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Grim's Faerie Tales

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Home again, home again

Grim walked the seven blocks from the Broadway bus in silence, her head still pulsing from the music at Midnight Hour, but at least she wouldn't be hung over from her night at the juice bar; with but a moment's concentration, she could pretty much get into any club she wanted to, but sometimes you actually want to be around people your own age when you're a kid. DJ Marmalax was her favorite, with a similar taste in bands but not so much that it become obvious and repetitive; tonight she danced to Large Cardinals, Hostile 17, Soft White Puffs and the Pangs with a series of increasingly cute boys, but then her lucky streak ended, and she finished the night partnered with a sweaty klutz in brand-new combat boots. Posers :roll: He tried to follow her outside, but she ducked into the alley and vanished, leaving Billy Bob Clodhopper blinking like a sap.

After bus fare and the cover charge (she refused to pay for drinks), she was officially strapped, but it was too late to rattle the cup, so she decided to head for home, such as it was; the Imperator Hotel was a popular squat in the Fens, but she had managed to find herself some privacy. The elevators were silent ghosts and the grand stairwell had long since collapsed at the fifth floor during the fire in '83, which effectively sealed off the top two floors to anyone who didn't fly or was currently Grim. There were a handful of others like her, supers who chose this life for one reason or the other, and they called the top floors of the Imperator 'the Nest', their crude little co-op of shared misery. They each staked out a suite of rooms for their own use, and occasionally bartered with each other by lowering baskets on electrical wire from window to window; the penthouse was reserved for Mr. Pitt, and nobody ever went up there.

Grim easily scaled the northeast wall of the hotel, which was her favorite ascent since it offered a great view of the city skyline, all lit up even at this late hour; she blended seamlessly into the ornamental terra cotta and brickwork as she made her way past the lower floors, then worked her way round to the southwestern face to her window with its stunning view of the Mona-Glenn Bridge. She clambered inside and was instantly greeted by the excited cries of her babies, the three cats she’d recently taken under her wing.

“Hi babies! You guys hungry?â€Â

They followed her around the ruined suite, leaping eagerly from floor to chair to dusty mattress as she made her way to the bathroom, where she kept her meager larder in the medicine cabinet; she'd done some cleaning and piled most of the broken furniture into one corner of her 'spare room', and she tried to sweep the rooms she used the most at least once a week, but it was still pretty dusty. For some reason she couldn't put her finger on, she loved all the tacky pseudo-Roman furniture and wallpaper, especially the Medusa-headed doorknobs.

“Tonight we have…Fancy Feast! Oh, it’s one of your favorites, isn’t it?â€Â

Grim always left them a little dry food dotted about the place, but it made her nervous to leave large amounts of food out; Carmine from down on six had offered her his rat-proofing skills at a healthy discount, but all the chicken wire and steel wool in the world wouldn’t keep the filthy little monsters out forever.

After seeing to her babies’ needs, she made a meal for herself out of honey-roasted peanuts, Cheez-Its and the last of her wine coolers; the alcohol hit her surprisingly hard, so she decided to quickly check all the traps before finally hitting the hay. The tripwires were all still in place, the deadfalls tucked away into the hollows of the dropped ceiling, and all else was in order; with her hypersensitive hearing, Grim could hear the tenants in the suites on all sides of her doing the same thing, and in her mind’s eye she could see them perfectly, pacing the creaky floors as they checked and double-checked their own security measures.

Since the cold didn’t really affect her, the blankets on her bed were fairly flimsy, more to preserve a sense of dignity than anything else; as she slid under the covers, Grim willed her costume into a nice set of silk pajamas, and the kitties leaped up to join her, one by one curling into tight warm bundles.

“G’night, babies,†she murmured. “Sweet kitty dreams.â€Â

She was asleep the second she closed her eyes.

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Home again, home again

Grim walked the seven blocks from the Broadway bus in silence, her head still pulsing from the music at Midnight Hour, but at least she wouldn't be hung over from her night at the juice bar; with but a moment's concentration, she could pretty much get into any club she wanted to, but sometimes you actually want to be around people your own age when you're a kid. DJ Marmalax was her favorite, with a similar taste in bands but not so much that it become obvious and repetitive; tonight she danced to Large Cardinals, Hostile 17, Soft White Puffs and the Pangs with a series of increasingly cute boys, but then her lucky streak ended, and she finished the night partnered with a sweaty klutz in brand-new combat boots. Posers :roll: He tried to follow her outside, but she ducked into the alley and vanished, leaving Billy Bob Clodhopper blinking like a sap.

