by Rodford Edmiston
© Rodford Edmiston -- all rights reserved
I entered the Blind Pig smiling in anticipation. I had never been here before - in fact, this was my first trip to this city since well before the Martian Flu first hit. However, I knew about the bar, and had long corresponded with several of the regulars. I had even met a couple. So I knew I had an open invitation, besides being a Scab myself. This last part was currently obvious, since I stood twelve feet tall and looked like a wolfman on steroids.
Someone was tinkling half-heartedly on the piano as I walked in, bent nearly double to clear the top of the doorway. The playing stopped, as did all conversation. I love to make an impressive entrance. From the reactions of those in the bar, I did.
Jack recognized me immediately; I had written that I was coming for a visit, and had given a description of what I would be wearing: a giant werewolf in a loincloth. After a startled few seconds of silence, he laughed, and came over.
"Welcome to the Blind Pig," he cried, shaking my hand. "But now that you've made an impression, could you change back? I'm getting a crick in my neck."
I gave him a toothy grin, and shrank back to human, my normal clothes reappearing from wherever they go. Jack led me around, making introductions, ending at a table full of wolf, fox and dog 'morphs. He called them the Lupine Boys, but I mentally labelled them "The Pack." Jack finished his introductions and they made room for the two of us. The one named Wanderer offered to buy me a drink, and I asked for a Mountain Dew. I saw him grin and nod in approval at this, and noticed that he also had a soft drink.
"So, you can change back," said Wanderer.
"Actually, this is a character I created," I explained, indicating my current form. "Fortunately, he was based on me, so I can pass pretty much as normal as him."
"Lucky dog," commented another Lupine. This was accompanied by a grin, but a very wistful one.
I was startled. Most people who know me know that I'm a polymorph, though a limited one. I hadn't thought about the implication of these guys not knowing; given the envy I was already seeing on some of their faces - at least, those I could read - I felt uneasy about them finding out.
On the other hand I am an honest person and didn't want to deceive them. I shifted uneasily in my seat, wondering if I should tell them. Then Jack caught my eye.
"We don't pry here," he explained. "If you want to keep secrets, we don't care. On the other hand, neither do we resent people who can do more than us."
That made me feel better. Jack, of course, knew about my polymorphia. The others looked a bit confused, but generally agreed, which helped decide me. Besides, I do love to show off.
"Okay," I said, slowly. "I actually have several forms, about half a dozen. I say about, because how many and which ones depend on what I've been practicing and have memorized. I need a detailed mental image of a form before I can change into it. Mostly, these are characters I have created."
My impish sense of humor took over and I suddenly knew who of my current repertoire I would become next. Without warning, I began to sprout fur and shrink, my lower face pushing out slightly and my ears growing and becoming pointed. I pushed my hair back with claw-tipped fingers and grinned up at the astonished faces looking at me from around the table.
"This is Runner," I explained, in a clear soprano. "She's a Bluegrass Elf. Rather more feral than most, though. Quite the little bitch."
I smiled at my own pun, deliberately revealing enlarged canines. The reaction was gratifying.
"Uh, Rod," said Jack, hesitantly, "some of these guys haven't had a date in a long time."
I looked at him for a moment in blank incomprehension, then glanced back at Lupines. I suddenly realized that they weren't just surprised and impressed; they were attracted. Some of them were actually drooling. (Okay, so some of them were drooling when I got there. You know what I mean.)
I froze, my one thought being that I was glad the table kept me from seeing what was happening below their waists. I've been Runner a number of times in a number of places, including as a hall costume at cons, so you think I'd be used to having lustful males stare at me. (I have no-one to blame but myself; I did design her to be very cute.) However, the intensity of their reaction was disturbing. I felt like one of the females receiving unwanted attention from a pack of wolves in a Tex Avery cartoon.
I was rescued by a female voice, speaking up from behind me.
"Well, it looks like the Lupine BOYS have something else to stare at besides me, tonight."
I turned and saw what just might have been the most beautiful woman I have ever met. The fact that her features had a feline cast to them only added to her allure.
I opened my mouth to say something - just what, I'm not sure - but Jack spoke first.
"Hi, Rydia, you came in after I introduced our guest. This is Rod; he isn't normally like this."
Of course, I'd heard of her. I had thought the accounts were exaggerations, but they actually didn't do her justice. I mumbled something about being pleased to meet her, and reached out to shake hands, suddenly being reminded of my current form when I saw mine. My sense of humor reasserted itself, and I shifted form again, into Lawrence Dawnwind. I gave her just a moment to take this in, then changed again.
You see, Lawrence is another were, but not a wolf. He's a cougar. I shifted to his midform, an anthropomorphic cougar, and smiled at Rydia, raising my eyebrows. She gasped in surprise, then laughed.
I'd like to say that we hit it off immediately, but she knew I had done this to impress her. While she was impressed, and maybe even flattered, she remained politely detached. We exchanged pleasantries for a moment, then she left to sit at a table by herself. I sighed and turned back to The Pack.
The conversation was about the local political situation. I didn't say much, except to comment that most of the measures being proposed by Barnes had been tried elsewhere and already declared unconstitutional.
"Yeah, but he's a slippery snake," one of the Lupines commented. "He'll figure some way to word things so that they won't get overturned, at least not for years."
I hesitated for a moment; I was about to volunteer to get involved in a situation that was really none of my business. But these folks were worried; several patrons besides the Lupines had joined in, and all agreed that Barnes was bad news.
"Runner is a telepath," I said, quietly. "So are a couple of my other regulars. I could read his mind - from a distance of, oh, at least three hundred meters - and maybe uncover something that would ruin him."
As they thought this over, it occurred to me that none of the people whose abilities I was offering to emulate would have done this. I'm not quite as moral as most of my characters.
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