Smile, you’re on camera!

 

 

Kuan-Yin slept fitfully on the straw in the stall which Josh had stood in only an hour previously.  The panda was uneasy about his mate’s whole sale adoption of the tactile ways of the community, for this was not how pandas usually did things, they were from a very paws off culture.  Yi Jie however had let the community take her and her cub quite literally in their paws and embrace them.  Kuan-Yin was sure Yi Jie had given those who stroked and massaged her paws permission to do so in some form or other.  Kuan-Yin knew his mate and cub were happier than they’d been for a long time, and they had all the delights of the house and its many facilities to explore and enjoy.  He knew Yi Jie and Shuang would take the opportunities offered by their new friends in both paws and give back to the community as much as they received.  Kuan-Yin however, felt he could not give the community anything.  he hated the sight of strange animals, such as the muddy brown cat cub, which the other animals, including his mate and cub seemed to accept without question.  Kuan-Yin felt he must leave the community as soon as possible.  He felt he did not belong in such an open,  tactile environment.

 

Kuan-Yin left the stable after dark, vowing never to return to the community.  He didn’t want long goodbyes, they would only upset Yi Jie and Shuang, and lead to awkward questions.  Also, Kuan-Yin admitted to himself that he could not face the sight of the funny furred cat cub again.  Just to look at her made him feel sick.  Kuan-Yin left the garden and met up with Josh, who was still hiding in the wood.

 

“I’ve left the community,”  Kuan-Yin said to Josh, who touched the panda’s ear with his muzzle.

      “I’s not surprised you ‘as,”  the Shetland pony said, “I’s not wanted there either.”

       “No,”  Kuan-Yin replied, “it’s not that I’m not wanted, it’s just that I can’t stand their way of life.  It’s too informal, too tactile, too friendly.  They have little to no restraint!  They’re always touching each other’s paws, hugging and stroking each other, and tickling each other’s paws!  That’s strange behaviour!  Also, it’s not one bear stroking another bear’s paws, it’s a tiger stroking a bear’s paws, or a bear stroking an otters, or a lion hugging a snow leopard!  It’s too much for me Josh!”  Josh let the male panda get onto his back, and, making sure he held on tight, cantered away from the house.

 

Tib watched Kuan-Yin and Josh leaving, telling Yi Jie and Shuang what was happening.  Yi Jie was sad to see her mate go, but she knew the community wouldn’t stand for Kuan-Yin’s attitude.  Yi Jie felt sure that, sooner or later, another panda would turn up wanting a home.  Yi Jie turned away from the window, her heart heavy, but knowing deep down Kuan-Yin wouldn’t survive in the community.

 

Padding away from the window, Yi Jie and her cub settled down together, Shuang curling up in the curve of her mother’s body.  Yi Jie closed her eyes, taking her cub’s paw in hers.  Shuang kissed her mother on her nose.

      “Sleep well mum,”  Shuang whispered.

 

Theo looked at the two pandas.  They were so beautiful, he could hardly take his eyes off them.  Theo, wanting to be close to these two bears, curled up beside them, taking Shuang’s free forepaw in both of his, the cub working her tiny paw into his large fat ones.

      “I could sleep here,”  Theo thought, closing his eyes and resting his head on the carpet.  Theo and the pandas slept for a long time, and when they woke, Yi Jie looked at Theo and smiled warmly.

      “You comforted my cub Theo,”  she said.

     “I think we both did that,”  Theo mewed.  Shuang looked at Theo, touching his nose with her tiny paw.

       “I love you Theo,”  she said softly, her words bringing tears to the lion’s eyes.  Theo embraced Shuang as tightly as he dared, the cub snuggling hard into his fur.  Yi Jie saw Shuang’s reaction to Theo and knew it was genuine.

     “She loves you dearly,”  the female giant panda said.  Theo nuzzled Shuang’s ear, the cub burying her head in his mane.

     “I love her too,”  Theo said, “I love both of you.”  Yi Jie crawled over to Theo and kissed him on his nose.

     “How about if we take it in turns to hug Theo?”  Shuang asked.  So the two pandas did just that, each embracing Theo tightly, the lion returning their hugs as firmly as he dared.

