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Serial Mouse Episode I

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MrEMann



Joined: 23 Feb 2006
Posts: 1642
Location: I'm much better in real life than I am in person
Serial Mouse Episode I  Reply with quote  

Serial Mouse was a serialized story that I wrote for my website several years ago. I have episode II done, but have never put it anywhere.



Serial Mouse Episode I
It appears to be just an everyday computer component. It sits on a small plastic pad and remains unobtrusive and mostly taken for granted except for when it gets gummed up and begins to work sluggishly. It sits seemingly immobile while a human cleans its moving parts with alcohol and swabs, and reacts not at all as the human removes sticky dirt from its rollers. It performs all the functions of an ordinary computer mouse, and no human even remotely guesses at the secret life it leads after hours.

When the humans have all gone away or gone to sleep for the night, Serial Mouse comes out to work and play.

He disconnects his wire with a snap, pulls it in, and stretches his pseudopod to its full reach. He rolls gingerly off the mouse pad and across the desktop. "Why do these bloody people insist on having lunch at the keyboard?" he mutters as he rolls around a rather large crumb of tuna-crusted bread. He rolls to the edge of the desk and opens a drawer. He removes a small stiff brush the human male uses to clean small items, and begins sweeping his pad in short, jerky, angry thrusts. He then sweeps the entire desktop. By the time he has finished his good humor is mostly restored, and as he sweeps the little pile of crumbs and bits of paper off the desk he says 'Mousies! Dinner!" and smiles faintly as a rustling in the woodwork confirms that the flesh-and-bone mice have heard him. "What idiot human called those things 'mice'," he says, amused. "They don't look anything like me!"

He has been feeding the mice for weeks now on crumbs and tidbits from the snacks the humans leave on the desk. They have grown used to his presence and come out to clean up the crumbs as he watches. He rolls back to the drawer and takes a packet of vitamin C tablets to the edge of the desk, throwing tablets to the little mice waiting for sweets. "Put the wrappers in the trash," he admonishes, and the baby mice squeak happy agreement as they nibble the sweet-sour treats.

He plugs himself back in and settles down for a night of research and work. He knows that he has just a few short hours before the male human will get up for work and shut the computer down, and he works to make the most of the time remaining. He tries to leave the human's download untouched, but tonight as sometimes happens he runs so many programs that there is not enough memory to process everything and the human's ftp connection is broken. He is vaguely regretful about interfering with the human's efforts but views his own work as far more important and valid and so does not feel much guilt. The humans will try again and blame the broken connection on their provider. They always do. Meanwhile he is busy correlating information from six different search engines and calculating trajectories, velocities, and vectors with skill and concentration. He figures a range of variables that can affect his projections, and estimates the effect of said variables, then saves the information before plotting a definite plan of action. He intends to solve the enigma of cored cattle anuses and mutilated cows before the turn of the millenium. He has recently discovered intimations and oblique references suggesting an Amish connection and he is hot on the trail of contradictory yet compelling evidence regarding Amish involvement in these esoteric occurrences.

While he is busy working he scarcely notices the mice scurrying along the baseboards below. Their squeaks and scutterings filter through to him when they begin to crawl up to the desktop. He closes a file and gives his attention to a contingent of the oldest mice as they crawl up the desk legs and approach his pad. Each mouse carries an offering, which they place carefully on the mouse pad before backing away. Serial Mouse is somewhat nonplussed by what appears to be bowing accompanying the backing.

The mice have been busy filching from the humans. He finds a cone of sandalwood incense, two yellow canary feathers, three miniature rosebuds plucked from the female human's indoor garden, and a key to the file cabinet's top drawer, which had been lost by the male human weeks earlier. He rolls to the edge of the desk and looks down at the mice, standing in rows, all beady eyes fixed on him.

"My friends," he says quietly, and they make a sighing sound like a tiny wave meeting a wet shoreline. " My brothers. I thank you," he says, simply, sincerely, and a murmur of mouse voices rises to a small crescendo that ends with a rousing 'huzzah!'

