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The Rats, the Bats & the Ugly: Chapter Thirty

       Last updated: Saturday, August 21, 2004 13:20 EDT



Shaw House, Virginia's bedroom.

    There was a more than slightly suspicious glint in Dr. Thom's eye as he walked her back upstairs to her room. But Ginny was finding it nearly impossible not to jump in the air and dance down the passage. Two notes down in the wad of hundred dollar notes was her letter to Chip, explaining the situation. Further down the bound stack of money, on a further three pieces of stolen notepaper, were the security details of Shaw House and the fences. Ginny had also taken the liberty of keeping a thousand dollars—she might need bribes—and this was just about the first actual money she'd ever had in her hands. All her life someone else had always paid for everything. It gave her an odd feeling of independence to really have some money of her own that she could hold.

    That, and seeing Chip again, made pretending to be doped very hard. She'd endured it before. Now, impatience set in. It was difficult even to concentrate on reading, while she waited. The worst was the lack of news. She sat watching the numbers change on the bedside clock-radio. How did the seconds and minutes take so long to pass? The not knowing would kill her. She wished desperately for a phone call—a wild dream, that—or even a TV or a newspaper. Surely Chip could give the information to the press, and get her freed? She'd stopped her ears as best as possible with cotton-wool, but she knew that she would just have to resist the Korozhet commands. She was already steeling herself for it.

    Then it occurred to her: what she was watching the seconds on was a digital clock... radio.

    She'd never used it as a radio before. Actually, with a wallscreen TV, she'd never bothered to listen to the radio at all. Before her kidnapping and the murder of her parents, the news had never interested her much. And TV drama had had little attraction for her, compared to good book. As for an alarm—the maids woke you with coffee at the appointed time. The device had been little more than something that had taken her fancy before her implant, and had remained in her room.

    After stepping out of her room to make sure that there was no one around, she took the cotton wool from her ears and started to fiddle with the radio. She was rewarded by a blast of music. Hastily, she yanked the plug from the socket, clicked the wall-screen TV on, and wondered how she could have been so stupid as to forget that her room was bugged.

    She sat for some twenty minutes staring at the mindless froth on the TV, before going to look carefully at the clock radio. There was a small dial marked "volume." With it turned close to the minimum, she plugged it in and listened. It was music. She fiddled the dials and heard voices. It was a talk show. Never had such a thing sounded so sweet.

    Ginny took up her station in bed with a clock-radio between her ear and the bed, and a pillow on the other ear, and soap-opera on the TV. Ginny hoped that the listeners liked the soapy.

    News was something few people missed, until they were denied access to it. Ginny listened eagerly. And then in horror.

    "...ilitary police today arrested accused rapist Lance-Corporal Charles Connolly only minutes after the soldier had attempted to extort money from his alleged victim, Virginia Shaw, the daughter of our late Chairman. Ms Shaw has been in seclusion since her terrible ordeal but, according to witnesses, felt that she had to confront her attacker and overcome her fear. Dr. Fred Thom, Ms. Shaw's personal physician, described her as 'very distraught, but very courageous.' Ms. Shaw granted a private exclusive telephonic interview to HARBS news."

    Virginia listened to a voice, not wildly unlike her own, explain how she wanted to move on from being a victim to being a survivor.

    "Ms. Shaw has requested, on medical grounds which have been supported by her personal physician, Dr. Thom, that she be spared having to meet her attacker again. According to her Solicitor, John Lo Lee, if leave is granted she will only have to lodge suitable depositions with the court, as there is strong evidence against the accused already..."



    Before this, Virginia had needed to get out of her home/prison for her own sake and for the good of the cause she hoped to support. Now, she needed to get out of here for Chip. And not all the guards in the universe were going to stop her.

    He'd been arrested minutes after he'd seen her. She'd bet he had not even had a chance to read the first love-letter she'd ever written, two notes down in the bundle of money she'd given him. She'd struggled with that letter. It was something she didn't want anyone else to read, ever, but that she'd realized that Chip might have to use to convince people.

    She could only hope that no one had gone through that bundle of notes after she'd given it to him. Five notes down was a neat copy of the security system of the Shaw Mansion.

    Now she had to come up with an escape plan.

    Twenty minutes later she was once again in her bathroom, water running, discussing it all with Fluff. "I need one as a weapon, Fluff. And I will need a strategy once I get out, to stop them just arresting me. The trouble is, other than the rats and the bats, and Chip, I don't know who I can trust. And I've got to get out of here to save him. They execute people in the military for rape, Fluff."

    The little Galago looked distinctly worried. "Senorita... it is true that I can get the key to the garden equipment shed, but the chainsaw she is too heavy for me to carry to you. No, we will have to try the guile. Escape. Then together we will go out to rescue Signor Chip. He is a gallant soldier, even if he has usurped me from your affections," he said loftily.

    "Oh, Fluff! It's not like that!" protested Virginia, hugging him. "Besides, you have so many girlfriends there among the rats..."

    He stepped back onto the bath edge, pacing it as if it were a catwalk. "It is only natural, I am so macho, that all the women they should adore and desire me," said Don Juan el Magnifico de Gigantico de Immaculata Conception y Major de Todos Saavedra Quixote de la Mancha. Fluff loved to strut his stuff, "But, mi Virginia, that is merely a physical thing. The love of my heart, she is always for you!" His wide eyes were dewy with earnestness, his delicate mobile ears downcast.

