UF-2 Book 1 Chapter 1

A FORWARD FROM THE AUTHOR.

The science fiction writers enjoyed their big starships and long voyages at "warp speed" to the stars. It was their sacred cow to write about matter and anti matter as they sped through space to the stars in their big, lovely starships. More often than not, their whole story was the 'never ending trip.' Someone give me a couple Excedrin, I have a warp headache.

The stories of UF-2 were not written for monetary gain, but to explain polarity travel. I am positive that the die hard, 'can't travel faster than light' believers, will be in an uproar. I have seen polarity travel in my dreams. I'm not smart enough to explain why it will, or will not, work so please don't ask me.

The Pash were star travelers. They figured out the polarity drive a long time before humans came up with the idea. The way polarity drive was explained to me, we are surrounded by a balance of energy. Stand outside on a still day. The air is all around us. It’s not pushing us one way or another. Walk outside on a windy day. The air is all around us, but it has more force on one side than the other and it pushes against us. Sit in a cockpit with a propeller behind it. The cockpit is pushed into the wind if enough thrust is vectored by the propeller. Sitting in the cockpit, we do not feel the wind, but we move through it. The wind (energy) is moved from the front to the back of the cockpit and we are thrust forward.

Polarity drive takes all the energy we don’t see, nor feel, from the front of the starship and moves it to the back of the starship. Time, matter, energy are interlocked, as there can not be one without the other. Because the starship is no longer a part of the equation since it sits in a void of matter and energy, time neither collapses nor expands, as Einstein postulated. The starship does not become a mass of condensed matter as it approaches the speed of light, per Einstein’s theory, for the same reason as the first. Rules and theorems are made as guidelines until we learn more.

“Matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed.” (Einstein)

Gas in your car is not destroyed when you drive. It is changed into energy as it moves your car. The fuel in a lighter is not destroyed as it changes into heat and light when it burns. Light changes to heat and matter as plants grow and the summers warm.

Space travel will not be like the science fiction writers envision. We will not travel to the stars at “warp speed.” By moving the energy from the front of the vehicle to the rear of the vehicle we will travel to any star instantly. Remembering matter and energy are the same thing, when we travel in a “Polarity Ship” we will move through planets and other solid forms of energy as easily as we do through non solid forms of energy (space). Tonight, pick a star. It is within reason to believe you could travel there in your lifetime and, in a polarity ship, that trip will only take… no measurable time.

All through humanity’s history, some man, or men, have tried to exert their control over others. The Vikings, the Celts, Pharaohs, Romans, Hitler, Cesar... The names of individuals and countries changed, but it was, and still is, the same through the history of mankind and even those not of man. If I remember my history correctly America issued every American a social security number when they started gainful employment. Then they issued social security numbers at birth saying it was for tracking population. I think it was after a war, or maybe I’m mistaken, I don’t recall, but American leaders said the nation needed a national identity card for each individual. They said it would stop terrorism.

Are we starting to figure out the problem yet? All bad ideas start out with someone calling them good ideas and then, with time, the masses buy into the hypocrisy. The national identity card was accepted and then came the microchip implants. Everyone would be able to have instant information about their health, was the guise that idea was sold under. I guess it worked because most everyone bought into it. Some said the microchip implant was the ‘Mark of the Beast’ and no one saw it coming because everyone had expected the numbers 666 to be imprinted on them somehow. The individuals who refused the implants were ostracized by the business world and the government. They weren’t driven into caves like the Bible said, unless one takes the meaning as to say they were denied public facilities and transportation.

Man’s adventure to the stars was what saved him from domination by a select few. If one was a Bible reader, then I guess that could have been the ‘Second Coming’. In space, free individuals no longer submitted to a microchip implant. Children were born who were freemen. Eventually the numbers in space outnumbered those on Earth. Money, or the lack of it, has put men in bondage or freed them depending on the use and the need for it. Those on Earth realized if they wanted an exchange of the wealth flowing among the traders in space; they would have to give up the law requiring that everyone had to have a chip implant before doing business with Earth.

