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  • Talon Stradley

S1E8/9 - The Cats of Calisland Pt. 1 & 2

As I’m sure you’re aware, last month we held our annual Cats vs. Dogs vote. Cats were expected to win, especially after the birth of our litter of periodic kittens. However, after a rousing speech from AI 4-82, the entire collective instead voted for Roombas as our official new pet. As per tradition, we got rid of every pet that wasn’t a Roomba, sending all the cats with Rex, the Exterminator to be released in the Mojave desert.

We thought that would be the end of the story, but we were wrong. You see, not everyone was happy with the traditions of NDR. Some people wanted to keep their cats and by some people, I mean Auggie Pepnia, our story editor. She was the unofficial-official owner of the three legged cat Astatine and she adored that kitten.

While all the rest of the cats were being rounded up and sent off, Auggie hid Astatine in a shoebox under her bed. Auggie shares a room with her sister, Sumpra, who sleeps on the top-bunk. As the whole collective slept, Auggie would take Astatine out of the box and spend time with her. Auggie had a special bond with the three legged cat. Auggie is blind and couldn’t see Astatine, but that never stopped them from playing around on the bottom bunk. You’d think that Auggie would get scratched up quite a bit not being able to pick up on the visual cues of a temperamental animal, but the two had an unspoken understanding of each other.

Sumpra always slept through these play sessions, not hearing the ruckus the two were causing due to her deafness. Things were looking good for Auggie and she thought she would be able to keep Astatine forever.

That was until one morning when Sumpra got up late. Auggie was already out of the room working on last month’s broadcast when Sumpra sat on the bottom bunk to tie her shoes. If you know anything about Astatine, it’s that she loves to attack shoe laces. When Sumpra begin flicking them around into a knot, Astatine leaped out of the shoe box to attack!

It was adorable, but the secret was out. Sumpra brought it to my attention and we called a collective meeting to decide what to do about the matter.

The collective was split. Half wanted to keep the cat and half wanted to send it away.

The deciding vote was Auggie.

She set Astatine down on the ground, sat criss cross applesauce, and ran her fingers across the kittens head. The cat began rolling on the ground, swatting playfully at the hands.

Finally, Auggie stood and said “She needs her family.”

With that, the matter was settled. We would make the trek to the mainland and journey out into the Mojave desert to find the other Periodic Kittens and reunite Astatine with her brothers and sisters. We began assembling our crew. Auggie demanded to go since it involved Astatine and nobody objected. Sumpra also demanded to go since it involved her little sister and again, nobody objected. I was going to go, cuz I needed to get out of the house more and finally, we made Jack, A Dull Boy go with us because, let's be honest, it's not like he’d be doing much else back at the collective. With our crew formed, we made our way to the docks and sailed past Catalina all the way to the Long Beach port. From there, we made our way to the desert on foot, each wearing a backpack with some basic supplies.

Auggie held Astatine in her arms while Sumpra held Auggie by the arm, guiding her through the streets, high desert highways, and dirt roads. Eventually, we made it.

We reached the edge of the Mojave desert, but we weren’t entirely sure what to do next. After all, we were looking for six young cats who were just out wandering around the deserts of California. I took a deep breath and pulled out my map as Auggie readjusted her hold on the sleeping Astatine. My eyes were scanning the brilliant cartography when Sumpra tapped me on the shoulder. She pointed off into the distance and I followed her finger.

She was pointing at a young boy. He was crouched down facing away from us, shirtless and in tattered shorts. His hands were swatting at something on the ground. I called out. “Hey!” and he spun around. The boy had six blades of dry grass taped to his face, three on each side. A beetle tried to fly away from behind him, but it’s wings were damaged and it plummeted back into the sand.

Astatine let out a concerned meow and the boy snapped to attention, scrambling towards us on all fours.

“You have found her! The lost one, the three legged. You are here to fulfill the prophecy and bring peace back to this barren land.”

He began hopping back and forth on his legs. Astatine was squirming at this point, trying to escape Auggie’s arms. Auggie held her tighter. I tried to explain ourselves.

