I’m not sure if this is really finished, but this is where Chuck’s first “solo” tail ends for now. 🙂
A Chuck Tail
“Sal you crack me up,” Chuck said to the holo-of Sal the Salesman moving from door to door in an attempt to sell the latest in self-cleaning droid technology.
Sal the korogin holo-walked past Chuck’s favorite chair, knocking on the door in front of Chuck’s bookcase. A tired looking cymean woman wearing a flowered hat on the left side of her head stuck her head out the door; Chuck could not stop laughing at the image.
“Good afternoon, ma’am,” holo-Sal began.
“Afternoon,” the holo cymean woman responded in a high tone.
“My name is…[incoming call]…Sales…[incoming call]..”
Pressing pause on the arm of his chair, “Deity damnit!” Chuck swore while stabbing the call button.
“What!” he shouted.
“Is that how you greet your mother?” Puddles voice purred from the speakers around Chuck’s living room.
Sitting up straight, even though nobody, especially Puddles could see him, Chuck responded, “Only when she owes me money or interrupts Sal the Salesman.”
Puddles laughed, “You still watch that hundru show?”
Chuck’s fur bristled at the insult for a brief second, “Better than some of the crap you watch,” he retorted. “You have a job for me?”
“Maybe,” she teased.
Chuck thought too long for a retort or response, nothing came, he settled for silence, one the better responses, he learned, to Puddles needling.
“Chuck, you still there?” She asked, silence for the win.
Standing up, dusting remnants of his snack onto the floor, he would need a self-cleaning droid soon if this kept up he thought, “Yeah, I’m still here. What do you have for me?”
“Depends. How much free time do you have?”
Chuck swallowed the quick retort and went with, “I’m free for paying jobs.”
“Excellent,” Puddles responding, “Sending you the details.”
His watch blinked three times; details received, “Got the details. Anything I need to know before I read this?”
“Nothing unusual, a simple tracking job. Swing by the office when you finish.”
Case details replaced Sal the Salesman, “Will do.”
Puddles ended the call while Chuck walked around his living room reading the details. Puddles was not lying, a simple track job of Lorika wageslave for Tranco Citywide; follow her around for the day, taking vid of where she stops, and who she talks to, easy enough.
Eight hours later
Chuck staggered into Puddles and Whiskers Office, his clothing covered in food, his fur matted, and a haggard almost defeated look on his face. Flopping down in a chair in front of Puddles side of the desk, he tossed a vid-stick and a broken eyepatch onto her mess.
Puddles looked up, looked shocked-eyes wide, “What happened to you?”
“Watch the vid. You guys have any coffee ready?”
“Sure, check the break room.”
Puddles inserted the vid-stick into her desk display as Chuck staggered to get coffee, from the breakroom he could hear her laughter, then Whiskers joined in the laughter.
Hailing her cab was easy enough using the Tranco Citywide application. Standing on the 57th floor near the Cloud was not so easy. Chuck looked at his watch, ten minutes late; he wondered how Tranco stayed in business. Suppressing a cough from the pollution and backing further into the corner to block the biting wind, he waited.
With the beep of a horn and roaring of engines, a green Tranco taxi pulled up to the curb. The passenger door slid open, and a female voice asked, “You waiting for a ride?”
Adjusting his eyepatch over his left eye, Chuck swaggered, as he thought an important person would, over to the taxi. A quick look at the driver before sitting down, positive match to Lorika. Sitting in the back, he set his carryall on the floor behind her seat.
“Where you headed?” she asked.
“Mills Market,” he said in his best important person voice.
“Hold on,” she said as she roared away from the curb into the nearest flying lane.
All around them other flying vehicles jostling for position. Chuck watched three cars nearly collide when a car in an upper lane descended without warning. A new model Zephyr pulled alongside, the shiny two-tone paint distracting Chuck enough he did not hear Lorika the first time.
“What business you in?” she shouted.
“What?” Chuck kicked himself for getting distracted.
“Import-export,” he recovered with his important person voice, “I work with other businesses getting them to purchase imports and see what they have to sell for export.” Chuck hoped that sounded right.
“Sounds interesting,” she replied.
The taxi accelerated, pushing Chuck into the seat, then descended rapidly enough that Chuck swallowed hard to keep the contents of his stomach in place, and just as quickly stopped tossing his carryall under her seat. At least he did have to work on losing the bag, he thought.
“Here you are,” Lorika announced.
His watch informed him the automatic deduction of the fee from his account. The door slid open; as he exited, he found himself standing face to face with her, he hid his surprise and before he could say anything.
“Good thing you needed to stop here, I need to get a few things myself. Have a good day and if you need another ride remember Tranco Citywide,” with a wave she headed into the market.
“Shit,” he mumbled to himself, “Figures, nothing ever goes right.”
