton, the butler; fill his drink bowl with a very fine Burgundy that Bucky had ordered to save some of his dwindling stocks of Merlot.
"You made this sky warrior's cloth covering into Ancient armor," Kad stated in surprise. "These warriors and Bani should wear the same, then we could wear proper armor under our regular cloth coverings and no one would know."
Of course Sidi and Bani, who leaned across Sidi, needed to investigate for themselves and used the tablecloth to screen their busy little hands because they still needed to discover how fast and big Devin's coupler would grow with some expert massage. All three warriors were more than pleased with the result and confirmed Kad's earlier announcement; that the flight suit had become modern Ancient armor as an afterthought. Devin's face turned red and he was unaware of the stream of mind-speak that traveled around the room but it got Freckles attention.
"Warriors," Freckles snapped in mind-speak without lifting his muzzle from the depths of his bowl of wine, "how rude to take advantage of our new pilot. If you wished to know his interest in coupling with you brave warriors, just touch his mind without touching his person. Buck and Doug have given us permission to use their room to rest tonight, so you can touch his body tonight. He is very willing, but you must be patient. Evening food is steak," he reminded as a non-sexual temptation.
"Are my jeans and shirt Ancient armor too?" Peter asked Freckles aloud.
Freckles raised his shoulders slightly, which served as a shrug, "It would seem so," he said clearly while he chewed a chunk of steak, "I did not know that would happen. I think I still have much to learn of Ancient ways."
"I ask a second time; how do you make Freckles appear to be talking so much?"
Hamilton whispered in Freckles' ear just as Devin asked his question. The Great Cat stopped eating, left the table and bounded from the room, all in the blink of an eye.
All mind-speakers' eyes turned toward Doc who was intent on eating his Wagyu steak and enjoying a 1989 Burgundy, unaware that he'd forgotten anything that caused Freckles to leave dinner in the middle of HIS dinner and rush from the room. The prevailing silence around the table got his attention. "Is something wrong?"
"Where's Lucy House Cat?" Doug wondered. "Someone forgot to bring her and her little family to dinner," he reminded with his mouth covered with his hand to hide his grin.
Since a TV was needed in the dining room on occasion Victoria herself selfishly saw to the installation of one sitting on a server table on the side of the room. This saved wear and tear on her precious tea trolley that was more frequently set up as a rolling bar. Bani began laughing before he turned to activate the screen with a blink. Diners were suddenly watching images that Freckles saw for the first time rather than Freckles relaying what the boys saw and he edited.
Freckles' nose bumped open a partially closed paneled door on the TV screen to reveal racks of hanging clothes, cubby holes filled with shoes and a sizable bank of built-in drawers. Bucky had begun to frown when the door was opened. A line of drawers had been left open that formed convenient steps up from the floor to a top drawer on one end. Doc's open satchel, used as a cat transporter, sat in lonely splendor on the carpeted floor. Lucy House Cat made her presence known when she lifted her head from the topmost drawer just high enough to peek at the intruder that had entered her 'den'.
"Dr. Meriwether," Bucky began formally, after clearing his throat, "I believe Lucy has made her home in MY dressing room closet in an underwear drawer. What I would like to know is how she managed to get that far in this very large house, through several closed doors without your help?"
"Um, that is a very good question sir; I believe I was duped by that damned cat." After the laughter died, he continued; "You see when that slut wants something, she can be so sweet of nature and very persuasive. In this case, she leapt from my valise and then rubbed her body around my ankles before she ran to a door that she wanted opened. I very nearly lost her on the stairs, but the rest is history as they say. She inspected several of those drawers before choosing that one for her nest. I opened the other drawers for her convenience. Her litter box is in the adjoining bathroom," he added as an afterthought, "just so you know not to go in there with bare feet."
"Thank you very much for that advisory," Bucky grumped sarcastically and decided to offer Buck and Doug a frown to end their continued laughter since he knew relocating Lucy House Cat and her brood was a lost cause.
"Oh look," Victoria exclaimed, "Freckles is transferring the kittens into the carryall while Lucy supervises. There Darling, do you recognize Buttercup, and that one is Douggie," she pointed at the screen as Freckles provided close-ups while he held each kitten up to his eyes to inspect them, and perhaps begin their education while their minds were receptive to some Great Cat knowledge and abilities.
Devin did a double take when Bucky asked the table generally; "Would one of you mind-speakers tell Freckles to be sure to leave all the doors into our suite and my bathroom open enough for Lucy to get in there?"
"Exactly what is a mind-speaker?" Devin thought he whispered to Kad only to find that everyone except Bucky and Victoria answered his question and some like Kad and Sidi pulled off their shirts so he could see their communicators and incidentally view their upper bodies close up. He'd seen the pendants but he thought them affectations; they were all too big to be real. Then he revised his opinion and was suitably impressed but it was the constant sparkling that held his attention because to keep them flashing and sparkling, the warriors were sending gibberish to each other before Freckles blasted their minds with a rebuke that included a lengthy stay on a mountain called Mt. McKinley, a place they noted where there was absolutely no tropical vegetation, only snow, ice and wind, and nary a sniff of Stuff for warmth or recreation. Of course Devin didn't know why the half-naked warriors suddenly took on pained expressions or looked very contrite when Freckles entered the room carrying an open leather valise with the black cat peering out looking like she deserved to be carried by her over-grown friend.
"If you have any kind of telepathic ability, these emeralds allow you, I mean us, to talk with each other mind to mind," Peter explained, "much more easily, but it's still not as easy as talking, just faster and over long distances if necessary."
Devin grinned, held Kad's emerald for a closer look and incidentally rubbed the warrior's chest with the back of his hand, "Wow, if this was real it would be worth a fortune," he surmised.
Kad took offense with that comment. He took Devin's hand down below the tablecloth. "I am so real as you can feel and I am worth my weight in these pretty stones," he assured Devin with pride in his voice.
"The emeralds are as real as Kad," Peter assured Devin with a giggle, "and there are a whole bunch more of them, other gems, tons and tons of gold and all kinds of artifacts. That's why the People and the Great Cats need the really big choppers; to ferry the stuff out to the nearest airport that can handle those really big jets that just carry freight." He sent a suggestion to Freckles.
Freckles finished explaining, "And why you are now our Air Marshal, the Supreme Commander of our aircraft fleet," he boomed as loudly as his cellphone speaker allowed.
During the next week, the Trenton Hall household settled down into a routine as the planned Christmas holiday departure date neared. Breakfast and dinner became events that everyone wanted to attend. The five calico kittens opened their eyes and it seemed that they saved all their waking time for the few hours that the dining room was full of humans, three Cat warriors and one Great Cat. The kittens went anywhere that they found interesting. They learned to climb pants legs to a host lap and then used the tablecloth to claw their way up to the table top. They were still nursing so they weren't interested in human food but they seemed to be fascinated with what the humans did, they seemed to listen to the conversations by cocking their heads this way or that, and were particularly interested in watching the unique morning and evening news shown on the dining room TV.
The original set that Victoria had placed on a side table had been replaced with a 72 inch model surrounded by a gold leafed antiqued frame that was mounted on the wall permanently and when not in use, it played endless slide shows of museum art, a burning crackling fireplace or the countryside around the world, including Mt. McKinley from afar on a rare clear day before the pictures zoomed in to the very tip top for a close up of three shivering Cat warriors or just one bedraggled Great Cat depending on who controlled the screen during mental or physical squabbles also known as rough and tumbles or merely as psychological warfare. There were also times when Spot and company sent video news with commentary from home. The 'company' mentioned was the newly minted Cat warrior Squeak, who had become Spot's constant companion; the truly odd couple had indeed become a symbiotic team.
Cat warrior Squeak was the youngest Cat warrior ever. He gained the status by holding the record for the most confirmed kills – ever, in the Cat People's known history on Planet Earth all while he was still able to walk under a mature Great Cat without bending down, amazing feats for a three, nearly four year old boy.
One typical school day morning Spot and Squeak proudly showed the entire Cat People's Navy arranged in a circle, with all bows pointing in, with mature Great Cats aboard every boat somewhere and all were looking down at what appeared to be a massive hole in the water right at the mouth of the river. Spot, clutching Squeak in his tail was still light enough to take up a most favored position; on the bow of one gun boat with his paws on the rails while his sire Fang occupied most of deck space behind the young Cat warrior pilots as a counterweight.
"What are you doing?" Freckles asked his twin brother, Spot after he greeted their sire first and the other Great Cats present, with mind-speakers last including Admiral Angus, all according to protocol.
