Videogame Cats: The Novel
Setting: Toronto, Canada. By day, he is known as Scott, comic artist and all-around nice guy. By night, he is the mysterious superhero known as Pants Man—the khaki crusader, the baron of boxer shorts, the sultan of Speedo… the possibilities are endless. Scott has a penchant for video games and all things digital, and unbeknownst to him, the constant barrage of radio waves transmitting through his house are in fact the source of his own super powers… more on that later. The waves also affect Scott’s two cats, Leo and Aeris, who have become intelligent…
For now, this is all you need to know. We’ll get to the part with Krug soon enough.
The next time I speak to you in second person shall be when I finish the story. With that said, here’s hoping to see you on the other side.
--Chapter One: Flesh Bag… It’s What’s for Breakfast
Leo: (in Super Smash Bros. Melee, dressed as Marth) You ready to die, Sheik?
Aeris: (Sheik) Bring it on!
(Leo attacks. Aeris grabs a fire flower and starts charring him)
Leo: AAH! NO FAIR! I thought I set the weapons off for this tourney!
Aeris: Missed a few, obviously. Now stop whining and fry like a good boy, okay?
Leo: Flames… searing… brain… Skin… extra crispy… Percent up to… 400…
Aeris: Oh, come on, you’re only at 70. (The flower burns out)
Leo: Ah. Okay then.
(Leo resumes attack. Aeris hits him lightly and he flies off screen.)
Aeris: That’s not to say I didn’t put in a handicap or two…
Leo: (splats on the screen) Hey… I can see my house from—
Aeris: Of course you can see the house, Leo…
“…You’re in it.”
Aeris pressed the start button on the Gamecube controller and sighed as Leo recovered from his painful in-game experience. The former then tucked her arms confidently under her head and looked to the latter in mock superiority.
Leo smirked, hit the remote control power button, and left to curl up on a nearby rug. He yawned.
“Well, it’s early… with a bit more rest I’ll be ready for you next time.”
Aeris stood up on all fours and said, “Fine, but you know there has to be a next time. The score’s tied… 48-48.”
Leo reflected the rule: first one to fifty wins. He wondered just why they had to pick that number, anyway; after all, if they had said, “First to seven wins,” he would already have been the champion. Same with “first to twenty-three,” or “first to forty-eight.” Then again, if the set number was anywhere from one to six, eight to twenty-two, or twenty-three to forty-seven, he would have lost… so all in all, the odds seemed to call the fairest shot at fifty. Still… what made forty-eight such a bad number?
Aeris noted that Leo had left the game console turned on, even though the television was off. She sighed and hit the console power button with her paw just as the sound of a door turned her attention to the apartment entryway.
Scott walked in, a pair of pants and boxer shorts flung over his shoulder. He slowly made his way to the living room and collapsed on the couch.
“What a night,” he said.
Aeris hopped up to the sofa and placed herself where her owner could easily pet her. She knew her place as official confidante of Scott, the comic artist in 14-A. Because of this, she also knew plenty of details about his nightlife… he was about to relate one of his stories to her right now, and Aeris only needed to wonder for a moment what the tale would be today: a robbery? An escaped felon? A stockbroker?
“So I was chasing this seventy-year old who used his false teeth to dig out of prison…”
And Aeris thought, Ah. Escaped felon. Gotcha. Talk away, Scotty.
“This guy was believed to be hiding out in a nearby retirement home. His crime? Dealing in underground prescription drug mailings to his family in New York. So of course, the police call for Pants Man to take care of the case.”
That’s it, Scotty. Refer to yourself in third person… it’ll help you get that ego back in all its titanic glory again.
Scott sighed. “Of course Pants Man caught up with him, but it turned out the old guy had made bail legally, and the police commissioner forgot to file the paperwork before I got the assignment. That whole thing about the false teeth… I don’t even know what that was all about. Probably a joke or something.”
And the world is safe once more from senior citizens on bail.
