|The Transformation Story Archive||With Fur and Claws...|
No Greater Love
Floating. A pleasant relaxing support. Breath in. No air, just water. Submerged! DROWNING!!!
In a blind panic Jeremy oriented and shot to the surface. Unfortunately his memory was a bit behind on current events and instead of just getting to the surface his musteline body broached two-thirds out of the womb tank and very nearly over the edge. While a panicked medical staff rushed to help him before he seriously hurt himself Jeremy tried to get his bearings. Something's happened, he thought desperately. Something I should remember but what? He couldn't quite recall it. Fortunately his body knew what to take care of the immediate needs. He leaned over the edge of the tank and vomited pseudo-amniotic fluid from his lungs. After what seems like an eternity (but was probably no more than fifteen or twenty seconds) Jeremy drew in a shuddering breath, his first in about two months. With the breath came memory. I'm in a womb tank, he thought. Seeing his webbed hands, (paws?) he giggled, I guess this crazy idea worked.
Jeremy took another deep breath. This turned out to be a mistake as he nearly started gagging on the smell, he thought the PA fluid smelled bad before he went into the tank, like a mixture of Ben Gay and radiator coolant set at a rolling boil. Now it's worse and the taste definitely qualifies as cruel and unusual punishment.
"Jeremy. Jeremy, are you with us?"
Jeremy look up and see Drs. Emily Korsigan and Richard Jacobs, the two geniuses that dreamed the core of the idea that he was sitting in. Jeremy was just the madman that devised the twist that made it all legal, sort of.
"Yeah, I'm here." He looked around, from the concerned looks and overturned chairs the otter morph realized that his surfacing must have caused a lot of excitement. "Sorry about that, I wasn't fully awake down there and I tried to breath, when I only got the fluid I panicked."
"Well, it was a spectacular entrance." He turned towards that voice, she is the ultimate reason Jeremy was in here after all. The two months he had been in a coma hadn't been kind to his kid sister. The arm that reached up to scratch behind one mobile ear was bone thin. Catherine had a colorful scarf tied over her bald head, chemotherapy had long since taken her brunette hair.
"You know me sis, always the showoff." He nuzzled her neck with his new nose. She squealed and pulled away, readjusting her scarf where Jeremy had moved it. Like a lot of cancer patients the loss of hair was the indignity that Catherine most wanted to hide. Well, Jeremy thought, she'd soon be on her way to getting that hair back with interest. "So when do you go in?" Catherine found it strange, her brother had a small army of doctors crawling over him to check his health and pull off monitoring and life-support gear, yet he was talking to her like the two of them were alone.
"Two weeks, maybe three. They," a quick jerk of her head indicated Emily and Richard, "want to do a full work up on you. With that data it might be possible to boost our chances to nine in ten."
Jeremy just nodded. Anthropomorphism-genesis, a term that was almost immediately assigned the slang morphing, is an insanely risky process. When he went into the tank the simulations said that the odds were only eighty-odd percent of living through the process. That isn't flirting with death, it's courting her. For Catherine and the other eleven volunteers that were going to follow him the chance that each had of being alive two years from now using just conventional treatments was less than the probability that they would be die in the tank.
He inhaled trying to separate Catherine's scent from the rest of the olfactory input. A wasted exercise, her scent's almost certain to change in the tank but good practice. Jeremy pick up the scent but something is clinging to it. Subtle, complex and with a malevolent tinge. With cold clarity he knew that this scent could never be explained to someone completely human, and he knew what it was, Death. No you bastard, he thought viciously, you won't get her. I've just made sure of it.
The medical crew finally finished unhooking Jeremy and lifted his human musteline mix body onto a gurney. He looked down at his new body, fully webbed feet and partially webbed paws, and a long muscular tail. All standard for a morph of Enhydra lutris or the sea otter. Disgustedly he examined his red-brown pelt. The PA fluid had completely saturated it.
One of the orderlies wheeled him out of the lab. "Walter, I know everyone and his dog is waiting to examine me but do you think we can detour for a shower first?"
