Story and Images by Mertail
Part 2: "Human" Resources
Tammy Rothschild had graduated from the local technical college only five weeks prior. She’d done very well in the office management course she’d taken and was pleased to be able to give her notice at the dead end job she’d worked in since high school. TransRepo paid ever so much more and, in a few years time, she’d be able to work her way up and make even more!!
Her first few days on the front desk were pretty normal. Aside from having to get another of the office managers to cover for her whenever HR decided she needed to fill in yet another form, it was pretty simple. The fourth day, she and the other new hires were put through the Corporate Introduction Session. It covered all kinds of things that her diploma hadn’t covered such as evacuation drills and shelter-in-place drills and where the emergency biosafe areas were. The trainers made much of the fact that, though such events should never occur, the release of one of the biologically active agents from the secure labs might happen. They needed to know what to do. Even if no one ever expected to actually have to do it.
That all changed at the beginning of the next week. Tammy noticed a sudden increase in the phone usage. There weren’t any lines available in or out. She’d never had that happen in her training but, since there was nothing she could actually do about it, she decided to just monitor the situation and wait. Ten minutes later, the emergency alarms started going off in her building. A dispassionate voice announced that there had been a seal break in some lab or another and that all employees were to proceed immediately to the nearest biosafe area. Because Tammy believed the trainers about how impossible this kind of thing was, she’d never bothered to find where the nearest biosafe areas were. Fortunately, she merely had to follow the handful of employees who were actually following the emergency instructions. Many, of course, assumed it a drill and tuned it out to keep working.
As Tammy passed under an overhead vent, she felt a strange tickle in her throat but this quickly passed. She made her way into the biosafe region just as the doors were closing. She realized that this wasn’t a drill. They didn’t close the doors for a drill. Something had gotten out.
Tammy waited with the others for nearly two hours before a trio of suited people came to release them. Each was scanned with some kind of strange device. When each person was declared clean, they were allowed out of biosafe seclusion. They were immediately escorted from the building and told to head home. They’d be informed as soon as TransRepo knew a bit more. They were to stay at home, with pay, until TransRepo indicated otherwise. They were to keep a log of any strange symptoms over the next few days, just in case. The sensors, though, indicated they were not likely to have anything show up. Not so the ones who stayed behind to work. Each was in a strange orange suit and were being herded towards the research area. There was a every chance that they’d contracted something and would need close monitoring.
With a half a day before her commuter train home arrived, Tammy was a little at a loss. A couple of the other people from TransRepo suggested that they grab a quick lunch and see if anything developed. After a leisurely lunch, Tammy excused herself. She decided to spend the rest of the day doing a bit of shopping. After all, she now had money to spend and her sparse apartment could definitely use a few accent pieces.
By the time she made it home (she missed the first train but managed to catch the second on half hour later), she was tired. She put it down to the extra walking all of her shopping had required and the excitement of the day. Quickly preparing a light meal, she ate it and then spent the evening playing with her French Poodle pup. She turned in early. There wasn’t anything on the holovision and the puppy had been played out.
The next morning, she felt decidedly odd. She couldn’t place what was wrong but she was sure something was wrong. It wasn’t until her morning shower that she realized what was bothering her. Her entire body from just below her breasts to the soles of her feet were covered by a thin white fur. She logged onto the reporting program they were to use for reporting symptoms and, in a panic, wrote it up. She expected some kind of response and a quick one at that but, by noon, nothing seemed to have happened. The fur had continued to grow and, with increasing concern, Tammy again reported the fur and its increased length. Surely they’d get back to her now!!
By evening, though, a discrete knock came at her apartment door. Must be one of the neighbours. She did a quick check with the security camera and was shocked to see a pair of hazard suited people holding up a TransRepo ID to the camera. She quickly let them in.
“Tammy Rothschild?” asked an electrically distorted female voice.
“Uh, yes. I’m …”
“You have to come with us immediately!” a male voice with the same electronic clipping insisted.
“Gerald! My dog!”
“That one?” the female figure pointed at the poodle who was sleeping in her basket.
“Yes but I …”
“The dog needs to come, too.”
They scooped up the pup and tossed on of the suits at Tammy ordering her to suit up. She quickly complied. What had she been exposed to? Something that would get the puppy sick, too? This was too strange. Five minutes later, the trio carrying the pup in an air sealed animal carrier, left the apartment. A team carrying a strange assortment of equipment barged past them and began to do something in the apartment. Tammy didn’t ask and was whisked downstairs and hustled into a waiting van so quickly that she forgot to question what they were doing.
At TransRepo, the trio entered through a special garage door. It had two sets of doors separated by a short stretch of roadway. As soon as they were inside, a cascade of strangely smelling water engulfed the van. They were then allowed into a deserted lower parking garage. The van was driven up to a door with rounded edges. This quickly projected out until it made contact all around the van’s side door.
