Somerset Farm 

                                                                                        by Jamie Haze

 


Chapter 62

Fortunately, Will, Joe, David, Noah, Buck and Doug were seated when
Freckles streaked into the Challenger's, now, Kermit's cabin. He
acknowledged them with a nod as he immediately turned left, into the open
cockpit door and sat down with his big head between the pilot and
co-pilot. Since the crew was Bucky's long time trusted employees, Will had
already advised them that Freckles, their only unknown passenger, was a
highly intelligent, very rare, if not unique species of cat. He did not
mention that the cat could speak, and did not know that Freckles would
answer a human if spoken to without condescension, and with a modicum of
intelligence.

"Good afternoon," the captain greeted Freckles, "are you interested in
avionics or would you just like to watch us take off from the cockpit
windows?" He may have asked `tongue in cheek', but he seemed interested in
an answer and he did not display the fear the larger crew aboard Big Bird
showed when Freckles appeared among them unannounced.

"Both thank you. I am Freckles Katz." Freckles answered as he scanned the
jet's instrumentation and the pilots. "I see that Kermit's systems are the
same as Big Bird's, just more compact." He turned to the pilot and blinked,
"You are Sky Warrior Oscar," he turned his head right, "and you are Sky
Warrior Sean, it is a pleasure to meet you. When can we leave earth for the
sky?"

"Ah, um, I guess as soon as someone closes the hatch, PETER!" Oscar called
out to the steward as a subtle hint to get his ass in gear.

The galley was opposite the hatch and Freckles' haunches and gently
swishing tail with a swinging case attached were mostly blocking the
door. "I'm in the galley and I can't get out, at least not safely." The
steward, Peter, answered with a laugh. Freckles' tail lifted to peer at the
problem and realized his big butt was the problem. He carefully placed his
treasured case on the deck and then sought out the young man, Peter. Peter
squeaked and giggled as he was unceremoniously lifted from the confines of
the galley and placed in front of the open hatch, "That tickled, but thanks
for the ride, however you did that with your tail." Oscar listened to the
whine of the motors as the hatch's built-in steps folded and the hatch
thunked closed and sealed. The last warning lights blinked off so the cabin
could be pressurized.

Freckles watched preflight checks closely with his eyes and checked out
Peter with his tail. A touch of Peter's mind told Freckles that he was far
from being intimidated; he seemed to be fascinated with the big cat's
presence and longed to touch Freckles just as many of Sea Song's crewmen
did. Freckles was not about to refuse a thorough ear and head scratch, he
pulled the young man by his arm over to place his hand on one ear, "Could
you scratch an itch just there please? I would be dangerous if I did it
myself in this confined space." Peter's success at scratching became
evident when Freckles began his rumbling purr and tipped his head from side
to side to hint that he had two ears so Peter began using both hands.

After the engines started to whine, Freckles eyes roamed the twin digital
read outs and small screens. He noticed that a single screen near the
co-pilot remained dark and asked its purpose. Sean activated the screen, it
showed a view of the main cabin space with Will, Joe, David and Noah
sitting together, talking quietly and Doug and Buck sitting on a sofa,
holding hands.

Sean explained, "This is just a security feature. Many of these planes are
used for charters, ah, rented out and they're used to keep an eye on
strange passengers. Since we never have charters, we rarely turn it on," he
laughed, "unless some of the boys are aboard; sometimes watching them is
like watching a comedy show."

Mention of the boys, reminded Freckles to suddenly ask, "Are we there yet?
Where the fuck are we? When will we be there?" All were questions that the
boys were fond of asking Gregor repeatedly, just to piss him off. The
pilots laughed and threatened to throw him out at thirty thousand feet if
he asked one of those questions again.

Freckles had another thought, "Would it be useful if that monitor watched
Kermit from above?"

"It would sometimes, like right now, since this runway isn't used very
much, sea birds like to use it to stand around, and then some of these kids
have their carts modified and like to race us on takeoff; that could be
dangerous, for us as well as them, although I'm sure it's fun." Oscar
glanced to the side, "Like those two little bastards pacing us right
now. If they stayed on the trail alongside the paving it would be safer,
but of course that's too rough."

Freckles looked where Oscar had looked and the two carts slowed and
stopped. He noted that both boys knew exactly where the engine was located
when they jumped off and raised the seats before they disappeared to the
rear. Next he looked up at the ceiling and then at the unused monitor, a
clear image of Kermit from overhead appeared as he taxied to the other end
of the runway to turn and take off into the light wind.

"How did that happen," Sean asked, "that's us in real time, see the palm
trees we're passing?"

"Snoopy always watches this area and he is pleased to watch Kermit join him
in the sky." Freckles explained. "You see that there are no birds ahead so
Kermit may go faster, safely," he encouraged.

"Do you mean that we have access to a satellite in this area? Whose is it?"
Sean asked with some amazement in his voice.

"Ah, you've worked for Mr. Trenton long enough to know that there are some
areas we don't go into," Oscar warned Sean to cut off further questioning,
although he was just as amazed and impressed. He assumed that if Bucky
Trenton owned the bird that they would already know about it and the only
other person they knew of who could afford one was Evan Falconburg. The
appearance of Evan's always present bodyguards tended to curtail any
questions anyone had about him or his business interests.

Oscar slowed and turned Kermit at the end of the runway. He explained that
while they didn't need twelve thousand feet to take off safely; that it was
always prudent to have unused runway in front of them instead of behind
them. "Buckle up Peter, we're ready to go," Sean said. He looked at
Freckles, "Normally, I'd tell you to fasten your seatbelt too..."

Freckles finished his thought, "Perhaps I should lower my center of gravity
like this?" Freckles stretched out, including his hind legs and used his
tail to take Peter down with him so Peter rested comfortably on his back
positioned so they had their heads together. He held Peter in place with
his tail.

"Am I hurting you?" Peter asked.

Freckles looked to the side and snickered, "If you could hurt me, you would
be a very great warrior," he assured. That comment caused Peter to burst
out laughing and wrap his arm around Freckles' neck companionably. "Kermit
is bursting with energy! Will we climb very fast?" He asked Oscar eagerly.

"If you want to climb, then climb we will," Oscar promised. He did his
pilot thing and Kermit screamed to race a surprisingly short distance down
the runway before climbing steeply into the afternoon sky.

"WEEEE," Freckles sang. He looked up and then at Oscar's course, he
adjusted that subtlety until he advised the pilots, "Look at Snoopy's view
now!"

"HOLY SHIT!" Sean exclaimed; which diverted Oscar's attention. Both men
looked at their horrified expressions through Kermit's front windows on the
modified monitor. Kermit appeared to be on a collision course with the
satellite and they were about to crash into it in Nanoseconds. Freckles
restored the course and returned control to Oscar before he could break the
yoke by turning to avoid a collision.

Oscar wiped his brow and frowned down on Freckles' pleased expression after
they leveled out. "I don't know how you did that, but please never do it
again without warning us BEFORE you do it!" He shouted.

"FRECKLES," Will shouted from the cabin, "stop playing around, godamn it!"
Buck and Doug remained quiet although they laughed constantly on hearing a
large part of the conversation. It was important that the people he was
most likely to see regularly, be comfortable with interacting with him. Of
course they already knew that the three man crew had no `evil intent'; they
had been scanned.

"I did nothing," Freckles protested back to Will, "Peter did it!"

"I did not! What did I do?"

"Make Kermit appear to crash into Snoopy; it was a very good joke,"
Freckles assured Peter.

"It was not and Peter did nothing," Oscar called back to Will before he
allowed a small smile. "It's a very good thing that there was no one up
here in front of us with a camera."

Freckles' giggle imitated Buck's exactly as the printer in the cabin
bulkhead stuttered to life. A minute later, David delivered four photos to
the cockpit, "How many copies do you want?" he asked the pilots.

Freckles giggled again, "I might remind you that Snoopy IS a camera. I'm
sure that Chief Bucky will want a copy please."

David grinned, "I don't think that is a very good idea until he gets to
know you better and Bani explains what a very bad cat you are."

"I am a very bad Great Cat," Freckles corrected before he thought about his
admission. That comment brought Buck and Doug forward.

"Bani told us to bring parachutes and if he misbehaved, drop him on the
nearest snowcapped mountain."

Freckles raised one side of his lip to `frown' at Buck, "I reviewed
Kermit's course. There are no mountains although some cold rain is falling
where Kermit will land. See?" He used the monitor to access successive
Snoopy satellites to jump forward along the course until he zoomed in on a
small county airport near Trenton Hall where they were scheduled to land to
drop off their special guest before proceeding to Newark, Kermit's home
base. Oscar, Sean and Peter were speechless but David remained unimpressed.

"But," David cautioned, "you should know that practical jokes while we're
thousands of feet in the air are not a good idea. I think we could all use
a drink, Peter, if you're done with your cat nap." Freckles sat up to
facilitate Peter standing up then lifted him back into the galley before he
turned around to accompany David and the boys into the cabin.

"Call me if you need my assistance," Freckles called to the pilots as he
settled on a sofa opposite Doug and Buck.

"We should lock the security door while we can," Sean joked in a whisper.

"I heard that!" Freckles called out, "How rude!" he added.

Peter asked for drink orders and was surprised when everyone, including
Freckles asked for a rum punch. Doug explained; "I had a big silver bowl,
extra rum and five pounds of pineapple wedges delivered earlier, I hope you
got them. The bowl is for Freckles' drink."

"Do you want rum in your drink too?" Peter asked Freckles. It was Peter's
turn to receive a Great Cat frown that included three inches of
incisor. Peter backed away, "I was just asking," he defended weakly.

"With lots of ice cubes, please," Freckles added, "and many pineapples."

"And a towel," Buck suggested, he added, "Someone likes to bob for ice
cubes."

While Peter was away mixing drinks, Buck raised the coffee table that
separated the sofas to near normal table height, a more convenient height
for Freckles to drink his drink and bob for ice cubes. Freckles' eyes
widened when the table moved and he had some fun with the control until the
drinks arrived. The guards joined the boys on their sofa and closest
chairs. Peter served a bowl of pate on a tray surrounded by assorted crisps
and a sixteen ounce tin of caviar, with toast squares and the appropriate
condiments on a second tray. Unfortunately for Freckles, both snacks
required the use of hands so Peter joined Freckles on his sofa and was hard
pressed to feed him until he decided to take a sip of his drink, washed
down with several crunched ice cubes. Each time Freckles `surfaced',
whatever he couldn't clean with his versatile tongue, Peter removed or
dried with his ready towel.

Between the six humans and one teenage Great Cat, the snacks were soon gone
and while Peter went to see what else he might serve, Buck suggested to
Freckles, "You know you might consider hiring Peter to be your attendant,
or personal assistant. Love won't always be around and we won't be either,
you might need a pair of hands like right now, it's just a suggestion. He
seems to like you and obviously isn't afraid of you."

Freckles nodded, "I will greet him in our way when he returns to see how he
thinks."

Peter returned with a tray of fresh cut vegetables and a dip. He apologized
for not being properly prepared to serve such a large guest. Freckles' tail
surrounded Peter's neck and he was pulled forward to touch foreheads and
peer into each other's eyes after Freckles explained the method of formal
greetings in Great Cat lands. Freckles' communicator lit up after a few
seconds.

He relayed his findings via mind-speak with great surprise, "This poor boy
has lived twenty-two human years without coupling with a male or a female
although he enjoys looking and dreaming of both. He uses only his hand so
far! Would this be called shy?"

"I'll check his file, but he must be okay if he was hired to work on
Bucky's plane," Will went forward to the cabin bulkhead that was stuffed
with electronics, using the excuse that he forgot to touch base with the
office to be sure that there would be some sort of transport for Freckles
when they landed.

Freckles didn't seem to care, after he and Peter broke contact, Freckles
used his tail to gather Peter in to his side and hold him tight, as if he
was comforting a child or consoling a friend who just lost a loved one. A
Cat Warrior with twenty-two years and still a virgin was unimagined,
inconceivable and -- unacceptable and therefore correctable.

Peter had cut up carrots, celery and cucumbers, bite size for humans and a
second pile for Freckles that were cleaned and cut in half; tidbit size for
a Great Cat. He rubbed Freckles' back with one hand and used the other to
feed him.

"I know you give currency to workers like Sea Song's stewards, but how much
should I give Peter, one box full per week or perhaps gems or gold bars?"
Freckles sent to Buck.

"Offer him twice the currency my father gives him now to start with, you
can always offer more but never less," Buck advised and then added, "I
would not mention boxes of currency, gems or gold bars at first, it would
be better if he finds out about your wealth gradually."

Will returned to the group smiling, but by then Peter had resigned from
Trenton with Buck's laughing approval and was Freckles Katz's first
employee. Peter was astounded to find that his salary had doubled and he
was suddenly earning two hundred thousand dollars per year just because he
and Freckles liked each other and that he had two of something that
Freckles didn't -- opposable thumbs.

While Peter was occupied with feeding Freckles, Will used mind-speak to
report; "Guess what, Peter is the younger brother of the girl that started
working as Kermit's first flight attendant. She referred him. He was
working as the assistant manager of a video store, he still lives with
their mother when he's home. He jumped at the chance to travel in return
for more income and the opportunity to see some of the world. Best of all
he's been totally discrete; whatever he hears or sees on board, which has
been a lot, never goes any further."

"You know after you eat all these vegetables, there's nothing left to
eat. You eat too fast." Peter scolded Freckles boldly.

"I do not eat too fast, you feed too fast, I am eating to be polite, I have
no hunger," Freckles returned. But when Peter playfully attempted to remove
the tray he found Freckles' tail around his wrist to guide the attached
hand from the veggies, to the dip and then quickly to Freckles' mouth
before there were drips.

"Fight nice guys," Buck suggested, "By the time we touch down and get to
the house, it will almost be dinner time, so no one will starve."

