by Quentin 'Cubist' Long and Hallan Mirayas
1 2 3 4
It's not polite to say bad things about someone you hardly know.
That why all I'm going to say about the Government guy is that
he had a nice voice and a clean suit. As for Mr. Tanakata, I don't
know how he did it, but he managed to stay flawlessly courteous
while conveying the impression that the agent reminded him of
something to be scraped off the sole of a shoe. Me, I just listened
and tried to keep from gagging on the stink of the cologne the
agent was wearing, which was thick enough to make my nose hurt.
"May I ask who you are, sir?"
"Gordon Phelps. Senior vice-chairman, Department of the Interior. And you?"
"My name is Kevin Tanakata. I represent the interests of Mr. Acinonyx."
"Meaning you're the SCAB's attorney," Mr. Phelps said, not sounding pleased.
"I have that honor, yes," Tanakata said, holding out a business card, which the agent made vanish. The lawyer then took a small vidcam out of an inside pocket. "I trust you have no objection to my making a permanent record of this proceeding?"
Mr. Phelps sure didn't look happy about it, but he said, "No. Of course not."
The lawyer set the vidcam up on a wall, held in place by some kind of suction cup, giving it an unobstructed view of the entire room. "Thank you, sir. I'm sure it pleases you to know that there will be incontrovertible documentation of the correctness of your actions."
"Is there anything we can get for you before you begin, Mr. Phelps sir?" asked Wanderer, in a voice that made me want to turn and stare at him. His British accent was gone, and his tone had a whine in it that sounded like he was half a second from groveling. Has to be an act, I thought to myself. Has to. There's just no way Wanderer would talk like that if he didn't have a reason.
"No, thank you," Phelps said, a lot more rudely than you'd think from the words.
"It's no trouble, really! Water -- a throat lozenge --"
"Thank. You. But. No."
"A doctor --"
"No!" Phelps shouted, and then he calmed himself. "No, that won't be necessary." Looking at the bug, he went on, "Dr. Derksen. I... appreciate... your concerns, but there is really no need for you to waste any of your valuable time here. It's not the SCAB's physical health I'm concerned with, but, rather, the state of what's left of his mind. Therefore, your more-than-ample qualifications are, quite simply, not applicable to this proceeding."
"I should think --" Dr. Derksen began, but Mr. Tanakata interrupted him.
"Excuse me, sir, but the law is quite clear on this point: As the Government's chosen representative in this matter, Mr. Phelps is fully empowered to accept or reject any witnesses he desires, on any criteria he desires."
I'm not sure what Dr. Derksen thought of that -- it's not easy to 'read' a chitin-plated face with lidless compound eyes and rigid mandibles -- but after a short pause, he said, "Very well. Far be it from me to obstruct a Government official from committing his duty."
Mr. Phelps looked a bit uncertain for a moment as he glanced at the lawyer, but he didn't let that stop him. "Thank you, Mr. Tanakata. How reliable is your vidcam?"
"It meets the legal definitions of 'untamperable' and 'glitchless' as stated in HB490987. Would you like to review the certification?"
"That won't be necessary. I will allow the video record to stand in lieu of written documentation, and I enjoin you to transmit a copy of said record to my office via secure protocol."
Mr. Tanakata inclined his head to acknowledge the command. "Of course -- my client wouldn't have it any other way."
"Very well. Unless there are any further issues to address," he said, not quite glaring at Derksen, "let's get on with it." He pointed at me, Wanderer, and Mr. Tanakata. "You three will serve as witnesses. For the record, state your name or valid alias, your profession, and your relationship to the SCAB known as Jubatus Acinonyx."
The lawyer went first: "My name is Kevin Tanakata. I am a lawyer, and I am Mr. Acinonyx's attorney of record."
"They call me Wanderer, I work in the theatre, and Jubatus is my voice coach."
Then it was my turn: "I, uh, I'm Harrison A. Myers, I guess I'm a student, and, um, I'm a friend of Jubatus."
"Good. We now have three witnesses, as specified in Article 26 of the Federal SCAB Acculturation Act, and we may begin." Then he took a deep breath and spoke very fast, as though reciting some legal boilerplate that he'd memorized: "On the basis of a complaint from one Daniel Weathersby a paramedic residing in or near the city of Chicago Illinois a question has been raised regarding the mental competence of the person known as Jubatus Acinonyx a victim of Stein's Chronic Accelerated Biomorphic Syndrome. This proceeding has been called in order to determine whether or not the aforementioned Jubatus Acinonyx may reasonably be expected to be a danger to the people around him. I Gordon Phelps in my capacity as a duly appointed representative of the United States Federal Government have been charged with the duty of making this determination and will now discharge this duty in accordance with all relevant guidelines as provided in the Federal SCAB Acculturation Act."
