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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 9: Brown 100
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Previous chapter: Chapter 8: Kondor 99
It was still Morach who awoke in Derek's sleeping bag in the morning. He still didn't know why he had failed to change back to Ferris. He lay in the warm sack and thought about it.
Derek had studied enough physics to have some inkling of where to begin. He realized that when he had changed to become smaller, he had thrown off a tremendous amount of energy, light, heat, and who knows what else. That was new. It didn't happen in the last world. That suggested that in the last world, when he changed form, the energy was stored somewhere; then when he changed back, he must have tapped into that energy and converted it back to mass.
This was serious. How was he going to get sufficient energy to create that much mass? If energy was equal to mass times the speed of light squared--well, that was enough energy to destroy cities. He had little hope of being able to transform back, save perhaps by being at ground zero of an atomic blast and absorbing all the energy.
It struck him that there was a flaw in this reasoning--not in the reasoning itself, but in the way it related to his experience. It was reasonable to assume that the energy required to convert from smaller forms to larger ones was equal to the energy expended when changing from larger to smaller ones. Certainly when he had changed last night, he had thrown off a tremendous amount of energy, light, heat, and he suspected electromagnetic radiation across the entire spectrum; but he didn't destroy the forest. He didn't even kill the undergrowth around his campsite. He caused some mithissela to burst into flame--something he could do with his body heat as a sprite. That meant that somehow, somewhere, he was still storing most of the energy needed for the transformation; he just wasn't storing all of it. He had no idea how he could store all that energy in some form that wasn't adding to his mass, but it had to be there. That in turn meant that the energy shortfall wasn't necessarily that severe. After all, he had managed to transform into Ferris--he just hadn't managed to maintain the transformation. The best guess was that he needed a tremendous influx of energy in a very short time to stay that way. If he consumed large quantities of food and managed to lie in the sun, and then immediately after transforming he ate again; and particularly if he ate a lot of sugars, starches, maybe some high energy protein drinks, stuff with a lot of accessible energy; he should be able to change back.
Of course, the whole idea suffered from one major flaw. He didn't have all that much food with him, and probably very little of it would be of the sort he needed; and in this world, as far as he could tell, his best shot at a high protein beverage was to kill a snake and drink its blood. That idea did not appeal to him; apart from that, he didn't know if it would work anyway.
He crawled out of the sleeping bag and unzipped the tent, then flew out into the morning air. The canopy overhead had thus far kept the ground reasonably cool; his fire had burned itself out during the night, but he wasn't worried about it. He was worried about what he was going to do next, for food particularly. Water he could manage; he grabbed his bow and arrows out of the side pouch on his pack flew toward the stream.
Suddenly a man came out from behind a tree in front of him, dressed in military camouflage and pointing a gun in his direction. For a moment he thought it was Joe Kondor, and he hesitated; but this man was white. "Stop where you are," a voice said, not coming from the man but from behind Derek somewhere. "I know what you are, and you should know that I will not hesitate to send you to the next world; but my boss wants a word with you."
Derek was more relieved than frightened. He was going to get out of this jungle and, from the look of things, go to a civilized place. He couldn't hover, but he did his best to stop where he was, and landed on the ground.
"Hey Chameleon," the man in front of him said, "are you sure this is the right one? I've never seen anything like this."
"Pleased to meet you, too," Derek said, with only a bit of sarcasm. Another voice spoke.
"Yes, this is the source of the scriff; whatever else that is, that's a verser."
As to the old stories that have long been here: