Saturday, 18 January 2014

The Cat Food Crisis 2: Cat Food Conflict

Thanks to my cousin James' clever brain, the Cat Food Crisis continues! This will make much more sense if you first read the original Cat Food Crisis (chapter 1 | 2 | 3). Much excitement ahead for our doggy heroes...

P A R T   O N E

It was a breezy and bright sunny day on the farm. Sheila, Pip and new dog Teddy were running around the fields on this good day but surprisingly, the most bouncy, crazy and excitable dog wasn’t there: Ben that brown and white Sprollie.

He lazily sat in his kennel gazing at the sun, hearing his tummy groan. “Must not eat more Kitty Nibbles...” he groaned.  Those delicious Kitty Nibbles he’d eaten a few days ago had made him unwell. He remembered the day when Pip, with Jack and his assistance, stopped that small dog Fifi (AKA Miss Snugly Squeak Fifi the Third) and her attempts to wipe out dog food as we know it with Kitty Nibbles, chicken flavour. Mmm... chicken flavour, my favourite, thought Ben. So delicious but ugh... Ben fell into a deep sleep.

Eventually, Ben woke up. He yawned and then squinted. Something was different about this place, he thought. This isn’t my kennel, and where were the other dogs? He looked around at these unfamiliar surroundings. There was little to no sound. The room had steel floors and a wall that had triangle shaped mirrors. Cameras were dotted all over the room.  Ben gazed, confused at this weird place.

“It’s big isn’t it, sir?” said a strange voice with a very posh accent. The sound of a small piece of paper hitting the floor. That British accent. What was going on?

Ben’s head quickly turned in shock. “Where am I?” he asked fearfully to this stranger. It was a British bulldog, like in the car insurance adverts that the boss always watched. He was quite wide and medium sized with a white coat with a blotch of dark brown on his back. He also had small black eyes and small rose type ears. On his right eye was a monocle and on his head, was a tiny black bowler hat which looked like it was about to fall off. On his collar was a small black microphone, barely visible unless you took a closer look and a three digit number, 564. This stranger spoke in a very posh, polite way.

“We’re a top secret organisation. I suppose you want to know why you are here. We read of your amazing progress in stopping that vile Kitty Nibbles cat food (Kitty Nibbles, vile?), specifically chicken flavour. I....”

The dog stopped and watched as Ben drooled on that spotless floor. “Oh Kitty Nibbles. Give me! Give me! I want some of those Kitty Nib...”  He pounced towards the bulldog excitedly, barely able to control himself.

Ben then looked up at the slightly annoyed face of the stranger. “Ahem. I mean, ugh Kitty Nibbles, chicken flavour, so disgusting!” Ben said quietly, feeling slightly embarrassed and ignoring the drool.

“Don’t worry, 897 will clean it later,” muttered the stranger calmly but now slightly irritated. He then activated his collar’s microphone by barking into it, before saying a three number code and then proceeding to speak.

“Can 897 please report to Floor Zero? That’s 897, Floor Zero.”

“I am 897. Coming as soon as possible, over,” was the reply.

Ben grinned cheesily. “You all have numbers for names.”

“Oh that,” said the stranger wryly. “That’s classified.”

“Really?” Ben said excitedly.

“No, actually. All members of the Classified Dog Secret Investigation And Detective Group have codes. Yours is 893. Mine is 564.”

The stranger walked on. “Wait!” said Ben, who was very, very excited. “What is your name? Oh and do you have any Kitty Nibbl... I mean, eh.... gadgets. This looks like some top secret place.”

“My, you are a smart one,” said the stranger with a slight hint of sarcasm. “I’m Albert, a member of the Classified Dog Secret Investigation And Detective Group or CDSIADG for short.”

“That’s not short,” said Ben, observing.

“Oh gah! WHY EM OHH.....!” said Albert, briefly losing his temper. “OK. Look, SIR, I am to explain to you how we operate IF you will listen.”

“Go ahead,” Ben said enthusiastically. “I’m all ears.”

And mouth, Albert thought. “We are CDSIASG and ever since we were formed...”

