Joined: Mon May 25, 2009 6:53 am
Re: HOUSEPETS! THE SERIES Official Thread
White Cluster, Xanadu, c/o First National Energy Research Laboratories, River Ridge
“It stands to reason,” Natalie ‘Navy’ bean said. She was studying the holographic map of Xanadu, floating in front of his face.
Like the beam of a wheel, there was the Green Cluster, the area dedicated to the Nuclear Fusion Research.
Then came the first ring of buildings, all coded with their own colors, according to the nature of their researches.
First Ring: Blue Cluster, Air & Space technologies. Red Cluster, Robotics & Weapons –and although there was nothing concerning bio-warfare, the fact that nanoweapons were being studied didn’t make the Giant Schanuzer feel better.
Second Ring: Gold Cluster, biotechnologies and nanotech for daily life applications from battery packs to solar energy. It was appropriate, that cluster alone was worth all the gold mines in the world. Orange Cluster was dedicated to communications –a single word, the blood of modern civilization.
And, dotting the space between the ‘Core Clusters’, were the logistics: Purple Cluster for medical. It made sense to have many self-sufficient buildings scattered all around rather than a single core structure which, in case of attack or epidemic emergency, would be the first to collapse bringing its patients along with it.
Azure Cluster, the color of sky, provided environmental control, food and drinkable water. Its staff were the most respected members in Xanadu.
Brown Cluster was the third logistic decentered buildings group. A neutral color, which stood out in the colorful facility. It was meant to, for every brown building contained everything you needed in an emergency that could cut off the power –and you did not want to be prisoner underground in a technological tomb, in the absolute darkness, without a way to carry on until either the emergency was resolved or you were out of there.
But, in case everything else failed. In case the alternative was to leave everything in the hands of the enemy, or if an environmental crisis could not be contained in any other way…
…Then there was Shiva.
Shiva, a blipping black dot at the center of Xanadu. A dot buried only ten feet under the facility. A discreet presence, something one could easily forget about.
A 50-Megaton hydrogen bomb. In a moment, Xanadu and the First National Energy Research Laboratories would disappear in a pillar of nuclear fire – oh, the irony! – leaving one smoldering crater of molten rock fused with traces of some other material, for the curiosity of future geologists.
Natalie shivered: Gottschalk liked to play it very rough.
“What ‘stands to reason’? Marcus asked. The wolf was sculpting a piece of wood with his SOG cutting knife.
“That we have been told everything. No secrets whatsoever.”
“Cabin fever is our first enemy, in this place. We must be sure of trusting each other, knowing what everyone else does and where we come from. Layers of secrets would eventually make security job more difficult, there would be conflicts—“
“There are always secrets,” Marcus interrupted her, without pausing his job, making chips of wood falling on the floor. After a few moments, with the same punctuality that had characterized their movements before, small robots – like mice, only with a glossy white carapace instead of a fur – swarmed out of the floor and quickly cleared after the wolf.
Marcus smirked at that sight. “Creepy.”
“Not creepy, efficient,” Lance retorted. He was playing a videogame session – or at least something that resembled a videogame – with his tablet. His eyes didn’t leave the screen as he went on. “Although I would have opted for another shape. The engineers at Red said they had taken inspiration from Ray Bradbury’s There Will Come Soft Rains.”
“And what’s wrong with that?” Dasco asked, his eyes glued to a session of Magic: the Gathering RPG. He looked ignominiously excited, his tail wagging hard –quite the opposite of the self-composed, almost gloomy dog they had known so far.
“That short tale was set in a post-nuclear future, in an automated house where small mice-like robots would take care of their masters’ needs. The house kept functioning somehow even after everything else was gone, every robot doing its task for someone who wouldn’t be there to appreciate it anymore.
“Eventually, a tree fell on the house, dousing flammable stuff everywhere, and a spark ignited a fire. The house started burning, and these mice robots came out of the walls, trying to smother the flames…but their effort were useless, and in the end the house burned down. Only one machine kept working: the voice-lock, endlessly repeating the date, while the rain fell on this dead world.”
“So, it was creepy,” Marcus said.
The Bullador blushed, his voice trembling a bit. “It was sad. Those poor things, trying to do their job to the very end…”
This time, Marcus paused. “Let me get this straight: Are you crying over a bunch of fictional robots?”
“Nerds,” Dasco said, his paws moving in a blur. On the screen, the wizard of his company sacrificed herself to counterspell the summoning of a Wall of Denial. At that point, the wizard’s dragon, a monstrous Balefire, inflicted a devastating damage against the White Knights bunch of his opponents! The King Shepherd howled his triumph, his fist raised and shaking! “Yes! This will teach you a lesson, ladies: A pro is not politically correct!”
Marcus shrugged to Lance. “I never said your attitude was wrong, though: My people is no stranger to animism.” Then he turned his head toward Dasco. “And you learn some respect! Females are to be respected, not fought against!”
The other dog shook his head. “Uh-uh! These ladies got skills, mister. They are more the showoffs than the males, actually. Wanna try?” And before Marcus and Lance could object, a controller landed in their lap.
