[s] [long] Friends- Part Eight: "In Training"

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Scott Robert Dawson

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Feb 24, 1997, 3:00:00 AM2/24/97
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[Friends- Part Eight: "In Training"]
_______________________________
A meeting in Bancroft Warren:

"They did WHAT?" Feelings Leader Twinkle said, fluffing with
astonishment.

Twinkle and Comm Tech Acorn were meeting with the Bancroft Warren
Owsla. It was a few days after Johnson Morikawa-Smith's last confused
post.

Techbun Acorn repeated, "Dimples reported that phase two of
Morikawa-Smith's recruitment, the Introduction of the Talking Rabbit,
went excellently,"

"So far, so good," interjected Twinkle.

"...and then she says that Morikawa was forcibly converted at a
Symp-run clinic during a hike in the hills," Acorn ended. "By someone
else."

There was a silence.

"Forcibly converted? Are you sure?" said Chief Rabbit Bushy.

Acorn looked at the message again. "I... think so," He ruffled with
uncertainty. "The message from Dimples states, 'Johnson was
accidentally given the Cuteness Sensitivity injection by one of the
other recruitment teams while he was recovering from exposure...'" He
paused.

"'Cuteness Sensitivity injection'," said Twinkle. "That's not the HLV
conversion injection. It just eases the transition; by itself, it'll
wear off in a few days and leave Johnson little affected, although he
_will_ have a greater affinity for Cuteness. The injection is used on
clients we have no reason to dislike. If we could just create a
version that could be ingested orally..."

She had a momentary fantasy of Toronto enthusiastically embracing the
Cute, with Disney stores everywhere, Barney parades and festivals, and
Sailor Moon on the television every night... but then she shook
herself. It was happening, it was happening, just a little more
slowly, that's all.

And, after all, Easter _was_ on its way.

Bushy said, "I'm not certain that this will be a large problem. If the
Symps minding Johnson handle this properly, it won't have a large
effect on his embracing of his Cute Side. I'm more worried about those
posts that you mentioned earlier, Acorn."

"The ones where Johnson was babbling?"

"Yes. The Fudds know that something happened to Johnson, and they seem
to have written him off. When he suddenly shows up, what will they do
then?"

"And what of Karol Burnett and Steve Davidson?" Bushy added. "There
hasn't been much from them on the group, although they did reply to
Grey Paladin's post. High Park _still_ can't find them <stomp>!"

"Well, if Johnson follows his schedule, he'll be returning to Toronto
for a visit," said Twinkles. "We'll see what happens then."

"I just wish High Park would get their act together," grumbled Bushy.
"Algonquin Main has *got* to be keeping a close eye on them now. They
want Johnson's info badly... Things might not go well for High Park if
they keep slipping like they have."

The rabbits paused and contemplated. Acorn shuddered as he considered
Bushy's words. The rumours he'd heard of some of the activities at
Algonquin Main did not make him feel particularly safe, and he knew
that Bancroft Warren was in their _good_ books...

"Well, I'm not sure we can do a lot right now," said Bushy. "We may
just have to leave this one to Frith for the time being. But if
anything changes, we'll need to be informed..."

"Now on to the next item. How is the BunnyMover installation going?"

Another rabbit, one of the southerners, replied, "Well, as you know,
the tunnel to the south was holed through last week. We should have
guideway and power hewre in two weeks, and test cars in another two.
The survey teams are already laying out the segment north to Bancroft
and Maynooth..."

The meeting rolled on.

___________________
West of Kingston:

"He did WHAT?!?" said Karol.

"He went hiking in the hills, and got... brainwashed." stammered a
pale and shaking Steve. "Look at these posts... He's babbling."

Steve and Karol were staying at an old motel west of Kingston,
Ontario. It had been built next to the main road from Kingston to
Toronto, the road that had been known as Dundas Street during the time
of the European invasions and was now officially known as Highway 2.
The Dundas Street name survived, though.

In the fifties the freeway had gone through north of town and the
motels along Highway 2 began a long decline until many of them were
little more than meeting places for the poor and/or shady. More and
more of them, from Hamilton to the Quebec border, were sold or
demolished.

Willy Aduin had bought the motel in the eighties, during what he later

described as 'a temporary fit of lack of poverty'. He and his family
moved into the residence attached to the motel's office, and rented
out units to some of the more adventurous students at Queen's
University. Later he gradually eased out the students in favour of
other people, more secretive.

Often cars would arrive and leave in the middle of the night. Yet
there was no indication of increased lawlessness or prostitution. Some
police were puzzled, until a quiet word from certain of their
superiors let them know the true situation.

During the great Tobacco Smuggling Wars of the early nineties, when
the St Lawrence River town of Cornwall (an hour east of Kingston) was
experiencing gun battles, Willy kept a low profile and did not
experience any pressure from the smugglers.

