|The Transformation Story Archive||With Fur and Claws...|
Napoleon and the Genie
1923-New York State
The sky was dark and cloudy with a threat of rain as the young pilot dashed across the airfield to his plane. The ground crew already had the engine turning and had pushed the heavy fighter out onto the taxiway. The ground chief saluted the pilot who h astily returned it as he climbed up into the cockpit and fastened his leather helmet over his butchered mane. He stifled a familiar pang of regret but he would never have been able to get his helmet over his mane in it's glory.
"All clear, Cap'n!" the crew chief yelled in his ear before stepping down from helping strap the pilot in. The husky pulled the ladder away from the aircraft and quickly got out of the way as the pilot slid the canopy forward with golden furred paws. W ith a roar of power, the plane surged forward as the pilot eased the throttles forward to take his place on the flight line. As the Saber rolled down the tarmac and into the air, its pilot fondly touched a picture of a young lioness that had been taped t o the control panel. The picture had been signed, "To Daniel, with love: Stefanie."
Napoleon was not having a good day. His short, black hair was plastered against his scalp with sweat as the scorching Arabian sun baked his army in the streets of the small town named Alexandria. He cursed the town and its name and its inhabitants and their pets for good measure; he had conquered two dozen such petty towns with such petty names in the past month already, so why where the British proving so damned difficult all of a sudden? The dark frown on the Emperor's face was more than enough to k eep a circle of solitude around him, except for one general, a tall Hun who never was popular with the Frenchman, so never bothered to appease him.
"Mein Herr," the general began suddenly, stirring Napoleon from his reverie. "Let us step inside for a moment. It is nearly noon and a respite for lunch would clear the mind."
Napoleon looked down on the general from his horse. "Urs, it is always noon in this accursed land. When it is not night, of course. But I agree, let us eat at this inn here and see if the sun has not addled the wits of my staff any further." He slid off his horse and entered the inn. Urs followed a moment later, never getting too close, lest he loom over the general for the Hun was tall by any measure, standing nearly two meters. He glanced at the sign with the inn's name as he entered, but shrugge d for it was in Arabic and Hebrew, neither of which he read.
The inside of the inn was much like the outside, which in turn was like the rest of the town: small and run-down. It was not exactly cool, but it was mercifully dark and the generals and staff gratefully removed their hats and called for service as the y sat at the large center table with a curious brass lamp. Though the lamp had seen better days it had a curious aura of greatness.
1923-New York State, near the Quebec border
Daniel scanned the sky ahead with a small pair of binoculars. There had been a massive explosion at the ammo dump on Fort Lee and he was looking for the saboteurs. Just before the explosion, two figures had been seeing flying north by a motorist on a c arpet. Aircraft had been quickly dispatched in a desperate attempt to find them: the Army's pride had been wounded and now it was snapping back. Daniel shook his head at the wisdom of his orders which were to locate and kill the culprits. The fact tha t he had no idea how he could capture them did not shake the feeling that they should be captured. Well, no matter. He was just a pilot and he had his orders.
He turned his search to the landscape below him as he passed over the small town Stefanie lived in. He had flown up here on a hunch, thinking these saboteurs would be French of course, and this close to Quebec there might just be a few insurgents hiding
out in New York, or possibly they would flee to friends in French Quebec. Although the horrors of the Revolution had discouraged many of French descent in the New World, many were still devoted patriots. He didn't really hope to spot anyone in the fore sted hills of upstate New York, but it was his only idea. He had passed over what had once been the border between the United States and Canada when he spotted them, flying just above the trees. He chuckled at the pair on the carpet. One was a normal e nough human to gauge by looks, but his companion was an exotically dressed vixen, perhaps pretending she was a genie of some sort. Or perhaps she was a genie, Daniel cursed as she turned and caught sight of his plane, letting loose with a blast of lightn ing. He hauled back on the stick and rammed the throttles forward wondering why they sent unwarded aircraft after mages.
1804-An inn in Egypt
"You mean to tell me that this lamp will summon a . . . djinn?" The Emperor asked the Jewish innkeeper. "You must think the sun has cooked by mind as surely as it has yours."
"No no, imperial majesty, I speak the truth," the Jew responded in flawless French. The desert had aged him beyond his years. His hair was still a deep black, but his skin was leathery from the sun. To gauge by his sizable stomach though, he was surel y doing well, especially with his fine clothes. "You merely rub this lamp, and out will emerge a wondrous creature! Three wishes he will grant to you, anything you desire. You need simply ask. Think on it, majesty, you could be the next Al-Adin! And only for a paltry one hundred franks . . ."
