User:Jetfire/Gaming Furs

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Works by Jetfire on Shifti

Gaming Furs

Author: Jetfire


Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Welcome to Las Vegas. It seems like just yesterday when I was last down here, thinking I was going crazy with what I was seeing, and now I'm back. Amazing the difference two years makes. At least I won't think I'm going crazy this time around.

It'll be good to see Aidan and the others in person again. Lasting the entire trip in a hotel room with mom is probably going to be the biggest challenge. Feline hearing plus a loud snorer do not a good combination make. (Let alone hiding my feline nature and female nature from her)

Compared to the temperate east coast summer we're coming from, the phrase 'hot as hell' comes to mind to describe what we stepped into. Thankfully, I lost my winter undercoat months ago, so it's not as bad as it could be; but A/C really helps.

But first, there was the trip down.

Mom and I got up at Too-Damn-Early o'clock to catch the 6AM flight to Montreal. There was the usual last minute rushed packing and triple checking we had everything before we got out the door. We checked in, and my passport wasn't even given a second glances as we moved through security. Soon enough, we were on the little Dash-8, and I was settling back in my seat as best I could (damn tail), and putting on the noise canceling headphones I'd picked up, hoping they would work.

They barely worked. An hour or so later, we were down in a remote corner of Dorval (Gonna be a long time before I'm willing to call it Trudeau ), and I was fighting a pounding headache from the turboprops. Without the headphones, I'm sure it'd be a migraine instead. At the base of the stairs, I took a moment to breath in some fresh air and to clear out the stink of the little plane Smog mixed with aviation fuel and the metallic tang of hot metal from the plane's cooling engine pods, but I didn't care. It was fresh air. Feeling better, even with the roar of planes taking off relatively close, I moved on to the terminal.

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"Okay, we have about three hours to figure out where the Vegas flight is," I said, double checking my ticket and the time. "First thing, I guess we'd best get back to civilization."

Mom glanced around the small terminal wing and nodded. "Over this way, the escalators to the tunnel to the rest of the airport are this way."

Together we guided each other through the airport. I nodded to a few other furries we passed, but we all were busy in our own worlds, like most travelers tend to be. We finally found ourselves out of the secured area and following signs to the Customs and Security area of the US Departures terminal.

There were long lines in the customs areas, even from the two slots they had open for transfers. I double checked the signs, and we started waiting in line, chatting a bit and not paying attention to the agents. So I was surprised when I reached the head of the line and saw a furry face in the booth. The prairie dog morph looked my way and seemed to groan as she signaled me forward.

"Purpose of your trip?" she asked, taking my passport and ticket automatically.

"Pleasure, going to a Fan Faire in Vegas."

She opened the passport and visibly relaxed. "Oh thank god, you got a new passport."

"That's been a problem?" I asked curiously.

"Like you wouldn't believe. Furs come through here, see another fur in the booth and decide I'm the best one to go through... and then they show me a pre-Change passport. What good is that for me? I can't see your illusion; I can't tell if it looks like the picture. Seems like a half dozen times a shift, I have to call my manager just to verify the picture and the illusion match."

I nodded and tried not to look guilty. If my passport hadn't expired last year, I'd be another one of those Changed she was complaining about.

"Well, you're all set, Miss. Pick up your baggage and take it through the next checkpoint please."

I paled and glanced back to make sure mom was out of earshot. "It's actually sir. My mom is coming through next too," I whispered quickly, taking the paperwork.

She gasped and covered her mouth. "I'm sorry. I'll try to be more careful," she whispered back. "Have a good trip, MISTER Ford. Next please."

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We got ourselves and our luggage through security, and were soon in the Trans-Border terminal, for US flights. We had breakfast there, and wandered the terminal a bit, and just killed the time until our flight bordered. There were a couple other fur's in the area, passengers like myself, but we kept our distance.

The flight to Vegas was fine enough. The scents were getting especially ripe by the end of it, and the droning of the jet engines drove me up the walls, but no incidents occurred.

It was fun watching mom the closer we got to Vegas. Don't get me wrong, she is not a small town hick, despite living most of her life in small villages and towns. She is a very experienced world traveler, having taken high school students on trips across most of Europe and to Australia a few times. But in all her trips, she had never been to Vegas. She practically personified the phrase 'giddy as a school girl' as we got closer and closer.

I pointed out what I thought was the Grand Canyon, and Lake Mead, and then Vegas itself as we approached. As we landed, she got her first view of the Strip, and all she could do was press against the window mumbling "Wow, oh wow!" I don't think her mouth closed until after we were at the gate.

I didn't know that Vegas had two terminals. So when we got off the flight, I was disoriented by the relatively plain looking waiting area we arrived in. I was expecting the glitzy terminal I had seen when I flew in from Boston oh-so-long ago. Instead, this terminal, the international one, seemed rather calm and sedate. Not what I expected.

While we waited for our luggage, I ducked into the washroom and locked myself in a handicap stall. My fur was itching for a good brushing after being on the plane for so long, but all I could do in the stall was smooth my head and neck fur, and brush my arms and legs a bit. It was enough to make me feel presentable at least.

We claimed our luggage, found out where the hotel shuttles were, and took the shuttle to the other terminal, the one I remembered. I swear, if I hadn't been there, mom would STILL be wandering around there in happy amazement. Soon enough, we got turned in the right directions, and were on the shuttle to the Rio.

We checked in, got a lunch/dinner, and caught the shuttle to the Strip. I admit, I was probably as shell shocked and amazed as mom, walking around the 'fabled' Vegas Strip, despite it being my third time in the city. The first few times I hadn't had the time to explore as much as I would have liked, but this time, I have 2 almost 3 days completely free and clear to explore, and we were going to make the best of it.

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Thursday, August 2, 2007

My paws are killing me. It's not like I haven't done much walking before. I just have never done this much walking ON CONCRETE before. Over the past few days, we've been doing the tourist thing, visiting just about every casino on the Strip and even a couple off the strip. We weren't gambling much beyond a few bucks in a slot or two along the way. We were just looking around just to say we were there. I think what finally killed me was the walk down to Hard Rock. For some reason, the actual distances didn't really seem to sink in until we were about halfway there. Oh well, mom picked up a lot of early Xmas gifts for Liz there.

Fan Faire registration was this afternoon, so I left mom to her own means and joined the long line of fellow gamers that stretched from the Rio's conference center rotunda, past Penn and Teller's theater entrance, and almost all the way back to the Rio's gaming floor. Somewhere in that line, I assumed I had a dozen guildmates, but stupidly, we hadn't arranged a meeting time or place. I'm sure I'll find them sometime tomorrow, though with those crowds I'm not so sure....

On the flip side, what I did see while waiting in line was about a dozen other fur's. Mostly we stayed to ourselves, or our groups, but we occasionally exchanged words. I have high hopes for the meeting tomorrow.

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The line moved steadily, while I kept an eye and ear open for anyone who sounded like they might be a Hero to no avail. Finally, I was at the front of the line, getting my name badge and schedule. Around the corner from the sign-up tables, the loot bags were being handed out, and that's where I found her.

