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Walk and Squeak and Squawk(IC)

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GM

Midtown, Corner of 46th Ave and Liberty Street; October 12th, 2012, 5.45 PM

The day was bright, the air was crisp, and the flocks of birds that soared overhead, sometimes drifting down to take advantage of the kindly hearts of Freedonians, all heralded the coming winter. Cars by the dozen roared down the busy streets while pedestrians packed the sidewalks, people doing their level best to get home for a well-earned(in by far the majority of the cases)rest. At the intersection of 46th and Liberty, a rather sizable block to this goal had fallen. It was surrounded by furiously honking horns from a pileup of buses, trucks and cars that was steadily growing.

The blockade was a slim young man with a South African complexion standing in the middle of the road beside a large cage filled with various terrified animals, wearing a skintight purple and blue costume surmounted by a series of belts carrying a truly impressive array of mechanical devices. Jumping easily to the top of one of the streetlights, he placed a small metal ball on top of it, pressing a button on its side. Turning to the assembled vehicles that lay below him he hollered out "Rejoice, and be glad, Freedom City! Our animal comrades and us will soon be united, and the universal union of this planet one step closer!" tapping a button on his belt the ball suddenly erupted in a blaze of yellow light, that washed over the vehicles up and down the streets for almost a city block, at first seemingly harmless before the transformation began.

Freedonians found themselves turning before their horrified eyes into beasts! Legs became furred or scaled, nails lengthened into claws, and before a minute had passed the streets were filled with running, baffled and wailing dogs, cats, horses, cattle and at least twenty other kinds of animal, the cage now filled with very confused-looking people staring at their new limbs and feeling uncertainly at their new clothes.

"This is the first work..of the Transmogrifier!" the man proclaimed gleefully, raising his arms above the chaos he had begun!

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Rabbit

Jade Freeman was out and about today. It was a pretty uneventful day to say the least. Morning workout. School. Afternoon sparring. Errands. That's where she was now, errands. The tedium was mounting. At least she didn't need a car. She could run as fast as a car. So no waiting in traffic. It was getting late. She would have to go fast for dinner before getting the evening activities done. Well, she thought she would have time for dinner, but no. Some madman with a device was active. She sighed and stopped for a moment then ran towards the ranting villain, "Stop right th-," she was caught mid sentence! Everyone started turning to animals! Her being fluent in animal, she heard the new animals cries for help clearly. Another day in Freedom, as they say. First things first, stop the madman, she thought, then find a way to reverse this! Barreling towards the villain, she shouted, "You picked the wrong day, man!" Handspringing over a car, she flew at the man with a mighty kick of justice, landing square on the Transmogrifier!

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GM

At the angry shout from behind him, the Transmogrifier turned around in confusion "Who dar-? Oof!"

The flying attack struck home, sending the costumed villain sailing off the lamppost and crashing toward the ground, where he managed to land on his hands and feet, startled but unhurt. He looked up angrily at Rabbit, saying "Very well then! If you return my peaceful efforts with violence, I will answer in kind!" so saying he took a small disk-shaped device from one of his tool belts, and tapping one of the buttons on it faded from view with a warping appearance to the world around him.

The cars nearby Rabbit were filled with desperate and very confused dogs trying to operate door locks with their clumsy claws.

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The King of Suits had had a busy week. Most of his usual patrol route running through the Fens always had something that needed immediate attention going on, from store holdups to drug dealers peddling their wares, and all too often that one miserable wretch turned out to have several dozen friends who wanted to make sure they didn't back down easily. His left arm still smarted from the bullet that had grazed it. 'Agh, they grow in force. I need to make that move that I came here to do' Marceau Suvou thought to himself angrily, swinging gracefully down with his grapple gun from the roof top above the scene of utter insanity. Landing on a handy streetlamp he surveyed the street filled with charging animals, and more than a few people stumbling along the alleys on all fours. He groaned outright

"Why is this world so crazy sometimes?"

Spying the woman dressed like an old-style martial artist in the intersection he swooped down next to her, glancing at the cage filled with people cautiously, saying politely as he offered his hand "Good afternoon, madame. I am the King of Suits. If I may, I'll assist in containing this..." he waved his other hand around descriptively ""...outbreak. Any suggestions where we begin? My vote is that we get those larger quadrupeds running around over there corralled."

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GM

There was a lot that needed doing.

To the north, some of the Freedonians transformed into pack animals(including a milling herd of several donkeys braying a cacophony), were busy stomping around in their new bodies, their neighs of frustration with their inability to communicate with others, lowing of anger as their hooves and tails were trodden on every few moments by their fellows' inability to understand that they needed to slow down in their exploration of what these forms could do.

To the south, the sidewalks were nearly covered with small rushing tides of scurrying, mewing cats and dogs yelping desperately as they raced around looking for someone who could understand them.

To the east a giraffe stared stupidly at the tops of a small line of commercial buildings, blinking slowly as the baffling change dawned in its full horror upon them.

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Jay Xavier was groveling over the back-end code for a client's website when he heard the Star Trek 'red alert' noise; it was Jeeves, his newswatching software assistant. And that particular 'hey, I just found something for you' signal was the one Jeeves used when its problem-categorization subroutines said there was a good chance that the 'something' involved Grue activity…

"Jeeves: What's up?"

