Light flickered in the laboratory, the cold fluorescents illuminating a metal table.
“Do, do do, do,” sang Brils under his breath. “BANG, BANG, BANG!” he said, not under his breath. He shimmied around the table, grabbing his scalpel, “Pirate skulls and bones,” he sang, “Mmm, mmm, mmm, weed and bones.”
He wielding the scalpel, maneuvering with deft flicks of his wrist. Blood started spurting onto his labcoat. And more blood. He reached for thread and a needle, humming the whole time.
“LETHAL POISON IN THEIR SYSTEM!” he shouted, almost in tune, and hit the “off” button on his CD player.
He stared at the table. “Welcome to your new life, Mittens.” Brils suppressed a chuckle, but not his lopsided smile.
“Ok, it’s simple,” said John, trying to remember the instructions given that Brils gave to him. “We, um, put the cat in the building. We’ll see what the cat sees on our computer monitor. When the cat sees what we want to blast, we push the red button.”
“Will the mods to the cat set off metal detectors?” asked Perry.
“Uh, I didn’t ask.”
“Well, is there metal in its doohickey?”
“Probably! I mean, what do you want me to say? Brils didn’t specify.”
“So we have to get the cat in and past the metal detector.”
“I guess, although I did tell Brils our plan–”
“What do you mean you told Brils? That is need to know information! And the only two people on this planet who need to know are you and I.”
“Well, I mean, I thought it would be helpful for the construction…”
“No matter. That just makes Brils as culpable as anyone. If the shit hits the fan, we can frame him as the mastermind.”
“Yes! A framery!” shouted John, pumping his fist.
“You are an absurd person, did you know that? Now, let’s reconfigure our plans to get the cat past the metal detector.”
The unmarked white van was parked a half-a-block away from their target. It was rather dark in the van, even though it was midday. Perry held a flashlight under his chin and John pointed his cell phone at him.
“Are, are you recording? Good. Ok. The government has been dicking around with us, the people, for way too long. It’s time to bring the whole thing down. By the time you see this it will be too late; the revolution will have started and society as we know it will become transformed, like a butterfly breaking out of a cocoon because, like, once it was in the cocoon, but not as a butterfly, but as a caterpillar, and the cocoon, which the caterpillar spun itself, transformed it into a butterfly.”
John gave a thumbs-up sign and uploaded the video to YouTube.
“Alright, Johnny-boy,” said Perry. “We are at the point of no return.”
John crawled out of the van, Mittens in a basket. He was wearing all black, including a handkerchief over his face. He was also wearing yellow gloves because there was a sale at Michaels and they were out of black.
Several pedestrians stared until he ducked behind some shrubs and made his way to the back of the building. The male restroom window was propped open with a stick: his handiwork from earlier in the day.
“Ok, Mittens. You know what to do!” He slipped the cat into the building, looked around him to make sure he wasn’t seen, and sprinted back to the van, anticipating the screams at any moment. Foot, pavement, foot, pavement, foot, pavement, until he dove into the van.
“Did she find Mayor Horton’s office yet?” he asked panting, squinting, trying to see the computer screen with the sweat on his brow.
Perry said nothing.
John wiped his brow, using his shirt to clear sweat away from his eyes. He blinked.
“Why’s the screen black?”
“Well,” said Perry, suppressed rage coloring his tone, “I’m pretty sure Mittens took two steps into the room and then curled up and started taking a nap.”
“Eh?” John looked closer at the screen and realized it wasn’t pitch black. It was a similar reddish darkness to whenever he’d close his eyes during class. “What do you know. A nap. You want me to go back and wake her up? Give her a caffeine tablet?”
Perry tapped his finger a few seconds, and then a few more seconds. “No, no. You said the lasers Brils installed in her eyes were powerful, right?”
“As powerful as they get, sure.”
“We may have to push the red button and hope its strong enough to annihilate the target from where she is.” Perry shrugged. “Could work.”
This was a superbly dumb idea from the outset. And Perry’s little fix to the cat’s sleep problem was even dumber. There is no way it should have worked. None of this should have worked. No one should have cooked up their idea. No one should have agreed to take a cat and replace its eye with a laser. And certainly no one should have made a laser as absurdly strong as Brils made Mittens’s lasers.
The moment Mittens flopped on her back (lazily blinking in the process), Perry hit the red button.
Everything happened so quickly. Lasers move at the speed of light, or 186,000 miles per second. A second after Perry hit the button, the laser beam was already two-thirds of the distance to the moon. Within that second, many things happened:
1. Big, red beams shot out of the confused Mittens’s face.
2. They hit the ceiling of the restroom, immediately bursting it.
3. The beam continued upward, shattering every room directly above, including the Mayor’s office.
4. The building structure become completely compromised and collapsed.
5. In order to avoid the falling debris, Mittens began swinging her head back and forth, redirecting the beam into multiple directions.
6. These beams destroyed everything within reach, including: nearby houses, trees, people, and pets, not to mention two birds unlucky enough to be caught in their path.
Life slowing down as emergency personnel race toward the scene.
Ash and debris hung in the air.
John was found curled in the corner of the van, shaking. Perry had disappeared. A part of the van roof was gone.
It didn’t take authorities long to peg the van as suspicious. Let’s just say the amount of evidence within was ample.
Reporters everywhere. FOX. CNN. Channel 8. That guy with the nasally voice you always hated. That girl who speaks with a perfect Hollywood voice. The new guy who has a southern accent and no one trusts. All elbow-to-elbow for their respective stations, trying to get the scoop, trying to flag police officers or firefighters or anyone to give an account of what happened.
And as John was pulled out of the van, cuffed, and thrown into a police cruiser, those same reporters shouted questions at him.
“Why’d you target the, uh, Delta mayor’s office?” asked the agent.
“To make a political statement.”
“In Delta? Uh, ok. So you took the cat around back? Why didn’t you go through the front door?”
“Because we needed to get her past the metal detector. I went in earlier in the day to prop the bathroom window.”
“And you didn’t notice that there was no metal detector?”
“I didn’t.” John looked confused. “I didn’t even think about that. There wasn’t a metal detector?”
“Nope,” said the agent, pinching his nose. “Ok, so you let the cat in and your partner hit the button.”
“Yeah, but Mittens didn’t go to the mayor’s office.”
The agent blinked at John. “Didn’t go to the mayor’s office?”
“Yeah, Mittens was supposed to go out of the bathroom, down the hall, to the elevator, and find the mayor.”
“To the elevator. John, how was a cat going to push the button?”
“Well, we found poor Mittens alive and scared under a whole lot of rubble.” The agent sighed. “This is the weirdest fucking case I’ve seen. Honestly.”
“Hello?” said Brils, holding his cell phone.
“I hear you’re the guy to come to with weapon surgery needs.”
“Perhaps. You tell me what you want, you send me half up front, I deliver. You pay the other half on pick up.”
Fifteen minutes later Brils closed his phone, an odd little smile playing his lips. He hit play on his CD player. “You feel so heavy, you just can’t stop it,” he sang. “this sea of madness turns you into stone.” Brils hummed a few words he didn’t know. “Shoots like a rocket, all the time.”
Brils hummed and checked his PayPal account.