“Settle down, now, kits,” he said, “and I will tell you a tale of days long, long past.” He paused, and looked around. All eyes were on him, sparkling and eager. “In those days, there were humans. They were in charge of everything. Cats, dogs, rats, all animals, were like the rabbits and squirrels you see today. We walked on four feet, could not talk as we do now, cats mewed, dogs barked, and so on. Humans kept cats and dogs, and sometimes rats and rabbits, as pets, the way you do with gerbils now.
“Then some humans, called scientists, started experimenting, trying to give the gift of speech to the animals. Only with we cats and the rats were they fully successful, though the dogs are able to speak a bit. That is why they are now in service to us.
“There was a war that encompassed the entire earth, and at least two thirds of everything was destroyed, including humans. For some time after that the cats and rats fought for dominance. Eventually, a truce was called, and it was settled that we would rule, and they would be free to live as they pleased, as long as they didn’t take anything of ours. They have since lived a nomadic life, as legend says some humans did in ancient days.”
“Granfer Esau,” young Jabin asked, “what about the dogs? They serve us, now. How come?”
“They needed someone to take care of them, see that they had food and shelter, and were always healthy. So we said we would do that, if they agreed to work for us. The arrangement has worked well for all of us.”
There were more questions about the Rats, and the Robyrobos, and especially about humans. What did they look like? How big were they? What did they do?
Old Esau did his best to answer them. He sent Robosam into the house for ancient books, and showed the kits pictures. They were fascinated by the things called ‘cars’ and ‘buses’ that they used to get around in.
“Why didn’t they use dogs and carriages, Granfer?” little Adah asked.
“They were too big, and only some dogs were big enough to pull ‘carts’ or ‘sleds’. And even then they couldn’t carry more than two or three. See, here is a picture of a dog team, pulling a sled over snow. See how many dogs there are? And you can see by the building how big the man is.’ Esau held the book up so they could all see.
Chever studied the picture for a moment, and said “Granfer, that looks like our house.”
“Very observant, Chever! Yes that is our house, and the man is one of the last of the human family who lived there. His name was Peter MacDonald. He was the fourth generation to own the land. He disappeared in the final war. The Robos kept the estate for a while, but finally, they had to do what they could to protect as much as possible from the effects of the war, and then went into a state of inaction. It was two centuries before things were safe enough for them to reactivate. And at least another before they could bring us, the dogs, and the rats out of cryogenic sleep. You are the tenth generation since then.” The kits all looked wide eyed and awed at the thought of such long times.
Just as Esau was about to go on, Robosam came hurrying up. “Sir, there is a stranger on our land, coming this way. I have sent Benny to meet him. I can’t say for sure, but from a distance, it does not look like a Robo.” Sam was obviously upset, and stood waiting.
“Really, Sammy? You think it’s a human?” Esau said. He turned to the kits “All right, younglings that is enough for today. Go and see your other teachers. And stay out of trouble!”
He chuckled as he watched them scamper off. “A lot of good that does,” he said to Sammy. “Somehow, I can’t imagine that lot staying out of trouble for more than five minutes at a stretch!” He chuckled again and added “Lead on, Sam, take me to the stranger.”