SW10: December 2010 #3: Cauldron Book II Part 3

Scott Eiler seiler at eilertech.com
Sun Mar 6 18:17:55 PST 2011

What Has Gone Before.

Summer Morgan and her friends Holly, Liz, and Margaret Jean, formerly of the 
superhuman dance troop Body Up, are agents for the United States in Nashville. 
After a mission against a weird seal-like creature, Summer sees Holly acting not 
like normal. Then after Holly goes into a bathroom, Summer finds only a weird 
seal-like creature within!


United States Insight Battalion
Operations Report
Thursday, December 9, 2010

"No! No No No!" I couldn't take it any more.

The creature rumbled - the same way I heard when I fought a creature like that 
today. It was snarling.

But then its face changed back into Holly! "Summer! It's really me! I'm really 
like this!"

"Cut the crap, creature! Holly wouldn't snarl at me!"

It charged at me - looking more like Holly, naked and wet. Holly's bigger than I 
am. I was bowled over.

The creature was changing into Holly-form from the neck down, and fumbling at 
the door! If I needed any other sign that this wasn't really Holly, I knew that 
if Holly wanted to dash down the hallway naked, she'd at least open the door right.

So I dashed for my helmet and dashed the "Distress" button. But I didn't have 
time to put the helmet on before the creature got the door open.

I tackled it as it got out. We tumbled into the hallway.

A bunch of senior citizens gaped at us. Oops, if Opryland was still holding 
conventions and I could go to Opryland from here, they could too.

Most of this creature had changed to human form by then. It yelled, "Help! She's 
assaulting me!"

Then Margaret Jean showed up down the hallway, near the stairwell. She was 
without helmet, like I was, but she'd brought one gauntlet. But she was still 
putting it on, so I wasn't sure whether it was the one with the flare or the rappel.

I yelled, "Autumn! This is the enemy!"

Without breaking stride, she jumped on us both!

I was on top, so I had to say Oof. But the Holly-creature squirmed out from 
underneath. When it got free, from the waist down it looked like a seal with 
feet! So it was turning back to animal. It had given up on fooling us; it was 
just here to fight.

Margaret Jean had her gauntlet on by then. She shot, and then twisted and 
pulled. Her rappel line went around the creature's neck!

Its body changed more. Its neck disappeared, and the rope slid off. It squirmed 
free. It ran toward the senior citizens. They cringed against a wall as it went 

But then Liz came down the other stairwell, in full USIB combat uniform! She 
tackled the creature. But it was slipping free!

Even as I ran there, I yelled, "No!" What more could we hit this thing with?

One of the elderly people I ran past had a metal cane. I grabbed it as I went 
past, and whacked the creature's head.

It whacked me against a wall with its fin.

The next thing I recall, one of the senior citizens was saying, "Are you okay?"

"Where is it?"

"Well, the policeman came. Or the police woman, I suppose..."

I was still where I thought I was. I turned my head and saw, Liz and Margaret 
Jean had subdued the creature. The med tech had finally showed up; he was 
sedating it.


Emergency conference time. We got Yon, Norma, and the rest of USIB off their 
sofas. Not one complaint.

Brett the electronics tech said we could track Holly with her Brain2Web implant, 
but only if she was conscious. Apparently she'd been drugged.

Keith the med tech said, we'd captured a real live Subhuman. Basically, a 
mermaid with feet. They're the mostly-secret underwater race that led to all 
those mermaid legends. Maybe some Nazi came up with that name... There'd been 
rumors that militias had Subhuman members. Now we damn near knew it.

The creature had dressed up as Holly, complete with Holly's equipment and ID. 
That meant she'd killed or captured Holly! Or at least she'd been with people 
who had. USIB was getting an interrogator here to find out more.

I said, "Just let me talk to it."

Yon responded, "Cannot do that, Agent Morgan. The interrogator has his job and 
you have yours. Your job will be to find how that bomb got past East Nashville 

"Simple. Let me ask the mermaid. I bet it knows where Holly is."

"Agent Morgan, you are a professional at what you do. But you do not 
interrogate. You would be an amateur at that. Amateurs do the worst jobs."

"Professionals do whatever job needs doing. That job is rescuing Holly. That is 
the job I will be doing, any way I can."

"Agent Morgan, professionals will be doing that job too."

"Tell me when and how."

"Cannot do that."

"Then I'm out of here."

"No. You are not. Agent Eastman, Agent Hall, place Agent Morgan in custody."

Agent Eastman was Margaret Jean. She said, "No, sir. I'm out of here too."

Agent Hall was Liz. She said, "Me too."

"Agent McMillan, you have a rebellion in your force. What's your plan for 
dealing with it?"

Our leader Norma spoke up. "Simple. We're all out of here."

A cheer went up over the phone line.

Then a new voice came over the line. "Director Yon Schmidt, this is 
Vice-President Corrigan. You are relieved of command for the next ten minutes."

"No, sir, that is not how it works."

"Cut the crap and do what I tell you."

"... Yes, sir."

"Okay. Summer. Norma. All of you. We need you. We need Holly too. We're gonna 
get her back."

Norma responded. "Thank you, Mr. Corrigan. But we resigned. Resign means resign. 
We'll get her back." We cheered.

"I like the idea. But how you gonna do that without the resources of the U.S. Gov?"

"Oh, please. You are not our resource. We were always yours." We cheered again.

"Still gonna be hard for you without all that nice equipment and tech support 
USIB has."

"We'll match our support network against yours any time. Especially now that we 
see how the Government treats its support." We cheered once more.

"Fine. But you still gotta give your equipment back. We got a job still needs 
doing, we got people to do it, and they need your suits."

"That's fine. Our team was never about the suits anyway. We're all about the 
team." (Citation)


After we hung up, Brett the electronics tech said, "We got Brain2Web from Holly. 
It says she's dreaming, but the signal came from Knoxville headed northeast at 
ground highway speed."

Holly wasn't dead! I hugged Brett.

"... Uh, thanks, Brett. They can't take Brain2Web from us, right?"

"Well, it's surgically implanted. They could maybe take it from you, but they'd 
have to capture you and send surgeons. So you're probably good. And you can post 
to any network, not just government."

"Good enough." Then I got an idea. "Brett, want to come work for Body Up?"

"Uh, yes, I could do that. But I can't bring my USIB equipment."

"That's okay. We've got equipment too. And thanks. Tell Norma I sent you."

"Uh, yes, I will. And you should probably know, Imperilus broke out of the 
county jail today." Imperilus captured me once. (Citation) Now maybe he'd 
captured Holly.

"Thanks, Brett. We'll be all over him."

I went to talk to Keith the med tech, who was guarding the mermaid. He just 
said, "Ms. Morgan, you are no longer any part of this project."

"Oh, fine. We'll work without you. But don't quit your day job."

So the mermaid wasn't going to help rescue Holly after all. But we'd still 
rescue Holly.

... To Be Continued.


Author's Notes:

I can finally admit, I am at last responding to a "subterranean" plot challenge 
from Rec.Arts.Comics.Creative. I'm treating "sub-surface marine" as 
"subterranean" for this purpose. I got the name for these creatures from the 
Blue Oyster Cult.

In the spirit of the original "Cauldron" plot challenge, I am writing on a 
schedule. This time, I've given myself two weeks per episode instead of just 
one. I'm ahead of schedule now (though not a whole episode ahead any more), so 
I'm blowing time on story polishing. Each episode gets published where it can 
get peer review (thank you, RACC). As it gets review, I put in updates and 
publish them. If this is not me writing a novel that people might pay to read, 
it's the next best thing.

In the novel of the future, people will be able to click on plot references to 
follow them to other stories. E-books still don't do this, but Eilertech.com 
does! This episode is online at 
http://www.eilertech.com/stories/2010/cauldron7.htm .

(signed) Scott Eiler  8{D> -------- http://www.eilertech.com/ ---------

Only their myths concerned peace and contentment, and that in such a
coercive, sullen package it was obvious that the Earth humans resented
the very idea.

- from "Passing" by Elaine Radford, Aboriginal SF, May/June 1987.

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