Caturday on Ceres

Just for fun, I’ve dropped a few easter eggs into “Caturday on Ceres” as an homage to many of the sci-fi stories and franchises that I love. There are a total of 10. Did you catch them all?

I’d been trying to reach my broker for a good two hours before the fat slug answered my hail. When his slimy lump of a face finally flashed up on the screen, I said, “Hey Anton, it’s Philo. Got anything for me?”

“Philo, my boy. Good to hear from you. I was beginning to wonder if you and that foul little sidekick of yours had flown too close to the sun.” Unfortunately for all parties concerned, he said it loud enough for my associate to hear

“Fuck you, you slovenly, disgusting lump of animated adipose tissue,” hissed Mr. Meowsers. “I’m not a goddamn sidekick! Bendix and I are partners. Get it?” Meowsers, a genetically enhanced, hyper-intelligent ginger tabby cat was indeed a full partner in this venture, receiving a 50% share of every bounty we took in. After expenses, of course. It takes more than Saturninan Sambuca and cat nip to run a successful bounty-hunting business these days.

The slug began to shake and let loose with the gurgly noise that was his version of a laugh. When I say, “slug” I mean that literally. Anton was a Sigmurethran, and was, for lack of a better description, a giant, slightly humanoid gastropod from Ecaz. The Sigmurethrans were just one of the races that had found their way to the solar system after the Brahe Event when a probe of that name stumbled across the Sednoid Wormhole, a major transit point in this part of the galaxy. Anton, the slimy bastard, loved winding Meowsers up in any number of ways but calling him my sidekick was by far his favorite. Now, I was going to spend the next several hours listening to the grumpy little shit curse. Fucking lovely.

“Come on, Anton,” I pleaded, “We need some work. The ship needs fuel and we’re almost down to the emergency rations. So, whatever you’ve got, we’ll take it.” I was very intentional about the “we” language. When Meowsers was upset, he became extra sensitive to any slight, real or perceived. Which meant that I had to walk on eggshells until he settled down.

“Hmm,” rumbled the hulking, muculent worm, “let’s see what I’ve got.” He extruded an appendage from his lump of a body and scrolled down his screen, presumably looking at all the warrants GALACTAPOL—what INTERPOL had morphed into after we had joined the Laniakean Union—had outstanding. Anton was known throughout the cluster for an encyclopedic knowledge of his business, so the blobby fucker knew exactly what jobs he had and which one he was going to give me. He just wanted to watch me squirm for a bit. I wanted nothing more than to tell him to fuck off, but he was one of the few legit brokers in this corner of the galaxy. A lot of agents in the system were Keplerians and those sons-of-bitches were as shady as a day on Venus is long. Anton may have been a shit, but he always held to the contract. And he paid in Gliesean coin instead of Union credits which are notoriously unstable. You might take a job that paid 50,000 credits, thinking that would keep you in the black for three months, only to find out when you were done that your 50k wouldn’t even buy you lunch at Tycho’s Tacos on Luna. No, I had to humor the gross bastard. After a few minutes, he’d had enough fun and let me off the hook. “Here’s something. Dr. Eldritch Soundclaus, wanted by the Kong Corporation for property theft, real and intellectual. Seems that he was doing some research for them but got shut down when it came out that he was testing on animals. Absconded with some lab equipment and all of his notes.”

Property theft? What a fucking insult. Just a few years ago, we were the most requested hunters in this part of the galaxy. Hell, M’s and I brought in the Boolean brothers after they hit the First Martian Bank on Mons Olympus. Not only that, we were also the ones who tracked down Ne’Flav Rog after he assassinated Bisan Klach, president of the Union. And now we were reduced to chasing petty thieves? All because of a stupid case of mistaken identity. How were we supposed to know that the character we’d just hooked up wasn’t a skip, they were the Vu’ulian ambassador? I mean, those guys look practically identical with differences so subtle, even they have a hard time telling each other apart. God, that was embarrassing. Our current lowly station sucked, but work is work. And, like I told Anton, the cupboards were getting bare. “What’s it pay?” I asked.

“40k,” he said. “65 if you also bring back the equipment and the notes.”

“40k! Shit. If he’s any further out than Mars, we won’t make any goddamn profit.”

“I know,” he said with a jiggly hunch that I supposed was a shrug. “But it’s what I’ve got. You want it?”

