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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 26th day of Eating, Yr 21
The Neopian Times Week 50 > Short Stories > Specious Specists

Specious Specists

by scriptfox

I LEANED BACK in my chair and lazily looked out on a perfect sunny Neopian morning. "Kallie, I do believe that cooking of yours is fattening." I patted my stomach. Its golden fur was looking a bit thin now that it had been all stretched out.

     Kallisari giggled. "Blchocobo helped with that one, MonoKeras, you can't blame your overeating all on just me this time."

     Our little conversation was interrupted by the doorbell. "I'll get it!" Kallie said. I wanted to argue with her, but she was already run/sliding to the door, and I felt too full to race her. I got there just in time to see the Special Delivery Faerie Poogle flitting away and Kallisari standing there with a rather baffled look.

     "Something wrong, Kallie?"

     "I don't think so- but we both got a special delivery letter, and I don't know anyone who would do that, do you?"

     "Not to both of us. Here, let me see." She handed me mine and the only sound for the next few seconds was tearing paper as we both ripped open the letters. I began to read mine:

     Unis United, Inc.

     Dear Sir,

     As a Uni, I feel sure you appreciate the rich heritage entrusted to you, and the great accomplishments Unis have achieved in Neopian History. Whether it be the arts, fashions, or in general civilisation, Unis have led and shown others what true Neopian Society can be. This is why I was so shocked- in fact, dismayed- to find that you had decided to mix and dilute this noble line by mating with an outsider. Please reconsider this hasty and ill-thought decision. If we are to continue to lead the way, we must remain united, and not let outsiders confuse and muddy our unique identity and culture....

     "What the..." I muttered to myself. A cold numb feeling settled in the pit of my stomach.

     "Oh no!" Kallisari gasped. I looked up and saw she had tears in her eyes.

     "Are you all right, Kallie?"

     "Oh, this is just awful! Some group called the..." she looked back at her letter..."Peophin Purity League is calling me a traitor because I married you!" She began to read out loud, "...throughout history we have suffered the taunts and insults of those who do not understand our dual nature, often called names because we enjoy both land and water. Why would you justify their insults by marrying one of those who create them..." she choked.

     "Hah! Well they're right about that. This one takes me to task for marrying you, and calls you a 'half breed fish'. Those motherless sons of a test tube, idiotic vain shallow..." I broke off as Kallisari began to cry. I hugged her tightly. "Don't worry, honey. I'll find out what's going on here. We're safe, and I'm not going to let anyone insult you because you committed yourself to me."

     "Tr... traitor," she sobbed into my shoulder. "Like I'm supposed to even know any other Peophins before I met you."

     "There, there..." I continue to soothe her as my own anger began to bubble over the initial shock. Someone would pay for this, I decided.

     Blchocobo came into the room just as Kallie settled down, and I managed to get her to talking with him about house plans for the day while I went to my own office. I'd appropriated Kallie's letter from her hoof without her realising it, so I had both of them with me.

     After taking care of the routine requests in my Neomail box, and setting up files for a couple of possible investigations elsewhere, I placed a call to Captain Rouche. "Yeah, I've come across something interesting here... no, I really would like to see you in person about it... What? It shouldn't take long, no.... OK, good, see you then."

     I hung up and tried to return to my cases. I did send out a few inquiries to my contacts about some stuff, but my heart wasn't in it. My head wasn't either- I kept worrying over those nasty letters. Who would do such a thing? And what sort of nonsensical games were they playing?

     It was a relief when the phone rang and it turned out to be Kallisari. She said she needed to do some shopping, and wanted to know if I would meet her. Of course I said yes, and we arranged to meet in front of the food shop early in the afternoon. That still left me with way too much time to sit and stew over my- or our- problems.

     I still hadn't gotten much in the way of productive work done when I walked into Captain Rouche's office later in the morning. He looked up as I came in.

