--Chapter Three: Feeding Art
Aeris: (in Jet Force Gemini, multi-player mode) You had to get the N64 out from the closet, didn’t you?
Leo: (shooting as he runs) Oh, come on, it’s not such a bad system; kinda underrated, really.
Aeris: (ducks behind a building, hit) I know what you mean, but still, there are better fighter games out there than the 2-player mode for Gemini…
(She turns a corner, only to find Leo has a rocket launcher held to her face.)
Leo: Eh, I spent so long mastering the N64 controller it’s not funny. Shame for all that practice to go to waste, right?
Aeris: I guess…
(Leo blasts her health to zero.)
Leo: Thought you’d see things my way.
Aeris put down the controller with a sigh. She never was good at N64, since her preference at the time was the Dreamcast. Had they been playing a Sega game, Leo definitely would not have fared so well against her. “Say, Leo?”
“Have you noticed anything strange about Scotty lately?”
Leo pressed the power button on the TV remote. Aeris silently noted that, for the second time in a row, Leo had forgotten to turn off the game console along with the television set.
Said he, “I never really notice too much about Scott. He puts food in my bowl and fresh stuff in the litter box; I don’t ask questions. Why, is something wrong?”
Aeris was genuinely concerned, an emotion that she rarely had to deal with. “He hasn’t been talking to me lately… he got ousted from the police two days ago, and now he just shuts himself in his room… I’m worried. I mean, he’s got that convention in a few days, and he’s all depressed and whatnot. Whatever happened that night must have really shook him up.”
Leo gave a light shrug. “I don’t know what to say… but on the bright side, you know that old adage that says ‘suffering feeds art?’ Well, maybe this could be a blessing in disguise.”
Aeris shook her head lightly. “Suffering fed VanGogh, but Scotty’s a cartoonist; humor feeds his work, not pain.”
“Wait: suffering fed Van-who now?”
Aeris sighed, switching off the power on the Nintendo. “Nevermind.”
At the same time, Leo turned the TV back on. “Wait, I wasn’t done yet; don’t you want to get some revenge on me?”
A sound came from Scott’s bedroom. Aeris reached for the remote to turn the TV back off. “Look,” she said in a whisper, “Scotty just woke up. He’ll be out here in a few seconds. Keep the game console off and try to act like a normal cat, okay?”
Their owner entered the room before Aeris could hit the power button. Scott, who was going to watch some news anyway, sat down on the couch with a melancholy plop. He looked genuinely ragged and tired, hair uncombed and face unshaven. It took him a few seconds to realize that the television was already on. Then it took another few seconds to realize his cats were both watching it intently.
How cute, he thought. Then he noticed the N64 that should have been in the closet. Wait… I don’t remember bringing that out lately…
Aeris hopped up on his lap, diverting his attention for a few seconds. In those seconds, Leo quietly unhooked the console from the back of the TV, then shoved it under the couch. When Scott looked back, all he saw was Leo, eyes glued to the screen, which still showed the blue “Video 1” symbol on black background.
“I must be seeing things,” said Scott aloud. He petted Aeris gently as he reached for the remote. “All this sleep has my mind playing tricks on me.”
Aeris risked a quick wink to Leo, who responded with an innocent and perfectly natural “Meow.”
Scott turned the station. He was just in time to see the five-o’clock news start.
Anchor: Hi, I’m Mary-Beth Marianne, and this is Toronto Action News. Our top story tonight: utter devastation at several computer retail stores citywide. With more on this story is Action News field correspondent, Tom Thompson. Tom?
Tom: (stands in front of a demolished store) Yes, Mary-Beth, the past two nights have been filled with random attacks on retailers. Storeowners learned this morning that their shops had been burglarized, much of the merchandise either missing or destroyed. A security camera tape revealed this video:
(A video starts playing. Krug’s face shows up for two seconds, looking close-up directly into the camera lens. Then his mouth opens, closes on the lens, and the screen goes to snow.)
