Bill Penn, Justin's father who was about to become Hayden Roebling's guardian, and Ethan, his very best friend, marveled at the golden sculptures displayed in the Trenton ballroom. Bill Penn doubted that Freckles' representation of his sire Fang; was solid as advertised, so he attempted to move it and nearly wrenched his shoulder.
"Damn Dad," Justin scolded, "these guys may own more gold than there is in Ft. Knox, and you think it's hollow? Check out the eyes and that pendant; I don't know much about gems, but they sure looked as real as the big box full they were taken from." He added, "And you've never seen one of their boxes," he added.
Since Ethan was reminded, he felt himself up and frowned; he'd forgotten his jeweler's loupe although he didn't expect to need it at a dinner party. Spencer came to his rescue and mentioned in passing that he estimated that there were somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 carats in the three flawless emeralds that included Fang's eyes and the pendent. Ethan looked at one 'eye' and instantly had a feeling that he was being stared back at just as rudely. He explained the strange feeling and shivered.
"Look into both eyes at the same time," Bani suggested when he noted Ethan's reaction, "perhaps Great Cat Freckles created a link to Great Cat Fang, his sire."
Ethan shrugged and moved so he was looking directly into the statues' eyes and its pendant flashed to life as Great Cat Fang greeted white warrior Ethan audibly much to everyone's surprise including Freckles and the eyes suddenly became less hard and much friendlier.
Doug reacted with a laugh and called out; "Greetings Great Cat Fang! It appears your progeny, Freckles, created the first Ancient telephone! Um, sort of a long distance communicator," he elaborated so Fang wouldn't have to ask what a telephone was.
Fang actually became chatty with that revelation while Freckles became quiet and looked concerned. "What's wrong Freckles?" Buck asked. He assumed that Freckles might be quieter in his father's presence, but not totally silent and look like a beaten kitty.
"In my effort to win my contest, I think I used too much energy. This statue cannot be sold as we planned because it is a communicator; I, I goofed," Freckles admitted reluctantly.
Peter came to his despondent employer's rescue by giving him an elbow to his ribcage to get his attention. "Not so fast, Freckles, remember when you created the first Cat crapper?"
Freckles frowned, "You dare compare my toilet with this effigy of my sire?" he demanded, totally unbelieving.
Peter wasn't intimidated, he elaborated; "I was not!" he defended, "What I started to say was that the first crapper took the longest time, but then you made three more exactly alike without even looking. Why can't you do the same thing, whatever it is you do, with this statue? Although they probably would sell better and faster if they weren't quite as big," he suggested, "Just use less energy to make the replications so they aren't phones, just life-like."
Peter had barely finished when he found his body hoisted aloft, by a tail wrapped around his waist not his neck for a change, to receive an intensive facial from Freckles' tongue by way of thanks for the suggestion. While Peter spit and sputtered, Freckles mind-spoke as he eyed the closest French doors, "Will Big Foot fit in this large room?"
"He will not and don't even try. You'll wreck our truck and maybe collapse this whole wing," Peter replied in kind since he had to keep his mouth closed or risk getting a kiss with tongue from Freckles. He knew why Freckles asked; he needed the gold in Big Foots' truck bed so he could get an early start on replicating Fang. "We'll move Fang out to the garage so we don't make a mess here in Victoria's ostentatious hut," he countered with a joke.
It was just about then that everyone realized that Victoria had gone 'shopping' and found Bani's magnificent Ming tree that was out of sight in an alcove. She let out a near glass breaking screech. Bucky closed his eyes and sighed; he knew that the tree would never leave Trenton Hall, however much it cost. He ended any argument before it got started by suggesting that it should be placed on a black marble table in the exact center of the rotunda. However he qualified its purchase by saying that it must first be displayed with the other Atlantis 'artifacts' and then actually be put up for auction, a necessary risk because of the need to get a range of prices. More of whatever sold for the highest prices could then be 'discovered' in long lost Atlantis and certainly smaller Ming trees would be on the list.
Freckles dropped Peter like a hot potato when Victoria screamed so he was able to escape the Cat tail by running from the room to find a towel while Freckles ran with everyone else to see what the emergency was. When he saw that Victoria screamed because she discovered Bani's blooming stonewood tree, he turned back to his golden Fang.
Victoria only yelped when she noticed that Fang, the new direct line telephone, was drifting toward a set of open French doors on his way out to the garage while Freckles sat by the doors in a similar pose. Freckles even remembered to close the doors himself since his Executive Assistant was otherwise occupied.
He sent a mind-speak message to Peter and the warriors who were still at the party. "Meet me in the garage after you change into the cloth coverings that you wear under your cloth coverings," he sent.
Peter answered with a question; "Do you mean long underwear?"
"That is what I said," Freckles responded with a mental giggle.
That instruction sent the warriors running to Buck to ask if they could borrow long cloth coverings. He agreed at once. Then Bani was inspired to invite all the guys to the garage while similarly dressed or undressed. His purpose was to provide everyone with a full set of the modern equivalent to Ancient golden armor that they could wear under their clothes while Freckles' creative juices were flowing. Will sent Bucky off to dress down while he and Joe took Bill and Ethan upstairs to find sets of thermal long underwear for them that would fit. The new couple went willingly although they weren't sure what Ancient armor was or aware of the safety it would afford the wearer. Bucky left Victoria in the ballroom preoccupied with a pad and pen. She was making a list of custom sculptures for a new collection she decided to start since the warriors told her that they could reproduce anything providing they could see it first.
Upstairs, it was necessary to raid their assorted collections of ski apparel that had been assembled to use during a planned skiing holiday over the boys' spring break. Doug didn't even know that he had any ski apparel until Buck advised him that his mother always planned ahead, and had shopped for him. Everything was packed in a storeroom on the third floor so all the guys involved actually regrouped up there and while a search was being made; the warriors eyed the racks of skis and snowboards in a kaleidoscope of beautiful colors and sought instructions on how those winter sports were done by tapping minds. Of course they were the first to shed all the cloth coverings they'd been wearing, glad for the excuse and didn't plan to don their new underwear until the very last minute in the garage.
Ethan and Bill gawked at their Cat warrior bodies. Ethan whispered to Justin; "Those three guys aren't much older than you and look a lot younger; how'd they develop the bodies of Olympic gymnasts already?"
Of course Ethan was unaware that a whisper, especially one so appreciative, within 100 feet of a Cat warrior was much like a shout. The question set Kad and Sidi off on a display of their physical abilities within the storeroom confines without any damage to what was stored there and they playfully used some of the guys as vaults. The pair decided to use Pettie's bent over form to conclude their act with a joined double back flip that would have been successful if Pettie hadn't stood up at exactly the wrong time. The crash into Pettie took him down on top of Scott, Doug, Buck and Bucky. They in turn pushed over a stack of packed luggage that they'd been searching through, which caused the rack of skis and snowboards to fall like dominos. The net result was a monumental impromptu rough and tumble with Chief Bucky mostly on the bottom of the struggling, laughing mass of bodies. Everyone's goal seemed to be tickling someone else. The warriors' goal in indiscriminate tickling was continued research in human anatomy and genetics while they had the rare opportunity. To wit, they had been wondering if Buck inherited his excessively big coupler from his father Bucky, or was it a lucky accident.
They discovered that it was no accident when Chief Bucky roared out, "ENOUGH!" when he felt that he was responding to whosever little hands were 'accidently' tickling him there due in part to the residual effects of using Stuff regularly and natural Trenton male horniness.
"You silly mother fuckers," Charlie accused Kad and Sidi once again after the pile of bodies disintegrated and those involved regained their feet.
"Someone open up yonder window," Pettie ordered, "We'll just see how good these little varmints are at skydivin'." The varmints took the fun out of that threat by allowing Pettie to catch them. They had no idea what skydiving was, but they were eager to try.
The warriors, including Bani and human Charlie, opted to carry their sets of underwear out to the garage, since they alone took the time to apply a light coating of Stuff. The other guys, including Justin and Hayden were tempted, but if they did, there would have been a further delay for at least a quick couple or three and Bill Penn, Justin's father, and Ethan didn't know about Stuff and its many uses.
"Why are those four little guys naked and don't seem to feel the cold and, unless my eyes are deceiving me, why are they glowing?" Bill asked Joe as the group made its way at a trot through the garden to the warmth of the garage daringly, just wearing long underwear.
"It's so late already, why don't you two guys plan on spending the night?" Joe answered with an invitation before he answered Bill's question obliquely, "There's a very special tropical herb that was recently discovered that has many unusual uses; one of which is keeping out the cold, eliminating the need to wear clothing. Another is glowing in the dark. There are other uses that we'll show you if you have the time to stay over." He grinned and added, "I assure you neither of you will be disappointed. In fact, that's something else you guys might be interested in marketing for the Cat People. We'll talk again after you use the stuff at bedtime. Stuff is what Charlie named it. The Cat People call the stuff, paste."
The three mechanics on duty were busy helping Peter carry gold bars from Big Foot and stack them by twos up to, two, three and four foot heights in the middle of the parking area while Freckles and Fang the Ancient telephone, watched. The mechanics were wearing their new gold jumpsuits proudly until they saw that Bucky was among the crowd. Then they simply stopped until Bucky waved them on since it was obvious that they'd assisted Freckles and Peter before and were in fact wearing Ancient armor jumpsuits already and most likely were unaware of the extra benefit of being bullet proof.
But the lead mechanic explained to Bucky that they did, accidentally. In addition to absolutely repelling grease, dirt and/or the elements like cold or any form of moisture. The garage staff found out when two of the guys were joking with each other and one made a joke at the other's expense, as guys will always do. That man threw a playful punch at the jokester's shoulder and was unable to force his fist to connect unless his fist was in the form of a gentle touch. They eventually experimented with lengths of steel bar stock used as clubs but the harder the bar was swung at an individual, the faster the suit repelled the blow to bounce it back at the aggressor who fortunately so far, had also been wearing his own armor.
"Here, we'll show you," the man volunteered and before Bucky could stop him, he tossed a lightened ingot at another man's back. The bar hovered an inch from the target man before it returned to the man who threw it and since it was far lighter than the weight of normal gold, he was able to catch it easily.
Bucky's voice ground rocks when he whispered; "If there is any more experimenting with those suits, there will be repercussions for everyone involved that I guarantee they will not like," he warned and pointed to several points high on the walls to remind the man about the security cameras that were always being monitored.
Freckles told Peter; "Return the proper weight to the gold," and without thinking about it, or saying he didn't know how; Peter did as he was told.
There was a scream from the mechanic foreman who had thrown the bar and was still holding it as if it was a chunk of gold painted wood. He'd dropped the bar on his steel toed work shoe up above the toe on his unprotected arch. Bucky shook his head in disgust and sent someone to drive the injured man to the hospital after he changed clothes, and felt free to call out to the man, "I told you so!"
Peter was amazed and looked at Freckles with some surprise. "How the hell did I do that anyway? Did you help, or was that supposed to be a joke?" he sent to his boss, the Great Cat.
Freckles offered Peter a very pleased smile and answered cryptically; "You have been paying attention to your lessons. You willed it to be so." Then to the underwear clad guys and the three naked warriors he instructed; "Gather around these piles and close your eyes." He frowned at his three charges and mind-spoke them; "Put on your cloth coverings or risk having your limp couplers encased in gold for the rest of your lives," he warned. When he saw Kad and Sidi considering the possibilities, he elaborated, "That would mean no more Cat warrior erections – ever, only the desire." That was enough warning for the warriors to don their underwear in world record time if there was a competition.
Peter was the last person to join the ring, but he failed to close his eyes and after the gold smoke; he watched to see free gold atoms, mostly recombine to become new Great Cat figures in assorted sizes and poses, and the rest changed underwear made from modern fabrics to Ancient armor. He suddenly knew that he could create his own sculptures out of raw gold, just like Freckles, and like Freckles, he wouldn't require one of the Ancient tools to do it.
Freckles offered Peter a pleased smile and a hug of his tail while Peter glanced at the concrete wall by the doors that led to the house just before one opened and a stonewood box drifted in. "These new Great Cats still need eyes and their pendants," he explained the arrival of the box as it opened so pairs of pear shaped emeralds could sort themselves out and apparently fix themselves into empty eye sockets. These were followed by larger, individual stones that became pendants for the new Great Cat effigies.