Of course, there may have been other reasons too, reasons having to do

with the exercises conducted in the secluded field behind the motel,
and the repeat orders for waterguns, vanilla extract, and fire axes,
and the unusual computer hardware, and the expansion of the basement,
and the clients of the automobile customization business that his son
Vance ran, on occaision, on the side...

But now Vance was with the AoF down in Pittsburgh, and his sister
Gretchen was there too, and Willy and his wife were more or less
running the place by themselves.

Karol and Steve were in one of the old motel rooms. The room smelled
rather musty, in spite of what were obviously fairly recent
renovations. Shielded AC outlets and optical fibre jacks had been
installed, and the drape-covered windows appeared to be newly
reinforced.

Karol looked at the computer screen. The post from Johnson was
tragically short:

"hwel;lo world
im Johnson
I got ill bi^Hut the nice bunnies ar e helping me get better
<weakhappyfluff>
They let me see movis todat I saw sailorMOn^Hon se^Hhes really CUTe
im in love <pseudodewyeyes> with MARia <heartbeat> I wonce met a girl
namned Maria
I wanna let steve no Im okay
so he doesny^Ht worry also
my boss
Mr Simson I cant comwe ^H^H^He to work today <illbutvaliantfluff>

LOve Johnson morika wasm-ith
ps Steve theres someting wrong I CANT Type rigt anymoe <weep>
doesa nt^Hyone have any tea
WYnn"

He remembered Johnson's debating with ed, only a few short weeks ago,
and turned to look at Steve. "Steve..."

Steve was shaking visibly. "I-" he started. His face twisted and he
began to weep. Karol reached out to hold him.

The room was silent except for weeping as the two men hugged. Karol
could do nothing but be there; the real battle was Steve's alone.

Eventually, the screen saver cut in and the room darkened.

The weeping continued.

__________________
Near Palo Alto:

Dimples typed angrily at her BUNIX terminal. She was addressing a
medbun by tightbeam in the warren attached to the North Boulder Creek
Clinic, away west in a valley in the Santa Cruz mountains, closer to
the sea.

"They did WHAT <STOMP>?"

A few minutes later, a reply came back: "After Johnson was brought in,
we put him in a treatment room, one of the ones that we use for forced
conversion. It was a bit of a rush <apologeticfluff>; evidently
(according to Phil) he was genuinely suffering from exposure. I guess
he thought it would be a lot warmer than it was over the ridgeline
towards the coast <naivetouristpityfluff>. Northerners don't seem to
realize the variations in microclimate around here. Anyway, one of the
other teams came along. They must have thought he was one of _their_
clients <ruffle>; they gave him the Cuteness Sensitivity injection."

Dimples considered, and started a reply. "Hmm. What will happen to him
now?"

"I'm not sure. That injection is only to cover the start of the
conversion process; it just breaks down conscious resistance to
Cuteness, increases suggestibility, and eases the shock. We use it for
non-prejudiced conversions. By itself it will wear off in a few days
and give Johnson little more than some uncertain memories. He could be
back to his regular life in a week."

The reply continued, "There is one other thing, though. There was an
active BUNIX terminal in the room <againapologeticfluff>. Johnson was
able to use it to post to the newsgroup, although his posts were
little more than babbling. When we found out, of course, we removed
it."

Dimples typed, "I've seen them on the group. So have the Fudds. And
this may not turn out to be so bad after all. The Fudds seem to
consider him lost; there was a touching, if deluded, post from Grey
Paladin, that was almost a eulogy, and then it went on into the usual
desperate 'keep yer chin up folks' kind of stuff <rolleyes>. So we may
be able to use this to our advantage. But I wouldn't want to be
Johnson now..."

She added, "Where is Johnson now? And the symps?"

The Clinic medbun replied, "The symps have gone back to Palo Alto.
Johnson's still here. The Humans in the clinic are treating him for
exposure, and his employer has been contacted. As far as they know,
he's just had a bit of a misadventure <ironicgrin>, and he'll be back
to work in a day or so. Should we let him go?"

"I think so. Let's let him go back to his regular job, and I'll
instruct Phil and Maria to try to minimize the impact of this
incident."

She engaged BUNIX encryption, and continued: "Was the BUNIX terminal
able to access any Warren-internal information?"

The encrypted reply: "No. It was connected outbound, to the HumanNet
only."

"Good. *THAT* could have been a problem <relievedfluffle>. Thank you,
Medbun Coral <appreciativewiggle>. You have been a great help. Let's
get together over some carrots 'n' toes sometime soon
<suggestivewiggle>..."

"It would be a *pleasure* <shimmywiggle>. You always have the best...
conversation <wigglehop>"

"<blush>..."

The typed conversation ended. Dimples shut off her terminal and turned
to other tasks. No, she would definitely *not* like to be Johnson
around now. He was going to get a rude shock when he resumed posting
on the newsgroup.

*No-one* would trust him...

[End of Part Eight. Next part: "In Training II"]

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