In which the opposition shall be revealed.
"Rojer Bursh-Thornis-Eurk!" growled the figure shrouded by the darkness of the middle conference room; "May he choke on his own ego!"
A young intern glances in the direction of the CEO, and then back at his notepad. The only legible scribbles reading "firstname.lastname@example.org."
Thrice a mechanical clock chimes, and then thrice a gavel hits the ornamental table of the middle conference room. A figure emerges from the door, his face illuminated by the open door, "Sir, a report has, c-c-come in from our s-s-server at Kemnix. The prospects do not look g-g-good, it seems that S-S-Ã¢â¬Â¦"
The CEO growls, "SpaceDep!"
"Yes, sir. They are stopping us at all c-c-corners sir," the guest said hesitantly.
"You have failed me once again Frexlem. May your tree be filled with maggots. Guards, seize him and put him where Kem will never find him!" the CEO shrieked.
Two gigantic burly forms seem to materialize behind the CEO, their tails seeming to be almost a yard high, and grabbed the ex-Frexlem. Shoving his body out kicking and screaming the guards chuckled, a very inhuman sounding rasp.
The CEO sighed, "I am the controller of the Internut, and yet I can not even get two stupid pests out of the way of my plans."
The intern looked at the other members of the board and noticed how they all had a look of mild indifference on their cheeks. That frightened her, as did the surreal dark surroundings.
The CEO turned to face the intern although it was almost imperceptible in the dark of the middle conference room, "Grefni, forgive me my manners, I am sorry about letting you see such bloody details of business life on your first day."
Feeling a bit scratchy in the throat Grefni replied, "Nonsense D-on, I am accustomed to such matters," she lied, in fear, "We, the Karst, are born to the field of business."
Letting his ego fly behind him like a flag, D-on preened, "Yes, you are right indeed. Long live the Karst!" and D-on lifted his glass of nutmilk.
The rest of the board and Grefni raise their glasses in response, "And good nut hunting to all those in the eye of Kem!" cried one member. All others nodded in acknowledgement.
Grefni was still tense and nervous. Something in the air was not right about this place. She felt like taking off into the sunshine outside. She felt like running somewhere warm and beautiful and filled with green trees, but she held herself in check, hoping not to alarm or set off D-on's awareness. She had a mission, she had a job to do, and she must stick to it or the world was doomed. She had no choice.
"So, Grefni, your qualities sound too good to be true," said the CEO, "Why would you choose to work here?"
Uh-oh, he's on to me, Grefni thought, but she said in her most persuasive voice, "Why, who would not want to work at the best Karst organization in the whole world?"
D-on seemed to be satisfied.
"Shall we get to business now?" asked a board member after a longish silence.
~ ~ ~
"SpaceDep, this is Gemini Regalia Enterprise Zero Seven, Operation Nutcracker is a success, I've got his N-Mail ID, It is d as in delta, symbol dash, on, symbol at, frex, symbol dot, ish, symbol dot, net. Do you copy?" The "secret" agent said into phone.
"We copy Agent Gemini. You're help is appreciated, keep your eyes and ears open," replied the operator.
~ ~ ~
The plague on the wall read:
Space Station Delta Ice
"Its bad enough that we relied on Squirrels for so many years to supply our communications backbone, but we have to hijack the phone system for crying out loud to send secret communications. We can't even get video over a phone line!" said General H. Sandwich, who happens to be in charge of covert operations.
"Yes, but we have received a message from Agent Gemini Regalia Enterprise Zero Seven," said Lt. Commander Johnson.
General Sandwich's eyes widened, "Oh! How's Grefni doing anyway?"
"Wonderful, superb, it's a pity there aren't more squirrels like her," the Lt. Commander Johnson sighed, "but it seems that those megalomaniacs at Internut Services/Horvner are pushing there assets into stopping Launch Alpha."
"Darn!" Sandwich normally didn't allow his anger show, "We've got to get Rojer off planet orÃ¢â¬Â¦ Well, at least Mack is down there. He knows the consequences if we fail more than the rest of us. He's seen the consequences."
"Seen them sir?" Johnson was confused, after all, how could he have seen them?
"It's difficult to explain and requires a look into Quantum Physics. It's not very appetizing looking at figures no matter what time of day. Speaking of Food, when is lunch?" General Sandwich glanced at the table at the back of the room as if food would magically appear on it.
Quickly, the Lt. Commander summoned the head mistress of the quarters and they both sat down to a hot plate of mushrooms in a light wine sauce. The General just stared glumly over his food, "Mushrooms," he said in disgust.
"Sir, may I suggest some artificial sweetener?" the Lt. Commander offered comradely.
Sandwich just kept glowering at the plate, "It's not that, I love mushrooms, or at least I did. They just serve it too many times up here. I know, I know, it's the only thing that'll grow well in these conditionsÃ¢â¬Â¦ You know, we have the technology, why not just terraform our own planet and not have to worry about itÃ¢â¬Â¦"
Lt. Commander Johnson was used to the General's rambling, they all were. The General knew as well as the rest of them what the Station's purpose was. The station was simply to help get the Penguins and Humans off-planet that deserved it. After that the built in Zeke drive would kick in and they would leave for Parisia.
