Story (c) 2000 by Keith Dickinson. All rights reserved. Characters
Sabrina the Skunkette, Amy the Squirrel, Tabitha, Carli, Tammy Vixen Shiela
Vixen, Clarisse, and Carrie Squirrel (c) Eric W. Schwartz. Character Roxikat (c)
John Barrett. Character Thomas Woolfe (c) Michael Higgs. Characters Chris Foxx,
Susan Felin, Cindy Lapine, Debbye Squirrel, Clarence Skunk, Mr. Canis, Dexter
Collie, Angel Collie, Sarge and Endora Mustelidae, Wendy Vixxen, and Wanda
Vixen(c) Chris Yost. Character Florence Ambrose (c) Mark Stanley. Character
ZigZag (c) Max BlackRabbit. Character Cyberhorn (c) William Morris. Character
Terl Skunk (c) Rodney Stringwell. Character James Sheppard and Marvin Badger (c)
James Bruner. Character John Silverback (c) Himself Character Kittiara and the
restaruant "Callahan's" (c) "Kittiara" Character Katja (c) Herself Character
Mark the cheetaur (c) Mark White Eric W. Schwartz (c) Mr. and Mrs. Schwartz.
Michael Jones (c) Martin Pedersen. Arden Eastridge (c) Keith Dickson. All rights to additional characters
reserved by their respective owners.
Philippe had done a good job of cleaning up the fur on my back and saving the pattern as well as evening up my right leg so it matched the left. Over all I had to admit the little guy had a talent for fur. Afterwards I had continued my discussion with Zig Zag. Until the doc said that I had a clean bill of health, I could do double duty. I'd apprentice in the video editing studio and do massages. Tracy, their old masseuse had recently gotten engaged to a nice young Doberman who unfortunately had flipped when he finally found out where she worked. Since no qualified replacement had been found willing to work there, she'd give me a try. Since it was only a part time job, I'd use the time in video to fill in the clock.
Having spent about an hour in the video production room with Tony getting introduced to the equipment, I was duly impressed. Not with the equipment, though it was reasonably new, but the fact that it didn't do half the funky stuff that my Video Toaster/Flyer could do. I was impressed that despite what they had to work with, they still managed to throw together some good quality video. I suppose I'd have to see if NewTek existed in this world. If so, maybe I'd be able to track down a VT/F unit.
After spending time in there, one of the actors, Leon, came in and got me. Zig Zag had told him to give me a try. I'd spent the rest of the afternoon working bodies over. By five o'clock my hands were ready to cramp. It was a relief when Sheila stuck her head in and said it was time to go. Zig Zag was driving, and unless I wanted to walk back to her place, I'd better move.
Cleaning up, I took note of the bottles I'd emptied that day. I had no clue how much stuff there was to take care of fur. Michelle had fifteen different bottles for her hair, but that was just her following marketing hype. Here there were the regular conditioners for fur, but also for specific types of fur. Long, short, thick, thin, oily, dry, combination and then you got into the odd ball stuff like anti-pest oils, scented oils, etc. I had learned a new respect for Philippe. Next chance I got, I was going to spend some time with that little guy and get some fur care tips.
Sitting in the front seat of Zig Zag's car, we were headed back to her house when she spoke. "So what did you think of editing?" Honest, or lie? I decided on honesty, "Looking at that stuff reminded me of the editing I did at home. I must say I'm impressed with the quality of the work considering what you have to work with." Giving me an odd look she asked me to clarify, "Don't get me wrong, it's nice equipment, but I didn't see any readily available chroma-key functionality incase you wanted to do blue or green screen backdrops, the transition and fade functions are very limited, and I saw only four different types of wipe effects. The non-linear editing system was very nice, but it couldn't assemble the audio and video clips in real time, and wasn't good at overlaying multiple tracks independent of the video tracks. The text generator is pretty good, but with only thirty fonts, and no ability to download custom fonts onto it, is pretty limited."
