Chapter 2USS Beowulf
Three days from the outpost at maximum warp.
Timothy Barns sat in his chair in the messhall reading a PADD containing ship reports for the previous day. He was having his usual, a cup of black coffee with bacon, eggs and toast. Just as he raised the toast to his mouth and bit into it, the communication system chirped.
“Bridge to Captain Barns” the voice of his science officer, Ikrit Tagomi spoke in a concerned sounding voice. Tim taped his combage to respond to the communication.
“Go ahead Commander” he responded.
“Captain, we have an incoming hail from Admiral Steven at the outpost on J’Tuguisa 5, he’s says it’s urgent” she informed him. They weren’t due to arrive at that system for another week to drop off supplies. He wasn’t sure what could be wrong. When they last talked a week ago everything was fine. Breakfast would have to wait.
“Patch it through to my ready room commander, I’ll be right up there” he ordered.
“Yes sir” she responded before closing the channel. Timothy grabbed a couple pieces of bacon and ate them before standing up and taking the coffee mug with him as he walked out of the messhall and down the corridor to a turbo lift door. He pressed the button to summon the lift and when it arrived, the doors swooshed open and he walked in, commanding it to take him to the bridge. 25 seconds later, the turbolift stopped and its doors open, revealing the bridge. He walked out of the lift, past the tactical station and into his ready room. As the ready room doors closed behind him, he sat at his desk to face the computer on it. With the press of a button, he activated the communications channel and the admiral’s face appeared on the screen.
“Good afternoon Admiral, how can I be of assistance?” he asked.
“Captain, we have a potential situation down here. We recently lost contact with an away team that was reporting that they discovered what appeared to be the wreckage of a shuttle from the USS Octavion. That ship was reported lost in this sector nearly a year ago. I dispatched another away team to find out why we lost contact with the initial team. We have lost contact with them as well, we have their shuttle on sensors as approaching the outpost but we cannot contact them for some reason. I have another away team that has discovered strange devices below the planets surface.” The admiral reported.
“Do they know the nature of the devices?” Timothy inquired.
“They detected that they are providing food to the animals we have discovered on this planet. Which would appear to confirm our belief that someone has somehow transported them here. That is not the end of it. We have been reviewing sensor logs from our network of satellites and shortly before we lost contact with the away team, a ‘blindspot’ showed up within the network. It is quite possible for a ship to have been within that spot. Captain, how far are you from the outpost?” The Admiral answered.
“We're currently a week away at our current warp factor, but we can be there in 3 days at maximum warp” the captain responded.
“I have a bad feeling about this Captain. We need you’re here as soon as possible” The admiral concernedly said.
“Yes sir, I’ll order my helmsman to take us to maximum warp”
“Thank you Captain, Stevens out” the admiral acknowledged as he ended the communication. Captain Barns got up out of his chair and walk towards and out of his ready room and across the bridge to his chair and sat down.
“Ensign Soatome, what is our ETA to J’Tuguisa 5?” he asked.
“At our present speed, 7 days, 6 hours and 26 minutes sir” the young man responded. Fresh out of the academy, this was his first assignment.
“Increase to maximum warp.” The Captain calmly but firmly ordered. The ensign tapped a few commands into his console and the ship speed increased considerably.
“Showing warp 9.975 sir, our ETA is now 2 days and 20 hours.” The ensign reported. The Captains first officer, Bob Backburn, turned towards him. A three year old Ocampin, he had risen in the ranks quickly due to his ability to learn quickly and adapt to new situations. His origins were a mystery, even to him. He had been discovered alone in a disabled alien shuttle nearly 2 years ago. How he arrived in this quadrant was unknown. His intelligence had allowed him to graduate in a fast track program in the academy in only 3 months. He had been assigned to the Beowulf as it was on a deep space mission within close proximity to where he had been discovered.
“Captain?” he asked, curious as to the speed increase.
“I received an communication from Admiral Steven, it seems the team assigned to the outpost has made some disturbing discoveries that require our attention” Barns responded.
“What type of discoveries?” Backburn inquired.
“It would seem that the life they have found on the planet is indeed not a coincidence and appears to have been transported there somehow. He also has reason to believe that there may be a ship in orbit monitoring them.” Barns answered.
“That’s not good. I just hope if he’s right that we get there in time” Backburn mused.
Admiral Steven passed back and forth in the command center. The shuttlecraft Oppenheimer would be arriving momentarily and he was apprehensive at what they were going find aboard it.
“Mr. Yöngs, have you had any luck raising them?” he nervously asked.
