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.
Getting to work early, Sheila gave Arden a quick kiss as they went their separate ways. Looking into Sabrina's closet, Sheila saw that she was in. Hurrying back to her locker, Sheila checked to make sure nobody was around. Opening it up, she removed a box with a colorful, "Road Kill Helper" label on it. The box had been a gift from a friend, and was always in her locker. Opening it, she removed the amulet and replaced the box in its usual position. Closing the locker, she hurried over to Sabrina's closet.
Closing the door, Sheila once again hopped up on the corner of the desk. With the free space created by her new flat screen monitor, Sabrina was now able to designate that corner for "the guest chair." Removing the amulet, Sheila held it up for Sabrina to see, "This is it." Sheila announced.
Taking the amulet, the first thing Sabrina noticed was that it was quite warm. Suspicious, she wondered just where Sheila had been hiding it. Snickering to herself, she was just glad it wasn't wet. Looking at the front, she saw the face that had been carved in detail. The gems were magnificent. They appeared to have a life of their own, reflecting a different color depending on how the light hit them. She had heard about the 'inner fire' of diamonds, but never anything like this.
Using the magnifying lamp that she checked proof prints with, Sabrina examined the detail. The archivist was correct, there was a lot of detail on the back that wasn't discernable in the photocopy of the drawing. Rotating the back so as to follow the text, there was something wrong with what she was seeing. She couldn't quite put her finger on it, but there was something definitely wrong.
"Well? Can you scan it?" Sheila asked. Sheila's question took Sabrina by surprise. The medallion had mesmerized her. Flipping open the scanner, she carefully placed the medallion on the glass taking great care not to scratch the scanning surface. Closing the cover, she brought up her scanning software. Setting it for maximum resolution, she waited for the image to appear. The medallion, originally just a few inches across was now a virtual three feet across. Detail and texture was readily available. Storing the image on the hard drive, she scanned the back. Storing this one also, she then made copies onto a Zip disk to take to the archivist. The images were too huge to send via e-mail. She was going to have to SneakerNet them over.
Removing the medallion, Sabrina reluctantly handed it back to Sheila. There was some attraction that made her want to hold on to it. Realizing this, she gave a small shudder, and vowed not to touch it again unless absolutely necessary.
"I'll take these images over to the archivist during lunch. Hopefully he'll be able to make better use of them." She told Sheila. Hopping off the desk, Sheila tucked the medallion away, "Thanks Sabrina, I appreciate the help." She said.
Making her way back to her locker, Sheila once again tucked the medallion safely away in her locker. Verifying that nobody was around to have seen her, she changed clothes for today's shoot.
Zig Zag closed the door to her office. Taking the memory module out of her purse, she plugged it into the adapter on her PC. Accessing the camera maker's utilities, she downloaded the video to the computer. She had gotten the camera from her study to do some video with James, but hearing Sheila's screech she looked in to see Arden tickling her. Setting the camera from single-frame to video mode, she proceeded to shoot the entire sequence. Laughing again as Sheila trapped his tongue; Zig Zag was wiping tears from her eyes by the time the video had ended. The look on Arden's face when he saw the camera was priceless.
Opening power point, she began the process of 'dissecting' the scene. This would be the subject of today's 'shoot critique'.
Nobody tells Zig Zag that she can't get them in front of a camera.
The booth Bjorn and Sheila were seated in was located in a back corner of the small French restaurant. Bjorn had arranged for the isolated seating when he called to make reservations. During their meal, the conversation had been light and lively. Sheila was obviously in a better mood than she was in yesterday.
Taking a sip of wine during a lull in the conversation, Bjorn made up his mind. He had been anxious about what he was going to do, but now he was certain.
Taking her hand across the small table he gave it a squeeze, "You know Sheila, if it was not for you, I probably would not be doing this job for Zig Zag." He told her. The surprise showed clearly on her face. He continued, "In the past, working in this industry, there were always many talented, and un-talented people that I had to work with. But over the years, I have always looked forward to working with you."
Sheila looked a little uncomfortable, almost as if she was going to blush, "Well thanks Bjorn. I've always looked forward working with you. It's almost like we were made to work together." She said.
Thinking to himself, "Bjorn, do not screw this up," Bjorn reached under the table and removed a small box from his jacket. He began, "I think that it is important for us to think not only of the past, but of the future." Seeing that she didn't follow where this was going, Bjorn simply set the small box on the table and pushed it towards her.
