Katts and Dawgs
by Roberto Sanhueza
|Table of Contents|
Book I, chapter 1 appeared
in issue 53.
|Book I, chapter 2: Katts, Dawgs & Mysse|
In the far future, Man has mysteriously departed, leaving Earth to three Sentient Peoples of his creation: Katts, Dawgs and Mysse. The Sentient Peoples have developed separate civilizations of their own, which flourish but have weaknesses: the Dawgs languish under theocratic militarism; the Katts’ society is patriarchal and stagnant; and the Mysse, though clever and well organized, are superstitious barbarians.
Caught between cultures, two non-conformists — a Dawg, Phydo, and a Katt, Thomm — form an alliance that is uneasy at first, but in their adventures they soon become fast friends. They discover Kitti at the gate to the Stairway to Heaven and, at the top, Adam, the last of a Sentient People older than their own. The little band of outcasts joins forces with the wise Dawg Rover Quicknose and even the unlikely Mysse to battle the warrior priests of Kannis.
Lucius, an evil simulacrum of Man left over from Man’s last days on Earth, captures the four friends, who have penetrated his mountain lair just as Lucius unleashes on all the Sentient Peoples a monstrous army of mutant insects. In the battle, Dawgs, Katts and Mysse form an alliance that is uneasy at first...
Nearing the end of his life, Adam leads his friends beyond the Andes to an ancient Archive, where one of them must, once and for all and for all the Sentient Peoples, come to terms with their creator.
“They’ve been spotted Chief!” shrieked the skinny and scrawny Mousse coming into Jeri’s room in the Mysse Common Lair, Jeri being the Head Mousse and filling in also as High Priest in Mysse dark and foul rites.
No need for Jeri to be told who’d been spotted, he knew well he’d been expecting to hear from those dirty Dawg and Katt who had broken into the Sacred Forest ceremony not long ago.
Now, of all the Sentient People, Mysse are the least bright (to put it mildly). They are no scholars, as many Dawgs are, nor do they wander alone, as many Katts do; instead they gather in big herds and like living underground carrying on their Mysse lives and Mysse business, interacting very little if at all with other Sentient People.
A Mysse lair is something to see. It’s dark, musty, and overall crowded and only Jeri, as Head Mousse, had a room to himself.
“Where are they?”
“By the old ruins, Head Mousse”
“Fine, gather the boys, quietly, and let’s go pay them a visit”
* * *
“It’s spooky here,” said Thomm the Katt, looking down from his Flier as he and Phydo the Dawg landed on the ancient ruins, barely recognizable as being living quarters once upon a time.
“Only in your mind, brother Katt. To us Dawgs, all remnants of Man — and we are sure this is one — are sacred and not scary.”
“Look around with the eyes of your soul,” he went on, “and you will perhaps see a town full of life and ancient wonders.”
“Don’t see none of that; only debris and old stuff.” Thomm didn’t seem very impressed.
“But you surely see the Stairway to Heaven, down yonder,” said Phydo pointing at a huge and far-away column, which seemed to rise in the sky, going through the clouds, seemingly without end.
“That I see, no doubt, but the Stairway has always been there, far as my kind can recall. Do you think it really goes all the way to Heaven, Phydo?”
“We, the priests of Kannis, believe so. It is one of the Holy Mysteries of our religion. Furthermore, we believe — as it was revealed by Man — it ends in that tiny star you see straight above at night, the one which doesn’t move around the heavens with other stars, but stays forever fixed in its position.”
“If you say so, brother Dawg, so it is, but I’d much rather we moved along. This eerie place gives me the creeps, and I’m not sure how long we can avoid being spotted by Mysse. We are in their territory, you know.”
“So be it” answered Phydo, “let us get on with our search. To tell the truth I’m not all that well at ease myself. Something feels wrong in here.”
* * *
“Good day, Master, how are you faring up there?”
“Good day, child. All is well. Why do you call?
“I’m picking up activity, sentient activity on my sensors, right on the premises, and it seems I also pick some activity in the periphery and that looks like a lot of people coming.”
“That’s bad news. I expected only two. Have you got the repellents on?”
“Yes Master. I wonder, can you give a more accurate tracking from there?”
“I think so. I’ll beam the data back to you in a moment. Meanwhile you know what to do with the intruders. Over and out.”
“I read you, Master. Over and out.”
* * *
“This is the place where we found the tablets with my poor brothers,” said Phydo. “They were hidden under that rubble, and we found them by the sheerest wild luck you can imagine.”
“Then that’s a good place to start the search, but I’m really feeling worse by the minute. Do you think there’s a curse on this place?”
“We do not believe in curses or witches, but you are right, I do feel weak in my heart...”
The Katt interrupted him. He lowered his voice and spoke in a whisper, “Don’t look now, but I smell Mysse nearby. Keep walking. We gotta lose ’em.”
Keeping a nonchalant air they continued strolling till they came to a rubble mound. Then Thomm yelled, “Now, run for your life!”
As on cue, shrilling Mysse voices filled the quiet air: “Get ’em, get the dirty intruders!” and a Mysse horde jumped after Thomm and Phydo.
Run they did, run like they had a murderous host of Mysse behind them, which in fact they did, only to find another group of them waiting on the other side of the mound. As things were getting increasingly tough and Thomm and Phydo were ready to hold their ground and fight for dear life, a different cry came into the scene.
“There they are, the heretic and the unfaithful! Death to them!” And a Hoofer-mounted Dawg patrol charged into the group, bashing Mysse to the left and right.
Now chaos was absolute, the whine of Hoofers and the shouting and cursing of Dawgs and Mysse filled the ruins, teeth bit, swords cut and Hoofers’ hooves stomped everything that moved.
Phydo didn’t lose his nerve. Grabbing Thomm aside, he shouted in his ears, “Follow me, we’re out of here,” and they crawled out of the battle still unscathed. “There is the entrance to the underground chamber where we found the tablets. It is not very visible from the outside. Let’s try to slip in unnoticed.”
The battle raged on around, but they jumped into the hole in the mound to fall down a narrow tunnel. Slowly the noise of the fight died out.
They found themselves in a small cubical room, with one wall broken in many places, one of which was the hole they had just come through.
Thomm (who had fallen on his feet, as Katts usually do) looked around and said, “So far so good. We have momentarily saved our hides, but what if any of our friends above saw us and decide to follow us? I see no way out of here but the hole we came in on.”
“That is the way I went out the first time I was here. But let’s waste no more time and search. There might be another exit”
* * *
“Master, I really have a situation down here. There are intruders, plenty of them all around, and there’s two of them in the entrance chamber.”
“Don’t fear, Child, all is going as planned. Let the chosen ones in and scare the others away.”
“As you say, but if the others follow, I might have to flood the chambers.”
“Do as you must. Over and out.”
* * *
They searched the walls, the floor, but they seemed seamless and no way out was in sight. At that moment, noise was heard in the upper part of the tunnel.
“They’ve found the hole! Somebody’s coming down!”
“But who? Mysse or Dawg?”
“Makes no difference, both want us dead.”
Putting their backs against the opposite wall they drew their weapons and stood to face whatever was coming down the hole, but as the first rage-twisted Mysse face showed in the ragged entrance, they felt the wall behind them to give way and they fell on their backs.
A large hall extended on the other side. Many corridors started on all sides all going far into the distance. The place seemed old and deserted, but strangely it was well lit, with a weird fluorescence which seemed to come from everywhere.
“Which way, Dawggy? You’re the one who’s been here before!”
“Not this far, brother Katt, let’s just take any way, Mysse are right behind us!”
They fled along the first corridor of what appeared to be a maze, soon to leave their pursuers behind, after a while all was silent again.
“We lost them, Dawggy”
“We have lost ourselves as well, it seems, can you figure any way to return?”
They stood panting in a corridor much like all others. At that point Phydo pointed to the walls, excitedly showing Thomm the scripting there.
“That looks very much like the writings on the holy tablets. I’ll try the decipherer I brought from Kannis. Maybe they can show us the way out.”
“I see you ain’t quite so dumb, Phydo boy. Good idea.”
So they turned to the wall, and Phydo put his device to work. “I don’t really know how it works,” he said. “It’s an ancient artifact believed to be left behind by Man. We hold it close to the script we want translated and the words in our language are displayed on this side, like this, see?”
“I see, but what does ‘subway system’ mean?”
“It means you have to follow me if you want out and away from Mysse.” The new voice coming from behind nearly rocked them out of their shoes. A slender, young She Katt stood there where a second ago there had been no one.
“Who are you?” “Where did you come from? We never heard you coming.” Thomm sounded almost offended, Katts are very rarely caught by surprise.
“I am Kitti, if that matters, and I’m not really here; this is just a projection. But ask no more and follow quick, Mysse are around the corner and they are angry indeed.”
Without saying anymore she turned around (or appeared to) and started down one of the corridors. Thomm and Phydo, although quite startled, asked no more questions and followed suit. She stopped in front of a wall otherwise identical to all the others. The wall slid to one side and a room was revealed. At that point Kitti seemed to vanish in the air, to Thomm and Phydo’s total amazement. But her voice sounded again, now coming from within the room: “Come on in boys, we don’t have much time.”
There she was, sitting in front of a console, this time apparently for real. In the screens in front of her displayed many scenes of the corridors they’d been through. Mysse could be seen wandering here and there in the underground premises.
She followed their gaze and said, “Yeah, those vermin are much too angry to be affected by the repellent. I‘ll have to get rid of them in a different way.”
“Wait a moment, Lady Katt, said Phydo, “I do beg you to explain to us who you are and what is this place of wonders. Is this the work of Man?”
“This is just a little remnant of the works of Man, my Dawg, and I’m its keeper, appointed by the Master. You are the first Sentient People I know to be admitted here, discounting those Mysse out there, but they haven’t been really invited.”