Freckles had begun attending classes and was wearing his school uniform. Victoria had her seamstress fashion a Great Cat size school neck tie for Freckles with a permanent Windsor knot that was fastened with Velcro at the back of his neck, while Freckles 'fixed' Buck's cheap plastic giant-size sunglasses so the frames were lightweight solid gold and the lenses varied from clear when inside a building, to mirrored gold outside in sunlight. He imagined that wearing the glasses regularly made him look much more studious, and so far there had been no humans either brave, or foolish enough to say otherwise.
"What in the world are you wearing?" Spot countered without answering Freckles' original question. If the twin Cats had been within paw range of each other, fur would have been flying.
"Stop this at once," Squeak ordered Spot, "you forget who IS in paw range at this moment and if HE (HE was Fang, who was frowning at Spot dangerously) sends you and your fur flying with a single cuff, I would also fly and this brave Cat warrior has no fur, only delicate skin."
Angus intervened, "We're plannin' to raise up this sunken galleon to recover its treasure, but first off we've a need to dig it out o' the water an' mud. That's what the Great Cats are doing now, an' it's no wee job since this hasn't been tried before," he added.
Angus directed a chastened Spot to hold Squeak out over the whole in the water so the gang in the north could see what the wreck really looked like through the boy's eyes. Of course Spot just had to give Squeak a wild ride out over the abyss, limited only by the length of his tail and he just had to toss his little friend up in the air so he could experience a split second of freefall before a powerful mind called him to task with Squeak begging for more.
First, Squeak looked at the water wall, which was much like looking at an aquarium until one realized that the water was on the wrong side of the glass enclosure – and there was no glass or apparently anything when Spot surprised Squeak with a quick dunking. Squeak shook his head after he was withdrawn and promptly gave his buddy Spot, a prolonged middle finger.
"Who taught that little boy that gesture?" Bucky growled. He wasn't surprised to see all the boys pointing at each other while they attempted to look innocent.
"Ye need to be lookin' down laddie, that's what we want to see," Angus ordered Squeak.
Over time all the wooden parts of the ship had been attacked by worms so all the superstructures were gone. Only the shape of the broad beamed part of the galleon remained that comprised the ships' hold that was irregularly decorated with four monster cannon that had fallen or sank from above as the ship deteriorated to leave more resistant or impervious metals behind. The cannon were resting on what at first glance appeared to be a large block of solid gold interspersed in places with glittering gems that were fixed on artifacts after woven bags and any containers of organic origin had rotted as well.
Doc had forgotten about breakfast. His interest was the cannon not the treasure; he had left his seat and had slowly gotten as close to the big screen as possible without climbing on the serving table below it. "If I could just see the markings on those cannon I could identify the ship. Once that is known we can find out what port she departed, what she carried and I assume where she was bound," he said with some pleading in his voice.
Freckles was preoccupied with the kittens. He was using his tail tip to teach them the art of stalking prey around golden stemware, coffee mugs and plates and over and through dishes of eggs over easy and jam covered toast, from which Peter and Devin were attempting to consume their breakfasts. Freckles paused the lesson long enough to glance and nod at the TV. Squeak screamed and the picture became disjoined flashes as the little boy fell on top of the treasure very close to a cannon that Spot aimed for. Little Douggie House Cat pounced on the stationary tail tip with claws at full extension. Freckles yelped and pulled his tail out of harm's way with 'harm' in the form of little Douggie House Cat still firmly attached by grapples.
Freckles whipped his tail to shake the diminutive predator free and succeeded in dropping the determined kitten into his bowl of orange juice and of course ice cubes. In that exact instant it was difficult to tell which was more furious with their Great Cat; Douggie House Cat, or boy Cat warrior Squeak.
Squeak revealed that he had the advantage of an astounding vocabulary of American English words gleaned from an assortment of teenage boys since he was an adept mind-speaker; whatever the warriors learned, he learned almost simultaneously, if he chose to listen, just like his friend and mentor Great Cat Spot.
"Oh my," Victoria ventured with a knowing smile at her son Buck, "that darling little boy must have learned all those words from the same boys who taught him about his fingers."
Douggie House Cat discovered certain things that morning; orange stuff was very cold, ice cubes were not nearly as buoyant as they first appeared and lastly, that he could swim if he had no choice. Freckles fished him out of the 'drink' and promptly dunked him in his water bowl to rinse him off before he was deposited on the floor near his mother Lucy, to be dried and cuddled.
The treasure, the cannon and any metal on the ship had been miraculously cleaned and restored to like new condition as if they were fresh from the forge or foundry so Squeak had no trouble viewing the Spanish words, crests and numbers that were flashed up to Trenton Hall almost instantly. Doc felt himself up frantically. He was looking for a pen and note pad to make notes.
Bucky looked at Buck and tipped his head toward the door while he asked Will to see about getting a printer installed near the TV to save Buck from running back and forth up to his study, a room he once thought of as a very private, secure refuge until some unnamed exotic guests arrived. Doc abandoned his breakfast as soon as Buck returned with a fist full of papers. He was off to the library to research the markings. That is, he was until he happened to see Squeak, on the television, roll one of the cannon out of his way so he could see what sort of treasure was underneath.
Doubting Devin commented before Doc, "Wait up, none of that stuff is real, that little boy just moved that cast iron barrel and it must weigh at least a ton."
Doc sort of agreed, "I would say it is a 32 pounder so it weighs closer to 5000 pounds. I daresay that a galleon of that size once carried another 30 or 40 cannon the same size plus many, many smaller cannon on her upper decks," he corrected and instructed Devin at the same time.
"Wow, I don't think I'd like to see even one cannon ball that size fired at me."
Bucky displayed some knowledge of the subject by laughing at Devin's concern. "If you were the size of an enemy ship and were really, really close together, then you'd have to worry if 20 of the things were coming at you all at once from a broadside, but remember you'd be shooting back too." He looked more closely as little Squeak seemed to be intent on rolling one of the antique guns off the massive block of yellow, before asking Freckles and the warriors; "If you aren't planning to salvage those cannon, I wonder if I might have them? I'd be happy to pay all the expenses to have Evan transport them up here," he said eagerly.
Squeak suddenly stopped what he was doing and shook his fist up at Spot who was acting as the 'video camera' at the moment by watching Squeak. "You Great Cats and Great Chiefs must make up your minds; first you say to discard them and now they must be saved," he grumbled.
Bucky grinned at the rebuke, "Does that mean I can have them?"
"What are you planning to do with them Dad?"
"I was thinking of putting two at the office tower main entrance and two outside our gates here. I think they would be impressive."
Buck and Doug began to laugh at seeing Bucky's expression. "Do you want them to be functional?" Doug wondered.
Victoria was the first to answer, "Of course not, they would just be for show." She didn't see her husband, the practical joker, nod his head enthusiastically but it was obvious to the boys that guests might soon be in for a rude surprise.
The dining room got quiet then as the Cat People's Navy began to shift positions and the recovered treasure began to rise slowly from its watery resting place until the entire dripping mass was barely inches above the water. Then it began to move into the river mouth with the small modern armada following after the hole in the water disappeared. Every Great Cat stared forward intently, motionless except for twitching tails all while Squeak ran around the top of the block while he looked everywhere to record the unique event from above in the minds of the Cats, all mind-speakers and anyone else who happened to be having breakfast at Trenton Hall that morning.
Buck suddenly broke into laughter. He reminded the guys; "Remember when Pavlov was trying to get around that old ship? Gregor left the Cat warriors scuba gear so they could salvage that loot. Of course at the time we didn't know that warriors have built-in scuba." Predictably, Kad and Sidi took pains to puff up their chests proudly.
"What is scuba?" Kad whispered to Devin.
"I guess I'm convinced; the gold is real but how are two choppers even Chinooks going to transport that weight? It probably would take us a hundred roundtrips," Devin guessed. He stopped when he noticed that all of the guys were smiling at him; he didn't know that by the use of a two letter word, he announced that he was committed and had thereby joined the greater extended Family.
To answer Devin's question about transporting heavy metal, Bani gave him one of the coins that some of the Spanish coinage would be changed to. It weighed about two ounces and had a Great Cat head on one side while the obverse was a pyramid with waves crashing against its base. "This is a gold coin that was officially minted in lost Atlantis. As you can feel, it is quite heavy. Now for the purpose of transport..."
"This brave warrior will make it lighter," Sidi volunteered and began to stare at the coin resting on Devin's palm. Devin's eyes widened when he felt the subtle change in weight; it definitely was much lighter.
"We must give Charlie credit for this very good idea," Bani said and thumped Charlie on the back while he was drinking milk and nearly started a rough and tumble. He explained; "Charlie suggested that we import our gold as souvenirs. These will be reproductions of official coins that were found deep in the Pacific Ocean recovered from Atlantis, while real Spanish coins will become reproductions of doubloons. Real gems set in gold jewelry and gold artifacts will all be lightened accordingly until it all passes through American Customs and is safe in the warehouse. Everything will appear to be junk of very little value because it is all too light weight to be real.
