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Feral (Book #4 of the Lupus Antiqua Series)

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First Day

She followed Pappy through the institute. It wasn’t the first time she had accompanied him here, and everyone who worked here knew who she was.

They knew that one day they would be working for her. That was the great and mighty plan anyway. She wasn’t sure it was what she wanted.

Though she kept it limited to being a hobby, her true passion was art. She loved to sketch and draw, and had desperately wanted to go to college for that, but Pappy never would have allowed it and if there was one person in the world she absolutely could not betray, it was her beloved Grandfather.

She shook her head and returned the smiles and greetings that came her way. It wouldn't help her to dwell on dreams that could never come true. She followed Pappy through the corridors, cubicles, science labs and staircases until they came to an elevator.

“Where are we going?” She asked. Pappy turned to smile at her as they waited for the elevator to come up. He was as austere and distinguished looking as he had always been except now there was frailty to him that had come on with age.

He was fit and he was spry, but he was also nearing his eightieth year. He should have retired a long time ago, but her Father had refused to take over after him. She was his last hope of not passing the institute over to someone outside the family.

“Wyn, now that you are twenty-three and wiser about the world, its time you discovered what it is this institute keeps a secret.”

“What, the government contracts with the C.I.A? I know all about those.” She murmured. Did he forget telling her all about that?

“No, my dear. Something only the family knows about. A monster that our ancestors managed to trap and imprison centuries ago. It has been our sacred duty ever since, to keep it safely imprisoned.”

The elevator ‘dinged’ and they stepped on. There was only one button and a scanning pad. Pappy hit the button and then leaned down so the retinal scanner could do its work.

He stood up with a wink. “Your scans have been uploaded as well so that you can access the beast at any time,”

She said nothing, hoping an explanation was forthcoming. She followed him into a small area that had two doors. There was something familiar about this place.

He opened the door to the right and She followed him inside. There were cabinets and cabinets of files, record books, and a few servers as well as a large desk with a modern computer.

“This is the records room. You will discover if you look through these records the data backing up everything I’m about to reveal to you.”

“Okay.” She leaned against one of the smaller filing cabinets.

“You may have noticed that for my age I am rather well preserved? Even you, though you are yet young, look remarkably young for your age.”

“That’s common in our family Pappy.” She pointed out, wondering where he was going with this. Her own father was in his forties and didn’t look all that much older than she did. They had freaky good genetics. “We never get sick either.”

“And have you noticed that you are stronger and faster than others?” She nodded. Of course, she had noticed that.

“A long time ago, about two hundred years past, our ancestors began to experiment with the beast. Taking his blood and studying it to find out why it never seemed to age or sicken. They were hoping they had found the answer to defy death itself. Of course, they all ended up dying. But one of our ancestors, Haytham Breuner, made a breakthrough. His young son was very sick and not likely to live. In desperation, he injected the beast’s blood into his dying son.

The results were miraculous. The boy came back from the brink of death and had better reflexes, better vision. But the effects soon wore off. After much further experimentation it became clear that for any real lasting effect, the injections had to be done from the moment of conception. This was volatile and caused miscarriages until finally, your great Grandmother, my Mother, married into the family.

Something about her genetics was compatible with the beast’s DNA, but still fearful of miscarriage I was not injected until I was a newborn.

When there were no ill effects, and I continued to take the injections with no problem we knew that something had changed, for before, prolonged injections would cause rejection complications.

So, when I married your Grandmother, we began injecting her the moment we started trying for a baby. She wanted her child to know the same health and speed and strength as her husband and knew of our work here.

Finally, your father was conceived and the blood bound with his own genetics, but he still needs occasional injections. When your parents went to conceive you, the same was done and you came out perfect my darling girl. You are the culmination of all our work and research. You don’t need the injections.”

Her head was spinning. This story was unbelievable, but she couldn’t deny that there were things about her that were not normal.

“So does that make me like, the beast’s relative or something?” She wondered.

“No, that’s the amazing thing. Your genetics share no similar markers with his. It’s as if your body took what was injected into your mother and morphed it into something different. Nature is miraculous, especially when compared to science.

We can only guess at what really happened, but we think that your genes mutated to cope. It’s the only thing that makes sense. It’s likely you will be the longest-lived of any of the family. And unlike your father, you actually understand things like responsibility and loyalty to your family.”

Pappy’s voice was almost bitter. Sighing, she swallowed her disgust at what her family had been doing for centuries and hugged the old man. She knew all too well what a raging disappointment her father was.

The man had been absent for most of her life.

“So what does all of this mean, Pappy?” She wondered. She wasn’t one hundred percent sure she believed him, but there were too many questions and Bronwyn found herself itching to look at the data in this room. The implications for medical science alone were mind-boggling if any of this were true.

She was also grappling with the idea that Pappy had lost his ever-loving mind. None of this was sitting well with her but she managed to hold onto the stoicism she was known for.

“Nothing much will change for you, my dear.” He patted her back comfortingly. “But your main duty for a while will be to monitor the beast. That is how I began, after all.”

“Monitor how?” She asked.

“You’ll stay in the room where he is caged, and make notes on his habits, what he does, how often he eats. Careful records have always been kept.

Make note of any changes in appearance or appetite, just as you would any lab animal.” She nodded, wondering what this beast looked like. Was it small like a monkey or lab mouse? Or was it monstrous? “Will you do that, Wyn?”

“Of course, Pappy. Anything for you.” He nodded and she didn’t miss the relief in his gaze.

“Good. Now, you have a day here in the records room, and then tomorrow, you begin your job. Welcome to the Institute.” He smiled like he couldn’t be prouder and left her alone.

She cracked her knuckles and sat down at the computer, letting the security system scan her retina.

Once she had access, she started to dig.

Seven Hours Later:

Wyn leaned back in the desk chair, head swimming and feeling a little bit nauseous. It was true. Everything Pappy told her. All of it. The data was all here, meticulously recorded and tracked. It was mad science, but it was still science and it didn’t lie.

She looked down at her hand as if she could see the blood in her veins. Could she even consider herself human anymore?

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