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The Ambassador Chapter 13

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  • The Ambassador Chapter 13

    The whole next week was interesting, particularly if you are interested in perpetual motion. Allan and Ian kicked the Universal Distributing mechanisms into high gear, and we started finding and hiring people, and buying stuff.

    I hadn't really thought about it previously, but it became obvious that Universal Distributing was a lot larger than I'd first thought. This led me to wonder exactly how long they'd been setting this all up, and Mike immediately informed me that they'd been at it for eleven months. The initial plan had been to hire me a month later than they did, and to have another six months to get everything into place before they announced their appearance to the world. The Comet Watchers had shot that plan full of holes.

    If someone were to focus the Hubble or Chandra on the ship, it was going to be fairly obvious that it wasn't just a rock that someone hadn't seen before. The whole plan pretty much assumed that the arrival of the ship would be a surprise, and I concurred with that idea completely. The arrival of the aliens from Outer Space wasn't going to create nearly as much awe and wonder if they saw us coming in advance.

    I made a trip back home on Saturday and came back on Sunday evening. I got my wife lined out on getting her stuff together to temporarily relocate out to Wyoming. She handled it all well, but the dog was sorely miffed at me for not being home more. I speculated about the possibility of bringing the dog along with me, and dismissed the idea as being too much trouble for both of us. Mike, as usual, was auditing things that I was thinking about loudly enough for him to pick up on them and stuck an oar in.

    “You need to have her along. She's a symbiote, you know.”

    “Well, actually, no. I did not know that. Rover is my dog, but she's a dog. Our relationship is personal, not symbiotic.”

    “That's what you think. I'm seeing you two as the product of at least 30,000 years of parallel evolution that has created a necessity. Think about what you have often expressed as being the three things you have to have in order to be able to function properly.”

    “Yeah. A place to build a fire, a weapon, and a Dog. But that's just what I want around to keep my survival instincts behaving themselves properly, I don't get nearly as paranoid if I've got those available.”

    “And so. You need the dog. Symbiosis. You are proving my point.”

    “Still can't bring her along. We're talking about 70 pounds of Staffordshire-Boxer cross here, not a purse dog. I can't just shut her up alone somewhere for hours or days when I'd have to do that, and she doesn't take well to strangers as a rule, so I can hardly keep her with me all the time. Additionally, I'm going to be going back and forth to the Ship a couple more times before we break cover, and what good is a minder going to do then? The dog is better off at home that being abandoned with a stranger for several days.”

    “You are being afraid to spend a few pounds of iron ore here again. Funding is not an issue at this level. You simply have to hire a minder for her. I'm going to put a proposal together on the whole thing. I'll message it to Allan and Ian, and I'll let you know what they say. I have some ideas here.”

    I got distracted with something else then. There was a lot of that going on at my house at that point. I went back to other rat killing and pretty much forgot about the whole issue until Sunday morning. Being back home, I woke up at my usual time, which was about ten after four in the morning. Mike informed me that I had 57 messages regarding action items that I needed to review.

    These were a constant string, but I took care of them when they came up if I was awake. It seemed that someone had been busy overnight. The fact that it wasn't the same overnight on the ship probably accounted for a lot of it. It was pushing their version of noon up there. I'd done some mental number crunching and concluded that they were either on UCT or about an hour ahead of it. The differences in their time system and ours made it difficult to nail down exactly, but that was close enough to keep me aware that when it was bedtime local, they were probably close to getting up and diving back into things.

    Half of the stuff was just pro forma approvals, so that whoever was suggesting doing this or that had the proper authorizations to go ahead. Everyone wanted me to approve their purchase of options to buy or lease property on the outskirts of Moscow, or Tel-Aviv, Hamburg, Buenos Aires, Irwindale, or wherever else. I looked at what we were thinking of doing with the property, and normally agreed. I did have to ask why we were optioning a brewery in Milwaukee, and found out that someone on the ship had concluded that Earth type beer might be popular, and planned on taking a run at making it for export. I agreed with that one, too.

    The only ones that were difficult were some things that didn't translate well between our culture and the Karn. They were, just for instance, planning on buying up all sorts of high-priced goodies as “gifts” for various Heads of State and other luminaries. My bland comment that we didn't do bribery was met with some serious disagreement. All the information they had available said that humans did things that way. I finally just threw my hands up and instructed that any gifts were to be procured through Environmental Control and would consist of Karn manufactured cultural items. In other words, Art. For gifts to individuals, foodstuffs or alcoholic beverages from the ship would suffice, and nobody was to do anything other than that without my specific authorization in each individual case.

    I didn't doubt that we'd be expected to bribe a lot of folks, but I wasn't going to do so unless it was totally vital, and I sure wasn't going to make it obvious, or we'd have all the hogs lining up for their turn at the trough.

    I was working on my fourth cup of coffee when I got to item number 46, which was from Allan. “Bring the dog.”

    I just kind of snorted to myself, and went on down the list. Item 53 was from Ian. “Bring the dog. We'll get a minder. We're taking another 20 or so humans back to the ship with us anyway, and adding one will not be a problem. They won't be able to tell any tales out of school. Our presence will be known when they get back here in a week or ten days, anyway.”

