A Sense of Duty

by Scott Anderson


Part 2

As the fighters rose above the minimum flight altitude Tom Carlson, took the opportunity to find out more about these new pilots.

“John Moore, tell me why did you join the air-force?” Tom inquired, as the flight reached it initial cruising altitude of 30000 feet ASL.

Moore replied, that when he was a young’un back in the depths of the east...

“ I saw a fighter fly by, must’ve been part of some show err somtin, but I wanted from then on be up there flying like the byrds .

So I studied reel hard in school and applied for the ‘cadamy.

Once in, I knew, I had to be on the ball, coming as I was from the boonies of West Virginia.”

He went on to speak about his 2 sisters and his ma, pa and how proud they were, that he graduated as a pilot.

It was when John Moore had told his tale, that the flight was passing over the edge of Oklahoma, and down through Texas, headed for the gulf of Mexico, when Harry, Gourye chimed in.

“My turn sir “ he calls excitedly even with the Voice distortion caused by the radios.

“Go ahead Harry “ Tom replies.” gently

Well I am Harry Gourye, From Texas my families, ranchers, but before you go on with the comments, we raise EMU’s.

But I I’ve always enjoyed flying got myself a crop duster to fool around with, my Dad noticed my fondness of flight and suggested I try the Air academy in Colorado.

So I applied and here I am.” He concluded.

After Gourye’s story the comm. chatter trailed off, as the pilots flew in peaceful quiet.

Until as they left Texas behind and started over the gulf. Then, Mike Redford spoke up.

He told his tale sad as it was, beginning with his parent’s death when he was 4 and ending with his successful graduation from the academy.

“Redford”, Tom called

“Yes sir?” Mike answered

That is without a doubt the most depressing tale I’ve heard.”

“Sorry sir”

Not your fault, but I think you may have made yourself the squadron sympathy case.”

As the flight continued with the new pilots stories now told, Tom began to test his new pilots ACM abilities.

“Right lads the game is to get a solid lock and hold it for 5-10 seconds, if you get a lock break it before that times over or your dead. O.K. No weapons releases!!

Understood boys?”

“Yes sir “ the pilots replied as they split off for the fights

Meanwhile at 9 p.m. in Toms home Samantha was finishing her supper, and getting ready for bed hoping against reasonable hope that her dreams will be peaceful.

After cleaning her teeth and brushing her hair, she went on up to bed, eagerly waiting the day when she would be allowed to stay up till 10 p.m. Like all her friends were allowed to do.

“Goodnight mom,“ she called down to Katie who, like most loving wives, had decided to stay up and wait for her husband to return.

As Katie watched movies and Talked to her friends on the diaphone, the hours began to slip away, here in the Carlson household.

Elsewhere over the Atlantic Ocean enroute to they’re first mid air refueling.

Time was moving much more slowly as it will when every second could be the difference between life and death,

“Right Moore you were ‘killed’ 3 times with a kill of the same be a bit more evasive in the next exercise, Gourye, Redford, not bad 1, 3, 2,2 respectively, but again bring up the kills per death ratio a bit” Tom, commented on his pilots abilities, as they refueled over the Atlantic via the KC135 (that had been assigned to fuel them on the outbound trip.)

As the fighters detached from the... they continued out over the moonlit ocean.

Tom clipped his facemask on as he gave the orders “Right lads accelerate to mach 1.4 and head for the deck min alt is 1000’ max. 3000’ follow me “.

As Tom matched deed to word his watch beeped midnight, unheard as the fighter’s sped along the ocean observed only by the moon...

Back at Tom’s home, young Samantha was again in the grips of her nightmare, the same that had caused her such grief.

As she tosses and turns in obvious discomfort

Her mind, young and innocent spun forth the nightmare that had been plaguing her for 6 years since she and her Family went camping in the Oregon woods.

Going on a walk with her family during the late night she fell down a shallow ravine, remade in her drams as a canyon as she landed a pitiful cry was heard from in front of her carefully she made her way to her hand and knees. Scrapes and abrasions in reality turned into great wounds on this dreamscape. Raising her head a bit she saw a wolf it muzzle bloodied in what appeared to be a young puppy a soft collar around its twisted neck.

The beast raised its maw as she screamed …

Calling her father to her at that point in time, merely awakening herself from her dream.

With a scream Samantha Carlson got out of bed put on her slippers and went downstairs where she could hear the television.

“Mom, I had that nightmare again, so d’ya mind if I just stay down here tell I feel calmer?” she asks her voice wavering slightly from fear

“Course not hon, I’m just watching movies and stuff tell your dad gets in.” Katie replies kindly.

As mother and daughter settle down to watch TV. And the channels one by one sign off for the night, Katie pokes Sam

“Hey shortie, “ she says in a conspirital tone, “want a fudge Sunday “

“Mom, really dad wont let me have them, in the evening say they give you bad dreams” Sam answers sadly.

Well if your Dad says no ... “ Her voice trailing off at odds with the gleam in her eye.

“Its ok I wont tell” she adds excitedly, as the clock over the TV bongs 2am.

“Ok then “ Katie calls out as she walks over into the kitchen to make the Sundays.

Meanwhile back over the Ocean.

“That’s good Redford, bring er back up to the rest, very impressive high speed maneuvering. Moore, Gourye, your up lets see what you’ve got, go low and fast I want seaweed on your belies.” Tom orders as the moon started its decline towards the horizon… A short time later after witnessing the low flying capabilities of the other 2 pilots Tom Gave out another order over tac 4.

“Right head up 45000’ ASL High altitude combat now.” He continued as he pushed the throttle and up and pulled in to a high gee climb.

Laughing as he did as his climb angle was far beyond what the aging F15 could do.

“ Boss” Tony’s voice came through on the radio “You know the eagle cant do an 75 degree climb so just quit showing off okay.”

Just having a little fun Tony I’ll meet you up there anyhow“ Tom replied with a bit of a laugh.

As the aged fighters met up at the altitude the moon was resting just above the horizon.

Lending a majestic air to the flight as they flew through the pre dawn light.

“Right ” Tom stated around 0300 “lets head for home”

As the fighters yawed around to return home they setled in for long distance flying.

The pilots began to chatter amongst themselves comparing, family lives, hunting tales, all the good things that would bond the men into a fighting unit

The miles fell away as did the time …

Back at Carlson’s house, dawn and the pleasant singing of birds woke mother and daughters at 6:45 am.

“Guess we fell asleep huh Samm?” Katie said in a tired voice. Looking at the half eaten Sundays from the night before

As the semi-asleep Samm nodded in agreement, the alarm clock in the kitchen switched on, the announcers drawl voice, speaking out the morning news …

“Good Morning, its quarter to 7:00, on June 17 the weather this day is set to be hot and dry…” The announcers voice trailed off, as Katie and Samm tuned it out …their attention brought back to it, as he mentioned partially confirmed reports coming in from the east of man-beasts.

“Mom what did he mean man-beasts?” Samm asks plaintively

Well I guess he means like werewolves and such “ she replied hesitating slightly.

Turning their attention back to the announcer. They listened carefully.

As the red l.e.d's flashed up 7:00 on the alarm, Katie felt a faint tingle on her lower back.

Thinking it was nothing she opened up a window as the feeling conteuned to grow it didn’t hurt but was an unusual, pins and needles feeling.

Only when the announcer yelled out” my hands my hands “in fact did she look at her own hands and the faint scaling that was taking place on them.

“Samm!” she cries panic in her voice what’s happening?”

As Samantha Carlson looks on her mother can be seen to change visibly,

Grayish feathers sprouting on her bare forearms and head.

Her face slowly was being push out into a pointed beak, fear foremost in her eyes as hey in turn moved to the side of her head. Swiftly now the changes were taking place; as the announcer fled his post in terror leaving the monotonous sounds of static.

Katharine “Katie” Carlson was shrinking smaller and smaller as her own rational thoughts were forced out of her head by an increasingly strong instinct to flee. Her size quickly dropped to that of a house cat, her hands extending in to a wing like structure, the primary flight feathers growing in at an extraordinary rate.

Soon where there was Samm's mother there was only a common pigeon …

“Mom?” Samm asked timidly lest she frighten her.

As it was the instincts that were in control of Katie’s body panicked at the sound, and fled for the open freedom of the sky.

“MOM…NO “ the anguished cry came from Samm, torn from her young voice with a force far beyond what her tender larynx should produce. Leaving her throat raw and sore.

After sobbing a bit at the loss of her mother and drinking some water to ease her throat. Samm went outside and witnessed the chaos that was rampant, as men and women were yelling, and brawling with others, some changed to a lesser degree others nearly all animal.

Hurrying back to the house, she took the sensible precaution of barricading the door, before any attacked her.

Where to protect her if any did get in, Samm went upstairs to her father’s bedroom.

“Lets see … Top shelf right hand side behind his hard backed War and Peace

Samm thought to herself, as she reached up and got her dads magnum.

“Better safe than sorry” Samm mutters to herself as she goes down stairs.

As the change completed, around 8:00am in Colorado, many down at the base felt a sense of rightness and completeness, permeate them, although many were still terrified by the sudden change of species, on the base at least, violent outbreaks were few and easily contained. Off base chaos still reigned, with fighting and lootings rampant.

Meanwhile at 45000 feet Major Tom Carlson was dealing with his own problems….

“Something’s wrong with my air man, there must be l.s.d or something in it, my hands they they’re turning into…. claws man “

Gourye called out in a bit of a panic.

“Get a grip Gourye your hallucinating “Tony stated totally oblivious to the treacle like feeling on his back and legs.

A feeling similar to that witch all the flight was feeling at that moment in time although not all on the same parts.

As Tom flew his own body was altering, from his feet upwards, while Harry Gourye ‘s was starting on his hands.

“Harry?” Tom demanded “ you ok, you still with us?”

“Yes I’m ok, but Tony it’s no hallucination these talon things are real what’s going on?”

As the discussion revolved around Tom Tony and Harry the slow change marched on …

Slow at least for most of the pilots of dagger squadron.

“Boss I’m sorry to interrupt …” Mike began “but my hands are kind of flukes now and I can hear this little voice in my head “

“Ok Mike just keep calm “ Tom ordered, “that goes for the rest of you as well”

“Right sir “ most the others replied, but from mike there was only a scream as his flesh quickly and totally remade itself in its new form, splitting the fuselage of the strike eagle along the top like an over stuffed sausage.