"Analysis of latest quarter-hour's Twitter posts indicates significant probability that a new villain, likely named 'Transmogrifier', has just transformed a large number of Midtown-area humans into animals."

Oh [bg=black]xxix—[/bg]. "Jeeves: Probability of continuing versus one-shot?"

"No indication of continuing." Good—any human-to-animal transformation was a problem, but at least this 'Transmogrifier' either didn't have the mojo to keep on zapping people over an extended period of time, or else they were sane enough to reserve their zap for whatever they considered a well-defined target to be.

"Jeeves: What other powers does this villain have?"

"Presumed 'Transmogrifier' appears to have teleported elsewhere after executing the transformations. Very small probability that they may be able to teleport others. No other data." Okay, that wasn't so good. So far, Jubatus hadn't encountered a whole lot of teleporters, and he liked it that way; opponents with random access to 3D space were a royal pain in the ass.

"Jeeves: Get some rest."

This was a job for Jubatus: He couldn't change the victims back to their normal selves… but he could offer them first-hand advice on how to cope with their new bodies. His web-work was at a logical stopping point, so he put his laptop into Sleep mode, went through his customary pre-heroing checklist—if Transie could 'port away, Jube had to assume he could also 'port back—and blurred off to Midtown…

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Rabbit

Jade was shocked when they crazy person teleported away. "There is no reason for you to flee my dear," she said in her best Pepe LePew voice. "I'm sure Kafka would be," she was stopped midtaunt but a man in a black costume. Still keeping her fighting stance she quickly hopped back a bit when she landed, "Well, looks like the costume-clad cavalry has arrived," she said happily. "Pleasure to meet you, Your Highness. My name is Rabbit. Sorry I'm not in alter ego garb, but sometimes these things catch you unaware." She looked around at the Midtown carnage, "Fortunately, animals are sort of my thing. I can understand them. I can speak to them. It's a gift of mine. So corralling is that much easier!" She looked back to King of Suits, "Also, Your Majesty, there is the thing of that loony over there turning people into animals. We should probably stop that. Oh, and they teleport too." She looked over to the horses, "Let's start there." She sharply whistled, "My equine brothers and sisters, do not fear. I understand your plight if you can just follow me, I will," she stopped and looked back to King of Suits, "Where do we plan to put these guys? I'm sure they're not going into any stables."

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"It is a great honor to make your acquaintance! I-wait.

Marceau stared at the young woman in momentary confusion when she called him "Your Highness" before his eyes brightened with realization, bowing gracefully with a sweep of his cape as he replied "Ah! A slight misconception Rabbit. I am not a sovereign and would never claim to be, merely part of a group that uses the terminology of cards to distinguish between ourselves and name ranks with. As for this device" he went on, grappling neatly onto the traffic lights, landing next to the sphere and examining it with interest "I will do my best to disable it. It could be that is all that is required to reverse this transformation!" He searched its exterior for some kind of panel or other way to access it besides cracking it open. The gentle approach would both make it less likely to react in some catastrophic way, and leave it open for future study.

"You can speak with animals, you say? Incredible! Tell me, how did you accomplish that?" he asked chattily, smiling down from his perch like the streets weren't like something out of a surrealist nightmare. His face became more thoughtful with the issue of where to lead the horse-turned humans. "Hmmm...That is a problem. For now why not send them to Liberty Park where they can have plenty of space to themselves? I'm sure they'll appreciate it!" he said confidently, turning back for a moment to the devilish ball-shaped engine of transformation.

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GM

The device three was surprisingly difficult to determine from the outside, its function well hidden behind the facade of polished steel that glinted in the cloudy day.

What could be easily discovered, however, was how to make it stop working. A small series of screws on the side alluding to a possible avenue for detachment, and the soft tremor of electricity felt through them suggested following it would lead to dismantlement, at least for the power source that generated that field of sickening blue.

The horse-turned-humans perked up at the sound of a voice they understood, many of them whickering hopefully as they trotted up to Rabbit. <"What's going on?!"> asked one of them, a bulky palomino, as he all but galloped up to her, eyes wide and rolling and ears flat against his head in terror <"What's happened?"> <"Maybe we've been returned to our true forms!"> suggested a roan, who was all but bouncing around on her hooves <"I always thought I was more of horse than a-wait, Liberty Park?"> she asked suddenly, turning to Rabbit <"I don't know, shouldn't we help find that Transformer guy?">


The sight that met Jubatus' eyes was outlandish, but well within the limits of reason and purpose for the city. It wasn't the first time a large number of people had been turned into animals by a gaudy, thick-headed whackjob(as the Transmogrifier was being called by many a Freedonian disgruntled by the block on their daily commute), and odds were it would not be the last. A lumbering cheetah paced slowly past him, clearly trying to figure out how this quadruped thing worked, the look on her face one of great anxiety. Seeing a fellow big cat she growled tentatively at him.

