Ch 4: A furry’s request…

“You aren’t making any sense,” Niko said, putting the 8 ball back down on the pool table. He walked over and took a seat in one of the chairs around the small table in the corner. Katko put away the pool cues and then joined him.

“You evidently know things that no one else does,” said Niko. “Or at least things that I thought no one else did. Now you tell me that you know them because I told you.”

Katko looked at him for a moment, then seemed to make a decision. He leaned forward in his chair. “Okay, you are owed the truth. Understand, however, that some of this will no doubt seem outlandish and perhaps a bit farfetched. But by the fur on my tail I promise you that it is accurate and correct.”

Niko nodded.

“I have been looking for you for some time. A number of us have.”

“Who is us?”

“The Furry Council. We represent the interests of all the civilized furry tribes, clans, nations and groups. Each such entity has appointed or elected a representative to speak on their behalf at our council gatherings. Those representatives in turn elect The Eight to speak for them all. My instructions come directly from The Eight. They were the ones which assigned me the task of locating you.”

“Why didn’t you just in-mind me?” asked Niko.

Katko sniffed. “Such a direct approach was deemed too risky. We preferred to make contact on a one-on-one basis so as to avoid the scrutiny of certain entities.”

“Who?”

“I think you already know the answer to that.”

“The Lindens,” Niko stated.

Katko nodded. “We know that at least some of the Lindens have the ability to listen in on in-mind communications. We aren’t sure how they do it, but we Katko Chapter 3_009wanted to minimize chances of them finding you before we did. Plus, we were concerned that if we contacted you in-mind first, you would even less receptive to our request then you are now.”

Niko took a cigarette from his pocket. “Are you sure it was them?”

“Yes,” replied Katko. “Not all of the Lindens are as furryphobic as they let residents believe. One of our sources let us know that you were going to be a target but they couldn’t provide us with the specifics of the plan. So two of us were dispatched to observe your public events. We knew we couldn’t stop whatever the Lindens were going to do but by being there at least we would be in a better position to understand the power the Lindens were willing to use to get rid of you.”

Niko pauses for a moment while he lights his cigarette. “Why me?”

“Good question,” replied Katko. “From what our sources told us, it was your songs. You had incurred the wrath of Philip and that was all it took.”

“My songs? That’s what pissed them off so much they tried to zap me out of rez?”

“Yes. And frankly, that is why we need your help. We need to leverage the power of your songs–”

Niko waved his hand. “I don’t care about that right now. Keep telling me about what happened at the gallery.”

Katko sighed. “I apologize for my exuberance. Well, after the attack at the gallery you were in an unusual rezzed yet unrezzed condition. Your body would twitch repeatedly as if it was unrezzing, but it remained present with us. It never disappeared. Yet it wouldn’t react to any stimuli we could provide. All of our attempts at in-mind communication failed. Any object we tried to give you was returned. That’s how we really confirmed that something was wrong and you weren’t in Akasha. Alderson, one of our scripters, thought you were looping back between a rezzed and unrezzed state, at once both and yet neither.”

“Cause by the surge?”

“As best as we can determine. The Lindens tried to eliminate that sector of the world while you were in it. If you had been standing still instead of walking, they likely would have been successful. We think your forward momentum was sufficient to cause you to leave the sector and avoid the complete electrical charge.”

Niko pondered this for a moment. “How’d I get from the gallery back to my home?”

“We basically had to rez a prim underneath you and then lift that in order to get you outside of the building. We then used a vehicle to transport you off of the mainland into one of our protective locations. Since we couldn’t teleport it took an inordinate amount of time. Once we had gotten you out of the Linden controlled regions, we kept you under around the clock observation. Sometimes you were almost fully lucid and were able to communicate with us enough that we could tell you were slowly recovering. That was when we learned how the shock had affected you. At other times, however, you would lapse into a catatonic state. When you would return to awareness your short term memory would be gone. Then one day you unrezzed completely. You were gone. We didn’t know if you had gone to Akasha or had simply teleported somewhere.”

Niko took a drag from his cigarette. “Why did you even bother trying to help me? I mean, I’m glad you did. But why didn’t you just leave me at the gallery?”

Katko fidgeted in his chair. “Some of us wanted to do just that. Others didn’t, especially if there was some way to get you out of the condition you were in. They thought there might be a benefit in seeing how you were affected by whatever the Lindens had done in hopes of deriving a means of protection from it if the same technique was to be used against us.”

“So basically I was going to be a lab rat for furries. Nice.”

Katko frowned. “It wasn’t that simple. Let me explain. If the Lindens found out that you were still here and we were the ones that had taken you, our entire populace would have incurred the wrath of Philip. Furries are already disparaged and marginalized the way it is, especially once Philip invited the corporations in. Having us around simply isn’t conducive to a consumer culture. So the corporations convinced the Lindens to start raising tier, which forced us to reside on fewer and fewer sims. We were simply not in a position to handle a pogrom by the Lindens.”

“Then why did you keep looking for me after I left? If I was so much of a risk to you. What changed?”

Project Sunshine, that’s what.”

“I’ve never heard of it.”

Katko stood and paced the room, his tail upright and pointed ears at attention. “Few residents have, that’s the problem. Project Sunshine is the codename for the Lindens’ new campaign to destroy furry life as we know it. I don’t understand all of the details myself, but the final stage of the plan has something to do with a manipulation of our alpha layers.”