At this point, Thomm who had been uncharacteristically quiet so far, addressed Kitti in the Katt tongue, “Look babe, we are all very thankful, but you’re not explaining an awful lot. Who... no, what are you?”
She answered in the Common Tongue, “It’s not polite to leave our friend out the conversation, Katt. It will all be explained to you both soon. Let’s say for the time being there is someone I call Master who is interested in meeting you and has asked me to take you to him.” She turned around and fidgeted with some controls on the board. “But first I’ll ask our Mysse friends politely out. You might have noticed these underground premises are located near the lake. There is a duct which can bring water from the lake over here and flood the station. I’m going to open the valves and let water in. Not too fast, so our friends can leave the same way they came in.”
As she said this, they could see in the screens water already flooding the corridors and Mysse running for an exit.
“That should do it,” she said. “In about half an hour water will be drained out again and all will be as before, now please come with me.” And she got up to go.
At this point Thomm could no longer hold his temper. “Wait a minute lady. You’re not gonna push me around without telling me a couple of things first.”
But Phydo held him back. “It is all right, Thomm, this is what we came here for after all, to witness the greatness of Man’s creations we believed long gone. Let us play the game her way. Had she wished us evil, she would have left us to Mysse. And besides, forget not we are the intruders here.”
“Sensible words, my dear Dawg. Now if you please, this way gentlepeople.”
She took them out of the room to a still-wet hall. Thomm and Phydo stared at everything around in utmost wonder. They were in a huge underground hall with strange and bizarre contraptions whose use they could not fathom.
The place seemed deserted, but no sign of rust or decay could be seen, everything looked shiny and new, made of weird materials which were obviously not wood, metal or stone.
Kitti brought them to some sort of closed carriage, with seats in rows, big transparent windows, no wheels in sight. She went in and said, “Do come in please, while we ride towards our destination. I’ll tell you some things about this place.”
The door to the carriage slid shut and it started moving, following a path seemingly carved in the floor. As the strange vehicle entered a tunnel at the end of the hall, unnoticed by the three of them a silent shape fell on the roof of the carriage and held there for dear life, as it started to gain speed. Fiery Mysse eyes muttered curses as they moved on. “Where you go, Jeri goes, you dirty tricky scumbags...”
“This is what remains of Man’s underground transportation system,” said Kitti. “It will take us to the feet of the Stairway, where we’ll make the next part of our trip to see the Master.”
“The Stairway to Heavens!” cried Thomm and Phydo in unison.
Ignoring their anxiety, Kitti went on: “I was picked up by the Master when I was a child and my parents had been killed in one of the many feuds among the Sentient People. He brought me up in these premises and trained me as its keeper and guardian. I can read Man’s ancient script and I can run all the machinery remaining of the old subway system.” Phydo’s face was sheer amazement. “But... but... to learn and decipher Man’s ancient writings may be a lifetime achievement for us priests of Kannis.” She smiled mischievously, “If you boys think you’ve seen wonders, wait till we get to the Stairway.”
Now it was Thomm who spoke: “You’ve said we’ve been expected. I must suppose my buddy here finding his dawggone tablets wasn’t altogether an accident.”
Kitti fixed an amused glare on Thomm. “You’re clever, young Katt. It’s rightly so. Master has his ways to learn all that goes on around the world. But now be quiet, we’re almost there.”
The carriage came silently out of the tunnel to another big hall, as silent and deserted as the first. None of them noticed the small, dark shape squatting on the carriage’s roof.
“The next part of our trip ought to be the most incredible to you guys. What you call the Stairway to Heavens is quite in fact, precisely that. Although not actually a stairway, it goes all the way to an orbital station. Master calls it the Skyhook. I know all this is hard to grasp but for the time being take my word for it. Come on boys, let’s take the express elevator!”
With awe glaring in their faces, Thomm and Phydo followed Kitti to a sliding door into an odd-looking chamber. As they went through, a shrieking, ragged Mousse jumped over them, kicking and biting. “You filthy creatures thought you had drowned me! I’ll show you now!”
But once more Kitti surprised them. She pointed some small device to the crazed Mousse and he went limp, falling on the floor. She sighed and talked to some other part of her outfit: “Master, we are at the feet of the skyhook, but I have a stowaway Mousse along. He’s taken care of for the time being. He’s stunned. What should I do with him?”
“You’ll have to bring him along, you can’t leave him behind alone, keep him sedated for now.”
“Okay, we’re on our way.”
So there we have them, our unlikely heroes Thomm the Katt and Phydo the Dawg, along with a very reluctant Mousse, going up the orbital elevator known to the Sentient People as the Stairway to Heaven, in the company of a mysterious She Katt to meet an even more mysterious character known as the Master, living somewhere in heavens among the stars.
We leave them for now, their quest for the true Legacy of Man getting more and more bizarre to their searching souls, as they go up to encounter their fate.
To be continued...
Copyright © 2003 by Roberto Sanhueza