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T H E M O R P H I S T
by Silva Noir

Chapter 25: situation


One night, before I'd nailed down the formula for the cure, Will decided not to let me work. He insisted we have a picnic under the stars. He had it all ready. He'd bought a fine champagne, a double size Navajo blanket, and a picnic basket full of anything else we could want. This was his treat to me. He was dressed better than usual, and I did my best to look equally as good. No man had ever acted this way towards me, so even the littlest gesture had an effect on me, whether I showed that it did outwardly or not.

We toasted the heavens above. This was his success not mine, only he was thanking the sky that had brought him such a find. I was toasting to him, for he looked beyond all description of handsome that evening. It was romantic, although our conversation may not have been.

[ The tape switches to dialogue, the listener thinking it odd that someone would tape a date ]

Will: this has gone far beyond my expectations. I thought it would work as a flesh eating virus.

Ruth: That's a good thing? You worry me...

Will: Threatened, those canines react by covering themselves in five inch thick layers of the alien liquid metal. Then they harden it. Think of it! Self-generated armor! This suprasses any bullet proof vest or existing combat gear. Truly amazing...

Ruth: Truly disturbing is more like it...

Will: This could be a new phase of evolution.

Ruth: Come again?

Will: Did you know before the "big one" that is theorized to end the reign of the dinosaurs there was a series of natural disasters, including the impact of space debris and the eruption or a very large volcano, that wiped out ninety percent of life on Earth? Entire sets of species gone! Fwwp! In an instant! The world was nearly scrubbed clean to begin again with the last resilient survivors that managed to cling on. Again, another disaster from above wiped out the dinosaurs giving the world over to mammals. Those mammals gave rise to man, who has brought more changes to the earth than any other single species in all of history. What we are witnessing is a new beginning, a new dawn. This time, we can engineer it, guide the future down a path of our choosing.

Ruth: I don't see how this isolated case could...

Will: Adaptation, Ruth. Those with the best offenses and defenses win. Mankind has only prospered because we can replicate any natural offense or defense artificially with more power than nature could!

Ruth: What about the weather? We can't control that. What makes you think you'll have control over this?

Will: Armored guard dogs could be quite profitable. They still have a canine unit in the army, don't they?

Ruth: That bothers me ... why must technological innovation be used for violence? Why are we, as a species so focused on destroying one another?

Will: Ah, so you would like this to be used for defense, not offense. What about the police then? I know for certain they still use dogs, especially German Shepherds. These animals could be living shields for men of the law. Your weak innocents would be safer then.

Ruth: And you wouldn't sell them to the other side of the law for a high bid?

Will: Grant me more credit than that. I do have a sense of integrity. I, like you, want a well ordered society with all peoples in their proper place. I'm not going to put weapons in the hands of criminals. I seek progress, not disunion.

[ The dialogue from that night ends, a clicking indicates the tape was discreetly switched off after that. The woman speaks again.]

Will didn't view himself as evil. Evil rarely does ... they see themselves as doing humanity a great favor. They have their charms and seductive promises ... stubborn as I was he was able to wear me down. He sugar coated his ambitions to me until I could swallow them, then made them sweeter so that I could agree and like them. In each masked word he added advances until somehow he'd cluttered my mind enough that I allowed him to kiss me. No... I WELCOMED that kiss wholeheartedly.

And I do mean KISS. This was no cutsey peck on the cheek. I thought my lips would rip off my face and be stuck to his when he was done with me. What brought it on... I don't remember. After ... is just as hazy. For that I blame the champagne. I did mention that I'd never drank socially or did much of anything social before that, didn't I? I'd never been kissed ... and to be kissed ... like THAT... I was sent for such a whirl that it took me quite some time to recover from the experience, questing whether it was real or a fantasy. I knew it was real when I was brought on another date, and another...

I didn't see him as evil at the time ... no, not even the first time I saw him. I knew there was a dangerous air about him, but that was all. I realize now if I'd really hated him at the time I would have never let him ... do what he did. My opinion is tainted after the fact. But at the time ... part of me at least ... wanted it. Danger isn't always a turnoff.

What he got out of it? I don't think he planned everything that happened in advance. He didn't predict that Xilvrin could be armor in the hands or paws of a living thing. He didn't predict what else would happen. He used his "surprises" to his advantage. He got the obvious, of course. There were much prettier women in the labs, but I was a challenge. He liked a fight. A tough fight made the winning worth savoring, gave his ego a boost. He also gained my loyalty ... for a while, anyway. Last of all it gave us something to relieve the stress of work...

So...

Yes...

[ The woman on the tape clears her throat, embarrassed over her actions ]

I was no longer as eager to get back to my old work. I stayed on for another year. I had other jobs sent to me via mail and package at that location. I pretended I was still working on finding the formula I'd already completed.