With no limits, except the physical limits to travel where they wanted, and do what they wanted, mankind was free once more in the never ending cycle of bondage and freedom... or were they? Even those not of man had the same ideas of control or destruction.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>And now:

UF-2
By BarbieLee
Edited by Catherine Linda Michel

CHAPTER ONE

David cleared his throat. “Did you hear the question?”

“Uh, yeah, you wanted to know if I had noticed anything unusual going on. Want to clue me in as to what? I seem to be missing something you think is important.”

I looked out across the mass of stars in the distance. I never stopped admiring space in its infinity. From our outpost at UF-2 we were as far from the planet Earth as humans had reasonably explored. There were those who had gone farther, but they were individuals or pirates. Usually they never returned, for which mankind was grateful, as we didn’t know what they had run into in the way of life forms, or what physical abnormality had done them up.

Walking across the room, David reached up and put his right hand on my shoulder as he stared out into space with me.

“I think we may have picked up a virus, or bug, or God only knows what. Haven’t you noticed some of the men on this station seem to be losing body mass?”

David was looking at me as I turned my head to look in his eyes. “They know they have to keep up the exercises or they will lose muscle. Names?”

He shook his head. “Almost all the men. Me for one. I thought engineering had increased the gravity by ten percent when I was helping Sonya check cargo inventory in bay six yesterday. When I asked Jim in engineering if he was screwing around with the gravitational field, he said we were still running one g. He asked if he could turn it down to point ninety percent 'G' as he had been having trouble picking up tools lately.”

“And what did you tell him?” I turned my attention back to the stars.

“No, of course. If we have been infected with something, then I sure don’t want to start hiding the symptoms by turning down the gravity on the station.” David stepped in front of me and cupped his hands behind his back as he stared at the stars.

“Checking into medical couple days back. I had them run a full scan on me. I questioned medical about the others who have been complaining. They have been getting a lot of complaints lately. The men are saying they are not able to lift or pick up things as easily as they should.”

“And?” I walked over to my desk and punched in the code for the medical reports for the station. Nothing unusual in the reports besides that they were way up in men checking in with no apparent illnesses. That raised a red flag in my mind. “Why hasn’t medical alerted me?”

“They were going to. I came straight from there. I told Laura I would tell you. Her medical team didn’t find anything wrong with any of the men. I asked them to do a DNA match on me, comparing it with my DNA file. I have an anomaly in several places. My DNA code has changed from what I originally was designed with.”

It had escaped my mind. David was a genetically engineered human. He was a product of a rogue lab attempt to make the perfect human. That kind of experimentation had been outlawed when humans were playing God with our own DNA. Most of those test tube babies were freaks, not intended by Mother Nature. Hideously grotesque creatures, designed in a lab intended for harvesting body parts, they were neither human, nor a product of God. Laws were passed to stop the practice and it worked to a limited extent. There were some off world labs still doing it for money, in spite of the death penalty if they were caught.

I turned to look at David. He was one of the miracles of those unnatural experiments. He looked ordinarily human. The other miracle about David was, the lab where he was designed was raided by government agents. Those who designed David didn’t plan on keeping him. They were only interested in harvesting pieces until nothing was left to sell on the black market.

David was lucky he was a fully developed human baby when the raid happened. He was the only one left alive when the agents finished sanitizing the lab. When the body scans and blood tests came up, David registered as human. They sent him off to a government institution to be cared for.

There were a lot of things about David that nature probably intended to wait a few more millennium before she disclosed the information to humans. David’s IQ had never been measured for one. He had a photographic memory, he was psychic and could read mind thought at will, he was never sick and he could heal his cuts or wounds in a week or less, usually less.

