Brian W. Antoine
December 7, 1993
So Many Trees, So Little Time
The whole group of us stepped out of the gate and into the entryway of Bob's new home. Now that the interior was a little less stark, it looked pretty good. "So you want Kalindra and I to pick out rooms huh."
"Yep. Your supposed to be family now so you get rooms of your own to stay in when you visit."
Bob was giving us the guided tour of the completed living area. He and his family had been knocking themselves out to get things setup so they could move in and it showed. There might be a few rough edges, and the occasional box of stuff still waiting to be unpacked, but things were shaping up quite nicely. Karen was showing Kal around the kitchen and trading recipes when Bob pulled me to the side.
"You got a moment?" he whispered.
We stepped into another room that was still empty for the moment. "Yeah, what's up? You can't be having problems with the plumbing already."
He chuckled at that. "No, no problems. I do have a question though."
He looked through the doorway towards where Kalindra and Karen were chatting. "How am I suppose to treat Kalindra when she's visiting? I'm still a little fuzzy on this 'family' thing."
"Simple, give her as much shit as you think you can get away with."
"Huh, you're kidding right?"
"Nope. This side of the Velar gate you treat her like a cousin or some close family relation. The only time you need to be formal is when she's acting as family head on her side of the gate." I grabbed a box and sat down on it. After a glance of my own through the doorway, I continued. "That was one of the things we talked about after she suggested we ask you into the family. We finally decided to use the gate as the dividing line. Kind of the 'when in Rome, do as' thing.
"So she won't fry me if I get out of line?" The look in his eye's said he had something in mind.
"I would be careful if I were you. She has to adjust to this as much as you do and I can tell you she has one hell of a temper. Still, Velan's love a good joke even more than we do." I watched Bob reaction. The twinkle was gone, but the look wasn't. Something told me that Kalindra was about to meet her match in the practical joke department.
"I wouldn't worry too much about it. Although I'd run like hell when she figures out the bit with the spike." I tugged on the ruby in my ear. "Be glad I talked her into making yours a clip. She wanted to pop your ear the same way she did mine."
"Ouch! That hurts just thinking about it."
I looked into the other room. "Yeah, but the compensations are worth it" I muttered as I watch my mate talking to Karen. "You wouldn't have a tube of Jab's hairball medication would you?"
He had to think about that for a second. "Eeeeeuuuuu, that's sick."
I just smiled and changed the subject as Karen and Kal walked into the room. "So, what have you two been plotting in here" asked Karen.
I winked at Bob. "Who, us? We were just discussing Jab's medication." Bob about choked as he swallowed wrong. I just sat there and looked innocent.
Kal came over and grabbed me by the ear to lead me away. "Come on you, time for your practice. Karen tells me there is a great pathway that leads around the inner core area through the forest. I'll race you and loser owes the winner a backrub."
My eye's lit up. "Ah, incentive! Lead on loser." We walked out the living area to the walkway. It marked the beginning of a path that lead to the small forest and stream that spiraled around the inner wall.
"Race?" Bob asked. "You racing with magic?"
"Not exactly. I need the practice moving before I commit to doing something I've been thinking about for a while now."
"Practice... Practice loosing maybe. I've seen Kalindra run and you're going to get left in the dust."
I snickered. "Actually she gets a bit of a head start. My coordination is getting better and I've beat her the last two times." I looked over at Karen. "Mind if we borrow the kitchen afterwards? This burns up calories like you wouldn't believe."
"A new kind of diet huh. You willing to fix enough for the kids also?"
"Sure, as long as they like chili." Bob gave a shudder as he'd had my chili before. I looked over at my mate. "Whenever you're ready!" With a grin, she took off at a run down the path.
I'd practiced enough to have the shift time down to about 10 seconds. With the image in my mind I triggered the transformation. As the light faded away, Bob and Karen found themselves staring at a rather large Arctic Wolf.
"Jesus H Christ!" came the voice from beside me. I swung my head and winked at Bob as he stared at me in shock. With a quick sniff of the ground I had Kalindra's trail and let out a howl that run shivers up the spine of everyone in hearing distance.
*You can run, but you can't get away!* I took off at a slow run at first. I was still getting use to the different shape and tended to stumble unless I paid real close attention. As I fell into my rhythm though, I began to howl again. The chase was on, and to the winner went the backrub!
Score one for the Wolves
I was standing in the checkout line when I spotted the garish headlines of this weeks "National Blab" screaming up at me. The clerk thought I was nuts as I stood there and laughed.
* * *
Mother Nature Fights Back?
Has mother nature finally had enough of the biological infestation known as the human race? Just ask Gene Atkins and Steve Jenkins of the Alaskan Wolf Management Team. While hunting for wolves last week, the two had their helicopter shot out from under them by what they claim was the '... largest damned Arctic Wolf I've ever seen'. Both men had to hike out of the wilderness on foot after...
* * *
I was having the time of my life as I romped through the Alaskan back country. Maybe it was the form I wore, and maybe not. I didn't much care as I wove my way between the trees at a lope that chewed up the miles faster than I'd ever have managed normally. I had no particular destination in mind. It was more like exploration than a planned mission. Even so, both Penny and Kalindra were tracking me via the remote that was trying its best to keep up with me.
