Story and Images by Mertail
Part 3: Visitors
Imogene Bellamy wasn’t even a member of the staff when this had all started. She’d been visiting her Mom at lunch. She’d been working with a company a short distance up the road as part of a work partnership program associated with the local technical college’s Work Placement program. She’d not seen but smelled a strange metallic scent as a fine silvery mist poured from an overhead ventilation duct. Neither she nor her mother thought anything of it until her mother got home that evening.
“Mom,” Imogene began with a slight whine in her voice. “I feel terrible.”
Brigitte Bellamy quickly touched her forehead and quickly got the touch thermometer down from the sink. It didn’t take too long to determine Imogene was definitely ill. Brigitte was a bit of a worrier so quickly drove her to a local after hours mediclinic. There were any number of people waiting with the usual collection of sniffles and bruises. They were efficiently, albeit slowly, handled by the pair of doctors on staff. Finally, it was Imogene’s turn.
The doctor quickly looked over her body and did a number of tests. She confirmed that, indeed, Imogene was running a temperature but that none of the other symptoms of the local flu or cold were present. She concluded that it was likely some kind of virus and that Imogene should go home, rest and drink plenty of fluids.
Brigitte was entirely happy with this outcome and was trying to convince Imogene to try another clinic that would pay more attention to her symptoms. Imogene, as is typical of a teen, wanted no part of it. Going home and resting this thing away seemed like good advice especially since she had an exam the next day and didn’t feel like studying.
After a bit of arguing, Brigitte was finally convinced and, after stopping at the local grocery store for various essential nutrient containing beverages (that Imogene just knew she’d hate), drove home. Imogene, taking one of the bottles with a disgusted look, headed for her room. She was feeling tired, more tired than just waiting forever in a doctor’s office should have caused. ‘The virus’, she told herself and, after finishing less than half of the drink, crawled into bed and fell asleep.
The next morning, she awoke with a distinctly fuzzy head. Nothing looked normal nor smelled normal. She tried to get up but soon found herself lying back on the bed, the room spinning. Hearing her stir, Brigitte brought a tray of breakfast cereal and toast for her. She pushed into the room backward and then dropped the tray with a screech.
“You’re all furry!”
“Furry,” came the dizzy reply.
“Red fur. Waist down. Roll over.”
“You think I’m some kind of dog,” Imogene had a headache. She was in no mood to play whatever stupid game her mother wanted to play this morning. She started to roll over and then noticed the fine red fur covering her entire body from her waist to her toes. She became wide awake. “What the fuck is happening?”
“You don’t use language like that in this house.”
“Whatever. I’m bloody furry. What the hell is your company cooking up?”
“Where else could I have picked up this bug?”
They were interrupted by a call on Brigitte’s cell phone.
“Ms. Bellamy?” asked a quiet voice on the other end. “This is James Hillyard in security. There’s been a breach and several people have been exposed. We think you and your daughter are among them.”
“Exposed?” came the high pitched frantic reply.
“Nanites from the level 2 containment area. We, uh, need you to go immediately to the rear entrance of Building 45D. You’ll be scanned to make sure you are clear.”
“We’re not clear!” Imogene shouted at the voice on the phone. “I’m covered by red fur!”
“Get in here ASAP,” the voice stated. “It’s very, very important.”
It didn’t take long for the pair of them to bundle into their commuter pod and head for the building indicated. Once there, the pod was sequestered and disabled. They were guided into a doorway that led to a three stage airlock. By the time they were finished they’d been irradiated and disinfectant and worse, as far as Brigitte was concerned, their clothes totally ruined.
Inside one of the ever present guide robots directed them into a pair of scanner cubicles. It didn’t take long for Brigitte to be pronounced clean and be escorted out of containment. Imogene, though, was a different story. She was clearly infected and clearly being modified by the nanites.
