2069 a.d. - Rebirth and Recovery - Bela gets a new body...
Béla opened her eyes. The room she was in was dimly lit and very cold. She turned her head and looked around. She was in some sort of glass case. Her father stood outside with some other people she didn’t recognize. He was looking at her and pointing toward the ceiling.
'Go up, Child,' she heard him say in her mind.
Béla looked down at herself with wonder. She was naked. She was floating. She was blue!
She held an arm in front of her face and wiggled her fingers, studying them carefully. Smiling giddily, she tried to blow on her fingers to see how it felt. She suddenly realized that her lungs were full of water!
'I’m drowning!' she screamed in her mind.
In a panic, she thrust her arms downward, frantically kicking and thrashing for the surface. It was only a foot above her. She breached the surface with a wet explosion and spewed water from her lungs, choking and coughing as her new body breathed cold, icy air for the very first time. Outside the water, her arms were so weak she couldn’t even raise them above the viscous liquid she floated in.
As she floundered on the surface, a net was being drawn up beneath her. The net lifted Béla high above the tank of nutrients as she twisted and gasped for air. The light gravity pressed her mercilessly into the netting as she swung helplessly back and forth. The tender flesh on her body, arms and legs felt as though it were being cut open by the thick, coarse fabric as she was gently and carefully lowered down to a table.
As she touched down on the table, Béla’s weight pressed the netting into her tender flesh even more fiercely than before and she cried out in pain. Her voice echoed eerily in her liquid-filled ears. The netting separated and split where the table touched it, gently depositing her on the hard surface.
Once the netting was pulled from beneath her and dangled in the air on either side, the surface of the table softened and began forming itself into a slight ‘V’ shape with her buttocks at the bottom of the ‘V’. It stopped folding when each end reached a thirty-degree angle upward from where it started. Béla discovered she was much more comfortable with most of her weight centered over her buttocks, relieving the pressure on the tender skin of her back and legs.
It was hard for her to believe she was really alive and in a body again, and she tried to fill her lungs deep and full with every breath to help control the wild panic she felt clamoring inside this dizzy and really cold new body. Even lying on this strange table, she didn’t have any sense of balance and was terrified that she was tumbling to one side or the other right off the table and onto the floor. And it was long way down to that floor!
Trying to raise her arms and keep her balance, she found her muscles incredibly weak; so much so that it hurt her to move at all. Still taking deep breaths to control her panic, she rolled her head to the side and, with some difficulty, focused her new eyes on her father.
“What’s wrong with me?” she gasped, grateful that her tongue and mouth worked the way she’d hoped they would, but newly upset about how mournfully weak and warbled her voice sounded in her own ears.
She could see the overjoyed expression on her father’s face as he gazed at her and couldn’t understand why he should be so ecstatic about her pathetic, weakened and frightened state.
“Absolutely nothing, my child,” he said, his voice more loving that she had ever heard it. “You simply haven’t had to move for a very long time. It will take getting used to, again.”
“C-cold,” Béla whimpered, noticing that her body was shivering. Immediately, the pad she was lying on became warmer.
“More,” she said, greedy for some real warmth to penetrate into her freezing, wet body. She said ‘More’ three more times before she was satisfied with the amount of warmth radiating into her back and legs.
The Praetor connected with Béla’s mind and fed her images of what was expected of her. Although fully grown, she was actually as weak as a newborn baby, which of course is what she was. Her muscles needed to be conditioned. She could expect to be on that table for almost a month before she would be deemed strong enough to test the strength of her legs and learn how to walk again.
There were exercise pads for her arms and legs that she could activate with her mind. The table itself could tilt forward at her request, allowing her to exercise her legs with more of her weight on them as she grew stronger. She was also shown that the table had its own gravity plate and she couldn't fall off of it.
She lay, breathing deeply and looking around the room, getting used to the strange confines of her new (old) form. There were many things demanding her attention that she’d not noticed, before. She could feel the temperature of the air in the room, and the feeble heat radiating from the other people around her. Every tiny movement in the air startled her as she felt it against her sensitive skin.
Her heartbeat was extremely distracting and she could feel her blood coursing through her body, her neck, her head. She found she was blinking with each pounding beat of her heart and concentrated on holding her eyelids open for more than a half-second at a time. She could even hear it in her ears as her blood rushed through the veins and arteries in her head.
Her father was there with his two lab assistants setting up and adjusting some equipment across the room. The Praetor was set on another table, monitoring her body and her thoughts. After awhile, the Praetor withdrew from her mind, letting her know that it would still check on her periodically. She was surprised at how agreeable and almost friendly the Praetor seemed, now.
Exhausted from her unique birthing experience and overwhelmed by all this new sensation her body was giving her, Béla slept for the next two days.
Sibilius ran along the catwalk toward his laboratory. The Praetor had telepathically informed him that something had gone wrong with the Rebirth Project. It refused to tell him what it was. He ran through the door of his lab and stopped, staring at the spectacle before him.
Béla was three steps away from her table. At his sudden entrance she lost her balance and, with a loud wail, fell to the floor. By the time her father recovered from his shock and knelt down by her side, she had already pulled herself halfway up using the table the Praetor was set on. Once she had her feet underneath her again, she stood, leaning sideways across the table, gasping for air and glaring at her father.
“There’s no air… in here!” she cried, gasping heavily. “It’s like… I’m on top of a mountain… or something!”
Grinning at the trick the Praetor had played on him so he could see his daughter take her first steps, Sibilius helped her back to her own table, amazed at how strong she already was. She was only a week old.
“The air pressure is determined by the rotation of Deimos, my child,” Sibilius told her. “We could, of course, melt a few more ice glaciers and in a few hundred years, the pressure would be closer to ‘earth-normal’. You realize that we would have to go to earth in order to collect the glaciers. We could also use the ship’s engines to increase the speed of the moon’s rotation; that would work for a few weeks before this hollow little moon tore itself apart. Of course, you could just get used to it…”
Béla stared at him, her eyes wide with wonder. She had no idea that her stoic, regal and very-serious father had such a caustic sense of humor. She realized that it must run in the family. That was exactly what she would have said had the tables been turned and she knew where in space she was… but she knew now.
'I’m inside Deimos,' she realized. 'Deimos really is hollow – just like the astronomers used to think it was. I wonder if Phobos is hollow, too…'
'Are you asking a question?' the Praetor intoned inside her mind.
'What? Oh, I keep forgetting you’re there,' Béla thought back at it. 'Yes. Is Phobos hollow?'
'Yes,' the Praetor replied. 'Phobos is hollow, but has no internal atmosphere. The atmosphere was vented into space fifty-two hundred earth-years ago when it was struck by an asteroid. Its construction was never completed.'
'It was under construction?' Béla asked, confused now.
'That is correct,' the Praetor replied. 'It was intended to be what Deimos has become – our current base in this solar system.'
'Both of Mar’s moons are artificial?'
'That is correct,' the Praetor replied, again. 'Do you have another question?'
'Yes!' Béla cried out in her mind. 'Actually, I do! You showed me an image of a… well, I got the idea that I was inside a large sphere or something. Where’s that?'
'Far from here, Child,' the Praetor replied. 'It is in orbit around Jupiter.'
'Oh! Which moon is it?' Béla asked, fascinated. 'Has it been named?'
'It is not visible from Earth,' the Praetor informed her. 'Its orbit is such that it is always hidden behind Jupiter when Jupiter is visible from earth. Its orbit was thus changed when humans started building their primitive telescopes to study the planets.'
Béla thought for a moment on what the Praetor had told her. While she was trying to work out the logistics of the orbit of Jupiter’s unknown moon in her head, she fell asleep, exhausted from her first walk.
Ten days later, Sibilius was on the catwalk going to his lab. Béla (she insisted that was her name, now) had been walking for almost a week. She exercised constantly, and insisted on eating meat (Ugh!) like an Earth person (Double ugh!) Sibilius was, as was the rest of his race, strictly vegetarian. They knew of the human’s delight with eating meat, however, and were able to process some livestock so that their new princess could eat what she wanted.
The people in front of him had stopped moving. He heard several mentions of ‘The Princess’ as they stretched their necks to look at something high over their heads. He looked up to see what everyone was gawking at. His mouth fell open in dumbfounded surprise.
They had been watching Béla climb up the side of a launching platform used to dock the propeller-driven cargo carriers that traveled to and from the great ship. Balancing carefully, she walked out toward on the edge of the platform. She was naked. As she approached the edge, she raised her arms behind her and formed her wings.
As Sibilius watched, still unbelieving, Béla spread her wings wide and fell forward off the end of the platform, gliding gracefully downward in a wide spiral. Although he had designed the capability of flight into all his hybrid children, Hethemtima (no, Béla) was one of his few children who had ever figured out how to actually fly.
Sibilius blinked tears out of his eyes so he could better see her. The only other time he had seen this daughter fly, he had been trying very hard not to notice the grace and ethereal beauty of her flight, as it interfered with his ability to hold her in his sights. Now, he was almost overwhelmed with emotion as he watched his daughter test her new wings.
Trying a simple maneuver that was a little more complex than her still-developing muscles could handle, Béla lost her balance and began tumbling, her wings collapsing around her body from the force of the wind as she picked up speed. Sibilius could feel the rage she radiated as she tumbled toward a steel catwalk far below.
The gravity plating beneath the catwalk that had thrown Béla off balance couldn’t possibly be turned off in time to prevent her impending crash. Feeling helpless to aid her, Sibilius watched her fall, knowing that she was going to be impossible to live with while she healed from the injuries she was sure to receive when she struck that catwalk.
