Cozily I nudged myself into a nook of branches within the lilac tree, that had stood rooted in the backyard by our kitchen window since I was a baby, and having situated myself comfortably amongst the blooming fragrant purples and waggling leaves, I pulled my notebook and stray papers out from beneath my arm and snatched my pen from behind my ear, and fell into thought.
This story was turning out to be a good one, and though my teacher was expecting this science creative-short turned in by the end of the week, it had grown to beyond fifty pages, so really, I was doing her a favor by deciding not to. At this point I couldn’t fix it, even if I tried. Screw it. I’d take the F, and would most likely be ditching her class tomorrow as well, as it was impossible to get anything done with Ms. Knoll’s high grating voice going on about inertia, “the distance traveled”, the structure of eh, Miss [whatever-name-she-decided-to-call-me] pay attention! and blah blah blah. I’m running a diagnostic for the Machina Spacecrafts of Zong! What are YOU going on about? How anybody got anything constructive out of that annoying brain-numbing class was beyond me. The wind ruffled my papers in my lap, and I picked up my pen and scribbled:
Jacob hated Spaceports.
Oh sure, AIRPORTS were okay, because nobody used airports anymore. I mean you would hop on a plane and voilà! You were at your destination in no time. Things were quick, fast, and easy.
Everything was always on the go and in a mess; people pushing like mad men, fighting their way to get to their objective. Jacob hustled his way through the crowd, carrying his light suitcase close to his chest, ticket clutched in hand. Questions kept running through his mind. What did the UPA want with him? Why did the UPA need him? But one question had been nagging on his mind ever since he arrived at the Spaceport.
Where the hell was docking bay 5?
This insert was needed, I should probably shove it in after Jacob receives the letter from General Brywood, I notioned. Suddenly I had this thought about what a Spaceport would actually consist of. Terminals? Tubes? Floater Bots? A little highway network maybe of oblong obsidian hovering vehicles, with big cozy seats, like a papasan chair, that would carry travelers to their docking bays, and all the travelers who couldn’t afford the creature comfort would have to ambled their way through the cramped walkways, scowling. Hm, maybe not all scowling.
Snapped from my reverie I turned to look above, and saw one of the neighbor’s kittens, not-so-nimbly making it’s way down a branch towards me, it’s little claws scraping along the bark clumsily, bobbing tail still short and more stout than elegant. Timon, our neighbor’s outdoor cat, seemed to have a new litter of kittens every damn season of the year. At first it was wonderful, because, hello? Kittens? But after the first four litters they had more become bothersome pests than wonderful fluff-balls of joy. The owners never took care of them, so the tiny felines just roamed about wherever they pleased. Yet, the cat looked cute.
“Com’ere.” I cooed, reaching my arms out as I picked the kitten from its perch, it clinging to the branch momentarily before finally giving in.
I placed it upon my lap, to which the kitten immediately began to make its way up my shirt, but settling at last (an unusual occurrence) I stroked its coarse fur and held the little cat like a babe, and propping my notebook upon my knee and adjusting my pen in my fingers I scribbled sloppily:
“What about the Auxiliary Power!” Jacob yelled, now caught in panic.
“Can’t! Everything’s failing we’re going down!” Tims screamed, and within that second the whole world burst into flames, tossing Emily backward into Jacob’s arms. This wasn’t happening she repeated to herself, crawling towards the ground in fear. Jacob grabbed Emily and pulled himself into the vacant seat and buckled both him and Emily in, Emily sitting on his lap. Sparks flew from the controls as the windows shattered, pelting large chunks of glass into the cockpit, slicing through like daggers through grass.
“We’re in the atmosphere, we’re burning up!” Jacob screamed while gasping for air, pulling Emily closer to him as she shrieked in alarm, her arms flung over her face in protection.
“Oh really! No kidding!” Tims shouted back, his face cut and bleeding and eyes glowing red from the fire spreading throughout the ship. The fighter rocketed downward, accelerating more and more as the gravity pulled. The ship lurched forward suddenly and Mark’s head smashed into the dashboard, knocking him unconscious.
“Mark!” Jacob yelled as the fire broke and all Emily and Jacob could see was ice, pale ice was all they could see before they impacted on the ground and their whole once blazing world went black.
Mwah ha ha.
But really, enough of this refurbishing! It was time to get to the good stuff! Thieves.
I flipped through my papers clumsily as the tree rustled, clamping my pen twixt my teeth, with the kitten’s head (now beneath my chin) perking up in confusion and possibly annoyance.
The bandit slipped a small grin, amused by Tims hostility.
“Well,” Strife said, “for starters you’re on planet Garl. And second, you don’t work for the UPA, do you?”
“No.” Tims stated instantly. The last thing he wanted was the Cast System to know a UPA General was about, totally vulnerable.
Strife stared Tims in the eyes for awhile, and then nodded. He knew Mark was Protection Agency material, but he’d let it slide. Play it cool, maybe get some coin off them. There really was no reason to kill them, and they seemed like nice, helpless people. And that little girl, dragged all the way out here. Last thing he needed to do was blow her father to smithereens.
“What kind of pilot are you looking for?” Strife asked. Emily’s eyes widened.
“Will you help us?” she asked hopefully.
“Well,” said Strife, squatting down before Emily and the fallen Tims so he was eye level to them, “I do have a ship that can take you off Garl and out of Cast. Maybe even bring you all the way to UPA 16, but it will cost you.”
