I’ve been kinda lazy lately and haven’t pushed out this volume for a while, even though it’s been finished for about a month. Anyway, sorry to the 5 or 6 people reading this.
I just need to put a quick disclaimer which is slightly different from the others. I only vaguely understand Spanish and the Goggle-Translate option doesn’t have ‘Argentinian Accent Spanish’, so in case there might be like 1 or 2 people who know that in the south of Argentina, they use Vos and their ‘y’ sounds like ‘sh’ in some instances… I’m not gonna bother going through and changing that. Besides, parts of this story might take place in Southern Patagonia, but a lot of the actual characters are not necessarily from that part of Argentina or they aren’t even from Argentina at all.
There’s also a part in the very beginning where I used a translator to try to make characters sound… Like they’re from the Falkland Islands? Does anyone know what people from there sound like? Who they speak? How to write out an accent like that? Maybe some people from the Falkland Islands will get angry in a few years when this story becomes famous somehow, so sorry ahead of time. Same with Argentinians.
“I’m Jerry Crane, Captain o’ dis shep.”
A tall, middle-aged, bald man in a yellow fishing outfit walked over and reached out to greet Jake with his orange-gloved right hand. The giant ‘crabman’ reached out with his left hand and smiled wryly, “Jacob Cinagra. But you can call me Jake. Sorry about the weird appearance. But this is just how I look now. Nothing I can do about it.”
“’Ey, I wahn’t joehdge you, mate. joehst wahnderin ‘ow you ended oehp arooehnd ‘ere. You said you came frahm Maryland? Dat’s a lahng swem.”
“I was on a ship near Antarctica and it sank. I’ve been freezing my ass off ever since… Trying to make my way back north. Just… Somewhere warmer.” Jake snickered and looked over at his daughter, who was giggling and chatting with a few of the fishermen and women.
“The world is a crazy place… What it means to be ‘human’, is probably changing every day, right? I’ve been out of the loop for a long time now.”
“We’re Falkland Islanders. We dahn’t really know what’s goin ahn ooeht dere, boeht de last I ‘eard, it’s really rooehgh… ‘Aven’t ‘ad internet in de past few mahnths. Telly’s also ooeht.”
A 1.8 meter tall bearded Argentinian man shouted excitedly, “¡Escuché de mi prima en Mar del Plata que Buenos Aires fue bombardeada! ¡Malditos zombis! ¡Es una locura ahí fuera!”
“Something about Buenos Aires getting… Bombarded? Zombies? I failed Spanish in High School, sorry.” Jake shrugged his spiky black shoulders that almost looked like armored pauldrons.
Captain Crane sighed and shook his head, “We do ‘ave sahme cahntact wit Argentina, sence it’s so clahse by… ‘aven’t ‘eard frahm de UK in a lahng time dooehgh. Buenos Aires was nuked. A laht o’ beg cities were nuked. I’m glad I dahn’t ‘ave any family ooehtside Falkland anymahre.”
Jerry didn’t have any family outside of the ‘small’, population wise, Falkland Islands, but a lot of other people weren’t so lucky. Besides, even if they didn’t have family outside, it was normal to have friends. Everyone’s lost a lot in the past few months. However, for the people of Falkland… Not much has really changed in the grand scheme of things. At least, not yet.
“Anyway, in case you’ve never slept in the literal ocean, it’s actually pretty fucking dangerous. My daughter was keeping an eye out, but got attacked by a giant octopus while I was unconscious. I woke up in time to save her, but as soon as we surfaced, we got caught in your fishing net.”
A few of the men and women started laughing, while Crane had a serious expression as he asked, “Are you two… Interested in combing back wit oehs? Althooehgh yooehr cahndition is… A lettle severe, we ‘ave dahctors. Maybe dey can ‘elp? Ahr even if you’re fine de way you are, we dahn’t discriminate. You’re naht de ahnly persahn dat’s changed after dey gaht seck.”
It took Jake a few seconds to figure out what the guy was saying, but then he smiled wryly and shook his head, “It’s probably best if we don’t get involved with… ‘Humans’ too much. If you guys take us back and suddenly people start getting ‘sick’ more frequently, whether it’s our fault or not, we’ll probably get blamed. And you guys will also get targeted because you were the ones that brought us back, right?”
“Nosotros no somos así…” That Hispanic guy shook his head, but some of the other people seemed to agree with what Jake said. In fact, there were already quite a few fishermen that didn’t want to get anywhere near the two ‘freaks’ or ‘infected’. Whether it was contagious or not, they didn’t want to take any chances or they were just intimidated by Jake’s terrifying, monstrous appearance.
“Well, I wesh you de best o’ loehck ahn yooehr jooehrney.”
“Thanks. You too. Be careful when you’re fishing though… There’s some scary shit down there…” Jake sighed and looked over at his silly daughter, who was happily posing for selfies with the fishermen…
“Come on, Sweetie! We gotta go!”
“Yes, Father! Hihihihi~!”
The ground was slippery and wet enough that Jake was able to push his huge daughter over to the side of the ship. Then he had to reach down and deadlift hundreds of kilos worth of ‘tiny’ Orca, push her up onto the elevated ‘railing’ that was quite thick. After that, she was able to wiggle and flop her own way off the side of the boat. Diving down into the frigid water very familiarly.
“you know, we cooehld’ve ‘elped…” Jerry laughed as he watched the giant man covered in black exoskeleton, groaning as he held his aching waist.
“I’m… I’m fine… Totally fine… Anyway… Have a nice day, hahaha~! Ugh… Fuck…” Jake climbed up over the railing and then flopped down into the water inelegantly. His daughter’s high-pitched laughter made him smile though.
Only when they were a few hundred meters away from the ship did Tori ask, “Father… Why can’t we go with the humans?”
‘Humans… Dangerous. Unpredictable. Unnecessary.’
“Actually, I’m not that worried about the Falkland Islanders or whatever. I’m more concerned about that mysterious organization. They might have a secret base over there. Who knows? Even if they don’t, they might still have some eyes and ears in any human settlement. It’s better to stay away.”
Jake sighed, looking back at the seemingly small ship in the distance, “Maybe on a genetic level, we’re not that different from humans. But people have been discriminating and killing each other over stupid shit like skin, eye and hair color forever. Now that people have started turning into even weirder shapes and colors… I don’t wanna get involved. It’s not worth the stress and danger just to interact with some random people I don’t give a fuck about.”
“Okay…” Torrent’s head bobbed up and down on the surface of the water, as if she was ‘nodding’ in agreement. Then she giggled, “Maybe… We can find friends like us someday. Or… Father and Mother can give me siblings?”
“No! I mean, well, eventually. But for now, we’re not planning on having any more kids. Right?”
‘Disagreement. Breed. Expand. Conquer!’
“Why do you always want to expand and conquer? Are you sure you’re not some kinda alien parasite?” Jake rolled his eyes and complained, “What good is it for us to ‘conquer’ anything?”
‘More food. Easy life. Comfortable. Lazy.’
“Hihihihi~! Mother… You’re funny.”
The Falkland Islands are about 230 kilometers wide. Hundreds of kilometers East of the coast of Argentina. Which is on the eastern side of the southern tip of South America… Unfortunately, Jake was too nervous and didn’t ask for a map before he ran away from that big fishing ship a few days ago. At the moment, the father and daughter still have almost no idea where they are… Just that the water is still cold and too deep to see the bottom. There are icebergs and big chunks of ice from time to time, but it’s nothing like when they first set off from the northern islands of Antarctica.
“At least we know we’re in the Atlantic though.”
“Father, what’s copium?”
“I think it’s a type of bug?” Jake snickered as he held his daughter’s dorsal fin with his right hand and scratched his itchy scalp with the other, “Ow! Fuck…”
“Father. You should stop scratching it. You’re going to bleed again.”
‘Blood… Attracts predators.’
“I’m trying, but it’s so fucking itchy.”
There were eight large bulbous pink growths that seemingly burst out of his hard black carapace. He originally thought that after he stopped growing, he wouldn’t need to deal with the pain and discomfort of shedding his shell so often… Obviously he was wrong. Originally he thought that he might grow horns, since he used to have a bunch of jagged spiky things growing on his scalp, but now… He just wanted to rip those annoying bulges off his head if he could!
“What kinda hair is this? Maybe we should’ve really taken up that offer to go to the hospital?”
At first, Jake had dreams about growing a bunch of tentacles from his scalp and actually thought it would be pretty awesome… But it’s been a few days. Now he only has nightmares about having his skull cracked open and brains slurped out by giant birds. Or that his entire head swelled up like a balloon and exploded.
“Father, I see land!”
“Holy shit! I see it too!”
Off in the distance, there were some tiny black dots on the horizon, which were hard to see over the large and choppy waves. Especially since they were moving pretty fast. Tori was a little bigger now, about 3.3 meters long and able to pull Jake around even more easily. She flapped her tail excitedly and started picking up speed! If he didn’t hold on with both hands, he’d definitely be thrown off her dorsal fin…
The maximum speed of a typical Orca is about 56 kilometers per hour. It’s the second-fastest Marine Mammal in the world, before the Apocalypse. The first one is the ‘Common Dolphin’, which can reach speeds of 60 kilometers per hour… Not that much faster, especially considering that one is much, much larger than the other. Torrent was a lot stronger than the average Orca and even faster than the Common Dolphin, assuming that she wasn’t carrying her father.
Either way, it didn’t take long before the ‘three’ of them saw the island at a much closer distance. They were on the eastern side and could only see a part of the island as they approached. However, what they could see were big, rocky, snow-capped, black-brown mountains. But the majority of the tall mountainous island was verdant green, with tons of trees, grasses and other foliage. The water was obviously getting shallower the closer they got to the land… Which meant that they could finally see the bottom again. There were huge brown leafy seaweed groups reaching up to the surface of the fairly calm water. They could see large groups of brown seals lounging on some tiny rocky islands off the similarly gray and white rocky coast. The white wasn’t snow or ice, but more likely to be salt… Or maybe just bird shit.
“Look! Father! Look! It’s green! I’ve never seen a green island before!”
“Yeah… It’s nice to see some trees and grass for once.” Jake was smiling, but what made him happy wasn’t the stupid island. It was his silly daughter’s childish behavior and actions. As if she was really just a normal human kid.
‘Plants! Vegetables! Fruits! Food! All mine!’
Okay, his precious Vora was also maintaining her usual character as well…
Anyway, Jake directly sat on Torrent’s back. Fortunately, his ass and inner thighs were still pretty smooth, without any scary barbs or spikes sticking out. He used her as a mount so that he could get a better view of the island and she didn’t have to slow down too dramatically to accommodate his ‘superhuman’ swimming speed. Cruising around at a relatively leisurely pace, they were disappointed to find that most of the eastern side of the island is covered by extremely steep cliffs. Maybe Jake could climb it, but not while carrying his daughter’s giant body.
“Lots of penguins and seals… And seagulls.”
Tori swam around the northern tip of the eastern edge of the island, then followed the mountainous coastline. It was a little foggy out, but they could see a small island to their right. As they followed the jagged coast, they also saw another part of the island on the right side, while they were basically heading into a very long cove. There was an old lighthouse standing on the right side, with a bunch of penguins gathered around it on the rocks.
“Father, look! A sandy beach!”
“Yeah, I can see it. There’s a lot of sand underwater too.”
Jake looked down through the clear blue water and easily saw the bottom. It was only a few meters deep at this point. Obviously some parts were deeper than others, but leading up to the beach was just a lot of sand. There were still some rocks here and there, just nowhere near as extreme as a lot of the islands they’ve seen thus far.
“Be careful. Don’t hurt your belly.”
“It doesn’t hurt, Father.”
Torrent flapped her tail and used her flippers to pull herself up onto the shore with the small crashing waves. Crushing some unfortunate crabs to death in the process. Jake stepped down off his daughter’s back and watched her flopping around on the white sandy beach with a wry smile.
“It started with you, too?”
“Yes, Father… I don’t mind.”
Jake sighed as he looked at the small patches of carapace that were forming on his daughter’s skin. The chin had some white chitinous plates starting to cover it already. Same with a lot of spots on her belly.
“I’m just afraid you’ll lose a lot of flexibility, like I did… I mean, it didn’t make that much of a difference for me, but you’re basically a dolphin. If you can’t flap your tail properly because it’s too stiff, then I’m really gonna have to worry about you…”
“Let me know if you’re feeling uncomfortable or sick, Sweetie. I know you’re interested in the forest, but… Uh, you’re basically a marine mammal, okay?”
“I know, Father. But I’m fine. Look! Hihihihi~!”
Tori spoke in her childish voice as usual and used her little flippers to push herself forward, though her tail was doing most of the work. Of course, it should be noted that the genitals of a Killer Whale are usually hidden inside of their body, whether they’re male or female. Even so, the area around the groin is fairly sensitive in most animals, so it was unpleasant for Torrent to smack and scrape against rocks, sand or dirt. Especially since there were twigs, leaves and other small, painful objects hidden in or on the soil. Jake had to go through and carefully use his feet to make a ‘pathway’ for her to safely push her heavy body through.
“I wish… I had feet.”
‘Adapt. Grow. Improve. Evolve. Eat.’
“Be careful what you wish for…” Jake smiled wryly and rubbed those bulging lumps on his cracked apart scalp, “I wanna scratch it so badly, but I know I can’t.”
In a lot of ways, Jake has become a ‘superhuman’. Torrent is also a ‘super-Orca’. However, their improvements aren’t as easy and nonsensical as superheroes or villains in comic books. Every bit of growth is accompanied by pain and agony. Healing from injuries and wounds might be way faster or more efficient, but it still isn’t instantaneous or easy. Their immune systems might be much stronger, however, if the immune system is too strong, it can be detrimental instead of helpful.
“Rabbits?” Jake raised an eyebrow and looked around, but what he saw wasn’t a cute bunny… It was a group of white, black and brown goats. Some of them had long, sharp horns sticking off to the sides on the top of their heads. While others were hornless. However, they didn’t seem afraid of the two strange creatures. Just curious.
“Father… What do goats taste like?”
“I have no idea. But I doubt they’re dumb enough to get close enough for us to find out.” Jake snickered and shook his head… Then he was instantly proven wrong when one of the biggest and apparently stupidest goats made a loud noise, then charged towards them! The crazy goat jumped up and rammed Jake in the hard carapace on his chest, making a loud noise and causing him to take a few steps backwards.
“Hihihihihi~!” Tori laughed as she chomped down on the stunned goat’s torso… Then she spat it out and complained, “Father, help! It feels so uncomfortable! Ptuh~!”
The poor goat was bleeding to death from many penetrating wounds, but the silly Orca was trying to spit out the massive amount of hair that got stuck to her tongue. Jake sighed, “Haven’t you learned your lesson before with the seals back then?”
Perhaps he pampered his daughter a bit too much, because usually he would remove all the fur and feathers from various animals before she would eat them. Sometimes he would even go through the trouble of taking the scales off of fish. But scales didn’t seem to bother Tori as much as hair or fur.
“It’s okay, Sweetie. Meat! Eat! Fuck… Seriously, let me help our daughter first. The goat won’t go bad in a few minutes, okay?”
‘Endure… Eat first.’
Jake rolled his glowing eyes, “You can wait.”
In the end, Jake had to use his left hand to pick out all the little goat hairs from his daughter’s giant pink mouth. Meanwhile, Vora was busy tearing apart and devouring the goat. She didn’t care about fur at all. Even bones could be digested, given enough time and effort. Usually, though, there was enough food and they didn’t need to be so frugal. Of course, the rest of the goats escaped a long time ago. They were terrified that they now had a natural predator in the forest.
As the two of them ‘walked’ up the hills in the woods, they also saw many birds, deer, bugs and other animals. No large predators though. Without predators, Jake wondered how the goats and deers avoided overpopulation… He didn’t think that they would all be dumb enough to go swimming in the ocean.
“Look, Father! Water!”
“That’s a lake, Tori. This is the first time we’ve seen one that isn’t frozen over.” Jake snickered and dove into the dark blue water with his daughter.
“It’s so warm! Hihihihihi~! And there’s no salt! It feels so weird!”
The entire lake was about a hundred meters from east to west and three or four hundred meters from north to south. From a normal human perspective, that might be huge to swim around, but Jake and Tori were able to do a few laps pretty easily. They also dove down to the deepest part, which was only a dozen meters. There were lots of freshwater fish in the lake. With ducks and other birds that lived on the surface. Many of them had colorful feathers and beaks. Brown and green seaweed grew in the lake, but it wasn’t overwhelming. Everything looked surprisingly ‘normal’.
“Father… Can we stay here?”
“I don’t have a problem with it.” Jake sighed, “In fact, I’m pretty exhausted lately. We must’ve swam hundreds of kilometers already. Maybe this is part of the Falkland Islands? We’ll have to go around and see if this place is actually inhabited later. Otherwise, there’s no problem spending the winter here.”
In the Southern Hemisphere, the warmest months of the year are generally January and/or February. Now it should be the end of March or the beginning of April already. They’ve been swimming northward for a long time, but it’s hard for them to make it to the tropics before the weather gets really cold.
‘Rest. Recover. Grow. Adapt.’
“Yay~! Hihihihihi~! We have a home!”
The cute Orca splashed around and jumped out of the lake a few times in excitement, scaring the miscellaneous ducks away. Though they stupidly came back only a few seconds later. A black-feathered, red-billed duck was crazy enough to land on the water only a meter away from where Jake was swimming… Vora took control of Jake’s body and grabbed the poor bastard with both hands. Snapping its neck and then ripping off the feathers violently. She bit down into the raw breast meat and even devoured the heart, lungs and other innards.
“Seriously, Vora… If you gave me a few minutes, I could’ve made a campfire and cooked it for us. We don’t have to live like ‘complete’ savages anymore.”
“What does cooked meat taste like?” Tori swam over and blinked her big glowing pink left eye at her father.
But the one who answered was actually her mother, “Cooked meat… Dry, tough… Sometimes, softer. Tastes good! Spices! Hmmm, hot. Delicious.”
When he took control over his body and washed his mouth out with dubious lake water, Jake explained, “Meat doesn’t really taste like anything special, unless you put seasonings on it. There’s also a big difference in taste and texture between cold or raw food and steaming hot food. You’ll understand soon. Help me catch some fish or birds and I’ll try to cook them… In the meantime, I’m gonna go look through the woods for some herbs, berries, nuts and other shit like that. Trust me, you’ll love it!”
“Fire is so pretty.”
“Yeah… It’s not so pretty when you’re the fuel though. Hahaha~!”
Jake sat on the sandy white beach, while his daughter was resting halfway out of the lake. In the dark night, they could barely see the mountains that surrounded them. Especially since the treetops blocked their view from most sides.
When he was young, Jake tried to start fires by creating sparks with rocks or twigs… It never really worked out. It was actually the same this time as well. Instead of wasting his time and brain cells, he simply walked a few kilometers through the woods to the old lighthouse they passed on their way into this cove.
There was a tiny building near the lighthouse, which happened to have a map of the island, ‘Isla de los Estados’. The lighthouse itself was on a very small rocky island, while the white structure he found was on the side of a large hill. Basically a small shack that happened to have various living supplies, like lighters, an old rusty ax and some other random things that Jake took back to their new ‘lakeside’ home.
After coming back, he found some twigs, leaves and even chopped up some logs from downed trees. Then he set up a half-assed campfire on the beach and lit it up with a red, plastic lighter that still had half its fuel left. Although it took a bit of effort to start burning, he managed to get it done in the end. Finally, he took a few ducks from his daughter, defeathered them and strung their headless bodies across a metal stick he found in the shack. Unfortunately, they didn’t have a grill, otherwise everything would have been much simpler.
“Wow! Its so hot! Ow!” The silly girl pulled back her wet flipper that was just burned by the campfire.
“Of course it’s hot. Otherwise, how could it cook the meat? If you put your flipper in there long enough, you’ll be cooked too.” Jake snickered and shook his head, “I guess I never really thought about these problems before… But from now on, I’ll have to teach you a bit more about the world, or you might end up hurting yourself.”
“What about the map?” Jake set the hot metal stick onto a simple wooden frame that was stuck into the sand. Those two wooden sticks were a little moist, so they wouldn’t catch on fire so easily. Then he pulled over the map and opened it up.
The entire island was only about 60 kilometers from east to west and 10 kilometers from north to south, at the thickest. There were thinner parts. Most of it was mountains, like what they’ve seen. There were lots of lakes, bays and coves, with a good portion of the land being covered in greenery. A few small islands could be seen north of the center of the island. A few places were marked on the map. He couldn’t read the Spanish, but he understood that there was probably some kind of small naval base… Though it didn’t look like much from the map. Either way, in this Post-Apocalyptic world, he was more concerned about pirates, monsters or something else. An official Argentinian Navy was unlikely to be stationed on this random island in the middle of nowhere.
Vora pointed to the cove, which curved down to the west. Their current position was a very small lake that was barely visible on this satellite map of the entire island. It only looked like a tiny dot.
Pulling the map closer to his face, Jake asked, “What’s wrong?”
‘Look!’ She turned the map to the side and cackled in his mind, ‘Breeding tool!’
“Seriously?” Jake rolled his eyes and complained, “You just wanted to show me that the cove looked like a dick and balls?”
“Show me! I want to see the dick and balls!”
“Pft-hahahaha~!” Jake couldn’t help laughing at his silly daughter, “You can see it when you’re older.”
Although she agreed, she actually took control over Jake’s body for a moment and looked through his eyes to see the so-called ‘human genitals’. However, she was disappointed, because it was really difficult to see such a small penis. At least in comparison to the entire island, it was very tiny. It was also a little confusing, because there were two sets of ‘balls’. The bigger one was the right size, but the shape was a bit more jagged and weird looking, while the smaller set was the right shape, just super tiny.
“This doesn’t look like Father’s genitals at all. It doesn’t look like an Orca penis either.” After Jake said that in a childish voice, he cleared his throat and grumbled, “Seriously, Tori? Don’t do that. Also, why do you know… Never mind. Different animals have differently shaped reproductive organs. That’s just how it goes. Mine used to look a lot different when I was human… Maybe when you’re old enough to have kids of your own, you’ll also change a few times.”
“Yes, Father…” Tori spoke softly and after a while, she whispered, “Sorry, Father.”
“It’s not a big deal.”
‘We are one.’
Jake waved his hand and put the map away. Next to the tour-guide booklet, ax and a shovel. Unlike in a survival game, it’s not that easy to ‘craft’ random tools and work your way up the technology tree in reality. So all these old metal tools were obviously very important items.
“I love you, Tori. If you wanna borrow my body every now and then, I don’t mind. Just… Warn me first, okay?”
“Yes, Father. I’m sorry… I love you too.”
“They’re not finished yet. Just wait a while. Here, try some of these berries and make sure they’re not poisonous.”
“I’ll test them for you!” Torrent shouted anxiously and even climbed up out of the water a bit more. Almost splashing the campfire by accident.
“Don’t freak out. It’s fine. Besides, I’m not actually worried about poison. These look like… Tiny red grapes?” Jake shrugged and pressed one of them into Vora’s open ‘mouth’. She squeezed down on the mysterious berry with her throat and swallowed it down into her stomach, feeling a very strong tangy and sour taste on her tongues.
“See? It’s probably fine. But just in case… I’ll let your mother test the waters first. I’m sure it’s fine. Don’t worry.”
“The more you say that, the more concerned I become!” The eyes on the sides of Torrent’s head looked like they were about to cry…
“Alright, it’s fine. Sweetie, don’t cry, okay? Mommy and Daddy survived acute radiation poisoning. Half the random fish and shit we eat on a daily basis are probably extremely dangerous. But we’re all fine now, right?”
“Yeah… I guess…” Tori spoke in a quiet voice and then looked at the ducks again, “Father… How much longer will the food take to cook?”
“Maybe a few minutes.” Jake rolled his eyes and ate a few berries, “Hmm, these things are pretty good though. You should try some after the meal.”
Their first night in their new home didn’t involve any shocking food poisoning. In fact, they had a nice dinner, then an after dinner snack, a late night second dinner, another dinner after that… Eventually, Jake went back to that small wooden ‘shack’ and put those tools back inside before the family of ‘three’ went to sleep in the peaceful lake. For the first time in forever, they were able to get some rest at the same time. Because there weren’t any threats to them in the entire lake. They checked and made sure.
“Hmmm… Ow! Fuck!”
Jake and Vora woke up after feeling a lot of pain, but then quickly realized where that pain was coming from… There were seven short and stubby glowing pink tentacles floating in the water above their head. However, the eighth tentacle was stuck to the back of their neck! There were long and sharp spikes sticking out of their spine, all the way to their tailbone, with some other spikes on their shoulder blades and shoulders. It didn’t used to matter that much before, but now, they have ‘hair’ and that hair can feel pain!
“Fuck… Fuck! Shit! Aaah!”
“Father! Are you okay?!”
Tori woke up a little earlier than her parents and was busy singing to the stupid goats and deer that were drinking by the lake. As soon as she heard her parents shouting physically and telepathically, she zoomed over and almost crashed into them at 60 kilometers per hour!
“It’s fine! We’re fine… Just… I might need to stop being so lazy.”
‘Unpleasant. Unnecessary. Must, remove.’
“Is there anything I can do to help?” Torrent also saw the red blood seeping out of the wounds on those tentacles.
“Don’t worry Sweetie, we’ll be back in a little while. I just need to go back over to the shack and look for some tools.”
Jake sighed as he swam over to the shore and carefully prevented those nipple-length pink octopus tentacles from touching his dangerous shoulders and back. It felt like having eight weird ‘arms’ extending from his scalp… He could move them, but a lot of times, they would move on their own.
An octopus has three hearts and nine brains… Technically. The hearts definitely don’t look like human hearts and the brains are more like complex nerve cords that exist in the center of the tentacles. It allows the tentacles to make decisions on their own, without input from the brain. It works pretty well for an octopus, most of the time. For Jake though…
“Ow! Stop! Stop it!”
Those stupid tentacles kept wiggling around randomly. Poking into his spikes repeatedly. One of them even tried to penetrate his left nostril. Another one wrapped around his neck, trying to strangle him to death, but failing miserably.
‘Hmmm… Need, control.’
Fortunately, unlike an octopus, Jake technically has ten brains. Not only could he control the tentacles, but Vora could also force them to stop. Their palms and fingers had sharp barbs on them, so they couldn’t just ‘hold’ those octopus-like tentacles together. They forced the eight tentacles to use their white suction cups to stick to their carapace, in between the spikes, which made things a lot simpler.
“Phew… Thank God. I was worried I might have seen things wrong yesterday.”
When Jake reached the wooden shack again, he opened the simple white door and looked inside the tiny room. He had to crouch down to fit inside the door, but at least the inside was a little higher than 2 meters. In the shack were a variety of different tools, some books, maps and other things. Even some pencils and paper, which made him happy. After all, it’s been a really long time since he was able to draw. At most, he made some ice sculptures.
“I hope this works.”
He picked up the sandpaper, wrapped around a block of wood. There was also a simple whetstone for sharpening knives. Some pliers, a wrench, a hammer… Jake sat down on a small wooden stool, with the morning light shining in the open door, along with the cold, salty sea breeze.
“Fuck. This is gonna suck.”
‘Hmmm… Let me?’
“No. I’ll do it. You should just focus on controlling the tentacles. Keep them from hurting themselves. It’s just like… Clipping my nails, right? Totally normal. Shouldn’t even hurt.”
He put his left arm on the table and held the steel pliers in the other. Pinching down tightly on a long, sharp spike coming out of the left side of his wrist, he clenched his teeth and twisted sharply!
“Phew! Okay… Okay, it’s not that bad… Now… Just use some sandpaper to smooth it over…”
Jake looked down at the spike that wasn’t even bleeding and smiled wryly. Then he took the sandpaper and started rubbing. It felt just like he imagined. Closing his eyes and trying to tune out the horrible noises that were being made, he somehow managed to finish the job after a few seconds. Even though it did ‘feel’ like he was breaking his fingernails off and then sanding down the open wound, the actual damage to his body was almost nothing.
“What I’m worried about is that this is totally meaningless. These spikes grow so fast… Maybe we’d have to do this shit every month.”
‘Need time. Learn, control. Adapt. Overcome. Transform.’
“True. If we can control the tentacles to not hurt themselves, then it doesn’t really matter if we have a bunch of dangerous spikes all over our bodies. The tentacles are flexible enough. Under normal circumstances, they shouldn’t intentionally hurt themselves. Even if we aren’t controlling them.”
He looked at his arms and legs, then forgot about the legs. After all, there’s no way for the tentacles to reach that far yet. Then he got started breaking off and grinding down all the spikes that he could reach. The shoulders and the back of his neck were fine. The real problem was the rest of his spine. A good portion of his back was too hard to reach with his current flexibility limitations. In the end, he came up with a dangerous and stupid method. Which was to use the rocks outside… Instead of the ocean, he went back to the lake.
After all, if he messed up his spine and became paralyzed for a while, then he’d be able to survive in the lake pretty safely. If it was the ocean, then he would probably die. In the end, he really did get some help from his daughter.