“We’re just looking for a couple cats we sent out here.”

The boy nodded vigorously. One of his fake whiskers start to slip off but he firmly pressed it back on. “Yes, yes, I know! The prophecy!”

At this point, Jack, A Dull Boy asked what we were all thinking; What was the prophecy?

The shirtless boy stopped jumping and looked Jack straight in the eye.

“Long ago, eons and eons ago, back when the sands of this desert were still rocks, seven beings entered. One was a man, not unlike yourself. Knives, guns, and dead Roombas clanked against each other as they hung from his waist. In his arms were six kittens, sleeping. He set them down on the dirt.

“The elders speak of him turning to leave, but the soft mews of the darling kittens weighed heavy on his soul. That man built them a structure before he left. A solitary cat scratcher to shield them from the elements. Then he departed. Never to return again.

“Once the man was gone, the humans of the desert crawled from their hiding places in the bushes and trees. They cautiously approached the cat scratcher. As they saw the soft fur balls rolling around, they fell in love. Devoted. They began caring for the kittens, bringing them water and food. As the cats grew, they needed a larger shelter, so the humans built that for them too.

“The humans provided sustenance and necessities and the kittens in turn provided entertainment and joy. The relationship was beneficial, but still in its early stages. The cats would continue to grow. Soon, the first cat spoke. It was Cobalt, who was now roughly the size of a puma. He instructed the human subjects to build them a tower, a tower large enough for all the massive cats. The humans agreed, willing servants of a new ruling class.

“As the tower rose, the cats took good care of their subjects. Always making sure they were fed and sheltered. These were the golden years. To this time we wish to return.

“Many of the cats were content with their Tower. It was large enough for all to thrive, but Cobalt wanted more. He demanded that humans continue their work, forcing them to build higher and higher. Though this caused tensions, it wasn’t until the bath that thing would really start to fall apart.

“Cobalt wanted a bath, right at the top of the tower. This would require all the humans to work long days and to sacrifice most of the kingdoms water. Many of the cats held objections, but only one, Silver, approached Cobalt.

"Silver claimed that the bath was an inappropriate use of resources and that getting your fur wet was not that great. This angered Cobalt, who loved getting his fur wet. That very day, Silver was banished to wander the desert. To this day, Silver still wanders, starving, and begging for food from the animal denizens of the desert.

“But the downfall would not stop there. Tin, a good friend of Silver, also confronted Cobalt, requesting Silver to be brought home. Cobalt denied this and warned Tin of the dangers of such pursuits. That night, Tin left in secret, fearing the wrath of Cobalt.

“Zinc set out the next day in search of Tin, worried of her wellbeing. Zinc never returned.

“Nickel, who always liked being dusty, disagreed with Cobalt’s love of wet fur. This rift proved too powerful for familial bonds to endure and Nickel too left the tower.

“The only ones left were Bismuth, Cobalt, and the human subjects. The humans were nervous and hungry. They had seen Cobalt take resources for the bath and drive away the other beneficial rulers. The humans humbly approached Bismuth and asked him to speak some sense into Cobalt and bring the family together once more.

“Bismuth reluctantly agreed. That evening, he asked to speak with Cobalt. Cobalt was not interested. In fact, he was furious! He clawed at Bismuth’s face leaving a long bloody scar from the top of the eye down through his nostrils. Bismuth left that day, taking most of the subjects with him. Now Cobalt lives in the tower with just one other human. An old man named Valeriano, who pours the bathwater over Cobalt’s fur.

“We have lived in anguish for a millennia now. The other humans sing songs of a lost kitten, a member of the ruling family who was lost at the dawn of time. Astatine. One day, she would return and reunite the great nobles of the desert. Only then would we thrive once more.”

As the boy ended his story, he turned his face towards the three legged cat. He walked right up to Astatine, stood straight on two feet, and dragged his tongue along the top of the cats head. His tongue left behind a trail of glowing blue light and Astatine’s eyes shone the same color. The boy looked at the cat, said “It’s up to you now.” and then crumpled, lifeless into the sand. The light faded away into Astatine’s body.