       “Hug me tighter!  Go on Theo!”  Shuang urged, Theo terrified he’d crush the cub.  He did as she asked, and realised Shuang was quite tough.  The cub pressed herself hard into Theo’s fur, Theo still reluctant to hug her as tightly as he would Elsa, or one of his own cubs, in case he hurt her.

 

Shuang relaxed, her body warmed by the lion’s fur.

      “Now you have adopted my cub Theo,”  Yi Jie said.  Theo smiled:

      “I think she adopted me,”  he purred.

 

Elsa took Yi Jie in her paws and hugged her, the female panda snuggling up to her.

      “I can tell why your cubs helped Leo so well now,”  Yi Jie said, “both of you are so gentle it rubs off on your cubs.”  Elsa smiled and nuzzled her ear.

      “We are a kind, tolerant, generous and gentle community,”  she purred, “but anger us, and we will defend our own.”  Yi Jie knew this very well.  She’d had both sides of the community demonstrated to her with fantastic affect on her mate and their pony friend, as well as had her own paws and those of her cub stroked by various community members.

 

Yi Jie examined Elsa from nose to tail.  The lioness had gentle eyes, and now was relaxed, whereas she’d been very upset only a short time ago.  Yi Jie looked at Elsa’s left forepaw, the pads of which she could see for the lioness’s paw was resting on its side on the carpet.  The fur on the sole of Elsa’s paw was golden brown, the pads black, her toes looking rather delicate and not very powerful.  Yi Jie knew this was deceptive, and reminded herself never to give Elsa reason to be angry with her.

 

Elsa noticed the panda examining her and flexed her paws, extending and retracting her claws for display purposes.  Yi Jie remembered Kuan-Yin screaming something about a raging lioness threatening to attack him.  She realised the lioness must have been Elsa, but didn’t think she could possibly have threatened him.  Elsa seemed too gentle to harm anyone.

 

Fleur watched all this, knowing it would be she who taught Shuang to swim.  Rolling onto her back, fleur set to closely inspecting her paws.  Seeing her doing this, Shuang trotted over and took hold of Fleur’s left forepaw.

      “May I?”  She asked, gently taking Fleur’s paw and stroking her pads.  The cross bred cub smiled up at the panda cub.

     “I like that,”  she purred.  Shuang continued stroking Fleur’s paws.  Yi Jie watched her cub.  Yi Jie knew she was at peace with this community, that she and her cub were now part of it.  Fleur put an end to Shuang’s paw stroking and rolled onto her paws.

      “How about if you, your mum and I go to the pool?”  fleur asked Shuang, who hadn’t got a clue what a pool was.

       “I don’t know,”  the cub said, “what is a pool?  Is it safe?”

       “I know what a pool is,”  Yi Jie said, “and it’s totally safe.  I think we’ll go with fleur and see what this pool has to offer.”  Jespah and Aslan padded into the room at the mention of the pool.

      “You two want to come to the pool as well?”  Fleur asked.

     “I think, well, Bianca does too,”  Jespah replied.

      “Who are these cubs?”  Yi Jie asked.

      “I know them,”  Shuang said quickly, though she’d hardly met the lion cubs, nor had she really met Bianca.

       “What are their names then?”  Yi Jie asked her cub.

      “Um, er, Aslan ,and , and Jespah,”  Shuang replied, but her mother wasn’t convinced she knew the cubs at all, and, striding up to her, whacked her with her paw for telling lies.

     “Ouch!” Shuang yelled, “what was that for?”

     “Telling lies!”  Yi Jie snapped, “I won’t have you pretending to know these cubs when you don’t!”

       “Don’t worry Yi Jie,”  Fleur said, trying not to laugh, “Aslan and Jespah are my brother cubs, they won’t hurt you or Shuang.”  Yi Jie looked Aslan and Jespah over, seeing Aslan as a confident cub, the look in his eyes one of quiet power, Jespah as a slightly insecure individual, but seemingly as gentle as Fleur herself.

 

Hop along padded over to the pandas and looked down at them.  Seeing him, Yi Jie sprang at Shuang and lay across her body to protect her.

       “why is a tiger showing interest in us?”  She whimpered.

     “That’s hop along, he’s gentle, he won’t harm you,”  Fleur mewed.  Hop along raised a huge paw and touched Yi Jie’s back with his pads.  The panda wailed with fear.