"Dinner, are the proper dishes in Kermit's belly?" Freckles was reminded,
"I asked Kad and Sidi to bring a set to Kermit but they are such flakes,"
he paused to look at Buck in question to be sure `flakes' was the proper
word. He continued when Buck grinned and nodded. "I want to gift a set to
your honored mother so your family does not have to eat using the primitive
breaking kind."

Buck winced and Doug laughed at hearing Freckles' description of near
priceless antique bone china as being primitive. "Well, you and I could
keep my mother and Dad busy giving them the other gifts we brought them,
while Doug and Peter get the dining room table reset with the stuff from El
Dorado," he suggested.

"Eldorado, that's a myth or legend isn't it?" Peter asked.

Freckles hugged Peter with his tail, "It is not Eldorado, it is just Cat
City; it has always been so. These white warriors are dweebs with great
imaginations; they think that too much gold adornment in our City is what
the evil warriors in iron suits, once sought. The Cat warriors collected
the metal suits and weapons taken from those that foolishly came to our
lands," he explained and snapped his teeth together several times to imply
a reason why the invaders had no further need of their armor.

########

Oscar warned of possible light snow and/or freezing rain in New Jersey by
the time they arrived, but Freckles heard nothing. He actually used the
steep narrow human steps to board Kermit cautiously but his exit was one
typical Great Cat leap and a fifty foot paw scrambling slide out toward the
runway before he was able to stop by extending his claws. While he slid,
his tightly held identification case swung violently like a slashing
flail. It was apparent to those watching that he enjoyed the unexpected
slide and he experimented, trying to repeat his performance back to the
plane.

Just starting to run on the glassy surface didn't work, so he tried just
barely extending his claws for traction to begin; his strength and weight
did the rest. He had barely begun to build forward momentum to slide
properly when he collided with the small group of humans standing near
Kermit's steps, including Bucky Trenton. Bucky, Will, Joe and Peter were
prepared for cold weather, with long pants and coats, but Buck and Doug,
David and Noah weren't. They had proper winter clothing, but they were
packed so their shorts and tee shirts were soaked and they were
freezing. Bucky sent them out to the parking lot after Freckles presented
Buck with his case, to keep it dry. The irony of that comment was lost on
no one.

Bucky hoped the ride he chose would be large enough to accommodate Freckles
comfortably. He'd already determined that a limo, even a stretched limo
would be too confining. Freckles accompanied Bucky along the icy sidewalk
with his claws extended just enough for traction and with his tail draped
over Bucky's shoulders companionably, although he was ready to `collar' his
host just as he did with the boys, if he started to slip and fall, and
after the second save, Bucky found the helpful tail far less disconcerting.

Peter looked back at the jet preparing to take off as he walked between
Will and Joe. "Why doesn't Mr. Trenton just base the Challenger, I mean
Kermit, here?" he asked and justified his question, "This little airport
has a nice runway that's long enough, it would be quicker and cheaper to
just drive here a few miles rather than fly the chopper to Newark and then
have to transfer. It also would be more private, if like now, privacy was
wanted."

Joe and Will looked at each other and nodded, Will said, "Damn good idea
Peter." He called to Bucky, "Hey Bucky, Peter has a great idea," He grinned
at Peter, "Well, give him your suggestion."

After Peter finished explaining his idea, Bucky grinned and nodded; he
looked back as his jet screamed past the one lonely combination office and
hanger and the plane park where only a dozen small private planes were tied
down. He instructed, "Great idea Peter; Will, see if the County would be
interested in selling the whole airport and all the land they own around it
designated commercial or industrial to give us a cushion. They can't be
making a dime on this operation and I'd bet they'd sell in a heartbeat to
save the poor tax payers," he giggled, "including me, some money. Build us
some hanger space for ah, Kermit, with quarters for the pilots and on duty
crew..."

"And a decent kitchen," Peter blurted, "well, there isn't one in Newark,"
he defended, "and food that gets served on Kermit or the other little jets
needs to be prepped first, the galley is not a proper kitchen."

Bucky shrugged, "You heard the man, get it done please."

While the humans talked, Freckles' attention was on his first ever on-land
ride in any kind of human mechanical conveyance and he was excited. He'd
envied the boys driving and riding in their small speedy motorized carts,
but he was just too big to ride on one. Bucky had rented a big RV bus for
Freckles. If Freckles liked it, he or Bani could buy one and have the
interior customized however they wanted; the decision would be theirs.

Doug and Buck were already inside and they could be heard laughing their
asses off for some unknown reason. Noah and David muffled their laughter
with their hands. The door was open and the driver stood by the door
waiting patiently to greet his passengers. The man was older, but a well
experienced guard and Joe decided driving Freckles would be nice easy duty
for him. Freckles was less than ten feet from the man before he remembered
to shake off before he boarded. That was the exact moment that those within
ten feet of a wet Great Cat learned how far away they should have been to
stay out of the incredible resulting shower as Freckles dried his pelt. It
also became clear why Doug and Buck were laughing so hard; they were
anticipating the show and shower. Their increased screams were not
appreciated.

The driver began to sneeze suddenly and he actually ran fifty feet before
he turned back to explain; "I'm sorry Boss, I can't do this. I haven't been
near a cat since I was five years old. My sister got a kitten and by the
time my parents figured out that I was allergic, I almost died. That was so
long ago, I guess I forgot about it."

"Why don't you drive the van with the luggage and send up that driver to
drive the bus?" Bucky suggested as water ran from his matted hair, down his
neck and under his water repellant overcoat.

Freckles grabbed Peter by his neck as he was fond of doing when moving the
boys around and thrust him forward toward Bucky. Of course he ignored the
havoc he caused and Peter's coat was an absorbent lined hoodie so he was
just as wet. "Peter can drive this conveyance," he volunteered.

Peter protested that the only truck he'd ever driven was a U-Haul and that
was for just a few miles. He owned a Ford 250 pickup but that was more like
a big car. "NO problem!" Freckles assured Bucky, "I will assist!"

That declaration brought forth renewed gales of laughter from the occupants
of the bus and drew Bucky's ire, "If I hear so much as one more squeak out
of you two," he called while grinding rocks, "there will be two empty
chairs at dinner for the next," he paused to think of an appropriate term,
"FOREVER!" he decided. "Peter, you drive, let's go, I'm drenched," he said
in a more normal voice.

"How did you become so wet Chief Bucky?" Freckles asked as he padded up the
bus steps. Buck and Doug had the good sense to hide in the lavatory for the
short trip to Trenton Hall, but it wasn't entirely soundproof so some of
their continued giggles leaked out despite their efforts to stifle them.

Bucky chose the bus because of its interior layout. There were two facing
overstuffed leather love seats with wooden arms on the main level above the
driver. Further back there were two fat, leather upholstered, swivel arm
chairs. The furniture arms were holed for drink holders and were intended
to replace side tables. Then there was a tiny fixed table with built in
facing seating that was more for show, since the seats would only fit four
people with narrow asses. The galley was more functional with gas
appliances that included a range top, oven, a full size
refrigerator/freezer and a stacked washer/dryer. A microwave was above the
range. Opposite the galley was the compact bathroom that Doug and Buck
occupied. Of course the back of the bus was the so called `master bedroom'
with a queen-size bed and built in storage everywhere. Noah and David had
adjourned to the bedroom for safety

Freckles chose the sofa directly behind the driver (Peter) so he could
assist if needed or if he decided to help despite Peter's
objections. Directly above the armrest closest to Peter's back, he found
the master control panel. The buttons and toggles operated all the bus'
functions, both essential and merely costly add-ons.

Peter's first driving challenge was to back the monster up from where it
shouldn't have been parked in the first place. He found and turned on the
backup camera on his own, but when Freckles saw that the lens was
stationary, fixed at a specific angle, peering straight back and angled
steeply downward, he fixed that so that the lens moved within the confines
of its housing. That is, he could move it, but Peter couldn't. Freckles
explored their surroundings behind the bus until Peter complained. Both
were looking at a small monitor that was built into the driver's console
and Freckles found the view limiting.

He looked up. Will and Joe tensed in their seats; they had some idea of
what a Great Cat could do just by staring. The little monitor fuzzed and
cleared to show a detailed view of the entire parking lot from above
despite the clouds and freezing rain.

Bucky stood up and moved forward to get a better view. "Is that a view from
Snoopy? That can't happen; this bus isn't equipped with a receiver."

Will shrugged, "It is now, and to quote some unknown writer; `You ain't
seen nothin' yet.'" He intoned dramatically with a giggle.

Once Peter exited the parking lot, Freckles first switched Snoopy's view on
Peter's screen to forward, in front of the bus before he turned his
attention to the control panel. "Freckles," Joe warned, "I don't think you
should play with any of those while were moving down the road."

"Do not worry, they are labeled very nicely. Here is one for `Television',
I see it up on the ceiling of this mobile hut, but that is not convenient
for viewing," Freckles complained.

"That's a safe one to push, see what happens," Joe encouraged. Freckles
blinked and the big flat screen unfolded until it was perpendicular to the
floor. He offered it a Cat frown when it remained dark. It brightened to
display Peter's view of the road ahead, greatly enlarged.

"Excuse me, I could use some directions guys," Peter suggested, "I don't
know these roads or the way to your home, last minute turns in this weather
won't cut it," he warned.

"Chief Bucky, Will and Joe, together, think of the proper course and I will
tell Snoopy and he will assist Peter," Freckles directed. No one noticed
that Freckles didn't tell them just how Snoopy would or could `assist'
Peter.

The three men closed their eyes and independently imagined the roads ahead,
the required turns, the gates, the driveway and straight to and under the
portico in front of the house. Peter giggled, "Wow, thanks guys, the Snoopy
thing is providing a GPS course in real time, it even shows the cars coming
toward us and the one son-of-a-bitch tailgating us, I think he's trying to
pass us."

"What is tailgating?" Freckles asked. After that word was explained to his
satisfaction, he looked up at the TV with everyone else in time to see what
they were sure was an engine exploding amid billows of smoke and
steam. What appeared to be a late model Mercedes sedan slowed and just had
time to pull over before it stopped.

"Is that what you did to those kids who were planning to race Kermit on
takeoff?" Peter asked Freckles with a frown in the overhead cabin mirror.

"Oh no, they were just having fun with their machines; I stopped the fuel
from reaching the engine until we entered the sky. I removed the
lubricating and cooling fluids from that tailgater's machine. Should that
be a protection for this machine, if one drives too close?" He didn't wait
for an answer. He noticed that Peter appeared to be uncomfortable. He
determined the reason after a light mind touch. "Peter, Snoopy will assume
control while you pee. In fact this machine is on autopilot. Snoopy will
take us to Chief Bucky's hut without danger or error."

"I'll drive if you need to pee," Will volunteered.

Peter attempted to slow and pull over but the steering didn't respond and
taking his foot off the accelerator didn't slow the bus at all. Freckles
removed choice by using his tail which left the driver's seat empty as they
began to round a curve. They all held their breaths as the steering wheel
turned into the curve while the speed dropped to a safe level and when
through the curve the wheel straightened and the speed increased although
well below the posted limits because of the icy conditions.

"Holy shit," Bucky mumbled, "it really works. Can we ask how you did that?"

Freckles was once again eyeing the master control panel while he answered
Bucky, "Well, big bad boy Sea Song boat, Kermit and Big Bird all have
autopilots so this Cat Mobile should too, so I fixed it to make it so. What
is Pop Outs?" he asked suddenly.

The men couldn't see the buttons being depressed but they could hear the
servo motors working and see the side walls and furniture move away from
the normal bus' interior sides as the lounge area expanded outward. Bucky
frowned, "Those are pop outs, but they aren't supposed to be out when the
bus is moving. In fact I think the rental guy said the engine couldn't be
started if they were in the out position."

"I fixed that too," Freckles assured Bucky happily.

The noise brought Buck and Doug out of hiding in the bathroom, pulling up
their zippers and straightening their clothes. When Peter realized what
they were doing or probably doing, he replaced them with speed and a bright
red face.

"You know dad, no motor vehicle can be over eight feet wide on the road
without a bunch of permits and signs. With both sides out two feet, they
make this bus twelve feet wide." Buck informed his father smugly.

"I know that. You need to explain that to Mr. Fixit before he puts me in
jail. You'll notice we no longer need a driver? He's been fixing things."

Buck laughed, "I don't think the cops can give you a ticket for not having
a driver can they? I'm sure there's no law that says you absolutely have to
have a driver at all times is there?"

"Sit down and shut up, both of you, we're almost home. Will, call the house
please; tell them to open the gates."

Although Freckles made believe that he didn't hear Bucky's whispered
comments, he obviously noted the frustration in his voice so he left his
exploration of the control panel and lay down on `his' sofa with his head
on the armrest and quietly watched the road for the rest of the short trip.

#######

Once they arrived at Trenton Hall, Freckles became all business by
identifying each of the stonewood cases, so Buck and Doug could direct the
guards and servants in delivering them to their proper destinations. Buck
wanted to practice his skills at levitating certain boxes he knew to be
extremely heavy, but Freckles had already lightened them with a glance so
any one guard might carry two stacked without being aware of the contents'
actual extraordinary weight or of course their value.

Bucky hurried upstairs to shower and change after agreeing to meet Buck and
Freckles in the library in an hour as they had a few mementos they wanted
to present to he and his wife, Victoria, and Doug's parents, Bill and
Martha, as well as keep Victoria busy and out of the dining room until just
before the rest of the mob arrived by chopper or car from Newark. "What's
going to happen in the dining room?" Bucky asked suspiciously with a glance
at Freckles or Mr. Fixit.

"Freckles brought Mom a set of dishes that predate any that she owns. Don't
worry Dad, I guarantee Mom will be impressed, and after Doug gets the table
reset, she may never want to use her cheap stuff again." Buck assured his
father.

