The Transformation Story Archive The Winds of Change

Round and Round again

by Jon Sleeper

Something jabbing me in the back, right at the base of my tail, brought me to. I cracked open my sand-filled eyes. I was in a bare concrete cell, open to the sky. If the rock had not awoken me, the rain that was beginning to fall would have. I heard the rumble of thunder and a raindrop landed right on my open right eye, then I felt another splat on my snout, then another, and another, until I was laying in a downpour.

::What a headache.:: Whatever they did to me, my head throbbed like a rap beat. Then something occurred to me. I had not had a headache since I encountered the Doctor in that underground Hall almost nine months ago. ::Doc?:: I said into my mind. ::DOC?!:: I almost yelled.

There was a hiss of static, and a faint, ::I'm here, David. The cuffs they put on you... some sort of electronics on them that interferes with nanite functions. ...'s why you feel terrible, and that's why I'm having problems communicating.:: Now that she'd said it, I was now aware of being chained at the wrists. There were others conjoining my legs and tail in such a way that I was sure it was impossible to walk very far. Both sets of chains tingled oddly.

I tried to sit up. I could only do so with my tail between my legs, all four feet of it. The pouring rain was washing off the slimy, foul-smelling mud I'd been laying in to reveal ugly bruises that showed up as areas of purpled scales. ::They rea... a number on you,... they?:: she said through the static. Moving around had revealed other aches, including the fact that the tip of my tail was kinked in a strange direction. I was sure they'd broken it, pain lanced from there when I tried to move it. And they'd clipped my claws almost to the bone. (My claws are actually horn sheaths on a bone core.) I tried to groan, but my mouth was still strapped shut. Now I was grateful for the rain, because without it I would have overheated.

After allowing myself a second or so of self pity, I took time to wonder; what had happened to Jack? To Fox, Rao, and Coonie? What about Bob? Worrying would not help, so I struggled a bit, and unconsciously focused my Will on the blunt edges of my finger claws. Strange, the Doc had said the suit was bringing out my Powers, but I had no trouble making that short Dragon Claw burst. I think my captor thought that it was necessary to have the claw edges sharp in order to use that Power. He was wrong, it's all in the mind. I cut the crude plastic pull strap holding my mouth shut. "Ahhhhh!" I said aloud. Then I stopped short. What if they'd heard me?

I looked around the cell, looking for cameras. All I saw was a blank steel door with a small meshed window. Surprisingly, there was no one outside the door guarding. ::Complacent fool.:: thought the Doctor. ::I can tell ...nothing electronic watching over us, but a... ...elepathic... ake the risk.:: She was right (if I was interpreting her through the static right), and I was not getting anywhere by just laying here. The first thing I did was look at my handcuffs. They LOOKED like a normal pair, but had a some kind of flashing light on the hinge. There was a tingle on my left pointing finger, and with agonizing slowness the tip reshaped into some kind of key. ::There,:: she thought triumphantly. ::I'm glad I did not release all of the O3000 prototype specifications to the bastard, or else he would have found a way to block that.:: the static was clearing from her mind-voice. She was getting around the interference.

I stuck the finger into the key hole, there was a click, and the cuffs came right off. Then I felt a tingle and my cuts and bruises on my arms and torso healed. "Ahhhhh," I whispered. Then I moved to the chains around my ankles and tail, and the tingle moved down to those areas too when THEY came off. There was a brief flash of intense pain, and a snap as my tail un-kinked and healed. My claws regained their sharpness. I knew who I wanted to use them on, but put a clamp on my emotions before they got the better of me.

I looked at the apparently open-topped cell, and discovered that there was actually a fine steel mesh covering the top. So much for flying out. So I got up and looked out the small window. It looked like I was in some sort of prison. The scents wafting through the window brought up images of uncleaned cells and things not quite so pleasant. I was definitely going to attempt to escape; Fox, wherever he is, would be disappointed in me if I did not.

