AN: Character’s Based on Real Animals/People: Grandma Okinawa – my mother, with whom Roper lived (along with my Dad and older brother aka ‘Stinky Foot’, so named because he wouldn’t bend down to pet Roper, but would use his socked foot to rub him); Cookie – my childhood pet poodle; Roo – another childhood pet poodle & Cookie’s older sister; Bruce – our wandering Angus bull who loved to find holes in the fence when I was growing up; The Rabbit, Armadillo – two of the many outdoor creatures Roper was afraid of in life & representative of all the things Roper doesn’t like/trust; Fluffy – One of our kennel dogs, long-haired dachshund, Roper’s first ‘conquest’, mother of his children. Other named and unnamed characters not defined in Author’s Notes are merely creations of my imagination, sometimes based on real life and sometimes not. If you have any questions about characters or story-line (I realize it’s a bit hard to follow, not knowing the characters like I do) please, please, please don’t hesitate to ask. I hope you enjoy …
“The vole who found me, your Uncle Harry, had taken me back to his village. At that time, The Under Dome was nothing more than a primitive colony and didn’t have any name at all. I was in their great hall being studied by the village elders. Once I came around again, I was able to talk to them and we discovered we had much in common. Since I was in need of a place to live and they were a generous species, it was agreed that I would live among them. That was the beginning of something magical – destiny was guiding all of us.” He sipped from his mole waters and sipped again, then went on.
“Over time, I became comfortable with the voles, and they became comfortable with me. They brought me food while I recovered from Okinawa’s cruelty and gained strength daily. It was at this time that I discovered the beauty and simplicity of the vole way of life and the precious delicacy of grubs. Harry became a constant companion and go-between for the other voles and me – an ombudsman if you will. We spent a lot time walking around the village, discussing all manner of subjects. We spoke often of the vole village’s economy and how it was floundering. High unemployment rates and lack of tourism and industry had led many of the vole youth to move to larger nearby villages and left the colony with a small tax base and dwindling resources.”
“As my butterscotch pelt began to rebuild its protective gleam, I noticed differences in it and many of my other physical attributes. My boys were larger, fuller and more symmetrical. My haunches were more sinewy than ever before. I had a bounce in my step unlike any other time in my life and my pelt was almost blinding in its butterscotch sheen. After discussing this with Harry, we could only conclude that it was the all grub diet I had been consuming over the past few weeks. It was at that moment that I knew I had discovered the key to turning the village economy around.”
“After weeks of marketing research and a grueling advertising campaign, the grub was elevated from idle snack food to the single most important product throughout the realm. I had patented my ideas regarding grub cultivation, processing and distribution, as well as many industrial models for various grub use: Fuel, food, clothing and entertainment.”
“As the grub gained in popularity, naturally the economy of the village improved. There were new factories to be built, new avenues of grub production and use to be explored. The village population grew and it was decided that it should have a name. I suggested The Under Dome as a sign to the other villages and hamlets that we were the seat of power in the realm. Naturally, the voles agreed that it was a perfect name for the village. And, naturally, they chose to elect me as Mayor. I took the honor very seriously and began to implement many new programs and policies. I came up with TEN, The Under Dome Emergency Network, and also our 111 system of emergency reporting. By dialing 111 through 911, depending on the level of emergency, citizens could get quality emergency services without having to wait for other emergencies in a different category to be dealt with.” He sipped from his mole waters and wiped his chin with the lacy handkerchief he pulled from his vest pocket. Replacing the handkerchief, he spoke again.
“It was a wonderful time in our history, children. There were so many aspects of civilization to be explored and I was leading the way. The Voles and Moles were so responsive to my ideas and I had plenty of them. Using grubs to create culinary delicacies from the above ground world; opening grub related businesses like the Southside Café with Harry and World of Grubs Amusement Park; creating units of voles to work in specific areas of service and calling them Vole Squads – all the product of my busy mind.”
