Mathias looked out the window at the front facade of the massive building. He watched the various people going to and coming from whatever it was they did. He realized he only knew the forest, and his friends Tomiroc and Kaniko. He knew nothing of what the lives of other people were about. He discovered that he didn’t even care. It would most likely not affect where his next meal was coming from or his feeling for his clan. He sensed Kaniko concert for his silence for he had been quiet during the whole drive to the Leakey Institute and had not engaged in the light ribbing that Nonna had given Tomiroc for only eating bacon and sausage for breakfast.
Kaniko leaned against the wolf and stroked the fur on his arm. Silently she asked him, “Are you worried?”
He snuffed at the glass, making a moist spot and turned to look at her. Using his wetwire link with her, he answered, “Maybe, I don’t know. I’m not sure that I want to know who I was before now.”
“What if I don’t like the person I was. What if we find my human family, what will they think of me? Will they want me back? Will I want to go back? Kan, I have no memories, nothing before the treatments that transformed me.”
His anguish filled her mind and touched her very soul. Kaniko wrapped her arm around him and pulled him closer to her. “You will always be part of my clan. You will never be alone.”
“I know, and I am glad.”
Nonna pulled the back-ranger to a side entrance that led to an underground parking garage. She pulled up to the gated entrance and looked at the security eye in front of the vehicle. A green light started to flash on the gate before them. It swung away from them, and Nonna pulled into the cover of the garage. She found and slotted the vehicle into one of the first available spots and shut down the back-ranger. She turned in her seat to look at Mathias and Kaniko. “Ready?”
Mathias nodded and unbuckled the safety strap that secured him to the seat and climbed out of the back-ranger. He sniffed the air of the garage and felt Kaniko’s paw slip into his. “It’ll be fine.” Her words of encouragement caused him to visibly, relax some, and together they followed Nonna and Tomiroc to a nearby elevator.
The silent ride up from the basement garage was only interrupted by the soft mechanical sounds of the elevator car’s movements. The box gently stopped, and the double doors slid open. They exited into a corridor populated with clinic staff. Nonna turned left off the elevator and headed down the hall. She gave a quick glance back at the others to see that they were following. She turned down a side corridor and stopped at a large mahogany door.
She knocked quietly, and a muffled voice answered, “Enter.” She turned the ornate antique gold winged lever and pushed the door into the room. She motioned the rest to enter. Sitting at a large red mahogany desk was a sapesyn. His hairless head gleamed in the white light from the ceiling panels. He was focused on the desk screen. A ghostly 3D image rose from the dark glass. His hands danced on the edges of the image as he manipulated the multicolored spiraling structure. When his guest reached the desk, he used one blue-green hand to squash the 3D image down and smiled at them. He stood and quickly walked around the desk and took Nonna into a hug. He dwarfed her, his large frame and big arms enfolding her almost completely hiding her from the rest.
“Nonna! What a pleasant surprise!” He continued to hold her while he smiled at Kaniko, Tomiroc, and Mathias. He asked, “And whom do we have here with you?” Before anyone could answer, he said, “No, wait.” He gestured towards Kaniko and stated with absolute confidence, “You are the daughter of Dutchess, are you not?”
A little stunned, Kaniko affirmed, “Yes, but how…”
He chuckled, “You have your mother’s eyes and her color. How is she and your father?”
“Uhm, there good.”
He released Nonna to reach out and offer his hands to Tomiroc and Mathias. “And who might you two be?”
Tomiroc took the medical sapesyn’s hand and shook it. Mathias gave a quick sniff before taking the other.
The male Otokononeko said, “I’m Tomiroc, and this is Mathias.”
Adrian made eye contact with Tomiroc and said, “Your eyes are fascinating!”
“I’m the only Otokononeko in the forest to have them.”
The cyborg turned to Mathias and asked, “And you must be our mystery being?” Everyone nodded. Adrian motioned towards the dark glass. “I was just going over the DNA of these Ōkaminingen. Curious, you differ from them physically.”
Kaniko suggested, “He never finished the final phase of the transformation.”
He smiled at her and gestured to the seats at the front of his desk. “Sit please and I will explain.”
They sat, and he moved back around to the opposite across from them all. He made a few quick motions with his hands and two spiraling coils of DNA were produced. He pulled from one a small section and spread it out in the air, above the black glass into a spectrograph of colored lines. He then pulled from the other spiral the same and spread it out and pushed it, so it overlayed the first. For the benefit of his audience, he said to the computer, “Compare sample alpha to bravo, show deviations.”
