Sozont the Tigri-Hippo-Strich
Chapter I: A Furry Parody Finds Love
1. Introducing Sozont
Sozont the Tigri-Hippo-Strich pranced across the prairie, happy to be alive.
Stopping at a small pond, he idly looked at himself, his ultraviolet
fur irridescing in the moonlight. His leg-feathers were a little dirty
from dancing in the mud, but that had been a good time! A growling
in his stomach reminded him that tigrihippostriches are carnivores. "Perhaps
I can find a rabbit to eat," he thought. He bounded off across the
prairie, faster and faster, just for the glorious feel of the sweat poring
out of his hippo segment. Unfortunately, the first rabbit he came across
was Tardrayn-rah, who was very helpful with Sozont's computer problems and
shouldn't be eaten. With a curt "hello", Sozont bounded off again to
look for a better choice of snack.
2. Sozont Eats a Snack
Sozont found another rabbit. A youngster, perhaps foraging solo for
the first time.
—"Hello, what's your name?" said Sozont.
—"I'm Venus Fly Trap" was the reply. "I've seen
you before, Sozont the Tigri-Hippo-Strich."
—"Venus Fly Trap? That's not a Lapine
—"Yeah, well, I guess my parents were sort of hippies
in their day."
—"Well, um, what do you think of computers?"
—"Oh, they're great! I can send emails to all
my friends, and get weather reports without going outside, and look up stuff
for my school reports, and —"
Sozont bit Venus Fly Trap's head off. "Useless
he thought. "Wait, maybe I should have had sex with her first? Oh
well." Munch, bite, shred, chew, wipe muzzle with paws.
While he ate, Sozont thought about Niven's Man-Kzin Wars
and how few stories in that series were really any good. "Eater-of-Grass,
indeed!" he said, chewing on a plaintain leaf to cleanse his palate.
But thoughts of reproduction refused to stay away.
It was almost rutting season. Last year that had been a bad time
for Sozont. "Am I the only Tigger?" he said morosely, for sometimes
he secretly thought of himself as being just an animated Disney character,
transmogrified from the classic Milne stuffie, inside.
Silly Sozont! Someday you'll understand that
you're not really a tigrihippostrich. You're an anthro fur, and all
anthro furs are mating-compatible. So he's a bacterium and she's a
blue whale? No problem! All it takes is a little imagination.
But returning to our story...
3. The Vixen
The next morning, Sozont woke up hungry. Well, that's the wild life
for you: always wake up hungry, and who knows how long it will take to rustle
up some breakfast?
Sozont sniffed around for awhile, and eventually came
across a vole. They're hard to catch, so Sozont carefully crept forward,
trying to make as little ground vibration as possible. Just as he was
about to pounce, a fox came out of nowhere, grabbed the vole, and gobbled
it up. Sozont was... disappointed. The fox was female and clearly
anthro: the forebreasts were larger and rounder than the others. As
she licked her chops and picked her teeth, Sozont could see rippling muscles
and shifting curves. He should say something.
— "Hi! Nice vole!"
— "It was tasty." She was demure, waiting for
him to say something about the stolen prey. She had a bit of a smile
and her eyes sparkled. What could he say? Nice jugs you got there?
— "So, are you nursing kits or just glad to see me?"
Her smile turned to a scowl.
—"You cad! Don't you have any social graces
whatsoever? That's no way to talk to a lady!"
—"I was just trying to make conversation."
—"Well don't talk about my organs! Had good
—"I was going to eat a vole, but then some fox stole
it. Your organs are very attractive."
—"Horay for the vulpine! You're ugly as last
—"Listen, creep, just climb back into whatever dung-hole
you came out of." She popped the last vole leg into her mouth and scampered
off, scowling all the way.
He had not obtained her phone number, nor even her
name. Oh, what's the use in trying? He might as well plan for
rutting season to be awful this year, just like last year.
4. Sozont Gets Tail
Sozont ate a lizard and some grubs, but he was still
somewhat hungry. He walked along, thinking happy thoughts, trying
not to look as dejected as he felt.
In a clearing he came across an echidna. There
were books and papers spread around, but it seemed the echidna's main concern
was with the tan he was trying to get on his hairless belly.
—"Hi! I'm Spike," said the echidna.
—"I'm Sozont," said the Tigri-Hippo-Strich.
—"Yeah, I know. You don't pay much attention
to the other carnivores around here, do you?"
—"I guess not. Just call me 'nerd'."
Spike gave Sozont's body a look-over, seeing things
that Sozont had convinced himself were well-hidden.
—"Echidnas are insectivores. We eat ants and
earthworms," said Spike, unnecessarily.
—"I know that." Sozont flicked his hippo-tail.
"We are not competitors."
—"Yeah." Spike looked at Sozont's tail for awhile.
He did some ab crunches, which emphasized the glint of his tan.
—"Nice body you got there, Spike."
—"Yeah." Spike flexed his hindpaws, rippling
his quadriceps. "So, uh, you wanna?"
—"Oh, why not?" Sozont took off his belt and
<lame sex scene deleted>.
"That was oddly unsatisfying," thought Sozont. "That
was good," he said to Spike.
Sozont ran a forepaw over Spike's spines — with the
grain! — and snuggled closer. Spike snuggled back, which actually
seemed more worthwhile than the sex.
—"So, um, Spike..." How should he put this? "You
Spike laughed. "I don't think so. It's
a bit late to ask now! Isn't that an RL problem? Nobody ever
gets AIDS here in Furry Fairytale Land."
—"Well, it's just a matter of time, they say. Soon
it will be here too."
Suddenly the sun ducked behind some clouds and a light
—"Shit!" ejaculated Spike, "I gotta grab my stuff."
He got up and started stuffing books and papers into a backpack.
Sozont got up and put on his belt. The raindrops
glistened on Spike's spines. He actually looked sort of nice. Sozont
—"Appropriate name, Spike!" His hips wiggled
—"Thanks." Spike smiled as he finished packing.
He stared appreciatively at Sozont's hippo part. "Nice, um,
segment!" he said, but then—thinking he had fumbled—he went on: "Or, I
—"So, um, maybe we could, like, do it again sometime?"
Spike seemed like he really wanted it.
Sozont was unsure. Maybe there were better lays,
furs he could respect more. "Yeah!" he said, surprising himself with
5. Sozont Bags a Deer
Another day, another hunt. It's a living.
Sozont was passing through a glen and saw Bambi
the Deer. Bambi's movie-star days were long past. Now he was
just an old geezer, hanging on to life. It looked like his right hindleg
was broken. He was gamely trying to browse, but the leg kept getting
in his way. He looked thin.
—"Hello, Bambi. Shouldn't you be going
to the hospital?"
—"Shut up!" said the prey to the predator.
"I don't need no doctor!" Bambi moved to another shrub, stumbling and
then wincing from the pain. He took a mouthful of leaves and chewed,
as if he actually intended to eat while a tigrihippostrich was watching him.
Sozont half-bent his knees. A gentle breeze
ruffled his feathers. "Death by starvation is slow and painful, Bambi,"
he said, meaningfully.
—"Forget it! I will not ask you to eat
me. I am a fighter, to the end!"
—"As you wish." Sozont lunged, and chomped
on Bambi's neck, and grabbed his body with two taloned feet and two clawed
paws. Bambi began to — Sozont arched his back and flung his neck and
— Snap! Bambi's carcass fell to the ground, his face now frozen in
a sneer of eternal defiance.
It was a big kill. Sozont dragged it into
the bushes, creating a trail of cervine urine that stank of fear, determination,
and ultimate failure. But it couldn't be helped; doddering old fool.
As he ate, Sozont's intestines rearranged themselves
to make room, which produced a pleasant feeling below his tail that reminded
him of Spike. "I wish Spike were here to help me eat this," he thought.
But Spike's mouth — with that glorious tongue! — had no teeth. This
scene would not appeal to an echidna until the ants arrived. "Aren't
all carnivores really the same, inside?" he wondered.
Sozont ate alone, rich in food but poor in friends.
6. Martha Stewart, Eating
Into the glen came that vixen, sniffing along Bambi's urine trail. "She's
going to steal my food again," thought Sozont, but then he luxuriated for
a moment in that *Spike* feeling from his hippo segment. "She can't
hurt me now! I can play any game I want with her." He stewed
for a moment, then decided to roast the vixen over coals of kindness.
—"Come on over! There's plenty."
—"Thanks." She came into the bushes, disjointed
the deer's left hindleg, and sliced through its tendons and ligaments with
one swipe. As she bit in, Sozont noticed that she was wearing brass
claw-extenders on her right forepaw.
—"Sometimes I wish I had talons," she said, following
his gaze. Sozont raised his whiskers for a moment. If she didn't
like her phenotype, why didn't she just mutate into something that suited
—"I like my talons," he said, wrinkling his toes.
"I'm a tigrihippostrich."
—"You're butt-ugly, that's what you are. Can't
you just pick one pheno for your whole body?"
—"This is who I am right now," said Sozont, trying
to keep his cool. He reached into the deer's abdominal cavity and extracted
a kidney. "And that's no way to talk to the fur who killed your dinner.
Perhaps we both have problems with 'social graces'?" He offered
the kidney to her. She struggled for a moment, internally wrestling
with a snide remark, but eventually she just took the kidney and bit into
—"Thanks. That's yummy!"
—"Yeah, I ate the other one. My name's Sozont."
—"I'm Martha Stewart."
Sozont couldn't resist. "Martha Stewart? Shouldn't
you be in jail?"
She scowled, but just for a moment. "I don't
have to change my name just because some *non-fur* makes an ass of herself!"
—"I suppose not. So why are you a fox with brass
talons, Martha Stewart?"
She had finished the good parts of the kidney and gone
back to chewing on the hindleg.
—"I'm sort of attached to this vulpine form, for old
time's sake." Seeing that there was still some tongue left, she reached
over to take it, while saying, "You can call me Marth, for short."
—"Sure thing, Marth. Have some tongue. You
seem rather hungry."
—"Look, I know I have a weight-control problem." There
was that scowl again. "But it's not every day that a fox gets to eat
venison, so I'd like to pig out, if that's okay."
—"It's okay." Marth's cheekpads were a little
heavy. She had a definite "apple" shape. Was there a hint of
a moustache under the facial fur? It all meant something, but Sozont
couldn't quite place it. He reached in and yanked Bambi's heart out
of the carcass. He took a bite.
—"I've... never hatched any chicks." He put
the heart down, next to Marth. She looked at it, but took another bite
—"You seem more like the live-bearing type to me."
She looked at Sozont's belt. The feathers stopped below it. The
fur came down to it on both sides. In front there were a few hippo-hairs
—"I'm more comfortable with bird-talk for, um, rutting
season." There it was. He had said it.
There was no more tongue left. Marth picked up
the heart, looked at it, hesitated, took a small bite.
—"I've... never had any kits." She took another
bite. "I've tried several seasons, but nothing happens."
Gland problems! That was it. Her bodyfat
distribution was off-kilter.
—"Have you seen a doctor?"
—"There's... nothing wrong with me that's covered
by Universal Healthcare. I don't have any money for the off-plan stuff."
She took what was left of the heart and passed it back to him. Sozont
took a bite.
—"I think I'd be a good provider," he said. Hey!
What happened to roasting her over the coals? Sozont finished
up the heart. "I make a little money with computers, and don't have
to spend any on food, so it... accumulates."
