Chapter 2

Four days later

"--and now, we have a special report about the new Fission City Metal Recycling Plant. Over to Joe Lestorni. Joe?"

Of course, no one was really listening to the television at this point. The bickering of one brother was more entertaining than a short documentory on the new plant in town.

"And the ever vigilant sharks still wait for Paradigm's ugly-as-hell face to proclaim the success of his newest toys.... This is killing me, dammit!"

Ripster snorted quietly and flicked the end of the hammerhead's brown fin. "We would know if you were dying on us, Jab. Stop complaining. More time before we meet them is a double edged sword: give us both time to make a plan."

"Hmph. Too bad we don't know where his lab is. If we did, we could bust right in there and--"

Streex peeked an eyes open to glance at the hammerhead. "Jab, it'd be a total bloodfest. They'll have..." he started counting on his fingers, "10 alters, plus Mecha Shark. Unless you plan to drag me, Jer, and Benz into it, you'll lose... You'll probably lose even with us tailing along. Besides," the tiger shark leaned back in his seat, smirking, "don't you /want/ to see Moby?"

Jab narrowed his stalk eyes, baring his teeth to the still touchy subject. "If you weren't injured, I'd make it so. That was low, Blades."

"Hey, I am low. I admit it." Deciding that watching the news was too depressing, Bobbie got up and started walking towards the tunnel that led outside, deliberately passing Jab to whisper, "Guppy love is soooooo adorable."

He laughed and jumped away when Jab swung a wild punch aimed at his gut. All Jab muttered was, "Jackass," behind the tiger's back as Streex made his way out to do some sewer exploring.

"I want you to go to the new plant."

Delphene cocked her head, nostrils flaring with annoyance. "What's the occasion?"

Paradigm narrowed his eyes. His new minions had already proven themselves formidable foes. The mako shark, Nautica, ran circles around everyone and thing in the training area. Splicer, the flying fish, avoid all projectiles thrown at him while performing acrobatics in the air. The whips on the angler fish, Khat, showed to have destructive properties, being able to deflect and damage all threats. Even the dusky dolphin (who refused to be called anything /but/ Regi) impressed the doctor with her flexible and graceful display of aero dynamics. She wasn't strong enough to physically attack, however. That was her disadvantage.

But the bottlenose, Delphene- he groaned; it was always Delphene who stole the spotlight- had pulled surprise after surprise on him. She was strong, a little less than Kilimari, quick, but not nearly as compared to Nautica, and agile, without Regi's grace. She was deadly to the last drop. They discovered her tail could break through a two inch beam of steel with a few good whacks to it. And only 14 hours ago, she brought to light another interesting weapon: a sonic scream that blew eardrums with ultra-high sound waves, rendering an alter immobile and a normal human paralyzed or permenantly deaf. She had begun teaching Regi soon afterwards.

"The media is there. I want a live show to lure the Sharks out into the open, where you'll hopefully dispose of them."

"And if we don't?" quiped up Khat, making himself look as bored as possible.

Paradigm chuckled lowly. "You'll regret it."

Both Splicer and Nautica snorted and the latter said, "And what happens if we take them out? There's no garantee that we won't be disposed of anyway."

"Of course there is. You never know what threat could pop up after their destruction, now do you?"

Regi blinked and clicked a few times; she hadn't spoken since being transformed. Delphene looked over her shoulder and nodded her consent. She turned back and asked, "So how're we supposed to go about this? Get on TV and say, 'This is a welcome home gift from Dr. Paradigm'?"

The piranha alter recoiled and hissed, "No. Never say my name in the presense of humans. Never! .... Use Dr. /Bolton/ instead."

The larger dolphin shrugged. "Fine. Let's go... We have a few oversized tuna to deal with."

"--and over here is one of three incinerators under the plant's roof. These are used not only to burn scraps that have no value, they're also for--"

Jab shuddered and groaned. "Come on! Paradigm needs to attack! I'm getting smarter /and/ dumber from watching this!"

Slammu patted Jab on the shoulder, mock pitying. Of course, he wasn't enjoying this either. "The media's getting low on ideas to cover; anything will be jumped on at this point," he had said earlier. But now, he was gonna guess that this particular report will mush your brain faster than the average cartoon.

Over in the corner, Ripster flipped his cell phone closed and wandered over to the main grouping. "Leena, Moby called. He's gonna need a ride in about an hour from the North Calentto airport. Can you do it?"

