Happy Tuesday, my fine feathered friends. This afternoon, we’re jumping into the fourteenth chapter, called Two Aspirin.
If you’re not caught up on Biotech Legacy: Long Fall, you can find all of the preceding chapters right here at the Oktopod Blog.
The previous novel, Biotech Legacy: Stars Rain Down, is currently available exclusively through Amazon.
Have a seat. Get comfortable. Ready? Let’s go.
Jack awoke in a soft white bed, shivering despite being perfectly warm. His upper body was tilted up, and he was neatly tucked beneath a pair of sheets that felt like cotton. They felt like expensive cotton, in fact, and didn’t smell even slightly of a pack animal or small family.
He wasn’t aware that sheets like that existed anymore.
He heard an echo that wouldn’t go away, and felt a panic that had become strung out and desperate.
The room was a long bay furnished with a half-dozen identical beds, whose occupants were enjoying various levels of discomfort. Some were groaning, one appeared to be throwing up, and the last was blissfully slumbering away, ignorant of the extensive burns covering his body, and what looked like some kind of artificial leg.
Jack had a splitting head-ache, and his whole body felt like a rung-out dish towel. His eyes burned a little and his cheeks were moist. They felt cool in the slight draft.
The echo churned on and on.
He moved his left arm and felt a bit of pressure on it, which turned out to be an IV attached at the inside of his elbow. The other end of it disappeared into the wall, leaving him wondering what was being pumped into him exactly. Whatever it was, he wished it would start working already.
A woman in a bright blue labcoat walked in. She was maybe a decade older than him, so skinny that her coat seemed to hang empty, and wearing a pair of sunglasses that Jack found unusual for being whole and unbroken. She glanced at the other patients as she walked by them, but her focus was clear.
“Good morning, Mr. Hernandez,” she said. She had a French accent so light that she must have spent her adult life in North America. Maybe Boston. “My name is Juliette St. Martin, and I’m head of medical here aboard Legacy. How are you feeling?”
The echo throbbed, Jack’s head pounded and he winced. “Bad,” he said, his voice choked up. “Like someone… pried my skull open. Left the pry bar behind when she was done.”
The doctor made a note on a strange looking tablet, and her eyes studied him intensely. That turned into a problem. Jack suddenly felt like a sample in a petri dish and it made him intensely uncomfortable. Memories of his captivity started to roll in just a little too quick, then they chained together and began to steamroll him. A hundred days of torture shot through his brain all at once.
He was sweating. Hyperventilating. The echo wouldn’t shut up.
He never could tell what was going to trigger one of these episodes. Those memories should be unimportant considering what he’d just been through, but they still had the power to knock the air out of his chest.
Calm swept over him like a splash of cold water, and he assumed the IV was to thank. The feeling didn’t last, though.
“Mr. Hernandez, are you still with me?” the doctor asked.
“Sorry,” he said reflexively. His rib-cage was heaving.
She smiled warmly. “No need to apologize. I can see you’re suffering. That’s not your fault.”
Her sympathy tasted of bullshit. His skin crawled, and he noticed his hands were shaking. “What do you have me on?” he asked, giving a glance at the IV.
“Fluids, blood thinners, anti-inflammatories, and…”
Her silence drifted across the room.
Jack bared his teeth and asked, “And what, Doctor?”.
“We call them omnibodies,” she said. “Engineered antibodies. They’re symbiotic biotech organisms that fight infections, help repair damage, and generally take care of… us… on a microscopic scale.”
“You’re being a little fucking coy.”
She glanced to the side. “They’re Legacy’s antibodies.”
Jack growled. He reached across himself using his other scarred hand, and tore the IV from his arm. He felt sick to his stomach.
“I understand you’re upset, Mr. Hernandez.”
“You don’t understand shit,” he said beneath his breath. Indignance rose up in his chest, lifted unsteadily on his fluttering despair.
“It’s important for you to understand that this was an unexpected and unintended event, Mr. Hernandez… Jack, you’re the first human Legacy has ever succesfully made contact with. The rest of us are deaf to her, but not you. There is something different about you.”
The muscles of his chest tightened. “You don’t fucking understand,” he repeated in a quaking voice.
She took a deep breath. “I won’t pretend to know how you feel, but I’m confident it will pass with time,” she said. “The mind has an amazing ability to heal, to cope…”
“You just don’t get it,” Jack said, and he choked out a bitter laugh. “This ship… your fucking beast just mauled the shit out of my brain.” Tears raced from his eyes. “That thing was inside…”
His voice vanished.
The walls shrank in on him.
Jack tried to breathe. Just breathe. He closed his eyes and searched inside himself for a quiet space, something that remained still even as the rest was turning to pandemonium. Something that was always there, waiting, watching, and calm.
He opened his eyes and exhaled, then climbed out of the very nice bed. His bare feet touched a floor that was body warm and rubbery. “Get out of my way,” he said to the doctor.
She didn’t budge.
Jack turned slightly, lowered his chin to his shoulder. His fingers curled into jittery fists.
“As difficult as it may seem right now, I’d advise you to stay,” she said, wholly uncowed. “This facility is shielded from Legacy’s broadcasts, but the second you step outside…”
The end of her sentence fell silent, both brilliant and insidious in its unspoken threat. “That’s such fucking bullshit,” Jack said on the edge of shouting. “Bullshit.”
He turned and punched the wall. The strange material soaked up his strike with a thud, soft as a throw pillow.
He wanted to break something but there was nothing around. There wasn’t a single god damned thing to grab, to throw against the wall, to smash into bits.
There was nothing around him but this prison, a slightly paler shade of totally fucked than the last one.
He struck the wall with his forehead and turned as his knees gave way. He shrank into the corner, burying his face in his knees, gripping the back of his skull with both hands, and trying as hard as he possibly could to disappear.
He tried and failed to disappear.
And there’s my R-rating (so to speak)… as if all the killing, dismembering, and torture wasn’t already enough, I just had to add Strong Language to the list. What’s left? Sexually suggestive puppet play?
Next on deck is Chapter 15: Apex Predator, which will be coming your way quite quickly.
Copyright 2013. All rights (currently) reserved.