I honestly don't know how Mr. Phelps managed to get through all that without inhaling, but he did! And then he started talking to Jubatus: "Well, now -- aren't you a stupid animal, Jubatus? Yes, you are. Yes, you are!" He kept going for a while, using the same tone of voice you'd use on a well-loved pet, and his words... well, what he actually said was about as far as you could get from the cheerful, happy manner in which he said it. I could feel my claws twitching in my fingertips and wished fervently that I'd remembered to bring my gauntlets. Why isn't Jubatus doing anything?? I asked myself with increasing worry as Mr. Phelps crooned on about putting Jubatus in a zoo. I looked down at the cheetah, watching him for a bit, when a sudden hunch jumped into my thoughts and smacked me upside the head. He's waiting...
"He's not going to go with you," I broke into the man's 'test', not making any effort to minimize my scowl. This guy was now officially a jerk, and deserved every toothy snarl I could give him.
"Not today, no. That's alright; we'll get him when you people fail to produce a suitable ca -- aah!" Suddenly, there was a sand-colored blur at the agent's wrist, and Mr. Phelps stumbled backwards at a slow run; if Wanderer hadn't caught him, the agent would have tripped over a chair and fallen flat on his back.
I smiled, not bothering to minimize the number of teeth it showed, like I normally do. "I don't think you should stand next to him, sir. He doesn't like you very much."
The man blanched as he massaged one shoulder, muttering, "My God, never even saw..." Suddenly he smirked. "Fortunately, that unprovoked attack is one more piece of evidence to support my conclusion that he's gone feral. He's like a junkyard dog -- he hates everybody."
"He likes some people well enough, sir," I said pointedly as I put my hand on Jubatus' shoulder, letting Jube's satisfied rumble punctuate my statement. "As for you, if you'll just move two steps closer, I'm sure he'll show you exactly how much he dislikes you. He hates your cologne, for starters. And your outfit. You're also blocking his view of the birds."
"Oh, really?" the agent said with a condescending sneer. "How would you know? Psychic?"
I looked at him. Was he really that much of an idiot? I pointed at Jubatus. "He's not a vegetable, sir. The head injury only made him nonverbal. Can't you read his body language? One: You're the only person he's wrinkled his nose at this entire time. Two: whenever he looks at you, his ears flatten, his tail twitches, and he squints. Three: He was lying quite peaceably, watching the birds for the past fifteen minutes, until you showed up and stood in the way. The only thing that kept you from getting swatted was your scratching his ears."
Phelps nodded. "All of which confirms that he's operating purely on instinct." Then he paused and looked at each of us, and said: "On this 29th day of July 2039, in the presence of these three witnesses good and true, the person known as Jubatus Acinonyx, a victim of Stein's Chronic Accelerated Biomorphic Syndrome, has failed to display sentience when put to the test. Therefore I, Gordon Phelps, in my capacity as a duly appointed representative of the United States Federal Government, hereby declare the aforementioned Jubatus Acinonyx to have regressed to a feral, subhuman mentality. Mr. Tanakata, within the next 24 hours you will present to me a comprehensive program of care for your client, including the disposition of his estate. If you cannot present such a program, or if your proposed program does not adequately provide for the welfare of either your client or the general public, I will be forced to declare your client a ward of the Federal Government until such time as it can be determined that he has regained his sentience. Thank you all for your cooperation, and goodbye." So saying, the agent hurried out of the room.
I stood there for a few seconds, trying to dredge up a reply, but he was already long gone. Slick, Hallan. You just did his work for him. And... Wanderer was -- "What on earth are you smiling for??"
The wolf shushed me. "A moment, if you please? Mr. Tanakata is speaking to a colleague."
