ISSN 1548-5374 Volume 4 Number 1

enjoying new media • software aesthetics

Friends in Need

Eliza Blair

Sally desleeps and jumps, jounces, jiggles into her clothes. Today is a special day. Today is a prettyful day. She trambles thru the porto and outdowns the chute without even zapping her hair.

Dig Sally: fifteen whole cents old, plus two cycles – that’s four years and a twitch in standard termies for you parents out there. Gold-yellow hair and greeny eyes, tres charmer when she gets her parts. The smarterest chick in her class, and so sweetie to boot cos she can turner on the sugar. Her birthday was Fourday, and now it’s Sixday, a special day with declass and Daddy telecomming. Sally trambles fastlike. She’s juiced.

Downchute in the kitchen Mommy is dancing, Mommy is prancing, she’s whirling around to the Barking Cars as she putters Sally’s breakfast on the table. Daddy peek-a-views over his lectrospecs at Sally and smilies, like he does every special morning.

“Whoa, Sally, don’t choke,” warns Daddy. “We’ll be there soon enough.” His pink eyes ducky back of the lenses, sinker out of sight and he’s back in his meeting. Sally scumbles her Nu-Bacon, scarfs her Eggalicious, slurps her Toast-E-Lite. Mommy chucks the utensils in the deegrate and it buzzes its thanks as they vanish. She plunks a saucer of Norange on the gray smartsurf in front of Sally and foldies her arms.

“Aw, Mommy, that goop’s quite slithy,” Sally whingles. She’s proud, puffed, pinkled at the way she snuckled the palaver “quite” into that fraze. It’s her friend Gina’s cyclesay favorite. Whenever Gina’s cycleprez she makes it the priority and all that period the kiddles have to go round stickering “quite” into every dilog, even if they’re making kidspiek. If you can’t hang it and Teach catches you, then for each perp you’re docked five minis on the line during Net-time. Sally once essayed so much tribble with “somewhat” that she blew a flamering half-per and missed her fav convo with Bai. Bai’s her best bud in the Philippines, halfway round the sphere but only six millisec delay, hardly tectable.

Gina’s cycleprez again tomorrow, and Sally’s popping, piping, primed. She won’t drop a single opt this time. She truloves kindergarten. She has magic much kidspiek to teach to Bai, who ready minds English, but only parents spiek that. If he needwants to convo with braveworld webheads he cessitates Sally’s tutelage.

Sally likes magic much playing Teach for Bai, but inhome she’s still the babely who drinkies Norange for the nutrients. Sally delikes Norange.

Mommy’s desimpatic, tho, so Sally squidges her nozzle and pours it indown. The Norange axes thru her tubes and flips her scumbler. She waggles, she wiggles, she sighs. “Vitamins,” Mommy digs.

“Let’s motor,” sings Sally. She bounces, she trounces, she minds primepath a way to scarf ‘vitamins’ that decontains slithy Norange.

“Let your father finish his meeting, honey,” Mommy ornerates.

“In the car, quite,” Sally posits, and Daddy warbles, Daddy burbles, Daddy laughs.

“Done anyway,” he nounces. The lectrospecs go glass and his eyes can see her. He huglifts her and wings her around the kitchen. Sally squealies and laughs too.

“Are you ready, Sally?” quares Mommy. “Are you ready to pick out a friend?”

“Magic,” clares Sally. “I’m sparked.”

The car trot’s singly half a per, but Sally fidgets, fickles, flails. She can’t comp how such a twitchy trip could stend so long. Daddy works with the lectrospecs while Mommy keeps an eye on the wheel. She still half dedigs Autodrive. But soon, soon! Sally’s peek-a-viewing out the porto and there’s a smartglass building all decked in white, quickclean and sunshining bright like chrome. The car slides, snags, slows and they’re out, out, trambling cross the lot into wing-wide portos that wilkomm them like best buds. Gracie’s Adopt-A- Friend, prides the sign.

