A furry discovery
On the surface of J’Tuguisa 5
Outside federation space, the J’Tuguisa system was largely unknown and unexplored. With 12 planets, the fourth of which was ‘M-class’ (Earth like); it wasn’t an unusual system. It was mostly ignored for years as a result of its great distance from any inhabited Federation worlds or starbases.
On Stardate 55396.6, a Federation probe detected very unusual activity on the surface of the fourth planet. A group of 1584 Earth animals of varying species were detected living on the surface! There were no records of any Federation or Starfleet ship having visited or transported any animals to the surface.
Suspicious and determined to discover the origins of the animals, Starfleet dispatched several ships to construct and staff a small outpost. Their mission would be to study the animals but not to interfere with their lives. They had hoped that in time, they would discover how they had arrived on the planet and how they managed to survive.
For 3 months the crew studied and had learned a lot about the animals except where they came from. They were beginning to question whether they would ever solve the enigma.
Admiral Steven casually walked into the command center at the heart of the command and science module. It was an exciting day; an excavation team had recorded strange readings emanating from several underground caverns. He had ordered a team to take the shuttlecraft Edison, which was specifically designed to burrow through a planet's crust to get to the location of the readings and determine what was generating them.
The team consisted of 3 members, David Spartan; a 23 year old human with long curly brown hair, Sandra Kaples a 32 year old science officer assigned to study the planets ecosystem and Sean Actnia a 25 year old Human Zoologist.
David was assigned to pilot the Edison while Sean monitored the integrity of the shaft and operating the drilling phasers and Sandra supervised the readings from whatever was under the planets crust.
The three approached the shuttle and David walked up to the side of it and pressed a few buttons located beside the door to open it. The trio entered the shuttle, closed the door and walked to the forward compartment. David took a seat at the forward most station while Sean and Sandra sat down at stations a couple of meters behind him. David entered the command sequence to start the shuttle up while Sean and Sandra activated their consoles. As David finished the sequence, the Edison powered up. The dormant engines that were located on the bottom sides of it lit up with a bright blue luster and the cabin’s lights all powered on to full brightness. Slowly, the Edison rose above the ground and hovered several meters above it, creating a gentle wind below it. Sean contacted the Admiral to report that they were ready to get on their way.
“Okay guys, good luck, we’ll monitor you from here. We have calculated the ideal site to burrow down 253 kilometers west. This will put you in a clearing that will allow you to drill down without harming any plant or wildlife.” The admiral’s disembodied voice on the communications link reported.
“Thank you sir” David said as brought Edison about to face westward and flew it up into the sky and took it to 300 kilometers per hour.
In the command module, the admiral reclined back in his chair. This had been a fairly dull posting so far but after years of hard work serving on a starbase, he needed a change of pace. Being an admiral had its advantages, in many ways this had almost been a vacation. Studying the animals that inhabited the planet was enjoyable, if not slightly disquieting. In three months of study they still had yet to ascertain the truth or even develop a theory as to where the animals came from. At first it had appeared to be a mysterious coincidence as there were other worlds with animals similar to Earth animals. They had scanned the surface detected 1584 separate lifeforms (not counting the 350 crewmen of the outpost). There were a wide variety of species, but of each species, there simply were not enough to sustain a viable population.
The admiral had little to do until the Edison arrived at the drilling site, so he sat up and accessed his station and pulled up a list of the current news from the federation. Before he could even read the first article, the communication system alerted him to an incoming communication from a survey team in a forest 350 kilometers from the outpost. The Admiral turned to his communications officer, Lieutenant Yöngs.
“Sir, we’re being hailed by the team in the Northern temperate region, they say they found something very unusual and are requesting visual communication” the 28 year old green skinned Lieutenant reported.
“Put them through on my display Lieutenant” The admiral ordered. Using his four six-fingered hands, the young Camarian entered the commands into his console and second later, image of Commander Johnson appeared on the screen. The middle-aged leader of the four-person survey team had a very concerned look on her face.
“Go ahead commander” The Admiral said.
“Admiral, we have found something troubling. There is what appears to be the wreckage of a shuttlecraft buried beneath a rock face here. We can’t be certain, but it appears that it crashed here nearly 2 years ago. We aren’t detecting any organic residue on the wreckage.” The woman said.