“No Sir, either they are unwilling or unable to answer” Yöngs disappointedly answered. The admiral took a deep breath and decided to wait. Whatever had happened to the crew would be known once they docked.
A minute later, Yöngs’ console bleeped to indicate that the shuttle had docked in the primary hangar. The admiral ordered a medical team to meet him down there and informed everyone that he would go down there to personally find out what was going on.
He walked towards the west exit of the medium sized command center through a door leading to a corridor. The corridor was fairly short, with a couple of doors on the right which lead to small storage closets and a door on the left which lead to a private communications room for anyone in need of a private and secure communication. He walked down to the end of the corridor (which ended at another corridor) and turned right, walked a few meters and turned left at a double door which lead to stairwell down to the third level and up to the 4th level (which was primarily an outdoor observation deck). He walked down to the third level and through another pair of double doors into a wide corridor which lead right, left and forward. Two medical officers joined him, walking from his left before they began walking down the long forward corridor.
“The ship docked a few minutes ago but the crew still isn’t responding.” The medic that walked on his right said.
“We are picking up lifesigns in the craft, but they’re inconclusive,” the other medic added.
“We’ll find out in a minute what’s going on,” The admiral said. They continued walking down the corridor, past double doors on their right and left (which lead to the other 2 hangar bays) until they came to the end of the corridor (which ended at another set of double doors). The admiral pressed the button on the wall to the right of the doors to open them. They opened and the three walked into the large bay. There were several crewmen milling about in the bay and a half dozen shuttles of various configurations. The forward most one was the Oppenheimer. It sat eerily still, as if waiting for the discovery of what was inside to be made. The team walked over to its side door and the admiral entered the activation code into the small control panel beside the door. The door slowly opened, revealing a site the admiral they had never expected to see. A ferret, degu, chinchilla, marten, wolf, black squirrel and sugar glider were all staring at them and looking very scared. The admiral could only stare at the seven animals in disbelief.
Eventually one of the medics asked him what he saw. With a look of bewilderment on his face, he turned to the two medics.
“I think we know those animals arrived here.” He said.
“How sir?” one of the medics inquired.
“See for yourself” The admiral answered as he stepped aside to allow the medics to see the seven animals. When the ferret dragged a PADD over to them and handed it to them, they saw the display. It listed the names of both survey teams, which allowed them to figure it out. Their only reaction was a stunned and hushed ‘my God’.
The shuttlecraft Edison raced up the corridor it had created in a frantic race to the planet surface. The Admiral had contacted them shortly after he discovered the fate of the Oppenheimer’s crew. While David piloted the shuttle, Sean spoke with the admiral.
“Animals eh? That’s downright creepy. I wonder how many of the Octavion 's crew there is on this planet trapped in the bodies of animals without any way to tell us who they really are. If I remember correctly, that ship had a crew of 654. That still leaves 930 individuals unaccounted for, I wonder where they came from?” he asked.
“We are looking into it now, but we have recalled all shuttlecraft back to base. The Starship Beowulf is on its way here and should arrive within a few days. We will be contacting them shortly to inform them of what we have discovered.” The admiral answered.
“Very well, we should be back within an hour or so, shuttlecraft Edison out” Sean replied as he cut the communication.
“So what happens now? If we leave this planet, what becomes of all those people?” Sandra asked.
“Hopefully, they can accommodate them. I certainly hope we don’t have to leave them here” Sean answered.
The shuttle had finally made it back to the surface and the light from the sun surrounded it. After David set a course and the shuttle headed back to the outpost, something went wrong. The shuttle’s powers systems began to fluctuate and it started losing altitude.
“What’s happening?” Sean asked
“I don’t know, there appears to be a power drain, but I can’t tell where it’s coming from.” David replied as the shuttle suddenly rocked.
“I have no choice, I have to bring her down!” he reported. Sean could see a forest close to their position so he suggested bringing them down near the entrance to it.
“Good idea, taking us down!” David yelled as he turned the shuttle towards its new destination. The shuttle banked heavily as it turned towards the forest. David quickly brought it down before its power drain was severe enough hat they would lose control. With a gentle thud, it landed just outside of the forest and powered down.
“Everyone okay?” Sean asked. David and Sandra replied that they were fine.
“I’ll try to contact the Admiral to tell him of our status” David said. He tried to access the communications system, but it was too late. The power drain on the shuttle became severe, and every one of its power systems shut down completely. They all tried their communicators but alas, they would not function.
