I guess, to give it a start, it began with the cat.
The rest is backdrop. Setting. Background. This started with the cat and her kittens.
They were totally unanticipated. We were starting another football season. Done in by injuries, my team had finished second, losing in the Superbowl by two stinking points the year before.
Unfortunately, I lost to iBot. He’s the housebot. Thinking I’d be funny and play against casting, iBot has the most masculine personality among the bots. I also made him the most abrasive. So losing to him sucked. iBot isn’t a gracious winner. I guess I should say, wasn’t, since we’re talking about the past.
There were twelve of us, and the eleven bots. Our league was three divisions of four teams each. You played your division opponents twice, and each team out of the other divisions once, for an eleven-game regular season. Then we had the playoffs. Eight teams with the best records squared off.
Cat Day, as iBot officially named it, was the first day of the season. I thought I could take the Lombardi that year. We were playing by the 2030 rules. I had Ben Roethlisberger at QB (my Dad, before he was killed, used to tell me I was a big Roethlisberger fan when I was young), with Franco Harris (Grand Dad’s favorite) in the backfield, Mike Webster at Center (another of Grand Dad’s recommendations) and big Gronk at TE. I’d managed to add Alan Faneca. Wide receivers were Antonio Brown with Larry Fitzgerald in the slot. It was on defense where I’d improved, managing to add Ron Woodson, replacing Sherman, along with Troy Polamalu. I’d had enough money to get the 2010 version of Troy to go along with my 2009 version of James Harrison. I was set.
I’d settled into the Immersion Deck, opening day at Heinz under a gorgeous warm fall day. The crowd was roaring, my beer was cold, and my pizza was hot. TinBot’s Bengals, with Tom Brady under center, was my opponent. TinBot had finished last the previous season. He’d given up a lot to get Brady, although it was old Brady. I expected a good game.
They’d just placed the ball at the twenty when the alarms went off. iBot immediately roared, “Game’s starting. Shut that fucking alarm off.”
Arya said, “It’s an intruder alert. We can’t just turn it off. It must be investigated.”
“You’re fucking security,” iBot said. As Arya said, “I know who I am,” iBot finished, “Get it done, bot.”
“Game pause,” I said, as the only human, and the only one for which an intruder actually mattered. “Delay the starts until the alarm is resolved.”
While every bot except Arya cursed me, I brought up the security monitors. I figured this was a false alarm or malfunction.
“Where is it, Arya?” I said.
The interior cams caught her moving across the domescape. Drones overtook her.
“Don’t know yet, boss,” she said. She carried two weapons. The drones were armed, too. I pitied any intruders Arya might find.
The security net immediately pinpointed a breach back by a drain. That worried me. As the drones closed on the grassy place beneath a big black oak tree and hovered, their cameras picked up the cat.
“A cat,” I said.
“Yeah, we all have fucking eyes,” iBot said. “Thanks for the news report, egghead”
Protecting three kittens, the cat looked unafraid and ready to fight. The kittens looked like they were just a day or two old.
Arya arrived on the scene. She had her weapons ready. “Instructions,” she said.
“Nuke ’em,” iBot said. “The game’s waiting. Kill them and let the games begin.”
“No,” I said.
I had no need for a cat and kittens. I’m not an animal lover. I have livestock but that’s because I eat real food.
But I saw no reason to kill the cats. She looked like my first girlfriend’s cat. The girlfriend was Joy. The cat was Snuffy. Snuffy was male, though.
A cat with kittens in my sanctuary sowed a shitload of questions that required answers. Besides the breach, her presence meant something was going on outside of my fortress. Plus, being in the dome was one thing, but how had even reached it was almost as critical.
Shit. I didn’t say it, but I thought it about nine times in a row. I wasn’t going to start the football season that day. Not until I knew what the hell had happened to my security and what was going outside of my fortress.
So, see, that’s the day everything changed.
On Cat Day.