Picking up the box, Sheila's curiosity was peaked. Opening it up, she gasped at the ring inside. It was a small gold band with what had to be at least a 1.5 or 2carat diamond. Looking up she stared at Bjorn, her mouth hanging slack.
Taking the box from her, Bjorn removed the ring and grasped her hand. Slipping the ring onto her finger, he looked at her and asked, "Sheila Vixen, will you marry me?"
Taking the Zip disk with her, Sabrina headed over to the library and up to the digital media room. Old man Jacobs had agreed to meet her there at one o'clock to examine the imagery and ensure that it was to his satisfaction. Entering the room, Sabrina saw a dozen or so large Sun workstations running X Windows. The monitors on them were huge. She wondered how they got them up here without having to use a crane.
Spying the archivist in the corner, she saw him examining a high-resolution image of an ancient scroll. Walking over, she dragged a chair up next to the desk and sat down. Hearing the scrape of the chair, Jacobs looked over at Sabrina and smiled, "Ah, yes." He said, "The pretty girl from the studios and her wonderful pictures."
Blushing, Sabrina looked away for a second, and said, "Please understand, I just work there, I'm not in any of the pictures." Giving her a confused look, the archivist asked, "But why would you be in the pictures? I thought you were bringing me images of the medallion, yes yes, the medallion?" he said. Relief flooded her system. She had assumed he was referring to her job at ZZ Studios and not the zip disk. Removing the disk from her purse, she passed it over to the archivist and watched him insert it into the drive.
Working the mouse, the archivist looked over the top of his spectacles at the screen as he minimized the scroll and opened the first image on the disk. As the image popped up on the screen, it occupied almost two thirds of the available space on the 32" monitor.
"Ahhhh. This is much better, much better, yes. Look," he said, pointing at the screen, "here, the detail of these letters was lost. Now we see, yes yes yes, we can see the detail of the text. I was right, this is the symbol for dragon, and here." Rotating the image 180 degrees, he pointed to a similar symbol on the opposite side, "This is the symbol for demon. You see how similar they are yes... yes... yes? They are almost identical, yes... yes... yes?" Rotating the image 90 degrees, he pointed again, "And here, this is the symbol for Lakesh. See how it is built around the symbol for the demon. Together they form his name." Again the archivist flipped the image, "And here, this is the same outer symbol encompassing the dragon." Smiling he looked at Sabrina, "It would appear that Lakesh is also considered a dragon."
Taking notes on her pad, Sabrina watched him as he loaded the backside of the image. "Ah yes. Wonderful detail, just wonderful." He muttered to himself, while studying the image, then confusion slowly crept across his face. "What is this? What...what...what? This is not the same! This is different!" He exclaimed.
Sitting up at that, Sabrina looked at him, "I don't understand. How is it different?" Zooming in on the center of the image, Jacobs pulled out the photocopies from his pockets. "Here, in the center. The inscription is wrong. It's different." He explained it to her, showing Sabrina the paper and placing it beside the image on the monitor, he examined them together. "Your medallion is a later version of the original drawing. Look here. The drawing had this text here at the very center working out from the middle. Now here on your medallion, these symbols don't show up until after this new block of text. It would appear that your lineage on this medallion is a generation later."
Examining the pictures, Sabrina also saw the difference now that he had pointed it out. That must have been what she saw was wrong, but didn't recognize. "So this isn't the same medallion then?" She asked. Shaking his head, Jacobs continued to look at the image, and told her, "No, my dear, it is not. Although the front is identical, the rear is obviously different." Zooming out to the edge, he followed the text until the pixelation made it unreadable. "This is truly amazing. The detail on the letters does not degrade. I've never seen such small detail rendered so perfectly. Even the mint would have trouble making an object of this quality. Either this is the product of amazing workmanship, or someone is manufacturing medallions with ancient texts, half of which I don't even recognize with a technology that is obscenely expensive. This is quite intriguing, quite intriguing."
Zooming back in on the center, he looked down inside his glasses. "And this is the frosting on the cake." He said to her. Pointing to numerous points on the text, "Here, here, all these symbols have common thread. You see the connector between them? A colleague of mine in Portugal identified it for me. It's the symbol for change or transition. He wasn't sure about the drawing, but this detail is confirmation of what he sent me, yes... yes... yes. Each of the entries is a transition, from one person to another. The odd thing is that they are distinct changes that don't appear to be related. The identities do not repeat between each section. As if it's documenting unrelated events or people. This is amazing, yes... yes... yes... most amazing." He mused.
