Mike Moon presents a Tale of Catgirl Island
"A Mermaid's Adventures in Undersea Cuisine"
Illustrations © 2000 JL Hobbins & Mike Moon,
story © 2000 Mike Moon, revised edition 2007
The latest fashion trend amongst the mermaids was in the bra cups.
Mermaids are like any other folk- some more conservative, some a bit wilder than others, and just like today's land-dweller youths, fashion style is very subjective, and mer-wear goes through trends too. The current rage was in the bra cups- at least for those mermaids who wore tops (as some don't). Visitors to catgirl Island wishing to scuba-dive into the sea were advised that once in mermaid territory, they might very well encounter topless mermaids and should therefore dive at their own discretion and good behavior. It should be noted that scuba tank rentals and "Dive at your Own Risk" waiver-forms are quite popular these days but back to the bra cups.
Mermaids do trade & shop (with the landlubbers and many a mer will happily wear a cloth bikini top as they would the old-fashioned sea-shell coverings. The seashell breast-covers were actually becoming more popular with the land-girls (and subsequently, land-boys) more than the mermaids of late. With seashells out of vogue, latest trend in mer-bra fashion was dead jellyfish. Jellyfish are admired for their almost alien beauty, and those in local waters are the harmless, non-stinging variety. Since these pretty, delicate creatures are delight to observe, few folks wish to kill them and only naturally-dead ones are used in consumer products. When a dead jelly is found, the innards are scooped out and fed to scavengers, leaving only the hollow husk of the translucent outer dome and future bra cup. If a mermaid was lucky, she'd find ones that still contained a bit of the bio-luminous chemicles, yielding a most colorful bra- and if a mermaid was very, very lucky, she'd find two that matched!
You would then think that when Melanakeami was given a pair of rare, exquisite matching jellycups for her 19th birthday she would be ecstatic. She was quite pleased and grateful for the pretty gift, but it was not what she truly wanted. What she wanted was the functional equivilant of a land-girl's longing for a pony or a sporty automobile. In fact, what she wanted was indeed manufactured on land (which made it a Dry Good and therefore doubly expensive in mer-money). Melanakeami was a good girl, friendly, polite, and rarely troublesome, but like most mer-teens she was quite curious about the land. There were miles & miles of the island that she could not see from the shore, as the beach was as far inland as she could visit. She had considered the notion of a water-filled tub on wheels to tour the land in, but such a contraption would be somewhat silly. What she really wanted was a hot air balloon.
Melanakeami's parents were far from tyrannical, but were as pragmatic as any loving parents should be. They declined her request, explaining the expense, impracticability and dangers of a mermaid taking up ballooning as a hobby. She tried to convince them that if loaned the money, she might pay it back by starting a balloon-tours business, surely getting a lot of business from the other merfolk who would also like to cruise over the land. Her parents, being quite reasonable merfolk, made her a deal regarding this new folly of hers. While she lived under their roof, if she really wanted a hot-air balloon badly enough, they would allow it only if she would pay for it with her own money. "It" would include not just the balloon, but also training, permits, a place to store the balloon, and modifications to the balloon's gondola so that it would hold seawater for its aquatic pilot. They compromised further still, offering that if she were to actually save enough money for the custom-built balloon, they'd pay for her flying lessons & permits. The next day, Melanakeami put on her new jellycups and got a job...
Chapter One: The First Day on the Job
Melanakeami was certainly no expert on ballooning or aeronautics, but like most people developing a new interest, she was doing her homework. She went on-line to price balloons, and noticed many venders selling ones previously owned.
"Hmm, that might be the ideal way to go for my first balloon," she surmised, for she could by everything she needed in one stop at a substantial savings. If anything, she at least learned that a hot air balloon, like most vehicles, consists of many parts: the envelope, cables, the basket, burners, fans, fuel tanks. skirting, fittings, tie-downs, and other accessories that might complement the flight.
Most of her friends understood this new fascination; those who did not share her desire to soar high overland and sea at least thought that the balloons were very pretty. Melanakeami, Nyssa, and Kianalani gathered at Lourdessaluorno's home, who had a laminator for waterproofing the terrestrial documents and stamps that she liked to collect.
"Ooh I like this red one!" Melanakeami chimed, looking at a product brochure.
"Hai! Didja see the teal & eggplant striped one?" Lourdessaluorno added, laminating another catalog for Melanakeami.
"Who wants a juice box?" Nyssa offered. " I got Mango, kiwi, pineapple, and clam!" The mention of juice delighted the girls, and drew the attention of a pet manatee.
"May I have the clam juice?" Kianalani requested.
"I'd like the pineapple juice!" Melanakeami responded. Avanaru-ru the manatee pup wanted some juice, too.
"Dessy, is ru-ru allowed to have any juice?" Nyssa asked.
"You can give her a little bit but I just gave her a whole head of cabbage five minutes ago!"
"I like that green one its 100,000 cubic feet with 200 hours on it and here's a Morane-Saulnier with 90,000 cubic feet and 150 hours. Hmmm this person is also selling a radio and navigation electronics! I wonder if I need a license to use those?" Melanakeami was amazed that there was so much to the lighter-than-air craft, but it did not deter her in the slightest. She only wanted to learn more.
"This rainbow-swirl one is pretty" said Kianalani, sipping her mango juice-box.
"Wow, some of these balloons have matching trailers and moving vans!"
"Mm-hmm- some balloon race teams have matching uniforms and helmets, too!"
"Hmmm, I bet I could put an inflatable PVC liner in this six-person basket that would hold enough water for me and two passengers..." melanakeami pondered.
"Hey- here's a balloon shaped like a beagle!"
"Ohmygoddess- that pink one looks like a big jellycup!" The mermaids giggled, sipped their juice, admired melanakeami's collection of pretty balloon pictures, played with little ru-ru pup, and talked girl talk. Eventually, Melanakeami would gather up her nicely maniated pictures, bid farewell and get ready for her first day at work.
Sheila May's undersea restaurant had a strict clothing policy: the employees could not be topless, particularly because they were interacting with many land-dweller tourists who might be riled-up by the site of a topless mermaid. This was fine with Melanakeami, happy that she had a spiffy new jellycups to wear to work, which also made a good first-impression on her boss, proud to have such a stylish new employee. The image and reputation of the restaurant was very important to manager Chief Yakizaka
Keeping up with the new competition also meant keeping earlier breakfast hours and a late night menu. He was also contemplating a break with tradition in hiring terrestrial humans to cater parts of the island where merfolk could not swim. The trick was to make Sheila May's more accessible without sacrificing quality of food or service. It would be many, many moons before Sheila May's could be accused of diminished levels of dining ambiance.
Sheila May's is quite easy to locate- there are no outdoor signs to detract from Catgirl island's natural beauty, but any local chap can tell visitors how to get there. On the Northeast shore of Catgirl Island at Akikiku point, swim out 3/8 of a mile due east, then dive twelve fathoms down. Even with a current to throw one off a bit, the undersea entrance is hard to miss due to the landmarks. It's across the sea trench, with the bow of the sunken German U-Boat (a popular diving attraction & historical marker) pointing right at the entrance. The glowing, neon-like purple-pink lights on a spire before the entrance make it hard to miss.