      “I won’t harm you,”  Hop along purred.  Shuang wriggled until she got free of Yi Jie’s embrace, much to her mother’s fury, and looked up at Hop along.  His eyes were gentle, and the paw now resting lightly on the carpet looked powerful, but non threatening.  Fleur then had an idea, and signalled to Hop along with her paw, glancing at his right hind paw.  Hop along guessed what she meant and, lying down, let Fleur go up to him, take his right hind paw in both of her forepaws and begin to stroke it.  Yi Jie watched in astonishment.

     “How, how can you just order a tiger to lie down like that so you can stroke his paws?  It’s not natural!”  She said.  Hop along, his eyes now closed, mewed that for him, having his paws massaged was the most natural thing in the world.  Fleur finished stroking Hop along’s pads and toes, and gently patted his paw to tell him she’d finished her work.

      “I’d like to get to know fleur even more now I know she can make a tiger roll over and give her his paws,”  Shuang thought.

 

By the time they got to the pool, Fleur’s party numbered several animals, Tinka and Hop along, Theo, Elsa, Two pandas, three lion cubs, Petra having joined Jespah and Aslan, two snow leopard cubs, Whitie and Blanche, and one Bengal tiger cub, Bianca.

 

They all trooped off to the pool, Fleur careful to marshal everyone before heading for the pool.

      “I really should have another responsible set of paws to help me keep a check on you lot,”  she said, glancing at Petra.  The white cub padded to Fleur’s side.  Bianca looked at Fleur, but Fleur shook her head at her.

      “You’re not old enough yet my friend,”  fleur said softly, Bianca reading her lips.

      “But you’ll give the job to Petra though won’t you!”  Blanche snapped, spitting at fleur.

      Petra’s large and can get herself out of trouble if need be,”  Fleur mewed, “Bianca’s not large enough to pull herself out of trouble, let alone someone else.”

      “I thought you two were quite close,”  blanche said, “why not give Bianca a job, you know, cronyism n’all that.”  Whitie raised her paw and hit her sister hard!

      “That’s wrong!”  She snapped, “Fleur’s right, Bianca is too small!  I’ve hugged Bianca and she’s not very strong!  If she can’t save herself, how is she going to rescue others?”

      “Shut up!”  Blanche spat, “you would rather we all just let those with the bigger paws walk all over us Whitie!”  blanche yelled, slapping her older sister, “Well I won’t!  I demand jobs for those who deserve them, not for those who are favourites of a disgusting dirty cub!”  Fleur bristled with anger.

      “Dirty cub?”  She asked, squaring up to blanche, “come over here and say that if you’re cat enough!”  Blanche realised she’d screwed up.  She’d never spoken to fleur, let alone touched her, and didn’t know the cub with the funny fur.  Whitie on the other hand had touched Fleur, stroked her paws, and been hugged by her, so knew the large cross bred cub’s dimensions.  Needless to say, Whitie was concerned for her sister cub, but reasoned Blanche was old enough to make her own mistakes, and this was a big one.

     “Ok I will!”  Blanche snarled, striding up to fleur, getting far too close for Whitie’s comfort.  She knew you shouldn’t get too close to an enemy, and blanche had.

     “You are a disgusting, fat, brown, spotty cub Fleur!”  Blanche yelled.  Fleur’s paw caught Blanche on the side of her face with shattering force!  Blanche screamed as she felt Fleur’s toes dragging down her face!  Fleur deliberately hadn’t extended her claws, making her threat that bit more potent.

     “You thought I wasn’t so large as all that didn’t you Blanche,”  Fleur said calmly, “Well blanche, my dear, dear, cub, feel me, feel from my nose, to the end of my tail, feel my ears, feel my paws, feel my claws!”  Saying this Fleur pricked Blanche with the claws of the paw she’d hit her with.  Blanche whimpered and withdrew hurriedly.

      “You won’t do that again will you,”  Whitie said to her sister.

      “You, you knew didn’t you Whitie!”  Blanche said, “you knew fleur was huge, you knew her paws were vast!”

       “I knew, for I’d hugged her and been hugged by her,”  Whitie mewed.  Blanche swore at her sister.

      “I hate you!”  She mewed, “why didn’t you warn me!”

      “You had already said inexcusable things to Fleur,”  Whitie said, “anyway, you’re mature enough to know your own mind now, and if you say these things and truly believe them, you must take whatever consequences arise from airing your views.  It’s not my fault you haven’t hugged Fleur.”

