This section covers the events up to and including one morning in June.
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The Routine Gets Warmer
The students spent one more day at the Club and had another lecture by Boku. The partnership of Admiral Chang and Commander MacDuff received a lesser report than the rescue of the Queen of Sweden in the vidnews. George detected no followers with his vidbook and Kerstin spent some time with Marita teaching her how to behave like a non-Spacer.
So began a period of quiet days for both George and Marita. Kerstin spent a lot of time working as a policewoman. Her work seldom brought her into contact with George, Marita or Undepoldus although the situation was reversed when she was off duty.
At the end of May the three celebrated a Two Metre Day for Undepoldus to mark his achievement. He was now too big for George to carry around in comfort but the girls still found him easy to manage.
Rachel McInnes made occasional visits to London's shopping centres as Annie MacDuff 2 but never attracted any attention. Her Commander's rank was officially announced three weeks after she had stood in for Annie. Boku returned to the Spacers College with the team she had assembled to guard George and Marita. Admiral Chang became a frequent visitor to London to check that security was still effective in spite of the absence of any signs of danger to George, Marita and Undepoldus. His visits frequently seemed to coincide with Rachel's forays as Annie MacDuff but no comment was made in the Spacers Club or the media.
Undepoldus had resumed his solo travelling between the Park and the Club. His routine was regular and predictable. The strange thing about his travels was that nobody ever saw him use the moveway strips although he used them a lot.
George had compiled a series of images of Undepoldus obtained on a daily basis from the processor. He used them to make comparisons of Undepoldus at various sizes with the scales altered to show him at a constant size. George could detect no differences in appearance over several weeks. Undepoldus at the same apparent size always looked the same. The ratios of his body length, body diameter and whisker diameter remained constant. His rate of growth varied a little but retained a fairly good correspondence with his length. Subjectively his rate of growth seemed to increase because each day he grew a bit more than the day before. George still had one-sided conversations with Undepoldus and set the vidcom to receive news, entertainment and education channels whenever Undepoldus was not on display. Undepoldus paid no apparent attention to this extra supply of information. He continued to show that he was just as friendly towards George as ever and seemed to like being with Kerstin and Marita in the evenings. George wondered if Undepoldus would just get bigger and bigger without ever doing anything else.
The weather was now quite warm so George spent more time wandering around the Park for exercise and to see the progress of the other animals housed there. He got to know the rest of the staff at the Park and arranged private views of Undepoldus for them from time to time.
Monday, 22nd June started out warm and gradually became hotter. George was doing his routine jobs when he realised that he was sweating a lot. He checked the temperature in Undepoldus House and found that it had risen to 29°. He checked with the processor and found that the air conditioning system had failed. The processor had already detected the failure and reported it. It announced. This processor will shut down when the temperature reaches 35°. The security systems will still operate until the temperature reaches 40°. A maintenance team is scheduled to arrive at 13:30 to repair the fault. This processor can be activated for a short period in the case of an emergency. The length of the period of emergency operation will be inversely related to the ambient temperature.'
George decided to have a shower to freshen up a bit and to cool off. After his shower, George continued his work wearing only his formfit in an attempt to keep cool. He sat at his desk and began checking the various items of paperwork when he began to notice something odd. He could not identify what it was for a while. It was like something and nothing. It was only just detectable but nevertheless it was there. He paused, unmoving, to try to detect the something that was odd. He listened carefully but heard nothing unusual. He could not concentrate on his work. He felt hot and sweaty again. The temperature in Undepoldus House had risen another degree. There were no windows he could open and there were no other cooling appliances in the building, not even a fan. He decided to have another shower while he tried to think of what was odd or unusual. While he was having his shower he thought that the strange thing must be connected with the temperature in some way. He stepped out of the shower still wet and listened again. Everything sounded normal as usual. Then George realised that everything sounded normal when it certainly was not. When he listened again he could hear the faint sound of the air-conditioning system. He knew that it must be off because he was nearly sweating again a few seconds after having had a cool shower. He went to one of the air-conditioning vents and put his hand in front of it. He could not feel the slightest of draughts. He then went towards the middle of the room to see if he could detect where the air-conditioning sound was coming from. Perhaps part of it was still working and he could get cooler where it still functioned. It was hard to locate because it was such a faint noise like a faint roar. Eventually George decided to make a tour to see if he could hear the sound more clearly in different parts of the room. Then he realised that the sound was coming from the display area. It seemed as if Undepoldus was making the noise.
He decided to have a close look at Undepoldus to see if he was indeed making the noise. He was. George looked at him intently to see if he could detect how the noise was made. He was used to the way Undepoldus moved his whiskers so he expected to see them moving. Everything looked more or less normal but there was a sort of purple tinge about them which came and went. Now and again a whisker would apparently stop moving and then start moving again. George returned to his desk to think about what he had seen. He checked the temperature again. 32.5°. Suddenly the vidcom burst into life.
Ivor's face showed that he was rather upset by something. He asked sternly, "Why were you in the display area in the nude? I have had a lot of complaints about the lower half of a nude man being next to Undepoldus. The mirror system prevented people seeing your upper half so nobody knew it was you. What have you got to say George?"
George said, "The air-conditioning has failed. It is nearly
33° in here. I had a shower to cool off then I thought that
the heat might be affecting Undepoldus. I thought that I should
examine him immediately to see that he was OK. He still seems
to be alright. I am sorry if I have upset anyone. If they complain
again, ask them why they do not mind looking at Undepoldus in
In spite of his annoyance, Ivor had to smile at that.
George continued: "There is one more thing you could ask them. Ask how many animals in the Park should be provided with clothes because all of them are nude too. Ivor, I apologise for upsetting people with an exhibition of an animal that they did not expect to see."
Ivor said, "Please be more careful in future George."
George said, "Ivor, I must warn you that this vidcom unit may shut down at any minute to protect itself from overheating."
Ivor said, "Don't worry George. If I get any more complaints I will say that nude humans in animal preservation parks are an endangered species. For us, animal welfare has top priority. You did the right thing George. Clearing."
Shortly afterwards the processor announced. 'Some vital parts of this processor may be damaged by overheating if continuous operation is maintained. This processor will now shut down until a safe operating temperature is reached. This processor may be re-activated for a period of up to one minute in an emergency. Shutting down.'
George decided to get dressed and go outside. He said to Undepoldus,
"If you are getting too hot, put the replica in your place
and find somewhere cooler. You can come outside with me if you
Undepoldus did not respond.
George went outside where it was just as hot as inside Undepoldus
House. There was a slight breeze that made being outside more
comfortable. As he strolled around he saw that most of the visitors
were wearing very light and skimpy clothes. Most carried sun umbrellas
to avoid sunburn. He used the strip to see how others saw Undepoldus.
He looked carefully and saw that Undepoldus had replaced himself
with the replica. George went to the restaurant because it had
air-conditioning. He then realised that he had no euros with him
- only a few Spacer coins. When he sat at a table a serving robot
came up to him and said. 'Please select your requirements from
the menu and say how you would like to pay.'
George said, "I would like an iced tea and I wish to pay with Spacer credits."
The robot answered. 'That form of currency is not acceptable in this restaurant. You are requested to offer either euro currency or a credit card payment. If you cannot offer either of these methods of payment, you are requested to leave this restaurant.'
George got up with an air of resignation. He knew that there was no way to argue with a robot. He then had an idea. He said, "Override currency requirement, Gee-Mac 207."
The robot answered. 'Spacer George McFigg is recognised. Currency requirement inoperative. Iced coffee will arrive shortly.'
George sat down again with an air of relief. He was thankful that the robot was controlled by the Park's main processor. He supposed that he could ask one of the other staff to exchange Spacer coins for some euros but he was glad that it was not necessary.
As he sat there he felt something strange around his feet. He looked down and saw that Undepoldus had joined him. He had not seen him arrive and nobody else had noticed him either. George looked for a hole that Undepoldus may have made to get in but could not see one from where he was sitting.
In the air-conditioned restaurant the iced tea seemed almost too cold. George noted that it was 12:25 so he decided to stay and order lunch while keeping cool.
When another serving robot approached him he said, "Gee-Mac 207. Please serve the set lunch of the day." The robot answered. 'Complying.' and went away again.
Ivor came into the restaurant and came over to join George when he saw him.
He said, "George, you have chosen a good place to hide. My vidcom has gone mad with calls about you and Undepoldus. I put it on automatic so that callers would get a recorded message. Some people have even claimed that Undepoldus is dead because they have not seen him change position during the last half an hour."
George said, "I can assure you that he is very much alive and well. If you look under the table you will see him wrapped around my feet."
Ivor said, "The reports are true then. The replica has not moved. Good. Perhaps the publicity will attract a few more visitors. But for the annoying vidcom calls I think your little exhibition was a brilliant way to get us noticed. There is always a better atmosphere here when the place is full of visitors."
George felt Undepoldus move away from his feet. When he looked down, Undepoldus had gone. He said, "I think that Undepoldus may be going back to Undepoldus House. He was with me but now he has gone. He seems to be able to move around without being noticed. It is almost as if he can make himself invisible."
"When I came in I didn't see Undepoldus on the floor by your feet but I must confess that I wasn't expecting to see him there."
"He uses the strips every day and nobody notices him. I have seen him get on the strip through the camera network and find a place out of the way of people's feet. He stays there until it is the right place to get off. It seems as if he is invisible to people but not to cameras."
"Maybe he can do a sort of chameleon trick and blend in with the background. He would not have to be invisible, just not noticeable."
"That sounds good to me Ivor. I will have to find a way to check if he can do such a trick. It will be hard for me because he would never do it when I am around. He has no reason to hide from me so he doesn't."
"I will try to check for you but since he knows me too, he might not try to hide from me either."
George said, "I have just had an idea. When I get a chance I will use one of the serving robots to link to the main processor."
George saw a nearby robot and said to it, "Gee-Mac 207. Link to main processor. Command emergency wake up to Undepoldus House processor. Report status of Undepoldus then close down."
The robot replied. 'Undepoldus is feeding normally. He has been using the cleaning spray as a shower. His status is satisfactory. Closing down.'
Ivor said, "George, do you think that Undepoldus understands what we say. He left you straight away after I mentioned the reports that he was not moving. Then he demonstrated that he was alive by having a shower. What do you think?"
"I have been thinking that he is deliberately not showing that he understands us when he does. If there is an urgent reason for him to do something, he does it. Otherwise he just plays dumb."
"The more I learn about Undepoldus, the more I am mystified. He is so unlike any animal I have encountered that nothing that he does can be thought of as unusual - for an Undepoldus."
"Ivor, I have to face the heat again. I will have to be present when the maintenance engineers arrive to fix the air-conditioner."
"OK George. See you later."
As George stepped out of the restaurant he felt the heat immediately. It was a scorcher of a day. When he re-entered Undepoldus House he saw Undepoldus having another shower. His whiskers glistened with the water droplets when the spray shut off. He moved around gently, making no sign that he wanted to shake himself dry. The temperature in Undepoldus House had reached 36° when George returned. He considered going down to the unloading bay where it might be cooler but decided to endure the heat until the engineers arrived.
The next section covers more of the hot day in June.
Viewers familiar with this subject may pass on to the following section.
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