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Not Quite Furry
|Constructive criticism and in-depth critiques are welcome|
He brought costumed paws to over-sized plastic eyes and leaned back against the sink. The paws sank, lingering on the sides of his muzzle, before they came down to his coat. He straightened out the baggy cloth, riddled with pockets and brass buttons, briefly took out a large novelty pocketwatch to check the time, and then patted down the chest fur that stuck out his unbuttoned front. Only then did he peak a look at the mirror behind him. He didn't have to flash a smile, it was already displayed in muzzle and foam teeth on the mask. The goggles, just big enough to cover the costume's eyes, were still there.
David thought he might have lost them busting some moves in the lobby. What could he say, he was a sucker for an audience. Especially an audience of geek females. Must have been the glasses. And perhaps the offer of a cookie (which had been nicely placed through the mouth of his costume, complete with nomming sounds).
His breathing slowed. He rubbed at the fur at his neck, trying to relieve the itchiness of wayward velcro.
The sound of a stall opening interrupted him. Followed by a question. "So, what are you supposed to be?"
Jacob rolled his eyes under the facade. His friends had suggested he'd go as the Tenth Doctor, there wouldn't be as many questions, they said. He turned and saluted to the figure, only noticing in mid-motion that it was another fellow in full animal costume, russet furred fox and with the many tails, kitsune, outfitted in leather vest and bowler cap. A dash more realistic design than his own, yet still processing a dynamic flair. Jacob hadn't seen any other fellows of the fuzzy sort during this con, but it being just a small general sci-fi / fantasy con, he hadn't expected to.
"Are you one of those that doesn't speak?" the kitsune form asked.
"Ah, no, sorry. Didn't know anyone was in here. Just taking a breather. I usually reserve speaking for outside this room of porcelain thrones."
"I can jive with that," the kitsune said, turning on the faucet, "Not exactly the most enlightening of spots in human society, especially those frequented in public locations. Not many places make my nose wrinkle more, but they serve their purpose."
Only when the sink had turned off did it occur to Jacob he wasn't certain if the kitsune had removed his paw gloves before washing. By then, the kitsune was already heading to the door. Jacob took one final look in the mirror, to be certain his head was straight, and followed.
"So, what are you?" the kitsune repeated, as they headed across the tiled lobby, beyond through a pair of double doors, into the madness known as a science fiction / fantasy convention. A world filled with foam swords, fake pointy ears, horns, leather, and enough high-level Red-Bull-fueled geekness that would knock a Dementor a into a coma.
It was a dynamic quite unlike any other.
"Steampunk ferret, Regi Tesla, created in an alternate timeline where the development of genetics took a more mad science route the same time steam became the primary power source. Not completely ferret, a few other weasel species thrown in, have an otter tail, golden chest fur and ears of a marten, and fringed with bright blue markings on the edges, as you can see. And, a blue tongue, just for fun."
"Wow. What prompted all that?"
"Boredom. Mostly. That, and when you be dealing with fantasy and sci-fi, much more fun to dance on the outskirts than sit on the mainstream. What better way than to mix together fringe science and anthropomorphic creatures? What is your backstory?"
The kitsune shrugged. "Kitsune trickster wandering time and space messing with whatever unwitting victims he happens to meet."
"I believe you've come to the epicenter of 'unwitting victims' my friend."
"I like it. Straight to the point. Simple to explain. And nice bowler cap, by the way."
"So, what exactly takes place here?"
The kitsune looked like he was chewing his lip. Jacob brushed this off as a trick of a nearby stobelight. "Yes, you could say that."
"Mine too. The basics are thus: geeks gather together to discuss, buy, and play about geeky things. There's discussion panels, gaming rooms, a theater (mostly filled with bad anime), and, of course, the dealer's den, where merchandise calls its siren's song to con-goers. Just a matter of poking thing and seeing what you like best."
"Not many ferrets around."
"Alas, not enough people are as cool as me. Only I dare to be fuzzy among this geekiness. I don't have the guts to go to a con with primarily fuzzy creatures. Ah, the furries."
"Furry. I use the term 'anthropomorphic creatures' myself. Seems to give it a more literary edge. Still, can't go about wearing a ferret costume for long without the word popping up. Heck, I put a few months of trying to get this costume just right. Who else but a crazy person would go through the trouble, and the needle stabbing, involved in sewing just to sweat it out in a furry costume, hot and uncomfortable, barely able to see through these blasted eyeholes and...? I'm babbling. Point is, perhaps I'm a little insane."
"No, of course you're not."
"Posh. Everyone has levels of insanity. Mine is the fact I dress like a ferret hybrid because it feels like no one can see me, I can be someone else because everyone expects someone else, they do not see me, they see Regi."
"Isn't it more along the lines of when you wear that suit, you are free to act as yourself?"
Jacob screwed his face into an odd expression, which he was glad the kitsune couldn't see. Now that seemed a little too odd to him. It was one thing to wear the costume, it was another to suppose the costume was him. He decided this fellow was one of those spiritual furries and suddenly he felt as he'd been pulled somewhere where he didn't want to go. All there was to do now was to figure out an excuse to get out of this potentially awkward situation.
"I just do this for the fun of it."
The kitsune nodded, looking down at the floor with a reflective look. How did his mask do that? Jacob decided this was the time to make his escape. "So, a panel I wanted to go to is coming up so...I best be going."
The kitsune's ears perked. Literally perked. Jacob was becoming more and more wary. Why had he been saying all that stuff to this stranger. He didn't even know his name. He needed to go. But... He put up a paw. "Paw bump?"
The kitsune stared.
"You know. Like a fist bump. Except with paws. Just use your paw and bump mine. The least I can do." Weird or not, Jacob couldn't resist doing this action to anyone he met. The kitsune carefully clenched his digits and tapped Jacob's paw with his own. An odd surge, like a string of static electricity, spread through the fabric through Jacob's hand. He kept from letting loose a startled squeak and saluted with his other hand. "Nice to meet you, dude. Enjoy the con!"
He backed away a few steps before turning tail, slithering through the crowd. Very strange chap, Jacob thought. All people here danced on a very thin line, between normal fans and crazed fanboys. Jacob liked to think of him on the sensible side, despite the ferret suit. His hand still tingled.