The entrance portal was a large cave mouth with imbedded points of soft light, as if swimming into the maw of an abyssal lanternfish, which then becomes a polished, smooth tunnel farther inside... curving upward like a massive spiral staircase inside a giant nautilus shell. This ancient, aquatic 'architecture' seems as if a gigantic shell was indeed once lodged in the fossil gullet of an immense abyssal fish, whose bioluminesence still glows. Ascending the spiral, the lighting hue changes from purple to blue and much brighter, for the lwide connecting tunnel led up to a lagoon within an atmosphere dome.
Breaking the surface, one enjoys the clean fresh air and an awesome sight, as if one were back on the surface realm. The interior perimeter of the dome about a hundred yards in diameter is a cliff wall twith cascading waterfalls splashing down to lush moss covered rocks and radiant tropical flower beds. Diners may sit picnic-style upon the lush green banks around water's edge, or upon smooth rocks projecting from the water, seperated by small tidepools. Deeper pools within the lagoon offer the option of actual underwater dining for merfolk, amongst meticulously grown, prize-winning anemone & coral. Cave-like in the walls lead to passageways to the kitchen, dishroom, communications alcoves, office, restrooms, and a chamber or two off limits to the public.
Thirty feet atop the cliff walls are a transclucent green canopy one might expect from treetops, with shafts of streaming light peering through. How the merfolk manage to maintain ideal environmental conditions year-round for so many decades is something of a mystery; perhaps there's some sort of exotic filtration apparatus & HVAC system in those Private Areas - but it's a trade secret that neither Chief Yakizaka nor the rest of the Fishtail Tribe will divulge, nor do they seem to regard it particulaly extraordinary. He was quoted: "It could be Faerie Dust for all we know- I wouldn't fret over it. Please have a good time and enjoy the food!" (The Fae would not comment.) How they keep the wild dolphins from begging for freebies is another tale!
Melanakeami had been here before, but not often as it is a fairly affluent, expensive establishment. This would be here first time here not as a patron, but as an employee. Upon her arrival, she was given a leisurely tour of the facilities, introduced to the other employees who were present, and coached in all the things she'd need to know as a member of the Sheila May's team.
Her first day would be a bit of this and a bit of that, observing the basic fundamentals of ten areas of operation: Seating, Waiting, Service, Cooking, Garnishing, Dishwashing, Cleaning, Telephone Etiquette, Cashiering, and Deliveries. Although she might lend a fin in the kitchen, the cooking was left to the Master Chefs. A bright 'n eager girl, Melanakeami was a fairly quick study of these culinary roles.
Ceresatami, the Mer-Madtr'd, watched as Melanakami greeted 'n seated custo-mers for the first time.
"Welcome to Sheila May's! How many in your party, please?"
"Swim right this way, please", leading them to The Brittlestar Cove, with two menus under her arm.
"Is this arrangement to your liking?"
"Oh yes, thank you very much!"
"Oh good, Your server today is Neelkaliomi; she'll be right along, but might I fetch you anything this moment?"
"Oh that's quite alright I think we want to look over the selections! Say, you're a new girl here, aintcha?"
"Why yes, I'm Melanakeami, a new trainee!"
"Well, good luck, hon!"
"Thank you!" She said with a bow, and flittered back to the Mer-Madtr'd.
"How was that?" Melanakeami beamed.
"Just fine, M-chan! Since there's no smoking section or seats too near the kitchen, most custo-mers will be content as long as the table is large enough for their party. Now attend- here comes a couple from the surface!"
"Welcome to Sheila May's! How many in your party, please?"
"May I help you with your diving gear?"
Melanakeami and Ceresatami assisted the land-dwellers in removing their equipment. The Senior mermaid placed the wares in a locker corresponding to their table as Melanakeami seated them
"Swim right this way, please" and so it went. Under the watchful eyes of the other employees, this new trainee learned
"Now Melanakeami, put the sliced sea-cucumber on the right side of the filets and the cup of urchin sauce on the small saucer--"
"Would you like fresh ground Moray on that?"
"Here you are ma'am, one Fuzzy navel, and for you sir, the Orange Whip--"
Displaying the Dessert Tray:
"Today we have Baked Atlantis, Turtle Sundae, Bananas Foster with a deep scattering layer of Cocoa, and extra special baked yams--"
She practiced clearing tables & water, dishwashing, and even tagged along on a food delivery during a rare slow period- which was lucky, as they are usually far too busy to spare two employees on one delivery run. With so much to take in on her first day, it went by pretty briskly. Hours later her first day on the job was over. Leaving Sheila May's, Melanakeami lazily swam home after her first day of work. She hadn't worked this hard since she and her family planted all that enormous Azalea Coral in front of their home two seasons ago! Her parents were relaxing after a day out antiquing.
"Ohhhh my aching fins." She moaned, dangling them in a lava-heated thermal vent.
"Well, how did it go, then?" her mother queried.
"It went okay- we were very busy. The boss said I did fine!"
"You'll get used to it, and It'll only get easier over time.' Her father added.
"So did you get many complements on your new jellycups?" her Mom inquired.
"Don't stay in there too long, Mela-chan- you'll shrivel up!" Mom advised. Five minutes later, Melanakeami had fallen asleep. As her Dad picked her up and took her to her bedroom, she dreamed that she was lifting off the waves in her shiny new balloon, it's gondola equipped with hot and cold running seawater.
Chapter Two: Down & Out in Pirate Cove
Meanwhile, a fiesty & attractive pirate catgirl was sulking in her hideaway. She had grand visions of sailing to this new world and finding plenty of sunken treasures to purr-loin, ancient ruins to plunder, and weary travelers to waylay. Sadly for her this did not come to pass; pickings were slow in these parts because the only lost city in the area was a well-monitored State Park, the local law enforcement was ever so vigilant -and carried large fire arms. She even contemplated making off with goods from the island's shrines- but those Priestess Catgirls are pretty tough.
How was a poor pirate catgirl supposed to earn a dishonest living these days?
Her line of work had been greatly down-sized in recent decades; she quickly dismissed the idea of returning to Europe to work for the syndicate, because she parted their company on less than desirable terms... or maybe it was because her ex-husband was now the Mob Boss. Ilyana sighed, ears drooped as a depressed sigh and tightened her belt another notch, in a vain effort to keep her slim pirate tummy from growling so much. She slipped into a nap and had a fitful dream of robbing mini-marts for quick cash and nummy cakes. Oh, how the terror of the seven seas had slumped!
