(Set towards the end of my Tales of the Folly: The Curse, as they prepare to go out to the colonies.)
"I’ve told you ten times now you can’t just make up bullshit rules and then try to enforce them on others! … No! We are not moving out! DON’T CALL BACK, DAMN YOU!"
Giving the silence a long ten count, a fox morph carefully stuck his head around the door sill. "Hey Tammy, is it safe for me to bother you yet?" he asked of the rabbittaur still glowering behind her desk.
"Safer than a minute ago, Tomas," Tammy Parker replied. The manager of the Yukon branch of Quad-Star Research watched as the fox’s head peer around her office as if to see if she had a weapon or other means of causing chaos close at hand. She tried to hide a grin as he carefully stepped in, looking like he was ready to flee if she twitched in his direction.
Seeing her mood lighten at his antics, Tomas Adkins stopped clowning around as he set a pair of memory chits on her desk. "Latest message packs. The latest tests are right where we wanted them to be, and you’ll be happy to hear that Father’s Love is less than a week out."
"That might just be soon enough," she said with a smile. "As you no doubt heard, they’re trying to get us out of this ‘prime real estate’ location again."
"But we’re what makes it ‘prime’," he half protested.
"Tell them that," she groaned. "We set this testing clinic up out in the middle of nowhere and they moved in around us. The current excuse for a ‘town council to be’ thinks they can better utilize this building and the land around it."
Tomas nodded as they both looked out the window. While the building they were in was only thirty meters on a side and twenty meters tall, the loose graveled lot around it went out another thirty-five meters, giving them a roughly hundred meter square that they had fought hard to keep the ‘Johnny-come-latelys from encroaching on. Despite their best efforts, other buildings were now infringing well into the marked off zones. Slowly shaking his head, he asked, "Any signs that they know what they’re messing with?"
"Nope," she said, her frown slowly growing into a smile. "They know we have the power plant buried nearby, but no signs that they’ve realized much else."
"Then next week should be quite a shock to them," he chuckled. "No one’s ever asked me about the freely available power, water and sewage treatment … And of course paying for any of it never crosses their minds either…"
Tammy softly snorted. "Gimme, gimme, gimme, oh and now that your stupid rules are in my way, so would you be so kind as to get the hell out!"
"Oh, we’ll get out all right, but they don’t realize that we can take our toys with us when we leave," he commented with a grin. "Do we have a scheduled plan of departure lined up?"
Tammy nodded, "More or less. I figured an hour to pack things up, say half that to cut and seal the connections. Unless you can think of something else?"
"I’ll bring in our ‘potted plants’ while you deal with the connections."
"Do them before the connections," she advised. "No telling how fast they’ll start coming out once the power and water stops."
"True, so about two hours then?"
"About," she agreed. "Anybody other than ‘employees’?"
"More than a few denmates and cubs," he reminded her.
"We should throw a little party or something to help explain the extra traffic," Tammy suggested.
"That’ll work," he agreed, "Middle of the night’s the best time for this type of ‘surprise’ anyway."
"Deities, but I’d love to see their faces the next morning!" she giggled.
Tomas shook his head and grinned. "The plan is to not be here when they realize just how badly they screwed up."
"I know I know, but after that last call," she giggled.
The moving day party was getting off to a good start. Father’s Love had reached orbit in the early afternoon and those involved had been told it was time.
"I understand they’re pushing to turn this into a township," commented a skunk morph that Tammy was greeting right after he had landed a small personnel shuttle next to their building.
"The better for those with greater numbers to ‘vote’ others out of the way," she griped.
"Down, friend, I didn’t mean anything by it."
"Sorry, Mister Foster, it’s just been a long week," Tammy said by way of an apology.
"Please, just Phillip. As Captain Dreamweaver should have told you, I’m just here to make sure there aren’t any engineering problems in your little move."
"I know, it’s just that it’s been getting steadily worse as they try to take more and more control."
"Human problems?" Phillip asked.
"No more than the furs really, just people wanting free or super cheap services and getting upset when we say we can’t provide more than we already are."
"Come morning they’ll learn that there’s no such thing as a free lunch," Phillip assured her. "Are you ready?"
"Gear packed and stowed, same for all but a couple of those that have dependants that didn’t know about the upcoming surprise."
‘Good. I’ll take a look around and ensure you’re ready for tonight. Any regrets?" he wondered.
