Story (c) 2000 by Keith Dickinson. All rights reserved.
Sabrina the Skunkette, Amy the Squirrel, Tabitha, Carli, Tammy Vixen
Vixen, Clarisse, and Carrie Squirrel (c) Eric W. Schwartz. Character
John Barrett. Character Thomas Woolfe (c) Michael Higgs. Characters
Susan Felin, Cindy Lapine, Debbye Squirrel, Clarence Skunk, Mr. Canis,
Collie, Angel Collie, Sarge and Endora Mustelidae, Wendy Vixxen, and
Vixen(c) Chris Yost. Character Florence Ambrose (c) Mark Stanley.
ZigZag (c) Max BlackRabbit. Character Cyberhorn (c) William Morris.
Terl Skunk (c) Rodney Stringwell. Character James Sheppard and Marvin
James Bruner. Character John Silverback (c) Himself Character Kittiara
restaruant "Callahan's" (c) "Kittiara" Character Katja (c) Herself
Mark the cheetaur (c) Mark White Eric W. Schwartz (c) Mr. and Mrs.
Michael Jones (c) Martin Pedersen. Arden Eastridge (c) Keith
Dickson. All rights to additional characters
reserved by their respective owners.
I was in New Zealand. My position on the ridge gave me an unobstructed view of the road that ran along the mountain for close to two miles. I had been camped there for almost four hours waiting for my target. A very powerful Japanese industrialist was selling state secrets to an outside agency. That was unacceptable. My mission was to eliminate the threat. A blowout of his tire on a winding road and he would be eliminated without any trace an outside agency.
A burst of static in my ear let me know my target was coming. Sending back two clicks, I uncovered the scope on my rifle. The Beretta .50 caliber sniper rifle easily had a range that would cover the entire section of road that was visible.
Settling myself in behind the scope, I thumbed the zoom function on the Fujitsu Optics scope and examined the passenger in the vehicle. Tracking the windshield, I recognized the face. Speaking into my microphone, "Target confirmed." Tracking the front wheel, I let the laser range finder give me predicted targets intersect point. A voice over my radio confirmed, "Slingshot, confirmation received, proceed."
Controlling my breath I waited for the vehicle to approach the next left hand curve. The loss of the tire would send it over the edge, plummeting almost six hundred feet. Odds are they would never find the vehicle in the dense jungle below. Slowly squeezing the trigger so as not to jerk the rifle, I froze.
There were children in the car. "Control, target has thirds." Watching as the two children looked out the passenger windows at the scenery below, I heard control, "Acknowledged. Proceed with action."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. They wanted me to off the guy and his kids! "Control, repeat, minors in target, aborting." Immediately I got an angry response, "Slingshot, proceed with action." Still tracking the car, I once again prepared to take the shot. Trying to squeeze the trigger, I found I couldn't do it. "Control. Crossbow is aborting. End contact." Ignoring the voice in my ear, I turned off the radio.
Policing my camp area, I verified there was no trace of me left behind. I'd catch hell for aborting the kill, but I didn't care. I was sick of this job. I'd turn in my resignation when I saw Togusa.
I woke up to the sound of the front door closing. I begged off after giving a brief statement to the cops. From the lack of voices, I presumed that the police were done with their investigation. Sitting up, I let out a groan. Every muscle in my body hurt. Standing up, I moved to the open space near the hallway. Doing some basic stretches, I managed to get the worst of the kinks out of my muscles. Working my way to the kitchen, I found everyone sitting at the dining table.
Leaning against the doorframe, I paused to catch my breath. I was exhausted. That bloody dragon never told me that coming down after using his powers would totally tap me physically.
Shelly looked up and spotted me, "Arden? Are you ok?" Shaking my head, I walked over to an empty chair and sat heavily down, "Oh man. I feel like death warmed over." Getting up from the table, Zig Zag walked towards the kitchen, "Would you like some coffee or anything?" Thinking about it, I decided to stay simple, "How about some ice water." While she was getting the drink, I put my arms on the table and propped my head on it.
Hearing Zig Zag set the glass down on the table I sat up straight. Taking a drink, I realized how thirsty I had been. Relaxing back in the chair, I look at everyone at the table. There was a pregnant pause in the conversation since I had gotten here.
Putting the glass down, I offered, "If I make you guys uncomfortable, I'd be glad to go sit out back or something. Don't let me ruin your conversation." Starting to get up, I was interrupted by Zig Zag, "No. Please. Sit down." Half standing I looked at the other three. Glancing amongst themselves, they finally nodded.
