The adventure continues, after using the CARDBOARD to travel through time, Calex, Lockely and Zeelo explore an abandoned library on the sun.
The Stellar Failsafe
Over a couple of hours had passed since the three kittens (one which was a former fox who was also a former human) had arrived at the library on the sun. By now they had learned there weren’t any actual books in the library. Instead, every tome on a shelf was actually an interactive holographic education program. It essentially acted as an eBook but allowed you to ask questions. There were quite a few interesting ones in the history section. But, they had run into a small problem. The history they had looked up so far came AFTER their own time. The goal was to teach Lockely about history before he came to this world.
“Well, it turns out that we’ve been in three interstellar wars.” Zeelo spoke as he worked hard to push a book almost as big as him back onto the shelf. “Though it looks like they were corporations waging war, usually claiming planetoids with valuable resources for their own company. I can’t find any mention of what countries allowed this.”
“Oh, no that tracks.” Lockely gave a cynical sigh.
“There’s got to be at least a million books just in the history section alone.” Calex had just finished his tome on the invention of portal rings. It confused him because Odin already knew how to build those but the book was claiming that they were still a hundred years out from their time. Some future jerk probably found a way to steal the patent from Odin.
… And all of the various supervillains they had fought which had similar things.
“Oh! I found something!” Zeelo shouted excitedly. He had climbed up to the highest shelf, which was easily 10 feet up. He clung to the side of the bookshelf as he slid a book off and managed to hold it open. “This one covers stuff from before out time!”
“The current universe is largely considered to have been created by the Big Bang.” A dry voice came from the book. “Though some theorize that there may have been another universe that collapsed into a singularity which exploded and created our universe.”
“Um Zeelo I think that’s a bit too far back.” Calex paused. “Or… it might be the future?”
“How can the big bang be the future?” Zeelo looked confused.
“They said a universe came before it.” Calex explained. “We don’t actually know if we’re in the future of our own universe or if we went so far in the future, we’re actually in a second universe after ours collapses.
“If this was a different universe would we still have the sun, the Earth and the English language since all these holographic book things seem to speak it?” Zeelo demanded.
“I don’t know! For all I know time could be circular and it could be the same universe, or slightly different versions of it.” Calex grinned. “But I remind you, we visited at lest five sub-universes in one day last week and all of them had an Earth and the area we landed in people spoke English.”
“Sub-universes?” Lockely asked in confusion.
“Basically a really, really, really tiny universe. So small the entire universe is smaller than a single atom in our universe.” Zeelo explained. “We read the instructions wrong on a chemistry set and wound up visiting multiple in rapid succession, since each of them had sub-universes too.”
“See when you say things like that I feel like I should stand at least fifteen feet away at all times.” Lockely huffed. “Plenty of room in the library.” He paused again as he realized how silent the place was. “Hey… Anyone else bothered by the fact we seem to be alone? As Lockely spoke he walked down another corridor full of books looking around for signs of life. “You would think a library like this would attract a lot of people.”
“Maybe it’s Sunday?” Zeelo suggested. “I mean most libraries are closed on Sunday.”
“But this library is on the sun.” Calex protested. “I would think that would make Sunday the most important day of the week for it!”
“If it’s that important then it might be extra special and thus they always close Sunday! You know like observing some kind of weekly holiday.” Zeelo stuck his tongue out.
“But…” Calex didn’t seem to have a good counterargument. It didn’t stop him from trying. “We’re not even on Earth! So would we even use Earth calendar based terms and days of the week? For that matter how would time zones work?”
“Well, if this place was built by people who originated from Earth I imagine they built clocks in that follow Earth time, and thus the Earth calendar.” Zeelo insisted. “As for what time zone I imagine it’s based off whatever part of the world led the construction of it.”
“That’s call conjecture you can’t be sure!” Calex waved his paws. “Although we might be able to find a book about it. Where do you think they keep the history of the library?”
“Regardless of the reason!” Lockely felt the need to speak just to end this back and forth. The two seemed to be arguing just for the sake of arguing, as if it was a game to them. “We are completely alone here.”