Still confused, I swiveled my ears towards the lawyer, who already had his cell phone out: " -- witnesses, none of them medically qualified, one underage. Explicitly and voluntarily declined opportunity to have qualified observer present. Sentience test restricted to comprehension of spoken language, no test for ability to speak, no test for comprehension or use of written language. No attempt to distinguish between injury-derived mental deficits and SCABS-derived feral state. Sue Phelps in his professional capacity for malfeasance in office, violation of 8th Amendment prohibition against takings, and violation of public trust; sue Phelps personally for emotional distress, violation of Executive Order 298768, violation of the SCABS Anti-Discrimination Law, and conspiracy to commit grand theft; throw in anything else your fertile mind can dream up in the next 15 minutes. I want the whole package on Phelps' desk, waiting for him, when he returns to his office. Thank you."
After he re-pocketed his cell phone, he gave a thumbs-up gesture to Wanderer. "Excellent. As my client might say, 'I love it when a plan comes together'."
"Wait a second. You mean you wanted Phelps to do what he just did?"
"'Wanted'? Hardly! It was, however, no more than we expected." The wolf grinned. "Let us say that we brought with us a sizeable quantity of rope, and allowed the gentleman to take as much of it as he felt he could carry."
I sighed. Is it just me, or has everyone on this Earth gone cynical and devious? "All the rope he needed to hang himself, you mean."
The lawyer smiled elegantly as he took up the tale: "While all of Mr. Phelps' actions were strictly within the letter of the Federal regulation which authorized the SCAB Acculturation program, I'm afraid he neglected to take into account any of the associated case law."
I thought fast. "The witnesses?"
"Among other things, yes. While the text of the law proper specifies that there must be three witnesses to the test, it is silent as regards the witnesses' competence to make judgements of this kind. It was not until Horsten vs. US Government, in 2015, that it was actually made mandatory that the witnesses be qualified medical personnel. And the 2021 case of Carson vs. Carson established that in case of head injury, organic brain damage must be ruled out as a cause of mental incapacity before a SCAB can be declared feral."
"In sum," Wanderer broke in smoothly, "it would appear that SCABs in this situation have rather more in the way of legal protection than is commonly appreciated. The Government has done nothing to publicize these protections, of course, and in fact tends to encourage the victims' next of kin to waive any applicable safeguards without knowing what they're waiving."
I felt abruptly nauseated. "But -- how can they get away with that kind of thing?"
Mr. Tanakata sighed. "Most people don't see any point in raising a fuss over improprieties in the proceeding. If a SCAB's mind is sufficiently affected to raise a question of his competence in the first place, he's going to end up in a colony anyway, or at least so goes the rationale. In this case... Mr. Acinonyx may yet prove to be irrecoverable, but I see no reason not to put off arriving at that conclusion as long as possible."
"And amen to that!" Wanderer exclaimed.
"Well. I have enjoyed your company, Wanderer, and it has been a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Myers, but I really must be going. I hope we next encounter each other under more pleasant circumstances."
With that, Mr. Tanakata left. Wanderer whistled in appreciation at his retreating back. "There goes a man who'd be a wonder on stage."
"Or in the courtroom," I agreed. Mental note: Don't get sued by Jubatus. I looked down at the cheetah, who wore a sad look on his face, like he hadn't wanted Mr. Tanakata to go. I rubbed his shoulder and consoled, "Don't worry about it, Jubatus -- he's got work to do."
After a few moments, I glanced over to see Wanderer and Dr. Derksen both watching me. Wanderer looked openly surprised, while Dr. Derksen remained as inscrutable as ever.
"Well! I see that our friend's lawyer was not the only person in this room capable of impressive feats."
"What do you mean?" I looked at Jubatus, who was contentedly watching the birds again.
"Your comprehension of Jubatus' body language. I picked up on the birds, but not on the cologne, and certainly not on the outfit. Or perhaps you were merely funning the gentleman?"
I shook my head. Couldn't they see it either?
"It appears that your common feline nature grants you two a certain degree of affinity, Mr. Myers," Dr. Derksen intoned. Wanderer shot a significant glance at the doctor. It might have been returned, but I couldn't even hazard a guess about a humanoid cockroach's expressions.
"And your mother is a nurse by vocation, is she not?" Wanderer asked, looking sober and serious. "Hallan, Jubatus is going to need a caregiver for the duration of this... episode. If we cannot provide for his needs, the Government most assuredly will -- but I rather doubt our friend would approve. Are you at all familiar with conditions in the lapine colonies?" I shuddered and nodded. "You may take it from me that things are no better for other SCABs deemed 'feral'."
"And you want me to take care of him?" I asked, not at all sure I was up to the challenge.
