Niko rode the jet ski along the sandy white beach as Sami swum beside him, easily keeping pace despite the shallow water they were in. The sea was a clear transparent blue glimmering in the bright morning sun. Niko could hear Sami giggle as she splashed through the waves next to him. As they rounded a slight bend in the shoreline they could see something lying on the edge of the beach, half out of the water.
“What is it?” Niko yelled over the whine of the jet ski’s engine.
As they approached Niko slowed his jet ski and turned in towards the shore. What appeared to be a water soaked rug was beached on the sand not far from them. He reached the shore and turned off the jet ski. The sudden lack of the motor’s whine amplified the sound of the surf against the shore and the call of seabirds from overhead.
Sami sighed, then dropped under the water. She reappeared moments later with a stick which she tossed upon the beach next to Niko. “If you are going to look at it you might as well get it out of the water so I don’t have to swim with it,” she said with a slight laugh.
Niko picked up the stick and approached the object. He gently prodded it. It didn’t move. “I think it was some kind of animal,” he said.
“Poke it harder,” Sami suggested.
“I really wish you wouldn’t,” said the object in a muffled voice.
Niko jumped back. “It’s still alive!” he shouted.
“Of course, I’m alive,” the voice replied. “And my preference is to not be poked with a stick, thank you very much.”
They watched the curled up bundle of soggy fur sprout one, then two arms. Legs appeared and then a small fox-like head looked up at them, black eyes glistening in the sunshine. The creature slowly stood and brushed itself with its paws, knocking off the sand that had dried upon its fur. When it was finished it licked one of its paws and then brushed back the light brown fur on the top of its head. Niko readied the stick.
“Please,” it said, holding up a small paw and cringing slightly. “Violence is most unnecessary. To the contrary, I am most pleased to make your acquaintance.” It nodded its head and then turned its paw over, extending it as if to shake. Niko lowered the tip of the stick slightly.
“Oh, gross,” replied Sami, slapping her tail against the water. “It’s a furry. Be careful,” she said, glaring at it. “They bite.”
The furry blinked at her for a moment. “Such a comment is not very helpful to the situation, although understandable given your likely unfamiliarity with my species.”
Sami’s eyes narrowed. “Oh, we know all about furries in the Realm. Why don’t you step a bit closer to the water and I’ll give you a nice Mer hello.” The fins on her arms ruffled back.
The furry took a step back. “Thank you for your kind offer, but my kind are much more comfortable on dry land.”
“Come on, Niko,” Sami said, turning her attention away from the furry. “We’ve got better things to do than spend anymore time with this drowned.. rat.” She slapped her tail again, sending a small splash of water in its direction.
“Fox, actually,” replied the furry, as it scampered behind Niko to shield itself from the splash of water Sami sent its way. The water hit Niko instead.
“Hey!” said Niko.
“Sorry, Niko,” she said.
The furry’s ears perked up. “Niko? Is that your name?”
The furry looked at him and blinked. “It couldn’t be…” it paused, then glanced to make sure it was out of Sami’s range. “Perhaps the, ah, tumble off the ship rendered a slight concussion upon my most tender gray matter. But you look remarkably similar to the Weird Al of Second Life, Niko Donburi. Are you he?”
Sami started laughing. “This furry thinks he knows you!”
Niko frowned. He held his hand above his glasses to block out some of the sunshine. “Who are you?”
The furry grinned, causing its sharp teeth to show. Niko’s eyes widened and he jumped back, raising the stick to protect himself.
“Careful, Niko!” shouted Sami as she swam up to the shore as far as she could, turning so she could lash out with her tail.
The furry lifted its hands above its head. “No, no,” it said, cowering. “I’m just amazed that I finally found you!”
“Hit it, Niko! It’s trying to trick you!” called out Sami.
The furry cringed, its arms up with the palms of its paws facing them. “Don’t hit me! Don’t hit me!”
Niko slightly lowered the tip of the stick. “Tell me who you are or I’m going to whack you one.”
The furry slowly lowered its paws. “”My name is Katko,” he replied. “Katko Resident, to be precise. And I cannot believe the smile fortune has bestowed upon me!”
“Well, Katko Resident,” said Niko after a moment. “You’ve made a mistake. The only fortune here is your misfortune, no doubt from that bump on your head. Sorry to tell you but I’m not the Niko you thought I was.” Niko tossed the stick on the ground and climbed back onto his jet ski. With a flick of his thumb the jet ski roared into life. “Come on, Sami,” he called out. “We have a coral reef to explore.” He backed the jet ski off of the beach, then changed gears and started forward.
“But wait!” yelled Katko, taking steps toward the water’s edge “I know it’s you, it has to be. Your voice, I know your voice from your songs!”
Niko ignored him. Sami lashed out with her tail, knocking Katko down onto the beach. “Keep away, you stupid furry,” she hissed, her eyes flashing. “Go back to where you came from. Your kind aren’t welcome here!” She slapped her tail on the water and drenched him with a splash. She then turned and dove away, quickly catching up to Niko on his jet ski.
Katko remained sprawled upon the sand, wet once again. He watched until they had disappeared then let out a sigh. After he dried and straightened his fur he looked around the beach until he spotted a backpack tangled in some seaweed at the edge of the shore. He put the backpack on and started walking in the direction from where Niko and Sami had come.