“Hey!” both shouted. Marcus almost cut his finger with the sharp blade, Lance almost lost his tablet. “I’m playing, too, if you didn’t notice!”
Dasco made a face. “That stuff is not a videogame, dog!”
“It is! It’s an Alien Civilization simulator, one still not released on the market!” He showed the Hi-Res screen by tapping on it. “I am building a planet suitable to host life as…Aw, I have just created a massive metal core! Now the crust is too unstable and radioactive.”
“Bo-oring you are, guys!” Dasco said, feigning a yawn. “Now come here and enjoy some mayhem! I need a new wizard and possibly a giant Ally!”
Marcus put his piece of wood and the knife on the couch where he was sitting. “Now that’s a word I am familiar with. I’m not keen on magic things, but if it comes to smash enemies…”
Lance sighed and joined the game. “What the howl, I was going to discard that planet anyway. Do you have an Archivist free?”
“Guys, I was talking to you,” Navy protested.
Marcus chose his titanic warrior. “I respect you as female, but please! You’re one who barely saw any action. What will you do to protect your quarry in case of problems? Bore your enemy with your ‘negotiations skills’?” This made even the other males giggle.
A row of white teeth gleamed in the jet-black muzzle. “Toss me a controller, D. Please,” she asked with poison-coated honey in her voice. She grabbed the object in mid-air.
“Do you know this game?” Dasco asked. “Thought you shrinks liked chess.”
“Dad taught me MtG since I was a pup. Said it helps understanding your opponent better than chess. And I’ll bet you that I can beat you to our goal, with…aha!” She chose a Yotian Soldier and spent all her initial mana credit to equip it with a Loxodon Warhammer.
Dasco scoffed at that choice! “Oh, come on! That is the sort of thing that at this level gets offed before you can move a step toward enemy lines! At best, you’ll be our support behind the front lines, not the vanguard!”
“Wanna bet? Follow my tail, bunch of machos!”
In the communal bedroom, Edward Pope was desperately trying to focus on his Kindle.
“We got first shift, tomorrow,” Archer said, laying over next to him. “You’re supposed to rest, today’s been quite the exciting day.”
Eddie didn’t even turn his eyes to the Greyhound/Norwegian mix. “I want to be sure of sleeping really sound. You know I tend to stay awake when I’m edgy, that’s why during missions you sleep like a pup and I do the shifts.”
Archer sat up. “I can’t believe it! You’re afraid of sleeping with us all?! Man, you really should keep your mind out of the sewers, you know?”
Eddie looked around, as if the bed was a living thing out to harm him. “Never slept in a bed with anyone else than me! H-half you guys are naked!”
“As we usually are, smart alec. So what’s the matter?”
“Poor people sleep together in one room!” Eddie was blushing integrally, now. He could almost burn the mattress he was sitting on.
“Hey,” Chance said from his portion of the bed. “I was poor, and I used to sleep with my friends. And I miss those days. Something wrong with that, naked ape?”
“Monsieur Rich is being too classy for us,” Amar “Monsieur Rich is wanting us to sleep outside, yes?”
“Ah-uh…that’s not-that’s not what I meant…” Eddie was stuttering.
“C’mon, guys, give him a break,” Archer intervened. “You read his file, he’s still obsessed with money loss.” After Edward’s father had been killed, the boy had inherited a fortune, but he had quickly wasted it in the vain attempt to fill the void caused by the loss. In doing so, unfortunately, Edward had also brought his own family down with him. He had started working for his uncle Jericho because he needed a new paternal figure and he badly needed the money…
“Whatever,” Chance grumbled. “Not an excuse to be rude, though.”
“You are being his superior. Keep him on a shorter leash.” He grinned. Both cats chuckled.
Edward’s teeth were grinding like millstones on grain. He crawled out of the bed. “We need separate beds, this thing is an obstacle in case of emergency—ack!” a moment later, the soft mattress was collapsing on itself, until it had turned into a single futon. The young man was consternated. “The frick..?” he turned to his dog partner…who was holding a remote of sort.
“Cool eh? You can set the height and softness.”
Edward patted the now semi-hard surface. He wasn’t sure his colleagues would appreciate right now. “Ok, ok, bring it back to…to how it was before!” he stood up and left the ‘futon’. “I’ll sleep on the couch.”
It was then, that he heard an anguished cry coming from the living room! Both man and dog exchanged an alarmed look.
“What happened guys?!” Archer asked.
Marcus was still holding the fragments of his controller in his trembling fists. His face was a study of cold fury. Lance was blinking like a deer frozen before a truck. Dasco was sobbing against his arm.
Navy was keeping her controller suspended against the tip of her finger. She was humming a song. “Mommy taught you so-ome, Mommy taught you so-ome, lallalalla!”
On the screen, a sort of robotic creature holding a triangular blade and a sort of gigantic hammer was dancing happily over the bodies of both enemies and allies alike, in the midst of a…medieval city in ruins.
“She beat me,” Dasco was repeating, whining like an overgrown puppy. “She beat me. No one ever beat me at a videogame. You cheated! Bad girl!”