“That does seem to be the case.” Calex’s ears twitched. “I haven’t caught sound or scent of anyone else since we arrived.” He got quiet for a moment. “Mostly.”
“What do you mean mostly? Zeelo tilted an ear.
“Dunno, just a feeling.” Calex shrugged. “But there definitely aren’t any people here.”
“Then that means I definitely don’t need to be in a disguise.” Lockely spoke up. “So, no more werekitten, time to go back to being a fox.” He stuck his thumb in his mouth and blew. He wasn’t really sure why. It was just the first thing he thought of. But since the curse was supposed to break the moment anyone wanted it, he felt he had to do something to symbolize it was time to end the curse.
And indeed, Lockely started to get taller, his tail fluffier, and his body a more humanoid shape than the kittens. However, despite changing back to his normal species, he hadn’t changed back to his normal age, and was still only six and a half years old, same as Calex and Zeelo. He was taller than them. He was an Aninum again, which put him roughly at the same size as a human of his age vs the kitten sized duo. But he definitely still felt very small standing there as a fox kit in the giant library.
“What just happened!?” Lockely demanded. “I thought you said the curse would break super easy!”
“It does!” Calex replied.
“Then why am I still a kid? I should be an adult!” Lockely thrashed his tail.
“Look I dunno what to tell you that’s on you.” Zeelo smirked at Lockely. “The curse works with you and what you want. Means you’re not ready to be an adult again.” He purred smugly. “Maybe you wanna stay a kid, cause it helps you fit in with us, and makes the adventure more fun.”
“I don’t…” Lockely shook his head. He had been certain he’d be back to normal now. But he also knew they were being truthful about how the werekitten curse worked. Maybe Zeelo had a point? Well, Lockely could choose to ignore it and remain indignant if he wanted. “Now none of my clothing is going to fit.”
“Um, you left your clothes back in the living room.” Zeelo pointed out. “So that’s not really an issue.”
“Oh… Right…” Lockely had been so focused on going back to normal he hadn’t considered the fact he had no way to retrieve his belongings. It also meant that being this young was the only reason he could see without glasses right now. “So… Now I’m stuck here naked.” He paused and considered it for a moment. “You know what, I don’t think it counts if it’s just around you two.”
“Whatever you need to tell yourself.” Calex shrugged. Then he paused and there was a very brief look of concern on his face. It was only there for a moment, but as Calex almost never dropped his cheerful attitude the brief change was noticeable.
“What’s wrong?” Zeelo asked. Having known Calex, he was exceptionally good at catching on to these moments and realizing when the other kitten was bothered by something.
“Just a funny feeling.” Calex kicked at the ground. “Don’t worry about it. You keep looking for history books for Lockely. “I’ll be right back. There’s another section of the library I want to check out.” With that Calex took off running on all fours before either of his companions could object.
“How alarmed should we be about that?” Lockely asked.
“It’s probably fine.” Zeelo shrugged. “Calex has a kind of… I guess a sixth sense? I dunno, he just gets feelings sometimes and knows he needs to go check something out or has to be somewhere. Whatever it is he can handle it. Let’s get back to teaching you history! Hopefully actual history this time and not future history. Probably best we try learning as little about the future as possible.”
“Right, because we might do something to change it and that could create a time paradox.” Lockely nodded.
“Oh? Yeah, I guess that’s a problem too.” Zeelo seemed surprised by the idea. “I was thinking more about the stern looking people in suits.”
“Sometimes I feel like I need a Kitten to Sanity translator.” Lockely just gave Zeelo a dead stare. “Alright most of these books seem to not be far enough back. But there’s gotta be something. There’s like millions upon millions of books. This would be the time to ask a librarian…. But as no one else next best thing is the card catalog. I’m sure they must have something like that.” He paused. “Um… which way do you think is the main lobby.”
“I have no idea.” Zeelo looked to his left. There were lines of bookshelves. He looked to his right. More lines of bookshelves. “Well if we start walking in one direction we’ll have to hit a wall eventually… Or maybe a sign pointing the way.” Zeelo picked a direction and started walking.
