Add a few wrinkles and he is Jeb's Uncle Puma, although of course this cat could well be a leopard morph ...
Image derived from: https://lh3.ggpht.com/qTMMPeg2dFWDhpfoxmnHtfbk6id9KnIFXJkeBW0sWCptkDPY_Svzqe2pMI4QRBCaAw=h900
Part three of this information-loaded discussion. All important stuff to know should you wish to continue reading the serial.
Thyal coughs a deep animal cough that is half a growl. “The Shamans on Lotor have been saving their people from their animal morphs all these years by requiring the totem study of everyone.”
“Don’t give me animal morphs,” Uncle Puma says. “I’ve just never believed in that transmogrification crap fed to us.”
I fear he speaks for most of us. It’s beginning to feel like I’m in a communal nightmare if there is such a thing.
“Easy for you to say, my friend,” Thyal says. “Your parents were highly trained Shamans,” he says about Uncle Puma’s mother and father. “You’re such a credit to your upbringing that you don’t recall your baby-flickering.”
Baby-flickering? Whatever anyone recalls of their childhood, no one is prepared to ask.
“Yet here we all are,” Limber says. “Stripped of our human forms.”
Limber is incompletely transmogrified. He’s torn off one of his sleeves to accommodate a wing. “And you, Chief, look to me like a cat. Big, but still a cat.”
“Yeah. But what actually happened?” Lithe says, twinning Limber with the opposite wing and sleeve.
I happen to have the Maremma dog in my line of sight and see it shape its mouth to produce that sound. Doesn’t tell me whether she’s riding or embedded herself.
“Your bad luck are the animal genes you all have?” Kosi says. “When your ship was still a generation ship, way before time-travelling became the main mode of travel in these parts, its humans ate and ate leaving none of the substance to rear any animals. Apparently, the ArkShip got pretty cranky and added animal genes into everyone it could lay its hands on. As told to me by the few human people that came through my airlocks.”
I’m pretty sure I’m not one of the afflicted but that’s not to say my heart doesn’t burn for them that are. I sneak looks at Mongoose, Meerkat, all those I know personally. I hardly recognise them in their shocked stillness.
I swallow, I wish I did have animal genes and that I was one of them.
Uncle Puma scoffs. “Animal genes!”
“And I know the ship’s AI did that by the weirded human animals that came through the airlocks. I even kept a few of them for my zoo. Go and have a look. But there were too many, you know? I had to do something.”
“That’s why you stole the Ark Ship’s molecular reconstructor?” I couldn’t help but say.
“That was the good thing I did.” The dog/Kosi combination sounds smug. “I reinstalled it into Reception as you discovered. I fixed maybe the first four hundred that came through."
"Fixed how?" Thyal says
"I started from scratch with bodies I had the boots retrieve from the silos and superimposed the human memories extracted by the reconstructor onto the bodies.”
Boots? Silos? I am lost.
She laughed. “A totally unthankful lot, they weren’t happy with their new bodies. I told them and told them about the animal genes. So, ironically, a lot of the ones we just helped into the Ark Ship are of the four hundred.”
“Boots?” I say. “Silos? What’s ironic about them?”
“The four hundred wanting to go back to the Ark Ship?” Kosi says. “They have no animal genes now. How will the Ark Ship know them? This is the short version, Jeb. You want to know everything, you need to stay here with me.”
One interesting thing. Apparently Kosi does not know of the amulets the four hundred now have. The Ark Ship does not appear to have rejected anyone at its doors so perhaps the amulets helped.
“Then what?” Uncle Puma says.
“I discovered that a bunch of the Ark Ship’s humans jumped out onto Lotor when I took the Ark Ship by there, them to live or die. I suppose that’s you all?”
Uncle Puma looks toward Thyal for him to take the initiative and I am glad his gaze didn’t stop at me. Thyal does not because Kosi continues.
“My bad luck again that the molecular reconstructor recognised your genes and just replicated you. Fixing you in your genetic-breed mode from the get-go. I was going to have such fun hunting you flickers. See if I could add to my zoo?”
That word again. I dig my finger into Mongoose’s side. “Flickers?” he asks.
“Flickers are the uncontrolled humans-into-animals-and-back-again forms from the Ark Ship,” Kosi says.
This time Thyal does speak up. “Not one of us here is a flicker.” He looks fiercely round our circle like he is desperately trying to convince us of that reality. “We’re all highly trained totem-alterities.”