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Jubatus had no difficulty finding the place; it was the only spot where there was a sizable mob of animals of various species, not least including some that weren't native to this part of the world. It wasn't hard at all for him to 'tune out' the N different flavors of live bodies whose collective stench polluted the air, but he had plenty of practice, since ignoring-evil-odors was a requirement for day-to-day life in Freedom City. What was difficult, was coping with the situation. What these poor bastards were going through… it reminded him too bleeding strongly of his first few calendar-days after he woke up with the damn fur coat and all. Endless hours of acclimating himself to his bizarrely distorted new senses… of staring at normal humans as they oozed their slow, slow way across his field of vision… of discovering what foods his new body could or couldn't tolerate… of fine-tuning the noises that came from his throat until they could form minimally-comprehensible speech… of re-learning how to stand upright and walk on two legs…

…and the feline blinked as he realized that the world had slipped into the languid not-quite-stillness of his default tempo of 6. Right—enough with the memories! That was then, this is now, damnit! He upshifted to a tempo of 40, the better to survey the surrounding weirdness. Okay… felines, canines, equines… doesn't look like there's any fish or cetaceans, thank Proteus for small favors… hm. King of Suits. Don't recognize the woman he's with, but it sure doesn't look like I've caught 'em in the middle of a fight, so I won't worry about it. Then the cheetah's eyes fell on something that was not a normal fixture of any street in Freedom City: A cage full of people. Jube considered, and swiftly discarded, the notion that the caged humans might have been animal-victims of the Transmogrifier: They got clothes. Considering the number of empty suits in the area, not to mention animals ensnared in clothes that don't fit them any more, it's a good bet that T-mog's zap only affects living flesh, so the guys in the cage must be people T-mog didn't get around to zapping yet.

It was clear that most of the ex-humans were disturbed, some of them deeply enough that it might not take much to push them over the edge to complete panic. As for the few who seem happy about this… oh, hell. I hope they started out as species dysphorics, because if T-mog's zap can make its victims like what's happened to them, the problem just got a lot worse. Well, not my problem. Better keep an eye on 'em anyway, just in case any of 'em decide to become my problem… Jubatus pondered his options; it didn't take long, because in brute practical terms, super-speed just wasn't all that helpful for dealing with the aftermath of a bodily transformation. And… the only helpful thing I can do, at the moment, is unlock the cage. Fine; better than nothing.

Mindful of the tension in the air (which definitely made his muzzle itch), Jubatus sped off to a little outside the perimeter of the crowd of ex-humans… and downshifted to a tempo of 1. Let's see if I can reduce the tension around here. "Hello, people!" he shouted, loudly enough to ensure that he would be heard over the existing sonic ambience. "You can call me Jubatus, but I also go by Jay Xavier. I know what you're going through—been there, done that—and I can tell you that freaking out just won't do you any good, so find yourself a coping mechanism, okay? Right now, I'm going to free those people from that cage. And after that, I'm going to compare notes with the King of Suits over there, since he got here first."

Having said his piece, Jubatus walked over to the cage at a normal walking pace, deliberately not-looking at the clumsy cheetah—his damned instincts were certain she was a healthy and very eligible female—who was stepping awkwardly in his direction. Once at the cage door, he extracted a set of lockpicks from his Vest of Many Things and told the cage's occupants, "Hang in there. I'll have you out in no time." This was no idle boast; Jube had found that his animal-like forepaws were physically capable of performing many of the same tasks as true hands, just nowhere near as quickly or cleanly. So he upshifted, which made 'nowhere near as quickly' translate to 'faster than any normal human could', and put his lockpicks to excellent, if somewhat clumsy, use…

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The King of Suits failed to see or hear the super-quick arrival of his frequent associate, his eyes being busily engaged with squinting at the minutest details possessed by the gleaming metal sphere emitting the bizarre field that was the cause of so many woes. His ears failed him on account of the brays, roars, screams and chatterings that filled the air around him in nearly every direction and masked the rapping of Jubatus' claws on the tarmac. His efforts to untangle the mystery of what it was doing had been defied by both its innards being locked behind the nigh-featureless exterior, and the fact that it didn't seem to be following any design or emission laws he knew of that had to do with energy fields. That and he had little idea how such things worked in any case.

The soft vibrations he felt through the screws clasping the austere shield to the body instantly drew his attention, however, and with a deft twist of some tools he kept in his belt, he removed the sleek mask and, after a moment's careful examination of the humming machinery before him, neatly disconnected the power supply from where it fed into the slim emitter with a single tap from his screwdriver. Looking up his eyes were rewarded with the sight of the field dissipated into the air in thin shreds that twisted like wriggling, dying snakes before collapsing entirely with an anticlimactic *whump*.

Scooping the device into a loose pouch on his belt, the young man rose to his booted feet hastily enough that he nearly lost his balance while looking eagerly for the Freedonians that he expected would even now be returning to their true forms. 'I am sure they will be deeply glad to shed those animal sk-wait. What about their clothes?!' he looked suddenly horrified, and hoped fervently that the reversal of the involuntary altering of bodies would be slow enough for them to get back into their old clothing, or else he would never be able to forgive himself.

