Lords of Being
Chapter 18: Neville's New Look
Now that the hacking by Hanuman’s hooligans has halted, the authorities get the airport computers back on line and traffic starts moving again.
We take off from Reykjavik with a declared destination of London. After about an hour of flight, Catalyst comes to Hellgrammite and asks to look at the documents he downloaded again. After studying them, he reports that he’s found some interesting things from them. “The people who were with Hanuman call themselves the ‘Bandar-Rishi’, which roughly translates as ‘Monkey Wizards.’ Hanuman must be their patron. There only seem to be three of them. The one they depend on for transportation is called Ravi. I don’t know how he does it, but only he seems to be able to teleport them from place to place.”
Hellgrammite muses, “That could explain why one of them was tired.”
Glass observes, “It also means that it’s a good idea to maintain the fiction that we’re going to London before changing our flight plan to Rotterdam.”
Catalyst replies, “Yes, that would make him tired.” He turns to Neville, “Didn’t they show up in your hometown?”
“ Yes. Reportedly. We didn’t see them.”
“Perhaps they found some hint in your personal effects.”
“But we didn’t know that we were going to Iceland until we were in Ft. Lauderdale.”
“Perhaps they’re using sympathetic magic and found a token to dowse for you. Does anyone know of any way to block this sort of effect?”
Mabel says reassuringly, “Don’t worry, we won’t leave you. You’re our reason for being here.”
Rosamund offers, “I can change what he is like.”
Glass asks, “But doesn’t blocking this require changing what he is, not what he is like?”
“It depends on what they’re dowsing on. If they’re dowsing on his physical body, it would change things. If they’re dowsing on his spirit, changing his body wouldn’t affect things.”
“He probably didn’t leave much spirit behind.”
“If they’re dowsing on the one he carries, I can’t do much about that.”
Neville has failed to follow this twist of the conversation, “The one I’m carrying?”
Rosamund replies, “Asirus. I can’t change him without his permission. In fact, he could change himself.”
Glass says dubiously, “If there’s enough of him to know anything.”
Mabel notes, “He knew enough to select a host.”
Neville asks, “What are you proposing to change?”
Rosamund replies, “I can change what you’re like, the same way you saw me change. You can stay relatively human looking… I wouldn’t suggest anything immobile. And you probably shouldn’t change into a young lady.”
“I was thinking more along the lines of losing a few pounds and a few years.”
Glass grins. “There’s a lot of spam offering services like that.”
Rosamund grins back. “I can change him into spam.”
Neville says nervously, “I don’t think I want to be potted luncheon meat.”
Rosamund continues impishly, “I do have some extra pots.”
Catalyst notes the open cockpit door. Given all of the ookiness that Captain Barron has seen, talk about changing Neville into a cube of pinkish pork product probably wouldn’t go over well. “Oh good, he’s wearing earphones.”
Rosamund relents, “Actually, just changing you into a different guy is probably the best. But first I want to know if they’re following you or following Asirus.”
Mabel suggests, “Let’s just ask Asirus.”
Neville tries thinking at his guest, “Do you know? Are they following you or following me?” He gets an impression that his passenger feels quite safe. There’s nothing that could endanger it. He directs his thoughts at Asirus again, “While it might not endanger you, it might endanger me.” There’s no response to that. Other than feeling quite safe. Neville reports this to his companions.
Zabeth confirms Neville’s feeling that he’s been in communication with Asirus, “I’ve done some analysis, and am pretty sure that they’re tracking Neville, not Asirus.
While Neville is talking to Mabel, Glass takes Rosamund to the back of the plane and asks if she could culture a replica.
“You want me to make a homunculus?”
“Yes. Like one of those plants, patterned on him? Pocket sized would be wonderful, even if it required very large pockets. So I could for example, pop down to London, and put ‘him’ on a train to York.”
“Certainly, if we have a plant to work from.”
Glass opens one of his cases and pulls out a Nut-Walter. Its pipe cleaner arms and legs are squished, and the felt body has come loose, but the walnut head is still intact. He gives it to Rosamund. Unfortunately, it’s rotten. However, that reminds Rosamund that she still has the remains of the bag from the church basement in York. She pulls it out of one of the kitchen cabinets. Almost all of them are still viable.
Rosamund returns to the group at the front of the plane. “Neville, here’s what I propose. One thing that is interesting about genetics is that just as what a creature looks like is an expression in its genetics, if there’s a change in what a creature looks like, it’s reflected in its genetics. Which would make you not what they’re looking for. In addition, if I modified something living, like this walnut, it would become what they’re looking for.”
