FICTIONAL LIFE

 

 

ARION

©2022 by Ted R. Blasingame

 

Chapter Thirty-One - The Human Condition

 

“Tachyon message burst has been sent,” Arion reported to Dr. Kate.  “Translated into English, I have sent detailed Sori instructions to Arion-2 to intercept on its journey for genetic filter renovation to recombine human DNA back to its original design so that my other entity can implement the fix on everyone in cryo prior to arrival at Belle in three years. Also included in the transmission are detailed instructions on how to create a shield generator using existing Terran technology to protect the ship against the RD rays from further harming the living cargo.”

Kathleen looked up from her tablet on a park bench outside the Central Authority, where she had been adding to her journal more events from recent days. The day was partly cloudy and the recent morning showers had left the day smelling fresh and clean.  Beside the park bench was a maple tree sapling that had been grown from a seed imported from Earth with the hopes of introducing familiar trees around the town.

“RD rays?” she asked.

“Red Dwarf rays,” Arion clarified. “That has become the official nomenclature set by the science team for the phenomenon originating from red dwarf stars, the most common star type that causes the mutation transformations.”

“I see. I thought what protected the Sori voidships was their mirrored, crystalline hulls.”

“Negative. Their ships are equipped with a powerful generator for an energy shield that redirects the RD rays around them rather than allowing them to pass through the vehicles.  The crystalline hulls are merely outer shells for their voidship, much like the metal radiation panels we use for our vessels, only differing materials.”

“Ah, okay. Go on.”

Arion-2 will need to manufacture the necessary resources to implement the renovation procedure before it can begin, but once sufficient quantities are available, the process can be implemented en masse on the sleeping colonists. Due to their sheer number of personnel, it will likely take most of the journey from their present location to 51 Pegasi to get everyone converted back before Dr. Wildman and Captain Hatteras are the first revived.  Once awakened out of cryo, the captain’s command staff will be made aware of what happened to them, along with a detailed history of our arrival and day-to-day activities up until today’s transmission.”

“What will surprise them the most,” said the African lioness, “is when they finally get here and make landfall, they will find that some of our population are still anthropomorphic animals, those who have chosen not to undergo renovation and remain as they are now.”

She looked up when a native bird-like creature landed on the arm of her bench and chittered at her.  Its plumage was vibrant in color, and while it had what was analogous to an alligator-type snout and did not have a hard beak like the birds of Earth, it still possessed a beauty of its own. She watched a Terran cardinal land beside it and the two avians studied one another for a moment before they took off together into the sky toward the crater lake.

“I have included in my report for Captain Hatteras that those who chose not to change back are all fully aware that they will never have children to pass on their genes, but they felt having stronger, swifter bodies with enhanced senses was a better trade-off than becoming weaker human beings again.”

“That’s true,” Kate replied, “and thankfully those were ones who never had to deal with the personal demons governing predatory instincts against weaker prey.  They’ve come to terms with who and what they are now.  None were forced to refuse renovation, but they all had to pass Dr. Fernando’s psyche evaluation before they were given approval to stay as they are.”

“What about yourself, Dr. Kate? Will you make the change or stay as you are? Most of the population has already gone through renovation and it will soon be time for the command staff to take their places in line.”

“I admit that I have waffled on my personal decision many times,” she answered honestly, “but in the end I will rejoin humankind.  After all, saving humanity is the primary reason why we came to Bellerophon, and while I’ve enjoyed the robust health that I’ve had as a hybrid lion, the genetic reset will give me a new beginning with my old body.  I won’t have the pain and ravages of the disease to experience again, and while I won’t be as strong as I am now, I will be stronger than I was as a cancer survivor.  I’ll even have my head of natural hair again!”

“Are those the only reasons?”

Kate rolled her eyes as she often did when discussing herself with the Synthetic Intelligence, wondering if he had also been programmed for psychology.  “No, there’s also the fact that two years into my anthropomorphism, I still have the hunger for chasing prey and the thirst for blood.  I haven’t hunted down any of our own people, but I have let myself go out in the rainforest a time or three on solo excursions.  I like the thrill of the hunt a little too much and I have to constantly watch myself when I’m around large crowds of weaker human bodies, especially…”  She trailed off, but Arion did not let her off the hook.

“Especially?”

“No, forget it.”

“Especially?” he stressed.

She heaved a big sigh and looked around to make sure no one else was close enough to overhear her.  “Especially when I am around the children,” she admitted uncomfortably.  “They are entirely too enticing, so I have tried to make sure I am needed elsewhere when any are near.  I am a danger to everyone around me and I can’t afford not to go through renovation. The threat of becoming irrational scares me, Arion.”

“If your carnivorous instincts are so strong, perhaps you should promote yourself up in the roster for medical reasons.”

“I’ve considered that, my friend. I don’t really want to displace anyone, but all of the herbivores converted months ago and those of us left are all predator types, so anyone who has to wait a little longer will need to be someone not plagued by the hunting madness.”

“I know just the person to suggest.”

“Oh?  Who would that be, and why?”

“Dr. Kazama.  You had placed him on the roster ahead of you, but he has expressed an interest in being the last one renovated so he can keep an eye on everyone else who goes through it.  There have been no other issues with the process since Mr. Weathers, but he still wants to be sure.”

“That doesn’t surprise me, actually. Coming out here, he wanted to be the last into cryo and the first out of it for the same reasons.  I’ll ask him about switching places with me when the command staff meets for supper tonight.”

“I think that would be wise, Dr. Kate.” 

*** 

Kathleen Ruston looked across the tent at Kenneth Robeson and smiled shyly at him over a cup of hot raspberry tea imported from Earth.  They had taken a day away from their responsibilities to the town to spend some time together alone.  Their campsite was just outside of the crater ridge rock, actually not far from Zaizen’s original dome site and only a few yards from the Flitter that the former captain had piloted in.  A small campfire outside in the darkness slowly ebbed as the embers burned away, but there was no danger of it spreading since a night rain had soaked the surrounding terrain some hours earlier.

Kate studied the Black man’s human body, admiring his physique and the way his firm muscles filled out his tee shirt.  She knew she would have to get used to seeing him this way again instead of as a tawny mountain lion.  Like herself, Ken was in his forties, but he looked as vigorous as he had been in his twenties and thirties.

Likewise, her own renovation had given her a human body that was healthier than she had been in years, even before the transformation into an African lioness.  Her natural auburn hair was short, as it had not had much time during the renovation to grow long, but it was real and not just a wig to cover the hair loss from cancer treatments. She even had eyebrows and lashes to gussy up with makeup again, not to mention fingernails instead of claws to paint.

In the week since she had awakened out of the induced coma for the renovation, Kate had come to miss her tail and the way it aided her balance, and she had to break the habit of trying to get down on all fours when traveling; it just did not work the same way with human arms, legs, hands and feet.  While her human body was not as strong or agile as it had been as a lioness, and neither were her senses of sight, hearing and taste as sharply tuned to the world around her, she knew for certain that the predatory instincts that had frightened her were no longer there.  There were trade-offs in being human again, but Kate knew that it was for the best and she would always have the memories.

One of the differences continued to annoy her, although it had nothing to do with the physical changes. This had more to do with a habit she had formed over the past two years while having a body sufficiently covered in fur, and that was having to wear clothing again.   Over the past week on more than one occasion, she had caught herself leaving her tent in the morning wearing shorts without a top. It would have been a simple self-embarrassment if she had noticed it before she had left the tent, but when it happened in front of a crowd of people, that was something that would be hard to live down.  She had to laugh about it, however, since she had heard that other women had done the same; with this particular group, it was nothing scandalous and merely amusing to them all.

Embarrassment aside, Kate was glad to be human again all in all and she knew she would get used to it before long.  She had heard from Dr. Fernando that there were some who had second-guessed their decision to go through renovation, that they missed their anthropomorphic benefits, but once through the process, they were human for good.  Only a handful of the population had ultimately refused renovation, with the option to choose it later if they desired.  Ethan Edwards, Will Andresen and Victoria Barbicane were among a group of others who had all chosen to remain in the forms the red dwarf stars had given them. 

Sean and Dana Barringer almost had no choice but to keep their hybrid lapin forms when they had discovered that she was pregnant with a litter of bunnies.  Unfortunately — or fortunately, depending upon who was asked — she miscarried and lost them all before they had developed into living beings. Simultaneously devastated and relieved, the married couple accepted their renovation somberly, wondering how their lives might have gone had the Sori not stepped in to help them return to humanity.  As humans again, they made plans to start a new family right away.

Having gone through the whole ordeal together as a population, there were several couples who got together to form families now that they were all human and able to procreate. It was a time of rejoicing, and the remaining years until Arion-2 arrived to join them would be spent making the best of their new lives.  For many, it was if they had arrived on Bellerophon anew. This is how they should have begun their existence upon the new world.

Now that the last of the humans had successfully survived the transformation, the Sori would be leaving soon. Although there was still much to learn of the planet they called Serallasion, it had been decided to let the humans have this world to explore and experience. A recall had been sent out and another voidship would be along in about six months to retrieve them before pushing outward to investigate other worlds.

Ken smiled back at his fiancé and then knelt in front of the pillow he had been sitting on. He walked on hands and knees over to her and then leaned in to give her a tender kiss as he reached out to shut off the lantern.

 

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