Reverse Engineering
(a sequel to Fifteen Minute Break)

© 1997, 1998 Rogue (

Dz'isu concept © Brian Harp
Dz'isu characters © Ken Sample and Lisa Jennings.
Used with permission.

Victor held his breath and squeezed his eyes shut as the warm wave gushed over his face. Komatsu's mammoth erection throbbed in his arms and he hugged it more tightly, squeezing until the last of the cream dribbled forth. Komatsu's hand moved away from his back, and was replaced by a warm, smooth tongue that began to clean away the stickiness with practiced ease.

"You must be working out," the big Dz'isu's voice rumbled from behind him. "All this time at the desk, and you haven't lost any of the strength in your arms."

Victor smiled and slid his rear end upward along Komatsu's belly, and leaned back. Komatsu sat up just far enough for his neck to arch forward and allow him to lick Victor's chest and face clean. "I get enough exercise," he panted, "between pumping iron and pumping Dz'isu." He turned a little and held his arms up, giving Komatsu's tongue more room to lick. "Takenshi has been paying more and more visits to the trailer, after all."

"That's only because we have more contracts coming in, and he has more things to take care of in the office."

"I think it's because he's hornier than you are."

"Not possible."

"I'm pretty sure he is."

Komatsu's flat tailspade swung behind Victor and smacked him lightly on the rump. "Dry off and put your clothes on," he chuckled. "You're on my time now."

"He is," Victor said quickly, and danced out of reach of the vengeful tail. He tugged his pants on and buttoned his shirt on the run back to the trailer. Behind him he heard a quiet grunt of exertion as Komatsu shouldered a cluster of I-beams and returned to work.

The worn leather chair behind the desk creaked loudly as Victor sat down. The back reclined much too far, almost spilling Victor out. It wasn't surprising, considering the amount of punishment the chair had received from its previous occupant. The memory made Victor a little sad. He missed Fatty. Everyone did. The big man had no family, so all the men had chipped in to pay for his funeral. The company had closed for an entire day so that everyone could attend the service.

The jangle of the telephone jolted Victor from his reverie, and he snatched it from its cradle. "Dz'isu Construction," he said, still a bit winded from his fifteen minute break with Komatsu. "Victor Sykes."

"Hello, Victor." Takenshi's voice, as always, sent a shiver along Victor's spine. Less rumbling than Komatsu's, though just as deep, it had a cool, almost sinister ring to it. A predator's voice. "Is my partner available?"

Victor leaned back and looked out the window. "Up on seven. You want me to get him?"

"No no, just take a message to him. Tell him that the R.-E. deal for Pulaski Towers is sealed."


"Reverse engineering. I've already gone over it with him."

"Gotcha. Anything else?"

"Yes. Is Carstairs still leaving us this Friday?"

"Yes, he is. I hate to lose a good riveter, but he's been wanting to go back to college for years."

"Ah, I know. Please tell him that I would very much like to see him before he goes, would you?"

Victor snickered softly. Takenshi was incorrigible. "I'll let him know."

Hanging up the phone, Victor stepped out into the sunshine and trotted across the site. He could see Komatsu talking with Angelo on the seventh floor of the skeletal building, and waved his arms until he caught the giant's attention. Komatsu nodded, then had a few more words with Angelo before stepping off the edge and into open air.

Victor backed up a few steps and watched as Komatsu plummeted several feet before his wings snapped out, catching the air and guiding the blue giant into a long downward spiral. The sight never failed to take Victor's breath away, even though he'd seen it hundreds of times. Komatsu was a creature of many facets, his immense power a stark contrast to the sheer beauty and grace of his flight.

Komatsu landed with a heavy thud and straightened up, his wings folding neatly behind his shoulders. "Phone?"

"Just a message. Takenshi said that the reverse engineering deal with Pulaski is sealed."

Komatsu smiled toothily. "Excellent! Can you come by my place tonight after work and help us draw up the papers?" "Sure, Boss. Uh, tell me, though: by reverse engineering, he means..."

"...Demolition, yes."

"But we're not licensed for implosions."

Komatsu laughed and patted Victor fondly on the shoulder. "Implosions," he chuckled. "That's cute. I'll see you tonight at, make it six. You can have dinner. And in the meantime, put the feelers out, and get me six new guys. I need drivers with heavy-E certification, and with the usual qualifications."