General Sandwich who was busy teasing his mushroom burger, today's entrée, as the mistress served it, suddenly looked at his faux wood desk when he saw the blip. Now, of course, since military men (or even these faux military men) like to develop their own language, even if the thing they rename has a perfectly fine name already. On the satellite blip just meant blinking light since they had no radar (what good is radar in space?) they called blips (blinking lights) blips and left it at that. Now, this particular blip was known as the Clicker since when it was blipping (so to speak) you had to pick up the Clicker (remote control) and Click on the TV. Click.
Now before we get to the TV, I ought to explain why these faux military men were here instead of playing submarine in a large tub, or desert tank battle on a beach. These men are not just eccentric pro-military men; these guys are eccentric NASA (now SpaceDep) engineers who felt that every military base (their slang for satellite) needed someone to guard it (from what was never mentioned). General Sandwich is the most eccentric and strange of them all. He is so strange that in High School he legally changed his name to Handme A. Sandwich (his nickname became Ham Sandwich). No one remembers what it was before; however; his parents did have a fetish of naming their stuff after soups (Excuse me while I go to the Chicken Noodle to heat up some tea.).
Anyhow, the TV (or Strategic Defense Screen) was clicked on after the blipping of the clicker blip. On the screen was Cliff Bankman, the III, humming the theme song of "Eyewitness Mexico!" which had a very small budget. Cliff soon stopped (the theme song is a short little ditty, it basically goes "Ba da da dum da da da!") and began in that rapid-fire reporter style that Cliff had carefully practiced in front of his mirror.
"Today is, well, today! Your watching Eyewitness Mexico!" moving the camera with his elbow as he walked past (like I said, it's a small budget show), "Now, our top story, many people in Mexico (and the US) are getting strange ineffable headaches. Also, people with dental fillings around the world have been reporting strange buzzing noises in their teeth," as if to show this to explain his point Cliff's smiling teeth began to buzz for a few seconds before Cliff could get back to his monologue. Taking a paper of a trash can as if it had been handed to him (another thing he perfected in front of the mirror) Cliff went on, "This just in, another thing that may or may not be related, the French language is missing. Completely missing, everyone who spoke the language now speaks perfect Spanish with no recollection of even the easiest French word. All signs that used to be in French have mysteriously changed into Japanese, and all other written or heard material into a strange mixture of English and Portuguese. The whole of France is in chaos, and a small university is trying to stop chaos by making up a new French. The university says though, 'The French language can never really be replaced, and FrenchDos will only be a temporary replacement in the eyes of the French."
"There are no suspects in these crimes however. Now back to you Cliff. I'm your street correspondent Cliff Bankman, the III, and I hope you have a great day." Cliff ran into the mobile "Eyewitness Mexico!" set before moving the camera back to him, "Thank you Cliff for that wonderful report from the Streets of Mexico. Well, that is it for Eyewitness Mexico! I'm Cliff Bankman, the III, have a nice day, and tune in tomorrow when Cliff, the Eye on the Streets reports on missing penguins! Good day!" again he hummed the theme song before turning the camera off. Click.
* WARNING FROM THE STURGEON GENERAL: Do not continue reading this book if you are not prepared for the seemingly random jumps in thought and idea that this book goes through. This book also makes pregnant women miscarriage in some circumstances. Do not take with Aspirin. *
Alexander watched as Cliff packed up his gear from in front of the Hotel. Something inside him, some strange gut feeling, was telling him that that was not the end of that news story, and that he was going to hear more about. On cue, the single pay phone outside the Hotel rang. Rojer, who was closest, picked it up.
"Incoming call from SpaceDep HeadQuarters. Please wait while we connect your call. Thank you for using BS&S."
Tick, tick, tick. Rojer hated these calls. They took forever to connect since they had to be sent through a temporal anomaly (time fluctuation, normally there is a good one surrounding a Black Hole) in order to have both of the callers on at the same time.
The conversation from Alexander's point of view went something like, "Hello, Ã¢â¬Â¦ General, its great to hear from you, how's Mrs. Sandwich and PB&J doing? Ã¢â¬Â¦ That's great, you'll have to show me the slides sometime. Ã¢â¬Â¦ What? Ã¢â¬Â¦ No, we didn't have anything in particular planned. Ã¢â¬Â¦ Yes Ã¢â¬Â¦ uh-huh Ã¢â¬Â¦ we can do that Ã¢â¬Â¦ Well, tell your wife I said Splonk; hopefully we'll get together for the holidays. Bye."
Alexander waited for Rojer to hang up the phone, "What was that about?"
"It was just my good friend General Handme A. Sandwich," said Rojer, Alexander could barely hold back the laughter, "He wanted us to look into those strange happenings we heard about on the news."
"Great, but what about getting into space?" Alexander was confused.
Rojer replied nonchalantly, "It can wait. General Sandwich thinks that Internut Services/Horvner may be causing them. He also suspects MicroAcorn and their Internut Gatherer might be involved."