As the day waned, Ilyana tried to slumber on, with dreaming of Choice Cuts of Giant Iguana slathered in sauce dancing. When she finally awaoke, she realized that it was not a fine steak she was eating, but she had been sleep-gnawing on one of her leather boots. She blinked, realizing that there was a leather boot in her mouth, and burst into an impressive tearworks display
"Aghhh! I can't stand this any more!" she wailed, tail twitchy. Enough was enough. She grabbed a piece of cardboard and wrote upon it:
WILL PLUND-AHRR FOR FOOD
...and with that, she reconciled that she had slunk so low that she must work the sidewalks as a pan- handler (God forbid she should actually have to w-w-wor... oh, she couldn't even THINK the "W" word!) As she tried on her new gimmick, she looked out the window of her humble abode in search of any passersby to practice begging upon. Then the poor pirate girl realized she was being watched! Ilyana spun around to see an audience of one leaning on her open window sill. It was Le Chat, the infamous Cat Burglar- and an acquaintance. Le Chat was a striking brunette with gorgeous curves, and a talented thief of considerable taste & most dapper attire. She was also a contender for the upcoming Thieves Guild Officer Elections, and dropped by Pirate Cove to gloat about the big party she'd be hosting to sway the votes.
"You misspelled PLUNDER", Le Chat quipped.
"Not in Pirate Tongue!" Ilyana retorted, and stuck her tongue out. "Whatcha want here anyway?" Then Ilyana's tummy growled loudly.
"Goodness! Sounds like someone's hungry! It's too bad that someone did not pay their dues to join the local Thieves Guild- because that certain someone cannot attend the lavish Cat-Tillion I'm hosting heehee!"
"Oh shut up!"
"I'm surprised that such a terror of the seas would be so hungry, what with that ocean full of free fish right outside your front door oh sorry- you don't HAVE a front door, do you?" Le Chat was really rubbing it in, for she knew that Ilyana had pawned her fishing tackle the previous week. Just as Ilyana threw the freshly painted sign board at her tauntress, the agile & quick Le Chat had already scampered away, her high pitched laughter trailing in the breeze.
Ilyana sighed heavily, having just been reminded that she had never bothered to join the local guild. She knew the score to- no dues, no dice- no thieving on land for her. If she attempted to knock over even the smallest lemonade stand on this island, the Guild would come down on her like a load of bricks and the Guild is not as lenient on scab-thieves as the Law is! Ilyana was in fact a member of the International Piracy Union, and could therefore pillage and rob offshore to her hearts content, but Catgirl Island turf proper was right out. Le Chat loved flaunting almost as much as stealing, and Ilyana wished she could pull off a big act of piracy just to who's the -
">GRUMBLLLLL<" went her stomach...hungriest ...
Chapter Three: Ilyana's Midnight Gig
Back in her elegant villa, Le Chat was gleeful and busy planning the seating arrangements for the upcoming Thieves Guild Cat-Tillion. Sipping an ill-gotten bottle of Dom Perignon '57 and nibbling biscuits slathered with North Caspian Beluga, she finished her checklist of things to do. Now, all but two tasks remained to prepare for the grand event: confirming the catering and meeting her out-of-town guests.
Normally any Guild meetings were exclusively for members or prospective members of that particular territory, and it was rare to see thieves from far-away lands in attendance. But Le Chat's foreign guests were not common thieves, and their presence would hopefully impress the Le Chat's fellows, whose votes she was campaigning heavily for. Le Chat was sparing no expense, and taking no chances with this affair! Before heading to the marina to await her visitors, she eased back into her pillowed bay window, bathed in rich full moonlight, and dialed the restaurant on her secure phone to verify the catered food
It was late night, but quite bright under the overstuffed full moon. Ilyana stalked out to the estuary, with visions of frog legs dancing in her hungry head.She heard the rhythmic croaks and chirps of the amphibians that were just begging to be eaten. She had never gone frog-gigging before, but assumed it could not be too terribly difficult, since the market prices of free-range frog limbs was not very expensive, compared to other delicacies. There must be millions of froggies out here, plentiful and meaty. With a home-made gig fashioned out of a mangrove branch and a plastic grocery sack to collect the amphibious morsals, she waded into the reeds. She could see their beady eyes reflecting in the moonlight- which helped her prowl since she did not even have a working flashlight for the night's poaching.
She approached one large set of eyes, the gig in her right hand, poised to hurl it like a javelin. Licking her chops, she let the weapon fly; it sailed straight and true, its trajectory just half an inch below the gleaming eyes. It hit- then bounced off the tough hide of the mostly-submerged alligator that angrily burst out of the water towards the pirate girl! The gator maw extended as it splashed her way. Ilyana screamed and before you can say 'scaredy cat' she was shivering in fear, clutching a tree branch some twenty feet above the irate lizard.
The gator stood there, mouth open, patiently awaiting for her to eventually tire and drop in for a bite. Gators will wait a very long time for their supper. It seemed an eternity but was actually mere moments before the gator slithered back into the water, upon sensing an oncoming vehicle. Ilyana nervously grinned, realizing this motorist had saved her then her grin became a giddy laugh as the motorcycle's blue lights came on. The frogs laughed too, as she cursed her bad luck.
Officer Meryl Murrey parked her sporty red touring motorcycle (with a sidecar) and shined her long metal maglight into the tree that Ilyana clung to. She was a cheery, athletic-looking, brown-haired catgirl, with a jovial cockney accent. She wore a red blouse, black jeans, and packed a Browning Hi-Power in a shoulder rig. She spoke into her shoulder-mounted radio that she was investigating the large splash.
"Whatt's all this then?" Murrey asked. Ilyana slid down from the tree.
"Um ah good thing you arrived officer! I didn't know how long I could hang on! You saved me from that man-eating alligator!"
Murrey pointed her light toward the water, gesturing towards the three-foot baby gator. The grinning gator was gnawing on the fallen gig stick.
"And what might your business be out here in this area?" The island's intrepid policewoman asked with ears seriously flattened back
"Um... heh... well , y'see Officer, I was just out jogging"
"In a salt marsh?"
" Why (ahem) yes-" Ilyana's pathetic response was cut short as Murrey got a call on her radio about two stranded catgirls whose van broke down near a farm, and they were babbling incoherently about a large purple gorilla.
"Sigh. If I were you, I'd stick to the well-lit paths for your joggin'. Hop in the' side-car and I'll drive you back to the main road."
Murrey was usually a friendly sort, and her ears perked back up upon seeing no evidence that Ilyana was causing any trouble, nor any signs of illegal fishing and luckily for Ilyana, her self-proclaimed mantle of 'terror of the seven seas' was unbeknownst to the officer. Had this been the far more famous Le Chat, she would have been arrested on the spot! Ilyana rode back to a street with the Officer, who then took off to investigate the stranded catgirls and yet another Moon Ape sighting. Ilyana considered continuing her hunt, but the frogs had been alerted. She started to walk and then stopped in the middle of the road when the thought struck her too late-
Waitaminute- if she arrested me then I'd be taken to the jail and get a MEAL--!
-but it was too late, as the motorcycle out of site. I cannot even rob someone to get put in jail, cause the Guild would make shark food of me before the Law ever found my remains!
"IT'S NOT FAIR!!!" Ilyana exclaimed, and she walked home.
Chapter Four: The Gang's all Here
Melanakeami dreamed on. She imagined a whole fleet of balloons at her command, ferrying folks to exotic, wonderful places. She had balloons of all shapes and sizes- from smallish inflatable wings that people could rent & go kite-boarding, standard size balloons for island hopping and local sight-seeing, and enormous, colossal balloons that could take entire families or party groups to picnics above the clouds. How fantastic it would be to swim amongst those fluffy mountains and cumulus canyons in the sky, the shimmering shafts of sunlight in the water the water? The Water--!