"Only that it was a failure …"
"Your primary mission was the testing of the samples you were working with and that was considered a complete success," Phillip pointed out. "The second part, which turned into a blind social experiment didn’t really succeed or fail. It just showed us how lazy human nature can become without something to stimulate it."
Seeing movement out of the corner of her eye, Tammy turned slightly to look before muttering, "Here comes one of the mangier of the lab rats now."
Phillip kept his back to whoever was coming so they couldn’t see him say, "No matter what I or Dreamweaver say to or about you in front of them, remember your real bosses are very pleased with you." He then turned with a neutral expression as an attractive female lion morph approached them.
"You the ‘head office’ that’s suppose to make this bitch give us more power?" the lioness demanded of Phillip.
"I understand she’s been mismanaging things around here," he admitted with a frown at Tammy.
"I did what I could with the resources I had available," Tammy protested.
"When Captain Dreamweaver comes down shi won’t be interested in your excuses, Ms Parker," Phillip retorted sternly. "I strongly suggest you insure that your house is in order before shi gets here." As Tammy made her way back to her office, he turned to fully face the lioness saying, "I am Phillip Foster, and you are?"
"Lilly Tomland," she replied as she extended her hand. "Soon to be mayor of this township."
"So you’re not the mayor yet, or is this not yet a township?" Phillip asked, already knowing the answers.
"Both actually, but that will be changing soon enough," she assured him.
"Good," Phillip said with a grin. "I’ll let my captain know who’s really in charge down here."
"So how soon will we be able to expect some improvements?" Lilly asked.
"From what I’ve heard, tomorrow will see the beginnings of some major changes in how things are done around here," Phillip assured her. "You will find my Captain to be a fur of action – problems cease being problems around hir."
"Then I look forward to meeting hir," she said with a smile. "I’ll be in the restaurant in the north corner waiting for hir."
Watching the lioness saunter towards the indicated building, Phillip smiled at her back as he tapped his comm badge. "Phillip to Dreamweaver. Sis? Having just met the locals, I’d like to suggest a minor change of plans…."
The chakat that entered the restaurant had stripes that appeared to be all but interwoven. Spotting the lioness from hir brother’s description, shi headed for her table as shi took stock of those with the lioness. A wolf, two fox morphs, and a mink made up her entourage.
"Ms Tomland? I am Dreamweaver Foster, I understand you represent the non-company people in this area."
"I sure do, Dreamweaver. Your current company representative has been less than helpful," Lilly replied, several of the other furs nodding with her.
Dreamweaver smiled a little bigger as shi said, "So I’ve heard. My chief engineer is already annoyed at all the extra work she’s made for him. While he gathers data on how she has abused the company equipment left in her care, I thought I would get the story from your side. For instance, how much was she charging each of you for water and power?"
Lilly and the others looked stunned at the question and it was a moment before the male fox blurted out, "Too much!" the others quickly nodding in agreement.
"And nothing showing in the company books," Dreamweaver muttered. "We thought there was more going on." Pulling a PADD out of hir saddlebag, shi asked, "May I have the tracking numbers for those payments? We will need to trace them to help find her private accounts."
"I – I’d need to get the card I used for it," the fox stuttered. The others made an act of looking for their credit chits before coming up empty.
Dreamweaver frowned at them as shi commented; "It would help my investigation into Parker’s mismanagement if you could find those numbers for me. Otherwise I have only her word that you paid nothing versus your word that you were overcharged."
"Why would you believe her over us?" the wolf demanded.
"If needed I will hire a skunktaur to mind read the truth out of her," shi told him. "But it’s much more convenient to have a money trail showing what funds went where. I would also need the tracking info for any refunds you might request – unless of course you’re volunteering to have the skunktaur read you as well?"
Obviously nervous now, the fox got up saying, "I’ll go get them now," he gave Lilly a questioning look before turning to leave. The others quickly following suit, leaving the lioness alone with the chakat.
Dreamweaver cocked hir head a little at Lilly before asking, "Not interested in being refunded some of what Parker took from you?"
"I’m more interested in what your company is going to do for us."
"That would depend on what has been agreed to," Dreamweaver countered. "I would need to see any contracts that Parker agreed to in the company’s name."
"It was a verbal agreement," Lilly told hir.
"Yet again I have to have a mind reader confirm the verity of the contract," Dreamweaver grumbled. "Don’t any of you people record contracts?"
"I have a contract …" murmured a small voice behind hir.