Some of the aliens we had on our post would heal rather quickly, but besides the one Pash on board, none could read minds. Or, it was general consensus that a Pash could read minds. Either that, or it was their instincts that guided them. No one knew where the Pash came from and very few humans had seen one. Their numbers? It was anyone’s guess.

I don’t know if all Pash looked like the one that stopped at our outpost because I had never seen a Pash before Toni came aboard. We called her Toni because none of us could pronounce her real name. I was guessing Toni was a she, but no one knew that for sure either.

“David, can medical reformat your original DNA code from storage?” All of us had our DNA code in a medical locker in case a space anomaly scrambled us internally. One of the good things that came from all that experimenting with humans was that we could be rebuilt from our own DNA if the need arose. Luckily, my DNA had never been broken or messed up in all my years in space.

I heard a deep sigh as David inhaled and then slowly exhaled. “Tried it already. Whatever it is that screwed up my DNA, isn’t letting the original code re-establish itself. Medical injected me with the Corruption AIM 221 DNA code correction. That injection died before it got started, as if it had been injected in a foreign body and not its own, me. Medical then grew a six-cc batch in incubation and set it up with Corruption AIM 90X. It too was killed after injection.”

David turned and walked across the room to the exit. The wall silently slid open for his passage. He stopped and turned in the door. Shaking his head, he stared at me.

“Bill, we have seen a lot of things come and go while we have been together at this post. Everything we have come up against we have been able to handle.”

“Remember Gordy Falin? He was the explorer who dropped in on us two years, seven months, two days, and one hour back. He had a rider inside his ship that could osmose through the walls and hated other life forms. It took us weeks to track that thing down. We couldn’t trap it in any force field we had. We couldn’t kill it with any weapon we had. I thought we were going to die before you decided to set charges and blow off a section of the station with that thing inside.”

“I remember. If it wasn’t for the Pash we would all have died. We were fortunate Toni could sense that creature and lured it to a pod we could detonate. I guess all of us have a reason or purpose in life.” We were lucky to have Toni on our station at that particular time. The thing seemed to be a solitary creature and few in number.

Toni had been with us, off and on, for almost three years. She frequently came and went, much to the consternation of our traffic controllers. While our interplanetary ships looked somewhat like stacked rings or soup cans, her ship looked like something straight out of the old Buck Rogers movie archives.

Toni and her ship had smooth sweeping curves. Because we were a forward outpost, all space traffic to our post was considered enemy until otherwise recognized. Toni always set off the alarms when she dropped in from wherever she had been. It was suspected she traveled inner space, or some such, and couldn’t announce her coming.

I, for one, enjoyed her company tremendously. She was extremely attractive and I felt comfortable around her. Probably had a lot to do with the idea there were no secrets if she could read mind thought, like most of us suspected. It wasn’t always like that though.

I remember her first visit quite well. She dropped in right smack dab in front of the Control Center. The controllers on duty, Lan and Bree, almost had heart attacks when an alien ship appeared out of nowhere right in front of their noses. In all honesty, the whole damn station almost had a collective heart attack. Alarms were going off, shields were dropping as each part of the station was sectioned off, and for a few minutes, none of us knew what was going on. So much for being ready for alien attack. I couldn’t blame the rest of the crew though. I was trying to get on top of the situation and having no luck.

We were all running around like a bunch of brainless idiots when Toni called in for permission to dock with a crew of one. I beat it post haste to Control when Bree notified me a Star Cruiser with a crew of one had requested permission to dock with us. None of us believed a Star Cruiser could be flown by one person. There were other problems too.

No one had ever seen a star cruiser that looked like Toni’s ship. Those that looked like Toni’s ship were inner planetary ships, good for flying around a world or two, not for crossing galaxies or a universe. But... and that’s a mighty big but, we could track those kind of ships the moment they warmed up, much less started moving. Where we were sitting in space, we should have seen them coming for months. Toni’s ship didn’t match any of the known physics we worked with.

“Bill, is this stuff boring you?”