The rest of the Friday evening went without fanfare. The Dragon Slaying panel turned out to be less on-fire than Jacob would have hoped, and the Werewolf panel lacked bite, but the Totally Non-Sparkly Vampires panel didn't suck as much as expected either (the Vampire-in-the-Box had been a nice touch), so it all evened out. Soon, Jacob forgot about the kitsune, his focus being drawn to Doctor Who replicas in the dealer den and marathon of bad movies complete with humorous commentary.
He parried questions about his suit with what he hoped was an infectious flair, throwing some in-character comments from time to time (usually doing brief interludes on whatever devices or 'shinies' con-goers had on their person). Soon he started growing the character on the fly, making him a mechanic or engineer, always prone to seeing out stuff worked, obsessed with gears. He would need to write some of this down when he got back to the room.
Throughout the evening, the numbness remained in his arm, starting to spread outwards, radiating over him, inch by inch. He pressed this to the back of his mind.
Late, in the motel bar, Jacob found it impressive how much free drinks he could get just because people wanted to see him swig through the mouth of his costume.
O O O
Through the haze, he felt himself being pulled up.
"Regi? I never caught your real name earlier."
Bright lights and shadows surrounded him and blurred as he tried to focus. He stumbled. Something gripped him, keeping him upright. He felt obliged to slump on this something. He noted russet tails waving behind his something. An arm wrapped around his middle and led him forward, onward. Still in the bar. Voices, laughs, how much had he drank? The voice trickled into his mind again.
"You appear to have drank a lot. That can't be good for your changing metabolism."
Jacob didn't trust himself to speak, so he gave a muzzy smile at the kitsune.
"Can you feel this?"
Something poked his nose. Strange feel. Odd. Just didn't, then there was a rub at the back of his neck, a pinch and suddenly his entire body went slack.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, forgot about that ferret reflex. Up we go."
Somehow, Jacob kept upright. He noticed vague details. The hall. The elevator. His tail twitching. Odd. He nuzzled the kitsune. Though he didn't normally do that in suit, just sorta happened. The kitsune pushed him back, chuckling.
"No, you just need rest. Glad I took a swing back to see how you were doing. Now, ah, judging from your key card, this is your room. This is where I'll drop you off." He pressed the door open and the key into one of Jacob's jacket pockets. They got into the room. Jacob felt himself fall onto the bed. He clutched at the comforter and sheets, pulling them to his body. He made a little dooking noise.
"Now, when you wake up, you're gonna feel much better, Regi."
The world faded away.
O O O
Jacob opened one eye, the sunlight blinding it immediately. He turned over and slumped off the bed with a soft thump. His head burned. He licked his muzzle. The sticky taste of alcohol tinged the fur. His breath stank. His vision swam when he tried to push himself up.
The full definition of the word "hangover" wandered crookedly through his mind.
He saw paws blurrily. Still in costume? Figures. Still, it appeared he was in his room at the least. Small blessings. The premise of coffee wandered by. His whiskers twitched and he started moving towards this idea.
He stumbled on all four paws out of the bed sheets before snuffling about for his clothes. He found his jacket behind a chair, his bandana under the bed, his leather tote bag in the shower. While there, he took the time to splash water on his face. He smoothed the fur about his eyes, blue tongue licking a stain of something on his nose. Jacob got to his hind paws, cracking the vertebrate of his back, stretching it this way and that, getting himself limber, finding the right balance point by getting his thick tail into position. He shook himself, patted his left jacket pocket for the hotel keycard, and headed into the hall.
Jacob played off the people along the journey from room to breakfast room. Giving sleepy waves, high fours, and goofy faces to the younger ones. He felt much better by the time sat down to lap at his coffee. There was a little trouble to be had with the chair though. He couldn't quite get his tail to cooperate, so he had to settle with sitting on the chair sideways, so the tail could be unfettered.
He nodded politely to the variation of "great costume" that were tossed his way. He hoped they couldn't smell the beer on his fur.
Halfway through his cup of coffee the gleam of a shiny object in the breakfast nook caught his eye. Before he could stop himself, he had scampered to the shiny, and was examining it, turning it all ways in his paws. Feeling the smooth edges, claws picking at the coils within. He pulled a screwdriver out of his tote. He unplugged the device, for safety. Soon, coils and wires spilled out the bottom. A few persons came by, bread in hand, opened their mouths, then ended up just watching the progress. Jacob smiled. He loved an audience.
Then someone cleared their throat in a displeased way. Regi didn't like that sound. Made his tail twitch. Jacob looked up, to see a mustached man with hotel employee tag on his jacket.
"Excuse me, sir. What are you doing with that toaster?"
"Sir. That is property of the hotel. If it was broken, you should have told us and..."
"Oh, of course it /worked/. Just wasn't working to its full potential."
The hotel employee's brows furrowed. The other hotel patrons quirked theirs.
Jacob carefully closed up the toaster and plugged it in. "Let me show you. You see, this device was not using the energy it was using to its full potential to heat the coils and toast the bread." Jacob took a piece of bread from one of the audience and placed it in the toaster. He pushed the lever down with one claw. The toaster blazed with light for no more than a second, before the toast popped back up. The audience gasped. The bread had been toasted to the most perfect shade of brown.
"See, reduces the time and completely streamlines the process. You'd think that a society with an advanced paw on manipulating energy would be more adept at taking advantage of these sorts of things. Now about your waffle maker, I think..." Jacob caught sight of something in the toaster. He picked it up again. He looked closer. He saw a reflection. He saw a face. A face of a ferret, a dark mask around its eyes fringed with a line of bright blue fur, maw gapping, showing a blue tongue, this surrounded by muzzle, complete with twitching whiskers.
And suddenly the string of events, from first opening his eye to looking into this toaster lost their alcoholic haze. From nose to tail, he felt everything. He did not have a limited view through two eye holes for those eye holes were where his eyes were, now looking cross-eyed at his own muzzle, at his paws holding the toaster, down at his golden furred chest.
Jacob placed the toaster down. "I'll get to the waffle maker later."
The hotel employee, still staring at shock at the toaster, did not react. He gave a few more high fours and salutes as he snuck out of the group of people.
In a blur, he got back to the elevator, up to his floor, back into his room, back into the bed, and promptly gave a series of panicked chitters into a pillow.
In a corner, hugging a pillow, Jacob tried to rationalize his situation.
With little success.
He slowly brought up his right paw up again. He looked at the pink paw pads against sable fur, the claw on the end of each digit. He followed the sable fur down the arm, interrupted by a ring of bright blue fur, before turning to the milk chocolate shade of his hide. Jacob gripped the arm with his left paw, feeling his pulse under the fur, running at an alarming rate.
"I'm perfectly fine. Nothing to worry about. Absolutely fine. There is nothing to worry about. Just need to take a few more deep breaths and then everything will be normal. I will take off this mask and just spend the rest of the con splurging in the dealer's den. Perhaps get a few shiny items..."
His voice tapered off, realizing his vocalized assurances were not helping much. He breathed deeply. Once. Twice. Three times. He brought his paws, no, hands up to his neck, feeling for the Velcro strap. He felt deeper. He started scrabbling at his neck, as if being strangled, gasping for air, feeling desperately through the fur, trying to capture the zipper. It had to be there, it had to...
"Ow!" he squeaked. He felt his chin and brought back the paw. A slight dash of red had sprinkled the pad. He had nicked himself with a claw.
"What? You have got to be kidding me! WHAT IN THE-" His jaws took hold of the pillow and ripped, sending feathers into the air, flashing in Jacob's mind, fueling the rage, he leapt at the feathers, diving, crashing against a chair, twisting his body, diving again, hitting the drawers, the tv rocked, he stabilized it with his tail. He carried on half conscious as he pounced onto the bed, claws and jaws ripping into the bed sheets, mind flashing, words lost to squeaks and dooking noises. This blurred motion of pouncing, bouncy, feral actions continued, until he became tangled in the comforter, which brought his swooping rampage to a halt. Still tangled, he rolled off the bed onto the carpet, huffing breaths, whiskers still twitching. He sniffed to note the odd smell in the air. He sent a baleful glance down at his lower half, tail still wagging, and wondered briefly if he had glandes that had went off.
He was a weasel after all.
No, ferret hybrid thing. Even if that might have been a weasel war dance...
No, he wouldn't accept that. There was something he had done. Something that someone else had done. As he realized himself from the comforter's comforting confinement, he wracked his memories. Last night. The haze. The hangover still nibbing at the edges. The bar. The drinks. The burning throat. The stickiness of the floor. The kitsune. He squinted at that. The kitsune? That spiritual furry? He'd seen him again. Hadn't he? Assuring words. He'd brought him to his room. What had he said? Suddenly, all those tail and ear twitches, the expression managed by the vulpine muzzle, the odd knowing gold tinge in the eyes, clarified.
You'll feel much better in the morning.
He dooked at the realization.
He found the half-emptied pillow amidst the feathers and clutched it again, giving the surroundings a wary look.
"OK. I get it. Nice trick. Very funny. You can come out now."
"Yeah, I had some life lesson. Come on. You can turn me back now. I'll not...do, whatever I was supposed to be not doing now. That's it, right? Needed to learn a lesson? Yeah?"
Jacob's ears drooped. What was he doing? Just speaking to the air. Not like anyone would respond from the ether.
His ears perked, hoping perhaps this expectation of nothing to happen would cause something to happen.
Everything about him drooped now. He nibbled at the pillow, noting a flavor to the feathers. Goose down. Fancy. Dang How had he gotten into this? He had turned into his costume. Not turned into his costume to the point he had fabric hide and plastic eyes, but to the point he had become what his costume had only attempted to represent. He was flesh and blood, right down to biological levels and he didn't even want to consider what that fully entailed.
He dooked, a sad tone to the sound. Still a little cute sounding too, he had to admit.
O O O
"Yes. How are you doing?"
"Find. How's fursuitting?"
Jacob placed a paw over his eyes. "Don't use that word."
"Oh. How does the convention go...in that fursuit?"
"Must you torture me so."
"I'm your friend, its in the job description."
"We need to negotiate that contract. Dare I go into the argument that its a costume that happens to be an animal?"
"Heard it before. Argument needs work."
Jacob noticed he was a wrapping the cord of the hotel phone around a claw, bringing him back to quote-unquote reality.
"That's why I called you."
"To come up with a better argument? How about not wearing that odd thing. Looks cute and all but do you really need to deal with the context?"
"Context. Yeah. Heh. You see. Funny thing..."
"You didn't have a fling, did you?"
"No. No. Nononono. Just...heh. Hahahaha. HEH. You see..." He caught sight of himself in a mirror. He stuck out his blue tongue at the image. He regressed to laughing.
"Are you strangling a squeak-toy there?"
He came back to his senses. "Oh. No. Laughing."
"Only you, Jacob." Jacob could almost hear the eye roll over the phone. "So what's this call about?"
Jacob wanted to say something along the lines of "I've turned into the ferret hybrid I was costumed as" or "I seem to be a large weasel" or "my tongue is blue" or "I seem to be lacking in pants without any morality issues." None of these seemed to be good candidates in getting Becca to take him seriously. It was unfortunate that any of these things might be something he would say in the string a late-night conversation. Instead, he said:
"Still on for dinner tonight?"
"Still don't know why you wouldn't come to the con."
"And deal with being seen with a six foot tall ferret? That, and my geek quota stops at watching Battlestar Galactica."
"...you're not gonna be wearing the costume to dinner, are you?"
Jacob clenched and unclenched a paw, noting muscles under fur that provided to the action. "I hope not."
The said good-byes and Jacob replaced the phone on the cradle.
He sat on the bed clenching and unclenching his paw. He searched his chest for a hidden zipper again. He experimentally twitched his tail. He hopped about on his digitigrade legs. He examined the places where the bright blue fur and brown fur met. He placed the goggles on, turning the world green and shiny.
He took in his options and decided he had gone insane. Sure, most insane people didn't know they had gone insane but he decided it was the only way this made sense. People did not become what they were costumed as.
