Chapter 1: Feral
Casey drummed her fingers on the table as she waited for the test to finish. It seemed like these tests never ended. Just when they thought they had figured out exactly how Mixmaster worked something new would show up and toss everything they thought they knew out the window. Or most of it anyway.
Outside Spotlight was stretched out beside the lab, soaking up the warm rays of the sun. Apparently the dirt dragon had taken it upon herself to guard the lab and the people who lived there. Whenever Casey and Roger would leave to go somewhere, she would follow them like a dog its master. Nobody really knew why, and Tyler hadn't 'heard' anything either. Casey wasn't complaining though. It was kinda cool having a dragon pet anyway.
Roger curiously looked over the red-head's shoulder. "Find anything yet, Case?" he asked.
"No," she sighed. "Not yet."
Roger squeezed her shoulder gently. "Hey, don't worry about it. Frustration comes with the job," he assured, reading her expression.
"Actually, I think it comes with the habitat," Casey said with a small laugh.
"That's a given," he said, offering a smile.
"So," Casey glanced up at him. "Have you finished the dish for today's potluck?"
"The macaroni salad is in the fridge," he nodded. "What about your dish?"
"It's baking at Rosalita's," she glanced at the time. "For about another hour an half. I just hope that freak storm in Wisconsin is over so Jodi and Larry can make it back in time."
"Yeah," he nodded. "That trip was pretty sudden. Did anyone tell you why they went?"
"I think Nancy said something about a death in the family. I'm not sure who though."
"Oh, poor kid," Roger said, shaking his head. He suddenly turned his attention back to the computer. "Looks like the test is finished."
"Aaaaaand, same as last time," Casey sighed. "I don't even know what I'm looking for anymore. I'm starting to think I was just imagining that...whatever it was."
Roger shrugged slightly. "Might not even be important," he offered.
"Yeah, probably," she stood up and stretched. "Well, I'm gonna go check on my casserole."
Roger nodded. "I'll go get the truck started."
"Kay, let me put this stuff away and I'll join meet you out there," Casey said.
Roger jogged out to the truck, hopping in and starting the engine. Casey joined him a moment later and they headed off towards Rosalita's ranch, Spotlight trailing behind.
Nancy scrambled around her kitchen, finishing up the last bits of her dishes. She knew Burt and Tyler wouldn't bring much more than beer, and Jodi and Larry might not even make it back on time let alone be able to make anything, so she was fixing a few extra plates.
She was torn from her concentration by a faint mew. She turned away from what she was doing, confused. She headed towards the noise. It sounded like it was coming from right outside the back door. Nancy opened the door, unsure of what she'd find.
For a moment, it looked like there was nothing there. But then a small, sandy colored kitten appeared at the bottom of the steps. It looked up at Nancy for a second before mewing again.
"Aww," Nancy cooed, "Little kitten, what are you doing out in the middle of the desert?" She kneeled down and put her hand out slowly. The kitten sniffed it curiously.
"It's okay. Good kitty," she smiled, gently petting the tan feline. "You're awfully tiny, aren't you?"
Almost instantly the kitten's attitude changed. It hissed, sounding more like a snake than a cat, and before Nancy could yank her hand to safety it sank its teeth into her skin between the thumb and forefinger.
Nancy cried out, yanking her hand back. It burned more than it probably should. Tears welled in her eyes as she felt as if her hand was on fire. "Shoulda known you were feral," she hissed, quickly shutting the door. She ran to the sink, washing the wound.
It didn't seem to help. The pain didn't lessen and what was both strange and worrying was the lack of blood. Nancy nervously bandaged up the bite. It stilled burned, but she chocked it up to a nicked nerve or something.
After a few minutes, the pain began to ebb slightly so she went back to work. It still burned, but not quite as bad. She began finishing up the food, but as the time passed, she began tripping over her own feet. Her hands refused to grip properly so she dropped a bowl of potato salad. Suddenly, she felt as if her muscles were drained of energy.
The blonde women fumbled for her radio, but it clattered to the floor as her vision began to darken. She let out a pained moan as she went totally blind. Then she collapsed.
Tyler walked into the inside porch in front of Nancy's house, setting his dish of tuna tetrazzini on the table. He had decided to bring something other than beer for a change. Besides, he'd grown up with his mother cooking it; he knew the recipe by heart. He looked around. The table was set up but none of the dishes were out yet. Nancy was probably still cooking.
"Hey, Nancy," he called, stepping inside the house.
There was no answer, simply the smell of something burning in the oven. Tyler wrinkled his nose at the smell and hurried into the kitchen only to nearly trip over a disturbingly familiar unconscious body.
"Nancy!" Tyler fell to his knees beside her, feeling for a pulse. It was faint, but there, and he let out a small sigh of relief.
"Nancy?" he shook her slightly.
She didn't respond, didn't even stir.
Tyler grabbed his radio. "Burt!"
"Tyler, you got me, over," Burt's voice crackled over the radio.
"I'm at Nancy's," Tyler said, his worry coating his words thickly. "I-I don't know what happened, but she's passed out on the floor and I can't get her to wake up."
"What?" Casey cried, overhearing the conversation.
There was a pause from Burt's end. "I'm on my way. Stay with her, Tyler," Burt ordered.
"I'm coming too," Casey added firmly.
Tyler just nodded, even though he knew they couldn't see him, and put away his radio. He looked back down at Nancy and then around the kitchen. There was broken bowl of potato salad on the floor as well as her radio. She had obviously tried to call for help before she passed out. There was also a bandage around one of her hands.
Tyler reached over and pulled the bandage off, curious for some reason, though he wasn't sure why. There were bite marks in between her thumb and forefinger. Strange bite marks too. It looked like she had been bitten by a cat with abnormally long canines that made it look more like a snake bite. The skin around the bite was inflamed, though the bite itself looked clean and fresh as if it had only just happened.
Tyler suddenly had a really bad feeling. A feeling that this wasn't just a human's health going bad. This had something to do with Mixmaster. And by the looks of it, whatever it was…it was poisonous.
Burt sped towards town, worry boiling inside him. He felt very guilty, feeling as if this all fell on his shoulders. This was his town, his responsibility.
He screeched to a halt outside of Nancy's, leaping out of the Power Wagon.
Tyler looked up from where he was sitting next to Nancy as the aggravated survivalist stormed into the kitchen. He nodded towards her injured hand.
"She was bit by something."
"Snake?" he asked doubtfully, kneeling to look at the wound.
Tyler just shrugged. "Kinda looks like it but there's more teeth marks that snakes don't have."
Burt shook his head angrily. "This isn't good. At all," he growled, already having a bad feeling.
"You're telling me?" Tyler mumbled under his breath.
"Where's Casey?" the survivalist grumbled.
"Here," Casey hurried into the kitchen, kneeling next to Nancy worriedly. "What happened?"
"Attacked by something," Burt frowned.
"And you found her like this?" Casey turned to Tyler. He nodded. "We'll have to get her to the lab so I can run tests."
Burt nodded stiffly. "Tyler, help me get her to your jeep."
Tyler rolled to his feet and grabbed Nancy's arms to pull her up. Burt stood as well, helping Tyler carry Nancy. They carried her outside to the tour jeep and set her down in the back carefully. Soon, they were speeding towards the lab.
Casey got there just before they did and held the door open for them as they carried Nancy inside.
"Set her on that table," she ordered, already rushing around for her equipment.
When the two men set her down, Burt stood a few feet back to give Casey room. "Where's Roger?" he asked.
"Still at Rosalita's," she replied as she drew some blood from the woman's arm for testing. "You sure you didn't see any unusual animals Tyler?"
"Kind of looks feline," Burt commented, "Besides the canine teeth, of course."
"Yeah," Casey agreed. "I just hope I can find some of its DNA, it'll make figuring this out a whole lot easier."
"Since when is anything having to do with Mixmaster easy?" Tyler asked dryly.
Burt shook his head. "Tyler, we should go see if we can track whatever did this," he said.
Tyler nodded and headed towards the door. "Call us if ya find anything."
"I will," Casey assured them, watching them leave before turning back to watch the blood test.
"You think it mighta been some kinda snake?" Tyler asked over his shoulder as he knelt on the back porch of Nancy's house, studying the ground.
Burt furrowed his brow in thought. "Possibly, though the bite was definitely strange," he shook his head.
Tyler sighed and stood up. "The only tracks around here are from a kitten," he said dejectedly.
"A kitten?" Burt scoffed. "Cats aren't exactly native to Perfection."
"Cats aren't native to the whole of the Americas," Tyler replied.
"Well, there are bob cats up north," Burt corrected, "But the last feline here was Nancy's old tom- sixteen years ago."
"Maybe a mother wandered down here from Bixby," Tyler suggested.
"Probably not," Burt grumbled.
"So, now we gotta look for a tiny little kitten? That oughtta be fun."
Burt mumbled under his breath. "A kitten. We have to track a kitten?"
