April 29, 2012

Beneath the Surface – Chapter Thirteen Part 2

Life beneath the surface settled back into a comfortable routine for all its citizens and helpers, in spite of the growing unrest above. Duran’s daily blogs often spoke of new mob violence spreading out from urban areas across the country as Americans struggled with a plunging economic recession, a collapsed housing market, high unemployment, and skyrocketing oil and gas prices. The global market fared little better, the disturbing details of spiraling interconnected dependency readily broadcasted over all online media outlets.

Even government secrets were no match for Duran’s unparalleled hacking skills. High level communication channels with the latest encryption coding and sites with clearance above ‘top secret’ were regularly monitored by the small department of human-Thalian interrelations for any news that could affect the underwater cities or the Thalian nation’s chances for living in the sunlight.

One such classified report concerned the correlation between the thinning ozone layer to systemic infant and elderly fatal diseases, with one in every three adults between the ages of twenty and sixty subjected to some form of skin or organ cancer. In the years since the atmospheric virus wiped out the entire on-land colony and construction crew, the humans had done nothing but bicker amongst themselves as to the validity of ozone sickness and the green house effect.

Now, over twenty years later, humans were finally beginning to acknowledge the connection to deaths and the environment, a lethal trend which in turn created havoc with normal climate zones, bringing abnormal rain and snowfall, super tornados and hurricanes, mild winters and hotter summers that fashioned perfect irrevocable droughts. The doom-sayers called it the end of the world. Thalians called it gross mismanagement by a race with a predilection toward self-destruction.

The original Thalian directive had been to quietly intermingle with the human population; to become as human as possible. Future generations would eventually see the complete assimilation of the Thalian nation. But the archives and stories about the past and a willingness to sacrifice in order to survive would live on, maybe destined to become the stuff of legends and myths.

Not anymore. If the humans were too weak to save themselves, then Thalian psychic strength and technology would infiltrate their governments and set a new direction for them. Of course, the modified directive still awaited a cure or atmospheric virus inhibiter before beginning phase one of Redirect.

“This is ridiculous, Rowan. How many damn skin samples do you need?” Debra chafed, propped on the high stool by the lab counter, arm stretched out flat under some kind of moving kinetic energy microscope. Her customary black sweatshirt had been pushed up almost to shoulder height, revealing several slender pinkish lines from earlier scrapings.

Over the past week Debra had been paged to the cell research lab on the third level no less than six times. On each occasion numerous samples had been taken from different areas of her body for study and comparison to those who had died from the atmospheric virus and also with a diverse selection of samples from the viral database that housed genetic data from every Thalian resident on Earth.

“Sorry, Deb, but you’re the only living Thalian donor we’ve got who’s immune to the virus,” Rowan mumbled, nose pressed almost to the monitor as new data filled the screen. “And don’t forget, no self-healing until all the testing is done. I don’t want the findings skewed with data from the same location.”

“Doesn’t the human half of me automatically corrupt your findings?” Debra grimaced as a new painless inch-long scraping automatically started closer to her wrist. The scowl remained on her face as dark eyes glared at Rowan’s back. She only had forty-five minutes until her next class and Damon had promised to let her be master to his slave. It was difficult enough finding time to be alone in a city full of people and helpers and sovereign’s duties and classes. Something had to give and it was usually sleep.

Frustrated by the delay, Debra sighed and went back to boring imaginary holes in her current nemesis.

Rowan grinned, noting the pouting mouth and snapping brown eyes. One could almost feel the irritation radiating in waves from the younger woman. “Don’t you worry about that, honey. Your genetic makeup is predominantly Thalian. The human substance you have is easily factored out.”

“Really?” Debra said, thinking of her mother’s new found happiness. “Don’t tell Edith that. Let her go on believing I’m half and half.” Ever since the truth had come out about Debra’s parentage, Edith had made a point of texting, Thalian style, or dropping by one of her classes almost on a daily basis. Debra loved seeing her mother but was beginning to feel like a rescued abductee whose parent refused to let them out of their sight.

“Whatever you and I discuss, medically speaking, is privileged,” Rowan replied tolerantly. All in all, Debra continued to be more resilient and adaptive than many had first expected. With most everyone but the fish hoping for a moment of her time, Rowan couldn’t resist having a little fun. “And speaking as your doctor, how much longer is this game going to continue.”

The scowl deepened over tired eyes as Debra stared blankly at the other woman.

Failing to suppress the grin on her face, Rowan offered a teasing shrug. “I was with elder Mica yesterday in Damon’s office.” She watched as recollection dawned in Debra’s widening eyes. “Muffled voices coming from the side room, Damon coming out breathless and flushed, his shirt buttoned up wrong. Or reports of skinny-dippers in the pool after midnight two nights ago. And my favorite, putting one of the lifts out of order for forty-minutes during the dinner hour. That game. Need I go on?”

Bare lips opened, then shut without a sound. What was the use in denying it. The fact that their extracurricular activities were probably known all over the city brought a momentary flush of embarrassment to her cheeks. Yet deep inside Debra felt a tingle of rebellious arousal just thinking about Damon waiting for her by the waterfall.

“Not much longer,” Debra said with quiet disarming openness. “I’m paying off a debt that ends tomorrow night.” The final scraping completed, the machine hinged back, freeing Debra’s arm. “Are Damon and I to be called before the elders like misbehaving teenagers?”

Eyes twinkling with amusement, Rowan calmly remarked, “Manton let me know something was going on.” In truth, she felt more than a little envious of her brother’s sex life. “Sensors notified a couple of his key security people. Nobody else knows. But in this city the computer is always watching and our sovereign should know better,” she smirked. “Now, as your doctor, I recommend a good night’s sleep instead of playing games. But I doubt either of you will listen to me. So get out of here and tell Damon he owes me dinner at The Terrace.” Hands on hips she shouted at the closing door. “And no self-healing.”

“More bloody samples,” Debra groused, running for the nearest lift, and wondered how much trouble she’d be in if the damn machine was suddenly found broken. Knowing Rowan she’d probably use a dull knife to scrape off her samples instead.

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