“I guess if the library is closed today, we’re not on a time crunch.” Lockely followed after Zeelo. He looked around, noticing he had never noticed how creepy libraries were, especially when you were only six years old and no one else was around. He reminded himself that he was an adult, and that he was being silly it was just a library. Nothing could hurt-
“Warning.” A robotic voice sounded throughout the library.
“GAH!” Zeelo and Lockely yelled in unison jumping into each other’s arms, which mostly meant that Lockely was now carrying Zeelo.
“That didn’t scare me.” Zeelo insisted, though his tail was all busy giving him away. “Just took me by surprise.”
“Right same, it’s a just an announcer.” Lockely nodded. The two did not let go of each other.
“Stellar Failsafe Safeguards have been activated.” The robotic voice continued. “Please evacuate at your earliest convenience.”
“What does that mean?” Lockely demanded.
“I think it means we should go find Calex.” Zeelo replied meekly. Both nodded, let go of each other and ran off in the direction they had seen Calex go.
“This doesn’t make any sense, none of it makes any sense.” Calex was pacing back and forth in an empty office. It was in theory the office of the head librarian. But there was nothing there. No furniture, no signs of being used, it was just a small empty room. “Even if it’s closed there should be signs of people… It’s like no one has ever been here before.”
He moved out of the office and to the front counter. This was where books would in theory be checked out. At least if there was a computer system, or a stamp station, or literally anything on the counter but dust that could be used to mark the return date. Calex walked further. Based on the fact this was the lobby the front doors should be nearby. Yet, as he walked on he just ran into a stone wall. No doors. And part of what was bothering him hit him at once. He had seen no emergency exits or ways out of the library since arriving. There was the possibility people came in through portals or teleportation, but he hadn’t seen any kind of equipment that was used for that. How did people get in?
And more importantly right now? How did they leave?
As he considered this, a brief shadow passed over Calex. The kitten’s whiskers suddenly twitched, his body tensed and he suddenly sprang forward, rolling across the ground right as something very large and heavy struck the spot he had been standing on. There was now a sizeable hole in the floor. The kitten looked up trying to see what had nearly hit him. All he saw was the shadow of a strange intangible shape as it moved across the ceiling, disappearing from his sight as it rounded a corner.
“Well, that’s not good.” Calex muttered. It was at this point that the message about the Steller Failsafe played. “And that definitely isn’t good. Time to get Zeelo and Lockely out of here.” Despite how oblivious Calex acted, he was aware that he was different from most people. He was hard to injure, healed quickly, and could bench press a house. Regardless of how he acted he knew these were not normal abilities. And because he knew he was different he often wasn’t concerned about facing danger himself.
But Zeelo and Lockely were both more normal by comparison. It was time to get them out of here. Maybe he’d come back with Odin to investigate. Odin didn’t have any powers, but he was a trained professional. Or at least knew how to handle this kind of stuff. Especially since a ‘Steller Failsafe’ sounded very techy which was very much Odin’s department. Whatever creature had just taken a shot at Calex though… That was his department. But first, getting people to safety. He dropped to all fours and ran in the direction he remembered the two being. As he did, red lasers suddenly lit up creating grids and barriers between bookshelves.
Calex didn’t hesitate. He dove straight for one of the laser grids, shrinking in size rapidly as he did. For brief moment there was an orange mouse, small enough to go through a hole in the grid. Then he landed, and was already back to being a kitten as he continued to run.
“WHOA!?” Zeelo came to an abrupt halt as he was running when a laser suddenly shot between two bookshelves. Lockely ran into him and the two barely managed to avoid toppling over into the laser.
“What is that?” Lockely asked.
“If I had to guess, I’d say the Stellar Failsafe?” Zeelo asked. He grabbed a book off the shelf and tossed it through the laser. The book was sliced in half as it landed on the other side.
“Why does a library have death lasers!?” Lockely demanded.
“I don’t know! But we’re not going this way!” Zeelo turned and ran down another corridor only to be blocked off as several lasers formed a grid. “On second thought, there was plenty of room to crawl underneath that other one. We should go back that way.” There was a searing noise as more lasers sprang to life at the start of this aisle. Lockely and Zeelo were now stuck. The shelves went all the way up to the ceiling so they couldn’t climb those. And considering the laser had cut a book in half going through the grids wasn’t possible. Not at their current sizes. “Ugh of all the days not to get randomly shrunk by something.” Zeelo complained.
“Uh yeah sure…” Lockely didn’t really like the idea of being shrunk. But stuck between the two grid lasers he would happily take anything that would let him get out right now. “Maybe… We can push a bookshelf over?” He knew they were probably too heavy. But it wasn’t as if they had a lot of other options. “Start pulling books off the shelf to make them lighter!”
“Right!” Zello grabbed a book. As he did he felt it heat up in his paws. “O-ow!” Zeelo dropped the book on the ground where it exploded into a pile of red good that melted through part of the floor. “What just happened?”
“It’s like the book turned to magma.” Lockely stepped back from the bookshelf.
“I could have lost a paw!” Zeelo shouted. The two stood back-to-back, The books on the shelves were starting to all melt, forming into the same red goopy substance and drip down.
“Any ideas?” Lockely asked.
“One… But you’re not gonna like it.” Zeelo muttered.
“At this point I will like any plan that keeps us alive.” Lockely responded.
“Then we’re going to jump onto the bookshelves.” Zeelo readied himself.
“The ones currently covered in melting books that can burn through the floor?”
“Yeah.” Zeelo responded. “The shelves themselves aren’t melting, parts of the floor are. Once the goop has gotten down low enough we can jump onto the shelves above it to get off the ground.”
“Won’t they be super-heated and burn our paws on contact?” Lockely asked.
“Well it’s either burnt paws or stand in a bubbling pool of magma.” Zeelo gritted his teeth.
“You’re right. I do hate this plan.” Lockey muttered. But Zeelo was right. However much it hurt, and whatever damage came of it, they could recover. If their entire bodies got engulfed in the red goop and they melted well… There wasn’t any coming back from that. He got ready to jump.
“There you two are!” Zeelo and Lockely were interrupted by Calex’s voice as he appeared outside the grid. “Had a heck of a time finding and-“ He noticed the goop. “That doesn’t look good. Ugh, shouldn’t have left the shrink ray at home.”
“Honestly, despite the complete terror of the situation, I’m impressed that you both somehow manage to make being reduced to the size of a mouse seem like an improvement to the situation.” Lockely was still ready to jump.
“Hang on… I’ll get you out…” Calex looked at the laser grid. He could go mouse again and jump through them, but then he’d be in the same boat. But… The lasers were coming from the bookshelf… Which was also what had the goop falling down from it. “Ohhh, anyone watching, please don’t hate me for destroying priceless knowledge. I didn’t have a choice.” Calex leaped into the air and kicked the side of the shelf. There was a crashing sound as it crumbled into pieces, as well as the shelf directly after it, and the one after that. The lasers coming from these shelves abruptly turned off making a path. “Come on let’s go!”
“Don’t have to tell us twice!” Zeelo leaped across parts of the floor where the red goop had landed heading for the entrance.
“What the heck is going on?” Lockely demanded as he followed. “I don’t get it. Why does it feel like the library is suddenly trying to kill us?”
“That’s the thing.” Calex after making sure both of them had gotten out of the area safely pushed a shelf over with ease to stop the spread of the red goop. “I don’t think it’s a library at all. I think… It’s some kind of vault. Filled with the most precious thing of all. Knowledge.” Calex looked grim. “At least that’s what they’d say but I got a bad feeling we’re not alone…”
“That feeling you checked out?” Zeelo asked.
“Didn’t actually see anything but some kind of shadow, but pretty sure something took a shot at me.” Calex nodded. “Look you two need to get back to the box as quickly as possible. I won’t be long. I’m going to try to shut down all these lasers and any other traps there might be.”
“Um, we gonna make it back to the box on our own?” Zeelo asked.