I was about to say no, but I heard Meowsers hiss. “Take the job, Philo. I want that son-a-bitch. Bad.”

I looked at my friend and saw his hackles were raised. When M’s did that, he wasn’t fucking around. I turned back to the screen. “Yeah, we’ll take it.”

In a couple of hours, the drone Anton had dispatched arrived with the data and a 10k advance—in coin. Like I said, he was a disgusting fucker, but he was always on the up and up. We headed over to the Shackleton Space Port to fuel up and lay in supplies. I had to handle all that because, despite all the weird creatures transiting the Solar System these days (giant man-slugs were just the tip of the iceberg), people still got freaked out by a talking cat. Besides, M’s was better with data than I was. I just don’t have the patience for that kind of stuff. Put me behind the stick of a Koharn Hellhound and I’m good to go. Set me in front of a data terminal and I am so fucking lost it’s not funny. I could never understand it, but somehow, the little shit could look at all that gobbledygook on a computer screen and suss out where a skip was hiding. I asked him once how he did that and it turned into a lecture on pattern recognition, street savvy, and knowing your quarry that made my eyes roll back in my head. For him, though, time on the terminal was an integral part of the hunt and, like any cat, he loved the hunt. While waiting for our supplies to be delivered, I walked back to the comms cabin where Meowers was working his magic.

“Finding anything?”

“Oh yeah,” he said. “Do you know what kind of ‘research’ this motherfucker was doing?”

“No idea, M’s,” I said. “I’m guessing it’s not good, though.”

“God damn right it’s not good,” he fumed. “He was studying the pointer problem. The god damned pointer problem.”

“What, like a laser pointer?” I said.

“Yes, like a laser pointer.”

“And that’s a problem?”

He glared at me. “Yeah,” he snapped. “It’s a problem.”

“I don’t get it,” I said. “Cats love laser pointers. What’s the big deal?”

 Meowsers jumped up on the keyboard. “What’s the big deal!?” he shouted. “Do you know what the feline community has had to endure because of the fucking stereotypes around those things? All the jokes, the shitty memes?” He sighed. “You know better than most humans that not every cat loves a laser pointer.” He was referring to the time right after we partnered up when I surreptitiously flashed a laser around the room. I wound up with scratches in places I didn’t know could get scratched.

“Okay, man. Chill.”

 “Sorry, Philo. But this shit pisses me off.” He settled back onto the cat pad beside the computer. That was one of his more brilliant inventions, allowing him to use his paws to manipulate the cursor and enter data. He was justly proud of it, even if I’d had to build it for him. For some reason, the scientists who’d done all his enhancements hadn’t bothered to give him thumbs, which meant that a lot of things he had the knowledge to pull off were physically beyond his capabilities. That was a major sore point with him. After he settled down, he said, “It’s bad enough what he was doing, but all his testing was done with cats his assistants pulled in off the street. Probably lured them in with cans of tuna and cat treats, then made them chase that goddamn dot around the room. Poor dumb bastards didn’t know they’d never catch it.”

Just then, I heard the chime of a comms hail. Probably the supplies, I thought. “Okay, I’m gonna go see who’s calling. Keep at it, M’s. I’d like to have some idea of where he’s hiding by the time we’re loaded and fueled. You know how much it’s costing us sitting here in this berth.”

“Fuck you, Philo.  Don’t tell me how to do my job,” was all he said.

Cats, man. Shit.

With the supplies stowed and the tanks topped up with helium 3 and deuterium, I went to see if Meowser’s had a line on the good doctor’s whereabouts. “Hey, M’s. Find anything yet?”

“Maybe,” he purred. “There’s an old outpost on Ceres that closed when Tessier-Ashpool moved their mining operations out to Jupiter. It appears someone signed a lease on it and moved a bunch of equipment out there. Including a modular reactor with enough output to power a good-sized lab.”

 “Ceres,” I said. “Well, there goes most of our fucking profit.”

“Hey,” M’s said, looking up at me. “It’s not just about profit, you know. Sometimes, you have to do the right thing. Even if it costs you a few credits.”

“Oh, shut the fuck up,” I said. “When did you get to be so altruistic?”

“What? I’ve always been this way.”

 “Really? That’s how you want to play this?”

“I’m not ‘playing’ anything,” he said. “Where is this coming from?”

I rolled my eyes. “I believe you were the one who wanted to turn down that job for the Sisters of Perpetual Poverty because it didn’t pay enough. What was it you said? Oh yes, ‘I only care about money, Philo. The goodwill of some broke-ass nuns won’t get me any pussy at the cathouse.”