The lioness looked up as I approached and squinted to read the text on the badge. A smile lit on her face and she rushed out.

"Saroc! It's good to finally meet you in person," Melody, the second fur I had ever noticed seeing, greeted me.

I grasped her paw and hugged her briefly. "Sorry I couldn't make it last year, but I made it this year. How are things going?"

She smiled and reached into her name badge and pulled out a sheet of small paw-print stickers. "Going great. I've caught about a dozen of us so far. Interest looks good for the session tomorrow," she explained. She reached for a pink one and then remembered, putting a blue paw on my badge instead.

I tilted my head, puzzled at the stickers. We had been talking since early summer, planning on a Fur get together session at the Fan Faire, but the stickers were new to me.

"Aidan's idea. It's a way to identify us and our knowing friends to the unchanged, so we can use a volunteer to watch the door instead of one of us sitting out. Blue means male ghosts, pink means female ghosts."

I ah'ed and nodded. "Good idea. And thanks for remembering. Do you have an extra sheets? I'll watch the crowds in case anyone anyone slips past you."

"Sounds like a plan," she handed over a sheet of stickers. I folded it up and slipped it into my badge.

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We chatted for a bit longer before she went back to work. I spent the next few hours mingling in the crowds, meeting a few friends from on-line, or from the last Fan Faire (usually both), but there were no Heroes that I could recognize. Finally, I had to leave the crowds and go find mom. Even though there was a party for the Fan Faire that night, mom and I had other plans. We went to see "Love" at the Mirage, and were blown away. Well worth it, though I wonder how Cirque will adapt as their performers start Changing.

In any case, mom's down on the gaming floor somewhere, and Fan Faire really starts tomorrow, so time to get cleaned up while I have some privacy, and hit the sack.

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Friday, August 3, 2007

I hate to leave mom by herself, but she assures me that she'll be fine, and there is no shortage of things she wanted to do. So, with my guilt mostly assuaged, I went off to enjoy the Fan Faire today.

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I was standing outside the brunch restaurant in the corridor to the convention center, when I saw him. Seeing another fur was no longer a big surprise to me, but the silvery ferret morph was unnerving me, squinting at my chest like that. I knew he was trying to read the badge name, but it didn't make it any less comfortable to be stared at that way. Before I could react, his muzzle lifted in a smile of recognition, and he walked towards me, paw outstretched.

"Saroc? Of Luclin?" he asked, looking to confirm my name badge.

"Yes?" I answered, squinting and trying to read his own badge. Whoever decided on that font size needed to be shot. With lots and lots of little tiny bullets.

"It's Gunter," he clarified quickly.

"Gunter? Wow, good to see you!" I shook my guildmate's paw and lowered my voice. "I didn't know we had any Changed in guild. Have you eaten? I'm starved."

He chuckled, "Yeah I didn't know there were others either. Guess we've kept our secrets too closely. I've already eaten, but I won't keep a cougar from her food."

I smiled toothily back and we walked into the restaurant, picking a table looking out over the corridor. "Before you get into the habit though, it's HIS food as far as the unchanged are concerned," I pointed out, tapping the blue paw on my badge. He had a similar one on his own badge.

He oh'ed softly. "I've never met anyone like that before. At least none that I know of."

"Well you know one now," I said, skimming over the menu. We went quiet as the waitress came up and took my order. "So have you found anyone else? In the Guild I mean. I looked in line yesterday, but I didn't even know who to look for."

He visibly relaxed. "Yeah, most of us are around somewhere. Saw Holy, Tom, Lent and Tal at the party last night. Zoy was around too apparently, but I missed him. Tom says that Betts and Meah will be in today sometime, and Riki and Hamy should be here soon."

"Cool. Wish I could've made it, but mom and I had other plans. Went to see 'Love' last night."

"How was it? I've never seen it."

I sipped my drink and grinned. "Fabulous. Especially for a Beatles fan like my mom. She was completely overwhelmed by it."

"Sounds great... speaking of Heroes." The ferret suddenly stood up and waved at someone behind me.

I twisted around and saw a man making our way over to us. "Saroc, this is Holy." Gunter introduced us.

I stood and shook hands with him. He looked down at our hands, puzzled, and I quickly let go, pulling my claws back in. Hunger and the smells of breakfast were making me sloppy. He shook off the puzzled look quickly and faced us both. "What are you two doing over here?" he asked. "The rest of the guild's over there."

"We're over here because we didn't know you were over there," I said, grabbing my stuff and flagging a waitress down to tell her about the table change we were doing.

I was introduced to the rest of the crowd (all unchanged) and we settled down for the rest of the meal. To my relief, Gunter only slipped up once or twice with pronouns for me.

After breakfast, we moved on to the Great Hall, which served as the hub for the events. Mostly we were waiting for the rest of the guild and exchanging stories, but I kept an eye on the doors for incoming furs. Every time a new fur came in, I would excuse myself from the group and get close enough to see if they had the paw-sticker. Most did, but I did find one or two without.

"What are those stickers for Saroc?," Lent's wife Taleny surprised me by asking.

"They're for a... a special session later today. Invite only I'm afraid. I was asked to keep an eye out for some invited that may have gotten missed during check-in." I explained, trying to be as truthful as I dared.

She followed my gaze to the door. "And you can tell who was invited from way over here?"

"Really good eyesight," I tossed out, seeing my escape route walk in the door. A short red squirrel morph was walking in, escorted by a big man with gray hair and white beard. Had I still been a billy, we'd probably almost be ghost-twins, though he was clearly a norm. "Excuse me, I see another one now," I said quickly, beginning to ease my way through the crowd before Taleny could speak up again..

From afar, I could tell that the squirrel didn't have a paw print, but I couldn't make out her character name on the badge. I dodged around a large EQII guild and came up behind the couple, feeling a bit of a thrill from the hunt.

"Excuse me, may I have a word with you for a moment?" I asked, catching both of their attentions. Her dress seemed to indicate she was always female, but my own situation had taught me quickly not to make pronoun assumptions too soon.

They turned to face me, glancing down at the name tag around my neck. During breakfast, I had replaced the tag with a new tag with just my name written in large print, so it would be clearer. Their eyes lit up in recognition, and the squirrel's jaw dropped. "Saroc?! What?" she started to say.

I finally got a clear look at the name badges and grabbed the man's hand to shake it. "Hamy! Riki! Good to see you! The gang's over here," I announced, a bit loudly to cover her question. I practically dragged them over to the rest of the guild to make the introductions. Gunter shot me a look, then exchanged looks with Riki. I held up a claw to him to indicate one second, and we went through a round of introductions.

It took a few minutes, but the three of us were finally able to pull away to have a quieter conversation. We faced each other, watching over each other's shoulders in case people wandered too close, a habit I'd noticed in many furs when they were talking amongst themselves in public.

"So you change last year?" I opened up with. I was glad to see she had the silver bracelet on her wrist at least.

Riki nodded "Woke up next to Hamy with the big bushy tail and couldn't understand why I had it and why he couldn't see it. Luckily, one of our church group is Furry too and he got us straightened out quickly. What about you two?"