Finally falling away to let the Blue whale emerge.

“Ah high need water cold deep” the disjointed thoughts of the whales minds overpowering any sentience left in mike Redford’s body.

Slowly screaming out in the language of its kind, the whale began the long fall to its death.

“He’s gone boys tighten up keep you craft. -…. “ Toms voice was cut off by the voice of the ATC from Paterson

“ Repeat torture flight R.T.B, that’s a recall torture flight return to base …”

“Control we will rtbR.T.B but we’ve got some problems -. Tom replied

“You’ve got problem I just ate a earwig “ the ATC replies testily

You mean it’s not just us “ Tom continued

“No seems to be world wide, R.T.B ASAP, atc out “ he concluded as he cut the connection.

“Blast it” Tom thought to himself “what do I do I’ve lost 1 pilot already and still …” as a new un connected semi coherent thought entered his mind “ Too high too high… get lower don’t hunt here bad”

Holding out his hands Tom was Surprised to see them now covered with a gray-black fur?

While still maintaining their opposable thumbs.

“Flight lead to flight give me a status REPORT, I don’t care how silly it sound tell me bout your changes now.

As one by one the remaining pilots explained themselves

Starting with Tony who described his hands and his modified torso...

“Boss i've got the weirdest urge burrow under my seat “ Tony mentioned quietly

As he concluded his change update.

Harry what’s up with you

“Well I’m kind of in a tight situation here my body’s lengthened as have my arms

I’ve got my thumbs still but my 2 smallest have vanished” heads untouched and no voices to speak of but any bigger I might split the jet”

“Ok Moore details please “ Tom continued his voiced edged with stress.

“Well ya’ll I’m just peachy I’ma sittin on a big fat tail and have only got 3 clawed fin’grs, an one ‘ell of a craving for chicken... “

The voice in Toms mind was growing more insistent as his face seemed to push uncomfortably on his facemask

“I …I am the alpha… I will call the hunt… the females are mine to mate mine alone “

Tom could feel his mind fighting against the ‘intruder’

A battle for dominance inside ones own mind, the rational versus the instinctual, for the possession of Toms Body

“No, not a beast, a man, I AM MAJOR Tom CARLSON U.S.A.F, I am not a beast” Toms rational side battled back.

As his face became covered in the same fur his nose and mouth thrusting forward into a broad muzzle fitting perfectly into his changing facial structure.

His ears moving upwards into the proper positions,

His tongue and teeth reforming with a feel of warm honey, all the while Tom was busy keeping his pilots under control.

Back At Toms home chaos reigned outside

Samm watched in rapt fascination and horror, as the predators and prey creatures from around the world, Came to terms with their new myriad forms

Samm watched a phone at hand her daddy’s gun in one and a pencil to note down what happened.

As she watched gradually the thought that her mother was gone ... penetrated her clouded mind, as the long expected tears flowed down her cheeks

Slowly quietly she sobbed, disrupting a passing dinosaur like creature with a purse over her shoulder.

As the Saur turned to looks Samm raised her eyes and blinked

“A dinosaur that’s not possible “ her mind spoke out.

As the Saur passed by Samm's open window, she paused to speak “you OK kid “ the dino-lady queried Samm acknowledged with a brief nod her hand clenching tight on the revolver held in her hand.

Good the dino stated as she carried on her way.

As Samm watched and waited, sobbing occasionally.

She begged and pleaded with every deity that she could recall, for her fathers safety,

Back over the gulf as the fighters moved in on the way home Toms mind was awash with new emotions and feelings .His body twisting and writhing as the changes rearranged all his systems rerouting his ‘plumbing’ as it were.

“Tom I can’t hold on my arms …lengthening too long cockpit too narrow “

Harry’s voice broke out over the comm.

“Slow down to just above stall, and descend to 500 feet” Tom returned, hurriedly making a command decision.

“When you reach it go ahead and pop the canopy, but keep your mask handy, and be wary of flight difficulties” he continued, noticing, now as his own mask had been forced from his face at some point, hanging loosely by the other strap on his helmet

“Right boys follow Harry were headed down, keep me updated ok”

With the murmurs of agreement from his pilots Tom took stock of his own changes.

His head now felt like an Alsatians, while his flight suit was oddly loose and tight in the wrong places. Until with a sharp howl, he was finished the, last part being a long bushy tail.

“Boss, what wrong “ came the southern drawl of John now with a deeper connotation to it.

“Nothing just received a tail “ came Toms reply “you ok Tony “?

“Yea “ came a chittering voice “I’m fine, I’m a bit of Rodent I think but I’m ok “

Ok Tony “ Tom growled back his voice slightly rougher coming as it was from a changed larynx.

“We're nearly back to base 2 hours or so lets keep on top of it want quarterly updates from you “

As Tom trailed off the voices in his head began again but … it seemed as if his new instincts and his old rational, were coming to an agreement

“Right so were agreed you won’t try to take over, and in exchange you will be permitted unrestrained access to the senses offering additional information for me to act on “

The rational side said

“Agreed “ came the ‘voice’ of the beast within”. As it hushed to a whisper.

Tom could be seen to relax visibly, and moves to the side of Harry's craft

“Major “ Harry called over the radio “My, face it’s changed I’ve got this big sail like thing and a nasty beak now but I feel like I’m finished now “.

