Arden(c) Hikaru Katayamma. Yin, Tiffany, Comfort, The Watering Hole(c) John Robey. Story(c) Hikaru Katayamma
Yin sat at the desk in the dining room, scowling as she stared at the wallet that lay on the table. Earlier this evening she had met an interesting polar bear named Arden, with whom she had spent the night talking about alternate realities. He wasn't like everyone else that just gave her the brush off or simply scoffed at her, though he did laugh occasionally at some of her ideas. No, Arden had kept the conversation light as he talked about numerous realities and the different rules that they worked under.
All during dinner he regaled her with stories about different places and how some people didn't even have fur. The furless worlds were the weirdest to listen to, though the non-predation worlds ran a close second. Who ever heard of a squirrel and a wolf getting together, much less having a kid?
But that wasn't the end of it. After eating, they were taking a walk when the most bizarre thing happened. His PDA had beeped. After checking it, Arden had declared that he needed to run off to a very important meeting, and he promising to come back sometime and visit.
That wasn't the bizarre part. The bizarre part was the fact that he had simply disappeared from sight after giving her a quick peck on the forehead.
It took a few moments for her to recover from the shock, and then she realized that there had been nobody else around to witness it. Yin had felt totally cheated. Totally cheated, that is, until she had noticed the wallet lying on the ground. The small leather object had fallen out of his pocket when he removed the PDA.
Now it sat before her, taunting her to open it and look inside. Tiffany had wanted her to leave it at the bar with Leonard in case Arden came back, but Yin had refused. He would have to return to her sooner or later in order to get it back, and when he did she would get her proof.
With a sly smile and a twinkle in her eye Yin gave into her curiosity and picked up the wallet, opening it.
"So, finally decided to see where he lives, eh?" Tiffany asked from behind.
Yin let out a small sigh of exasperation. "I tell you, he's not from this dimension. He literally vanished right in front of my eyes," she claimed in her defense.
Tiffany laughed. "Yah, right. He sounds just like my dad at a family reunion," she said mockingly, heading for the kitchen.
Yin gave the retreating form of Tiffany a longing look. Tiffany was a great roomy, but it would be nice if she would at least try to believe her once in a while. It had been Tiffany who had opened Yin's eyes to the government's conspiracy to cover up proof of aliens and inter-dimensional events like tonight. You'd think that Tiff would be willing to cut her some slack.
A small sigh escaped Yin as she returned her attention to the wallet. Flipping it open, she saw the interior looked more like another PDA than it did a regular wallet. To the left there was a gray panel that looked like a display, and on the right was an odd looking keyboard. The keyboard resembled a calculator, only it didn't have numbers on it and there were way too many keys. The writing on it didn't look like anything Yin had seen before. It kind of resembled a mix between Japanese, Arabic and Egyptian hieroglyphs.
Curious, Yin investigated the wallet further by splitting open the back. Inside she found a card that resembled a laminated drivers license on the back, but the front was completely blank. There were also some credit cards, though they were like the license. Although they had a magnetic strip on the back and a signature area, there wasn't a raised portion for the numbers or a label for the bank.
Buoyed by her discovery Yin let out a little cheer. "Wohoo!!! You wanted proof, I got proof!" she yelled out to Tiffany.
"Just a second," came the tired voice of Tiffany from the kitchen. A few moments later Tiffany backed into the room, pushing the swinging door open with her tail, carrying a plate with a sandwich and a drink. Glancing down at the overexcited Yin, Tiffany rolled her eyes and walked to the open chair at the end of the table.
"Here, look at these," Yin said excitedly, holding the cards out to Tiffany as she sat down. Taking the cards from Yin, Tiffany looked at them. "Look on the back. See? The back's normal but the front is blank. They would have to be that way so he could adapt them to whatever dimension he's in," she said excitedly.
Tiffany looked the cards over, curious at what Yin had said. It all sounded so logical, but for some reason it just didn't click. With a small shrug Tiffany tossed them back over to Yin. "He's probably a forger. A bad one at that," she said in way of an excuse.