“Well, I went to the box first when looking for you two, so all the security there is pretty much trashed already.” Calex responded. “But if you see anything off just yell and I’ll come running.”
“Wait!” Lockely interrupted. “Calex, you’re a kid. I can’t let you just go risking your life on your own.”
“Lockely, with all due respect, you’re a kid too right now.” Calex responded. “All three of us are. But only one of us can punch a hole through solid steel.”
“Point taken.” Lockely didn’t like it, but he realized he didn’t have a lot to contribute to whatever Calex was planning.
“Now you two, get going.” Calex shouted. “We can use the box to go back home and get out of the library.”
“And where are you going?” Zeelo asked.
“This Stellar Failsafe has to have some kind of main computer somewhere.” Calex explained. “If I can find that I can shut things down. I’ll smash it if I have to. Maybe just smash it on principle. Might find a clue as to what this place is, but I’m not going to spend long.” With that he began climbing one of the bookshelves still intact. When he reached the top he punched the ceiling creating a small hole that he threw himself into.
“He does this kind of stuff a lot huh?” Lockely watched.
“It’s his day job.” Zeelo replied. “Come on, let’s get back to the box.” The two took off running through the library. Piles of red goop had formed up all over the place, but Calex had been true to his word. Many of the bookshelves that had blocked the way to where they left the box were now gone, their laser systems thoroughly smashed to bits.
Up above the ceiling, Calex found himself surround my a mess of wires. That was perfect, it gave him a direction. He followed the thickest most important looking ones, heading to see where they went. After a few minutes he found they actually went into a place above the little maintenance shaft he had found himself in. Not seeing a door, he made his own and busted into the room above him.
It was an office, not unlike the librarian’s office. But this was one was actually furnished. There was a large computer terminal on one wall and a small shelf a few books on the other. It was strange some books were up here by themselves. But Calex didn’t have time to dwell on that he ran to the computer terminal hoping to shut down the security.
“Ugh, smash or no smash?” Calex muttered as he looked at the computer not recognizing any of the symbols on them.
“English recognized.” The computer chimed and suddenly everything on the screen changed to something Calex could read.
“Oh, that’s handy.” Calex began to read what was written on screen. He took a few steps back. “That’s… Insane. Why would anyone design it like this? Ok, no smash… But what do I do?” He paused as he saw the books on the shelf. Why were they up here on there own? Maybe one of them was an operating manual? He grabbed a book and pulled it off the shelf and looked at the label.
Zhuldulb: Devourer of Knowledge
“I feel like my day is about to get worse.” Calex muttered. The title alone pretty much confirmed his suspicions about what this place was. He grabbed the book and opened it, listening to the message play as he headed back down.
“The box!” Lockely shouted as it came into sight.”
“I’ll start getting it set up for travel.” Zeelo ran forward to the box. “You keep lookout for me.”
“Right… Sure…” Lockely looked around as Zeelo jumped into the box. He thought he saw the shadow of something out of his eyes. “Hey… Zeelo?”
And then some kind of tendril shot down, grabbing the box with Zeelo in it and dragging it up to the ceiling.
“Ah carp! Fish sticks! Cod dang it.” Zeelo tried to think of any more fish based swears he could do but couldn’t come up with any as the box was suddenly lifted into the air. He dug his claws into it, hanging to it even when the box was turned upside down. Then he suddenly saw something looking into the box. Something with at least nine eyes. “Um… Hi… I’m Zeelo. You are?” The kitten smiled nervously.
The creature let out a screeching noise in response.
“Right um well… You know things to do um… Bye…” Zeelo let go of the box dropping down. Tendrils shot forth from whatever the creature was trying to grab him. He may not have had superpowers, but he was still a cat and that meant he had feline reflexes. He jumped to a bookshelf, clinging to the side then jumped again right as a tendril slammed into the shelf leaving a hole. He broke into a run on all fours when he landed the ground. The creature came to the floor after him. “You know this is a really awkward first introduction!” Zeelo shouted. “Aren’t you supposed to at least like introduce yourself before trying to kill me! That’s how Calex always described these things going!”