Examining the symbols Sabrina asked, "What do the individual symbols mean? Do you have any ideas?" Shaking his head, he replied, "It's a mess. There are people, animals, mythological references, and things I've NEVER seen before. I'm not sure what they are supposed to be representing, as it doesn't make sense, no sense at all. This is going to be a most interesting project, most interesting, indeed."
Working on Leon again, I occasionally had to stop and rub my palms. I don't know which oil it was, but I sure as heck was allergic to one. I guess I'd have to see about getting tested. That or start wearing gloves. Finishing up with him, I scrubbed my hands down and put the lotion on that Philippe had given me to help with the itching.
As I was starting to clean up, Clarence came in, "Hey Arden. Zig Zag wants to see you." He informed me. Tossing the towel in the hamper, I walked to the door, "No sweat, just tell whoever's next that I'll be late." I told him. Noticing his nervous look, I tossed over my shoulder, "Oh don't worry, nobody's scheduled for a bit." As I started over towards Zig Zag's office Clarence stopped me and said, "Um, she's in the viewing room."
I froze. She wanted me in the viewing room? She wouldn't dare. Turning, I walked to the video room. Opening the door, my suspicion was confirmed. Everyone was seated with Zig Zag at the small podium off on the side. "Arden, just the man we were waiting for. Come on up here." She told me. Letting out a low growl as I proceeded around the room, I gave Zig Zag a dangerous glare as I approached.
Gesturing me up on the podium beside her, she smiled, "As we all know, Arden has been working here for the last week. He and Tony have been doing research on enhancing our video capabilities to allow us to do some rather spectacular visual effects we'd never imagined would be available to us. In the afternoons, he's also taken over the job of masseuse since our last one left. As is our tradition, we like to take a moment at our Friday highlights review to welcome new members of our little family and make them feel at home." She announced. Everyone in the room began applause politely.
Still suspicious of Zig Zag, I smiled and gave a polite wave to everyone. Tammy was patting an empty chair in the front row next to me. It looked like I had reserved seating.
Sitting down, I gave her a polite smile while removing her paw from the inside of my leg and held it in my hand. Sitting back, I watched the highlights of the week's shoots.
I now understood Bjorn's attraction.
Careful to keep my face neutral, I watched the rest of the videos. Other than the wide variety of shapes involved, it was just like that stuff I'd seen back in the old world. As the video ended, everyone hooted and cheered Bjorn. Joining in, I was more than happy to give credit where it's due.
Returning to the lectern, Zig Zag switched the projector from the VCR over to the laptop she had with her. "OK. And now I'd like to talk about adding humor to some of our work." She announced. Holding up a remote control, she hit a button bringing up the ZZ Studios logo. As the graphic spun off the screen my blood ran cold. She was actually going to show it.
Projected on the ten-foot tall screen was myself bending over to kiss Sheila. You couldn't quite make out what I said, but my tongue twitched as I saw Sheila bite down on it. The hoots of laughter as she began tickling me drowned out any chance of anyone hearing the tape. The scene played out, my retaliation, falling on the floor, then Sheila jumping up off the bed. The image froze, "Anyone else in here think that Sheila must have some cat in her?" Asked Zig Zag facetiously. Suspended in the air, she looked like a cat pouncing on her prey. The terror on my face and my inarticulate scream was held in suspended animation. Several people in the row behind me pounded on my back.
As Zig Zag clicked the button again, I once again felt Sheila landing on my stomach. The one thing that grabbed my attention though was how far my tongue shot out. I hadn't realized it could do that. I guess you learn something new.
The scene became unsteady as Zig Zag began laughing. On screen, I rolled over pinning Sheila to the floor. As I watched her squirm on the screen, someone in the back yelled, "Oh ya! I know how GOOOOOOood that feels!" sparking even more laughter. As we began the direct tickle fight, I began to laugh remembering how fun it had been, all memories of my embarrassment lost in the moment.
On screen, we had finally broken apart. Sheila lay on the floor, myself leaning against the bed, laughing hysterically at the event. My shoulders received more poundings from my supporters. On screen, I looked at the camera. You could clearly hear Zig Zag's voice over the speakers, "It's a Kodak Moment." Everyone in the room gave another roar of appreciation at her comment.