"So, we get to go against the creators of WinTrunk '50 which is not only the most powerful Software Company, but it is also owned by Bill Grapes, the worlds biggest collector of Beanie Squirrels made by Sy!" Alexander screamed!
Alexander pulled out his Pzim 20, which he had been saving for just this type of situation, threw it into his mouth, and fainted dead flat, again.
Jim shrugged nonchalantly and toted Alexander up to his room.
Rojer headed to the pier and did a quick check over. Everything seemed to be back in order; he attached the Clatch for Spaceships™ and locked the Super Duper Blasto-Lock 3500™ so that it would stay that way.
Back outside Rojer waddled away to a pier nearby. Whistling loudly he hummed a small tune that went bum bi bym gul-a-oom. A splash followed by a quick whistled note, probably a sharp. Again Rojer whistled the small tune, this time an octave higher. An answering whistle, gool-um di bum then followed it, its last note held onto as a dolphin streamed out of the water.
CHRONICLER'S NOTE: I wish to stress that the following conversation wasn't in English, it was in Dolphin since Dolphins do not have the voice box for English. The conversation is paraphrased as best as can be done through this medium.
"Friend Penguin, greetings and welcome. Swift as lightning I arrive!" whistled the dolphin.
"You have done well Courier."
"Message sent, Rojer," the Courier's whistling speech pronounced it hwa-sher. "The Council has put all Penguins on STAND-BY for immediate launch. Good Luck, Rojer!"
Rojer whistled a salute and the dolphin flew off through the waves.
Feeling a little better Rojer headed back to the Hotel and he headed back up to Alexander's room. Alexander was awake, but groggy.
"Alexander, we have things to do."
Alexander shrugged, "Cows are the things that moo, why?"
Rojer took out a Caffederm CQ and slapped it onto Alexander's arm. As the Caffeine surged through his blood stream it boosted his awareness, "What the splonk did you do? Oh my birds! Do you want to get me in trouble, Caffeine is illegal and you know it!"
"Calm down Alexander, its just one patch, it is the only thing that wears off the effects of Pzim."
Alexander took off the now useless patch and threw it through his portable paper shredder and then in to the Garbage Compactor to get rid of the evidence. "So Rojer, what shall we do now?"
"Simple, we find who is causing the freaky special effects."
Alexander seemed mollified, "Ah," then insight set in and he was back into his normal semi-depressive mode, "Then how do you propose to do that?"
"That is also simple. We break into ISH.Net!"
Again Alexander seemed mollified, "Ah," then insight again reared its head and he was once again in his normal semi-depressive, sarcastically he sighed, "fun."
There is only one easy way into ISH.Net's huge malarkey of files and data. There is only one medium easy way into ISH.Net. There is only two medium ways into ISH.Net. There are five medium hard ways to crack into ISH.Net. There are also a total of nineteen hard ways into ISH.Net's databanks. Perhaps it was the late-night showing of Mission Improbable on MBC (Oddly enough, the Mexican Broadcasting Corp. is also the station of Cliff Bankman the III's "Eyewitness Mexico."). Perhaps it was the penguin spirit singing in his bones. Maybe it was the ambient techno music that was the only music the Hotel could get ahold of for elevator music (it's free with a subscription to Elevators and Lifts Monthly). Whatever it was, Rojer decided that the only way in was through the hardest of them all.
There are two shafts that lead to the main Data Server in Frex itself, one of these is smaller than even a squirrel, and the other is just big around for a human crawling on his knees. Of course, this is also just enough room for a Penguin who's careful and watched his head. Frex is the largest building in Frexish, Illinois. In order to get there Rojer and Alexander decided to check in at the Travel AgencyÃ¢â¬Â¦
The Travel Agent gulped, "UhhÃ¢â¬Â¦ Mr. Tulliver, nice to see you againÃ¢â¬Â¦ so soon."
"The pleasure is all mine," Alexander smiled.
The Travel Agent loosened his tie, "How can IÃ¢â¬Â¦ help you?"
"Me and my friend here want first class tickets to F-R-E-X-I-S-H, Illinois. I figure you owe it to me after your last botched job."
The Travel Agent dabbed at the sweat on his head, mostly from fear of his boss than from the Baja California sun. "UmmÃ¢â¬Â¦ IÃ¢â¬Â¦ don't think I can do thatÃ¢â¬Â¦."
"Huh? Speak up man!"
"I DON'T THINK I CAN DO THAT!"
Alexander started tapping his fingers on the Travel Agent's desk just to annoy him, "What would your boss think if I filed a SECOND complaint?"
The Travel Agent noticeably paled. "You can't! I was almost EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH! You'll RUIN ME!"
"Then get me FIRST CLASS tickets!"
The Travel Agent had regained enough to composure to fake a cough and glance at the Employee Handbook. "I can get you Coach at best."
Alexander picked up a complaint card and started writing.
The Travel Agent quivered, "Stop! I'll get you a non-stop flight!"
Alexander flashed the completed card at the agent, and then did a quick turn towards the complaint box.
"No! Here are your First Class tickets. Now get out of here!"