“Can you tell what type of shuttle it was and what ship it came from?” the admiral asked.
“Yes, and that is what is irksome. It appears to have been a type 9 shuttle. We found a large piece with federation markings on it! They read Shuttlecraft Jade NCC-69573. But that isn’t all, we found two torn uniforms. We did a scan on them and discovered very unusual cellular readings.” She said, the concern in her voice obvious. The admiral found himself lost in thought for a few seconds before continuing.
“NCC-69573, that’s the registry of the Octavion. It was reported lost in this sector nearly a year ago. No evidence was ever found about that happened to her. Did you detect any evidence of weapons fire?” The admiral concernedly inquired. Before the commander could respond, the connection began to deteriorate. Static filled the image and it became impossible to hear that she was saying.
“Mr. Yöngs, what’s happening?” The admiral asked. The fact that the signal was failing the very second the commander was about to announce a strange discovery was suspicious to say the least. The young lieutenant typed furiously at his console in an attempt to stabilize the signal. But it was to no avail, the signal quickly failed.
“Can you get them back?” the admiral anxiously asked. Yöngs tried his best to get them back, but something was blocking the signal. He informed the admiral of the problem and the admiral told him to scan the area to try to find out what was blocking the signal but something was very wrong, whatever was blocking the signal did not appear to be natural.
“We have to get a team out there now. Mr. Yöngs, contact our team in the northern coniferous region. They are the closet team to their location, inform them of the situation and tell them to get over there immediately” The admiral ordered.
Commander Johnson had been unable to re-establish communication with the outpost. Something was interfering with the signal, but neither her nor anyone else on her team could figure out what it was. She walked over to two young men standing behind her.
“Beyers, Lefley; lets get the equipment back into the shuttle. I have a bad feeling about this. We should get back to base before anything else goes wrong.” She said. The two men nodded in acknowledgement and walked towards their equipment to begin bringing it back to the shuttlecraft Einstein when they realized that the fourth member of their team; ensign Volition was nowhere to be seen.
“Where did Ensign Volition go?” Johnson asked. The two young men turned around and said that they didn’t know.
“That’s strange she was right behind us a minute ago.” Beyers confusedly said. Johnson called the ensign’s name but she didn’t respond.
“Alright, let’s go look for her,” Johnson said. The two lieutenants nodded their head and they split up to search for the ensign. Johnson felt a sudden wave of dizziness and tightness in her stomach; she ignored it though, determined to find out where the Ensign had gone.
Hiding behind a rock behind several trees, Volition lay on the ground, staring at her exposed chest in disbelief. A think pelt of gray fur had started growing on it a few minutes ago. It had accompanied tightness in her stomach as well as dizziness. The fingers on her hands were getting shorter and thicker and rough pads were developing on the bottom of each. She had tried to respond when the others had called her name, but was paralyzed from fear. Her breasts had shrunk as the fur had grown in and two additional pairs of nipples had grown down her chest. Whatever was happening to her, she could tell that it was happening quickly and that she had to get help. As she tried to get up, she felt a tingle at the base of her spine. The tingle quickly developed into a pulling feeling which lead to something furry brushing against her leg. In a desperate attempt to find out what was going on, she pulled her pants and undergarments off and discovered the truth. She had grown a long bushy tail! She tried to call for help, but only whimpering noises came out of her mouth. As her face began tingle, her only thought was that despite the impossibility of it, she was turning into a wolf.
The tightness within Johnson’s chest was worsening and the dizziness had formed into nausea. She could have sworn her uniform felt lose. The already tepid air felt warmer and her skin felt oddly itchy. She suddenly doubled over in pain and fell to the ground with a thud. She felt as if she was going to vomit. She tried to yell out for help, but something prevented her vocal cords from functioning. Everything started spinning and she could swear that she was seeing a mist forming around her body. The entire world seemed to grow as her uniform became looser and looser. She taped her combage in a desperate attempt to call for help but something seemed to be impeding its signal. The itching and warmth on her skin intensified into a painful burning sensation that felt like she was standing in the middle of a raging fire. Terrified that she was going to vaporize from the heat, she threw off her shirt and kicked off her pants (which at this point were almost twice as big as they had been relative to her size). With her uniform off to the side, she saw something that terrified her. Dark red fur was growing all over her body at a rate that would leave her a furry animal in less then a minute. She felt the warm silky fur with her right hand; it felt similar to her head hair, but much softer and thicker. The sensation of touching fur on her body scared the hell out of her and really brought home that what was happening to her was real. She wanted to panic, scream and cry all at the same time. Her professional side was telling her to stay calm and that things would somehow work out and that she would be fine. But the rest of her was barley holding it together, she had to get out of there and get help!
