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08 June 2016 @ 06:21 am
_Aliens and Shifters_ the end  
 

Chapter Thirteen

"Get in. I have to sleep for a while, and the stun has to wear off Dad. We'll talk then, Okay?"

"Okay. You kip, I'll keep a watch."

She set the truck down in a thicket, still behind the German Lines. If anyone found them, she didn't want to feel bad about stunning them. She looked at the greenish scales covering her hands and arms. Felt the extension of her spine, where she was quite definitely growing a tail. She took off her pants, wrapped herself in the blanket, then lay down between her father and Sir Trent, and slept.

***

". . . and there'll be guards abaht the place." Mark's voice.

"Well, if it looks like a bad idea, we'll leave without them ever noticing we were there." her father's voice said, reasonably.

Mark. Her father. Sir Trent. She sat up, and groaned as every muscle in her body protested the movement.

"Good morning, Ultima!" her Father sounded chipper, "You look beautiful today, here's a mirror for you." The whole bloody wall started shimmering into reflectivity.

Two big black and tan dogs panted over and tried to wash her face. She fended them off and put a hand to her hair. She must look awful . . . her hair was gone. Her tailbone ached. There was a big green lizard in the mirror, hand to head, tangled in a blanket. She stood up slowly and let the blanket drop. The lizard was wearing a dark green sweater. Went well with the green scales. She blushed and grabbed the blanket and wrapped it around her waist. A glance forward showed Mark gazing out the window, a picture of innocence.

She looked back at the mirror. Weird lizard. Spiky. Slow-something? Alien. Not really a lizard. "Father. I would like you to tell your little machines to turn me back into a human." her voice didn't hardly quiver. It sounded funny, what with the long muzzle and teeth. She stuck her tongue out. Just a bit narrower than human, just a bit thinner, and much longer. "Right now."

"But Ultima, you are beautiful!" Erob grinned at her.

Mark was looking now, and grinning too. "Yeah, beautiful. No need to change back on my account."

She looked hopelessly back at the mirror. She had seen those pictures of her Father's, but, but. "Maybe some other time, I'll, umm, spend some time, umm," She cranked her head around on a slightly longer neck and looked carefully in the mirror. "I have a tail. What am I supposed to do with a tail?"

Mark snickered. "Swish it? It doesn't look like the wagging type."

"I can't move it at all," she said.

"You'll need some physical therapy," Erob said. "Learn to use it and, umm, some other muscles you aren't used to doing things with."

"Daddy . . . Father. Right now, turn the little machines off, or on or whatever they need to do to make me look like me."

Erob obediently pointed his control unit at her and tapped an invisible typewriter above it. "There. It will take most of the day, to do a proper job. So, why don't we go rescue Mark's Mum in the mean time?"

Mark clenched his hands, and nodded. "I can sort of see your truck in the dark, but now, in the daytime, it's as good as invisible. The wolves shouldn't be any better at seeing it, but they can smell things."

Erob tapped away at thin air and the truck rose and turned south east. "There. We're sealed up tight, no air will escape except when we come and go."

Uma tentatively held her hands out in typing position, and entered some remembered commands herself. First a skirt, then breakfast. The dogs sniffed and gave her big eyed starving looks. "Did you puppies have trouble finding food, looking like a pair of naked British spies running around the countryside?"

Mark snorted. "Puppies." He looked disgusted, then interested as little red cubes of meat started popping out of, apparently, nowhere. She started tossing them to the dogs, as quickly as they were manufactured. Mark intercepted one, sniffed it and popped it into his mouth. "These are good. Should I ask what sort of meat they are?"

"Umm, Dad?"

"They are completely artificial constructs of the same chemical composition as beef." Erob informed them.

"Artificial meat. So you make Army nosh." He grabbed a handful.

She decided that overfeeding the dogs wouldn't be a good idea, and switched to manufacturing clothing. A heavy canvas skirt that reached to mid calf should stand up to her currently scaly skin, and still be wearable as her tail disappeared. The green sweater was still in good shape. She looked around thoughtfully. "Dad, can you make a shower?"

"Sure. Watch the commands, as I key them in this time," he said.

A glowing keyboard appeared in thin air, and she watched the sequence . . . Okay, vehicle structure, rear right corner, walls, plumbing, amount, temperature, simple lever control. "That's really easy." she cranked her head around, and there it was. She smiled at Mark. "I have first dibs on it, and you are going to get in the front of the truck and close the door."