“There… That should be smooth enough, Father. Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine… It’s all good now…”
Jake let out a long sigh of relief after Vora released the tentacle-hair and they didn’t get impaled or hurt by anything. It should be noted that the wounds from earlier were already mostly healed. It took Jake a few hours to complete the process, with a breakfast, brunch, lunch and second lunch break in between.
“Hihihihi~! Your tentacles feel so funny, Father!”
“Don’t make it sound weird. Okay? My tentacle hair is just touching my daughter’s flipper. There’s nothing strange about this situation.”
“The lake is starting to freeze over every night lately.”
Jake sighed dramatically as he looked up at the cloudy early morning sky. It was really foggy and drizzling, but it switched into freezing rain periodically. The daytime temperatures were well above freezing, yet still very cold. The night temperatures were below freezing and cold enough to cause the whole lake to have a sheet of ice over their heads when they woke up every morning.
“It’s still warmer than the ocean, Father.”
He looked over at his daughter and smiled wryly. In the past month since they came to this island, she only grew to about 3.5 meters long. However, her entire body was much ‘bigger’, so her mass actually increased quite a bit. More importantly, the carapace had already started spreading across most of her body now.
Torrent’s flippers, dorsal fin and tail fins were all like big black blades. The edges were actually incredibly sharp, even though each of those ‘blades’ was still pretty thick and wide. In order to accommodate a full range of movement, the carapace on her back, tail, neck and abdomen had a lot of segmented plates. There was also a big plate that covered her blowhole under normal circumstances. It had a pink ‘slit’ that opened up when necessary, just like her mother’s mouth.
Jacob’s appearance had also changed slightly. The spikes on his arms, back, legs and shoulders were all much larger than before. Some of them were over 10 cm long. Especially on his elbows and knees. On the other hand, his tentacles were even more extreme. As he sat on the beach with a campfire burning, one tentacle reached out over two meters in order to latch onto Tori’s cute face.
“Sorry… I can’t help it. You’re just too cute. Honestly, these fucking tentacles are like having Torrette’s. The more I try to suppress them, the harder they fight back.”
“I think your tentacles are cute. Hihihihi~!”
Tori squinted her big glowing pink eyes a little. They were still on the sides of her head, slightly above and behind the edges of her mouth. Jake and Vora could control his tentacles, but the same way, so could Torrent. She took control over a few of them, reached out and grabbed a few berries from a simple basket, then fed them directly into her slightly open mouth.
“Father, do you think we can climb the mountain today?”
“I’m sorry, what?” Jake looked at his daughter in confusion, then looked up across the small lake. Although the mountain was only a few hundred meters at most, the gray and white rocky cliffs were still pretty steep. Of course, he also knew from the map that there were a lot of smoother paths leading up the hilly mountainside, but it was still a little unreasonable for a Killer Whale to climb a mountain…
“Father… We are one, remember? Hihihihi~!” She grinned her big white fang-like teeth at him.
“Oh, I gotcha. That makes more sense. Hahah~! Yeah, I mean… Uh… I guess theoretically I can climb a mountain, right?” Jake scratched his head awkwardly and then yelped in pain when he almost caused one of his tentacles to bleed.
“I want to try too! Hihihihi~!”
Tori climbed up out of the water with her sharp, blade-like flippers. Those flippers dug deep into the sand and easily pulled her heavy body up onto the shore, alongside the help of her armored tail. Although she looked a little awkward, Torrent really could travel on land a lot easier now.
“Are you sure, Baby? I mean, it’s gonna be a tough climb…”
“Father, if it was easy, what would be the fun in that?”
Jake rolled his eyes and complained, “I don’t wanna hear ‘you’ call me lazy, Vora.”
“Come on, Father! You’re so slow! Hihihihi~!”
The excited armored Orca started crawling into the woods already. Even though she was probably burning more calories than swimming at her top speed, Tori was only moving a little faster than an ordinary human could walk. She didn’t care though. As she said before, if it was easy, it wouldn’t be challenging and therefore, there would be a much smaller sense of accomplishment if they succeeded!
“Hehehe~!” Jake shook his head and smiled wryly, “Well, if you make it to the top, I’m pretty sure you’ll be the first marine mammal to climb a mountain.”
The two of them ‘walked’ through the woods for a while before they came across another lake…
“Did we get lost and go in a circle by accident?” Jake asked as he looked down at the map in his hands, squinting hard, he managed to see another tiny dot to the northwest of their ‘home’. This lake was a little deeper and darker than where they usually stayed, but it was a bit wider and shorter. Maybe around the same total area, just not nearly as long from north to south.
“Father, we should take a lunch break and explore this lake!”
Although she tried to hide it, Tori was obviously exhausted from traveling so far on land. It was only 500 meters in a straight line, but they were mostly traveling uphill and had to take a lot of detours. They weren’t even aiming for the lake in the first place. They were just trying to find a way up the mountain that was more realistic.
Jake looked down at his reflection in the dark lake and sighed. Even though it was foggy, cloudy and on the verge of raining, his eyes were still glowing brightly and illuminating his face. Those long pink tentacles were also glowing faintly. His original appearance couldn’t really be seen at all anymore. No matter how many times he looked at himself now, still couldn’t help feeling strange.
‘Father, come down here! I found something weird!’
Then he looked over toward the center of the lake and saw some bubbles rising up. Without hesitation, he took a deep breath and dove down into the depths of the chilly water. There were still some thin ice chunks floating around on the surface, but the actual temperature underneath was well above freezing.
His vision was mostly blocked by brown or green seaweed, but he could always ‘feel’ his daughter’s general position pretty clearly. It only took a few seconds for him to swim half-way across the lake and look down toward the deepest parts… There was something reflective and shiny there!
‘Not, food.’ Vora grumbled in his mind.
‘Is that a… It looks like an old prop plane?’
Jake swam down over to his daughter, who was nearly ten meters down, yet they were still only half-way to where that plane was partially buried under soot and seaweed. Most of the metal from the plane was eroded down to almost nothing. A few pieces were surprisingly shiny, but most of it just blended in with the environment. One wing was a few meters away from the rest of the ‘outline’ of the plane. However, there were lots of fish, crabs and other creatures that made this place their home.
‘Food!’ So Vora got excited and happy again.
‘Calm down. We should see if there’s anything interesting inside.’
Jake snickered and released some bubbles, then dove down and followed his daughter to explore the wreckage.
‘Shiny. So pretty. Hihihihi~!’
There were quite a few pieces of aluminum, aluminum alloy, stainless steel and other rust or corrosion-resistant silvery metals that were the most reflective. However, most of them were still covered by seaweed, silt and other gunk. Nothing particularly valuable or precious.
‘I think I found the pilots.’
Jake swam over to the cockpit and saw some mostly-destroyed bones. They were completely picked clean. Some of their clothing wasn’t destroyed, which was why he could even recognize that they were once humans. As for passengers, there didn’t seem to be anyone in the back of the plane. It was easy to tell, because the roof was completely gone.
He immediately noticed some rusty metal boxes and started breaking them open casually. Inside of some, he found a lot of really corroded rifles and handguns. There were also ammunition containers. Also some things that looked like they might have been paper money at some point. Some of the boxes were wooden, but they were even worse off than the metal ones.
“Father, look what I found!” Tori was so excited that she shouted out loud!
“What is it?” Jake also spoke with some bubbles emerging from his pink lips.
“Pretty metal blocks!”
Torrent had used her armored right flipper to break apart the already corroded steel lockbox and revealed the contents inside…
“Holy shit! That’s a lot of fucking gold! Hahaha~!” Jake almost released all his air while laughing, but it didn’t really matter that much. The gills inside his abdominal and neck plates weren’t just for show.
‘Before the world ended, this would have to be worth millions of dollars. Now… Does the dollar even exist anymore? Well, even if the world’s economy collapses, gold is still pretty valuable and useful material.’
‘What can we use it for, Father?’
Jake reached out with all eight tentacles and grabbed a few 1 kilo gold bars with each tentacle on his head. Those suction cups were really useful in this kind of situation. Some of the bars were a little distorted, dented or damaged, but fine gold generally doesn’t corrode. Even after being left underwater in a random lake for likely decades. Those 1 kilo bars were small enough that Jake was able to fit a few of them in each of his hands pretty easily. There were still a few dozen of those small 1 kilo bars left and also a couple large, 12.4 kilo standard bank-sized gold bars. Many of them had different logos and minting information on their faces.
‘These guys were probably drug dealers or smugglers.’
When he walked over to the shore and placed the first batch of gold bars on the sandy white beach, Tori shouted in a cute high-pitched voice: “Father, you still haven’t answered my question!”
“Well, gold can be used in a lot of important medical, aerospace and electronic technologies. If people still use it as currency, then it can be money. But… I’m an artist, Sweetie. Hehe~! I could melt it down and turn it into jewelry or sculptures. I could also etch some pictures into the bars. I never thought I’d use millions of dollars worth of gold for silly art projects one day… Hahahaha~!”
“Hihihihihi~! Can I play too?”
“Of course you can, Baby.”
“Hahaha~! Yes, art fun.”
Moving the rest of the bricks didn’t take that long, because Torrent put a lot of them in her mouth and simply swam ashore in a few seconds. After being washed off a bit, the hundreds of kilos of gold bars were laid out on the smooth rocks in a line. Jake faced them all upwards, so he could see various logos, symbols and writings in different languages. Most of them were English or Spanish, but there were also some that looked Russian, Chinese, Japanese, et cetera.
‘It’s a shame I wasn’t an explorer before…’
“If the world didn’t end, I’d never come down here and find this gold. So there’s no point thinking about what could’ve been… Also, there’s no way that the Argentinian government would ever let me keep this gold if they found out where I got it from.”
Looking towards his beautiful daughter, Jake smirked, “Besides… I’d never trade Vora and Tori for the world.”
“They’d understand.” Jake sighed and shook his head, “Although I really miss them and wish I could go check up on them… If they’re still alive, then they’ll understand. If they aren’t, then they don’t need to worry about this world anymore.”
“Father, are we going to stay here or keep climbing?” Tori was obviously bored with this new little lake and wanted to continue their ‘hike’.
“We can’t climb a mountain while carrying hundreds of pounds of gold… So let’s dig a hole and bury it here first. We can come back and pick it up later.”
Jake looked around and found a heavy boulder. He first pushed that gray boulder over, leaving a big pit in the dirt, where a bunch of random worms and other bugs were crawling around frantically. Of course, Vora saw that and reached out to start devouring the unlucky bastards. She didn’t even bother washing the dirt off… She liked the ‘natural’ taste sometimes.
“Seriously, Vora… Ugh.”
On the other hand, Jake was still a little grossed out by that kind of stuff. He was used to it, but that didn’t make him happy. Then he moved all the bricks into the pit and covered it with a layer of mud, before rolling the boulder over and hiding it completely.
“Because this is hundreds of pounds of gold bars, okay? Who knows whether this island is inhabited? Maybe someone will send a random drone over and see this shiny gold. Or there could even be a few curious animals that steal the gold because it’s pretty. Who knows?”
“It’s not worthless. Even in the Apocalypse, trade and bartering should still exist. And maybe when things calm down, this could be our key to becoming rich assholes in the ‘New World’?”
“What’s a rich asshole, Father?”
Jake snickered and shook his head, “Put it this way… You could use this gold here to buy more food than we could eat in a whole year.”
‘Hmmm… Good! More gold, more food! Less work.’
“Wow! Amazing! Hihihihi~! Father, how long is a year?”
The tall man looked down at the cute Orca face and sighed dramatically, “A year is twelve months, Sweetie.”
“How long is a month?”
“Uh… It depends on the month…”
“Hihihihi~! That’s so weird! Come on, Father! Let’s go~! Let’s go climb the mountain!”
“Father… It’s so beautiful.”
Tori was panting through her blowhole as she looked down across the huge foggy forest and cove. They finally made it to the top of one of the smaller mountains that surrounded them. It was very cold, the air was slightly thinner, it was already drizzling and the winds were blowing really hard. Jake looked down from the edge of the gray, rocky cliff with his heart racing…
“Father, what’s wrong? Why aren’t you speaking?”
‘Danger! Escape! Back! Dangerous! Jacob!’
“Umm… So yeah… It’s been so long that I kinda forgot…” Jake backed away from the edge and sat down on the ground, breathing heavily, “I might be slightly afraid of heights.”
“Hihihihi~!” Torrent peeked over the edge a few times, but because of how long her body was, she wasn’t in any danger of falling off the edge. Those sharp flippers were dug into the rocks and that strong tail was also creating a lot of traction to prevent her from being blown around by the wind. Even the rain wasn’t able to make her slip.
“There’s another problem though.” Jake crawled over closer to the edge and sat next to his daughter, looking down at their misty ‘home’ from above. Then he turned his head to the right and sighed, “The sun’s going down. I didn’t really think it’d take all day to get this far. This cliff is only like a kilometer away from where we started…”
Relatively speaking, it was a much, much longer walk or swim to that shack that was overlooking the lighthouse. But that’s only the straight-line distances. They got lost in the woods a few times and had to go many different ways in order to find the safest, most reliable path that an Orca could ‘climb’ up the mountainside.
“Why don’t we stay here?”
“I don’t know if that’s a good idea.”
Jake looked back behind tem and saw a grassy hill, with some trees, vegetation and a bunch of goats, birds, et cetera. There was enough food and only about fifty meters away, there was a small crater that was filled with water. They already stopped by there to get something to eat and drink, so they knew that there were fish and other creatures living inside.
“I’m afraid it’ll freeze over while we’re sleeping. And there might be a landslide… I think we should make our way back down the mountain now, while we still can.”
“Are you sure we won’t get lost?” That cute right eye looked over at her silly father, then at the creepy mountain goats in the distance. Some of them were chewing the wet grass or rubbing their horns against rocks.
“Even if our map wasn’t eaten by a fucking goat, it still would’ve gotten wet and ruined by now.” Jake rubbed the back of his right hand, “Anyway, how hard could it be? You can see it, right? We just go down that side over there with all the trees, then we can either go back to the closer lake or the farther one, depending on whichever we find first.”
*Crack! Boom!* A bolt of lightning suddenly shot down from the clouds and struck the tree that those goats were hiding under! The tree burst into flames and exploded, with arcs of lightning reaching out and electrocuting half the goats. The others were blasted away or jumped away, falling down the slippery slope helplessly to their deaths!
“No, stop it Vora!” Jake had to quickly force his body to calm down, especially making those stupid tentacles stop sticking up in the air like giant glowing pink lightning rods! He quickly explained, “Unless we’re super unlucky, lightning shouldn’t strike us on the ground! But we need to avoid the trees and make our way down the mountain…”
They weren’t even really at the highest point of the mountain. As stated previously, there was a hill behind them, where a decent sized water-filled crater existed. Beyond that were some gray and white rocky areas. Not much ice or snow, since the daytime temperatures are relatively low and the altitude really wasn’t that high. At least not on this part of the island. There were other places that were much higher.
“Come on, Sweetie. Be careful not to slip. This ain’t like the slides in Antarctica.”
Aside from gray stones, there was a lot of mud in the places where grass didn’t grow. The father and daughter duo crawling across the ground were lucky that most of the lightning was striking far away or not even landing at all. The frequency also wasn’t that high. They were still terrified though, because they were moving slowly down a relatively steep cliff. Going from one protruding large rock to another.
“Father… I’m sorry… I shouldn’t have convinced you to climb the mountain today…”
“Don’t cry, Tori. It’s not your fault. I saw that the weather was shitty and we had plenty of chances to stop, but I was stupid enough to keep going.”
After making it past the steepest parts of the mountain, the rest of the way down was actually not that bad. Jake still crawled on all fours just in case, but it was probably unnecessary. Especially since they quickly made it down into a grassy slope, which led into the forest below. Although it’s obviously more dangerous by the trees, considering that the other alternative was a sheer cliff, they didn’t have much of a choice.
Only after half an hour, when the thunder seemed to go farther away, did Jake finally stand up and start walking again. He patted his panting, exhausted daughter on her black carapace-covered armored head, “Don’t push yourself too hard. I can’t carry you back home if you pass out.”
“Sorry, Father… I need… I need to take a break…”
“Alright, Sweetie. Just calm down. Relax. Everything’s gonna be fine.”
They were halfway down the mountain, but it was almost night. Even if it wasn’t the dense trees and the foggy, rainy conditions would make it almost impossible to tell where they were and where they had to go… It was also difficult to hear the ocean waves and other sounds with so many leaves being hit by raindrops. There were also goats, deer and birds crying out from the forest and mountains above.
“Well, we know that if we go ‘down’, we’ll either reach the lakes or the bay. Either way, there’s no point thinking about it too much… Tori? Tori?! What the fuck?!”
Jake looked around anxiously, but couldn’t hear, feel or see his daughter anywhere!
Even Vora was confused and terrified. It’s one thing for a small child to go missing, but a 3.5 meter long Killer Whale covered in ‘armor’? Also, this wasn’t the chaotic ocean! This was in the middle of the woods!
“Tori! Can you hear me?! Tori!”
‘Torrent, missing? Dead?’
“She’s not dead! Don’t say that shit!”
Jake closed his eyes and stopped trying to look or hear with his normal senses. Instead, he just focused entirely on his innate telepathic connection to his daughter… However, he couldn’t feel anything. His pink tentacles reached up into the air and looked like they were trying to act like antennae. Then they grabbed and broke apart some random branches!
“Father! Mother! Wake up! Please! Wake up! Don’t die!”
“Hmmm, ugh… Ow…” Jake opened his right eye and looked around blankly, “Wha-wha hahend?”
“Faah~!” Jake ‘cursed’ as he realized what happened and why his body felt so painful all of a sudden!
“Father, are you okay? I thought you died!”
Those big eyes on the sides of her face were really wet and not just from the rain falling through the leaves above their heads. She looked at her father and couldn’t help crying again. The black carapace all over his body was covered in burnt pink cracks, with smoke emerging. Those tentacles on his head were either blackened, limp or twitching uncontrollably. The teeth in his mouth exploded directly, like his left eye.
‘Fuck me. Seriously, did we seriously get struck by fucking lightning?! When?!’
“It’s been a long time… I was so scared, Father. I couldn’t hear your voice or feel you anymore. Mother was also gone. I was so scared… I’m so scared. Father, please don’t leave me!”
‘I won’t leave you… But I can’t move. Let’s just… Stay here for a while and rest. Don’t worry, I won’t die so easily. Vora and I have survived worse… Much worse.’
‘Endure, recover, overcome, survive!’
Over the next week after Jacob and Torrent returned home, he spent most of that time in horrible, agonizing pain and discomfort. That bolt of lightning struck him in the head first, then went down through most of his body and burst out of his belly. His lungs and the gills on his belly were damaged severely, yet his neck gills were fine. At first he could also rely on Vora’s pores, but then he started shedding his shell again for the first time since he left the Antarctic Islands. In that strange, weakened state, he was like a giant pink skinless monster.
Jake grew about 30 cm taller and a lot ‘thicker’ in the process. Tori also grew a little bigger… It just wasn’t that noticeable in comparison. She also hasn’t shed her shell yet. By the time the black armor on Jake’s body had completely recovered and hardened, another week had passed. Compared to the rest of his body, Jake’s tentacles were actually the first to heal. The completely carbonized tissues were simply removed and devoured by Vora, but those octopus-like tentacles were able to grow back within only a few days. His teeth on the other hand, took about as long as his carapace to fully recover.
“Father, how are you feeling today? Does anything hurt? Is there anything I can do to help?”
“I’m fine-Meat! Fish! Bird! Stop! Damn it, Vora, we’re not cripples… Not anymore. Don’t trick our silly baby.” Jake shook his head and smiled down at Tori, “Don’t worry, Sweetie. We feel fine today. And we’ve been fine for the past few days. You don’t need to keep worrying about us all the time.”
“I can’t help it.”
The ‘little girl’ sighed out of her blowhole and shot water up into the air. She was in the shallow end of the lake, while Jake was sitting down on a big rock. A lot of his spikes were much smaller than before, so he actually looked less intimidating if you didn’t consider the fact that he was 2.3 meters tall and looked like some sort of horror-movie antagonist.
“It’s getting colder. A lot colder. This lake is gonna start freezing over even during the day. We need to make up our minds. Are we gonna stay here or keep going north?”
“But Father, didn’t you say the ocean was too dangerous?”
Jake looked down at the gold brick in his left hand and smirked, “The ocean is dangerous. But it’s dangerous everywhere… Besides, as long as we West for a little bit, we can reach the southernmost tip of Argentina. We can stay in the shallows and swim along the coast, all the way up South America. But… I’m a little worried about running into people. And I’m ‘very’ worried about nuclear radiation.”
This little island in the middle of nowhere actually had a huge advantage. It was in the middle of nowhere. Antarctica was probably even ‘cleaner’, but it would be way too cold. If they went north, sooner or later, they’d run into people, zombies, monsters and most dangerously, radiation. There was also the normal kinds of pollution.
“I don’t know. I’m afraid…”
“You’re afraid that something will happen to us and I’ll blame you? Or you’ll blame yourself.” Jake sighed and shook his head, “Sweetie, I feel the same way. It’s normal. And that’s why I can’t make up my mind either.”
“What about Mother?”
“What do you think?” He rolled his faintly glowing pink eyes, one of which had just recovered a few days ago, “Vora doesn’t care where we go or what we do, as long as she has plenty of food and uh, anyway, there’s a reason why I named her Voracity.”
“Then why did you name me Torrent?” Tori asked curiously, swimming over and nuzzling his leg that was half-way into the water.
“I wanted to name you Tori from the start.” Jake snickered, “It was your mother that decided on Torrent.”
‘Torrent. Current. Waves. Oceans. Tides. Seas. Unstoppable. Eternal. Carry forward, hope. And… Meat. Fish. Ducks. Hmmm, Jacob, cook!’
“Yes, yes, Mommy wants her breakfast, so Daddy has to get to work. Anything you want, Sweetie?”
“Umm, I like everything. I haven’t had deer in a while though…”
“Uh, Father, deer meat is called venison. You told me that veal was a baby cow…”
“Hahaha~! Sorry, I always get those two confused.””
‘Hoppy Meat! Kill! Cook! Devour!’
“Alright, calm down.” Jake laughed again, tossing the gold brick up and down in his hand, “Whether we can eat veal depends on whether we can find a stupid enough deer.”
He didn’t have any fancy traps or other tricks. His main method of ‘hunting’ on land was to taunt the arrogant and ignorant male goats or stags, then literally fight them to the death. Now that he grew a foot taller, Jake didn’t think they’d be quite as easy to fool anymore.
“You stay here and we’ll go see if we can catch anything. If we can’t find a deer or goat, we’ll at least pick some nuts, berries and herbs.”
“Father, are you sure you can go alone? I’m worried…”
Jake smiled wryly, “Don’t worry, Baby. We won’t be climbing any mountains. There are only two sources of fresh water in this basin. You know where to find us. We’ll only be a few hundred meters away at most.”
“Yes, Father… But… Be careful. I love you.”
“I love you too, Tori. You should be careful too. Don’t let your guard down just because it seems safe.”
After tossing the gold bar back into the lake for ‘safe keeping’, he stretched his arms and legs a bit, before getting up off the rock and heading into the dense forest. After such a long time, he was already used to his current form. His legs were still about the same shape as before, but he had ‘bird feet’. His long, thick carapace covered black toes had a thick, durable webbing between them. Except for the big black tow behind where his heel would have been. As he walked, it was hard not to make any noise, because his feet simply weren’t designed for sneaking. At least not sneaking around on land.
His hulking 2.3 meter or 7’6” tall body was also extremely burly, covered in thick muscles, some blubber and finally a set of armored carapace that made him even more imposing. After such a long time, he also learned a little more about his ‘abilities’. Okay, he didn’t figure this out himself. His genius daughter was bored one day and managed to do it first, then taught her stupid father the tricks.
“You gotta admit. This is pretty fucking cool, right?”
Jake snickered as his pitch-black body and glowing pink tentacles started changing color slowly. Seemingly integrating into the surroundings. His carapace and tentacles were mostly brown, with bark-like patterns and some green ‘leaf’ shapes. His feet and ankles also blended in with the dirt.
‘Stealth! Sneaky Hunter!’
*Plop, plop, plop!*
“Yes… Very sneaky…”
He shrugged his spiky shoulders and murmured, “Anyway, let’s go find our secret spot first.”
Although chameleons are the most famous animal for changing their colors and camouflage, there are actually many other creatures that can do the same thing. Most octopi can change their color as well. But there are actually quite a few crustaceans, insects, fish, lizards and amphibians also have similar abilities.
*Plop, crack, crack, thump, plop, crack!*
The birds and squirrels in the trees were looking down toward the huge, lumbering creature that was nearly ‘invisible’ due to the camouflage. Some of them escaped, but most just watched it a few times and ignored it. After all, whatever that ‘thing’ was, they didn’t think that it could affect them.
Then a particularly unlucky white and gray seagull was suddenly yanked down from a thick branch! It was nearly three meters above Jake’s head, but that was still within the range of those tentacles on his head. The poor bird didn’t understand what was happening, even as its skull was crushed and the juices inside were slurped up by two slimy pink tongues. The feathers were quickly stripped off and blood dripped down onto the dirt, grass and weeds. Jake opened his mouth and devoured a few big chunks of bloody meat, swallowing it down, before feeding the rest to his right palm. Only some bones and feathers were left behind by the time they continued on their journey.
“I think I might have changed a bit.”
“Well… I guess. It’d be a lot harder to survive if I was still worried about cleanliness. I still have my bottom-line, but I’m more willing to kill random animals now. As long as they’re not too young or cute.”
“We’re not killing penguins. If they’re already dead though…”
Jake and Vora have ‘scavenged’ some penguins before. They were killed by skuas or seals shortly beforehand, so it’s not like they just found some rotten piece of meat. They’ve never been ‘that’ desperate, yet.
Jake walked over to the edge of a nearby rocky cliff and looked down at the crashing waves below. It was pretty bright out and the weather was nice. Just… A little chilly. With the wind-chill, it was slightly below freezing. But in the sunlight, it felt a lot warmer. Especially when Jake made his tentacles and carapace pitch-black again. On the other hand, his irises turned bright blue, though he still didn’t have any white sclera and his pupils were huge.
“We’re almost there.”
“Is it just me or… Are there a lot more trees than before?”
Jake frowned as he looked around. He was pretty sure they should almost be at that little shack near the lighthouse now… But this hill that was previously covered in grass, now had a lot of small trees growing everywhere. Not only that, but the grass that should have been dying from the colder weather was actually even more vibrant and nearly reaching his waist.
“Do you ever wonder if maybe… Like just maybe, shit grows faster around us? Not only does it grow faster, but animals and plants reproduce faster.”
“I think it’s more likely that we’re releasing some kinda fucking virus in the air. But yes, a ‘Food Aura’. Except, if we aren’t careful, we’ll become food.”
Since they started staying on this island, in this particular basin, the changes really have been pretty dramatic. He didn’t notice that much before, but now that he hadn’t been here for a few weeks while recovering, Jake could easily tell the difference.
“Well, it doesn’t matter either way. I don’t know if we can even fit inside that building now?”
As he climbed up the grassy hill and looked at the simple blackened wreckage in front of him, Jake sighed dramatically. Well, apparently he wasn’t the only thing that got struck by lightning in that storm. Not only was the wooden building burnt down, but a lot of it was simply blown away and covering the hill or washed up on the rocky beaches below.
‘Secret place, gone…’
“Well, we would be too big anyway. I’m just annoyed that I thought it’d be safer to keep our shit in here.”
Whether it was paper, pencils, drawings, books, et cetera. Everything they did was destroyed, like always. At this point, Jake was just numb to it all. Fortunately, he didn’t put too much time and effort into those artworks. Unlike all the canvases and other paintings that were left behind in his house back then.
“If the internet still exists, most of my artwork should be saved out there, somewhere. Still… It’s really annoying.”
“Of course we’re gonna breed. Hahaha~!”
Jake didn’t care about anything else at that point. Just sat down on the windy hill in open view of the seagulls, penguins, skuas, seals and any other creatures that might be watching. Then he started fucking his wife. Though it just looked like the hulking monster was using his palm to ‘devour’ the pink tentacle that emerged from his groin. As for the black octopus tentacles on his head, while they were also very sensitive, none of them were penises. And Vora only really had one ‘hole’ to fill either way.
“Fuck me, is it just me or do you smell cigarette smoke?”
Jake rolled his glowing blue eyes and complained, “If it ain’t humans, do you think it’s those seals over there?”
Those tentacles were the first to change, from black to green. Then his carapace and irises followed along. Only his pupils were still pitch black, since he couldn’t really change their color. With his body blending in with the grassy hill, the two of them continued ‘Breeding’ without worrying too much. However, that horrible stench was getting blown toward them by the wind. Jake looked over to his left, the ‘West’. He was on the top of the hill, so he could see the beach in the distance, more than a kilometer away. It was the bottom of the ‘scrotum’ that Vora awkwardly joked about before.