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GM

The field was deactivated, the green sheen from the bizarre world the city block had become went with it, and many of the animals that had previously been human looked with varying degrees of hope at each other. Many of them tensed, crouched or fluffed their feathers or raised their hackles if they had them, ready for the sensation of being stretched and changed once again. The horses around Rabbit managed to look surprisingly eager, except for the young woman who had welcomed the transformation, who looked almost disappointed.

So it was quite a shock to all of them when nothing happened.

<"Well darn."> commented a Newfoundland glumly.

"A good try, but you would have been upset if I made things that easy" announced a voice that rang out over a hidden loudspeaker system. A voice familiar to Jubatus' ears. "It will take considerable more effort if you want to get rid of this gift I and my comrade the Transmogrifier have worked so very hard to give you. You see, humans, I have been changed like you have now, but unlike you panicky animals I accepted and embraced this new life. None of you can truly even begin to understand the plight of our brothers and sisters in the rest of the animal kingdom unless you have walked a mile in their weighted, bound hooves trudging through the muck; cringed in their fur as your life is about to be snuffed out so some monster can wear your flayed hide; been imprisoned so that cowards can torture you to test new drugs and perform experiments that leave you a mass of pain! I, Acinonyx, defy you three who have set themselves against true understanding between animals and humans, to find me and my formula to reverse the metamorphosis!" the voice had risen to a near frenzy before dropping into an eerie calm "It will give those who currently fear their new forms time to adjust, and to open their eyes to the evil that surrounds them that goes unspoken and unpunished. I would suggest you start with that cage-ah! It seems my brother Jubatus is already showing more compassion and intellect than the humans are. A shocking surprise, I am sure. Good luck humans, we shall meet again."

The voice cut out, and the block was suddenly very quiet.


By now the air was filled with all the smells of fear, the dull undercurrents of various species whose scents urged at Jay to go hunting, competing smells of females and males of his biological kind who seemed to be conspiring to be as distracting as possible, and the stench of petroleum fuels and exhaust. It made the idea of a miniature gas-mask for his nose a very tantalizing concept.

The humans inside were all plucking uncertainly at their clothes, the looks on their faces somehow..off. The Fleetest-Footed Feline Alive was well-used to the ways people contorted the muscles and skin of their faces to make expressions they never knew they were making. These people just looked blank, not even the normal kind of blank either, with its pensive unease and dull glint to the eyes. One of the humans, a Laotian-looking woman with incredibly thick black hair and lean features, wearing a dark gray suit, looked at Jubatus and ventured "Oorargh?"

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Of course killing the villain's infernal device didn't solve the problem…

"A good try, but you would have been upset if I made things that easy," announced a voice that rang out over a hidden loudspeaker system. A voice familiar to Jubatus' ears.

Wait—that's Sue Donnermutter! Jubatus thought, referring one of the first people to hire Jay Xavier after he'd traded up from the human body he'd been born with… A virus had reduced Donnermutter's laptop to an expensive brick; while working on the problem, Xavier found files that proved Donnermutter led a double life as an animal rights terrorist. He turned all the evidence over to the FBI, and the last time he'd checked, Donnermutter had managed to evade capture and was still wanted. Her voice is off, though—sounds like a high-end voder… Well… maybe she's had throat surgery. Maybe.

"…I have been changed like you have now…"

Oh, xxix. She did get zapped into a non-human thing.

"…the plight of our brothers and sisters in the rest of the animal kingdom… been imprisoned so that cowards can torture you to test new drugs and perform experiments that leave you a mass of pain!"

Because being eaten alive by a predator is so much more spiffylicious than sucking up whatever minimal amount of discomfort comes with being an experimental subject. Okay, Donnermutter hasn't changed in any way that matters. The tail end of the woman's rant was nothing special; she was now calling herself 'Acinonyx' (with that nom de guerre, the odds that she wasn't now a cheetah-derived critter were low-to-nonexistent), get used to the new forms, you all need Acinonyx, yada yada yada. Jube glowered when she referred to him as "my brother Jubatus"—this situation was bad enough already, without any idiots getting the idea that he actually supported the villainness' goals. Well, too late. Deal with it, Jube.

When Donnermutter/Acinonyx finally shut up, the good news didn't end…

These people just looked blank, not even the normal kind of blank either, with its pensive unease and dull glint to the eyes. One of the humans, a Laotian-looking woman with incredibly thick black hair and lean features, wearing a dark gray suit, looked at Jubatus and ventured "Oorargh?"

Not good. "Hello? If anybody in the cage can understand me, raise your hand."

No response.

Upshift

Back in fast-time, the first thing Jubatus did was install a set of filters in his nostrils, on the grounds that the less olfactory distraction he had to ignore, the better. Now: What had Donnermutter done here? The behaviour of the cage-occupants was consistent with their being transmuted animals, but they were clothed, and if T-mog's zapper didn't…

Oh. Right. If they're T-mog victims, they could've been zapped and clothed before I showed. Whatever; it's clear their minds aren't all there, so the cage is probably the best way to keep 'em out of trouble for the moment. So resolved, Jubatus locked the cage—and made a mental note to dial 9-1-1 for assistance. He wasn't at all sure what sort of emergency services should be invoked here, but he figured the dispatcher would sort it all out.

For the present, he had work to do: Namely, looking for the loudspeaker through which Donnermutter had spoken, and examining the remains of the transmogrifying gadget which King of Suits had disabled.

