The Secret Life
by Allyson M. W. Dyar
"What a lovely day! Don't you agree, Mac?"
Machiavelli Argent stretched all four furry limbs, displacing several clumps of grass. When he flicked his eyes open, he enjoyed the perfect view of ChiChi gently wiping her hands against her bare thighs then removing her hat and wiping the sweat from her brow.
Mac definitely agreed but thought the scene before him much nicer. He lingered on the vision of ChiChi using her extended talons to dig holes in the ground for planting roses. Finally, he decided had better things to do and was about to check out the insides of his eyelids again when the harsh tweep of the comlink interrupted his afternoon snooze. Twitching an ear towards the open window, he heard Dekachin repeatedly growling, grumbling, and groaning at whomever had dared disturb him on this fine Oregon afternoon.
"Yes! We've already established that I am Captain Argent! But I still don't know what the hell you're talking about!" Dekachin snapped. Mac chuckled as the aforementioned grumbling continued, interspersed with a terse "Yes" then a sharp "No" then something Mac couldn't quite catch, finally ending with, "Oh! You want Doctor Argent, my wife. I'll get her."
ChiChi had obviously overheard the conversation as she had already begun brushing the dirt from her bare torso. Mac eyed her every movement and then turned his attentions to the side door swooshing open.
"Arcadia! Some tight-assed, bureaucratic buttwipe from GalCon Central wants to talk about you exceeding your storage limit...Or something..."
"I'll be right there, Kyle."
Mac felt his ears stand to attention. Dogdammit. He jumped up and dashed through ChiChi's legs straight into the house. Zooming past Dekachin sprawled over on a living room chair, Mac bounded onto the couch and waited.
ChiChi finally entered and sat down in front of the comlink. She squared her shoulders, then tapped the link off pause.
Mac edged his way forward and settled on the couch's arm. Doggit, I can't see squat. He bobbed around until he had a clear image of the comlink screen and watched the image of a very young man emerge, obviously nervous and extremely flustered.
"This is Doctor Argent. How may I help you?" At the same time she began, ChiChi flung off her hat, narrowly missing Mac, who hovered precariously behind her.
"Captain Arcadia Argent?" the young man asked.
"Yes, this is Doctor Arcadia Argent."
The young clerk gave her a feeble grin. "Good afternoon, Captain Argent. My name is Ensign Parkinson Garson-Gwern. I am the junior account specialist at the Galactic Confederation Space Force's Directorate of Personnel Management, Personal Holo-Accounts Division. Our regular quarterly computer maintenance summary indicates you have exceeded your storage quota and we--"
"Uhm...Captain, you have exceeded your computer storage quota."
"I've done what?"
"You have exceeded your authorized allowance, Captain."
"I don't bloody well think so."
"Don't 'Captain' me, Ensign! I know exactly what material I transferred from my ship to my new account on Space Station Nexus. I know I'm well below my authorization."
"Captain Argent, please look at the figures! You will see that you are well over the quota and--"
In a panic, Mac bent forward to view the numbers on the screen. Still unable to make out the information, he leaned over until he suddenly found himself kissing rug--and doing so with an audible thud.
"Mac," Dekachin predictably cracked wise, "I think you need to lay off the hooch!"
Resisting the urge to growl at this feeble attempt at humor, Mac concentrated on shaking off his fall. By the time he'd finished sniffing around his body, Dekachin had appeared and scooped Mac up into his arms. Mac scrambled down and retook his position.
"Sorry, Ensign...where were we? Oh, yes! I want to see these files of mine!"
"Ye-es, sir...uhm...ma'am. Yes, Captain! I shall transfer them to you right away."
"Are you daft man? I don't want you bloody computer gits tying up my link! Send it via courier and I expect it here tomorrow morning! Anything else...Ensign?"
"No, ma'am! You will have it in the morning, Captain."
Mac began nervously chewing his back paw as he watched Dekachin saunter to where ChiChi sat shaking her fist at the blank screen.