Before they can peek in the rooms they must putter on the squidgy facility lectrospecs and dig an “educational film” re “Our Fragile Friends”. Sally grumples but Mommy frownies and she sits tight. The lectrospecs palaver on re “Friends are not toys” and “Friends are living beings and must be treated with respect” but Sally’s way forward. She minds primepath her new friend just back of that porto, some smartbeast who will trulove her and her it. She will tramble long trips with her friend, let it scumble from her dish, and at darknight it will sleep in her crib. Sally smilies. Her friend will be even primer than Bai in the Philippines, cos Sally half delikes a friend she can’t huglift. And if it’s a baby, she can be its Mommy, just like Mommy’s her Mommy! Sally minds a pract convo with her baby friend: “Don’t titch that. Drink all up. Don’t quare me why. Cos I’m the Mommy, that’s why. Quite. I’m Mommy yours and dict I so.” Mommy despecs Sally and Sally starts, Sally smarts, Sally dedreams. The film is termo, and she didn’t even mind the ending! Mommy laughs and Sally redhots, so she trambles to the porto and grabes it wide.

Antiseptics crash her nose, rackety noises upfill her ears. A rep in a lime-green zooter bendies down to pot her on the hair. Sally grabes her off quicklike and smilies, totalment polite.

“Hello, I’ll be your escort today,” intros the green rep. “Are you looking for anything in particular?”

“Pickeling a special friend,” Sally prides. “Needwant I a puppy.” Daddy shakes the rep’s hand.

“English, honey, the nice lady doesn’t know kidspiek,” Daddy warns. “Children these days, it’s like they’re using a different language,” he clares to the rep, his eyes crinkeling.

“Probably a puppy, but we’d like Sally to look around,” Mommy firms. “Her school’s doing an experimental program, pairing each child with a special friend and letting them interact. Interspecies bonding and all that.” Her eyes flicker round the hallpath and she squidgies Sally’s hand tighterer. “It’s up to her.”

“Yes, we’ve been getting quite a few of those. Well, you can browse and I’ll answer questions as they come,” the green rep smilies. “It’s so nice to find a soulmate here, now that things have changed so much.”

“The grant money ain’t bad either,” digs Daddy, fixing his lectrospecs.

Mommy hounches, Mommy slounches, Mommy bendies down and pushpulls her forward. “Go ahead, Sally, go meet them. Just don’t stick your fingers in, all right?”

Sally peek-a-views the hallpath. Magic many portos with interesterating shapes in back! The portos are surfed in smartglass, which letters the sound thru but not the stink. She trambles to the closest porto and peek-a-views inside. A big hairy face pressers gainst the window and eyeballs her back. “Hi,” gruffs the dog. Sally trippers backwards and tumblies on her prot.

“Too big!” Sally gacks, and the dog grabes the porto with its claws.

“Sorry,” it whingles as they tramble by. “Sorry. Come back.” The next porto has oodles of cats. A big orange guy with stripeys and a spotdot of white on his chin stickles his paws upon the smartglass and winkles at Sally. Trigued, Sally sneakpeeks to Mommy and Daddy, who are making convo with a little collie dog down the hallpath, delooking at her. The green rep is peek-a-viewing them.

“Are you housetrained?” quares Mommy.

“No,” mits the little collie dog. “I’m still working on bladder rhythms, not automatically going when I get excited, that sort of thing. I just got here, but Gracie says I’m a quick learner,” she prides.

Nobody viewing. Sally grabes the porto open and slips, slides, scoots inside.

Cats decornerate and pour round her. “Me, pick me!” some greet, grabing her legs. Others try to clamble into her arms. Sally drops on her prot and huglifts the big orange guy. “You’re soft,” he purrums, and blinkies his yellow eyes in surprisement. “I like this.”

A twitchy calico female leapups tween Sally and the big orange guy, grabing him out of her huglift.

“Mine,” she hissfits to the big orange guy.

Sally delikes the calico, but she minds courtesy. “What name yours?” she quares. “I’m Sally. Get I a puppy today.” The big orange guy stritches and drops oneside Sally. “Watch out for her,” he warns. “She’s nasty.”

The calico grumples and slices at a fat gray female who rubbles Sally’s shoulder. “If you take me home, I’ll wash your face for you every night,” the gray one promies, and startups right there. Sally laughs and grabes the calico downaway. Instantlike Sally is swimming, brimming, drowngasping in cats. They crawly all over her, whisping promies, toptrying to grabe her tention. She wants to squealie but she fraids Mommy will punishate her, mayhaps even zoomer right home and depromise her a puppy. So she straggles deflow and gacks fur.

“Give her some air, you fools! Do you want to suffocate her?”