Gunter chuckled. "Woke up with shredded bed sheets and torn open pillows. My claws came in first and I didn't wake up until I was about half done. One of my clients noticed my illness and checked up on me and filled me in."

"For me, I seem to have hit the Change jackpot. First change was to a mountain billy goat in '05. Then last year, I got this one. Believe it or not, one of the Dev's here helped me through my change. You'll meet him today I'm sure."

I reached into my badge and pulled out the sticker sheet. "Pink paw for you, right Riki? Your ghost... what Hamy sees, is female I assume?"

She looked at the sticker curiously. "Yes, Pink is right. What is that for?"

"It's an invite to a special furry session later today, at 4. It's also a visual indicator to try and minimize any gender confusion problems, in case there are any other twisters around like me." I put the sticker on her badge and pointed to my own print. "Blue means your ghost is male to the norms."

"A guy? Oh my," she gasped and covered her muzzle in a paw. "I never even suspected... I never suspected anything with either of you."

"Neither did I, till Saroc caught me this morning," Gunter explained.

She looked back towards Hamy and the other Heroes. "The session, is it furs only?"

"Primarily for furs, but if there's a Known, we'll let them in. Make them honorary furry basically. I take it he knows?"

She giggled softly. "After that first day panic, we had to tell him something. So we both got briefed at the same time. He doubts sometime, but he does give a good back brushing."

"Yeah, back fur especially is a pain to keep straight. Why don't you get him and we'll settle this now."

Gunter and I watched as the squirrel returned to the group and pulled her husband over to us. He seemed a bit puzzled as he looked us over.

"So Riki tells us that you're in the know?" I said, trying to look serious.

"In the Know-OW!" He pulled his hand away from Riki's paw and rubbed his palm, three red marks now there. Riki smirked and blew on her claw tips. "You're both furs?" he added in a hushed voice, squinting and turning his head from side to side as he tried to see through the Veil.

"A ferret and a cougar," I explained, peeling a blue paw off the sheet and adding it to his badge. "Meetings at 4 if you want to come. You don't have to but we're expecting a good turnout. I'm sure Riki can explain the rest."

He nodded, lifting his badge to look at the sticker then letting it drop. "So no one else in Guild knows?"

Gunter shook his head. "Not that I've been able to tell. I've tried to drop some hints here and there, but no one else even seems to suspect. I think we four are it for the guild here. Unless Meah or Bettila have some more surprises for us."

"That's all I had to say in any case. Let's rejoin the others before they start wondering what's up." I swept my arm to the side to let them precede me.

"You know, as the only guy fur here, I should have done that," Gunter mumbled with a smirk. I playfully punched his arm and shoved him ahead of me.

The rest of the day passed in a blur of panel discussions and time spent in the game room meeting others. It still seemed weird to see Aidan sitting at the table and no one noticing the bull but he had lots of experience acting normally.

Finally, 4 PM arrived and it was time for the special panel. Hamy, Riki, Gunter and I excused ourselves, promising to meet the group for dinner at the Buffet later, and made our way to the isolated room with the sign "SOE Beastiary" (the misspelling was intentional, in homage to an old Everquest fan site). A somewhat confused human security guard watched from outside, checking badges for the paw stickers. In all, there were about thirty furs and ten known, forming a wide selection of species, mostly North American. From what I could tell, there was very little species division going on. Most people mixed and mingled based on their main games, or friends as far as I could tell.

At the head of the room, three people sat. I recognized Aidan of course, but the short feline and the armadillo morphs were new to me. I sat down near the doors with my guild mates and waited. The minotaur stood and waited for the room to quiet down. He looked my way and indicated the door.

I stood up and peeked outside, looking for any stragglers. I didn't see any. I nodded to the guard and closed the door.

The minotaur waited for me to sit back down and started. "Thank you everyone for coming today. As you may guess, this isn't an official panel. We won't be talking about the games or anything. We figured that since so few of us have the chance to meet with others like us, and just talk and interact freely, it was suggested, and seemed like a good idea, for us to provide it.

"First some introductions. I am Aidan, known as Absur on the boards. An Everquest Dev and the one who's been changed the longest here at SOE."

"On my left here, the cat is Leonard, known as Lendro, an EQ Traitor and an EQII dev." The feline flashed his claws threateningly towards the bull, but there were smiles at the table. I couldn't place his species; he seemed almost like a house cat but the markings were off.

"And on the right, the 'dillo, is Julia, well known as Ellra, from SOE-Austin. She's one of the community reps for Galaxies, so as you might guess an armored form makes a lot of sense for her."

The room chuckled quietly.

"Also, before we get down to business, I also wanted to thank some of the volunteers who helped organize this, find you all and get us all here in the first place."

He pointed to a lioness standing to one side of the room. "Melody there volunteered at the loot bag window and caught most of you, letting you know about the meeting."

He then pointed to me. I blushed and stood up. "And Saroc there, HE's the one who first planted the idea of this meeting, and from what I understand caught the few of you that Melody missed,"

I twitched my tail nervously as the heads turned to me, wanting to shrink back into the floor or anywhere else. Nonetheless, I stood and gave them a brief wave.

"So, as I said, this isn't an official panel, once I'm done speaking, feel free to talk amongst yourselves, and with us. Share your stories, what you've learned works, and doesn't work, and so forth. But before that, I just wanted to point something out."

He lifted a small pile of papers and set them on the table in front of him. "Most of us are familiar with the websites set up to support other furs. For those who haven't heard of those sites before, or who just want to make sure you have all the links, I printed out a list of links for you. Please feel free to take one of these sheets with you."

The bull leaned forward and surveyed the crowd. "It's funny to think, that in a few more years all of our panels will probably be like this. Well, in any case, we've got the room for an hour, longer if you want since these are the last talks of the day. That's all I had to say."

The noise rose in the room and people looked around a bit. Before attention split too much, I stood up again and coughed to get attention. I crossed my arms across my breasts, then forced myself to lower them.

"I just wanted to remind everyone, that the 17th is coming up fast too. It's only a couple weeks away, after which, if the pattern holds, there will be twice as many of us out there. Which means twice as many confused and scared people. So please, visit the sites Absur's printed out, read up on the guides that were created, and keep an eye out for signs of the change. Watch for the flu symptoms ahead of time, or people taking extra time off work after the 17th."

I scanned the room slowly and continued. " Remember, this Change can hit anyone. Friends, family, guildmates, coworkers, it doesn't matter. Just like we were when we changed, the newbies will be confused, probably scared, freaked out and a ton of other emotions. They'll need all the help we can get for them. So please, be ready to offer it if you find yourself in the position to."

"So it's going to get worst before it gets better? When are we going back to normal?" a lynx morph asked.

I shrugged helplessly. "No one knows. Visit the sites Absur has listed. There are a few boards devoted to the science of this Change and the distortion field that protects us. Well, more theories than actual science since frankly, this has everyone stumped. If the pattern holds, there will probably be twice as many of us for next year's Fan Faire. But maybe the pattern will change and we'll start changing back. No one knows."