“Wha... I’m sorry, David, I was thinking about Toni. I’d like to have her in on this if possible. Is she on the station or is she off on one of her forays?” I turned my attention to David.

David was real still for a few seconds. “I talked to her fourteen hours ago. I’ll check and see if she’s still here. Bill, whatever this thing is infecting us is worse than that creature Gordy Falin brought on board. We have no enemy we can see and we don’t know where it came from. I suggest we quarantine the station. I checked outbound flights. No one has left the station since medical started getting complaints. Whatever it is, let’s find it and kill it here. We want to make sure we don’t contaminate the rest of the human population.”

“Quarantine? You think we have some unknown on board? You know if we go to a Death-Com Level and don’t find anything to report, we will become so much space debris ourselves. Command will send out a Star Destroyer and wipe us from existence if we don’t find something.”

Deep inside my soul I knew David didn’t want to go to Quarantine any more than I did. I also knew that, if he thought we were infected or had an unknown on board, then we had a visitor or visitors, even though we didn’t know who or what.

David looked as serious as I had ever seen him. “Quarantine, Bill. There’s no rational answer for what I am infected with. It is an unknown whatever it is. I told Medical to re-scan and test all the others who have been complaining about not feeling normal. I think though, that the answer is going to be the same as what they gave me on my test. Unknown DNA code breakdown. Unknown body change in progress. Unknown sequencing of DNA coding and not repairable.”

I cleared my throat as David waited in the door for an answer. I could be signing the death certificate of every life on this post. Hesitantly and reluctantly, I touched the keypad on my desk. “Control, re-transmit message to Command Central. This is not a drill. Outpost UF-2 is on Death-Com Level One for unknown contamination. This is not a drill. Security authorization, William, E for emergency, Six Twelve Six Three Alpha Omega Krang Himmel.”

I didn’t have to repeat my orders. No matter what anyone tried from that moment on, no one would be allowed on or off Outpost UF-2. We were either going to find and eradicate our enemy or we were all going to die together. All two thousand one hundred and six of us! Plus one, if Toni was on the station.

“Find me an answer, David.”

Before David could answer, the Pash walked in. An extremely attractive, lithe female, she was probably seven feet tall. She looked like a mix between humans and cats. She was well put together, even if she didn’t have the classic female hour glass figure. I wondered if the Pash were an experiment of mankind that escaped from a lab? But then, that starship of hers didn’t escape from any lab.

She had gold eyes with vertical pupils she could open or close at will. Her hair was more the quality of soft fur than hair. Tawny colored with streaks of black, she wore it shoulder length. She had beautiful hands with long sharp nails. Those nails served a bigger purpose than looks. I had seen the leftovers after a guy had unexpectedly attacked her, three months back. Twice her weight, he pulled a pistol on her. I wasn’t there, but they said she screamed and all forty six people in that room thought they were going to die.

Fights are taken seriously on an outpost. Whether it was from space psychosis, a brain virus, or plain old human nature to want to fight, we had to know the answer. Normally I would have both parties locked up until it was decided who had instigated the fight. There were two reasons I didn’t lock up Toni. Number one reason was, over a year before she had saved all our lives. Number two, I really didn’t think I could lock up a Pash.

I guess, deep down in my soul, there were a couple other reasons. I really liked Toni. She carried a blaster on her hip that was unlike anything any of us had ever seen. It was a fascinating piece of hardware. It wasn’t illegal to carry a weapon. In fact it was encouraged. On an outpost one might not have time to run to the arms locker if we were attacked. All our pistols were small, palm sized. Compared to that cannon Toni carried, we were wearing peashooters.

The height of stupidity would be to go up against an opponent when you didn’t know the rules of engagement. Deep down in my gut I had a feeling I could send the whole station to arrest Toni, and if she didn’t want to be arrested, she could kill us all.