Though she fought at first, a gas dart from somewhere, quickly had her sedated. When she came to, she found herself in a sealed hospital room. She complained a lot at first but, when no one seemed to be listening, she got onto the local internet and began visiting her favourite sites. She took the rest of the day and was only interrupted a few times by a silent robotic medical technician taking measurements. She wondered why her mother hadn’t tried to eMail or text or something. She found out soon enough when she tried to get a message to her boyfriend. The mail daemon bounced the message with an indication that it couldn’t find the server. She was completely cut off and it nearly drove her crazy.
The next morning, after another round of measurements and a breakfast, she took stock of herself. She was definitely getting furrier and longer. She was even growing a tail. In fact, she looked a lot like Heidi, her boyfriend’s dog. This wasn’t funny in the least. She didn’t want to be a dog. Even partially a dog. She shouted her discontent at the walls which didn’t listen in the least as far as she could tell.
By evening, she had a tail that got in the way between her hind legs … she had grown a second pair of legs just under her ribcage. The worse she felt, the more the damned tail slipped between her legs and tripped her. By nightfall, she found she couldn’t even lie down comfortably. She wound up lying on her side which she had never done in past.
It was all over by the next morning. She was definitely a dogtaur, the internet in it’s infinite wisdom told her so. She was only three quarters the height she’d been a few days earlier but she now had two extra legs. She was, she decided, extremely disgusted. What would Roger her boyfriend think? She doubted if he’d want to make it with a dog - particularly one that looked like his pet. She sat on the bed, her front legs dangling.
A burst of extremely powerful perfume entered the room.
“Eeyew!” she wrinkled her nose. “What’s that stench?”
“What have they done to you?” her mother shrieked as she ran towards her to give her the hug she thought Imogene needed.
“Mother!” protested Imogene. “Do you have to wear so much perfume?”
“But I haven’t put any on since yesterday,” she frowned in puzzlement at her dogtaur daughter.
Kelly Diamond had been visiting the TransRepo Industries research labs as part of an expose she was doing for the local radio station. She was extremely interested in the entire idea of making dogs more intelligent and more able to help the increasing number of people needing service dogs. She’d been touring the Level 1 Biogenetics labs and had enjoyed seeing the puppies and even playing with them a bit. She was surprised at how smart they were. She’d had dogs since she was a child but these puppies were clearly more intelligent that any she’d ever owned. Even at a few months, they could understand 500 words and could even pick out sentences on a special computer screen with their noses. The researchers were extolling the dogs. Kelly wished she could own one.
Halfway through the session in the lab, an alarm started. Something had escaped Level 2 containment and they were now in lockdown. Kelly didn’t mind. She and her cameraman merely spent the time interviewing the researchers and playing with and talking to the puppies. The puppies weren’t great conversationalists, of course. But that they could tell you they wanted or needed something was nothing short of amazing.
Five hours later, they had completed their tour and Kelly and her cameraman were headed back to the station to edit the segment for the internet. It had been an excellent day. It was going to be a long one, though. Editing and formatting takes a long time to do it right. She, the cameraman and her producer disagreed on quite a few details but, about midnight, they had it in the can and uploaded for the morning site patch.
“Kelly,” her producer looked at her decidedly strangely. “There’s something wrong.”
“Wrong?” she was puzzled. “Everything’s in the can and in the pipeline.”
“Are you feeling okay?”
“I think so. Why?”
“Look at your shoulders.”
Kelly went to the washroom to discover she had short yellow fur growing on her shoulders and all the way down her back. She ran out of the washroom without even getting dressed.
“I … something’s wrong,” she stuttered.
“The alarm at TransRepo?” asked the cameraman.
“They said everything was all clear.”
“I think they were wrong,” her producer stated. He quickly walked over to the telephone and gave TransRepo a call. It was late so all he got was a bored and tired security guard. He was informed that he hadn’t been told of anything out of the ordinary. He let slip though that something was going on in one of the labs. They usually didn’t work that late. Using his best reporter skill, he managed to get the guard to tell him which building. Signalling the other two, they dashed downstairs to the company van.
