Castle Roland

Somerset Farm

by Jamie Haze

In Progress

Chapter 65

Published: 15 Jun 15


Jamie Haze

Professor Emeritus Jonathon Meriwether, MD, PhD, etc., etc., was in his study composing a plausible theory to justify the existence of yet another lost race of peoples believed to have lived in the unexplored wilds of South America. His front door chime sounded unexpectedly. He frowned, turned on the house security monitor and while the infernal thing was warming up, he stood and closed his red, winter, quilted robe before placing his 'golden boy' in his robe's pocket. He had recently acquired the small, but very heavy solid gold artifact that had been sitting on his desk, watching him write. The monitor blinked on and Dr. Meriwether almost fainted when he viewed not one, but three golden boys, in the flesh, standing on his door step in the 'altogether', in knee deep, yet to be shoveled snow, as if they had arrived there by air.

He stared and waited for the apparitions to disappear, he knew that he had to be hallucinating, having a waking dream, until a shorter boy, standing in front of the other two, reached out and rang the door chime again. He looked at the monitor more closely, to the background, and couldn't see any tracks in the deep snow leading to his front door. The boy in front looked back, said something, shrugged and rang the door chime a third time.

Dr. Meriwether shook himself like a dog and made his way from the back of the big empty house to the front door. The doors' peephole would have revealed the truth, but he threw back the heavy sliding bolt and recklessly pulled open the door. That is when Professor Jonathon Meriwether actually did faint dead away.

Bani, Kad and Sidi were the three golden boys shown in the monitor but not shown were Doug, Buck, Charlie and Peter as well as one heart stopping Great Cat, Freckles, who was sitting at the rear of the group and controlling the security system monitor. The well trampled snow that led to the Cat Mobile parked out in in the newly plowed driveway didn't matter.

"Who's going to claim this kill," Doug looked back, "Freckles?" he asked to assign blame for the fiasco. "We told you not to mess around with the old guy's systems but you wouldn't listen," he accused with a grin.

"Well," Freckles began a defense.

"Blame later," Buck imposed, "let's get him off the floor and on a sofa. I don't think he's dead, just fainted."

"That is what I was going to say," Freckles claimed with a frown at Doug.

Freckles followed the boys carrying the unconscious Professor into what appeared to be a great room or lounge. He scooped up the original golden boy that fell out of the robe's pocket and landed with a slight thunk on the carpet. The boys didn't see him smile as the small statue changed subtly to Bani's facial features, the less muscular body of a newly minted teenage warrior and he replicated Bani's erection perfectly for good measure.

The Professor's robe fell open as they placed his inert body on a sofa. Kad was the first to notice certain similarities of body shape and overall appearance, "This Professor dude looks like Pettie will look in fifty years," he observed and sent in mind-speak to those still waiting out in the convoy. "He is very tall; he has the same floppy hair and the very muscular body of one who swims." He pulled the robe aside to look further. He giggled and added; "His coupler is very substantial too."

"Implyin' what?" Pettie asked from the street.

"Did your mother visit New Jersey about 17 or 18 years ago?" Doug asked Pettie.

Instead of getting angry, Pettie giggled, "How should I know, I wasn't born yet, but I'll tell you what; my daddy is as big as me and the first time y'all meet up with him at Christmas, be sure to ask him that there same question, as long as y'all have right good runnin' shoes on or you're settin' a fast horse," he warned.

"No thank you," Doug was quick to reply.

Just then the Professor moaned. His first concern was the statue. He fumbled to find the pocket in the robe. Freckles was sitting behind the sofa to watch the proceedings and when the Professor began to stir, he ducked behind the back while his tail delivered the modified missing relic to the Professor's questing hand and paused long enough to reset the Doctor's glasses on the bridge of his nose before he opened his eyes. Dr. Meriwether's thumb encountered the little statue's erection that wasn't there before, before he opened his eyes, so when they did flash open he first saw Bani's face on the statue and then Bani himself standing next to the sofa peering down on him with Kad and Sidi standing behind him as a double bonus with all three warriors displaying their erections proudly as was originally planned at the front door. That is, planned without a certain Great Cat present in the flesh, but not shown on the monitor.

"Who, what, how…" Dr. Meriwether began to question weakly while attempting to sit up and cover himself with his robe at the same time.

"I am Bani, this is Kad and Sidi," Bani began, "We are warriors of the Cat People. Some of our treasure has been stolen and is being sold by the evil fiend, Gus and his minions at that Gold Buyer's Pawn place. We would like your help to sell all of our treasure properly without betraying our People or the Great Cats. Will you help us?"

Peter, Doug, Buck and Charlie appeared then, they were also naked, but not erect. The boys all thought that additional boy bodies might convince the Professor to unlock his door and let them in. The problem was the sliding deadbolt; it had no intelligence so Freckles couldn't work his magic on it.

Dr. Meriwether's eyes traveled the additional teenage bodies quickly before he looked back at Bani. To be helpful, Peter offered him a glass of Scotch, the only kind of booze he could find on the bar. "Thank you, young man," the Professor acknowledged, took a sip and frowned at Bani. "I don't understand… Cat People? Great Cats? I thought I saw a huge, very beautiful cat, possibly a Jaguar, sitting behind you at my front door and there are statues of cats included in the estate that Gus is selling for the heirs, without Internal Revenue's knowledge just like he does all the time." The Professor rambled and looked thoroughly confused, "This beautiful golden boy didn't look like you before I fainted, but now it does, ah, exactly, ah, in, um, all ways, if I may be so bold as to state."

Bani grinned, "We have a Great Cat with us," he assured, "It was he who played with your security system and then modified that statue so it appears to be me. You really did see him just before you fainted. He will show himself if you promise not to faint again." Freckles sat up at that point.

Professor Meriwether froze in place. The hairs on the back of his neck rose. "Would I be surprised if your Great Cat was directly behind me?" he whispered.

Freckles lowered his head until his chin was almost touching the Doctor's shoulder and his whiskers were a hairs' distance away from brushing his cheek. He exhaled so his breath could be felt and heard. The Doctor first switched his eyes to that side before his head actually followed so he was staring in Freckles' eyes and touching then bumping noses in formal greeting.

"Oh my, you certainly are a big fellow aren't you?" The Doctor asked, he was suddenly and surprisingly very calm as he pulled his head away slightly, "And since I am still alive, I must assume you are a friendly chap," he stated boldly with a grin directed at Freckles before he looked at Bani, seeking confirmation before he moved. Freckles stepped over the sofa back and then sat down beside the man before he displayed the use of his prehensile tail by hugging the Doctor against his front leg companionably.

"Greetings Professor, Doctor Meriwether, I am Freckles Katz. Yes, I'm am friendly but I am not yet big enough to breed," Freckles informed, "When I am, I will be twice my present size like my honored sire."

Since Doctor Meriwether was sitting down, he realized at once that Freckles' voice was emanating from a magnificent emerald pendant that was glowing intermittently as he spoke, and not actually coming from the cat's mouth and throat. His attention was diverted by similar but smaller gems all the boys wore around their necks that also brightened and dimmed while they smiled and/or nodded at nothing at all apparent in the room. "You boys are talking with each other or someone else outside the house!" he claimed with some excitement in his voice. "Those magnificent gems have something to do with mental telepathy I would wager," he added, very pleased with his observation and from the looks the boys exchanged, he knew he was right.

He looked closely at his prized golden boy that had been altered – remolded, he corrected, to be a beautiful representation of the boy, Bani, right down to his, 'you know what,' in a matter of a few brief minutes that he had been unconscious. He grinned up at Bani, and then way up at Freckles. "It rather appears that I have been laboring to create an advanced lost civilization that in fact exists, is far more advanced than I could ever imagine and apparently is very far from lost, just I think, unknown for the most part, but obviously with some very good American friends.

He frowned and his smile disappeared, "You said these treasures were stolen from you, surely Gus, at Gold Buyer's couldn't be responsible; he's been in business for years."

"He's a fence," Buck explained, "he doesn't steal anything but he buys from the guys that do. Everything on that third floor is stolen. It's all altered there, boxed on the second floor and shipped out on the first when someone buys it on the Internet."

Dr. Meriwether looked very angry, but not for the expected reasons Buck just revealed. "The bloody bastard; all this time, I've only been charging 250 dollars per consultation! I should have been charging far more, had I known I was risking my reputation for so little compensation."

Doug looked around the elegantly furnished room and scoffed; "Come on Doc, you can't keep up a place like this on 250 dollars a consult."

"Of course not, I'm very secure; I was saving all that extra money to go on one last dig. With all my knowledge and experience," Doc explained mournfully, "I have yet to make even one significant find, not so much as a pot shard while some first year students have walked across a plowed field and discovered a major tomb by stubbing a toe! I assure you, it is very frustrating," he huffed.

Bani pulled the little statue from Doc's hands and held it up in front of his chest so he could compare it to the living model, "If you help us to sell our treasures, as you said, you will have discovered a lost advanced culture that isn't lost and may be more advanced than your own. Do you have a TV?"

"This way to the study," Freckles announced as he led the way as usual.

"I don't have cable," Doc called to Freckles and then said to Bani, "You know it is very disconcerting to talk to an intelligent cat who can talk back…" The Doc was interrupted when there was some yowling and hissing coming from the study. The boys hadn't heard Freckles make typical cat noises before, but anything was possible. "Oh dear, I quite forgot about Lucifer. Has Freckles ever encountered a house cat before?"

The question caused the boys to run the last few feet to the study door and then pause to laugh at a faceoff between an overweight black tabby and Freckles. The cat Lucifer was on a sofa braced in an attack position while Freckles was similarly braced on the floor with just his head resting on a cushion showing his teeth to Lucifer inches away from touching noses. Both cat tails were twitching violently, "This thing objects to sharing her sofa with me," Freckles protested, "how rude!"

"His name is Lucifer, he's a male tabby cat, a house cat," Peter attempted to explain.

"No," Doc corrected, "Lucifer is really Lucy. The Veterinarian told me the first time I took him, I mean her, for shots. It really doesn't matter; she answers to nothing or no one."

While Freckles' head held Lucy's attention his tail snaked up behind her. She let out her final yowl of protest as Freckles held her up in the air until he was comfortable sitting on part of the sofa. Then he lowered her to a vacant cushion at his side, "There," Freckles scolded, "this is sharing!" he explained before looking at the dark TV.

"I'm afraid I don't have an antenna either, just a tape and DVD player," Doc told the room.

The TV brightened regardless. It was obvious to the boys that Freckles was drawing images from their minds, while ignoring mind-speak protests concerning invasion of privacy. The Doc moved Lucy to the floor and sat down by Freckles, instantly enthralled by a brief tour of JC's treasure room. Then Doc looked down at Bani sitting on the floor while he darted a moth from 50 feet and then casually jumped the rows of treasure laden pallets to retrieve his dart and display the moth. It was obvious that the little Cat warrior enjoyed seeing himself on TV evidenced by his giggles, and praise from Kad and Sidi and back slaps that was about to degenerate into a joyous rough and tumble that was stopped by a thought from Freckles.

The scene changed suddenly to the Cat Peoples' treasure cave. "This is our treasure," Kad announced. "The artifacts you saw in that evil fiend's pawn place are all in here somewhere, except for some Ancient–made treasures like that warrior statue you are fondling."

Doc sought to change the direction of the conversation by pointing and exclaiming, "Oh my, just look at the quality and condition of that armor. Everything looks brand new. How is it you have so much of it?"

Freckles helpfully switched the view to Charlie when he was encumbered with a complete matching set that was finished in silver with gold and gem studded inlays of religious symbols and a family crest. When the guys finished, Charlie could barely move and couldn't walk at all. "You made a big mistake by reminding me of that incident," Charlie warned and wondered if hot sauce mixed with Stuff would be effective. Freckles' private snicker assured him it would.

Bani ignored Charlie. He answered Doc, "Over a great length of time some parties of evil conquistadors," he grinned, "and grave robbers also known as archeologists, made the mistake of trespassing on Cat territories. They either were seeking to steal our treasure or they were transporting treasure that was stolen from others to the sea. The People commemorated each incident by keeping all the treasure, weapons, iron suits and equipment together."

Doc hesitated before asking, "What about those hunting rifles and those piles of military weapons?"

Freckles snickered out loud, "Admiral Angus called the owners, sportsmen who came to hunt Great Cats. Their hunts were successful. They found us and then had no need of their weapons. They were not fast runners, nor were the grave robbers," he added since the Doc mentioned a 'dig'.

Kad explained that the government once sent patrols into Cat lands seeking to discover unknown tribes to introduce happy people to modern civilization such as disease, starvation and the poverty of the cities. These patrols got lost and were never found. Kad attempted to look the picture of innocence but his giggles kept leaking through his angelic expression. Doc could imagine how the patrols got 'lost' and nothing was found of them except all their weapons, by a tribe of peoples that they sought.

Freckles moved the action to the boys entering Cat Place for the first time with Spencer and Harman investigating the contents of the stonewood chests that lined the walls using the unnatural glowing blue walls as the source of light. The Doc sank from sitting on the sofa to his knees to get closer to the screen so he could ogle the gem stones and Harman and Spencer's bodies more closely and didn't notice that Lucy/Lucifer stole his seat after a baleful stare up at Freckles.

"Don't look at me like that," Freckles warned, "he is your human; I have my own." He looked back to see that Peter was reading a sheet of paper that he found on a side table. "You shouldn't be looking at Doc's papers; he might become angry," he sent.

Peter looked up from his reading and forgot to use mind-speak. "This is almost written in Ancient and I couldn't resist," he defended his snooping.

Doc looked up and smiled, "I get copies of works from the University library that haven't been translated yet," he informed, "I find cyphering like working crossword puzzles."

