B1 — 2. Stabilizing

Rachel waited in the room for what seemed hours; Zoe had quickly fallen asleep against her shoulder, her soft purrs bringing a faint smile to Rachel’s lips.  She’d gently guided her head down to a pillow on her lap after she’d drifted off. I never thought I’d hear a person actually purr like a cat.

Her rabbit ears were twitching as they followed the countless conversations across the facility; it was pretty bad outside.  There were a few different groups that had formed and been causing trouble for the armed forces. The National Guard and Coast Guard had been appointed to safeguard the areas that the changed humans gathered at, supported by the local police.  She heard a few heated debates between different people that were in the Military, National Guard, and Police Department that were concerned about their family members. There was talk about if the people in the military that had changed were allowed to help and a host of other concerns.

The most prevalent conversation was about a gang that had taken over Miami Beach.  A few of the gang members had obtained powers, and been physically changed; they attacked the police and had taken many of their weapons, arming the rest of the gang.  The Military was just about to form a raid, striking tactically on key locations the gang had taken over, but there were hostages. It wasn’t an isolated incident, terror groups were forming all over the U.S. as law enforcement did their best to keep everything under control.

Though the nation reacted quickly, the sheer volume of people changed into beasts caused problems everywhere, making it hard to contain the disaster.  The CDC had become more organized since then, and the whole nation was working on a solution, while the armed forces did their best to keep order. Volunteers and civilian readiness groups organized, several receiving permission to help support the CDC with basic means while also providing shelters and information through HAM networks.  By the time someone finally entered the room, the majority of the mayhem had calmed to a manageable level; a woman came in with a hazmat suit.

Rachel shook Zoe awake.  “What’s going on?” She yawned, and Rachel hissed, lifting her hands up.  Her fingernails had extended into claws. “Oh—sorry!”  Zoe pulled her hands back, looking at her fingernails.  “How did I just do that?”

“I don’t know,” Rachel hummed.  “I’m just glad I noticed before you took a chunk out of my leg.”  She teased with a slight shove to her shoulder.

Zoe giggled apologetically, frowning as her claws changed back.  “I guess I don’t need to carry around a knife anymore.”

“That’s a plus,” Rachel said before pointing up front.

The woman seemed tired as she wheeled a TV in with a laptop connected to it.  “Hi, my name’s Krystal—I guess you still have some spirit.”  She smiled a little before taking a long breath.  “So, we’ve been able to set up and get the appropriate staff onsite.  The President is going to release a statement in ten minutes.” Everyone watched her in silence.  “Right—we are working hard to help you.  Things are starting to look better.”

One of the demon-girls shifted a little before raising her hand.  “Umm—when can we call our family? Are the cell phone towers down?  I don’t have any reception.”

Krystal cleared her throat.  “The cell phone towers in the area were damaged—I don’t know when they’ll be fixed.  When local communications are up, we’ll let you know.”

“Can we use the laptop or the internet on it to contact our families?”  A girl with a raccoon tail and ears asked.

She shook her head.  “I’m afraid we’re connected to a closed government satellite network that is designed to distribute real-time data.”  Everyone seemed disappointed at the news.

The woman looked around at the group.  “Okay, umm, so, please wait for the broadcast.  Further instruction will be sent to us after it.”  They nodded, and she left the room. The group waited the remaining time; the presidential seal came on-screen before the President appeared.

“My fellow Americans, we have been in a state of crisis for the past several hours; yesterday, at approximately nine-thirteen P.M Eastern Standard Time, there was a worldwide phenomenon.  The sky, all around the world, cracked; lights of all different colors shone through these fissures. There were reports of some form of oscillation that passed through people, and upon this event, they changed.  We are still gathering information and the numbers affected, but it’s within reason to believe over a million U.S. citizens have been affected by this oscillation.

“This event has changed the biology of humans; mothers, fathers, children, and grandparents alike.  These are not monsters, but your family—I repeat, these are not monsters, but human beings that have undergone a terrible change—normal people crying for help.  To all those that can hear my voice, you have my sympathy, and we are doing everything within the United States’ power to help you. Please find your way to a U.S. Military outpost; that includes U.S. citizens around the world, you will be safe.