Ben was trying very hard to listen but was so, so tired. Boy he would love a KONG toy or his chicken dog food. He sat daydreaming about headless chickens dancing in a field which was made of delicious Kitty Nibbles. Mmmm... Kitty Nibbles, all while Albert was explaining the details politely. Eventually Ben tried to listen, not distracted. Unfortunately this happened just as Albert mentioned something about a rogue member in the group and he then finished his description before asking, “Any SENSIBLE Questions, Sir Ben?” while staring at Ben, suspicious. There was an awkwardly long pause.

Think Ben think! Umm, must say something, Ben thought. “Um, AHEM, Albert, uh...”

“Yes,” Albert said, giving Ben a slightly angry stare with his eyes squarely focused.

“Why do you wear a hat?”

“That...” sighed Albert, “is classified...” He then explained, “Look all you need to know is that there’s a double agent within the ranks of this group somewhere. It could be anyone. We think that they are linked in some way to Kitty Nibbles with a plan to replace all dog food with the stuff. You helped foil the plot last time and, well, we think you can do it again. You are to look around our premises and track down the double agent. You’ve a microphone on your collar so talk to me if you see anything. To talk to me, say ‘microphone’ and then the number. It will call up the animal you requested.”

“Just one more thing,” said Ben. “Why did you kidnap me?”

“We were worried you wouldn’t accept our challenge. My apologies, sir,” replied Albert solemnly.

Ben looked blank for a new seconds. What just happened? Still, this should be fun, he thought.
He then cheered up a bit. “Will there be cool gadgets and stuff?” he asked enthusiastically.

“But you have one.” Albert responded.

“Oh, yeah,” Ben said goofily, remembering what had just been explained.

“Anyway, you will have to go to Tiddles, number 698 to discuss finding the culprit. Goodbye.” Albert shuffled out of the room noisily, dragging his broad figure along.

Ben followed Albert of the room and stared at the long hall which seemed to stretch into the horizon. The walls were baby blue and had several doors. The floor was carpeted in a dark blue colour and there were pictures of clean, happy dogs in white backgrounds (all framed) scattered all over the walls. Positioned on the top of the walls were 3D projectors beaming images below. Ben noticed, looking puzzled. There were dogs everywhere, walking and talking about the day’s events and for some reason, the number 12 kept coming up. Ben overheard this and wondered what the number was all about. And where was this creature?

P A R T   T W O

“Microphone,” Ben spoke, “698.”

“Yes,” was the fuzzy reply. “Sorry I can’t make you out very well. Where are you?”

Ben searched with his eyes squared frantically for a sign. “Aha,” be beamed triumphantly, “I’m in the Main Hallway.”

“OK, are you the Sprollie near the Interrogation Room by any chance?”

Ben looked briefly behind him, seeing the doorless room and noting the sign. “Yes.”

“OK, I’m coming.”

Within seconds, the animal arrived. And surprise of surprises, it was a cat! And a male one. Jet black in colour and with beaming green eyes, the cat was average in size and height. Ben looked unsurprised, thinking of the name.

“Hi,” he blurted out. “Do you know where the Kitty Nibbles are kept?”

“Meow. Me speak no English,” the cat replied enigmatically in a high pitched tone.

“Hmmm.” Ben was in deep thought for literally twenty seconds, thinking deeply about the matter. “I like Kitty Nibbles,” he admitted suddenly as if this was the biggest secret in the history of every dog on Earth.

“Yes...” the cat responded with a short pause. “So you’re Ben. I see you do not yet have a number. Hmm. I shall to tell Albert to sort out this matter.” The cat spoke in a dignified and pronounced professor-like way. “Anyhow, I’m Tiddles. Nice to meet you.”

“I’m Ben,” Ben said cheerfully. A thought then crossed his mind quickly. “Wait, you’re a cat and this is the Classified Dog Secret Investigation And Detective Group. Why are you here?”

“Oh, I get that a lot. The government passed a ruling that this organisation must hire at least one cat for balance.”

“I see...”