The room grumbled at that, but it was a story we all were well aware of. The fact that we were out and about even in our changed forms was a good sign that we had accepted, in some way, what had happened. "Anyways, I don't think there's much more to say. We're here to have fun here after all."

I sat down quickly and saw someone in the next row stand up. At first I thought he was a deer, but I noticed he didn't have a tail, nor, after a quick glance down, any dew claws. He did have horns though, with two tips per horn. The species seemed familiar but I couldn't place it. I sighed, Audubon was going to make a fortune selling species identification books in the coming years. He was dressed in a t-shirt and shorts. As he turned to better look at the room, I saw a pink paw print on the name badge.

"I know you don't know me, but I'm MH. And I'll clear the air right off the bat by saying I'm a WoW player, so please don't hold that against me too much." His large eyes seemed able to take in most of the room without moving his head. He barely flinched as the room erupted in playful boos and hisses.

"I know, I know," he said holding up his hands and smiling. "I'm here for a slightly different reason. I'm an officer of a Furry-only guild, and an admin of WoWFurs, a site for real WoW playing Furs to gather on. What I wanted to test the waters of, is to see if there was any interest in expanding that across all MMO's, rebranding it as MMOFurs or something like that. So if you want to talk about it, maybe bounce some ideas for it, help us set it up, please see me."

He started to sit down but remembered something else. "Oh yeah, I promised a friend to mention this as well. There is a convention coming up this fall, in October, after the change. It's on the east coast and it's being advertised as a Furry con, but from what I understand they're hoping to get a large number of real furs to show up as well. They want to use it as a big orientation session for the newbies and experienced folk like us. I've got that information too, if you think you'll be over there around then. See me for details on that. Thanks."

He sat back down and the room began to dissolve into quieter conversations. I stared at MH for a long moment before I finally got the pieces to click together. "Pronghorn," I mumbled, unsuccessfully snapping my fingers.

Hamy glanced back at me. "What was that?"

"He... She... MH is a pronghorn," I explained.

He looked over at MH and squinted, tilting his head from side to side. He sighed and looked back. "If you say so."

"Can't pierce the Veil?"

"Not at all. They say if you try to look at it like those old 3D pics you can get through it. Problem is, I was never good at those either."

I nodded and looked around the room. "So what do you see in here?"

"What do I see? A room full of increasingly ripe smelling gamers. I may not be able to perceive you guys, but I'm certainly beginning to be able to smell you all."

We chuckled a bit at that, catching Riki's attention. She'd been talking with Gunter, but he was getting up to talk to another group nearby. "So you've changed twice, Saroc?" she asked curiously.

"Yeah, first year I was a mountain goat. That was a lot of fun. I've got no idea what my ghost was like, but apparently my hair went white and I grew a beard over night. That made for some interesting stories around the water fountain at work."

They both looked at me then shook their heads. "Wish I could have seen that," Riki chuckled.

"When I get home, I'll start posting some pics from the past few Christmases and New Years on our 'show yourself' thread. Who knows? Maybe there'll be another Changed Hero out there."

I excused myself and wandered the room a little, listening in on some conversations, adding my 2 cents to a few, and becoming the center of a few others. By five, the room was beginning to empty out and my stomach was rumbling. I made my farewells and found my guild mates who were similarly getting ready to leave.

Outside the room, I saw the guard sitting on a chair, doing a Sudoku "I'll catch up to you guys at the buffet," I said, turning to face the guard. He glanced up at me.

"We're just about done here. Any problems?" I asked.

"Nothing of note. Sent a few people away, but it's been quiet," he said, closing the book.

"Good good... Uhm... could you hear anything that went on in there?"

"Now I wouldn't be a very good guard if I listened in on what I was guarding now, would I?" he smiled, "Though off the record, in all the years I've watched over meetings and such; whatever you gamers were talking about didn't even crack the Top Ten of my Weird shit list."

"I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Anyways, you can probably go in and see Aidan or Melody about anything else you may need. Thanks for watching the door."

He turned to open the door and take his chair in before he stopped. He called out to me. "Are you guys for real? That stuff you were talking about in there, people changing and all that. It can't be real can it?"

I pondered a moment, then turned to face him. I flipped a notepad I'd been using to make notes on all day to a clean page and turned it towards him. I extended a claw and drew the tip over the paper careful to keep the rest of my hand above it. I used the claw tip to tear through a few pages at once. I have no idea how the Field showed it to him, but it seemed to be effective.

"Okay, Okay, you guys cracked the top 10," he said, eyes wide.

I grinned and ripped the pages out, crumpling them in my paw. "Have a good evening," I called back, waving to him.

I made a quick side trip to drop my notes off in our room and to change the batteries in the camera, then made my way back to the Buffet. Our group was easy to find, even though Gunter and Riki weren't in sight. The group was standing outside the entrance chatting. I did a quick headcount to try and figure out who was missing.

"Who are we waiting for?" I asked once I was among them.

Vahken looked around a bit then answered. "Riki, Hamy, the Rogues, Lent and Tal. Gunter said he'll meet us in there, no idea where Zoy went... no wait there he is. Riki and Hamy had to get something in their room."

I nodded, glancing back and seeing one of the two missing rogues arriving. My stomach growled louder, as the scents from the buffet overwhelmed my nose. "Shall we go in?" I shouted so the rest of the group could hear.

There was some craning of necks as everyone tried to do a headcount at once. Finally Holy called out. "Works for me. Lets get this raid going. Tom's raid leader,"

The waitress settled us at a long table in one corner of the restaurant, and set us loose on the various stations. It didn't take long for me to get a plate loaded up with various meats (and a few veggies), and to begin sating my hunger.

Midway through the meal, I noticed Zoyan staring at me, or rather staring over my head. "Whatcha lookin' at?" I asked, wiping my muzzle carefully.

He blinked and shifted his eyes down a bit to look at me. "Oh, just trying to watch the dancer in the reflection there," he said. I twisted around and sure enough, the glass over my head gave a reflection of a dancer on a stage on the casino floor. I shook my head and felt a bit torn, partly wishing he was staring at me instead, and part wishing he'd look elsewhere.

I decided more food was best. I stood up to get a new plate and was surprised when Gunter stopped next to me. "We need to get a pic of you and Zoy together," he said while the cook sliced the beef behind the sneeze guard.

"Why?"

"You know, because of his avatar in game," Gunter explained.

I shook my head and motioned for more meat on the plate. "I'm a healer remember? The only time I'm NOT looking at the chat windows or the health bars is when we're moving. And that's the time you rogues always disappear."

He chuckled and passed in his plate to be loaded up. "Well open your eyes next time you're in game. He plays a Cougar Vah Shir... a FEMALE cougar kitty."

"What does that have to do with- Oh!" my ears twitched up in surprise as I realized what he was getting at.

The ferret grinned wider and dolloped a scoop of mashed potatoes on his plate. "Exactly. Figure it'll be good for some chuckles as more and more of us Change."

"Fine fine, I'll do it," I said, walking back to our table. I set my plate down and waved my paw in front of the rogue's face to get his attention. "Time to stand up, Gunter wants a pic of us together," I said.

"Of us? Why do you want that?" he asked, standing up nonetheless. Riki and Hamy looked puzzled as well but stayed out of picture range. The rest of the table didn't seem to notice.