As she attempted to arise, she felt a burning sensation encompassed her entire head and closed her eyes in response. An intense pressure built up behind her mouth and nose and her eyes tingled horribly. Her hands and feet convulsed as their bones reshaped into a paw like shape. Fingernails and toes grew out into claws. A powerful pulling sensation arose from the base of her spine as she felt a furry extension of her spine emerge. Growing a tail normally would have been enough to make her run in a crazed panic but the fact that this metamorphosis affected her entire body pinned her down in terror. The burning in both her head and body ceased and she felt a sinking sensation not unlike falling, although she never seemed to hit the ground, the sensation stopped. Whatever had been happening to her seemed complete.
Instinctively, she stood up not in a bipedal but quadrupedal stance (which her altered center of gravity made feel much more natural). She took a deep breath and opened her eyes to see that everyone looked massive. It didn’t take her long to realize that it was not everything that was large, but her that was small. She tried to contemplate the fantastic and terrifying thing that had just happened to her but was finding it difficult to concentrate. She looked herself over to figure out what she had become. She couldn’t be certain, but she seemed to be a member of the weasel family or more specifically, a marten. She sniffed the air to take in scents of the forest and discovered how acute her olfactory perception was in this form. A part of her was exhilarated; she had found the apparent explanation to where the animals on the planet had originated. Another part of her was terrified and even sickened by what had happened. She had been turned into a furry mustelid and she had no reliable way of communicating with anyone to get help. She knew she had to maintain her composure, no matter what she looked like on the outside she was still a person on the inside. She found herself in fierce denial over her situation. Despite her appearance, she refused to accept that she was no longer human even as her instincts were trying to tell her different. She thought about her family, how would they react to seeing her like this? Would they welcome her? Would they freak out and refuse to accept her like this? How would she even get back to them? She then thought about her career, how should she continue it like this? Her entire life had been ripped from her in a matter of minutes and she lay on the ground whimpering.
After a few minutes her furry ears perked up when she heard something in the distance running towards her. Her instincts told her that what was approaching could be prey. She felt her stomach rumble as her instincts told her to seek out food. As her instincts tried to take hold, she found herself realizing that being in denial over her new form was not going to help anyone, especially herself. Surviving began to take priority and informing command of her situation became something that could wait until help arrived. She did feel a duty to her comrades though, despite the fact that she was an animal, she was still their commanding officer. If something similar had happened to them, then they were going to need her to help them to get through this. She closed her eyes and took a whiff of the air. She could smell three distinctive scents. There was a wolf nearby as well as two humans. But the two humans were undergoing something strange. She knew that she had to get to them and quickly.
Beyers finally caught up to Lefley. Huffing and puffing, he breathed deeply for several seconds to catch his breath.
“You alright Steve? What’s wrong?” Lefley inquired. Beyers nodded his head as his breathing slowed to normal rate. Beyers looked up at him and shook his head.
“I heard this strange sound, it sounded like a wolf howling and growling. It was right after I called Volition’s name. I know this is going to sound crazy but I think that wolf was her!” he said. Lefley looked at him like he was insane.
“You realize what your insinuating?” he asked. Beyers looked at him as if expecting the response he had received.
“I knew you were going to say that Tony, so I brought some proof.” He said.
“What?” Lefley anxiously asked. Beyers stepped back and pulled up his shirt revealing a patch of white fur that was growing on his chest. Lefley gasped and reached out to feel the fur. To his shock, he discovered not only that it was soft but that it appeared to be spreading. Under his fingers, the skin on Beyers’ chest began to sprout tiny buds, which quickly grew into long strands of incredibly soft fur.