For about 5 seconds she stared at me. I pointed out the window and said, "You also might want to stop for this light up ahead." Snapping her head around, she hit the breaks. We had plenty of time to stop, but there's no sense in pushing it. Once stopped, she looked at me again, "You remember all that?" Shaking my head, I shrugged, "Not exactly, I just looked for the functionality on the equipment. When I couldn't find it, Tony told me it wasn't there. I know I used to do that kind of stuff with what I had at home. It just surprised me that you couldn't do it."
Looking back to the stop light, she thought for a few seconds, "Well, we really don't have much call for the kind of stuff you're talking about. Our needs are pretty simple if you know what I mean."
Nodding in agreement, I set out to expand her horizons, "Ever thought of doing a fantasy one? Set in medieval times, or maybe in space? How about in an underwater dome on some alien planet? That kind of stuff you could do with a good green-screen chroma-key system. Find a good 3D graphics rendering package that is compatible with your non-linear video system and you've got something to create those fantasy backdrops. They don't have to be static either. Imagine having your people on a space station, the earth passing by in the window behind you? Sounds expensive, but it wouldn't be."
As I had been talking, she nodded, "I see what you mean, there's a lot of possibilities for that. We could shoot backdrop video in remote locations and put our people in front of it." Now she was getting the idea! "How much would something like that cost?" Time to play dumb. "Sorry, I don't know. I just remember doing it. Why not let Tony and me look into the cost of getting the equipment and have the venders send their promo tapes. Give us a good idea of what their stuff will do." Nodding, I could see her thinking it over. If she went for it, it would set a new standard in the industry. The possibilities were endless. Doing that would be a lot more fulfilling than helping out in video and doing massages. Relaxing in the seat, I spent the rest of the trip home trying to think of new and imaginative ways to use 3D animation in the blue film industry.
Getting back to Zig Zag's, I helped carry in the groceries we had picked up on the way home. Zig Zag and Sheila had drawn a lot of stares, but unfortunately my media coverage hadn't done anything for my anonymity. I had people asking if I was the guy on TV, did I really get shot, what really happened last night, and to my surprise, for my autograph. Looking to Zig Zag and Sheila for support while getting mobbed, I saw them just sit back watch, amused as the new guy went through the ringer. All in all I think it was a positive experience as a lot of people told Zig Zag and Sheila that they were sorry to hear about our bad fortunes on the news.
Once we had put everything away, I was ready to try to relax, "Zig Zag, I'm gonna take a hot shower and try to unwind a little." Getting out a wine cooler, she poured herself a drink, "Why a shower when we have a Jacuzzi?" What can I say? I'm not used to having a Jacuzzi at home. "No reason I guess, though I don't remember seeing bathing suits in either over-night bag." Taking my arm, Sheila gave Zig Zag a little wink, "Who needs trunks when you're with friends?" Looks like they were going to call my bluff from this morning.
After taking a quick shower to get rid of excess oil and grime, we saw that Zig Zag had laid out some swimsuits for us. It occurred to me that they might have been more for James than for either of us. Putting them on, we headed for the atrium.
Looking around in the atrium, we eventually found the control box. Turning on the timer, we switched it from 'timed' mode to 'on' and climbed in. Adjusting the jets so they wouldn't beat on the sore spots, I leaned back and relaxed. After a few minutes, Zig Zag came in with a tray containing a pitcher of lemonade and a bottle of sparkling wine in a bucket of ice. Taking our orders, she passed out the drinks then left the atrium to return in a few minutes wearing a thong bikini and carrying a towel.
James is one lucky dog.
Sheila saw the look on my face as I watched Zig Zag come in and kicked me in the water. Looking over I saw that she wore a mock glower. Feigning innocence I defended myself, "Hey, I'm supposed to look. It's in the Guy Book of Rules." Settling in, Zig Zag picked up her glass and responded, "Yes, but you're not supposed to get caught." Admitting defeat, I put my forearms in front of the jets and tried to relax as they beat the tension out of my muscles.
Picking up a remote control the size of a thin paperback from beside her seat, she asked what we'd like to hear. Since she didn't have any Kotke in her collection, we settled on some classical Vivaldi.
