|Trouble at the Valencommune:
Ellen Takes the Cake
Ellen Cairo grinned. This was rather an unusual facial expression for her. She often smiled, coldly and regally, at those around her, when she deemed it appropriate. She beamed with delight whenever she passed any sort of reflective surface that would allow her to gaze upon her own beauty and perfection. And an evil laugh would escape her lips from time to time, but only on special occasions and very briefly.
But a grin? It seemed out of place, making her look more like a mischievous sixteen-year-old than The Dread Ellen Cairo. She realised this and quickly pulled the corners of her mouth down into a stern and unforgiving line. She knew that there was no way to rid her eyes of their evil twinkle, so she simply drew attention away from them by deeply furrowing her brow, and thought of the best way to describe the brilliant idea she had gotten in the midst of her tirade.
"I have," she began, and the corners of her mouth tugged dangerously upward once more, "an idea."
But it seemed that Ellen Cairo would once again be thwarted as she attempted to convey her evil idea to our heroes, heroines and felines. For at that very moment a heinously familiar figure pushed through the swinging doors at the end of the studio.
"Say, Ellie, I hope you don't mind, the door was open so I let myself in. I just need to borrow some-" said the new arrival, breaking off abruptly mid-sentence. He stared at Sage, Kalaleq and Piquet, who were staring right back at him with expressions of horror on their faces. Christine nudged Piquet, who was gasping incoherently. "Say, who is that?" she asked.
"Who is... Who is that?!" gasped Piquet. "Things just keep getting worse and worse! That's... That's Mr. Saaa!!!"
Christine snickered. "So that's the horrible Mr. Saaa. I guess I should be scared, but did you hear what he called Ellen Cairo? He called her Ellie! Fine name for an arch-villain that is!"
Sage, meanwhile, had jumped to her feet and, accompanied by the yowling cats, was loudly demanding that Mr. Saaa tell her where Todd was. Ellen Cairo was also yelling at the top of her lungs, berating him for revealing her secret nickname before her hapless victims. The din was incredible. And then, in one of those hushes that falls when everyone simultaneously pauses to draw breath, a distinctive noise was heard.
"EMAIL! New email!" yelled our heroes and heroines in unison.
And there in the middle of the floor stood the Email Fairy, accompanied by Todd and two figures that our intrepid characters had never seen before.
"Say, who are you guys?" asked Piquet of the latest arrivals.
"Uh," said one of them. "Hi. My name's Fili. Where am I, and how did I get here??"
"And I," said the other, "am Syren."
There was a loud thud as Kalaleq keeled over in a dead faint.
Syren gasped and hurried to Kalaleq's side. He remained unconscious on the floor, and so she sat down and lifted his head gently onto her lap, scarcely able to believe that she had found him.
Sage and Todd had practically melded into a single entity the moment they had set eyes upon one another, arms tightly around each other, words superfluous.
Piquet and Christine looked confusedly at their new companion, who, attempting to take in the strange new surroundings, wore a similar expression to theirs.
"You, um... You appear to have a tea-bag on your head," said Christine hesitantly.
Fili glanced quickly upwards, looked a little embarrassed, and brushed the offending item off with a paw. Suddenly his eyes opened wide, and he stared up at Todd (or rather, the visible portion thereof).
"This is all your fault!" he exclaimed. "I was having a perfectly nice nap underneath my favourite bush when you come stomping all over the place! And you interrupted a highly enjoyable dream, too. And now I'm... I'm... here," (he indicated with an abrupt sweep of his tail), "wherever this is..."
The agitated grey figure paused for breath, and waited for some kind of a response from the object of his complaint, who remained distressingly oblivious to the existence of anything outside of a one-foot radius.
"W..why are you mad at Todd?" enquired a voice from behind.
Fili whirled around to confront the owner of the voice, and was met by a wondering tortoiseshell face; suddenly all the frustration faded.
"I.. I.. Oh.. Gosh. I'm not mad at Todd, really... I don't think he meant..."
"Neens, honey" said Shelly, looking distrustfully at the stranger, "come back here okay?"
"'Kay," said Anita brightly, and trotted back towards the group.
Fili looked over to see seven pairs of narrowed eyes watching him warily. "Oh dear." he thought to himself. "I don't think I've made a very good first impression..."
"Oh God. Cats," muttered Mr Saaa. "Why are there so many damn cats here, Ellen? You know I can't stand the things! Arrgh, get out!!"
Mr Saaa swung his foot at the tortoiseshell who had wandered near, but before it could connect a grey streak thudded into his chest, clawing at his face, and hissing loudly. Mr Saaa stumbled backwards and fell over the outstretched legs of the the unconscious Kalaleq. Fili glared at the spluttering villain, before going back to check if Anita was okay.