Roper glanced at the multiple surveillance monitors arranged along one wall of his office. Transmitted through cameras placed all over The Under Dome, there were various images of different parts of The Under Dome: Streets, offices, shopping districts and residential areas. He nodded in satisfaction at what he saw – voles, moles and other citizens of the Voledom going about their daily business. Some, he noticed, were scurrying toward the campus of Thunder Dome University, carrying backpacks and to-go cups of grub latte or grubspresso from the trendy Southside Café that he owned, along with his right-hand vole, Harry the Vole. Others were entering the grocery store, post office or one of the many other shops and boutiques lining the neatly carpeted streets. Occasionally, a mole taxi would stop along the curb, a weary shopper would climb inside and the taxi would zip away, its one large wheel spinning dizzily.
“As time went by, other villages and colonies in the area began to look to The Under Dome for governmental guidance, market regulation, entertainment options and the like. At one meeting with the leaders of some of the other vole colonies, it was suggested that perhaps the whole Voledom would be better served by uniting under one government – the The Under Dome government. It was at this time that I was elected as Governor of Greater Under Dome, the united villages and colonies in the realm. I really began to implement some great ideas at this time: More subterranean tunnels under the city to create a defense network I called The Under Dome Deeper, and later, The Under Dome Deepest; Super Vole Squads; the Chinese Armadillo Relocation Project and treaties with other factions such as the Beavers.”
“It was around this time that your mother came to live with me here. Also, Granny Cookie, who was just Cookie back then, came to live on the outskirts of The Under Dome. Of course we knew back then that Roo and Bruce and the Rabbit had settled somewhere in the Outer Banks of The Under Dome, but we didn’t realize that they were Disciples of Okinawa at that time. It wasn’t until the past year or so, with their colonization of New Money, that we came to understand the threat they represented.”
“After your mother and I were married, my political and business careers really began to thrive,” said Roper, sipping his drink. “I wasn’t really able to spend much time with her, but I did assign her a ‘special’ vole squad just to manage, I mean take care of her. We settled into a comfortable routine and then I began to campaign for President of The Under Dome.”
Roper smiled, his upper ‘lip’ curling back to expose his bright white teeth. When he tried to stop smiling, he found his mouth too dry and his lip stuck over his teeth, giving his expression a opossum-like quality. He quickly gulped some of his mole waters and his lip slid back into place.
“It wasn’t terribly difficult to convince the citizens of The Under Dome that I was the best choice for President,” he began, “especially since I was the only candidate. But I wasn’t lulled into complacency by that fact, no sir. I took the office very seriously. Once I was elected, I set about making some permanent changes to the Voledom – leaving my legacy, as it were. I made sure there were plenty of jobs, plenty of grubs and plenty of opportunities for the voles and moles. I also began to expand our foreign policy by renewing our treaties with the Beavers and bringing in outside consultants like your Aunt Harley. I’ll tell you more about her arrival in The Under Dome later. But the most important step I’ve taken since becoming Ruler of The Under Dome (and all it’s territories) is this: Voledom Security. That’s right, security. It’s like mole waters – you just can’t ever have enough of it.”
“When I relocated the Armadillo’s to China, I thought that I had taken care of the biggest threat to our safety. But I later learned that Roo the mule, Bruce the Bruce and the Rabbit had colonized the barren Outer Banks area of The Under Dome and named their settlement New Money. They were carrying on their usual activities – mule-ing, Bruce-ing and spreading malicious and harmful lies. I knew we had to act quickly and decisively. I located the spies they had sent to infiltrate the The Under Dome infrastructure – it wasn’t hard, they dressed little rabbits in vole suits. They forgot to tell them, though, that voles don’t hop. I rounded them up and sent Cookie to deal with them. I don’t really know exactly how she dealt with them, but I heard there was a lot of ramming and grunting and rubbing her nose on them. I set up a task force to handle the counterfeit grubs New Money was circulating into the The Under Dome economy. It could have been very damaging, but the Super Vole Squads really did their jobs well. New Money is still a threat, but since they brought Shecky the Schnauzer in as their Chief Financial Manager, we haven’t heard a lot out of them. We have to be ever vigilant. Danger lurks around every corner. Behind every door. Under every chair. In every file folder.” With increasing panic in his voice, Roper began to look frantically around his office. “Yes, danger is always dangerous. And full of danger.” He clutched the tumbler of mole waters in both paws and drank deeply. The twins heard him mumble to himself, “deep shallow breaths …” and they watched him take several to steady himself. After a few minutes, Roper seemed calmer and after another gulp from his mole waters, he was able to pull himself together and continue the tale.