It was Monday, the start of a new work week, and the first week I got the
unpleasant chore of facing the world as a Cybunny instead of my normal Uni self.
As we had known it would, my owner's zapping of me with the lab ray had changed
my species (and colour, at the same time--I lost my nice gold paint job). I
sat glumly in my office at 'Monokeras, Private Investigations', and wondered
what to do now that I'd lost my identity. Or I should say my Uni body, since
my identity inside was still the same. That was almost harder than not--a gold
Uni on the inside, a red Cybunny on the outside.
I mentally ran through my magic perceptions, which had been altered by the
species change. Before, I'd been most closely allied with air, followed by fire.
Now, I was most closely allied with earth, followed by air. I still wasn't used
to the shift, and things seemed out of kilter.
Perhaps now was the time to work on another long-term project I had. Some time
ago, I'd managed to get two "crying" bottles from the Dark Faeries, in return
for a favor I'd done them. Actually, the real term wasn't really a "crying"
bottle at all, but after I had them filled with a clear fluid, it was a good
term to tell everyone else. It didn't reveal to the ordinary pet that these
bottles were actually a magical means of spying on anything or anyone, providing
that they were used correctly.
Using them correctly wasn't exactly the hard part. The spell to lock a crying
bottle's view into a certain place was easily done by any competent magician.
Unlocking it, however, was usually considered impossible. It made them a very
useful and highly sought after tool, and a resource not lightly used, because
once used, they were of limited use thereafter.
The faeries didn't release too many of them, and only dark faeries made the
ones that looked like faerie bottles, which is what I had. They were very valuable,
and locking one into place was done only after a careful consideration of all
of your options. From that point on, the only scene they'd show would be what
you had them set to.
But I'd never let the word "impossible" stand in my way before, and I didn't
intend to now. One of the bottles was unlocked, and it showed nothing unusual
inside. The other one was locked, but all it showed was a compost heap. It hadn't
shown that originally, but what it had shown had become part of that heap. Staring
at a pile of rotting garbage was hardly at the top of anyone's priority list,
but the original view had been very helpful to me in a case.
I shook my head to clear my thoughts, my long Cybunny ears snapping. Ouch.
I still hadn't gotten used to this body. Taking up the unlocked bottle, I studied
the spell carefully with my magical sight. The locked one received the same
scrutiny, and I compared them carefully. My new perceptions showed the earth
elements much more strongly, and I realised that the combination of earth and
air was the exact key I needed to unlock the spell--it simply needed the proper
earth grounding to apply the needed force that would undo the knot which locked
it to one view.
I put the unlocked bottle into a safe spot in the far corner of the office,
away from any magical influences from what I was about to do next. Then I put
the other one in the middle of my desk, and opened up my case of magical paraphernalia.
After some consideration, I pulled out two tubes of magical paint--one cyan,
one bright green. After preparing my work surface by wiping the desk with another
bottle of liquid, I very carefully drew a design centered on the locked bottle.
The half facing me was in the green paint, for grounding, and the other half
was cyan, to draw it up and out with the force of the air element.
A rod made out of ash wood laid across the top of the bottle connected the
two halves of painted design. That was all I needed to complete the apparatus.
A gentle touch to energize things produced a pulling sensation in the air. My
hair stood on end as the forces of earth and air sought to pull apart, with
the bottle in the middle. There was the sudden sense of a cork popping, and
the bottle's inside view flashed white before becoming clear. The power sizzled
away, pooled to its native elements.
Quickly and expertly clearing the design (and storing the magical energy for
possible further use), I found myself grinning in triumph at my now blank slate.
Now to see if the magic still worked. I placed my paws on either side of the
bottle and stared down into it, letting my mind drift into a null, open state.
I felt the tendrils of the bottle's magic crawl into my system before I saw
its inside turn cloudy. Sure enough, the clouds began to gently roll inside
the bottle, revealing half-glimpses of scenes from all over Neopia. At least
I assumed they were all in Neopia--it's hard to say with free-floating "looking"
Free-form looking usually produces only a meaningless series of barely understood
images, but in some cases it resolves into a definite form of its own accord.
If it does this, it almost always means you've found a spot in the space-time
causality that is of great importance, either to you, or to the world at large.
I was about to let the bottle go when that happened.
The scene flickered from my surprise, but I managed to restrain it and go with
the flow as it showed me white mountain slopes. It didn't take me long to decide
these must be the Terror Mountains. The scene gradually closed in on a spot
near the top of one. A figure wandering in the snow grew larger until I made
out a purple Lupe, alone up there on the mountain. He was filling in a ditch
in the snow. When he got to the end, he took out a red object, stuck it into
the snow, and filled in the hole, leaving only a string coming up to the surface.
I realised what it was as he set light to it and then ran away at top speed.
The view backed up to cover a larger area, and it seemed to darken ominously.
For the space of a few breaths, nothing happened. Then an explosion flickered
fire in a huge line across that side of the mountain. Very slowly, a mass of
snow curled away from the explosion area. It continued to slide, getting larger
with an inevitable sense of doom as it gradually increased its momentum down
the mountainside. I only half-realised that the original blast area had been
lost in the snowslide as I watched with widening eyes the huge avalanche descending
towards a village area below.
"Crying" glasses produce only sights, not sound. Perhaps that was just as well.
I saw a few small figures come out of the huts below and start running. The
onrushing wall of snow seemed ready to bury the whole area, but then it shifted--or
was it my view that shifted again?--and it sideswiped the small group of homes,
twisting some off their foundations, but not burying any of them totally as
it swept on and down, taking out what must have been the main trail leading
up to the village.
The scene began to calm as the snow poured out into the wider valley below
and lost its concentrated force to the level land there. Towards the end, my
eyes blinked as I tried to see the last traces of the snowslide, but it had
effectively lost itself in the existing snow cover. I shuddered, and the image
faded from view.
I was left blinking at an empty bottle, and it was only then that I realised
my paws were convulsively curling and uncurling themselves. I tightened my little
fists into balls and pounded them gently on the desk, as I fought the tears
and shakes that threatened to overcome what little composure I had left.
I finally took a shaky breath, set the bottle aside, and pulled the keyboard
of my neoterminal towards me. I rapidly punched up the news page, and did a
search for "terror mountain" and "avalanche". It didn't take long to get results.
SKI LIFT DESTROYED BY AVALANCHE one headline proclaimed.
PROTESTS SCHEDULED IN CAPITAL CITY OVER "AVALANCHE APATHY" another one said.
I read further into that story.
"Protesting the lack of government action, several hundred Blumaroo citizens
are planning to surround the capital building this Friday," it read. "'Our livelihoods
are being destroyed and our lives endangered,' proclaimed one small business
owner. 'I lost tens of thousands in improvements at my business, and had to
shut down for a week. What I want to know is, where are the government planning
boards who were supposed to prevent this sort of tragedy?'
Council members were largely unavailable for comment, but one of them stated
that he understood the protester's concerns. 'I live among these people,' Councilperson
Bloriarity claimed. 'I know from firsthand experience how hard they work, and
it pains me to see everything they've worked for lost due to this catastrophe.
Hopefully we can repay them for the losses they have received, and soon.' When
asked about prevention, he replied, 'The commission in charge of monitoring
the snow levels concluded that there was little to no danger of any slides this
season. Obviously, they were wrong. Why, I would not care to speculate--I would
suggest that you ask them.'"
I looked at the dates on the stories and blinked. These dates were from the
past few weeks. They couldn't have been talking about what I had just seen.
Crying glasses reach to other places in space, but not in time. They are "real
time" as my owner would say. What I had seen had just happened, and there hadn't
been time for any news reports to come out yet, unless....
I went back to the search page and hit the refresh button. Sure enough, a red
"update" logo showed above a new entry in the list.
NEW AVALANCHE IN TERROR MOUNTAIN DESTROYS HOMES, ENDANGERS LIVES said the headline.