There was no key hole on this side of the door, and I could not reach what was an electronic lock anyway on the other side. Damn. I had only one option. But first I stopped and listened. Like the smell, there were ominous moans coming from several other cells. Then came a clap of thunder that sounded like it came from right overhead. Taking the opportunity, I slammed the door with my tail in my original force-wave, blowing it out with the thunder masking the noise. And when I looked up again Fox walked right in. "How long have you been out there?!" I asked quietly, incredulous.

"About five minutes." He replied, unruffled. "Good show, Dave. I'd never have been able to rig a lock like that a second time. I'm glad you figured out how to use that thunder." He fox-grinned. I should have known that he'd escaped already. "Where's Jack?" I whispered.

"Around the corner about six cells down. We're not in the same place on the river, by the way. We're further south, probably on the Deccan." The Deccan is a large high plain in the south-central part of India. "He's also unconscious. I think the bastard was more afraid of him than any one of us, including you. Coonie is in the cell next to yours, we should get her out next." I could not argue with that.

I looked through the small window. She looked terrible. She was still in her "Hawkeye" guise, and smelled like a bag of wet feathers. They'd clipped off all "his" flight feathers, tail feathers too, so "he" could not fly. She looked up, "Dave?" she said in Hawk's voice. "Is that you? Get me out of here." I stuck a flattened finger into the lock and clicked it open. She ran up and hugged me, slowly shifting back into her other favorite form, the female raptor-morph. They'd been rough on her, too. I noticed. Her scales had that same purplish tint in areas; nothing seemed broken, though. That made me even more irritated. No one hurts my friends. NO ONE. The hallway was covered and dry, so at least we were out of the rain.

With those two now here, I asked Fox, "What happened?" Fox's emotional face and ears went flat. "Rao's dead, they killed him. He gave us away. He caught one glimpse of our Adversary and went nuts. Then they hit us with something and we were knocked out. I think we've been out for hours, long enough to move us elsewhere. Bob must be going nuts."

"I was afraid of that," I replied quietly. "Let's go get Jack out." They nodded. Jack was definitely drugged. When I opened the door he did not show any signs of stirring. And he was too heavy for me to carry, almost three hundred pounds. Small for someone who'd taken on equine characteristics. Coonie shifted to a Bob-like female draft horse morph, and put the bray-snoring Jack on her shoulder like a sack of potatoes. "Let's go." she said in a deeper voice.

But where would we go to? If he was around, I wanted to get Dr. Chandra. He has a lot to pay for. Jack was twitching in his sleep, ::Let me scan him,:: thought the Doctor. ::I think I can... there!:: He suddenly came awake. "Aaaw! Geez that guy has a twisted mind! Where am I?" Coonie put him down, "Somewhere terrible," she said.

"Just what did you see?" Asked Fox.

"I really don't want to think about it, but oh well. I was inside the guy's mind for a moment. He's building something, something big. I keep on getting this one set of words. Does the term 'Cross-Temporal Locator' mean anything to you?" Jack asked me.

The Doctor thought it over. I don't know if Fox actually KNEW about her, but there was not time to explain things. "It's a kind of last-resort distress beacon that makes a whole universe ring like a bell." She said through my lips. "It'll make us visible throughout the whole timescape, and eventually enable him to escape to his own time. We can't let that happen." ::And Dave, Jack, that's not the only thing. Remember what I said about each universe being like a bubble? Well, we've just merged with two other universes, and the defining resonance for this new reality has not set yet. It's still VERY unstable (I think that's why we've got the Powers), and if he activates it, we'll pop.::

::Pop? What do you mean?:: asked Jack. That was the first time I'd ever heard his mind-voice.

::I mean that we'll go the same way the furry universe did, pop like the Hindenburg; only it won't be quite so pretty. The furry universe was embedded in our own. The surges were ripples caused by the catastrophic rupture. Doing that destroyed all the inhabitants of that universe, leaving just it's basic properties, such as the inhabitants' possible physical forms, intact. And that's what will happen to us if he uses the thing.:: Jack's ears went flat. "We have to stop him," he understated. But something smelled fishy. We had an opportunity though. I was not about to waste it.

