The Mint Dam
The dam is an impressive structure that almost looks out of place when compared to the relatively backwater town of Stonebarrow. It's existed for generations and is currently under management through a joint effort of the Akwavi and Kadie clans (notably the Wingnuts). It spans a good sixty feet and is composed of earth and timber. The top is lined with three equally spaced waterwheels. One of the wheels powers the various Wingnut workshops that reside near the base of the dam. Another wheel powers the various mills that produce paper and other such items requiring milling, such as flour. The third wheel is for general use and powers many various places in the nearby town that require mechanical power. A menagerie of gearing, drive axles, and catwalks also line the top of the dam, interconnecting the wheels and providing service access to them.
Today is Gunther's turn at doing some basic dam inspections. Normally the under-water parts are examined by the Akwavi, but today the usual helpers are out sick. So, it's left to Gunther to do some swimming and actual diving to make sure there is no significant decay in the superstructure. He's just come up from a dive and is sitting on one of the catwalks near the water. He's sopping wet and trying to squeeze water out of his tail before he goes about writing down his observations. "They would be sick today," he grumbles, "they're likely just sitting in the bushes and having a laugh at me. A Kadie, swimming. Our tails are anchors in the water."
A ripple breaks the surface near the dam, and a pair of curious black eyes, along with a black nose and whiskers and round ears, pops up. "I didn't know you could swim at all, Gunther," Nene Oggton says, treading water.
"Anyone who works on the dam is expected to learn," Gunther notes absently as he squeezes out yet another several cupfuls of water from his tail. The Kadie then blinks repeatedly as it hits him who's speaking. If he could puff up right now, he would. Instead he sort of … spikes up. "And just what are you doing here?" he demands, "Sent to make this job even harder?"
"What, I can't visit you without some ulterior motive?" the otter asks in mock indignation.
"No, you can't," Gunther notes flatly. Still, he smooths out his spiked fur and pats the catwalk beside him. "But, you're here and I could use some help anyway. So, come on up and tell me what you want, need, or hope to trick me into doing… "
The otter vanishes under the water, only to burst up a moment later and land on the catwalk next to Gunther undoing all the effort he'd put into wringing out excess water from his fur. "Soooo suspicious!" Nene teases, crossing her arms across her chest to avoid embarrassing Gunther any (not that he hasn't seen everything already). "I was just going to ask you if I could maybe borrow some of your waterproof cord. I need to use it for my Salvage badge."
"Ackpth!" Gunther complains as he gets drenches again. After recovering a bit, he doesn't seem to have really noticed the otter is unclothed. "Salvage badge? What's that? And why do you need the cord?" he asks as he starts trying to wring the water out again.
"I need cord because rope gets heavy when it's wet," Nene points out. "And I want to bring up something big from the ruins of the old town. I just don't know what yet."
Gunther's brow goes up. "You're going to go exploring ruins, use my stuff, and not invite me?" the Kadie asks.
"That was the plan," Nene admits, her whiskers twitching up and down. "Why would you want to go diving in the swamp? I mean, how good of a swimmer can you really be anyway? Besides… it's for my Otter Scouts badge!"
"Oh sure, just because I'm not an otter means I can't do otter things," Gunther huffs and crosses his arms. "And why would I want to? Well … " He looks around then says really quickly and in a really quiet voice, "maybeIwantohelpbecauseitsyou."
"What?" Nene asks, looking shocked. Then her expression moves to slyness. "Ah ha! So you can capture me when I least expect it, eh?"
Gunther goes back to wringing out his tail and acting like he didn't say anything. "Least expect it? I could catch you anytime I really felt like it, you know," he insists.
"Sure you could," Nene says, playing along. "So, does this mean you'll loan me the cord if I let you tag along?" she asks, leaning over to bump shoulders with the Kadie.
"Well … there's another condition," Gunther admits, eyes flicking over to look at the otter. He's currently got the sort of expression those who are fighting with their pride over needing to ask for something, himself.
"Hey, it's a big deal letting you come along you know," Nene says. "We aren't supposed to get help unless we trick someone into doing it. But what else do you want? A kiss?"
Gunther goes wide eyed! "Nonono," he says and waves his hands frantically, "I know what evil mind control things a kiss can do. I, uh, well, can you help me figure out a way to swim better? I feel like a dead weight in water," he admits.
"Hmmm, I don't imagine shaving your tail is an option?" the otter asks, grinning.
"I won't rule it out," Gunther admits. "It's hard to surface when the weight is pulling down. But, isn't there any other ways? Like, can Isolde turn people into an otter for a bit or something? I mean, that's a pretty nasty punishment, right?" He grins.
"That would be a neat trick, but I don't think she'd do it as a favor," Nene notes, then stands up on the catwalk and gestures for Gunther to stand too. "Let's see what we can fix and what we can't."