Keeping friendly with the medical people paid off. "Sure Jeremy, anything for the hero of the hour. That stuff sure makes you smell ripe." A quick left and they were heading for the showers.
"You should try it with an enhanced nose." Jeremy replied sourly.
Two and a half hours later he was warm, dry, and probably the most documented living creature on the planet. The vet that was part of the team was ecstatic at finally having something to do. Maybe too enthusiastic Jeremy thought as he tried to find a comfortable position. He was personally amazed that so many samples could be pulled from one body. The tests ran the gamut from sensory, (eye sight up to twenty-twenty, hearing slightly better than average, smell remarkably better), to muscular (muscle tone needed work but my new range of motion is incredible), to internal. Some kind soul had figured out how to do most of the latter while he was still in the tank. The only downside was neurological, his involuntary reflexes were good but movement and coordination were shot. Not that this was news, it had become painfully apparent two minutes into after getting to the shower, when Walter had to wash him. Embarrassing, but at least it got rid of the stench.
A knock on his door kept him from drifting off to sleep. "Come in." The door opened and Catherine entered. She was the only part of their family that knew of his change, the secret was so tightly held they haven't even told their parents.
"So are you going to live?"
"Well the tests failed to finish me off, but.", Jeremy tried to wave with one paw. It wound up flopping around like a landed fish. "I've changed so much my brain doesn't quite know how to tell my body to do things. So the physical terrorist will have at me starting tomorrow."
"And how about..." Catherine seemed distinctly uncomfortable, and was unable to finish her question.
The otter could guess what she was asking. "The treatments worked, my mind and memory are as sound as when I went into the tank." The loss of memory due to regenerating the brain tissue was a big concern of the project. The problem was that some changes had to happen to the brain to handle the new body. Theory and animal testing said that the mind could be protected but that was a faint comfort when staring down a cold hard unknown.
"That isn't saying that much, volunteering for this is obvious proof that your nuts." She looked at her sibling with a glint in her eye that Jeremy recognized, and dreaded. "You know you being in this condition gives me all kinds of ideas." Catherine's smile was anything but friendly.
"But I'm your brother!"
"Exactly my point." She ruffled his head fur and left the room laughing.
Jeremy just looked to the ceiling. "I'm going to have to get better just so I can strangle her."
"COME ON, JUST TEN MORE REPS."
Jeremy bore down to do ten more arms curls, while indulging in various painful and vengeful fantasies. Jean, his physical therapist impassively counted the torment. Like most of the breed, Jean makes the Marquis de Sade look like a wimp.
"Great work.", Jean crowed as he finished. Also like all good therapists she makes it impossible to truly hate her. The patient hating the work, yes. Hating the task mistress, never. Jeremy just went into a boneless slump while his pulse was checked. Just two more weeks, he thought, and I can get out from under this professional torturer.
After being given a clean bill of health Jeremy made a rapid escape. Normally in his work out after the weight room came the pool. That part wasn't work anymore, but fun and something of a spectator's sport. Already Jeremy's mustline traits had let him unofficially break several swimming records, mostly in the mid to long range swimming distances. Unfortunately he didn't think the IOC would let him compete in the next Olympics. But there was no pool time today, instead the otter-morph wheeled towards the patient rooms. Having a wheel chair as the only allowed form of transport was an annoyance but at least he was self propelled now.
Jeremy slid around one corner just in time to catch Catherine being wheeled out of her room. Her smile could have lit up a stadium. "You made it, I was beginning to wonder."
The otter fell in beside her. "Nurse de Sade wanted an extra pound of flesh today. With a little luck I'll be out of the chair by the end of the week, then I can really get around. You're still not going to tell me what you picked, are you?"
Catherine smiled, "Trying to figure out what I'm going to be should give you an incentive to visit me in the tank."
"I'd do that anyway. Mom and Dad?"
"Already taken care of. I've left a videotaped message just in case I don't come out."
