Ahem. Take a letter, please, Miss Maple.
“Dear Saskatchewan and North Dakota:
Please keep your freakin’ thunderstorms and hailstones to yourselves.
And now for something completely different.
Sample from today’s writing:
They set up the projector in one of the chairs in the small conference room, balanced on the black leather seat. Antoni turned away while Cabrell punched his auth code into the little keypad on the projector’s flank. One of the green lights turned yellow as it read in his office key, then red as it enabled full crypto.
“All right,” said Antoni, settling into one of the remaining chairs, “any minute now.”
Cabrell glanced at the wall clock, synched to flotilla time. 8h59. “Any second now,” he said, and the projector chirped.
“Go,” he said, taking his seat, and Grzgy appeared.
A shaggy mountain, he overfilled the chair, his image obliterating the arms. He’d chosen an ursine corpus, a shambling display of raw power, and Cabrell had to admit that it was intimidating. He nodded to them, and his sharp ivory canines flashed as he said, “Boss Antoni, Mayor Cabrell.” His voice was thick, drawn up from that massive chest.
Cabrell felt his anger rise up in him, now that he was looking at its focus. He nodded, jaw clamped shut. Antoni said, “Chief Grzgy,” speaking, it seemed, for both of them.
“Now,” said Grzgy, “I have some items. Boss Antoni, I would like you to assign an engineering gang to check on that forward vent. It’s leaking heat again.”
“I thought that it was fixed,” said Antoni.
“It appears to have come unfixed.”
“There’s no indication of it in the maintenance system.”
“Then I suggest you have an engineer audit your software, too,” said Grzgy. “We don’t want unforeseen troubles.” His clawed fingertips drummed against the ebony-veneer table in perfect silence.
“Of course,” said Antoni.
“Also, I’m forwarding instructions to the city engineers to–”
All right, that was it. Cabrell said, cutting the old bear off, “Look, Mr. Grzgy.” The chief bristled, powerful muscle shifting under sleek dark fur. Cabrell knew that he preferred the military forms of address, that he was in fact insulting the chief by calling him “mister” instead of “chief” or at least “boss”, but right now he didn’t really give a damn. “All I want to know is, when will the pressgang order be lifted? I mean, after all, you’ve already cracked the Queendom crypto scheme, the fake keys have been built, and the, uh,” trying to recall one of the military summaries from almost two weeks ago, “the fooler software has been, in your words or the words of your subordinates, ‘written, tested, and deployed’. All before we crossed the orbit of Saturn, as I recall. So when will you release my people?”
Antoni was staring at him, open-mouthed. He couldn’t read Grzgy’s eyes, but whether that was inscrutability or lossy holographic image compression he wasn’t sure. He could guess, though, that the old bear was probably no longer in as good a mood as he’d started this meeting.
Good, he thought. Why should I be the only one pissed off?
“Mr. Mayor,” said Grzgy, “sit down.” Cabrell realized only then that he’d come half out of his chair during his little tirade, leaning on the table. He sat back, and now the holo of the chief stood up, thick sinew rippling. He started to pace, his range limited by the holo projector so that his steps became an odd, jittery half-skip. “May I remind you, Mr. Mayor, that as leader of the civilian part of this mission”–he didn’t quite snarl on civilian, but Cabrell could sense his displeasure–“you are largely a figurehead, most certainly devoid of any real power when it comes to military operations, and as such you are in no position to demand anything of me.”
Mmmm, first draft-a-licious…