ALIVE

Part 6 Alliance

by Anna-Karin Larsson AKA Ahdeya and Jennine Trachier aka Talis

 

Ken looked around before he waved them out. The Jellicles and Jon hurried across the street in calm manner. Theyíd landed the ship by some old hangers on the outskirts of Babylon. And the past three hours had been spent trying to get to the old warehouse that towered up beside them.

"Ok, up the stairs in here, and then down the corridor. The three rooms back there are a safe place for me and my friends. If they see and hear you theyíll not intrude. They know that I hide stuff up here sometimes and wonít ask. OK?"

The group nodded shortly and he could hear them sniff in all directions, trying to pick up the scent of the area. Jon placed a warm heavy hand on Kenís shoulder and squeezed it slightly, "Thank you. For everything."

"Hey", said Ken taking his hand in a steady grip, "If I can do anything thatíll even the slightest repay for that boyís death, my soul wonít be so scorched down there!"

With those words Ken pressed the money theyíd paid, minus the fuel, back into Jonís hands. "Live well, Go with God."

Jon smiled at the Zion greeting, "Go with God, Ken."

Nightshade started to check out the windows and doors of the place after dumping his gear in the outer room. From the looks of it the heavy curtains held the light inside and the alleys below them seemed deserted, apart form a dirty sleek old housecat that meowed at the rodents scuttling about some old trash. The reeking garbage cans made him twitch his nose. Godís perfect creation had dirty spots after all, and Iím in one of them! he mused and returned to his family again. Those were the ones who needed him the most, not some old fart of a cat outside.

"Jon?" asked Nightshade as he returned, "Are you going out?"

"Yes, Iím going to see if I can find The Amphora and see how it looks. And perhaps find some help, we could really use some local allies in case trouble starts. "

The others rotated their ears to hear him.

"You be careful..." said Silk, rubbing her head along his arm. He scratched her behind the left ear and she purred loudly. "Always my dear, always."

They watched him with nervous eyes as he disappeared down the rackety old stair. When Jon was halfway down he heard the door slam shut and the lock tighten it against the frame . "Good kids, if they made it to the others..." he thought as he entered a Babylon that was getting dark.

***

The architect who built the Amphora must have had a bad dream the night before he started to sketch it. It was a strange jumble of styles, that made up one of the most inviting old theatres Jon ever seen. The mighty muscular minotaur-men that made up one pillar on each side of the entrance were joined by steel and concrete above, here and there accented with another strange old sculpture. The minotaurs seemed to hold the entire front as their bulging muscles strained to keep it up. All those gothic influences and modern building technology made a stunning impression. But his heart felt heavy as he saw the signs with the CATS eyes, now no longer burning in the darkening afternoon light. Suddenly the words "Now And Forever" above the entrance seemed like a lie and he shook his head. He stood pondering the magnificent posters behind the glass walls of the entrance level. He lost himself so far in the posters and the feline faces looking down at him that, for a moment, he lost all consciousness of his surroundings. Turning away from the huge posters he shook himself back to reality. Despairingly, he looked up and down the street trying to figure out where to go, who could help. His eyes settled on the window now facing him, something in it triggering a fleeting memory. Jon furled his brows trying to catch it: a memory of a TV broadcast, of a young man who looked devastated. That was him....

Jon made his way into the little café across the street from The Amphora, his heart beating a little faster with hope. A dark-skinned smiling man with a haircut close to hedgehog spikes nodded at him from behind the counter, cleaning out some old utensils and coffee pots. The spartan look of the place from the outside had done little to recommend it, but a smell of strong coffee and fruity pastry hung in the air as Jon entered, comforting him with the familiar smells of home. He spotted the young man by the window with an equally familiar young woman, both leafing through some newspapers while a small portable flat TV with a six by six inch screen gave off a muffled sound. Now and then the woman or the young man pointed out something and they tore it out, shuffling it into a folder they had with them. Jon ordered a cup of black coffee and a sugar sprinkled donut and took a seat a table away from the two. He also bought a local newspaper and started to leaf through it, seemingly interested in a debate about whether white or gray houses fitted The Almighty best.

