A thousand cats, and they were all underfoot.
They purred like a swarm of really big bees. Or really small motorcycles.
I slogged through them, trying to make my way to the boys.
“What…” said Christian. After a second he said it again.
“Bleep,” said Curly.
“I’ll explain later,” I answered. “Maybe. Where’s that booth?”
We ran into Motorama, which was this gleaming white motorized vision of the future. Conveyor belts that bring you toast in bed. Robots that brush your teeth. Mostly the future was all about never having to move your arms. But I suppose you time-capsule people know that already. How’s it working out?
The Gorg were beating their way through the foam as we approached the automated bathroom. There were Pigs streaming out of it, but I expected that. If things were going according to plan, there were Pigs spreading all across the earth, great herds making miniature stampeding noises from each and every booth the Gorg had had the nerve to put on my planet.
“J.Lo!” I shouted into the mouthpiece. “We’re at a telecloner on the other side of the park! Can you bring us to you?”
Sch “Hold on,” J.Lo answered. “Did your booth justnow stop cloning Pigs?”
Kkc “How for now?”
“Yes! That’s it! That’s the booth!”
The booth’s hum died down and stopped, and a wheeeeee noise came in its place.
Shh “Alls ready.”
“You,” I said to one of the young boys. “In the booth.”
He couldn’t know what was going to happen, so he did as I asked. There was a spark and a crackle, and he was gone.
“Who’s next,” I said. “Go.”
“Bleep! What’d you do to Tanner!” said Curly.
“Go find out,” I answered, and I pushed him into the booth. When he disappeared, too, the other boys began to back away from me.
“Do what she says,” said Christian, and then he teleported by example.
I was the last through the booth. It was a crowded bathroom on the other side, with about fifty cats and eight boys and Mom, all with the same look on their faces. I hugged Mom. The Pig production started up again behind us.
J.Lo was sitting on one of the urinals with his legs pulled up, snacking.
Chchk “You look terrible.”
“You don’t have to use the walkie-talkie anymore, J.Lo. What are you eating?”
“Cake,” he said, and plucked another toilet deodorizer from the neighboring urinal.
“We should shut the booths off at some point,” I said. “With any luck, the Gorg will want to use them to leave.”
“YES,” came a voice behind me. “PLEASE. LET US LEAVE.”
The thing that spoke was almost unrecognizable as a Gorg. There were others behind him, and they were all fat inflated raspberries with limbs. Their guns dangled uselessly from their swollen fingers. They all bobbed their heads from sneezing.
The boys were flipping out. I asked Christian and Curly to take them out to the street, and they edged away, backs against the toilets.
“WE CANNOT BEAR IT,” said a Gorg in the middle as his eyelids puffed up like microwave hot dogs. “PLEASE.
“LET US GO. WE ARE BEATEN. EARTH IS NOT FOR THE GORG.”
His words echoed off the tile.
“EARTH BELONGS TO THE CAT.”
“Stop half the booths,” I said to J.Lo. “After a few minutes, start them up again and stop the other half.”
J.Lo squeezed and prodded the booth controls, and the flow of Pigs stopped. I grabbed some treats out of my backpack.
“Treat?” I sang. “Pigs! Treat?”
I pushed through the crowd, tossing treats as I went. The Pigs followed me outside, and a long line of Gorg rushed immediately for the booth. There was a crackle of pops, and they were gone.
When the cat food ran out, Mom and J.Lo joined me on the street. The Gorg must have stopped the Snow Queen’s Castle turning when it was good-side up, and Mom stared at it with moist eyes.
“See?” she said. “See what I mean? Always perfect.”
“Yeah,” I said, and squeezed her.
“The Gorg are not going to like it onto their ship so much,” said J.Lo. “Look.”
You could see the huge Gorg ship in the early morning sky, but there was something wrong with it. It was growing darker, and redder. When I realized what I was seeing, I could make out volcanoes of red rash erupt on the surface, and the whole globe seemed to shudder and ooze. More than usual.
“There are ten thousand cloners on the ship…No…down, Pigs,” said J.Lo. “Cloners for to make its skin. I sent a handful of Pig hair to every one.”
“The ship has hay fever.” I laughed.
Around us the boys were mostly petting cats. Alberto was even talking about adopting one, and he and Cole argued which Pig was best.
Suddenly I had a sinking feeling.
Where was Pig?
It was a ridiculous question, of course. We were surrounded by them. But I didn’t want the copies. I wanted Pig.
Behind me, with no more treats to occupy them, some five hundred cats turned their attention to J.Lo. They slinked around his legs and licked his feet. They put their claws into his suit and bit his knees.
“Maa-a-a! Look, they all—no, kittens! No! Good kittens!”
I stood apart from them and watched as the ship began to move.
“Tip! No, no, kittens! Tip? Tipmom? Helpnow! TIIIP!”
Then I felt something brush against my leg, and looked down. A cat, purring, rubbed the side of her head against my shin. She was the only one.
“There you are,” I said, and picked her up. “I thought I’d lost you.”
All eleven of us plus Pig teleported back to Old Tucson and piled like clowns into the car. Mom and J.Lo had to share the front seat, and Mom was so happy she even kissed him on the top of his head and wiped her mouth with her hand. We drove back to the casino, to find the Chief sitting atop his truck with Lincoln, looking out over the southern horizon at the big red ball that was slowly sailing away.
“Ha!” I heard him shout. “That’s what you get, jerks.”
People returned to their homes and shot their guns up in the air in celebration. Word spread quickly: the Gorg had been defeated by Dan Landry.
They were preparing to slaughter and enslave the human race when Landry, in keeping with an ancient Gorg tradition about which the details were a little fuzzy, challenged the Gorg leader to a duel of strength and wits. He emerged victorious, and banished the Gorg from Earth, and their departing ship could actually be seen to turn red with embarrassment and shame. Well, you know the details. You’ve probably read his book.