Jacob ignored that this was the same logic most creatures used his an absurd unexplainable situation in most narratives.
He let himself settle back on the bed, limbs splayed out, twisting and turing, liking the feel of his long body on the linens. Ah, insanity didn't feel that bad. No wonder insane people smiled so much. Or why ferrets did this in bedsheets in countless YouTube videos.
A sensation hit him.
O O O
One disconcerting trip to the bathroom later, he decided he had not gone insane.
O O O
"So, you got like straps and stuff in that thing?"
"To make your tail move like that."
Jacob made a sideways glance at the guy sitting next to him. He wore a t-shirt with skulls for some rock band, his hair looked lived in. "Yeah. Sure."
"I'm not usually a fan of these costumes, but its pretty sweet," the guy said, poking at the tail.
"Don't touch the tail..." he checked the badge, "...Raven."
As if to emphasize the point, the tail rose, and the tip of it poked Raven on the nose. Raven gaped. Jacob turned his attention back to the panel. He briefly considered staying in the hotel room. Then the forty five dollar con fee haunted his hide. He'd considered since nothing had happened horribly this morning in his strange daze (he still wasn't quite sure what had happened there) he probably could attend the con with little notice.
He was half right. He did gain notice, but mostly because his costume was so notably brilliant. He didn't know what to make of this. He would thinks someone would notice how oddly real his outfit was. He decided after a while that people just looked at the world through a tint, that something strange was brushed under the carpet as something sensible. Even for fans of the fantastical, it made more sense to see Jacob as a person in a realistic costume than a large ferret, or perhaps it was the other way around. As with yesterday, people still saw him as a larger weasel-type creature, and treated him as thus, just taking it in stride the same as before.
It was a sci-fi / fantasy convention after all. One could pick out a dozen or so strange creatures in any landscape view in any room of the hotel.
The other thing that had drawn him out, was this panel. Biology and Ecology of Anthromorphic Races
If there was anywhere he was going to get some answers, this was going to be the place.
He listened as the panelists discussed foreign biology and traditions of fantasy species, and soon focused in upon the man to the right, Dr. Ralph Higgins, PhD of Biology, Zoology and Cryptozoology from the Northwest University. He seemed to have the best handle on the topic, bringing up issues, talking of genetics, and generally being amusing in his analogies. If there was anyone Jacob needed, it was someone with a sense of humor.
After the panel came to a close, it took all of Jacob's power to keep from going to all four paws and sneaking up the front as fast as he could. The tendencies kept sneaking up from the back of his mind. Odd thoughts. Some came from what he supposed came from being in the body of a ferretish creature. Some came from places a little odder (or would it be otter?), memories, faces, scenes of a steam filed landscape, dreams, details, things that were scrabbling for attention, coming to the surface when he became distracted. He found himself introducing himself as Reginald Tesla to whoever asked, without even a twitch of hesitation.
Which is why he needed answers.
He got to the table. "Dr. Higgins."
"Please, Dr. Ralph," the man said, taking a drink of water. "What can I do for you?"
"I have a bit of a problem I was wondering you could help me with."
"And what would that be."
"You see, I'm sorta a ferret."
Dr. Ralph sighed, pushing thick rimmed glasses up his nose, and gave a forced smile. "I'm sorry, I don't think I can help you. Humans are humans. And as much as you wish..."
"You misunderstand me."
"I know what you think. That you are a ferret trapped in a..."
"No. Just stop. Look at my face."
Dr. Ralph sighed again, but he did look at Jacob's face. The room was almost empty, the other panelist were gone, a few people were stumbling in for the next panel, Jacob took a deep breath.
Jacob licked his muzzle.
"Did. What? Now. Just..."
He whipped out a penlight from his shirt pocket and shined it in Jacob's eyes. His other hand danced its way across his marten-like ears. "You have...who are you...?"
"Dr. Ralph. I just needed to confirm I hadn't gone completely insane. I was a pretty sure but...well...good to have a doctor's opinion."
"You're actually a ferret. Well, not a ferret completely. The details are a little hazy. These are not ferret ears to be certain...and the tail looks like something off an otter...I can't believe I'm saying any of this. Is your tongue blue?"
"Just for fun."
"Do you have time?"
"Well, I was interested in that panel on gremlins...and the Artist of Honor is doing a display of...of course I have time. I'm a bloody ferret."
"Darn it. I have a panel coming up. Perhaps I've went insane. Perhaps..."
Jacob tweaked Dr. Ralph's nose with his claws.
"Ow. Thank you."
"Will you be able to help me?"
"I don't know. Can we meet for lunch? Please."
"You're looking at me like I'm a massive fuzzy tenure ticket."
"Of course I'll meet with you for lunch. I've not made a stir yet. I can just wander about here." He held out a paw, he shook it, he hurried on his way, looking back multiple times, still in shock. He took out his pocket watch, now, mysteriously, authentic gold.
The costume contest was in a half-hour. He was signed up for it. When he had signed up it, he had not suspected this. Then again, there was no one in their right mind who would have suspected this. And there was the prize. An authentic replica of the 11th Doctor's sonic screwdriver /and/ signed poster.
Even if he weren't primarily a ferret the word "shiny" would have come unbidden to his mind.
O O O
"...and if you fix the wiring like so, you should be able to get a proper charge." Jacob looked down the glass barrel of the weapon. "You didn't even have the right to be calling this a lightning gun before I came along."
"What exactly did you do?" the lady dressed in the leather apron asked, taking the lightning gun back, "It took me ages to get it to spark up when the trigger is pulled."
"When Regi sees a device of untapped potential, something just opens up within me. As my Uncle Nikola used to say, 'It all starts with a spark...' And with your weapon there, I took that line quite literally. Now, considering bystanders, I thought it best not to extend its potential too much, but enough that it gives a little of a show. See that mysterious potted plant over there, just aim and fire."
"Ah, it can't hurt." The lady raised the weapon and pulled the trigger. The end of the gun sparked, then kept sparking, outward, strings of static electricity rotating through the air until they hit the plant, rotating about it in a shiny orb, that seemed to touch all parts without effecting the leaves. Meanwhile, the lights of the large meeting area flickered and sputtered with the charged air. She released the trigger. "How...?"