"Possibly. At present, we are merely assembling a list of suitable candidates, but I rather think you have proven yourself to be one such, and time is short. May we add you to the list?"
I gulped slightly. "I'm going to have to talk to Mom." Dr. Derksen, without a word, handed me a cell phone. I dialed home and waited.
"Hi, Mom. Umm, Mom, can you come down to Worthington?" I hated how that came out, and her startled exclamation came as no surprise.
"Worthington? I thought you said you were going to the Blind Pig! What happened? Are you hurt?" All of this came in a five-second barrage.
"No, I'm fine, but... Do you remember Jubatus?"
She paused for a moment. When her voice came back, it was slightly cautious. "The gentleman who made those gloves for you? I remember you talking about him."
I nodded, even though she couldn't see it. "Yes, that's him. Well, he got..." I paused, unsure of how to phrase this, and finally asked, "Look, can you just come down? It'd be easier to explain."
After a long pause, she said she was on her way.
I closed the phone and handed it back to Dr. Derksen, then rubbed my nose and stifled a sneeze. "I didn't like his cologne either, Jubatus." He flicked his whiskers, then went back to watching the birds.
= - = - = - = - = - = - = - =
There are lots of moving shapes, lots of kinds of them. The
doctor and nurse shapes all have different labels of their own.
This makes sense, especially for nurse, which there are so many
of. Mary nurse and bella nurse and many many others. Maybe all moving shapes have different labels of their own? I think they
I like doctor and nurse, they make pain go away. Pain is bad, pain hurts. I don't like pain. And there are other moving shapes, not doctor and not nurse. They all smell like food, but I don't hunt them. Hunting means moving, and I can move but it hurts enough that I don't want to, and I don't have to hunt anyway because nurse brings me food.
I like nurse. A lot.
Other shapes. I know they're around, because I can hear them. I can also smell them a little, when the stinks in room aren't strong. And I've noticed that some moving shapes don't move much, just like I don't move much right now. I think maybe the shapes that don't move much are hurt; maybe doctor and nurse make pain go away for them, just like doctor and nurse make pain go away for me.
When I think about this, I feel good. Why? I don't know! I don't know why I feel bad when I think about eating the moving shapes, either. And hunting is funny, I feel good and I feel bad, both at once, when I think about hunting. It's, something, question, game, puzzle? It's a puzzle. A puzzle! Yes! Puzzle! It's a puzzle, and I can't figure it out. I'm missing something, don't know what. I can't figure it out, and I feel bad. But it's a different bad than the bad I feel when I think about eating shapes that move! It's pissing me off! Bad is bad, how can there be two bads!?
Nurse are here. Is here? Never mind. Anyway, nurse knows when I'm pissed off because monitor boxes tell her so. Nurse uses her forepaws, does things to shapes that don't move by themselves, and I will soon feel better...
Other shapes! Shapes that do move, and aren't doctor or nurse. I see them through window. Wait, that's wrong, window is for wall, not door. Not window. Glass? Yes, glass. My room has door, and I see moving shapes through glass in door, and I can hear them go up to shapes that don't move much. Doctor and nurse shapes are here to make me feel better, make hurt shapes feel better. The first time I noticed the other moving shapes that aren't doctor or nurse, I didn't know why they come here. Not-doctor-or-nurse shapes don't come to eat, even though some of them are hungry, and shapes that don't move much would be easy kills; not-doctor-or-nurse also don't make pain go away.
I just couldn't figure it out. And then a not-doctor-or-nurse shape came to my room! I didn't know why, but I didn't worry, because by that time, lots of moving shapes had been in and out of room, and not one of them even tried to eat me! This new shape had a familiar scent, like dog or something, and I felt good. Something in back of head tried to tell me I should feel bad, but I didn't pay attention.
I like dog-scented shape.
That shape has come back, can't think how many times. Other not-doctor-or-nurse shapes have come to my room, too. I feel good... and I think that must be why not-doctor-or-nurse shapes come here: So that shapes that don't move much can feel better.
= - = - = - = - = - = - = - =
I'm still not sure why I was chosen. Maybe I was just the first
one who could make the commitment on such short notice? Whatever
the reason, if I was going to take care of Jubatus, I wanted to
do as good a job as I could. Dr. Derksen was very helpful, he
spent five hours talking to Mom and me about Jubatus' physical
quirks. And then we had an appointment with Jubatus' therapist...