Tims eyebrows came together, “How much?”
“Mm. Maybe around 20,000 chung.” A sly smile slithered across his lips once again.
“20,000 chung! That’s insane!” Jacob protested.
“Hey! If you want to try to find yourselves another ship be my guest. But I guarantee you it won’t be any cheaper than mine!” Strife said, standing up promptly, and then held out his hand to Tims, who had also at last stood with Emily remaining sitting firmly upon his foot.
“I can give you ten percent now, and the rest when we reach UPA 16.” Tims said. Jacob made a strange kind of squeaky sound, then quickly fell silent with a faint sigh.
And with that Strife took Tims hand and a new companion was added to the journe –
“Ow!” I exclaimed as the kitten chomped down on my thumb, its needle like canines biting into to my flesh and pointy claws clamping down on my wrist. “Stop that!”
“Whatever! Get comfy or leave!”
I gave a wistful sigh. This cat was being an ass, but, it was cuddly, so there was that.
I leaned my head back into the leaves, resting it upon a crown of newly greened twigs, and peeked at the sky. Generally I liked writing alone in the dark on the dining room computer when everybody else had gone to bed, but it was such a beautiful day, sweet and quenching. The lilacs were in full blossom and nearly intoxicating, as a whiff of wind would send a spout of potent fragrance up my nose, the smell lovely but thick and at times overwhelming, making my eyes water. But it wasn’t much mind, as the day was quiet, much quieter than usual, and my mother’s wind-chimes rang behind me, and the swaying top of the old lilac joined in the song. With the cat upon my lap and the light arch of the branches to where I was nested cradling me sublimely, the curvilinear tree always seemed to present the best snoozing opportunities of any tree I have ever snoozed in. Again I sighed, not in wistfulness but in satisfaction. How I did love Solitude, as we seemed to mutually understand the principle of each others company. She was a safe haven for my back-burner thoughts to spout, and in turn I gave her tellings and stories of new and old; all the romance and adventure, the Seven Seas, the unknown frontiers and dreams that I could muster. Some good, some not quite so good. I closed my eyes, the sun twinkling through the leafy shadows.
And then a paw came and smushed down on my nose.
“AH!” I cried, as the second kitten slumped down over my head, skidding lopsided over my eyes and scratching up my cheek and chest, the kitten who had been so dutiful and good in my lap now beginning to wiggle about as its sibling collided into its face.
“Now listen!” I huffed, fumbling with my papers, the branch beneath me springing slightly, “You can’t just – ! Ah!”
Apparently at this moment the whole damn litter decided it was a good time to say hello, as I looked down and saw a third kitten making it’s way up the lilacs trunk, and Timon had wandered onto the scene, sleek and savvy like, her kittens randomized about her amongst the yard. Assuredly planning to begin the weekly ritual of evil doings to my mother’s garden, and everyone else’s garden come to think.
“That’s IT!” I declared, grasping both the kittens who had decided to have wartime in my lap by the scruffs, “This is my tree! You both – out!” and I managed to drop my original kitten down to the grass, but the other one scrambled from me and climbed itself back up, into the tree. Alright then, you think you can get away easy, huh? Well wrong! I know you’ll be skulking in the wings, waiting for me to get comfortable again – I SEE YOUR MIND CAT!
“Get down here!” I barked, but the kitten simply continued its nuance of nonchalance, passing me a nearly bewildered look regarding as to WHAT ON EARTH was I so upset about. I gave the eye, to no affect of course, and then taking my scrabbley notebook and shoving it tween two tight sticks and spearing my pen through a ripe leaf I turned my attention back to the unscrupulous feline, and grabbed the thick bottom of the branch it was currently finagling upon and shook it. The cat clung like Velcro, bobbing up and down like a hyperactive prairie dog.
“Meow! Meow! Meow! Meow!”
“Will. You. Get. OFF!”
I slumped myself over the branch in defeat, the kitten quickly repositioning itself and going about its business. In high brow exasperation I looked over to Timon, who had lounged herself in the shade of the tree, and she lifted her head upward towards me in a rare honor of having her attention.
“Can’t you make your kids behave?” I gruffed. Her tail’s tip twitched, and her eyes shifted away lazily, in total aplomb disregardance for whatever it was I was moping on about. In all my years, I’ve never come across anyone or anything that can make you feel more incompetent and like a waste-of-good-space than the bored look of a cat. “I guess your right,” I muttered, “I don’t really listen to my parents either.”
She gave me a dull flip of her ear in response. Not very reassuring.
Accepting the battle lost I gave Timon a final leer and then promptly snatched my papers from out the wedge and grabbed my pen and propped it between my teeth once more, grunting a “Have ut your ‘ay.” and then I quickly meandered my way up higher into the tree (resisting the urge to knock the kitten from off its high horse) and monkey-like I swung myself on over to the drain pipe connected to the house, and in two reaching steps I climbed up the drain and up onto the back porch roof, slapping my papers down onto the shingles and sighing a detoxifying sigh as I stood looking below at the kittens roly-polying about in the yard. Timon still unmoved, of course.
I sat myself down. Now, where was I?
Oh yes. Thieves.
Thanks for this piece go to my very old and frazzled disconjointed dairy. You’ve been a good friend.