Tyler rolled his eyes and stepped off the porch after the tiny tracks. "Come on, grumps."
Burt glared at him, following the tracks. They led into the plants in Nancy's garden making it a little harder. They finally ended next to a cactus in the corner. Tyler knelt down to look closer.
"Careful, Tyler," Burt warned.
"Doesn't look like anything's down here," Tyler said, peering around the base of the cactus. He still couldn't see anything. "And I don't see the tracks anymore either."
"Any sign of where it might have went?" Burt asked, looking around the cactus.
"Nuh-uh. It's like it just-OH!" Tyler pulled back suddenly in surprise.
"What?" Burt shouted.
Tyler winced. "Sheesh, ya don't have to shout Burt, calm down," he gestured to the bottom of the cactus. "Just found our culprit is all, he appeared out of nowhere. Just kinda startled me."
"What is it?" Burt asked.
"A kitten," Tyler replied. "A very sandy colored, hard to see, angry looking kitten."
Burt leaned over to see. And it was, a very angry kitten.
It's pelt was also incredibly close to the color of the sand.
"Really think this is the thing that hurt Nancy?" Tyler asked. "I mean I know he looks mean but I don't remember cats being poisonous." He held his hand out cautiously.
"Don't do that!" Burt ordered sternly. "It very well could be dangerous."
Tyler jerked his hand away the same time the kitten snapped at him.
"I told you," Burt growled, eyes narrowed. "Did you see those fangs? Distinctly serpentine."
Tyler opened his mouth to reply when the kitten shot forward, hissing like a snake and moving with the speed of one too. Burt kicked out, slamming his foot into its side. The kitten let out a short, sharp, yowl as it was sent flying several feet before it landed, unmoving. Tyler watched it warily as he picked himself up from falling backwards trying to avoid the thing.
Burt stepped towards the limp body, drawing his Eagle though he felt almost guilty for hurting such a small creature. Almost. It didn't move.
"You probably crushed it," Tyler said behind him.
Burt frowned, nudging it slightly with his foot.
"If you're so unsure just shoot it," Tyler said, getting impatient with waiting to know whether or not he could relax yet.
"It's dead," Burt said, nodding. "We should bring it back to Casey, see if it can help Nancy," he suggested
Tyler nodded but made no move to pick it up, instead heading towards his jeep and leaving the job to the survivalist. Burt glared after the tour guide and bent down, picking up the cat by the scruff of its neck.
Tyler just grinned at his annoyance when he climbed into the jeep. "Hey, you're the one who killed it, you get the cleanup job."
Burt just mumbled something under his breath, then added a quick, "Let's get back to the lab."
Casey looked up as Burt and Tyler walked into the lab, Burt carrying a limp kitten by the scruff of its neck.
"What is that?"
"Well," Tyler replied, looking down at it. "It's either just a creepy, temperamental kitten with too long of canines and too fast of speed...or it's the latest thing Mixmaster's dished out for us."
"I'm fairly certain this is what bit Nancy," Burt added, handing it to the scientist.
She raised an eyebrow as she took it and frowned. "Probably the least frightening thing I've seen so far from Mixmaster."
"You wouldn't say that if it was attacking you," Tyler told her.
Casey shook her head and turned to one of the testing rooms. "Just hope I can find an antidote. 'Cause at this rate, Nancy's not going to live through the week."
Chapter 3: No Boys Allowed
Chapter by TekeoMiona
We couldn't think of a good chapter title, so we bulled it.
Burt stood up in his jeep, binoculars in hand as he scooped out the desert. He had a bad feeling it was in vain because, if there were more of those cats, he wouldn't be able to see their tan pelts against the ground.
Tyler sat beside him, resting his head in his hand and tapping his fingers against his leg in boredom.
"Negative," Burt sighed, sitting back down. "Let's go to town, see if Jodi and Larry are back."
The two weren't in when they arrived but Rosalita was sitting on the bench waiting for them. She had gotten a call from Jodi just after the boys left saying she and Larry would be arriving shortly.
"Rosalita," Burt asked, "Have you heard what happened to Nancy, or do we need to fill you in?"
"Yeah, Casey was at my house when Tyler called, remember?"
Burt nodded. "We think we may know what did it," he said.
"A small tiny kitten with the ability to blend in with the sand," Rosalita replied calmly, sipping a cup of coffee. "A cat, snake, and prairie dog hybrid and very venomous."
Tyler looked at her surprised. Burt raised an eyebrow at her. "You've certainly kept up to speed," he commented.
