Cats and Crows
20 Qadah 1420 yp
“And furthermore, I have too many projects already to be adding you guys to the list!” Exzy glared at the cat, and then up at the crow. “Besides, neither of you are really smart.”
Unless my Wine samples had something from Rip Crossing that added smart genes. But I only gave the cat a bit of the Elixir of Long Life for Dogs. And I may have spilled the horse version, but even the dead bugs in the puddle ought not have gotten very much on them. So the crow only got a little.
And they didn’t get the same thing, so it’s just my imagination. They may live a long time, and the cat is looking younger, but they’re just normal smart animals.
“But I’ll keep feeding you if you’ll stop fighting.”
The cat, who belonged to his next door neighbor, yawned and looked away.
The crow, who belonged to no one, ruffled his feathers and muttered a complaint.
Fortunately not in English.
Exzy stomped back inside and scowled at the kitchen fab. "This thing is a real nuisance. I wish Dad had never added it to the kitchen, because real food tastes a whole lot better." But he typed in the special code he'd gotten from a sort-of relative and it produced some really stinky little cubes. They didn't look like fish at all. He picked up the bowl and carried it back to the backyard. Forked some out on the grass for the cat, then reached up to dump the rest on a thick branch. The crow swooped down, eyeing him warily and stayed well back until Exzy retreated.
The cat sniffed the fabbed fish cubes then sat back and looked up at the crow.
"I really hope you're thinking about how to steal his snack, not how to have him for a snack."
A high feminine voice from the other side of the fence on the right side. "Tigger! Tigger!"
The cat's ears twitched, then he settled down to eat fish cubes.
"He's over here, Mrs. Guilden."
Metallic clanks and thuds as Mrs. Guilden moved a ladder up to the fence.
Gray hair and spectacles lifts above the vine covered wood. "There you are sweetie! What's my little Tigger up to today?"
"Oh." Exzy tried hard to sound apologetic. The cat was still too thin. "I'm afraid he conned me into a little treat. I hope I haven't ruined his appetite."
"Now, you mustn't believe everything he says! It's no healthier for a cat to be fat, than it is for a human, you know."
"I suppose. He's pretty old, isn't he?"
"Well, I adopted him fifteen years ago. My vet guessed then that he might be four or five, at the time." The gray curls shook. "I had an apartment and had to have him declawed when he started destroying furniture. When I moved here four years ago, I thought he'd stay in the yard, because he couldn't climb, you see?"
Exzy nodded. "I wonder if there's a hole in the fence?" He eyed the rather smallish tree on that side of the yard. "Or if he can sort of walk around on branches?"
Tigger finished up his fish cubes and eyed the crow. Exzy swooped in and scooped up the cat. A swipe of claws . . . well, a paw. "Poor cat! Can't even defend yourself from a kid." He lifted the cat up almost to the top of the fence and boosted the cat up as he got his paws on the top and was snatched up by Mrs. Guilden.
"Ha!" From somewhere up in the big tree. Except, of course, it was the crow cawing. Not laughing.
Exzy caught a low growl from beyond the fence.
I wonder if they are smarter, now? Of course, it's only been a few weeks since they got dosed. So they haven't had time to learn anything. Maybe I'll try teaching them stuff too.
After all, the Rats seem to be catching on.
His parents thought it was funny, Exzy sitting out on the patio, drilling the crow and the cat on basic vocabulary. He ignored Mum thinking something about it being good for his own speech.
He scowled. When I was a baby everyone thought it was pwecious. And I hardly ever forget, now.
But teaching this pair was getting harder, instead of easier. Because the Rats are really smart. These two are just maybe a little smarter than normals. I think. Maybe.
When the cat pounced on the ten centimeter tall illusion of a horse, he gave up for the day and went inside.
His mother's office was mostly in a bubble--a dimensional bubble that wasn't really here, which was why it had one door on the campus eleven miles away, and the other door in the front hallway. And the door might be closed, but the bubble holes around them were always open, so Exzy could lean an ear on the door and hear if there was anything going on.
