Shattered States
by The Nomadic Dragon

1999


Part 1
Morning Mayhem


I sighed and stared out over my domain. Red, blue, and green lights seemed chaotically spread across my view, hints of patterns contained within. The large gray moon looked down from higher up, and I knew it would see the lights arranged in patterns of huge thin triangles. It was setting, however, and would soon seem them as I did, before passing from view. Wispy clouds were scattered far across the sky, the east most ones tinged a glowing deep red from the sun about to rise, the west most ones silver with the moon's reflected light. My monitors showed the temperature was warm, but not too much so, with a light wind... developing into a stuff wind. Troubled brewed to the north, as a large shape swooped in from the east, its aft parts glowing in a light flame-blue...

A voice crackled over the intercom, to invaded my content overview. "N99-D to Tower, requesting permission to land."

"N99-D, you're cleared for landing. Ceiling is currently unlimited, visibility 8 kilometers. Large thunderstorm developing to the north, 15 kilometers. Be advised the wind is out of the north at 5 knots. Over" I said.

"Roger, Tower. Thank you for the information, correcting now. Over" The jumbo jet twisted laterally a few degrees into the wind, keeping it in line with the runway against the slight force of the wind on it's huge bulk.

I propped my feet up on the console and watched the jet come in for the landing. Slow night, I mused, in nearly eight...well, four actually, swapping with the two other ait traffic-certified personell in the tower meant less time on me, hours pulling the graveyard shift only a half-dozen planes had been here all night. The sun was just beginning to peak over the horizon, giving the white jet a rose tint. I glanced at the clock... 5:59am. Only a few minutes until I could leave...

My head swam for a second, probably from lack of sleep. The huge jet was only a few dozen meters off the ground now, the skill of the pilot evident in the metal bird's grace... Dizziness hit me again, and my vision distorted. The jet began to roll suddenly, but slowly, its wingtip a bare meter from the ground in less than two seconds. I shook my head, then looked again. It still seemed to be in severe danger, not rolling back.

"Tower to November niner niner december! Your wing is about to hit the ground! Over!!", I yelled into the mike. A harsh mechanical squawk replied, riddled by static. The jet rolled a bit more, its wingtip brushing the ground.

I jumped up and crossed the tower cab in a few long strides. A small red button under a plastic case glowed dully, silently waiting for something like this. With a quick flick and a stab, sirens blasted all through the tower and lights flashed all over the airport, summoning the rescue craft. I turned back to look at the aircraft...

The left wing had impacted, the tip snapping off. Then it had cartwheeled over, smashing the nose. The tail sheared at that point, snapping off and being flung hard and fast along the runway. The ruined jet continued to roll, its right wing slamming into the asphalt. The wing's fueltank exploded, followed quickly thereafter by the stub of the left wing's fueltank. The fuselage, crumpled between the near-simultaneous blasts, shredded from the titanium-aluminum alloy shards, folded over on itself as the stub of the tail hit the ground.

Never have I seen such a horrible sight... ever. The fireball that used to be a gleaming white Boeing 777 rolled down the runway, over three hundred people now dead or dying inside it. Sequential explosions rippled the twisted length of fusalage, almost certainly the emergency oxygen bottles. I slammed a few more times on the button.

The flaming jet came to a stop around mid-runway, having skidded and rolled over seven football fields in length. Fuel flowed from the ruptured tanks; flames licking along its surface...and the disaster vehicles were slowly, finally, pulling out of their hangers.

More alarms blared from the cab loudspeaker. There were a few other workers in the tower with me, and all of them seemed to have hit medical emergency alarms. I spun around and dashed across the room to the stairwell. I was freaking scared as hell. Something far more than just a fatal plane crash and a half-dozen medical emergencies was going on. I ran to the intercom and flipped a switch... and to top everything else, it didn't work.

I'd have to run through the tower crying fire, it seemed. The Paul Revier of the 1990 Regional Air Traffic Control Center...

As I reached for the gleaming door-handle, an icy fist grabbed my stomach...everything was happening too fast. My nails were a dark black, I noticed. Pulling open the door, I ran ran down the steps.