Jeremy just nodded, there isn't really much that can be said after something like that. Too soon they had arrived at the tanks and the medical team started their work. He remembered his own experience as the team gave the final prep injections. As they were getting ready to take off Catherine's hospital gown she spoke, "Jeremy, can you give me some privacy?"
"Sure, I'll just go ogle Rachel for a while." Jeremy did his best drooling fan-boy impersonation.
Catherine slapped him playfully. "I'm going to tell her you said that." She hesitated for a few seconds, then pulled the colorful scarf off her bald head. "Hang onto this for me?"
Jeremy took it, there was nothing overtly feminine about the pattern so he tied the scarf around his own throat. Reaching out a webbed paw the red-brown otter squeezed one hand and replied, "Just until you get back. See you in a couple of months."
Turning and wheeling off among the tanks, Jeremy left the medical team to finish its work. The first tank held Rachel, who was taking the biggest gamble of them all. She was a couple of years young than Catherine and had had her appendix removed in the days before blood was screened for HIV. The blood transfusion was tainted. That young girl was lucky to survive long enough for some effective treatment to be developed but six months ago Rachel's luck ran out when she became AZT resistant. Unable to tolerate the alternate treatments the womb tank was her last hope and it might be a false one. All the lab work on Jeremy's blood said that HIV would ignore a morph but there was no real way of testing that fact before hand. Emily and Richard had made sure that the tank wouldn't alter any HIV in them and all HIV infected cells would be destroyed by the process but there was still the unknown chance that Rachel would come out of the tank a Russian Silver Fox with untreatable AIDS.
The next tank held Toby. A great kid, with acute leukemia. He just turned twelve, every morph candidate had been there for the party, and according to his doctor's prediction he'd never live to see his thirteenth birthday. According to the monitors his organs had already shut down, the umbilical to the heart-lung bypass machine keeping him alive as he turned into a lion morph.
Jeremy came to the third tank, Catherine was already inside. He looked at the other nine, so far unoccupied, tanks. Nine chances out of ten for survival, at least one of them wasn't going to make it. The wheelchair bound morph shook himself. Enough moping, he thought, the tanks are only stage one, there is plenty of work to be done for this whole crazy idea to succeed. Pausing to press one paw to the Plexiglas side of the tank he left plan for the next hurdle.
"We have a problem.", Emily stated glumly.
A cold hand seized Jeremy's heart. "The equipment?"
"No, the equipment is just fine." Richard countered, "We have a grant review in three days. The government wants to show a couple of senators what it's spending taxpayer money on."
"So what's the problem?" The otter rubbed his muzzle with both paws, these skull sessions were eating into more and more of the day, but they were necessary. If the public couldn't accept what had been done they were all in serious trouble. "You told them what the expected result would be , right?" The silence that greeted this made the bottom of Jeremy's stomach drop out.
"It should be obvious from the data and lab reports." Richard mumbled.
"Did you two explicitly state them in the executive summary?"
"No." Emily looked worried. "We did say that the plan was to insert animal DNA, the whole project would have been shutdown for violating the human cloning ban if we didn't make that clear."
"Did you happen to mention how much resemblance there would be to the donor species afterwards?" Jeremy rubbed his temples. We really don't need this, he thought desperately. The last morph candidate had gone in two weeks ago, and the first, Rachel, was only three weeks along. Any attempt to stop the morphing now would be fatal.
"Not as such." Richard admitted. There it was. Since the reports went to bureaucrats only the executive summaries were read, or more likely just skimmed. All the parts telling giving the details of what was happening were buried in the body of the report, safely unread. However while data could be hidden in a report, hiding a six foot tall, bipedal otter that was the end result was not an option.
"We had hoped to hold this off until the second wave was out of the tank." Emily continued. "Write it all up and submit it for peer revue then, so that even if we were shut down nobody would be endangered."
Looking over the ruined plans the otter-morph felt sick. "Screw it. Let's hold a press conference in two days."
"That's not a lot of time." Richard objected.