"I just do," Gunter answered, leaning over the table and flipping our name badges over so our names weren't visible.

We stepped back a bit further, and I put my arm around the young man's shoulders, staring at the camera. Zoyan hesitated then shrugged and put his own arm around my shoulder. I tensed a bit but he didn't seem to feel anything wrong. I lifted my tail so it would be just in the frame beside me and grinned. The camera flashed and I was blind for a moment.

I heard some snickering and heard Gunter whisper to Riki and Hamy, "Zoy and Zoy." Riki snickered, passing the camera back to him as my vision cleared.

"Can I finish my meal now?" I asked sarcastically, sitting back down. Zoyan clearly had the look of someone who knew a joke or something had gone right over his head, but he quickly got over it.

The dinner wound down slowly from there. I was poking at a sundae I'd made, when Riki and Hamy stood up.

"We've got to go to our rooms to freshen up a bit. We'll see you all at the pool party OK?" Riki said, beginning to turn to get her purse from the back of her chair.

Gunter and I saw it at once. "Watch it!" we both shouted. We tried to reach across the table, but were too late.

The squirrel's bushy tail swept just over the top of the table and into a nearly full glass of water. The glass tilted and then spilled out over the table, the bulk of the liquid pouring towards poor Zoyan. He leaped to his feet and managed to avoid most of the water, but a flood still splattered down off the table to the floor.

"I'm sorry! I keep forgetting!" Riki gasped, lifting her tail higher and out of the way as she faced the table again. Gunter and I had already grabbed what napkins we could reach and were trying to dam off the flood.

Zoyan checked himself and tried to reassure her. "It's fine, I avoided most of it and I don't think anyone else got caught in the flood."

More napkins came from the other end of the table and a waitress soon arrived to help out. The event had happened fast enough that no one wondered how the glass tipped in the first place. We straightened out the mess as best we could, and the group split up, to give people a break before the pool party.

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Karaoke plus an open bar plus a variety of pools plus hundreds of gamers are all but guaranteed to add up into trouble. Add in a few dozen furs who normally try to keep a low profile, and you have the makings of a disaster.

OK, it wasn't THAT bad, but there were a few situations that raised a few eyebrows.

The guild claimed a table near the changing rooms and the small stage as our own to talk through the evening. Which was fine, until the live band backed Karaoke session started. The first few 'singers' were norms, but then the Lynx from the session got brave enough to go on stage, caterwauling out some pop tune.

It wasn't apparent at first, but that was when the challenge was issued. A few more norms got on stage, followed by a coon singing some ballad about stealing a heart or something. Despite there only being about thirty of us, a surprising number of us got on stage, and it was clear they were trying to pick specific songs.

Some tried to get me on stage, but I declined with increasing force. On a good day, there was no way in hell you would get me singing on a stage. Since I had no idea what the Field made my voice really sound like, I was doubly certain to stay firmly planted in my seat at the table.

By the time the Karaoke ended (to the relief of my ears), the 'winners' among the furs were obvious to me. It was a toss up between the horse who did Nickelback's "Animals" and the wolf doing Three Days Grace's "Animal I have become.". The later's lyrics made me wonder if we had a changed songwriter out there, but I later discovered the song had an entirely different origin.

Sometime after the karaoke, I noticed a commotion starting up across the pool closest to us. A VIP section had been roped off in an alcove across the pool we were next to, and most of the SOE staff were hiding in there. Absur was clearly visible in there talking to some people and sipping a drink. As I watched, Gunter, the wolf and the lynx finished a hushed discussion and the later two moved back a bit, leaving the ferret with a red towel.

"Oh no," I mumbled, catching Riki's attention. She looked up and followed my gaze, then nudged Hamy.

"What's the big deal?" Hamy asked, the rest of our table mates noticing as well.

I leaned in closer so only he could hear. "Absur's sitting close to the ropes there. He's a bull."

Hamy oh'ed and stood up to watch better.

"Hey Absur!," Gunter shouted, standing right on the edge of the pool and waving the towel like a matador. "Toro! Toro!"

The big bull head turned towards the ferret and he snorted. "No way bud. Not that close to the edge. Move in closer."

Gunter moved in a few steps and taunted with Toro again, this time with the backup of some of the crowd. Aidan grinned and still refused.

By the third round, most of the party was watching and urging him on. There was no way he was avoiding this challenge, especially once the drummer got back on stage and started a drum roll. The bull morph set his drink down, snorted and pawed at the ground a moment. Gunter flicked the towel and swished his tail, watching expectantly. With a bellow I was sure would shatter the Veil, the bull lowered his head and charged to the flicking towel. As expected, Gunter twisted out of the way, lifting the towel over the bull's head. What was unexpected, was Aidan reaching out and pushing the ferret into the pool in mid-twist.

Aidan managed to somehow stop right on the edge of the pool and watch the sputtering and laughing ferret surface and swim away quickly. The crowd erupted into cheers and laughter around him. Aidan raised his arms triumphantly and turned to face the crowd. It was then he discovered there was a Plan B. His eyes widened in surprise as he saw the wolf and lynx crouched in front of him.

The wolf shouted "NOW!" and leaped up, grabbing one arm. The lynx leaped at the same time and grabbed the other arm. Together, they let their momentum carry the bull over the edge of the pool. By all rights the splash the three made should have emptied the pool.

Chaos reigned for a few minutes. There were more splashes as a few more got the pool treatment. I was laughing and snapping pictures, before I began to get an uneasy feeling. I was very close to the edge of the pool and the crowd was very thick behind me. Some of the ones in the pool, about half furred and half normals, were looking my way. I glanced to my side and saw Riki there.

"RUN!" I shouted, shoving my camera into her startled paws. She reacted quickly, using her smaller form to twist through the crowd while I found myself face to face with a wet ferret that had snuck up behind me.

"Time for a dip, Saroc," he grinned and gave me a gentle shove. Normally it would not have been enough, but I had misjudged how close to the edge I was. With a snarl of surprise, my paw only found moist air behind me and I began to tip backwards. I reached out and managed to grab the ferret's shoulder, but he made no effort to stop our fall. Together we fell into the water.

I heard a few more splashes around me before I managed to get to the surface. I shook my head to clear the water and stretched my feet to feel for the bottom. Lifeguard whistles started blowing soon after my eyes cleared as they tried to restore order around the pool. I scanned the water around me, and saw about a dozen normals and eight or ten furries in the water. The wolf was already out and shaking himself.

I growled angrily, paddled to the stairs in the shallow end and climbed out. My shirt was thick enough that nothing was visible, but it clung uncomfortably tight to my upper body. I joined the furs gathered next to the pool and started trying to wring my shirt and fur out as much as possible. There was a steady stream of wet people going into the changing rooms.

A large tawny paw holding a towel came into my vision. "Lets try to give the Field a bit of a break," a quiet voice purred near my ear. I looked up and saw Melody. She had avoided the pool activities, so she was completely dry. Some of the other dry furs were leading the wet ones away from the huddle we'd unconsciously formed.