On screen, I jumped up. The image swung wildly as Zig Zag slammed the door and began running down the hall. As the video ended, everyone stood and cheered. Gesturing for me to come up on the stage, Zig Zag rolled the screen up into its storage in the roof. Getting up, I stepped up onto the platform.
Raising her hands, Zig Zag calmed the crew down. "Now as you all know, we normally show the climax footage from the scenes for the new actor in our stable. However Arden doesn't have any. So just to make him feel at home...." As she said this, I noticed that she was now standing over by the podium. Looking back out into the audience, I saw that my two supporters in the 2nd row now held "super soakers". Putting my hands up for defense, I was nailed by streams of the most gawd awful slippery mess I've ever gotten in my fur.
Once again the room cheered at the spectacle before them. I now knew how the Roman Gladiators felt in the arena. After a few seconds they stopped firing and Zig Zag spoke up again, "I know it's not the same thing folks, but I guess we can now declare our boy baptized!"
Standing in a pool of spreading goop, I began laughing. Raising my arms in victory, I took a couple of bows and blew Zig Zag a kiss. Reaching out with my left hand, I raised the other high in the air, "Let's hear it for Zig Zag! The lady knows how to throw a party."
Smiling, Zig Zag made the mistake of stepping a little ways out on the stage. Taking a bow, I motioned for her to do so also. While she was deep in her bow I took a wide step in her direction. Slipping on the crap they had squirted me with, I think I pulled a groin muscle. Ignoring the pain, I snagged her arm. She Screeched as I yanked her off balance and caught her in my arms, dragging her down into the pool of goop.
As she struggled to break my hold I realized that I had underestimated just how slippery this stuff was. I had planned on a quick pin, but this was turning into a classic mud-wrestling event. People where cheering both of us on. I could hear the occasional bets being taken on the victor. Trapping her tail between my arm and ribs, I used it as leverage to roll over and pin her. Struggling vainly to get away, she was unable to escape my grasp. Slapping the floor, she conceded the match.
Pushing myself back onto my knees, I helped her sit up. We were both grinning like idiots. Licking off my muzzle, I was struck with the most grotesque taste. Good lord, what did they use to make this stuff? Looking down, I saw a similar look on Zig Zag's face, which pleased me to no end. Getting unsteadily to my feet, I felt a twinge in my groin from where I pulled the muscle.
Reaching down a hand, I lifted Zig Zag up. Standing next to me, she indicated we should take another bow. Yelling over the hoots, I asked her, "You're videotaping this aren't you?" Laughing she nodded. Seeing me roll my eyes to the heavens, she stuck her tongue out at me. Waving to the crowd, we then proceeded to the locker/shower area. Someone had thoughtfully put towels on the floor between the video room and the showers. No need to have to shampoo the carpet.
Stripping down, I made a point of ignoring Zig Zag who was doing the same, "Sorry about the soaking Zigs, but you did ask for it." I told her. Laughing, she tossed her shirt over, covering my head, "Don't worry, I keep extra clothes around for just such an occasion." She replied.
Walking back to a shower, I turned on the water and waited for it to get warm. Stepping in, I started to pull the curtain, when I saw Zig's hand snake around the edge. Hanging her towel on the bar outside, she started to climb in. "Beg your pardon, but are you having trouble finding an open stall?" I asked her. Holding up some shampoo, she smiled, "I know for a fact that this crap is hell to get out of your fur. We're both going to need help getting it out, especially since you insisted on us rolling around in it." She told me.
Narrowing my eyes, I scowled, "No tricks and no games?" The smile slowly left her face, "OK. Cross my heart, no tricks no games." She answered. Taking the shampoo, I turned her around and started lathering her up good. She was right, this crap was hell to get out. "Man, what did you guys use? Super glue?" I asked her. Laughing she glanced over her shoulder, "You had your choice of the easy road or the hard road. The easy road comes out with a lot less mess." She informed me. Licking her muzzle, she made a terrible face and added, "And it sure tastes a lot better than this stuff too.... "
By the time we were ready to dry off, we were both laughing again. True to her word, Zig Zag didn't try any funny stuff. Going to my locker, I took the over-night bag out and removed some clothes. Getting dressed, I packed it up and headed out looking for Sheila.
Casing the building, I met Zig Zag by the front door, "No sign of her." Looking out in the parking lot, we saw her car was still there. Returning inside, Zig Zag checked the sign out sheet, "Sheila and Bjorn checked out for lunch at 11:30 but never checked back in." Zig Zag was wearing a concerned look. It wasn't like those two to disappear.