The plan was to wait for her to leave and get another taxi to follow her. Now he had to go inside; adjusting his eyepatch and clothing, Chuck sauntered like an important person into Mills Market hoping he did not have to do import-export, whatever that was, anywhere around Lorika. Once inside he walked around the market hoping he looked like someone investigating potential import-export opportunities, mostly by walking up and down aisles picking up stuff keeping an eye open for Lorika.
“I see,” intoned a human man wearing what Chuck only assumed was a costume who grabbed the largest container of mustard on the shelf, “much travel and trouble ahead,” his voice reaching an epic volume and pitch as he smashed the mustard on the ground at Chuck’s feet, “for YOU!”
Mustard splashed and sprayed over Chuck’s boots, pants, and tail. Facing Chuck, the man grabbed a jar of something off the shelf and held it aloft, “You will face,” smashing the jar to the ground; pickle juice covering Chuck head to toe, “three obstacles.”
Chuck jumped back, as a bottle of ketchup splashed where he had stood.
“A woman with blonde hair!” the man shouted reaching for something else, “much blood and a fall. The signs do not lie.”
“What is your problem!” Beyond angry, Chuck stepped towards the costumed man.
Mayonnaise splattered Chuck in thick globs, stopping him in his tracks. Behind the man, store security raced down the aisle. At the end of the aisle, Lorika stood watching the scene, a bemused and shocked look on her face. The security officer tackled the man from behind, the floor covered in ketchup, mustard, pickle juice, and mustard providing no stoppage, they slid into Chuck knocking him on top of them.
From the bottom of the pile, “The signs do not lie.”
“Shut up,” Chuck said standing up covered head to toe in condiments.
“You look like a work of modern art,” Lorika laughed. “Is import-export always this exciting?”
“Are you okay sir,” store security asked while restraining the now silent man.
Chuck looked himself over, a modern art mess for sure, “Other than the mess, I’m fine. Will you need me for anything?”
“No, sir. Everything is on vid. Would you like to use our facilities to clean up?”
“Is your cab still available?” Chuck asked Lorika.
“As soon as I check out,” she replied.
Looking at the security officer, “Thank you for the offer. I’ll catch a ride home and change.”
Store security escorted the man away; “No, import-export is not this exciting,” Chuck answered her question, hoping he was right.
Sharing a laugh, they walked back to the cab, after Lorika finished her purchase; “Back to your place?” she asked getting into the driver’s seat.
Thinking fast, making a show of looking at his watch and looking alarmed, “Oh dancor! I have a meeting I cannot miss, if I get there early enough I can wash up and change there.”
Lorika, showed no signs of interest, “Where at?”
“Aranoth Building, 59th floor, east side,” he replied.
Without another word, she launched the taxi into traffic.
“Wait, wait, wait,” Puddles stopped the vid, “You were supposed to follow her. What is this?”
Before Chuck could respond Whiskers asked, “I want to know how you got this vid.”
Back At the Office
Chuck leaned back taking a long drink from his cup of coffee. After putting the cup on the floor, Chuck rubbed his eyes, and sighed. His right eye started to burn, Chuck looked at his paw, and spotted mustard or some other yellow food he missed.
“I have a few micro-recorders,” Chuck responded to Whiskers. “I thought recording everything would help the case.”
Whiskers put a claw to his chin, thinking before responding, “Smart,” holding his paw up to stall Puddles, “out of curiosity where did you have the recorders?”
“Why didn’t you just follow her like I asked?” Puddles, ignoring Whiskers’ paw, blurted out.
Another long drink of coffee, “One in the eye-patch, another in the carryall, and the last in a button on my shirt. I did follow her.”
“This is not following her,” Puddles gestured at the paused vid. “This is…”
“Hilarious,” Whiskers interrupted, “Sorry. But what we have seen is funny.”
“Try living it,” Chuck sighed.
“Again, why didn’t you follow her?” Puddles asked.
“She’s a taxi driver. How was I supposed to follow her all day?”
Puddles closed her mouth.
“See,” Chuck retorted positive he won.
“You could’ve picked a different day to follow her,” Puddles retorted.
Before they wound up for a fight, “Does not matter,” Whiskers announced, “you did what you thought was right. Who is the man throwing food at you?”
Puddles stifled a giggle and looked at Whiskers, then at Chuck, then back to Whiskers, “You two don’t know who he is? Hold on a sec,” she rewound the vid to the costumed man.
“This is the Shaman.”
“Shaman?” Whiskers and Chuck said together.
“He thinks he can tell the future, but only using food.”
“Great,” Chuck said sarcastically, “What’s the costume?”
“Herg loremaster and some human history mixed together along with some bits and pieces for other species and cultures versions of fortune tellers, seers, and mystics,” Puddles said with pride.
Whiskers looked agog. Chuck put his head into his paws.
“How do you know this?” Whiskers asked staring hard at the vid.
“A news special or two,” Puddles responded, “he shows up every so often causing problems predicting the future.”
“Seriously?” Chuck mumbled. “How often is he right?”
“Are you serious?” Whiskers shot back.
“Yes,” Chuck mumbled.
“More often than you would think for someone grabbing food off a shelf and smashing it to the ground,” Puddles said. “There is a large group that follows his every prediction, Prophet’s of Stroud.” Puddles entered data on his computer, then flipped the holo-display to face Chuck and Whiskers, “See. This is one of the more active sites.”
“I’m doomed,” Chuck defeatedly announced.
“Let’s watch,” Puddles said with a giggle.
Whiskers moved the vid forward and hit play.
“What happened,” Whiskers shouted at the vid.
On screen, the image radically shifted from eye-level of a guard to what looked like a polished checkerboard floor moving fast. The audio dropped in volume to the sound of footsteps and shouting. Chuck shifted nervously in the chair, under the expectant stares of Whiskers and Puddles.
“Stop! You can’t go through there without a pass!”
Just his luck, Chuck thought, on the run, his eyepatch slipped attracting the attention of an Aranoth rent-a-security agent and Lorkia sat in her taxi outside. The plan, walk into Aranoth Building, find a place to watch her drive off, get another taxi, and follow; except she wasn’t moving. Chuck tried to walk past the security station as if he belonged, just another wageslave, then his eyepatch slipped.
“Sir,” an officer said.
Chuck continued to walk; maybe the agent was not talking to him.
“Sir!” an officer shouted.
Yep, him for sure.
Turning to face the security station, the eye-patch fell off, Chuck barely caught the patch, and with two good eyes saw both security agents approaching him; behind them Lorika sat. How is a cat supposed to get a break, he thought before turning and running. Shouldering wageslaves out of the way, Chuck ran for the back of the building, hoping to lose the agents and catch another taxi.
Sliding on the polished floor, Chuck rounded a corner straight into hordes of wageslaves waiting for their express elevator in a mirrored hallway. Why mirrors, Chuck thought…maybe the eyepatch was not the issue he thought again as he saw what he looked like in the mirrors as he ran and shouldered his way through; so many food stains on his suit, no wonder he attracted attention.
Chuck bowled over an illietheril couple, he shouted apologies to them, as he slid underneath a herg carrying a box of pastries and coffee, and bounced off a korogin before hitting a wall and sliding around another corner. Behind him, shouts of anger, dismay, alarm, and maybe one of the agents telling Chuck to stop, as if.
More wageslaves, behind them the street. Leaning forward, Chuck ran faster. He saw right before impact the cymean security agent leap at him unable to stop Chuck rolled with the tackle, using his feet he pushed the agent off him and ran past the startled crowd onto the street. Bolting past pedestrians, Chuck ran down the elevated walkway, past a bus terminal, around a corner, and took a breath. Many breaths. Looking around the corner, no pursuit, now back to work.
A second after Chuck flagged a taxi; he realized his other hand was empty. Where did the carryall go?
Back in the Office
“Can we split the footage?” Whiskers asked Puddles.
Minutes later three displays appeared on the screen; in one corner, presumably eyepatch view-dark and furry; in another corner shirt view of the street; and in a lower corner presumably carry all view of a security agent looking at the carryall.
“Oh, that’s where the carry all ended up,” Chuck said.
On the Hunt
“Circle around the block,” Chuck ordered.
The cabi pulled away from the elevated walkway into traffic. Looking out the stained and scratched window Chuck looked for signs of Lorika’s taxi. Chuck hoped they would round the block in time to find her taxi. Heavy traffic made spotting her taxi difficult.
“That taxi there,” Chuck pointed to the right, “See it?”
Nodding, the cabi cut across and up two lanes of traffic to the blaring of horns and rapid maneuvering of vehicles in the way or about to be in cabi’s way before settling into Lorika’s lane of traffic.
Getting up from the floor of the taxi, “What was that?”
“I’m following the taxi you pointed at.”
“A little warning next time.”
“Next time don’t point.”
Settling back, “Fair enough.”
Four hours later, Chuck had seen more than enough of downtown Stroud and traffic to last him for the rest of the year. Lorika never stopped working, pickups and drop offs all over Middle and Upper Stroud. Several narrow escapes when his cabi adjusted to keep behind her taxi and the confinement of the rear of the taxi put Chuck near breaking. His stomach rumbled louder, the stench of condiments and whatever stained the backseat of the taxi, pushed him over the edge.
“Stop there, I’m starving.”
After paying the cabi, Chuck walked in and sat down in the first available booth. Flipping through holo-menu trying to find something his stomach desired. Tapping the largest rice bowl image, Chuck let out a little shriek of surprise, when Lorika’s face appeared on the other side of the menu.
“Where’s your eye-patch?” she asked with a smirk.
“Your eye-patch?” she asked again while putting one hand over one of her eyes.
Shrugging, Chuck took off his suit jacket and sat back.
“Why were you following me?”