“It looks like… People.”
Jake squinted his eyes and was able to somewhat make out that there were several humans on the rocky beach in the distance. He couldn’t tell how many of them were smoking, but he could see their fishing rods and more importantly, he could see some smoke rising into the sky from the woods behind them.
“Did somebody start a campsite over there when we were recovering?”
“Then again, there could have been a settlement there all along. It’s just that we never noticed them before now.”
“Gloria está embarazada de nuevo”.
“¡Joder, tío! ¡Tienes que aprender a salir!”
“Ni siquiera hemos tenido sexo desde la última vez, al menos no así.”
“¿Es el virus?”
“Tiene que ser el virus. Ella no está enferma. Está más sana que nunca. Pero… ella sigue quedando embarazada.”
“Mierda. ¿Qué van a hacer ustedes?”
“¿Qué más podemos hacer?”
Two dark-skinned Argetinian men were smoking cigarettes and sitting on wooden stools, wearing some green/brown camo. One of them had a hunting rifle and the other had a shotgun next to them. Their extremely long fishing rods were held firmly in their hands. Every now and then, they’d catch some fish. They also had some simple metal crab traps set up.
“Recuerdo que la pesca solía ser más difícil”.
“Y la caza.”
“Es el virus, hombre.”
“Maldito virus. Pero al menos no nos moriremos de hambre.”
“¿Yo se, verdad?”
“¡De hecho, fui atacado por un maldito ciervo el otro día!”
“Lo sé, Lupe estaba hablando de esa mierda anoche. Bastardos afortunados.”
“No es suerte, ¿de acuerdo? ¡Esos ciervos están rabiosos!”
“Si no lo quieres, entonces envía la carne a nuestra casa”.
“¡Jaja~! ¡De ninguna manera!”
The two men sitting on the sandy part of the beach, suddenly noticed something big and dark approaching from the distance! It swam through the water rapidly, regardless of its huge size and was headed straight for the beach! They quickly took out their rifle and shotgun, leaving their fishing rods behind, along with their buckets of fish! Then they ran up the beach and hid behind the trees, waiting for that hulking monster to appear…
“Euu-eeuuu-euuu~!” The massive 5 meter long, brown furred Southern Elephant Seal emerged from the crashing waves and knocked over a bucket of fish with its right flipper. Then it happily devoured everything that was in the bucket. The enormous beast knocked over those wooden stools in the process, but fortunately managed to avoid crushing the fishing rods.
Two gunshots rang out at the same time! One 30-06 rifle bullet landed on the right shoulder of the seal, while the 12 gauge slug directly ripped off that long elephant-like snout!
“Euuuu~!” The seal was enraged, terrified and in horrible pain. It didn’t understand what was going on, but it was too stunned to escape immediately… Which sealed its fate.
*Boom! Boom! Boom!*
The pump-action shotgun and semi-auto hunting rifle were able to shoot relatively quickly. It only took a few seconds before the giant elephant seal collapsed with half its head torn apart, a big hole in its blubbery neck and several other bullet holes in its gigantic body.
“¡Sí! ¡Sí! ¡De eso estoy hablando!”
“¡Vamos! ¡Vamos, José! ¡Ve por todos!”
“¡Mierda! ¡Tienes razón, tenemos que darnos prisa! ¡Antes de que aparezca otro de estos monstruos!”
“¡No es un monstruo! ¡Es solo una jodida foca! ¡Ahora vamos! ¡Yo vigilaré!”
After the two of them said something in Spanish, the shorter, fatter man with a mustache and a balding head was the one that ran back. While the other guy, who was also short, but in better shape, a shaved face and long curly brown hair was left behind. Such a huge amount of meat would be able to feed their survivor group for a long time. But only if they could bring the colossal carcass back home safely.
‘Can you understand anything they’re saying?’
‘Yes, shit. Shit, mierda.’
The man who was holding the hunting rifle next to the dead seal didn’t seem to notice the 2.3 meter long, grayish tan creature that washed up onto the beach a few minutes earlier. Whether it was the armored shell or the long tentacles, everything blended in with the environment perfectly. Half of Jake’s body was still underwater. When he noticed a bunch of other men and women coming out of the forest, Jake slowly slid back into the waves. Allowing himself to be pulled down by the undertow.
It wasn’t a matter of whether he could fight and kill a big group of people with guns. He wasn’t a total psychopath. Whether it was animals or humans, he didn’t want to massacre them for no apparent reason. Especially when he noticed all the children and teenagers in that group of people. A lot of the women, even young girls, had bulging bellies.
‘What the fuck?’
‘What kinda virus makes little girls pregnant? You think those bastards didn’t have anything to do with it?’
‘Unknown. Don’t care.’
‘Ugh… I can’t understand what they’re saying. They don’t look sick or injured at least. Just… Hungry.’
‘Hmmm… Always hungry.’
As Jake was backing away from the beach, he was startled by a big, hard, carapace-covered flipper that smashed into one of his tentacles. He looked over and quickly saw that it was just his daughter. However, she was also camouflaged really well and blended in with the water and sand around him.
‘Shit, Tori! You scared the hell outta me!’
‘Sorry, Father! I was bored and worried, so I wanted to make sure you were okay… And then I heard loud noises and people talking. So I rushed over.’
‘Those were gunshots. In the future, try to avoid those… Well, if you’re deep enough underwater, bullets can’t reach you, but that isn’t absolute. So you have to be careful.’
As Jake was speaking to his daughter mentally, he started swimming down into the depths of the relatively shallow cove. Tori followed him along the rocky shoreline, until they took a right turn and surfaced near that tiny red/white lighthouse island. There were lots of Southern Elephant Seals gathered on the island now, but most of them were small, cute-looking females. The only two males weren’t fully-grown and were busy fighting each other. So they ignored the two camouflage creatures that appeared nearby.
“Father, what’s that thing?”
Jake looked to the right and noticed that one of his tentacles was wrapped around the handle of a very long, silver fishing rod!
“Uh… Well, I didn’t mean to steal it. Okay? My fucking tentacles are kleptomaniacs. Anyway, it’s just a fishing rod. Humans can’t catch fish as easily as us, so they need to use these tools to accomplish their goals.”
“Cool! Can I play with it?!”
“Sure, Sweetie, but we should go back home first.”
After they went back to their own lakeside ‘home’, the first thing that Jake did was gather up all the gold bars and bury them under the silt. Even putting some big rocks on top in order to simultaneously hide their location and also as a reminder. For when they come back later someday. He didn’t know how many years or decades it would take… But he was sure that human civilization wouldn’t end so easily. Eventually, gold would be extremely valuable again.
“Being a dolphin is kinda weird.” Jake flapped his tail and stirred up a lot of big waves. His giant 3.6 meter long body darted forward and then crashed face-first into a bunch of brown seaweed… Fortunately, there were no rocks there. One of his biggest issues with switching from a ‘humanoid’ to a Killer Whale shape was that his eyes were on the sides of his head. His ability to use echolocation was almost nonexistent.
“Father, please be careful with my body.” He could hear the deep, yet somewhat childish voice coming from the shore very clearly with his hypersensitive Orca ears. Then he waved his ‘arms’, the flippers, to try and push himself upwards… Well, it worked, but definitely wasn’t the right way to use those flippers. For that matter, the water was so shallow that he could have just pushed his tail flukes into the silt and poked his head out immediately.
“Sorry about that.” Jake spoke in a high-pitched voice at first, then tried to lower it a bit, but because of his different ears, it sounded lower to him than to Tori on the shore.
‘Waste, food.’ Vora complained as Torrent used Jake’s big armored hands to carefully put a worm onto a large hook, then cast the line out into the lake.
“Mother, please. You need to be more patient. That’s the fun of fishing. It’s not as easy or simple as just catching prey with your mouth.”
Jake snickered in the form of an armored Orca, his color scheme was pure black with glowing blue irises. Not that there’s anything wrong with pink… It’s just that he thought black armor and ice blue eyes was more aesthetically pleasing. He also ‘drew’ some glowing lines along the edges of his armor. Using Torrent’s body as his canvas. On the other hand, Tori made Jake’s body gray and white, to blend in with the rocks/sand and the sky/clouds.
“Vora, you switch with me if you’re bored. Let Tori relax.”
“Busy with what?” Jake asked in a high-pitched and adorable voice, “Wait… Vora… Please don’t tell me…”
“You know that’s just a saying. Vora, are you pregnant again?!”
“What?! Mother is pregnant?! Am I going to have a little brother or sister?!” The giant ‘man’ screamed in a surprisingly high-pitched voice that cracked a lot.
“What do you mean, ‘no’?”
‘No means no.’
Voracity refused to explain, no matter how the father and daughter asked. So in the end, the chilly lake returned to quiet.
“Ah! I caught something!” Tori screamed excitedly as she started reeling in the big brown-scaled fish that looked similar to a carp in a lot of ways… Okay, none of them were ‘fish experts’. All they knew was how to catch and eat them.
“Great job, Sweetie! Now take back your body. I’ll cook lunch!”
The two of them ‘switched places’ seamlessly. It was actually a fairly powerful ability. Somewhat similar to full-immersion VR. Even though they could control the other body, they still retained a lot of their senses. It wasn’t something that could be maintained long-term. At least not with their current proficiency. There was also a little latency, which made the process feel a little unreal and jarring.
Of course, even though Jake was using his hands to prepare their lunch. Tori still controlled his tentacles to keep fishing. Catching a total of five fat and stupid fish. Which were all cooked with some simple seasonings like seaweed, random plants that might be poisonous but taste good and a little salty water from the sea nearby.
For the rest of the day, Torrent loitered around lazily while using Jake’s tentacles to fish. He was busy either cooking, eating or preparing ingredients. Of course, they also kept an eye out and didn’t let their guard down. Whether it was goats, deer or those humans, the smell of their cooking meat and fish could draw attention. Plus the smoke that was always rising up into the sky. There was a mountain between their two ‘settlements’, so they generally couldn’t see or ‘smell’ each other, but Jake knew that it was only a matter of time before they had an encounter…
And so did Voracity.
“Quack~! Waak~! Waak~!”
“What? What happened?”
Jake opened his eyes and looked around the cold beach. It was the middle of the night and it got so cold that the surface of the lake would freeze over. So both the father and daughter needed to sleep on the beach instead. Some small snowflakes were falling from the sky and a tiny black beak was poking one of his long, glowing blue tentacles.
“Is that a duckling?”
“What?!” Jake shouted in shock and then realized that he had an instinctive connection to the cute white duckling. It already had feathers on its chubby body, not the fluff of a normal newly hatched bird. Also, it didn’t have a duckbill, but a sharp, curved beak. Those cool blue hawk-like eyes were particularly striking, even in the darkness. He looked down and noticed that the adorable duckling had black, carapace-covered raptor-like feet. Similar to his own, they also had webbed toes.
‘Scout Drone Type-1, Waterfowl.’
“Scout Drone?” Jake frowned as he sat upright on the beach and held the cute duckling in his hands. It was so small compared to his giant body that he couldn’t even feel it being born while he was sleeping. Those eyes stared at him blankly.
‘Low intelligence. No personality. Rapid growth. Infertile. Short lifespan. Perfect tool.’
“Quack! Wak! Wak~!”
“Father! Why are the ducks so loud tonight?”
The giant gray carapace-covered Orca opened her eyes and looked over at Jake, who was holding a baby duck. Then she ‘yawned’ with her mouth open, but breathing out of her blowhole.
“It’s not a duck. It’s… Your younger sibling. Kinda.” Jake sighed and shook his head, “Your Mother obviously created this creature intentionally… Right, Vora?”
“What?! Really?! Is it a boy or a girl?!”
‘Gender, unnecessary. Reproductive organs, redundant.’
“It’s not a boy or girl. It can’t even communicate telepathically.” Jake frowned, “Let’s just call them Scout for now.”
“Hello Scout! I’m your big sister! Hihihihihi~! It’s nice to meet you!”
“Aww~! They’re so cute!”
‘Cuteness, irrelevant. Useful, aerial reconnaissance. Hunting, gathering. Expendable.”
“Cuteness isn’t irrelevant.” Jake shook his head and placed the adorable white ‘duckling’ on his daughter’s head, “Especially for spying and reconnaissance. The cuteness of an animal will often determine how a human or other animal will react.”
‘Noted. Cuteness, valuable. Useful for… Deception.’
“Hihihihi~! That tickles~!”
The silly little bird was pecking at the carapace protecting Tori’s blowhole and making a ‘taking’ noise. After a while, Jake asked, “Wait… Doesn’t this mean… We can fly now?!”
‘Birds, fly. Ducks, swim. Both, useful.’
“We can fly?! Father, is that true?! Can I use Scout to fly?!”
“Of course you can, Sweetie… Just, be careful. He’s basically just a regular bird. If you crash, he er, she, uh, ‘it’ will die.”
‘Scout, weak. Expendable. Consumable. Inexpensive.’
Jake rolled his blue eyes and complained, “No matter how ‘inexpensive’ or ‘expendible’ our newest child might be, it’s still our child, okay?”
“Don’t worry, Father. I’ll be careful and take good care of my brother.”
“Whatever makes you happy. I’m going back to sleep.” Jake snickered as he laid back down, cuddling up against his giant daughter. She didn’t move her actual body. Instead, she controlled Scout. Making him flap his wings awkwardly.
First she simply had him open his wings as wide as possible, then hop off her head, trying to glide down onto the beach… Only about a meter, but for the tiny duckling, it was far enough to ‘glide’ for a few seconds. Scout didn’t get very far though. Thankfully, Tori was familiar with Jake’s feet already.
Although it seems like birds have two knees, technically the second one is just an ankle. So it’s very similar to a human that’s walking on their toes or the balls of their feet. Jake’s situation is similar, just that his ankle is still closer to a human. There’s no extra, relatively long bone reaching down at an angle to connect to his feet. It just goes straight into a big toe on his heels, with three similarly large and powerful toes out in front. Scout’s feet were the same, but ‘he’ did have that long bone from the ankle, down to the toes.
Fortunately, Scout was very light. Tori jumped around happily, flapping her little wings and trying to fly, but failing miserably. Flying is more than just flapping. You have to angle your wings in a certain way in order to generate lift. There’s a lot of rotation of the shoulders and other complicated movements. It usually takes young birds a little while to get the hang of it. However, they have the benefit of a teacher, their parents, and genetic talent. Technically, Scout has both.
Tori simply walked around the lake and looked for some other small birds. Who either looked at her like prey, an enemy or with some mild concern. For the most part though, those birds didn’t give a shit either way. Most of them were just trying to sleep… Most.
Jake woke up to a horrible loud scream and opened his eyes to see the crying daughter. It took him a few seconds to return to reality. He felt a sharp pain in the back of his mind and looked over in the direction where it was coming from.
“Fuck!” Jake groaned as he stood up and started sprinting over in that direction. His body blended in with the darkness, so the big brown owl didn’t see anything until it was too late. Vora clamped down on that large head and crushed it easily. However, Jake didn’t care about the dead bird anymore. Instead, he reached down and picked up his newborn ‘son’.
‘Damage, severe… Dying. Recycle?’
“Eat your fucking owl! We’re not gonna ‘recycle’ our child!”
Jake scowled as he looked down at the disemboweled, nearly headless little baby bird in his left palm. They’ve actually survived much worse injuries before, but Scout… Wasn’t as resilient. Let’s not talk about anything else. Just in terms of willpower or survival instinct, Scout had nothing. He was actually worse than a normal duck or other bird.
“Father, Mother, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry! Iiiiieeeeeh~! Scout~!”
When he showed what was left of the duckling to his daughter, Torrent cried her eyes out even harder. The three of them could feel that their connection was completely cut off at this point. Scout was dead. He only lived for a few hours. Didn’t even learn how to fly.
‘Hmmm… Need time. Make more. Expendable. Cheap. Tools.’
“Mother, Scout wasn’t just a cheap tool! He was my brother and I killed him! Iiiieeeeh~!”
Although Tori took Scout’s death a little hard, she recovered quickly. Because the very next morning, there were two adorable white-feathered, black-beaked chicks pecking at her head. It literally only took a few hours for Vora to produce twin Scouts. They really were cheap and expendable. It might seem harsh, but that’s just how it goes.
“I promise! I’ll never let what happened to Scout 1, happen to his two little brothers!”
‘Hungry. Need… Meat!’
“Yes, Mother! I’ll get you some meat right away!”
Although they were ‘cheap’, it’s not like creating life was free. It required nutrients and energy. Plus time and a bit of effort. A few ducklings or chicks wouldn’t make a dent in Vora’s daily caloric intake though. Jake smiled wryly as he watched those two cute Scouts swimming after their sister in the partially frozen lake. When they weren’t being directly controlled, they could still think and act on their own to a certain extent…. But they weren’t very independent or intelligent. Especially just after being born. Just like any bird, they have to learn. Though these Scouts were given some genetic memories and knowledge by Vora, so they had a decent head start. In the end… Jake allowed Scout 1 to be recycled instead of getting buried. Mainly because Vora promised that his memories and experiences could be partially handed down to the next generation. Allowing them to be more wary of predators and survive longer.
“I don’t really ‘feel’ anything.”
“Sad. Scout 1 died last night and I didn’t really feel much. Just anger at first. Then emptiness. Then I got over it.”
‘Hmmm… Loss, proportional. Scout, inexpensive. Loss, acceptable. Torrent, priceless. Loss, unacceptable.’
“Yeah. We have to protect our baby. I never wanna experience that shit with Tori. Ever.”
The two ducks suddenly quacked and dove underwater. A few seconds later, they emerged with tiny silver minnow-like fish in their mouths. Struggling to try to swallow them whole. Jake smiled wryly and picked up a small gray stone off the beach. He tossed it up and down in his right hand a few times, then stood up and threw it out with an amazing pitch!
“Hoooong~!” A huge white swan with a black beak was hit in the head and made one last noise before it lost consciousness. Then Jake picked up another rock and threw it out, hitting the wing of a swooping brown hawk! He grabbed another stone and pitched it into the neck of a particularly aggressive duck…
“Nature is a fucking PVP Server. Because there are no NPCs in this game of life. Just a bunch of assholes murdering each other.”
Tori emerged from the water next to the two silly Scouts with a huge black fish in her mouth. She looked around at the five or six dying or injured birds, then glanced at her Father gratefully with those bright pink irises. As usual, she had a white chin/belly and a black back, somewhat similar to a real Orca, just covered in chitinous armor.
“Sorry Father. I shouldn’t have let them follow me.”
“It’s not a big deal.” Jake shook his head, “Whether they follow you or not, they’re gonna attract predators constantly. Now bring those bastards over and let’s have breakfast. I’ll start the campfire.”
Around the lake were several small herds of goats and deer, but the amount of birds was really overbearing. There were always hundreds of ducks, swans, hawks, seagulls, skuas, et cetera. Sometimes thousands. They all had a lot of nests, full of countless eggs, which sometimes hatched, but were more often devoured by their competitors first. Then when the lucky birds hatched, those babies would be culled once more. In the end, the population of birds was still growing, even with Vora, Jake and Tori devouring lots of the biggest ones on a daily basis.
Of course, they didn’t just kill. When possible, Jake and Tori tried to help those babies grow into adults. Though they never really put that much effort into it… Because they didn’t want to get attached to their future ‘food’.
There were also a lot of plants, insects and other creatures to eat, so not all the birds were so cannibalistic or violent all the time. You just never knew when they’d suddenly pop off! Sometimes a flock of geese would just randomly attack Jake… A 2.3 meter tall monster, covered in armor. Not to mention other birds, deer and goats.
‘Humans, dangerous. Technology, threat.’
“Yeah.” Jake nodded as he looked at the flickering flame that was cooking the big fat goose on a metal stick, “But it’s not like we can’t use technology. As long as we’re relatively humanoid and not ridiculously large, we can still operate machinery, use guns… Uh, my hands might be a little big and it might be a little awkward with tentacles.”
‘Need, more hands? Smaller hands?’
“Please don’t make us grow any more limbs. Ten arms are enough for me.”
“I want hands too!” Tori crawled over with two cute white birds on her head, “Mother, how can I grow arms?”
“Hihihihi~! If you don’t know, then why do you act like you know?”
Jake snickered and shook his head, “Anyway… We might not be able to actively design and alter our own bodies, but Vora, you can design and create ‘Drones’, right? Probably based on the genes of things you’ve eaten before.”
“I’m just thinking…” Jake rubbed his sharp chin and smirked, “A lot of human inventions were created by imitating animals. And some other animals also have amazing features that you’d think would be unrealistic, but are totally real. For example, Bombardier Beetles can literally create chemical explosives in their bodies and use them as a weapon. Porcupines create spines that detach very easily. What if you mixed the two abilities together and created a creature that could shoot out quills like arrows? No, for that matter, we could just create a creature with small bullet-like projectiles and barrel-like chitinous pipes, then use the chemical explosives to launch the bullets…”
“Yeah, Father. That seems a little… Dangerous. Wouldn’t they get hurt? What if they just exploded?”
‘Hmmm, interesting. Possible.’
“Uh, Vora, please don’t try to make any exploding animals inside of our body, okay?”
“Mother! Don’t! It’s too dangerous!”
“Besides, we’ve never eaten any exploding bugs or other similar creatures before.” Jake shook his head, “It would actually be easier to create a monkey-like Drone that had human-sized hands and opposable thumbs to use tools with… But monkeys and apes are too smart.”
‘Indeed… Too, complex. Creation, expensive, difficult, design… Takes time.’
“I’m flying! Father! I’m flying!”
“I know, I can see you, hahah~! We’re both flying!”
Two big white birds with 1 meter wide wingspans were gliding a few dozen meters above the lake. Flapping their wings occasionally to gain a bit more lift. One had blue eyes and the other had pink irises. But both birds were able to speak English fairly proficiently. Their vocal cords were also able to have a fairly large range, with Jake’s voice sounding somewhat like his ordinary ‘human’ voice from way back when, while Tori’s high-pitched and childish tone was about the same as usual.
“Don’t let your guard down though. Those fucking hawks ain’t afraid of us, just cause we’re bigger than them!”
“I know, Father! I’m watching!”
It’s only been about a week or so, but Scout 2 and 3 have already grown to full maturity. This was part of Vora’s design. As for how long they could live… Vora said ‘Short Lifespan’, but even normal ducks can live for 10-30 years depending on various circumstances. Either way, the Type-1 Scout was never meant to become an apex predator or giant kaiju monster. It was just an aerial surveillance tool. Even more inconspicuous than those black drones that chased Jake around, because for all intents and purposes, these Scouts are just birds.
“Woops~! Almost fucked up, hahaha~!”
Jake’s Scout didn’t keep its body straight for a moment and he lost his balance, but then he managed to correct his posture and flap a few times to keep going forward properly. It didn’t take long for the two of them to pass the lake, turn around and fly back toward the beach where they started.
They flapped their wings a few times and splashed down on the calm surface of the water. Kicking their little feet a few times, their buoyant bodies soared forward like tiny boats. Then they made it to the sand and returned to their normal senses.
“Hahaha, thank you, Scouts.”
Jake smiled down at the two cute duck-like white birds that were rubbing up against the sides of his calves. He wanted to pet them with his hands, but that would be dangerous… So he used some of his long blue and purple tentacles instead. Specifically the suction cups were blue, while the backs of the tentacles were dark purple. His tall body was mostly black, but he had blue irises and some purple geometric patterns all over his carapace…
No, he didn’t figure out how to do ‘magic’. He just uses his body as a canvas and doodles or paints from time to time. There was a painting of a black and white Orca whale on his left forearm, with a purple background. There was also a cute white baby Scout on her head, in remembrance of Scout-1. It was kind of like a tattoo, except that it could disappear or reappear within a few seconds.
“Flying feels so cool! It’s like swimming! Through the air! Hihihihihi~!”
“I mean, it’s a little different from swimming… But yeah, it’s pretty awesome, hahah~!”
Vora shared most of her senses and sensations with Jake. Even their dreams were connected. So obviously she could experience his first ‘flight’ as well. With the duck-like body, neck and wings, the Scouts weren’t designed to be the fastest birds possible. At most, they could reach speeds around 90 kilometers per hour.
On the other hand, the fastest bird in the world before the Apocalypse was the Peregrine Falcon, which could swoop or dive at over 300 kilometers per hour. The white-throated needletail can reach about 170 kmph in normal flight, without cheating, so it was considered the true fastest bird in the world…. Of course, to put things in a little more perspective, the speed of sound is 1234.8 kilometers per hour. No known bird could come close to breaking the sound barrier.
“Before we actually use these guys for actual surveillance, we need a lot more practice.”
Jake sat down on his favorite smooth boulder, next to Tori, who was just laying on her belly on the sand. The two of them hadn’t really ‘grown’ much lately. At least, no sudden growth spurts. Those are usually accompanied by shedding their shells and an enormous amount of pain.
“Father, are we going to leave the island?”
“I don’t know. It’s going to be winter soon, or maybe it already is winter. The weather’s still getting worse. Honestly, it’s not that far from the tip of Argentina. If I hold onto you and you go full speed, we can get there in a couple hours at most.”
“I see, Father. So you want to investigate first, before we make a decision?”
“Pretty much. But before we entrust these cuties with such a dangerous and difficult task, it’s best if we check out this island first. Thus far, we’ve basically only stayed in a very tiny corner and we managed to find an old plane wreck full of gold!”
“Hihihihi~! Father, we should become treasure hunters!”
“Uh, well, let’s just say we’re adventurers or explorers. Specifically hunting for treasures is definitely not that easy. Then again… Scavenging the ‘treasures’ left behind by human civilization might be a serious job in the new world.”
As always, Jake was responsible for preparing and cooking lunch. Tori caught a big fish from the lake, while those two Scouts found a bunch of bugs and tiny fish. Although Jake wasn’t that opposed to eating worms, beetles or tiny fish, the Scouts generally just ate what they found immediately. Only if they were specifically instructed or controlled, would they wait. Aside from that, the two Scouts also cuddled together for warmth and made a small nest for themselves on the beach.
“They’re kinda like real birds.”
“They’re smart enough to take care of themselves.”
“Father, Mother, I hear something!”
Jake looked over in the direction where Tori’s right flipper was pointing and vaguely saw a tiny figure standing at the top of the snow-covered mountain peak to the southwest. Then Jake and Tori both blended into the environment. Turning gray, white and with a bit of brown on the areas that might be lined up with the woods.
They could hide themselves with camouflage, but the campfire and roasting fish filets were still there. As for the two Scouts… They were just random birds in a nest on the beach. Around the lake, there were hundreds of similar situations. No normal person would be able to make any kind of connection. The weird-looking Orca and the giant humanoid armored monster were both clearly abnormal though.
‘What did you hear?’ Jake asked telepathically.
‘I heard… Screaming and crying.’
“I can’t really see anything.”
Jake whispered, “I do hear screaming though. I thought it was just some birds before.”
There were always all kinds of loud noises echoing in the mountains. They lived on a lake, which was basically in a valley. With a cove only a short walk to the northeast. The acoustics of this area were pretty amazing, assuming there weren’t so many ducks quacking, seagulls crying and goats making their own annoying sounds.
“Father! Let’s investigate!”
“Ugh… We just barely flew over the lake for the first time. I’m afraid the Scouts are tired…”
‘Not tired, just lazy.’
Tori giggled, “They need proper exercise.”
Jake rolled his sky blue eyes and looked back up through the thin fog at those silhouettes on the snowy mountain peak. Breathing out a long sigh, he nodded his head, “Fine… Let’s use the Scouts to… Well, scout.”
After taking over control of the two fat white birds, Jake and Tori flapped their wings while running with their little legs. Soon they lifted off the sandy beach and started raising their elevation. Soon, the two duck-like Scouts were up above the fog. It wasn’t just their black beaks that were more like a falcon or hawk, their eyes and heads were similar. They were able to look down and concentrate both eyes on the same target, in order to have better depth perception and visual acuity.
“I see something.” Jake spoke in a calm voice as they approached the mountain. It really only took a matter of seconds before the two of them were able to see the person standing on the edge of the icy cliff. They wore a thick brown jacket and pants.
As they circled around a few times, Tori asked, “What are they doing?”
“I mean, it looks like they’re just standing on the edge of the cliff and screaming?”
The dark-skinned Hispanic man wasn’t even speaking or yelling, just screaming hysterically and crying from time to time. Jake and Tori looked around him, but didn’t really see anything special. He wasn’t holding a gun, not even any climbing or hiking gear. Eventually he kneeled down on the ice and started praying in Spanish while sniffling.
He didn’t seem to notice or care about the two random birds that suddenly landed not far away and stared at him curiously. Obviously they also stopped talking to each other out loud. Just watched and waited.
‘Is he gonna jump?’
‘Why would he jump? Can he fly?’
‘Well… He can fly for a few seconds.’
‘Father… That’s terrible.’
‘Hah-hah-hah~!’ Well, Vora thought it was funny.