Devin began laughing. He added, "If anyone asks, we could say we plan to market the gold bars as doorstops!"
The group discussed logistics while they finished breakfast. Bani asked Carb to show the construction of the helicopter landing pad. Devin was concerned that it be large enough so that both big choppers could land safely together if necessary. It seemed that Carb and Chief Tonga had been allowed to keep their Ancient tools after promising not to misuse them, or else. Fang did not explain what 'or else' entailed but neither warrior had the slightest wish to find out. Carb narrated while he acted as the 'camera' while Tonga did what little work was involved.
The site was just south of Angus' home, situated right on the lake where a fuel barge would be anchored and there was yet another hidden Cat City entrance quite close, as well as the southern entrance into the tunnel that ran under all three of JC's homes. The tunnel and its many storerooms would be used to store incoming supplies since those areas would never be needed to supply the Fourth Reich that the three Nazi builders envisioned.
Carb explained that the first thing that Tonga was doing was to warn all the wild creatures in the immediate area that things were about to change drastically. Birds flew, small animals ran, reptiles slithered or scooted and even insects flew away or skittered from the area while some higher forms on the food chain enjoyed unexpected 'snacks'. "Chief Tonga used the green button to insure that living things can continue to live if they wish it," Carb elaborated.
Once again, like the hill when they were experimenting with their tools, an area 50 yards wide by 100 long shimmered, but this time all plant life and other organic matter disappeared instead of just sinking, leaving raw earth behind. Tonga adjusted his tool once again and the raw earth 'melted' in a cloud of water vapor to leave a flat gray-brown surface that resembled local rock in the human made tunnel. Tonga wasn't quite finished. He walked out on the new landing pad and pointed his tool down in specific strategic places. Nothing happened until he stood near Carb again. Carb made a motion with his tool and 20 foot tall pylons sprouted from the new pavement.
"These will prevent unwelcome helicopters from landing here," Carb explained to conclude his video just as the pylons sank into the pavement once again.
"Do you think your lands might be invaded by someone from the air?" Devin wanted to know.
Bani shrugged his indifference, "It is possible; JC is not the most popular citizen of Venezuela just now because he possesses more wealth than even the county's current leader, but if we are invaded, we would prefer that the fiends journey to us by land or the sea."
Kad and Sidi began to bounce around in their seats while they started a 'show and tell' using the TV. They began with images of the Cuban destroyer and the beginning of the most recent one sided battle with foreign evil doers commanded by a very fat man. Devin interrupted the show after looking at his watch, "I want to see this, but right now it's time to get to school. Great Cat is on the pad and ready to fly."
"Did you go out to the hanger earlier?" Peter asked Devin.
"Nope, it wasn't necessary. You told me Great Cat would accept voice commands from me. Yesterday I thought about giving it a try by telling him to move himself out onto the pad and when I got there he was already outside." He pointed through the French doors. Everyone could see the gleaming chopper engine housing and rotor blades above the bushes across the garden near a less elegant, larger, higher housing and rotors; Bucky's chopper.
Devin suddenly found himself flat on his back, being held there with a giant furred paw on his chest. Sidi ran from the room and quickly returned with an emerald communicator and chain. Freckles yanked Devin up to his feet while Sidi joined the chain around his neck, then he was lifted off his feet for a nose to nose communications check.
"CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?" Battered Devin's mind as all the mind-speakers wanted to be first to ask that question to a newbie. They all loved that particular TV cellphone service provider advertisement.
Devin frowned at Peter. He thought and said, "There's no need to shout." To Freckles he thought, "You need to stop with using my neck as if it was a handle. Please put me down or the fur will fly," he warned without knowing how to block his thoughts.
Devin's threat of dire repercussions got everyone laughing, including Bucky and Victoria after Will explained what just happened and what was said. "Oh, I am so afraid of you, you puny human. You are very fortunate that I am dressed for school but tonight we will have a rough and tumble and I will wear your laugh box out and these brave warriors and Charlie will wear out the rest of you," Freckles promised. He was alluding to the fact that Devin was extremely ticklish and could be made helpless with laughter within seconds of starting a rough and tumble.
Devin looked confused and rubbed his ears as a part of straightening his flight suit. "I told you Great Cat probably would accept voice commands from you but you just thought about him moving from the hanger while you were in here eating breakfast. You used mind-speak! And just now, I bet you didn't realize that you challenged Freckles to a rough and tumble and he told you that he was dressed for school didn't he? Try thinking of something again without saying it out loud," Peter challenged.
Devin scrunched up his face, held his breath and thought, "We should invite Edvard over for the rough and tumble; I think he's really cute, especially when he's covered with Stuff." Peter forgot to tell Devin to direct his thoughts to just one person, so Edvard's invitation was broad breamed and Edvard answered instantly in the affirmative in the same manner. This meant that everyone knew what Devin, Peter, Edvard, Charlie's and the warrior's plans were for the evening.
So as not to be left out of the impending orgy, Evan promptly broad beamed an invitation to dinner and etc. at Somerset Farm where there was far more room to play and there were no parents. All the boys accepted except the mind-speakers in South America and they sent their regrets.
Cat warrior Squeak was particularly regretful. Late that same night, he and Spot watched the well-publicized orgy through Freckles' eyes and ears. He was particularly interested in the white warriors' light coupling techniques, something that he could do at his tender age by practicing on his older brother Cat warriors who were always eager to be test subjects. Squeak and Spot were resting that night with Admiral Angus and his 12 Cat warrior marine gunners and the six very young warrior/boat pilots who shared just one kill together and then had the balls to negotiate their elevation in status with Admiral Angus prior to displaying the single deceased fiend and announcing the group kill.
"Great Cat Spot?" Squeak queried without missing a head bob while bestowing yet another light couple to one of the tireless young Cat warrior war boat gunners
"Yes?" Spot was stretched out with his head on his paws watching the end of the orgy and listening to Freckles' idle conversation with Doug while Freckles was monitoring Squeak through Spot's senses. It seemed that close proximity to Freckles also opened a unique channel to South America for Doug who always enjoyed more advanced mind-speaking skills than most of the others.
"I think it would be a very good joke if we together visited your brother Great Cat Freckles, Tara Bani, warriors Kad and Sidi and all the white warriors up north in that very cold inhospitable place where they attend school. Wouldn't it be a great joke for all concerned if one Great Cat suddenly became two and Tara Bani was just as suddenly being guarded by three brave warriors instead of two? You have fixed your communicator so you can speak and this brave and fearless Cat warrior can now speak their impossible languages called English, Spanish and Danish."
"This Great Cat could not conceal himself in an ice chest like you. Where would we hide without being detected during such a lengthy journey?" Squeak noted that Spot did not say, no.
Suddenly another mental voice entered the conversation, "That would be a very good joke, perhaps Buck and I can be of assistance, um, kind of on the QT," the mysterious, yet somehow familiar 'voice' proposed.
Squeak pulled away from his older friend before he was finished; he was nearly finished, which evoked moaning complaints regarding the lack of service. He was quick to stifle the complaints, "If you were one of the best mind-speakers of all Cat warriors in history and had nearly as many confirmed kills such as this brave Cat warrior, then you could complain. Until you can join this very important mind-speak conversation, you should seek solace with another of our friends." There was no doubt in anyone's mind that Squeak was certainly self-depreciating and modest enough to be a Cat warrior.
"What is this 'QT' thing, friend Doug?" Spot asked and also identified the 'voice' for Squeak.
"Greetings Great Cat Spot and Cat warrior Squeak; QT means quiet. There would be no joke if everyone knew in advance that you were coming to visit and you could be prevented by your elders," Doug advised. "We know the new freight helicopters are almost ready to fly containers of goods to the nearest airport. If you were to prepare a container, you could substitute for some goods. The really big airplane that will fly the containers here is pressurized so you would be comfortable. Then Buck and I could meet you at the warehouse," he proposed.
It was clear that Squeak was decided when he asked, "Would you be able to fashion school cloth coverings such as you students wear, by the time we arrive? This brave warrior and Great Cat Spot would not wish to stand out." After Doug choked back his laughter, he assured the soon to be stowaways that all would be ready in time to meet the first plane load of 'souvenirs' from South America.
After the unusual contact was broken between two continents, Spot grabbed Squeak and placed him on his back, a much more comfortable place for a small boy to accompany a young Great Cat wherever they decided to go within the vast Great Cat and Cat People's landholdings and Cat City halls. Squeak sat high on Spot's withers and used his matchless sense of balance to keep his comfortable seat while the fur saddle tickled his privates and occasionally if Spot made an unexpected move, Squeak found a tail around his waist to keep him in place.