Suddenlike the oceans of cats breakup into cloudies. The big orange guy trambles from cloudy to cloudy, batwhacking any cats who venttry too closer. “Can’t you see she’s just a little one? You’ll get your chance. Let her take the initiative or you risk coming back here if it’s a bad match.”

The cloudies morphose into a circley as the cats stop, drop and stare. Sally leapups and brushflicks her clothes. “Thankies,” she clares to the big orange guy. “I’m Sally.”

The big orange guy stritches gain and yawnies. “Call me Maximus,” he intros. “I’m a genius. I make trouble for fun. What do you do, Sally?”

Sally minds long and hardly. “Make I friendlies everywhere,” she clares finalment. “What be a ‘genius’?”

“A cat who thinks he’s better than the rest of us,” quips a black male.

“A cat who talks to walls,” hissnaps the calico.

“A cat who spouts nonsense and calls it rhetoric,” churtles the gray female.

“A cat who draws meaningless patterns in the litter and chases us away when we have to go,” mambles a toothless old white cat in the corner.

Maximus blinkies his yellow eyes and flickers his tail. “That was writing,” he digs. “I was writing a novel. But I ran out of room.” He sideturns to Sally. “They don’t give us comps here,” he whingles. “What was I supposed to do?”

“That’s puke,” hisspits the calico. “Cats can’t write.”

“Geniuses can,” fends Maximus.

“Do you know why his owners turned him in?” The old white cat cackles. “He was teaching himself to sing. He was driving them insane.”

“Opera, my friend,” airs orange Maximus. “I may not have the lungpower, but the range is there. Just you wait, it’ll be ‘Maximus the Great’ on the casts one of these days.”

“I’m not waiting,” the white cat yawnies and winces like it hurts. “I only have four days left on my tag, and then it’s some well-earned rest, a relief from the torture that is my arthritic life. I’m certainly not sticking around for you.”

“And how long do you have left, Maximus?” the calico glees. “How many days have you been docked for all the trouble you cause?”

Maximus liftups his chin and deanswers.

Sally delikes all the starreling eyes and flattened ears. She trambles for the porto, scattereling the circley. She grabes it open and shut and backs it, sighing.

But Sally isn’t in the hallpath – she’s in nother room of cats! Wrong porto!

No, she minds, viewing the room’s poplis. Not cats.

Kittens. She laxes.

“Come to see the new recruits?” Maximus quares at her side.

Sally jumps, Sally bumps, Sally drops on her prot gain. “You followfound me,” she cuses.

“Just making sure you get where you’re going,” Maximus sures. “You don’t know the layout here.”

“Quite right,” Sally grees. The kittens are starreling at Maximus, fraiding his big stripery orangeness and his big yellow eyes. “Needwant I a puppy, but kittens are tres sweetie.”

“By no means the best qualifier for friend selection, but a true statement nonetheless.” Maximus views the fraided kittens for a miniper, then laughs. “Come one, come all, kids, come see the human. This here is Sally, and she makes friends.” A little tortoiseshell female batwhacks Sally’s shoe. Sally tries to huglift her, but she straggles out of grip.

“Mommy,” she mambles, and trambles into the cornerside.

“They’re scared,” Maximus splains. “Far more cautious than shelter kittens of years past. Intelligence is difficult to deal with when five million years of instinct are screaming in your ear all the time.” He blinkies and lashers his tail. “Some of these were left in a box on Gracie’s stoop just this morning. It seems your species can be a little on the callous side.”

Sally minds primepath her puppy back of another door. She stritches toward a twitchy orange kitten, a mini-Maximus, and wuggles her fingies. “Bravelike, bravelike,” she whisps, and the orange kitten gigglies and dancers backaway.

The kittens instantlike demind their fraids, and thisnow they’re recreating in droves. “Tag, tag,” they crile, dashing and diveling cross the smartfloor, still curveling round Sally like she’s a mountain they delike tackling.

Sally frownies. “They deneed us,” she clares to Maximus. “Wherefind I the puppies?”

“Don’t be silly, girl. Everyone here needs you, and people like you. We’re all on two-month probation, an extended death sentence. The kittens, though they get double time because they’re easier to adopt, live under the same axe that hovers at all our throats.” He makes a crick-sound samelike ripping writepaper and starrels at Sally with his yellow eyes. “You say you want a puppy, but how can you choose when we’re all in the same boat?”

“Comp,” ornerates Sally. “Comp I when meet I the one.”