"Iím telling you, Itís amazing..." said Illona Smith as she thumped her finger right in the printed face of Munkustrap. Richard Karentszky, her longtime fellow CATS fanatic, mumbled something as he chewed on a gingerbread cookie. "Mrffhhfghh?"

"Chew it down, Rich..."

And he did, "I know! I just want to know what the heck weíll have to do see them again..."

He seemed sad suddenly and his shoulders slumped. The usually cheery face grayed as his eyes traveled to a photo on the cover of the folder. It was taken with a extremely sharp teleobjective lens on his camera one late evening when the strange bus had come to pick up the dancers, still in costume. At that time it had seemed strange but now they knew why. A faint twitching smile crept across his face, "And how Iíll ever meet her..."

Jon could hear the sadness in his voice. It was obvious these two had more than just a mutual interest in CATS. These two loved it, lived it. A sugar-crumpet suddenly tickling the back of his throat made him cough slightly and the two looked at him. Embarrassment colored his surprised face, "Oh sorry..."

The young woman flashed him a quick smile before the two started their low conversation again.

***

"Didnít you come here yesterday as well?" asked Richard, dropping into the seat opposite Jon. Illona took the chair next to him, swung it around and sat down with her crossed arms on the backrest.

"Theyíve got good coffee." said Jon with a warm smile.

"Coffee...Yeah, right. Yayay, good coffee. Well, coffee my tail..." mumbled Richard in a low voice, "You stared at the house," he pointed at The Amphora" as if it was a dream. As if it was a hallucination. Who are you?"

The young manís direct questions demanded and deserved a direct answer.

"I have a special connection to the dancers who performed there. Thatís all."

Illona stopped Rich from saying anything more by clasping a hand over his bearded mouth. Rich swatted away her hand and glared at her.

"In what way?" asked Illona and her eyes narrowed considerably.

"I know some of them.. almost."

The two stared at him and swallowed hard, exchanging quick glances as they did.

"Iíve watched you two. You seem truly devoted to the show. You seem to know a lot."

"Oh yes! Enough to be slapped in the face each time we wanted to say hello, each time we wanted to have an autograph. Does six years of faithfully attending almost every show not count? And then, it turns out itís not... fake. Itís real. Theyíre really cats..."

Jon nodded slowly, afraid heíd say the wrong thing. Richardís almost aggressive wish to meet the CATS made Jon feel for him.

"I wish I could help you all, I truly do. But I have some huge problems already," explained Jon, "and to tell you the truth itís really I who needs the help. "

The two looked at him with suspicious eyes before they seemed to relax.

"How can we help?" asked Richard, scratching his beard.

"I canít say much now, but Iíll be back tomorrow..:" said Jon and got up. "Please, do not follow. If you do, Iíll never come back and youíll be on your own again."

**********************

Jon walked into the coffee shop the next day, nervous from his argument with Nightshade the night before. The sight of two black suited Babel police officers lounging at the table by the door didn't help his nerves any. He almost decided not to go in, but since he was already halfway through the door when he saw them, he decided that would look suspicious. He went to the counter and ordered a donut and coffee and had to turn a choking sound into a cough when he saw the cashier nod at someone behind him. Chairs scrapped away from a table and two pairs of heavily booted feet approached the counter. Jon sent up a silent prayer and turned away to carry his snack to a table.

"Excuse me, sir," said a deep authoritative voice, "we'd like to have a word with you."

Turning to face the two officers with what he hoped was a completely blank expression, Jon asked, "Is there something I can do for you officers?"

"Your name please, sir?" asked the younger officer, taking out a PDA and beginning to take notes.

"Jon Proper."

"And your address?"

Jon hesitated trying to think of a plausible answer, he knew it would be entered and checked as soon as he said it. He nearly jumped out of his skin when an arm slipped around his shoulders and a male voice answered for him. "551 Eden Plaza apartment #12. Jon is a friend of the family and he's staying with me until he can get back on his feet again."

"And your name sir?" asked the young officer without showing any emotion.

"Richard Karentszky. Is there a point to this officer?" he demanded impatiently.

The older officer took over at this point, his eagle eyes missing nothing about Jon's appearance. "Mr. Proper, we understand that you claim to have known the creatures that performed at the theater across the street?"

"No, sir," replied Jon, keeping his voice level.

