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

       Last updated: Thursday, August 12, 2004 02:32 EDT



A mock Tudor mansion in the wealthy northern suburbs

    General Cartup-Kreutzler was still dealing with a chilly atmosphere at home. At the office, he wore the trousers. Maria, however, made sure that he did not have any such delusions at home. It was her family's money, and he'd better not forget it. And she'd had to come and get him out of jail when Major Fitzhugh had ruined his little tête-à-tête with his secretary, Daisy.

    That wasn't something that she was planning to let him forget, ever. However, what she was really bitter about was that he'd broken one of her Queen Anne chairs in his attempt to escape from their country getaway.

    Since that scandalous affair, she'd let him know that he'd better be here for his meals of cold shoulder and hot tongue every night, if he didn't want to be paying her alimony. And he had very little money of his own, anyway.

    The telephone rang. He ignored it.

    She handed him the phone. "I hope you don't think I'm your secretary," she said arctically.

    He labored under no such delusions. His secretaries always had good figures, and a high degree of compliance. Also, they tended to be thirty years younger than Maria. Who had dared to call him at home? It wasn't Maria's brother Talbot. Maria hadn't belittled him for half an hour, and no one else would call. "General Cartup-Kreutzler here," he snapped.

    The breathy voice on the other end of the line was immediately recognizable. The general stiffened. The Army was in a poor position to offend the Korozhet. They supplied the soft-cybers and the slowshields. Without those, the soldiers would be totally unable to slow the relentless Magh' advance.



    Two minutes later, he had INB News on the TV and was just in time to catch a full repeat of the story about the snotty little Vat trooper that had given Fitzhugh his break. As he watched, the fury in him grew. Without this Vat, he would never have ended up in this invidious, defensive position.

    General Cartup-Kreutzler wanted Major Fitzhugh crucified and boiled in hot oil. But, in the meantime, this Vat would do.

    He picked up the phone again and set some of his staff onto chasing up Colonel Rastapolous. "Try the Paradiso. He's usually there."

    Ten minutes later he had his legal advisor on the phone. "Get to my office. And sober up. I need some charges drawn up."

    That meant going in to work, but that was better than staying at home, anyway.



    The colonel was fairly far gone into inebriation, despite his boss' instructions. The general looked at him in disgust. The fool was turning into a lush. "Go and drink some coffee," he ordered. "Not Irish coffee, either."

    While he waited for Rastapolous to pull himself together, Cartup-Kreutzler telephoned Talbot. He was mildly pleased to think that, judging by the out-of-breath state of his brother-in-law, he'd probably managed to ruin Talbot's evening. "I had a call from the senior Korozhet advisor. You know they asked us to locate the private who was involved in the death of Virginia Shaw's tutor?"

    His brother-in-law successfully irritated him with his reply. "Yes. Thom called me earlier. The soldier tried to call Shaw today. We have arranged to allow a meeting, and then he'll be quietly removed from the scene at the Shaw house and delivered to the Korozhet. No one will even know where he disappeared to."

    "Leave your little pastime and watch the news on INB. The media will be going there with him, so he can't just disappear. He's been telling his story, and there are any number of things he can be charged with. But that legal fool of mine is drunk again. To be realistic, he'll have to serve the charges in the morning."

    "Hmmm. Let me think about it," said Talbot. "It might be easier just to get my men to kill him tonight. Mind you, the Korozhet have asked that he be handed over to them. They suspect him of murdering that tutor of Shaw's. Look, I'll take some advice from a friend of mine, she's astute about these things. If need be we can always get Thom to delay things. In the meanwhile go and push Rastapolous' head under a cold tap. I suspect the best answer might be to arrest him and to take it from there."

    "He's being made out to be a hero by the media, Talbot," cautioned the general. "Arresting him could create more complications that we don't need."

    There was a silence. Then: "The army has a DNA match for this soldier on file?"

    "He's a Vat, Talbot. Of course. If we had enough time we could clone him."

    "I think we've got him then, Henry. Thom examined Virginia Shaw. Somebody had been screwing the dummy. He's got some interesting DNA material out of that examination. Odds are that matches that soldier. Public support for rapists is slim."

    Now, that was an interesting idea. "But surely she'd have complained. Had him arrested. It must have been consensual, Talbot."

    "Almost certainly," said his brother-in-law. "She was very affectionate towards him when they first got back. But then, she won't be testifying, Henry. Any attempt to subpoena her, we'll meet with medical excuses, and I can deal adequately with providing fake depositions."

    "It could work." Cartup-Kreutzler paused. Sometimes his brother-in-law worried him. He could be so inventive and yet so blind. "Do you realize where this could have led, Talbot? We could have handed 34% of the Company to a damned Vat."

    There was a pause from Talbot now. Then he said, dismissively: "Don't be ridiculous, Henry. He's nothing but some Vat-scum."

    "I'm not being ridiculous. Remember what you told me about her. She's brain-damaged, Talbot. Your Thom said she had a mental age of about seven after that horse-riding accident. Damage to her speech centers, if I remember rightly. She couldn't speak properly. Is there any sign of that now? No. That's because Shaw had her implanted with one of these animal-control devices we use on military animals. She's a little robot, and doesn't really know how a Shareholder should behave. And she is heir to both her parent's shares in the HAR colony. You know perfectly well that Shaw married Gina Roussel to get control over her 14% of the stock." For once General Cartup-Kreutzler felt that he had his brother-in-law on the back foot.

    "A good thing we parted them!" exclaimed Talbot. "To think that I said someone was welcome to screw the dummy."

    "If I were you, I'd look carefully at who else might think of doing so," said the General slowly. He'd married a midden for the muck, so the idea might just occur to someone else. "That Thom, for instance. How far do you trust him, Talbot?"

    "Not at all," said Talbot. "But I've got the black on him, Henry. He was the kingpin in the methyldeoxymethamphetamine ring. That's why I inveigled him into taking up the post as Shaw's personal physician."

    "You think that's enough to hold him back from 34% of the shares, Talbot?"

    Talbot snorted like an irritable pig. "Next thing you'll say I should marry her myself."

    "It might not be a bad idea, actually. The alliance of two powerful Shareholder houses and all that sort of thing. Think about it."

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