“I was high on cat nip when I said that, and you know it!” he snapped.

“Yeah, well you were very graphic about your needs. Which was almost as disturbing as what you did to the Avialian colony on Omicron Persei 8.”

“You’re never going to let me forget that, are you?”

“Dude,” I said, “I found you in a pile of bodies with a mouthful of feathers.” I shuddered. “I still have nightmares about that.”

“Well, that one’s on you, pal.”

“What? How is that my fault?”

“Because you’re the dumb ass who took a cat to a planet full of bird people. I mean, what did you think would happen?”

I started to argue with him but realized it was pointless. In most respects, Meowsers was as good a partner as I could ask for, but he would never admit when he was wrong. “Whatever,” I said finally. “I’m going to go plot this fucking course. The quicker we leave, the quicker we get there.”

“Yeah, you do that, monkey boy.” He stretched. “I’m going to make sure I have my towel and then catch a nap.”

Even with a couple of slingshots around Earth and Mars, it still took the better part of 180 days to reach our destination, what with Ceres being on the far side of the asteroid belt. The crazy thing was that we could’ve gotten to Altair IV, which was almost 17 light-years away, in just a few more months since transiting the wormhole was pretty much an instantaneous proposition. We’d made a lot of progress in the galaxy, but intersystem travel was still an issue. It could’ve been worse, though. Five years ago, prior to Baelle Dulzeh’s work on the fusion drive, our trip would’ve taken almost twice as long. And, because space is really big and the computer did most of the piloting, neither M’s nor I had a lot to do. Which meant that we played a lot of 3-D chess and sabacc. I didn’t win very many of the chess games, playing against a super-smart cat with an amazing flair for strategy. But I made it all up when the cards came out. M’s IQ is well above genius level, but he can’t bluff for shit. And he can’t figure out when his opponent is bluffing either. Dishonesty in general baffles him, really, and the way he deals with it is to either not suspect a thing or to believe every word out of his opponent’s mouth is a lie. I had just laid down another perfect hand when the computer chimed to let us know we were closing on Ceres.

“Fuck you, Philo,” the cat said as I raked in the hand pot. “I know you’re cheating, but I can’t figure out how.” When I reached for the sabacc pot, he said, “Ah, no. We’re not done here.”

“M’s,” I said, “You know it’s going to take at least a couple of hours for us to get close enough to find out what kind of early warning system Soundclaus may have deployed. And then, god knows how many more getting past it. Let’s just call it and start over later.” That was bullshit, of course. Time had nothing to do with whether we continued this game or closed it and started another one. But I wanted, no needed, that pot just break even from all the chess games I’d lost. It was a fair bet. Up to now, he’d been in his unsuspecting mode. Unfortunately, this was the moment he chose to shift gears.

“Yeah, you’d like that wouldn’t you, Pinky,” he snarled. “Damned if I’ll let you take all my money like this.” He activated a stasis field over the table and linked an alarm.  

“That should keep both of us honest. Well, as honest as a cheating bastard like you is capable of.”

“That hurts, man.”

“Shut the fuck up and get me close enough to do my thing, asshole.”

I had said “a couple of hours” to get close enough to start probing Soundclaus’ alert net, and it was relatively close to that. I had set the computer to notify me as soon as it detected any emanations from the dwarf planet, and it did. We needed to “fly casual”, i.e., look like just another ship heading for the mining operations further out in the system and I didn’t want to trust that to the computer. I mean, it could probably do just as good a job as me, but I’m old school and love to fly. While I settled in at the controls, Meowsers geared up and settled into his sensor suite and began exploring the limits of Soundclaus’ system. He’d been at it for a little over an hour when I headed back to the comms cabin with a saucer of milk.

“How’s it going?” I said, placing the bowl in the holder he’d designed to let him lap the liquid up without taking his eyes off the screen.

“Fucking impressive, man,” he said with a milk mustache that prompted a laugh I barely stifled. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Well, that’s not good,” I sighed. “We going to be able to sneak in or do we need to just kick down the door?”

“Oh, we’ll sneak in, don’t you worry. They haven’t built the system I can’t hack,” he purred. “And I think I just found our way in.”

“Oh? Do tell.”