    I was firmly convinced that I was going to regret doing it, but when I went back to Rock Springs on Sunday afternoon, I brought along a spare carry-on full of dog food and treats, a couple of dog toys, three cans of tennis balls, and one happy dog. She is not a really happy traveler, but she is not inclined to act out over it. She took to flying about the same way she does to riding in a car, which means that looking out the window is interesting for about five minutes, and then she wants to know if we are there yet.

    She didn't do anything anyone found particularly objectionable, other than hurt Paul's feelings by moving to put me between him and herself when he came by and patted her on the head for the third time. She knows that she has to be civil, but I've never made any effort to teach her to be friendly. She can pick her own friends.
    Alle Kunst ist umsunst Wenn ein Engel auf das Zundloch brunzet (All skill is in vain if an angel pisses down the touch-hole of your musket.) Old German Folk Wisdom.

  • #2
    Re: The Ambassador Chapter 13

    She still wasn't being terribly friendly by the end of the flight, but she was looking at Paul with a whole lot less cynicism. He fed her a whole Filet Mignon, one slice at a time. I asked what he was giving her when she got the third bite, and allowed that it wouldn't hurt her, so he cheerfully continued giving her intermittent bites. She was careful about taking them, and didn't get any fingers involved.

    I had a reservation at a motel in town that allowed pets, and got dropped off there by Security. The owner was retired Military, and a dog person. We discussed it being a bit difficult to find places that allowed dogs. He observed that he'd never had a dog that stole towels or sheets or anything, and that they usually didn't get drunk and raise the roof or get into fights with their girlfriends at zero-dark hundred hours, and that he'd seldom had anyone who brought a dog along try to stiff him in any other way.

    We came to the agreement that we both preferred most dogs to most people, and I got directions on which way to go to find an empty area where Rover and I could play some ball. I dumped my stuff in the room, got two tennis balls out, and we went off to have ourselves a run. Amazingly enough, we both actually did some running. I'd normally have just walked, but whatever the Karn medical folks had pumped into me seemed to actually be doing some good. I jogged us out there, and actually chased Miss Rover around for a while. Nothing hurt while I was doing the jogging, or afterwards.

    We took a couple of blocks of detour on the way back and I went through an Arby's and got some food. I dropped the food off at my room, and went on up the road to a convenience store and picked up a six-pack of Guinness. We settled in and I reviewed stuff via Mike. About 9pm local, I got the message that Ian and Allen were back. They'd been back out to the ship, which was why they hadn't met me.

    Somewhere around 10 I zonked off. The night was uneventful except for once at about 3am, when Rover decided that someone was driving a car too close to where she was, and stuck her nose into my ear and snuffled a couple of times until I woke up, listened, and told her it was all right.

    Security picked me up at 6:15, and we drove through McDonalds for breakfast. I got three McMuffins, and fed the egg, cheese, and Canadian Bacon from one of them to Rover. She didn't need the Muffin, so I stuffed it back in the bag with the rest of the trash. We got to the shop at about twenty to seven.

    I had to go in the back way, since I didn't have a front door key. I had coffee on and was waiting for it to finish when Heather showed up at about five 'til. She started apologizing for not having been there earlier, and I told her not to be bothered about it. I knew where everything was, and if I didn't know, I'd either look for it or do something else until someone who did know got there.

    “Hey. I found the coffee, didn't I? I can handle the important stuff all by myself.”

    About that time, the dog wandered in. She'd been checking out the various offices and conference rooms, and since there was nobody else there, I'd let her satisfy her curiosity. I called her over and told her to sit preparatory to making introductions, but got beaten to it.

    Heather told Miss Rover that she was a pretty girl, and moved directly to her and knelt down in front of her. I was almost paranoid about that, but the stupid dog just started wagging her tail at about 120 rpm. She not only accepted being patted and hugged on, but bestowed a big slurp on the side of Heather's face.

    I observed “Well, it looks as if the two of you are going to get along all right. She usually doesn't take to strangers much, but she's being positively enthusiastic toward you.”

    Heather proceeded to stroke, scratch, and praise Rover for a minute, then got up and headed back toward her desk. Rover started to follow her, then stopped and looked at me for permission. I made a shooing motion with my hand that was her signal to go ahead and go, and she went off, nails clicking on the floor tiles. There was another round of head patting after Heather sat down at her desk.

    One of my biggest worries up front was that Rover was going to take a dislike to someone or other who we would be in contact with regularly and make things difficult. Now all I had to worry about was Allan and Ian. The holograms they used might fool a dog's eyes, but they weren't going to do anything to her sense of smell, and they weren't going to smell like 'people' to Miss Rover. I hoped she wasn't going to decide that they were wild animals of some sort, because she considers those to be fair game if I'm not right there insisting that she leave them alone.

    The coffee was done, and Heather insisted on serving it up to me. Considering that I was clearly capable of making it, I didn't see why I was now deemed incapable of pouring it into a cup, but she was bound and determined that she was going to do it, so I let her. Rover had planted herself about midway between me and Heather's desk, and followed her about halfway to the coffee pot before coming back over and flopping at my feet.

