“Is cranberry sauce supposed to taste like this?”
It was the last thing Becca said before she and the rest of her family were snoring face down in mounds of mashed potatoes and lakes of congealing gravy. As the roof was withdrawn from Becca’s single-story home, the lights flickered and died. Darkness was quickly replaced by a gently pulsing, bruised-plum spotlight, and a bespectacled zebra descended through the unroofed building into the dining room. Lylae flicked her striped ears, listening for anyone elsewhere in the house who might still be awake.
“What do you see?” The voice of Lylae’s commander whispered through the communicator as if the unconscious bipeds might be roused if she spoke with her usual authority.
“Eight bipeds. Five adults and three juveniles. All adequately sedated.”
“Any sign of the ambassador?”
Through her spectacles, Lylae could see bright, fluorescent motes dancing in the air. “I’m reading trace particles matching the ambassador’s genetic profile. The trail appears to be originating from an adjoining chamber.”
“Proceed with your investigation.”
“Yes, Commander Gondii.” Lylae moved quickly, her hooves clattering loudly in the otherwise silent household. As she stepped through the doorway she stepped on something rubbery and slick. She lost her balance and slid into the kitchen, colliding with a center island and toppling a stack of soiled pots and pans. The resulting commotion was enough to elicit an unpleasant feedback signal from her communicator.
“Lylae, is everything all right? Have you been harmed? Has the mission been compromised?”
“Everything is fine.” Lylae said. She looked back toward the doorway. Sprawled on the floor was Becca’s unconscious daughter. The floor was littered with the deviled eggs she’d been sent to collect. “I’ve discovered a fourth juvenile in the adjacent room. Also unconscious.” Lylae untangled herself from the floor and resumed her search. There was a significant increase in the fluorescent signal. Lylae followed the gradient.
“The ambassador’s signature is much stronger in here.” Lylae moved carefully so as not to trip on any of the dishes and risk another embarrassing fall. As she rounded the backside of the island, the gradient transformed into a dense cloud of fluorescence. “I’ve isolated the source of the signal. I believe the ambassador is being held captive inside this steel cell.”
“Do you think you can handle a rescue, or should I send the extraction team?”
Lylae gripped a cotton rag hanging from the front of the steel door between her teeth and yanked; the silvery door fell open. A gust of hot, moist air pummeled her face, fogging her spectacles and temporarily shielding her from the horror within.
“Forget the extraction team, Commander Gondii,” Lylae said, as she stared at the browned turkey, roasted to perfection. “Send in the assault forces.”