After bus fare and the cover charge (she refused to pay for drinks), she was officially strapped, but it was too late to rattle the cup, so she decided to head for home, such as it was; the Imperator Hotel was a popular squat in the Fens, but she had managed to find herself some privacy. The elevators were silent ghosts and the grand stairwell had long since collapsed at the fifth floor during the fire in '83, which effectively sealed off the top two floors to anyone who didn't fly or was currently Grim. There were a handful of others like her, supers who chose this life for one reason or the other, and they called the top floors of the Imperator 'the Nest', their crude little co-op of shared misery. They each staked out a suite of rooms for their own use, and occasionally bartered with each other by lowering baskets on electrical wire from window to window; the penthouse was reserved for Mr. Pitt, and nobody ever went up there.

Grim easily scaled the northeast wall of the hotel, which was her favorite ascent since it offered a great view of the city skyline, all lit up even at this late hour; she blended seamlessly into the ornamental terra cotta and brickwork as she made her way past the lower floors, then worked her way round to the southwestern face to her window with its stunning view of the Mona-Glenn Bridge. She clambered inside and was instantly greeted by the excited cries of her babies, the three cats she’d recently taken under her wing.

“Hi babies! You guys hungry?â€Â

They followed her around the ruined suite, leaping eagerly from floor to chair to dusty mattress as she made her way to the bathroom, where she kept her meager larder in the medicine cabinet; she'd done some cleaning and piled most of the broken furniture into one corner of her 'spare room', and she tried to sweep the rooms she used the most at least once a week, but it was still pretty dusty. For some reason she couldn't put her finger on, she loved all the tacky pseudo-Roman furniture and wallpaper, especially the Medusa-headed doorknobs.

“Tonight we have…Fancy Feast! Oh, it’s one of your favorites, isn’t it?â€Â

Grim always left them a little dry food dotted about the place, but it made her nervous to leave large amounts of food out; Carmine from down on six had offered her his rat-proofing skills at a healthy discount, but all the chicken wire and steel wool in the world wouldn’t keep the filthy little monsters out forever.

After seeing to her babies’ needs, she made a meal for herself out of honey-roasted peanuts, Cheez-Its and the last of her wine coolers; the alcohol hit her surprisingly hard, so she decided to quickly check all the traps before finally hitting the hay. The tripwires were all still in place, the deadfalls tucked away into the hollows of the dropped ceiling, and all else was in order; with her hypersensitive hearing, Grim could hear the tenants in the suites on all sides of her doing the same thing, and in her mind’s eye she could see them perfectly, pacing the creaky floors as they checked and double-checked their own security measures.

Since the cold didn’t really affect her, the blankets on her bed were fairly flimsy, more to preserve a sense of dignity than anything else; as she slid under the covers, Grim willed her costume into a nice set of silk pajamas, and the kitties leaped up to join her, one by one curling into tight warm bundles.

“G’night, babies,†she murmured. “Sweet kitty dreams.â€Â

She was asleep the second she closed her eyes.

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Home again, home again

Grim walked the seven blocks from the Broadway bus in silence, her head still pulsing from the music at Midnight Hour, but at least she wouldn't be hung over from her night at the juice bar; with but a moment's concentration, she could pretty much get into any club she wanted to, but sometimes you actually want to be around people your own age when you're a kid. DJ Marmalax was her favorite, with a similar taste in bands but not so much that it become obvious and repetitive; tonight she danced to Large Cardinals, Hostile 17, Soft White Puffs and the Pangs with a series of increasingly cute boys, but then her lucky streak ended, and she finished the night partnered with a sweaty klutz in brand-new combat boots. Posers :roll: He tried to follow her outside, but she ducked into the alley and vanished, leaving Billy Bob Clodhopper blinking like a sap.