The two images merged and all the marks that were the same vanished, leaving two layers representing the differences. He allowed his guest to study the two images for a short period. “What you are looking at is the differences between the Ōkaminingen and your friend here. The differences are subtle but important.” He squashed the comparison into the glass and pulled up two more spirals. He pulled the same bit of code from each and duplicated his comparison from earlier. “Now in this comparison here I have the Ōkaminingen and homo sapien. See the alleles here and here?” Everyone nodded. “They’re the common base code for homo sapiens. Now in this other comparison, I have Mathias and Canis Lupus. You will note the same group of alleles are comparable.” He looked up at them to see if they understood. Upon seeing questioning looks, he continued, “The reason they were different earlier is that Mathias was never human.”
Kaniko said, “Wait! What? But Oliver said…”
“Most would have missed it. It is a subtle detail. And when Oliver first examined Mathias, he didn’t have this information.”
Tomiroc asked, “Then how is it you have a human DNA match in your database?”
“That is the interesting part actually. I had asked Oliver to transfer all the Ōkaminingen DNA data to see if they all matched comparably to the human in my database.”
Adrian paused long enough that Kaniko prompted, “And?”
A smile touched his smooth hairless face. “And, the Ōkaminingen all have different human parents. But their Canis Lupus DNA matches yours, Mathias.”
“So all the Ōkaminingen are my brothers?”
“Well in a manner of speaking, yes. So far all the evidence suggest that your DNA has been cloned, and it was used to transform a collection of victims, all seem to be human males between the ages of sixteen and twenty.”
Nonna, who hadn’t spoken during the whole discussion, postulated, “Mathias, or rather the wolf that Mathias was, supplied the people responsible for his transformation, with stem cells to transform some unknown number of young human males? And then for whatever reason, they decided to turn him from a wolf into a hybrid using a human’s stem cells?”
“Yes, I’d say that about sums it up.”
Kaniko looked at her wolf friend and commented, “Well, that I guess, explains some of his more canine like behaviors.” She smiled at the memory of him taking off like a shot, after a rabbit when they found the remains of the crashed drone.
The wolf asked, “Is the person in your database, my DNA donor?” Kaniko could see that Mathias’ hopes to find his family had completely vanished, and her heart ached for him. Unconsciously, she reached out and caressed his leg.
Adrian nodded and said, “She is. Gillian Grace is her name. She came in under the pretext of suffering from acute anemia, more than seven years ago. She was treated for an unexplained bone marrow deficiency. After a week of infusion, she checked out and went back to Oak City.” The medical sapesyn noticed Nonna’s eyes go blank. “Don’t bother looking for her. She is off the grid. The only record of her is here in the archive. Her unknown benefactor paid for her care from an unregistered account. I only know she went to Oak City because I remember her talking about it.”
Kaniko asked, “So you treated her?” The medical sapesyn nodded
Mathias looked at Adrian and interjected, “I want to find her. But not for the reasons you might think.”
Kaniko asked, “What reason then if not to meet your gene-mother?”
A dark shadow of a memory crossed his yellow eyes, and he said, “If my brothers experienced the same pain during transformation and are victims like I was, then we must find the source and stop this from continuing. Gillian Grace may be able to lead us to the people responsible.”
Tomiroc said, “Finding one unlisted person in a place with this many people will impossible.”
Nonna dryly commented, “It may not be as impossible as you might think. You just have to know the right person, and I also know who Gillian Grace is.”
“No, Nonna, you need to leave the man alone and who, then is Gillian Grace?”
In a no argument tone she stated, “Adrian, you can’t stop me from seeing him.” Then in a lighter tone, “Gillian Grace is the head of one of the largest crime syndicates in Oak City. I don’t know how you couldn’t know that. This woman, you had in the facility for marrow replacement treatments, did she have syntec legs?”
“She didn’t have artificial or syntec limbs.” He paused. His eyes flick one corner of the room, and he continued. “But the nano scans of her body during her marrow infusions indicated that her legs and pelvis were vat grown as their mitochondria are far younger than the rest of her body.” He fixed her gaze with his, “Honestly, I’m not worried about you. It is him.” Adrian pulled from his desk a digibadge and slid it across to her.
She looked down at the 2.5-centimeter medallion, “What’s this?”
Nonna’s eyes flashed up at him. “Will he become who he was?” The tone of her voice caused Kaniko looked at her cousin. She couldn’t tell from her body language whether she feared the idea or wanted the man to revert.