"I told you brats to stay out of here!" Lilly snarled as she stood up.
Turning, Dreamweaver found a Siamese cat morph perhaps six years old, and holding her tail was another, possibly four. Shi moved to block the advancing lioness. "Sit down, Ms Tomland," shi half snarled. "If they have a contract, then they are my business just as much as you are." Turning away from the still fuming adult, shi told the kitten, "My name is Dreamweaver – may I ask yours?"
"I’m Sissy and this is Joey," the older kitten shyly told hir.
"Those are pretty names. May I see the ‘contract’ Ms Parker gave you?"
The small, dirty card Sissy gave hir simply said that any food requested by the kittens be charged to one Tammy Parker and included her ID and a number to contact for reimbursement. Frowning slightly at the kittens, Dreamweaver tapped hr comm badge. "Are Scarlet and Fred dirtside yet?" shi asked. At the positive reply shi added, "Have them gather up Ms Parker and meet me at the restaurant."
Two foxes arrived with the rabbittaur. Dreamweaver nodded as they came in. "Scarlet and Fred, meet Sissy and Joey. Seems our troublesome manager wrote them a contract promising to feed them. Why don’t you insure they enjoy their last company paid meal on this planet."
"Sure thing, Captain," the male agreed as he reached down and picked up the smaller Siamese.
Taking Sissy’s hand Scarlet said, "Come along little one, we’ll see you get fed."
Tammy frowned at the chakat. "Their parents never returned from a trip to the city. That was three months ago."
"And you contracted to ensure they were fed. Very noble of you I’m sure, but not what you were here for Ms Parker," Dreamweaver retorted. "Did you have contracts with anyone else?"
Giving Lilly a dirty look, Tammy snapped back, "No, no other contracts, Captain."
"Liar!" Lilly spat at the rabbittaur.
It was Dreamweaver’s turn to frown. "So you keep saying, Ms Tomland, yet you seem unwilling to bring me any evidence backing up your claims. Looks like we will have to waste an extra day in orbit while we call in a mind reader."
"I thought you had a mind reader onboard," Tammy asked curiously.
"Shi’s only a T3," Dreamweaver corrected. "While shi can communicate with some non-talents, true mind reading requires a T5 or 6."
Tammy looked thoughtful for a moment before saying, "If shi’s an E3 or better shi should be able to sort truth from lie if someone gives an unambiguous question."
"There is that," Dreamweaver admitted with a growing smile. Looking at Tammy shi asked, "And you are willing to have hir ‘read’ you and accept what shi finds?"
"Yes," Tammy readily replied.
Turning to the lioness Dreamweaver asked, "Are you willing to be read and accept whatever the ruling turns out to be?"
"Sure," Lilly replied, though she no longer sounded confident.
"Excellent," the Dreamweaver said as shi got up. "We’ll meet in Ms Parker’s office in three hours. That will give me time to go over the questions with our doctor …. Oh, be advised that there will be a drug test just before the reading to insure there’s nothing impeding the truth. Come along Ms Parker, you still have a few things to explain."
Tammy waited until they were halfway to the research facility before quietly asking, "Just how much trouble am I really in?"
Dreamweaver huffed in apparent annoyance and muttered, "Wait until we’re inside." They were met at the door by two chakats that Tammy didn’t know.
"Star-rider, Sunset," Dreamweaver said with a smile. "What are you two doing out here?"
"Keeping out the riffraff," Sunset replied. "Already had a ‘building inspector’ claiming he had the right to check to see if it was up to code …"
Star-rider chuckled as shi added, "He seemed a little miffed when I asked to see his authorization before we’d let him in. he went back to ‘get it’." Nodding at Tammy shi said, "We assigned Blossom and Sprinter to keep an eye on your kittens. Last we saw they were heading for the cafeteria."
Once inside and out of view from the outside the chakat turned on the rabbittaur. "You really want to know how much trouble you’re in?" shi demanded.
At Tammy’s timid nod, Dreamweaver all but pounced on her, wrapping her in a tight hug. It took the surprised rabbittaur a moment to realize what had happened, and another moment to return the hug.
"I’m an E4," Dreamweaver confided to Tammy. "I could see through their lies from the beginning, but playing along buys us a little more time before they realize they’ve been duped."
"I promised the kittens I’d take them with me," Tammy pointed out.