He grinned and complied. Clean had never felt so good. Even with a tail. She swapped and gave him a chance at the shower. And whipped up a new British uniform for him.

He eyed it dubiously. "I'm not sure I 'ave a right to it. Assuming Sir Trent doesn't kill me on sight."

"Only if you do it again, you young hatchling."

Uma leapt up from her seat on what she'd considered a bench and stared at it. Lifted the lid. "Sir Trent? Are you all right?" She averted her eyes and grabbed the blanket she'd slept in and held it out to him.

"Thank you . . . Miss Uma, I presume?" The old man sat up in the rather coffin like box and shifted his gaze from her to Mark. "Made up your mind yet?"

Erob bounced through the hatch before Mark could answer. "We're there. Castle Wolfenstein, as ordered."

Sir Trent stiffened, and climbed quickly out of the box. "May I assume you mean Schloss Gruenewald?" He glared at Mark. "What do you intend . . . "

"Yep." Erob burbled happily onward, oblivious to the old man's fury. "We'll rescue Mark's mum and then head back west by nightfall."

Sir Trent's mouth snapped shut. He glared at Mark. "I don't seem to recall you speaking to me about there being a problem with your mother."

Mark sighed. "Good to hear your memory's in working order. No doubt you also remember that she was being protected by . . . " a hesitation, "us. They've got someone inside who grabbed her, and they'd have known if I asked for help. With the War as good as done, I figured I'd wait and see how best to proceed."

"Well," The old man scowled at him. "So why don't you tell me how we're going to rescue her."

Erob tapped at the air, and the mirror shimmered into a view of a large mansion set in hills and forest. The view was from a fair ways above the mansion, angled from the front. More tapping, and little red specks showed up, scattered about the mansion and, more sparsely, around the grounds.

"The red sparks are people?" Uma asked.

"Living things, that give off heat." Erob corrected. "Those are probably horses in the stables, and those are cows over there." The picture swooped in closer to the mansion. "These are probably mostly people. Most of them aren't moving around much."

"Not full moon yet," Mark said, "But it's bright enough that they were probably out most of last night."

Eron tapped away for a minute, and the bright spots changed. "I've sent down some secondary stations, so we can get some details." The spots were now elongated, they could tell which were lying, which sitting, which standing.

Mark tapped the picture tentatively. "That's the kitchen over 'ere." his fingers slid downward. "And the dungeons." There were two red figures, one lying stretched out, one a compact globe on the floor. Mark's finger's hesitated there. "Mum sits cross legged on the floor a lot, and, well, she thinks she's a witch and can do magic." He frowned worriedly at the red spot. "'Ow can we get there? Even with those invisible clothes of yours? The wolves will smell us."

"Can we get in from the roof?" Sir Trent clutched the blanket around himself. "We'd have to pass a lot of them, but not the guards at the door."

"Where did the Colonel sleep?" Uma asked. "And are there really separate stairs for servants in big old mansions like this?"

"Of course." Mark grinned, "You can't expect a von Gruenewald to sully his grand staircase with servants scampering up and dahn it, can you?" His grin faded as he noticed that Sir Trent hadn't stopped glaring at him. "And we can't use Bernhard's rooms, 'is wife will be there." He ran a finger around to the back of the mansion, and the picture rotated obligingly. "Except Monica Alfreda doesn't seem to be 'ome at the moment. We could 'op off the truck, onto the balcony, through the bedroom and sittin' room and nip dahn the 'allway to the servant's stairs." He frowned. "They don't even seem to 'ave any actual guards dahn there. Why the 'ell not?"

"You seem quite familiar with the route to the dungeon." Sir Trent observed.

"Oh sure. My beloved 'alf brother and his 'airy cousins used to lock up the Limey bastard all the time. Usually fer the crime of _not_ using the servant's stairs."

Erob tapped happily away at the air, and produced clothing for Sir Trent, a beautiful sleek gray men's suit, complete with cravat and kid gloves. "See these buttons on the shirt sleeve? A good hard pinch to the first button will turn on the light pass. There's a hood in the cravat, pull it over your head and down across your face." Sir Trent was following his instructions as he spoke, and disappeared except for two barely noticeable slits for vision. "Corporal, I'm changing your clothes to do likewise . . . All right, done." Mark grinned and disappeared except for his hands. Erob hastily supplied gloves.