"A recent string of avalanches was continued this morning, nearly wiping out
the small town of Berinda on the western slopes of the Throat-mail Mountain
range. Reports just coming in are fragmented, but the village is even now being
reached by emergency personnel who must break a new trail through the huge mass
of snow blocking their way. Observation towers are reporting that they see the
village in its entirety, and that only a few houses have been destroyed. Fears
about how many homes and lives were lost must go unanswered until reports from
pets on the scene can come in.
The slide further fuels speculations and accusations of government incompetence
that have been publicly aired the past few weeks. Charges of neglect and prejudice
on the part of the Bruceys who comprise the entire Slope Commission in charge
of monitoring the area will no doubt receive new life now that another Blumaroo
village has been hit...."
I grunted and sat back in my seat. A frown crossed my face as I stared at the
frosted glass of the front door in my office. I didn't have to speculate about
why those slides happened. I'd seen exactly what was causing them. The only
question left in my mind was who--and why.
I went home that night in a thoughtful mood. What I suspected was just too
big to investigate without some help. After supper, I took blchocobo aside for
a little talk.
Blchocobo was a blue Blumaroo, and a recent addition to our household. I'd
been an only pet for forever, but now that I was getting zapped by the lab ray,
my owner had apparently decided I needed a brother. He'd picked blchocobo from
the pound, and we'd spent our first night bouncing around the house together.
Blumaroos can almost out bounce a Cybunny, and I turned into one the same day
we'd gotten him.
Whether it had been my owner's intention or not, blchocobo was turning out
to be a good companion and younger brother. He wasn't a baby by any means, although
younger than I. He was a quiet sort, not given to talking much, but I'd learned
that you would profit by paying attention to what he said when he did speak
up. He'd been a big help in simply being there as an unchanging rock while I
struggled with my own identity changes from the lab ray.
Blchocobo listened attentively as I explained what I had seen in the "crying"
glass that day. He winced sympathetically as I revealed my shock at seeing a
huge avalanche first being deliberately set, and then nearly wiping out a village.
When I told him about the news stories I'd read, he nodded thoughtfully. After
a while, though, I ran down and tried to figure out how to phrase what came
"You need help in looking into this," he said quietly.
I blinked. (Cybunnies have nice big eyes, great for blinking.) "I think you're
right," I replied, "and that's why I wanted to talk it over with you. I was
"Yes, of course."
"Of course? That's a pretty fast agreement."
Blchocobo grinned a bit. "Why should you be surprised? First off, you're my
older brother. Second, I don't like the idea of pets getting hurt or worse.
And I particularly don't like the thought of Blumaroos in danger. What did you
plan on doing?"
"Well, I have to look at the scene of the crime itself..." I stopped as the
implication of what I said hit home. I really was thinking of this as a deliberate
crime, not just an accident. Someone or something wanted pets to get hurt, and
have all that they owned wiped out too. Somehow, although I'd known it all along,
it hadn't quite become real until I said that. I shivered. "Anyhow, while I
do that, I was hoping you could sort of ask around among the Blumaroos there
and get a feel for the situation--exactly what's happening, who is who in the
situation, any sort of motives that you might find, that sort of thing."
"I see. It's a good idea."
"Thanks. One more thing--we'll go up there separately. I don't want anyone
connecting us, just in case. I think we'll both be able to find out more if
no one puts the two of us together and figures out what we're trying to do."
He nodded. "Sounds good to me. When do we start?"
"Tomorrow morning. Right after I get my," I nearly choked on the next word--
"shot by the lab ray."
"Okay." Blchocobo looked at me sympathetically. "Good luck with it."
"Thank you," I replied softly and left before I said something mushy that I
might regret later.
We both headed to bed. I don't know about him, but I had some trouble getting
to sleep. What between the knowledge of the problem I was about to tackle, and
worrying about the lab ray lurking for me in the morning, I had trouble relaxing.
I fell asleep into nightmares of my owner cackling, with his red eyes glowing
like the mad scientist while he hurled exploding snowballs at the lab ray.
To be continued...