A yawn from Freckles set off a chain reaction and everyone was suddenly ready for bed, but not to sleep or even rest. There was no discussion about who would sleep where; the boys disappeared into Buck and Doug's suite, Bill and Ethan followed Joe and Will into theirs and Bucky eagerly went in search of Victoria.
Ethan and Bill stripped off their elegant new sets of underwear with Will and Joe and watched Joe open an ornate gold box on the bedside table, while Will fiddled with some electronics near a big flat screen TV and then tossed a remote wand to the middle of their bed. The primal odor of Stuff soon filled the room. Bill attempted to hide his erection with his hands until Ethan nodded toward Will, then Joe. Their cocks were not only hard but they were glowing an intense blue.
"This is what happens the first time you use concentrated Stuff and once you use it, it's like a blue tattoo but only when you get hard in the dark," Joe explained and offered the contents to the new friends to apply to themselves or each other while Will anointed Joe with the smallest possible dab. Ethan got with the program by sinking to his knees in front of his lover, Bill.
"I hope you aren't going to tell us this Stuff is poisonous," Bill moaned a bit too late. He was about to reciprocate when voices from the TV distracted him. "Is that a DVD that shows some of the kids in action?"
"Nope, that's the action that's going on down the hall in the guys' bedroom right now." Will explained while already stretched out on the bed. He patted the vacant half to invite Bill and Ethan to join him and Joe. He pointed to the screen. "Justin and Hayden are there on the bed somewhere." He zoomed in for a closer look using the remote. "There they are, see? Justin is about to mount Hayden with Freckles' help to avoid the surrounding bodies."
Blue Justin on the TV appeared to be swimming in midair while Hayden's blue arms reached up to guide him down. Bill laughed in pleased surprise, "I know I shouldn't be watching this, but I always wondered how well Justin was hung, you know, when he was hard."
"He and Hayden are both going to be studs when they get through growing," Ethan agreed. He looked at Will to ask, "Don't you feel guilty spying on the younger guys?"
"Nope, they know we can watch them if we want to and if you guys weren't here, we'd probably be in there with them." He pointed, "There's David and Noah, they're Buck and Doug's guards; they just look like they're part of the group. Something strange happened out in the garage to everyone tonight; everyone turned horny. There was wood showing everywhere. Everyone was hot to trot; even Bucky beat feet to find Victoria. Now don't you think we should stop talking and start doing what the boys are doing?" Will asked as he shut off the few night lights so the foursome was only illuminated by the television and flashes of iridescent blue.
JC continued to use his influence with the government to build a secure shipping facility that would eventually include a warehouse. There, ship containers freshly arrived from the Cat lands would be stored out of sight and the weather and guarded, before being loaded into one of Evan's giant Boeing air freighters, but of course the Great Cats and the Cat People were unwilling to wait.
JC sent the twins, Pablo and Paulo to assemble a team of highly paid mercenary security guards who had to guard the first containers that had been delivered by helicopter to the middle of a cleared field, near where the building was under construction and close to a taxiway so they could be loaded into a freighter as soon as it arrived.
Since it is generally recognized that shade trees and airplanes don't mix well; there was not one bit of shade to cool the first four containers. The contents of three out of the four first containers had no objections, but the fourth, the one with living passengers, the stowaways, Spot and Squeak, objected vehemently using mind-speak. Like 'ET', they 'called home' to complain to Angus, the Great Cats and the few other local mind-speakers. They didn't want to risk calling anyone in North America because of possible 'leakage'; it was possible that their conversation could be overheard and the planned adventure could end before it literally 'got off the ground' and left Venezuela airspace. Angus immediately contacted JC who found out that the freighter would not arrive until evening, having been diverted to Newark, to pick up Dr. Meriwether and it was only 11:00 A.M.
It was at that moment that JC realized that the twins, Pablo and Paulo had never become mind-speakers because they had been aboard Doog, the submarine during the earlier adventure. Had the twins visited Cat lands they would have received pendant communicators at once because as twins they communicated with each other constantly as some twins do; like finishing each other's sentences and nodding or frowning at each other without any outward conversation. JC finally contacted the twins by phone.
The twins were surprised to discover that there were two stowaways aboard (hiding) in one of the four containers and more surprised when JC told them that they might be able to contact them, mind to mind, if they were close enough to the illegal 'ride'. The twins already knew that if anyone were to touch one of steel containers with evil intent they would regret their impulse.
The guards had also been advised about this most unusual security feature. Those worthies decided that there was really no need to guard four containers that were in the open, with no one around and couldn't be touched, so they sought the shade, coolness and liquid comforts offered by the cantina closest to the airport. Spot and Squeak watched the guards leave with relief.
Now it was possible for Squeak to move their personal Cat Mobile out of the sun. The airport and a huge area around it suitable for future development had been carved from a pristine jungle landscape that they could see in the distance, so they would relocate. Squeak 'drove' at breakneck speed with the container turned Cat Mobile, a full 24 inches above the rough terrain, high enough to avoid the ground but not so the new jungle growth attempting to reforest the area. The burgeoning vegetation and sapling trees did not take kindly to being run down by a steel shipping box that shouldn't be able to move on its own. Once the container reached the trees, Squeak slowed dramatically and maneuvered to avoid trees and mature growth and when he stopped finally, the unusual pair set about creating an illusion on the containers' sides just as had been done inside Cat City along all the major hallways and inside the pyramid, the gathering place. Great Cat and boy Cat Warrior were unaware of the word, 'camouflage', even though they were masters of the art.
The twins arrived at the airport to find that the guards had disappeared and that one of four containers, which could not be touched by unauthorized humans, was also missing, although the thieves left a very clear trail straight into the jungle that they obviously weren't aware of. JC made sure the twin boys were fully aware of the amazing powers the Great Cats and Tara Bani the Cat Peoples' Chief's son and a reincarnated Ancient Tara, or Lord, possessed, but even JC was not fully aware of what the newest Lord to be discovered, Tara Squeak, could do if it pleased him to do so, and he willed it to be so, and Great Cat Spot his mentor, agreed. Of course Spot was interested in discovering Squeak's powers, so the sky was the limit.
Pablo and Paulo had no trouble following the runaway container until the trail suddenly disappeared 100 feet into the triple canopy forest among massive tree and palm trunks and a continuous thicket of shade loving undergrowth. That is until Pablo walked straight into the container's steel side where he thought he saw a barely visible game tail. He swore in five languages before he got to English, "Fuck me, that hurt!"
Pablo rubbed his head while Paulo roughly traced the actual side of the disguised container. He was less than sympathetic, "Dummy, you know that hurt me as well, but you my brother will have a most beautiful bump on your forehead." Both boys heard strange giggles after that, strange because they heard the muted laughter normally through their ears and much louder, directly in their minds.
Pablo thumped the steel wall and called out; "Our names are Pablo and Paulo! We work for Juan Carlos Escobar, the guy you call Tara. We know you are in there and we have been instructed to be of assistance if we can. How did this container get here in the undergrowth?" Pablo and Paulo agreed mentally what to say so they also used mind-speak unknowingly.
Squeak explained in mind-speak, "It grew very hot in this box. The guards went for cool drinks so this brave Cat warrior moved the box into shade until the airplane arrives and we can continue our journey to the land of snow and ice where we will go to school."
Paulo sent; "If you can move the box using thought it is unfortunate that you could not cool the interior in the same manner."
That observation started a squabble between boy Ancient Lord/Cat warrior and Great Cat regarding which of them should have thought of that first, before betraying their presence by relocating the container. The odd couple ended the discussion by excusing themselves as first time travelers and would control their environment better the next time.
"Would you white warriors care to enter our Cat Mobile for a cold drink?" Squeak invited.
"We would, but we cannot break the seals or open the locks since they are booby trapped," Pablo declined.
"We are not in that end of this box," Squeak informed, "If you walk by feeling the side of the box, this brave warrior will try to create a portal. Look for a waving hand," he instructed.
The twins followed directions with Pablo in the lead. Pablo stopped suddenly and Paulo walked into his back. "What's wrong, why did you stop?" Paulo asked.
"I found the opening, and I found the warrior's arm and his hand with his fingers wrapped around my cock, right through my shorts!"
"I am most sorry," Squeak lied with a giggle, "I really did wave and you walked into my hand but I must say that you possess a very nice coupler. This brave warrior likes nice couplers." Squeak's other arm and hand appeared to grab and hold Paulo's cock as well. He'd met and seen Toby and Terry's matching bodies and cocks but all the white warriors at the time considered him to be too young to participate in any of their couplings.
"Let them go," Spot instructed, "and let them come in before you fall out of this box and your portal closes with you half outside," he added.
Squeak tightened his grip and pulled. The twins followed eagerly with their matching couplers growing rapidly. At first the twins were shocked to see that the full-fledged Cat warrior was a four year old boy who already had at least one confirmed kill as well as the fact that he was so very skilled at handling older friends so boldly and competently. Once inside the comfy hiding place, both were surprised to see the panoramic view that encompassed the entire end and a portion of both sides of the container. They ignored Squeak when he unbuttoned and unzipped their shorts and they puddled around their ankles.
Spot frowned at Squeak's activity, "You are a very rude young Cat warrior," he scolded, "You must greet our guests before you become familiar with their couplers."
"We will help with the greetings," Paulo volunteered and picked up Squeak for their formal greeting while Squeak was mind-speaking methods of coupling that a warrior his age could do to or with one or two older warriors together. Spot helped by adding vivid, explicit images, all of which included little Squeak among Angus' crew of young Cat warrior house guests. Pablo and Paulo regretted that the Doog returned to Dagger Key without stopping at JC's home first, since over time they'd received 'blow by blow' accounts of the guys' interactions with the Cat warriors from every single guy who had been aboard Sea Song.
Spot touched their minds before he suggested, "This Brave warrior and this Great Cat could assist you to catch up to the other white warriors," Spot looked hopeful while little Squeak nodded his head to encourage the twins to agree to the blatantly indecent proposal.
Cat and boy were surprised when both boys shook their heads, no. Pablo explained, "We will, but first we have business to discuss with our security force. They were warned not to leave these containers under any circumstances and we must take some action at once."
"This brave warrior will assist you," Squeak eagerly volunteered at once. He rooted in a duffel bag and pulled out his little semi-automatic rifle, ammunition bandoleer, his equipment belt and his blowgun.
"We will both accompany you brave warriors," Spot joined the party, "but we will not enter the village; we will wait outside in dense cover along the trail. All together, we will have much amusement when they see this Great Cat and mess their cloth coverings," the Great Cat assured the twins.
"What if other people see you Great Cat Spot? You would cause panic and the military would hunt you."
Spot smiled broadly, "My sire Fang speaks of hunting these military humans in the past. They do not run fast or any great distance and they almost always discard their weapons so there is no fight and they taste very bad. Do not be concerned, Snoopy will provide a path that gives the most cover all along the trail." With that said, Spot ended the discussion by bounding out the portal that the twins couldn't see from inside the container either.
Squeak actually dove out head first, landed neatly on Spot's back and the last the twins saw of the pair was Spot's tail that seemed to be waving goodbye. "You should have told them that they couldn't go with us," Paulo accused his brother; also called passing the buck.
Pablo immediately dropped into a fighting stance in response before he stood up and clapped his brother on the back, "Hurry, we must dress before that little warrior gets to those guards first. We will fight tonight just before I have my way with you my little brother, as usual."
"Being born three minutes after you, does not make me your little brother, just three minutes younger as I will show you tonight," Paulo counter threatened. "Do you see any clothes for the little one? He can't go running around naked and draw attention to our presence. Should we eliminate anyone in addition to the supervisor?"
"I think we should visit the employment agent. He was told that Juan Carlos Escobar wanted only the best and he sent us the city's dregs when we paid for the most experienced and reliable people. It will be his last commissioned mistake."
