Interlude 16 – Alarm Bells
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=::= Kaylee's PoV =::=

"What do you suppose that's all about?" Paige asked as she looked over her shoulder.

I was already staring at the strange scene playing out behind her in a corner of the cafeteria. I shook my head, not that she could see it, and replied "No idea."

From the look of it, a couple students were confronting my former girlfriend about something. What made it strange was the two students in question were a a tiny catgirl and an equally tiny bunnygirl.

The catgirl was new to me, I'd never seen one before. And the only one I knew about worked at the same grocery store as Melanie and Cerys. Something told me this was a different catgirl though, since I recalled Melanie saying the one she worked with was a silver tabby. And the wolfgirl never mentioned anything about her coworker being so small.

The catgirl who was currently glaring at Cassandra had dark blonde hair and beige fur on her ears and tail. And she stood well under five feet tall, though I was positive she was our age. I'd guess she was probably in grade eleven or twelve.

On the other hand the bunnygirl was not new to me. I figured almost everyone in school knew who Kenzie was by now, although I was positive most of the other students assumed her ears were some sort of costume she insisted on wearing. And of course everyone in Club Luna knew who she was, since her appearance last June kicked off the chain of events that ultimately led to Cass getting hospitalized and Miss Hawthorne leaving us.

After watching for a few moments Paige commented, "You know what's weird about this? I don't think I've ever seen anyone get upset with Cass before."

Rather than comment on that I suggested, "Maybe we should get involved? Odds are whatever's going on there involves magic, and that's not the sort of thing they should be discussing where other students might overhear."

"What makes you think they're talking about magic?" Paige asked as she turned to face me again.

I explained quietly, "The only way we know of for people to turn into catgirls is with those plush toys from last June right? Cass was a big supporter of those things, and she's friends with Kenzie? Now a new catgirl turns up at school who also seems to be friends with Kenzie, and she's mad at Cass about something? They have to be talking about those magic plushies, or magic in general."

"That sounds like a stretch Kaylee," she replied with a frown. "But I suppose we better check on them just in case. Or to see if Cass needs some help."

Both Paige and I stuffed our uneaten lunches into our backpacks, then headed across the cafeteria towards Cass and the two small demi-humans. As we approached I could hear a few things they were saying, but it seemed like they were at least putting in some effort to keep their voices down.

"...not what I wanted!" the catgirl hissed. Her ears were folded back and her tail was twitching around in irritation.

Cassandra looked calm and relaxed as she munched on a bite of her sandwich. After swallowing she replied with a shrug, "Then you should have been more specific yesterday."

"I'm being specific now!" the catgirl hissed with a glare. "I need this fixed, and fixed properly this time!"

"Whats going on?" Paige asked as the two of us moved to stand next to the two demi-humans. "Anything we can help with?"

My former girlfriend shook her head, "I doubt it. May as well do the introductions though? These are Paige and Kaylee, a couple of my friends."

She gestured at the bunnygirl and catgirl as she continued, "You both know Kenzie, and this is her sister Kirstie."

"I'm not her sister!" Kirstie insisted as her tail twitched angrily. "I'm her -"

Paige and I exchanged a worried glance as the catgirl cut herself off. Whatever she was about to say, she seemed to have thought better of it.

The catgirl was clearly unhappy and upset about something, and I couldn't help thinking about the argument me and Cass had back in June over those plush toys. I realized that Kirstie could be that 'one unhappy person' we'd argued about back then. She'd obviously used one of those toys and turned into a catgirl, and now she was upset about it. All that remained was to help her change back.

"This sounds like something we need to be involved in," I told Paige. Then I looked at the two demi-humans and my former girlfriend and added, "And I think we all need to move this conversation somewhere private."

The catgirl turned her frown on me and stated, "I agree we need to talk with Cassandra in private, but I don't see how you kids can help. Why don't you two go finish your lunch or something?"

Paige looked like she wasn't sure what to do. She hesitated a second or two before asking, "Cass what's going on here?"

"I had a friend help Kirstie with a few problems," she replied calmly. "Except Kirstie wasn't clear how she wanted them solved, and now she's unhappy with the solution my friend picked for her."

"What kind of problems?" I asked. "How did your friend solve them? And who's the friend? Or are you talking about Nina?"

The catgirl sounded exasperated as she stated, "She was supposed to help me with new ID, and sort things out with my job so nobody would question my new appearance when I went back to work! Only -"

"That's not what you asked for," Cass interrupted. "You wanted your ID fixed and your work problem 'taken care of'. That's what you asked for, and that's what I promised to do. And in return, you agreed to owe a favour which will be collected later."