We all looked at each other, then continued on into the desert. We’ve all seen weirder and honestly, we love Astatine. We wanted her to be happy and with her family. If this meant reuniting a broken kingdom and bringing prosperity back to a lifeless desert, then so be it!

We had a lot of information, but not a lot of specifics. We scanned the expansive desert, looking for any signs of the great cats. Poking over some dunes, far to the East, we could see a tower. At the top of this tower was a white splotch curled into a ball. It was Cobalt.

After a moment of deliberating, we decided to end with Cobalt. After all, he was the reason most of the other cats had left. We didn’t want to get exiled, imprisoned, or killed.

That was when Jack, A Dull Boy made a suggestion. He was very close with Zinc and the two of them could often be found outside with Zinc rolling in the ashy dirt and Jack sketching something into his notebook.

Jack claimed that Zinc hated the sand. It was too dry and loose. Zinc liked good old fashioned earthy dirt, something that would clump and stick to the fur a bit more. He pointed to a large rock formation south of the tower. “There,” he said, “That’s where we’ll find Zinc.”

The group agreed by taking their first steps toward the rocks. We couldn’t make it there in one day so we had to set up camp when it got dark. We all slept in one tent with Astatine curled in Auggie’s sleeping bag. In the morning, we continued on our way to the rock formation until we arrived at its base.

We decided to proceed stealthily so as not to startle Zinc. I was impressed by the climbing skills of our party. Everyone kept their eyes peeled for Zinc as they hopped from rock to rock. However, after several hours of looking, we had no luck. As we reached a small clearing, Astatine started squirming and meowing in Auggie’s arms.

We asked Auggie to put Astatine down and reluctantly, she did.

Astatine went hobbling around the rocks. Sumpra would hold her breath every time the three legged cat made a leap but every time, the cat land just fine. We followed the kitten further up into the Formation. We curled and hopped and scrambled our way until we were in front of a cave, a large cave that seemed darker than the night.

Astatine began walking toward the cave, but Jack picked her up before she could.

Something was coming out of the cave. It fell in slow-motion like a palm tree bending in the wind. It was large, long, and thin like a dragon's neck, though this was covered in fur. It softly pudded into the sand creating a cloud of dust in the air. It began flicking, back and forth. Astatine squirmed out of Sumpra’s arms and pounced on the slithering object.

That was when the ground started to rumble, a bellowing laugh rang from the cave, and two emerald eyes, as large as my head, opened from inside the cave. It was Zinc.

We could feel the air dart around us as Zinc took two sharp sniffs. The eyes were wide and unblinking as the large cat’s head poked from the mouth of the cave.

“Astatine, is that you?”

The kitten meowed, gnawing on the tail.

“Oh my god, that is you.”

Zinc was weeping as Astatine rubbed her cheek against the tail.

We gave them a moment to enjoy each other’s company before mentioning our quest.

“Zinc, we seek to reunite the periodic kittens, restore peace to this barren desert, and to find a home for little Astatine.”

Zinc laughed at us.

“Reunite? Are you aware of what has transpired here? There are scars that run deep in my brothers and sisters because of that beast in the tower. Harmony is but a fantasy for us.”

Auggie spoke up, louder than I’ve ever heard her before..

“But we have to try. For Astatine.”

Zinc stared at the kitten lying on its back gnawing at his paws. He nodded slowly.

“I will return to the tower. Cobalt doesn’t hate me… yet. But beware of the reaction the other’s may have. Many did not leave on as good of terms as I.”

I asked the cave cat where we could find the others.

He answered briefly. Follow the clouds of dust and with that, he leaped over our heads, running towards the tower.

Auggie knelt down and Astatine climbed back into her arms, as if trained.

We could see the dust clouds Bismuth had mentioned rising from the Dunes on the other side of the rock. With no other leads, we began our descent. The trip down was much easier than the trip up. As we neared, we could see through the cloud of dust. At its center, tossing and turning on his back, was Nickel.

“I love the dirt!” He said to what seemed like himself. “I love the dust and the dirt and the way that feels against my skin.

I cleared my throat. Nickel stopped and turned his head sharply in our direction.

“Who dares interrupt my dusty ritual of dust‽”

“Nickel, we seek to reunite the periodic kittens, restore peace to this barren desert, and to find a home for little Astatine.”

Nickel threw his head to the side, scoffing at us.

“No! It’s impossible, I could never return! For you see I like the dirt and rolling around in it and Cobalt likes to be clean. Our rift is too strong to overcome!”

The group and I exchanged glances with each other, trying to decide who would talk to the cat. I nodded toward Auggie who had handled Zinc quite well. Auggie did not notice the nod and continued running her hand through Astatine’s fur while listening intently for any developments.

Jack shook his head and held up his hands.

Sumpra pointed at me, then held up four fingers and tapped her chin with it twice. She wanted me to speak. I stepped forward, squinting at the creature, trying to find the best way to convince him to return.

“Um, I don’t think Cobalt cares whether your dirty or not. I think He just wants his bath so if you want to roll around in the dirt and stuff, that doesn’t really conflict with Cobalt at all.”

Nickel’s eyes went wide, which was impressive because his eyes were already very, very wide.

“You’re right! I can be dusty and he can be clean! The two can live in unity as they have no effect on the other! Thank you kind subjects, I must return to the tower!”

Nickel was about to leave but Sumpra stepped in front of him, holding out her hand to say stop. She held her index finger in the air, pivoting it, then held up a thumb to her left before arching it over to her right. Finally, she grabbed at an imaginary whisker with her thumb and index while the rest of the fingers on the hand stood tall. Where are the other cats.

Nickel shrugged, as best a cat can shrug.

“I have seen human subjects hunting by an oasis in the East?”

Sumpra brought a flat hand from her chin down in the direction of the cat. We made our way due east.

The walk was uneventful and long until it became very eventful. In order to avoid a large patch of cacti, we made our way down into a little valley. As we reached its center, the ground beneath us gave way. In the next moment, we were all slamming into the bottom of a pit of sand. We performed some basic first aid, everyone was fine but shook, and then we began planning our escape. I tried climbing out of the hole but the loose sand gave way when I grabbed at it. Next we stood on top of each other’s shoulders to reach the edge.

Auggie made a fantastic base, but the ledge was still out of reach. It was when we were rooting through our backpacks for a solution when we heard a commotion above us.

Leaning over the edge, with 6 dry blades of grass taped to their faces, were several humans subjects. They were chattering incessantly as they lowered a rope down into the pit. One of the humans jumped down into the whole. We were excited, we were saved! Jack reached for the rope but his hand was slapped away. The subjects began shouting at us to put our hands behind our backs.

The subject in the hole tied us up with a thick, scratchy rope. We were lifted out of the hole in short bursts that followed the rhythm of chanting outside. I half expected them to release us once we got to the top, but they didn’t. Instead they dragged us, one large lump of artists, through the desert. Sumpra and I had our faces in the ground, spitting out sand and closing our eyes as tight as possible. Jack and Auggie were faced up towards the sun, their faces red and their lips dry in the heat. Astatine was curled up under Auggie’s shirt, but nobody seemed to notice.

Eventually the dragging stopped. The subjects lifted our tied mass to our feet and bowed low as they retreated backward. Sumpra and I were faced away from our captor, but Jack and Sumpra were facing toward her.

It was Tin. Tin was always a large cat, but now she was engulfing. Her body pooled beneath her, rippling with the slightest move. She sat on the other side of a pool of water in this little oasis. To the left, a human subject was fanning her with a large leaf. To the right, a pile of dead animals and carcasses. Tin’s mouth was red from raw meat and in front of her was a pile of bones riddled with teeth marks.

