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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/campfires/item_id/2019284-Planet-Animalus-Campfire
Rated: 18+ · Campfire Creative · Fiction · Sci-fi · #2019284
Campfire for my story.
[Introduction] A friend of mine has been asking me to make a campfire involving my Planet Animalus series, and some of the characters in it. Took some persuading, but I've decided to start it.

Planet Animalus is located on the far outskirts of Human-Controlled territory. It's like Wake Island to the United States - hardly anyone knew that it existed, until certain events occurred, where it became the keystone in a Galactic War, due to its location, in proximity to the Enemy Forces, and was the launch point in many attacks against this enemy, which had destroyed the Earth.

However, even after the war was won, most of Human Civilization was still not to keen to associate with the inhabitants of Animalus. Reason was this - Most of them are not human. Due to a certain incident, most of the original settlers, many of which were minor criminals, were transformed into creatures that were a mixture of human, and other animals. This, among other things, like the remote location of the planet, caused the population to be isolated for several thousand years, until the Galactic War against the race known as the Spidarians brought them back into contact with the rest of Humanity.

In many aspects, Animalus is a wild and untamed place, with minimal appearances in the ways of industrialization. However, under the surfaces, the place is industrialized in ways unheard of - like building underground, or under the oceans. Society is also interesting. One business that is highly successful are places known as Tasting Houses. The purpose of the place is very simple - it gives carnivores a safe place for them to fulfill the urge of enjoying the taste of human flesh. (No, the humans aren't eaten - that's against the law - but they are covered in a sauce of the client's choosing, and they are enjoyed like a meal, of sorts.)

Another custom their society practices involves their funerals. Due to a deadly plant, one that produces a highly toxic poison when on corpses, burial is illegal, and cremation is impractical, another method is used - close family/friends of the deceased eat the body, after it is cooked by special priests.

Of course, other than that, most everything else is similar to the rest of Human Civilization. People are Born, Pay Taxes, and Finally Die. Of course, where there's people, there's criminals looking to exploit them. For the most part, the law is enforced by the local police, with a Town Guard providing defense against external threats, however, for threats that concern two or more cities, or areas out in the Wilds between the cities, the Wild Beasts are sent for. These Militarized Police are responsible for enforcing the law out there, highly trained, highly motivated, and more.

Most of the time though, things are calm. Other times though, there's trouble.
(Just to let you guys know, my MC is highly unique, even for Planet Animalus. Most everyone else is more human-size +/- a foot or so, depending on race, with a lifespan of 120 Standard Years, although those who are cold-blooded tend to grow larger, and live longer.)

Name: Zena

Race: Grey Wolf/Grey Fox

Diet: Mostly carnivorous, but can eat fruits and vegetables in a pinch.

Gender: Female

Size: slightly over 20 feet in height

Sexuality: Bisexual, prefers female lovers

Coloration: Grey furred, with some white on chest and belly

Age: 500+ Years old.

Occupation: Current Commander of the Wild Beasts, Owner of the Tasting House, Hungry Wolf and Snake, ex-Thief.

Criminal Record: Multiple Murders, (victims were Outlaws, Murderers, and Rapists). Countless Thefts. Multiple Assaults, Assaulting Various Officers/Military Personnel, Kidnapping, Resisting Arrest Pardoned Numerous Counts of Public Nudity. Reduced Fines, as she was in pursuit of Criminals that had broken into her home, and endangered her loved ones.

Major Medical Information: Sleep-Swallower. Has the tendency to swallow people in her sleep. People in her home have taken a special pill to protect them during this situation. (Said pill is taken by most everyone on the planet though - repels ticks, fleas, and lice.)

Other Medical Information: Suffers from severe arthritis in many parts of her body, due to sustaining many injuries. Tends to take painkillers for it. Telepathic - Can read minds, due to Fox Blood.

(More at later date. However, I will answer any questions people have about Zena, and this world.)


(Important Notice: When it comes to Tasting Houses, Dish is the term used for the person the Client is enjoying in the manner of a Meal. Also, Swallowers (Snakes, Crocodiles, Alligators, Frogs, Toads (anything that swallows their food whole)), are allowed to swallow the Dish - Safety Pill protects against Digestion, among other things - and later spit the person back up.)

Zena was laying on a cushion in a dark corner of her tasting house, The Hungry Wolf and Snake. She liked this spot, as it allowed her to observe the entire building, without revealing her presence too much, unless the situation warranted it. She was content to allow the Servers walk between the tables, checking to make sure that the Dishes were alright, that the Clients were behaving themselves, warning those who weren't, and handling those who repeatedly ignored the rules - Clients that decided to get too rough with the Dishes tended to get tossed out, regardless of their status, financial or otherwise.

Zena looked towards the lounging area. This was where many of the snake and crocodile types enjoyed their Dishes, basking under a series of lamps, like real snakes and crocodiles would when they were digesting a meal. Each of these client had a wraparound viewscreen on them - a Server could check on the Dish at a glance, and see how long the client had been enjoying them. After a set time, the client would go to a private place, and vomit up the Dish, who would then be sent on into the Back, for rest and recuperation, until they were ready to be served to another Client. The same went for those in the Main section of the Dining Area - once the time was up, the Dish got off the table, and went into the back.

Zena smiled as she watched what was going on - no problems, little fuss, happy Dishes, happy Clients, and of course, happy Paying Clients. Some were even ordering Seconds, once their time with the First Dish, which was, at most, an hour, was up. Zena sighed happily. Nothing was going wrong today, so far.
Name: Mavis

Race: Short Beaked Echidna Hybrid (Not many who are not Echidnas want to breed with Echidnas do to the possibility of being impaled, Hedgehogs and Porcupines have similar issues)

Diet: Insectivorous/Slightly Omnivorous, due to long narrow snout have to rely on foods that are easily slurped up, for the record Mavis prefers the typical herbivore drink of fruit/vegetable juice to blood and water, mostly she claims she doesn't like the taste of blood

Gender: Female

Size Five Foot Two

Sexuality: Mavis herself is kind of mixed on this one, she appreciates male beauty and one of her guilty pleasures is the Animals equivalent of Playgirl but Mavis is a virgin with no intention of ever getting laid or ever having a relationship in her lifetime, though this may be more of a sensitivity issue then pure asexuality see below.

Coloration: Typical Short Beaked Echidna colors, rusty orange colors with spikes being yellowish with black stripes.

Age: 18 years old

Occupation: Currently a Popular Author for an Animalus Magazine of Short Stories seems the Magazine's most Popular Romance writer despite having absolutely zero experience with romance herself.

Criminal Record: None because for the most part being an irritable crank is just considered annoying not a crime. When she was a Toddler she did eat few grapes at the grocery store without paying for them, but she was a toddler and who hasn't done that once at that age?

Major Medical Information: Has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome and is conserved by her Paternal Grandparents (Her Parents died in a fire when she was just an infant) I'm assuming Hybrids on the Autism Spectrum might get more special treatment then Humans because if someone really big and strong has an emotional meltdown, it's not pretty. Seems to suffer a paralyzing fear of heights.

Other medical information: One of the very few Non-Fox Hybrids with telepathy it is unclear weather her telepathy is connected to her Asperger's or only a coincidence, but her Telepath powers are erratic and confusing, she is constantly hearing the thoughts of everyone around her weather she wants to or not, and when she's angry she lets out telepathic screams, she can't control causing painful headaches for everyone around her, her High School years were the absolute pits for her, but hearing all her classmates soap opera love stories is where most of her stories come from, and she quietly enjoys getting her revenge in giving her bullies love lives to the world in her million dollar short stories, she lives the quiet life with Grandma and Grandpa, pumping out story after story from the peace of her room
Name: Toob

Race: Toad

Diet: Meat, fruit, and fungi

Gender: Male

Size: Ten feet tall

Sexuality: No

Coloration: Mottled - grey, green, brown

Age: 245 years

Occupation: Detective, private investigator

Criminal record: Nothing major

Medical information: Chronic indigestion, loud burps and belches.

Other medical: A "nervous tongue", a condition where his 20-foot-long tongue will suddenly lash out and grab someone around the neck, requiring a lot of apologizing afterwards.



Detective Toob hopped into the Hungry Wolf and Snake tasting house. They usually had good dishes. The waiter was a surly possum hybrid who tossed a menu on the table.

Toob handed the menu back. "Do you have any beetle grubs? And I don't mean dried, canned, or pickled. I mean fresh, snow white, and plump as a baby's rump."

"I'll go check," the waiter said. "Fresh larva isn't easy to keep, as we have to keep them alive, and things that start out as babies, eventually become adults."

"I understand," said Toob. "Let me know the situation."

With that, the waiter left.

Toob looked around the place, watching as the, relatively, young clientele enjoyed one of their Dishes. As he did, he was reminded of a time when he really enjoyed that sort of thing. Sure, he still liked doing it every now and then, but after being alive for two hundred plus years, ones he'd known during his more energetic time were retired, or dead. Toob took out a wallet, and looked at one of the pictures in it. It was of him and a human woman, his original partner on the police force. He sighed a bit. The woman had been dead for almost a hundred years, but he was still fond of her, in the manner of a friend.

"Been in that situation, many times."

Toob all but croaked at the sound of the voice, which had come from right beside him. "What are you trying to do?" he asked, turning his head. "Give me a heart-attack, Zena?"

The large wolf chuckled. "What, you want me to stomp or something next time?"

"Some noise would be better than sneaking up on an elderly toad," said Tood. "I'm over two hundred years old, but I don't fancy meeting the Judgement Beasts any time soon."

Zena grinned at this. "No one ever does, but we all meet them, eventually."

Toob chuckled. "Even you?"

Zena frowned slightly. "Well, eventually."

"So, your business is doing well?"

"You can see that for yourself," Zena said. "There's always young people that need a good-paying job, at least until they decide to pick something else, and you always got carnivores with urges. I don't see the doors closing any time soon."

"And the Wild Beasts?"

"No serious issues," said Zena. "Small gang of Outlaws near Marsh City, but the local unit, along with some police and Town Guards were able to take care of them, and keep trade between us and them from being disrupted too much."

"Marsh City? It's been a while since I was out that way," said Toob. "The place still a swamp?"

"As far as I know," said Zena. "Been a few years since I've been there, but the local amphibian types tell me that they enjoy mud-swimming, and all that."

"What about Snow City?" Toob asked. "How's things in those mountains?"

"Still cold," Zena said, as she suppressed a shudder at the mention of the name. "And before you ask, Undersea/Dome City is still surrounded by the ocean."

"Never could figure out why people would want to live in a Dome," said Toob. "I prefer the open sky, like we have in Grass City."

"Could be worse," Zena said. "Could be stuck on a planet with a hostile atmosphere, with no breathable air. You'd want a Dome then."

"Like those Penal Colonies that mine ore for their Mother-Planet," said Toob. "The idea doesn't bare to think about."

"They are necessary," said Zena. "Still, I don't see us sending our criminals to such places, and I'll disagree with anyone that tries to implement that type of sentence to one of those planets, unless it's one with a breathable atmosphere."

"You been to one?"

"Once, on a tour," said Zena. "Digestion in the Judgement Beasts' stomach would be preferable - you can get out of that place after a while. Get stuck on a planet with no breathable air though, you can't escape that, unless you get yourself taken off planet."
Mavis had slept late, she had been awake nearly all night reading old books now she had slept nearly till lunchtime.

Her Grandma, Elaine was bringing Mavis her favorite snack, A cup of cold strawberry soup with whipped cream, with some warm chamomile tea with honey.First she asked"Can I come in."

"Yes." Said Mavis



The waiter arrived with the beetle grubs. They were the larva of Amazonian tiger beetles,. Each grub was as big as a watermelon and there were three of them.

"Looks good!" Toob said.

"Do you want any sauce?" the waiter asked.

"What do you have?"

"Blue cheese, ranch, BBQ, honey mustard, Buffalo, wasabi, whatever you want..."

"How about some ketchup?" Toob asked.

"Ketchup! Geez. You're a real gourmet, aren't you?"

"Vinnie!" Zena said. "Play nice with the customers!"

"Aw, I'm just teasing him. Right, Toob?"

"Yeah, no problem, except I don't have my ketchup yet."

"Alright, alright!"

After Vinnie left, Zena lowered her voice and said, "Toob, are you working on a case right now?"

Toob shook his head slowly from side to side. "Curiosity killed the cat, Zena."

"I'm canine, not feline."

"It's still confidential," said Toob. "Besides, I doubt you'd be interested in this sort of case. It's not like it involves a gang of Outlaws, or anything like that."

"Domestic issue of some sorts?" Zena asked.

"Something to the effect," said Toob.

"Spousal abuse?"

"No."

"Tell me the generalities," said Zena. "I'd probably find out about it anyways."

"A telepath like you would," said Toob. "Thus, I'm not going to think about it, as that would make things too easy for you."

"True," said Zena. "But I don't need to read minds to know that it's a puzzle, and I enjoy a good puzzle."

"In that case, you know about the number of people who are telepaths,"Toob mentioned.

"About one percent of the population, especially those who are foxes, or is related to one within the last four generations or so," said Zena. "Offworld though, that number is like one percent of one percent of one percent of one percent, or some such thing. Or, in layman's terms, like one in a million."

"In that case, what if I told you that I was tracking down a telepath that doesn't have any sense of control over their powers?"

Zena cocked an ear. "I would be very interested. Might overhear something that could put them at risk. Most know how to dim the ability, so that they don't eavesdrop on personal conversations."
Mavis meanwhile had no idea what was going on at the Hungry Wolf and Snake, she was living in the peaceful rural town of Meadow Town as opposed to the Metropolis Grass City, where she was having her Three O'Clock snack with Grandma, who had decided Mavis really should get out more so Elaine spread the picnic cloth in the yard, while Mavis got on her childhood swing and just spent a few minutes on her swing

"Everything's ready!" Called Grandma Elaine

Mavis plodded over, and using the built in straws that were their beaks, they slurped down their strawberry soups.

"Delicious!" Mavis licked whipped cream from her nose.

"Why were you awake half the night?" Grandma asked

"I was looking at some of our old books." Mavis said as she dipped her tongue into her herbal tea "I'm tired of writing the same old smut which is basically the true events of my classmates' love lives with the names and sometimes the species changed, Sure it's made us a fortune but I'm tired...And I feel pretty gross, writing these sordid things, I was looking to our old Earth literature, particularly Dracula by Bram Stoker and Jekyll and Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson to get some ideas for my first real story...Not just gossiping about my classmates which are all my old stories are."
"Don't give your old stories such a hard time," Grandma said. "They pay your bills, don't they? You know, when I was younger, I wrote a few stories myself, but I never had the courage to try to sell them. You should feel proud about what you have accomplished."


At the Hungry Wolf and Snake, Toob finished off the last of his three grubs and washed it down with a half-gallon-mug of hot cocoa. At a neighboring table a dish was being vomited up. Toob emitted a truck-horn-sized burp and the vomited-up dish looked up in surprise. Then the dish handlers arrived to whisk the dish away for cleaning.

"Zena," Toob said. "You're in a good place to hear any gossip about a telepath. Will you let me know if you hear anything?"

"Sure, Toob."
Name: Freddie Fastrack

Race: Cheetah

Diet: Carnivorous

Gender: Male

Size: 5 feet. 9 inches

Sexuality: Prefers quickies.

Coloration: Orange with black spots

Age: 30

Occupation: Formally an Olympic runner but disqualified due to issues, now a bike messenger.

Criminal Record: None

Major Medical Information: Due to his high metabolism, he has a veracious appetite.

Miscellaneous Medical Information: Being a bike messenger isn't easy, he sometimes crashes his bike when he's not careful.

Freddie comes into the Hungry Wolf and Snake after a successful delivery "Oh boy that last delivery made me famished, I could use a bite to eat" Unfortunate for him, his reputation isn't too popular here. One of the servers recognized him "Uh oh. I remember him. He nearly drove us out of business." The possum nodded "I'll tell Zena, Freddie's back."
Name: Karl Krystencorff

Race: Humpback Angler Fish

Diet: Carnivorous (Prefers Land-food)

Gender: F

Size: 8' 7"

Sexuality: None

Colouration: Drab brown; lighter coloured spines and fin-tips. Lure will glow in the dark.

Age: 29

Occupation: Small-time fisherwoman.

Criminal record: Fishing out of season and over-fishing.

Major Medical Information: Can't fully close mouth do to large teeth; has a drooling problem. Also, always swallows food all at once rather than chewing.

Miscellaneous Medical Information: Can breath both under and out of water, and seems to hunch forwards because of the huge hump on her back.

Karl brushed into the Hungry Wolf and Snake, sea-water still dripping off her heavy coat, the thick garment mercifully obscuring most of her body. Spines twitched and her lure bobbed in the air in front of her as she took a seat, slimy paw-fins clutching at a menu. She barely moved as she considered, sitting as if paralyzed, except for her endlessly twitching, bobbing head-tentacle.

"One human," She gurgled to a rather green-looking waiter a few minutes later, relieving herself of the menu and going back to her impressive imitation of a large and ugly rock as she waited.
Meanwhile, the possum went up to Zena and Toob, Zena says "Can't you see I'm busy with someone?" The possum says "Sorry Mistress, but Freddie is back." Zena says "Not him again." Toob asks "Who's Freddie?" Zena says "Freddie Fastrack, a bike messenger who's known with fast feet and a high metabolism." Toob says "I know him, an ex-runner who's got booted out of the Olympics due to adrenalin injections. So I heard." Zena stands up "Whatever the case is, if I don't stop him now I'll be out of business care to help?"
(Guys, before things get way too crazy, and freaky, even by Planet Animalus standards, please check out my Interactive, for the guidelines. And Hertz, Zena doesn't ask for help, most of the time - she's not some blond-haired Damsel in Distress - that and Toob would be an Elderly Old Man by comparison to most of the people - However, I'll make it look like it was more of a Professional Courtesy thing. Also, JD - I'm not going to bother asking why you picked an Angler Fish, that's creepy enough - but if you make her a cannibal - as in have her eat the human - I'll have that addition deleted, and do like George Lucas did with that Star Wars Christmas Special - pretend it never happened. (That being said, licking, and the like, is fine.) Okay, rant over.)

 Planet Animalus  (18+)
Welcome to Animalus, home of the hybrids, people with strange customs. 19,970+ views
#1605306 by BIG BAD WOLF is Howling!


Toob chuckled at this. "Tell me you're just asking me out of Professionally Courtesy?"

Zena smiled "Of course."

Toob chuckled once more. "Have fun. I'm getting a little too old for that sort of stuff."

"Thank you." Zena then walked over towards where Freddie sat, effortlessly gliding her 20+foot long body past the rest of the clientele, with the ease of one used to doing such things, barely making a sound, before claiming a spot, right next to the cheetah. "Having a good day?"

Freddie looked at her in nervousness. "Um, yes?"

Zena gave a toothy grin. "Then stay on your best behavior this time, and you'll continue to have a good day."

"Lady, are you always this way?" Freddie asked, with a gulp. "All I did was cop a feel."

"No means No," said Zena. "The Dish didn't like being touched in that place, and you should have listened to the Server after the first warning. But no, you continued, got into a fight involving three of my Servers, another client, and you broke three chairs in the process, to say nothing about the door you scratched, before I decided to intervene, and chase you out."
(Author's Note: Now you know HOW I FEEL! What goes around comes around)

After snack time Mavis rubbed her head "I've been having these strange dreams Grandma..."

"Is this like the Dream with the giant cabbage wielding a chainsaw?" Grandma asked

"No." Said Mavis "I had this dream of something far out in Outer Space...A being without a body, a being like a shining light...The Being once had a body but lost it long long ago...It is angry...And looks toward Planet Animalus...Then...I awaken."
[Note: Toob is not old! He is only half as old as Zena! Is she decrepit?]


"Better you should dream about a cabbage," Grandma said. "At least a cabbage you can eat. What can you do with a being without a body? It's like a book with no pages."


Karl sat at her table in the Hungry Wolf and Snake, observing the exchange between Zena and Freddie, thinking When is my human going to arrive?

Toob sat at his table, observing Karl, thinking That has got to be the ugliest thing I ever saw!

A tourist sat at his table, observing everything because it was his first visit to the Hungry Wolf and Snake and thought Great lonely banana! What kind of bizarro hell have I stumbled into?

Toob tossed a tip on the table and headed for the exit. He wanted to see a weapons dealer, one of the best in the city, Quiller, a porcupine.

There was another customer ahead of him at Quiller's, a cat, but she became very uncomfortable when the huge toad, who had the walk of a cop, entered the shop and she soon left.

"What can I do for you?" Quiller asked.
(Wait, I thought that the point of the 'Tasting Houses' was so that carnivores could eat humans, enjoy the feeling for a little while, and then regurgitate them again, well the humans would be fine because of that pill that everyone takes. No? Oh, okay.)

Karl was licking her human like an especially large ice-cream cone, a flipper carefully holding it at either end as she slowly spun the tasty morsel like a rotisserie. Fish and crustaceans were all well and good, but creatures native to land always just had the best taste, weird and ugly looking as they were.

There was another thing great about this place; the gossip. She could usually find a booth to herself, but a tendency to never move or speak while present meant that people generally just tried to forget she was there, making it relatively easy to listen in. Also, really big eyes with no whites and which blinked on an average every five minutes let her stare at people without them being able to tell for a surprisingly long interval.

Nearby, an older toad and a humongous canine of some sort were talking about crime rates and penal colonies, before the toad left rather furtively and his companion switched to reprimanding a cheetah. Something about feeling up a meal. She ran her huge, floppy tongue down the entire length of her snack as she considered that, leaving a thick trail of slime as she wondered at why anyone would ever do something like that. Oddly enough, the cat looked familiar. Maybe she had seem him on the news before.

But hold on; the dog, though (Or was she actually a giant squirrel? The furry things always looked similar) -the owner, at any rate- was a telepath. She was probably reading her thoughts right now. And now she knew that Karl knew she knew she knew how to read minds. Hopefully the giant didn't find anything offensive in hers, though the angler guessed that she probably got better gossip every day than Karl got in a month.
Freddie remembers the incident with Robert the Rhino, he was the one who he fought with last time and a rival of his during his Olympic days "It was Robert who started that fight, he had no right calling me a cheating cheetah. I can't help if I was built for speed." Zena says "If that's the case, why didn't you at least slow down to at least give your competitors a chance?" Freddie says "I tried but it's like my break broke, I can't help but going fast, I guess it's in my DNA." At that point Freddie's cellphone rings "Excuse me." He answers "Hello, Fastrack delivery service."
(Zena - she's immortal - unable to die, able to heal from her injuries. That being said, the Immortality Hurts rule is in effect with her - put enough lead into her, and then hit her over the head with a frying pan, and she's going to the hospital, in order to get some Morphine, or some such thing, to make healing less painful. Everyone else though - Reptiles and amphibians can get to be like 250, Birds and Mammals like 120, Fish in the middle.)

(As for Races, this isn't Twiga's Humanimal Saga, where every animal possible ends up being Humanoid, where the Animals were fussed with Human D.N.A.. On Animalus, It's the Vertebrates - Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, and Fish - and also, it's Humans Fussed with Animal D.N.A. - there's a difference, with Hybrids being Mammalian-like - breasts, milk, live birth, that sort of thing. If you want to use an Invertebrate - type of creature - like the Spidarians mentioned above (think human-sized spider-like creatures, if the name doesn't tell you already) - they have to be aliens, or descended of aliens at any rate.)

Zena lowered her voice, and looked at Freddie. "I'll let you get back to your meal with a warning - cause anymore trouble in my place, and you won't be able to run fast enough to get away from me."

Freddie gulped, and nodded. He then turned his head, so that he wasn't looking into Zena's eyes anymore. "What was that address again sir? Oh? That's the warehouse district. No, it's not a problem. I'll be there in about an hour, I'm sort of on my lunch break at the moment. Thank you. I'm glad you understand. Yes, that amount will be fine." By the time he turned the phone off, Zena wasn't sitting next to him any more. Suppressing a shudder, he picked up a menu, and began looking for what he wanted.

By that time, Zena had made her way over to Karl's table. While Fish Hybrids weren't exactly uncommon, most tended to stay near the water, for certain reasons, mainly to keep from drying out. An Angler fish was really strange to see - they liked staying in the deep dark waters. Seeing one on land, was more than a little strange, but while some might be put off on first appearances, Zena's previous experiences with various creatures, including some that made Angler fish seem like garden-variety goldfish, had taught her that most people were friendly, if you gave them a chance.

"Are you having a good time?" she asked.

"Yes," the Angler fish said, with a gurgly voice. "Very good."

Zena smiled at this. "That's good to hear. Let me know if you need anything, and I'll get it to you as quick as I can."

"Thank you."

Zena smiled once more, and looked at the Dish. "Let me know if there's any issues."

"Yes Madam."

Zena chuckled at this. "It's Zena, kid." She then looked back at Karl. "Do try to be gentle - this is her first week on the job. I don't want her to get too nervous - ruins the flavor, not to mention the experience."

"I understand."

"Good." With that, Zena walked back into the shadows of her personal space.
(For the limits of Mavis' powers I'm going to say she can't hear through walls, so even if your in the ext room over from her, your thoughts are safe, and the maximum distance for 'hearing range' let's say...Twelve feet any farther then that you're safe)

Mavis decided to go for a stroll in the woods, Meadow Town was really a beautiful town, the buildings and architecture designed to mimic Earth's Victorian Era...A Time in Earth History she had become particularly fascinated by after reading some the classic literature.

There was a rustle in the woods, Mavis turned her head, there was a Gecko Man, she could hear his thoughts, or rather she could hear something IN his head

"Do as I say..." Said the Thing in his head "Create a new religion...One that worships death and rejects the sensual world created by the Judgement beasts."

'What the fuck?!' Mavis thought to herself in terror she had the good sense not to speak out loud
Quiller opened up a case of weaponry suitable for amphibians. "Everyone of them is 100% waterproof!" he said.

"That's great," Toob said, "but I won't be using it underwater. What I want is something that will stun everyone around me - not kill them, but just knock them out."

"And you want 360 degree coverage? Well, no stun gun can do that. What you need are stun grenades."

"But what about myself?" Toob said. "I don't want to stun myself along with everybody else."

"I get it," Quiller said. "You want to be in the center of the stunning action, but not get stunned."

"That's it in a nutshell."

"I'm afraid that violates the basic laws of physics," Quiller said. "You can't create a stun field and then have someone in it who doesn't get stunned. But I have an alternate solution for you. Mind you, it would be a little clumsy to use."

"I'm listening," Toob said.

"Two stun guns, each with 180 degree coverage, one in your hand and one mounted on your back facing rearward. That back gun would be slaved to your hand gun so that when you fire the one in your hand, the back gun automatically fires at the same time."

"Hmmm... I'll have to think about it."

"Sure. Think all you want. Anything else I can do for you?"
Karl was just about to leave and go home to the harbour, vacating the tasting house and its pushy, insulting and invasive manager, when something caught her ear. Another diner, table bared before him, was muttering to himself a few booths down. The lizard's tongue flickered over his eyeballs frequently, and he seemed to be liberally intoxicated with caffeine.

"Yes -yes! I will do as you say, I just... Need more time." Pause. "Yes, yes, I understand your wishes. It's just that, well... Ow! Sorry! Ow! But nothing, master, but nothing! It is as you said!" And so on.

Completely disinterested by the conversation -she was too well familiarized with the effects of sitting alone for weeks to attache any undue importance to someone talking to oneself- Karl went back to studying her cheque.

As the lizard man got up, glancing around and still muttering rapidly, something fell from his pocket, a scrap of paper that drifted back and forth before alighting on Karl's table. Casually, she picked it up, paying her bill and glancing the pamphlet over as she slouched off.

For a moment, her lure glowed just a bare hint brighter as it bobbed in the air before her.
After paying his bill for his steak sandwich lunch, Freddie made it to the Warehouse district to the address only to find it a little uncomfortable "Oh my, I hope I don't get suckered into something illegal like smuggling drugs or something like that." Freddie said to himself. He knocked on the door and the peephole opened "Yes?" said a voice from behind the door. Freddie says "Freddie Fastrack, Fastrack Delivery service here to pick up a package you want delivered." The voice says "Ahh yes. Just a minute." The peephole closes and the door opens revealing...
(I'm going to transfer the story to a couple of other characters in the series, briefly, so that the rest of you can see things from the perspective of an Offworlder, as it were, who still has issues with Animalus, and its customs. It will help you understand things a bit. James is an Ambasador from a former Penal Colony, and Julia is from Animalus, and one of Zena's lovers. Another thing is this - Julia is a Born Human - her parents were a Dog and a Horse, but she'd been Born Human - let's just call it Recessive Genetics, or some such thing, shall we.)

Meanwhile, on a ship traveling between the various planets, a male human in his mid-thirties was in bed, reading a book, and comparing it to another. "There's no real correlation between these two religions, especially where the deities are concerned."

His wife groaned in annoyance. "What do you mean, James?"

"Comparing Christianity to, well, whatever it is your planet calls your religion, Julia."

"Again, what do you mean?"

"Well, Julia, it's like this; In Christianity, and most other religions, there's God, or the guy that leads the forces of Good, and then there's the Devil, or the guy who leads the forces of Evil. What you have is this multi-headed creature that swallows the souls of the departed. That's just creepy."

Julia chuckled. "Been married to you for fifteen years, and you still don't understand the basics. I'll tell you again, James. That creature is the Judgement Beasts. It looks over your life, and tells you if you are to go to Paradise, or if you need to spend time in Digestion. Paradise is the place of happiness, where you want for nothing. Digestion is in the Judgement Beasts' Stomach, where one must wait until their sins have been Digested from their soul, at which point, they are allowed into Paradise."

"Still, most everyone has committed some sort of bad thing," said James.

"Thus, they have to wait in the Beasts' Stomach, until it is gone from them," said Julia. "After that, they are allowed into Paradise. Those with no goodness in them however, suffer Eternal Digestion, unable to leave the Beasts' Stomach, and will never enter Paradise."

"It still sounds messed up," said James.

"Easier to escape a stomach than it is to escape a place full of lava," Julia said. "Now, get to sleep. I can't wait to see Zena when we get to Animalus, see how those at the Hungry Wolf and Snake are, that sort of stuff."

"So long as you don't put yourself on the Menu," said James. "I don't understand how you could put up with being treated like a piece of meat."

"You worked there as a Server-Guard, especially after your father cut you from his Bank Account."

"I still say he overreacted," said James. "Cutting me off because I got on Zena's bad side."

"Could of been worse," said Julia. "She could have decided to not force-feed you a safety pill that night that you drank too much to remember that No means No."

"Don't remind me," said James. "I still get nightmares of that night - swallowing me because I was trying to sleep with you."

Julia chuckled. "At least she made you less of an idiot."

"I'm still puzzled by the kids - one human, one dog, and one's a horse."

"Paternity test doesn't lie," said Julia. "Surely after thirteen years, you're not going to deny that detail."

"Well, no, but I still don't get it," James said.

Julia chuckled. "Not even Zena gets that detail. I didn't sleep with any other man but you, and still, two of them were Hybrids, taking after my parents."

"That she doesn't know is good to know," said James. "Sometimes you'd think she knows everything."

"Not everything, just a bunch."
The Gecko Man didn't notice Mavis had seen and heard his thoughts, he simply got into his car and headed to somewhere else.

Mavis was FREAKED OUT, she knew that there was something inside that Lizard's head speaking unholy thoughts into his mind, once she was sure he was gone, she ran...She ran without looking where she was going, she ran into the belly of an enormous Toad Man, he was so big he didn't even flinch.

"Are you the famous Mavis Pricklethumb?" The Toad asked

"I'm not sure if I'm famous." Mavis said "But yes I'm Mavis Pricklethumb."

"I've been looking for you." The Toad said "I'm Toob and I've heard stories about an Echidna who can hear thoughts..."

Mavis was paralyzed with fright "Oh geez! This is about one of the stories I wrote? Who sent you? Was it Roger Deerling? Or was it Steve Bighorn...Why do all my smuttiest stories contain all my male Herbivore Classmates?"

"Because all Male Herbivores think with their dicks." Toob said helping Mavis up "And don't you worry...I'm here to help you."

"You are?" Mavis was not sure what to think

"There have been reports..." Toob said "Sightings of strange lights, and hearing voices seeing those lights, then people go missing, some people do more then go missing, they end up dead...Most of those being telepaths, I'm here to make sure you don't go missing or dead."


"Who sent you?" Mavis said. "Why would anyone be interested?"

"I'm sorry, Miz Pricklethumb," Toob said, "but I'm not at liberty to disclose that."

"Someone's worried about me but they want to keep their identity a secret? It can't be Grandma or Grandpa. They can't keep anything a secret. It's my editor, isn't it? He's afraid I'll stop churning out romance stories for him."

"I really can't say," Toob said. "The important thing is that telepaths are being killed off and you're a telepath. I'm not exactly a body guard, but I do want to find out what's going on and put a stop to it.""

Safe in her mud and debris filled grotto as the bottom of the harbour, Karl wondered at what she had seen earlier. The gecko's pamphlet had been some kind of invitation, of the kind often handed out on street-corners. Only, this one had been an invitation for something -a magician's show, if the occult symbols in the margins were anything to go by- to the Great Stone Circle on the Hill outside of town. At midnight tomorrow. People were asked to bring their best robes and an open mind.

The Stone Circle... Curious place for a performance, especially seeing as how it was fenced off. She wasn't even sure who had built the thing, though rumour had it it predated any sort of civilization that originated on Earth much less Animalus. People standing in it often had a tendency to feel disorientated and uncomfortable, and the strange looming monoliths never seemed to weather or drop out of alignment even as storms attacked them and the hill slowly eroded away beneath them.

Yes, very curious. Maybe she'd go and see just what was going on. Discreetly.

A robed figure comes out of the door with a package, he gives it to Freddie "Deliver this to the Great Stone Circle outside of town, someone there will be expecting it. It's an important delivery for tomorrow night's performance so make sure it's in one piece." Freddie says "You know that will cost extra for deliveries like that." The figure says "You'll be paid handsomely once the delivery is made. Remember, not a scratch on it." Freddie nodded as he puts the package onto the basket of his bike and secures it with ropes and he makes his way over to the Great Stone Circle.
By this time, Zena was enjoying her cushion in her corner. Sure, she liked to mingle with the guests, especially when there was a new face in the place, if only to see what kind of a person they were, but for the most part, she preferred to relax. In many ways, the place ran itself.

In fact, she was about to close her eyes for a quick nap, when something about the next person entering the door caught her eye. The human wasn't poor, far from it, but he wasn't wealthy, or, if he was, he didn't show it in the outlandish manner of an Offworlder. There was something about the way he walked, the slow, even, and methodical steps - either military or police. The thing was, she knew the local police and Town guards by face, if not name, off-hand at any rate, and she'd worked with enough police and Town Guards in the other cities to know them by face as well. This man didn't match any of those she's seen. Then there was the way he looked at things - his face looked impassive, but his eyes wandered over everything, widening in shock, surprise, or narrowing in disgust even, before resuming a bored look, as if pretending to not see anything, or trying to. Zena smelled the air, slowly. The man had a smell, that of a man that had been stuck on a ship for a month, or more. It added up to one thing - Offworld Law Enforcement, or some such thing.

"Probably looking for me to get cooperation with the Locals," she muttered. "Who on what planet decided to mess with my hunting grounds this time?" It could be pirates - she'd dealt with a few of those times - personally catching the leader of one band, and returning him to stand trial before the Grand Council, or whatever it was the leaders of Human Civilization called themselves. Local criminals were always easy to deal with - the entire planet was her jurisdiction, though she tended to let the Local police and Town Guard take care of their own backyards. People from Offworld though, they required more paperwork, trying to find out who had the right to try the criminals, who was going to charge them, what the punishment would be, what penal colony to send them to - it was a big mess.

She then saw that the man was coming right for her. "Let's see what the issue is."
Mavis was walking with Toob

"I've already talked with your Grandparents." Toob said "That I'm talking you somewhere safe."

"OK." Mavis said "Where is this somewhere safe?"

"I can't say yet..." Toob started to say

"...Grass City...I saw it in your brain." Mavis said

"Wow...You really can't turn it off." Toob said "Anyway...I know a Telepath who might be able to you tame your powers..."
"How are we getting there?" Mavis asked. "You don't seem to have a vehicle."

"That's true," Toob said. "I don't have a vehicle. How about you? I'll pay for the gas."

Mavis rolled her eyes. "Let me make a phone call. Maybe I can borrow a vehicle."
Freddie makes great time on his pace, so far he hasn't been knocked down yet sense he left the warehouse district he then sees that he's being flagged down by an Echidna with a Toad. as he stopped he says "May I help you two?" Mavis(the Echidna) says "Excuse us, could you take us to Grass City?" Freddie says "I wish I could help but this is a delivery bike, no passengers. Sorry." The Toad says "I recognize you, you were at Hungry Wolf and Snake earlier."
(I'm going to be a little vague when it comes to how people measure weight and distance, same thing with the value/name of money - after all, such things might not be around in 10,000AD or so. Of course, for convenience, let's equate Credits with Dollars, Units of Weight with Pounds, and Length of Distance with Miles.)

Freddie gulped at this. "What of it?"

Toob got out his wallet, and began to ginger through some large value bills. "How do you normally collect a fee?"

"Quarter of a Credit per Unit of Weight, plus Half a Credit per Length of Distance," said Freddie.

"Let's see, 120 Units of Weight, that's 30 Credits, 50 Lengths of distance, that's 25 Credits," Tood got out several of the larger Bills. "Let's call it 300 Credits, for you to take this girl to the Hungry Snake and Wolf, and to take her right to Zena with this message - 'Girl important to case I'm on. Toob'."

"You're offering me six times what I'd charge for a 120 Unit package to be delivered 50 Lengths from Starting point?" Freddie asked.

"Should make up for any lost time from your other delivery," said Toob. "Zena's the only one I'd trust this girl with, and I'm sure you know of Zena's reputation."

"Only an Offworlder wouldn't know about that," Freddie gulped.

"Then you know what could happen to you if you don't drop this girl off at her place," said Tood.

"Don't remind me," said Freddie. "I already had to deal with her after she got pissed off at me for causing a fight. I don't care to spend another moment inside of that wolf's stomach."

"Then, you accept the deal?"

Freddie looked at the echidna. Then he looked at the toad, who still had the money in his hands. "Throw in another hundred and you have a deal - it will cost me that to get a new bike, after all, I'll need a good excuse at to why I'm late - crashes can do quite a bit of damage to a bike you know."

Toob chuckled at this, as he got out the 400 Credits. "I can see that." He then gave the cheetah the money.

"Make sure that she straps herself in the back basket, and to not move," said Freddie. "Like I said, this things made for packages, not passengers."

"You just make sure that she gets to Zena!" Toob said, as he helped Mavis onto the bike. "Otherwise it won't be just her you have to worry about!"

"Got it!" With that, the cheetah took off with his passenger.

****

Meanwhile, Zena was in her Back Office, with the Offworld Officer.

"So, where are you from, what's your name, and what's your business here?" she asked.

The man saluted. "Colonel Samuel Jefferson Lee, Earthtwo forces. I have orders to give you this message!" The man took out an envelope.

Zena took the envelope, and opened it. She looked at the writing, squinting her eyes. She then looked at the Officer. "Message to give to your superiors; Use bigger print!" She then opened up a drawer on her desk, got out a pair of glasses, and looked at the message. "By the Judgement Beasts! Twenty Worlds Silenced. No Communication coming from them?" She looked at the officer. "How's that possible? I know that we were remote for a long time, but why the sudden cutoff?"
Meanwhile Freddie dropped Mavis at The Hungry Wolf and Snake.

"OK we're here." Freddie said as Mavis unbuckled herself

"You're scared." Mavis said "And it's not because of Zena."

"I'm not scared!" Freddie protested

"I could hear your thoughts the entire ride over." Mavis said "You were thinking about some robed figure who gave you the package, you couldn't see his species but he smelled reptilian."
"You're a mind reader!" Freddie said. "You should have warned me!"

"Oh, calm down. I'm not going to tell your girlfriend that you are cheating on her."

"It's what cheetahs do!" protested Freddie.

"Yeah? Well, I guess you know what girlfriends do to cheaters? But anyway, I'll keep your tawdry secrets, so don't worry."

"Thanks," Freddie said. "I never saw that robed figure before. And I guess you know he gave me a package to deliver?"

"Yes," Mavis said. "To the Great Stone Circle. Take your time getting there, will you?"

Freddie left and Mavis went over to where Zena was reading Colonel Lee's message.
As she paced along the wharves, Karl was nearly run over by a cheetah on a speeder-bike with a wide eyed echidna strapped to the back; an odd assemblage, to say the least.

Sunday drivers. She thought irritably, pulling her head out of the rubbish bile she had taken cover in. As if there isn't enough on my mind.

Grey, smelly, and getting darker by the moment, the docks stretched ahead and behind, slowly curving around the bay, stacked with crates, backed by ware-houses, and overlooked by endless marching lines of shipping cranes. It was unusually quiet tonight; a rare luxury. he busy city rarely afforded a moment's peace, even a few hundred feet underwater where she lived. Now, though, it just felt tense...

Karl had mulled it over, and decided that she might as well arrive ahead of time for the gathering. She would find a hiding spot somewhere out by the periphery, take her favourite harpoon gun -since the Circle was beyond city limits- settle in, and wait until the party started tomorrow night. Maybe there'd just be a show, and she'd have to hide until well after it ended, but...

The wording and the decorations on that formal invitation had unsettled her, and the angler didn't much appreciate things that violated what she had thought was carefully cultivated unflappability. A few extra rounds for the harpoon gun wouldn't hurt; she could go the long way around and swim back in to the city on the sea-side to keep the anti-weapons laws intact.



Back on his way, Freddie is starting to have second thoughts about the delivery and what Mavis said to him about the robed figure, could these people expecting the package is really performers like he heard or is something sinister a foot.. "What am I thinking? Their probably are just magicians and this is one of their props."
"Just how do twenty worlds just cut off communication?" Zena asked. "Even if there was a rebellion, and decided to change frequencies on their Communication Satellites, you'd still receive static. You have nothing?"

"Not at all," said Colonel Lee. "And worse yet, the scout ships sent to check out these planets have also cut off communication, along with any vessel in the area - military, trading, cruise ships - Hell, even the pirate ships known to travel the area have gone silent. That's a red flag in and of itself."

