The Commercial
by Michael Bard and Quentin 'Cubist' Long

  Whilst watching TV, the following commercial bursts upon you:
  You see an aerial shot of the BioSphere, well-known home of the SurviFur Challenges. As the camera focuses in on the structure, the voiceover begins...
  "Less then one week until the premiere of the real, genuine First SurviFur Challenge! And this time, it will be a show like no other. This time, not only must the 28 participants in 7 tribes compete in challenges, they must survive on their own against the elements --"
  Picture cuts to show three humans and a pig-lizard running for shelter through driving rain.
  "-- the Mutopia traps --"
  Picture cuts to show a man shrinking down into a squirrel.
  "-- and against each other!"
  Picture cuts to show what appears to be a centaur, covered in mud and leaves, holding and sighting along a dark rifle of some kind.
  "This time it's a no-holds-barred contest, so that only the toughest, slimiest, and most evil player will come out on top and win his or her chosen transformation and five million dollars!
  "Here are just some of the people who have participated in the spectacle that you will see starting in just one week on the TSA Channel..."
  Picture cuts to a view of a large apartment with scuffed wooden floor. On the far wall is a picture of white Arabian steed and beside it a wooden shelf with books. In the centre of the screen is a centaur. The centaur is conventional in appearance, with his horse-body being the same white Arabian as the picture. The upper body is caucasian human, tanned and muscular, wearing a B5™ T-shirt. The centaur has neatly combed hair (and tail and fur) and is wearing glasses.
  "Why should I be on SurviFur? A good question.
  "First, I take it you want interesting people that will make entertaining television. Well, you must admit that I am interesting, as I am so far the third person to take the centaur treatment. Why did I do it? Look at the picture! Thus you will get an instant recognition factor.
  "Second, you want interesting events. This is a game; I play games, and I play to win. I win by being creative and looking for unusual ways to get an advantage. If past seasons are any indication, there are liquid mediums of transformation. Thus, let's share the wealth."
  The centaur reaches off camera and bring in a huge squirt gun, one of the brightly coloured plastic ones that are pumped to generate air pressure to propel the water. He pumps it once and the sound of a rifle cocking can be heard. He then points it directly at the viewer.
  "All you do is fill this handy device with the appropriate liquid, point, and shoot."
  Water streams from the gun until it covers the lens of the camera. The form of the centaur can be vaguely made out through the film of water.
  "Got you. And there are lots more..."
  Picture cuts to a fairy-tale scene looked down upon from a height of about 15'. In the centre is a big white fluffy house cat with large expressive ears, big floufy tail, and the saddest, most innocent blue eyes you have ever seen. If there is a poster creature for innocent and kyoote, then this is it. Around her appears a dense forest, the light cool except for a shining shaft that illuminates just the house cat. All around is wildlife: birds that fly around her; and squirrels who are playing or even asleep curled against her legs.
  "Please sir, may I be on SurviFur?" She holds her hands outwards (palms up) as though begging, and looks up, her eyes wide and desperate, and so innocent that the viewer is almost drawn into their depths and only there, far far within, can something else possibly be glimpsed. "I want to so much, and it would make me so happy!" A single tear can be seen sparkling in the sunlight just forming from her left eye.
  "I know that I can do good, and make the viewers happy and keep them watching. If I'm there then they will be drawn to watch me help others, because that's all I want to do." The tear starts to slide down her cheek on top of the floufy fur, leaving a slight compression of dampened fur behind. "If you let me come, then I will always be nice and helpful to both my tribemates, the cameramen, and the viewer. I will always make sure to look my best." Another tear starts to form. "Please....?"
  At this point even Ebenezer Scrooge before his fateful Christmas would be crying.
  But then, the sky turns dark and blinding shafts of lighting stab down from the heavens as though God Himself were carpet-bombing the place. The trees are shattered, and every single squirrel and bird is hit individually and collapses or falls to the ash waste that was once the forest floor as a blackened skeleton.
  In the centre the oh so cute and innocent kitty cat, perfectly clean and brushed in her white floufy fur, is smiling.
  "And if my appearance doesn't work, I have other ways. And these ways can apply even if you do not invite me.
  "This is your only warning."
  Picture cuts to a black screen with pleasant baritone voiceover: "I should be on SurviFur 'cuz I'm a fun kinda guy. Just ask anyone who knows me, man! Take a look..."
  View fades into a video arcade: Raucous noise at an ear-breaking decibel level, flashing lights, and thickly crowded with people of every shape, size, and species. The camera pans over to an air-hockey table. A sleek, rail-thin 'morph, covered with spotted fur, is at one end; the other is taken up by a large Black man (6'5" and 320 lbs) with neatly trimmed hair, wearing sneakers, khaki denim jeans, and a T-shirt with "DOPPLER SHIFT" written on its front in blue letters.
  The score is tied at 6 - 6. The Black man has control of the puck, which drifts dreamily back and forth, from right to left, on his side of the table. The cheetahmorph is very irritated; he's stepping from side to side himself, his body language twitchy like an old-time motion picture.
  "Get on with it!" the morph screams, his voice distorted by frustration.
