Post Fri Jan 06, 2006 5:21 am

Breath of Virgins (unfinished)

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This one had a neat premise. I got a ways in and realized I was stuck... wouldn't you know it? I wrote the majority while attending a writing seminar held by the L.Ron.Hubbard group. It was the first and only time the seminar offered to contest winners was opened to the public. Aldys Budrys was the primary workshop leader and it was an awesome experience. I wish the story had gelled as well as the seminar...

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The warm breath of young girls can be condensed into a clear water which is a tincture of admirable efficacy... an elixir vitae.<BR>
<DIV ALIGN="RIGHT"><font style="font-size:12pt">—D. Cohausen 1872</div>

Latroma knew when Glenn-Carl asked her to come to his medical offices after hours that something had gone horribly wrong. What started as a simple blood test for she and G.C.'s marriage certificate had become something ominous. Her fiance stood at the controls of the bio-scanner, his angular face stony. He ran the probe for the fifth time.

She shivered, looking around the semicircle of scanner equipment. She stood on circular platform in the her bra and briefs especially chilled in the sterile smelling air-conditioned air. If her mother only knew, she'd be throwing an roman-orthodox fit. Almost unclothed in front of the young man she intended to make her husband; even if he was a doctor. Computer equipment hummed. Laser light scintillated on her skin. Distantly, she heard the whine of an electric motor.

A high pitched hum filled the air and her skin tingled as ultrasonics probed into her body. Latroma studied her fiance's face. Beads of sweat had broken out on his forehead and his hands shook.

An icy dread gripped her insides. "What's wrong G.C.?"

Glenn-Carl closed his eyes and ran a hand through his short black hair. He seemed to shrink, his broad shoulders slumped. He stepped out from behind the panel. His shoes sounded loud on the synthetic floor.

He stepped onto the scanning disk and hugged her from behind. As his chest pressed against her bare back she felt his heart thundering. "You know I love you, Roma."

The answer only made her more uneasy. Why had he insisted on doing the blood test himself before turning it over to the examination board? She couldn't stand the thought of his hurting.

Her voice shook. "G.C., dump it, what's wrong?"

He rubbed his face in her long hair. She heard him sniffing the shampoo she'd used this morning. "Roma." He paused. After a moment he turned her around, knelt and gazed up at her. She could see herself reflected in his green eyes; see the worry etched on her own angular features.

"Roma," he started again but his voice cracked. "You have Cohausen's Syndrome."

The jolt hit Latroma worse than she expected. Her knees went wobbly and she forced herself to lock them and stand straight. Not cancer, not hepatitis, or an inheritance incompatibility; Cohausen's Syndrome.

She carried the damning gene of immortality.

Heart fluttering she pushed away from Glenn-Carl and looked out the high rise window. The flattened ellipse of the sun cast bloody hues across the mirrored surfaces of New Angeles' skyline. Night was falling, not only on the city, but on her life as well.

Glenn-Carl spoke to her, but Latroma lost the words in the cottony numbness she felt closing in. Cohausen's Syndrome; the end of normal life for a woman diagnosed with it. Possessing the abnormal gene made you a target, a source of elixir vitae, extended life, for those willing to force you to submit to the breath harvesters.

In New Angeles, there were plenty of scags willing to do that and worse, few were the ways to escape.

He raised his voice. "Roma, are you scanning me?"

Latroma heard his concern. She now understood the impulse to kill the bearer of bad tidings. Her hands trembled. The anesthetic smell in the office made her want to vomit.

She didn't want this, to become a victim for anyone who could afford the harvesting equipment. The Gov's had yet to introduce legislation to officially protect women diagnosed with the abnormality. The process had only recently come under enough scrutiny that the govs had made testing for the trait a required part of feminine physicals.

"Yeah, G.C., I hear you big-time." She let out a breath. "Are we syncing? The immy bug?" She noticed that the electric whine nagging at the back of her hearing had stopped.

Glenn-Carl moved to stand by her. He laced his fingers in hers. "You know this doesn't mean everything is over."

Latroma felt a bolt shoot through her stomach. "Nobody will be safe around me! Once the corper's find out, it's either sell myself into captivity or dodge kidnappers the rest of my life!" She closed her eyes. "This'll waste Momsa, Dadda will go nuclear."

What to do? She'd heard that some girl's managed to elude capture until they were no longer ripe. The immy gene could go sour and studies had yet to discover the precise reason the women stopped being able to produce the elixir vitae. This contributed to the imprisoning factor; potential buyers trying to extend the useful life of their vitae producing hosts.

G.C. had explained to her once that the elixir vitae came from the lungs of young women. Their exhalations could be captured and the moisture distilled into a liquid that contained an, as yet, unsynthesized protein that blocked the destructive effects of free-radicals on the DNA and cells in a human host. Injections of the material over a period of a few months could extend a person's life up to a hundred years.

She looked up and saw the pained look on Glenn-Carl's face. She put her arms around him. He returned the embrace. She felt better in his arms but the fear still lingered.

"I won't let anyone hurt you," he said. "No-one has to find out about these findings."

Latroma felt a glimmering of hope. "No-one else saw the test results?"

"Did the lab work myself. I was only doing it for curiosity's sake. I didn't think the test would turn up anything."

