“ Have you ever seen anything like it?”
“No. No not like this. It’s… wow this is just incredible, but how? How is this even possible?”
“I’ve got no idea. Is… is she stable?”
“Yes, of course. She should be waking up soon.”
“I’d like to inform her of the situation in private, if that’s alright?”
“Fine by me. But, be careful. We don’t fully understand it.”
“I know. I know.”
Everything burns, as though someone set my blood on fire. I attempt to thoroughly unseal my eyes, but the best I can do is squint. A ceiling lamp blinds me, forcing my eyes shut.
“Ms. Lennex?” Comes a voice, similar to the one I heard moments ago.
“Yes?” I manage to whisper. “Who’s there?”
“My name is Professor Isenberg, you are-
“Oh for fucks sake,” I say interrupting his statement, “could you turn off the goddamn light?”
“Yes… yes of course. My apologies.”
The light shuts off, and a man comes into view, a rather elderly man. He wears a white lab coat, small rectangular spectacles, and a thick scruffy white beard.
My body is strapped down. I struggle, but its no use. How am I even alive right now? The toxin in my body should’ve killed me in minutes after exposure.
“Ahem! As I was saying, you are aboard an OSA transport ship on its way to Colony Seven.” Isenberg explains, his voice low and firm.
“How did you find me?” I ask.
“We received your emergency distress beacon.”
My mind goes blank. “What beacon?”
I look down at my body, realizing Euphoria removed from myself, placed upright in a nearby corner. The room is empty, only the bed I lay strapped to, and the chair Professor Isenberg sits comfortably in.
“Um… Nicole… she must’ve sent it.” I say coming to my senses.
“Nicole?” the professor asks confused.
“Euphoria’s new artificial intelligence. Euphoria…” I say gesturing to the suit.
“I see.” He replies quite impressed, as am I.
“So… why Omni?” I ask.
“Simply a first response. Colony Seven was the first medical facility on the map, so we set course for that. It’s a miracle you’re still alive. The toxin inside of you is literally… uh… how do I put this?”
I frown. “What? What is it?”
The professor leans forward in his seat, placing a hand upon mine. “The toxin, we don’t fully understand it’s affect, but according to our initial scans, it… it’s growing. Its evolving into a living entity, and it’s slowly consuming your body, using you as a host, in which eventually it will take over, evolving you as well.”
“Evolve?” I ask horrified, my heart racing, blood burning. “Evolve into what?”
Professor Isenberg shakes his head. “I wish I knew. We’ll know more when we reach Colony Seven. Appropriate equipment, data, and results. I am truly sorry for this unfortunate aftermath, but there’s still a chance. A chance to change this.” He rises from his seat and opens the exit. “You should get some rest.” He says before leaving.
Rest? How could I possibly rest getting smack with that reality of the situation? And Colony Seven? That shit-hole? I should be in the arms of OSA medical personnel. Am I really in that grave of danger as to where there’s no time to make it back to H.Q? What’s happening to me? Before I can process my thoughts, another man enters the room, wearing an OSA combat uniform. He appears young, exceptionally fit, and nonetheless handsome.
“Ms. Lennex- “ he begins to say.
“Please, just call me Sophy.” I interrupt. The whole formality thing is killing me.
“Okay Sophy, I’m Omni Security Association combatant Clayton Adams. I’m going to remove your restraints, and escort you to the deck.”
Underneath the bed is a switch Clayton jostles, unlocking the stalwart straps. I sit up, my back stiff.
“Right this way Sophy.” Clayton says gesturing towards the exit.
Looking at the nano suit I ask, “May I?” Clayton smiles.
Wondering the ship blanketed in Euphoria is comforting. It gives me a sense of protection, except for running out of oxygen on Arcane.
The OSA transport is additionally smaller than previously imagined, but replete with crewmembers. The walls of the ship are infested with monitors displaying various data and footage. Security at its finest, constantly monitoring the galaxy to essentially keep everyone safe, and help those in need.
“You truly are the watch dogs of space.” I boast, lightening the atmosphere.
“Yep. That’s what we aim for. That’s how we found you, thanks to this baby and all its special toys.” Clayton replies, now focusing his attention on me. “What happened to you?”
I pause, not exactly sure of the answer to give. “I-“
“Ms. Lennex!” Shouts Professor Isenberg from afar, rushing towards me.
“What’s going on?” I ask as we shake hands.
“I figured you were stable enough to have your restraints removed, courtesy of combatant Adams here.” He says patting the man on his shoulder. “Ah, and I see you’ve reunited with Euphoria. Fine by me. Now, follow me if you will.”
I roll my eyes. “It’s not like I’ve got a choice.” I say mumbling to myself. “And so much for getting some rest.”
Clayton chuckles. “We could always strap you back onto the bed.”
