- Descendants: LA #25 – Merchandise Driven Part 1
- Descendants: LA #26 – Merchandise Driven Part 2
- Descendants: LA #27 – Merchandise Driven Part 3
- Descendants: LA #28 – Troubled Production Part 1
- Descendants: LA #29 – Troubled Production Part 2
- Descendants: LA #30 – Troubled Production Part 3
- Descendants: LA #31 – Troubled Production Part 4
- Descendants: LA #32 – Troubled Production Part 5
- Descendants: LA #33 – The Sixth Ranger Part 1
- Descendants: LA #34 – The Sixth Ranger Part 2
- Descendants: LA #35 – The Sixth Ranger Part 3
- Descendants: LA #37 – The Sixth Ranger Part 5
Sometimes the superhero lie didn’t play out anything like Felix expected.
Like how his best friend, who may as well be his brother brought home a girl he liked, who also happened to be a descendant with some major issues with her powers manifesting. Or how he’d then discovered that the pills D3I set her up with were actually making her condition worse.
Ramona Getty was an odd fit with the rest of the group. She got on well with Ray, though the weird situation seemed to have killed any romantic feelings between the two as far as Felix could tell. She just kind of… accepted that they were superheroes who went out and fought monsters (or as Josh and Icthiani might call them ‘wildlife’) from another world. As long as she didn’t have to go out into the line of fire, she was content to help out around the apartment: cleaning, playing study buddy, occasionally being nurse to his doctor when someone needed patching up.
Her… condition, however remained in the forefront of all things Ramona though. She was a metamorph of some kind. The vagueness wasn’t just thanks to Felix not knowing all the official taxonomy for descendants, but because she never actually finished a metamorphosis.
Every so often, her body would try to process itself into a semi-fluid silicate whose makeup Felix was yes to locate on any materials database (even the ones he could technically got to jail for decades snooping around) she called ‘glass’. From the sounds she made when it happened, it hurt. And it was dangerous if the wrong parts changed while the rest of her remained traditionally organic.
‘Traditionally organic’ was a term Felix was starting to learn thanks to researching aberrant descendant physiology. Apparently Ramona wasn’t the only person made of a silicate: there was a teenager in Arizona who was made of rock, and Sonia Remington, the famous model, famously had skin that was partly a flexible silicate-carbon mesh.
That would be weird, but he lived with two elves, one of whom had a demon…er… written all over her body.
Weird he could deal with. He could even deal with being pigeonholed into the role of team doctor just because he was smart and had seen more doctors in his life than anyone else. Internet classes were a wonderful thing. But really, it was the awkward moments that Ramona’s situation in particular lent itself too.
Like that very moment, for instance. Ramona was laying before him on the examination table was the big, clunky semi-ring of his cobbled together total imaging suite slowly made its way past her calves on its way down past her toes.
As was the routine, she was there to be scanned just like every Tuesday or Thursday as Felix endeavored to see how her most recent treatment was progressing. As always, he’d instructed her to wear something light so it wouldn’t interfere in the scan, and so she’s be more comfortable under the hot lights.
And, as always, she wore that damn white cotton sun dress. And the lights were very strong.
Not that he was looking. He wasn’t a saint, but he also wasn’t the kind o guy to take advantage of the situation just to get an eye-full. But apparently, No one had given Ramona the memo, as the entire time, she would watch him to see if his eyes strayed anywhere they weren’t supposed to and she’d grimace if she thought they had.
For the moment, he had his eyes on the laptop connected to the various diagnostic equipment in the room and across the hall in his lab. The swab he’d taken from inside her mouth and tear ducts were showing the same result as her blood: elevated level of exotic silicates.
He must have shown something on his face because Ramona asked, “It doesn’t look good, does it?”
Felix scratched the side of his neck, wishing he could lie. He looked over the laptop’s screen to meet her gaze. The signs of the progression were already prominent: her nails had been fully converted by the time she came to live with them, but now her hair looked pure white. Except it wasn’t white, it was just how an aggregate of clear strands seemed to look in the light, the same way a polar bear’s did. She’d confirmed that every hair on her body was now sprouting in the form of ‘glass’ strands.
“You didn’t have any attacks this week though,” he mumbled, half-heartedly. “The newest mix uses a number of active ingredients that have been shown to inhibit shapeshifting, so there’s that.”
Ramona turned her head, squinting as she faced the full force of the lights. “What’s the count?”
He was quiet a while and said, “Up point-five three percent.”
“That’s more than it’s been up in weeks.”
“I know. And the scans are showing more progressive conversion in your muscle and fat tissues and in the sub-dermal layers of the skin. I haven’t gotten the renders back on your skeletal scan back but… Ramona,” He wet his lips, knowing this was going to be a hard conversation, “If I switch you to another treatment, the attacks could come back. Your body might morph and… and form a jagged shard in your hear or convert you lungs so you can’t breath. I’m not your doctor, but I think it’s time we discussed the super-real possibility that there’s no way…”
Ramona let out a growl. “I don’t want to hear this, Felix!”
