DarkHorse Vendetta by Orin Drake
A completed novel, available as a paperback through Lulu and an ebook (Part One) through e-Quills.

        Chapter 36 - It All Comes Back to the Ass

        "Doctor." Domani interrupted. "Your assistance is required immediately."
        Doctor Carn had been engaged in trying to digitally pry open files. The closer he got, the more complicated everything else became. He thought he'd just about had it when the ship's voice had come through and nearly startled him. Annoyed, he demanded, "What--"
        "Please, just listen. And hurry."

        Of all of the things that Julian hadn't expected to interrupt his mourning, certainly it was the doctor bursting into the room. Surprised to say the least, the remaining captain just looked at the intruder with nearly unseeing eyes.
        "Sorry." Was the best the man could offer. "There's... this is important. Vastly important."
        It had better fucking be. Came to Julian's mind immediately. The doctor was headed toward her--or, perhaps rather, it. Just a shell, a husk, a body uninhabited... but when he turned, he expected to see something altogether different. Gore and terror; not a (relatively speaking) clean wound. He'd... expected her whole head to be gone, that was what the whole damn situation had seemed to be implying... something felt quite off in the fact she'd aimed for her chest. If not "off", then... then something that was meant to be noticed... But he didn't want to look at that. At a corpse. At something that used to be Jack--and, dare he think it, his Jack.
        And still there wasn't time to mourn. Not when the door opened again, and what stepped inside was pure abomination.
        Captain DeVierna was shocked. Shocked still. The form was... recognizable, to say the least. Instantly so. There was no way he could have gotten it out of his mind, let alone...
        "Later." Domani's voice from the android's form. The android on that mysterious "sister ship", the thing that had tortured and threatened... "Pick her up. Sickbay, quickly."
        That was all Julian needed to hear before complying.

        There weren't questions. He didn't have the breath, they didn't have the time. The lifts were going faster than they ought to, Domani's influence--but the computer kept them safe. Kept them moving. Julian just couldn't really look at that android form without wanting to be sick... and there were so many questions wanting to spill form him at the same time. He was sure that he would get the answers, but to wait for them would be murder.
        Not that there was much of a wait before they were moving again, Dr. Carn leading the way to the back room and Julian following with that cold weight in his arms. Trying not to think about the cooling blood. The body's limpness turning slowly to slight stiffness, and worse. When the doctor hurriedly opened the room with that branch, he just had to pause to blink, pause for breath. "But... how do we--"
        Dr. Carn shook his head. He didn't know any more than the captain did, but Domani's instructions were clear. "Just put her in there. Her and the android."
        "How is that going to work?" He'd always been exceptionally good at asking the obvious. Too bad he never failed to expect answers.
        "I have no idea." The doctor admitted, stepping aside to allow the Domani-controlled android to take its place in the room. "But it is."
        "How do you know?" Julian's demand sounded more like a plea.
        No answer seemed appropriate. He didn't. Domani hadn't been able to give a suitable answer to his questions... but it did not dissuade his suggested solution in the least.
        The fact that Captain DeVierna simply followed along seemed like enough... though both of them felt their stomachs clench when the android's outstretched arms accepted Jack's lifeless body. Julian just had to turn and walk out or risk some reaction he would regret. There'd been enough of that.

        They waited. They had no other choice but to wait, minutes ticking by in gut-wrenching silence. Though they knew what waited on the other side of that door, there was no knowledge as to what might happen, if anything would happen. Domani still hadn't said a word, let alone made a single indication that it was still there to begin with.
        At some point, some unknown distance between thoughts, Julian was the one who finally broke the silence into fine shards. "Talk, Domani."
        A long pause. More eerie silence. "I don't think I can respond much to that, Captain."
        Part of Julian was livid. Luckily, it was a part that he was able to keep in check. "What happened? What the hell is this all about?" Mostly.
        "I'm still trying to understand, myself." The computer insisted calmly. "When it was clear, what had happened to Jack, I had to act."
        "That." He pointed out sharply. "Explain that."
        Several beats of silence followed before Domani's confession. "I'm not sure that I can. It's... instinct. A feeling shared amongst the minds that help make me."
        It was an answer without being an answer, and that enraged him all the more. However... anger wasn't likely to help matters in any way. "She said something about being programmed..."
        "The android appeared to have given her something, very much like a program. " Domani responded. "A virus."
        And then that much made sense from the way Jack had begun to speak. "A self-destructive virus."
        Something that had started to eat away at her... She'd said as much, her mind being erased--and Julian shuddered with that thought. The fear took the anger away temporarily, but it was enough for a more civil conversation. "So... now..?"
        "Now we wait." The computer suggested unhelpfully.
        Dr. Carn sighed. "Well, I'm still trying to hack a hard drive to pieces. We may as well try to focus on that."

        It was a surprise to be awake. Awake enough. Enough to think about being awake, even though there was nothing. No senses at all, just floating. And awake. It was... dull.
        Dull turned slowly into solid ground and uprightness. Standing, it seemed--and that was a rather sincere surprise as well. Not that memory was quite available at the moment, but there was some kind of certainty that this was not the result wanted.
        It was a rush of smell and taste next, and the sensation of air, chest expanding, something like a pulse starting up. That didn't necessarily make sense, but then none of it did. No capacity for judgment yet, only for experience.
        Hearing. That was what the light whine was, before it became a hum. One soft, sustained note that began to resonate; as the pitch shifted up and down until it found the perfect wavelength, vision returned with a slow certainty. It was all dark at first, something adjusting again and again until the light could be let in slowly. The... feel of it was very strange. Foreign. The sight, when it was finally processed, was entirely more so.
        "That's... that's... my body..." Even speaking was different. The way her jaw moved, the way her voice sounded, the way her tongue felt in her mouth and the way her air flowed through to make words. All very, very different. Very new. And before her was the broken shell that she'd been living in for decades. Her body was somehow... no longer hers.
        "Yes, Jack." Domani's voice, unquestionably. It sounded a bit different, but it somehow... felt the same.
        Jack--if it was her, if she was still her and not another--looked down at her new body. The word "surreal" could never quite describe such an experience. Everything was a little too calm. Especially considering the blood on her hands. Her own blood. And yet there was her Spectre, strapped safely into its holster on her new body, completely free of any traces of red. Either Domani had followed her very strict rules about cleaning the weapon, or..., at the moment it just wasn't something that she could think about. "So... this is..?"
        "The android's body." The answer seemed so casual, so simple. "Previous AI connections removed and reformatted."
        Silence. A great deal of silence. And then an unsurprising statement of the obvious. "S-so... I... killed myself."
        "Somewhat. You are clearly still with us."
        Jack chose not to comment. "Yes... and how?"
        "You left your brain intact. It was a comparitively simple matter of linking you to the android, all things considered." There was a pause there, one that seemed particularly important. "The android had associations. Attachments, as in the same kind that I do at my core, open to a single brain."
        It was all too... perfect. Too planned... but that part fell away to another thought, another desperate question. "Oh. But... How?" It was a distinctly different question, despite being the same word.
        "You abandonded your humanity, Jack." Domani's voice was quiet, tentative. "When you chose to go on... that was the sacrifice."
        It seemed such a... dark and final sort of thing. A foreboding idea--especially recalling what the android had said to her when she was still flesh and blood, that the crew was her sacrifice... Apparently, things really had turned out differently. She didn't feel inhuman. Of course, it could be argued that she never knew what it was to feel human... "So... the others... know about this?"
        "They had some idea." Of course, a moment later, Domani confessed, "I wasn't sure it would work."
        Yes, well. She was her, alright. "Never done this before, huh?" She joked relatively easily.
        "I'm not sure that anyone has."
        "I'm... different." It wasn't a negative statement on her part, simply... what had become a very obvious truth.
        "I did what I could with the details." The ship stated. "The face isn't properly moldable."
        Oh, that was all just too weird. She could feel her fingers on her face, and everything felt like it had before--except the texture. That was an obvious difference, the artificial skin smoother and without flaws. Jack spent a moment just looking at herself as best as she could without a mirror, lamenting her lack of scars. She'd earned every damn one of them.
        "I can re-mold your scars, if you'd like."
        "Apologies. It seems as though, in order to get your brain and new body to work together, I must act as a bit of a translator for a period of time."
        Weird. All very, very weird. But she could work with weird. "Well. Okay. --Not about the scars, though. I'm sure I'll earn more."
        "You'll have to learn how to control the nanobots inside of you." Domani explained, the subjects linked. "But that will come with time."
        "What about walking?" Jack ventured. She'd been standing all this time, pefectly balanced... but for some reason she wondered about actual movement. A forward motion without falling down.
        "You will simply have to see about that on your own." The ship responded. "It wasn't something I could calibrate while you were sleeping."
        "Sleeping" was one way to put it... "Alright, I... guess I'll try." She warned softly, lifting one leg and taking a step forward. It was strange when there wasn't a wobble, not that she thought there was any reason for it, but... maybe it just further proved that she was no longer flesh and blood. With that thought, though... "Hm."
        "What is it?"
        "This body has no ass." It was a simple observation that Jack made just from glancing over her shoulder, but running her hand along the curve confirmed it.
        "It... would appear to..." Domani almost argued, lost.
        "Well, I mean... it has one." She agreed. "But I had more of one."
        The silence was drawn out, the ultimate response somewhat flat. "I will look into that for you."
        "I'd appreciate it."

        "Doctor, Captain." Domani's voice broke the silence riddled with annoyed curses gently. The drive was still locked, despite any methods they'd used. "The room is ready to be unsealed."
        They weren't particularly ready. Not that it mattered. Julian's voice was unsteady despite his attempts otherwise. "And did it... I mean..."
        "The matter was successful." The ship summarized. "There are still details to be worked out."
        I can't imagine... "A-alright... so..?"
        "Attempt not to be overly surprised." How even a computer could say that in such a serious tone, despite the living components that aided its core, was just another thing beyond the realm of the universe's understanding.

        The drive was abandoned rather easily from sheer frustration. Approaching that door was quite a lot more difficult. The doctor might have been able to busy himself with other things, looking away to check this and that, but Julian... really didn't have anywhere else to focus. Not that he was even sure that he wanted to focus elsewhere, epsecially after the initial sound of the door opening almost caused him to surge backwards and use Dr. Carn as a human shield. Either way, it was hard to look.
        When Jack emerged, the sight that greeted her was... as amusing as it was particularly disheartening. Two grown men were looking away from her, pretending to be focused on something else. "Back from the edge of death and this is my greeting party. Thanks." She offered dryly.
        The voice was almost the same, but just different enough to be noticed. The inflection was spot on, the way the words were spoken, and even the way she was standing when Julian finally forced his eyes to slowly look her over. It was... eerie--incredibly, disturbingly eerie... but it was Jack. Without question, it was Jack. Jack's essence in a body that wasn't quite hers... but was, at the same time.
        "Well." Julian spoke up first. "...Well."
        "Yeah, I know." Jack turned around and pointed, "I have no ass."
        "I'm working on that." Domani defended.
        Dr. Carn only sighed. "Of all the concerns to have..."
        "Doctor. Take a moment to consider how you would react if your ass were suddenly gone." Humor was... the only thing she had a firm hold on, at that moment.

Content copyright Orin Drake 2011.
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