by Kaye Jeffreys -
Jaren reclined on his bed. Neenah batted at Jaren's toe with her paw then stretched herself out with a long yawn and let her head flop over the side of the bed. Jaren looked back at the forms on his note screen. There was so much to fill out before becoming a full citizen of Avenir.
Neenah jerked into a crouched position and stared toward Jaren's bedroom door. She bolted from the bed to hide under the desk.
Father was home.
Jaren concentrated back on his forms.
The door to their appartment opened. An unfamiliar growling sound entered with Father's heavy footsteps. "Jaren, we need to talk."
This could not be good.
Father set a cage on the carpet in the front room. A small dog chewed on the bars from the inside as it growled.
Jaren's stomach hollowed out. "What's the dog for?"
Father had that smirk on his face. "This is Boris the Cyber-Mutt. Isn't that a funny name?"
Jaren didn't feel the humor. "Why is he here?"
"He's programmed to hunt down pests, especially unwanted cats."
"Neenah is not a pest. She's Jereth's cat." A shiver ran through Jaren.
"Jereth stole money from me and you won't tell me where he's gone. I will not pay to feed the cat of a thief, first born or not. And I certainly won't support a worthless cat when my younger son betrays me to protect a thief. "Father bent over and put his hand on the latch of the cage.
Jaren made a bold face but could find nothing inside to back it up. "I told you, I don't know where he went."
"You are lying." Father opened the cage. Boris shot out like a missle toward Jaren's room. A blur of brown and white, barking wildly.
"Stop! I'll show you his note." Jaren tapped his note screen to bring up Jereth's letter.
Neenah howled and then shrieked.
Jaren shoved the note in front of Father's face. "He went to Zirconia, see? Call off your mutt."
Father pushed a button on the side of the cage.
The barking and screeching silenced.
Jaren bolted to his room.
Boris trotted past him with blood on his mouth and scratches on his face.
Little drops of blood stained the carpet by the desk. Jaren kneeled on the floor and reached under the desk for Neenah. A lump hardened in his stomach.
She hissed and scratched him. "I'm so sorry, Neenah." Jaren leaned back and pulled a blanket off his bed. He used it to shield himself against her claws as he fished her out. He gently wrapped the blanket around her as she fought against him. "Let me help you." He gathered her up and raced through the front room.
"This could have been avoided if you had told me the truth." Father stood with his arms crossed and victory in his eyes. "You know I hate liars and thieves."
Jaren stopped at the door. He turned. "You hate liars and thieves? Then you should hate yourself." He looked down at Neenah. Her struggling weakened. "I hate murderers."