The Bureau

A fox goes to the Bureau of Orthomorphic Management for a routine appointment and runs afoul of red tape. Mature.

Robin found the yellow envelope waiting in his mailbox on Thursday. It announced, in thick letters, that it was his final notice from the Bureau of Orthomorphic Management, and that he needed to renew his license by Friday or it would be revoked. As well as the final notice, it was also the first notice, and the only notice, that Robin had gotten.

The thought of letting his license lapse as some sort of protest came to mind, but then Robin remembered what a nightmare his friend Nick had gone through when he'd gotten his license revoked. He didn't even get his old name back; he'd had to take a crummy public-access name like Reginald.

So shortly after noon and still a little sleepy, Robin tugged the garage door open, threaded himself between his apartment-mates' cars, and climbed into his own. It wasn't a long drive, but he didn't want to leave his license's fate to the whims of the local bus route.

---

The building of the Bureau of Orthomorphic Management looked like a brick of tofu. It did have windows and doors, which aren't features of tofu, but even the un-tofu parts of the Bureau building were infused with that bland simplicity. Robin imagined vandalizing its facade with spraycans of sauce and spices.

There was a short concrete walkway that led to the front door, guarded by railings made lumpy by so many re-applied coats of black paint. Beside the double doors were two plastic signs mounted to the wall. The first said, 'Bureau of Orthomorphic Management, Regional Office'. Below, next to a small intercom, was the second sign. A drawing showed a stick-figure with large tusks hunched over, trying to fit through a door too short for them. 'Persons needing assistance please press button,' it said.

Robin pulled the door open and stepped inside. The top of the doorframe cleared his ears with two feet to spare. Foxes like him weren't the tallest species, but you'd have to be a giraffe to have trouble with the front door.

Past the front doors, Robin came to the lobby. The lobby was meant to have a directory. But at some point, someone had thought to pin up a sign directing visitors to their department. Then everyone else had realized what a good idea that was, and by now, the lobby had grown into a jungle of signage. Sheets of printer paper with arrows were taped to the walls and pinned to bulletin boards and stapled on top of each other, all begging the reader to follow their directions.

If you were coming to see the Exercise and Fitness Approval Board, that was on the other end of the building. Nonstandard Locomotion Permits could be found on the sixth floor, stairwell access only. The Body Planner's Office announced that it was "on the Mezzanine", which Robin thought was likely a made-up word to trick young interns.


Tales of the Strange presents: You Are What You Eat

Some bat investigates an abandoned candy factory and falls victim to its horrors. Guest starring Agouti-Rex's (murrypurry.com) characters.

Rule one of investigating the abandoned candy factory was that no one should know why Mercedes was there. Mrs. McGolly was really insistent on that point. If anyone asked, she was doing a project for school, and had never heard of Mrs. McGolly or her candy corporation. She certainly wasn't getting paid fifty dollars to take pictures of a rival company's abandoned factory.

Rule two was easy, take lots of pictures. Mercedes had a camera, done.

Rule three was weird. "While you're in there," McGolly said, poking a hoof right into Mercedes' face, "don't say 'candy'."

"Uh, why?" Mercedes asked.

"Don't worry about it, just don't say 'candy'. It's my business, not yours." McGolly slapped a ten-dollar bill into Mercedes's hand and swept the bat right out of her office. "Remember—you weren't here," she said, and then ended the conversation by closing the door.

Later that day, Mercedes stood outside the run-down factory, with a camera in one hand and nothing else. She'd been trying to think of alibis for taking pictures, and she had hit on a good one by accident: She was doing a paper on, like, why McGolly's company had opened a brand-new candy factory, when Failtown already had an abandoned candy factory just sitting around.

Actually asking McGolly a question like that would lose her that fifty bucks, though.


The Amazing Talia

A batty hyena magician kidnaps a feline superhero and turns him into her stage assistant. Mature.

As he walked through the lobby of the abandoned Verite Theater, Celsius was stopped by an usher.

"Can I see your ticket?" she asked.

Celsius was caught off guard, but the hyena girl in a red cap and jacket didn’t bat an eye at the ruined posters, or the splintered boards piled up near the concession stand, or the fact that chunks of the theater doors were missing. She didn't even notice that he didn't have a ticket.

"Right this way," she said.

With an arm behind Celsius's back, she swept him forward through the doors and into the ruined theater hall.

Celsius had been combing through unsolved, odd crimes for something to investigate. He had to put work into making a name for himself as a vigilante. 'Little brown cat with ice powers' was not a marketable superhero identity, so it came down to research and legwork. What he'd found was a number of thefts—cellophane, light bulbs, fabrics, a Halloween costume store, video equipment—that all had similar MOs. They'd all involved drivers who'd fallen asleep and had no memory of what happened afterwards.

The thefts were spread out over months; if you weren't looking for connections, you might not have pieced together that someone was stealing supplies for a stage show. And in Empire City, that meant it was time to go digging around in old theaters to figure out who was taking all this stuff, and what their plans were.

"Hey, I've got some questions for…you?" Celsius said. He whirled around, looking behind him, but the usher was gone.

Someone threw the breaker for the lights, and the theater lit up, pouring light down onto the right side of the stage. The whole stage had been repaired and re-finished. It stood out, almost unreal and pristine against the rest of the abandoned theater. The red velvet curtains on the right side ruffled.

"And now, for the very first time," boomed a woman's voice over the speaker system, "the amazing, the mysterious, the lovely, Talia Tsannarova!"

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September 14, 2015

.BAT

A corporate spy's gas mask starts to grow on her. Other bits grow on her too. Explicit.

Eyes watched her from every corner of the abandoned plant. The first few times she'd spotted the red light, she brought it down with a quick shot. Couldn't hurt to be safe, right? But there were hundreds of the damn cameras. She'd just have to trust that the surveillance system was no longer broadcasting.

And why should it have been? The fabrication plant had been sealed over a decade ago. They didn't want competitors sneaking in to steal their secrets. Exosuit development had been a big deal for a while now.

After ten years, whoever was sitting and watching the feed had to have better things to do.