Peter replaced the paper and shrugged, "That top one is a pretty detailed ship's manifest, you know so many jars of oil, jars of wine, bags of grain and 100 adult male slaves. The ship is sailing north, downriver for some port I can't make out."

Doc's attention was immediately torn between staring at a worlds' ransom in gems and the discovery that Peter could read Egyptian hieroglyphs so easily. The gems won when Freckles advised; "We only brought a small portion of these chests because there wasn't room. Show Doc the chest Doug,"

"You brought a whole chest full of gems for me to see?" Doc asked with rising excitement in his voice.

Doug shook his head, "Nope, just one of the empty boxes." He placed Victoria's collapsed box on the floor in front of Doc, who looked confused at seeing the two inch thick, square of finely detailed, carved wood.

Everyone wanted to get in on the act, so there was a ragged chorus of "ABRACADABRA!" which sent the poor box in a tizzy of alternately becoming a useful box and collapsing for storage.

"Humans!" Freckles declared in disgust. He sent a final command and the box remained as a box and refused to transform.

"Check out the hinges," Doug suggested while wearing a huge grin.

"Um, there doesn't seem to be any," Doc answered as he turned the box to and fro, "um, anywhere. Of course that is quite impossible, there must be a trick," he assumed.

"You can look at it closer, pick it up, open it and look inside," Doug encouraged.

"It's very light weight, is it balsa wood?" Doc asked as he held it up to the light, "Hmm, I can see tiny cracks of continuous light wherever the sides, bottom and the top are joined, what I don't see, are any hinges; remarkable," he concluded. "How do you make it collapse?"

"Think it to be so," Freckles instructed. Then he warned the boys silently, not to help. After the box obediently flattened to become a board he turned his back without warning and willed the board to once again become a box and of course promptly changed the box back into a board.

Doc's delighted giggle was halted when Freckles looked down and exclaimed; "This Lucy cat is very forward!" Everyone looked to see that Lucy had moved to between Freckles' hind legs, which in the sitting position afforded her a warmer, cozier place to resume her nap in complete safety. The boys grinned, disclaimers aside; Freckles appeared to be flattered because he moved his tail tip to stroke the house cat delicately without disturbing her snooze.

"Now show the thieving fiends," Bani ordered.

Freckles switched to a view of the dock area, minus the snow storm, where a line of men were off loading the People's treasure from Sea Song to the warehouse by means of hand to hand. He allowed several men to leave the line carrying an artifact, run to the nearby fence and toss it underhand before they returned to the line – empty handed. When Freckles saw one particular piece fly over the fence, he switched views from Gregor or Meesha's view in Sea Song's crows' nest, to Snoopy's view of the fiends on the other side of the fence. He slowed the images as a flying Great Cat seemed to drift down toward one man's head and froze the image at the point one extended paw sank to the elbow in the back of the unsuspecting man's head.

"Gus has that very piece!" Doc exclaimed, "I handled it, it's very beautiful."

"I guess you get that kill Freckles," Doug congratulated. Freckles smile was huge as he nodded his full and complete agreement. Doc however was sure he was about to be eaten where he knelt.

"This Great Cat objects!" Spot had obviously been eavesdropping from afar and broad beamed his objection. "That beautiful Great Cat was made by the Ancients, long before Brother Freckles, this Great Cat or many, many earlier generations ever existed."

"Your brother's got you there Freckles," Buck judged out loud with a giggle.

Of course Doc wasn't a part of the mind-speak discussion; he only noted that somehow Freckles' eyes narrowed and the position of his ears changed. "Please don't tell me that you have a brother hiding somewhere in this house," he begged.

"Oh no," Freckles assured, "our father would never allow him to travel beyond the borders of our homelands, he is a very disturbed Great Cat. That is why I was chosen to accompany Tara Bani, and these two brave warriors," he advised Doc proudly. He made believe that he didn't hear Spot's roar of protest, but all the other mind-speakers winced.

"Back on task Freckles," Peter reminded silently, "remember Chief Bucky is outside waiting."

The TV promptly showed the evil fiend hiding the golden Great Cat under the truck seat while his companions loaded the victim's body into the truck bed with the treasure that they'd collected thus far from the snow drift. Freckles made sure to zoom in on the second golden Great Cat that was already in the truck before switching the view to Gold Buyer's Pawn secret third floor and the stolen treasure, including the second Cat, to complete the trail of evidence and proof of ownership.

"Will, while we're waiting, could you check among our contacts to see if any of them own or are associated with this fencing operation?" Bucky asked. "These people seem to be too sophisticated for any of our contacts to be involved, but you never know."

"Sure," Will agreed. Then he asked, carefully since Victoria was present, "but what if one of them is?"

"Then I would ask that everything be returned, place the blame on a mistake and strongly suggest that such mistakes shouldn't happen to me again."

"What about our guys? This incident is very embarrassing," Will asked.

Bucky shrugged, "I think we should make an example of the ring leader, he would have to be dismissed, perhaps while all the others involved are present. This is not a bad thing as word of this incident filters through the organization," he explained his opinion cryptically.

"And if this fence is an independent?"

"I think that Bani and Freckles might have a solution. We already know what happens to 'evil fiends'," he used finger quotes, "in their territories," Bucky concluded.

Will and Joe broke up laughing together. Joe hastened to explain before Bucky had a chance to frown, "Freckles just met his first house cat! We'll have to get Bani to show you the video."

After Dr. Meriwether agreed to help market the treasure, Buck invited him to be a guest at Trenton Hall and Bani promised him his long desired trip of a lifetime to the lands of the People and Great Cats to be first to 'discover' the fabled city called El Dorado that was located generally in South America with no specific country announced – ever. Doc felt that just displaying such finely crafted artifacts in such extraordinary quantities would be enough to prove El Dorado's existence without betraying its location. He felt that would be enough to induce collectors and museums to compete to purchase each and every piece.

While the good Doctor packed a 'few' things, Bucky disbanded the convoy except for plows driven by Scott and Pettie in Big Foot and Harm and Spencer in the Hummers, accompanied by Tommy and Huss, their partners; the Cat Mobile and his truck. They would have lunch and then proceed to Port Newark, and the warehouse where Bucky, Victoria and Dr. Meriwether would view the complete treasure for the first time with the warriors, Harman and Spencer as guides. Then while Victoria, the Doc and the boys were occupied, he, Will and Joe would have a private employees meeting after the evening security shift began before anymore treasure could disappear.

Bucky put Victoria in charge of making arrangements for lunch that would include Freckles and he bet her 1000 dollars that she wouldn't be able to satisfy the last requirement, without mentioning names. He thought that would keep her occupied for an hour or more and he doubted that she could find anywhere where the whole party could enjoy a sit down lunch in privacy. He fully anticipated something to go that would be cold and greasy by the time the bags and Styrofoam boxes were sorted out and he would pocket 1000 dollars, or he joked, he would get his money in 'trade' at some quiet time in the very near future. Victoria expanded the bet to include the money AND the 'trade', as many times as she wanted in a place and at a time of her choosing. Victoria replaced her phone in her purse inside of five minutes wearing a pleased smile with her other hand open, palm up.

Those in the remaining trucks couldn't see Peter and the boys loading Doc's luggage in the empty storage bays under the bus but they could see the boys carrying it out of the house. The warriors ran back and forth carrying two bags each, no matter how heavy, while Buck, Doug and Charlie conspired to pick those with wheels and a handle and according to Will, didn't tell the warriors how to tell the difference. There was a brief time when all the boys were inside and when they reappeared, Kad and Sidi were carrying Doc between them sitting in their clasped hands while Bani, Doug, Buck and Charlie carried assorted hand luggage and Peter followed to be sure the door was closed and locked after Freckles brought up the rear with a single bag held high with his tail.

The warriors placed Doc in one of the lounge chairs and while he was reluctant to let them go since it was the first time he'd had the opportunity to actually put his hands on two of the living statues, he knew he must because all the boys had to dress for lunch. He blinked in surprise when the door closed, the generator stopped, the engine started and the bus began to move all without anyone in the driver's seat. Freckles had stretched out on 'his' sofa and appeared to be very interested in an old leather, clam shell style satchel that Doc knew was his but he hadn't packed.

Peter was the first to appear, dressed, and with a resigned look at Freckles, he asked, "Where are we going?" This before he sat down in the driver's seat just after the bus passed the gate and proceeded up the road toward the town on its own and he still hadn't touched the steering wheel and it didn't appear to Doc like he planned to.

"Nassau Inn, on Palmer Square is very nice according to Victoria," Freckles informed Peter. "She thinks the shops in Princeton are adorable," he continued, "so she is a very good customer."

Peter nodded, leaned back and folded his arms, "When are we going to get there?" he wailed, "Are we there yet? I'm hungry!" This initiated a hue and cry from the other boys, although only the warriors' questioning pleas were legitimate.

The Inns' parking lot was almost empty due to the snow emergency, although it had been nicely cleared, so parking the Cat Mobile was no problem although no one was there to witness Peter's 'hands free' bus backing skills. Bucky took Victoria's arm after everyone was introduced, although since she made the reservation that included 'everyone', he allowed her to complete negotiations with the Inn's management with 'everyone' hidden behind the tallest boys who were in the habit of creating a human screen.

"Although I guaranteed 100 entrées," she began as she glanced into a large meeting room that was sparsely furnished with ten round tables and 100 of those universally uncomfortable stacking banquet chairs, "we do not need a banquet room set with 100 places. Perhaps something smaller and more intimate, with a fireplace would be perfect. This is our entire party although I anticipate additional charges for drinks, appetizers, wine, and other courses – including desserts, ordered from your menu." Victoria unbuttoned her coat while she explained her party's requirements more completely.

It seemed that the Inn general manager, the restaurant manager and the banquet manager, were well experienced in judging patron's quality jewelry, and quantity, right down to the nearest carat. Victoria was wearing a new gift; an Ancient-made necklace. She needed to engage in no more discussion as her party was ushered into just such a room with the fireplace already blazing.

The managers did do a serious 'double take' as Freckles slinked past them and the Great Cat offered them a toothy smile. A voice that sounded exactly like Peter's advised, "You advertise 'pet friendly'…" as he and Freckles brought up the rear of the party.

"One of these days, you are going to get me in so much trouble," the real Peter complained, "and what's with you and that satchel?" he asked. He'd noticed Freckles' unusual attachment to the Doc's old valise.

"This contains the Doctor's pet!" Freckles announced to the room.

"You brought Lucy along? You didn't need to, I have a housekeeper. Indeed, it was she who allowed the lazy glutton into the house several weeks ago. All that cat does is eat, lick herself in impossible places BEFORE she washes her face and then contrives to sleep in the exact places where I usually sit." Doc complained.

Freckles sat at his place after Peter removed a comfortable armchair that was way too small and went to reassure the servers that they wouldn't be part of the Great Cat's lunch as long as he was served using platters and bowls (punch bowls were fine), and Peter guessed that silver plate would be acceptable since the Inn didn't have sterling, at least none that they were willing to use.

Freckles opened the bag and extracted the groggy Lucy that he tucked between his hind legs. "Lucy the cat must come with you Doctor," Freckles explained, "in the event that she requires your assistance during the birth of her kittens."

"KITTENS," Doc exploded, "why that trollop! She was hanging out by my backdoor for months; she ate and drank milk but always ran away if someone opened the door and all that time she was allowing some tomcat to have his way with her." While he appeared to be incensed, he couldn't quite hide his smile. "Um," he continued, "perhaps I shouldn't ask this because of learning too much about your unusual abilities, but I wonder if you can tell me how many kittens?"

Freckles looked down at Lucy, who had readjusted her position so she was using one of his paws as a pillow. He grinned at Doc, "Lucy will have five in all; four females and one male," he responded, and then added, "All five are white, black and orange like Doug's hair."

Victoria questioned, "Is it possible that you are mistaken Freckles? I once had a tricolor cat and I was given to understand that all calicos are females just like mine was."

Freckles checked Lucy by looking down again, "No Victoria, Douggie, has all three of those colors…"

"Douggie," Doug asked with a giggle, "why pick on me? We'll have to ask Lucy about that."

Freckles shook his head, "No can do; house cats are like other cat species, there is some intelligence but there is a wall that is difficult to penetrate. House cats are like Great Cats', little cousins; the Jaguars."

Only one very brave server arrived with the party's drink order that included a rolling cart, a punch bowl filled with ice, two dozen bottles of wine and a stack of hand towels. Adults who had ordered wine, a very fine Merlot, were served first and the remaining bottles were poured into the punch bowl. To keep things easy for the server, everyone had prime rib. Peter had already explained how Freckles' 12 orders were to be served. The Inn didn't have hoagie rolls, so loaves of French bread were cut to size and then sliced open. One full cut of rare beef was placed on a toasted 'bun' and the sandwiches were stacked on a platter. For a change of pace and ease of consumption for Freckles, Peter ordered baked potatoes dressed with sour cream, bacon bits, butter and chives, the way he liked them. After Freckles tried one, he found them delicious, and they disappeared as fast as the prime rib sandwiches.

Doc's attention was drawn to the little warriors' lunches. Pound for pound, he judged that they ate more than Freckles. He likened them to world class athletes who were constantly at the peak of their sport, which required that they consume a minimum of 10,000 calories per day based on what he watched them eat at lunch. He just had to ask; "Do you lads eat as well at home?"

Bani nodded and was careful to swallow before he answered; "Oh yes, the People now hunt to vary our diets but all warriors keep farms and provide shares of food to the community cook hut."

"What sort of foods do you hunt and what do you raise?" Doc probed.

"Wild swine, anaconda, annoying poisonous snakes, nutria and sometimes monkeys who try to steal food; monkey brains are very good," Bani assured.

"I wish Marc was here," Buck reminded everyone about Marc's delicate stomach that rebelled every time he was reminded that he'd actually eaten nutria, a giant rodent. He still didn't know about monkey brains or poisonous snakes, although anaconda had been mentioned.