Napoleon spat out his drink over the Jew in a harsh laugh. "One hundred franks is outrageous, even if this creature would emerge, which I doubt. If it is so potent, why have you not already wished? No, spare me your excuses about worthiness. I shall not pay you a sou for this worthless door stop, but you will rub it for me, and if you amuse me, perhaps I will even pay you for this horsewater you call wine."
The innkeeper snatched the lamp with a sour face. "When the genie appears, I will wish you and yours to frogs!" Quick as a snake, Napoleon whipped out his pistol and held it an inch from the innkeep's nose.
"If the genie appears," he hissed menacingly, "you will wish for what I tell you, or I shall make you wish you had a had with a mouth to say it!" With a gulp the poor fellow began to rub furiously as the generals grinned evilly. To everyone's surprise,
especially the Jew, a cloud of smoke began to coalesce as the table quickly emptied, except for the Emperor, the Hun, and the Jew
Daniel completed an inverted loop as another bolt blasted by his cockpit. He desperately twisted his plane around, calling on the radio for help.
"This is Eagle three! I've got them! They're just over the state line--" He growled as a near miss blasted his antenna and electricity from the bolt fried the radio, sending sparks into his lap. He rolled over and pulled into a steep dive on the carp et, going almost straight down. With a near-roar, he squeezes the trigger as if choking the mage herself and tapped the rudder pedals to swing his nose back and forth, spraying the target with bullets. His fanged smile held no humor as he saw the human knocked to the carpet as he roared past, leveling out. The vixen hurled great balls of fire at Daniel's plane, desperately trying to get him to keep away. Daniel had no reason not to comply and quickly got some distance, climbing and circling.
"Ye who have freed me will receive two wishes," the genie said in a sultry voice. She was tall for a woman, with skin of deep bronze. Her figure was full and her eyes held wisdom beyond measure. Her clothes could only be barely called such, seeming mo re like vapor, the gauze was so fine. She smiled impishly.
"I would not mind wishing for you," Napoleon murmured.
"Be ye wary of what ye wish for, ere ye receive what ye did not truly want," she answered, sending chills up the Emperor's spine. She turned to the Jew. "Ye have summoned me. I await thy wishes, the number being two."
"Two? He promised me three," the Emperor protested.
"Two is two more than ye did have, small one," she said, quirking an eyebrow at his flush. Again, to the innkeeper, "What wish ye?"
"Wish for me to have a powerful army and fearsome weapons," growled Bonaparte, waving his pistol under the wisher's nose.
"IwishtheEmperorsarmyandweaponswerethemostpowerfulonEarth," the older man said in a rush. The genie laughed heartily and clapped her hands. "Two wishes!" There was a rush of smoke, and then the screaming began.
About half of the generals and soldiers in the room began to change, growing taller, larger, or some smaller. They grew bestial, sprouting fur, scales or feathers as faces stretched into muzzles and tails burst out of uniform pants. The German stared i n horror as his hands grew talons and scales and large wings tore his shirt. With tossed his head back in a bellow of rage and an arc of fire lanced from his hands to a nearby aide, who was incinerated.
"Thus is thy army, now, Emperor," the genie declared, turning the title into an insult. "More than half are no longer human, and a tenthpart of a tenthpart are as this dragon, in that they work magic. These be thy weapons. Go ye now, ere I grow mischi evous now that I be set free." She raised her hands and the room quickly emptied as those changed feared something even worse, and the few humans sought to remain so. Napoleon tried to maintain a shred of dignity, and only barely failed. Once outside h e surveyed his confused and frightened army, seeing the potential. He grinned at the thought of the look on the faces of those British..
Inside, the genie turned to the Jew, and now her smile held warmth. "Ye have yet one more wish."
"I thought you said you would only grant two?"
"I lied." Her smile was matched by the wide grin that came over the innkeeper's face.
"I think I know just what to wish for . . ."
Alone, in a plane unprotected against magic, Daniel didn't stand much chance against the mage on the carpet, but she could not keep her comrade alive and fight off Daniel at the same time, so an uneasy standoff ensued as Daniel circled out of range, and the vixen tried to keep her friend from bleeding to death.