Adrian sighed, “He will be who he is. The original mental cleansing is permanent.” He touched the badge before her and continued, “This is his free citizen ident. I was going to deliver it to him in the next day or two. That’s why I requested for you to come here.”
“Why didn’t you just tell me?”
“I wasn’t sure how you would react to the news, and I felt it was important to tell you face to face. Not in a VS setting.”
Nonna looked down at the little round badge that would release the man that had been her owner. He also had been her savior from beatings, torture, and eventually death. She picked it up between her thumb claw and index and turned it over. On the underside was an almost invisible dot where the nanites would emerge to enter the body. Memories of the fight in The Arena flitted through her consciousness. She had nearly died that night for her desire to win his favor. She looked up at that the cyborg that she considered to be her surrogate father. “Can I give it to him?”
She watched as he decided. He finally gave her a slight nod. She took the digibadge and tucked it into the side pocket of her trench coat for safe keeping. She looked back up at Adrian. “Something else is bothering me?”
Adrian raised a hairless eyebrow at her. “What?”
“Why would Gillian come here for treatment?”
Both his brows shot up and he looked at the blank space again, checking the archives. He focused on Nonna and the others. “I don’t know. She did have one of the rarest blood types, AB negative, but that shouldn’t have made a difference. Any good hospital or research facility could grow blood.”
“Well, maybe we can ask her when we see her.” Nonna turned to look at the others. “If you guys want to find out who is transforming people into Ōkaminingen, then I know where we need to go next.” She started to get up and paused and asked, “Are you in contact with Lynn?”
The medical cyborg nodded.
She continued, “I have some information for her that you can pass on. It’s about the aliens.”
His hairless eyebrows rose up. “What would you know about them that she wouldn’t already know?”
She glanced at Tomiroc and he gave her a slow blink. She noted that Adrian saw the gesture, but pushed forward to answer him. “They are here to warn us.”
“Warn us? From what?”
“There is a race of beings, a horde of space faring beings that harvest other races and planets. The visiting aliens call them the T`ik`urimoti horde.”
Adrian looked at the three cats and wolf before him. “How is it you came to this knowledge?”
Nonna glanced again over at Tomiroc. Adrian followed her gaze and stared at the young male Otokononeko. Finally he asked Tomiroc, “How do you know?”
Tomiroc explained, “I have started to have visions. My first vision was the morning that the news broke of the Marshalls’ return. It was like I was watching someone else dream. It was confusing.”
Adrian prodded, “Have you had more dreams?”
“Just this morning. It was like I was in one of the alien’s head. Like I was him. I know what they look like.”
Adrian touched the glass screen and two images rose up. “Did the alien in your dream look like them?”
Adrian pushed the images back into the glass and stared for a long moment at the surface of the red mahogany of the desk. He said, “I need to know the details of your dreams. Will you permit me to use your wetwire to retrieve them?”
Tomiroc looked over at Nonna. She nodded and assured him, “It won’t hurt and you’ll be fine.”
He turned to the sapesyn and asked, “What do I need to do?”
“I need your permission when I touch your wetwire. Other than that, relax your mind. It helps if you close your eyes.”
Tomiroc felt Kaniko’s hand on his leg. Her claws gently kneaded smooth leather jeans. He nodded to the doctor. “Okay, I’m ready.” He felt the Adrian’s mental invasion and he watched in curiously as the sapesyn ran his memories backwards looking for the dream from last night. Embarrassment surfaced as the kissing scene flashed by. The doctor stopped at the beginning of his dream about the Ōkaminingen. He then played the memories forward and examined both dreams. Tomiroc discovered, there was a lot more detail than what her remembered. Adrian stopped at the point where he and Kaniko had fallen back asleep. He sighed, happy the man wasn’t going to examine his encounter with his two mates.
Adrian left his mind and said, “I will send this information to Lynn immediately.” Tomiroc opened his eyes and found the man looking at him with concern. “If you have more visions, let me know, please.” He paused, clearly trying to decide something. He glanced at Nonna for a moment then back to Tomiroc and his two companions. “If you or any of you need help, dealing with your recent experiences. I’m here for you.”
Embarrassed and relieved Tomiroc said, “Thank you, but we have each other for support.”
Adrian smiled. “Yes, I can see that.” More embarrassment fill the young cat. He felt Kaniko give him a squeeze on the leg.
Nonna broke the air of awkwardness. “If you’re done Adrian and you guys are ready? We can go see my friend.”