The boys, with Peter and Freckles drove their Hummer to the pool. Doug
drove, Buck pushed Peter into the passenger seat and joined him by sitting
on his lap without asking. Freckles was happy to lie in the back after the
seats were folded. At first Freckles was intent on exploring the garage,
particularly the motorcycle collection and even offered to make each pair
of machines into stable four wheel motor vehicles by joining them together
until Buck explained that they were built with two wheels intentionally and
that one or two people could ride one of them exactly as they were. He left
the garage only after a promise that he could swim as soon as they got to
where they were going, where Doug and Buck actually lived.

On the way to the pool, Buck moved around just enough on his temporary
seat, so that by the time they arrived, Peter was thoroughly red
faced. Freckles had the rear hatch open and was bounding for the doors into
the pool before Doug was able to shut off the engine. Peter's face improved
as he looked around at the nearly completed high-rise buildings that almost
surrounded the huge pool building and the attached residence tower. Buck
explained the new University and prep school with a shrug as if a
multibillion dollar construction project was an everyday occurrence as they
followed Doug in his race to the pool.

They saw at once that Freckles had disappeared and that Doug had left his
clothes, shoes and gym bag on a bench and was doing a joyous breast stroke
halfway up the pool when he suddenly disappeared. "Where's Freckles?" Peter
asked Buck as Buck began to strip.

Buck giggled and pointed to the roiled water where Doug was last seen, "I'd
say under Doug somewhere. I hope you like to swim, because Freckles sure
does." Doug's body reappeared by rising halfway out of the water, as if he
was standing but Peter saw that he was sitting on Freckles' back.

Peter thought that Doug's shouts at Freckles to stop fucking around were
hilarious and turned back to see if Buck agreed, only to see that Buck was
naked and joining his clothes and bag to Doug's. Buck grinned and
challenged, "Come on Peter, get naked. We'll just swim to the other end of
the pool before we go shower, but it might take us awhile to get there with
Freckles in a playful mood."

Buck left Peter wide eyed. He dove and swam swiftly to join Doug in dunking
Freckles or attempting to. Since he wasn't being watched, Peter stripped
quickly and jumped in, he thought without being seen. He was still unaware
of Freckles' tail and what it could do in addition to using it to lift any
one of them off their feet to move them around effortlessly. Freckles' tail
zoomed in on Peter's body and then Doug and Buck received the video in
their minds instantly.

"Very nice," they sent together in response.

Peter got just close enough to watch Freckles abuse the boys and their
laughing, tireless efforts to retaliate -- he thought. Freckles sank
suddenly and just as quickly he felt the tail collect both his ankles, the
Cat surfaced very near him and his body left the water feet first to fly
further out in the pool. He surfaced laughing from a messy shallow
dive. "I'll get you for that!" he called out as he swam back toward Doug
and Buck to present a united front; humans against one Great Cat

"Oh, I am so afraid!" Freckles sang in response before he sank until only
his tail remained above water. It and the sleek body it was attached to
began to approach them rapidly.

Doug quickly explained that Freckles could swim faster underwater and could
somehow `see' using his tail tip, which at the moment was bent and moving
toward them. "Scatter," he suggested, "and then let's try a three pronged
attack."

Of course that didn't work either and Freckles climbed from the water after
twenty minutes. "We won! Freckles is a big chicken!" Peter taunted happily
as he and the others joined him on the deck. By that time, Peter felt that
he was one of a band of three brothers and seemed to be comfortable in
being nude like they were.

Buck and Doug began to laugh and Freckles frowned at hearing the word
`chicken'; synonymous with rooster. It was obvious that he still hadn't
figured out how to fix his ringtone problem when Buck gave Peter, Freckles'
cellphone number while Doug ran to collect everyone's discarded clothes
before they went into the locker room to shower. Perversely, Freckles
waited until Doug returned before he shook off.

"Freckles, goddamn it, my clothes were almost dry; now I don't have any
clothes to wear," Peter complained, "Besides we're going to take a shower
anyway." He was mollified when Doug volunteered his closet since they were
close to the same size.

"Sorry, I was giving payback to Buck and Doug; besides I am dry now, I do
not need to shower."

Buck giggled, "You silly Great Cat; didn't you notice that we were already
wet."

"Oh yes you do," Peter corrected, "We all do, to get the pool chemicals off
our bodies." The three boys watched Freckles twist his body to bury his
nose in his rear haunch.

"That does not smell good. Why use such chemicals?" Freckles asked, "They
cannot be healthy for human skin since you have no proper pelts," he added.

"Because human pools recirculate water through filters and treat it with
chemicals to keep it clear and as clean as possible because of germs and
algae," Doug explained, "I think your pools in Cat City, are supplied by
artesian wells, under pressure; water flows in from the falls, through the
pools and out in some way constantly, it doesn't recirculate so it's always
clean."

"I could fix your pool," Freckles looked back briefly as they entered the
locker room.

"Maybe later, right now we have to take a quick shower, go upstairs and
dress and then get back to the house to give our gifts to our parents and
of course you need to meet them." Doug advised. "Oh, and please, no jokes
until they get used to you," he almost begged.

Freckles looked around the shower room and asked, "Why are there so many
spaces for washing? There are just three of you and one of me."

"There are over thirty other swimmers living here now, some like Pettie
have their own coaches. Then when we have meets there are many more from
outside. This shower room can get very busy. Right now I think its dinner
time, so everyone is eating."

"Do these other swimmers couple with each other, other friends, have only
females or are some like Pettie, who is mated with his teacher, Scott?"
Freckles used mind-speak to ask in difference to Peter, whose eyes kept
traveling between Buck and Doug's bodies, or up at the ceiling so he
wouldn't be caught staring wistfully. "Did you bring Stuff for cleaning?"

Doug answered out loud without thinking, "Some are out, others might be
gay; we don't keep track and really don't care who couples with whom. This
building started out being clothing optional, and everyone who lives here
is comfortable being nude. If we used Stuff in here, you know what would
happen and we don't give free shows."

Peter stuttered to life, "Ah, what's stuff? Does coupling mean what I think
it means since you already said only guys, some gay, live here? And, why
are you talking to yourself?" He asked Doug.

"Because he has a big mouth," Buck was quick to answer while he turned on
three showers in a row, which Freckles promptly occupied. Doug held a
bottle of shampoo over Freckles head and squeezed before he passed it to
Buck who applied it halfway down the ridgeline of Freckles' back before he
passed it to Peter, who covered the rest of the Great Cat who was already
purring his pleasure as Doug lathered his head and neck.

"If you see one of us wearing one of these gems," Doug began by holding up
his emerald with a soapy hand, "then you know they are mind-speakers; we
can talk to each other telepathically." He continued by explaining Stuff
and its many properties generally, and one in particular; it was a long
lasting, extremely effective topical aphrodisiac, the reason it couldn't or
wouldn't be used in the quasi-public shower room.

"You mean you can read my mind, and you've been reading my mind all along?"
Peter asked weakly after he reviewed many of the illicit thoughts he'd had
during the trip and was still having as he couldn't seem to stop his
fertile and very frustrated imagination.

Buck answered with a giggle, "No man, nothing like that, we can't, but all
Great Cats can, especially when they greet someone. Freckles told us that
you might be confused about your orientation. No one in our group is going
to hit on you, but you better not mind if they look. You have to decide who
you want to play with."

Doug interrupted suddenly, "Hey, what's with this shampoo? Our Cat friend
looks like the Pillsbury Dough Boy with four legs and a tail."

"The water here was very harsh on my delicate skin..." Freckles began to
answer.

"So you fixed it," Buck concluded with a giggle.

"Yes, want some?" Freckles didn't wait for an answer; he shook his
body. Lather covered half the shower room and the three boys were covered
from head to toes as well. His tail lashed out to gather them together and
then began to wash them completely but indiscriminately. Three erections
rose in response and although they couldn't be seen, they certainly could
be felt.

Doug had the willpower to push away from the group to scamper to the other
wall and turn on three showers in invitation for Buck and Peter to get away
from the busy tail. "Freckles, goddamn it, don't you ever listen? We said
no hanky-panky in here, so what do you do; you start some shit!" Doug
scolded from a safe distance as Buck and Peter joined him under individual
showers. Buck joined Doug in frowning at Freckles, who sat down under one
shower and frowned back, exposing most of his teeth, frustrated that Doug
managed to foil his plot to get Peter `involved' in some way for the first
time.

Peter lightened the mood by staring openly and grinning, "I'll say this; my
imagination didn't do you guys justice," he declared.

"You either," Doug and Buck complimented Peter together in return.

The loose skin on Freckles body began to ripple and the soap lather flowed
away surprisingly fast so he was rinsed before the guys. He helped them get
rid of the last of the clinging suds by creeping up really close before he
shook off a final time. This shower also washed off most of the suds on the
ceiling and walls.

#######

Freckles followed the three boys slowly. His eyes and other senses roamed
everywhere; he was fascinated by the concept of humans living in a
multistory hut but disgusted with the means of changing levels. There were
no proper ramps, only small human steps and those rose in small increments
that turned at right angles so he had no hope of leaping or jumping up or
down. He caught up with the boys while they stood in front of a closed
metal door talking with two other naked boys.

Predictably, the two strange boys' eyes widened in disbelief as they backed
away when they noticed Freckles approaching while Buck waved him closer for
introductions. One boy complained, "You guys may own the place and you do
as you please, but someone needs to draw the line at keeping smelly,
dangerous wild animals in your apartment."

Freckles didn't frown in the usual way when he heard the comment, instead
his ears flattened, his eyes narrowed and his tail began to twitch. Doug
hastened to forestall the Great Cat's extended claws; the last warning
before he attacked, "You don't need to worry about it asshole, he's going
to be living with friends at school."

The confrontation ended when the elevator door slid open. Buck nudged
Freckles into the car with a calming mental push and followed to block
Freckles' further glare at the insulting boy. Doug and Peter followed and
then Buck facetiously invited the two boys to ride up with them. They opted
to wait and ride up to their floor alone. Freckles watched Doug push one of
twelve buttons marked with the number four before he sniffed the button
array and all the buttons lit.

Buck shook his head, "I was just about to tell you not to mess with the
buttons, now we'll stop at all three floors before we get to four where we
live and then the car will keep going up, stopping at the eight higher
floors." He giggled, "Of course those two assholes will have a longer wait
unless the other car opens before this one gets back to the lobby."

Freckles nodded and all the buttons except four, darkened after they
stopped at the second floor. "What level do those two deceivers live on?"
he asked without looking away from the buttons.

"Nine and what are you planning to do to them or the buildings' elevators
and what do you mean by deceivers?" Doug asked as they arrived at the
fourth floor.

Freckles was the last off the car before he snickered and pranced down the
hall to stop unerringly in front of the boys' apartment door where their
scent or spoor was strongest. He explained, "One machine commands both of
those moving boxes. I told him to recognize those two assholes and to not
stop at any level for five times up and down completely before he opens the
door at their level nine. That will be very good payback for their rude
words. One stated what both thought."

Peter asked, "What's a deceiver?"

"One who announces that they do not like warriors, ah, boys who couple with
each other openly, while they couple together secretly," Freckles gave his
definition while he stared through the glass wall down into the pool
enclosure. He changed the subject, "If this clear wall was not here, you
could leap from this level down to that platform and then into the deep
pool very quickly," he advised. He meant from the fourth floor apartment,
out and down to the ten meter dive platform and from there down into the
dive tank.

Buck placed his back against the window and frowned at Freckles, "You mean
YOU could, but we can't, at least not more than once, only if we had a
death wish. And, don't even think about removing this window, I see your
mind working in those beady green eyes," he warned.

Freckles took Buck's words as a challenge to best him in a rough and
tumble. His tail lashed out to toss Buck at Peter and Doug. He pounced on
them before they had reached the floor and bunched them together between
his front legs and lay on them while his tail tip sought out their most
ticklish areas. In Peter's case, these turned out to be almost everywhere
and while all three boys were laughing and screaming `uncle', Peter was the
loudest but his pleas were unintelligible.

"I win," Freckles announced, "the clear wall will disappear and you Bucky
boy will be the first to try the new way down to the pool for calling my
beautiful eyes beady; after you define `beady'. Doug and Peter know many
words; they will help me learn American if you do not succeed."

"Please Freckles, don't break the window, we can't have any broken glass
around the pool, or, as a matter of fact, me either," he giggled.

"I could melt that, that window thing," Freckles suggested while he allowed
Doug and Peter their freedom but retained Buck with a paw on his chest,
"but that would be very hot and could cause much fire and make your honored
parent angrier with me than he is at this moment." He hoisted Buck to his
feet and went to study the window once more, "You should put on cloth
coverings so we will not be late and YOU are the cause of making your
father angry as well."

#######

The boys and Cat found that the rain, freezing or not, had stopped,
apparently the cold front had arrived, so Freckles opted to run back to the
house so he could explore his new northern surroundings and get some
exercise along the way. Buck told him that there was several thousand
acres, all of it fenced, that he could roam safely just before he
disappeared in the darkness.

Peter asked, "Wouldn't he see more if he waited until daylight?"

"Great Cats can see in the dark better than any other species of cat," Doug
replied with a laugh, "plus he has his friend Snoopy watching this whole
region. Just wait until he decides to stalk you just for fun, whenever you
think you're alone; first you are alone, and then you're on your back being
held down with a paw on your chest and being tickled and/or getting groomed
with his raspy tongue wherever there's bare skin." Doug saw Peter frown,
"Yup, down there too if you happen to be naked. Great Cats groom each other
as a sign of love and respect that's why he always allows a human to wash
his face with a towel." Peter's frown deepened as he climbed into the truck
and absently invited Buck to sit on his lap again with a hand motion.

Buck giggled as he wiggled his butt to get comfortable, "Don't worry," he
assured Peter, "he doesn't expect to get groomed anywhere other than his
face in return for him grooming you wherever he wants."