Neville looks at here warily, “You’re going to turn me into a walnut?”
Rosamund tries again, “What do you consider you? Your point of view, or the hair on your arm?”
“I’ve never considered it.”
“When you’ve seen a spirit…”
“The first one I saw was today.”
“Is that spirit still the essence of the person, or was their body their essence?”
Mabel offers, “Are you more you on the inside or one the outside?”
Neville replies, “I would say that Rene was still him, so the essence is the spirit, not the body.”
Rosamund continues, “So you would still be you, even if the form is changed. I think it’s much easier for you to remain an adult male human instead of becoming female.” She turns to Glass, “Or a walnut tree.”
Glass grins. “I was going to say that gray parrots are very smart.”
Neville says, slowly, “I’m not sure I’m ready to be a bird…”
Rosamund says brusquely, “That’s not what I’m suggesting. But what would you like to look like? Skin color? Hair? Height? Race?”
“I never considered it. I’m rather afraid to say ‘Surprise me…’”
Rosamund considers, “I don’t think you’d want to be anyone particularly recognizable.”
Neville proposes, “Ok, let’s got to Google Images and shop for faces.”
Rosamund nods. “Meanwhile, I’ll need a hair sample so I can work on the walnuts later.”
Neville isn’t quite sure why she’s fixated on Walnuts, but provides the hair. He then pages through the images served up by a search for “average” faces, choosing one that claims it’s the average of a collection of men in Manchester, England.
Rosamund considers the task ahead of her, “This is going to take quite a bit of energy.”
Mabel offers, “Is there anything I can do to help?”
Catalyst says, “I can probably help here. I can transfer energies. And I can contribute some of my own.”
Neville asks, “What sort of energy does this take?”
Catalyst replies, “It has many names on Earth; prana, qui, manna, the Force.”
“Is this something that humans have?”
“What do humans use if for?”
Rosamund replies, “I think most people use it and aren’t aware.”
“Do I have some? And is there any way to use it to do this?”
“A strong intention on your part to be amenable to this would be good. They talk about this in terms of your psychology. You have to want to change.”
“I’m certainly all for anything that will keep the Monkey God from tracking me. What will this feel like?”
“To you? I don’t know.”
This is not the reassurance that Neville was looking for. But there doesn’t seem to be any other way to shake their tail. “OK, sure. If we’re gonna do this, let’s do it.” He lies down on one of the couches and closes his eyes, thinking cooperative thoughts.
Rosamund places a hand on Neville’s shoulder. Catalyst stands by here and says, “It would help if you’d let me touch the people I’m transferring from.” He takes Mabel’s hand, and then frowns. Her reserves of energy are much too low for her to participate safely. He beckons to Zabeth and takes her hand, and then places his other hand on Rosamund’s shoulder, prepared to transfer energy from her (and himself) to Rosamund.
Neville keeps the picture from the image search in his mind, and thinks about how he wants to become that person and elude those searching for him. After a bit he starts to feel feverish, and then a little delirious. Through it all he keeps focusing on the image. The change takes about 2 hours.
While this is going on, Captain Barron comes back looking for his copilot. He sees Catalyst standing motionless between Rosamund and Zabeth, and an unknown person lying on the couch. “Mr. Baker looks busy. Who’s that?”
Glass replies, “We’ve been working on a disguise for Neville.”
“The other side appears to have been tracking him. How are we doing?”
“Pretty good. We’re about to file the new flight plan. Please have Mr. Baker join me as soon as he’s free. There’s no rush.” He goes back to the cockpit.
Glass goes back to “chatting” with Neville’s passport to convince it to report Neville’s new biometric information.
Neville opens his eyes. Something’s different. Things look sharper. He feels lighter. Younger. There’s something in his mouth. They’re his fillings. He spits them out and goes to the bathroom to find a mirror. He’s very shocked when he sees a different face looking back at him. But he decides he likes it. “Wow! I don’t recognize me. You know, you could make a lot money if you ran a spa.”
Rosamund looks tired, “Yeah, I suppose I could, if I needed money.” She grins. “And your voice sounds different too.”
After examining himself some more, Neville comes back into the cabin to find Catalyst in the kitchen cooking. Rosamund is fingering the strands of hair she took from him and running her other hand through a bowl of walnuts.
Last Updated: Jul 3, 2009
©2009 Barry Tannenbaum, All Rights Reserved