Sitting back down, I crossed my arms, "So?" Glancing amongst each other again, Doug decided he'd break the ice, "We've been discussing you." Giving a chuckle, I smiled, "Like I couldn't figure that out when I slaughtered the conversation with my appearance?" I've never seen a bear look sheepish. Then again, I've never met another bear before.
James spoke up, "We've been talking specifically about what happened this afternoon." Looking at Zig Zag, I asked, "Hasn't Zig been able to enlighten you?" James shook his head, "No. She was as surprised by what happened today as we were." So she didn't spill the beans about me. I'd kiss her if I didn't think James would go berserk.
Looking at each one of them, I tried to decide how much I trusted them. If Zig Zag hadn't sung about me, then I didn't see any reason to do so unless they cornered me, "Look, if you have questions, ask them. I'll try to explain what I can, but I still have a lot missing from my memory." Glancing at Zig Zag, I saw her close her eyes, and hang her head for a moment. She knew I was lying, not only to Doug and Kelly, but to James also. She was going along with the charade.
Doug was first to ask, "How did you know about the attack? I saw you stop Zig Zag from crossing in front of the door." Oh yah, just give me an easy one, "Tell me Doug, how much do you know of Totemic religions?" Watching him shake his head, I continued, "Totemic beliefs work on the principle that there are spirits who reside in an elemental plain that exists in tandem with the world as we know it. Each spirit represents a series of attributes. Example would be the bear, which represents healing, strength, protection and introspection. Mouse represents detail and meticulousness. Hawk is the messenger. Dragon... Dragon is the guardian. He represents honor, and duty, as well as change."
Looking around, I saw that they got the idea, but didn't really see where I was going. "My religion is totemic. I follow the path of the Dragon. What you saw and heard today was my calling upon the power of the dragon. I don't know if maybe it's some genetic deviation, or who knows maybe there really is a dragon in my family tree. All I know is that in times of extreme stress, I can call on strengths that would otherwise not be available to me. A side effect is my eyes. I have no clue how it happens, or why. It just does."
Undaunted, he asked again, "That doesn't explain the attack. How did you know the sniper was going to shoot?" OK, so the diversion didn't quite work, "Would you believe that my spirit guide warned me?" I shrugged, "I just heard a voice in the back of my mind that yelled 'go back'. I reacted to it instinctively. Maybe my subconscious spotted a reflection, or maybe I saw dot from a laser. I can't explain it. I just accept it."
Shaking his head Doug asked, "Why did you charge the sniper. It was absolutely insane." Nodding, I agreed, "You're right. If I had been in my right mind, I wouldn't have done it. When I'm in that state, I..... lose some of myself to the animal side of my being. There is no cognizant thought. Just a need to find and destroy whatever is threatening me. The drive becomes uncontrollable when others close to me are involved. It happened the night that Sheila and I were attacked in the bedroom. I had no control with the first attacker. After he was dead, I regained control."
James was rubbing the bridge of his snout, "That's the most bizarre load of crap I've ever heard." Zig Zag glared at him and smacked his arm. Giving her a 'What did I do?' look, "I'm sorry, but that's my opinion." Turning to me he continued, "From the day she hit you, you've been nothing but trouble for us, everything from drive by shootings, to snipers shooting up my house. You are nothing but trouble." Nodding, I agreed, "You're right. Every time something's happened, I've told Zig Zag I don't want to risk her or anyone around her, especially not Sheila. Every time, she's insisted that I stay and work it out. Besides, not everything that's happened has been bad."
Leaning back, he raised his hands to me, "Name one thing you've done that hasn't caused problems for the rest of us." Opening my shirt, I made sure he could see the scars, "I took fifty stitches from Zig Zag to make sure that she would come back to you. I'm the one that helped her work through her problem with firearms so that she would hopefully not destroy her relationship with you. I'm the reason she even called Doug this morning to make sure you're all right." Looking at Zig Zag, I nodded, "Ask her, I literally lifted her up by the scruff of her neck and tossed her out of the bathroom after she mauled me and told her not to talk to me again until she called you."
James looked at Zig Zag who nodded to him, "He's right. I was still upset at you for bringing guns into my house, but even more upset at myself for screaming at you like I did. He helped me see why I was so angry." Lowering her head, she continued quietly, "And in the process, I mauled him."