"Do not forget whisker fish," Kad reminded, "they are very much fun for the young boys and 'not yet warriors' to catch, and they are very delicious to eat deep fired. We always shared them with the Great Cats when they remained hidden from us, but now they help us, so the catches are larger and everyone eats far more."

"Whisker fish, do you mean cat fish?" Doc knew he made a mistake asking that question when he saw all the boys wince and glance at Freckles, whose low growl ended that area of inquiry. Freckles was overseeing Peter's efforts to chop fresh broiled salmon that he ordered for Lucy.

Apparently Lucy's sense of smell was not impaired by her pregnancy because she had emerged from Freckles' protection and was impatiently rubbing her recently explained gross body on Peter's leg to encourage speed in the preparation of her dinner. She already had a bowl of warm milk to drink, but she ignored it so she could drink it with her fish entrée, according to Freckles.

Bucky decided to bait the boys and Freckles, "If we're all done, let's hit the highway for Newark."

The warriors immediately looked deprived, and/or starved and Freckles' frown at Bucky was horrible to behold, while the white boys laughed to negate Bucky's rude suggestion.

"I guess not," Bucky concluded. He asked, "Well then, does anyone want dessert?" There was a unanimous show of hands and one eager, waving Great Cat tail.

Hot fudge sundaes seemed to be the unanimous choice. The white boys ordered one each, the warriors three and Freckles' was served his in another punch bowl. "Please don't get all sticky again," Peter cautioned, "We have no time to give you a shampoo and this hotel probably doesn't have a shower that's big enough."

"We have a state of art physical fitness center," the waiter interrupted; implying that the facility had large enough showers. By then, he was more comfortable serving a talking cat of any size and he was in awe of the total size of the eventual check that had already exceeded the cost of 100 entrees. "With really nice showers," he added needlessly, less enthusiastically when Peter offered him a human killing frown.

Bucky grinned at hearing the exchange and whispered something to his son and Doug. The whispering spread among all the boys until there seemed to be a consensus. Buck and Doug eyed the waiter a second time to be sure, and then nodded at Bucky, who sent Will to talk to the waiter just outside their dining room.

"I will be careful," Freckles assured Peter with his muzzle already buried in his potentially sticky treat.

Freckles lifted his head suddenly when everyone heard a whoop of joy from their waiter, Tracy, and then he exclaimed; "Holy shit, on a private jet, fulltime, plus expenses? When do I start?" Peter looked concerned when he saw Freckles' particularly nasty frown.

"That greedy, evil fiend Gus," Freckles announced without prompting, "plans to take many minions and steal all our treasure tonight!" He looked around the room, "Tracy," Freckles called out, "we need a television! Quickly please!"

"There's a big one set up in the banquet room you didn't want, but there aren't any hookups in here," Tracy's voice apologized as he and Will returned to the room.

Will grinned, "To answer your question; you just started. We'll help you carry it," he volunteered everyone's services.

"The stand is on wheels, I'll get it," Tracy countered. He decided that since the unique party included a talking cat, that perhaps a cable box receiver or some kind of player might not be needed. He had just about entered the room pushing the TV, when Buck and Doug relieved him of his burden, rolled it to a handy spot close to an outlet, plugged it in and returned to their seats. Will closed the door and Pettie pulled up what was the extra chair intended for Freckles and invited Tracy to sit down as the television flashed to life.

"I am sorry that I might get distracted by food," Freckles began, "I had Snoopy watching the principle fiends alternately and he followed Gus to the warehouse below ground floor. It is here you can see that this fiend also buys and sells stolen weapons. The People do not have below ground levels under their huts so I did not think to look underground."

There was a singular intake of breath as everyone watched Snoopy survey the warehouse basement that was littered with thousands of small arms of every vintage. Bucky burst out laughing, "Whoever this fool is, he is not an arms dealer like our friend, Evan. It looks like he buys stolen weapons without regard to whom he might sell them to." That observation brought frowns to all the boys' faces, except for Pettie.

Pettie nodded and grinned his understanding. "You got that right Bucky. My daddy collects revolvers manufactured in the south just before or during the Civil War. He only has two so far. One of them is one of only 700 made, an' I think only about 300 are known to exist but all 700 serial numbers are recorded and every serious collector knows who owns the 300. No one in his right mind is likely to pay anything for a weapon he knows is stolen if he can't show it around an' lord it over his collector buddies, so anything really good in that basement ain't worth a dime. Anything in those piles with mismatched serial numbers or counterfeits that's also stolen to boot, ain't worth a plug nickel except maybe as scrap metal."

Doc paused from eating to agree with Pettie, "You are correct young man. I told Gus that very thing when he asked. I thought his questions were academic, but I didn't know that he already had a basement full."

While Pettie explained antique weapons collecting, Snoopy was busy scanning the rest of the basement. He stopped while peering down on the heads of 20 men clustered in one small section of the room. Freckles looked up at the ceiling, "Why didn't you start with these evil fiends to begin the tour?" he scolded. Even Victoria giggled.

"Who's he talking to?" Tracy asked Doug.

"I think maybe he gave Snoopy the right to scan on his own. Snoopy recognizes weapons but maybe not how old or useful they aren't. Don't worry, Freckles will teach him," he assured the new guy.

"May I ask who Snoopy is and, ah, exactly where he is?"

Doug pointed up, "Snoopy is kind of a spy satellite, that's almost directly over us in this sector. You can tell by how much or how little the angle of view appears. He's about 25 miles up, give or take." When Doug saw that Tracy looked even more confused, he sought to reassure him, "We'll explain everything slowly when there's time, meanwhile just listen and learn about how we're going to take these bad guys out and by the way, welcome aboard Kermit, just be sure to clean him up after Bucky gets done using him," he cautioned. He saw Bucky grin, so he knew Bucky overheard. He added for Bucky's benefit, "Of course, one of your jobs will be to remind him to top off the tanks too; Kermit is a thirsty bird."

"Who the hell is Kermit? I thought I was going to work on Mr. Trenton's jet."

"That's Kermit," Doug advised before his attention was drawn to the TV. He pointed, "Now that's where all the dangerous stuff is located, over behind that wall. That looks like the armory on Sea Song. How are we going to take those 20 scumbags out Bucky?"

Sound came on the TV. It seemed that all 20 men were talking at once so no one could be understood clearly. Gus whistled to get everyone's attention, "I told you guys to always speak English! You may be in America now, but this basement ain't a fucking democracy. You all saw samples of the stuff we're goin' after upstairs, and we're goin' to get it the way I say, so we get as much as we can fit in the semitrailers just like I said."

"That Gus fiend thinks in a language like Gregor's or Meesha's, only different," Freckles announced, "when they become angry with you brave warriors on Sea Song boat," he added with a snicker.

"Russian, are they Russian or from Russia?" Bucky wondered out loud. He looked at Will with a raised eyebrow, which was enough for Will to open his ever present laptop and get to work researching Russian mob activity.

Since Joe was a linguist he interjected, "Remember that the old U.S.S.R. was made up of umpteen little countries that all maintained their own languages or dialects; their heritage. All these guys look too young, they're street punks; most likely the grandsons of the original immigrants but maybe speaking their grandparent's lingo makes them feel like they're really part of the Russian mob.

Will added; "There is no real organized Russian mob, so far as we know, just splinter groups like this one. Gus is a fence, another guy might specialize in high-jacking semis, and the least sophisticated might depend on drugs, protection, or women. How well any one group does depends on how smart the leader is. In this case, Gus is smart, obviously, but maybe he has a big problem with overwhelming greed. Our guys told him that there's a warehouse full of treasure but he's unwilling to wait for them to bring him more without any risk and paying them pennies on the dollar. He wants to get it all, or as much as he can in one operation for free, if he has a plan to get rid of all these punks afterward; and I bet he does."

Gus, on the TV, interrupted the conversation. He handed three of his men clipboards. "Here are three bills of lading and invoices for three actual loads minus the loads; one load of cigarettes, a load of booze and this one is for high end electronics. These should get you through the gates. The last truck through; will take out those guards. Do it quietly because you need to back up to the docks without alerting the guards inside." There were some audible 'snick' sounds. Some of the eager minions held up their blades.

The little warriors giggled together. Kad and Sidi held up their blowguns, "You are foolish to bring noisy knives to a blowgun fight," Sidi warned the TV.

"Even more foolish to attend any fight with these brave warriors!" Kad added.

"There's supposed to be 50 inside this huge sectioned off building," Gus on the screen continued, "but 15 think that they're in on this, so they'll help you get loaded up. After the trailers are loaded, take the assholes out."

"What about the cameras?" one man asked.

"The inside guys can get into the security room, so they'll handle that, but before you leave remember to load up every computer in that room. Don't just smash them up; today, even burned hard drives can be restored somehow. Leave nothing to chance and absolutely no one breathing," Gus instructed his crew.

That instruction chilled the fun of eavesdropping in the dining room. "I'll get one of the men to take you home," Bucky whispered to Victoria.

"You will do no such thing, my dear," Victoria hissed back with a smile for the boys. "If you think for one minute that I don't know some of what you do to earn this family a very good living, Godfather darling, you are very much mistaken," she informed Bucky in her usual imperious manner.

Bucky winced on hearing his wife's use of his unofficial title not often used more than once within his hearing, but couldn't help smiling. "Very well, my dear, but be forewarned that this could get messy and you will do exactly as you're told without arguing."

Bucky and Victoria were still unused to the Cat warriors' heightened senses, if they wished to use them. Bani sent a questioning look to Freckles who nodded back. Bani dipped a hand in his belt pouch and brought out what at first glance looked like a gold plated presentation fountain pen, except on looking closer, some of the boys noted that there were tiny keys or buttons along the sides so on closer inspection the device appeared to be a miniature clarinet; only from the way Bani handled it, it was clear that what might have been the pointy mouth piece was the very dangerous, business end.

Kad and Sidi stared, before they wailed a protest together, "Tara Bani this is unfair!"

Sidi continued, "Our tools are still dismantled, hidden in our luggage in Chief Bucky's hut; we are your protectors." It was clear from the way they ogled the elegant miniaturized Ancient tool or weapon, that they expected Bani to present it to one of them, or better yet, they thought he might have two more in his pouch

Buck winced, Doug hid his grin and Bucky cleared his throat. Kad corrected their blunder without looking at Victoria, "I am sorry, we meant to say, 'ostentatious mansion'…"

"Close enough," Bucky intervened.

Surprisingly, Victoria agreed with a laugh, "Why of course it is, it was designed to be; just look at the castles and manor houses built all over the world, they were and are intended to impress. But I must say, Trenton Hall pales in comparison to Cat City, doesn't it?"

"What exactly will that little thing do?" Pettie asked.

"You saw the ground and rock disappear under that hill without disturbing living things and then it was all restored?" Bani questioned. Everyone nodded; they remembered Carb and Tonga playing with a larger version while Spot watched. "Well, another setting could have created a perfectly flat wasteland that could not be restored. But this has never been used for war; the Ancients had no enemies that the Great Cats remember. However, Freckles believes that it can be applied to enemies if it can be used to harvest living stonewood trees and then reshape the wood to be useful. We will soon see, if it does not work on humans, then I will remove their hiding places," he added with a grin.

"Hiding places?" Doc asked hesitantly.

"Those evil buildings, so the fiends are left standing on bedrock," Bani returned confidently.

"That should be as a last resort," Bucky sought to dampen Bani's enthusiasm, "remember, suddenly missing buildings in the heart of a city would be very difficult to explain away." He smiled at a thought and added, "Although in Newark, I wonder how long it would be before the buildings would be missed," he mused.

Tracy, Kermit's new steward, was left behind to hand in his resignation, set his affairs in order in Princeton and report to the Trenton hanger at Newark International Airport as soon as convenient. He admitted that it wouldn't be long, just a few days, since he was left with a whopping big tip in addition to the gratuity that the Inn charged and the suggestion to keep his mouth closed regarding whatever he saw or heard in the private dining room that day. Will explained that he could live in the flight crew quarters temporarily before a new facility, a private airport, somewhere near where the Trenton's lived, was finished and Kermit was relocated there permanently.

Will and Joe, driving Bucky and Victoria led the greatly reduced convoy to the closed and guarded gates into one section of a larger warehouse complex in the Port Newark area. The gate guards tried to wave them away because no private vehicles were allowed in the truck area even though there had been no trucks dropping or picking up loads at that isolated building for over a week, just trucks heading to supply the ship. The guards knew about one very important delivery that arrived by cruise ship of all things, that was still docked on the other side of the building. It was rumored that it was provisioning and refueling before departing for a destination in Germany, but that was definitely none of their business; the entire crew seen on deck, seemed to be armed with automatic weapons.

They were aware of the shipment's importance and probable value because additional part-time guards were brought in to help unload and to further secure the area and the local staff were affronted if not insulted by a hint that the regular security force couldn't do its job. Two gate guards became four, and then eight, accompanied by the shift security manager for the entire complex.

The manager had been to meetings with Will in New York in Trenton Tower where Trenton International Security was headquartered so he was recognized although his credentials were checked for the fifth time. Joe was not recognized but his name was known by rumored reputation. He once was a star in some super-secret government agency that did not exist officially. Rumor had it that if boots on the ground were required for 'wet work' anywhere in the world, Joe was the agency's man, while Will was Joe's 'handler' as well as his life partner. That last point of fact made them a security risk somehow, even though being gay was generally ignored by the agency and frequently was found to be extremely desirable when a young handsome gay agent was required to get close to a target of like persuasion, young and handsome or not, mostly not. While Will and Joe were finally found to be acceptable to the gate guards, the couple sitting quietly in the back seat and apparently highly amused, was not.