Rosalita laughed. "Really you two? We're women, we gossip. Half the time we know stuff before you do. Like the kittens DNA for instance."
"So, snake, cat, and prairie dog?" Burt asked.
"Just another day in Perfection," Burt mumbled.
"Well...I guess that is kinda true if ya think about it," Tyler said thoughtfully.
"Think about what?"
Burt and Tyler jumped at the sudden voice behind them and turned to see Larry and Jodi standing next to her red pickup.
"Hey guys," Larry grinned.
"You're back," Burt stated. "Come on, you need to be... briefed on the current situation."
"Burt, we just had this conversation," Rosalita rolled her eyes.
Larry's grin faded. "Yeah, she told Jodi over the phone."
"Is she going to be alright?" Jodi asked worriedly.
"Casey is working on an antidote," Burt informed.
Neither of them looked very satisfied with that answer.
"Relax guys, this is Nancy we're talkin' about, a women of Perfection," Tyler reassured. "I don't think any of us would be living in here if we couldn't take a tiny poisonous kitten. She'll be fine and back to bossing us around and lecturing us for getting into pointless danger in no time."
Rosalita nodded in agreement.
"Nancy's a fighter," Burt added, "I've never known her give up."
Larry smiled slightly. The others could see the pain still fresh in his eyes from losing his mother so suddenly and Tyler hoped to God that his words were true. Nancy was like the mother of Perfection. She treated everyone in town like her own child, even Burt at times. If she died...Tyler really didn't want to think how that life would be.
Burt frowned slightly. "I think it's about time we contact Twitchell, bring him up to speed."
"Unless someone's already done that," Tyler teased with a glance at the girls.
Rosalita raised her hands. "Don't look at us, he's not in our little group."
"So it's an exclusive club?" Burt joked in his normal dry manner.
"Yes," Jodi said shortly, sitting next to her Latino friend on the bench. "And it has a strict 'No Boys' policy."
Burt just mumbled in reply as he dialed a number into the payphone.
"Yeah, Twitch here, what's up?" the DOI agent answered grumpily.
"Mixmaster," Burt said simply, and began to fill him in on the 'current events'.
Twitchell cursed mentally as he listened. Again with the annoying master of DNA mixing and again with the dying of a resident. He had really hoped Tyler would be the closest call. Apparently that damn valley had other plans though.
"So, you got all that?" Burt asked, slightly sarcastic.
"Why the hell else would I be talking to you?" Twitchell restrained himself from rolling his eyes even though Burt couldn't see him. "I'll come down tomorrow, call me if anything else happens, got it?"
"I'll do that," Burt said and hung up the phone.
"So," Tyler plopped down at the counter. "What now?"
"Just wait to see what Casey tells us next," Burt suggested.
"And eat lunch," Jodi added. "We didn't get anything to eat when we stopped in Bixby. Anyone hungry?"
"I am," Rosalita said.
"Me too," Tyler raised his hand lazily.
Burt nodded as well as Jodi started for the kitchenette to feed the hungry crowd.
Casey stood in front of the small crowd in her lab. Really only three of them needed to be there but since the whole thing involved Nancy's well being, Larry and the other two women had tagged along as well, making the space feel more cramped than usual. Not to mention the two giant dragons sitting right outside the door.
"So," Tyler asked when everyone had gotten settled. "What exactly did you find?"
"I think I found an antidote," the redhead replied. "But I used up all the venom from the kitten on testing, I don't have enough to make any or test it out." She glanced over to Burt. "I'm gonna need another one of the creatures."
Burt frowned, looking less-than happy with that result. "Another one? I don't even know if there are others; we can't see them until we are too close."
Casey sighed. "I know. And I've been thinking of someway to find them easier, or at least capture them safely but...I've come up with nothing."
"Can't you just set a trap with some food or something?" Rosalita asked.
"But we don't even know what they eat," Jodi pointed out.
Casey nodded. "Usually I could find their diet in their stomach but there wasn't anything in the kittens." She sighed again heavily. "I just don't know enough about these creatures."
"Something that may be important," Roger put in, "Is that, judging by the bone structure, the kitten was a juvenile."
"Which only proves there's more out there," Casey replied. "But it doesn't really give us any clue as to how to find them and capture them."
"Well, I guess we could just do it the old fashioned way," Tyler suggested. "And maybe were thick pants and boots so if they try to bite us we'll be more protected than we would be in jeans."
Burt nodded. "Jodi, you think we could borrow some of your hiking equipment?" he asked, turning to the store owner.
