The Good Doctor's Tales Folio Five

BOOK: The Good Doctor's Tales Folio Five
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The Good Doctor’s Tales

~
Folio
Five
~

Randall Allen Farmer

 

Copyright
©
201
2
by
Randall Allen Farmer

 

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work, in whole or in part, in any form.  This is a work of fiction.
All characters, events, organizations and products depicted herein are either a product of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously.

 

The Good Doctor’s Tales
~
Folio
Five
~

Author’s Introduction

This novella length document is a collection of short pieces, stand-alone and otherwise, related to “
A Method Truly Sublime
” (Book
Four
of the Commander series).
  As with the extra features common to DVDs,
the various parts of
“The Good Doctor’s Tales”
are not essential to the story “
A Method Truly Sublime

tells
; instead, they add to it.

 

Beastly Progress

“I’m happy you were able to make it here, Doctor Zielinski,” Occum said, actually shaking the Good Doctor’s hand.  Sir Sellers carefully stayed two paces back of his Crow master, barely repressing the urge to give the Good Doctor a big hug.  He didn’t know exactly why, but he loved the guy.  Especially when they got him telling his stories.  He swore the old man had been involved in nearly every Transform scrape since the Quarantine breakout
, and, unlike most normals, hadn’t yet
made
any disparaging comments about their somewhat open-air industrial home
.
  They were doing as much about the stink as they knew how to do.
  “I’ve made disquieting progress, and I was hoping to attract your interest with an information trade.”

“I’m glad to help,” the Good Doctor said, a flicker of a grin crossing his face.  “But I’ll take the bribe anyway.”

The Good Doctor’s Inferno bodyguard
of the day
,
introduced as Jim Simpson, shook his head.  Sellers kept a close eye on the bodyguard; the last time he had seen the man, he hadn’t been anywhere near as physically talented.  He even moved better.
  Stood straighter.  Met your eyes dead-on.
  Must have been the new training tricks Master Occum mentioned a few weeks ago.

Sellers wasn’t sure he was happy about Inferno getting even more dangerous.

Master Occum led the Good Doctor across their new digs, a larger abandoned warehouse with a partial basement, a much better place to keep and care for their people.  Their Transforms, who in a fit of inventiveness Hoskins now termed
Commoners
.  The warehouse was a rat trap, with dozens of broken windows, the ceiling partly collapsed on the far end, standing water ponding in th
e
end of the partial basement, and trash from several generations of squatter groups, said squatters now permanently scared away by their, what did Hoskins call it? 
Barony
.  None of them
was
the Baron, though.

Hoskins had too many ideas, and was far too talented in convincing the rest of them his ideas were good.

“…and we have a deal with
Miss Yarizarian
,”
Occum said, referring to the eminently beddable head of the Inferno household.  “Inferno bought this for us cheap, we clean the place up and partly renovate it, and they’ll flip it for a profit and find us an even better place.”

“You’re actually cooperating at that level?”  The Good Doctor appeared amazed.

“Why not?”  Occum snorted, and answered himself.  “We all have to lie to our superiors anyway, what’s a little breaking of the ‘don’t do business with the enemy’ restrictions we both have to deal with.”
  Occum chuckled.  “Besides, me and the Focus, we go way back.  Waaaay back.”

“I thought the problem more distrust than restrictions from on high.”

Another snort.  Noting the dangerous path Occum took, Sellers trotted ahead and cleared a way through the scrap metal and lumber.  “Doc, the day I stop trusting Focus Rizzari, my charges should lock me in one of the problem Commoner cages.  I know she feels the same about me.”

The Good Doctor blinked, followed by a strange facial expression, almost as if he wrote something down in his mind.

The sound of combat grew as they stepped over the fallen I-beams and turned to the left, toward the sparring area.  Hoskins was at it again with Knox, attempting
again
to teach
proper combat techniques to the overly excitable Knox.  “Duck the shoulder before you punch.  Dammit, Knox, you’re wearing a man shape, you need to fight like a man.”

