“A cat can have a frying pan and a pistol, but a cat cannot use a sword,” that sentence from our girl in the middle of an argument with her brother gave birth to Puddles and Whiskers. This is the first arc of their story. I publish drafts and revisions on Speaking Out on Life regularly slowly expanding their world, the city of Stroud with each new post while showing other writers how I process writing. Enjoy and feel free to hop over to Speaking Out on Life to catch up on Puddles and Whiskers.
At the sound of a frying pan bouncing off a skull, everyone in the ramshackle room stopped fighting… for a brief second. Bouncing back from her fallen foe, Puddles brandished her frying pan above her head in an attack pose at the same time drawing her heavy pistol and shooting another black clad mook charging her.
“Give up will ya!” Puddles shouted at the room full of mooks.
To Puddle’s right, Whiskers knee-slid underneath the sloppy punch of a mook, using his personalized katana to gut the mook as he passed. Popping up from the slide, Whiskers flicked his katana clean of blood, and sought another challenger. Whiskers did not have to wait long; knocking smaller mooks aside with swings of his club, a giant over-muscled mook lumbered straight at Whiskers. Adjusting his grip to a low-position, Whiskers waited for the moment to strike the perfect blow.
Three large blood-spraying holes appeared on the over-muscled mook’s chest. For a brief second, the mook looked surprised before falling over onto his face. Curved knives drawn, three more mooks jumped over his body to take his place.
“You’re welcome!” Puddles shouted at Whiskers.
Whiskers shot Puddles an irritated glare before returning his attention to the mooks. Charging the mooks, Whiskers sidestepped the trio to the right; swinging his katana upwards, gutting the right mook as they passed each other. Turning, Whiskers brought his katana down and quickly sliced to the right, killing the other two mooks with one swing.
…other than their labored breathing, the room was silent. Puddles strolled over trash and dead mooks to Whiskers. Wiping his blade clean on a dead mook, Whiskers faced Puddles, his ears back giving extra body English to his irritation with his longtime partner.
Pointing at the over-muscled mook, “What was that about?”
Puddles shrugged. Her tail lazily waving in an S-pattern that Whisker’s knew so well; her “Oops, did I do that” when she knew full-well what she had done shrug.
“I couldn’t let you have all the fun,” Puddles said over her shoulder, holstering her pistol while stepping over mooks on her way to the door, her tail swishing away as if she did not have a care in the world.
Tail lashing, Whiskers stood for a moment, gripping his katana tightly, before sheathing in one smooth motion. He gave the over-muscled mook one last look before following Puddles out of the room into the refuse and graffiti covered hallway. The floor cocked downward, ceiling tiles hung ready to fall at any moment, when halfway down the hallway, alarms began to sound and the hallway lights went from white to emergency red.
Ears upright, alert, Puddles looked at the ceiling, “Seems like and odd security system for a gang.”
“Took them long enough,” Whiskers said to Puddles.
“I thought we made more than enough noise,” Puddles replied.
Whiskers caught Puddles making her infamous, to him, “Who me” gesture; ears forward, eyes wide, and arms held out. He smirked.
“If you weren’t such a push over we wouldn’t be here,” Puddles said while peeking around a corner.
Three days ago...
As soon as he shuffled through front door looking pathetic and desperate in his disheveled clothing and obviously unkempt face, Puddles mentally nicknamed him Doctor Dan. No idea why, but nicknames for new people was a habit of hers, that never failed. Puddles could not make up her mind what bothered her more. After listening to him for five minutes, she understood why Doctor Dan looked disheveled, but still have some self-respect, especially when seeking out help. A quick shake of her head to snap herself out of her current headspace. Doctor Dan was about to become client after all and her feelings about the client, as Whiskers was fond of saying, was not important…or something like that. Doctor Dan reeked of desperation, a very sharp tang in the air. Yep, that was what bothered her more. Whiskers elbowed Puddles in the ribs. She did her best to look attentive.
“…and where did you say your daughters are?”
“Tumbledown block with their boyfriends,” Doctor Dan mumbled at their desktop.
“What?” Puddles asked a bit too loud; she was losing her patience with this desperation reeking hound dog.
“What my associate meant to say, was could you repeat that,” Whiskers coached Doctor Dan.
Puddles let out an exasperated noise, “Yeah that.”
Doctor Dan looked at both of them, his desperation obvious, “Their boyfriends live in a section of Tumbledown. Near the corner of 5th and East Kira. My girls,” his voice caught as he tried to contain his emotions, “they left a week ago. I haven’t heard from them. The police…”
“Won’t do a thing,” Puddles interrupted eager to get him out of the office. “Familiar story. Okay, we’ll take your case.”