Daniel growled low in frustration, scanning the sky and looking for the rest of the squadron. His fuel gauge told him he would have to return to base soon, or put down on a rural highway somewhere and hike it back to base, neither option seemed particul arly pleasant. A bolt of lightning brought him back to reality as he veered away, cursing himself as a fool for straying too close. He cursed again as two objects roared by his plane, way too close for comfort.
"Bandits!" he whooped. Diving on the carpet were a pair of fighters painted in the light blue the Navy favored, their wings marked with a white star. Daniel brought his Saber around to help out, but the two working in tandem quickly set up the mage and
a burst of .50 caliber fire ripped the carpet to shreds, dumping its passengers to the trees below. The aircraft criss-crossed the area several times but had no chance of seeing through the thick trees of rural Quebec. The Navy planes followed Daniel w hen he realized his fuel would give out and headed back to base.
With his supra-human army, Napoleon fairly waltzed through Egypt, and then the rest Europe, from Madrid to Moscow, uniting the continent under the tri-colored flag of France. Only two thorns remained in his side as he advanced his plans for global hegem ony: the English navy had been able to protect that tiny island from the Grand Armee, and those uncivilized, arrogant frontiersmen who inhabited the wilderness that pretended to be a nation in America would prove most annoying, but they would fall once th e mother country was on her knees. The first step had been the surprise attack on the English fleet as they had been preparing for their own attack. The powder magazines of the vaunted Royal Navy had proven ripe targets for a few well-placed spells of f ire from his magicians. The memory of the display caused the small man to twist his lip into a smile. And now came the pest part, for he had finally landed his army on British soil and they would soon march to London, where King George would kneel at th e feet of Emperor Napoleon. With a satisfied chuckle, the general drained his cup and walked out of his tent to survey his army.
"Ssssir?" the German said softly, in an annoying lisp that his draconian muzzle forced upon him. "The Britisssh have masssed on the plainsss on our ssside. Thisss doess ssseem ominousss."
Bonparte sighed in frustration. "Urs, sometimes I think you speak with as many essess as you can, simply to irk me. But no matter, simply disperse the British as we have before. I think the men grow to enjoy it as sport."
"Ssssire, that will prove a mossst ssseriousss undertaking. Sssee for yoursself." He handed Napoleon a pair of field glasses and gestured at the mass of red coats milling about under scores of Union Jacks.
'Sacre Tonnere!" Bonaparte cried. "They are not human! How can this be?!?" In answer, they both head a mocking laugh they had not heard for two years. "That witch! She has done this!"
As if summoned by the reference, the genie appeared before them, now dressed as an English peasant, but still exotic. "Aye, I have made it thus. I did speak falsely to ye, small one. There was yet a third wish, and now see ye the results. The effect which did change yours does spread and affect others around the globe. Ere long, ye will e'en encounter men as your dragon where'er ye go." She laughed mercilessly and vanished while the Emperor fumed.
"Sound the trumpets!" he snapped. "I want to be able to eat lunch on that hill!"
Urs bowed his obedience and got to work.
1923-New York State
Daniel enjoyed a drink with the two pilots who had helped him that morning. They were both cats, like Daniel, but while he was a lion with a long and large build, they were both leopards, with a nearly brotherly look in their sinewy builds. The rank pi ns on their flight suits marked them both as junior officers.
"I'm lucky you guys were out on patrol when the dump went up. Lucky too you heard me. what I wanna know is why this? If they could've gotten here, why not your ship? She's in port, right? Wouldn't a sunken carrier be worth more than an ammo dump?"
"The French struck everywhere today is what we're hearing," the younger said. "Anything that would be put in the papers, and that seems their biggest aim. They sunk the Tennessee at Pearl and torched the Jefferson library. Flashy came first, strategy second."
"But why? Do they want to go to war again?"
"Doncha know what today is?" asked the other in a thick drawl.
"No . . ."
"This here's the day the Brits fought back ol' Nap Bone at Dover. One hunnert' an fifteen years ago, this very day. Them French wanted to mark it real special, though we ain't never gonna prove it was them."
"I forgot that. We've been fighting them off an on ever since, and I forget the bloody date."
"Don't you worry about that," grinned the jaguar. How many French know what date the Fourth of July is?'
Daniel chuckled and bought the pilot another drink.
Napoleon and the Genie copyright 1996 by Dread Pirate Baker.
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