a story by
(c) 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002,2003, 2004 by Chris Yost and James Bruner. Chapter 1 (c) 1999 by Chris Yost. All rights to story content reserved. Characters Tabitha, Sabrina the Skunkette, and Amy the Squirrel (c) Eric W. Schwartz. Character Thomas Woolfe (c) Michael Higgs. Characters Chris Foxx, Cindy Lapine, Clarence Skunk, Wendy Vixxen, and Calvin (c) Chris Yost. Character Mark the cheetah created for Mark White. Character Terl Skunk (c) Rodney Stringwell. Character ZigZag (c) Max BlackRabbit. Character James Sheppard (c) James Bruner. Character Iron Raptor (c) his player. Character Psychofrog (c) His player. The band "et al" (c) Chris Yost All rights to additional characters reserved by their respective owners. Story conceived by Mark White. Based on characters and situations created by Chris Yost and Eric Schwartz. Amiga (TM) Amiga Computers.
Tabitha led Sabrina down the hall from the Complex. Sabrina still showed signs of bewilderment, and understandably so. Tabitha knew it wasn’t going to get much better; she had a lot of ground to cover with her, and fifty percent of it was making sure she believed every word of it.
But now she had something else on her plate. Her boss. She hadn’t allowed herself the time to think about why he did it, she knew why. It was, however, the one part of her equation that she hadn’t counted upon, nor taken into consideration. Tabitha had worked hard and built a nice nest egg for herself for what she had expected: to be fired for doing what she did so she could keep body and soul together until she’d found employment elsewhere, possibly as a professor at MIT or Cambridge, or something equally suitable. Her boss going after her and being killed; that was something she never once considered.
Discovering she loved her boss, that’s something else she’d never considered, either.
Her peripheral vision caught Sabrina, staring blindly ahead as they walked. She put a sisterly arm around her. “Kind of overwhelming, isn’t it, Sabby?” she asked her.
“Boy, I’ll say,” Sabrina admitted in a faraway voice. The arm did little to comfort her. “I’m here, wherever I am, and I still can’t believe a thing I’ve seen or experienced.” They passed the conference room and turned toward Tabitha’s office. Sabrina finally turned her head to look at Tabitha. “You’re really my baby sister.”
Tabitha nodded. “Uh-huh.”
A corner of Sabrina’s mouth turned up. “And yet I still want to call you ‘Mary’.”
Tabitha placed her free paw on the doorknob. “Let’s be fair,” she said, “if I’d told you my name was Tabitha, would you have believed me? Forget about if I’d said that I was your baby sister from the future, would you have believed me?”
They stood in front of the door. Finally, Sabrina slowly shook her head. “No, probably not.”
Tabitha opened the door. “I picked the most obscure relatives I could to make my story plausible, along with the most plausible and common name I could think of. Believe me, I hated to do it to you, and hopefully I’ll make you understand why I did it. It’s important you understand, and believe me … and do what I tell you when the time comes.”
She ushered Sabrina inside. She tried once more to force herself not to do it, but she couldn’t pass through unless she did; Tabitha reached high up to touch the corner of the doorframe as she followed her skunk sister inside, closing the door behind them.
Sabrina looked about, wide-eyed. “Don’t tell me this is all yours!” she exclaimed.
“Uh-huh,” Tabitha nodded as she removed her handbag and set it on the small table. “Furnishings courtesy my late predecessor, décor such as it is courtesy me.” She removed the small bag from within and from that removed an envelope of pills. She removed one and went to the sink to draw a small glass of water.
It was a large office. To Sabrina, it was the size of two of the rooms in the company that had released her from their service a mere few hours ago. “It’s … nice.” Her mind tried to let itself sound excited. The view was nice, the curtains over the windows a neutral beige, a credenza with pictures including one of her -- their -- parents, one of herself from her party she’d reluctantly posed for when she’d graduated C-CAD, a couple of plushies including one larger one sitting against the desk, a bar, private restroom … “You certainly must be doing well for yourself,” she added. Then, finally able to at least grin, “Good to see you outgrew being a brat.”
Tabitha laughed as she walked over. “Yeah, but never one hundred percent. Still a little brat left. But I was only a brat to you because you were so much older than I was, and I had to grow up with just Mom and Dad. You never meant to be mean to me when you didn’t want me around; you just had big-sister interests that I couldn’t get in on.”
“Where now,” Sabrina observed, “I guess I’m the younger sister.”
Tabitha raised her eyes to the ceiling and thought about that. “Yeah, I guess you are … ” She lowered her eyes again to look at Sabrina, and winked. “ … brat.” Sabrina smiled and Tabitha giggled, and leaned against the front of her desk. “Little kids need attention, and if they don’t get it one way, they’ll get it another.”
“So, why am I here?” Sabrina finally asked. “I don’t believe a single thing I’ve seen since you came to my apartment, but it’s all here, and real. Why did you bring me here?”
“To prove to you it was all real,” Tabitha explained. “We have things to talk about, things to discuss. And if you don’t believe me … Just trust me, you need to believe me.” Tabitha handed Sabrina the pill and the water. “Take this, something you need to do, part of the whole time travel thing. Be sure to drink it all.” She looked at her watch. “Trouble is, I need to set something else straight. Something that wasn’t supposed to happen.”
Sabrina nodded her head toward the door as she swallowed the pill and drank the water. “The badger?”
“My boss. He tried to go back to stop me from going back. Long story, and when I get back -- ”
Tabitha nodded and accepted the empty glass from Sabrina; she’d feared she would reject the medication, but thankfully she seemed to have earned enough trust from her that she accepted it. “I need a few minutes to study a couple of things, a problem they encountered. I need to work out the mathematics of it before I can use the system again, then take you back to your own time after that.”
“Why does this all sound like bad dialogue from an old science-fiction movie?” Sabrina asked, trying to use forced humor to calm her stomach.
Tabitha forced a laugh, feeling her sister’s uneasiness. “Because who would ever have believed in 1999 that anyone could travel through time for real?” She walked around her desk to slowly open her right-middle drawer. She removed a sleeve of folders and pushed the drawer back in slowly. Then, she removed some blank sheets of paper from another drawer. “I need to do some work before we can go back,” she told Sabrina. “Feel free to use my desk and sketch in the meantime, if you’d like.”
“Tabitha?” Sabrina finally said her name. She turned as Sabrina asked, “You said you were trying to save my life?”
I need to do these equations called out in Tabitha’s head. She forced a smile, hoping it wasn’t going to appear condescending. “It’s a little complicated,” she told Sabrina. “Let me finish this. Then, I’ll answer all of your questions and explain everything.”
Wendy and Chris danced close, slowly and close, dinner consumed and empty Irish coffee cups sitting quietly at their table.
I wish this place had been here 20 years ago, Chris thought. Sabrina would have liked it …
Although Sabrina never really cared for jazz music, the club made for a romantic place to take a date. Dancing was one of those things they never did much; enjoyed it yes, but never had or really made the opportunity to do it outside of the occasional wedding reception or Strongarm Group Christmas party. Once or twice in the living room during their newlywed years when Sabrina would put “their song” in the CD player.
“What’re you thinking about?” Wendy asked, gently brushing her muzzle against his.
Chris brushed his muzzle over Wendy’s in return, and fully conscious that he was doing it. “My mind’s kind of a jumble,” he told her. Despite his thoughts of Sabrina, it wasn’t far from the truth. “An awful lot is happening here, now.”
Wendy found a way to dance closer; any closer and she would be in back of Chris. “I know,” she confessed. “It doesn’t all have to happen at once, I know it will all take time … that is,” she said, her ears folding back, “unless you change your mind … I’m hoping you don’t … but I know you could … ”
“I don’t think I want to,” Chris admitted. Wendy’s ears slowly rose again, her eyes still downturned slightly as he led and they turned close to where an older raccoon couple danced. “I think I’m ready, finally ready … many, many years later, but ready already.”
Wendy felt her eyes moisten. She lifted her muzzle and the words “I love you” were faintly audible.
But Chris had heard them. He wasn’t quite ready to admit that himself, not yet. Before, he would have repeated her words to spare her feelings, and would have grown to accept the meaning behind them and grown to really love her, the way he did once before, when they were one of the most popular couples on campus.
“I love you too, Windy,” came out without his thinking. A part of him always did, and he finally had the opportunity to say it. And mean it.
Barbara read it aloud. “3 May, 1999.” She looked at Richard. “That’s not where she’s supposed to be.”
“It sure isn’t.” Badger took a step over and reached for the module release catch.
Harvey’s paw grabbed Badger’s and closed around it and the module. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he asked in an exasperated voice.
“I want to check the authenticity of this module again,” Badger explained.
“You can’t do that!” Harvey started to pull Richard’s paw toward him but the badger pulled back strongly. “You do that and we’ll lose Tabitha for good. You know that!”
Badger yanked his paw back in frustration. The commotion was drawing attention from the techs in the lab and several were coming over to see what was going on. Badger could feel his face starting to burn from anger. He knew that Harvey was right and being caught acting rashly irritated him. ”Then we’re going to stop her,” he announced and released the module to Harvey.
“Will somebody please tell me what’s going on??” Barbara said. She sounded very annoyed. The figurative pissing contest between Richard and Harvey was the last straw for her civility.
“It’s Tabitha!” Badger said as he pointed to the module. “She’s either tampered with the program or forged a new module. She’s back in the past trying to keep her sister from dying in a traffic accident. She has no concept of temporal responsibility!” The badger was fuming now. “She’s good too; I never once suspected she was going to defy orders and attempt it.”
“Okay, you’ve caught her,” Harvey said wearily. “I can’t believe she did it, but you’ve caught her. Now what?”
“Yes,” Barbara added, “You said you’re going to stop her. How do you propose to do that?”
Badger looked at his two subordinates with an icy stare that told them he didn’t care for their attitudes. “We’re in the time travel business,” he told them. “We’ll beat her at her own game.” With that, he touched a spot on the screen several times. “I’m spinning the Departure Time back 30 seconds. I’ll go through on Channel Two, intercept her and send her right back on Channel One.”
Nobody dared say a word. It was one of those incredibly awkward times where you feel the wrath of the boss and compassion for a co-worker you respect who’s found herself in a great deal of hot water.
“ -- the hell??” Harvey said as the white swirl appeared mid-air and engulfed a portion of the room between the portal and the wall, sending technicians running across and out of the room. From the center ran a slender female skunk.
“Tabitha!” Badger yelled. He strode toward her at an angry pace. “Tabitha, you’ve got one hell of -- ”
“I.R.!” Tabitha called. She pointed to Doctor Badger. “Security breech, hold him!”
“What!??” Badger’s instant of surprise was his undoing. Iron Raptor approached with an amazing swiftness that took him off-guard as he turned from Tabitha. “No! Abort!”
“Hold him, I.R.!” Tabitha yelled amidst the wide-eyed stares of her colleagues and subordinates. They didn’t know what to stare at, Tabitha’s sudden emergence or Badger’s … arrest?
The great metal arms surrounded Doctor Badger and imprisoned him as he tried to claw his way out of its grasp. “Tabitha, what the hell do you think you’re doing?”
It was shouted by Badger and Harvey in unison. Harvey approached closer, Barbara was being fed more than her feline brain could take in, and the assembled technical staff knew better than to interfere.
“Are you out of your fu -- your mind?” Harvey yelled at Tabitha. “You’re the one who -- ”
“Don’t let him go for anything but my personal command,” Tabitha barked, programming the behemoth. She walked up to her fuming boss, part of her swearing the darker fur around his eyes and cheeks was darker than she’d ever seen it. “You listen to me,” she told him, pointing a finger at his muzzle, “This is my third time through here, you’re killing our project, now listen, damn it. Do not -- not go in there after me! You’re going to be killed the minute you do!” She now pointed at Iron Raptor. “And I’m going to make sure you don’t.” She turned and strode back toward the wormhole.
“Tabitha! Tabitha!! Get your ass back here!”
But instead, everyone watched it as it disappeared into the wormhole, and it collapsed in upon itself.
As Tabitha walked down the ramp the only sound now was the familiar transformer hum. She descended the slope and walked over to the Iron Raptor.
“Tabitha,” the badger said, “You’re fired.”
“Uh-uh, ” she said, shaking her head, “You can’t fire slaves, you have to sell them.” Turning to the cyborg, “Okay, I.R., end of security drill, you can let him go.”
As his metal arms released him, Richard Badger shook his arms out in an attempt to restore circulation. Tabitha, meanwhile, took an extra step closer to him. “Like I said, you’re not getting out of taking me to dinner that easily.” And grinning from cheek to cheek, she threw her arms around him and hugged him tight, tears starting to flow again, only this time they were tears of joy.
And Richard, forgetting he was among his employees, hugged her too, not understanding why she was weeping, but to finally have her arms around him gave him an excuse to hold her.
“I don’t know what you meant,” he told her, “but I guess I’m supposed to be thanking you.”
Barbara raised her arms in resignation. “Now I really don’t know what’s going on!”
Tabitha nuzzled Richard’s coarse neck fur. “I’m so glad to have you back,” she whispered.
As he began to understand, Badger pointed toward the now-dark portal. “So in other words … if I were to have gone in there after you … ”
“Stop,” Tabitha begged. “Don’t even say it. Don’t even think it.” Opening her eyes, what she could see beyond her boss’ neck and shoulders showed no one in her line of sight, so she snuck a quick kiss on his cheek.
As their hug released, Tabitha ignored everyone and addressed Barbara directly. “My sister,” she asked uneasily, “where is she?”
Barbara shrugged. “Presumably, still in your office,” she replied.
Yes! Tabitha turned to leave, knowing she should explain. “We’re almost done here, everyone,” she announced. “Doctor Badger’s back in charge, and -- ”
“‘Back’ in charge?” Badger asked aloud.
“ -- and we’re all meeting at Danny’s after, just like we planned. I promise everyone’ll know everything then.” She winked a teary wink at Richard as she flashed a wide, relieved smile, and darted out the door.
Badger stepped back to stand beside Harvey. “We’re all going to Danny’s after?” he asked.
Harvey shrugged. “I guess so.”
Badger scratched his head. “Guess I better go check the budget then. You wanna call them and get us all a reservation for their banquet room?”
Sabrina’s head stirred as the soft paw gently shook at her shoulder, then shot upright during the seconds she didn’t remember where she was.
“Hey, Sabby,” her baby sister said, smiling. “You okay?”
Sabrina nodded as she raised her head from the beginnings of a pencil sketch she’d begun. “Yeah.” She slowly sat up in Tabitha’s chair while Tabitha went over to her small fridge and retrieved two bottles of diet cola, opening one and offering one to Sabrina. “It’s been one overwhelming day. Thanks.”
Tabitha took a long sip. “And there’s a lot more,” she reminded her. “Feel up to it?”
Sabrina swallowed her mouthful. “I don’t have much of a choice, do I?” she said, then took another drink. “This is really good,” she said.
“Remember back when they used corn syrup for a sweetener?” Tabitha asked, foolishly remembering that to Sabrina it wasn’t “back when”. “These people use sugar. Makes for a much better pop, I think.”
Tabitha pulled a chair around to the end of her desk and sat her bottle on a coaster on the desk as Sabrina took another drink, draining nearly half of the bottle. As she sat Sabrina swiveled the chair to face her.
Placing her face in her paws, Tabitha took a very deep breath, then another. “Okay, Sabby, here we go.” She raised her head and faced her sister. The smile was gone now, everything she’d planned for had now arrived.
Sabrina leaned forward a bit, listening.
“Sabrina … oh God, I’ve rehearsed this so many times … okay, here goes nothing.” Now’s the time, so why am I wanting to put this off? Another deep breath, and she said, “Sabrina, the reason this has happened has been to warn you of something tragic that affects you directly … Sabrina, you’re going to die in the year 2011 and I’m trying to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
The size of Sabrina’s blue eyes expanded beyond the frames of her glasses. She manages to eek out, “Wha’??”, followed by a “How … what? How?”
“A traffic accident,” Tabitha explained calmly. To help herself explain, she motioned her paws in the air as she talked. “You were on your way home in the middle of a major snow storm, and you were struck by a tractor trailer. You died later in the hospital.”
They watched each others’ eyes. Sabrina’s were wide, unbelieving but yet believing. Tabitha’s were moist as her memory replayed the tragedy she’d heard explained so often since her teen years.
Sabrina’s mouth tried to form words, finally opting for, “And you … you’re serious.”
Tabitha nodded. “Yeah.”
Sabrina slumped in her sister’s chair. “I’m … when?”
“In the evening on the eleventh of January, two-thousand eleven.”
Something began to form around Sabrina, a blanket of eerie sensation that surrounded her and tried to drag her heart to her feet. “And you know this for a fact,” she asked.
Tabitha nodded. “In my center -- ”
“Where does it happen?” she asked.
“On your way home from Grove City College,” Tabitha explained. “You had decided to go back to school for a Masters Degree, and the severity of the storm was something of a surprise to everyone.”
Sabrina shook her head. “But, Grove City doesn’t have a college,” she told Tabitha.
“No, not Grove City, Ohio,” Tabitha corrected her, “Grove City, Pennsylvania.” She pointed to her desk. “In my center left drawer, there’s a folder. Take it out and open it.”
Sabrina looked at her for a long time. She was trying to comprehend everything and it was coming at her quickly. She turned and found the drawer handle and pulled. Among some personal items she found a folder and removed it. She offered it to her sister.
“Open it. Look at the ones in the back.”
Opening the folder, Sabrina found a number of yellowed newspaper clippings. She turned it over and lifted the last one, and as she began to read she immediately realized they were from the Obituaries column.
Her eyes scanned the first two paragraphs before she lifted her head. “This says ‘Sabrina Foxx’.”
Oh shit, she doesn’t know yet!
Sabrina’s eyes skimmed along, narrowing as she read her own obituary. She looked up, eyes glistening, bewildered. “Are you … sure … this is me?”
She shifted to the next one, from the Columbus Dispatch, and skimmed it as well. “My last name isn’t Foxx.” Sabrina again faced her sister. “You’re telling me that I’m marrying the guy I’m dating now??”
Again, Tabitha nodded silently.
“But … but I’ve only known him a few months. We haven’t even … and you’re saying … this is saying I’m going to marry him?”
“That folder is a small family history I’ve kept here while doing research for today,” she explained. “Your engagement and wedding notices are in there as well, a number of other things … ”
Sabrina began flipping through. Tabitha knew she should stop her, but would not allow herself to do so. She was going to make sure Sabrina saw events that would, over time, help to vindicate everything Tabitha was telling her.
“A son!” Sabrina exclaimed. “I’m going to have a baby!” Her eyes positively lit up when she read that clipping.
“His name’s Alan,” Tabitha told her. “He moves to California and becomes a Hollywood stuntman.”
Sabrina barely heard her, on the brink of tears. “I never thought I’d have any skunk kittens of my own!” she exclaimed.
“Well, there’s a small catch … ”
Sabrina looked up from the folder. “Huh? What ‘catch’?” she asked.
Tabitha suddenly had those guilt feelings return. “That … pill I had you take? I said it was for the time travel?”
“Sabrina, a lot has happened in the past several years,” Tabitha explained. “Things that weren’t -- aren’t -- possible in your time are possible now. “What you took was the first of a series of treatments that will cure your Endometriosis. It’s genetic, I had it too, but I don’t anymore because of that medication. The reason you only had Alan was because you miscarried your first baby, had Alan, miscarried the next, and were unable to bear any children after that.” As Tabitha explained, she could see Sabrina becoming more and more crestfallen. “Scarring of the Fallopian tubes used to be something you had to live with, not anymore. The only side effect is that you skip one or two menstrual cycles, then you have the ability to have as many children as you … as you can put up with.” Sabrina closed the folder, trying to take in all of this new information without her head swimming in any deeper water. Too much was coming at her too fast and comprehending it all was becoming more and more difficult for her. “How many more surprises are you keeping from me?” she said with an edge to her voice.
“Only that if you leaf through another one or two clippings, you’ll see Dad’s funeral notice, too. I’ll need your help, and you’ll have to get Mom and me to help you too, he needs to get his heart checked out. Not long before you get killed, he dies of a heart attack. And you know Dad, we’re going to have to team up on him to get him to do it.”
“Yep,” Sabrina agreed, “no argument there.”
“As for you, I have the rest of your pills; I’ll write out the directions, you’ll have to take one every evening after dinner until they’re all gone. There are a lot, it’s not going to work overnight. And you can’t tell anyone; they’ll never believe you anyway, and it has to be our secret.”
“Our secret!” Sabrina exclaimed. “How am I supposed to keep this -- any of this -- secret?”