I laugh. “Only if they strap us in together.”
Clayton raises an eyebrow, his cheeks blushing.
“Sophy?” Comes a voice ahead. I stop, mouth open.
“Ms. Lennex.” Isenberg begins, “Meet doctor-“
“Linda!” I shout, interrupting the professor, and rushing towards my old friend, arms open.
She accepts the hug, but I pull away, a bit self conscience of my condition.
“Oh Sophy, it’s been too long!” Linda says holding my shoulders.
“I see you know each other.” Isenberg presumes.
“Sophy and I studied symbiotic relations in alien life-forms back in college. Those… those were the good days.” She says, studying my figure. A worried expression forms on her face.
“So what are you doing with OSA girlfriend?” I ask casually.
“I’m an onboard medic. Things get pretty messy on these transports if you know what I mean.” She replies still with that horrific expression. “Oh Sophy…”
“Will you be treating me on Colony Seven? I ask gently rubbing her arm.
“Mrs. Waters will be remaining on the transport, tending to the injured who will be boarding shortly.” Professor Isenberg explains.
“Mrs.?” I inquire confused. “You mean… you’re…”
“Yep.” She answers for me. “Got two boys, and god are they a handful. The job keeps me sane.” She says with a smile. “What about you? Married? Got kids?”
My own smile dissipates. “No neither. I uh… I can’t…”
“I understand.” She says before I can finish. “That’s not important. What’s important is getting you better.”
I nod in agreement.
Linda has changed so much over the years. Who used to be a brunette is now blond, and wow has she lost a significant quantity of weight. It’s almost hard to believe that this is the same Linda Waters I knew years ago.
“Colony Seven in sight.” Reports the Pilot.
The colony is fundamentally a floating rock, it’s city domed upon it. Oxygen is constantly shipped to the moving asteroid, and proceedingly tracked, evidently by Omni Security. Population is inadequate, but frequently visited by an astonishing estimate of Space Pirates. After all, the colony is home to the galaxy’s largest black market industries, production of illegal firearms, equipment, and human trafficking. To think these scumbags will be handling my situation.
“Four minutes to dock.” Informs the pilot.
I can see the colony, its large dome illuminating brightly, and a variety of colors strobing. The city structures look like child’s building blocks from our distance.
Can these people really save me? There can’t possibly be a cure for something like this. My blood continues to burn, but it doesn’t hurt any longer. Is that a good thing? The professor said that I was evolving, and I can feel the changes undergoing inside of me. But, how much longer do I have before the physical changes begin?
Suddenly, we find ourselves in traffic of leaving and oncoming ships. I’m guessing eighty-percent of it all is Space Pirates, collecting weapons and drugs to go raid foreign worlds. Typical Colony Seven society.
The docking bay is packed, the pilot struggling for an open space closest to the colony itself. Dozens of helpless occupants stand below, awaiting Linda’s temporary medical assistance. One oxygen refueler departs while another immediately takes its place. Are we ever going to land this thing?
“Think you can set us down over there?” A combatant suggests, pointing to a small clearing not far from the injured.
“I’ll give it a shot.” The pilot replies.
We close in on the space left unoccupied, but it’s an extremely tight fit.
“Retracting wings to forty-eight percent.” The pilot exclaims, followed by a deep humming commotion. The ship steadies, and moments later, we finally disembark. “All right people. We are go for extraction.”
Clayton approaches me. “I’ll be escorting you and the professor to the nearest medical facility. Now, if you’ll follow me.”
I turn to Linda, who readies her aiding equipment. She looks up, and blows me a kiss. I smile, and wave goodbye.
The ship’s exit hatch rises open, OSA combatants racing out to greet the afflicted citizens. Clayton guides us through the chaotic crowd of junkies into the city.
“The hospital isn’t far from here, and by all means, stay very close to me.” Adams pronounces, shouldering his assault rifle.
“It’s a jungle out here.” The professor states, nearly shoulder to shoulder with the combatant.
“Well the citizens here aren’t far from animals themselves.” I say, but strangely, that feels wrong. In any case, I’m the true creature here.
Neon lights nearly blind me from every direction, bright signs advertising a variety of goods and services. The people appear eerie, missing limbs replaced with robotics substitutes; multi colored hair, and many the impressions being composed of pure inorganic materials. Colony Seven is nothing more than a freak show.
Clayton takes a left down a less crowded lane, a number of booths sit unattended. At the end of the path lies a tall structure with a large red cross glowing above the entrance. Suddenly, a shouting voice fills my ears from afar.
“Oh great.” Pouts Clayton. “Not another prognosticator.”
As we near closer, his words become clear. “Somber! Somber! Death! Death approaches! Blood shall spill! Blood shall spill!” His voice is hollow.
My body shudders as the man grasps my hand, so tight I can’t shake him off.
“The demon arrives!” He screams in my face.
Clayton swerves around, shoving the man away, aiming his rifle up to his head. “Back off! Now! Return as you were!”
“Beware the emission! The emission! Beware!” He shouts his last words as we pass on.
“You all right?” Clayton asks, inspecting my hand.
“I’m fine. Thanks.” I reply still a little shaken up.
“Lets get you inside.”
The medical facility is a lot more substantial than previously considered, but the inside is no less than I imagined. The walls are tagged with gang insignias, negative messages such as “Fuck OSA!” and red handprints symbolizing monsters. The floor is stained with blood, the amount sickening. The ceiling lamps flicker on and off, the ceiling itself old and cracked, creating a fear of it crumbling down upon us. Waiting patients sit wounded, bleeding, and some cry in agony. A man grips his hand firmly, with two fingers missing. Three women come rushing into the hospital, a little girl beside them, her left eye absent from the socket, blood gushing from within.
“Help!” One of the women screams. “Help my daughter! Please… her eye!”
Two medical personnel come racing from the back, grabbing hold of the girl and rushing her into the emergency room. In her hand is a stuffed bunny, but she drops it on her way to be treated. The three women don’t appear to notice, as they’re escorted into another area. I pick up the toy, and stash it within Euphoria’s supply pack located on the back of the suit.
Whirling back to where Clayton stands, he speaks with what I believe to be a doctor. They exchange a few words, those of which do not hear, and then he signals me to follow him. The doctor leads us down a long corridor, emergency rooms on either side. As we stroll along, I glance into one of the rooms, a surgeon grasping a laser cutter, and a man laying supine. There’s so much blood soaked into the operating table, it’s created a puddle beneath. Moving onward I hear the saw activate, and the man screaming in pain.
“Stop! Stop! Oh god please! No more. No more cutting! Please no more cutting!” He cries out, his voice weak and cracked up. My heart paces quickly, my throat tightening.
The doctor stops, directing me into a dark room. The lights shimmer on, and before be stands some kind of human capsule.
“Please step inside.” The doctor insists.
“Clayton, what the hell is going on?” I ask uneasy. He says nothing. I then turn to the professor. “Isenberg?”
The doctor whispers a few words with the old man, who responds in the same manner, and then nods assuring. “Step into the capsule Sophy.”
I don’t know what to do. I don’t trust any of them.
“Uh, you’ll need to remove the Euphoria as well.” The professor exclaims.
“This is bullshit.” I say, waving my hand, and the nano suit departs from my body, stationing itself next to Clayton.
I step into the capsule, left with no other choice. The roof resembles a giant camera lens, and the floor is coated with sensors. The lights dim to black, only the capsule and I lit within. A blue wave of light beams up from beneath, scanning my body. This occurs for about a dozen seconds. The doctor then pulls up a large holographic monitor, displaying a hollow diagram of my body, but… something isn’t right. Clayton’s eyes widen, the professor consulting with the doctor, but I can’t hear them.
“What’s going on?” I ask irritably.
A speaker activates within the capsule. “Sophy, can you hear me?” the doctor queries.
“Yes… yes I can hear you now.” I reply anxious.
The capsule suddenly scans my body again, this time a wave of green light. The display on the monitor changes.
“Oh my god.” The doctor exclaims, gasping as he studies the monitor. “How is this possible?”
The diagram of my anatomy now displays my organs. I focus in on the picture, and my body runs cold.
“Have you ever seen anything quite like this?” The professor inquires of the doctor.
He shakes his head. “Never. I can’t believe this. How does one develop two hearts? She’s got a second set of kidneys… and look at the fluctuating brain activity! Her cerebral cortex and cerebellum are functioning at unimaginable percentages. And her blood… her blood has been replaced, or rather… evolved into a new fluid. This new stock is distributing double the nourishment and oxygen to the heart, arteries, capillaries, veins… it’s just incredible!”
My body breaks into a cold sweat, tears running down my cheeks. I can feel it all now, my hearts beating simultaneously within my chest. How could this happen to me? Why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve all of this?
“And…” The doctor continues. “Oh my god! Professor are you seeing this?”
Professor Isenberg frowns, his eyes wide at the monitor. “Sophy turn around.”
I rotate, my back now facing them all.
“Now remove your skin suit.” He instructs.
“What?” I question, my face blushing.
“Do it now!” he yells at me.
I shut my eyes, reaching around to the back of my neck, grasping the zipper and sliding it down to my hip line. Grabbing both ends of the collars, I open up the suit, dropping the silky fiber revealing my upper half body.
“Holy shit!” The doctor gasps.
“It’s already begun.” Professor Isenberg exclaims.