My former girlfriend's words sent alarm bells ringing in my head, and Paige obviously felt it too. She stated firmly, "Ok this is not a conversation to be having in the cafeteria. We need to find somewhere private before anyone says anything else."

"Fine," Cass rolled her eyes as she got to her feet.

She was wearing another of her mini-skirts today, just barely long enough to keep her out of trouble with the school for dress code violations. And she had that 'welcome heart hell' top on again, that never made any sense to me. It was just as revealing as the skirt though, the neck was wide enough it was always slipping down and showing off glimpses of her bra.

The bunnygirl looked and sounded anxious as she asked, "Are we going to talk in the library?"

"Nah," Cassandra shook her head. "There's too many of us, and Ms. Sutton would probably hear us. How about the science lab? Should be empty right now."

"Then let's go," Paige said.

The tall brunette led the way, and when we got to the lab she used some subtle magic to unlock the door so the five of us could go inside. She closed the door again after us, then finally turned to look at Cass and the two demi-humans.

"Ok from the top," Paige asked, "What's going on here? Kirstie, who are you and how'd you become a catgirl?"

The catgirl in question hesitated, like maybe she wasn't sure if she should be answering Paige's questions. Meanwhile Cass pulled out a stool and sat down next to one of the desks, with a slightly bored look on her face.

"I'm... I'm Kenzie and Kimmie's father," Kirstie finally replied with a blush.

My eyes widened and I looked at Paige as she glanced over at me. Both of us were caught off-guard by that, and I found myself staring at the tiny catgirl and trying to picture her as some middle-aged man.

Meanwhile she continued, "Last week Kenzie brought home another magic plush toy that she got from Cassandra. She meant it for her younger sister, but Kimmie gave it to me. And I uh, I suppose I got curious. I read the instructions, I saw the magic word, but I guess I just couldn't believe it was that easy? Even though I've seen how Kenzie's bunny works, I thought..."

She sighed and shrugged, "Like I said, I was curious. I wanted to test it, so I said the magic word."

"You know what they say about curiosity and cats," Cassandra commented with a grin. That earned her an angry scowl from Kirstie, who's tail was twitching back and forth again.

I asked the catgirl, "And now you're unhappy about how you've been changed? You need someone to turn you back?"

That seemed to surprise her. She shook her head, "What? No! That's the problem, I'm happy and I want to stay like this, but my ID was all wrong. And I couldn't show up at the office looking like Kenzie and Kimmie's sister. My boss and coworkers wouldn't recognize me, they wouldn't believe me if I tried to tell them who I was."

That wasn't what I was expecting to hear, but I didn't interrupt.

Kirstie continued, "So yesterday morning Kenzie introduced me to Cassandra, and she claimed she had a friend who could fix things for me. I wanted to get my ID updated with my new name, picture, and gender marker. And I wanted her to fix things with work so nobody would freak out when I showed up looking like this."

Paige and I exchanged another glance, then she looked at my former girlfriend before turning her attention back to the catgirl. "Ignoring for the moment how Cass planned on doing those things, what actually happened? If you're not unhappy with the physical transformation, what is it you're upset about?"

The catgirl scowled, "She changed my ID all right, but instead of just updating the information I wanted, she changed everything else too! Now according to all my legal documents I'm only seventeen years old! And my drivers license disappeared entirely!"

"Then instead of smoothing things over with work so I wouldn't be questioned when I went back this morning," she added as she glared once more at a bored-looking Cass, "She 'took care' of my work problem by setting it up so I'm a student here instead! Now I don't even have a job! The school thinks I'm supposed to be attending grade eleven classes!"

Kirstie shook her head as she sighed, "On paper I've become the middle sister, in between Kenzie and Kimmie. My wife hasn't even gotten over my physical transformation yet? And now it looks like she's going to have to go out and start working, because I don't have any way of proving I'm really forty-eight years old, or that I have over two and a half decades of work experience! I can't even legally drive a car anymore!"

Cassandra smirked as she offered, "I can help out with some of those problems too, if you want to make another deal. Maybe you'll be a little more specific this time though? Mind you, it'll probably cost more than just a favour."

"Not a chance!" Kirstie stated as she glared again at my former girlfriend. "You need to fix this Cassandra! Today!"

