TTC: The Cygnus War, Part 16

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The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #16 (Skeletons) By Earl S. Wynn

Dark dreams brewed and frothed within Tessa’s mind, frantic hands grasping unresponsive control sticks amid swirling visceral duskiness. Someone was talking beyond the haze, an unfamiliar voice that conjured up images of old grandfatherly figures, men with bushy grey eyebrows and thin, bottlebrush mustaches. She reached for it, hazy hands thrust into shadow...

But she caught something else entirely.


Somewhere, on some level, in some misty, forgotten pocket of reality, she managed a smile. Izandra?

You’re in a hospital, Tessa.

The images came flooding back suddenly, images of pulling hard on the flight stick and spinning at incredible speeds through starry darkness. Pain blossomed and writhed through her chest, long throbbing tendrils of agony tensing, threading wickedly through skin and bone– and then the descent gripped her, only half remembered, everything running in cruel fragments, like the broken, strobing frames of an old and abused film. I know. How bad is it?

Bad. Came the answer.

That was one of the nice things about the bond that she and Izandra shared– they were both mildly telepathic, capable of communicating through touch when they concentrated hard enough. Izzy’s thoughts echoed through her mind again. The nurse says it was nothing, but the list of things the nanosurgery units fixed looked more like a donor-bank inventory to me than a damage report.

Tessa tried to laugh. Somewhere, the noise slipped through chapped lips, dry and broken. Just a few cuts and bruises, I’m sure... You worry too much, babe.

Maybe, but look who ended up in the hospital.

Good point. Tessa admitted.

There was a pause, a lapse in concentration that left Tessa floating alone in the swirling void for a split second. Izzy’s thoughts came again, hurried and half dispersed through staticky mental detritus. Rest now. I need to talk to the doctor.

Izzy’s hand slipped away, and the link slammed shut, severed.

- - -

“Lieutenant Copperfield? Thank you for waiting.”

The door closed smoothly behind the doctor, his white labcoat swishing as he and Izzy shared a brief handshake. His eyes seemed strangely cold and aware, iced iron under frozen glass, and yet at the same time they seemed soft, as if the grandfatherly grey bushiness of his hair and eyebrows were capable of softening steel. He spread a notepad ‘puter across his palm, bony fingers calling up Tessa’s file as he pulled in a deep breath.

“Now, I assume that Nurse Harrison already spoke with you about the internal damage the Lieutenant Commander suffered– the cracked ribs, lacerated tissues and organs in the chest cavity, the pooling of blood and vital fluids, the punctured lung...” He gestured, trailing off. Izzy nodded and he continued, slower this time. “Luckily the gravity couch in her fighter managed to keep everything from moving around too much, but there was still some migration of bone shards through sensitive tissues that I’m sure hurt like hell.” He glanced down at Tessa’s comatose form, sprawled inelegantly through sweaty, rumpled sheets. “There were some capillaries and smaller vessels,” he gestured again, vaguely indicating his own chest with a circular motion. “and some smaller, uh, veins that burst under the skin, causing discoloration and bruising... that’s probably all going to stick around for a while, a few days at least, I’d say. Maybe a week.”

Izandra nodded absently, then blinked, trying to clear her head. It just doesn’t make any sense! Before she could speak, the doctor pushed on ahead, gesturing to Tessa with the notepad ‘puter’s lithe black stylus.

“On the whole, it wasn’t anything that I couldn’t fix with this colony’s almost worthless nano-surgery bay, but I wouldn’t recommend letting her fly anything but basic, low G maneuvers for a week or so.” He tapped the stylus against the pad, glancing absently at Tessa for a moment before he turned back to Izzy. “The new tissue is still pretty fragile on the whole.”

Izzy glanced at Tessa. One thing at a time. “How much longer is she going to be out of it?”

“Probably a day or two.” The doctor followed her gaze, eyes lighting on Tessa’s sleeping features. “These are old style medical nanites– they’re designed to secrete molecular chemical factories in the blood that keep the body in a restorative state of sleep until everything is stabilized, at which point they begin the shutdown and breakdown procedures.” He gestured idly with the stylus. “It never takes more than fifty hours.”

“Any idea about what went wrong up there?” Izzy fixed him with a careful, considering gaze. The look she got back in response was all doubt and curiosity. She pushed ahead anyway. “I know Tessa, doctor. She’s not dumb enough to torque a Seindrive to the point where the G’s thrown off by her rig rip her all up inside.”

The Doctor raised his eyebrows at her, then glanced back at his notepad ‘puter. “No, I don’t suppose someone with her standing in the Galactic Naval Division would be.”

Izzy’s tongue stumbled over itself soundlessly. That’s it? Turbulent thoughts boiled through her mind, angry and desperate. Dammit, if you know something, just tell me you worthless old labcoated fart!

“But then, that’s one of the reasons I decided to have the local airframe mechanic give all the systems that affect her Seindrive 4's gravity pattern a once-over inspection.” He glanced at Tessa again. “He actually turned up something interesting.” He paused. Izzy’s face was a hard, expressionless mask restraining need and concern with practiced force.

“Here,” He slipped a thin, thumb-sized disc out of the ‘puter and handed it to her. “It’s his report... pretty exhaustive, but I’m sure the people Earthside would really appreciate this data.”

“I’ve got a console in the tent where they set us up.” She glanced at the disc, then let her eyes dart back to the doctor’s, her gaze suddenly hard with purpose. “I’ll check it out immediately.” I’ve got to get out of here. Her mind was already spinning wildly. I’ve got to see what’s on this disc!

“Actually, there’s uh, one more thing, lieutenant, before you go.” He sucked his teeth uneasily, then rolled up the notepad ‘puter and slipped it back into his labcoat. “I’ve kept it sealed because of... well, because of the nature of it.” He bit his lip. “I mean, I suppose that it technically falls under patient confidentiality... no-one else knows about this, I assume, besides myself and her...” He trailed off, making a futile gesture. Izzy blinked. Spit it out old man! What’s wrong?

“You see,” He breathed a tired, resigned sigh. “There’s... There’s a problem with Lieutenant Eisenherz’s genetic code.”

“A problem?” Izzy blinked again, expression blank. A problem with her Genes? What? Did something mess with her DNA since the last physical!? Ominous thoughts brewed, new forms of Cygnan weaponry, secret Government programs careening through her mind. She silenced them all with an uneasy swallow. “What kind of problem?”

“A tag, a marker.” He began, glancing down at Tessa and pausing thoughtfully. “It’s a very old one... it’s from a Japanese bioengineering zaibatsu that went under about a century ago during the Solomon upheaval back on Earth... It’s a second generation nanogenic crossover-proof tag, an early NCP signature code, the kind designed to cling to extraneous DNA through endless replication and be passed on to any offspring.”

Izzy felt cold. “What are you saying, doctor?” No, no it can’t be. No! Don’t say it, damn you!

“I’m saying that her DNA isn’t exactly kosher.” He sighed, face as tired as his voice. “She’s got a GMO in her lineage, and it shows.”

No way. No freaking way. Izzy fumbled for words. Genetically Modified Organism!? “If anyone finds out....” She trailed off, mind spinning. “If anyone finds out about this, she could lose her commission, doctor!” And I could lose her! Dammit Tessa, why didn’t you tell me? How did you get past all those physicals and medical examinations without someone noticing!?

“I know, I know.” He glanced at Tessa again, bushy brows knitting as concern began to spread across his features. “That’s one of the reasons I’ve kept this under wraps.” His eyes met Izzy’s again. “I’m prepared to destroy the data.”

Izzy glanced at Tessa, studied the lines and curves of her flesh, the smooth skin of her arms, the way the starched white nano-woven fabric of her tanktop seemed to restrain the bulges of her breasts. She bit the inside of her lip, breathed a shaky sigh. Dammit Tessa. It figures you’d have a corporate-engineered gene-freak in your family tree.

“Do it.” Her eyes met the doctor’s again. “Destroy it all. I want Tessa’s secret to stay a secret.”

A single thought came unbidden to her mind.

Nothing so bad ever felt so good.
Full title: The Tessa Chronicles: The Cygnus War #16 (Skeletons)

Author Blurb: ...and the plot thickens like good gravy. *laugh* The next episode is the real killer, though. Don’t miss it!

Progress report: Currently working through 20 and 21. Should be done with both of those within a week or so, depending on schedule. I’ve been writing less and reading more lately, so who knows. (Plus, I’ve got exams and essays up the wazoo!) 20's been a funny one to put together because I have to keep reordering the paragraphs in an attempt to make it flow better. *laugh*

Anyway, this is the sixteenth installment of TTC: The Cygnus War. You can find the previous episode here: [link] The next episode, “Skeletons Part 2” is done and scheduled to be released first thing next Wednesday (November 1st, Pacific time.)
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M4dLeprechaun's avatar
Pfft. Finally we find out what happened, haha.

The mild telepathic link is just awesome, that was new. But poor Tessa! Being all torn up and "having a corporate-engineered gene-freak" in her family tree. Roffle. Aww.

Least the doctor is apparently cooperating.