Calling Knox’s current shape a
‘man shape’ was an exaggeration.  Man-like would be a better term.  When they first found Knox he was a flame-broiled demon in appearance, red armor plates over a human and feline mix of shapes.  Knox had lost the armor, the cat fur, most of his snout, and his claws.  However, every time he slept his ears would change back to cat ears, and every time Knox removed his tail he grew his claws back.

Knox and Hoskins set to, hand to hand, raising a cloud of acrid dust in which Sellers picked up the scent of welding rosins, rusting iron and diesel exhaust.

Master Occum clapped his hands.  “Break!” 

Knox and Hoskins stopped, bowed to each other, brushed off the inevitable warehouse dirt.  The Good Doctor whistled.

“Sir Hoskins is now fully human!” the Good Doctor said.

Hoskins bowed to the Good Doctor
, greatly pleased
.  Master Occum smiled.  Sellers
bent over to whisper in the Doc’s ear.
  “He’s
now Duke Hoskins.”

Hoskins coughed.  “I thought we were going to consider our titles private.”

Sellers shrugged.

“You agreed,” Hoskins said, his voice a whip stern growl.

“Nobl
e sir
, I apologize for not have…having time to brief you beforehand,” Sellers said.  “It’s something I just
saw
.
  I think it’s something we must.

The Good Doctor swiveled his head back and forth, again taking mental notes on their conversation.  Sellers wished he wouldn’t keep messing up verb tenses when he spoke, though. 
Embarrassing
.

“Duke Hoskins, then,” the Good Doctor said.  “If I may ask…how did you pick the title of Duke?  Is there a progression of ranks?”

Occum grumbled
, shrugged, and looked
at
the Good Doctor and Jim Simpson
.  “
W
e’re trying to keep
that
secret, but if you promise not to tell, you probably need to know.”  Master Occum turned to Duke Hoskins and Sellers.  “
They both
know about the Focus’s version of what you have.”

The Good Doctor raised his right hand in surrender.  “That’s all I need to know.  Thank you.  I promise I won’t speak of this.  All of the Major Transforms are reluctant to share information on that subject.”
  Simpson didn’t say a thing, but he nodded knowingly.  Major Transforms doing screwy Major Transform things
, never any of his business.

Rightly so
, for all who weren’t Major Transforms
.  Being able to se
nse
things in nature, to gain insights into one’s questions from cloud shapes, the sounds of gurgling streams, and the shape of a sunrise was, well, embarrassing and magic.  Sellers
didn’t mind
the magic;
however, he found the
talk of magic
often
discommoded
others.

Hoskins was the Duke.  He would always be the Duke, at least for a long time.  There might be other Dukes.  Later.

Master Occum led the growing entourage over to the workroom, what his Master at times termed his lab.  “He – we – earned the title promotion when I brought him back to his true human form.  The scent issue, well, that didn’t seem to matter much.”

“Scent issue?”  The Good Doctor, now examining Duke Hoskins, sniffed.  “He smells like a male Transform to me.”

Duke Hoskins appeared to be a male Transform as well, albeit on the overly muscled side of things.  He stood about six two in his man-form, with a wide heavily muscled frame.  The Duke even had actual human hair, dark brown and wavy.  Sellers thought the Duke’s nose was too small, but Sellers did have to admit
to a
preference for large noses.

“That must be why it doesn’t matter,” the Duke said.

“Which brings me to my largest problem,” Master Occum said. 
“I can’t get either of the others into a true man-shape
.

“Why don’t we sit down and go over what you’ve done,” the Good Doctor said.

He and Master Occum sat at the lab’s wor
kt
able, strewn with notes and a few plates of now rancid food Sellers and the Duke
stealthily
whisked away, hoping the Good Doctor didn’t notice.  They talked and reviewed notes, Master Occum becoming more agitated and excited as he progressed, and the Good Doctor growing more frustrated.

Sellers served water, a snack of
stale bread
and canned peas, unheated, while they worked.  Master Occum preferred frozen peas as a snack, but they hadn’t yet found a way to steal electricity for the abandoned warehouse yet, and that meant no freezer.