  "Just waiting for the surgically precise moment, friend," the human shouts, barely audible over the crowd noise.
  And the puck goes back and forth... back and forth... as the feline's impatience drives him to ever-greater heights of annoyance. Finally the human does strike the puck. With a discordant screech, the cheetah's arm lashes out in a blur that overshoots its mark... and on the backstroke, knocks the puck into his own goal.
  Fade to black.
  Voiceover: "That cat really was a tough customer, believe me. But once I sussed out how to use his speed against him... well, that was all she wrote, brother. 'Cuz I play to win, no matter what the game. Check it out:"
  Fade into a dojo. The Black is one of many students, all wearing blue belts on their white gi's. He is sparring with his black-belted instructor, who is at least a foot shorter than he. His greater reach does allow him to score a point, but the instructor's greater skill ultimately decides the match.
  Fade to black.
  Voiceover: "Couple months back, I couldn't get nothin' off of Mr. Kaizen there," says the satisfied voice. "I just keep on tryin' 'til I get it right. Now, what else... Oh yeah -- the folks at home wanna know what kinda stuff I'm bringing in with me, right? Okay; I'm on it..."
  Fade to a cluttered room, with a few tables and desks and chairs. There are computers and peripherals over most of the available surfaces, thick manuals on many of the others, and disc cases on what few remain. We see the Black man seated near a 30-inch LCD monitor; he smiles pleasantly into the camera.
  "Welcome to my sanctum sanctorum, folks. The name is Malcolm. Co-workers call me 'Mr. Xavier'; everyone else can call me 'Mal'. Let's see, now... I got my staff, here." He reaches to one side, grabs a long, thin, woodgrained pole. "It's a walking stick, I can beat stuff over the head with it, and it's good for things I'd just as soon not touch with my hands." He puts the staff down, takes a 8-inch-long thick tube from off a desk. "This thing's a water purifier. If the BioSphere follows the pattern of past years, I'm bettin' it'll come in real handy." Still holding the tube in one hand, his other raises a palmtop computer, a Palm Pilot Mac Mega IV. "You guys didn't think a computer geek like me could go anywhere without a little hardware, didja?" Cut to closeup on the palmtop's screen. Mal plays with it; we see dozens upon dozens of e-books, and a like number of games. "The way I see it, my tribe'll need something to keep from going stir-crazy on dull nights, and I guess this is it. That's the big stuff right there. The rest of it's pretty boring, really." Cut to floor, with various mundane pieces of small equipment laid out in a jumble. Fade to black.
  "So there y' have it. That's why I should be on SurviFur."
  Picture cuts to a view of a room furnished in a subtly ostentatious style. It is not immediately apparent that the pillows on the couch are genuine Oriental silk, that the couch's upholstery is genuine cashmere, nor that the walls are paneled in Asian teakwood. The paintings on the walls are a Rembrandt and a Monet, both of them the actual painting rather than a print, their dark wood frames elegantly austere in design. The Lebanese cedar-veneer bookshelves carry only first editions, many of them autographed.
  There is one person on the couch. He sits calmly, facing the camera, which zooms smoothly in on him. We see that his eyes have no whites and are overly large; his ears are pointed and stick out prominently. His hair is very short, its texture much like that of a panther's fur, and it extends down to his just-above-the-eyebrows hairline in front, and down either side of his neck into his long-sleeved, pinstriped shirt and tie. He keeps his hands palm-against-palm in his lap, giving us a clear view of his sharply pointed fingernails.
  He begins to speak when the camera reaches a full head shot of him.
  "My name is Norman Roberts." His voice is a deep bass, and its timbre is noticeably growly. "Some of the viewers may recall my participation in SurviFur two years ago, when my tribe was the odds-on favorite to win the game until that freak cave-in. But even with the handicaps that were imposed as a result, we very nearly did win anyway.
  "The purpose of this recording is to demonstrate my fitness to be on SurviFur. There are three reasons.
  "I came away from SurviFur as you see and hear now; that is the first reason I should be on this year's SurviFur. The winner receives a transformation to the form of his choice, and my choice is -- fully human.
  "Second, I come prepared to win. I intend to remain until victory is ultimately mine, and I have the skills and equipment to do the job." As he says these words, cut to a second camera panning over various pieces of equipment arrayed neatly on a Persian carpet: water containers, a mallet and spikes, a compact manual winch and cable, etc etc. He goes on in voiceover:
  "Since I will be present up until the final episode, viewers will see me every week, which should translate to a higher percentage of continuing viewership and, thus higher ratings.
  "Third, and most important, you really have no choice. Not with the decision the Supreme Court was kind enough to uphold on my behalf. Now, are we quite through wasting everyone's time with these little maneuvers? Thank you."
  Picture cuts back to the aerial view of the BioSphere. The original voiceover continues:
  "These four and 24 others, all sealed together in the BioSphere (home of the last surviving members of the Giant Flying Vampire Piranha Squirrel species created by Biogen), where only one can be the last SurviFur!
  "Tune in if you dare!"
  Camera view starts rapidly panning away from the Biosphere until it vanishes in the distance. Along the bottom of the screen is the following text: