|The Transformation Story Archive||With Fur and Claws...|
Jonas Fisher, Professor Emeritus of Mathemagics at the Institute of Advanced Cleverness, was heartily pissed off. He had been looking through his library of restricted textbooks and journals in the subject he knew so well, and had found one particular book missing.
"JACK!", he roared, "GET IN HERE, YOU IDIOT!" The sound of a chair hitting the floor in the next room was followed by rapid footsteps, and a much younger man shot through the door, looking worried.
"Yes, Professor?", he said inquiringly, "What's wrong?" His expression became more alarmed when he took in the sight of the older man's rapidly purpling one.
"Have you been fiddling around with these books?", the professor demanded in fury.
Now rather puzzled in addition to his earlier feelings, Jack, the professor's research assistant, shook his head. "No. I haven't been here for a couple of days. Is there something missing?" He searched the bookshelves with a quick glance, and noticed the prominent gap. "Oh hell!", he muttered. "That one."
"Yes. THAT one. Quite right", replied the professor, cooling down slightly in the face of his assistant's obvious sincerity. "Someone has been in here and stolen it. We have to get it back, and I mean Right Now!"
"Who could have taken it? And why?", asked Jack, feeling slightly ill at the thought of the problems THAT book could cause in the wrong hands.
The professor stared at him hard, as if he was unable to comprehend such denseness. "It's obvious, isn't it? It must have been those foolish students from my lecture last week. You surely remember the idiotic questions they were asking, and what it turned out they wanted. I turned them down flat, you know, but at least one of them was listening enough to master basic mathemagics and bypass the security system in here. Now they have THAT book, they're undoubtably going to attempt one of the more advanced equations, and the Gods alone know what havoc will occur. Not one of them has a hope of controlling the equation correctly."
Jack had been blanching whiter and whiter during the professor's rant, as the true scale of the problem sunk in. "How are we going to stop them?", he asked faintly, feeling ill.
Striding into the lab with a strength that belied his near eighty years, the professor said over his shoulder, "We'll have to use one of the tracking systems, and hope they haven't thought to shield the mathemagical emanations from the book. Come in here, I'll need your help." He went over to the advanced mathemagics computer system at the end of the lab, and turned it on. While he waited impatiently for the internal diagnostics to complete, he kept talking, issuing instructions to his assistant.
"Get the logarithmic subspace antenna set up, and connect it to that exponential waveguide. Set up the basic tracking equations, and run them, but make sure to pass them through the spell-checker. We don't want another accident like that slime-mold incident again, do we?" Jack flushed slightly, embarrassed at the reminder of his most famous cockup, nearly a year ago. He was never going to live that one down.
The two men worked rapidly, and within a few minutes the directional antenna was whirling in all four ninety-degree opposed planes, searching for the distinctive mathemagical signature of the liberated tome. It took nearly half an hour to find it, and another ten minutes to locate the position accurately.
"Ah!", shouted the professor in triumph. "THERE you are. Thought you could hide it from me, did you, you silly children." He made a note of the co-ordinates the screen was displaying, then pulled out a map of the Institute and quickly scanned it. His face fell, and he said slowly, "Oh dear. This isn't good, not at all."
"What's the matter, professor?", asked Jack.
"THAT book is in the student union cafeteria, that's what the problem is", replied the old man, shaking his head with worry. "If those young fools try out the equation I suspect they are going to attempt, they're likely to affect dozens of people, if not hundreds. The shape of the place is all wrong, you see?" He indicated the building on the map with one long wrinkled finger.
"It forms a nearly perfect Rho glyph, look. If they use the equation there, the effect will be amplified by an unknown amount. We'll have to hurry." They grabbed some portable equipment and left the lab, rapidly descending to the ground floor and exiting the building. As the jogged across the campus to the distant student union, the puffing Jack looked sidelong at the figure of the ancient professor and wondered why he didn't seem out of breath. Then another thought struck him.
"What's the likelihood of the thieves in fact successfully using the equation? Surely, with mathemagics this advanced, they're more likely to be unable to make it work at all?"
The professor shook his head. "Normally you'd be right, but THAT book is in some ways an aid for the unskilled. That's what makes it so dangerous. Almost anyone could make an equation from it do SOMETHING, but exactly what is subject to a number of unpredictable external variables."
They were nearing the building now, and slowed to a fast walk. As they entered the front doors, the professor stopped dead, and winced. "Oh damn!", he muttered. "I think we're too late. I can feel the mathemagical forces building up. They must have used the equation already." A few moments later Jack's own, less finely honed ninth-dimensional senses told him the same story. Looking at each other in dismay, the two academics turned towards the stairs to the cafeteria and climbed them, wondering what they would find inside.
The scene that met them was surreal, to say the least. The room was occupied by at least a hundred and twenty people, if people was the correct description. Not one of them was really human anymore. There were humanoid cats, foxes, ferrets, ring-tailed lemurs, and dozens of other mammalian species wandering around in a daze, staring at themselves and each other in disbelief. Several of them were sobbing in horrified dismay, feeling the fur that had sprouted from their changed bodies.
One young female ocelot was holding the end of her long tail in front of her with a clawed hand, staring at it in incredulity. On the table before her was a large leatherbound book, open to a page about a third of the way through. The page was covered with an involved string of symbols, and a ruler was placed across it, underscoring the equation that had apparently been used to create this chaos.
The two men walked over to the table, looking around at the menagerie of half-human creatures filling the room, then stared down at the oddly changed woman. She slowly looked up at them, wide-eyed and scared, her large pointed ears flattening automatically.
"I... I didn't expect it to work!", she moaned, obviously in shock. "It started to take effect, then I couldn't control it. It spread, oh gods it spread so... so QUICKLY! I couldn't stop it...", she trailed off into sobs, her head in her hands. Jack awkwardly patted her soft shoulder, then looked at the professor. He had picked up the book and shut it firmly, and was standing staring around at the room full of changed students with an expression of what almost looked like awe in his eyes, mixed with a healthy dose of irritation.
"It's going to take DAYS to undo this lot", he snarled under his breath. "Bloody idiotic Anthropomorphics Club. They should all be expelled." Turning to his assistant, he waved at the room at large. "She must have a lot of latent talent to be able to do this, even with THAT book."
"Why did it spread to the entire room so quickly?", asked Jack, puzzled. "This sort of effect normally can only be generated in a small area, and take hours, not seconds."
The professor looked at him, then back at the book he was holding. "Well, Jack, that's the risk you take when using a Fast Furrier Transform."