A deep rumble, then his mother's clear voice. "Ice, Ice, Ice. You're going about this all the wrong way!"
Exzy grinned. Just what I need! He tapped on the door and opened it a few inches. His mum looked over and invited him in with a crook of her finger.
He slid through and closed the door behind him. "Hi, Goon!"
A stern look from Mum.
"Good afternoon, Senior Analyst Ice-Kah Withone Tall Trees. How is Internal Relations doing these days?"
Ice frowned at him, and then the door. "For a moment there, I thought I heard Exzy. So, who is this polite young man?"
Ice grinned. "Hi Exzy. How much time are you spending in a fast room?"
Exzy grinned back. "An extra day, every day. I figure I'm nine years old by now."
"And already touched power, I see."
Mum threw her hands up in the air. "He's doing next years school work in parallel with this years, and figures he can test out and jump ahead to sixth grade in the fall. One knows the academics aren't a problem."
"Actually, I already finished this years." Exzy dropped his voice to what Dad called a stage whisper. "I made a deal with Madam Hotty that I'd just sit quietly and read and not disturb the class."
"Don't call her that." Mum rubbed her forehead like she had a head ache. "He keeps finding these books, I think the magic students slip them to him. Last week I had to explain manage-a-trios to him."
"Which really weird pronunciation." Exzy put in.
"French. Old French from before the Nuclear War. Two hundred years before the Arrival."
Mum raised her eye brows at Ice, this time.
"I'm a language junkie."
"And they didn't want you for Teams?"
Ice grinned. "A Native! One forbid!"
Exzy bounced. "Do you know how to teach languages?"
Mum snickered. "Exzy is trying to teach the neighbor's cat and a crow that hangs around to understand English."
Ice looked thoughtful. "I've never tried to teach animals . . . but crows are very smart, and a cat that's lived with people probably already knows a lot of words. Hmm . . . Rael, may I show Exzy magical language acquisition?"
Mum bit her lip, but nodded.
"What new language would you like to speak, mega-brat?"
Exzy bit his lip. "Spanish. I know a bunch of words, cause they leaked into English, but . . ."
"Pure Spanish is a bit more." Ice looked a bit absent minded for a minute, then his mental shield thinned . . . no, a thinly shielded bubble of specific memories, and thought twists sort of stuck out. "Touch it mentally, look it over and see the facts, and the imprint of the language. Don't rush, if you don't like the feel . . ."
"Esta bueno, yo . . . ¡Estoy hablando español!" He started jumping up and down. "¡Eso fue muy fácil!"
Ice laughed. "En efecto. Úselo regularmente y se pegará."
Exzy swallowed . . . thought about English. "Now I just need to try that on Tigger and the crow."
Ice nodded. "I offered, and you took it. I doubt the critters will take it. In fact, I don't think anyone not magic could absorb a language like that."
Exzy nodded. Unless the potion gave them magic genes . . . and the Rats! I know the Rats have magic!
"And they've got tiny brains, and probably even less of the parts humans use to process language." Ice bit his lip. "I don't think it'll work, but so long as you don't push it, it shouldn't hurt them."
Mum pinched her nose. "Please try the crow first? Just in case he explodes or something. I'd much rather sweep up gory feathers than have to explain to Mrs. Guilden . . . or look innocent and claim to have no knowledge of what happened to her cat, while disguising newly churned soil in the flowerbeds."
Ice snickered. "Remember Exzy, don't shove it, just offer it. Rael, I'll practice your shield piercing vibrations." He waved and strode off.
Exzy sighed. "He's pretty smart, right?"
"Right. And you really ought to not call him a goon to his face. As fast as that man's improving he's going to hit Warrior by next year and all the directorates will be fighting over him." Mum sighed. "So long as Izzo can win reelection. If we get Afgu, Ehfa, or Ovli he'll get treated like a Native."
Exzy rolled his eyes. Politics! Everyone's always arguing about it.
Mum perked up and giggled. "But if Rumakova's elected, Ice'll probably be her executive assistant. If I weren't an Izzo fan I swear I'd go to work for her campaign."
"Mummum! A Guurrrlll President? Eww!"