She sprang to full consciousness and realized that it was morning already! Although there was no school today, she did have to be at work early today, as Chief Yakizaka had not only the usual busy weekend business, but a rather large catered feast to prepare for some big private party...
Le Chat's guests arrived that morning by DC-3 at the airfield on the nearby mainland. Le Chat drove a black speedboat from the island to meet them, greeting them with open arms and a platter of smoked salmon, fruits, single malt scotch and other light nummies. The entourage consisted of a boss, his current Girl Friday, a personal assistant, and three large gents that looked pretty darn tough. She then escorted them to a waiting yacht, and they sailed to Catgirl Island.
The yacht was a rather luxurious craft, one hundred feet in length, with a pristine white hull and angled dark smoked glass. The black speedboat moored snuggly in an aft cradle, flanked by smaller personal watercraft. Le Chat had a secret compartment beneath the ship, which housed diving gear and - just in case a deal went bad and she might have to jump ship unexpectedly. Hidden cameras were concealed within works of seemingly priceless art, to record any matters in the event that a back-stabbing business partner wasn't open to any deals, cold cash in dozens of currencies should a quick get-away be in order, plenty of more concealed a well stocked galley in case she put into a port with less than four-star dining.
The group settled into the ship's lounge, a circular salon adorned with polished marble wall panels and steps, an etched glass ceiling, and sterling silver fixtures. Fresh hibiscus blooms crowned a crystal, circular ottoman, surrounded by a circular, white leather couch arc, which was in turn encircled with lush ferns & catnip. Aside from the pilot and deck hand, Le Chat and her six guests were the only ones aboard.
Her criminal associate was named Wulfstov, and like his hostess he was poised and elegant, a world-class smuggler. He was a big bear of a man, almost Grandfatherly looking. Joining him on the couch was his aide Igor- a thin man with balding black hair and glasses, reportedly quite a shrewd accountant, and Verushka, Wulvy's girlfriend very tall blond in a very short skirt. Wulgar's three mooks remained standing.
"I think this is a bigger boat than the one you had last year!" Wulfstov observed.
"The last one didn't go with the new Spring fashions," Le Chat mused.
"Well I certainly hope that it has a large enough humidor for all the cigars I have brought to your little party. Now as Igor is fond of reminding me, time is money- it's the one thing you cannot buy or steal more of. Now then, why fly Wulfstov all the way out here? That check you sent me was quite an inducement!"
"Just playing politics, Wulfy. When my comrades in the Guild see you there passing out the finest cigars in the world- duty free, I might add- I think they'll be impressed. It's a big election year everyone is pulling in favors, spending lots on campaigning, bringing in foreign investors...(sigh) it was so much more fun when a swordfight settled these things! But you've got to spend money to make money' the more you steal, the more you have and therefore the more you can spend and I wanna show those other thieves that nobody can spend money like I do!"
"Especially when it's someone else's!" he chuckled.
"The competition is tough this year... I'm up against a.. a Counterfeiter!"
"Digital technology has taken all the fun out of theft. Kids today would rather hack into bank accounts than pull off a rousing museum heist in the midnight air!"
"Where have all the good safe-crackers and second-story men gone?" Wulgar was getting teary-eyed.
"Tell me about it. That's why the Guild needs me, Wulfy! I'll put the fun back into the business. I'll have the apprentice thieves roller-blading atop bullet trains with mail sacks full of treasury notes and skydiving out of the Concorde with valises full of crown jewels, if I win the vote!"
"My kind of girl. Okay, Wulfstov will help to put on good show at the Cat-Tillion and encourage them to vote for you on two conditions-"
"Oui?" Le Chat grinned curiously.
"First, I'd like to discuss getting a plane load of the delicious Royal Bee Jam the island is known for."
"Second...give me back my wallet."
Chapter Five: Room & Board
Melanakeami made herself pretty 'n presentable, making sure her jellycups were polished and all a-glow. She joined her parents in the breakfast nook before heading off to work.
"Looking forward to your second day at work, my little angelfish?"
"Hai! Saturday is the busiest day of the week, they say! So, whatchoo two gonna do today? Wait, wait don't tell me- antique shopping?"
"Yes dear", her father said, distracted as he studied the addresses of the day's yard sales.
"Look Hon- there's a multi-family sale going on this morning at The Cape-"
She did not exactly share her parents love for old things, but she was not about to quibble, given her own far more unusual desire to own a hot air balloon. Melanakeami ate her Hot Sea Oats with cream and berries, kissed her folks goodbye, and hurriedly swam off to meet her friends en route to work.
Melanakeami mingled a bit with her fellow mermaids but made certain not to be late for her second day at work. The Chief greeted her at the entrance, informing her that there'd be a brief meeting to plan for a particularly hectic day. She overheard that they had a very grand feast to deliver later on- expensive even by Prawnbroker's standards. The Chief was trying to decide who to send on that big delivery. Knowing that the restaurant would be very busy at the time, he needed a very energetic, fast swimmer to deliver the food and return quickly. Another emplyee named Kaimana was just then departing for a couple of delivery runs, but The Chief would want to send out someone else out on the big party order later, not wishing to tire any single mermaid out.
back in Pirate Cove-
Ilyana had another food dream. She dreamt that she was swimming in a beautiful lagoon under stars. Upon closer inspection this lagoon was actually filled with broth, gator filets, and vegetables. Something tasty looking grazed her thigh it appeared to be a large, crooked noodle. She happily bit into the soft cheesy food, and it was sooo good she craved another. She found a second ring-shaped noodle, something like a giant spaghetti-oh , and ate it all up. Then another- this one shaped like the letter 'R' why, she was in a big bowl of alphabet soup, she was! She laughed and gobbled the 'R' up. Then she found a 'K' and gulped it down too. Then something seemed not quite right.
"Waitaminute." She puzzled on this for a moment. "W-O-R-K-"
Ilyana sat up, screaming to wakeness.
"No, not the "W" word! What a nightmare that--"
Then she realized she had something yucky in her mouth, and spat out a piece of something that tasted just like card board
She quietly blinked, and peered at the sign she had made the previous day. It had a large bite taken out of it. Tears streamed down her pirate cheeks and off her quivering chin.
She sprang to her feet and went to silk in the window sill, gazing across the sea, her catgirlish tail sadly drooping.
She sighed heavily, watching the seagulls, playful dolphins, and the mermaid zipping past the waves, carrying a large waterproof sushi box. It took Ilyana a few moments for that last bit to register. Her eyes then grew larger. A few minutes later, Ilyana saw the same mermaid travelling the reverse direction, with an empty sushi container.
"I think I think I've seen her before" Ilyana pondered. She grabbed her broken spy glass and zoomed in for a closer look. She noticed that the sushi container had the Sheila May's heraldry upon it.
"That's the ticket! All I need do is lie in wait out in the surf, and waylay the next mermaid that swims past with a food delivery- and the Guild can't touch me! Oh, joy!"
With that cunning plan in mind, Ilyana would undertake the caper of stealing food from a mermaid.