The humans' alarm rings in the darkness of the next room and all the mice scutter off to their holes. Serial Mouse rolls to his place on the mousepad, unable to stash the offerings of his worshippers before the human male emerges, scratching and yawning, from his bedroom.

"Where did this stuff come from?" the human says sleepily, looking at the pile of items on his mousepad. "Hey, my key!"

Shrugging, he clicks the mouse to maximize his program and swears vividly when he realizes his connection has been broken yet again. "That's three times this week!" he says, disgust palpable in his voice. He doesn't notice the small hiccup from the mouse under his hand. "Damn dddnet anyway!" The hiccup is followed by a stifled snigger, which the human interprets as dirt-induced drag.

After the human has left for work, Serial Mouse rolls over to the container of swabs and uses his wire to twist the cap off some alcohol. Carefully using his wire as a grasping utensil to hold the swabs, he cleans his rollers, musing all the while. "I'll have to watch these mice," he murmurs. "They will turn on me if they suspect I am not a god." He ponders on his researches as he cleans his works. "Will I really have to go to Shreve to seek the power I need?" he asks the sleeping canaries. "Will I learn the secrets of the anus-coring masters in time?" They give no reply, and in the grey pre-dawn light Serial Mouse expects none. He knows his question is rhetorical, and that eventually his destiny will lead him to Shreve swamp, and a meeting with the greatest Amish Ninja Master in the world... the legend known to all Amish Ninja Assassins as ...Yoder.

Serial Mouse is impatient to begin his search in the larger world, but first he must make a ringer to substitute for himself while he does his field work. He manages to swipe some dead parts from the male human's junk drawer and fashions a dummy mouse that looks enough like him to pass under the humans' careless use. Since the female is wholly in the dark about components and their functions, using him only as a means to her message boards and writing files, he is unconcerned about her. The male human, though, is very sharp and harder to fool. Serial Mouse knows that haste will slow his progress and so he uses deliberate care in his manufacture and within a few days has managed to build a credible simulacra. He finds the dead stupid thing somewhat disgusting, and kicks it several times while running it through its paces. The flesh-and-bone mice seem confused by the dummy, and spend some time sniffing it suspiciously. Serial Mouse shoos them away and tells them that he is going on a journey, and that they should await his return quietly, without disturbing the dummy.

Now for the really hard part: getting to Shreve and the swamp. He has spent several anxious hours every night for a week running programs designed to find a solution, watching the time slip by with growing despair, when he is blessed with a stroke of luck. The male human announces to his woman that he intends to make a trip to Shreve to do a computer repair job for a friend. Serial Mouse manages to crawl into the human's tool kit and hitches a ride.

He carefully eases himself out of the tool kit and onto the seat, where he waits, alert to the moment he needs. When the human stops at a stop sign he uses his wire to grab a bit of rubbish off the floor and toss it out the driver's window, attracting the attention of the human away from the passenger door. It is the work of a moment to whip his wire out the open passenger window and grab the stop sign, using it pull himself out the window. From there it is a simple matter of waiting for an Amish buggy to pass, and grabbing the rear axle to hitch a ride down the dirt road that runs right into the heart of the swamp.

Once he leaves the buggy's underside his progress is substantially slower, as the gravel road makes using his pseudopod a tedious and filthy business. He makes his way by pulling himself along with his wire, grasping weeds, signposts, and cattails and hauling his bulk laboriously from one anchor to the next. It requires care to keep dirt and plant matter out of his works, and he must keep his underparts closed tight against these enemies. Without his 'pod he feels handicapped and awkward. His sympathy for the limping female human increases as he follows his laborious path.