“…to stop this. You have to hear this, Ramona. Look, I’m not an actual doctor, okay? And even actual doctors can’t really ‘cure’ metamorphs and protomorphs. They can help control the change, they can inhibit it a little, but… but twenty years ago, there was nothing on this, no data. I’m working on… like fringe science here and I’m basically playing with your life to do it!”
Running his fingers nervously through his short hair, Felix rolled his computer seat back away from the counter adjacent to the exam table. “Look, we can keep you on the current mix. It’ll slow things down and stop the attacks.”
“Or…?” Ramona asked.
“There’s really not an ‘or’ here, ‘Mona. I got something to work out of seven million drug cocktails run through my systems. There’s no telling how long it would take to find another. That, and it could take weeks to pinpoint exactly what it’s doing to stop the attacks.”
Ramona grunted her displeasure while swinging her legs over the edge of the exam table. She sat there, almost doubled over, staring at her translucent, whitish nails. “I can’t paint these anymore.” Felix wasn’t sure if she was even talking to him; her tone seemed so far away.
“Nail polish won’t stick to it. Dye won’t stay in my hair either: I have to wear wigs to class now. What am I going to do if I turn into some kind of glass freak?”
There was a speech Felix thought he might be giving right then: about how hundreds of thousands of protomorphs put up with their changes every day; how a lot of them had to go through having that change coincide with high school where their peers were the more cruel and merciless. He could talk about how at least she wasn’t alone like all the kids whose parents dumped them off on some fly-by-night ‘school’ to get them out of the house, how in other countries, she might be conscripted or worse.
But he wasn’t that kind of guy either. Instead, he left his station and came around to sit on the table next to her. “I’m not gonna lie to you, ‘Mona. It might be hard. People are gonna stare and maybe even pick on you and it’s not gonna be fun.” He made a show of flexing his own artificial hand at that. “Then there’s the people who are just really curious. They think it’s okay, but all it really does is make you feel like some curiosity or part of a sideshow.”
“Is this supposed to make me want this to happen?”
“No, I’m just getting to my point,” Felix defended. “Okay, so all of that is crap and you can’t really keep that from happening. But then, you’ll come back here and we’re not gonna do any of those things. No matter who else makes this hard for you, you’re gonna have people who’re there for you. Who care.” He fidgeted uncomfortably and then added out of obligation to his brother, “Especially Ray. He brought you here to get help and we’re still gonna help you.”
He gave her and awkward, sidelong look. “A-and if he hadn’t… you might’ve died, ‘Mona. D3I seriously messed your body chemistry up with that treatment—I’m not making anything up when I say your ‘attacks’, could have killed you. Manifestations aren’t meant to be suppressed like that.”
There wasn’t much to indicate any of that had sunk in, as Ramona continued staring at her nails.
“I just don’t want to be this way. I-I don’t know what I’m going to become when it’s over.”
That struck a chord. She was going to get some of the speech after all.
Turning to look at her straight on, Felix scowled a little. “None of us wanted to be this way, Ramona. Sure, I’m cool with it now, but when you’re in junior high and you just lost your mom and all everyone cares about is that part of you is made of ceramics and plastic, it has kind of an impact! But I found a way, okay? It wasn’t easy even with Ray and his dad having my back, but I learned about how these— ” he raised one arm and kicked a leg out for emphasis, “–worked and I made friends who didn’t care about this stuff and got some therapy and I’m happy now, okay?”
He rubbed the side of his face. “Or think about ‘Ani… or Josh. They’re not even actual humans. They’re adjusting though… ‘Ani a bit slower than Josh, but hey. What I’m saying here is ‘human’ is who you are, not what you’re made of. Once you change, you’re still going to be Ramona… um, I forget your middle name… Getty. Do you really think trading carbon for silicon is gonna make that big a difference?”
Not that he’d expected her to immediately leap up and grab life with both hands, but Felix had at least hoped to avoid another awkward silence.
Which he now found himself experiencing.
He sighed and faced forward again, pressing at his eyes with the heels of his hands. What exactly could he tell her? That it was pretty cool being a cyborg? Well duh, but she wasn’t becoming a cyborg. She was becoming… actually, he wondered about that: none of the other bio-silicate descendants seemed to have much in common and none of them was becoming a semisolid.
“Look…” Ramona saved him from his thoughts, “we know what you gave me the other day stopped the attacks. Can’t we just come back to that if the attacks start up again?”
“I have no idea if that would work. I’m gonna tell the truth here: we should not be doing this at all. It’s human testing for one and for another, I’m not even a doctor! I’m taking internet courses and stuff, but I don’t have a medical license or even half an idea what I’m doing past what my simulations and analysis tell me might work.”
He hung his head. “The next one might make the progression worse and then you’ll hate me. Or it might trigger a bigger attack and you might die. Don’t you get it, ‘Mona? You might die over this. I don’t care if you’re going to turn into a werewolf or a gillwoman or something—it’s not worth it if it might kill you!”
