Keywords: Transformation, Scifi
Species: Human, Seal
Away From It All

	I've been reviewing over some of my stories.  I seem to like
the idea of transformation via genetic manipulation.  Well, here is 
another one. :)

                -----------------------------

Away From It All
By Wolphin.


The premise was simple.  Engineer a virus to safeguard and boost 
the body's natural immune system.  A deceptively simplistic 
proposition.  It took us many years of research to get even close.  
However, once we had unlocked the code, using it was easy.  
Getting it to work was another matter.

It was not until the fourteenth year that we managed to achieve 
what we wanted.  A normal virus invades a host's body.  It 
attaches itself to various cells, inserting its own instructions 
into the cell's production mechanism, using the body's own factory 
against the host.  We devised a way to combat this.

Natural viruses attack once, then quickly spread, trying to 
overpower the body's immune system.  Where the virus goes when in 
the body is usually random.  It is at the mercy of the blood flow.  
Our virus however was different.  Each individual spore worked by 
itself, but was constantly on the look out for similar spore's 
nearby.  If two were in close proximity to each other they could 
communicate in a fashion.  You put enough in a host, each one 
carrying out it's own individual instruction and pretty soon you 
had an almost conscious entity.

Our first attempts were like schools of fish.  We would infect a 
host, the virus would spread through out it, borrowing the body's 
cells to manufacture more of itself.  The spread would increase 
exponentially and soon the host would be filled with a co-
ordinated system of artificial cells, ready to rush to the point 
of any infection.

Then we began getting technical.  We decided that why not assist 
the human immune system if we could bypass it all together.  By 
using the resources of the gnome project a human strand of DNA 
could be analysed.  We explained to our virus how to read a DNA 
strand.  It learnt how to examine the body, it knew what it 
expected to find and where to find it.  If it came across an 
unexpected object within the body it would attack and remove it.  
With this achieved we were able to fight cancers.  Our engineered 
weapon seeking out tumours, destroying them before they had a 
chance to appear.

We began to run into problems when our virus began adhering to the 
DNA a little too rigidly.  Minor heart problems suddenly became 
major because the DNA had a slight kink in it.  Genetic diseases 
became a problem.  Normally people would be treated with drugs, 
but the virus nullified the effects.  More changes were needed.  
We gave the virus a syntax of a DNA strand.  Not rigid enough to 
lock it in, but enough for our virus to identify what sort of 
things it could expect to find.

The next stage of development came with the recognition of what we 
called psychic powers.  It was discovered that brain-waves could 
interact with the behaviour of the virus, much in a way that when 
one fish turns in a school, all the fish turn.  Through trial and 
error and many millions of dollars we managed to train the virus 
to lock onto certain thought patterns.  For example, if you had a 
nagging worry about your heart, the virus could take steps to 
strengthen it, ensuring it remained in top shape.  We deliberately 
avoided the virus being able to detect conscious thoughts, making 
it a more subliminal thing, ensuring people could not directly 
control it.  This enabled the virus to act more like a hive than a 
school.  It took orders from an individual even though that 
individual was unaware they were in control.

This was the sort of thing we had set out to control.  I can 
remember looking at the vial that started it all.  A tiny sealed 
glass container about three inches long.  It was the first time it 
was going outside the laboratory and we were not taking any 
chances.  Our backers had demanded to see what progress we had 
made.  They were not interested in reports, they wanted physical 
evidence.  We had tried to explain you could not see it, but they 
still wanted to.

Reluctantly were had made up this vial.  It was packed in the 
strictest of biohazard requirements.  The glass vial placed in a 
vacuum sealed Plexiglas container.  This was placed into an 
unbreakable titanium case.  The case was airtight with a negative 
pressure lock.  A portable biohazard detector was built 
internally.  If it detected a breach it would flash the insides.  
Instantly heating the contents to several thousand degrees.  It 
was a very effective sterilisation measure.