"Untapped potential, as I said," Jacob inserted, giving a deep bow to the miss, "And the only tip I require is a rub between the ears."
Uncertain how else to react, she rubbed him between the ears, letting a smile spread across her face. "That was brilliant, Regi. This is supposed to be just a model but... how did you do that? You only had it a few minutes."
"Never underestimate these fuzzy paws," Jacob countered, waggling his digits, "Speaking of which, the footpaw ones are dragging me to meet more chaps. See you about, miss." He saluted and moved on into the crowd, many of which were staring at him after the electric display. Jacob played along with their questions as they came...
"I'm a ferret, mostly, a dash of otter on my mum's side, a bit of marten on my pa's. But considering I grew up in a pod, didn't know either. Sad facts of genetic engineering, chap. Still didn't affect my roguish good looks."
"Need to say the best time I have was fending off that steam-powered dragon in the Loch of Great Britain. Dastardly foe. Had a loose gasket and started eating all the fish. So, with only a wrench and bottle of castor oil, totally got that metal maw out of commission, saving the fish...after sampling a few myself. Testing for mercury content, you see."
"Wormholes are impeccable means of travel. How I came to this fair time to study the rhyme and reason of this impeccably ran alternate universe. Not the smoothest running place but I do adore those vending machines."
"Ah, Tesla? I miss Uncle Nikola. He had the most fun facial hair. I tried to grow one like it but I just ended up grizzled."
Jacob would have been more unsettled on how easily the in-character conversations came to him if he wasn't having so much fun, exchanging brags with the brawniest of the airship pirates, flirting with the most spiced of the Female Gear Corps, trading ideas for the next phase in steam powered transportation (he believed pneumonic tubes were the next big thing). It was only half-way snorfing down a bowl of popcorn (paws optional) when his ears perked at the name of "Regi Tesla." He scampered up to the stage, waving at the audience, placing the popcorn in a pocket for later.
The moderator spoke: "I don't think we need to look very far to see who the Audience Favorite Award goes to. With his unconventional portrayal of a steampunk ferret hybrid, Regi Tesla has wooed at least a few ladies in the room." A series of female whistles met this remark. "He totally fits the theme of our convention, fuzziness and all. Now, it appears his name has been smudged on our sheet, so who are we giving this award to, Regi?"
Jacob smiled and cleared his throat. "Regi Tesla."
Jacob frowned. "Regi. Tesla. Sometimes Reginald Tesla." Something about that didn't sound right. The moderator was giving him a strange look. He rubbed the back of his head. What was he forgetting? He was Regi, wasn't he? Regi Tesla. Something didn't sound right still. "Just a moment, I have ID."
"What about that folks, keeping in character to the end," the moderator quipped. "Are you ok? You seem to be...panting."
Regi tried to get a hold of himself, shuffling through his pockets. He found his wallet, that seemed to look different. Than what, he couldn't remember. He opened it, he found his ID. Relieved, he handed it to the moderator. The moderator looked from the card to Regi a few times. "This is a card for the New York City Library from 1919. It says Reginald Jacob Tesla."
"Ah, Jacob. That's what I was forgetting," Regi stated, chittering nervously.
"What a character," the moderator said, shaking his head and rubbing Regi's snout, "No matter. You still deserve the prize. Bring it out here. Regi's eyes lit up when he saw the leather pouch held towards him. Authentic steampunk instruments and tools, made for any sort of task involving gears and bolts. Regi could already imagine using these for all matter adventures, slithering through crevices and corners of expansive machines across the globe.
"Thank you!" He almost tackled the moderator in a hug, nuzzling him on the neck, causing the moderator to giggle.
"Down, boy. Anyone have a ball of tin foil to distract him?" he called to the audience, winking. "Dang your costume is impressive," he whispered when Regi relented, "Heck, your nose is even a little wet."
Regi saluted. "Thanks. Must head to an appointment, sir."
O O O
"Your name is really Regi Tesla?" Dr. Ralph asked.
"You keep asking that. You think the waitress will bring more crackers if I ask? I really like the crackers here. Every time I eat them, there are crumbs left over. Then I can lick them off the table, and my paws, and my chest fur and then..."
"Focus. When did...this, happen?"
Regi twitched his whiskers, giving a Dr. Ralph a long stare, before he brightened. "I am a genetic experiment. Mostly ferret. They grew me in a pod. Like peas. But I'm not green. I've been told I'm very bright for a ferret, though I've found ferrets are very bright, humans just don't know how to listen. Have you ever spoke to a ferret?"
Dr. Ralph stirred his coffee. "I'm a little confused."
"You see. I was going to come to a human event to see how they acted in real life. At first I said my name was Jacob and I was dressed like a ferret, but then I found out that people saw me as a steam punk ferret already, so why not just be myself. It's much easier to be myself. I'm having a lot of fun here. Ooo, and there's dancing tonight. I love dancing. I get to be swoopy."
"Regi. You're not going to believe me. But I don't think you're a genetically grown ferret. If you are a flesh and blood ferret, that doesn't even make sense. It is not possible. You shouldn't exist."
"Don't you like me?"
"What? I don't..."
"You think I'm strange, don't you..."
"No. That's not what I mean. You're fine. I like you. But..."
"Oh good. I like you too. Think I can have more crackers?"
Dr. Ralph rubbed his temples. "Alright. I think you are heading towards some trouble. I'll call a few friends and we'll take care of you. In fact, I'll call my lawyer. Just to be safe. While you're here, I wouldn't worry. That's the funny thing about these conventions, something like this can happen and no one will notice. Outside of this place, if whatever this is doesn't go away, it might be tricky."
"Tricks. I know tricks. Do you have a deck of cards?"
"Dr. Ralph shook his head. "A tenure might take me taking this on. Trust me. I'll make sure nothing happens to you. I have connections. You just stay around the convention and I'll find you. Understand?"
"Yes. I'll call you on this." He pulled out a dial phone out of his pack, wires and gears sticking out of the sides, it appeared to be smoking. "I put a little combustion engine in that phone in my room and look, its portable now. I see other people with little ones but this is much more nice looking. Don't you think?"
Dr. Ralph straightened his glasses. "Yes, it is."
O O O
Regi walked around the dealer's den with a vigor only a ferret could accomplish, scampering from table to table, getting his paws on everything, making comments upon the impressive workmanship and artistry. He loved seeing that humans could accomplish when left to their creative devices. They had an imagination he was quite envious of, so much potential, so many shiny stuff they could create. Many artists found them in the position of being hugged by an over-enthusiastic ferret thing, who could think of no better way to portray his appreciation. Licking was not approved by many human societies.
As he took time to got down notes in the artist section, in a nice homemade leather-bound journal he had bought (the artist had been nice enough to stamp a ferret likeness on the cover), a figure brushed next to him. Regi paused, and looked over at the many tailed vulpine.
"Hey. You. Haven't seen you for a while. Have you been enjoying this grand display of humans acting and reacting within a organized meeting in which they celebrate the collective works of their imaginations?"
The kitsune cocked an ear. "Come again?"
"It's bloody fantastic. I really can't wait to get back to my typewriter at home and write out a report."
"You're loosing me."
"I just can't get over how wonderful the place is. I've been told I can't stay after its over, but I just want to explore more of this world. I want to get my paws dirty. To wander into other strange new places that..."
The kitsune punched Regi across the maw, then took the ferret by the shoulders.
"Look me in the eyes, Jacob."
The ferret blinked. Shook himself. Blinked again. "Jacob..."
"Jacob. What's going on?"
"I'm not Jacob. That's my middle name. I like that name though. I guess you could..."
"Come with me."
The kitsune dragged the ferret with him, tipping his hat to any witnesses who had seen him hit the ferret. The con-goers went along their way, deciding it was just a ruitien they had come into halfway. The pair made it to one of the drinking stations, took a glass of ice water, and splashed it over the ferret's face.
"Who are you?"
The ferrets rubbed his now sopping features. He pulled the paws back and stared at them, then, startled twitching in his whiskers, looked about himself. "Where am I?"
"First tell me who you are?"
"Regi. No...wait...I'm not Regi. Just a moment."
"That might be it." His eyes widened. "Yes. Wait. What's going on? You!"
"Yes, me. It appears I've miscalculated something."
"You did this to me?"
"Yes, to a point. This change in your personality is entirely unexpected though. You were only supposed to become what your costume was, not become what your character was."
"Why? No, that's too vague. There are so many questions I don't even know where to begin. What's going on? Why do I...I..." the sides of his face twitch, sneaking into a smile, he giggled briefly, chittering giggle, then his face cleared again, "Why can't I think of myself as...J-...Ja-...I'm Regi. Pleased to meet you." He clamped paws over his muzzle.
"I underestimated your level of imagination, Jacob. As you were saying, humans are amazing creatures, capable of much potential and fantastic accomplishment. Look at you. You made this costume, trying to bring a character to life, just for fun. But that character is being made real. Yes, I did do this to you, but something in you is bringing you the rest of the way into this character."
"It's taking all my power to not go over there and muse over that shiny ball of sparks for ten minutes," Regi said, gesturing over his shoulder.
"Would it be any comfort to you to say that you are a ladykiller with that face of yours?"
"I've been told when I stick my blue tongue out when I smile I'm liable to cause girlish squees from any nearby females. So who are you?"
The kitsune shrugged. "Remember what I said when we met?"
Regi facepawed. "You've got to be kidding me."
"Yes, I am a trickster, through and through, but this is not what I was aiming to do. I am not a cosmic creature doing things to make people's lives miserable. I do it for the same reason you costume, just for fun. By the way, you're not a furry, are you?"
"...actually, no. Common misconception though."
"Ah, well, I'll go for poetic irony next time. The point is...Regi. I mean...Regi. Reginald." The kitsune leaned in closer. "Regi Tesla. OK, that is a little weird. Are you still with me?"
Regi nodded. "I know what happened. I just...can't remember things. What is happening?"
"Regi is acclimating himself to this world. He is not some evil spirit trying to take over your body, he's just trying to be himself, and trying to let you be yourself. The problem is, he doesn't know where one ends and begins. You know how writers put a little of themselves into their characters?"
"Therein lies the avenue where the personalities have collided and integrated. Being in Regi's body is not helping settle matters."
"Can't you just turn me back?"
"Yes, you see, there's an issue, it seems that, urm..." Regi noted the kitsune's tails all lowered, as did the kitsune's ears. "Would it be a cop-out to say it's all up to you on how you end up?"
A ringing came from the kitsune's pocket. "One moment." He pulled a russet cellphone out. "Yes? Oh. Beargod, huh? He can't be Mars, that's Roman, that is Death Valley. Urhmm. The armor...and epic sword. You know...I can't...yeah. My vacation time...you can't say that wasn't funny. Yeah. The cleanup. That PETA picnic was asking for it...I thought the skunk thing was...yeah. OK, I'll be there in a few...yeah...ur...I don't...loveyoutoo." He pressed a button with a claw to hang up. "I need to go."
"You can't leave me like this."
"You'll be just fine. I heard Dr. Ralph is taking care of you."
"Wait, what does...?"
"Just be yourself, Regi."
And suddenly the kistune was gone.
O O O
After the kitsune had left, Regi wandered the con in a daze, occasionally perking up to some shiny activity or item, but in general lost in thought. He eventually settled down on a chair next to the elevators, no armrests which made it easier to sit with his tail, creatures here had little to no accommodations for tails. Pulling out pieces he's scourged from his hotel room's complimentary hair dryer and electric shaver, Regi started fiddling with the mass of wires, unpacking tools on the fake wooden end table. Working with his paws helped him concentrate..
None of this made sense. He shook his head. Of course it didn't. He was visiting an alternate dimension set in the far future. If this all made sense, he would have to be worried about his mental status. Still, he sensed something wrong with himself. The conversation with the kitsune had unlocked some things, but no sooner had the kitsune left, had the fractures sealed, leaving him befuddled and twitchy. In fact, his tail still had a nervous tick, almost knocking the cheap lamp off the end table.