The older officer fixed him with a hard stare. "We were told that you had said that you knew them."

"Then someone must have misunderstood me, officer. I did attend a performance some years ago, but that's the only contact I've had with those creatures."

Abruptly, the older officer cut the interview off. "Thank you for your time, sir. We know where to reach you if we need any further information." Motioning his junior out the door, he turned and left.

Jon would have sagged with relief, if he had dared.

"Thanks a lot, Phil," Rich said sarcastically to the cashier.

The dark man flipped his head to one side, making the hedgehog spikes of his hair jiggle. "You may like the idea of furry humans," he answered nastily, "but I won't rest easy until I know that every one of them has been put down."

Rich raised a fist at the dark man but quickly lowered it again and guided an unresisting Jon out of the coffee shop. Illona quickly followed, catching up to walk on Jon's other side. Jon didn't know where they were going, but he was profoundly grateful to be with the two young people and not on his way to answer more questions at the police station. "Thanks for what you did back there, I really appreciate it."

"Not a problem," smiled Rich. "You looked like you needed some help."

"I'd better go, " said Jon, "I don't want to get you in any more trouble."

"Then you'd better stay," insisted Rich, firmly. "Those cops are still watching us."

Jon blanched white. "Oh, God."

Rich shrugged, "So you stay with me tonight. The cops in this town are always complaining that they can't afford stakeouts. They should disappear in 24 hours-- tops."

Jon thought furiously. If he didn't return the kittens would come looking for him, but if he did he'd lead the police right to them. 'They're not kittens,' Jon insisted to himself, 'they're adults, or nearly so, and they're pretty good at taking care of themselves. Safer to leave them on their own than to bring the cops down on them.' His mouth dry with fear for his charges, Jon said, "Thanks for the offer, I'll try not to be a bother."

"Is there anyone you need to contact? Let them know you're all right?" asked Illona. "Rich's phone probably won't be very private for a while. I have to work this afternoon, but I could take someone a message later."

Jon shook his head, "That's very kind of you, but no, there's noone."

Rich opened his mouth to ask more questions, but Illona shot him a look behind Jon's back that he knew meant he should shut up. Illona said, "I have to go, but I'll give you a call later and see how you two are getting along." She surprised Jon with a hug, and told him, "don't worry, everything will be fine."

 

 ***************************

Illona looked over at Richard, who thoughtfully scratched his beard as they stepped outside the cafe the next day. "Hey, that dye wasnít very good, was it?" asked Illona. Richardís blonde hair had succumbed to his whims and now it was dark brown. Even if she couldnít imagine why heíd dye the beard as well! Men, crazy as always! All she got in return was that he made a face at her and then grinned.

Fishing out his antique RayBans, he flipped them open with a practiced flick of his wrist and slipped them over his pale green eyes, "I had to do something last night. Jon's pacing was making me nuts ."

"Hey Mr. Cool..."

"Mr. Producer, thanks!" grinned Richard, continuing the subject in the manner that you can only get away with in the company of someone who knows your mind well enough to read it, "No seriously, heís to be trusted I think. Or, he needs our trust I think. He said he was going to go apartment hunting this morning, so he'd have an address to give me if the cops asked. They were still hanging around this morning." Richard frowned and shook his head, "Jon still wouldn't tell me what was going on. He said he didn't want to get us in trouble."

"No clue at all, huh?" asked Illona.

"Just that he about fainted when I brushed a piece of cat hair off of his jacket last night."

Illona nodded and looked down at the sidewalk as The Amphora faded behind their backs. They turned into their usual shortcut through a crammed alley, only to see something flash at them. A mirror and a setting sunís rays reflected at them to get their attention. Something bright and yellow scurried through the shade above their heads; Something fiery orange and then a pair of shimmering green eyes. High up on a large blue rusty dumpster a face they recognized looked down at them, but at the same time it was not. The clothes were wrong, none of them ever wore a green Nike sweater. Illona grabbed Richardís arm as they looked up at the stranger.

"Skimbleshanks?" asked Richard with a shaky voice.

"No. My name is Fire. And we need your help..." said Fire waving down into the alley, where suddenly the rest of the cats stepped out.

"Ohmagodthisisnítreal." gasped Illona and her grasp on Richardís arm grew harder.

 

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