“What the hell?” Lefley gasped.
“It started a few minutes ago. I scanned it with my tricorder and it told me that it was chinchilla fur!” Beyers said. Before Lefley could respond he felt a strong pain in his stomach and tingling in his ears. An itching and warmth began to form on the center of his chest. He yelled in pain and pulled off his shirt off and threw it onto the ground. Patches of fur were beginning to grow on his own chest. Unlike Lefley’s chest, the fur growing on his chest was light brown but not as soft or thick. The patches of fur quickly spread as new fur grew at their edges which in turn grew at the new edges until his entire chest was covered in a layer of light brown fur. As he petted the fur with a combination of fascination and terror, he heard Beyers scream.
He looked up from his chest and at his comrade. The white fur on Beyers’ chest had spread dramatically and had now covered it. He cradled his left arm with his right arm and was looking down at both in terror. The light brown hairs on both were falling off at a dramatic rate as gray fur slowly crept down both arms from his shoulders. The thumbs on both of his hands were getting shorter and the nails on each of his fingers were becoming longer and more claw-like. He noticed that Beyers seemed shorter. Normally Beyers was a little taller then he, but now they were equal in height. He could see a bulge forming on the back of Beyers’ pants.
Before he could say anything to his comrade his ears tingled and hurt like hell. He reached his hands up to feel that his ears were getting thinner and much bigger. As he felt them, his ears became large and rounded, like mouse ears. His face began to hurt like hell; it was if something were pushing on it from the inside. His moved his hands to his mouth and nose and felt that they were expanding. He tried to scream from the pain, but his vocal cords refused to co-operate. His vision went blurry and his eyes closed shut automatically.
A sharp pain in his hips momentarily distracted him from the intense pain and pushing in his skull. His hips were getting bigger and a considerable amount of his upper legs were being drawn into them. His feet began to feel as if something were pulling on the ends of them!
The pain in Beyers arms had ceased; the end result of it was that his arms were much shorter. His hands were a little smaller and were covered in white fur. His fingers were much skinner and digit like each with a small claw at the end. His thumbs had been reduced to tiny digits with a large claw that was as big as it was. He was now looking up at Lefley! His legs were getting shorter and his torso was becoming smaller but plumper. He felt his back and sides as much as his shorter arms would permit him to and felt thick fur everywhere. He could feel that he was grown a long bushy tail. His legs started aching and a burning feeling began to manifest itself on his face. He looked at Lefley to see that Lefley’s face had grown out into a blunt muzzle, his mouth had become short with a pair of fierce looking incisors at the front of it and his nose had become small and pink. Several small whiskers had grown from the sides of his muzzle that twitched as his nose moved. His entire head was covered in a layer of brown fur with black mixed in which turned light brown at its underside. His eyes had migrated to the sides of his head. His legs were changing which resulted in him quickly losing height.
Beyers’ feet began to ache; they seemed to be growing!
Johnson ran towards the scent as fast as her little legs could carry her. The scents had changed dramatically in the past few minutes. Oddly, they smelled appealing to her, delicious even. She knew that she had to ignore her hunger lest she allow her instincts to cause her to eat her comrades. She was supposed to protect them, not ingest them! She kept walking to the source of the scent when she smelled something else approaching her. Whatever it was, it was big and her fear instincts were telling her to run! Something in her instructed her to hold her ground and that whatever was approaching her was friendly. She did exactly that and braced herself. For all she knew, what was running towards her was a predator that was intending to kill her and that this was the end. The thought of dying in the body of a furry little animal terrified her. After all she had been though, it was all coming down to this. The next minute would decide if she lived or died.
She breathed deeply and her little heart beat at twice its normal rate. She waited and waited until the approaching animal caught up with her. The bushes in front of her rustled and what to her was a monstrous behemoth of a creature, a timberwolf walked though the bushes and looked at her.
She stared up at the massive canine in terror, she thought that this was the end. But something about it seemed familiar to her, Its scent! Something in her mind told her that it was Volition! With her little paws, she wrote the ensign’s name in the dirt and then looked up at and pointed towards the wolf. The wolf nodded her head and whimpered quietly. Johnson wrote her own name in the sand and pointed at herself. Volition seemed to understand and nodded her head in recognition before lying down and gently licking the marten on her back.
Johnson was relieved, she had found the location of at least one of her subordinates and she had established at least basic communication with her. She sniffed the air and again got wind of Beyers and Lefley. This time, their scents were very different. There was enough of their human’s scent left to be able to recognize them but they had a dominant animal scent. She could also hear squeaking like sounds coming from the same general direction as the scents and recognized those sounds as distress sounds. She knew that she needed to find them quickly. She looked back up at Volition who seemed to understand her body language. Volition knelt down and motioned for the commander to get onto her back. Johnson felt relieved that she wouldn’t have to walk the rest of the way, she was getting tired as it was. She walked towards and climbed onto Volition’s back and Volition stood up with Johnson hanging on tight. Volition began walking towards the scents and sounds in search of their missing comrades.
Beyers looked down at Lefley. He could partially understand the squeaks and warbles Lefley was making. Lefley looked somewhat similar to him albeit a third the size and with brown fur on top and light brown on his chest instead of dark gray and white. His tail also has less fur and his face was a bit longer. Beyers recognized Lefleys new species as degu, a close relative of his new species.
He wanted to panic; here he was trapped in the body of a furry little chinchilla. When he signed up, he didn’t recall reading anywhere about getting turned into a chinchilla on a remote planet. He knew there were inherent risks but this wasn’t exactly a risk he’d considered.
Lefley wasn’t much better off. Beyers looked like a giant to him. In fact, everything looked gigantic. But he knew that it was he that was tiny. He was stuck in the body on a chipmunk-sized rodent. Seeing his friend standing there before him in the body of chinchilla certainly didn’t help. He wasn’t sure what to think. He felt very vulnerable standing out in the open and his instincts were telling him to run.
Before either of them could do anything, they were suddenly approached by a wolf with a marten riding on her back. Both of them felt an impulse to run and seek shelter, but something was holding them back. Something about the animals seemed familiar; it was as if they knew them. The wolf lay down and the marten climbed off of her back and approached the young degu and chinchilla.
Lefley and Beyers were fighting an almost overpowering instinct to run from what would without question be a predator and serious threat to their lives. Something about its behavior seemed off however. Instead of trying to eat them, it simply stood there as if trying to say something to them.
The Marten stuck its front right paw out and reached down to the dirt and began to write something. Lefley and Beyers watched in awe as she wrote the name Johnson and pointed to herself. All four members of the survey team had been reunited, but the question was what to do now?
In a low orbit over the planet, the cruiser cloaked just before the blind spot in the outpost’s sensor net repaired itself. The Captain was happy, the outpost had not detected them and the team had not been able to report their discovery. Had they been able to, their entire plan could have fallen into jeopardy.
His science officer’s console beeped, indicating a problem.
“What is it?” he asked.
“They’ve sent another shuttle to the location, if they discover what we have done…” the officer reported. The captain raised his right arm to tell him to stop before folding his arms. He balked when he realized what he had done. Observing humanity for all of the time was starting to rub off on him and he was picking up their mannerisms. He shook the annoyance off and gave his orders.
“We cannot decloak again so soon and if that other shuttle discovers our devices within the planets crust, we may be discovered. We might have no choice but to implement the plan”. His first officer turned to him in concern.
“Was it really fair to do it to those 4 that quickly and in that way? They’ll lose themselves to their instincts in a matter of hours, if not minutes. Maybe we had no choice in this case but if we do it to the rest of them, we should give them more time.” The man suggested.
“Very well, monitor them closely. If they discover our plans then prepare to execute plan zeta-9” the captain ordered.
The Edison soared though the sky towards its destination. They had recently been in contact with the Admiral who had informed them of the situation. Suspecting that the loss of contact with the team and the strange readings were somehow connected, David has increased the speed of the Edison such that they would momentarily be over the drill site.
“What do you think happened to them?” Sandra asked.
“I don’t know but it seems very convenient that command loses contact with them the moment Commander Johnson seemed to have found something. I have a feeling there is more going on here then Earth animals appearing on a planet 1500 light-years away from Earth.” Sean answered.
David brought the Edison to a halt; they had arrived over the burrowing location. He keyed in a sequence, which tilted the shuttle at an 80-degree angle towards the ground and took the shuttle to several meters above the surface. Fortunately, the Edison had it’s own gravity generator which allowed it to go to almost any angle without it’s occupants falling towards the location of the planets gravity. Sean entered the sequence to activate the shuttle’s three turrets and the turrets slid out from their compartments, 2 in the nose and a third at the top.
“Okay, setting the phaser power and width, we will be drilling a hole about 115% the circumference of the shuttle so there won’t be a lot of room for error.” He said.
“No problem, just say when” David boasted. Sean pressed the button to fire the phasers and the shuttles 3 turrets emitted wide phaser beams which struck the surface, almost instantly vaporizing the dirt and rock. Sean monitored his display, which indicated the depth of the hole. When it indicated that it had drilled down a kilometer he informed David who slowly and very carefully brought the Edison towards and into the shaft.
With its phasers still firing, the Edison flew down the path even as the rock was still red hot.
“We should be nearing the cavern with the strange readings shortly, I am preparing to sever the beams” Sean informed David. Sandra monitored the readings and observed that they were changing.
“Whatever is down there seems to be responding to our presence, it appears to have raised a scattering field that is blocking our sensors, attempting to compensate.” Sandra informed everyone. The shuttle was very close to the ceiling of the cavern and Sean severed the phaser beams the moment they cut through into it. David slowed the shuttles decent and a few seconds later, they emerged in the expansive cavern. David stopped the Edison’s movement and they hovered in the cavern. The cavern was massive, filled with geological curiosities of every shape and form. It was near pitch dark inside, but the light from the shaft and from the Edison’s running lights provided enough light for them to be able to maneuver.
“I’m picking up several chambers, the readings appear to be coming from the chamber 3 kilometers west of here. I’m detecting a ledge where we can land 500 meters west, there appears to be a network of ledges and paths that will allow us to walk the rest of the way.” Sandra said.
“Alright then, taking us down on that ledge” David responded.
The shuttlecraft Oppenheimer soared through the sky towards the last known location of the 4-person team. As the northern temperate region came into view, Lieutenant Commander Harrison ordered Lieutenant Shipley who was manning the sensors to scan for the Einstein.
She did a scan and located the shuttle a hundred kilometers west of their location. Harrison ordered Ensign Price (who was manning the helm) to take them to those co-ordinates and land the shuttle beside the Einstein.
At a speed that was probably too fast for flight within a planet, the ensign took the shuttle towards its destination and slowed it down before landing it beside the Einstein. Harrison looked at the ensign with a shocked looked on his face.
“Ensign, when I said take us to the Einstein, I meant at a reasonable pace.” Harrison scolded. With an embarrassed looked on his face, the young ensign looked at Harrison.
“Sorry sir, I just wanted to get us here as fast as possible” he sheepishly said.
“Well, we can talk about that later. In the mean time we have a mission. Ensign, you stay here and maintain a continuous transporter lock on us. Be prepared to pull us out at the first sign of trouble!” Harrison ordered.
“Yes sir!” the ensigns acknowledged.
Harrison and Shipley got up, each picking up a tricorder and phaser in the process and headed towards the side door of the shuttle opened it and walked out.
Harrison’s first action was to scan the immediate area with his tricorder. The small device immediately beeped at him to indicate that it had found something. The readings however, didn’t make any sense. He was picking up lifeforms, but they weren’t human. He turned to Shipley to ask her to confirm his readings.
“Lieutenant, are you reading the same thing I am reading?” he asked.
“If you mean non humanoid lifesigns that differ from the originally scanned species on this planet, then yes sir.” She responded. Unbeknownst to her and Harrison their tricorder were picking up the life signs of the survey team in their new forms. Both of their tricorders altered to them that the lifesigns were getting closer.
“Wait a second, I’m picking up what seems to be a communications signal 100 meters west” Harrison reported.
“And I’m picking up another two 150 meters north” The lieutenant reported.
“Alright, I’ll investigate the one west of here and you investigate the one north of here, keep a continuos communications links open.” Harrison ordered. The lieutenant nodded her head and they both began walking towards their assigned locations.