Regi started to mutter to himself. "Ah. I wish that kitsune hadn't of come and said anything at all. I was having such fun. I'm Regi Jacob Tesla. Why was I saying if he could turn me back? Turn me back to what? So silly. I am a prime example of the extents of genetic manipulation. I just wanna go and try that grilled cheese sandwich again. Those are cool. Wonder why I never had one before."
He viciously twisted coils around the shaver motor. "And what about me being a character? I'm not a character. I'm not. Characters are things in books with ray guns and who go on space adventures and fight off bog beasts. Stuff that would never happen in real life. I am a legitimate creature founded on scientific fact. There is nothing..." The device he fiddled with sparked, shocking him. He mind quirked, just a moment. He sucked on the digit hurt and stuffed the wires and tools back into his bag.
He didn't like being angry, he wanted to be happy, he wanted to enjoy the con, he wanted to meet more people. Regi found his mind embroiled in the seeds of doubt placed in his mind by the kitsune. He growled at anyone who spoke to him. The people laughed and growled back, moving on. The ferret wanted to go home. He wanted to be in his own hammock, in his own little lab, surrounded by his own inventions. Regi didn't want to bother with this idea of being a character and yet he couldn't shake it.
Something caught him, through the edge of his gaze, he paused, first torso, and then legs turning towards the distraction. A wall covered with photos of con-goers, from the first day, just after registration, He snatched at one of the photos, staring slacked jawed the figure it portrayed.
"That your entrance photo?" a voice interrupted, coming from a man in full Spiderman costume and money pouch.
"That will be ten dollars."
"Oh. Yes." Regi stuck a paw in his pocket, digging for some of the monetary paper had had brought along. He pulled out a couple crumpled fives to the man.
"...thanks." Regi couldn't take his attention off the photograph, a 8 x 10 glossy. It showed Regi, though not exactly. It appeared as some strange chractature of Regi, exaggerated in the details, fake looking face, perpetual grin, glazed-over eyes, could see sewed seams on the edges, off-kilter paws holding a fake over-sized pocket watch. The figure was posed in a mischievous salute at the camera. In every way, it was a photo of a person in a ferret hybrid costume. A costume of Regi.
At first, Regi thought perhaps it was just some strange coincidence, but the more he looked, and compared the details of the costume with his own body, the more he knew this was not true.
He was a character.
But if he were a character...who...
The sides met."
"Jacob? Wait, yes, I am Jacob, but I'm also Regi. I thought my middle name sounded familiar. But, is that my real middle name? Oh pufferfish this is odd. I'm Jacob. I know it. I'm Regi, too. This is getting us nowhere. Am I even speaking to myself or...ok, let's just think of his sensibly. I came to this con as Jacob but now I'm Regi but I'm also still Jacob. Ow, my head hurts...I can't even have a proper split personality to sort this out. Am I even alright with this?"
He got on his haunches, and scratched behind an ear with a hind paw, then got up, smoothed his fur, and continued walking.
"I think that odd interlude in itself just screamed both yes and no. This is weird. Just trying to speak this all out. Don't want to think it all out. I'd be liable to explode in a puff of logic or something. For the time being, I think I can stick with calling myself Regi Jacob Tesla. Keeps a good solid...ooo, is that a Red Dwarf signed poster...no, moving on. No shinies. Bad ferret. Uncle Niclov would know what to do. I can't believe I know Tesla and I call him my uncle. There is something so cool about that. I'm accepting this too readily. Oh, fuzzbutt this absurd."
He pulled out his pocket watch. "And I have dinner with Becca in twenty minutes. Perfect."
O O O
Regi lapped his ice water nervously as he waited for Becca. This would not end well. It wouldn't start well either. He just knew it. Now that he had come to the absurd eqaulibrum between himself as Jacob and himself as Regi, it seemed that rather anything being solved, it just made everything just more complicated. It didn't help that the Jacob side of himself kept bringing up legitimately worrisome questions which Regi brushed off with a cheerful disposition and equally worrisome answers.
Though still a casual restaurant, he still received a good share of Looks from the restaurant patrons.
"Jacob, I can't say I'm surprised, but, forgive my bluntness, what in Hellgates?"
"Your use of children's literature swearing is quite endearing, Becca," Regi countered, rising to pull out a seat.
"You said you wouldn't be wearing that fursuit."
"And I kept my word."
"Brushing it off as an 'animal costume' is not going to cut it."
"Becca," Regi said, placing a paw over his fuzzy chest where he believed his heart was (was hard to tell with a longer body to deal with, "Trust me."
"I've heard that line just before you've dragged me into some horrifying slash amusing experience."
"Hopefully more of the latter than the prior."
"The jury is still out about that," Becca said, accompanied by an eyeroll and brushing her chestnut hair behind her ears. "I assume this means the convention is going well."
"You could say that. It's come with some complications."
"What, Regi, you got your tail stuck in an elevator door?" She made a face. "...Regi. No. Regi. No, wait...why am I...?"
"Well, my name /is/ Regi Jacob Tesla."
"No it isn't. You're Regi." She looked at Regi, and this time, Regi could tell, she really looked. He twitched his whiskers and let himself smile.
"I've heard this routine before. Let me cover the bases," Regi said, spreading his paws, "Yes, I am a real ferret hybrid from a alternate history steampunk era where I have associations with the mad science of genetics and a rising inventor named Nikola Tesla. And..." He rose one digit to keep Becca from interjecting, "I was created by Jacob, a sci-fi / fantasy fan, and my creator, and I also happen to be him. One in the same. Two for one deal. We're still writing up the contracts."
Becca appeared dumbstruck, twisting a napkin in her grip.
Regi rose a paw, "More crackers please!"
"That doesn't make any sense. I've known you since elementary school, there is no way..."
"And yet here I am before you, able to pick my nose with my blue tongue. A sort of blue tongue that even a proper popsicle can't manage."
"And you're alright with this?"