He raised his paw and pointed to one of his screens. “See these blips hanging out in orbit?” I nodded. “Well, they’re supply drones belonging to T-A who are staging them there so they don’t clutter up the space around Ganymede and Io. And their radar return is almost exactly the same as ours.”

“Almost?” I said.

“Close enough that the net’s computer shouldn’t trip to the difference. So, we slide on by, hook a u-turn once we’re well out of his range, and slip into orbit around that shitty little rock just like we’re supposed to be there.”

“All right,” I said. “I’ll go set everything up. Send that info up to the flight deck?”

“Already done.” M’s was a grumpy little shit, no doubt. But he was an efficient grumpy little shit and that made up for a lot.

M’s plan went off without a hitch, which made me think this job was going too smoothly. I mean, things had gone uncannily well since we’d taken it on. Anton’s drone was right on time and contained all the necessary info and cash. I got an especially good deal on the fuel and found that I actually had a credit with Aldi when I ordered our provisions. Even the trip out had been easy. Meowser’s doesn’t always handle space travel all that well. Like a lot of cats, he gets the zoomies at night. But space travel fucks with his circadian rhythms and, after about 24 hours, he can’t tell whether it’s day or night and it really messes him up. Once, I had to lock him in his cabin because he went totally batshit and tried to eat me. Fortunately, he only weighs about 8 pounds, so it wasn’t a big deal. But, this time, he’d been cool as a Caudanian cucumiform. I kept waiting for something, anything, to go wrong. But it didn’t.

After establishing an orbit, we geared up to go get our skip. I made my way down to the shuttle dock in my standard kit: pulse stunner, electrocuffs, immobilizer net, and, in case all of that failed, an old-fashioned beanbag gun. I’m no Boy Scout, but I do believe in being prepared. M’s showed up in a new accessory pack we’d only recently finished up. It consisted of light armor, a visor that would filter out various spectrums of visible light, a short-range sensor net, and a sonic cannon. I wasn’t sure about that last item, thinking it was overkill. We always use non-lethal weapons because the dead-or-alive days are long past, and clients don’t pay for corpses. Well, some do but we try to avoid that kind of work. M’s had argued that the intensity was adjustable and that could come in handy if we ever went after another Uqurian. I couldn’t argue with him as Uqurians are, on average, 9 feet tall, weigh as much as a Pandorian shuttle, and are strong enough to pull the ears off a gundark. The last one took everything we had plus a few blows to its head with a large rock to immobilize it. I took one look at him and shook my head.

“What?” he said.

“Dude, what do you think we’re going to run into down there?”

“I don’t know,” he replied testily. “And that’s why I’m taking the big gun. You’re not the only one who likes to be prepared, you know.”

“I think you just can’t resist the chance to play with your new toy.”

“Fuck you, Philo,” he said as he boarded the lander.

“Just be careful with that thing, okay? Our margin is already razor-thin and I doubt we’ll get anything for a bag of sludge that used to be Soundclaus.

He stopped. “Again, fuck you, Philo,” he said over his shoulder.

Approaching the planet’s surface, we found that the station’s automated landing systems were still operational when they took control of our shuttle and brought us into the landing bay. I fully expected to be met by a bunch of well-armed henchmen but once we were in with the bay doors closed behind us, no one showed up. Since we’re not ones to look a gift draiver in the mouth, M’s and I looked at each other for a minute. I shrugged and said, “Well, this asshole isn’t going to apprehend himself so let’s go.”

As we eased off the ship, my partner activated his sensors and began scanning for life forms. When nothing showed up, we cautiously made our way out of the shuttle bay and, with the help of a map he had downloaded from the web, headed toward what we hoped was Soundclaus’ lab. On the way, we encountered pictures of cats, litter boxes and even a giant Maneki Neko (the weird ass-waving cat from so many Asian restaurants across the system) in what must have been the old trading post’s dining area. As we walked by, M’s took a minute to mark it with a spray of urine. He hated those things. Said they were an affront to the feline community. We moved on.

We were about halfway to the lab when Meowsers stopped and signaled with his tail that he was picking up something. A few seconds later, two cats came around the corner, took one look at us, and scampered off. M’s looked back at me quizzically and I shrugged. What the hell could I tell him about cat behavior? We kept moving, running into more and more cats as we progressed. Eventually, we made it to the lab. It had all felt too easy and my nerves were raw. Things got worse when the doors opened and a smell like nothing I’d ever encountered rolled out and slapped me in the face. It was like a thousand litter boxes that had never been cleaned were in that room. Easing into the doctor’s inner sanctum, we split up with M’s going left and me right. It was darker in here and my eyes needed a second to adjust. Meowser’s, however, didn’t have that problem. Being a cat, especially one as genetically enhanced as he was, he had excellent night vision and saw Soundclaus almost as soon as we entered the room. I knew this because I heard him hiss. Our quarry must have been watching on a monitor or something, because he said, “Ah, Messers Bendix and Meowsers. So good of you to join us.” Us? I thought. But then my vision finally acclimated to the lower light and I could see we were surrounded by cats. At least a hundred, maybe more. They were all over the place, laying around, eating, and playing with some weird ass cat toys. There was even a creepy-looking hairless Sphynx sitting behind Soundclaus, lightly stroking the man’s head. The general weirdness of the scene had me off my game and it took a minute before it registered that this whackjob knew our names.

“Yo— you know who we are?

“Of course, Mr. Bendix. I make it a point to know everyone who enters my lair.” His accent was a strange mix of German and the slightly hissy sound of Vorzirian. “And, you are quite famous. Your takedown of the Fibonacci Cartel was masterful. And the capture of the kidnappers of Zugnien Dakridis? That was most impressive.”

“Well, thanks. I guess.” I looked over at M’s. He was remarkably calm. Which I thought was more than a little odd, given how angry even the mention of Soundclaus’ name had made him on the trip out. As I tried to figure out what the hell was going on, Soundclaus continued.

“But even if I hadn’t heard any of that, I’d know who this fellow is.” He gestured towards Meowsers.  “Please,” the man said as he stood up and turned to face my partner. “Come closer. I want a good look at you.”

I saw the hackles on M’s back start to raise. “Wait a minute,” he said. “You know me?”

“Know you?” Soundclaus laughed. “I created you, my fine feline friend.”

“You what?” Meowsers snapped.

“I created you, Mr. Meowsers. Or, should I say, X-419.” He looked at M’s and, even in the low light, he could tell that last bit didn’t go over well. “Ah, well. Mr. Meowsers it is then. You were my first foray into genetic manipulation and cybernetic surgery. And, I have yet to surpass you.” He smiled again. “But step into the light. I want a better look at you.”

 M’s didn’t move. “I’m fine right here where I’m at.”

Soundclaus laughed and pulled a laser pointer out of his pocket. “I think I have something here that will change your mind.” He activated it and played it across the floor in front of Meowsers, who went rigid for just a second, then relaxed. It was so subtle that I only noticed it because I know M’s so well. Soundclaus, however, was at a loss when the pointer had no apparent effect.  “Interesting,” he said. “You’ve developed a resistance to the dot. I didn’t think that was possible.” He smiled again. “You, Mr. Meowsers, are a true gem.”

M’s wasn’t fazed by the man’s platitudes, however. “Dr. Eldritch Soundclaus, we have a warrant to take you back to Earth and stand accountable to the Kong Corporation for property theft, real and intellectual.”

“Pfft,” Soundclaus said. “The Kong Corporation? Those short-sighted ninnies terminated my contract and for what? Because I found a way to herd cats.” His chin jutted out defiantly. “Not just herd them but get them to accomplish real tasks.”

Now, I was curious. “Wait, what?” I said. “You found a way to get cats to do stuff? Even with all of M’s enhancements, I still can’t get him to do anything besides himself.” I looked over at my partner. “Sorry man, but it’s just nasty.” He gave me a dirty look. Turning back to Soundclaus, I said, “So, how did you pull off this miracle?”

“Simple behavior modification using a pointer, treats, and toys. And some brain surgery to make them more… compliant.”

I still had questions, though. “So, what kind of things can you get them to do?”

Soundclaus gave me a smug smile. “Anything I want, my friend. Anything I want.” He turned back to his desk and activated a screen, then brought up a video of cats moving in unison, leapfrogging toward an objective. “As you can see, once conditioned, they make very efficient soldiers.”

M’s and I looked at each other, both thinking “What the fuck?” When I found my voice again, I said, “Are you saying that you’re training a cat army?”

“That is exactly what I’m telling you, Mr. Bendix. Think about it. Cats are very efficient hunters and vicious in the extreme. Imagine the havoc they could wreak on the battlefield.” He smiled again. “And don’t forget they have nine lives, which makes them practically immortal.”

