Plays right after Possessor: The Adoption
Two hours after the cafeteria incident, a visit to the only store within BetaMountain selling pet supplies, and a long conversation with the salesclerk about why somebody wants to shop with a cat attached to his clothes:
"Hey, what's–?" Shane hadn't crossed his doorstep yet when the cat jumped off his chest and shot under his bed to remain there as an indifferent, furry ball whose reflective green eyes glowed back at him. "Couldn't you have done that in the cafeteria?" he asked it on hands and knees.
Obviously not. The cat flattened his ears and hissed at him. Great. So much for agreement. He straightened up and threw a disconcerted glance at the big brown cardboard box that had contained O'Malley's kittens in the cafeteria – not very well, which had started all the trouble – and was now filled with what she deemed absolutely necessary for the fluffy furball's further prosperity.
Damnation! That cat had more personal belongings than he did!
So what to start with? The piss-pot... wait, he tried to decipher O'Malley's scribbling, litter box, it was called. Okay.
He pulled the big rectangular bowl of green plastic from the box and found the litter for it in a paper sack secured with duct tape inside. At least there was some service. He cut the duct tape with a sharp thumb claw and emptied the litter. From the smell it was made of pine. He had imagined worse. Judging by the size of the bowl and O'Malley's warning that cats were prone to shovel the stuff out of it from time to time, he'd better place it in the bathroom.
He made two steps with the litter box when something hit his left ankle and whizzed through between his legs. Something small. Something grey. Something fragile. He tried to regain his balance, not drop the darn container with wood pellets, and avoid smashing the aggressor in the process.
An attempt that utterly failed.
He blinked, raised his head, looked at his cat sitting with erected whiskers in front of him, watching curiously, and shook cat litter pellets smelling of pine wood out of his hair. Damnation! The tiny beast had managed what nobody – not even back at Wolf Den – had done successfully during the last four years: he tackled him! That creature had a frightening ability to get underfoot.
Not for the first time that day he thought that stripping in the cafeteria might possibly have been the better choice...
half an hour later:
"O'Malley?" Moira answered the comm.
Without any preamble: "Didn't you say he's housetrained already?"
"Of course he is."
"Then my floor must belong to the outside," the ST on the screen grumbled under his breath. More loudly, "Any idea why he stopped being it?"
"Did you prepare his litter box?"
"Sure, as you told me. I even showed him where it is!" He snorted. "Don't tell me I have to show him how to use it."
"No, of course not." Chief-engineer O'Malley snickered at the image the dry comment created in her mind.
"So what's the problem then?"
"Uhm... everything's new to him at your place. He's nervous and unsure about you, that'll end soon."
"I'm unsure about him as well and I don't piss on the carpet."
Moira laughed out loud. "But you aren't a cat, Gooseman!"
"I'm beginning to think he's got the easier part in this."
"Uhm... sometimes, I use clump litter instead of the pine pellets. But not always, it makes too much dust."
another half an hour (and a second trip to the only store within BetaMountain selling pet supplies) later:
He emptied the suggested amount of Cleanlicats Clump Cat Litter (CCCL) into the bowl he'd previously emptied meticulously of all pine pellets and put the huge plastic bowl – pardon: the litter box, of course – back into its place, stuffed the sack with the remaining litter into the bathroom cabinet, and went to change into his half-civilian black gear. The bold pine needle smell sticking to his blue-and-white uniform had caused too many curious looks on his way to the store and back. Obviously, the salesclerk remembered his growl: he had refused to indicate anything.
Gooseman sniffed and sighed, wondering if some of those pellets were still stuck in his hair. The smell wasn't wearing off so far.
He collected the uniform from the floor and went – not without a wary glance against a possible grey-furred aggressor launching attacks at his legs from under his bed – into the bath to stuff it into the cardboard box for dirty clothes. Hrmpf, seemed he had to do laundry soon...
A determined 'meow', somehow underlaid with a low growl, made him whirl round.
Just in time to get the contents of the litter box thrown against his lower half, after a somehow not at all tiny grey cat with a white snout jumped with both forepaws onto the edge of the bowl, causing it to flip over. Needless to say, said cat had left the bathroom long before most of the concrete crumps even hit the floor.
At least, Shane seriously doubted that the grey monster had received its share of white dust. He looked down along himself and growled: from the hips down his black uniform was powdered white. Great.