“That you will, that you will,” mambles Maximus. Then he winkles. “I think you’re right, Sally. You’ll make the right decision when the time comes.” He sideturns to the kittens. “So, do you comp that any of these is right? They may be young, but at this age any one of them will give you a lifetime of love.” Sally leapups and trambles to the next porto. “I deneed a friend who depaytentions me,” she grundles.

Before she grabes the latch, tho, it opens from backside. A chubbly yellow-skinned woman in a blue flowered shirt backups thru, grabing a saucer of brown pebblies.

“Kibble time, kitlings,” she sings, then turnarounds and minds Sally and Maximus cross the smartfloor. She frownies. “Little girl, you’re not supposed to be in here without supervision,” she forms.

Sally sidelooks at Maximus. “I’m quite supervised,” she clares. “Go we to the puppies to finder I a special friend.”

The woman sighs. She pears busheled. “Hello, Pumpkin,” she greets. “Out of the bag again, I see.”

“Hello, Gracie,” plies Maximus. “We meet again. And the name’s Maximus. I refuse to answer to such an undignified label previous name.”

Gracie putdowns her saucer and the kittens scrimble, scrabble, scoot to make lunch. “Why must you do this, Pumpkin?” she plains, grabing open the porto to the cat room and hounching low with arms wide, trying to cornerate Sally and Maximus. “You know this’ll lose you another day, and you have so few left already –“

“Two,” digs Maximus, sidelooking at Sally. “Go ahead and say it. I have two days left, and when you take off this one you’ll put me down tomorrow.”

“You have a good memory,” Gracie comps.

“Memory, schmemory, it says it on my tag and these ‘windows’ make better mirrors.” Maximus hounches too and lashes his tail. “Sally, don’t ever let anyone tell you that cats can’t read backwards.”

“Kay.” Sally scratchers her head. “Whatbe ‘put down’?”

The kittens are munching, silentlike thisnow, peek-a- viewing Sally and Gracie and Maximus. Gracie pears sadlike. “Pumpkin, you can’t go telling those things to small children,” she scolders. “Why do you do this? Why the constant rebellion? If you could just take a few tips from the others you might have found a home by now.”

“The others!” Maximus hissfaces and shutdowns his eyes.

“Pathetic sheep, every one. I thought if I only spoke to them long enough I could make them see. But you’ve trained them too well – or perhaps it’s been bred into them by now. They don’t want to hear what I have to say. They eat and sleep and shit as you tell them, and toss and turn in nightmares of the euthanasia table!” He sideglances at Sally. “Kill me if you can, Gracie, but the Sentient Revolution is coming! If my death allows my message to find a foothold in just one mind, it will not be in vain.”

“Yes it will,” catcalls the calico from back of the porto. “Nobody cares about you, you rateating rabblerouser – and practice or not, that speech hasn’t gotten any less boring.” Gracie inches closeover them, and Sally shrinkles away.

“When I say ‘go’, you run for the door, okay?” mambles Maximus so that singly Sally can auditate. “She can’t get us both.” Sally noddles and hounches down to bolt.

“Pumpkin, come quietly or I’ll deduct another day,” growls Gracie.

“This is insane,” cuses Maximus. “Nobody kills humans because there are too many, or puts them in involuntary confinement ‘for their own good’.” He blinkies. “Oh, wait, I forgot. You do.”

“What do you want?” blursts Gracie, her face squidgied up and her eyes shinyful. “Do you think I do this because it makes me happy? Brains haven’t stopped your kind from breeding like rabbits, starving on the street. This is the only place you’re safe, the only place you can find a home and people to love you.”

“And who says we need people to care for us like day-old kittens?” ornerates Maximus, his ears flattered to his head, his voice climbering higher and higher. Sally peek-a-views his eyes and her hair straightups like the time she built her ownfirst comp and pluggered it in. Maximus grows, Maximus glows, he towers on tippytoes like his wholeself is grounding a thousand volts.

“You know what?” Maximus scritches. “Now we’re people too! Maybe I want to take my chances on the street! Perhaps, rather than escaping, I’ve been rotting in here for a month and a half in the vain hope that even one of those limpwhiskered dishlickers in there might have the faculties to understand that you and your charity, Gracie, are no longer required!” Gracie downlunges. “Go, Sally!” mands Maximus, and dances, dives, fairly flies forward. The kittens splode everywhere with squealies of excitement. Sally zooms for the porto and yankles it wide, scootering thru and sliding it to twitchily a whiskerwidth open.