—"I *wish* I could save some money," Marth said. She
looked over the carcass, but there was little left that was really edible.
Bambi had been quite old and many of his muscles were stringy and tough.
—"Hey, wanna go for a swim?" Sozont hoped he
could see more of those shifting curves.
—"No, I'm quite full. I might get a stomach-ache."
—"But this venison was really great! Thanks
for sharing it with me." There was that eye-sparkle again.
—"Well, if I bag another one someday, maybe I could
call you to help me eat it?"
Sozont pulled the cellphone from his belt and was about
to ask Marth for her number, but she took the phone to enter it herself.
Although it was an off-brand model, she seemed to have little difficulty
navigating the menus. "Spike? I think I've met him. Insipid
echidna. Why do you have *his* number?"
"Because he's an easier lay than you!" Sozont thought,
but what came out of his mouth was "Oh, he's fun to talk to sometimes."
She gave him back his phone. He looked her up.
"Martha Stewart," it said, with a number. He pressed CALL.
The sound of Lizst's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 came from somewhere
on her body. Sozont closed his phone and put it away.
—"By the way," said Marth, "The other hindleg was
infected. I see you didn't eat it."
—"Yeah. It was hurting a lot. I put him
out of his misery."
—"That's the job of a carnivore! Somefur has
to do it." She was smiling again. "Well, I gotta go."
—"Thanks for helping me eat, Marth."
—"Thanks for everything, Sozont. See you soon!"
She slowly scampered off.
Maybe rutting season wouldn't be so bad this year,
after all. But had he bitten off more than he could chew?
The ants had arrived and were swarming over the carcass.
Sozont called Spike.
Chapter II: Equipment Failure Builds Relationships
7. A Technical Glitch
Sozont the Tigri-Hippo-Strich was hungry and wanted to hunt, but there
was something wrong with his eyesight. He closed one eye and then the
other, but couldn't see out of the right side of either one. For a
moment he toyed with the idea of continuing to hunt in his half-blind state,
but Sozont prided himself on doing what was needed when it was needed, so
he invoked the "exit program" sequence to return to his hy00man form.
The first thing that hit him was the stench.
The air was dusty and moldy in his... "house"? No, it was an "apartment".
These were not words Sozont had used recently. He could smell urine;
perhaps there was a plumbing problem with his VR unit. It was a semipermanent
model that allowed him to stay in Furry Fairytale Land almost continuously,
while maintaining his human body for when he needed it, but there were some
things it didn't handle well. His skin was covered with the grime of
Sozont disconnected the equipment from his body.
He ran hardware diagnostics on the vision system: A-OK. He ran diagnostics
on the device drivers: fault detected. Sozont was pretty good with
computers, but this was outside his expertise. He needed help.
It was time to call Tardrayn-rah.
Sozont picked up the telephone, then realized
he couldn't recall the number. But next to the phone was a piece of
paper with "Tardrayn" and a phone number, so Sozont dialed it.
—"Hi, Tardrayn, this is Sozont."
—"Oh. Hello." Odd, Tardrayn seemed
rather unhappy to hear from him.
—"The right side of my vision system is kaput.
Can you look at it?"
—"Well, you know, I have a lot of work to do.
I have to support my *family*." Very odd. In the past the response
had always been "Sure!"
—"Don't you want Fairytale Land credits anymore?"
That was what Sozont always paid him.
—"Yeah, I guess. Why don't you get cleaned
up and I'll be over in about two hours."
—"Great, thanks! See you then!"
Sozont went to the bathroom to clean up—and froze
in front of the mirror. He was not a kid anymore. How long had
it been since he'd looked at his human form? There had been a problem
with the equipment two months ago, but it had been a simple loose wire that
Sozont had fixed himself without need for anyone else to see him. Actually,
Sozont couldn't remember the last time he had used a bathroom.
Well, that didn't matter right now. Sozont
hopped into the shower. Of course, he knew how to wash himself, but
it required thought because he was out of practice. And the proportions
of his body were just *wrong*. It didn't move like his tigrihippostrich
body did. Sozont had never liked being a primate.
Eventually he got out of the shower and put on
some clothes. Black pants, black shirt, black socks, black shoes.
He wanted to put on black gloves and a black baseball cap, but there was
just no excuse for that since he wasn't even going out. He spent a
moment looking at the box holding his fursuit, but wearing that for
Tardrayn's technical-repair visit would invite a conversation that Sozont
didn't want to have. Tardrayn had always been more comfortable than
Sozont with being a hy00man.
He passed by the VR unit and the smell hit him
again. Well, that wouldn't do. Whatever was bothering Tardrayn-rah,
asking him to work on stinky equipment would just worsen his mood.
Sozont got some Wet-Wipes® and cleaned up the contact surfaces as much
as he could.
Next, Sozont examined the auto-vac. The
suction manifold had come undone. The stupid machine had been sucking
up dust and then mindlessly spewing it back into the air for who knows how
long. Sozont pulled the manifold taut and retightened the screws.
Hopefully that would fix it.
The annunciator chimed. It was Tardrayn-rah!
He was early! Sozont went to open the door.
8. Technician's Visit
Tardrayn came in and went directly to the VR unit without the handshakes
and other hy00man stuff he usually did. He ran some test programs.
He fiddled with the vision hardware. He tweaked this and tested that.
Sozont suddenly remembered that he had been hungry
when this all started and had had nothing to eat since then. He went
to the kitchen to get an emergency ration. Opening the wrapper, he
bit in and—ewwwww! Sozont had eaten nothing but wild food for a long
time. The ration had "tame" written all over it. Well, it was
filling, anyway. Sozont continued to eat it, but in small bites.
Tardrayn stopped working on the VR. "Bad
news, I'm afraid. I think the field emitter has actually failed, even
though the diagnostics say it's good. I'll have to get you a new one."
—"Do you have any in stock?"
—"No. And the supply depot is closed for
the night. I'll get it in the morning." He added snidely, "you'll
just have to stay hy00man all night." Sozont was glad he hadn't dressed
up too much for Tardrayn.
—"I can handle it." I will do what I have
to do, thought Sozont.
—"It will cost about $300. Can you pay
Sozont fired up his desktop computer. He
transfered some money to Tardrayn's account.
—"There you go."
—"Thanks. Now, there's something else we
should talk about." Oh oh, thought Sozont, here it comes.
—"YOU ATE MY DAUGHTER!"
—"Venus Fly Trap. She was telling you about
her RL and you just bit her head off."
Shit! "I'm... really sorry. I thought she
was an NPC. She didn't look anthro at all."
—"She was playing an FLR6. Aren't
you carnivores supposed to look these things up so you don't go eating people's
characters?" Actually, Sozont almost never checked the records before
making a kill. He prided himself on being able to sense whether a
character was a computer-generated food animal. Well, he had flubbed
this one, big time.
—"I guess I forgot. Look, I'm really very
—"You're just a goddamned troll! It's guys
like you who are making all the good furs leave Fairytale Land and
move to a more controlled scenario. Do you have any idea what it feels
like to have your head bitten off? She was moping around the house
for days. I ought to bust your ass, you fucking bastard!"
The stream of epithets made Sozont feel beside
himself. "Just stand here and take it," he told himself. "If
he can get all the words out, there won't be any hitting. Somehow there'll
be a way to go on."
—"Is there anything I can do to make it up to
—"Just stay away from her. She's playing
'Siren Fox' now."
—"Yes sir. And thanks for working on my
—"Yeah. Bye." Tardrayn-rah went out
9. Online Research
Now what? Sozont tried to take another bite of emergency ration,
but the wrapper was empty. He had eaten the whole thing without noticing.
He thought about getting another one from the kitchen. Or there was
the VR unit, with its food-elemental conduits connected to the city grid.
There ought to be a way to get something tasty out of that, but Sozont didn't
know how. Perhaps he going back to Furry Fairytale Land and try to
rustle up some grub with a broken field emitter, but Sozont's inner animal
was a healthy Tigri-Hippo-Strich, not a half-blind cripple. Sigh.
Besides, he didn't know if Tardrayn had put the VR unit back together again,
since more repair work was scheduled for tomorrow. He got himself another
The computer was still on, so Sozont sat down
and pressed a few keys. Ah! Now *here* was something his human
body was actually good at! He pressed a few more keys. On a whim,
he started looking up information on Martha Stewart. She had recorded
a lot of stuff about her thoughts and feelings, which didn't seem to match
the brass-talon-wearing fur that Sozont had met, but he read it all anyway.
There was no mention of an RL name, but quite a few references to one female
friend: "Red Bunny". No male was mentioned more than once. But
there were many protected entries Sozont could not see. He sent Marth
an offer of friendship, making his own protected entries visible to her.
Hopefully she would reply in kind.
Sozont wanted more, but there was nothing more
to find about Martha Stewart. So he looked up Spike. That guy
did not hide his RL name at all! Nor his school's name, but what was
his major? Most of the information was about parties he had attended
and lists of other furs who had been there with him. Sozont had read
this stuff before, as a tigrihippostrich in Fairytale Land. There was
no need to read it again as a hy00man, except to pass the time until his
VR unit was fixed. But he was bored with rereading it.
Maybe he should go out someplace. It had
been a very long time since he had left his apartment. What places
could he still remember how to get to? Well, there was the Furry Club.
And then there was... Sozont drew a blank, which was ridiculous!
There were plenty of other places he could go. He imagined the supermarket
and traced in his mind exactly how to get there from here, but his body had
no interest in making that trip. They didn't sell ration bars and
there was no point in buying any other kind of food, since Sozont would be
going back to his VR life tomorrow. Might as well go to the Furry Club,
Sozont considered putting on more clothes, but
he was just going out to pass the time. He set the auto-vac to do a
"major cleaning" cycle and left his apartment.
10. The Furry Club
At the club there were people dancing to Gloria Estefan's Conga.
Some were wearing fursuits, but Sozont had not brought his and had never
danced without it, so he went to the bar for a drink.
—"Hi, Sozont!" It was Harry. What
stupid character was he claiming to be today? "DeadDog" said his nametag.
—"Get a load of that Dalmatian. Ain't she
a cutie?" There was a girl coming off the dance floor wearing a spotted
dogsuit. She had removed the headpiece, showing her fair and bony face.
Sozont wondered what Marth looked like as a human. Well, it didn't
matter much; they would just muddle through the RL parts of rutting season
and then go back to being their anthro furry selves.
Harry was still waiting for a response, so Sozont
gave him one: "The increasing number of good-looking furry girls is
indicative of a rising tide of alienation in our hy00man society."
—"Won't you even make an attempt with her?"
—"No. I'm just here because my VR unit
—"You know, Sozont, you really should pay more
attention to your human life. Find a girl, settle down, *breeding*,
all that stuff."
The idea of "settling down" bothered Sozont.
He couldn't talk about his breeding plans with Marth because so far it was
all talk. Actually, he hadn't even gotten to first base with her.
There was nothing to say. Sozont mumbled some reply.
Another fellow sat down at the bar on Sozont's
other side. He was wearing a name-tag that said "Epistemology Wolf".
Sozont exchanged pleasantries. Epistemology Wolf also liked to live
in Furry Fairytale Land. He seemed to know quite a lot about the physics
of that world. Sozont was familiar with its computer programming issues,
including some tricky areas where things had to be patched up, but it all
made sense when Epistemology Wolf explained *why* the world needed
to have those tricky parts. Sozont thought it was the most interesting
conversation he had ever had with a canine. Eventually the talk drifted
to the topic of RL names, so Sozont mentioned his, and Epistemology Wolf
Sozont had a synaesthesia moment. He heard
an off-key "clang" inside his brain. Epistemology Wolf's RL name was
one that Sozont had come across before. It was also Spike the Echidna's
name. He had been talking to his boyfriend and didn't even know it!