Chapter Six: Jam Session
Le Chat drove Wulfstov and his cadre to the Kitt Inn where they would be staying the night. The Kitt inn was the island's oldest, most scenic Japanese style rotemburo with soothing hot springs and gardens, nestled in the forest by a river. Upon checking them in to the rotemburo, she was off to steal some of their famous Jams & Jellies. Lucky for her she need not roam far, for pantry in the Inn's kitchen housed several cases of the succulent stuff. Many a lodger fancied waking up to a breakfast featuring hot scones topped in the rich jam!
Although the kitchen was usually occupied, swiping food from there would be child's play for a master thief such as Le Chat. Her only remote concern was the possibility of running into the Innkeeper Nemui, who supposedly owned a very shapr Katanna and knew how to use it well. Nevertheless, Le Chat went to work with utmost confidence and competence, while Wulfy was enjoying the amenities of the Inn. There were still hours yet before she had to return home, to meet the caterer and prepare the Cat-Tillion.
Ilyana waited and waited for another seafood delivery to happen by. She looked out upon the shimmering sea in the direction of the restaurant, so that she could spot the courier in time to swim out there and intercept.
"Mmm I wonder what the next one will bring? Maybe it'll be an order of lobster tails... jumbo shrimp...a tub of sauce & hush puppies...the cops... THE COPS?" Ilyana cursed yet again as she spied officer Meryl Murrey, wading into the shallow surf!
"What's she doing? Oh poopdeck- maybe she's here to arrest me for attempted frog-icide" Ilyana gulped. "Awww darn it- and here comes another mermaid!"
Sure enough, another representative from Sheila May's speedily skimmed the waves, bearing a container full of food. The officer flagged the mermaid down.
"Hey- Officer Murrey is just out there picking up her lunch! Whew- that was close. Awww -I WAS SO CLOSE!!" Ilyana cried
">GRRR-OWLL!<" went her bare midriff.
"You shut up", she retorted to her tummy. "Saturday is their busiest day- surely there'll be another mermaid sooner or later (sigh) I hope not too much later!"
Officer Meryl paid and tipped the delivery girl, then returned to the dry sand to enjoy her meal. Just as she speared a nice hunk of scallop on her spork, she paused, and for a moment felt as if she was being watched.
"Get away!" she said to the seagulls who approached for a hand-out. She knew better than to feed those birds, because then a huge flock would appear and she did not want a huge flock of birds near her prized motorcycle. Half-way into her lunch, Murrey received a call on her radio.
"Um, officer, we got a report of two catgirls being chased by some Giant Cave Slugs over in the Angora-Kat Ruins "
"10-4, I'm on my way."
"Giant Cave Slugs again...I wish they'd gave me a few more packets of salt!" she thought, placing the food box into the sidecar. She put on her shoes, and proceeded to the ruins, pesky birds in pursuit.
Le chat listened to Vivaldi, driving the roads of Catgirl Island in a Range Rover carrying several cases of pilfered bee-sweets. Assured that the coast was clear, she put the cases aboard her boat, traveled to the mainland, and stealthfully loaded them (sans fingerprints or other traces) into the airplane. She then headed home, to finish decorating for her Cat-Tillion and receive the catered food.
About that same time, Nemui was bidding farewell to her lodgers, unaware of the missing goods. The Wulfster took a leisurely island tour before going to Le Chat's.
Melanakeami and her friend Tsuruku were re-filling the bottles of freshly squeezed octapus Ink.
"Do you like this stuff?" Melanakami asked.
"Ewww.. not really! It has a rather stout taste... but some folks can't get enough of it!"
"I hear that big party order called for a whole gallon!"
"Goddess! Do you know how many octapi that takes?" Tsuruku exclaimed.
"Oh! You were going to tell me where you found those awesome jellycups!"
"My folks gave them to me- I think they got 'em from one of the riverwalk venders!"
"Cool! I saw this Brain Coral pattern pair on-line that I want to buy when I get my next paycheck!"
"Oh.. my.. Goddess.. they have Brain Coral on the salad bar today!" Melanakeami giggled.
"I was thinking about getting another fin ring"
"Hee hee! Soooo like, who's gonna deliver that huge order?"
"I dunno... but think of the huge tip!"
"We should have a submarine to haul all that!"
"The Chief prefers to do it the old fashioned way, with a seahorse sled. The custo-mer's dig it."
"So do my parents! They're gonna come home with a bunch of old yard sale junk..."
"Well, I hear that new place on the mainland will have submarines, inland delivery--"
"Feh! The only submarines a restaurant should have are sandwiches" Chief Yakizaka muttered, overhearing the girls.
"Subs- that'll be the day..." The Chief snorted. "I hope they DO buy subs- it'll bankrupt them for certain! (Ahem) say, Melanakeami, how would you like to make a fabulously big impression on your boss?" he asked.
"Hai!!!" she perked with great zeal. Chief Yakizaka told her where to deliver the feast, and what it consisted of.
"Sea stars! That's that's almost everything on the menu- and enough of it to feed a pod of orcas!"
"Indeed. The bad news is you'll be swimming solo because we are so busy here.Think you can handle it?"
"You can count on me, sir!"
"Very good. When you're done with that ink, I need you to serve drinks until that Carry Out Order is ready!"
"Hai!" Melanakeami saluted, as her boss quickly walked away to tend to a flurry of other matters. The Chief was glad to have her aboard, for with increased tourism, he needed to hire more new employees.
"I don't know whether to congratulatcha or feel sorry for ya!" Tsuruku gasped
"Whew..." Melanakeami sighed, hoping she was actually up to this important task.
The busy day ensued; the place was packed with merfolk, islanders, and tourists. Eventually, Melanakeami was signaled that the Carry Out Order was ready. Her eyes widened in disbelief at the size! This feast fit for a king included: lobster tails, crab legs, shrimp, scallops, oysters, clams, calamari, eel, urchin, conch, krayt, mahi mahi, snapper, swordfish, sharkfin soup, sauces, and several desserts!
Melanakeami and The Chief loaded up a seahorse sled with the food. Such vehicles are anachronistic, but the tourists love that sort of thing, enjoying undersea tours by seahorse sled. Something of a Luddite, Chief Yakizaka was convinced that this ancient method was much more stylish and efficient than any motorized craft, and he bet that using expensive submarines would be the downfall of the rival restaurant. They double-checked the food, weather report and directions. The bill had been charged to the customer's so melanakeami didn't have to worry about collecting the money.
"Giddyup!" Melanakeami said with utmost determination, and off she went with a sleighfull of cuisine.
Chapter Seven: A Collision Course Meal
Ilyana had been staking out that stretch of coastline for quite a while, on the verge of heartbreak that no one would cruise by for her to rob. Just as she pondered committing assault on a law officer just to get a free meal in jail, then she saw the mermaid and sled-team approach. She was beside herself with glee, for this mermaid was not only carrying a larger order of food, but was moving a bit slower given the load and would therefore be easier to attack. With sufficient lead, Ilyana ran across the beach, dove into the water, and swam out to a proper intercept position. She lurked just eye-level in the waves as the mermaid drew closer.
