AN: I know some of you might be surprised that there's an update. I know I am. This has been an insane couple of years, to put it mildly. Three family members dying, including one of my brothers who had lost a fight to colon cancer, moving, college, work, losing internet for a couple months because we couldn't afford it... Not to mention re-reading over pretty much all of my stories and thinking, "What? What? Why did I do that? Why did I think this made sense? Arrrgghh!" and then getting depressed. Yeah, it's been a trip. I was planning to do a massive rewrite of this entire story, but unless I change more or less everything, there's no salvaging the original story. However, writing up to everything but the last chapter? I couldn't do that to you Readers who stuck through this with me. Therefore, I present to you the last chapter (and hopefully better written chapter ) of The Virus! (ridiculously-long Authors Note ended)

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Once the Chimera grew in such great numbers, the plan was to rise from the sewers like some sort of plague of demons and bite and scratch and even kill as many humans as possible. The goal was to infect so many that recovery from the epidemic would be impossible. The City Council - should it last beyond the initial strike - would have no choice but to accept the Chimera as full citizens. That was the worst-case scenario. The best-case scenario was that if their numbers grew to the point that they vastly overwhelmed the human population, they could take over the City itself, Ken as the leader, or Emperor, or whatever the hell they decided to call him. No one seemed to think about the weaponry the law enforcement used, or that they'd probably all get killed not long after they infiltrated.

To put it nicely, I really didn't care for the City-domination idea.

Neither did many others.

"We gotta get out of here!" Jim hissed under his breath once we were left alone to rest. We were all crowded together, sitting on the cold concrete floor, lines between Lab-born and not blurred for the moment. "They're crazy, they'll get us all killed if we stay here with them!"

"And where do you expect us to go?" I asked. A headache was building up right behind my eyes, and it was making me more irritable than usual. "In case you haven't noticed, there's people out in the desert looking for us. We can't go out there or we'll be killed, we can't stay here or we'll get killed! Anyway we go, we're fucked!" I felt like literally throwing my hands up in the air. I sat on them instead to quell the urge.

"So are we just going to sit here and die?" Four said.

"Nobody is going to die," Jesse said.

"How do you know?" Someone else in the crowd asked.

"I don't," Jesse finally snapped, rising to his feet clumsily thanks to the use of his arms being severely limited. "I don't know, all I can do is try to keep everybody calm because right now even I don't have a clue what to do. So if anyone has any ideas of what the hell we can do, now's the fucking time to speak up!"

There was dead silence.

I didn't think anyone had seen Jesse just completely lose his cool like that; it was enough to get everyone's minds out of impending doom and moved towards finding a solution. My mind raced, trying to find an answer; we could probably go back to the desert, and find someplace where we wouldn't run into Tirza's old tribe. But we'd have to go really damn far to get to a place like that - boundaries were hard to define in the desert. We could be safe for years in one place, but find that her tribe's hunting grounds included where we lived. How would we live? We learned some things from the people we had stayed with, but how much did we take in that was actually useful? Did we have enough people who knew how to hunt and did we have anyone who could make weapons to hunt with? Perhaps we could just -

"I have an idea."

Well. Someone spoke up. That was unexpected. What was moreso was that the speaker was Tirza.

She looked like she was preparing for an attack; her back straight, jaw clenched tight, and her eyes were focused intently on Jesse and on Jesse alone. I pushed my anger with her aside for the moment; she was the only one who had a plan, it was worth at least hearing about it.

"Yeah? What's your plan, Tirza?" Jesse asked, still standing.

Tirza took a deep breath, apparently centering herself, and said, "My former people have a holy place. It's far to the north, where the weather is much cooler, and there grows the sacred Wood. There is fresh water there, and an abundance of game animals. We will be safe there from them, as hunting in the Wood in forbidden. It will be a long journey there, but once we arrive all of our needs will be met."

The silence after she spoke was almost has deep as the one before, everyone taking a moment to digest her words. It was Jim who broke the silence, his voice uncharacteristically gentle.

"You said 'former people.'"

Tirza's tail was wrapped around her waist, and I could see her hands shake as she dug her fingers into it's thick fur. "They were my people," even from where I was sitting I could hear the tremor in her voice. "But when they decided in their desperation that innocent blood should be spilled, I was no longer one of them." Her eyes squeezed closed for a moment, and when she swallowed I could hear a click. "I ignored a warning and someone was killed for it. I regret that every day, and I am afraid to sleep, terrified of the nightmares of my guilt. All I can do to avenge the dead is to help the living. When you leave - " She winced, and corrected herself. "If you leave, you do not have to take me. I can show you where to go."

In the uncomfortable, tense silence, Jesse made his way over to Tirza and crouched beside her, almost obscuring her as he wrapped his arms around her tense shoulders.

In the end we took her with us.

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We called our first settlement Dystopia.

Having been told all our lives that the entire world was a desert, finding a sprawling old-growth forest was a huge surprise. We ended up having to steal some weapons and supplies from the Chimera, who weren't really happy to see us go. We added a large amount of force to their growing ranks, and our leaving was a blow to their morale. In the end we had to sneak away while most of them were asleep or out stealing, slipping away down barely-used passages and running once we climbed out of the damp tunnels and into sweltering desert.

Using those tools we were able to build some temporary shelters until a couple Beasts, scouting out the area, came upon a cliff riddled with caves high above the waterline, but close enough to a freshwater river that it wouldn't be a trek just for drinking water. A lot of stuff we had to learn on our own, like how to make latrines. Tirza's former people were nomadic, so a shallow ditch would suffice. Not so for a large group of people staying in one spot. We learned how to hunt game, and through (sometimes messy) trial-and-error what fruits were good to eat, and what plant life we could throw on for seasonings.

Unknown to a lot of us for an embarassing amount of time, Four was figuring out that some plants had medicinal properties, like the bark of one tree when boiled in water made a pretty good pain-reliever, and that a poultice made of pounded root of some fern helped stop bleeding and cleaned a wound.

We had our ups and downs - people got hurt, and in that first year malnutrition was a real worry. One interesting thing we noticed was that none of us ever got sick, and infections only rarely happened. I guess the guys who created HB knew somewhat what they were doing.

Of course, with domesticity comes romance comes children. We found out the hard way that the kids come out totally human, but after a couple months they Change. And, interestingly enough, neither parent's breed had anything to do with the kids', which resulted in a lot of finger-pointing and shouting and chaos. In fact, mine and Four's (yeah, took me by surprise, too) first was a canine of some sort, which was interesting considering that none of the adults were.

Of course, the second generation didn't exactly have it easy.

But that's not my story to tell.

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Final AN: Annnnnd... done! If anyone decides they'd like to take up the end of this story and writes the What Happens Next, I have no problem; just remember to leave me a comment or something saying so. I know it's just a little bit rushed, but if I had to write down everything, I'm afraid that this last chapter would end up a million pages long and that's just... no. Not gonna happen.

Thank you everyone for sticking with me all this way! It was certainly an enlightening ride and one in which I believe I grew quite a bit from the beginning. Again, thank you so much, and thank you for your reviews.

Peace and Love,

Day