Over the next few months, Kani keeps to herself worrying what further trouble she can get into. Her various sexual liaisons so far had not turned out to be good decisions for her. Hilts is a bore, Par hates her now, and Hax can ruin her career. Par had been the one who had hurt her the most, as she has real feelings for him. The breeding program she had started has been going well. The lab has fifteen tuun Hooma’s impregnated by natural sexual behaviors, and out of the five hundred and twelve Hooma’s in the lab, she has one hundred established couples mixing in the center cage without incident.
Hax Kandor did send her some flowers with an anonymous card read: Sorry! She was sorry too. Sorry, she ever met him.
Having been pflouged like that, and walking away from it was torture. She consoled herself by sneaking in a few times late so she can pfloug some Hooma’s. A few have dangles large by Hooma standards, but average-size by Kotaun ones. At least the Hooma’s don’t want anything from her, other than sexual intercourse or handjobs. Still, if she is caught doing that, it’ll also spell doom for her career.
As she works in her lab one day the door buzzed, and she calls out, “Who is it?”
A familiar voice replies on the intercom. “It’s Pima Hilts. May we come in?”
She stands and goes briskly to the door, unlocking it to finds Pima Hilts and Pooma Sa standing there in isolation gear waiting for her.
“Come in gentletaun’s, good to see you.”
She steps aside and they enter. Her mind and her heart races wondering why the facility head is here. Pooma Sa always makes her feel nervous. Once they’re inside, she closes the door, and it seals it shut.
“Why do you keep the door locked to Pima Hilts?” Pooma Sa asks her gruffly.
Kani bows slightly to the old taun. Submission is a tuun’s best friend around taun’s like him.
“Pooma Sa, I’m honored to have you here in my lab. I keep the door locked as the animals are prone to fright,” she said evenly. “Putting the animals, and myself, at risk of harm. Pima Hilts knows he can enter anytime he wishes. I have nothing to hide here.”
Pooma Sa grunts with a scowl, in reply.
Pima Hilts tries to reassure the old taun as well. “Yes, Kani is always keeping me up to date about what she’s doing here, and I’ve always been granted entry when I’ve request it.”
Kani laughs inside. I wonder what kind of entry he’s referring too, she thought. However, she keeps a straight face. “So how may I help you today?” Kani asks, looking at Hilts and Pooma Sa.
The success of your program is the reason we’re here,” Pima Hilts said.
Pooma Sa cut in. “You realize we have two other labs, with Hooma’s in them at this facility? Lab’s ninety-six and one hundred and twenty-three.”
Unlike Hilts, Sa shows no enthusiasm in his voice, only cold business.
“Yes, I recall Pima Hilts told me when I arrived here,” Kani said.
“Well, we’ve been ordered to use your expertise to get those Hooma’s breeding too,” Pooma Sa said, almost scowling at her.
Pima Hilts, though, nearly jumps in excitement. “Tell her the good news,” he said clapping his paws together.
“What?” Pooma Sa said, looking at Hilts with annoyance. Whatever this good news is, Kani gets the impression he doesn’t approve. “Oh—that. Well, because you’ll be acting as a consultant across the three labs from now on, you’ll be given a temporary promotion to ‘Pima’. You’ll also get a pay raise to go with.”
Kani can’t believe what she’s hearing. Hilts grasps one of her paws in his and shakes it vigorously. “Congratulations! Pima Frandis.”
“I-I don’t know what to say,” she mutters, truly lost for words.
“Just say yes,” Hilts gushes.
“Yes! Yes, of course, yes!” Kani shouts, she laughs and hugs Hilts.
Pooma Sa coughs making both look at him. Looking at Hilts, Sa suddenly jerks his head in a way to indicate he wants him to leave. Hilts nods and quietly leaves the room. Once the door has sealed and locked again Sa turns and walks toward to the bench examining what’s on it, while ignoring Kani. Kani feels her stomach drop as she watches the old taun trying to intimidate her, it works. Even though she has been promoted, Pooma Sa still out-ranks her in every way at The Facility. She begins to understand this display of intimidation is his way of reminding her of who’s in charge. Eventually, he turns and faces her, staring at her through his air mask coldly.
“We’re placing a lot of trust in you, Ms. Frandis,” he finally said.
She bows again to show submissiveness, but noted he doesn’t call her ‘Pima’. “I won’t let you down, Pooma Sa.”
“Hmm, I’ve heard that before,” he said, picking up a slide and holding it up to the light to examine the stain. He slowly and deliberately puts it down. “I’ve been told you’ve been seen with Hax Kandor, in the bar near here. Is this true?” Pooma Sa asks.
So this is what it’s all about, she thought, feeling afraid.
“We met, yes, but once I heard he’d been fired from The Facility I had no further association with Mr. Kandor,” she said evenly. “The last thing I want to do is get entangled in the dramas of a disgruntled ex-employee.”
“Very wise,” Pooma Sa said leaning down and looking into the microscope. As he looks at the slide, he said conversationally, “Funny thing, though, he was seen by eyewitnesses near your apartment complex, around three am the same morning.”
Kani feels thankful she wears Biohazard gear, otherwise, Sa would’ve seen right through her. She shrugs nonchalantly. “Mr. Kandor said he had friend’s that work here,” she said calmly. “Maybe he visited his friends who live in the complex. I’m sure the security footage would show who he visited. But I assure you, I spoke to him at the bar, and nowhere else.”
Pooma Sa glances at her with a slight scowl. “Security footage, eh? We’ll look into that.”
Kani had called his bluff, and she sighs with relief. It’s been months since that night with Hax, and in this time she had been certain the security footage would’ve been well scrutinized. If he had something on me I’d have known about it by now, she thought. Pooma Sa has nothing, he’s fishing.
“Did he tell you why he was fired?” Sa asks.
“No, I never let our conversation get that far,” she said. “I’m not interested in taun’s who can’t keep their job.”
“Hmm. Well, if you hear from him again, I’d like you to tell me immediately,” Pooma Sa said coldly. “Is that clear?”
“Why should I hear from him?” she asks feigning anxiety in her tone. “Should I be concerned? Am I in some kind of danger?”
Kani stares wide-eyed at him through her mask with a slight frown, to give the impression of worry. Pooma Sa smiles for the first time in the whole meeting.
“Settle down young tuun, you’ll be fine if you stay away from him,” he said.
“Well you can be certain of that, especially after what you’ve said today,” she said in a snippy tone, crossing her arms across her chest defensively.
Pooma Sa seems unmoved by it, though. He chuckled as if he has suddenly remembered a good joke. “Well, I must be off, I have a meeting to attend.” Sa goes to the door and pauses, he turns to look at her with a hostile expression. “If you succeed, I’m sure you’ll get the accolades you so keenly desire. What a shame many good employees here will end up like Kandor as a result, out of a job.”
With that he leaves the lab. Kani watches him with her mouth open in shock. After he had gone, she sits at her desk trying to understand what happened. So the truth comes out, at last, she thought, it’s all about protecting the money. The Hooma’s are prisoners here, so they can milk the royal family of funds. The Slarparks are circling, waiting for a chance to attack, Kani.
Kani knows she has to find a way to deter them long enough so by the time they make their move, it’ll be too late to make any difference. The biggest problem remains, she doesn’t know who to trust. The only definite enemy she can pinpoint at this stage is Pooma Sa.
He’s out to stop me much I’m certain of, she thought.
Kani went from working in one lab to working across all three with enthusiasm. The most frustrating part has been having leaving the work for others to do, while she supervises and advises. She has to admit this arrangement isn’t efficient, as it takes the time to train others to the required standards. To break through the long-held prejudices, and ingrained bad practices. With the royal visit only a week away, Kani has sixty-five tuun Hooma’s impregnated across three labs. The frustrating part is lab one-hundred and twenty-three has become a repository for the Hooma’s that have a tendency toward violence, and antisocial behaviors. So the socialization program there is going slowly. However, in lab two-hundred, and lab ninety-six; the program of slow socialization of the taun and tuun Hooma’s is proceeding well.