Eventually the man calmed down, stood up and turned around. Seemingly intending to go back down the mountain to wherever he came from… But then he slipped because his legs were numb from kneeling too long.
“Aaah~!” He shouted anxiously and reached out to grab something, anything, but there was nothing within reach. Then he felt a sharp pain in his back and shoulders. Two sharp claws dug into his thick coat, piercing his skin. However, with the flapping of two powerful wings, he was pushed back forward a bit. Then another bird with bright blue hawk-like eyes reached out with its claws and grabbed his hands, flapping those big white wings in his face.
It took him a few seconds, but he managed to take a few steps forward and land back down on his hands and knees. He looked up at the two white birds that landed in front of him and shouted, “¡Gracias! ¡Gracias! ¡Ángeles!”
‘Father, do you know what he’s saying?’
‘Gracias means thanks and angeles is probably angels. I might have failed Spanish in High School, but everyone knows a little Spanish now days.’
The bird spoke to the man in a child-like voice and then giggled when she saw his shocked expression. Then the two Scouts flapped their wings and flew up into the air, circling around in the sky a few times, before gliding down towards the northeastern shore of the lake.
“Ahora entiendo… Esto es una señal. Gracias, Dios, sé lo que tengo que hacer ahora.”
After saying that, the man stood up with a serious expression on his old, weathered and bearded face. He looked over toward the lake and then back to the other side of the mountain, heading ‘home’. On the other side of the mountain to the southeast was a relatively gentle slope. Almost like a huge ramp, covered in rocks, trees and snow. At the bottom of that ramp was another lake, which was significantly larger than the one where Jake and Tori live. About a kilometer long, from the northwest to the southeast.
Around that oval lake were several small communities. The natural environment was being eroded away by humanity as always. Many of the trees were cut down for lumber, firewood, or just to make room to build houses or plant crops. They also had horses, pigs, goats, chickens, sheep, cows, dogs, cats… They managed to introduce over a dozen breeds of domesticated animals into the environment.
What could possibly go wrong?
A few days later, Jake and Tori noticed that they had a new neighbor. To be precise, there were three men, two little boys, five young girls and ten women. They brought with them a herd of black cattle, a bunch of fat chickens, roosters and a pack of vicious dogs. In particular, the dogs scared away a lot of the wild birds that were staying around the lake the moment they appeared. They also herded some silly sheep and goats.
“What the fuck?”
“Father, isn’t that the man we saw on the mountain the other day?”
The leader of the group was a middle-aged Argentinian man with a dark, weathered face and a lot of wrinkles. He was holding a shotgun in his hands and looked around warily. The whole group obviously found a way down the mountainside, or maybe they were already much more familiar with this island than ‘foreigners’ like Jake.
Jake and Tori usually stayed on the northeastern edge of the lake, so they were hundreds of meters away from where those ‘humans’ decided to set up their campsite. No, it wasn’t just a campsite. It was more like a full-blown construction site. Two of the men were pushing wheelbarrows full of various materials. There were also some other people coming and going from the woods, carrying bags of cement, already prepared wooden materials. Basically, they were about to start building their new property and turning this area into a new settlement.
Some people have already started digging for a well, basement, et cetera. Most of the women and girls were either taking care of babies, pregnant or making sure the animals were under control.
“Father… Do we have to leave now?”
“Maybe… Well, there’s another lake nearby. It’s not a big deal.”
“Gotta hand it to them. Their efficiency is fucking incredible.”
“Father… Can we have a house like that one day?”
Jake in the form of a blue-eyed Scout snickered, “Sweetie… One day, we’ll probably both be bigger than those tiny houses.”
“Maybe.” Tori’s pink-eyed Scout giggled and flapped her wings, before ruffling and picking through her feathers with her long, curved beak.
The two Scouts were perched on the branch of a tree near the lake. Looking down at the large area of cleared land. There were five small, one-story wooden and concrete houses that were still under construction. However, it has to be said that they were really fast. Even without heavy machinery, they still managed to build the first house in a week. After that, they didn’t stop, building some big barns, stables, some small pastures and fields. Over the course of a month, even through the snow and freezing rain, they continued working seriously.
“Why are they so desperate?” Tori couldn’t help wondering, “A lot of people are sick now.”
“That might be why they’re so desperate.” Jake shook his birdy head and narrowed his hawk-like eyes, “See that girl over there? And that little boy… Don’t they look a little weird?”
“What’s so strange?” Of course, Torrent, who had never been exposed to many humans, was completely clueless.
Jake covered his face with his wing and sighed, “Sweetie… Look at the other people. Now look at that boy and girl again.”
“They have more fur?”
“The fact that they have fur at all is the issue.”
That boy and girl were wearing much thinner clothes than everyone else, but almost all their exposed skin was covered by thick, curly brown fur. Including their faces. While their eyes had vertical slit pupils with yellow irises. Most of the other kids and even the adults avoided them, as if they were afraid that they might be infected. Or maybe they just thought they were weird. It could also be for religious reasons. Either way, Jake had a preliminary guess about why these people left their original community and decided to take over this new, smaller lake.
“Aren’t these people afraid of landslides or flooding?” Jake rubbed the bottom of his beak with his wing, “I mean, they built their homes awfully close to the mountain and the lake. If they’re drilling a well anyway, then why do they need to build the properties right next to the lake?”
“Ew. I really hope you’re wrong, Vora, but I have a feeling you might be right…”
Of course, it wasn’t just sewage. And a well couldn’t solve everything. They had a lot of animals to take care of and those animals could just drink out of the lake most of the time. They could also use the manure and some of the feces as fertilizer. Either way, Jake wasn’t going to be swimming in that lake anymore. He didn’t bother removing the gold he buried though. It was in the deepest part, then Tori and Jake dug a few meters deeper. Covering it all with lots of silt, sand and big, heavy boulders. Their new lake had that small plane where the gold originally came from, so it’d be counterproductive to hide the gold back in the same area.
“Father… Why do the other Humans bully the furry ones?”
‘Adaptation. Superior. Inferior Humans, threatened.’
“Humans like to think that they’re better than other animals, but they’re all about the same. They instinctively fear, hate and want to destroy any ‘freaks’ that are different from themselves.”
Jake shrugged his wings, “Then again, this is also Argentina. I don’t know what it’s like down here. Religions and cultures are different. Where I grew up, I got bullied for being short, being a virgin, being white, looking Hispanic, being too smart, being too stupid, not having a job, working as an Artist, basically… Humans are fucking assholes. Hahaha~! People will always find a reason to do evil, fucked up shit. Especially in this Apocalyptic situation. Don’t you see all those young girls with bulging bellies? The youngest one is only seven or eight years old, right? Unless they were artificially inseminated or reproduced asexually, they were likely raped by one of those men. Or maybe they just fucked the other little boys?”
“Are we better than them?”
Poor Tori was confused for a moment, then shook her head, “We can be better. Right, Father?”
“We, personally, can be better. But it’s hard to say whether our descendants will carry on our own ideas and rules. Even… Over time, we might change.”
‘Genetic, memories. Telepathy. Cloning. Survive, forever. Live, forever. Reproduce, Infinity.’
Jake rolled his hawk-eyes and complained, “Even if we’re immortal, it doesn’t mean we’ll be able to survive forever. But as long as we aren’t too stupid or careless, I do admit that the three of us will probably live a really long time. Which is why we need to prepare for the future. Gather enough gold, treasures, other random shit that might be valuable… When the time comes, we might need money.”
“Papá… ¿De qué hablan esos pájaros?” A cute little girl who wasn’t pregnant, patted a young man on the arm and pointed to the two strange white birds.
That man shook his head and sighed, “Sólo una mierda filosófica. No te preocupes por eso.”
“Father, I think they noticed us!” Tori shouted anxiously and flapped her wings.
Jake covered his beak with his wing again, “Sweetie, even if they noticed us, what does it matter? We’re just two random birds, sitting on a tree branch. Unless they try to hunt and kill us, it doesn’t matter. Besides, they probably don’t understand English.”
“I’ve never seen any other birds that can talk…” Tori looked over at the few people who were staring at them.
“Nah, there are lots of birds that can talk. Parrots are the most famous.”
‘Developed, vocal cords. Hmmm, hungry. Want, parrot meat.’
“Parrots are tropical birds. We’re not flying thousands of miles away in order to satisfy your cravings, Vora.”
“I think we should leave, Father. Those fluffy animals look dangerous.”
Jake looked over at some cute cats that looked like they were going to climb the tree, “Vora, no. Let’s go. If these cats are dumb enough to enter our territory, then that’s fine. But let’s not show hostility in front of the humans with guns.”
The two of them flapped their wings and soared up into the snowy sky. The cold temperature didn’t bother them much. It was uncomfortable, but they were used to it by now. In the air, a hawk swooped down and tried to attack Tori’s back. However, she easily dodged out of the way. Then Jake darted down into the bird’s back. Tearing at its wings with his powerful claws and pecking violently into the neck of the struggling bird.
Tori also swooped down and ripped off a bunch of feathers. The battle ended with the hawk slamming head-first into the thick ice on the surface of the lake. Then Jake carried the bloody and broken bird back ‘home’ for lunch.
“Are you feeling better now, Sweetie?”
Jake looked about the same as before. Still 2.3 meters tall, with black carapace covering his entire body, except for his scalp, which had eight long blue-purple tentacles dangling down to his feet. He gently caressed the black shell on Torrent’s head, which was only recently hardened again.
“This is probably one of the worst issues with having an exoskeleton.”
“I’m still happy. Hihihihi~!” Tori looked up at him with her glowing pink left eye, “This way, I’m more like Father and Mother. And… Father can pet me without being afraid he’ll scratch my skin.”
After shedding her shell, Tori managed to grow another 30 centimeters longer and quite a bit ‘taller’ as well. Now she’s 4 whole meters long! Nearly twice as long as her giant father was tall. Of course, she still only reached his waist when she was laying on her belly and he was standing upright. The two Scouts hadn’t changed much over the past few months. Still about the size of large ducks, maybe close to the size of a swan.
“Well, exoskeletons do have their advantages. For one thing, I don’t really feel that cold anymore. It obviously has a pretty good insulation effect.”
“I’m not fat. Look at me.”
Jake rolled his eyes and complained, “If I’m fat, then we’re both fat.”
“Hihihihi~! Father, what’s wrong with being fat?”
“Uh, well, it’s different for you, Sweetie. You’re shaped like a Killer Whale. I look like a muscular dude wearing a suit of armor that fits tightly against the body.”
What Jake said was true. His abdomen did look like it had visible ‘abs’, but those were actually plates that opened up to reveal gills. Under that was quite a bit of fat. Whether it was his bulging chest or arms, they were all fairly fatty underneath. It should be noted that he did in fact have a lot of dense, powerful muscle underneath all that fat. Only his face and neck didn’t have much blubber, otherwise it would be much more visible and noticeable.
As for his tentacles, they were almost only muscle. How did they resist the cold? Well, Jake didn’t have blue blood that could magically resist the cold and he was still a warm-blooded creature. Theoretically, having a bunch of naked limbs coming out of his head like that, should be a massive heat-sink for his entire body. Perhaps it was something about the skin? One thing was for certain though. His tentacles would shrink dramatically when the temperature was below freezing. Above freezing, they would expand a lot. As Jake was standing there, his tentacles only reached his waist. If he was in the ocean, where the temperature was slightly above freezing, they could expand to even longer than his entire body.
“Father, do you think I’ll turn into a beautiful mermaid someday?”
‘Humanoid Form, unnecessary. Inefficient. Mermaid, useless.’
“It’s not useless.” Jake snickered and shook his head, “If she has arms and hands, she can use them to operate tools or fight. And whether it’s guys or girls, they like to look attractive. Fortunately, Orcas are really cute. False Killer Whales are very similar in overall appearance and shape, but they’re way less adorable because of the way their head is shaped.”
“I’ve never seen a False Killer Whale before. Are they rare?”
“I think they live in the tropics? I don’t know. I had to look them up a long time ago to do a painting of all the different kinds of dolphin-”
A deafening noise echoed throughout the whole cove and even shook the ground. A bunch of birds around the lake and in the forest were startled, taking off into the snowy sky. Dogs were howling, cows were mooing, and all sorts of other noises rang out together. Echoing in the mountains around them.
“What the fuck?!” Jake looked over toward the southeast and frowned, “That sounds like a ship horn.”
“Father, what should we do?!”
“It’s just a horn. Not a bomb.”
“Though it’s practically as loud and annoying as one.”
Jake frowned and looked down toward the sleeping Scouts on Tori’s head. Then he started walking into the woods, transforming into white, brown, black and green camouflage automatically. The huge 4 meter long Orca giggled and followed after her father. She also started blending into the environment.
Of course, the two of them weren’t the only ones that were attracted by the noise and wanted to investigate. So they also needed to be careful not to be seen by their nosy neighbors…
When they reached the edge of the woods, they saw a big white tugboat floating in the middle of the bay. It was pulling a huge barge that was filled with red, orange, black and blue shipping crates. By the time Jake and Tori arrived, there were already a bunch of men and women shouting at each other on the beach. They all had guns, but they weren’t pointing them at each other. Instead, it just sounded like haggling or bartering.
“Cinco bolsas de maíz para una niña. Sólo una bolsa para un niño. Cuanto más joven, mejor.”
“¡Estás loco! ¡Nunca les cambiaré a mis hijos a ustedes, esclavistas!”
“Lo que sea. Tarde o temprano nos rogarás que te ayudemos.”
“¿Qué pasa con la carne? Podemos intercambiar madera, pescado, carne…”
“Tiene que ser algo especial. Podemos conseguir cualquier cosa que tengas aquí de cualquier otro lugar de Argentina. ¿Por qué deberíamos molestarnos en venir hasta aquí? ¿Tienen algún animal especial? ¿Tal vez una vaca que pueda producir leche con chocolate? Yo no estoy bromeando. Cambiamos por una cabra con leche que sabía a café hace un tiempo…”
“What the fuck are they talking about?” Jake whispered to his daughter, who was listening intently with a ‘serious’ expression on her cute face.
“Umm… That unknown Human woman is asking Olivia for boys and girls? Then Olivia got angry and refused. Then… Umm, Olivia asked if they needed meat? Uh… Hmmm… I think that woman is looking for weird animals? Animals with special abilities.”
“Like a dog that can shoot lasers out of its eyes?” Jake raised his stiff right eyebrow, “Well, it doesn’t look like they’re gonna start fighting. And it doesn’t really have anything to do with us.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll make some food when we get back.”
‘No! They have food! Meat! Special genes! Danger! Enemies!’
It wasn’t just staple foods like flour, corn, potatoes and rice. These ‘traders’ also had various medicines, household appliances, gasoline, oil, toilet paper and other important supplies. From their conversations, they traded across the whole island and up the coast of Argentina. It’s not that they couldn’t go farther, but that it wasn’t profitable enough. Also, they had to worry about bandits, pirates, storms, radiation, monsters, et cetera. They also went to the Falkland Islands, which was to the northeast.
Some places didn’t have the same conditions. For example, down here in the ‘deep south’, it was much colder than in northern Argentina. Even the Falkland Islands had much warmer weather. They had a ton of farmland and plenty of supplies stockpiled, not to mention all the industrial fishing. So they were able to export a lot of their resources for things they needed. Like people.
The Falkland Islands are much, much larger than Isla de los Estados. However, their population was only a few thousand a year ago. Now they’ve gotten a lot more people and are still expanding, but they’re nowhere near their limits. Argentina as a whole, had about 46 million people before… That sounds like a lot, but the country has an enormous amount of sparsely populated land.
It would be surprising if there were still more than 10 million ‘normal’ humans left. A lot of people were killed by various diseases, wild animal attacks, other humans, transformed into monsters, et cetera. Different types of humans are valued in different areas, by different cultures and organizations.
Purebloods: These are the most basic and also some of the rarest survivors. They have resistance and immunity to most diseases. Including the Fertility Virus, so their reproductive and maturation speed hasn’t changed much from before 2023.
Breeders: These are people who have retained their humanity for the most part, but they’ve been infected by the Fertility Virus. Men and women both have extremely hyperactive sex drives and will reproduce very rapidly. They aren’t immune or resistant to all sorts of diseases and their offspring are often Mutants or Adapters.
Mutants: Mutations aren’t necessarily a good thing. In fact, most Mutants are worse-off than their non-mutated kin. Mutations can happen because of Viruses, genetic disorders, parasites, radiation, basically anything. Even growth hormone disorders can turn someone into a ‘Mutant’. So the person doesn’t necessarily have to be a monster or drastically deformed.
Adapters: Similar to Purebloods, they have heightened resistances to various diseases. However, this usually occurs after getting sick once or a few times by mutagenic parasites. Adapters have mutated in a sense, but their mutations are benign and seemingly intentionally developed. They’ve adapted to their current environment. Whether that’s the desert, the jungle or even the Arctic and Antarctic.
Evolvers: Jacob Cinagra is the most representative Evolver. He achieved symbiosis with a strange parasite named Voracity and completely transcended humanity. Evolving into a new species altogether. However, he isn’t the only Evolver out there. Cindy Laurels also created a new species before she died, though it’s a mystery whether those strange creatures still exist.
“You managed to get all that from listening to these random assholes for a few hours? Good job!”
Jake, controlling the tired body of a blue-eyed Scout, looked at the pink-eyed Scout in surprise.
“Hihihihihi~! Thank you, Father!”
“Honestly, do you have to call me ‘Father’. It sounds like I’m some kinda priest. Just call me Daddy or Papa.”
“No way. You’ll always be my Father.”
Jake snickered and shook his head, then looked down at the people on the barge from the top of a large stack of shipping containers. There were hundreds of other birds around, making lots of noise, plus the people down below chattering, yelling, screaming… After all, some of them were literal babies. Others were kids being sold by their parents for boxes of cigarettes or drugs, so yeah, it’s normal to be upset. On the other hand, there were also children and teenagers that wanted to escape from their abusive parents, going out of their way to sell themselves to escape.
“Humans are so disgusting.”
‘Kill! Devour! Conquer!’
“Calm down, Vora.” Jake sighed dramatically, “Everything isn’t that simple. I’d love to slaughter all those disgusting bastards, but then what? Am I supposed to take care of their abused children or all the human babies and small children? Humans are very fragile… Except for those so-called ‘Adapters’, the Breeders and Purebloods are just regular humans. Besides, this island needs these traders in order to survive. If we kill them, then they might take it as a provocation from the islanders and it could turn into a bigger conflict.”
“Humans are so complicated.” Tori sighed dramatically and looked at those crying children with pity, “I wish there was something we could do to help them.”
“There’s nothing we can do to help. Besides, this place is extremely dangerous.”
Jake looked around at the barge. There were a bunch of metal shipping crates that were reinforced and transformed into bunkers, with heavy machine guns and grenade launchers set up. Whether they had enough ammo to feed those weapons was a mystery, but at least they looked intimidating enough. There were nearly a hundred armed ‘Traders’ on the barge, with thousands of other people to take care of the children, animals and other supplies. The actual ship was fairly large as well, but only had a few dozen crew members on board.
This wasn’t the only trading ship in their ‘fleet’ either. There were even a few small warships, large fishing ships and a repurposed cruise ship. They were scattered around the island at the moment. They obviously didn’t fully understand where all the biggest communities were located, but it didn’t really matter either. If people were too lazy to come to them, then they wouldn’t bother going ashore. Experience has taught them not to underestimate the danger of these ‘small communities’. One crazy person with a hand grenade can do a lot of damage. Not to mention the possibility of terrifying mutated monstrosities.
Jake noticed that among the highest officers and crew of the ship, almost all of them were so-called Adapters. Some had snake scales or shaggy fur covering the parts of their exposed bodies. One woman had some visible gills on her neck and fish scales, but she still covered herself up in a thick coat and looked very cold. Even if she could breathe underwater, she would probably freeze to death shortly after falling into the ocean, just like most humans.
“This makes me a little worried though… The ocean might be infested with mermaids or other ‘humanoids’ sooner or later.”
“Father… Wouldn’t it be better if we had more companions under the sea?”
“Like your mother said… Look at how humans treat each other. How do you think they’ll treat us?” Jake started pruning his feathers and smacked an annoying horny seagull in the face, “Fuck off!”
“Hihihihihi~! Father, you always say that humans aren’t any better than other animals. But you’re always so afraid of them.”
“Because I was one of them.”
There was a loud gunshot and most of the birds flew away. Jake and Tori just stood there, watching the big black bear rip a few unlucky bastards apart with its four powerful arms. Yes, it wasn’t a normal bear, but some sort of mutant with four arms. It was also the size of a full-grown polar bear. When they shot it with powerful shotgun slugs, big chunks of meat were torn off, but it still managed to decapitate a woman, crush a child to death and disembowel a muscular man who used his body to protect a screaming, terrified young girl.
It didn’t take long for the powerful apex predator to be brought down by small and large caliber bullets over the next few seconds. Jake pointed toward the dead bear with his wing and said, “Look. This is why I’m afraid of humans.”
‘Guns, powerful. Dangerous. Painful.’
“Yeah… But…” Tori shook her head and pointed to the water, “You said that bullets can’t penetrate water very deeply.”
“That’s true, but humans have other weapons. And if they really develop seriously underwater, then they’ll come out with more and more technologies specifically meant for underwater personal combat.”
Jake snickered, “Then again… Humans are also really dumb sometimes. If we’re lucky, the people trying to survive underwater might end up being ‘savages’ like us. Not bothering with any technology and just living like normal animals for the most part. It’s also kinda hard to forge or smelt metal underwater. You also need to worry about corrosion and other issues…”
“We’re not gonna go down there and try to steal some bear meat.”
‘No. Not bear… Hmmm, other meat. Strange meat. Fruit!’
Jake looked over and saw some people carrying big crates of tangerines, oranges, apples and other fruit. Trading for some deer, fish and other types of meat. There were also furs, jerky, et cetera. Someone pulled over an orange cat with two tails… That was it. The cat just had two tails. But they still managed to trade for a refrigerator and freezer. Clearly there’s a huge market for weird mutants, whether they were animals or humans.
“We should be more careful. If they notice us, they might try to catch us at all costs…”
“Father, look! That man is pointing at us!”
The two of them flapped their wings and flew up into the sky along with a bunch of other random birds. They blended in with some white seagulls and went off toward the lighthouse at the end of the cove. Then they swooped down, spun around the white and red tower, going back above the treeline and up the snowy mountainside. Eventually they dove down again, flapped their wings and slid across the ice of their lake. Soon they reached the beach, where their nest was and where Jacob and Tori were hiding in plain sight. Their white carapace blended in with the snow on the beach.
“How long are they gonna be here?”
“I think they said they were leaving tomorrow morning?”
Jake nodded to his daughter and rubbed his pure white chin with his right hand, while sitting cross-legged on the snowy beach.
“Do you know where they’re headed next?”
“Yes, Father. They said they were going to Rio Grande. I think it’s a city?”
“Yeah, I’ve heard of it before.” Jake sighed, “But they’re probably gonna make a lot of stops along the way.”
“I’m not sure.” He shook his head, “What’s our goal?”
“Umm, make sure they make it safely to their destination?” Tori giggled, “I don’t know.”
“Exactly. We have no reason to follow them. No reason to help them. I honestly wanna kill most of those fuckers, but then what? If we kill them, then we’ll also be killing all those innocent people and endangering our own lives. In the end, we’re just bystanders. They don’t even know we exist.”
A high-pitched voice suddenly rang out from the forest nearby and the two of them immediately looked over warily. It was a young girl. Only about ten years old. However, her whole body was covered in white fur, with long, triangular ears on the sides of her head. She fell down to her knees in front of Jake and Tori, then started crying while begging, “Please, help me! I’ll do anything, please!”
“Father… They know about us!”
“Shit.” Jake looked at the little furry wolf-girl and frowned. He looked around at the woods and asked, “Help with what? Have you told anyone else about us?”
“Umm… Uh, sorry… Uh, I need help… Umm…” The girl sniffled with her cute pink dog-like nose and looked up at the two of them with cute, big blue eyes. Even though she spoke English, it obvious wasn’t her most familiar language.
“Mi Padre preguntó qué queréis de nosotros. Y si le dijiste a alguien más sobre nosotros.”
After hearing the adorable voice of the giant Killer Whale that was covered in armor, the child was stunned for a moment, but then she snapped out of it and calmed down a bit. She was completely naked, but her fur was so long and thick that it didn’t really matter. Constantly breathing out a lot of frosty breaths like Jake and Tori. Although her face was slightly deformed, she still looked more human than wolf-like, similar to low-budget Werewolves.
“Me están cazando… Mataron a mi padre y secuestraron a mis hermanos… ¡Nos van a usar para criar y vender los bebés! Por favor, haré cualquier cosa. ¡No dejes que me lleven!”
“She says… They killed her father, kidnapped her siblings and want to breed them to sell… And she wants us to protect her from the people hunting her?”
“In other words, she probably led the fuckers to us.” Jake sighed dramatically and stood up. His pure white armored body was towering over the tiny wolf-girl. Making her shiver in fear when she saw those icy-blue eyes that looked somewhat similar to her own.
“Well… Shit. Sweetie, looks like we gotta go.”
“What about the girl?” Tori looked at the child and although her face couldn’t really express emotions very well, Jake could still ‘feel’ what she was feeling to a certain extent. Because he felt the same way.
“What else? She’s our puppy now.”
“Mother…” Tori giggled, then looked at the terrified wolf-girl and asked, “¿Cómo te llamas?”
“Mi nombre es Catarina Martinez…”
“Hahaha~! What? It’s ironic, ain’t it? Don’t look at me like that.”
Jake’s carapace gained some green and brown in order to blend into the forest properly. The two Scouts flapped their wings and flew up into the sky under the control of Voracity. While Tori struggled to flop her way forward carefully. She was still mostly white, but looked somewhat like a big lump of snow from a distance.
“Father, you’re making a lot of noise! I can hear people coming this way!”
“I’m making a lot of noise, but so are you and so are they.”
Jake reached down and picked up a heavy rock off the ground. Then picked up a second. With a gray, jagged stone in each hand, he smirked. His stiff carapace-covered camouflaged face didn’t crack so visibly when he smiled anymore. The moment he saw the man with a rifle appear in the distance, he pitched the first heavy stone the size of ‘his’ fist. That man didn’t have time to raise his rifle before his face was caved in by a rock and his gun fell to the ground before his body.
“Mmmn!” Catarina wanted to scream, but she quickly covered her mouth.
“Pick up the gun and come on.” Jake whispered to her quietly and started moving faster. He put the other stone in his right hand and pitched again. This time he hit a scaly woman in the throat! Needless to say, she wasn’t able to scream and quickly blacked out from the bloodloss. It wasn’t a baseball, but a sharp, jagged rock, which was much heavier.
Two voices rang out nearby, but then they were silenced. The two white-feathered Scouts were dyed red and covered in viscera when they fluttered down, landing on Tori’s broad back. One of them chewed and ate an eyeball, while the other was holding part of a human heart in its claw and started eating it happily.
Jake reached down and picked up the shotgun in the woman’s hands, while Catarina was nervously holding the rifle already. Along with some spare ammunition. The long-barreled 20-gauge black combat shotgun was huge in the green-scaled woman’s hands, but for Jake… It was like a little toy. Fortunately, his hands were barely able to hold and use the gun properly.
Gunshots, screams and roars were echoing throughout the mountains constantly. However, after those two men and two women, no one else came after the little wolf-girl. It’s not that surprising though. Greed is often the downfall of not just humans, but many animals. As night came and visibility got worse in the foggy weather, Jake, Tori and Cat watched the fires raging in the forest across the bay. The boat was being pulled down into the deep waters by the heavy barge that was sinking behind it. Ironically, if they just stayed closer to shore instead of trying to escape, the water might be too shallow to ‘sink’.
Hundreds of big colorful containers were either sinking into the depths or floating above the waves. Some of them had people standing on top, screaming for help. There were also lots of small rescue boats and rafts.
“¿Qué hay de tus hermanos?” Tori asked the little girl in a quiet voice.
Catarina muttered in a quiet voice, “No sé… ¿Tal vez regresaron a casa sanos y salvos?”
“Come on.” Jake raised his shotgun and aimed at a target that was closer to their side, “Find the ones that killed your family and shoot. You might not have a second chance at revenge.”
“Don’t worry, Vora. Be patient.”
Tori explained what her father said in Spanish, then the little girl hesitated for a moment. Then she raised the rifle very familiarly, aimed down the scope and pulled the trigger! Amazingly enough, she managed to hit someone a few hundred meters away, rising up and down on the turbulent waves! Jake on the other hand, just aimed the shotgun at the closest boat to their rocky shore and fired buckshot. The distance was close enough that the spread wasn’t so dramatic. After all, this wasn’t a video game. In reality, birdshot might have a crazy spread, but buckshot is still relatively accurate within 30-50 meters.
He pumped the shotgun and fired five times in a row. Killing everyone on the black semi-inflatable raft before they could get close. There was no motor on most of those rafts and boats. They were being paddled instead, which was obviously a lot slower and less efficient. Tori dove down into the water and started swimming around rapidly. Instead of killing people, she swam over and tried to save some children. There were many people stuck in shipping crates that were still floating because they were airtight. So she simply pushed them all toward the sandy shore. As for the unlucky people that fell into the water? They were already dead. Either they were drowning, freezing or being eaten by seals, dolphins and other creatures beneath the waves.
“The rest of their fleet will probably show up soon. Come on. Get on the boat, we gotta go.”
Jake picked up the startled little white doggy with his similarly white tentacles, lifting her up in the air. Then he left the empty shotgun behind and slowly climbed down the rocks, descending into the water a lot more carefully than Tori. It was important to avoid getting the girl wet, or she might freeze to death. She was still holding that hunting rifle anxiously, but she only fired a few shots before stopping earlier.
The depth was only up to Jake’s neck, so he was able to hold her up above the water and place her down in an ‘unoccupied’ back raft. The moment she was placed down, she quickly hid on one side and tried not to scream. Someone’s torn off face was staring up at her from the side of the boat. While brains, blood and entrails were splattered everywhere. Of course that also included piss and shit, so the stench was unbearable.
“Fuck off!” Jake got attacked by a ravenous leopard seal the next moment! However, he wasn’t as weak as he used to be anymore… When those huge jaws bit down on his spiky right arm, the spines already caused the poor bastard’s tongue to start bleeding. Those eight tentacles stretched out and wrapped around the body of the beast, then he used his other hand to tear out the thick throat. Causing even more blood to spread in the somewhat murky water. The talons on his feet disemboweled the long and powerful belly pretty effortlessly.
Then Jake and Vora both started feasting on the readily available meat! They only ate a little bit though and left the rest for the fish, crabs and other creatures that were swimming around nearby. Then those tentacles latched onto the bottom of the boat and he started swimming with all his strength. Even dragging a small raft with his head, he could still outperform the best Olympic Athletes in terms of speed… Before 2023 at least. Who knows what kind of mutant monsters are out there now?
The two Scouts landed on the boat and started guarding around the terrified little wolf-girl, who was trying her best not to cry again. She tried not to think about her older brothers and just focused on surviving. It didn’t take long before they left the cove and were out in the open waters. The icy waves here were might higher and more turbulent than in that tiny bay. However, the water was still only tens of meters deep. It would be a lot scarier once they actually reached the seas over the bottomless abyss…
Then again, the ocean was much shallower around this area than where they came from. At least between Isla de los Estados and the tip of Argentina, the depth of the ocean wasn’t more than a few hundred meters at most. Of course, the Argentine Sea had a maximum depth of 2,200-something meters and an average depth of 1,200-ish meters. So it’s not like the whole underwater ‘plain’ wasn’t that deep.
“I know, I know. It’s getting dark. We’re not in a rush.”
Tori swam over, carrying a box of waterlogged, half-frozen oranges in her mouth. She had some cuts and scrapes on her blue carapace, but for the most part, she was totally unharmed. There were some seals and other creatures that tried to attack her, but those sharp, blade-like fins and flippers weren’t for show.
“Fruit!” Jake’s expression changed and he shouted in a slightly feminine but still deep and raspy voice, “Mine!”
“Hihihihihi~! Mother, you’re so silly!”
Jake climbed up into the boat and tossed out most of the ‘mess’ without much thought. Any blood or other filth that was contaminating his body would be washed away when he went back in the ocean soon. They didn’t stop with a box of oranges either. Jake and Tori took turns making trips to scavenge from the sea. Everyone that could be saved has already been sent to the shore. Whether they survived or not after that… Was an issue for ‘humans’. Jake and Tori were more concerned about saving the precious tropical fruits and special veggies. Even something like a head of lettuce or cabbage was a luxury for them. For the most part, things were stored in sealed or semi-sealed containers. A lot of fruits and vegetables have protective outer coatings, so even if they got drenched in saltwater, it didn’t matter in the short-term.
“Thank you… For, saving me. Thank you.”
Although she was still shivering from the chilly wind, Catarina was able to keep from freezing too badly because of the fur that covered most of her body. Including her slightly wolf-like face. Even though her own appearance had changed a lot, she was still just a 10 year old girl inside. A child that grew up in a warm, loving family. Not wealthy, but good enough. Content… Then the world fell apart. Now she truly lost everything. All she had left was herself.
The child looked up at the hulking black ‘monster’, with long purple-blue octopus tentacles dangling from the top of his head like dreadlocks. His cold blue eyes seemed inhuman, not just because of appearance, but because the ‘soul’ behind those eyes wasn’t Jacob…
“Hmmm… You, Fluffy Meat. Guard food. Eat. Good.”
Catarina was confused at first, but then Tori giggled and explained in Spanish: “My mother and father share the same body. Usually my father is in control, but when it comes to eating, my mother sometimes takes over. Don’t worry. Father will keep her from hurting you.”
The little girl shivered again and curled up near the front of the boat, trying to hide from the wind. Then she was lucky enough to find an emergency blanket and covered her body with it. Watching the family of three sharing the various types of fruit and vegetables.
The rinds of the oranges were peeled off and the juicy insides were devoured by Vora with a happy expression. Eventually she was satisfied after eating some cherries, grapes, papayas and avocados, then Jake took over command of their body again. Starting to peel everything for his daughter. He also handed a few veggies and fruits to Catarina, but she shook her head and waved her hands. Although she was a little hungry, she was also really nauseous and lost her appetite. The Scouts didn’t have any issues though. Pecking and eating things at random. They were omnivores, just like Tori, Vora and Jake, so they could eat just about anything that wasn’t ‘too’ poisonous or toxic.
After Vora, Jake and Tori were all full, the giant man asked his daughter, “Do you think you can do it?”
“Of course, Father.”
“Do what?” The little wolf-girl blinked her tired, frosty eyes and tried to keep from falling asleep.
“Tori is gonna pull the boat. Just stay here with the Scouts and keep low to avoid attracting attention.”
“Okay…” Cat nodded and looked over at the sea, where a large warship was coming over from the West.
“Don’t worry. We’ll go around the other side of the island.” Jake snickered and hopped down off the boat, causing some big waves to splash up onto the side. The raft shook back and forth violently, then started turning suddenly. Soon a big black blade-like fin stuck up out of the water in front of the boat. Then Catarina screamed in shock and held onto the bench in order to avoid getting thrown off the ship like a few of the empty boxes in the back!
Under the boat, Jake’s tentacles were all latched onto the bottom of the raft with those blue suction cups, while his arms were holding onto Tori’s big fin very familiarly. She flapped her tail up and down at a steady pace, accelerating rapidly and finally evening out when they reached around 20 kilometers per hour. It wasn’t anywhere near her fastest speed, but if they went too fast, then Jake wouldn’t be able to hold onto the boat… Assuming that the boat would even be able to stay in one piece.
‘Are you okay, Father?’
‘Yeah… It doesn’t hurt my head and neck as much as you’d expect.’
‘Let me know if you need to take a break. I don’t want Catarina to get hurt.’
‘Burden.’ Vora grumbled in their minds, ‘Eat?’
‘Stop, Mother. You’re not allowed to eat my friend!’
‘Aww~! That’s so cute! So Cat is your first friend?’
‘Umm, I don’t know. But she could be, right?’
‘Of course she can.’ Jake snickered and released some bubbles, ‘Don’t worry, Sweetie. It’s perfectly normal and healthy to make friends at your age… Uh, well, I mean, I guess it’s a little weird if you were a human. But you’re not, so don’t worry about it.’
About fifteen or twenty minutes later, Tori managed to pull the boat with the seasick wolf-girl around the entire eastern coast of the island. This was the path they followed when they first came to the island a few months ago. At that time, they were traveling much faster. And the view was a lot different. Now there was a lot of ice floating on the surface of the ocean, so they had to be a little careful. The snowy mountain reminded them of Antarctica back then… Of course, there were still quite a few trees and greenery. Many of the trees and plants were coniferous, but there were still plenty of trees that were bare and bushes or other plants that simply died from the cold. At least, until next Spring, when they would be given new life.
Many of the birds migrated to Argentina already and probably went even farther north. Of course, there were also a lot of birds that were used to the cold and stuck around. Especially with a lot of babies to take care of now. It wasn’t just the humans that became ‘Adapters’ either. Many animals have gained adaptations or mutations that made survival easier, even in harsh environments.
The seals, penguins and other Antarctic animals felt fine no matter how cold it got here, because it was still better than the winters in the ‘deep south’. Many of them migrated northward… For example, Killer Whales.
“Fuck me! You assholes finally found us, huh?!”
Jake and Tori saw that huge pod of Orcas coming, or well, they heard them long before they saw them. Still, they weren’t sure it was them until they were much closer. A pod of Orcas is typically 5 to 30 Killer Whales, but they’ve also been known to group together into groups of over a hundred… What Jake and Tori saw was nearly a thousand! They could hear even more in the distance. Probably tens of thousands or even a hundred thousand! Of course, most of them were babies, but a normal baby Orca is at least 2.5 meters long… And that’s a newborn calf.
The average male Killer Whale takes 25 damn years to become fully sexually mature, which is a super long growth cycle. Although humans tend to make laws to dictate when their adolescents are considered ‘Adults’, the average human stops growing significantly around 14 to 16 years old. Obviously there are outliers, like Jake who stopped growing at 13 or his friend who had a growth spurt at 17 and managed to grow from 1.5 meters to 2 meters tall in one summer.
Of course, just like those young girls who were popping out babies in the villages on the island they just left, these Killer Whales could also be having the same situation happen. Hence why a lot of the Orcas Jake and Tori saw were incredibly small. Some were less than 1.5 meters long. In particular, the group of five scarred Orcas that came to bother them again were followed by dozens of tiny Orcas and a few slightly bigger babies, over 3 meters long.
“Father… They aren’t coming to attack us.”
“I can see that.”
Jake and Tori surfaced above the large, icy waves and could hear the countless high-pitched Orca cries making a ton of noise. Poor Catarina was terrified and asked, “What… What is happening?!” in Spanish.
“Don’t worry, Kitty Cat, it’s just a bunch of Killer Whales.” Jake snickered, “What do they want?”
“The big boy with the scar on his eye is warning us…” Tori’s voice was a little shaky as she explained, “He said… The Cold Death is coming!”
“What the hell is the ‘Cold Death’? Winter? An Ice Age?”
“Maybe? I don’t really know… Ah, Father, they want us to travel with them. They’re headed to the north along the coast but…”
“But we can’t keep up with their pace if we’re dragging a boat around.” Jake shook his head and sighed, “Anyway, we don’t need to follow them in the first place. There’s safety in numbers, but whether it’s people or Killer Whales, too many of them in one place will make things a lot more complicated. Besides, I still don’t trust this one-eyed bastard. And I definitely don’t trust the others that I don’t know at all.”
Tori made some Orca noises and then explained, “I wished them good luck on their journey… Hopefully we’ll meet again someday.”
“Yeah. If you think about it, that eyeball was where a lot of your genes came from. So that dude is technically your biological relative.”
‘Irrelevant. Noisy Meat. One day, eat the rest.’
The huge super-pod of Orcas was heading in the same direction as Jake and Tori, passing by the southern side of the island. They were actually moving very slowly. Only about 8 kilometers per hour as a whole. This was actually because they had to stop to hunt and forage for food. Some of them would dive down underwater, while others would go toward the shore to ravage the unlucky seals and penguins.
It was the middle of the night, but those black fins were in sharp contrast to the snow falling from the sky and the chunks of ice in the waves. However, tens of thousands of Orcas were so noisy that basically anyone that was anywhere near the shore could hear them. It was deafening. Which is ironic, because Orcas actually have very sensitive ears.
“Father, look! That girl looks like me!”
“Rather than a carapace, those look more like bone plates.”
Out of the tens of thousands of Killer Whales, there were quite a few strange mutations and adaptations. For example, some of them had horns or tusks for ramming enemies. Others were protected by bone plates on the outside of their body. It was relatively normal to have extra flippers or two blowholes. Not to mention multiple dorsal fins. One of the babies actually had a shark-like tail that went side to side instead of up and down. There were also plenty of different color schemes. Normal newborn Orcas have orange skin, which fades to white over time. But there were some with the white on top and black on the bottom. Some were just completely tan and had no other colors. Others were pitch black like a False Killer Whale. Plus the different deformities, some literally just looked like False Killer Whales.
“Just like humans, the animals are also changing. What I don’t understand though is why some animals and people react so dramatically, while others change very mildly.”
Jake climbed up onto the side of the boat with Tori’s help, otherwise he might accidentally flip it over. Poor Catarina was holding her sensitive ears in pain and curled up under her reflective silver emergency blanket. Those long purple-blue tentacles reached out and wrapped around Torrent’s dorsal fin. Then she started pulling the raft forward again at about 10 kilometers per hour… From the back? After all, Jake was on the back of the boat. It didn’t really make much of a difference though.
Vora was hungry, so she started devouring even more of their fruit and veggie supply. Jake also took over control every now and then, to pass some peeled fruit over to his daughter. Their speed was faster than the pod, so they managed to escape from that noisy environment after about an hour. Of course, that’s just the noisiest part, there were still plenty of Orcas up ahead for dozens of kilometers. The island itself was about 60 kilometers across, so at their current speed, it would probably be daytime before they made it past the western coast of the island and started their 30 kilometer journey to Argentina.
Gunshots rang out from the shore and Jake noticed a group of humans hunting the baby Orcas that came up to feed. Without thinking about it much, Jake picked up a black rifle from the floor and aimed down the iron sights. His big hands struggled to hold the gun properly, so it took him a few seconds, especially with his head being jerked around by those tentacles every time Tori flapped her tail.
*Pop~! Pop! Pop~!*
The small caliber bullets were relatively quiet, but fairly accurate. One penetrated through the face of an unlucky middle-aged man. Another woman was hit in the shoulder and a third person had their left leg grazed. It was only a graze, but it caused them to slip off the rocks and fall into the water, where a bunch of angry Orca ‘kids’ tore him to shreds!
“¿Por qué hiciste eso?”
The little girl watched Jake randomly murder three people for no apparent reason and couldn’t help asking, “Why?”
“No, I didn’t do it because it’s ‘fun’.” Jake rolled his glowing blue eyes and explained seriously, “Right now we’re part of this Orca Pod and those fuckers are killing ‘our’ babies. Don’t think that Orcas are stupid just because you can’t understand their language. This might be their first encounter with firearms, but they’re smart enough to realize that we have the power to fight back… If we did nothing and just watched coldly, do you think they’d still treat us like one of them?”
“It’s not a big deal.” Jake shrugged his spiked pauldron-like shoulders and put the gun back down, “There’s also a chance that those fuckers might notice us and tell others that we’re here. Maybe they wouldn’t, but… Anyway, Orcas have a long lifespan, a huge range of activities and a high enough intelligence to become one of the ‘Races’ that will dominate this planet in the future. This massive group of Killer Whales might remember us in the future and have friendly relations, while those humans might not even survive the winter or have any contact with us again. The choice is pretty simple, right?”
“¿Puedes hablar español?” The cute wolf-girl tilted her exposed head to the side in confusion.
“No, I can’t speak Spanish.” Jake shrugged, “At least not fluently. And I wasn’t only talking to you. I was also explaining things for my daughter, Tori.”
“Hihihihihi~!” With that familiar high-pitched laughter, the 4 meter long armored Killer Whale emerged half-way out of the water to speak through her blowhole, “Father, I understand. You don’t need to rationalize everything for me. I’ll always trust you, no matter what you do.”
“That’s not good, Sweetie.” Jake sighed, “You have to think for yourself as well. What if I’m being mind-controlled by some weird parasite that isn’t your mother? What if I’m not even real and you’re the one hallucinating? You need to always be prepared to deal with these weird situations. Don’t only trust your eyes and ears, you have to also use your reasoning skills to understand whether what you’re experiencing are actually consistent with what you already know and understand.”
“Hmmm, my head…”
‘We, there, yet?’
Jake opened his eyes and felt like his scalp was burning from the soreness. Not just his head, but the base of those long, muscular limbs and all down his neck. He actually fell asleep around the time the sun came up and they passed the western edge of the island, leaving the significantly slower Orca Pod behind.
“Buenos días.” The little wolf-girl smiled wryly as she looked at the giant man who was taking up most of the raft with his stretched out body. His head was dangling over the back of the boat for most of the night and day though. Although it was still cold out, at least it was better than last night, because the skies were relatively clear and the sun was bearing down all day.
“Father, Mother, are you okay?”
Tori looked down at the boat with a worried expression on her face… At least, in Jake’s mind, that was the case. In reality, it was hard for an Orca covered in carapace to have human-like facial expressions at all.
Jake stood up excitedly and looked around at the massive snowy mountains in the distance. His tentacles finally detached from Tori’s long dorsal fin. He looked down and noticed that there were also plenty of green on the mountainside. Their boat was ‘washed up’ on a gray, sandy beach, which was also infested with seals, penguins and random seagull-like birds.
“Yes, Father, we arrived several hours ago.”
“Have you gotten any sleep yet?” He jumped off the boat and hugged his daughter’s neck gently.
“Of course, Father. It’s almost night time now. Catarina and I already got some sleep. We couldn’t sleep for long though.”
“Yeah…” Jake sighed and looked at a group of huge Southern Elephant Seals that were fighting on the beach nearby. There were also thousands of babies and plenty of females, but still only a handful of adult males.
“By the way… Why’d you guys move to that island anyway? There are probably tons of places inland that you could’ve built your new wilderness settlements, right?”
“Dangerous, very dangerous!” Little Cat shook her furry head anxiously, with the shiny silver ‘cape’ around her body, “Monsters! Scary, Devils!”
“Father, I asked Catarina that earlier. She told me that there were actually a lot of people who did that already. But… Even if the animals didn’t mutate or become more rabid, it was still very dangerous because of the sheer quantity. A lot of people turned into monsters and escaped into the wilderness. It got worse over time… Now, no one knows how many of them there are.”
“In other words, it’s just like the ocean. Not too surprising.” Jake snickered and shook his head, “Now we’re faced with a choice. Head up into the mountains or keep going around the coast?”
There were some rivers coming down from the mountains and spilling out into the ocean right on the beach they were washed up on… But, unfortunately, those rivers were frozen over. The climate in the Winter of the southeastern most tip of Argentina was pretty rough. About the same as the island they just left. In the daytime, it was slightly above freezing. At night, the temperature was going to drop way below freezing. Even with her ‘adaptations’, Jake noticed that the little girl’s feet seemed to be slightly frostbitten, while her cute pink nose and lips were turning blue.
“Father… We need to find a place to keep warm.”
“Yeah… Into the woods we go, hehe…”
Jake grabbed a metal ring on the front of the boat and started pulling it across the beach. All the fruits and veggies had already been devoured by them the day before, so all that was left were some random emergency supplies, weapons and ammunition. Although the raft was a little heavy, it also acted sort of like a sleigh once he reached the snow and ice. His tentacles reached out and grabbed the screaming little girl. Forcing her to sit back down in the boat again.
“Keep in mind that we have no doctors or medicine. If your feet fall off, it’s gonna be even harder to survive in this post-apocalyptic world.”
“Mother, don’t say that.” Tori complained, “Cat is my friend.”
‘Friends, unnecessary. Untrustworthy. Dangerous.’
“Tori, don’t worry about her… Vora is just afraid of being betrayed, again.”
“¡No lo haré! ¡No te traicionaré!” The little girl shouted anxiously.
“Lo sé.” Tori looked over at her friend and continued pushing herself forward, up the snowy hill. Two long and powerful tentacles reached out and stuck to the sides of her body, pulling her forward as Jake walked steadily.
About an hour later, they reached an open area with many frozen-over tiny lakes and ponds. There were still quite a lot of trees everywhere, but they were much sparser than the forest they just exited. This particular region was also in a ‘pit’ of sorts, surrounded by a lot of large hills, so the wind wasn’t as strong. The skies were relatively clear and it wasn’t snowing like the other night. So they were able to see the beautiful stars and the bright yellow moon at night.
Jake gathered up some twigs and logs that were somewhat dry to create a campfire next to one of the bigger lakes. Then he started cooking an unlucky giant brown owl that tried to kill the Scouts earlier. He also melted some ice to drink.
“Kitty Cat, have you eaten anything yet? You don’t look so good.” Jake frowned as he noticed that the little wolf-girl had extremely chapped bluish lips and her expression was clearly dazed.
“No… No, gracias, I’m… I’m fine.”
“Either eat or I’m gonna force you to eat. I don’t want my daughter’s first friend to die so pointlessly.”
Catarina shivered in fear and from the cold, cozying up next to the warm fire. Jake was sitting behind her back, Tori was on her left, the fire was in front and the raft was on the right. So she was basically in the ‘warmest’ position. With the delicious owl on a stick roasting in front of her face. She also had a metal cup with melted snow, which she was drinking from slowly.
Jake’s carapace was hard, cold and extremely dangerous because of the sharp barbs on many parts. Those barbs were also likely poisonous. However, his tentacles thankfully weren’t very harmful. They were also extremely warm. Aside from the fire and the blanket, those tentacles were also one of the main sources of warmth for the little wolf-girl.
“Don’t apologize. You don’t have to keep apologizing or feeling guilty. Just… Live. Survive. Don’t die. Life is that simple, right?”
Jake smiled wryly and looked up at the starry sky and the yellow moon, “The world isn’t really ending. At least, not for us. This is just the beginning. As long as you make it past this part, you’ll realize… Life really isn’t so bad.”
Jake looked over into the distance and frowned, “Is that a dog barking?”
The fire crackled and a fat bunny rabbit was being cooked over it now. One owl really wasn’t enough for them to eat. The two Scouts were constantly hunting and catching various prey under Vora and Tori’s guidance, while Jake was responsible for the rest. Catarina was just trying to keep herself warm, fed and hydrated.
“Maybe…” The little girl looked into the woods anxiously, “They smell food. They smell us.”
“If it’s a huge pack of dogs or wolves, you need to hide. If it’s just a few of them, then it’s not a big deal.” Jake wasn’t too worried, just a little curious. However, when he looked over to his left, he suddenly saw a big, cute, fluffy red ‘fox’ looking down at him over Tori’s back!
“Hi there…” He smiled wryly, “Nice weather we’re having tonight, right?”
“Ooouuu…” Those big brown eyes looked at the horrified little wolf-girl and then sniffed the half-cooked skinned rabbit that was over the fire…
“Don’t do it.” Jake’s smile disappeared, “If you do it, you’ll die.”
“Oooouaar~!” The ‘dog’ or fox bark-roared at Jake, then reached out with its mouth and tried to steal the bunny. Eight powerful tentacles suddenly wrapped around its neck and freakishly long, black front legs! Jake’s blue eyes were cold and ruthless as his clawlike left thumb plunged straight into that big eye, piercing into the dog’s brain! Those tentacles wrapped around its neck also squeezed tightly, breaking its spine and causing the huge body to go limp…
A bunch of angry bark-roars rang out and Jake stood up to see at least five of those giant golden-red furred foxes, with weirdly long legs. Their bodies varied in size from not much bigger than a regular dog, to gigantic monsters like the one that Jake just killed. Even when he was standing upright, the backs of those giant dogs could reach above his waist!
“Maned Wolf!” Catarina shouted anxiously.
Before the world ended, there were only a few thousand Maned Wolves confirmed to exist in the wild. They were effectively an endangered species. Not actually a wolf and not a pack animal. However, Catarina also wasn’t ‘actually’ a wolf. A lot of animals have mutated or adapted in various ways in order to survive. Clearly these solitary hunters have had to form groups in order to survive. The maned of the Maned Wolf was the black fur that ran down the back of the head or the black spots around the neck. Their tails were generally short to medium-length, fluffy and mostly white.
Jake’s black carapace started turning fluorescent red, pink and purple. With those huge pink and blue tentacles stretching out around him, he looked even more massive and terrifying. Those glowing hot-pink eyes looked around at the howling, barking and roaring giant dogs.
“Cover your ears.” He whispered to the terrified little girl, then he took a deep breath and roared, “Haaaaaaah~!”
With Jake’s huge mouth and insanely powerful lung capacity, the noises he made intentionally could actually deafen the unprepared Maned Wolves. Combined with the shocking display of instantly killing one of their leaders and the scary size/colors, the group of ‘dogs’ quickly escaped back into the woods without a fight.
“Father, what happened?” Tori opened her bright pink eyes and complained, “My ears hurt.”
“Sorry, Sweetie.” Jake smiled wryly and picked up the dead dog off her back with both hands, and all his tentacles. He tossed it aside and sat back down behind the little wolf-girl as two big white birds flapped their wings, landing on Tori’s back. They started licking up all the blood on her body very happily.
“But look! Such a big meal delivered itself to us! Hahahaha~!”
‘Skinny dog. Stringy Meat.’
“It might be a little skinny and bony, but you gotta consider the size… Uh, well, yeah, I guess it’s not much when you split it between the six of us.”
“I… I’m not hungry.” Catarina waved her furry hands anxiously and looked at the twitching Maned Wolf carcass that was still bleeding. Then she turned back to the rabbit that was almost cooked over the fire and muttered, “Maybe… I’ll just eat a little carne de conejito…“
‘Mine!’ Jake’s right hand reached and ripped off a leg of the rabbit, devouring it along with the bones.
“Uh… Sorry about that. You know how Vora can be.” Jake snickered and shook his head, fading his colors back to black and fluorescent blue.
“You can deal with the rabbit. I’ll start dealing with the poor puppy.”
Those sharp fingernails were like knives, easily tearing open the flesh of the giant dog. The whole torso was actually pretty huge. About as long as Jake’s, just much, much scrawnier. Vora liked to eat the brains raw, so after she vomited out the rabbit bones to the side, she cracked open the skull and slurped up all that juicy pink wrinkly meat. There weren’t any red or black worms, which was a good sign. She also drank spinal fluid, ate fresh heart meat and various other giblets. It was a female Maned Wolf, so there were also reproductive organs. Fortunately for Jake, she wasn’t pregnant. Though Vora seemed a little disappointed. Still, it didn’t stop her from using his mouth to devour a lot of raw meat and organs.
In the end, a good portion of the muscle meat was given to Torrent raw. After all, her original form was effectively a Killer Whale. Whether meat was raw or cooked, it didn’t make that big of a difference to the three of them. Especially the Scouts. They much preferred raw meat over cooked.
Cooking was mainly for Catarina. After all, even if she had adapted into a werewolf-like form, her immune system wasn’t so overpowered that she could ignore everything. Plus, they were afraid that there might be toxins or poisons in everything that Jake and the others killed. So Cat had to do most of her own cooking herself in order to avoid getting sick.
“Father, I’m feeling a little dry.”
“I’m sorry…” Catarina looked back at Jacob and over toward her ‘friend’, Torrent, with a sad expression on her cute puppy-like face.
“It’s not a big deal.” Jake patted her on the shoulder gently with his left hand, to avoid Vora doing anything weird. His cold and dry tentacles were shriveled up to his upper chest.
“Tori, you should get some sleep. Once the sun comes up, we’ll head north and go back out to sea again. I just hope this raft can last, otherwise…”
“You’ll… Leave me behind?”
Jake rolled his eyes at the little girl who looked like she was about to start crying, “Of course not. But it means that our travel speed will slow down a lot. Honestly, we should try to find a real boat and either hitch a ride or steal it directly.”
‘Hmmm… Alternative. Travel by land. Breed, offspring. Grow stronger. Conquer…’
Ever since Torrent was born, Jacob understood the true power of Voracity. However, because he understood, it made him afraid… He was fine with playing single-player or even in a small ‘Party’, but no matter what, he didn’t want to start playing a full-blown strategy game! Especially when all the expendable units were literally his own flesh and blood children. Even though the Scouts were intentionally weakened, both physically and mentally, Jake still considered them his own babies to a certain extent. Maybe he couldn’t feel the same kind of attachment as he felt with Tori, but he definitely didn’t want to see any more of his offspring die after that first baby bird.
Vora was indifferent though. Maybe she had some affection for Tori and Jake, but everything else was either an enemy, prey, toy or a useful tool. If the Scouts were injured too badly to survive on their own and became a burden, she would devour and recycle them without hesitation. That was their purpose. That was how she designed them to exist.
Jake had a nightmare where the entire planet was completely covered by Voracity’s offspring. Countless Drones, replacing every facet of the Earth’s ecosystem. Whenever Jake, Tori or Vora were hungry, whatever they desired would be brought to them directly. Their offspring would willingly become nothing more than food. Their children would be intentionally created and bred to be more delicious or nutritious.
Eventually they created a biological starship and started conquering other planets in the Solar System. Devouring entire worlds, then stars and eventually the entire universe… Or something like that. It was pretty fuzzy beyond the terrestrial stuff.
“No, it’s not a good idea. Don’t you dare create ‘tasty’ children for us to eat!”
“Father, what happened? Is it morning already?”
Tori and Cat woke up to the noisy quarreling of the two Scouts that were keeping a look-out. Jake and Vora were actually sleeping with their real bodies, yet they were able to stay awake using this special trick. That way the two birds could keep the fire going all night and also prevent any predators from attacking when they were all getting rest.
“Yep. It’s a little cloudy though.” Jake sighed in the form of a blue-eyed white bird, “It happened just like I expected…”
Tori looked over at the black mostly inflatable boat and sighed out her armored blowhole, “We knew this would happen sooner or later. It just happened way too soon.”
“I tried to blow it up, but it didn’t work. I think I probably poked a hole when I was dragging it through the woods last night.”
Of course, even if the boat couldn’t float, it was still a decent sleigh. They could put various things inside, like the guns, ammo, supplies and some random meat they accumulated. Jake opened his real eyes and yawned loudly, standing up and stretching his arms toward the sky, along with those eight long blue tentacles on his head.
“Umm… I have to… I have to go baño…”
“If you gotta go, then go. We’re leaving here anyway. Piss or shit wherever you want.”
“Father, you’re embarrassing Cat.” Tori glared at the giant man, “Humans don’t like to be seen when they relieve their waste.”
“Whatever.” Jake shrugged, “She’s gonna have to learn how to be a ‘dog’ sooner or later. It’s better to start sooner. But… I’ll get moving now. Catch up when you’re done.”
The two Scouts were exhausted, so they cuddled together in the middle of the boat and fell asleep. Jake only walked a hundred meters or so, across two frozen lakes. Then took care of his own ‘business’.
Jake snickered, then he found a thinner sheet of ice. He picked up a heavy rock and smashed it on the ice for a few seconds. Once he managed to break through, he dove down into the surprisingly deep pond and caught a sluggish silver fish. After swimming around underwater for a while, he came back up and was much ‘cleaner’ than before. At least, in his mind.
“They’re gonna come over any second. No.”
‘Unimportant. Breed. Reproduce. Grow. Expand. Safer.’
“It might be safer for ‘us’, but not for our disposable children. Besides, the more we make, the more mouths we have to feed.”
‘Hmmm… Design, more efficient. Less waste. Less food. Or… Different food. Easy food.’
“Umm… That’s true. We’re all omnivores and can eat practically anything, but it doesn’t mean we can survive on anything. There are lots of animals that can live by grazing. Non-lactating cows can survive on pretty much nothing but ‘nutritious’ grass. Keep in mind that a lot of grass in the winter doesn’t have enough nutrients, but they can also eat other things. Goats can also survive on all kinds of shit. It ain’t just a joke that goats will eat almost anything they can chew. They’ll even eat bark off a tree if necessary.”
‘Goats… Hmmm, not useless. Sorting genetic data, calculating-’
“Stop trying to sound smarter. I know what you do is mostly just instinctual. Don’t forget that we share our bodies and minds.”
“No problem. No wait! Damn it, you tricked me!”
“Fine… But, we gotta do it fast. And, let’s do it underwater just in case they come over sooner.”
By the time Jake emerged from the frigid pond, only a few minutes passed. Torrent was using her strong tail and sharp flippers to slide her huge body across the thick ice. Catarina actually used part of the Maned Wolf’s pelt to make impromptu shoes last night. Obviously there were a lot of issues, like the hide not being tanned and all that. But at least for a few days, especially in the cold weather, it wouldn’t rot or deteriorate too much. It was better than nothing. She was still wrapped up in that extremely reflective silver blanket, using it like a cape.
“Father! Are you and Mother really going to have more babies?”
“Wait, did you eavesdrop on us again?”
Jake snickered and Tori giggled, while Cat was totally clueless and confused.
“Umm, well, I’ve thought about it and we’ll see what happens. They’ll be like the Scouts though, hopefully.”
“That’s fine. The Scouts are adorable. I promise… I’ll never let that happen, ever again.”
The giant man smiled wryly and shook his head, “It was an accident, Tori. Not even an accident. It was just… Nature. Shit happens. All the time. And there’s nothing we can do about it. I believe you though. And I’ll never be so careless again, either.”
The two of them were silent for a while, then Tori asked, “Can I go swimming for a while? I feel a little uncomfortable being out of the water for so long.”
“Go ahead. Might as well catch some fish while you’re at it.” Jake shrugged and the 4 meter long Killer Whale dove into the relatively small hole in the ice. Catarina sighed and her cute little wolf-like face had a sad expression.
“Dogs and cats use their tongues.”
“If you’re worried about not being able to wash yourself off because of the cold.” Jake snickered, “Cats and dogs use their tongues. I don’t recommend it. But that’s how they stay clean in environments where they can’t take a bath or a shower. I mean, they do that anyway, even if they don’t need to… Probably because they like the taste? I don’t know. Hopefully I’ll never understand.”
“Ew!” Although she couldn’t understand most of what he was saying, Catarina still understood some of it and looked at the monstrous man with an angry expression. With thin white fur on her cheeks, at least it wasn’t possible to see her ‘blush’ anymore. But she was still incredibly embarrassed and annoyed. However, let’s not talk about whether she knew how to retort, she was still terrified of Jacob. Well, she was more afraid of being left behind.
“Hahaha~! It’s just a joke but… I am being serious a little bit.” Jake sighed dramatically, “Maybe we can find an abandoned house somewhere in the woods around here? And they just happen to have running water, soap, a nice comfy bed…”
‘Unlikely. And… Unnecessary.’
“No one lives here.” Cat shook her head, “Only monsters, demons… Devils. Estas colinas son malas…”
“What about aliens?”
“Aliens?” Catarina looked up at his serious expression and tried not to laugh.
“Okay, fine, then tell me what the difference is between the monsters, demons and devils?”
“Ummm…” She scratched her head and frowned, “Monsters… Animals. Demons, were people? Devils… Devils are in your head. Trying to steal your soul.”
“I’ve had some experience with ‘Devils’ then, hahaha~!” Jake shook his head, with long tentacles flopping everywhere.
“Anyway~! We should probably move. The ice is gonna start breaking now.”
“What?!” The little girl screamed and started running, almost slipping on the ice as it started cracking loudly. Jake also pulled the mostly deflated rubber raft along and escaped just before the whole pond started breaking apart. Then a ‘small’ Orca burst out of the broken ice and landed on top of a bigger, thicker piece, which shattered under the impact!
“Are you okay, Sweetie?!”
“I’m fine… Just stings a little. Hihihihi~!” Tori giggled and swam over to the side, dove down and then shot up a meter out of the water, landing on the icy shore with a loud ‘Clack!’. Small pieces of ice and chunks of snow flew everywhere. If Jake didn’t block them, Cat and the Scouts might have gotten hurt. Those tentacles whipped out and expanded to block a few rocks as well.
“No problem. Just be careful not to rupture anything. You might have armor, ridiculously dense and strong muscles, plus a lot of blubber to protect yourself… Okay, never mind. You’re fine. Hahahaha~!”
Tori rolled her big glowing pink eyes in a similar way to her father, “One day, I’m going to grow some arms and legs…”
“Where would you put them though? And what kinda arms and legs? Like crab legs? Spider? Bird legs? Maybe you’ll be able to get some useful DNA from eating some turtles or alligators?”
“I think your tentacles are fine though.” Tori looked at those ‘cool’ octopus limbs with longing, “As long as they were big enough…”
“Still the same problem. Where are you gonna grow them? Can you control it?” Jake shook his head, “I ate a fucking octopus and my head cracked open. Don’t you remember that? Do you really wanna experience that shit? You don’t. Trust me. You don’t. Be satisfied with what you have.”
After traveling through the hills and mountains for a couple, they finally made it to the tip of a salty river in the north that wasn’t frozen over. It was only about five kilometers, but they had to stop to eat a few times. Actually, it was more like they got attacked by reckless and suicidal animals along the way. For example, a group of brown goats, there was also a pack of wild dogs, which were mostly white-gray and fluffy huskies. They were cute, sure, but a lot less adorable when they’re trying to literally eat you.
“I became like this after I was attacked by a husky…”
As they were cooking and eating a skinned huge wild dog over the campfire near the wide blue river, Cat spoke softly in Spanish to her only friend. Tori had half her body in the chilly water and the other half was resting on the rocky riverbed. The sun was surprisingly bright today, so the temperature felt much warmer than it actually was.
“You’re lucky.” Tori giggled, “Your Adaptation is so cute.”
“You’re lucky you didn’t get attacked by a pug, hahaha~!”
Jake couldn’t really understand Spanish that well, but he had his daughter translate things telepathically.
“Father, what’s a pug?”
Catarina giggled and actually smiled for once, “A pug is a very sad dog breed. People breed them to look a certain way… Unfortunately, this shortens their lifespan. Gives them a lot of terrible genetic disorders. Well… It did. I don’t know about now… The world has changed so much. I’ve seen dogs that turned into people and people who turned into dogs. It was worse in the city. I don’t know why.”
“Father said that the city he escaped from was also very scary. There were lots of crazy people with guns. Even if someone’s head was blown off, there would be weird worms inside their bodies controlling them.”
“When the pandemic reached Argentina, we already had vaccines but…” The little wolf-girl shook her head, causing that long fluffy white hair to whip around, “The vaccines didn’t always work. Especially after COVID. People trusted vaccines a lot less.”
“Well yeah, how the fuck are they gonna come up with a vaccine for this parasitic bullshit or that so-called Fertility Virus in only a few months?” Jake took a bloody bite of a giant husky heart and snickered, “But… I did hear from a semi-reliable source that this shit has actually been around for a very long time. It’s not new. It just changed suddenly. I still say it’s fucking Dark Energy or some shit. Hahaha~!
“It’s not like ‘nobody’ knows this shit, but there are so many shadowy things happening in the world. So many secrets and conspiracies. At the same time, there are even crazier conspiracy theories that are total nonsense or at least, seem insane. Some of the more realistic theories are lumped in with the unrealistic ones in order to hide the truth and blind the eyes of the masses. Politicians and governments have been doing this shit for ages.”
Tori had to translate what her father said, but even the translation made the 10 year old wolf-girl a little confused. Anyway, she had the internet growing up. She wasn’t an ignorant child who grew up in some rural village… At least, she considered herself to be educated. When it came to conspiracy theories, aliens, even religion, she was pretty skeptical. However, she was afraid to get into an argument or express her own opinions about these things with a 2.3 meter tall monster she just met the other day. So she just quietly continued cooking her husky meat and watched Torrent show off her ‘coloring skills’.
“Do you think this color looks prettier or this one?”
“Umm, I think, I like the way you normally look.”
“But then I’ll just look like every other Orca. I want to be special.”
“I wish I could make myself look ‘normal’ again…”
Tori giggled, “Father always says that ‘normal’ is boring. I think you look better than the other humans I’ve seen. So fluffy and pretty.”
On the other side, Jake was chatting with Voracity. He was looking down at his right forearm, where several different images were appearing and reappearing. Some looked like internal organs, others were practically anatomical diagrams of different animals. Some looked like spiral DNA strands, then switched back to cartoonish animals or anthropomorphic animals in a humanoid form. There were even some centaur-like creatures, with the lower body of some animal and a slightly humanoid upper body.
“Yeah, this ain’t gonna work. I mean, just adding more and more stomachs won’t necessarily make the digestive system better. This centaur bullshit could theoretically work, but it could also create a cripple…”
‘Trial and error. Necessary sacrifice.’
“No way. Let’s just go with something quick and easy first… Yeah, use the DNA we have and make something basic. Like what you did with the Scouts.”
Voracity’s ability to manipulate genes and create offspring was innate. However, it had a lot of limitations, especially since she’s only used it intentionally twice now. Once with the first Scout and then again to just pump out two of the same exact half-assed ‘design’.
“Also, gills are nice, but you can’t just put gills on everything. And it’s hard to control where the gills will actually end up, right? So we gotta be more careful with that… There are always going to be a lot of issues with internal organs too…”
‘Hmmm… Gills, good.’
“Whatever.” Jake sighed, “If we’re gonna do experiments, we should create insects… Although I still don’t want to treat my own kids as experiments, at least if they’re insects… Well, like tiny ants and stuff. Not gigantic, fully sentient beetles or cockroach people.”
‘Offspring… Not, bugs.’
“Ugh… Just… I hope it doesn’t get too big. I don’t wanna experience Tori’s birth situation again.”
‘Lesson, learned. Smaller fetus. External growth, easier. Brain development, unimportant.’
Jacob snickered and shook his head, “It’s not that overdramatic.”
Across the hundred meter wide river where they were resting, there was a sparsely forest brown rocky hillside. Beyond that was the rest of the wide river, which led out into a large bay. The Scouts were flying past the bay and discovered a group of small communities. Beyond the bigger bay, was a smaller one with a hundred meter wide, relatively shallow ‘neck’ between them. In that smaller bay was basically a harbor or marina, with a bunch of ships. A lot of modern sailboats that were equipped with various weapons and armor plates. There were also plenty of normal yachts that had similar modifications.
A lot of the concrete houses looked more like bunkers. It’s clear that the reason why there weren’t any seals or penguins up the river was because they were afraid to get anywhere near the bay. There were some huge elephant seals, great white sharks and various smaller whales hung up on big metal cranes. Some huge fishing boats and cargo ships were also loitering in the bay, but couldn’t be moored in the same place as those small yachts and sailboats.
“There must be at least ten thousand people here.” Jake muttered in the form of a blue-eyed Scout.
“So many people…” Tori’s pink-eyed Scout was a little surprised, “What are those people doing over there?”
“Looks like…” Jake looked over at the big wooden crosses on the hills on the right side of the bay. There were lots of men and women with their hands nailed to the sides of the cross, while their feet were resting on a small wooden board, then nailed down together. They were totally naked in this frigid, windy environment, but they were still able to howl and roar. Trying to break free from the ropes that bound their wrists and ankles.
“They’re crucifying the infected?”
The harsh sunlight bared down on them and burned their skin, causing them more pain and discomfort than the wounds on their bodies. The freezing wind didn’t seem to bother them that much either, probably because most of them had fur like a wolf, bear or sheep. Their heads also often had horns, antlers or other deformities.
“It’s probably more of a religious thing, otherwise, if they just wanted to try and use sunlight to kill the parasites, there are much less harmful methods. This is more like an execution or punishment.”
“Humans are so cruel.” Torrent sighed, “Look… Look at the water, Father.”
“Fuck!” Jake cursed as he saw a bunch of tiny corpses floating above the small waves and sometimes sinking below. There were little children, babies, pregnant women, most of them were already dead, but Jake did see a few people tossing or kicking crying babies off the edge of the piers while laughing hysterically. Of course, there were also people who cried and begged, but still had their children taken from them and tossed into the bay. He also watched as a young girl was held down by a fat man and raped in front of her crying mother, who was also being brutalized by two furries.
Jake swooped down at the same time as Tori. The two of them were very accurate when they used their sharp claws to first gouge out the throats of those furry wolf-headed beasts. They didn’t stop until the two of them had their throats and necks completely ripped apart. Then they lunged onto the back of the fat man who literally had the face of a pig, tearing apart his spine and neck. Using a combination of beaks and claws to quickly kill the bastard…
Unfortunately, the little girl was crushed to death by the literal fat pig-man. While the crying woman was completely delirious and covered in all sorts of deadly wounds. It was a miracle that she was even still alive. Jake could see a lot of pitch-black worms wriggling around in her wounds, but hiding back inside her body when they sensed the painful sunlight.
“Shit.” Jake sighed and looked over at Tori, “Come on, let’s get out of here.”
The two of them flapped their blood-soaked wings and soared into the sky. Then they circled around and dove down into the ocean a few kilometers away from the mostly sandy shores. They swam around underwater a bit and floated up to the surface, relatively ‘clean’. At least they got rid of all the visible blood, viscera and differently colored parasitic worms. Well, there were basically only two colors, red and black. The black worms were long and narrow, while the more advanced ones looked more like centipedes with many legs. The red worms became more like thick, powerful snakes as they got bigger, as Jake experienced back in Baltimore.
“Strange… These parasites don’t seem to like saltwater?” Jake watched the worms squirming around in the waves and then shriveling up rapidly. Whether they were red or black, they both didn’t seem to like the sunlight or saltwater.
“Father… What should we do now?”
“What else? Go back and start moving. The ships are too heavily defended and the situation isn’t chaotic enough. Not yet… Besides, if there are people here, there might be more along the coast to the west. We can find a decent boat sooner or later. There’s no need to take risks.”
Actually, Jake, Tori and the Scouts had no problems. They didn’t even need a boat in the first place. But the issue was their puppy… Catarina couldn’t survive the freezing winds and waves. Even if she could theoretically ride on Tori’s back, she would definitely get hypothermia and die.
“What if we stole the boat first and picked up Cat somewhere else?”
“These woods ain’t safe, Tori. We shouldn’t split up that far apart.” Jake shook his bird head and flapped his wings, slowly taking off and then lifting up higher into the sky. However, when the two of them were on their way back to the shore, they noticed something.
Thousands of white, brown, black, gold and red furred ‘dogs’ emerged from the woods to the west! There was a large lake disconnected from the bay, surrounded by woods, where a lot of small communities were located. But now that forest was on fire. Those werewolves and giant dogs were being shot and killed rapidly by the heavily armored men and women along the coast, but there were just too many of them. Also, there was an outbreak in the seaside villages already, plus the fires, it was total chaos. A lot of people started escaping on their boats or started fighting each other over the only ships available.
“Looks like we’re pretty lucky, hehehe~!”
“But Father, it looks like some of those wolves are following the river!”
“They probably smelled us… Or smelled what we were cooking. Or maybe they’re just trying to escape the forest fire? Either way, let’s go back quickly.”
The two Scouts soared over the chaotic bay and then reached a relatively peaceful forest, then they crossed the river and dove down near the shore. Flapping their wings and quacking a few times, the Scouts were returned to their normal ‘simple’ state. Where they could only follow basic commands.
“Alright, leave the food, we gotta go.” Jake stood up and stretched, looking down at the terrified little girl. Obviously she could hear the noises and see the smoke reaching up into the sky. He picked up the puppy with two tentacles and dropped her down onto the deflated raft, “Grab a gun and be ready to use it. Tori, stay in the water. Go upstream ahead of us, but stay low. Don’t get shot or caught in a trap! Or hit by a fucking boat propeller!”
“Yes, Father!” Tori got down off the beach and sunk into the deepest part of the river, fading into the brown and gray rocks on the bottom. Then she started swimming rapidly upstream, eating a few unlucky fish as a snack on the way. Jake on the other hand, grabbed the raft and started pulling it back down to the south a bit. Over some icy and snowy hills, then went East for a few minutes at a scary speed that almost made Cat and the supplies fall out of the raft.
“Hang onto those weapons. We’re gonna need them in a minute!”
Jake wasn’t even in the mood to correct the kid’s nonsense. Because of the terrain, there were several freezing cold rivers between them and the wolves that might be chasing them, so he wasn’t too worried about that. Instead, he was just trying to navigate through the snowy hills without completely destroying the boat he was dragging. He climbed up a hill, crossed through a sparse green forest of needle-leaf trees and made his way over a small frozen stream. There were also a lot of birds flying around above their heads. Which made him a little worried. After all, he would probably be fine, but Cat and the Scouts could get taken out if they weren’t careful.
When Jake dragged the boat to the shore of the inner, bigger bay, Tori was already there waiting for them on the sandy beach. But she didn’t come empty-handed… Well, she didn’t have hands at all. She was dragging a small wooden skiff, with white paint on the outside that was stained with blood and covered in scratches. However, at least it wasn’t leaking and there wasn’t any blood inside the boat. On the back, there was even a big black motor!
“Great job, Sweetie!” Jake snickered and turned to the little girl, “Do you know how to drive a boat?”
“It’s okay. Neither do I, hahaha~! Now help me move shit! We gotta go!”
Tori couldn’t really help with moving things from the raft into the skiff, so she just controlled the Scouts and made them get onto the new boat. In the middle was a steering wheel and a relatively comfy white chair for the driver, while the rest of the boat was basically just hollow and empty. That was fine though, because it meant there was plenty of room to put the meat, weapons, ammo and other things they stored in the raft.
The bay was a little over a kilometer across, so they could see across it pretty easily. There were quite a few buildings on the other side, near the narrow gap between the big and small bays. On one side, the Western side, there were people being torn apart by beasts, fighting back with guns or just running for their lives. Some people jumped into the water and tried to swim across, but were eaten by Killer Whales.
Yes, there were hundreds of Orcas in the water and some of them even flipped over the boats. Multiple huge Orcas could work together to tip over a relatively large sailboat or yacht, but there wasn’t much they could do about the giant fishing boats or cargo ships. Of course, there were also people who accidentally crashed their ships into each other, hit sand bars or drove directly into the docks.
On the Eastern side, everything was relatively calm. At least, no more chaotic than usual. A lot of people were hiding in their concrete bunker-like homes and trying to avoid getting hit by stray bullets or getting involved in the nonsense. From Jake’s perspective, it was the ‘right’ side, since their position was directly across from that narrow 100 meter wide entrance into the smaller bay.
“What should we do, Father?”
“What else? Wait.” Jake shrugged and climbed into the boat, sitting in the middle to avoid causing it to tip over. It’s not that the boat was really that small by the way. The skiff was at least five meters long. And it was fairly wide, with a decent balance. Jake’s body is really big and heavy. He sat in the driver’s seat at the very center and started loading rounds into the magazine of one of their two hunting rifles.
“If anyone tries to fuck with us, shoot ‘em. Otherwise, don’t get involved. Wait for the chaos to end… We’ll be able to leave eventually.”
Tori pulled a rope on the front of the boat with her mouth. Dragging the ship away from the shore, so that the giant dogs or other creatures couldn’t sneak around behind them. She also gave out some warning noises whenever Killer Whales tried to come close to their side. Those Orcas were actually related to the same group that they traveled with for a while, so some of them actually recognized Tori and came over to start chatting or maybe ‘flirting’… Either way, those miscellaneous Orcas came and went without staying too long.
“Father, they want us to help them kill the humans on the bigger boats. But I said that we couldn’t.”
“That’s good. There’s not much we can do in this kinda chaotic situation without risking our lives. What’s the point? Tell them to try throwing big rocks or pieces of metal into the propellers of the big boats. Without engines working, those ships are just floating coffins.”
Catarina heard their conversation and frowned, but then sighed dramatically and didn’t say anything in the end. Jake saw her expression and smirked, “You’re worried about those people?”
“No. Justo… Mmm… Siento que la civilización humana ha terminado. Al igual que la tecnología va a retroceder miles de años. Al final, todos nos convertiremos en salvajes. Tal vez ya somos salvajes…”
“You think civilization has ended? Hahaha~!” Jake shook his head, “Kid… It’d be better if that was the case. At least, better for ‘us’ personally. Unfortunately, human civilization and technology is still moving forward. Just not down here in the ass-end of Argentina. And not in those former big cities that have either been nuked or taken over by zombies.”
He looked to the South… Antarctica, where he came from not that long ago. Then he looked around at the difference between the chaotic western side and the ‘peaceful’ eastern side of the lake. Of course, they were all under the same brutal management system. A system where babies were treated like garbage and infected people would be crucified for unknown reasons. But it’s true that there was some semblance of ‘order’ in the chaos and depravity.
“Anarchy sucks. But at least there’s ‘freedom’. Once people get together and start making laws, then enforcing them… You end up with shit like that.”
“I’m not being a hypocrite.” Jake glared at his right hand, “Laws and rules are just shackles. It’s fine if they protect you… But the moment you start down that path, you end up with a government that will never be satisfied until it has all the power and the people who ‘fed’ it are all devoured.”
‘Conquer, devour, overpower… Become one. Above all. Supreme… God?’
“And how the fuck do you wanna do that, huh? Vora, what do you really want?”
Catarina and Tori were both looking at the ‘two’ of them, but Cat could barely understand what they were saying and Tori… She could hear what they were saying. She just didn’t really comprehend it completely.
‘We are one.’
“Yes, yes, we are one. That’s not an excuse. Tell me, Baby. What do you really want?”
“Okay.” Jake nodded, “That’s a good start. You want food. All the food? Every kinda food?”
‘All the food! Mine!’
“Okay… So you want all kinds of food. That’s a good start. I can agree with that. To achieve this great goal, we’ll need to either travel the world or bring all the chefs and food from around the world to us. Maybe a bit of both.”
“Well, traveling is just traveling. And right now… Uh, probably not that easy to find a restaurant that will accept us so easily. And there’s no stable currency system in a lot of places. The other method is to set up our own special ‘sanctuary’ where we accept all kinds of chefs. Of course, it doesn’t have to be ‘us’ who do that. We could just attach ourselves to some power… Anyway, it’s something in the far-off future. Personally, I’d like to have the internet again… Among other things. But I also like this sense of ‘freedom’?”
“Hahaha~! Of course you are. We are one.”
“We are one!” Tori shouted excitedly.
“Umm, we are one?” Catarina also spoke hesitantly.
“We are one!” The two Scous shouted in deep, raspy and feminine voices.
Jake smirked with his glowing blue eyes gazing towards the North, “We are one.”
“I hate the smell of smoke. Especially cigarettes. But not a big fan of burning rubber and plastic either. Or burning shit.”
Jake grumbled with his hands on his knees and eight tentacles spread out, dangling off the side of the boat. He couldn’t lean back against the chair, because he had a bunch of sharp spikes sticking out of his back and they would poke holes in the seat. Catarina was curled up in a ball at the front of the boat. She was sleeping underneath one of the wooden seats. The two Scouts were also down there with her, so that she could stay warm.
“Father… How much longer are we going to wait?” Tori floated up out of the water and looked at the dark, smoky sky. The forest in the northwest was still burning. Because of the reproducion and growth speed of plants had increased dramatically, those forests that would usually be separated, had actually become connected enough that the fires spread.
Many of the animals that could escape, went to the west or southwest. Those that went east, circled around and tried to attack those communities on that side of the bay. Of course, there were also monsters in the woods farther east. In one day, this place that once had tens of thousands of survivors was gone. Those who weren’t devoured or slaughtered, were transformed into beasts themselves. The crucifixes were still there, but the people on them had turned into ragged corpses, picked apart by birds and other creatures.
“Those fishing boats and cargo ships are problematic. I’m afraid the people onboard might attack us… This boat isn’t very stealthy after all. We also need to worry about Orcas and other creatures under the water. It’s not that bad in this shallow bay, but once we get out there….”
“Father, the Cold Death is coming! We don’t have time to wait anymore!”
Jake rolled his blue eyes and asked his silly daughter, “Did they explain what the fuck the ‘Cold Death’ actually is?”
“I think the Cold Death is Winter… But I don’t know.” Tori blinked her big glowing pink eye, “The younger Orcas don’t really know either. They just heard from their elders and those elders heard from their elders. It’s like… A story passed down from generation to generation. Don’t stay too long in one place or the Cold Death will find you.”
“Makes sense. Probably related to the Ice Ages of the past or maybe just a few really rough winters?” Jake shrugged, “Anyway… I’m not in the best condition right now. We should wait a little longer.”
“Is Mother going to give birth soon?” Tori looked at her father’s swollen right shoulder and bicep, “Am I going to be a big sister again?”
“Yeah… Soon. Not really sure how long it’ll take.” Jake nodded and gently caressed his right shoulder with his left hand, “It’s not as quick and easy as the Scouts were.”
‘Editing. Processing. Perfecting. Maturing.’
Voracity also explained in her usual way of just saying a bunch of individual yet concise words. Tori was smart and familiar enough to understand her meaning though.
“Well… I’ll get you some food, Father.”
Jake smiled at his adorable daughter who blended into the darkness of the relatively shallow bay. Only a few seconds after she left, he groaned and started feeling incredibly painful cramps. All the carapace in his entire right arm had swollen and expanded quite a bit. He aimed his right palm out at the splashing waves and ‘vomited’ a bunch of unfinished food, stomach acid and other fluids. This was a necessary and unpleasant process they had to go through every time.
He quickly aimed his palm toward a soft white husky pelt that was laid out on the floor next to his chair. They weren’t totally sure how strong or weak these newborn babies would be, so they needed to be careful. Jake was afraid of hurting them with the ‘barbs’ in his own left hand. Those barbs were tiny and relatively harmless, but for a newborn… It also depended on how small the creatures would end up being.
“Father, I’m back!”
A big head emerged next to the boat and shook it a bit because of the waves. The shaking and the noise woke up Catarina just in time to watch the strange, disturbing sight of Jake’s right palm spewing out three tiny, adorable, slimy puppies… Or at least they looked similar to dogs. Whether they would be considered dogs, wolves or foxes is debatable.
“Awww~! They’re so adorable…” Jake ignored the pain and used his tentacles to keep the three puppies from fighting with each other.
Even though they were just born, they already had a full set of powerful white teeth and sharp black claws. Their legs were abnormally long and skinny, just like the Maned Wolf. However, an interesting fact is that baby Maned Wolves don’t look much different from a regular puppy.
