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1 :  City at Peace
1: City at Peace


The next day started out like any other day that winter.  The clouds still covered the sun, reminding the citizens of Little Tokyo that more snow was on the way.  It was to be the biggest snowfall overall that the city had ever seen in 6 years.  It was, after all, only the end of January.

Speedy Cerviche, racing his way out of the pizza emporium, had other things on his mind, like delivering that bacon and egg breakfast special to his old friend, Lucille.  He didn't care about how cold it was, and he could've cared less about the half-foot of snow on the ground.  He and his friends had finally recovered from the final attack against Quarter, although they had been working for the past month on their business as always.  Teasy Melika, captain of the Radical Cats, had personally saw to it that enough people stayed away from the pizza parlor to avoid hindering the injured Cats, but enough to keep the place in operation.

Barging his way through an intense snowball fight, he finally arrived at Lucille's front door.  He knocked several times, then waited.

Eventually, Lucille did answer.  However, she didn't appear to be in a very good mood.  She grabbed the meal, slapped 10 dollars worth of currency in Speedy's palm, then slammed the door without even a hello.  "Hello, I must be going," Speedy said to himself.  He raced away, heading his way back towards the snowball fight.

He didn't get very far, however, before the roof on Lucille's house blasted itself open.  Speedy simply shrugged, and stopped.  "Got up on the wrong side of the bed, obviously," he said.

"Whatever gave you THAT idea?" a black figure to his right growled.  Speedy turned in his direction; and sure enough, it was Ambush Cat.  His fur was black; even blacker than usual, Speedy noticed.

"What happened to you?" Speedy asked, puzzled.

Ambush Cat shook his head, stretching.  "Rule Number One of Being a Good Trickster: NEVER play mean tricks on Lucille without running 2 full miles after pulling it off."

"Good idea," Speedy answered.  "Or, rather: leave the city when she's REALLY upset.  Most of the destruction of the city last year wasn't from just the comet.  When Guido and I started fighting each other for Polly's sake after the comet attack, Lucille got so mad that her missiles wrecked what was left of the city."

"I REALLY had to know that," Ambush Cat snarled, rubbing his head.  "I'm heading to the pizza parlor.  See if I can say hello to Francine while I'm there."

That had been happening quite a lot over the past few weeks.  Slowly but surely, Ambush Cat and Francine had noticed that they both had mild crushes on the other.  Everyone was afraid of it at first, but things settled into a routine after Seymour's banishment to Prisoner Island.  No one outside the SPC organization had noticed, anyway; Francine never told anybody in detail of what had led up to it, and Ambush Cat, a shade by nature, remained as aloof as ever.

A loud voice echoed its way through the city, coming from the direction of the palace.  "CURTIS WILDCAT, TURN OFF THAT BLASTED MUSIC!!"  Speedy recognized that voice as that of Princess Violet.  "IT'S GIVING ME A HEADACHE!!"

"OH, STUFF IT IN YOUR EAR, HIGHNESS-NESS!" Curtis's voice roared back faintly.  "IT'S ONLY ENYA!!"

Speedy had to chuckle at that.  But he didn't stay to hear anymore of it; those snowballs were coming dangerously close.  Turning on the hover-jets, he blasted back to the parlor.

-------------------------

Back at the Pizza Cat eatery, things weren't as good.  The place was REALLY busy that morning, and Francine, Polly, GB, and Guido would've passed out from exhaustion if Aldonza hadn't lent her skills to the group after coming in for breakfast that morning.  That REALLY was how bad it was.  REALLY.  The only one not suffering any ill effects was Speedy; reason being was that he didn't care what the world had to throw at him anymore, and was now happier than a crowd of recently elected politicians.

Outside, the group of people in the parlor were starting one of their favorite chants.  "One, two, three, four, what do you think we came for?  Pizza!  Pizza!"

"Pizza-pizza-po-pizza-banana-fana-fo-fizza, me-mi-mo-mizza....." another voice chimed in, in a sing-song tone.  Some of the crowd began clapping when he continued the song, going into a full instrumental solo.

Inside of herself, Francine had thanked that guy.  A few days before, the self-proclaimed Champion of the Super-Cats, Grand Admiral Curtis Wildcat, had decided to pay Chico Melika to keep the crowd entertained.  He had done quite well; even in all that time, he hadn't run out of songs to play on his keyboard, which was set up near a wall.

There was a muffled gasp from outside in the serving area, followed by a thump.  "You chowderhead!  How dare y----" Polly's voice exclaimed, but she didn't get any farther when another thump resounded, followed by a crack as something made contact, and she landed on the floor within Fran's view.

Polly picked herself up slowly, her face a little green.  "What happened over there?" asked a puzzled Francine.  "Something tells me your mean streak has just been stopped."

"It's that sea lion in there again," she said quietly, sitting herself down at the table.  "It's the same one who was getting on my nerves back when Big Al split us up and put me at Spritz's place.  He obviously wanted a little revenge for what happened that first time I met him."

Aldonza's voice came from where she was busy operating the Pizza-Maker.  "Let me guess: he clobbered you."

"Where it hurts," Polly managed.  "He saw the bulge in my stomach and decided to take advantage of the situation.  He pretended to be polite, and just when I was starting to be nice...."

"There goes that cinnamon muffin you ate for breakfast," Aldonza said, giggling.  "You learn any lessons?"

"Yeah.  One," Polly hissed.  She walked over and grabbed a rolling pin with one hand and a frying pan with another.  "Regardless of what the consultant Slam Somali told me, it helps to keep one paw in my old life."

"Don't go back in there while he's in there," Aldonza warned.  "I've kept my eye on that guy for the past 2 weeks.  He's been working out at Runner's new gymnasium on the far side of town.  Not with the special barbills, though; but he's buff.  I tried talking to him earlier, and he tied my tail in a double knot.  Did it so fast my eyes were going in circles, practically."

Francine winced.  Aldonza's tail was useful for flying, but not for use as a shoelace.  "Well, what am I supposed to do?" she heard Polly ask.  "I can't just let him get away with it!"

Aldonza yanked the frying pan out of her hand.  "No one told you I used to be the top rebounder at UNLV, did they?"  She walked out of the room.

Polly looked at Francine, who only shrugged her shoulders and continued handing out pizzas.  "I don't see how being a good basketball player has anything to do with it."

"Ssssh," Polly hissed, turning to the scene outside.  "I want to see this."  She set the rolling pin aside.

"You again," the sea lion snarled.  "Obviously, you like having your tail twisted.  By the time I get done, your number of injuries will be hard to compute."

"Oh, YEAH??" Aldonza's voice howled.  "COMPUTE THIS!!!"

Polly looked out the door just in time to see Aldonza do a backflip in mid-air and land the pan down **HARD** on the sea lion's head.  She followed it up with a kick at the knees, knocking him out cold before he could utter another word.  Dusting off her paws triumphantly, she turned to the feline femme fatales.  "See, Polly, THAT'S how it's done!"

Polly shook her head.  "I could never jump that high."

"I think you've forgotten that you're no longer mechanical," GB, or Good Bird, said quietly.  He had just returned from making a series of deliveries with Guido's assistance.  "Thanks to those special formulas and machines Guru Lou and Atom Cat concocted, we don't have that 'robotic' look anymore.  Our energy packs still have somewhat of an influence, but it's not really as important anymore unless it's an emergency."

"It's a wonder that Atom Cat has been with Lou this long," Guido said.  "The way they were yelling at each other when we came in for those operations?  Ha!"

Aldonza walked back inside, handed the frying pan back to Polly, and walked back to the Pizza-Maker.  "You can continue your job, Polly.  Daniel will be here in a minute to drag him out."

Polly did so.  "Thank goodness for high-flying morons," she said under her breath.

Aldonza turned her head.  "Hey, I heard that."

Polly just shrugged.  "Sorry."

Outside in the serving area, Chico began playing music from the Mos Eisley cantina.

----------------------------

Curtis stood at the very top of Mount Coochiyama, paying no attention for once to how high he was in the air.  The only thing that was on his mind was the thrashings he and Violet had exchanged 10 minutes ago.  After being yelled at without letup, Curtis worked out a compromise and retreated to the mountain to be alone with his thoughts.  And his Walkman.
Standing near the statue in which the Supreme Catatonic and its electronic Goonie Birds had once been housed, he stared out at the city.  In the distance, he could see the high-flying Cuckoo Bird, who made his home inside the mountain, yelling his round head off.  Also, from his position, he could easily spot the outer workings of the Palace.  And if he checked his most powerful pair of binoculars, he could see his most skillful starfighter commander, Carlos Cosmos, and Violet out on the outskirt streets of the city, taking a tour that was led by Lucille.

Curtis stopped his tape player and set it inside his duffel bag which he liked to lug around.  Sitting down on the edge of the mountain and straightening his sword scabbard, he turned his thoughts to how he had gotten in this position.

He had first arrived in the late summer of 1999, not long after the Animal Legion of Doom destroyed his precious Mansion and had taken away his most beloved friend, Shila, to seek a new life.  Through a series of incidents, he proved to Speedy and the other Pizza Cats that regardless of him being an extremely mean teenager, he DID have a heart.  The most devastating of those incidents by far was the attack on the nuclear silo, when Curtis just about risked his own life, as well as that of his friend, so that Speedy could complete his mission.  The one that was closest to that was when Polly managed to make it to the fight against that huge laser base, Curtis had dived in front of her to block that laser hit.  Now that Quarter and his cronies had been domesticated, that Jerry Atrick had returned to his now small Flying Skull clan, and that Seymour Cheese was stranded on an island for good, Curtis could finally rest easy.

"Curtis," a deep voice rumbled.

The voice startled him; there was no doubt about that.  But he remembered that he was on the edge of a cliff, not on a wide plain.  So, instead of yanking out his sword reflexively and spinning around, he turned around slowly, trying to search out the source of the noise.

And found himself face-to-face with the legendary Catatonic Warrior, who was standing at the foot of the statue.  "It's him," Curtis murmured.  Flinching noticeably, he returned the Warrior's gaze.  "What are you doing here?" the calico asked.

"You are to be commended for restructuring the Supreme Catatonic," the Warrior growled, "and for risking your nine lives to protect the Samurai Pizza Cats.  The final diagnostics of the Catatonic are completed, and the robot awaits reinsertion inside the statue."

Curtis remained silent.  There was no way he wanted to anger THIS guy, who was a more powerful sword-wielder than Curtis could ever hope to be.  No matter HOW well-informed this guy was, either.

"However, there are still two things I need you to do in order to consider you a true hero of the city.  Two things before I can believe that you've renounced the darkness in your own way."

Deep inside, Curtis moaned.  "And what are those two things, Great Warrior?" he asked.  There was no sarcasm in his voice, for once.  But at the same time, he felt anxious to know...

"Just call me Hanzou," the Warrior said.  "First off, the Animal Legion of Doom has not been destroyed.  You must complete that mission, or else Earth faces certain destruction."

Upon hearing those words, the anxiety inside Curtis erupted into full-blown shock.  "WHAT!!?" he all but screeched at him before he remembered to keep his temper under control.

"That's correct," Hanzou said, unfazed.  "There is still a remnant of the group that you had thought to destroy.  He wields more power than the one you call Frieza, and he's twice as devious as the criminal leader of Black Sun.  His cousin, Felonia Jase, is his most powerful agent---"

"Yes," Curtis interrupted.  "I know.  Felonia used to be one of my Super-Cats, but she decided she didn't want to be around someone who was even more powerful than her, so she left.  Why she decided to join up with someone else, I don't know."

"That is correct, Wildcat," Hanzou said, addressing him by his last name.  "Your first mission is to defeat Chaos Kitten and Felonia at any cost."

"Chaos Kitten, huh?" Curtis muttered.  "Thanks, Hanzou.  Now, what was the second thing you wanted me to do?"

"There is a certain someone you may remember who now resides in this city," Hanzou growled.  "You must protect her until Chaos Kitten has been defeated, for she holds the key to the survival of your princess."

THAT was interesting.  Someone that was capable of rescuing Violet from death?  He had to remember that.  "Who is this person?"

"I believe a complete description will do you better, youngster.  She has medium-length black hair, likes the color gray, is about one-eighth of a cubit taller than you.  She's currently staying at Little Tokyo Hospital, and she's staying there until she fully recovers from the operation she had last week."

"Right," Curtis said sarcastically.  "What's a cubit?"

Hanzou paused.  "Let's see.  A cubit.  I used to know what a cubit was.....but don't worry about that right now.  Oh, and in case it helps, she's a little more than HALF of what you weigh."

Curtis slapped himself on his face.  Just what he needed.  "Congratulations," he hissed.  "The key to my heart is inside my stomach."

Hanzou just shrugged.  "Like I said to Speedy close to a year ago, I possess the whiskers of wisdom and the claws of the crow.  I've been keeping an eye on you ever since you first started your personal quest.  If you complete your missions, I'll try to think of some way to reward you."

"Yeah, yeah, don't remind me," Curtis muttered.  "If you're done talking to me, now, I have some things to do."

"The fate of Little Tokyo is in your paws," Hanzou said quietly.  And with a flick of his cape, he was gone.

"How many times have I heard THAT one?" Curtis said aloud into the silence.  Receiving no answer, he grabbed his bag, leaped into the air and jumped into lightspeed mode, disappearing like the darkness.

Or what the darkness was.