"I see," Dekachin began in a congenial tone of voice, "that despite your gentle exterior of a Healer, you still know how to make them quake in their boots."
"My command voice still works quite well, Kyle," she replied as she stood.
Dekachin grinned and edged closer. "Arcadia, you do realize that you put the 'link on visual?"
"Oh...nothing...but I think your proclamations of innocence and your berating of a junior officer weren't necessarily what flustered our young Ensign." He purposely tugged at the thin gold chain resting on her bare hips.
She glanced down and raised her eyebrows. "You do have a point, Captain Argent. I should endeavor to appear more like an officer when answering official queries. Appearing in the nude before my juniors won't do. I'm sure there's some GalCon regulation prohibiting such." She paused and frowned. "Is Mac hurt? I heard him fall to the deck."
"Mac's fine. I suppose he leaned over too far."
She looked at the feline and frowned. "Mac, you should be more careful."
Dekachin leered at ChiChi. "Going back to garden?"
"Why do you ask, Kyle?"
"Oh...I just thought you might like to take...a break."
She raised an eyebrow. "What kind?"
Mac watched Dekachin reach over and rub his hands up and down her nude body. "The best kind," Dekachin whispered before they sauntered towards the bedroom.
Mac considered following them, but instead would activate the remote system. He needed to spend all available time devising a plan to save his pelt and whiskers, assuming it were still possible.
Mac slept on the couch with one eye open and an ear cocked at the front entrance. At exactly 0900, he heard the high-pitched whine of a courier skimmer touching down. Several minutes later, the door announced a visitor. Exactly 10 seconds passed before ChiChi sleepily accepted the package. She flung it on the table and wandered back to the bedroom.
Good! Mac hopped up and pushed the package towards the front door, depositing it near the entrance. He tapped a hidden panel on the floor.
"Me'w, me'w, meee-ow!"
Gotta love old Ludwig van B. The door whooshed open and he dragged the package into the garden. Mac had it partially buried when he suddenly felt a hand grab the scruff of his neck.
"Mac! What the bloody hell are you doing?"
ChiChi dragged him and the package back into the house.
"Don't you have enough cat toys, Mac?" she asked, gently placing him back down.
Mac immediately began chewing his back paw. Double-Dogdammit!
ChiChi smiled at Mac as she shook the package clear of loose dirt. "You are so cute. C'mon boy, let's see what we have here."
Mac crept behind her. Being cute won't save my furry rump this time...I am so dead.
ChiChi sat down and unloaded the contents into the link. After a few seconds, her eyes popped out of their sockets. "What the bloody hell...this is one of me!" she screeched.
Unable to see exactly which of his pieces had prompted this overreaction, he pounced into her lap and stuck his nose onto the flexiglass screen.
"My...oh, my..." Arcadia chuckled aloud. "I never knew Kyle had it in him. He never said anything about wanting any nudes of me."
What? She thinks this belongs to Dekachin. I am so saved!
Absently stroking his fur, she laughed again. "Mac, it's amazing," she murmured, nuzzling his ear. "Here I thought I really knew Kyle and now I know this new bride still has a lot to learn. I will hand this over and tell Kyle to please secure his very personal material in his own space. Besides, if he wants pix of me all he needs to do is ask. No need to sneak around like this...But..." She paused and frowned. "But I don't understand...How did Kyle obtain my official encryption codes? A security leak, perhaps. If so, I certainly don't want nudes of me floating about!"
Mac suddenly found himself floating in the air and kissing rug again--audible thud and all. He shook it off and watched her stand up. If she talks to Dekachin, last stop: pet cemetery! Time for action!
He ran in front of her and sat down; casually extending his right paw outward. Suddenly, a thud louder than his two combined reverberated around them. Mac trotted over and began licking her nose.
"Pee-yew, Mac. You have bad breath. Look, I need to ask Kyle about this business!"
For the love of dog, no!
Once again she stood up leaving Mac no option but to pounce on her feet.