"If we leave it up to an oversight committee someone might panic and try to shut everything down. Even if they don't escape punishment there will be a dozen dead people. By throwing this whole mess into John Q. Public's lap we get some protection."
"Only if they don't decide on burning all involved at the stake." Emily countered.
"That's a chance we all decided to take when this started, and right now we don't have the luxury of delaying." Richard stood up. "I can start things rolling, but you are going to have to be the front man for most of this Jeremy."
Jeremy felt a serious headache coming on. "I know, I won't like it but I'll be ready."
The otter started going over the thousand and one details that needed to be done. But first there was an important call he had to make. He picked up a phone and dialed an outside line, his tail swishing nervously. "Mom? There is something important I have to tell you and Dad."
"So Beth, what's so special about this panther dwarfism genesis?"
"The term is anthropomorphism-genesis Bob." Elizabeth Kernzy flipped through her press briefing. "It's a last ditch cancer treatment for people who's only other option is divine intervention. The idea is to insert animal DNA into the cells then to get them to sort of reformat themselves with the mixed DNA. The patient then has a body completely purged of cancerous and incipient cancer cells."
Robert Dawson looked over the food. It was the standard pre-press conference munchies, donuts, danishes, coffee, though judging by the amounts a lot more than one reporter and her cameraman were invited. "Important?" The dark-skinned camera man had the skills to demand a slot with one of the station's star reports but he liked working with the lower level newshounds. He got to be home with his daughter more often and the reporters actually treated him like a human being. It was an attitude that some of the prima-donnas that sat atop the reporter food chain could do well to learn. More than one hotshot had been embarrassed in a creative and deniable manner by irate production staffs.
"Potentially, they started human testing. According to this there is the possibility that anyone who has undergone the process will be immune to HIV." Beth looked around, this story could be more significant than the station thought, a whole lot bigger than what she would normally be assigned to.
"So if they got a potential cure for cancer AND AIDS why aren't they screaming it from the rooftops?" Bob shook his head. "There's something more, there has to be."
A new voice chimed in. "Well the HIV immunity evidence isn't conclusive." Both reporter and cameraman turned to the new arrival. The looks of shock on their faces were priceless, even for an experienced news crew the sight of a six foot tall talking otter was too surreal. As if nothing was out of the ordinary the red-brown furred apparition continued, "The lab work says I SHOULD be immune, but you'll understand if I'm reluctant to find out if the hard way that that's wrong."
There was a desperate need to deny what they were seeing. It had to be someone in a costume. But even if this person was someone in a costume Beth had never heard of one the you could eat a danish and drink tea while wearing. Even if that wasn't enough the subtle movements, particularly the tail and ears were too fluid and the proportions of the arms and legs to the torso were subtlety off. There was no way it could be a costume, the whole impression was too natural to be a fake. "Quite understandable. Elizabeth Kernzy, I'm with the local CNN affiliate." She offered her hand.
"Jeremy DuCharme." The webbed hand (paw?) that grabbed Beth's was firm, though she found holding it an odd sensation.
"I see why the invitation was low-keyed, I guess turning into a giant weasel qualifies as a major side-effect of this anthropomorphism-genesis."
Elizabeth saw Jeremy react with what she thought was a wince, with all the fur she was having a hard time reading his reactions. "What you become depends on the donor species, mine was the sea otter by the way, not a weasel. Also we call the process morphing, it's a lot easy to say."
"Sorry, this isn't something that they covered in journalism school." Several thoughts raced through Beth's mind. Foremost was that this was the story of her career, she'd better not blow it now.
"That's all right weasels and otters are the same family." Jeremy glanced at his watch. "We were supposed to start the press conference right now, but you can't really hold one with a single reporter. Would you like an exclusive interview instead?"
Beth tried to sound cool, "I'm sure that can be arranged." Her subtext was clear. Who do I have to sell my soul to? "Bob.."
"Already talked to the station, they want to know if we can go live."