"I see," said Zena. "So, what does this have to do with Animalus?"

The Colonel got out a map, and set it on the desk. "It started here, with this penal colony, PX-12384, then to this Herogan colony of TN-sfyt - or as they call it - Red Blood."

"Makes sense," Zena chuckled. "Those lizards enjoy combat, and anything associated with it. They tend to make good Wild Beasts when one of them joins through the Officer - Exchange program. Some even decide to stay."

"Like I said," said Lee. "That was the next planet to go silent. The pattern continues." The Colonel traced a path through a series of planets. "One moment, everything's fine - talks about the weather, crime, elections - the usual chatter. Next thing you know, everything goes silent - not even a hint of trouble is given, no calls for help, no hints of rebellion, or invasion - not so much as a peep. At first, we thought that it might have been issues with some of the satellites - happens every so often, but all of them were silent. Then, it happened to the next one, and the next."

"I guess that is a concern," said Zena. "Still, what does this have to do with us?"

Lee tapped on another planet. "Because this planet is next in line."

Zena took another look at the map. The Path of Silence, for lack of a better name, was coming right towards Animalus! She looked at Colonel Lee. "Now that, my friend, is a concern."

Zena took her glasses off. She then looked at the Colonel. "Do you have money for your stay here?"

"I was advised to bring a bag of this," the Colonel said, setting a pack on the desk.

Zena opened it, and took out an object the size of a human finger, covered in cloth. She unwrapped it, and a gleam shined in the light. "Let me double check." She carefully emptied the bag, and unwrapped each of the objects. She then looked at the Colonel. "I guess your superiors were smart enough not to send you with Earthtwo Credits - they might be the same value on some planets, even this one, but most people prefer to see their own money, and not have to guess at the rate of exchange."

"So, how much is it?" Lee asked.

"Close to 70 Units, that's 16,000 Credits per Unit, so that equals over a Million Credits worth of Gold." Zena was impressed at this. "You carried this from Earthtwo, and no one robbed you?"

"Madam, I'm highly trained in all forms of combat - sniper, close quarters, hand-to-hand," said Lee. "No one can beat me."

"Don't be too sure of that," said Zena, as she walked over to a safe. "Anyone can be beaten - I would know."

"Personal experience?" Lee asked.

"Plenty of it." Zena then opened the safe. "I'm going to give you 10,000 Credits for Walking Around money. The rest will stay here, where it will be safe. Once your job is done, and you are all set to leave, I'll take what's owed me, and give you the rest back."

"That sounds reasonable," said Lee.

"In that case, food and drink is on me when you come here," Zena said. "Just know this, the meat here is cold."

"Cold?"

"Safer that way," said Zena. "Hot meat is, shall we say, undesirable in these kinds of places. It's precooked though, so don't worry about that."

"Anything else I need to know?" Lee asked.

"Just one - Is this your first time on Animalus?"

"Yes Madam."

Zena walked back to the desk, put the money on it, and then picked up her glasses, putting them on. She then walked over to a medicine cabinet, opened it, took out a bottle of pills, opened it, took one out, place the pill on the table, the closed the bottle, placed it back in the cabinet, and closed the door. "You'd better take that."

"What for?" Lee asked.

"Ticks, fleas, and lice," said Zena. "That pill creates a chemical they don't like."

"Are they common?" Lee asked.

"Extremely," said Zena. "Take that though, and you won't have to worry about them."

"For how long?" Lee asked.

"Oh, a hundred years, or so," said Zena. "Water and cups are over there."

With that, the soldier went, got some water, and swallowed the pill. "Anything else I should know about this pill?"

"Yeah, it protects against hydrochloric acid," Zena stated. "Specifically, gastric acid."

At this, Lee's eyes widened. "You mean, stomach acid?"

Zena chuckled. "Surely, you've heard the rumors of this planet - like the ones where we eat our dead, and the ones about how snakes and crocodiles like to eat beautiful women?"

"I've heard."

"The first one is true, but the second is only half true," said Zena. "Snakes and Crocs don't actually eat the women - they swallow them, and then spit them up later. Also, it's not just women that Snakes and Crocs enjoy."
At that Moment Mavis came into the Tasting House.

"Good Evening Madame." Said an Eagle Waiter "Would you like a menu?"

"Um...Maybe?" Mavis said "I'm not really here to eat, I'm here to see a fellow telepath."

The Eagle looked confused for a second and then said "That must be Zena...I'll bring you to her."

As the Human Visitor finished taking his pill. The Eagle Waiter approached Zena

"This Echidna wishes to see you Madame."

Zena used her own telepathic abilities "You must be the one Toob was looking for, I guess he found you."

"Yeah...I guess he did." Mavis said meekly

Zena looked at the Echidna, she was just barely a legal adult, other then her prickly spikes, she had rather attractive features, a nice strong build, large brown eyes, she wasn't classically beautiful. But still attractive.

"Why don't you take a seat." Zena said "I've always found Hybrids of Australian Creatures...Marsupials and Monotremes to be charming, I've not known many Marsupials very well and even less Monotremes, still they always seem to have colorful personalities, even when they're criminals they manage to be charming."

"OK." Mavis said "I was sent here by Toob because...I overheard something...Something very dangerous...I saw a Gecko Man in the Woods there was something inside his head, telling him to create a new religion worshiping death and to reject the sensual world of the Judgement Beasts."

Zena looked over at Lee "Sometimes at times like this, it's hard not to believe in miracles." She said
"Go on," Zena said. "Tell me everything you know."


Meanwhile, Toob was poking around on the outskirts of the city, just using his amazing intuition to prompt him in one direction or another. He often got his best leads that way, just by randomly looking around guided by an inner urge that said Go THAT way! instead of some other way. Now he found himself at the door of a storybook cottage. Only a kindly grandma, a witch, seven dwarf brothers, or a family of intelligent bears could live in it. He knocked on the door.

"Go away!" said a voice from inside.

"I only want to talk," Toob said, "and perhaps drink a cup of your water if you could be so kind."

'Godslammit!" came the voice from inside. "Do you think I moved out here in the middle of nowhere so some giant ass toad could knock on my door and ask for a sip and chat with me? Go the fudge away!"

"You are acting suspiciously, sir," Toob said. "I would strongly advise you to open the door."

"Oh, that takes the cake! You're a cop, too? Oh my, isn't this my lucky day? Do the words double-barreled shotgun aimed at the door mean anything to you?"

Toob thought for a moment. "Haha! Guess what? You're on TV! Yes, we were pranking you! Now, open the door and let me show you the fabulous prizes you have won!"

"I'll count to three then I am pulling the trigger."

"Good day, sir," Toob said. "We are sorry you decided not to participate in our exciting contest."
Freddie arrived at the Great Stone Circle, he spots another robed figure standing near the locked gate marking it's entrance. "It's about time you showed up." It said as he spots Freddie. Freddie hands the package to the figure "Sorry, got delayed due to an urgent delivery. Most important, the package is still in one piece. Now about my payment." The figure says "Ahh yes, follow me and we'll discussss, your payment."
"Um, if you don't mind, I prefer to take my payment right here, at the gate," said Freddie. "Company policy. Tends to prevent accidents from happening."

"Ah, yes, policiesss," the figure said. "I'll be right back." With that, the figure left.

At this, Freddie let out a sigh, and walked over to his, bike, getting on it, ready to take off, just in case that feeling he had was true. "I just hope he brings out my Credits, and not something else."

***

Meanwhile, back at the Hungry Wolf and Snake, Zena was going through the information she'd heard. "A Cult dedicated to death?" she asked.

"That's what I heard," said Mavis.

"Actually, it's more like you're telling me what you think you heard," Zena said. "Sometimes we forget the little details, or gloss over them, or even ignore them. I have plenty of experience in that. However, there's one method that can reveal the truth."

"What's that?" Mavis asked.

"Let me look into your mind," said Zena. "I want to see this Gecko with my own eyes."

Mavis gulped. "What do I have to do?"

"Look into my eyes."

"Seriously?"

"Yes. It's that simple," said Zena. "After that, I'll project my mind into yours, and I'll be able to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch everything you did, including things you may have overlooked."

"Is that something you can teach me?" Mavis asked.

"Perhaps," Zena said. "The real trick is Self-Discipline. After all, there are times one must shut off the ability, like when we sleep, or if there's someone's mind who shouldn't be looked into."

"Shouldn't be looked into?"

"My mind is one of them," said Zena. "If you value your sanity, never stray from the paths I have placed around my mind. There's more than a few psychologists that have had to be locked up in a strait jacket, because they looked too deep into my mind."

Mavis gulped once more. "Alright."

"Good," Zena said. "Now, the first step is for you to relax. After that, I'll do the hard part."

"The hard part?"

"Yes, unlocking the memories that you might have ignored or forgotten during the situation."
After Zena looked into Mavis' mind, she blinked and rubbed her head "OK...You gave an accurate report."

"I hoped I did." Mavis said "It's very hard for me to forget anything...With my Asperger's Syndrome..."

"You have Asperger's Syndrome?" Zena asked

"Yes." Said Mavis

"So we have no doubt, that's what that....Thing inside the Gecko's head instructed him to do...Only question now is what is that THING and why does it want this cult."

"I did have a dream a few nights back..." Mavis said "In my dream I saw a being without a body, like a shining light and a felt the Thing was angry and wanting to hurt Animalus out of anger."

Lee rubbed his chin "Normally when someone says 'It came to them in a dream' they're usually con artists or charlatans, but your body language is telling me, you mean every word you speak sincerely and with this mysterious case, we can use all the help we can get."
As Toob walked away from the storybook cottage, he could almost feel someone's gaze burning into his back. "There is something not right about whoever lives in that cottage," Toob muttered, "but I'll be damned if I want to get a face full of buckshot trying to find out what."

After he walked a hundred paces he looked back, just in time to see someone let a curtain flutter closed at a window. "I knew he was watching me!"

Now what? Should he hang around and keep an eye on the cottage from a hidden location? No, Toob's amazing intuition was prompting him to move on, but he would remember the cottage and its hostile inhabitant.
So, this is it, Thought Karl. The Great Stone Circle. A barbed wire fence about 12 units high curved off in either direction, with a thick tangle of meaty vegetation to unhealthy to be called a forest squatting behind it. The expanse was broken only by a singe border-patrol style gate with an unmanned booth.

There was a speeder-bike loitering our front, opposite the cracked road leading into the woods like a tongue leading into a mouth, and with the same dangerous cheetah stuck to it. Now how about that. He was a delivery boy, so unless he was taking the company car to the festivities early, what could someone want delivered to an old dump like this?

Clutching a pair of insulated wire cutters, Karl slouched off into the undergrowth. This place was far enough out of town to deter most kids, and considering its disreputable reputation and complete lack of valuables, the security probably wouldn't be that tight. Come to think to it, she thought as she set to work on a length of fencing some ways farther around the hill, it already seemed tighter than she would have expected. What was that all about?
Karl sees a group of lizard-like beings with one holding a box, "It's here, our secret weapon to take over this planet." All of them wearing cloaks with their hoods pulled down revealing the reptilian faces. Their leader who is wearing some kind of head dress says "What should we do with the courier?" One said "He was promised payment, he'll make an excellent test subject for our new weapon." He opens the box revealing a device looking like a helmet. "The mental dominator!"
"Anything else that you might be forgetting to tell me?" Zena asked.

"Only that the guy that dropped me off here was afraid of his next delivery," said Mavis. "Something about the clients. The item, or whatever, was to be taken to the Stone Circle."

"What's his name?"

"Freddie."

"Cheetah on a Speedbike?"

"Yes."

"I know of him," Zena said. "I also know of a few police officers that patrol that area. I'll have them apprehend him for, shall we say, destruction of Private Property, and have him brought to us."

"Do you have to get the police involved?" Colonel Lee asked.

"In such a matter like this, it would be best if our witness is put in a position where this Cult doesn't think him to be a threat, or anything of the like. Besides, I'm Duty Bound to warn my counterparts in the Town Police, the Town Guard, my Field Commander of the local Wild Beasts, and have them warn their Counterparts in the other Cities, and as many of the smaller towns as possible about this Path of Silence, to say nothing about this Death-Worshiping Cult."

"Are you sure it will do any good?" Lee asked.

"Maybe not," said Zena. "But I'd rather go down fighting, than to submit to some mysterious energy force."
"One more thing." Mavis said

"Yes?" Zena said

"I'm thirsty...Can I have a glass of water?" Mavis asked

"I like you." Zena said "I like a Hybrid who doesn't ask for much."

The Eagle Waiter brought Mavis a glass of water.

"Would Madame Echidna like anything else?" The Eagle asked

Mavis thought, she wasn't hungry for anything...And not wanting to do the 'Tasting House Thing' she just replied "I'm not hungry...But is there anything I can read?"

The Eagle Man looked confused "Mostly just magazines of the unsavory variety."
"How unsavory?" Mavis asked.

"Here," the Eagle Man said. "See for yourself." He dropped several brightly-colored magazines in front of her.



From his hilltop viewpoint, Toob could see a great stone circle on the next hill. His intuition immediately buzzed. That was where he should go next.
Karl wasn't going to mind having to squat in a bush for 20 hours now; this show was worth it. The leader apparent's -a Komodo dragon- head was lighting up, sparks of electricity playing around the intricate workings on his helmet. Hands clenched, he looked for a moment like he was helping along a laxative. Outside, Freddie's mind went blank, the cheetah standing bolt upright, jaw hanging slack.

"Who do you serve?" Whispered the k-dragon greedily, tongue flickering in and out.

"You, master. Only you." Droned Freddie, still standing to attention.
Karl's jaw dropped as he hears this, "Mind control, this isn't good. Have to get out of here to warn someone but first I need proof." He whispered to himself.

Outside, a police boar pulls up in a police cycle to Freddie "Excuse me sir, but you need to move along. This place is off limits." Freddie just stands there with a blank stare. "Sir, I ask you to move, either you'll comply or I'll have to arrest you."
"Better take you in anyways," the cop said, getting out a set of handcuffs. "You don't look sober enough to walk."

Meanwhile, Mavis was still trying to find something too read, but none of the magazines she saw were exactly good reading material.

"Looking for something?"

Mavis turned her head, and found herself looking at the wolf. "A book to read," she said, chuckling nervously.

Zena took a look, and chuckled. "Most people don't come in here to read." She opened one up. "Human with Cream of Mushroom Soup. Gently cover naked human, or a hybrid wearing the Tasting Outfit, in warm, but not hot, Cream of Mushroom Soup. Then lick the soup off of the Dish, savoring every bit." She then looked at Mavis. "Makes your mouth water, just thinking about it."

Mavis blushed as she heard this. "Um, do you have any actual books?"

Zena chuckled. "Of course. They're in the Back Section though. Follow me."

Mavis followed Zena, and soon found herself in what had to be a massive library. "This is enormous!" she exclaimed. "I've never seen so many." She soon spotted one, and pulled it out. "Romeo and Juliet?"

"Got that in Standard English, Standard French, Standard Spanish, Standard Russian, Standard Chinese, Standard Japanese, and Herogan, along with a few others, to say nothing about the Original Languages," said Zena.

"You have it in different languages?" Mavis asked.

"Yes, it's very useful," said Zena. "After all, what if the Original was written in a different language? Translators always miss something - gets worse the further along in time the Revision is made. That, and people have a difficult time thinking like people from a thousand years ago, let alone nearly eight thousand, or more, years ago."

"So, how many books do you have here?"

"If you're going by stories, close to ten thousand. Including translations, at least five times that."

"Where do you get the time to read them all?"

Zena chuckled. "I'm a quick reader, once I have my glasses on."

"You need glasses?" Mavis asked.

"Just to read with," said Zena. "Most common print is uncomfortable for me to read otherwise - too small for my eyes."

"Why do you have so many books?" Mavis asked.

"I spent my first twenty-five years of life being unable to read," said Zena. "Once a good friend taught me how, I became hungry for knowledge. I devour every book I come across - I don't like to put them down. It doesn't matter if it's a History book, or some sappy love story - I read everything. In fact, I think I have a few copies of your books. Teenage stuff, but there's that element of truth to it. Might even be good Offworld even."

"Do you think so?" Mavis asked.

Zena smiled. "I know a few people, and they know others."
"What do you do when you hear someone's thoughts and...They're kind of gross?" Mavis asked "I've overheard some stuff I don't I'll ever be able to unhear."
Zena laughed. "One girl's gross is another girl's erotic love story. It takes a lot to gross me out. Now that doesn't mean I approve of everything. It just means I don't expect others' thoughts to lie in a narrow range. I expect to read minds that are amazingly different from my own. And I have decided not to be grossed out, but to be amazed."

"It's not so easy for me," Mavis said. "If I tune into gross thoughts I get physically sick and want to run away from them."
The komodo dragon was still fiddling with his mind-control helmet.

"It is wonderful," He rasped to his enraptured fellows. "I can feel the courier with my mind! And... Someone else.. Hold on."

Just visible through the over-fed trees, the Officer was carefully escorting the slack-jawed Freddy into his vehicle. All at once, he stood to attention, muscles visibly slackening off.

"'Release him," Croaked the komodo in the center of the clearing, smiling as Freddie's handcuffs were removed. "Return to the station; this was a false-alarm and wastage of time. You will keep this place from being investigated until tomorrow."

The machine set off back towards the city, leaving Freddie behind. "Go about your business. You know with certainty that you will be payed soon, but can not remember the details of this delivery." Snickers sounded all about the circle as Freddie also took off.

In her hiding spot, it suddenly occurred to Karl to wonder if they could sense her mind with that machine, and what would happen if she were found.
Freddie went back to the Hungry Wolf and Snake both confused and parched. The Eagle waiter says "Not you again, what a minute, you look like you've seen a ghost."

Meanwhile, Mavis sensed it. "Zena, Freddie's back and it seems that something happened to him at the Great Stone Circle."
"Let me take a look myself." The wolf closed her eyes. A few seconds later, she opened them. "A combination of Mind Control, and Memory Alteration. Most psychics can't do that, in fact, only one can, but she isn't on this planet."

"Who are you talking about?" Mavis asked.

"The Queen of Web," said Zena. "She's fairly nice - been a good friend of mine for several decades. I actually helped her to get her throne when I was younger."

"So, just what can you do?" Mavis asked.

"Me, I can trick a person's mind into seeing someone other than myself," said Zena. "Works best if they don't see me before I use it on them though - minds tend to fight what they know isn't true."

"What about telekinesis?" Mavis asked.

"As far as I know, Science Fiction or Fantasy," said Zena. "At least, in Hybrids and Humans. Other species though - well, I've seen a few things. There's a planet called Char - the Primary Inhabitants, Chargons, resemble the dragons of Fantasy, including Breath Powers, like shooting flames from their mouths. Secondary Inhabitants, Charzons, resemble humans, but for the shape and color of their eyes - more reptilian than mammalian - kill one of them though, and they can reform their body. Makes things really interesting when you think about how their society works."

"How?" Mavis asked.

Zena chuckled. "Let's just say that I'm glad that the main chief Chargon is of the Progressive sort of mind - Charzons are owned by Chargons, and eaten by them."

Mavis gulped. "The Charzons are eaten? And they're slaves?"

"Basically, yes," said Zena. "That being said, they do have certain rights, in a manner of speaking - No Chargon would take the Charzon of another, unless the Chargon was abusive. As it is, stealing a high-quality Charzon from a Chargon Chief is tantamount to declaring war on that tribe. But, like I said, the main Chief is of a progressive mind - working to give the Charzons more rights - he'll have to, if planets other than Animalus and Web are going to trade with his planet. Then again, most Human - Ruled Planets are like that - they don't trust Non-Humans for some reason."
"Madame...The Cheetah." Said the Eagle Waiter

"Oh Yes!" Zena said "I'll try to help get his memories sorted out."

As Zena tried to help Freddie, Mavis looked out the window and saw the Gecko again!, She opened the window so she could hear his mind, or rather, what was in his mind.

'The Komodo Dragon...Boromir shall be the operator of Magic while you will be the spokeslizard for the new Religion.' Said the Thing in his head 'You will deal with Public Relations while, Boromir and his Diamoni will attend to the secret magic rituals.'

'Diamoni?' Mavis thought to herself 'Is that what these...THINGS are called?'

"
At the Great Stone Circle, Boromir and his Diamoni were making their final preparations. Over a flickering log fire hung a huge iron kettle filled with bubbling potion. The robes and hoods had all been washed and dried and neatly folded. There was a nice-sized pile of spank switches and a big box of potatoes.

From his hiding place Toob observed the mysterious goings on of the group, but if what they were doing made any sense, Toob had no idea what that sense might be.
Karl shifted her weight to the right, the two-hour rotation having passed. As she did, a gnarled tree-stump to her immediate right made a strangled, choking sound.

She blinked, twitching her lure out of the sock she had fitted over it for concealment, to try and shed a little light on the groaning foliage. As it turned out, an elderly toad was hunched next to her, face screwed up in pain.

"Owww..." He muttered.

Embarrassed, Karl carefully withdrew her posterior from atop the amphibian's foot where she apparently had shifted it.

"Oh, uh, sorry." She muttered. Still, she'd better think fast before this cultist or whatever-it-was realized she had been eavesdropping on their gathering uninvited. "So, uh, you here for the ritual, too?" She bluffed.