David stood up and suddenly felt dizzy, Sean was about to ask him what was wrong when he too became dizzy, Sandra quickly followed. Sean’s arms became itchy and when he looked at them, he gasped in horror. The normally thin red hair on them was slowly getting thicker and softer. He was about to tell the others of his apparent situation when he saw David scratching at his rear end. He looked closer to see a bulge forming behind his pants.
“Shit!” he loudly cursed.
“We have to get this thing working before this thing spreads any further!” he yelled. Sandra suddenly screamed as she felt her face.
“My face!” she yelled. David and Sean looked at the young woman’s face. A line of black fur that surrounded her eyes had formed on her face stretching across it from ear to ear. White fur was already starting to come in around the black with the exception of a single black line that ran up her nose and forehead.
“What’s happening to us?” she frantically asked. Sean looked back at his growing arm hair, which seemed to have thickened slightly in the past 30 seconds then looked back up at Sandra.
“Trouble!” he exclaimed.
The lights in the command center flickered on and off and powers systems across the board began to fail one by one. Emergency power was keeping some of the systems online, but even it’s failure was imminent.
Admiral Steven (having since returned to the command center) worked frantically to get the situation under control. But it was becoming more difficult by the minute as he had feeling dizzy for several minutes and his feet had been hurting and his chest feeling warm and itchy.
“Mr. Yöngs, have you been able to locate the source of the power drain?” he yelled, the commotion in the commando center forcing him to yell to be heard.
“Possibly sir, there is an anomaly high in orbit, it appears to be generating an odd dampening field that is encompassing much of the planet somehow” the man responded. He was finding it difficult to speak with the pair of buckteeth that had grown in his mouth minutes ago.
A young female ensign ran over to the admiral to give a report a shocking discovery she had found only moments before.
“Sir! I think we found the source of what’s happening to us!” she yelled as she scratched the back of her left hand and up her arm in annoyance. The dark brown fur that had began growing there only a few minutes ago appeared to be spreading; her fingernails had been affected as well and were getting longer. If anything, that was a relief, it made scratching the itches caused by the growing fur much easier.
“What is it ensign?” the admiral inquired.
“There appears to be a ship in orbit, it’s appears to have launched a virus or pathogen into the planets atmosphere, we cannot tell for certain though” she said. The admiral though for a moment and realized that they were fighting a losing battle, not only with these power drains but with that was happening to their bodies. As the warmth and itching began to spread down his own arms, he frantically turned to Yöngs.
“Mr. Yöngs, I need you to divert any power we have left to the subspace transceiver, I need to contact the Beowulf to inform them of what is going on.” He urgently said. Even as gray fur began to sprout on the ensign’s face, he ran over to his console to attempt to contact the ship. Console after console began to shut down, but Yöngs was successful.
“I have diverted all remaining emergency power to this station and the transmitter, we have only a matter of minutes before all power fails completely.” He reported. The admiral turned to the young ensign, seeing the gray fur on his head spreading down his neck and thickening.
“Ensign, put the outpost on evacuation alert, emergency power will not last much longer. We need to get everyone out of here before it fails. I will be right behind you. Now hurry, we don’t have much time!” the Admiral ordered.
“Yes sir” the ensign said. He ran over to the door, opened a glass covered control panel and entered a short series of commands to sound the evacuation alert.
The admiral sat down at the functional console and prepared to try to quickly explain what was going on. The itching on his chest had spread across the rest of his torso and he was feeling very warm. He saw his reflection in a shut down console and gasped when he noticed that he looked 10 years younger. A strange feeling was beginning to overcome, not of panic but of euphoria. What was happening to him should have terrified him, yet something inside of him was telling him to be happy about it. He tried to shake off the feeling as he entered the command to activate the communications array. The display on the console in front of him had a lot of static in it, but he appeared to be getting through. He was getting impatient, until a few seconds later the image of the Beowulf’s bridge appeared on the screen.
“Admiral, what’s going on?” Captain Barns frantically asked.
“Captain, we now know where the animals on this planet came from.” The admiral clammy said.
“Where?” Barns asked. As the admiral was about to answer, the channel suddenly closed. He tried to get it back, but it was to no avail. With the last remaining bit of power his console he had, he ran a scan and discovered that the subspace transmitter had been hit by weapons fire and was completely destroyed.