Yin couldn't believe what she was hearing. She wondered what it would take to convince her. As Yin picked up the cards and slipped them into the wallet she was forced to lay her ears down flat at the sound of the stereo from the living room. Comfort was playing Rhythm Divine on the stereo again, and at full volume.
She tried to ignore the music as Tiffany got up to go yell at Comfort. Yin was looking at the odd keyboard on the wallet. Touching several buttons at random, she was rewarded when the display on the left lit up with a panorama of colorful images. More of the goofy writing appeared on the display, and one of pictures was blinking.
Relieved by the fact that Tiffany had managed to get Comfort to turn down the music, Yin looked over into the living room and watched her stalk back to the dining area. "I swear, I don't know which of us is going to kill her first, mom or me!" Tiffany said angrily.
Yin just chuckled. Comfort was a nice enough kid, but she sure grated on their nerves at times. Just as Tiffany was about to sit down, the volume climbed again. With a low growl, Tiffany turned back to the living room and again began to yell at Comfort.
Ignoring the tirade, Yin looked at the blinking picture up close. It looked like Arden. Now she really was getting somewhere. Touching the image caused it to expand and fill the display. It also caused a red light on the keyboard to strobe. Curious as to what it did, Yin touched the keyboard and promptly vanished with a small popping noise.
Finally satisfied that Comfort wouldn't be screwing with the volume again, Tiffany turned back to her dinner. Stunned by the absence of Yin, she blinked her eyes, verifying that what she wasn't seeing, was real. Quickly moving over to the computer desk she looked underneath and verified the panda wasn't hiding there. Now totally confused, she walked into the kitchen to check and see if Yin had snuck in there.
Finding no sign of the panda, Tiffany wandered back into the dining room and sat down at the table where her sandwich lay untouched. "Man, I never knew she was that quick!" Tiffany thought. "Or quiet, for that matter. She's been holding out on me."
With a small chuckle at Yin's ability to sneak out from under her nose, Tiffany lifted her sandwich and bit into it. As she chewed the sandwich in a distracted manner, Tiffany thought about Yin's claims regarding Arden.
"Nah," she said with a brief shake of her head, and then went back to eating dinner.
* * * * *
Yin let out a squeak of surprise as she found herself mysteriously sitting on the floor, wondering how she had come to be there. Confused, she looked around, trying to figure out what had happened. The room was totally different from the dining area, the table and chairs missing.
"Yin!" she heard a voice behind her. A hand helped her up as she tried to stand. Turning around, she saw it was Arden.
"How did you get here?" he asked excitedly, and then looked at the wallet in her hand. "My BDA! Where did you find it?" he demanded, reaching for the object.
"Oh no!" she said, pulling out of his reach. "You're not getting away that easy," she said, giving him a hard look.
Arden nervously glanced over to the side and back to Yin. "Please, we've got to get out of here," he begged.
Still weary of tricks, Yin glanced over where Arden had looked seeing bars for the first time. It was only then that she realized that they were in some kind of cage. She also realized that he wasn't wearing any clothes. It wasn't that important, but the last time she had seen him he had been wearing a red t-shirt and blue shorts. It looked kind of patriotic.
"Where are we?" she asked, more than a little scared and confused. His head turned again towards the bars as they heard a clanging out in the hall.
Arden put a paw on Yin's shoulder and maneuvered her into a corner by the bars while covering her mouth. "Stay quiet and don't move," he whispered, darting back over to the far corner.
"About a young maiden I'll sing you a song, sing rickety tickety tin," Arden sang with a bit of an Irish accent. Yin was startled as something was banged against the bars.
"Shaddup in there!" she heard yelled from outside the cage. Arden held his paws up, pushing away with them in surrender, his singing stopped. Now aware of someone in the hall, Yin listed to the footsteps as they walked away, slamming a metal door.
Arden stood and rushed over to Yin. "Give me the BDA. We've got to get out of here," he whispered urgently.
"Where are we?" Yin whispered back excitedly.
A look of exasperation filled Arden's face. "We're in universe 31572, prime timeline, alpha matrix, the jail. Now can we please get out of here?" he asked, his eyes pleading with Yin.
Yin let out a squeal of victory. "IknewitIkenwitIknewit!" she chattered excitedly as Arden tried to quiet her down.
"Give me my BDA so we can get out of here," he said quietly, trying to get the wallet back. Satisfied for the moment, Yin handed the leather object over to Arden.
A puzzled look came over Arden's face as he examined the display and pressed some buttons. "What did you do to my BDA?" he asked in disbelief.
Yin just shrugged. "I don't know. I just pressed a couple of buttons and it came on. I saw a picture of you, touched it and a blinking button, and poof, I'm here," she said by way of an explanation. Arden was dumbfounded. His jaw hanging free, he just looked at her as his mind tried to come to grips with what he saw.
With a shake of his head he returned his attention to the small wallet. "You wiped the memory. My logs, they're all gone," he said franticly punching buttons. "Oh no. This isn't happening.... Not now, please not now," he said with a small whimper.
Yin peered over his shoulder, looking at the display. "What's wrong?" she asked, curious.
"My PDA isn't responding to the homing beacon. I can't recall it. If I don't get it back they'll banish me to some backwater dimension for the next thousand years," he said, a tinge of panic in his voice.
The sound of the door opening followed by running feet vied for their attention. Pushing a couple of buttons, Arden stepped back and grabbed Yin in a close hug, holding her in front of him. With the hand holding the wallet completing the circuit of his arms, he pressed a blinking button, which caused their surroundings to suddenly change as if it were a cut-scene in a movie.
Yin glanced around after Arden released her and saw that they were in a comfortable-looking apartment. The usual TV, chairs, couches and tables were present. As she continued turning around she stopped, stunned at what she saw, and screamed.
A tall figure stood where she had expected to see Arden. Bereft of fur except for a short-cropped patch on its head and around his face, ears in the wrong place and a short stump where its muzzle should have been, it was something out of her worst nightmare. The repulsive creature resembled a cross between a frog and an ape without any fur. Its only redeeming factor was the fact that clothes covered a majority of his deformed body.
Startled, the creature jumped, looking around for whatever set Yin off. Its gaze now back on Yin, it saw her pointing a finger at it. "Who are you? What are you?" she asked in a panicked voice. As she backed away from it, she noticed her arm wasn't right. There was no fur. Looking down, she saw that, in fact all of her fur was gone.
With another scream of terror, Yin fainted.
* * * * *
Lying comfortably on a couch, Yin awoke from the most awesome dream. She remembered everything. It had been so totally real, right down to loosing all her fur. It had been a long time since Yin's last "Where did all my fur go?" dream.
As she looked at the ceiling, Yin realized that the texture was wrong. Tiffany's ceiling had swirl patterns, whereas this one was spackled. And the couch---they didn't have a leather couch.
Startled, Yin sat up and looked around, wondering if she was still dreaming. She saw that strange furless guy again, sitting at a kitchenette table, working on something. Once again Yin looked down at herself, and she saw that she was equally furless. She still had on the same vest she always wore, only now she also had on a large t-shirt with "Born to Bamboo" on it, a pair of black shorts and some sandals.
"Oh wow. This is too much," she said with a laugh.
"Glad to see you're awake," a familiar voice said.
Looking back over at the kitchenette, she saw the man working on something in front of him on the table. "Umm. Who are you?" she asked.
The creature looked up and gave a small laugh. "I'm Arden. Surely you haven't forgotten me already," he chided her, smiling.
"That was Arden?" she thought to herself. "Well DUH! What did you think girl? He even told you there are millions of different shapes out there. Of course he'd have some way to adapt himself." As the pieces fell into place for Yin, she smiled back. Excited again, she hopped to her feet and quickly walked over to the table and sat down across from him.
He appeared to be working on an older hand-held style computer that had been big about four or five years earlier. "So, what's that?" she asked.
Arden didn't look up. This is my HDA," he said without further explanation, not bothering to look up.
Yin began to drum her fingers on the table. "OK. I give. Just what does HDA stand for?" she asked, a little peeved.
He looked at her for a second, pursing his lips in thought before answering. "Handheld Dimensional Access controller. It's the previous model to my PDA, or Portable Dimensional Access controller. It was the second generation access controller before they were decommissioned for the PDA," he explained somewhat annoyed.
"And that means what to me?" Yin asked, raising an eyebrow.
Continuing to type on the keyboard, Arden took a deep breath. "It's the unit that allows me to travel inter-dimensionally. When I was captured they took my PDA. Now I have to get this HDA online without anyone realizing that I've lost my PDA. If I can't recover my PDA then we're both going to be screwed," he said, frowning at that last part.
"I don't understand," Yin said. "Your wallet thingy was able to transport us around. Why do you need this HDA or PDA thingy?"
"The wallet thingy... The wallet is just a camouflage device," he said absentmindedly. "It's designed to adapt the user to whatever environment they are transported into. It's the reason you look like you do, and have all the extra clothes. Local taboo requires them, so it automatically equipped you. As for it porting us around, you've already seen the only two transport functions it has: An emergency locator, which is how you got to me, and a safe-house function, which is how we got here."
With a small flourish Arden pressed a button and was rewarded with a chime. "All right, now we're cooking," he said, giving Yin a wink. "We're on-line and ready to go. If the identification changes I made in the system all work right, we should be in the clear."
That didn't sound very reassuring to Yin. "And if they don't?" she asked, cautious of the answer.
Arden tilted his head to the side and his brows arched high as he thought about it. "We'll have about five minutes before the continuity police show up. After that, if we're lucky, they'll just wipe your memory and return you home," he said with a sheepish grin.
Yin was not amused. "And if we aren't lucky," she said, becoming annoyed.
Arden bit his lip for a few seconds. "If we're not lucky, then they take my access systems and dump us in some backwater dimension where people are considered advantaged if they know how to make a fire," he said carefully, trying not to spook Yin.
Yin just stared at the man in disbelief. This couldn't be happening. All the stories she had heard about dimension jumpers had them being a carefree lot. This guy sounded like it was some kind of job.
"This isn't just some kind of hobby for you, is it? What do you do for a living?" she asked.
Arden nodded, punched several buttons on his wallet and then removed a business card, handing it to Yin.
"You're some kind of researcher?" she asked.
He nodded. "Actually, our job is closer to that of a scout. The 'Nexus Database' for all the dimensions requires regular updating. My job is to go through a list of dimensions and hang out in each one for a couple of hours while my BDA and PDA gather intelligence on the environment. Type of prime species, government, environment, social structure, that kind of stuff," he said, nodding.
"So, I was just research?" Yin asked slowly.
Arden was confused for a second by her question. "Oh no, not at all!" he exclaimed in denial. "On the contrary, I enjoyed the time we spent together. Usually I wind up wandering around an environment with nothing to do. It's not often I find someone as friendly as you were," he finished cheerfully.
Yin felt a little better about what he'd said. It wasn't a pleasant feeling to think of oneself as a lab animal. "All right, so what now?" she asked.
Arden stood up, placed the wallet in his pocket and snapped it shut. Obviously he wasn't going to risk loosing it again. He gestured for Yin to stand as he walked around the table. "I've got my HDA programmed to take us back to universe 31572, prime timeline, alpha matrix. From there we should be able to read the homing beacon on my PDA and recover it," he said, again standing behind Yin, his arms wrapped around her.
"Now remember," he cautioned, "whatever you see, whatever you become, the key to this is: Don't Panic! If anyone talks to us let me do all the talking. I'm going to set us down in what I hope is an out-of-the-way spot, but you never can tell."
As Yin watched him press a button she again saw her surroundings change instantly to an alley between buildings. As Arden released her she looked down at her body. She was covered in short white fur. Reaching up, she felt a small, stubby snout and a pair of very long ears. Looking over at Arden as he tapped away on his wallet, she realized that they were now rabbits.
"Great, now I'm the Easter Bunny," she though. Yin was startled as Arden's shape flickered a couple of times, finally reappearing with him wearing some military looking uniform.
"All right, now we need to get you properly dressed," he said, handing her the wallet. "Just press the green button and ONLY the green button."
Yin pressed the small green button and immediately became dizzy as the environment around her flickered wildly. Next thing she knew, Arden was holding her arm to keep her from falling over as he took the wallet from her.
"Much better. Welcome to the State Security Unit, Special Investigations Division, Capitol City Group," he said, explaining the uniforms. Arden worked on the wallet again, removing three pieces of identification and handed them to Yin. Each one held her picture, her new name "Yin Pandababe", and facts about who she was supposed to be. The rank on the military looking ID said she was a Class 1 Interrogator.
"Um. Class 1 Interrogator? What do they do?" she asked, nervous at the deception.
"Why, they interrogate people," Arden said, trying to keep a straight face but finally smiling. "Don't worry. All you have to do is look like you hate everyone and everything. Just glare at anything that moves. If anyone talks to you, or asks you anything, just stare them down. Believe me, nobody screws with an interrogator here."
Yin shuddered at the thought of what it must be like to live in this dimension. Arden used his HDA to verify that the PDA was located in the police building across the street. With a practiced scowl they headed across the street and into the building.
Inside it looked like any other old and run down police station. People were bustling around with papers while others were hauling criminals around. The fact that they were all rabbits made things very strange. Yin followed Arden as he headed towards some stairs that led up to the third floor. Pausing, he consulted his HDA once again before returning it to his pocket.
As they walked down the hallway Yin noticed that everyone gave them plenty of space. Many turned their eyes away if she glanced in their direction. It was an eerie feeling, as well as kind of a trip at the same time.
After turning a corner, Arden stopped at the first door. Without pausing to knock he walked in, not bothering to close the door. Yin, catching on quick, followed him in and closed the door with a slam. She hated that door. As Yin looked around she made it a point to hate everything in the room.
Everything, that is except for a nice philodendron sitting in the corner that needed water. Somehow, she just couldn't hate that poor plant, so she hated the man behind the desk doubly as much for not taking good care of it.
"Um, can I help you?" the fat rabbit asked, obviously intimidated by what he saw.
"We've come for the device," Arden said flatly.
The fat rabbit looked very surprised. "But, how did you know? I haven't even finished the paperwork on it yet," he managed to stutter out.
Arden gave a little laugh, looking down his snout at the man. "We're State Security. It's our job to know these things," he said. "Now, hand over the device. We have been ordered to take it to headquarters immediately." His demanding tone worked wonders on the man as he hastily reached into the desk and pulled out the PDA.
Arden picked it up and examined it. "The paperwork on this and the creature that had it---you will hand them over," he ordered.
The large rabbit looked sheepish. "Um, there's a problem with that. We don't have the creature any more," he admitted.
Arden barked out a laugh again, "Of course not. WE have him in custody now. But that is none of your concern. Right now, you will hand over all documentation on the creature and his device," Arden ordered.
The large rabbit picked up a phone and spoke rapidly to someone else, telling them to bring all the paperwork before hastily gathering all the paper on his desk. Soon, a knock at the door revealed a young uniformed woman who dropped off a small stack of folders.
The large rabbit hastily handed them to Arden who, in turn, handed them to Yin. Yin, of course stared at them, loathing them, enjoying the little game. Before leaving, Arden took out the PDA and pushed a couple of buttons. "Say, what do you think of this?" he asked the large rabbit, holding the display out to him. As the rabbit leaned closer to get a good look, there was a bright flash which left the rabbit just stunned.