"First things first," said Fox. "I'll shift forms and scout the facility, I'm sure that there are ways to get around here that don't involve using the main corridors." So he shifted to his fox-norm and trotted off. He came back a few minutes later. "I sniffed out an air duct, it's small, but you or Coonie might be able to shift into something small enough to fit. The door that leads into the main hallway has a much more elaborate lock on it, and has an elephant morph and a crocodile morph as guards." He was panting, so he must of had to move fast to avoid being seen.

The air duct was in one of the cells that bordered on the rest of the building, and was close to the smelly mud. Fox's nose must be pretty good, I barely smelled the good air coming out, the vent had a metal plate covering it. Coonie had to punch it in to open it. "I can keep track of you like I did Fox," said Jack, "Passively so I won't be detected. Good luck."

The duct was small, and we both chose to go in as ferrets in order to have some room to maneuver. It was also darker than the inside of a whale, so we mostly depended on scent and sound. We could not talk to each other either, which made body language very important. After many twists and turns, We ended up opposite the two guards outside the door to the cell block, and we were in luck. They were sleeping on the job! I'd never had occasion to use a ferret, so my norm-shape time limit was about twenty minutes, and that time was almost up.

Seeing Jack and Fox signaling in the window, I popped open the grate and shifted into a small owl-norm, then glided silently next to the croc. Coonie did something similar with the elephant. We then quickly expanded into identical morphs of the guards, turned sleep into unconsciousness for both, then opened the door for Jack and Fox to help us put the insentient guards into a couple nearby cells.

The next part involved just being around when the supervising guard Fox had seen came around to make sure they would not sense anything awry. Jack could read the personalities of the unconscious guards, then project them around us just in case the supervisor was empathic or telepathic in any way. We were not disappointed. The, um... Dhole-morph (the suit said) came around the corner and asked "" I nodded, and he continued on his rounds. Time to go. We arranged the still dead-to-the-world guards like they'd fallen asleep at their posts, and crept down the hallway.

"This guy has no respect for the dead!" Jack said angrily as we crept down a dim side corridor. Fox told me quietly that this building used to be a Plague Hospital, but it was obviously in very poor repair because at some point the roof on those cells had fallen in. Plague Sites are generally regarded as graveyards, to be treated as such as a memorial to those who died.

The next door was very peculiar. It had a white carving of an absolutely perfect human female face right above it. I heard a mental gasp from the Doctor. ::THAT was MY face. He's definitely off his rocker, must be using it as a kind of emblem. Don't underestimate him, David. He might seem like a imbecile, but his overconfidence is more than made up for with the sycophants he keeps around him. Be careful.:: All I could do was agree.

Jack was creating some sort of anti-sound field immediately around him so his hooflike three-toed feet would not make too much noise, Coonie shifted into a silent leopard-morph, and Fox and I were quiet anyway, he kept in his fox-norm form and scouted ahead for us. The place DID look like a hospital. The building was at least fifty years old, and had been not been kept up at all. The weather had been unkind to it, and there were indeed many hiding places that we used when patrols came around. It was a sprawling complex, but only three floors, and quiet as death.

We ducked into a door to an old interior room to consult on our next move. It was dark, so I replicated a dim light source, just enough to see. "Now what?" I asked Fox. "You're the expert on sneaking around, what next?" Fox's ears flicked around in thought.

"Well, now that we're out of that prison they're bound to discover us missing, I'm surprised that they have not already. So we don't have much time. Let's split up, four is too big a group." So we split into twosomes. Jack and Coonie, Fox and I. Though I wished Coonie and I could be together, Fox was right. We reluctantly split up, and agreed to find each other somehow later.