Leena Koenig, the inside source to Paradigm's plans, nodded and closed the book she had been reading. Her dark skin blended in with the dim surroundings and the only light part about her were the whites in her eyes and the pearly teeth in her smile. She normally kept herself within her work clothes, but sometimes felt that 'work' should not be reminded of and would change into casual attire as soon as possible. She was only 5'2", but played the biggest role within the Sharks' circle. "Of course. Cargohold?"

"It's the only way to travel. Flight 580, third gate."

She gathered up a few things and put them in her carrying bag, slinging it over her shoulder. "Then I guess I'll be back in about two hours. Don't get yourselves into trouble."

"We won't," came the chorus of male voices... but they sounded more like little boys who had their fingers crossed behind their backs.

Leena rolled her eyes. "I find that hard to believe." And she was gone.

It wasn't that long before Jab started to grow restless again. "Man, this is taking much too long!"

The oldest shark brother could only shake his head sadly. This was what their life had become. They were on their own, with allies and a mission. Wait and watching, hated and idoled... accused of every little thing, set up at times, and made enemies along the way.

However, the waiting and watching grew too long and everyone was jumpy. Yes, they wanted an attack, just so they knew they had a purpose in a life forced upon them. If they had to take crap for every day they were altered, then so be it, because they would someday expose Dr. Luther Paradigm for the snake that he truly was.

"--is for aluminum only. And-- Oh my god! Charlie, over there! What are they?!"

By the time the cameraman had focused on what the reporter was screaming about, all those currently accounted for in the room were crowding around the TV set.

"--alters! There are /five/ alters here! And they look very hungry too! Someone call the army! The bomb squad! Anyone!"

On screen, a shaking picture of the alters in the transport entrance was being shown. The one with the tail flicked her tail and the brown female seemed to phase in and out, only now, she had a microphone labeled with a 5 on it.

"It took my mike! Run!" It had been barely audible but quite clear. The camera picture suddenly captured the ground and feet, sideways. There was a laugh. "Nautica, Splicer, round 'em all up! Khat, the camera."

Whoever 'Khat' was, he or she picked up the camera and focused it on the taller dolphin-like one. She was obviously enjoying this with a sweet maliciousness. "Hello and welcome to This is the End of Their Lives. I will be your host for this exclusive convarage of mayhem and destruction. But before we begin, I have something to say. We would like to thank the great genius Dr. Robert Bolton Sr., because without him, we would never have have been created and this program could never have been possible." She winked.

Low blow bullseye.

Ripster growled, his patience wearing thin and his judgement being blinded as the dolphin jabbed on, and stalked over to the entrance to the room, snatching his leather jacket. An eye peeked over the collar, rage at the abuse to their father's name barely contained in the black iris, but unnaturally chilled to icy daggers. It turned away after a silent moment and the eldest Bolton child grabbed a new addition to their arsenal, a harpoon gun, and disappeared out into the tunnels.

The soundless situation was broken when Jab rushed after the great white, crying out, "John, wait!" Slammu was right on his heels, grabbing a ring of keys off of a table in the same area of the door.

Mantaman looked at Benz with a questioning glance. "Should I...?"

The shorter man nodded. "Go. And keep Rip outta trouble."

"Easier said than done, but I can try."

The roar of the engine beneath him- and not the frantic pleas of his comrads- was all that Jonathan Bolton heard at the moment. The traffic lights had no meaning, neither were the blaring horns of the other cars he passed or the sirens of the local police. They were easy to lose, those humans in uniforms.

The great white DNA within him was screaming to do something drastic, to finally prove to Paradigm that they... that /he/ meant business. He's been blaming Father from the very beginning, but never had one of his slimey minions done such a thing. This is the last time I put up with it!

The officer dropped to the ground, head twisted at a sickening angle. Delphene dusted off her hands and turned away from the mess of nineteen men in blue uniforms which littered the parking lot of the factory. Briefly, she peered up at the sky, watching the Guy in the Sky's helicopter circle around, covering the event. "Hn. What a bunch of losers."

On the loading dock platform, Khat, Nautica, and Regi were eyeing their dolphin teammate. Khat still had the camera rolling at Delphene's request. Both Nautica and Regi were frowning, the mako at the messy job Delphene had done, no matter how ruthless it had been, and the dusky at her behavior in general.

Am I the only one who feels remorse for the humans? Is this wrong? Why? *{Delphene! Are you done?}*

The bottlenose nodded. *{I'm done out here.}* But then, a malicious smile graced her snout. *{But inside still needs to be cleaned up. Want to join me, sister?}*

A tight pit clenched hard in Regi's chest and she shook her head, sickened at the thought of crunching bones beneath her hands. Nausea was right on the edge of claiming her.

