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
every angle. ««««««««««««
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.