Squirrel
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There’s a place not too far from here, where everyone lives together peacefully. This place has sunshine, rainbows, it never gets cold, and there is an abundance of food and resources for everyone. You can find this place through trees and burrows, hidden deep underground and built by - you guessed it - a civilization of clever Squirrels.
Deep underground, the Squirrelly Squirrels built a home for themselves where they could hide their treasured nuts away from the humans. They called this magical place the Squirrelverse.
Chester P. Nut is the founder of the Squirrelverse. Wanting nothing more than a place where Squirrels could feel safe and happy, he put all of his great wealth behind its creation. He is steadfast in the belief that Squirrels will prosper as long as they hide their nuts from the humans, and do so peacefully. So, with the harmony of the greater planet in mind, the Squirrelly Squirrels hid. Their technological advancements quickly outpaced those of the humans that drove the Squirrels underground in the first place, and as they hid, they prospered beyond their wildest imaginations.
But there were murmurings of discontent among the Squirrelverse populace. “Why should we have to hide?” some thought to themselves. “We’re better than those humans, they should be hiding from us!”
A peaceful leader, Chester made it known that he did not want to create a mess that would spiral out of control. They had prospered in hiding for years, and there was no point in destroying all the progress they have made.
“Our goal has always been to protect and build up our society,” he argued. The Squirrelverse was so perfect - why would anyone disrupt the continuum and jeopardize such a utopia? For some, this reasoning just wasn’t enough.
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With peace often comes restlessness. Some Squirrels found themselves discontent with the paradise laid before them - and none more so than Dr. Frank N. Skwerl, one of its founding fathers and the great intellect behind the Squirrelverse’s advanced technology. Watching his fellow Squirrels hide in fear of humans made his stomach turn, and cast his mind back to how he’d suffered when he dared to venture out in their world as a child.
In the early hours of the morning, the Doctor scurried through the underground, following the winding paths that led to the Squirrel’s Surface tube system. He needed to meet Rambo, a rambunctious red-furred pilot who flew their nightly reconnaissance missions, making sure the humans remained a safe distance from discovering their haven.
Abruptly, as he reached to press the button that would call a pod, one came rushing through the pneumatic root-tube system above him, coming to a stop so suddenly that a gust of wind ruffled his whiskers. The door hissed open and out stumbled Rambo, wide eyed and panicked. Between breaths, he told the Doctor what he’d seen - the humans' great yellow machines of destruction, poised to ravage the lush land surrounding the entrance above. Worse, it was to be replaced with another of their sickly grey tributes to excess - according to his translations, they referred to the abomination as a Mall.
“Selfish. Cruel. Greedy humans” the Doctor remarked to himself - why couldn’t Chester and the others see that it would only be a matter of time before the Humans discovered an entrance, and set their sights on the Utopia they’d crafted and hidden with such care? Always dismissing his concerns, always preaching patience with the Humans. The only option left was taking action himself, P. Nut and his plans be damned.
Dr. Skwerl stayed up countless nights, spying on the humans with his advanced squirrel tech to identify any weaknesses. He’d already resigned himself to the fact that he could not beat them in a fair fight - whilst Squirrel technology was obviously superior, humans were a lot…bigger. He’d have to find a place where they could be confronted on equal terms, where he could use technology to even the odds. Again and again, he heard the oafish humans who passed for technically competent in their world mention one phrase - The Metaverse - and as he learnt more about this new land the humans had created, the spark of an insidious plan began to form in the Doctor's mind. If they threatened the Utopia he’d crafted with such care, then the solution was obvious. He’d simply claim this new world of theirs as his own. A smile that grew into a squirrelly snarl spread across his face, and he scurried to his lab to begin his work.
---
As Chester left the McNuttly’s home, having checked their new hydro-electric mill (one of Frank's latest technological wonders) was in working order, and having sampled perhaps a few more slices of their famous pecan pie than he should have, he continued his fortnightly rounds of the Squirrelverse, waddling away at a considerably slower pace than he’d arrived.A diligent Squirrel, despite all the issues demanding his attention, P. Nut had always made a point of checking on his citizens personally - after all, it was important each and every Squirrel felt listened to. As he rounded the corner and his next destination, a tweed little farm owned by the Softfur family, his mind harked back to the first time he’d made this particular journey - and the Squirrel who’d been by his side at the time.
As a young altruistic boy, Chester had always found that his ambitions towards building a Home for squirrels was ridiculed by others - always too ambitious, not realistic enough, not something that squirrels should do. This had continued until one day, he’d met a Squirrel quite unlike any other - Frank could see the potential in his visions, and more so, he seemed to know exactly how they could go about it. Together, the two of them spent many a long evening mulling over each tiny aspect of their plan, and slowly, they began to piece everything together.