During the inquiry I talked to several people who were there. They said her scream was unlike anything they had ever heard. To a person, they also said they never wanted to hear it again. It was something straight from the primal forces of life. The guy with the phaser ended up more like shredded meat than human when the one second fight ended. Medical was still putting him back together a week later.

David nodded his head in recognition at Toni. “I’m guessing you’re here for the same reason I am? We have a problem and it seems to have infected all of us.”

“I know.” She turned her attention toward me. “I heard the Death-Com Alert. I’ll help research for a cause if you wish.”

“Thank you, Toni. That’s very kind of you. Would you like to look on your own, or could I talk you into working with David?” If anyone was David’s equal in intelligence, it was Toni. She could possibly be past David in intelligence. I had never asked her a question that could stump her. If she answered me, she always seemed to be right. Sometimes she never answered. Sometimes the answer was so far above my ability to comprehend, my poor brain was left struggling to figure it out.

“I will work with David if he doesn’t mind.” Her voice was soft, almost a purr.

Hearing her voice, it was hard to imagine she could make any kind of sound that could curdle the blood, such as the witnesses described. “Thanks, Toni. I appreciate all the help I can get.”

David nodded in agreement. “Bill, if it’s humanly possible, we won’t die because of some unknown. Toni and I will find whatever it is. Even if we have to invent new ways to do it.” David stepped into the hall and the wall closed behind him.

In fascination I watched as Toni walked across the room to look out at the stars. If I hadn’t been looking I would have never known she had crossed the room. She glided more than walked. She made no sound when she moved. In all the time she had been with us, I had yet to figure out how she could walk so gracefully and silently.

“Toni? Do you have any ideas about what it is we're up against?” I turned and stepped up beside her to look at the stars. I was wondering if she saw things the same way humans did, or if her unique eyes were able to see things beyond human vision?

I felt her looking at me. Turning to look over my left shoulder, I was looking straight at those beautiful golden eyes. I always felt she was looking into my soul when she did that. As she stared at me, I saw something in her eyes I had never felt before. Chills ran up and down my spine. She knew what was happening to us. Deep down in my heart, I knew she knew.

I was left wondering as she turned and silently padded out of the room. I hated it when she had an answer and wouldn’t tell me what it was. Thinking about it, I realized she hadn’t stopped to offer her help in finding what was attacking us because she already knew. Did David know too? Was he softening me up for the realization that we were all going to die from some unknown virus or God only knew what?

I hated working with a genius. Sometimes they treated the rest of us like little kids who needed to be patted on the head and told, ‘everything will be alright’. My gut feeling was, we were all going to die.

David was waiting in the hall when Toni joined him. “Walk with me to medical?”

“If you wish.” She stepped up beside him as he headed toward the lift.

“Any ideas? I’m guessing you already read my mind and know as much as I know.” David stopped in front of the lift and looked over his left shoulder at Toni.

The doors to the lift silently slid open and Toni stepped on. She waited until David was standing beside her. “Medical. I have a lot of ideas, but then, so do you. I believe we are looking for cause not effect. The effect is already known. I can sense it in Bill, you, and all the others who have been infected.”

The lift stopped and the doors silently slid open. David stepped out. When Toni didn’t step out beside him he turned to look back at her. “Coming?”

She shook her head. “I can’t help you here. You’re looking for two things. You are looking for the cause and a cure. The cause didn’t happen in Medical. I’m going to cover the Post and see how wide spread it is. There has to be a beginning. Infection will be heaviest there and less the further one is removed from that area. Provided the whole Post isn’t contaminated, then I can possibly find the initial outbreak.”

David nodded in agreement. “Good idea. You need to take a medical scanner with you? All the crew members have their DNA coded. It can tell you which ones are infected.”

“No need. Those infected are sensed easily enough. Engineering.” The doors slid closed between them as Toni headed to Engineering.

