Katts and Dawgs
by Roberto Sanhueza
|Table of Contents|
Chapter 10, part 1 appears
in this issue.
Chapter 10: Kannis Under Siege|
part 2 of 2
* * *Little Belle Bones goes to the henhouse to pick up the eggs. It’s her daily chore and she does it gladly. She likes to think of herself as able to tackle grown-up Dawg tasks.
To be truthful, she doesn’t quite like to be around Henrietta, the old hen; she’s a mean old devil and she enjoys pecking Belle’s fingers when she feeds her. Belle is going to be a happy little Dawg girl when Mommy finally decides Henrietta’s egg laying days are over and she throws the old hen in the pan.
It is a beautiful summer morning and Belle sings as she goes to do her job. Daddy is still in the kitchen having breakfast, but he’ll soon be on the cornfield to start his working day.
Suddenly little Belle stops. The henhouse is extraordinarily quiet this morning. Usually the hens and especially old Tucker, the rooster, have a morning riot going on to demand their food.
Very slowly, little Belle goes up the small ramp to the henhouse door, holding her basket in front of her as if to shield herself from what’s inside.
But what is inside makes her drop her basket and put her hands to her face.
All the hens lie dead in their nests, torn and bloody. The back wall of the chicken coop is missing, and enormous insects are ravaging what’s left of the hens. Old Tucker is in the maws of some giant monster, which looks at her with expressionless, faceted eyes.
Little Belle seems to come back to life. She turns back, running to the house screaming her poor little heart out.
Father, Mother and older sister are out the door in an instant. Father brandishes his ax. “Belle, Belle! What is it, child?”
“The hens, the hens! They’re all dead!”
At that moment one of the monsters shows its head out of the henhouse door.
“Ma! Grab the girls and get the hoofers and the cart. We’re off to Kannis! I’ll try to hold these things!”
Ever so slowly the giant insects advance toward the farm house. Farmer Bones tries to shy them away, frantically waving his ax but to little avail, the bugs won’t be stopped.
A nearly hysterical Momma Bones finally shows up with the hoofer cart, loaded with whatever items she could grab.
Just as the crying Momma and the girls and the grim farmer cross the fence marking the entrance to the Bones’ farm, they see the bugs getting inside the farm house.
The last they see is the expressionless faceted eyes looking at them from their porch as they hurriedly ride toward Kannis and the safety of its armored walls.
* * *
For the umpteenth time Thom goes around the cell, checking on the solid metal door and the walls. Adam is sitting up on the couch and Kitti is tending him.
“I find no way out of this dratted room! There’s got to be one!”
“And maybe there is, Thom, but try to slow down a bit. Adam is not feeling altogether well yet.”
Thom does come to a halt and looks intently. “My robe?... Oh, you mean my camouflage suit. I don’t have it functioning right now. Why?”
“Tell you later. Did you say there was a surveillance system in this compound?”
It is Adam who answers Thom’s question in a shaky but increasingly steady voice.
“That is correct, young Katt. Although I reckon this place is quite older than Man’s latter days and its technology is likewise rather primitive, they at least have video cameras. Those are machines which capture images and send them elsewhere, such as that one you see over there in the corner of the cell.”
Thom goes to the odd appliance. To him it looks like a black glass eye in front of a small box. “So this thing sends my handsome likeness to some other place in this compound and lets them see all that happens inside this cell.”
Kitti and Adam nod in agreement not quite understanding what Thom is leading to.
“Suppose,” The Katt goes on, “I covered this eye with one of these blankets here. They couldn’t see any darned thing, could they?”
He does just that. “Quick now, Kitti! Give me your robe and show me how to make it work and then remove the blanket. If they don’t see me inside they’re bound to send somebody and open the door to find out what happened to me.”
Kitti hesitates for a second, then deciding this is no time for modesty she strips out of her suit and gives it to Thom. Once the young Katt has it on, Kitti presses some part of its belt and Thom seems to disappear from sight, blending with the walls.
“All right now, remove the blanket!”
Then they wait, not knowing if anybody at all is watching them and noticing Thom’s disappearance.
* * *
The huge door closes as the last rank of giant insects leaves the underground compound and the cave seems once again closed solid before Phydo, hiding behind a pillar. The whole place looks deserted now and the empty corridors extend seemingly forever.
“This whole place is crazy,” thinks Phydo. “Where can I go to find something or somebody who can free my friends?”