Gunther gets to his feet. He smacks the side of his head a few times and sprays out a bit of water from his ears. The only thing the Kadie is wearing is shorts. He probably looks like a saggy, drowned, Skreek, or thereabouts.
Nene scoots around, looking up and down, and finally lifts up the still wait Kadie tail. "Hmmm. Can you curl this up really tight?" she asks.
"Curl it up? Not sure I've tried… " Gunther notes, then tries to roll his tail up as tightly as he can as an experiment. "Is that any better?" he asks.
"Hmmm," Nene mutters, and then tries to stuff the tail down into Gunther's shorts. "It's not all fitting!" she complains.
Gunther acks and dances around as the stuffing into his shorts ends up just pushing the shorts down some. "I could have told you it wouldn't fit in my shorts," he complains as he tries to recover his dignity (and shorts).
"Well, you should have then," Nene snaps, then calms down and tries to think. "Well, the tail is all fluff… maybe you can wrap it up in something instead. It's not strong enough to be useful in the water anyway."
Gunther looks like he's about to snap about not being useful in the water, then decides to just glower instead. "So, you use your tail in the water, then?" he ends up asking.
"Of course!" Nene says, turning to show off her thick, lush tail. "It's like an extension of my spine. I hardly have to kick, and that means I can move faster without getting tired."
Gunther grabs said tail and starts poking at it. "No fair," he complains, "I couldn't do that."
"How is that not fair?" Nene counters, looking over her shoulder. "I mean, I can't jump through tree branches or stuff a pound of food into my cheeks. That's not fair either, is it?"
"It … just isn't," Gunther asserts, "I wouldn't be much help to you if I can't keep up. Or be very … " The Kadie blinks then quickly starts inspecting Nene's paw instead, taking a close look at the webbing.
"What, like my manicure?" Nene says, proudly showing off her purple-colored claws. "There was this Gypsy, and… oh, you're looking at my webbing," she winds down, realizing what Gunther is doing. "You could just stay up in the boat and pull stuff up with the cord you know."
"Yeah, but, that's boring! I want to see what you get to see," Gunther notes. He releases her hand and then rubs his chin in thought. "Maybe that would work."
"Wrapping your tail in rubber?" Nene asks. "Holding fans in your paws to swim with?"
"Close! I bet I could build an ottersuit," Gunther declares, "And have a body closer to yours for swimming with." He motions to her sleek form as emphasis.
"Well, you can have your body be closer to mine easily enough," Nene purrs and slinks up against Gunther, touching noses and wrapping her arms around him playfully.
Gunther's fingers, toes, and tail all splay and stick out at the same time. "Not what I mean!" he says in a rapid chitter. He's known for being high strung, but his nervousness is … different from Gunther-normal. "ImeanIcouldbelikeahalfotterinformandkeepupbetter!"
"Oh, I know what you meant," Nene says, grinning. She stops the embrace, and giggles girlishly. "I just love to see that terrified expression on your face!"
Gunther takes several deep breathes. "I am not afraid!" he asserts after sufficiently calming down. "What would I possibly have to be afraid of?"
"That I'd steal your mind, of course," Nene says, triumphantly.
Gunther opens his mouth and raises a hand … then promptly snaps it shut. Glowering, he says, "I already know you're doing something to me. I just haven't figured out what."
"Right, I'm trying to seduce you for my Seduction Badge," Nene says, nodding, then bursts out laughing again.
"Fine! If you're going to make fun of me, maybe I won't help," Gunther huffs and turns away from Nene.
Webbed paws land on Gunther's shoulders, and Nene says apologetically, "Ah, I'm just kidding you, Gunther! Don't prove the rumors true, loosen up a bit!"
"What rumors?" Gunther asks rather quietly.
"That the Wingnuts have no sense of humor at all, of course!" Nene says. "Because they keep all their tools up their bums!"
"That's silly," Gunther notes as he turns around to face the otter. Then without warning, he actually tackles her into the water.
Once in the water, the otter wiggles and tries to get loose.
Gunther tussles a bit with the otter, then lets her go. He surfaces and just grins. "No sense of humor, indeed!" he remarks.
"I didn't say you weren't playful!" Nene counters from a few feet away, then dives under and tries to tickle the Kadie's feet.
"Ack!" Gunther complains and kicks wildly when the otter actually does get to his feet. He scrabbles madly to try and get back onto the walkway.
Nene helps Gunther up with few well-placed pokes of her nose. Then she surfaces again and asks, "An otter suit? You'd need to make it out of waterproof zolk!"
"Ahah, not so!" Gunther declares and tries to pull the otter out of the water. "I can get Zahn to get me some rubber to soak the cloth in. But, I'll need to take measurements of a real otter to get the hands and tail right."
"I'm a real otter, you know," Nene says as she climbs up next to Gunther again. "What'll Zahn asks you for in exchange for the rubber… and where'd he get rubber from anyway?"
"How do I know for certain you're a real otter?" Gunther asks and eyes Nene critically. He's likely just teasing, but that's Gunther. "What he'd want? I have no idea; I haven't asked yet. As for where, he's never told me. I know he's used it to waterproof some things, though."
"He never told you, and you haven't found out yet?" Nene asks with a gasp. "And of course I'm a real otter! I'm in the Scouts and my mum says so."
"My mother says I should have been born an otter; that I cause enough problems as one," Gunther comments. "And no, I haven't. He hasn't gone back for more so I can't exactly follow him."
"That's easy to fix!" Nene says, and taps Gunther in the center of his forehead. "Just steal the rubber he has, and then he'll have to go get more and then you can follow him. And you guys are supposed to be smart!"
"Can't, he used it all already! But anyway, I'll deal with that when I can," Gunther says and leans against Nene. "So, when do you need the rope by?"
"Oh, whenever," Nene says, waving a paw. "I mean, I have to borrow a boat first, and figure out how to lure away the octocrabs and stuff."
"Ooookay, are you willing to let me take some measurements?" Gunther asks next.
"Do I have to roll around in anything smelly?" Nene asks suspiciously.
"No, you just have to stand there and let me measure your body and examine it in detail," Gunther comments idly. His head then tilts and he starts puffing up again. "Inajustafriendway! I didn'tmeanthathowitsounded!"
"Well, I guess I can do that anyway then," Nene says, sounding disappointed. "But I want a copy of all the numbers. Bebe says she's filling out faster than I am, and I want proof."
"I could measure you both at the same time if you want proof," Gunther offers, then asks, "But … what do you mean filling out?"
"You haven't noticed?" Nene asks, sounding hurt. "I have to wear a vest now in town, you know. I bet this is all Amelia's fault."
Gunther finally looks down. He blinks as if noticing. "Oh, uhm … I see," he babbles as his wet tail twitches and vibrates. He then grabs his head and asks, "What are you doing to me?!?"
"I'm making you more observant?" Nene suggests. "I mean, why do you think Olivia and Miranda were so upset when you ran into the women's bath, anyway?"
Gunther looks like he's at a complete loss for words. "You make me feel funny," he says weakly after a long silence.
"You are funny!" Nene declares, and gives Gunther a kiss on the nose. "So, how many otters do you need to measure? Should I get Emmett or one of my brothers?"
"Just someone roughly my size, I guess," Gunther answers, nose twitching rapidly. "I think you would be enough, really. I can adjust sizes as I need." He pauses, then asks, "You don't think this is a stupid idea, do you? Otterfying a Kadie?"
"I've tried on the Gunther suit," Nene admits. "I didn't think it'd help me climb trees though! I don't know if a Nene-suit will help you swim better. Maybe you just need the tail and the hands and feet?"
"That's what I primarily need to build, but I figured if I can keep enough fur dry, I won't weigh as much when I go into the water," Gunther explains.
"Oh, that's pretty clever!" Nene admits. "Our fur is full of bubbles, so it doesn't weigh us down."
"Mine just soaks up water and feels heavy," Gunther complains. The Kadie then glowers and notes, "I should get back to work, too. You're, uhm, welcome to stay and help, or chat, but you don't have to."
"What do you need help with then?" the Akwavi asks. "Should I go get the others who usually help you with this?"
"It's easier for your kind to dive down and look for cracks or decay," Gunther explains, "It takes me longer because I move so much slower. I'll swim with you and show you, then maybe you can finish the checks while I make notes about what you find, if anything."
"And I'll get paid, right?" Nene asks, smiling again.
"Uh, what would you want for payment?" Gunther asks.
"Got any candy?" the girl asks.
"Should back in my room," Gunther answers. "I'd need to go get it."
"Oh, I can go with you to get it later then," Nene says. "That's like 200 points."
"Woah, wait, you want to go into my room," Gunther asks.
"Of course!" Nene says. "And if you have any little loose trinkets I could have to prove I was there, that'd be great too!"
"Why is my room worth 200 points?" Gunther asks next, looking confused.
"I dunno, it just is," Nene says, shrugging. "Zahn's has gone up to like 600 since Amy moved in. But her old cabin is still worth like 800, which is a bit odd if she's not there anymore… "
"I … guess I could take you there," Gunther relents … which again is rather odd given how territorial this Kadie usually is.
"Great!" Nene says, and slips back into the water. "Now, where do you want me to poke my nose down there?"
Gunther slides back into the water again. "Okay, follow me down and I'll show you places to look along this spot. We just need to check the remaining length in the same way," the Kadie explains and then slips under the water. And for the briefest moment, Nene could swear she feels the Kadie rub against her. But really, it's probably just his bad swimming skill.