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22: Future of Town
22:  Future of Town


"So, what'll it be?" Polly asked.

Curtis looked down at the various orders: the Rad-Cats had asked for a large mushroom-and-anchovie pizza and 2 bottles of Pepsi, while the two elderly goats sitting in the table behind them had asked for some Grecian salads and a pitcher of water.  The Rude Noise, who had contributed to their share of destroyed enemy vehicles, had asked for a large pizza with all available toppings on it, plus double cheese.  "The usual," he said.  "One large pepperoni pizza and a medium glass of lemonade, and make sure Aldonza hurries."

"Coming right up," Polly remarked cheerfully, turning on her heels and walking back into the kitchen and past the newly restored wall, which was put back up by Runner and Meowzma after the battle ended yesterday afternoon.

Curtis, meanwhile, glanced down at his watch.  Where WAS that cat?

It took a few minutes, but she finally arrived: Felonia Jase.  She looked a little worse for wear, but she seemed to be on the up and up.  "Well, have you made up your mind?" Curtis asked.

Felonia took a seat across from him.  "With all due respect, Curtis," she said, "I think I'm better off OUT of your group.  For one, there are some things I have to do, and I seriously don't feel....safe....around you and the others."

"Well, with me around, that's to be expected," Curtis answered.  He nodded.  "Fine, then.  That's your decision, and I'll respect it....of course, as long as you keep in touch."

Felonia nodded, then stood up and took her leave of absence.  Curtis yelled after her, "Hey!  Don't forget lunch!"

"Never mind," she called back.  "I'll eat at Bat Cat's place, instead."  She turned and hurried towards the general direction of Bat Cat's branch of the Pizza Cat chain.

At that moment, Polly returned into the serving area, pizza and lemonade in tow.  "Your lunch," she said.  "That'll be $8.37."

Curtis looked down at the finished pizza.  "That was quick."

"Aldonza used her laser beams to make the heating up go faster," Polly said.  "I called Francine at the hospital yesterday night, and she agreed to have Aldonza stay on here as a permenant cook and waitress.  Aldonza will be stopping by the hospital after we close to clear up Francine's injuries."  She set the food on the counter in front of Curtis.

The trio-colored cat handed over the cash, then took a glance at the wall behind Aldonza.  SOMETHING was there...."Pssst, Polly.  Look over on that wall over there.  One shadow too many."

Polly saw it too; but it was too late to warn Aldonza of the incoming trapper.

-------

Lucille, out on a stroll, glanced towards the Pizza Cat.  For a moment, she thought she heard a scream.  Increasing her pace, she hurried towards the pizzeria.

After a few seconds, her suspicions were confirmed: she could clearly hear some yelling, something that sounded like: "AMBUSH CAT, YOU PSYCHOPATHIC FREAKAZOID, RELEASE MY TAIL FROM YOUR MOUTH BEFORE I HAVE TO SLAP YOU WITH IT!!!"

Lucille shook her head.  "And I had heard she was supposed to be friendly."

"She is," someone commented from beside her in a Japanese accent.

Lucille turned around, and saw a gray wolf with black eye circles and ear stripes sitting on a bench a few feet away.  "Who are you?"

"Name's Zapana Zquor," the wolf said.  "I'm a good friend of Aldonza's, although it wasn't always that way."

Lucille nodded, continuing her assessment of the wolf; the canine's 4 paws were all black, as was the tip of her tail, which remained in constant motion.  In the meantime, Zapana continued talking.  "Aldonza doesn't like it when Ambush Cat chomps down on her tail.  A.C. can talk like normal people do and has a personality like normal people do, but he has the traits and figure of a cat.  That means he likes to sneak up and pounce on people, and occasionally play tricks on them.  To him, Aldonza's tail is nothing more than a chew toy."

Lucille nodded, and turned to go; however, Zapana laid a hand on her shoulder and stopped her.  "Lucille, I need to ask you something.  I had heard that you go ballistic whenever someone makes you sad or upset.  You think maybe you could demonstrate?"

"I have to be in the mood for it," Lucille said, unsure of what the canine wanted.

Zapana totally freaked out.  "WHAT DO YA MEAN, YOU HAVE TA BE IN THE MOOD FOR IT?!  EXPLODE, I'M TELLING YOU!!"

Zapana's little emotional outburst was enough to push Lucille over the edge.  The casing on her head opened up, releasing a barrage of missiles into the general area.  Most of them connected safely away; a few made contact with the wolf.  She coughed, her entire body smoking black, then fell onto the ground.  "Thanks, Lucille.  I just wasn't too sure if the rumors were true or not," she wheezed.