    Having gotten coffee distributed to her satisfaction, Heather went back to her desk, and we proceeded to discuss the weather for a while. Then the telephone rang. It was Ian. He was checking to see if I'd made it in yet or if they needed to pick me up. Having confirmed that I was there, he informed Heather that they would be there in about 30 minutes.

    Since there was some time, I got into my briefcase and took out the tennis ball I'd put in there. Rover saw what I had, and bounced up and looked at the door eagerly. I told Heather that I was going to take the dog out and run her for a few before the guys got here. She pushed about three buttons on the console on her desk, picked up the cordless handset, and announced that she would come along, if I didn't mind.

    I wasn't actually sure if I minded or not. I couldn't see anything inappropriate about it, but I just have these reservations about fraternizing too much with young and cute female employees. I considered it for about a half a second, and decided that I couldn't see any reason that it should be a problem in this instance, so I announced that she was more than welcome to come along, and headed for the door, with a happy dog bouncing along beside me. I held the door open for both of them to get out ahead of me.

    The parking lot in the front of the building really wasn't that big. It had room for maybe 20 cars, at the most. On the other side was a good half mile of open ground out to the fence at what I assumed was the edge of the property line. We got to the edge of the pavement and I showed Rover the ball. “Do you want this? Go get it!” I lobbed it off.
    Alle Kunst ist umsunst Wenn ein Engel auf das Zundloch brunzet (All skill is in vain if an angel pisses down the touch-hole of your musket.) Old German Folk Wisdom.


    • #3
      Re: The Ambassador Chapter 13

      Chasing the ball is Rover's thing. She will play ball with me for as long as I will keep throwing the ball or until she drops from exhaustion, whichever comes first. In practice, that means we play ball until I get tired of it, because I've never yet managed to get her to voluntarily quit on her own, and we have gone over two hours at a stretch a time or two, just because I wanted to see if she'd ever decide she'd had enough and stop on her own. She never has yet.

      I'd thrown a little long. If I do it just right, she can take it out of the air before it hits the ground, but this one bounced in front of her, and she was camped under it when it came down. She snapped it out of the air and came running back.

      That's when I got another shock. Heather had clipped the telephone handset to her belt. She clapped her hands and called out. “Rover, will you bring me the ball?”

      She did. Well, that made it three people on the list. Rover gives me her ball. Rover will sometimes, but not always, give my daughter her ball. She will not give my son or my wife her ball. She has standards about who is allowed to have her ball, and they are pretty stringent. But she ran up to Heather and gave her the ball like it was perfectly normal. I was fairly surprised by that one.

      Heather threw the ball underhanded, about the same distance as I had, but a fair bit higher. Rover took it out of the air before it bounced, about 6' off the ground. She came romping back again, and this time made a point of bringing me the ball. She settled into a rotation of alternating the person she brought the ball to each time thereafter. Neither Heather or I made any effort to call her or get her to do anything but what she chose to, and that was how she wanted to do it. After about my third throw, I lit a cigarette.

      Heather finally got up enough nerve to accomplish what she had come outside with me to do. First, she asked if she could borrow a cigarette. I handed over my pack and my Zippo. She lit one, handed everything back, and said “I'm so nervous. I don't know what is going on around here. Everything was pretty calm around here, and then they brought you in and all of a sudden everything is different. We're in a hurry about everything. Somebody fired the head of Security, and we got a new one. We used to get five telephone calls a day, and now it's up to a couple of hundred. Am I going to lose my job?”

      I had to laugh. “Trust me on this one, young lady. You are not about to lose your job. Things might well get interesting for a while, but I suspect that you have a job with us for as long as you are willing to keep it.”

      I had to stop for long enough to accept the ball from Rover and throw it, then I went on.

      “What you are seeing is the beginning of a fairly large expansion of our business. It's going to be very interesting for a while, for some values of 'interesting', but it's all going to come out great, and I suspect that you will get to have some fun along the way, in spite of the fact that we're all going to get worked to death over the next couple of years or more.”

      Rover came back, and gave her the ball, out of her order. I saw a familiar looking Range Rover stopped at the gate to the property, and announced that we were calling a halt to the ball playing for the time being. “The bosses are arriving. Time to look industrious.”

      Rover knew something was happening, and waited for instructions. I fished her leash out of my pocket and clipped it on.

      Heather announced that she had to go back inside and wash her hands. I noted that I needed to also. “I have one of those ball thrower things, but for some reason probably related to space available, I don't have it with me.”

      She helpfully announced that she had one she could bring tomorrow. I noted that I had Rover's at the Motel, and would either bring it along loose or bring the whole bag of dog stuff that it was in. “I have dog treats and a toy in my briefcase, but that thing just wouldn't fit, and I'm adverse to lugging enough stuff that both hands are full.”

      With that, she went back inside, and I met Allan and Ian when they parked. They got out and joined me at the front of the building. I had Miss Rover's leash double looped around my arm, and held just enough tension on it that she could feel it in the collar. I was making no bones about letting her know that she was not to do anything that I did not specifically allow her to do.

      “Good morning, Gentlemen. Allow me to introduce you to Miss Rover here. She's what you apparently think we ought to saddle ourselves with, so you might as well say hello, if she's having any of it.”

