Running on Empty
A "Winds of Change" Story
By Jon Sleeper
What is this? I thought when Maxine had blocked in what had just happened. Pile-on-Jon week? I asked myself. "So what do we do now?" Janet asked.
My mind started to race. Bryan had given me a lot to think about. But I had other things on my mind right now as I realized that I might lose Brian to the normal eagle that he now was. I looked back for a moment at the small tree that I'd uprooted with my antlers when Maxine had told me while I was still in norm-shape. Bryan edged a little farther away from Maxine, who was still falling all over herself in apology.
Bryan. That was another quandary. He really scared me when I thought of it. He could make me want to jump off a cliff if he wanted to! Frankly, I did not trust him all that much anymore. His Power was a in a way much more powerful than mine, because he could make me do what he wants.
He'd made me realize that I could of killed everyone within ten miles. I, myself am immune to my Power and anything it can do. I could of killed my friends and family and thousands of others. Only Bryan's help had kept me from going off like an atomic bomb.
But on top of all this, It had broken free. My animal half had been a quiet part of myself until all this had piled on top. There had been a mental snap and there It was, separate again. But apparently something had changed about It. It's first words were: -where herdmate? Herdmate fly away?- Apparently It thought of Brian as a friend as I did. It also, though I still distrusted him, thought of Bryan in the same way. -woolly herdmate help- It would say. -helphecan- It also trusted Bryan completely.
"Yes, what do we do now? It's all my fault!" repeated Maxine. She was another problem. She had treating her Power like a toy! The ability to transform others is a bit different than the ability to Change yourself. With power comes responsibility. Granted, it had only been about three months since the Change, things were still new, but I guess there are some that don't quite see what they're capable of. Myself included. -whatmatesay?- In addition, IT thought of Maxine as my mate.
Frankly, I know that I'm in love with her. She felt very guilty over what had just happened, I think she knows now that her Power is NOT a toy. Janet smells wary of her now, as does everyone. The anxiety exuding from Bryan's woolly hide nearly overwhelmed me. Then everything tied together. My temper snapped. "Damn I don't know?!?! What are you asking me for?!! I… I… could of killed you all. I just… just… Hell. How come I feel like this whole thing, the Change, all of it, like it's my fault? Like I'm responsible somehow for being what I am? I don't know… But hell." My mind started to race again. Then my scanner beeped. The system had apparently come back online.
"Sleeper here." I said. My scanner looks like nothing less than a tricorder from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Complete with screen and a LoJack stolen car finder. "Greenwind here, how are you Jon?"
"I'm fine, Greenie. You need me over there?"
"No we've got it covered. But did you see that flash? You were in the area. Whatever it was knocked out a GPS satellite." Great. "I was just checking in with you."
I took a deep breath. Drawing in some of Maxine's thought-inducing scent. An idea was forming in my head. "Greenie, I could use some help here. Here's what's going on over here." I blocked things in.
"How can we help? Coe was a good cop during the riots." I blocked in my idea. "Sound thinking, Jon. This is how to modify your LoJack locator." I did so, and when I turned it on there on the screen was a telltale beep and an arrow in the direction where Brian had flown. The next step involved commandeering a car, Maxine could not Shift so it would take too long to get back to my Toyota.
"Explain to me how you can tell where Brian went again?" Asked Bryan.
"Well, he flash shifted. From how I understand it, when one does that whatever they're wearing stays with them somehow. Remember that Brian was wearing his flight computer, and it has a transponder on it. Wherever it is, we can still receive it's signal. Ah, there's just the car we need." It was about to pull out of the parking lot, the guy in it was a mule morph. The car was a convertible.
I walked up and showed my badge. "Carlsbad police. I need to commandeer your vehicle."
"What for?" he said. There was something vaguely familiar about him…
"I have a friend whose lost it to Instinct. If I don't find him soon I might lose him forever."
"Really? Hey, I'll help you if you want me to," he said. "I'm a telepath and a telekinetic so I might be able to help." Perfect! At least *something* went right for me tonight!
"Yes, please! You saved me from having to go to the station! Your name is?"
"Yeah. That was my name. Do I know you?"
"It's me, Jon Sleeper."
"Jon? Oh yeah! You live in the area don't you? A whitetail huh? You lucked out it seems."
"Look, Jack. I'd love to chat, but we've got a mutual acquaintance to help. Brian Coe. He's a bald eagle."
Jack nodded. "Sure, hop in."