"Thanks," I said, taking the towel and following her to the tables. Thankfully the pool area was too dark and wet now for paw prints to be noticeable. Riki introduced Melody to the rest of the guild, and showed my camera, still dry.

I paused in my drying long enough to check my pockets and was relieved to find my license and room key were still in place. I pulled out a wad of wet bills and set it next to the camera. "Glad I left the rest of my wallet in my room," I mumbled, going back to drying my head.

"You want me to go into the changing room with you, deary?" Riki asked quietly.

"Thanks, but it's the wrong room. I'd attract just a bit of attention," I answered giving her a smile. She looked shocked and covered her muzzle in embarrassment. "Just keep an eye on my stuff please, and I'll be right back." I added, watching the men's changing room. There seemed to be a bit of a lull at that moment.

I looked around the crowd and soon found my target, talking and laughing with the lynx and wolf. He had taken his shirt off and was holding it against the back of his shoulder.

"GUNTER!" I shouted, stalking over to him and grabbing his arm. He froze in place. The other two furs looked at me and quickly melted back into the crowd. "This is your fault, so you're drafted," I growled, beginning to drag him back to the men's changing room. I peeked in side and was relieved to find it was empty. "Keep an eye out there, warn me if someone, especially a fur comes. Do a good job and you may even make it off my 'No-Heal' list."

He blinked and finally managed to find his tongue. "I'm sorry Sar! I just got carried away!" he said, true terror giving his voice a quiver.

I grabbed an arm full of towels and went into the men's changing room. I tried to make my voice a bit friendlier. "Don't worry about it. Just keep an eye out and warn me.... And no peeking unless you want to join the 'No-Rez' list too." There was a metallic scent coming off of him that I couldn't place.

I picked a corner as far from the door as possible, and faced the wall. I tugged my heavy shirt off and did my best to wring it as dry as I could. After setting it as flat as I could on a bench, I began towel drying my fur.

"Fur coming!" Gunter hissed into the room. I dropped the towel and grabbed for the shirt.

"It's me, JF. Mind if I come in? I promise I won't peek," a familiar voice called in. Glancing at the door, I saw the familiar bull-morph coming in, head turned away. I relaxed and put the shirt back down and continued scrubbing my fur with the towel.

"No, come on in Aidan. Quite the party, isn't it?"

He chuckled and began drying himself a bit as well, facing away from me. "It was. Sorry you got yanked into the pool too. You doing OK?"

"I'm fine, once I put the fear of the Cleric into a certain rogue. Though there's some confusion of which changing room to use. A few more years and hopefully it won't be as much of a problem."

"Hopefully. Don't forget to wring out your shoes,"

I smirked and bent down, tugging in the air in front of my paws. A pair of blue Crocs appeared. I waved it over my shoulder. "Invested in these at the start of the summer. Easy on, easy off, little to no maintenance."

He dared a glance back to me then looked away. "Handy. Gotta remember to get a pair of those myself."

We chatted while we tried to make ourselves presentable again. It wasn't easy without my brushes, but I finally decided I was as dry and settled as I was going to get. Knowing I was going to itch the rest of the evening, I pulled the damp shirt back on and tried to adjust it over my breasts enough to be somewhat comfortable.

"People!" Gunter hissed a warning.

I gathered up the mountain of soaked towels and flicked my tail to Aidan. "Good talkin' to yah. I'll see you around tomorrow."

He waved back as I left, still trying to get his back mostly dry. I tossed the towels into a container on the way out and looked at the ferret. Now that I was calmed down, I could identify the metallic scent as blood coming off of him. His shirt had been replaced with a towel pressed to the shoulder. "You're in the clear now Gunter. Thanks for keeping watch. Are you okay?"

We rejoined the guild at the table and he adjusted the towel. "Yeah I'll be fine. A small cost for yanking you in," he said, lifting the towel enough to show three bloody scratches through his fur. "Stings like mad, but they aren't deep."

"Seriously, I'm sorry. I was just surprised, and overdue for a trimming," I apologized, trying to hide my hands under the table.

"Gunter! What happened!" a voice exclaimed. We both winced and looked over. Bettila, another guildmate, was drawing attention to the two of us.

Gunter quickly pressed the towel back in place. "It's nothing. I scraped my shoulder in the pool during those... activities," he tried to explain.

"Are you sure? Those almost looked like claw marks," she countered, causing the four furs at the tables to wince. "You really should get it looked at."

The ferret lifted a paw and shook his head quickly. "No, no, there's no need to do that. It's almost stopped bleeding now. I'll take a closer look at it when I get back to my hotel room."

Riki moved in to save the day. "I'll take a look at it for you. Melody, could you find a First Aid kit please? There must be one near here."

"I think I saw one in the changing rooms," the lioness said, heading that way.

The squirrel moved the ferret closer to one of the lights on the wall, angling him so the wound wouldn't be as visible to the rest of the guild. I moved in closer to help shield them. She made him lift the towel and grimaced.

"Damn Sar, what did you do to him?" she hissed, carefully spreading the fur around the slashes.

I leaned closer and saw the red markings. They looked deeper than he described them. "I just grabbed him on the way down. I didn't mean to slash him," I hissed back.

"Let me go, Hamy. I should take a look at that," Bettila's voice cut through our focus. I turned and found Hamy lightly holding her, keeping her from moving closer.

I stepped back to block her approach. "It's ok Bett, we can handle it," I said, holding up my paws to block her. Melody returned with the white box, slipping around me and opening it for Riki.

"Damnit, Sar, you only play a healer, I AM a healer. An RN to be- " She clipped her diatribe off in mid-sentence, seeing the bracelet around my wrist. Her hand shot out to it, lifting it to get a better look. Her gaze shifted quickly to the wrists of the other three furs and Hamy.

"Sleeping sickness victims?" she asked, beginning to squint and tilt her head at us. She did a double take when she looked at me, but got past her surprise quickly. Her demeanor shifted, becoming more professional and concerned. She lowered her voice to a whisper. "Let me past, Saroc. He'll need to try and keep the fur out of the wounds."

I meekly stepped aside and Hamy let her arm go. She brushed past me and between Melody and Riki, and examined Gunter's wounds both normally and by looking at it from the corner of her eye. She pulled a glove out of the kit and carefully felt the wound.

I shrugged to Hamy, who shrugged back and turned to the rest of the guild around the table. "Everything's fine. Just a misunderstanding. Too many docs around the patient," he explained, going back to the table.

"No need for stitches thank goodness. But you will want to cover them up and try to go easy on the arm. When you get a chance you'll want to clip the fur away from the wounds too. Can you hand me the disinfectant?" Bettila asked, holding out her ungloved hand.

Melody handed over the bottle, twisting the top off of it. Gunter winched as Bettila sprayed the liquid over the scratches.

"Is there a problem here?" a strange voice interrupted my attention. A hotel worker had come up on us without me noticing.

Bettila barely looked up. "No real problem. He scraped his shoulder going into the pool, so I'm patching him up. I'm a nurse from Chicago," she explained, reaching into the kit and pulling out a pack of gauze. She covered the wound on the shoulder before the worker could get a clear view. "It's just a skin abrasion. Lots of redness, a bit of bleeding from some deeper cuts, but he'll be fine in the morning. I just want to get it covered up so he won't bleed all over the sheets tonight."