Looking around the table, I could see that her testimony had gone far in building my credibility. Redirecting their attention, I once again walked the path of the Bear, "Yah, I know I've been the cause of a lot of problems. But I've also helped. Last I checked, Zig Zag's public approval rating was above 50% for the first time since she went into business. We're looking at adding a new dimension to blue films with technology that Zig Zag hadn't even imagined would be available to her, much less though of implementing. I'm not saying that I'm an angel. I've killed with my bare hands, no pun intended. I've had arguments, I've yelled and even hit people in anger, though I fight myself everyday to control that side of me. I'm not asking for anything special, just a chance to prove that I'm not the bad guy."
Finishing off the ice water, I looked around at the faces and saw they were thinking over what I was saying. There was that damned pregnant pause again. Standing up, I thanked Zig Zag for the drink and excused myself. I was still exhausted and sore from this afternoon and needed some more sleep.
Settling in on the couch, I considered my options. Unfortunately for me, my only hope resided in Zig Zag defending me if the jury voted me down.
Sitting in the hammock, Tigger checked the display on her monitoring equipment. Zig Zag's car was still located at (checking her notes), yes, James Sheppard's house. How interesting to find that she had a boyfriend. It was most entertaining. What was most intriguing was the fact that the cops were discrete enough keep the media out of it. Not one single reference to ZZ in their radio conversations. That was unusual.
Reaching over to her keyboard, she hit a separate function key and watched the map scroll over to watch Jones. The cat was at the city archives. Her investigations had shown that he was digging into the plea bargain agreements that he had signed off on, checking to see who, if any, he had overridden and given a more lenient plea.
Hitting the next function key, she brought up the location of Khansman's car. He was at the office as usual. The rube was stupid enough that he didn't even bother to have his car swept for bugs. Tonight she'd have to see about wiring his office.
She was rooting for the cop. If he pulled this off, the DA was going to be up the creak with out a paddle. Even if he did survive the rapids that were Jones, he'd have to deal with the waterfall, and that was her job.
I really wish people would stop shaking me. Cracking open my eyes, I saw Zig Zag, "You have no idea how lucky James is." Watching her eyebrows rise, forming a question mark, I answered the implied question, "If it had been him, I would have been tempted to maul first and ask questions later." Giving me a little grimace, she nodded towards the door, "Let's roll out of here. It's getting late."
Sitting up, I saw that it was dark outside. I had been asleep most of the day. Accepting a hand up from Zig Zag, I followed her over to the front door. James was standing in the foyer. Giving Zig Zag a hug and a kiss, they whispered sweet, sucrose-encrusted words that would have sent a diabetic into shock.
Finally breaking it up, Zig Zag opened the door. Following her out, James stopped me as he put a hand on my arm. Looking at the hand, then his face, I tried to keep a neutral expression on my face. Glancing at Zig Zag, he looked back at me, "You're a trouble maker. But you're Zig's troublemaker. As long as she says so, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt." Nodding, I turned to leave when he stopped me again, "I also wanted to thank you." Turning back, I looked at him as he struggled to get what he needed to say out; "You saved Zig's life today. I don't care about any totem mumbo jumbo crap, but I am not an ungrateful person, even if I can be dense. I just wanted to thank you."
Nodding, I asked, "Fresh start?" Giving me a confused look for a second, he thought and then nodded, "All right. Fresh start." Sticking my hand out, "Hi, I'm Arden, you must be James. I've heard some wonderful things about you from Zig Zag." Taking my hand, he shook it firmly, "Glad to meet you Arden, I've heard some pretty good things about you too."
After Zig Zag parked the car in the garage, I stopped her before she went in. "Zig. I'd just like to say thanks." Cocking her head to the side, she gave me a curious look. "You could have really screwed me over today. Instead, you stat there and let me feed a line of disinformation to your friends." Giving me a shrug, she asked, "What else could I have done?" Leaning against the door, I started counting items off, "You could have told them what I told you this morning, that I'm lying about my memory, hell you could have told them I'm some kind of freak that escaped from a genetics lab." Running out of fingers, I decided to stop there, "As it was, you not only didn't make me out to be some freak, but you backed me up with James. That means a lot to me. I just wanted you to know."
Smiling, she reached up and grabbed an ear. Pulling me down, she got me to face level, "After all you've done for Sheila, the studio and myself, there's no way I'd do any of that."
As she started to pull me forward, I put my hand up to stop her. Searching my eyes, she gave me a questioning look. "Zig, you're Jamses's girl. I don't think he'd appreciate it." Rolling her eyes to the heavens, she used her other hand to push mine down, "Look, it's not like I'm taking you to bed, it's just a kiss." Giving a sigh of exasperation, I glanced down, "Yah, that may be true, but tell that to Mr. Happy. You're a temptation I don't want to have to resist Zig. Not after making up with James."
Nodding she closed her eyes and shook her head for a second, then reaching up with the other hand grabbed my other ear and yanked me close. Giving me a long hard kiss, she finally let go. "That's how I say thank you." Glancing down at the bulge in my crotch, she smiled, "And tell Mr. Happy to live with it."
Following her into the house, I heard her saying to herself, "I still got it."
Getting undressed, I heard Sheila in the shower. I was in a mood for a little water fun thanks to Zig's kiss. Opening the shower door, I stepped in and closed it behind me. Sheila jumped at the sound and spun around. Giving her a big smile, I opened my arms, "Hey baby. Daddy's home."
She just stood there, with her head down, not saying a word. Confused at this lack of enthusiasm, I reached out to lift her chin. Flinching away, she backed up. Dropping my arm to the side, I could feel the rage start. Stamping a hard fist on the feeling, I asked rather tersely, "What the hell's wrong now? I forget to call? Did I leave the bed turned back wrong? What?" In a weak voice, she still didn't look up, "It's not you, it's me."
Reaching over, I turned off the shower and grabbed her chin. Not giving her a chance to flinch, I lifted up her chin and demanded, "Look at me. I said LOOK AT ME!" Opening her eyes, she finally looked at me. "What is so damned horrible, that you're skulking in here refusing to even look at me?" Letting go of her chin, I leaned against the tile and waited.
"You know I was supposed to pick up Bjorn today right?" Know? Hell I was the one that kept Zig from doing it herself, "Yes, I was in the car when Zig made the call." Still refusing to look at me, "Bjorn and I go back a long ways. We've worked together on a lot of projects." I knew this, nodding I waited for her to continue. "We also spent a lot of time off camera too," she said looking up, searching my face for a reaction.
Turing, I closed my eyes and banged my head against the tile a few times, "Let me guess. He got you all hot and bothered today and wound up sleeping with him?" Touching my arm, she pleaded, "I know it was wrong. I wanted to stop him, but....." Pulling her hand back she started crying, "But he just so.... I tried to justify it to myself as rehearsing for the screen, and that worked at the time, but now it doesn't cut it."
Taking a deep breath, I forced the rage down. She had betrayed me again. I could feel my claws punching holes in palms. Repeating the litany over and over, I told myself, "I walk the path of bear. I am the healer. I can do no harm." Sheila saw the struggle, and interpreted it to be anger at her, and she was partially right. Trying to move past me and exit the shower, I blocked her with my body.
Having stifled most of the rage, I turned to her. Reaching out, I took her into my arms and held her close. Towering over her, I spoke quietly, "I won't say that I'm not upset at you. I won't promise not to have words with Bjorn. However, I do want you to realize that although I'm upset with you, and very disappointed with you, I still love you."
Smiling, I had an idea, "There's only one way I can think of, for you to make this up to me." Looking up at me with those sensuous eyes, "Anything. Just name it," she promised. Giving her a long, deep kiss, I felt the tension flow out of her. Breaking it off, I whispered in her ear, "Just tell me I'm better in bed than he is."
Rolling over in bed, Sheila slowly became aware that Arden was missing. Glancing over at the bathroom, she confirmed that he wasn't there. Looking at the clock, she saw that it was almost four in the morning. Waking up without him in bed was getting to be a habbit.
Climbing out of bed, she wrapped her housecoat around her and walked out into the hall. She saw the light on in Zig Zag's study and crept over. Peaking around the doorjamb she looked in and saw Arden writing in a small diary. As she watched, she saw him intensely concentrating on whatever he was writing. Leaning in the door, she smiled as he scratched his ear with the back end of the pen. She had seen Zig Zag doing the same thing in her office numerous times.
Clearing her throat she got his attention, "What are you writing about?" Looking up, he smiled, "The doctor told me that I should write down what's happened since I got the amulet. He was hoping it would provide some insight on what's happened to me."
Coming around the desk, she saw him close the book. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she nuzzled his ear, "How about putting the book away and coming to bed." Turning his head, he gave her a quick kiss, "Aren't you supposed to be doing a shoot today?" She nodded, "Yep, We're shooting all the bedroom scenes while the prop guys build the other sets." Giving a laugh, Arden stood up and followed her to bed, "If you have this much energy after you get home from work, then I'm definitely going to be in trouble if you ever retire."