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This Charter, Earth:
Book Nine

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Contents:
Ditched
Fresh Starts
Traces
His Master's Scent
Reclamation
Self Examination

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Pursuant to the concerns expressed by Sedna regarding the threat posed by Earth's methane ice deposits, we are investigating the potential of engineering existing fauna to alleviate that hazard. Desired modifications must at least moderate the danger without introducing new issues. Do not enact said modifications without a formal coalition-level environmental impact review. Attached is a database with the statistics for the major methane ice deposit: their locations and the fauna residing there.

Off topic, this is a friendly reminder for contingencies anticipating the surface-walkers' possible extinction as a viable species. Even I have not answered, so there's no shame here. Please be inspired, girls. What do we do if our Charter is crushed and sucked dry?

  • Doris,
    Coalition-Array Mail

Ditched

Rajiv was on his way to the next village when he saw a bit of torn cloth covered with blood and dirt. Looking around, he found more bits, which he gathered as he discovered them. Then he found blood and drag marks. Not good. Not good, he thought to the others as he followed the disturbed soil toward a nearby ditch. A presence fitfully stirred in that direction. There, he found a tragic scene.

A naked woman lay shivering in a losing battle with her wounds, while cold water cascaded over and under passive legs. He climbed down into the ditch and knelt beside her. By her presence, he knew that this beauty was getting far too intimate with death.

Before he dared touch her, he sniffed her breath for the slightest hint of the scent they were told to avoid. He knew from personal experience that the Great Ones had implanted a great many people with monitors that would betray their society. Smelling nothing threatening, he could at least try to help.

He laid both hands on the stab wound between her breasts and sent stingers into her. In addition to the chest wound, her throat was gashed and her presence below her chest indicated a severed spine. A sudden spasm of pain made her moan and he heard her breath erupt from that broad deep cut. He couldn't implant her in the conventional manner, at least not right away. She was cold, but she had stopped shivering during his approach. Rajiv seriously doubted he could save her.

Crying for help, a doctor answered. Looking through Rajiv's eyes at the carnage, the doctor said, "Calm yourself. We can do this. It's a simple matter of addressing priorities in the proper order. First she must not lose any more blood. Here's my prescription for that. Never knew you would be a pharmacy, did you?"

Assured by the doctor's humor, Rajiv laughed as he followed his instructions and more implants followed his initial efforts. As soon as they left the stingers, they drifted with the sluggish currents of blood. They awaited scents unique to their areas of interest within this intricate coral community that was a human body. The implants used chemicals to interact with their host as well as bioluminescence to communicate with nearby implants. Though individually simple, together they acted as their own array in dialogue with Rajiv and through him to the doctor.

Giving the implants some time to take effect, the doctor had Rajiv examine everything. Heavy bruising and seepage indicated she had been gang raped. Rajiv found this more distressing than the slashed throat.

The doctor observed what Rajiv was too distracted to notice, saying, "Ah, the bleeding has stopped. Now we can address her body temperature. Since we can't move her yet, we have to shift her metabolism to accommodate the cold water." Another prescription followed.

Rajiv injected implants that produced hyperoxidant. Her color quickly deepened from deathly grey to black, fascinating him as he watched. Being fresh to his new life, he didn't know they could do that.

His implants reported more problems. The doctor recognized it immediately. He said, "See that? I don't know if her assailants did that or if she hit a rock, but the brain damage must be attended to next. We'll control the swelling and then return her sight."

Another prescription streamed through Rajiv's stingers, targeting her brain. Though they passed through many organs along the way, the implants wouldn't activate until they rushed up the carotid artery and into the cerebrum's capillaries, where the scent of damaged nerve cells triggered them. Some simply released chemicals to counteract the swelling. The others actively attacked the clots or repaired damaged nerves.

"The back needs the same, but with twice as many nerve stitchers," the doctor instructed, and Rajiv changed the targeting for the next batch. Soon after they entered her, their beauty moaned with relief. This time, no air passed through the gash in her throat. That wound had since closed. Seeing this and that her back was restored, the doctor told Rajiv, "It's safe to move that arm from under her and fix the other. Then give her the usual treatment."

Rajiv retracted his stingers and lifted her to free her trapped arm. The doctor helped him make short work of the other arm's dislocation. As he pressed his lips against hers, the doctor's attention wandered elsewhere without so much as giving his name. Both knew that they would know each other, should they someday meet.

As expected, Rajiv felt his chest's sudden congestion. He couldn't help but cough and cough, until his bronchioles cleared of implants. As he had done not so long ago, she swallowed everything. Implants and implant vectors poured into her stomach where some immediately burrowed through the lining or implanted the native stomach bacteria, enlisting them to join in the invasion. A viral infection cascaded through every living human cell, implanting alien organelles and replicating until a new surrogate's array stuttered to life.