     "Oh, hi, MonoKeras. Have a seat, be with you in a minute." I took the offered chair and waited for him to finish his forms, trying not to be impatient. "So," he said as he stamped the papers and put them aside, "what's so important that I can't hear about it on the phone? Some new robbery in progress?"

     "No, not unless you count robbing someone of happiness as a crime."

     He blinked. "What?"

     "Kallisari and I got these in the mail this morning. Take a look." I handed him the letters and again exercised my fraying patience while he carefully read them over.

     "Interesting. I was wondering when this was going to happen."

     "What? You knew we'd get these?"

     "Well, maybe not these letters in particular, but in general, yes. Face it, MonoKeras. You're a Uni, and Kallisari is a Peophin. Cross-species marriages just aren't always acceptable."

     I frowned. "Now he tells me. Come on, get real- I've never heard anything so ridiculous in my life. As long as we're happy, who in Neopia gives a care?"

     "I think it's obvious that these people cared enough to send you both threatening notes."

     "Yeah, and that's another thing- I never heard of either of these groups before. Unis United? Sounds like cargo handlers. Peophin Purity League? What are they supposed to do, take water samples? I mean, it's silly!"

     Captain Rouche grunted. "You're right, it is. But no, they're not water samplers, they're specists."

     I blinked. "Specists? What's that supposed to mean?"

     "Specist... someone who engages in specism." He held up a paw to forestall my sarcastic reply. "Specism is making a decision about a pet based solely upon their species. Usually it means making a judgement as to their intrinsic worth or suitability."

     I mulled that one over. "Suitability for a mate, you mean?"

     He nodded. "In particular a mate. There's more to it than just that, of course. The hard core specists devote their lives to defending their own species, as they would put it. Or putting down other species, as their enemies would put it. It usually amounts to the same thing."

     "Weird. How come I never heard of these pets?"

     "Mainly because there aren't too many of them. Even a lot of the ones who do have, shall we say, specist leanings, never show it. I mean, do you automatically give someone your opinion on everything the moment you meet them?" He chuckled. "Strike that, maybe you do- but most pets don't."

     I grinned. "Oh, I don't know about that... but I get your point. What I don't get is how these 'specists' ever heard about me and Kallie. It's not like we made that big of a deal about it."

     Captain Rouche shook his head in mock disappointment. "And you call yourself a detective. MonoKeras, don't you realise the amount of information available about a pet in the neonet databases?"

     "Sure, I.... oh." I nearly hit myself on the head in sheer disgust. "Of course. We had to register it, and that's a public database. So you're saying they maintain a continuous watch on all the new marriages involving their species."

     "Right. And other things too, I'm sure."

     "Hmmm.... that's a lot of time and money spent on this sort of foolishness."

     "True--but you also have to calculate that they can hire it out to professional services for that sort of thing. There are firms that specialise in it, you know."

     "Yeah, mailing list.... hey wait a minute!" A sudden thought struck me. I grabbed the envelopes back off of the desk and looked at them. "OK, now explain this. Not only did we get these letters at the same time, they came from the same place. That means these two different groups must have hired the same firm to handle both of them."

     "Of course."

     "But aren't they at war with each other? I mean, look at all of these threats in here- I'm threatened by being forced out of my job, blackballed from any beauty contests, told I'll never be welcome in Uni-owned stores... and Kallisari here gets the same sort of threats, but in reverse... what's going on here? Don't they hate each others' guts?"

     Captain Rouche chuckled. "One of the more ironic things about the whole situation. In theory they would, but I guess they tend to share the same viewpoint on life after all, they just use different labels. Who knows, maybe they can have more tolerance for each other as worthy opponents than they do for those who disregard what they consider to be the cold hard realities of inter-species relationships."

     I winced and shook my head to try to clear it. It didn't help that much. "OK, I give up. I can't figure these loonies. But what are we going to do- what can we do? Having your day ruined by getting a nasty letter is bad enough, but can they really do all of this other stuff?"

