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The Rats, the Bats & the Ugly: Chapter Twenty Three

       Last updated: Saturday, July 31, 2004 12:41 EDT



The Korozhet ship's waterbath chamber;.

    "High-spine." The small Orange Third-instar clacked its spines respectfully.

    Yetteth kept his eyes averted from the two Korozhet in the chamber and went on cleaning up the revolting regurgitated undigestible remains of the High-spine's meal. The flaccid furry bag that had been the Korozhet's dinner lay discarded beside her pool. He would have to carry that to the incinerators later. Hopefully he would not pass any adult Nerba slaves on the way. They tended to go insane on seeing the remains of their offspring. They couldn't attack one of the Korozhet, but he had no such protection. And while baby Nerba were soft-furred, big-eyed and harmless, the Nerba adults' hide was as tough as hull-metal, and their horns were immense.

    "Approach, Kerit. What is it?"

    "High-spine, you recall that we found out the name and unit of the human soldier who interfered with the plans of Agent Srattit and played a role in her death. Our monitoring and surveillance group have picked up the details from their newscasts. He is repeating his story. It includes the fact that Agent Srattit was responsible for the kidnap of this prestigious human, Virginia Shaw."

    The High-spine rattled with irritation. "The human called General Fredricks said this human was dead. We had asked them that he be sent to us."

    "It appears they were mistaken, High-spine. An administrative error, it seems."

    "And the humans do not kill those who make mistakes. A foolish underphyle, like most such. Pass the information onto General Cartup-Kreutzler... no. Bring me a communicator."

    "At once, High spine."

    Yetteth continued to clean up the mess from the floor-plates. Some human had irritated the Overphyle badly. He wished he could understand human. Some of the human slaves had been mind-wiped before being implanted, but some had not. If the Overphyle wanted to question them, they left their memories intact. One of those in his bunk-room still had her memories. Perhaps it would be worth the risk.



Jampad and rats, on the loose in an alien city.

    Darleth had realized, very rapidly, that the new rat with the tail-stump was the kind who organized. Since Ariel had joined her band they had moved, rapidly, from being an idea in a Jampad mind, with two ratty followers, to being a band of some sixty rats. They had maps, bus routes, even some strange forms of arms. There were rules, "turf," and the human means of financial exchange. What they called "money." Darleth didn't understand it too well. You'd think anyone with a printing press could make it by the bucket. It seemed to have no value in energy terms either. It burned, but not well or very hotly. Nonetheless, Ariel was collecting the stuff, with which she traded, very successfully, with a human contact.

    It was this human contact that also had given them their name. "The Ratafia." Darleth liked it. It was the name of a beautiful mountain district at home. The rats liked it, too. And while the other rats regarded the Ratafia as organized banditry, in Darleth's talks with Ariel she came to realize that Ariel did not.

    The rat was preparing a loyal army, even if their loyalty was won with drink and loot.

    That suited Darleth perfectly. She needed an army—to defend her, and maybe, somehow, to strike at the Korozhet. If only she could get around the soft-cyber bias. If only she could organize the slave-revolt they feared so.

    In the meantime, the rats had proved invaluable in obtaining suitable food. There was little enough of it in the city, it seemed. She had only smelled out a few eating places, and one shop that stocked it. And those raids were getting tougher on all of them.

    Ariel said it was called "Fresh Seafood."

    It could be bought too, it seemed. But Darleth knew that the rats wouldn't enjoy that nearly as much.

    And happy skirmishers were good skirmishers.

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