B1 — 9. Experimentation

Rachel’s hand entered the branching hallway; the sunlight shone through the windows, reflecting off the white tile floor to strike her fingers.  Strength immediately started leaving her body; hand recoiling, she darted back, causing Julia and Richard to jump at her quick action. She almost tripped over a few people lining the hallway, causing them to stiffen at her swift backpedal.

“Did it hurt?”  Richard asked.

Julia moved to her with concern.  “What is it—did it hurt?”

Rachel looked down at her fingers, flexing them without response.  It’s not like I lost strength in just my fingers … it was my entire body.  It’s not returning, even when I’m out of the light, and that was only a reflection off the tiles.  It was a good call to wait until night.

She looked up at Jula and Richard’s questioning gaze before humming lowly.  “So, the moment my fingers…” She cut off as a familiar bodily system entered her perceptive range.  That’s the guy that tried to take Scarlet … he’s to the north of me.  For me to recognize specific human sounds, do I need to be within a hundred meters of someone?  The way his vocal cords sound when he breathes, the rise and fall of his lungs, specific body movement … it’s all the same.  He’s not in the building yet, but walking with a few people outside.

“Rachel, are you okay?”  Richard asked, stepping closer to examine her.

Mind returning to the present, Rachel frowned.  “Yeah, sorry, I just heard someone nearby. Give me a moment.”  They both followed her as she backtracked to a National Guard soldier stationed down the hall, scanning the crowd.  “Mason,” his eyes rose as she called out his name. “Can you patch through to Mateo? He’s one of the Green Berets, a Captain.”

“Can I ask why?”  Mason shifted to face her.

“I just noticed someone that he’ll be interested in.”

He frowned.  “What’s your name?”

“Rachel,” she said, eyes darting to Julia and Richard as they listened.

“Right,” pressing his earpiece, he said, “This is Mason Jordan, Private First Class; the Mythickin Rachel, wishes to be patched through to Captain Mateo.  She says she’s discovered someone he’ll be interested in.”

After confirmation, several seconds passed in silence as people moved around them, the hallways busy with noise.  Mateo’s voice came over the speakers. “This is Captain Mateo, put Rachel on.”

Mason’s heart rate elevated; he swallowed nervously before handing his earpiece to Rachel.  Holding it up to her mouth, she spoke softly. “Mateo, I just heard that man that wants to take Scarlet outside the facility.”

“How did he get so close without you noticing him?”

“As far as I can guess, he hasn’t been talking.  I can recognize tone from much further away, but his unique bodily sounds were only noticeable within a hundred meters or so.”

“Alright, I already sent in a report on him; I’ll check up on how it’s going and alert the National Guard around the area.  I’ll also station some of my team in the Mythickin section; all authorization will go through me. Thanks for the heads up.”

 “Thank you, Mateo.  Thanks for caring about us.”

He sniffed.  “Hard not to when my own daughter was changed.  You’re all victims in this, but you’re also walking military grade weapons; so, don’t cause too much trouble.”

She repressed a sigh.  “Thanks, Mateo.” She handed the device back to Mason.  “Thank you too, Mason.” He nodded briskly as she walked away, the two doctors behind her.

“I see,” Richard muttered.  “You recognized the sounds of someone you knew nearby that could be perceived as a threat.”

Julia nodded.  “The part that caught my interest was how you recognized him.”

Rachel nodded.  “I told you, it’s hard to accurately describe how acute and broad my hearing has become.  I can hear the popping in your joints as you move, the motion of your lungs, which foot you put the most weight on.  I could go on, but I think you get the point. The sound is much clearer the closer someone is, and the more I can recognize it, but I can hear loud sounds like gunfire happening several miles away … normal voices two and a half miles away.  I’ve been trying to measure and get an accurate distance for the last few hours.”

“I think I’m just starting to realize how much of an advantage that is,” Richard muttered.  “You can hear every conversation in the hospital, right?”

“That’s right.”  She said, stopping outside the branch to the hallway with reflected sunlight.

“There are still things you can possibly unlock too!”  Julia’s tone was spiked with enthusiasm. “So, what’s up with the sunlight?”

Looking down at her hand, Rachel sighed.  “The moment my fingers touched the sunlight, reflected sunlight, not even direct … I felt all the strength in my body decreasing.”

“Not just in your fingers,” Richard muttered.  “So, that tells us sunlight does have an effect on you, but it’s not on just the parts of your body that are actively touching sunlight, but your entire body.  It would be good to test how far your power decreases; do you feel up to it?”

Rachel swallowed, feeling a little nervous.  “I’d be lying if I wasn’t scared of the idea.  What if at a certain point I can’t even twitch a finger, but I do have the two of you here in case anything drastic happens.”

“Well,” Julia hummed lightly.  “The moon is still in the sky. It doesn’t just show up at night; the moon rises and sets at different times.  Let me see … it’s a quarter moon, right now and will set at around twelve pm.”

Rachel cursed internally as she looked at Julia’s phone.  I can’t believe I left my phone back at the dorm.  A particular conversation caught her interest that diverted her train of thought.

“When can they transport the expired blood bags and other biohazard materials to the sanitation facility?  With all the volunteers flooding in we also need more supplies.”

“We’re working it out, but give us some time.”  I seeI guess blood bags would expire too.  We don’t need to get the blood bags here, we can just go to one of the sanitation facilities that are empty, and she could drink her fill.  What time will the moon be rising tonight though? Turning to Julia, she asked the question.

“Umm, looks like it’s around twelve A.M.”

“We’ll have to wait for tonight to test the moon’s growth potential,” Richard muttered.

Rachel stretched her arms out.  “Well, I do need to figure out the effects of the sun, and if the moon is still out, we can move to a location in the shade with the moonlight still showing.”

The three of them looked at the hallway with some reservation.  “Well,” Rachel sighed, “let’s see how far my physical strength can fall.”  She extended her hand again, the light touching her fingers. It wasn’t painful, but she could feel her explosive strength diminishing at a consistent rate.

Julia was a little breathless.  “How is it?”

“Slow, but constant.”  Rachel turned her palm around, flexing her fingers in the light.  Will the decrease increase if I put my whole arm in it?  Trying it, she frowned.  “It’s the same constant rate.  Stepping into the hallway, she licked her lips, now fully exposed to the reflected light.  “There, it increased a little, but I think it’s because I hit a more intense glare.”

Julia and Richard followed her as she walked to the window, peering through it at the brightening front entrance of the hospital.  “There, it stopped. It’s not decreasing anymore.” Rachel muttered.

“You’re not glowing anymore,” Julia said with a hint of sadness.

“The glow could be linked to the amount of moonlight energy she’s absorbed … how unscientific does that sound,” Richard shook his head.  “Moonlight energy…”

“Yeah, it looks like the sunlight decreases your energy, but…” Julia frowned as she looked down at the ground.

“What is it?”  Rachel asked.

“I’m just wondering if it’s a static or dynamic source of power?”

“Wouldn’t it be a dissipative system?”  Richard questioned.

“Not necessarily; if we’re talking about anime or game-like mechanics.  I was looking at a few systems while Rachel was in the shower, and there was one that showed a specific resource.  They used specific kinds of elements to gain their power, but if their counter elements weren’t present then it would stay static; neither increasing nor decreasing when their environment lacked those positive and negative elements.  What makes me think about that is how Rachel was able to stay strong inside the building or without moonlight. Of course, it could dissipate over a much longer time.”

Richard cupped his chin.  “Hmm, what do you think Rachel?  Were you getting weaker since coming into the hospital?”

Thinking back, Rachel shook her head.  “No, I wasn’t getting slower, but I was getting more tired.  Let’s see … how do I explain it? I could move at my max speed, but my body would continue to feel more strained … like, I could pull a muscle or something if I continued to push my body at that pace, but I still could.”

“It does sound like a separate resource then,” Richard muttered.  “That would mean that if you went back inside without going out to absorb the moonlight for a few days … you’d stay at your current weakest state.”

Rachel’s skin tingled at the information.  Waitthat would mean that if someone wanted to kidnap me … even the government, then they could expose me to sunlight and then stick me in like a steel container … I wouldn’t be able to escape.  It wouldn’t be good to give them that kind of information … at least not if we’re going by common sense.

Rachel sucked on her lower lip for a moment.  “Maybe, let’s go test it out real fast now that I’m completely drained.”

Richard nodded.  “Let’s, it’s an important weakness to note.”

“I think you’re right about that,” Rachel whispered.