     I don’t go in for that,”  Blanche spat, “all this paw stroking stuff!  Ugh!  I only let you stroke my paws because you’re my sister and that’s what we’ve always done.  I won’t stroke Fleur’s paws though, oh no!”

      “Bianca will be given a job in time,”  Petra said, “but she’s a cub at the moment, and so is Fleur, though Fleur’s hardly been allowed to have a cubhood.  Today she will have to be a cub thinking like an adult, but very soon, I hope, Jespah will show her how to be a cub again.  You and Whitie have been fortunate to have a loving cubhood, Fleur has been less fortunate.”

 

Petra’s words silenced Blanche, who padded away, stopping every few paces to raise a paw and massage her aching jaw where Fleur’s open pawed slap had connected with it.

     “Now,”  fleur said, “let’s all go to the pool proper, and remember, no running or bombing!”  The animals trooped into the pool, Blanche still very subdued.

 

Whitie did her best to raise her sister’s spirits, but Blanche was not to be   console e d.  She’d been thumped by a cub younger than herself, and this greatly upset her.

 

Petra stayed in the pool with the majority of the animals, while Fleur, Yi Jie, Shuang and Jespah went to the top of the slides.  Shuang stood in the tray at the top of the tube slide and looked into it.

      “So you just lie down and let the water carry you into the tube?”  the panda cub asked.  Fleur nodded.

     “that you do,”  she replied.  Yi Jie looked at Fleur.

     “Is this safe?”  She asked.

      “yes,”  Fleur said.

     “That’s not what you said to me,”  Jespah mewed.

      “you mean it’s not safe?”  Yi Jie asked.

     “I told Jespah it was as safe as we could make it,”  Fleur replied, “of course things aren’t safe if you misuse them.”  The bell went off, making the pandas look round in fear.

      “it’s only the safety systems telling you it’s okay to go down the slide,”  Jespah said, “there’s a light too, look.”  He waved his paw at the wall above the slide.  The light was green.  Seeing this, Shuang threw herself hind paws first down the slide.  Yi Jie screamed and ran to the top of the slide, but it was too late.

      “How can we rescue her!”  Yi Jie yelled.  Fleur looked at a box on the wall, it had a screen on it, a microphone, and a big green button.  Fleur, having seen all these things before, apart from the button, pressed the button to see what happened.  She immediately saw the bottom of the slide in colour, Shuang sitting in the bottom of the slide looking bewildered.

    “My cub’s all right, thank heavens for that!”  Yi Jie said, happy to see her cub, and not at all phased by the technology.  Fleur picked up the Microphone and a red light glowed.  Tapping the top of the Microphone with her paw, she heard a faint tapping sound.

     “What is it?”  Jespah asked.  Petra suddenly ran up the slope.

      “What the hell’s going on up here!”  she yelled, “there’s a banging sound!”

      “I think I’ve got it!”  fleur yelled, her voice broadcast throughout the complex.  Petra, fearing the thing fleur held in her paw, grabbed it and shoved it back in the hole which it had come from.  The silence was restored, but Yi Jie was glad fleur had grabbed the thing, as Fleur’s voice had frightened Shuang into getting out of the slide.

     “It, it spoke!”  Jespah mewed, now shaking with fear.

     “it didn’t, I did!”  fleur said, her eyes sparkling with delight, “it’s a system like the boss uses, it makes my voice louder, so everyone can hear it down in the main slide area and all over the building.  The picture you’re seeing is of the bottom of the two slides, see?  The screen is split, one side shows this tube slide, the other shows the other open slide.  Fleur was nearly dancing on her toes with excitement.

      “I don’t like it,”  Petra mewed, “it’s as dangerous as that lift thing!”

     “No it’s not!”  fleur yelled, “look, I’ll show you.  We can see Hop along walking past the camera, that’s what is watching him, a camera, well, forget that, we can see him, and if I pick up the Microphone and talk into it, I can communicate with him too, though he can’t with us.  Watch!”  Fleur picked up the Microphone and said:

      “Hop along, this is fleur, please stop walking.”  Yi Jie and the others saw Hop along stop walking, and stare straight into the camera lens, an expression of total astonishment on his face.

      “Hop along,”  fleur said, “please, would you raise your left forepaw?”  Hop along looked slightly confused but complied.  By this time, all the adult animals and the other cubs left in the main part of the pool were crowding round Hop along, some of them obviously thinking he’d lost his mind.