After a lot of tweaking and designing, these three baby ‘dogs’ had white fur on most of their bodies. But the long legs, fluffy tails and big, triangular ears were all covered in black fur. The three were basically identical triplets. Their paws had long and sharp black talons. Their pupils were large and black, with colorful irises that could change depending on the circumstances. For example, if they needed to hide, they could make their irises black like their pupils. Or they could glow like Jake’s if necessary. And the color was adjustable, so that depending on who was controlling them at the time, they could change to blue, pink, purple, red, et cetera.
Their faces were wide and their snouts were relatively short, with little black noses and long black whiskers. They really did look like foxes with longer legs. Even though they were only newborns, their overall appearance wasn’t meant to change dramatically from a puppy to full maturity. They could also start hunting immediately after birth, theoretically. Their size was only about as big as Jake’s giant palm, so maybe they could catch mice or bugs?
One thing that should be noted is that they didn’t have conventional reproductive organs. Both the anus and urethra were covered by flexible, but durable carapace, which could open up when necessary to expel waste. Their digestive systems were created to be very similar to Jacob, Tori, Vora and the Scouts, in the sense that they mostly consumed meat, but they could also eat almost anything. Jake and Vora hadn’t tested the grass-eating digestive organs yet, because it wasn’t really necessary.
“They’re so tiny and cute.” Tori was also excited to see her new siblings and gave them their first gift immediately. A large silver perch-like fish that was still alive and flapping around. The moment the three puppies saw that creature that was bigger than all three of their bodies combined, they howled and lunged over.
One of them bit the eyeballs, another tore apart the gills, while the third grabbed the tail and was thrown a meter into the air… Fortunately, Jake reached out with his tentacle and grabbed the silly dog, placing him back with his siblings. Meanwhile, Jake used his tentacles to incapacitate the fish completely. Allowing those three newborn babies to have the first meal of their lives.
Of course, the two Scouts were also woken up by the noise and rushed over to pick off a piece of meat as well. None of the five ‘animals’ cared about the scales, bones or whatever. They just followed their instincts and tried to eat all the internal organs/meat, ignoring the harder things to chew. It should be noted that even though the puppies were newborns and not given much more intelligence than a regular dog or wolf, they were still blessed with a lot of random genetic memories and instincts. Allowing them to become a part of Voracity’s ‘pack’ almost immediately.
“Amazing…” Catarina watched everything, “Padre, felicidades.”
“Yes, Father, Mother, congratulations! Hihihihi~! Our family is getting bigger!”
Overnight, those adorable puppies spent most of their time eating and sleeping. The amount of food they consumed was incredible, but their growth was even more astonishing. In only about six or seven hours, they doubled in size. Growing from puppies to small dogs or foxes. Their long and skinny legs were covered in thick fur, like the rest of their bodies except their faces. It made their ‘lanky’ figures look much larger.
“Gracias… Muchas gracias…”
In the morning, surrounded by two warm white birds and three fluffy puppies, the little wolf-girl burst into tears. She understood that Jacob and ‘Voracity’ literally gave birth to three children for her… Or at least, the main reason they chose the form of a ‘Wolf’ was definitely related to Catarina’s situation. Otherwise, they could have gone with some type of seal or other marine mammals. Instead, in a situation where they were going out to sea on a relatively small boat, Jake still went out of his way to create some land mammals to accompany the little girl. Not just physically, but also emotionally.
“I know I’m just some guy you met a few days ago in a desperate situation.” Jake smiled wryly and looked down at the crying child with those glowing blue eyes in the dim morning light, “But… Well, I guess you could be considered my adopted daughter, right? In that case, I have to take care of you seriously.”
“Si…” Catarina sniffled and nodded her head while hugging one of the cute mostly-white puppies against her chest. She took off the silver blanket last night, because it wasn’t necessary anymore.
“I personally believe in metaphysical bullshit like Karma and Fate. Cat, these three ‘kids’ are your younger siblings now. Take care of them and they’ll take care of you… They’re not as intelligent as humans. But they can understand English and follow commands easily enough.”
“Yes.” She nodded again seriously, “I will… I will take care of them. Forever.”
“Uh, not really ‘forever’. They can only live for as long as normal wolves and dogs. I hope you’ll outlive them by a lot.” Jake snickered and shook his head, “However, you’ll probably have your own ‘puppies’ to take care of by then.”
“Father, when are we leaving? I have a bad feeling…” Tori emerged from the water and looked over at the giant man that was still sitting in the same spot since yesterday.
“Ugh… Well, my neck, back, ass and legs all hurt. So I should really start moving.” Jake snickered and stood up, wobbling a little. Instead of jumping off the boat directly, he reached out with his foot and stepped on Tori’s back, behind the fin. Then she lowered down into the water until Jake was completely submerged, then she raised up again in front of the boat with that rope in her mouth.
“Vora, control the Scouts and watch over the situation from the sky. Cat, stay low. Hide with the puppers. Be ready to escape though.”
“Escape?” Cat was confused, but Jake didn’t answer her question. He was too busy trying to swim after the boat…
Even if Tori was moving ‘slowly’ while tugging the small ship, it was still close to 10 kilometers per hour. With his hands cupped and his feet kicking rapidly, Jake was able to catch up after a few minutes of struggling. His tentacles expanded to about as tall as his body and opened up wide, flattened a bit and pressed down to create more thrust. Similar to how an actual octopus swims. Of course, a lot of octopi have webbing between their tentacles that help them generate more thrust… But the tentacles were mainly just trying to help a little bit. Most of his energy and strength was on his legs, using those large webbed feet to do the majority of the work.
He looked down and saw a lot of bones, wreckage, plastic and metal, but none of the corpses had any flesh left. There were tons of seaweed, seagrass, fish, crabs, the whole bay was sprawling with life. Well, both bays were sprawling with life.
‘Do you see anything?’
‘Ships… Empty. Abandoned.’
Jake and Vora had a short mental conversation, before coming up to take a deep breath and submerge into the frigid water to keep swimming after his daughter. The reason why he didn’t just latch onto the boat was because he simply wanted to get some exercise. There weren’t any super large fish or marine mammals in the bay, so he wasn’t in much danger even if he was separated most of the time.
Jake could hear high pitched and low pitched noises from far away. Although he couldn’t understand them, it wasn’t hard to guess that they came from various sea creatures. Whether it was whales or dolphins, many of them were very vocal. Even if they were kilometers away, out at sea, their voices could still reach this bay. Especially as they were leaving the bay and entering the ‘open ocean’.
Emerging from the large waves, Jake looked over at the little skiff with a worried expression on his dark-blue face. He shouted to Tori, “We have to go a little farther away from the shore. If we’re too close, then the ship might get knocked over by the waves!”
The very tip of the shore in the distance was covered in smoldering, blackened trees. The forest was almost completely burned down the night before but… Jake noticed that there were still a surprisingly large number of trees that seemed fine. In other words, they were either lucky or they had some countermeasures to prevent being burned. It wasn’t just the animals that were mutating, adapting and ‘evolving’.
They followed the crescent sandy shore around to the northeast, then went around it and started going southwest along the rocky coast. They passed by a few small ‘holes’ in the shoreline, but it was a diagonal southwest line for the most part. After passing a lake that was connected to the ocean, the burnt trees along the coastline disappeared. Then they approached another decent sized bay and slowed down a bit.
‘Careful… Humans. Ships. Danger.’
Vora’s voice didn’t just echo in the minds of Tori and Jake. One of those three puppies stopped chewing on a husky femur and spoke to Catarina. Who screamed in shock by the sudden, unfamiliar voice. Then she patted her chest very dramatically and asked, “You can speak?!”
“No…” After saying that, the pink irises turned back to their usual brown and the cute white puppy tilted its head in confusion, “Woo?”
Jake’s head emerged from the water and he explained to the confused little girl, “We gave them decent vocal cords, though their mouths make it a little awkward to speak through. At least it’s better than a beak, right? Anyway… Stay low. We can see and hear a lot of ships. There are some small settlements along the coast. And inside that bay.”
Of course, they weren’t going to do anything special. Tori just pulled the ship farther away from the shore, at least a few kilometers. Then they got closer to the shore again when they stopped seeing houses, docks and other structures along the sandy beaches. Jake stopped trying so hard and just latched onto his daughter’s dorsal fin with his tentacles. Then he focused his attention on one of the Scouts. The other was still being controlled by Voracity.
There were a lot of small and large lakes close to the coast. Along with lots of thick forests. Some of the lakes were frozen over, while others were still completely liquid. Some were black, brown or blue, but they came across a whole area with a lot of ‘weird’ ones.
“Tori! Come look at this shit! It’s super weird, hahah!” Jake spoke out of the mouth of the bird, but he knew that his daughter could hear his thoughts as well. So she quickly took over control of Vora’s bird and looked down.
“Wow! Father! It’s so pretty! Like Mother’s eyes!”
“It’s pretty, but fucking creepy as well, right?! Hahaha!”
The water was glowing bright pink! Jake wasn’t sure whether it was radiation, some chemical or maybe some type of red or pink algae, but there was a 3 kilometer wide, almost heart-shaped lake not far from the sandy shoreline, connected to the ocean by a thin river. There were also a dozen other tiny rivers that pooled into eerie small lakes or just spread out for farther than they could see. Spreading that glowing pink water like arteries and capillaries. There were also quite a few buildings and houses set up nearby, but all the ‘humans’ that Jake saw were… Strange. Aside from the fact that they were all naked, their pale skin had glowing pink splotches.
There were also some weird giant creatures lurking in that lake. But it was hard to see anything specific, just dark shadows when they approached the surface. The humans didn’t use tools or clothing, but they didn’t seem very cold. Just in the short time they viewed everything from the sky, Jake saw a few pregnant women giving birth to several small babies at a time. There were also a lot of huge, beefy men that looked like they were all over two meters tall, with some even reaching close to three meters. The women were also relatively large and fat on average, just not that tall.
“Reminds me of Elephant Seals…”
‘Sexual dimorphism. Unnecessary.’
“Father, birds! Weird birds are attacking us!”
“I see ‘em! Dive!”
Jake didn’t try to fight with the hundreds of glowing pink birds that were attacking the Scouts. Instead, the two of them dove down toward the shoreline and went straight down into the crashing waves. Those birds followed after them, down deep into the frigid water. Some of them were obviously birds like skuas and seagulls, while others were as small as finches, yet they were all united in the goal of hunting the enemies that entered their territory!
Underwater, the two Scouts weren’t alone anymore. Huge purple tentacles reached out and wrapped around those birds. Crushing their necks and torsos. There were also some that were just unlucky and crashed head-first into the rocks at the bottom of the shallow water. Or got attacked by random fish and other creatures lurking below the waves.
Either way, Jake grabbed the two Scouts and retreated back to the little boat in the distance. Lifting them up with his tentacles and putting them down inside the boat very gently. The two of them were already pretty tired before. So now they were completely exhausted and just wanted to get some sleep.
“Yeah… We do need more Scouts…”
After the initial resistance, Jake realized that this world was too dangerous for such a small group to survive. It’s not like Voracity was the only one of her kind. Jake’s ‘Evolution’ might be somewhat unique, but there were probably others like them out there. And they would almost certainly be enemies. Humans would also become their enemies more often than not.
“Not just Scouts… But for now, we can’t do anything too complicated. Scouts are simple, easy and fast.”
Not that their movement speed was particularly amazing, but that they could be ‘created’ in only a few hours. They followed the sandy coast to the northwest for a few dozen kilometers at a leisurely pace when Jake groaned a bit. Tori quickly slowed down and stopped. Then Jake lifted his hand over to the side of the boat and three adorable little slimy white ‘chicks’ fell down into Catarina’s furry arms.
“¿Qué debo hacer?”
Tori explained in Spanish in place of her parents, “Just feed them fish and meat. Nothing special. Don’t let the others hurt them though. They grow really fast.”
In order to create offspring, Jake and Vora don’t actually need to ‘breed’ in the conventional sense at all. At least not when creating Scouts or Hounds. From Vora’s perspective, they’ve already been ‘saved’, but that memory isn’t infinite. Sooner or later, those memories will fade, especially once they’re replaced by new designs. Of course, ‘sex’ does have some benefits. For example, helping Voracity ovulate, relieving stress, providing some nutrients…
Shortly afterwards they stopped on a white sandy beach. There was a 50 meter thick river flowing behind the sandy beach. Behind that was a blood red lake, which fortunately didn’t seem to have any crazy birds, people or monsters living near it. In fact, the whole beach was relatively empty. No penguins, seals or even seagulls within a hundred meters of where they landed.
“Sorry, Padre, Tori…”
“You don’t need to keep apologizing for everything. It’s silly that you waited this long to ask for a break. You haven’t really eaten anything all day.”
Everyone else was fine with eating raw meat and fish. They didn’t even need to ‘drink’ water for the most part, because they drank blood and other bodily fluids of their prey instead. However, they could also drink salt-water to quench their thirst if necessary, but it really never came to that.
“The puppies are growing even faster than I expected…” Jake smiled wryly as he looked at the three little dogs that were only about a day old, but already the size of normal foxes, with particularly long and skinny legs. They ran and jumped around on the beach, playing happily. They also dug some holes and buried themselves in the sand, looking around cutely. One of the ‘smarter’ puppies got stuck with most of their body under the wet sand and almost suffocated… They didn’t have gills and they couldn’t stand the extreme cold if they got wet in this weather. Especially since the night was coming soon.
“Tori, keep an eye on them for a while. I’ll go gather some driftwood for the fire.”
It wasn’t just the dogs. The three new baby birds were also restless and kept trying to wander off. Fortunately, the two big birds were able to keep the three little Scouts in line… But there was nothing they could do about the three puppies that were almost bigger than them already.
Hearing the two little kids, Jake couldn’t help smiling. As he was picking up random pieces of white or grayish driftwood on the beach, he couldn’t help thinking about their travel plans. The reason why they haven’t used the motor on the skiff yet is because there’s only a very limited amount of fuel. Maybe a few hours at most. Of course, in a few hours at full power, they could travel over a hundred kilometers… Theoretically.
After using up all the fuel, if there was some emergency that required them to escape quickly, then they’d be screwed. The motor will also generate a lot of noise, not just attracting humans or predators above the water, but also below. A lot of animals are extremely hostile to humans now. Especially the smarter ones. So a lot of dangerous creatures might be annoyed.
“Father, Cat just told me that this river can take us all the way to Lago Fagnano, which can take us to the Straight of Magellan! She said that the Straight of Magellan is like a super tiny ocean between Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego and the rest of Chile! She said that half of this island is actually in Chile, hihihihi~!”
Part of the ‘supplies’ they took from the original raft back then was actually a series of maps. They showed southernmost South America, which was mainly just Chile and Argentina. That might not sound like much, but from Buenos Aires to their current position, it was over 2500 kilometers along the coast. Maybe even farther. It was hard to tell exactly.
“Do you think it’s better to go along the coast or try to go up the middle?” Jake asked the little girl, who was immediately flustered and shook her head, waving her hands anxiously.
“No depende de mí. Tú eres el Padre, tú decides.”
“I agree, Father. You should make the decisions, not us.”
Sitting around the fire on the beach in the middle of the night, Jake sighed and finally made up his mind.
“If it was just Tori and I, we could stay along the coast and make it all the way North without much trouble… Don’t apologize or feel upset, Kitty Cat. It’s fine. However… These puppies won’t stay so ‘small’ for very long. Soon enough, the boat won’t be able to hold them anymore. Besides, they need exercise and a lot of room to run around.”
Jake pointed at the squiglely little river on the map and explained to the wolf-girl and the armored Killer Whale, “As long as this river isn’t irradiated, dried up or frozen over, we can take it all the way to the west. There’s a very small town by the lake, but it does have an airport already… Which means that in the current world, that small town might have turned into a huge gathering place for humans… Or something else. Either way, it’s a danger we’ll have to face in order to make our way north this way.”
He sighed dramatically and shook his head, “I’ll be honest. I don’t think we can make it north before the winter completely sets in… Rather, it’s best if we can find somewhere to hunker down and survive until the next summer. The whole world is constantly changing. Right now… Even if we made it to a nice, tropical island, it might be even harder to survive there than down here.”
“Si…” Catarina nodded in agreement, “El norte es realmente peligroso.”
“Yes, Father. I’m afraid of the Cold Death… But maybe it won’t be so bad as long as we aren’t in the ocean?”
‘Agreed. Ocean, dangerous. Land, easier.’
“I’m not saying we’re gonna completely commit to the ‘land’. But…” Jake pointed over hundreds of kilometers to the west on the map, “Monte Darwin. At least according to these maps, it should be surrounded by lakes or whatever the hell they’re considered. In fact, most of Chile is mountains, rivers, lakes, oceans, bays… This is good, because it means we’ll never be too far from the water no matter where we go or what we end up doing.”
Catarina felt a little awkward about entering a foreign country at first… But then she realized that whether it was Argentina or Chile, it’s debatable whether their governments even exist anymore. At the very least, no one would be able to enforce any kind of border control. Especially not such a long and confusing border like the one between those two countries.
‘Hmmm, Mountain Meat.’
“You three, be good!” Jake glared at the silly dogs that tried to ‘eat’ the map they were looking at or use their dirty paws to rip it apart.
“It’s not about intelligence. They’re actually about the same as regular dogs or wolves… But they’re just naughty babies that have only been born for a day or so.”
“Was I like that when I was young?” Tori looked over at her silly little ‘brothers’ and giggled. The huge body was tired from swimming all day and laying lazily on the sandy shore, next to the flickering flames.
“Sweetie, you’re still young.” Jake shook his head and sighed, “You’re not even a year old.”
“You don’t count.”
‘We are one.’
“Exactly. We share the same body, so you’re the same age as I am. Don’t make it weird.”
“Food will be done soon. Calm down.” Jake snickered and looked over at the two ‘little girls’, “So in the end… We’re following this river inland. It’s about fifty kilometers to the west… But the river isn’t straight and I don’t know what we’ll find on the way. We might even lose the boat at some point. Are you guys sure you wanna do this?”
“Then that’s it… Cat, put this map somewhere safe and make sure your little brothers don’t get to it.”
“Father, should we name the Hounds and the Scouts?” Tori looked at the three identical fox-sized puppies, “How do we tell them apart?”
“We don’t. That’s the point. Vora and I created them to be Hunting Drones… They exist to hunt for us. It’s kinda fucked, but in the wise words of a certain Streamer King, ‘it is what it is’…”
“I don’t understand.”
“It doesn’t matter. The point is that if you name them, you’ll feel even more sad and depressed when they eventually die.” Jake snickered, “Of course, if you really wanna name them, go ahead. I ain’t gonna try to remember it though. We only have three Hounds now, but I have no idea how many we might have in the future.”
“I’ll name this one Sophia, this one is Tomi and this is Orina.”
“Whatever makes you happy.”
The giant armored man shrugged his shoulders and started ripping apart a dead male Fur Seal that they hunted earlier. Using his sharp nails to rend the thick flesh and remove the entrails, which were eaten by the hungry Hounds and Scouts. Vora wanted the brain, heart, liver and several other nutritious organs for herself. She also stole control over the bodies of those Hounds and Scouts occasionally in order to enjoy the sensation of eating even after her real stomach was full. Jake on the other hand, waited until the meat was actually cooked to start eating his share.
Catarina needed a lot of food as well. She was a young, growing girl after all. Especially with her Adaptation, which makes her crave ‘meat’ more than other kinds of food. It’s not that she completely became a carnivore. However, it’s true that in the current situation, her adaptation has allowed Cat to survive in this cold world full of ‘prey’ much more easily.
“Mmmn~! I love seaweed.” Jake smirked as he slowly chewed and devoured his freshly made raw seaweed salad, which included some oysters, clams and even a few starfish pieces. He also ate the cooked fatty seal meat. Practically gorging himself. Don’t forget that he gave birth to six children not that long ago. His body was still replenishing nutrients and… Growing again.
“I like the way seaweed tastes, but it’s too hard to chew.” Tori giggled as she ate some raw seal meat, along with two random birds that Jake just finished cooking. He also seasoned them with seaweed and some other seaside ‘spices’.
“Love, food.” One of the puppies suddenly spoke and then licked her bloody mouth, before starting to eat again.
Then one of the Scouts said, “Food, best.”
“Food, favorite.” One of the baby Scouts spoke in a high-pitched, adorable voice.
“Well, I like eating too, but I love you, Vora. And Tori… And you too, Cat.” Jake snickered as he looked at the little girl who seemed embarrassed, “We’re gonna survive. And thrive. This world ain’t over. This is just the beginning. This is our world now.”
‘Devour, grow, expand, conquer, overcome! Live! We are one!’
“Yes, Father, Mother!”
Jake, Vora and Tori only slept for two hours on the beach before waking up and feeling full of energy! At least, physically. Mentally, they never got a wink of sleep, because their mental power was focused on preventing the three puppies and chicks from doing anything too reckless or crazy.
In particular, Vora controlled the different animals whenever they were hungry and helped them hunt or eat. Mostly eat. At least they could still feel, taste and experience everything even if they couldn’t control their own bodies? They didn’t know any better, so they didn’t consider being commandeered by their parents or Big Sister to be ‘bad’ or ‘scary’. In fact, they felt happy whenever they were chosen and jealous whenever their siblings were the ones being ‘played with’ or controlled.
Catarina also didn’t need any sleep, because she was resting for the whole boat ride earlier. If it wasn’t for the sake of safety and conserving strength in case of emergencies, she would actually want to run, jump and play around like the other puppies. After all, she inherited her wolf-like appearance… From a Husky.
Before the ‘end of the world’, the Rio Irigoyen was considered a nice fishing spot at the ‘end of the world’. In fact, a lot of places in the southern tip of South America had that moniker, including that little island they stayed on for the past few months. This river was incredibly long and winding, but not very deep at all.
Jake pushed the skiff from behind, while Tori was free to swim around slowly in front or wherever she could go without getting stuck on the dead trees at the bottom of the river. There were also countless fallen or upright dead white trees on the sides of the river. But there were also plenty of newly growing trees in the forests on both sides.
The two Scouts were babysitting the little Scoutlings in the boat, while Catarina was walking the dogs by the side of the shallow river. Sometimes they would pass over from one side to the other, because it was either really shallow or just extremely narrow and they could clear the gap with a single jump. However, those Hounds weren’t completely fooling around. They also caught some unlucky rabbits, squirrels and small birds.
Of course, Jake did have some rules regarding hunting. Mainly that they were only allowed to target mature animals… At the very least, the Hounds and Scouts can easily distinguish between babies and adults. Everything in between is a little dubious. Even Jake has trouble telling the difference, so how could he expect his silly children to figure it out?
In the murky brackish water, some huge sea trout were lurking. Some of them were bigger than the dogs, but still within the range that Tori could easily devour.
It was the dead of night or early morning. Catarina was running around with the puppies and didn’t seem to feel the cold as much anymore. It’s also possible that it was just much warmer than before. It definitely wasn’t snowing and the wind wasn’t blowing very hard once they made it a few kilometers from the coast.
Unfortunately, it was still too cold for Catarina and the puppies to go swimming. Besides, it wasn’t very ‘clean’ to bathe in the murky reddish-brown water in the first place. There was a real risk of getting strange parasites, bacterial infections or just being attacked by fish.
The long, winding river went straight southward for a while, then to the northwest, before going back to the southwest again or just straight west. However, even if it was a little confusing, Jake and Tori knew from the map that if they followed the river, they theoretically ‘should’ reach that lake in the west. Theoretically…
When the sun was starting to rise, they reached a fork in the road. From their perspective it was a left or right choice. They picked the one on the right, because according to the map, it looked like it could go all the way west. They were only half-right.
Jake looked at the big lake in front of them and sighed. It was a lake, but not the one they were expecting. They walked almost half the way and found a kilometer or so wide body of water. Seeing that the sun was starting to rise behind them, Jake sighed and started setting up a campfire with some driftwood they carried in the boat. These old, dead trees were relatively easier to ignite than the fresh twigs and branches that could be found in the forests near the lake.
“I didn’t see or hear anything scary in the lake, Father.” Tori swam back to the shore after swimming around for a while in camouflage, “Just a lot of small fishies.”
“Your definition of ‘small’ is a lot bigger than mine.” Jake snickered and shook his head as he looked at the 1.5 meter long trout that his daughter brought back. Either way, he started scaling it very professionally. Even if Tori likes raw meat and fish, she hates scales and fur. Especially fur. Maybe a normal Orca would have to put up with it or just wouldn’t care, but had other options.
“Cooocoouooouuuuu~!” A deafening rooster cry interrupted their morning ‘dinner’.
“Father, look! That chicken is so pretty! Hihihihi~!”
It really was a beautiful bird. The face and head were red, with pitch-black eyes and a golden ‘crown’ of feathers on its head. The neck was covered in long fluffy beige feathers, which almost looked like hair or fur. The chest and most of the wings were a deep blue, with the tips of the wings being snow white. Those thick legs were covered in beige fluff, just like the bird’s ass. The tail feathers were particularly long and delicate-looking. A combination of blue and white, drooping down toward the ends.
“Chicken?! That’s a fucking T-Rex with feathers!”
Jake couldn’t help complaining when he saw that 3 meter tall monstrosity. Fortunately, it didn’t seem too interested in them. Instead, it pecked down into the water and grabbed a big trout like it was just an earthworm, quickly swallowing it whole. On the other hand, there were hundreds of smaller chickens, mostly hens, that gathered around their massive mascot. Those tiny hens were definitely large for chickens, but still within the range of normal animals. They came in many different colors and patterns, though most of them were just white, brown or black. There were also thousands of tiny yellow chicks peeping and making a lot of noise, but they were far enough away that it wasn’t that bad.
“Don’t. Get back here you silly dogs.” Jake rolled his eyes when he saw the way those stupid puppies looked at that gigantic mountain of rooster meat. Fortunately, his ‘command’ over them was still pretty strong.
“Yes, Vora, I can see that. But you can’t eat that much chicken. So don’t be greedy.”
‘Useful genes… Devour!’
“No.” Jake complained, “Just eat your fucking fish. We’re not gonna start a war with the giant chickens. Get some rest, we’ll be moving again in an hour.”
The river they followed to get to the lake had basically turned into a small stream and was almost frozen over. There were also a few tiny streams to the west of the lake, but they were so small that they were already ice since a while ago and the ‘warm’ weather last night and this morning obviously wasn’t good enough to cause them to thaw.
Although Jake hesitated a bunch of times, he eventually decided to keep dragging the skiff along as a ‘sleigh’ of sorts. The small, shallow wooden boat only weighed a couple hundred kilos. Probably less than Tori, so Jake was able to drag it along through the snowy woods for nearly five kilometers before they finally found another small river that wasn’t frozen solid.
“Father, Cat says that this should be Rio Lainez.”
“Do we go right or left?”
“Uh… Left? Yes, left.”
Jake snickered as he watched his daughter trying to swim in the ridiculously shallow river. The skiff didn’t have any holes in it yet, but the bottom of the boat was slightly more messed up than before. At least, there was no problem for the time being. Anyway, even if it sank, the water was barely up to Jake’s knees at the deepest point. It was also very narrow, so during some of the sharper turns, he practically had to lift the boat up out of the water to keep moving ‘forward’.
The three puppies were even more energetic than before. Barking, howling and occasionally splashing around in the shallow water, then jumping out because it was too cold. They did catch some small fish from time to time and practically swallowed them whole. The Scouts were also taking this opportunity to help their younger siblings get some exercise. Since they were partially ducks, specially meant for extremely cold weather, they didn’t have the same concerns about swimming as the three puppies. They paddled their little feet and swam ahead of Tori, who was in front of the boat. Jake was at the back again, pushing the boat forward with a leisurely attitude. One time he accidentally hit the back of the boat with his left knee and the black spikes almost got stuck in the wood.
“Which way do we go now?”
It didn’t take long before they reached a fork in the stream…
“Right.” Catarina looked at the map, which barely showed this river at all and pointed to the right.
A few minutes later there was another fork.
A few minutes later…
“I’m just gonna go right and hope we aren’t going in a circle.”
Actually, it wouldn’t be that hard to tell the directions normally, but there were just way too many trees everywhere. Some of the turns they were making were only a few meters away from each other, but they went in a circle several times. In the end though, they did make it along the right path and didn’t accidentally go off in some weird direction.
Finally they made it to an area that was slightly deforested and the river was surrounded by gray stones. They also started hearing voices… Not hallucinations, but literally just people shouting or speaking in Spanish.
“Be careful. There are humans ahead.” Jake whispered to the rest of their strange family.
They stopped moving forward and even the noisy dogs started quieting down. Even though they could hear barking and other dog-like noises from up ahead as well. More importantly, dogs had very sensitive hearing and smell. So the guard-dogs up ahead were obviously already alerted to the presence of the ‘wolves’ that were approaching a long time ago. However, most people can’t understand what dogs are saying, so it just sounded like their usual noise.
Vora used the eyes of the two original Scouts to look down and scan the area ahead. About a kilometer or so to the west along the river was a small community in the middle of the woods. There were barbed wire fences, some tall metal and wooden guard towers, the main buildings seemed to be some factories and dormitories that were remodeled into fortresses post-apocalypse. Then there were quite a few shacks and huts, along with some simple concrete bunkers.