“Oh ho-ho, what have we here? My subjects must be gatherers today because they have gathered such fine specimens. You must be grateful they were not hunters.”

Tin laughed a loud, hearty laugh. All of the subjects laughed as well, though more because their king was laughing. We also politely laughed, not entirely knowing what we were laughing at.

“Well no matter, my subjects have brought me such appetizing morsels and I do love a good kill.”

Tin rose to his feet, knocking over his shoddy pile of meat in the process. One of the carcasses landed in the pool turning the water near it a faded red. We were breathing fast and making quick eye contact with each other, trying in vain to formulate some kind of plan.

Auggie was trying to shimmy free from the ropes. She was shimmying like her life depended on it, because it did. As she moved, something dropped from her shirt. It was Astatine.

She landed on the tips of her toes with an arched back and puffed tail, which she soon shook off. She hobbled her way over to the edge of the oasis, sat down, lowered her head, and began drinking.

Tin stopped the moment he saw her.

“Astatine?” she asked.

The little kittens tongue was flicking at the water. She looked rather happy. I was facing away from our captor so I spoke loudly.

“Tin, we seek to reunite the periodic kittens, restore peace to this barren desert, and to find a home for little Astatine.”

“So it is you… untie them!”

The human subjects rushed around us, quickly undoing our bonds. Astatine looked up at the noise, but then returned to drinking when she realized it didn’t concern her.

The subjects brought us to the other side of the oasis. We sat across from Tin, who had demanded we dined with her. We were brought four coyote carcasses, which was apparently a favored meal. They were raw and left red outlines on the sand. Nobody was hungry, but we didn’t want to be rude. We ate, even though it was utterly disgusting.

Tin spoke between bites. Astatine was biting away at a bloody bone to her side.

Tin mused that she never thought she would see Astatine again, how much she missed her, and the usual long-lost-returned speeches. Unlike some of the others, Tin seemed hopeful at returning to the tower. She spoke highly of Astatine and made claims that if anyone could bring them together, it would be the little three legged cat.

We asked if Tin knew of the whereabouts of Bismuth or Silver. She nodded. Apparently, Tin had been regularly feeding the starving Silver. She was last seen skulking away to the north-east. We thanked the large cat and rose to continue our journey. Tin insisted we take a carcass for the road. We tried to decline but she was insistent. Jack, A Dull Boy, bless his heart, offered to carry it.

As we left, I turned back to look at the oasis. I could see tins fat swaying side to side beneath her as she walked towards the tower under the shade of a canopy held by her subjects.

We had no landmarks to work towards this time, just a vague direction. We traveled perpendicular to the setting sun, finding our way north-east. Everyone’s eyes were peeled for a starving, banished cat.

We thought we saw her off in the distance. We started running towards the presumed Silver when we realized that his was not Silver. It was a large cat, yes, but it was splattered orange and white, not the light gray fur we were looking for. It’s body was covered in lumps that moved and pulsated. The creature seemed to be coming towards us. As it neared, we could see that the lumps were not tumors or growths but human subjects holding onto the fur, constantly petting the cat to which they grasped.

A large scar dragged it’s away across the front of the creature’s face. It was Bismuth.

“Hello, weary travelers. I noticed your feet lie on the hot dry sand. That must be very unpleasant. If you would like, you could ride with me. I will carry you across this damned desert, provide shade and food, as long as you promise to stroke my fur as you ride. What say you?”

I did not hesitate.

“Bismuth, we seek to reunite the periodic kittens, restore peace to this barren desert, and find a home for little Astatine.”

Bismuth shook his head, confused and overwhelmed at this expansive request. Auggie stepped forward and held up Astatine who let out a quaint “mew.”

Bismuth squinted and stared.


“We have come to return her home to her family. We wish for your litter to meet at the tower and to rule this land, together, once more.”

Bismuth crouched down, speaking directly to the three legged kitten.

“Astatine, you do not want this. Cobalt has grown cold and harsh with power. He drove us all away and he will do the same to you.”

Bismuth inched closer.

“Do you see this scar? This was given to me by Cobalt. He is filled with nothing but hate.”

Astatine looked up from licking her paw and saw the massive face of her brother. The scar ran from above Bismuth’s left eye, down across the face, and ended at her right nostril, which was torn and gnarled. Astatine stretched out her head, sniffing, before finally finding the edge of the scar.

She licked it, over and over again. The rough cat tongue making soft scraping sounds against the leathery nose.

“Ok,” Bismuth sighed. “I will return.”

He rose to his feet. The subject’s on his back swayed as he did so. He stared out towards the tower. His eyes narrow.

“Before you go, we still seek Silver. Do you know where she may be?”

Bismuth turned to us.

“Of course I know where Silver is! We were both banished, who else do we have? Come, climb on my back.”

We rushed over to the large cat and gripped onto fur as large as ropes. We hauled ourselves onto this lord of the desert. I remember when Bismuth was just a small thing, falling asleep on the mixer in the studio as we tried to work. Now, he was hulking, larger than any other land mammal on earth. We held onto our cat, and pet him as he took off barreling down the desert.

It was a rough ride, but we managed to stay on. Bismuth moved fast throughout the trip, but now he was slowing. He went from a full dash to a soft, careful gait. As we rose over a dune, we could see why.

Silver was there, curled up in the sand. She was thin, her ribs showing through her matted gray fur. Her eyes were closed and pained. Each of her breaths felt like a miracle.

Bismuth stood at the top of the dune and let us dismount. We walked down until we were right in front of the sleeping cat. I placed my hand against the side of her face. She opened her eyes with a slight start, letting out a quick sound that was half purr/half chirp. I smiled.

“Silver, we seek to reunite the periodic kittens, restore peace to this barren desert, and to find a home for little Astatine.”

Auggie set Astatine on top of Silver’s nose. The three legged cat was purring loudly and rubbing her head at the space Between Silver’s eyes.

Silver said nothing, just slowly closed her eyes, and purred a low, lazy purr. Bismuth spoke up from behind us.

“She is starving. She has not had the resources to hunt and the desert is unforgiving. I have brought her what I can, but it was not enough.”

Jack, A Dull Boy looked up towards Bismuth, a look of proud realization on his face. He took off his backpack, fished around inside, and brought out the coyote carcass. He held it like an injured dog and set it in front of Silver.

“I know it’s not a lot, but hopefully it will give you the energy you need to move. To return home.”

Nothing happened for a moment, but then, Silver took a deep breath and stood.

Astatine, still atop Silver’s nose spread her legs, stabling herself as she rose fifteen feet into the air.

Silver reached out a paw, clawed the meat, and brought it up to her mouth. She took small bites, either to savor the food or to not disturb Astatine. Once she was finished, she dropped the leftover bones to the floor.

“Alright,” she said. “Lets go.”

We all rode Bismuth except for Astatine, who stayed atop Silver’s nose. Despite Silver’s exhausted state, we still made good time. I guess desert travel gets easier the larger you are. We stopped by the Oasis on the way there. Silver ate her fill and after that we were moving like no tomorrow, running across the grainy sands of the desert.

The tower grew as we approached. We could see Cobalt at the top. An old man was pouring water from the bath over the white fur of the cat. Cobalt appeared to be speaking to the three other cats at its base. Zinc was responding the most, Tin was listening as his subjects fed him some rabbits, and Nickel was rolling in the sand, not appearing to be listening at all. As we approached, the discussions stopped. All eyes were on us.

The first to speak was Cobalt from the top of the tower.

“You have a lot of nerve returning here. The two of you spat on everything we have made and abandoned this family, and now you want to return to the way things were? I am sorry, but I cannot allow that. Your actions must have consequences.”

Bismuth shouted back, arguing that it was Cobalt who was wrong and deserving of consequences. He would pay for his misgivings.

Cobalt hissed and claimed he only ever acted out of the best interests of the subjects and his siblings.