Uma glared at her useless, dragging tail. "How about some tall boots and some way to tuck this . . . appendage up out of the way?"

"Certainly, and some gloves for you as well, so you don't have to keep pulling your sleeves down."

Apparently hiding tails was beyond the scope of Erob's wonderful little machines. A length of string worked well enough to pull it up under her skirt.

With no further planning, Erob dropped the truck to the bedroom balcony, and affixed it firmly there. "The back door will open when any of us get within five feet of it." he said. handing around stunners. "They are noisy, don't shoot anyone unless you have to."

After a bit of running into each other, Mark peeled a glove part way off and suggested they follow him.

The servants' stairs were behind an inconspicuous door, and led steeply down to a dank, unhealthy looking kitchen. "They send the cooks away for a few days around the full moon." Mark's voice whispered. "But it's not usually this . . . smelly."

"Someone's making bread," Uma informed him. "I can smell the yeast."

The door creaked open and the patch of skin led them through hallways to a massive locked door.

"Gercha!" Mark whispered. "Sir Trent, 'ave you got any lock picks on you?"

"I'm afraid not. Let me see if I can find any wire stiff enough to . . . "

"Why don't I just cut the lock's tongue?" Erob's hands appeared, with something that looked more like a thin violin bow than a saw, but he slipped it through the crack between the door and frame, and bore down. With a bit of wiggling, it dropped suddenly, and the door creaked open.

Erob's saw disappeared under his cloak, and they all hurried down more stairs, damp, with moss growing in a few spots where light must occasionally reach. At the bottom, the cells were fronted with modern metal bars, strong, unrusted.

Mark flitted down to the last two cells, one on either side of the center aisle.

"Well! Took yer time getting 'ere, didn't yer?" The tart female voice came from the right.

Uma came up to the last cell where a thin brown haired woman was sitting cross-legged on the floor, a collection of fluff and straws and a couple of bird feathers in front of her. She was looking directly at Mark, but then cocked her head and studied Uma as if she was perfectly visible. The woman's eyes drifted onward and her eyebrows arched in surprise.

"I 'adn't thought _you'd_ come, Sir Trent Armbruster-Smyth." Her head turned further and she frowned. "Marky, yer seem to 'ave picked up some _very_ odd muckers."

"God, woman! Don't start talking to imaginary people. You're enough of a trial to my nose. Spare my ears," a rough voice growled from behind them.

The invisible rescuers stood quietly, unable to even gesture to each other. Finally Mark sighed. "'ello Philip, never thought I'd see you down 'ere. Nor that I'd fool your nose. What 'appened?"

The man leaped off the bed and looked around wildly. "Damn it woman, now it's my eyes! Stop that witchery! Damn Bernhard, and that bitch he married." The man pressed against the bars, peering down the aisle. "She led me on and let Bernhard catch us kissing. I swear it didn't go any further than that, but apparently it had gone further with someone else. She threw me to Bernhard on purpose, to save someone else. She's fallen pregnant at a time Bernhard wasn't around and so he pitched me down here and she fled. Bitch."

A soft scraping from the door of Mrs. Brown's cell, and the door swung open.

"C'mon, Marc, let me out too, your dear old Mum has witched everyone into forgetting we're here, and I'm about to die of thirst."

"I'll open your door, but stay 'ere for 'alf an 'our. If I see you following us, or if you give the alarm, you're dead, wolf." Mark whispered.

"Tch! Threatening the poor boy! Bernard is the problem, you know." His Mum tottered out of the cell on stiff legs, and promptly disappeared under a cloak. "Now, really, there's no need of that. They won't see me anyway."

"I'm dead if Bernhard catches me, and dead if I stay here. What's the difference?" The man's knuckles whitened as he clutched the bars.

"I killed Bernhard. Stay 'ere and take over the leadership of the pack, for all I care. I'm done with the lot of yer." Mark growled.

Uma reached out carefully and took Mrs. Brown's arm where it stuck out of the cloak, and pulled her away from the werewolf.

"Dead? Truly dead? _You_ killed him?" The werewolf's astonished tones faded behind them as she led the woman up the stairs.

"Now me dear, yer 'ave me sorely puzzled."

"I don't usually look like this." Uma kept her voice down.

"Well, yer may sound like an American, but I really don't fink Yanks are _dat_ different." At the head of the stairs, Uma steered her toward the kitchen. Uma, at least, had no idea if the others were following.

