"The happy ending is our national belief."
- Mary McCarthy
"Blinovitch was one real son-of-a-bitch."
-Frequently heard curse
amongst employees of The Agency
Earth (Dimensional Location: D-316)
When they came out in the morning, Michael nudged Daria and said, "It looks like we picked up an extra present overnight."
Daria saw her cat asleep and said, "She decided to give us the best thing she could, herself."
"Never argue with cat logic."
Going to the tree, Daria said, "Of course not. It's the superior form of logic, if only we mere humans could understand."
Gentle, Daria picked Bump up and cradled her in her arms. "Merry Christmas."
Bump awoke to the pleasant feel of the Chosen One's embrace and began to purr. Searcher in Earth was also there and started to scratch the spot behind her ear that felt so good.
The Chosen One said, "Thank you for the gift, Bump."
Bump purred more and nuzzled the Chosen One under the chin. After a night of joyous memories of her first family, it felt good to make memories with her second.
Fully cloaked by the 'glamour' created by Archangel's Defender Ring (which even masked scents and heat signatures, the sounds of breathing and subconsciously guided his telekinesis to instantly remove any sign of footprints in the Christmas Day snow), Archangel and Richard watched the happy scene through the window of Daria and Michael Fulton's apartment.
"I still think that collar's a bit too much," Richard said, looking at the exquisitely-crafted collar the car wore – a collar woven out of silk and gold thread, with a solid gold clasp and five perfect diamonds, each the size of a baby sweet pea, placed in perfect symmetry around the collar. "Changing the future?"
"You know that there's no such thing as 'having too much money' when you're a college student - and it doesn't really change your lifestyle, because your school and living expenses eat it all up," Archangel replied, stroking behind the cat's ears. "It's a simple plan."
"Run this by me again," Richard growled.
Archangel sighed. "We leave the cat, and they find her. She's happy, well-fed and groomed, she's wearing something like that – all indications that this is somebody's precious little baby, and they will be looking for her. Because of that, the Fultons will do everything they can to find her owner, and in the meanwhile, they'll care for her as best they can."
Watching as the petite young woman keep her cat back while her husband drew a small turkey from the refrigerator, ready to be placed in the oven for Christmas dinner. "I love roast turkey," the Ringbearer said, to no one in particular. "Anyway, Bump has no problems with the new cat – why should she, it's her sister – and in about six months, I show up; the immaculate, urbane gentleman of leisure, who's been searching for his beloved little friend."
"Could you gin up one of those omnicloth satchels you uber-bling types love to conjure up out of whatever's in sight?" Richard asked, no real malice in his voice. "I think that I'll need a barf bag if you keep talking about yourself that way. At least you finally decided to get rid of that affectation and heal your leg."
"Continuing," Archangel scoffed mildly. "I show up in about five or six months, looking for my little friend – I've been sick in a little hospital overseas, and I couldn't get back to find her, who got away from the person who was watching her-"
"And I've re-worked the records of a recently-deceased eccentric woman who had a passion for cats, and the wealth to care for them in an extravagant manner," Richard finished. "So it looks as if your cat slipped through the cracks when she died, and in a-"
Richard rolled his eyes. "'In a Christmas miracle, the cat somehow found its way here, to a young couple who would take care of it.' You, seeing how well they've cared for your cat and how much they love it, graciously tell them that she should stay with them, and as a reward for taking such good care of your little friend, insist that they keep the collar."
Archangel nodded. "You notice how there are five of those diamonds? I'll suggest that they keep two for the lady; after all, every girl should have a pair of diamond earrings. That collar should provide them enough so that they can concentrate on their studies; it won't change their standard of living, and neither of them is of a mind to spend friviously – especially the former Miss Morgendorffer. The additional cash won't change their lives in any major way, and it won't change history, since it came to them in the natural course of events."
"History records that Daria Morgendorffer-Fulton and her husband had two cats during their time as graduate students," Richard remarked. "Colonel Wright – have you ever seen the Red Dwarf episode 'Tikka to Ride?'"
"I actually prefer 'Profile in
Silver' – that's an ep of The New Twilight Zone," Archangel replied,
smiling as his liaison addressed him by the new rank – a rank he'd received
after returning to his homeworld during the Daylight Crisis to help in
whatever ways he could.
Just making as much omnicloth, ambrosia, aqua vitae and Elixor of Life as I could each day - and gifting people with powers who actually cold have worn Rings, since I didn't want to push my luck with the Ringmasters - was enough to save tens of thousands, and give them a fighting chance, he thought, watching as Daria placed a bone china bowl filled with fresh shrimp on the floor for her cat. Thank God we're allowed to act with reasonable freedoms, barring political or military takeover, if it's our homeworld in danger – hmm. Well, look at that. She's got fresh shrimp for Bump's Christmas brunch. The girl really does spoil that cat.
Richard smiled as he noticed the dish that Bump ate from; it was an exact duplicate of the dish that her younger counterpart had gotten for Bump's sister. "Just remember, Colonel – the predestination paradox isn't a license to screw around with the timeline."
"I know that," Archangel agreed. "This... this is a special circumstance."
"Going through all of this, just for the simple purpose of reuniting a cat family on Christmas morning." Richard sighed. "Exactly how many Frank Capra films did you memorize growing up?"
"I was always more of a Preston Sturges fan, actually," he said, enjoying the feel of the cat nuzzling into the palm of his hand. "Happy endings, yes – but you earn it, by hitting every damn branch on the Tree of Comedic Hard Knocks on the way down. Go ahead and mindlink all three of us, so we can do this."
