Nerio Scaluzzi was a rat. Well, not really one, as in a MORFS survivor. But he was small, did everything for a buck and betrayed people and changed sides as easy as changing his clothes. He had an Italian name, but had left home and school at an early age, he did manage to finish high school though. He did all kinds of odd jobs for several criminal organizations, but didn't seem able to climb the social ladder very fast.
At the moment he was smuggling MORFS people and drugs to Freeventure. The old electric submarine they were using came from an environmental group that had replaced it with a more modern one. Though Nerio didn't have more than a high school diploma, he had a knack for driving vehicles and navigation. In no time he had learned how to drive the submarine and navigate it so well that he managed to circumnavigate all the checkpoints of the floating city. At the moment the sub was still far from anything that posed a danger to the sub or the mission, so it was on autopilot.
Nerio had been forced to clean up vomit and $&!% from one of his passengers. A little girl had started changing. She didn't change much fortunately, but still had been sick. With all the medications the organization had on board, the girl went through her MORFS changes very fast and had already lapsed into stage 3.
. The sub had equipment that used to be part of the scientific equipment to get samples could catch fish while going. A signal on the console of the sub sounded, indicating that the netting had caught some fish. Now it was used for catching some food for the smugglers and their refugee cargos.
Nerio handled the equipment and brought the nets aboard. He separated out the caught fish and distributed them along the people. He was a bit hungry himself, but though he used to like fish, now he loathed it. Even being covered with fish scales made him feel dirty.
Suddenly a shriek attracted Nerio's attention. He went over towards the sound and found the little girl that just had morphed clutching her hand. There were some drops of blood on the floor and the fish she had been given lay there as well. Nerio picked it up, but dropped it when he felt the spines of the fish pierce his hand. On closer scrutiny it turned out to be a fish with razor sharp and mildly poisonous spines. Nerio thought about leaving the girl like that, but he wasn't a total inhuman being. Roughly he took girl's hand and examined it. She didn't make a sound, but her tears were streaming soundlessly.
The spines of the fish had pierced the palm of the girl's hand, so he wiped the blood with his inured hand. He put a bandage on her hand and then washed and looked at his own hand. He didn't think too much about it, since he had always been tough on himself. Besides this poison wasn't that potent, the most he would get from it was some inconvenience. After cleaning the wound, he put a bandage on it and went back to the cockpit. It wouldn't be long anymore before he had to focus on avoiding the checkpoints and patrols around the floating city.
A while later he avoided the first patrols. Nerio was already well on his way to the secret docking point when he started to feel sick. He felt nauseous and had to get to a toilet urgently. Purely on willpower he managed to hold everything in, but got worried what was wrong. The poison from the fish shouldn't have such an effect. He focused with all his attention on getting to the docking point but suddenly doubled over from the pain and almost lost consciousness. Vaguely he saw the sub moving on, but lacked the power to do anything.
The submarine slowly plowed on through the water and without being steered, was now headed straight for a collision with the large tube of the transatlantic tunnel. The automated collision alerts began to sound and a high speed submarine was dispatched to intercept the vehicle. Moments later the old electric submarine was hoisted out of the water and UN forces surrounded the submarine and opened it up. They found large quantities of the drug Inferno, and several MORFS people. The driver, a known felon by the name of Nerio Scaluzzi was found unconscious in the driver's seat and taken into custody. He was transported to the hospital as he appeared to be going through MORFS.
Doctor Forlain nodded to the guard at the door. She didn't like criminal patients but they were patients none the less. She had sworn an oath to treat them. She needed to check what MORFS would do to Nerio. The doctor and her colleagues were stumped as to why an adult had contracted the disease. He should've been too old to get it. As doctor Forlain looked at her unconscious patient, she noticed that he was shrinking and something strange was happening to his legs. Not only that, but his features seemed to soften. She understood that he might be going through a gender change with his MORFS.
Nerio woke up to a constant beeping sound. For a moment he thought that it was the alarm of the submarine trying to get his attention, warning of an imminent collision. He was about to swear, thinking that he had fallen asleep and missed his chance to dock undetected at Freeventure. He thought, 'This may cost me my life. The boss won't be happy losing another cargo. Even worse, if I lose the sub, he may dump me into the deepest abyss that he can find.'