As she regained consciousness, a link opened herself utterly to Her, and She whispered secrets great and small into her waters. Then others came to embrace her mind. Two of them were the doctor and Rajiv, but this wasn't an occasion for names — save one.

Her eyes fluttered open and her cracked dry lips smiled with unrivaled joy. She said, "I'm sorry."

Rajiv returned her smile as he said, "I have no doubt you are, dear. Now let's get you cleaned and dressed."

Shaking her head, she said firmly but not unkindly, "I appreciate everything you've done, but I can do that myself, thank you." She did allow him to help her to her feet before she waded into the center of the ditch's stream. She belatedly remembered to introduce herself as she squatted to wash herself, "My name is Sabeeha."

"Mine is Rajiv," he said, pleased to see that her spirits were high. She had quite a day to say the least.

Though admiring, he felt no lust as he watched Sabeeha wash her throat and chest clear of congealed blood and splash away the inconvenient evidence of her gang rape. Now immaculate, she knelt in the water and drank deeply. Reminded of his own thirst, Rajiv drank at the stream's edge.

After she dressed, they embraced while she shivered back to a normal body temperature. No longer on the hyperoxidant, Sabeeha changed her color to preserve the southern complexion it had briefly given her. Until they purchased replacements, she didn't want to chance a meeting with her husband, as herself, while wearing torn bloody clothes.

Once dressed, Rajiv helped Sabeeha up the road's side of the ditch. She ducked back down, hissing, "My husband! I think he saw me!" Thinking quickly, she said as she tugged off her clothes, "Strip."

Trusting her judgment, he complied though he had to ask, "Why?"

Sabeeha explained, "He may recognize me despite my color, but he's a very proper gentleman. If he saw a man and woman making love, he would turn away and leave."

Outraged, Rajiv stopped stripping and almost shouted between them, "Now, wait a minute!"

She rolled her eyes and explained, "We only need to seem we are. I may have been raped, but I'm still my husband's wife. Simply act as if we are joined."

"That's a relief," he said and quickly explained to her raised eyebrows, "No offense, but I'm not that easy, Sabeeha."

They were laughing by the time they felt her husband's presence peer over the ditch's edge. They looked quite the happy couple in intimate embrace. As Sabeeha expected, he quickly looked away before he could recognize her, and quietly hurriedly away. They relaxed, feeling his presence dwindle with distance.

As they dressed, he asked out of curiosity, "What are your plans after we get you decent clothes?"

"I'll go home, cook dinner, see my little boy and my big boy to bed, and then bring them in."

Rajiv knew what Sabeeha meant by 'bring them in'. After all, that was what She wanted, so that's what they did for Her. In this case he supposed she had no choice, other than abandoning them. The way she was now, she couldn't stay. Not unless she wanted to bring her whole village in. That was too... conspicuous. Conspicuous simply wasn't what they were.

Sabeeha smiled sweetly, adding, "Then I'll find my attackers."

A look of horror lit his face as he pleaded, "Please don't bring them in! Our society doesn't want that sort linked with the rest."

"Of course not, Rajiv! I may be new, but I'm not a fool."

"What are you going to do?" he asked, morbidly imagining everything from emasculation to tearing them limb from limb.

Sabeeha smiled with anticipation as she absently scratched the slight scar on her throat. She said, "I expect that all I'll have to do is pass each one in the street and look them in the eyes. They'll do the rest to themselves."

Meanwhile, Sabeeha's husband wandered off feeling a little embarrassed, but content. The woman's silhouette resembled his wife from a distance, but she was much fairer than the dark woman he saw enjoying her handsome man. He was pleased they didn't see him. It was always a pleasure to see such happy people without disturbing them. What he couldn't understand was why the air was so thick with floral scents when few flowers bloomed this time of year.

Fresh Starts

Read This Charter, Earth, available through most online vendors (see, Where to Buy)

Traces

Read This Charter, Earth, available through most online vendors (see, Where to Buy)

His Master's Scent

Read This Charter, Earth, available through most online vendors (see, Where to Buy)

Reclamation

Karen walked into Marty's room dressed like a doctor. Marty saw only a movement from the corner of his eye. It was too early in the day to check his respirator and change him. Even as depressed as he was, his curiosity was roused when he heard the door close behind his visitor. He had assumed it was a nurse on rounds or bringing flowers. He must have been in really bad shape. He wasn't even dead yet and it smelled like the florists had gone berserk in his room. Marty's eyes widened when he saw his girlfriend from the other ward bend over him. She must have changed her perfume. She never smelled like that before.

Neither had she visited before, nor walked for that matter. Yet there she stood. He could have sworn he heard that they had discharged her so that she could spend her last days at home. Though she looked as gaunt as ever, her color was strangely healthy. As a matter of fact, he had never seen her look healthy until now. They met in this hospital — both terminally ill.

She smiled down at him, laying a hand on his chest as she said, "Hi, Marty. My, you look awful. I guess you've noticed I'm doing better. Actually, more than better." Her smile grew mischievous, as she continued, "Soon, so shall you." She glanced at his bed's readouts and stung him. Marty would have sighed if he could. The pain was vanishing.

