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The Rats, the Bats & the Ugly: Chapter Seven

       Last updated: Tuesday, June 1, 2004 00:02 EDT



Later: back at the mock-chateau on the edge of HAR wineland-country. Now the Divisional Military Headquarters of the Fifth Brigade.

    "Get out of his office before he called pest control, indade!" Eamon was dangerously close to exploding.

    Nym suppressed a chuckle. Even he didn't laugh at Eamon in this mood. The bat had a habit of translating explosive temper into explosive substance. The transport officer had been more than tempting his luck, making that statement. He was just lucky that Bronstein had restrained Eamon from taking a bite out of his throat or pushing a bat-mine where it fitted best. Still, thought Nym, they did have a genuine and serious problem.


    The lack of breakfast was not an unsurvivable problem to other species. But the rats were built on elephant-shrew metabolism. They had to eat—often, a lot, and regularly. And the army had introduced a grog-ration too. Missing it was not something rats did voluntarily.

    They'd all had a fair amount of looted grog and pieces of maggot in their packs. Rats had nothing much against eating dead friends. Worrying about eating dead enemies was definitely an idea only something as daft as a human could find disturbing. Nym liked humans nearly as much as he liked mechanical things, especially vehicles, but they were odd in their foibles. However, the food supplies were getting low. They really needed to get back into the human supply-chain before morning, or there'd be trouble. Like someone eating someone else. And most of them looked stringy, or else he was becoming positively human in his own foibles.

    "So, how do we get back to our units?" asked Melene. By the look in her eyes, she'd also started thinking ahead to breakfast. A rare rattess, that. Her current lover, Doc, might have more deep philosophical thought rattling around in his skull than was good for him, but she had the edge when it came to that rarest of rat intellectual jewels, forethought.

    "Methinks we could help ourselves to a vehicle," Nym said, without any real hope that the others might go along with it. O'Niel loved vehicular travel. But for some reason not even the fat bat wanted Nym to drive.

    The chorus of "No!" was unanimous. Unfair, it was. All he needed was a vehicle that was a bit more his own size.

    "We," said O'Niel, pointing with his wing-tips to the other two bats, "could fly, to be sure, although Eamon should not be flying far, yet. But what o' the rats? We cannot abandon our comrades."

    That was bats for you. A social species. There was some comfort in it though. Nym found himself, against his better nature, wondering what a furry flier would taste like.

    The thought was a bit ghastly, and galvanized him into action. "We need some goodly vittles. And soon! Otherwise... I cannot even think of mechanical things. We need to get back to camp now."

    Doc nodded. "This matter belongs in the sphere of objective spirit. We need to assimilate that which has been created by the state. If one is at the source of that, why go to the tributary?"

    "Huh?" asked Pistol, scratching his privates.

    "Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing," said Fal, disgustedly. "As usual. Philosophy. Why study it? You cannot eat it, much less drink it."

    Melene looked thoughtful. "Methinks he means that this is the supply depot for the camps."

    "A remarkable understanding, my dear. We need to get into the storehouse."

    Doll Tearsheet sauntered around the corner with studied carefulness. She had box of chocolates in her paws. "You poxy lot could have waited for me," she said. "You left me behind, rifling his desk. I had to wait until he was called out to escape."

    "Chocolate!" squealed Melene. "Remember what good friends we are, Doll."

    "'Tis amazing what good friends a girl hath when she holds all the chocolates," said Doll. "Now, I think we should make haste. Without actually running... yet."

    "Why?" asked Eamon, suspiciously.

    "Because I have set a-fire to his wastepaper basket." Doll moved along to the nearest corner at not quite a run. "Methinks he will discover it soon."

    Eamon fluttered down, and bowed to her. "'In truth, Ma'am. I've not appreciated your finer qualities enough before."

    There was a yell from behind them. "You can buss me later, my sweet rogue," said Doll, pushing him aside. "Now we need more haste and far more speed!"



    Later, while sharing the chocolates and looking at the stores depot, the rats and bats considered strategy. "That fence looks to be electrified," said Nym. He was getting a grip on electricity. It had bitten him. And not one bit of good had come of biting it back.

    Pistol and Fal, having eaten their chocolates, paused in the act of converting complex rat strategy into action. "You mean we cannot just go though the wire?"

    "Not without dying," said Bronstein, dryly. "Not with your waistline, Fal. We'll have to fly over and take what we can. And the place is busy, even though dawn is a few hours off yet."

    Nym found himself studying the vehicles. The chocolate wasn't much, but it had sent his mind back onto its normal channels. Men were loading the trucks with small-wheeled things with a sort of fork in front. Nym eyed them with interest. They were a bit smaller than most vehicles. Nym had an eye for vehicles and for detail. "Methinks," he said slowly, "we can have our trip home and eat it too."

    It was a good idea. The only thing he didn't like about it was that he wouldn't have an opportunity to steal one of those little vehicles with the fork.

    "What do you mean, Nym?" asked Bronstein.

    "That truck being loaded. 'Tis the one used to bring rations to our old camp. We can board it, and ride back. 'Tis full of food too."

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