Tufty made up his mind. He decided to stay and join PURR. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to return to his old life – his old life was great! – but all of a sudden he felt a deeper reason for being. A more profound sense of purpose than that associated with his usual vocation of stalking the neighbourhood, spraying his preferred local hotspots to make sure no other tomcats took his tidbits. This was bigger than the neighbourhood. This was the world! This was important.
‘I want to stay and help,’ he told Five in a manner that brook no argument.
Five looked dubious, though she granted that his knowledge of the local geography could come in handy. She had only been here 48 hours and, because she had been caught in the laundry, had yet to even fully explore the flat.
‘OK,’ she said. ‘But stay hidden. They don’t know you are here and it is best they don’t find out.’
‘Do you have a plan?’ Tufty asked.
‘Sort of,’ she said. ‘At the moment the students suspect the trays are doing something, but they don’t know exactly what or how. We at PURR ultimately discovered that, for time travel to be possible, the metal alloy must be activated by 2-amino-7-hydrozxy-5, 5-dimethyl-4-thiaheptanoic acid. In other words, cat wee. From what I can tell, so far only the tray in the laundry is activated, but given there is another cat out there, it probably won’t be long until another tray lights up and the students begin to realise what they are on to. We need to stop any other cats from using the trays and then somehow destroy the whole lab.’
‘Burn it,’ Tufty said.
‘Most likely,’ Five agreed.
‘Heeere puss puss puss… heeeeeeere puss puss… where arrrre yoooooou? …’ voices suddenly reached them from the hall.
‘Damn,’ Five spat. ‘They’re looking for me. I’ll have to lead them on a chase. If you really want to help, complete this assignment: find a box of matches or a magnifying glass or anything we can use to start a fire. I’ll try to keep them distracted and make contact with the other cat.
‘Heeeeere puss puss puss…’ the voices were getting closer, now accompanied by the rattling of a box. ‘Heeeeere kitty kitty kitty…’
‘GO!’ Five gave Tufty a push. ‘We need to split up. Whatever you do, don’t get caught!’
Tufty checked the coast was clear then shot out of the wardrobe and back under the ruffle surrounding the bed. He felt Five leave behind him, though he had no idea where she had gone. He looked around under the bed and saw that, among some boxes and a suitcase, there was also an old backpack. The zipper was ever-so-slightly open. Thinking quickly, he hooked a canine in the pull tab and wrenched it. It moved! He widened the gap, compressed his body and squeezed inside.
‘Heeeeeere puss puss puss…’ A person entered the room. It was the girl. Tufty couldn’t see much, but he heard her go into the bathroom and fling back the shower curtain.
‘Heeeere puss puss puss…’ she then came out and opened the wardrobe, rifling amongst the clothes and shoes inside.
‘Heeeere kitty kitty…’ Tufty crouched low as she approached the bed. As she lifted the ruffle to peer underneath, light reached him then dimmed in the shadow of her enormous hair. ‘Puss puss puss…’ she rattled the box around, releasing a dense aroma.
Mmmmmmm… dried fish treats. Tufty’s mouth watered. It felt like a lifetime since he had eaten, but he didn’t dare move.
The girl stretched out her arm and pushed at a few boxes to see behind them. With alarm Tufty also felt her pull at the backpack. She then went around to the other side and did the same. ‘Heeeeere puss puss puss…’
‘Here!’ abruptly the man’s voice came from another room. The box-shaking stopped and Tufty released a quiet breath as Frazzle Fringe at last stood up and moved away. Phew! Then again, not phew. He hoped Five would be OK.
Right. He needed to make a plan. Mission: find fire-starting equipment.
Go to next chapter….