Karen shook her head, saying, "I'm afraid I'm getting ahead of myself." Pointing at his bed, she explained, "This is monitoring you. Your vitals must be stabilized so that we can affect the change without exciting the central desk. Otherwise, they might interrupt us before you are ready to leave."

She saw his eyes widen and giggled, "Yes. You are leaving. Through the front door, I might add, and I'm not carrying you. I've even brought extra clothing. See?" Karen showed him a bundle she carried under her other arm.

"Sounds mad, huh?" she asked rhetorically as Marty vaguely felt more stingers slink and burrow deep into his insides. Somehow he fancied he could almost see what those long hollow threads were doing as she continued, "I would have agreed yesterday. We have some time, while I work, for me to tell you about it." She stared for a moment as if she were listening to instructions and looked up at his intravenous feed. She said, "The medications have to go, but I'll increase the fluids and nutrients. You'll need them both." Karen retracted her stingers and manipulated his external plumbing with strangely practiced hands. She pulled the medications' connections and draped their tubing over what he had come to see, these past few days, as his scaffold. Marty watched her increase the drip for the rest.

Returning to his side, her stingers reentered his body as she told him her story: "They had me neatly tucked in my own bed at home. I was glad to be out of the hospital, for the change in scenery and certainly for the smell. It certainly couldn't have hurt me any more than I already hurt. My being home was more for my parents' comfort than my own. They took turns watching over me. It was a deathwatch with no certain agenda. I could have gone in an hour or a week, but I was going and they could only watch. They were terrified that they might miss the chance to offer some comfort and a final farewell.

"Then came Aunt Eory. I heard my parents greeting her with surprise. A frequent invalid, she seldom traveled, so it was a special occasion whenever she appeared. As for me, I only resented having one more set of eyes watching me breathe. Sure enough, they came in and consulted like doctors. Well, in my shape, laypersons and quacks would have done me as much good as the finest doctor.

"Aunt Eory laid a hand on my parents' shoulders, saying, 'You both need rest. Sleep. I shall wake you if she takes a turn for the worst.' To my surprise, they both yawned, though they were fresh a moment before. They left for their bedroom as my aunt turned to me to start her deathwatch — or so I thought.

"Instead, she bent over me, touching me as I touch you, and whispered, 'My dear, I see you have a problem.' Though I barely notice it now, I imagine I smell like she did.

"One thing I remember about my aunt's hands in the past was that they were always cold and stiff. This time, they were warm and subtle. Neither did they shake, as when last we met. The dried, deeply wrinkled face over mine smoothed as if a lifetime fell away. Even her dark moles and liver spots vanished like smoke. I must have looked quite startled because she said, 'There is nothing to fear, my dear. I have been blessed, and now so shall you.'

"She gently eased me away from pain and death, as I am with you. A haze gathered and lifted. She lifted her lips from mine — though I don't remember kissing. My mind touched our mutual benefactor's and she filled me with the mystery of our better part. Then her mind parted like a curtain and beyond I felt an inundation of hundreds of thousands of minds, including Aunt Eory, embracing mine with joy. In that moment, I knew I'd never be afraid again because I would never be sick or alone.

"My parents awoke to find me standing at the foot of their bed. I asked, quite innocently, 'Where is Aunt Eory?' though I knew she had left with her renewed youth and some of my clothes to see new lands and new people. Gone, but never again out of touch.

"'It's a miracle!' my parents cried, forgetting Eory and embracing me with almost as much joy as I felt inside. She and the others were telling me who I was now and what I could do, as she and they tell you now." The last bit she did not say, because her lips were occupied, but somehow he heard.

"I'm sorry," Marty whispered after their lips parted. Soon his color improved. He grinned as he said without a word, "I suppose we can go now."

"Yes," she agreed, kissing him again. Some new sensation told him that she was excited about more than their clandestine departure.

Marty raised an arm, clenching a fist experimentally as he asked, "So, how do we get out without inconvenient questions, such as: 'Why aren't you dying?'"

She stifled a giggle, "I know. Silly isn't it? Well, for starters you and I can talk to the hackers among us about convincing this stupid bed that you're still in it."

They walked out as two consulting doctors, discussing something deeply medical in the profession's gibberish. Doctors and nurses, hearing their conversation in passing, noticed nothing to imply they were anything other than well-seasoned specialists. Both had shifted the hues their complexions and aged their skin so no one could possibly recognize them as former patients.

Self Examination

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© Copyright 1993 - William F. Prine. All rights reserved under United States copyright law and international copyright treaties. Do not reproduce without prior approval.

© Derechos de Autor 1993 - William F. Prine. Todos los derechos reservados conforme a de la ley derechos de autor de Estados Unidos y los tratados internacionales de copyright. No reproducir sin autorización previa.