Jube's sensitive, mobile ears had zeroed in on the loudspeaker while it was active (it was concealed in a cluster of advertising signs), so he looked it over first. Hmm… pretty bog-standard stuff; burned-out battery there, cable hooked up the metal sign-framework that served as its antenna there… looks like generic Radio Shack parts to me. Low probability of getting any useful leads from the thing.

As for the gadget which was responsible for all the involuntary 'body transplants', that device was rather less comprehensible. As part of his continuing campaign to kill time during his 150-hour-long days, Jubatus made a point of researching any and every source of publicly-available information about bodily transformation; this particular gadget wasn't a particularly close match for anything he'd read of, but nevertheless, it struck him as bearing a family resemblance to the gadgets Dr. Simian exploited to transform humans into apes. And… right. This gizmo's got a much wider range of forms it can impose on its targets. Also a higher power level, and faster transformations, than Simian's devices. Judging from the workmanship, it looks like this gizmo had been thrown together by a competent craftsman working to a tight deadline.

Now to compare notes with King of Suits… wait, I don't like the looks of the crowd. Okay, herd-slash-crowd control first, then compare notes.

Downshift

Back at the default tempo of 1: "Hello, people!" Jubatus called, loud enough for his pseudo-voice to be heard over the noise of the city and the newly-transformed animals. "I know what you're going through here. Believe me, I know. And I know that brooding about the craziness that's been dumped on you isn't going to help anything. So for the time being, I'd suggest that you focus on finding out what your current body can and can't do." With any luck, T-mog's victims would be so busy concentrating on that, that they wouldn't have time to freak out over their bizarre situation. "If you're quadrupedal, standing on your hind legs is gonna be awkward, and probably painful—but if you can deal with the discomfort, you should be able to manage it. Your paws just aren't as dexterous as real hands, but since you've got human intelligence controlling 'em, you should be able to get better use out of 'em than a natural-born version of your body would. Speech, who knows if your current vocal tracts can do speech? It'll be worth some experimenting. And while you're doing that… Me and the King of Suits will do our damnedest to figure out how the hell to get you all back to normal, okay? So… hang in there. You're not alone."

The cheetah took his leave of the civilians, and joined the King of Suits. "Hello, your majesty," he said. "You were here first, but I think I may have some data you don't. How about we pool our information?"

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Puffing out his cheeks and scowling at sky sky as 'Acinonyx' spoke, the caped and cowled man began to reach for the device in front of him. 'At the very least we can find ou-' "Whoa!" he exclaimed as a yellow-black blur suddenly blazed past and turned into Jubatus, the young man blinking in momentary surprise before he recovered himself and waved happily. "Jubatus, a friend of mine" he added for Rabbit's benefit.

 

The fanatic's words had gotten to him a little more than the sanguine and jaded Jay, one of the perils of being a tender-hearted soul. Thus he was a little quieter than normal when Jubatus trotted over to him.

 

"Hello, your majesty," he said. "You were here first, but I think I may have some data you don't. How about we pool our information?"

The dark-skinned hero smiled "Good plan, Jubatus" he replied evenly, picking up the small machine and carefully beginning to disassemble it. Scrutinizing the work of his delicate fingers he said "So far as I know, this seems like one of those man-to-beast things Dr. Simian uses now and then. Haven't made any more detailed examinations I'm sorry to say" he admitted with a rueful look, glancing up at Jay "In fact I've scarcely done any research at all. If you would be so kind as to tell me and our mutual ally Rabbit" he gestured grandly at the young woman with his right arm "what you know, it would be invaluable."

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Jubatus nodded at 'Rabbit' when the King of Suits introduced her, but did not feel any need to do more than that.

"So far as I know, this seems like one of those man-to-beast things Dr. Simian uses now and then. Haven't made any more detailed examinations I'm sorry to say" he admitted with a rueful look, glancing up at Jay. "In fact, I've scarcely done any research at all. If you would be so kind as to tell me and our mutual ally Rabbit" he gestured grandly at the young woman with his right arm "what you know, it would be invaluable."

"First, I think you're right about the zapper being related to Dr. Simian's ape-ifying devices. The underlying tech seems pretty much the same to me, but the zapper's been modified for greater power, faster transformative effect, and a much wider range of species available for its targets.

 

"Second, Acinonyx' voice was transmitted from elsewhere, through a loudspeaker that was installed there"—the feline pointed at the specific advertising sign he'd discovered. "I doubt the mechanism will yield any useful information, but I'll dismantle it for detailed examination anyway, just in case.

 

"And third, I'll bet good money that Acinonyx is, or was, an animal rights terrorist named Sue Donnermutter. A few weeks after I got the permanent fur coat, Donnermutter hired me to clean up her virus-infested laptop, and she apparently thought that anybody who looked like me would necessarily approve of her 'other life'. Wrong—I handed the FBI all the evidence I could find, and she went underground before they could arrest her. Given that her voice sounds like it's artificially synthesized, and the name she's adopted, I strongly suspect she's had herself remade as a cheetah.

 

"Now, what have you and Rabbit discovered?"
 

