For my 666th post, I offer this, a tale I began and abandoned over a year ago. It seemed an appropriate tale for my 666th. Meta-commentary on the community or the real reason behind late comics? That's for you to decide. Without further ado:

The Truth

Fred tapped his fingers idly on the desktop as the scanner purred over the drawings. Finally. He allowed himself a moment of satisfaction as the progress bar zipped across the screen and the image file came up, brightening the soft glow from the Macs monitor that diffused into the shadowed room.

The moment was short-lived. There were more than the usual number of smudges to be cleaned up, and he had to take care of those before he could even begin on the speech bubbles. He'd have to struggle to make one o'clock, but it was still feasible.

Yeah, right. He sighed gustily.

Fred dug into the task, the soft hum of the Mac interrupted only by the occasional keyboard clicks as he tapped shortcut combos on the keyboard, and the whisper of the optical mouse sliding over the wooden desktop. He focused on the task at hand, diligently smoothing out each smudge and error as he proceeded down the page. Only the bright image of the computer monitor was in his mind as he slipped into a cocoon of isolated, intent purpose.

A soft rustle emanated from behind him, barley rising above the background hum of the computer fan. Fred froze, and work fled his mind completely as he strained with every fiber of his body on the sounds of the room. There was nothing but the hum of the computer fan.

He didn't relax. Silence was merely inconclusive. That sibilant whisper could simply have been one of the cats poking about- or it could have been them. Fred waited, listening for confirmation, and glanced at the clock in the corner of his monitor. Twelve twenty-two. It was rather early for them- if that's what it was.

He heard it then- the distinctively furtive whisper of their arrival, subtle and softly threatening. The unmistakable sounds of stealthy movement filled the back of the darkened study.

They were here.

Fred locked his eyes on the monitor with iron rigidity, forcing himself to make a few pointless clicks with the mouse, preserving the illusion of obliviousness. The soft whispers of the stealthy assault had already advanced halfway across the room. Fred tensed his mouse hand, sliding it back a bit till the bottom of his palm dug into the front edge of the keyboard tray, ready. They would be upon him any second now.

The whisper of fur accelerated, became a sibilant rush, a resounding cacophony of triumphant screeches rent the air- mingling with the thud of the keyboard tray slamming back under the desk as Fred twisted in his chair, bringing the pump-action Mossberg to bear behind him in one hand.

Mid-leap, frozen in one of those swift seconds that lasts forever, was the monkey, a blue arrow chasing it's own tail emblazoned on it's belly. The Mossberg thundered and shattered the moment, blasting the monkey across the room. Fred was already leaping forward from his chair, pumping the action as he tracked another furry assailant through its leap towards the desktop computer. The shotgun thundered the instant the shell hit the chamber, drowning out the enraged shrieks and howls of the pack as they rushed to the attack.

A series of sharp reports sounded from the next room- Seraphim's .45, fending off those who'd attacked her while she had been occupied with the mug press. Fred put one more blast into the back of a fleeing monkey- the last of his immediate assailants. The eerie hoots and echo's of more enemies echoed through the halls of the house as Fred thumbed more shells into the bottom of the Mossberg, alert for trouble. Seraphim entered the room behind him, her 1911 autoloader up and ready, ready to assist.

Fred hefted his shotgun again and gave his monitor, with the unfinished comic, a look of longing before he stepped into the hallway, ready to sweep and clear the rest of the house. He moved swiftly to the first room, muttering darkly.

"God damn refresh monkeys…"

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