He threw a disconcerted look at his dirty clothes box. What would be worse? Smelling as if he'd been taking pine oil beauty baths or looking as if some insane gargantuan nanny had tried too hard to protect his backside from diaper rash?
Really tough question.
The even tougher question though, was what to do about the litter box before that cat needed its toilet again? The wet spot on his carpet showed clearly that the tiny beast contained much more liquid than one assumed at first sight, so... What?!
He nearly started.
Poss sat in front of him, staring him down with unmoving green eyes, produced a clearly arrogant snort, turned, made some scraping movements in front of the still upside-down bowl and marched, tail raised high above his back, back into the living room, leaving behind a clearly out of sorts Gooseman.
Chief-engineer Moira O'Malley on the screen shrugged. "The symbolic scraping is a clear indication that something's wrong with the litter box, Gooseman. He did with it what he usually does with his feces: burying it. It's a strong expression of distaste."
"He hates his toilet?!"
"Obviously. Did you use the litter I told you?"
"Yes, do you think I'd risk experiments?!" he snorted. "I have no idea what's going on with him."
"Hey, you bred him! You're supposed to know how he works!"
With an apologetic expression Moira sighed. "He's a cat, Ranger. Nobody understands cats. I certainly don't." O'Malley shrugged. "It could be anything."
another half an hour on the third trip to the only store within BetaMountain selling pet supplies:
"You want what?!" The salesclerk gaped at him as if Goose had just used his bio defenses to create a second head that had a totally different opinion than Goose-head-1. Not that he – Goose, standard version – was too surprised about that. Even his limited knowledge of human behavior schemes recognized his demand as odd. Especially when the demand came from a six foot five man in black gear that was powdered white from the hips down and who smelled pungently of pine needles.
"I want two of every kind of cat litter boxes you have in stock," he repeated in an over-patient manner that only barely hid his impatience. "And I assume you do accept returns."
"W– We– Well, yes, absolutely. As long as the commodities are undamaged and haven't been used, that's our shop's policy. But—"
"No. Buts." Goose growled, pointedly. His patience was wearing thin.
"Do– Do you want a bag?" The salesclerk stuttered.
Goose glanced wearily the heap of over twenty cat boxes. "I don't suppose you can lend me a trolley, do you?"
"You aren't serious, are you?" he asked his cat in disbelief about forty minutes later, and – as he had feared – got a faint, confirming purr as reply. A faint, confirming purr coming from a tiny, monstrous grey-furred something sitting in a bright yellow litter box some obnoxious twerp had decorated with smiling (!) ladybugs (!!).
At least it was the pine pellet litter variant and not the concrete crumps – on his way back from the shop he'd decided that the cement dust was worse than the pine smell – Look on the bright side of life, Shane, he berated himself unenthusiastically. "Better be sure," he growled at the purring cat. "There'll be no further replacements, clear?!"
The cat didn't deign to look at him.
For about the fifteen minutes he needed to change into his sports gear, empty the remaining 23 litter boxes of pellets and concrete, stuff his black gear into his washing machine and his uniform into the bag he'd drop off at the personnel laundry after he returned the rejected boxes. Then it sat in front of the door, menacingly purring and more-or-less effortlessly keeping him from leaving the apartment by sitting in the way, risking being run over by the trolley.
Another look at O'Malley's list informed Goose of the task due now: food. A quick, but thorough search of the box with cat stuff made it clear that food was not delivered with the cat.
Feinting left, he darted right and out of the room before the kitten could escape and force him into a chase across the mountain. After the experiences of the last two hours, he wasn't too sure he'd win.
on the fourth trip to the only store within BetaMountain selling pet supplies (after a stop at base laundry - 'Uniforms whiter than white!'. Goose just hoped they'd leave the blue alone with that slogan):
"That's one of the finest brands of cat food–"
"Rubbish. It smells horrible!"
"What do you expect?" The clerk nearly gaped. "That's cat food!"
"I won't feed my cat stuff I consider toxic waste!"
"No buts!" Gooseman rummaged through his pockets till he found the scribbled list, O'Malley had given him. "Do you have–" he struggled to decipher the scribble. "Hell's Sense Dead?"
"Or what ever this is supposed to be." He showed the list to the clerk. "Engineer O'Malley has kind of a strange hand."