"Hmm?" He brightened dramatically. "Oh, yeah, right. The ritual. Yep, all the way. Orgies and virgin sacrifices under the full moon all night!" He pumped his fist, grinning cheezily.

"That's... Great news." She stuck out a flipper, going with the first name that came to mind. "I'm ....'Carly'. What's your name?" She wondered if she should try to eat the big amphibian. It'd be tough, but her stomach was tougher, and could expand to take in food several times her own regular size.

"Uh, it's, uh, it -it's 'Toby', yeah Toby." They shook wearily. "I can't really say. This is kinda my first time to one of these things."



Zena says "Now Freddie, look directly into my eyes so I can find out what happened." Freddie says "Will it help me remember?" Zena says "I suppose but we need to see if I was right." Zena reads Freddie's mind from the time he dropped Mavis off to where he got mind controlled and the police officer that handcuffed him and then got set free.. During that time, he saw a reptilian face that he hasn't seen in years. "Oh no, not him."
"This is all very interesting," said Zena. "These people are up to something big."

Then, she heard a scream of terror.

"Mavis!" she exclaimed, rushing towards the back. She found the echidna holding her head, slamming it against a wall.

"Make it stop! Make it stop!" she screamed.

Zena grabbed a hold of the young woman, regardless of the spines entering her paws. "Mavis! Look into my eyes! Right now!"

Zena found herself in a place full of chaos, destruction, and death.

"Not good!" she said, coming back to reality. "Time to shut this attack off at the source." She then focused on where the thoughts were coming from - outside of the building itself, from, of all things, a Gecko. "You're mine!" she said, sending her thoughts right to the lizard.

Fear sprawled across the gecko's face, as he saw the wolf looking right at him through the window.

"You will cut off your assault now!" Her mental voice thundered across to him. "Leave now, or I'll send you to Digestion personally!"

The gecko gulped at this, and ran, cutting off his attack as he did so. Nothing was worse than facing that demon in a fight!

Zena turned her head to look at Mavis; the poor creature was unconscious. The wolf gently stroked her face. "It will be alright," she whispered,as she took the young woman to a cushion, and laid her on it. Zena turned her head, to look at the Eagle, who had followed her into the Back office. "Get some blankets, quickly, and warm soup broth - she'll need it when she wakes up."

The eagle nodded, and started running.

Zena frowned as she looked at the poor creature. She then looked at her paws, and noticed a few spines lodged in them. It was but the work of a moment, and some pain, but she got them out. She then opened up a First Aid kit, and took out cloth and bandages, and took care of her injuries. In a few days, they'd be just another couple of scars, on a body covered by scars. Once again, she looked at Mavis, and hoped, and preyed, that the kid would be alright.
Mavis had a strange dream, in her dream she saw a planet that shone like a diamond, and on that Planet were shining people, they looked vaguely Humanoid, but in her dream, Mavis saw they fed on sunlight, meaning these people evolved from Plants.

These strange shining Plant People would spend there days doing pretty much nothing, but feed, sleep, mate and admire their own faces in gigantic crystal mirrors, they seemed to love nothing more then looking at themselves and primping. They were Narcissistic Personality Disorder incarnate.

Then...These Plant People made first contact with other species, they didn't initiate it. They would never try to build rocket ships when it would distract from their own hedonism, an alliance of Aliens greeted them, asking if these Plant People wanted to join the Alliance.

The Plants were horrified that there was other life in the universe, the thought that they shared the universe with other creatures revolted them.

Fleeing in horror, they looked at their own bodies and saw the body parts that were similar to the visitors, head, arms, legs, torso, using strange powers they removed their own body parts bit by bit, until there was nothing left but a disembodied mind, the shining light she saw in her first dream.

Mavis woke up, she realized those Plant People were the Diamoni

Zena listened patiently to Mavis's excited explanation of the history of the Diamoni. "And you saw all that in a dream?" Zena asked.

"Don't you believe me? My dreams are often true."

Zena nodded wisely. "I notice you said often, not always. Are your dreams sometimes not true?"

"Well, yes, sometimes, but I know the difference! I can feel it when a dream is telling me the truth! And this dream about the Diamoni is the real thing!"



Toob looked closely at the strange scaly creature beside him. "Aren't you some kind of fish?"

"Why yes," Karl said, "an angler fish. You're very observant."

"Uh... but... what about... you know... water?"

"I can take it or leave it," Karl said. "Aren't you a toad? Surely you understand? Unless amphibians have changed their lifestyles since I last perused the Galactic Encyclopedia of Creatures Both Common and Strange."

"You've got a copy of that? I love that knowledge collection. Many happy days just randomly looking through it."

Karl pointed at the stone circle where the activity was increasing. "You aren't actually a part of this, are you?"

"No. I'm just observing. And you?"

"The same."
Karl made sure that the sock was back on her lure, bobbing gently in front of her.

"You may not believe this," She gurgled. "But, you see that big lizard with the goofy helmet? He can control people's minds with it. I saw him make the person who delivered it here leave without taking any money or anything."

"Well, if he bought online, isn't that the way things are usually done?" Asked Toob.

"Well, yes, but that delivery-cheetah definitely wasn't acting right. Neither was the cop that tried to arrest him, only to let him go when the lizard told him to and then drove off. Look dazed."

Toob looked out over the stirring circle of reptilian forms, seemingly bathed in the ever-larger fire at their center. "Well, one thing's for certain: They're up to no good."
Freddie walks up to Mavis and Zena, "What going on?" Zena says "That depends, "Do you recall happened at the Great Stone Circle?" Freddie says "I was there delivered the package and waiting for my payment and the next minute I was here completely confused. Rest is a blur." Zena says "Mavis. perhapse you can help me with Freddie. Help him remember the rest of what happened." Mavis "I don't know, what do I need to do?"
"What you need to do, is look into his eyes, and you will see, hear, feel, taste, and smell everything that he saw, heard, felt, tasted, and smelled," said Zena. "He will also see those memories, every sight, sound, smell, taste, and texture."

"Will it work?" Freddie asked.

Zena frowned. "Most of the time, it does. Other times though, it won't."

"What do you mean?" Mavis asked.

"If you're trying to recall that time you spent with a hot date, so that you can remember their viewphone number, but drank too much to clearly remember things, it works," Zena chuckled. Then, she sighed, "However, if the memory is associated with a tragic event, like the sudden death of those who knew you, it can be very difficult for even the best of psychics to break through the pain of the event. This is something I know from first-hand experience."

"Did you try to locate the memories of someone who was the victim of such an event?" Mavis asked.

Zena nodded.

"What happened?"

"The person being examined was unable to remember certain things, clearly, past the deaths of their parents," Zena said. "They remembered having sisters, remembered what their parents looked like, but they couldn't find what they were looking for."

"What was that?" Mavis asked.

"The person was looking for their name," said Zena. "A person with no name has no history. It's like, they never existed - no records, no nothing."

"But, surely records existed," said Mavis.

"At one time, perhaps," said Zena. "However, by the time a search was started, most of the records had been lost, or destroyed. That being said, they did find out the name of a relative - they took that relative's name as their own. It was better than being called Jane Doe 137082, or some such thing."

"They took the name of a relative?" Mavis asked.

"Their grandmother's, to be specific," said Zena.
After looking into Freddie's memories. Mavis saw her quills on the floor.

"Those are my quills?" Mavis asked

"Yes." Zena answered

"Echidnas aren't porcupines...They're not supposed to lose their quills..." She looked at her back
"Why would my quills fall out? Or did you pluck them out?" Mavis looked accusingly at Zena.



At the stone circle Karl said, "They are definitely up to no good."

Toob nodded. "Which means they are up to bad. Are you in law enforcement?"

"Me?" Karl said. "Well, not officially."

"What's that supposed to mean? I'm just trying to get a handle on why you are here. What is it you are trying to accomplish?"
"I just found a weird invitation and followed it here," She fondled her harpoon gun. "Actually, I don't think I realized just how curious I was until you pointed it out. What are you doing here?"
Toob says "Investigating, I have a feeling that whoever manipulated that cheetah's mind is also responsible for disappearance of telepaths."

Meanwhile, back at the tasting house, Mavis is finished with Freddie "So Mavis," Zena says "What did you see?" Mavis says "I saw something in Freddie's mind, an image of a big lizard, a komodo dragon I believe. Also there was something disturbing about it." Zena was concerned "Tell me about it."
"Tell me what happened to my quills first?" Mavis asked.

Zena revealed her bandaged paws. "The person, whose mind you tried to read, launched some sort of psychic attack, the likes of which I've never seen. You were in the process of giving yourself a concussion when I grabbed a hold of you, and managed to cut off the attack, by scaring the person away."

"You scared them away?" Mavis asked.

"A twenty foot long wolf is enough to scare anyone," said Zena. "Your attacker was a gecko - never seen a psychic gecko that didn't have a trace of fox in them - same with an echidna to come to think of it, and I've seen a lot of things."
"While I was out, I had a dream and I think it was about some People called the Diamoni."

"She then reacted her entire dream to Zena.

"Plant People eh?" Zena rubbed her chin "Well such things are possible..."
At the Great Stone Circle a secret magic ritual was in progress. First came the procession of the Diamoni in their freshly washed robes of various shades of green. The plant people took their places all around the circle.

Boromir, the Konodo Dragon, was at the center of the circle. The Gecko Man was nowhere to be seen.

"Allay, allay, allay!" chanted Boromir and the Diamoni responded with "Allay, allay, allay!"

Watching from their hiding place were Toob and Karl. "What does allay mean?" asked Karl.

"Usually to reduce or soothe," said Toob, "but that's if they are speaking our language and are we sure they aren't saying alley or ally or alloy?"

"None of those make any more sense than allay."

"We'll just have to keep watching," Toob said.
Suddenly, the air in the center of the circle moved aside with the air of a skinny person on a plane preparing to admit someone much bigger to the seat next to them. The difference, of course, being the all-shattering bang! as the atmosphere shifted with trepidation, making way for, not an obese individual, but a malevolent gaping void.

Boromir, scaled worshippers, and diamoni alike yelled in ectasy, flames flashing through all the colours of the rainbow and beyond as they rocketed thirty units high.

"Hey, Karl," Said Toob mildly. Cautiously, a thick tendril probed into reality from out of the nothing, an indistinct trail of almost pixelated points of colour. In seconds, the dim blur of unfocussed light flickered into a mighty tentacle, oozing, sucking, and lined with spikes. "I think maybe you should have brought a bigger gun."

"While, I think," Drooled Karl. "That it is time for us to leave."
Toob says "I agree, they sneak out quietly trying not to draw attention to the ones doing this strange ritual.

Meanwhile, back at the tasting house, Mavis felt pain "Ahhh!" Zena says "What's wrong?" Mavis says "I don't know, suddenly, I felt some sort of migraine overwhelm me." Zena says "Is it that gecko again?" Mavis "No, it's something else, but I did see a strange vision." Zena says "What sort of vision?"
Suddenly, Zena felt a sharp pain in her head. What the Digestion? Then, she saw something that chilled her. It was some sort of vine-thing, the likes of which she'd never seen, and she'd seen plenty of things, sentient spiders, sentient trees, human-like creatures, dragon-like creatures, mermaid-like things, and more, but nothing looked like this. There was something about this thing that drove fear right into her.

A moment later, the vision passed. Zena shuddered at what she'd seen. Paws twitching, Zena opened up a mini-fridge, and got out a glass, and a bottle. She pulled the cork, and, as carefully as she could, her paw still shaking, filled the glass with the liquid, the iron-like smell entering her nose. She set down the bottle, picked up the glass, and practically tossed the contents into her mouth. The cold liquid sent a jolt through her, and she licked the glass, replaced the cork on the bottle, and placed the bottle back in the fridge.

"I needed that," she said. "Nothing like a glass of pure blood to shock the senses back to normal."

"No water in that?" Mavis asked.

"Except what was naturally there," said Zena. Then, her expression hardened. "It seems I have something to kill."

"Can you kill it?" Mavis asked.

"I know it can't kill me," said Zena, as she opened up a drawer, and began to take out various medals.

"What are you doing now?" Mavis asked.

"I'm going to make a good first impression," said Zena. "If I can get it to run from this planet, good. If not, at least it will know what it faces - a living Judgement Beast."
"The scary thing about these...Things...These Diamoni is why they're attacking us." Mavis shuddered "In my dream, they were disgusted by the idea other life exists in the universe, they think themselves as perfection, and they hate everyone else because in their minds they not perfect."
"All villains have their reasons," Zena said. "Sometimes the reasons sound pretty good. In this case they don't, which is morally convenient since no one will have any doubts that this evil must be crushed and destroyed."

"But how? HOW?" wailed Mavis. The noise woke up Freddie.

"Control yourself!" Zena said. "No wailing! See this?" Zena pointed at one of her medals. "Best Use Of Innovative Destruction Techniques, Year of the Yellow Moon. Do you remember the Year of the Yellow Moon?"

"No," Mavis said.

"I suppose it was centuries before your time, but the point is I've got dozens of medals for the things I have done. I am an achiever. Why? Because I have self-confidence and ability!"

"But not much humility," muttered Mavis.

"What's that?"

"Nothing," Mavis said.

"You said something, but let's get on to the more important stuff."



Meanwhile, Toob and Karl were picking their way down the mountainside. "Geez!" Toob said. "What was that thing?"

"I don't know," replied Karl, "but it's monstrous, truly monstrous. We have to alert the authorities."

"Do you think they will know how to handle something like that?"
Far behind on top of the hill, lightning flashed, freezing rain poured down like god has switched on a faucet, thunder growled, and something else broke as the storm roared.

Above the duo, it seemed as if the clouds were moving in the darkness, coalescing into one huge- Then lightning flashed once again, illuminating for the barest unmerciful second a being huge and rubbery, green and execrably alien, tentacles raised to the crashing heavens in human exultation. Across then hills, a roar producible by no terrestrial throat resounded like the trumpets of Judgement Day.

"I mean," Added Toob nervously. "The Wild Patrol does have nukes, right?"
Zena says "How do you feel Freddie?" Freddie says "Better and angry." Mavis asks "How are you angry?" Freddie says "I never got paid for my delivery."
"Better to be short a bounty, and have your life, than to be surrounded in gold, and dead from being crushed by it," said Zena.

"You do zenzingers to?" Freddie asked, somewhat irritated.

"On occasion," Zena said. "Now, I have people to contact, if we are to take care of this thing."

"How?" Mavis asked. "This thing is a monster."

"Kill the worshipers first," said Zena. "Never thought that I'd be against someone's religion, but this thing is evil. Also, it's a physical being, meaning that it can die."

"How?" Mavis asked.

"We'll figure that out."
Mavis stroked her snout, Lee noticed

"I do know a thing or two about Australian wildlife." Lee said "I remember something about Echidnas like their cousins the Platypus, their snouts can detect the electromagnetic signals of their prey...Is it possible your telepathy is simply a Mutated extension of that sense explaining how you can have telepathy without Fox DNA."
Mavis stared at Colonel Samuel Jefferson Lee. "You know, Colonel, that almost makes sense to me."

Toob and Karl burst into the Hungry Wolf and Snake Tasting House.

"It's awful!" said Toob.

"It's monstrous!" echoed Karl.

"What? What?"

"The thing at the Great Stone Circle!"

After Lee heard their description he slapped his fist into his hand. "This is it! Now we know what we are dealing with. It's a type of Q'thulu for sure. Part physical, part etheric... If it hasn't built up it's aura to sustainable levels yet, we can destroy it!"

"It looked pretty freakin big!" Toob said.

"It's not how big it gets that is most important, but how much etheric energy it can channel into it's physical existence. And that's determined by how long it has existed in one location. It just got here, right?"

"I think so," Karl said. "Both Toob and I had been observing the Great Stone Circle when it was called into being by that cult of plant people."

"Yes, the Diamoni," Lee said. "We know about them, but no one in Earth Two forces suspected they were involved in this mystery. Heads will roll. We should have been on top of this."

"Well, if it's getting stronger by the minute, there's no sense in waiting around." Said Zena, stopping a vulture waiter. "Sebastian, would you mind closing down the House for me tonight? Something's come up."

She turned to the group, gesturing them to follow her to the back-room.
"C'mon, I've got some guns in the back. Let's go bag a monster! Oh, and you two," She pointed at Toob and what was some sort of deplorably familiar fish accompanying him. "You're coming with me. You saw it first, and I need to know what it looks like and how it got here."
Freddie followed the rest but Toob stopped them "Sorry, for your own safety. I cannot allow you to join us. We can't allow them to control you again." Freddie asks "Then what should I do?"
"There's a number on my desk in the back," said Zena. "Use it on my viewphone, and tell them this - Code 6307 in Sector Charley Sierra. When they ask you 'How many?', tell them All Hands on Deck. Do you have that?"

"I think so," Freddie said.

"What does that mean?" Lee asked.

"Heavily armed group of Outlaws at Circle Stones," said Zena. "After all, it's not like one can plan for cults summoning energy beings or whatever. As for the rest of it, it means that every Wild Beast officer stationed in town, along with the City Plice and City Guard are to come to the location, heavily armed."

"Do you have a Nuke or something?" Toob asked.

"Only if you wish to kill a few thousand people," said Zena.
Toob thought for a moment then asked "About the possessed Hybrids...What if they didn't choose to be possessed? Is it right to kill a person whose only flaw was being too weak minded to resist a possessive spirit."

"If killing them will prevent the death of all the universe then yes." Said Zena
"And less face it," Karl said. "If you are too weak-minded to resist a possessive spirit, then sooner or later you are going to be possessed. And no good ever comes from that."

Toob shook his head sadly. "It still feels a little bit like killing innocent beings."

"Who says the Diamoni have to die?" said Colonel Lee. "It's the Q'thulu we're after. That's our target. Everybody ready to roll? We've got some tentacles to fry!"
Outside the Tasting House, the world was being swept away as torrents of rain dumped on it as if being ladled out by a titan. Streets were transforming into virtual rivers, branches and trees cracked as wind yanked on them, and lightning kept on a constant barrage on the city's rods.

Screams drowning out the thunder, lit only by patches of random bioluminescence and cracks of sheet-lightning, the Q'Thulian rolled down the hill. Trees cracked and shattered to splinters as they were bulldozed aside, outbuildings and roads soon being added to the interminable path of destruction.

"Cool," Declared Boromir, using a phone as his only hope to be heard over the Q'Thulian storm. "Yes, very impressive. Attention all hands: the first Microbial Q'Thuluoid is through the portal. Function confirmed. Now, then, let's summon a big one!"
Then a large legion of feline soldiers arrive "Whoa," said a tiger soldier "That call is no crank." A lion in a commander's uniform says "Okay men, this is what we're trained to do. Everyone aim at that creature." He points to the Q'Thuluoid. "And fire at will."
"By the Judgement Beasts!" Zena exclaimed when she caught sight of the creature. "That's something you don't see everyday!"

"What do we have to fight that thing with?" Lee asked.

"In this situation, .50 Caliber machineguns," Zena said, as she took one out of a pack. "It can tear through the hide of a Croc or a Snake like Swiss-style cheese. That being said, I have no idea how effective it will be against that thing."

"Got anything bigger?" Lee asked.

"Got a few actual tanks coming, hopefully."

"Hopefully?"

"Been a while since we've used actual tanks in a combat situation," Zena said. "Parades and target practice is the most we tend to use them for, so that we know how to use them. Most outlaws don't have access to vehicles. Most of the time, you just need some good rifles - take out the leader, and that's usually enough to make the rest run. That and having plenty of Crocs and Snakes to chase them tends to do the job."

"So, what do you recommend?"

"Find the guy in charge, and convince him to send that thing back."
The Q'thulu roared as .50 caliber bullets bit at it.

"Our bullets are bouncing off its hide," said Colonel Lee. " Aim for the tentacles. Aim for the suckers on the tentacles. They look tender and they probably have nerve endings in them."

Sure enough, the Q'thulu didn't like having it's tentacles shot at. It writhed and squirmed and tried to wrap its tentacles around itself, but there were always a few suckers exposed somewhere and they immediately became targets.

"We're annoying the hell out of it," Zena said, "but that's not going to kill it."
"Maybe we can drive it so suicide over the next few months," Said Toob helpfully. The colossal beast, roaring in pain, smashed through a large apartment block and squished a large fraction of the attacking force, more by accident than by design.

"There's one thing that's bothering me," Said Karl, fins clasped next to her toothy mouth to amplify it over the over the noise of soldiers popping like bubble-wrap. "This thing can be hurt by conventional weapons, and it's only the size of a skyscraper. It couldn't have destroyed all those planets and be leading the Path of Silence."

"While the soldiers are distracting it," Called Zena, ducking as a flaming troop transport sailed by overhead, accompanied by all the requisite sounds of an army fighting a giant monster in a busy metropolis during a thunderstorm. "Let's go back to the Stone Circle and try to reopen the portal. Maybe we can reverse the polarity or something. Send it back where it came from."
Back at the tasting house, which is now being used as shelter against the chaos outside, Freddie sat in the bar area watching the news about the attack, he hears "Well if it isn't the cheating cheetah. It's bad enough that you're taking speed boosting drugs and now you're responsible for the destruction of Animalus." He turns around and sees Robert the Rhino. Freddie says "For the record Robert." Freddie says "Speed is in my DNA, I was never on drugs and do you think I'm responsible for what's happening?"
"Good thing I kept this thing for emergencies," Zena said, as the small group reached her place. Specifically, they were in her garage. "Always preferred walking though."