Once they arrived at the building, it was, as expected, completely locked up. It took several minutes for the guard to come to the door. He, too, was sure that everything was okay. They prevailed upon him, threatening to expose the entire problem. He wasn’t sure what the problem was and was about to relic the door when Kelly pulled down the sleeve of her blouse revealing the fur covering her body. His eyes went wide and he quickly let them into the lobby. He phoned to any of the labs that still had any activity. Within ten minutes, a pair of researchers in containment suits escorted the trio into a decontamination area.
Both the producer and the cameraman were clean and, over their protests, were escorted from the building. Kelly, though, still had active nanites. She would have to stay until they killed them. She was allowed to keep her cellphone to stay in contact with her producer. TransRepo had learned from other companies’ mistakes that trying to keep the news media away from a story only generated bad press. Kelly agreed to broadcast regular updates. The lead researcher (or at least he identified himself as the lead researcher) only asked that Kelly not broadcast any research details without clearing them first. They were still investigating what had happened and didn’t want a partial story to get out. Kelly, worried about her changes, agreed over the protests of her producer who thought he had a major story and didn’t want any restrictions.
Kelly’s first stop was a small medical bay. She was monitored and poked and prodded every way that the researchers could think of and still remain in their containment suits. They told her of the experiment that had gone wrong and that it was assumed that the nanites and self-destructed. Kelly merely had to raise a single eyebrow for the researcher to quickly admit that they clearly hadn’t self-destructed.
The male lead left the room to analyze the blood samples. His counterpart, Helena Latomer, helped Kelly from her clothes and into a hospital gown. Kelly hated the gown (it reminded her of a stay some years before in another hospital) but realized it’s necessity. The woman, once Kelly had stripped looked her over.
“Did you know you have supernumerary nipples?” she asked.
“What?” was all Kelly could think to say.
“You’ve three extra pair of nipples down your belly,” she pointed at them.
“Those weren’t there this morning,” protested Kelly.
“I thought not. I’d best note them in the file. May I take a shot for the records?”
Kelly nodded but insisted that she be able to get a copy for her own records. The woman transferred the medical image to her phone. Kelly looked at the strange row of dark nipples. First fur and now nipples?
The next morning, Kelly was awakened by a silent bot who simply measured everything. She waited for the researchers to return but they didn’t. As she was waiting for breakfast, she reached up to feel her ears. They felt odd and it didn’t take her long to figure out why. They’d lengthened and were starting to flop over. Just like her brother's dog. Her fingernails, too, were thicker and darker. So, for that matter, were her toenails.
By noon, her ears in the mirror were easily as long as her brother’s dog (now what was that mutt’s name?) Her legs were beginning to change shape, too. By evening she couldn’t even stand to walk. Fortunately, the palms of her hands had toughened so she could get around on all fours clumsily. It was becoming harder and harder to make her hourly reports to the producer. She kept at it though. This story was important, especially if this had gotten loose and was affecting more people.
The next day, her changes were complete. She had four sets of breasts, ranging from her own through progressively smaller and more dog-like nipples to a pair of dog teats just in front of her legs. Both arms and legs were completely dog-like now. She could no longer use the cellphone at all except in voice mode. Voice input had made major strides over the decades but it was still a bit like a drunk friend that completes sentences incorrectly. It often took several tries before it would dial the number or run the app she wanted.
Just as she was about to make her 8PM report, Helena returned. She wasn’t in the containment suit this time.
“I guess you’ll want a complete rundown on what happened?” she asked unnecessarily. “I’ve taken the liberty of calling in your cameraman. We’ll tell you everything we know. Starting with the fact that only eight people were exposed and that it’s not contagious.”
“And?” Kelly demanded.
“We don’t know how to change any of you back yet.”