The thing released another screech and continued to chase Zeelo. But Zeelo saw hope where he least expected it. A set of bookshelves with the laser grids still active. One of them only had a few bars. Diving to the ground the brown werekitten slid beneath the lasers in between the bookshelves. The creature stopped abruptly before the lasers and made an angry hissing noise. Zeelo got his first look at it. The thing was shapeless. Or, at least it kept seeming to change shape. It was a writhing mass of tendrils and gooey flesh that seemed to constantly fold in on itself and reshape. And no part of it appeared to be made of solid physical mass, which was strange given it had clearly stolen the box and smashed several things.
“Looks like Calex was right. Guess I know what was locked up here.” Zeelo backed away from the laser grid. The creature hissed at him again before disappearing back onto the ceiling. Zeelo broke into a sprint trying to get back to where he had been with Lockely.
“Alright!” Calex leaped down through a freshly made hole in the ceiling landing next to Lockely. “I pretty much know what’s going on here.”
“Calex! Something came! It took Zeelo! And!” Lockely tried to explain.
“It’s ok!” Zeelo’s voice sounded. “I’m fine!” He quickly ran out to meet the others then collapsed to the ground panting.
“It came after you?” Calex seemed confused, and very angry. “I was sure it would… Never mind.” He shook his head. “Okay, I’ve got good news and bad news.”
“Um the box is missing.” Zeelo interrupted remembering the creature had stolen it.
“Okay so I have bad news and worse news.” Calex corrected himself. The bad news is if we don’t figure out a way to stop the Stellar Safeguards the entire sun is going to go supernova.”
“That’s the bad news?” Lockely demanded. “What’s the worse news?”
“Without the box we don’t actually have a way to escape it.” Calex responded. “So um… Who wants to stop the sun from exploding?”
“Why is the sun going to explode!?” Lockely’s tail bristled.
“Zhuldulb.” Calex responded. “That’s the creature you saw. It’s called the Devourer of Knowledge. Essentially, it can analyze information by things through touch… Then once all information has been analyzed it destroys the object to prevent new information from being created. Its destroyed multiple planets. The library… It’s basically a giant mouse trap for him. After it was inside, they launched the library with Zhuldulb onto the sun.”
“But that means there’s a way out right?” Lockely asked. “This Zhuldulb thing had to get in somehow.”
“There’s a hatch.” Calex explained. “But right now it opens directly to the surface of the sun. Not exactly an escape route either we are Zhuldulb can take. This thing is strong, but it’s not immortal. A star would kill it… The people who locked it up here were so scared of it they were willing to sacrifice the entire solar system and everyone in it, detonating the sun to kill it for good.”
“So even if we could escape the Earth would be destroyed?” Lockely looked horrified. “We can’t just let that happen.”
“I didn’t plan to! We have a time machine! We have all the time in the world. Or had. I was going to get you two back to the present, then bring Odin here to study the Stellar Failsafe. I was hoping he could shut it down.”
“What even triggered the failsafe?” Zeelo asked.
“Probably us.” Calex looked guilty. “There was not supposed to be anyway in or out of here. The system detected new arrivals. It doesn’t know how we got in, but only that we did… And so it’s going to detonate before Zhuldulb uses our method of transportation to escape.”
“But he can’t!” Lockely was sure of this. “The box only works for cats! And he’s… Some kind of monster thing.” Lockely withstood the desire to go on a rant about how the box was nonsense kitten magic, but restrained himself given the current urgency. What mattered was the creature couldn’t use the box. Only they could.
“The Stellar Failsafe Safeguards don’t know that.” Calex shook his head. “And I don’t know how to make a computer understand the situation is safe.”
“Lockely is good with computers!” Zeelo suggested.
“Normal Earth computers!” Lockely replied. “Not some space age supercomputer! Can’t you just smash the failsafe?”
“Thought of that.” Calex shook his head. “But from what I was looking at… If I smash it now that it’s already active, it’ll just detonate the sun prematurely. It has to be turned off.”
