Puddles and Whiskers, Dinner Conversations

Previously.

Dinner Conversations

Puddles watched Doctor Mill try to conceal his surprise at the sight of them.

“Not what you were expecting?” she asked as she sat down.

Sitting down Doctor Mill, “I..I was…”

“We get that all of the time,” Chuck said as he sat down, putting the case next to his chair.

“CAH takes an unconventional approach as you can see,” Whiskers gestured to the three of them. “You were probably expecting a team of cymean technicians.”

Taking a sip from his wine, “Yes. I mean, that is who always shows up at these meetings and…”

“They prattle on for hours about the technical specs,” Chuck interrupted.

“Exactly,” Doctor Mill enthusiastically agreed.

“We won’t bore you with details you can research yourself or better yet, read the brochure,” Whiskers said with a toothy smile.

Doctor Mill laughed, and then they all shared in that laugh.

“Shall we order dinner?” Puddles asked when the laughter died down.

While waiting for their orders, “How did you find me?” Doctor Mill asked.

Puddles looked at Whiskers, “That’s easy,” Chuck replied, “you are one of the top twenty Doctors in Stroud who order augment arms and hands.”

“That makes sense.”

Whiskers tail relaxed. Puddles breathed a quiet sigh of relief into her wine as she took a sip.

“So, what do you have to offer me? Other than a fine dinner,” Doctor Mill said with a laugh.

“That’s a good one Doctor,” Whiskers replied. “I think you will like our wares. Our chief technician will give you the details,” Whiskers finished gesturing to Chuck.

Setting the case on the table, Chuck opened the case towards Doctor Mill. Resting in custom padded compartments, three augmented hands and a selection of chips. Lights in the case illuminated all of the hands causing the chrome to shine bright, casting little rainbows across the case and table. Doctor Mill leaned forward inspecting the hands.

“These don’t look that different. Nice chrome job, but standard augments,” Doctor Mill indicated with some disappointment.

“Oh crap,” Puddles muttered.

“Excellent eye Doctor. These are indeed standard augments, manufactured by other companies,” Chuck jumped in. “Before you say anything allow me to point out the chips.”

“Chips?”

“Yes, chips. CAH does sell augments, but what CAH specializes in is modifying chips.”

Doctor Mill’s face lite up. Chuck closed the case, returning the case next to his chair as several serv-O droids appeared with their food.

“I’ll explain after the meal,” Chuck said.

Sitting back from their plates, serv-O droids clearing away plates and filling wine glasses, Doctor Mill resumed the conversation, “Can you tell me about the modifying chips?”

Setting his glass down Chuck replied, “Easy enough, as you are aware all augments come pre-programmed.”

Doctor Mill nodded.

“How many times have patients asked for modifications such as stronger, fine motor control, or something more exotic?”

“Always.”

“And the only option you have is to use a different augment, if there is one available.”

“And there aren’t that many options.”

“CAH has been testing modifying chips, to allow doctors such as yourself to have more options to meet patient requests.”

“Really?”

Whiskers made a show of looking at his watch, “I’m sorry to interrupt Doctor. Unfortunately, we have other appointments this evening. We would love to show you how our chips work; do you have a patient who might be in the market for a chip of ours?”

Doctor Mill thought for a moment, “I do have a patient. Can I send you the details?”

“That would be great.”

Puddles and Whiskers, Two Days Later

Previously.

A phone call from “secretary” Puddles to arrange a meeting with Doctor Mill. Another phone call to make reservations at Middle of the World, an expensive restaurant located on the 160th floor of the Frost Spire downtown. Then two days of waiting. Puddles and Chuck continued to follow Red Hand gangers around the city, unsuccessfully. Whiskers spent the time listening to their tales, researching Doctor Mill, and concocting their plan.

Ten minutes before their meeting they pulled into valet parking, wearing a dark business suit Whiskers exited their car swiping his issta-stick over the kiosk. Puddles wearing a matching suit and smart glasses exited from the passenger side and joined Whiskers waiting at the door. Chuck exited last, wearing a light gray suit and carrying a large case of samples.

“Ready?” Whiskers asked.

“We’ll be the best CAH augment sales people we can be,” Puddles replied sarcastically.

“Can’t we just stun him?” Chuck asked for the hundredth time.