    "I bet you say that to all of them," she teased. "Anyway, I love you too, Fluff, even if I can't compete with all your groupies. But we can't just leave Chip to his fate. I must try."

    "Indeed, Senorita, but I believe that we can get out without fighting. We shall hide in a vehicle leaving here." He wrinkled his entire face with distaste. "It is in the truck of the garbage we must go, si. With all the fish heads, tin cans, plastic bags and the old cabbage leaves." He seemed to take particular affront at the cabbage leaves.

    The idea startled her. "It could work... But I'm still going to get myself a chainsaw. I saw the gardeners using a really lovely little one on the hedges. I'll smuggle it up here somehow."

    Maybe the average young girl didn't speak of chainsaws in the same way, but Virginia felt that that was their loss. As fashion accessories they had the edge on nearly anything else, when it came to getting you a lot of attention. And respect.

    The galago blinked his big eyes. "Si. I suppose if the truck it is too difficult to get into, it is something for the defense of your virtue when you do not have me with you. I will go to watch for the truck."



Shaw House, the Webb Salon, decanter of rare earth Sherry on the table


    Talbot shook his head. "I don't care what you say, Dr. Thom. I smell a rat here." He tapped the recording. "She'd been sleeping with him. In this she treats him rather like a bad smell she's possibly met somewhere before. She sounds like a YMCA secretary talking to a stumblebum, not a young girl talking to her first lover—even if he is a Vat."

    "Well, there were two of our best men in earshot, Talbot," said the Doctor. "It could just have been that she was embarrassed."

    "Mighty cool for embarrassment. I have to wonder about those drugs of yours and that computer chip in her head. It wouldn't be affected, would it?"

    The doctor looked surprised. "I hadn't thought of that, to be honest. The addiction would be the same. But her clarity of thought should be reasonable, depending on just how much it does for her."

    The head of the Colony's security stood up. "We want to be suspicious and alert here. She might be planning a break. I think I want security tightened, Thom. And have you caught that monkey of hers, yet?"

    "We assume that it's run off onto the golf course or into the parkland. I've had poison bait put out for it. Some acacia-gum that it is apparently very partial to. But no luck so far."

    "Well, get some people from the zoo. No. On second thoughts, don't. They might not be that keen on killing it. And it can also talk, eh?"

    Thom nodded. "Yes, it has one of these Korozhet chips in its head too."

    "I'll get you a couple of big-game hunting guides, then," said Talbot. "They've got experience at keeping their mouths shut about canned hunts. Pay them enough and they will kill this creature and keep quiet about it. I'm getting rid of loose ends. And right now they seem to be fraying as I go."

    He slammed a meaty fist into his palm. "The military courts were very co-operative, thanks to Tana, so I thought this was a reasonable way to deal with this idiot Lance-Corporal. Then my brother-in-law could, with a suitable military lack of fuss and secrecy, have Connolly handed to the Korozhet. They want him, and what they want they will get, from me anyway. But now I hear that blasted Fitzhugh is up for retrial, about which those uppity Vats and the gutter-press are making a royal fuss, and my dear brother-in-law says he can't pull Connolly out of the Military Justice system, and it's even going to be tricky to get him quietly out of Military Prison, even if he gets a death penalty. And your precious Tana, having assured me that Fitzhugh was stitched... now, she's not only failed at that, but says all she can do is affect the defense and the prosecuting counsel. Her pet judge is suspended pending investigation. So: I need to take steps here."

    "Well, it 's all in perfect control at this end," said Dr. Thom. "And I'll bet you Tana screwed the money out of you, before the Fitzhugh thing fell apart."

    "She did," said Talbot irritably. "Now, you assured me this drug of yours would make the Shaw girl complaisant. I think it's time we put that to the test. We've got a Council of Shareholders meeting coming up, and a number of issues on the war-funding are going to the vote. I need those votes of hers. I also want to strengthen the hand of Special Branch further. And we need to get rid of this ridiculous 'court-order to wire-tap' regulation. Have you got her to sign those proxy voting forms yet?"

    The Doctor looked startled. "You said not to."

    Cartup smiled inwardly. Always make it the help's fault. It kept them unsettled and unsure of themselves. "When I want your back-answers, I'll ask for them, Thom. Get them signed now. If she makes no resistance to that, I might just take you up on something else you said she'd do for me, when she was full of your pills."

    "W... what?"

    "Lie on her back and let me screw her," he said, enjoying the look on the Doctor's face.

    Thom said nothing. He just took the proxy voting forms from the drawer and walked off to find his charge.



    A few minutes later he was back. "She signed the forms. She didn't even seem concerned," he said.

    "Good. Because we're going to test her compliance a lot further. My idiot brother-in-law pointed out the obvious to me. We'll arrange a photo-shoot for tomorrow afternoon. She'll be accepting my ring. I think we'll have to wait a few weeks for the marriage. And maybe a month before the funeral."

    The Doctor dropped the proxy-forms. "What!?"

    "Pick those up, Thom. It seems by far the easiest way of avoiding having to get proxies in the future." He stood up. "I'll pass this recording onto my staff. They can probably cobble something incriminating out of it. In the meanwhile I suggest you restrict her movement to that room. One of my men reports that he saw her trying doors on the Mezzanine level."

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