For the next several seconds both Paige and I were silent. There were more of those alarm bells in my head, and I was positive our club leader heard them too. We knew that changing ID and school enrolment and all that other stuff was possible with magic, Miss Hawthorne did that for Cass last halloween. She had us do a big ritual during the full moon and everything, although it suddenly occurred to me that was probably all for show.

Now that we knew May was a Goddess, I realized she probably could have done all that stuff herself at any time. The big halloween full moon circle was probably just to maintain the lie that she was a normal witch like the rest of us.

I pushed those thoughts away for the moment and focused on the present instead, because this was a lot more important.

Paige sounded uneasy as she asked, "Cass? Who's this 'friend' of yours that has the power to change ID and work and school records like that?"

"It's Nina isn't it?" I added. "It'd take something powerful, like a demon or a god, to make all those changes."

Cassandra was quiet for a few moments as she sat there casually swivelling back and forth on the stool. She was watching me and Paige though, and the expression on her face left me wondering what she was thinking. She looked a little amused and a little thoughtful, like she was trying to decide whether or not to tell us the truth.

When she finally responded she didn't answer either of our questions. Instead she posed one of her own, "Do you know what the biggest difference is, between gods and demons? I'll tell you. Demons need consent before they can really mess with you. Gods don't."

After a slight pause she continued, "That's why demons form contracts and pacts with people, because without that explicit consent demonic magic is limited. Gods though, they don't have those limitations. They can mess with people any time they like, any way they want. Could be something big and flashy, like smiting annoying mortals that get in their way? Or it could be something subtle and unseen, like gently influencing someone from behind the scenes, planting thoughts and ideas in their head to stir up trouble."

She paused again to let that sink in, before she focused on me. "Kaylee, you're always forgetting that Nina isn't the only demon around here. She had nothing to do with this."

Then her attention shifted to the catgirl as she added, "And you silly kitty, you and I formed a verbal contract yesterday. We even shook on it, remember? You might think that doesn't mean anything, but verbal contracts can be just as binding as written ones. Humans find them harder to enforce, but that's not a problem for me. I gave you exactly what I promised, and in return you owe me a favour. And I will collect on it, when I'm ready."

This time I wasn't just hearing alarm bells, it was more like a full on red alert klaxon wailing in my head.

"Cass what are you talking about?" I asked nervously. "This doesn't sound like you at all."

She smiled at me, "I'm just having a little fun Kaylee. Spreading a little chaos here and there never hurt anybody."

My stomach lurched and my heart skipped a beat as I stared at her, but my mind was racing as I started to think my way through everything that was happening and what Cass just said.

At the same time, Paige addressed the two demi-humans in a soft urgent tone, "Kenzie, Kirstie, you two need to leave right now. Trust me, you don't want to be involved in this."

The catgirl hesitated just a moment, like she still wanted Cass to fix her ID and work situation. On the other hand the stuff my former girlfriend just said seemed to be enough for Kirstie to understand she was already in way over her head.

"Come on Kenzie," the catgirl said quietly. "Let's get out of here."

They didn't run, but they definitely didn't waste any time exiting the science lab.

"So what happens now?" Cass asked as she calmly swivelled back and forth on the stool. "Am I the next incident for Club Luna to investigate?"

Paige gulped as she asked our friend, "Who are you? Are you still Cassandra? Or are you Socha?"

"She's still Cass," I stated, though I definitely didn't sound or feel very confident. "If she was Socha we wouldn't be having this conversation, a chaos goddess wouldn't bother trying to fit in as a high-school student."

I kept my eyes on my former girlfriend as I continued, "I think she's being influenced though. She actually said that herself, remember? She just told us, Gods can influence from behind the scenes. And she told us she doesn't have access to divine magic yet. She needed to have a contract with Kirstie, right? I think Cass just gave us a few clues. She's being influenced by Socha, that's the 'little bit of chaos' she mentioned."

Cassandra's casual smile faded as a darker expression settled on her face, like she was unhappy with me for figuring it out. Or maybe Socha was unhappy with Cass for giving us such blatant clues.

Either way Paige already had her phone out. She tapped one of her emergency contacts, then raised it up to her ear.

"Who're you calling?" Cass asked with another grin. "I'm pretty sure 911 isn't going to be much use here."

I quickly pulled my phone out too, and started tapping out a message on the club's group chat. I needed to alert the others, and warn them what was going on.

At the same time I heard a woman's voice answer Paige's call. Our club leader responded, "Mrs. Underwood this is Paige Doubek. Something's wrong with Cass, I think Socha's involved..."

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