Edited by Cubist

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GM

 

Before the King of Suits could respond, a sudden riot burst out nearby. Several of the horses and gazelles had apparently managed to terrify each other into stampeding, and now a tide of ungulates went roaring, clattering and neighing down the street!

 

"I'll take care of this! You guys go ahead, I'll catch up!" Rabbit called over her shoulder, the martial artist becoming a blur as she raced after the stampede, leaping across cars, weaving between the transformed animals and painstakingly guiding them to the broad expanse of nearby Liberty park.

 

Marceau blinked after her. "I guess that's that. Anyway Jubatus, I am afraid I know extremely little. Just that someone calling themselves 'the Transmogrifier' appeared, activated the device after a tussle with Rabbit where he had his rear handed to him, and then teleported away. It seems this 'Acinonyx' has resources beyond what she had."

 

Sighing wearily, the young man rubbed his cowled head in a meditative way "What do you think? Track down where these parts came from?"

Edited by Arichamus

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Arichamus, on 20 Mar 2013 - 10:22, said:

Before the King of Suits could respond, a sudden riot burst out nearby. Several of the horses and gazelles had apparently managed to terrify each other into stampeding, and now a tide of ungulates went roaring, clattering and neighing down the street!

"Oh, great," Jubatus said. "I—" —am a clawed and fangity predator. If those poor bastards have 'gone native', I am the last person who should attempt to corral them— "—hope somebody can calm 'em down before anyone gets hurt."

Fortunately the newbie, Rabbit, was almost as fast on the uptake as Jube; the cheetah had no idea how good Rabbit was at Pouring Oil On Troubled (instinctual) Waters, but it wasn't like she could be worse at it than the feline speedster. "Good luck, kid!" Jube called to Rabbit's receding back. Then, to King of Suits: "Your turn now. What'cha got?"

King of Suits said:

"…Jubatus, I am afraid I know extremely little. Just that someone calling themselves 'the Transmogrifier' appeared, activated the device after a tussle with Rabbit where he had his rear handed to him, and then teleported away. It seems this 'Acinonyx' has resources beyond what she had."

Sighing wearily, the young man rubbed his cowled head in a meditative way "What do you think? Track down where these parts came from?"

Jubatus nodded. "Yeah—but don't forget to investigate the zapper as well as the loudspeaker. I'll bet we can learn more from the zapper, myself, but both are worth looking into." He frowned, looking into the middle distance for a moment, then went on: "How about if you take care of tracing the parts, and while you're doing that, I see what I can do for Transmog's victims here?"

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"An excellent division of labor! You take care of those unfortunates, Jubilation, I'll scour the city for anything I can find out about these piles of devilry..."  he squinted into the inner workings of the transforming device, adding "well, humanry anyway. Since you've some experience with this kind of technology, do you have any idea where I might find a few people to talk to?"

 

He deftly slipped the pieces into a spare pouch on his belt, looking utterly composed at the Fastest Feline Alive. "If not, I will consult my own network. They might know more than they've said recently."

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King of Suits, on 21 Mar 2013 - 19:08, said:

"An excellent division of labor! You take care of those unfortunates, Jubilation—"

"Jubilation"? the feline thought, but he restricted his outward reaction to giving the King of Suits a thoroughly bemused look.

Quote

"—I'll scour the city for anything I can find out about these piles of devilry… Well, humanry anyway. Since you've some experience with this kind of technology, do you have any idea where I might find a few people to talk to?"

Jubatus nodded. Oy. The man's probably a total noob, tech-wise. Low odds of him knowing enough to even ask the right questions. Who do I know with the requisite level of skill and patience-with-clueless… His forelegs blurred in front of him for a moment, then he handed the King of Suits a 5-by-8 index card with a crudely hand-written list of contacts. "Here—any of these guys should be helpful, the ones with stars by their names in particular. And…" The cheetah himself blurred away and back; when he returned, he was carrying the dismantled loudspeaker, with all its parts individually wrapped in inert plastic. He'd taken care to avoid contaminating the evidence as best be could manage. "…you'll probably want this, too. Now, let's both get to work, hrrm?"

With those words, Jubatus stepped closer to the remaining crowd of ex-humans. Let's see, there had been 39 victims, not counting the ex-animals in the cage. Now that the freaked-out ungulates are gone, there's… 23 victims left. Fine. Top priority is, hmm, communication. Speech if possible, typing is Plan B, handwriting if all else fails. Okay, email to ArcheTech… sent. Here's hoping for quick response time on their end. As it happened, Jay Xavier had spent no small amount of his time looking into speech, and speech substitutes, in the first few calendar days after he woke up as a feline—and ever since, he'd made a point of keeping up with advances in the field of speech synthesis, just in case he might need it some day. But now, his researches were going to be of use to T-mog's innocent victims… he hoped…

Already got their attention. Good, the feline thought. "Okay, people: The top priority is restoring you to your original bodies, and we're working on that. In the meantime, I'm thinking the second-highest priority is to get you all able to communicate, and I may have that covered: Seems that ArcheTech sells a gadget that can translate brainwaves to audible speech. I don't know if the thing requires human brainwaves, but—" Jube's tablet computer 'ping'ed; he upshifted. Fresh email for the inbox—and it's ArcheTech! Yes! They think it should work, even better! And they got 25 Speak'R'Mind units on hand? Yes!! After putting in an Ultimate Rush order for all of the available devices, Jube downshifted and went on: "—the folks at ArcheTech think it's worth a shot, and they're sending 25 of the gizmoes ay-ess-ay-pee!" May Helen Keller smile upon us all. "So… while we're waiting, I still recommend that you all familiarize yourselves with the capabilities of your current bodies. If we can make things right fast, you haven't lost anything; if the restoration happens later than we'd like, you're gonna need to know what you can and can't do. Me, I'll be looking into alternative means of communication, just in case there's any people the ASTRO gadget won't work for."