I stretch my neck around, turning my head as far as I can, observing my back. The skin is nearly all black, small, sharp ridges running along my spine look like those of a Stegosaurus. I gaze in terror.
“No… no no no.” I say in disbelief. “No this can’t be happening! Professor you have to fix this.”
“Sophy,” the doctor says gently, “I’m afraid this is something that can’t be fixed. The evolution occurring in your body as well as outside is progressing at such an incredible rate, and I don’t understand it at all. There’s just not enough time.”
“Then what the hell am I supposed to do? What’s going to happen to me?” I ask, angrily, zipping up my skin suit. The spikes make the suit feel tighter, and pierce through the fabric as though they’re growing as we speak.
“Sophy I’m afraid you’ll have to remain in the capsule until further study.” Professor Isenberg states, arms crossed.
“The hell I’m staying in here. Get me out of this thing right now! I want to speak with my father. He can fix this.” I say, hands against the glass.
“Oh I’m afraid that’s not possible. It isn’t safe to say you mental state of mind is stable. There will be no outside contact until we’re sure.”
“Sure of what?” I ask.
“Sure we can trust you.” He replies. “Doctor I want her monitored twenty-four seven.”
“Yes sir.” The doctor replies loyally.
“No fuck you professor!” I spit, slamming my hand against the capsule. “You can’t do this to me.”
The professor turns around approaching the capsule. “
Oh I’m afraid I can. You are a danger to human society, possibly carrying a virus that could infect us all, changing us into horrific specimens such as yourself.”
“You son of a bitch!” I snarl.
“Now until I can prove that wrong, you’ll be under my disposal. Good day to you doctor.” He says leaving the room along with Clayton and doctor himself.
I am all alone. Lonelier than on Arcane where at least I had Nicole.
I lay my body down curling up into a ball, and shut my eyes. Thinking back at what the prognosticator preached earlier, I realize that he was right. So far anyway. I am the demon he spoke of. The emission is underway, even as of this moment my body is evolving. Death? Is that next? Am I going to die? My mind goes blank, and sleep takes over.
Two days go by, and not once have I left the capsule. Every now and then the doctor provides me with food, preferably meats of all sorts. They treat me like an animal, and there are no visitors, including the professor. The doctor extracts the information stored within the capsule’s data base and delivers it to Isenberg for further analysis. Reminds me of myself back on Arcane.
Evolution has sped up. My spikes have grown so long and large that they stick out erect from my skin suit. My senses are now enhanced. I can smell, and hear sounds that I shouldn’t be capable of. The veins in my body are black and visible, and I fear my whole body will be overtaken by an entirely new layer of skin within the coming days. I try not to think about it.
Day four begins differently than previous mornings. As I sleep, a smell rushes through my nose, a very sweet smell, perhaps perfume? I can hear breathing and the beating of one’s heart as it pounds hard assumingly from running. Finally I open my eyes, and at the entrance of my quarters is the figure of a little girl. She approaches the capsule, the light within revealing her adorable face. It is the girl from before, the one missing an eyeI sit up, my legs criss crossed.
“Hello.” She says her voice slender.
“Hi there cutie. What are you doing in here?” I ask politely.
“I could ask you the same thing.” She replies with a smile.
Her left eye is covered with a patch.
“There’s something… wrong with me.” I say hesitantly, unsure of exactly how to put it. “What happened to your eye, if you don’t mind me asking?”
Still smiling she says, “A bad man took it.” She points to her patch. “Momma said the doctors still have to work on fixing it, so we’re staying here where it’s safe.”
“That’s probably a good idea.” I say, placing my hand against the glass. I want to hold her, give her a hug and tell her everything’s going to be all right. “What’s your name babe?”
She jumps up and down and says, “You tell me your name first?”
I chuckle. “Promise to tell me yours after?”
She writes a cross over her heart with her finger. “I promise.”
Fair enough. “My name is Sophy, and I’m a scientist. Did you know that I actually helped discover the colony?”
She shakes her head. “I didn’t know that… but I don’t like this place. Momma says it’s dangerous.”
I nod. “Yeah it is, but it didn’t always used to be like this.” Then suddenly, I remember her toy. “Hey, I’ve got a surprise for you, but you’ll have to get it yourself.”
Her eye widens. “Really? What is it?”
I point to the Euphoria placed in the corner of the room. “You see that suit over there? Open up the backpack and look inside.”
The little girl runs over to Euphoria, opens up the pack, and pulls out her stuffed bunny. “Mr. Bubbles! I found you!” She says happily, returning to the capsule. “Thank you for saving Mr. Bubbles. My name is Eona. Nice to meet you.” She places her hand against the glass.
I place my hand back up against the capsule to match hers. “Nice to meet you too. I like your Mr. Bubbles."
"Thank you, and I like your tail.” She replies.