As Tom manuvered over to Harry, craft he could see a good 6-foot of arm hanging out of where the Canopy should have been, arms stat seemed to have a large ribbed, membrane coming off of them.

“ Ok Harry I see what ya mean ill get onto base and let them know I’ve got a wounded bird up here, Tom called back;

“ Nice canards by the way, Gourye”, Tom added as a bit of an afterthought.

Switching channels over to Paterson’s control frequency Tom began list in the damages to his flight.

“Uh Paterson friend this is Dagger lead I’ve a situation report for you over.”

“This is Simon Cartwright Atc, go ahead.” The atc officer said.

“I’ve lost one pilot, he became a blue whale he’s …dead, Gourye’s flying damaged

The rest of us are ok for now, over”

Copy that Major sorry to hear it, I’ve got runway 30 cleared for emergency landings, come on home.” Simon replied as he broke off the connection.

Tom switched back to squad frequency, and began to relay orders to his men.

“ Right lads were nearly home we’ve got emergancy clearance on 30 Harry, your flying damaged I want you to land first Moore, your next than Redford….”

Uh sir Redford’s dead man remember

“Oh yeah dangit ... that’s right, I must be tired or something, Tony your after Moore I’ll finish up last ok we’re 40 minutes out, any update from you guys,” Tom said in the clipped tones of one whose. Mind is stretched beyond endurance.

As the tried fighters completed their final miles, their thought’s turned to how they were returning, changed not just physically, via whatever bio-chemical, or whatever has caused these extreme and spontaneous changes but emotionally, for they had seen a comrade die not in a blaze of glory but in a wallow of misfortune.

“Damn-it it ain’t faar why in tar nation did Redford haf’ ta turn inta a whale of all critters “

Moore yelled out angrily over the radio.

“Moore keep your head, we’re flying low and slow any mistakes could cost and I AM NOT losing another pilot today!” Tom bellowed back angrily, his new voice deeper and with a snarl to it.

“Yessar!” Came Moore's reply, tight with agitation.

“He’s only saying what we all feel Tom, don’t be so hard on him “ Tony chided gently, knowing, only as a second would, his bosses temperament in these situations.

“Yeah I know Tony, I’m sorry, Moore its this change and losing a fresh pilot in the same day, I’m worried bout my family I mean what if they became like a fish or something “

His voice wavered, on the edge of breaking under the strain.

“They won't Tom don’t worry your family probably missed out of all of this, so relax.“

Tony replied, putting as much reassurance into his chittering voice as was possible.

Even with tony’s reassurances Toms mind, drifted focusing on thoughts of Katie his wife of 15 years and his daughter Samantha.

Reminiscing on all his memories and hoping for many more

“Atc to Dagger squad we have you at 45 miles and 500’. Hold course and altitude for initial; approach in 6 minutes, on runway 30, the pattern is clear.

“Copy that control “ Tom replies, absently his mind drifting still, on thoughts of his family…

Samm was watching the window while she listened in on the news keeping her

Young keen eyes alert for any thing, as the view through the window slowly reconciled itself to a semblance of sanity neighbors leaning on each other for support.

Some, trying to assess what they were, and weather they had lost any of their mental faculty’s, with the change, others trying to round up and contain those who were hysterical, or who had regressed completely into their namesake animal.

For there was a danger in those few, especially the large felines and the abundance of ‘prey’ animals and the risk of a kill…

Samm watches all these activities silently, waiting and watching for her father to come home, praying for her mother to return while knowing in her heart the latter is very improbable.

“Hurry home dad” Samm whispers into the wind

“I’m at 15 miles coming in on final approach” Tom stated to the Atc officer

Before he switching channels to order his pilots into a landing pattern.

“Gourye move in and prep to land, Moore follow him in 2 minutes behind, Tony same I’ll land last, got it “

“Yes sir “ was the unanimous reply, as the men settled in to the proscribed pattern.

Gourye’s damaged fighter descended to 250’ as he entered his last mile slowing his speed and lowering his gear he brought he fighter down till with a ear wrenching screech the tires made contact applying the brakes he slows down to a maneuverable speed of 35mph moving off the runway and on to the taxi he see’s what looks to be trouble.

Radioing up to Tom he reports

“Major I’d Get down here soon it looks like they want a word with you”

“Eight minutes Gourye I’ll be down in eight” Tom responds as the next fighter in line makes a decent landing.

“Tom do you want to go before me?“ Tony questioned out of respect I mean if your wanted.”

“NO we stick to the pattern your next I’ll be fine don’t worry” Tom replies with a bit an anger in his voice.


Tony’s aircraft wobbled a bit more than it should have as it came in to land touching down in a very poor manner.

“ Tony you ok “? Tom queried his friend

“Yes just a little shorter couldn’t quite reach do it properly.” came the chittering response from the ground.

“ Ok I’m coming in now “ Tom said as Tony rolled ff the runway on to the taxiway.

As Tom came in he saw that Gourye meant by trouble two mp trucks and several officers.

“Aww shit “ Tom thought as he rolled to a stop.

“Major please get out of the aircraft,” a burly bearish M.P. orders.

“All right all right “ Tom says as he vacates the vehicle noticing for the first time the extent of his changes.

