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The Polecat's Tale.

By Demanding Urge.

My tale starts before I was born, in a southwest desert. In 1947 an elusive visitor crash site was found to contain a number of artifacts, one of which was a fabric resembling aluminum foil yet manifesting extraordinary properties. It was very lightweight and could be crumpled easily into a ball, then consistently returned to its exact shape with no signs of deformation when pressure was relaxed upon it. The silvery metallic fabric was tear resistant to the extreme as far as our science was concerned. Micro-pores allowed passage of air and water through the silvery foil. Electrical energy was conducted across but not through the foil, and a wide spectrum of radiation was blocked out totally. A veil of military secrecy sucked up the crash site artifacts, the silvery fabric among them. Meggan's my name, and I'm an army brat. You know military parents, reserve officer training, military schools, and all that. I am skinny and have brown hair and eyes, and too tall for most guys at nearly six feet. All my life I have lived with the weird and complex problems of being female in a male dominated military, so don't expect me to conform necessarily to any particular idea of yours, got it? My parents are both military, which is a lot better than if they were lawyers-lawyers are so pushy- anyway, I was recruited for Military Intelligence- that's always struck me as a contradiction in terms-and after a lot of preparation to groom me for the task, initiated to a black project. There was a long ride into the desert and then onto a nameless base. Deep below, hundreds of feet down in the granite bedrock were a warren of galleries set in layers between huge spherical caverns dug to absorb shock waves. The spiraling tunnel pierced through they horizontal galleries. After walking my legs off while envying the electric runabouts, you can imagine my surprise when along with a promotion to captain I was given a strange metallic black suit with a white stripe. Let me tell you it seemed to weigh darn near nothing. It also felt a bit like silk, but colder. It was a matter of extreme urgency and demanded my total dedication, I was told. So I put the silly damn thing on. Well, what can I say but it was a skunk costume. It slid very smoothly over my naked skin and had a tail and hood. Only a portion of my face showed. As I was examining my comic reflection in a mirror, I noticed the suit was conforming to my body very tightly. The neck hole through which I slid myself had grown snug about my throat. Like mercury, the costume slid me into an intimate embrace, like a second skin. My efforts to peel back the costume from the edge of my face was futile, there was some sort of fused join, I couldn't find the seam between skin and suit. Friggin' wanker army- never volunteer! Bitching and cursing, I found no way to get the skunk costume off. My Microtech tactical folder lay with my uniform. Upon retrieving it, I slashed at the fabric but the edge slid like ice on greased glass---nor could I thrust the point into the fabric. A booming voice of command spun me about and to attention. It was a tall man in a bear suit, " Welcome to the ranks of the Permanently Costumed, Captain. I am Major Milo and your costumed ass now belongs to me. You have the privilege in being a part of the most effective counter-terrorist team ever assembled." I had always some doubts as to the sanity of the army brass, now my worst fears were confirmed- the idiots really did not know what the hell they were doing. How did we stop terrorists? Make them laugh to death? My fears thrashed at my soul with pick axes of ice as I beheld entire formations of costume animals precision marching in the underground parade grounds- there were hundreds of animal costumes marching in formation. Had the whole army flipped? Were they running more clandestine LSD experiments? And I felt I was falling into their trip, drowning into a tide of lunacy possible only in the service. The cavern was huge, I had never heard of such a massive deep buried training center. The fact that it was run by lunatics did not surprise me anymore. I passed with the major into the induction center and left my life behind like the skin of a snake whose time to shed had come. With a remote leaden feeling, I left my old life behind and was born into the ranks of the Permanently Costumed. At least I would be with others-similarly garbed forever. A whirlpool of training wound an endless loop. The costume felt more like camouflage in a Walt Disney movie. Then my first order came- Dubbed a rather dubious "Operation Olympic" which I suppose was another Military Intelligence ploy, I infiltrated as an athlete. Evidently the rules did not cover the permanently costumed. The other swimmers were surprised and some troubled by the fact I chose a costume instead of a slick-skin swimsuit. It especially unnerved the husky Eastern Bloc women. Psychological warfare. Confuse your enemy. Everyone stared, analyzed, and drew faulty conclusions. But at the starting gun, my costume slid through the water effortlessly. Did I mention the frictionless quality of the costume? The defining moment of gold came, and the competition was skunked. By making a spectacle of myself, I had drawn the attention of several terrorist groups, but it was Ham-assed that sent assassins first. They were quite surprised that the skunk costume was impervious to kinetic impacts, I never felt a thing. After they emptied their weapons at me fruitlessly, they drew knives and tried stabbing me to death. Their weapons slipped off my blocks, knifepoints could not catch on the flexible frictionless ebony fur, which was like velvet Teflon. My claws decapitated the first in a blurring slash, the costume assisting my nervous system, speeding reflexes. A move or two sufficed for each one. One I left maimed but alive for questioning. He was gibbering in fear- the animal costume had spooked the superstitious fellow. He was convinced I was not human, but a djinn. He persisted in the trying to banish me by calling on the spirit of Solomon. After