      I've never seen Rover, or any other dog, do what she did then. She looked at them. She cocked her head off to the left and looked. She tilted her head over to the right and looked some more. She started wagging the end of her tail, It wasn't a hostile unidirectional wag, but a full 60 degrees or so to the left and right. She went through head tilts in both directions once again, then she looked at me and offered a low and almost confused “Wufff?” She didn't know what she was dealing with, clearly, but she had enough sense not to get hostile about it. I informed her that these were my friends, and it was OK.

      Allan approached her rather gingerly and extended a hand for her to smell. He said “I have studied up on how one approaches these canine creatures to introduce one's self. I believe this is correct.”

      She stuck her nose into the palm of his hand and inhaled loudly. She then tilted her head off to the right and looked a bit questioning again, then re-centered her head and licked the back of his hand. Allan backed off and Ian went through fairly much the same procedure, with the same results. Allan seemed happy with how things were going.

      “She is accepting us, it would seem. That would appear to be a good sign, since you expressed the opinion that she might be difficult about it.”

      I noted “I'm a bit surprised. She doesn't usually take well to strangers, and so far she has done three impossible things just after Breakfast.” I addressed her. “She is my very good dog.” She looked up at me with that look that she occasionally gives me when she knows she's being a good dog. It said “What did you expect?” quite clearly.

      I felt about 20% better about the whole thing already. I had already been informed that starting at about 10am, I was scheduled to take a couple of hours to interview a half dozen folks who were interested in being a dog-minder. We were flying two more in who I'd get to talk to later in the afternoon. It seemed to me that we either already had some kind of employment agency on tap or we were doing magic, because I didn't see how that all got set up in 24 hours, but there it was.

      Things were picking up steam fairly rapidly. I found myself getting more and more requests for input and/or approval of things, and more of the things I was being queried about required input instead of simple approval. Allan had withdrawn to his office, and Ian and I were parked in the front conference room. We both had laptop computers in front of us, but that was mostly for appearances, so that anyone who looked in at us would think we were busily studying something on the computers. We were mostly working through our AI's.

      I had gotten up once and fetched myself another cup of coffee. Rover had been at my feet until then, but she followed me out and stopped in the doorway, and looked back out as I went in. I told her to go bother her new friend if she wanted to, and she did.

      She came back in about fifteen minutes, and about fifteen minutes after that, Heather came to the door and announced that my first interview was here. I told Ian that I'd use the back conference room and moved myself and Rover over there, then asked Ms Heather to show the person in.
      Alle Kunst ist umsunst Wenn ein Engel auf das Zundloch brunzet (All skill is in vain if an angel pisses down the touch-hole of your musket.) Old German Folk Wisdom.


      • #4
        Re: The Ambassador Chapter 13

        The whole process with all six of the folks was among the bigger wastes of time I've ever been involved in. The first one was some ditsy “New Age”type woman who rattled on about converting dogs to Vegan diets and having crystals around to improve their auras. It took me almost five minutes to get rid of her.

        Either of the next two would probably have been competent enough under normal circumstances, but the first one was far too nervous and excitable for me to consider popping them off to visit the Space Aliens, and the other one failed the big test. Rover purely did not like him, and made it clear that she wanted nothing to do with him. I accepted her judgment. The fourth one almost got himself chewed up.

        I was introducing him to the dog, and he tried to grab her with one hand on each side of her head. I don't know what kind of dogs he'd been dealing with to pick up that kind of a stupid trick, but I just barely managed to keep him from losing a few fingers. The next two were not that bad, but neither one seemed like someone who actually liked dogs. I ushered the last one off about ten till Noon and stomped out into the reception area grumbling.

        Ian stuck his head out of the door and asked if I would be interested in some lunch. I replied that it would be the only constructive thing I'd accomplished in the last couple of hours. “Watch my dog? There were only two of those folks who I would trust to feed a goldfish regularly, and that's probably the limit of their skills.”

        Heather noted that the next two would be coming in on the shuttle flight from Salt Lake City, which would arrive around 1:30 or so, and that they were both supposedly professionals at this. One was from San Francisco and the other from Seattle, and they apparently were dog-minders to the Stars.

        “So they have been dealing with miniatures, and the occasional Shar-Pei and perhaps a Golden Retriever or a Labradoodle here and there. My optimism can hardly be contained at this point.”

        Heather noted that she had ordered up lunch about five minutes ago, and it should be arriving in about 25 minutes more. Then she asked me “What criteria exactly are you looking for in a dog watcher?”

        “Ideally, I'd want someone who would treat her as if she were their dog. Play with her when she gets bored and needs to run some energy off. Pat her on the head when she feels lonely. Otherwise, just be around and keep her company when I'm out of pocket, which will probably be about half the time for the foreseeable future. They are going to have to travel a fair amount when I do and the dog is with me, and it needs to be someone who can entertain themselves when the dog and I are otherwise occupied, because I'm hiring someone to watch my dog, not become part of my family. There will probably be times when whoever is doing it gets a free week or two as vacation, because I don't need them for a while, but they'd be on call in case something came up. And they might get to work at it every day for six months nonstop, too. I can't predict the future well enough to say for sure.”