It all happened so fast. One moment Melanakeami is cruising along, happy as a clam, ever so confident about such an important yet simple task. Sudenly the seahorses slowed and whinnied in dread, sensing some sort of danger. Melanakeami could not fathom what they might deem so perilous- until Ilyana sprang from the water and climbed aboard the sled. Melanakeami was quite startled and screamed rather well-
"Yo ho!" Ilyana beamed, pointing her sword at the hapless mermaid. On the end of the dull blade was a calling card- a poorly drawn Jolly Roger on cardboard. Melanakeami blinked and took the card.
"Um, I'm in sort of a hurry," She tried to decypher the image on the card. "I give up- What are you selling?" "Nyet! I'm not sellin' anything, missy, I'm a pirate- cantcha tell?"
"(Ahem) Yarrr!" (Ilyana tried more menacingly.
"Ah, nope, not yet..."
"Hmmph! Say, what are those stupid things supposed to be- Gelatin molds?" Ilyana insulted, pointing at Melanakeami's pretty jellycups. The mermaid overwhelmed, both livid and nervous.
"Y-you aren't getting THEM either!"
"I DON'T WANT THOSE- I WANT THE FOOD... DARN IT! NOW, GIMMEE!" The pirate catgirl exclaimed with great frustration and hunger.
If Ilyana were not so weak from lack of food, she would have been at her peakest threat. If Melanakeami were a bit more experienced, she would have dealt the situation with greater coolness. Had the sled been pulled by dolphins instead of jittery seahorses, the sled might've been a tad more stable...
"Now then... surrender your cargo or taste my steel!"
"No way- you can't have it!"
Just as Ilyana was leering her best, her tummy growled again. GRRROWWLL! her tummy went.
The seahorses were frightened and started to buck. The critters took off, knocking the mermaid, the pirate, and the food overboard. Melanakeami lost precious time amidst indecision, unsure to go after the sled or the scoundrel who was now swimming ashore with the food. Melanakeami opted to go after the culprit, but Ilyana was already on the beach. Melanakeami could not persue her further.
"Ahhr, thanks for the tribute, mermaid!"
"You give that back, you---!"
"Or what? Wait- don't tell me- you gonna sting me with those stupid jellyfish you're wearing?"
"Ah-- they are not stupid! Now give me back that food... oh..." her voice trailed off, realizing the futility.
"Baibai mermaid!" Ilyana said as she disappeared into the dunes and trees.
All the poor mermaid could do was try to summon help as the pirate escaped, but alas there was no one else nearby. Either the pirate timed the robbery very well, or was just lucky there were no witnesses about. Her lower jaw trembled as tears streamed down her cheeks. After a few moments of heavy breathing and racing heartbeat, Melanakeami managed to calm down and think. She decided to swim over to where the seahorses had stopped, reclaim the sled, and continue on to the destination, which was much closer at this point than the restaurant was. She decided to arrive empty-handed and personally apologize to the custo-mer... and hopefully use their phone to call her boss and the police.
Le Chat welcomed Wulfstov and his associates into her abode, delighting him with the news that the jellies & jams was stowed aboard his plane. He offered to help set the table when the food arrived, which she anticipated should be any in minute. Le Chat led them out the breezeway, down wooden steps across the dunes, and to the end of a short, lighted pier, which was the designated rendezvous pot.
"Ah, here comes our little delivery girl!" Le chat chimed as she saw the approaching seahorse-drawn sled. "Should not there be... food aboard that sled?" Wulvsy asked, noting the lack thereof.
"Um... are you the client who catered the very large feast?" Melanakeami nervously asked.
"Yess--?" Le chat purred with knitted brow.
"Um, well, I... I... am sorry but it was stolen... "
"STOLEN???" Le Chat and Wulfstov exclaimed in unison.
"Hai... I'm terribly sorry but... may I please use your telephone?"
Le Chat wished no ill will upon this harmless mermaid, but she was not quite ready to involve the police. She hopped down into the water and asked Melanakeami to explain what happened. Le Chat was quite eager to find out who would dare steal that food- especially when the whole Guild knew she was hosting (In just a couple of hours)! Of course, Melanakeami had no idea that le chat- or her guests- were theives and criminals themselves. Melanakeami finished telling of the incident by describing her assailant.
"--and she had this european accent..."
"Oh... My... God..." Le Chat's mouth dropped as her tail went rigid. "Ilyana! That wench- oh!!"
"No- it can't be- not her... here?" muttered Wulfstov. His blood pressure was about to achieve escape velocity.
"Ilyana", his thugs silently mouthed to each other, knowing that a reunion of Ilyana with their boss did not bode well.
Chapter Ate: Delay of Game
Meryl was covered in giant slug slime as she waved goodbye to the two teenage catgirls she just rescued. She glanced at her clothes, shook her head, then started towards her motorcycle- but stopped short as she heard a roar from within the nearby cave
"Look mate, I don't care if those girls WERE trespassing, that doesn't give you the right to try an' EAT them." She yelled into the cave. From within the dark cave, there was a defiant roar in response.
"Is that so? WelI then, how'd you loook it if I was to come back 'ere with a lorry full o' sodium chloride and--" The roaring stopped.
"That's I thought. Now... bugger off!" she commanded, continuing on to her bike. Then another radio call came in, this one regarding some stolen crates of prize-winning jam, jelly and marmalade.
Melanakeami waited and watched in tears-
Le Chat had to think fast- but improvising was an exceptional talent of this master thief. She had to quickly deal with the girl, the party, the Guild, Ilyana, the restuarant, and the cops- all within the next five minutes.
"Now you listen to me, dear, none of this was your fault It was very SMART of you to come here to tell me what happened FIRST. Don't worry about the money or the food- what matters is that you were not hurt by that highwayman, er woman, er person! Let's call your boss to explain what happened, then I'll phone the police." Le Chat handed Melanakeami her phone, then confered a bit with the Wulfster while Melanakeami spoke with her Chief. Moments later-
"Um, Miss... my Chief would like to speak to you-" gestured Melanakeami with the phone.
"Hmm... now what to do about the mermaid..." Le Chat glared.
Verushka got Melanakeami soothing beverage and kept the poor mermaid company. With Igor's help, Wulfstov readied the house for the pending guests, while his three heavies went after Ilyana in one of Le Chat's fine lautomobiles.
The smooth and cunning Le Chat talked to Chief Yakizaka, who was already far too busy under normal Saturday Night circumstances to deal with such a crisis. He was indeed genuinely concerned about the safety of Melanakeami, but Le Chat convinced him that she'd summon the police herself, to investigate the crime and see that Melanakeami made it back to Sheila May's safely. Le Chat's true intent was to keep the police out of this affair entirely. She was quite bemused to hear on her scanner that Murrey was ironically en route to The inn investigating the stolen proiperty! Neither that fact nor the three aspirin and buttermilk chaser helped his mood. The merest thought of being on the same continent with Ilyana made Wulfstov's huge ulcers flare red-hot.
"You never told me that Ilyana was here on Catgirl Island!" Wulfstov scorned.
"You never asked. However, I think we'll take her for a little boat ride when your boys return with her!"
