! Sozont #17: A Business Meeting

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 moves."
     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 with feathers.
     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 a 'Sozont'?"
     —"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 below it.
     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 of water.
     —"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 expected next-moves?"
     —"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 dominance scent.
     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 now."
     —"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 anyone.

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-- Pyesetz the Dog