We'd split up just in time. Five minutes later an alarm went off, and we jumped into a larger airduct. I did not have time to think about it, so I shifted into a smaller gray fox-norm with Fox right in back me in his norm. Fox's throat shifted around for a moment, then he said, "about time you tried one of those" in a growling voice, and grinned. I nodded, the scent-of- activity was coming down the duct, fear-scent too. Whoever was in charge was DEFINITELY not happy. We moved quietly onward.

Onward to a glassed in space right above an operating room. The windows were so dusty and clouded the light coming from the room below was almost nil. Amazingly, none of the glass was broken, and none of the seals were breached, so we could not be scented. Even though the opaqueness we could see activity in the moving shadows on the glass, they did not seem to care that this place was up here (or perhaps they did not know about it). We slipped behind a row of seats about a yard from the glass, and slowly expanded back into our regular shapes. "I wonder where Jack and Coonie are." I said worriedly.

Even with the activity below, Fox thought this would be a safe place for now. He'd covered our scents and tracks expertly, leaving no traces we'd come in here. Wherever "here" was. We decided to stay until the place quieted down, and the search for us moved out into the country. A few minutes later a disheveled and visibly sweating Jack crawled in through the duct. "Coonie's been captured." He said.

I narrowly avoided busting out loud at that remark, but I knew that if I did I'd give all of us away. "Damn! So what do we do about it?" I said through clenched teeth. You really have no idea how hard it is to keep a lid on your emotions, especially if they're as intense as apparently the velociraptor's were. Jack looked at me and whispered. "I'm keeping track of her, passively. She's about to be brought into the room below us. Our 'friend' is down there too, along with that Machine."

We both looked at Fox. "I'm thinking, I'm thinking..." He struck a thoughtful pose. Then he sighed. "I guess there's no help for it. It's now or never." He sighed. "Jack, do That Thing." Uh oh. "That Thing". A telepathic broadcast that would effectively pinpoint our location to anyone in the building, not to mention the countryside for miles in every direction. On the plus side it would also be strong enough for Bob to find out where we were very quickly. We'd discussed this contingency, and hoped we would not have to use it. Jack would be nearly unconscious for a good minute or so after he did it, so we'd have to defend him. Then Fox surprised me again. "And Dave, do That Other Thing."

"Are you NUTS!" I whispered. ::No, he's not.:: said the Doctor. ::The Locator needs a mind to operate it. Coonie is uniquely qualified because of her shapeshifter Power. You might say she is more 'attuned' to the universe. Not nearly enough, though. If you don't get her out of there, she will die an agonizing death, then the rest of the universe will follow.:: Cold determination gripped my soul. I made my decision.

"Let's do it."

I crept up to the windows, and plinked my claw on them experimentally. Yes, they were glass. Jack was warming up for his broadcast, which would be powerful enough to be heard on TVs and radios in the whole region. It was THAT powerful. I started taking deep breaths: in, out, in, out. "He's about to put her in," said Jack.

"Cover your ears." I said. And took my deepest breath.


The glass did not merely shatter, it broke down straight into sand and showered down on those below in great dirty white clumps, and the rest making the room into a mini sandstorm. Any one below the windows was effectively knocked out by the falling sand, which was an effect I wanted because I did not want falling glass to hurt Coonie, who was unconscious on a flat table nearly underneath, half-shifted from leopard into raccoon-morph. They must of caught her while she was shifting.

With those in the room below now stunned, Jack went to work. What I heard was not unlike the classic ping noise from submarine sonar. This repeated for a few seconds, then stopped. "Go Dave!" yelled Fox, and I jumped down into the room below.

It was quite a ways down, so I used a helpful giraffe- morphs tall shoulders to break my fall, getting rid of one troublemaker in the process. A strong-looking lion morph was about to put Coonie into the machine. I tailwhipped the guy and grabbed her, then handed her to Fox, who had jumped down too. Jack had also regained consciousness and come down. Then I heard a familiar voice behind me. "I was wondering when you'd show up, Fool." The voice was the same as the one I'd heard in my mind in the Hall.