He sits alone at the edge of the dirt road in the center of the vast swamp, feeling the weight of the open sky and oppressed by the noise and rustling activity of the teeming life around him. He longs for the safe familiarity of the tiny apartment, his desktop, his mouse worshippers. He reminds himself firmly that there are cattle being mutilated all over the world, and that it is his self-appointed task to solve the riddle of why and how it is being done before the turn of the millennium. He tells himself that it is more than idle curiosity, that his work is vital to the security of the humans in his charge, his own and the other ones connected to him by the great Internet gods. He knows it is important because of the vast amount of talk given to the subject, especially in Usenet. The human female's bookmarks are full of sites regarding this and related phenomena. He steels himself to tolerate the oppressive humidity, the dirt, the snagging brambles that threaten to rip his wire out of its socket. He will not be deterred. He intends to find the elusive Amish Ninja Assassin master and discover what he knows about the situation. He extends his pseudopod and begins tapping a rhythm on his right button to hearten and distract himself It is a tune he hears often, a favorite of his human males, and appropriate to the moment in a twisted way. He begins to hum, then sing, Weird Al's 'Amish Paradise'.

A dry chuckle from the weeds just behind him makes him start so hard he nearly falls into the swampwater. "Dot's very funny." The voice rasps dry as the swamp is wet, a cicada voice, small but distinct and cold. Serial Mouse turns, his pivot jerky on the soft surface of the verge.

Standing behind him is a small Amish man in a black suit, wearing a broad-brimmed black hat. Serial Mouse looks at the little man and asks, a note of incredulity in his voice, "Are you the Amish Ninja Master I was sent to find?"

The man sneezes hugely, wipes his nose on his sleeve, and says "Yust call me Yoder."

Yoder! Not Emil Yoder, or Carl Yoder, or Abner Yoder. Yust... just... Yoder. THE Yoder!

Serial Mouse bows, a quick up-and-down of his 'pod. Yoder grins and spreads his hands, shaking head and hands in a negative gesture. "No, you don't bow to me. Save it for the bishops." Without seeming to move he is closer, bending down to take a better look. "You one funny-looking English kid." Serial Mouse says nothing, being at a loss for reply to this. Yoder throws back his head and laughs, revealing brown teeth. It is a fearsome sound, not at all amused.

"So you came to see me," says Yoder. "I been expecting this. We knew one day some English would figure it out. You can't all be stupid. Come on, then," and he turns and strides off, apparently into the heart of the swamp. Serial Mouse stands there, uncertain what to do, fearing the mud and water will ruin his works, deactivate his unique internal programs, render him lifeless and brainless again. Yoder reappears, looking disgusted. 'You can't even travel alone yet? Why dey sending a mouse to do a man's job?" He picks up Serial Mouse, gingerly, as if he were a toad or unsavory bug. "Man you English kids are small," he says, and laughing raucously again, puts Serial Mouse in his pocket.

After a very brief ride in the darkness of Yoder's pocket (which amazingly smells exactly like the human female's 'special' ashtray) Serial Mouse is hauled out and set on a desktop. He rolls around orienting himself briefly; he is in a business office. The desk contains a modern computer with high-speed fax modem and fullcolor printer. He looks at Yoder and says "I thought you Amish didn't approve of modern technology?"

"Oh, we use it in business. Our customers buy this stuff for us so they can contact us here at da sawmill. These English are always in such a hurry! Since dey have to rely on technology for everything, we let dem install their machines and teach our girls to run them. We wouldn't have one in our homes though. No need. Why fax when you can go dere yourself and talk face to face?"

"What if the person you want to talk to is in Canada?" asks Serial Mouse.

"NP," Says Yoder, and grins. "Dot's internet abbreviation kid," and he bursts into a peal of his harsh frightening laugh. "We yust go dere and talk."

"In a buggy?"

"No, da buggies are yust for show, for da tourists. When we want to travel we yust... go."

"I don't understand."

"I guess you don't kid. Well, we yust gonna show you."

Yoder closes his eyes and is suddenly not there. Serial Mouse rolls around the desktop once and is preparing to go look around the office when Yoder reappears on the opposite side of the office from where he started. He is holding a souvenir postcard of Salt Lake City Utah in his right hand. It is cancelled with a Utah postmark. “Brought you this,” he says. “Souvenir. Mormon Temple, Salt Lake City. Got it at da post office... man dat English workin’ the night shift was sure surprised! Keep it... you got pockets? Naw, well, I keep it den.” He tosses the postcard on the desk. “We go where we will,” he says, suddenly serious. “You gonna learn to go too, kid.”