In the shuttle, Price was also detecting the four-non humanoid lifesigns. He could see the indicator of Harrison and Shipley telling him that they were both heading towards separate readings they had discovered. The four lifesigns he had detected were originally heading for the lieutenant and commander, but when they had began walking towards the signals they had changed their plans and were now approaching the shuttle.
He did a more detailed scan and discovered that the species of the lifesigns heading towards him were a chinchilla, degu, marten and wolf. As he was about to contact Harrison to inform him of the new detail, he suddenly felt a tingling in his stomach. The tingling spread and led to itching on his arms, hands and legs. The feeling momentarily distracted him from his console readout of Harrison and Shipleys location as well as the location of the four animals, which were quickly approaching his position. He scratched his arms fiercely but it was to no avail, the itching simply would not abate. He did notice something odd, his nails felt sharper. He was about to say something when he looked closer at his hands. What appeared to be black fur was developing on both hands and his fingernails were getting longer and turning black. They looked almost claw like.
“What the hell is going on?” he yelled. Warmth began to envelop his chest and he pulled up his shirt to see sand colored fur growing on his belly, and the fur was spreading!
Harrison neared the location of the signal. When he reached it, he saw a discarded uniform on the ground. The combage was still attached to it, which explained the readings. He scanned the uniform and discovered very peculiar readings. The DNA readings for the residual hair and skin cells on it were in a strange state of flux. They were not human, but they were not animal either. He pondered the situation for a few seconds before his skin began to crawl with a bizarre sensation of warmth and tingling. He scanned his own body with his tricorder and discovered something completely unexpected. His DNA and cellular structure was undergoing the same flux that the readings on the uniform had! The tingling subsided but the warmth did not. His clothes suddenly felt very acquired and itchy.
He quickly removed his shirt and saw something astonishing. Black fur was growing all over his body. He swiftly removed his pants and saw that the same fur was growing on his legs. His hands began to twitch which caused him to drop his tricorder. His hands felt oddly numb for several seconds. He was afraid to look down to see what was wrong. When the numbness diminished after a few minutes, he finally summoned up enough courage to look down at his hands. They no longer looked like hands. Each of his fingernails had become long and sharp and his fingers looked more like nimble digits then fingers. His thumbs had almost completely shrunk into his hands, but small stubs with large claws remained. The black fur that had been growing on his body was now nearly a pelt and covered almost every square centimeter of it! It was then that he thought of Shipley and Price, if this was happening to him then there was a good bet it was happening to them. He could only conclude that the animals that they had detected approaching them were the survey team and they had somehow been transformed.
He tried to say something to contact Shipley, but for some reason he couldn’t speak. His feet began to feel strange and he felt a tingling at the base of his spine. But to make matters worse, he was quickly shrinking!
Shipley was in a considerable amount of pain. It had started in her arms and legs. She had tried to call for help, but her legs and arms simply were not co-operating. A large membrane had grown from the sides of her torso and attached itself to her arms up to her wrists and her legs down to her ankles. Its growth had forced her to disrobe. Soon after it had finished growing, it had become coated in a layer of gray fur on top and white on the bottom. As if that wasn’t more then enough to embarrass and terrify her, the same white fur from underneath the membrane had grown onto her chest. Her breasts had complete shrunk into and disappeared into her chest, nipples and all. A small pouch had grown on her belly. Whatever she had becoming, it seemed to be some type of marsupial. Her thumbs had dissipated into her hands and her fingers had combined in growing and shrinking until each finger was of equal length. Fingernails had grown into claws. On her feet, big toes had shrunk and been enveloped by her feet and she now only possessed four toes per foot. Sharp claws had grown from each toe. It seemed that she would be able to climb tree fairly easily from here on and that the membrane would allow her to glide down to the ground and from tree to tree.
As fur began to grow on her back, she rapidly began to lose mass. She quickly fell into a state of extreme despair. She knew that there was little way she could function like this, let alone communicate. What kind of future would she have as a glider of some sort on a virtually uninhabited planet within an almost completely uncharted sector of space? Would her family or friends ever find out what had happened to her? Would she spend the rest of her life as a beast? As the world started getting much bigger from her point of view, she began to sob. A ray of hope came however, when the blue transporter beam of their shuttle’s transporter enveloped her. Everything faded away and went black for a second as she lost consciousness. Seconds later, she regained consciousness as she materialized on the transporter pad. The blue beam of the transporter returned in full luster and abated as her body was fully reconstructed. As the annular confinement beam released her as the transporter cycle completed she looked around. She was still shrinking, but the transporter had halted her transformation as it had beamed her to the shuttle.