The man at the door was a well-dressed animorph SCAB. Probably snake, judging by the light sprinkling of scales and his piercing, glittering eyes. He didn't even blink when my grey and white tabby kitten, Stratus, attacked his shoes. Instead, he merely stooped down to pick her up, extracted his shoelaces from her mouth, and handed her off to me with a hint of a smile at my embarrassed look.
"May I come in?"
"Of course, Dr. Halliburton," said my mom, gesturing at the couch. "Please, make yourself comfortable."
He entered with an odd grace to his movements, almost boneless. "I am given to understand that the young fellow has been selected as Jubatus' caretaker for the time being?"
"That is correct, Doctor. Of course, Harrison is underaged, so my name is on the paperwork. Naturally I'll do what I can, but..."
"Of course. Very well; since both of you will be serving as attendants, both of you should hear what I have to say. First and foremost, you must understand that Jubatus is fundamentally damaged, and his ruling passion is fear."
What? That didn't make sense! "You're saying Mr. Acinonyx --" (the name got easier with practice) "-- is a coward?" Even I knew better than that!
"Coward? Not at all! To some degree, fear is present in every human mind, including those that are regarded as courageous. What I am saying is that if you observe Jubatus, examine the motivations for his actions, you will find that fear is the single most common motivating factor, by a significant margin. For instance, he positively detests the sound of his own voice -- and yet he is extremely talkative. Why do you think that is?"
It didn't make sense to me... after all, if I hated my voice, I wouldn't exactly be eager to hear myself speak. But my mom had an answer: "He's afraid of losing his humanity. He talks because he doesn't want to voluntarily give up a uniquely human activity."
"Exactly so! And that is the reason he has always gone on two legs, even though a quadrupedal stance would be much more comfortable for him. It is also one of the reasons he continually strives to stifle his emotions."
"'Stifled emotions'? You must be kidding!" I interjected before my brain could tell my mouth to shut up. Again.
"No, Mr. Myers, I'm quite serious. Have you any idea how severe his mood swings can get when he doesn't try to put a damper on them?"
I thought about that for a bit, then shuddered and decided I really didn't want to know.
= - = - = - = - = - = - = - =
Something very bad happened to me, I'm sure of it. I can remember
fire and pain. Much much very worse pain. Badbadbad.
I'm shaking. Think of something else.
Moving shapes that don't move much. There's a lot of them around here; I think they're in different rooms, and sometimes more than one shape in a room. I can't really tell from what I hear and smell, though. Want to see, but that would mean I getting out of room, and it hurts when I move! Not so much now as before, but some, and it keeps on getting better. It will be nice to not hurt at all when I move.
I also have stiff things on legs that make it hard to move anyway. I didn't like the stiff things when I first noticed them, because they make it hard to move, but since it hurts less when I don't move, I like the stiff things anyway. Not hurting is very good!
Some rooms have more than one shape that doesn't move much. I'm sure of it. But I'm the only shape that doesn't move much in my room! Don't know why. Doesn't matter; having to look at the same shape all the time is boring.
There is window in wall, I spend a lot of time looking through window. Window changes, dark and light and between. I see a lot of different shapes out there. Some don't move, and they're boring. I also see moving shapes, and they're interesting. Some of them move through air! I'm pretty sure I could move through air if it didn't hurt to move, but that would just be jump. I don't think jump is what air-moving shapes do.
Sometimes I sleep.
Not-doctor-or-nurse shapes come to my room, too. I'm pretty sure they all have labels, just as doctor shapes and nurse shapes have labels. There is the wanderer shape, that's the dog-scented one. I like how it sounds when the wanderer makes noise. Other shapes, too. There is the phil shape, when the phil is here I feel very very bad so I shake and whine and hide my head under forelegs until the phil goes away. There is the hallan shape; the hallan smells like me, sort of. I don't know how I feel about the hallan, I feel good and bad and I think of my cubs except I don't have any cubs. Do I?
Ah! Doctor got rid of the stiff things. Feel good all over. I can move, play! Goodgoodgood! But the doctor shapes and nurse shapes don't want me around any more... Maybe they know I don't have any more pain for them to make go away? That makes sense. They make pain go away, so why stick around after that's done? But what happens if I leave room? Room is warm and there is always food. I know I can hunt my own food, but I feel very bad when I think about that...