"Where do we go at this early hour?" Squeak asked since he sensed some degree of urgency when Spot picked up speed heading toward the lakeside Great Cat entrance to Cat City, close to the new helicopter pad. The lightning fast trip spiraling down into the City was fun and Squeak was pleased to suggest that they do it several times more.
"You may be adept at using a tool such as Tara Bani possesses. The Great Cat's now know it can also be used as a weapon so you brave Cat Warrior, must experiment."
Spot descended to the lowest level in the city, straight to the Ancient tool room that the few humans who knew about the room called the armory. There they found a small rack that was most prominently displayed in the center of the circular room; it had 12 depressions intended to store the 12 Ancient fountain pen-size 'tools'; one for each Ancient. One depression was vacant when they entered, Bani possessed that one and when Squeak and Spot left the room, only 10 tools remained. Squeak abandoned his child size bow and a clutch of three arrows in favor of the eleventh pen-size Ancient tool. By then Squeak was comfortable keeping his rifle slung on his back where it was out of the way yet available instantly in the event of need.
"Great Cat Spot," Squeak said almost at once, "this Ancient tool has become pleasantly warm and it is also glowing slightly; I believe that it likes me."
Spot smiled and instructed Squeak to continue to hold the tool tightly as the Great Cat loped off along a tunnel that was only lit by the small round discs like those that they had encountered previously in the Peoples' treasure cave. The unfinished walls showed signs of crude scoring and gold dust, along with occasional clusters of uncut gem stones still littered the floor. When they were safely far away from Cat City, they entered a small section where the walls were finished and brightly lit but still unadorned.
Spot stopped and lowered Squeak to the floor in that area. He rubbed the back of the boy's head with his tail after he told the boy to study the buttons on the tool. One button glowed briefly then darkened to be replaced by another. Squeak looked up to smile broadly at his big Great Cat friend. "Should I tell you what the buttons are for?"
"This Cat would prefer that you demonstrate what they are for by continuing what Tara Bani started here on these walls," Spot countered while he opened a video channel to the Council of 12 Great Cats.
"Perhaps it would be best if you hid behind this brave warrior in the event that something goes wrong," Squeak suggested half seriously before he faced the tunnel and pointed the Ancient tool, pressed two buttons and most importantly, thought about what he wanted to happen to the unfinished stone walls ahead.
There was a blinding flash of light if a human was present to watch, but not so much for a Great Cat - or for Squeak, the second Ancient to be reincarnated!
Early the next morning, Doug and Buck waited impatiently for Bucky to leave the parental suite for breakfast so they could seek out an accomplice – Buck's mother, Victoria. Buck rated the chances that she would help at about 50:50. Buck knocked on the bedroom door and then barged in without waiting to be admitted. Victoria had just gotten out of bed and was belting a rather filmy dressing gown that failed to hide the fact that she was a very beautiful woman and clearly revealed what she did or didn't wear to bed. The boys also noted that the Ancient jewel encrusted golden casket of Stuff on Bucky's night table was still open. Doug blushed and almost looked away.
Victoria rolled her eyes and grinned at her son and at Doug's discomfort, "I am very certain that there is a very good reason for you two to come visiting at this ungodly hour and it better be good, young man. Hurry up, out with it, or we'll be late for breakfast and the morning news," she chided as she headed toward her bath and dressing room.
"We need your help to pull off a practical joke on everyone else in the Family. Doug and I can't do it without you."
"Doesn't your father know what you're up to?"
"Nope, no way; if we got him involved, he'd bring in Will and Joe and suddenly everyone would know that Freckles' brother, Spot and his little buddy, Squeak were flying up to make a surprise visit. We need your shopping expertise to buy Squeak a complete little kid wardrobe and maybe your seamstress to make him a school uniform and Spot a Great Cat-size school necktie." Buck couldn't resist laughing, "The two of them are worried about standing out if they aren't dressed properly."
"Squeak..." Victoria wondered, "Is Squeak the darling little boy with such clever fingers and impressive vocabulary of four letter words?"
"Yup, that would be Squeak."
The opportunity and reason to go shopping was the deciding factor as Buck thought it would be. Laughter echoed hollowly through the closed dressing room door. Victoria was convinced; she would be happy to help. She kicked the boys out by reminding Buck, "You know that you are too old to be walking into this bedroom anytime you please like you did when you were little, so please don't do it again."
"He made me do it! But I didn't look, honest!" Doug called out before Buck could slam the hall door. In the hall he said, "Wow, if I was straight, I believe I'd go after your mother."
"Sure you would. You've obviously forgotten all about the meat grinder in the basement," Buck reminded as a warning to Doug not to turn straight and begin putting the 'make' on his mother.
The two big freight Chinooks had delivered four standard-size shipping containers to the landing pad and the Great Cats moved them into the tunnel so they could be loaded with what was once Spanish treasure as soon as everything but the pieces attributed to lost cultures of Central and South America were refashioned as modern day souvenirs alleged to be from the City of Atlantis, including light weight coins and fabulous novelty glittering gold bar 'doorstops'.
Unbeknown to any of the People involved in preparing the shipments and actually loading the containers, the Council of 12 Great Cats approved of the plan to send newly ordained but unannounced Tara Squeak and Great Cat Spot his Cat friend, north to join Tara Bani, Kad, Sidi, and of course, Great Cat Freckles at school. By then many of the Great Cats were equipped with cellphone communicators so having the Cat warriors modify one of the containers as a temporary living space was no problem at all. Fang decided that the future students could hardly arrive without some form of currency, so he ordered enough gem filled stonewood chests to line the hiding place completely including the deck and ceiling. Apparently stonewood chests could be building blocks if a Great Cat willed them to be. The next problem to be solved was the creation of identification; passports, student visas for both members of the extended Katz family and phytosanitary certificates for Spot to satisfy the US Department of Agriculture, as well as full tuition payments for two new students.
Buck and Doug brought additional conspirators in to help with papers and to forestall any shipping problems. Evan, JC and Master of Machines, John was happy to help and said so each after five minute bouts of laughter. JC had already donated his entire treasure horde to the People in part because he felt he had enough, while in truth he didn't feel like messing with its disposal and conversion into cash. Buck accessed the main Trenton company computer for John. He was going to use Freckles' and the warrior's information stored there as models for creating identical papers and authentic passports for the stowaways. Evan promised to track the special containers' progress every inch of the way while in transit but warned of one danger on arrival that the stowaways might have to defeat.
US Customs had truck mounted x-ray machines they used to inspect shipping containers randomly, particularly those arriving from Central and South America for obvious reasons such as drugs and/or stowaways. Fortunately they didn't have enough machines or time to x-ray every container that arrived at every port of entry. After Doug advised them of the problem, Spot looked at Squeak and both shrugged the problem away. The symbiotic team would simply make 'friends' with such an intrusive, yet intelligent machine. They agreed that it could not be blamed for its human instilled bad manners.
At first the boys planned to mess with the school by paying cash in advance for tuition, all fees, room and board, but then Buck as Bucky Number Four or the fourth generation Trenton prankster had a better idea; they would pay in sparkling, bright gold, and to insure acceptance, they would pay for 12 semesters in advance. Headmaster Smithe could hardly reject those two admission applications that were accompanied by such a hefty payment especially when it was found to be blocking the main entrance doors into Trenton Hall, AKA the administration building. Doug took charge of completing the applications and locating the accompanying payment on the appointed morning. In the blocks asking student's ages, he wrote 'Yes'. He planned to use only the biggest ingots available and move them into place by levitation.
Doc was last to appear in the dining room for breakfast. He carried his satchel turned cat transporter in one hand and a sheaf of papers in the other. He placed the cat carrier close to Freckles' chair and then sat down in his place. "I found out about the mysterious galleon," he announced, "she was the Santa Anna, one of five ships that departed the Port of Campeche which is located on the Yucatan Peninsula, the heart of a Mayan treasure rich area. This little flotilla was bound for Havana where it would become a part of a really large fleet bound for the port of Seville in Spain." Strangely Doc paused his report to grin; "Now for the good part that I found in the other four ships' logs. Just before the flotilla left Campeche, the Anna experienced something of a personnel problem; some of her crew very foolishly rebelled while they were still in port. You can just imagine the brutal living conditions those crews faced as long as they lived. Well, the disturbance was quelled with 15 crewmen killed before another 13 lived long enough to be hanged and most likely drawn and quartered, although that wasn't recorded, it is conjecture on my part. You may recall the Inquisition. To be sure that the remaining crew understood that mutiny is very much frowned upon; another 30 or 40 poor souls were flogged within an inch of their lives. That occurred just before the small armada set sail for Havana.
