Cornwallis has been around for a very long time.
Now, that can be said about every presidential pet. These are animals that transcend time, that go beyond a single life span. But of them all, Cornwallis is the oldest. He is the first presidential pet, summoned into the void that makes up the Room long before it was named, long before it was common knowledge.
As such, he considers every other animal here his charge. When something happens to their red strings, Cornwallis makes sure that he finds out what. Or, as has become the case in recent years, he makes sure that someone else finds out for him.
Today, he has selected a pair of cats.
Tom Quartz and Slippers both belong to President Theodore Roosevelt. They’re nearly inseparable, these two, practically joined at the hip. Even now, they sit close enough together that their shoulders are touching, that their tails are twisted together.
Slippers asks, “what did you need, Cornwallis?”
“You don’t speak with us all that often,” says Tom Quartz. “It must be pretty important to call us down here before the actual meeting. Are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” says Cornwallis, and the lie slips off his tongue with ease. “But Ada is not. You know her, yes?”
“Ada,” echoes Slippers. The gray tabby flicks her ears, looking curious. “She’s one of Van Buren’s tigers, isn’t she?”
“Yes,” answers Cornwallis. He stands up, tail wagging just once. “I can’t give you a lot of information, I’m afraid. But it looks like something is dreadfully wrong with Ada. She’s in need of some assistance, and I feel as though the two of you are the only ones able to help.”
Tom Quartz lets out a meow of laughter. He’s slightly larger than Slippers, with dark black tabby markings and a streak of white across his throat. There are matching white splotches on either back leg, covering his paws like socks. “Us? How do you think we’re going to be able to help? She’s a tiger!”
“I’m well aware of her species,” says Cornwallis, dryly. “And I’ve told you, I’m not sure what the problem is. But I do know, without a doubt, that you’re the only two capable of helping her.”
Slippers asks, “how do you know?”
Cornwallis says, “because the room told me.” He leads the two cats across the black meeting spot, over to one of the many dog doors. It’s ringed in a red light. “This will take you to Ada’s enclosure. It’s extremely important that you not only find out what the problem is, but that you solve the problem before you return. If you’re unable to fix it, then we will all be trapped within the most unfortunate of circumstances.”
Tom Quartz drapes his tail over Slippers flanks. He says, “I’ll go if you’re going.”
Slippers hesitates. She looks concerned, and frightened, and less then certain. Eventually, though, she nods. “Alright. Alright, we’ll go check on Ada. That’s our job, right? As presidential pets?”
“Aye,” says Cornwallis, eyes dark with grief that no one understands. “That’s your job.”
Katelynn E Koontz – Author