After bus fare and the cover charge (she refused to pay for drinks), she was officially strapped, but it was too late to rattle the cup, so she decided to head for home, such as it was; the Imperator Hotel was a popular squat in the Fens, but she had managed to find herself some privacy. The elevators were silent ghosts and the grand stairwell had long since collapsed at the fifth floor during the fire in '83, which effectively sealed off the top two floors to anyone who didn't fly or was currently Grim. There were a handful of others like her, supers who chose this life for one reason or the other, and they called the top floors of the Imperator 'the Nest', their crude little co-op of shared misery. They each staked out a suite of rooms for their own use, and occasionally bartered with each other by lowering baskets on electrical wire from window to window; the penthouse was reserved for Mr. Pitt, and nobody ever went up there.

Grim easily scaled the northeast wall of the hotel, which was her favorite ascent since it offered a great view of the city skyline, all lit up even at this late hour; she blended seamlessly into the ornamental terra cotta and brickwork as she made her way past the lower floors, then worked her way round to the southwestern face to her window with its stunning view of the Mona-Glenn Bridge. She clambered inside and was instantly greeted by the excited cries of her babies, the three cats she’d recently taken under her wing.

“Hi babies! You guys hungry?â€Â

They followed her around the ruined suite, leaping eagerly from floor to chair to dusty mattress as she made her way to the bathroom, where she kept her meager larder in the medicine cabinet; she'd done some cleaning and piled most of the broken furniture into one corner of her 'spare room', and she tried to sweep the rooms she used the most at least once a week, but it was still pretty dusty. For some reason she couldn't put her finger on, she loved all the tacky pseudo-Roman furniture and wallpaper, especially the Medusa-headed doorknobs.

“Tonight we have…Fancy Feast! Oh, it’s one of your favorites, isn’t it?â€Â

Grim always left them a little dry food dotted about the place, but it made her nervous to leave large amounts of food out; Carmine from down on six had offered her his rat-proofing skills at a healthy discount, but all the chicken wire and steel wool in the world wouldn’t keep the filthy little monsters out forever.

After seeing to her babies’ needs, she made a meal for herself out of honey-roasted peanuts, Cheez-Its and the last of her wine coolers; the alcohol hit her surprisingly hard, so she decided to quickly check all the traps before finally hitting the hay. The tripwires were all still in place, the deadfalls tucked away into the hollows of the dropped ceiling, and all else was in order; with her hypersensitive hearing, Grim could hear the tenants in the suites on all sides of her doing the same thing, and in her mind’s eye she could see them perfectly, pacing the creaky floors as they checked and double-checked their own security measures.

Since the cold didn’t really affect her, the blankets on her bed were fairly flimsy, more to preserve a sense of dignity than anything else; as she slid under the covers, Grim willed her costume into a nice set of silk pajamas, and the kitties leaped up to join her, one by one curling into tight warm bundles.

“G’night, babies,†she murmured. “Sweet kitty dreams.â€Â

She was asleep the second she closed her eyes.

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"Seven...eight...nine...ten..."

After a lot of failed attempts, Grim had finally managed to rig the clothing bar from the big closet across the doorway into the master bedroom, in such a way that it would actually hold her own weight. Every night she now does fifteen chin-ups before turning in for the night; her three cats sit on the bed, mutely tracking her movement up and down with their tiny fuzzy heads.

"Fourteen...fifteen!"

She drops to the floor, rolls into a somersault and springs to her feet, arms spread wide like an Olympic hopeful. "Ta-daa!" This sends Mafia leaping off the bed, tail all a-puff as she scurries for the safety of the little closet; Plaque Attack seems more annoyed than startled, and DB, ever the center of mellowness, just closes his eyes serenely.

Grim snatches a towel off the bed and allows her leotard to shift into a loose pair of sleepy pants and an oversized T-shirt as she pads over to the cooler for a bottled water. For now, she was keeping her workout light; her usual stretches and tumbling, some shadowboxing, but now with a bit more strength training thrown into the mix. She holds the bottle to her neck and sighs deeply before taking a deep swig.

"Ah, that's the good stuff."

By her window, the trading bell rings on its loose box spring as Carmine from down on six tugs at the phone cord threading down the side of the building. She calls out "Coming!" as she races to the bathroom, grabs a handful of bills out of the plastic bag in the back of the toilet, and runs over to the window, once again sending Mafia (who was just starting to peek out of the closet) into a blind panic. Grim pulls open the window, fills her basket with money, and carefully lowers it down to six; after a few seconds of gentle tugging, she feels the two firm pulls that indicate a completed transaction, and she hauls up her treasure. And what a treasure it is: two DVDs, still in their original shrink wrap, and the use of Carmine's portable DVD player for the night!

"Hey babies, it's movie night! Woo-hoo! I sure hope the batteries are fresh."

The young vigilante goes back to her cooler and grabs a Diet Coke, rummages around until she finds half a bag of cheese puffs, and heads back into the bedroom to set up the night's viewing. The smell of cheese puffs summons forth even the timid Mafia, who joins her siblings on the bed for a few orange crunchies. Grim flicks out a single claw which she uses to slice open up the movies.

"Let's see, tonight we have....Donnie Brasco...aaaaaand Just One of The Guys. Hey, don't laugh at Mommy; comedies can be educational, too, y'know."

As the first movie spins in the player, Grim gently pokes the skin on her arm with her claw; lately the surface is no less soft than usual (thank god), but for some reason it feels somehow...not thicker, but maybe...chewy? "Weird." Using her claw one last time, she easily pops open her Coke and takes a sip; finally almost settled in, she pulls the thin covers over her shoulders, being carefully to allow the kitties their pockets of warmth, and at last presses the play button.

"Okay, Johnny Depp, show me what I'm in for."

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"Seven...eight...nine...ten..."

After a lot of failed attempts, Grim had finally managed to rig the clothing bar from the big closet across the doorway into the master bedroom, in such a way that it would actually hold her own weight. Every night she now does fifteen chin-ups before turning in for the night; her three cats sit on the bed, mutely tracking her movement up and down with their tiny fuzzy heads.

"Fourteen...fifteen!"

She drops to the floor, rolls into a somersault and springs to her feet, arms spread wide like an Olympic hopeful. "Ta-daa!" This sends Mafia leaping off the bed, tail all a-puff as she scurries for the safety of the little closet; Plaque Attack seems more annoyed than startled, and DB, ever the center of mellowness, just closes his eyes serenely.

Grim snatches a towel off the bed and allows her leotard to shift into a loose pair of sleepy pants and an oversized T-shirt as she pads over to the cooler for a bottled water. For now, she was keeping her workout light; her usual stretches and tumbling, some shadowboxing, but now with a bit more strength training thrown into the mix. She holds the bottle to her neck and sighs deeply before taking a deep swig.

"Ah, that's the good stuff."

By her window, the trading bell rings on its loose box spring as Carmine from down on six tugs at the phone cord threading down the side of the building. She calls out "Coming!" as she races to the bathroom, grabs a handful of bills out of the plastic bag in the back of the toilet, and runs over to the window, once again sending Mafia (who was just starting to peek out of the closet) into a blind panic. Grim pulls open the window, fills her basket with money, and carefully lowers it down to six; after a few seconds of gentle tugging, she feels the two firm pulls that indicate a completed transaction, and she hauls up her treasure. And what a treasure it is: two DVDs, still in their original shrink wrap, and the use of Carmine's portable DVD player for the night!

"Hey babies, it's movie night! Woo-hoo! I sure hope the batteries are fresh."

The young vigilante goes back to her cooler and grabs a Diet Coke, rummages around until she finds half a bag of cheese puffs, and heads back into the bedroom to set up the night's viewing. The smell of cheese puffs summons forth even the timid Mafia, who joins her siblings on the bed for a few orange crunchies. Grim flicks out a single claw which she uses to slice open up the movies.

"Let's see, tonight we have....Donnie Brasco...aaaaaand Just One of The Guys. Hey, don't laugh at Mommy; comedies can be educational, too, y'know."

As the first movie spins in the player, Grim gently pokes the skin on her arm with her claw; lately the surface is no less soft than usual (thank god), but for some reason it feels somehow...not thicker, but maybe...chewy? "Weird." Using her claw one last time, she easily pops open her Coke and takes a sip; finally almost settled in, she pulls the thin covers over her shoulders, being carefully to allow the kitties their pockets of warmth, and at last presses the play button.

"Okay, Johnny Depp, show me what I'm in for."

