by Equestrian HorseWrangler
© Equestrian HorseWrangler -- all rights reserved
Wayne slunk down in his seat with torpor as he stared blankly at his computer screen. The flashing of the cursor was beginning to become hypnotizing, as was the constant background chatter of his fellow coworkers. His eyes seemed to lose focus as he scanned about his office.
He let out a sigh as he rolled his chair out of his cubicle and down the little pathway toward his friend's own private little box. Lloyd was at that moment finishing up a phone call with a prospective client, and with a raised pointer finger gave Wayne the traditional "wait a minute" sign. Wayne just quietly rocked back and forth in his chair as he waited for Lloyd to finish.
"Yes sir, trust me, you made an excellent choice. Goodbye." Lloyd hung up the phone and spun toward his friend. "Something troubling you?"
Wayne didn't hesitate. "Do you ever get the feeling that life is passing you by? That you're just not 'gathering your rosebuds while you may' or any of that?"
Lloyd smirked. "Ah, the wonderful midlife crisis. I was wondering how long it would take to bite you."
"I'm serious, Lloyd. I'm 32 years old and I don't like my life." He paused. "I've been feeling it for a while."
"A void. I'm not sure what exactly, but for the past year I've felt empty inside. Nothing I do seems to make it go away."
Lloyd just smiled. "It's called life, Wayne. Almost everyone questions themselves about our age. And most people don't seem to like the answers they get. That's when we turn our attention towards sports cars and trendy clothes."
Wayne grimaced. "You're not helping."
Lloyd chuckled. "I'm sorry. But you're such an easy target."
Wayne slid his hands in his pockets. "I just don't want my time spent on Earth to be pointless. When I die, I want to know that I had done something significant in my life. And I want someone to share it with."
At that, Lloyd's smile reappeared. "Well Mr. Hamilton, you know Janet over in Human Resources has been taking some candid glances at you for quite some time."
Wayne barely avoided blushing. "Oh, she's way out of my league. I couldn't possibly have a chance with her."
"You know Wayne, I've talked with her a few times, and she seems to share some interests with you. I found out that she's into that weird transformation fiction that you like. C'mon man, that has to say something about you two's compatibility."
Wayne's eyes lit up. "Really? Still, I don't think she's ever want to hang out with someone like me."
Lloyd shrugged. "You'll never know unless you ask." With that, he spun around to his computer and got back to work.
Wayne thought carefully about what his friend said as he wheeled himself back to his cubicle.
He bumped into something as he was rolling backwards, and instinctively swung his head to face what he had hit. He saw Janet fall on the ground, the stack of papers in her hand crashing to the floor in a clutter. Oh no! was all Wayne had time to think before he hopped out of the chair to help her.
Janet adjusted her glasses and tried to get her bearings right as Wayne reached for her hand.
"Oh Janet, I'm so sorry. I should have been looking where I was going."
Janet just waved her hand, and said, "It's no problem. I have the pages numbered, so I'll be able to sort them again."
It was at that moment that they looked up and stared each other in the eyes. The rest of the world just faded away for a moment as they were locked in each other's gaze.
"Janet?..." Wayne began, a little hesitant.
"Yes Wayne?" Janet responded quickly, almost immediately afraid that it came out too fast.
"Would you...," Wayne started, trying hard to finish the question. But as he looked into Janet's beautiful brown eyes, he found himself robbed of his nerve.
"Would you like me to help you clean this up?" he said, mentally kicking himself for chickening out.
Janet sighed internally. "No, I'll be able to handle it."
With that, Mr. Hamilton and Mrs. Walker both went their separate ways, hoping tomorrow would be the day.
Wayne made a beeline to his computer when he went home. After listening to the familiar harmony of his CPU warming up, he opened his e-mail account and checked his messages. It seemed like a slow day on the TSA-Talk mailing list, only 10 messages all day. Three new stories, one by his favorite author Mystique and the other two by Phil and Bob, naturally. The rest of the messages seemed to be a harmless flame war between Sly Squirrel and Cubist over the movie "Altered States".
Wayne opened Mystique's story and read it. It seemed to be one of the "self-aware" variety, where the character in the story is also a member of the TSA-Talk list and mentions other characters on the list as well. Wayne had written a few stories for the list in his time, but he never made a self-aware one; it just wasn't his style.
The story itself was a strange one. A young woman who is also were-otter has trouble breaking the news to her fiance. Were-otter? thought Wayne. That's novel. It turns out that her fiance was himself a were-raccoon, and was having a similar problem fessing up.
Wayne finished the story, pleased with how it turned out for the young couple. He sent Mystique a message in return, congratulating her on a good story, and then shut off his computer.