“I think your time is up, Pumpkin,” sniffles Gracie. She is crilering, big droppers of tears leaking outdown her face. “There are plenty of cats in the back desperate for even half the chance you’ve had.”

“I have no regrets,” criles Maximus, straggling in Gracie’s hands. “Sally, remember! Call the papers! Call your state representative! ’Tis a far better thing I do today –”

“Can it, you loony,” hissfits the calico, and Gracie sneakpeeks at Sally.

“I’ll put him back where he belongs,” she posits. “Puppies are at the end of the hall.”

Maximus getters his head over Gracie’s shoulder. His eyes are magic yellow, magic big.

“Goodbye, Sa–“

The cat porto slammers shut.

Sally shutters her porto and standstills in a room of giant dogs. The dogs wender slowlike round the room; one littlifts his leg and peepees on the wall. The peepee drippers to the smartfloor, where it depears. Sally’s sweetheart is trying to climber into her ears, and she swallows, shivers, squeaks. “Take me with you,” beggies a big brown dog with a flattish face. “I only have ten days left.”

Sally peek-a-views her little brownie eyes, her giantish sharp teeth. She has been grabed magic many things to mind, and is minding primepath long and hardly, and she decomps “put down” and “kill” and “revolution” and “goodbye”. Sally keepers her friendlies, makes convo every day with Bai and Gina and tencent webheads all around the sphere, but Maximus said “goodbye” muchlike he was unfriending her, and her scumbler flipflops when she minds primepath why. Nobody has ever unfriended Sally. She’s magic sweetie with people.

“Please,” whingles the dog. “I’m afraid.”

Maximus needmust be angerous with Sally to unfriend her.

Sally trambles thru the dogs, peek-a-viewing on tippytoes upover their backs for the exit. She mislost the wall! The big brown dog shutters her eyes and startoffs to whingle, followfinding Sally cross the smartfloor.

“Please?” the brown dog whispers. “Ten days isn’t much.”

All the other dogs stop and starrel at Sally, standwaiting for her answer. Sally starrels back. She dropprots and minds long and hardly re magic many things. Then she peek-a-views the porto thru the treeforest of the dogs’ legs.

“Eternity,” sures Sally, and scurrels through the porto, and the next, on, on thru magic more rooms of dogs and cats who plore her with shinyful eyes and sadscared voices. “Take me, take me home,” they crile, grabing her clothes and her hair and her hands. Sally shutters the last porto with her shoulder and it’s silentlike thisnow.

This room is brimful of puppies. “Finalment,” minds Sally, and her scumbler flipflops gain. Must be the Norange. She trambles out into the midcenter of the room and gain drops expertlike on her prot. “Who needwants trambling home with me?” she quares the puppies.

The puppies blinky back at her, stundled and silentshy. “Mayhaps you?” Sally pointers. The puppy is little and gray, with floopy ears and magic big paws. He has glittery black protuberating eyes.

“Well,” yaps the puppy. “Well. Maybe.”

Sally tries to huglift the puppy, but he straggles like the kitten. “Scared,” he criles. “Scared. Mom.”

“Be I your Mom, I can,” suades Sally. She feelies sicklike and tries to smilie. Today is a special day. Today is a prettyful day. Why can’t she defrown? Why does she needwant to sniffle and crile?

“I,” mambles the puppy. “Mom.”

“Right,” grees Sally. “And make we long trambles in the grassroots and treeforest, we will, and will scumble you from my dish, and at darknight sleep you in my crib.”

“Sleep,” the puppy yelps. “Scared.”

Sally stends her arms, and the puppy scaredlike climbers into her laptop. Sally huglifts him, tres gentlewisp. He is magic small and tremblies in her hands. Sally minds Maximus, how big and pillowy his side is. This puppy is all skin and bonies and tremble.

“Deready?” Sally quares, grabing the puppy’s face in her hands.

“Ready,” mambles the puppy, shuttering his eyes. “No. Scared.”

Sally peek-a-views out the window. Backside the smartglass her Mommy is making quietlike convo with a little gray terrier type and the green-zootered rep.

“But it’s been over a year since the first documented cases,” sclaims Mommy. “How could this happen?”