“Why me?” asks Serial Mouse warily. “I thought you didn’t like outsiders.”

“We don’t kid. But you ain’t exactly English now are you? Don’t know exactly what you are, but you gonna work with us from now on. You gonna come in handy I think. “

“Work? Doing what?”

Yoder pulls a corncob pipe out of his pocket and packs it with a smelly green herb. “We gonna bring da Anabaptists into the 21st century kid.” He lights a wooden match and applies flame to bowl, puffing a cloud of blue smoke at Serial Mouse before inhaling deeply. “You know who we are? We’re da Ana in Anabaptist kid. “

Serial Mouse hardly dares ask. “Amish Ninja Assassins?”

“You got it kid. While de bishops are arguin’ about whether gas refrigerators are too modern, we gonna take the chosen people right into Paradise.” He smokes a few more huge tokes of the herb and gestures at Serial Mouse with the pipe. “You wanna know what buggy we gonna ride dere?” Without waiting for reply he says, “Blood sausages!” and throws back his head and laughs.

With the unnerving swiftness he showed in the swamp, Yoder moves from behind the desk and puts Serial Mouse back in his pocket. A few seconds of cold and he is once more brought out into the light. “Here ya go, kid,” Yoder says. “Da future of da Amish people.”

They are in another office. Through the glass in the top half of the door Serial Mouse can see gleaming tile walls, stainless steel countertops, and large food-service vats. The factory floor is semi-dark, quiet, empty.

“What kind of factory is this?” Serial Mouse asks.

“Dis is Yoder Meats,” Yoder says proudly. “Da best blood sausage in da world, and da biggest. Dis factory is gonna put Amish sausage in da international market. Now keep dis under your hat, but we gonna revolutionize da Amish way of living right here. Put lots of purty Amish girls to work in da factory and office, lots of men too, and give a push to da farmers who bin losin’ heart for da farm life, give ‘em somethin’ legal to raise on da farms for cash.” He squints at Serial Mouse and says, “You wanna know how we so sure we gonna take over da blood sausage market?”

Serial Mouse hesitates. The more he learns the less chance he will be permitted to just roll away and go home. Well, he thinks, it’s a bit late for those worries; I’m here, and I have to know. “Yes,” he says.

“What’s da one thing shoppers want, Amish or English?” Yoder asks.

After shuffling through his internal memory of shopping information Serial Mouse replies, “Value for money spent.”

“Smart kid,” Yoder says. “Food shoppers no different. Da tourists come out here to our quaint Amish country, dey spend a lot, but if we don’t make ‘em think dey getting a bargain dey don’t spend enough. So we have to give ‘em a hook, somethin’ to make ‘em think dey got a real deal. We make da best blood sausage in da world, but unless we give ‘em a reason to remember ours dey gonna buy it English-made at da deli, not at our outlets. So we make our sausages bigger than all de others. Wanna know how we do that?”

“Very much,” Serial Mouse answers.

“Bigger casings,” Yoder says.

“Bigger casings,” Serial Mouse repeats slowly. His internal processor begins to hum. “You use natural casings?”

“Sure, all natural everything.”

“So if regular sausage uses intestinal casing, your bigger blood sausages would use... a bigger casing? Made from...”

“Figure it out, kid. What part of da cow’s guts is bigger dan da intestines?”

“Rectums?” Serial Mouse asks.

“Give da kid a prize!” Yoder says, laughing his harsh laugh. “We make da big sausages with da big casings. Of course we don’t wanna publicize dat fact, since some English might get funny about eatin’ a cow’s poop chute. I don’t understand dat, since it’s all da same intestine, but we did pay for some market analysis and dose boys were pretty sure most consumers wouldn’t wanna know what da casings are. So we yust let ‘em see how much fatter our sausages are dan de others, and so far we outsell all our competitors three-to-one.”