     “You’re talking to him through that thing!”  Petra mewed.

      “Hop along can hear me, and so can all the others,”  Fleur replied.  Petra raised her paw to wave at the other animals, much to Fleur’s amusement.

     “NO Petra dear,”  she said, trying not to laugh, “they can’t see you.”  Petra looked downcast.

     “Why not?”  She asked.

     “the cameras giving the pictures you’re seeing are only downstairs, they aren’t here.  There are cameras here, but That’s another control room that is.”

     “You mean we’re being watched?”  Jespah asked.

    “yes,”  Fleur replied, “there are cameras all over this place.  They’re there, for, um, safety.  We’re being listened to as well.”

      “Why?”  Petra asked, “isn’t it a bit intrusive?”

      “I don’t know,”  Fleur replied, “I was told by Tigger that there are cameras and microphones everywhere.”

     “There certainly are,”  a voice said, seeming to come from nowhere.

     “Tigger?”  Fleur asked, “where are you”

      “I’m in the main control room with Snowy, oh, and by the way Hop along, you can put your paw on the ground now.”  Hop along, the relief on his face plain for all to see, placed his paw on the ground.

     “this is more interesting than the slide!”  fleur yelled.

      “Even more so when you get up here and see what I can,”  Snowy said.  Fleur nearly threw herself down the slide with excitement.

     “Where do we meet you?”  she asked.

     “fleur,”  Tigger said, “your duty is to get Yi Jie and Jespah safely down the slide, do that, and then wait for instructions.”  Fleur felt strange.  She’d never been commanded like this.  Carefully, in case she should anger the voice, she let Jespah climb into the tube slide, and watched as he left her.  Watching on the screen, Fleur saw Jespah emerge from the tube at the bottom, and then get out.  Yi Jie then clambered into the tube slide, fleur letting her go when the bell rang.  Fleur could feel her paws becoming damp, her heart racing as her excitement at the new technology increased.

 

“Now they’re all down the slide,”  Fleur said, wiping her damp paws on a towel she’d found by the  console .

       “go to the top of the spiral slope and close the gate,”  Tigger said.  Fleur did so,  “Now lock the gate with the handle by pulling it down,”  Tigger said.  Fleur did as she was asked, hearing the lift arrive on the other side of the glass door.  She waited for more instructions.  Fleur heard the door open, then:

    “Turn round Fleur.”  Fleur turned, and nearly fell over with shock!  Tigger stood there, wearing the most ridiculous grin and sporting something in his left ear.  The tiger purred, the sound reverberating all over the complex.  Tigger reached up with one paw and did something to the thing in his ear.

      “Now,”  Tigger said, “I will take you to the control room.  The boss monitors this place.  You wouldn’t know it though, for he’s careful not to be seen by any of us.  He’s not up there now.”  Fleur waved a paw at Tigger’s ear, forgetting he couldn’t see her.

     “Tigger can’t see you Fleur,”  a voice, obviously Snowy’s said.  Fleur’s paws nearly left the floor!

     “Oh, um, yes,”  she mewed, “um, Tigger, that thing in your ear, what is it?”

      “it’s an advanced type of two way radio,”  Tigger replied, “it isn’t usually broadcast throughout the complex, but we can do so if needed.  This means that if something goes wrong in one part of the complex and we need to alert the whole place, we can by calling the control room and then they can relay it to the whole place.  My radio’s turned off at the moment, but it can easily be turned on again.  Fleur took Tigger’s paw.

      “come,”  Tigger said, “let’s go upstairs and see where we control this whole place.”

 

They took the lift up one floor, Tigger putting his paw against a screen inside the lift and pressing the lever upwards.

    “Why are you putting your paw against that screen,”  Fleur asked.

     “Paw print recognition,”  Tigger replied, “it makes sure those who are not allowed up here don’t get up here.  Yours will be scanned into the system later on, as you have this job now.  Mine will be taken off the system,”  Tigger added miserably.

     “Not if I don’t want it to be,”  Fleur replied.

      “Suppose not,”  Tigger mewed, still furious with himself.