The twins couldn't find any of Squeak's clothing because he didn't have any; white warriors Doug and Buck were to provide suitable cloth coverings for Squeak and Spot when they arrived at their destination. They did locate the portal by feel and had to jog back to the airport to their truck and then drive the short distance to the closest cantina that would eventually be part of an airport hotel that was under construction.
The surrounding region was growing fast due to the development of oil, gas, mineral discoveries and the large scale farming of 'medicinal plants' including hemp and poppies for clandestine export. The area was much like the American 'old west' frontier after gold was discovered. The local government was as corrupt, law enforcement stayed out of sight as much as possible except for accepting bribes and gangs ruled districts until replaced by stronger and/or more intelligent, newer gangs. Traveling anywhere unarmed was foolish in the extreme – like being armed with a knife to participate in a gunfight.
Pablo nearly drove the twins' SUV up a tree when he recognized a small, naked, Indian boy standing at the side of the road near a clump of palm trees. Squeak waved and then pointed at the palms, an action that was accompanied by a mental message; "We will be here when you return with the guards." The twins thought that perhaps they were imagining things after the length of time it took them to blink only to see that Squeak had disappeared. Then they heard Squeak's boyish giggles and a protest; "Stop Great Cat, you know I am ticklish! That is unfair, this brave warrior will not rough and tumble with you again!" Squeak's laughter continued until they got out of telepathic 'range'.
The airport cantina was designed, built and furnished to be an elegant cocktail lounge and the hottest night club in the area after the hotel was finished and open for business. It was the first building built in the future complex that even offered temporary rooms to rent by the hour in the form of two dozen small travel trailers that were parked in the back. These were offered complete with room service; girls and a few boys, a client's choice, who would be 'servers' for a fee, and who worked as servers in the lounge the rest of the time. The room was crowded with rough looking customers when the twins walked in and across the floor to a table in the rear corner where five men were sitting so they could see the rest of the room. There was a progressive hush as the boys moved forward caused by their stony eyed glances.
The general whispered consensus was that the matching pretty boys were new meat, versatile waiters, until it was noted that they possessed matching gifts from Hans and Herman; a pair of Desert Eagle, 50 cal. semi-automatics they wore low on their right hips with the holsters further attached to their thighs by Velcro to prevent rising up in the event that a quick draw was required. Of course the obvious hand cannons weren't the only firearms the pair carried, nor were guns their only weapons.
Three of the five men at the table stood up to block the twins' approach until a word from a seated man caused them to move a short distance away to glower at the young newcomers. One man was the local current 'big boss', the twins dealt with to furnish contractors, skilled trades and laborers to build the new warehouse and co-incidentally he referred the second man at the table to the twins. This man had furnished the security guard contingent who was then sitting across the room slowly getting drunk. The deal with the second man was completed by phone and payment in full was made by wire so the twins hadn't met him.
The man paled visibly when Pablo and Paulo were introduced as Don Juan Carlos Escobar's personal business representatives in all of Central and South America. The twins initially only said that they worked for a Senor Escobar but didn't mention JC's full name; they thought that would be understood in Venezuela, but apparently not by everyone.
"It is fortunate you are here Senor," Paulo began while Pablo began meticulously cleaning his fingernails with a stiletto that suddenly appeared from the sleeve of his jacket. "We have just come from the airport where we expected to see 10 uniformed, armed guards you provided, who were guarding four full size shipping containers recently delivered from a project in the interior." The man began to squirm as Paulo continued his narrative; "Each container was insured for 50 million US dollars," he lied, "the maximum possible without troublesome inventories and inspections. We were distressed to find that one of the containers has gone missing," he raised his voice, "Along with the entire guard force that we hired from you!" He concluded as Pablo slammed the knife point into the tabletop so hard, it twanged like a tuning fork.
Pablo addressed the speechless local big man in charge. "Don Juan Carlos hereby seeks full compensation for the loss of our shipment. If this man is a key member of your organization, the Don looks to you for compensation…"
"No, no, no," the boss man interrupted Pablo, "I barely know this man," he lied valiantly. The cost of appearing to be successful was extremely high in Venezuela. He doubted that he could raise 50 million centavos in cash if the truth were known. It was far cheaper and certainly healthier to throw his friend under the Don Juan Carlos bus.
"That is fortunate. I wonder if we could impose on you to see to it that this man and his uniformed, so called security officers sitting over there appear on the road to the airport just where the road bends around a group of large palms. We will question them there…"
The boss man snapped his fingers which produced a number of men who had been lounging at several tables. After a few whispered instructions the guards were disarmed and led outside while the employment agent needed assistance to walk. He knew he would be asked questions for which he had no answers and the lack would prove painful if not fatal.
The boss man was interested in watching the brothers question the men so he followed the motley crew parade along the road since his entourage was engaged in guarding the guards and his former associate. The twins were delighted to have such a large audience because if Great Cat Spot made his presence known; word would spread that Don Juan Carlos was still a power in the region and the Country. A man to be reckoned with in the underworld and the number and size of the kickbacks and fabricated labor delays would drop noticeably which would ultimately speed construction.
When the parade arrived at the appointed place, everyone was surprised to see that the dangerous twins flanked a little native boy. The boy was naked except for a belt, a traditional pouch, a small sheath knife, and a blowgun in one hand while he held something even smaller in the other. He was armed with what appeared to be an automatic rifle that was a scaled down version of the real thing, but that remained slung on his back so it was discounted as a toy. The boy pointed into the clump of palms, a place wholly out of sight from the road traffic, a place where the former guards and their employer definitely did not wish to go willingly until enough weapons were drawn and pointed.
Surprisingly, the twins remained quiet while the boy spoke fluent unaccented Spanish to question the unfortunate 11 men who were lined up with their backs to a number of palms whose trunks were already scared by far too many bullet holes. This was a very popular place for asking questions and apparently imposing the ultimate sentence eventually. It was the edge of the jungle where wild animals still roamed who could and did remove any edible evidence during the course of one night.
Of course there were no answers to Squeak's questions because no one knew the container was missing or were even sure it was missing. The claim could easily be an excuse to eliminate the labor agent who had obviously offended someone more powerful than the local boss man; the guards' negligence aside, they would be collateral damage.
The very worried and frightened men gradually began hallucinating; they all began to see a giant cat face that appeared and disappeared among the branches of thickets too quickly to be identified except for a pair of eyes and large sharp teeth. Squeak rolled his eyes; Spot was acting up and distracting the men even though Squeak told him to stop, using mind-speak. Spot countered that he was bored; there were 11 potential kills that couldn't be counted as kills if no one ran.
Suddenly one desperate man bent to tie his shoe that wasn't untied. "WEAPON!" Spot shouted in Squeak's and the twins' minds. Before either of the twins could draw, the man disappeared in a puff of smoke as Squeak lowered his tool almost too fast to be seen. All that remained was a belt buckle, some pocket change and a snub nose .38 the man had Velcroed to his ankle. When the shocked men looked from the spot where a man had been, they were further shocked to see Squeak comfortably resting his little body against the furred front legs of a huge sitting Jaguar. The boy's head was bent up so he could look way up at Spot while Spot's head was bent down so he could look way down on his protégé. Both boy and Great Cat were smiling broadly.
"You get that kill Great Cat Spot," Squeak allowed in mind-speak, "without your warning that evil fiend might have actually touched that gun." That was the point where several men in the combined party messed their cloth coverings, evidenced by the smell before the stains appeared, front and back.
"While we were waiting," Spot informed the twins, "Cat warrior, Tara Squeak returned our Cat Mobile to where it was resting and he also devised a cooling system although now it will not be needed," he said in mind-speak and looked up as a mammoth windowless 747 passed over them on its final landing approach.
"He moved that container from here?" Pablo asked out loud.
"Tara?" Paulo was equally surprised.
"Yes Tara, the tool he used to erase that fiend will only obey Ancient Tara's, no one else. Now we must be off or we will miss our ride." With that being said, Spot used his tail to lift and seat Squeak on his shoulders as he disappeared into the undergrowth.
The twins released everyone else in the party with a warning that if there were any more problems guarding future shipments; then there would be appropriate additional decreases in the local population. They were dismissed to shower, change and report to the airport to await the next shipment that would arrive that day.
With Spot and Squeak safely on their way to America, the twins decided to take a short holiday to finally visit the home of the Great Cats and the Cat People in the company of Dr. Meriwether. They would also meet Angus, who they dealt with to buy and ship the sea food that the giant factory ship kept delivering to JC's docks in Columbia. With the fish stealers no longer plaguing the Sea People and by their use of more power fishing boats; the factory ship was a huge financial success.
The air freighter crew was happy to have a passenger aboard but was less than pleased with the quantity of his luggage. Smaller items were always palletized and moved about by machines. All of Doc's was loose and even included bundles of shovels, pickaxes and sledge hammers. All of which required unloading by hand and there were no porters or red caps at any freight depots. Fortunately there was Pablo and Paulo who were willing to help while Doc was no help at all from the second he met the twins, the shirtless, sweating twins, he'd only heard about but hadn't seen; there hadn't been time, and they were most frequently away conducting JC's businesses.
The problem was that Doc was still new to the use of Stuff and it showed, right through the tight shorts of his classic safari suit. He didn't even object when all his equipment was ejected piece by piece by the crew from a side hatch 30 feet above the ground because the twins carried and stacked it all a short distance away while a massive ship container handler machine actually injected the four containers into the plane's largely empty hold onto the plane's conveyor system.
"Excuse me for asking Doctor, but what did you plan to use picks, hammers and shovels for? We were told that Cat City is still fully functional and the stone doors weigh about 100 tons each. We doubt that the Great Cats would appreciate you pounding on a door that they will open for you with a thought." Pablo commented, "Open if they like you and do not show signs of aggression or hostility such as holding a pickax," he added with a glance at the tools that could be considered weapons by some cultures.
"I must apologize for bringing these tools. I have been preparing for this dig of a lifetime for so long, I'm rather afraid that I keep forgetting that this isn't a dig from an archeological point of view; it is a journey back in time and perhaps to a place not of this planet. Shall I abandon my field kitchen too?" He pointed at one particularly cumbersome box that was surrounded by other smaller boxes marked 'freeze dried dinners'.
"Field kitchen?" Paulo questioned.
Doc nodded, "Why yes; just a small generator and a microwave oven," he admitted boldly.
It was clear to the twins that the stowaways thought the hand tools were just as redundant and useless as whatever a generator and a microwave were and made some suggestions. Cat and boy had a good chuckle that got the twins laughing as well. Doc suspected that they were two more mind-speakers although they're muscular chests were not marred by the precious communicator gems suspended by chains around their necks.
Squeak was impressed with Doc from the first. He told the twins why, "Warriors Kad and Sidi told us that Doc is related to warrior Pettie in some way. He is very tall, has the same floppy hair and best of all, as you can see, he possesses the same size coupler."
The employment agent in the company of a batch of hard eyed armed security guards arrived in time to see the big freighter take to the skies. These were mostly new men with a truck packed with camping equipment and supplies. The twins noted that they spent as much time staring at the distant tree line looking for a little boy with a monster cat, as they did setting up their camp. These were the mercenaries that the twins expected and JC paid for. They already knew signs of the cross, genuflecting, any number of 'Our Fathers' or 'Hail Mary's' would not save them if one of them fucked up this assignment.
Everyone heard the wop, wop of the Chinooks before they saw them approach with a shipping container suspended under the belly of each machine. These were deposited in the field before they landed and the twin rotors shut down. The rear hatches opened and a band of very young Cat warriors gushed out with Angus and Carb following the boys, but just as interested in their surroundings. This was their first ever visit to civilization for the warriors and for Angus in many years.
The warriors took up defensive positions around the silent choppers and most importantly around the three guests (only one, the Doc expected), with Angus and Carb they had come to welcome. The mercenaries were immediately envious of the state of art weapons the little natives carried with ease and disturbing familiarity that were mostly pointed at them. They were even more impressed when the same warriors seemed to disappear into the limited vegetation where they were standing; mostly foot high grasses and while naked natives could no longer be seen, there was little doubt that the superior weapons remained trained on them.