Phydo stands helplessly at the crossroads. Only the faint hum of machinery can be heard in the background.
“Are you feeling lonely, little Dog?”
The voice sounds right behind him and Phydo is startled out of his rockers.
The language is the Sentient Peoples’ Common Tongue, but the way the word “Dawg” is spoken sound very derisive to Phydo’s ears.
When Phydo turns around he sees a strange figure. Much like all the Sentient Peoples he’s always known but at the same time subtly different. No hair on the skin he can see on the body parts his robes don’t cover but only on top of the stranger’s head.
And he’s tall. Phydo only reaches to the stranger’s chest.
“Who... who are you? stutters Phydo.
“I am Lucius, little dog, and I’ve been looking for you. You are the one who escaped when I caught your friends.”
Phydo was a soldier priest, and deep inside he still is. He doesn’t waste time talking and quick as lightning jumps up for the stranger’s throat, fangs glittering.
If Lucius is afraid or surprised, he doesn’t show it. He just stands there laughing as Phydo falls through him and he remains unscathed.
“You are brave, little pest. I see my appearance does not restrain you as it did your friends.”
Phydo just stands panting. He can understand what he has in front of him is not real, only an image.
“They have little faith in Man, monster. It is written Man left Earth and none of His kind stayed behind. You cannot possibly be real.”
“Well stated, dog (again that odd pronunciation). And now that you’ve seen you can’t harm me in any way, come with me. There is something I want you to see.” The stranger turns away from Phydo without waiting to see his reaction.
The wall in front of them opens in a sliding door and Lucius goes in.
Phydo hesitates for a moment but shrugs and follows him. “What have I got to lose? He can get me any time if he means to.”
The room Lucius has taken Phydo to has huge panels as walls. The Dawg takes them at first for windows but soon realizes they are actually screens, much like the ones he has seen before at the orbital station where Adam lives and at Kitti’s quarters at the bottom of the Stairways to Heaven.
“Welcome to my control room, dog. From here I can see all what happens inside my compound and much of what happens outside.”
“Why are you sparing me Lucius? And my name is Phydo, by the way.”
The laughter coming out of the simulacrum’s face is so real that Phydo shivers. Was Man really like this?
“For one thing, because you’ve got courage, Phydo, and for another because my robots are not much fun to talk to and my bugs don’t talk at all. Besides, the scene we are going to watch is fun, you’ll love it.”
Phydo contemplates the screen Lucius is pointing to and it shows a painfully familiar sight. “Kannis. That is Kannis seen from Mushroom hill!”
“Exactly, my dear dog, and look closely now. Notice all that crowd coming to the city’s door. It looks like all your “Sentient Peoples” are rushing to what they think is safety.”
And that is precisely what Phydo sees. Hoofer carts, hoofer riders and Dawgs on feet are crowding the gates.
That is not all. Among the in-goers Phydo sees some Katts.
“Katts? Katts going inside Kannis? What’s been going on there during my absence?”
“Do you like the view, Phydo? But please look farther down the hillside. You will see my army there, waiting for my order to tear Kannis down.”
Right enough. Standing quietly and orderly on the hillside, rank after rank of monstrously enormous insects wait.
‘Kannis under attack! this is terrible! What can I do now?’ Phydo thinks desperately.
But it is a different scene that attracts Phydo’s attention all of a sudden. On a smaller screen, besides the one showing the awful happenings at Kannis, Phydo sees a cell and inside it he can see Kitti and Adam but not Thom.
“That rascal of a Katt got away!”
Phydo tries to look away, so Lucius won’t notice but the simulacrum is aware, very aware. “What is it, dog?, your attention has suddenly shifted from your doomed city.”
And then Lucius sees, too. “Damned Katt! Where is he?”
Despair washes over Phydo, he may have given his friend away.
Lucius seems to be of the same opinion. “Don’t let your hopes rise, dog, your friend will be back inside in no time.”
He speaks on some machinery unknown to Phydo. “DB7 and DB9, report to the prisoners’ cell!”
“I’ll let my robots take care of your runaway friend, dog. Right now I have an invasion to worry about. You be quiet and don’t move!”
With these words Lucius points at Phydo and he feels all his energy wearing out of him. He falls on the floor and cannot move.
Immobilized, Phydo sees the robots open his friends’ prison door and, in the bigger screen he sees the giant insects start moving toward Kannis. Slowly at first but with growing speed the ghoulish army moves.
The siege has begun.
Copyright © 2005 by Roberto Sanhueza