Monday, May 15, 2017

Ultro Citroque

     At the bottom of the stairwell, the Mercury’s Elite Guardsman sternly said, “wait here while I check it out.”
     Weaving and holding her knapsack tightly, Cassie growled, “you think someone’s hiding in there? What? Waiting to kill the Kaiser? Like they planned for you to bring him down here? No one even knows this place exists.”
     “The kitchen staff know,” Archel pointed out as the weight of her words hit him. Before he could say anything else, the Merc returned.
     “It’s safe,” he said. When the trio had entered the first compartment of the Bomb Shelter, the Merc pulled the heavy steel blast door closed, and spun the four cam latches into place with a grunt. “We’ll stay here until the danger passes,” he informed them.
     “And, how will we know?” Cassie asked. She stood in the middle of the empty room looking at the gun metal gray walls.
     “This way,” the Merc deflected. He waited in front of a second heavy duty security door and when everyone was in the main compartment, he pulled that door closed as well.
     Nina, the novice cook, stared at the lavish furnishings with a mixture of awe and disgust. The main compartment of the Bomb Shelter was made into a normal living room, and yet, the furniture was quite obviously high-end pieces like what she’d once seen in the Museum of Antiquities. She wondered,
has anyone ever actually sat on that couch? Just as she asked the question, Cassie—clutching her bulky knapsack—collapsed onto the red and gold paisley covered monstrosity. From the abnormal angle that Cassie was reclined in, Nina knew the couch couldn’t be comfortable. Across from the couch, in a slight alcove, was a kitchenette, which appeared fully stocked. Nina wandered over and began opening cabinets. Behind her she heard Cassie groan.

     Carefully tugging open the bunk room door, Gorrie stuck his head into the hallway. Adonis stood directly behind him. The two men froze, listening with combined amusement and dread.
     From the living room, the Inquisitor bellowed, “what in Iphi’s name do you think you’re doing with my toy? She’s not cargo and I told you to keep your dick skinner’s off. That doesn’t mean wait until my back is turned. This one is NOT cargo. This one is MINE. Perhaps if you hadn’t been dicking around in that warehouse, you could have handled that little urge six times. And maybe, if you’d been doing that instead of...What were you doing in that warehouse, eh? I asked you a question, Mister Jougs.”
     “Uh. I. Well,” Jougs struggled for an answer.
     “I am not amused,” the Inquisitor stated. “This entire operation has been one cluster fuck after the next. Need I remind you what we’re down to here? Brass-mother-fucking-tacks. Do you not comprehend the delicacy of this situation? I suggest you get your rapist ass up and out of this building. If you value your life: take a walk and stay within hearing distance. Mister Vorant will call you when it’s time.”
     “Yes, Boss,” Jougs muttered.
     At the sound of the front door opening, Gorrie stepped back into the room, and bumped into Adonis. “Out of the way,” Gorrie hissed as he pulled the door shut. Turning to look at Adonis, he asked, “just a little crazy, no?”
     “You have no idea,” Adonis agreed.
     “You’ve only ever sent people up creek, yes?”
     “As a matter of fact. Why?”
     Gorrie laughed in Adonis’ face, “there’s two types of crazy in this world, and that son of a bitch is the type you don’t fuck with. How’d you get caught up with him?” Before Adonis could tell him to mind his business, Gorrie said, “don’t tell me. I don’t want to know. Not knowing shit is always better. Listen, if I can help you get a hold of my cousin, I’ll do it. But, uh. I don’t got a death wish, so...” he shrugged, “if it’s all the same to you, I’ll be up there on that top bunk. Checking if my eyelids have holes.” He grabbed the highest rung he could reach, stuck a foot onto the ladder and began to climb.

     Commander Felis cautiously stretched his lanky cat body around the corner of the drafty hallway inside the abandoned auto shop. A lazy pair of short-haired orange tabby kittens apathetically knocked a bottle lid back and forth. Neither looked up when Felis entered the open bay. Across the room waited an old, faded blue paisley chaise lounge, upon which sat an equally old disinterested orange tabby. Stifling his excitement, Felis strode across the room, and then purposely walked past the orange tabby over to the row of self-feeding bowls where Astra slowly lapped up some of the water. “Astra,” he couldn’t help but purr her name as she lazily glanced at him before turning back to the water dish.
     “Sam,” the orange tabby commanded.
     His gaze lingered a moment,
too cat. He sauntered around the chaise lounge and presented himself to Nacho, the former head of the S’More Cats.
     “Too all fire important to show respect to your elders?” Nacho asked, his voice curling around the words. Part of Nacho’s right ear was missing, lost in a fight when he was still a kitten, it made his face look uneven and some cats unconsciously tilted their heads to compensate, of course, the action pissed him all the way off. Everyone who’d survived one of Nacho’s outbursts well-remembered to pay close attention to their heads. Even though he’d long since passed control of the S’More Cats onto Milton, he was still not a cat with whom to fuck.
     The tuxedo cat, Commander Samuel Felis, sat down in front of the chaise, his attention turned back to the two kittens as he said, “I’m not ignoring you, Gramps. You know that. Just surprised to see everyone still here. And, the twins. Look at how big they’ve gotten.”
     “Is that my nephew?” Milton roared.
     “Uncle Milton!” Felis called as he jerked himself around and up.
     The two cats circled each other for a moment, scenting and gaging, before Milton asked, “what troubles you?”