The rest of the evening passed by without event, as Wayne watched passively the images on the TV screen. It appeared that James Caan was skating around a roller derby track punching people with spiked gloves. Wayne just shrugged at this he slowly settled into the show.
When it was time for him to go to sleep, Wayne began his normal ritual of slipping on his pajamas and turning on the radio on his bed's headboard. He curled up under his covers and slowly began to shut his eyelids. It was under the melody of Jethro Tull's "Aqualung" that his eyes clamped down for good.
"What are you waiting for?!" a voice screamed in the background. Wayne's eyes exploded open, and he jerked his head back and forth in confusion. A loud whistling sound forced him to look up in time to see a missile fly over him and off into the distance. He watched the projectile hit the ground in the distance and blast several strange looking bodies into the air.
Wayne was shocked to find himself lying on what appeared to be a hill in the middle of some war zone. He saw creatures running past him, brandishing weapons resembling rifles. The creatures themselves were furry and ran on four legs. One of them stopped in front of him, leaning his weight on one side of his body as he looked directly at Wayne.
"Are you all right, sir?" it asked.
Wayne half-consciously shook his head yes. The creature seemed satisfied with this, and turned to face a group that was approaching from behind. It shouted orders at them, and they nodded their heads.
Wayne continued to stare with disbelief at the creature. It was covered from head to toe in a brownish-tan fur, and had the facial and body characteristics of a deer. It's human-like upper torso was attached to what looked like a normal deer's body, only slightly more massive to be proportional with the top. Wayne had seen drawings of such creatures on the internet, even read a few stories about them. But never had he ever thought he would see one. Yet here it was, standing right in front of him as sure as Wayne was looking at it.
This one seemed to be wearing a military style uniform, complete with items resembling grenades and other weapons. Wayne turned and saw the new group that was coming as well, and saw that they too were all deertaurs.
The sound of another missile being launched snapped Wayne out of his trance. He knew he couldn't just stay where he was, he was too vulnerable to attack. He tried to get up, but tumbled back to the ground rather sloppily.
He then turned to face his body, curious as to what went wrong. What he saw shocked him.
Four legs, all ending in cloven hooves instead of feet. He followed them up higher and found a furry body. He closed his eyes as he felt his head; a long furry muzzle protruded from the middle of his face, and two flexible ears grew on the sides of his head.
He was a deertaur too.
How? Why? Where am I? Questions that he assumed any rationally being would ask if this had happened to them. But he had no further time to think.
"Lieutenant!" he said.
The deertaur in front of him turned to face him.
"Follow me. We're going to regroup with the other squad."
The lieutenant nodded, and Wayne got up to his feet, this time with no incident. He ran as fast as he could along the hill, periodically looking back to make sure his men were still behind him.
What company? he asked himself, surprised at what had come from his mouth. How did I know that creature in front of me was a lieutenant? Furthermore, why do I know his name is Raines?
He looked down at his feet and watched in awe as they ran in synch with each other. Something inside of him was telling him how to operate his body. He had strange memories in his head, ones of a life that was alien too him. And yet he seemed to be familiar with it. It was coming back to him, slowly but surely.
He came to a halt on the other side of the hill. In slowly trotted up to a female deertaur soldier wearing a red beret on her head, and he instinctively saluted her. She returned the gesture, and he dropped his hand, taking his stance at attention.
"At ease, captain," she said in a delicate voice, one that almost didn't seem like it should have belonged to a soldier. The strange chevron on her sleeve told Wayne that she was a major, but somehow Wayne knew that already.
"Ma'am, we were hit pretty hard. Request permission to join up with your squad on a frontal assault."
Where are these words coming from? Wayne asked himself desperately.
"Permission granted." With that, the major turned around and made a motion to her troops to follow her. Wayne let out a sigh, and slowly began a trot with his men. One of them, a lance corporal, ran beside him and handed him a rifle. Wayne nodded his head in thanks, and then ran to catch up to the major.
She turned her head and winked at him, and Wayne forced a smile on his face. Why did she do that? he asked himself. But before he could search his mind for an answer, he saw a ground explosion about fifty feet in front of him. He instinctively cocked his weapon, and saw his men do likewise.
The major screamed, "This is it! Let's show those bastards some cervine justice!"
Wayne ran up a small hill along with the rest of his group, and almost slammed face first into another creature. He only had a moment to notice that it was a fox-like creature before it lifted a bloody axe up in the air. Wayne grunted as he swung his rifle up and fired point blank at the creature. A red beam of light shot out of the gun's barrel and blasted the fox creature in the chest, instantly ripping it open. The force of the blast sent the creature's lifeless body rolling back down the other side of the hill.
Wayne caught sight of the fox's entire body once it settled at the bottom of the hill. It had four legs, just like him. A foxtaur.