The man had no identification in his billfold at all; just a thick wad of Ben Franklin's, while the woman had no ID and no cash that she showed. She did have about a pound of credit cards that she kept filed alphabetically, contained in plastic sleeve pages of a leather bound book but the only people who saw one of those cards was a cashier wherever she chose to shop.

After Will introduced Bucky and Victoria to the supervisor and he did a predicable double-take, Bucky opened the truck door and invited, "Ride with us to the building. It appears that we have a problem with some of the guys on the night shift and the day time shift might be needed to help us straighten them out. Oh," he tossed his thumb over his shoulder, "everyone behind us is in our party. Allow them through the gates and these same gates in the future after we get them all some ID. Some of them will be in and out of here regularly working on the shipment that arrived last night."

The supervisor looked back and up at the bus driver, "Are you sure Sir?" he questioned, "That bus driver looks kind of weird; he's got a big stuffed animal head on his shoulder and he appears to be talking to it. We look for bizarre behavior."

Bucky laughed, "I'm sure. The cat head is attached to a living cat. He's a very rare species of Jaguar and he's always with the owners of the shipment that came in last night. You better get on the radio and tell all your guys that he's going to be around and anyone who draws a weapon on him… well, let's just say that the dude should have his will made out."

Freckles drove the bus straight around the building to the dockside that was a beehive of activity with several semi tanker trailers lined up to feed Sea Song boat his ration of 'food' for his journey across the winter North Atlantic. Other semis were attended by forklifts unloading and storing food and supplies for the crew and the ship.

"Where the hell is he going?" Will asked when the bus didn't park near the office wing of the building.

"Who knows, just follow him. Maybe he wants to greet Gregor and Meesha," Bucky surmised. "Wherever he goes is sure to be interesting," he added.

Freckles parked near the fence that separated the employee parking lot from the dock area. The door opened and he bounded out with Bani held in his tail, straight at and then up and over the fence to disappear. Kad and Sidi followed on foot and jumped the six foot barrier on their own to leave the incapable white guys to stand around waiting for something. That something was billows of steam that rose all along the fence and then stopped as suddenly as it started.

"They must be using that tool to melt the snow over there," Bucky guessed, "I'd sure like to see that weapon in action."

"Me too as long as the business end wasn't pointed at us," Will agreed. "I just wonder how they plan to get the junk that's still missing from over there to over here." Just then the warriors jumped back over the fence. Of course they seemed to be aiming their bodies at their innocent human friends, who of course failed to catch them, so Peter, Doug and Buck wound up in the snow bank under Bani, Kad and Sidi. Bucky calmed down the face washing, snow stuffed down pants and shirt collars just by shaking his head.

"What are we doing here?" Bucky asked too sweetly.

Buck took the time to shake most of the snow that hadn't melted yet, down his pants legs before answering his father, "Come on Dad you can help. Freckles is going to toss the stuff back over the fence, the warriors are going to catch it and hand it off to us, simple."

"INCOMING," Freckles shouted using maximum cellphone volume as a warning even though artifacts were already in the air. The game, if it could be called that, ended in less than two minutes when Freckles returned to the compound side of the fence sideways so that his body took the warriors and the closest humans, including Bucky, fortunately excluding Victoria, down, back into the snow bank where the snow stuffing game resumed.

Doc ended the new game when he emerged from the bus, screaming, "FRECKLES, you bloody Cat!" He had been left behind in the bus to care for Lucy, his house cat.

Freckles froze in place. His tail stopped washing Buck's face with snow and quickly inspected his body, "No Doctor," he corrected, "no blood here." He hoisted the boys including Bucky to their feet and looked them over before he assured, "No blood anywhere, the odor is very distinctive, I would have known."

"I did not mean blood, blood; I meant that I just noticed that someone or SOMETHING," he emphasized, "shredded my favorite dressing gown to create a tidy nest in my valise for that trollop, Lucy!"

"Was your dress the color red with soft stuffing?"

"You know very well that it was!"

"Lucy feels safe and secure in the presence of your spore, so…"

Doc forgot he was angry when he noticed the artifacts that had been dropped willy-nilly in the plowed paved area, so at least they were easy to see. He picked up one that was closest to where he stood. It was a rod 12 inches long with a stylized Cat's paw, claws extended; on one end, and a simple handle on the other except the handles' finial was a very angry Great Cat's head in frighteningly detailed miniature, including teeth. "Absolutely extraordinary!" he exclaimed.

"What is that thing used for Doctor?" Bani asked. "It appears to be some sort of tool," he suggested.

"You are quite right, it is a tool. I bought one just like it from the dollar store although mine is made of plastic and it is not as ornate; I dare say that this is a backscratcher." He demonstrated its use.

Of course the warriors wanted to experiment. "I think it would be more effective without cloth coverings," Kad opined after his turn and promptly began to undress.

"Not out here," Freckles warned before he snatched the backscratcher away from Sidi and presented it to Peter. The hint was obvious when he sat down with his back to Peter. When nothing happened, he looked back over his shoulder to see Peter using the handy tool on his own back and grinning back at Freckles, attempting to imitate his employer.

Someone on Sea Song interrupted the potential argument by blasting half the port with a 30 second horn, which caused everyone to duck involuntarily. Gregor and Meesha appeared on the bridge wing and shook their fists down in Freckles' general direction, accompanied by a broad selection of Russian accented undeleted expletives despite Victoria's presence on the wharf. By then most of the ships' crew were leaning over the rails on that side of the ship after word spread that Freckles was back.

"Sea Song wants to be greeted," Freckles announced, as he ran at the ships' side. "Make way for incoming!" He advised the crew on the main deck while already airborne. He landed with all four paws on the rail and dropped to the deck silently to disappear into the nearest hatch.­­­­

Doug burst out laughing, "Don't tell me that Sea Song toots his own horn now," he asked Buck, who only rolled his eyes until they fell on Doc who had fallen to his knees when the horn sounded, close to another artifact; this one more intriguing than any of the others. Buck nudged Doug with his elbow and then pointed with his chin.

"I wonder where that was hidden," Buck wondered, "I sure didn't see it in the treasure, but there was stuff piled on stuff." Doc looked to see where Victoria was before moving so his body hid the item from her view. He was about to touch it when Doug picked it up.

"The Cats or Angus must have sent this with their collection," Doug pronounced. He handed it to the flustered Doctor after he regained his feet. "This was Ancient- made, see the detailing? If the People and the Cats allow you into El Dorado, you'll see whole really comfortable benches made out of cocks just as lifelike but impossible to move because of the weight." He leaned closer to Doc so he wouldn't be overheard, "Personally, I wouldn't want a solid gold dildo stuffed up my ass; way too heavy," he confided, "We tried the plastic kind in assorted sizes, but we decided that we'll just stick to the real things." Buck nodded and giggled his agreement.

Doc looked around to be sure there was no one close enough to overhear before he asked, "Um, if I may be so bold to ask, where did you boys get the lifelike plastic kind, and I believe you said something about an assortment of sizes?"

"Are you kidding us Doc?" Buck was incredulous, "There are porn shops all over Manhattan, pick one that doesn't look too sleazy and you can buy anything you want," he assured.

"But what if I was recognized by a former student or an associate?"

"Then you smile, and if he smiles back, if he's your type, maybe invite him to your condo for drinks and to have a look at your etchings or art books or that statue of Bani and let nature take its course between two willing guys. Buck and I met at school," Doug admitted, "at least we stared at each other at school," he corrected, "but one evening we met up in front of Buck's new house on the lake, and we've been partners ever since."

Buck caused Doc to stumble when he added, "This walking dildo and I were so tired of sucking ourselves off and using our imaginations before we finally met – seriously, you wouldn't believe it."

"Keep calling me names and no nookie for you tonight!" Doug warned with a laugh. "Burr, we should have worn more Stuff under our clothes. Let's get this junk inside before we freeze to death," he warned the guys, "Freckles will catch up after he's done chatting with Sea Song." He laughed again, "I wonder what Sea Song and Freckles are cooking up to surprise Gregor and Meesha with after they put to sea?"

"Maybe Sea Song will dry dock himself when they pull into Evan's shipyards," Buck surmised "or take himself apart so they don't miss anything."

Doc interrupted, "I think I understand that Snoopy is a satellite, but whom or what is Sea Song that you keep mentioning? Is he inside that beautiful cruise ship?"

Everyone that heard Doc's questions laughed and pointed, "That IS Sea Song," Buck enlightened, "and it isn't a cruise ship; its Evan Falconburg's expedition yacht. Notice how sleek it is? He wasn't designed for passengers, just the owner and a hundred or so guests to go anywhere in the world and in any kind of weather."

Doug elaborated, "Freckles makes friends with any machine that has minimum intelligence like a simple door lock or your security system or antique television. If he can make friends with something he can control it or make it more intelligent. You threw him off his game by using that old sliding dead bolt on your door. If he could have opened that door, the warriors would have come inside to see you in your study. They planned to seduce you, if you want to know."

"Shit," Doc groaned, "I'll replace that damned lock as soon as I get back home."

"You didn't miss anything Doc; they still plan to seduce you, only it will have to be tonight."

"Should I be listening or seeing any of this?" The security manager asked Will and Joe somewhat nervously.

Joe shrugged, Will grinned, "We, including Bucky, were impressed by your thoroughness at the gate. He invited you in the truck, which kind of indicates that you're in line for a promotion so you'll most likely see more of the same. We have a list of fifteen of the night crew, who helped unload the stuff you see here and the rest inside the warehouse. They threw all this over the fence during the blizzard. They got away with a whole lot more but we'll worry about that stuff later," he explained. He raised his voice, "If you guys are done playing around, everyone pick something up and bring it inside with you!" The sarcasm in his voice was just enough to restore order and cause everyone to collect at least one piece of treasure.

Doc bent to pick up a crucifix and nearly tipped over forward, "Not you Doc," Doug cautioned, "you're already carrying that statue that must weigh 10 pounds and that dildo, that's even heavier; we'll get the rest."

"Dildo," Victoria said without thinking, and looking very interested if not excited, until she thought about where she was and whom she was with, "I mean, what in the world is a dildo?" She bluffed.

Doc didn't think about his action in response; he extracted the item from his overcoat pocket with difficulty and showed it to Victoria. After Victoria's eyes widened, he realized what he'd done. His red face contrasted beautifully with dully glittering gold.

"Oh my, I wonder who the model was for that." Victoria couldn't hold back her laughter when Kad and Sidi thumped their chests and Sidi nearly knocked himself out when the clawed end of the backscratcher struck him in the forehead.

The laughter died when blood began to run from several tiny but deep punctures. Bani and Kad reacted to the medical emergency by rolling their eyes, laughing and digging in their pouches for their jars of Stuff. "You are one very dumb warrior," Bani pronounced as he spread a tiny smear of Stuff over the afflicted area. Bucky offered a snowy handkerchief to clean up Sidi's face. Kad took charge of cleanup somewhat less than sympathetically by smearing more blood around than he removed and actually smearing Stuff until Sidi's face was a strange combination of red and blue.

As soon as Doc saw red, his medical training kicked in, and he replaced the dildo in his coat pocket so his hands were free but by the time he got to Sidi, Bani had finished his ministrations and when he looked closely at the wounds, the bleeding had stopped and he was just in time to watch them close and then disappear! All this while the three warriors laughed and Sidi frankly admitted that the incident was one of his less than stellar moves. He pleaded uselessly for his compatriots to avoid broadcasting the event back home, but of course that was too late. Marta and Spot had it posted on the big screen in the Community Center within seconds after it occurred, no narration required. Spot relayed the Cat Peoples' laughter to all mind-speakers in North America.

Doc asked for Bani's jar of Stuff to inspect the marvelous paste more closely, "Do not…" Bani began to caution Doc not to inhale when Doc did exactly that. "I was about to say do not inhale Stuff when in a public place."

"Oh my," Doc expounded and took a second whiff, "Oh my, indeed!" He handed the jar back to Bani without additional comment and made very sure his overcoat was completely buttoned to further hide his instant reaction, behind his thermal Doctor Denton's, and his heavy cord trousers.

Since Freckles was otherwise occupied, Bani tried 'peeking' behind Doc's layers of cloth coverings with his mind and promptly broad beamed his findings in high definition. "Holy shit!" Pettie exclaimed mentally, "Maybe he is a long lost great uncle who was exiled up to this part of north Texas," he admitted with a giggle, "no doubt the black sheep of his generation that got himself cast out of the family by the bible thumpin' hypocrite relatives of that earlier age."

"Do not be concerned, Doc," Bani consoled, "your erection will go away in a short length of time. We call the paste that you breathed, Stuff; it has many properties and you just discovered one that we all enjoy very much although it works far better when it is applied; is the correct word topically? You can try it that way tonight, if you wish to explore without all those cloth coverings," he promised.

"Topically," Doc questioned, "yes that is the correct term. Does it need to be applied directly; if so, is it harmful if swallowed?" Although Doc and Bani were whispering, Kad and Sidi giggled with Bani in answer from across the almost empty warehouse.

Kad answered without regard to the echoes; "If that was so, we would all be dead; especially all these white warriors who are new to Stuff!" He stripped off Sidi's coat to be sure Doc had an unobstructed view of his erection. He pointed, "This was caused by Stuff applied to this dumb warrior's face," he shouted, "and he will require several light couplings before we return to Chief Bucky and Victoria's –ostentatious mansion!" Everyone noted that he was careful not to say hut.

Doc hurriedly and nearly breathlessly offered his services, to ease poor Sidi's affliction during the journey with a lick of his lips, as many times as Sidi required. He privately hoped that the blizzard would return and that the bus would get stuck so that he could ease all the boys' sexual urges and used his powers of deduction to presume that a light coupling meant a delightful suck or five.

