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hvysmker
February 26th, 2020, 09:16 PM
Ruffie Lionís Quest 3 of 3 [ YA ] 2,900


In Almost Africa, humans capture his family.


Little Ruffie must save them.
------



Ruffie felt better in the morning, after a nice sleep on a human mattress, a full stomach, and a little time. He still, however, had no idea where to search. It seemed like a deadend to the saddened lion cub.





As on that earlier morning, Ruffie woke to the sound of thumping. Doris had been pleased to find a large cache of human kitchen knives, all stacked neatly in a box with the lid loose. She was in one of the smaller rooms, throwing knives at a rough circle Homer drew on one of the warehouse walls, a good forty or fifty feet away and through a small doorway.





Ravena cheered the doe as she made circles and squares of blades, sunk into a plywood inner wall.




Now, those things are worse than stones, Ruffie thought. They could really hurt a guy.




"Bet you can't hit this wooden crate, Doris?" Ravena called, flying above the object. Ravena could see that, from Doris' angle through the doorway, it would be a difficult shot.




"No problem. Get out of the way," Doris whinnied, laughing while setting a knife loose. "Thunk!" it went, into an edge of the crate.




"Hey! Cut it out, out there," came a squeaking cry from inside the box.




Ravena fluttered away and Doris trotted from the smaller room, just as a large rat squeezed out of the crate through a hole in the back.




"Isn't it bad enough that you guys invade my building? Do you have to tear it apart. I've been writing the lease up for you, and ain't even done yet."




"Lease? Your building! What you taking about, rat?" Doris asked.




"Duh, yeah, what she said," from Homer.




"Why for your lease, what else? You seem to be moving in, eating my food, playing with my knives. Do you think that's all for free?" the rat blustered, waving a small cigar around in one hand while holding a ballpoint pen in the other. "I'll call the cops."




"Uh, sorry, Mr. Rat," Doris said, trying to placate the rodent. "What do you charge?"




"One pepperoni pizza a day, per occupant," the rat said, ďplus a five pizza deposit, refundable in crusts as you leave."




"How did you get to own this human building, Mr. Rat?" Ruffie asked, coming over, sensing a welcome break from his grief.




"Well, when the previous owners were arrested they said I could have it," the rat told them, somewhat proudly. He looked up at Ruffie. He was small for a lion, the rodent knew but those sharp feline teeth were still imposing to a rat.




"Uh, maybe I can give you a break, like a free first night, but you have to be gone by ten a.m. checkout time?" the rat suggested.




"What were they arrested for, Mr. Rat?" Doris asked, gently. "And what happened to all the people in the cages?"




"I'll sell you that information for a--"




"Grrrrrrrrr," Ruffie advanced, baring his teeth.




"Ö for nothing, nothing at all, only good will to prospective customers," the rat finished, quivering against the crate.




"Well, idiot, or do I sic my lion on you?" Ravena asked, fluttering to stay at one spot in front of the rodent.




"I feel generous. You guys can pay me later, okay?" the rat asked them, looking dubiously at Ruffie, who was towering over him, glaring down with angry eyes. "Can any of you read human?"




"I can," said Doris. "So don't try to screw us."




The others shook their heads or muttered that they couldn't, which brightened up the rat's grin. Being a city rat, of course he could read and write. He figured he could still make a profit out of the country hicks.




"What happened," he told them, "was that the humans here, the previous owners you understand, were running a people smuggling racket. They'd capture people out in the bush and sell them to zoos and for pets."




"And what about my Mama?" Ruffie growled. "I know she was here?"




"There were a couple of lions here a few days ago," the rat admitted. "One was all bandaged up, with two broken legs, and the other one was, I think, a female." He paused. "But they were shipped out in a truck."




"My Mama," Ruffie growled loudly. "Where did they go? Tell me or I'll bite you, hard."




"Duh, yeah, an I'll stomp on you, too," Homer stomped a foot on the concrete floor.




"I think you'd better tell us, rat," Doris said, sweetly, blinking doe eyes at him.




"Uh, I dunno, but they did leave a lot of papers in the office. Maybe I can find out." the fearful rat looked up at eight angry eyes. "Uh, over there, that door. Okay, uh, follow me, okay?" He cautiously slid along the crate, expecting any moment to be stomped or bitten. Clearing the box, the rat slowly ambled, backwards, toward one of the offices, the others keeping pace. Although Mr. Rat would have liked to run, he knew better.




Homer couldn't fit through the door, but the others followed Mr. Rat into the office.




The place was a mess, papers scattered all over. Although the police had taken certain books and records, they hadn't packed every piece of paper and soda bottle.




The nervous rat and Doris Deer began sorting and reading, looking for any indication as to where the lions had been sent.




***




Meanwhile, hundreds of miles away, two humans were sitting in the office of a small zoo, and talking.




"Now look, Sweetie, you have to do something. The business is not only bankrupt, but in debt to the bank," Mr. Samuels, an accountant, advised his client, Sweetiepie Goodie. "The only reason the bank hasn't foreclosed is that they can't find a buyer yet and don't want to be stuck with a zoo and a bunch of animals to feed." He leafed through official bank paperwork and continued, "Sooner or later, they'll have to do something with it."




"But, what can I do, Mr. Samuels?" the woman asked, slumped down in her chair.




She had, only a month before, inherited the business from her uncle. Now she was not only stuck with a useless property, one deep in debt, but with a dozen formerly wild animals. The only other assets she had were a stock of frozen and dried food for them, that supply going down every day with very little money coming in to replace it.




"You could sell that lovesick rhinoceros?" Mr. Samuels told her. "Her constant whining is driving your few customers away. And those two new lions your uncle bought. Jeez. One has two legs in splints and can't walk, and the other hides from the customers, crying almost as much as the rhino." He shook his head, continuing, "All that despondent noise drives away any paying customers you're lucky enough to lure in here. People pay money to enjoy themselves, not listen to sad animals crying and moaning. You need friendly ones doing tricks."




"They're all trained to do tricks, all but the new lions," Sweetiepie answered. "The rhino does card tricks and can play poker with the tiger brothers. That always attracts customers."




"Sure she does, but not since her boyfriend died. Now all she does is sit there, crying her eyes out."




"She'll get over it eventually. Just give her a little more time."




"Sure, she'll get over it, but not before the bank sells her to the glue factory. She'll make tons of HappyTime Superglue."




"I can't let them make glue out of the poor little girl."




"Then you better find some new acts, or new training for the old ones. I expect the bank to close you up any day now."




Mr. Samuels, a realist, packed up his briefcase, said goodbye, and left a saddened Sweetiepie to suffer alone.




***




"Here it is, I think." Mr. Rat, eyes red from hours of reading human documents, had found a recent billing slip mentioning two lions. It was almost new, and probably the lions the others were looking for. "It says two lions were shipped to another city, over three hundred miles from here. To a place called "Goodie's Zoo."




"How do we get there?" Doris asked. That was an awful long way to walk, especially with a rhinoceros slowing them down and in human territory. She knew there was no way they could do it.




"It ain't all that far," Ravena chirped, "as the raven flies."




"Duh, uh, I can make it. You can all sit on me when you gets tired. I'm strong. I can make it. Okay, huh?" from Homer.




"The cops or the humans would stop you." Mr. Rat shook his head. Although he wanted them off his salvaged property, he was smelling a profit. "I can get you there," he told them. "Just let me think." He knew a smart rat could find some way to get them to that zoo, and make money while doing it.




Mr. Rat made a call to the mouse mafia. Unknown to humans, the mouse mafia is a large criminal organization employing hundreds of thousands of meeses, worldwide.




"Hello, Don Meesio? Alfredo Rat in Almost Niarobi here. Look, I got a problem. Maybe you guys can help me out." He explained how he had to get the companions to the faraway zoo. Then listened. "Of course.... Sixty, forty? .... Fifty, fifty...? You got me by the short-hairs. Okay, thirty, seventy, your favor."




Proud of his intelligence and ingenuity, Mr. Rat went out to talk to the others.




"I got it set up," he told them. "A truck with a human driver will be here tomorrow. It'll take you right to the zoo. You'll have to get in one of these cages, though. It wonít be locked and the truckíll stop for bathroom breaks."




Mr. Rat had set important interspecies matters into motion. After hanging up, Don Meesio called a human associated with his group and explained. The human, an auto thief named Mr. Sinatro, stole a large truck and arranged for another human to drive down to pick up the companions.




When he was finished, Mr. Sinatro drove over to "Goodie's Zoo" to talk to Sweetiepie Goodie.




***




"But, Mr. Sinatro, I don't have the money to pay for new animals. I just don't have it."




"I know, Miss Sweetiepie, which is why I came to you. My boss wants to buy part interest in your zoo. He thinks that with the new animals, one even a talented knife-thrower, you can turn it around and make a good profit for both him and you.




"Our organization, M&M Industries is always looking for good investments. And you do want that poor little lion cub to be reunited with his mama, don't you? Would you leave a young orphaned rhino without a proper home? Alone in the city, he'd only turn to crime and become a hopeless drug addict. Just think how your crying rhino could use a new male for a friend?"




Of course it was an offer Sweetiepie couldn't refuse. She sold part of her business to the mouse mafia's M&M Industries, which brought Ruffie and his companions to the zoo which, in turn became profitable, with everybody living happily ever after.




Once a rifle was designed for Doris, she was in seventh heaven, her shooting exhibitions bringing in thousands of new customers. A side-effect was the many human deer hunters that gave up hunting. It took a much braver hunter to shoot at a deer when it might fire back at him.




Mr. Rat even received enough money to buy his warehouse officially, where he started up his own smuggling business. He now smuggles illegal tobacco into the Almost United States.




The End.

By hvysmker