*Come on slowpoke. I know that thing can move better then that. I built it after all.*
*Penny says you didn't build it for quite this kind of travel* came the caustic comment from my mate.
*She's just pissed because she keeps hitting the trees* I replied with a snicker mixed in.
It had become something of a game between us. Even though that remote had the sensors available to track me. I'd managed at least twice to lose it by running through the dense undergrowth and snow on the forest floor. Finally, Penny guided it above the tree tops and just followed my general path rather than try to keep up with my specific movements.
*Penny wants to know if your interested in the helicopter that is working its way up the valley behind you?*
I skidded to a stop and threw snow everywhere. *What's it doing?* I was in some pretty dense growth, so I couldn't see the remote as it peeled away and headed back to check out the copter. A few seconds later I found I was being hunted.
*Its got official state markings all over it and one of the two guys is carrying a rifle. It looks like they are following your tracks from the point you entered the valley.*
*Those damned, ignorant...* I treated Kalindra to a quick lesson in rage as I thought about those clowns in the copter. I'd started this little adventure to find a way to slow or prevent what I now found myself living.
*Ok, we step up the timetable a little. How long before they get here?*
*At their rate, I give you about 15 minutes.*
*Give me a bearing to the nearest clearing and get the remote back here. I think I've got just enough time to create my message.* As Penny told me the direction, I took off at a quick run. Even given the situation, I still enjoyed the sensation of the pure speed I was capable of. *Have Penny keep the remote close and cloaked. I don't want them to have any clue about what happens.*
Circling the opening, I took care to leave as little trail as possible as I started to stomp and roll my way through the message I was leaving in the snow. I was about halfway through the third word when I saw the copter appear over the tops of the trees at the edge of the clearing.
* * *
"There it is. About mid way between those two humps. See it?"
It took Gene a second to figure out where his partner Steve was pointing, but he spotted the wolf running around in the snow without too much trouble. "Yah, I got him. What the hell is he doing? You suppose he's rabid?"
"You got me. He sure isn't acting right."
As the copter slowed and approached the wolf, they expected it to bolt for the trees. Steve was tracking it with the scope on his rifle that he'd poked through the slot in the canopy. Instead, the wolf held its ground and seemed to wait for them to approach.
"That thing must be ancient. Look at the size of it!"
"Uh Steve, you want to take a look at this."
"Shutup, you'll ruin my shot."
"I really think you ought to look at this" came Gene's nervous voice.
With a snarl, Steve pulled eye from the scope and turned to his partner. "What the hell is the problem?"
Gene just pointed at the snow field that extended from the wolfs position to the edge of the trees. As they had gotten close enough and above it. A message had appeared in the snow below them. It was rough formed, but was certainly readable. It said simply; 'Thin Out Humans Instead'.
Steve looked at his partner. "Its gotta be a joke. One of those damned Eco groups set this up as a joke."
Gene looked down at the wolf that was sitting in the depression at the edge of the 'd'. "Yeah, right."
"Fuck'em" and Steve raised the rifle to the opening again.
* * *
*Do you see anything like a video camera present?*
*Penny says it's clean. Just the two of them. Whoops, get ready. The marksman is taking aim again.*
It wasn't visible, but my shield was up and protecting me. Sitting in the snow, I waited for them to take the first shot. When it came, I startled slightly, but held my ground. *Upper shoulder area. That would have crippled me, but not killed me cleanly.* I saw the second shot prang off my shield right in front of my face.
*Penny says you ought to see the look on the face of the guy with the rifle. His partner is giving him shit for not being able to shoot straight.*
*Well, let's give them something else to consider also.* I stood up and hopped about five feet to the side. Watching the copter with one eye, I proceeded to add an exclamation point after the word 'Instead'. I was just finishing when the next shot rang out. *Ok, enough is enough. Penny, take out the tail rotor on that thing and make it look like I did it.*
From just over my shoulder a beam of emerald energy lanced out and sheared the last three feet of the tail off the helicopter. I stood ready to assist if things got real bad, but as expected the pilot was good enough to autorotate the thing to the ground. It still made nice sound as it plowed into the snow.
As the main rotor spun down, I loped over and standing on my hind legs peered into the canopy. While shaken up, both the pilot and the idiot with the rifle were ok. When they saw me looking at them, the one with the rifle grabbed it and swung it around to point at me. Raising one paw, I knocked on the canopy and grinned at him. I could see him cussing and the pilot yelling at him. With as much disdain as I could muster. I dropped to the ground, turned my back on the copter and scratched snow at it with my hind legs. Then with a final glance over my shoulder, I loped off into the woods and headed home.
* * *
"What's so funny?" asked the clerk. I pointed at the headline that had set me off. "Oh yeah. I read that one, but I didn't find it that funny. Those guys had to be drunk and could have killed themselves."
I just smiled. "Actually it was pretty funny, but I guess you had to be there. How much did you say this stuff was?"