        She started to say something else, and stopped before she did. Allan came out of his office and asked if lunch had been ordered. Ian noted that it had, and that it was Monday, and he knew what that meant.

        Heather wrinkled her nose. “Hawaiian Pizza with Canadian Bacon instead of Spam. The Spam would be bad enough, but Anchovies? Ick! I should have brought some spare chicken for Mr. Jefferson.”

        I laughed out loud. “Bless your heart, young lady, but I hope you ordered plenty of the Pizza. I'm going to be in Hog Heaven with that.”

        Heather announced that we were all three a bit on the strange side, and then the telephone rang and she had to answer it. Ian, Allan, and I adjourned back into the conference room, with Rover at my seven O'clock position. I shut the door and started in.

        “Guys, I really have a bad feeling about this whole dog-minder thing. We're wasting a lot of time on it, and it's not looking to be as easy as it would seem to be, at this point. Unless one of these next two folks is a hit, I'm afraid that we should just give up on the whole thing. Besides that, how much are we going to pay this person? It's not cheap, given the job requirements.”

        Ian proceeded to give me a five minute lecture. First off, the AI's were convinced that humans and dogs were Symbiotic. They had apparently convinced the Karn scientists that they were right. This was the first case in the history of anything the Karn had ever encountered or heard of where you had two mammalian species that had evolved as symbionts. They wanted to study it, and I was coming anyway, so why not bring the dog along?

        Secondly, he noted that the AI's insisted that I was going to be at least 10% more efficient if I had my little doggie around as much as possible. Ian drily noted that they only assigned a 5% increase in efficiency if I had my wife around, and that only after about ten days or so. They were willing to toss a fair amount of pig iron at the problem, if that's what it took to keep me 10% more efficient. And so on and so forth. What it came down to was that I was just being a cheapskate, and there was no reason for it. The Chief Engineer had warned them to watch me that way. And so on, but what it all distilled down to was that they thought I ought to have the dog with me, and that was going to be that, if they had to hire the Dog Whisperer his own self.

        I appreciated that, and I said so. I noted that when Miss Rover came to live with me, she was six and a half weeks old, and I'd told her then that she was going to be my doggie for as long as we both lived, and that she would have her home with me for all of that time, and I meant it. She was Miss Red Rover back then, but after she got to be five months or so, the red went away, and she turned off to Flashy Fawn Boxer colors, so she was now usually just Rover, unless I was angry at her and using her full name, but be that as it may. I was not going to leave her with someone who would neglect her. I wasn't worried about abuse, because she'd hurt them worse than they would her, I had every confidence. On the other hand, that was exactly what I was afraid of.

        Leaving her with someone she didn't know really well or like was going to end badly, probably for them. I pointed out that dogs her size were known to be able to kill people if they decided that they wanted to, and I wasn't going to be responsible for getting some idiot killed by leaving my dog with them when I didn't think they could handle her.

        Heather knocked on the door and announced that lunch had arrived, which got us off the subject. Rover sniffed at the Pizza boxes, and concluded that she still didn't give a hoot for Anchovies. She stomped out and begged for chicken from Heather. I think she wound up getting a donation or two, since she was licking her chops when I looked out to see what she was doing a few minutes later.

        Things went on from there. We wheeled the two “professional” Dog minders through, and that was almost as hopeless as the interviews before Lunch had been. The first one was from L.A., and got crossways with me right out of the gate by coming across with the whole West Coast Superior attitude. I don't know if it was that I didn't like him, or that Rover didn't like him anyway, but she made a valiant effort to chew on his hand when he attempted to “reach out to her and connect”. I'd sensed her annoyance, and had her by the collar, which saved him some pain, but it also ended the interview.

        I chopped it off right then and there. I informed him that if my Dog didn't like him, they clearly would not be able to co-exist for any length of time and any further discussion was pointless. I got a whole lot of smoke blown at me about how it was just a Dog, and that he could manage her. I noted that if I was feeling sadistic, I'd leave the two of them in the conference room together and see which one of them came out. I then called for Heather and told her that we were through and requested that she please show him to the door and his transportation back to the Airport.

        The second guy was probably pretty good, but he was also a whole lot smarter than the first one. He asked to meet Rover first, spent about five minutes trying to make up to her, and announced that it wasn't going to work. He noted that “I could work with her, but she doesn't like me, and I've never had a dog that took a serious dislike to me right up front ever come around to being comfortable or happy in my company for any extended period. I don't think we can make this work based on the parameters you have given me.”

        I thanked him for his time, and ushered him out. We got him loaded up and I asked Heather to send him a bonus of $500 on his interview fee for honesty. I then proceeded to tell Miss Rover that if she attempted to bite one more stranger today, I'd either be very angry or buy her an Ice-Cream, depending on how stupid the stranger was.
        Alle Kunst ist umsunst Wenn ein Engel auf das Zundloch brunzet (All skill is in vain if an angel pisses down the touch-hole of your musket.) Old German Folk Wisdom.