"Good," Burt said. "We should get back to town." As they all headed back to their cars, the survivalist hung back for a moment. "Casey, you really think you can find an antidote?"
"Have I ever failed you before?" Casey asked with a smile.
"Never," Burt said, "And don't make this a first. I like having a trustworth scientist around here." And, with that, he left.
Tyler sighed. "This is boring."
He, Burt, and Larry had started searching the day before with no luck. They'd continued their search early that morning and still had had no luck four hours later.
Burt frowned at the tour guide. "I'm thinking they live in a group. Seeing as they are part prairie dog, it would make sense," he commented.
"So, they live underground?" Larry asked. "Couldn't we just track their activity with the seismos?"
Burt gave him a look. "Are we able to track prairie dogs with seismos?"
"Well, no, but I could probably tweak it," Tyler replied.
Burt shrugged. "Give it a shot," he offered.
They returned back to the truck and went around to each seismo, the mechanic making adjustments to each one. He finally finished with the last one and turned to the others with an excited grin on his face.
"Ok, let's see if it worked."
Burt adjusted a few things on the seismo monitor. A small, static-like blob appeared, about a mile or two away.
"It worked!" Larry shouted in excitement. Tyler grinned proudly.
Even Burt smiled slightly. "Now we just need to find a way to get one of those things."
"Well," Tyler sighed. "How do you usually capture prairie dogs?"
"Well, I've never actually been in a situation to do so before," Burt grumbled. "I'm assuming bait would work, but we don't know what they eat."
"Maybe Casey will know," Larry suggested with a shrug.
"She already said she doesn't know," Burt mumbled, sounding a bit impatient.
"I think he means how to trap them, not their diet," Tyler said with a grin.
"I'll radio her," Burt said, "See if she has any new ideas." He pulled out his walkie talkie. "Casey, come in, over."
"Here, what's up?"
"Casey, we were wondering if you found out anything else about the cats. We know where they are and need something that could help us catch them," Burt said.
"Ummm..." Casey's voice disappeared for a moment. "Well I've been running some more tests on its DNA but haven't found much. Where did you find them?"
"We used the seismographs and found out they are about... three miles west of the lab," he informed.
Tyler leaned over Burt's arm and grabbed the hand with the radio. "They're living underground in a prairie dog town," he added.
Burt gave Tyler one of his usual annoyed looks as he took his hand back. "Any ideas?" he asked Casey.
"Prairie dog town, huh? Can you block up the holes? Then smoke 'em out into some sort of trap. That should work."
Burt nodded to himself. "That should work. Thanks Casey. Burt out."
"What're we gonna use as a trap?" Tyler asked.
Burt thought for a moment. "I know. When Nancy and Mindy caught Messerschmitt, they kept it in a cage until Sigmund and Ray picked it up. I'm pretty sure she still has it out behind Changs'," he said. "We could rig something up with that."
"I got some spare pipes behind the garage we could use to strengthen it," Tyler added. "Since we have no idea how many of them are actually down there and going by the size of the kit they'll probably be able to slip through the wooden slates anyway."
"Who's Messerschmitt?" Larry asked.
Tyler stared at him for a moment before realizing the sci-fi fanatic had not been in town when the famous Assblaster had returned and had apparently not heard the story either.
"The second time the Graboids attacked the valley and got to the 3rd metamorphosis one of them attacked Nancy and Mindy at the store," Tyler explained. "They're the ones who realized that if an Assblaster ate enough it'd go into a food comma which is how they caught it. Then they sold it to those magicians for money to send Mindy to college."
Larry's eyes widened in amazement as he breathed out a faint "Cool."
"Anyway," Burt mumbled, "We could add a tarp or something around the cage to make sure they don't get out."
Tyler nodded. "And I guess some rocks'll be enough to cover the other entrances, they're not that big. I'll go to town and pick up the cage, tarp, and pipes."
Burt nodded, handing Tyler the keys and getting out of the Power Wagon. "Come on, Larry. Let's start blocking off some of these prairie do... cat holes."
Larry watched Tyler drive off thoughtfully before beaming and bouncing after the survivalist. "Snat Dogs!"
Burt raised a puzzled eyebrow at him. "Pardon?"
"Snat Dogs," Larry repeated. "SN from snake and AT from cat and the Dog from prairie dog. Snat Dog."
Burt picked up a medium sized rock and held it in front of Larry. "The task at hand," he said, putting it in the sci-fi fan's hand, "Focus on it."
