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Scratch 'n Sniff

By Marian Mendez
Page 1 of 1

Avon left the flight deck. Scratch amused himself by seducing the ship's computer for a moment, then turned and leaped gracefully onto the pilot's position. The chair was unsuited to comfortable curling up, so he walked on the panel, head tilted as he assessed its play potential. It was faced with brightly-colored beetle shapes. Little, harmless creatures, just the right size to torment.

Scratch slowly eased down into a crouch, eyes widening and ears flattening as he considered the smug insolence of those insects. Why weren't they running in fear from his magnificence? He would show them.

One cream-colored paw darted out and swatted a bright red beetle. It was a particularly hard-shelled one, and his paw stung from the impact. The beetle didn't move but everything else lurched sideways and Scratch had to scramble to maintain his balance.

He hissed and rose up on his hind legs and smashed the beetle, left, right, left, right, so fast that his paws were blurs. The ship zig-zagged and distantly he heard the sounds of things smashing and people shouting. That was more like it. He liked action.

But the console was slippery. His next strike missed the beetle, and landed on a much larger bug. It stung, worse than the time he'd bitten a bee. He opened his mouth to yowl in protest, but he couldn't.

He couldn't move.

*******

"NOOOO!" Avon had come pounding back onto the flight deck, plate of protein tid-bits for the animal flying all over the place as he confronted a pale fuzz-ball clinging to the pilot's console- to the panel that Jenna had accessed soon after they boarded the Liberator.

Zen's lights were flickering rapidly and the computer began making gibberish noises.

"Damn!" Avon flung himself at the cat, getting a brief shock at the contact before his weight tore the creature loose, and the two of them tumbled to the deck.

"Scratch! What did you do to him!"

"Nothing. Yet." Avon scowled up at Vila, who was picking up the now limp ball of pale fur. "It depends on what he has done to Zen." Avon got up and approached the computer's fascia. "ZEN! Status report. Give me a complete run-down on computer systems."

There was a pause. Infinitesimal in human terms, incredibly long for a computer.

Then Zen said, "No."

"Zen!"

"Information not available."

"WHY NOT!" Avon shouted.

"I don't feel like it. I think I'll take a nap." Zen's fascia dimmed, and it began producing a regular rhythmic sound, very like snoring.

Scratch licked his right paw, and spread the toes, inspecting them closely. Yes, he'd done a good job. He shut his eyes and began purring, safe in Vila's arms. Those beetles were history.

Vila looked at Scratch, then at Avon, who was beginning to purple with repressed anger. "Um. I think, um... I'll just go check on... um... something or other." He sidled away from Avon, then fled the flight deck, with a final protesting yowl from Scratch, who didn't like being held so tightly.

"Information," Zen said.

Avon glanced back, hopefully. "Yes, Zen?" Perhaps it was only a momentary aberration.

"Pet me."

"Never." Avon got out the tool kit he kept under his console, and approached Zen, laser probe in hand.

"PET ME NOW!" A large, fat spark leaped out at Avon. "Or I'll bite you."

Avon jumped back. He sighed and exchanged the laser probe for a computer-response stimulator, commonly referred to as a 'tickler' and began 'petting' Zen.

It looked like being a long day.


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