Of course Spot and Squeak had told Angus and Carb about the twins; they represented Tara and best of all they were mind-speakers with a limited range without having communicators. That was the first bit of business to get out of the way after formal greetings. "CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?" the local mind-speakers including Squeak and Spot, screamed in unison even though none of them had ever seen the TV ad or any advertisements on the television in the community center. They heard the white warriors in the north broad beam that question and it always seemed to be funny to them.
The newly equipped twins responded in kind, twice as loud, which took the humor out of that joke, if it was a joke. JC and all the mind-speakers in America took turns welcoming the twins to the exclusive mind-speaking fraternity. With the formalities out of the way, and brief hand signals from Angus, the warriors reappeared to load all of Doc's luggage, equipment and supplies in literally a flash of beautiful naked boy bodies no matter how heavy or bulky the box or bundle.
Doc was last to be loaded by the warriors. He was whisked off his feet and carried by as many hands as could get close enough, and by the time he reached the helicopter hatch he'd been divested of his safari suit and undergarments and was laughing too hard from being tickled to care. When the twins saw the warriors return, looking at them and grinning; they stripped off their own shorts and rather enjoyed being carried by so many busy, inquisitive little hands, so much so, they joined Doc in the chopper with fully erect couplers, much to his very pleased surprise. With the addition of the emeralds suspended between their prominent youthful pectorals and the absence of shorts, the twins physically resembled Cat warriors, although giant in size. It was also easy to see that the twins would 'fit' right in with the young Cat warriors although none could speak the other's spoken language.
While the warriors all scented paste on their white warrior guests, three close friends agreed on a course of action while 1200 feet in the air; they wanted the honor of being first to couple with the new Cat People friends even though Angus had cautioned all his boys to wait until the rest period. The threesome quickly and quietly coated their hands, lips, couplers and butts with paste and pounced on their chosen target before the other warriors caught the fresh scent of paste in the air and hurried to coat their own bodies.
Doc, Pablo and Paulo were powerless to refuse a quick couple and each was panting to return the favor in front of Angus, Carb and all the other less fortunate or less inventive warriors in Angus' exclusive group. By the time the chopper reached the landing pad, everyone was liberally coated blue. "Ye damn hooligans," Angus scolded his boys in English for their guest's benefit. "I planned a quick tour before evenin' food, but now I fear even the food will have to be waitin', until after we an' these wee ones get the paste out o' our systems."
As soon as the hatch opened, the little Cat warriors happily carried their guests from the chopper directly to Angus' home. Neither Angus nor Carb even bothered to close the doors in their haste to join the impromptu party in progress amid much giggling and frequent moans of pleasure. Doc was the loudest most distinctive moaner as his fantasies of a lifetime came true – over and over again.
Angus contacted Great Cat Fang to advise him that there would be a delay in the tour and sent video of the orgy in progress as justification before he became too involved and Fang responded that he would see the 'Friend of All Great Cats' soon, but didn't mention where. Angus had planned to have Doc meet and greet the Great Cats in Cat City's gathering place and from there proceed to Fang's and his twin son's resting place where Angus and his boys had been spending a great deal of time in Spot's, and excitingly for the young warriors, Great Cat Fang's presence.
Fang was not just Angus' Cat Friend and teacher, he also enjoyed bestowing pleasures to Angus and his bunch of young Cat warriors after the Cats made their presence known to all the Cat People and the visiting white warriors like Doug who could mind-speak to a limited extent without communicators. Angus had made his home's main lounge into the group's resting place because of limited space in any of the bedrooms and Fang could easily fit his 1000 pound bulk through open French doors, so he joined the orgy in progress.
One moment he wasn't there and the next moment he was stretched out on his belly in the thick of things. The young Cat warriors who were entertaining the three guests at the moment felt free to greet their familiar friend just like they did with Spot. They climbed on and over Fang inviting him to rough and tumble with them. Some attempted to immobilize his tail by sheer weight of their bodies. This tactic was a way of getting the Great Cat to begin sorting them out and picking partners by moving them into or out of couplings in assorted positions by using his incredibly strong and long adult Great Cat tail. He was also fond of placing a coupled pair between his front paws to administer the most sensuous grooming before he switched their places and resumed his grooming. The odor of paste was almost overpowering to the newcomers already, and it increased markedly after Fang arrived and began using his tail tip and his raspy tongue both of which exuded quantities of paste if he wished, and that day he wished.
Doc was delightfully and incredibly to him in great demand and was busy coupling with yet another of the older warriors. He wasn't aware of Fang's presence until he felt a soft tail wrap around his waist and he was suddenly lifted away from his current partner and turned to face Fang, eyes to eyes and nose to nose for a brief formal greeting. Then Fang lifted him still higher and groomed his pulsing coupler with still more paste before returning him to remount one temporarily, very disappointed boy who Angus had signed not to move a muscle.
All of the Cat warriors and the Great Cats became fascinated with Toby and Terry as soon as they were seen among the original visiting white warriors. Multiple births among the Cat People hadn't occurred. Yet, Marta, Tonga's mate was growing triplets in her womb, and several women were pregnant with twin girls to begin balancing the ratio of girls to future warriors such as Squeak, unbeknown to the rest of the population; while twins were more common, although rare, among Great Cats. Toby and Terry were happily in such great demand among Cat warriors they were difficult to see anywhere when they weren't engaged in coupling with warriors, or each other while a group of Cat People watched. When the Great Cats and the Cat People, particularly the younger boys and warriors discovered how the twins slept, slept while nursing the other's cock in their mouths. A new trend was born in that instant and the twins' audience grew proportionately.
That first day it was Pablo and Paulo's turn to be watched while they coupled with each other, in the most coveted place; between Great Cat Fang's out stretched front legs while he groomed their bodies for the first, but not the last time during the visit.
"Hurry Peter," Freckles encouraged, "humans are so slow," he scolded, "I am amazed that your species survived the carnivorous dinosaurs." Freckles enjoyed relating his newly gained classroom knowledge that friends noticed was tailored to favor any animal other than humans.
The pair had driven Big Foot to what once was the county airport although it had not yet been improved as Kermit's new home base, where Kermit the jet landed to pick them up for the direct, non-stop flight, south, to Venezuela. While Freckles wore his eyeglasses, his only luggage, poor frail, slow human Peter took the time to retrieve his packed overnight bag, and close Big Foot's doors. He did not bother to lock the doors because he knew that his truck could and would defend itself against theft or unauthorized intrusion, compliments of a certain Great Cat. Of course the very same Cat did his complaining from somewhere inside Kermit. Peter only wore shorts and a pullover shirt because Freckles thought Peter would be more comfortable during the flight and after they arrived, there was no need to wear cloth coverings at all, as in his august position of Executive Assistant to Great Cats, he was appointed part of the Great Cat Clan. He would only be chilled for the short length of time it took him to run from Big Foot to Kermit.
"There's no hurry," Peter answered with a grin, "Kermit came here to pick us up. We're his only passengers, so I doubt he will leave us behind. It's one of the perks of flying in a private aircraft," he advised as he climbed the steps that folded to become the hatch.
Freckles had the new steward, Tracy, the former Princeton Inn server before the snow emergency, on his back in the passenger cabin, both grooming and tickling him at the same time, "Hurry the effing up Pete," Kermit's Captain, Sky Warrior Oscar complained. "I still don't know how he does it, but you know who, has control and Kermit is trying to start its engines."
"Please let me go," Tracy pled his case for freedom between giggles, "I have to secure the hatch, then I have a mountain of snacks to prepare and gallons of drinks to mix up, all for your inflight comfort."
Snacks and drinks were two of the Great Cat's favorite words. Freckles not only allowed Tracy his freedom, he set him on his feet and 'dusted' him off with his tail. It certainly wasn't the Great Cat's fault that Tracy's shorts he was wearing for this very informal flight (Bucky was not aboard), puddled around his feet. When Tracy pulled them back up and tried to fasten the waist snap, he found that the snap wouldn't fasten because it somehow became miss-shaped; it was no longer round. This mini-incident occurred while Freckles meticulously and innocently inspected the cabin ceiling.
Peter closed the hatch himself and turned into the cabin just in time to see that somehow the zipper on Tracy's shorts also failed and he was trying to hold his shorts up as he made his way to the galley. Peter just glanced at the problem before he frowned at the cause.
Freckles defended his reason using mind-speak before he was accused; "This will be a very long flight and I didn't want you to be bored," he rushed to explain, "and poor Tracy just separated from his boyfriend because he will be away for long periods of time flying Kermit." It was obvious to Peter that Freckles had 'touched' Tracy's mind.
Peter stated his own conclusions out loud, "So you thought Tracy and I should entertain each other while you helped us out."
"Entertained each other how?" Tracy asked in his personal flight to the galley while clutching his malfunctioning shorts.
Peter answered by pulling off his shirt and dropping his shorts. "Great Cat Freckles thinks we'll both be more comfortable if we aren't wearing any clothes at all," he elaborated on his earlier conclusion.
"Bring your travel bag and get out your container of Stuff," Freckles instructed.
Freckles had seen to it that Peter had his own personal golden casket that was filled with concentrated Stuff. "No can do," Peter countered, "we're going to where Stuff is made, so I didn't pack it."
"Yes can do," Freckles argued, "I helped you pack. Humans are so forgetful and you are mostly human. Humans don't even remember their own history beyond a few thousand years." The resulting squabble transcended the engines starting, taxiing, the scream of acceleration, take off and the rapid climb to 32,000 feet except for a brief pause when Freckles took Peter down to deck on his back to be groomed with a generous dollop of Stuff taken from Peter's supply that had indeed been packed.
"You are a very devious Cat," Peter moaned, "You planned all this, 'Just wear shorts and a shirt.' He mimicked Freckles' instruction with growing difficulty.
"Mr. Trenton called me personally and told me the same thing," Tracy mumbled. He was suddenly standing alongside and looking down on Freckles and Peter who were still on the deck. They looked to the side to see bare feet then further up, a very nice and very naked body. "Wow, how come you're all blue Peter?" he asked just before the Cat tail took him down to join Peter and be even more generously anointed with Stuff for the first time.
Peter helped Tracy serve two hours later and Peter got around to explaining what he knew about Stuff and that Freckles was a very sneaky Cat who could accurately imitate any voice. It was he who called Tracy and told him what to wear or not wear on the flight.
"I heard that," Freckles announced with his muzzle in the depths of one of his golden travel drink containers while he fished for the many ever elusive maraschino cherries that seemed to hide behind or under the pineapple wedges to avoid being eaten. "You two should be very pleased that you progressed from being acquaintances to being very good friends in a very short length of time." He lifted his head suddenly so Peter had to rush the toweling before he dripped sticky cocktail all over the leather furnishings. He was inspired, "In fact it would be a very good thing if Tracy accompanied us to the Cat lands. Kermit will fly to Caracas to refuel and wait there before returning to pick us up for the flight to Dagger Key so Tracy would have nothing to do…" he left the proposal hanging for Peter and Tracy to decide.
The two boys looked at each other, grinned and nodded. Tracy was excited; he took the job because he wanted to travel and see the world before he realized that he was most likely to see many of the world's airports and very little else. Peter was pleased to have another American to talk to and share the adventure with since Edvard worked for Evan and couldn't accompany him. He knew from Freckles' barrage of historical images, better than anyone, that to intrude into Cat lands uninvited was to invite death.
Tracy did have one concern, "What do we do about clothes?" He frowned at Freckles, "Someone sabotaged the pair I was wearing and I only brought one other pair along."
Freckles giggled, "I think you will find that those cloth coverings are defective too."
Peter sighed; Freckles was a manipulator, particularly humans, and specifically himself, his Executive Assistant. "The Cat People have no use for clothing; they call cloth coverings. You met the little warriors, those three guys can lose their clothes with the slightest excuse, faster than you can blink and hit you in an eye with a dart using their blowguns from 50 feet while they're stripping," he assured Tracy.
While the guys, who had become intimate friends, chatted, Freckles finished his drink and the fruit in his drink had lost the contest with his versatile tongue. The first serving of finger foods for humans and tail foods; something a Great Cat could eat using his tail to eat himself had been consumed. That trip, Tracy planned ahead accurately; he served Freckles an assortment of small sausages and plain everyday hotdogs all served on hotdog buns. Everything was easy to prepare and serve, with a minimum of mess.