     Captain Rouche shrugged. "It just depends on the individuals involved. In beauty contests, you can't tell people who to vote for. In hiring some pet for a job, again you can't tell them who to hire."

     I snorted. "I wasn't worried about that, I've got my own business."

     He nodded. "True, but you depend on getting clients to use your services. And no one says they have to come to you and not some other detective."

     "Uhhh... OK. But aren't there laws to help protect pets from this sort of lunacy?"

     "Not really. I mean, what could you do? Take the jobs example- how are you supposed to prove some pet got rejected because of this sort of thing?"

     "Well... wouldn't they have a lot more of some pets than others?"

     "Possible. Maybe even likely. But pets often tend to go into some types of jobs more than others anyway, simply because that's what they want. So do we force a construction company to hire more Lennys for their trench-digging operations, instead of Grarrls? Do we make them hire more Skeiths for their high-beam constructions, instead of Eyries?"

     "Well no, that'd be stupid...."

     "More than that. Remember, I said specism means you decide something based solely upon species. So you'd be engaging in it yourself, now wouldn't you?"

     I sighed in defeat. "OK, you win. So how do you stop this?"

     Captain Rouche cleared his throat to make sure I was looking at him. We made eye contact and he stared at me very seriously as he replied. "Believe it or not, the best defence is just the attitude you've shown in here. Taking this sort of thing seriously is exactly what they want. The worst thing you can do is wind up hating them- because then you become one of them. Simply put, laugh them off and live your own life without their help or hindrance."

     I sat back, shaken at the emotional impact of his words. "I.. uh, OK..." I stood up and picked the letters back up from his desk. "I guess I'll be seeing ya around."

     "Very well. Do be careful, MonoKeras."

     I just nodded, not trusting myself to speak as I walked out. Outside, I bleakly pondered whether I was a specist myself or not. After all, Captain Rouche's body odour had combined with my frustration to make me want to bite his head off... though that's hard to do when a pet is a tomato Chia.

     Before I left the police station, I took another step to help stop some of the nonsense. I used the codes I'd seen the Lab Ray scientist use and accessed the neonet species lists to change my registration from Uni to Peophin. That should stop the junk mail, at least, and if there was any confusion, so be it.

     I did manage to recover my sense of humour by the time I met Kallisari in front of the food shop a couple of hours later. I found her in deep conversation with another elderly Peophin lady. I snuck up behind her and put my arms around her.

     "Hello there," I breathed into her ear.

     "Oh! Uh, Mrs. Dingle, this is my husband MonoKeras."

     "Good afternoon.... MonoKeras."

     I saw the hesitation and slight curl of her lip as she took in my horn. With my newly aroused sensitivities, I knew exactly what she was thinking. Well hah. Captain Rouche had the right idea, I decided. "And to you, Mrs. Dingle. I'm glad you find Kallie's company congenial, because I simply love it myself.... there's times when a nice large, sensitive tail fluke can come in very handy!"

     Mrs. Dingle gulped. "Uh... yes, I guess so... though it might lead to some... disagreements?"

     Kallie giggled. "I don't dare disagree with him. His horn is so big and strong I'm afraid he might crack my shield." She illustrated her point by tapping her face shield on my horn as she kissed me on the muzzle.

     Mrs. Dingle had had more than enough. "Oh, yes, of course. Well have a good day, young people, I must be off..."

     Kallie and I both began giggling after she left. "OK, MonoKeras. Just what is my tail fluke supposed to be good for?" she asked archly.

     "Oh, I was just twitting her," I replied airily. "Of course, if you'd care to explain how my horn is such a danger to you...."

     "No way," Kallie laughed. "Come on, let's go shopping."

     "That sounds great," I replied. "And why not make sure we go by the fashion shop? I hear the Uni shopkeeper there has a great sale on straw hats today..."

The End

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