Returning to her previous spot outside the sunlight; she was a little shocked to find a small portion of her energy instantly recover, but it wasn’t increasing.  It’s like moonlight.  I feel a massive increase when in moonlight, but that diminishes immediately when I step outside of it; however, it doesn’t decrease any further … it’s like a sharp boost.  I think it affects my stamina pool; it could also be affecting my endurance, decreasing the cost of my abilities … if Julia’s right and this is like a game. It has to be one of the two; it either affects my stamina or endurance … even both.  In contrast, the sun would do the same; it should reduce my overall stamina or endurance, increasing my stamina loss while moving.

Rachel smiled a little.  “No, I’ve regained some strength.”  It wasn’t a lie but wasn’t expressing the full truth.  She clenched her fist and punched, feeling the strength behind the blow, she tried to measure it with her previous punches.  A whole lot weaker than when I was charged, but I think I could still bend something like a steel rod with some effort.  I’m at least as strong as the strongest humans I’ve seen in strength exhibitions. So, I’m still a force to be reckoned with outside of sunlight, but I need to know just how weak I become in daylight.

“Interesting,” Richard said, making some notes.  “You aren’t glowing still, but you’ve regained strength by passing out of sunlight.”

Julia watched her punch with excitement.  “Wow! That was so fast; I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone punch that fast before.  Does that mean you have a medium or cap; like with mana as an example, there’s a mana cap that you reach outside of moonlight, and it decreases to zero in sunlight?”

“I guess,” Rachel said with a bright smile.  Not at all.  You were right before … it’s a static state, but there’s a significant boost or loss in direct light.

“So,” Rachel stretched out a little.  Julia squealing at how flexible she was as she wrote something down in her phone.  “Let’s see if I can get any of the soldiers to help test me. There’s an area outside where some of the Coast Guard soldiers have gathered.”

“You seriously want to spar?”  Julia asked.

Rachel shook her head.  “I want to know how strong I am compared to a normal human while in sunlight.  Not spar, since we don’t have much protective equipment and I don’t know exactly how strong or weak I am in sunlight.  They could hurt me, or I could hurt them. I just want to test my strength.”

“That makes sense,” Richard nodded.  “Like, arm wrestling?”

“That’s a good option,” she said while moving back into the sunlight.  “Let’s head that way.” On the way to the Coast Guard break area, she listened, ears twitching a few times as she caught wind of the wannabe hero talking to a few National Guard soldiers she knew the name of.

“Hey, Carter, there’s a problem.”

“What is it?  Something change in the guard schedule?”

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“No, the entire bloody guard changed.  I caught wind that the rabbit Mythickin found out you were nearby and alerted the Army.  There’s a Green Beret team that’s taken over the whole section.”

Carter cursed.  “How did she know I was nearby?  I’ve been keeping low and away from her.”

“No clue.  They’ve locked down that whole section, and I heard that the Unicorn recently went in the section too.  She’s got a gang that’s hanging around outside the halls.”

“I won’t be able to get in with them locking everything down; it’s probably the same Special Forces unit that I saw before.  Is there anything some of your buddies can do?”

“Actually, we need to be more careful.  Some of the guys in the National Guard were frozen by some guy with ice powers.  They found out that the Vampire was the one that subdued him and they’re talking about how they’d be dead if she hadn’t shown up.  People’s fears are dying down, but we can’t let what happened in Seattle happen here!”

“Look, I’ll figure something out,” Carter muttered.  “The bunny-girl’s fast … crazy fast. I need to figure out how she caught wind I was nearby.  Give me a heads up if anything comes up or if they discover my location.”

“No problem, and Carter…”

“What?”

“Careful, man.  I don’t want another cousin turning up dead.”

“I know … I—talk to you later, Paul.”

Rachel turned down another hallway, Julia pondering something while Richard studied his tablet PC.  Should I intervene?  I didn’t know he had accomplices within the National Guard.  It sounds like it’s under control for now and I don’t see him as that big of a threat.  He can turn into smoke or some kind of vapor but against someone like Scarlet … that’s child’s play.  She could just trap his smoke inside a blood ball or something. How would that affect him? I assume he has to materialize after a certain time … what if he was trapped inside of a container?  Would he die? She halted as her strength seemed to return a bit, causing Julia to almost run into her.

“Woah!  What’s up?”  Julia asked, moving to her side.

Looking through the glass, she caught sight of the moon poking over the buildings.  “The moon, it’s countering the sunlight’s effect, but not all of it.” I’d say I’m a little weaker than outside sunlight.  Maybe it needs to be more full to counter it?