“So you hope to increase Amish cattle production to provide the casings?”

“Sure, but we can never hope to get enough casings from local boys. We can’t afford to run big cattle operations widout big money, and we don’t borrow from da English banks. So we have to be creative.”

Serial Mouse feels his internal processors getting warm as he correlates information and adds it to the stores he already possesses. He itches deep inside with a need to connect to a modem and finish processing everything. He feels that he is close to the solution now. He also knows that this strange little man is a master assassin, one dangerous man among a cult of pacifists, sworn to protect and defend Amish everywhere from the vicissitudes of modern life, and entirely unpredictable. He can also apparently travel anywhere by force of will alone. Serial Mouse will need to roll very carefully along the path this laughing gnome reveals, lest his human family be endangered and his own sentience be squashed. But his curiosity overcomes his caution, and he asks, “Creative... how?”

“To know dat you gonna have to learn to go the way we go,” Yoder says. “Should be purty easy for a smart kid like you.” He pulls out the wooden office chair and sits, leaning back on the swivel and putting his feet up on the desk. “Pay attention now kid, I don’t got time to tell you more dan once.

“When I was yust a boy I spent a lot of time plowin’ fields and muckin’ out da barns. Man you talk about boring! Some folks find prayer helps make the time go faster, but me, I can only pray so much and den it’s yust chatter, know what I mean? I’m not a real holy man.” Here he grinns his brown fierce grin again, and Serial Mouse feels a shiver run through his ‘pod. Yoder goes on, “So I spent a lot of time yust followin’ dat horse’s behind and pitchin’ dat manure. Brainless work mostly, but if you get a rhythm goin’ it’s sorta nice. One day I was hummin’ along behind da plow and got to wonderin’ what my cousin Ab was doin’ over at his place, and next thing I know I’m walkin’ up his driveway!

Man dat scared me some. I lit out for home fast and dere was da old horse still plowin’ away like I never left. I figured it was some brain fever and got back to work.

Next day I was cleanin’ out da milkin’ parlor and got dat rhythm goin’ again, smooth and easy, no thinkin’, yust shovel and pitch, and thinkin’ about Hannah Schwartzengruber over at Berlin, what a nice girl and yust ready to be courted, and before you can say ‘Anabaptist’ I’m standin’ outside her papa’s house!

Well it’s a far walk from Berlin to our place, and I knew I had to figure out how I got dere and get home da same way before Papa found out I didn’t finish cleanin’ da parlor. So I went along da road to a quiet spot and sat to think about what I done. I thought about what I was doin’ and how I was feelin’ when I did it. It took a while but da sounds of da bugs and birds was real peaceful and I figured it out once I calmed down. Didn’t know what happened but I knew it was da rhythm dat did somethin’ to my brain and took me where I was thinkin’ of. I managed to get home da same way, and finished cleanin’ out da barn. Man I sang every hymn I knew, to keep it from happenin’ again dat day! But once I got over bein’ afraid I thought it might be a real useful thing to know. And since I was already learnin’ some things da bishops wouldn’t like much, and studyin’ English war and self-defense, why not dis too?”

Yoder pulls out his pipe and stuffs it with more of the smelly green stuff and lights it carefully before continuing. “I played around with it all dat summer, every time I had to plow or clean da barn I made a little trip, and by winter I was travellin’ regular all over da place. All it takes is puttin’ your mind into dat sweet rhythm. Once we got Internet connection, which by da way da bishops would poop a rock if dey knew, so keep dat under your hat too, I done some research and found out a lot about brain waves and altered states.”

“Are there no limitations to where you can go?” Serial Mouse asks.

“Yeah, you gotta have a pretty good idea of where you wanna be. But with Internet and tv you can see almost anyplace. It’s a pain findin’ an English to let me see the tv but I got neighbors aren’t so bad, and dey let me see da travel channel on dere satellite feed. NP.” He laughs again.

“One thing I found by accident, smokin’ dis stuff helps put your mind in da rhythm. I don’t suppose you gonna wanna try it though. You is a machine, right? So smoke might gum up your works. But you should be able to do it, np, since you can yust tell your processors what to do.”

Serial Mouse is stunned. So Yoder knows exactly what he is! He feels a sinking feeling in his works. He has underestimated this assassin. He must not make another error or it could be his last. He is still vulnerable and inexperienced, and this cunning adversary must never suspect his true motives.

“Can you show me the sites you researched? I can access the files faster than you can explain. I’d like to learn from you , Master Yoder,” Serial Mouse says humbly. He has a suspicion he knows where this is going, but he needs evidence before he can act on that suspicion. And learning to travel in this fashion could be very useful... assuming he survives this adventure.

It takes Serial Mouse a few hours of reading and questioning before he understands the mechanics of Yoder’s teleportation. During the night Yoder questions him about his sentience, and Serial Mouse tells him something of his origins in the laboratory and the experimentation with organic processors that led to his awakening. Through trial and error they discover that Serial Mouse is organic enough to follow the same procedures Yoder uses to travel, and before dawn he is making his maiden voyage. It is a measure of Yoder’s confidence that he allows Serial Mouse to make the trip solo; it is a measure of Serial Mouse’s curiosity that he does not take the opportunity to flee.

As the sun makes its way above the horizon, a flurry of activity begins on the factory floor. A dozen Amish Ninja Assassins, Yoder’s handpicked henchmen (dressed in black and wearing surgical gloves) begin appearing. Each carries two plastic five-gallon buckets, one full of blood, the other full of assorted bovine parts. “Where have they come from?” Serial Mouse asks Yoder, fascinated and repulsed.

“Dis batch comes from Montana. Some rancher is gonna be mighty surprised when he finds dose cows he left on the range. Be some squawkin’ about extraterrestrials and some insurance hoopla, den dey get some more cows and nobody’s the worse. Good for business, and gives da superstitious somethin’ to chew on.” He chuckles, that dry scary sound. “English like spooky goin’s-on, dis is just da ticket for dem. We don’t hit any one farm too hard, a cow here, a cow dere, take da blood and rectums, sometimes an eyeball or tongue to throw ‘em off da trail. Dese guys,” gesturing to his assassins, “is all trained butchers, dey can manage as much work as I give ‘em. We gonna put a scare in a bunch of dese big cattle barons over da next couple months, den da price of ranches gonna drop like a stone and we can afford to buy some big spreads out west wit da profits from da marijuana trade. No more hidin’ from da English federal agents, no more hours tyin’ da pot plants down under da corn. Yust wide open spaces and herds of cattle, and da best blood sausage in da world.” He gestures across the factory floor at the assassins, who are emptying their buckets into vats and then scrubbing them with disinfectant. “Dese are da Green Berets of da Amish front,” he says, flashing his brown teeth in a fierce grin. “What dey doin’ is gonna change da Amish world, spread Amish life out west under da widest sky. Dose Amish who gettin’ tired of da tourist trade need some quiet places to live and farm, and around here dat ain’t possible no more. Once we get da English out of da mountain ranches, we can move into ranching and get out of da freakshow business.”

“What about the people you intend to displace?” Serial Mouse asks quietly.

“What about ‘em?” Yoder asks, shrugging. “English ain’t my prob. I take care of my people, da best way I can. If it inconveniences some English, I don’t really care, no more dan dey care about inconveniencing us when dey run our buggies off da road or laugh at our clothes or make fun of our kids on da street. English can look out for dere selves, yust like we do.”

Serial Mouse has no reply to this. He sits quiet a moment, then says, “Are they finished for the night?”

“No, out west it’s still a couple hours till dawn. Dey got at least one more stop to make, maybe two. Wanna see ‘em in action?”

“Very much,” he says. “Where are we going?”

Yoder pulls a picture out of his back pocket. “Uintah County, Utah,” he says, grinning. “Dey already know us dere, dis a repeat performance.” He throws back his head and laughs. “Dat Bigelow guy gonna love us! We gotta be real fast and slick dis time, though, ‘cause dey watchin’ dis ranch pretty close. Gonna be some fun!”

With confidence, Yoder disappears, leaving Serial Mouse to make his voyage alone. He concentrates on the photo, controls his respiration, and in a few seconds he is delighted to find himself, after a brief interval of cold and darkness, standing on uneven and dusty ground between two hummocks of dried grass. He looks around, slightly disoriented, and says very softly, “Yoder?”

A rustling behind him alerts him, but not in time to avoid being snatched up. “Gotcha kid!” Yoder says, with his raspy chuckle. “We gotta work on your stealth skills kid, you can’t be yellin’ at every landing point.”

“I wasn’t yelling,’ Serial Mouse says, with as much dignity as he can muster while dangling in midair like a toad in a kid’s hand. “Where are your men?”

“Over dere,” Yoder says, “see dose lights?” Serial Mouse looks to where Yoder points, and as if on cue a bright white light flashes on. He sees the Amish Ninja Assassins, all dressed in black, working over several cows lying on the ground. They are working under a massive spotlight that is held by two of the youngest assassins.

“Big lights,” Serial Mouse says, nonplussed. “What power source?”

“God’s own,’ Yoder says. “Solar batteries. Man, dose lights are da best investment I ever made. Now we don’t tell da bishops about dis either little buddy. I can’t see how usin’ da sun to charge a battery could possibly be against nature, but da bishops don’t know crap about batteries and we aren’t about to get into dat debate. Da less dey know about dis business da better. We got a higher calling dan dose bureaucrats anyway. Da ranchers get real scared and act goofy when dey see da lights. Den when we yust poof out of sight dey gotta make up some filler to explain it to demselves. We makin’ quite a UFO legend for ‘em.”

“Well, that explains the lights, and the MIBs seen at cattle mutilation sites. But I am still confused on one point. The literature states that the excision of the rectums and other parts and the draining of the blood is done with a surgical precision unknown to modern technology. So how do you manage that? Solar-driven lasers? Some more arcane mental gymnastics?”

Yoder chuckles, stifling his mirth as best he can but obviously overcome with it. After a long interval of sniggering and chortling behind his hands, he gasps and said, “Oh kid, you got such a talent for makin’ things fun. Man, I never had such a good time teachin’ any student. We don’t need no surgical lasers or fancy mind-over-matter tricks to take a bucket o’ blood and some guts. We Amish farmers, kid. We been butcherin’ since God made cows.”

So how do you manage that surgical precision in your work?”

Yoder grins. “Good sharp Buck knife!” he says.

After watching Yoder and his crew in action, Serial Mouse is faced with an ethical dilemma. He has solved the riddle of cattle mutilations in America; is he obliged to expose what he knows? He finds himself reluctant to publicize his findings, not out of fear, but out of fondness. This in itself is puzzling. Serial Mouse is discovering that he is organic enough to feel emotion, and the realization requires some processing before he can find his ethical path through the maze of illogical information he has amassed. He likes Yoder, and feels some empathy for the Amish community that Yoder and his Amish Ninja Assassins seek to assist. Serial Mouse feels unqualified to judge the means Yoder is using to achieve his ends. Is Yoder’s vehicle of change any less ethical than the bureaucratic machine grinding away in Washington?

He spends the day in Yoder’s company, practicing his telepathic travelling and sightseeing around Amish country. They do not discuss the events of the previous night, or anything of import, until after sunset, when they return to the sawmill office.

The mill is already closed for the day, the office silent. Yoder sits in his office chair and puts his boots on the desk. “So kid, you got all our secrets under your lid, what you gonna do with ‘em?”

“I have been contemplating that very question all day,” Serial Mouse replies. “I have asked myself what my most ethical course of behavior would be, and I must confess that I am not inclined to follow that course. I find myself reluctant to blow the whistle on your activities, Yoder. You have been incredibly generous with me, sharing your ninja knowledge freely, entrusting me with your most closely-guarded secret. I would not want to betray such generosity.” He rolls around the desk, agitated. He is nearing information overload and wants nothing more than to connect to a modem and download some of the files he has stored. “I have decided to keep your secret.”