So, one night, after checking on the first two tuun Hooma’s who got pregnant, she goes home feeling satisfied everything’s going to plan. Maybe all the worry had been for nothing, she thought. Pooma Sa has kept away from her, and if anyone’s plotting anything she’s been too busy to notice or care. Sitting at home on the couch with a glass of wine, she listens to some soothing orchestral music, trying to relax and unwind. It’ll take some disaster to derail the project now, she thought.
Her phone breaks through the lilting music in the most invasive way. She picks it up and looks at the screen. It’s Jinta. Fear suddenly grips her as thoughts of something happening in the labs races through her mind.
“Jinta?” she answers.
After a hesitation, a voice answers that doesn’t belong to Jinta. “Kani? It’s me, Hax. Hax Kandor”
Why the hell is he ringing me, she wonders angrily? “I know who you are,” she said coldly. “What are you doing with Jinta’s phone?”
“It’s the only way I knew I could get through to you,” he said. “You’ve been ignoring me.”
“For good reason too. You’re trouble, with a capital ‘T’!”
“I wanna see you again. That night was so amazing.” Hax said hotly.
“That night was a mistake. I suggest you forget it. Now if you don’t mind—” she begins.
“There’s something else. It’s important. Your future depends on it,” he said gravely.
Kani sighs and shakes her head in frustration. “What is it, tell me?”
“I’d prefer to tell you in person,” he said, hopefully.
“It’s not gonna happen, so put it back in your pants,” she said. “Tell me what it is, or pfloug off and leave me alone.”
She stands and begins to pace the floor angrily.
“You’re a hard tuun, Kani Frandis,” Hax groans.
“No, I’m not, just not one born yesterday.”
“All right, have it your way.” Hax takes a deep breath. “Pooma Sa is about to make his move on you. He’s using ‘The Stapo’ against you because you’re too intelligent to trip up. So they’re going to try to frame you instead.”
Kani’s stomach drops, her mouth going dry. “How do you know all this?”
Hax pauses. “I’m a Stapo agent, Kani.,” he said softly. “That night we met was no accident. It was an attempt to get at you.”
“I was supposed to seduce you into seeing the classified files on the Hooma’s. I’m sorry, Kani.”
Kani feels stunned. “W-Why are you telling me this now?”
“That night we had sex. It was like nothing I’ve ever felt. Since then I’ve been trying to contact you to warn you,” he said desperately. “Now I’ve had to mug poor Jinta to get his phone so you’d answer the call. You did something to me that night, and it changed me.”
She ignores his insipid mewling. “What do I do now? How do I stop it?”
“First, clean-up your apartment. Any files from work there take them back or burn them. Do you have a computer workstation in your apartment?”
“No, only my portable.”
“OK, good. Hide your portable somewhere no one can find it,” he said. “They may try to plant files on it. Don’t give it to a friend to mind, that won’t work. Hide it somewhere good.”
“All right, but surely someone can help me?” Kani asks.
Hax thought for a moment. “At The Facility there’s people who are plants from the ‘Animal Liberation Society’,” he said. “They’re your best hope at this point, but be careful who you trust. Pooma Sa has informants all over the place. You’re probably working with them at the moment,” Hax tells her.
She paces frantically, trying to think. “Who are these Animal Lib people? How do I contact them?”
“We don’t know. If we did, they’d be arrested by now,” he said. “Good luck, Kani, I have to go. I’ll do what I can from my end to impede things, but I can’t promise a lot. It’s every taun for himself now. Bye.”
He disconnects, and Kani screams in frustration. She sits heavily. Tears flow, wetting her facial fur.
“You pflouging clant, Pooma Sa,” she screams.
Kani has never felt so alone in all her life. Pooma Sa has the secret police working toward discrediting her, so her program can be squashed, and the status quo returned. The Hooma’s, a mere pawn in a game of greed. It disgusts her deeply. The dark side of Kotaun’s revealed, it makes her feel shame for her race. Pooma Sa constitutes everything wrong in her world. How a tuun scientist is expected to fight against the system is beyond her? So she pours another drink and decides it’s a good idea to get drunk instead.
Continued on the next page (link below).