Victor understood exactly what he meant. "Got it, Boss," he said, He turned and headed back to the trailer as Komatsu's mighty wings carried him back to the seventh floor.

It did not take Victor very long to find the additional workers. Dz'isu Construction's reputation for hiring the "outcasts" of the business was growing and made for a sizable pool of eager applicants. Victor soon narrowed the field to ten; Komatsu himself hand-picked the six, using that unnamable criteria that he judged simply by looking into their eyes. Joined by a small cadre of veteran employees, the six were set to work constructing the company's trademark wall around the demolition site.

As the construction job neared completion, more and more workers were transferred over, until Pulaski Center was surrounded on all sides by a plywood palisade. A week before the building was to be torn down, Komatsu ordered that the wall be topped with a curtain of vinyl sheeting material, to a total height of thirty feet. Purely a safety concern, he insisted. Victor knew better.

Victor found himself at the site on the scheduled day, crowded with a dozen other employees into a bunker that had been constructed in one corner of the site. One of the new men was scowling through a narrow observation window at the building's high central tower, which rose above a sprawling 2-story office complex. "I don't get it," he griped. "How are we supposed to get this thing down in a day without any dynamite?"

"We do things differently in this company," Victor told him.

"Down and carted away?" another piped up. "How much overtime can you afford to pay?"

Victor shrugged. "Dz'isu have their own techniques that haven't caught on with the rest of the industry."

"Yeah, right," the first man snorted. "What're they going to do, wave their fingers and make the whole building disappear?"

"Pretty much." Victor nodded as two large figures stepped through the gate and closed it behind them. "Now shut your mouth and watch. You might learn something."

Komatsu and Takenshi approached the bunker with an unhurried pace, their tails slithering through the air behind them in near-perfect reflections of one another. Komatsu crouched by the bunker and peered inside at the assembled faces within. "Everyone here?" A muttered affirmation answered him. "Good. Let's get started, then. Remember, nobody leaves the bunker until I give the word. I pay enough in workman's comp insurance as it is." He stood up and scanned the immediate area, and then nodded to Takenshi.

Inside the bunker, Victor and his more experienced coworkers stepped back to watch how the new fellows would react. Through the windows, where a second before had stood two dark- blue legs, there was now only a single toe, a leathery wall which stretched the length of the bunker, and ended in a claw as big as a man's body. Gasping in unison, all six of the new workers stumbled back from the window, and were caught by the men behind before they fell. They watched in gaping wonder as the monstrous foot rose away from the window, shot forward, and landed half a city block away. It was joined by a second foot, black as asphalt, its claws biting deep into the earth as it settled.

Urged gently forward by their older coworkers, the new fellows moved back to the window, where they could see the backs of the Dz'isu towering overhead, their tails swaying in that smooth, synchronous pattern as they advanced upon the doomed building. The entire bunker creaked and rocked with each thundering footfall.

"Welcome to Dz'isu Construction Company," one of the older men said brightly. The new guys only stared as the two giants slowly circled the building, their eyes fixed on the empty windowframes, as though sizing up their prey. Their nostrils flared, drawing in scents in great, swirling gusts. At last, Komatsu nodded. "It's clear," he rumbled.

The Dz'isu moved into position on either side of the tower, their feet straddling the low East and West wings. They both stood up tall, powerful muscles flexing, and then with a dual roar that shook the entire city they attacked the tower. Massive fists crashed through the facade, sending wreckage cascading down. Their fingers gripped at the internal framework and tore it outward, hurling girders and chunks of concrete in enormous handfuls to the ground. Takenshi stepped backward and brought one foot up, sweeping it forward in a resounding kick that shattered the center part of the tower. Komatsu's own foot smashed through the base, sending the remainder tumbling to the ground in a billow of gray dust. Both of them were grinning gleefully, like two children demolishing a sandcastle in the distance. Only the shaking ground and the occasional thump of a concrete shard on the roof of the bunker reminded the men of the awesome might being unleashed before them.

The two then turned their attention to the sprawling wings of the complex below them. Komatsu raised one foot up high and brought it down with a thunderous crash through the roof. The impact nearly shook the spectators in the bunker off their feet. Takenshi followed suit, driving his foot through the roof and kicking forward. The front wall exploded, scattering masonry in a wide arc across the site. Both giants began to stamp powerfully, their feet hammering what was left of the building into rubble in seconds.