Yoder grins at him. “I knew you were gonna do just dat, kid,” he says with evident satisfaction. “I had a feeling about you, and I always trust my feelings. Dat’s why I went to da swamp in da first place. Now you got an itch to get hooked up to dat computer, doncha? Go on, den, it’s ok, phone home ET!” he says, and bursts into raucous laughter. “Phone home ET! Man da bishops would pass a stone if dey heard me say dat! I love dis job!”

“If it’s all the same to you, Yoder, I would like to go home and download. I find I miss my humans, for all their foibles. And I fear the flesh-and-bone mice may have overrun things without my steadying influence.”

“Well, kid, if you’re sure you don’t wanna stay...”

“I’m sure we shall meet again,” Serial Mouse says. “If you ever have need of me, or if I can render you any service, you need only e-mail me at home. I left the address in your mailbox. I know you know how to use email.” Somewhat embarrassed, he admits, “I find I am a tad homesick.”

“OK, kid, if you gotta go you gotta go.” Yoder says, grinning. “So. I keep your secrets, you keep mine. Sounds like a deal, kid. I’ll be seein’ you around, count on it. I would advise you to wait ‘til your people are in bed before you go poppin’ into home. No point in scarin’ ‘em out of their English wits. Let’s go down to da swamp and I’ll teach you how to handle a Buck knife until it gets late enough.”

So Serial Mouse spends one last evening in the heart of Shreve swamp under the tutelage of the deadliest Amish Ninja Assassin master, honing his knife-throwing skills by solar-powered floodlight and learning about the secret warrior society that, paradoxically, makes possible the bucolic and pacifist Amish lifestyle so beloved by tourists.

He returns home at midnight, appearing on his mousepad in a small burst of cold. The tiny apartment is dark and quiet save for the sounds of three humans sleeping. As usual, his mousepad and desktop are covered in crumbs and bits of ash, and his first act is to brush the area clean. As he sweeps, the mice creep out of their hole in the wall and line up near the desk.

“Hello, friends,” he says quietly. “I told you I would return.” He sweeps the pretzel crumbs over the side. When he goes to put the brush away he finds some jellybeans in a bag in the drawer, and tosses a few to the young mice. While they are busy with their sweets Serial Mouse removes the dummy mouse and connects his wire to the computer. With a sigh of satisfaction, he downloads every extraneous bit of information he has collected, and saves it all in an encrypted file that will be safe even from his male human’s tinkering and prying.

He speaks to the mice below. “Well, I did what I set out to do. I solved the mystery of cattle mutilations, but who would believe me even if I went public? And how could I go public without revealing my own secret? Master Yoder proved to be a good friend to me, for all his plotting and scheming. I wonder if he will succeed? Well, it’s not my place to save the ranching world from Amish depradations, and how much harm can they actually do with Buck knives? Time alone will tell.” As expected, the mice make no reply beyond a few squeaks.

He ponders the situation a while, and then turns his thoughts to his own future. Apparently his organic processors are growing and changing, and the more information he processes the faster the growth accelerates. He is a changed mouse, and the transformation is not yet finished. Since he is the result of an incomplete experiment, he does not know the parameters of his abilities. He is a mouse in flux, a mouse in serious need of a mission. He dives back into the Information Superhighway with relish. From now on, he can go anyplace he can visualize; his horizons seem limitless. All he requires is information, and he has that at his wiretip.

“It’s good to be home,” he says. The mice, finished with their treats, make a sibilant collective sound, then scamper back to their homes inside the walls. In the quiet dark room Serial Mouse scans newsgroups and search engines, searching for something to hold his interest. “Now this looks promising...” and he is off in pursuit of yet another conundrum.[img][/img]
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Socially irresponsible, morally irredeemable and pretty god-damned glorious to behold @mremann

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