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An Innocent Deception
by Oren the Otter
Oren the Otter -- all rights reserved

Bill was immensely relieved when Rich and Millie showed up at the door. "Thank you for coming so soon!" he breathed.

"No problem." said Rich. "It's lucky you caught us, though. Millie and I were going to go on a camping trip in the morning."

"What is the problem, Bill?"

Bill led his friends around the corner into the den. Surrounded by a ring of furniture, eight little toy animals were crawling around.

"What's going on?" asked the bear.

"That's what I've been trying to figure out. I was trying to salvage whatever I could out of the store. I had just gathered together all the plush animals that weren't harmed by the fire. As I was sorting through them, these eight started moving around on their own."

"I see."

"I looked at their tags. They all came from the same place: Butternose INC."

"Are they the same guys who made that interactive badger?"

"...That cost them a fortune in court after it attacked a teenage ferret morph? That's the one. Their prices were really cheap. It's the only way they could stay competitive after what happened to their reputation."

Rich just shook his head. Millie gave Bill a look that asked for more information.

"I did a search on Butternose on the webstation. It turns out that they recently closed down after a criminal investigation revealed that they were tied to a SCABS slavery ring.

"Oh my!"

Rich became wide-eyed. "You're telling me that these are people?"

"I'm saying that. They weren't as lucky as you and me, though. We're still us, even though we're stuffed animals. These guys went all the way. Their minds went bye-bye, either on their own, or with some encouragement. As far as I can tell, the trauma of the fire shocked them to life, but they don't have anything from before that. All eight of them are infants, now, reguardless of who or what they were before."

"So what do we do?"

Bill sat on the coffee table and rubbed his head with a floppy paw. "That's what I'm trying to figure out. The law says I should call social services, but you know what'll happen if I do that."

Millie nodded. "They'll be shipped off to an inanimorph colony."

"Probably." Rich agreed. "They'll grow up in a pen, totally neglected. If they don't go inanimate again, they'll be messed up for life."

"I can't let that happen!" Bill cried.

"What about adoption?" said Millie hopefully. "You can adopt them as your own children."

"Me? I'm single, and I just lost my only means of income."

"Us, then!" said Millie, turning to Rich, her eyes imploring. "We've always wanted children, and we're married."

"We're still unemployed." said Rich. "The state would never let us adopt eight children."

"Besides," added Bill. "The three of us are SCABs. Society hates us and considers us diseased. You don't stand a chance of adopting on that point alone."

"Do you really believe that?"

Bill's voice became a whisper as he said "Do you think that fire was started by faulty wiring? I don't."

Rich sighed. "We have to do something." he said.

Millie wrung her hands for a second and asked "Bill, do you have some white thread?"

"Well, sure. Why?"

Millie walked over to the Bill's desk and picked up a letter opener. Trembling, she placed the instrument to her stomach.

"Millie, what are you doing?"

She thrust! With a squeal, she moved the knife downward, cutting through her stitches.

Bill swooned. Rich rushed to his wife's side. "What in the world are you doing?"

"The only thing I can do. Rich, the state will never let us adopt, but they can't interfere if they're already our children."

"What are you saying?"

Millie pulled a handful of stuffing out. "We take the babies, put them inside me and sew me up. I act pregnant for a little while, and then when the time comes, we take them out in front of witnesses. As far as social services will be concerned, It will be a stuffed mouse giving birth, just another unexplained mystery of inanimorphs."

Rich nodded his understanding, and picked up the dragon.

The couple's plans took an unexpected twist. They were in the middle of the woods when Millie's stitches decided that they were no longer going to hold. Hoping to salvage the situation, Rich secured a cellular phone from a nearby otter-morph and called up three of the leading experts on SCABS to come and confirm the birth.

Of necessity, one of these was Doctor John Phillip, the leading expert on stuffed animal SCABs. He pronounced all of the newborns healthy, and then took Doctor Derksen aside for a moment.

"This is absolutely incredible, isn't it?" asked Dr. Phillip.

"It is." said Derksen with more than a touch of skepticism in his voice. I've heard of only one case where SCABs bred true, and that was under conditions which could not be repeated in a pair of inanimorphs."

"True, but I'm referring to something even more incredible." said Phillip as he held up a stuffed otter that squirmed in his hands. "These plushies are at least ten years old. They've had tags attached after they were fully assembled and later removed. I can also safely say that they've been recently exposed to smoke."

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