“Right, Ben, we think there are several places where we must do our research about Kitty Nibbles. The first is the pound shop on Medley Road where they sell Kitty Nibbles Tuna flavour and Farmer Joe’s Ye Olde Diced Beef, the second most popular value dog food brand in the country. Due to rumours we’ve heard, we believe these two products may be the same. To test these claims you will buy both brands and take them back to our building for testing. We’ve equipped you with a coin pouch to buy these items. Oh, and bring Pip too. We’ll get her a microphone collar. Good luck.” Tiddles strolled away quickly, continuing down the long hallway. Ben followed, heading towards the entrance where he then exited.

Ben returned to the farm where his doggy pals were still playing. Having just been made aware of a top secret organisation he decided to be secretive himself. “Pssst,” he said from where he was hiding in the hedge. “Pip!”

Thankfully Pip had keen hearing, though not as good as Sheila’s. Pip cautiously approached the hedge with her ears pricked, and Ben stuck his nose out of the hedge and into view. “Ben? What are you doing?” she asked.

“Shh!” he hissed. With a quick glance back at the other dogs who were engrossed in a game of tag, Pip sneaked into the hedge. The branches pulled at her fur and decided that she didn’t like hedges any more. “Pip, I’ve been kidnapped by a top secret organisation and they want me to go buy Kitty Nibbles for them,” Ben blurted out.

Pip blinked. Then she sighed. “Ben, it’s OK to want Kitty Nibbles. So long as you manage your intake—”

“It’s true. Will you come with me?”

Coming back minutes later with Pip they went on to the high street where ‘Pound Deals 4 You’ was situated. The smell of freshly made muffins and pastries from the nearby bakery wafted through the air, causing a hunger sensation for all who passed by. Ben and Pip took it in happily before passing it to approach the pound shop.

‘Pound Deals 4 You’ was situated just two shops away from the Medley Street joke shop where Pip and Ben had found Dane. It was large in size, covering much more space than the joke shop. Posters covered the glass windows with bold slogans: ‘3 for £1 On All Instant Brussels Sprouts tins’, ‘3 For £1 Baked Beans’ and ‘New DVDs – Only £1!’ They were very striking to look at, as was the red and yellow sign.

Ben and Pip walked into the shop. “Right, so we’re looking for Kitty Nibbles and Farmer Joe’s Ye Olde Diced Beef?” Pip enquired.

“That’s right,” replied Ben happily, daydreaming about delicious Kitty Nibbles-chicken flavour! Ben drooled a lot all over the floor as they walked slowly around the store leaving a large trail of drool.

Then, a short bald man with a blonde moustache who was pushing a wheeled cleaning bucket the bucket in the opposite direction stopped to examine the drool thoroughly. “Ah nuts... stupid kids,” he muttered grumpily to himself as he quickly grabbed his mop and started cleaning. “Think happy thoughts...” he mumbled inaudibly in a rough, deep voice before coughing heavily.

Eventually, the dogs came across the pet aisle. There was cat food and collars, dog chew toys and of course, dog food. And there it was: Farmer Joe’s Ye Olde Diced Beef in small plastic dog food bags (3 for £1) and Kitty Nibbles Tuna flavour (also in a pouch) conveniently enough, right beside each other.

“Mmmmmm.. Food! Food! FOOOD!” Ben burst into excitement at the sight of all this dog (and cat) food. He then calmed down.  “Ahem.” He then apologised.

“There it is,” said Pip. “We just need one tin. I’ll carry this Diced Beef pouch and you carry that Kitty Nibbles pouch.”

While doing that, Ben grabbed a small bag of Kitty Nibbles Tuna flavour and after paying with his pouch (and thanks to the cashier taking the coins of it) they were on their way. Pip and Ben thought many things but the main thing on Pip and Ben’s minds was were Kitty Nibbles Tuna flavour and Diced Beef dog food linked? And who and where was this double agent?

P A R T   T H R E E

Ben and Pip arrived back with the food bags which they took to the lab. On the way Pip noted the state of the art 3D, HD projectors positioned on the walls everywhere, in every room and area as they hustled and bustled through the seemingly massive crowds, who weirdly, were in the same place, saying the same things and doing the same things. Albert and Tiddles were waiting outside the lab patiently.

