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6: Hero on the Run
6: Hero on the Run


He looked the way Big Al Dente had expected him to look; drowsy and irritable.  For the first time, though, this didn't stop Al from dragging Curtis from his personal quarters towards the main room, where Princess Violet sat, waiting.

"What's the case this time?" Curtis growled, rubbing his eyes.

"Violet thinks you might know what's happening to the royal treasury," Al explained.

"What was that?" Curtis said.  He looked more awake, now.  He loosed himself from Al's grip and continued walking himself.  "What's going on?"

"For the past few days, the assets in the royal treasury have been mysteriously disappearing," Al continued.  "For some reason, Violet seems to think that you know what's happening."

"I didn't know," Curtis said.  "I haven't even been near the vault the whole time I've been in the city."

"Tell that to Vi," Al said alarmingly.  "She seems mad."

"So tell me, what else is new?" Curtis said sarcastically.  "I hope she's started to take those lessons."  He pushed open the door to the main room....

.....and Vi immediately started jumping all over him.  "CURTIS, YOU THIEF!!!"

Curtis activated his Rolling Shield, bumping the Princess back onto the pillow she had sat on.  "Get off, and stay off," the cat hissed, the Rolling Shield fading away and his sword resuming its normal teal hue.  "Now, what's this thing about me being a thief?"

"This is the exact reason why I kicked Seymour Cheese out of the Council," Vi ranted, straightening.  "He was robbing the treasury for his own personal desires!  I didn't hire you to do the same thing!"

"I have not been raiding the treasury," Curtis countered.  "Matter of fact, I haven't even been near the place---"

"Can you prove that?" Violet snapped.

"Fre-do!" the Emperor added.

Curtis didn't even skip a beat.  "Of all the times I've been here at the Palace, you've seen me.  All the other times, I've been at the Mansion.  Just the last couple days, I've been investigating the wreckage back where I blasted that insane Kounn, which was why you didn't see me at that get-together a day or so ago."

Vi didn't seem to take that story.  As calm as she could, she said, "I don't believe that any farther than I can roll you up and throw you.  I'm going to have to order an investigation into these occurences.  Until those investigations are complete, I'm going to have to send you into exile."

"Let me guess," Curtis said weakly.  "Prisoner Island?"

Vi nodded.  "Prisoner Island."

"Glad to hear that you've been becoming more honest and quiet," Curtis said calmly.  "And I acknowledge the fact that you want to send me into exile.  You know what my response to that is?"

Vi shook her head.  "I'm clueless.  What?"

<So what else is new?> Al thought, deciding to keep it to himself.

It was a good thing he did.  

"OVER MY DEAD BODY!!"

Vi immediately jumped on the offensive.  "Listen, you stupid cat, I'm going to send you to Prisoner Island whether you like it or not!"

"Excuse me, your highness," piped up a Council member, "but don't you think that's a little bit too harsh?"

"There's never such a thing as being too harsh," Vi said, turning to him.

"Riiiight," Curtis hissed, his voice once again sarcastic.  "Who is this, really?"

"Shut up!" Vi screeched.  

"YOU shut up," Curtis shot back.  "If there's no such thing as being too harsh, maybe I should just tie your ears in a double-knot and feed you "3 Musketeers" until your blood pressure starts to skyrocket."

Vi, starting to become a ticked-off rabbit, shouted at him, "Wildcat, you're trying my patience!"

Curtis nodded, then frowned.  "I don't mind if I do.  You should come over and try mine sometime."

That was it.  Vi turned to the nearest guards and yelled the ever-famous cry: "TAKE HIM TO PRISONER ISLAND!!"  The princess looked again at Wildcat.  "How's that?  That good enough for you?"

Curtis clenched his fists in an overwhelming fury; and then, suddenly, calmed down.  Glaring at the Princess, he let himself be dragged away.  He unsheathed his sword, but didn't even bother to swing it at the guards, as Al thought he would do.  Instead, getting the best grip on his sword as he could, he shot a laser beam at the crown on Vi's head, knocking it off.  The rabbit seemed a bit perturbed, but other than that, he got no reaction; so he decided to fill up the blank air space.  "If you're going to exile ME, then you don't even deserve to be a Princess!  Mark my words, Your Royal Worship, I WILL be back!"

After Curtis was gone, Al turned to Violet.  She was just standing there, looking at the door with a strange look in her eyes.  "Is everything okay, your Highness?"

At first, Vi didn't answer, as she was staring at the door through which Curtis and 2 of her guards had left, with a look of realization on her face as Curtis's statements dawned on her.  "Call me Highness-ness," she murmured.  She left the crown where it had fallen and left the room.  Al watched her leave, puzzled, then picked up the crown and followed her out.  The Council dispersed seconds later, saying in unison, "It's not my fault!"