It was ten minutes before the dust cleared. Finally, Komatsu's looming form could be seen towering over the wreckage. Takenshi was kneeling behind him. "All clear!" he bellowed. "Let's get this mess cleaned up."

"You heard the boss," Victor said, tugging at the sleeves of his glassy-eyed new coworkers. "You can ask your questions while we work."

Takenshi and Komatsu squatted in the midst of the rubble and began to paw through it as a row of dumptrucks picked its way through the debris and stopped between them. Carefully, the Dz'isu began to separate metal from concrete, salvageable materials from waste, and tossed the rubble into the beds of the trucks. Smaller pieces, too tangled for the giants to separate easily, were given to the men to dismantle. As the day wore on, the remains of the building slowly vanished, until the entire lot had been cleared. The steady stream of dumptrucks entering and leaving slowed to a trickle and finally halted.

Komatsu stood up and stretched his mammoth wings to shake the dust from them, and then crouched again and smiled down at his assembled crew. "Good work!" he said earnestly. "You guys are the best in the business. I mean that." He reached back to stroke Takenshi's back as Takenshi sat beside him, and said to the crew, "You can take the rest of the afternoon off, if you'd like -- you'll still be paid until five. Takenshi and I have to wrap up a few last-minute details."

None of the men left. Victor had made certain that the new members knew what was coming, and everyone now moved back against the surrounding wall. Komatsu chuckled. "Or you could stay and watch." With that, he spun around and grabbed Takenshi in his arms, pulling the smaller Dz'isu down onto the ground. Takenshi put up only a token struggle, his fangs flashing in a tremendous smile. As the men watched in fascination, the two gigantic bodies rolled about on the ground, their grunts and growls mingling with the sounds of traffic from outside. In a single motion, both giants stripped off the thin briefs which they wore and tossed them aside. Several of the men had to run to avoid being buried under the fabric as it landed. A few chose not to run.

The two Dz'isu nipped and lapped at one another for several moments, their bus-sized erections pushing forth and pressing against one another, until at last Komatsu rolled Takenshi to his back and sat up. Smiling, he crawled forward and turned, framing the smaller Dz'isu's head between his knees. His head descended, mouth opened, and Takenshi's mammoth arousal disappeared between his lips.

From the corner of his eye Victor saw one of the new guys, a skinny Hawaiian, standing between Takenshi's feet, his back against the wall. Frowning, he edged his way along the wall toward the man. "Iekea...yo, Iekea!"

Iekea didn't hear him, or if he did, he was too absorbed in the action to respond. Ahead of him, Takenshi's legs formed a black canyon leading to his monstrous erection, standing like a tower from his groin. Komatsu's muzzle pumped smoothly up and down its length, the tower alternately vanishing and then reappearing. Beyond, Komatsu's own arousal was buried deep in Takenshi's mouth.

Victor trotted along the wall, gaze shifting back and forth from the two giants to the immobile man. "Iekea!" he hissed. "Come on...get away from there."

"My God," Iekea said softly. His eyes were wide. "They're beautiful."

Victor reached his side and pulled nervously at his sleeve. "Yeah, they are. Look, this isn't a good spot, Man."

"Look at them...." Iekea resisted Victor's tugging.

"Come on, Dude!," Victor said urgently. "It's not safe here. You'll be able to see them just as well from over there."

Beside them, Takenshi's tail twitched and shifted, its bulk pressed against the fence, uncomfortably close to the two men. Victor pulled harder, perspiring. "I'm telling you, this isn't a good spot to be standing!"

Iekea was mesmerized. "Look at them go." Takenshi's legs were beginning to jerk,. the muscles tensing up visibly under the black hide. Komatsu's head was pumping faster, the breath from his nostrils stirring up a cloud of dust from the ground. His whole body rocked to and fro as he thrust down into Takenshi's mouth at the other end of the site. The ground was quivering, as though in sympathy with the giants' rising passion.

"Iekea, come on!" Victor grabbed the man's arm, and turning, saw a huge black wall rushing toward him. The bottom of Takenshi's foot was racing toward the men, bearing down on them like an oncoming train. "Jesus shit...MOVE!" With all of his might Victor hauled on Iekea's arm, yanking the young man off his feet and out of the way. Both fell to the ground just as the massive foot rushed past them. It struck the wall and kept going, crashing through the plywood and into the street beyond. There was a crunch of metal as it caught some cars and sent them spinning. The clawed toes curled tightly as the foot finally came to rest.

