[Vfw-times] a storm of many winds, part 6

Oren Otter bevary at atcjet.net
Wed Nov 17 05:20:30 CST 1999

Here's the latest installment of a story which Sandfur and I have been
working on together.

The story so far:
Sandfur discovered one day that he could transform into an otter.
Delighted with this discovery, he offered to tell his transformation
mailing list how he did it, only to recieve a dozen e-mails warning him not
to tell anyone.
He was later picked up by a group of otter-people like himself.  He learned
that we humans are not what we seem, but that we are half of a different
race, which long ago split to become humans and otters.  Each human has a
corresponding otter half, and he, like the others, managed to reunite his
two halves into a single entity.
As his memories of life as an otter slowly return, he is given a tour of a
vast underground city, big enough to support several billion ferral otters.
 He also learns that there is more in his head than the memories of his two
previous selves, as he begins to understand that he is a walking repository
for the knowledge of an alien civilization...

The Storm of Many Winds
by Oren and Sandfur
Part six

	"Another one is merging!" boomed the voice of Rashim across the cavern.
The husky cape clawless rushed toward the city, almost in a panic.
	"Who, Rashim?" Oren called back.  "Where?"
	"I do not know his name.  His human half is in here..." he drew a map on
of the united states on the ground with his finger, then pointed to
Minnesota.  His otter half..."
	"Please tell me it's here."
	"Not here, but nearby.  In a stream, about forty miles north."
	Sandfur was just beginning to get the fuzziest image of the individual who
was undergoing the re-unification process.  His name was Nathan, and he had
been one of the few who had received his e-mail concerning how to
transform.  "He's disappearing." said Sandfur.  "His merge is going the
opposite way mine did.  The human half is teleporting into the otter."
	Oren began barking orders.  "Sandfur, Rashim, into the ottermobile.  We
can be there in thirty minutes."
	* * *

	Wuf was not an otter who was prone to flights of fancy or an attraction to
the bizarre.  Perhaps that was why he started screaming when his body
inexplicably began growing.  His shoulders stood out to the side and his
legs became very long.  Most frightening, though, was that his mind was
changing.  There were new memories there which weren't there before.  Who
was he?  Was he Wuf?  Was he a human named Nathan?  Or was he something
else entirely?  Feeling freakish and scared, the creature hid himself in
the bushes.
	He was still like that when the others arrived.
	Three friendly faces peered down at him as he stood and shivered.  They
were the faces of otters, but attached to almost human bodies, like his own.
	"Nathan?" said one.  
	"Who are you?"
	"It's me, Oren.  Remember me?"
	"I... I think so."
	"His brain is scrambled from the merging." said Sandfur.  "Let's get him
back to Otter City."
	* * *

	Wuthan, as the newcomer had begun to call himself, was even more impressed
by the massive underground city and its billions of furry inhabitants than
Sandfur had been.  Neither of his halves had dwelt here, as Sandfur's otter
side had, nor did he have the ability to call on the racial memory.  And
yet, he seemed to understand each of the strange technological devices
which he saw.
	"That's a replicator!" he declared with fascination.  "It takes in waste
material and reconstructs it at the atomic level to produce food and air
and fresh water!  And this over here is a medical bay.  Look here!  It's
got a zeta-beam growth inducer!"
	"Nathan, how can you possibly know what all of these things are?" Oren
	"I... I'm not sure.  It's almost as if they're talking to me.  I just know
what they do."
	A smile passed between Amanda and her father.  "Maybe you could help us
with something, then."
	Amanda led Wuthan to a computer terminal.  She flicked it on, and a
hologram sprang to life.  It was small and flickery, but still far superior
to anything conventional technology had to offer.  "My name is Chu Wheng."
said the otter-man in the holo.  "I am the eyes through which you may gaze
into the soul of the lutran race."
	"Poetic." said Wuthan.
	"Naturally." said Sandfur.  "Human logic mixed with lutrine playfulness.
They spoke like this all the time."
	"Why is he speaking English?" asked Rashim."
	The hologram of Chu Wheng shifted suddenly, jumping to a separate
pre-recorded scene.  "I would like to answer your question, my friend from
the future, but first, I must be sure that yours are the ears for which my
music is intended.  Can you tell me my activation code?"
	"This is where I get stuck." said Amanda.  "I have no idea how to respond."
	Sandfur searched the lutran racial memory.  For some reason, this detail
was blocked out.
	"Four." said Wuthan simply.
	"Oh, good!" Chu Wheng beamed.  "I can see that my suspicions were misplaced!"
	"Four?" echoed Dan.  "What kind of an idiot uses "four" as a passcode?"
	"I'm sorry.  I do not understand that question."
	"Why are you speaking English?" asked Rashim again.
	"This computer is programmed to match the language of its user.  It
contains a lexicon including over three hundred lutran languages."
	"Where did the lutran come from?" asked Amanda.
	The hologram seemed to smile.  "The lutran homeworld is a lovely
blue-white marble known as Gavin.  Is it not beautiful?"  A second hologram
appeared, showing a planet much like Earth.  "We dearly loved Gavin, but
our people were paying the price for millennia of carelessness.  Our
ocean-mother became sick, and was dying, so a portion of our populous
traveled here, to Earth, to start anew."
	"What was it like?" Rashim inquired.
	"Earth was a brutal mate to woo." replied the recording.  "She was bare as
the polar mountaintops which rise from the ocean depths.  We brought to her
the gift of life.  As we prepared the planet to receive us, we built this
self-contained city, this jewel in the dark.  Our first preparation
involved the bestowment of power, given like a breath of wind to each of
the tribes to help us create a gentler world."
	"Powers?" echoed Light.  "Why not use machines?"
	"Machines are better servants than masters." the recording said
cryptically before resuming the previous explanation.  Light was left
	"The first four winds of power were breathed into the terraformers.  To
the Canica tribe was given the power of the ground, to turn the rocks of
the earth into life-giving soil.  To the Senuit tribe, the wind of the air,
that it might become sweet for breathing.  To the Soutecca tribe, the power
of fire, that the sulpherous volcanoes might be tamed.  To the Mijini, the
wind of water, so that the rivers would be plentiful and the rain gentle
and pure."
	As Oren watched, he noted how the representatives of each race which
popped up next to Chu Wheng displayed the features of a certain human race
and a certain otter race.  Eskimo and sea otter.  Lutra Canadensis and
plains Indian.  The recording continued.
	The next four winds were powers of the mind.  To the Jas Chu, The power to
tap into our racial memory, so that we would never forget who we are.  To
the Maxrab, the power of speaking to beasts and to machines, to help smooth
the work to be done.  To the Ethiles tribe, the power of finding, to allow
us to locate resources.  The eighth wind, given to the Grasia tribe, is the
power of charm and persuasion.  It is the most powerful of the winds, and
therefore only permitted to be employed by the tribe's leader."
	The next tribal representative to appear reminded Oren of himself and his
daughter, although the resemblance to both a European river otter and a
neanderthal was unmistakable.
	"The next four winds were winds of the blood of the body.  To the Eurathal
tribe was given the power to sculpt flesh, in order to allow our animals to
exist on Earth."
	"Did it work?" someone in the back inquired.  The hologram shifted to
another track to answer the question.  "Sadly, not every species proved
adaptable to conditions on our new world.  The dinosaurs, in especial, were
unable to adapt to the colder climates, and despite a last ditch effort by
our flesh sculptors to insulate them by giving them fur or feathers, the
great reptiles quickly perished."
	"That explains that." said Wuthan.
	The hologram returned to the former discourse.  "The tenth wind was
breathed into the Sax Wilo tribe.  Theirs was the power to encourage the
growth of plants, in hopes of gaining not only bountiful crops, but a
suitable base for an entire ecosystem.  The eleventh wind was breathed into
the Litnor tribe, giving them the power to assume not only the normal
shapes of otter and human, but also the forms of any other beast, allowing
them to roam the planet and insure that all is well in every corner.  The
twelfth and final wind was breathed into the Elfilim tribe.  Theirs is the
power of great physical strength.   In the event that we are ever
threatened, the Elfilim shall serve as our protectors and defenders."
	"Something wrong here." said Sandfur.  "There aren't twelve tribes.  There
are thirteen.  What about the... oh, it's on the tip of my tongue!"
	"I had hoped you would not ask that." said Chu Wheng, looking crestfallen.
 "There is a thirteenth tribe, and a thirteenth wind.  The Gim are known on
our world as the dire ones.  They have always been the professors of doom,
and their role is no different here.  They have been given the
responsibility of watching the lutran to insure that we never again become
like our ancestors who choked and poisoned our home planet of Gavin."
	"What was there power?" Amanda prodded.
	"Should our people ever become as careless as our ancestors, there is a
provision for our removal from our world.  The Gim have been given the
power to destroy our people if it should become necessary."
	"We would not die." said the hologram.  Should the destruction of the
lutrans prove unavoidable, there is a device which will allow the Gim to
access the power they have been given.  It acts as both a key and a
focusing device.  Upon its first usage, our entire race would be broken.
Each individual would be divided into two separate selves, one otter, one
human.  It is our hope that in this event, the two lesser races which would
emerge would be able to live in harmony with Earth."
	"You said first usage." Oren pointed out.  "What happens if it's used again?"
	"If the two races which we become prove unable to live at peace with our
new world, the power of the Gim may be employed a second time.  There would
be no division the second time.  For our half-selves, it would mean instant
and planetwide death.  Our atoms would be restored to the air, the water,
and the ground."
	"Wait a minute." said Rashim.  "If the Gim are divided too, who's going to
use the Gim's power?"
	The hologram had no answer.
	"Oh my..."
	"What is it, Oren?"
	"You realize what this means?  As otters, we haven't done too badly.  As
humans, we've royally screwed up the planet.  We're ripe to get wiped out
by the Gim.  What happens if someone who happens to be of the Gim tribe
gets re-united?"
	"Oh no!"  Sandfur, this time.
	"What is it?"
	"Computer, show me both polar forms of the Gim tribe."
	The holojector complied, displaying a creature on either side of Chu
Wheng, slowly rotating.  One was a ferocious looking black otter with teeth
like a Tasmanian devil.  The other was a human with pitch black skin with a
musculature that rivaled a dump truck.
	"I know someone who looks like that.  Jason Grimm.  I sent him
instructions on how to merge before I got your warning."
	This was met with a chorus of frightened purrs.  Jason had an interesting
quirk.  When talking to his online friends, he liked to portray himself as
evil.  All of his characters were archvillians.  An evil wizard, a
tyrannical judge, a trigger-happy pyrotechnic, a murderous space- pirate.
Jason enjoyed being evil, and now he had the potential of destroying all
intelligent life on the planet.
	"This is what we were afraid of."  Said Oren in a hoarse whisper.  "There
is a device behind that door over there which could mean the end of the
world as we know it.  We didn't want it to be discovered.  Now, it may be
impossible to stop.

-Oren the Otter
tlhaQ biQ Ha'DIbaH
The Changing Workplace: http://www.geocities.com/duster_skunk/strips.htm

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