"I'm surprised that you don't use it more often," Lee said, as he walked up to the object. "It sure is a beauty."

"Tell me you know how to drive this," said Zena.

"The principal's the same as most other things," said Lee. "I mean, it's a Limo-class vehicle."

"It's a Stretch," said Zena. "Problem is, I'm too big to fit in the Driver's seat."

"No wonder you like walking," Lee muttered. "Anything I need to know?"

"The thing goes faster than your standard model, is armored against the highest powered rounds, even anti-tank stuff, fully stocked with weapons, has a fully stocked bar, and gets ten times the mileage of your standard model's fuel tank."

"How'd you manage that?"

"You're talking to someone who has lots of money," said Zena. "Sometimes I indulge in a little spending. That and custom ordering."
Lee had his head inside the limo, checking it out. "Hey! It's even got a bar!"

They piled into the limousine. Freddie and Robert managed to slip into the limo with the rest of them. Soon they were cruising rapidly toward the Great Stone Circle, sipping margaritas.

"Where's Mavis?" Freddie asked.

Zena looked around. "I don't know. She was with us just a few minutes ago."

"So what's with this polarity idea?" Toob asked. "It hardly seems likely there is a giant switch on the portal labeled polarity."
Up at the circle, Boromir was ordering his para-troops into position. Adrenaline soaked hooded figures piled sandbags and excavated tenches with power tools around the circle, the glassy aliens in their midst directing the storm into a vortex beyond their lines.

"Defend this gateway," Ghosted the diamoni ethereally in the k-dragon's mind. "We will attempt to summon another Q'Thuloid while the vermin are distracted. Do not let anyone through to disturb us."

"O'right, gents! Listen up!" He called into a radio, hefting a modified hunting rifle. "We've done good here today. Our pet should raze most of the city and then go onto the next one, and keep the Wild Beasts busy. Still, someone might try to attack the portal, so..." He gestured at a large mechanical switch set egregiously into the side of one of the monolithic stones, polarity stencilled above it in faded lettering. Lightning flashed. "...Defend this switch with your lives!"
Soon enough, the Limo was on a wooded hill by the stones.

"Well, this is nice to see," Zena said, as she took a look. "Lovely forest, lovely breeze coming off the lovely ocean, and oh, look at that; a lovely vortex to some other plane of existence, from which creatures of death and destruction can escape through. Makes me want to take a picture."

"Tell me that you're joking," said Lee.

Zena scoffed. "Of course I'm joking - that thing's going to ruin the property values around here."

Lee rolled his eyes at this.

"Relax, I'm joking on that one as well," Zena said. "All I want to do is send these guys through it, so that they can see these creatures in person!"

Lee sighed at this. "So, what do we do?"

"First, make damn sure that we're not the only group of Wild Beasts, City Police, City Guard, or armed concerned citizens, here," said Zena. "Only a fool rushes into a battle without even the bare bones of a plan, or without backup."

"And what if all we have are armed concerned citizens?" Lee asked.

"We deputize them," said Zena. "It's real elaborate - 'Do you promise to uphold the Laws of Animalus from this day forward or until your services are no longer required?' 'Yes.' 'I hereby deputize you.' Like I said, real elaborate."

"Is that how you officially induct people into the Wild Beasts?" Lee asked.

Zena chuckled. "No, it's not. That one is more formal. A deputization is only temporary - up to a week at most - hopefully. That being said, those who die protecting the City, or in this case, the planet, or should I say, the universe, get a Hero's Funeral - but I hope we don't have too many of them."

"Good point."

"Good. Now, get me the radio."
Mavis looked at the sky and saw the vortex from where she was, in the Grass Town Park

She felt helpless, she didn't know what to do
Toob had decided to carry a plasma pistol. It was big and heavy, sure, but Toob was big and he could handle a heavy weapon. The fact that the plasma pistol's minifusion power plant kept it charged and ready to fire forever was a distinct advantage in Toob's mind. No ammo to carry and no need to reload. Just pull the trigger and watch a glowing beam of superheated plasma turn the target into ashes.

The only problem was it's range was so short. Toob worked his way closer to the stone circle so he could be close enough to shoot.
Across from him in the undergrowth, an out-size fire fly darted back and forth; actually Karl's uncovered lure. He could just make out her thumbs-up in the dark shadows cast by the dancing vortex of primordial energy father up the hill. Fortunately, they were just supposed to keep an eye on things until the Wild Beasts showed up, or ac as last-resort if the worst should happen.

Toob returned the O.K. gesture in kind, faltering as a shadow fell over his position. Shielding his eyes with one hand, he looked past the storm-ravaged bushes to the circle above -and made out another tentacle beginning to form in the mass of leaping flames.

I'm getting too old for this.

"Chief!" He hissed into his borrowed radio. "Zena! They're bringing another one through! I think you should spring that surprise of ours early!"

Zena evidently agreed; the checkpoint-barricade shattered with, and, horns trumpeting and engine revving, the armoured limo blasted into the clearing, careening right over top of a shocked cultist in a fox-hole. Spinning neatly around the edge of the circle, spraying dirt lead, it came to rest against one of the monoliths, projectiles and plasma exploding all along its armoured chassis.

Smooth under the rain of fire, the driver's seat rolled down fractionally, just giving Lee enough room to fit the barrel of his gun through. Reinforced several times more heavily than a tank, the car provided the perfect pillbox even as hostile shots sang out up and down it and the officer responded in kind.

One of the most forward-positioned cultists poked his head up to get a view of the machine as it sped by -and Deputy Karl put a harpoon through his temple, the chains silently snapping the corpse back out and through the dense bushes to the angler. None of his allies even noticed the disappearance in the commotion.

With a grim face and a stern reminder, Toob grabbed his pistol in both hands, feeling the disturbingly satisfying kick as plasma blazed through the air, again and again. Not a bolt hit, but the flashes of super-heated mass did little to improve the mood in the ring, as the Diamoni's chanting reached a frenzied pitch and Lee's body count climbed ever higher.
Zena says "Freddie, how fast can you run." Freddie says "Fast enough to be a blur. Why?" Zena says "I have a special delivery for you." She holds up an explosive charge, "Here's the package."
"You have fifteen seconds once you press the button," said Zena. "Set it by that portal, and move as fast as if you heard that the Judgement Beasts had decided to sentence you to Eternal Digestion!"

"Talk about filling a guy with confidence," said Freddie.

"We'll all be seeing that creature if you don't destroy that portal!" shouted Zena. "And I don't fancy seeing any more of those ones!"
"OK, here I go!" Freddie said and pressed the button.

"Don't press it NOW! Oh, just go! GO! Hurry!"

Freddie ran for the portal with the ticking time bomb 12... 11... 10...

And tripped over a root 9... 8... 7...

"Dang it!" He was up and running again, then tossing the bomb into the portal 6... 5... 4...

"RUN, FREDDIE, RUN!" screamed Zena 3... 2... 1...

KA-BOOOOM! The portal exploded in a satisfying blossom of orange and yellow and smoke and fragments raining down... but where was Freddie?

"Oh noooo..." Zena moaned.
Karl high-fived Toob, trusting that the defenders would be too shocked too shoot them both dead.

"Excellent! We got'em!" She sprayed, ducking as a cultist's upper half flew by overhead.

Far below and behind the duo, the Q'Thuluoid staggered into a prized national landmark, smashing the edifice to rubble even as missiles rained down on its fleshy bulk.

"Hooray!" The toad put his paws on his hips, watching the scene in satisfaction. "Now all we have to do is kill this one, and we'll be home free!"
Boromir got up, "The portal! It's gone!" He looks up and sees Freddie, a bit charred but still alive and not too happy. "Guards!" Freddie says "Forget about calling for help, all your Diamoni, forget it. They're all mulch." Boromir grins evilly, "You are forgetting one thing." He reaches up to his helmet "You will attack the ones you helped." But Freddie just stood there, unaffected "My helmet, it isn't working!"
"Hello Clarence!" said a voice in his mind.

"That's not my name," said Boromir.

"It's not? Whatever. The result's still the same," said the voice. "You disturbed me on my day off!"

Boromir turned his head, and found himself looking at the demon, the living embodiment of the Judgement Beasts, Zena! The large wolf walked towards him.

"Please tell me that you're not going to surrender." The wolf smiled, a large toothy grin, one that came straight from the worst of ones worst nightmares. "I missed my supper."
Alone by herself, Mavis tripped over something, a shining stone.

Something about the Rock drew Mavis in, she clutched the rock in her claws.

"Mavis..." Came two voices that the Echidna thought for sure was the Judgement beasts "This rock can free Hybrids from the possessive Diamoni you have to touch their heads with this stone."

"How hard should I touch?" asked Mavis.

"Not hard," said the Judgement Beasts. "If you give them a concussion or crush their skulls, then you touched them too hard."

"I understand."



Toob and Karl danced held hands and danced around and around in a circle. "Ding! Dong! The Q'thulu's dead!"

"Hey!" Zena said. "There were two of them! Let's finish the job before we celebrate."

She held up Boromir with one paw, the huge, muscly k-dragon looking almost doll-like in her massive grip.

"Well? You brought it here; how do we send it back?" She shook him.

"I don't know!" Shouted Boromir. "You destroyed the portal! For all I know, it could be stuck here forever."

"Oh, you had better hope not." Growled Zena, showing the claws on her other hand.
Freddie suggests "Why don't you feed him to it, perhaps he'll have another way to get rid of it."
Zena grinned. "Actually, I've got a better idea."

"And what would that be?" Lee asked.

"I'm going to eat him myself," said Zena. "Open up the back of the limo - I have a pot in there that should fit him nicely, along with plenty of carrots and potatoes, and the salt water from the ocean should make him nice and flavorful."

At this, Boromir fainted.

Zena rolled her eyes at this. "Typical cult leader. Not afraid to send others to get killed, but when their own mortality is on the line, they pass out." She then looked at the others. "Well, what are you waiting for? I want something to eat, and a stew would do you all good."

At this, the others went to the limo, and opened the back, to get what Zena wanted.

"Are you going to eat him?" Lee asked. The offworld human looked a bit green in the face, but tried not to show it. He'd heard about how Animalus justice was dished out to serious offenders.

Zena scoffed at this. "Not unless a judge condemns him to Death," she said. "If he was actively resisting, perhaps. But, in this state, that would be a violation, or two - abuse of powers and murdering a prisoner that had been taken into custody. That being said, he could be trouble when he regains consciousness." Zena sniffed the lizard. "Well, this is good. He has a Safety Pill in him." With that, Zena put the lizard in her mouth, and swallowed him. "That should keep him out of trouble, for the time being." She then looked at Lee. "There's a hundred pounds of dried beef in the back of the limo. Get it."

"You just ate him?"

"No, swallowed," said Zena. "Big difference. He'll be fine for the time being. That being said, when I let him out, he'll wish that I'd eaten him. I doubt that any judge in his right mind would settle for less than the death penalty in this case. That being said, being eaten might be too good for him."
Mavis saw the Giant Wolf "Zena!" She exclaimed "I HAVE SOMETHING!" She held up the glowing stone
"What is that thing?" asked Zena. "It looks like a prop left over from the Dark Crystal movie."

Mavis explained how the stone could free the hybrids from the Diamoni.

"Excellent!" Zena said.
She ducked as yet another armoured vehicle was kicked by an alien foot, football like, arcing over their heads and trailing flame.

"Now, the question only is, 'how we we get close enough?' "The massive wolf said.
"Can't you do it?" Mavis asked.

"Yeah, if I didn't mind being in a coma for a month and a half," said the wolf, as a car went flying by. "It's a real pain to get hit by one of those things."

"But, aren't you like, immortal or something?" Mavis asked.

"Cut me and I bleed," said Zena. "I'm not invulnerable. A good blow could put me out of action for a while. I already take enough painkillers - I don't want to take more."
"Do you have another one of those bombs we used to destroy the portal?" Toob asked.

"Sure," Zena said. "What's your idea?"

Toob shot out his 20-foot tongue and quickly retracted it. "Could be useful, eh?"

"You're going to place a bomb with that giant tongue?"

"Why not? Any reason why it wouldn't work?"

"You'll have to get pretty close to the Q'thulu."

"I know," Toob said. "But I have no wife and kids and I've already written my will, so let's have that bomb, please."
"I think I'm respecting you more every second, old man." Said Zena, handing the device over sombrely. "We'll try and distract it while you attach the bomb. Than everyone runs like hell."

"Let's just hope it doesn't have too much etheric energy and can still be killed." Said Freddy grimly.
Zena gives Toob an explosive charge, "Here it is, now let's distract that monster while you place it. Good luck." Toob hops towards the monster, Zena says "Freddie, lure it closer to us." Freddie runs towards the beast and sees Toob behind a tree and the monster in clear view "Hey Slimo!" Freddie bellowed out "You wanna race?!" and zips back toward Zena with an enraged monster in chase.
"I know of mice tougher than you!" Zena shouted. "You're nothing but a pile of mush!"
Toob pushed the 15 second trigger. The timing better be right. Freddy came running by with the monster in hot pursuit. Toob hopped out from behind his tree with the bomb on the tip of his tongue. His tongue extended faster than the eye could see and plopped the bomb down on the monster. The explosion seemed to happen almost immediately.

Monster parts rained down from the fireball.

"Yuck!" Freddy said, flicking a bit of wet flesh off his arm.

Toob hopped up, singed and blistered. "Dat wath a liddle too clothe. I dink I methed ub my dong."

"Your dong?!"

"My DONG!" Toob said , pointing at his blackened tongue.
"Well, that's disturbing," Said Freddy. "Sorry that you got your dong caught in the blast, man, but you don't have to yell it out to the world."

"Noth ei dong, my dong!" Groaned Toob, slowly rolling up the limp appendage and tucking it back in his mouth.
Zena says "I think he means his tongue. Toob nodded in agreement with Zena, Freddie says "Ahh, you messed up your tongue." Zena says "We'll get your tongue fixed Toob, with the monster slain we officially saved the planet. What do you foresee Mavis, did we miss anything?"
"I don't sense anything," the echidna said.

"That is good news," said Zena. "Now comes the hard part."

"The hard part?" asked Lee.

"Why yes," said Zena. "Got to rebuild the place, restore buildings, fix the road, make sure that the military and police forces are still functional, get a hold of Fleet, see what's going on with the other twenty silenced worlds, drop my supper off at the police station, and make sure that Julia and her family get home safely. After all, I don't know if the communication satellites work, although one can assume so, based on the radio chatter, but one never knows if something got messed with."
"Oh man!" Mavis exclaimed "I've had more adventure in just a few hours then more people do in one lifetime."
"Thame here," Toob said. "Now I need to find thome dong medithin."

"Come to the diner with me," Zena said. "I'll fix your tongue. I'll make oatmeal and cook up some okra."

"Okra?"

"Yes, it's very slimy and soothing. And the oatmeal can coat your tongue. I've got other stuff that's even better. I just have to think of what. Maybe some honey?"
"I thick thath sounds lovely." Grunted Toob.

Lee meanwhile, had decided that with the Q'Thuloid killed, he should return to his ship and investigate the Path of Silence the old fashioned way. If there were no planets left, people needed to know. If there was just a huge radio black-out, people needed to know. And, if it was just a giant space-monster, he needed to be cautious.
"Do you really have to leave Lee?" Zena asked, when she heard the offworlder's decision. "Can't you stay a week or two?"

"I have to, madam," said Lee. "Fleet will be wondering what's going on with the other planets."

Zena chuckled at this. "They can wonder another day or two. Besides, you haven't gone through a very important Animalus ritual yet."

"And, what ritual would that be?" Lee asked.

"Actually, it's two rituals, one that will most likely be held within a day or so." Zena frowned at this. "The funeral of the dead. It would be rude for you to leave before that is over." Then, she chuckled. "Of course, the other one is much more fun." She licked her lips. "I do wonder at how good you'll taste."

Lee paled at this. "Is it alright if I skip both of them?"

"Skipping the first would be rude," said Zena. "That being said, since you don't know the dead, you don't need to dine on their flesh. That's reserved for family and close friends anyways."

Lee sighed in relief. "And the second one?"

Zena grinned at this one. "Why, that would be insulting to me. Besides, I do happen to be holding onto your gold, and you might want that for your travels to these other planets."

"That sounds like blackmail," said Lee.

"Such an ugly word," said Zena. "Do you really want to forfeit a million credits over a fairly simple massage and bath?"

Lee blushed at this. "Well, when you put it like that, I guess I don't have much of a choice there."

Zena chuckled. "Good. We'll do that later. But first, I have to make a stop at Police Headquarters, or whatever they're using as a headquarters, and drop off my prisoner."

"What will they do to him?" Mavis asked.

"Hold him until the judge sentences him," said Zena. "After that, we'll see what happens."
"Was Boromir really following along willingly with what the Diamoni in his head told him to do?" Mavis asked "I got the feeling that all who were possessed by Diamoni didn't really know what they were doing."
"Does it matter?" Zena asked. "If we start letting everyone who commits a crime get off if they claim they were possessed, then there would be a lot of criminals walking free."

"That's different," Mavis said. "In this case we KNOW he was possessed. It's not just a claim."

"Ah, but you said it yourself. How willingly did he go along with it? How much did he fight it? There is no evidence that he fought it at all. And maybe he could be possessed and made to do something because he was already inclined to do it."

"It's complicated," Mavis said.
"If you say so," Zena smiled, the grin tinged with sadness as she fingered one of the many bullet-marks on her car. "Me? I just like seeing people get executed. It really doesn't matter if he's innocent or not."

She looked out over the devastated remains of her city.
"In any case, there'll be a lot of people hungry for blood after this." She sighed, turning a lusty eye on the human in their midst. "Come on Lee; its time you earned your million credits back. I really need that massage after this."
(JD - Zena's not bloodthirsty enough to see an innocent man executed - that's like saying that a cop can't wait to fire his gun into a suspect - not good. Also, she's not into Lee - he's just some offworlder who is under orders to check Animalus out/warn them. And as for Lee giving her a massage, it's more like it's the other way around, with him receiving the Animalus version. That being said, I'll play it as if she's frustrated/angered by the death and destruction that occurred, and is trying to lighten the mood, and could use some relaxation herself, and is somewhat tired.)

"Do you really want that man executed, if he's innocent?" Mavis asked.

Zena blinked at this. "What? No, no. Of course not. If he's not guilty by reason of insanity, or some such thing, he'll need all the help he can get, and wouldn't get executed. That's like killing someone just because they have a cold. That being said, he's going to need a damn good lawyer, and an even better psychologist, to convince a jury that he doesn't deserve to be put to death. I'm not one hundred percent convinced that the lizard was forced into acting the way that he did. I would know."

"How would you know?" Lee asked.

"I took a tour of his mind," said Zena. "Like I said, he'll need a good team of lawyers and doctors to convince people not to sentence him to death. I didn't find any sign of him resisting, or trying to resist, those creatures."

"He could have his trial transferred to another jurisdiction," said Lee. "People from another planet might be less inclined to sentence him to death. Probably send him to a penal colony or some such thing."

Zena paused at this. "That could be arranged," she said. "I'll have to draw up the paperwork for the case to be transferred, but I've got no issues with it. Might have to convince a few others to agree to the transfer, but having someone else on another planet might be the fairest way to handle this issue."

Lee sighed at this. "That's good to know." Then he paused. "By the way, who is to give who what?"

"What do you mean?" Zena asked.

"You said something about me giving you a massage, so that you'd give me my gold back," said Lee. "That and you gave me a creepy look."

Zena chuckled at this. "I must be more tired than I realize. I could use a good massage after this."

"Wouldn't we all," said Freddie, as he rubbed his legs. "I think I sprained something back there."

Zena chuckled at this. "I know of a good spa or two, if they are still standing." She then looked at Lee. "Of course, our little appointment will have to wait. Like I said, I have a prior commitment to Police Headquarters, so that I can cough up my prisoner, and leave him in their care."

"Can you trust them?" Lee asked.

"Yes," said Zena. "They know better than to allow Mob Rule to take a prisoner away from them, even one such as this scum."
Mavis rubbed her snout "I'm tired." She finally said "It is my intention to nap for several hours."

As she walked to a sofa to rest on it Karl said "Sometimes it's not worth worrying about."

"Huh?" Mavis cocked an eyebrow

"How innocent or not so innocent someone is or was." The Angler fish said
"Whatever," Mavis said, and yawned. "I'm too sleepy to think about it right now."


Later, Karl was talking with Detective Toob about it. "Did you ever kill an innocent man?"

"Not one that I knew was innocent," Toob said. "But it happens. I've known cops who thought they were shooting a perp, only to discover that it was an ordinary citizen just going about his business."

"Maybe that cop was too trigger-happy, always ready to solve a problem with a bullet."

Toob shook his head in disagreement. "A cop is putting his life on the line. He knows he will encounter people who will try to kill him. That puts him on edge, makes him nervous, but maybe being alert can save his life. So sometimes he shoots first and asks questions later. It depends on the situation."
Karl nodded sagely, lure bobbing.

"Like if you see a really big fish moving in the water, and you're so hungry you want to shoot it, but it turns out its just a diver... And not even a very tasty one..." She slumped.

Toob gave her a quizzical look.
"Uh, sure. I wouldn't know." He looked at a pair of surviving aliens, the Diamoni glaring around at the other species with obvious repugnance. "On that note, I don't know where we'll even begin repatriating these things."
Meanwhile, Zena was at the Police Headquarters, which was, thankfully, still standing.

"Lost a few good men during this fiasco, at least fifteen, if not more, are dead, and another fifty wounded," said the Commissioner, who was an annaconda hybrid. "It's not easy trying to control crowds of frightened citizens, especially when buildings are collapsing all around. My Counterpart in the City Guard has it worse - fifty confirmed dead, and another three hundred injured, or so that gator tells me."

"And civilians?"

"Only the Judgement Beasts really know," the Commissioner sighed. "I personally counted three hundred dead on the streets. I don't have the figures for those trapped in buildings yet, or the wounded, but I'd estimate at least two thousand, if not more."

Zena frowned. "We've suffered worse before."

"I know the stories about our ancestors, and I've had my share of fights," said the Commissioner. "Still, one doesn't expect an attack by summoned beings from another dimension, or some such thing."

"Never expected that sort of thing myself."

The commissioner chuckled. "Nice to know you don't know everything."

Zena smiled. "I don't, but I do know a lot. And I know I have a prisoner to drop off."

"A looter? I have a few of those."

"No, one of the Cultists that brought this thing here, one of the top ones."

The Commissioner hissed at this. "Make sure he is isolated from the other prisoners. The way things are, they might do the job before he gets a trial. You know how some people get."

"I know."
Mavis slept uneasily on the sofa, she woke up seeing Freddie looking at her.

"Just making sure you're OK." Freddie said

"I was dreaming..." Mavis yawned "I dreamed I was floating in Outer Space...There were Hybrid Spirits all around me..."
"Were they singing?" Freddie asked.

Mavis looked at him. "Singing? Why would they be singing?"

"I don't know. It's just what I imagine a group of floating spirits doing."

"No, they weren't singing. Or dancing. One of them spoke to me."
"Oh. What'd it say?" Asked Freddy conversationally.
Mavis says "The Diamoni are just the beginning, prepare for a new threat."
A while later, Zena, who had eventually arrived at the place, heard the story.

"Ghosts of our ancestors are telling you that this was just the First Step of some plan?" she asked. "Now I've heard of everything."

"You don't believe me?" Mavis asked.

"I've seen a few things," said Zena. "But I've never had a ghost talk to me."
"I don't know why the Ghosts chose to talk to me." Mavis said "I don't know if my nerves can handle anymore attacks."
"What I don't know," Zena said, "is if these are real attacks or whether your over-active imagination is imagining things."

Mavis's eyes flashed. "There you go doubting me again! Why do you have to question my dreams and visions?"

"Maybe because you seem to have so many of them?"

"It's what I do! Is it my fault if I'm prone to dreams and visions? Use your powers to look inside me. You'll know I'm telling the truth."

Zena sighed. "It would only tell me whether you believed what you were saying is true. A person can believe something is true, but that alone is no proof that it really is true."

"Well, check my memories!" Said Mavis. "See them and try and figure out how accurate you think the vision is yourself."

"I don't know; going that deep into someone's mind is pretty dangerous." Said Zena wearily.

"Alright, then; I'll just think of it, and you read my mind." Said the echidna.
Freddie says "Wow, this dream of hers really spooked her, is there really something worse then we just faced?"
(I'm going to introduce a few more characters cannon to my series - Robert Marans, ex-gentleman thief, who, after an agreement with the police on EarthTwo, tried to stay on the right side of the law, only to leave after witnessing, and experiencing, the cruel and illegal practices one genetics company was using. A side-effect of the experiment that was done to him was that he was turned into something resembling a cheetah hybrid, and fused with the mind of a cheetah named King. As for King, he has a long history of his own, as he'd once been fused with William James Hennry, the captain of the ship who had brought the ancestors of Animalus to the planet - seems that a battle with another race left a lot of the people on board seriously injured, and thus a risky procedure was implemented, creating the hybrids. Also, King has the ability to see into the future, to a degree.)

"I don't know," Zena answered. "I've seen a lot of things, just never anything like this." She then tapped a claw on a desk. "However, there's one who might be able to confirm her story."

"Who would that be?" Toob asked.

"An ex-thief I worked with some time ago," said Zena. "Robert Marans." She then began digging through her contact information.

"Who is he?"

"Born and Raised on EarthTwo, human originally. Stole lots of jewels, paintings, the works. He's the sort I admire," Zena said, as she looked through one folder after another. "Preferred to knock out guards and tie them up, or some such thing, unlike certain others I know of. However, he got caught, eventually, and made a deal with the police, by investigating places they couldn't. He stumbled upon something big, and sickening."

"What was that?"

"I heard about that case," said Lee. "He stumbled across an illegal genetics lab, the sort that would transform humans into something like you guys, hybrids."

"They weren't hybrids," said Zena. "I would know. I saw those children. They were freaks, nothing like us. Humans with bat wings, elephant noses, dog eats, cat tails, lizard skin, and, and.... Well, only the Judgment Beasts know the whole list of animals they used. Their animal parts stood out from their human parts, it wasn't like a smooth blending where parts from one animal blended into parts from another, only to fully become the other, like with some of the different mixes I've seen - although the one was a sharp contrast - head and limbs of a wolf, and then the body of a lizard - but that's aside the point. Those kids were freaks, even by our standards."

"What happened afterwards?" Mavis asked.

"He got caught trying to get out," said Zena. "The scientists decided to experiment upon him, and fused him with a cheetah. Things didn't go according to plans. Robert managed to escape, capturing the lead scientist - who had been forced into the business - and with help from the Animalus Embassy, due to some friends of Robert's brother, the managed to find me when I was on another planet working on trade negotiations between them and Animalus. Let's just say, after I heard their story, I got involved, saved the kids, and blew that place to Kingdom Come. The trial of the Big Boss was a pain in the tail, but he was dealt with, in accordance to EarthTwo law, and sent to a very harsh penal colony, with no chance of freedom."

"But, what about Robert, and the kids?"

"Found some very good people to take care of the kids," said Zena. "As for Robert, he moved here, with his new wife, and as far as I know, they're working on child number four."

"Then, why do you want him?" Mavis asked.

"It's not Robert I want, it's King, the cheetah who shares his body with him."

"What?" asked Lee. "What do you mean by a cheetah sharing his body?"

"Hybrids have two spirits in them, or so the stories go," said Zena. "For the most part, they seem to be entwined, almost like one soul, the animal side showing up more in times of stress, or severe shock, or some such thing, doing whatever it takes to keep the body alive - I have first hand experience of that sort of thing. However, in a man-made hybrid, it's like the two souls stay separated, and it's like you're talking to two people at times, or so the stories go, and that seems to be the situation between Robert and King. As for King, if his story is to be believed, he once possessed one of this planet's greatest heroes, Captain William James Hennry - the man that took us to this planet."

"Still, why do you want to see this cheetah."

"Apparently, he can see into the future, at least to a degree," said Zena, "He might be able to verify, or refute, Mavis's claim of another attack." She then pulled out a folder. "Found his contact information."
Mavis stomach rumbled, she was hungry

"May I interest you in some apricot soup?" Asked Toob
"Bleh!" Mavis said. "Who makes soup out of apricots?"

"My grandmother for one," Toob said, drawing back with his head tilted up.

"I didn't mean to offend you," Mavis said. "Maybe apricot soup is pretty good. I have to admit I never had any before."

"I'll fix you a bowl. How about you, Zena?"

"No, thanks, but a cup of coffee would be great."
Toob says "You got it." He turns to Freddie and asks "How about you? Want anything?" Freddie says "Just a glass of water." Toob goes into the kitchen, Freddie asks "Mind of I tag along? In case this King isn't too friendly to other species, being a cheetah myself, he may listen to me."
Zena chuckled. "King's friendly enough, when you don't piss him off, or endanger those he cares about," the wolf said. "Robert's alright - fairly decent. Then there's Victoria, the wife. Genetics Specialist. Knows more about the genome than most want to know." She then looked at Freddie. "As for King listening to you, it's more like the other way around. He'll predict your moves, and use Robert's body to counter them. Throw a punch, and you'll be flung over his shoulder. I've seen him in action."

"Does he respect you?"

"Yes," Zena said. "He's smart enough to recognize an old friend, especially since I was at the funeral for his previous host."

"How's that work?" Lee asked.

"Hill outside of town, site of our annual picnics and official weddings," said Zena. "Turns out that the hill was really the ship that brought our ancestors here. Excavations uncovered a way in, and I was one of those who entered it. Found Captain William James Hennry in a Coldsleep chamber. Problem is, four thousand odd years takes a toll on anyone, even in Coldsleep. Barely said anything before he went into cardiac arrest. Found a recording that told his story. Museum has the site protected, Captain Hennry was given a Hero's Funeral, and a few years later, King ended up in the body of a thief, and so, now you know."
"History is so convoluted." Mavis said "In old Earth literature everything seemed much more streamlined."
"It's up to the writer of the history, isn't it?" Zena said. "I've read some streamlined histories where they try to give you just the essentials. After all, every moment of life is filled with details. It would be impossible to write a history of every single thing that happened."

"That's true," Mavis said. "I suppose what it comes down to is what the history writer thinks is important and includes in his account compared with what he leaves out."

"And a lot of politics in it," Toob volunteered. "An inconvenient truth gets discarded while a useful lie is added."
"So, where's King now?" Asked Freddy as he poured out some coffee. "Do we have to take a space-ship? Space-travel always makes me feel sick."
Zena says "No space-ship necessary Freddie, King lives here on Animalus. All we need is take a ferry to Juniper island, because that's where he lives."
"Why does he live there?" Freddie asked.

"Could be because his wife is working on making hardier plants that can grow in hostile environments," said Zena. "Got a letter about it. Trying to adapt fruits and vegetables to grow in Zero Oxygen/Carbon-Dioxide-type conditions. Don't ask me how that works, but it would make starting colonies much easier. Plant the seeds, wait five years, and when the colony is being set up, plenty of food is already on the planet, and you don't need to worry about needing breathing gear."
Toob leaned over the railing of the ferry and vomited. "Ohhh, toads were never meant to travel in boats."

"Seasick?" Mavis said. "I know a herbal tea that's good for that."

"Look," Freddy said. "You can just see Juniper Island on the horizon. It won't be long now, Toob."

Toob heaved again. "The sooner the better."
Zena, enthused with her own immortal vitality, patted him on the back cheerfully. "Well, just think about how we're getting to the bottom of this! I bet the Path of Silence will turn out to be something really exciting." She removed her hand as the toad vomited again, splattering the water an impressive distance away.

"I just hope it's the kind of thing you can deal with, you know, in space." Said Mavis. "And not on a planet full of millions of people."

"You and me both; when I said 'exciting', I meant 'less collateral damage'. There's more room to manoeuvre in space." She made a face. "There is one thing that bothers me about space-travel, though."

"What's that? You're immortal; doesn't everyone else have more to worry about?" Said Freddy.

"That's just the thing; what happens if the ship blows up, after its passed out of a planetary gravity well?" Said Zena. "How hard it might be to find me, or even how long it might take people to remember that I wouldn't have died, and send out a rescue. I'm only 700. I think about how long I could end up drifting… And I feel as ill as our green friend here."
The ferry soon docks at the Juniper Island harbor, everyone is soon on the pier of the island "Here we are." Freddie says, Toob says "About time too." Mavis asks "Which way do we go now?" asks Mavis.
(Zena, 700 years old? Not that old, yet. Just a little over 500, but I'll go along with it as a joke about her age.)

"The place is about a Length of Distance from the town," said Zena. "Victoria set up her lab in an uninhabited area, so that not too many peoples' farms would have to be cut up for her to have specialized Domes put over the sections of land being used for her experiments."

"Just what all is she experimenting with?" Mavis asked.

"In short, everything," said Zena. "It's not easy to create plants that not only thrive in a boron-rich environment, or some such place, but are also safe to be eaten by Earth-based creatures, including the likes of us."
Since there were no taxis on the sparsely populated island, the group walked. Soon a number of shining domes became visible in the distance. And also signs along the road.

Protected Property
No Tresspassing
Please Do Not Leave The Road
"So, should we just go right in?" Asked Mavis, looking at the unearthly compound in the distance.

"I dunno," Said Toob. "My intuition is telling me something. And that something is that big government labs like this always have really tight security."
A voice says "You, didn't you read the signs? This is protected property!" They all turned around an saw a tiger in a military officer's uniform, "State your business or I'll have you all arrested for trespassing."
"That would be a little tough for you to do," Zena said, as she got in front of the others. "For one thing, I'm the Commissioner of the Wild Beasts, and it wouldn't look good on your record to even attempt to arrest me. Second, in case you've forgotten, the entire planet falls under my jurisdiction. Third, I could have you reassigned to the Polar Ice Caps."

The tiger looked at the large wolf, cautiously. "I still need to see some identification."

Zena chuckled at this. "It's nice to see that people know how to do the job," she said, reaching into a pocket. "Some others would have backed down at that. But you, you still want to make sure I'm who I claim to be."

"I have my orders," the tiger said, placing his hand on the handle of his firearm. "This is highly sensitive material. Can't allow unauthorized personnel to wander around without an escort."

Zena smiled at this. "Relax a bit," she said, as she withdrew her hand, holding onto a wallet. "My Identification."

The tiger took it with his off-hand. He then looked at the I.D., and the badge. He looked at Zena, and handed the wallet back to her, still keep a hand on his gun. "I'll have to contact my superiors, and let them know that you have arrived, Zena."

"Of course."

"Stay here." the soldier then walked over to a viewphone station, still keeping an eye on Zena and the group.

"Smart man," Zena said. "If he ever applies to the Wild Beasts, it will be interesting to see how far he went."

"It's not like we've gone anywhere," said Mavis.

"True, but we'll be in very soon."
"Alright," the tiger soldier said. "They are sending out an escort for you. Wait here. He should be here very soon."

"How long have you been stationed here?" Zena asked.
He shrugged. "Only a couple of months, ma'am. It's seems pretty quiet around here," He caught himself, grimacing. "Well, at least until last night, at any rate. An entire city gone over night because a monster landed on it." He shook his head. "Sounds like some kind of science-fiction movie."

"Yeah, that city will be missed, even if the Q'Thuloid will go unmourned." Said Zena."But I, of course, have seen worse things."

"Like what?" Asked Mavis.

Zena chuckled. "Oh, things too terrifying to talk about at times like this -and, oh look, here comes our escort."
A young zebra hybrid comes in "You must be Zena, Dr. Marans herself wants to see you."
"So, just who is this Victoria Marans?" Toob asked.

"Like I said, Genetic Engineering Specialist," said Zena. "And let's just say that she spent part of that career working in that lab that Robert found, as the scientist in charge of the experiments."

"Why is she still free then?" Mavis asked.

"Let's just say that the Big Boss was the type that fed would-be-dissidents to some genetically engineered snakes," said Zena. "Saw those things - pure animal, and always hungry, and just plain extra large. Don't ask me how he controlled them, but luckily, I have experience killing snakes and crocs, intelligent ones. As for Victoria, managed to convince the Judge to clear her record, as it were."

"Still, we're dealing with two criminals here," said Mavis.

Toob coughed at this. "Tell me that you slept through the lesson in History Class where they mention that a third of our ancestors were Criminals?"

Mavis chuckled nervously at this. "Um, right."

"One tenth Military, one third Criminal, and most of the rest were regular Settlers," said Zena. "Total Population at time of settlement, one hundred thousand, approximately."

"What about the other people on the ship?" Mavis asked.

"Ship's crew, and the scientists involved in cloning the animals," said Zena. "The planet was supposed to be a wildlife preserve after all, Top Secret from what I read. Explains why no one came to the place for four and a half millennium afterwards. Then, about five hundred fifty years ago, the Earth was destroyed, and the survivors fled, many of them eventually coming here, trying to save other colonies. Old Injured Mother ploy - distract the predator from the young, make them follow you, before you turn and strike back, keeping them from finding the kids. This time, the predator found a big surprise waiting for them. After that, lots of buildup, and plenty of fighting. Took a while, but we won the war. I would know that, first hand."

"How?" Mavis asked.

"I personally killed their leader, or, at the very least, made them die faster," said Zena. "Thankfully, the person in charge of that place is on our side."
"Dr Marans will see you now."

Zena, Mavis, Toob, Freddie, and Karl walked through the indicated doorway into a large room with a high ceiling. The floor was a polished red hardwood and the walls were a light sea green color and covered with paintings and photos. Into the room through a different doorway came Dr Victoria Marans. She walked like a queen.
"Hello, doctor, I'm Zena, Commissioner of the Wildbeasts." Said Zena.

"Doctor Marans. I understand that this meeting was urgent, and I hope you'll forgive me if I skip the pleasantries." She said. "Are you here for our expertise in the Q'Thuloid attack last night, Commissioner?"
Zena says "Yes, and my friend recently had one of those dreams that it's just the beginning." She points to Mavis, "I was hoping King may help us."
(Given that Zena and Victoria know each other, they didn't need to introduce themselves, but I'll place it as formalities.)

"Well, Robert's currently at the house, taking care of the kids," Victoria said, as she placed a hand on a slightly swollen belly. "Much like I'm starting to take care of this one."

"I heard something about that," said Zena. "It's funny how time flies, one moment, you're at risk of a multiple life sentence on a penal colony, for illegal genetic experiments on humans, and the next, head of a fairly secretive, yet legal, project working on plants designed to survive in harsh environments, not to mention being married, a mother of three, with the fourth on the way."

"And I owe it to you, Zena," said Victoria. "I'm surprised you haven't made arrangements to see me and Robert sooner, it's been almost ten years."

"I've been busy," said Zena. "Fleet needed me on a planet full of giants, and trust me, they were giants. Some were similar to hybrids in looks, but were five times taller than me, and others were like those horse-men things from Greek Mythology, what do you call them?"

"Centaurs," said Victoria. "Got some knowledge about those things, among others from various Mythologies."

"Right," Zena said. "Like I said, had to deal with them. Had to remove a jerk from power, and replace them with someone more competent and open-minded. Then there's the day-to-day business of running the Hungry Wolf and Snake, letting people go, hiring replacements, repairing/replacing equipment, renovating the menu to changing tastes, among other things. Then there's the Wild Beasts - letting go of those who can't do the job, finding replacements, locating and removing outlaws, dealing with criminals who are outside the reach of local law, that sort of stuff. To say nothing about my personal life, and my various lovers and their families."

"Sounds like you have been busy," said Victoria.
"Very busy," Zena said, "but I like it that way. I would go crazy on a desert island."

"Is that a jab at my isolated life style?" Marans asked with a smile.

"Not at all! I could be happy here as well. We came here to see King."

"He knows."
"Oh, hello King," Zena started in surprise. "Nice to see you again. Please, allow me to introduce my friends here; this is the original group that helped me put down the Q'Thuloid cultists."
Zena introduces King to Toob, Freddie, Lee, Karl and Mavis. King says, "Mavis, explain to me about your dream and why the spirits warned you about the events to come?"
"I don't know the why," said Mavis. "They just found me when I was asleep, and that's when they told me. They said that there would be another invasion."

"That would be like them," King said, as he rubbed his left hand, specifically, the section where the ring and pinky fingers, and the bones that had once been connected to them, had been replaced with a cybernetic prosthetic. "That's when one's mind is more susceptible to hearing voices from the other side. Most physics will instinctively ignore them, or will forget that they'd talked with them, as if it was part of a dream. Keeps one's sanity, I suppose. Otherwise, you'd have to delve deep into a person's mind to make contact with those who are family members of the person, but that's risky business - delve too deep, and you'll get lost." The cheetah man paced back and forth, in a manner that was almost dignified, like that of royalty. "So, another attack. Give me a few minutes, and I'll find out the likelihood of another." With that, the cheetah sat down, and closed his eyes.

Then, he opened them. "What am I doing here?" His voice was different, not as deep, and the accent wasn't like that of someone raised on Animalus. He then looked at Zena, and his eyes widened slightly. Then, he began to laugh. "Don't tell me - there's someone who has a house that needs breaking into, and you can't do it yourself. I could use some excitement."

Zena smiled. "No Robert, I don't need a security consultant - I can handle that sort of stuff myself. How's business with you?"

"Doing alright I suppose, although the only place that I seem to be breaking into lately is this place, and that's getting dull," the ex-thief said. "After all, I know everything about it, know all the ways in, made sure that said entryways were fortified, plenty of guards. You can't even sneak a pygmy mouse through the ventilation system without tripping an alarm."

Zena chuckled. "What about non-hybrid mice? I remember a story where a group of guys burnt down a house by tying a burning rag to a mouse's tail, and letting it go, running through the place, and the neighbor's place."

Robert chuckled at this. "Saw that movie as well, or one version of it at any rate. I liked that movie - I especially like the fact that one of the retired mobsters was really the father of that female cop, but didn't want to tell her about it, until her life was at stake, and saved her."

"Good story."

"Yes, well, that wouldn't happen anyways," said Robert. "Anything with a transmitter gets identified, like those remote controlled vehicles, and they systems can even tell what kind of transmitter it is - so if someone thinks about placing a bug in a remote controlled car, and letting a kid play with it as a distraction - that will get found, and we'll find out who has the receiver for the bug. And as for tying a fuse to a mouse's tail to burn the place down - let's just say that you can't just light up without it being on camera, to identify if it's a threat or someone taking five."