"Bloody hell, Machiavelli! Will you stop? I don't want to fall--"
"What is with you?" she asked, staring at him while sitting on the floor.
This was one loaded Terran litterbox of a situation, he thought. He knew if she kept making all this noise, Dekachin would come in and raise a serious fuss once he saw Mac's collection.
Arcadia rubbed her ankle and Mac hoped she'd stay put until he figured out what to do. While chomping on his back foot, he considered several scenarios. He could just keep knocking her down, but that was impractical. He could possibly try talking to her, but he had a limited vocabulary. As he chomped his foot even harder, he finally concluded it was time for drastic measures. Something he'd never considered before. Was it possible for him to mentally communicate with her? No reason to try before, but my collection is at stake--never mind, my furry little rump!
Now that ChiChi was on her feet again and had begun hobbling out of the room, he concentrated and mentally transmitted one simple word.
Suddenly, ChiChi ceased moving and glanced back. Then she looked forward and blinked several times. Finally, she hobbled back towards Mac.
"Was that you?"
"You said 'mine'?"
ChiChi flopped down on the couch. As Mac hopped besides her, she gave him a feeble grin.
"You understand me?"
"I didn't know you could communicate with me."
"Yeah. Didn't know I could talk to Vaegans until just now. And--" Mac stopped because ChiChi looked confused. "Meow?"
"I know you were saying something, but I couldn't sort it out. I suggest you confine yourself to single words or simple phrases."
"Sounds like a plan to me, toots!"
"Now that we have a plan..."
"I wasn't aware that Terran felines could communicate telepathically."
"But you do, Mac."
Arcadia's lop-sided grin became etched on her lips like a mask. "Not Terran?" she repeated.
She stared at him. "Let's save this little matter for another day. Now, I take it there is a special reason for why you chose to communicate with me at this very moment?"
"Why would you talk to me now?"
"Graphics? You know who they belong to?"
"And you don't want me to ask Kyle about them?"
"Meow! Meow! Meow!"
"So am I to assume that these naughty bits sitting in my holo-storage are in fact...yours?"
"You collect...err...extremely naughty bits? Of humanoids?"
"But humanoids? I'm sure we can find you some perfectly serviceable felinoid imagery and--"
"Does this have anything to do with you being...uhm...fixed?"
Mac flattened his ears and stared at her. No!
ChiChi gave him a slight smile. "All righty now...So why don't you collect felinoids?"
"Dull? How can you say that? Cats are wonderful creatures."
"Not when they bump."
She paused and pursed her lips. "Different strokes for different folks or, in this case, felinoids?"
"Ri-ight...Back to the matter at hand. Kyle owns a cat who collects porn."
My collar preserve me! "Please! Erotica!"
"Forgive me, erotica. You collect erotica. Now that we have defined our terms... Tell me, does your interest in collecting confine itself to just static displays or are you also into...live action?"
"Both?! You...you mean you've captured...everything?"
"Meow!" Mac grew warm at the memories. Never before had he seen two humanoids engage in such interesting horizontal gymnastics. Not even in his trolling the gridnets.
"You're a bloody voyeur!"
Mac twitched his whiskers. Dogdammit, you don't have to be so rude about it, which roughly transmitted out as, "Pfft."
"You've known Kyle longer than I have. I'm going to venture a guess that my husband wouldn't be keen on knowing that you were not only looking, but taking notes."
She frowned. "What was that? No notes?"
"A small comfort, I'd say. What should I do with these pix then?"
"You want to keep them?"
"What if I get caught?"
She raised an eyebrow. "You know law too?"
"Never mind. Why should I let you keep them? Especially when you have a few which could embarrass me and Kyle!"
"Private. No trade."
"You won't trade the images of myself and Kyle? But you'd trade the others?"
She frowned and shook her head. "I'm sorry, Mac, I simply can't trust you not to spread these around and--"
"Me-oooowww. Meee-ow! Meeee-!"