Of course, this hadn’t been easy - he himself had felt like giving up on so many occasions. But he was aware that whilst he’d provided the inspiration and the resources for this grand undertaking, Frank, the first Squirrel who’d believed in him, was the true architect. So he hid away any frustration he experienced, and focused completely on making sure the Doctor was able to finish his work, no matter what obstacles they ran into.
This, of course, was made somewhat difficult by Frank’s temper when it came to failing - but time and time again, whenever they hit a wall, he would remind him - “One more time Frank - just give it one more try, and we may never again have to see a young Squirrel hurt in the above-world”.This had become their mantra, and through their dedication, the Squirrelverse had slowly come to life - piece by piece, day by day, their community had grown, and the standard of life for Squirrels everywhere had risen to the nigh-on royal standards they enjoyed today.
Why, even as the Softfur farm came into view, he could see the automatic harvesting machine trundling through the fruiting fields, making light work of what previously would have taken an entire crew of hard working Squirrels days_ to complete. But despite being able to clearly see all the good Frank’s creations had wrought, Chester couldn’t ignore the tight feeling in his stomach - which had been present long before that last slice of pie.
Recently, Frank seemed more bitter - quicker to allow his anger to rise. He of course understood why - they’d never seen eye to eye regarding the Humans - but nonetheless, he couldn’t shake the feeling that he was missing something. Tonight he would pay his old friend a visit he decided - and see if he couldn’t persuade him to talk about things over a nice bottle of Oak-aged Nut Liqueur.
Satisfied with this idea, he continued on his way - oblivious to the fact that when he arrived at Franks later that evening, there would be no-one to greet him…
---
“Nuts!” Frank swore, as yet another component fizzled, sparked, and finally produced a last gasp of smoke, causing the Doctor to cough a little as he sent yet another failure careening across his lab, where it joined the others in a slightly smouldering pile of rejects.
He’d been at it for months now - tweaking, adjusting, improving - but he just couldn’t seem to get it right. Try as he might, he couldn’t get the blasted contraptions working. Of course, the idea had been outlandish to begin with. When he’d decided to take the fight to the humans in this new Metaverse they’d created, he’d thought it would be easy - why, with his superior technology, it should have been. But he’d overlooked a single crucial fact - Squirrels couldn’t just enter the Metaverse. Whilst the humans all spent their lives addicted to their technology, wasting away their time continuously scrolling on those brightly coloured portals to misinformation, Squirrels were more pragmatic - technology was a tool to assist with their lives, not something to replace them entirely.
This had presented the Doctor with an issue - there were simply vastly more humans able to gain access to the Metaverse, and the current squirrel population would be no match against the sheer numbers this challenge presented him with. The solution had come to him in a rush - artificially intelligent Squirrels - each as smart as he himself, as sneaky as Sly, as resourceful as Rambo - but his progress had grinded to a nigh-on complete stop.
Every time he thought he’d cracked it, another issue popped up, and with each fix he implemented the overall complexity of his creation increased exponentially. Truthfully, he no longer fully understood what he was working on - it would be no simple automaton, this much was certain. A few hundred attempts ago, one had actually managed to speak. Admittedly, it had simply gurgled a few words of gibberish, before its mechanical eyes began twitching rapidly, the movement spreading throughout its body before erupting in flames, forcing his ever faithful daughter Luna to rush over and extinguish the blaze.
Frustrated with his failings, Frank cast an eye to the other side of the lab where Luna sat pouring over his designs, believing with unwaivable confidence that his plan will work. The old mantra, so often repeated during those first months of constructing the haven his lab now sat on the outskirts of, came back into his mind - “One more time Frank - just give it one more try, and we may never again have to see a young Squirrel hurt in the above-world”.
He brushed himself off, wiping the soot from his fur, and gathered his tools for another attempt. He would never allow his daughters to suffer at their hands.
The hours flew by in a blur, a cacophony of welding, wiring and construction that almost became music as he focused. Then, as he put the final capacitor into the mind-chamber of what now must have been the 800th attempt at creating artificial life, it roared into existence, limbs jerking as they found their purpose, its face contorted into a mask of confusion as the mechanical being discovered consciousness.
The Doctor, stunned, simply fell back to a sitting position.
He’d.. he’d done it. It was clearly as alive as any Squirrel could be. He finally had the tools to pay the humans back for all their many years of wrongdoings. But he’d need many more - so many more if he was to truly have a chance at conquering the newly constructed world humans had presented him with. He punched the appropriate settings into the construction line console as the robot squirrel took in the world around it.
Soon, freshly constructed, metallic furred Squirrels began rolling off the line. They would slip through the back tunnel of his lab, beginning their journey to various key locations in the Squirrelverse where they would remain in hiding until such time he was ready to launch his offensive. The humans would have no idea what hit them.
Meanwhile, a short distance away, a dejected looking golden clad Squirrel turned away from the door he’d been knocking at for the past half an hour. Clutching the bottle of liqueur he’d been hoping to share, Chester couldn’t help but wonder where his friend had managed to find himself, and how the two of them had ever drifted so far apart.
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