"Hey, erm, thanks," offered Jay, who was hurrying the oblivious torti back to the group. Claire looked slightly less crabby, and nuzzled Anita, who beamed happily at her sister's attentions.
"I guess introductions are in order," said Shelly. "I'm Shelly, and this," she said, indicating each with a paw, "is Jay, Cilantro, Habanero, Karma, Harriet, Claire, and Anita. That's Todd over there, and that's Sage with him.
"Look, I'm sorry I was angry at your friend," said Fili. "It's just that he accidentally disturbed my sleep," (the others nodded sympathetically at this.) "I really wouldn't have cared quite so much if he hadn't been in the process of pinching my favourite Peaberry tea-bags! Wull naturally I was rather put out, but when I went after him to ask for them back all hell broke loose, and suddenly I was here... and... wull... I don't suppose you know the way back to Viewacknuzia?"
The Email Fairy looked up startledly at this and hurried over. Claire eyed her suspiciously; she wasn't at all happy about the presence of the creature that kept Sage glued to her computer screen all day long, and with an anticipatory scowl made a mental note to have words with her about the situation later.
"Did you say Viewacknuzia?" asked the Fairy. Her eyes rolled back momentarily, and then she spoke again. "Oh dear... I fear I must have had the wrong IP address for Mythical.Alg, but my name server seems to have gotten a little frazzled in that last bounce. I.. I'm afraid I don't know how to send you home again."
"Does that mean you can stay and play with us?" asked Anita.
"No, Neens," said Habanero, "Fili needs to get back home."
"And you're going to escort him, are you?" laughed Claire. "You heard what she said; he's stuck here with us."
"Yay!!" said Anita, smiling.
Habanero winced slightly. "I'm sorry," he said to Fili, "she doesn't... look, if we can help at all..." But Fili wasn't listening anymore. He was simply looking at Anita, and smiling back.
Ellen Cairo pulled Mr Saaa to his feet, and concluded that her patience with the events of the past few minutes had reached an end. She drew herself up to her full height, and took a deep breath. "Nobody Talks. Nobody Moves. Nobody even Breathes." she yelled as loudly as she could, startling everyone into silence, as much at the shocking cliché as at the noise.
Karma's mind took the opportunity to register the presence of Todd's backpack.
"I. Have had. Enough." continued Ellen.
"Weeeeeeeetttttttttttt Fooooooooooooooooooooooddddddddddddd!!!!!!!!!!!" cried Karma at the top of his lungs, and broke into a run.
"Stop that!" yelled Ellen Cairo, but to no avail. Karma reached the backpack at the speed of light and ripped it open using his claws only to find...cans. Everyone stared dolefully at the backpack.
Finally, Fili cautiously broke the silence. "I don't suppose anyone has a can opener..."
Suddenly the floodlights returned in a thunderclap of white.
"Well, well, well," announced Ellen from her perch in the regained control booth, "aren't we all a happy family? Mr. Saaa, why don't you show them what's behind door #3?" Mr. Saaa scuttled over to the third soundstage, and pulled back the door with a flourish.
"WET FOOD!" exclaimed the cats all at once, bounding in a frenzy towards the lavish mounded glistening stuff, each marked with such enticing appelations as "Seafood," "Lamb & Rice," and "New! Even Chickenier!"
Before our heroes and heroines could call out worcs of caution, Ellen pressed another button, and door #2 was pulled precipitously open, revealing a quickly fading Email Fairy. "Help!" she cried. "My account is being mail bombed! Once it's down, I think she's going to delete me! Syren! Todd! Fili! Help..."
"Want to save your friend?" asked Ellen maliciously, her voice daggers. "Just follow her through that door..."
Meanwhile, door #1 slid aside, to reveal live video coverage of the Valencommune, overrun with a herd of Gaggy Old Republicans, busily building bonfires and pouring gasoline over flower gardens. "Too bad, kiddies - you left your precious Valencommune unprotected... after I raze and salt the land, it will be the site of Ellen Cairo International's new World Headquarters!" A maniacal laugh escaped from Ellen's lips as she let her evil twinkle run rampant through her irises.
Door #3 slammed shut behind the cats, while our heroes and heroines stood stunned.
"We have to save the Email Fairy!" cried Todd, Syren and Fili.
"We have to save the Valencommune!" cried Sage, Piquet and Christine.
The two groups looked at each other, stricken. "We're going to have to separate again - there's no other way," said Sage. "And I'm afraid that for now, the cats will have to look after themselves."
Ellen Cairo watched with a macabrely evil grin as Todd, Syren and Fili ran through door #2, while Sage, Piquet and Christine bundled the still supine Kalaleq off toward the Valencommune...
"Just you wait, my pretties... just you wait." And she gave a tiny cackle.