He was to all intents and purposes your typical Werewolf, upright, with a forwards pointing head and digit grade legs, his hands, forepaws, yet retained the thumb and a good degree of flexibility his tail and nether regions were fully canine if appearance.

Tom felt and looked at himself for a few minutes before being prodded with the but of an m16

“ Come on get moving

Where are you tasking me “ Tom protested as he was being pushed towards the mps vehicle.

“ You’ve got a date with the base and wing commander… “ Came the reply.

“Great just great “was Toms response as he fumbled with his now ill fitting clothing, trying to get into the jeep, aided by judicious prodding’s Tome manager to climb in witnessing as he finished, his other pilots being hauled off in the other jeep.

After a brief and quiet drive Tom was roughly hauled to his feet by the bear like M.P.

“Come on let’s go, “ he ordered as he pulled Tom up.

As Tom stumbles into the base commanders office and is roughly thrust down into a chair

The mps moved themselves out of the cramped office taking up guard positions outside the door. As a screechy high pitched voice came from the desk in front

“Major Tom Maxwell Carlson, It would appear we have a bit of a problem.

“Sir” Tom replied uneasily unable to reason out his wing commander, and this bird like creature now occupying the space where his chair was.

“I’m talking about the loss of your pilot and the damage to one of the spare trainers F15s,

And what this means for your career as a pilot.”

“Sir with all due respect …”

“Silence” came the reply nearly a shriek. “I’ll tell you when you can speak, this matter is very serious, you’ll likely be court marshaled at the least. Prison and death at the worst

“But “

“SHUT UP “you’ll get your chance to speak now listen I don’t want to lose you your good, brilliant even but your getting on your what 37?” “Anyways if your age is taken into account, it’ll look like … well not good.” Do you have anything to say?

“Sir It wasn’t my fault I could have done nothing to save Redford “ Tom growled back.

“ I had no control over this this change…“ “Rend kill challenger “came the semi coherent thought of his instincts.

Tom had to hold himself back from leaping onto the Colonels neck and rending him to death.

“Be that as it may Major, something must be done as it is, you did well getting your men home even if they were wounded in the process, so due to the extenuating circumstances there will be no disciplinary action … at this time” colonel Jackson concludes

“Sir thank you sir “Tom gasps out in relief.

“But I will put it as under further investigation for now”

Now get out of here and see if the stores have anything that’ll fit you better, you looks disgraceful.” Jackson adds.

“Yessar” Tom snaps out respectfully as he turns smartly and stumbles due to his ill-fitting flight suit.

“Tom “ Jackson calls out as Tom gathered himself “just take it off for now till you get something better.

As Tom left the office Cornel Jackson turned to the other figure in the room.

“I don’t know about you Sir but him being in here made me want to flee,” he added in his screechy voice. Rustling his wings as he spoke

“Yes Jackson he did but not so much flee as a need to Flee but it was weak I suppressed it “came the voice of the base commander.

Tom fumbled his way out of the office area and striped off his flight suit leaving himself standing in his briefs with a tail coming out of the back.

“Fine sight I’ll make walking around “Tom muttered to himself as he furtively began walking, unencumbered now he was able to walk much easier hen while he was in his suit. Heading down the stairs to the quartermasters office, Tom was amazed at the quantity of scents he could now smell. Everything was clear to him the sealant on the pipes to the glue on the floor. Quickly Tom arrived at the Stores only to see a huge mass of beings all shape sizes and…scents.

“Ah sugar “ Tom moaned to no one in particular as he saw the crowd, “Guess I’ll come back later then. He commented aloud, as he left the area still wearing nothing but his briefs. Walking quickly away Tom decided to see what had happened to his men

Breaking into a jog Tom had to fight the urge to drop to a more comfortable 4-legged gait.

Heading out towards where the m.ps offices were Tom came across where some people were looking at the fighters and poking around in them.

“Hey get off em unless you got authorization for maintainance. “ Tom ordered angrily.

As grease covered vixen pulled her head out of the undercarriage ports.

“And just who the hell do you think you are?“ she demanded. Tapping a ratchet against her bare fur in aggravation

“ I madam, Am Major Tom Carlson” He bellowed back.

“Tom... “ She cried as she dropped her ratchet on the concrete, before rushing up and embracing him.

“ You look so different… I didn’t recognize you… your …what a dog thing?” Laura yipped as she released him from her embrace stepping back so Tom could see her

As Tom looked at his longtime mechanic, he was amazed at the differences now where she had stood even at his shoulders she was now down around his chest a cream colored fur covered her belly up to her neck, on which rested a more feminine version of his own ending in a trim and shapely muzzle, her legs digit grade like his own, her arms narrow and slender, almost delicate. But her face and her eyes still showed the same old woman underneath.

“Wow Laura at least you don’t have one of these “ he grabbed his tail and pulled it over where Laura could see it.

Ah but I do she replied as she spun around to reveal a tail tucked in the waistband of a pair of shorts. Laughing as she did

So Laura what’s up with the fighters?” Tom asked worriedly

Well aside from the canopy on Gourye’s there doesn’t seem to be much wrong with it

The balances are all shook up but …”

Sergeant sorry to interrupt but there more wrong with it then you think.” came a voice from the far side of the plane.

As Tom watched a 5’ platypus came waddling out. “Major sergeant” he began.