The case was effective, management was not.  Before the meeting 
our illustrious director had decided a titanium case was a little 
dull to look at.  He punched in the disarming code, removed the 
inner container, then removed the vial from that.  This he placed 
on in the centre of the table, illuminated by a spotlight for 
maximum effect.

It did not get the reception he had hoped for.  The international 
team of backers had flown in.  He gave his spiel, referring to the 
vial several times.  My understanding is one particularly dense 
member of the board had picked up the vial for a closer look.  
Naturally he did not see anything, so he put it back down, but a 
little carelessly.  There was a soft "clink" and a crack appeared.

That was all it took.

The director claimed he did not notice until after everyone had 
left.  By this stage they had fanned out across the country.  Most 
of them had boarded air planes, spreading out across the globe.   
Each of them had come into relatively proximity to over a thousand 
people.  

Two days later, when the director decided to tell us about the 
small crack it was too late.  We had enough carriers across the 
planet to make this thing unstoppable.  Tests revealed each of the 
board members were infected, their bodies filled to saturation 
point with our little virus, humming away, repairing years of bad 
eating, smoking, lack of exercise, balding.  Each breath they 
breathed out, expelling over a thousand of the tiny airborne 
packages.

All it took was for one virus cell to reach you and you were 
infected.  We had thought injection was the only way, but through 
the lungs or nasal linings was just as effective.  As was through 
the skin or even the eyes.  It took the body a matter of hours to 
become fully saturated and once infected it was too late.  We 
could not remove it.

Naturally we called the right people, had the city declared off 
limits, quarantined the whole country.  Once word got out, most 
countries closed their borders.  But it was too little too late.  
We had deliberately made the virus independent of the DNA of the 
body it was in.  This was done so it would not be locked into an 
individual race of humans.  What we did not expect was for it to 
spread to the other species.  The virus did not care.  It just 
looked for a host.  If it could propagate in the host, it was 
good.  If there was something for it to fix, even better.

A week after the soft "chink" noise, every animal we tested was 
infected.  Cats, dogs, humans, birds, even a snake someone had 
bought in.

At first the effects were good.  General health improved.  People 
started living longer.  Most were happy.

Then the secondary effects set in.  The ones caused by the virus's 
effects and not that itself.  Optometry's began to close as people 
stopped needing glasses.  Places began to get crowded because 
people were recovering rather than dying.  There were radical 
lifestyle shifts as people did things the did not before, or 
things they could not do before.  Some people were happy with 
these changes, others were not.  Our offices were invaded on more 
than one occasion.  We were branded as wanted and escaped, fearing 
our lives.  Taking refuge where we could before creating a fake 
past and returning to society.

About eighteen months after that the next round of changes began.  
We had never completed our tests.  We were unsure what would 
happen in the long term.  The virus picked up on the unconscious 
concerns of its host.  It had sounded like a good idea at the 
time, but before we left we had all wondered exactly what it would 
mean.

I had heard rumours about certain people.  Their bodies changing, 
but the first time I saw it was when I went into town.  There was 
the usual crowd of people, completing their tasks as normal.  I 
was sitting in a cafe watching them pass when it suddenly dawned 
on me, some of them did not look right.  Just small things, things 
you would barely notice, but once you saw them they began to 
become noticeable.

That kid over there had ears that looked slightly too long.  The 
woman by the shop had her hair running too far down her neck.  
That person walked in a strange way for some reason.  My eyes 
flicked around.  It was not everyone, only a few in fact, but 
enough to be of a concern.

I finished my coffee and went to work, no one there knew I was the 
team leader for the virus, but I had managed to get myself work in 
a little medical lab.  With the shortage of sick people around I 
could continue my research relatively undisturbed.  On this day I 
went to the main storage refrigerator and took a few drops of 
blood from the newest samples.  Returning upstairs I inserted them 
into the sequencer and went back to proposing theories.

I had a couple about what would happen, but I was not sure I liked 
them.  Up until now I had not been sure, but noticing the people 
today almost confirmed my suspicions.  A few hours later, after 
looking at the results my suspicions were confirmed for once and 
for all.