"Mac, will you stop that yodeling! I don't want Kyle coming out here and--"
"Arcadia, is anything wrong? I heard you yelling and Mac yowling. Something--"
"Nothing's wrong, Kyle! I mean...my ankle. I've hurt my ankle."
"Want me to check?"
As Dekachin neared, Mac had a brilliant idea. Time to take charge. Yours!
She looked at Mac and yipped, "What?"
"No!" she bellowed at Mac.
"You don't want me to check your ankle, Arcadia?"
"What? I mean, I'm a doctor, Kyle, I know what's wrong!"
"Oh...Kay..." he began, backing away as he spoke. "How about a cup of hot tea?"
"Fine! That would be fine, Kyle." She paused and added, "Fresh brewed!"
"That will take me quite a while to prepare, Arcadia."
"Good...I mean, I'm not going anywhere, Kyle!"
"OK," he shrugged. "C'mon boy, how about a bowl of milk!"
Mac had started hopping off the couch when, once again, he felt a hand threaten to defur his neck.
"Not so fast," she breathed, but said aloud to Kyle, "Let Mac stay with me. You want to stay, don't you boy?"
"With the death grip you have on him, I don't think Mac's going anywhere."
He chuckled. "I'll be right back as soon as I can with your tea, Arcadia."
Once he had departed, she pulled Mac towards her until they were nose-to-nose. "You little skunkmeister."
"My collection? You're going to rig it so Kyle thinks these are mine, aren't you?"
She dropped Mac down. "I shouldn't try getting rid of your collection?"
"Works for me!"
"I'm sure it does. I believe it's time for us to come to some kind of agreement." She added a hasty, "Before Kyle returns!"
"However, I'm curious. You called Kyle, Dekachin. What does it mean?"
"You heard me, what does Dekachin mean?"
Mac licked his lips several times.
She narrowed her eyes at him. "Want me to show you my talons up close and personal?"
"No!" Besides, he considered with serious apprehension, if it ever came to a showdown between my claws and her talons--no contest. She could eviscerate me with one swipe.
Mac looked back to her and reluctantly transmitted two words.
Mac watched her eyes bulge and her mouth twist into a lopsided grin. Then she laughed out loud. "How appropriate! Don't worry I'm not going to ask you what you call me. I'll remain blissfully ignorant on that item."
"Glad you approve." She paused. "I think we should keep your hobby between us. You are quite the clever lad and probably have this entire mansion wired. I--"
"Bloody hell, Mac!" She shook her head. "Is there anything else I should know?
"Never mind! I know when it's time to show the proverbial white flag. I'll create an account so you can continue your...'private pursuits'. In exchange--"
She raised an eyebrow at his objection. "You certainly didn't think I'd do this for you without compensation."
"Thought so... Now, just what can you do for me?"
Mac shrugged his shoulders.
When ChiChi didn't immediately respond, Mac looked at her and shivered. On her lips sat a sinister smile, one he'd never seen before, but one that caused his ears to stand once again at attention.
"Firstly, when I'm clothed, there will be no lap sitting."
"And when I'm nude, lap sitting will be by invitation only."
"I'm not done." She paused. "And secondly...a favor to be named later."
Mac flattened his ears. "What kind?"
ChiChi grinned. "You'll know when I tell you."
Mac jumped off the couch and paced around the room. He'd seen her command a starship and bust some alien rump. It worried him what she could ask him to do in the future. On the other paw, he had amassed a great deal of stuff and it would take him forever and a lifetime to restock. He glanced back to her and smacked his lips several times. Finally, he hopped back up and faced her.
He extended a paw to seal the deal. ChiChi raised her eyebrows and stared at him for a several seconds, eventually taking his offered appendage.
"I've never shaken hands...errr...paws with a...uhm...felinoid before, especially in regards to confirming an arrangement such as ours." She paused and grinned. "But then, this is no stranger than having one who collects...erotica."
Mac shrugged. Everyone needs a hobby to keep him out of trouble.
Background by Graphics