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Book 1 – Chapter 4 – Still Receive Your Kiss – Part 4

One hangover and a workday later, I still had a headache and had come down with an awful cold. I wasn’t in the mood to log on-line with Simon, Trisha and Elory. My big comfy sofa was far away from the rickety, narrow computer chair. Plus, they were visiting the “Sarn” Multi User Chat Kingdom, which was all text, all the time. It was instant messaging with rooms; technology which was already ancient in the eighties. Simon had turned me on to SarnMUCK because it was where fans had been trained to gather in the nineties, before we had World of Warcraft and blogs.

However, I did want to check on Elory.

After logging onto SarnMUCK, I scrolled through the long description put there for atmosphere. It’s a neat piece about the planet Sarn, with a corporation which became a monopoly by borrowing technology from itself in the future, and subsequently stagnated by failing to develop anything new. It has a broken time gate that’s pulling in beings from around the universe. I think I read through it once.

Everyone on-line has an avatar, and mine was named Kassandra because “Cassandra” was taken years ago. The name had mythic undertones of a girl being screwed over because she knows too much. I could relate. If someone typed “look at Kassandra”, they saw a short, scholarly fox-girl with blue fur in a woodsy, low-cut blouse and skirt with thigh-high sensible boots. Foxes are the new elves.

Elory would be at the Villa, which meant I had to pass through the four Circles of SarnMUCK. The first was the Circle of Howyadoin’. It was a big park with benches for sitting, ponds for swimming, and grass to keep off of. It also had text scrolling by as fast as Morse code would go if every click was a full sentence. Without a few chat filters, I had to grab the text with my mouse pointer and hold it like a wriggling dog before reading all the “How are you’s”, “How are the kids’”, and “Wow, did you hear about’s”.

Most people blew off steam after work there. After I returned a few hellos, I ignored the text unless it was green. Those were private messages for me. A few of them asked where I’d been. I said my judge had declared that I was no longer too dangerous to be near a computer.

I traveled into the spaceport which held the Circle of Geekin’. The concourse had a smaller crowd speculating on how great the next Elder Scrolls game would be. Rooms off the side housed the hangouts of the anime, techie and TV show fans.

Next up were bars and hotspots of the town square. I watched squirrels, bats and other foxes dart from one to the next, barely stopping to say hi. That was the Circle of Rumpy-Pumpy – not terribly exciting rumpy-pumpy, but enough to get most boys off. I was scarred for life when I went into one of the bars once and was nonconsensually pounced on.

The Villa was hidden down a dark alley ending at an ordinary Italian manor with a rippled clay roof and the works. Inside was the Circle of Consensual Felonies, private club, invite only, age verification required. The dress code was audacious. I attached silver wings to my back and flashed my invitation to the fence. It grew eyes and bent itself wide to let me in.

The crowd was busy for a Tuesday night. The Sitting Room had a dozen folks on the leather recliners. I turned on my eighties mix on my computer’s MP3 player to set the mood.

A raccoon socialite, Amber, stretched out a paw to block me. She shifted her latex body stocking from crimson to black and sat up from her couch. Yes, that’s what it said on the screen.

“Where has the girlfriend of yours been keeping you?” she said.

I struck a contemplative pose with one claw resting against my muzzle. “On the floor in a locked cellar,” I said, “completely naked, chained to the wall, where she did the vilest things to me. And I loved every minute of it.”

She retracted her paw and groomed her ear. “Sweet,” she said. “You’ll have to introduce me to her sometime.”

I whispered to her in green. “She’s all yours, but I doubt you’ll want her.”

Amber replied fast. “You broke up? Wow, are you feeling okay?”

“I’ve been better. But I’m doing all right. How have you been?”

“Not so well. My tire was slashed when I was at work at the convenience store, and the repair guy charged me twice what Sears would have. But it’s a long way to the Sears, you know? It’s how he makes up the business, I think.”

I seem to collect guys like Amber’s player when I’m not careful, but Ted was sweeter than most. He kept Amber smart.

“Urgh, that sucks,” I said. “I’m glad I don’t have a car.”

“You’re in the city. You can walk to somewhere fun,” Amber said. “Hey, are you coming to Furrificon?”

“I don’t know. My job might need me then. We have some new software coming in.”

“That’s a bummer,” Amber said. She pecked me on the cheek and said aloud, “That’s for coming back.”

Normally I would have grabbed her butt and slid my paw up her tail. She did have a wicked imagination, and we had had some interesting times. I put my paw over her mouth. “Flattered, but another day,” I said.

Amber scowled and fell to her recliner.

I typed in a search command for a “Spiderweb”. Nobody could see me do it. Only the administrators could hide themselves, but the Lord High Univore usually wanted us to see where he was. As I guessed, Spiderweb was nearby with Nova, but I couldn’t tell where.

A sleek dragon, Applewing, slid out from under Amber’s recliner, entirely nude except for floating blurries over her naughty bits. She wrapped herself around Amber to immobilize her. “Oh no,” Amber shouted. “Miss Dragon, I’m doomed!”

“Shut up and kiss me,” Applewing said. Amber surrendered.

Applewing whispered to me. “You were so drunk the other night, I’m telling everybody.”

“All right, I guess I won’t let you have my tail when I’m bored with it,” I said. “And how was your date last night?”

“Oh, her,” she said. “She freaked when I came out to her. She was really polite about it, though. Chalk another disappointed sigh onto my wall of ‘Oh’s’.”

“Damn it, you deserve better,” I said.

“I keep telling myself that,” she said. “So I’m here for stress relief. Amber seems willing and able.”

Amber mumbled aloud, “Kin ah thtop kithing nah-oh?”

Applewing released her but dragged her off to a private room. “We received a new shipment of Henry James’ novels at the store,” she said. “So I have all kinds of ideas for you.”

Zkazz and Alexis were nestled on another recliner, completely silent, which meant they were talking up a frenzy. Zkazz’s leopardy body nestled in Alexis’ many legs, more than the average ferret had. I didn’t want to interrupt them, but I knew Zkazz would be worrying about me.

“Having a good evening?” I whispered to Zkazz.

Zkazz gave me a whisper-nuzzle. “This one is glad you showed up. Your friend logged in half an hour ago,” she said.

“I know. I found her in the search, with Nova. By the way, except for my cold I’m doing much better than when you dropped me off Saturday.”

“This one didn’t know if you would make it up the stairs after this one let you out,” she said.

“Applewing said she was telling everyone how wasted I was.”

“She lied. This unit has heard nothing.”

“Whew. Have fun with the ferretaur,” I said. Chet probably had Simon in hypnosis role-play, and I didn’t want to break the mood.

I had to spy on Spiderweb myself. I sent a whisper to Arnyoptrix, wherever she was. “Hi again,” I said. “I’m supposed to meet up with your mom in the Villa, but I don’t know where she is. She’s busy talking to someone named Spiderweb.”

“Diana’s Chamber,” she said without asking why.

The entrance to the chamber was a few clicks down the hall. I knocked and the door let me through. I typed up a few non sequiturs in Notepad and turned off my music.

I had hoped to interrupt them in the middle of a juicy conversation, instead of the lackluster “Really?” from Nova and “Yes,” from Spiderweb. And they cut that short once they detected me.

Nova and Spiderweb were sitting at a marble table, enjoying a manufactured sunset. Nova was “more girly than her usual badger self, with a blue dress that shimmers in the light but still shows the iris burned into the fur of her upper arm”. As I suspected, Spiderweb was “a white fox with a cloak hung over her shoulder and a revealing set of corset and breeches beneath”. It’s weird how the graymuzzles age their characters.

“Well, good evening, Kassandra,” Nova said.

“I wanted to thank you for the invitation Saturday,” Spiderweb said. “It was a great party.”

I fired two messages to Nova from the text I had already written; one public and one private. Elory wouldn’t suspect I could type so fast, and Nova was less likely to mention she was messaging me in private if I kept a conversation with her in person.

I said aloud, “Hi, I hope I’m not interrupting anything. I didn’t get a chance to talk to Spiderweb at the party.”

To Nova, I said, “Excuse me, I hate to bother you but I was wondering if I could ask a favor. I met Spiderweb last week, and ever since then she’s been asking about me. She asked Chymer and Lady Ocelot if I was in a pagan group. Has she asked you anything like that?”

Nova wrote me, “Nothing out of the ordinary. She mentioned you and your tail, and that she likes you. Do I know something about you that you want me to keep private?”

At the same moment, Spiderweb said aloud, “If you want to follow up on our discussion last week, we can meet for lunch Saturday.” And she sent me a private message simultaneously. “Is there something wrong, or are you checking up on me?”

I kept my replies short. To Nova, I said, “No, tell her everything. How do you know her?”

To Spiderweb, I said aloud, “Maybe. I’m surprised you came here.”

In private, I said to her, “Caught me. Sorry. I’ll shut up now.”

“Do you want a chair?” Nova said.

“It was Nova’s suggestion,” Spiderweb said aloud, but also replied in green, “We think alike.”

I took a breather from threading our conversations together. When I looked at the screen again, Nova had sent me another message, “Elory’s an old friend from the West Coast conventions. She was a minor celebrity — I met a lot of people through her. She ran with the wild crowd, with the best parties. Coke and everything. So she’s not taking her solitude well. Be nice to her, okay?”

“Okay,” I whispered.

“Perhaps I should head out,” Spiderweb said aloud. “I have work tomorrow, and I’ve been sloppy with the dishes.”

Nova turned off the electric sunset. “All right,” she said. “You have my email, if you need anything.”

“I do,” Spiderweb said, and kissed her sweetly, muzzle to muzzle, tail wagging.

We returned to the hall towards the Sitting Room, while Spiderweb locked up behind us. “I hear SarnMUCK has had some drama of its own recently,” she said.

“Eh, when hasn’t it,” I said. “Univore’s sick of the complaints about stupid people flaunting their kink in public. Except he didn’t care before the influx of new players a few years ago.”

“Like the Ramrod in Boston?” she said.

“Pardon?”

“The gay bar in the Fenway.”

“I know it. Over the Machine club.”

“All these gay men from the suburbs started showing up on the Friday nights wearing these expensive imported leathers. The regulars complained about them, but what was the management supposed to do? The new boys brought the money in, even if they were fetishizing the life of the regulars.”

“That’s not the same.”

“No, but the end result is. The core group is driven out.”

I whispered to her, “I don’t think our core group has much to begin with.”

“Is that so,” she replied in green. “We’ll have to talk about this later.”

Categories: Book 1 - How Cheryl Got Her Tail, Chapter 4 - Still Receive Your Kiss.

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