"My father's . . . well, like this." She explained. "Mostly I stay human, but things got messy lately."

"Ah, and dat's why 'e looks above like a lizard and below like a man. And yer are the opposite. 'Ow fascinatin'."

"Mum, please, be just a little quiet, all right?" Mark had caught up with them.

"Above? Below?"

Mrs Brown patted her arm. "Most people only look below."

"Your friend is staying put as you ordered," Erob said.

A distortion in the light passed them by; even knowing he was there, Uma could barely hear him. The kitchen door swung a bit then closed. "Gercha. The cooks are 'ere. Look we need to slide around to the stairs, and up, just dodge around them. Sir Trent, you bringin' up the rear?"

"Marky, 'e left the dungeon before we did. Probably riflin' Bernhard's desk, knowing 'im."

"'Is safe, more like," Mark sounded amused, "Now, let's get upstairs before someone walks into us."

The door opened and Uma tugged Mrs. Brown forward again. The door closed behind them, so Uma assumed she knew her father's location.

The cooks were three grim women of middle years. One was doing something to the oven, another was lifting pans of dough from high, warm shelves. The third trotted briskly around the corner and straight into Mrs. Brown, knocking the cloak off.

"So sorry, Deary," Mrs Brown chirped. "Now just go about yer business and forget yer clocked me."

The woman actually curtsied to Mrs. Brown and went right back to work. Uma glanced at the other two women. They hadn't noticed a thing.

With her skin crawling, Uma headed for the stairs.

Two gunshots echoed from the front of the mansion, and were followed by the shriek of a stunner.

Mark cursed, "Get back to the truck, I'll go see if Sir Trent needs help."

His running footsteps retreated from them, and Uma hesitated.

"Best leave it to the experts, Dearie," Mrs. Brown hesitated too though.

"Let's get back to the truck," Erob's shimmer moved up the stairs, "We can scan from there, see what's going on."

"Right." Uma jumped to one side of the stairs as two men thundered down them half dressed and hairy. _More werewolves_ she guessed, and hustled up the stairs and back through von Grenewald's suite of rooms to the truck.

"Oh my, now isn't this nice?" Mrs Brown dropped the cloak altogether, and studied the picture on the wall.

"What are they doing?" Uma muttered. There was a large clump of writhing red downstairs but on the far side from the dungeon. Two of the ghostly red figures were large, but there were a lot more of the smaller ones.

"They'd better get outside or they'll be dog food." Mrs. Brown tsked as two more long, low red figures threw themselves through the front doors and into the tangle.

The two large figures jumped into a tangle of red, and reemerged on the far side, moving toward the door and the few wolves between them and the door backed up and the whole mass poured through.

"Daddy! Head for the front door, fast!" Uma called forward.

The truck jumped away from the balcony and popped up over the roof.

Uma tapped at her invisible keyboard, and pulled two stunners from thin air. She handed one to Mrs, Brown.

"Stunners, they don't kill."

"'Ow perfectly silly," the little woman said. "Still, I can see where it'd be useful if yer fightin' friends."

They managed to miss the dragons and hit enough wolves for the dragons to get aloft. Somewhere in the cloud layer, the red dragon disappeared. The silver one accepted a ride back to the Front.

Epilogue

Six weeks later the Armistice was signed. The flood of casualties from the last battle trickled to a halt, and one quiet day Uma was once again aware of being watched.

But this time it was only Sir Trent holding up the wall. He looked older and thinner, and tired. She hoped he wasn't as plagued by strange dreams and nightmares as she was. In a break between patients, she was sent off to grab a quick meal, and Sir Trent joined her.

"I'm sorry I wasn't in any condition to keep you from getting into trouble, overstaying your leave." he began.

She shook her head. "They had barely started telling me what they were going to do to me when the fighting started up again and they needed every nurse. They decided to deal with me later, and suddenly it all got dropped. If that was your doing, I thank you."

"A pleasure as well as my duty." He reached out and put his hand over hers. "Are you all right?"

"No, but I will be. Mark." She hesitated, did she want to know? "Isn't with you?"

"He and his mother are nowhere to be found. Do you have any ideas?"

"He invited me to Argentina. Could he fly that far?"

"Oh yes, he'd just follow the coast of Africa, catch the right wind and sail right over the Atlantic at the narrowest point, then head south." Sir Trent hesitated. "We, my dear, please understand, we're like two people, no, a person and a beast, all in one body. We often can't remember what we've done, or keep to our purpose, when we're changed."