"The other ships' logs report that on the fourth night out of port, the five were sailing quite close to each other so they could easily see each other's lights. Then one by one each lookout reported that the Anna's lights had disappeared, and of course at dawn they discovered that the Anna was gone from the horizon."
"What happened Doc?" Doug wondered and suggested, "Maybe the crew learned from their mistakes and mutinied again at sea, at night, so they could get away in the dark."
"Yes Doug, I believe that is exactly what happened although no one will ever know for sure. The Anna may have fled south if someone onboard knew anything about directions and land masses. East would take them to Spanish Cuba, north, into the Gulf of Mexico and possibly Mexico or Florida and west would return them to Central America where they began their journey. They had no other options."
Doc concluded relating the log entries he'd found; "The diminished fleet just made the safety of Havana and avoided a horrendous hurricane. I believe the Anna was not so fortunate, they would have been caught, not sunk obviously, most likely disabled and were blown and/or drifted during and after the storm, south, where she finally foundered at the mouth of the Cat People's river. The People at the time may have noted the wreck but as there were no survivors, there were no invaders, hence no enemy to kill. The People certainly would have no interest in more gold and gems that weren't trophies, so the wreck full of treasure disappeared in the mud."
"Ouch!" Peter complained, jumped to his feet and shook his leg violently, which dislodged little Douggie House Cat who had been climbing his sock in preference to his pant leg. Peter felt the claws when Douggie reached the skin on his calf. "Freckles you better teach this little guy to behave or he'll end up as spoiled as you are," Peter warned half in jest.
Freckles scooped Douggie up and held him up to his eyes for a silent Cat to cat lecture on table manners before he chose to misunderstand the word 'spoiled' by sniffing the air dramatically. He placed the kitten on the table between them where Douggie sat down imitating Freckles' pose after a look of irritation at Peter before he experimented with wrapping his tail around his front paws for the first time. He looked down at his slightly moving tail tip and pounced, but the tail remained just out of reach no matter how fast he circled. Buttercup and her yet to be named sisters, rushed across the table to aid their brother and a kitten rough and tumble ensued, a four against one battle that Douggie lost by falling off the table top onto Peter's lap, an ideal place to take a nap.
Peter nudged Freckles and pointed down. "This is what I mean by spoiled."
Freckles smiled right down to his gums, "Remind me tonight when we rest; I will curl up on your lap too," he promised.
Doc changed the subject by announcing to those who didn't know; "Today I am to receive a very handsome consulting fee for deciphering the answers to a test that was written in what is believed to be Egyptian hieroglyphs. Imagine that – the schools' headmaster was searching the world for someone with my skills and I live just a few miles away."
"Guess what school and whose test Doc is planning to translate?" Peter asked with a serious human frown at his employer.
"Well if you can't read my answers," Freckles responded to Doc, "you can just read and answer the questions and Headmaster will never know."
"You, my big friend, do not know educators very well. I will only see your answers; all the questions have been redacted."
Everyone watched Freckles' eyes swing over to Buck. It was clear that he was asking Buck to define 'redacted'. "It means blacked out," Peter supplied helpfully. Then he added sourly, "Don't worry, Headmaster thought of everything; I have to translate my answers to English just like Doc and do it at the same time while Mr. Smyth watches us. With that being said, let's fly so we can get this over with."
Freckles and company with Doc, met up with Evan before first bell. Evan advised that he'd arranged for the big Boeing 747-8 freighter that was to pick up the first load of souvenirs from Venezuela to be diverted to Newark to take on Doc as a passenger. Then it was scheduled to depart Newark early the next morning if Doc could be ready to go by then.
Of course Doc was so very ready to visit Cat City that in the future was to be called Atlantis, he was willing to forego his consulting fee and depart then and there, except he would need his luggage back at Trenton Hall, which had never been completely unpacked. Then there was the problem of transport to Newark. Freckles and Peter joined forces and refused to let him go until the damn test translations had been completed.
Charlie lightened Doc's depression by explaining that he wouldn't need much in the way of clothing, if he wanted to blend in with the Cat People, as if he ever could, all he really needed to wear was shoes. Charlie became reassuring when he saw Doc frown at the thought of going about in the nude; "Look Doc, you'll be staying with Angus, he's a Scotsman who is also JC's comprador, he speaks the lingo, he's a member of the tribe and he's been all over every inch of Cat City. He's also a mind-speaker and he's friends with all the Great Cats. Now just imagine this Doc, Angus has a band of 12 young Cat warriors who ain't even 15 years old yet who are also gunners on the war boats, and six guys who are even younger full warriors who are pilots in the People's Navy that live with him too."
Doc nodded with the hint of a smile and some unconscious adjustment of his corduroy pants. Charlie continued, "Did you know that when we were there, the most popular guy among all of us white warriors was Pettie? Pettie had to fight off all the native guys from little kids, right up to Chief Tonga because he's big meaning tall like you and also like you; his coupler is Big with a capital 'B'. When these horny guys get one look at you, I guarantee you won't get much sleep either. Oh, did I mention that the paste vine grows wild everywhere?"
Charlie stopped and waited for Doc to ask; "Paste vine, what's a paste vine?"
"Stuff is made by squashing paste vine berries and leaves. I think the gang that lives with Angus takes baths in Stuff, if you know what I mean."
Hayden and Justin rushed up to Buck and Doug. They had news that the guys already knew about; Hayden's parents and Justin's father, accompanied by his 'top' horse farm employee and very best friend, had accepted dinner invitations from Victoria and Bucky Trenton for that evening. Both couples were to fly by personal aircraft, separately into the small county airport near Trenton Hall, while Hayden and Justin, who had become eager swim team managers, would simply not fly back to school after practice.
Justin laughingly told the guys, "You should have heard the phone call I got from Dad. He wanted to know how your parents knew Ethan's name and wondered why they would include him in a dinner invitation or for that matter, he wanted to know why he was invited, after all Dad just runs an Internet mail order and auction business. He owns it outright but he's worried about your dad even thinking about starting a competing website after picking his brain.
Doug and Buck sort of froze in place and apparently had the same thought. They asked together, "What website?"
"You guys probably haven't ever ordered anything or bid in an auction; our company is called Penguin Buyer's Club."
"PENGUIN!" The boys exclaimed together. Penguin competed against Amazon and EBay, sort of; they sold only very high end stuff, sales were called 'price lowering's', and privately thought of exclusive department stores such as Bergdorf-Goodman as their retail competition since most of those most exclusive stores had also ventured into Internet sales. Penguin also competed with big international auction houses such as Christie's or Sotheby's for the so called 'carriage trade' auction business.
Justin was oblivious to Buck and Doug's excitement. He continued by suggesting, "That's us, the name Penguin, is kind of a play on our last name, Penn. Like if your mom ever wants to sell some of her very beautiful and expensive bling, she should auction it off very confidentially with us on Penguin," he offered brightly.
There was a sudden flurry of mind-speak to which Justin and Hayden were privileged to hear since Justin was to be involved. Then during first period, Freckles and Bani, in different classes, sneezed simultaneously and asked to be excused because they had suddenly become afflicted with bad colds, while Sidi and Kad began shivering uncontrollably. They claimed to be too cold to continue with basic geometry. It was apparent that they didn't read the memo from Peter concerning the difference in 'cold' germs versus low temperatures.
Meanwhile, Peter finished deciphering Freckles' test in record time only to see that Doc had already finished, although they hurried for different reasons. Doc wanted to leave for South America and needed to pack, while Peter knew that Freckles and the warriors were waiting for them at the school's helipad as soon as Devin returned after refueling Great Cat, so all of them could visit the warehouse in Port Newark. They were going to select sample pieces they hoped could be auctioned on Penguin and wanted the samples to show Justin's father at dinner.
By the time Devin landed Great Cat, there were too many guys for Great Cat. Evan, JC and John ran up to the pad and advised that Billy was on his way with Black Widow so they all could visit the warehouse together. Freckles chose to fly with Billy in Black Widow so he could improve the chopper's systems as he did Great Cat's. He did not mention that with the two choppers thus modified like Bucky's, the machines could communicate with each other without human assistance and of course, take advantage of Snoopy's enhanced powers and in an unforeseen emergency, any of them could take off, fly and land without a pilot.
The choppers landed in the large empty parking lot adjacent to the warehouse, unannounced, which scrambled the entire security force with guns drawn and pointed until some of them saw that one of the passengers was Freckles and the scary little native boy with the weapon that could make a body disappear into thin air except for some greasy dust and any metal the victim carried. The uniformed guards had just put their weapons away when a third far larger helicopter touched down and Bucky Trenton, Will and Joe stepped out as soon as the hatch was opened. The boys always seemed to forget that Will and Joe were also very talented mind-speakers and they 'heard' anything that was broad beamed so Bucky knew that the boys had found a means of disposing of the Atlantis treasure and maximizing profits all accomplished confidentially; no one would know the seller's identity.