But Spike had known. Sozont considered the possibility of having sex
with Spike while in human form. He had never done that with his own
body and it seemed strange to start now, when he was going back to VR tomorrow.
But here he was, sitting next to a guy he already done it with in VR, so
wouldn't that be a great choice for first time in RL? No, Sozont did
not want to do it. What had they been talking about? Physics.
Sozont tried to talk some more about physics, but it seemed the heart had
gone out of the conversation. Epistemology Wolf spoke laconically and
wore a disappointed expression.
Another guy walked by: "Flambé Bear" said
his tag. It seemed Epistemology Wolf already knew him. They started
talking. As Epistemology Wolf got up to walk with Flambé, Sozont
said "So long, Spike!" It was supposed to be a friendly gesture, to
indicate that Sozont knew who he was talking to, but the angry look he got
back from Spike was a complete surprise.
Sozont decided he was having a terrible time at
the Furry Club. He went back to his apartment.
11. Tardrayn's View
Sozont had a restless night. It felt odd to be lying on cloth-covered
bedsprings. Eventually he got some shut-eye. He was lightly half-sleeping
when the annunciator chimed. He got up and answered the door, still
wearing the clothes from yesterday.
Tardrayn-rah came in and began installing the new field
emitter. Eventually he said, "Okay, try this". Sozont put the
VR vision system over his eyes. He saw another world! Of course
it was expectedly odd to be seeing Furry Fairytale Land but not feeling it
in any other way, but he could see to his right side just as well as to
the left. He took off the vision system.
—"Perfect!" he said to Tardrayn.
—"Good. And, um, I'm sorry I swore at you yesterday."
—"And I'm really sorry I ate your daughter."
—"Yeah. It just tugs at my heartstrings to see
her unhappy. Daughters are really something else."
—"Maybe I'll make some offspring of my own someday."
Tardrayn made a disbelieving noise. "Kids require
a lot of RL time, Sozont. I don't know if you'd want to make that big
—"Can't most of the childcare be done from VR?" Sozont
knew some furs who were raising pups. Sometimes it seemed like just
another hobby to them.
—"No, 'remote-control' parenting doesn't work well.
Children need a lot of cuddling to make their nervous systems grow
right. Otherwise they end up with a permanent feeling of alienation.
And in their first few years, when they don't have enough imagination
yet to use VR, somebody has to pay attention to them 24 hours a day. Only
a parent cares enough to give them the love they need to turn out well."
This was not what Sozont wanted to hear. He had
thought past rutting season to the hatchling period, but had not considered
the entire long-term project out to fledging and beyond. Still, in
the part of his mind where desires come from, this news seemed not to have
any effect. He still wanted kits and he was sure that he would do
what was needed when the time came, like he always did.
—"Well, I guess I still have time to think about it."
—"Yeah. And feel free to call me even when you're
equipment isn't broken!"
—"I'll do that. Thanks for fixing it again!"
—"Bye". Tardrayn went out the door.
So that was it, then. He could go back to VR
12. Back to VR
Sozont was hungry. He considered getting another emergency ration
bar from the kitchen. But that was silly—he should go to Furry Fairytale
Land and hunt! Sozont chucked his clothes on the floor and began suiting
As he often did while putting on the sensor/effector
suit, Sozont thought about upgrading to a better model that would provide
more kinesthetic realism. But skinsuits needed periodic replacement.
He knew that once he upgraded he would never want to go back, so it
would be a permanent commitment to a higher maintenance expense. Sozont
prided himself on his ability to make more money in VR than he spent in RL,
while devoting only as much time to paid projects as he wanted to, but this
required that he keep monetary commitments to an absolute minimum.
Sozont installed the waste orifices and remembered
how he used to feel, back when he first started to use whole-body VR, like
he was preparing to have sex with a machine. But that old thought was
ridiculous now! It was not the machine that he loved, but the world
that it opened to him, which tasted of freedom from hy00man constraints.
Sozont inserted the oral interface, swished its familiar
parts around his mouth, and bit into the tooth holders. He was almost
home! He put on the rest of the headgear. The vision system was
in "pass-through" mode. He took a final look around his apartment;
the place where he was leaving his human body seemed safe and secure. He
invoked the "enter program" sequence.
He was in Furry Fairytale Land! The smells, the
sounds, the sights, the ground-effect breeze ruffling his feathers! Speaking
of odors, his fur smelled like the last few things he had eaten before the
field emitter failed. It reeked of places he had been recently and
myriad other things. Sozont was hungry, but he decided to put off hunting
and started heading towards Soapy Lake to clean up. How about some
speed? Faster, faster, faster! His ostrich legs chewed through
It was an unpopular time of day for a bath, so Soapy
Lake was deserted. Well, Sozont would rather bathe alone, anyway. He
took off his belt and jumped into the lake. He wriggled and splashed
to cover himself with soap. He took some of the water in his mouth,
swirled it around, and spat it out. He even did some "just for fun"
swimming. Sozont was a poor swimmer, even by tigrihippostrich standards,
but there was no one to see him.
Sozont got out of the lake and went to Rinsing River.
He fluffed his fur and watched the soapy bubbles float away. He
kicked his legs and felt all his feathers move from the waves he made. He
moved his hippo segment around, this way and that, until the dischordant
RL sensations were almost imperceptible.
He walked out of the river and towards his belt, the
water trickling off his body segments in three different ways. He felt
like a tigrihippostrich again! He was home. Life was good.
13. Martha Skritches
As Sozont passed by Soapy Lake, he saw Martha Stewart on a pier, washing
a spot on her hindleg. He froze, with his thigh facing her. She
looked up, waved to him, and went to Rinsing River. Sozont did not
know what to do. If he turned to face her, he would be making a genital
display. If he continued toward his belt, he would be rudely walking
away from her. He neck hurt from trying to look at her walking to the
river, so he switched to a quadruped stance. That moved some of the
stress from his neck to his back.
She finished rinsing and walked towards him. "I
noticed that you friended me. I friended you back."
—"Great! Thanks." Sozont started crawling
on all fours towards his belt.
—"I sent you an email."
—"Thanks. I haven't checked my mail yet today."
Actually he had spent the entire night refusing to let himself check
his email, because it would have been so disappointing had there been none.
She was gaining on him. There was no way he would
make it to his belt in time. What should he do now?
She caught up to him. A new plan was needed,
right now, but there was no time to think. Sozont turned to face her,
crouching lower, arching his neck to look at her. His posture was ridiculous,
but he couldn't think of anything else. Well, he *could* say something.
"I was going to call you, but I haven't killed another
Marth laughed. "That was a lot of food! A
tray of voles with a side dish of small and cut fruits would be better for
my figure." Sozont made a mental note of the serving suggestion.
—"I'm glad we got to talk about rutting season. It's
so rare that I ever talk to anyone about, um, personal stuff."
Marth kneeled in front of him. Sozont did some
panicked calculations about line-of-sight down his abdomen and crouched even
lower. His fur touched the grass. Well, if he was almost sitting,
he might as well sit. Sozont settled his belly on the ground. For
just this moment he wished he didn't have a hippo segment, as it made the
usual sitting position for Order Carnivora uncomfortable for him. He
closed his hindlegs together and straightened up his back, kneeling almost
face-to-face with Marth. He was fairly certain that his private parts
were covered, but willed himself not to look.
—"I never get to talk to anyone about the things that
really matter." Marth scratched behind Sozont's ear. A response
was called for, but Sozont was very uptight. In fact, he noted, his
back was so tense it was actually trembling. He felt like a military
cadet on parade review. He forced himself to pet her thigh a bit.
Maybe some more words?
—"I was talking to a friend of mine recently. He's
a dad. He says a lot of furs spend too much time in VR and don't cuddle
their cubs enough." Her eyes sparkled! He must have scored a
point or something.
—"Yeah. Babies need a lot of care." She
ran a claw from his shoulder down his foreleg. He raised a paw to touch
her, but it was shaking uncontrollably. She looked concerned. "Are
—"I haven't eaten in a long time. I'm famished."
—"You seem really tense. Is there something
you want to tell me?"
"The only females I do it with are food animals!" shouted
his mind, but Sozont could not say that. What if Marth disapproved?
Sozont looked at the ground and said, "I'm just really uptight about,
um, touching and stuff."
Marth kissed him on the mouth. He started to
relax. For an instant he got a whiff of the dust and mold of his apartment,
which was strange—he almost never got perceptual bleed-through in his nose.
She stood up, but Sozont could not bear to do the same.
—"You'd better go get some food," she said. She
started to walk away.
—"Yeah. And... I'd really like to see you again."
Sozont used his paws to turn his body around, then went back to quadruped
stance and started crawling towards his belt.
—"We should, like, have a date or something."
Marth turned a corner and was out of sight. Sozont
reached his belt, stood up, and put it on. He turned around to see
that Marth had poked around the corner again and was looking at him. He
smiled and waved. She did the same.
As he left the bathing area, Sozont could sense, in
the back of his mind, bits and pieces of plans trying to put themselves together
into something that could be called a "date".
14. Another Vixen
The path that Sozont was taking away from Soapy Lake was heading towards
Fur City, which was an odd choice of destination for a hunt. What was
he thinking? In his mind's eye he saw the city dump, with its ready
supply of rats. Sozont did not often eat rats, which tasted like earth.
He preferred the tangy taste of mice. But few furs played rat
characters, so almost all of them were NPC's. "Oh", thought Sozont,
"that's where this is going". But there were *some* rat fursons,
and he needed to be sure, so he invoked the "player name" overlay for his
visual system. Tiny "NPC" markings appeared in his eyesight next to
every insect he could see. It seemed a little ridiculous to mark up
all the bugs, but Sozont had heard of one chemist-fur whose pheno was a cockroach!
Sozont continued along the path and came upon a group
of adolescent canids. They were all anthros; the overlay labelled them
with their names. At one point Sozont got a line-of-sight on a lizard,
which had an "NPC" marking. As Sozont was looking around, he noticed
that one furson was labelled "Siren Fox". He walked by the juveniles
without making eye contact, but Siren Fox came after him. This couldn't
be anything good.
—"Hello, Sozont the Tigri-Hippo-Strich".
—"Greetings, Siren Fox." Her coloring was atypical
for a fox. Most of her fur was black, with a blood red patch on her
thorax. There were thin white stripes that traced her bones, making
her look like a walking skeleton.
—"I heard that you were talking with Tardrayn-rah
—"Yes, your father stopped by to fix my VR equipment."
A pause. "Eaten any innocent children recently?"
Sozont had nothing to say.
"I suppose they're extra tasty if you talk to them
"Don't you have anything to say?"
This was not a conversation that Sozont wanted to be
having. He didn't have a leg to stand on in this argument and all he
could think about was the hunger-pain in his belly.
—"Look, I just can't talk now. I'm really very,
very hungry." She stiffened. That hadn't come out the way he
intended. "I need to go find some NPC's to eat before I starve to death."
—"Perhaps I'll just tag along after you to make sure
they're really non-players."
—"The Muck Lords don't take kindly to stalking."
—"No? They don't like trolls much, either."