But then he realized that this beeping was different and it seemed to change. It was accelerating slightly. Then he became aware of other things, like his body felt different and wet. 'Did we spring a leak? But that alarm is quite different and more insistent. What is going on?'
But all those thoughts didn't account for the weird feelings he got from his body. So he opened his eyes and looked down at himself. As he did he screamed a high pitched sound. It was almost impossibly high, making the glass in the room resonate dangerously close to breaking. The sound made him shut up, and as he took in the view of his body, he fainted from what that he saw.
The hospital staff came running into the room and found the patient once again unconscious. Doctor Forlain examined her patient again and found that she had lost consciousness, but was otherwise in perfect health. Well, as perfect as she could ascertain. She had never witnessed such a radical MORFS case nor a hybridization of this magnitude. She decided to replay the surveillance video that had been setup in this room. She noticed that the patient had waked up, screamed an impossible high sound and lost consciousness again.
Nerio woke up again, but this time felt something restraining his mouth. He wondered what was going on, before remembering what he had seen earlier. He wanted to scream again, but couldn't utter more than a slight wheezing sound this time. As he opened his eyes again, he noticed that his arms were tied to the side and that he appeared to be lying in water. Looking down at his body the first thing he noticed were breasts. They looked nice enough, but they were on his chest. Or should that be her chest. As her eyes darted downwards she noticed her skin with some weird pattern on it, almost like a tattoo, until a little past the bellybutton. There the skin seemed to change into dark grey scales. The scaly skin went downwards and downwards, without dividing into legs. Instead it seemed to go on forever till it flattened out and became a fishtail, though it looked more like a tail of a porpoise or a whale. Nerio thought, 'This can't be happening? I must be hallucinating or something.'
The door opened and a female doctor entered. "Hello, I see you woke up again. Sorry for the gag, but when you screamed, you broke almost every glass in the whole hospital." Nerio blinked, but was unable to utter any sound more than a wheezing "Huh"
"I'm going to take off your gag, but please don't try to speak yet," said doctor Forlain. Nerio nodded a confirmation.
As the gag was taken off, Nerio felt a bit better and could breathe a whole lot better. The doctor said, "I'm doctor Forlain. I'm going to try to explain what has been happening. You were brought in from a captured submarine. Apparently you were the pilot and your name is, or was, Nerio Scaluzzi. Somehow you contracted MORFS and it changed you into a mermaid. You're now fully female with a fish-like body from the waist down. I would like you to try to talk softly to me."
Nerio scraped her throat which sounded so very girly. Then she softly said with a soprano voice, "What do you want me to say?"
"Very good, I'm pleased that you can speak normally. I think you gained some extra vocal abilities to communicate under water. But without further testing and scanning I can't be certain."
Nerio asked in what he hoped would be a intimidating way, but really came out as timid, "What is going to happen to me now? Are you going to keep me captive here or can I go, and where can I go, looking like this?"
A man's voice from the door answered, "Well, 'Miss' Scaluzzi. That is something we need to discuss."
Nerio looked at the person entering the room. He looked like a cop but not an ordinary one. His demeanor said, FBI or Interpol or something. A woman came in right after him and introduced herself, "Hi, I'm Chelsea Winters. I'm the police commissioner from Freeventure. This," she pointed at the man, "is Inspector Miles Waverly from Interpol. We're on a joint taskforce to stop the flow of Inferno coming and going to and from Freeventure."
Nerio looked at the commissioner. His instincts had been correct once again. The man was from Interpol. "What do you want from me?" she asked in a soft soprano voice. 'Damn it, ' she thought, 'this new voice of mine sucks.'
"Well," said Waverly, "we do have you dead to rights on transporting illegal immigrants and a lot of Inferno. You'd be looking at a long prison sentence. However, we've never had someone with a body like yours in custody. So, we don't know what to do with you. I'm sure that you have a problem thinking about a future with this body as well."