Struggling to his feet, Victor turned to see Takenshi's leg lying like an ebony wall behind him. It extended into the street and blocked the intersection completely. Takenshi had kicked a gaping hole through the wooden barrier, and beyond the shattered edges Victor could see a large crowd forming around the leg and foot, and the wrecked cars. All eyes were peering into the demolition site; Victor followed their gaze and felt his stomach knot up. "Oh, fuck."

Komatsu's eyes were tightly closed, his head still bobbing unsteadily upon Takenshi's erection. White cream was dribbling from his lips, and he was swallowing rapidly, drinking. His massive frame was jerking and heaving as he poured his own pleasure into Takenshi's throat. He seemed unaware of the damage that Takenshi's passionate kick had wrought, or of the attention that they now commanded.

Victor mopped at his forehead. "Uh....Komatsu...?"

The giant was panting now, relaxing, eyes still closed as he continued to suckle at his partner's malehood. Victor glanced over his shoulder and saw the crowd swelling further, hundreds of faces gaping in shock and awe. "Oboy. K-Komatsu?"

The blue muzzle drew up off of Takenshi's spent shaft, letting it fall with an echoing thud against the red scales of Takenshi's belly. Komatsu swallowed one last time, his face blissful.


Slowly the huge eyes opened, two narrow slits of pleasure...and then they snapped open wide. Komatsu's jaw fell as he saw the great hole in the wall, and the growing audience clustered in the street beyond. "Uh-oh."

Victor swallowed. "Yeah. I think we have a problem..."

Twenty-four hours later, Victor was squirming uncomfortably on a wooden chair in the front of the courtroom. The mayor and the entire city council sat at the plaintiff's table in front of him, and all of them were glowering sternly in his direction. They looked like a firing squad that was itching for the order to shoot.

The two Dz'isu arrived at last. Komatsu had to duck and crawl through the doorway, and once inside, he was barely able to stand up straight. Takenshi followed, dressed in ornate robes that gave him the appearance of an old Chinese emperor. He caught site of Victor and gave him a confident smile, but something in his eyes told Victor that Takenshi didn't feel as certain about this as he appeared.

"All rise." Victor slid his chair back and stood slowly. He heard a small thump as Komatsu's head struck the ceiling and dented a tile. As the judge entered, both Dz'isu bowed very low. It seemed to give the judge pause, but the somber faces of the city council did not waver.

"Be seated." The two Dz'isu sat back on their tails, hands resting on their knees, eyes cast downward. The judge cleared his throat. "In the case of the People of the State of New Jersey vs. Dz... hm... Disease-oo Construction Company, the charges of indecent exposure, lewd and unlawful conduct, willful destruction of property, risking a catastrophe..."

"Forgive me, Your Honor." Takenshi bowed again, and looked up. "We respectfully object to the implication of malice in our --"

The judge held up a hand. "It is customary to allow your attorney to enter objections, Sir." He nodded toward Victor.

Victor fidgeted and looked around. "Who? I'm not..."

Takenshi sat up a little straighter. "If it please the Court, I will be acting as attorney for both myself and my business associate."

The judge blinked and looked as if he was going to say something, and then simply shook his head. "The objection is overruled; the Court notes that the individual charges will be addressed in time through the course of this hearing."

Takenshi nodded, and lowered his gaze again. The judge continued with the list of charges.

When it was all over, Victor drove to the abandoned candy factory where Komatsu lived. He found Komatsu sitting alone in the dark on his bed, his legs folded, his eyes downcast. Victor smiled half-heartedly and shuffled closer. "Hey, Big Blue," he said softly.

Komatsu looked up and smiled a little. He held one arm out to the side; Victor obediently sat down next to him and let the arm press him against Komatsu's flank. The big Dz'isu gave him a small squeeze, and sighed. "Somehow I knew they wouldn't see it our way."

"It's not all bad," Victor said hopefully. He stroked at Komatsu's bare chest with gentle fingers. "They could have put us all in jail."

Komatsu sighed again. "It's bad enough that they shut us down," he said bitterly, "but this 'seventy-two hours to leave the state of New Jersey' is just cruel. I thought this was America."