"If you say so. C'mon, Splicer must be bored with his baby-sitting job right about now."

The three others complied and turned around to head in, but were abruptly stopped by a harsh cry of pain. Behind them, Delphene was hunched over, both eyes dialated and focused on her tail. Right below where the fins met was a metal arrow with a hollow arrowhead. It had a collection of flesh in its blades and blood oozed from the wound and weapon slowly. An outrage. Nobody crippled her tail like that.

It, indeed, was immobile. She stood up swiftly, biting down on the sharp shoots that tormented the nerves in her spine. Her gaze darted around the parking lot, looking for the would-be attacker. They would pay dearly.

"Over here, seaviants!"

Four heads turned to the far side of the lot, only to catch sight of the leader of the Street Sharks lowering the harpoon gun. Even from their positions, they could see the cold ice shards frosting his eyes over. "You hurt me through what I love most, the good name my father had before Paradigm took it. Think of this as the start of my way of revenging him."

Delphene narrowed her eyes. "You must have a lot of nerve then, hitting my tail like you did." Her voice was acutely strained as she lifted up her fifth appendage. She grasped the mini-harpoon and pulled it out, holding down cries of hurt as the metal brushed against sensitive flesh. Regi was beside her in a flash, holding her steady as the aftermath of shock. After a moment, Delphene turned her eyes back to Ripster, growling from deep within. "Street Shark.... What purpose do you have here? According to the majority of the people, you're the problem, not the solution. So go home and stop ruining whatever reputation you still have."

Khat and Nautica snickered behind the backs of the other two. They thoroughly agreed with the bottlenose.

Ripster just smirked. "That's what humans want to believe. Just because they say something, that doesn't make it true."

"Oh, but it is... You're our problem and we're the solution to the extermination of you and your friends."

"Heh.. Funny you mention my friends." Ripster tossed the gun to the side and called out, "Alright boys! Let's get this over quick and go home."

"--And the gang called the Street Sharks have just arrived! I don't know who'll win, but this time, I'm rooting for the sharks. That grey one on the other side is one serious killer--"

Benz watched the camera angel with calm anxiety. The dolphin (who looked female in the views) was dangerous if she could kill that many people without obtaining any damage.

"Hey Benz?" Behind the Californian, Streex peered at the TV screen as best he could before coming closer. "Something happen?"

"Paradigm finally released his new creatures. They, or rather one of them, insulted Dr. Bolton, Rip got a bit pissed and left, with the other trailing behind the."

The tiger shark glared at the TV set. I don't blame him. "How many of them have you identified?"

Benz shrugged a shoulder. "During their broadcast-- Hey!"

The news crew decided, at that time, to do a split screen, between the Sky view and a ground angle.

"...I was gonna say that the bottlenose dolphin is either the leader or a sick clown. I don't know who's holding the camera but its name is Khat. The smallest one is the dusky, easily identified. Nautica is the one beside the camera, don't know what he or she is. There's also one named Splicer. Most likely the flying fish, since that's one we haven't seen at the moment."

Streex bent infront of the TV and pointed to the ground angle side. "Why is her tail bleeding?"

Despite the situation, the small human chuckled quietly. "Ripster nailed her with the harpoon."

"Are you serious? He hit something?" Streex snickered. "The world is gonna end. He can't even hit the broad side of a blue whale."

"And let's keep this talk to ourselves. You remember the last time he was practicing."

"No sweat.." He backed off out of sight and Benz kept his eyes glued to the TV, not noticing that he was once again alone.

It was four on four.

Delphene was swishing her tail back and forth angrily, blood now being splattered across the pavement like drops of rain. Splicer had heard the commotion and now lay his responsibilities onto Regi, who doubled with Khat, holding onto the camera for now.

The shot panned in on Delphene at the exact moment she threw her head back and issued a charging attack. The sound waves vibrated the air and hit a certain frequency, causing the audio equipment to short curcuit. When it sparked, Regi threw it onto the ground, damaging it beyond repair. The dusky crinkled up her nose and decided to put her chances with watching the captive workers.

They were bound by the arms and sweating, heat burns beginning to form on their exposed skin. Regi frowned gravely. Of course Splicer had intentionally left them by the burner, but this was getting out of hand. They were frightened and one was complaining about not getting paid enough to suffer like this. Probably the reporter.