They were interrupted at the screeching of Zhuldulb echoed throughout the library. Its writhing mass dripped down from the ceiling as it then formed into a large monstrous shape towering over the children. It looked between the three of them, trying to choose its prey. It became very still, and as it did, seemed to lose physical form, now just seeming to be a mass of intangible shadows.
“Not that I’m complaining, but why isn’t it killing us?” Lockely hissed.
“It wants to know everything about us first.” Calex responded back. “It’s trying to figure out which of us has the most knowledge to absorb.” He frowned. “This was why I thought it was safe for you two to go ahead, I was sure it would come after me. I didn’t know the exact nature of what we were dealing with yet, but I had my guesses if a library was a trap. It went after you two though.”
“Well yeah! I mean… I’m a fox who was a kitten who was a fox who was a kitten again who was a human from another universe! That’s two universes worth of experience and three species of information!” Lockely was annoyed.
“But it went for me first.” Zeelo muttered. “Grabbed me in the box…”
“OH!” Calex’s eyes lit up. “It went for the box first. It must have saw us arrive in it. It likely wanted to know how to use it to escape… But if it’s using its powers to analyze real information about objects it’s not going to sense anything other than a box… So now it has to figure out how to work it from one of us.” Calex began to move away from the other two. “Oi! Ugly! Over here!”
“Calex what are you doing?” Lockely demanded.
“You want information right?” Calex asked. “I’m actually older than these two combined. I speak ancient Gaelic and I don’t know why. I have experiences even I can’t explain… And I made that box.” He grinned. “Because there’s actually very little I know about myself. Decades, maybe even centuries. But I do know this. I’m a mad kitten with a box.” He jumped back further away from the creature. It hissed, took the bait and dove for Calex.
“Are you insane!?” Zeelo shouted. “You said it destroys whatever it learns about.”
“Well, I’ll try to make it a very long lesson.” Calex shouted back. “You two… Get up there to the computer system! Use the hole in the ceiling, follow the big wires and find a way to shut down the Steller Failsafe. I’ll handle this.”
“But you-“ Zeelo objected.
“He’ll be fine.” Lockely put a hand on Zeelo’s shoulder. “He’s Calex, right? Deals with this kind of stuff all the time.”
“Right…” Zeelo nodded, trying to sound sure. The two quickly grabbed onto the closest bookshelf that hadn’t been destroyed yet, climbed to the top and into the hole that led to the ventilation shaft.
“Alright then…” Calex looked at the writhing mass before him. “What do you want to learn first? I’ve got some knowledge about kinetic energy that’s just going to blow you away.”
Following the wires Lockely and Zeelo made it up to the compute room Calex had been in earlier. Lockely sat down at the computer while Zeelo leaped up onto the shoulder of the chair observing him.
“Again, I have no idea what to do here.” Lockely replied.
“Maybe the UI is intuitive?” Zeelo suggested hopefully.
“Maybe…” Lockely looked at the computer screen. There were dozens of windows all over the filled with all kinds of information. Most of them he couldn’t understand, but he recognized a few as mathematical formulas, chemical compounds.
There was one thing that he had no problem understanding though.
A large square box that read: ‘Stellar Failsafe: 55 second remaining.’
“Ok, don’t panic, but we have 55 seconds before the sun explodes.” Zeelo pressed on Lockely’s shoulder. “Fix it! Fix it! Fix it! Fix it!”
“I don’t know how!” Lockely shouted, louder than he meant to. 40 seconds now. The sun was going to explode, they were all going to die. And who knew how many people on Earth would perish as a result. He looked at the keyboard, recognizing some keys on it but not all of it. 30 seconds. He had to do something. “ARGHHHHHHHHH!” Lockely in frustration went to what he thought of first. Hitting keys he recognized.
20 seconds remained. A window popped up offering to lock, restart or shutdown the computer.
“Shut down! Shut down!” Zeelo shouted.
“I know!” Lockely hit the button. The computer made a lot of noise and displayed a message.
‘Error. Stellar Failsafe is not responding and preventing shut down. Force close?’