The superhero closed his eyes. “Just once I’d like to get my hands on a real challenge. All these assignments the police give me are nice, and I get the reward money from catching crooks, which ain’t bad… considering the life of a starving artist isn’t as glamorous as people think.
“Maybe it’s time I scoured the city and started actually looking for crime, instead of waiting for the commissioner to hand me whatever assignment ends up on the bottom of the pile. I mean… there’s got to be something out there that’s worth fighting the good fight for.”
Aeris purred lightly; best not to let Scott get too worked up about this. He sighed again, moving his hand to stroke her back.
“You should be glad you’re a cat,” he said.
“You’ve got it easy, Aeris… No bills to pay, no clients to see, and no double life to live…”
Aeris purred again. Well, I guess two out of three ain’t bad, Scotty, she thought.
Scott grabbed the remote control from the carpet and turned on the TV.
“So… let’s see if I made headlines today… though I doubt it.”
He clicked to the local Toronto news station. The channel, unfortunately, was in the middle of an ad.
Commercial Announcer: Are you tired of your old couch? Come over to Sofa King, and check out our selection! Remember, we’re not just cheap… we’re Sofa King cheap!
As quickly as he had turned the TV on, Scott turned it off again and said to himself, “You know, on second thought, it might be better to just get some shuteye and restore some of my sanity. Lord knows that ad won’t do anything to raise my IQ.”
Aeris inwardly chuckled. She loved it when her owner resorted to more intelligent humor. Not like Leo… who, for that matter, was currently entertaining himself by looking cross-eyed at a beetle crawling across his nose.
Yes, sleep would probably do Scott good, considering he would have to showcase some of his art at a convention in only a week. The artist would have to be in top form for creating auction pictures and prints for the con. She cuddled next to him as he dozed off on the couch. There was a busy day ahead.
Meanwhile, somewhere in a darkened boardroom in a Toronto skyscraper…
(Shadowed figures sit around a conference table. At the front of the room stands the only figure not shadowed, using a pointer to indicate figures on a presentation chart.)
Number One: (at the head of the table, with a deep bass voice) So now Number Twelve may enlighten us with his report.
Number Twelve: (clears throat) It is my unfortunate duty to inform all of you that Operation Rx failed last night, when at the critical moment of escape from prison, Number Twenty was apprehended at his hideout in the Cedar Lake Retirement Village. Police found in his hideout more than twenty-five million dollars, American. We managed to save the three million that was wire transferred to the Cayman Islands account, but the rest of the money, sad to say, is lost forever. (deep sigh) And so is Number Twenty. He took his suicide capsule rather than face questioning from the feds.
Number One: (after a moment’s silence) To what do we attribute this… failure of the operation. Bad luck? Unusually talented police work?
Number Twelve: We have reason to believe that a special agent was placed on the trail of Number Twenty on the very night of his escape from the prison.
Number Three: (near the head of the table) Is it someone we know, or someone new? Local, federal, or international?
Number One: Patience, Number Three. I am sure Number Twelve came prepared to divulge that information, as well.
Number Twelve: (gulps nervously) Ah, yes. Well, the signals Number Twenty gave us just before his death indicate that this was the work of someone new… a local agent, but ah, not the normal donut-eating variety. This one is rather… odd, to say the least.
Number Three: In what way, “odd?”
Number Twelve: He… wears a mask and cape, for one. Enters through the window rather than the door, and his weapon of choice is a squirt gun that shoots industrial-strength laundry detergent. Highly unconventional.
Number One: It would take something very unconventional to subdue and capture Number Twenty single-handedly…
Number Three: Yes, but clearly we are just dealing with a local psycho.
Number Twelve: But we have confirmation from our spies that this man was indeed in the employ of the police. So it would appear that the police are hiring psychos now.
Number One: Does this local psycho have a name?
Number Twelve: Yes, as a matter of fact, although it is probably a pseudonym. He goes by the title of a superhero: “Pants Man, defender of truth, justice, and, um, pants.”
