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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 13: Brown 102
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Previous chapter: Chapter 12: Kondor 100
It seemed to bother his escort--Derek decided to think of these men as his escort, as it was the only word he could find that didn't have connotations he didn't like--that he flew circles around them, but the truth was it was difficult to fly so slowly as they moved through the difficult undergrowth, and impossible to keep up with them if he walked. After a few minutes, they gave up trying to keep him between them, and just tried to keep moving. It didn't take long at all for them to reach the clearing; a helicopter was settled on the ground, its blades still whirring dangerously.
"I don't think I can get on that chopper."
"Don't tell me you're afraid of flying."
"No, it's not that," he said. "I don't think I'd have any problem being on the chopper, if you see the difference. It's getting on it that is going to be the problem. The downdraft from those blades is going to push me to the ground; it might even damage my wings. And at the moment I don't seem to be able to change to a larger form, so there's no way I can get myself from here to there, that I can see at this point, anyway."
Chameleon stopped, apparently seeing the point.
"What do you suggest?" he said.
"Well, the only thing I can think of is you'll have to get a towel or something to cover me, and carry me there. Once you've got me inside and you close the doors, or whatever you call them on a helicopter, I should be fine."
Chameleon nodded, his head cocked slightly and his eyes diverted.
"Iguana," he called. "When you packed that bag, did you see anything about the size of a pillow case or bath towel?"
"There was something that looked like a kid's bathrobe."
"That should do. Get it for me, would you?"
It took a moment for the large soldier to oblige, but soon Chameleon was holding Ferris Hoffman's outfit.
"Careful with that, please," Morach said. "It's the only one I've got." But Chameleon gently, if somewhat awkwardly, wrapped the sprite body in the cloth, and then tucked it in his arm and rushed over to the waiting transport. The others were aboard already, and the door closed.
There was an older man, probably in his forties, sitting there. "Welcome aboard, he said. "You can call me Sea Turtle. What should I call you?"
Derek hesitated. "Well, for the moment you'd better call me Morach. Theian Toreinu Morach. That's what I'm called when I look like this."
"Well, Morach, welcome to Brazil; we're going to stop at the beach to provide you with the requested food and sunshine, and then we've got to get you to London, England. Any of that mean anything to you?"
"Oh, yes. I take it you've had versers who don't know anything about earth?"
"Not generally, actually. However, we've never had one like you before. This may seem a really stupid question, but have you ever flown before?"
Derek laughed. "Well, apart from the wings, I was at the helm of a space freighter briefly once. I blew it up, but it's what I was trying to do, so I guess I did pretty good then. Otherwise no, nothing like this."
"Well, hang on, then. I'd tell you to buckle up, but we don't have seat belts that would fit you very well, so we'll just have to make do."
"For what it's worth, sir," Derek answered, "I'm not really afraid of falling out."
The older man smiled, waved his hand in a circle, and the engine roared to life, preventing any further conversation.
For about a half an hour they traveled not in silence but bathed in pounding white noise, moving rapidly over the trees. If this was Brazil, Derek realized, that must be the Amazon, what did they call it--rainforest, jungle, whatever it was. It was supposed to be a pretty wild and dangerous place, with a lot of deadly animals. That large snake might have been something he was fortunate to have avoided.
They landed on an isolated beach; the sun was high in the sky, the air warm, the sand hot. A van was parked not far from them. Two people came over carrying a couple of cardboard boxes; one looked heavy.
"We've got the stuff you requested, Sea Turtle. What do you need this for anyway?"
"Classified," Sea Turtle responded. "Thanks, but you'd better leave this with me." He signed a paper, and the two left--not without craning their necks a bit to see what they could see, but a hard stare from Chameleon chased them away.
"This," Sea Turtle said as the chopper blades came to a halt, "is what you requested--protein bars and high energy body mass drinks. I'm not sure what you want with them, but here they are."
"Well," Derek answered, "I'm not sure it's going to work, but it's the best idea I've got yet."
He dropped out of the chopper holding Ferris' clothes, and helped himself to a can and a bar. They were too big for him to eat completely, but he made a meal of it, and waited a few minutes. Then he pulled out another of each, setting them next to the open ones, and tossed the clothes on the sand. He hesitated only a moment, but modesty wasn't going to be useful in this situation--he removed his clothes, lay face down on the sand with the sun beating down on him, and thought about being Ferris Hoffman.
Suddenly it happened again. He transformed; he was cold, despite the hot sun. He was hungry and weak. He grabbed the open can and drank the rest, then gulped down the protein bar. It seemed to be working; his body was digesting the food so rapidly he could feel the strength coming back to him. He pulled open the next can and downed it also, and the extra protein bar, and he was stable. He was Ferris Hoffman, sitting naked on the sand.
"Well, it's never been that difficult before," he said, "but then, it worked."
"I've never seen anything like that," one of them said.
"Yeah?" Ferris answered. "Give me a minute, and you'll see it again.”
He sat panting. The ache in his arms was fading, the cold dispersing, the blood flowing through his veins. He let the sun beat down on his naked back. Then he took out two more cans and two more bars, and opened one of each.
"You're going to eat another one?" Someone said. "Those things are so filling I don't see how you finished the ones you just had."
"Well, most people don't have to bulk up as much as I do. Hey, Iguana, take a minute and see if you can find a decent set of clothes in that pack for a boy about five feet tall."
"You're not five feet tall," he answered. "You're not even three feet tall."
"No, I'm not," he said. "But Derek is." And with those words, he began again to transform, growing, feeling the chill, feeling the energy drain out of him. As soon as he could steady his hands, he grabbed the open can and downed the beverage in three gulps, followed by the bar, barely chewed, and then the other two.
In the dead silence that followed, he looked at his hands. He'd done it. He was once more Derek.
Standing up and brushing the sand off his body, he called out, "Have you got those clothes for me yet, Iguana?"
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #218: Versers Resume. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: