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Lone Star

Case of the Mondays (IC)

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It was just another Monday, and Gregory rubbed his eyes. He had his third cup of coffee in his hand, and was sipping it slowly. He had just finished trimming the claws of the butt-ugliest cat he had ever seen. As much as he shuddered, it was one of God's creatures and he knew that he had to help it. He was standing in the lobby of his office, relaxing. It was a fairly trim and sanitary-looking office, with white and green tiled floors, and beige walls. Pleasant paintings adorned the walls, and several magazines of the doctor's office variety were placed on racks. He sighed. It was a fairly slow morning. The lobby was totally devoid of people. Boring.

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As he watched out the front window, a shiny blue pickup truck pulled up into the lot out front. It was in great shape and gleamed like new, which was a lot more than could be said for the young woman who climbed out of it. She was in extremely good shape, true, but wearing faded secondhand clothes and looking... well, tousled would be a kind way to put it. Maybe harassed was more like it. She pulled a cardboard animal crate out of the cab of the truck and said a few words to it, then shut the door and headed for the building.

"Now you behave," Erin muttered to the crate as they headed for the building. "We have a deal, remember? Be good and get your shots, and you get the rest of the fish. If you mess this up, it's back to the discount kibble." A discontented meow came from the crate as she pushed open the door to the lobby and walked inside. She paused for a moment to take in the building, automatically scanning it for defensible positions, windows and exits, and any potential threats. As she did so, the overwhelming smell of fish began to permeate the air, centered on the crate. "Are you the vet?" she asked Gregory.

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Greg's eyebrows lifted as an athletic teenager entered the office, talking to her cat. To be fair, he did see this pretty often. He smiled, and bowed to her. "Yes ma'am. I'm Gregory Matthews, the resident veterinarian. Is there anything I can help you with?" he asked her, smiling pleasantly. Although he was extremely tired, he still had his job to do. No rest for the wicked, as it was said.

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"Yeah, I have an appointment for my cat, Oliver?" Erin told him, shifting the crate to her other hand. She looked around, but the place seemed totally empty. She couldn't even see or hear a vet tech around. Weird, but this didn't exactly seem like a high rent district. "I, um, I heard that you're the best guy to deal with unusual animals," she said meaningfully. "I couldn't go to just any vet."

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Gregory blinked. "What exactly do you mean by unusual? I can do the basics...you know, cats, dogs, birds, and farm animals. But how unusual are we talking here?" He adjusted his white doctor's coat, and rubbed his chin. He hadn't gotten a whole lot of sleep that weekend, and he had a pretty good five o'clock shadow going on. He was almost certain he had rings around his eyes.

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"Well, he's a cat, but he's kind of weird," Erin replied unhelpfully. "He needs to get a checkup and vaccinations, and an updated rabies tag. You can do that here, right?" There was a scratching noise from inside the cardboard crate as Oliver indicated his displeasure at the delay. He wasn't going to stay in there much longer, even with the bribe he'd been presented. "It's probably easier to do it now, when there's nobody else around."

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"Of course I can. That's what they pay me for. Now, tell me...is there anything about this particular cat I should know before I take him in there?" Gregory asked, his eyebrow raised. He had dealt with bad pets before. In fact, he had dealt with horrible, spoiled, and angry pets before. He had no doubt about this one. There would only be one victor, and that was always him.

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At that point, Oliver apparently decided he was tired of being in the crate, and that if he was going to be sent in for torture, he was at least going to have some dignity about it. Slipping right through the solid side of the cardboard crate, the scrawny orange kitty stepped disdainfully onto the battered linoleum and padded his way towards the examining room. The crate was still entirely intact and closed, with no possible way he could've gotten out.

Erin looked at the vet and shrugged. "He sort of goes where he wants to go. You'll have to reason with him to get him to do what you want. Or bribe him." She hefted the fish-smelling crate and followed the cat towards the exam room.

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Gregory blinked once. Did that cat just...? he thought to himself. Well, this is Freedom City. Guess I'd better get used to super-pets. Gregory cautiously stepped towards his office.

He took the fish-smelling crate from the girl and hefted it onto a table. "So, uh...you've got a super-cat. Any more advice?"

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"Um, well, he understands English," Erin offered. "And I think maybe some Spanish, too. And he doesn't like it when you baby talk him. And sometimes when he feels upset, the people around him feel upset too, so you might want to watch that. But he never bites or scratches or anything like that," she hastened to assure the vet. "He's a nice cat."

She reached into the crate and withdrew the source of the scent, what looked like a rather large and badly mangled whiting. "Look Oliver," she crooned encouragingly, "I've got your fish. Doesn't it smell nice? You can have it if you get on the table." The cat seemed to consider that for a moment, cocking his head, then leapt up onto the table. He gave the fish a possessive sort of lick, and the vet a suspicious look.

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Gregory looked at the cat. He had seen smart cats before, but not one that could understand English. "Hello, Oliver. My name's Gregory. I'm just going to give you your checkup and vaccinations, and your rabies tag, then we'll be done. Just relax and there will be tasty fish at the end." He felt quite silly talking to a cat, but it was just part of the job.

