This is a story that ends in some ways....yet has not, in fact, ended at all. If you want to learn more about the species called Catalopes, how their species nearly went extinct, and how they came to this dimension, plane of existence, other world in order to survive.....then please read on.
Caution: This is Rated Mature for the following: Species Extinction, Near Extinction, Disease, Graphic explanations, Trauma, Survival, and Starvation.
The sound of the birds chirping outside of the house were what woke the littlest of the group on that cool morning in late the Hunger Moon season, a little over halfway through the winter. The nest of blankets made from Shirra wool was soft and comforting, but there was just something a little...off, this morning. Blinking eyes the color of pale blue water, and struck through with golden highlights, the little one yawned and proceeded to begin the arduous effort of getting out from underneath her four other siblings, kicking the pudgy Lou off of her and wiggling between the still-snoozing Argo and Lorea. All of whom shuffled a little in their sleep before curling in tighter on each other, as all kittens tend to do once their mother no longer keeps them warm at night.
Snuffling slightly, as her nose had been a little runny of late, Saphyre yawned and stretched deeply, her spine bending in that fashion that cats' spines do, before wandering into the kitchen area of the little cabin. The house was large, to the small felines perspective, though her parents assured her that she'd soon find it to be too small once her Change was completed. With four sturdy walls made from pine and cedar, enormous glass windows and four rooms plus an attic, basement, cold cellar, and loft, the house was plenty large enough for kittens less than 1 year old to play and explore in. Since Saphyre was, technically, her parents' first child, she stayed in the household to help take care of the young ones once her mother and father were finished with the initial raising. Her own little den outside of the house was currently being borrowed by her cousin Lorette while the cat got back on her feet from a rather nasty separation from an abusive Xandris. Being small, Saphyre and Lorette both were considered children until their Change, when they would become large enough to be able to safely fend for themselves without the aid of one of the large, bipedal, stalk-eyed creatures, but Lorette's family had died in a rare house fire in the city. Lorette had been placed with a Xandris whose public face was kindhearted old man, but who in reality was verbally and physically abusive. Lorette still had yet to come to terms that her Xandris was in the wrong, and Saphyre had plans to visit her with her family's Xandris, Moira, that afternoon to help her cousin with some play therapy.
Her parents were out this morning, having headed into the city yesterday for some emergency reason or other, the both of them were doctors and very well respected in their fields. As the big sister of the litter, with almost 17 years of worldly experience beside their 6 months and no kittens of her own as she'd never found a tomcat that she liked, Saphyre was tasked with helping Moira with the household chores and keeping her siblings in line. More or less, the kittens were at the point now where they were old enough to be fully rambunctious but without a single lick of sense in their heads. 'Not that I had any at that age either, but I wasn't silly enough to make enormous messes. At least all the time....good grief, I hope Argo doesn't think about getting into the flour again, Moira had a complete fit when he made the bag explode last week.' Sauntering into the kitchen, Saphyre looked around, then jumped onto the large wooden slab that served as both cutting board and table. She, like all of her kind, were meticulous about keeping clean, and that tended to pertain to their dwellings as well. No Catalope in their right mind would put up with a filthy place to live and sleep in, and any Xandris found to be less than clean was denied privileges to caring for a Catalope, it was the law world-wide.
Not seeing Moira in the kitchen, Saphyre sniffed the air, her mouth open a little to get a better feel for the bipedal creature's scent. Xandris were odd creatures. Standing on two legs, with leathery, wrinkled faces, even at birth, the were similar to the primates that Saphyre knew lived in the southern hemisphere of the planet, but Xandris were much more intelligent and very capable with their hands. 'They're very helpful, and I'd have no idea what to do if Moira wasn't with us.' One litter was a lot to look after for any Catalope, and without the help of a Xandris, the life of a Catalope kitten or cub was short, and often ended badly enough to not allow for a Re-Birth, or Change, as her younger siblings liked to call them nowadays. "Moira? Where are you?" Hopping down off the table, the cat wandered towards the room at the back of the house, a small, comfortable space that was decorated how Moira felt was comfortable. Pushing open the door with one paw, Saphyre poked her head around the door and blinked at the not-so-ordinary darkness of the room.
