"The key to customer satisfaction is learning how to
diffuse the bomb, so to speak," a lively red Usul preached to the group
of half-awake employees who sat, looking incredibly bored, in the first workshop
the following morning. "When a customer is upset, it is our job as the employees
to ease their anger as much as possible and make sure they leave happy,"
she paused and pointed a paw at the food store manager. "You there...a customer
approaches you saying that the apple she bought from you an hour ago is rotten
and she wants her money back, what do you do?"
"Offer to replace it?" the Chia muttered, stifling
a yawn behind his hand.
"All right, good...anyone else?" the Usul asked,
casting her eyes around the room.
"Give her her money back?" the Elephante pharmacist
"Correct. Anybody else?" she asked, her eyes
falling on Dr. Death who had fallen asleep, his head lulling backward over the
top of his chair. She cleared her throat loudly, glaring in his direction. When
that failed to work, someone sitting behind him gave his chair a kick, jostling
him awake again.
"Hunh?" he asked, sounding bewildered.
"We're discussing customer refunds, Mr. Death,"
the Usul said coldly. "Or have you mistaken our meeting for naptime?"
"Doctor," he said, narrowing his eyes.
"Excuse me?" the Usul asked, cocking her head.
"Doctor Death. Not Mister," he corrected her,
feeling particularly sarcastic. "Or just Doc. Or even D. It all depends on how
well you know me." His remark raised muffled snickers from a few people. He
didn't care. The meeting was a waste of time and was boring people to tears.
He'd zonked out five minutes into it, actually.
"My aim is most certainly NOT to know you,"
the Usul huffed, shaking her head and regaining her cool. "Now then, since you
missed my earlier question, I'd like to enact a short scenario with you to illustrate
the same point," he shrugged in reply. "For a moment, pretend that you
run candy shop. I'll be a difficult customer and will be asking for a product
you do not carry. The way you handle my behaviour will illustrate your people
skills and give us all an idea of how you deal with your customers on a daily
basis." Those familiar with the Techo's sour disposition hid smirks behind cupped
palms as they anticipated how this was going to turn out.
"Eh," was all the yellow Techo had to say
in reply, crossing his arms over his chest and readying himself to tell her
that he hoped her role-playing didn't involve him getting out of his seat. He
disliked being singled out enough as it was without having to stand up and make
a further idiot of himself.
"Sir, could I please buy some taffy?" the Usul
asked, lapsing into the role of the customer she was playing.
"We don't carry any, lady," the Techo muttered,
playing along grumpily. The surprised disapproval in the Usul's eyes struck
him as funny and he bit his tongue to keep his composure.
"My little boy is out in the car and he really
would like some taffy. I drove all the way from across town, sir."
"I told you, we don't have any. Go somewhere
else," she paused a bit more this time, clearly annoyed. Dr. Death was almost
sure that this would earn him a demerit from the Employment Agency if she chose
to inform them of it, but it didn't worry him. He knew full well that if they
could find someone who honestly wanted to fill the job he had, they would have
thrown him out on his tail as soon as the first complaints of his obnoxiousness
started coming in. Besides, this was fun. Something he rarely had these days.
"Can I have just a little? I just want one or
two pieces," the Usul said at last.
"Ma'am, can you spell the 'can' in candy cane?"
he interrupted. The Usul quirked a brow at him, confused.
"Of course I can," she said.
"And can you spell the 'choc' in chocolate?"
"Yes..." she replied, sounding a bit suspicious.
A few employees who knew where he was going with this covered their mouths to
"How about the 'frig' in taffy?" the Techo asked,
inwardly delighted she had taken the bait.
"But there is no frig in taffy," she
"That's what I've been trying to tell you, kiddo,"
Dr. Death told her as scattered chuckles rang up. The Usul paused, not getting
the joke made at her expense for a moment, but growing clearly enraged once
"Leave," she snapped, pointing at the door.
He hesitated a minute to make sure she was serious before shaking his head with
a thin smile and getting up, sauntering toward the door and walking out. As
the door to the room thudded closed again Zhani rolled his eyes and looked over
at Rose from where they were sitting in the back row.