Rolling his eyes, Whiskers turned and headed to the restaurant. The doors opened automatically as they approached. Inside, a gilded serv-O droid, greeted them, “Welcome to Middle of the World. How can I assist you?”

“We have reservations for four,” Whiskers answered, “Under CAH.”

“One second,” the droid made a pantomime of searching through a ledger even though all reservations were kept in it’s memory. “Ah,” pointing at a page, “here you are. Reservations for four. One moment,” the serv-O droid snapped its fingers summoning another serv-O droid. “If you will follow Charles, he will direct you to your table. Apparently, one of your party arrived early. Enjoy you meal.”

Charles, slightly less gilded, with a monogrammed towel over one of his thin arms, bowed, “If you will follow me. Today’s specials are…”

Chuck nudged Puddles, “We are way out of our element.”

All around them businesspeople carrying on as if this was a daily event for them, signs of extreme wealth everywhere, from the mem-ware clothing flashing customized corporate logos, personalized designs to the holo-displays from watches and tablets displaying just about anything that any of them could think about. Everywhere they looked a clear view of Middle Stroud unobstructed by the “Cloud” or lanes of traffic, nothing but clean buildings and advertisements.

“I think I saw the latest Kira Designs Smart Watch over there,” Chuck whispered excitedly to Puddles his tail slashing through the air with nerves and excitement.

“Try to act like you have been here,” Puddles replied as cool as she could, her tail twitching.

“…pairing that with our in house red wine,” Charles finished as they approached a table near the rear of the restaurant. “Your table. I see one of your guests, Doctor Mill, is already here. Allow me to pull out your chairs. May I get you any drinks?”

Seated at the table, his back to the restaurant, Doctor Mill sipped from a glass of red wine, while reading the menu. At their arrival, he stood up and extended his hand out between all three of them. Whiskers, grabbed his hand with a paw and shook, “Doctor Mill, a pleasure to meet you.”

Menagerie, Sheriff Justice

Previously.

Sheriff Justice

“Are you sure?” Sheriff Justice asked in a slow drawl drawing out each word to ridiculous lengths.

Caesar took a sip from his iced juice drink, watching Yoshi’s reaction. The furrow between her eyes deepened, she stopped drumming her right foot against the ground, her paws clenched and unclenched, she’s going to blow he thought.

Standing up, Yoshi walked to the back of Sheriff Justice’s cramped office, making a show of looking at all of the holo-wanted posters. Stopping in front of a cluster of red-bordered wanted posters the images leaning forward to her challenging her.

“You seem to have a problem around here,” she said to the wall.

“No more than any other jurisdiction,” he replied.

Turning, while gesturing over her shoulder at the wall of wanted posters, “I beg to differ. We’ve been around and this is the most unclaimed bounties we have ever seen in one place. I think you need some..,” she put a paw to her chin before finishing, “assistance. So yes, I am sure.”

Caesar watched Sheriff Justices’ chest inflate in pace with his anger, heard the snort, watched his tail slash through the air, and immediately after he put his hooves on his desk to make a show of standing up, interrupted.

“Here are our credentials,” he said sliding the ident-tablet in front of Sheriff Justice.

As expected, the action of sliding the ident-tablet across his desk caused him to pause and look down, distracting him.

“As you can see,” Caesar continued, “we have claimed many bounties, are rates are reasonable, and we are more than ready to start working here, once you give your approval.”

Yoshi, sat down, took a sip from her ice juice drink, and winked at Caesar. Picking up their ident-tablet Sheriff Justice flipped through their credentials and records. Leaning against the wall, he looked over the tablet at them, his nostrils flaring.

“Says here,” waving the tablet, “you two have never tackled a red-border before.”

“That is true, but that is only because where we came from competition was fierce, red-borders went to more experienced crews,” Yoshi replied.

“You do have a lot of high marks,” Justice said thoughtfully.

“We aim to please,” Caesar said with pride.

Sheriff Justice walked around his desk, handing the tablet to Caesar as he walked past. Standing next to his wanted wall, he put one hoof to his chin, his tail moving in a lazy pattern; he looked over the wall for a minute.

Pointing at a scav wanted poster, “I’ll approve your credentials.”

“Great,” Yoshi exclaimed.

“After…”

“Oh.”