The boys expected to find Freckles in the garage when they returned the
Hummer but they didn't see him. They did see the half dozen mechanics
clustered together and staring wide eyed up at the Mean Green Grading
Machines' cab, and there was Freckles peering down on them. Somehow he'd
managed to fit his body in the restricted space and had already inspected
the electrical and electronic parts as he turned on the lights including
the flashing amber light on the cabin roof and started the annoying squawk
of the backup warning even though the engine was off.

"Did you know that cat can talk?" one of the men asked Buck.

"Yes," Buck responded cautiously.

"He's smart as a whip too. He helped me with the wiring harness on that old
Indian we've been restoring just by looking at the damn thing. We can't
find any schematics for a machine that old and now we don't need them,"
another man volunteered.

Buck grinned, "I'm glad you guys made friends so quickly and he decided to
talk with you. He likes all things mechanical, electric or electronic but
he also likes to make jokes and sometimes, like now, he's up there playing
with Dad's personal machine where he really shouldn't be caught by you know
who."

Buck had barely finished his oblique warning when the Green Machines'
lights went dark, the backup up beeper stopped beeping and Freckles was
found innocently sitting at Buck's side with his head resting comfortably
-- and Freckles hoped, innocently, on Buck's shoulder.

They were about to leave the garage when the chief mechanic spoke up, "Say
Buck, since you're here, I was wondering if you guys are ever going to get
to work restoring that Austin-Healey. It arrived in pieces, got covered
with a tarp and there it sits in the shop. We could do it if you give the
okay." The men who worked in the garage took great pride in maintaining the
warehouse-size building and everything in it, in pristine condition and the
covered lump was an unsightly distraction from the rows of classic cars and
motorcycles in the carpet covered display area.

"Who is Austin Healey?" Freckles wondered, "We have not greeted each other;
if he is broken in some way, perhaps I could help repair his body."

"It's not a who; it's a what, it's an old English sports car. Harman bought
it as a project, and when he moved here, we had it moved here to restore
for him as a surprise," Doug explained with almost a straight face. "Of
course we got busy with other things and just forgot about it," he
concluded.

"Does Austin have two wheels or four?" Freckles asked.

All the mechanics thought that was a hilarious question until Freckles
offered them a Great Cat frown, "Ah, four wheels eventually," a man
answered very seriously, "but right now it's sitting on blocks."

"If you want to help restore it, it would be something to keep you busy
when you're here on the property," Buck suggested. He refrained from
adding; "and out of trouble," but didn't need to. Freckles streaked away to
the more brightly lit shop area where a heavy cloth covering was seen to
fly up.

"Freckles," Buck shouted across the cavernous area, "not now! Dad thinks
twenty minutes early is ten minutes late!"

Freckles bounded back, straight to the side door, to lead the boys through
the garden to the house. On the way he reported; "Poor Austin, he has no
intelligence at all."

#######

Buck giggled and shook his head as Doug pulled Peter away to head for the
dining room to reset the table, while he and Freckles continued on to the
library. Bucky and Victoria were already there and acting like kids at
Christmas. Bucky was trying to poke a hole in one of the oddly shaped,
oblong, black plastic, upright bundles with his index finger and Victoria
was closely inspecting the lid of a stonewood box, looking for the latch,
since she always assumed that smaller packages were `a girl's best friend'
and there were no smaller packages. In this case both parents had guessed
correctly.

Buck finally got his chance to display his mind control abilities; he
popped open the box his mother was eyeing closely from the doorway. She
yelped and jumped back, "Gottcha mom, what a snoop!" he announced, hugged
her and gave her a peck on the cheek. He introduced Freckles assuming that
his father had already explained that the Great Cat had some extraordinary
talents and abilities, not the least of which was the ability to
speak. Then he explained the ritual Cat greeting just in time as Freckles
used his tail to gently pull her forehead to his, stare into her eyes and
bump noses.

"Greetings mate of Chief Bucky," Freckles intoned formally, "I am Freckles
Katz, soon to be a student at Bucky Boy's school. It is a pleasure to meet
you."

"Bucky Boy?" Victoria asked wearing a grin with a glance at Buck.

Freckles' tail collared Buck's neck to dangle him in front of his
mother. "This one is Bucky Boy, he teaches me American. I consider him a
friend to all Great Cats and the Cat People."

"Please put me down," Buck begged through clenched teeth. After he was
lowered to the floor, he rubbed his neck and frowned, "I asked you not to
do that," he reminded Freckles.

"You did ask, and I told you that there were other handles," Freckles
responded with a brief look at Buck's cloth covered crotch. Buck remembered
and backed out of tail grasping range.

Freckles recalled that he hadn't greeted Bucky properly and while that was
being accomplished, Victoria looked in the open stonewood box. "Oh my,
these small flat boxes are my favorite size!" she exclaimed and picked up
the first of many stacked in the chest. Buck explained that all of the
smaller boxes could also be opened in the conventional way; just by lifting
the lid. He also mentioned that none of the boxes in any size could be
shown to anyone outside the Family since they were made by the Ancients
from a unique wood and they had the additional problem of not having normal
hinges. Victoria heard none of that; she was staring wide eyed at a heavy
baroque necklace with a matching bracelet and earrings. Of course all the
settings were gold and the gems in the first box were all rubies.

Doug and Peter arrived with Doug's parents, Bill and Martha, in tow. Doug
carried a tray of drinks while Peter brought the hors d'oeuvres on a
monster tray in two sizes and in appropriate quantities but no one cared
since all eyes fell on the trays and drink containers. Bill, the engineer
realized that if that much metal was pure gold as it appeared to be, then
neither boy would be able to carry that much weight, at least not
easily. After introductions and disconcerting formal greetings with
Freckles, Doug quietly explained to his father that the Ancients and
perhaps the Great Cats had a way to manipulate the structure of basic
elements. In the case of the goblets, trays and Freckles' bowl, the metal's
weight was somehow greatly reduced; it was harder and much stronger, while
it would still test as being twenty-four carat gold and not some alloy.

Doug decided to expose the parents to the Ancient's gold service early by
allowing them to discover on their own that the ice cubes remained the same
size during and after they consumed their drinks and no more needed to be
added when it was time for a refill. He also hoped they would notice the
insulating properties of the metal goblets; the drink remained refreshingly
cold while the outside surface was always pleasantly warm, never damp and
uncomfortable to hold in one's hand. The women naturally, mentally
appraised the gem encrusted bands and bases while the two men stood
together trying to figure out the meanings of the engravings that decorated
each goblet.

As the women worked their way down through the flat stonewood jeweler's
boxes, Doug and Buck explained that all the finished pieces had been found
in the treasure taken from assorted conquistador convoys and were probably
created by artisans of long lost civilizations and intended for native
royalty, the aristocracy or religious leaders. Just a few pieces in the
bottom appeared to be designed by Christians and made by captive native
artisans using bulk precious metals and gem stones and according to
Harman's best guess were destined for ladies of Europe's royal courts since
unlike the native works, there were no representations of demons, dragons,
snakes, or the Jaguar.

The two men tore at their larger bundled gifts with their hands impotently
until Freckles helped by extending one claw fully; the plastic shrink wrap
and packing fell away with a single swipe at each bundle. Life-size plastic
foam mannequins were revealed, courtesy of Sea Song's machine shop; using a
reluctant Charlie as the model. The two were dressed in complete sets of
armor including helmets and belted, sheathed swords and daggers. The
original owners of these two sets were either nobles or high ranking
officers since all iron had been replaced with polished silver that had
been well embellished with coats-of-arms and the obligatory religious
symbols in gold and sparkling gemstones.

"Oh dear," Martha mumbled with a slight frown when she looked at her
husband's gift.

Doug and his father smiled at her reaction. She was trying to figure out
where to place the antique Spanish armor in her perfectly decorated
authentic Colonial period home. "Don't worry my dear," Bill volunteered,
"I'll put it in my office."

"That's what I'll do with mine too," Bucky agreed.

"You will not," Victory disagreed, "ours will be placed in the foyer near
that heavy side table and those two monstrous chairs. Harman told me, he
thought that the set probably came from a church and the table was
originally an altar, which he explained was the reason for the pointless
indentation in the table top; that was for the altar stone. Just after I
acquired that set I got a very nice letter from some Bishop suggesting that
I donate it all to the church. Can you imagine? I replied that if they were
so interested, they should have sent a representative to the auction to bid
against me."

"Ah, Victoria, about one of those chairs," Doug interrupted, "we needed a
heavy chair for Freckles to sit on at table, so we lugged one into the
dining room. The set you have is sturdy enough for humans but..." he left
the obvious unsaid with a look at Freckles who was then occupying most of a
sofa and at that moment bobbing for ice cubes and annoyingly elusive tiny
red things (maraschino cherries), that Peter thoughtfully added for color
in addition to pineapple wedges.

No one except Bill heard Bucky mumble; "Yes dear."

"Speaking of pussy whipped," Bill whispered in Bucky's ear that drew an
instant elbow in his side from Bucky.

Bucky retorted; "What are you talking about? You aren't even allowed in
most of your house unless you have guests."

Doug interrupted by carrying a single stonewood chest to the men while Buck
showed off his skills at levitation by placing two more unopened chests on
the coffee table that Freckles was using as his bar. Doug waited until Buck
opened the chests to grab and hold the women's attention, before he
revealed the contents of his and he could explain the two fair sized gold
caskets without being heard if he spoke softly on a delicate subject,
delicate if you were `old' like his father and Bucky.

The women stared into their boxes that were nearly filled with gold
coins. Victoria snapped her fingers, deciding that her treasure chest would
fit almost perfectly in the depression where an altar stone once resided;
in the middle of her foyer table and once placed, it couldn't be moved. She
commandeered Buck to move the box to the foyer first and then to move the
armor-clad figure to the empty spot replacing the chair that Doug moved to
the dining room.

Martha frowned at Doug, Bill and Bucky, "What are you three whispering
about?" she asked suspiciously after she heard Doug insist that Stuff
really worked wonders. It was then that she saw that both Bucky and her
husband held up a gold casket and were peeking inside by barely lifting the
lids. "Now I have just the place for that," she pointed at Bill's casket.

"Oh no you don't," Bill returned bravely, "this is going on MY bedside
table and you my dear are not to touch it without permission." He whispered
to Doug from the side of his mouth, "If this doesn't work, be advised that
shit rolls downhill and I will swim your ass to the moon and back," he
promised, "daily," he added.

"We'll all be in the pool at five tomorrow morning, and if you're late just
this one time, we'll understand," Doug joked.

Freckles captured the rest of the cherries by using the expedient of
drinking his drink so they had nowhere to hide. When his bowl was empty he
looked down on Peter hopefully. "Those cherry things were very good." When
Peter didn't respond, he asked, "Do you know the meaning of the word,
HINT?"

"Yup, but if you get snockered, we'll never get your big heavy butt into
the dining room," Peter argued. He relented after Freckles advised that
Great Cats did not get tipsy like mere humans.

"With more of those delicious red cherry things too, please," Freckles
called after Peter.

"And two more towels," Peter shot back. "You messy Cat," he mumbled.

"I heard that!" Freckles shouted using the maximum volume available from
his cobbled together `borrowed' or appropriated cellphones and his
state-of-the-art Ancient Great Cat communicator. His pretended anger
disappeared with a gravelly giggle when he thought Peter could no longer
hear him. "Will Master of Machines Edvard take evening food with us
tonight?" He asked Buck eagerly.

"I imagine he will be with Evan, I'm not sure. Why are you asking?" Buck
thought he knew.

Buck was right, "It would be good to seat Edvard with Peter, Edvard has
little experience in coupling and Peter has only growing desires; they are
also nearly the same age. It will be exciting to watch them couple for the
first time with the use of Stuff and my valued assistance." Freckles had
the good sense to reply in mind-speak so the parents wouldn't be shocked by
what he was suggesting.

However the two sets of parents were unaware that Freckles had answered
Buck's question. They looked at each other and then back and forth between
Freckles and Buck. Buck covered by saying that Freckles thought that Peter
should meet Evan's new Executive Assistant, Edvard, who was actually an
elite geek, the reason Freckles titled him a Master of Machines. The women
bought the explanation but Bucky and Bill did not. They frowned at their
respective sons. It was clear to see that the truth would come out when the
ladies weren't present. Frowns turned to smiles when Peter returned with
his drink tray.

#######

Peter had just put the tray down when Freckles' ears twitched and he turned
toward the door. "Tara Bani, Kad, and Sidi have arrived at this hut! We
must greet them!" He exclaimed and bounded out the door. Peter shrugged
apologetically and ran down the hall toward where he heard laughter and
screaming. Buck and Doug followed while the parents brought up the rear
with Victoria in the lead. It was the first time anyone or anything had
called Trenton Hall a hut.

The new arrivals were clustered in the middle of the multi-story rotunda
politely waiting for the Cat Warriors to adjust to their surroundings with
Hamilton, the butler, just as politely urging the guests to, "Come this
way," when Freckles' all-encompassing leap took everyone down to the marble
floor.

Freckles was everywhere; he used his tongue to lap faces and his tail to
alternately tickle indiscriminately and thwart any attempted escapes from
the grand melee, including Hamilton. Doug and Buck separated, moving in
opposite directions while they looked for any opening in the pile to best
jump the moving Great Cat. Peter looked helpless and waved his arms until
the tail pulled him in and under a very attractive guy and they in turn
were covered with squirming bodies.

"Hamilton, what are you doing? Get up from there and stop this, this
instant!" Victoria demanded with a screech.

Buck giggled, "Don't worry Mom, this is called rough and tumble, no one
gets hurt -- much," he said as he jumped on Freckles' back only to be
whisked into the pile with a brief scream.

Doug was more reassuring, he shouted from across the room, "Yeah Victoria,
it's better for this to happen out here where there's room, rather than in
a room full of furniture. He won't throw anyone too far, there's no water
for us to land in." Just then he grabbed at the busy tail in mid-dive. The
tail grabbed him instead.

Freckles used open mind-speak for casual, if somewhat hurried
introductions; "Master of Machines Edvard, this is Executive Assistant to
Great Cats, Peter."

"Wow, I think you are very hot, Peter," Edvard returned openly. With his
face an inch from Peter's and his body miraculously placed and pressed down
on the handsome stranger; a new fellow Family employee. "It is my hope we
can become very good friends."

"Hi, mine too as soon as we get the big bumbling Cat off us," a new mental
voice entered everyone's mind, which caused the tableau of boys' bodies and
one Great Cat to freeze in place.

Hamilton took advantage of the temporary freeze to escape the tangle of
youthful arms, legs and bodies. He bowed to Victoria after attempting to
straighten his clothes. He saw that his white bow tie had become undone and
his severely starched shirt was badly bent and missing several onyx
studs. "I beg your pardon Madame, I fear that I tripped and caused this
disturbance," he volunteered to take the blame.

Freckles' was the second body to move by separating himself from the boys
and pulling them to their feet until he got down to Edvard and Peter. He
righted Edvard first and then hoisted Peter until his feet dangled and they
faced each other; human wide eyes to Great Cat silted. "What is the meaning
of bumbling?" he asked with his most awesome toothy frown, using
mind-speak.

Peter answered out loud, bravely, although with some difficulty; "You know
exactly what it means. You are also impetuous, you act without thinking of
consequences and if you don't straighten up your act from now on, I'll quit
and go back to work on Kermit while you go live on, on, ah, Mount
McKinley. Now please put me down."

Freckles lowered Peter gently and looked rather vacant. Most of the guys
grinned; they knew he was consulting Snoopy, seeking the exact coordinates
of the unfamiliar newly threatened mountain home and probably a real time
view. He looked over Peter's shoulder at the three Cat Warriors who in turn
looked down on Charlie, already on his knees, pawing through his ever
present backpack. He found the stonewood box and willed it to open since he
knew he was being watched. It opened but closed with a snap just as he was
about to reach his fingers inside. He tried a second time. Once again it
closed with a snap and this time, it began to slither across the marble
floor.

Charlie looked up at the three Cat Warriors suddenly to see that all three
were studying the domed ceiling innocently, too innocently. Kad looked down
to check on the box's escape, only to meet Charlie's eyes. "Don't fuck
around Kad, Freckles found another mind-speaker," he warned in the silence.

"CHARLIE," Freckles screeched using Jessie's voice, "that was an `f' bomb!"

Both women laughed at the mistake, having recognized Jessica Connor's voice
fortunately. Bucky cleared his throat noisily to serve as a warning that
such mistakes should not be repeated by anyone. "Sidi has no control," Kad
stated, "this brave warrior would have drawn blood from your fingers," he
accused to shift blame for his prank as he picked up the innocent box and
offered a communicator to Freckles.

Freckles rolled his eyes and offered the gem to JC to secure around Peter's
neck, "No thumbs remember?" he reminded Kad as Sidi was about to pounce on
him. Bani stopped that by shoving Kad, elbowing Sidi and warning both of
dire consequences in Tongue using mind-speak.

JC laughed at Bani since he was the only one who understood the People's
Tongue. He agreed, "Mt. McKinley is very nice at this time of year, the
temperature is forty below, a strong wind blows constantly and it remains
dark; it is the perfect place for two brave Cat Warriors to assist one very
bad Great Cat."

Freckles did not like the trend of the conversation. "CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?"
his mental voice asked Peter as a distraction, and all other mind-speakers
as the communicator's invisible clasp, snapped closed.

"YES, AND DO NOT DO THAT AGAIN!" Peter answered with greater volume.

Even Freckles flinched but said, "Edvard will teach you control and how to
block your thoughts tonight," he volunteered Edvard's services. Edvard
agreed with a happy nod at Peter and a Nordic blush that betrayed his
thoughts.

When the pre-dinner cocktail party resumed in the library and with
introductions completed, Victoria ordered fresh drinks to be served along
with the drinks for the newly arrived guests until she noticed that her
drink had remained fresh, with no melted ice cubes. Harm explained the
goblets' unique properties and that what she'd assumed was fine porcelain
washed with gold was actually very thin, light weight solid gold.

The additional drinks and trays of finger foods were served by maids and
footmen while Hamilton the butler, still somewhat disheveled, looked on
from near the doorway. Freckles touched the poor man's mind and was
surprised to discover that he was the Admiral of Chief Bucky's hut and was
still upset about being unable to find a shirt stud that was lost during
the joyous reunion celebration. He used close mind-speak to send Kad and
Sidi off on a mission while he made room on his sofa for Spencer and Tommy.

Since the two boys arrived in Bucky's helicopter, Spencer cajoled the
pilot to stop at the school so he could get his jeweler's loupe which had a
greater magnification than the six inch magnifying glass. The loupe was
ideal to inspect gems for flaws and certainly more professional in
appearance and just maybe the guys would stop calling him Sherlock. The
forgotten loupe was stored in a gold plated housing that hung from a chain
and normally worn when Spencer was in his father's store. He resolved that
in the future, he would wear it under his shirt constantly.

The reason Freckles required Spencer's services became clear when the two
`brave warriors' returned leading two more of the Ancients' chests that
were drifting along behind them from invisible tethers. "The contents of
these chests came from Cat City," Freckles began only to be interrupted by
the arrival of Pettie, Scott, Harman and Huss. All four had gone to their
apartments in the pool residence to change into warmer clothes and all were
laughing about something that diverted the other boys' attention while the
parents' attention remained fixed on the chests, Freckles and Spencer with
his loupe.

When increased laughter became a distraction, Bucky barked, "And just what
is so funny?"

"Oh Dad, you all have got to hear this," Buck replied. He explained the two
swimmers' rudeness in calling Freckles a smelly wild animal and how
Freckles retaliated by making friends with the buildings' elevator
controller. Pettie just told them that the two guys seemed to be stuck in
one of the cars as it kept going up and down constantly. Since the two
weren't very popular even among straight swimmers and less so by the openly
gay, everyone in the building was grouped in their floor lobbies to listen
for muted shouts and pleas for help as the car rose or fell since
apparently the service alarm didn't work, or the emergency stop button
either.

Bill laughed while Bucky grinned at Freckles, "What about all the other
residents; will the same thing happen to them too?" he asked.

"Oh no Chief Bucky, the buttons now recognize the deceivers' touch. The
moving boxes will obey the commands of all others. Those two deceivers are
being punished for calling me names without provocation. They will learn to
use the human ramps if they wish to arrive at a place on time."

"There's something wrong with those two guys," Bill opined, "they seem to
be distracted, they stare at other swimmers and their individual times have
increased slightly. I tried to talk with them, but they say that nothing's
wrong. My next step will be to warn them to get their stuff together or
they'll be out of the club; meaning no more free room and board or
unlimited tuition."

Doug volunteered, "Freckles calls them deceivers because they're actually,
ah, like us, behind a locked door. You can guess why they stare at us all
the time instead of paying attention to business during practice."

"You mean they're gay and in the closet in THAT building? That's what their
problem is?" Bill seemed incredulous.

"Yup, as three dollar bills," Doug confirmed.

Freckles suddenly asked Bani, "Do we have that denomination in our
currency?" Bani shrugged and looked to Kad and Sidi, who also shrugged
their ignorance, "If not we must get some."

Bill laughed, "No you don't, there are no three dollar bills. People
sometimes make currency that looks real, but isn't; it's called
counterfeit, fake or occasionally queer money. If you saw a three dollar
bill it would be fake, counterfeit or queer money; or what you call these
two boys; deceivers."

"Queer as three dollar bills," Freckles quoted, "I understand. I think they
have envy for those who have come out from hiding where they store cloth
coverings."

"Come out of the closet," Buck corrected.

"That is what I said," Freckles corrected back and lurched on, "I will
assist these two to leave their closet starting tomorrow morning when we
swim." It was obvious that he had just invited himself to morning practice.

Bill nodded his approval and impulsively promised Freckles, "If you can get
their minds off their little problem and they start getting better times,
you can be one of my assistant coaches."

That promise brought only groans from the swimmers in the room, which were
overwhelmed by giggles of delight from Victoria and Martha as Bani and the
newly minted Katz brothers together, presented a pair of ornate golden
caskets to the women. Bani explained that they and the contents were given
as gifts from the Cat Clan and People for their hospitality and ongoing
assistance.

The three little warriors allowed the woman to open their own caskets. "Oh,
my God!" Victoria exclaimed. Bucky giggled at her reaction; she had been
difficult to impress since they married.

"If these are real, I couldn't take these, you've already given us enough,"
Martha protested weakly but couldn't resist stirring a finger through the
cut gems in the nearly full casket, or resist picking up a particularly
large square cut emerald that she held up to a light.

Victoria convinced Martha by saying; "That would be divine if it was a
standalone, on a gold chain, with a matching ring, worn with a simple red
gown! I know; we'll have a fabulous party here at Christmas. We'll cohost
and I shall wear rubies with something in green." The woman drifted off
clutching their caskets after profuse thanks to the Cat Warriors and
Freckles that included kisses on the boys' cheeks and tentative hugs to
Freckles after he assured them that there were more stones, if they
couldn't find the proper sizes in their golden gift boxes.

Meanwhile, Spencer had opened the second stonewood box and was removing
neatly packed smaller flat topped gold boxes. It was obvious that they were
conversing in mind-speak as Freckles kept shaking his head as Spencer
removed each box. Finally, Freckles rolled his eyes, "Admiral Hamilton,
would you please come forward?" Hamilton looked properly confused; in his
position of butler he was used to being considered part of a rooms'
furnishings and almost never singled out or addressed except by members of
the household and no one in his position had ever been titled,
Admiral. Buck encouraged him with a nod.

"Is something wrong Sir; do you require something?" Hamilton asked with a
bow when he stood before the seated Great Cat and discovered that when
seated, he had to look up to make eye contact with Freckles.

"Spencer requires one of your buttons. I apologize for involving you in our
welcome and I wish to compensate you for the loss of one by replacing them
all."

"My buttons Sir?"

"He means your shirt studs, hand one over," Buck advised and instructed

Kad and Sidi were standing behind Freckles' sofa, watching and listening to
all their new friends in an effort to gain more knowledge of
America. Hamilton removed a shirt stud and gave it to Spencer but said, "I
still have the stud, but the stone came loose from the setting. It is quite
easily replaced on my next holiday." He assured Freckles and Spencer when
Spencer put his hand out for the stud without a stone.

Sidi spoke up while he dug into his pouch. The Cat Warriors had given up
their knives but still wore their belt pouches that appeared to be fanny
packs and had their loaded blowguns tucked behind each pouch inside their
borrowed pants' waistbands. "I have found that black rock," he
announced. "It was under me on the shining floor out there," he pointed
toward the unseen rotunda, "I thought it was large dirt."

Bucky and Buck, father and son, and Hamilton, butler, together scrunched
their eyes closed, waiting for an explosion from Victoria, wife, mother and
employer. Dirt of any size was forbidden in Trenton Hall by unwritten edict
and enforced by Hamilton and a small army of staff. After a moment of
continued silence they risked a glance in her direction to see that the
women were engrossed in a party planning session and hadn't heard Sidi's
innocent assumption.

On close inspection, the boys could see that each of the boxes Spencer
searched was labeled with a stone set in the lid and each appeared to be a
slightly different size. "That size is perfect," Freckles announced when
Spencer held up a box bearing a five carat diamond.

Freckles used mind-speak to instruct Spencer to put the stud missing its
stone on the table beside one of the finely cut stones. There was a tiny
wisp of smoke when Freckles looked down and as the smoke disappeared
everyone saw the diamond was firmly set in the blank gold stud. Spencer
offered the finished stud to Hamilton who reattached it to his
shirt. "Next," Freckles ordered Spencer. Hamilton wore a set of renovated
studs within five minutes and in three minutes more, a pair of matching
cufflinks although the stones in the links were appropriately far larger.

Hamilton's polite refusals quickly gave way to his profuse, excited thanks
for such valuable gifts when his wristwatch alarm sounded. He checked the
time and announced, "Excuse me Madame; dinner will be served in ten
minutes." The Cat Warriors rubbed their guts in eager anticipation; their
unequaled senses told them that evening food was almost ready as soon as
they entered the house.

"Thank you Hamilton," Victoria responded before she did a double-take when
she spied his glittering shirt front. "Don't you look stunning? Wherever
did you get them?"

"Ah, Mr., ah, Katz just made them for me as recompense for involving me in
his welcome celebration."

Buck laughed at Hamilton's diplomatic response, "Don't laugh," Victoria
warned, "You all will need studs of your own in time for our Christmas
party because Martha and I decided it will be a white tie affair and you
all WILL attend."

#######

Buck thought it was time to change the subject and took a quick census;
someone was missing, "Hey, where are Medi and Sean?"

Everyone looked at everyone else briefly before Evan volunteered the
information that Medi asked if he could borrow the customized Rolls that
Medi gave him as a house warming gift back when they first boarded Sea
Song. The Rolls was to be ready when they landed in Newark after their
South American excursion. The two boys decamped with their bodyguards, Sam
and Jack, as well as Chad and Rick, Homo Hall's housekeepers with their
luggage as soon as Big Bird touched down and parked at the Trenton
hanger. Medi said that they would catch up with the gang at Trenton Hall,
but of course he did not say when.

Bucky immediately looked at Will and Joe with a raised eyebrow. Both men
shrugged their ignorance. Will shook his head but asked the boys; "Did Medi
ever say anything to you about taking a holiday in New York City sometime
after Thanksgiving?"