Victor rubbed his cheek against Komatsu's hide. "We can set up someplace else. Maybe up in New York, or over in Pennsy."

"But what about the men? All those jobs lost." He put a hand over his eyes briefly and took a deep breath. "I let them all down."

"We'll go with you, Boss. I don't think any of the men would say no. We're behind you all the way."

Komatsu closed his eyes. "We're broke, though. All those fines cleaned out the company. It takes money to start up elsewhere, and I don't think it will be very easy to raise capital now."

Victor was silent for a moment, and then slid over to sit in Komatsu's lap. "I'll stay with you."

"You don't have to."

Victor reached up and stroked the sinuous neck. "I want to."

Komatsu's arms slid around him and hugged him tightly.

The front door slid open suddenly, and Takenshi stepped inside. Komatsu raised his head hopefully, but lowered it again when he saw the miserable expression on his partner's face. Takenshi's shoulders sagged as he shuffled toward the bed. "No dice," he said quietly. "They denied the appeal almost before I filed it."

"Then we're finished."

Takenshi sat down on the bed and slid the robes off of his shoulders. He laid a hand on Victor's head and petted him gently. "It's my fault," he said mournfully. "Damn it all, if I hadn't broken through the wall..."

"Don't blame yourself," Komatsu said.

"It wouldn't have been so bad," Victor piped up, "if there hadn't been a Baptist convention going on across the street."

Komatsu nodded. "There's a thousand 'if's. If we hadn't been so close to the wall. If we had turned down the contract. If it had been after dark. Anything could have happened differently. There's no use fixing blame."

Takenshi growled, and took his hand from Victor's head. His fist tightened. "It's that damned city council," he snarled. "They wouldn't even listen to us. They had the judgment all planned out before we got to the hearing."


"And now they tell us to go." Takenshi's eyes grew cold. "Fine. We'll go. But I swear, I'm going to do some reverse engineering on their crappy little city before I leave."

Victor stiffened. Komatsu felt it, and gave him a small comforting pat on the back. "No, Takenshi."

"And why not?" he shouted. "Why shouldn't we just squash every one of the little bastards like the filthy bugs they are!"

Komatsu frowned, and glanced down. Takenshi followed his gaze and groaned, then covered his face. "I'm sorry, Victor," he whispered. "I didn't mean it."

Victor reached over and touched Takenshi's arm. "Don't worry about it. I'm upset, too."

"I know. Still, I didn't mean you."

Victor smiled a little and changed the subject. "We were talking about starting up again. Maybe locate in Scranton."

Takenshi snorted. "It's easy enough to say it. Do you think any place is going to let us set up shop, though, after this fiasco? These politicians are all one big fraternity. No matter where we go, they'll just--"

"Enough." Komatsu's rumbling voice silenced the smaller Dz'isu, who let his chin fall to his chest. "We aren't going to decide anything tonight anyway. What we need is sleep. We can work on a plan in the morning."

Takenshi nodded. Victor began to stand up, but a strong blue arm blocked him and pushed him gently down to the mattress. Two warm, draconic bodies pressed up against him, snuggling him between their bulk, and Komatsu reached over and turned out the light.

Takenshi was by himself this time, his lips pursed, surveying the crumbling building before him. Victor watched from the bunker, and realized with a start that he, too, was alone. The other men had vanished. "Iekea?" he said, puzzled. "Angelo? Where did you guys go?"

There was a loud crash, and Victor turned to the window to see Takenshi's fists crashing into the structure. They drove deep into its innards, the facade shattering like a mirror and falling away. Takenshi had a frightening smile on his face as he withdrew his hands and brought them down hard on the roof. The building shuddered; dust erupted from every windowframe, and the building disintegrated, collapsing into a jumble of girders and chunks of concrete.

Victor's eyes widened as Takenshi, his teeth still gleaming in that grisly smile, kicked through the rubble and sent wreckage scattering ahead of him. Victor watched as the debris struck the wall that surrounded the lot and toppled its entire length as though it were cardboard. "Oh, God," Victor breathed, "what's he doing?"

Takenshi's eyes narrowed and his grin grew even more terrible. Raising one foot up high, he stepped forward over the rubble and over the remains of the wall. The ever-present crowd on the street began to shriek as the foot descended. A dozen or more people vanished abruptly as it settled atop them and sank into the pavement. The sound of breaking concrete drowned out the sound of crunching bones.

"No!" Victor screamed. He stumbled out of the bunker, tripped, and struggled to his feet again. "Takenshi! For God's sake, stop it!"

The giant did not hear him. Leering, he took another step forward and stood squarely in the center of the street. The shrieks of the panicked crowd rose around his legs in an almost tangible cloud. His eyes burned scornfully. "Bugs," he spat, and lifted one foot up high. He held it aloft for a brief moment, and then brought it crashing down to the street. Those directly beneath it died instantly, their bodies smashed to bits before they knew what was happening. The remainder were thrown to the ground by the impact, the street turning into a sea of helplessly kicking limbs as the people scrambled to gain their footing again.

Victor stood immobile, his body trembling. "" He wanted to run forward, to catch the raging Dz'isu's attention and calm him down, but his legs would not move. Try as he might, he could not budge, his feet refusing even to shuffle forward. Helplessly, he watched as Takenshi shifted his weight to one foot and began to stamp the life out of the sprawled humanity around him. His clawed foot smashed again and again into the pavement, his leg pumping like a tireless piston, each footfall crushing untold numbers of shrieking men and women to death, reducing them in an instant to a terrible pulp which stuck to his sole each time his foot rose. Gradually the screams died out, and soon the only sound was the echoing boom of Takenshi's pounding foot.

In desperation Victor bent and pulled at his legs with his hands. It was no use -- it was as though they had turned to wood. Looking up again, he saw Takenshi striding toward him, his murderous gaze fixed on the row of buildings to Victor's rear. Victor could read the words "reverse engineering" in Takenshi's eyes. Suddenly, he saw Iekea standing transfixed between him and the advancing Dz'isu. "Iekea!" he shouted hoarsely. "Get out of there! Move!"

It was no use. Takenshi's huge foot swung forward, its shadow surrounding the motionless figure of Iekea. A second later the figure vanished beneath a rank of steely-gray talons. The shock of the impact rattled Victor's bones. His body stiffened, and he could only stare as Takenshi's other foot swung forward; a blast of air, like that from an approaching train, blew Victor's hair back. He was looking straight upward now, watching the vast black sole descending toward him in slow motion. It grew larger, and larger still, until it filled the entire sky. It was just like he had seen it on that day at the Pulaski site, the talons splayed, the smooth underside of the foot dusted gray with pulverized concrete, only this time it was coming straight down toward him, and this time he couldn't move a muscle...

...and then it was pressing down on him, the leathery skin, warm and firm, covering him completely and squeezing him against the ground. He struggled to breathe as the heavy sole smothered him, his limbs twitching in a feeble attempt to squirm, the unbearable weight slowly crushing him. He heard his bones breaking.

Victor awoke with a soft yelp. He felt Komatsu's warm breath waft past his ear. "What's wrong?" the Dz'isu's voice rumbled gently. Victor was shaking. Komatsu was pressed up against him, squeezing him snugly against Takenshi's back, surrounding him with warm, smooth flesh. He took a deep breath and swallowed. "Nothing. A dream."

"Tell me."

"Never mind. I don't want to keep you awake."

"I wasn't asleep. Tell me."

Victor hesitated. He felt Takenshi's warm bulk pressing back against him as the black Dz'isu shifted in his sleep. "What he said...he didn't mean it, did he?"

"Of course not," Komatsu said gently. "He thinks the world of you."

"No...I mean...about smashing the city."

Komatsu chuckled, and licked gingerly at Victor's ear, making him shiver. "He was just blowing off steam."

"Are you sure?"

"Of course I'm sure. He's put as much effort into building this company as I have, and he's just as upset by the outcome."

"I know. It's just that he easily." He swallowed. "Both of you could."

Komatsu pressed a little more firmly against him. "Then don't you think we would have done it by now?" He let Victor mull that over for a few moments, and then stroked the little man's leg with the tip of his tail. "Now stop being silly. It was just a bad dream, and I promise you it's not going to come true anytime soon. We've had a bad break, but we'll get through it, all of us."


Komatsu was quiet for a moment, and then sighed. "I don't know yet..."

In the morning, Victor set to work packing up the office. The old trailer seemed lifeless and cold without the sounds of construction echoing off of its smudged walls. The silence only depressed him further. The only smile he could muster was when he pulled out a file drawer and found a dozen Twinkies hidden behind it. Fatty's secret stash. "So much for your diet," Victor said, chuckling, and then he sighed. "I sure miss you, Old Man. I wish you were here."