"I know," Dreamweaver assured her. "As per the local government, no one else has laid claim to them and your adoption requests were approved." At Tammy’s look of surprise shi added, "Yes, we checked. Most of my crew have had a very personal experience with adoption."
"I though Father’s Love was a family run ship?"
"She is" shi agreed with a smile. "Star-rider, Sunset, Scarlet and Phillip are all my siblings. So’s our doctor, Desertwind. We were all lucky enough to be adopted by the same crazy human. I can tell you more about it later, but we really should check on your kittens. They may not realize that you’re not really in trouble."
They looked in the cafeteria and found that Sissy and Joey were in no danger of worrying about anything. Chakats Blossom and Sprinter, three and seven respectively, had the kittens helping them dig into a massive banana split. Sprinter saw them enter and waved hir spoon at them. "They each had a hotdog first," shi informed them as the kittens scrambled from the table to cling to Tammy.
"As Dad says, the proof is in the pudding," Scarlet commented as they watched Tammy fuss over the kittens.
"And the proof of the pudding is in the tasting," Dreamweaver agreed. "How’s our revised schedule coming?"
"Heavy One estimates two hours to finish loading their pod and getting it secured topside. They say they should be here thirty minutes after that. The specials will come down at the same time." Scarlet snickered as she said, "We’ve had several complaints about the PTVs not responding to requests, so we’re telling them we need them for ‘company business’ as we round up those that are going with us."
"Any problem with those coming?" Dreamweaver asked.
"Only the hysterical laughter when they realize just how they will be leaving," Scarlet assured hir.
"Anyone seen Tomas?" Tammy asked with a kitten in each arm.
"Outside with Fred," Scarlet replied. "I understand they’re moving your plants in."
"Good – he’s very proud of the flowers he helped developed," Tammy said with a grin.
"I saw them on the way in," Scarlet said. "They’re beautiful, were they part of your assignment?"
"No, a bonus that happened when we were working on one of the fruit trees," Tammy admitted. "A sample was mislabeled and we ended up with a couple things that weren’t on the list."
"A ‘happy accident’ as our father likes to call them," Scarlet agreed. "Well, since Tammy’s here, she can watch the kids while I check on Phillip," she said before heading for the door.
At Tammy’s questioning look, Dreamweaver smiled. "Your job as manager here is done for now. My people will run interference until we’re ready to leave … And I would appreciate it if you and your kittens helped our cubs finish off that small mountain of ice-cream over there," shi suggested with a grin.
It was two hours later that Dreamweaver led another chakat into the restaurant to talk to Lilly. Smiling shi said, "Ms Tomland, this is Chakat Desertwind Foster, my ship’s doctor. Desertwind, Ms Tomland claims to have a verbal contract with Ms Parker for the use of some of the company’s resources."
"And do you?" Desertwind asked the lioness.
"Of course I do," she snapped.
Turning to Dreamweaver, Desertwind commented, "I told you this was a waste of my time. Ms Parker’s statements were all truthful while I can feel this one bracing to see how much she can get away with." Glaring at Lilly shi stated, "Your first reply was a lie, do you wish to try again?"
"This is just you covering for your company!" Lilly snarled. "You’ll fake anything to not honor the agreement I have with Parker!"
Dreamweaver’s smile was not a nice one as shi countered, "If you truly believe that, then you can go to the capital and have a licensed telepath verify your claims. Until then, there is no known contract. By the way, there will be some shuttles coming down shortly for the company employees and their equipment, please keep your friends outside the marked-off area for their safety as well as yours." Shi and Desertwind then got up to leave.
Desertwind kicked at some of the gravel that half surrounded the restaurant. "I thought everyone was warned about not building in the fill," shi commented as they walked.
"They were," Dreamweaver agreed. "Tammy has recordings of Lilly and the others not only being warned away, but then also ignoring the posted signs warning not to construct or leave things in the loose gravel."
"Which means they won’t have a leg to stand on shortly …"
Hearing something, they looked up to watch two medium sized shuttles approaching. As the shuttles gently set down on opposite sides of the building, Dreamweaver’s comm badge chirped. "Shaker One to Base – Cap, we’re down. Heavy One is five minutes out."
"Captain acknowledges," Dreamweaver replied. "Shakers are to bring up their shields as briefed, I don’t want us throwing too many rocks around."
"Activating wall shields," Shaker One acknowledged as the shuttles created a force field to keep things from leaving – or entering the area as some of the locals were now coming out to see what was going on.