     The newly appointed Chief Justice of the Antigone Courts, Moira Thibodeaux, and her unlikely dinner companions had vacated the table upon hearing the dull sirens. Dagon had listened and counted the blasts as they had stood in her door way with the full blasts making their ears ache. Suddenly, Colonel Gawain Dagon collected his belongings and left. After which Ensign Osborne collected their half-eaten dinner and followed Moira into her Panic Room.
     Now, the young soldier and the old justice sat across from each other finishing dinner. Under the spell of complete candor, Moira Thibodeaux attempted to convince the ensign that the Antigone Judges were the finest baseball team ever to take the field. The proof came from the most unholy of games that ever took place. It was held before the Poterits split up, back when intranational games were held in the Iphigenia Mountains, in one of the Montissi strongholds. She held herself to her seat, though her voice raised, “the Antigone Judges went up against the Polkner Chargers—a wild bunch of cut-throats and league cheats—for every spitball thrown at them, the Judges stole another base. They went all nine innings, tit-for-tat, in the end it came to the order at bat,” Moira sang. Her body lifted slightly as she pushed herself from the chair, “The Chargers management hadn’t learned from their first run in with Smokey ‘Choke On It’ Wilson, that the old bear could hit a ball out of the park. Chargers’ pitcher, Crierson, well, he cocked back a slippery one, wagering he’d get Smokey to swing early. Only, Smokey made them all choke on it. He didn’t just jog those bases, the old goat sauntered them. Cheats can’t defeat real talent.” She fell back into her chair, her excitement abetting as the light in her eyes receded.
     “How do you know all that?” Osborne whispered.
     “I read a lot,” Moira answered.
     “We’re obviously not reading the same materials,” Osborne stated with a hollow chuckle as an image of the
Mercury’s Elite Procedures on Urban Survival flashed across his mind.
     “I should have asked, ‘do you like baseball?’ Didn’t think about it,” Moira shrugged. “Never too late. Do you?”
     “Played a little as a kid,” Osborne answered.
     “So. No passion?” Moira despaired, “bad enough to be locked up. But, this is a travesty. I’m locked away with a boy apathetic to baseball.”
     “Apathetic! Never. I just don’t really care about sports in general.”
     “Crime! A crime happens before my eyes! Blasphemer! Get thee out of my Panic Room!” Moira shouted, stomped her feet, and pointed toward the sealed door.
     A split second later, Osborne exploded with laughter.
     “If you wont leave of your own accord, I’ll convert you into a Judges fan,” she waggled a crooked forefinger at him. “What’ll it be?”
Try your best,” Osborne challenged. 

     The smells coming from the kitchenette overwhelmed the four hungry bodies locked together in the Templus de Ambros’ Bomb Shelter. Nina loudly scraped the skillets as if to assure her roaring stomach that an offering was in the works. The very sound of the steel spatula across the cast iron skillet, returned in triplicate the roaring agreement of their stomachs. “Let them like it,” she chanted as she loaded their plates and filled their cups. Once they’d been served, Nina stepped back into the kitchenette, and snuck tiny bites which she chewed as inconspicuously as she could. Silently, she contained her joy at a series of minor victories exposed by the mmms, omms, and ahms of her first private cooking gig. She glanced around the Bomb Shelter, taking in the gunmetal grey walls, the elaborate arras meant to hide the stark reality of lurking dangers. Her royal diners were completely involved in their plates. “What do you think?” she conscientiously asked.
     “It’s good,” Archel said through a mouthful.
     Nina blushed.
     “Not bad. Too much flour,” Cassie said after she puffed on a dry patch in the gravy.
     “Mmm,” the Merc said through a full mouth as he nodded and held up his spoon.
     She spun around, quickly scooped a spoonful into her mouth and then returned to her original position where she watched the others eat. As one glass would near emptiness, she’d swoop in with the water pitcher, before flitting back to her self-appointed station.
     On her third trip, Archel stopped her when he asked, “are you going to sit down and eat with us?”
     “That wouldn’t be appropriate,” she whispered. She looked to Cassie and the Merc, both of whom were too busy inhaling their food. “I’m just a cook,” Nina said.
     “Yeah, well, everyone has to rest,” whispering Archel pointed at his body guard, “even that guy.” The guard sat upright, looked at his charge, and then nodded to his plate. “See?”
     “Thank you, my liege,” Nina mumbled. She shot a couple concerned glances at Cassie, who was leaning back against the couch, barely holding onto the plate as her head lolled and her eyes rolled back. “Messenger?” Nina shot across the room and knelt down before the slumped young woman.

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