The control room. Normally lights silently blink on and off in blackness absolute except for the pale green glow of radar screens, silent except for the quantum computers humming softly, odorless except for the antiseptic way the air filters left the air. Now a sickly red from emergency lighting, the air heavy, with lights blinking, flickering, and pulsing in panic, creating quite a lightshow... that I didn't have time to appreciate. Normally occupied by two normal humans... well, abnormal is the order of the day...

Entering the room, I heard voices. Standing in the middle of the room are two people. One is a tall, with her face pushed forward into a snout (which she is feeling with her hands), the other a shorter man, the tip of a tail poking from then end of his pantleg. Both don't seem to notice the myriad of frantically flashing lights, or me entering.

"...just look at me! How can you ask if I'm all right? You have a goddamned tail, and my fucking nose is huge!. How the hell can you ask if I'm all right? My hairspray stinks like shit!"

Recognizing my boss for her coarse language, Stacey, the guy with the rat-tail was my friend, Mark. I didn't take time to listen in to hear any more. People where dying, a plane flaming. Nothing mattered but getting help for them.

"Stacy! Shit, calm down for a second! Flight 914 just smashed itself on the runway and shattered!"

She started, noticing me for the first time. She spun around to look at me, and I saw the tip of her muzzle was black, with sparse red fur. Her eyes rapidly uncrossed from focusing on it, to focus on me. Sensing I was serious, she calmed down instantly at my words. Always a rock and clear-headed under pressure, she spun and dived for a red phone. Direct line to every local fire station, police station, and hospital for an hour in every direction. As she quickly had emergency help dispatched, I turned to run back up the stairs. Mark joined me as I ran, limpingly slightly as he delt with his tail.

"What the hell happened?" he asked.

"God, I don't know, " take steps two at a time, then three, stating to leave him behind, then slowing down to let him catch up, "The plane just rolled and made like butter on a hot piece of toast. And what the hell happened to you and Stacy? Fursuit party that I wasn't told about?"

He shrugged, "No... I was just sitting there watching the flight come in on radar, then felt dizzy--"

"You too? Right after than the jet rolled." I interrupted.

"Yeah... anyway, it happened again, then... well..." he gestured at himself as he trotted along. A long tail began where his spine ended, his face was different... especially his ears, which were a bit high and pointed. Sparse fur like Stacey's, but grayish, covered his face and parts of his forearms.

"And your not so unchanged yourself, you know..." Mark continued, indicating my hands.

"Yeah, well, forgot about that..." I replied quickly. We reached the tightly wound metal staircase and sprinted up, footfalls clanging on the metal mesh.

We reached the cab and passed through the thick metal door. Outside, the plane was no longer flaming, surrounded by a dozen fire trucks. White foam covered most of the pieces of the jet, which were scattered all down the runway.

"Oh my God..." Mark whispered, his voice hoarse. It truly was a terrible sight. He turned to me "Do you think we could lend a hand?"

"We couldn't hurt... Stacy can take care of anything that happens here." We sprinted from the cab, running down the stares and down the control room hall, yelling our intentions to Stacy as we passed the Control room door.

"So... <pant>... what are... <pant>... you?" he asked me, rapidly losing his breath. He was over a shorter, I noticed, mostly in his legs. He had to work harder than I just to keep the same pace.

"I don't know... all I've noticed is my nails are like claws." I unclenced a fist and waggled my fingers at him as I ran. His eyes widened in a bit of shock... so did mine. I still hadn't got used to them, plus some of the skin on the back of my hands was scaled... well, it had only been a few minutes... anyway, we had covered a bit of the distance from the cab to the crash site now, and I still had yet to break a sweat.

Several minutes later, we had gone about halfway to the wreckage. My watch read 7:46... I was amazed to see the time fly by so quickly. The world spun crazily for a second, then jerked up and down. I lost my footing and tripped. The 'Whoa... shit<thud!>' beside me told what had happened to Mark.

I rolled over onto my back, then sat up and stared at my hands, wondering what would happen now. My claws lengthened a bit, the scales spread to the entire backs of my hands, and a bit up my fingers, but otherwise... nothing else. Except for the pain of my feet in my shoes. Swearing, I reached down to untie and discard them, but could't get hold of the laces correctly. The pain increased more, then I gave up and used my new claws. Worked really well, sliced through cleanly. Both feet I did this too, then tore off the shoes.

My toenails were long and clawed now, the same scaling that had covered the back of my hands covered my foot in it's entirity. Scales, it looked like. Standing, it felt like they were asleep for a second, then I suddenly just felt them, like a switch being thrown in my brain. I could easily feel the grass under them, but the rock I was standing on did not hurt...

Mark, who had fallen beside me, was going through similar changes during the time I was changing, but I only got fleeting glances. His face pushing out. His ears going farther up on his head. Him swearing and pulling his tail out the top of his trousers. Him standing on the tops of his toes, walking on them even. Digitigrade, if I remembred from my biology class correctly. After the craziness and dizzyness passed, he shook his head and rubbed the top of his muzzle his his hand. "I can see why Stacy was so distracted by this thing... hey! Look at your hair!" he exclaimed, pointing a claw-tipped finger at the top of my head.

"What?" I said automatically, running a scaled and taloned hand through my hair... what had been hair when I brushed it last night, anyhow. Inch-long, thin somethings has sprouted from my scalp, running down the back of my head to my neck. Feeling along my neck, I noticed they covered the sides of my neck, too.

"I bet your going to be a bird!" he said.

"No, really?" I snapped, "Sorry... this is just too weird." I sighed, then pointed to the wreck. "Lets keep going. God I hate how far the tower is from the runways..."

We began running again, but I had to slow my pace even more for Mark. He has doing his best on his new legs, but wasn't able to keep up with me. Only a few more minutes to the wreck, now, I thought. The flames had mostly died by now, allowing us to see metal glowing brightly in some places. Small figures stood beside it, streamers of water steaming off the glowing metal.

"Notice your teeth?", Mark asked.

I hadn't. I rubbed my tongue against the inside of them. I couldn't feel an individual tooth. A quick check with my finger proved to me that they were all fused together. By this time we had made it to where the rescue crews were working. The inside of the jet was still on fire, flames licking out of melted view ports and shrapnel holes. Dense black smoke poured out almost every opening.

"Hey, how did you notice?"

He shrugged. "Dunno... <pant>...ok, here we are..."

Giving him a quizzical look, I mentally shrugged. Figures the person who never notices anything would be the first to notice anything in this situation...

The jet lay scattered along the runway, surprisingly intact... relatively speaking. A crash like that should have ground the plane into parmesan cheese. Large pieces lay scattered about, roughly down the left side of the runway and in line. Except for the tail, which was sitting roughly a hundred yards beyond the other wreckage.

"Hey!" I called to a fire... thing. He looked like a Great Dane, but was standing on large hind legs and had very humanlike paws, which were barely clutching a heavy fire hose in it's paws as it dragged the hose nearer the jet. "Where here to help, what can we do?"

The dog didn't bother to look back at us, simply shouting out "Go to the other side, talk to the Maranda. The lynx-furred lady." He pointed the hose at a convenient opening in the fuselage and twisted the nozzle. White foam spewed forth, cooling some more metal and stopping the flames at that particular point.. We did what he told us, taking off at a dead run, keeping a good distance from the flaming craft. Halfway around the wreckage, downwind now, Mark stopped suddenly and coughed.

"What?" I asked. He waved his paw in from of his nose and retreated a few feet.

"Stinks too bad. Geez!" He coughed a few more times, took a deep breath, held it, then started running again. I couldn't smell anything...

I looked down at my feet as I ran, wondering at them. My foot was slightly longer, scaled, I noticed again. A circle of feathers were irritated by my slacks about mid-shin. The skin was dry, but not flaky. Weird feeling too, not that it didn't give feeling back just as well--

"Jack, watch o--" <Thump!> I hit my head against something while looking at my feet, bounced off, and landed on my rear. I suddenly realized both that I had a few tail feathers... and how much it hurt when one lands on them. I looked up... and up. Standing a huge(to me) 6 foot 9 inches was a lynx, changed about halfway. She glared down at me.

She opened her mouth to say something cutting, but I jumped in. "Maranda? We are here to help!" I said quickly, cutting her off. She stopped, listened, then started again.