“Through the tunnel,” ordered the male voice. “Decontamination.”
Tammy didn’t question the order and soon found herself by herself in a room.
“Plug the suit into the wall socket,” a clearly computer synthesized voice ordered. When Tammy had complied, the computer ordered her to the center of the room and to close her eyes. There was a painful flash of heat and Tammy found herself naked in the center of the room. A fine grey ash covered her entire body. “Proceed into Containment,” the voice announced as a hiss from a small door to her left indicated where she was to go next.
Inside, there were comfortable hospital style clothing that looked like the kind of thing doctors and nurses wore. She selected a set in her size and quickly dressed.
The woman, her voice undistorted by the suit, appeared to her right from a door exactly like the one she’d just passed through.
“Sorry for all the melodrama. I’m Lynda Fergins,” She extended a hand encased by a rubber surgical glove.
“You were exposed to an escaped cloud of nanites. We’ve already had one researcher start to change and we’re trying to gather up any other employees who were similarly exposed.”
“How do you know?”
“You’re growing fur.”
“He’s okay. We just had to make sure he wasn’t carrying any nanites. We’ll let him join you once we get to your room.”
“Okay. These nanites … what do they do?”
“They were supposed to increase a dog’s intelligence. Service Dog program.”
“Something happened in Nanite Containment,” the male voice now had a face. “Sayid Sisro. They were supposed to work on female dogs. I was just reading the latest. Seems they now are causing transformations in women. They don’t seem to recognize males of any kind as potential targets. Gerald’s in no danger whatever. You, though, …” he let his voice trail off.
“What kind of transformations?”
“Nothing’s been released yet. Just that they cause transformation in women.”
“Why didn’t the scanner find them before they let me out?” demanded Tammy.
“One of the reasons you are in here,” Lynda stated calmly. “They shouldn’t have. Should have rung off a dozen meters away. Instead, nothing.”
“So what happens next?” Tammy demanded.
“Well, until we can figure out how to kill them and stop their effect, you’re stuck here. Company will make sure your bills are all paid, of course. We know how hard it is to find a good apartment.”
“Make yourself at home, “ Sayid stated as he opened a more normal looking door that led to a fairly large room.
Tammy looked around. It had a very modern entertainment system and a good computer. She tried her cellphone and wasn’t surprised that she could get no signal. Ah, well. There was always eMail. A soft click behind her announced the departure of the pair. Tammy tried the door and wasn’t surprised to find it locked. She remembered the section in the Emergency Procedures Talk about containment. She may as well get comfortable.
She watched her favorite show, eMailed a friend or two to let them know she was indisposed, and played her favorite computer game until bedtime. With little else to do, she turned in.
By morning, the white fur was longer and denser. It looked a lot like Gerald’s fur. She decided to give herself a once over. Before she could get any kind of a start, a knock at the door followed by the opening of the door announced the presence of a suited medical person. She quickly did a series of measurements. Height, weight, all kinds of dimensions. She had Tammy stand in front of a graduated ruler attached to the wall. Tammy frowned a bit. She didn’t remember that being there from last time. Some of the recorded measurements were wrong. She’d just been to the doctor for her annual physical. She was 170cm not 190 cm and she couldn’t have gained 5 kg in the week since the physical, could she. When she protested the values, the person shook her head and told her in a muffled voice that it was part of the transformation process.
Tammy wasn’t sure she should ask but curiosity got the better of her. The medical person had no real information but did write down the corporate Intranet address where all of the latest findings were being recorded. After taking a number of samples, she disappeared through the door. Tammy decided she’d best check what was known.
A lot of the information was technical. Tammy had no idea what they were talking about. There were only a few pages, posted by six other women that even made sense to Tammy. They were employees who’d been exposed to the nanites. They were recording their changes. Tammy thought that would likely be a good idea so she took up where she left off before the arrival of the medical person.
She noticed that her feet were too long to fit into her shoes and she started wearing the cloth booties provided. Her thighs and calves seemed shorter, too. Just her waist and hips seemed to have grown. That and her toenails seemed thicker. Poking around on the links provided by intranet and more than a little bored, she discovered the chat room and spent the next few hours happily chatting with the others. Though there was an undercurrent of fear because none of them had any idea what was happening to them and when it would stop, most seemed pretty happy all things considered. Inevitably, the chat turned to their changes. All seemed to be getting furry in one place or another but not all at once and definitely not quickly. There was no regular pattern, either. Some, like Tammy, were growing furry from mid-chest or hips down, others were covered by fine fur over most of their bodies. All were getting smaller to some extent. Some, like Tammy, had lost nearly 20% of their weight before this ‘event’ had started. One woman, though, was down to nearly half her original size. Fur color didn’t seem to be consistent either. White, brown, black — just about anything seemed to be possible.