Freckles looked at the boys hopefully, "There is time to finish our snacks and enjoy another drink before we arrive in one hour."
Tracy looked at his watch, "We should be landing in two hours, not one," he corrected.
Once again the guilty inspected the ceiling innocently. Peter grinned, "I'll bet you fixed Kermit so he's going faster, isn't he?" he accused.
"Kermit and I discussed the possibility; it was his choice," Freckles hedged, "but I told him about breaking the sound barrier if we were near land. The military does it all the time out over open water, so why shouldn't Kermit?"
"How fast are we going?"
"Not so fast now, Kermit is slowing so he will be moving at Mach .95 by the time we reach land."
"How fast did we get to?" Peter altered the question.
"Oh, around Mach 2.0, but only for a short length of time, faster would not be safe until Kermit's airframe is reinforced and the engines are improved." The last comment led Peter to believe that those 'fixes' were in the works.
"Twice the speed of sound?" Tracy was amazed; it was a speed that very few civilians ever traveled. He laughed at a thought and told Peter; "You know you and I are charter members of the Mach 2 club? The mile high club will never be the same again!"
"I'm dying of thirst and starvation here," Freckles hinted again, he added, "Then if you are fast you will have time to also start a Mach 1 club."
The 10 man security force admired the beautiful sleek executive jet that had taxied to stop near the single Chinook helicopter that was waiting to pick up the jet's passengers. Some also enjoyed watching the jet's only two passengers, both of them naked and strangely tinted blue, run from the jet to the chopper. Just as they were about to resume their duties, they spied that damned giant jaguar, believe it or not, wearing sunglasses this time, leap from the jet, eye them briefly, while showing way too many teeth once again, before it chased the naked gringos into the chopper.
There was no doubt in anyone's mind that the gringos were about to become the cat's lunch, and/or supper since they were trapped inside the big chopper's belly and hadn't really escaped the cat. After the chopper departed with a far reaching downdraft, the guards relaxed their vigilance until one of them suggested that there could be two giant cats not just the one they knew about that was still really lurking just beyond the tree line, and it was still there watching them, not flying to wherever, into the interior where the shipping containers continued to come from. That had to be the answer; after all, it takes two animals, even humans, to make babies, so a pair was likely. With that, they refocused their attention on the tree line looking for the original cat and the fucking little kid who killed Roberto using something that somehow, made their former boss, poor Roberto disappear, for no better reason that he was still armed because he wasn't searched properly and thought he could shoot his way out of a nasty situation.
The big helicopter had no sooner landed and shut off its engines, than it was inundated by what appeared to be all the warriors in the tribe plus four white guys. Doc was there among the boys. Peter had met Paulo and Pablo at Evan's and he knew them to be very good rough and tumblers who were happy to be on top (win) as they were on the bottom (lose). He thought the third older guy was Angus, with whom Peter had 'talked' with via mind-speak occasionally. The whole tribe of warriors turned out to be Angus' 18 permanent houseguests at the moment, who also happened to be the youngest Cat warriors with one exception; Squeak was missing and so was Spot.
After a few eye blinks and clarifying hand signals, the warriors, Doc and the twins led Tracy the short distance to Angus' house. Tracy went willingly because he was being towed and fondled by however many little hands could get close enough and he wanted to see inside a mansion, a Spanish hacienda that had been built in the middle of the jungle.
Of course Peter went where Freckles went and Angus followed them both, straight to a low rock escarpment that was so smooth it would be difficult to scale by non-rock climbers like Peter.
"Well?" Freckles asked Peter abruptly.
"Well we are standing in front of an entrance to Cat City. You know how to will things to happen to make them so, so open the barrier for us by the force of your will," Freckles ordered.
Peter thought Freckles was joking around but he closed his eyes and pointed at the blank stone. He was about to say, 'abracadabra' as dramatically as possible when he heard a sound much like a small stone hitting another, a clicking sound. He opened his eyes in time to see a large part of the cliff face sink back before a crack appeared straight down the middle and the two massive rock door halves swung in silently to reveal a brightly lit hallway that sloped down sharply into the ground.
"Damn I'm good, Great Cat," Peter congratulated himself although he was sure that he had help from Freckles.
"It appears, better than ye know," Angus agreed.
"This is a Cat way," Freckles explained when they began to spiral down into the City, rather, to a long, wide beautifully decorated hallway first, that led to the City after a long, hard hike when Freckles set a very fast pace.
When they finally reached the gathering place, Angus was shocked to see that Peter wasn't as impressed as every other first time white visitor. He explained, "I have been here before in my waking dreams since I began 'resting'," he used finger quotes, "not sleeping and believe it or not, not always having sex. Freckles here, sends me images all the time." He explained to Angus, who was puffing harder than Peter.
"I do not," Freckles sent to Angus confidentially.
Freckles was shocked to hear Peter giggle and say, "Maybe not exactly send, that's the wrong word, what I do is visit your mind sometimes, so you sort of send without knowing it." Peter ran a short way down a specific aisle among the Ancient's collection of trees, shrubs and tightly controlled vines to a specific group of fruit bearing shrubs; bushes that were loaded with small golden fruit. "I was looking for these. If you're going to run my ass off down here, I need some extra energy. Have you ever eaten these Freckles?"
"I have not; extra energy has never been a Great Cat problem." Freckles real problem is that he didn't know what the little fruits were used for, nor did the other Great Cats.
Peter offered Angus some of the fruit while he chewed and swallowed a second helping. "Great Cats don't need extra energy and neither do the Cat People. Did you know the Ancients designed or created the Cat People to be so efficient and tireless that they had to develop these fruits for the poor Ancients themselves to eat just to keep up with the Cat People physically?"
"Damn, I'm wishin' I knew about these earlier," Angus said as he swallowed another of the fruits that didn't seem to have any pits or seeds, "These young Cat warriors keep tryin' to run my old sorry ass into the ground."
"Peter could not get that information from my mind because I didn't know any of that," Freckles protested to Angus silently.
"Angus and I feel better Great Cat Freckles, where to now?" Peter interrupted.
"Perhaps the lowest level," Freckles suggested as Angus and Peter began a foot race that caught Freckles flat footed (or pawed) and passed him.
They ran to the nearest spiral that would take them to the lower City levels. Freckles was just catching up to the humans when Peter slowed and turned into the tool room or armory as Angus and the white warriors who'd visited there called the circular room.
"Hey Freckles, will you let me try out one of these tools some day?" Peter asked with his hands clasped behind his back. It was clear that he longed to touch one of the Ancient tools. Freckles was panting from just having run a race with humans and lost. However he justified the loss by not having eaten the fruit that he knew nothing about even though Peter thought he did.
"Now we will see the truth," Freckles sent to Angus.
"You may touch any one you choose, just keep those sticky human fingers off the buttons and do not will it to do anything in this room," Freckles allowed and warned.
Peter made a complete circuit of the room before he was drawn to the stone block in the center where there were 12 depressions to hold the 12 Ancient's personal tools that had two vacant spaces. Peter looked a question at Freckles as if to say, 'Do you dare me?' Freckles agreed with a nod. Peter displayed a beautiful smile while he inspected the selected tool in detail. "It's getting warmer in my hand," he admitted happily. "Since you already told me what the buttons are for, is there somewhere to try it out where it won't destroy the City from the basement up, since we're standing in the basement?" he asked with a joke, that wasn't really a joke.
"Great Cats do not possess the knowledge to operate the Ancient's tools, only the big tools," Freckles told Angus silently.
As a Great Cat, Freckles had been privy to Squeak's first efforts at controlling his Ancient tool. "Yes, there is an unfinished hall, but it is somewhat distant from here…"
"Yeah, I know that tunnel, come on Angus my fellow Admiral, let's race Freckles again. Ready, set, GO!" he shouted and promptly disappeared by using some means of travel other than running. He left both Freckles and Angus, his running mate behind. They used feet and paws to give chase but didn't have to go as far as they expected; way out to the place where Bani and then Squeak had experimented with their Ancient tools.
Both Freckles and Angus had been documenting and sending everything Peter did since they'd entered the City. Those images caused Great Cats in the area to begin assembling in the gathering place, while those more distant used overland routes until they could get to the closest Great Cat tunnel entrance.
They caught up to Peter a mere mile away in the correct tunnel, but still within the part that had been 'interior decorated' in the Ancient way, with finished wall displays of jungle-scape, ceilings and smooth golden floor all mysteriously indirectly lighted. "I'm sorry I winked out Freckles, don't be mad, but I accidently pushed the button on the end of the tool, kind of like the clicker on the end of a ballpoint pen; it takes the operator where he wants to go, and here I am. The reason I stopped here is that there's a really big gold deposit about 50 feet away, right through there. It's a bunch of rotten quartz with big seams of gold running all through it, every which way. Would it be alright if I tried to build a big chamber in there to collect the gold and get rid of all the shit? It would be neat to have a secret chamber down here, kind of a quiet place to rest and think without rough and tumbling first." Freckles was so impressed with his protégé he was rendered speechless for the first time since he built his communicator, although he did manage to nod his approval.
Force of habit caused Peter to attempt to pull down his welder's helmet that he wasn't wearing and no longer needed, before a constant flash began to create a new hallway into the living rock. There seemed to be an invisible curtain that contained the resulting smoke or vapor and as Peter moved into the new excavation, the curtain maintained the same distance ahead. Freckles and Angus followed cautiously as Peter advanced steadily. He wasn't creating a full size Ancient tunnel, it was a pedestrian hallway.
As they advanced, the amount of gold dust on the floor increased in depth. It was just as Peter foretold; there was a huge deposit of gold right alongside a long ago constructed tunnel and the original Ancients missed it, or didn't 'see' it. Peter explained when questioned while he continued his work. "The Cat People did all the rough work with their larger tools and then an Ancient or two followed to do the decorating and finishing. I think this tunnel was being dug as a means of getting at a big deposit of rubies that are still out there waiting for us. Tunneling stopped when the Ancients left for somewhere else."
When Peter, the newest Tara, got to the approximate middle of the future room he stood still and turned slowly, 360 degrees full circle back to his starting point. The result was a perfectly round, high domed room, 50 feet in diameter. He paused to adjust his tool and spun around again over Freckles' and Angus' heads to provide the muted lighting found in all the rooms in Cat City.
Freckles pawed three inches into the accumulated gold dust to find the polished marble-smooth floor while Angus marveled at the beautiful walls and ceiling. Peter had left wide swathes of quartz that still had irregular drifts of gold that together resembled the glittering Milky Way on a dark night. Peter then suggested, "You know any of the gold dust we don't use to make into artifacts, we should just bag up in 500 or 1000 pound bags and any Spanish junk we don't wish to be seen or recognized, should be reduced to dust and shipped the same way. We certainly don't want to flood the market with too many artifacts from good old Atlantis." Peter looked down sorrowfully at the Ancient tool he used to create his room and incidentally increase the Cat People's wealth more than somewhat. He actually asked Freckles; "Say Freckles, do you think I can keep this tool a little while longer?" He added a very good reason before the Great Cat could decline, "If I can, I'll extend this unfinished tunnel straight into the biggest cache of rubies ever discovered after Angus and I go back to the gathering place to eat more golden energy fruit. Then we need to catch up to Tracy and the twins with all those young warriors!" He concluded wearing a very lecherous expression and a diamond cutter erection.
Doug, Buck, the three Cat warriors, Charlie and Devin, Great Cat's pilot, left the Hall before dawn on the morning that the first four containers were scheduled to be delivered to the Port Newark warehouse. Doug carried a small suitcase that contained a complete school uniform in miniature for Squeak, and a new Great Cat-size school necktie for Spot. Spot could duplicate a pair of Freckles' eyewear if he wished since Freckles only made one pair for his use, no spares, and they could hardly be snitched off his face. Buck had invested in a new $3.99 plastic pair for Spot to reproduce if he wished. The boys were reasonably certain that he wished so he could completely 'blend' in with the rest of the student body just like his twin brother Freckles, just as Squeak planned.
The loading dock was ablaze with lights around the four shipping containers that had been mounted on semitrailers, delivered and backed into four adjoining loading dock bays. The all-weather accordion 'hallways' that connected the trailer doors to the warehouse overhead doors had been extended into place and sealed so the security force could begin unloading as soon as someone appeared to break the seals and render the booby-traps on the doors harmless. The security force waiting inside the warm warehouse were more than a little surprised when the nearby pedestrian door opened and the Jaguar, more commonly called a Great Cat, they thought was Freckles, slinked in with a little naked native boy riding on his back.
"Greetings white warriors, I am Cat warrior Squeak and this is my friend Great Cat Spot. We have come from our home lands to this land of snow and ice to attend school here," Squeak introduced. He cocked his head at the same time as Spot and announced, "The golden whirlybird called Great Cat is bringing our friends and cloth coverings as we speak." A distant wop, wop grew louder as Devin landed Great Cat the helicopter near the loading dock. A very short while later, the pedestrian door crashed open and the warriors of course engaged Spot and Squeak in a monumental reunion rough and tumble that included a few of the guards who happened to be way too close to Spot's tail.
Charlie called a halt to the welcoming proceedings from a very safe distance by reminding the jungle types that they were wearing their good school clothes and if they didn't stop at once he was going to report them all to their surrogate mother, Victoria. Squeak and Spot ended the brawl when they were reminded about their new school cloth coverings; they wanted to be dressed just like their brother warriors and friends.
After the warriors and Great Cat calmed down, Buck asked how the stowaways managed to get out of the shipping container while it was still locked and sealed. Squeak eagerly related all their adventures so far on the trip and explained that a portal was necessary for ingress and egress, so he willed the portal for their convenience and still hadn't figured out how to close it when not in use. The constantly opened 'doorway' wasn't a problem since it couldn't be seen but it was possible for some workman to accidentally fall into their traveling compartment if he rested his person against that portion of the steel wall that really wasn't there.
Bani broke the seals on the container doors with a thought and the guards approached the doors after they heard four audible 'snaps'. The bravest of them risked life and limb by actually touching the steel using a fingertip, without any affect. All of them had been present when Bani made one of their number disappear by merely pointing in his direction. None of them saw that he was holding an Ancient tool at the time.
Doug went off to the stacks of gold bars, quickly welded four of the largest together with a glance and had the massive weight trail him out the door just like an obedient pet, while Buck opened the suitcase that contained the odd couple's school clothes.
Kad and Sidi had a bit of fun helping Squeak dress. Specifically put on his pants and closing his zipper without pinching his little coupler, but only after the second attempt. The first resulted in Squeak actually attempting to throttle Kad while Sidi laughed at his partner's rapidly reddening face until Spot intervened on his way to the gold to fashion more spectacular eyewear from Buck's $3.99 investment in plastic.
When the Cat and warrior were dressed for school, Spot looked exactly like his twin brother Freckles, except for the namesake spot on his nose. However, while Squeak was dressed exactly like every other student in the exclusive school, it was felt that his diminutive height just might give him away as perhaps being too young, since the school did not include a preschool class but that was what the advance tuition payment in gold was for. The payment would be just too tempting even though most of it would have to be refunded when everyone switched schools the next winter term when the new University Preparatory school was officially open for business.
Charlie was particularly delighted to see the large blue plastic drums that comprised the first shipment of Stuff. Bill Penn and his partner Ethan already agreed to market the amazing product and one of the adjacent vacant warehouses would be equipped as a production facility that was only awaiting a broad assortment of cosmetic jars and bottles before Stuff could begin being sold through their Penguin Buyer's Club via incessant infomercials initially and then by word of mouth after Stuff began being used by satisfied customers.
The boys were to walk bunched together across the campus to Trenton Hall, the Administration building in an effort to conceal the floating monster block of gold, and they did. The problem was that Squeak hadn't been dressed for 10 minutes before he began complaining about his shoes; they were too confining and they pinched his toes, so he rode along on Spot's back. The gold was successfully deposited against the front doors along with every required form and document necessary to register two new students who incidentally just happened to be related to the other members of the South American 'Katz' family.
However a few of the students who boarded were also early risers so the party was observed and someone small and wearing a school uniform was seen riding on the Great Cat's back. That was very unusual and was cause to alert the rest of the student body who lived on campus. The word was that the residents of Homo Hall were up to something and it was the perfect morning to go to the dining room for breakfast early and discover who was about to be pranked, and how it was going to happen since Freckles and the Cat warriors were unknown to skip a meal when on campus and Freckles had his own chair and always sat at the same table so the heavy chair borrowed from the chapel didn't have to be moved.
Even more unusual, Freckles, the foreign students who preferred to be referred to as Cat warriors, Buck and Doug most frequently breakfasted at home. Flew in at the last possible minute and rushed to classes from their chopper(s) most mornings. Sam who had the title of line cook for 30 years, had been promoted to head chef soon after Freckles arrived, soon after Freckles decided to visit the previous executive chef in the man's office. When the Great Cat filled the man's office doorway and began to introduce himself, the man had no choice but to exit through his window, and hadn't been seen on campus since. Freckles still thought the man was very rude to disturb nearby classes in progress with his incoherent screaming.
Chef Sam knew that something was amiss straightaway. The Great Cat was dressed the same, but another formal Cat greeting was unnecessary and just as unnerving as the first, plus Peter had been replaced by a school uniformed boy to tend to the Great Cat's face with a towel and the boy had to stand on Peter's chair seat to do so. And most telling, the little boy appeared to be a miniature copy of the three Cat warriors plus Sam knew that Freckles and Peter had gone on Christmas holiday early.
"So, are you newly arrived?" Sam asked the new pair bluntly.
Spot nodded while Squeak answered truthfully, perhaps too truthfully. He caused Buck and Doug to wince and remind the pair that the words 'stowaway' and 'ship containers' are not generally used to describe a method or means of travel from anywhere, or to any destination.
Sam ignored the travel means to ask what everyone wanted to have for breakfast. When he saw Spot and Squeak looking at each other in confusion he substituted 'breakfast' with 'morning food' and suggested, toasted English muffin sandwiches stacked with egg, Canadian bacon and cheese.
It was Buck's turn to look confused, "You mean 'Egg McMuffins'?"
Sam laughed and nodded, "Well of course, but if we use that name, Mickey 'D' has threatened to sue us, so we use the longer name. We make our English muffins twice as large, use two eggs, thick slices of Canadian Bacon and three kinds of melted cheese, so there is no real comparison."
"We will have that as morning food please," Squeak responded when Spot began to drool in eager anticipation. Then he asked, "We must find this evil fiend Mickey D, do you know where he can be found? Great Cat Spot was credited with the last kill so Mickey D will be this brave warrior's kill," he promised Sam to be rid of the food naming problem.
The white warriors spent the rest of breakfast attempting to explain McDonald's restaurants, the corporation and corporations generally as being legal entities not just one evil fiend, but 1000's of minions who worked for the corporation. The boys ate their breakfasts slowly while they took turns explaining so Squeak understood. He kept nodding and eating three of the mega breakfast sandwiches while Spot demolished two dozen, washed down with a bowl of Coke and one of orange juice that also contained pineapple wedges and maraschino cherries, with both drinks swimming with ice cubes.
While the boys talked out loud and used mind-speak the Cat warriors and Charlie continued to laugh while they ate and sent messages referring to the newcomers as 'jungle types', which Spot and Squeak ignored for the present as if they hadn't heard or didn't understand.
When Sam saw the dining room begin to fill up exceedingly fast and earlier than normal, he ordered the kitchen into full production. Hayden and Justin were the first to arrive so they could occupy their usual seats at Freckles' table. They had appointed themselves as the Great Cat's drink servers and immediately knew that the Great Cat wasn't Freckles so he had to be Freckles' twin, Great Cat Spot accompanied by none other than the famous Cat warrior Squeak. Justin and Hayden initiated the formal Cat greetings and after they were completed Squeak decided that he would attend all the classes the two smallest white warriors attended, while Spot would resume all of Freckles' classes.
The last stragglers into the dining room reported that there seemed to be a problem at the administration buildings' front doors where many of the office workers could not enter because something was blocking the doors and after attempting to remove the problem most walked around the building to use the side and rear doors.
As soon as Sam heard of the door problem he rushed to the main dining room doors and blocked those students who hadn't finished their breakfasts. Everyone would eat what they took or miss classes until they were done he warned. There was no need to hurry; the four conjoined gold bars were still there long after everyone finished breakfast and went to have a closer look themselves, although not close enough to be questioned about the prankster's identity. All of the office workers had found an alternate means of entering the building and only Headmaster Smyth remained in the company of the chief of buildings maintenance. The maintenance chief was having no better luck in pushing the 1000 pound block of gold than anyone else while Headmaster Smyth was busy reading and rereading the attached paperwork for the fourth time.
"Who in hell's bells are Squeak and Spot Katz?" he bellowed at the sky in frustration after he was assured that what everyone thought was gold; was in fact a block of gold, payment in full for Squeak and Spot Katz's room, board and tuition in advance for the next 15 to 20 years!
"We are summoned!" Squeak announced just before classes from JC's apartment within the relative safety of Homo Hall. Squeak mounted his 'ride', Spot, and they were off to the Administration Building, Trenton Hall. Homo Hall's door opened as the pair approached; that hadn't happened before the rest of the gang noted as they ran to watch the meeting, or, more likely, a confrontation.
"Remember to touch his mind," Doug suggested from afar. He and Buck would be blamed as the instigators so they hoped the old adage, 'Out of sight, out of mind.' would apply in the case, since the Cat warriors owned their own helicopter.
Spot put on an amazing burst of speed as soon as he was outside on the campus quad. It was the first time ever that he could run full tilt out in the open on flat ground, unlike the Cat City tunnels or the dense jungle growth above ground at home. Spot took pride in arriving at their destination; sitting just behind Headmaster Smyth with Squeak standing by leaning against his front legs, their usual pose when together, as if he and Squeak had been there all along and were just waiting to be noticed by the school chief.
"Did you wish to see us Headmaster?" Squeak asked politely. "I am Squeak and this is Spot Katz. We are newly arrived from South America to attend your most wonderful school of learning, and that gold is the payment for our attendance. You may keep the change. It was unfortunate that this building was not open for business when the payment was delivered. I think you will agree that workmen are very careless these days. It was very dumb to anger you by blocking the door with the payment."
"Um yes," Dr. Smyth hesitated, "I believe you said your Great Cat's name is Spot, um, if I may be so bold to ask; where is Freckles Katz?"
With that question, Headmaster Smyth calmed down and a dialog began. The boy and Great Cat would take the required entrance and placement examinations that same morning. Although Squeak was almost certain that he would be placed in the same grade and classes as friends Hayden Roebling and Justin Penn while Spot would substitute for his twin brother Freckles in all of his classes until he returned after Christmas holiday. Then Spot would attend entirely different classes due to typical sibling rivalries that would be anything but typical on a human scale if the twin Great Cat brothers had a classroom dispute.
They hadn't planned to reveal Squeak's most favored mode of land travel, but Squeak forgot and was already sitting on Spot when he asked; "What language?"
"Language?" Dr. Smyth wondered what Squeak was asking.
"Yes Sir, we were wondering what language we should use to write our test answers in?" He proceeded to list the languages he knew that ended with; Ancient or Egyptian hieroglyphs, Latin, Yiddish or Hebrew.
The meeting of Headmaster and boy Cat warrior turned out anti-climactic with Dr. Smyth patting Squeak on the back and sending he and Spot on their way. Squeak reported that Headmaster Smyth had grown tired of fighting a select group of students who were capable of using 25 million dollars in gold as part of what generally were harmless pranks and he would face those same students when the new University school opened in the fall. Without thinking, he turned to enter his office building and discovered that the mass of yellow metal had moved suddenly, somehow while his back was turned, and while it still graced the building's main entrance, it no longer blocked the doors.
Dr. Smyth turned back to watch the powerful Great Cat streak away, running full tilt across the quad with a small boy, screaming his delight as his jockey, when he was inspired. He would phone Bucky Trenton straight away to suggest that the Great Cat would be a splendid mascot for the new preparatory school and possibly the University.
Dinner at Trenton Hall that evening was different and exciting. Spot naturally took Freckles' chair and at first Squeak sat in Peter's. When only the top of his head could be seen above the table top, he moved to straddle the chair arm closest to Spot. Hamilton the ever resourceful family butler paused the lengthy wine uncorking ritual and excused himself. He returned shortly with a wide board that was just long enough to span Squeak's chair arms, which he disguised with a pillow so Squeak could sit comfortably at the proper height.
It was clear that Victoria approved the seat when she asked Hamilton; "Would you have the carpenter shop fashion something more permanent just like that?"
Buck looked so very innocent when he promptly asked his father, "When did we get a carpenter shop?" He followed that with, "And where is it?"
Doug made so bold to answer Buck before Bucky, "You dummy, don't you remember, its right next to the electrical and plumbing shops in the sub-basement?"
Bucky's frown at the two hecklers caused Doug to resume eating quietly. Bucky had questioned Victoria's need to have skilled trades on the payroll, full-time in their presence. Victoria came to Doug's aid with what was to her a rational explanation. "See," she told Bucky, "if our carpenter had been on duty this late he could have fashioned a much nicer seat for our new guest instead of that nasty unpainted board." She winked at Doug, "Perhaps we should consider having those staff positions available around the clock?" That suggestion was more than enough to quiet Bucky and empty his wine glass.
Bucky was delighted with Dr. Smyth's suggestion. Bucky had found the ideal 'home' for Freckles' representation of his sire Fang that was currently sitting in his dining room watching everyone eat. The golden Great Cat Fang would reside in the new Trenton Halls' lobby guarding the University administration buildings' main entrance and with the assistance of other life-like effigies strategically placed around the campus; the whole school would enjoy previously unimagined security. That is, IF the real Great Cat Fang agreed.
Bucky was first shocked and then delightfully overwhelmed when Fang entered his mind almost as soon as he formed his security plan. Later he wondered if it was in fact Fang's suggestion. No matter; Fang 'talked' directly to Bucky for the first time. Fang would be pleased to be a clandestine part of the new University's security force and even showed Bucky images of other young Great Cats in ages from the recently weaned, so they could leave their mothers, to others, up to Freckles and Spot's size and probable age.
The Great Cats including over100 adults were shown massed in the gathering place, in the great pyramid in Cat City along with Angus, Tonga, Carb and other Cat People notables that Bucky had seen on video 'news' feeds from the Cat territories over time. The adults of both species and more mature but younger Great Cats had formed a ring on the plaza, were seated and watching a group of adolescent progeny including no less than five 50 pound kittens having a rough and tumble with a solitary Cat warrior who strangely seemed to be much taller than any adult Cat warrior that Bucky had ever seen. It was difficult to be sure because the Great Cat 'kids' had the struggling warrior on his back and while some were busy grooming him with their tongues, others were exploring his body and tickling him with their tails. A single half grown Cat sat close by stoically while the warrior was molested.
"Freckles, please, tell them all that I am NOT another Tara," none other than Peter carefully begged to avoid being kissed by an ambitious kitten without much success.
"Oh yes you are," the seated Great Cat replied, "you are the Ancient Finder; you can see metals and minerals of great value that no one else can find," Freckles added.
"But I'm just a white boy, a 22 year old college dropout AND a human, I was born and raised in the good old USA, nowhere near South America. Would you kids layoff licking me there? That's my cock, I mean my coupler and it really tickles, um and something else," he argued and laughed at the same time and succeeded in receiving a richly paste flavored kitten tongue thrust halfway down his throat.
Bucky laughed before he asked, "Peter, what in the world are you doing to those kittens, and doing it while I imagine their parents are watching?"
All the Cats, including kittens, the few Cat warriors and Angus, the only other human present, looked up in the same direction on hearing Bucky's question to Peter.
"Bucky, is that you? Can you mind-speak now?" Peter asked via mind-speak since the ambitious kitten maintained a lip lock on his mouth that the rapidly emerging Ancient hedonist in Peter found to be not totally unenjoyable.
"I think Great Cat Fang is relaying my thoughts for me. Did you know that Great Cat Spot and that little kid Squeak came up here unannounced to go to school? They registered and started classes this morning. Someone, three guesses who paid the school with one single block of gold worth about $25 million on today's gold market."
"Little Squeak and Spot wanted to surprise everyone," Angus interjected. He hedged, "they may have had a bit o' help wi' travel arrangements, proper cloth coverin's an' all the damn paperwork, but otherwise it was wee Squeak's idea. The laddie wanted to fit in wi' out bein' noticed," he concluded with a laugh.
Bucky joined in the laughter. "Well he fit in alright," he said, "no one noticed a new pint-size foreign student using a Great Cat that everyone thinks is Freckles, as if Freckles was a horse, riding around the campus at breakneck speed on the Great Cat's back."
Freckles and several other young Great Cats in the unusual gathering perked up at that disclosure and as one body they raced each other from the Gathering Place. "Oh my," Angus reported, "I fear that wee boy an' Spot may have started somethin' down here. Freckles must have seen or knows about horse racin'; he just shot images o' jockeys settin' on runnin' horses to the other Cats. All the teenage Cats are racin' up topside to the village to get their own jockeys after Freckles instructed the kittens to take care of Tara Peter in his Ancient restin' place until he gets back."
By the time the squad of over-eager kittens allowed Tara Peter to stand, he'd been completely covered with several coats of blue paste. Bucky noticed that he was no longer protesting about his elevation to reincarnated Ancient status and that he'd been wearing a flat golden chain around his waist from which a small matching sheath depended that held one of the fountain pen-size Ancient tools that was just like Bani's.
Peter disappeared from Bucky's view when Fang didn't follow so he didn't see Peter strolling toward the energy fruit bushes or see a kitten deliver a basket that would hold a generous supply of fruit. He waited there until Angus' band of 12 young warrior marine gunners and a somewhat, dazed, paste painted Tracy, Doc, and the twins all with rampant erections, appeared before the kittens, the warriors and the humans ran off to Freckles and Spot's sumptuous family resting place with Fang, the family patriarch, bringing up the rear. It became clear to Angus that Freckles had seen some horse racing somewhere when Freckles declared that he was the official Track Steward for the new Great Cat Racing Association. Freckles would have appointed Tracy to the singular position since he was already Kermit's steward, but at present, Tracy was besotted by too much paste and so many willing young Cat warriors.
The six war boat pilots (all the youngest and lightest warriors) had been drafted to be jockeys when Freckles sent the others into Cat City and would join up again after the race card was concluded with the start/finish line in the Gathering Place.
At 7:20 the next morning, Bucky got a disturbing phone call from William Penn, the owner of Penguin Buyer's Club. The Club's New York City display gallery had been robbed; totally emptied. Everything valuable enough to be displayed prior to being auctioned was gone including all the Cat People's artifacts that had been delivered thus far, including Bani's fabulous Ming tree.
Bill Penn was calling Bucky before he called the police because he knew of Bucky's rumored reputation as being the American chief of a worldwide collection of renowned 'business' associates, all so far untouchable within their spheres of influence. He very tactfully suggested that Bucky might have the ways and means of solving the problem without one iota of adverse publicity which would hurt his reputation or speculation regarding the sources of the missing artifacts that definitely affect Bucky, his family and the Family with a capital 'F'.
Bucky delayed Bill's explanation until Will, Joe, Bani and surprisingly, the golden Great Cat Fang, representing the Cat People were present in his study so they could all hear what was said and recorded for voice stress analysis. Bucky trusted Bill and Ethan, but no one would be immune from intensive scrutiny before they were eliminated as suspects without the need of delaying subpoenas, search warrants or offering to read anyone his or her 'rights' before questioning according to the law or any other legal niceties. He would also have Bani and Squeak visit the gallery and 'touch' everyone's minds to be doubly sure. Because in the end, the actual evil perpetrators and their minions as the Cat warriors were fond of calling their enemies would pay the ultimate price for their foolishness and greed.
The time Bill was on 'hold', allowed him to order his thoughts:
He owned what was once a five story, brick; loft style factory building that originally was so dilapidated, homeless people avoided it. He rebuilt it into a secure windowless fortress gallery with constantly monitored video, limited access and intensive around the clock human security.
There were a total of 25 armed security officers to cover three shifts, seven days a week, demanded by Bill's insurance underwriters because the value of the temporary contents, the auction items, varied from mere millions to $100s of millions in inventory from month to month. Unfortunately, with the Cat Peoples' missing artifacts still arriving daily, the estimated loss was close to one billion dollars and counting.
Security was breached at the 11:00 P.M. shift change when five guards would begin their 11 to 7 shift, and five would go home. Five men arrived in the Penguin uniform with the usual side arms but with the difference that they kept their caps pulled down low over their faces and they all arrived at the same time; there was no usual straggling. They swiped their ID cards as usual to gain admittance into the building and two of the five were admitted to the control room to work there in the same manner.
That was when the video recordings ended in blurring before blackness. The early evening shift was completely surprised, overpowered, trussed up like swine ready for the spit and stuffed in a basement storage closet. The morning shift didn't need to swipe their cards because the loading dock overhead door was wide open and all the gallery display cases and pedestals were void of upcoming sale items. Fortunately the new Atlantis artifact display was still being assembled in closed rooms and hadn't been publicized yet but the gallery would need an excuse to close until further notice.
"Just put out a press release that the fire suppression system failed and set off the building sprinklers," Bucky suggested, solving that problem.
Bani and Fang's amulets flashed together, Bani blinked and Bill Penn began to scream over the speakerphone that his office was suddenly being flooded. Fortunately the alarm system remained silent, so NYC Fire-Rescue had not been called automatically. Bucky, Will and Joe looked at Bani and began to laugh and shake their heads. Bani frowned at Fang before he shrugged. "Am I to assume that you didn't really want the sprinklers to flood the building?" he asked innocently. "Great Cat Fang was just trying to help," he defended while more accurately placing blame for the timely error.
"This Great Cat will send Tara Peter, The Finder, to help." Fang decided audibly via his amulet.
"Peter is a Finder? What's a finder Great Cat Fang?"
"He is THE Finder," Fang corrected, "There is only one Ancient Finder who can easily locate things of great value that the Ancients sought and found before they departed. There is also one Ancient Leader and one Ancient Guardian that have been revealed. They are The Tara's, the Ancient Lords in your language," he declared.
Bucky noticed that Bani's face flushed, "If Peter is The Finder, Bani, which one are you?"
"Tara Bani is The Leader," Fang announced, "while Tara Squeak is The Guardian.
"Um, what exactly is it that a Guardian does?" Will asked cautiously since they were discussing a four year old boy's roll in the scheme of things when it came to tracking down the thieves and recovering the treasure, which could be dangerous.
"Tara Squeak will always protect friends and vanquish all enemies of friends. He may use his Ancient tool or he may will any enemy to be gone, to make it so," Fang pronounced with finality.
Bani made an effort to lighten the mood by adding; "What Great Cat Fang means is no evil fiend should ever piss Squeak off. Although I do not think he knows what he can do yet, without his tool."
"Okay," Bucky looked at Will and Joe, "turn over every rock and open every cesspool in every organization we know about. Follow up every scrap of information," he ordered. "It's too bad Peter isn't here right now. If he is whatever he is, the treasure could be on its way to anywhere in the world as we speak. I'll alert Evan and our other friends around the world to see if they know anything."
"If you involve Evan," Will advised, "you may as well tell all the guys right away because they'll find out what's going on anyway as soon as they see Evan."
Bucky nodded, "We were supposed to leave for Dagger Key in four days. Maybe everyone should just call in sick. If you don't allow it, they'll do it anyway," Joe reminded Bucky, "and start their own investigation," he added.
On the way down stairs to the dining room and breakfast, Bucky whispered to Bani, "You know that statue of Fang following you is very disconcerting."
Bani grinned, "Not as upsetting as the living Great Cat would be if he was here looking over our shoulders," he reminded Bucky.
There was no need for Bucky to explain the robbery to the boys; the dining room was packed with every mind-speaker who lived on the place. No one was dressed for school and while everyone was eating breakfast, they all looked at Bucky expectantly when he walked in, waiting for his orders. He'd forgotten about the Great Cat's and most likely Squeak's ability to 'touch' minds; polite for eavesdropping or plain old fashion snooping. Spot tried to look famished and kept his eyes on his food and drink, while Squeak, the other snoop, studied and attempted to look like the winged cherubs on the frescoed ceiling while sitting on his board covered with a pillow.
When Victoria walked in the room two minutes after Bucky, he was surprised to see that she was dressed to go out and even plunked an overnight bag down by the door. She kissed her husband good morning before she announced everyone's plan, "This household will relocate to our townhouse until this emergency is ended. Your offices darling will be our headquarters. Living in New York will be so much more convenient," she added. She looked down the length of the table, wearing a frown. 'We must recover every single artifact within four days, particularly, my Ming tree, or there will be no Christmas holiday at Dagger Key, or anywhere else I'm sorry to say dear Medi, until everything is found."
Medi and Sean, with Sam and Jack, their guards, had been attempting to hide their presence from Bucky by sitting beside Pettie and maintaining a very low profile, but Victoria took care of that with a glance to inventory new faces. Bucky shrugged and asked Medi to call his father to ask him if he knew of anyone in the Middle Eastern region who might be collectors and had the nerve to pull off a robbery of this size. Fabulous art works were stolen with unfortunate regularity and disappeared into very private collections and might not be recovered until the collector died years later.
Everyone in the dining room first heard, then saw Black Widow land near the other two helicopters, Bucky's and Great Cat, already on the pad and being readied to fly. "How the hell did Evan know about this already? I haven't called him yet." Bucky sort of complained. Everyone except Victoria touched their heads and grinned. There were few long-term secrets among mind-speakers.
Evan, Billy and Edvard, Hans and Herman, ran in from the garden with JC and John right behind them, "I think I may have found the leak Bucky," Evan said without preamble or a 'good morning'. "Were you on that fence guy's email list? The guy I mean is the one, SOMEONE, not mentioning names, put out of business without inviting me to the party," he scolded the extended Trenton household generally.
"I seem to recall that guy, there was something in the papers about a riot and a fire, in Newark," Bucky answered evasively and was hard pressed to hide his smile while Kad and Sidi waved their hands in the air while pointing at each other and Bani to be sure Evan knew who the real culprits were. "I mostly ignore and delete those kinds of emails unless I'm looking for something special, why do you ask?"
"Well, I wasn't on his mailing list but Grandfather was and since his email account is still up and running, I checked and here's a copy of an email he received just before the dude was burned out of business. He sent out a few pictures of Ancient stuff and asked if Grandfather was interested since he was one of the dude's best customers." Evan added, "I snooped to find Grandfather's sources, so we wouldn't be embarrassed if someone saw something that once belonged to them in one of the castles," he admitted with a proud grin while the boys laughed and cheered his cleverness, with their mouths full.
Bucky whispered to Victoria; "How did you know about this in advance?"
Victoria grinned and hoisted an eyebrow. "Very simple, really darling, you know I like to know what's going on, so I bugged the speakerphone in your study. My speaker turns on in my dressing room, when you use yours in your study," she admitted.
"I may as well move my desk into the rotunda," Bucky grumped. He glanced at the proffered photos. The first one was of a leaping golden Great Cat that was currently holding some books together on his desk with its mate. The email offered these and many other similar rare and totally unique items made by a lost tribe who once lived in a previously undiscovered place, country and continent to be revealed in the future. "Damn, if Anton was still with us and saw these photos, I'd have to sell our kid just to buy you something my dear," he joked with Victoria.
Victoria giggled, "Don't be silly darling; $1.95 wouldn't buy us the tiniest claw."
"Now wait just a minute," Doug called out with a laugh before Buck could protest his worth, "you should put him up for auction! I bid $2.00 to get things going." By the time the group split up after breakfast, to fly or drive into the City, the bidding for Buck had reached all of $11.63 and was rising steadily in one cent increments since the joke was, he was well used merchandise and wasn't worth much more unless Trenton Hall and the boat bed were included in the sale. Buck proved that he could frown just as horrifically as his father as he climbed into the Cat Mobile for the ride into the City.
The bus was crowded because Evan, with Hans, Herman and Edvard invited themselves to ride along, and he invited JC and John while he sent Billy to fly a load of guys on Black Widow so it would also be in the City if needed. There was a brief delay when Fang the statue decided to accompany the warriors and his son Spot. There was no shortage of licensed drivers this trip, but it was disconcerting to be forbidden to touch the steering wheel since Squeak with Spot's assistance thought that he was the most expert in driving Cat Mobiles even though his first attempt was 'homemade' out of a ship container and it didn't possess an engine or steering wheel or even have wheels. Spot stretched his bulk on Freckles' sofa facing forward, and Squeak stretched out on Spot's back and neck with his chin resting comfortably on Spot's head, so he could see the road ahead while looking over David's shoulder, the man in the driver's seat.
"Okay Evan, the old gang's all here with laptops in case they're needed, as instructed, what didn't you tell Bucky about the email?" Doug began.
Evan sighed, "I said there was a leak and there was; my antiquities and furnishings buyer sort of disappeared and he took the advice that Charlie and I always give you guys; he took all kinds of valuable, sort of portable stuff with him. We think he used it to finance this heist," he concluded. "He was the one who monitored Grandfather's junk emails. Bucky gets a lot of those emails too. My guy is a geek who loves antiques, which is why Grandfather hired him. He's in the unique position of being able to spend my money to buy what he wants. Recently, he's been furnishing the new Castle Falconburg in South America. I emailed him to watch for some really beautiful, very rare items that may have been found originally in 'Lost Atlantis'. I think he found out about Sea Song's load of artifacts because I was hinting that I wanted to be in on the bidding. Lots of people in my organization know about the theft of some from the warehouse and the pawn shop fence."
"Or put another way, you were the leak, big mouth, thanks a lot," Buck concluded what Evan was trying to say.
Evan shrugged noncommittally, which for him would be like pleading 'no contest' in court, before continuing; "Well, the asshole was last seen here in the U.S. assembling a load of stuff to ship to the castle in Columbia. What he was doing was buying the stuff and then reselling it right away, spread out on EBay, Craig's List and Penguin." He gave a few examples, "Like he bought all the appliances for the kitchen and sold it all piece by piece. He advertised, 'still in the box', and the furniture went the same way."
"I'm confused," Doug admitted, "How could this guy finance this heist by selling a refrigerator, a stove and a bunch of old junk furniture?"
Evan rolled his eyes while Buck giggled and shook his head in wonder. The two little billionaires explained that a high end, completely equipped restaurant kitchen was far more extensive than his mother's kitchen at home. Buck pointed out that he and Doug had been cautioned a number of times about referring to Victoria's or his mother's furniture as junk, at least within their hearing.
"Oh yeah," Doug remembered what he'd forgotten when a car horn blared from the Cat Mobile's right rear and continued from directly behind the bus when it changed lanes suddenly.
David turned on the backup camera in time to see a driver raise his hand and direct his middle finger at the back of the bus uselessly. Squeak and Spot saw the motion too. "How rude," Squeak commented, "can this brave warrior return that signal to that rude driver? He has been changing lanes, attempting to gain a better position in what is called bumper to bumper traffic and now he seems to be trapped by this Cat Mobile and a semi-truck on each side."
"How would you return the rude gesture?" Bani asked.
Spot grinned to show his approval of whatever Squeak proposed as the Cat Mobile's engine coughed mightily and the backup TV screen turned black briefly until the bus inched forward 20 feet while the tailgating car stopped and no longer looked like a car. It looked like a mass of black running tar. "That was well done," Bani congratulated Squeak, "but what did you do?"
"As everyone knows the fuel for all these machines is made from oil. I took the liberty of changing a small quantity of this fuel back into the original substance by rearranging the molecules and carefully shooting it from Cat Mobile's asshole," Squeak explained with a cherubic smile.
"Asshole, didn't you mean exhaust?" Buck wondered.
"That is what Tara Squeak said," Spot defended Squeak's semantics.
The laughter from the Cat Mobile was interrupted by Medi mind-speaking Buck about the size of the Trenton townhouse that had not been otherwise described. That question got Buck giggling about the question. He couldn't help laughing in mind-speak during his answer; "I heard Dad mention that he was very pleased that you failed to check out of your suite at The Plaza. Your generosity in spending $10,000 dollars per day to keep the Royal Plaza Suite is greatly appreciated according to Dad, especially now during the holiday season. Some of us can move in there, even you, since all of your and Sean's stuff is still there," Buck concluded.
"But, but, I say, no, I am quite sure I checked out," Medi protested, "or perhaps Sean did." (He prayed someone did.) "There is no way my father can find out about this expenditure. Every time I anger him, he mentions one of my younger brothers as his possible successor."
The Family's first stop was the gallery to meet Bill and Ethan as well as touch everyone's mind and look at where the treasures once were displayed. All the gallery personnel had been assembled for the informal meet and greet and all were quickly eliminated as suspects. Predictably, none of the Penguin people had the slightest interest in meeting Spot, so they ignored the humans, including the Cat warriors, including one well-dressed little boy who turned out to be delighted to wear modern cloth coverings and had become the ultimate 'clothes horse' in a very short period of time. This adventure was Squeak's first opportunity to wear clothing, other than his school uniform, in public.
"Perhaps we should follow the truck that contains our treasures?" Squeak suggested using mind-speak.
"Can you do that?" Several boys asked at once.
Squeak shrugged, "We were forced to travel in a truck box for a great length of time, so we should be able to follow this box's signature." Squeak said as he mounted Spot. Cat and boy headed for the gallery's main entrance where the Cat Mobile was parked.
"OH NO YOU DON'T," Will shouted at the odd couple, "David will move the bus to the back of the building where you should have entered originally. There's a huge crowd outside who want to see the giant spotted cat exit the building," he warned. Squeak had been proud to lead the convoy directly to the Penguin gallery without error after the boys hurriedly explained the novel concepts of one-way streets and stop lights. And of course he and Spot were the first off the bus before anyone could stop them.
The buildings' imposing main entrance, two sets of locked doors, unlocked and opened in time to allow the visitors to enter the lobby where the last puddles of water were being vacuumed thanks to over-helpful, Great Cat Fang. While there wasn't much that would cause New Yorkers to pause in their haste to get where they were going as fast as possible; Great Cat Spot wearing his school tie and eyeglasses was one of those rare incidents.
"Do you mean I was recognized?" Spot asked. He had been forced to wear his school uniform, his tie and glasses since he had no other clothing unlike humans, although he did ask Chief Bucky's mate, Victoria, at morning food, if she would fashion some other neckwear that would be suitable for after school hours so he would blend in with the other boys of relevant age. Everyone seemed to forget that he was a teenager too, ignoring the slight differences between species.
Between Squeak and Spot's tracking ability, the semi-truck's trail ended abruptly in the Port of New York's piers where thousands upon thousands of semi-trucks arrived and departed constantly. Everyone could see rows of massed stacked shipping containers and in the distance the actual container ships that were being unloaded or worse, loaded, with one among thousands that contained the treasure. Try as the odd couple might, they could not sense the location of the missing container.
Spot and Squeak sent urgent pleas for Peter and Freckles to return home post-haste. Time was of the essence; the stolen treasure could be shipped to any country in the world to any port city and from there into a very private collection, never to be seen again.
"We're on our way," Peter himself responded, "and believe it or not, Freckles fixed up Kermit so we're traveling at Mach 2. You guys will have to meet us at Newark with the Cat Mobile. I have no idea if I can help," he qualified, "but Fang insists I can because I seem to be what he calls the Finder. I don't know how or why this happened but it sure is fun. See you real soon," he concluded, and then with a giggle, he added, "Spock out…"
Buck and Doug looked at each other and grinned, "He must be the reincarnated Ancient Finder," Doug said, "He's getting more like Freckles every day."
"I heard that," Freckles himself interrupted from 35,000 feet, somewhere out over the Atlantic Ocean so Kermit could continue to break the sound barrier.
"How rude, you eavesdropper!" Doug accused with a laugh.
Once again my thanks to Emoe for his very fine editing!