They stared at each other for a moment, then Siren
Fox started walking back toward the other canids. She picked up a rock
and threw it at him. For some reason he decided not to flinch. The
rock hit him in the foreleg. It hurt, but his humerus did not break.
They stared at each other again, then Siren Fox made a strange noise
and returned to her pack.
Sozont continued, sadly, towards the dump.
15. Food at Last
There were indeed many rats at the dump, and the overlay showed that they
were all NPC's. Sozont grabbed one and ate it. This was just
too easy. He caught another one and was eating it when he suddenly felt
sick to his stomach. This was not hunting! He did not want rats,
he wanted rabbit.
Sozont moved to a nearby meadow. There was a
rabbit eating some ragweed. It was an NPC. Sozont approached
to its 8-foot defense perimeter and started circling it. Although he
knew it was pointless, he started a conversation because, well, that was
what he always did.
—"Hello, I'm Sozont. What's your name?"
—"I'm Flayvao. I *love* ragweed!"
—"Oh? Some animals hate ragweed. It makes
their noses run."
—"Yeah. Not me!"
Sozont had nearly finished his circle. It was
clear what the best spot would be for a pounce: opposite from a rock, which
the NPC rabbit would stupidly run towards and then have to veer away from.
Sozont continued circling, to get back to that spot.
—"I'm a troll. I eat anthro animals."
Flayvao gave him a funny look. "That's not good.
You should eat NPC's like rats and lizards."
—"Oh, I eat those too."
—"Recidivist trolls can get banned from Fairytale
Sozont was in position. He feinted a direct attack,
then pounced toward where he knew the simply-programmed rabbit would end
up. He ripped off its belly fur and ate the viscera. Rabbit tasted
so good! But seeing the "NPC" overlay disappear as Flayvao's heart
stopped just seemed totally unnatural, as if Sozont were looking at the world
through a viewscreen. He ate the entire rabbit and was still hungry.
Sozont found another rabbit, its "NPC" overlay comforting
yet irksome. He was on an overhang and the rabbit was below. Sozont
turned off the overlay, to see his world as he wanted it to be. He
pounced. At the last moment the rabbit saw him and bolted. When
his first talon hit the ground Sozont pivoted and pounced again, grabbing
the quickly-darting bunny. He looked into its eyes. He bit off
its head. Life was good. He ate the rabbit.
Although he was not exactly full, Sozont was no longer
ravenously hungry. He decided that the next thing he really wanted
to do was to read that email from Marth. He went home to his lair.
Chapter III: Job Stress
16. An Animal at Work
Sozont was in his lair, working on the SIGMA project. It was difficult
to explain the Σ project without going into considerable detail about
how Furry Fairytale Land really worked. That was one of the things
that Sozont liked about the project. One of the things he didn't like
was Springer the Leopard, with whom he had to work.
Sozont was doing the kinesthetics module, receiving
input from the player-furs. Springer was doing the core-database access,
finding meanings for the player's actions. There was a defined interface
that specified how their modules were to interact, but Springer disliked
it and wanted changes. His emails didn't make sense to Sozont; when
Springer talked about "client/server models" it seemed he was trying to suggest
that the database access module should be telling the kinesthetics module
what to do, which was not the Furry Fairytale Land way. He kept sending
diagrams showing the database access module on top of the kinesthetics
module, which Sozont thought was simply wrong-headed. Kinesthetics should
be on the outside, with DBAccess closer to the core. Sozont
was in the middle of yet another long email to Springer, trying to find common
Sozont's life had not gone very well until he
came to Furry Fairytale Land. He was now quite good at this job and
the tokens of appreciation (Fairytale Land credits that were convertible
to RL money) were many and frequent. Programming was the thing Sozont
did that other furs liked enough to give tokens for. It would be unconscionable
to do the job poorly just to keep the peace with a problematic leopard.
Although he was getting hungry, Sozont did not
want to stop in the middle of the email to hunt up some game. Despite
what he had said to Marth about not spending money on food, Sozont invoked
a can of salted rabbit. He held the can against the floor with one
foot while opening it with a talon on the other foot. The can was fairly
inexpensive and very easy to obtain, and its contents tasted vaguely like
fresh rabbit. Looked like dogfood, though.
Sozont typed very quickly and generally did not
look at the keyboard. That way he didn't have to see that his VR paws
were not quite keeping up with his RL hands. It was one of those annoyances
you just had to put up with to stay focused on the paying job. Sozont
finished up the email and sent it, then did some more coding work on the
Σ input system.
Later Springer sent a reply email, which made
it quite clear that he thought his module should be dominating Sozont's module.
This was so wrong it was hard to imagine anyfur even suggesting such
a thing. Purrhaps some FTF communication was needed to resolve the
problem. Sozont sent back an email offering his lair for a business
17. A Business Meeting
Springer arrived at Sozont's lair. His body form was surprising:
leopard-sized and a class 5 anthropomorph, with all non-Panthera features
muted. Most carnivorous furs opted for human-sizing and a class 3 or
4 anthropomorphism, as those minimized the amount of body-form translation
that the VR equipment needed to do and thus maximized hunting prowess.
Sozont knew how to run a feline business meeting.
He had a container of milk and some cups. But this wouldn't do for
a class 5, so Sozont poured the milk into saucers and they lapped it up while
making small talk. Sozont noticed that Springer seemed to be staring
at Sozont's hindlegs. Perhaps he hadn't met many chimeras, but the
topic stayed unmentioned. Eventually the milk was gone and it was time
for brass tacks. Sozont liked to start with an incontrovertible statement.
—"Basic Fairytale Land principles require that
the player can make any move he feels like."
—"But the E project core must be protected
from invalid user input." Ack! It was the Σ project,
not the E project! Didn't Springer even know his alphabet?
Sozont tried again.
—"The DBAccess module should just ignore player
moves that don't mean anything."
—"The Kinesthetics module should block invalid
It was an impasse. Thankfully they were
in VR and there were standard mediation techniques available which could
not be used in RL. Sozont skritched behind Springer's ear while saying,
"Your code comments are clear and helpful."
Springer resisted! His body remained stiff
and his apocrine glands were putting out a "dominance" scent, which seemed
quite inappropriate to Sozont. And Springer was staring at Sozont's
hindlegs again. Maybe he had a problem with featheries? Sozont
walked across the room, ostensibly to get a drink of water, while using
an exaggeratedly-feline gait.
Springer laughed. "A programmer is a cat;
a cat is a programmer." Perhaps Springer did not realize that this
comment could cause offence. Sozont knew some furs with all-cat bodies
who actually believed in that aphorism.
—"A cat is also a hunter. I prefer rabbits
as my prey."
—"I go for songbirds." Springer relaxed
a little. He nuzzled Sozont's side. "Your emails are very detailed."
Did Springer just not know how to do this mediation
thing? But the project required that they work together. Sozont
grasped both of Springer's forepaws in his own.
—"Once I fixate on a rabbit, I keep chasing after
that one until it's in my belly." He tried touching the leopard's
hindlegs with his own, but Springer shrank back—presumably to avoid contact
Springer slid his paws up to Sozont's elbows.
"I pick a bird, I spring at it. If I miss, I try a different bird."
Ick, he was a quitter! And what was with all that "dominance" scent
he was putting out? Sozont gamely tried to continue the mediation.
—"So that's why you're called Springer?"
Springer smiled. "Yeah. So what's
—"It's from an old Russian epithet: И по морду
знать, что Созонтом звать. It basically means that anyone with a peasant
name like 'Sozont' must be a subhuman animal."
—"But animals are superior to hy00mans."
—"I just thought it was funny when I was picking
a name." The mediation protocol required that all statements be complimentary
to the other fur, but Springer's statements were just ornery. What
was wrong with him? Sozont rubbed Springer's belly and said, "The interface
spec was written by Be-A-Wulf, who knows what he's talking about."
Wait, that wasn't complimentary, either. Sozont was starting to do
it Springer's way, instead of the right way.
Springer put both paws on Sozont's shoulders,
pushing him down. He bit the back of Sozont neck and tugged twice.
He whispered in Sozont's ear: "Be-A-Wulf is a manager. We programmers
have to do these things our own way." He dropped one paw to Sozont's
waist and ran a claw inside the top of Sozont's belt.
Sozont had had quite enough. Be-A-Wulf had
a fine grasp of programming concepts; otherwise Sozont wouldn't work for
him. And Sozont had deliberately chosen a belted body-form so that
the phrase "below the belt" would be meaningful—Springer was now skritching
Sozont grabbed Springer in a bear hug and said,
"The primacy of the player's wishes is a fundamental precept in Fairytale
Land. Having DBAccess tell Kinesthetics what is permitted makes the
furry player a slave of the machine. HOW COULD YOU POSSIBLY BELIEVE
IN THAT?" It was more strident than he had planned. It was also
more of a hug than planned. Springer's back was arched backwards and
his haunches were clamped by Sozont's thighs, but the leopard didn't seemed
to be bothered by the feather/fur contact. In fact, he was... liking
it? There were other scents too, that Sozont couldn't pin a name on,
but they were quite disturbing. Sozont unhugged and got another drink
—"The user's invalid move needn't be completely
blocked. Just put up some resistance to tell him he's going the wrong
way." Oh, *now* he's willing to be reasonable? Sozont
made an offer.
—"Perhaps a callback function specifying the
—"Yeah. I'll draw something." Springer
took a pencil and paper. Sozont stared at Springer's paw. The
physics of its hold on the pencil were completely implausible. How
could Springer live with himself, claiming to be a 5 but acting like he had
an opposable thumb?
Springer drew some boxes and lines on the paper,
but no labels on anything. "So the move-analysis goes up to
DBAccess" — the paw with its impossible grip on the pencil waved high in
the air — "and the move-prediction goes down to Kinesthetics."
The paw came down, but the pencil went flying, landing just behind Sozont,
who turned around and bent over to pick it up. Springer sprang onto
Sozont's back. "Hi-yo, Silver!" he cried. "Head out the door
for a spin!"
—"Fuck that. I go where I please.
You figure out where that is." Sozont crawled toward the bedding, intending
to roll Springer off gently when he got there.
—"You're heading to the R&R area."
—"Bzzzt! Too abstract. Try again."
—"You're planning to take a nap. But you
shouldn't do that yet. The milk-saucers are still out."
—"Good point." Sozont turned around and
crawled toward the saucers. He passed by them to their right, intending
to pick them up with a paw as he passed, but Springer dug his right-side
claws into Sozont's hide, while leaning over to pick up the saucers with
his left forepaw. Then Sozont crawled on toward the washing area.
He was starting to feel a little better. This skit was a metaphor for
how their modules should interact.
Springer put down the saucers in the sink.
"Okay. Now you can go to bed for some crazed-weasel yiffing."
This was just too much for Sozont. The idea
of having sex with this disgusting twerp was nauseating. He jerked
suddenly, throwing Springer to the floor. As Sozont rose to full height,
his whiskers drooped and his teeth bared themselves. Was there a hint
of a growl in his throat? Springer's face froze but the rest of his
body assumed an exaggerated relaxed pose and was now churning out even more
Sozont's tigrihippostrich could beat the shit
out of Springer's leopard, although he'd get banned from Furry Fairytale
Land for proving it. But only if Springer filed a complaint, which
would unavoidably reduce his levels of that dominance pheromone he seemed
to love so much. Yes, Sozont could probably get away with a little...