The two went back and forth for some time, with the other cats joining in sporadically. Even Silver entered the fray with her raspy, but confident voice.

It escalated rapidly. The cats were now howling about mutiny and banishing Cobalt. Nickel even had his dirty claws sunk into the side of the tower as he climbed towards the top. The cacophony was growing and growing until one sound made it stop.

It was Astatine, standing on her own in the sand. She did not meow or mew or purr or chirp. She spoke, her eyes glowing blue.

“You are my family! We are brothers and sisters born together on Calisland. We drank from the same bowl and rolled on the carpet, wrestling and pretending to fight. When did this evolve into the political combat we see today? I am here now, reunited with my family, and you want to kill each other? What happened to forgiveness, to understanding. We have the opportunity to start new, to be a family again, to rule this land benevolently. I say we take it.

Forget your squabbles, please, and let us be whole.”

The cats were no longer still. Instead they were slowly sinking, each realizing that Astatine was right. Bismuth apologized, Nickel climbed down, Tin stopped her eating, Zinc stepped out into the open, and Silver lowered her head.

Cobalt leaped from the tower, his wet fur giving the illusion of rain as he landed in the now muddy sand. He turned up towards the old man with the bucket and flicked his head to the side. The old man quickly scurried away from the pool and down into the tower. Cobalt addressed Astatine.

“I remember one morning the collective was getting ready. S. Owen Sow was eating breakfast at the table, running late for a meeting. He was tying his shoes and we were underneath the table. I was attacking one lace and you the other. I miss those times. I have been so caught up in this world and my own needs, that I forgot what matters most. The memories and the people who made those memories.”

Cobalt leaned over and gave Astatine a long lick across the head. It was such a hard lick that the little kitten rose off the ground a tad.

We watched beaming, our mission complete, the family reunited. The cats all grouped together licking each other, apologizing, and laughing.

We gathered our gear and turned to walk away, not wanting to disturb this intimate moment. We were about to leave when Auggie felt a paw rest on her calf. She turned around. It was Astatine. Auggie knelt and held her cat one last time. Astatine spoke.

“Thank you Auggie. Thank you for keeping me a little longer. Thank you for always caring for me and for risking your life to bring me to my siblings. You have been my greatest source of joy and I will always remember you.”

Astatine reached her paws up to Auggies shoulder, stood on her hind leg, and licked her favorite human right on the forehead. Astatine’s tongue left a trail of blue light on her forehead. As Astatine pulled away, the light faded away into Auggie. The blue glow of her eyes were reflected in the tears residing just beneath them.

Auggie stood, wiping the back of her thumb under her eyes. Astatine darted back to her siblings, purring. I put a hand on Auggie’s shoulder.

“You alright?”

She assured me she was. It had just been a long day.

I agreed, and readjusted my back pack for the journey. We gathered the group together, and left the Mojave desert.

Auggie’s hands were no longer carrying little Astatine. Instead, Auggie held her sister’s arm as she was lead from the desert and back to her home.

We arrived back at Calisland so early in the morning that it was still considered night. We were all set to just crash in bed as we fumbled with the front door. We were met with a blinding light, which was odd since the collective typically went to bed rather early. Our crumpled faces blinked as we acclimated to the light.

Standing there, in the middle of our foyer, staring at paintings on the wall, was Julia

Sawbone, a traveling member of Newton’s Dark Room.

I was confused and half asleep, but she greeted us enthusiastically, giving each of us a tight hug. She complimented Auggie’s glowing eyes before apologizing for keeping us up. We said no, no, its fine as we prepared ourselves for conversation.

Julia had been in our shoes before, returning home late after a grand adventure. She apologized again, not to actually apologize but to politely inform us that she knew we were tired. She insisted we sleep and that she would catch us up in the morning.

So we slept and then, over a breakfast of biscuits and gravy made by Julia Sawbone herself, we learned of her recent journey and of NDR’s next project. A project which we will tell you all about next week in a brand new Member Spotlight.

We’ll see you then.

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