It was less than twelve hours later when David and Toni asked me to meet them in control center. I was already there in my office, monitoring the space chatter. UF-2 was the topic of the day after we went to Death-Com. The rest of humanity in this quadrant of space heard our alert and was trying to guess why we had called for quarantine. I was still asking myself the same question. David and Toni walked in together. I was looking at my scanner and reading the latest reports from medical. I was trying to make sense of the reports.

“David, have you figured out what it’s doing to you? I know medical said unknown, but I’m betting you know.” I wanted an answer.

“Yes, I know.” David walked over to my couch and sat down.

Toni walked over to the window before she turned her attention back to me and waited for David to begin.

“Would you mind sharing that knowledge with me?” David was not only the smartest person in the universe; he was also a good friend. He held the position of consultant on our outpost and we were lucky to have him. He wasn’t in the military like most of the rest of us on the post. He could go anywhere he wanted. It so happened he liked being with UF-2. Only he and God knew why. He was basically in command, even if I held that position by title. Usually the crew would go to David instead of me with their problems. In all the years he had worked with me, he seemed content with his job.

He asked men or women to do a task and they did it, as if he was the commander. No one ever questioned his right to make suggestions without going through me first. Yes, I asked if he was sure about going to Death-Com. That was for my own lack of belief in myself, not in my lack of trust in David. I knew the lives of everyone on this space station were slowly ticking away if we didn’t find the contamination infecting us.

“Everyone not already infected needs to carry and engage their personal body shield. All personnel on this station need to do that immediately. Send everyone to medical and have a DNA scan and match it with their records. If they are infected they can turn off the body shields, as it is already too late for them. Those that aren’t infected must leave their body shields on until we sweep all rooms and compartments. Shields will be set up as we clean rooms. No one may carry anything in or out of any area besides themselves.” David waited to see how I was going to take implementing new regulations.

I hated personal body shields. “That thing Gordy brought in with him could pass through any shield as easily as it passed through walls. You think this thing can be locked out? You know the complaints are going to start pouring in as people are restricted in their movement. Personal body shields are a pain in the royal ass. They are hot…!”

“Bill, I know all that. The alternatives aren’t… I started to say not pretty, but that would be untrue.”

David hesitated as he looked at Toni and winked. “Although I’m sure what is happening to us humans could not improve on your looks.”

Toni smiled showing a mouth full of beautiful perfect teeth and long sharp canines guaranteed to scare the piss out of anyone who had never seen a Pash. She was looking at David. “Thank you for the compliment, David.”

Toni walked over to the window and purred. “Earth.” The screen changed to a hologram of Earth. It was completely covered with cities.

Toni pointed at the hologram. “You humans say it is a beautiful planet. That is not beauty to me.”

“Ancient Earth.” The hologram changed into a picture of a planet with continents and vast oceans of blue.

Toni turned and focused on me. “Some things change from a thing of beauty to something that looks dead. I studied the human history data. I realize your species is driven to explore and build. In my opinion your species killed a beautiful world by covering it with human designed structures. Most of your kind would disagree with me. They think they have to change or build on a world before it’s beautiful.”

“Although I don’t like what humans and their allies do to the planets they inhabit, not every change is for the worse. I suggest you keep that in mind.”

I had no idea what Toni was talking about. What I did get out of that conversation was that she didn’t like what humanity had done to Earth, and a lot of other planets along the way. I waited for Toni or David to give me what was most certainly going to be bad news.

She studied me before she continued. “David and I split the research. He was looking at the human factor and I was looking at the non-human factors. I’m not affected the way humans are. The Trogg seem to be immune also, as are any of the other non human life forms on this station. It looks like it was specifically designed for humans.”

“Designed for humans? What do you mean, 'IT'? What’s pretty about something that is changing your DNA code and is irreversible? What do you know about this Toni?” My curiosity was killing me. Somehow Toni and David knew what ‘it’ was doing to David.

David stood up and looked at his hands. “I wonder what my name would have been if I were designed as female?”