The worker looked doubtful, but he backed away, clearly looking to pass the buck up higher in the chain of command. Bettila worked quickly, making the ferret lift his arm and having Riki hold the gauze in place while she and Melody prepared the bandage.

"How do you know all this?" Riki hissed.

Bettila started wrapping it up, careful to give the squirrel room to move out of the way. "I told yah, I'm a nurse in Chicago. There's been a steady upswing in accidental 'animal' attacks, and various other strange medical cases over the past decade or so. When you guys cooked up that sleeping sickness cover story, it didn't take a genius to start putting the clues together. Though it does seem to take a genius to see what you guys really are. Gives me a headache every time I have to treat you." She pinned the bandage in place and moved Gunter's arm carefully.

"So you can see us?" Melody asked, closing up the kit.

"Not clearly, but I've had a lot of practice refining the tricks so it's getting easier. It seems to be a certain frame of mind and a certain unfocusing of your eyes to get it to work. I'm one of the ones that are usually on call for any of your type's emergencies that come up," she explained.

I grumbled softly, "Wish we'd realized you knew earlier. I'd have invited you to the session today."

She shrugged and tapped Gunter on the back. "You're good to go. Check it again before you go to bed just to be sure, but you'll be fine. And don't worry about it Saroc. This is my vacation time, to be honest, I didn't want to think about fur problems. I glimpsed a few of you, but I let bygones be bygones."

The scrapping of a chair drew our attention back to the group. Hamy nodded over near the pool, and we saw the worker returning, with a man in a suit. "Time to face the music," Gunter groaned, moving to meet them.

"I'll help you explain it. Don't mention the sickness story unless you have to, or they may panic and do something stupid," Bettila said, joining him. She whispered as she went by me, "You'd better clip those daggers on your fingers as soon as possible."

I nodded meekly and sat back down at our table, my attention split between the discussions among the rest of the guild, and trying to listen to Gunter and the hotel manager. They were drifting into legalese which was worrying, but the end results seemed to satisfy everyone.

Things settled back down to normal after that, as normal as things could get given our situation. Melody wandered off to rejoin her friends, and others joined and left the group as we chatted. Some were confused about what had happened with Gunter, but we managed to gloss over the events enough to ease their concerns.

By midnight, my fur and clothes were itching too much for me to stay around. I said my good-byes, promising to meet up with them for breakfast tomorrow, and returned to my room.

Mom was still out somewhere, so I was able to take a quick shower in peace and start drying under the heat lamp. I fetched my claw clippers from my suitcase and began to cut back the points.

"ROB, I hope the TSA idiots are some of the last to change," I mumbled to myself as I worked. "Otherwise they'll probably do something stupid and mandate mittens on any clawed fur trying to travel by plane."

I made sure all of my tips were tossed in the toilet and flushed the evidence before packing up the kit. I was in the middle of a good brushing when I heard the door open.

"You here Joe?" mom called out as she entered the room, seeing the lights on.

It took me a moment to remember my name after a day being called mainly Saroc and more rarely JF. "In the bathroom. Ended up in the pool at the party, so I wanted to take a shower to get the salt and chemicals out of my fuh-hair," I called back, still brushing, eyes wandering around the bath area.

I cursed softly to myself, realizing what was missing. I had left my shirt and shorts outside. My cursing almost became audible when I remembered my suitcase was wide open on the couch, my panties in plain sight in the mesh pocket. My mind spun, trying to figure out what to do.

I growled softly under my breath over my carelessness and listened as best I could over the bath area's fan. I faintly heard the bed creak and the TV click on. "So how was your day?" mom called out apparently having not noticed anything.

"It was great. Met lots of old friends in person, and had a blast," I called back, trying to keep my voice level. There was no way around it, unless I wanted to monopolize the toilet until mom fell asleep, I had to go out. I started to wrap the towel around my chest, and remembered that might look too strange. I lowered the towel to my waist, leaving my breasts exposed and cracked the door open.

"Just act normally, the Field will hide you. Just act normally, the Field will hide you," I mumbled to myself, padding from the bathroom. I paused at the corner of the divider wall and hesitated, the corner of my suitcase just visible. It was only a couple steps to it and back. "How was your day?" I called out, hoping to distract her a bit.

"Great! I took a breather and read by the pool in the afternoon, then I went back to the Strip in the evening. I finally saw the fountains at the Bellagio," she started.

I tuned her out a bit and took a deep breath. I tried to act normally and stepped out into view, trying to keeping my back to her as best I could. With as much speed as I dared, I grabbed my night shirt, underwear and the shorts I used as pajamas and flicked the lid down. Turning away from her even more, I stepped quickly back behind the divider. To my relief, her description of the day never so much as paused. I dressed as fast as I could and wiped up the fur from the shower area, tossing the towels under the sink counter. Her last sentence sunk through my consciousness. "What did you just say?"

"I said, I'm going to give dad a call. Didn't have a chance to earlier," she repeated. I heard the chime as she opened her own phone.

I glanced at my watch to verify the time. "Ma! It's one-thirty in the morning here! Which means it's five thirty back home. I know dad gets up early, but he doesn't get up THAT early."

The phone chimed as she closed it. "Oh right. I'll call him tomorrow. You done in the bathroom?"

I gave the bathroom one last look over, zipping up my brushes and clippers in their cases. There didn't seem to be that much fur left that I could tell. I looked in the mirror one more time to check my appearance and stepped out. "All set, it's all yours."

I stashed my dirty clothes in a bag in my suitcase and yawned hugely. I was exhausted from the day, but still charged up from the little adrenaline rush my carelessness had caused. I pulled up my journal on the laptop and got the days events down while mom prepared for bed.

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Sunday, August 5, 2007

Saturday passed by uneventfully, at least uneventfully on the furry front. We met up for breakfast in the hotel mid morning and stayed together as a group for most of the day. Bettila tried to teach Hamy her tricks for seeing our true selves, but he just couldn't seem to get the hang of it. We broke up into smaller groups from there, to do some other stuff we wanted to do, but we promised to be back together in time for the live quest.

A group of us were leaving one session, when we happened across mom. She was wandering the halls between the conference room and seemed more than a little shell shocked.

"Mom!" I shouted, waving to catch her attention. She looked around confused a moment and then spotted me. "Mom, these are my guildmates, Bettila, Zoyan, Riki and Hamy. Guys, this is my mom, Jean," I introduced them once we met up.

They shook hands and mom was distracted a moment when Brasse, in her full bronze dwarf armor (with blond beard and mug) walked by. "Sorry... I'm just so blown away by all this. Everyone I see and that. You all play this game with Joe?" she asked, amazed.

Behind her, I saw Bettila point to her and mouth 'Does she know?'. I shook my head quickly. My heart was pounding a bit as I realized my real-fur life, my real life and my gaming life were all meeting at this point. All I needed now was for Adam or Candace to show up, and anyone from Furnet and all aspects of my life would have met at one point. Not that those two later events were about to happen, thank ROB.