Holy shit, I thought, this fucker has gone all the way around the bend. “Question,” I said, “how are a bunch of 8-pound house pets going ‘wreak havoc’? I mean sure, their claws hurt like hell, but they won’t do enough damage to bring down a man. And that’s not even considering soldiers like the Theizalian Centurions. Their armor can take a direct hit from an ion cannon.”

“Pssh,” he said. “Mere technicalities. When I perfect the weaponization of hairballs, the world will fall at my feet in supplication,” he said with a maniacal laugh.

“Dude, you are one whacked-out son-of-a-bitch,” M’s said.

“Really, Mr. Meowsers?” the doctor said. “Or perhaps I should say, General Meowsers.”

Uh oh, I thought, that’s right up M’s alley. He was always talking about how he was a better strategic thinker than any human. I saw my friend shiver just a bit. Again, so subtly that I was the only one who noticed. Then, he said, “General, huh?”

“It is why I created you, endowed you with all your unique abilities,” Soundclaus said. “Did you think you were born with a knack for strategy? Or those amazing pattern recognition skills? No, my friend. You were just an ordinary tabby cat when I found you wandering the streets of Chiba City. I brought you into my laboratory and poured all my talents into making you the amazing strategic genius you are today.” I had been watching M’s while this wigged-out maniac wove his twisted tale, and I was beginning to get worried. Meowser’s tail was just above the line of his back and swishing back and forth the way it does when he’s focused on a target. But when Soundclaus called him “General Meowsers” it twitched like he’d seen a queen. Jesus, was he actually considering this nutjob’s offer?

“M’s,” I said, “you can’t—”

“Shut up, Philo,” he said. “Let me hear what the man has to offer.”

“Excellent, my furry friend, excellent. With you at their head, my forces will be invincible. I will rule the world and you will sit at my right hand.” And that is where he lost him. M’s is no one’s “right-hand man”, I mean, “cat”.

His tail dropped immediately, and he snapped, “Bite me, you crazy fuck.” Before I could do anything to stop him, he fired a full-power burst from the sonic cannon, and Dr. Eldritch Soundclaus disappeared in a cloud of red mist.

When I recovered from the shock of seeing a living breathing man reduced to a mass of goo dripping off the wall, I was pissed. “God damn it, M’s! You know how tight the margin was on this job. We were supposed to bring back Soundclaus, not a pile of glop. We’ll be lucky if we don’t have to return the advance. Fuck!”

“Count yourself lucky I didn’t take him up on his offer, Monkey Boy.” He gave me this weird expression I’d come to realize was his attempt at a smile. “Don’t lie,” he said. “You were shitting your pants at the mere possibility, weren’t you?”

I shook my head. “Well, he was saying all the right things.”

“I’ll admit it was tempting.” He came over and began to wind around my legs. “But you’re the only human I can stand to be around, much less work with.” He jumped up on a table so were closer to the same level. “And something told me you weren’t going to be part of the equation.” It was the nicest thing he’d ever said to me. I thought about asking when he’d become so sensitive, but it was a short leap from his perch on the table to my face and I thought better of it.

“Thanks, man. I appreciate that.” I sighed. “Let’s download his notes and research. Hopefully, they’ll give us something for that.” I looked around the lab. “This equipment is too damn bulky for us to get it up to the ship, though.” Shaking my head, I said, “Maybe knowing where it is will be enough for them.”

“Good thinking,” he said. Then, “What about all these cats? We can’t just leave them here.”

“Where are we going to put them? Even if the Elysian had enough space for them all, it would take dozens of trips on the shuttle to get them up there.”

“Yeah, I know,” he said. “Do you think you can download the information while I look around and see if I can come up with something?”

“Yeah,” I said. “I guess I can manage that.”

It turned out that Soundclaus’ cat care operation was fully automated with all the things a feline colony would need to survive until a rescue group could reach them. Which meant I was spared a six-month journey with a mopey-ass Meowsers. And when we got back and passed on the information, the Kong Corporation was horrified when they found out what Soundclaus had been up to. They were so grateful that the problem had been dealt with that they not only paid us the agreed-upon fee, but a very nice bonus, too. Not only that, they put us on a retainer in case they had need of our services in the future. And as if all that wasn’t enough, Anton was so happy with his percentage that he started giving us better runs. Things were definitely looking up and, while it wasn’t a situation I was used to, I wasn’t complaining.