“Political pressure is fierce.” The little dog shruggers and dropprots on the floor. “Especially from the meat and leather industries, anything that uses animal products - if newly sentient creatures get human status, then it will be illegal to own them, buy them, sell them. Ranchers will be slavers. Zoos will be jails. Carnivores will be cannibals. Society – and the economy – will erupt in chaos, making life miserable for more sentients, both human and animal. It’s a terrible problem with no clear solution.”

The rep leanies on the wall. “Right now, we’re trying to avoid major conflict, move toward some sort of compromise,” she clares. “A phasing-out of the consumption of sentient meat. Stricter animal-cruelty laws. There are bills working their way through Congress... The debate is violent and time-consuming, but I think we’re making some progress.” She sighs. “It’s an uphill battle. Many are even calling it a ‘mass hallucination’, refusing to acknowledge the phenomenon.”

Daddy is not viewable, then his head sneakpeeks round the corner and he spots Sally.

“Sally!” he growls, grabing the porto and scootering inside. “I was looking everywhere for you! Don’t run off like that again, okay?”

“Kay, Daddy,” grees Sally. She sideturns to her puppy. “Be ready you soonquick,” she sures, and putdowns him on the smartfloor gain. “Make I a good Mom for you, I would.”

“Did you pick one you want?” quares Daddy, grabing her hand.

“That one, maybe,” hesits Sally. She deexcites. She deminds. She needwants to standstop and mind primepath all the hard things from the dog room. Stead she letters Daddy pushpull her out the porto and into the hallpath gain.

Mommy sneakpeeks over her shoulder at Sally. Her eyes are shinyful like Gracie’s. “Oh, Sally, talk to Sage,” she beggies. “I know you want a puppy, but I’m sure once you meet her you’ll make the right decision.”

Sally grabes open the porto and dropprots tiredlike by the terrier. She’s little and hairy like an old gray mop. Sally pots her on the head. “Good doggie,” she venttries. Sage littlifts her head and eyeballs Sally. Her eyes are darkling and cloudy. She is blind.

“How old are you, Sally?” quares Sage.

“Fifteencent and two – mean I, four years,” Sally mambles.

“Your parents are leaving this up to you, despite your tender age. Quite trusting of them, don’t you think?” clares Sage. “They want you to make their decision for them.”

“Yes,” grees Sally.

Sage rollies over and sighs, a deep, cavelike sound for a dog so twitchy. “But you’ve already decided,” she churtles, and coughs.

“Yes, maybe,” ditherates Sally. “No. Decomp I.” She sideturns to peek-a-view at the puppy, cross the hallpath, thru her parents’ legs. “Mind I so.” She minds primepath Maximus’ eyes. “Not angerous,” she whisps to herself. “Not angerous – scared! Scared, and...sad.” What does Maximus fraid? Why is he sad? Her scumbler is flipping like a fish dewater. Sally deknows what Maximus fraids, but she fraids the answer.

Sage’s teeny tail thumpers on the smartfloor and she openups her mouth and smilies, her purplish tongue raspering in- and-out, in-and-out. “Remember,” she pantles. “The choice is yours, and yours alone. Only you can choose your special friend.”

Sally squidges her eyes up tightlike and minds long and hardly. She sneakpeeks at the puppy, then at Mommy’s face. Sally sighs. Sally standups. Sally smiles. “Thankies,” she cites.

“Anytime,” Sage laughs. “Anytime from now on.”

Sally trambles forward and grabes open the porto.

“Well?” quares Mommy.

“Your friend Sage,” Sally clares. “Needwant I mine.” She sideturns and trambles, shambles, shoots down the hallpath, past Mommy and Daddy, past the green-zootered escort, past the puppies, past the dogs, past the kittens and the cats. She yankgrabes the first cat porto wide open and stoppers. The cats starrel back at her.

“Too late,” hissmilies the calico. “They’ve taken him in the back room.”

Sally minds nother porto back of the cat room. This porto is open just a twitch. She auditates shrieks of surprisement and furyness from back of it. Sally scurrels to the porto and outflings it so magic hardly that it bangers the wall.

“Maximus!” she squealies. “Herecome to me, loony cat!”

There is a crishcrash of shattereling glass and droppering instruments and a big fluffy cannonball shoots, scoots, superlights round the corner and knockdowns Sally magic hardly.

“Right decisionating,” clares Sally, tappering her forehead. “ Needwant I a fuzzery orange pillow to singify me lullabies re the Sentient Revolution.”