As we listened to the music, we discussed ideas for some future projects that used the new video system she'd get, her terminology not mine. Once Zig Zag made her mind up to do something, she did it. Now to find out if any of the stuff I'm used to working with existed in this world. I could only hope that LightWave or AnimationMaster existed in this world or it would be back to basics in learning a new product.
While we were talking, James showed up carrying a couple of bright red plastic boxes. After giving Zig Zag a kiss, he promised to join us. About five minutes later he entered the room, towel in hand wearing a bathing suit. Scowling I took my shot, "James! Trunks? At Zig Zag's?"
As he looked at the three of us he saw that Sheila and I were grinning like idiots while Zig Zag had a 'hey, it's me," look on her face. Frowning, he turned and walked out. Zig Zag shot us a confused look, and moved towards the steps. Beating her to them, I climbed out and went to the door. I could see James stalking down the hall towards the bedroom, "Hey James!" Turning he glared angrily at me. Pointing down to the bright blue trunks I wore, "It was just a JOKE James!" He just stared at me. "Come on James, I'm sorry, it was bad taste." Reluctantly he shook his head and came back to the atrium. Climbing back in, I heard James following me in.
After getting Sheila and myself a refill, I realized that I had totally misjudged the guy. Having read Bruner's story on him, I had been overconfident about how he would react. There was a lot that I didn't actually know about him. After a few tries, I got James to talk about himself. All in all, it was quite informative and enjoyable soak.
Climbing out of the dryer, I was getting dressed when James knocked and stuck his head in, "Hey, when you've got a couple of minutes, I need to see you in the master bedroom, ok?" Nodding, I dug out a shirt, "Sure, just give me a few seconds." After putting the shirt on, I strapped on the brace and walked across the hall to Zig Zag's.
James was doing something with the cases on the bed, "Close the door, ok?" After closing them, I turned back to see him holding an automatic pistol at his side. Swallowing my stomach, I put my hands up, "Hey James, man, take it easy, it was only a joke!"
Cocking his head slightly, he gave me a curious look. Keeping my hands up, I tried to keep a cheerful smile on my face, "We were just playing with you. I swear man. Nothing to get bent over." As I nodded to the gun, he held it up in front of himself for a second then realized what I was talking about. Laughing he waved his other hand, "I'm not going to shoot you." Locking open the breach, he held the empty pistol out to me, "Do you know how to shoot one of these things?"
Relief flooded into me. Taking the pistol, I saw that it was a Beretta 9MM model 98FS semiautomatic pistol. Releasing the slide lock, I closed the chamber. Holding it in a two handed firing pose, I checked the feel of the weapon. I knew it was a heavier weapon than my Glock at home was, but it felt like a toy in my hand. Fingering the trigger, I found the guard was a bit tight for my finger, but not unsafe. Relocking the chamber open, I handed it back. "Sure, standard semiautomatic pistol. A little small for my hand, but that's not a big problem." Waving it off, he handed me two loaded clips and the box of ammo. "I don't know who is after you, or why. But I don't want to have to worry about someone attacking you here and not being able to defend yourself."
Taking a smaller .38 special out, he loaded it; "This is small enough that you can put it in the glove compartment of which ever car you two are taking." Taking out a leather pistol case, he unzipped it and put the pistol in. "Keep it in the case and for god's sake don't flash it around." Accepting the case, I nodded, "I may have amnesia, but I'm not stupid."
Nodding, he then handed me a .25 caliber ladies gun with some clips and ammo, "This is for Sheila. Since you know how to shoot, take her down to this gun club." Handing me a card, I examined it. He had put his name and member number on the back. "Make sure she knows how to use it."
Shifting everything to one arm, I asked, "What about you? Who's to say someone won't come after you or Zig Zag?" Smiling he reached around and pulled out the biggest damned revolver I'd ever seen. If it had been any bigger, he would have needed wheels. Giving a low whistle, I looked it over, "That thing would stop a truck." Nodding, he took it back, "Or a bear." Seeing the look on my face, he continued, "Just in case whoever's responsible for this sends someone out a little tougher than the last two."