"O'Malley?" The clerk's face lit up. "Then I know what you mean. That's Hill's Science Diet." He placed a set of pet food cans on the counter that looked only slightly less complicated to prepare than what a five-star-master cook would produce for Premier – Kubliiieee evil-spirited smile at the brainless wife Dutch's – wedding feast. "It's really easy," the man reassured him. "Just remove the lid and place it in the microwave for half a minute and–"
"I don't have a microwave, mister," Goose, nerves slightly fraying, growled.
The clerk wasn't put off. "You can warm it on a stove as well when you store it in the fridge to keep it fresh. It's explained on the back of the packet. But I warn you, it doesn't smell any better than–"
"At least, it doesn't smell like a chemical waste deposit." He put the food bowl down and watched the cat almost launching himself at it. Then a skittering stop on the floor, a sniff, a disgusted snort. And green eyes penetrating his gaze in a clearly disapproving manner.
"I don't have a microwave! Get that through your furry brain!" he snarled with the result that the tiny cat tilted its head with the great ears, blinked – and turned his ass, offended, towards him. Oh great, he sighed inwardly. Asses don't eat, either.
He studied the offended cat some more, then decided to go with the saying of hunger makes eaters...
Two hours later, he accepted that the saying said nothing about the noise said unwilling eaters produced and also failed to refer to the rather rapid frequency with which an unfed cat a) went around your legs, b) scratched your boots under the table, c) meowed your ears off, and d) flopped onto the damned report you were trying to complete despite all this.
Niko yawned and padded barefoot up the stairs to answer the door. "Ye–? Shane? What on Earth are you–?"
The ST looked slightly weary and definitely unshaved and interrupted her. "Do you have a microwave?"
"Do you mind heating this shit for me?" he yawned. "The beast won't take pot-heated food, no matter what the veterinarian said."
She blinked sleepily. "Can't that wait till tomorrow morning?"
"Not if I want any sleep."
After an extended feeding of a – theoretically grateful for the effort though Goose couldn't tell – cat:
"No way! That's my bed!" He snarled at the cat without being rewarded with more than a sleepy raised lid above a bright green eye.
That immediately dropped shut again. The tiny body spread some more, somehow successfully covering most of the bed.
So much for authority in his own place. But not with his bed. Never! He didn't care if the beast was 90 per cent elastic or not! He shoved the cat sideways with his hip. At the angry hiss: "Get into your own bed or make room," he grumbled and curled up himself.
At the second hiss, he hissed back. With bared fangs. A moment later, a small warm body snuggled purring against his back.
Early the next morning, really early...
"Killbane, I'll kill you!" Goose growled, ground his teeth, and tried to force his mind back to sleep. The obnoxious snoring couldn't possibly come from any other place but the next sleeping cubicle, and he knew that Killbane had been assigned to it tonight, except...
Reality finally reached his sleepy, infuriated brain.
...except there was no "next sleeping cubicle" unless he counted the next apartment, separated by one and a half meters of BetaMountain's solid rock from his. All there was to snore was a tiny grey furry creature he felt as a hot spot through his covers. A tiny grey furry infernally snoring creature, to be precise.
Gooseman groaned after his sleep deprived brain processed the facts: He'd have preferred Killbane. Killing Killbane was ok, killing a snoring cat wasn't. So what...?
Unconsciously, while trying to figure out what to do, his hand wandered slowly across the furry back. The snoring turned to purring.
Epilogue: Three hours later
"Think positive, my Goose man. Surely you had worse things than a tiny cat living around you sometime in your life!"
"Killbane." Goose hid his face in his hand. "But that cat could make mincemeat out of him."
The hacker sniggered. "You don't want to tell me you were defeated by your tiny furry friend, do you?"
Goose glowered darkly at him, then he spotted something and his expression lit up. "Doc, Poss is chasing one of your programs."
"They are holograms, my Goose man. He can't–"
"Across your desk."
A loud, somehow wet sounding crash followed by a telltale electronic sizzle arose.
"My coffee!" Doc screamed.
"Is on your keyboard." Goose finished, watching with a grin as Possessor cleaned his paw of coffee with an arrogant expression of What do you want? I meant to fall off the desk along with that mug!
Thanks to S. 'Trivia' Blank for chasing not jarn rolls but mistakes out of this story! :)