Ramona ran her fingers roughly through her hair. “I know that, okay? I’m not stupid and I’m not suicidal. That doesn’t mean I’m not scared though.” She searched for a better way to put it and finally arrived at: “Think of it like you’re on a plane that’s going to crash. Maybe you’ve got a parachute, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to just jump out of the plane… especially if you’re not completely sure the plane is crashing.”
Once more, Felix glanced at her and tried to see things from her perspective. No one had asked him if he wanted his critically damaged limbs removed. They’d just told him he’d be getting prosthetics. And then it was only a few short years later that he discovered the joys of modding said prosthetics. It was illegal, yes, but it was still an option.
“I…” he started slowly, “guess my situation isn’t really the same as yours, is it? In a way, I’m kinda asking you to give up and stop fighting what’s going on with you and that’s not really fair.”
“You’re just looking out for me,” Ramona mumbled. “Thank you for that. I don’t sound all that grateful right now, but… thanks.”
“No problem.” Felix waved her off. “This can’t be easy, no matter what I say and even if I had concrete information for you to work with. I’m just sitting here asking you to trust me while I’m pretty much doing the ‘leap of faith’ thing myself.”
Both were quiet for a few minutes, the only sounds in the room being the fan in Felix’s laptop and the ventilation to the room running.
Eventually, Ramona spoke up. “So…”
“What are we going to do?”
Felix frowned and shrugged. “I guess that’s up to you, but I really think you should give the current drug combination one more week. We’ve only been giving each of these a week and that seemed to be fine since metamorphic metabolisms and cell generation are accelerated, but most medical studies go on months or even weeks. There’s a chance you’ll reach some kind of equilibrium we can work backwards from.”
It took another few moments of hemming and hawing before Ramona finally nodded. “Alright. One more week. But if I’m still… changing… we pull the plug and try something else.”
Deal.” Felix slid off the table and went over the cooler where he kept the preparations of the different drug combinations. Ramona watched as he tapped the four-digit code into the touchscreen on the door. The cooler opened and he extended the bottom-most tray of ampules. “Candidate 11354-B09,” he declared absently as he extracted one.
From weeks of listening to him, Ramona recalled that the initial numbers was the number of simulation his computer ran that suggested the candidate was safe and likely to have an effect on her condition. The ‘B’ designation was the number of the actual, physical batch he’d made in the order in which they were trying them. The next in line would be B10.
When Felix returned to her, he was armed with a hypospray loaded with the ampule, a pair of surgical cloves and a packaged alcohol swab. Placing the hypospray and the swab on the counter next to his laptop, he pulled on the gloves. “We’ll watch this very closely, alright? And I’ll use the data from today to refine my list of candidates since this at least stopped the attacks.”
Ramona nodded silently and watched as he gently cleaned the injection site, then picked up the hypospray. With a hiss, the injection was painlessly administered via high pressure liquid jet.
“Alright,” Felix said, offering a crooked smile, “we’re done for the day.”
With another small nod, she slid off the table. “Do you need any more help down here?”
He shook his head. “Nah, I’m going to head back up to my room and get some class reading done before we go out and hit the club tonight? You coming? It’ll be fun—I’ve almost but not completely convinced ‘Ani to give it a try, so if you go, that means it’d be the first time all of us actually went out and did something together.”
That earned him a surprised look.
“What? You’re actually one of us. We eat together, hang out sometimes—that’s what counts, ya know?”
At length, Ramona offered him a small smile and nodded. “I’ll see how I’m feeling later, but going to a club would be nice.”
“Sweet!” Felix smiled toothily while discarding his gloves, the alcohol swab and the spent ampule. “I think it’ll do you good too. Is there anything I can do for you before I head up?”
She shook her head. “No, thanks. And I’m sorry for putting all this on you.”
“Hey, what are not-doctors for?” Felix asked, then left the room.
As it happened, Felix got very close to convincing Icthiani to go with the others to the club. At the last minute, however, Lidia explained to her what a ‘club’ was and how it had nothing to do with going out and clubbing small, dangerous creatures to prevent infestations and everything to do with loud music, dancing and drinking.
That ensured that the elf princess stayed home that night while everyone else, Ramona included, went out.
It was around three in the morning when the group returned, all happy, drunk and happily drunk.
All but one.
As everyone went to their rooms for the night, Ramona made her way downstairs to the infirmary. After weeks of watching Felix tap in his code, she remembered the sequence by heart. The cooler door popper into a slightly ajar position and she pulled it the rest of the way, revealing five stacked trays. She pulled out the bottom tray and started down at the neat rows of ampules, each with label running up the side.
Her eyes roamed over the labels until she found what she was looking for: 17955-B10.
“Sorry Felix,” she said in a whisper as she picked out the little vial, “But I can’t wait another week.”
It took another short while to locate the hypospray and load it with the ampule. She didn’t bother with the alcohol swab and instead just pressed the tip of the device to the same general place Felix had on her arm. Taking a deep breath, she pulled the triggering mechanism.
There was a hiss.
And then the pain began.
To Be Continued…