Doc listened to the boys discussing Dagger Cay, Doug's vacation home in the Bahamas and actually became excited when Evan mentioned that his Boeing 747 would land there on a new, modern 12,000 foot runway at Christmas. "You know Doc, it would be so much more believable, not to mention convenient if Atlantis was closer to home," Evan proposed, "like somewhere under water near Dagger Cay. There's a drop off just outside the reef that's like over a 1000 feet deep. If we say Atlantis is somewhere in the South Pacific, it's just too far away and I think we'll get busted sooner or later; sooner most likely because the shipments originate in South America. We can't really hide that fact," he added.
Doc agreed, "I didn't imagine that any private island would have such a long runway but more importantly there is evidence of sunken cities and pyramid-like structures in the Caribbean. Some are rather shallow and some are so deep they can only be visited by remotes or deep water submarine. The photos are astounding and all the sites are so impossibly ancient they should not exist. It is believed that they were built by someone other than man during a period when the ice caps were huge and all the seas were much shallower and land masses were vast."
Doug grinned and joined the conversation, "We're in luck Doc, if you want to place Atlantis close to home; the Dagger Cay archipelago, my property, extends for a mile out from the drop off all along the main reef, so there's plenty of hypothetical space that's 1000 to 1200 feet down; just imagine a site wherever convenient and then ask Freckles and Bani to do something under there so photos look like there are structures there." Doug was on a roll; "Maybe they could even create some vague parts of buildings inside the reef as long as they didn't mess up the marine environment. That's where we could imply we find the Atlantis treasure."
Evan looked out as Black Widow touched down. "We're here guys, let's go shopping." He had been sitting next to Freckles. He asked, "Would you have time to sort of create a bigger selection of gold junk like the Ancient's made. Those killer Great Cats that Bucky uses as book ends would sell like wildfire and maybe make lots of other animals and birds like those macaws that shit on Pettie. Can you do that?"
"I am a Great Cat, of course I will have time and I have Bani, Sidi and Kad to help with their tools. Those brave warriors will enjoy creating artifacts and we will have a contest to see who can make the most beautiful."
The first contest for Kad and Sidi began just inside the warehouse doors. There was a mad scramble to get to the stonewood chests that contained two ancient tools. Their first challenge was to create Ancient warriors wearing armor and actually holding tools. The boys already decided to present all the new Ancient artifacts with an air of mystery and the warriors holding tools would certainly raise the questions; what the objects were, what were they used for, were they weapons or some sort of mundane tool, etc., etc.
"So, do you think your dad would be interested to selling some of this junk?" Buck asked Justin. Justin had been unable to close his mouth from the moment he stepped into the cavernous warehouse space.
Justin hefted the statue of Bani that Freckles fashioned the first night from a 24 inch tall Spanish alter cross. He had some difficulty at first because of the surprising weight. "This is beautiful; it's so detailed and life-like. The mystery with this is how did the ancient artisan achieve such detail on such a small piece? It must be old because no modern artist could afford to invest in this much gold and no forger would bother for the same reason. I think this stuff would really sell, especially if there was a large lot to display, so buyers could see the consistent high quality and the volume of solid gold used."
"How do you display an item?" Bucky asked, "I know your competition shows expensive items months ahead around the world, like Moscow, Berlin, London. New York, L.A. and Hong Kong before it's actually auctioned."
"We have a showroom over in New York that any prequalified bidder can visit to see anything coming up for like 30 days, but mostly we rely on video. The higher the estimated selling price the more detailed the video and of course a more detailed provenance. My dad can explain it in more detail tonight. By the way Mr. Trenton, I'd like to thank you for inviting dad and his friend. Won't he be surprised to find out that he's got a gay son, who just happens to have a very best friend of his own so they don't have to sneak around anymore when Justin and I are staying with them."
"Yeah Mr. Trenton, thanks for helping me out with my parents too, unfortunately neither of them is gay. They're dedicated conservatives and W.A.S.P.'s, preferably Episcopalian, so they won't be very accepting, but at least I'll be out, finally."
Bucky put his arm over Hayden's shoulders. "Don't worry son, Doug's dad and I will have an old fashion Dutch uncle talk with them. Bill Henderson will do the most talking because he reacted very badly when Doug came out to him." He hesitated and continued with his voice lowered; "You probably noticed that Doug doesn't live at home with his parents, that's because Bill rejected Doug at first and we all discovered that we can't go back and start over no matter how much we'd like to, there was just too much said."
"What is wasp?" Freckles asked absently. He'd decided to enter the contest and was sending flashes of light in all directions as he shaped what was to become a sitting Great Cat that was wearing what could be described as an inscrutable expression as it emerged from the gold smoke.
"White Anglo-Saxon Protestant," Peter explained, "a few of them think they're better than anyone else who isn't. To be a WASP, you have to be born into the club, and since the Katz clan is Jewish, switching won't help; you guys are definitely out."
Bani glanced toward Freckles' creation and began to laugh, "It appears that we have an ass kisser among us; Great Cat Freckles has fashioned his sire, Great Cat Fang!" Bani stopped what he was doing and ran to the stack of stonewood chests. He moved several before he found the one he wanted without opening any. Apparently he could suddenly 'read' the intricate carvings when no one knew that they meant anything until then.
Bani sent the chest drifting toward where Freckles was working. "Great Cat Fang must have perfect eyes and the largest pendent," he decreed as the chest popped open when it reached Freckles. It displayed an incredible cache of emeralds that were already shaped perfectly for eyes or communicators dependent on size.
Peter joined in criticizing Freckles' creativity, "Your Dad's whiskers look like they were snipped off from a spool of wire; make them pointy like yours so they look like they would be annoying when they tickle my cheek," he instructed.
Peter didn't get the response he was expecting, "DAD?" Freckles questioned with a roll of his eyes although Peter noticed that Fang's whiskers disappeared in a flash and then reappeared just as suddenly. The second try looked realistic; various lengths, mostly straight and tapering to a needle point.
"You will become prey when you meet him at Christmas," Freckles promised with an evil grin.
"Um," Peter hesitated, "why don't I meet you later, where exactly will you be after New Year or maybe Easter? Seriously, I thought we were going to Dagger Cay and then to Bachal, Medi's country?"
Freckles hugged Peter to his side to comfort and remind him of his status; "You are Executive Assistant to Great Cats, all Great Cats, not just Freckles Katz. My sire, you call Dad, and the rest of the Council of 12 wish to meet you." He laughed like Buck and added, "If my sire is dad to you, then you have 11 uncles!"
Peter's nervous laughter was drowned by a deep purring rumble in all mind-speaker's minds that Freckles assured him was what Great Cat laugher sounded like when it wasn't adulterated by imitating humans. "Just how are we going to get there?" he wondered.
"Chief Bucky will lend Kermit to fly us to the airport where our treasures depart for here. We will fly from that airport to our home lands on one of our new fat helicopters to greet the Council of 12 Great Cats and many of our clan as well as all the Cat People. You will be very busy, you will see and experience many new things," Freckles assured Peter just like a travel agent who was selling a tour.
"There's a time I think you missed, I didn't hear you mention rest, remember I'm just a lowly human and this body needs rest."
"Ah yes, rest," Freckles paused in his work to ask, "How much have you rested since we arrived here?"
Peter began to blush as he considered his and everyone else's nocturnal activities that seemed to substitute for sleep more and more each night. He knew for certain that during Evan's night long orgy, no one slept at all and everyone was alert, managed to shower, dress and get to school on time just as if everyone got eight solid hours of sleep. "Okay, that argument didn't work; maybe we should just get it over with and leave early, so we don't have to rush?"
Freckles had just finished installing Fang's eyes using a pair of matching tear drops after he modified them somehow so they seemed to be looking directly at whoever looked at the sculpture and then following the person as they moved. The finishing touch was an enormous emerald communicator that was actually suspended from a chain that disappeared into the Great Cat's solid golden neck ruff so it could never be removed.
It was apparent to the humans watching the contest, that Freckles was making up the rules when he announced; "Time is up, I am the winner, Great Cat Fang is the best Ancient statue!" The humans and Cat warriors noted that one contestant was also the judge and he didn't so much as glance at Kad, Sidi or Bani's creations.
"Not so fast there Great Cat," Bucky intervened quickly before Kad and Sidi had time to protest, verbally at first, and although they knew that they couldn't win a rough and tumble with Freckles, it was always worth a try if negotiations failed.