All of the curtains had been pulled closed, effectively shutting out all of the light that should have been pouring into the room from the floor-to-ceiling windows covering nearly half of the half-circle room at this time of the morning, turning the normally colorful, brightly lit walls, floor tapestry and the big mound of blankets that constantly threatened to explode out of the hammock which Moira called her bed into a riot of beautiful, vivid colors. Saphyre had always secretly hoped that her fur patterns and coloring when she went through with her Re-Birth would be as bright and cheerful as those colors that graced this small room. Her current fur patterns, a Siamese-pattern with thin tabby stripes along her back and haunches, were a more mellow color though, and her doctor had told her - as well as all of her teachers, friends, cousins, siblings, and parents- that her coloring would most likely copy her current markings, but with richer, deeper colors. "Moira? Are you still asleep? Are you feeling alright?" Pushing the door open further with her head, the cat stepped into the room and went to one of the curtains, opening it just a little bit in order to see better.
In the dark, like most cats, her ability to see in colors faded immensely until she was only able to see in grey and white shades, blacks, with an odd extra ability to detect reds of all sorts. Spotting a hair arm hanging off the side of the hammock, she turned and headed for it, chattering "Moira? Hey wake up, I think I heard one of the kittens moving around, think you'd be alright with the kittens helping make breakfa-Moira?" Spotting what looked like a series of odd, round lumps that had definitely not been on her arm the previous night when Moira had hugged Saphyre and the kittens before bedtime. The lumps were partially hidden under the soft grey and brown fur that lightly covered the limb and body of the Xandris, and the skin that showed between the hairs was red and swollen looking, causing Saphyre to stop just short of the hammock edge. Ears pinning back slowly as her ruff began to prickle in alarm when Moira didn't move, the cat extended her claws slowly before raising one paw up to an overhanging edge of a blanket. "Moira, I'm gonna pull your blankets off you, this isn't funny."
When the arm still didn't move the little feline bared her teeth, reached up with both paws while balancing on her hind legs, grabbed the blanket edge firmly with her claws and pulled as hard as she could. Almost immediately, the sickly stench of illness swamped her nose, bringing tears to her eyes at the foul odor as the blanket slid off of the still form.
What the little cat saw then, in that thin shred of light from the partially open curtain, made all of her fur stand on end. The little Xandris, who was not much taller than three feet in height, had swollen up like a balloon. She lay in her bright nest of blankets, still and cold, very obviously having passed away. Not peacefully however; the Xandris' face was no longer wrinkled, but puffed out like a startled blowfish, ugly red bubbles with a sickly greenish fluid dripping from one that had ruptured when the blanket had come off of Moira's head oozing from it in a thick stream from her forehead and down between her eyes. The warm, brown eyes that had always watched the kittens and Saphyre playing yet that had held a solid will of steel behind them when discipline was needed, now looked blankly out of the swollen sockets, bugging out in a disturbing fashion. There were puss-filled bubbles everywhere on the body that was exposed, and that sick, sour-sweet smell of vomit that had dried became thicker as the blanket finished falling to the floor.