The virus had infected almost every living thing on the planet.  
Each host produced its own infectious cloud of viruses when it 
breathed out.  In this way every person had been infected over and 
over again.  We had thought that this would not be too concerning, 
but we had not counted on nature.

Like all natural viruses, ours had mutated.  Not a lot, only 
slightly in fact.  A logical mutation.  The desired DNA syntax we 
had programmed it with had changed to it now matched the primary 
host.  That was responsible for the changes I had noticed today.  
That and the hive mentality of the virus.

Very few people are totally happy with themselves.  You may think 
you are, but deep down there is this nagging doubt, "What if...?"  
The subconscious part of the virus had begun to pick this up and 
naturally make small adjustments to the host to compensate.  This 
involved some major reprogramming of the human body.  It took 
about eighteen months for the first changes to occur, but once 
started it progressed quickly, usually completed in the following 
six months.

The majority of the changes were minor, almost cosmetic.  Maybe a 
person's nose got smaller, or a spurt of muscle development.  
These changes were completed in a few months.  The longer ones 
only occurred on perhaps five to ten percent of the population, 
usually to the lucky few with a sense of imagination.

The addition of wings seemed to be a popular choice.  They usually 
grew from the shoulder blades, stretching out for a span of three 
or four metres.  To compensate the bones became hollow and the 
person's stature usually decreased, making them more suitable for 
flight.

Tails were also popular and there was a range of those as well.  
Varying from long prehensile things which curved elegantly behind 
people through to short stubby scaled reptilian things.  One thing 
that caused a degree of embarrassment was the number of changes to 
genitalia, especially to young males.  Changes to the mammary 
glands on females was less common, but did still occur.

I was a minority in the minority.  I received what they called a 
full body change.  I suppose after the incident I had just wanted 
to disappear from public view and hide.  I had noticed the 
changes, but I put them off, pretending they were not there.  The 
slight hardening in the fingers.  A stiffness in my walk.  It was 
not until the fur showed, that I agreed I was changing.

It was quick a luscious coat of fur.  It had appeared one morning 
like a fine down, covering almost all of my body.  In a few days 
it had grown quite thick and was increasing in length.  My hands, 
feel and nose were the only parts of my body not covered by it and 
they began to darken in colour.

I suppose I got worried when I woke one day and was unable to 
stand.  My knees had apparently locked into rigidity.  I could 
feel my fingers beginning to solidify and quickly called the 
hospital before my condition worsened.  

Like most during the change, I remember little of it.  The 
transformation taking most of your strength.  The hospital put me 
on a drip as I slept while they ran tests on my fur to see what I 
had become.

The next two months I felt as if I was in a cocoon.  I was dimly 
aware of people around me, but content to sleep and let my body do 
as it may.  My hands elongated slightly, black webbing appearing 
between my fingers.  A similar change passing over my feet.  My 
legs slowly fused together, extending my body down to my ankles 
while my arms were absorbed in to my chest.  My neck thickened, my 
head shrinking slightly as my ears disappeared.  My face 
flattening before several large whiskers sprouted from my cheeks.

When I awoke afterwards I looked around with my large black eyes.  
Nostrils clenching shut between breaths.  My mottled hide slick 
against my body.  The doctor arrived asking me a few questions, 
gauging my responses by waving flippers and horse barks.

After that was complete he informed me I was now a Weddle seal.  A 
juvenile one judging my weight and I was free to go.  

That left me a little stunned, but luckily a retraining group came 
by and picked me up.  It was a group of volunteers who specialised 
in getting people like me who had undergone radical transforms 
back into the world.

They were very effective at it.  I learnt how to swim, dive and 
catch fish.  I think I've retained my human intelligence, but it 
is hard to say exactly.  It has now been over fifty years since 
the incident and the number of humans has definitely decreased, 
but the number of other creatures is on the rise.

As for me, I spend most of my days lazing around the ice flows of 
Antarctica.  Occasionally I help out with a research team or two, 
but most of the time I just lie back and enjoy the tranquillity...




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Sheep go baa; Cows go moo.