"If I wasn't in need of a one hell of a lot of help right now, mister," she began in a soft feminine voice that had a vein of steel running beneath it, "I would be tempted to use these..." She waved some lethal looking claws in front of me. "Now go with them, do whatever they need. And goddamnit, hurry!" She pointed a gleaming claw to a small rescue truck, which was powering up with a rumble. Internal-combustion instead of fuel-cell, I though absently. More output for its weight, needed for the huge rescue trucks.

"Weird, isn't it?" I commented, as we ran full tilt to the truck... both to get away from the deadly-looking being and impatience to help. We hopped onto the back of the already-accelerating truck, "I mean, it seems everyone in the entire airport has gone part-animal, and everyone is acting almost like normal." I winced as we road over a bump. The footholds and handgrips were never meant for someone part-bird, barely providing enough grip for my scaly hands, but the rung I stood on was the perfect size for my foot. Beside me, Mark also winced. Apparently his feet were not in mind when they designed the footholds. The wind was really ruffling my feathers, literally and figuratively.

"Yeah, it is..." He fell silent as we approached the tail of the plane. Somehow it had came to rest only moderately damaged, if you didn't count the fact that it was not attached to the aircraft, a few hundred feet further down the runway. The truck slowed to a near stop by it.

The driver, human except for a few think bristle-hairs and a distinctly pig-like nose, leaned out the window and yelled back at us, "Yo, hop out here and see if anyone is inside. If they are dead, forget them and go back to the main wreck. Otherwise, help them however you can." Mark and I hopped off, then the truck sped off in a long arc... tires squeeling... checking more pieces of wreckage as it drove.

"Like there is going to be anyone in here..." Mark muttered. The tail section was sitting upright, 15 feet long, leaning over to where a winglet touched the ground, propping it up. I entered first, gingerly stepping over debris and kitchen pans. Apparently this was the kitchen or whatever. A chipmunk/human, leaning very on the chipmunk side, sat strapped in a chair, though it was obvious from the snapped neck she(judging from the clothing and hair band laying on top her skull) was dead.

Further back in the kitchen a door was slightly ajar, so I motioned for Mark to follow me as I moved aft, giving the dead chipmunk a wide berth.

I gently grabbed the handle and pulled. The overstressed and deformed hinges simply snapped under the slight pressure. I tilted the door back to Mark, who set it aside, then looked inside. The room was a tiny bathroom, and a young child sat with a young man, completely human only from the neck up. One wall of the bathroom had a deep, concave, and smooth dent in the aluminum roughly the lion's size. An ugly bruise marred the young girl's forehead above her right eye, but otherwise she seemed fine, she was even grinning. The lion looked completely exhausted.

Another surge hit, and I hoped this was the last one. I felt the short feathers quickly spread up from my shin past my thigh and to mid-waist, while the ones from around my neck fully covered my neck, then flowed down over my shoulders and chest to meet with the ones going upward, also surging down my arms to the mid-upper arm.

Mark was metamorphing, also. He shrunk a few inches, causing him to totter a bit. His ankle traveled father up his leg, while his thigh and shin shortened, gray fur covering his legs. Whiskers sprouted from a bit below and on either side of his nose, above his upper lip. His front teeth, upper at least, grew a few centimeters in length. His face looked really rattish now, and it was obvious what he was. Fur quickly sprouted all across his body, moving his shirt slightly, thickening quickly.

I was so intent on Mark and my changes I almost missed the young man changing. Not much of one, but still a change. His hair lengthened and spread down his shoulders and neck a bit, turning a tawny gold-brown. Like Mark, he also grew long whiskers, and his upper lip separated slightly. His face pressed outward, like Mark's had, but slower. Fur, a lighter color than his new mane, inched across his face, from the chin up.

It ended. I felt complete, and Mark and the new tiger man looked finished as well... thank God, because if there are any more of this and humanity would be really be finished.

"I got a kitty" the girl giggled, then grabbed and held up the end of the feline's tail.

"What happened?" the lion-man asked, sounding dazed.

"The plane crashed, noone should have survived." Mark replied in awe, correctly guessing I was too stunned to speak.

"Oh," he said, looking at his paw-hand, "guess I died and went to Hell." He couldn't have sounded less interested, then slumped over, unconscious.

"Ohhh...Kitty sleeping!"



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