I had become somewhat alienated from the rest who were basking in the presence of the cat.
Not for long. Till the cat one morning brought in a dead mouse. Three weeks after the solar event.
The ginger cat brought it and laid it before my work mate.
It was as though the cat had burst open the silent terror that was stalking me out into the open. Like the pollens cast into the air hay fever of disquietude broke out in general. It showed up in the looks of workmates. I thought the word ‘plague’ expressed nicely from the responses it drew on them.
I examined the situation. The cat had introduced into our world something strange. A mouse. Despite my forebodings it was as natural the cat. But the thing it had in its mouth was dead!
Death was a mystery! It was a weird puzzle, far stranger than mind games that were part of our exercise. A dead mouse with blood oozing from the puncture marks could not be wiped off at the end of a game. The neck broken remained askew; the puncture marks where the claw had talked its prey showed blue coloring.
I was jolted out of my reverie.
‘We are contaminated!’ the cry went up and the hubbub brought the boss to investigate. He dared not come anywhere near as he did at the first time. He called me to his cabin and said,’ You are the exterminator. The cat must be put out.’
I shuddered. A scream escaped. I remember the gurgle within seeking release. MEEOOW! It caught the boss look at me with horror. With great control I managed to say,’Killing the cat will not solve the problem. We are all doomed’. The boss had an inkling of the changes in my tone and in my working.’ He nodded and said in a reconciliatory tone.’ We shall work this all out. Steady, X-101.’
He pressed a button that seemed to beam invisible waves into me. My motor became somewhat detached from the program that went on in its steady hum,on standby motors. It made me unwind literally. I became slowed and by the time I became aware of my surroundings I was before a medical warden from M-GW section. He looked at me with a friendly gaze. He said, ‘Nothing fundamentally wrong.’ He laid out the X-ray photo of my mechanical parts. Against the chrome tubes and coils of wire sheathed in indestructible cables the imprint of the cat was unmistakable.
Δ ΙΕ and it was as bright as it showed on the cat first time it entered into our world. There was something in its strange luminosity. The command signal was on the action mode. Am I to be an exterminator? Did that command overrule the command of my boss? I could not decide which.
I felt as though violated. Was the cat playing games with me? I suspected some malignant purpose. From which quarter, I could not tell. I had to find out. I suspected I was part of a deadly mind game into which I was part of the solution. I had to make my moves so I was neither for the cat nor for the androids.
Was I laboring under some delusion? I had to find out.
The warden in the end concluded,’Undue influences. So it looks to me.’ He certified that I was to take things pretty easy for a while.
Undue influences? It could have meant so many things. I went to the boss and said,’ I require a change of scene.’ He agreed on condition that I disposed off the cat in whichever manner I chose. He knew that the cat had taken undue advantage of me that I dared not kill it.
Anticipating his train of thoughts I told him of my hunch that the cat had some mysterious bond with the three cadavers in the lab.
He made it easier for me. ‘I could transfer the mummies into a chamber. It shall be at the bay from where we send our cargo to HQ or to any other direction’.
You shall have three days to decide. ‘Let the cat take you where it will or kill it and remove them all to a place you choose.’
He got up before it could sink in and asked me to inspect the Dispatch Bay. I had never been to that part of the mother ship. There was a secret and exclusive entry for the Grand masters who made the Council. There were crates that piled up on the hold. Automatically these were being shifted by a mechanical arm into a pod. Teleportation was conducted a matter of course. He showed me the operation and the controls. There were various switches and controls by adjusting these to any longitude and latitude to the known star objects could be teleported.
Next two days I stalked the cat and got to know its routine. Everytime it went in the lab it walked about the cadavers three times and then took its crouching position before the air vent. From within I felt I was part of whatever that went on between the cat and some outside agency.
What surprised me was it had certain vibrancy and power in its movements as it climbed from there.
I decided against the kill while in the ship. It had to be at the end I solved the puzzle the cat posed. I was dead certain those three body bags were part of the puzzle.
I was the exterminator. I had to finish the job for which I was best qualified for. The cat had overshot the limit and the terror of the unknown was raking up the even tenor of the ship. It was another androidrama. It was a nightmare and I had to exterminate it.
What about the androida?The cat had forged a bond with me through her.
I shall leave it alive till I got it out. It was upset for great many. It didn’t matter if I was ignored by androids and androidas on account of my decision. Androida X-103 sulked because she knew I intended it harm.
In a way she was about to lose me as well.
(2 be cont’d)