I turned around the to face him. He looked exactly like the tiger morph he'd used when he and I were fighting in the Lab originally. "Well, I'm here now," I replied. "You're making a big mistake, you know. If you use that thing you'll kill us all," the Doctor said through my lips.

Fox spoke up, "With all do respect, old boy. The rest of your sycophants are unconscious from my friend's little outburst. We've got you."

He just shrugged. Ten morphs of varying kinds appeared from the shadows, carrying various edged weapons. Dr. Chandra bared his teeth. "These are the best street fighters I could find. I hope you like them." He growled. If it was a fight he wanted, then who were we to disappoint? I needed to vent a little anyway. The exercise would do me good.

I matched myself up against a lizard who had the bearing of a ninja. "You'll never beat me." he said overconfidently. "I've been a third-level Grand Master for ten years."

"Are you going to talk or are you going to fight?" I replied coldly, getting into my "ready stance". I was vaguely aware of Fox expertly dodging the knife thrusts and claw swipes of a cat morph behind me. The lizard must have thought he was sooooo good, but the move he tried on me my sensei had drilled me in so many times I could counter it in my sleep. I power-slashed in a spinning kick with my sickle-claw ("Dragon Blade". I think my sensei was a little TOO interested in video games. HE'S the one who came up with the names.) and sliced him up the middle.

Over the past couple months I'd gotten the training Fox should have given me earlier from his associates. Mostly involving "necessary" and "unnecessary" killing, and the morality of such situations. That relieved some of my lingering guilt over the alley incident. There had been no alternative, like right now. It was only wrong to kill in cold blood. This guy was dangerous, and I had not taken him out he might caused problems later.

::Careful Dave,:: thought the Doctor. ::That guy was not being controlled, but a few of those around you are and are not responsible for their actions. Slash carefully, we don't want to hurt innocents.:: I nodded mentally, and hit over the head a daze-faced rat-morph who was about to stick Fox in the back with a wicked- looking knife. "Thanks" he said in passing. He had an interesting fighting method. When he was attacked from above, he'd go norm and go between his attacker's legs, hamstringing the guy in the process. He was the perfect example (as were all of our group) of someone who had adapted completely to their Change.

We were basically dancing around Coonie's unconscious form, keeping them away from her. Jack fought with his mind. When a rhino-morph charged him, one that was being controlled by the look on his face, he would just look at the guy and say something like "Topspin" with an inflection that was a bit chilling. Quite suddenly the rhino started to spin, well, like a top (taking out another one of Dr. C's fighters in the process). Dizzying him out. That, or the guy he was fighting would react to a punch that Jack had not thrown. Seems he has telekinetic fists. No one could even get close to him. That was the last thing I noticed before I had to face my next opponent.

The next guy, a lion morph, was quite good in fact. He in a few claw swipes before I could even blink. He must of had some kind of time acceleration Power. I changed to slo-mo with my time perception, distracted him with a Dragon Whip, then high-jumped in on top of him and gave him a concussion. The guy had had a that blank look on his face that made me cautious to do more than knock him out. We made quick work of our remaining foes.

When the dust cleared, "Dr. Chandra" had a very satisfying (to me) gaping-in-disbelief look on his face. His tail twitched in genuine shock. "A nice little fight," said Fox, absently rubbing his blood- reddened claws on the jeans he was wearing. "But we seem to have run out of opponents. Would you happen to have some more back in those shadows?" Jack bray- laughed. I was feeling rather good myself. A bit of battle euphoria, I think.

It was my turn now. The Machine was huge, but it had an ordinary-looking computer terminal at one end, with a screen that (amazingly) had not shattered with my battle-scream, on it was a graphic that looked like the alabaster face we'd seen earlier. I also saw a plug in for a direct link cable. ::Ready, David?:: thought the Doctor.

Then I thought a moment. Something felt wrong. ::Doc, I'm not sure about this. It's too easy...::

::Nevertheless, this is the only chance we might get. Will you take the risk?:: I nodded mentally.