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

<Just my day.>  Curtis paced around the boat he was on, which was headed for the Island.  <I wake up after a long day the day before, and I wind up being kicked out of the city by a bratty piece of scum-stricken royalty.  Pardon my language, kid, but you just haven't been yourself the last 24 hours.>

He turned and screamed in the direction of the city, "VIOLET!!  IF YOU CAN HEAR ME, WATCH THIS!!!"

Several of the Council members appeared at the windows of the Palace, wondering who was shouting at them.  Just LOOKING at the Council turned Curtis red.  "I HATE IT WHEN THIS HAPPENS!!!" he yowled.  

And just like that, his high blood pressure combined with his high energy amount, and he exploded, just like Seymour Cheese before him.

The explosion destroyed the boat and sent the pilot---as well as the guards----flying.  And when the fireworks faded away, a sizzled Curtis found himself in the water, surrounded by pieces of the boat.

This was quite a predicament.  Then, the teenage calico got an idea.  "I may not know how to swim," Curtis said to himself, "but I DO have some experience boogy-boarding!"  He grabbed the largest piece and started paddling his way to the island, ignoring the freezing-cold water floating around his fur.

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

Frieda joined Princess Violet in her personal quarters that afternoon.  Once again, snowflakes drifted through the air outside the window.  "Sweetie, Big Al Dente informed me that there's something wrong with you.  Would you mind telling me what it is?"

Violet shook her head.  "There's nothing to explain.  You saw the way I acted after Curtis deemed me unworthy of being Princess of the city.  It's kinda making me think that I should pass on the crown to someone else."

Frieda sat down next to her and placed a hand on one shoulder.  "Tell me everything," she said quietly.

"It probably has something to do with those classes that my friend Carlos told me to take," Vi said.  "After dealing with all this and developing some sense of sympathy, I kind of thought I overreacted in there.  Maybe..." A thought occured to her.  "....Maybe we should've actually checked to see who it was that's been raiding our account before making any snap decisions."

"I know Curtis well enough that he's not smart enough to raid the bank," Frieda answered.  "He's only a teenager.  I even went to the bank earlier and asked the teller if Curtis had an account there, and he said no, and I determined that all the money he had was stored inside the Mansion."

"Anyway, you know my thoughts, now.  Should I really continue on---" Vi paused for a moment. "----being a Princess?"

The Empress appeared shocked.  "Absolutely!  You have to keep on going until I think it's time for you to take over!"

"Glad to hear your honest opinion," Vi said, accepting the one-word answer.  She got up.  "I think I'll go ask Al and my dad for their opinions."  She walked out the door, Frieda close behind.  "Where's Carlos?"

"Back at the Mansion," Frieda said.  "Why?"

"Contact him," Vi replied.  "As soon as I'm done talking to Al and my dad, I need to talk to HIM."

"About being a Princess?"  Frieda frowned at this request.  "You already know what his answer is going to be."

"It isn't that."  Violet shook her head.  "I need to talk to him as soon as I can.

"I need to ask him if he wants to marry me.  At the pace we are losing money, I don't have much time left to ask him."

She continued walking down the hall, not even seeing the shocked expression on her mother's face.

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

Curtis looked around, gasping for breath.  He had been paddling his way to Prisoner Island for the last couple hours, trying to satisfy Vi.  However, due to the cold temperatures, his nearsightedness, and the darkening sky, he hadn't been making any progress....

Then, after about 5 minutes, he saw it: the one island with lush, green jungles and strung with wildlife.

The one island that had the gigantic skull mountain facing him.

"That's one way of keeping my hopes up," he said, not really meaning it.  Changing course ever so slightly, he put on an extra burst of speed-----

And with what felt like a massive neural jolt, his back gave way, plunging him into darkness.......

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

When Curtis awoke that night, it was pitch dark.  He found himself in a small pagoda, a pair of white blankets draped over him.  "Hey," he said aloud, pulling himself up, "what's happening---"

A white jolt tore its way across his eyes, and Curtis gasped in pain, nearly screaming.  Slowly falling back on the bed, he started to wonder what had happened.  Had something hit him?  Then, in a flash, it all came back to him.  On his way over here, the injury that Quarter had dealt him months ago came out of remission and overwhelmed his healing metabolism, causing him to lose his grip on the board.

But then, if he was left out in the middle of the water, what was he doing in here?  He tried again to get up, this time slowly.  That didn't work either.

"It would be a good idea if you just stayed in bed for a little while," came a familiar voice.

The shadowy form that appeared, however, Curtis couldn't recognize.  "Who's that?"

"You don't remember me?  I'm Seymour Cheese."  The figure himself stepped in the moonlight, making him visible at last.

Curtis fell back against his bed, weakly.  He didn't want to deal with an oversized rat, especially not at the state he was in.  "Where am I?" he murmured, smoothing down the fur on his arm.

Seymour seemed confused.  "Prisoner Island."

"It's a wonder why I'm not out at sea anymore," Curtis mused.  "Why am I in HERE, of all places?" He noticed a small hamper on one side of the pagoda, which already contained a water-soaked towel.  Next to a small heating vent hung his "Cats rule" T-shirt and purple flannel shirt, which were still very much drenched.  A quick glance at his right side reminded him that Shape-Shifter had remained where it was.

"Don't tell this to Princess Vi, but one of the people here had transformed part of the island into a beach resort," Seymour explained.  "During the winter, it becomes closed down and everyone takes to the indoors.  I built this little place when I first got here to keep myself warm.  I. Beam saw you come in and asked me to make you comfortable.  The house is only 50 meters from the beach---"

"Good for you guys," Curtis interrupted, "but not good for me.  I need to get back to Little Tokyo."

"With sunshine like the sunshine we get in the summer, who'd stay in Little Tokyo?" was Seymour's retort.  "At least, that's what this I. Beam clown told me."

"Me," Curtis countered.  "All of my friends live in the city, excluding Princess Violet, who had me sent here to begin with."

"Now, why'd she do a thing like that?" Seymour asked.

"She accused me of stealing from the treasury," Curtis hissed.  "I know someone else did it.  I just can't prove it."

Seymour chuckled.  "She probably mistook you for me.  She must have gotten hysterical when she found out I raided her piggy bank.  Oh, well, times have passed."

Curtis laughed a little, as well.  Had Seymour changed since his last defeat?  He reminded  himself to ask him about it later.  "Yeah, that was my first thought.  Thing is, though, I still need to think of a way to get back home."

"Well, what do you expect me to do about it?" asked the Big Cheese.  "The only thing I'm good for around here now is comedy relief.  And everyone saw you float over here, so don't think escaping unnoticed is going to help.  You're a hot item, especially since you defeated Quarter at the missile silo, and everyone here are fans of yours!  19 people have already asked me if I could get you to sign autographs."

<Autographs....what do they think I am, some trapeze artist or athlete?  I may have been the mastermind behind Quarter's undoing, but I'm no superstar.> Just then, an idea popped into Curtis's head.  "Maybe later; I have to ask you something, first.  You've reconnected with the Ninja Crows here, right?"

Seymour nodded his head.  "Yes.  What do you want them to do?"

"Come morning, I'll need the Crows to create a small diversion on the resort side, where all the good houses are.  That should create enough of an opening for me to escape into lightspeed before anyone spots me."

For a moment, the Big Cheese stood, thinking about the idea.  "Sure, I'll help you out, but I'll need to ask you a favor, first."

"I'm listening," Curtis said, his expression neutral.

"I need you to keep your mouth quiet regarding the truth about this island.  If even a word of this gets out into the populace, Violet will hear about it eventually and jump down my throat again."

"And she won't let ME live it down, either," Curtis said.  "Sure."  He winced at a sudden back spasm.  "In the meantime, wake me up before you send out the Crows.  I want to be ready."

"Fine, then," said Seymour, slowly walking away.  "I'll be waking you up in about 7 hours."

Slowly resuming a resting position, Curtis pulled the covers over his head and tried---desperately---to get some sleep.

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

There was a group of them scattered around the shoreline, but I. Beam recognized them immediately.  They were the Ninja Crows from the Flying Skull clan, and they seemed to having a flying circus show outside.

Signalling for the rest of the exiles to join him, Beam raced on out to watch the show.  During one of the acts, the whole crowd burst into appplause, ignoring the somewhat chilly weather.

In the commotion, none of them noticed the white streak flitting through the atmosphere before it disappeared into nothingness.

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

There was no one home when Curtis arrived.  The Pizza Cat looked just as empty as it had been for the last several hours.  <Good enough for me,> he thought.  He dashed up the stairs into the living area, finding a suitable hiding place in the bathtub.

As he sat there, bored, he thought he could sense something in the air.  That, and he also thought he could hear a slight electronics noise; a beeping noise coming from the downstairs computer.  Climbing back out of the tub, he walked quietly but quickly back downstairs to investigate.

Strings of data were flowing their way down the computer.

SECURITY ALERT
THEFT OVERRIDE SEQUENCE OVERRIDDEN

$3000 STOLEN FROM PIZZA CAT UTILITY ACCOUNT
PLEASE REPORT THEFT TO LITTLE TOKYO BANKING
ACCOUNT NUMBER TRACED TO 140082

"Looks like we know what's happening to the money.  Of course, I've never heard of a computer doing THAT before."  Curtis watched the computer shut down, then clenched his fists.  He pushed open the door and, hiding himself among the populace, he made his way towards the palace.

He had a score to settle with Violet.