"That should have been done long ago. Ack... just thinking about her makes my stomach hurts..."
"Oh God.... my tummy hurts..." moaned Ilyana, reclining after consuming vast quantities of stolen seafood. She gorged herself silly, and was regretting having sampled portions of every item in that extravagant feast.
This was a most unhealthy position for her to be in- especially when Wulfstov's men stormed her domicile. The three gents were disappointed to find the 'terror of the seven seas' unable to put up the slightest little struggle, and warned her not to throw up on their nice suits as they helped her to the car. After an extra- bouncey ride, Ilyana was turning as green as a frog. Arriving back at Le Chat's villa, they helped the pirate out of the car and lead her to the boat dock, where Le Chat, Wulfstov, Igor, and Verushka stood.
"Well well well, if it isn't Ilyana. How the mighty have fallen! What have you got to say for yourself this time?"
Ilyana's dizzy eyes surveyed her captors, then she promptly threw up all over everyone in sight- except for Melanakeami, who just happened to be submerged at the moment. While she was underwater, awaiting the police to arrive, Melanakeami swore she smelled spoiled octapus ink juice cocktail, and held her nose.
Chapter Nine: Reper-cussion Waves
Melanakeami waited in the surf by the pier that Ilyana was tied to, as the others went to shower the barf off of themselves and discuss Ilyana's fate.
"The police sure are taking a long time" Melanakeami said.
"Ugh my tummy hurts" Ilyana whined.
"You know you probably stole the most expensive meal in the history of this island? I hope you have to spend a day in jail for every dollar of the bill!"
"I hope I never see another fish filet as long as I live" Ilyana moaned, tummy still aching. So how much DID all that food cost, anyway?"
"Including taxes, delivery charge, and gratuity?"
"Way. And that doesn't include damages those sea horses are going to need months of psychotherapy before they can work again."
"You gotta be kidding!"
"And that nice lady's party you ruined she'll probably sue."
"Ohhh I doubt that- no way Le Chat's gonna get the Law involved. And what the hell is Wulf doing here? He must be smuggling something out" Ilyana thought to herself. "Oh well it's a cinch that she's in there on the phone, calling off her stupid party then she'll turn her attention back to me. Oh God- I think I'm gonna hurl again! Hmm she knows I raided the mermaid offshore so she won't get the Guild involved but she's not the killer type "
Ilyana silent wondered what would happen next, as Melanakeami tapped her fins with impatience.
flap flap flap
"Stop that." Ilyana groaned.
FLAP FLAP FLAP! The mermaid deliberately flapped louder, glaring angrily at the pirate.
Minutes later, Le Chat emerged alone, wearing a black bikini with matching divegear Melanakeami and Ilyana heard her tell Wulf to hold the fort while she was gone. She was a lot cheerier than expected- that told Ilyana that le Chat had just devised a purr-fect plan.
"The Police are busy- there was another food theft today!" Le Chat purred. "The inn was also hit today."
"Boy you must've been hungry!" Melanakeami snapped.
"Hey- it wasn't me!" Ilyana retorted. "The Kitt Inn, huh? I wonder..."
"Yeah right. Out playing Robin Hood or what?" Melanakeami posed.
"Ohh- never mind." Le Chat moved the still-subdued Ilyana into her speedboat. The tip of her tail twitched with rage.
"So, now what?" the mermaid asked.
"We're going to remand this pirate into Chief Yakizaka's custody!"
"That figures" Ilyana said, realizing that this was how Le Chat could clean up the mess without involving either the Police or the Guild.
"Oh boy, are you gonna get it!" Melanakeami said. She did not know a great deal about the rules of jurisdiction, but it seemed appropriate, and Le Chat was most convincing. Le Chat offered Melanakeami a ride back to the restaurant.
"But what about your big party?"
"(Sigh) I had to call it off, thanks to this evil pirate wench here!"
"Awww gimme a break!" Ilyana quipped, rolling her eyes. After a choppy, fast boat ride, Le Chat weighed anchor near a buoy and donned her gear. Melanakeami enjoyed the trip, but Ilyana got sick again.
"This sure beats those old sea-sleds!" Melanakeami asserted.
"If your boss hadn't gotten robbed he could've afforded a new boat!" Le chat rubbed it in. Melanakeami back-flipped out of the boat.
"Ehh, he'd never buy a motor boat- he's too old fashioned."
"Oh well, to each his own. Coming, dear?" Le chat tugged on Ilyana's rope, as if she were a pet on a leash. Then Ilyana threw up on her again, just before Le Chat had put on her dive mask. With that final indignation, Le Chat dove into the sea with Ilyana in tow and the three of them proceeded to Sheila May's.
Chapter Ten: Food Court
Melanakeami was hugged by her fellow employees upon arrival. Chief Yakizaka treated Le Chat to a lavish dinner and bar tab on the house. He was impressed yet again with his little trooper Melanakeami, who went right back to work. Ilyana was locked in a private chamber, wherein she napped until midnight. Eventually the place closed for the evening, when Yakizaka decided he had time to deal with Ilyana. There was no way that Le chat was going to miss this! Since he was not only the manager of the restaurant but also a local Tribal Chief Yakizaka would decide Ilyana's fate, according to tribal law and the rules of territorial juris they had with Catgirl Island. The
Mer-tribes were not the only groups that had laws in addition to those of the land mortals, for so did the island's Faerie Court, The Witches Council, and other demi-humans. Each race's authority worked along side each other with great mutual respect. Ilyana was lucky, as the Merdicial System meted out the least severe punishments in the region. (For example, Fae prison terms are measured in centuries, not years.)
Yakizaka heard testimony from Melanakeami and Le Chat. That was when Le Chat made her one mistake. Maybe it was all the free liquor she consumed at the bar, but she got careless and said too much.
"So what was stolen from the Kitt Inn today, anyway?" Melanakeami asked.
"The Kitt Inn robbed as well?" Ceresatami gasped, then shot Ilyana a stern look. "Nermui will carve the culprit into sushi!"
"I believe it was several crates of preserves?" Le Chat said between sips.
"The Glutton!" Tsuruku whispered, assuming Ilyana was the culprit in that crime.
"There seems to have been a rash of food thefts today- what does the accused have to say for herself?" Yakizaki directed. But Ilyana was lost in thought:
"That jam-- of course! That's Wulfstov's favorite-and this is one of the few places can get it from! These rats are trying to pin that on me too! Well, he won't get the satisfaction!"
"Ahem! What have you to say for yourself?"
"........Aren't I allowed like one phone call?"
Le Chat almost spat out her drink with a laugh, assuming Ilyana might be calling a lawyer. Chief Yakizaka made the same assumption, Mer-Court allowed Legal Representation, which was especially important when non-mers were involved.
"Yes, it is allowed. Melankeami, would you please take her to the House Phones?"
Melanakeami escorted Ilyana to a communications alcove. Noting that escape was highly unlikely, Le Chat was in the corner of Ilyana's eyes as she dialed the number.
"I'd like to speak to Officer Murrey, please sure, I'll hold!"
Her phone call was brief but she made her point, and returned to The Chief.