“…you show me you work. You’ll get paid if you bring in this bounty,” he finished. “Right now he and his crew are at Sisters. You bring them in and you’ll get all of the work you two can handle.”

Caesar pulled the wanted information to his tablet, reading while the Sheriff talked. Hook Beak and his crew were wanted for illegal salvage, disabling ships and holding the ship until the crew turned over their cargo, not known for violence, the armed and dangerous warning was prominent at the bottom. Caesar handed Yoshi the tablet.

“We bring in Hook Beak and his crew and you’ll approve our credentials?” Yoshi asked.

“Yep.”

“Great, point us to Sisters.”

Standing next to his front door, Sheriff Justice pointed across the street, “Look for the lights, laughter, and trouble,” he said with a laugh.

“Let’s go Caesar. We got work to do,” Yoshi said eyeing the sheriff on her way past.

“See you in a few,” Caesar said with a smile, checking his weapons as he followed Yoshi out of his office.

Menagerie: Bov Space

Previously.

Bov Space

“Three,” Yoshi counted down excitedly.

“Two.”

“One.”

“And pop!”

“Don’t say that,” Caesar complained, face turning a unique shade of green.

Transition to real-space was always a bit jarring for most animals; Caesar unfortunately was part of a small sub-set of animals who found transition extremely jarring. Yoshi found his reaction amusing. Bolting out of his cockpit seat, Caesar hopped to the back of the ship holding both his paws over his mouth. Yoshi could hear him retching over the sounds of the real-space engines engaging pushing Lucky Foot towards the bov station in the distance.

Caesar hopped back to his seat, less green, “I hate that.”

“Nothing you can do about it.”

“Doesn’t change that I hate it and you and your and pop, doesn’t help,” he said shooting daggers at me.

With a big smile, all front teeth, “I’m sorry Caese. I won’t do it again.”

“Choke on a carrot,” he retort with a laugh, “yes, you will.”

“I know. Send our information to the station please.”

“Information sent. Waiting for confirmation and docking information.”

Each of the larger Confederations developed a look or style to their stations, Bov stations always reminded Yoshi of old images of cattle milking operations, row after row of stalls designed for the maximum number of cattle at one time without any personality at all. Zooming, Yoshi counted ten ships from small guncutters like theirs to larger cargo haulers in a row with a few empty bays here and there in front of the barn shaped station.

“They are slow responding,” Caesar commented. “Probably typical Bov redtape.”

“Any info on the station?”

Caesar entered a request and waited for the information to scroll across his holo-screen before responding, “Three Bar Station Number Two, twenty docking stations, reasonably good reviews from various ships, a constables station, a couple of restaurants, and three bars stand out.”

“Sounds,” pausing for a moment, “normal.”

“Just smelly.”

“Caesar, really.”

“Look, right here on this review, entire station smells.”

Yoshi shook her head, her ears flopping about.

“Lucky Foot, Three Bar Station Control.”

“This is the Lucky Foot,” Yoshi responded.

“Data confirmed. Dock bay 19.”

“Thank you Three Bar Station Control.”

As soon as the docking clamps engaged, flashing green lights across the docking control panel, Yoshi and Caesar hopped out of their ship into Three Bar Station Central Dock. Caesar wrinkled his nose immediately, but did not say anything, instead looking around the dock noting the age and condition of the machinery; most meet his approval. Yoshi, straightened her jacket, and headed for Three Bar Station proper taking note of the various animals along the way, as she expected lots of herbs; bovs, ewes, and the like.

The transition from the constant mechanical noises of Central Dock to the quieter Station was surprising. Once the sliding door closed the only noises were animal, a quiet song playing over the station com-system, and noises associated with lots of animals packed into a small space. Caesar was not surprised at the rustic design, a general impression of a barn and open fields created by wooden fixtures and a holo-environment display on the outer walls.

“Not what I expected at all,” Yoshi commented as she stood at a crossroads attempting to determine which direction to go.

“Really?”

“Yeah. Based on what you’ve been saying I expected piles of hay, troughs, and the whole place to reek.”

Nudging her, Caesar pointed, “There is a trough.”

“Come on,” she with a laugh said taking a right turn, “let’s find us some work.”

Menagerie: Negotiations

Previously.

Negotiations

“Bov space?” Caesar asked incredulously. “Are you serious?”