"Oh Dear. I've raised you all wrong."
Exzy sniffed. "Maybe not all girls are bad. You'd be a good President."
"And on that horrible thought, I have a class in five minutes. Remember what Ice said. Just offer the language."
Exzy nodded and headed for the back yard. I'll sit and meditate and see if I can put out just a little English, or at least find out if it can be separated out to common nouns and verbs.
Which seemed doable . . . but the crow just eyed him from the tree, and the cat looked over the fence and decided against visiting.
"I'm going to have to hide. And put out food." Exzy scowled and stumped back to the kitchen to get fishy cubes from the fab . . . the fab had come in a huge box . . .
He galloped out to the garage, grinning as he spotted the box. "It's perfect!" He dumped the packing material that had been stuffed inside, cut a flap to get in and out, a slit to watch through . . .
Dragged it out to the patio to give it a try. Then he added pillows to lay on, a soda and a sandwich . . . and fishy cubes. One plate up on the table, one on the ground.
The crow eyed the box and flew away. The cat sat on a fence post licking his paws and ignoring everything.
Exzy climbed out of the box and scowled at his recalcitrant experiments. "All right. Fine. I'll bubble it. But after I've taught you two English, you'd better not tell Mummum, or No. More. Fishy Cubes!"
Speaking of which . . . he picked up the dishes and moved them inside.
Then he grabbed a bubble, opened it up and got it over his box. Sealed the hole carefully around the flap so it would seal when the flap was closed. He closed the flap, and whole thing tried to float away!
He grabbed the bubble and opened it. Opened the flap and shifted the bubbled edges so the end of the flap and that side of the hole acted like the handles. He closed it up and the two strips of cardboard dropped to the ground. He grinned . . . then scowled. He was going to have to cut a new view port, the old one would be too low, with the handles on the ground.
"But I'm going to try it. I'll open a hole where I cut the viewport, and see if I can see both of you." He eyed the cat, and glanced at the tree that might be harboring the crow. Then he went inside to grab the fishy dishes. Set one on the table and one on the ground.
He climbed into his . . . invisible observation station. Yeah, that sounds scientific!
But then he was going to have to hold the flap open while he reached to open the viewing slot, otherwise the time dilation would kick in, and hours would pass on the outside.
And there was the tink of the crow landing on the glass-topped table and the scrabble of his claws.
Exzy leaned to look through the flap . . . as the cat pounced . . . the crow dodged and Tigger got a face full of tail feathers. And got his claws and teeth hooked in. They fell off the table in a cawing, growling flapping confusion.
"No, no, no, no, no!" Exzy started to climb out . . . spotted the two big men rushing in, arms and hands extended, and the flapping furry fight hit him in the face.
After a chaotic moment, Exzy got the cat by the cuff, and held down on the ripped and leaking pillow. the crow landed on his head, still cussing at the cat.
And the flap was closed.
Exzy hastily switched his grip on the cat and pushed the flap . . . pushed harder . . .
"Who were those men? Did they tie the flap closed?" Swallow. "Are we floating away?"
He reached across to the viewing port and opened a hole carefully, ready to shut it if there was nothing but the inbetween . . .
Light. And a voice. ". . . so we brought it all to you."
A second voice, appalled and angry. "You kidnapped Xen Wolfson's kid! How could you be so stupid! All I wanted was a magic bag!"
Exzy snorted. And popped the bubble.
"My Dad isn't the one you need to worry about. Mom's going to get you. If you're lucky you'll only get turned into purple bunny rabbits."
Three men in a big room. A business suit guy, a bald one, and one with shaved strips of pale skin between strips of short black hair that made him look like a skunk.
"My magic bag!" Business guy sounded pissed "One damn it all! Grab the kid!"
The crow took off and he let the cat go. Grabbed a bubble. Dad can make whole armies disappear, so three guys is nothing!
Exzy backpedaled hastily as he opened a hole in the bubble, dodged to the side . . . I can't reach high enough to scoop them up! He ducked a grab saw the descending foot and held out the bubble opening.