Bani peeked into Doc's thoughts and assured him that what he hoped, was correct; all of the boys would appreciate a light coupling on the way home, even though the bus would not get stuck; there would be plenty of time if a small dab of Stuff was applied to the important exposed surfaces, but only if Doc really wanted to. Of course Doc wished to be of help just before he really looked at what was spread out on four times more pallets than the Cat People had room for in their treasure cave; then Doc didn't want to go home, even at the cost of giving oral first aid to poor Sidi and the other boys.

With more space, everything was more dramatically displayed all though except for obvious religious pieces, no effort had been made to sort items by manufacturer; what was made by the indigenous artisans for their people's use and what the same artisans were forced to create by the Spanish invaders for the use of the church, the aristocrats and the royalty at home.

Doc and Harman began the sorting task just like the Doc did at Gold Buyer's Pawn. Doc bent over to inspect a gem studded alter cross when he suddenly clutched his chest and appeared to be about to undress. He unbuttoned his overcoat completely, pulled a heavy sweater up to his chin and tore at reluctant buttons of his wool shirt and the Doctor Denton's until he reached snowy white skin.

Bani thought Doc was having a spell of some sort, which he couldn't cure since Cat People never got sick. They died from reckless accident beyond the individual's control or if they wished to stop their lives and journey to the great beyond where the Ancients currently resided, but they did not get sick. "Is something wrong Doc? Do you need water?" He asked with concern.

Doc suddenly grinned and removed his hand from inside his underwear to bring forth his jeweler's loupe. Spencer was sitting comfortably on a stonewood box with several more boxes open and arrayed around him. Tommy was at his side and playfully attempting to get Spencer as hard as the gems he was peering at. He waved his own loupe at Doc and his brother Harman, "Way to go Doc," he called, "Hey Harm, want to borrow my magnifying glass?" he asked rather sarcastically. "I never leave home without my loupe!" he announced.

"You mean from now on," Tommy added with a delightful giggle that made Spencer putty in his hands and subject to agree to whatever Tommy suggested. Tommy had turned into something of a little chatterbox after Freckles 'fixed' his communicator so he could speak almost normally and had the option of imitating anyone's voices just like Freckles. His little hand reached between Spencer's legs, "I think we should go out to the Cat Mobile and see if Lucy had her babies yet," he suggested when he discovered that he had achieved his goal. If Spencer got hard, his little head generally ruled his body until he wasn't. "I'm kind of thirsty," Tommy added with a squeeze.

"Okay," Spencer panted, "but just for a quickie," he agreed.

Doc watched Spencer and Tommy cross the big room with Tommy pulling Spencer along by his hand, "Where are they going at a time like this?" he asked Harm.

Harm only glanced at the odd couple; his brother Spencer and he guessed his brother-in-law, Tommy. "My bro is kind of pussy whipped; whatever Tommy wants, Spence does. They almost lived in the hold during the trip back so those chests full of gem stones aren't as exciting as Tommy always is. I imagine that tonight, Spence will be complaining about zipper burn since there's no time or any place for them to get really serious."

Doc temporarily forgot about the treasure, "Really, um, I dare say that your brother looks too handsomely well-endowed to be very friendly with a boy Tommy's size."

"Tommy tricked Spence the first time, after the hard life of a very young runaway. He was a prisoner and beaten and raped in some sort of B and D whorehouse and now that he's free, he has a loving, two dad family, a completely pussy whipped partner, plus Freckles fixed it so he could talk again so he's happy." Harm drew Doc's attention back to work by exclaiming, "The fucking Spanish, they polluted everything they touched, everywhere they went. Just look at all this crude junk, I can't imagine what beautiful pieces they melted down just to make crap out of the gold." He looked sheepish after his outburst, "Sorry Doc, but they still piss me off, several centuries later."

Doc was pleased to pat Harman's muscular back, "Nonsense my boy, you are quite correct, I totally agree with your views. I can't think of one country that Spain colonized anywhere that is more prosperous now than they were before the lands were invaded and subjugated, all in the name of a certain church. Even Spain today always seems to be on the verge of bankruptcy. I dare say that when they learn of this phenomenal find, they will institute proceedings in the World Court to recover THEIR treasure. We may be prevented from selling anything for years and years until the disputed ownership is settled. Unless…" Doc looked up at the ceiling, deep in thought.

"Unless what Doctor?" Bani asked from across the room while he, Kad and Sidi were already leaping pallets as a shortcut to where Doc and Harm stood talking. "Unless what Doctor?" Bani questioned again, "We, the Cat People did not steal this treasure from the true owners, we merely recovered it from thieves who no longer had need of it after they were dead!" He proclaimed proudly, accompanied by a giggle. Kad and Sidi pounded on Bani's back, while they congratulated him for his cleverness.

Of course the pounding degenerated into a rough and tumble, fortunately off to the side, away from the artifacts. Something that Doc hadn't seen before. "Egad, someone stop them before they hurt each other," Doc pleaded for help, only to look around to see that even Victoria was laughing, in part because they weren't in the middle of her rotunda or anywhere else in her house.

Poor human Charlie finally caught up and waded into the melee with his foot aimed at whichever head was visible, "Cut the shit, you silly mother fuckers!" he screamed uselessly as he danced around the pile.

"Why is Charlie trying to kick their heads? That doesn't seem to be helpful and is certainly more dangerous," Doc opined.

"Relax Doc," Doug advised, "Charlie could kick at those three heads until his leg fell off and he'd never make contact. Cat warriors are too fast plus they can sense his foot coming. If you really want some fun, play their brand of soccer with them, or better yet American football when you get to the Cat Peoples' lands. This rough and tumble match is tame because they're wearing clothes, or what they insist on calling cloth coverings. You won't see so much as a jockstrap or a pair of panties among the People," he added.

The warriors suddenly froze in place briefly before they got to their feet and straightened their clothes that everyone noticed included pulling up zippers, snapping snaps, re-buckling belts and lastly repositioning belt pouches and blowguns before all three looked toward the warehouse door before it opened and Freckles slinked in accompanied by laughing Gregor and Meesha.

Freckles shook his big head in his charges' direction before he asked Doc; "Unless what Doctor? You were saying something before the cherubs' rough and tumble?" He ignored the silent, outraged protests.

"Well it seems that Spain has been successful in laying claim to their plunder because they proved it was recovered from sunken or wrecked Spanish vessels no matter when or where the ship disappeared or whom they stole the plunder from originally. One area those dreadful people were very good at was record keeping, they sent copies of manifests out on several ships in a fleet so they know which ships went missing and what they contained, just not exactly where many were lost. I might add that the same policy held true for convoys laden with treasure." It was obvious that Doc was sort of thinking on his feet as he formulated a plan.

He continued, "Now all of this of Spanish origin, no matter how crude the object, in the form of coinage or bullion bears mint marks somewhere no matter how small so it legally belongs to Spain." He silenced the boys' groans with a wave and a grin. "Now believe it or not, the worlds' museums and serious collectors have quite enough to display or collect without someone, a country such as Spain, or a People like you, suddenly flooding the antiquities market with more of the same." He pointed to the smallish very heavy sacks of unsorted coinage, "Right now, I imagine that there are very few of a particular dated coin in a specific denomination thought or assumed to be in existence so those few coins are extremely valuable; perhaps 100,000 dollars or more each in round numbers, BUT what happens if we bring 20,000 more of the same year in mint condition, on the market?" He asked more or less academically when he saw smiles of comprehension.

Freckles' smile or grin was awesome as he leaned into Gregor to have his ears scratched. "You propose that we melt everything of Spanish origin down into bars that will have different markings?" Freckles asked for confirmation.

"Yes indeed, almost everything." Doc agreed with a giggle, "We will retain a few of the most stunning pieces, and sort through the coins to save perhaps 1000 of the rarest from each minting which we will sell very quietly to stay under everyone's radar while carefully maintaining the current rare coin market value."

"So now all we need to do is remove any gems and melt the Spanish junk down?" Pettie presumed.

"Yes my boy," Doc agreed, "but first, we must forget the Spanish name for your golden city; El Dorado must never be mentioned again and your city must officially be relocated to the other side of the world somewhere extremely remote." He began to study the three warriors carefully, so carefully they began to pose for him. Bani grinned, Kad flexed his muscles and Sidi jumped high enough to execute a triple back flip before landing on his feet in the same spot that he had just departed. "Not China, Japan isn't right," Doc mused, "the Philippines were bastardized by the Spanish, so nowhere near those islands. Australia and New Zealand's aboriginals are too dark skinned. Perhaps mix Polynesia with South East Asia generally, and plunk your city in the vast South Pacific on an island."

"How about Easter Island," Harm suggested, "that island already has a bunch of mysterious stone heads?"

Doc brightened before answering; "Yes, but perhaps 1000 miles further north, northeast generally somewhere. Not too close because Chile claims Easter Island as its own, although the ruling Spanish in that country nearly depopulated the island by taking the natives as slaves since it had no other value and you can be sure those that remained became devout Spanish, Christians just to survive." Doc stunned everyone who had seen Fang's 13 brand new, towering golden Ancients when he told Harm; "Did you know that some of those so called Easter Island heads have been excavated and that many are complete effigies, right down to their feet? Once again the question arises; how were any of them moved from the quarry site miles away, to their present locations all around the island?"

Bani asked Freckles a silent question that sent Kad and Sidi to the pallets of gold bars in readiness for the Great Cat's affirmative answer. Freckles nodded and Bani directed Doc's attention toward the two warriors. Those masters of showmanship, pointed at one small pallet that weighed two tons. Kad used the backscratcher as a wand.

"Hocus pocus!" They intoned together dramatically and made come hither motions to the pallet after it rose three feet above the floor and obediently followed them to where Doc stood before it sank to the floor once again.

While Doc was predictably speechless, others who had seen mind control of heavy objects before were less impressed. "Hocus pocus, really?" Doug giggled and shook his head, "Is that the best you can do? Why didn't you use abracadabra again?" He wondered.

Little Sidi looked down his nose at Doug, his heckler, although he had to look up to appear insulted, "We thought abracadabra was being over-used, that is why," he answered with maximum distain in his voice.

Doug laughed harder. "You could have used Tongue to say what you really said using mind-speak," he suggested.

"What did they really say Doug?" Victoria questioned.

Kad gave Victoria the truthful unedited version before Doug or anyone else could reply. "We always say; 'Become lighter you fucking heavy box!' but of course it doesn't really matter," he added happily.

"Say that again using Tongue," Buck suggested between giggles at seeing his mother's expression.

After a rapid series of tongue clicks and impossible throat noises, the heavy pallet rose up again and hovered, "Okay Mom, now try to lift a bar off the stack."

Victoria not only tried, she succeeded, and while she and Bucky handed the ingot back and forth, Bani grinned at Doc, who had developed slumped shoulders because of the weight of the two artifacts in his coat pockets; his Bani statue and the forgotten dildo.

Doc suddenly used both hands to clutch his overcoat pockets at first to keep the coat from rising and then in an effort to keep the once heavy artifacts from escaping the pockets or his hands. Bani caused the dildo to wriggle free and drift down to settle between two of the crudely molded alter crucifixes before returning it to its original weight. Doc managed to grasp and hold on to feather weight 'Bani' before the living Bani returned some weight to it so it no longer wanted to drift away and it would stay in Doc's pocket without causing his body to tilt slightly to that side.

While Bani, Kad and Sidi kept the others occupied with other feats of apparent legerdemain, Freckles looked down on the two nearly matching crooked crucifixes that bracketed the Ancient dildo. Both shimmered briefly until both had almost disappeared except the cross pieces' arms drooped visibly to the upright. The shimmering stopped as suddenly as it started to reveal perfect statues of Kad and Sidi accoutered as Cat warriors although each held a full size mysterious Ancient tool in scale with their golden bodies. The tools replaced their typical bows and arrows and made the new guardians of the mythical unnamed city more fearsome, because of the unidentifiable tools.

Tall Pettie was first to notice the change. "Holy shit Freckles you are sure one very clever Cat!" He congratulated and complimented Freckles.

"I know this Pettie, but thank you," Freckles acknowledged, as modestly as one of his charges.

Sidi was delighted with his replication, but Kad, not so much, "We should not be shown guarding some Ancient coupler; we should be guarding Tara Bani wearing his Ancient ceremonial armor," he protested.

"You have suits of armor?" Doc interrupted, showing unusual interest, "Did you bring it with you? What does it look like?" he bubbled with enthusiasm.

Freckles looked down on Kad and grinned, "Do you know, Cat warrior Kad," he began, "that you are sometimes very annoying to this Great Cat? If Tara Bani wears protective cloth coverings, so must his guardians." His tail pointed to the neatly stacked stonewood chests generally that were thought to be full of gem stones, "Summon the storage boxes here so you may dress as proper Ancient Cat warrior guards," he ordered.

Kad decided that he spoke out of turn; he liked his naked effigy just fine, but it was too late. Three chests sorted themselves out from the others and drifted to where the Family stood and Bani lowered his arm with a killing frown at big mouth Kad for mentioning the Ancient suits of armor.

The little warriors demonstrated the speed and agility required to divest themselves of their modern more confining cloth coverings in favor of what was in the traveling chests. They all forgot about the pleated kilts that wrapped around their waists that closed and were cut in the front in a swallowtail so that they had total freedom of movement, their manhood's hung free and were exposed more than concealed with the slightest movement of the light, apparently flimsy cloth of glittering gold.

"They told us that, that cloth is better than Kevlar," Doug imparted to Will, Joe and Bucky. "It's supposed to repel darts, arrows, bullets or even 'rays', whatever they are."

"Why would they need body armor?" Will wondered, "I certainly wouldn't go against one of those kids if they were buck naked and I had all the toys on my side of the fight."