"Your honor, I'm sure that you all would like to get this over with fast, so I'll plead No Contest and throw myself on the mercy of the court, and if I may say so-- you make the best Octapus Ink Sauce I've ever had!"
"She drank it all" Melanakeami whispered.
"Grroady to the max!" Tsuruku whispered back.
"Very well, you care found guilty of armed robbery. Now to pass sentence!" Yakazaki announced. "The punishment shall fit the crime, and you are hereby sentenced to work until you have paid for the value of the food, plus sales tax, delivery fee, 20% gratuity, property damages, and customer's dry cleaning bill."
"W-W-WORK? (Sigh) Oh well... that's fair I guess" Ilyana hung her head low, ears drooping.
"But wait- there's more!" Yakizaka added. "There are punitive damages to be assessed. At minimum wage, you'll be working here for quite some time!"
"MINIMUM WAGE??? You gotta be kidding! Ah... ah... ah, anything ELSE?""
"Indeed. You'll have to wear a special tracking bracelt on your ankle, so we'll know if you try to skip town. Oh, and be aware that every hour you're late for work without good cause will be added to time you must serve, so I suggest you get a good alarm clock!"
"Hey she can make inland deliveries that we couldn't normally get to," Melanakeami said. "We'll do more business!"
"She can gig frogs when they go ashore out of our reach!" Ceresatami suggested.
"Make her fill the ink bottles!" Tsuruku demanded, her fin tapping, thinking the pirate should suffer more penalties.
"Yeah! make her fill the ink bottles and... and pluck the sea urchins!" Melanakeami insisted.
Le chat yawned and stretched, content with the verdict as she asked for her diving gear. Chief Yakazaki adjourned the court and declared that it was time for everyone to go home. Ilyana looked down at her where her new anklet would be, then slid off her rocky perch. She noticed the smug look on Melanakeami's face.
"Say, boss?" Ilyana asked Yakizaka. "You're not gonna make me wear THOSE stupid things, are you?" Ilyana complained, pointing at Melanakeami's jellycups.
Shortly after sunrise the next morning, Wulv's gange returned to the airfield to board their plane. There was quite a surprise reception waiting for them; for there was Officer Meryl gun in hand, with her feet propped up on the crates of stolen goods. Several red laser dots swarmed over the villains like angry bees, courtesy of Mery's nearby snipers.
"Well whatt do you know? There's no honor amongst thieves, just loyk they say! Now then, would you be a good lady & gentlemen and slowly put your hands behind your heads?" The officer stood and read their rights as the rest of her team converged to handcuff the smugglers. Murrey's day was off to a great start!
Of course, during the arrest process, the suspects were each allowed to make one phone call. Wulfstov was furious, his blood pressure reaching critical mass upon learning that a hot tip from Sheila May's led the Police to their airplane. He was going to need a very large bottle of antacid today.
"Le Chat! It must have been her- only she knew that stuffwas aboard my plane! So she loses her party, then tries to alter deal and double-cross meeh? We shall see who gets last laugh!" He placed his call.
"Hello, this is Wulfstov. How's the wife and kids? Good good good. Ah, well, not so good here. Ah, I want to speak to our contact in the Piracy Guild..."
Melanakeami woke up, her happy fins fluttering to the yummy smell of flounder cakes in syrup. Her parents were extremely proud of how she weather such an intense weekend.
"So when do you get your first paycheck, M-chan?" her Mother inquired, serving up a tall stack of the cakes.
"Friday- and after I get my check I'm gonna swim straight to the bank and start my Balloon Fund!"
"That sounds very prudent! So are you working today?" He father asked, passing her the sliced watermelon.
"Hai, but I don't hafta go in until afternoon today! Sooo more antiquing today?"
"Mm-hm. Say, we'd better get going or everything will be picked over already!"
After the family finished breakfast and her parents were off again in search of relics, Melanakeami and her friends swam out to the beach to sun themselves a while. Gazing up at the canyons of clouds in the sky, her thoughts turned to ballooning again.
"Don't you feel nervous having to work with that pirate?" Lourdessaluorno asked.
"Nah I just hope she's a better waitress than she is a pirate!" Melanakeami responded.
"That cloud up there looks like a whale shark--see?" Kianalani observed.
"Who wants another juice box?" Nyssa offered.
"I do! I do!"
"Thanks Nyssy" Melanakeami, taking the Sea Squirt Box. "Ilyana's going to be working at Sheila May's for several years. Maybe she'll serve all of her sentence by the time I can afford my balloon!"
"How long's that gonna take, 'Kami?"
"Lessee... after my first paycheck, only $19,000 to go...!"
As Melanakeami daydreamed in the shallows, miles out to sea Le Chat was also soaking up the sun, relaxing on the deck of her yacht. Wearing a zebra-stripe bikini with matching pareo and sipping a glass of champaign and nibbling on hors d'oeuvres.
"What ever was I thinking, getting into this guild politics mess? None of this would have happened if I hadn't tried to bribe and shmooze for votes! I should have just stuck with what I'm best at by STEALING the votes!" Le Chat snickered, as she patted the fake ballot box she would use to rig the election.
Suddenly her ears perked, her catgirl intuition telling her to duck. A cannonball exploded in the water a few feet off her boat's starboard side.
"What the--?" She crawled into the cabin, grabbed her binocluars and peeked out the smoked glass porthole. Coming up fast from astern was another boat with dark sails, flying a skull & crossbones- Ilyana's comrades, whowere lighting another cannon fuse...
a few hours later, a few miles closer to shore, twelve fathoms below...
Ceresatami and Tsuruku warmly greeted Melanakeami as she arrived at Sheila May's to prepare for the supper crowd.Everyone was also anticipating the arrival of their newest employee, Ilyana. Right on time, Ilyana arrived, clocked in, and was presented her uniform by The Chief.
"Oh looky! Yours are fuchsia!" Melanakeami beamed, noting the color of the jellycups that Ilyana would have to wear as part of her uniform.
"Oh shut up." Iyana grumbled, on her way to the employee lounge to change into her new work clothes. "Oh well, at least I am surrounded by all this food!" She mewsed, as Sheila May's undersea restaurant prepared to welcome the supper crowd.
* * * the end! * * *
1. The original title of this story was "Prawnbrokers: Adventures in Undersea Cuisine", but later it was discovered that there is at least one real restaurant named Prawnbrokers, so our fictional dining establishment was renamed Sheila May's, after a friend's real fishing boat.
2. Mike would like to thank friends Megan, Tiawyn & Susan for their assistance in shaping the characters of Ilyana, Meryl & Le Chat.
3. Meryl also appears in Mike Moon's stories, "Nyanko and the Eye of the idol"
4. That alleged purple gorilla which Meryl received a call about appeared in is a reference to the infamous 'Purple Gorilla Joke'.
4. The giant cave slugs appear in "Nyanko and the Eye of the Idol" and by Marc Burgess' "Curiosity Killed the Catgirl"
5. The above two illustrations were hand drawn & colored by JL Hobbins, with digital water & effects added by Mike.
6. Meryl, Dessy and Ru return in "Night of Dach Shadows". Thanks for reading- Aloha Y'all!