turning him over for interrogation I was at training till my orders came through. Most of my time was spent in the deep underground base. Training, marching, learning until you are exhausted is a big part of the unheard of story in the Permanently Costumed. It's rough at the start; you just have to get used to it. Adapt and survive. There is a long-term price to be paid in not being able to change back, you know, like just take the costume off. At one point I did try but it would not come off. So I don't try to change my costume anymore, it simply will not ever come off. The real pain is the realization as to just how shallow and so many family relations and friends turned out to be when my Permanent Costume was revealed. I learned that most people are much more concerned about appearances than might be suspected. The fact I am the same person they always knew under a tight fitting skunk outfit did not outweigh the stigmata that they saw in being always in a costume. I was an outcast from the old family the moment they knew that the costume was permanent. I had an entire world that would leave them speechless, and sworn as I was to secrecy, I could never tell them the truth. Finally I realized they never did love me. It was my childhood's end, and the fairy tale my dysfunctional family wove to cast me, as the black sheep might well have been another sibling, had I not been born. I had been their scapegoat, but now I was a skunk, but a skunk with a mission. Others duped by the military into donning permanently attaching costumes based on elusive visitor technology and becoming an unorthodox enforcement arm shared that mission. Let me tell you something, there is no defense against unorthodox tactics. Has something ever caught you by surprise? I rest my case. Unorthodox tactics make for unusual friendships also. Take the group leader, Heather, stuck forever in a sleek lioness costume. I'd follow her anywhere, the more critical a situation is, with stress levels high, the stronger and more capable a leader she becomes. She is also a close friend of mine. Then there's the major, Milo, who through eternity wears a bear costume. His is the burden of leadership and the privilege to serve Lava group. A large gentleman, he was known to be fast on the draw with two hand weapons at once in a deadly blurred. Seldom did he raise his voice, and his patience and understanding were legendary, but, if he did raise his voice, people moved. And I count him as a friend of mine too; the Permanently costumed gives back more than it takes some times. Not often, you understand, but enough to be ok, I guess. Going without a lover is pretty tough on us all, if you were curious. And you might as well know the inside of the suits is germicidal and quite sanitary, as we only drink liquids from time to time. The fabric takes energy from any radiating source and converts it to cellular energy, which passes across the inner membrane and is absorbed by the skin. Makes sense for long journeys between stars for the elusive visitors. Now you may ask, how can such untailorable fabric be shaped into a costume? First, the darn costumes are hatched, and seem to exist in perfect symbiosis with the wearer. Exposure to the proximity of an animal cues the suit to adopt that shape. As to what locks the certain shape in permanent, well, you better go ask somewhere else. It definitely confuses the opposition to be attacked by a menagerie of critters, all of whom had claws, laser weaponry, and more training than most people ever dreamed of. The Soviet bloc crumbled not from within, but had its leaders and top strategists liquidated by Permanent Costume strike groups. A coordinated attack by otter and seal girls captured their biggest submarine base and pointed the missiles on Soviet cities. The leadership rushed to bunkers and got wiped out by teams of mole women and gopher girls. So much for communism, it could not stand up to the Permanently Costumed. Some things have puzzled me, such as the very large preponderance of females in the ranks, and the extreme tightness of their costumes. Now if you look over there you'll see my pal Heather in the lioness costume, getting checked out on a tunnel boring machine, as for me, well, got to go study up on the permeable barrier in fuel cells. "Go over their, leave me to my job." Heather could be seen, a cute blonde in a lioness costume, drawing nearer it was possible to see her tugging on a rope, which turned out to be her tail, stuck in the locked and heavily armored door of the tunnel borer. "Friggin' tail, always getting slammed in doors. No way I can pull it out. And the damn door is locked from the inside, along with the keys. I can't believe it, I'm stuck and there's nobody around- hey, you, yeah, mister reader, you, would you go to the motor pool office and get the spare set of keys, please? I'm stuck here. Heather squirmed her hips to illustrate the point, displaying her feline curvature and batting her dreamy eyes.Her lioness costume was very tight on her body." C'mon, let me go, please? Hey where are you going? What do you mean you can not tamper with military property? Just get the fucking keys! Hey! Hey! Where you going? Proper channels? That will take forever!" Even though it was useless, Heather pulled on her jammed tail. Then she called up the major. "It happened again, sir. The automatics just seal the door too fast for my tail to get out of the way, yes sir, major Milo. Thank you sir." Major Milo soon appeared with a bundle of some sort. He walked by Heather, who was pulling again at her stuck tail. He spoke in a friendly tone; " well you have seen some interesting things. Things nobody else has seen. Marvels. Now put this on, recruit." The major tossed a costume at my feet. It looked like a woodpecker. I was dumbstruck. A laser pistol was in his hand, aimed at my crotch. " So are you going to put the suit on, or is there going to be a weenie roast?" I had to put the thing on; I looked ridiculous with a bill projecting out of my forehead and tail feathers. The major laughed and laughed. He called me Private Woody. I did think itwas all that funny at all.