"Is your friend always so juvenile?" he asked,
"Hmm?" Rose asked, looking up from the small
notebook she had been idly scribbling notes in. "Oh...actually that was kind
of rare for him." She smiled, patting Zhani's shoulder. The shadow Uni didn't
smile back and looked to be quite flustered.
"Honestly...a man his age should know how to
behave in public," he huffed. "Did he think that was funny?"
"It's just how he is," she replied. "Getting
worked up over it won't do any good."
"You're too good of a person to have to be exposed
to that, Rose," the shadow Uni assured her. "Why don't you get a real job
away from that kind of behaviour?"
"Oh..." Rose muttered, sounding stunned. "Well,
I guess...I guess I don't know where I'd go, is the thing," she managed at last.
"I've worked at the pound for a long time, you see, and it would be a lot of
work to try and learn a new trade....and I like helping pair up people and pets."
"But still...wouldn't you be more comfortable
around people more of your own status?" the Uni pried. "Maybe even around more
of your own kind?" Rose fidgeted, but said nothing. "I was placed in my job
through an agency, Rose....an agency that specialises in talented Unis. Maybe
they could help place you somewhere better."
"Really?" Rose asked, sounding flattered.
"Of course. If you'd like to come with me up
to my room after lunch when we have a break, I'll see if I can get you on the
phone with them and they can put your name into their computer." Zhani secretly
congratulated himself on how natural all of this sounded...the way he talked,
one would think there really WAS such an organisation.
"Sure!" Rose readily agreed. "That's very sweet
of you, Zha--"
"Are we paying attention back there??" the Usul's
voice asked sternly, rattling both Unis out of their conversation. "If you don't
want to take this seriously, people, you're welcome to leave as well." Zhani
and Rose exchanged a look and both silenced themselves as the speaker returned
to her lecture.
"You shouldn't have done that," Hubert told Dr. Death later as the yellow
Techo looked up from the magazine he was thumbing through at a corner table
of the library. "What? Cheese off the instructor?" he muttered. The Mynci nodded.
"What's she going to do? Mousse me to death?"
"No but she's probably going to get the employment
agency on your tail."
"You're talking to someone who really couldn't
care less," Dr. Death told him curtly, closing the magazine again.
"What were you doing napping in there anyway?
I know you went to bed early last night...I stopped by right before curfew and
knocked. Nobody answered."
"Eh....didn't sleep very well, I guess." The
pound director shrugged.
"Penny for your thoughts?"
"You'd have change coming," he snorted.
And then, after a pause "I REALLY don't like that Uni."
"Who, Rose?" Hubert asked, quirking a brow.
"No, the other one."
"Ohh, Zhani..." the monkey Neopet nodded. "Yeah,
he hits a wrong button on me too, but Rose seems pretty happy around him." The
Techo's eyes narrowed slightly. "....or is that what's bugging you?" he asked.
"No." Dr. Death grumbled, shifting his weight
in his chair unconsciously.
"I see..." Hubert nodded, a look of knowing
coming into his eyes.
"I don't think you do," the Techo replied
coldly. For a long moment neither said anything. At length, Hubert rose from
where he'd been sitting and stretched.
"Maybe I don't, doc, but I think it might do
you some good to start admitting a few things to yourself."
"Admit what?" Dr. Death asked vehemently. "I
don't have anything TO admit."
"Oh please..." Hubert sighed. "Most guys don't
get this up-in-arms just because they don't like their co-worker's choice in
boyfriend. It's gotta run deeper than that."
"It's gotta, huh?" the Techo replied sceptically.
"And what if it doesn't?"
"I'm telling you it does," the Mynci said
"And I'm telling you that you're full
of it," Dr. Death said, shaking his head.
"Am I?" Hubert pressed.
"I'm not talking about this with you anymore,"
the reptile snarled. "You're not going to rest until I break down and say what
you want to hear whether I agree with it or not."
"I'm not trying to get you to say anything,
actually," the Mynci pointed out, beginning to walk away. "Just saying
it might be good for you to get one or two things off of your chest rather than
pretending they don't exist."
"Look, I don't know what you're talking about,
you--" he broke off as he realised the Mynci had moved out of earshot and was
already out the door of the library. Dr. Death stared after him a moment and
then snorted, grabbing up his magazine and returning it to the shelf he had
gotten it from. If he wasn't being hassled about one thing, apparently, he was
being hassled about another.
He would sooner have mopped Tyrannia clean with
a Q-tip than he would have let Hubert bully him into saying something ridiculous.
The ridiculous thing in question being, he was sure, that he had feelings for
RoseMadder....which, most certainly, he did not. His thoughts turned to Zhani
again as he sought something else to read and his insides clenched with rage.
The smug way he spoke, the look of omnipotence on his stupid highbrowed face....
As the Techo's vehement thoughts coursed through
his head, his mind's eye conjured a perfect image of the shadow Uni's visage
hovering in front of him, giving him a very false grin...the same one that had
made his flesh crawl during dinner last night. Snarling in agitated anger, Dr.
Death wheeled back on sheer reflex and swung his fist at Zhani's phantom head,
being shaken back to reality by the searing pain of his knuckles striking the
hard unforgiving wood of the bookcase.
He drew in his breath in a hiss, rubbing at
his hand irately. As the pain subsided, he remained resentful toward the stallion,
still trying to place why he hated him so much...well, other than the fact that
he thought Zhani was so full of dung that his eyes must have been brown. The
charm he had laid on around Rose was painfully false...and the doctor didn't
understand why it seemed Rose had been oblivious.
"Because she likes him," he fumed, grabbing
another magazine at random. "Because he makes her happy." He put special loathing
on the last word, spitting it out as though it tasted bad as he roughly sat
down with it and flung it open to the first page, oblivious to the fact he had
grabbed a copy of "Housewives' Quarterly" as he blindly flipped through the
pages, looking at them but not seeing them. His mind was elsewhere and in a
"He's not anything special..." the Techo continued
to mutter, not even realising he was still speaking. "He's a jerk...he doesn't
give two shakes about her, just wants her on his arm to show her off is all.
Any moron could treat her better than that....Sloth, the Snowager, the pant
devil....gosh, even I cou--" he cut himself off abruptly, realising what
he was saying.
He was thankful, at that moment, that he was
the only one in the library as he silenced his anger, looking down for seemingly
the first time and wincing in disgust at the open article in front of him about
how one would go about putting a ruffled edge into a skirt hem. Now he was EXCEEDINGLY
glad no one was in the library with him as he closed the magazine in humiliation
and returned it to its shelf, not selecting another one this time as he seated
"Get a grip on yourself..." he muttered aloud
with a sigh, running a hand over his untamable pouf of hair and beginning to
calmly sort out the facts in his head. All right, he didn't like Zhani because
the guy was full of himself and full of it...that was a given. He also didn't
like him because he had so easily won over RoseMadder and had, in a matter of
hours, not only isolated her all to himself but had convinced her that everybody
else was a bad influence on her. His fists clenched, claws digging into the
pads of his palms, and he forced himself to relax again.
"But what else?" a nagging voice in his head
demanded. "What else is there, doc? What're you hiding?"
"Nothing," he snorted, propping his head up
on his hands.
"You lie like a cheap rug," the mental
presence taunted. The Techo growled, feeling his firm grip on things begin to
grow uneasy and slip. Was he hiding something? Not to his knowledge...and he
thought he'd ruddy well know if his reasons went beyond the ones he had already
"Not like I care about her or anything,"
the words escaped his jaws before they had even formed coherently in his mind
and he listened to them die on the air with mingled disgust and uncertainty.
Was that really it? Had he just not recognised it until the possibility of losing
Rose to someone else came up? He shook his head, giving a drained groan and
suddenly feeling ill as he got up from his table and quietly left the library
without further ado to retire back to his room to better think things over.
To be continued...