This section covers the early events in Undepoldus House.
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The next day George transferred everything he had used in the Reptile House to the new Undepoldus House. He then organised things to suit the new layout. He now had a separate office and vidcom, shower and sanitary facilities, and a kitchen. The layout of the display area was similar to that used in the Reptile House but everything was set up so that it could accommodate the increasing size of Undepoldus.
The new stripway was the standard half metre width in a passage one and a half metres wide. A wall had been built after the stripway was tested as an extra security measure. Only those on the stripway or in wheelchairs would be able to look into the display area. The wall obscured the view otherwise and was built as a shield. It was considered unlikely that anyone would try to shoot Undepoldus with a field gun but the cost of the extra protection was low so it was incorporated in the plan. The wall was built using the same construction techniques used for the rest of the building. Two diamond coated steel plates separated by shock absorbing material formed the wall. The bricks on the outside made the wall look normal.
The small elevator that carried the rocks up from the storage area beneath had been built with expansion in mind. In its present form it could deliver up to 20 kilos of rocks per day. Later it would be enlarged to carry up to 500 kilos per day. The area around the display was tiled in half metre square tiles. One of these tiles were arranged as a trapdoor to provide access to the underground store and to the transporter service tunnel. Another area of four tiles was the surface of a lift for carrying materials or parts to or from the store. Both the door and the lift were set to be controlled by a voice command from George or Marita.
George wondered how he would cope with Undepoldus as he grew larger. He had become used to carrying him to and from the Park. Soon he would be too large to carry without attracting attention. Nobody had noticed that his "collar" was Undepoldus so far. The wide variety of dress styles seen in London seldom drew more than a passing glance. George was grateful for the British way of not staring at strangers. Now he was 1.3 metres long and 6 centimetres in diameter. If he kept growing at the present rate he would be two metres long by the end of the month. George then decided to try to arrange a basket for Undepoldus so that he could be carried for a bit longer like a pet snake.
George was musing along these lines when the vidcom announced: "Superintendent Abdullah wishes to see you. He is alone. His identity has been confirmed."
"Admit him - Gee-Mac 207"
The door opened and the Superintendent came in.
"Good evening Mr. McFigg. It was good of you to see me without notice."
"You are welcome sir. It is good to have someone to talk to. It gets a bit lonely here after a time. I guess that you would not have come to see me for a social call. Is there any way I can help you?"
"No, Mr. McFigg. You cannot help me at present but my colleagues and I can help you."
"Tell me more. I can't see how I need help at the moment."
"Mr. McFigg, I have come to tell you that you are being watched. There is a small group of men who have been checking on your movements between the Spacers Club and here. None of these people are known to us as criminals and none of them are registered private investigators."
"Can you be sure that they are not Spacers who are secretly guarding me."
"Yes. I tried to contact Admiral van Wijk to check. Her ADC advised me to speak to Admiral Chang, the head of Spacer security. Admiral Chang said that there were Spacers who acted as covert guards occasionally but they were all female. He advised me to speak to you directly and to tell no-one that I was coming to see you. Your security system would be programmed to cover my visit."
"How long have these men been watching me?"
"We first noticed them three days ago. We then checked the video records and found that they have been tracking you for six days. They are very discreet but it is clear that they are checking your daily routine. You do not keep regular hours but you always use the same route. I know that you always carry Undepoldus with you. I must admit that it is not obvious, so these men may not yet be aware that you wear him like a collar. However, they may notice that your collar gets bigger every day."
"I must admit that I have not noticed anyone watching me. In fact, I had the impression that everyone was studiously ignoring me. What do you think I should do?"
"I think that Undepoldus will have to get used to staying here on his own at night. This building is as secure as it could be. He should be safe here but we have to consider your safety. We have already had two kidnappings that did not apparently have any direct connection with Undepoldus. You could be the next target. Those who have been watching you may be planning to make use of any opportunity to kidnap you. Ideally you should have a bodyguard like Miss Adedeyo. Her talents have already proved to be more than a match for a gang of kidnappers. However, I am sure that the Spacers League prefers to keep her as a teacher at the Spacers College."
"Do you think that I should use a floater between the Spacers Club and here?"
"That would be one solution but it would not solve the problem. We want to find out who these people are, what their motives are, and if there is an organisation behind them. Those we arrested two months ago claimed that they were not connected with any other organisation. However, they did not have any sources of income yet they were not short of money. Their bank accounts were relatively new and were opened with untraceable cash. I think that the new watchers have been recruited like the gang we arrested. I am sorry to have to ask you to be the bait in a trap but we can protect you more easily in future if we can identify the organisation that seems to be out to get you."
"Have you discussed this with Admiral Chang?"