The otter waved one paw, "Fine. There's a lounge just down the hall we can grab." Despite his calm exterior, inside Jeremy was shaking. He absolutely hated public speaking. Paradoxically whenever he had to do it that audience always said he sounded good at it. One paw reached up and fiddled with his sister's scarf. For you, he thought. "Right this way."
The interview started simply enough. Beth assured her viewers that Jeremy was no Hollywood trick and then launched into several questions that covered the background brief that Beth had gotten. Finally Beth got to the questions not covered in her press release. "Why animal DNA?"
"A proposal was originally submitted to use this process with human material. However it was ruled that this would constitute human cloning, even if it was just the patient's genetic material being harvested and then tinkered for reinsertion. As you know human cloning is illegal under federal law and UN treaty."
"How did Drs. Korsigan and Jacobs know that a cross species match would work?", inspite of reporter objectivity Beth was getting very interested.
"Early on in their work they noticed that the recipient of the treatment exhibited a blurring of its prior physical characteristics and those of the donor. As a sideline to the main research a cross species donation was attempted. To everyone's surprise it worked." Jeremy sat back and forced himself to look relaxed, even if he felt nothing close to that. "At this point the whole cross species effect was nothing more than a curiosity, a way to get a better understanding of what was required for a successful treatment."
Elizabeth whistled, "That must be some menagerie."
Jeremy shook his musteline head. "Only about a dozen crosses. Around this point a procedure was introduced to use pilot cell cultures to test a potential morphing, this greatly increased the success rate. After a while there was enough data to project the results from studying the cell cultures alone."
"So when did a cross species donations stop being the side show and move into the main event? And who first put the idea forward?" Let those brain dead fashion models chase the anchor position, Beth thought gleefully. This is real journalism, no copy, no scripts, just her mike and any questions she could think up on the spot. This is how real news careers are made.
"It started right after the rejection of a follow-up proposal. Right after the initial refusal Emily and Richard tried to get a special exemption. They argued that since there was only one body through out the process that it wasn't really cloning. They were still refused funding. Everyone involved in the project was rather upset and it's at this point that I started the ball rolling by asking if they could substitute something else in place of the human DNA." Jeremy sat back and tried to relax. This was not an easy thing because he knew that his words just planted him at ground zero for all the controversy that was going to follow this interview.
"What was their reaction?" Beth was slightly surprised by the revelation, she would have bet on one of the scientists being the instigator. Still it made sense that one of the test subjects, desperate to live, would push to find a way.
"At first they didn't think I was serious. After that they explained in great detail the most likely result. They were just about dead on with those predictions by the way. I think they were shocked when myself and a dozen others declared that we would be willing to enter the womb tanks even with the expected side effects. So we chose our donor species and left the technicians to start the pilot cultures."
"Any restriction on what you could become?"
"As long as it was a mammal, no." Jeremy reached up to scratch his muzzle. "That has a lot of the people involved in this scratching their heads, the difference of matching someone to a dolphin or a mouse vs. some primate is negligible."
"There are some that might say that death with dignity is preferable to losing your humanity."
If Jeremy had chosen a donor more associated as a predatory species the look he gave Beth would have made her afraid for her life. Reigning his emotions in the otter prepared to demolish her theoretical position. "There are two fallacies in your statement. One is that I lost my humanity in the change, I didn't. Humanity is of the mind," Jeremy touched his head with one paw, " and of the spirit." Then he touched his chest. "It is just as possible to not have a completely human body and be full of humanity as it is to be totally human in biology and not have a shred of humanity. The other fallacy is about the dignity of death. Death HAS no dignity. Anyone who claims otherwise has never seen it take someone they care about."
"I know that every one of the dozen patients being morphed right now has a terminal medical prognosis. Can you tell us about any of their cases or yours?" Beth definitely wanted some human interest in this story.
"Other than being slightly nearsighted, and a mild case of asthma, I was completely healthy when I went in the tank."
The completely off-hand delivery threw Elizabeth for a loop. This was not anything she had expected and her next question echoed the thousands watching (and the millions who would later see the tape). "Why?"