Tabitha leaned forward and took Sabrina’s paws in hers. “You have to, sis, that’s all I can tell you. I’m having a direct impact on events in your life, and besides the fact that no one would believe you, if it filters down to me in the past it might affect my career path; then none of this will have happened and you’ll still be dead.” Assuming this even works.
Sabrina looked into Tabitha’s eyes. She was sincere; deadly serious and sincere.
“You have to give me your word, Sabby, that you won’t tell anyone. Not even Chris. Especially not even Chris.”
Now Sabrina had to look away. Tabitha was asking a hell of a lot of her. She was right, and Sabrina believed her, and accepted her reasons. But to not tell her girlfriends, her boyfriend, her parents, anyone? How can I keep any of this a secret? she asked herself. I could tell Susan, she’s my oldest friend, she’ll believe me …but would I believe it if she told this all to me? But she’s my oldest, closest friend --
“Sabrina, promise me.”
Tabitha watched Sabrina, trying to imagine what’s going through her head. The poor thing. I know this has been hell on her, I know I’ve thrown a lot at her …it’s all for her own good though, I’m trying to help her, help her family … maybe Daddy, too ...
She gripped Sabrina’s paws a little tighter in sisterly love. Finally, Sabrina nodded as she raised her head. “Okay,” she said, “I promise.”
It was those words that opened the ducts in Tabitha’s eyes and tears of happiness began to stream through the white fur of her cheeks. She released Sabrina’s paws and got out of her chair to hug her tightly, which also helped to convince herself that this had really happened, and all of her preparations and deceit had not been in vain.
The only thing left was to take Sabrina home. For Tabitha, all she had to do was return to find out if she was successful or not. For Sabrina, she knew, it would be years in her future. Something that would gnaw at her daily, she knew. If she had any regrets, that would be the only one.
“I love you, Sabby. It’s so great to have you back!”
Her eyes look Heavenward. Please, God?
The foxes walked slowly, the vixen had her arm interlaced in the todd’s. It wasn’t quite dusk yet, and they were walking off a couple of very good and very plentiful meals.
“I haven’t had an evening this wonderful in years,” Wendy said in a faraway voice. “I never forgot what good company you are, but it’s been a nice reminder.”
“And we could do this every night in Vermont,” Chris said, and Wendy nodded in agreement. “Long walks, enjoying our oncoming golden years.”
“We worked hard, we’ve earned it,” Wendy said.
“Hear it snows up there.”
“Yep,” Wendy replied. “Every winter.”
“Is it true,” Chris teased, “that a common graduation present up there is jumper cables?”
Wendy batted his stomach with her free paw. “Very funny, wise guy.” They came to the lit entrance of the small town square. “Hey, let’s go this way,” she suggested as she used her arm to steer them between the tall dimly-lit streetlamps.
As they strolled through the park, Chris looked over the familiar surroundings. “I have to admit, I’d miss a lot of -- what is it?” he asked as they came to a sudden stop.
Chris looked at Wendy. She was looking into the slowly-darkening sky. A few seconds later, the smiling vixen answered him. “A shooting star,” she said. “You’re supposed to make a wish when you see a shooting star.”
“Ahhh.” Chris smiled and held Wendy closer.
“Hey, don’t knock it, it works!” They began walking again. “Brought you back to me, that goes to prove they work.”
“Can’t argue with that,” Chris agreed, smiling. He inhaled the cool evening air. “It’s been a better evening than I could ever have hoped for.”
Wendy nodded her agreement. “It … doesn’t have to end here, you know.”
“No,” Chris granted, “no, it doesn’t. But I’m condo-sitting remember, and I need to keep an eye on the place. Not that anything’s going to happen, I’m sure.”
Wendy raised her left eyebrow, something that always drove Chris nuts -- how does she do that? “So … you’re condo-sitting … and it’s all empty and with no one in it, hmm?”
Chris looked to see his vixen fluttering her eyelids at him, grinning mischievously, in the way only a fox can do.
And he nodded. “Well, she never said I couldn’t have any friends over. And she’s not back for a day or two.”
Wendy held Chris closer.
“Up to you,” she said.
Chris could feel himself being manipulated … and decided in this particular instance, he didn’t mind it so much.
“Why not?” he said with a smile.
End of Chapter Thirteen