Larry nodded seriously and hurried off to do just that. Burt began gathering stones and carefully placing them over as many 'Snat Dog' looking holes as possible.
Tyler returned with the trap about twenty minutes later. "Got all the holes filled?" he asked as he got out of the truck.
Burt shrugged. "As many as we are going to get," he said. "I left the two I am most certain of as entrances open. We'll smoke them out by putting a fire at one and the case by the other. And hope for the best."
Larry jumped into the back of the truck in excitement. "Let's bag us some Snat Dogs!"
Tyler raised his eyebrow and looked at Burt. "What the heck is a Snat Dog?"
Burt rolled his eyes. "Another one of Larry's brilliant Mixmaster names," he mumbled.
"Ah," Tyler nodded and headed to the back to help Larry with the trap. They got it put together and situated on the proper hole quickly.
Burt waved them over when they finished. "It would be best if someone were on the truck when I light the fire, in case we missed any of the entrances."
Tyler nodded in agreement. "Larry you do that, I'll stand by the trap to make sure none of them pull any tricks."
Once they had taken their places, Burt pulled out his lighter and started the fire. The flame shot up quickly, the smoke billowing upwards and down into the hole. Several moments passed in silence before they could hear the faint panicked voices of the mutant cats as they rushed through the tunnels trying to escape. It wasn't long before they found the only open entrance, scrambling up and out straight into the tarp covered trap.
Burt scoped out the area, looking to make sure none of them escaped. He drew his Eagle, just in case, as he started towards the trap. The last of the creatures entered the cage and Tyler closed the small opening before they could calm down enough to figure a way out.
Larry jumped down from the truck. "Think that's all of them, I didn't see an escapees."
"Good," Burt nodded. "Now we need to get them to the lab. Casey needs their venom for an antidote."
Tyler grinned. "That went better than I thought it would."
"But we're not done yet," Burt said, "And things tend to turn out badly for us," he mumbled.
"Aw, come on Burt, lighten up and enjoy the moment of ease."
"Yeah, it's not like those come around very often," Larry added.
Burt just rolled his eyes and helped Tyler load the crate into the back of the truck. Larry stayed in the back to keep an eye on the creatures and after putting out the fire they headed over to the lab.
As they drove towards the lab, Burt pulled out his radio. "Casey, we've got a crate full of venomous cats coming your way, over," he said.
"Great! We're ready and waitin'."
Soon they pulled up in front of the lab and Burt got out to meet Casey.
The scientist peered in the back of the truck at the rocking crate. "That them?"
"Yep," Tyler said.
"All of 'em?"
"We think so," Larry replied.
"Not as many as I originally thought," Burt said. "Maybe a dozen adults, a dozen young."
Roger walked out behind Casey. "That's definitely more than enough."
Casey nodded. "Way more."
"Well," Tyler sighed. "Let's get cookin', huh? Or rather, you get cookin', we'll just wait."
Casey laughed. "Right. Come on Roger, let's get these rascals inside."
Roger nodded, walking over to the cage. Burt helped him carry it into the lab and set it on a table. "I have to admit, of all the crazy creations this valley has dished out, these are the cutest- besides the venom part."
Burt entered the lab the next day. "Casey, anything to report? How's Nancy?"
"No and same," Casey replied distractedly, staring at the many numbers, letters, and graphs she somehow seemed to understand.
"How is the antidote coming?" he asked.
"Slowly. At first I thought it would be just as easy as making an antidote for rattlesnake venom but the normal technique of injecting in a host isn't working and neither are any of the others. I'm trying something new right now but it's still not working as well as I'd like," Casey frowned at the screen in annoyance.
Burt frowned as well, disappointed. "You'll find a way, Casey. You always do," he assured.
Casey smiled at him. "Thanks Burt. So have you guys decided what to do with the creatures?"
Burt shook his head. "Larry is insisting he knows someone who will take them and keep quiet," he rolled his eyes.
"I have no idea," Burt said. "How are you keeping those Snats contained anyway?"
"We sealed off one of the rooms," Casey replied, pointing towards one of the small makeshift rooms. "And Roger slipped them some sedatives in some raw steak. They seem to like it well enough, the one I examined had remains of mice, snakes, and other small creatures. They're mostly carnivores but they occasionally eat Scrub berries, my guess is when they can't find anything else but I may be wrong. I'd have to observe them in their natural habitat to be sure."
Burt nodded. "I went back to their burrows earlier to make sure we didn't miss any. I'm fairly certain there are none left down there," he informed.
"Good," Casey turned back to her work.