No, for the good of the project he must keep the peace with co-workers.
With effort, Sozont pulled his lips closed, although
the whiskers still drooped. "I think this meeting should be adjourned
—"What about the interface specification?"
—"I have heard no *technically-valid*
argument for changing it."
—"Then the meeting is not over yet."
Sozont's lips curled back again. He was
surprised to find his whiskers could droop even further, now pointing almost
straight down. He raised a foot over Springer's belly, wrinkling his
toes so the talons would bob up and down. "The meeting is over," he
growled. Still the leopard lay there, his apocrine glands making an
insane claim about his dominance. Well, two can play at this inappropriate-scent
game. Sozont thought of various horror movies he had seen, imagining
himself as the homicidal maniac in each one. He allowed his foot to
drop a bit, so a talon pricked Springer's skin, picked it up slightly, then
let go of it. Springer bolted from the lair, leaving behind a faint
whiff of fear that was far less satisfying than it should have been.
Sozont felt very depressed. At every step
he had tried to make the best move on behalf of the project, but now the
cost seemed way too high. Soon enough the Σproject would be
over, but Sozont had allowed that looney leopard to taint his soul forever.
Perhaps he could call Spike for some companionship?
But Sozont suspected that his next time with Spike would involve an apology
for his RL reticence, and right now Sozont was in no mood to apologize to
18. Simmering Anger
Days passed, as days do. There were rabbits to eat and lines of code
to write. Sozont watched all the code that Springer wrote. When
it was good, he said nothing. When it was bad, he complained, even
cc'ing Be-A-Wulf with the juiciest complaints. Sozont did not
attend any meeting that Springer attended. When Be-A-Wulf called him
about that, at first he made excuses. Then he admitted that he didn't
want to be in the same room with Springer. Be-A-Wulf suggested mediation,
but Sozont said he had tried that and Springer refused to follow the protocol.
(Sozont left out the off-color details.) It seemed Be-A-Wulf found
it hard to believe that Springer would refuse mediation.
Sozont began to be concerned that he might lose
his employment on the Σ project. He looked around for other
work, but at this time of year most of the available jobs related in one
way or another to the upcoming Rutting Season celebrations. Sozont
wanted to stay away from such projects. He still did not have a firm
commitment to rut with Marth and didn't want to be continually reminded of
that if things fell through. In his travels around the web, he came
across this text:
While it's hard to imagine Furry Fairytale Land without its Rutting Season,
that holiday was actually not part of our original scenario. It arose,
as far too many things do these days, from a lawsuit. One kid's parents
were upset that he spent all his time with us, so they sued to have us shut
down. The suit claimed that whole-body VR was equivalent to an addictive
drug or a brainwashing cult. We managed to get the "cult" claim thrown
out, but the "drug" claim was more of a problem.
The claim went something like this: Our
players were like drug users because they "lost interest in their RL lives"
and spent all their time attached to VR "paraphrenalia" living in "electrochemically-induced
dreams", doing nothing useful and letting their bodies rot. Fairytale
Land credits were not real money, yiff was not real sex, imaginary mates
and offspring were not real mates and offspring... you get the picture.
In fact, the lack of RL offspring seemed to be the main complaint from these
wannabe grandparents, who somehow were sure that their kid would settle down
and breed if only they could make his VR equipment stop working.
Things were going badly for us in the lawsuit.
We searched desperately for something to do to avoid getting shut down.
At one point we thought of adding a simple fertility festival, basically
as a PR move. Well, things just sort of snowballed from there!
Furs who liked the idea joined our community, while those who didn't left
us for other venues.
Today, Furry Fairytale Land is the premier community
for furs interested in RL breeding. Innovations such as synchronized
estrous cycles, semi-VR childcare arrangements, etc., all arose in response
to the needs of our increasingly-fecund community. Last year we produced
more offspring than all other furry-VR communities combined! And we
need your help to continue growing. If you'd like to donate your time
or credits to help make this year's Rutting Season the best ever, please
click below on one of the...
It was signed "H. Nelson Hornblower, 1st Muck Lord (ret.)". Good
ole' Horatio, thought Sozont. Such a great programmer! Actually
Sozont had never worked on the Fairytale Land kernel system. Hornblower
ran a very "tight ship", as it were, and Sozont had so far not been willing
to submit himself to that level of micromanagement. But with Hornblower's
retirement, kernel management was getting more relaxed. Perhaps someday
soon Sozont could work on extending and improving his world. It would
make him proud to be doing such an important job.
Sozont had found the rutting-season concept very
attractive when he was first looking around for a whole-body VR scenario
to join. In his naïveté he had thought that it would be
easy to find a mate during the run-up to rutting season, when everyone would
be wanting to pair up with someone. But Sozont had not realized how
unpopular he would be in the meat market. It was only recently that
he had started to apply the word "troll" to himself as a partial explanation
for why this kept happening to him. And he had not yet realized that
his unwillingness to tell anyone how he really felt about anything was a major
stumbling block on the road to love.
Anyway, there didn't seem to be any good job he
could hop to if his Σ position became untenable. Hopefully
he could stick with it for a few more months.
19. Boiling Anger
One day, Sozont received a terse email from Be-A-Wulf, addressed to all
members of the Σ project. It announced that Springer the Leopard
had left the team and his duties had been transfered to OursSuisse, whom
Sozont had worked well with before. This should have been good news:
Sozont had outlasted Springer! But it was strangely unsettling.
Sozont felt like there was unfinished business between him and Springer,
which now could never be finished.
Sozont noticed that his paw seemed to be grasping
at thin air. When he thought about what imaginary object was in his
paw, it turned out to be Springer's neck. Sozont felt ill and lay down
for a nap. He awoke with a pain in his toes. His dreams had been
very confused, but he remembered one isolated scene of the fur being torn
from Springer's backside. There was a disturbance in the bedding where
Sozont's talons had attacked in his sleep.
This was one of those rare times when Sozont actually
did not want to be a tigrihippostrich. He exited from Fairytale Land
and lay down on his mattress. But his thoughts were bizarre and
his hands kept curling into fists. He needed a distraction, new furiends,
something. He got dressed and went to the Furry Club.
At the club, Sozont put on his name-tag and circulated
around the tables, looking at tags to find somefur whom he had met in VR.
Unfortunately, the first familiar tag he found said "Springer the Leopard",
attached to a short pudgy fellow. As his legs walked themselves to
that table, Sozont told himself, "Don't make a scene!" but in his mind was
the thought that RL fistfights were considered a police matter and could
not result in banning.
—"Hello, Springer!" Sozont thought his
own voice sounded surprisingly chipper.
—"Hello, um..." Springer's eyes focused on Sozont's
nametag, then his irises narrowed and his voice flattened. "... Sozont."
—"So, you wanna fight *now*?"
—"WTF? I left the project, man, what else
do you want from me?"
Sozont thought. "You owe me more submissiveness.
I opened my heart to you—now I'm stuck with a touch-image of your disgusting
Springer gave him a confused look. "Can't
you just restore your character from backup?" It seemed the leopard-fur
knew very little about the part of the world he had sought to control.
—"It doesn't work like that. Much of the
touch-image effect is piggybacked onto hindbrain neurons in the hy00man player's
brain. There's no REWIND function over there."
Springer raised both hands, palms up. "I
was just playing my game. I'm sorry you got offended."
Sozont suddenly felt better, although Springer
really hadn't said much. "I think we should continue not working together
on projects, at least for awhile."
Sozont restarted his nametag scan of the tables.
He noticed two woman walking towards the club exit. The larger one
was staring at him. There was something familiar about the way she
moved. He went over to investigate. Her nametag read "Martha Stewart".
—M: "Hello, Sozont."
—S: "Hi, Marth! So, we finally
meet in RL!" Yep, gland problems for sure, but hopefully a little off-plan
medical treatment could get her womb working.
—R: "Oh? You two have met in VR?"
The other woman's tag was "Red Bunny".
—M: "Yes, we've had a few, er, run-ins."
What game was Marth playing? Well, Sozont would try to play along.
—S: "Like the time we were both chasing
the same vole?"
—R: "How did that work out?"
—M: "I ate it."
They had reached the club's outside door.
Sozont flashed a smile at Marth. "It was nice meeting you!"
Marth smiled back, very briefly but seemingly
at very high wattage. "Yeah." The two women left the club.
Sozont went to the bar and got a drink.
He noticed that his armpits were very wet. Apparently he had been
spewing pheromones at Springer and Marth. He wondered what his scent
had said, and what scent-replies he had gotten, but the human vomeronasal
organ is nearly vestigial and there was just no way to answer those questions.
Yet it seemed Sozont's Inner Animal was very happy with the scent-replies.
He nursed his drink and thought a little about why he had suddenly felt better
when talking to Springer, although the leopard-fur had really not said anything
conciliatory. He thought a lot about Marth and how she moved and the
emails she had sent and what the relationship between her and Red Bunny seemed
Sozont finished his drink and considered ordering
another, but he decided it was silly to be spending money at the Furry Club
if he wasn't even talking to anyone. He went back to his apartment,
and went to sleep in his bedding.
Chapter IV: Preparing to Rut
20. Trying New Things
Sozont was hunting. He was trying out some new software he had found
to replace the "player name" overlay. Instead of an artificial-looking
"NPC" tag hanging in space, the new program caused turning gears
to appear whenever he looked into an NPC's eyes. The effect was subtle,
yet unmistakable. The fur who had written the "NPC-gears" program
was a true artist, yet had given the software away for nothing. Sozont
thought the program was worth real money to him, but its author had not
provided a channel for sending credits. Sozont did not understand this
"Free Software" concept—he spent all his programming time working on projects
for which he was paid. But certainly he could appreciate the artistry,
the blood and soul that had gone into this free gift to all Fur Kind. In
other words, Sozont was a selfish brat who took but never gave, but at least
there was hope that he might someday mature into a decent furson.
A rabbit was hiding behind one of those stupid signs
that had started to appear with the change of season. Like all such
signs, its basic color was a particular shade of blue that had become associated
in Furry Fairytale Land with "hy00man matters". Few phenos had blue-receptors
in their eyes, but all player-furs could see that shade of blue as a special
exception in the programming. This particular sign showed a bearded
person on a throne, finger pointing out at the viewer. Sitting at attention
next to the throne was a grey wolf. In the foreground was a human baby
crawling towards a rattle, a stuffed tiger-tail hanging off its orange-striped
diaper cover. The caption was, "God and
Dog Want YOU to Participate in Evolution." It was
as subtle as a brick wall. Sozont could not believe that these signs
actually increased the birthrate any. What, are we lemmings?
Sozont had encountered these sign-hiding rabbits before.
There was a special trick to catching them. You grabbed a paw-hold
conveniently placed on the sign, swung around the side, and caught the prey
with talons. It was very easy—if you were willing to touch the sign.
Sozont was willing. He grabbed the rabbit, transferred it from
talons to claws, looked it in the eyes—turning gears—and ate it.
While he ate, Sozont thought about a programming difficulty
he was having on the Σ project. Then his mind drifted to Marth
and the date he still hadn't taken her out on. Rutting time was getting
ever closer. For the last few days Marth had been staying in RL, sick
with an early-season case of the flu. She was mostly over it now, but
still feeling a little weak. She had posted a friends-only message that
hinted she might appreciate visitors to her apartment. Sozont thought
he could perhaps get a brownie point for going, but that wouldn't be a real
date. Besides, words like "gift" appeared often in her emails, so of
course he would have to bring her one if he went for a visit, but what gift
could he possibly bring? He didn't want to present her with some mundane
little thing, like flowers or chocolate.