"Well," Buck hedged, "Medi did ask if we wanted to cut classes with them to
go on a `lark', he called it. They wanted to see New York's sights. Doug
and I told them we'd take them some weekend, but we wouldn't cut
classes. Maybe cutting class was going to be part of the fun."

"Is this New York City a faraway place?" Freckles asked, "Snoopy will find
them."

"No, not far but the City is huge, with millions of residents all living in
multi-level huts. I guess most of the people are nice enough but there are
way too many with evil intent," Doug tried to explain so the Great Cat
would understand and sent a view of the City from the helicopter pad on top
of the Trenton office tower to be more helpful.

Two contacts were made at the same time; both using mind-speak. Sam and
Jack shared a linked call to Buck in the hope that he would be with his
father, and Chad sent a frantic plea to anyone within range of his
`call'. Freckles zoomed in on him while some other boys, the most powerful
mind-speakers including Doug and the three Cat Warriors received bursts;
bits and snatches of his plea.

"Plaza, what is Plaza?" Bani asked.

"The Plaza," Doug corrected with a giggle, "is a hotel, probably the most
elegant and exclusive in New York. It's just down the street from an
apartment that Bucky owns."

"Please no talking," Freckles demanded, "I will give Chad's words." He sat
up very straight as his emerald bloomed greenly to life and they could hear
Chad's voice clearly.

"The little some-bitch kidnapped me and Rick, that's what he did. He
offered us a steak dinner in the City to start with after we got off the
plane. We ain't really been in the City before, so we accepted. He had a
great big stretched Rolls-Royce car waitin'." All eyes in the room shifted
to helpful Evan. "Rick got to the drivers' side before me, so he drove an'
I sat up front with him. Then the little asshole raised the partition thing
after he gave us the name of this Plaza place for the GPS. Ten minutes
later the royal cucksucker (the parents winced), lowered the partition an'
there they sat; him, Jack and Sam were all dressed up in their silk bed
sheets and damn if Sean ain't wearin' a business suit, necktie an' all."

"Ask if they checked into the Plaza," Bucky instructed. Strangely, he was
smiling, not frowning.

"You knew about this?" Buck asked his father while he laughed. He could
have relayed the same thing from Sam and Jack that Chad was reporting, but
Chad's observations were more amusing.

"Oh yes, just not when. Maybe they decided to go now to get some Christmas
shopping done."

Chad answered Bucky's question, "Checked in, they sure did. Medi must have
made reservations from Sea Song. We were expected, or he was. Did you know
that Medi's full name is about four inches long if he signs the whole
thing?" That question got Medi's Uncle Huss (Hussein) laughing when seconds
earlier he looked ready to kill. Chad continued; "This here suites' got
three bedrooms, its own kitchen an' the damn livin' room is bigger than all
get out with even one of them grand pianos. It's so big, it's even got a
fancy name; the Royal Plaza Suite is what it's called."

Bucky remained smiling as he issued instructions to Will; "Get ten people
in there, more if needed; an under butler, maids, no check that, footmen,
someone to block the elevator on both ends, I think that suite has its own
private elevator. Put in a driver for the Rolls so Chad and Rick can ride
in the back with the boys. Make sure they're packing. You'll need two chase
cars at least. Oh, and bug the whole place and the car so we know their
itinerary." He smiled at Freckles, "Please tell Chad and his buddy to be
cool and enjoy their vacation, it will end this coming weekend." It was
obvious that Bucky was thinking out loud. "I should go call the boy's
fathers so they know what's happening and that we're on top of this. I'll
join you at dinner shortly."

#######

Since Freckles had the truant boys' exact location, he sent Snoopy in to
watch over them while he continued to monitor their thoughts and
conversations through Chad's mind and he discovered, Chad's eyes if he
concentrated, but stopped relaying when they all moved toward the dining
room. Everyone who knew Victoria watched her to gauge her reaction on
seeing her table completely set with gold and gem studded dinner service
for thirty-six people, rather, thirty-five people and one Great Cat
setting. Victoria was temporarily speechless, Buck guessed, for the first
time in her life and regretted his father's absence; Bucky missed
witnessing the unique phenomena personally.

Freckles had no difficulty finding his place, although the chair back was
higher and the religious carvings were more grandiose. He was able to take
his seat in the usual way; by leaping up and over the back. Peter hadn't
seen him do that before. "Whoa, that move was smooth, but where do I eat,
in the kitchen, with the help?"

Peter found his upper body surrounded by tail as he was whisked off his
feet and seated forcefully at Freckles' side. Edvard claimed the place on
Peter's other side without looking at the place cards. Victoria recovered
her voice and became reanimated by almost attacking Bani, Kad and Sidi. She
actually picked each of them up in a bear hug and impulsively kissed all
three on their cheeks while she thanked them ten different ways without
repeating herself. Bani was finally able to interrupt by pointing at
Freckles, her actual benefactor, "The small chest full of stones and these
dishes are gifts from the Great Cats. All were made by the Ancients and
came from Cat City, which everyone calls El Dorado," he explained hurriedly
with a thoroughly red face. No female except his mother had ever embraced
him so his face was buried in her bosoms, cloth coverings notwithstanding.

Victoria spun on her heels toward Freckles who was already seated, and
promptly committed the cardinal sin of using the side chair rung to climb
higher to reach Freckles' neck for a loving embrace and administer a kiss
on his whiskers. Bucky shouted from the doorway, "Victoria, what are you
doing? What if that rung broke or even got scratched? The next thing we
know, you'll be rocking back on one of these other flimsy chairs and I'll
be paying for new legs and a lengthy restoration!" His grin negated his
anger.

Buck joined the fun. "You tell her Dad! I think you should send her to her
room without dinner. She'll be more considerate of this old junk in the
future."

Victoria grinned evilly at her son, "You just wait young man, I'll bribe
someone to get the combination to your door lock and one day you'll come
home from school to find your whole apartment redecorated. I have lots of
things in storage that are too delicate to use," she threatened.

"If you do," Buck returned with a giggle, "I'll show you what a wood
burning fireplace is for."

Freckles interrupted the friendly family debate by asking, "Tailor, who is
tailor? Chad thinks this person is too friendly."

Buck was already laughing at whatever Sam and Jack were sending him, "This
is too good to miss. Give us Chad's words, Freckles."

"What in tarnation are y'all doin' down there little man? You don't need to
measure my hard cock just for a new pair of britches, custom made or
not. Get your damn hands off. Medi, I swear, if y'all don't call this guy
off me, I'm fixin to come after you to break somethin'! Your little Kung Fu
warriors can't protect your royal ass `cause they're laughin' too hard."

Buck elaborated, "Medi made reservations for dinner tonight in the Oak Room
and he called the house tailor to provide altered ready-made suits for Chad
and Rick, just for tonight, and then have custom suits made by tomorrow
night so the guys are properly dressed. The problem is; both needed to
strip so the tailor can measure them, of course they aren't wearing
underwear and the tailor is kind of overly excited and handy."

Freckles stopped Chad's tirade when Hamilton decided to serve him
personally. He left his usual fixed Admiral's position near the butler's
pantry door to offer wine to Freckles, of course his wine glass wasn't a
glass it was a bowl and one bottle of rich dark Merlot, barely covered the
bottom. Bucky raised four fingers in response to Hamilton's questioning
glance. He relayed the instruction to a nearby idle footman that he should
open three more bottles in addition to those already opened to breathe
before serving the rest of the table. As far as Bucky was concerned, the
Great Cat had already given gifts of such value, that he could give
Freckles every bottle in his well-stocked cellar three times over and
include the cellar and still have enough left over to replace Trenton Hall
in its entirety, and perhaps the office tower as well.

Freckles sniffed his wine like an experienced sommelier, and took a
delicate lap to appreciate the taste just before his entire muzzle
disappeared in the depths as if he was bobbing for ice cubes. Peter rolled
his eyes and gave Freckles a jab in the side. He whispered; "You are such a
pig, you're supposed to sip wine with your dinner, and now it's almost all
gone before we're served." Freckles lifted his head slowly, with a dripping
muzzle and whiskers. "Don't you move until I clean you up," he instructed
and went about the task with his towel. He ignored Freckles' frown that
would have sent most people running for their lives and didn't start
laughing until he was finished.

Everyone at the table was spellbound as they heard and watched the
interaction. "What is so funny?" Freckles asked.

"I was going to warn you that wine stains, and to be careful, but you dove
in head first. Too late now, your whiskers and white face fur are pink and
I know nothing about how to get wine stains out of fur."

Freckles didn't seem to be upset by the news, he just turned to Hamilton to
ask; "That was very good, may I have some more," he rolled his eyes at
Peter, "to sip with evening food?"

"Dinner," Peter corrected.

"That is what I said," Freckles protested.

During dinner, standing rib roasts, plural, because Freckles enjoyed a
whole roast of his own, he sent Buck a question, "Is there a shower bath in
this hut large enough to fit Peter, Edvard and me? I need to rid them of
their annoying cloth coverings."

"Sure, in my apartment, but we just showered, and I don't think shampoo
will take care of your pink whiskers problem," Buck returned silently.

"Stuff might work; the full strength kind." Freckles actually winked at
Buck across the table, "Edvard knows its value for other things and he will
help Peter wash me and I will assist them after to be very clean for
coupling. Look at them now; they are so excited they ignore good
food. Their cloth coverings are protecting them from much embarrassment."

Buck nodded to indicate that he understood after a glance at the new
couple, "Okay, I'll give you three a private tour after dinner. You can
lock yourselves in and even use our bed."

Freckles made sure he needed a shower by asking for a chocolate ice cream
sundae with extra whipped cream and of course, lots of sprinkles for
dessert. Then while Edvard and Peter were intent on making goo-goo eyes at
each other, he used his versatile tail to liberally dob his head, chest and
shoulders with a noticeable mess. He licked his bowl clean before he
prodded Peter with his tail to get his attention. "That was very good," he
assured Peter, "but I am very sticky," he reported.

"Sticky," Peter agreed, "just like walking fly paper. This is too much for
a damp towel, you need another shower."

Bucky helped with the deception inadvertently. "Buck, take Freckles
upstairs and show him where your shower is, it's big enough to fit four of
you guys, so it should be big enough for our guest."

"Okay Dad," Buck answered and stood after he asked to be excused from the
table and thanked his mother for an excellent dinner. If one boy was
excused, they all were and during the mass exodus Bucky yawned, which
caused Bill to respond in kind. Both men looked at their wives expectantly,
Victoria and Martha nodded. Bill and Martha would stay overnight in their
usual suite.

Peter turned to Edvard to ask hopefully; "Want to help?"

He didn't have to ask twice, but Edvard went first to Charlie who handed
him a blue prescription bottle with a lecherous grin. Peter's grin matched
Charlie's when he saw the quick hand off and noted that the bottle was
tell-tail blue; he would soon find out if Stuff worked as represented but
he was unconcerned; he only hoped he could walk to wherever they were going
in the huge house without exploding before he got there. It had been a very
long dinner for both Peter and Edvard.

########

While Buck was the official tour guide, he and Doug merely followed the new
couple and Freckles, who harried them with his tail every step up the
curving staircase and down the halls to a door that was equipped with a key
pad; the entrance into Buck and Doug's suite. Of course the door was open
and their guests had disappeared by the time they reached the door but they
were able to track them by following a trail of discarded clothing that
stopped at the closed master bedroom door. It was obvious that Freckles had
found and explored the suites' electronics since the big screen and
keyboard was out and in operation.

Freckles sent mental instructions; "Think of what you want to watch without
touching the keyboard but do not intrude yet."

Buck and Doug tried linking their minds and thought of their shower. The
big screen flashed to display a view of Freckles sitting with his back to
the camera, which all but hid Edvard and Peter's first really passionate
embrace but not Freckles tail that was wielding the suds covered spurting
dildo that was attached to one shower head. The voyeurs looked at each
other briefly and ran down the hall to the closest guestroom and bath. They
stripped along the way after each retrieved small blue pill bottles from
their pants pockets. "We don't need to see this part," they agreed
silently.

By leaving the show early, they missed seeing Edvard hurriedly slide his
body down Peter's until he was on his knees. Peter was breathless as he
watched his suds covered cock disappear in Edvard's mouth and he didn't
care what Freckles was doing with his ass although he appreciated the
sudden welcome feeling of fullness and had time to imagine that the
slippery dildo was actually Edvard's beautiful hard cock. That image caused
him to explode in both directions but he was only aware of what his cock
was spurting and of Edvard swallowing as his knees turned to
jelly. Freckles lifted Edvard to his feet as Peter sank to the tiles with
his mouth open and ready.

Edvard, being somewhat more experienced, lasted a bit longer, but not much
longer than Peter. Peter was ready and eager for a repeat performance but
that was not to be; Freckles hauled him back to his feet and rough rinsed
both boys by shaking off his body. Towel drying, when using Stuff was
unnecessary; there were no water droplets, just the feeling of being
slightly slippery. Freckles glanced at the ceiling and the lighting blinked
off.

Peter was astounded to see that lights weren't needed; the bathroom glowed
blue and more importantly his and Edvard's bodies glowed more intensely and
their most important parts acted as shining beacons that absolutely needed
to be hidden in some dark warm place, as soon as possible. Freckles had no
trouble guiding them from the bathroom to the still lighted bedroom and
merely followed as they ran to the boat bed on the raised dais. Just after
the boys gained the bed safely, Freckles shut off those lights as well and
the game of hiding blue beacons began.

Edvard conceded the first match by pulling still breathless Peter on to his
body and Freckles assisted by guiding Peter's pulsing beacon into Edvard's
`goal'. As Peter sank, he moaned in a feeble protest; "But, I wanted you on
top." Edvard's glowing lips turned into a smile as he noted that Peter had
already begun thrusting in earnest before he complained.

"Can we join you now?" Buck sent in an urgent plea to Freckles as the
bedroom door opened and closed on two blue apparitions; one taller, both
with matching bobbing beacons and glowing blue smiles, already running
across the room.