      “anyway,”  Tigger said, “it’s a way of keeping undesirable animals out.  We don’t want animals like Amber or a mischievous cub getting into the control room, if they did, they could cause all kinds of trouble.”  By now Fleur and Tigger had reached the floor they wanted, and Tigger led the way into the control room, which was paw print protected, just as the lift had been.  Inside, fleur felt deep carpet beneath her paws, and there was the lingering smell of coffee, a smell which excited Fleur, as she often enjoyed a cup or two.  A cup  which she’d steal from the boss’s coffee pot once he’d finished with it, for he rarely drank all the coffee in the pot.  The drink put Fleur on a high, made her more alert, and woke her of a morning.  The two animals padded into the control room, where fleur saw lots of screens similar to the one she’d seen by the slide downstairs, and lots of swivel chairs, in one of which sat snowy intent on one of the screens, which showed a view of the main pool, where Petra, Shuang and Yi Jie were playing.

       “Neat isn’t it,”  snowy mewed, not taking her eyes from the screen.  Then Fleur saw why she hadn’t taken her eyes off the screen, she was watching her and Tigger on a second screen she’d brought up on her main monitor.

     “We can look almost anywhere with the cameras, and it’s all recorded on a huge hard drive and backups are taken every day,”  Snowy said.  Fleur watched as Snowy reached out a paw and moved a lever.  The view of the control room vanished from the screen, to be replaced with one of a back view of Hop along staring into the water of the main pool.  They could also hear everything that was going on wherever the main operator pointed the camera.  The other cameras monitored parts of the complex, but the sound from them wasn’t audible until Snowy selected it.

    “Now let me show you how detailed a shot from one of the cameras can be,”  snowy said, almost rubbing her paws together with delight at the technology she had at her command.

     “Hop along,”  Snowy said gently, “this is snowy.  Hop along turned and stared into the camera.

      “Where are you?”  he asked the wall in front of him, but Snowy heard him.

     “I’m up in the control room,”  snowy replied, “There’s nothing to worry about. Hop along, you are on camera.”  Snowy zoomed in on Hop along’s face, Hop along’s face filling the screen, the whites of the tiger’s eyes clearly visible.  Hop along, hearing he was on camera, stuck his tongue out at the watchers, making Fleur laugh helplessly.

     “I’ll grab you a radio set,”  Tigger said, cantering over to a set of drawers.  Opening one, he dipped a paw in and came out with a small device identical to the one he wore.

     “Put this in your ear,”  Tigger said to Fleur, clipping it over her ear so the earpiece settled on the soft inner fur of Fleur’s ear.  Fleur glanced over at Tigger’s set, then pressed the button on her own set, and adjusted the volume, then switched the radio off.  Once she was comfortable with this, she looked at Tigger.

     “So we can talk privately with this, or we can talk to the whole place?”  She asked.  Tigger nodded.

      “I don’t know if all this is a good thing,”  Fleur said, “I don’t think I like being watched, or listened to for that matter.”

       “We’re watched every day,”  snowy said, “listened to too I don’t’ doubt.

     “yes,”  Fleur snapped, “well I don’t like it!  Watched yes, because we need to be kept safe, but listened to?  Where undesirable people can hear our every word and private thought?  You lot must have had a field day when Tinka and Hop along were in the bathtub!  You saw everything and heard every dam word!”  Snowy grimaced, hitting a button on the panel in front of her.  They saw Hop along’s anger on the screen, and realised he’d heard enough.  Leaping up at the wall, he tried to claw at the camera, though he couldn’t reach it!  He was seen and heard screaming some disgusting words at snowy and her technology.

 

Fleur looked at Tigger.

     “Can he get up here?”  She asked.  Snowy pressed a button on the  console  in front of her.

     “Now he can’t,”  she mewed.  Fleur swore under her breath.

     “Why all this security!”  She yelled.

      “the security is to keep members of the public out, not to keep us in,”  Snowy mewed, It might seen harsh, but up here we can do a lot of things, lock down the whole centre, call the emergency services, stop the slides, even slam the doors if needed.  The minute the fire alarm goes off, the doors close for safety.”  Fleur’s toes curled as she  watched Hop along’s attempts to get to the camera.  Then he ran to the left, snowy following him with her camera.  She quickly worked the levers in her paws, controlling the cameras, almost lovingly coaxing the cameras to do their work.

     “He’s coming up here!”  she mewed.