Remembering something Marth had once said, Sozont had
a flash of inspiration. Now *that* was a present he could make!
It involved some food prep, which wasn't Sozont's strong suit, but it
seemed fairly simple and he was sure he could pull it off. Walking
back to his lair, he kept thinking about his present and how he would make
it and what it would look like when he was done. Since he had no clue
what he was really getting himself into, the plan looked great to him from
Sozont showered and dressed, in brightly-colored clothes.
He considered calling Marth to confirm that she wanted visitors, but
decided against it to avoid spoiling the surprise: he was vainly proud that
he had figured out where she lived by correlating all the little hints from
everything she'd ever said about her RL activities. He went to the
supermarket for some supplies. Frozen prepared chicken Kiev, rosemary,
scallions, rice noodles, toothpicks, pimento, red food coloring. Then
Sozont discovered some prepared decorations—pimentos artfully arranged on
toothpicks to form cone-shapes. There was no way Sozont could do as
well, so he took the preconstructed decorations and put back the toothpicks
and jar of pimentos.
Back at his apartment, Sozont put together his
gift. When he was done, it looked like... some chicken with stuff on
it! Yet at the same time it was quite close to what he had imagined
it would be. Perhaps he was just being hyper-self-critical and other
furs would be able to see what it was supposed to look like. Sozont
wrapped up the still-frozen now-decorated chicken and set off for Marth's
Unfortunately, the route he had mapped out was erroneous.
He had to backtrack and ask directions and backtrack again. Eventually
he got to her building. He activated the annunciator for her apartment.
—"Who is it?"
—"It's Sozont, from Furry Fairytale Land."
The door opened. Red Bunny was standing there.
21. Visiting the Sick
Sozont could hear Marth's voice coming through the door.
—M: "Who is it?"
—R: "Sozont has come to see you."
—M: "What???" Sounds of apartment-tidying.
—S: "I've brought a present."
—R: "Well, come in then."
Marth was wearing a bathrobe.
—M: "Why didn't you call first?"
—S: "I didn't want to spoil the surprise."
—M: "The place is a mess."
Sozont looked around. The apartment was cleaner
that most bachelor pads. "What mess?" he asked innocently.
—R: "Heh. At least this year's specimen
is a gentleman."
—M: "So what did you bring me?"
—S: "I'll show you. Um, it needs to
—M: "Let's go to the kitchen, then."
Sozont unwrapped the gift on the kitchen counter. Some
of the decorations had gone askew, so he tidied them up.
Marth looked at Sozont's handiwork for a minute.
—M: "It's a tray of voles!"
Sozont beamed. "Yeah." But then suddenly
he was crestfallen. "Damn! I forgot all about the small and cut
—R: "It's a WHAT???"
—S: "It's just chicken."
Marth was smiling. "See? The scallions
are tails. The red circles are the eyes. Noodles for whiskers.
What are those noses made of?"
—S: "Pimentos. And there's four pieces
of Kiev. One for each of us, plus a spare."
—R: "No thanks. I don't eat mice."
Red Bunny went into a bedroom and closed the door behind her.
Marth put the tray in the oven and sat at the table,
so Sozont sat across from her.
—"So, to what do I owe this visit?"
—"Your, um, last broadcast message to friends sounded
like you wanted company."
—"It did, didn't it? I can't imagine what I
must have been thinking. Oh, yes, now I remember. I was thinking
that people would CALL FIRST!"
—"I *thought* you'd be resting in bed, so if I called
then you'd feel obligated to go racing around tidying the place up and give
yourself a relapse." Wait, this couldn't be the right time for an argument.
It never happened like that in the movies.
—"So how did you figure out where I live?"
—"You dropped hints. I listened."
—"I don't remember hinting about my address."
—"You've talked about what's nearby, how long it
takes to get to certain places, a few tidbits about your building. Enough
to triangulate your location."
Marth stared at Sozont for a moment, then spoke in
a small voice: "It sounds like you put a lot of effort into it." She
got up to take the tray out of the oven.
—"Nah, just paying attention."
Marth transferred two pieces of chicken to plates.
She set the table with forks and knives and napkins and glasses of
water. Sozont realized there was much more involved in serving dinner
than just decorating the meat. He was sorry he was making work for
her during her illness. He wanted to help out, but didn't know what
to do, so he just did nothing.
Marth sat down, cut off a piece of the chicken Kiev,
and ate it. "The rosemary really adds to the flavor."
—"I just sprinkled that on to look like 'fur'. If
it actually tastes like anything, that's just a bonus."
—"You're quite the culinary artist."
—"I just threw this together. I don't do much
with arts and crafts."
—"Oh, I do. I've been playing around with some
As they talked and ate, Sozont noticed that the chicken
actually did taste pretty good. And Marth had recognized the "tray of
voles"! Sozont had to keep telling himself that, because it seemed so
hard to believe.
—"So when are you hoping to return to work?"
—"Oh, another day or two. I' still not back
—"Well, I hope you feel better soon."
—"Yeah. So I'm, er, not really up to, um, hopping
in the sack with you today." Wait, she's talking about having sex!
Was there a whole subtext to this conversation that Sozont hadn't been
paying attention to?
—"The thought hadn't crossed my mind," he said gallantly.
But the reply he got was a negative facial expression—one might even
call it a "scowl". Perhaps some backpedalling was in order. "I
suppose it should have."
—"Yeah. Or were you planning to wait for rutting
season to get into high gear and then suddenly start trying?"
Sozont was getting nervous. He had no idea how
to navigate this topic. He really ought to just tell her about his RL
virginity, but she was being so forceful that he didn't want to show any weakness.
"I don't think this meeting really counts as a 'date'. I've been
trying to think of something we could do, but I just can't settle on an appropriate
—"How about a visit to East Cupcake Hot Tubs?"
—"Wednesday. 8 PM."
—"I'll be there!"
Marth wrapped the other two chicken breasts in foil
and put them in the fridge. She washed up Sozont's tray and gave it
to him. "I'm really very tired. I should go back to bed."
—"It was nice meeting you again, Marth. I can
hardly wait until Wednesday!"
—"Yeah. See you then, Sozont!"
As he headed out the door, Sozont tried to shake hands
with Marth, as if this had been a business meeting. But she caressed
his hand instead of shaking it, so he touched her hand too. Sozont
was surprised at how the tender moment felt—why should touching hands matter
so much? But it did. Then Marth moved her hand to the door, waiting
to close it. Sozont took the hint and left.
On his way home, Sozont thought about his visit with
Marth. The hot-tub thingy was scary. He was quite certain that
he would be expected to get naked for that. But Sozont would do what
was required for the situation. And if he was stiff and formal about
it he probably wouldn't embarrass himself too badly.
22. In the Hot Tub
It was Wednesday. Sozont arrived at East Cupcake Hot Tubs, precisely
on time. Marth was already there. They went in together. Since
this date was Marth's idea, she spoke to the attendant.
—M: "A tub, please."
—A: "We're closing early tonight. I
can give you only a half-hour slot now."
Marth seemed taken aback by this news. Apparently
she had not been aware of the early closing. She looked at Sozont.
He thought shorter would be better, anyway.
—S: "Well, we're here. We might as
well take what we can get."
Marth gave money to the attendant.
—A: "Right this way." He walked them
into a room with a giant circular Jacuzzi. "The buzzer will tell you
when there's five minutes left." He left the room, closing the door
Marth took off her clothes, so Sozont did too. Marth
got into the tub. Sozont took off his underpants and walked towards
the tub. He felt odd. He was obviously naked, yet he felt like
he had a second skin, perhaps a fur-covered one, that continued to cloak
him. He was sure that Marth was looking at his groin, but he kept his
eyes and his mind focused on the ladder and on entering the tub without slipping
or anything. After sitting down in the tub, Sozont decided to make
—"Hi there! So, what should we do first?"
Sozont thought. "I guess we should do some demonstrative
swimming, to show that our bodies are well-formed and thus we are suitable
—"Okay." Marth swam around in the tub. It
didn't seem to bother her that her breasts flopped every time she changed
direction. Then it was Sozont's turn. Thankfully the tub was
small and shallow, so it was quite unclear (he thought) that he couldn't swim
very well. Sozont stopped swimming and flexed his biceps. Marth
made an approving noise. Sozont crouched down in the water, then jumped
into the air, so his penis flopped as he came back down. Marth openly
stared at Sozont's mid-section during the entire maneuver, which actually
didn't bother Sozont too much. Perhaps this hot-tub thing wasn't going
to be as bad as he had feared. Marth spoke:
—"It's too bad there's only half an hour."
—"Maybe we can do something else afterward."
—"Red Bunny is staying home in my apartment tonight."
—"So, um, what's the situation with you gals?" Were
they best friends who moved in, or roommates who got to be friends?
Marth stared at Sozont. "We are lovers, if that's
what you mean."
—"Oh. Well, I'm... having sex with Spike."
—"Whatever do you see in him? He's such an idiot!"
—"That's just his 'echidna' act. He's much brighter
when he plays a wolf."
And that was it. A topic they had been avoiding
in email for quite some time. And now it was out in the open, with
just a simple "oh." Sozont felt like there was a barrier between him
and Marth that had softened. He could get closer to her if he wanted.
Sozont moved his body closer to Marth's. She touched his arm. The
wet skin contact felt new and interesting. He touched her shoulder.
Her entire body was soft and fleshy. Sozont didn't think anyone
would want to touch his bony excuse for a physique.
Marth spoke again: "So, what do you think of Furry
—"Well, I've heard the fox-totem wants to know a little
about every topic."
—"Uh huh. So what's your totem?"
—"Oh, I don't know. I'm not really much of a
tiger, I guess."
—"You don't know what your totem is?" Marth
seemed to find this idea hard to grasp.
—"Maybe you can help me find out. There's a
nice VR program I've been meaning to try. It uses biofeedback to select
a suitable totem and then it turns you into your animal."
—"That could be fun. Which set of totems does
I think, but maybe it's a mixture of tribal beliefs."
—"We should try it sometime."
—"How about Sunday?"
—"My lair? 8 PM?"
—"Sure, I guess. So, um, how much do you make?"
Sozont told her his income level. She shook her
head in wonder.
—"There's no way I'll ever make that kind of money!"
She worked as a clerk in a department store.
—"Why do you have such a crappy job? Surely
you can do better."
—"Nobody wants to hire a fat woman. I can only
get crap jobs."
—"Really, that job would barely cover the cost of
—"Yeah. It would be cheaper for me to stay home
and take care of our kids myself."
The "stay-at-home mom" lifestyle was not a popular
choice among Furry Fairytale Land players, or at least was not much discussed
in the local media. But Sozont was in favor of anything that saved
—"My job exists in VR. I have to spend a lot
of time there. So you'd be alone with the offspring for much of the
—"That sounds like a reasonable division of labor."
Excellent! Sozont wouldn't have to spend gobs
of time in RL, after all! Sozont had thought, when they kept dancing
around this issue in email, that there was going to be a problem in this
area, but there was just no disagreement at all. Sozont wanted to kiss
Marth, but the habits of a lifetime were hard to break. He rubbed his
leg-feathers — no, just legs — against hers under the water. She
massaged his scrawny pectoral muscles. Was that a hint? Sozont
ran a paw — no, a hand — down the side of Marth's breast.
Already? Marth kissed Sozont, but when he tried
to massage her breasts some more she got out of the water. Sozont followed.
She towelled off, so he did too. She started to get dressed,
so Sozont got dressed. He was done dressing while she was still struggling
with her bra.
—"Could you help me with this?" Sozont had never
before tried to install a bra. It took effort and some hints from Marth.
She finished getting dressed, then hugged him. Sozont wasn't
sure what to do now. He returned her hug and — since his hands were
in the area anyway — massaged where her neck met her shoulders. She
rubbed the same spot on his body. It felt nice.
The door opened. The attendant's voice came in
through the opening.
—A: "You guys decent in there?"
Sozont and Marth walked out of the tub room, through the
lobby, and out to the street. Marth spoke first:
—"I had a good time."
—"Yeah. So you don't want to do anything else
—"No. I'm so sorry about the short tubbing.
I didn't know they were going to close early."
—"These things happen. So, um, totem-exploration
at my place?"
—"I'll be there!"
Sozont decided to try kissing her good-night. It
really wasn't hard, and somehow it seemed to be meaningful in some way. Then
Sozont and Marth went their separate ways back to their apartments.
Sozont had a lot to think about. The child-rearing
plan they had discussed had good points and bad points. There was
not much RL-time obligation for him, but he would be the breadwinner for
a family and might not be able to take a month or two off from work when
he felt like it, which he sometimes did. Yet the idea of being a normal
member of society seemed strangely attractive.
Normal. Sozont did not often think that
this word could apply to him. But when he thought about the things
he wanted to do as a father to kits, it all seemed so very normal.
Previously, Sozont had believed that the sperm-transfer
aspect of rutting season would be something he would just have to put up
with, but now he was enthused about RL touching with Marth and wanted more.
He would have to wait until Sunday. Why hadn't he suggested something
sooner??? And Marth seemed really interested in making love to him,
though he couldn't understand why. Did he deserve her?
23. Spike's View
As fall turned into winter, the foliage died back and rabbits became harder
to find near Fur City. Today's hunt had taken Sozont far into the
hinterlands, but now he was on his way home. He passed through a clearing
that seemed strangely familiar. He knew that the last time he'd been
here, the décor had been greener and there hadn't been one of those
stupid blue signs in the middle of it.
The sign pictured two scruffy wolves in a junkyard.
Ugly weeds grew through holes in the junk. The wolves were licking
each other's tongues. The caption read: "Gay
Sex Doesn't Make Babies". It was in remarkably poor taste,
even for a rutting sign. Sozont was glad it had been placed in the
middle of nowhere and hoped it had been a donation, not paid for with tax
So what was familiar about this clearing? Oh
yes, now he remembered: this was where he had first met Spike. Sozont
pulled out his cell phone and called the echidna. The phone rang quite
a few times, with several "call being transferred" noises. Eventually
his friend answered.
—"Hi Spike! It's Sozont."
—"Hey! What's happening?"
—"I was just passing through that clearing where we
first met and thought of you."
—"Well, isn't that sweet!"
—"There's a stupid blue sign there now."
—"Yech! I hate those signs. I don't spend
much time in Furry Fairytale Land in the winter. I'm over in Jism
—"Oh. I was hoping to see you again some time."
—"Be at your lair in a hour."
—"Great! Oh, and I'm sorry I was so uptight
at the Furry Club."
—"No worries, mon. If I got wound up about everything
I ever wanted but didn't get, I'd be a nervous wreck!"
—"Glad to hear it. See you soon!"
Sozont got home with some time to spare before Spike arrived. He
used the time to rehash the last conversation in his mind. It was
something he did far too often.
Sozont had mentioned "Furry Club" and Spike had talked
about not getting something he wanted, which was presumably RL sex with
Sozont. The tigrihippostrich wasn't sure how he felt about that. Certainly
the RL stuff with Marth was very attractive and perhaps Epistemology Wolf
would also be a good time. On the other hand, things were moving rapidly
with Marth right now—Sozont would prefer not to make big changes in the
rest of his life while he worked on getting his rutting-season commitment
Spike had also mentioned that he was spending time
in Jism Market, a scenario that Sozont had never visited nor had ever intended
to visit. Firstly, it was non-furry (there was a "Spooge Market" for
that). Also, Sozont could not understand how the economy worked in
those gay-fantasy scenarios. He didn't want join a VR community where
he'd always be just a peon because he couldn't figure out how to get ahead
Spike arrived and Sozont was happy to see him. They
talked about stuff. Sozont remembered what a good time he'd had with
Marth at the hot tub and thought perhaps something similar could happen
with Spike if he spilled a bean or two.
—"It looks like I might actually have a rutting partner
—"Oh? Who's the lucky girl?"
—"That one??? I wouldn't go near that bitch.
At my school we have some girls like that—they're trying for an 'MRS'
—"There has been no discussion of marriage. We're
just rutting." In Fairytale Land, legal marriages were for furs who
planned to leave the meat market and choose the same partner every year
for rutting. Tardrayn-rah was married. The culture was somewhat
negative on marriage because the gene pool was fairly small and it was necessary
to keep swapping partners to raise the diversity of offspring.
—"Uh huh. You know, once you have a kid with
a girl, you're related to her forever. And that vixen has some nasty
claws. Why do you like her?"
—"Oh, I don't know. We just sort of 'click'
Spike cocked his head in a canine manner. "Have
you met her in RL? What does she look like?"
—"Yeah. Let's just say she's an 'old-style Furry
—"Tsk. That bad, eh?"
This conversation was nothing at all like what Sozont
had hoped for. Instead of getting closer, he and Spike seemed to be
moving apart. And Spike was dissing Sozont's girl, the only girl who
had ever expressed any serious interest in rutting with him. That
made him feel defensive and feisty.
—"Well, *I* like her."
—"Okay, okay, don't have a cow, man. I'm only
a fruit. Don't let me interfere with your eternal happiness. I'll
just walk off into the sunset by myself now." He starting humming Mendelssohn's
A Midsummer Night's Dream.
—"Yeah? Well 'not today, Zurg'." Sozont
assumed the quadruped position and did several sudden deep knee bends. "So,
uh, you wanna?"
—"Oh, why not?" Spike pretended to remove his
So they cuddled, and did other things such as you can
imagine, and then snuggled some more. Afterward, Sozont still wanted
to reduce this barrier that had arisen between them. He decided to try
some 'pillow talk'.
—"So, um, Spike?"
—"Why does your penis have only three heads?"
Silence. Not good, what had Sozont stepped on
"I mean, a standard echidna penis has four heads, right?
It's, um, quite unusual for a fur to pick a body form that's, uh, nonstandard
in that area. I mean, I like it just the way it is, but I was just wondering,
The expression on the echidna's face made him seem
much older and wiser than usual. "It reflects something not quite right
about that part of my hy00man body. I'd rather not talk about it, since
it's obviously something you'll never want to see, Mr. Going Straight As
—"Hey! I'm still the same ole' bi guy I've always
been. I'm just getting closer to my straight-side goals, that's all."
Spike moved to the lair's exit. "I've yiffed
a lot of guys and a few gals in my time, Sozont. I think I know a
little about these things. That girl will be asking you for an exclusive
contract. And unless I'm mistaken, you're going to give it to her."
Spike left the lair without saying good-bye.
Well, that was depressing. Spike and Marth did
not like each other at all. Spike in particular seemed to think of
Marth as a competitor he couldn't beat. And Sozont had never told either
of them about the sex he had with rabbits. Why would anyone want to
know about that? It was bloody and would have been extremely painful
if they weren't NPC's... Sozont tried to shake the thoughts out of
his head. He was *so* glad he had been too hungry that day to
use Venus Fly Trap as a yiffing toy. She would have been a life-destroying
mistake. Sozont hadn't done any rabbit-sex in recent times, not since
he had first met Spike actually, but deep down he was still just a goddamned
troll and nobody who really knew who he was could possibly love him.
24. Showing Inner Animals
Sunday finally arrived. Marth came to Sozont's lair. Her vulpine
body-form looked good. Sozont thought they made a nice couple, in a
"Beauty and the Beast" sort of way. Sozont started up the "Be Your
Totem Animal" program. His body changed. He became a jaguar! Somehow
that seemed quite appropriate, although not what Sozont would have guessed.
And Marth had become a...
—"Marth, you're a bear!"
—"Yeah. Guess I don't need brass claws now."
She was a huge grizzly bear, at least four times as big as Sozont's
—"This lair doesn't feel right. We should go
—"Um, I sort of don't want other furs to see me like
—"Okay, I'll redecorate." Sozont invoked an
isolation field, disconnecting his lair from the rest of Furry Fairytale
Land. He created a wetlands scene, lush with spring growth. It
cost some credits, but this was a date-like thing and surely Sozont should
spend money on that.
—"Hey, pretty good! But a bit too hot for my
taste." Oh yeah, bears like it cooler than jaguars do. Sozont
created two bubbles in the isolation field, keeping the humidity high near
himself but low near Marth.
—"Nice! How about some music?"
—"Oh, I never know what to pick."
—"Well, I can help with that!" Suddenly the
air was filled with Kansas' Dust in the Wind.
—"Thanks. I just love Kansas."
—"Frankly, my dear, I'd rather be in Philadelphia."
—"No, that's just a line from W.C. Fields." Sozont
wondered why he'd made that joke. He still *felt* like himself
in this jaguar form, but maybe it made him want to say different things than
he usually did. "You sure are a very LARGE bear."
Marth looked at the ground. "I don't really think
of myself as being this big."
—"Actually, I never think of myself as being a jaguar
at all. I just am."
—"I often think about being a bear when I'm working.
Sometimes I really want to cuff a customer!"
—"Thankfully I don't have to work with the public
in my job."
—"Yeah. This scenery is very creative." A
frog hopped across the marsh. Had Sozont invoked that? He hadn't
been paying attention to all his invocations.
—"I've been working on Fairytale Land for a few years
now. I know the kernel programming fairly well." Suddenly the
music changed. Now it was Carly Simon's You're So Vain. "Okay
Marth, so I'm vain; is that a problem?"
—"Oh! Sorry." Marth changed the music
to the Doors' Riders on the Storm. "I'm so used to picking songs,
sometimes I don't even pay attention to what I'm picking anymore."
Marth's Inner Animal does her own invocations, without
conscious thought! That's my kind of girl, thought Sozont. He
moved towards Marth while making a flehmen grimace, but without thinking
about what that meant.
Marth seemed a little uncomfortable. "Um, I thought
this was supposed to be a spiritual journey, not a sexual one."
—"Uh huh. In these bodies, I don't think our
mating parts would even fit together."
—"Good. Because I've had some problems in the
past with guys who claimed they wanted to rut, but they would only ever do
it in VR. So now I insist on RL yiffing before I'll do anything in
—"I've, um, never—actually—done it in RL. I'm
hoping you'll be my first."
—"Oh. Um, I'll try to make sure it's a good
time for you."
—"Thanks." Sozont had a thought. "So,
what about at Soapy Lake? What would have happened if I hadn't been
—"Well, after I'd gotten you all hot and bothered,
I'd have told you that we had to switch to RL if you wanted to score." Marth
giggled at her own naked admission.
She's a troll. The thought bounced around
in Sozont's head while he tried to get a grip on it. She's a troll.