It wasn't wearing any kind of uniform, instead it was covered in a very primitive looking barbarian garb. Wayne barely had time to take this in account before he saw another foxtaur charging up the hill at him. And another. And another.
He swung his rifle back and forth frantically, letting out laser blasts as fast as his finger could pull the trigger. He was relieved to see that his men had joined in as well, and there was a avalanche of dead fox bodies as they plummeted back down the hill.
But there was so many of them. A sea of foxtaurs seemed to be advancing on their position, each one with a crazed look on their face as they swung axes, swords, clubs and other rudimentary weapons in their hands.
Wayne did not understand why he was fighting these things or why they were so determined to kill him; he knew only that he had to kill them as soon as they came in his sights. He had never even fired a gun in his life, or at least in his normal life, yet the ability to shoot was the only thing keeping him alive.
An arrow shot past his head, missing him by a mere feet. He wasn't the only the one shocked, he saw the major's jaw dropped at the near miss. She gritted her teeth in anger and surveyed the area to see from where the arrow had come. She spotted a small makeshift barricade near the base of the hill, and two foxtaur archers reloading their bows. One of them, a female, took aim and fired, again sending an arrow near Wayne.
The major pulled a grenade from her belt and trotted backwards to get some distance. She then removed the pin and dashed forward, rearing up at the peak of the hill and throwing the bomb as far as she could. It bounced on the ground in front of the barricade, rolling up to the barrier protected the two archers.
The two foxtaurs stepped out from behind their shield to get a good aim, and right when they drew back their bowstrings the bomb exploded. The barricade was reduced to a broken stump as the force of the blast threw back the two archers, the shrapnel from the burst tearing them apart in midair.
Wayne gave the major a nod in thanks, then turned his attention back to the battlefield. The foxtaurs kept coming, one by one charging thoughtlessly into the oncoming gunfire. Like sheep they were lining up for the slaughter.
Wayne and his comrades didn't even have to move from their spot, they just continued to fire repeatedly at the advancing ranks. It just seemed too easy to Wayne. Not that that made him drop his guard, however. With each wave of assault the foxes managed to get closer and closer to the top of the hill before being mowed down, and that made Wayne nervous.
Plus the fact that he didn't know how many shots his laser rifle had left; he must have shot it close to a hundred times by now, and it was still functioning perfectly. He was grateful for that, for he feared that if he and the rest paused for a second they would be overrun.
He glanced over to the major, who seemed to be talking on some sort of two-way hand radio.
"Yes sir," she said, looking at Wayne as she spoke. "Good! We're glad we were able to be of service."
She turned to Wayne. "It worked! There's coming now!"
Wayne was confused. "What worked, major?"
The major smiled as she said, "Our diversion! Here they come!"
Wayne turned his head back to the battlefield just in time to see what looked like a laser light show. A flood of deertaur forces attacked the foxes from both sides, running down the sloped of the hills to the left and right of the battlefield. Whatever damage the foxtaurs had been facing from just Wayne and the major's group of soldiers now looked downright minimal compared to the carnage occurring now.
The enemy was cut down in the hundreds thanks to the increased firepower, and within moments the fight had ended nearly as abrupt as it had first begun.
It didn't take Wayne long to figure out what had happened. He and the major's forces were keeping the enemy so busy by attacking them that the foxtaurs never thought that a mass of troops would be swelling up to their left and right. It was a simple plan, but it worked.
A smile found its way onto Wayne's face as he turned to face his men, ready to congratulate them for their efforts. But the grin quickly faded as he saw them all gather around a soldier with an arrow in his stomach. The second arrow that the foxtaur archer shot at him must have hit this soldier instead. He slowly made his way over and saw that it was his lieutenant. He was dead.
He hung his head solemnly, and took it upon himself to say something. It was strange giving a eulogy for a person he didn't know, even though as deertaur he and the lieutenant had been friends for almost six months. He spoke nobly about a creature he did not until that day, despite his new memories that said otherwise.
That evening as he stood at attention with his men, Wayne was still not completely sure what the fighting was all about, let alone why he was now a soldier. And why he was a deertaur on a seemingly alien world, for that matter. He would be completely scared out of his mind had it not been for the presence of the memories in his head.
As far as he could tell, everyone else around him seemed to be in their normal habitat; no one else was a human who had been transported to this place and put in a new body. It was the perfect transformation scenario, he told himself. It almost seemed absurd; he wondered if everyone else on the list was affected by this, sort of like in the LTF universe, or if the list even had anything to do with it at all.
Whatever the case, he had to play it cool for now. He was grateful that at least he had some understanding of what was going on, that was a luxury that most TF story characters didn't get. Something inside him told him that he just needed to be patient, the details of this new reality would continue to filter into his mind, it would just take some time.
