Curse of the Hybrid

Thirst was anxious in her office. She couldn't wait to save her paperwork. And when she did, she did not sit back and sigh with relief like she usually did. She jumped off from her seat leaving the computer on, hastily going out of the office but gently closing the door. Even when she fidgeted she was as graceful as a swan. Down the corridor she went, strutting like a model on the runway.

Five years ago she was a cover girl. Thinking about it made her laugh. And five years ago she disappeared from the media. It was not a big news back then and she was thankful that she was not famous enough to be missed. The terrible fate of her innocent love remained in her memory like a rehearsed comedy, and the happy ending where the villainess died. 'Died', but only to reborn in order to dedicate herself in the world of supernatural – as she belonged there in the first place.

She clicked her heels in the elevator, silently wishing for it to speed up. Her face was still calm and beautiful, but her mind was restless. The stray she found a week ago was kept in the laboratory for scientific research. But that was the least thing to worry about. Thirst was more worried about the specimen's survival. Especially for a rare case like this...

She entered the lab, formally greeting the scientist and doctors who were present. The grim look on their faces told her that things were getting serious.

"How is the progress?" Still she inquired them as she read through the recent reports.

"Unstable," one of the scientist sitting behind a large screen answered. He gestured Thirst to come see what was on it.

Even from afar she could see what was on it, but she decided to move closer anyway. An oversized fox was lashing and throwing broken furniture all over the place. A camera was installed in the asylum where the creature was placed in, and the research team was watching the live video. The stray had finally snapped.

When she found the stray, it was completely human, fully clothed and partially concealed face. However, she could tell that the stray had not been taking care of itself; the greasy hair, the bloodshot eyes... and what stood out the most was the dullness of its skin. And she could feel it. Feel that this person was not normal. She took the stray under her wing. She had to. The organization needed the stray. Maybe...

"Any signs of it becoming suicidal?" Thirst thought it was better to ask directly than just depending on the reports. Besides, they were just rough notes with untidy handwritings. They had not transferred the data on the computer.

All of them seem to have not heard what Thirst said. They were so immersed in their work. Merely observing the specimen via TV was busy enough, not wanting to miss a single detail of the mutant fox's actions. Several seconds later, one of them said, "She begged to be killed."

The stray was female. A girl if you still consider her as human. But when Thirst took her in, the stray did not associate herself with any gender. Moreover, she considered herself dead and no longer human. She did not want compassion or pity. She would rather rot to death. She cared not what would become of her if she was used in an experiment. Dissect her. Inject chemicals into her. Rip her limbs off. Therefore she willingly signed up for it.

And as Thirst suspected, the stray was cursed. The signs were apparent. Looking at the stray's eyes was like looking into a pair of black holes and the skin on several parts of her limbs were of dried clay. Note pale, but dull and almost grey. Cracked and corroding. She could see the morbid colour of her inner flesh. Then the syndromes; spacing out, hating oneself, schizophrenic... and had a peculiar fear of his own reflection.

Cursed Hybrid. It was believed to be a curse attained when a human made a contract with the devil. There were hundreds of them recorded by the Research Department of the secret organization. Sixteen hybrids were collected, but only two survived. The two of them devoted themselves to the organization, but whenever they heard the news of one of their kind was taken in they only respond with a cocked eyebrow. Being indifferent was one of the side effects of the curse. And a positive one, they had concluded.

As of now, the stray was the sixteenth. And a rare one for she was female, and her syndrome was not as serious as the previous specimens.

"That's enough for now..." announced the head scientist. A subordinate pulled down a lever at his signal. White fog slowly covered the screen. The smashing stopped. The Tranquilizer halted the fox.

***

The lab assistants carried the unconscious stray into another room and placed her on the experiment table. She was back in her human form. They clothed her, and fastened her limbs to keep her still. Thirst had followed the scientist into the room. The stray's skin condition had worsened. Her face was even more distorted. It was no wonder that she would rather mask herself.

Due to the transformation, the skin had to stretch and the muscles had to readjust with the bones as it reshaped into a beast's skeletal structure. Reverting back to human form, the new cells that had produced rapidly were no longer useful, thus they died leaving empty spaces on the skin.

"Luckily, she has a bit of sanity in her," said the head scientist. They watched his subordinates picking fragments of cells from the stray's body for analysis.

"From what I understand," Thirst began to recite what she had read earlier, "Those who completely lost their minds would end up dead. Am I correct?"

"Those who dare to make contract with the devil, what do you think they are? Are they good, or are they bad?"

"Isn't it obvious?"

"Precisely. You have to be twisted enough to call a devil and make a deal with him. Though I have to say, as a scientist, I can't accept the 'devil' hypothesis. Not until I see it for myself. But I'd rather not or I'd be damned like them."

"And they make a deal with the devil to gain... more power? To fulfil their wishes?"