"No problem.  Appreciate you asking.  You need some help getting up?"

"I can take care of MYSELF, mind you.  Thanks for asking, though."  Zapana coughed a few times, then pulled herself back on the bench.

"Glad to have met you," Lucille remarked with a polite smile.  With that, she waved good-bye and headed back home, leaving behind the havoc she had caused.

Ambush Cat came sailing into the street a few seconds later, a few pieces of white and orange fur still stuck on his teeth.  Brushing them off, he stayed long enough to grin at Zapana, and then he dashed off towards the Mansion.

--------

Big Al Dente continued his nervous pacing of the Palace.  Ever sense the city's vault had been cleaned out, he remained afraid that someone else would come along and finish the job.  Without money, he was just not safe.

Right when he passed the Council room, one of the vault's guards walked up to him.  "Chief, we have something new to report."

"Something new to report?"  Al was a bit surprised at this news.  "About what, our money condition?"

"That's right, chief," the guard answered.  "3 hours ago, when we last checked, the vault was totally empty.  Then, about 15 minutes ago, we checked again, and the whole place was filled to the brim with cash!"

Al stared at the guard, deep in thought.  "We ought to have somebody look into this."

In the meantime, Carlos Cosmos stood watching them from around a corner.  While they continued their talk about how to find out who had restored the treasury, he turned and walked away, leaving them behind.  Once he had turned the opposite hallway, he breathed a heavy sigh of relief that this mission was completed.

------

At last, the clock hit 12 noon, and everyone was able to relax for at least the next few minutes.  Everyone took up spots around the kitchen, with the sole exception of a lunch-eating Curtis; and Chico and Daniel, unhindered, went on to detail the aftermath of Chaos Kitten's attack.

"You mean, we have all our money back?" Speedy asked, disbelieving.

"That's right," Aldonza said, nursing her tail at the spot where Ambush Cat had sunk his jaws in.  "The Super-Cats' Infinite Defense requires a lot of money to keep in operation, a lot of which we've mined off of some uninhabited planets found in our general area.  Fortunately, we've converted a lot of it into standard money found on Earth.  We were able to send the exact amount that was lost back into Little Tokyo's treasury, and you'll find that your own accounts are also restored back to normal."

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, Curtis gulped down the last of his lunch.  Satisfied, he got up and walked out the door, not even bothering to throw the pizza box away.  "That reminds me," GB interrupted.  "Where's Curtis going?"

Chico shrugged.  "I think he mentioned something about heading to Mt. Coochie," he said.  "Although for what reason, I'm not sure."

"And speaking of which, whatever happened to Chaos Kitten?" Daniel asked.

Everyone looked first at Daniel, then at each other; then, as unison, they shook their heads.  They didn't know; they probably wouldn't ever know.

-------

At last, pulling himself out of the blackness that he had gotten himself into, C.K. awoke.  He looked around him, trying to ignore the throbbing pain in his head and wondering just where on earth he was.

It certainly wasn't anyplace he knew; he could tell that much by the medium-skinned humans walking around.  He groaned; his memory told him that the Supreme Catatonic had hurled him out over the horizon like a baseball hit by Sammy Sosa; however, he had blacked out before he even had come close to landing.  And now, here he was; without resources, and without his cousin, Felonia.

One of the humans walked towards him and pulled him out of the fountain he'd landed in.  "'Ola, el gato'," he said.  "I've been looking for a part-time assistant to help me in my art studio.  Willing to take the job?"

"Where am I?" Chaos Kitten asked, unsure.

"You're in a town right outside of Madrid, Spain," said the man.  "But enough small talk.  We have masterpieces to create!"

Staggering with him as best he could, C.K. followed him to his art studio.  At least he'd be able to stay alive; but now, he knew that he couldn't relive his cause for world conquest here in Spain.  Put it shortly, he was finished as a terrorist.

"Guess I'd better learn how to rearrange art supplies," Chaos Kitten muttered as he followed the man inside.

-----

The underground building was dark; just as Ambush Cat remembered it.  He had just finished clearing out all things that COULD be evacuated from the building, including a few boxes of Trivial Pursuit games; but now it was time to finish it so that no other villain would be able to take advantage of what lay inside.

After he finished his prowling, he scampered outside, stepping on a small remote control as he did so.  There weren't even any flashes of light or huge explosions; the ground simply collapsed on itself as the dynamite Ambush Cat had planted did its work.  A.C. looked back, pleased, then scampered back home.

Once the explosions and cave-ins subsided, a broken door partially surfaced at the top of the heap.  That door contained the logos of Seymour Cheese and the Animal Legion of Doom, and told those who would listen that terrorism's semi-solid grip on the world had been broken and that the S.I.D. and the SPC had won through.

----

A cool breeze blew through Curtis's fur as he sat on the top of Mount Coochiyama, otherwise known simply as "Coochie".  It had been havoc the last couple weeks, but things had finally quieted down....to a point, of course.

"You realize, of course, that it's not going to take long for the news to leak out to the media," Shila commented from beside him.

"Since when have you gotten so worried about what the media thinks?" Curtis answered without turning his head.  "Besides, I could care less what the people hear about the Pizza Cats.  This is the first time I've admitted it, but they're good friends, and even better samurai."

"Since the day that----" Shila paused, then smiled.  "Hold on a second.  Why am I telling you this?"

"Because you don't have anything else to do," Curtis responded.  "Besides, after my friend Chris lost to you in 'Atomic Bomberman' 2 hours ago, you've been as bored as wood after a rainy day."

"Your sense of humor."  Shila laid one arm on his shoulder.  "If it's one thing I definitely remember about you, it's your sense of humor."

"Hey, it's true," Curtis remarked.  "He DID lose to you.  You trapped him in that passageway with that kicked bomb while I wiped out the computer player with his own."

Shila shrugged.  "Whatever----"

A soft voice drifted up to them from the direction of Curtis's duffel bag.  "Can you feel the love tonight.....it is where we are....."

Shila smirked at Curtis, who only gave a dejected sigh.  "Alright, Hanzou.  Press the stop button on my radio, and then back away from it---SLOWLY."

"Stop it yourself," the Catatonic Warrior replied from where he was standing a few feet away.  His deep voice hadn't changed at all.

Curtis groaned, and then turned himself around.  He reached over with a claw and stopped the melody, stuffing the radio back into his duffel bag and sealing it off.  "Alright, what are you REALLY here for?"

"To let you know that you've already gotten the reward you deserve," growled Hanzou.  "Getting your best friend back is the best thing that could possibly happen to you."

"I'd feel even better if you made yourself scarce," Curtis shot back.

"Say, now, you've regained some of that old bravado; but is that any way to treat one of the finest fighters known to anyone?" the Warrior answered, smirking a little.  "Besides, it IS true."

"Alright, alright," Curtis said.  "I've got Shila back, and you've got the Supreme Catatonic back.  Everything's all well and good.  Is there anything else?"

"Yes," Hanzou said to him, his voice taking on a cryptic tone.  "The time will soon come when you will find out that your powers run deeper than you realize.  I suggest you consider my words in your sanctuary of peace tonight."

"Whatever," Curtis said.  "Now, don't you have someplace to be going?"

Hanzou smiled.  "You're trying to tell me something, aren't you?"

"Let me ask you something," Curtis said, starting to rub it in.  "Did you pick up that personality of yours from one of King Arthur's men, or something?  Your voice has a medieval tone buried somewhere in it that I can't quite dig out."

The Great Warrior didn't even flinch.  "What if I told you that I was formerly one of the Knights of the Round Table?"

"Oh, so you probably joined Arthur on his quest for the Holy Grail, encountering unspeakable dangers such as the killer rabbit and the guy whose idea of punishment is by saying the word 'Ni'?"

"That, and I fought dragons out on the fringes of the counties, which I believe is something YOU HAVEN'T done, haystack."

"I'm sure Arthur was pleased, Sir Warrior.  Before you went to sleep, did he say 'Knighty-Knight' to you?"

"Alright, you two.  Cut it out," Shila said, stopping the tirades.  "C'mon, Curtis, let's get back home.  I have a lot of catching up to do on the current state of events."

"Right.  See you around, G.W."  With that, Curtis waved good-bye and then led Shila back down the mountains.

The Catatonic Warrior maintained his steady gaze on them as they headed back down Mt. Coochie.  "He has a lot of fire," he muttered quietly.  "He's going to need every ounce of it when his final test occurs.  Only then will we see whether he has the strength necessary to maintain his command.  He could very well join Speedy Cerviche and his friends as the true heroes of the planet.  But, then again, only time will tell."

Whipping around, he headed away, vanishing into the shadows surrounding the Catatonic statue.  Slowly but surely, the shadows around the statue faded away, just like the darkness.

Or, rather, what the darkness was.