Katko halted, his tail swishing behind him. “Once Project Sunshine is complete all those of the furry persuasion will start to lose their color, turning entirely grey. Our fur, tails, arms, legs, anything that is attached to us will appear grey. Our colors will be drained from us. We will be marked, no longer able to fit in with the rest of society. Ostracized. It will be the end of the furry nation.”

Katko returned to the table and took a seat. “But you can help us. You can be the one to bring this discrimination and harassment to the attention of all the residents and stop Project Sunshine once and for all.”

Niko looked at him. “What do you expect me to be able to do about it? It sounds like you need a scripter, they can fix stuff like that.”

“Scripters we have. What we lack is a means to shine a spotlight on this travesty and publicly confront the Lindens. We need your songs.”

“My songs?”

Katko nodded. “Exactly. We need you to write a song about what is going to happen to the furries if the Lindens succeed with Project Sunshine and then perform it at a concert with Lindens in attendance. One song, one show. That’s it.”

“I think you are drastically overestimating my songwriting capabilities,” said Niko.

“You did it with Dear Linden, Dear Linden,” said Katko. “Remember how you aired our grievances? Dear Linden, we need some relief. Whenever we log on we always get griefed. In your quest to make millions was this foreseen, can you please now turn off your PR machine? Signed, the furries.

Niko sighed. “It was just a silly song.”

Katko’s black eyes glistened. “No, it was more than that. It was a battle cry. For the first time, residents could identify with us as something other than objects of ridicule. They finally got a sense of how we felt, that we, too, were victims of the Lindens’ meddling. Your songs brought us all together, in unity against the tyranny of the Lindens. No one else has ever done that.”

“I suppose. But that was then and this is now. Things have changed. No one knows or cares about those old songs anymore.”

“We care,” said Katko, striking a black paw against his furry chest. “And we remember them.”

Niko rubbed his chin. “This is too weird. You want me to write a song to help furries overthrow the Lindens?”

“No,” said Katko, shaking his head. “Not overthrow, but educate. We want the Lindens to take a laissez-faire approach to the world. To stop this preference of one species over another. Look at this.” He unzipped his backpack and got out a folded piece of yellow paper. He handed it to Niko.“This is the event at which we need you to perform.”

Niko unfolded the paper and read it. “You want me to play at this? Are you completely crazy? Even if I wanted to–and I don’t–there is no way that I would be accepted to perform at something like this. Me play at the Lindens’ biggest event of the year? This is their ten year celebration of their reign. Even when I was in my prime I would never have been able to get a gig like this.”

Katko pointed at a line in the invitation. “I realize it is a lot to ask. But look at the theme for this year’s celebration. Looking Forward, Looking Back. It’s perfect. Your old songs are nostalgic and recall the boom years of ‘06 and ’07. They’ll be sure to let you perform.”

“Yeah,” replied Niko. “And then they’ll see they made a mistake the first time they zapped me and do it again. Thanks, but no thanks.”

Katko stood up. “Listen, the Lindens can’t move that fast. By the time they realize that you are back performing again, it will be too late for them to stop you. You’ll already be on stage. They wouldn’t dare do anything so public.”

Niko tossed the paper on the table. “You might be right, but I’m still not interested. I haven’t touched a guitar or written a song since the gallery. So even if I wanted to do it, I couldn’t. Plus there simply isn’t enough time to get ready for a big event like this. Maybe a smaller show, like a pub or clubhouse, but not something like this.”

Katko shook his head. “No, it has to be an event where the Lindens are in attendance. Then residents can confront them on Project Sunshine and they will be forced to withdraw or change their plans from the pressure. This event is the right time and place. We can get you on the roster, but you have to be willing to do it. And write the song. ”

Niko took another drag from his cigarette and looked out of the window, across the water. Sunshine glistened off the tops of the waves. A mild breeze was blowing, ruffling the sail on a sailboard a short distance away. “You don’t understand,” Niko said after a minute. “I can’t just sit down and write a song whenever I want to. I need to be inspired, motivated. I need a melody, which I just don’t have anymore. I just can’t.”

Katko’s tail twitched. “Motivation? Inspiration? Do you understand what it at stake here? We are talking about the destruction of an entire class of residents. Furrocide. If that isn’t a call to action, what is?”

Niko sighed. “I’m sorry,” he finally said to Katko. “I really am. But I’m just not your guy anymore. I wish I could do more to help you, but I simply can’t.”

Katko looked at him, his face expressionless. “I see,” he said in reply. “Well, in that case I don’t think there is anything else for me to do here.” He picked up his backpack and put it on. “Thank you for your hospitality.”

“Maybe there is something else I could do,” said Niko, rising. “I know other songwriters, maybe I can get one of them to do it for you. Would that help?”

Katko smiled but looked sad. He shook his head. “No, unfortunately, or else we wouldn’t have bothered you. You were our last hope. Now, if you will excuse me, I will need to report my failure to The Eight forthwith. However, I will make ensure that they comply with my earlier promise to not reveal your identity or existence to anyone else. After all, we wouldn’t want anyone to disturb your vacation paradise down here.”

There was a slight pop as Katko shimmered. Then he was gone.