There were also lots of big heavily armored and reinforced trucks parked in a large open space devoid of trees. She could also see a decent sized white paved road, which was cleared of snow. People rode motorcycles along the roads for the most part, but there were also some trucks driving through occasionally in the distance, where the roads became more complex. There were also many other communities over there…
Pastures with plenty of livestock. Fields that were empty because of the cold but likely had various crops harvested not long ago. Then she saw a small town called Tolhuin, which was right next to their destination, Lago Fagnano. But that was at least ten kilometers farther to the west. As she flew around, she noticed that there were tens of thousands of people living there at the very least. Almost all of them were ‘humans’. Not necessarily Argentinian, but they didn’t have any obvious abnormalities that could be seen from her perspective in the sky.
“Maybe…” Jake muttered to himself and frowned, “At least they haven’t crucified people openly or done anything too weird… But that makes me even more concerned. There’s something strange. We haven’t seen that many large groups of crazy animals or monsters lately. Even those farm animals seem relatively normal-looking.”
“Father… Should we keep going or turn around and go another way?”
Tori saw how anxious and upset Catarina was, so she spoke on her behalf, “I think it’s too dangerous…”
“It might be too late.” Jake sighed dramatically as he looked up at the sky and saw the nearly noise-less black drone that was hovering nearby, staring at him intently. He waved his right hand and asked, “Doctor Aliyah, are you there?”
“Jacob Cinagra?” The voice that spoke from the approaching drone wasn’t that familiar woman, but a man with an Argentinian accent, “It seems you’ve grown a lot in your journey from Antarctica… Are you trying to reach Lago Fagnano? Do you need a ride?”
“Is this one of your secret bases?” Jake rolled his glowing blue eyes and sighed, twitching his long purple octopus tentacles in anxiety.
“This is a small outpost connected to the Endless Hope Organization.” The man didn’t directly answer the question, “I’m sure you’ve heard of them before.”
“Of course. Aren’t they a non-profit with the annoying puppy, kitten and starving children commercials that give people depression?”
Jake snickered and shook his head. Tori was using the three Hounds to look around and sniff the area for approaching enemies, but no one was getting closer to them. The Scouts came back and also didn’t notice anything from the sky. They didn’t land directly though, but kept circling and keeping an eye out on the situation.
“Please don’t tell me that you guys managed to build a super secret transnational research organization under the guise of the fucking Endless Hope Organization…”
The Endless Hope Organization has always had close ties to the governments of various countries around the world. They were established by Joy Bliss in 1971 and continued on, long after her mysterious disappearance. At first, they were just a pretty obvious method for Joy’s company to cheat taxes… On the surface.
Under that layer of disguise, they were always working hard to save endangered animals, help with rescue work during various disasters, some branches even intervened in various wars or genocides. They had many other charity organizations under them. Snowballing into the biggest non-profit across the entire planet.
There were also many pharmaceutical corporations in close contact with them. Many vaccines and medicines were produced with them pushing from behind the scenes. Jake knew all this, because there were tons of conspiracy theories about them that came out every time something happened. Especially in recent years, with the Covid outbreak and then… The Parasitic Pandemic.
However, there was also a lot of evidence pointing towards a bunch of different countries. Especially Russia, China, the US, even Zimbabwe and Australia were tied into the conspiracy theory somehow. Anyway, even Jake was skeptical about most of those things and honestly, he didn’t really care enough to look into it too much. Especially since his last month of internet before the disaster completely broke out was spent in anxiety over his likely, imminent death.
“I’m Professor Colas Mendoza. Please, call me Colas or Professor Colas.”
“Okay, Professor Colas. Are you sending a cruise missile at us right now?”
“Jacob, Aliyah told me about your paranoid persecution delusions.” Colas chuckled and the small drone hovered down closer, so that the two of them could speak to each other more clearly.
“I’ve read your file before… I don’t blame you for being skeptical of everyone. But Jacob, if we really wanted to hurt you, we wouldn’t have let you go.”
“Uh-huh.” Jake shrugged, “So what do you guys want me to do now? What do you want from me?”
“Stay alive. Stay sane. Don’t give into your darker impulses. Jacob, you have an amazing gift. Like many others, you’ve adapted to this new world…”
In the end, he finally said, “I know you’re a very practical man. As long as you enter our outpost and take some simple tests, we’ll not only give you a ride. We’ll also give you a new boat. As much food or supplies as you may require… And some information.”
‘Agree!’ Vora lost all her fear once food was involved.
“Padre…” Catarina looked up at Jake with an anxious expression on her cute wolf-like white furry face, “Do you… Trust them?”
“Of course I don’t trust them.” Jake snickered and shook his head, “But~! What’s the information about?”
“Jacob… Haven’t you been wondering whether your parents and other family members survived?”
“You know I have, but… You also know I’ve been afraid to find out.” Jake looked up at the camera lens with a frown on his pitch-black carapace-covered face, “Let me guess. You won’t tell me unless I enter your trap?”
“There’s no trap. And no. I’ll tell you immediately. I’m sorry for your loss… Not many members of your family survived… However, we do know for certain that your parents, several cousins and your younger brother are all alive.”
“Brother? When did I have a brother?” Jake frowned, “No fucking way… Are you telling me that my seventy year old parents had a daughter? Uh, now that I think about it though, it’s actually not that strange compared to my situation.”
“Jacob… Please don’t destroy this drone. We don’t have many of them left in this outpost and they’re very expensive now.”
One of Jake’s tentacles that was sneaking around behind the drone suddenly stopped and shrunk back to the back of his head, “Sorry. I love my parents, but… I can’t risk the lives and safety of my children for a bit of information.”
“That’s understandable… However, I don’t believe your current behavior or actions will make your family any safer. Miss Catarina Martinez, I wonder if you’re interested in the whereabouts of your own family?”
Cat grit her little doggy teeth and closed her bright blue eyes, shaking her head, “No.”
“Well, if you change your minds, I’ve updated the security system and the two of you won’t be targeted by the automated defenses. The officers have also been told to let you pass by without trouble. I wish you a safe journey-”
“Wait!” Jake waved his right hand as the drone was backing away, “Wait a second. You guys just want our blood or other genetic samples, right? If you want them so badly, then send someone or something out to get them. We won’t enter any fucking military facility, but it’s fine to have a ‘trade’ here, right?”
“Fantastic! Hahaha~! Don’t worry, Jacob, we aren’t some spooky evil organization. Everything we do is to safeguard humanity and the world.”
“I really don’t care. Just keep up your end of the bargain. A ship, maybe a small yacht? It needs to be big enough for a few people, not necessarily a freak like me though. And Voracity wants food. Uh, something like fresh fruit or veggies from up north in the tropics. Oh yeah, and some other random supplies. You probably know what we ‘need’ better than I do…”
“No problema. We always have plenty of ships to spare. Just keep going downstream for another kilometer or so and you’ll reach a small road. We’ll be waiting for you there. I’ll follow along with the drone to make sure that no one causes you any trouble.”
“Sure…” Jake shrugged and continued pushing his skiff down the super shallow river. Part of his attention was always focused on the surroundings, especially as they got closer to the edge of the community at the river bend ahead. There were multiple loaded guns at the back of the boat, which he could grab at any time, but he didn’t think that his reflexes were necessarily faster than the people on the watchtowers.
“Tell them to stop aiming their guns at us.”
“I’ve told them to let you pass safely, but I can’t control their actions completely, Jacob.”
The people on the more distant wooden and metal watchtowers didn’t have a clear line of sight, but there was one at the very edge of the river. Even without using the Scouts, Jake, Tori and even Cat could all see those rifles pretty clearly. There was also a big heavy machine gun, which was aiming in their general direction, but it didn’t seem to have an operator. That was likely one of those ‘automated defenses’.
‘Not yet… But be ready.’
Jake’s heart was racing, while Tori and Catarina were even more nervous. The puppies were already hiding in the treeline on the left side of the river, while the baby Scouts were also hiding behind the boat as they swam forward. However, in the end, nothing happened.
There was a tiny white concrete bridge crossing over the small river and on the right side, there were already several big trucks and vans parked there. Compared to the nervous-looking men and women in military fatigues on the towers or behind the metal fences, these people seemed a lot different.
One aspect is just how calm and indifferent they seemed when they saw Jake, Tori or Catarina. They also wore black combat armor covering most of their bodies, while some even covered up their faces with ballistic helmets or motorcycle helmets. They had guns, but they weren’t stupid enough to point them at Jake and his ‘family’. In fact, they weren’t even guarding against him at all. Instead, they were looking out into the woods or the roads, preparing to defend against some random monsters, animals or even other people that might suddenly appear.
On the other hand, there were also a group of enthusiastic and excited people, mostly women, who were chattering in various languages. Mostly Spanish, but some of them were clearly speaking Chinese, Japanese or Russian. They didn’t have any generic white lab coats or whatever. They also wore black combat armor for safety, but none of them were wearing helmets, at most, just some disposable masks, glasses, face shields and other things like that.
“Mister Cinagra, please, take a seat right here.” A young woman with tied-back blonde hair, blue eyes and pale skin spoke to Jacob with a smile that was somewhat visible behind her mask. She walked over and actually wasn’t much shorter than Jake, definitely over 2 meters tall but extremely skinny-looking and lanky in comparison to his beefy gigantic build.
“Umm… Okay. Is it just me or?”
“Ah, yes, we’d love to have as many samples as you’re willing to provide! Is that okay with you, Miss Martinez?”
“Ah, umm, si…” The cute white-furred wolf-girl covered her chest with one arm and her groin with the other. Well, even if she was used to being ‘naked’ in front of the inhuman monster Jake and the even less human-looking Torrent, she still felt shy in front of normal humans. Especially strangers.
“Mister Cinagra, can you allow this mutant Orca to give us some blood and tissue samples as well?” Asked a short dark-skinned man with puffy gray hair, a thick graying beard and a transparent face-mask. His left eye was covered with a blindfold and there were a lot of burn marks on that side of his face.
“Are you interested in trading me one of those mutant ducklings?” A slightly chubby Hispanic woman in her thirties or forties was the one who spoke this time. She noticed those little cuties that were following behind Jake after he dragged the skiff out of the water. Those three puppies also wandered over, guarding Catarina, trying to protect her from the strange creatures called ‘humans’ that they only really saw for the first time in their lives.
“They’re not for sale. I raised these uh ‘ducks’ and puppies from the time they were born. They’re like my kids. Same with Tori.” Jake reached down and rubbed the head of the armored Killer Whale that was looking around curiously.
‘Father, what should I do?’
‘Pretend like you can’t speak.’
‘I didn’t mean… Never mind.’
Jake sighed and sat down on an extra-large metal chair that was set up next to a van with a bunch of equipment in the back. Tori didn’t sit down, but just laid next to his chair on the left side, while Catarina was also seated nearby. The ‘Maned Wolves’ gathered around her and growled whenever a doctor tried to get close.
“Be good.” Jake scolded the dogs and they immediately calmed down, laying on the ground and leaving room for a small Asian woman to take some blood, hair, a nasal swab and some other random tissue samples from Catarina.
“Your hair is fabulous, Jacob.” That tall, blonde woman chuckled as she gently fondled one of his tentacles with her latex-glove covered hands. She even asked, “Has there been any change to your genitals since your last examination? Are any of these octopus limbs your new reproductive organs?”
“No, not that I’m aware…” Jake rolled his blue eyes and complained, “I ate a giant octopus that tried to kill us a few months ago. Then the shell on my head cracked open and these tentacles started growing for a while… It was incredibly unpleasant. It took a long time for me to learn how to manipulate them and keep them from acting on their own.”
“Incredible! This cetacean has gills!” A plump middle-aged Hispanic woman shouted excitedly as she examined Tori’s body and took some blood samples.
“Hihihihi~! That tickles! Ah, oops! Sorry, Father…”
“Father? Jacob… Are these creatures you ‘tamed’ actually your own children?” Professor Colas’ voice came from the drone that was still hovering not far away.
“Is that a problem? You’d figure it out sooner or later anyway.” Jake smiled wryly on his stiff, chitinous face, allowing the tentacle-loving ‘doctor’ to keep drawing his blood and taking various samples.
“It’s not a problem at all. Your case isn’t completely unheard of, but every ‘Queen’ is unique and extremely precious… It’s no wonder that Aliyah wanted to keep you so badly. She must have seen your potential. But that’s fine. I still stand by my position. It’s better for your kind to grow and develop naturally in the wild. Not be placed in a cage or experimented on like lab rats.”
“Sweetie, you’re filthy! Come in here and I’ll shampoo your fur.”
“Umm… Thank you, Doctor, but I can wash myself off…”
“Doctor? Hahaha~! Sweetie, I’m not a doctor! I used to work at a pet shop. I’m not even a veterinarian! Hahaha~!”
Jake looked over at the Asian woman who had a Floridian accent and couldn’t help laughing, “Colas, what are you a Professor of, anyway?”
“I was an English Professor… But if you’re asking whether I have doctorates in medicine, yes, Jacob, I’m a real doctor. Unfortunately they don’t let me take risks anymore. Otherwise I would go out there and take care of you myself. Now they call me Professor because I spend a lot of time teaching.”
“These Maned Wolves are gorgeous. Here girl, do you want a treat?”
“Wow! They can talk!”
The whole situation was actually pretty chaotic. Especially with Vora taking control over the puppies and using them to eat the little dog biscuits from the former pet groomer. Regardless of her shock and surprise, she still smiled and fed the three of them plenty of treats. She even gave them some toy bones to chew on while she brought the four ‘wolves’ into one of the trucks, where she and two other women worked together to brush, bathe and shampoo them. Of course, they did have some doctors and vets among the group, so everyone, including Jacob and Tori were given simple physicals to the best of their ability…
The puppies were very healthy, just like the Scouts, but Jake… They had no idea. There was no basis for good or bad, just that he wasn’t irradiated, wasn’t infested with parasites aside from Voracity and didn’t seem to be uncomfortable or in bad health. They couldn’t do an MRI in the field, but they did have sonograms and x-rays.
Torrent was effectively an Orca, but she also had gills and her digestive system was significantly different. Not to mention the exoskeletal armor. It should be noted that most of Jake and Tori’s exoskeleton wasn’t totally hard. There were some parts that were more leathery, while others were practically more solid than the average rock. Of course, bones and exoskeleton are technically minerals with organic components.
Everyone else was fine… Catarina had a lot of issues though.
Jake and Tori only knew Catarina for a few days. However, even when they first met, her condition wasn’t that great. She seemed to be getting better, but according to the doctors that actually examined her body, she was very sick and injured. Under all that fur, she had a lot of bruises, some broken bones, her appendix was about to burst, her kidneys were failing, she had Covid and a few toes on her left foot were completely necrotic from frostbite.
In the end, Jake compromised. What was the point in him avoiding people? Mainly, he didn’t want Tori or Vora to get hurt. Now Catarina was one of his greatest concerns… So Cat got the treatment she needed, while Professor Colas and the sketchy organization he worked for, were able to run all sorts of tests on Jacob, Tori, the Hounds and all five Scouts in their not-so-secret base. It wasn’t even underground. It was just a small hospital in the town near the lake.
In other words, they weren’t confined to the ‘secret base’ at all. Except for Catarina who had to undergo several surgeries and had to recover in the hospital, Jake, Tori and the others were free to come and go whenever they wanted. The hospital wasn’t actually that close to the rest of the town and had access to the lake directly. They had to go through several gates, but the people in the Endless Hope Organization had a pretty good attitude overall.
“Incredible! Jacob, even after being shed, your exoskeleton is comparable to Triple-A body armor! Haven’t you ever tested your own durability before?”
A short, chubby middle-aged Hispanic man was grinning his surprisingly white teeth at Jake. The man had a beer belly, balding black hair, dark skin, brown eyes, glasses, he didn’t bother wearing a mask though. Only some ear protection for the noisy shooting range nearby. And Jake… Well, he was lounging lazily on a soft, comfy brown leather sofa chair that was huge enough for his 2.5 meter tall body. His carapace was in its softest and most delicate state, which also meant that there were no sharp spikes on his body to prevent him from using normal furniture. He could also ‘feel’ the comfort of a bed, sofa or chair for the first time in a while…
“Colas, I didn’t even have guns until we escaped from that island. And after that, I hadn’t shed my skin… Did you expect me to shoot myself in the arm to test out whether I could resist bullets?”
Jake rolled his glowing blue eyes and reached out with a long purple tentacle, grabbed a huge red mug and brought it over to his mouth. There was sweet iced tea with lemon inside, while another tentacle brought over a nutritious green smoothie for Vora to also drink through a straw.
“Hahaha~! I suppose you wouldn’t… But I thought that maybe you would have had ‘experience’. Aliyah’s report said that you’ve been shot several times before.”
The Professor was sitting on a normal office chair nearby. His much younger assistants were the ones doing most of the tests and work. He was mostly just observing. For example, outside the bullet-proof glass window, three huge white-furred ‘Maned Wolves’ with black fur on their legs, ears and neck where running around a simple race track in the snow. The Hounds had reached adulthood and were now 1.5 meters tall at the shoulder and 2 meters long.
Beyond the race track, was the frigid lake, where Torrent had fun jumping up in the air, doing flips or also darting back and forth at her top speed, trying to show off her agility to the best of her ability. She had grown a lot bigger lately…
“Tori is going to start shedding her shell soon too.” Jake sighed and shook his head, “I think it’s because we feel ‘safe’ in this environment. At least, there’s a lot less stress and pressure than out in the wild.”
“You can stay here for as long as you like, Jacob. No one will hurt you here.”
“Is it really such a great idea to put a fucking shooting range inside of a goddamn hospital?!” Jake couldn’t help complaining as he used some of his tentacles to cover his ear-nubs even more tightly.
“We haven’t been here for very long. They’re working on expanding the hospital and adding some more facilities nearby, but it will take time… Everything takes time. Speaking of time, I’m amazed at how quickly your so-called ‘Hounds’ have developed.”
After saying that, the man in a fuzzy gray sweater, took off his ear protection because his assistants were already done shooting. This one room wasn’t just a shooting range. In fact, the length of that ‘shooting’ range was only 5 meters long. It was basically just a few panels of movable bulletproof glass that could be set up anywhere. There were also some noisy machines nearby that were doing other tests or even manufacturing things. Since it was all so noisy anyway, they didn’t really care so much.
“Did you choose the Maned Wolf as a basis because you knew that it would be faster than a regular wolf?”
“Where would I get the genes of a regular wolf? We got attacked by Maned Wolves in the wild. There were also giant huskies and a couple foxes… The way our reproduction works… As far as I understand it, is that Vora and I can just… Like, splice genes together from things we’ve eaten. Of course, I could be totally wrong. That’s just the ‘feeling’ I get.”
“When do you think you can reproduce again? I would love to study the subject in much more detail…”
Jake shook his head, “No way. You’re not my type.”
“Hahaha~! Clever, but I’m serious, Jacob. I’ll give you and your Queen some privacy, but I want to study the development of the embryos as much as possible. From what you’ve told me, you should be able to create one of your ‘Scouts’ very quickly and easily.”
“Well… Rather than Scouts, I was actually thinking about trying something different.” Jake rubbed his ‘smooth’ chin with his left index finger and thumb as his tentacle put down the mug on a small table nearby. His carapace was still somewhat soft, so his facial features were also less stiff. The color was still pitch-black though.
“Although Vora claims that the Drones were created with short lifespans intentionally… It’s more like neither of us can be sure whether we could give them longer lifespans in the first place. We haven’t really done any tests or experiments. Aside from some general artistic details like the color of the fur or making the Hounds look a little cuter than real Maned Wolves by adjusting their facial features… We didn’t really do that much. Vora removed their reproductive organs and gave them sharper claws. Or setting the speed of their growth to some relative values…”
“That alone is remarkable enough.”
“True, but we can do more. We can definitely do way more… I’m just afraid to experiment with my own children, ya know?”
Jake shrugged, “However… If we don’t train our ‘abilities’, we’ll never get better. And if we don’t keep growing stronger, we won’t survive for very long in this crazy world. Hahaha~!”
“That’s completely understandable.” The Professor sighed and took a sip of coffee, “I… No, perhaps everyone alive today has lost a lot. Children, parents, spouses, friends… We’ve lost so much and it feels to people like ‘us’ that the world has ended already. But as a scientist, this strange new world is actually not ending at all. This is like a second Cambrian Explosion. No, far more dramatic than the Cambrian Period. In this new era of evolution, millions of species are going extinct and being created all at once! It’s remarkable and terrifying at the same time.”
“Yes… As a Furry Artist, I also agree that this new world is extremely exciting, hahahaha~!” Jake shook his head and almost spilled the milkshake that Vora was using a tentacle to hold.
“Uh, sorry Vora… Anyway, so as I was saying before. We’re going to start experimenting soon. First though, we need to fully recover from this weak period.”
“Fantastic!” Colas shouted and smiled, “Have you decided on a direction? I’ll prepare genetic samples for you, if you need them?”
“Don’t worry… It ain’t something that special. There are plenty of them everywhere.”
The next day, Jake came to a simple white laboratory. With some random beakers, test tubes, bunsen burners and other equipment that reminded him of High School Chemistry Class. Aside from Professor Colas, there were also a few women in the room. A certain 2 meter tall, skinny blonde tentacle fanatic that was technically a doctor was also among the small crowd and seemed particularly excited. Her name was Doctor Candy, yes, her real last name was Candy. However, her doctorate was actually in Marine Biology.
“Let’s call this…” As Jake spoke, he raised his right hand upwards and hundreds of small, black, slimy creatures crawled out: “Experiment-1, Immortal House Fly.”
Once they dried off their wings, they started flying up into the air and buzzing around. Causing a few of the women to scream and try to escape when the insects flew in their general direction. Colas asked, “How did you plan to make them immortal?”
“I have no idea.” Jake shrugged, “This is just the first attempt. We mainly focused on removing their fertility and increasing their lifespan as much as possible. I figured since flies have a pretty short lifespan, it’s a good test subject. Stop buzzing around and come here.”
As he spoke, Vora also commanded the simple Drones to fly over and hover in front of Jake obediently. Then they all landed on the table where he pointed.
“Remarkable!” Irene Candy shouted excitedly, “How do you manipulate them? Through pheromones or can they really understand verbal commands?”
“I have no idea.” Jake rolled his eyes and complained, “You guys are the doctors and scientists. If you wanna know, then figure it out yourselves.”
“Take some samples, but be careful not to harm Jacob’s children.” Colas smiled and walked over to the table, using his gove-covered hands to carefully pick up a docile fly. He was wearing a face shield, rather than a paper mask, so when he sighed in amazement, it didn’t bother the little critter.
“How many of these can you create? And how often?”
“It depends. I’m still a little weak. Vora has to ovulate. We need the DNA or the memory of the creature that we’ve created before… Which fades over time. I mean, there are a lot of restrictions, but flies? Whenever we want. Hundreds or thousands at a time. The larval stage is directly skipped and we can create them as full grown adults. But it’s easier to create the smaller, younger flies. Then just let them grow over time.”
The ones that Jake created were very small and had the potential to grow larger. However, they didn’t know how large they could get or how long they could actually live yet. A normal House Fly lives for about 15 to 30 days. If the environment is nicer, obviously they grow faster and live longer. They don’t do well in the cold, so if they ‘escaped’ outside, they would definitely die. These flies would likely spend their entire lives in this laboratory, but they’re just flies. They don’t care. They just want to eat. They can’t even reproduce. Eating is their only desire. As long as they have food, they’ll be satisfied.
“Make sure to feed them, but don’t feed them too much. They might not know how to stop themselves… Uh, I guess they can’t choke to death, but it’s still not good if they overeat.”
“Thank you, Jacob. We’ll be sure to take care of them. We’ll let you know when the results come out.”
After that, Jake went downstairs to the first floor of the hospital. He walked over to a pair of double-doors and they opened automatically after scanning him. A bunch of steam immediately hit him in the face and he heard some childish laughter, giggling, dogs howling and women chattering. He ducked down and entered inside as the doors closed slowly behind him.
“Father! I love showers! They’re awesome! I wanna take showers all day, every day! Hihihihi~!”
“Unfortunately, I don’t think they have infinite hot water here, Sweetie.” Jake snickered and walked over next to the 4.5 meter long Orca. The shell on her body was cracked and falling off in many places already.
“Padre… Hola.” The little white wolf-girl was looking up at the giant man with an awkward expression on her face as she covered up her ‘naked’ body with her arms and hands.
Aside from the fur on her face and her long, thick hair on her head, Catarina’s whole body was actually shaved. Revealing a lot of horrible scars. Some were from surgeries to correct some broken ribs. She also had to have some skin removed and grafted because of frostbite. As for the appendicitis and kidneys, she had the appendix removed through laparoscopic surgery, while the kidneys were treated with medicine. Three of the smaller toes on her left foot had to be removed and her pinky toe on the right foot was also gone. Unlike Jake, she couldn’t just grow them back.
“Are you feeling any better now?”
“Si, Padre…” She nodded nervously and looked over at the naked women who were washing the three stupid wolves. Unlike the young girl who was entering adolescence, they were long past the point where they gave a damn about a 2.5 meter tall ‘dickless’ tentacle monster seeing them naked.
“That’s good. But both of you shouldn’t do any strenuous activities for the next week or so. I’m sure the doctors told you that already, Cat, but Tori… Seriously, you’re already starting to shed your shell.”
“It doesn’t hurt this time though.” Tori complained, “I like swimming around the lake and doing tricks. They say I’m way smarter and stronger than the other Orcas they’ve trained!”
“Are you talking about Yolanda? Did she mention the part where she got fired from Aqualand for fucking a dolphin? And she wasn’t even a trainer. She worked as a goddamn janitor!”
“Hahahaha~!” Some of the women who spoke or understood English started laughing, while the other ones asked their friends and then started laughing as well.
“What are you laughing about?!” A 1.9 meter tall, extremely muscular pale-skinned woman with short brown hair and brown eyes stood up and shouted at the others, “Javier was the love of my life and a few days after I was fired, he killed himself!”
“Uh, I didn’t hear that part of the story. Sorry for your loss.” Jake sighed and then ignored the noisy humans, “Anyway… I agree that you’re the smartest and most talented Orca in the world, Tori. But because of that, you should understand that you’re not a ‘real’ Orca. If you were, you probably wouldn’t be so cute, adorable and lovable.”
“I know, Father. I promise I’ll take a break, okay?” Tori rolled her big silver eyes and asked, “Can I borrow your body to play video games with Cat?”
“Can you play with one hand?” Jake snickered and shook his head, “Vora, Baby, why don’t we go hunting with the older Scouts? They’re getting kinda fat and lazy lately.”
It’s only been a couple weeks since they came here. The Hounds are fine. They’re hyperactive most of the time. But the Scouts have been getting progressively more lethargic. The three younger ones usually undergo various tests, but the older ones usually just loiter around in the cafeteria and eat people’s leftovers.
‘Hmmm… Fat, lazy, useless. Scout Meat.’
“No! Mother, you can’t eat the Scouts!”
“Yeah, Vora, calm down. There are plenty of other delicious birds to eat. Leave the Scouts alone. I mean, don’t leave them alone. The two of us will exercise for them. Come on. Fly with me!”
“Yeah, let’s go hunting!”
“Yay~! Thank you, Mother, Father! Catarina, let’s go play Dance God X!”
Ah. Well the site I’ve listed would be a really nice place for advertisement in my opinion. I’ve recommended your stuff on a discord server(the one I’ve sent you the invite for) before but the problem is that not many people wanna click on links that are not known to them. QuestionableQuesting is a really well known site among degenerate fiction enjoyers such as us and I’m pretty sure you’ll get quite a bit of advertisement there even if you just posted your older stuff daily
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True, I used to do that a lot, back in the day lol. It does work pretty well. Sooner or later, I’ll probably get around to it.
You should. Your works are a hidden gem. It has a really unique flavour to it and would love told see other people enjoy it as well
Hey Mike, Why don’t you post your stuff on https://forum.questionablequesting.com/#nsfw.9?
It’s a forum site for (Mostly)NSFW fiction writing. People there are very relaxed and the site has very few rules. I think it’ll be a really nice place for you to post
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I mean, I don’t post my stories on other websites anymore for a lot of reasons. Sooner or later I’ll probably do it again, but lately I’ve just been writing.
I just thought It’d be good for motivation
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I don’t really have trouble with motivation. I’ve never stopped writing in the past 9 years, except when I got Covid the first time(Which lasted a month.) My real issue is more along the lines of editing, posting, advertising and monetizing lol.
Ah. Well the site I’ve listed would be a really nice place for advertisement in my opinion. I’ve recommended your stuff on a discord server(the one I’ve sent you the invite for) before but the problem is that not many people wanna click on links that are not known to them. QuestionableQuesting is a really well known site among degenerate fiction enjoyers such as us and I’m pretty sure you’ll get quite a bit of advertisement there even if you just posted your older stuff daily