A/N: About the previous chapter: I myself didn't know they were going to the zoo until Nino suggested it. When he did, I thought "Hey, that's a good idea, then I can write them some free time to talk without the twins". I've never been able to have more than one or two sentences of conversation in a row without being interrupted if there's a three-year-old about, and from a writing point of view a dialogue sounds really boring if it's spread out so long with so many irrelevant bits, so believability and interestingness were in conflict. But if Alya's dad distracted the twins for five minutes, then I could move the plot along smoothly. All great. Then he came and took the twins away, AND THE CAT TOO, and I'm like... well, you know how Alya reacted? That was me. I'm sitting there at my keyboard going "But wait, we needed that character... now what?" At any rate, I've left them in their uncharted territory to work it out for now, they can tell me what they came up with when I get back. This chapter, there's someone else we need to hear from.
A few hours earlier:
Lead Astray leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. Darnit. He'd been so close. He felt Hawkmoth's communication within his head. "Any sign of them?"
"No, and I've been looking. I need to sleep. So do they, and they'll have gone to ground while they sleep so I won't be able to find them for a couple of hours", he admitted.
"I could take your powers away".
"And then they'd be stuck as a cat, and you wouldn't have their Miraculouses. You need me to turn them back. And find them".
On the other end of whatever psychic line this was, he felt exasperation, but agreement. If Lead Astray was being honest with himself, he felt exasperation too. His powers should have turned Ladybug into a small cat, much easier to catch. He wouldn't even have had to catch her himself - the animal catchers in this city got far too many cats. Like his own Purrdence. Who hadn't been an alley cat, she'd just gotten out unnoticed. But now she was in the pound, and he couldn't afford to pay the fee to get her back. He let the rage fill him again, the rage that brought him the power.
Ladybug should have been a cat like his Purrdence, with Chat Noir left alone and weakened by emotion and loss. But Chat Noir had dived across her as the bolt hit, falling in a tangle of limbs, and when the light faded there was just one cat. And no superheroes. He'd tried to hit them with the restoration straight away, but the cat had freaked and bolted.
"You can replay it in your mind as often as you like, but you still missed", Hawkmoth said.
"I know. But I hit lots more people, so now there are lots of people looking for all the animals I made. In the process they're finding all the real strays that should have been given homes. One of them will find our cat, and some of the others will find new fur friends. Win win. I can just sit back for a little and the plan will continue on".
"Fine, sleep then. But your powers won't last through more than tomorrow".
"That's fine", Lead Astray said. "I'll rejoin the searchers and registry folk first thing, see if our cat has been found already. They won't know who it is so it'll just be waiting in a cage. Then I can turn it back, freeing their Miraculouses from the cat form, and grab them while they're confused".
"Keep me posted", Hawkmoth ordered.
Lead Astray said nothing, but his thoughts indicated agreement. He sensed that Hawkmoth was also considering sleep. This hour of the morning there wasn't much to see. Daylight would work in their favour. They could leave the effort now to the people who were desperately seeking loved ones, and let them do the work.
He leaned back, and was asleep in minutes.