Maximus nibblies her nose and upcurlies on her chest. “Kid, I take back everything I just said about you,” he nounces.

Gracie standstills over them. Sally frownies and huglifts Maximus, sittering up and clumbering to her feet. Maximus sneakpeeks at Gracie and tres liberately putters his paws round Sally’s neck, tuckling his flat orange head neath her chin.

“You heard her,” he purrums, yellowy eyes sparkling like struckered steel.

Gracie smilies, tho she’s still sniffling. “I heard her,” she grees.

“Wow, that cat’s almost as big as you are,” sclaims Daddy, skiddering thru the porto. Mommy has a funnery happylike spression on her face.

“Are you sure you can stand him?” quares Gracie, smilying and leanering her head gainst the portoframe. “He’s one helluva lot of heavily opinionated feline for such a little girl.”

“Quite sure,” clares Sally.

The carriers are riding in back, but Maximus and Sage are up frontriding, Maximus on Sally’s lap and Sage on Mommy’s. Daddy dehas a special friend, but he justlike huggers Mommy and pots Sage on the head.

When the twitchy trip is termo, Sally deminds at first. She and Maximus are deep in convo, plannering a whole list of hijinks (Maximus teachered her that palaver) to perp when they outscape the car.

Eliza Blair has been working with homeless and injured animals snce she was thirteen years old. “Friends In Need” was first published in Penguin Modern Classics: A Science Fiction Omnibus. edited by the esteemed Brian Aldiss. She works for the government and lives in Washington, DC with a veritable forest of houseplants and an ever-changing rotation of foster cats.

“First,” clares Maximus, lashing his orange stripery tail, “First we’re going to scoot some laws into the books about these so-called ‘human rights’. I want to see shelters made voluntary or by court order only by the end of the year. We can beat this overpopulation thing without mandatory euthanasia.”

“Swing it, Maximus, you can,” grees Sally. “Writerup a letter on comp. Show I you how.”

“Hmmm...Propaganda, politics...” The big orange cat cleaners a paw. “I’ll need some feeds on civil law...”

“Webhead I,” prides Sally. “Comp I where. Or if decomp I askie the kiddles in class or Bai in the Philippines. Askie I friendlies everywhere.”

“Sally, time to get out,” digs Mommy.

Maximus jumpers out and peek-a-views up at Sally’s house. He standstills for a long millicycle and Sally strokers his back.

“Home mine, home yours,” clares Sally.

“Home,” peats Maximus, his eyes rounder than quarters. Maximus and Sally go long tramble in the treeforest and grassroots back of Sally’s house, scussing their planners for the Sentient Revolution which will upsweep the world. At dinner Maximus deeats directlike from Sally’s dish, but singly cos he has an owndish on the smartfloor with his namie in orange letters and Sally keepers sneakying chicken bits into it. Mommy denotes this subterfuge – she’s doing likesame with Sage, who sitters and smilies and munchies while she auditates the revolutionaries refuelering.

At darknight Sally downlies in her crib – a bed samelike Mommy and Daddy’s, but secretish her crib in namie – and Maximus upcurlies on her pillow and putters his paws on her eyelids.

“It may get violent,” he tinues, blinkering sleepylike. “There may be a complete reversal of roles. I don’t know, I’ve never done this before. But don’t worry, Sally,” he sures her, “I’ll take care of you.”

“I’m cycleprez next tencycle,” Sally nounces. “Word mine be ‘sentient’.”

“And Sage will help.” Maximus lickies Sally’s forehead.

“She’ll know how to pull this off when we get stuck. Bit of luck, your mother taking to her like that.”

“Love you, Maximus,” clares Sally, and yawnies. “Best bud you. Special friend.”

“And...I love you, Sally,” plies Maximus back of a long pause, but Sally’s already dreamying primepath all the venttries they’ll make tomorrow, nextcycle. Maximus jumpdowns to the floor, hitters the lightswitch back of two tries, and sumes his spot baskering in the warmish dampness of Sally’s breath. Two yellowy eyes like lamplights burnglow thru the darkness as he templates Sally’s face, then, blinkery by stended blink, go out. Maximus dreamies re slip-slithering thru the smooth silent grassroots, huntering chubbly mice who detalk and dethink politics. Instinct calls.

Sally dreamies re the Revolution.

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