“Hmm,” Richard started typing a few sentences on his tablet.  “It does have a bit of a counter effect then.”

Julia moved to get a better view of the moon.  “Only most of it, eh? I wonder how it would be if it were a third or a full moon?”

“We’ll have to see,” Rachel muttered.  “Anyways, let’s keep moving.” They began moving again with her prompt.

Keeping a light smile on her lips, she made it to the spot; her appearance caused a stir among the soldiers.  She walked up to a specific man; he had black hair and brown eyes, a bit taller than her, excluding her ears, and was well built.  “Senior Chief Petty Officer Flores, it’s nice to meet you.”

Several of the men around him straightened.  “You’d be?” Flores asked.

“Rachel Park, I’m one of the Mythickin within Miami.”  A few of the men narrowed their eyes, muscles moving defensively as their breathing changed.  “I don’t want to cause any trouble for the Coast Guard.” She said with raised hands. “I just wanted to ask for your help.  Can I explain?”

Julia stepped in, “Yes, umm … should I address you as Senior Chief Petty Officer?”

Looking at them with a frown, Flores picked between his teeth before sucking in.  “Hmm, one of those Mythickin, eh?” His vision didn’t leave Rachel. “You can call me Logan, if you prefer, Ma’am.  We’ve heard a lot about some of you in other countries—of course, the Seattle incident. Can’t say I’ve heard about a rabbit Mythickin though.  What do you want, Rachel?”

“Right, thank you, Logan,” Julia said with a slight nod.  “Rachel wishes to test her strength. What have you heard about the Mythickin or the changed humans?”

Pursing his lips for a moment, Logan continued to study Rachel as he spoke.  “Enough to be cautious about them.”

Richard nodded.  “That’s understandable, and forgive my wording, Rachel—but, she was human not so long ago.  Could you explain a little about yourself, Rachel?” Is this some of his psych background to help connect me to humanity or is this a subtle way to get more information about my background?  Perhaps both…

“Sure, I don’t mind.  I was changed into a Lunar Hare during The Oscillation; yesterday, I was just an ordinary college student; a nineteen-year-old, third-semester Korean-girl that liked Muay Thai and had family problems.  Now,” she gestured at herself, “I’m this.”

Logan nodded.  “Okay, a little background is appreciated.  So, what do you want our help with.”

Swallowing, Julia continued.  “Because she’s a Lunar Hare, under moonlight, she can rip steel apart like butter and move extremely fast … like, a literal blur.”  Several of the men’s defensive posture returned. “Oh, but don’t worry—in the sunlight, she becomes much, much weaker. She’d like to test her strength a little and see how she performs at her weakest.  It would also help us better understand her abilities.”

“How weak would that be?”  Logan growled.

She looked over at the moon, still a bit above the building line.  “UmmI believe a little weaker than some of the strongest humans on the planet—with the moon in sight, not when in sunlight.”

“You’re joking,” one of the other men muttered.  Did I come off too strong?  Maybe I should have downplayed it.

Logan shook his head.  “I can’t risk one of my men being injured.  Especially in a state of Martial Law.”

Richard nodded.  “I completely understand your position.  It would just be an arm wrestling match; in the sunlight, of course, and outside of the moon’s light—at her weakest.”

He thought about it for a moment before addressing Rachel.  “How strong would you be at your weakest?”

She shook her head.  “That’s what I want to find out—I’ll definitely be a lot weaker than I am right now.

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Turning to a few men, he asked, “Any of you want to arm wrestle a Mythickin that claims to be able to best the strongest men in the world when weakened?”

“Aye!”  Several men shouted.

Rachel kept her smile pleasant as Julia spoke.  “Great. Just over there, by the building outside of the moonlight should work.”  Nodding, everyone made their way over to the spot; the men setting up a table with two chairs.

Richard had an amused expression.  “Ms. Park, out of curiosity, you do know arm wrestling is more about technique than raw strength.  I’m guessing these men will know a few of those techniques.”

“I’m aware,” Rachel said, taking a seat with a soft smile.  “I want to know how well I stack up. If they have the advantage, then that helps me understand my strength even more … is that why you suggested it?”

“It was just a thought,” Richard mumbled, typing a few things into his tablet.  Right…

“Alright,” Rachel said brightly as a big muscular man sat.  “Let’s begin.” She held out her hand, and the big man took it, elbows resting on the table.  Her hands felt so small in the big man’s rough palm.