Regi bared her teeth at them and picked one of the workers up by his bindings. She set him against the railing, guarding against falling into the metal pits. With a growl, she motioned for him not move. As she turned her back to collect a second one, the first worker sneered, daring to voice his thoughts. "Hn, lookit this. Being pushed around by a shrimp shorter that all of us."

She grabbed the second hostage, the cameraman, and set him up opposite the worker, throwing the latter a dangerous glare over her shoulder. But the man continued, relentless. "Doesn't even say anything. Never learned to talk, freak?"

Regi may have been the most practical in all the group, but that still didn't keep her from getting extremely angry at those who critized people's weaknesses in cruel exploitation or jest. The worker was pushing all the right buttons and she refused to perform the same acts Delphene had minutes ago. I will not kill I will not harm I will not--

"I don't see why Dr. Bolton, as mad as he has become, would ever create such a failure."

That was it.

The other few humans gaped at the boldness and stupidity of the man and Regi turned around fully to face him; if she had been a cat, her fur would've been standing high on edge. How dare he... This isn't Dr. Bolton's work, she wanted to say desperately, to explain that it was Luther Paradigm who had done it and not Robert Bolton who had turned everyone into sea creatures. But she couldn't... Instead, there was only to outlet her frustration and this man was perfect.

In a flash, the blue-collared man was down on the grating and in her grasp, staring wide-eyed at the numerous sharp teeth hovering right above his face. He hardly had time to scream before those jaws clamped down on his head...

The hostages were horrified at the sight before them, where this dolphin had just crushed a man's skull and torn the head off with a few snaps of her neck. She tossed it over the railing and they could see the blood that splattered across her snout. It was like a harpy had decended unto him, vengeful with hate, but seeing the body of the decapitated worker as she stood caused a few to nearly lose their lunches.

The cameraman, who had a better veiw, had lost his color long ago and just finished spitting out the last of the gastric acids in his mouth, his stomach now empty. He barely dared to look at her, but once he did, he was introduced to something he never thought could be true.

Regi was hyperventilating, shaking all over at the sin she had committed with no remorse. Pure terror shone in her eyes, as well as a silent plead.. "I've committed an unforgivable crime; I must be sentenced to death."

The man felt his stomach lurch again when those eyes landed on him and actually /saw/ him, not just looking out into the distance. He knew what she wanted now, but didn't have the courage to do so.


With a cry, the cameraman rushed at her and shouldered the dusky into motion. Over the bar she went, screaming as she fell....


Delphene was just about to lay another kick to John's abdomen when the shout reached her ears. *{I don't want to die.}* Regi "REGI!"

She abandoned the mission immediately, running back to the building as quickly as her feet could carry her.

The others drew blanks, but slid out of their individual fights to follow the tailed leader. The sharks weren't that far behind them...

A motorcycle stopped short of the lot, its driver watching as both groups raced back for the building. An eyebrow rose curiously, ignoring the blaring report the Guy in the Sky was giving on the radio about the same thing he was witnessing.

Time for an exclusive.

"Regi!" The humans meant nothing. Not their welfare, not their scared faces, not the headless body at her feet.... Nothing. Delphene leaned over the railing and blanched.

The dusky dolphin laid sprawled out on one of the piles of metallic junk, blood seeping from several wounds. Without a thought, Delphene leaped the rail guard and fell, managing to land and stay erect on both feet. From above, Nautica cried, "Is she alright?!"

The bottlenose didn't respond and fell to her knees beside her younger sister, forgetting all the pain she had suffered in favor of checking Regi over.

Her side was split open and thankfully not too deep and every other wound was minor compared to it. But the blood... Delphene inspected Regi's muzzle, looking for any cuts, but there were none. Odd, but-- A clunk and thud met her ears and Nautica was beside her. "Hey Del, there's a stiff with no head above us. Do you think...."

Delphene growled gutturally at the news. No. Regi can't hurt. She's the sanity. "Kill them..." she murmured, gathering Regi into her arms. And then a little louder, "Kill those humans!"

Above them, Khat and Splicer exchanged evil glances. Suddenly, the thought became very promising. But the excitement was smitten by a shout from the great white at the start of the catwalk. The manta ray hybrid was hovering over the large gap of floor, eyeing them intensely.

...Or maybe not them. Khat felt a joust from the structure below their feet. Well, shit. This thing is obviously not built to support two 300 pound sea creatures and a handful of humans. "Splice," he whispered, "this thing will fall if they get on it. Do us the favor and distract those bottom feeders while I do something to take out Flaps over there. That way, I can end the lives of these miserable humans."

"Aw, save me one or two, will ya?"