He gave a salute as a general walked toward him.
The general saluted in return. "Damn fine work today, Hamilton."
Wayne smiled. "Thank you, sir." At least he still seemed to have his human name. "Couldn't have done it without my men."
The general nodded as he turned to address Wayne's soldiers. "You all did a fine job today, and I'm going to see to it that you all get justly rewarded. And the lieutenant," he paused for a second, taking a moment to bow his head down slightly, "the lieutenant was a brave soldier who died defending the freedom of his people. He will be buried with honor. Dismissed!"
With that, he slowly walked away, a prominence in his step that would befit only a senior officer. Wayne and the others broke rank and scattered about. Wayne wandered from person to person, congratulating them on the victory.
A young soldier came up to him, a gave him a quick salute. "Sir, the major wants to see you in your quarters."
Wayne nodded. His feet seemed to know which direction to head in as he trotted casually over to a large tent towards the center of the camp. He entered, finding the major inside with most of her uniform removed for the evening.
He saluted. "You wanted to see me, major?"
The major just sighed. "Wayne, how many times do I have to tell you that there's no need for you and me to formal when we're alone?"
Wayne was confused by her tone. She seemed a tad bit too informal. A little seductive even.
The major trotted over to Wayne and gave him a big kiss on the lips. Wayne's eyes shot open as the major's shut. He was glad that she was not looking at him, because he was sure that the look on his face would ruin the tender moment he and his superior officer seemed to be having.
Before he could say anything, the major just smiled and said, "After all, when we're not in combat I'm not your commanding officer, I'm just your wife."
Wayne wanted to pass out once he heard those words. But then the memories began to flood into his consciousness. He had been married for almost three years now, and each day had been like a lifetime of joy. It was just like Wayne had always pictured a perfect marriage; he and his wife were friends, confidants and lovers all rolled into one. And Wayne sure was happy.
It was then that he was able to remember the name of his wife. He didn't want to believe it at first, but one look at his spouse showed that there could be no other explanation. The beautiful brown eyes, although slightly altered to fit the new cervine body, were most definitely hers.
His wife was Janet. Janet Walker Hamilton.
Somehow, some way in this alternate universe in these bodies, he and Janet were married. And he and she deeply loved one another.
Wayne gave his wife a smile as he loosened up his stance a little bit. "Did you need to see more for something, professionally speaking?"
Janet returned the grin. "Yes, I do need to tell you a few things. First, tomorrow morning the general will be giving our troops their new assignment. We have the foxes on the run now, and Ten-Point wants us to plow them all the way back to their base."
Ten-Point? Wayne asked himself. Then he remembered that that was the general's nickname. He questioned the name for a second, realizing that neither her nor any of the other soldiers he had seen had antlers. But then he assumed that deertaurs, just like regular deer, must periodically lose their antlers.
Brigadier General Tyler "Ten-Point" Richards, a very aggressive general who demanded the most of his troops and kept on fighting until the battle was over.
Janet took a few steps toward Wayne with her hands resting at the point where her upper body met the lower one. She made a slight but obvious twitch with her rear hips as she came to a halt, a guilty smile on her face.
"And secondly, I have a personal mission for you. I order you to close that tent flap so that you and I can an hour or so to deal with personal issues."
The sound of a bird singing outside the tent woke Wayne early the next morning. He found that he was still holding his wife close in his arms, his legs wrapped around her body in both a protective and romantic embrace.
She was even gorgeous in her sleep. He stroked her cheek gently, and though deep in slumber she twisted her lips into a smile.
Wayne just twisted his head around as he reflected on the previous evening. It was everything that he always hoped that love would be; two people who had pledged to love each other for their entire lives sharing a bond of intimacy. He could not put how he felt into words, the whole experience simply defied description.
The night of rest did good for his mind as well. He seemed to recall most of both his life and the current struggle in which he and the rest of new race seemed to be engaged. The memories were still alien to him; he knew deep down that his real life was as a office worker back in the human world, but his new recollections of his deertaur life seemed nearly as real to him.
He had been a small business owner before the war broke out, and his wife was a doctor. A pathologist, if his new memories served correctly. They had met and fallen in love while studying at the university, and had only just settled into their new jobs when the terrible news came. An army of foxtaur warriors had invaded their planet and declared war on all deertaurs, vowing to kill them to the very last child.
In some ways, the foxtaurs that had invaded Wayne's planet were not completely unsympathetic. Their whole generation had been born unto a home planet that had been raped of all its natural resources long before they ever took their first step. Their leaders had foolishly overestimated their world's ability to regenerate itself following centuries of unchecked harvesting of minerals and other necessary riches. The young had no choice in the matter of being born unto a world that had been so terribly taken care of; no more that a dog could have chosen to be born a cat.
Overpopulated, undernourished and with no chance of lasting more than two more generations, the foxtaurs had to make a last ditch attempt to save their race. And then they turned their attention to Wayne's home world, Cervidian. No other planet in the solar system was similar enough to their own planet to support life, and they lacked the technology to travel to further galaxies. It was Cervidian, or nowhere.
The foxtaurs were a war-like race, with little technology other then the basic space travel they had learned from a long forgotten race that had made the mistake of landing on their planet. The deertaur on the other hand were an advanced people. Wayne determined that his new race must be about a century or so further along technologically than his previous human one; there was still a lot the two had in common except that the deertaurs lived in a more futuristic world.
The deertaurs were by no means a universally peaceful race; there were still wars, political debates that resembled the ones back on Earth, violence, theft and just about anything else he could remember from his human life. But there was still an unspoken pride that existed in every member of his race.
When the foxtaurs first landed on the planet two years ago, they sought complete control of the planet and all of its resources. In order to make sure that all the planets resources were directed to the foxes, they planned to wipe out the entire deertaur race. Whatever sympathy the deertaur race had for the foxes evaporated with that sentiment.
In an attempt to appeal to the foxes' sense of reason, the deertaur prime minister himself went to the main foxtaur camp, despite his followers pleading with him to send a subordinate instead. That evening, the foxtaurs sent his head back in box.
The next day, the line outside the army enlistment center in Wayne's home city stretched nearly five miles long.
Wayne and Janet had gotten up early so that they could be near the front. The normal standing army of about 100 thousand swelled to one and a half million in less that a week.
Wayne felt his wife begin to stir, and he slowly pulled away from her. She let out a short yawn and stretched her arms and legs out as she regained consciousness.
"Morning," Wayne said, a casual smirk on his face.
"Same to you," Janet responded. She slowly got to her feet and ran her hand across her face a few times to fully wake up, and the walked over to her personal case and grabbed her beret.
"I'll have the men assembled in ten minutes," said Wayne rather sheepishly, and then slowly staggered out of the tent.
One thing that had come back to him over the course of the night was that he was a little uncomfortable being outranked by his wife. She was always smarter then he was, and managed to climb up through the ranks at a slightly faster rate than he.
Under normal conditions, nobody would be able to raise to the ranks of major and captain in just two years, but the need for experienced troops to lead the men was a necessity, and Janet and Wayne had proved themselves time and time again to be competent officers.
Wayne also remembered that he really should try to refrain from calling his troops men. There were actually a lot of does in the military these days, especially with the war. Nearly one-fifth of the troops engaged in combat were females, and they also made up 40 percent of the officers as well. Not that anyone was really offended by the term "men", it just seemed so outdated now that the army was unisex.
Wayne just shook his head as he crossed his hands across his stomach. All this new information was just too much for him to absorb. He still wasn't sure how this alternate world came into being and how he happened to now inhabit it. He also did not know when or even if he was ever going back home.
On one hand he loved the life that he seemed to have with Janet, but on the other, he didn't belong here.
He called his troops to attention, and then took his own place in line once Janet came out of her tent. Seeing General Richards coming, she straightened herself up as best she could, standing like a statue as he came up to her.
"Good morning, sir," she said without looking him in the eyes.
"Morning, major," the general responded. "You did a fine job last night, you and all your troops. I hope we can be equally successful today."
"Yes sir," Janet said.
"Call your captain over here, I want to share this information with him as well."
Janet crossed her arms behind her back and shouted, "Captain Hamilton, front and center!"
Wayne ran over to the the major and resumed his stance. "Yes ma'am?" he asked.
General Richards said, "Captain, take your place next to Major Hamilton."
Wayne did so, feeling more comfortable once his flank was touching his wife's.
General Richards smiled, seeming to sense the bond between the two. "You two are from Terrace, right? Beautiful city."
Cincinnati, actually, thought Wayne, but he didn't feel like trying to explain that to the general.
"The reason I ask is because, as you know, Terrace isn't far from where the main foxtaur force is. I was hoping your knowledge of the area would help."
Through his deertaur mind, Wayne was able to visualize his home town on this world. Terrace seemed to resemble Denver in some ways; built in a valley surrounded by mountains and forests.
The general seemed to be referring to an area outside the city, just to the south of it. In this life, he had been to that area many times as a child. It was a small little valley surrounded by cliffs and jagged rocks, not a place to go alone but all right with adult supervision. He could picture it as a place for fun and games and childish innocence; never in a million years had he ever thought it would be a battlefield.
Wayne shook his head back and forth to clear his thoughts. I'm beginning to think that this is my real life, he thought.
He tuned back into the general, who was going on about herding the foxtaur forces into some kind of bottleneck in the canyon. Janet shook her head, seeming to know just where a perfect spot would be.