Saphyre didn't realize that she had begun screaming until she heard the sound of skittering and sharp squeaks of alarm from her much younger siblings in the other room. Clamping her mouth shut so tight she bit her tongue, the older sister dug in her claws and shot out of the room like a bullet, fur completely puffed out, tail a bottle brush of fear and anxiety. She was almost 17 years old, nearly an adult cat. There was no way she would let her siblings see the horror that their beloved friend and Xandris had become. Slamming the door shut, tears pouring from her eyes and her nose leaking in an attempt to get rid of the foul smell, Saphyre scrambled for the videophone. It was a new device to the species, mostly used by Xandris for communication, and was something that Saphyre had always found to be fascinating. It was set on the wall of the kitchen and Saphyre reached it just as Lorea scrambled awkwardly into the kitchen, her chubby little paws still awkward on her tiny frame. "Saphy, what's wrong? What happened?!" Big eyes wide in surprise at her big sister's screaming, the little calico kitten caught a whiff of the smell and wrinkled her nose as Saphyre babbled hurriedly while struggling to dial the code needed to operate the phone "It's okay Lorea, something just scared me. I need to call mom and dad, so can you go and play in the front room for a little while? I'm sure they'll come home soon, but Moira isn't feeling too good so we need to let her rest and-Hello? Hello!" Turning to the phone as the screen on it cleared to show a surprised feline face wearing the white surgical collar of a nurse, Saphyre recognized the striped face immediately. "Andreas! I have to talk to mom and dad NOW, something's wrong with Moira, seriously wrong!" Andreas frowned, whiskers pulling down for a moment while his rounded tigers' ears flicked at the rushes of noise behind him.
It wasn't often that Saphyre called the hospital and research center where her parents worked, and the obvious panic turning her pupils to pinpricks was a VERY obvious sign of distress. "Alright kitten, hold on a minute for me, yeah?" The transfer took all of a minute before "Saphyre? Are you okay? What about the kittens?! What's this about Moira-""Mom! Moira's d-dead." Choking on the word as she blurted it out, Saphyre pawed her eyes to clear them, though heartache at the loss of her best friend and surrogate mother made her feel like screaming again, the cat bared her teeth for a moment in emotional pain as her mother sat stunned for a moment.
Her parents were both scientists, both were very literal and though perhaps not as connected emotionally to their children as some, they were still fiercely protective. They had taught their first litter, Saphyre included, to think rationally -even in times of great emotional stress - and now was the best test of all. Watching her daughter pull her emotions under control to a degree that she could speak properly, even with tears still pouring from her eyes, made the mother Catalope nearly purr with pride...until she heard what her daughter had found.
Eyes widening at the description before narrowing, her maternal instincts flaring immediately, the Catalope female bristled once Saphyre finished her quick, slightly stutter-y report. "Get the kittens out of the house. Now. I'm calling in the Infectious Disease units, but you get out of the house with the children, I'll get your father and we'll be home in forty minutes. Hear me? Understand? Go." Grateful for the instructions for the next steps to take, Saphyre nodded, biting her lip as her mother said in parting "I'm proud of you darling, we'll be home soon, don't open that door and don't go back into that room, understand? We'll be there soon." As the screen went blank, she nodded her head, wiped her tears with her paws and forced her eyes to stop leaking. Giving herself a quick groom to settle her nerves, Saphyre turned and headed for the outer room where her siblings were huddled up together, still and quiet. Their eyes were huge and scared until their big sister gave them each a lick on the forehead to help them settle. They calmed further once she announced "Okay, Moira's not feeling so great guys, so let's leave her be for now, Mom and Dad are coming home in a few minutes and it's gonna be noisy with a bunch of people, so let's all go outside and play for a bit okay? I'll share some of my Source with you if you're hungry."
All of the kittens and Saphyre were outside thirty minutes later when the first vans bearing the scarlet snake and shield emblem of the Infectious Disease Unit pulled up, lights flashing but no sirens. Their parents were a few moments behind the third van, and once they ascertained that their young were safe, if a little curious and frightened at all of the newcomers, they got to work. Another Xandris, by the name of Connor, shared his Source willingly with the now hungry kittens, who had made Saphyre exhausted from feeding off of her even in the smallest amounts. He was a kind person as well and seemed perfectly content to play with and keep the little ones distracted while Saphyre went to her parents to see how she could help.
It would be six months before she learned the truth of that incident, that because of genetic modification of a viral germ which had somehow been released into the atmosphere, Xandri were dying within hours of first receiving a headache. Moira had been one of six that had died, all in the same night, all in different areas of the world. Within four years, the MZ-1 virus had infected 78% of the world population of Xandri, with a 98% mortality rate.