"Hn. If time permits it. Have fun with them instead."

Three things happened at once. Due to Mantaman telling them that the catwalk was unsturdy enough put them at ends, the Sharks had to wait to be approached, but the bottlenose's exclaimation to do away with the humans unnerved them. Whatever happened, the people were dead.

Splicer made a made dash at the three sharks set up like bowling pins. He grinned. Time for a strike.

Khat grabbed the closest person to him (which just so happened to be the cameraman) and tossed him off the side. The angler didn't even bother to see if Manta would take the bait; Khat knew he would.

Nautica was given Regi as a charge and was ordered to "get the hell out" of there and get her some help, pronto. The mako shark had no argument against it as she sped out.

The human flailed and screamed, certain that his death was coming. Is this what I get for complying to a monster?? The ground was approaching at the pace of a rapid heartbeat, matching his own. She begged for it! Two blue arms grabbed him, diverting the fall into flight, but he didn't calm down. No! Let me go!

But the voice that touched his ear was anything but evil or vengeful. "Calm down. You're safe."

He forced himself to open his eyes and tried to slow his breathing at the sight of the dark-colored flyer. Street Shark? I knew they were the good guys..

The aquatic creature had him back down on his feet in no time and would've raced back to tango with the angler, but he had to say something first. "Wait!" he cried, grabbing the manta's arm.

Mantaman looked back at him with urgent eyes. He swallowed. "I need to talk to you after this! It's very important."

He nodded. "We'll see." And then took off, hurrying back to stop the monster that threw him. ...He sank to the floor, suddenly over-exhausted as his heart slowed. I need to tell you.... about that sea creature.

Nautica ran as fast as she could with the added weight. Around the piles of scrap and boiling pots of liquid steel, her aim was the ramp back up to the main floor. The heat was just below intolerable; she wasn't sure if that would affect Regi or not, but that's not what she should've been thinking about then. Getting back up means getting out of the heat.

She found it placed in the far back of the pit and the speedster felt relieved when she saw it. C'mon. The faster we get out of here, the faster we can get you back to Paradigm and healed.

Past boilers and offices, even the three-on-one fight between the Sharks and Splicer, she ran out the trailer entrance.... only to be stopped by the sound of a motorcycle. To her left; her head spun in surprise, but it quickly turned to rage. "What're you doing here?! Paradigm said--!"

"Dr. Piranhoid says a lot. Do you actually trust him not to lie to you?"

Nautica growled and backed away from the offending being. "He just made us! Win or lose, it shouldn't matter!" It was her worry for Regi talking now; who cared what this failure was talking about. "He'll help her! He has to!"

An eyebrow arched. "Oh? What makes you say that? According to that dolphin chick, you aren't under the flesh-raper's alligence. You're with Dr. Bolton." He took a step closer. "And so are the Street Sharks. You're obviously human, with the emotions you carry. Join us. We can help the dusky... and we will."

Eyes opened wide. Confusion crossed over her dark eyes at the forced psychology. Help. That's what Regi needed. He was offering it. The one that Paradigm said wouldn't be in the battle was offering help. Paradigm lied. He could lie again. And Delphene /did/ say that they were Dr. Bolton's. This was one of his sons. She had emotions... she cared for Regi. "Help me.." she pleaded. "Help us."

Streex nodded and extended his uninjured hand. Nautica hesitated, but took it, still able to support Regi by taking a few steps closer. The tiger shark gave a half smile and fished out the phone in his pocket. He dialed the number that he knew meant trouble for his ear, but sang anyway, "Oh Be~enz..."

"Don't even try to sweet talk me, Robert! What the hell do you think you're doing?!"

"What does it look like? I'm trying to keep people off of the wrong side of life. Besides, do you really trust Paradigm not to do something to the dusky?"

"...She looks injured from the Guy's camera."

"Very good. Now get out here and get them home. I've got something to do."

"Streex! You're going to get yourself k--!"

Streex killed the connection and looked up at the mako shark. Sorry, but this is my fight. "...Nautica. Stay here, alright? Keep by the bike and put pressure on whatever wounds she has."

Nautica blinked as he brushed passed her, destination obvious as his path brought him directly into the building. Her gaze stayed focused on the entrance, wishing... wishing... for something she did not know of. Her brown skin (and now, she realized, stolen) body was shaking. Out of fear, out of fright, out of fatigue. She didn't know. The world had flipped right side up again, but this world wasn't hers. It was the world of DNA and aquatics, something humans should have left well enough alone.

Come back....