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Grim had put Minkie on the bus back to Nashville a few weeks ago, which had nearly depleted the last of her cash, and the cops had been cracking down on panhandlers, so her income was currently next to nil. The forces of nature were forcing her to a fork in the road; to the left was criminal enterprise, and to the right (shudder) legitimate employment. Even though it was tempting to play the Bonnie to Ren's Clyde, she now had his expectations to live up to as much as her own, and frankly she rather enjoyed the moral superiority you get from not being a hypocrite, so certain sacrifices had to be made.

Father Jim had been a prince, even though she still felt bad about using the sanctity of confession to reveal her true identity and faith to him, but she did feel better afterwards in a strictly non-Catholic way. He agreed to help her set up a legitimate life for herself in Freedom City, obtaining a copy of her birth certificate so she could get a state ID, setting up a post office box for her mail, and countless other things.

The driving lessons were a whole other deal; never had she heard a priest say so many things for which he later had to ask forgiveness. The citizens of Southside lived in fear during March as the sight of Father Jim's careening Oldsmobile sent them running for the sidewalk (and one time even indoors), as Lynn mastered the fine art of not running people over. The smile on his face when she strode beaming out of the Lincoln DMV, license held aloft like the Holy Grail, was as much for his long-suffering nerves as it was for her accomplishment.

And now the final step.

The job application from Fleet Messenger was almost laughable; the text was slightly crooked and blurred, indicating this was perhaps a fifth generation Xerox, and the questions were so vague and non-specific. She bought her used mountain bike at a hip Riverside shop with money loaned out from Father J, to be promptly repaid from her first few checks; said bike was then customized with stickers, duct tape and random bits of fabric she'd scrounged from her dilapidated hotel suite to 'crap it up like the Millennium Falcon', as another messenger put it.

"How do I look, babies?"

It was her first day, and it felt kind of weird wearing clothes she hadn't 'made' herself, but the helmet and reflective vest were required by the owners of Fleet, so she would have to get used to it. She slung her oversize messenger bag over her shoulder and headed to the window.

"I left you plenty of water and dry food, so you should be fine 'til tonight; Mommy won't be home too late, I hope."

Climbing the wall while encumbered proved to be a bit of a problem; she really needed to find a storage locker to keep her stuff at night. Her bike was triple-locked right were she left it (Need to find a better place, I think I just got lucky last night), and she started peddling down Lexington on her way to the Waterfront to check in; Fleet's office was in Pier 10, the converted warehouse that also housed many architectural and design firms that preferred lots of raw space.

As she sped past taxis and buses and dodged pedestrians and hostile bikers from a few rival companies, Lynn hummed to herself as she tried to come up with a fitting name for her new steed. 'Sparkle Pony?' 'The Magic Crab?' 'Otis T. McFleegle?' Clearly, this would take some time...

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"As you can see, it's just the way you left it..."

Clinging to the outside of the Imperator Hotel, Grim tries to wipe a clean spot in the window, but only manages to smudge the glass. Behind her hovers Carmine the Bug Man, desperately clutching three mewling pet carriers in three of his pipe cleaner limbs; he tries not to imagine what would happen if he dropped one of her cats seven stories to the sidewalk...:shock:

"Alright, I'll have to take your word for it; let's get my babies inside."

She gets a good grip on the window sash with her claws and with a grunt hauls it open; a flock of pigeons whooshes out, nearly knocking Grim off the side of the building. She barely manages to grab her duffel bag before it plummets out of sight.

"What the hell?!"

Her old squat is filthy; there are gaps in the ceiling, the bed is covered with damp fallen plaster, and there's feathers and bird poop everywhere.

" 'Just like I left it'? The hell you say! I'm pretty sure I didn't crap all over the floor before I left! Oh man, look at this place!"

Carmine sheepishly bumbles in behind her, his large compound eyes scanning for a clean spot on the floor to deposit the cats; finding none, he neatly stacks the carriers by the open window.

"You owe me, Carmine, you owe me big time! You and Pitt both!"

The chastised bug man's mouthparts work wordlessly for a few moments before he manages to buzz out a reply.

"Look, I took care of your damn cats, just like I said I would, but there are six other units in this building that require my attention! Mrs. Frobisher in Six West constantly oozes a corrosive slime that does ungodly things to the woodwork, and Mr. Saxxon in Seven North keeps spyin' on Miss Melusine in the tub with his eyestalks! Do you know what it's like to be the super of this firetrap? And I don't even get paid in real money!"

Watching Carmine go into one of his tirades is a sight both gruesome and comical; he zips around the room, gesturing wildly with his two sets of bristly black 'arms'. When he's done, he pulls up his cargo pants and crosses his limbs across his heaving thorax as he glares at her with a thousand angry eyes.

"So what exactly are you paid in?"

In an instant, Grim's question drains all the anger out of the bug man, and his gestures become furtive and distracted.

"You..y'know what, you're right; I'm gonna send Mickey out to the store to get me some garbage bags and some Windex and uh, and a whole lot of that Pledge and whatayacall it, Lysol, y'know, the kind that smells like springtime and crap! I got rubber gloves and mops upstairs...we can make it like a party, right? Yeah, yeah! All of us together, y'know, you, me and Mickey all a-scrubbin' and a-washin'! It'll be fun, right?"

Grim steps closer to him as she lets her duffel bag drop to the filthy floor, her dark brown eyes somehow fixed on all of his; she seems different since she came back from out West, more confident, like she grew up seven years in seven months.

"What does he have on you, Carmine? Why are you so scared of him?" As she approaches, she starts to get taller and taller, and her casual clothes slowly melt into her black and midnight blue 'work' uniform.

Carmine flutters his limbs this way and that.

"Look, I can't talk about it, alright? I gotta good thing goin' on here, and I don't wanna mess with that!"

He stops and holds his four 'hands' to his thorax.

"Look at me, willya? I'm a damn freak is what I am!"

He gestures angrily towards the world outside the dusty windows.

"Do you think I could get a real job out there, lookin' the way I do? Mr. Pitt doesn't care what I look like; he knows I work hard and keep all you weirdos in line, and that's all that matters to him! I can do my work for an honest, an honest wage..."

Grim is now close to six feet tall, her eyes like black holes as she rests a clawed hand on Carmine's narrow chitinous shoulder.

"What does he have on you?"

A foul-smelling secretion seeps through the custodian's T-shirt, a sickly sweet liquid that serves him for sweat; bristly head bowed, his words are barely audible when he finally finds them.

"He's got...he's got my family. They think I'm dead, which is the way I wanted it, but he-"

Surprisingly human sobs wrack his alien frame.

"He slips Polaroids under my door, from time to time, pictures of them back at the house. He says it's for me, to show me they're still safe and happy, but I know what it means: 'I can have them whenever I want them. They're mine now.' "

Carmine covers his faces with his limbs and continues sobbing; Grim, her questions now answered with painful results, gingerly places her arms around his shoulders, oblivious for the moment to the rankness of his strange metabolism.

"I'm sorry; I'm sorry I pushed you, but I had to know."

She pulls back from him, hands firmly grasping his shoulders as her eyes, burning with a mixture of mischief, determination and madness, search his face for hope.

"We're gonna get 'im, Carmine; you, me, the other freaks in this dump, hell, maybe even some of my crimebustin' buddies, too. We're gonna go upstairs to his little piece of Hell, and we're gonna show what we're made of. You hear me? We're gonna show him!"

The bug man nods, at first nervously, but then with increasing conviction.

"Yeah. Yeah! We're gonna show that bum what we're made of! We're gonna show him that we can't be pushed around, and that we're - oh, I'm sorry, honey, but you are just covered in bug schmutz."

The now-more physically impressive heroine frowns for a moment. "I am?" She takes a little whiff and looks like she's gonna hurl; her eyes practically cross at the stench.

"Oh, oh! Oh dear God!"

In a second, she shrinks back down to her normal size, and she is once again a slim young thing, now wearing New Jersey Devils sweats covered in bug ook and utterly grossed out. She waves her arms helplessly as she frantically hops up and down.

"Augh! I need, I need, a bath and a shower and a vat of antiseptic!"

"I'm so sorry, kid! Look, stay right there, I'll be back with some towels and the turpentine!" Carmine zips out through the window, leaving the helpless heroine behind with her stink.

"Ok, hurry back! Oh god, I smell like a stadium bathroom exploded!"

Inside their crates, the cats start mewling for their supper...

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