A sense of hopelessness began to overcome him and he was on the verge of panic, when the feeling of euphoria returned. He stood up and ran towards the open door of the command center and began to run down the corridor towards the stairs that led out of the building. He wasn’t halfway there when the itching and warmth spread down his arms and onto his hands. The warmth was too much for him and he quickly threw took his shirt off and threw it onto the ground. For the first time he saw the reason for why we was feeling just so warm. His entire torso was covered in a thick pelt of fur, cream on his chest, brown on sides and back. The fur was quickly spreading down his arms, but that was only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Webbing was forming between his fingers, and he was feeling oddly playful. He ran to a wall-mounted console so see that the fur was slowly creeping up his neck and onto his face. But that wasn’t what shocked him the most. He looked even younger now, at least 20 years younger then he should look. His pants were feeling much looser then normal and he could feel a tingling in the back of his spine. He resigned himself to the fact that his pants probably wouldn’t be needed for much longer anyway and threw then and his shoes and socks off. Fur not unlike that which had grown on his torso was coming in on his legs and his feet were changing right before his eyes. A webbing had formed between his toes and his feet seemed to be getting shorter. He just could not seem to shake the playful feeling no matter what he did. As his face began to tingle, he sighed.
“I’ve heard of exploring strange new worlds, but this is ridiculous!” he lamented. Having nothing better to do, he continued walking towards the exit, hoping that somehow he would make it outside before this had run its course.
Sean walked into the forest at a gradual and relaxed pace. The warm son against his newly acquired fur was uncomfortable at best. The fur that had begun to grow on his arms had since spread considerably. He now sported a full pelt of red fur on his back, sides and arms and white on his chest. Several minutes ago, the warmth had forced him to remove his shirt. As he took cover in the shade a large tree offered, he looked at his hands in disbelief. On the lower half of his arms and below, the fur was black. His hands didn’t look like hands anymore. They were smaller but thicker and his fingers had become thicker and less malleable and his thumbs had been absorbed into his hands. Short thick black claws had grown from his fingernails. A long red bushy tail had sprouted from the base of his spine, which had forced him to remove his pants as he removed his shirt. Any embarrassment at being disrobed was overrode by the shock over what was happening to his body. As his started down at his body, the hair on his legs began to thicken and soften. It was becoming fur as the hair on his arms had. As he watched it grow, Sandra walked beside him and sat down. Sean turned to the young woman and saw that the young woman part of her was quickly fading away.
Her head showed little sign of it ever being human, other then its size. The furry ears on top of her head, the short muzzle with the little black nose and the mask made it pretty clear what she was becoming. If that hadn’t of been enough evidence for the group then the furry ringed tail that she had grown only minutes provided enough additional evidence for her to come to an inescapable conclusion. She was becoming a raccoon. Most of her body was now covered in a pelt of grayish black fur, and she had removed her shirt and pants like Sean had. She had no real need for modesty anyway. The changed had shrunken down her breasts and replaced them with three pairs of nipples. Her hands and feet still looked mostly human but that was about to change. She had lost a little bit of height, but was still close enough to her original height for it to be difficult to notice. She petted the fur on Sean’s chest to try to comfort him. When her face had changed, it had become exceptionally difficult for her to talk until she had completely lost it. Only the sounds you’d only expect to hear out of a raccoon could be produced by her vocal cords now. Sean lightly petted the fur on her chest even as his face began to tingle and pull out into a snout.
“Sandra, I don’t know how but we will get through this, somehow we will be rescued, I promise you that. As long as he stick together, we can make it.” He said. Although, he had to admit, he had trouble believing his own words. Sandra however was a bit more convinced and nodded her head before gently laying it on his chest.
While the developing fox and raccoon sat there, David walked over to them and sat in front of them. He too had to remove this clothing, but not from the warmth of fur. He had started to get younger within minutes of the shuttle landing and now looked no older then a 6-year-old. He sat there in front of David and quietly whimpered. His face had since changed into that of a fox and like Sandra, he couldn’t speak or make any sounds close to that of a human. Red fur had covered the upper parts of his body while white had covered the under parts. His hands still looked human, as did his feet. What shocked him the most however was not his apparent age regression, but the fact that he apparently wasn’t even a ‘he’ anymore. The idea of becoming an animal was disturbing to him, but the fact that it seemed as if it going young to be a young animal – female to boot, terrified him to no end. He walked over to David and hugged him. David petted the fur on his head and even as his own face started to develop into a snout and his vocal cords were changing, he assured David that together they could survive. Natural raccoon and foxes may not get along, but her knew that the three of them would have to if they wanted to survive. He wasn’t about to try to hunt or abandon Sandra, and was determined to hold it together, no matter what the cost.