"I lost my grandfather to prostate cancer when I was in college, it was the worst time of my life. Catherine, my sister is in the tank right now, she has Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. That is a nasty form of cancer that starts in the lymph nodes. Her chances of surviving the next two years with conventional treatment were less than one in twenty. When the chance to do something to help her came up I couldn't not take it."
"How would your going through first help?" Bad news may bring in ratings but heroes were almost as good for viewership and they were the stories that reporter could take justified pride in. Press objectivity be dammed, Beth was going to let the world see this choice as heroic.
"A healthy volunteer had a slightly better chance of living through the process and even if I did die without a serious medical condition it would have been easier to find out what went wrong."
"How much risk is there?"
"Right now, between the pilot cell cultures and my data the chances are hovering at about nine in ten of living through the morphing process."
"And without that data you ran a higher risk of death." Jeremy just nodded confirmation. "If the use human DNA in morphing were approved tomorrow could you be returned to your old self?"
"No. The otter DNA that was introduced is bound to me now. Multiple morphings with human DNA might dilute it but there isn't even a theoretical method to pull it out."
"You must love your sister very much."
"Have you every lost anyone close to you?" The sudden change of subject threw Elizabeth off but she managed to shake her head. Jeremy continued, "Watching someone you care for die from something like cancer is a terrible experience, you love them too much to look away or ignore them, and there is nothing you can do to stop the disease. So all you can do is sit there and watch them die by inches. I went through that particular hell once with my grandfather, I would do anything I could to spare my sister that, and there is no one I hate so deeply that I would wish such a fate on them." Inhuman face or not the pain on Jeremy's musteline features and body was very clear as was his sincerity.
"But isn't this," Elizabeth waved in Jeremy's direction, "getting close to playing god?"
Jeremy shook his head. "That had nothing to do with what drove this project, not some desire to play god, or cold scientific curiosity, but the quest to return hope to those who have none. This advancement doesn't apply to just cancer victims." Jeremy lifted his tail without touching it. "Grab hold of my tail."
Elizabeth reached out to grip the caudal appendage. The experience was like grabbing a warm, furry snake.
"You feel it don't you? It's warm, alive, and a part of me." Jeremy pulled his tail back and laid it in his lap, almost absentmindedly smoothing the fur. "I came out of the tank with a limb I wasn't born with, complete with all the required bone, muscle, and nerve connections. Beside that fixing a shattered spinal column or replacing a lost limb is easy. One of the other people that is morphing had his heart damaged by a severe fever that he caught as an infant. He's AB negative and other factors make him an even harder match. He's nineteen right now, without a new heart he'll be dead before he reaches twenty. Thousands die every year waiting for transplants that never come. Morphing can save those lives."
"At a price."
"That is a question individuals will have to answer for themselves." Jeremy shrugged "I don't know what the response will be but personally I think a lot of people are going to be surprised."
"Thank you Mr. DuCharme. This is Elizabeth Kernzy, CNN reporting."
Peter Chatten silently plotted while the US House of Representatives went through its opening traditions. The House chaplain was a bit nervous giving his prayer, the chamber was more populated than usual for the Monday noon start of the House's business week. A full third of the members were present including the Speaker of the House, and the press gallery had more than just its usual C-SPAN crew.
This unusual state of affairs was due to the bombshell those two scientist dropped on the preceding Friday. The announcement of the morphing process and the interview with the first patient had the press in a frenzy, and they were looking to Washington for a position on a morph's legal status. However a call from one of Peter's contacts back in the Michigan state government told him they were all looking the wrong way. As the chaplain left Peter wondered how much Jeremy had in the planning of this. As far as he was concerned the senators made them jump the gun but those three had a plan even if they had to use it early. The latest news proved it to him, that move was too perfect to have been thought up on the fly.
"Mr. Speaker!", Representative Chatten called out. He had called in several favors to make sure he was first up in the days business.
"The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Michigan."
Peter walked down to the lectern. Based on his contact's call he had set this up in a hurry, all his remarks would have to be off the cuff. Still this move was as much for his self-image as for public image or political gain. He told himself that all the compromises were to get some good done, or to get power because without that he couldn't get any good done. This move was a risk but if it paid off maybe he would have a shot at a Senate seat, maybe he could convince Jeremy to endorse him. The otter certainly had good camera presence.
Chatten reached the lectern and banished all thoughts but his speech from his mind. "Mr. Speaker, I request permission to revise and extend."
"Without objection." the Speaker replied and then leaned forward to listen. Like any skilled politician he had a sixth sense when something was up and it was going off now.
"Last Friday something unprecedented happened. Honored colleagues there has been a great deal of question of the legal status of these 'morphs'." Peter could see that he had everyone's attention, his informal polling showed a lot of the members present were straddling the fence while waiting for public opinion, or someone else to stick out his neck. With a bit of malicious glee Chatten proceeded to wreak all their political calculations. "As of this morning that debate was moot." He had everyone's attention now. "At ten o'clock this morning the state of Michigan reissued a birth certificate and driver's licence for Jeremy DuCharme. By these actions the state of Michigan has proclaimed that the otter we all saw on the news was the same person he was before being morphed, if somewhat changed in appearance. Furthermore the Constitution clear states that any legal documents issued by one state must be accepted by all US states and territories, and by extension the federal government." Chatten looked at the faces on the House floor, most had the classic deer in the headlights look from being blindsided with the deceleration that they had been superseded. Several members were looking at him appraisingly, he would have to feel them out later for support.
"We are talking about American citizens who have gone to extraordinary lengths to live. Legally we have an obligation to uphold their rights. More so by our oaths of office we swore on our honor to uphold the Constitution, and the abridgment of any groups rights is a stain on that honor. Thus this becomes more than a legal obligation but a moral one as well. It come down to how we wish to be remembered, as enlighten minds that recognized a wonder and courageously embraced it? Or as ignorant fools that would destroy all that is different?"
"I know how I wish to be remembered. I stand before you now and declare that I will fight ANY legislation that would penalize morphs for wanting to live, or restrict the voluntary use of morphing technology."
Chatten walked back to his seat noting who was applauding and who was just staring. After a career of compromising, taking a firm stand felt good.
"Jeremy, you made it."
Jeremy looked into one of the waiting rooms. Catherine's friends Fox, Caesar, Quinn, and Gabby were there. Catherine hadn't told them what she was doing but when the news hit they showed up to see her. Tonight she would be coming out of the tank.
"Any problems getting in?" Quinn asked.
"Nope, but there are enough people holding candles out there to light up a stadium. I just swung by and saw Rachel, according to the test what little HIV still in her system is rapidly being flushed out."
"That's good news." Fox said, "We saw all those people praying out there, according to one of the doctors it's been like that every since the news about Toby's death broke."
Jeremy just nodded. For some reason Toby's body just didn't take to the changed DNA. His death had hit everyone involved in the morphing project hard and resulted in a massive prayer vigil for the health of the rest of the morph candidates that set up just outside the center's front door.
Gabby picked up a TV remote and started flipping channels. "I still can't believe how everyone's supporting this, I would've suspected that someone would have denounced the whole project as playing God."
Ceaser shifted in his seat, "Maybe people decided to grow up for a change."
A lot of pundits were scratching their heads and were trying to understand just why the public jumped up in support of the morphs so quickly. Some attributed it to the initial events, a single intelligent reporter versus a media feeding frenzy of average reporters, or Rep. Chatten's public support of morphing. Jeremy's personal theory was echoed by a major talk show host. "My friends, decent people rightfully consider anyone who would willfully and maliciously steal a person's last hope as a monster much greater than any that could be cooked up in a mad scientist's lab." He was actually using it to explain why a dozen or so congressmen who put forward bills to outlaw or restrict morphing found their careers in meltdown, but it worked for Jeremy to explain the whole reaction to morphing.