Doug shrugged and grinned, "Maybe some other worlds the Ancients visited weren't quite as hospitable as us puny humans. Of course if they wanted us as slaves, our ancestors would be calling those boys' ancestors, master the day they arrived, assuming humans were walking upright by then."

Victoria couldn't resist fingering the beautiful material of the warriors' mantel-like vests that she noticed also closed in the front without the aid of the wearer and once closed, there was no seam visible to the human eye. "How could this light material stop a bullet?" she asked.

The warriors shrugged their ignorance but Doug reminded the others, "I didn't say it would stop anything, I said repel; there's a very big difference."

Surprisingly Freckles joined the discussion, "The Great Cats think that any harmful object that was sent to these cloth coverings would be returned to the sender with an equal amount of force, but we are unsure." He actually winked at Doug, "Perhaps Doug, you should shoot your firearm at bigmouth Kad to be sure his armor is in working order."

Doug laughed at that suggestion, "I think Kad and I will just trust the Ancients…" He had been standing over Kad while the warrior was removing his helmet/mask from his box when he saw something else in the bottom that Kad was unaware of. "Hey look Kad there's what looks like a dismantled tool down there."

Kad dropped his head gear and picked out the tool in two pieces. Two flat ends seemed to have an affinity for each other as they snapped together without help from Kad. It seemed as if his touch caused them to become active. Sidi's tool reacted the same. Both warriors' eyes were as big as saucers as they moved from their Ancient tools or potential deadly weapons to Great Cat Freckles to offer their silent thanks.

Freckles rolled his eyes to disavow knowledge that the tools were packed with the armor and then warned both warriors; "The first misuse, will be the offenders last; you would not recover from the swat I would give you if you were dipped in paste," he promised.

"Stuff," Charlie reminded once again. He directed the three; "Finish putting everything on so Doc can see how the Ancient dudes actually looked wearing dresses," he added as a zinger and to lighten the mood after Freckles' warning.

The masks and hoods were one piece, something made from cloth that the KKK might have worn but without the pointy top, but when the warriors slipped them over their heads they gained body and tightened up around the face and their eyes became Cats' eyes in shape and in color and there was even a suggestion of Cat ears until small ones actually grew from the bumps and moved independently of each other like mini dish antennae – or Cats' ears.

"HOW DO WE LOOK DOCTOR?" Bani's question didn't come from him. It seemed to arrive in everyone's ears from every corner of the cavernous space yet there was no echo and the question wasn't unpleasantly loud. "HOW DID THAT HAPPEN? THIS DIDN'T HAPPEN IN THE GREAT HALL."

"You guys were using mind-speak until you took the masks off," Doug reminded.

"You look like the precursors to the pharos," Doc responded gleefully to answer Bani's question. "Tell me, are there statues or bas-reliefs of the Ancients dressed in this manner? Some photographic images would be helpful," he chortled and continued, "I'm getting the definite feeling that lost Atlantis is about to be discovered with unknown tons of unique golden treasure as proof."

Freckles answered in the negative and gave the reason, "The Great Cats knew of this armor but it was unknown to be worn by the Ancient Twelve because they had no enemies. It was my honored sire who caused these three brave warriors to don these coverings to impress these white warriors and the People who were new to Cat City."

Bani sent a suggestion to Freckles as he pointed silently around the warehouse walls. The warehouse was constructed of reinforced concrete slabs that were poured horizontally and then raised to vertical to enclose the space so the blank walls presented a huge canvass similar to the living rock of Cat City's walls and ceilings. Freckles nodded his approval of Bani's plan.

Bani placed his two hands on Kad and Sidi's shoulders for a minute until both nodded confidently before they strode to the nearest wall. "HOW BIG?" Sidi asked with his tool already pointed.

"Big, like Cat Place and make the walls glow if you can," Buck challenged.

All the humans expected to see a fanciful laser show but they were disappointed when nothing at all happened at first. Both pointed their tools at the wall and looked back at Bani, seeking his approval. Bani obviously saw something that no one else saw because he raised his fountain pen-sized personal tool and made some unknown adjustments before he directed his tool at the relocated pallet of gold bars and several disappeared, "PAINT," he explained out loud for non-mind-speakers.

The obvious seam between two of the massive wall panels suddenly disappeared and the rough surface of the two panel canvass became glassy and then began to fuzz in and out of focus if you were a mere human. The fuzz resolved into a blue shimmer generally, from which three figures began to appear; two golden armor clad guards, Kad and Sidi, bracketing Tara Bani seated on his intimidating golden throne all highlighted by a blue glowing background.

The real Bani wasn't satisfied. He glanced at Freckles who seemed to be intent on altering more 'Spanish junk' into much more beautiful and satisfying Ancient made artifacts. Kad and Sidi nodded in response and directed their tools toward the 'floor' of their epic art work. Once again the area shimmered and then quickly resolved into a pair of half-grown crouching Great Cats; one of which had a larger than normal spot on his nose.

Bani lifted his mask so he could speak naturally, "How is that for our first try?" He asked the audience with a benign giggle in an effort to negate the unknown power required to create such images in just a few minutes. "Check out your image Great Cat Freckles," he suggested.

No one had a chance to reply because the awe inspired quiet was filled with two obvious snickers; Kad and Sidi weren't quite finished with their masterpiece and gave themselves away. Bani turned back to see that the blue background had been relieved by three scaled down phalluses, each spurting ropes of diamonds in perpetuity in showers above the warrior's heads. While he watched, three over-size emeralds departed one of the open chests, drifted across the space and welded themselves to the three chests, outside their vests.

Freckles was about to complain about his brother's deformity when his eyes and tail looked toward the door as Spencer and Tommy returned from their 'break', laughing and carrying Doc's old valise between them. "We watched Lucy have her babies," Tommy announced the blessed event. "Just look at them, aren't they just beautiful! Can we have one when they're weaned?" He asked Doc hopefully while Spencer grinned and shook his head helplessly. He was not as excited about being a human parent to a house cat as Tommy was.

Doc peeked inside the open bag only to have Lucy hiss a warning at him, "Just for that, you ungrateful slut, I dare say young Tommy can have all of your offspring and you can go along as part of a package deal," he huffed.

Freckles sent his tail into the bag and carefully lifted out one particular kitten. He held it up for everyone to see the tiny calico fur ball before lowering it to his eyes for closer inspection. "Hmm, Douggie has no mind block at this age." He returned Douggie to Lucy and then just peered into the open valise, "The females also have unblocked minds! I will teach them to be very small Great Cats for you Doctor," he volunteered.

Doc made a face at Freckles' announcement. "I go from no cats, to one cat and now there will be six. It is I who will be sitting and sleeping on the floor," he moaned.

"Perhaps when they are older and more intelligent," Freckles suggested, "they will choose other human companions, Doctor." His tail pointed down to where Tommy knelt beside the portable 'nursery' with one hand inside that caused Lucy to emit a soft rumbling purr of pleasure as her new born litter of kittens began to nurse for the first time.

"It's almost time for the shift change. I'll have both shifts in the next space as soon as the night shift punches in," the security manager reminded Will and Joe. He looked at the list of names and shook his head, "You know you should have allowed my day guys to have some overtime instead of bringing in those part-time assholes," he scolded. "But what's done is done; one or two examples will clear the air and my crew can get in here to begin sorting this stuff without any worries about any sticky fingers, not with that giant cat and those three native kids around with those, um, whatever they are, that can change concrete walls into pictures."

Every security guard from both shifts, including gate guards mustered in the warehouse adjacent to the one housing the treasure. That hadn't ever happened before; the entire complex was on lockdown. Even the gates were padlocked. A group of 15 part-time guards, clustered together off to the side, whispered together; the unique meeting had nothing to do with them, but someone's ass was in a sling. None of them realized that the very expensive backpacks purchased from Bass World or some other quality sporting goods store, they were still wearing that were more suited for two week wilderness camping trips than they were for carrying lunches, snacks and something to drink during their breaks, made them stand out.

News traveled fast in the complex's security community, by phone, or radio, or word of mouth, so everyone in that big empty space knew that Buckminster Trenton III was there that day accompanied by his wife, some boys, young men and what had to be the biggest wild cat in the world, and it was allowed to run free. After the men were assembled, an interior door opened and the visitors walked in preceded by the damn huge cat.

After the cat sat down and politely wrapped its tail around its paws, it was joined by three boys and one man who was slightly taller. Two boys flanked the third, a slightly shorter boy. No one appeared to be armed although Kad and Sidi, once again dressed as boys, fisted their blowguns not their Ancient tools, while Bani held his mini tool loosely ready to fire it at the first thought of aggression. They still didn't know if the tool worked for certain on humans, or, if it worked, what the result might be.

"My name is Trenton," Bucky began. He threw his hand negligently to the side to include Freckles and the three exotic warriors, "These are close family friends and recent clients of this secure storage facility. Some of their personal items arrived last evening during the blizzard and most are currently stored in the next building. I say most, because a few items disappeared while the shipment was being unloaded and I WANT EVERYTHING RETURNED WITHIN TWO HOURS! IS THAT CLEAR?"

Bucky wasn't indicting the entire force; his eyes were fixed on the 15 guys standing by themselves, who were wearing the expensive packs generally, and the two ringleaders, in particular. The guilty few were further identified and isolated by some rapid sidesteps after the innocent noticed nervous glances at the two leaders and one them only thought about reaching for his sidearm as an act of desperation.

Bani raised his arm. The only sound in the huge empty space was the sound of metal in assorted sizes, weights and in various alloys, hitting the concrete floor. These sundry items included but were not limited to; the man's weapon, extra ammunition, two uniform badges, buckles, buttons, zippers, a pocket knife, backpack frame, screws from a compound tibia fracture, $1.59 in loose change and the metal toes from the man's safety shoes. Missing was the man's body and all cloth coverings whether organic or synthetic. The byproducts from the man's disappearance drifted down on the metallic items as a fine dust that was composed of basic elements and simple carbon–based compounds and unseen water vapor increased the humidity in the immediate area temporarily.

Kad and Sidi glared at Bani briefly because he succeeded in obliterating the head that they aimed their darts at before the darts arrived. He grinned and shrugged. The two were mollified when two bodies that had been standing somewhat to the rear of the vanished ringleader, slumped to the floor; each wearing a red feathered dart on his face.

Bucky resumed as if nothing had happened except a reduction in the number of thieves, "There were 15 of you, now there are 12. That should be enough to retrieve the stolen items from Gold Buyer's Pawn." He looked at one survivor in particular, "Including the Cat statue under your truck seat." He said to the group, "Since you are expected to bring more this evening, you will have no trouble getting in. The missing items are on the third floor of the adjacent building. Use any force to succeed," he advised and looked at his watch, "Your two hours begin now." He halted the stampede of white faces, some with wet spots in the front of their uniform trousers, by pointing at the two dead men, "Take them with you and dispose of them somewhere," he directed.

"WAIT," Kad and Sidi chimed together. They raced each other to recover their precious darts and administered final harmless kicks to show their disdain for vanquished enemies.

The Family left the day and evening shift supervisors to explain away the events of the last 15 minutes and to mitigate any horror; they were to announce that generous bonus checks would accompany their regular pay as well as overtime for the additional work that they would be required to do pertaining to the shipment in the next warehouse. That shipment was the first of several that would arrive over the next few months that would keep them very busy.

Victoria had been invited to board Sea Song with Lucy and her brood while Bucky and the boys took 'care of business' in the warehouse. She didn't miss a thing as Freckles helpfully sent video to every TV and monitor on the ship. They found her in the main deck lounge sitting on a sofa with Doc's valise open at her side. Bucky rolled his eyes and the boys who knew her best, laughed. They knew what was coming.

Victoria held a sleeping kitten curled up in her cupped hand while she stroked it gently with a single finger. "Darling!" she exclaimed, "This is Buttercup, isn't she precious?" She held up her hand toward Bucky, "Buttercup, this is daddy!" she introduced.

"Daddy!" Buck repeated from his knees. He was already hidden behind another sofa with Doug at his side.

"Vicky, are you sure that you want a cat in your clean house?" Bucky begged her to reconsider without saying so directly.

Freckles thought he would help Victoria convince Bucky that adopting Buttercup was a very good idea. He thought to relieve one of Bucky's major concerns, "After House Cat Buttercup is fully grown, she will use a human toilet; there would be no kitty litter to walk through in your bathroom. Also if these House Cats can be taught before their mind blocks are established, they could converse with Great Cats and other mind-speakers and talk with you after we provide them with communicators."

Bucky's eyes widened when he considered those possibilities and then changed the subject by pointing out the images from Snoopy. The 12 luckless men were shown as they arrived at Gold Buyer's Pawn on the TV with no apparent help from Freckles after he scolded the satellite from the restaurant. "Where are Gus and his 20 thugs?" Bucky asked. Snoopy responded by switching locations. Gus was playing at being Godfather by treating his band of punks to what was going to be their last supper at a local Italian Restaurant.

The images changed again, back to the pawnshop's back door. The thieving guards were expected, although not so early, and were allowed inside with open arms due to the size of the backpacks they were wearing that appeared to be full, although the fullness was mostly crumpled newspapers. The pawnshop workers didn't consider the weight of gold or how easily the men moved before they drew their guns and herded all the shops' backroom workers before them into the renovated department store and into the freight elevator for the short trip up to the third floor. Someone remembered to bring duct tape to bind everyone and cover their protesting, threatening mouths. Freckles did mute the sound at that point in difference to Victoria's presence, as if she didn't know what Gus would do to the luckless crew when he found out that he'd been robbed and got his hands on them, until the duct tape effectively ended the stream of vulgarities.

Everyone in the lounge was amazed when they watched the men utilize the newspaper to double wrap each and every artifact before they very carefully placed them in the backpacks for transport back to the Trenton warehouse. Fortunately the total weight wasn't too great so each managed to carry their heavy loads. Two men lagged behind the others when they were all about to board the elevator.