“I am,” Yoshi replied deadpan. “Just look at all of these bounties.”

In the cockpit of their shared gunrunner Lucky Foot, Yoshi displayed all of the available bounties filling the cockpit with holoimages of wanted criminals and their data. Walking around the cockpit she pointed to a few.

“This one here, this Hardnose, is wanted for flight,” pointing at another, “and that one uh, Goldcap is wanted to robbery,” pointing to another, “this one in front of you, The Twins, wanted for robbery and flight. See lots of bounties and not one of them dangerous. We could make a killing.”

Caesar stared at Yoshi for a moment before standing up, “Okay. You have a point, we could make a killing. But,” holding up a furry digit to stall Yoshi’s inevitable response, “it’s Bov Space which means boring, dull, slow, dim witted, bureaucratic mess, and it stinks.”

“Not all of Bov Space smells,” Yoshi retorted with a huge smile her two front teeth shinning.

Both of Caesar’s tall ears folded down, his left foot pounding on the deck, staring her down, with a stab of his paw he brought up a set of new bounties. The light blue and orange-bordered bounties instantly replaced with red-bordered bounties.

“This is why you want to go isn’t it?”

Yoshi’s smile wiped off her face and replaced with grim determination, large eyes narrowed, ears leaning back, and no nose twitch at all, Ceasar knew he’d hit the mark.

“Possibly,” she replied coyly.

“Don’t hand me that.”

Yoshi stared at the red-bordered, dangerous, bounties for a second before responding.

“Truth?”

“Truth.”

“I’m tired of running down canines. Low risk means low profit. I want to take a chance to earn some big money. Don’t you want more?”

Caesar’s foot paused, his right ear straightened, and he sat down.

“I do,” holding up the same digit that stalled Yoshi’s earlier response, “but, I don’t see the need to go chasing these type of bounties.” Flipping a bounty around to face Yoshi, “This lady is wanted for multiple murders. Sure her bounty is large, but have you wondered why no other bounty hunters have caught her yet? Cuz I am.”

Sitting down across from Caesar, Yoshi sent the bounty spinning in place, “I have and I don’t want to go after the likes of her, yet.” Yoshi pulled three bounties together and tossed them over to Caesar’s side, “These three I have looked at. A crew of raiders. They are violent, but mostly they hit unarmed ships and make off with the loot. I think. No. I know we could catch them.”

Caesar spent a few minutes reading each bounty while typing inquiries into the system. With a satisfied grunt, he tossed the bounties back to Yoshi, as they spun around to face her she saw their Lucky Foot emblem stamped on each one.

“Before you get too excited,” he started, “I agree to do these three. If this goes off like you think then we can discuss more. If this goes off like I fear, we can stick in smelly Bov Space collecting all of the other bounties. Deal?”

Unable to contain her excitement Yoshi beamed a smile across the table, “Deal. Now let’s get started.”

Menagerie: Yoshi and Caesar

Previously.

Yoshi And Caesar

Yoshi coughed twice. Waving her thick paw to disperse the smoke gathering around her face, Yoshi looked around the bar for the third time hoping to catch a glimpse of her quarry. Across the table her partner, Caesar said something that she could not hear over the music. Leaning over the table, she aimed both of her long ears towards Caesar.

“What?”

“I said,” Caesar shouted, “have you seen them yet?”

Yoshi shook her head, causing her long ears to wave through the smoke, the effect putting a smile on Caesar’s face, his long front teeth showing prominently for a second before his work face returned.

A dead space between songs caused the various animals on the dance floor to stop dancing. Most of them unsure what to do stayed on the floor, but a few headed to the bar. Focused on the rest of the bar Yoshi, missed their mark exiting the dance floor, but Caesar did not.

“What the hell Caesar!” Yoshi exclaimed when Caesar stood up knocking her drink over on the table.

Turning to her, he pointed to their target exiting the dance floor. Yoshi strained to see where he pointed, spotting their target when he shouldered several ewes aside. The music picked up, the bar resumed the normal flow.

“Put your work face on,” Yoshi said as she stalked down to the bar.