The hallan is here. The hallan wants me to go with him. The hallan will feed me, I'm sure of it. The hallan will keep me warm.
= - = - = - = - = - = - = - =
I was a little worried when I took custody of Jubatus; if he
didn't want to go, there really wasn't any way I could make him...
Fortunately for me (and him), he didn't mind, and he climbed into
the back seat of Mom's little Geo Spark without any fuss. He actually
seemed to enjoy the ride, looking out the windows like a little
kid watching the world go by.
When we got home I led Jubatus in the door, just in time to meet Stratus' charge around the corner from the kitchen. Oh, the look on her face! She screeched to a halt so hard she nearly sat down, made a right hand turn within half a body length, and beat a hasty retreat under the couch. She then proceeded to watch the cheetah from beneath the dust ruffle, her bright blue eyes and pink nose the only things visible.
Jubatus stood and looked back at Stratus for a few seconds, then seemed to shrug and padded over to the large sunbeam casting itself down from the picture window onto the living room floor and laid down, looking like he wanted to soak up as much of it as he could. I smiled. He wasn't the only cat in the house who liked that sunbeam. Stratus was a regular fixture there and, occasionally, so was I. I sat down in the chair across from the couch and waited. Stratus didn't disappoint me. One minute to the second after the cheetah settled down, she pounced on the tip of his tail.
Rather, Stratus tried to pounce on the tip of his tail. But it wasn't there when she landed, because it blurred elsewhere at the last moment, settling behind her. She wobbled, thrown off her balance with surprise, and looked around for her vanished quarry. Aha! She found it behind her, and gave it a careful pat with a forepaw. It stayed put. Emboldened, she pounced again... and it was gone again, blurred out of range.
Good for Stratus. I can always tell if she likes somebody by whether she attacks or hides. If she likes you, she'll pounce. If she doesn't, or you scare her, she'll hide. She's always been a good judge of character, and I'm glad she didn't think Jubatus was dangerous.
Jubatus lifted his head to look at the grey-white fluffball, visibly rolled his eyes, and laid back down without bothering her. Stratus quickly tired of trying to catch the cheetah's elusive tail, affected a loss of interest, and climbed delicately up onto his back and curled up, snuggling into the spotted cheetah fur. The sight of the two together made me glad Mom and I had rescued her from the pound. She'd been born with only three legs, a defect that didn't slow her down in the slightest, but her previous owner apparently decided she wasn't worth keeping and had dumped her at the pound. Cretin.
"Looks like Stratus has made a friend," Mom said, smiling as she walked through the room. I certainly hoped so. Stratus may be a very smart kitten, but she'd be no match for Jubatus if he decided he didn't like her.
= - = - = - = - = - = - = - =
The hallan treats me, treats, something, pet? Like a pet. Something
is wrong, don't know what. Feels wrong. What feels wrong? Never
mind. He feeds me, that's good. The hallan place is warm. Warm
is good. I like warm places.
The hallan place has other moving shapes, big and little. Big shape has funny scent; if you put big shape's scent together with mine, what you'd get is sort of like the hallan's. Female! Big shape is female, I think she is the hallan's dam. Smells right.
The little shape, the hallan gives it label stratus, little is different. Very young, too. The stratus doesn't have every leg! Maybe the last leg hasn't grown in yet? Not sure about that. Anyway, the stratus is stupid. Its forepaws are clumsy. It makes noises that don't make me feel funny. Big-shape-noises do, but stratus-noises don't. The stratus is definitely a pet. I try to play with the stratus, but little shape doesn't get it, not like the hallan. The hallan is lots of fun to play with! More fun than the stratus.
Stupid stupid stratus.
The hallan feeds the stratus like he feeds me... I think maybe I am a pet. Have I always been a pet? Don't remember. Doesn't matter anyway. The hallan is good to me, that matters. Head hurts.
= - = - = - = - = - = - = - =
Note to self: cheetahs and cabin fever do not mix. He'd taken to running up and down the halls (a practice gleefully
joined by a playful, but much slower, Stratus), which meant that
we had some lamps to replace. Worse yet, Jubatus actually managed
to leave pawprints and claw marks up the walls and on the ceiling!
I gave myself a headache trying to figure out how that worked... Besides, we simply didn't have the space for him to
run around inside, which is why I ended up holding a collar and
leash in front of him and trying to look hopeful.
