I never really meant to get involved in police work. It just sort of happened. I didn't mean to get involved with super heroes either, but that just sort of happened too. I've noticed that a lot of things just sort of happen to me. Maybe it's fate. Maybe it's because I'm sort of unique that unique things happen around me. Maybe it's because I like to stick my nose (not to mention the rest of me) into things that perhaps I shouldn't. It's got me killed once so far.

Let me explain, and then you tell me what you think. First off, my name is Robert. Under no circumstances ever call me 'Bob'. I don't like it, and I won't answer to it. I've been called many things in my life, but my name is Robert. Robert the Cat.

In case you hadn't noticed, I am a cat. A lot bigger than most, but still your average domestic tabby. On the outside anyway. I figure I'm a lot different on the inside. But it's not like I've ever had a cat scan. Cat scan. Get it? It's a joke.

Well first off, the obvious. I'm sentient. Which is a word that means I'm capable of feeling. I'm also intelligent, moderately charming, good looking and an absolute freak of nature.

Intelligence was something that sorta creeped up on me. Lots of animals can recognize verbal commands. Those idiot police dogs have it down to a science. I hear that monkeys or gorillas or such can communicate by sign language. But me, one day I suddenly recognized my name. I knew when my family said "Robert" they meant me and nobody else. Then I picked up things like "No" and "Here kitty kitty" and "Down" and my personal favorite "Tuna". Nothing too drastic.

But in my first home, the kids had their own TV and what they mostly watched was cartoons. Now strange as it seems, I've always liked cartoons. Bright colorful characters doing impossible things. Lots of repeats, so you see the same things over and over again. And hear the same words. And by the time I was two, the words started making sense.

I couldn't talk worth a damn, but I'd have matched my vocabulary against any four year old human. Then I learned about letters and words and reading and there was no turning back. I started following the girl kid, Missy, to school and snuck into a classroom heating duct so I could get myself an education.

If the hamster hadn't looked so delicious, they would have never caught me. But I'm a carnivore, I won't apologize for it and I'd left home without eating one day. So while I was trying to figure out how to score lunch, I got busted by this scary looking evil witch step-mother type. You know, the kind of teacher who makes learning such a chore that they do permanent damage. Missy got in trouble for bringing me to school even though she'd had nothing to do with it.

She got in more trouble the second time I got caught, and thus the connection between me getting caught and there being trouble was forged in my mind. So I made sure not to get caught again. They had to replace the hamster six times that year. And old witchface never did figure it out.

It took the fact that I'd become intelligent to figure out that other animals, except in cartoons, weren't. For a while I thought all cats were like me. Which would be kind of nice. Then I'd started noticing some of the physical differences. I didn't stop growing until I was four, and when I did, I was as big as some dogs. Most cats use posts to sharpen their claws. I use tree trunks. My front toes are longer in proportion than a normal cat's. This means I can pick up things and hold them. I'm not very good at it, even now, but for someone without an opposable thumb I do pretty well. I can drink milk from a coffee cup if I'm careful. And no, it doesn't give me diarrhea.

Most healthy cats can run 30 miles an hour for short sprints. I've cracked 60. Can't hold it for long, but I can do it. Also, did you know that other cats can't see in color like I do? Quite the shock when I found that out. Plus, I've seen cats crouch and jump to the top of a five foot fence. I clear twenty feet without trying hard. And that's without using my powers.

Yeah I said powers. I don't know how, I don't know why, but there's this thing I do called 'blurring'. I'm in one place, I crouch down and wiggle my tush a bit and then 'blur' I'm up to two hundred feet away. Very useful for escaping angry fish vendors after you've got their catch of the day between your teeth. Hurts my eyes a bit, but there has to be a downside somewhere.

Where was I? Oh yeah, I'm four years old and I've figured out that I'm not like other cats. I hear the word "mutant" on TV. I knock the dictionary off the shelf, paw through until I get to the N's and then backtrack to the word "mutant". It's a newer dictionary, so it includes "generic term for any person possessing meta-human talents, regardless of origin" as one of the definitions.

I read this, check out a few more things and realize that they are definitely talking about me. Sure, I may be a cat, but I'm a mutant cat. So I start watching more news programs and fewer cartoons. (I figured out remote controls pretty early. Still can't set a DVR though.) Some people like mutants or meta-humans or whatever term you prefer, but more people hate them. I don't like the thought of being hated just because I exist. It bothers me. Hate me for shredding your leather jacket. Hate me for missing the litter box. Hate me for clawing the crap out of your annoying little Pekingese after it tried to bite me. But don't hold the fact I exist against me. I didn't ask to be put on this planet, but I'll be damned if I'm leaving voluntarily.

Now I'm going to skip ahead a couple years here. So you're not going to hear about me learning to talk. Stuff happened and it's not the kind of stuff I like to talk about. It wasn't pleasant, and too many good people died. But afterwards, I met Max Sanderson and for reasons that I still don't understand, he took me in. Me, a forty five pound bundle of fur and claws that eats as much protein as he does.

Max is that rarest of creatures, an honest cop. He'd done a stretch in the Army, and when he got out, decided to attend the Police Academy. He works SWAT as both a sniper and a point assault specialist. Has the name "Miranda" tattooed on his right fist across the knuckles. I thought it was the name of a former mate until I finally figured out the joke.

Since he takes care of me, I decided I'd take care of him. Now, I can't shoot a gun or anything like that, but I can and do watch Max's back on occasion. My fur is dark enough that I'm almost invisible at night. My night vision is sharp enough to catch the slightest motion. I can hear things that humans can't and I don't make a sound when I move on my big cat feet. I've saved Max's life twice with timely warnings in the last five years. Since he doesn't know I can talk, he doesn't know it's me. I don't think he would mind having a freak for a pet, but why take unnecessary chances?

When I was eight, Max chose his current mate. I like Tomoeh, she's always willing to scratch behind my ears and she likes cartoons almost as much as I do. Now if I only understood Japanese, life would be perfect. Not purrfect, as that would be a really bad pun.

She's a police detective and since she's part of the family, I try to do nice things for her too. Mostly call in anonymous drug tips to her office. I don't bother with marijuana anymore, it's too prevalent, but I do have a nose for opium. It's gotten to the point where there is a police file someplace that lists me as "an extremely reliable source". I've read it. Of course, the opium cartel has seen this file too and if they ever figure out that a cat has been screwing with their heads for the last few years, I'm one dead kitty. Again. Long story, don't ask.

Oh, the super hero thing. A couple years back, there's this warehouse and I'm getting in place because there's a drug bust about to go down with Max on point. It wasn't even one I'd called in. But as I'm finding a nice rafter to watch from, I spot these guys creeping in through the ventilation system.

Oddly enough, I recognize them from the news reports as the hero group Challengers. I don't know why they're there, but I think I should keep an eye on them. Turns out the guy responsible for the drug lab had made some sort of... what's the word? Mutagen. Which meant that some people who took the stuff were developing weird powers that killed them after a few minutes of use. Don't know whether it was intentional, don't really care. But the good guys were there to put a stop to it.

Let's just say there was a big fight. And that Challengers almost lost before the mutates burned out. And that a great big blue guy who I had thought was dead suddenly pops up behind Tach. Now he was busy pumping an antidote into Sidearm before she burned out from the mutagen stuff. She was out cold, so Tach is about to get blind-sided. I shout "Look out!" at the same instant that he launches a back kick into the big blue guy's stomach.

Apparently, Tach is pissed off, cause he wipes the floor with big blue in about 18 seconds. The antidote must of worked because Sidearm stopped glowing. I thought I was free and clear until I was suddenly pulled from my perch and floated down in front of Tach. He can do that.

"You. You called out the warning," he says with absolutely no doubt in his voice.

I answer "Meow", figuring it's worth a shot.

"Don't $&#* with me. What are you, a shape-shifter? If they did this to you, there's a still a chance we can cure you before you die."

My instincts clash for a moment. Tach has a pretty good rep, so wanting to avoid being injected with the cure for a condition I don't have, I say, "Sorry, I was born this way. And just for your information, the cops are scheduled to be here any minute."

Tach puts me down and we both Houdini out of there, Tach and Sidearm taking their wounded with them. I swear to god, Sidearm scoops FreeFall up into a fireman's carry and hauls him up two flights of stairs by herself and FreeFall weighs a good 220 pounds.

Later, just for curiosity's sake, I track down Tach. I ain't going to say how. Don't want to give away too much. We talk, and now sometimes I help out him or his team when something comes up that my talents are particularly suited for. Besides, Sidearm always feeds me when I stop by. That and they have phones I call in tips from that I don't have to worry about being traced back. Tach -owns- NYNEX. It all works out.

So. Is it fate or am I just too nosy for my own good?

END

Updated Author's notes: All characters appearing in this story belong to Warren Phillips. All rights reserved.

A while back I wrote a Ranma 1/2 crossover with my own super hero universe. Robert the Cat made a brief appearance in the story. I'm sure you can guess Ranma's reaction.

As time went on, I wrote a series of these pieces that allowed the reader to meet some of the people (and other creatures) that Ranma ran into. As well as some that he didn't that are still part of the background of that universe.

Since the stories weren't part of the crossover, I put them in the Original Superheroes section at ff dot net. Which has since been closed down in a move that was either way overdue or completely unnecessary, depending on one's viewpoint. So this, and the other stories, are over at fp dot com in the manga section.

However, the Ranma crossover stories, "Chosen Path" and "Choices Made, Roads Taken", will be staying in the Crossovers section of ff dot net. Any new material will be posted on the appropriate website as it is completed. I apologize for any inconvenience.

Ghost in the Machine