A spear of apprehension went through the cat as she lifted her head and looked straight into Archangel's eyes. "Rrareow?" Do what? What's going on?
"Do you remember the day we first met, and I told you that your sister would be happy?" Archangel spoke, calming the cat by stroking along her spine. "I keep my promises. Look."
The cat's eyes widened as the Ringbearer turned her towards the window, and she saw-
"MEOW! MEOW! MEOW!" It's Sissy! It's Sissy! It's my Sissy!
"Sufficently primed," Archangel smiled, barely able to keep the squirming cat in hand. "Richard – will you do the honors?"
Richard opened his mind, and reached out to the little black cat with white front paws as she ate-
Bump suddenly jerked her head up. "Meow?" What was that?
"Mew! Mew! Mew! Mew!" It's me, Sissy! It's me! It's me! I'm right here!
Unnoticed by either Daria or Michael, Bump took a tentative step away from her morning meal, and shook her head as if to clear it. "Mmmroerow." I must be hearing things - and I thought it tasted good. The shrimp must be bad.
Archangel started to placed the cat down in front of the window, but hesitated; a moment later, the cat found herself bouncing away from the curb and across the snow-covered yard to the window where she had seen her sister moments earlier, crying out excitedly at the top of her voice. "Mew! Mew! Mew! Mew! Mew! Mew!" Sissy! I'm coming, Sissy! It's me! I'm here! I'm here! Right here!
The cat all but threw herself against the window as she saw her sister on the other side; both cats were crying out at full volume as they pressed and scratched at the window, eager, almost desperate to get to one another.
"A set of cat tracks, so it won't look as if someone just dropped her there," Richard said, a touch of grudging respect in his tome. 'Thinking ahead?"
"Seamless entry into the timestream – it makes the history books look good," Archangel replied. "Check it out."
"And who is this?" Daria said, opening the apartment door and gasping as Bump rushed past her legs to all but collide with the tortoise-shell cat, both rubbing against one another and crying out happily as Bump dropped on one side, purring happily as the other cat nuzzled her stomach and then, padded happily at her side before dropping down on her side and snuggling up close to her... "Well... I guess you've made a friend from somewhere around here – a friend that you didn't tell us about."
"A friend who comes from a very nice family," Michael said, picking up the cat as Daria took Bump into her arms. "This cat's been taken care of; she's been well-fed, look at her coat – and check out that collar."
"Oh, yeah," Daria agreed, her eyes going wide as she took in the collar the cat wore. "We'd better call Aunt Amy, and see if any of the rich people she knows have misplaced a furry family member."
Daria fingered the cat's collar, and came to the thin platinum disk on the front of her collar. "Hey – our unannounced house guest has a name," she announced.
Michael laughed as the cat put her left front paw on his face; gently moving the paw, he looked at the disk. "If I didn't know better, I'd say that this was pure platinum," he commented, whistling as he fingered the disk. "Check out the inlaid diamonds. Somebody really likes their-"
Daria shot her husband a warning look. "Don't you dare say it."
"Their 'cat' to be well-dressed." Michael gave his wile a sheepish grin. "Hey, you've got a dirty mind, too."
"But I don't use it around the baby," Daria shot back. "Yes, somebody's going to be out and about, keeping themselves very busy looking for you – 'Sissy'."
At the sound of her name, Sissy
looked up and yowled "Rrrorrlwrow. Meow! Meow!" That's me! I'm Sissy!
That's what they called me in the other house – and you look like the Mistress.
You're older, and your windows are different, but you look like her.
"Meow! Meow!" Bump said, poking at her sister. You're so – young! You're almost still a kitten!
"Wrareow! Mrrollll.... Mew!" Well, you got old – and look at that tummy! Someone's been eating more than the occasional mouse – as fat as you are, I doubt that you could even catch a mouse now...
"MEOW! MEOW!" I am not old! I am... not... fat!
"Well, Sissy, since it seems that you already know Bump, we might as well get you inside where it's warm," Daria continued, rubbing Sissy's nose. "Close the door, um, guy that I married; we're not heating the outdoors."
As the Fulton family – and their new member – went back inside their home, Richard turned to Archangel, a smile on his face. "Not bad for a government worker," he said. "So – what are you going to do now?"
Archangel cracked his knuckles. "I'm going to find a couple of rocks the size of shooter marbles," he told the Agency supervisor. "I'll transmute them into diamonds, sell them in Geneva, take the money to Las Vegas and have a long weekend that would make JFK himself say that I need to learn how to show the proper respect for wine, women and song."
Richard looked him directly in the eye. "No, really. What are you planning to do now?"
The Ringbearer shrugged. "Probably temport over to one of the other Earths where we have quasi-open operations, and help at a local center. The Silver Circle, remember?"
"I remember," Richard said, recalling his visits to Earths where the Ringbearers – under the guise of the Silver Circle Foundation – used their gifts to covertly provide food, clothing, shelter and pay for free medical care for people in areas all across the Earths where they originally hailed from. "Christmas meals to anyone who wants one, along with free clothing and gifts – and no one gets turned away, no matter how many people are there."
"You guys had problems with the old paving company, so we created a new one in a new area of business," Archangel replied. "I need to get going."
"So do I," Richard said, taking out his mini-computer. "The Supervisory Corps – well, those of us at base – we're having a get-together tonight. Dinner, and a little holiday celebration. You're invited, if you'd like."
Archangel cocked his head, as if lost in thought for a moment, before he glanced back at Richard. "You got sisters?"
Richard frowned at him. "Don't push it."
The Ringbearer smiled, and after giving the Fulton's home one last look, vanished in a purple circle of light.
End Part Three
8 January 2010