The telephone rang on the empty desk. Victor picked it up glumly. "Dz'isu Construction Company," he said. "I'm sorry, but our offices have been closed."

"I know." The voice on the other end of the line was feminine and sweet. "I'm calling from the Office of the Governor."

Victor scowled. "Good for you," he grunted. "We're packing as fast as we can. Tell the governor we'll be out of his precious state in no time."

"That isn't why I'm calling," the voice chimed.

"Oh, no? What, do you want to level more charges? Get in line!"

"Sir, please calm down. I didn't call you to get my ear bitten off."

Victor ran his fingers through his hair and took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, Ma'am," he said more quietly. "I didn't mean to bark at you like that. It's been rough for us here."

"I know." The voice was gentle, soothing. "Who am I speaking with?"

"Victor Sykes. I'm the office manager. Former."

"Mr. Sykes, as I said, I'm calling from the governor's office. He has taken an interest in what happened, and would like to arrange a meeting with you to discuss it."

"What more is there to say?"

There was a pause. "He may be able to help."

Victor felt a surge of adrenaline. "H-help? How?"

The voice grew quiet. "I can't get into that now. Would you and the senior officers of the company be willing to meet with the governor informally at his residence this afternoon?"

"I...I don't know. I....yes! Yes, we would. Can he really help us?"

"We'll discuss that this afternoon. Please join us at two o'clock, at the governor's mansion. Just give your name to the gate guard."

"I will. We will. Thank you -- oh, wait!"


"Please tell the guard that we'll be arriving in a Ryder truck. I don't want him to get jittery, if you know what I mean."

"Of course. The governor looks forward to seeing you, Mr. Sykes."

Victor hung up the phone, his hand shaking. "Fuck me," he muttered. "This can't be real." Real or not, though, it was more than they'd had to work with the night before. Rushing from the trailer, Victor leaped into his car and sped away, leaving the trailer door swinging behind him.

The truck pulled up in front of the gates to the governor's grand mansion at five minutes to two. Victor scrambled out of the driver's seat and ran around to the back to pull open the cargo door. Takenshi climbed out first, followed by Komatsu. Both wore robes today -- Dz'isu as a species had a tremendous respect for authority, and both wanted to make the best impression.

The guard took Victor's name and nodded, and opened the gate. Two armed men appeared. "Come with us, please."

Victor hesitated. "Are we under arrest?"

"No, Sir," one of the men said with a curt shake of his head. "It's standard security procedures. The governor is expecting you."

Victor nodded, and stepped forward. Takenshi still seemed uncertain, but at a whisper from Komatsu he, too, stepped through the gate. The three were escorted along a lengthy driveway to a large gazebo. There they found the governor lounging on a lawn chair and listening to a sportscast on the radio. The two Dz'isu quickly knelt and bowed, but the governor set his drink down and waved his hand. "Please, Gentlemen, this is an informal visit. I heard what happened, and just wanted to have a few words with you." He noticed Victor for the first time, and cocked his head. "And who might this be?"

Victor swallowed, but Komatsu answered for him. "This is Mr. Sykes, my office manager."

"Sykes, eh? Can I get you a drink? No? Sit down, then. Now, what I want to know is exactly what happened at the Pulaski Center a few days ago."

"Didn't you get a report from the City Council, Sir?" Takenshi interjected.

The governor nodded. "I did. Now I want you to tell me what happened."

Victor looked at Takenshi, who looked at Komatsu, who took a deep breath. "Very well, Sir. It began when we accepted a contract for the reverse engineering of the Pulaski Center..."

"You mean when you bashed it apart?"

"Yes, Sir. Afterward, my partner Takenshi and I undertook what is, for us, a traditional relaxation ceremony..."

Victor sat quietly as Komatsu related the story, placing the blame solely on himself for having been negligent in his positioning for the "ceremony." The governor listened quietly, chewing on the swizzle-stick from his drink. Victor could not tell what the man was thinking; his face was impassive, though he did nod and hum occasionally.

A voice spoke up from behind. "Governor, I have the files on the Pulaski Center case that you requested." Victor recognized it as the voice he had heard on the telephone. He turned, and dropped his jaw.