Just before she struck, she vanished completely! Sibilius felt a scream of terror coming from… nowhere.
She reappeared an instant later, several hundred feet higher than the platform she’d leaped from. Spreading her wings as she began to fall again, she twisted into a shallow downward spiral, skimming along the catwalks in as wide a circle as she could manage, cheerfully terrifying people as she skimmed by only a few feet above their heads. She radiated gratitude to someone in the crowd across the platform from where Sibilius stood.
Sibilius increased his perception higher into the radio band. There, he saw a thin, glowing line of energy connecting Béla to a Martian Drone. Probing the mind of the drone, he recognized the soul of his son, who was waiting for his own permanent body.
'I should have expected that once my only sane child was added to this mixture of hybrids,' he realized with a certain pride, 'they would start sharing their powers to help each other.'
He smiled, recalling that it was his son, after all, who had helped Hethemtima (no, Béla, again) escape from the malfunctioning Praetor by sharing his mental abilities with her. He was beginning to understand what her true power really was. It was possible that she could have actually accomplished what his son had so foolishly tried to do and failed; bring peace and sanity to humankind.
He watched, with the rest of the population of Deimos, as Béla glided downward and made a second attempt to change her attitude so she could fly back to the platform where she’d begun. This time, she successfully completed the simple maneuver and began flapping wildly, if somewhat ungracefully, aiming her body at the platform high above.
She was tiring too quickly to make it that far and chose a spot much closer for an emergency landing. People moved rapidly out of her way as she broadcast her intentions at them. As she landed, she vanished her wings back into arms and was almost, but not quite, able to perform a four-point landing. She rebounded clumsily against the wall outside the ‘rehab’ center and almost rolled back off the catwalk before someone caught her.
The cheers of the Deimosians were deafening as they enthusiastically applauded their new princess’ first successful flight. She had just made World History!
Béla didn’t have to walk back up to her father’s lab. She was carried, tired, sweaty and naked, but very happy, by a dozen of her enthusiastic new admirers. As Sibilius watched the victory parade approach his laboratory, he realized that things were not going to be dull around here for awhile.
Béla was animatedly talking to her father after everyone who wanted to touch her and talk to her had finally left. “I have to fly in a weird curve in order to go in a straight line! Why is that? Is there something wrong with this body’s ability to balance properly?”
“Well, my child,” Sibilius explained. “What holds us ‘down’ here isn’t really gravity – it’s a buildup of centrifical energy that holds us to the inner surface. It’s like…”
He sighed, trying to figure out how to explain the simple concept of objects wanting to travel in a straight line, but being forced to travel in a curve along with the surface it was lying on.
“You could’ve just visualized it for me first, without the frustration, Father,” Béla said, sounding somewhat sarcastic. “I’m telepathic, too! Remember?”
Later, Sibilius sat and watched from across the room as his daughter slept, exhausted from her triumphant first flight. He realized he was going to have to provide her with a sarong, or something to wear outside his lab. It was improper to display one’s naked form in public; at least it was, currently.
He realized that once his people had relocated to their new home, customs and traditions were likely to change, perhaps very radically. With thirty flyers like Béla amongst the population, there could well be a resurgence of acceptable public nudity, at least for Béla and her hybrid sisters.
'What! you mean I can run around naked all the time?' Béla chirped in his mind. 'Cool!'
'Go back to sleep, Child,' he admonished her.
He sighed. She wasn’t even three weeks old. Yet, in her new body, her mental powers were growing even faster than she was recovering physically. Sibilius had no idea how powerful she would become, mentally. She could already access the powers her siblings had taken thousands of years to develop.
It was possible that he had created a race of gods… or, more likely, demons.
Béla appeared in his mind, again. In her image, she kissed his cheek; an Earth custom that had become popular since he’d last socialized with them. He decided he enjoyed this odd custom.
'I love you, father,' she whispered in his mind.
Sibilius got up and walked over to where Béla lay. She was sleeping peacefully. He radiated peace at her.
'I love you too, Child,' he thought at her.
He felt her receive his thoughts – from across the room.
'She’s not in her body!' he suddenly realized, and looked anxiously around for her.
She was gone! In the instant before she left, he saw the image she’d formed of her destination.
'She’s gone back to Earth!'
He watched over her sleeping form for most of that rest period, making certain it didn’t suffer any distress from being abandoned by its host. Several hours passed before Sibilius felt his daughter return. She was exhausted. It was no wonder she was so tired; currently, Earth was on the other side of the sun.
She dropped back into her body and stretched sleepily. She opened her eyes and gazed dreamily into her father’s eyes. Then she was asleep, again, both her body and her soul this time. As she slept, she radiated love and contentment.
'That’s her true power,' her father realized.
He wouldn’t have to worry about any monsters here.