“You will?” Doctor Dan surprised.
“Yeah. So let’s talk fees,” Puddles irritation pushing her past his surprise.
Whiskers put a paw on her arm, a sign to slow down or stop. “Perhaps we should look into his case first,” Whiskers said in that calm, “I know something you don’t” tone that irritated the hell out her. Puddles cocked her right ear at him while flattening the left. “Fine, we will talk bill later.”
“But…” Doctor Dan started.
“Yeah, we got this Doc,” Puddles interrupted.
Watching Doctor Dan’s hover merge into traffic from their office window, Puddles looked at Whiskers, the end of her tail snapping back and forth, she was irritated. “Look into his case? What the hell?”
Leaning against their desk, one-half immaculate, the other half distressed, Whiskers calmly replied, “Did you even pay attention to the location he gave?”
“Doctor Dan said something about Tumbledown. Yeah I heard.”
“Wait, Doctor Dan? Another of your pirate nicknames?” Whiskers asked amused.
Puddles turned from the window waving off Whisker’s questions with a wave of her paw. Grabbing her favorite “Mother’s Favorite Kitty” coffee mug, Puddles began to make coffee, “Okay, so he said something about Tumbledown. Want some coffee?”
“A cup sounds great. Name a part of Tumbledown not home to a gang, criminal organization, unregistered, ghouls, or about to collapse at a moment’s notice?”
“Oh that,” Puddles began trying to sound like she knew that all along, “we should look into his case first.”
Two days ago…
Stepping out onto the Stroud Police Divisions 40th hover port the wind pushed their fur back uncomfortably. Whiskers swiped through several pages of data on his phone that Detective Orte gave them about the gangs of Tumbledown, “Puddles, you should read this, seems that several of the gangs are being financed by local corporations through backchannels. At least that is how this report reads; upgraded weapons, cyber, and so on.”
Before Puddles could respond her phone chirped, flipping her phone open, “You got Puddles. Oh hi mom.”
Whiskers smiled, he always enjoyed the mental and verbal gymnastics Puddles had to go through when her mother called unexpectedly. The conversation continued across the hover port and despite the high winds and sounds of hovers coming and going.
“Fine. I’m on a case. Yes, on a case. Do you want to talk to Whiskers, he’s right here. Fine. Okay mom. Yes, I will return the frying pan.” With that Puddles closed her phone and gave Whiskers her “what are you going to do” face.
“You really should buy your own frying pan,” he said as he opened the car doors.
One day ago…
Nothing about this case made any sense. A search and several vid-conversations later, Puddles learned much to her amusement, Doctor Dan was a doctor. Not a doctor doctor, instead working for Titan Industries, part of their pharmacology division. Other than a parking ticket, there was nothing about him. If he had any children neither Puddles nor Whiskers had been able to discover information about them.
Together with the paid assistance of Eth, a cymean fence, they confirmed that the location was home to the Black Myst a gang with connections. What connections, Eth could not say for sure, but for a few more isstas, hinted that the gang had access to newer weapons and one of the better drug packages.
Back to the present…
Back against the graffiti covered wall next to a cockeyed door, one paw on his blade, Whiskers put an ear against the door; plenty of noise from the other side, nothing specific. Crouching in front of the door, pistol and frying pan held ready, Puddles looked toward Whiskers, who nodded as he took a step back before kicking the door in. Springing into the room, rolling across the refuse, Puddles popped up in front of a large crowd of vapeheads, pistol and frying pan pointed at the crowd staring at her, “Nobody move!”
Every vapehead bolted for the nearest exit; the door behind Puddles. The rush of vapeheads pressed Whiskers back into the hallway. Amidst the rush of vapeheads, two scowling mooks in black stood up from the ruins of a couch.
“We’re moving,” one of them growled.
“So this is how you want to play it,” Puddles said aiming her pistol at the mooks.
A purple bubble personal shield appeared around talking mook. Puddles scrunched her nose from the burnt ozone stench caused by the shield. Talking mook drew a large caliber pistol from her waistline. Mook to the left took a hit from a vape inhaler, the effect obvious-roaring, charging, and popping razorclaws and elbowblades.
Ducking underneath the vapehead’s drug-fueled rage swipes, Puddles cracked her frying pan against the back of the mook’s knee. Expecting him to fall down, Puddles swung for where his head should have been…pain flared across Puddles outstretched arm from the back swing of an elbowblade. Blocking a follow through swipe of razorclaws with her frying pan, the impact causing her to panic as she almost lost her grip Puddles hopping back from Razorclaws.
Handcannon mook shot, a huge hole appearing in the wall next to the door. Not that anyone would notice a few hours from now, just another hole, Puddles thought as she continued ducking and dodging Razorclaw’s wild, but powerful swings.
Whiskers flinched when the handcannon blew a hole in the wall killing an escaping vapehead. Eager to get into the room, Whiskers lashed out with a claw swipe chop, knocking another vapehead out of the way. Shouldering yet another vapehead out of the way, Whiskers leapt into the room drawing his katana; Razorclaws was backing Puddles into a corner where handcannon could get a clear shot.
Blocking another swipe, Puddles arms were feeling being on constant defensive. Razorclaw was aggressive enough to keep her from shooting him. Roaring and frothing at the mouth, Razorclaw swung at her head, following through with elbowblades, Puddles ducked and scooted back out of the way.
Another ill aimed shot blew a hole in the wall.
“How about a truce?” Puddles shouted.
Charging across the room, “I don’t think they can hear you!” Whiskers shouted.
At the sound of Whiskers voice, Razorclaw turned, a momentary distraction, but enough. Leaping forward, Puddles slammed her frying pan against the side of Razorclaw’s head. Not content to let the frying pan work, she jammed her pistol into Razorclaws’ side, pulling the trigger three times rapidly.
Charging past Razorclaw, katana in a low position, blood from Razorclaw sprayed over Whiskers’ left side his fur tingling as he stepped into the shield. Focused on blowing Puddles head off, Handcannon did not notice Whiskers until his blade passed through her right leg. As she fell onto the stump, Whiskers brought his katana down onto her neck, decapitating her. Reaching down, Whiskers turned off the shield and kicked the handcannon away.
“…and that’s what you get!” With the shield down Whiskers could hear Puddles yelling at Razorclaws body.
Wiping the blood from his katana on Handcannon’s body Whiskers took note, one-half of his body was red and sticky.
“You look like…”
“Fine, I won’t. Guess we aren’t going to get any information from these two,” Puddles said sarcastically.
“Should we continue on?”
“They know we are here.”
“Not that they are reacting like it,” Whiskers gestured to the room.
“Fine by me,” Puddles responded, heading for a door at the back of the room.
Two hours and some minutes later; standing in the cleanest room they had seen all day, “Guess they were reacting after all,” Puddles said gesturing arms wide at the empty room.
“Very odd. Don’t you think?” Whiskers asked, checking a wall of shelves and cabinets.
“Yeah, why would anyone clean any room in Tumbledown. We must have stalked through six miles of garbage to get to the one clean room in all of Tumbledown,” pointing to a corner, “Nothing about this room is about to fall over.”
“We will find nothing here,” Whiskers said turning from the cabinets.
Later that evening…
“This really rubs my fur the wrong way,” Puddles mumbled slamming an empty glass on the bar top.
“Hey!” exclaimed the bar tender.
Puddles shot him her “do not mess with me, but please serve me another drink look.” Returning from the bathroom, Whiskers sat next to her, waving the bar tender over.
“All I can say about the bathroom, is there is some interesting reading on the walls,” Whiskers said.
Two new drinks in front of them, Puddles and Whiskers toasted themselves.
“What a mess,” began Puddles. “A bunch more dead people. No clues. No pay. No nothing.”
“I will agree that there is not a lot to go on,” Whiskers replied taking a sip and making a face at his drink. “What is this?”
“We need to set up another meeting with Doctor Dan. What is his real name?”
“I forgot, but I left it on a note in the office. Why another meeting? What is hound dog going to tell us?”
“How about something about his daughters who do not exist and definitely were not where he thought they would be?” Whiskers said irritatedly, “Or what about the gear those mooks had?”
Downing the last of her drink and slamming the glass on the counter again, Puddles said, “Those are some valid points. Morning call?”
“Why not now?”
Shrugging, Puddles gestured at the bar tender again, giving the universal sign for tab, “I’ll pay. You get the car.”
On the Drive…
Letting the car drive, Puddles watched the city change from dark and dreary to bright and hopeful.
“Is that new?” Puddles asked pointing to a building in the distance.
Looking up from his datapad, Whiskers replied with a non-committal grunt.
Settling back into her seat, Puddles enjoyed the view. Eastern Stroud quickly became the rear view as the lights and glitter of Central Stroud came into view. Puddles pulled up the map on the car’s window heads-up-display, as their car merged in with the flying lane. A bright blue line showed their destination roughly ten-minutes away.