Caesar, knowing Yoshi’s plan, circled around towards the most obvious exit, his long ears flat against his head. Sliding through the crowd returning to the dance floor Yoshi kept her eyes on her target, the canine making an ass out of himself, at the bar. Without disturbing the flow of the bar she moved behind him, she spotted Caesar near the door ready to go. Yoshi tapped her target on his shoulder with her paw.

As expected, the wolf turned around and looked over her, some of his drink splashing her. With a growl, he looked down, Yoshi was positive she heard his irritated growl over the music. The ewes grabbed their umbrella drinks and moved away from the impending confrontation.

“What do you want hopper?” Steel Eyes growled at her, inflecting on the hopper insult.

“Just checking that you are Steel Eyes,” she said loud enough for him to hear over the music.

“Hop along rabbit, I’m having a good night and you don’t…”

Hopping off the floor, Yoshi jabbed her concealed stun stick into Steel Eyes gut ending his sentence with a howl that caused everyone in the bar to stop. Holding onto the back of his head, Yoshi rode Steel Eyes to the floor. Caesar pushed his way through the crowd pulling out cuffs as he approached.

“What happened?” he asked slapping the cuffs onto Steel Eyes.

“He insulted me.”

“Let me guess, hopper?”

“Yeah.”

A quick flash of their bounty hunter licenses ended any conversations with the bouncers and bar owner about the violence. A quick trip to the local police station to drop off Steel Eyes filled their bank accounts.

Puddles and Whiskers, Other Lines of Inquiry

Previously.

Other Lines of Inquiry

Thinking about Chuck’s word puzzle Whiskers thought about other ways to find the doctor. Swiping a claw across the windshield display, Whiskers pushed the data to a corner, and found the city information services search bar. Milliseconds after sending the request the windshield filled with new files. Looking at the wealth of data Whiskers was excited for a brief moment, then the scale of the data search his ears folded down, a long night ahead.

“Directions,” he said to his car.

“Destination?” the car responded.

“Nearest open coffee shop. Auto drive.”

“Gallon O Cafe, three blocks away, estimated arrival, ten minutes.”

“Thank you,” he said to the car, not that he needed to, but manners mattered.

While the car lifted off and maneuvered through the parking garage, Whiskers resumed sorting the files. Personal data stayed in the center of the windshield, family information to the right, and business, school, and licensing to the left. With three “reasonable” stacks of data, Whiskers opened his personal data file.

  • Doctor Epsan Mill, recent graduate from Stroud Medical, address on file matched address Whiskers was watching, and two contact numbers.

Returning to the city information system window, Whiskers entered both numbers; one personal and one business. He dialed the personal number, no way the Doctor would answer.

“Hello?” a male voice said questioningly.

“Hello, is this Doctor Mill?” Whisker asked enthusiastically.

“Yes, who is this?”

“This is,” Whisker thought fast, “CAH Augments and if you have a few moments I would like to discuss our new line of augmented hands and forearms.”

Whiskers listened for any background noises or identifying features while the Doctor responded.

“Uh…” The Doctor stalled.

“Is this a bad time?” Whiskers interjected.

“Yes, yes this is a bad time,” Doctor Mill jumped for the offered lifeline. “My, uh office, is being remodeled, can we…”

“I am in town for the next few days,” Whiskers offered another lifeline hoping Doctor Mill would take the bait, “perhaps we could schedule a face-to-face meeting over dinner?”

“That would be great,” Doctor Mill responded enthusiastically. “Can I call you…”

“Can my secretary reach you at this number?” Whiskers jumped in.

“Yes she can.”

“I will have my secretary contact you tomorrow with some times.”

“That would be great.”

“Thank you Doctor Mill, I look forward to seeing you in a few days. Have a good night.”

“Thank you.”

Elated, Whiskers disconnected the line and let out a whoop of joy. Several people walking past looked his way before entering the Gallon O Cafe shop. Swiping the files into a save bin, Whiskers sent the files as a backup to their office. Windshield clean and proud of the work, Whiskers sat back for a moment. Next step, get his “secretary,” Puddles was going to get mad about that, to contact Doctor Mill. Amused at the thought of Puddles as secretary Whiskers sent her and Chuck a text.

[Found the doctor.]

[Excellent] Puddles responded.

[That’s great!] Chuck responded.

[Still watching at bar.] Puddles sent.

[End surveillance in a few minutes and meet me at Gallon O Cafe.]