“We were quick to realize the implication and fallout from this disaster, and I was advised to instate Martial Law and initiate our highest contingency plan.  We are currently working round the clock with state authorities and the UN to resolve this crisis. Stay calm and have hope, we will pull through, and God bless you.”  The image cut. There was silence for a moment after the broadcast before a few women broke down into tears.

“We’re not going to be killed,” a demon-girl cried.

Another nodded with a hopeful smile.  “We’re going to get help.”

Zoe scooted back against the wall.  “What do you think, Rachel?”

Rachel shook her head.  “I don’t know—at least we know they’re restoring order.”

“I’m really worried about my parents and little brother … at first, it was a little cool, but everything got really scary—I hope they’re safe.  My grandpa too—he lives all alone.”

“I’m worried about my family too…”  Rachel cut off as someone in a hazmat suit entered the room, the light chatter around the space fading as everyone’s focus shifted.

The woman in the hazmat suit cleared her throat; she held a small stack of paper that had been cut into strips, and a box of pens.  “Umm—I don’t want to sound rude or offend any of you, but,” she shifted a little. “I was told to ask each of you to write your race and—type … I’ll just leave them here on the desk and pick it up in five minutes.”  She quickly set the parchment and utensils down before retreating back through the door.

“It’s not like we bite.”  One of the demon-girls muttered sullenly.

“I can’t blame her though,” the squirrel-girl said with a shrug.

“Whatever,” a demon-girl sniffed.  “You’re a cute squirrel; we look like demons … how could you understand.”

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“Hey,” Rachel frowned.  “Let’s not get at each other’s throats.  We’re all in the same boat. Let’s try to help rather than push each other away.”

The demon-girls looked at the floor, one whispering, “Says the gorgeous bunny-girl.”

“That can hear miles away, and I’m not a bunny, I’m a hare,” Rachel said as she rose.  “Look—yes, everyone’s change isn’t equal, but neither is life … look at us. Knuckle down and deal with it rather than complaining.  Let’s write down what we are and try to make the best of it.”

“Easy for you…”

Rachel cut her off.  “Do you want to be normal again?”

The demon-girl was silent for a moment as she glared at her.  “Yes.”

“Then help them get answers, and we’ll go from there.”

The girl looked down, her nose twisted.  “Fine.”

“Let me help!”  Zoe offered as she jumped up.  “I’ll pass out the pens and paper.”  She darted to the desk before anyone could react.  Taking the lid off the box of pens, she began passing them out along with the strips of paper.

Rachel smiled as Zoe approached, and took a pen and paper.  “Thanks, Zoe.”

She nodded with a beaming smile as she finished passing the rest out, returning to Rachel’s side.  She used the wall to write her answers, and Rachel grew a little interested.

“Zoe, you know my Type is a Mythickin, and my Race is a Lunar Hare.  You’re a Beastkin, but what is your type?”

Zoe’s face flushed.  “Domestic Cat … a bit disappointing.”

“I don’t think so,” Rachel grinned as she nudged her shoulder a little.  “You were purring while asleep, pretty cute. I’m sure any boy’s ears would steam seeing that.”

She giggled, cheeks flushing.  “I really purr?”

Rachel nodded.  “Super cute.”

A tremor ran down Zoe’s body, her tail stiff.  “Thanks for cheering me up,” she muttered.

“Easy when you could melt a guy’s heart,” she winked.

“You’re like a divine being though,” Zoe said, studying her.  “Your hair glows a little, and the slight pink hue makes my eyes really focus on it; it enhances your overall beauty.  The pinkish-red eyes too, they’re striking … everything about you is.”

She shrugged.  “Probably something to do with being a Lunar Hare.”

“Right—you’re so unique looking that it forces people to look at you.”

“Stop it,” Rachel chuckled.  “You’re going to make me blush.”

Zoe snapped her fingers.  “Snap! You’re too composed … were you like that before or is that a Lunar Hare thing too?  I feel a little more—bubbly, I guess, since becoming a Beastkin Domestic Cat.”