Glad that I wasn't the one he was referring to, I again thanked him. Taking the stuff back to the room, I put the 9MM under the pillow on my side of the bed, and the rest in the overnight bag under all the clothes. I didn't know how Sheila was going to react to this, but I hoped it would be something she would accept without a fight.
After dinner, we had watched a movie on Zig Zag's entertainment center. Last time I had seen a setup of this quality was a picture of the one in George Lucas's house. Who knew that Jack Nicholson would really turn out to be a wolf, eh?
Burned out from the day, I lay back on the bed with my legs hanging over the edge, arms spread eagle. Hearing Sheila come out of the bathroom, I tried to summon up the energy to sit up, but my body just didn't want to cooperate. Next thing I knew, Sheila had jumped up on the bed and landed on my stomach, straddling me and knocking the wind out of me. I let out a "Whoof" of wind. Leaning down, she put her head on my chest and I lay there sucking air.
"What's it like not to have fur?" she asked quietly. Thinking, I answered back, "Well, we're not entirely furless. Although the majority is on our heads, we do have some very sparse fur on the rest of our bodies. Generally men have thicker fur then women, but we're still close enough to be furless from your perspective." She gave a little shudder, "It sounds horrible,"
Wrapping my arms around her, I gave a little hug, "It's not all that bad. You have a lot less maintenance than with a full body of fur. I used to be able to take a shower in ten minutes, fifteen tops if I took my time. Now it takes me at least forty five minutes without help, and it's a major pain to shampoo my back. Not to mention drying off. I used to be able to towel down to a dry state in less than two or three minutes."
Turning her head so her muzzle faced me, she rested it in the center of my chest, "Still sounds, I don't know, icky." Leaning my head to the side a little, I gave her nose a quick lick, "I don't know, its not all that bad. Having five fingers on each hand doesn't hurt either when typing."
Lifting her head up, she cocked it to the side, "Five fingers?" Nodding, I held up my paw, "There should be one more little one on the outside. I feel like I've lost two fingers and toes in this body."
Putting her head back down on my chest, she thought about it for a little bit, "Wow, that's rough. I didn't event think about that. Is there anything else you had that you don't?" Shaking my head no, "That's it. I know a lot of people in my world would love to have tails, but now that I have one, I'm not impressed."
Laughing, she ran her claws lightly across my ribs, tickling me, "That's not a tail, that's a stump. You need a real tail," she retorted, waving her tail around over her head for emphasis. Slowly rubbing her hands through the fur on my chest, she closed her eyes, "How's your back doing?" Shifting a little, I felt the sore spots on my back rub the sheet, but they weren't painful, just an ache, "As long as you don't try to hug me to death, it will be fine."
Sitting up, she slid down my body a little, "Don't worry, you won't have to strain your back at all." So much for going to sleep early, it was going to be a very interesting night.
Walking into Nanuk's hut, I saw her sitting at the table. Sitting down across from her, I placed my elbows on the table, and rested my chin on my paws. Crossing her arms she smiled, "Nanuk was right?"
Nodding, I smiled, "Nanuk was right."
We sat there like that for a couple of minutes. I was just enjoying life as I knew it. Finally she asked me, "Do you want your old life back?" The question hit me like a physical blow. Sitting up, I thought about it. I had given up on my old life. I was finally happy with who and what I was, I didn't know if I wanted to go back or not. Shaking my head with confusion, "I don't know Nanuk. I had almost given up hope of ever going back."
Uncrossing her arms, she leaned towards me across the table, "Some day soon, you may get the opportunity to go back. You must decide now if you want to go, and if you do, you must be aware of how doing so will effect those you interact with."
Sheila, she was talking about Sheila. She had finally accepted who and what I was. If I went back, what would happen to her? Could she go, and if so would she even want to?
Laying my head on the table, my paws underneath, I considered my fate, and if I would ever take the return ticket if it were offered.
Khansman sat at his desk reviewing the morning arrest report from the previous day. Rubbing his eyes, he tried to focus on the report again. He had not slept well after receiving that blackmail note yesterday; someone pursuing him haunted his dreams. It was not a feeling he enjoyed, and he would have to correct it as soon as possible.