“Did not.” Navy stood up and went to the fridge, where she helped to a lemon tea. She tapped her skull before uncorking the bottle’s cap. “Shrink. I read carefully your files, and I know how you work, basically. Just a little push here and there, and you played to my tunes like cute, well-trained puppies.”
“You manipulated us!” Marcus’ growl was something horrible to hear, and his snarling face was nothing less.
Navy walked to him…and kissed his cheek. “Give me fifteen minutes, a can of soda, and I can convince you to cut your own foot. And yes, I am that good.” All of a sudden, she didn’t look like…well, just like an overpaid therapist anymore. “You better respect me for this rather than for my femininity. And now, good night, machos nachos.”
Marcus too stood up and left. “I’m not promising she’ll survive the night.”
Dasco put the controller in its socket. He looked at the broken one. “Hope they won’t charge the damages on our bill.”
“Not a problem, given our pay,” Lance said. “Another game?”
“No thanks. The last thing I need now is to discover there’s another shrink waiting on the other side of the screen!”
“As you wish. I need my brain’s beauty sleep anyway. Say, it’s good to see you’re…normal, after all.”
Dasco’s ears flicked. “What do you mean?”
“We were starting to think that there was a mistake, and that you were paired with Elsa. Or that you were a robot.”
Dasco chuckled and relaxed against the couch. “Oh, that! Well, call it professional hazard: after working in every possible top-secret facility, it sort of rubbed off on me. Navy’s right: This place is unique, and I don’t mean the tech. In my previous assignments, the scientists of a group were completely close-knit and would never speak to their colleagues of another group. Every intergroup contact passed through the military. At a certain point, everyone was just happy to live in their comfort zone without caring about the others.
“One day, this scientist, a…okay, sorry, can’t tell you. Well, anyway, this person died. Heartstroke caused by stress. No one cared to check on that person until the corpse had starts stinking.”
Lance made a face. “Ew. But again, who am I to judge? Jake used to live a pretty recluse life. Did you read that tale--?”
“The Rains? Yes, I heard you speaking about it. I mean, yes, I read it.”
The bullador nodded. “I’m pretty sure Jake had his own disposal robot mice ready to take care of his cadaver, like those robots did with the dog in the tale.”
“Nah, turn me into a nice pile of ash anytime. Then I want to be mixed with that fake cocoa stuff. Then we’ll see if they can tell the difference!”
Lance looked at the cup he had just emptied. He started to feel queasy, who knows why? “Sick, dog. Sick to the core.”
Dasco wagged. “Nah. I just really don’t like that stuff.”
“You being the only one who doesn’t. No sweet tooth at all with you?”
Dasco flashed a grin of his front teeth. “Not my case, pup.” Then he rapped against his tummy, producing a metallic sound. “Not to mention that I need to be fit, just like you should. Or are you and your partner the classic donut-lover cops?”
Lance smirked. “Aw, come on! As if eating one from time to time could be a crime!”
The other dog flexed his bicep and patted it. Again, that weird metallic sound. “It is, if the wrong diet makes you too weak to engage in a fight. Remember, when we’re out we’re supposed to stay ready for action, not a picnic!”
“Fine, fine! Jake and I will do our cardio daily. Now can we go to sle-eep!” before he knew it, Lance found himself laying like a piece of meat over the other dog’s powerful shoulder.
The King Shepherd walked toward the stairs with his ‘prey’. “No way, pup. First we do a nice set of exercises. Some basic stuff, don’t worry. You will sleep like an angel, later.”
“No you won’t dare! You’re a mad dog!”
“Nah, I just love my job, and I want my colleagues to be up to certain standards. You’ll see, a few weeks of proper training and not even you will recognize yourself in the mirror!”
By now, Lance was tossing and kicking out and beating the big dog’s shoulder much like Olive would do with Bluto during the kidnap scene. “I love my current reflection! I love myself! The ladies love my soft belly! I am a cop! I will arrest you! Jaaaake!”
“Be right with you,” said the man –a man laying over Marcus’ shoulder, while the Dire Wolf followed the Shepherd down the stairs. Jake didn’t look happy of his predicament. “One suggestion, my canine friend: Never, ever mention a sweet tooth to anyone who must be literally fit for a living. Oh, and weren’t you going to sleep?”
“We are teams, we are supposed to do everything together, caring for each other. Sleep can wait. I’ll help you working out to a good shape. I did the same with Damien.”
“I see why he looks afraid of you.”
“Nah, that’s because he fears I could kill someone in the sleep.”
“Please tell me you’re joking,” Lance whimpered.
“I wish I had someone like you at my side, back at Area-51,” Dasco chuckled.
“Too whimpy. Anyway, I like that I can’t Believe stuff,” Marcus said. “But, just like anything you eat, it must be treated properly.”
“It’s a pleasure drink!” Lance protested. “A treat, not the difference between life and death!”
The wolf licked his chops. “Then you should take it as I do: A nice dip for a dried meat ration. Protein and calories in one go.”
Lance turned green.
He started hating his job.
Last edited by valerio on Fri Mar 15, 2013 4:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.