Fresno, Institute of Synthetic Research
His purple eyes regarded them in silence for a long moment. They had sensed that which he already knew. This talent of theirs, this second sight had shown them a secret about their current patients. The ability to see beyond the normal visible spectrum of light seemed to allow them to see the emotional makeup of creatures, sentient and non-sentient alike. They had come to discover that not all the Ōkaminingen were victims. Many in fact were volunteers, and the aggressive behavior was already part of them. He had already requested, from Adrian Leakey, the pacification program used on criminals to program medanites for injecting into the Ōkaminingen that continued to be violent. It was, to say the least, a moral dilemma that he didn’t want to make. He had put it off, but now the two young Otokononeko sat in front of him, waiting for his response. He never wanted to be in a position to have to make such decisions. It was one of the reasons, he had separated himself from the other Evolved so long ago. He only wanted to serve in the capacity that he always had, letting his original programming make the moral decisions. It wasn’t till Robert that he realized that morality wasn’t so simple as programming. There were subtleties he had not known till his husband had so painfully taught him at the end of life.
Domic broke into his internal thoughts. “Doctor Quinn?”
He looked up at the young male. “Yes, your right. They need help. But, now we are crossing a line. We will become the arbiters of their fate.”
Domic chuffed. “But they can’t be just let loose. They will be a danger to innocent people on the street. They will most likely go back to doing what they were before.” He sighed harshly and looked at his mate. “Sharri, and I already have identified three top alphas. We feel sure that one of them will be the next Underlord of Fresno. The other two if they survive, will be his lieutenants.”
The blue syntec stated the obvious. “They have not been convicted of any crimes. Can we just arbitrarily force this fate on them. Once it is done, the fight will forever be gone out of them. Their brains will have been rewired, and once it is done, it can not easily be undone.”
Domic growled in his frustration. He knew the doctor was right. But what were they to do? They had to find a path forward. These genetically mutated men were nothing like the wolf he considered to be his brother. They were more human in so many terrible ways. So much so that if he met one in the forest, he would consider him to be a threat and would deal with him as such. The conflict of emotion turned his stomach into a maelstrom. They were supposed to be helping these victims, but they were not all victims. He glanced at his lover. She felt the same as him, they were a threat and needed to be handled as such.
Back at their apartment that morning before they had come to the center, they had sat and discussed it. She sat on the bed facing him, her splendid body revealed to him. He admired her smoky coat, its smooth, silky soft feel under his paw. Her breasts, firm and compact from her athletic build. They had stayed in bed, well after dawn. They spent the morning in each other’s arms, playing at each other’s pleasures. He found she liked to wrestle like a kitten, rolling with him and biting at his tail and paws. She was a morning cat like himself. She was always playful in the mornings, and he delighted in their play.
She drew his attentions back to her face. She was saying, “Nic, we have to tell him.”
“I know, I know.” He queried, “So the three alphas, what if we were to separate them from the rest? Do you think maybe the others would be less aggressive? Doc’s team has verified that the lycanthrope drug is out of their systems.”
“I suppose we can ask to do that. Do you think it is only the three? The auras of another eight seem to be similar as the three.”
“You think these eleven are volunteers and the rest are conscripts, don’t you?”
She nodded. “Hikaru is already home with his aunt and mother. Admittedly, he still has a long road of adjustment ahead of him. He is forever transformed.”
“Ya, I guess he decided against changing back. Doc promised minimal pain. But I suppose he has gained something that he didn’t have before.”
“Do you think it’s strange that there is eleven that volunteered?”
“What are you thinking?”
She said, “Something bigger is going on here. I don’t know what, but something doesn’t add up.”
Domic nodded. “I got two of the less aggressive ones, conscripts, to tell me where they were from. One was from here, like Hikaru. But the other was from Orange.”
Sharri speculated, “What if the eleven came from San Fran with the Underlord and his goons?”
He amended, “Well maybe the three alphas and a couple of the others. Do you think they were already transformed before they came to Fresno?”
“I don’t know. I wonder if Doc can test for that?” She poked a claw out at him and waggled it in front of him. “I bet that the lycanthrope drug didn’t get used till they got here.”
He affirmed her feeling with a nod. “You think Mathias’ dream occurred in a different city and the Doc did say that transformations most likely took place somewhere else. He didn’t seem to think that this doctor Piper had the equipment here to do the transforming. But the dream suggested it was him that transformed these people. But not all transformations were successful. Maybe the conscripts were the test subjects to perfect the process.”
She sighed and looked at the sun shining in through the partly shuttered curtain. “We should most likely get to the center. If for nothing else, but to discuss this with Quinn.”
Domic nodded, got up, and stretched. She watched him intently. He wasn’t much bigger than her. For a male, he was smaller than most. At first, when she realized that he, like her, had the second sight, she resisted the urge to be near him. She liked the look of the larger young males that paid attention to her. But she found herself watching him when he wasn’t looking at her, and the other Otokononeko were otherwise occupied. In some ways, he reminded her of Nausey. He was an artist and a gentle cat in nature, not at all a hunter. She thought, “If Nausey could see beyond the normal visual spectrum like her, then maybe…” She let that thought go and got off the bed to dress in human attire for the street. She liked the boots. Kaniko had said before they left where to go for custom shoes and clothes. Domic didn’t waste any time, he had them ordering clothes and shoes that would make them blend in easier with the locals. Sharri had laughed at him, thinking it was an outrageous idea that clothes and boots could make such a difference. But the very first day that they got to wear their new duds, people stopped taking as much interest in them. If they wore a long jack-coat, they stopped altogether. She didn’t at first understand why their faces were nothing like a human’s. Their ears, whiskers, nose, and teeth were feline. Not even their eyes were human, for they possessed the same acute night vision that cats have. Then one day, walking to Kay’s Diner, did she figure out why they didn’t notice them anymore. Humans didn’t look at one another in the face. Especially strangers that they didn’t want to meet.
This morning they made their way to the diner and Mags had their booth waiting for them and two cups of hot coffee with cream and sugar. The human girl had gotten used to them coming every day, at least for breakfast and sometimes lunch. They went once in the evening, and they were not as well received and Mags wasn’t there to serve them. They found out the next morning that the young human female only worked the morning and afternoon shift to go home and take care of her sister’s kids because her sister worked evenings.
They sat down, and Mags greeted them from the bar. “Hey, guys. I’ll be with you in a moment.”
Sharri picked up the menu and considered aloud, “Maybe today I’ll order something different.”
Domic raised a whiskered eyebrow at his mate. He said as a matter of fact, “You ordered bacon and runny eggs yesterday, the day before, the day before that, and so on. What, today are you going to or eggs and bacon instead?”
She looked at him over the top of her menu. Ignoring his jab and being funny, “Hmm. Maybe an omelet with ham and cheese, but no onions.”
He gave her an open-jawed smile and said with authority, “I knew it, eggs and bacon.”
“Is not. It’s whipped eggs, ham, and cheese.”
He asked, “Did the ham come from a pig?”
She gave him a very human expression by sticking her tongue out at him and giving him a quick raspberry burst of air across it. “Not the same thing. One is fried, and the other is roasted.”
Mags came to stand at the end of their booth. “Well, what will it be today?” She looked at Sharri and offered, “Two eggs sunny side up, four strips of bacon?”
Giving one last glance at her mate, Sharri smiled like a human and shook her head at the young woman. “Not today. I want to try the omelet with ham and cheese.”
“Onions or peppers?”
“No, thank you.”
The waitress turned to Domic and waited.
He looked at his mate and then to Mags. “I’ll have the same as Sharri today.”
Mags smile brightly. “Okay. I’ll have it out shortly.” She turned from them as she sent the order to the kitchen. Domic stared out the window at the humans passing by on the street. A few walking, but most driving.
She asked, “Do you wish we had brought a car?”
“What? No, not really. I was just wondering about my sister and brother.”
She reached across to him. “I’m sure everyone is fine. Kan has Tomiroc, Mathias, and Nonna with her and your brother has my brother with him.”
He asked, “Did Toke say anything to you before he and Jamel left out with Leakey as to where or what they were doing for her?” She shook her head. He continued, “I thought they’d be gone a couple of days, not a week. Where do you suppose they went?”
“I don’t know, love. But I trust Toke. He’s not the sharpest knife on the belt, but he’s got it where it counts in the end. There isn’t any cat that is bigger than him. He is definitely his father’s son.”
He smiled and teased, “Wouldn’t that be the same father as yours?”
“Hmm, maybe. But don’t you find it interesting that your siblings have more similarities than differences? While Tomiroc, Toke, and I couldn’t be more different? We’re not the only ones in our clan that are like that.”
Domic stopped drinking his coffee and looked at her for a long moment. “Are you suggesting that something, some manipulation is going on in your clan?”
She hesitantly nodded. “More than sixty percent of our clan are uplifts and most of the females arrived already bound with kittens.”
“So you think that Leakey is building diversity?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. But what if my mother was inseminated with embryos from several different fathers or …”
She had stopped mid-sentence, and he waited for her. But when she continued to stay silent, he prompted, “Or?”
She blinked at him. “Or what if she purposed designed my clan. What if we’re just a big experiment to her.”
He chuffed a laugh, and she glared at him. He quickly said, “But we are her experiment, babe. We have always been and will always be to some extent.”
He heard in her voice an anger rise. “Not you and your family.”
“Don’t get mad at me, please?”
“I… I’m not mad at you.” Softer she added, “I’m angry at her.”
“Yes.” She looked at her mate for a long time without saying another word.
Domic kept eye contact with Sharri. He knew she was thinking about their relationship. Weighing the odds that Lynn Leakey may have had something to do with their attraction to one another. He couldn’t blame her if she were considering their relationship. He knew that she preferred larger males and they preferred her. He was only slightly taller than her, and he was maybe three kilos heavier. He excelled in the studies of science and art. He was rather good at carving. His mother had a collection of the many animals and Otokononeko figures he had shaped over the years since he was allowed to handle a knife. His talent often left him in a quiet place to work the hidden form out of the wood. He rather enjoyed those quiet places. Sharri was from his perspective the opposite. She loved the social gatherings and was always interested in what others were up to. She was an excellent archer, a distance tree runner, and climber. He was sure she was thinking about these things too. He touched her wetwire. “Sharri, I understand if you feel our relationship…”
“Don’t you even.” She responded aloud. Silently, using their link, “I love you Domic Gamble-Walsh. Don’t you ever doubt it? If you do, I’ll lay claim to you by giving you some stripes on you hindquarter.”
He swallowed. Aloud, he murmured, “I’ll just take my foot-paw out of my mouth, now.”
“Giggle.” She gave him an open-jawed smile. “You should have seen your face.”
Mags came to their booth and set down their breakfast and filled their coffees. When she had left, Sharri leaned across the table and kissed him. She whispered, “Even if we’re together because Leakey, I don’t care. You are a great lover, and truthfully, you’re all I really ever wanted. I just didn’t realize it till just now.”
“Well, since we’re being honest. I never expected to have a mate. But, I’m glad you chose me. You have given me a purpose to be more than a mere artisan.”
She touched his jaw with her paw and stroked it. “Don’t sell yourself short. I admire Nausey for what he has chosen to do with his life, and I admire you for the same thing.” She gave him a slow blink of her dark blue eyes. When she opened them again, she added, “I think it is one of the things that I find very attractive about you. Your similarities to the Otokononeko that might very well be my genetic father.”
He smiled. “You should get tested and find out.”
She gave a little huffing sound. “What would it prove. I have my father, who raised me. It would most likely just upset my mother further if I pursued it.”
“Maybe you’re right. We should eat and get on the way.”
The diner was hours ago, and they now sat in Oliver’s office still trying to decide the fate of eleven Ōkaminingen. Domic suggested, “Sharri and I would like to separate the eight from the three alphas. Maybe their aggression will fade, and we only have to give the medanites to the ring leaders.”
Dr. Quinn simply repeated, “They haven’t been convicted of any crime.”
Domic’s frustration flared abruptly, “Then we should just let them go. Maybe they won’t hurt anyone. Or when they do, it’ll be our fault for letting them go.” He felt Sharri’s paws resting on the back of his. He took a deep breath in an effort to calm himself.
The doctor looked down at his desk screen and suddenly jerked up.
Sharri asked, “What?”
“I just got a message from Adrian. Apparently, Nonna and the others have found some very interesting information. These Ōkaminingen were created by the Neo-Technics.” He blinked quickly and looked at Sharri or Domic. “This organization is are pretty powerful groups of human scientist. They only serve those that can afford it. They have no morals of who they serve or what they do for them. It is about the bottom line, the money or riches. It has been rumored in medical circles that they perform cruel and often deadly experiments on humans and animals to further their own profit lines and goals. I fear this is a much bigger problem than what we thought in the start. Way bigger in fact.”
Domic asked hopefully, “Does this change your opinion on using the pacification protocol on the at least the three leaders?”
“No, it doesn’t. They have not been…”
“Yes, you have said it already.” The male Otokononeko sighed. “Can we at least separate them from the rest?”
“Yes. I’ll have my staff make the arrangements.”