"Base, begin severing connections, advise when ready for the shakedown," Dreamweaver commanded.
"Base copies," Phillips voice replied. "All exterior components cleared, preparing to close up shop."
More of the locals started pouring out of their buildings as the water stopped flowing and the power went out. Lilly marched out of the now dark restaurant, only to be stopped by the force fields. Her scowl at the chakats deepened when she saw Tammy and her two kittens come out of the building to stand with Dreamweaver and Desertwind.
"Shouldn’t you be inside?" Dreamweaver asked them.
"Phillip suggested I could watch the first hundred meters from out here, and … well, these two deserve to have a little fun too," Tammy explained. Each of them was wearing a safety harness, the kittens were attached to Tammy and she hooked hers to a nearby lamppost. "I’ve always wanted to be in the center of one of these – never mind seeing Lilly’s expression when we leave," she added with a chuckle.
"I will have to have a word with my dear brother later, but if he’s promised you a front row seat, then I’ll honor it," Dreamweaver agreed. "See you topside," shi said as shi and Desertwind headed for one of the shuttles.
"Ready to commence shaking," a voice said.
"Base extension preparing to close for move," Phillip’s voice countered. Tammy and the kittens turned to watch the building behind them as it began to sink into the ground. It sank a couple meters below the level of the gravel before coming to a stop. "Base extension closed and sealed. Ready for the shake up," Phillip said.
Subsonic resonators mounted on the shuttles began shaking the ground inside the force fields. Having known what was coming, Tammy just giggled as the vibrations tickled her footpads. Holding Sissy and Joey, she felt the shaking increase as her feet started to sink into the now quivering gravel. She continued to sink until her lower belly was half buried, only to sink even deeper when the now anxious kittens climbed on her back. She twisted to where she could reassure them as the gravel started to ‘flow’ away from the where the building had been, tugging on her like water on an anchored boat. After about a minute Tammy felt something solid underfoot and she stood up on the top of a slowly rising shape. Sixty meters on a side, the submerged transport pod floated up on its gravel ballast, rising a few meters over the original ground height before the gravel balanced the mass/weight ratio with it.
A new sound could barely be heard over the existing din, the sound of a heavy lift shuttle that soon positioned itself over the center of the pod. Once it had landed, a tiger-striped chakat came out with a length of cord. One end shi attached to the shuttle near the hatch, the other shi walked out and attached to the very edge of the pod. Coming back to Tammy, shi clipped the rabbittaur’s safety harness to the new line. "We will be lifting in a few minutes if you want to wave goodbye to anyone."
Walking to the very edge, Tammy looked down on the town that had grown up around their little research center. The faces looking up at her were mostly shocked and surprised.
Lilly was at the front of the crowd, and her surprise was turning to anger as she started to realize not only what the company had been hiding, but what was not going to be left behind. The noise from the shakers and the shuttles kept any words being heard through the force fields, but it didn’t stop Sissy from bidding a proper farewell to her tormentor. An extended middle finger at the lioness was the last of the kitten Lilly saw before the pod started rising still higher as the shuttle started to pull it completely out of its hole in the ground.
As the pod cleared the loose gravel, the shuttled turned off their resonators but maintained the force fields. From both shuttles loudspeakers blared, "PLEASE STEP BACK AND GET CLEAR OF THE GRAVEL. FORCE FIELD SHUTDOWN IN ONE MINUTE." While a few started moving, most continued watching the pods as it rose into the air. The next message wasn’t so polite. "ARE YOU IDIOTS DEAF? YOU’RE STANDING ON LOOSE FILL THAT WILL BE SLIDING INTO THAT HOLE WHEN WE DROP THE FIELDS! MOVE YOUR STUPID TAILS!"
The shuttles gave them a little extra time to reach solid ground and then they dropped their force fields and followed the pod into the air. Below them the gravel that had been held back collapsed into the pit, taking with it a couple structures that had been built on the shifting surface. The restaurant stood intact for a minute, then there was a cracking and tearing sound as the unsupported end broke off to join the rest of the rubble in the still filling hole.
"I guess that’s what they meant by them not being responsible for anything left on their gravel," somebody quipped. "I don’t suppose anyone has a spare generator or power cell do they?"
More to come?
Copyright © 2009 Allen Fesler Redbear1158@hotmail.com
Chakat universe is copyright of Bernard Doove and used with his permission.
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