And with that, Jubatus called up files related to more-conventional forms of assisted communication…

Edited by Cubist

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GM

 

While the feline speedster dealt with the Circe-esque situation, the King of Suits hastened off to the locations on the card, waving a cheery goodbye before he swung off on his grapple line.

 

He made excellent time thanks to his knowledge of the city and unconventional way of getting around, soon locating the people Jay had offered as sources. As it happened, most of them had been asked about just such parts over the last few months over the internet, with the caller always focused with laser-like intensity on the modular and modifiable aspects of the various pieces.

 

"Yeah, I got a call about that just a couple months ago" Helmut Barven said with a slight narrowing of his beady gray eyes "They kept asking about the power supply and if they could modulate the sound-waves a few hertz south of ear busting. I hung up on them. They talked weird, bunch of electronic scratching into the cell..."

 

"Not much else to say," admitted Jackie Chandler, shrugging her broad shoulders apologetically "They did seem really anxious about rusting and water-proofing, though. And got agitated when I mentioned what they wanted could be pretty fragile if put under stress."

 

"That's not how wave-form generators work" Xian Beckham said flatly "And yes, they did have an address. This number" he scribbled out a number on Allen Street, handing it back with slightly singed fingers "just don't tell anyone about this, 'kay? I don't like cops."

 


 

The Speak'R'Mind devices worked their magic, and soon the crowd of initially fearful and hesitant trans-animals were happily talking, exploring their newfound bodies with abandon. There were a few unfortunately chosen words, and one embarrassing accident, but all things considered it was going much better than before.

 

The humans in the cage proved quite unable to use the small metal loops coherently, the things merely emitting a slow, fearful grumble.

 

 

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After two hours of making his hurried way from tech store to consulting office and back again, the King of Suits returned to the intersection, swooping down with a swirl of his cape as he loped over to Jubatus. Watching with deep admiration as the altered man helped the newly-transfigured Freedonians go through the new steps of adjusting to their bodies, Marceau hesitated only a moment before approaching, calling out "My friend! I have made the rounds of your acquaintances! I must say they were quite helpful" smiling broadly he took off a glove and produced a small green notepad, inspecting it briefly as he muttered "If a little uninterested in saying more than what's necessary..." Looking back up the lean young man said, dodging a small band of canines walking crazily on their hinders with laughs and grunts of pain  "783 Allen St. The person or persons asking about these parts apparently was deeply concerned with how customizable and modifiable they were, and their resistance to oxidation and submersion. Seems likely to indicate we're dealing with somebody who moves and works in the sewers, or perhaps something in the river" a roll of his eyes "Or else they just have a very bad time with their plumbing. Either way they must have a great many electronic and mechanical tools about the place."

 

Glancing around the crowded streets at the cage, he gestured with a dark hand "What about them, Jubatus? Probably best to get everyone under care as quick as we can...ugh" he winced and rubbed his cowled forehead "Now I think of it? Spectacular. Anyway, yes, shall we call ASTRO Labs, the Atom Family? Freedom League?"

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Fun fact: The ability to make your personal Time run faster isn't as helpful as it could be when you're conversing with a person who can't do that. And when you're dealing with 23 people simultaneously, all of whom are stuck at the normal tempo of 1…

"You're absolutely right, Mr. Hamilton," Jubatus said to the banker that currently occupied the body of a trumpeter swan. "You are in a xxixty situation, and you do need help, and I am as close as you're gonna get to a person with the kind of expertise you need. The thing is, you're one of twenty-three people who all can say the same, and every clock-second I spend helping you is a clock-second during which I'm not helping any of the twenty-two other people who need me just as bad as you do. So take a xxxxing number and get in line, pal!"

The swan/banker having been shocked blessedly speechless by this outburst, Jube moved on to the single mother who was going to have a hell of a time working her cash register if she wasn't restored from the aardvark-body she currently occupied.

"Hi, Jubatus!" the aardvark's prosthetic speech-substitute said for her. "I'm sorry, but I just don't think I'm going to be able to stand upright."

The feline shrugged. "No need to apologize. Frankly, most of you shouldn't try for bipedal posture, but it'd be hypocritical as hell for me to talk you out of it, hrmm? Now, have you had a chance to experiment with your forepaws?"

"Not yet. All I've done is try, and fail, to stand up…"

Jubatus didn't notice the passage of time; he just kept moving from person to person, offering such advice as he could, demonstrating what he could, searching the Internet for relevant bits of data as needed. The speedster was so tightly focused on what he was doing, that he actually failed to notice the King of Suits' arrival!
 

"My friend! I have made the rounds of your acquaintances! I must say they were quite helpful" smiling broadly he took off a glove and produced a small green notepad, inspecting it briefly as he muttered "If a little uninterested in saying more than what's necessary..." Looking back up the lean young man said, dodging a small band of canines walking crazily on their hinders with laughs and grunts of pain  "783 Allen St."

 
Jubatus shut his eyes and winced. Of course. Of bleeding course Donnermutter's current base of operations is within a one-block radius of her former residence.
 

"The person or persons asking about these parts apparently was deeply concerned with how customizable and modifiable they were, and their resistance to oxidation and submersion. Seems likely to indicate we're dealing with somebody who moves and works in the sewers, or perhaps something in the river" a roll of his eyes "Or else they just have a very bad time with their plumbing. Either way they must have a great many electronic and mechanical tools about the place."

 
Jubatus looked off into the middle distance as he considered the King of Suits' report and notes. "Hrrrmmm… looks like the gadget they're trying for is a pocket EMP generator—should be able to mess up any electromagnetic transmission, microwaves and radio and even power lines, within a radius of about six miles. Not good; six-mile radius covers a non-trivial chunk of Freedom City. Don't want to even think of how many hospitals and fire stations could get zapped…"
 

Glancing around the crowded streets at the cage, he gestured with a dark hand "What about them, Jubatus? Probably best to get everyone under care as quick as we can...ugh" he winced and rubbed his cowled forehead "Now I think of it? Spectacular. Anyway, yes, shall we call ASTRO Labs, the Atom Family? Freedom League?"

 
Jubatus nodded. "Right, right. Definite physical challenges here, requiring specialized environments. I just… have no idea what's needed… hrrrrm. ArcheTech provided the voice-boxes, let's see if they're set up to handle more-extensive physical deficits—" Upshift, an email sent ArcheTech-ward, downshift. "—and since this mess is in the ballpark of some of Dr. Simian's past rampages,  get the Freedom League in the loop on this." A second upshift-email-downshift, this one directed towards the greatest hero group on Earth. Five-to-one odds that ArcheTech responds first, considering how damn many emails the League must get on any given day. Even odds of no League reply within the next, hm, 7 clock-hours?
 
Surprise number one: The League responded first, within 7 clock-seconds. Surprise number two: The content of the League's reply. It seemed that they had a contingency plan in place for exactly this kind of scenario, an arrangement with the Hanover Zoo—

 

An involuntary growl tore itself from the cheetah's throat. No. Abso-xxxxing-lutely not. No goddamn way in any or all the hells that never existed am I going to sit by and allow these people to be xxxxing locked up in…

 

Jubatus blinked. His ears, tail, and hackles sank towards the pavement.

 

…an environment which is explicitly designed for the specific purpose of accommodating the unique needs of sentient beings who've been caught up in exactly this kind of situation…

 

"Khhhm." Jube paused a moment, then tried again: "King of Suits. It, says here. That. The Hanover Zoo. Has. Special facilities. For people who. Have. Been transformed. And, the. Zoo. Should be able. To ackkhawmmidate. All 23 of. Our guests here. Plus the. Ex-animals. And the. Ones. Who, stampeded off. After Rrrabbit, c-c-corrals them." He swallowed, not that this act would provide any physical benefit. "Could you. Please. Make, the, rrrequizzzite. Arrangements." Because the mere thought of being caged, even with the best of intentions, scares the ever-loving crap out of me…

Edited by Cubist

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The King of Suits took out his phone, beginning to dial the League's public number when Jubatus started to practically fall apart. The speedster's trembling voice and halting speech when he got to 'corral' said volumes, and Marceau struggled to resist the urge to just drop down and give Jay a powerful hug. Restraining himself to a pat on the back, the costumed vigilante said "Of course!" with a warm smile, quickly calling Freedom Hall to explain the problem and arrange the transport of the afflicted Freedonians, making sure to mention "the small herd possibly grazing in Liberty Park" under the watchful eye of "Rabbit, a new hero and comrade of ours!"

 

"I believe it would be best to keep this matter more or less in the hands of myself and Jubatus," he added gravely "This 'Acinonyx' wants to make some kind of example out of this, and any more attention could make her feel trapped and do whatever she's planning to do early. You will? Oh thank you! We will not fail! Goodbye."

 

Putting the phone away and listening at the distant sounds of an approaching truck, the King of Suits nodded shortly, smiling in relief. The two made quick rounds explaining what was going to happen next, and how to make sure the trip went without incident. After the transformed citizens were on their way to their new homes, and the cage of animals turned human had been loaded up, Marceau turned back to Jay. "Well then, Jubatus, you seem to know that address on the card already, what say you go there first and scout the area while I make my own way over?" he grinned "I won't keep you waiting too long!"

 

Suddenly his smile vanished, he looked glumly at the cheetah man for a few seconds, then suddenly gave him a quick, firm hug. Disentangling himself he looked deeply awkward, muttered "Sorry" and drawing his grapple gun zipped off for the rooftops of downtown Freedom.

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