As promised several seconds ago, here’s another super dramatic episode of Biotech Legacy: Long Fall. This one is Chapter 38: Recombinant.
If you’re just joining 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.
Ready? Good… let’s bring it together.
Marcus Donovan came to consciousness gradually, about as reluctant as a teenager on a winter schoolday. He struggled to open his eyes with muscles that were swollen and torn, past rippling sheets of dried blood.
He hurt all over, and it occurred to him that something had really fucked him up.
When he managed to partially open his left eye, he saw a glowing field of yellow that was almost impossible to focus on.
I’m on the bridge, he thought. I’ve been beaten to a pulp, and I’m on the bridge.
Legacy apologized to him profusely, in a voice so solitary and clear that Marcus almost didn’t recognize it. The rest of the chorus had died away, leaving only the one trembling voice behind.
Not much time left, she told him. Won’t survive the night.
“I know,” Marcus mumbled, and he silently wondered how long that’d been true. He simply hadn’t been willing to admit it before. “You and I are a mess. What else can we do?”
One thing, she said. Just one more thing.
With a rush, the link suddenly ignited and Marcus’ consciousness launched out across the ship. His mind’s eye sped over the remaining structural arm into the factory complex, finally focusing on some object that seemed utterly foreign to him. It had to be nearly five kilometers long, held at the center of the factory’s empty core like the drive shaft of a turbine.
“What is it?” Marcus asked.
Life, she told him. Something new.
He peeked into other bands of light and saw through the thing’s amorphous shell. Inside lay a living body, long and bladelike, with a hundred thousand branching veins like creeping ivy. The shape was similar to Legacy’s primary hull, and Marcus couldn’t help being reminded of the first clear shot he ever got of her. Had it been anymore clear than this back on the Copernicus Observatory? Any less mysterious?
“How didn’t I see if before?”
She said, Blinded your eyes with illusions.
“Bitch,” Marcus whispered. He didn’t mean it, and he hated that he said it.
She didn’t care.
Incomplete, she said. Fetus.
The hollow-drive flickered in his perception. “It needs your heart,” he said.
But she was holding something back. He asked, “What else?”
She held her silence, and Marcus looked back in on the gestating starship… the unborn Yuon Shien that was slowly taking shape. Would she be able to transfer the drive herself, or did he need a crew to get it over. He imagined such things had never been an issue before, since the Eireki could produce new drives for the young creatures. Legacy only had the one.
“I’ll send out a distress signal. They can carry out the operation with MASPECs and tugs.”
The time, she worried.
“It’s the fastest we can manage.”
It will have to do.
Marcus looked to where the smaller starship’s bridge would be, and saw a bundle of nerves whose presence he didn’t recall in Legacy’s anatomy.
“What else does it need?” he asked wearily.
Something new, she repeated. Eireki and Yuon Shien. She said the name of her own kind in a sputtering way, like the fuzzy remembrance of something long forgotten from childhood.
Combination. Marcus suddenly recognized two patterns which were distorted mirror reflections of one another: the Nefrem charged through history forever pure, devouring other life-forms, re-engineering them to strip away all but their most valuable essence, and then enslaving the resulting soulless flesh. The Eireki were their equal and opposite, preserving all life while gently nudging it to evolve toward its best possible form, before finally combining with it as equals.
The Nefrem took what was great from others and wielded it like a weapon. The Eireki bid others to become great and joined with them in harmony.
Marcus sent the command out to the survivors in the field, whom he’d earlier scattered when he thought catastrophic impact was imminent. He outlined how to transplant the hollow-drive, and asked them to guard the child as best they could. He didn’t know how long it would take to complete the process.
When the message was out, he sent his affirmation to Legacy despite a pit of terror howling just beneath his navel. She was somewhat less disturbed, perhaps because of the long years she’d spent learning calm, or maybe because she knew she was about to die either way.
He felt himself float free of the bridge’s synaptic bath, then out through Legacy’s empty tunnels. He watched himself from the outside, and his body was so ripped up and bent that he could hardly recognize himself.
It was an out-of-body experience, he realized with a mental smirk, and it gave him an odd feeling of detachment. Of distance. Marcus could see clearly what it was he was about to give up, how small and fragile it was, how limited in space and time.
He’d already watched his humanity slip away from him day by day, and had witnessed the connections to those around him wither and finally break. The final remaining step seemed a comparitively short one, but it still defied him like an impossibly wide and desolate canyon.
Marcus saw himself blast out of the last transit tube and into the smoke and debris-strewn air inside the factory. Cables and ruined buildings hung from ceiling to floor, mangled and rent into ragged pieces. Marcus was reminded of an airplane cabin that survived a crash, but on a wholly titanic scale.
As he approached the amniotic sack at the center of the factory, a small shaft opened in its surface. Waves of tentative feelings washed over him, welcomed him, beckoned him. He entered and lost track of himself, as Legacy’s senses couldn’t see clearly inside.
“Legacy,” he said quietly into the darkness.
Yes, she replied softly.
“Is this like dying?”
I don’t know, she said. I’ve never died before.
He felt soft walls surround him, throbbing and thumping with warmth and life. Compassionate flesh eased his tortured form, tingled and tickled at the edges of his perception, and yet he was still afraid.
It’s alright to be afraid, she said to him. It’s always alright to be afraid.
And he could swear someone else had told him that once.
Just as long as you remember… that I love you, and that it will always be alright.
In the next installment, stuff really starts to go crazy. Join me back here soon for Chapter 39: Recoil, whose name was one of the rejected titles for the first book. Recycling!
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