“Huh? We may all die and you wonder what name you would have been if you had been a woman? Has that thing infected your brain already?” I couldn’t believe it. We were under attack by an unknown and David wasn’t making any sense. I was beginning to doubt the wisdom of calling for Death-Com. If David had lost his mind I may have doomed us all.

“I like Sherry. It’s a nice name for a girl don’t you think?” David gave me a wink as he flipped his wrist in a feminine fashion.

I almost peed in my pants right there. On the advice of a mad man I had signed the death warrant of everyone on the station by following the suggestions of someone who had slipped a cog. Furiously I was thinking of what we could capture and kill so Command would believe we had eradicated our menace? Maybe I could shoot David and scramble his body so they couldn’t ever figure out it had been human? Could we pass the remains off as the perceived threat? Would Command buy the deception?

David laughed. He knew what I was thinking. “You might as well get used to calling me Sherry. I am going to be totally female in a month.”

“YOU WHAT?” Now I knew David was over the edge. His intelligence finally gave up on him. They say the line between a genius and an idiot is non existent, as they are the one and the same. David had slipped over to the idiot side of genius.

“I’m not crazy, Bill. What ever it is that infected us is changing the humans on this station to the female persuasion of life. If I am correct, I’ll be more female than anything you have ever met before in your whole life. Whatever is doing this to us is going to make us into the perfect female of the human species. You thought I was the perfect male of the human species. I wasn’t. I had a lot of defects. Whatever is changing us figured out all the coding in the DNA structure where we had design mistakes not yet removed by evolution or experimentation.”

“YOU’RE KIDDING! You have accepted this transition already? What are you thinking!” I couldn’t believe David could tell me a story like that and do it so calmly. It never entered into my male schizoid makeup, David had never screamed or shouted in anger or fear like the rest of us humans.

Then it dropped on me like a barge. David said, ‘changing us’. My legs turned to rubber as the implications hit home. I managed to find my chair and plopped into it before I fell down. Glancing over at Toni, my heart stopped. She was looking at me like I was prime rib or something. I faltered and then looked again. She was still staring. In desperation I turned my attention to David. At least he wasn’t devouring me with his eyes.

David acted like he never noticed as he continued. “Why not? Even if we find what is doing this and we figure out how to reverse the process, I don’t want to take the cure. Think about it for a minute. I never asked to be born. They made me up in a test tube and incubated me in a glass tank. If I am changed into a female why should it matter to me? One body design is as good as another. In this case, better. If my instincts are right, I will be a perfect species without any defects.”

Quickly he looked up at Toni. “Sorry, I meant human species.”

“I know.” Toni looked amused.

Glancing in my direction, David looked about as sad as I had ever seen him. “Bill, I am a genetic experiment of humans. I’m not even sure I have a soul. You and a couple billion other humans are positive you have souls. You were born in a woman’s womb conceived by a father, loved by a mother. My mother and my father were tubes of nutrient, fed through ports in my glass incubator. Male, female, or anything in-between, why should I care? What you see is design engineered in a lab. Something is going to redesign me into female form. For the past couple of days, I have felt my body changing. I think whoever, or whatever did this has a knowledge of DNA we may figure out in a few hundred years.”

“I don’t know if we are infected accidentally or if we are under a planned attack. You’ll know as soon as I figure it out.” David gave me a wink before he turned to leave.

In shock I watched as David walked out. Without a sound, Toni was right behind him. Alone in the office, I was left thinking of the possibilities. Maybe a rogue lab had found the DNA sequence that infected our station? But why turn it lose on us and how did they plant it on the station? If it was an alien race and they planned on wiping out the human race in a war where a shot was never fired, they either miscalculated how far mankind had spread among the stars, or we were a test case to see if it worked. Why us?

My mind was screaming in disbelief. Change to a female and David thought it was a good idea? I was positive he had lost his mind already, but then I wasn’t sure any of us had what could be called our right minds. Maybe David was the sane one and all the rest of us were control subjects? A person could go crazy trying to figure that one out if they knew humanity’s past.