She frowned. "Aren't you taking a risk? Isn't it illegal for you to conceal a girl who's C.S. positive?"

Glenn-Carl gave her a kiss. "You let me worry about the Govs. What we have to do is figure out how to sour you before it's discovered."

A clattering sounded in the outer office. Her heart leaped, an instinctive sense of danger made her scalp prickle.

"What was that?"

Glenn-Carl strode to the door and jerked it open. A large waxed drinking cup from one of the local convenience stores lay on the floor.

Latroma stopped beside him, feeling even more naked now. She picked up the cup. The upper lip was still damp.

Glenn-Carl's brow furrowed, then he looked at the door. Latroma's gaze followed his to the ring of dampness head high on the door. He stared at the stain for only a second.

"Oh, drek! Stay here." He bolted for the corridor entry.

As the door slammed open, Latroma saw a utility cart like the ones used by custodians.

Someone had heard. That's why they ran away. The finder's fee for the identity of a C.S. positive woman must be tremendous.

Smock flapping around his legs, Glenn-Carl plunged down the dimly lit corridor. In the distance, she heard the ding of an elevator. Glenn-Carl screamed for someone to stop. An instant later his curses came drifting back to her.

The sounds of his frustrated cries made her feel as though she'd been doused in icy water. No doubt this unseen eavesdropper would take her identity to the black-market and sell it to the highest bidder. The hell she imagined had already begun.

The fear.

She heard the faint sound of the stairwell door squeak then slam. She couldn't help Glenn-Carl by running through the streets half-naked.

She hurried back to the office, pulled on her clothes, grabbed her bag and raced down the corridor. Her boots clacked on the flooring, the impacts matching the hammering of her heart.

She slid to a stop at the elevator and slapped the down button. Latroma could feel her freedom slipping down a dark drain. The horror stories of women chased into Gov protected seclusion, of constant harassment and medical probing, flitted through her mind.

An eternity seemed to pass between the time the doors opened and the lift settled at the street level.

She charged through the lobby out the glass doors and onto the sidewalk. Lectrobuses and passenger vehicles hummed past. She wrinkled her nose at the acrid smells of oxidants and smog retardants. Where had Glenn-Carl gone?

Latroma swallowed, uncertain what to do. Even with her clothing on she felt exposed. She knew it was impossible, but she felt hungry eyes staring at her-- lusting after the elixir vitae in her body.

Best not to run off. G.C. will come back.

She waited for a time, hating this helpless feeling and the absence of clear paths to follow. She found herself mired in the fear of being milked like come cow for the material produced by her body; cold hands and instruments prying and invading.

She shuddered.

"Roma!" She turned and saw Glenn-Carl jog up. His smock was torn and dirt smears covered his face. His chest heaved. "The scag got away from me. From the way he ran-- he must've heard us talking."

Latroma closed her eyes. "It's done then, there's nothing we can do." The concept of running made a burning in her stomach. She'd never run from anything. What choice did they have? They didn't have the resources to fend off squads of corper goons. She'd never fired a weapon in her life.

"Don't give up yet. I have a friend who runs a eugenics lab who'll let us hole up if you'll--" His features tightened. He put a hand on her shoulder.

"We've only known for a few minutes and it's come down to bargaining with my body." Her voice cracked.

Glenn-Carl's features hardened. "Think about what we're facing. If we don't find a way to sour that gene..." He stopped as an elderly couple passed nearby. He lowered his voice. "You're going to spend the next drekking decade either hiding or hooked up to a breath harvester."

Latroma bit her lip. The words stung even though they were only echoes of what already rampaged through her mind. She put her arms around him. "I'm sorry. I'm just scared."

Glenn-Carl dipped his face into the curve of her neck. The mingled scents of spice cologne and sweat filled her awareness. He was her anchor. The wasn't the only crisis he'd helped her deal with. She couldn't have gotten through the deaths of her brother and grandfather without his gentle words and caring embrace.

He pulled on her arm. "Come on. Every minute is going to count."

Latroma gave in reluctantly. She saw no other clear option. Before a minute had passed he'd dragged her back to the elevators and headed down to the subterranean parking. She felt like a leaf in a gale, her view of pillars, vehicles, and generating equipment bounced and flickered.

He settled her in the right hand bucket, slammed the hatch and jumped in on the other side. The electric's hummed and Glenn-Carl's sloop lurched forward.

The honks, yells and sirens of night-time New Angeles merged into a scintillating miasma; the details lost as the weight of the revelation bore down on her.

She carried the gift of life in her body. Not only the ability to bear children but to prolong the lives of those injected with the elixir vitae harvested from her lungs.

Such a huge boon. Leave it to mankind to make the gift into a curse. The greedy wonts of a few denying the masses even a handful more years of precious existence. A shame, a crime, that she and G.C. so quickly sought to divest her of that Midas touch. What other choices were there?

As it was, her orthodox parents were going to be appalled. Not only with her condition but with the simple fact that she was spending the night with G.C. before they were married.

They put so much stock in the ancient concepts of purity. In her own thinking, purity of spirit came from the mind, not the body.

They arrived at Marko's lab. The elderly eugenist's eyes gleamed when Glenn-Carl told him that she was an undocumented C.S. positive. He readily agreed to let G.C. use the lab in return for a few vials of collected elixir vitae.

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