by Kim Liu
© Kim Liu -- all rights reserved
I tapped a few bills into the collection jar for the bar's waitress, a collection to help tide her over while she recovers from the attack as I made my way to my preferred seat to enjoy my after work drink. (Chocolate milkshake, if you must know.) As I settled down to watch the television from the table, I mused how I was going to stop the events that had been set in motion.
No, I don't mean the Barnett election, I meant the package I had arranged to be sent to the Lupine boys before this attack had happened. It was going to be delivered sometime tonight, and I needed to stop it.
Not that I care for Barnett or his tactics, mind you. He looks like a brat. Given that I have some control over my own appearance (the more aspirin I have to deal with the headaches the more control I have), and that I normally look normal, I suppose I could survive Barnett if he was elected. Few people really know I am a SCAB, as I almost never make any changes now because of the headaches they case. They haven't worked out a good way to test the difference between a SCAB who looks normal and a normal who harbors the virus but is not affected. Yet.
All emotions and debate aside, Barnett's would be an expensive win. When the TV reporters on the street were interviewing people about how they felt about the election and SCABS, I expressed myself on this.
The package due to be delivered to the Lupine Boys contained a brush with some interesting time-delayed chemicals, and practically scentless, too - and that wasn't easy to arrange, I tell you. It's a long handled, custom-made brush, long handled to be easy to use to reach your own back, with a comb on one side and brush bristles on the other. Just the thing for your morphic SCABs who need that help with their fur. Inside the brush was a tiny container of time-delayed gel dye that fed out unnoticeably through the bristles as used. About... an hour after someone brushed their fur or hair with it, their hair or fur would change colors (can't be easily washed out, either.) The gel was layered so the first minute of brushing might cause one color, then the second use of the brush a different one, etc.
I heard about various bits and pieces of the know-how in the brush from various places, and just had a craftslady I knew put them all together for me. (The dye in the brush was actually a technology that is going to be marketed on the street for people who wanted to dye their hair with less fuss - actually should be out in a few months.) I had tested it myself, enhancing my nose for a few moments to see if I could smell anything unusual, but couldn't.
The reporter asked, "What do you think of Barnett in the upcoming election?"
"Expensive," I answered shortly, not terribly inclined to be halted on the cold and windy street on my way back from a particularly annoying customer. ("No, you can't plug your ISDN line into your ethernet card...")
That answer startled the reporter. "Expensive? What do you mean?" The camera man zoomed in on me and I gave the camera my best blank-faced scowl. (Tricky, but useful.)
"Expensive. Listen to him rant about SCABs - what is he going to do if elected? Sounds like he'd like to pass laws against SCABs... and who's going to pay for the enforcement of those laws? Taxpayers," I pointed out. "He wants to test people to see if they carry the SCAB virus? Have you seen the costs of those tests? Where does he expect to get the money for those? Put them in prison or institutions? Have you seen the amount of money our prisons need already? Feh! I'd like to keep my paycheck, thank you." I shrugged, looking indifferent. "Just election year noise, I suppose, just another way to try to raise taxes or please some lobbyist at the cost of business."
The reporter looked surprised again. "Barnett claims that SCABs are hurting business areas where they frequent."
"Oh, maybe so. They used to say that about the blacks, Chinese, Koreans, whoever is the current fad." Another shrug. "However, the support industries - the voice box makers, the prosthetic makers, and others - have certainly benefited. I was mostly meaning that if he drives SCABs who are employed in key places in the local business out of town, he's going to be hurting the city. There's at least one business I know where the head of R&D is a SCAB, and his department has generated a few millions of dollars worth of profits for that company over the past few years and employed a couple of hundred people locally in support of those new products." I shook my head. "If they lose him, or have to relocate their R&D department somewhere else because of this election SCAB nonsense, well... things like that make it unpleasant for businesses to relocate here."
By now the reporter was looking interested - I could see he was seeing the possibilities of doing a story on the likely effects of Barnett's election on business and the taxpayer. I answered a few more questions on other election issues that Barnett really wasn't addressing much either, and headed back to the office.
My little bit to help today, I suppose. There are probably a goodly amount of folk out there who'd support Barnett until they realized that it's all going to come out their check book.
People prefer cheap anger.
Now, with the Lupine Boys' mood the way it was since the attack on the waitress, it's probably not a good idea to play the trick on them. I'll have to find some other way to get revenge for calling me 'Mousie'. Or maybe get some codeine headache pills and change into something like, say, a very large tiger morph and -
Hmmm! Speaking of felines, that might solve it. Rydia's here, half-feline, furred, all femme, and driving most folks (regardless of gender) mildly nuts in her current leather vest and skirt. The Lupine Boys were watching her with a friendly sort of lust between their drinks and talk. Let me see... the note in the package just says its from a secret admirer, no names are mentioned there... the brush doesn't look specifically styled for males... hmmmmmm. Just the address on the box. I finished my milkshake and checked the time. This was going to cost me a good night's sleep, but...
Ah! That's the delivery truck pulling up outside. I make my way up to the front as the delivery guy (a normal - if he was nervous about this place he concealed it will under his guise of professional boredom) walked in. Fake a little stumble against him- oof! "Oops! Sorry!" I brushed my fingers across the address label, and make a little change.
"Here's the money for the milkshake," I say as I pay, a smile fixed across my face as the vein in my head throbs from the effort I just made. Dead things like that are just hard to manipulate - it was going to take an hour for this headache to go away.
"You okay?" the bartender asks as he rings me up. "You look a little pale."
"I'll be fine, just a stressful day," I assure him, watching out of the corner of my eye as the delivery man delivers the package to Rydia. He looks a little puzzled on the way out, like he had thought the package was supposed to go to someone else. On the other hand, he doesn't look unhappy at the change to view Rydia from touching distance. "Perhaps if you can sell me one of those tiny aspirin packs, and a glass of water?"
Taking my water and aspirin back to the table, I settle back down as I pretend to watch TV. Channel 5 is doing a special report on the probable economic impact of the election outcome. How fascinating. Almost as fascinating as watching Rydia trying out the brush on her hair, tail, and fur as an excuse to tease the Lupine Boys even more. Hope the media did something right in doing this report...
Choosing a bad leader always has a price. Somewhere. Somewhen.
And if Rydia ever learns who sent that brush to her... I raise my water in a toast. "To a colorful future," I murmur to the TV, and down the aspirin, waiting for it to ease my headache. "Some prices are worth it."
Nursing my headache, I watch the TV news.
"On today's channel 5 news report, a special on how the election has already caused affects to you, coming later at 10.
"In brief, since the clean air act of 10 years ago, it has been required that the majority of vehicles sold be electric, barring special use vehicles. With the development of special high capacity batteries, the city moved its fleet of police cars to the new technology four years ago, as well as over half of the city's fire vehicles, and most of the ambulences.
"Already on the tables is a talk of a half percent sales tax increase. It seems that the only certified garage in the city for servicing these batteries is shutting down - the owner is a SCAB, and the manager's son is a SCAB, and they are leaving town. The cost of sending the city's vehicles to the next capable garage, over 150 miles away, had not been expected in the city's budget. Additionally, the nearest other service garage handles few vehicles and cannot service the larger fire trucks, which will have to be sent further away.
"The Department of Public services claimed that there would be no decrease in service, despite the fact that 30% of the police vehicles are due for annual maintenance in the next month. More at 10.
"Right now, have you been watching the fashions of today's teens? The current new fad is bleaching, longer hair, and hair ties.
"Yes, it's a return to Blonde Pig Tails...
Ah-hah! There go the dyes - neon blue, neon pink... lovely. Time to leave...
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