'You got that right, ' thought Nerio. 'What am I going to do with a mermaid's body? Be in a freak show? I hardly think that would be a living. Maybe I could be an actor, no make that actress, and do roles where they need a real mermaid. But do they still make movies like that? Even so the CGI's are so advanced nowadays, that they don't even need real people for that.'
"What do you have in mind then, Inspector Waverly?"
"Well," started Waverly, "Since nobody but us here knows about your change, we could keep it a secret. We'd set you up with a job, a life and such. In turn you tell us all, that you know about the operation."
Nerio thought about it, 'It sounds tempting.' "What kind of job can I do? Look at me, I'm a frigging Mermaid."
Chelsea Winters answered, "Well, you could be a courier between us and the deep sea operations. Or you could be a patrol guard under water. Maybe you can be both, I mean that would be up to you. Whatever you want. You could rent a place here on Freeventure. I think you'd need a special place though. What I understand is that you need water around you constantly."
Doctor Forlain stepped in, "That is correct, those gills on the side just below your arms need to be kept wet. You can be out of water for some time, but the longer they dry out, the more it would hurt for you I guess."
'I have gills now?' thought an astonished Nerio. "I think I need to relearn a lot about my anatomy. So, my future is in your hands now? I mean, I do as you say or I'm hung out to dry like a caught fish?"
Waverly shrugged, "Not quite a good analogy, but close enough."
"Fine, you win. How do we start? And could you please untie my arms?"
Waverly motioned to Doctor Forlain, who unbuckled the restraints. Waverly in the mean time said, "First I'd like you to come up with a new name for yourself. If you can't find any, I'm sure I can find one. But I'm giving you first choice. Then you need to be tested at a MORFS center here. After that we will sit down, or rather in your case lay down, for you to tell us everything that you know."
Nerio thought for a while, until Waverly said, "Did you understand what I said?"
"Yes, I did. I'd like my new name to be Nerissa Laymer."
"Nice, why that one, does it have a meaning?"
"My old name Nerio means water. My new name means Nymph or Sea-sprite. Some say it means Sea goddess. I picked the last name from my best friend way back in the past."
Waverly smiled, "Okay, Nerissa. Now, how are we getting you out of here and to the MORFS center?"
Doctor Forlain answered, "We can accommodate that. Just put Nerissa into a transport chair with Synergy Thrusters. We use them to transport paralyzed patients to the therapy pool. I advise using some wet towels on her back and side and cover up that nice tail of hers."
Soon Nerissa, as she was now called, was on her way to the Freeventure MORFS center. Both Waverly and Winters accompanied her and she was mostly under wraps to obscure her from any unwanted views. Inside the MORFS center a woman was waiting for them. "Hello, I'm Doctor Selma Butowski. Call me Selma. I'm going to ascertain your changes and if you have powers or not."
Nerissa was put into a sling above a pool, naked. She felt a little self-conscious about that. Then she remembered that Waverly had already seen her naked at the hospital. Strangely enough it didn't even bother her that much. 'Did I change into some kind of exhibitionist?' she thought.
Waverly and Winters left the room after Selma started her examination. Nerissa found out all kinds of things about her new body. She had webbing between her fingers, it would probably help her with swimming. Then, there were some kind of flimsy but sturdy fins on her elbows and on the sides of her scaly lower body. Her ears were strange looking, with extra cartilage and flesh. They didn't resemble any ears she had ever seen, not even on TV shows. Her hair was still black, but was now long enough to reach just below her shoulders. After the physical examination was done, Selma started with questions. Nerissa answered them as best she could, but was uncertain about how she felt as a girl now, let alone part fish. As the question session dragged on, Nerissa's sides started to feel itchy. She told Selma, who answered that it was intentional. She wanted to know how long Nerissa could stay out of the water. Nerissa was upset about it, but was quite stuck in the sling. After some time her sides started to feel like burning and she asked, "Please can I have my gills wet now? It is starting to burn, I don't want my gills to be damaged."
Selma sighed, but released Nerissa into the pool. She got free from the sling and for the first time felt exhilarated to be swimming as a mermaid in the water. She swam under water for some time and her sides stopped feeling sore. Then she realized that she didn't need to breathe. She just stayed under water and kept on going. 'Must be the gills that I'm using to get oxygen into my blood.'