Returning to the report, he flipped to the next page he spotted something that caught his attention. They had arrested a young raccoon from the gang that had done the hit on Nanuk, but had released him on a technicality. The interesting point is that they released him before anyone from the DA's or PD's office had told them too, and that's not like the cops. They prefer to let the guy sweat as long as possible, hoping to squeeze something out of him. Is it possible that the young Raccoon had spilled the beans?
Making a note to James, he listed the arresting detectives names. He would want to talk to them and get to the bottom of it.
Waking up slowly, it felt like I had someone sitting on my chest, it was hard to breathe. Opening my eyes, I looked down and saw that I did. Sheila was sprawled out on my chest, hand folded under her head, sleeping quietly. Inhaling, I caught the thick musky smell of our scents from last night. Chuckling, it occurred to me that Zig Zag and James probably smelled it too. As I lay there, I remembered our conversation afterwards.
Sheila let out a little giggle, "That was fun," as she lay on me, idly drawing circles in my chest with one claw. Taking a deep breath, I let out a sigh, "I knew it." She looked at me quizzically, "What?" Looking down at her with my best sad puppy dog eyes, "I knew it. I knew I was just a big, fluffy plaything. First I'm your dress-up toy, and now I'm just a sex toy." For a few seconds she had a shocked look on her face, until she noticed that I was having a hard time fighting a smile, then she gave me a wicked look, "You have a problem with being my 'big fluffy play toy'?" Giving up the act, I smiled and shook my head.
Still looking at me, Sheila got a serious look on her face. I could see that she was trying to decide something. After a couple dozen heart beats, she asked, "Arden, do you have a problem with my work?" That surprised me. After all we'd been through, she wasn't sure? "To be absolutely honest, and obeying the Guy Book of Rules, I'd have to say yes." Seeing the disappointed look on her face, I continued, "What guy isn't going to be a little jealous about his girl? It's built into us. We can't help it." Nodding, she put her head back down on my chest. "However, out of self preservation, you have no fear that I'll try to talk you out of working at Zig Zag's." I saw her ears pick up, "If you had this kind of energy every night, you'd wind up killing me within a month," I finished with a smile.
I could still see it was bothering her, "Sheila, you have to be you. I knew before I even came to this world what you did. I've even done work in the blue video industry in my world, though not in front of the camera. Yes, on some base level it may bother me, but I won't let it control how I feel for you or treat you." Reassured, she smiled and turned her head to the side.
Just about the time I thought she had fallen asleep, I heard her ask quietly, "Would you sing that song for me again?" Stroking the fur on her back, I began to sing Nanuk's song of motherly protection, wrapping her in a notes of security.
Detectives Smith and Jones stood nervously in front of the DA's desk as he perused the folder before him. "Gentlemen, I see here that the ballistics test you ran on the recovered weapon, showed that it was the one used in the drive by shooting." Smith, clearing his throat, "One of the weapons."
Hearing this, Daniel raised an eyebrow. "Upon examining the bullets recovered from the scene, the bears back and the spent casings on the ground, we determined that both 9mm and .45 caliber weapons were used."
Nodding, he continued reading, "It also says here that he was released only three hours after being arrested. He hadn't even talked to his lawyer yet." Looking up, "That's not normal procedure, is it?"
Glancing between them selves, Jones answered this time, "Well sir, we discovered after the fact that there was a typo on the search warrant. Knowing that it would be thrown out, we were going to let him stew in the tank until his PD sprung him, but we had an offer we couldn't quite refuse." Slightly waving his hand, Daniel motioned for him to continue. "The new guy, Michael Jones offered to handle all the paperwork and reports on the case if we'd hand it over." Giving the DA a sheepish smile, he shrugged.
Closing the folder, Khansman leaned back, "So the rookie is responsible for this, anomaly." They both nodded in agreement. Giving a small smile of satisfaction, Daniel excused them. "Thank you gentlemen. You have helped clear up the discrepancy."
After they left, he turned his chair towards the window and leaned back. A critical key had fallen into place. He'd have to talk to his boy in the gang and have them check up on the raccoon's early release.