The dogs grew at a normal rate. X-2 and X-3 were allowed to play-brawl. Both in thick armor, they did no damage to each other. X-1 remained separated. It had the mannerisms of it's mother. Seeing X-1 lessened my fears about the project. X-3, who was put through combat testing, confirmed my fears. During one such test, a dog trainer in a padded suit was attacked. He was ripped apart in a matter of moments. X-3 wasn't attacking out of hunger, but out of pure hatred. It, of all three pups, resented human masters most.

I asked Will if he was worried about the rabid behavior. He told me it was an unfortunate accident. The man had made a conscious choice to work with "wild animals." He knew the danger.

Will brushed off death as easily as that. I pleaded with him not to make more dogs like this. Xilvrin was unstable as far as I was concerned. Dogs were domesticated, but still predators at heart. They weren't just vicious ... they were intelligent. As seen through scans, the chemical opened up more of their brains, presumably to help with the extra ability. X-3 knew it was being watched by Will. It was showing off as if to say, "This is what I can do to a man. You're next." The dogs were observing us as much as we were observing them.

I tried my "cure" on X-2. In the mice, if the powder was sprinkled in the would before or immediately after a Xilvrin infection, they would survive, none the worse for it. Small doses had no effect on X-2. I increased the dose until I got results. I ended up giving him a strong enough mixture to destroy all trace of the Xilvrin within. Without the system Xilvrin had created in its body, what was left of the animal's mortal biological body died. This was not a quick death, as the lungs, heart, and brain could continue on without Xilvrin's influence. Xilvrin had superseded and destroyed the original digestive and waste disposal system, making its own unique one. Without it, X-2 starved to death, unable and unwilling to eat.

I was partly sorry to cause such suffering. I was partly satisfied knowing what had otherwise proved indestructible could be killed. Strange how "carnivorous" Xilvrin could cause rapid decay, while reversing its effects was a sluggish process. Strange also, that part of me had become as detached to the an experiment as the two men I worked closely with performed theirs. What I had done did not sit well with Will.

[ The tape switches again to dialogue, mid-argument ]

Will: You don't understand how valuable those animals are! You've wasted a great deal of time and money invested in them!

Ruth: You still have two others...

Will: We need all we can get! In case you haven't noticed, these were the very first of their kind!

Ruth: You hired me to find a way to stop it. Well, I found a way!

Will: You were to submit your findings first! You haven't turned in any reports for weeks!

Ruth: Maybe I've been a little distracted.

Will: By WHAT?

Ruth: Stop yelling at me!

Will: I have every right to yell at you! You don't comprehend the level of damage you have done to this project!

[ A loud slap is heard. The woman with the tape recorder in their pocket falls backward against lab stools and a table. They fall and clatter to the ground along with the woman who from the sounds, had a painful landing. The woman's voice, which has been strong-willed up until this point while confronting her lover becomes tiny and hurt...]

Ruth: Will ... you shouldn't hit me...

Will: Give me one good reason why I shouldn't.

Ruth: I'm... I'm pregnant...

Will: You're...

[ A long, awkward silence... ]

Will: I chose you for this project because of you attention to detail and sense of responsibility. How could you be so careless?

Ruth: Me? You don't understand. You're beautiful ... and when beautiful people like you treat ugly people like me the way you did you make it hard for me to think straight...

[ The man sighs heavily enough to be picked up on the tape, presumably picking up the woman to her feet as well ]

Will: Are you hurt? I wouldn't have hit you had I known.

Ruth: I'll be ok... I'm tougher than I look.

Will: What are you going to do about it?

Ruth: I don't know. I'd never planned for a child. I'd never wanted children. I don't particularly like them or know how to deal with them. I certainly can't tell my parents ... what a disgrace I would be upon the prestige they've built up for themselves ... an unwed single mother...

Will: You're not expecting me to marry you, are you?

Ruth: No, why would I expect that from YOU? I don't want a family. I don't want to be a wife. I don't want to be a mother.

Will: Are you going to get rid of it?

Ruth: Get rid of it ... ?

Will: You know exactly what I mean.

Ruth: No. I couldn't do that. It would be wrong. I wouldn't knowingly kill my own child. I'll put him or her up for adoption, right after they are born. There are plenty of couples who can't have their own children who would be happy to receive one.

Will: You had no problem killing X-2.

Ruth: I didn't know that would kill it! I was trying to rehabilitate it, make it a normal dog again. Do you want your own child to die? You sound like you do.

Will: But a human life is more valuable to you than an animal's.

Ruth: I suppose ...

Will: The circles of environmental activists you travel in will be pleased to hear that, I'm sure, especially when they hear you've been participating in animal experimentation.

Ruth: Are you threatening me?

Will: I'm saying you had better keep this quiet. Not just the child ... but all of it ... all of what you've seen and done here.

Ruth: You are threatening me! This is half your doing, you know! Whether you like it or not, you're going to be a father. So start trying to make the best out of a bad situation!

Will: Make the best out of a bad situation? Hmm ...

Ruth: ... What are you thinking about?

Will: Only about what you've suggested...


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