Uma nodded, "He said that it took awhile for the human to resurface when he changed back. For a bit there I wasn't sure if I was going to be raped or eaten. But he did have enough control to not quite do either."

Sir Trent nodded. "It gets all confused, the dragon and the man, what one wants and what shouldn't be done. The treason," He sighed, "I'm trying to clear Mark with my superiors. He did the absolute minimum he could for the Hun, but right now they want his head – literally. When they calm down?" He shrugged. "We're trying to find the hole in our organization they got his mother through. Perhaps that will help."

Uma nodded. "It's been so insane here, these six weeks, I haven't had time to stop and think. What happens if your superiors accept that he was acting under duress, and he comes back? I'm not at all sure I want . . . I don't know what I want." She remembered the dragon eyes gleaming at her as he lay on her. The gentle brown eyes that were wholly human. She could chose both or neither. But not one or the other.

"And I don't know how to council you. Despite the lack of wings, you were a charmingly beautiful little dragon, before you made your father switch you back." His lips twitched, no doubt remembering her half panicked reaction to the strange body she'd woken up in. Sir Trent produced an envelope from an inner pocket of his suit coat. "Your father left these papers. He told me to tell you to not forget those gloves, and that he would be back."

"It is so odd to think of some vast civilization out there. Two of them. And here we are, primitive savages, ignored by both."

"We had an interesting talk about that." Sir Trent frowned and drew squares on the table with his finger. "He said that we are very much more innovative than they are. That if they contacted us now, we'd be the pitiful savages, getting inferior trade goods that wouldn't contaminate our culture. But he said that if we'd keep innovating and inventing at the pace we have been going for another century, we'd probably go out and meet them as equals." He smiled crookedly. "So I told him I'd see him in a century."

 
 
 
(Anonymous) on June 9th, 2016 12:10 am (UTC)
So now for something else.... and I have to tell you about an image I had on my mind this morning. Picture Eldon in the mountains, and he generates a shield, twists in into a horizontal slice, but sorta longer. jump on top of it, and sled down the snow pack. Presumably, a shield used as a ski would be pretty slippery? wooosh. Probably have to think pretty strongly to allow the shield underneath his feet without taking any of the ground along.

Darqref
matapampamuphoff on June 9th, 2016 01:54 am (UTC)
One would think a shield would be slick . . . which brings up thoughts of accidental sliding or rolling.

"Remember, never shield under your feet, and never, ever make spherical shields." Never sighed. "Which is why we are on the gentle slope of a small shallow valley. Go ahead, get it over with, but if you get going very fast Do Not Unshield! Wait until you've rolled up the far side and slowed way down. No matter how many times you've puked in side your shield."

Which would explain how Q got shot, she automatically did not shield underneath as she lay on the ground.

Must go add that.
Michawl DolbearMichawl Dolbear on June 9th, 2016 12:29 pm (UTC)
Elves do it pointedly ?

Project Dystopia September 2015

==Ebsa moved on. He avoided several more concentrations of ants, spotted the mob around the spherical shield.
He must be curled up in a ball. But why not try to walk out with the shield at skin level? ==
matapampamuphoff on June 9th, 2016 02:30 pm (UTC)
In that case-- Because he's a barely trained teenager trying to protect his little sister and he has no idea where outside is or how to get there or what would be there if he did get out? I dunno if they were on flat ground, in a slight declivity or the ants might have been pushing them around trying to get to the goodies inside.

Which I just might add to the scene.
Zan Lynxzlynx on June 10th, 2016 02:57 am (UTC)
Since shield and slice are related, wouldn't a sphere shield slice into the ground below and lock you into place? Assuming that you've got the power to slice that much rock.
matapampamuphoff on June 10th, 2016 03:51 am (UTC)
The edge slices. The broad curved side would press against the ground, but allow nothing through. That is, after all, it's purpose. Forming a spherical field while in contact with the ground, depending on how it propagated, might slice down into the ground--that's pretty much how they anchor shields--and could curve all the way under, so one would have dirt or rock inside one's hamster ball shield.

Q anchored her shield the usual way, which was not deep enough in the face of high powered machine gun fire. The gunner concentrated his fire at the base of the shield, to see if it would have any effect. It worked.

I should have Mantigo use that experience against the Gang in the fight. Tum, te, tum, who shall I have him kill?