Rachel’s brow furrowed.  “Maybe—I haven’t thought about it like that.  I did cry back when we were in line though, remember?  That’s not composed.”

Lips pursing for a moment, Zoe hummed.  “It didn’t look that way to me. You were thinking about something you really care about, right?  Then your composure came back quickly.”

She mirrored her hum.  “Perhaps—who knows how these changes work; it could have changed our personalities a bit.  The scientists did say our brains have been altered a bit; they found out a few hours ago that everyone they’ve tested so far is not contagious, but until we’ve been cleared, protocol states to be cautious.”

Zoe’s eyes grew at her statement, but their conversation was cut short as the door opened again for a different person in a hazmat suit.  “If you could please put your papers on the desk, I…” She was interrupted by the demon-girl as she stared at Rachel with wide eyes.

“You mean—we aren’t contagious?  They really said that?”

“Eh—what?”  The woman seemed to tense.

Rachel took a deep breath.  “That’s only with those that have been tested.  We haven’t been tested yet; so, we need to stay here.”  The women in the room seemed crestfallen at the information.  “Hey—that’s good news. It means there’s a chance none of us are contagious.”

“Right,” the woman in the hazmat suit said.  “Who told you about that because that’s news to me?”  The woman asked.

She pointed at her long ears.  “I can hear miles away … everything on campus is fairly easy for me to listen in on.”

“Really,” the woman muttered.  “Well, okay, can I get everyone’s papers?”  Everyone dropped off their papers at the desk, and she collected them.  “Alright, thank you for your cooperation thus far; I know this must be difficult for all of you.”  With that, she turned and left.

Everyone settled back onto their mats and into their own little discussions.  Zoe, hugged her legs as she glanced at Rachel. “So, why do you think they need our races and types?”

Sitting back, she thought on the question for a moment.  “Well—I’d say it’s probably to get metadata to crunch. They’ll compile all the information and then apply it to the area to see the diversity and look for a pattern—that’s my guess, anyway.”

“Then they can use that to start solving the puzzle?”

“I think so.  I mean, there was so little warning, and you heard those scientists, there’s no connection.  They’re trying to find out if there’s a puzzle at all. There’s the sky fracturing, lights inside those cracks, and then everyone changes, and the cracks disappear … that’s all.”

She nodded.  “Not much to go off of—so that’s why they’re trying to use the races and types to map a pattern.  Okay, I get it now.”

Rachel sighed.  “That’s just my guess.  They could…” The door opened again as three people entered in hazmat suits, two of them had rifles.  Everyone stiffened, moving back toward the wall.

“No need for alarm,” the woman in the center stated.  “We’re here for the Mythickin; I assume the bunny-girl in the back since her type is a Lunar Hare.”

Rachel swallowed nervously.  “Why do you need me?”

“We are going to test to see if you’re infected with any virus and then transport you to the hospital.  No harm will come to you; we just need to run some tests. Perhaps we can find a means to return you to normal.”

“I…”  Rachel straightened as she trailed off.  I could hear a lie in there … her heart, I could hear the flutter, like a lie detector.  She was honest that they aren’t going to hurt me … but she doesn’t think I can return to normal…  “Alright.”

Zoe squeezed her hand.  “I—thanks for helping me.  I hope we meet again.”

Rachel smiled.  “Yeah, I don’t have many friends—none actually.  Thanks for sticking with me this far and keeping me company.”

She was a little shocked as Zoe hugged her.  “No,” tears fell on her shoulder. “Thank you for keeping me calm.  You helped me through this.” Rachel rubbed her back comfortingly.

“Please hurry up, we’d like to get to as many people as possible.”  The woman stated.

Taking a deep breath, Rachel lightly pulled away, Zoe wiping at her cheeks as she left the room.  The hallway was lined with plastic, but there was a clean looking pink tunnel that appeared down the next hall.  “Inside, you will need to strip down, and a shower will be in the next room that will decontaminate you. It may sting, but please bear with it.  There is a medical gown on the other side for you to dress into; there are plastic buttons to clip together and a tie with instructions on the wall.

Rachel nodded stiffly.  Every time I saw this in movies, they always freak out because it hurts … how will it feel on my ears?  Taking a deep breath, she walked through the flap into the first room.  There was a dispenser for her to put her clothes in with a biohazard symbol on it.  Removing her clothes, she grimaced as she undid her ribbon.

Taking a deep breath, she opened the hard plastic door and stepped in; once the door shut, she tensed as the nozzles all around the tank discharged liquid from every angle.  To her surprise, it didn’t hurt; she felt a little pressure, but there was no pain. It shut off after a short time, and she stepped through to the other side, noting her waist-long wet hair; however, there was something else that caught her attention.

“Where’s all my muscle mass?”  She whispered. Her body was still toned, but nothing near what she had before.  Her skin looked soft and smooth; it even looked like she’d lost fat in certain areas.  She puffed out a long breath. Well, I guess there were a lot of other things to think about before now.

She glared at her thin arms.  Seriously.  Shifting her vision away in disgust, she examined the towels and medical gowns waiting for her.  She dried her body before patting down her waist-long hair; shockingly, it didn’t seem tangled in the least and stayed perfectly straight.  Odd, I guess it’s a Lunar Hare thing.

She followed the instructions on the wall, dressing into the gown, and to her surprise, it looked a lot better than she’d imagined; it was baggy, but not revealing.  Stepping out on the other side, she frowned as she met a man in a hazmat suit. Her eyes wandered past him to a semi-transparent plastic wall that separated them from a makeshift medical room.

“We’ll be drawing your blood, and then you’ll be escorted off the campus to the medical center.”

Deciding to test the waters, Rachel asked, “You don’t think I’m infectious, do you?”

The man shook his head.  “We’ve had so many changed people exposed on the outside, yet no one’s changed.  This is just a precaution. We’re close to…” He cut off, listening to something.

Rachel’s sharp ears caught every word.  “It’s been confirmed that the only infectious types seem to be a few Mythickin; specifically the Kitsune, Incubus, and Succubus that release some form of airborne chemical compound to control human minds.  It seems to have some effect on different Beastkin as well. There are also predatory types of Mythickin that have been observed with mind control capability, such as Vampires. If you have any Mythickin at your facility, contact your supervisors, they will have instructions.”

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Rachel sighed.  “Well—I’m Mythickin … so, what does that mean for me?”

The man’s heart started to increase.  “You heard that?” She pointed at her ears, and he nodded, swallowing hard.  “Okay—so, you are being transported to a facility in Miami that is bringing together all the Mythickin to determine the best way to treat you.”

“Not the treat as in turning me back into a human, I presume—I’m right … great.”  She scanned the area for more information and picked up on a particular conversation.  “I see,” the man stepped back nervously. She scratched behind her left ear with a heavy frown.  “There are a few Mythickin causing a lot of trouble around the world—now I’m being roped in because of that … it makes sense.”

She put her hands on her hips.  “Well—from what I’ve heard, it’s not like I’ll be experimented on or anything right?  I really want to punch something right now—guess that can wait. They’re just trying to understand what to do with us and keep us from causing trouble.”

“You can tell all of that from me?”  The man asked.

Rachel chuckled.  “No, I’ve been listening in on conversations for the past several hours.  I know quite a bit about what’s happening outside and around the world. Everything is calming down, and now the political side is showing its face … just like Zoe said.”  She rubbed her shoulder nervously. “Oh—I’ll be riding in the car with a Vampire? That makes me a little nervous after hearing what happened in Seattle—over eight-hundred dead.”

“Can—I start drawing your blood?”  He asked, shoulders rotating to ease the tension.

She rubbed the back of her neck.  “I’m sorry, yeah, go ahead. You know, I think Zoe was onto something.  I think I have changed a bit since turning into a Lunar Hare, and from everything I’ve heard—I don’t think we’ll be able to return back to normal.  Really—what are my parents going to say?” She bit her lower lip with concern.

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