Riki answered mom for me. "Yes, we're all in the same guild, and chat regularly."

Mom glanced around the crowded hall again, this time fumbling for her camera as a blue drakkin walked by. "I never realized it was this big. I know he's been playing this for years, but..."

Bettila smiled. "Well, maybe now that you've seen it, he'll teach you how to play too."

Mom and I both laughed at that thought. "No no. It's all I can do to get my marks entered into the systems at school. I've watched what he does sometime and I can't even begin to figure out how he does it, let alone do it so easily."

I blushed and tried to look away a moment. Bettila grinned at my unease. "Well if you ever change your mind, I'm sure Saroc... Joe was it?, can show you the ropes and get you going. We're a very family friendly group too; it seems like half of us are married or otherwise related to someone else in the guild."

"Why don't you guys find the others? The live quest is starting soon. I'll catch up to you," I said quickly, wanting to move on.

"Sure Saroc. It was good meeting you, Jean," Riki said, "Will you be at the dinner tonight?"

Mom looked my way for confirmation. "I think so."

"Yeah, it is included in the guest pass I got for you," I explained.

We said our good-byes and moved back to the corridor to the hotel. "How are you doing?" I asked.

She grinned back at me. "I'm doing great. I'm having a blast. I just wanted to see if I could find you, and if you wanted me to look for anything today before I went back on the Strip."

I thought it over a moment, then shook my head. "I've got everything I needed. Did you call dad yet?"

"I caught him just before he left for Bingo. He said everything's fine and to have fun."

I grinned. "Well sounds like a plan. Dinner is at seven thirty, so try to be back by then. I've got my phone too if you need me for anything."

She gave me a quick hug and a kiss on the forehead. "You have fun too. I'll see you at seven."

The rest of the day passed in a blur. We plowed through the live quest as a group and had a blast. The rest of the panels went well too, discussing the game and the expansion and stuff. In the lull between the last panel and dinner, I hit the loot store, dropped off my stuff and wrote some quick notes for the clerics boards. Mom returned while I was typing, and we prepared for dinner.

Most of the guild was already in line when we got down to the ballroom. I introduced her, and we chatted while waiting to be let in.

Inside the ballroom, we found our table and waited. Before dinner, the costume contest was going to happen. Our tables were only a row in from the central aisle, so we had good views as the contestants came in. Melody looked great in her chain mail rogue costume, complete with daggers, but in the end, I had to vote for Brasse as the winner. Her costume was almost good enough to make me believe I was piercing another veil, one that hid elves and gnomes and especially dwarfs like her from view.

Dinner was okay, but a disappointment compared to what the buffet served in the hotel. By the end of dinner, I got up to get some deserts for mom and myself. When I returned, I noticed my camera was missing.

I scanned the faces at the table, mainly noting bemused expressions. Gunter was hard to read, but his tail was flicking quickly. And Zoyan, he had a look very similar to the cat that had caught the canary.

"Okay, hand it over," I said, focusing on him and holding out my paw.

"Hand what over?" he asked, feigning ignorance. He couldn't feign it long. He burst out laughing and Gunter pulled the camera out from under the table. He passed it around back to me.

"How did you know?" mom asked, amazed.

I sat back down, grinning myself as I checked the camera. "Two rogues, it doesn't take a bloodhound to tell who's at fault when things go missing," I explained.

After dinner, the winners of all the contests were slowly announced, and the big event happened (the live and in-game joint wedding *yawn* ). We stuck around a bit as the music for dancing started, but gradually we said our farewells and headed out. I wandered around the crowd alone for a bit, saying good-bye to those I could find, congratulating Melody for placing in the contest, and wishing her better luck next year.

This morning, I wasn't able to sleep in as early as I would have wanted to; the flight leaves too early for that. So I was up before mom, got cleaned up and spent most of the rest of the time we had trying to compress all of our souvenirs into our bags. It was a close call, but I managed it by the time we had to leave.

We checked out, and got a taxi to the airport and started our long trip home. The connection in Montreal was tighter than I would have liked, but we were lucky to have caught a tailwind on the way back.

We're back at my apartment now, splitting a pizza and trying to unwind. Like last time, it's hard to adjust at first to a city that effectively shuts down before midnight after a week in Vegas. (A 4 hour time lag doesn't help much either). Luckily, tomorrow is New Brunswick day, so I can sleep in a bit and get my systems back to normal.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Well, it seems our secret meeting wasn't quite as secret as we had hoped. It turned out one of the 'bloggers had wandered near our meeting room and been turned away. His curiosity was perked though, and so we became one of his articles. At least it wasn't Coyote who found out.

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What is 'SOE Beastiary'?

On the Friday of the Fan Faire, just before the big announcement about Legends of Norrath, this intrepid reporter came across an unlisted panel in an isolated room of the hall. This reporter tried to sneak his way into the panel, but he was dissuaded by the security guard at the door. Still, by standing at the end of the hall, I was able to make many observations about it based on who went in.

It seems that panel was by very special invite only. It was obvious that the paw-print stickers were the invitation to this event, but there was no time to obtain one for myself. The invited were themselves from a wide selection of games, with no connection that I could tell, other than that none were with any sort of game-media reporting sites. Even the SOE personal were a strange mix, being a former CSR turned Dev for EQ, another Dev from EQII and a CSR from SWG.

Not to be thwarted, I managed to sneak into the room next to that secret panel and tried to listen in. Sadly, I was discovered quickly and so I could not hear much about their discussion. The date August 17th seems to be important, but that was all I could hear.

So what is 'SOE Beastiary'? Why all the secrecy? This reporter does not know. But I can speculate.

It is well known that SOE has many top-secret projects on the go right now, some more secret than others. LoN was one that slipped in under everyone's radar, while the DC Comics project is one of the worst kept secrets in the industry at the moment. So with that in mind, I would conclude that this is another secret project, possibly one in a pre-Alpha stage. I believe I stumbled across some sort of focus group test to outline this project and get a feel for how people may react to it.

As for the project itself, all we know about it is the name of the panel. "SOE Beastiary". It may be just another project that will whither on the vine. But going by what little I saw, the name of the panel, the paw-print sticker for invites, it is a fairly safe guess that this is somehow animal or creature themed. In the game industry, that screams one type of project.

Mark my words folks, SOE is working on a Pokemon-style game. If... no WHEN SOE comes out with that type of game in the years to come, remember that you heard it here first.

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The blog report made the rounds quickly, causing a bit of a stir. Some were annoyed at the nearly being caught like that. Most of us got a kick out of the reporter being so close, yet so far from the truth. Aidan confirmed that he'd been called into some of the higher offices to explain it, and hinted that now that the seed was planted, the blogger's guesses may actually turn into reality.

Anyways, we're all on flu watch for the next week or so. Gonna be a big year. If all follows the pattern, we should crack a million changed this year. Quite the milestone if it happens, and a bit scary. Things are going to snowball from here quickly.


Preceded by:
Auld Lang Syne
The Veil (A Paradise Series)
(First: Holes in the Veil)
Succeeded by:
Radio No Veil