Part VI: Black Blood
I guided the two of them through the house and out the front door, walking for a minute before stopping at one of the random statue that decorated the grounds. This one was for ‘the Minuteman’ whom I had no knowledge of.
“You said you knew what I was.” Rowan said after a moment of silence.
“You don’t know?” Yougen asked.
“Something bit my leg while I was coming home from softball practice, it was dark and I didn’t see what it was. I got a fever that night and became this… That’s all I know. What am I? You talked about black bloods and infection…”
“Yougen and I are from a different world.” I began and Rowan’s eyes widened. “Where we’re from, black blood is well known. A comet hit earth about forty years ago and it’s believed the pathogen was slumbering inside.”
“But we didn’t get hit by a comet, so how could I be one?” Rowan obviously pointed out.
“That I don’t know.” I said, pursing my lips, trying to think of an answer.
“Wait, I think I might know.” Yougen said before taking out her tablet from the bag that hung on her wheelchair. She looked at her puzzled for a moment until she turned it around to face us. The article was decades old, reporting about a ‘near miss’ comet.
“It passed by earth in 1974 so the timing would fit with our earth’s history. Aaaand—” She paused, clicking on something else. “They took samples back to earth, if they did they could’ve brought the black blood back with them. Obviously it would’ve been quarantined so it wouldn’t have gotten out.”
“If it didn’t, how did Rowan get infected?” She shrugged and our gaze settled on Rowan.
“Where did your infection happen?”
“Fort Jackson.” They said. “It’s a military base.”
“What were you doing there?”
“My dad’s a drill sergeant, he and I live on site.”
“You two know far more than I do about this world, if you ran into a blackblood infected at a military base could they be using the blood as some kind of weapon?” I asked.
“I wouldn’t doubt it.” Rowan said with a shrug. “They’ve tried just about anything; drugs, chimeras, cybernetics.”
“That’s very worrying… What if it gets out?” Yougen said, clearly horrified.
“Unlike our world, this world has working medical facilities and strong defensive organizations.” I noted. “So maybe this isn’t too cataclysmic, but still it brings a lot of questions…” I sighed.
There was a pause as we all seemingly pondered the implication of Rowan’s existence and infection.
“So, why don’t you ever change back?” Yougen asked, breaking the silence.
“To your human form.” I explained. “Using the blood’s powers strengthens it. So you really shouldn’t stay like that unless you need to be.”
“What do you mean you can’t? Every black blood infected can change back.”
“Well, not me.”
“But that can’t be…” Yougen said.
“Are you sure you’re right about me being a black blood?”
“Positive.” I answered. “You get my senses all up in arms.”
“What if I’m a false positive?”
“We could test you.” Yougen offered. She dug inside her coat and took out a pen-like contraption. “I built this to test my infection levels, it should work for you. Can I have your finger?”
Rowan extended a hand and Yougen took it, aiming the device at their massive clawed thumb.
“Woah! You’re just going to use the same needle you used?” Rowan said, slightly horrified.
“The black blood fights away any other potential pathogens, you can’t get sick.” I explained. “And we aren’t at the infectious stage where we could infect someone else, so it’s perfectly safe.”
“If you says so…”
Yougen proceeded with the test and we waited a minute for the result to be revealed, the gadget letting out a series of beeps.
“Let’s see…” She consulted the display on it only to drop it. “That’s not possible!” She said taking a step back.
“What is it?” Rowan asked, their ears peeking up.
“Rowan’s infectious load is over a hundred.”
“I don’t speak jargon.” They asked. “What does that mean?”
“You’re feral or at least you should be.” I answered. “But obviously you are not. Yougen, are you sure about the result?”
“Positive, it’s always accurate for me.”
“Maybe it’s just an error?” Rowan proposed.
“The test detects a protein unique to black blood and doesn’t exist on this earth. If you weren’t infected it would’ve read zero, but it didn’t. You break every rules we know about the way the blood works.”
“You’ve lost me.”
“You’re something we haven’t seen before, most likely a new strain of the blood.” I explained.
“Or you’ve reacted to it in a way nobody else I know has ever had.” Yougen said. “Your infectious load is higher than I’ve ever seen someone go without going feral and we don’t know what that means…”
“So what now?” Rowan asked.
“Unless we can investigate where you were infected, I don’t see much we can do.” I said.
We heard some steps and I turned around, only to see Caroline come toward us.
“Hey, is everything alright?” She asked. “I noticed you guys leaving…”
“Yeah, we just needed to talk privately.”
“Oh, sorry. Didn’t mean to butt in.”
“It’s alright, we were done. We should go back, enjoy the rest of the party.”
Once more, we were left with more questions than answers, but at least we had some lead. Comet samples and a military base in the south. It was a start, something hopefully we would get to the bottom of, we couldn’t just ignore the presence of black blood on this world.