Buck joined Edvard on his back while Doug matched Peter with practiced
ease. He waited, braced above Buck for Freckles assistance in mounting
since Freckles enjoyed that prerogative before the helpful Great Cat used
both his tongue and tail to best advantage to prolong violent, repeated
orgasms by all four boys without regard to partners, positions or coupling
acts.

Freckles called a halt to the proceedings when he noted that Peter was
almost asleep. He was still unused to Stuff and it took some repeated use
for the need for sleep to wane. Buck said that he and Doug would retire to
their apartment in the pool residence for the rest of the night so that
they would be on time for the five o'clock practice. Freckles thought that
was a splendid idea since Bill appointed him to the august position of
assistant coach on his very first day in America and without knowing if
Great Cats could swim, or thinking about most cats' traditional or natural
aversion to water.

#######

Edvard and half awake, but well satiated Peter complained of having to
shower and dress for the short ride to the pool. Freckles assured them that
there was no need for cloth coverings as long as they remained well coated
with Stuff. He explained that Great Cat's regularly feasted on the berries
from Stuff vines and could exude Stuff through their tongues and tails on
demand should the boys not notice his enhanced assistance as they
coupled. More to the point, Great Cats did not feel cold, that even on top
of the snow covered mountains within their range, their noses and between
their hind legs where there was little or no insulating fur weren't
cold. Great Cat's didn't like the mountains because of isolation and the
scarcity of game animals.

While the boys were tempted to remain naked while going from the house to
the pool, Buck wondered how they would get into the garage to get a vehicle
without being seen since there was always someone there should someone in
the house require a car for some reason. Freckles offered Buck a withering
stare before he tapped his head with his tail. Buck grinned, "Oh yeah,
autopilot; I forgot."

"The Cat Mobile will meet us at the front entrance," Freckles assured as he
herded the boys out of the suite.

The two mechanics on duty in the garage both looked up from servicing a
Suburban when the bus' diesel engine started. The closest man couldn't see
a driver through the driver's untinted side window, yet the bus left the
garage after the big door rolled up without anyone pressing the button and
closed the same way. When no alarms sounded or gun toting security guys
rushed in, they went back to work. The day shift had already told them
about a giant talking cat who was the boss's house guest who helped them
figure out an ancient Indian motorcycle's wiring just by glancing at the
primitive mess.

"What about the cameras and motion sensors?" Doug asked Buck in a
whisper. He had no wish to be caught bare ass out in the hall if they set
off an alarm.

Freckles answered for Buck because he was laughing, "The machine in this
hut is very nice. We are friends; he will not see you and will ignore our
movement. Snoopy watches closely and there is no danger although the
deceivers are in the big shower bath coupling boldly, perhaps they wish to
be caught." he wondered.

"Or maybe they're doing it for the thrill like us," Peter suggested,
"although I, for one, don't wish to be caught and you better be right about
not feeling the cold, if my dick gets cold, it tends to disappear along
with my balls."

Edvard boldly reached out to stroke Peter's glowing and rapidly growing
major concern, "So far, you feel very hot and not quite so sleepy," he
reported.

The tiny red warning light on the front door turned green as they
approached it and Freckles helpfully unlocked and opened it with a
glance. They were greeted with the Cat Mobile's rumbling and an already
open door, and before boarding, stepped out from under the protection of
the portico to find that they weren't cold; just cool, but
comfortable. However, they were also glowing blue and were quite visible
from the windows.

Once inside the bus, the door closed and the pop out sides popped out, but
nothing else happened, it continued to idle. "What now," Peter asked, "how
do you get it to move?"

"You are the Chief Executive Assistant to Great Cats; you should tell him
where to go," Freckles replied.

"TO THE POOL!" Peter shouted dramatically. The bus slipped into drive, the
accelerator pedal sank to the floor instantaneously and the Cat Mobile
lurched forward. It increased its speed after it left the front roundabout
as the driveway straightened and it hurtled at the closed gate that
separated the estate proper from the University grounds. Three boys were
horrified at the thought of crashing while Edvard, equally frightened,
didn't know there was a gate. The bus remained totally dark; inside, and
more importantly outside; the head lights and running lights remained off.

"WEEE!" Freckles sang happily over the engine noise as where they were
going brightened and continued to brighten from the number of lights
surrounding the new construction.

Peter looked forward to see the pool complex building lights that they were
still approaching at breakneck speed. "Is it going to stop in time?" he
asked Freckles hurriedly.

"He will stop when you wish him to."

"STOP RIGHT NOW GODDAMN IT!" Once again Peter shouted. The Cat mobile
responded by locking its breaks. It stopped fifty feet from the steps
leading into the pool, rocking violently fore and aft. The engine idled,
and then shut down as the generator started. Interior lights blinked on and
they felt and saw the interior rise from the side they were sitting
on. "I'm almost afraid to ask what it's doing now," Peter said petulantly.

Freckles had been investigating the master control panel again, "He has
another smaller engine for providing electricity called, `GENERATOR' and
this button levels the deck so you poor humans do not feel unbalanced."

Peter rolled his eyes, "Let's get out of here before he takes us on another
joy ride," he invited and waited for Freckles to open the door.

"Cat Mobile likes you very much so you are now his Admiral. If you use
mind-speak without shouting, he will do as you ask." Freckles explained
without opening the door. He wanted Peter to do it since he needed to
practice mind-speak and control.

"Chief of this, Admiral of that, I wonder if they make business cards in
larger sizes?" he grumbled aloud, while willing the door to open
normally. He was surprised when it responded, but hid his smile from
Freckles.

########

They stopped just outside the locker room while Freckles used Snoopy to
appraise the deceiver's situation, then he sent an image of the pair
spooned together, but sleeping on the wet tile floor. "I will keep them
asleep while we stalk them." Freckles advised.

"You stalk, we'll just be sneaky," Buck returned.

Freckles rolled his eyes, "That is what I said." There was no door, just a
right angle wall, so no one on the pool deck could see inside. Freckles
stretched out almost on his belly and with his tail held straight up and
the tip aimed forward, he almost disappeared before the poor humans'
eyes. They hurried to catch up and remained silent while they used
mind-speak to laugh. They were intent on seeing what a Great Cat would do
as payback for unprovoked insults in addition to perpetual elevator rides.

The lights in the locker room and showers were off but the red emergency
exit lights provided ample light for the boys, and Freckles didn't need any
at all. In the brief time it took the boys to catch up, they found that
Freckles was `grooming' both sleeping swimmers by using his tongue
generally and his tail tip in all the harder to get at, most intimate
places. He was exuding Stuff to paint them blue with the color much more
intense on and around their lips, cocks and their asses.

"I get it now," Peter announced in a loud whisper after he looked down at
the joined deceivers, at himself and then at Edvard, Buck and Doug's
bodies, "the weapons and targets are all highlighted; man that's neat."

Just about then the boy in the back began to thrust slowly and the boy in
front pushed back and moaned his pleasure. Both woke up with a start and
the horrible feeling that they were no longer alone, of course being
watched didn't stop their body movements; it caused them to move faster.

"Let me guess how this happened," Buck rumbled, "you John, were washing
Devon's back when you slipped and just fell right into him. And since you
were in there you decided to throw him a nice fuck to apologize for being
so clumsy."

"Something like that," John agreed through clenched teeth as he increased
his stroke. He knew that he should have wilted from fright, but he just
couldn't stop. Helpful Freckles recognized the signs and sent his tail
questing, which caused both boys to freeze and moan and shiver for thirty
seconds before John began thrusting again.

Devon was having none of that; he pulled away, "Oh no you don't; it's my
turn."

"You know, you guys should really take this upstairs, the truly straight
guys would appreciate it." Doug observed, "No one cares about your
orientation and you can't change it or hide it anyway, like you two fuck
offs were trying to do by copping attitude. Everyone who lives here is
tired of your attitudes and staring, you need to loosen up and be a little
friendlier.

Devon stood up, then pulled John to his feet, "I told this asshole we were
over a thousand miles from home and living here was a golden opportunity to
be ourselves for the first time in our lives, but John's family is a bit
conservative; you know, like all boys should always wear tee shirts when
swimming and they never come to meets because of seeing him wearing a tank
suit. Unfortunately, it was a case of `spare the rod, spoil the child'. I
played along when we were home, but no more. His old man is a religious
zealot who should be put down like a rabid dog; I'd do it myself if I
thought I could get away with it."

"My father's not that bad," John mumbled while staring at the floor.

"Oh no, well I guess since we've been here your strange disease that caused
all that bruising and welts on your back and ass just went away on its
own," Devon retorted angrily.

"I'll never go back," John agreed without admitting that his father was a
nasty prick.

"What about your family?" Doug wondered to Devon. That got a giggle from
Devon and even a smile from John.

John answered first; "They're wonderful," he said wistfully.

Devon nodded, "My parents are artists. My father is a sculptor, he welds
old metal junk together; car parts, like tire rims, gears, springs,
bumpers, whatever, with the occasional refrigerator, stove or washing
machine. He makes it all into figures or animals and then animates them. My
mother paints. Both sell really well. In our house clothes for me weren't
required after I was potty trained and John learned to swim in our pool
after he figured out that Dad wouldn't beat us for being naked." He laughed
suddenly, "John still can't figure out why our house and my parent's studio
always smell like evergreens and our Christmas tree is artificial!" he
chortled at his best friends expense.

John laughed out loud and gave Devon a friendly push, "Asshole, I did so,
last year, your dad was rolling a joint," he hesitated, "and, well, I asked
him why he rolled his own cigarettes when he could just buy them. He told
me that the tobacco was Columbian Gold. That's marijuana, right?"

Buck interrupted everyone's laughter, "Do you guys realize that if we were
standing around on the pool deck and you told that story, the whole team
would be laughing and consider you just one of the guys, just a little bit
innocent maybe," he added. "Now since you guys are still very hot to trot
and we're tired from too much trotting, we should all call it a
morning. Let's get up stairs."

"Did that fucking elevator ever get fixed?" Devon asked, "We've been using
the stairs since this evening. It lets us get on okay, but then it won't
let us off."

"It has been fixed," Freckles answered from behind Buck, using Buck's
distinctive gravelly voice. He added, "Ride up with us if you wish, if you
don't mind riding with a smelly Great Cat."

"About that crack, I'm sorry for my attitude," John apologized. He gained
uncountable points with Freckles when he added, "Actually he's really
beautiful and powerful, I can almost imagine him taking down some big game
animal with a single swat or a chomp." Ever helpful Freckles immediately
sent everyone suggestive images of exactly that scenario with the prey, a
mature cross-bred boar that only an adult Great Cat would ever
tackle. "Like a wild boar," he added as they stepped on the elevator.

"In your dreams Great Cat," the four boys returned simultaneously as
Freckles chose to sit by John and lean into his body, inviting a touch.

John impulsively reached to Freckles' head and dared to scratch his
ear. Freckles bent and tipped his head for ease of access, "I will have
payback for that unnecessary comment," he promised the boys in mind-speak.

Doug snickered, "It's a good thing you like him now because he's going to
be at practice starting tomorrow, or I mean this morning. He can swim
faster than me, Pettie or Harm, free style of course."

"No way," Devon objected, "you're putting us on. Everyone knows cats don't
like water."

"Yes way, Great Cats love water, Freckles is a very rare species, he's
super intelligent too as you'll find out tomorrow at school, we got him
registered and his tuition is paid already. Actually he's a bodyguard for
three other new guys who live in the same area where his Clan lives in
South America." Doug explained in the hope that Devon and John might spread
the word on campus about the unique `Katz' family to minimize problems.

"About swimming," John challenged, "how about a race tomorrow, just a
hundred meters?" John's laughter changed to a frown when Freckles couldn't
resist nodding enthusiastically in agreement.

########

After the elevator closed on the ninth floor, Doug looked at Buck in
question, "Do you think we should check out John's family? His father
sounds like a nut case."

"Yup, I was thinking the same thing. The family may belong to one of those
small religious sects that hates everyone and if John's dad ever found out
that he's gay..." he didn't need to complete his thought.

########

Bill Henderson was five minutes late for morning practice and couldn't care
less; he hadn't been able to erase his smile since he opened his eyes and
he'd just barely closed them. Predictably, all the swimmers, divers and
coaches were clustered around Freckles near the starting blocks. Doug
looked up at the big digital wall clock meaningfully and then at his
father. His grin said it all; `I told you so.'

Doug explained that they were planning to have a quick challenge race
before practice but forgot that most of the swimmers didn't know about
Freckles so the race was delayed until everyone was introduced and John
apparently appointed himself as ambassador and was conducting the
introductions and inviting team members to scratch the Great Cat's head
while Family members hung back and watched the show.

Pettie finally got things moving when he whistled to get everyone's
attention. What started as a race between Freckles, John and Devon
developed into an argument about who else would occupy the other five
starting blocks. Pettie announced that Freckles had no objection to a
series of heats if everyone wanted a chance to be embarrassed, that is,
with Coach Bill's permission. Of course he agreed, morning practice was a
wash for swimmers and divers and he wanted to see Freckles' style as well.

Freckles was assigned lane four with John and Devon lanes three and five
respectively. Pettie didn't care who occupied the remaining lanes so there
were five quick games of `king of the hill' to decide those positions. A
problem arose when Freckles frowned at his starting block, which brought
total silence to the cavernous room. There was no way that Freckles could
fit his paws on the tiny platform, so he opted to sit on the deck about
five feet behind it and feign disinterest by washing his own face with his
paws.

Bill started the race, the swimmers dove and Freckles looked around for the
source of the electronic gun shot before he leaped into the water from a
sitting position. He sank at once before the horrendous splash settled; all
except for his tail. He stayed shallow enough to create a wake that first
Devon and then John felt as he passed them.