Baldie's foot sank like he'd stepped off a cliff and hit the floor face first. Exzy opened the hole wider and got the other leg, hauled it up and the whole guy got sucked in.
He dodged Skunk, who tripped over the cat, and Exzy jerked the bubble around and he practically dove in. Exzy closed the bag and looked around.
Business Guy was standing there with his mouth open. Snapped it shut and reached under his jacket and pulled out a gun.
"Let them go or, or . . . I'll shoot your cat!"
The pistol swung around toward Tigger. Who was parading off, radiating offense.
Exzy sucked in a deep breath, and pushed as hard as he could.
Business Guy flew back and hit the wall. Dropped a foot to the floor and crumpled down to siit looking dazed.
Exzy slapped the bubble in his hand against his shoulder, just like Dad did, to attach it. and grabbed another bubble as he trotted across the floor to capture Business Guy.
Which brought up the next problem.
He looked out the door at a completely unfamiliar place. Checked his pockets. No comm. A cash card that probably still had a balance. The house keys, pocket tool . . . He blew out a breath, and looked back at the crow perched on a girder close to the ceiling and the cat, licking a paw like getting kidnapped to an unknown location was nothing.
Exzy grinned. An Adventure!
"You guys stay here. I'll go figure out where we are."
He left the door unlocked as he closed it firmly. Memorized the number on the building, which was probably a warehouse, although it was smaller than he thought warehouses were supposed to be, and looked pretty new. It even had landscaping in front of it.
Pretty good hideout. It doesn't look a bit scary.
Exzy trotted down the street. The first intersection was Rouge, the warehouse street, and Kaito, the cross street, which was larger, wider. He looked around . . . he could see a skyscraper in the distance, but it wasn't one he recognized.
A big guy in a black leather jacket, and boots and lots for chains walked out of a door ahead, and stepped up to a big motorbike. He eyed Exzy. "You lost kid?"
Exzy nodded, pointed. "What's that tall building?"
The guy glanced that way. "IR Tower. If you're headed that direction, cross the street and take the V-line north." He pointed up the street.
"Thank you." Exzy backed up to the interscetion and crossed with the light. And then down the stairs to the V-line. His Mom had showed him all over the New York Metro, and how to read the stylized maps, so this was no problem. The station nearest the IR Tower was named Tower station.
Easy. Except for the red light when he wanted to follow the directions. He pulled out his cash card and stuck it in the reader and got a green light.
Whew! It'd be a bummer to get this far and then not have enough money for the last step . . .
At tower station he floowed some guys in suits up the stairs and, glancing up at the building, around the corner to the main entrance.
He trotted up to the guard, who was frowning at him.
"I need to see Senior Analyst Ice-kah Withione Sycamore Tall Trees."
Then it got busy, because Ice called Mum, and Dad teleported in with her, and Uncle Ox came and all the policemen arrested Business Guy with great big grins, because they wanted him for a lot of other things. Skunk and Baldy got arrested, and then Exzy had to take them to the warehouse, where they found a bunch of drugs that Ice said were probably why Business Guy wanted a bag so he could smuggle them somewhere.
Dad made both the crow and the cat sleepy and put them in a bubble to take home.
Exzy watched the sleep spell and memorized it. Heaved a deep breath. They don't want English. They're just regular animals. Mostly. I need to stop trying to teach them things they aren't interested in and concentrate on the rats.
He looked at Mum on one side. Dad on the other.
Once they stop worrying about me, and I can get back there.
Eventually they took him home. Still hovering.
"Tigger! Kitty, kitty! Tigger!"
"He's over here, Mrs. Gilden!"
A metallic clank as Mrs. Guilden mounted a ladder and looked over. "No. That's that new cat. Tigger is neutered and declawed. They do look a lot alike, but this one is obviously younger, apart from needing that trip to the vet."
Whoops! I didn't think about him regrowing things! It's only been . . . well, two months.
"He probably ran my Tigger off!" Mrs. Guilden clanked back down her little ladder and out of sight. "I'm going to walk around the neighborhood and call for him."
Should I tell her? Exzy looked at the cat. Or have I just acquired a cat?