"Casey, are you okay?" he asked, sounding slightly worried.
She tensed at his question and didn't answer for several moments. Finally she gave in, slumping in her seat. "No, not really."
He frowned a little. "I'm... sorry if I've been putting pressure on you," he said.
Casey was already shaking her head before he could even finish the sentence. "It's not that Burt." She sighed. "It's Nancy. I-"
The sound of the lab doors slamming open interrupted her. The two turned to see Twitchell standing in the doorway looking irritable and, well, overall pissed.
"Oh, hey Twitchell," Casey greeted him as if he hadn't just nearly knocked her door off its hinges. "I thought you were supposed to be here yesterday?"
"Got held up at the office," the agent stomped over to them. "Anything new?"
"We've captured all the creatures," Burt reported, "And Casey is working on the antidote for Nancy."
"How's she doin'?"
Casey's face fell again. "No change. And I don't think there ever will be. I mean without the antidote anyway. I think I've got this venom figured out. The kittens don't have very strong venom; it takes at least 5-7 days before it actually kills the victim. But during that time the victim is stuck in a sort of coma. I'm guessing most animals bitten by kits and not eaten die from dehydration before the poison actually kills them. Or another animal. Full-grown Snats however have much stronger venom, killing the victim in a matter of hours, sometimes even minutes, depending on the animal."
"And the antidote didn't work by injection," Burt added. "Casey, what other ways are there to get it into her?"
The scientist gave him an odd look for a moment before laughing. "I think you misunderstood me Burt. One way to make an antidote is too inject it into an animal and then collect the antibodies that the body puts out to defend the body. It creates a good basis for the antidote. But this venom destroys the antibodies before they're even made. So I have to find something that will work without any antibodies."
Burt thought for a second. "This is just a thought, but what kind of snake is it the Snat's DNA?" he asked.
"Rattlesnake," Casey replied. "Why?"
"Maybe you could give her Rattlesnake anti-venom," Burt offered. "It may not completely stop the venom, but it may give her more time."
"Thought of and done. It slowed the poison down for a few hours but that was it."
"Maybe it's just one of those that don't have a cure," Twitchell suggested. He was answered with an angry glare from both scientist and survivalist. He raised his hands quickly, "Look, I'm not saying you should give up. But you guys need to consider that no matter what you do, you can't win against every single one of these Mixmaster creations. One of these days we're bound to come across one that can slip past you're defenses and there's gonna be nothing we can do about it. And these cat things may just be that one."
Casey looked at Burt despondently. Burt gave her a worried look then glared back at Twitch.
"We can't be thinking like that! Let's just concentrate on helping Nancy," he growled.
Twitchell sighed, looking at Casey. She stared back at him for a moment before shaking her head firmly.
"I understand what you're saying Twitchell, I do. But I just can't accept the fact that I may not be able to save someone's life. Especially someone in this valley. Don't get me wrong, it crosses my mind constantly, it does with everyone. But I won't believe it until it happens. And I don't plan on ever letting that happen."
"I know you don't," Twitchell frowned at Burt. "But I just want to make sure you understand that it could happen. No matter how many times the good guys always win in the movies. I'm not here just to protect your physical well-being."
"Anyway, I'm going back to town," Burt said. "Radio me if you need anything or there are any developments."
It was mid-morning the next day before anymore progress was made. The whole town was on edge. It had been four days since Nancy had been bitten and Casey had said the venom took 5-7 days before the victim died. They were running out of time.
Roger was walking- or rather, pacing- by the room the Snat Dogs were locked in when something caught his eye. The door to the room had a window, and through it he saw two of the cat-like creatures fighting. One sunk its teeth into the other. He stood there for a few moments and just watched it. The injured Snat was completely unaffected.
"Casey!" he called, waving her over.
The red head hurried to him. "What is it?"
Roger pointed to the bitten Snat Dog. "Look, they have a complete immunity to their own venom. This could be the best shot we have to making an antidote."
Casey stared at the creatures for a moment, her eyes widening. "Get some more drugged meat," she ordered.
Roger hurried off, returning quickly with the sedative-filled meat. Casey took it and threw it into the room. The creatures dove for the food, eating ravenously. Within five minutes they had all eaten and were starting to drift off as the sedative took effect. When she was sure they were all safely asleep Casey opened the door and grabbed one of them.
"Should we contact Burt?" Roger asked as she carried the Snat towards the area of the lab where she would attempt to make the antidote.
"No," Casey replied as she hurriedly grabbed her supplies. "Not yet, I want to be sure first."
Roger nodded, helping the red-haired scientist set up.
The next several hours were spent testing, trying, testing, trying, and testing. Because of the presence of Mixmaster they had to figure out how to take it out without completely rearranging the antibodies and ruining the whole thing. The evolutionary drug only affected the next generation but they didn't want to risk it spreading or some other unforeseen problem.
Finally, they got something that worked. Casey held the vial in her hand nervously.
"You think this will work?" she asked.
"I think," Roger started and paused, "We are running out of time and if this doesn't work, nothing will. It's our best chance," he said honestly.
"Right," Casey quickly filled a needle with the antidote and went to Nancy's side. She took a deep breath. "Well, here goes nothin'."
"... And then they leave off on an important part to keep the reader interested," Rosalita was explaining to Jodi as Burt entered Changs'.
"Wait and the story just ends that way? Is there a sequel to it or what?" Jodi asked.
"Most of the time," Rosalita shrugged. "Sometimes they just 'leave it open' in case they ever want to go back to it. But that usually causes 'fan riots'."
Burt looked at the two in confusion. "Did I miss something?"
"Yes," Jodi answered. "Would you like some coffee?"
He looked between the two women, obviously confused. "...Sure..."
The store owner poured him a cup of coffee and set it down on the counter. "There ya go. Don't suppose you've heard from Casey or Roger today yet?"
"Not yet," Burt shook his head. "Where are Tyler and Larry?" he asked, changing the subject. "Shadow, too? Haven't seen him much lately."
"He's been roaming around Cletus' place," Jodi told him. "Tyler says he feels guilty for letting those whitecoats take him away when he had been trying so hard to keep all of us safe. I think that's where they're at now."
"I wonder where those whitecoats ran off to, anyway," Burt growled.
"Maybe we'll find out someday," Jodi murmured.
"I hope so," Burt said.
"Anyway," Rosalita said, "Jodi, I was really wondering what exactly happened that had you shipped off to Wisconsin."
"Oh yeah, Larry's mother died of a hidden brain tumor," Jodi explained sadly. "I found him in his trailer so distraught I thought I'd better go with him, for moral support you know. His dad was nice though. A little odd, but nice."
"Wow, so you got to meet his family?" she asked.
"Yeah, and you wouldn't believe their-"
"Burt? Tyler? Whoever, I got some news!" Casey's voice blasted over the radio in excitement.
Burt pulled out his radio as soon as he heard her. "Yeah, Casey, it's Burt. What's wrong?"
"What the heck does 'nothing' mean?" Tyler joined in.
"Exactly what it means," Casey replied. "We found the antidote! We've already given it to Nancy and she's already improving!"
Burt let out a breath of relief. "That's great," he said into the radio. "How much has she improved?"
"Well, technically not by much, she's still unconscious and her pulse is still weaker than it should be but it strengthened quite a bit,"Casey admitted, calming down slightly. "She's not out of the woods yet but I think it's safe to say she's going to make it."
Rosalita took the radio from Burt. "Do you have any idea when she'll wake up?" she asked.
"Probably not 'til tomorrow but she might wake up earlier."
Burt took the radio back. "Okay, thanks Casey. Keep us posted. Burt out."
"This is great!" Jodi's face lit up.
Burt nodded with a small smile.
"Finally we can stop worrying," Rosalita said, looking relieved.
The telephone rang at that moment. Jodi picked up the receiver. "This is Changs', how may I help you?"
"Hello, this is Randall Lewis," a British accent came through the phone. "Is this... Changs' Market?"
"Yes it is. Are you wanting to sign up for the Survival School or Tour?"
"No, I'm calling about the cats," he said. "I was contacted by Mr. Norvel the other day and I would like him to know I would like to take them."
"Oh," Jodi raised her eyebrows in slight surprise. "Um, ok. I'll make sure to tell him."
"I'll be there in three days to pick them up," he added.
"Ok, we'll see you then," Jodi said her goodbyes and hung up. "Well, I guess that solves that problem."
"What was that about?" Burt asked raising an eyebrow curiously.
"That guy Larry was talking about," Jodi said. "He decided to take the Snat Dogs and he's going to come pick 'em up in three days."
Burt nodded. "I wonder where he found someone who wants venomous cats," he mumbled.
Rosalita shrugged. "He's Larry. He finds things."
Jodi gasped and hurried back to sit next to the Latino. "Oh, yeah, that reminds me, I totally have to tell you about their house..."
Next Story: Family members comes pokin' around and a suit causes trouble (as usual).