Two and a half hours later, the Good Doctor leaned back and closed his eyes.  They all quieted and waited for the obvious-to-come pronouncement.  Sir Sellers, who thought a Noble of his age and experience should be able to reach man-shape, but couldn’t, attempted to contain his excitement.

“There’s nothing wrong with your procedures,” the Good Doctor said.  “
What worked on one Noble should work on them all.  Unfortunately, what
the disparity
means to me is that your current procedure isn’t good enough – I hate using that term, because I’m not convinced ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are applicable here – for some sizeable percentage of Chimeras. 
Your enabler
isn’t adequate to return these Chimeras to their man-shapes, likely because of the natural differences
existing
in all Major Transforms.”

Sir Sellers’ hopes popped like a balloon.  He wasn’t a good enough Noble.  The flaw was in him, and in Knox.  They were inferior Beasts.

The Good Doctor noticed Sellers’ agitation.  “Please don’t think of this
as
a judgment of your talents or worth as a Major Transform.  The amount of variation among the Focuses and Arms is extensive, and each has
her
own Transform skills
she is
better with.  Only when you judge them on all things Transform can you gauge which
ones are
better
than
the others, and at times, you can’t come up with anything meaningful.”

“You don’t
think there’s
any way
to
improv
e
the Enabler?” Master Occum
said
.
  He gnawed on the last of the stale bread.  The Good Doctor, who had at first appeared hungry, had lost his hunger as he worked and hadn’t snacked on either the peas or bread.

“No,” the Good Doctor said.  “I think you’re going to need something new. 
I’ll give this some thought, but right now, I don’t have any good ideas.”  He paused.  “Have you given any thought to
what
I passed along to you, earlier, about the idea that the Nobles may have an animal or beast shape they need to find?”

Master Occum nodded.  “Yes, and we’ve done some experimenting along those lines, as much as we can with our limited élan supply.  Your friend Sir Sellers here not only has a stable beast shape – what we’re calling the combat form – he can reach his combat form using the least élan.  The others never can find the same combat form twice.”

At least that was something, Sir Sellers groused to himself.  He might be a beast, but at least he was a good beast.

He did like his ‘giant magic dog’ form.  It was
elegant
.

 

---

 

“Suzie, I’m Henry Zielinski,” the Good Doctor said.
  They had moved to the uncaged area of the basement.  For the sake of the Good Doctor, they even lit the lanterns.  The stench of the place was worse than the warehouse floor, and Sir Sellers found himself under another of their unknown-sourced water drips.  The drips had a red tinge, and stank of rust.
  “I’m a Transform researcher.  I’d like to talk to you.”

Suzie hissed and backed away.  Sir Sellers made to cuff her, for her intransigence, but the Good Doctor gently stayed his hand.

Suzie was unique among their commoners.  She had once been a real Monster, with the shape of a large brown-furred boar.  These days she was more human; she had a human head, hands, feet and skin, and she had lost her tusks and tail.  Her leg bones, arm bones and ribcage remained pig-like, and she walked on two legs only with the greatest difficulty.  Unlike the others, she didn’t decay during an élan draw.
  The explanation sounded familiar to Sellers, something from his past, but he couldn’t quite place the memory.

“Scared,” she said.  “Danger smell.”

“He smells like an Inferno Transform because he lives there,” Sir Sellers said.  “See?  Mr. Simpson, could you come over here, please?”

Jim Simpson approached, warily.  The Inferno Transform and Suzie eyed each other.  Probably figuring combat odds.  Sir Sellers sighed, and then winced, as his sigh had come out too doggy-like.  “Take a sniff.  They’re friends.”  Probably too complex an idea for Suzie to deal with.

Suzie sniffed.  “Different.  Bad juice.”

The Good Doctor went through his explanation of why he stank of bad juice, from an attack on him some time ago
,
and
about a
tiny piece of his
body that
had transformed.

BOOK: The Good Doctor's Tales Folio Five
3.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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