"Gets 'em every time," Arden said with a chuckle, opening the door for Yin. As they stepped out in the corridor, Arden pulled the door closed behind, shutting the still immobile rabbit in his office.
"That was easy," Yin commented as they walked around the corner. Yin was surprised as Arden grabbed her arm and yanked her around the corner, while hearing someone yelling from down the hall behind them.
"What's going on," she asked as they ran down the corridor.
"State Security," Arden said, looking nervous.
"But, I thought WE were State Security," Yin asked, nervous.
Having spotted a bathroom, Arden yanked them inside. "We're pretending to be State Security," he said, wrapping his hands around her. Again, he pressed the button on the PDA and they were surrounded by his living room again.
"Got away again," Arden said, laughing as he took the folders from Yin. They were back to the furless bodies they had the first time they were in the apartment. As Yin watched, Arden did a little victory dance over to a trashcan, dumping the paperwork in. "Dodged the bullet again," he said with a whoop.
"Hey Yin, you want something to eat? Pulling that scam always gives me the munchies," he said, dumping his equipment on the table.
Yin, thought about it for a second and decided a snack would work. "Sure. As long as you have something fresh," she yelled back.
"No sweat. Whatever you want, I can make," he replied, his muffled voice coming from the kitchen.
"A nice pile of fresh bamboo shoots would be wonderful," Yin replied, sitting down at the table.
Arden stuck his head out the kitchen. "You're not serious, are you?" he asked, giving her a look of disbelief.
Yin was confused by his attitude. "Why wouldn't I be?" she asked back. Arden shook his head and ducked back into the kitchen. Yin was confused. He should know all she could eat was bamboo. It's not like she was an omnivore. Heck, even herbivores had a better meal choice than she did.
Her musings were interrupted as Arden came out of the kitchen with a platter of stuff. He set several dishes out on the table along with a glass of something fizzy for each of them before returning to the kitchen. "Be right back. Need to punch up some bamboo shoots," he said.
Taking a sip of the fizzy stuff Yin discovered that it was ordinary soda, though not a flavor she recognized. After a few seconds Arden returned with a bowl of bamboo shoots, setting them down in front of her before taking his seat.
"There you go," he stated, sounding confused. "But I don't know why you're sticking with that stuff when you could be eating something with flavor." Yin watched as he dipped a chip into a bowl of guacamole and popped it into his mouth. Her mouth was watering at the smells.
"You mean I can eat this other stuff?" Yin asked, almost afraid he'd say yes. Arden just smiled and nodded, this time picking up celery and dipping it into some ranch dressing.
Yin just stared at the food for a moment as a large smile slowly evolved on her face. Taking a corn chip, she scooped up a pile of the guacamole. Yin savored the smell as she held it under her nose for a second before popping it in her mouth, chomping down on the chip as it crunched noisily. She sat there, chewing the food, savoring the new flavors that she never dreamed of tasting.
Across the table Arden was grinning at the expression on her face. "Pretty good eh?" he asked, laughing.
Yin nodded while swallowing. "You're sure this isn't going to make me sick, right?" she asked, not waiting for an answer as she reached for some carrots.
"Not a problem. The BDA adapted your physiology so you can digest that stuff. When we jump, it will alter the contents of your stomach to make sure you don't have any reactions," he said, watching her as she quickly sampled the contents of the table. "Whoa there, Yin. We've got plenty of time. You don't need to rush," he said, laughing.
Yin stopped eating. "Time? How long have I been here?" she though. "Um, Arden, how long have I been gone? How long was I asleep and all?" she asked.
Arden checked his PDA, looking at the time. "Well, we've been here about thirteen hours, local time," he commented.
"Oh no!" Yin declared, standing up. "You've got to get me back right now. Tiffany has got to be going crazy worrying about me."