“Your skin is so smooth and soft,” the man said with a furrowed brow.

“I know,” Rachel said with a bitter sigh.  “All my Muay Thai training and conditioning was thrown out the window when I became a Lunar Hare.”

“Huh,” the man grunted.

“Your skin is magnificent.”  Julia huffed.

Logan frowned as he looked between his men.  “Everyone curious to see if the rumors about these changed people are true?”

“Sir, yes, sir!”  They shouted.

Nodding, he turned back to Rachel.  “Whenever you’re ready.”

Julia took a deep breath.  “Alright, ready, set, start!”

Rachel felt a slight tug against her shoulder as the man tried pulling her arm toward him, her feet resisting his pull for a moment as she countered the force he was exerting.

He frowned, his buddies cheering him on.  “You’re a lot stronger than you look,” he grunted, muscles bulking as he fed more strength into them.  Rachel countered the force again. I feel the tension against my shoulder, and he’s trying to pull me up toward him, but I’m able to at least counter his strength.  It’s not easy, and I feel my stamina draining quickly. I can’t hold out for an extended period of time; my endurance really is low.

“Alright, I’m going to start really trying now,” she grunted.  Throwing all her strength into her arm, she began moving his hand down; the man’s large muscles rippled as his face turned red.

“C’mon, Mike!  Don’t let that shrimp beat you!”  A few of the soldiers called, but it was over soon as his muscles relaxed in defeat.

He swore, rubbing his wrist and arm.  “You’re a beast alright. Rachel, was it?”  He took a deep breath. “That’s what you’re like when at your weakest?”

Rachel rotated her arm, flexing her fingers.  “I believe so, but I couldn’t last a long game against you.  I don’t have very good endurance or strength, just high burst power.  My arm’s tingling.”

He laughed, a few of his buddies slapping him on the back.  “I guess that’s something.” He chuckled.

She went around to shake everyone’s hand.  “Thank you all for helping me out. That’s all I wanted to know.”  They joked around a little and poked fun at the soldier she’d beat, but all in good humor.  Waving, she left back toward a shaded spot to recharge a bit on moonlight.

“So,” Richard questioned as they sat in the grass.  “What’s next?”

Rachel took a deep breath.  “I think it would be best for me to get some rest.  Maria and Scarlet have already gone to bed; I need to get some sleep too.  Nocturnal, remember?” She laughed with a bright smile.

Both doctors nodded.  “Alright, that sounds like a plan,” Julia said with a yawn.  “I’m tired, myself.”

“What about Scarlet and the blood packs you mentioned?”  Richard questioned.

Scratching at the base of her left ear, she hummed.  “We can wait until later. She’s sleeping anyways. We can test out some of her abilities tonight.”

Stretching, Richard nodded with a half smile.  “Yeah, I’m a little hesitant about testing her abilities—I’m sure it’ll be alright if you’re around if anything goes south though.”

Rachel shrugged, tone low as she looked at her hands.  “Who knows—Scarlet has some amazing abilities. I can only imagine how she’ll be if fully juiced up … live blood might be a whole different story too.  Anyways, thanks for helping me understand this new transformation a bit more, Richard, Julia.”

They both nodded as they watched her head back to the Mythickin area to sleep, Rachel’s ears following their conversation as she left.

“What do you think about her, Julia?”

Julia chuckled.  “You know she can hear us?”

Richard hummed.  “Of course, but what would you rather do, text everything from now on?  She might be able to detect specific keystrokes and understand what is written in any case; I mean, she can identify minute physical phenomena in the body.  I believe being open is the best approach.”

“You’re right about that,” Julia said, licking her lips.  “She’s amazing in more ways than one. She knows we were sent to gather information about her, but still allowed us to tag along.  I wonder what will end up being decided in the end—there’s so much change happening in the world.”

“You’ve got that right … well, I’ll see you tonight.”

They both rose, shook hands, and left their separate ways.

Rachel sighed.  There is something being cooked in the background, and they’ve been cautious about voicing it aloud.  I guess they’re revising that approach or at least trying to make me think they are. She scratched at her long right ear with irritation.  There’s so much uncertainty … how will they act after our actions tonight?

She entered the Mythickin wing, chose a room, and quickly fell asleep.

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