A speaker under water started bleating. Selma asked, "Can you please come to the surface again? I want to do some more tests, please."
Nerissa didn't want to, but complied for now. She was so exhilarated to swim freely under water even in a pool that small. As she popped her head out of the water she asked Selma, "What do you want now?"
"I heard that you had a very high scream, when you first woke up at the hospital. I would like you to scream like that again, but intentionally this time. So, please scream as high and loud as you can, after I put on this protective headset."
Selma put on some weird looking headgear, and motioned to Nerissa. She tried to recall how she had screamed the first time she woke up but decided that she just would try it. She screamed as high as she could and a mirror on the wall, as well as a window to another room exploded into pieces moments after she started. Fearing she had done something wrong, Nerissa stopped screaming. She looked shocked at the destruction she had done.
Selma took her headgear off. "Just as I thought. Your scream had components raging at 20 kHz up to 160 kHz with a level of 155 Decibel. You're quite lethal with that throat of yours. I would like you to do that again, but this time under water, please."
Nerissa was only too happy to comply this time. She liked it a lot better under water. She screamed again as before, but this time it sounded a lot different. More like a beautiful note of music.
Moments later she popped up from the water again, "Why did it sound different now," she asked Selma.
"The speed of sound is different in water. I think you can sing or 'speak' with under water mammals like dolphins and whales. It may be related to some sound elemental powers, but to know that for sure we would have to check with an expert on that. I don't think we should let your existence out into the open yet though."
Nerissa shuddered, thinking that she might have to deal with her former employers if the news of her change got out. "I prefer that, yes."
Selma changed the subject. "How's the water? Not too cold or too warm?"
"It's fine, why do you ask?"
Selma said looking at her monitor, "Well, the temperature reading is 10 degrees Centigrade. You should be freezing cold. I guess you don't feel the cold as we do. I have some other tests that I want to do, but I can't do them here. For the pressure tests I need deeper water than this pool has. How about something to eat first? I guess you must be hungry after all these tests. How do you feel about fish?"
Nerissa started saying, "I used to like fish, but then I started to loath it. Shoot, I'm part fish now. Do you think that me eating fish would be considered as cannibalism?"
Selma laughed, "I don't think so, lots of fish eat other fish. Here, try this smoked salmon." She gave a piece to Nerissa. She tried it but spat it out. "Yuck, that's burned. I definitely don't like that."
Selma thought for a moment and then tapped something on her pad. A hatch opened in the pool and a few fish swam into the pool. "Try to catch those, if you please, Nerissa."
Nerissa dove under and after a short chase caught the biggest fish. She didn't hesitate and tore into it. Soon it was all gone. She went after the second fish and devoured it as fast as the first. The third went the same way soon after. Then Nerissa realized what she had done. She popped her head out of the water again, "I just ate live fish under water. What has happened to me? Am I some kind of freak?"
Selma tried to calm me down, "Not at all, you're just listening to your new instincts. I think it is completely natural for a mermaid to eat live fish under water. I think your taste buds have been changed. You seem to find cooked foods inedible now."
Nerissa shuddered, 'I've changed so much, I'm part girl, part fish, I breathe under water, I eat live fish and have a killer voice.' "I'm afraid about what I am now. Maybe it's best that I die here and now."
Selma yelled, "Don't say that! You're just a exotic hybrid. I think you've made a change for the best. I mean, I know you were a lowlife and bad guy. Now, you've got a chance at a whole new life ahead of you. Try to make it a good one."
Nerissa backed down, "Okay, I'm sorry. I'm just so afraid of my future. What should I do if I can't make it?"
"Oh, I have no doubt that you can make 'it'. You have a survivor's mindset. I just know you do. So, suck it up as they say, and get on with your life."
Nerissa felt a bit better about herself, but still had a lot of self doubt. Fortunately for her, their session was interrupted by the entry of Waverly and Winters. After dismissing Selma, they put up some equipment and started interrogating Nerissa about the criminal organization she had worked for in her previous life. Nerissa told them all she knew about loading places, check points, all the passwords and phrases she knew and more.