McKinley lay on his back watching his body change. His torso was becoming fatter and his legs were slowly moving up towards the center of it. All of the hair on his legs had fallen out and the skin on them was taking on an odd smooth scaly like texture. The scales were very fine, almost to the point where they were invisible. Their color had changed into a blackish tone. His feet felt strange and tingly. They still looked mostly human, but that was about to change. As he felt the feathers on his chest, he felt the tingle he now associated with change spread to his feet.
On each foot, the index and middle toes were forced together and began to fuse. Fragments of skin and bone began growing between the two digits as new nerve and bone vessels created themselves. The nails of both feet began to crumble and fell off. The ring and pinkie toes on each foot quickly underwent the same procedure, as bones fused and the nerve and blood vessels connected. As the toenails were nearly their points of fusion, they crumbled and fell off. The exposed area quickly filled in with blackish scaly skin. As the fusion of his toes completed, he had three digits on each foot.
The skin on each foot began to change and took on a smooth, scaly texture and blackish color. He stared at his feet in disbelief as the three toes on each foot began to lengthen. Each of his six toes grew longer and longer until they were as long as his feet. The bones in his feet felt strange but only mildly painful. They felt as if they were being compressed and at the same time pushed out. He saw why only a few seconds later as his feet widened while at the same time thinned out. The feeling of his bones shifting and re-arranging themselves into a new shape was the creepiest feeling he had ever experienced in his life. Despite this, a part of him wanted it to play though so he could see the result. As his feet became wider and thinner, his toes began to spread out. The now middle toe in each foot remained stationary while the right toes shifted angles to be angled right and the left toes shifted angles to be angled left.
As his feet settled into a wider and thinner shape and the bones in his toes shifted and stabilized in their new position, thin webbing began to grow between each toe. The webbing had the same texture and color as his skin, he felt it with his hands, and it felt odd. He watched as the webbing between each foot became wider and wider until his toes were encased in smooth webbing. Whatever type of bird he was becoming was starting to become a little more evident. The texture of the scales on his legs and the webbing and 3-toed shape of his feet was characteristic of a waterfowl and the white feathers were what he would have expected to see on a swan.
LeRosse slowly approached McKinley’s position. Her own changes had progressed steadily. Her entire body had a thick pelt of dark brown fur which turned cream on her chest and under-parts of her face. Her ears were now rounded and at the top of her head, and her nose and mouth were merging into a muzzle. Her legs and arms had shrunk considerably, reducing her height by a significant amount. A tail had begun to grow from her spine; it was furry but still short. Her feet had become rounder and she had to completely disrobe. As her feet had become rounder, she had lost a toe on each foot, and the rest of her toes had become webbed. With all of her fur, she felt very warm and had the urge to run into the lake. The more her changes progressed the angrier she became. From her point of view, if the people that did this wanted to defeat them, they should have done it with their weapons on a battlefield and not by turning them into beasts and forcing them to live as such. Such a tactic had no honor.
“How are you doing?” she asked McKinley. McKinley looked over his body, focussing on his new legs and feet. His legs were still making their way up his torso and were almost at the middle of it. The process hadn’t been painful but felt very strange. McKinley’s torso was continuing to get fatter and shorter, soon he would have great difficulty lying on his back.
“I’m alright I guess, all things considered. What about you?” the ensign inquired. LeRosse gently touched the fur on her chest and frowned.
“These people that attacked us have no honor. Doing this to us is a disgrace, we should be allowed to meet our deaths on the battlefield, not as a lower lifeform on a deserted planet!” the Doctor angrily said.
“We aren’t necessarily going to die here, rescue may still come!” McKinley said in an attempt to calm the Doctor. As he finished that sentence, the doctor’s face looked odd.
“Doctor?” he asked. LeRosse looked at him and fell to the ground clutching her stomach. Her tail suddenly resumed its growth, growing longer and longer until it was as long as her torso. Her blunt muzzle began growing again, and her nose shifted shape and position down the muzzle as it reformed into a small black shape. As LeRosse opened her mouth, McKinley would see her teeth reforming into very sharp looking fangs. The doctor quickly began to lose mass as her legs and arms shrunk. The bones in her neck shifted and her heads position changed into a position that was facing forward relative to her neck. She tried to say to say something but only a series of growls and squeaks emerged from her mouth. She attempted to arise but her center of gravity had changed and she fell onto all all fours. Her legs and arms had become the same length such that the position was much easier to attain. The final stages of her change were completed as she lost enough mass such that she was no bigger then a normal river otter and a little smaller then the male otter that had been watching them. As the new otter surveyed her surroundings, the male (who had spent the last hour comforting the mink) excitedly walked over to her and sniffed her. He seemed very excited to be in the company of a female.
LeRosse was incredibly angry, locked in this body, unable to communicate or function as her former self in any conceivable way. Yet, something inside of her was happy to be like this. The playful nature of the otter she had become was attempting to assert itself. She could sense new instincts emerging, instincts that were telling her to go with the male and go for a swim. The male made several squeaking sounds towards her to try to comfort her and make the transition easier but she wanted to fight it. Despite how she looked on the outside, she was determined to stay ‘herself’ on the inside. But her struggles seemed in vein, her instincts were very powerful and although she felt she could control them, she also saw the futility of trying to act like something she no longer was. Perhaps a short swim would calm her down. Perhaps it would help her to focus her thoughts. She looked back at the male and squeaked a sort series of sounds that she somehow understood to request that he lead the way. He understood and started walking towards the water with her following.
McKinley could only watch in horror as the former Klingon walked towards the river with the other otter seemingly giving up on her life and resigning herself to her new existence. Despite what was happening to him, he was determined not to give in so easily. As if on command, his changes resumed. This time they focused on his arms. The hair on his arms quickly fell out as the skin on them shifted into a pinkish color with permanent Goosebumps. His hands tingled and his thumbs went numb. He watch curiously as both thumbs shrunk until they had been completely drawn into their respective hands. The bottom half on both of his arms were slightly drawn into his elbows. He wasn’t sure where the mass from them was going but got his answer when his fingers began to elongate. The fingernails on each of his eight remaining fingers were drawn into his body as the index and middle fingers on both hands were forced together and began to fuse. His pinkie and ring fingers did the same and merged before fusing together. All the while, his fingers were getting longer and longer. They continued to grow until they were nearly as long as his forearms. He again felt the tingling of fingers about to merge and his now near arm length fingers were forced together. A mass of flesh grew between them, but the bones seemed to remain as one.
Feathers emerged from each of the Goosebumps on his arms. They tickled as they grew and he couldn’t help but giggle. In less then a minute, his arms were covered in a light coating of white feathers but that was just the start of the process. A large membrane of skin grew from his armpits and down the top of his arm before attaching to his torso. His lower arms angled and a smaller membrane grew from the pits of his arms. Finally, a third membrane grew from the tips of his fingers and attached themselves to his elbows. Long white feathers began to grow from his arms and down the membranes, the longest being on the membranes in his armpits. Under those feathers and on the membranes, another layer of even longer white feathers began to grow. In a matter of less then a minute, he a pair of fully formed and feathered wings.
His torso (which had been getting plumper by the minute) began to tingle and he had the urge to stand up and try out his new legs. He very carefully turned himself over and stood up. As if guided by instinct, he folded his new wings just like a natural swan would. His neck was still aligned in a very human way and he found himself starting at the ground. Perhaps this wasn’t such a good idea (or so he thought). He wouldn’t have to worry about it much longer. He could feel the bones in his torso shifting, while some were melting, others were being created. His neck began to tingle oddly and he suddenly found his point of view shifting up. His neck was beginning to move up his torso! He wished he could have seen his torso as it was now, he imagined it must have looked very odd. His neck continued its journey up his torso and he soon sound himself looking forward. His turned his head as best as he could and was able to get a look at his torso. Its shape was not at all human, from the neck down; he looked like a giant swan.
After a few minutes of walking around, the changes started up again. The skin on his neck was the first to change. It quickly turned a pinkish color as its texture underwent an interesting change. What looked like Goosebumps began growing all over it. He felt a feeling not unlike the feeling he had experienced on his feet. An unknown force seemed to pushing and compressing his neck and at the same time another force seemed to be pulling on it. His neck was getting longer and thinner at the same. The sensation spread to his head and face as his neck was coated in white feathers, which seemed to grow from the Goosebumps. He felt a strong compressing feeling on his head as it began to elongate. Again, he experienced a feeling of both compression and elongation; his head was getting longer and much thinner. He had no way of knowing where the mass inside of his body was going. The sheer impossibility of what was happening was staggering and terrifying. But somehow, it didn’t hurt and his though patterns seemed intact. As the compression intensified and warmth began to build, he felt a tingling in his lips and teeth. His lips seemed to wither and fade away. His teeth felt like liquid as they began to expand into an orange mass. His eyes felt very strange as they moved to the sides of his now longer head. His ears were drawn into his skull and disappeared, leaving only small holes in their place. He opened to see that his vision had changed such that his field of vision was considerably wider. The orange mass that was growing from his teeth hardened into a long bill as it stopped growing. He felt a suddenly sinking feeling as the world got bigger as he shrunk to the size of the normal swan. As the feeling abated he seemed complete. He surveyed his surroundings and spread his wings in the sun. He looked to see the lake nearby where a pair of otters and a mink swam. The water seemed inviting and he began to walk towards it.
As he walked towards the lake, he saw a tiger with the remains of a uniform on its back walking up to the lake for a drink. He wasn’t sure where the others had gone and all he could do was hope that they were okay.
Barns started blankly at the escape pod. He had tried his best to get it powered up, but nothing had worked. It seemed he was doomed to live out his life as a kangaroo on barley known planet in the middle of nowhere. The thought angered him. But what worsened things were his instincts. They kept telling him to hop away and to forget his human life; he wasn’t about to do so.
Backburn paced back and forth, it had been hours since he had seen any progress in his changes. He thought that perhaps this is where they would end and how he would end up.
Soatome had developed a small tail but that was all. She was confident she too would be fortunate enough not to end up as a complete animal. Watching Barns, she could see that he was struggling against his instincts. In a way she felt sorry for him, and worried that he would lose control of his instincts and end up forgetting who he was.
As Barns hopped away from the escape pod in disgust, the group heard something flying towards them in the distance. They all looked up to see a federation shuttlecraft slow down and land beside the escape pod. Barns sniffed the area and could smell something that was appealing; there was another kangaroo in there, a female one at that.
Barns hopped over to the side door of the shuttle and waited for whoever was in there. He didn’t recognize the shuttle as one from the Beowulf and assumed that it was a shuttle from the outpost. Although he was not entirely sure as he was having trouble concentrating.
The door to the shuttle opened and he saw a female kangaroo standing before him holding a PADD. Sitting in her pouch was a chinchilla. She hopped out onto the ground and looked at Barns before handing him the PADD. He held it in his paws and read it, although he had to admit that he was far more interested in the female kangaroo.
As he read, a badger, hyena and horse scampered out of the shuttle and walked around the area looking for something to eat. After watch the animals scamper off, Barns resumed reading the PADD.
“My name is Tanya Umsley, 3 days ago my colleagues and I were changed by an unseen force. I managed to get this shuttle operational, when I saw escape pods landing I knew that another ship had been in a battle with whoever is up there. I landed here because I saw your escape pod and detected another kangaroo.” It said.
Barns looked at Tanya curiously; the sight of a female of his new species was certainly uplifting, although she seemed to be a different breed. She was actually a bit bigger him, but that did not bother him, at least not too much. They both looked at Backburn and Soatome, wondering why they were still mostly human. They had other concerns though; they were all feeling very hungry. The ration packs from the escape pod and shuttle was not enough; they needed real food.
As if someone or something had read their thoughts, they suddenly heard a sound similar to that of a transporter beam. They all turned their heads in the direction of the sound to see a bright shimmering light accompanied by a large amount of food materializing apparently out of nowhere. As the light faded, before them was enough food to satisfy them all. All of the food was food that seemed perfectly suited to each of their new species. The badger, horse and hyena immediately dashed for the food, the horse for a large pile of hay and oats and the badger and hyena towards various kinds of meat. The chinchilla’s nose twitched and he chittered and acted as if he wanted out of Tanya pouch. She gently lifted him out and placed him on the ground and he ran towards the food and began munching down on what looked like guinea pig pellets and timothy hay. There was another pile of food that smelled delightful to the two kangaroo’s, they looked at each other and then at the food and both hopped over to a pile of vegetables and fruit and began to chow down happily.
Backburn and Soatome looked at each other and then at the group of happily eating animals.
“So, now what?” Soatome asked.
Backburn started scratching his arms and chest and pulled up his shirt to see fur starting to grow on both.
“I think we are about to join them!” he exclaimed.
Soatome legs began to itch like mad and the stub of a tail she possessed tingled and felt as if it were being pulled on. The young ensign watched as Backburn removed the rest of his clothing and stood there as it wanting the change to happen. She could feel her tail growing longer and pushing at the seat of her pants and finally saw no reason to keep her clothes on. She finally threw them off (a feat made rather difficult with her paw hands) and looked down at her unclothed body in shock.
She could see her progressing tail growing and flicking back and forth between her legs. The hair on her legs was being replaced with a thick pelt of brown fur. Her legs began to shrink as the fur reached her feet and started reshaping them. Her human feet reshaped into large round cougar feet as her big toes were drawn into the feet and the bones in her feet shifted and changed into a thick rounded shape. Thick pads developed on the bottom of each of her feet. She suddenly found herself losing her balance and fell onto all fours. With the changes to her arms and legs she was able to stand on four legs with any problem. She turned her head as best as she could to see her now fully-grown tail swishing back and forth in response to the progress of her changes. The bones in her neck shifted and snapped, changing the position of her head so that it was facing forward and her neck was attached to the top and bottom of the back of her head rather then the bottom of it. Despite the sudden and drastic shift in position, she had experienced no discomfort or pain of any kind. She turned to look at Backburn who was currently in a state of change remarkably similar to her down, he too was on all fours, his arms having changed to the forelegs and his hands to the forepaws of a cougar. His head had re-aligned like hers, although it still looked mostly human.
She suddenly felt an expanding feeling within her rip cage. The bones in her torso were expanding rapidly, she was unable to see the changes happening to her, but when she looked at Backburn's changes she didn’t have to. His own body was undergoing the same process. They watched each other as their torso’s expanded downwards until they were at a size you would expect to see on a cougar. She could feel the bones, muscles and internal organs developing inside of her torso and she was beginning to feel very strong.
Her face started tingling and she looked down at it with her eyes. Her nose and mouth were expanding into a short muzzle with very powerful and sharp teeth and a very keen sense of smell. Her ears began to tingle, as they were absorbed into her head and new rounded ears developed on top of it. She turned to hear a growing sound and saw Backburn, looking at her happily. There was no sign her had even been human, and he was indistinguishable from a natural cougar. She imaged that she was in a similar state. Backburn walked over to her and nuzzled her as a gentle breeze began to blow through the area. For the first time as a cougar, she could smell the scents of the other animals and of Backburn. She felt very awkward having been turned into a female with a male so close. Fortunately for her, he seemed to be in control of himself. For Backburn, the knowledge that the female panther he was nuzzling used to be a male was enough for him to maintain his composure.
The two cougars smiled and admired their new forms, however long they were going to be here in these forms, at least they were in a form that would be interesting. They both walked over to the pile of meat. There was still plenty left as the hyena and badger had finished eating. Normally, they might have seen the kangaroos and chinchilla and even the horse as food. But with a supply of food somehow being provided for them, it seemed they would not have to worry about finding food, at least not for now.
What the next day would bring they had no way of knowing. How long they would be in these forms and on this planet, they too had no way of knowing. But, one way or another, they were determined to survive and even prosper!
High above the planet, the cruiser orbited observing the newest additions to the population. In a dark room with several monitors, an officer observed as the final two completed their changes and walked over to a pile of food and ate.
He smiled and pressed a few buttons to contact the command center of the cruiser.
“Observation room to command, the last two are done.” He reported.
“Very well, begin transporting all of the escape pods and any shuttles we missed.” The voice of the captain of the ship ordered.
“Aye sir” the officer acknowledged. He pressed a few buttons and switch one of the bigger monitors to a view of the two main continents of the planet which displayed the locations that the escape pods had landed.
With a few commands, he began the process of transporting them up to the cruiser's cargo and hangar bays. As he did so, the white dots that indicated the location of each pod slowly began to vanish from the map. Confident that the process was making headway, he turned his attention to a group of monitors showing the various groups of animals.
In one monitor, a white rabbit slowed down as it reached a forest. It had located something that seemed of interest to it. He watched curiously until he saw what the rabbit had seen. A pair of rabbits had emerged from a hole in the ground and appeared to be welcoming him to join them
In another monitor, a wolverine walked though the snow until it found a den in a cave. A bear emerged from the cave, at first he was concerned they would fight. But the bear seemed to understand who the wolverine was, or at very least that like himself, the wolverine was a former person. Both animals seemed to take comfort with each other and walked into the cave.
On yet another monitor, he altered the scanners to allow him to see into a cave. It allowed him to see a fox kit cuddled up with a pair of raccoons while an adult male and female fox walked into the cave looking satisfied. They had been eating only a few minutes earlier. The kit woke up when she heard the two adults come in and walked over to the pair, seemingly very happy to see them.
“Fascinating, despite what’s happened to them, they’ve still managed to bond and even form a pseudo family,” the observer said to himself.
He turned his attention to another monitor where a pair of otters sawn and played in a lake while a swan floated on the surface. A pair of ducks and a huge goose had since joined him. In a small group of trees close to the lake, a tiger walked with a lynx it has discovered. He turned his attention to the outpost; its powers systems were again functional but it’s communication ability had been completely destroyed. He didn’t see any way for them to communicate with the outside world. If any of those animals wanted to use the outpost as shelter, he saw no problem with that. With a flick of a switch, he changed the view to look inside the outpost at a group of quarters. Laying in a one of the beds was a ferret and marten. In another bed, a degu, chinchilla and black squirrel munched on some hay. Between the two beds, a wolf chowed down on a slab of meat while a sugar glider looked on.
He shifted the view to the corridor to see a coyote with a monkey on its back strolling down the hall. He guessed that they were likely still in search of a way to communicate or get off of the planet but it was too late, the outpost would provide shelter for them but they could never let anyone know of who they really were.
Once more the officer looked at the map, which indicated the locations of the escape pods. The last few disappeared from view as they were transported up. Their task was complete. Once repairs were complete, they were be returning home. Their devices would keep the animals well fed and healthy. The first phase of their plan was nearly complete; the real work would begin soon.