By the time Saphyre went through her Re-Birth, only one in three million Xandri was still alive, out of 3 billion worldwide. She went through her Re-Birth at the age of 19 years, not because of natural decisions, but because if she hadn't done so she would have died from starvation. Her mother died the year before Saphyre went through the change, and her father passed away shortly after it. With a very minimal amount of Xandri around in the world, they were in high demand from all of the Catalope people. That caused too much violence, escalating often to rioting and even murder. That had never been recorded in their entire history, as the species had nearly always gotten along well with the help of the Xandri. After all, it was the sheer amount of energy that the bipedal, monkey-like people produced just from being alive that kept the Catalope people alive, leaving no reason to fight for survival for the Catalope species, and the Xandri bred almost as often as rabbits, whereas Catalopes almost never had litters unless they wished to do so, planned them well enough, and had a Xandris around to help. With so few now, it was nearly impossible for Catalopes to survive unless something was done. It was months before the riots slowed, and nearly a year before they stopped altogether...not because the need for Source was being met though, but because Catalopes started to die.
Saphyre had grown immensely in her Re-Birth; both in size and in intelligence, and had followed her parents into the scientific route in order to help the Xandri in finding a cure for the virus. There had been no progress with the disease however; it mutated too quickly, and had become even more deadly as the years passed. Catalopes were facing extinction as well as the Xandri.
It was by sheer luck that the now large, beautiful Catalope called Saphyre discovered a fix for the situation regarding the Catalopes. With their natural ability to travel through shadows at an increased pace, a tweak to that ability using a series of genetic alterations(an accident she had not intended to cause) and sheer willpower introduced the concept of Plane Jumping to her and her species. With a certain level of practice and skill, a Catalope was able to move from one plane of existence to another. Other energy was available in plenty there on those planes of existence, where creatures of all kinds lived. It was another 6 years -and the loss of many, many Catalopes- before the art was perfected, the plane of existence settled on with the best options for energy available, and the ability manipulated and refined enough for safe travel for the masses. By then however, the Catalope species was on the brink of extinction. Catalopes were able to create Source, or energy, from hard exercise and sheer willpower to some degree, but the lack of this food, this energy Source that had been the Xandri had taken an immense toll on the species. Where before there had been 1 billion, now there were less than 1 million, none under the age of Change, and none more than 250 years of age. All of the elders had died for selfish or violent reasons or from spreading their Source energy too thinly for support themselves, while the young ones simply....never woke up one morning.
Saphyre discovered the means of traveling between this world and her own, and she shared it willingly with her people even as the last of the Xandri died from the disease and her people began dying around her. She shared her knowledge, her training and experiences with her people and became one of the few Catalopes that was known the world over as a Savior - a Catalope with strength, wisdom, intelligence and skill who has provided an immense, unforgettable boon to the species as a whole. During all of this time, her fur had changed color, with all of her Plane Jumping, the energies of the different worlds had changed her internally to some degree. Her eyes had always been the palest of blues, with gold flecks to them, by the time she'd settled on the Human World for her species, they had turned nearly the color of ice over water, a shimmering opalescent color that held no actual color...yet seemed to hold all of them. Her fur too had originally been, true to her parents' predictions, a lovely deep tawny color, with markings in chocolate brown. Now it was the deep color of dusk violets, with patterns in palest blue. No Catalope is certain where Saphyre is now in the present day, though there are rumors that she met and became attached emotionally to a human being.
Humans proved to be immune to MZ-1, and over the centuries while human civilizations flourished from what was considered the Iron Age to present day, Catalopes have been busy. Many will move to the human world as felines, and will live with humans until their designated Change times, what humans would consider their deaths, then move on unless they develop emotional attachments to their humans similar to those of a Xandris and their family before their extinction. Felines that DO move to the earth lose an ability to communicate in their feline forms before their Change, and the Human languages tend to be rougher than that of the Catalope species, which is spoken in wide and odd variety of chirps, trills, whistles....what humans would consider to be complex forms of bird songs. Once a Catalope goes through their Change however, they ARE able to learn human languages, it just takes more practice. And not many humans actually realize that Catalopes even exist. Well, beyond the odd rumor here and there of course.