"Yes. He suggested that you should carry on as normal but wear a fake Undepoldus collar. He said that he would ensure your safety by methods that he would not divulge. He asked me to continue with the observation patrol because Spacers are not permitted to act as police officers. I told him that I had the authority to make anyone a Special Constable and nationality would not be a problem. This is a procedure that we use when police officers from other countries come here to carry out a joint investigation with us."
"I am sure that he would not have accepted that offer."
"You are right. He said:" 'Although that might be possible, it is The Spacers League policy that no association with any law enforcement agency will be acknowledged. However, all Spacers have a duty to obey the laws of any country in which they are resident and to do their best to uphold those laws. As you are familiar with the way Lt. Cdr. Adedeyo has helped with certain problems, you can take it that her actions were just within the limits of tolerance.' I said that if all Spacers behaved like her, the crime rate could be halved in a few months."
"I think that Boku Adedeyo set new tolerance limits. I am sure that she only got away with the things she did because none of those she captured made any complaint. How will you be able to work in conjunction with my covert guards?"
"I was coming to that. I asked him how I could be sure that my staff would not start to track the Spacers who would be your covert bodyguards. He said that I would not know, but if one of your bodyguards discovered that she was being followed, she would identify herself to her follower with a password. He said "Marita" would be used for the moment but it would change as soon as it was used once."
"I know your people found it hard to follow Boku Adedeyo. If my guards have been trained in her techniques, and there are several of them, they would not be easy to find. They would probably spot your people first."
"It could be a bit of a cat and mouse game because a lot of my staff have been on the course that Miss Adedeyo organised here. It has got to the stage where they have to be careful not to try follow each other."
"I feel honoured that so much care is being taken to ensure my safety. However, it is a shame that such precautions are needed."
"I sympathise with you. Most people can go about their lives with only a very slight risk that they will suffer from any kind of hostile action from a stranger. When it happens, it makes the headlines. You, because of your profession, and because you care for Undepoldus, have become a target for some strange cranks. It is the responsibility of the police force in general to protect citizens from harm. My colleagues and I are responsible for your safety because you live in our district. In a few short weeks we have seen that you Spacers have done a lot to help us deal with crime. Every one in my division knows what you have done. They want to treat Spacers as people who deserve special care. My officers and I will continue to work as if we are your only protectors. It is a part of the job we are paid to do, so you need not feel as if you are under any obligation to us."
"Thank you for your kindness and consideration Superintendent. I just hope that you are successful in dealing with these cranks before they try to harm me. I am not that worried for myself but it would be a disruption for Undepoldus if another Spacer had to take my place. Now I have to think of a way of producing a passable replica of Undepoldus."
"You need not worry about that Mr. McFigg, I have two with me. Several were given to me so that my officers could familiarise themselves with what he looks like. You can thank the Mayoress, Mrs. Abubeka, for it. She had a lot made so that they could be offered to visiting dignitaries as a souvenir of London. After I saw one being given to the Burgermeister from Munich at a reception, I asked her if the police could have one for training purposes. She said that we could have as many as we wanted. She wished that she had thought of the idea herself."
Superintendent Abdullah produced a small bag from his pocket.
George said. "It doesn't look as if it will be big enough."
"Wait and see." said the superintendent. "Mrs. Abubeka is a very intelligent person. This has been made with expansion in mind. Have you a source of water?"
"There is a tap in the kitchen."
The superintendent disappeared into the kitchen and returned shortly afterwards with a full size replica of Undepoldus. He said. "This contains a collection of chemicals that react with water. It is made to bend like a snake like Undepoldus and it nearly matches his weight."
George studied the replica closely. It was very well made. The whiskers were formed of a rubbery translucent plastic and were the right sort of length to match the body. The body was formed from thin segments linked by elastic tubes. The segments were just visible if one looked close enough but were quite unnoticeable from a metre away. It would fool anyone who had never seen Undepoldus as close as he had.
"This is remarkable. I am sure that Undepoldus will want one of these to deputise for him. He must get bored being on display all day although he never seems to mind it."
"If you carry the replica with you, you can always say that you carry it to show anyone who asks you what Undepoldus looks like. I will arrange that one of my plain clothes officers approaches you when we know that you are being watched. It will be easy for you to show the officer that this replica is what it is, so that the watcher will get the message - you do not carry Undepoldus with you."
"You seem to have thought of everything Superintendent. The problem will then arise about leaving Undepoldus by himself. I would prefer that he is not left alone."
"Well Mr. McFigg, you have the choice, do you leave him here where he will be as safe as he can be, or do you risk having him kidnapped, injured or even killed by carrying him around/"
"You leave me no choice superintendent, he will have to stay here by himself because we cannot afford the risk of losing him."
"Now I have told you everything I can about the security arrangements Mr. McFigg, the rest is up to you."
Thank you once again superintendent. I cannot say that I am looking forward to the new situation but I will do my best to help you in any way I can."
George turned to the processor. "Departure security check, Gee Mac 207"
"There is no-one in the vicinity. Superintendent Abdullah can leave unobserved."
"Goodbye for the moment Mr. McFigg. I will report any development to you as soon as I can."
The door opened automatically as the superintendent approached it and closed behind him as he went out.
George practised fitting the replica Undepoldus around his
shoulders. He found it hard to adjust it into position and realised
how carefully Undepoldus had parked himself on his collar. He
checked how he looked in the mirror and then turned to Undepoldus
who had taken up his usual place beside the processor.
"I am afraid that I will have to leave you to your own devices now my friend. I hope that you won't be too lonely."
Undepoldus appeared to ignore him. He remained motionless when George put his hand on the edge of the desk. George had the feeling that Undepoldus had understood everything that had been said. He addressed the processor.
"Prepare for close down. Maintain status for Undepoldus. Open the door for my departure when ready. Gee Mac 207"
The door opened and lights in the display area were extinguished.
George took one more look at Undepoldus and left.
After the warning about being watched, George tried to see if he could see any familiar faces as he stepped onto the Marylebone Road strip. He consciously tried not to look to see if he was being watched or followed. The change at Gower Street was equally uneventful. There were plenty of empty seats and none of the other passengers seemed to take the slightest interest in him as he sat down.
He got up as the strip approached his turning and saw nobody looking at him. He stepped off the strip and continued on foot, wondering if at least one pair of eyes was watching over him if not more. It all seemed a bit of an anticlimax. Everything seemed so ordinary. He looked in the reflection of the Club's outer door as he went in. There was nobody in the street behind him. All of his watchers, including the official ones, had presumably taken the evening off.
As he entered the Club everything seemed to be exactly as normal.
He acknowledged a few familiar faces as he went to his room. We
he got there he was surprised to find that Marita was waiting
for him. She said nothing as they went into the room together.
When the door had closed she said.
"George, I have just heard the terrible news. The Club is at security grey for all civilians. Boku is coming back to organise a team of guards for both of us. Sergeant Fisher came to see me at the University this evening to tell me that both of us are being watched by people unknown to the police."
"Superintendent Abdullah came to see me but he didn't say anything about you being watched. he was almost more concerned about Undepoldus. How do you like the one I have here?"
George handed Marita the replica.
"Heavens, I didn't realise that it wasn't our friend. It looks so real. Is Undepoldus still at Regent's Park?
"Yes. He seemed quite unconcerned that I was leaving him alone for the first time. You know, I can't make him out. Sometimes he seems to be very intelligent and sometimes he seems to be almost inanimate. Sometimes he seems to want to be with me and sometimes he ignores me. He is a mystery wrapped up in whiskers."
"He is definitely an enigma. He is growing quite quickly now but I am impatient to see what he will be like in a few month's time. I wonder if we will ever be able to do anything with him. Will we have to just keep him as a large curiosity that will be more expensive to keep than a white elephant? Maybe he will get fed up with staying at Regent's Park and start making the sort of tunnels that collapsed when I was collecting rocks. Now I won't be able to see him so often because he will be stuck at Regent's Park all the time. I will miss him, particularly when we are together. I liked having him in the room with us."
"We could arrange to stay the night at Regent's Park now and again if you would like to. Undepoldus House is fitted with all the latest devices. The cooker even has a floating spit and a simulated barbecue. The visitors' lounge is furnished with large comfortable sofas and every feature can be voice controlled. It has everything except a levitating bed."
Marita laughed. "That is a pity, I got so many requests for permission to use my room while I am away at the University that I have arranged a processor to deal with them. My bed attracts Spacers like flowers attract bees. It would be nice if we had a few more like it. Would you like to join me after dinner to check that it is still working OK?"
"Why did you ask, had you forgotten that you had a regular appointment?"
"Not at all George, but I just wanted to try the chat-up line. Anyway, my bed is not complete unless you are in it with me."
"Well, why do you switch to such an old chat-up line Marita? Every share partner I have says that."
"That isn't a chat-up line as far as I am concerned George. I mean it. You are special."
"Well let us see if you are right when we have had dinner and have relaxed for a bit. I am sure that both of us will have to have a talk with the Commander."
"OK George. I'll see you in ten minutes."
The next section covers the changes in George's personal affairs.
Viewers familiar with this subject may pass on to the following section.
Please select PASS or CONTINUE.