He sniffed suspiciously at the pieces of cowhide, then growled a little, but he sat back down. "See? Just a couple of strips of leather. Here, let me put the collar around your neck."
Well, he let me do it. But when I stood up, I felt a little rustling around my own neck, and the collar was on me! I immediately glared at Jubatus, who (to all appearances) hadn't moved an inch. He just looked up with an innocent "who, me?" smile, his tail curling a laugh.
I swear Stratus giggled from her sentry post on the couch. Leveling my finger at her, I said, "You stay out of this," and removed the collar. Returning my attention to the faking cheetah, I started talking, hoping that he'd understand. "Jube, you need to wear this, or that stupid Federal guy will say we're not taking steps to protect the public from you --" as if a leather leash would do any good whatsoever! "-- and you're screwed. You've already got one strike against you for taking a swipe at my uncle. Wear it, or I can't take you to the park."
I think he got the point. He didn't like it -- his ears went back and his tail twitched with irritation -- but he stood up and held his head forward, exposing his neck so I could collar him more easily. I'd have to remember to snag or rig up a harness for him instead of a collar. It would (hopefully) be less demeaning and actually be more secure.
We went out the back door. Immediately Jubatus tensed, and I followed his gaze to my neighbors playing Frisbee in their backyard. I recognized the 'chase' stance right about the time my face hit the dirt as Jubatus took off full-bore after it. The leash, never designed for the stresses of an accelerating, lion-dragging cheetah, snapped like twine.
Pushing up onto my knees, I spat dirt and grass from my mouth and wiped at my face. I felt a nudge in my ribs and opened my eyes to see Jubatus. His smile, the most purely happy one I'd ever seen on his face, was wrapped around the plastic disc in his mouth. "You," I said as I took the Frisbee from him, "are going to get me in serious trouble if you don't slow down."
My neighbors, a pair of newlyweds named the Nashes, came running up a moment later. Mrs. Nash was of pure Irish heritage, and it showed in her willowy build, fair complexion, and flaming red hair. Only her lack of an accent identified her as of local descent. Mr. Nash, on the other hand, was built like an ox and had a Southern accent that thickened as he got excited. It was thick as molasses when he asked, "What on earth was that?"
I wiped my face one last time, shot Jubatus a 'hold still' glare, and looked up at my neighbors. "Mr. and Mrs. Nash, I'd like you to meet Jubatus. He's staying with me for a little while." I handed them back their Frisbee, hoping it would distract them from pursuing that statement. "Sorry about him swiping this. He's a little too quick at times."
Mr. Nash laughed while Mrs. Nash arched an eyebrow. "Harry, I've known you since you were a baby, and I have never heard you understate something so thoroughly!"
= - = - = - = - = - = - = - =
Don't know why the hallan wants the strap-thing around my neck.
Don't care, either. It doesn't hurt, and without strap, the hallan
wants me to stay in new room -- no, not room. House is what the
hallan wants me in without strap. The strap, I feel good, but
why? What is right about strap? Feel bad, too. Don't know why
Very much good! We are out of house. Lots of new things to see -- circle! I see circle! Circle moves through air! Too high, I can't reach it. But if I make the world slow, I get light -- maybe then I can reach it? I make the world slow, start run, but stupid strap makes neck hurt, so I twist and claws break it. Now I run, jump, get circle! Circle has thick part all around it. Circum, circuit, I forget. Doesn't matter.
I saw other moving shapes throw circle to themselves; maybe the hallan will throw circle to me? I hope so -- catch is fun! -- I bring circle to the hallan. I wish the hallan wasn't slow, but my head hurts, so I forget about that.
Maybe the hallan can make himself fast? That would be good. Someone I don't have to think about making the world fast and I can play with them anyway... Maybe the hallan can do it a little? I was hurt, lots of things I could only do a little, but I can do them more now. Maybe the hallan is like that, too?
I make the world fast, just not quite as fast as usual. Maybe the hallan can keep up. Hope so. He makes angry noise at me but I know he's not angry because he doesn't smell like it. Ha!
Circle-throwing shapes come here. They are afraid of me, I can smell it on them. I feel good and bad about that. Don't like feeling good and bad together, but it keeps happening. New shapes are a mated pair, sire and dam -- their scents are all over each other. The hallan and the pair make noises at each other, and then everybody throw circle for me to catch, and then I get tired, and then I sleep.
Goodgoodgood. All good!
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