Tom: Police are still trying to interpret these findings, and at this time they have no prime suspects.
Aeris did not particularly care what was on the news right now; her attention was on her neck collar, which Scott had gripped with increasing intensity during the broadcast.
She growled loud enough to grab her owner’s attention. He let go of the collar and pointed to the TV.
“That… thing…” was all he could say at first.
Leo tried to help him out. “Mrowr?”
“That’s the thing I saw two days ago…”
Aeris wheeled her head back to the news as the station finished the story with one more showing of the security camera video.
“It tried to eat me—said its name was Krug—it was eating everything in the computer store.”
Without warning, Scott started laughing. “The commissioner said I was crazy, but there it is again! A big red monster eating computer hardware.”
Leo and Aeris exchanged blank glances. His contained a smirk; hers did not.
Scott sighed. “Ah, but the commissioner doesn’t want me back yet. He’ll try and have his own guys take care of the situation. He has no idea what he’s messing with.”
The artist went to put on his shoes, coat, and Maple Leafs cap. He left behind the Pants Man costume. To somewhat of his surprise, he found two curious cats watching him as he opened the door.
He looked down at them and said, “I’ve got some stuff to do. If I’m not back by tomorrow, you guys know how to get the food box off the shelf and feed yourselves.”
This was true enough; the cats had taken the liberty of helping themselves to a treat every now and then—darned if Scott knew how they did it, though.
When their owner had closed the door, Leo and Aeris walked together back to the TV set, still on, now showing the current weather conditions for downtown Toronto.
At the same time, the twisted face of Dr. Daniel Doe was under the spotlight in the skyscraper boardroom. Krug smiled and stood next to him.
Number One said, “We hear part one of our scheme has been successful, Dr. Doe. On behalf of the Firm, I extend to you my congratulations in creating this… creature. He is truly a work of art—”
“Krug eat things that go crunch!”
“…Er, abstract art, but art nonetheless. He’s been very… useful.”
The doctor clasped his hands behind his back, and gave the type of smile only a mad scientist could give: completely asymmetrical, with one eye behind the lens of his glasses, and one eye perched above the upper rim. It was not so much that the glasses were crooked; rather, the eyes themselves were askew. Greasy, combed-over hair was tucked behind his ears, and it was a miracle that his lab coat showed absolutely no signs of the random chemical residue that lingered on his face, pants, and shoes.
“Glad I could be of service,” he said in a voice that would have made Igor proud.
“Our only question is as to what happened in the first robbery. Apparently there was even more damage than expected.”
The furry red monster proclaimed, “Krug will answer this question! Krug ate what he was told to eat, when flesh bag find Krug and point big plastic thing at Krug, and Krug say Krug eat flesh bag, and Krug tried to eat flesh bag, but flesh bag run and turn on bright energy sources and Krug go crazy and run and escape.”
Silence. Then, Number One put a thoughtful hand to his chin. “Do you have any idea what he’s talking about, Dr. Doe?”
The doctor nodded and took a business card from his pocket. “Krug told me that some human found him out on the first night. This person has not shown up since, fortunately, but he did leave behind this business card. It looks quite intriguing to me, but then, I find many things intriguing…”
Number One took the business card from Dr. Doe and eyed it with increasing anger. It was a card he had seen only two days ago in this very room.
“Pants Man,” he said, under his breath. “Never before has the same agent tried to foil the Firm’s plans twice and lived to tell about it… We cannot let this person continue to jeopardize our success.”
“Krug’s mission successful,” the monster insisted. “Krug ate everything in the aisle. Krug do good job.”
Number One took a deep breath. “Very well. But Krug, if you ever see this person again, you absolutely must eat him on sight, understand?”
Krug’s smile widened. “That what Krug do best.”
“Good. In that case, now that the city’s computer stores are taken care of, it is time for us to move on to phase two.”