“What is it O’Toole Laura asked plainly?

“Well I don’t know how I know but i was checking over the flight surfaces and I could feel that there was some twisting and strains where there shouldn’t be …” Shamus O’Toole stated as he looked at the wolf and the fox.

“Are you sure” came the semi growl of Tom.

“Yessar positive it felt like I was part of the plane …and I could feel the wrongness of it in places” shamus stuttered the words out.

“Well shamus you better be right well get it into the shop and have a look Tom

Thanks shamus. Laura said as she began ordering her mechanics around again.

As Tom turned to leave he called out “Laura where are the others “

After he got there location Tom hurried off to them.

Arriving at his office and pilots lounge. Tom slowed his run to a walk,

As he stopped he began to pant.

“Blast… this fur” he panted out, as he entered his office and sat down still panting heavily.

“Tom “ came the high pitched voice of Tony “we’re in the lounge.”

“Right I’ll be right there “ Tom continued as he helped himself to a drink from the cooler.

Entering the lounge Tom was bombarded with questions running from were you demoted to why you in your boxers. Answering as many as was possible Tom struggled to get to the chair.

As the commotion settled down Tom took the time to look at each of his pilots that were there. First was the new pilot John Moore… Looking to the entire world as a scaly human with a gators head, he had a short tail about 2 foot and small claws on his hands, which other than the scales were unchanged.

“Looking good John so you’re a gator or something? Tom asked after recognizing him again.

“Yea…great aint it “ Moore replied happily. “ I've a always-liked gaters.

So Gourye… you ok “ Tom said to the tan fleshed thing with the huge wings

“Yea I'm ok my wings took a bit of a battering from the wind up there but I seem to be ok. The doc said to come back if they hurt me; she’s very busy Right now. “

“You look great… I mean with those wings on your arms, and that killer beak.

“Nah don’t trust em yet the doctor said.” Gourye replied.

“Hey Tom” Tony chittered. “What do you think of my changes “?

Tony Faria had been cursed with a thin layer of tan fur covering him, and a slightly pronounced muzzle, filled with 2 large incisors and his normal human teeth.

“Whoa you’re a rodent Tony!!”

Yea I know, but shouldn’t you put something on and go check with your family?”

Tony replied, as Tom leapt to his feet and started rooting in his locker for something to wear.

“Shoot your right!”I hope they’re ok” Tom cried

Settling finally on an old pair of kakis, Tom fled the office, landing lightly on his new paws he raced to his car.

Leaping into the seat Tom received a sharp reminder of his new condition as he sat on his tail, Curseing loudly Tom threaded the offending object through the back of the seat.

Turning on the engine he fled the base, eager to see his family while hoping they were fine …

As Tom left the base the traffic began to thicken with in a mile or so out of the base traffic had slowed to a crawl.

As he waited for the traffic to move again he could see off to his left many collisions and other motoring accidents: overturned cars and blowouts being common, Toms eyes widened at the scene. Minutes passed without any movement from in front of Tom’s vehicle. Shutting off his engine, Tom gingerly pulled his tail free and exited the car hoping to have a look for what was causing the hold up.

For as far as Toms changed yes could see there was chaos abandoned cars filling taking up space, wrecks and injured people taking up even more, while animals wearing cloths bellowed and challenged each other.

Forgetting his car in the chaos Tom began to run knowing in his heart that it would be hours if not days before all the damaged vehicles were removed. Passing a group of deer Tom was oblivious to the way they shied away from his as though he was some sort of a threat to them, as his mind was only on getting to his home.

As Tom arrived in his neighborhood streets were not so full of cars, people, he had to think of them as people regardless of there appearance, were assisting others in cleaning up the mess caused by violence in the change.

Tom gave no more than a passing glance as he ran onwards home beckoning the way the finish line does to a marathon runner.

Back at Toms home Samm was still scared silly of the strangeness outside the pistol held out ready to fire the phone in her other hand a busy tone blaring out of its speaker

“Get home dad please,” she whispers, glancing at the barricades on the doors.

Drooling heavily from his non-stop sprint, Tom ran up his street heading for his home. Sliding to a stop and trying the door, Tom growled lowly as he found it barricaded.

Walking over to the window Tom peered in his wolfish visage, plainly visible to any inside…

Samantha Carlson was waiting wide eyed for her father, and still in shock from the loss of her mother, so when a wolf peered in through the window her mind manipulated the image into that from her nightmare. A Drooling, snarling blood, covered beast, looked at her screaming shrilly she took aim and fired!

Tom saw the pistol in his daughters hand as she pulled the trigger moving aside slightly as he did the round aimed at his chest instead, struck him in the shoulder the impact half spinning him around as he gasped in shock …

She fired as she had seen so many Hollywood stars do in the movies her.

The round propelled by the powder flew straight and true shattering the double glazed window on its one-way route to violence. As it struck Tom in the shoulder, for an instant there was a red flash very faint as he spun by the force of the impact Toms hand went up to slow the flow of blood.

“Samantha Carlson!!“ Tom roared as he climbed through the shattered window

“What the hell do you think your doing…. whereas your mother…. Tom berated his daughter rage evident in his voice he failed to see her break down in to tears.

Pulling his hand free from his shoulder Tom was disturbed to say the least at the lack of blood and even more so at the blunted round caught in his fur.

“Samm “ he started again more calmly “ what’s wrong, i'm ok; where’s your mother? “

Through tears and wild sobs Samm told her father of the events of the morning

Stepping away from his daughter Tom stood motionless in his backwards shorts reflecting on a life without his beloved wife .So intent on his introspection Tom failed to hear the cries from out side of he’s loose get him stop him and more of the like.

“Freedom… hunger, “ a large Siberian tiger thought to himself, as he smelled man unfamiliar scents tasting them he located his prey. Slinking towards Toms house he saw his meal.”Sweet… young deer “ he thought as he prepared himself to spring through the “hole in the rocks” leaping in the tiger snarled. As it closed in for the kill.

Samm screamed, so loudly that it broke through Tom’s self-contained thoughts.

Tom turned sharply towards his daughter as his own mind snapped at this new threat to the last of his family

Lay off my cub demon” Tom snarled out as he leapt to defend his offspring.

In mid leap a Tom shrank hind legs shrinking head resetting to an even plain with his back the few colors he could see went in to muted grays and blacks as he shifted in to a large American timber wolf. Landing on top of the tiger the wolf mind inside of Tom began the dance for life his, (the instincts) Toms and the cub setting his teeth Tom tried to gnaw away at the neck.

The tiger noticing this new threat reacted hurling Tom off as he turned to face Tom, rage evident in both their faces.

Recovering his footing Tom ran at the tiger oblivious to the 4-1 weight ratio against him,

Running under the beast and slashing at the tiger’s legs with his teeth!

Snarling the tiger extended his claws and slashed back catching Tom full across the abdomen.

Tom gasped in pain as red-hot streaks of pain blossomed on his side, but he leaped back into the battle catching his teeth on his larger opponents side pulling off a strip of flesh!

Rolling over the tiger grabbed the wolf with his paw and slashed him with the other drawing masses of blood

The battle continued, those out side not sure how to help. Blood began to flow freely from both combatants, as they knew that there was no retreat save death …

Samm realizing the danger her only remaining family member was in grabbed the gun again, to shoot the tiger. Unable to do so due to the speed and ferocity of the fight, she held on hoping for an opening.

Tom through himself again against his titanic opponent gnawing at its skull tearing one ear clean off as he did, responding the tiger rolled and pounced a full clawed uppercut on the wolfs sTomach, as the injuries began to mount they both began to tire but one mistake now by either would cost them there life.

Risking everything Tom rolled on his back under the tiger and struck locking his powerful jaws on the tigers throat he worried it as the warm blood flowed, the tiger rolled desperate now to get the wolf off of him he planted both hind paws in to the wolfs body and pulled. The wolf went sprawling a goblet of meant in his mouth as, the tigers final play succeeded at a terrible cost… his own throat. As all his remaining lifeblood flowed freely across the white carpeting in the Carlson living room Samm took the chance to fire.... Once… twice … thrice, striking the dying tiger in his head spattering gray matter blood and bone across the room.

Tom stood weakly his own blood mingling on the floor. He walked over shakily as though he’d never walked before.

Blackness clouding his mind he looked on at his, for it was his now, child. One last shaky thought went through his agony-misted mind

“CUB safe … rest now.” As he collapsed unconcious to the pool of blood and fluids on the floor,

Samm dropped the still smoking pistol, and slid to the ground heedless of the blood flowing onto her blue nightgown.

Lifting the wolfs head onto her lap she felt for his pulse. Sighing with relief as her seeking fingers found it she stretched her arm out and got the phone.

Samm quickly dialed 911,

“911 emergency, we are sorry all circuits are busy please hold the line “ came the monotonous voice of the answer phone.

“Don’t worry d-dad she said softly as she petted his head. Thinking quickly she dialed Tony’s mobile and near cried with relief when he picked up.

“Tony Faria speaking” who’s calling.

“Uncle Tony its Samm, listen dads been hurt and the ambulance is busy can you get a doctor over now “

“Samm … what happ…”

“No time to explain just get him here NOW” Samm cried as she hung up

“Dammit Tony cried as he fled his desk.

Rushing as fast as he could towards the bases medical facility already filled with accidents and major injuries from around town. Grabbing a deer like doctor by the arm Tony explained as fast as he could.

“Right “ said the doctor let me grab my vet partner and well use the EMT chopper.

As the doctor fled off Tony called after him heed go secure it.

Within a minute the chopper was ready to take to the air the pilot, another canine morph more then happy to help a fellow canine.

As the copter winged its way to the place of emergency, Tony knew that if they weren’t there soon it would be too late

Before the chopper touched down the doctors and Tony were running to the house knowing now that seconds were vital to the recovery of the patient.

“Blow Me, “ cursed the vet, "it’s a bloodbath in here!” As the doctors began to examine and treat Tom, Tony comforted Samm, before taking a look at the less fortunate tiger

“Hmmm what have we here “ Tony muttered to himself. Around the tigers legs was a torn and tattered pair of jeans only the waist really remained intact

And a tell tale bulge indicated a wallet.

Fishing out the wallet Tony looked as the driving license “Paul Williams” Tony said aloud

“Who?” the vet asked as he pulled his hand from Toms open abdomen

“Our less fortunate tiger friend here… his names Paul Williams.

“Whatever … doc hand me that size 3 needle, “ the vet said as he worked on the lupine form.

After a few minutes of frenzied stitching and patching the veterinarian and the doctor had stabilized Tom enough for transport.

Tony stayed with Samm till she cleaned herself up to go to the hospital with her father

The doctors raced with Tom to the bases medical facility.

After Samm had showered and eaten Tony took her to the hospital, where she could wait for news on her fathers condition,

a wait that would be long and stressful for the young girl.

Darkness…. weakness…. sounds…” hand me that clamp … He’s a real mess “

Nothing … faint sounds … more images an antelope cutting my chest… “Ah crud his lung has collapsed” … darkness …nothing than…. Peace.

“He’s very weak Samm” Tony cautioned as he led the young girl in to the room.

Tom lay on the bed still in wolf form, bandages covering him all over, an IV in his front paw.

Strapped to the bed as a precaution of him lashing out while being in animal form, when no if he awoke.

Tom‘s form was an image of war … the battle for his and his daughter a battle he may well have lost.

His daughter sat down by his side and waited …

After a while the doctor in charge of Tom’s case came by, a low degree rhino morph

Looking at the girl and the wolf he decided to tell her, about his chances

“Samantha Carlson?” he asked pleasantly, trying to avoid the hatred that could result from his visit here today.

“Yes” she replied as she stroked her father’s head tears evident in her eyes.

“I need to tell you, your fathers very weak … he’s stable for now … Samm you know what I mean by stable?”

As she nodded her head, he continued “ he’s in a light coma … that’s a bit like sleeping only very deep, but there’s a small chance he might never wake up very small mind you but its there. I just thought you should be informed “ he concluded solemnly as he patted her on the shoulder smiling sadly, as he left the room.

Darkness… warmth…light… Blending together, the emotions and images colliding in his drugged soaked mind force new patterns of synapses and neurons to fire. As his body heals he struggles through a black mist preventing him form reaching the elusive light. Day and night-light and darkness, his body feels the passing of days, as he is powerless to act upon them.

Samm watches and waits, her school well informed, they understand her problem sending over her work, while she spends her time speaking and talking to the ‘Beast’ that is her father. Sleep when she gets it is now free from her nightmares.

Slowly day-by-day the mist that fills Tom’s mind lessens as he fights towards consciousness falling short most the time the monitors attached to him the only witness to this internal struggle.

Samm woke one morn her eyes damp from tears, looking at her watch she saw that a whole week had passed .A week in which someone in India claimed to have a cure for this change… a week in which many people had shown strange powers …and most importantly a week in which Samm had nearly lost her family in its entirety.

On the morning of the 6th day of Tom’s coma the mist finally dissipated

As he began the struggle he finally was able to crack open his eyes though what filled them was confusing and indistinct.

Tom opened his eyes and blinked as the scents filled his muzzle once more, now they resolved themselves to names and images Samm… his Cub… No daughter yes daughter … the acrid smell of bleach and cleaning chemicals overpowering many lesser smells.

Tom tried to move his head only to find it clasped between his daughters arms, her tear stained face pressed against his head. Trying to make himself speak, Tom was unable to as his throat was dry and parched, he did the only thing possible …He licked Samm's face trying to nose her in to wakefulness.

With a gasp as the tongue passed over her cheeks Samm was jolted wide-awake.

Screaming with Joy she flung her arms around him tears flowing freely once more, tears of joy though not of grief.

At the nurses station the young lemur morph that was on duty, was startled out of her crossword puzzle by Samms ear piercing scream she raced down the hall to Tom’s room expecting to find something wrong.

The nurse sighed with relief when she entered only to see Samm holding a conscious wolf‘s paw and talking as fast as possible to her father.

She left the pair, while she went to inform the doctors of this change.

After a deluge of tests and visits from doctors Tom was finally declared to still be himself and the straps were removed, though he was still in his wolf form it was still to be determined if he was stuck like that permanently, or if it was due to something else.

Some of the doctors even considered bringing in a person who seemed to be able to force one of these ‘norm’ shifts.

It was three days after Toms return that the wolf part finally acquiesced and released the shift so while Tom slept one night as a wolf he woke as a wolf man much to the relief of himself and Samm.

Waking Samm up with his own startled cry, Tom was very embarrassed as to his situation.

“Samm go outside… ill get something on and call you back ok and call Tony and the base let them know I’m ok Cub” Tom said in an embarrassed growl. As he tried to maintain his decency by staying on his sTomach

Shortly after Tom’s reversion to a morph form, Dagger squadron and the wing commander were at the hospital, celebrating the return of their commander and friend

. As the day wound into night, pizza, and drinks were ordered for the 2nd time, the group only stopped their cavorting, when a very strict midee rabbit morph charge nurse came in and pointedly said to them “ Major Carlson is still weak and visiting hours are over, you have five minutes to say goodbye and clear out so he can rest.”

As the nurse departed and the pilots filed out Colonel Jackson stayed a minute longer to speak privately to Tom.

“Major Tom Carlson, Again you have demonstrated your sense of duty, first as a commander keeping your flight under control and calm, and as a father “pointing to the sleeping Samm whose slice of pizza had fallen on to her blouse “for these things and more I have renamed Dagger squadron in your honour … Major Tom Carlson you now command Night-Wolves squadron”


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