Flashes continued from where Bani was working behind some stacked stonewood boxes. He wasn't finished with his figure so he was ignoring Freckles and his rigged contest. Naturally everyone moved around the boxes to see what Bani was creating. One and all, including Freckles was in awe.
"You created a Ming Tree!" Doc exclaimed, "It is absolutely the most beautiful that I've ever seen, and certainly the biggest and it will be the most costly ever. Correct me if I'm wrong but your tree is firmly rooted in a pile of large uncut diamonds. The roots, the trunk, the branches and the flower bearing twigs are unquestionably gold while the leaves appear to be fashioned from emeralds and you made the thousands of flower petals by slicing and shaping larger rubies into oval chips. I own a small example that was made in China, I believe sometime during the Ming Dynasty, it is made of twisted gold wire, jade leaves, and rose quartz flowers that is mounted on a block of onyx, but I've never seen anything like this. This is extraordinary; this would be a treasure to any Chinese emperor. Bani; you are to be congratulated." Bani's stonewood tree was about four feet tall by five feet in diameter overall and the uncut diamonds that he used for the base were held in place and together by an incredibly detailed golden root system.
Bani looked perplexed. "I am sorry Doc, I do not know what a Ming Tree is; this is the stonewood tree in bloom that guards the mouth of our river. It is Great Cat Fang's favorite resting place and if you look closely on the larger branches you will see that all 12 Council members are in my tree guarding the Clan and the People against evil."
"Sorry Freckles," Doug said but wasn't sorry, "I think we should vote on whose piece is best in show, and by we, I mean just us humans, not any of the artists."
Freckles pushed aside the boys for a closer look before he inspected the two nearly identical Ancient armor clad warriors, Kad and Sidi's creations. He did a Great Cat version of a double take before he shook his head and rolled his eyes. Doug looked closer to see what Freckles thought was so amusing and immediately began to laugh and point at the statues' pleated Ancient swallow tail kilts that closed in front. Apparently Kad and Sidi were having a private contest to see which of them could create the longest coupler before time was called. Both flaccid couplers had reached their statue's knees, however Kad's effort was twice the diameter of Sidi's, so Doug declared him the winner by raising his arm over his head.
"Should these warriors change them back to more normal?" Kad asked Doug sadly.
"Hell no, these are two warriors from Atlantis; they never really existed so you can leave the big dicks and even give future statues more muscles and give them hardons standing out from the kilts or show them naked and hard if you want to. Knock your selves out," Doug declared.
"Do not tell them that!" Bani protested with a giggle to keep his bodyguards from knocking their heads together.
Bucky took over, "Let's let our guests for dinner this evening be the final judges." He sent David and Noah to find a box truck or step van then foolishly wondered how the solid gold sculptures could even be loaded into the truck and kept from being damaged while being transported. Then he began to worry about security.
While Bucky was on his phone organizing two cars and eight armed men, he saw Bani's magnificent Ming Tree drift by on its way out of the warehouse from the corner of his eye. The tree was promptly followed by the 1500 pound Great Cat who was flanked by two Ancient armor clad golden warriors that had been blessed or cursed with stupendous couplers. It was Bucky's turn to roll his eyes while he replaced his phone in his coat pocket. "God I'm good," he mumbled to himself since he was alone in the warehouse. Each of the boys carried smaller works that Freckles created days earlier from assorted Spanish relics more commonly referred to as 'junk', and they'd left him behind.
He stepped outside to see Bani's tree fold its branches just enough so it could drift into his helicopter. Freckles' representation of his sire Fang, found its way onto the deck in front of the third row of seats inside Great Cat. Freckles took his usual seat in the second row and Air Marshall Devin slammed the door on additional passengers because of space, not weight limitations with Peter riding in the copilot's seat.
"Damn good," Bucky said again as he joined the boys who were riding with him.
Bucky's phone chimed when they were just touching down at Trenton Hall. That was when he realized that David and Noah were missing, however they were successful in renting an unnecessary truck.
Bucky was successful in diverting the boys and Great Cat from entering the house via the shortest route; through the dining room. He directed them to the more distant French doors that opened into the garden from the ballroom wing. He did not want Victoria to see any of the warrior's latest creations, particularly Bani's magnificent stonewood tree, although he pictured the tree placed in the center of the rotunda. He knew he would be required to buy something just not everything, but he was planning to delay as long as possible, preferably straight into the auction process where there was always the chance that he would be out-bid.
By the time Bucky got into the ballroom the boys, with Buck leading, had gotten into the storage closets and were setting up widely spaced tables around the room to create a mini-museum. Buck insisted that Bani place his tree in an alcove so it couldn't be seen among the other works, thereby increasing its impact. Kad and Sidi decided to place their golden warriors next to each other but on separate tables for comparative purposes. Freckles didn't even glance at any tables; he guided sparkling Fang directly across the room to the low stage where a band or orchestra might entertain. At first he opened the heavy navy blue curtain and Fang almost disappeared in the enlarged area. After he closed the curtain, Fang seemed almost ready to pounce on each viewer from the blue background. The other smaller brand new 'Atlantian relics' including assorted Great Cats done in several poses in various sizes occupied other tables and closely resembled several center rings at a circus.
Satisfied that everything was ready, Bucky had to pass through the foyer to reach the library. He noted some nice new leather bound luggage, far less than Doc arrived with but far more than a normal weekend guest would bring on a visit. He asked Victoria if their guests had already arrived and were staying over and did the luggage need to be moved to a suite.
It took a few moments for Victoria to realize what luggage Bucky was referring to before she answered; "Perhaps you haven't noticed darling," she reminded, "but our son and his partner sometimes dress like rag pickers and their luggage consists of two nylon gym bags. That simply will not do. Today I bought them new wardrobes and some proper luggage." Bucky grinned; Victoria was renewing an ongoing war with Buck about what a well-dressed teenager wore and apparently had included Doug in the next battle. When Doug and Buck appeared, Victoria promptly sent them back to the foyer to put their new clothes away before the dinner guests arrived. Bucky didn't see Victoria wink at Buck or think it strange that Buck didn't argue.
Walter and Cynthia Roebling, Hayden's parents, and William Penn with his partner Ethan, Justin's father and friend could have seen Justin and Hayden holding hands when they entered the library if they hadn't seen Freckles sitting on 'his' sofa first. Bucky and Victoria prevented any hasty exits by pushing the two couples further into the room and some of the boys with Will and Joe quickly migrated to casually block the doorway with their bodies to prevent escape before explanations and introductions.
Freckles took an instant dislike to Walter and Cynthia even before he touched their minds, while William and Ethan appeared to be fascinated and not at all intimidated at the sight of a domesticated jaguar, if somewhat over-sized, sitting placidly in the middle of Bucky Trenton's library drinking a giant fruit laden cocktail from a large, priceless, golden, gem encrusted bowl. Who but the famous or infamous Bucky Trenton would consider owning such an unusual pet? Both men were smiling while Walter wore a frown and Cynthia's eyebrows appeared to be raised to perpetual full arch perhaps as a result of cosmetic surgery gone wrong that expensive makeup could not hide.
Freckles remained silent and more importantly, expressionless for the present although he silently broadcast his opinion of poor Hayden's parents far and wide to every mind speaker, including Hayden. "I believe that Hayden was switched at birth or perhaps he was adopted," he opined.
"Sometimes, like now, I think so too," Hayden agreed as he shook hands with his father AND his mother. "My family is not very demonstrative," he pointed out needlessly. "In about a minute I might need to be re-adopted or shop for a guardian until I'm 18. Here goes nothing," he added before he switched to verbal. He didn't notice that Will began whispering in Bucky's ear. "Mother, Father, I'd like you to meet Justin Penn, my roommate," he pulled Justin forward and held him in place with a white knuckle hold on his arm. "And I guess you could call us partners. We're gay," he concluded in the silent room as everyone held their breath.
The wrinkles in Cynthia's forehead rose up far into her hairline with her eyebrows a close second while Walter's frown evolved into a glare at his son Hayden, and Freckles was forgotten. "We will not have a queer in our family," Walter hissed with a touch of spittle. "If this ever got out, we'd be ruined socially. We will withdraw you from that school and you will be privately tutored until you change your ways, Young Man!" he snapped. "Get your coat Young Man; we will not be staying for dinner."
The mob blocking the doorway parted to allow the Roebling's to leave the room, and then closed again on their backs with Hayden briefly on the wrong side of the mob, until Freckles joined the blockade while holding Hayden safely in his tail. When Walter looked back to see if Hayden was obeying his commands, he was shocked to see Freckles seated in the middle of the doorway while holding Hayden firmly against his front legs. Hayden was grinning, and Freckles decided that a killing frown was in order to end further confrontation; after all it was time for evening food and Walter didn't know that Great Cats didn't like the taste of human.