"So they say. They thought that if they had something extra it would be easier for them to achieve their goals, to successfully accomplish their evil plans. They had no idea, I mean, no one in the world except for us has a clue about the side-effects. Sure they could develop super strength or super speed, but what about the voices? The voices disturb them. They go crazy. And when they do they morph into beasts."

"Reminds me of the Incredible Hulk. Are you positive that they weren't exposed to anything radioactive?"

"Possibly. When they morph into beasts and back into human form, the mitosis process is considered controlled. It's cancer if it's uncontrollable. The genetics change so rapidly too. We have yet to find the cause..."

"And the fear of reflection?"

"The previous specimens claimed that they saw something ugly, instead of their own image. HY-16 refused to talk about anything. But then again, they were all like that. It's hard for them to open up with people. The voice inside bugs them..."

"Does the voice still bug Avian and Euphrac?"

"Yes. Those two are special cases. They're mentally strong enough to fight that voice. They reported that they no longer hear it when they're calm, but it will come back to them when their emotions sway. And they could even cooperate with the voices, thus they can transform into beasts at will."

"And what makes others failures are because of their weak heart?"

The head scientist shook his head. He closed is eyes, implying that he was constructing proper sentences to answer that question.

"An average hybrid would either be too dangerous to be allowed to live or end up killing himself. Some of our deceased specimens have strong hearts but twisted minds. Avian and Euphrac were good people, desperate for something but they chose the wrong option. Anyways, even with psychological treatment, there's no hope for the twisted hybrids to be good. So we had to kill them. It's cruel, but the world doesn't need to have such super villains. And yes, those who are mentally weak would kill themselves. Apparently, they can't stand listening to the voices."

Thirst noticed that they stray, or also known as 'HY-16' had awakened. Her detached black eyes stared blankly at the former cover girl, baring jagged teeth when she was not supposed to. It couldn't be help since her lips were eroded too. The stray switched her attention to the ceiling. Not a word uttered as the scientists checked her condition. Only twitching and grunting when her exposed inner flesh was prodded.

"Do you think she can handle it?"

"It's all up to her. We have no power to control her mentality. So far she has the potential to control her emotions. Unlike the others before her, this hybrid is unusually calm. It was difficult for us to make her transform, but we succeeded today. We just had to make her really pissed off..."

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but she will be of use to us once she passes the first stage, won't she?"

"Of course! But it depends on her progress. It could take years..."

"Good luck with that," then Thirst turned to HY-16, "And to you too..."

***

Two weeks had passed since Thirst found the stray. Anxiety hidden behind the serene facade.

Behind the glass, along with the research team, she observed HY-16 running on the treadmill. They had started testing on her physical strength. It was confirmed that her power enhanced during the transformation. But now, her speed. And what was displayed on the digital speed-o-meter astonished Thirst.

"The problem is that she lacks stamina," explained the head scientist, "There are number of times she passed out when enraged in her beast form. And she would stop running after a minute, resume but stop again after a few seconds..."

"I suppose we have to arrange a gym session for her," Thirst suggested.

"She's aware of her strength. We noticed that that she even hesitates to hold an object. She's somewhat aware of her inner energy but has no idea how to control it."

"Then we arrange a suitable coach for her too..."

"She's not safe to do all that yet... but aren't you supposed to be her mentor?"

"A parent may arrange lessons for their child. A parent may not necessarily become the teacher of their children."

"Very well then..."

HY-16 was on all fours at the side of the treadmill, gasping for breath.

***

The following week, Thirst visited HY-16 again. She was in an interrogation room with a psychiatrist, with a glass wall between them. They were still not confident of her stability. And it was about time to test her emotions and mentality. At the same time, passively brainwashing her to serve the organization in the future.

"She usually keeps her cool during this session," the head told Thirst. They were the only ones observing them. "Until you push the wrong buttons. That's a different story. Don't worry, we're trying to train her not to be easily affected by whatever's making her angry... or sad."

"So that she be as cold as Euphrac, I suppose?" Euphrac was a scientist too, and he had claimed that he did not want to do anything that involved his kind. He had not developed a bond with Avian, and the latter was not interested in friendship either.

"It's necessary. We cannot let her succumb to her feelings. It's a way to put the voice to sleep."

"It's a shame that she has to waste her youth like this..."

The scientist chuckled.

"We have way too many child assassins already; it's too late to be compassionate."

And Thirst had to admit, he had a point.

***

The fourth week came. Thirst was delighted to know that the stray had passed the first phase. She could control herself. Not her transformation but by the fourth week there were no longer feral outburst in the asylum. The slightest change was the emergence of brown fur and extended claws when annoyed. Personal attacks were like a passing breeze. And the fear of her own reflection had tones down, but she would rather not look at herself. It was a normal thing, as both Avian and Euphrac still hated mirrors.

Throughout the one month experiment, HY-16 was given a chance to be alone. This was to study her behaviour in solitude (excluding her sleeping hours). And from her behaviour it was likely that she was interacting with the voice. Sometimes she was squeezing her head with her fingers, sometimes she looked terrified, sometimes she cried. Otherwise, from what they had observed she was able to negotiate with the voice already.

For the first time since getting there, she was allowed to go outdoors. She had reluctantly stepped outside. They had released her into the Therapeutic Gardens, where asylum dwellers hang out to ease their pain.

Thirst had found HY-16 leaning against the tree, slumped between the roots and staring blankly at a flower. The stray had looked up when she was still yards away. Thirst understood that her hearing and eyesight was of a fox – since that was the animal she transformed into.

The stray stood up upon her arrival. Thirst was glad that half of her face was concealed, as the sight of the deformed mouth disgusted her. So were the other body parts that experienced the same distortion. Only her eyes could be seen, bearing not even the slightest emotion in those pitch black pupils. If not a happy face, Thirst would rather receive a malicious glare than an unreadable expression.

"Hello," she greeted the specimen, with a killer smile, "It's been a while. How are you?"

HC-16 was like a statue. A statue that could only blink in response. The older woman let out a fake laugh.

"I understand if you refuse to trust me. But I'd like to congratulate you for passing the first stage..."

The stray lowered her head, almost like a bow to express her thanks.

That was why she was rare. She was not the first female to be cursed, and not the first female among the specimens they have studied, but she was the first female who survived.

"I'll be taking care of you from now on. But the research team would still have to check up on you from time to time. I hope you don't mind. I assume that you don't since you are quite willing to undergo this trial."

The stray shrugged.

"Don't really care..." she muttered quietly. When we first met, Thirst had mistaken her for a boy due to the husky voice. She wondered if that was one of the effects of the curse, or something she naturally had.

"You should be grateful that we're taking care of you."

The stray rolled her eyes.

"If you're planning to use me... go ahead. Not like I value this... life."

Thirst moved closer to the stray, looking down at her. She was a foot shorter than the ex-model. Thirst had hoped that the gesture could at least intimidate the her, but the stray was immobile.

"Do you have a name?" she asked, although she knew that it was a pointless question.

"I have none..."

Thirst spun around, her back facing the specimen and took one step away from her.

"I know who you were," she glanced over her shoulders, "Do you think we're too stupid to investigate your real identity? Shall I call you by that name?"

The specimen appeared unaffected. A job well done.

"She's dead... I killed her." she confessed. As monotone as the Morse Code.

"Of course. We're all dead here. Then we reincarnate as death angels. That is the path that you're about to take... but the question is, would you?"

HY-17 shrugged. "At least there's something I could do to repay your... kindness."

Thirst smirked at the hint of sarcasm.

"But is that okay? Calling you the nameless one?"

"Doesn't matter. I don't deserve a name..."

"Does it matter to you that your soul belongs to us now?"

"No, it doesn't."

"Are you sure?"

"I am your slave now. Do as you like."

Not a speck of spirit quivered in her tone, but there was a faint sense of determination in her words. She had given up her honour. She gave in to the organization to seek redemption. Salvation. Thirst cleared her throat and returned to face the stray.

"I, Agent Bloodthirst, have appointed myself as your mentor; therefore, you will only listen to my commands. You will do things as I say, and not answer to anyone other than me – unless I allow you to do so. You will sign an apprenticeship contract. But before that, do you have any objections?"

The stray shook her head.

"I won't take that as an answer. You will only answer, "Yes, ma'am" or "No, ma'am. So I ask you again, do you have any objections?"

Her obscure eyes bore into the mentor's as though glaring at her with disbelief. But then again, her emotions were unreadable. Or it could take time for her to register the first command in her system. Or it could be that she was talking with the voice in her head. After a moment of silence, she finally answered, "No... ma'am."

"Then I shall name you."

The stray lowered her head and looked away.

"Yes... ma'am."

"You will go by the name... 'Vulpine'."

For her beast mode was of a mutant fox, Thirst thought it was suitable. The gender of the codename was ambiguous, perfect for her plan to train the stray to take the role as a male assassin. Judging by the specimen's physical condition, there was no way for her to follow her mentor's footsteps, who had spied and killed using her sex appeal. Therefore they would have to regard her as male, in a body of a female.

Not that it mattered to Vulpine.

"Yes, ma'am..." a firm and clear answer muffled behind the mask, eyes still black as the starless night.

Thirst's lips curled, pleased by how things were going just as planned.


A/N: OMG this is why I dislike (not hate) science fiction! Okay, anyways, I gotta thank taerkitty for indirectly suggesting that I write about 'myself'. I don't care if it's Mary Sue, but here's my alter-ego, and I had kept this story in my head more than half a decade already. I never thought that I'd write this scene because it's just a snippet from the main story, and Vulpine is not the lead character. It's not my best work but I'm satisfied that I finally wrote it down.

This is for K.M. Simpson's Writing Challenges (in her Gossip forum), theme: animal stories.

I'm not sure if this fic satisfies the theme though. Feel free to point out grammar mistakes.

EDIT: thanks sophiesix for pointing out the errors.