        • #5
          Re: The Ambassador Chapter 13

          Miss Rover was lying by the side of Heather's desk, and cocked her head at me and then snorted at me, in that dismissive way that a lot of dogs have. She had just informed me that she wasn't responsible for idiots, and that if I kept inflicting them on her, she'd do whatever she wanted to do with them, assuming that I wasn't spoiling her plans by grabbing her collar all the time.

          I informed her that she was a fish-brain, and she lolled her tongue out of one side of her mouth and flopped over on her side.

          That got Heather going. “Fish-brain?”

          “Yeah. Dumb Bass Dog.”

          Heather laughed just a little at that one. Then she asked if she could talk with me.

          “Here, or in private? You are welcome to come help me run the fish-brain for a while, and we can discuss it out there, if that will work.”

          Outside proved to be acceptable, so I had Mike inform Ian and Allan that we still didn't have a doggy sitter and that I was going out to run said dog, and that I was stealing their Secretary. I went toward my bag to get a tennis ball, and Heather pulled one out of a desk drawer.

          “If this is what you are after, I have one.”

          I gave her a thumb up and we went outside. Once we were out, she threw the ball, and started hemming and hawing and beating around the bush. She mooched another cigarette, then got another three false starts in before she finally managed to get to the point. She wanted to be Rover's dog-sitter.

          My first thought was “Yeah. Hiring a cute little 20-something to accompany me and watch the dog will go over just great with my wife”, but she kept going.

          She knew what the job involved. She actually got along with the dog. Beyond that, she had just had a break-up and wanted to travel. She went on.

          “I don't know why I keep doing it. If someone cheats on you, you are supposed to get rid of them, but I keep going soft and we get back together. Then it happens again. She keeps running around on me, and I keep giving her another chance. I just need to get out of here for a while and get away from her.”

          I was throwing the ball for Rover at the time, and facing away from her, so I don't think that she noticed my jaw drop when she got to the 'she' part, and I caught it before it went “clunk” on the ground. I sensed a whole new perspective on cute 20-something dog watchers forming. Beyond that, she seemed to be fairly stable and level headed in at least most respects. I shifted into interview mode, and reviewed the basics of the job while I got my stuff all back into one pile.

          “You are aware of the travel thing, clearly. You might work every day for a full month, and then have a couple of weeks off. It's a salaried job, of course, so time off is paid the same as working every day would be. You might not get back home here for months, or even a year or more.”

          Her only concern was that she would not be taking a pay cut. I bounced that off Mike, and got exactly what I expected to get in response. We were paying her well above the going rate for office help in the local area, but not a patch on what we were planning on paying someone to watch my dog.

          That struck me as funny, ironic, and indicative of the range between the competent and the competent BS artists all at the same time, and I must have laughed, because Heather got a bit defensive, and started hedging on her Salary requirements.

          That made me really laugh. We hadn't put a price range on the job, simply noting that we'd pay a competitive salary. Heather clearly had no idea what that meant, in inflated Federal Reserve Notes. So I asked Miss Rover what she thought.

          I called her over, and asked her if she'd like to stay with Miss Heather when I wasn't around from time to time. She wagged her tail, unprompted. She'd already figured out who “Heather” meant, and she clearly liked her. So I asked the dog if we should give Heather a raise.

          That got some serious tail wagging and a woof. Rover didn't know what I was saying, but she knew I'd referred to someone she liked again, and she gave me her version of two thumbs up. I told her she was a good dog, and she turned to Heather and looked at the ball. Heather threw it.

          I then told Heather that after some serious consultation with the party most seriously involved, that I was prepared to offer the job, at a doubling of her current pay rate, assuming that Mr. Allan or Mr. Ian would not object to losing her.

          Heather pretty much squealed with joy, and started jumping down and doing something of a happy dance, which was really fun to watch. Rover came back and joined in, and Heather kissed her two or three times. Since I was reasonably comfortable that she wasn't going to try that with me, I felt pretty good about the whole situation, for the first time all day.

          I asked Mike to contact Universal Distributing's Legal team and have a contract drawn up for an Executive Assistant for Symbiont Management at $2,000/week, or wherever they could get to that at a monthly salary. Standard perks, Corporate credit card, but don't get too carried away on that front. Mike informed me that it'd take two hours before we could print it out.

          It took me about two minutes to get that all lined out, because I kept getting distracted by the dance that Ms. Collins and Miss Rover were still doing. The aesthetics were interesting, and I kept telling myself that I really did need to get my Gaydar totally re-calibrated, because it was clearly missing a lot of things.

          I got the two of them calmed down and we went back inside. I called Ian and Allan out to the front, and informed them that they were going to have to hire a new Secretary fairly quickly. Ian just laughed, and Allan informed Heather that he had been sure that she would be capable of moving up to bigger and better things in our Corporation. I knew just how loaded that statement was, but kept from saying anything at all, other than to grin and note that I was also quite pleased with Miss Rover's taste in people.

          The rest of the day went fairly rapidly. Allan, Ian, and I sat in various offices and pretended to mess around on our Computers while tending to business via our AI's. At about 1645, Heather announced that there was a print-out coming in from Corporate Legal, and sure enough, it was her contract.

          We had to go into Town to get it all signed off, because Heather was our Notary. It just wouldn't work for her to notarize her own contract.