"Holy shit!" Bill exclaimed while he watched Freckles take the lead
evidenced by his dark shape under the water and his swiftly moving tail
that was watching his unsuspecting human competition. "Doesn't he need to
breathe?" he asked Pettie after Freckles turned without surfacing for fifty
meters.

"I reckon he will after he touches. If you think he's good, just wait `til
you see Bani Kad and Sidi underwater. We talked about gettin' them to join
the school team next year, but if they did we'd risk exposin' any Cat
Warriors' special talents and abilities, which would raise too many
questions that couldn't be safely answered."

Of course Freckles touched by just leaping from the pool to resume his seat
and watch his competition finish. Bill blinked when he looked up at the
order of finish and their respective times. John was the second and Devon
was the third among the humans to finish and their times had dropped
remarkably overnight.

Freckles was inundated with guys briefly before he used Buck's distinctive
gravelly voice to ask, "Who's next?" The only problem was that Buck wasn't
on the pool deck. The swimmers looked all around.

"I SAID WHO NEXT IS?" The PA system echoed. Buck and Doug had gone up to
the third floor control room and were about to turn on a video replay when
Freckles goofed.

Freckles looked up at the control room window to ask, "Should I talk to
these water warriors? There is no evil." He sent the question to everyone
to get a consensus. The unanimous opinion was that he'd talked to the
pilots, the mechanics and the house staff without causing too much fear or
panic and all adjusted quickly; so he should try talking to the swim
club. "I SAID, WHO'S NEXT TO TRY THEIR PUNY HUMAN SWIMMING SKILLS AGAINST A
GREAT CAT?" he asked in a shout as loud as his `voice' would allow. The
guys recognized that this time the question came from Freckles; they backed
away but began to smile and then laugh. "Is everyone chicken?" he
challenged in a normal tone. A minute later that snide question was
complimented by a rooster call. Buck, in the control room, disconnected
before Freckles could answer his phone, but it was enough.

"Come on guys let's take the new guy on," someone called to the
others. That initiated a rush to the starting blocks; it became a challenge
to see who could beat a trash talking Great Cat.

That was the first practice where Bill didn't have to blow his whistle, or
shout at someone who wasn't concentrating. Everyone did their best and
later when racing in specific strokes, Freckles paced the field and taunted
the two closest swimmers by wagging his tail in front of their eyes every
time one broached for a breath of air. At first, Bill thought of him as a
pace car, but they never finished a race so he changed his thought to
comparing the Great Cat to a white rabbit and his team to a pack of
greyhounds; the rabbit always won, but that didn't stop the pack from
trying to catch him.

########

In the boys' apartment after practice and showers where the team invested
at least a gallon of shampoo on Freckles, most of which he returned with a
mighty shake; he watched them dress in their school uniforms. That was the
first time he regretted that he couldn't wear cloth coverings.

Doug snapped his fingers and offered Freckles a school tie. Freckles was
delighted. Peter managed a perfect Windsor knot after several tries and
considerable laughter. Most of the tie was consumed by Freckles' neck size
but there was still a foot of tie hanging down and the knot showed clearly
above his emerald that resembled an ostentatious tie clasp. Next, Buck
found a pair of ridiculously over-size sunglasses that he bought as a gag
but never wore.

The glasses were cheap plastic and the ear pieces were intended to fit a
human head until Freckles `fixed' them with a glance and a disparaging
comment about human manufacturing using inferior materials. The arms could
never fit over his ears so he bent them in so they pinched the sides of his
head snugly enough to stay put on his nose when Peter slipped them
on. Freckles ran to the mirror and was so pleased with his image; he
broadcast it to all mind-speakers so that they would be sure to recognize
him in the future. Freckles blocked his brother, Spot's opinions after the
words, dumb, stupid and idiotic were promptly returned from South America.

#######

Freckles ran ahead to the house for morning food while the boys took the
bus. Rather, the bus took them to park once again under the portico while
Admiral Peter looked on helplessly from the driver's seat, except for
commanding the pop outs to close.

"Where's Freckles this morning?" Bucky asked when the boys trooped in to
the dining room and found their seats. Then before they could answer, he
asked, "And where's the rest of the gang?"

"Most of them went over to Evan's. The three warriors still don't like
wearing, cloth coverings, ah, I mean clothes. Billy will fly them or
they'll drive I guess. I don't know where Freckles is; maybe he stopped in
the garage to chat with the guys..."

"Or visit with poor Austin," Doug contributed to Buck's suppositions with a
giggle. Of course they had to explain who Austin was and that he became
Freckles' project car; something to keep him busy and out of mischief.

The first of Freckles to appear was his identification case held high and
proudly by his tail. He mounted his chair in the usual way and then wedged
his case between his haunch and the chair arm. Bucky didn't know whether to
laugh or frown. Laugh because of his appearance or frown because he was
carrying his ID case. He chose to frown slightly as he exchanged greetings
with the happy, very excited Great Cat, who was wearing ridiculous
sunglasses, a school tie and still had lavender whiskers. Apparently Stuff
was not a cleanser.

Bill covered his mouth in a futile attempt to hide his laughter. He'd
already related much of the morning practice revelations including the fact
that Freckles had become `Coach Katz' to the team after they discovered
that no one could beat him in the pool.

"How did you get your case?" Bucky asked cautiously. He knew he'd put it in
his study safe and was very sure the safe was locked, the alarms set and
the concealing book case was closed and also secured and alarmed. He
glanced at Buck, the only other person who could open the safe. Buck shook
his head and shrugged his ignorance.

"From your safe keeping place," Freckles replied, "that place is very
secure, no human could ever open that door without alerting the warriors in
the control room," he assured Bucky as Hamilton delivered his bowls of
sausage, eggs, orange juice, milk and a pile of buttered toast and Peter
readied his towels.

"I hope everything was alright in there and that you closed it up after you
got your case?"

"Oh yes, and now it will not open unless you or Bucky Boy are present in
the room even if the evil doers have your eyes and thumbs and the proper
numbers, should they ever get that far into this huge hut."

"Yes, well, that's very reassuring," Bucky returned and changed the subject
to school. "The Head Master always likes to meet new students as soon as
they arrive the first day, so he may be waiting for you when you land. He's
a very capable man, but a bit excitable. I imagine that he will be
speechless when he first sees you and realizes that he's been had."

"Had?" Freckles looked to Buck for a definition.

"Pranked."

"Ah yes, pranked, I am a Great Cat identified as Freckles Katz, that he
admitted unwittingly, to his school after full payment of currency, that
will be a very good joke." Freckles laughed imitating Buck; his favorite
`voice' while he ate continuously. He didn't realize that speaking clearly
while eating constantly was next to impossible for humans but of course his
voice emanated from his emerald communicator and a mouth full of food
didn't matter. "Should I talk to Head Master?" he wondered.

"That decision would be up to you. I guess the rest of us that you first
talked to, adjusted after the shock wore off in a few minutes. Please don't
excite him too much. I hope he'll accept the Head Master's position at the
new school," he cast a look at Bill before adding, "if it ever gets
finished."

"I could assist," Freckles volunteered eagerly.

"Oh no, you won't assist," Peter boldly contradicted. Freckles frowned down
on him instantly. "No thumbs remember, and I didn't sign on as a
construction worker, while you look over my shoulder and play Admiral. I
will help you fix Austin if you don't get too bossy," he added as a
consolation prize much to Bill's relief. He looked up at Freckles and
added, "You can stop with those Cat frowns too; I'm not intimidated, so you
can save them for someone who is."

"Now who is bossy, you bossy human?" Freckles asked with a near bone
crushing tail hug and a quick eggy face lap before Peter was freed and he
had to wipe his own face.

Freckles and the boys looked up at the ceiling together, "Pettie demands,
`Let's get this show on the road!'" Freckles informed Bucky and Bill, "He
and the other students are ready to fly to school! Hurry, we must not be
late," he warned, picked up his case and bounded out the door.

Peter made no effort to follow and when Bucky asked him why, he answered
simply, "It's your chopper and no aircraft of yours ever left you or
another family member behind before..." he looked at Buck, who was just
finishing his milk and in no particular rush and David and Noah were still
talking quietly at the far end of the table. "I figure he'll check out the
systems, chat with the pilots and," he had the nerve to grin at Bucky, "if
he finds something that he can fix or he thinks something can be made to
work better, he'll do it."

"What did he do to my jet?" Bucky demanded. He smiled at Doug and Buck, "I
still think of it as mine when I'm allowed to use it."

"Kermit is free the rest of the week," Doug returned at once. He continued
the old joke, "Just remember top off the tanks when you're finished using
it." Buck explained to Peter and Edvard while the others laughed.

Together the boys explained how Snoopy joined Kermit's on board systems
using the old cabin surveillance screen. Bucky actually giggled like his
son after David presented him with a photo of the pilots taken from Snoopy
when they thought they were on a collision course with the satellite.

#######

When the boys, their guards, Peter and Edvard boarded the big chopper, they
found Freckles seated in the aisle talking to the other guys. John and
Devon were just putting away their phones and laughing. They admitted that
they'd called a few school teammates, so they could be at the landing pad
to welcome a new classmate and probably assistant coach since he was too
big and too fast to be on the team, and he was oddly named, Freckles.

The chopper swooped in over the sports fields as usual, but unusually,
stopped to hover over the stadium. Everyone looked down to see that the
landing pad was surrounded by what looked like half the school although
nearly everyone was at least fifty yards further back from the low safety
fence. As soon as the chopper's wheels touched, Bani, Kad and Sidi rushed
forward, oblivious of the downdraft before the rotors stopped.

"Don't you dare start another one of your rough and tumbles," Peter warned
Freckles when he saw the Cat quivering with excitement, "not out here in
public. If you want to maul your friends wait until you get inside,
remember you're a new foreign student and you still have to meet the Head
Master and you don't want to get him involved or get your uniform messed
up." That reminder was most telling to Freckles, he didn't want to break
his sunglasses until he could replace the fragile frames with a more
substantial material; perhaps Ancient's `special' gold and then there was
the matter of some adornment, maybe emeralds to match his communicator, or
diamonds and rubies for contrast? He would have to consult Spencer or
perhaps Victoria.

"I will do as you say Peter, you are a wise advisor." He looked out the
window, "That egg shaped human with another human's fur on his head is the
Head Master! He has no evil intent," Freckles reported, "I feel no evil
anywhere, but some students have envy of our friends. Why would this be
so?"

"I imagine all students who attend here have lots of money, ah, a great
deal of currency, but I think only a very few have helicopters to fly to
school and jet airplanes to travel long distances, so some are envious;
hell, I'm envious too."

Meanwhile Bani and Charlie were competing with Kad and Sidi to `will' the
hatch open but David rushed forward in time to cover that display of mind
control. He managed a weak smile outside in time so it appeared that he did
it from inside since the three little warriors and Charlie were too short
to reach the external lock.

Peter picked up Freckles' case before Freckles could grab it with his tail,
"I'll carry this," he said, "remember no other cat species have prehensile
tails. Use mind-speak to tell me when you need something and I'll give it
to whomever. All the students will soon know some of what you can do, but
it should be a secret from the administrators, I mean the Admirals and the
teachers, it will be a very good joke."

Any secret presented as a joke to Freckles was a very good idea indeed. He
agreed to the huge harmless conspiracy by nodding and giggling. He asked,
"Where is Homo Hall? What is Homo Hall?"

It was Buck's turn to giggle, "It's across campus; it's where we all live
and rest sometimes. It's where you guys can rest too, if you want to, or
with us in the pool residence or the house, or Evan's house, or wherever
you want to rest, I guess."

"Come on guys, enough bullshit, Mr. Smithe looks to be gettin' antsy,"
Pettie announced. He continued, "Tall guys go first to kind of screen
Freckles behind us at first. Maybe we all better be ready to catch
Mr. Smithe if he faints." He looked at Freckles and added, "An' don't y'all
do no fancy tail works to help out neither," he warned.

The Family filed off the chopper first to meet JC and the four new human
students while Mr. Smithe, the Head Master, bustled up behind them wearing
a huge smile of welcome. JC handled the introductions perfectly and
explained the relationships. Bani had been adopted by his father at age
five; but he was actually the Chief's son, so his title was Tara in their
language, or Lord in English. British Mr. Smithe was duly impressed with
having another true aristocrat as a student and doubly so when he
discovered that Sidi and Kad Katz were Lord Bani's bodyguards as well as
fulltime students. Charlie, quiet for once in his life, was introduced as
Bucky Trenton's ward until he reached the age of majority so Mr. Smithe
considered him to be part of the `in' crowd or a Family member instantly.

Mr. Smithe was clearly counting heads since he was using his fingers, when
he noticed something barely waving above Pettie's shoulder: something like
a squirrel's' tail. Freckles was tail watching closely, "We were expecting
five new additions to our student body; is someone ill, perhaps suffering
jet lag?" He rolled his eyes before anyone could answer and frowned up at
Pettie, "Mr. Mason, what have you behind your back that appears to be
waving at me? Is it something escaping from you back pack?"

"No Sir, I believe he's y'all's missin' new student. He's just a mite shy
is all." Pettie stepped aside just as Freckles sat down with his tail
curled neatly around his paws so he was as tall as Pettie when seated,
which made him tower over Mr. Smithe. Freckles smile was no different than
his frown to those that didn't know him. The difference was which way he
tipped his ears. "I believe he's here to bodyguard all four of these other
new guys."

Mr. Smithe's eyes widened, his face turned red and he was heard mumbling,
"I am getting too fucking old for this shit," as he stumbled away.

"I think that went well," Pettie opined.

"You know Head Master Smithe used the `f' word," Freckles announced primly,
and then wailed, "but he did not ask to see my IDENTIFICATION!"

########

That's it for now; my continued thanks to Emoe for editing my stuff so
well.

HAPPY READING!

Jamie Haze


 

 

 

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