"Just a moment." I turned to the group. "Maxine, get in the back." She did, still looking guilty. "Bryan, you sit next to her." He'd relaxed for a moment, but when I'd said that he'd looked at me in fear, then said, "I… *think I'll go with Janet in your car Jon.*"
I felt a pressure on my mind for a fleeting moment. Then It deflected it somehow. So Bryan's Power had a limitation. It could not act against raw instincts, which is what It is. So It breaking free was actually a good thing. I started to get mad again, but he smelled rather distressed and did not seem to of meant to have done that. Talk about lack of control! I got angry again. The Rut was making my tempter very short. Which is why my next action might seem rather rash.
I grabbed him by his horns, and twisted his head to face me, forcing him to turn his body too. "What are you doing Jon?!" he said, bewildered as to why I was not doing that he told me to, apparently.
"What am I doing? What did you just do? Oh, I'm not mad at you for that. I know you did not mean it. But Bryan, I'm really getting tired of you."
"Oh, really? How so?"
"Because you're afraid. And you're letting your fear win. I need you Bryan. I need your Power to help someone who we both know. I just don't have time to let you be afraid of Maxine. Face it Bryan. It's not Maxine you're afraid of. It's Instinct.
"Believe me. I know how hard it can be. I'm not as well adjusted as I seem. It's a part of me, but I don't let It rule me. Frankly I'm not sure I trust you right now. But Instinct does. I'm not in any mood to argue with It, I've got other things on my mind. Hell, It even thinks of you as a herdmate!
"I understand your reluctance to sit next to Maxine. Because, frankly, she treats her Power like it's a toy. That is not good, but she's realized her mistake now. I won't mind so much if you want to take my car. But I need Janet here to bring Kim up to date when she returns. If you're with us at the time we find him we'll be able to do something all that much quicker."
He nodded sadly. I let go of his horns. "Jon, it's just that I…"
"Just what? You're letting It win by denying It as surely as if It had taken over forcibly! You're not an animal, Bryan. You might look like a bighorn sheep, but you're still human at your core. I'm not very happy with you right now. You've given me a lot to think about. I'll solve it later. But now one of our friends needs us. I'm not going to lose a friend to It because another friend is afraid. You need to decide, Bryan. Decide now.
"Are you going to let It win? Or are you going to go sit in that car next to Maxine, and help the rest of us get a friend back? Go sit in that car Bryan, or run away like you've been running for months. It has to stop somewhere. You have to face it, or the fear will rule you for the rest of your life and you'll never be rid of it. Never. The fear will take you when you least expect it. To quote a famous American president: 'The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.' So, decide now or forever lock away a part of yourself that might actually make you a better person."
We stood there looking at each other for uncomfortable seconds. Bryan looked downward, apparently unable to face me. Then, with great reluctance, he climbed into the car next to Maxine, still avoiding looking at me. This job was going to require both of them working together, and I think he knew it.
That speech I just made… frankly I was not sure I believed it myself. But it seemed the right thing to say. It had worked. -herdmatefine now- It said. ::Oh, shut up.:: I thought back. -herdmate helpnow wordshelp-
I got into the passenger seat myself next to Jack. "Let's go. The LoJack is pointing northeast. Get on I-5 and head north. So, Jack. What have you been doing these past couple months? Seems you lucked out, too."
"Haaaw," he brayed. "Yeah. Just what I always wanted to be. I'm out here with Bob and a friend of mine named Dave Smith. He's one of those dinomorphs you've read about I'm sure. We're out to get this guy in Ind… um. Well, I'm here helping Bob Stein do a bit of research for those who've lost themselves."
Dinomorph? There was that eerie feeling of deja vu again. "Well, good luck in whatever you're doing." Then I had a strange thought. "Tell the Doctor to think about cross-temporal mechanics when she tries to explain this thing. I think the answers lie there."
Jack looked at me in shock for a moment, then recovered, "Uh, yeah. I'll tell her. Thanks."
In the back, Bryan had his hands in his lap and was looking at his hooves. My speech (damn I can get wordy sometimes) must of affected him a lot. No one could talk when we'd gotten on the freeway because of the wind whistling through Maxine and my antlers. There really was nothing else to say until we found Brian.
Apparently Brian was able to fly quite far in less than an hour. He'd gone inland into the mountains. Not easy country to travel in. But for a bighorn like Bryan, the rocky hills were perfect habitat for his species. I think he knew that as he looked at their huge silhouettes in the growing darkness.
Copyright 1997, Jon Sleeper
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