          She and Ian came in using her vehicle, and Allan and I followed in the Range Rover. It was after business hours, but we got the notarization done right then by bribing one of the clerks at the Courthouse to come meet us at a downtown Coffee Shop and stamp it. Heather had known who to call, and then made the call herself. It was one of her High School classmates. I love small town connections, sometimes, but I was starting to run short of $100 bills. I noted to Mike that he needed to remind me to get some more cash tomorrow.

          At any rate, we were in town in two vehicles, and Heather concluded somewhere along the line that since she was now in charge of Miss Rover, she had to stay late and entertain her. Ian, Allan, and I had already concluded that we were going to be burning a lot of the proverbial midnight oil over the next couple of days. We had some serious deadlines to be meeting.

          Heather had also concluded that she needed to go by her place and pick up some things. She didn't say what, but just “things”. I was perfectly happy leaving it at that, and so we went there. We'd swapped out at the coffee shop, and I was riding with Heather and Miss Rover.

          Things got interesting when we turned onto her block. She noted that the vehicle in her driveway wasn't hers, and shouldn't be there. It belonged to her ex. We got a bit closer and I noticed that the front door was hanging open and somewhat askew. It seemed to me that we had a break-in going on. Heather was very clear about who the car belonged to, but missed the broken door. I didn't enlighten her other than to tell her to keep driving for a block or two.
          Alle Kunst ist umsunst Wenn ein Engel auf das Zundloch brunzet (All skill is in vain if an angel pisses down the touch-hole of your musket.) Old German Folk Wisdom.


          • #6
            Re: The Ambassador Chapter 13

            I did the whole “what'cha gonna' do” thing in about ten seconds, and concluded that we didn't want any police shaking Ian or Allan down. We didn't need any involvement with the local Constabulary overall, for that matter. Such being the case, I sent Allan and Ian a message via Mike, and had Heather keep going past her driveway for two blocks.

            We stopped around the corner in the next block about 100 yards, clear out of sight of Heather's place. I got out of the vehicle and noted that I was going to go back and clear the house of unwanted visitors. About that time, Ian sent me a comment. “We have security following on. Do you want him to help?”

            Yes I did, and he pulled up beside us about then. It was a pick up truck and it contained my old buddy Mr. Hawkins. Having some help made me feel a lot better. I told him what was going on, and he grinned a bit and noted that he was supposed to make sure that we all left any area where there was a perceived threat.

            I grinned back and noted that his advice had been taken under advisement. Beyond that, I laid out what was going on, and got Heather to give us the layout of her living quarters. It was a split-level part of a four-plex, with the the bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs, and the combo den-living room-dining room, kitchen, and a utility room downstairs.

            I suggested that they could just go buy coffee or something, and I'd call them in a few minutes when we had the situation solved. Otherwise, they could just go back to the plant, and Mr. Hawkins and I would be back once we got things settled. I did get Heather's Company ID badge and her door key, just to prove I was sent there if it came up.

            Mr. Hawkins and I went back from there. He parked the pick up across the driveway to prevent the car being driven out, and I called 911 and announced that we had a break in at Heather's address. I noted that the perps seemed to still be on the premises, and hung up on them before they could give me any intstructions.

            I poked Mike, and got Mr. Hawkins' first name, which was Don. I'm not going to “Mr” someone that I'm going to assault a building with. We discussed the situation for about five seconds, most of which was taken up with deciding which side of the door we each would take on the way in. Don announced that he was left-handed. End of problem. EAA 10mm in hand, I got the left side, and he got the right, and I shoved the door open and we went inside.

            He presumed I knew a few things that I didn't. He made two hand gestures after sweeping his side of the lower floor, and I read that to mean that he was not finding anyone there. There was nobody on my side either, so I just pointed up the stairs.

            There was more than one person up there, and we could hear them. They were being loud, throwing stuff, and a female voice kept saying “Break it all up!”

            Don gestured up the stairs, and immediately started up them, very quietly. I presumed that the gesture meant that he was taking point, and followed on. About halfway up, I started having a hand cramp, and realized that I'd been holding the Witness with my thumb poised on the safety since we came through the door. I kicked the safety off and moved my thumb back to a comfortable place.

            We got to the top of the stairs without being noticed. There were three voices coming from the bedroom. Don stopped about five feet from the door, gestured me to a stop, and pulled out a spray can from his belt. He then stepped up to the bedroom door and proceeded to hose about two-thirds of a can of pepper spray into the room.

            The screaming and squalling and whining and choking from the room was fairly profound. I was suitably impressed. He then stepped into the doorway just slightly more and announced that everyone should get face down on the floor right now, unless they wanted another dose of that stuff.

            About ten seconds later, he tossed a person out the doorway. I wasn't sure at first, but concluded that it was a “she”. She landed face first on the floor, and Don went inside and started dealing with the other intruders. I figured that someone needed to deal with the female, so I went over and put a knee in the middle of her back to keep her down. It didn't take much effort. She was too worried about clawing at her eyes and hacking and coughing to do much else.