It was probably a bad choice, but I plugged in anyway. Then a eerily familiar voice said, "What are you doing, Dave?" And the Doctor's semblance was replaced a HAL- like fisheye lens graphic. I looked at our still- shocked 'friend'. "Oh! Come on! You just HAD to do that, didn't you?" I said to him. I completed the interface. Over the past few months, for reasons of her own, the Doctor had turned over many suit functions over to my own conscious control. I shared control of most functions, including shapeshifting, computer interface, etc.. (except the healing function. But that programming is separate even from the Doctor. It would work even if she were not here, same with the shared stuff.)

That was a mistake. As soon as I did he started to laugh maniacally once more. "You Fool. You've sealed your own fate!" There was a blinding flash.

Suddenly I was standing in a Kansas wheat field. Human again. Then there was an ominous rumble of thunder behind, and I was covered in darkness. I turned around. ::Oh, no! Not this again!:: There was a compact thunderhead with a very black tornado coming right towards me, looking exactly like the one I'd experienced when all this began. I already could feel it's suction, like sticking your finger inside a vacuum hose. Then I felt a presence beside me, and turned to see the beautiful face I'd seen on the computer screen, attached to a matching body. "Hello David," she said. "It's good to meet you 'face to face' at last."

I knew who she was. "Doc? Where are we?"

"Inside your mind, of course. The 'Temporal Locator' was only a ruse. This is a downloader, and he wants ME. But he needs to get rid of you first before he can remove the suit. He wants me bad." She smirked cryptically. The suction became stronger and stronger. We started to run. "I think I miss my velociraptor body!" I said, commenting on how slow we were going. She smiled, then turned serious.

"There's no escaping the mind-suction. Believe me, I know. No basement to dive into this time. There's only one chance. Stop running, David." We stopped. "The tornado will sweep over the landscape of your mind until it picks up something like a human consciousness. I cannot stop it from finding you, but I CAN anchor you down. Just trust me, David. This is the only way."

"I've always trusted you," I replied. The Plane of Mind is full of metaphor. She told me to stand straight. Her hands started to glow, and so did I. I felt my feet dig into the earth, my consciousness taking root, as it were. My legs fused, skin hardening and turning a brownish color, that of bark. I felt it close over my head, though I could still see. My arms grew upward and started to divide into leaves and branches. I was now a metaphorical Oak tree. As solid and permanent as a tree gets. I now barely even felt the suction.

But the Doctor apparently still did, she was clinging to my "trunk". "There is one more thing that has to happen. The twister will keep on searching until it finds something. I intend to give it something to find." The meaning of her words escaped me for a moment, then she started to run towards the tornado. Then I realized what she was about to do.

"DOC! NO! DON'T DO IT!" I screamed into my mind. She paid no heed. I tried to uproot myself, but there was no moving. The mind-planet itself could be ripped out from underneath me and I would not move. The last thing I heard before she threw herself in was: "Don't worry! I've got a plan!" Then she was gone. I opened my real eyes.

It was then that Bob decided to arrive. Remember when he took my bathroom door off it's hinges with a knock? Remember that running was part of his training? Bob has two major Powers. The first, a kind of force-wave like my own (but about ten times more powerful), which accounted for the gaping hole in the wall where he'd come in. "You rang?" he said in his deep voice. I'd never seen him angry, and I really was glad I was not one of Dr. Chandra's thugs right now. How did he get here so fast? His second Power puts my power-sprint to shame. Have you ever seen a horse go supersonic? That's how he covered the distance in the minutes since we called him. I heard a voice yell something to him, and he went to help Fox and Jack, who had been immobilized somehow.

In a moment of frantic searching in my mind, all I found was a void where she once was. Absolute nothingness. I'd collapsed onto the floor, unplugging myself in the process. "Now, Doctor." Said our Adversary, ignoring Bob, who was busily fighting another one of our 'friend's hired thugs. "We were interrupted in our conversation before. Now we can..." He must of seen something in my eyes he did not expect, because his expression changed from triumph to distress. Then from distress to abject terror when I bared my teeth and growled. He started to turn as if to run. I took a breath.