Number One: Do you expect us to believe this, or are you joking, Number Twelve? You know I hate jokes…
Number Twelve: (takes something out of his pocket) We found his business card on the scene of the capture, sir. I was just quoting the card.
Number One: (extending a shadowed hand) Give me that.
Number Twelve handed him the card. The man at the head of the table could barely make out the type on the front. He quoted: “This place has been secured by Pants Man, defender of truth, justice, and, um, pants. Yeah.”
He silently placed the card in his own pocket and said, “Of all the unfortunate things I’ve seen in this firm—and though such events are rare, I’ve seen a few of them—I must say, Number Twelve, that this is by far the stupidest one I have ever seen.”
“Silence! Now, please step aside, but still in the spotlight. This meeting is moving on to other matters, and I’ll need you there for a demonstration.”
Number One: (continuing) We have received some new clients, gentlemen. These people who hire us now are very rich… and powerful. I want top priority on this mission, so I am charging Numbers Two and Three with carrying it out.
Number Three: (confident) We shall not fail you, sir.
Number One: Indeed… but as much as I would like to trust you, I’m afraid I also had to enlist outside help. You see, under normal circumstances, our humble firm works for the good of society. We keep money from being wasted on those who make poor use of it. We rid the world of its own political traumas by stepping over the laws of the land, wherever that land may be. Numbers Two and Three have shown exceptional expertise at… ahem… making the world a better place. But this time…the mission before us is, for lack of a better word, evil. Sure, it helps the rich at the expense of political justice, which is all well and good, but the methods we take here might involve some more creative thinking than we’re used to.
Number Three: Hm, unconventional methods, would you say?
Number One: (clearing throat) There are a few times when unconventional methods are the best kind to use. This is one of those times.
Number Two: (across from Number Three) So where is this help coming from?
Number One: An old friend… Dr. Daniel Doe.
Number Three: Ah, yes. (laughing) Typical mad scientist.
Number One: The same. Our doctor friend has been experimenting with genetic altercations of various species… after a combination of more than ninety of them, he has ended up with this:
(He presses a button on the table. A sliding door opens behind the spotlight. A shadow of abnormal shape stands just out of the light’s reach.)
Number One: Behold the ultimate image of evil, gentlemen. He has an IQ of seventy-one, and while his motives are a mystery, he eats absolutely anything on command. He represents greater brute strength than all of us gathered here combined. He will even eat humans… handy, wouldn’t you say, for disposing of evidence? Just don’t get on his bad side, no pun intended.
Number Two: And his name?
(Krug walks into the spotlight, blank but evil expression on his face, most evident in his eyes, which glow bright yellow. His full figure—red furry mass with feet, arms, and small horns—is now visible to all. From the look in his eyes, the shadowed group members think he might be able to see them, too, despite the light configuration. Number Twelve is visibly nervous at being only an arm’s reach away under the spotlight.)
Krug: (voice even deeper than Number One’s) Filthy flesh bags call me Krug. I Krug.
Number One: Welcome, Krug. The directors and I would like to see a demonstration of your skills… You can start by eating Number Twelve here, the man to your left.
Krug: (looks at Number Twelve, pulls a spork from behind his ear) Krug want breakfast…
Number Twelve: (backing away) You… you can’t be serious! (as Krug advances) No… NO! (screams, but by now he has backed out of the spotlight. Krug pounces him, and while various sounds are heard, the struggle is in complete dark. After some silence, Krug walks back into the spotlight. He has a human heart on his spork.)
Krug: Mm… taste like chicken. (eats the heart whole. Everyone in the room cringes, except for Number One.)
Number One: Very good, Krug. You will fit in well here, I’m sure. We have an assignment for you now—if, that is, you are willing to accept it.
Krug: It involve keel fleshy ones and I eat them?
Number One: It involves eating many, many fleshy ones, Krug.
Krug: (twisted smile) This mission… Tell Krug more…