“Albert, why are there projectors all over the walls?” enquired Pip curiously, her and Ben briefly putting down the food.

“Well, Pip, the simple answer is they are there for show,” said Albert proudly.

“It seems like an awful waste to have them there doing nothing,” replied Pip.

“Well, they have their uses...” Albert responded quickly.

“Anyway...” butted in Tiddles, “We are going to do some VERY scientific tests on this Diced Beef dog food to see if it’s the same as Kitty Nibbles.”

They all then walked into the lab.

Tiddles proceeded to open both pouches, putting one paw on the pouch and opening it with his teeth. He then sniffed it. “Phew... That stinks,” he gasped briefly, before emptying the food into two separate small silver bowls.

Then, out of nowhere came the loud “Raise the alarm!” shout from Albert. Tiddles ran over to the alarms before looking at the selection available. Missing Chew, Fire alarm and Lab Assistance. While the first two alarms were simple buttons on the wall, Lab Assistance was operated like a low set toilet light switch set about 30cm above the ground with it having to be pulled to raise the alarm. Tiddles pawed the thick string switch, eyes focused like a dart on the string, constantly pawing it making the string move back and forth. He purred happily until there was an interruption from Albert.

“Ahem,” Albert said quietly. He then coughed quite loudly. “Tiddles, pull the string.”

Tiddles’s head then quickly turned. “Oh sorry, I was a bit... distracted.”

He then pulled the alarm with his clawed foot.

Out of nowhere, an invisible door opened and a very small terrier with a grey beard, a long nose and a mostly black coat with white and tan patches came in, heading towards the food.

The terrier then proceeded to the Kitty Nibbles Tuna Flavour. “The name’s Twinkle. That’s tuna flavour,” she muttered. She then sniffed it before trying a sample and chewing it slowly and thoughtfully. “Tastes very... tuna-ish.” She then chewed the Diced Beef Dog food. “Odd,” she mumbled. “It... it tastes just the same.”

“It tastes just the same?” questioned Albert in a clear, booming voice. “Why, this could affect thousands, even millions of dogs in the country.”

Suddenly, before anyone could reply the fire alarm went off.

“Evacuate the building!” Albert bellowed loudly, over the sound of the incredibly loud alarm. “Ben and Pip, you go outside. We’ll stay behind.”

Ben and Pip dashed out and ran along the seemingly burning hallway before Pip stopped quickly. Ben ran on a little. “Wait Ben! Pip shouted loudly. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

Ben then stopped in a flash.  “Yes!” he replied excitedly. “WE LEFT BEHIND THE KITTY NIBBLES! NOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!”

“No, I was thinking why are Albert, Tiddles and Twinkle staying if the building’s on fire?” Pip replied before pausing to take a closer look at the fire. Burning on the sides of the floor was an orange flame making crackling noises and above it was a bunch of projectors which WERE on. Pip then had a Eureka moment. Wait, wait. The flames aren’t warm and fire SHOULD be warm. It even looks fake AND the projectors are on. Clearly this was a hoax. “Ben!” Pip exclaimed. “The fire in the building is fake! It’s coming from all the projectors up above which are displaying a video of fire!”

“OK,” said Ben. “Can I have my Kitty Nibbles now?”

“Not now!” Pip responded, exasperated. “We need to see what Albert and Tiddles are doing. Follow me!”

Ben and Pip sprinted back to the lab, retracing their steps along the way. The lab had a see through door and both dogs looked through it. “They’re still there. We should stay and watch them,” said Pip. And watch they did.

Then, a few seconds later they saw the three dogs walking into a room inside the lab. The door had a cat flap and was white, just like the walls in the lab.  The dogs then proceeded to walk in before the dog closed. Pip was relieved her and Ben hadn’t been spotted.

“Ben,” she whispered. “Let’s sneak.”

Ben nodded back. Pip nudged one of the double doors open with her nose and proceeded, while Ben did the same. Inside they saw none of the dogs inside the lab and yet another door which Albert and Tiddles were probably in. They heard the voices as if they were not so distant.