Less than an arm's-length away was the striking figure of a female Dz'isu. Her hide was an almost blinding white in the afternoon sunshine; her eyes shone with a fire that could not have come entirely from without. Victor heard both Komatsu and Takenshi gasp softly as the female glided past the visitors and stepped daintily into the gazebo.

"Ah, thank you, Dear. Gentlemen, please let me introduce Miss Koketsu, my executive assistant. She is the one who brought this most troubling case to my attention."

The male Dz'isu bowed respectfully. Victor waved and muttered, "Hi."

Koketsu smiled at Victor and laid the file on the table beside the governor's drink, and then sat quietly back on her tail behind the governor's left shoulder. "Let's see," the governor muttered, picking up the file and paging through it. "Let me see, here. This goes's this about tearing up the street two years ago?"

"My men fixed it promptly," Komatsu said.

"And he was responding to an emergency at the time," Victor added quickly. "He saved a man's life."

"Uh-huh. But you still caught grief from the city council for it, it looks like."

Komatsu nodded. "Yes, Sir."

The governor grunted, and kept leafing through the file. "Well, it doesn't really set up a case for the council having a vendetta against you, I'm afraid. Gentlemen, I sympathize with your plight, and I would like to help you out. The trouble is that there is little I can legally do to intervene. The council's argument is fairly strong."

Victor saw Koketsu's hand appear on the other side of the governor's chair. A single clawed finger touched the man's thigh, making him shiver. "And I'm afraid," he continued, "that the ruling does fall within the judge'" The finger traveled upward and unlatched the back of the lounge chair, setting it down flat. Koketsu glided over and sat astride it, directly behind the governor, who began to fidget. "...judge' I mean is, the judge was within the bounds of the law in ordering you out of the state, as his position... ah, the precedence for such a ruling is..."

His voice trailed off as Koketsu laid her chin on his shoulder. Two snowy-white arms encircled him from behind, drawing him close against her body. The governor let out a small, shivering moan and closed his eyes. "I suppose I could, however, make some inquiries. Certainly no...mmm...guarantees, of course. Ahh...Perhaps the judge's decision was made without full consideration of...oh..."

Koketsu's long, delicate tongue slid out and cupped under the governor's chin, and slid slowly along his throat. Her arms tightened around his midriff. The governor swallowed, his mouth falling open. When he spoke again, his voice was strained. "And the council...could have been...could be more open-minded... more receptive to other c-cultures' ... before considering such a..." He swallowed. "Gentlemen, I must ask you to...ahhh...excuse me. I am a busy man..."

Koketsu crooned softly into the governor's ear, and then turned her gaze toward the visitors. "The guards will show you out," she said simply.

Victor simply stared in disbelief. Beside him, Takenshi and Komatsu stood and bowed reverently, and then turned away. Victor continued to stare, until he felt Takenshi's hand on his shoulder, pulling him away.

"Well, I guess I can start putting the office back together tomorrow. Maybe celebrate with some of Fatty's Twinkies." Victor sank comfortably against the wall of the old chocolate vat that now served as Komatsu's hot tub. "You guys are something else," he said, shaking his head. "It's amazing. I still can't believe you pulled this off."

"What's so hard to believe?" Komatsu chuckled, reaching a dripping arm over and ruffling Victor's hair. "All it took was a little bit of persuasion and simple logic."

"Telling them it was a cultural ceremony? You guys were giving each other the biggest blow-jobs in history."

"Ah, but it was a cultural blow job!" Komatsu added.

Takenshi's head broke the surface on Victor's other side and he shook out his mane. "The city council are reasonable people, after all. Once the emotional aspects of the issue were set aside, they were more than willing to see it our way."

"But don't you think it looks strange that they'd offer you a second hearing after practically running you out of the state on a fencerail?"

"All that took was a few phone calls," Koketsu purred from the other end of the tub. "In cases like this, sometimes a gentle word from a higher authority is all that is necessary to let cooler heads prevail. I think that the governor acted most admirably in requesting that the council reconsider its case against you."

"As is my duty, Miss Koketsu," the governor said, sinking down luxuriously in her lap and sipping at his wine. "Let it never be said that I am not sympathetic to the needs of my constituents."

"Hear, hear!" The male Dz'isu raised their glasses in appreciation. Victor brought his to his lips and took a long, long swallow.

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