About halfway through the chat, a picture of the original target animal was released. Clearly, none of them were colored anything like that German Shepherd. It was Tammy herself who realized what was happening and she quickly fired off her observation to everyone else including the team still trapped in the now ineffectual nanite confinement area. She noticed her fur was exactly like that of her puppy. Once she mentioned that, it didn’t take too long for the others to identify their sources. Katerina Gromov and her husband were hunters and had just returned from a hunt with their three Irish Setters not a day before all this started. It was very likely she had a few hairs from one of her gun dogs one her. Starr Powell and her husband had been working with a Labrador Retriever the local rescue dog organization had fostered to them. Bridgette Raeside had a pet beagle at home with markings identical to the fur she had sprouted over her whole body. Rihanna Kilcardine at first had no idea where she’d been around a dog until someone asked whether there had been any dogs running around her place. There hadn’t but her daughter raised standard poodles. Though the dogs hadn’t been around her house, her daughter certainly had. She wondered just how much ‘dog stuff’ would be needed. Mattie Geralds, from Finance, had no problems identifying her source. They owned a friendly mutt they were always playing with in the evening. She shook her head and commented that it was impossible to get all the dog hair and dander off yourself. Willie Ultrik also identified her source pretty quickly. She and her husband lived in a gated community that was patrolled by security guards with Doberman Pinscher.
The next day saw the return of a silent medical person, no longer in a hazmat suit, who didn’t identify herself. She performed a number of tests and measurements and left without saying a word. There was something unusual in the way she moved but Tammy couldn’t quite put her finger on what was ‘off’. After she left, Tammy wondered what they were hunting for with all of the measurements and felt about her body for anything unusual. There was a small bump at the end of her spine that she was sure hadn’t been there the day before. Her hips were thinning but she was definitely taller through the waist than she had been. The standard issue hospital gowns didn’t fit very well but it was better than going about naked even if she was completely covered by fur from mid-chest down.
Her toenails had grown out by the end of the day and had begun to click on the hard floor whenever she walked. They were definitely dog claws now. In fact, when Gerald was returned just before supper, her toenails now looked almost the same as Gerald’s claws only quite a bit larger. She was clearly adult while he was still a very young puppy..
The next morning after the visit from the unidentified measurer, Tammy again took stock of herself. It was harder to stand upright as she had a distinct bulge at her waist and very narrow hips. Her legs were definitely dog-like. The tail, too, had grown. It was practically as long as her now shortened legs. She wondered how she’d get around if these strange changes continued.
Gerald was still fun to play with, though, he sometimes would sniff her in places she’d rather he didn’t. It wasn’t that she was a prude or anything (at least she didn’t think so), it was that she felt strange being sniffed at her crotch. It took several reprimands before Gerald finally left her alone and was content just to play.
She needn’t have worried about getting around. By the end of the day, the bulge thinned on one axis and became longer in another. Two small bumps appeared as well. Though no biologist, Tammy was pretty sure these were another pair of legs growing. She told Ms. Measurer about them and their length and position was efficiently noted before she left the room. It was then that she finally figured out Ms. Measurer. It wasn’t a person. It did a decidedly non-human pause before measuring the bumps positions and sizes. It was some kind of robot. Clearly they weren’t taking any chances of these nanite thingies getting out of this quarantine zone. She wondered whether she could walk well enough to find out where the ‘bot went between measurements. After a few seconds thought, she decided it really didn’t matter.
By that bedtime, the stubs had become fully formed puppy-sized legs. As she lay down on her side on the bed, she touched them and was surprised that they had feeling. They were definitely part of her though there was more feeling the closer she felt to her own body. The paws were nearly insensate.
Overnight, her legs continued their inexorable growth. Her back legs (they’d been human legs when this started) were now definitely like those of a standard poodle. The forelegs, though skinny, had definite canine attributes as well. Throughout the morning they continued their grown so that, by noon, they seemed fully developed. Tammy found she could walk clumsily with them and made her way into the washroom to look in the mirror. Tammy found herself a standard white poodle from chest to tail. Only her breasts, arms and head had remained unchanged. She pushed the chairs into a corner. Her new quadrupedal stance made chairs difficult to use.
She fell asleep on her side that evening, curled up in a manner that was more like Gerald in his basket than a woman in bed. When she awoke in the morning, she discovered Gerald was lying beside her canine belly. He had one of her teats in his mouth and was suckling contentedly even though she had no milk.
She petted her puppy absentmindedly and dragged her longer than expected tongue across sharper than expected canines. She was struck by a horrible realization. If she was dog-like enough to seem like a mother to Gerald now, what was going to happen a year from now. He’d be adult!! Would she go into heat? Worse yet, could he impregnate her? She could think of nothing worse. Her terrified shrieking awoke Gerald and soon had a platoon of nurses and doctors in the room. She didn’t calm down until they’d given her enough tranquilizer to knock her out entirely.