Regi leaned forward and held out his paws. It took a full awkward minute, before Regi could tell his cute face seeped past the logic of Becca's mind and she placed her hands in the ferret's sable paws. "Becca. You are one of my best friends. You know me all too well. I'm compulsive and absurd, I say and do stupid things, and above all, I am always trying to be somewhat normal. Believe me. This is nothing I wanted. This is nothing I dreamed about. And I am scared out of my wits. But at this point, at this moment, I know that I'd never be happy try to be normal, and if being Regi is where I have to go to be not normal...well..." He shrugged. "Being a steampunk ferret hybrid is not a bad way to go."
"This is a lot to take in."
"So, bad time to say government agents are converging on our table?"
"Mmm...could I still take out my electric pulse gun?"
"If you want to. Can you really pick your nose with your tongue?"
"What can say? It's a habit I'm trying to break. But genetically installed instincts, what can you do?"
"So about those government agents..."
"I wasn't going to say anything about them. How did you know?"
Two rather large men in black suits flanked the table.
Regi smiled at the two, not letting go of Becca's hands. "We'll order later, we're having a meaningful moment."
"We are here on the behalf of the U.S. Government."
"Well, if you are from the Men in Black, sorry in inform you, I am not from outer space /and/ U.S. Citizenship under the Genetic Creatures Rights Law of 1909. So both definitions of alien do not apply. Of course, that depends upon your views on cross-dimensional law."
"Regi, I'm sure they are just here to check on my highly insidious ferret tattoo."
"D'aww, when did you get that?"
"It was going to be a surprise."
The men in black suits cleared their throats, simultaneously. The one on the left spoke. "We're sorry to interrupt your date."
"Ooo, we're dating?" Regi exclaimed.
"Perhaps. Not at the kissing stage yet. I think we will have to draw the line at nose-nuzzling."
"Shut up!" the man on the right said.
Regi and Becca reluctantly stopped holding hands and settled back in their seats.
"So is this on the horrifying or amusing side, Becca?" he said, looking about for the waitress with potential crackers.
"I think your current ferrety disposition is pressing it to amusing. Though can't be sure. This feels like a strange dream. Is your mood infectious?"
"No, I think we're just being...normal, for us," Regi said, sticking his tongue out at her.
Before anything more dire could proceed in this dinner theater, which most the restaurant patrons now watched, someone called out. "Stop!" All turned, to see Dr. Ralph and a woman, of brunette hair and flowing skirts, walk into the restaurant. The woman continued, "What is going on here?" The government agents glowered. The one on the left spoke. "We are here on behalf of that U.S. Government to investigate the presence of a foreign lifeform in..."
The woman turned to Dr. Ralph, "Is he serious? You were being serious? And that is a ferret thing."
Dr. Ralph shrugged, "I had a bit of a feeling this would happen. You see, I think that the fabric of our universe is being wrinkled because of the presence of Regi Tesla. The world about him is bending in ways to conform to something out of a science fiction plot, to the point that reality is..."
"No need of the specifics, Ralph. I get the gist. Now, you two. You cannot take that ferret into custody."
"Why not," the man on the right growled.
"Do you have a warrant?"
The men shuffled awkwardly.
"Of course. You don't need a warrant. You come in and clean up, no questions asked. Now I'm here to question you."
"Who are you?" the man on the right countered.
"I am Jess Winters, science fiction writer and I have a PhD in Law. I normally use that in my illegal space alien court drama plots, but considering what Ralph has told me, this is an opportunity I couldn't miss." She walked up to the table and, with a professional edge, tweaked Regi's ears, nose, mouth, and paws, before giving a satisfied nod. "I have gathered documentation on Mr. Tesla to form a case in his processing all rights he had before he became his own character. Now, I need to do further research, but I have the papers here that prohibit you from taking this creature into custody."
She handed a folder over to the man on the left. He took it carefully and leafed through, then handed it over to his partner, who ripped though the documents with a more violent vigor. They shared a glower over the table, then left. Though the man on the right made rude gestures before he exited and muttered a few things that made the fur on the inside of Regi's ears burn. The patrons felt obliged to clap.
After they had left, Jess Winters turned her attention back to Regi. "I am offering my services as your lawyer, do you accept?"
Regi looked the lady up and down. "I can't think of anyone better to represent me."
She suddenly hugged Regi around the neck. "Oh, I always hoped to use my research! I always hoped maybe for a real alien but I shall make do with a ferret. You're so fuzzy! I shall keep in touch." She released, with a wide smile on her face. "Oh, Ralph. I'm going to have so much fun with this. I hope there's a case. I shall work on the papers now. Keep in touch, Regi. I'll have a preliminary report tomorrow." She practically skipped out of the restaurant.
Dr. Ralph turned back to Regi. "How are you feeling?"
"I'm not completely Regi or Jacob now, if that's what you mean?"
"And you're alright with this?"
Regi shot a glance at Becca, then shrugged. "I guess we'll see."
Dr. Ralph sighed and shook his head. "You...will let me poke and prod you for a minimally invasive scientific and biological examination, won't you?"
"I'll think about it. You're giving me the fuzzy tenure ticket look again."
"I can't help it."
"I'll catch up with you tomorrow morning."
Dr. Ralph nodded to Regi and Becca, then exited himself. The two finally looked back at each other.
"That was...interesting," Becca said.
"That's one way to put it, wonder where my crackers got to," Regi said, trying to spy the waitress again.
"So, where do we go from here?"
"Well..." he pulled a device from his pocket, and placed it in the center of the table. "I conjured this up while waiting for you to come. It took me a bit to get it just right, but...this is a wormhole conductor."
"I'm not even going to grace you with asking 'what.'"
"This device can make a condensed wormhole, one capable of transporting me back to my steampunk era...and a friend."
"Wait, that place doesn't exist. You're still a character. There is no way that...and I'm trying to explain this to a six foot tall ferret."
"So, do you want to come?"
"And give up my life. You giving up your life? You can't be serious. This..."
"No, no, no. Just a little vacation. For a few weeks. Well, a few weeks there, only two hours here. You know, traveling through time and space. Has nice quirks there."
"You're trying to catch my inner Doctor Who fangirl, aren't you?"
Regi's ears lowered guiltily. "Yeah, a little."
Becca took one of his paws, giving a devious smile. "You're a little weasel, you know that."
Regi lowered his goggles with a paw. "I prefer 'ferret.'"
He pressed the button.