- 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
Felix wheeled himself into the infirmary. He’d found he slept better without his prosthetic legs, so when the alarms started, he wasn’t wearing them and opted not to take the time to put them on. Through arm power alone, he had reached the elevator almost at the same time Ray had.
They’d ridden down together and in silence. They both had their suspicions what caused the med bay alarms to trigger and were too worried and nauseous over what they might find to say anything aloud.
Ray still got into the infirmary proper first. As Felix pushed himself inside, he heard Ray saying Ramona’s name, telling her to hold on. He couldn’t see either of them, but soon enough Ray shouted to him for help from over by the refrigerators.
There was hardly any need to, but Felix made himself round the examination table. Sure enough, there was Ray, kneeling over a convulsing Ramona. She looked awful; her hair had all turned white-clear and the surface of her skin looked as if it were tightly wrapped in plastic. Her normal olive skin tone was fading, leaving clear views of red and blue veins.
There was a hypospray on the floor next to her, the indicator light on the side informing the world that the ampule inside was spent.
“Get her up on the table.” His inner doctor took charge as Felix reversed course and made his way over to the control console for the exam table.
Ray tried to comply, but on his first try, he got hold of Ramona’s arm and it bent, bonelessly and unnaturally, out of his shocked grasp. “What the ll is happening to her?” A gurgle answered him as Ramona herself tried to say something. It was only then that he noticed with mounting horror that she was conscious.
“She tried to take a dose of a new drug compound right after I gave her a second dose of he old one.” As he spoke, Felix booted up the table and prepped his diagnostic tools. Somewhere out in the hall, he heard the elevator ding. Another of their friends was on the way.
He continued with his explanation, “I don’t know exactly what’s happening yet, but the two drugs might be reacting, the new one might have triggered one of her attacks… hell we might have cross some sort of threshold when it comes to her powers and it’s her body itself that’s reacting. I’ve never read anything about someone repressing their manifestation for over a year.”
Finally managing to gather Ramona up in his arms, Ray managed to lay her down on the table. By the time he did, he could make out the shadows of muscle structures under her skin. He stepped back to avoid the sensor ring of the table, but couldn’t bring himself to stop staring.
It looked like she was melting. Her bone structure was almost indiscernible through her glossy, increasingly transparent skin, and said skin was collapsing over the muscle.
Josh reached the door with Lydia right behind him. Ray made out one more shadow out in the hall that was almost certainly Icthiani. “What’s going… out my.” Josh backed away upon seeing the condition Ramona was in and thrust out an arm to keep Lydia from coming any closer.
He looked to Ray. “What manner of creature did this to her? Was it something from our world?”
“Something from ours,” Felix said, mounting anger in his voice, “D3I are the ones that put this idea that she could prevent her manifestation in the first place. Now look at her.” Then he blinked, coming back to himself. “Er… or don’t. Look, you guys probably shouldn’t be here.”
“I’m not leaving.” Ray folded his arms. “There’s got to be something I can do to help, right? Especially since you don’t have your legs and…” he swallowed a lump in his throat, “Ramona’s usually the one doing the nurse role.”
He met Felix’s eye and his best and oldest friend couldn’t bring himself to argue. “Fine. But the rest of you need to get out of here. You don’t need to see this. I don’t think she’d want you to see her like this.”
Josh nodded and it only took a gentle hand on Lydia’s arm to steer her away as well. The shadow Ray had seen remained in the hall even as the other two retreated to the elevator.
As far as Felix could tell, Ramona must have been holding back to keep the others from seeing, because almost as soon as the elevator dinged to indicate it was headed back up, her abdomen twisted in ways a normal human couldn’t have survived and she scrambled to roll onto her side, a stream of blood and bile spewing from her throat.
Ray stepped back before any of it could her him, looking struck dumb by the harrowing scene before him. “Jesus…” he muttered.
Back at the console, Felix paused in watching the scan to pull the cover off a red button nearby and pound it with his palm. The infirmary door instantly slammed shut and locked. The vents started to hum as filters slid into place and they went on containment ventilation.
“Ray, third cabinet to the right.”
“Ray!” Felix shouted to get his friend to snap out of his shock. “You said you wanted to help and now I really need your help. Third cabinet to the right?”
Moving as if in the dream, Ray turned to comply. “What am I getting?”
Felix leaned over to look past the console at the bloody puddle next tot he table, which Ramona added to again even as he watched. “Biohazard suits.”
“I’m thinking a lot of things, Ray, but we have to act according to the worst one, okay? I can’t do anything until I’m sure it’s safe to get near her.” He looked at the console, surprised in a small fashion that Ramona was still alive at all. She was still moving, still throwing up, and very much showing brain waves, but the sensor ring wasn’t picking up respiration, heart rate, or the function of most of her organs. Plus, her body temperature had spiked to one hundred and thirty degrees and was falling precipitously.
Back in his right mind, Ray tore over to the cabinets and got out the two suits.
Felix bit his lip, watching Ramona throw up something that wasn’t entirely liquidous. “Put yours on first, okay? Then you’re going to have to helm me get into mine.”
It was a frustratingly long process that made Felix wish he had slept with his legs on. The whole time, Ramona was spitting up worse and worse things and he could tell that Ray was feeling the same guilt as he felt that neither of them could come close to her to comfort her. The room smelled like an abattoir by the time Felix finally got his breathing hood on and was able to maneuver closer.