Arden just sat there, looking at her for a second. "Did I mention that time doesn't pass the same between various dimensions?" he asked. Yin shook her head slowly.
"Oops," Arden said sheepishly. "The reason I make this my home base is that it's on of the fastest timelines we've discovered so far." Arden punched up some numbers on his PDA. "According to this, about fifteen minutes has passed in your home dimension," he commented.
After they finished off most of the food, Arden provided some frozen yogurt with chopped peanuts for dessert. Yin was in seventh heaven, her face testament to the fact.
"So what do we do now?" Yin asked, done with the last of the yogurt.
Arden put his BDA in his pocket while picking up the PDA. "Now we take you home, young lady," he said standing up.
"Awww. Can't we check out some other places first?" she asked, pleading for more fun.
"I'm afraid not. Maybe some other time," he said, leading her out into the middle of the room.
"Wait!" Yin said, breaking away. Running back over to the table, she scooped up the last of the guacamole on a chip and popped it into her mouth, chewing it on her way back over to him, her other arm hugging her side.
Once again Arden wrapped her up and hit the button, arriving in the middle of her bedroom. Yin sulked over to her bed and plopped down on the end of it, sulking.
"You're not going to be coming back are you?" she asked, realizing that 'they' never let normal folks have fun.
Arden laughed. "Sure, I'll be back," he said, typing on his PDA.
"Why don't I believe you?" she asked.
Arden let out a sigh. "All right. I'll prove it to you," he said walking over to her. "Here, look, I've got you programmed in my scheduler for Friday," he said holding it out so the display faced towards her.
Yin started to look but remembered the rabbit. Throwing an arm in front of her eyes, she managed to avoid the flash. "Hey!" she said accusingly. "You were going to zap me!"
Arden gave a very frustrated sigh. "Come on, Yin. You know I can't let you run around remembering everything," he pleaded, resetting the device.
"Please, Arden! I promise. I won't tell anyone. Not even Tiffany. I swear," she pleaded. "You can't wipe my memory. Not after letting me experience guacamole!"
Arden crossed his arms, studying her. Yin felt like a bug under a microscope and fidgeted. Slowly shaking his head, Arden let out another sigh. "I've gotta be nuts," he said, resetting the PDA. "All right. But you don't tell anyone. I'll be monitoring you and if you blab, I'll turn you into a squirrel," he threatened.
Yin leapt up and embraced the surprised polar bear in her arms. "Thanks, Arden! You won't regret it!" she declared, finally releasing him.
"I think I already do," Arden mumbled as he consulted his PDA again. "All right. How's Saturday night sound? Around seven?" he asked.
Yin was confused for a second then realized that he was setting a time for them to meet. "Sure. Seven sounds fine. Where do you want to meet? Back at the Watering Hole?" she asked.
Arden laughed. "Don't sweat it. I've got your bio-signature now. I can find you anywhere. I'll show up around seven." With a smile and a wave, he vanished.
Yin lay back on her bed, laughing. Reaching inside her vest she pulled out the HDA that Arden had left on the table. "And if you don't show up," she said, talking to nobody in particular, "then I'm sure you'll have to come looking for your toy eventually."
Using a thumb, Yin flipped the over open and examined the buttons. They still didn't make much sense, but she could figure them out in time. Having been careful not to touch any of the buttons, Yin was startled to see the lights come on just a few seconds before it vanished out from between her hands. A small business card floated down from where she had held the device and onto her stomach.
She lifted up the card and looked at it. On the face was a drawing of Arden, along with a phone number and an address.
As she looked at it, the face began to speak. "You don't seriously think I wouldn't miss my backup unit, did you?" the animated face of Arden said, laughing. "Hang on to the card. I'll give you a call if I can't make it on Saturday. Ciao."
Yin smiled and tucked the card away.
"Hmmm, Italian food," Yin said to herself. "Or maybe Chinese. Better yet, hamburgers! Oh boy, I can't wait!"