"Your parents going to be here?" Gabby asked. She had stopped surfing at the Tonight Show. Jay Leno was just warming up to his speech on how a lot of things would be changing because of morphs.
"Their flight got delayed, it looks like they won't make it in till tomorrow." Jeremy had managed to get some time home in between doing PR work for the center. In spite of his calls and all the press coverage the first face to face meeting had been two part shock and one part wonder. It also contained quite a bit of recognition and no rejection which made it just fine as far as Jeremy was concerned.
The brief pause in the conversation let the TV be heard. "And if you think those little bottles of hotel shampoo are practically useless imagine how a morph is going to feel."
Jeremy gave a groan and snatched for the remote. He fell short, and mean while Mr. Leno continued, "The people that will have to make the biggest adjustment are the animal rights activists." The audience made an incredulous sound as the otter made a successful grab for the remote. "Yes, it's true. For years they've been telling people that wearing fur is wrong, but what do they say to someone who grows their own fur coat?"
Finally in possession of the remote Jeremy starts looking for a different show. "Those jokes were bad." he complained as he looked for something else.
Fox gave the mustelid an incredulous look. "You should the last person to talk about bad jokes. I heard what you did at the Confurance costume party."
"What'd he do?" Ceaser asked.
"Somewhere he managed to find an Earth Alliance flight suit that would fit him and wore it to the costume party."
Ceaser looked at Jeremy in shock and said, "You didn't."
Gabby just looked confused and asked "What's so bad about that?"
Fox started explaining, "In Babylon-5, the main Earth Alliance fighter is called the Star Fury."
Jeremy found a late movie and stopped channel surfing, "I don't see what the big deal is, so I went to a costume party dressed as a star furry pilot."
Fortunately for his health the waiting room contained no heavy and readily throwable objects so the reply to his pun consisted of just groans and airborne magazines. Both sleeted off of his thick pelt without any apparent affect.
The otter was saved from further attacks by an orderly who came to tell them that Catherine was about to come out of the tank. Normally just the family would be allowed to see someone out of the womb tank, but Jeremy had managed to get the rules bent to allow his sister's friends to be present.
The odor of the PA fluid was still strong in his enhanced nose but now that he wasn't soaked in it Jeremy found the stench bearable. Catherine's tank was already half drained and a pair of orderlies were next to his sister in case her awakening was as violent as his was.
Jeremy looked at the characteristic black mask and banded tail over the predominately gray fur of his sister's new form. He would have bet on something feline, but given what he knew of Catherine just about anything nocturnal would have fit.
The medical monitors showed increased activity and suddenly the raccoon-morph woke up. The orderlies moved in to support Catherine while she vomited to clear her lungs. She was quickly unhooked and lifted out of the tank. When the medical crew started toweling her off Fox spoke, "We always said you had a raccoon totem, but isn't this taking things a bit far? Why didn't you warn us?"
Catherine suddenly noticed her audience. "What and give you guys time to prepare?"
Gabby chimed in. "There is so much we could have done ahead of time, you know a surprise party, locks on the garbage cans..."
Catherine started laughing, "That's what I was afraid of. Wait a minute, what are you guys doing here? This is all still supposed to be a secret. If it isn't where are my parents?"
Jeremy finally spoke up. "They got held up by a delayed flight, they should be in tomorrow. As for our secrecy things didn't work out that way, we've already had to go public."
Catherine was lifted onto a gurney. "How is it out there?", she asked with a degree of dread.
A smile lit Jeremy's musteline features. "Let me show you." Taking charge of his sister's gurney he wheeled her over to the closest window that showed the front of the morphing center. Jumping up onto the mattress with her he propped up Catherine's still uncoordinated body so she could see out.
Hundreds of candles seemed to cover the parking lot and several of the pro-morph signs were readable due to TV camera crew lights. Jeremy hugged his sister, "It going to be alright, everything is going to be alright."
No Greater Love copyright 1999 by Anonymous.
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