Ceiling Cat

Maoh Spaceport, Tokkastria

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Despite the fact that little could be seen out of the window of the cabin, Jaze kept his nose pressed up against it hoping to catch his first glimpse of Tokkastria. The ship descended towards the spaceport so rapidly that there was only a short time of several seconds where the landscape and the city could be seen. He barely had a chance to take in the view before the ship touched down.

Since Jaze had stood pressed up against the window during the entire decent, he hadn't noticed that the ship's gravity was adjusted to Tokkastrian standards during that time. The difference wasn't severe, but it was definitely enough to notice.

Jaze: Wow, this is great! It's even better than when they turned down the gravity after takeoff!

Toma: I have to admit, I feel strange too. I don't remember feeling this light on Tokkastria. Maybe I've got more muscle from living on New Berengaria all those months.

Jaze bounded over to Toma and rubbed his hands on Toma's chest.

Jaze: Yup! And I love each and every one of them!

Perhaps it was due to the gravity or the fact that Tokkastria had slightly less oxygen content in the atmosphere, but Jaze was already starting to feel strangely giddy and lightheaded.

It wasn't long before the first class cabin attendants showed up to collect Jaze and Toma's luggage, which was to be delivered to Toma's house. Jaze and Toma exited the ship to a waiting shuttle bus.

It was only a short ride to to the passenger processing area.

They spent a lot of time here waiting in lines. First, they had to pass through scanner to ensure that nobody was carrying any infectious diseases. Then, it was off to customs. It took a few hours before they could even get to the luggage area. Fortunately, since their luggage was being taken to Toma's home by porter, they didn't have to worry about this section.

During all this time, Jaze was feeling more an more euphoric and by the time they'd gone through customs and disease inspection, he no longer cared what anyone thought anymore. He felt light and free, like a dream in which he could fly. He didn't care that several people were staring. He was thoroughly over any previous fears he had ever had of rabbits.

The ambient music in the processing center was surprisingly funky and speedy, much unlike the so-called "elevator music" in other drab, official buildings and he did not fight the urge to dance his way to the doors to the main lobby. Toma said nothing. Though he didn't especially care for the attention Jaze was drawing to the both of them, he was happy that Jaze was enjoying himself and even smiled a little.

Toma: You seem to be enjoying yourself.

Jaze: I can't help it! All those dance moves Natalya taught us... They're so easy now! Even the ones I was having trouble with are all no problem. I can't believe the difference a little gravity makes!

They approached the large sliding doors and Jaze was still dancing. Once they got close, the doors slid open and then it happened. The first thing he heard was an excited voice coming from the lobby.


*snap* *snap* *flash* *click* *snap*

Jaze froze in mid-pirouette and turned to see what appeared to be an entire regiment of reporters and cameras, all clamoring behind a line of security trying to get a better view.

Jaze: EEK!!!

Toma glared at the crowd of reporters with a scowl on his face.

Toma: Wow. Looks like the tabloids heard about our little trip.

Toma looked to his side where he thought Jaze was standing. However, nobody was there.

Toma: Jaze?

Toma looked all around him and Jaze was nowhere to be seen. He didn't realize what happened until he noticed that all the reporters were now staring and flashing their cameras upward.

Several feet above Toma, Jaze had just made two new discoveries. First, the lower gravity meant that he could jump much higher than before. Second, the lower gravity also ensured he was strong enough cling to the ceiling and stay there. Suddenly, he felt very silly with his fingers dug into the ceiling tile and his tail dangling limply below him like some sort of bell cord to call a butler.

Just then, they heard a voice that was, at least, familiar to Toma.

Ambassador Veritas: There you two are. Found you just in time. Well... almost, anyway.

Jaze looked down from the ceiling as Ambassador Veritas approached with several of his staff.

Jaze stared in awe. Here he was, on a new planet, and now the former Lord of Caprathia and ambassador to Tokkastria was walking towards them. The descriptions he'd heard of Veritas did not prepare him for seeing him in person. He knew Veritas was short, but now he seemed almost comically so as he approached with his entourage. This only enhanced his boyish appearance that made him appear like he was 14 rather than a man approaching 50.

Jaze: Whoa... Is that...

Veritas spread his arms wide and embraced Toma.

Ambassador Veritas: It's been a long time, Toma. You sure have grown a lot.

Toma looked up at Jaze.

Toma: You can come down now, Jaze. This is Veritas, my godfather.

Jaze slowly loosened his grip on the ceiling tile, doing his best to let himself down as gently as possible.

Jaze: I know who he is. I'm surprised you know him.

Jaze landed on the floor more gently than he anticipated. The camera flashes and clamor of the reporters continued, though Jaze was now too nervous to be in the presence of the former Lord of Carpathia to notice.

Toma: He and my father are good friends.

Ambassador Veritas: That we are! It's nice to meet you, Jaze.

Veritas extended his hand. Jaze's ears twisted backwards on his head out of nervousness as he extended his hand as well. Veritas took it and shook vigorously.

Jaze: N...n...nice to m...meet you.

Ambassador Veritas: My staff just informed me that there was a media circus down here, so I decided it would be best to pick you up. I've got a car waiting. This way, please. We need to hurry.

Veritas gestured away from the doors. Relieved though that he was that he wouldn't have to fight through the rabid media in the lobby, Jaze remained behind Toma avoiding Veritas as they made their way to the service exit.

Valefor, Tokkastria

It was already evening by the time they got out of the spaceport. From high above in the starliner, the brief view that Jaze had of the city didn't look much different than any other city. Now that he was on the ground and it was evening, the differences were very apparant. Everything looked like something from a sci-fi movie. He first noticed that Veritas's car had no wheels, same as most other vehicles. It and the others hovered about a foot off the ground. It was an eerie feeling riding in a floating car. It was smoother than anything he'd ever experienced before.

At night, he also discovered that the streets were not concrete or asphalt, but made of some other material that he did not know of. Whatever the material it was, it was full of lights that marked lanes and occasionally contained messages. The buildings shined brightly and most were covered with lights.

Jaze: Is this some sort of casino district?

Ambassador Veritas: No, this is the way most of the city looks. This is the capital area, Valefor. We're about to go by the Tokkastrian parliament.

Toma: My home is near here.

Ambassador Veritas: True, but we're not going there yet. I know of a place where we can get dinner. They serve both Carpathian and Tokkastrian and it's very discreet, so we shouldn't have any trouble with media there. My treat, by the way.

The car sped up the road towards a giant building that looked like a keyhole.

Jaze: What's that?

Toma: That's the keyhole monument. It was built centuries ago, but nobody remembers why. We can go up there sometime.

Valefor, Tokkastria, Skypad Gladad, Toma's house

Jaze's appetite was thoroughly sated by the time Veritas dropped them off at Toma's home, high atop the skypad. Though he didn't really understand the pricing on the menu from which he ordered, he was fairly certain that his meal cost at least as much as their starliner ticket. Throughly exhausted from the journey and the richly seasoned steak he'd just eaten, he was ready for bed.

The Next Morning...

Jaze slept late into the next morning, exhausted from the previous day's excitement. Between taking in his new surroundings, avoiding the media clamor outside the house, or delicately tiptoeing around Veritas, who stayed to chat with Toma for at least an hour before leaving, he was in no mood for more surprises. Toma was already awake and feasting on a plate of various fruits and vegetables he'd never seen before. Jaze entered the room, rubbing his eyes, thinking something seemed strange somehow. It was more than just the unusual, woodsy smell in the air or the heavy humidity, neither of which were normal for him. It took time before he finally realized that the sounds of media clamor had finally died away.

Jaze: It's quiet.

Toma: No media today. Maybe they got bored.

Jaze: I doubt it. Dad always says the tabloid press is the same no matter what planet you're on.

As though on cue, the doorbell rang.

Jaze: See?

Toma: I'll check anyway.

Toma rose from his chair and walked to the door. He tapped a few buttons on a small monitor to the side of the door and a familiar face appeared on it. Toma, satisfied that it was not tabloid press, opened the door.

Emissary Kodie: Greetings. I apologize for disturbing you once again. I have been sent to deliver a directive from Her Majesty, Queen Maoh II.

Toma: A directive?

Emissary Kodie: Correct, but fear not. Though the directive involves both of you, I believe you will find its contents satisfying.

The emissary held out yet another envelope which Toma took gently from his hands.

Emissary Kodie: Good day to you both.

Toma: Thank you.

Toma closed the door.

Jaze: What is it this time?

Toma: No idea. He said we would find it "satisfying."

Toma lifted the flap of the envelope and pulled out the single sheet of parchment contained therein. Jaze watched in anticipation as he read it.

Jaze: Good news?

Toma: The Queen has issued a directive ordering all citizens to refrain from taking any photos or videos of either of us without our consent for the duration of your stay here on Tokkastria. It also says that all journalists, freelance or otherwise, are to keep a distance of at least 600 tails from us at all times.

Jaze's eyes widened in surprise.

Jaze: Wow! She can do that?

Toma: She can do anything she wants, sort of. The great, unwritten rule of Tokkastrian royalty is the Queen can do anything she wants but she does so only very rarely. She's very aware that if she started exercising her power recklessly, the parliament and the people would take it away from her. It's a delicate balance.

Jaze: That explains the quiet.

Toma: The good news is that we can go to the club without a problem tonight.

Jaze: That's true! Mreyow, now I'm looking forward to it again! By the way, how long is a "tail?"

Toma: Roughly the average length of a tokki's tail.

Jaze: Around 8 inches?

Toma: What? That's strangely specific.

Jaze: Hee hee. I measured while you were sleeping.


Commissioned art in this episode from:

All city images from SimCity 4.

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