            About that time, I heard Don yell. “Yo, Mr. Jefferson....” I looked in time to catch the set of handcuffs he tossed at me. Not being completely inept, I put them on the female, with some difficulty. She wanted to have her hands free to rub her eyes, and whined a whole lot when I cuffed her behind her back.

            By the time I got the cuffs on her, Don came out of the bedroom dragging a guy. He had him in wire ties, and had hogtied him with them. One on each wrist, one on each leg, and one through all four of those. It was efficient, at least.

            He went back into the bedroom, and came out with another guy, wrapped just like the first one was. He dropped him by the other two.

            I put the safety back on the Witness and holstered it. I asked Don. “You got credentials, don't you? He noted that he did, and I commented that I was his partner for this venture. I was a new hire, and didn't have my papers yet. I handed him Heather's ID badge and key, and as I was expecting, I heard sirens sounding and heading our way as I did it.

            I noted to Don that it was a good thing for Miss Heather that she'd sent us to pick up her stuff, since she'd not have been able to deal with the intrusion into her home the way we did. Don just nodded at me and said “It sure was”.

            The Law arrived about a minute later. They took about a minute to verify Don's credentials, and nobody even blinked at me being with him. One of the Sheriff's Deputies did ask me a while later if I wasn't a bit old for the kind of job I had, to which I replied that he sure looked kind of fat for the job he had. He flipped me off and went on about his business.
            Alle Kunst ist umsunst Wenn ein Engel auf das Zundloch brunzet (All skill is in vain if an angel pisses down the touch-hole of your musket.) Old German Folk Wisdom.


            • #7
              Re: The Ambassador Chapter 13

              We had the whole thing wrapped up and were on our way within another hour. Such are the joys of being a recognized “Security Service” as opposed to being a private citizen in the same boat. Don was licensed to do what he did in Wyoming, particularly since he had not shot anyone or anything like that. I was just a flunky, and didn't matter.

              And we were off. Don noted that he would have the resident of the place contact them and arrange to press charges tomorrow morning. In the meantime, they would be held, since nobody was going to get a Judge out of bed to let them out this evening.

              As we climbed into the truck to leave, Don noted that I could back him up anytime it was necessary.

              I replied “I didn't do much of anything, actually.”

              “Yes you did. You did not sweep me when we went in the door. You covered my back. You did not waste any time asking stupid questions, even when you didn't know for sure what I meant by my hand signals, and you did exactly what needed doing upstairs. You have good instincts.”

              “I guessed right. That wasn't all that hard, since it was obvious, but you need to train me in some, I think. I'm not inclined to go hide and let someone else take the risks when I'm right there.”

              He made a face. “Don't tell my boss I let you come along, or he'll fire me.”

              “I wouldn't worry about that part. I need to talk to you about a job anyway. Things are happening, and I suspect that I am going to hire you to run a different branch of our security in about a week or so anyway.”

              He rolled his eyes. “Don't blow smoke up me.”

              “Think about what has gone on since I showed up, and tell me that I'm blowing smoke at anyone.”

              “You don't know enough about my qualifications to be hiring me for anything anyway.”

              An AI is a very useful tool at times like those. I nudged Mike into action, and prevaricated for about thirty seconds while I started getting data. “Well, now. You may be right about that part. Then again, your resume is not exactly inaccessible. The way I'm remembering it, you have ten years in the Army, Special Forces for seven years, and you did Diplomatic Security in both Iraq and the 'Stan. Is that about right so far?”

              He looked a bit surprised. “Yeah.”

              “As near as I can tell, the only gripe anyone ever had with you has been that you get outside the box a bit too much for a lot of folks. That produces a lot of paranoia in people who are going to be on the spot if something does go wrong and they haven't followed the sacred procedures to the letter. You scare your superiors sometimes. Just for instance, what we just did could easily get you fired, because you were supposed to bundle us all up and get us out of Dodge, not assist me in clearing the house.”

              “You were already doing it when I got here. I may get outside the box, but hitting you over the head to stop you would not have gone over well.”

              I grinned. “Trying to hit me over the head might have worked out even worse. You might could do it, but then again, I might not be cooperative about it, if you know what I mean.”

              “That did factor into the decision on the ground. You've confused us several times, and surprised us, or at least me, more than once already. Compared to the rest of your group, you are both a lot easier and a lot harder to deal with, all at the same time. Do you have any idea what our Management went through getting coverage in place for you when you are at home?”

              “They went through too much, because it hasn't been necessary, up to this point. I figured they'd do something anyway, and I made them almost at once. That addiction to big Suburbans with dark tinted windows does nothing for anonymity when you are out in the sticks. If someone is paying any attention, you might as well carry a sign as drive one of those.”

              “I've told them that several times. Come to think of it, so did you. You got more results that I ever did in some places, anyway.”

              “That's because I'm the guy signing the checks. That particular fact makes all the difference to those in charge.”

              “So. Where are we going?”

              “Back to the shop. I called the rest of the group while you were 'splaining things to the Law and sent them on ahead.”

              We proceeded there. I did some interviewing relative to his Diplomatic Security background on the way.
              Alle Kunst ist umsunst Wenn ein Engel auf das Zundloch brunzet (All skill is in vain if an angel pisses down the touch-hole of your musket.) Old German Folk Wisdom.