On the pad to her right was a gigantic black squirrel that was shrinking at a similar rate in which she was shrinking. Standing on a wolf's back operating the transporter console was a large black footed ferret. As Harrison and Shipley stepped off of the transporter pads, the ferret breathed sigh of relief. He tried to talk, but his human voice was gone and replaced by that of a warbling like sounds.
Shipleys face had begun to change and she could feel her vocal cords changing. She had so many questions she wanted to ask, but it seemed as if she had no way of asking them. As she walked to the front of the shuttle with the black squirrel beside her, she felt the shuttle trying to take off. At the control console a chinchilla, degu and marten operated as a team to get the shuttle under control. The sight was certainly one of the strangest she had ever seen. She wondered how a Vulcan would react to this. Their philosophy of Infinite Diversity Infinite Combinations probably didn’t cover a bunch of animals operating a shuttlecraft.
As she neared the shuttle, the ferret climbed off of the wolf’s back and walked over to her and the black squirrel carrying a PADD. He placed in on the ground between them and with his little black paws brought up a list of the names of the two survey teams. He first pointed to his own name and then pointed to himself. Which each name he pointed to the animal that the person had become.
The shuttle suddenly rose from the ground. It had worked! The three piloting it warbled with glee as it took off. The marten activated the autopilot as the chinchilla set in a course for the outpost. Once they got back they would hopefully be able to get help. Until then, all they could do was to find a reliable method of communication.
Admiral Steven had heard nothing from the team since their shuttle had landed. He could only hope that they were all right. The outposts sensors were detecting that the shuttle was headed back their way, but they wouldn’t respond to hails. Scans of the shuttle for lifesigns had proven inconclusive. Although USS Beowulf wasn’t due to drop of supplies for a week, it seemed that a situation was developing that required their presence. He turned his chair towards Yöngs and asked him to contact the ship.
With flashlights in hand, Sean, Sandra and David hiked though a cave that led to the cavern where the readings originated. It was almost pitch dark except for an odd glow emanating from the mouth of the cave. Sandra scanned the area and her tricorder started generating very odd readings.
“My readings are off the scale, whatever is in there, it’s generating a lot of power” she said. They continued walking through the cave and finally, they made it to the cavern. Inside the mammoth cavern was a tremendous gray spherical device covered with blue pulsating lights and with several cylindrical outcroppings that went from the device into the wall of the cavern. The device hummed oddly and seemed to react to their presence.
“What the hell is it?” Sean asked. Sandra scanned the device with her tricorder to try to ascertain just what it was. After several minutes of wonderment she took a deep breath and gave her report.
“This is extraordinary, the device appears to be only one of a network of devices implanted in various locations in the planets crust. They all appear to be connected via those cylindrical devices. I’m picking up transporter signatures, replicator signatures and several others readings that I cant make heads or tails of.” The device suddenly made an odd whooshing sound, which Sandra recorded with her tricorder before proceeding.
“I think we’ve found the answer to how all those animals are getting food. This device just replicated a large amount of meat and plant mater and transported it across several different locations. Wait a minute, whoa this is big! There is evidence that these devices were used to terraform this planet. If I remember correctly, when it was first discovered, it was classified as uninhabitable.”
“Which means that someone created an ecosystem and breathable atmosphere on this planet and then placed these animals here and is using these devices to sustain them. But to what end? And if they did do this, shouldn’t they be studying them?” Sean asked.
“They could have a ship in orbit even as we speak. If it were cloaked, we might never discover it.” David said, his voice starting to tremble.
“Come on, let’s get back to the Edison!” Sean yelled. David tapped his combage to contact the shuttle.
“Spartan to shuttle Edison, 3 to transport” he ordered. There was a short delay and at first it looked like the transporter wasn’t going to work, but to the teams relief, they were encompassed by the transporter beam and materialized in the back of the shuttle a few seconds later.