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The Rats, the Bats & the Ugly: Chapter Twenty

       Last updated: Friday, July 16, 2004 00:45 EDT



Under the rooftops, with the rafterlines hung with a black mass of bats.

    Bats hung and chittered. Bronstein found it wonderful to have so many others all around again, like some huge, enveloping cloak. Bats were just not designed to be solitary creatures. Even with three of them, Bronstein had always felt exposed. Now, in the warm, crowded hangings of the belfry, she felt security in the togetherness of it all. And yet—she felt even more alone, because of what the three of them had seen and had to prove to batdom. It was time to put aside the petty bickering of the myriad factions and unite against the true foe. Could the bats do that? And where did they start?

    A bat leaned his head towards her and spoke confidentially, with the gossip's delighted tone of scandal. "You know what I've heard from a friend of mine who was actually part of the attack on that scorpiary? She said there was a dead Korozhet there."

    The whole idea sent a frisson of horror through Bronstein's neurons. A horror that she knew was artificial, but nonetheless left her uncomfortable. But she had to start somewhere. "We call them Crotchets. Yes. I saw it too."

    "Crotchets? Surely that's not after being respectful?" asked the other bat doubtfully.

    "Indade. Who said bats had to be respectful to Crotchets? We have respect for our elected leaders, our bats, not some Crotchet." It was mere semantics, she knew. But the software in the chip had no programming for alternate names. The K... Crotchet language was quite unlike English, she now knew. Each word only had one meaning.

    The bat wrinkled her forehead. "I must admit that it is right that you are. I have no feeling of natural respectfulness for a Crotchet. Nasty things, actually."

    "'Tis not right that respect should be imposed. It must be earned," said Bronstein. It was an idea that would ring a cord with any bat.

    The bat nodded. "Did this... Crotchet die in the course o' furthering our struggle against the oppressors?"

    "The Crotchet was a traitor. Death was too good for him," snarled Bronstein.

    Another bat fluttered up and squeezed into the chittering huddle. Bats will always squeeze up to someone. They'll usually complain about it. This one whispered in Bronstein's ear. "Easter uprising."

    Bronstein fluttered off to report to the Provisional Revolutionary Army Council of the Battacus League. She caught a glimpse of Eamon, going the other way. Doubtless off to a meeting of the Battybund Liberation Army. He was quite high in the Battybund, she'd been told. Given the way bats thought, his password had probably also been "Easter Uprising."

    She had a few new ideas to put forward. About a bank, for starters—and not a bloodbank, either.



    Later that evening when the conspirators had had a great conspire, and Michaela Bronstein had fed a number of new ideas into her faction, she realized it wouldn't all be plain sailing.

    "I take your point, Bronstein, that the Vats too labor under enslavement. And it would be right comradely to lend our aid in freeing them. But a bank? It's very bourgeoisie for a revolutionary movement. And would they not be after calling us bloodsuckers?"

    "And does banking not require capital?" demanded another dubiously.

    This was something that had worried Bronstein too. But she hadn't realized just how serious it could be. Before she could speak, this thoughtful conspirator continued, "Would that not make us... Capitalists?" She shuddered at the thought.



    On the more positive side, Bronstein was not in the least surprised to have the rumor she'd started herself repeated to her by three different bats. It had become slightly garbled, but basically the K... unthinkable, had been taken over by evil aliens called "Crotchets" that looked just like the good Korozhet. The evil aliens were in league with the entrenched exploiters, apparently. Now there was a surprise.

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