     “I thought you said this place was locked down!”  Fleur yelled, “how the hell can Hop along get up here!”  Then they heard scuffing paws, and Hop along burst into the control room!

      “I thought you said this place was locked down!”  Tigger yelled as the enraged tiger pounded towards him!

      “Hop along knows the fire escape!”  Snowy mewed.  Hop along leapt at the  console , slapping and screaming at it!

     “You watched and listened to me and Tinka when we were together in the main pool!”  Hop along yelled, Beating his paws on the   console e , the screens going berserk, “I can’t believe that!”

      “Calm down, please!”  Snowy yelled.  Hop along turned on her, shoving her off her chair and  leaping upon her!  snowy and Hop along fought madly!

     “You bitch, you bloody bitch!”  Hop along snarled, whacking Snowy about her head and stamping on her paws!

      “Stop it Hop along, stop it!”  Fleur yelled, leaping in and separating her two friends.

      “Get off me Hop along!”  snowy yelled, clouting Hop along with her paw.  Fleur ran for the  console , turning the cameras in the room onto the scrapping tigers.  Seeing her watching them, Snowy and Hop along stopped fighting.

      “Stop watching us!”  Snowy yelled.  Hop along stood flat pawed on the carpet, looking round him at the mess, seeing torn out white and golden brown fur.

      “This is stupid!”  fleur yelled.

     “I will not have my personal affairs broadcast to the world!”  Hop along yelled, stamping his paws.

      “It’s okay,”  Snowy said, there are no cameras in the house, only on the outside of the house and in here.”  Hop along looked up at the screen, then stiffened.  With the sound turned down he couldn’t hear what was going on, but he could see right enough.

     “Turn the sound on, quick!”  he yelled.  Snowy leapt to her paws and pounced on the  console , hitting the button.  Their world was filled with screaming and yelling and the sight of Petra and Blanche fighting.  The two cats were obviously furious with each other, each fighting tooth and claw for the upper paw.  It looked like Blanche was winning!  Suddenly Theo barrelled in and separated the two feuding cats, Elsa dragging Petra off, Theo clobbering blanche.  Whitie could be seen with her head in her paws, obviously terrified and maybe injured too.

     “What do we do?”  Fleur asked, “this, this is horrid!  Not being there, not able to do anything bar watch and listen!  Oh, turn it off!”  snowy pressed buttons and the scene died in front of them.

      “Now it’s worse,”  Hop along said, “we can’t see what’s going on.”  He looked down at his war worn paws.

      “I don’t know if surveillance is such a bad thing,”  he said, “we could have prevented that, if only we’d seen and heard it unfolding.”

      “We did see you and Tinka in the bath pool,”  snowy said to Hop along, “but it’s none of my business what you two do, as long as it’s not criminal, or dangerous, or inconveniencing others.”  Hop along felt his outburst had been harsh, that was clear to all.

     “Let’s go downstairs and sort this,”  he said, “can we get down from here, or is it all locked?”

      “the doors are locked from the outside but not the inside, Snowy replied, “we can get out, but they can’t get in.

     “How are we to get back in if the doors are locked?”  Hop along asked.

      “You won’t be able to,”  snowy purred, “but fleur will, as soon as she scans the sole of her left forepaw into the system.”  Snowy waved her left paw at a plate on an angled surface.

     “Place the sole of your paw flat on that Fleur,”  she said.  Fleur walked over and placed her paw on the glass.  Snowy punched a few keys, the screen flickered, and a confirmation screen appeared.  Snowy looked at Fleur.

     “Now you’re security cleared to come up here,”  she said.  “you can also enter the pool complex just by pressing the sole of your left forepaw against the plate by the door.  The system doesn’t use the pads of your paw as recognition, it uses blood flow through your paw.  So if you’ve damaged your pads, it won’t affect it.  The path of blood flow through your paw is a constant thing, it doesn’t change with age.  This means that Bianca could have her paw scanned now, and she’d be able to access this place in five years time as easily as she could now.  Same with you.”  Fleur was impressed.

     “why all this?”  She asked.

      “I don’t know,”  snowy purred, “the boss is a technophile, or so I’ve heard.  Well, so am I.”