If the battle-scream I'd done before we'd jumped in here was the loudest I'd ever done, then this one was nearly so. Not only that, but it was so tightly focused I don't think Fox, Jack, or Bob heard it. He did not even get a chance to complete his turn. The air distorted visibly when I did it, and the wall behind him shook like it was going to collapse. He fell over like a wood plank, bleeding from the ears. But he was still alive. Rage and irritation built up inside me. I was in no mood to control it. I shifted to norm.

::Now to finish what I started.:: I walked over the twitching tiger-man, stopped above his head, and opened my jaws wide. Then I heard a familiar voice, "DAVID! STOP IT! How many times do I have to tell you? JUSTICE, not REVENGE."

The voice was coming from outside me, so I shifted back in startlement. "Doc?! Where are you?" I turned around. The face on the computer screen that was supposed to be the Doctor's was a lot more expressive now. "I'm in here," she said, voice coming from a speaker. "You see, no computer in this time is powerful enough to use as a downloader. He must have taken his O2500 off and used it's backup functions to make one. This bulky thing is just for show, but it DOES have a few parts salvaged from old nodes. I'm in the O2500 by the way, it's got just enough NeuroActive memory for me to exist. He was going to put you in here."

"So what do we do now?" I asked.

"First thing. Justice. Take the top off the pedestal behind you, and place what's inside on the body of Dr. Chandra. I'll do the rest." What I removed from inside the opening, disconnecting a couple fiber-optic cables in the process, looked not unlike a wetsuit. A wetsuit that reformed itself into a ball when I picked it up. I placed it on the tiger-man's stomach. The ball then seemed absorbed into his body. ::What the hell is going on?:: I asked myself, almost expecting an answer. Jack came up behind me to watch.

"She's in there with him, Dave. Look at his face." The tiger-man's face was squishing around like putty, changing between the Doctor's human face and HIS face. There was obviously some kind of mental battle going on inside. The battle spread to his entire body. Bob and Fox gathered around, too. Coonie had come to and now, in her "origin-form" raccoon-morph, hugged me around the shoulders from the back (I approximated a kiss in return, and we twined tails) and watched with the rest of us.

It went on for what seemed an eternity. Then there seemed to be a winner. The body reformed into the one that I'd seen in my mind-field earlier. "Justice." She said simply, and opened her eyes. She was human. Jack nodded, it was her. She looked to be holding what looked like one of those hard rubber superballs that you can buy in a supermarket. She bounced it once. She was also naked, but I really did not notice.

"Did you kill him after all?" Asked Coonie, voicing the question that I was going to ask. She stood up. "No. He's in here," she held up the tiny bright red ball. "This has enough 'NeuroActive' memory to keep him alive until such time as he pays for the trillions of lives he destroyed when he popped the furry universe. I've locked him this way. He'll remain so until such time as he has paid for his crimes. The standard sentence for such high-volume killing is one stellar year for each life he destroyed. A fitting sentence." There was no swaying her, but I really was not going to argue anyway. In many ways her punishment was worse than what mine would have been. But it was proper.

"Oh, before I forget. I've managed to neutralize all his mind-control devices. They were linked to the Internet so he could operate them easier and this thing had a 'net linkage to all of them. And I've also put out enough info on the 'net to incriminate him all over the world. Including here. Not to mention all those images of this place you've got in your head. The government should recover quickly, so we'd better leave fast." Fox nodded.

There was a burning question that I had for her. "Why are you still human?" I asked. Just then she got a look of discomfort on her face, "But I'm not, David. Not any more at least." And smiled. I think Bob saw it before I did, he's taller. And his eyes lit up in delight. A perfectly shaped chestnut horse's tail had appeared out of her behind.

A fast tilt-rotor landed outside, Fox's associates had arrived to take us home.

Round and Round again copyright 1996 by Jon Sleeper.

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