“Ben,” whispered Pip, “it’s time to do stealth.”

P A R T   F O U R

Ben and Pip looked at the lab. It was barren and empty. On the walls were projectors with videos of fire convincingly placed on the walls and floor. There was a normal table with wide, short stools that the dogs could sit on to teach the table. On the table were test tubes, some papers and a photo of a familiar looking Chihuahua with brindle fur and the handwritten signature ‘Fifi’. In the background in the nearby room inside the lab was the sound of chatter and much evil laughter.

Ben then saw the two opened dog and cat food pouches on the floor. “Kitty Nibbles!” he whispered excitedly to himself and before you know it, there was a large drool puddle.

Pip saw this, looking disgusted. “Eww, Ben,” she said quietly.

“Sorry,” Ben responded.

Near the left wall in the corner was a desk facing the right wall. It was long, about five metres, and had had about five large touch screen monitors all connected to big button keyboards with big button mice. On the screens were grainy motionless black and white videos of rooms in which nothing seemed to happen: CCTV.

Ben, with his tingling Sprollie senses noticed this and whispered loudly to Pip. Pip then came over. “Well done Ben. Let’s see which room Albert and Tiddles are in.” They both stared closely into the black and white screens, scanning for details, until Pip noticed something. “Is that a production line?” she questioned, squinting. It was a production line, she discovered. She pawed the screen to get a bigger picture.

On the production line there were no dogs, unlike last time, just a bunch of robots and machines doing things. There was a tin cutter machine, opening the tins of Diced Beef dog food and another opening Kitty Nibbles Tuna flavour. It was very clear to see. They then proceeded down the production where the food was swapped before being scooped into the tins, then sealed again and branded their separate brands. It was a fascinating sight. Ben pawed the screen with this video stream twice to zoom in. It was true.

Ben then pawed the large ‘back’ button and saw a menu with various weird confusing icons. He then pawed at the screen in a hope that they would start to make some sort of sense. A loading bar suddenly appeared and the computer lagged, the screen momentarily freezing with the loading bar half full.

Pip and Ben exchanged glances. Then the bar on the screen jumped into motion again, only millimetres from the end. Pip frowned. The bar reached the end at last, and the screen gained a red hue.

“SHUT-DOWN SEQUENCE INITIATED,” the speakers all around them blared. Sprinklers went off.

“W-what was that?” asked Pip.

The two dogs ran from the lab, red lights flashing all around them, splashing through the water. Ben grabbed an unopened, but now soaked pouch of Kitty Nibbles between his teeth as he passed. The production line ceased to a halt but the double door was automatically locked.

Ben and Pip stood right beside the door drenched, staring at some very familiar faces.

“I might have known,” said the familiar, quietly spoken English voice of Albert the British Bulldog. Alongside him stood Tiddles the cat, Fifi the Chihuahua and Twinkle.

“What should we do with them boss?” questioned Tiddles.

“Well,” said Fifi, “The food’s wasted. You dogs are off the hook this time but I will have my REVENGE and set up the production line somewhere else and the EVERYONE will be eating Kitty Nibbles Tuna flavour whether they know it or not. MWAHAHAAHHAHAHAHAHA!”

“But why would you invite us around to this building when your scheme could have gone on without problems?” Pip inquired, annoyed.

“Well,” said Fifi pausing briefly to think. “I like to keep my friends close and my enemies even closer. MWAHAHAAHAHAHHAHAHA!” she burst into evil laughter.

“Also,” continued Pip, “that fire wasn’t real because the sprinklers would have went off.”

“Correct,” replied Fifi.

“Can we go now?” Ben mumbled with the food pouch in his mouth.

“Oh, sure...” said Fifi, “and I will soon see you again...” she whispered sinisterly.

And soon, Ben and Pip left the building.

Fifi then turned to Albert, grinning. “This is only just the beginning... Fetch you know who.”

T H E   E N D . . .   O R   I S   I T ?

WRITTEN BY JAMES ::: EDITED BY RUTH

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