When they were dismissed, Janet led Wayne back to their tent.
Once inside, she asked, "Do you remember the spot that you and I went on our first date?"
He did now. "Yes?"
"It would be a perfect place to drive the enemy."
Wayne shrugged. "I guess so. Listen, Janet, I have to tell you something. Something important."
Wayne let out a big sigh. He had been wanting to tell her the truth about himself since last night. Despite how wonderful he felt here on this world, he knew that this wasn't where he was supposed to be.
"Janet, I..., I know this is going to sound strange. But have you ever heard of alternate dimensions? Parallel universes?"
Janet seemed puzzled. "You mean like sci-fi stuff?"
Wayne nodded. "Yeah. Have you ever heard of anyone crossing over into one?"
"Wayne, you know all that stuff is just fake. Why are you asking me about this?"
Wayne dropped his head slightly. "Never mind. I guess it's nothing." There was no way he was going to be able to explain all of this to her. He just slowly turned around and trotted out of the tent.
Wayne kicked at the dirt for a little while, angry at himself for not having the nerve to finish what he had started to say. He wished he just had the guts to come out and tell her the truth. Here he was, a soldier in the middle of a war, and he was a coward when it came to exposing himself.
Well, not again, Wayne resolved. The next opportunity he had to share with Janet, he would tell her everything. He couldn't just pretend that he was married with her and every was okay; he had to let her know for both his sake and hers.
Wayne could smell how close the foxtaurs were as his squad moved forth through the rocky canyon. The soldier ahead on point signaled that it was okay for everyone to advance, and he picked up his pace while trying to avoid making noise. It was hard enough sneaking around with just two legs, but trying to avoid stepping on things that could give your position with four of them was just downright maddening.
Up ahead, he could see the bodies of dead foxtaur sentries, dispatched earlier by Janet's squad. She would be waiting up ahead in the clearing before the main enemy camp, awaiting all the other troops to filter in.
The foxtaurs had the majority of their lookouts posted high up along the top of the canyon walls, expecting that the cervine forces would attempt to attack with sniper tactics from an elevated position. They never fathomed that the deertaurs would come straight towards them through the canyon. It would be foolish to try to march an army towards the camp, since they would be able to see them coming for at least a half mile. Which is exactly why the deertaurs were doing just that.
With almost all of his memories from his new life having come back to him, Wayne recalled that he and Janet's squads were special forces, like the Green Berets. They used stealth techniques to take out the sentries, who, as they expected, were not paying as close attention to their surroundings as they should have.
He and his team entered the final little clearing before the enemy stronghold, and after a few moments, the remainder of the force came as well. All in all about 5,000 soldiers.
The stench of liquor filled throughout the entire canyon as the soldiers made their last preparations to move. The foxtaurs, believing that the deertaurs wouldn't launch a counteroffensive so soon, had gotten lazy and complacent. A good number of them were drunk, some were asleep, others were playing games of chance or entertaining themselves in other fashions. Like the American soldiers at Pearl Harbor, they were about to be caught completely by surprise.
Wayne was breathing deeply; despite the element of surprise he was still nervous. The other day when he ran into the foxtaur on the hill it was completely spontaneous. He only had time to react. Now that he had the luxury of time on his hands, he was filled with dread. The thought of being killed in combat frightened him, or that he might lose his wife. The endless possibilities of tragedy played out in his mind, and he was unsure as to how he should take them.
He was going to fight for a race that he didn't really belong to, and by doing so practically wipe out another race that he personally had no quarrel with as a human. As a deertaur, on the other hand, he was fighting to save his people from genocide. There was just so many thoughts and emotions going through his mind.
Janet seemed to sense his anxiety and pulled him off to the side. Despite his fear he gave her a smile.
Janet gave a quick grin in return. "Artillery is going to lay down a barrage on the foxtaur camp in five minutes. They're going to knock them back into the bottleneck, and then we're going to move in and finish the job." She paused for a second. "Are you all right, Wayne? I've never seen you nervous like this before."
Wayne nodded. "Maybe I never was before. But now I am."
Janet seemed to agree. "How do you feel? For the past day you've been like another person."
Wayne thought about that for a moment. How did he feel? Frightened, confused, not sure if he was going to make it out alive. All those thoughts raced through his head. But at that moment, something occurred to him. Something that he had not acknowledged once since he had landed on this strange world.
He let out a short sigh, and then looked Janet's eyes. "I used to believe that I was wasting my life away. That I'd never amount to anything. But for the past 24 hours I've felt more proud of myself then I have in my whole life. I married to a beautiful woman, and I'm fighting for a just cause."
Janet seemed dumbfounded as Wayne continued. "Not many people get to have such clearly defined lines of right and wrong. But I know for a fact that we're justified in our actions. It's important to me that I know that; I've never done anything worthwhile in my life."
Janet seemed shock by the last remark. "Wayne, you've done many things in your life worth being proud of."
Wayne shook his head. "I haven't, the deertaur Wayne Hamilton has."
Janet could not respond to this. Wayne understood just how weird his words must have sounded, but he kept speaking.
"I don't know how to explain this to you, Janet. But I'm not really your husband. For the past day I've inhabited his body. I'm not from your planet; I'm not even a member of your species."
"What..., what are you saying?"
"I don't know what happened, but yesterday I woke up in your husband's body. For some reason I was transported to your world and have your husbands memories in my head; but I'm not the Wayne Hamilton you think I am."
A tear went down Janet's cheek. "Wayne, if this is a joke..."
Wayne grabbed her hands and cradled them in his. "I swear to God that I'm not lying to you Janet. I don't know why this happened. As far as I can tell the world I came from doesn't have the ability to do something like this. But whatever the reason, I'm here now."
Janet began to cry. "But you're my husband!"
Wayne shook his head. "I'm not. I come from a planet called Earth. I live in a city named Cincinnati and work as stock analyst for a trading company. There is a woman there named Janet Walker, but she's just an acquaintance of mine. I'm sorry that I'm telling you this at such an inconvenient time, but I wanted someone to know in case I don't make it out."
Janet wiped her eyes. "I don't understand. Where's my husband at then?"
Wayne's lip began to quiver. "I don't know. I wish that he was here, though. I don't deserve to be with a woman like you, but I know he does."
The sound of cannons firing in the background signaled the start of the attack. Wayne and Janet ignored them as the others sought cover, just in case a shell or two fell short.
Janet sniffled. "Just tell me one thing. What are you going to do now that your here?"
"I'm going to fight," said Wayne. "Because if the rest of your species is like you and Wayne, then you're worth fighting for."
The canyon filled with smoke as the missiles fell on their targets. The sound of screams were muffled by the approach of more and more missiles. Wayne just took a step forward and embraced Janet.
"Please forgive me, I never meant to harm you."
Janet wrapped her arms around him. "I don't know who you are, but it must be a gift of some kind that you are in my husband's body."
The sounds of the shelling began to slow, and eventually came to a halt. Janet turned to her troops, and raised her hand to signal it was time to move. They all jumped to their feet, and with weapons ready in hand, they began their charge.
Janet gave Wayne a smile. "Are you ready, Wayne?"
Wayne nodded. "I'd follow you anywhere, Mrs. Hamilton."
With that, they both went running headfirst into an army of disoriented foxtaur warriors. The canyon was illuminated with laser fire as the deertaur troops cut down their foes. The foxtaurs, however, getting a second wind after the initial attack, began to push forward. Screams echoed throughout the canyon as the foxes chopped savagely into their cervine foes. Despite the shelling taking so many of their lives already, the foxes still outnumbered the deer three to one.
Wayne rolled his head up and saw the rocky paths that ran along the canyon wall. There were several enemy archers and other soldiers on them, shooting arrows and throwing spears fiercely into the crowd.
Wayne motioned to Janet. "Come on, we need to take them out!" He ran charging up the nearest path, firing his weapon repeatedly at the enemy forces. It was only a few seconds before he felt Janet's hide rub up against his.
The archers, as fast as they were at reloading, couldn't compete with the more efficient laser rifles. Wayne and Janet made their way quickly up the the path, stepping over the dozens of dead bodies littering the walkway as they walked side by side. Several of their soldiers ran up after them, firing down into the crowd of foxes as they ascended the trail.
When they reached a sort of landing about halfway up the wall, Janet signaled for their troops to go ahead. She pulled a grenade from her belt and Wayne did likewise, and they threw their bombs directly into the heart of the foxtaur mass below them. The dual explosions blasted several foxtaurs into the air and cut many others up with the shrapnel. Still others, shell shocked by the unexpected blasts, were mowed down by the increasing gunfire.
Wayne twisted his head when he heard the approaching footsteps coming from behind him. A lone foxtaur had managed to get around his troops and was rushing up the path with a battle axe in hand. He raised it high up in the air as he got closer, seeking to bring it down directly at Janet's back. The ledge they were on was too narrow for Wayne to swing his massive body around, and he didn't have time to take aim with his rifle.
Suddenly, instinct took over. Wayne lifted his hind legs off the ground and lashed them back as hard as he. He felt them make contact with the fox's mouth, shattering the creatures jaw. In pain, the foxtaur lost his footing and fell off the ledge. He hit the ground with a sickening thud.
Next to him, Janet smiled in appreciation and said, "We've almost got them! Let's keep going!"