"What the fuck are you two assholes doin'?" one man asked the laggards.

Pettie pointed and giggled, "I believe them two dumb some-bitches are shoppin'!"

Pettie was correct. The two reappeared carrying a television between them that appeared to be at least 60 inches. "We thought we would bring Mr. Trenton a little gift so maybe he won't have that little foreign kid vaporize our asses like he did to poor Sam."

"See," Doc whispered to Bani, "he didn't refer to you as a Hispanic, an Indian or any other nationality. The Cat People are citizens of the world but you must never publicly lay claim to any of the newly found Atlantis treasure," he cautioned.

"Poor Sam my ass; he's the one who got us into this mess. I was hopin' to work my way into a full-time job with this company, but now if we're very lucky, we'll be alive to return to the unemployment office tomorrow. Put that fuckin' TV down. I don't think the man needs a stolen television. Let's roll before Gus gets back and we have to shoot our way out of here."

One TV thief protested, "This one ain't stolen, it says right here on the back; 'reconditioned'."

The man in charge drew his weapon to end the discussion, "I said leave it, or stay here with it," he warned a final time.

The two complied by placing the TV on the floor. One sought to have the last word, "Who the fuck died and left you in charge?"

"SAM!" was the unanimous answer from the others in the elevator.

The former guards got no further than the gate house when they returned with the loot. The filled backpacks were transferred to another truck and driven away. The men were individually stripped of their weapons, ID badges and the metal cap and blouse badges that they recalled made such a hollow sound when they hit the concrete warehouse floor earlier that evening just after Sam disappeared, but they had been allowed to keep their lives and return to their families and final checks would be deposited as usual.

Freckles sniffed the air and bounded from the lounge with the advisory; "It is evening food time! We will have deep fried whisker fish with all trimmings or pizza." He slowed so Peter could catch up, "Is pizza good tasting? It smells very delicious."

"Yup," Peter laughed, "it's great but we'll have to see how you manage eating it by the slice without getting messy."

No one thought about mentioning the Ancient's gold dinner service to Doc in advance so he was properly blown away by the table settings when he entered Sea Song's dining room. His loupe came out and he even dared to bang his plate on the table as a crude way to test its strength versus its light weight and lack of malleability; it refused to be bent. Kad and Sidi had no answers to Doc's questions while Bani and Freckles were more interested in eating than they were answering metallurgical questions.

Freckles looked kind of depressed when he saw the first pizza pies being served and more so when he saw how the slices were eaten; there seemed to be difficulty keeping the toppings from sliding off the crust when using two hands equipped with thumbs. He had no chance with using his tail so he would have to be content eating fish sandwiches, baseball-size hushpuppies (a convenience for Great Cats only) and French fries.

That was until Chef Chou arrived in person to deliver a golden tray heaped with something that smelled exactly like pizza, except no toppings were visible. "Greetings, you beautiful creature," Chef Chou boomed, "I heard that you enjoy eating most people foods that you can manage without assistance and I made these especially for you. These are called calzones, they're just like pizza but the toppings are trapped inside the crust," he explained. "Try one," he encouraged.

Of course, one or a dozen was not enough, although Freckles did offer one to Peter and since one calzone was approximately one 12 inch pizza that was enough for Peter. "How much weight can Big Foot hold?" Freckles asked Peter while they ate.

"I guess about two tons, why are you asking? Do you want to bring back some of the junk?" Peter wondered.

"No, just some of the gold metal; I need to fashion some Great Cat conveniences," Freckles whispered delicately since Victoria was present. Then he added conversationally, "Also, poor Austin has some badly oxidized parts; his bones are weak and there are holes in his metal coverings so I will replace everything before I give him intelligence and superior power under his new bonnet. Remember you promised to help," he reminded Peter.

Peter smiled, "Sure I'll help. If I understand you correctly, you're planning to replace all of Austin's rusted steel parts; the frame and the body with gold and then do the same with the engine? I don't know how much help I'll be, but I wouldn't miss working on the first solid gold project car ever built."

Gus realized that something was wrong as soon as he walked in the pawnshop warehouse and found that all the workers were missing and the store was slipping into chaos. Newly pawned items were piling up in the store and should have been taken into the warehouse and racked. Worse, customers in the store to redeem their pawned items couldn't complete the transactions because no employees were there to pull the redeemed items and deliver them into the store.

He found his workers bound and gagged on the third floor and the only items missing were every scrap of mysterious treasure. It was obvious to Gus that the Trenton Security pricks had shopped some of the booty around and found a better deal. They waited until he was out for dinner and boldly barged in and stole everything back so it could be sold to someone else.

The Family had moved into Sea Song's theater and watched the events unfold with growing amusement even though Snoopy's steep angle of view didn't always allow for all facial expressions to be seen; the sound of enraged voices compensated nicely and revealed Gus' revised plans.

Freckles had Bani, Kad and Sidi sitting beside him and Kad and Sidi had their 'tools' out and were receiving instructions from Bani and Freckles while Charlie and Peter were left out of the loop. Peter and Charlie were human and all they could do without risk of injury or worse was to call the cops several times when they were told to via mind-speak. The rest of the boys were totally bent out of shape because they weren't allowed to be involved at all, even after repeated appeals to Bucky. Bucky just referred them to Freckles and Bani; the evil fiend Gus and his minions planned to steal from them so he and his minions were theirs to deal with in a preemptive manner. There would be no disturbance at the Trenton warehouse complex; the Great Cat and Cat warriors would deal with the threat in and around Gold Buyer's Pawn.

At one point in their planning session, Joe saw the warriors check their inventory of yellow feathered darts and frown. He went out to Bucky's truck and retrieved a titanium case that most had seen him carry on occasion but never open. He opened it in front of the warriors and offered them each a Slurpee straw and packages of tiny color coded glass darts. The uninvolved Family heard Joe explain that a dart would give the appearance of a drug overdose and the wound would appear to be from a bug bite if it was noticed at all. They didn't want to kill; they wanted reasons to call the police who would investigate the source of the drugs that caused the rash of drug overdoses. The warriors replaced yellow feathered darts already in their blowguns with red, and they appeared confident and ready to go. All they had to do was get into position and wait until Gold Buyer's Pawn was about to close at 10 P.M.

Freckles drove Big Foot across town from his usual position; the back seat with his tail extended out the back window, while Peter sat in the driver's seat. Peter suggested that they stop at a convenience store to buy Slurpee's so the warrior's would have a legitimate reason to have Slurpee straws in their mouths. Peter and Charlie had to pay since the warriors had no acceptable American money and then they all had to listen to Freckles' grumble and moan about how good they smelled and how it was a pity that the Slurpee store didn't have a Great Cat size. Peter finally directed Freckles to plow a parking place along a quiet street with the promise of a taste and then wouldn't give him a taste until he got outside the truck to avoid any probable messes.

Peter removed the lid from his giant drink and suggested that Freckles take the cup in his tail and tip it back into his open mouth. Freckles offered the empty cup back to Peter after a successful trial and then stared longingly at Charlie, the warriors and their drinks until he'd finished them all and the empty cups became props for the warriors' adventure. After they resumed their journey, Peter suggested, "You know if we're going to be riding in Big Foot or the Cat Mobile you should think about fashioning some sort of Great Cat-size travel containers in acceptable metal (he meant gold)."

Peter received a cherry flavored face slurp for that suggestion and Kad and Sidi found their bodies transported from the backseat to the front seat into Charlie and Bani's laps just before Peter heard the back window slide open and a gold bar was deposited on the trucks' backseat. He rolled his eyes to the side and up at Freckles. "I suppose you already loaded two tons of gold into the truck bed?" he asked cautiously if not fatalistically.

"Oh yes," Freckles responded absently with his attention focused on the gold bar that began to glow. "But I needed more so I lightened it so Big Foot is full."

"Is heat involved in the creation of whatever you're planning to make? Meaning, ARE YOU GOING TO BURN US UP SO YOU CAN MAKE A BOWL?" Peter shouted as the interior temperature began to rise and the glowing bar, if not the seat upholstery began to smoke ominously.

Freckles reversed the conversion process as quickly as he started it, then returned the bar to the truck bed, "OOPS!" he sort of apologized for being impetuous and returned his chin to Peter's shoulder as if nothing at all had happened.

"Next problem," Peter advised, "you know we aren't visiting the best neighborhood in Newark and SOMEONE already loaded us up with a fortune in your extra special, lightened gold bars?"

Instead of apologizing, Freckles emitted a classic Buck-style gravelly giggle. "Yes, we will have much amusement with would–be thieves. Light gold is even more conductive than the heavy kind. We will play GOTTCHA! We will take turns and keep score while Bani, Kad and Sidi vanquish the evil fiend Gus and all his minions," he declared.

Big Foot was parked on the side street just before the pawnshops' front entrance where the big sparkling clean, snow free truck sat in lonely very noticeable splendor but was not visible from the pawnshop. Freckles gradually dimmed the street lights of the entire block to black before they parked to improve any would be thieves' comfort level, if any would be tempted to steal some of the truck's glittering cargo, or even the entire truck, since it was obviously idling although all the lights inside and outside were off, the windows were steamed and an interested party had to be at least seven feet tall or climb up to really see inside through the side windows. Bani, Kad and Sidi had departed the truck 200 yards before it was parked and had to walk past it on their way to the pawnshop.

The sturdy little warriors reported that they were being followed by three dark cloth covered figures, including hoods, by the time they reached Big Foot. Charlie giggled in their minds before countering that they should have said, 'picked up a tail' or they were 'being tailed' as the proper streetwise terminology. The warriors argued that only Freckles had a tail and although Cat warriors' couplers could be mistaken for tails because of their extraordinary length and Cat-like dexterity; couplers were always attached to the front of their bodies. Further, Sidi reported that after looking around the snowy street closely; that there were no loose tails to pick up. The mental humor ended when the three toughs lost interest in the warriors in favor of obtaining possession of Big Foot. It was then that 10 more hooded figures emerged from a dark building across the street and also looked rather covetously at Big Foot.

"Utoh," Charlie sang in everyone's mind, "turf war!"

Freckles boldly checked the potential combatant's minds and gleefully reported that the whole city block where Gold Buyer's Pawn was located, held the unique status of being neutral territory because of its commercial value in purchasing merchandise without questioning the seller too closely. This meant that anyone who was in the neutral zone was safe from being relieved of their valuables and/or cash. However, the neutrality rule did not extend to inanimate objects such as Big Foot.

A bilateral meeting between the rival gangs was held in the street. Curiously the three toughs were adjudged as equals to the group of 10 because the three carried hand guns and only one of the ten were similarly armed. It was quickly agreed that the two gangs would share the wealth equally as soon as they relocated the 'abandoned' truck to the pawnshop's backdoor.

A more adventurous boy wondered what such a valuable truck was doing in the neighborhood on a dark night just after a snow storm and while it was equipped with a plow, the plow didn't appear to be used plus the outside was entirely too pristine, too clean. He used the dropped down trailer hitch as a step to reach the chromed diamond plate rear bumper. Freckles reacted quickly by adding weight to the top course of bars while staying Peter's hand in pressing the horn which would send a stinging electric jolt into the inquisitive lad and give Peter the first point in the GOTTCHA game.

The young tough couldn't believe his eyes so he used his hands to feel the size and shape of just one bar; it was so heavy, the allied gangs would have to move the load in the truck and he gave up any thought of taking even one 'sample' for private disposal at a later time. He invited his friends and new allies up to see, feel and estimate the ultimate value of their new found wealth. Soon all the allies were either standing on the bumper or in the truck bed on the neatly stacked bullion itself.

"Now would be a good time to collect your points," Freckles advised Peter.

Peter pressed the horn and 13 allies screamed in pain as they were launched from Big Foot in all directions with a single amplified announcement from Big Foot himself through his woofers; "GOTTCHA!"

Charlie made himself comfortable on Peter's lap so he was close enough to the horn button for his turn while Freckles flooded his mind with images of surprised and indignant gang members as they regrouped to discuss strategy.

Meanwhile, the warriors were finally inside the store. It was apparent that most patrons were regular visitors and sorted themselves into various lines throughout the spacious, well–lit store as soon as they got inside, while just a few looked at merchandise displays available for purchase. Jewelry was popular as was electronics, particularly flat screen televisions; bigger was better and the biggest was most desirable despite the clearly marked higher prices. Gold Buyer's Pawn had layaway and Christmas was fast approaching. The coat department was particularly busy, the warriors assumed because of the storm and the most popular coat of choice among women was the long rack of fur coats.

One woman of substantial height and girth and with a head covered with billowing black curls interspersed with shocking pink, had decided that she liked one particular coat best (it was the only coat the shop had that fit) and directed her male companion to pay the clerk. The clerk was overjoyed with the commission sale and kept reassuring the lady that she would be overjoyed with her purchase of the 'faux' fox fur coat even though from the rear she looked like a giant bear disguised as a fox or a yeti; a Big Foot in the flesh also wearing six inch overburdened stiletto platform, high heels despite the weather.

Bani winked at Kad and Sidi and then blinked at the fur draped woman – that was when the coat and the woman's head began to shed. For good measure, and to see what would happen, he gave the loose hairs an electrostatic charge so instead of falling to the floor, they were attracted to anything within range including the male companion's genuine vinyl, faux leather overcoat, the lighted glass display counter and the clerk. The woman's scream continued until the woven backing material that once held the hair was exposed as well as most of her scalp.

"Dis mother fuckin' fur ain't real," the woman screamed, "da mother fucker's ah fucken' fake!" She accused the clerk as he attempted to explain that 'faux' was the French word for fake. She reached across the counter and pulled him half way across it before she smashed him in the face with her other hand. Her ring bedecked fingers drew blood in several places.