Freckles used Hayden's changing voice to imply that bad things could happen; "At least you agree that I am a young man, so I'll decide my future from now on. Oh, wait up Daddy," he called sarcastically, "did you know that my friend Freckles is attack trained and he can sense when a human doesn't like him? Plus it's time for evening food!" Freckles had to max the cellphone volume at the end as Walter and Cynthia increased their pace, limited by Cynthia's clunky six inch platform heels that were totally unsuitable for running.
Hayden shouted, "Have your attorneys call mine in the morning!"
"Huh," Doug asked, "what was that all about?"
Hayden giggled in relief, "I'm not sure that granddad liked his son very much and he certainly didn't trust him. When he set up our trust funds he kept them separate by naming two law firms as perpetual trustees, one for dad and one to protect mine from dad, simple," he concluded.
"Hey Hayden!" Justin called out between fits of laughter from inside the library. "Get in here; I think I found you a guardian!"
The mob reversed course to see William and Ethan playfully manhandling Justin by tossing him back and forth between them. All three of them were laughing as if it was Christmas morning and Santa had brought them perfect gifts. "That will teach you to keep a secret like that from us! Being gay is not easy if you aren't accepted and now we find you even have a boyfriend and you're both accepted in this family," William laughed while he hugged his son off the floor in a bear hug so his feet were dangling. Justin was helpless to Ethan's tickling from behind.
Hayden promptly retorted when he was able; "What are you guys talking about? You've been trying to keep me in the dark about your relationship ever since the divorce! Now that was one dumb secret. Now let's get down to business. My boyfriend needs a guardian and I need my roommate in my, um, room when I'm staying with you guys on weekends, holidays and vacations."
"You almost said bed," Buck shot into Justin's mind with a laugh.
Justin answered out loud, he was still too new to mind-speak "Well I didn't say bed, did I, wise ass?"
The evening resumed after everyone laughed at Justin's red face and he dragged his father and Ethan around the room to reintroduce all the guys as the couples they really were with the need for pretense gone. William and Ethan were shocked to discover that all the guys were partnered and Peter, Edvard and Devin appeared to be a happy trio. Those last introductions brought them to Freckles and the Cat warriors.
All the guys including Bucky and Victoria contributed to the lengthy explanation of their presence that was made believable when the guys, including Justin and Hayden displayed their emerald pendants and Victoria pulled Ethan's head down into her bosom for a closer look of her elaborate and weighty Ancient ruby necklace after William revealed that the young man was actually Penguin's Executive Vice-President who had full charge of the hugely successful and profitable auction division, and was not just a pretty faced worker on the Penn horse farm.
Ethan's blush was just receding when something like a velvet rope surrounded his neck and pulled him toward Freckles. Until then Freckles had remained silent and carefully expressionless. "My emerald is bigger than theirs," he stated clearly, while wearing a huge grin for the first time, almost in Ethan's ears since his eyes and nose were suddenly two inches from the Great Cat's pendant, held in place by Freckles' tail.
Peter protested, "Damn Freckles you are so impatient. I was just about to explain that Great Cats can speak, AFTER I explained the difference between one of your smiles and frowns." He turned to William, who appeared to be going into shock at the sight of his lover who was about to be devoured. "Let him go, Freckles!" Peter demanded before continuing to explain to William the tilt of Freckles ears and the fact that smiles or frowns always involved a great many exposed teeth. He concluded while Ethan rubbed his neck and sighed in relief after he was hoisted aloft for a formal greeting; touching noses and close direct eye contact and then released, "As you probably just noticed, Great Cats also have prehensile tails."
William discovered that he was too close to the just mentioned tail when he was pulled in for a similar Great Cat greeting before Freckles pronounced the couple as Great Cat and Cat People friends. "Now will you help us sell our treasures such as Victoria's necklace?" He asked without preamble.
"Well sure," Ethan agreed at once, "if you have more that's all the same quality."
Kad and Sidi took that agreement as a cue to take the two men's hands and tug them out the door. Hamilton announced that dinner was served just then, which caused the warriors to change directions in the hall, from the ball room, straight into the dining room. Peter explained after the men were seated between the two little inquisitive warriors. "Trust Cat warriors and Great Cats to put billions of dollars in treasure aside in favor of food," he assured the couple, "and you two better keep your hands to yourselves," he warned the warriors but too late he noticed as both William and Ethan's face turned red and Kad and Sidi nodded together in full approval of their explorations.
Very early the next morning Spot and Squeak boarded a shipping container aided by Angus and his thumbs, Fang and several Great Cats. Boy Cat warrior and teenage Great Cat had to scramble over the top layer of pallets that held nothing more important than four blue plastic barrels each, which had been banded together and stacked. The stowaway's traveling compartment was located in the front end of the container over the barrels and a quantity of real treasure that had been disguised as near weightless junky souvenirs before they reached their cozy nest.
A problem for the travelers arose at once. Both were creatures of nature and the compartment was claustrophobic; there could be no window openings or ready exits. No one was bothered by the lack of windows in Cat City because the rooms were huge; the tunnels were large, well-lighted, decorated, and almost endless. There were also regular easy exits from inside and the same used as entrances everywhere if one knew where to look and how to gain entry. But the interior of their compartment was decorated with stonewood chests full of gems that were to be used to pay their expenses for the next several millennia as decreed by Great Cat Fang.
Spot's tail sought out Squeak's neck and head with instructions to make the stonewood chests and the container's inferior metal sides seem to disappear from inside while they would appear to remain intact from the outside. Both Cat and boy experimented while concentrating on where they thought they were moving; toward the helicopter pad.
First, the stonewood chest wall fuzzed out until they stared at a painted reinforced steel wall, which turned out to be no challenge at all. Suddenly they were looking at a panoramic view; front and both sides of their compartment, out at Great Cats and warriors who were accompanying the four containers, including theirs that were to be slung under the fat helicopters for transport to the closest city with a commercial airport with a 12,000 foot runway. Spot smiled hugely at Squeak's reaction to having such an unobstructed view.
"Thank you Great Cat Spot for helping me erase the obstructions," Squeak sang.
"This Cat did nothing but offer encouragement," Spot replied, "you brave warrior, erased the barriers to our clear sight by willing it to be so. This Cat does have one question; can the stonewood chests be recovered after we arrive? They were packed with much of our pin currency and walking around change. Great Cat Fang does not want us to be without resources," he reminded.
"This brave warrior just made them invisible for now. We must hope that they are still there are we arrive at our destination." Squeak dismissed the problem with another thought and questions. "Do you know that our view is much like the view that Great Cat Freckles enjoys when riding in his Cat mobile. It would be a very good joke on the Great Cats and Cat warriors outside if we were to control this container just like Great Cat Freckles steers his Cat mobile. Should this brave warrior try to take control for a short length of time?"
Spot couldn't resist a snicker with his approving nod. Squeak experimented by leaning to the side and the container responded by tipping that way. This sudden motion evoked mind-speak and verbal accusations between the Great Cats, Angus and of course Chief Tonga and Carb who had a reputation for joke playing. These in turn evoked giggles from inside the container just before Squeak willed the long steel box forward for a brief tour of the helipad just fast enough to insure that the great Cats had to lope along in useless pursuit while Tonga and Carb were laughing too hard, having accurately identified one or two suspects who were hiding inside the erratically moving container.
Tonga ended Squeak's fun with an intense mind-speak warning using his repaired amulet, that the trip would be canceled unless the container found its pickup space under the hovering chopper, within a very short length of time that was no longer than 10 heartbeats. The container reacted by turning into a 'racing' Cat mobile, that skidded around as it changed directions and left scratches on the paving as it stopped where it should have been parked all along after having scattering 12 pursuing Great Cats and attending Cat warriors in all directions.
It was apparent to Spot and Squeak that the irate Great Cats sensed that invisible 'windows' or view ports had been established in the front end of the container because they suddenly found their views blocked by Cat bodies and frowning faces on all three sides of their compartment, with the sound of scratching claws on steel very disconcerting to the perpetrators.
Fortunately guilty Great Cat and boy Cat warrior were saved or rescued after several thumps on the top of the container as a result of warriors hooking up the cables that would allow the duo to escape into the sky while suspended below one of the 'fat' helicopters more commonly known as Boeing CH 47 Chinooks.
"It would appear that Great Cat Fang, your sire and the Council was not as amused by our prank as we were," Squeak observed dryly with a straight face before he burst into laughter. "Do Great Cats hold grudges for any length of time?" he asked Spot when he could.
Once again I'd like to thank Emoe for editing my stuff. His observations and suggestions, in addition to his grammatical skills, especially commas are invaluable and make for a superior read.