They both continued up the path, making their way up toward the top. Once they got their, they found that all of their soldiers were lying bleeding on the ground. They were surrounded by at least twice that number in dead foxes, but there were still a few left to take care of. Wayne and Janet stomped defiantly towards the small group of remaining fox warriors. Wayne was grazed in the arm by an arrow, but paid it little heed as he returned a shot to its sender right between the eyes.
There was a foul stench of burning fur as they continued blasting their foes. The last foxtaur just stared at them blankly as they took aim. He loaded his arrow with seemingly no thought of the consequences. Two laser blasts blasted his chest open, and he fell down lifelessly.
The sound of struggle died down in the valley below.
"We did it!" Janet squealed. "After two years of fighting, it's finally over!" Wayne just smiled. Victorious, he thought.
One lone foxtaur lying about ten feet behind both of them pulled the pin off a grenade he got off a dead deertaur soldier. Hearing a slight rustling, Wayne twisted his head around in time to see the creature hurl the device at both of them.
"Lookout!" Wayne screamed as he stepped in front of Janet. The explosion took one of his back legs off and blasted his body over the edge of the canyon wall. He grabbed onto the ledge, but he could feel his weight working against him. Janet, injured from some of the shrapnel, limped forward and grabbed Wayne's hands.
Wayne twisted his head around and saw the jagged rocks that lay about 60 feet below below. Turning back, he saw Janet trying to dig all four feet into the ledge, but she couldn't get any traction on the rock. He was going to pull them both over.
"Janet," he cried, with tears of pain in his eyes, "let me go."
"No!" Janet screamed defiantly. "I don't care who you are; I'm not letting go!"
"Please Janet," Wayne begged. "Your husband wouldn't want you to die too."
His hands slipped slightly out of hers, until she only had a grip on his fingers.
One last tear fell from Wayne's eye. "I'll miss you Janet." And he fell.
Wayne woke up on his floor screaming. He had fallen out of his bed, and was coated in sweat. It took a few seconds for reality to set in; it had been a dream.
The most vivid, realistic dream he ever had. He had loved, fought and died all in one night. He could still feel the thoughts, fears and experiences still with him. He felt more alive now then ever.
When he arrived at work, he walked past Lloyd on his way to the Human Resouces office.
Lloyd cocked his head. "What are you in such a hurry for?"
Wayne barely acknowledged him. "I'm going to find out what's in store for my life."
He marched right into the office. And almost immediately chickened out.
But he forced himself to stick it out. You fought in a war, for God's sake, he told himself. You can at least do this.
Janet lifted her head from her work when she saw a man making his way to her desk. Once she saw who it was, she tried to fix her hair as best as she could without attracting attention to herself, and crossed her fingers under her desk.
Wayne took a quick breath before speaking. "Janet, I was wondering if you were doing anything tomorrow night."
Janet's heart skipped a beat. "No! I mean, no I'm free."
Wayne smiled. "Would you be interested in going out to dinner with me?"
"I'd love to," said Janet.
"Should we say, seven?"
"Oh, could we make it eight. I promised some friends I'd finish writing a story for them."
"Really?" asked Wayne. "I didn't know you wrote. What kind of story?"
Janet seemed a tad embarrassed. "Don't laugh, but there's a certain style of story genre that I like to write in. You'll proably think it's weird..."
Wayne nodded. "Transformation stories. I know, Lloyd told me. I like them myself."
Janet smiled. "Really? That's wonderful. Here I thought I was the only person in around here with in interest in them. I even belong to a mailing list that specializes in transformation fiction."
Wayne was bewildered. "Not TSA-Talk, by any chance?"
Janet's eyes widened. "Yes! I go by the name Mystique."
Now Wayne's eyes popped open further. "Mystique? Your my favorite writer. I always try to write you a letter after one of your stories!"
Janet smiled again. "You're 'Ratboy'?"
Wayne nodded. "I was thinking about changing that." A grin came across his face. "Maybe to..., deertaur."
Janet just chuckled.
"What's so funny?" Wayne asked.
Janet waved her hand. "That's a coincidence. I stayed up all night writing a TF story about a man ending up in the body of a deertaur. He's in an alternate universe, married to the woman he loves who is also a deertaur. I even put them in the middle of a war to add to the tension."
Wayne would have been shocked to hear this, but after last night and now this, nothing was going to suprise him.
"I'd love to hear more about it," he said. "Tomorrow then?"
Janet nodded. "Tomorrow."
Wayne turned and left the office, making his way to his cubicle. He felt at peace with the world, and that little bit of sadness in him seemed to drift away.
If he were a deertaur, he's surely be leaping for joy.
Website Copyright 2004,2005 Michael Bard. Please send any comments or questions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org