Central Stroud, tall buildings reaching past the clouds and lit up at all heights. Even now, at night, Central Stroud appeared cast in multi-colored day light from all of the lights, signs, and advertisements. Signs bigger than the building where their office was located advertised the latest brands of food, beverages, mechanical augmentation, and more. Puddles could not help, but stare at the hundred foot tall moving advertisement of a human female showing off the latest in clothing. As they passed the sign, her eyes bigger than the car and illuminating the interior enough that the auto-shade feature of the windows activated.
Approaching Titan Industries central offices, a monolithic white and blue square building with barely any exterior features other than the corporations iconic giant blue with white border T on each face of the building, the car dipped entering lower flight lanes.
“Titan control,” a flight controller begin, “to approaching vehicle.”
Looking up from his data-pad, Whiskers said, “You should answer them.”
“Titan control, we are here to see Doctor Dan,” Puddles said.
“Do you have an appointment?”
Grabbing the tip of her nostril, Puddles shook her head, “No. This is an emergency meeting.”
Puddles looked at Whiskers who shrugged.
“We do not have a Doctor Dan in the building at this time.”
“Shit. Wait…what was his name?” Puddles irritatedly said.
“I do not know. Remember you left his name on the desk,” Whiskers sarcastically replied.
Shooting Whiskers an exasperated expression, Puddles gestured towards the approaching building. Whiskers waved her expression and gesture off.
“Titan control, our mistake. We are here to see Doctor Marlowe. He should be expecting us, PW Investigations.”
“Coordinates to the 33rd floor landing pad have been sent to your vehicle. Do not alter flight path.”
Looking at Puddles, Whiskers held up his data-pad, “Research.” And smiled.
Following Titan control’s instructions, Puddles allowed the car to fly to the landing pad. Whiskers admired the clean state of the landing pad, nothing out of order, although he guessed things would be different during peak hours. Right now, they were the only vehicle and waiting at the door into Titan, two security guards dressed in blue and white Titan uniforms, sidearms visible.
“Follow us,” said the guard on the right.
“What is this!” Puddles ears back, fur raised, shouted while gesturing towards a holo of an elderly human male in an oversized blue and white rubber suit.
“I think you mean who is this,” Whiskers responded while squinting at the man’s face. “Remarkable quality holo,” Whiskers mumbled.
“I don’t care about the quality. Where is…Doctor…Doctor…”
“Yeah, that guy.”
The holo of the man raised his hand, “I am Doctor Cadius Marlowe.”
Pivoting on her heels to face Whiskers and the remaining guard in the room, her arm slashing through the holo without any disruption, “That’s not Doctor Marlowe!”
“But I am Doctor Marlowe,” the holo pleaded.
“Excuse us a second, Doctor Marlowe,” Whiskers said to the holo while directing Puddles over to a corner of the room.
Ears less flat, fur still raised, and tail slashing through the air, Puddles allowed herself to be directed out of the way, “What?” she hissed.
“Let me handle this,” gesturing towards the holo of Doctor Marlowe who was turned away from them, “I might be able to get something of use out of him.”
“Fine,” Puddles fumed, “you go talk to Doctor Pixels. I’ll wait over here.”
Clearing his throat, Whiskers waited for Doctor Marlowe to turn around. A few seconds of waiting, Doctor Marlowe faced Whiskers his hands hidden behind a desk or table, Whiskers assumed.
“Sorry to bother you so late in the evening,” Whiskers began.
“No bother,” Doctor Marlowe interrupted obviously looking at something off holo, “Its only 8 am here.”
Whiskers masked his surprise as best he could, while making a “wait” gesture below holo to Puddles in the corner who looked ready to pounce on the holo. “I’m sorry, did you say 8 am?”
“That is correct.” Doctor Marlowe chuckled, “You thought I was there? No, I’m in [static] working.”
“Where are you working?” Whiskers asked.
“The filter prevents some information from transmitting. Suffice to say, I am off site. Is there a reason why you wanted to see me?”
“Before I answer that, how long have you been off site?”
“Then you did not hire us to look into your missing daughters?” Whiskers asked, knowing the answer.
Shaking his head, “No I did not. I do not have any daughters. What is this about?”
“A man claiming to be you, hired our investigative firm to find his missing daughters. Following his information we raided a gang in Tumbledown,” Whiskers kept the details to himself.
“Oh…,” Doctor Marlowe hesitated, again obviously looking at something off-holo. “No, I did not hire you. I must get back to my work. I’m sorry I could not be of more help.”
And the holo-disappeared.
“Um…,” Puddles said.
“Let’s go,” Whiskers said with urgency heading for the door. “Escort us back to our car,” Whiskers said to the guard.