“YES!” Zeelo and Lockely shouted at the same time. And then the computer shut down. 5 seconds passed, and the sun didn’t explode.
“Okay, cool, we saved the world.” Lockely let out a small laugh. “I’m fine. Everything is under control. Just… Gonna…” He tried to stand up and immediately fell over.
“I think I want to go home now.” Zeelo muttered.
“Yeah… That sounds nice.” Lockely froze. “Wait, the thing still has the box… And Calex!”
“Ugggh.” Calex had multiple tendrils wrapped around his body. Zhuldulb was doing its thing. He wasn’t sure how, but it was absorbing information about him. When it was done it would try to crush him.
“Learning a lot huh?” Calex managed to speak though he felt as if his lungs were being crushed. “Because I’m wondering if you learned enough to realize just how badly you messed up.”
Zhuldulb didn’t respond and continued to steal information about the kitten’s life. Information even the kitten didn’t know.
“Skip ahead to the present.” Calex explained. “You tried to hurt one of my friends. See what happened to the last person who tried that. And the one before that. And the one before that.”
Zhuldulb unleashed a screeching noise but then froze. It was seeing things, and the things it saw made it hesitate.
“You realize it now?” Calex asked. There was a small glow of orange light at the tips of his fur. “I’m going to make you pay for even think about hurting them.” The kitten pushed his arms out, and a shockwave was released as the tendrils around him were thrown apart. “You weren’t the only one learning…” Calex’s voice became very stern. “I observed you, your writhing body. You’re usually more fluid, attacks would go right through you. But to absorb information, you have to become solid, to touch the person.” The glowing intensified. “I hope you’re ready, because here comes that lesson about kinetic energy I promised you.” The tendrils tried to wrap themselves around the kitten again, only for Calex to grab them and jerk the creature forward so that its eyes were within inches of Calex’s snoot. “LUNAR!” Calex shouted.
Then he paused and looked out the window, remembering they were on the sun.
“Eh, guess I can change it up to match the setting.” He gave a predatory grin to the eyes staring hungrily at him. “SOLAR IMPACT!” Calex swung a paw forward striking the creature in the center of its eyes. It let out a howl of pain and the impact sent it flying backwards, crashing through several walls before it disappeared from sight.
“Calex!” Zeelo leaped down from the ceiling. “Lockely got the computer turned off and… Where’s the monster?”
“He had to rush off to make it to a physics lesson.” Calex clapped his paws. “Anyway… That’s great… But, I think it’s time we go home. Don’t want to risk activating that failsafe again.”
“What about the monster?” Lockely poked his head down from the ceiling.
“I think it has enough information to think on that it won’t bother us.” Calex put his hands on his hips and puffed out his chest.
“Great. So where’s the box?” Zeelo asked.
“Oh… Right…” Calex looked sheepish. “Um… It must have dropped it somewhere… I guess… Everyone let’s comb the library for it.”
“You know, after everything we went through looking around a library for a cardboard box feels like a very anticlimactic way to end our time here.” Lockely muttered as he climbed down.
“You want me to install a self-destruct sequence in the box next time so we have a time limit?” Calex asked half joking. “That’ll make it more exciting.”
“Please don’t say anything to give him ideas.” Zeelo groaned.
It took an hour to find the box. Both kittens jumped in it but Lockely paused as he looked at it.
“You need to bite me again don’t you?” He asked. “It’s not going to work while I’m still a-“ He didn’t finish the sentence before he rapidly shrunk back down to his kitten form. “What?”
“I told you, it’s a very accommodating curse.” Calex grinned. “Now come on, get in the box and let’s go home.”
“You do know how to get back home right?” Zeelo asked.
“Of course!” Calex grinned. “Though not sure if I can do it in one jump.”
“What does that mean?” Lockely asked.
“Look this thing mostly goes where it wants.” Calex shrugged. “But that means it always goes home eventually. So… Let’s pull the lever and see what happens!” He made the motion of pulling an imaginary lever, and just like last time the box slowly disappeared as it entered the timestream, moving on to its next destination.