"So, in short, you're getting bored," said Zena.

"That's about the size of it."

"So, did you hear about what's happened on the mainland?"

"An invasion?"

"That's about the size of it," said Zena.

"They coming here?" Robert asked.

"I hope not," said Zena. "That's why we came for King's help."

Robert chuckled. "Explains a few things, including my freakier than normal dreams." He then frowned. "I still see those kids, you should know. I still see them locked up, and I'm unable to do a damn thing about it."

Zen frowned. "I know the feeling. Have you talked to a doctor about it?"

"There's a shrink in town that I see every couple of weeks," Robert said. "Sometimes I can get a good night's sleep, for a few months, and then, out of nowhere, they'll show up."

"Happens to me a lot," said Zena.

"I just wonder how that monster sleeps at night," Robert growled. "He should have been put to death for what he did to those kids."

"Not very well," said Zena. "From what I've heard, they keep him isolated from the rest of the prisoners, even the Lifers and Multiple Lifers. Something about an unusually high number of Death Threats against him, as well as multiple attempts on his life. It seems that even those men, if you could call them that, have standards about what's an acceptable crime, and what's not. Apparently, preforming genetic experiments on children, and turning them into freaks, is not an acceptable crime."

Robert chuckled at this. "That's good to know."
"So what do you think?" Zena said. "Can King verify that Mavis's dreams are the real deal?"
"They will need to sleep together."

"Whaaat?!" Mavis said. "You mean with you, right?"

Robert laughed. "When I said sleep that's all I meant - sleep - but I don't even know if I can get to sleep on demand. Like I said, sleeping has been no easy task lately."

"I'm confused," Mavis said. "I don't understand this King thing you have and how your minds are fused. Are you two people at once? Or does each take a turn?"
"Or are you one personality with traits of both?" Asked Karl.
Freddie says "When I agreed to this trek I was hoping to meat someone of my kind, but Robert here turns out something more." Robert says "What do you mean about that and who are you?" Freddie says "Name's Freddie Fastrack, victim of circumstance because of my cheetah speed."
"I can, sort of, explain Robert and King's situation," Zena said, as she looked at Mavis. "I don't know how often you go to church, or what they teach you in school these days, but hybrids like you and me have two spirits, at the very least. For the most part, our Human spirit, as it were, is in control. However, in times of stress, such as when we are threatened with death at the hands of a mugger, our Animal spirit begins to emerge, and it gives us the strength to run, or to fight. In extreme situations, the Animal side will completely take over and the human side will have no control over anything, as you're running on pure instinct."

She then looked at Robert. "The situation is different for those made into hybrids. If the stories were any indication, talking to one was like talking to two separate people at the same time, like they had split-personality disorder, only in this case, both sides could see, hear, and talk, even to each other."

"Great, bi-polar runs in the family," Toob muttered.

Zena cocked an eyebrow. "Don't tell me you've never been in a situation where you've lost control of yourself, especially if it's been a while since you had sex with someone?"

Toob blushed at this. "Mind not talking about that. It's embarrassing."

"Have you ever been in that sort of situation?" Mavis asked.

Zena frowned. "Yes, after my parents were killed in an avalanche. I don't like to think about it, or what happened afterwards. Let's just say that my childhood was cut short."

"How short?"

"I doubt that I was ten at the time," said Zena. "If the fates had been kind to me, I probably would have been raised as a nomad, as a tribe had found me, and was slowly bringing me back to the surface. But the fates weren't kind to me. A group of outlaws attacked, I was taken prisoner, and what they did to me, I don't dare think about. Took me some time before I truly came back."
Mavis looked at Robert. "So when Robert/King wants to sleep with me, he means he hopes we have the same dream?"

"That's almost right," Robert said, "except I don't have to hope. If I can sleep at all then I will dream your dreams with you. That's partly what keeps me from sleeping easily. Every time I fall asleep I find myself trapped in somebody's strange dream. But in your case it will be on purpose."

"I'm willing to try that," Mavis said. "I've heard about mutual dreaming before. It doesn't frighten me."

"There's some living quarters in the back where we can sleep." Said King/Robert. "If you want to start right now."

"There's no time to lose." Said Zena. "Every moment we wait, the 'invasion' could be getting closer."

"Zena, go get something to eat," said Robert. "You get irritated when you're hungry, and that's not good."

Zena chuckled nervously. "Long boat ride. All they had was fish."

"The cafeteria has more," said Robert. "The meal of the day for carnivores is steak."

"That sounds good."
Mavis meanwhile was thinking

"If the Diamoni just want to kill everything that isn't them, then is the only thing do, to kill all of them?"
"But what if the Diamoni are immortal?" Mavis thought. "Oh, there is just no easy solution to anything. I hope this dreaming thing will work."

"What's that?" Robert asked as he walked back into the room.

"Just thinking out loud," Mavis said. "Do you feel sleepy?"

"Oddly enough, I do. Of course, that big bowl of hot potato soup I just ate helps a lot. Well... let's give it a try. Good-night!"

He lay down on one of the bunks. Mavis shrugged and took the other one. It felt odd to be going to sleep and expecting someone else to show up in your dreams. At first the thought of it kept her awake, but it had been a long day and she soon dozed off.

Robert lay there thinking he probably wouldn't sleep... and then he was sleeping...
Before either knew it, they lay adrift in an astral void. Ten thousand sly stars winked across the inky blackness at them, though the solar lights were outnumbered at least one hundred to one by the spirits of countless deceased hybrids.

"Cripes -Mavis, was it?- but there's a lot of them" Said Robert/King. "Which one spoke to you last time?"

"I don't really remember," Said the echidna, gazing about in awe. "There weren't so many last time."
Suddenly a rabbit spirit emerges in front of Robert and Mavis, "Dire warning, Aminalus will face invaders worse then imagined, worse then what you faced." Mavis asked "What is it? Could you give us a hint?"
At this, King emerged. "Hello, Fluffy. Been a while since we talked."

If a rabbit could blush, Fluffy would have been a deep red. "I keep telling people not to call me that." The rabbit chuckled nervously. "That's what my humans called me, back when I was a real animal."

"Then drop the mystical bull-droppings, and give us straight answers," King said. "Or I'll call you by your full name, which I know includes Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, Peter, Bugs, and Rodger, along with a bunch of others that just translate into cute wuddle furry things."

"I got the message," the rabbit said. "Just because your name is King doesn't make you an actual King."

"I was still picked to be the spokesperson, back when William contacted us after that incident."

"Incident?" Mavis asked.

"Kid got stuck in a cloning chamber, and was accidentally fused with a tiger," said King. "William, who was a psychic, delved into the kid's mind to find out what was wrong - found the boy's soul chained to that of a tiger. In fact, that last bit holds true for all hybrids, two souls stuck to each other, but for the most part, you don't notice this. Now mind you, this happened before the other hybrids were created, before me and William became one. I told him what would soon happen. Then it did, and William had to make his choice - die as a human, or live as something else."

"And I don't regret making my choice." A human man stepped forward.

King smiled at this. "Been a while."

William looked at the cheetah man. "I certainly see a resemblance, especially the spots."

King chuckled at this. "Happened that way."

"Were you really the captain of the ship that brought our ancestors here?" Mavis gulped.

"I suppose you could say that," said William.

"What about the coming danger?" King asked. "My Future Sight's been acting funny lately."

William's face became hard. "It's coming. And it can't be stopped. Not alone."
"I'm not alone," King said. "There are many who will help. I hope that you are one of them."

"Of course," William said. "I'll do what I can, but first listen to what you are up against. Perhaps later you will not be so optimistic."

"I'm listening," King said.
"From here, in the aether," Said Fluffy. "We can see all of space-"

"And a fair bit of time as well." Interjected William.

"-Right." Said Fluffy, giving him an irate look. "The point is, we can see a huge entity, summoned by the Diamoni and their servants on this planet, here." The stars shifted slightly, and Mavis abruptly found herself ogling down on a cold and barren waste of a world. "Unlike on Animalus, the ritual wasn't stopped in time. The Elder Q'Thuloid -what we hesitantly believe this force must be- destroyed all life on this world, and even now it travels to Earth, faster than light, destroying all in its path."

"I see." Said King slowly. "That doesn't sound very good."
Mavis says "This is worse then I thought, I hope Zena has the weapons to handle such a monstrostoty."
(As mentioned in the Intro, Earth was already destroyed, some centuries prior to this story. I'll take the mention of Earth to mean EarthTwo - Not the center of attention Earth was, but still pretty important - to say nothing about the other planets between it and the creature.)

"By Earth, you are talking about EarthTwo?" King asked.

"Of course," said Fluffy. "Only a fool would forget that the Original Earth was destroyed during that spider war."

"The trouble is even bigger then," said King. "There are very few inhabited worlds between creature and the Original Earth's former orbit. But between the creature and EarthTwo - thousands of planets, and billions if not trillions of people."

"I hope that Zena has something that can stop this thing," said Mavis.

"You'd need a Fleet, or two, full of ships," said William. "Animalus only has a hundred warships at any given time. You need thousands upon thousands of ships, at least ten thousand, in order to have a chance. More would be better. You'd need to get word out to all the worlds, cut through the politics, get the men marshaled and put into uniform, and place them right in the path of this thing."
"We'll do whatever it takes," King said. "What other choice is there? Our very survival is at stake."

"I hope you succeed," William said.

"We'll succeed or die trying."
"I think it's time for us to wake up." Said Mavis, pausing in just that when King's paw landed on her arm.

"Hold on a moment." Said the other dreamer. "Will, how long do we have until the Path intercepts the next inhabited planet?"

"Actually, its passing by one right now." Said William, cocking his head as if he could hear the gasp of a millions souls entering the next non-hybrid heaven over. "But there is good news; the physical manifestation of the Q'thuluoid is less than two-thousand units long. Keeping in mind that we are, after all, dead, we think that its greatest danger is in the powerful electromagnetic field it generates. It shorts out all electronics -hence why no-one got off any of the last few planets in time- and causes insanity, paralysis and amnesia in any organism with a bigger nervous system than a flatworm."

"I thought you were talking about good news?!" Asked Robert impatiently.

"The good news," Said the deceased measuredly. "Is that you have more than sixty hours before the next planet comes within range after this last poor world. You can wake up now -we'll try and contact Mavis if we learn anything more."

As Mavis and Robert woke up, they found that Zena and Victoria were having a conversation about old times, Robert says "We got good news and bad news?"
"The good news is that Animalus itself is not in danger," said Robert. "Bad news is, lots of other planets are."

"What did you find?" Zena asked.

"Only that one of those things, one the size of a small continent, just destroyed like a million people," said Mavis said. "And it's going to destroy another planet in less than three days."

"Where was that?" Lee asked.

"Give me a 3-D Universe map, and I'll show you where it is, and where it's going," said Robert.

"Next room over," said Victoria.

Soon, the group was looking at one of the maps.

Mavis was confused. "But, there's nothing in it's path," she said. "It looks like it will miss everything."

"Is this a Real-Time map?" Zena asked.

"It is," said Victoria. "Useful for planning trips and the like."

"Advance 60 hours into the future. Include object's current speed and movement to chart it's likely location."

The map changed.

"There," said Zena. "That's where it will be. That's the planet, and we must save it."

"Why?" asked Lee. "What will happen if we don't?"

"Aside from the obvious deaths, my lover, and her husband and children will be passing by that place then," said Zena. "There's my reason, besides the whole 'A Million Deaths are a Statistic' thing. Then again, the person who casually utters that sort of thing should be shot, as the dead have names, even if we ourselves don't know them." Zena frowned as she said this. "I take it as my duty to remember the face of each person who fell in battle while under my command. Maybe I forget names, or call them by the wrong one, but I remember the face. One should remember such things - separates us from the rest of the animals."

"What about the people in town?" Lee asked.

"They will be remembered, every last one," said Zena.
"Time for me to rejoin the fleet," Colonel Lee said. "I've enjoyed my stay on Animalus. You're a fine bunch of people. Who wants to come with me to fight the Q'thulu?"

No one spoke up immediately.

"Well," said Lee, "I know it's not a decision to make lightly, but I'm leaving within the hour. Just let me know and we'll make room for you."
"Excuse me, sir," Gurgled Karl as he turned to leave. "But I've always wanted to go into space. Will you wait for me while I enlist?"

"You can do it on the flight," The human made a face as he contemplated the nightmarish hybrid. "And you've got just over fifty minutes to pack your bags. I suggest you hop to it."

"Thank-you sir." Said Karl, lure glowing extra-brightly with excitement.
Freddie says "Zena, if I help kill this creature, I want to be someone to be talked about, not someone who Animalus thinks is a cheat."
Zena chuckled. "Freddie, given the fact that you helped to shut the portal on this planet, I doubt that people will be thinking of you as a cheat, especially once word gets out. And Karl, if you want to sign up for Fleet, talk to me."

"You?" Karl asked. "You're a Commander in Fleet as well?"

"The Animalus Branch," Zena said. "They haven't seen much action, as not a whole lot of pirates ply their trade around here, but one of the prerequisites is that they have to train with the City Guard, City Police, and the Wild Beasts, and even work with them. Then again, most of our Fleet Officers and Personnel are in Reserve, and are actually part of those groups, until the Call is placed."

"So, who would be in charge of attacking this thing?" Freddie asked.

"Given that our branch of Fleet is essentially a backwater militia, whose main job is to protect Animalus from External Invasions, not me," said Zena. The wolf looked at Lee. "That falls to the Full-Time Professionals, some of which need to realize that Officer School doesn't teach you everything."

"I've seen my share of action, thank you very much," said Lee.

"I just hope that your Superiors are willing to listen to reason," said Zena. "This won't be a cake walk."
Mavis was feeling weak, the use of her psychic abilities was leaving her drained
"I'll go with you!" Toob said. "I've always wanted to go into space every since years ago when my uncle took me to the movies to see Toads In Space. It opened my eyes to the possibilities. It's the reason I became a detective."

Karl was puzzled. "So you could go into space one day? I don't see the connection."

"No, so I could carry a gun. All the toads in Toads In Space carried guns and knew how to use them. I was pretty sure I would never get to actually go into space, but at least I could shoot a gun. And now look, the day has come when I CAN go into space."

"You could have taken a spaceship ride anytime you wanted to if you bought a ticket."

"Well... you know... job commitments and so on... there never really was a good time to do it. But now it's for a good cause!"

Toon asks "How about you Freddie, care to join in?" Freddie says "Hmm, I don't know. Never been to space but..." Freddie's phone began to ring, "Hello, Fastrack delivery service. Okay, I'll be there as soon as possible." He hangs up "Sorry, I have to take a pass. Important delivery."
Zena chuckled. "I'm glad someone has their priorities straight," she said. "Now to get back to the mainland."
"Hey, Karl!" Toob said. "Want to bunk together on the flight?"

"Do you make any noises when you sleep?"

"Not that I know of."

"OK, then."
The frantic trip back to the mainland seemed to alternately fly and drag by with glacial speed. Zena and Lee were in communication with Fleet superiors constantly, using whatever reputation and authority they had to mobilize troops to stop the Q'Thuluoid.

Before she knew it, they were back in the dmaged city, and Karl found herself sinking into the harbour. Around her swirled murky water choked with the debris only the dockyards of a major city can generate, even as she at last touched down in her familiar underseas grotto. Bare seconds later, and she was kicking back to the surface, go-bag in one flipper and the house-key still in the other.
Freddie waved goodbye to the group as he hopped onto his bike to pick up an important package, tools to help repair the damages.
Zena took a look around Grass City. The place had been home for almost sixty years - one of the very few constants in her life. Now, a large portion of it was ruined. Bandit attacks were rarely this bad - most groups lacked the means and weapons to do so.

"So, I hear you're going Offworld to deal with another of these things," said the Commissioner of the City Guard.

"Yeah," Zena said. "One the size of a moon."

"Good luck killing it," the croc said, stopping to let a group of First Responders cross in front of him at an intersection. "I'll be glad when things get back to normal."

"It will take a bit of work," said Zena.

"A little paint, and a wet towel," said the Croc. "That and a lot of sweat."

"If only certain other things were that easy," Zena said, as she noticed a hand sticking out of a pile of rubble. She dashed over, and put an ear on the pile of debris. "I need some people here!" she yelled. "Got a live one!"

At this, a number of people showed up, and started removing the broken stone and bricks, and other things.

Zena looked at the men. They came from a number of backgrounds, military, police, white collar, blue collar, and there was even a few she recognized as gang members. She watched them clear the pile, revealing the victim, or, technically, victims. One was an elderly female human, barely alive. The other, which had been covered by the old woman, was a baby, and it was screaming like a banshee. Zena smiled at this. Even in the midst of tragedy, there was still hope.

"Someone best take care of that baby," she said.
Just then Zena got a call on her phone

"Zena it's me." It was Lee "Considering the circumstances, Earth Three is sending William Bonny to aide you."

"Billy the Kid?" Zena asked

"Name's the same, but's no outlaw, he is a powerful Psychic Soldier, barely reached 18 and he's already reached prodigious levals you might wish to introduce him to the Echidna."
"I'll do that," Zena said. "I hope they get along."

"Any reason why they shouldn't?" asked Lee.

"No. Just that Mavis has not been quite herself lately."

"I never understood what that meant - not being yourself. Oh well. Let's hope they get along fine."
"It's been a while since I studied the Psychic Corps," Said Zena, grunting as she braced herself against a slab of rubble. "How does command think he can help us against something that plays billiard with planets?"

"Your guess is as good as mine," Said Lee. "Maybe he can help neutralize the thing's amnesia field."

Freddie sped through the street barring obstacles but a pack of unsavory looking wolves, "What do we have here?" said their leader. "A cheetah bike messenger, I'll take that package." Freddie says "Unless your the lead construction worker Jeffery, I don't think so." The leader says "The name's Alpha, and if you don't give me the package, I'll just take it whether you like it or not." Freddie says to himself, "I should've asked Zena for a sidearm before I left." Before Alpha got closer, he got hit by a rock. "Ow, who dares chuck a rock at me?"
"That would be the fox next to me," said a deep voice.

Alpha turned his head, and gulped, as Zena showed up, with a large group of people.

"You have ten seconds to leave, or else you'll be finding yourselves part of the clean-up efforts. One, two...."

The would-be thieves started running.

"Not even worth chasing," the large wolf said. She then looked at Freddie. "Those the construction supplies?"

"Um, yes."

"Good." Zena turned her head. "Frank! It's for you!"

A lion emerged from the crowd. "Good. Now things can get started."

Freddie looked at Zena. "How did you know I'd be here?"

"I didn't," the wolf said. "I was looking for looters. You'd think that, when a lot of people are in trouble, some folks would put aside personal greed, and help, but I suppose you've got to have the worse type of thieves, who try to take advantage of disasters."
"Carpenters on my right, plumbers on my left!" yelled the lion. "The faster we get this place rebuilt, then the faster we'll all be back to our normal."

"That's what everybody really wants, isn't it," Freddie said. "A normal life."

"Not everybody," said Zena. "Look at Toob and Karl jumping at the chance to go into space. Of course, if you look like they do it's kind of hard to live a 'normal' life."
"Speaking of which, I imagine that the ship should be prepping for take-off soon." Said the canid.
"If you're still interested in signing up, might be able to take you along," said Zena.
"Yes, I'm still interested," said Toob, "unless you think I should stay here."
Zena looked around at the remains of Grass City, squinting against the overwhelming pall of smoke and dust. In some places, the haze was so thick that the very ground was hard to see -judging by the distant screams of pain and grief, however, that only served as a mercy.

"This place needs everyone it can get to help," She said. "But things will be a thousand times worse on every planet the Q'Thuluoid draws near. And to stop it, we'll need every body that can hold a gun."
"Well, with any luck, maybe we'll be able to slow it down long enough for the rest of Fleet to show up in time to save that planet," Zena said.
Mavis woke up from a fever dream, she found herself looking into the eyes of a dark haired and handsome Human

"Sorry! Did I startle you?" Said the Human "My name is William Bonny."
"What do you want? Why are you here?" asked Mavis.
"I'm looking for Zena," Said the human. "Are you Mavis? I don't meet many non-canid psychics."
Freddie is over at City Hall along with other volunteers and he sees his rival Robert is part of it. A city planner, A Tiger named Jefferey. "Thanks for coming." He started, "The attack left the city in near ruins and it's up to you all, to make sure our builders are supplied with the right tools. Your jobs is to deliver them to the right workers. Each of you will be escorted by police to make your protected. The first volunteer is Freddie Fastrack, you will deliver..."
"We have cinder blocks for you."

"That will be fun," said Freddie.
Mavis looked at the Human William Bonny

"Why are you here?" Mavis asked

"I'm a special kind of Super Soldier with Genetically Engineered Psychic abilities." Said the Boy
"What kind of psychic abilities?" Mavis asked. "Mind over matter, mind over time, or mind over other minds?"

"A little bit of all of them," said William Bonny. "For example, watch this."

He held an orange in his hand and while Mavis watched it rose slowly up several inches until it was floating, then it disappeared.

"Mind over matter," Mavis said.

"Nope. Mind over mind. That was an hallucination I caused you to have. There was no orange."

"I hope you can do more than just that kind of partytime magic trick."
Oh, I can do much more. Said the human in her mind, thoughts carrying a degree of smugness words could never properly convey. I only hope this latest bug they want me to squish is bigger than the last one.

Mavis thought of the dream, drifting in the void, surrounded by those countess spirits, and able to sense their unease in a way Robert could have never fully appreciated. There had been something disquieting in realizing that the dead were terrified.

"Oh, its a big one -I'm sure you won't be disappointed." She said aloud. "In the meantime, would you mind using those mindpowers of yours to help us clean up the city, before you report to Zena?"
Freddie struggled a bit as he t0wed a load of cinderblocks to a crocodile construction worker "Here's your blocks." Freddie said as he breathed a sigh of relief, The crocodile looked over to Freddie and said "Ahh yes, put them over there." He points to a empty spot next to a pan of water and a bag of cement.
Freddie groaned as he walked over to pick up a cinderblock but before he can touch it, the cinderblock floated from the bike to the designated spot. Both Freddie and the crocodile was amazed "You're psychic?" asked the crocodile, Freddie answered "No, that's not me."
"Really?" the croc asked.

"It wasn't him," said a fox. "It was someone else."

"Who?" the croc asked.

The fox closed his eyes, only to open them in shock. "It was a human, but, he's no ordinary psychic."

Zena, who had been watching the scene, looked at the fox. "I know who it was. Pass this message on to the nearby foxes, and those with fox-blood - if they see objects moving around by themselves, they are not to trace the psychic energy back to the owner. Tell them that this is the request of the Commissioner of the Wild Beasts."

The fox gulped, and then closed his eyes for a moment, before opening them again. "It's done."

"Why didn't you pass on the message yourself?" Freddie asked. "I mean, you are a psychic, right?"

"It's like a party line, with a lot of voices," said Zena. "Problem is, when I get on the line, I override everyone else, meaning that important information might not be able to get out in time." She chuckled. "Personally, I prefer to listen."
William was still talking with Mavis

"One of the Humans theorized that the Reason I have Psychic abilities despite having no Fox Blood is that my Psychic abilities are a Mutation, a Natural Extension of the Echidna's electromagnetic abilities."

William looked at Mavis "I am seeing some incredibly vibrant Aura Energy around your Snout..." He reached out and touched her snout, Mavis jumped stratled
"Yes, "William said. "Your snout is acting like a biological amplifier as well as source of psychic energy. Think of it as a psychic bullhorn."

"A bullhorn?" Mavis asked.

"You know. One of those cone-shaped things you hold up to your mouth to speak louder. You never saw one?"

"Only in cartoons."

"But you get the idea?" William said.

"I guess so. You think I have a mutated snout?"
"From what I'm reading, most of your psychic energy is emanating from your snout," Said the human. "On most psychics, its strongest closer to the temples."
With Psychic help, the repair work went shorter and 3 days time the city looked a little better as Freddie delivered pipes to a bear plumber. "Hardly believe that this city was a mess 5 days ago, now look at it?" Explained the bear, "No more wreckage." Freddie says "Yeah, now things are starting to get back to normal."
(Hertz, I hope that your chapter means that Freddie stayed on Planet Animalus, while everyone else when to the "Planet in Jeperdy" that is some distance away, as the other planet would soon be attacked.)

While the reconstruction was going on, Zena, and the Amilalus branch of Fleet, was nearing the targeted planet. The wolf was in constant contact with the other ships from the other planets.

"Howling Wolf, this is the captain of the Ever Victorious," said one of the ships.

"Sounds like a Herogan," said Zena, as she picked up the com. "Ever Victorious, this is the Howling Wolf. What's your status?"

"I have five hundred ships with me, each crewed by a thousand warriors," said the captain of the Ever Victorious.

"Good to hear," said Zena. "May Glory be yours in Battle."

"And may your Honor Shine Bright!"

Zena chuckled as she hung up the com. "That's good to know."
Toob and Karl were in what was known as the viewing room of the ship. It was a name that dated back to the days when early spaceships had a room with a huge plexiglass bubble for a ceiling where travelers could get a panoramic glimpse of space. With modern ships it was a virtual reality simulation giving the illusion of floating in space. The view was superb and could be adjusted to be a viewpoint away from the ship so that the ship could be seen as it glided through space.

Toob had requested a view of the 500 ships accompanying the Ever Victorius.

Karl emitted a long whistle of astonishment. "That's impressive!"
She pulled the vision back, feeling a familiar feeling of oppression she usually only felt when she dived deep to hunt fish, as the 501 vessels dwindled to flecks in the blackness with not a single other visible object appearing. Each of the vessels was built like a blimp, with facilities to fight a war and house a crew of a thousand or more indefinitely taking up only a small percentage of each craft. It was strangely depressing to see each of the behemoths reduced to the size and significance of so many bacteria, compared to the blackness surrounding them.

As they watched, the ships began fanning out, smoothly unfolding from cruise formation into a colossal semi-sphere, laser batteries brightening one by one. Mighty pulses of laser light flashed and flared and vanished among the stars, lost to distance, as the ships fired one after another, laying down a constant barrage in shifts. Within the next thirty hours, travelling at light speed, the huge bursts of weapons fire would strike the intercepting Q'Thuluoid, hopefully slowing it down or killing it.

"Come on," Said Toob as the Howling Wolf began to neatly glide into position in its own part of the hemisphere, batteries warming up some hours before the time to fire would arise. "They'll want us to help prime the lasers."
The Q'Thuluoid finally showed itself, but unfortunately it's a lot bigger then the one that was killed on Animalus. A cosmic giant to be precise. Toob says "Whoa, that's big."
"Size doesn't mean a thing, unless you know how to use it," said Zena.

"What's the plan?" Karl asked.

"Very simple," said Zena. "We hit the damn thing with everything we have, including the kitchen sink."

"What?" Toob asked.

"Space fighters, and the ship's guns, including the Big Ones," said Lee.

"Hopefully one of the Big Ones will do the job," said Zena. "Those destroy planets."
"Planets come in different sizes," Toob said. "This thing seems to me to be more of a Jupiter than an Earth."

"It's even bigger than that," Lee said, "but we can handle it. Our fire will be concentrated on one area of it. The energy will be so intense that a fusion reaction will begin there. With any luck at all this thing will destroy itself after a little push from us."

"Do you know for sure that's how the Q'Thulu will react?"

"No. It's all hope and wishes backed by the mightiest fleet of energy weapons ever pointed at a target."
"Mavis, I thought you said this thing was only the size of a continent!" Said Zena, as a million guns blazed merrily away. "I've stood on planets smaller than this!"

"It's probably been feeding on the psychic energy of the worlds it has consumed." Said Toob knowingly. "A dozen planets full of millions of sentient minds would have been like a buffet to it."

"When did you become the Q'Thuloid expert?"

The toad chuckled. "Let's just say that I've been doing some research since the events in grass City."
Karl says "If that's the case, let's see if we put it on a crash diet." Toob asks "And how do we do that?"
"You get a huge knife with a very sharp blade, and begin removing sections of it, piece by piece, and burning it," said Zena. "Explosives did fairly well for the one on Animalus. With any luck, something similar will do the trick, especially when the rest of Fleet gets here."

"How long will that take?" Karl asked.

Lee took a look at a timepiece. "Two more hours."
"I'm ready." Said William
[Which William? William James Henry? Or William Bonny?]


"Two more hours!" Karl said. "By then the Q'thulu might be as big as a solar system!"

"Don't let fear grip your mind," Lee said. "It would have to violate the principles of physics to grow that big that fast."

"Maybe it can do that!" Karl said.

"If it can then all hope is lost and we are all doomed."
"Don't worry, guys," Sadi Zena, leaning out over a console. "According to instruments, it's slowing down. I think the barrage is having an affect."
Meanwhile the repairs to the city are completed and in celebration, a Mayor's ball is being held at the Hungry Wolf and Snake Tasting house, "I like to congratulate to those who helped with the repair work, that Q'Thuluiod, the city was nearly destroyed, now thanks to all of you, the city is back in one piece, I wish Zena was here to look at the final results but she's busy fighting that intergalactic monster along with her volunteers. I also wish to thank both Freddie Fastrack and Robert the Rhino who put their differences aside to help with the clean-up efforts, do you both have anything to say?"
"Just one," said Freddie. "When is this party going to start?"
(Author's Note: It was William Bonny)

WB was preparing himself to Psychic Attack the Alien Menace when he felt a sharp pain in his head
Toob held his breath as he watched the holographic projection of the Q'thulu hanging over Zena's console. "It doesn't like those energy beams."

The Q'thulu writhed and roared and twisted this way and that, but the auto-tracking mechanisms of the fleet's weapons kept them trained on their targets.

A technician at one of the other consoles said, "Reaching critical level," and Zena muttered, "Come on, come on, blow your top, you slimey intergalactic thug."
Behind her, William Bony collapsed, spasming as smoke poured from his eyes and ears.

"Captain, in less than twenty-two minutes we shall be inside the insanity vortex," Called a rating from another console over the sound of medics grabbing up the seized psychic.

Mavis stared at William in rising horror -or, more accurately, into the psychic void where his mind had vanished. Whatever violently thrashing form the medics were hauling off to the sick bay, it was no longer the human, William Bonnie. Before she could call out, a sharp pain sliced itself across her brain.
Mavis winced in pain but she knew if she let go, the Q'Thuluiod could go on a rampage. "Must....uhh... not...let...go!"

The fleet finally arrived, in one of the ships, A beaver first officer says "There it is captain and look at the size of it."
(I hope you were referencing the number of ships coming from the other planets, as only Animalus ships have Hybrids.)

Zena chuckled at the sight. "A thousand ships for Helen, seven thousand for Normandy, and now, a hundred thousand to fight this thing."

"Zena, I'm getting some sort of chatter from one of the ships," said the communications officer.

"On speaker."

The officer pressed a button, and soon, the sounds of some sort of clicking and squeaking were heard, like as if a bunch of bugs were talking, or something.

Zena chuckled at the sound. "Spidarians. Always nice to hear from them."

"You understand that noise?" Mavis asked.

"They prefer to use their Native Speech around each other, but they'll switch to Standard English when in the company of non-spider types." Zena then got on the com. "It's nice to hear that the Queen's going to help us out with our psychics. However, I do request that you stick to Standard English when on the coms. Most people here don't understand your chatter."

"We hear you, Savior of Web," said a squeaky high-pitched voice. "Let's ensnare this thing, and wrap it up tight."

"Need I remind you, we're here to destroy it, not take it home for dinner," said Zena.

"I apologize," said a much clearer voice. "His Standard is not as polished as mine is."

Zena chuckled at this voice. "Been a few years since I've heard from you, Jody."

"At least twenty. As my communications officer said, I'm hear to help shield your psychics from this thing's abilities."

"That will save me a headache," said Zena. "You just make sure that they don't start trying to spin webs of their own."

A strange clicking sound his heard over the coms, like laughter almost. "I understand."

"Who's Jody?" Mavis asked. As she talked, she felt the presser on her mind starting to ease.

"The Queen of Web," Zena said. "Thought that I mentioned her to you back when we first met."

"Feels like a few months have happened since then."

Zena chuckled. "I know the feeling."
"The Queen of the Web," said Zena, "has the psychic power of a million spiders."

"I didn't know that," Mavis said.

Toob, ever eager to share his vast store of encyclopedic knowledge, said, "Did you know even the original spiders of old Earth had psychic powers? It wasn't enough just to build a web. Most insects weren't so stupid they would fly into a web and get eaten. So the first spiders had to cloud their minds with images of paradise and food and mating. The befuddled flies and moths thought they were going to get a seven-course-dinner and afterward a roll in the bed, but instead, they got wrapped tight in silk and had their body juices sucked out."

"Thanks, Toob," Karl said, "for sharing that."
"I feel like my mind has been rolled up and had the uices sucked out of it," Said Mavis woozily.

"And now I'm all hungry." Said Karl. Then trying to make conversation in the tense bridge, the atmosphere of which was decidedly fidgety as the monstrous behemoth crept closer. "I hope Will recovers at some point."

"Captain -eight minutes before the insanity field hits us!" Said another officer, unable to resist the urge to glance at Zena.




Zena says "Then it's time to destroy it, quickly weapons officer power up the main guns."

On the lead spider ship, Jody's first officer says *Are you sure we can't wrap that thing and bring it back to the planet to dine on it?* Jody says *Zena said that thing is a threat to all life so we must destroy it, weapons officer prepare the venom guns and relay this to all our ships.*

Author's note: the asterisks isn't a typo, they are translated from spider speak.
"Just, how well do you know this Jody?" Mavis asked.

"Know her quite well, saved her life once," said Zena. "Then again, she'd previously saved my husband's, during the war on her planet."

"War on her planet?"

"Let's just say that there was a Civil War on Web, and let's just say that her sister was one mean bitch," Zena said. "And let's just say that they were divided on how they saw humans - potential trading partners, or slaves/livestock."

"Livestock?"

"You don't want to know," Zena said. "But let's just say that if you ever see them feeding, and you feel squeamish, just be glad that they follow Jody."

"Did the other side eat people?"

"Yeah, and not for survival or funerary reasons," Zena said. "Especially the queen. Let's just say that she isn't spoken of, except as a warning. Thankfully, she's dead now - killed her myself."

"You killed her?" Mavis asked.

"Yeah, and that's one memory I'd rather not remember either," said Zena. "Took forever for my fur to grow back properly after being cocooned in that web, and it needed to get cut to get the webbing out."

"So, Jody's friendly?" Mavis asked.

"Yeah, so long as you're not a male Spidarian during Mating Time, and she wishes to have children," said Zena. "She takes after the Black Widows in that regard. Then again, it's how she makes sure she'll have offspring. Most regular Spidarians don't need to do that. Royals though, well, they need a little extra help there."

"They eat their mates?" Mavis asked. "Must make finding a boyfriend difficult."

"Actually, the males consider it to be the Greatest Honor they could ever have, and the body is treated with the utmost respect afterwards," said Zena.

"Sounds strange," said Mavis.

"Try looking up your history," said Zena. "Lots of cultures, lots of different customs."
(When is this campfire going to end? I'm getting fatigued)

William Bonny was being looked at by a Pig Hybrid Nurse

"The Enemy Alien attacked his brain..." Said Nurse Berkshire
"Three minutes before the insanity field hits us!" yelled an officer.

"Damn it!" Zena said. "What's keeping those guns from firing? What's the hold up? It's life or death here, people! No time for glitches!"
(In fairness for the battle being so ponderous, the ships are using lasers, so it probably takes hours for them to hit the Q'Thuluoid after being fired.)

"Wait! I can't detect its psychic presence any more!" Said Mavis.

"Then why is it still out there?" Asked Zena.

"Captain -we are now square in the insanity field... And actually we seem about as sane as reasonable." Said another crew member hesitantly.

"Well, did the thing switch it off or something?" Said Zena. "It's still coming, but Mavis said that she couldn't detect it."

Everyone present on the bridge stared at each other for several long, uncomfortable minutes. "Maybe-" The Q'Thuloid fell apart, thick green slime scattering to the solar winds.

"Oh. Time delay," Said Toob in relief. "I guess it took that long for the light from this thing's death reach us and enter our eyeballs."

In the medbay, the nurse was humming to herself as she mopped up the remains of William Bonny's famous, super-powerful brain. The organ had rapidly melted out of his ears and now lay as so much slime smeared across the gourney and floor.
(Let's wrap this campfire up, because I'm running out of ideas for it.)

The doctor checked William Bonny and went to the nearest communications console "Captain, William is..."
"I know," said Zena, cutting the rest of the doctor's speech. "I felt it happen."

"What happened?" Mavis asked.

Zena frowned. "William Bonny of Earthtwo is dead. Seems that thing out there fried his brain before Jody could get to him in time."

Tears came to Mavis's eyes. "Why? Why him? He was so nice."

Zena sighed. "There's no real answer. He did his job." She looked at the echidna. "Were you close?"

Mavis blushed. "Well, it wasn't like we really did anything. I mean, we were friends. But, still.... well, you know. I mean, a girl likes to think about such things. Well, he did sort of help me out with a few things, or tried to."

"Be lucky that you knew him in the time you did," said Zena. She looked out the window. "Let's dock with one of the Earthtwo ships, so that they can take him home. After that, let's get back to Animalus - there's still some cleanup to do, to say nothing about the funeral there."
Mavis licked WB with her long sticky tongue and then left
"Ew!" Toob said. "Did you see her lick his corpse? And with his brains all over the floor too."

Zena aimed a critical look at Toob. "You're sophisticated enough to know that different species have different customs."

"I know that long sticky tongues are for sex and capturing prey, not for licking dead bodies. Oh, gross! I think I'm going to throw up."

"Well, some people find THAT offensive," Karl said.

"Alright, people," said Nurse Berkshire, "It's been a hard battle and everyone is pretty strung out, some even demanding that it end right now. I have some anti-fatigue pills for those who feel they need them."

"I never get tired of anything," Zena said.

This struck Toob as funny and he started laughing. After 30 seconds of hearty laughter, he realized everyone was staring at him. He gulped down one last laugh. "I just had a thought. Maybe we really DID enter the insanity field and now we are all insane."


"I still can't tell the difference," Shrugged Karl happily, salivating as WB's bowels released in death. The difference in odour between a healthy body and one starting to decompose, eaten from the inside out by its own stomach bacteria, was like flipping a switch. Intoxicating.

Wistfully, she gave the cadaver a side-long glance and flopped back up to the others, who had gotten ahead of her as they returned to the bridge. They'd be going back to Animalus soon, and then it was back to sleeping with the fishes -at least until the next group of extra-dimensional monsters broke through to eat reality.

***
Soon the Howling Wolf was clamouring with familiar noise and activity, as the crew tended the fried lasers and prepared at last for the long ourney home.
Soon enough, the group was back on Animalus. The next day was the funeral for those who had died in the fight against the creature. Zena had been selected to give a speech. The large wolf walked up the the platform, wearing the green parade uniform of the Wild Beasts, which was only worn on special occasions, all decked out in the various medals she'd earned over the years.

The wolf sat in a special chair, accepted a stack of paper from an assistant, pulled a microphone up to her, and placed her glasses on her eyes. She looked at the paper in front of her, and then handed it back to the assistant. Then, she spoke.

"There's a saying out there; the more Death one sees, the more they get used to it. I say that person was wrong. I've lived a long time, seen a lot of people I know die, some in my own arms, and I'm not used to it. Every time I see a young man die, I wonder about the possibilities, the people that they knew, their children and loved ones, and who all they impacted. Death is not something to get used to. The moment that one does get used to it, they lose something of themselves. The only time you should be used to it, is when you are ready to face the Judgement Beasts yourself, and not before then.

"We gather here to Honor those who died. They are your family, friends, and neighbors. They have names, loved ones, and more. History may forget them, their names not included in the future stories of our planet, but we remember them in our hearts. It is there that they live on, where the things that they taught us have meaning. Sometimes it's hard to talk about such things, especially when no one else is there to share the memories of that person. Many of those who live long lives have to deal with such things, such as when we talk about someone who lived a hundred years prior, or more, with a fondness that others don't understand. It's hard to translate such feelings into words, but we all understand them nonetheless. These people will be locked tight into our memories, long after others have forgotten."
Mavis sat silent, her mind was focused on one thing....Writing this all down in a book so future generations would know
Toob felt a swelling in his heart at Zena's stirring words. Despite the destruction, carnage, emotional trauma, and loss of life, this assignment on Planet Animalus had gone reasonably well. He had experienced worse. Now it was time to move on again. He wondered where it would be? What did the future hold?
Karl's lure dimmed, fading completely in the light of day as the hybrid stared straight ahead at the seat in front of her. So many people killed, so many old, irreplaceable buildings destroyed, never to be rebuilt the same. Would Grass City ever return to normal?
Although he wasn't part of the crew, Freddie felt sorry for those who died during battle, he bowed his head as a tear trickled down his eye.
(Time for the closings - sum up what's going on with your character after the battle and such.)

And so, things slowly returned to normal, or at least as normal as things could be on a planet full of half-human half-animal creatures, more or less.

Zena went back to work, running the Hungry Wolf and Snake, and commanding the Wild Beasts, who were seeking the remains of the cult. As for the others, well.......
Mavis went home...To write a book
Toob got a special delivery letter. Yeah, the real deal, an old-fashioned envelope with a piece of paper inside it, a retrogram. His eyes lit up with delight. "Oh goody! I've always wanted to go there! It's like living in a museum, they say."
Karl carefully put away the civic medal the city had given her for being one of the recognized firsts to disrupt the cult, making sure it was secure as she began to dive into the harbour's depths.

After a few minutes' pit-stop to put away the precious adornment, she was sinking once again into the cold and dark, swimming out far into the bay, harpoon gun in hand as she prepared to hunt the monsters of this familiar, alien ocean.

For all that had changed on the surface, restaurants and cafes still wanted their fresh-caught sea food, recent monstrous rampage or not. Perhaps it was significant in of itself; symbolic that, despite death and calamity, life ultimately did go on. Grass City... Would endure.
Freddie still delivers packages, but he was recognized as one of the best delivery cats so he was hired by one of the biggest parcel services on Animalus and drives one of their trucks now.
And this, this Tale of Animalus draws to a close.
Thank you for participating in my first campfire. Perhaps we'll do another.

The End!

© Copyright 2014 BIG BAD WOLF is Howling!, Twiga, Steev the Friction Wizurd, Hertzman, jdstephens, (known as GROUP).
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