Prologue (Part 2)
There was an Angel in the box.
He had finally found her. With his cat eyes, which worked fine even in the darkness, he could clearly make out her name written on her forehead. It was just as the legends said. The hair that had lost its color. Her fang that gleamed white even in the darkness. Her oversized jumpsuit, and her big, thick sneakers.
However, she wasn’t the only one surprised by their meeting.
Kasuka hadn’t expected her to be peeking out at him. When their eyes met and the box let out a scream and started to shake wildly, Kasuka was so surprised the hair all over his body shot straight up. He kicked off the box, did a back somersault in the air, made another leap off of a nearby mycelium stalk and hid himself awkwardly in a small forest of mold.
He was still just a kitten, after all.
Kasuka was a black kitten, so black he was just a pair of golden eyes in the midnight dark of Tolk. Holding himself steady with a mycelium stalk, he crouched down and stared steadily at the cardboard box. Something like a long, thick whisker was standing straight up on his head. This was actually a radio wave whisker, a unique appendage that all the cats of Tolk had. Thanks to this, the cats could speak to each other using digital signals over the radio waves, and could use the waves to echo-locate their way through the darkness and mists of Tolk’s corridors. The long, dextrous tail of the cats was also one of their specialties. With it, they could grab things, change direction in mid-air by wrapping it around pipes, and draw the attention of prey by waving it hypnotically in front of their eyes.
There was just one thing that set Kasuka apart from the other cats of Tolk. He didn’t have a robot partner.
Of course, a kitten his age not having a robot partner wasn’t that strange. It wasn’t as though the cats of Tolk were incapable of living on their own without a robot partner. But at that moment Kasuka was in the observation deck at the top of Tolk’s stele. Between the observation platform and the outer shell where the majority of the cats lived there were countless airlocks, forests of poisonous mold, and airless corridors where the air seals had been broken.
How could this black cat have walked this path alone? A path that even adult cats with robots of their own would tread only with the greatest of care.
“Did I scare you? Are you upset?”
Kasuka spoke to the cardboard box using digital signals.
“Are you gonna do something if I go over there again?”
The cardboard box did not respond.
There was a short metal pipe floating near Kasuka. Kasuka grabbed the pipe with his tail and pulled it back, waiting for a moment to fix his aim. Then he jumped, performed a flip in the air, and cracked his body like a whip, releasing his grip on the pipe to fling it toward the box. It smacked the box right around where ‘PLEASE TAKE ME’ was written and bounced off.
The instant it hit, a clumsy, rapid voice from the box said:
“Looks like rain looks like rain. Looks like rain coming in with the southern front. The interior is going to see some strong winds along with the rain, so everyone needs to take care out there. Tomorrow morning’s temperatures are looking to be the same as this morning, so folks in some areas may have trouble sleeping for the next few days.”
Kasuka’s eyes widened at the unexpected response.
Angelic was a long-lost language from the past. While there were ancient written records that could at least convey the meaning of words in the language, there was of course nothing that indicated actual vocal pronunciation of the words. Plus, cats did not have the concept of communication through spoken words in their culture. To understand spoken Angelic words was something even the greatest feline archeologist would struggle with.
Kasuka, however, felt that he could more or less understand what the cardboard box was trying to say.
How or why he understood, though, was a mystery.
He simply had a strange feeling that the words were not meaningless. He felt she was terribly pressured, terribly scared, and was trying her hardest to put on a strong front. Something like: ‘What are you doing, you stupid cat! Get out of here! I’m not scared of you!’
He spoke to the box again.
“Is it alright if I go over there?”
The box responded:
“Heavy rain. Flood warning.”
A strange feeling came over Kasuka, and he began to dance in a circle right there, with his long tail wrapped around the stem to make sure he didn’t float away. He was so charged with emotions the hairs on his back twitched. The cardboard box watched in grudging silence.
He had searched for so long. Not a single other robot could interest him. The nosy Doll Master had persistently offered to find a robot for Kasuka himself, and Kasuka had been bullied quite a lot for still being a robot-less runt. Despite all that, Kasuka had continued to search by himself. He had rummaged through ancient texts and wandered all over Tolk. He had even gotten himself into some very dangerous scrapes. He had been attacked by a monstrous wild robot and had his back right leg broken, and had almost died after stumbling into a cloud of poisonous mold.
Still, he had never once thought of giving up.
Without asking help from cat or robot, he had single-mindedly continued his search alone.
“…Did you know there’s a bounty on your head?”
The cardboard box did not reply.
“Oboro, the 36th, was put on trial before his death. He admitted that he had stashed some heretical texts inside of a jar and hidden them somewhere. When they heard this, the Ministry goons went crazy searching Tolk from top to bottom. But they never found the jar, or the robot who was supposed to know its location… Did you know?”
As expected, the cardboard box did not reply.
But Kasuka could tell. He could feel her eyes on him, peeking through the hand-holds of the box. For a long, long time her hopes had been dashed. She had lost faith, and the walls she had built inside to keep from getting hurt again were thick and solid.
“But I figure that must have been part of the 36th’s plan. You can’t be a Skywalker unless you’re real good at making plans. I think he would have said the same things, even if they hadn’t dragged it out of him during the trial. If he hadn’t said anything, no one would have known that the jar existed, and I never would have thought to look for it. You saw it for yourself, right? The research the 36th obsessed over like a madcat. The results of the 36th’s research are all stashed in that jar you’ve got, right?”
At that moment, blue light shone in through the observation deck windows.
The blue light moved from right to left across the view from the windows and banished night from the observation deck. All the flotsam drifting in the chamber gained color and shadow.
It was dawn in the observation deck, something that happened once every few hours.
“I will continue that research.”
He said it.
“I am Kasuka. The 37th Skywalker.”
Light dawned in the starry sky.
The observation deck was a large, spherical room at the top of Tolk’s stele. Surrounded by forests of mold and countless objects dancing lazily in the airflow, a black kitten was staring at a cardboard box with ‘PLEASE TAKE ME’ written on it.
The blue Earth that shone down as a background through the windows that made up the upper hemisphere of the chamber was covered with white rain clouds.
“I will take us there some day. I promise you.”
Kasuka spoke the words.
He would do it.
After so many had failed, he would succeed.
He would go to the place the cats all knew as the Earth Globe, the sacred Nirvana where the spirits of all dead cats were said to go. Sometimes the words of the Khans from the church rang true; Tolk was a castle, an island floating in space that the Angels had created in ancient times. It floated 6000 km above the Earth, rotating at a speed of 5600 meters per second. To defeat these two demonic numbers, one would need an extremely heat-resistant mechanism with a high-output jet engine. The high rotation speed and intense heat involved could be overcome if only the right amount of power and a proper heat shield were used.
-No matter where you hide, the 37th will definitely find you. Someone who cannot find you will never be able to find you. Listen, it’s always been like this, but there are two types of cats in this world.
Those who have no interest in the impossible, and those who have interest in nothing else.
With a sudden, surprising, delighted burst… the tabs of the cardboard box with ‘PLEASE TAKE ME’ written on it flew open.