This altercation drew the attention of two huge bouncers or floor walkers who were paid to keep order by intimidation and/or frequently eject unruly patrons. Sidi hit one in the cheek with a dart. He had the time to slap his own face before he crashed, unconscious, to the floor. The second bouncer was undecided; should he render aid to his unconscious chum or eject the irate almost bald woman after he separated her from what was left of the coat, which still qualified as store merchandise if damaged beyond repair? He chose his associate, the easier course of action. Kad dropped him on top of his friend, which initiated another round of screaming from the woman. Bani's dart poleaxed the woman.

Her gentleman friend looked relieved rather than concerned; he no longer had to pay 159 dollars for the coat and the woman was quiet for the first time in their relationship. He hurried from the store without looking back when he remembered that he had a number of outstanding warrants for his arrest (all mistakes or misunderstandings), before the police arrived.

Bani remembered a tidbit of information gained from Edvard, something of a European history buff, since he'd been born and raised in that area. Once again he sent out a thought and watched patrons react in different ways, which seemed to depend on how close they were to Bani and the three unconscious bodies.

One man who had been kneeling by the woman and patting her limp hand to revive her (actually attempting to relieve her of some of her bling encircled fingers), stood up suddenly and screamed; "IT DE MOTHER FUCKEN' BLACK PLAGUE!" As far as Bani was concerned, at least two symptoms applied nicely; the victims were unconscious and they were black. The would-be robber rushed from the store along with several other customers who had been subject to the power of Bani's suggestion.

"Please call 911," Bani requested of Big Foot's occupants. Freckles, Peter and Charlie paused the GOTTCHA game to place individual calls; they felt three calls would have more impact and achieve a faster response from the over-worked City police and fire-rescue departments.

"I was set up god-damn-it," Charlie accused Peter and Freckles, "the score is 13 to zip, I'll never catch up," he moaned.

Freckles asked, "Who is Slim Jim? One of those boys named Dog has him hidden in his pants. Could that be the name of his coupler?" He continued by mentioning another anomaly, "It is strange that many of these boys are named Dog, Cuz or sometimes Homey."

"You can't be hungry already," Peter replied with a laugh before answering Freckles. He wasn't about to try explaining 'nicknames'. "A Slim Jim is a stick of greasy spiced meat; a long skinny sausage, but something you could snack on yourself. I doubt that any guy would name his coupler, Slim Jim, but maybe a friend of his would." He sent out the image of a Slim Jim protruding from Charlie's fly.

That caused the three warriors in the store to begin laughing uncontrollably without apparent reason except possibly laugh at the three unconscious black people stretched out of the pawnshops' floor. That was something three boys of indeterminate race did not do in a predominately black neighborhood. Bani diverted attention to a flat screen TV that a man had just redeemed from pawn and a clerk was testing before it was taken from the store.

He created a kaleidoscope of colorful vertical lines at first, then circles, then spots before the unit squawked through its speakers and went black. The customer was understandably upset, which rapidly degenerated to irate. The clerk had to summon the boss man, Gus himself, to resolve the issue because the broken television had to be replaced very quickly, then and there so customer confidence could be maintained or risk an in-store riot.

Gus had been busy mustering his warehouse workers to provide the additional labor required to load the treasure after his gang of 20 thugs took over the Trenton warehouse since he could no longer look for the original thieves to be of much help. He waved his hand magnanimously toward the long wall that was decorated with functioning TV's in assorted sizes, brand names and a range of prices. "Pick out any one you want, and it's yours," he told the customer graciously.

The man ran to the display after he confirmed that he understood correctly; any TV on the display was his by merely pointing and the clerks would disconnect it and get it ready to go. By that time, most of the customers in the store had gathered to watch the lucky man choose a replacement TV although some had to step around the three recumbent figures. The show was better than watching the lottery drawing.

"You should call the police again," Bani sent to Big Foot, "There is a man who is breaking televisions," he informed as the customer pointed to the largest set in the display. A one year old 72 inch screen would replace his four year old 32 inch TV very nicely.

As soon as the man pointed, the pre-recorded images of happy people waving bundles of currency that they'd obtained from doing business at Gold Buyer's Pawn, blinked, before the same colorful kaleidoscope appeared briefly, the speakers squawked again and the screen turned black. He shrugged his indifference and pointed at the next largest unit in the line.

Charlie closed his phone with a laugh, "More cops are on the way," he reported and began to explain that a slim-jim was a long, flat, narrow, very flexible piece of steel with a hook on one end. It was used by locksmiths, cops, and car thieves although not necessarily in that order of frequency, to open locked doors. He looked out the side window, "And here it comes now. One guy is sitting on two guys' shoulders so his hands are free. Shit, that's only goin' to be three points. Should I zap them yet Freckles?"

"No not yet, look around us you grumpy human," Freckles instructed, "What do you see?"

Charlie and Peter stretched their necks, Charlie shrugged but Peter looked closer, "Charlie look, I think the snow piles are shrinking!" He looked back and up, "Could a certain Great Cat be melting the snow all around us?"

"He could and he is," Freckles replied happily, "I am creating a pool of water all around Big Foot. This gang of thieves will soon have very wet feet and then you can zap them all at one time." He wiggled his butt suddenly, "HOW RUDE!" he charged. Peter and Charlie heard a high pitched scream, a muted splash and more cursing that involved mother fuckers. "I was watching the Dog with the slim-jim and a Cuz sneaked onto the truck! He touched my tail!" He raged using mind-speak before he stopped to listen to a very cold, somewhat bruised, wet Cuz explain his flying trick.

"I shit yo' not! Dat mother fuckin' truck gots it an antenna dat's covered wid fur!" Cuz insisted to his bros. "I wants dat fuckin' antenna fo' my wheels!" He proclaimed.

"What chu talkin' about Cuz, yo' ain't got no wheels; if yo' had wheels we wouldn't be standin' aroun' here gettin' my Air Jordan's wet." That particular Dog looked around and then down at the shallow pool of water all the allies were standing in. "Somethin' ain't right," he surmised, "it way too cold fo' snow to melt…"

"NOW!" Freckles ordered Charlie. After the screaming died somewhat and most of the allies had scrambled to their feet, Charlie zapped the mob a second time.

"GOTCHA you foul mouthed mother fuckers!" Charlie chortled, "That's 26 points for me and let me see, how many points did you get?" He made a show of counting to 13 on his fingers and waved them in front of Peter's eyes.

"Please call 911 again," Bani sent with a silent giggle, "the black plague is spreading; three more customers are down and everyone else seems to be leaving the store," he reported. "I will now present the coin to the evil fiend Gus which should get these three brave warriors into the back of the store. Please tell Doc to expect a call as soon as Gus sees the coin."

Gus was dazed; customers were dropping randomly like flies without apparent cause, his electronic inventory seemed to be expiring even faster and worse still, he had 20 local hot headed young punks, armed with automatic weapons in the back of one semi-trailer and all his able-bodied warehouse staff locked in another. He cringed when he heard the muted sound of sirens in the distance, and getting closer as fast as the shitty road conditions allowed.

"Excuse me sir," Bani interrupted Gus' train of thought, "we have some coins we would very much like to sell," he held up a large gold coin with a mirror finish that got Gus' instant attention.

Gus' smile at Bani was as radiant as the coins' sparkle. He could see that the coin was bigger than a Krugerrand from South Africa so it had to weigh more than one ounce. Bani placed the coin in Gus' hand, head side up and Gus nearly dropped it; a vicious looking cat head stared back at him. It looked much like the same type of cat that he recently held in his hands in the form of a statue and one that he hoped to get back that very night. He turned the coin over. The obverse was a pyramid that was washed by waves and just below that was the unknown sculptor's signature; a whole cat body in profile that included all four legs and paws plus an extremely long tail that was held arched over the cats' back and terminated over the cat's full face.

The first police contingent arrived and Gus needed quiet so he turned the stores' management over to his assistants; that's what he paid them for. He invited the boy, which turned into three boys into the back office. He led the way, but when he turned back to usher the boys in, two, the tallest, possibly twins, were missing.

Bani excused Sidi and Kad's absence by almost telling the truth, "We are new to the civilized world and everything we see is new and wonderful," he enthused while displaying maximum innocence with his big doe eyes as large as he could make them appear. He caused Gus to stumble when he asked, "Do our coins have any value?"

"Coins, you said coins before, do you have more of them?"

"Oh yes, we have far more of this yellow metal than we have cloth to make sacks to put the coins in," Bani assured.

"Where exactly are you from?" Gus risked asking.

Bani pointed right and left, forward, back over his shoulder and finally straight up. He shrugged, "It is difficult to say, my people have cousins who built tombs and temples the same shape as our homes but none built larger or better than my family's and now they are dust, while we thrive." He took the coin from Gus and turned it over. "That is our home," he said, pointed to the pyramid and handed it back, "About our coins?" he asked to get Gus back on task.

"Just let me check for purity and weigh it; I'll be right back," Gus told Bani holding the coin in one sweaty palm and fishing for his cellphone with the other hand. No one owned more gold than they could bag. The coin weighed well over two Troy ounces. He didn't expect it to be any conforming, conventional weight. If he was right, the kid and his people wouldn't care about standard weights and measures. The electronic assay machine registered 99.99999999999 percent pure!

He speed dialed Doc, and when Doc answered, he didn't even say 'hello'; "Professor, this is Gus at Gold Buyer's," he hurried to say, "Listen, there's a kid in my office who looks exactly like that little statue I gave you, and get this, he brought in a coin to sell. One side has a cat head on it that looks exactly like that cat statue's head, teeth and all, but the obverse shows a big ass pyramid that's surrounded by waves. I was wondering if the really fine artifacts could have come from someplace that we call Atlantis. I got that idea from the waves and the pyramid. You know sea water has lots of gold in it, but extracting it efficiently and economically has always been a problem. Maybe this kid's people solved the problem somehow and as far as the other native and Spanish junk is concerned, if they can get gold in quantity from sea water, they live in a pyramid surrounded by the sea; they probably wouldn't have any trouble locating wrecks anywhere in the world and harvesting all the best stuff…"

"Hello? Gus, is that you?" Doc interrupted as prearranged, "Where are you, reception is terrible tonight. I'm busy, call me back in the morning. Have a good evening, if you can hear me," he said to terminate the call.

"Shit," Gus said with a shake of his phone. He looked at the screen in time to see it turn an ominous black. He heard giggling coming from the aisles of pallet steel. He knew that all of his warehouse workers were closed in one of three semi-trailers that were backed up to the dock, one was empty and the third contained his band of 20 hopeful thugs who were intent on earning their 'bones' that night in the Trenton warehouse complex so that they could join his 'organization' that didn't really exist; it was just strongly implied.

Gus found Kad and Sidi wandering around, talking some strange language and pointing sticks at the shelves that were packed with pawned goods waiting to be redeemed. He smiled at them and returned to the office, only to find that Bani had disappeared. Raised voices coming from outside on the loading dock drew him there. He opened the door in time to see that the three truck drivers had the missing boy backed up against the doors of one of the trailers. The trailer was a 'reefer' meaning that it could be used to transport either refrigerated or frozen foods and had its own engine, which wasn't needed and should have been off, but the unit was on and racing. Gus didn't plan to turn the reefer unit on until after the trailer was loaded with treasure that was accompanied by any of the surviving aspiring thugs.

He was about to ask what was going on when the three truck drivers disappeared except for any metal they carried on their persons; that clattered and clinked onto the concrete deck, including side arms.

Bani pointed what looked to Gus, like a fountain pen. Bani was no longer smiling and friendly, "I will have my coin back now," he said and walked forward with his hand out. Gus thought about reaching under his coat for his weapon when his other hand that held the coin disappeared just above the wrist; there was no blood and the massive wound was instantly cauterized. Bani caught the coin in midair. Gus stared at his stump. He was oblivious to Kad and Sidi's appearance, even when they aimed their sticks at the small collections of metal once owned by three men. He didn't see the objects turn into molten blobs before the three Cat warriors paused at the edge of the loading dock to hold a contest to see which of them could jump the farthest. Bani waited a split second so he could land on his two brave warrior bodyguards and then race away up the alley, back to Big Foot ahead of them while they screamed 'foul play' behind him.

Gus continued to wink in and out of consciousness for hours. He remembered one cop asking another how a suspect with no wrist was handcuffed. The answer; above the elbow, was painful. Then he recalled being questioned, first about the 20 frozen bodies in the back of the reefer trailer, then about the source of the automatic weapons the lifeless hands still clutched until they discovered the basement beneath the fencing operation. Investigators insisted on knowing how the computers' memory was so thoroughly fried so quickly. Later they were puzzled by how all the dates and transaction numbers on all the legitimately pawned merchandise got scrambled so completely that nothing could be returned to the rightful owners.

The warehouse workers were released from their trailer and handcuffed on suspicion of conspiracy, however they had to be released so they could sort through the 1000's of tickets to create some sort of order before the pawn shop customers found out and a riot ensued - but that was not to be.

Gus was safely incarcerated by the time the rumor on the street spread like wild fire that the pawnshop would be closed until further notice and no one could get anything they'd pawned back. The actual three alarm fire didn't breakout until after both warehouses were stripped bare of anything of value including toilet fixtures. The rioters and looters did not manage to breach the vault but while it remained secure it was not exactly fireproof so soft valuable metals melted, while paper and duplicate records were roasted into delicate ash and lumps of plastic.

Doc looked at the little Cat warriors with greater respect after they returned to Sea Song. He'd watched them change from fun loving teenage boys to merciless killers as the need arose and then back to teenage boys in the main deck lounge when too many congratulatory back slaps turned into a rough and tumble of momentous proportions that even he, Victoria and Bucky couldn't avoid with Great Cat Freckles Katz in the middle of the melee.

My continued thanks to Emoe for his ongoing efforts in editing this stuff.


Jamie Haze

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