But not very close. There were no hazmat booties for wheelchair wheels and by then, the right side of the exam table was surrounded by a pool of blood and meat. He had to take the long away around to approach Ramona from the left.
Coming close to her, he was taken aback by what he saw. From across the room, much of her was hidden by her robe and what wasn’t, particularly her face, was obscured by drying blood and phlegm. Up close, he could see patches of flesh—or rather glass. Her skin had become completely transparent, as had everything beneath. There was no differentiation between the two anymore. He couldn’t see veins or arteries anymore, just little lines of blood suspended in space with no muscles or bones or fat to be seen, even in outline.
With great effort, Ramona turned over to face him, her face made into a macabre mask, not just from where she’d been throwing up, but from the network of dried lines of blood, marred by what seemed to have been a miniature river of tears.
Underneath all that, however, her face—teeth and eyes included—were now clear glass.
It was then that Felix realized what happened—and exactly what was on the floor around the examination table. “Oh man…” he murmured. Feeling extremely stupid for doing so, he still asked, “How are you feeling, ‘Mona?”
She shuddered, then opened her mouth to speak. What came out was a high, piercing tone like what one would hear when rubbing one’s finger along the edge of a champagne flute. There was something like a word in it, but the noise frightened her back into silence.
Felix nodded in understanding. “Let’s try this. Just nod or shake your head. Are you in pain?”
Ramona actually seemed to think about it, then shook her head ‘no’. The, with slow, tentative motions, she raised her head and tilted it from side to side. The motion was accompanied by a barely audible squeaking noise that reminded Felix of the sound thin ice made when someone walked over it.
“So you feel weird.” Felix translated, trying not to look at all the gore and effluvia. “I figure that’s kind of to be expected.”
But she wasn’t paying him any attention. Her eyes were focused (though with no visible pupils it was hard to tell) on her hand. Slowly, she moved it between them, starting at Felix through the distortion of the solid piece hunks of glass that now comprised her fingers.
They had started to fuse together, but separated immediately when she tried. Terror painted her face far more surely than blood or other bodily fluid. She started to cry, but there was no more water in her body to produce tears.
After a few wheezy, flute-like noises, she finally managed to wail, “Oh god!” in a melodic voice that was incongruous with her situation.
Felix reached out only to find that Ray had overcome is queasiness to come forward and close his hand over hers. “It’s alright, Ramona,” he said in a hushed tone, “You’ll be okay. Everything’s going to be okay.” He looked to Felix and his eyes begged his best friend to tell him it was so. Felix didn’t have the heart to tell the truth.
The harsh reality was, this was a long time coming. Maybe it wouldn’t have happened the same way, but deep down, he knew the facts: no one had ever successfully suppressed protomorphism or any other descendant manifestation. It had been stupid and dangerous to try and even stupider and more dangerous to mess with a method that was at least slowing it.
No matter how Ramona might wish and ask and hope, she was never going to be ‘normal’ again anymore than he was.
Ray blinked in disconcerted surprise at what Felix managed to tell him without a word.
“L-let’s get you cleaned up,” he offered Ramona, trying to sound strong for her and patting her shoulder. The pressure was enough to make one side of her robe start to slip down her near-frictionless ‘skin’.
Taking his cue from Ray and knowing that Ramona was now outside the scope of his medical knowledge, Felix nodded and wheeled over to a cabinet where a box of alcohol pads was stocked. It was going to be a long, difficult night for them all.
The sun was starting to rise by the time Felix emerged from the infirmary. A lot of that time had been spent cleaning and sanitizing while Ray held Ramona through the worse of her initial shock.
As he predicted, there hadn’t been much more he could do. The exam table’s biological senses were useless when it came to Ramona’s new physiology. He’d taken a biopsy, made some observations, but all in all, he felt completely useless as he unlocked the infirmary doors and rolled out into the hall.
It didn’t come to a surprise at all to him when he found Icthiani sitting cross-legged in the on the floor, her back resting against the wall opposite the infirmary door. Her eyes had been closed, but following a twitch of her ear upon hearing him come out, she cracked them open and gave him a long look.
“Thanks for staying,” he said, giving her a tried smile.
Icthiani didn’t meet his eye. “She was in so much pain.” Her voice was monotone, emotionless. “And fear, panic, shame. There’s still shame. She hates herself.”
His shoulders sagged. “I figured that much. She was really scared this would happen. Now she’s done it to herself.”
Felix blinked. Her intuition of Ramona’s moods made him forget for a second that she hadn’t actually been a party to the happenings inside the infirmary. “Huh?”
“What has she done?”
“Oh.” Felix put his hands in his lap and stared at them. “It’s pretty likely that she triggered her manifestation. You remember how I told you and your brother about protomorphs?”
She thought a moment and nodded slowly. “Those who are like Ray or Lydia but whose abilities ended up transfiguring them. This is what has happened to Ramona?”
Felix winced ‘transfigured’, but he couldn’t bring himself to disagree. “Yes, more or less.”
“Transfiguration is also a source of shame on the Green World.” It didn’t pass Felix’s notice that she didn’t say ‘my world’ or ‘our world’. “But that is because such things are a consequence of a lack of proper caution or fear when it comes to the hazards that surround us. From you description, there should be no shame here: it is nature.”
“Well… it’s probably not a nice way of looking at it, this really was something she brought on herself. But I’ve gotta say the consequences were way more than she deserved.”
To Be Continued…