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Oliver gave the vet a skeptical look, then washed his left front paw. He seemed to have an intelligent look in his eye, for a feline, but that might have just been Gregory's imagination. He also kept his tail clamped tight to his body and his butt flat against the examination table in a show that might have been nothing, but might also have been passive resistance.

Erin scratched the cat behind the ears. "It'll be okay," she assured the cat. "Mr. Summers says he's a very good vet. This won't take very long."

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After about fifteen minutes, Gregory was finished with Oliver's checkup and vaccinations. He washed his hands in the examining room sink. "That wasn't so bad, was it, Oliver? And now you get to eat some tasty fish." He cautiously reached over and petted Oliver on his head. "You're a very well mannered cat, Oliver. Probably one of the best-behaved cats I've ever met. Wish you could teach mine back at home a few things." He turned to Erin. "So will you be paying cash, or does he have pet insurance?"

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"Cash," Erin replied, picking up the fish and putting it back in the cardboard crate. She didn't bother trying to put Oliver back in there this time, instead picking him up and cuddling him as the vet made notations on Oliver's new chart. Despite his cruel treatment, Oliver purred and nuzzled her jaw affectionately. She followed Gregory out to the front where he kept the till, and carefully counted out her hard-earned babysitting money. It was all in cash, since trying to open a bank account would've been something of a logistical nightmare. "So I was wondering," she asked Gregory, "what kind of superpowers let you be a vet, anyway?"

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Gregory froze. "Superpowers? What on earth are you talking about? I hear about the Freedom League from time to time, but I've never actually met any of them before. I think some minor hero from uptown supposedly comes around here, but that's all I know about the supers." He was hoping he could start a new conversation. "So how old is Oliver, anyway? He's got quite a remarkable coat of fur. Do you groom him?"

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"Oh. I was told that you were the best person to take a superpowered pet to, from someone who would know." Erin looked a little confused. "I just assumed you had some superpowers. Maybe he meant something else. And Oliver pretty much takes care of his own grooming. His coat's gotten nicer since I started him on Felidae cat food. It's expensive, but it's the only kind he wants to eat." Maybe the guy was really paranoid about his secret identity, Erin figured. Some people were like that.

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"My only superpower is getting up early on Mondays. These past few weeks have been nuts. I'm glad for a slow day every now and then, you know?" Gregory said to her. "So where did you take him before? I don't think there are too many other places close to Freedom City." He walked her out to the lobby, where he laid the cash on the table. "I know there's one in Downtown Freedom. Do you live around here?"

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"Not very many who can handle melting cats," Erin agreed. "I live all the way down in Bayview, at the Claremont Academy, but last time I tried to take Oliver to the vet, we didn't get anywhere. We had to have some very difficult negotiations about neutering." Oliver's tail bristled. "I asked around for where I could take a pet with powers and they said this was the place, so we drove all the way out here."

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"Well, I did operate on Cosmo the Moon Monkey once. That's the major extent of my super-pets care, though. Hmm, I have heard of the Claremont Academy though. Some kind of boarding school?" In reality, Gregory had heard a lot about the Claremont school. Some kind of training ground for young superheroes. He would maybe check it out at some point.

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"Something like that," Erin agreed, tucking her wallet back into the pocket of her shorts. If he was going to be coy for whatever reason, she wasn't totally comfortable sharing much about herself. "I don't have to bring him in for another year unless he gets sick, right? This is just a once a year thing?" She suspected strongly that it would take another year to talk Oliver into another vet visit, so she hoped so.

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"That's correct. I hope he liked me okay, I tried to be as tender with him as I could be. But yeah, if there are any problems, come by anytime. Could you tell me a little more about Claremont?" he asked casually, as he walked her to the door. "It's just that I've heard a lot about it."

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"Are you a superhero?" Erin asked again, a little impatiently. "I know you're dancing around something, and if you don't want to tell me, that's okay, but if you want me to spill details about stuff that's normally confidential, it's gotta go both ways, you know? Normal people aren't that interested in what goes on at Claremont." Oliver bobbed his head, and it almost seemed like a nod of agreement.

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"Yes, yes I am. I don't have any superpowers, so I wasn't lying on that. I patrol around here. I guess you already know my name's Mad Dog. I just beat on street criminals around Freedom City, although I've yet to encounter any real supervillain action yet. So now you know. Don't tell the supervillains where I live. I'm sure you know that too."

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"I don't know anything about you," Erin said with a shrug. "I just was pretty sure you had to be a superhero somehow, or the headmaster wouldn't have told me to come out here. And you're not a very good liar, um, no offense," she added. "Claremont's the hero school, all of us that go there are training to learn to use our powers. It's a nice place, even if it's hard work. And they allow pets, as long as they're not too disruptive. Oliver likes it there."

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"Well, it's good to know. I'm glad to have friends in my fight for justice. Oh, have you ever met the one they call Avenger? He helped me take down this kind of robot thing that was smuggling dogs. He seems like the kind of guy I need to help me out. It's really tough out there to fight without powers."

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