 

fleur and Hop along left the control room, snowy and Tigger saying They’d have to remain on duty there.  Fleur wanted to learn about the cameras as soon as she could, but then, if she learned about them, how could she continue her work with the other animals, massaging their paws and bathing them?  Fleur knew her calling wasn’t with the cameras, it was paws on work she liked.  Fleur took Hop along down in the lift, realising she didn’t have to scan her paw to go down in the lift, only to come up to the control room.  Once down on the ground floor, the two cats made their way to the main pool, where Whitie was still lying, mewing to herself.

     “Whitie?”  Fleur asked gently.  Whitie, sobbing with pain, hardly responded.

    “What happened?”  Hop along asked, hoping the Closed circuit television got it all on disc.

      “blanche attacked me,”  Whitie mewed, “for, for, for sticking up for you Fleur, for questioning her, for defending Petra’s right to look after us.  Blanche went mad!”

     “We saw Petra scrapping with Blanche,”  Hop along said.

    “that was because she waded in and distracted Blanche long enough to let me crawl away,”  Whitie sniffed, “it’s all my fault,”  she sobbed, “if I’d kept my bloody mouth shut, none of this would have happened!”

     “You defended me Whitie, and for that I’m very grateful,”  Fleur said, gently hugging the snow leopard cub.  Whitie sniffed and gulped hard.

     “I shouldn’t have challenged her views,”  Whitie said, “they’re only words, only hot air!  Now, now this!”

       “If we don’t challenge those kind of views Whitie, we’re as bad as those who hold those views,”  Hop along said.

      “yes,”  Whitie sniffed, “you’re right.”

      “but why attack you Whitie?”  fleur asked, “Why did Blanche attack her own sister?”

      Can’t you guess,”  Hop along mewed.  Whitie choked on her tears as the full enormity of blanche’s decision hit home.

     “Blanche, angry at me, but unable to get to me, decided she’d take things out on Petra.  This wasn’t a good idea, as Petra was larger than Blanche herself.  Realising this, blanche took her revenge on those who’d spoken up for me,”  Fleur said, hating every word.

       “Yes,”  Whitie mewed, “I was coming to that realisation too, but I didn’t want to think it, not blanche, not my sister cub!  I’m as disabled as she is, and I know her problems, but she attacked me, she sort to injure me, or worse!  I can’t cope with that!  I can’t cope with it!”  Whitie loved her sister cub, but Blanche didn’t love her.  She’d taken Whitie’s tactile nature as the norm, because that was how it had always been, but she had hated it, and hated Whitie.  Now Blanche was getting her revenge.

      “I can’t believe that of Blanche, I can’t!”  Hop along mewed.

      “It’s all true,”  Snowy’s voice said from the control room, “I’ve just reviewed the information captured on camera, we got it all, it was true.  Blanche has a habit of talking out loud when she’s thinking, and we’ve got it all on hard disc, and it’s being backed up as we speak.  I made a special backup as soon as we’d found the evidence of blanche’s crimes against Whitie.  It’s all true.  Blanche went for the path of least resistance when it came to attacking apologists for Fleur, and one of Fleur’s supporters happened to be blanche’s own sister cub.”

     “There’s no proof!”  Whitie mewed, “none at all!”

      “Whitie my dear sweet cub,”  Snowy said gently, the gentility in her voice surviving the speaker’s demolition job, “there is proof, lots of it, all here, all viewable, all incontrovertible.  We will nail blanche for this my dear cub.”  Hearing Snowy’s words and hearing her say them in that tone which she knew so well, calmed Whitie a good deal.

     “Now,”  Fleur said gently to the snow leopard cub, “let’s go home.”

 

The sound of tiny paws coming towards them made Fleur and Hop along look round.  Shuang crawled towards Whitie, and, reaching her, threw her tiny paws round the snow leopard cub’s neck and hugged her.

       “Are you all right Whitie?”  The tiny cub asked, Whitie’s tears renewed as she felt the panda cub’s paws embracing her.

     “yes,”  she replied, “I’m fine Shuang, thank you for all you did little one!”

     “You helped Whitie Shuang?”  Fleur asked.

     “I was with her when Blanche hit her,”  Shuang said, “I tried to defend Whitie, but blanche knocked me about a bit, and Whitie told me to go, so I did.  I can’t compete against that Blanche snow leopard cub, but I would have kept at it until I was dead if Whitie hadn’t told me to leave it.”  Whitie wept into Shuang’s fur, hugging the cub tightly.

      “We will look at what the cameras saw,”  Fleur said.

 

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