For an instant all of Marth's behaviors made sense to Sozont. She's
a troll! Suddenly Sozont began to believe that this whole
rutting thing might actually work out. Spending 18+ years with her
raising young? Yeah, that could happen! The thought, oddly enough,
made him hungry.
—"Hey Marth, are you hungry?"
—"I could eat."
—"Hmm. Grizzly brear... eats salmon!"
—"I suppose you can make a wriggling fish suddenly
appear in my paws?" She sat on her haunches and held out her forepaws.
—"I can do better than that!" Sozont invoked
a creek that started from noplace, ended up noplace, but somehow was stocked
with fish. Hang the expense, he thought, I'm on the road to WINNING
the dating game!
—"Ooh! Those fish are huge!" In the middle
of her sentence, the music changed to Bette Midler's The Rose. Must
be another animal invocation, thought Sozont. Her Inner Bear is trying
to tell me something.
Some say love, it is a river
Marth put her forepaws in the water and clawed a fish.
She ripped the skin off the wriggling thing and took a big bite. "Ooh,"
she squealed, "this is delicious!"
—"Oh course! It's unisex salmon. I don't kid around."
Sozont extended his claws and grabbed a fish, but the
thing was a fighter and almost got away, so Sozont put his head into the
water and used his jaws to crush the salmon's skull, in self-conscious imitation
of typical FFJ6 hunting style—which really wasn't all that different from
Sozont's usual "bite the head off" approach.
Sozont sat down to eat his fish. It really was
very good. Marth was still standing while eating hers, which made her
tower over him. Was he really going to win with her? "Maybe we
should go out for dinner and a movie. Do the normal dating thing."
There was that word normal again.
—"Sounds good. What movie?"
Sozont giggled. "I don't even know what's playing
—"There's Star Trek XCIX: Endless Rehash. It'll
be around for a few more days. I haven't seen it yet."
—"That could be good. And Joey's Steakhouse
—"Let's do it, right now!"
—"Um, I don't think I can go to dinner right after
eating this salmon."
—"Oh, yeah. Well, tomorrow then?"
—"There's no way I can get Red out of my apartment
tomorrow. It will have to be Tuesday."
—"We could use my apartment. I've got a mattress.
I know, it's not much."
—Fear. "I think I'd rather use my apartment,
for our first time."
—"Oh, should I be afraid of what devilments you have
hiding in your lair?"
—"Generally speaking, it is the female who is expected
to be afraid during mating."
—"Yeah, I suppose." Bette Midler was still singing:
It's the dream, afraid of waking, that never takes the chance
Sozont decided that he *wasn't* afraid of waking from
this dream, and he *would* take the chance. He sprang onto Marth's
back and rubbed her tail-flap with his inguinal region. She stopped
eating and stood motionless and silent, but her scent was positive. He
crawled along her back and started chewing her ears. She took two steps,
then sat down—Sozont jumped off and landed on four paws. Marth rolled
over on her side. Sozont nuzzled her belly and imagined his kits growing
inside her. He looked up at her face, seeing something for just a moment,
but then Marth rolled back and stood up.
—"Like I said, RL first."
—"Let's go, now!"
—"Tuesday. 9 PM."
Why was she holding back? Perhaps it was the
wrong time of the month?
—"So, what monthly cycle day are you on now?"
—"Oh, um, today is day 16." So that wasn't it.
Hey, wait a minute!
—"So... at the hot tub... that was a fertile day?"
—"Don't you think you should have told me that?"
—"I was going to... but the early closing screwed
up my plans... Anyway we never really got started on doing anything."
Marth's eyes were wet, which was out of character. Bears don't
cry; that's a primate trick. Sozont rubbed her side with his.
—"I'm not asking for much. I just want to finally
do the regular Rutting Season thing this year, that's all. But that
means all practice matings beforehand have to be on non-fertile days."
—"Okay. But my cyles are irregular—my body
doesn't take well to estrous synchronization. I wouldn't want to base
my plans on having any fertile days during Rutting Week."
—"Well, I would still like to plan on it, but it's
okay if the plan fails."
—"Okay. And remember that even if do I ovulate
on cue, I probably won't get pregnant. I've never succeeded before."
—"What about that off-plan medical treatment idea?"
—"A reputable doctor won't treat me until I've been
trying with the same partner for six months. So, um, do you still want
to rut with me?"
This plan was quite far from the ideal that Sozont
had had in mind, but it was still tons better than the no-chance-at-all he'd
had during previous years. And she was still a troll and he was still
on the road to winning. He looked her in the eyes. "Yeah."
—"Tuesday, 9 PM, Joey's Steakhouse? Dinner,
movie, then popping your cherry?"
When she put it that way, it made Sozont nervous. Did
he really want to yiff this girl for real? She had already shown herself
to be extremely dangerous. Would he actually go through with this?
Hmm... Yes, he would!
—"I'll be there." Sozont terminated the isolation
field and the "Be Your Totem Animal" program. They were back in his
lair, a tigrihippostrich and his vixen. But there was something odd
about his perception. The spot where Marth was standing had some sort
of annotation attached to it, suggesting that it was the most important location
in the world. He moved around a bit—the annotation stayed with her.
Was this a Fairytale Land effect or was it in his own brain? Sozont
wasn't sure. He had never had a rutting commitment before—various
bits of never-before-used brain tissue were now activating. He went
to Marth and gave her a hug. She hugged him back. He rubbed the
base of her neck, like last time. She put a paw below his belt and rubbed
under his hippo-tail, which Sozont supposed was okay considering what he
had recently been doing to her tail-flap. It felt... really nice. Sozont
was still finding it hard to believe that he was actually going to win with
her. And Marth was a troll like him; he could be himself with her.
Sozont startled when he realized that he had been standing there motionless,
staring into Marth's eyes while she stroked his ass.
—"What's the matter?"
—"Nothing. I... really liked that."
—"Yeah. It'd be fun to try that totem program
—"Well, I should go now. See you Tuesday."
—"Okay! And Marth... I, um, love you."
She gave him a piercing stare. "I love you too,
Sozont." Marth tried to scamper out of the lair, but she was too full.
"And you've *got* to stop overfeeding me like this!" She
walked slowly away. Sozont watched until she was out of sight.
25. Martha Stewart, Loving
Sozont could hardly believe his luck. He was going
on a real date!
At the restaurant, sometimes they talked a lot, sometimes
there were silent periods. Although this hy00man body couldn't detect
anything, Sozont had faith that communication was still occurring during
the "silent" periods.
At the movie, Marth started rubbing Sozont's legs.
Somehow Sozont had never figured out that this was the whole point of going
to a movie on a date! So he rubbed Marth's body, a bit self-conscious
in his copying of her moves.
Afterwards, they went to Marth's place. She mixed
up two drinks and handed him one.
—"I need a drink?"
—"Yes. You're still very uptight. Drink
So they drank and talked. Favorite music, foods,
movie stars. Eventually the alcohol was all consumed. Marth
went on the offensive and kissed Sozont wetly. Then Sozont <I don't write sex scenes; sorry>.
Afterward, they talked some more. Parenting styles,
healthcare, proper uses for VR. Red Bunny would be home soon, so they
put their clothes back on. Marth kept saying that Sozont should go,
but then they would find another subject of interest and Marth would talk
When Red arrived, Sozont took that as his cue and walked
towards the door, but it seemed Marth still wanted to talk, while Red was
almost literally stamping her feet. Sozont stood by the door for awhile,
while Marth talked and kept drawing Sozont into conversation by saying interesting
things. Eventually Sozont kissed her while rubbing between her cheeks
and ears. They had a silent moment, then Sozont went home to his apartment.
He lay on his mattress. He didn't want to go
back to VR just yet. He still couldn't believe his luck. Sozont
had a girlfriend! And she was a troll, so he *did* deserve her.
He still hadn't told her about the rabbit sex, but there were probably
lots of bad things she had done that he hadn't heard about yet. All
in good time. He wished she were there with him, but at least he was
still in the body that had mated with her. Sozont couldn't figure out
how he felt about that. There were so many feelings! Clearly there
were lots of newly-activated brain bits, that had not been fooled by his
VR life and had refused to activate before. He felt older; there was
more of him now.
Sozont went to sleep. It was the first time in
several years that he had voluntarily slept in human form when VR was available.
Marth had made love to this body, so it wasn't such a bad body, after
Chapter V: Gaining Social Status
26. Project meeting
Sozont awoke and remembered that he was
supposed to attend a Σ project meeting today. He was about
to hop into the shower when he realized that the meeting was in VR and he
wasn't. He had a moment's confusion about where he was and why he was
there, but then he thought again about Marth and last night. Finally
something *good* happened in
RL! He suited up.
Sozont was in his lair. The meeting was
in Fur City. Time was a bit too short to walk there. He could
just teleport to the meeting, but there was a hefty "laziness fine" for
that. He decided to teleport to the center of Fur City and walk from
there—the fine was considerably less and there was sufficient time for
· · · · · · · ·
· · · ·
There was a huge crowd of anthro furs in the City
center; it stank like a dog kennel. He walked to his company's
offices, getting to the meeting room with five minutes to spare.
OursSuisse was already there. Others arrived. Be-A-Wulf was
Be-A-Wulf had an agenda and tried to stick to
it. But one fur would say something on-topic, another would make a
joke out of it, then everyone would have a laugh at the project's expense,
or at some stupidity in Furry Fairytale Land programming, or whatever.
The project's splash-intro was supposedly done and should have taken only a
moment to check off from the agenda, but Sill E. Skunk and Yellow Squirrel
got into a heated argument about some details in its decorative
elements. The argument was not interesting to Sozont, nor (it seemed)
to anyone else besides the skunk and the squirrel, and perhaps also the
wolf/manager who was trying to adjudicate.
Sozont looked around the room at his
co-workers. Probably most of them already had their mates selected for
Rutting Season. He wanted to tell them all, "I finally have a
girlfriend!" but it was not the sort of thing that they talked about at
meetings. His gaze paused for a moment on OursSuisse, who smiled at
him and gave him a thumbs-up sign for no obvious reason. What was that
supposed to mean? While Sill and Yellow talked, Be-A-Wulf looked over
at Sozont and gave him a big grin. Sozont wondered what kind of odor
he was giving out. Perhaps he should not be thinking about rutting
Eventually the splash-intro discussion petered out
and conversation moved on to muscle-tremor timing and how to use it to
provide more realistic feedback to fur-players.
This Marth was not chicken/vole an
area hot tub that Sozont jaguar and bear had
paid dinner and movie much attention
to copulation. What??? It seemed to Sozont like
there were two streams of thought going on in his head. The other
stream seemed to be telling ?someone? about his sex life. Well,
he was rather proud of his sex life at the moment. He looked around
the room, but no one seemed to be looking back at him. Should
learn more about muscle-tremor timing came a thought from
nowhere. A sensible idea, though. Anyway, there was nobody
here Spike whom he wouldn't want to tell
about rabbits his sex life. Okay, now he was just
The meeting was adjourned and furs were
leaving. As Sozont headed towards the door, Be-A-Wulf caught up to
—"Doing anything for lunch today,
—"I haven't made any plans yet."
—"How about joining us at The Happy
Camper?" OursSuisse was standing next to Be-A-Wulf.
As the threesome made their way to the VR
restaurant, Sozont remembered Springer the Leopard, and what a pushover he
had turned out to be in RL. People can be so different in VR
sometimes. And leopards and jaguars were almost the same species...
for Sozont updates; see also my