Twenty thousand years back it was decided to clone humans and send them out to explore space. There were a couple of ideas supporting that concept. One, clones weren’t actually human, so if they were killed it didn’t matter. They weren’t thought of as being ‘real’ humans. Two, in spite of the best efforts of man to invent cognitive machines, clones could make judgements no machine could ever conceive of in tests. Thus, clones were grown and sent out to space.

Even with good ideas there can always be bad results. There was a small problem that mankind should have seen. If clones could think and reason, what made mankind not realize the clones would eventually not want to be used as throw-away explorers? I guess the brain chip we implanted in their minds was supposed to keep them under control. It was so laughable when I researched history and could see mistake piling up on mistake until it all came back to haunt us.

The brain chip worked in the lab, but not in space. With all the unknown energy forces and space radiation, something was bound to short it out. It all started with one clone who managed somehow get free of mind control. She figured out what humans had grown her for and what they did to her. Can we say “hate” with a vengeance? Humanity did it to themselves since they had designed clones to have high IQ’s so they could figure out unknown situations in space exploration.

That one came back to bite them right in their collective asses. The woman was designated m-four oh one. She became known as Emma. With her superior intelligence, she figured out what it took to short out the brain control chip in other clones. Tracking down hundreds of other clones and freeing them from mind control took her a few years, but it was like a snowball on a downhill run after that. One freed two, those two freed four, those four freed eight, and pretty soon hundreds of thousands, some say millions, had been freed from mind control.

Humanity was almost wiped from existence in the clone wars. The clones hated genetic humans and we hated clones. Both sides almost lost before a truce was called. Emma was the one who had started it and she was the one who stopped it. I guess she really was intellectually superior. She talked both sides into a compromise where clones would be accepted as equal humans. That had to be an oxymoron to anyone who studied history.

Clones were superior in intelligence and design and they wanted to be equal as humans? I bet Emma chuckled over that agreement until the day she died. She had to know genetic humans would never be able to match the intelligence of clones. David was an excellent example of that planning.

It was time to get the bad news from medical. I headed for the door and almost collided with it when it didn’t automatically open. “Passage.”

“Not permitted.” The soft feminine voice replied.

“Explain.” Why wasn’t I allowed to leave my station?

“Your personal body shield is not activated. Please engage shield before leaving room.” Came back softly to me.

“Damn!” David had already set in place the orders controlling movement on the post and I had forgotten. I walked back over to my desk and retrieved my personal shield from the pop up box. Sticking it to my left hip I activated the shield. I hated these things.

The old time science fiction writers had gotten a lot of things wrong. Shields didn’t let anything in or out. That included the air we breathed. The re-generators inside the devices re-oxgenated our air, dispersed our body heat, and stopped anything and everything from moving in or out of the shield area. That also meant sound and light. We isolated ourselves from the world inside these things.

What I now saw was a computer generated world. My shield would sample the environment around my body and update the graphics inside as I moved or walked. It might seem to the eyes that I was looking at the real world, but my mind knew better.

It only took a few minutes to walk to medical. They were busy as they scanned men and women pouring in for their DNA match to see if they had been infected or not. I was surprised to see women were also infected as the results came back. It didn’t look good as less than one in fifty results turned out negative as personnel were screened. Those infected turned off their body shields and left. Most of them looked at me in despair. I couldn’t blame them.

I was in command and supposed to have a plan for something like this. Even a cure. I couldn’t offer them anything at the moment. It was one of the few times I was glad I was wearing a body shield. Like all the others who had their shields on, I looked like a soft human shaped blur to those outside looking at me. The only way the population knew it was their commander was the color of the blur. Officers cast a soft blue while everyone else was colorless. As Commander, my shield cast a soft red-ish blue.

David stepped up in front of me and motioned me toward the testing chamber. Reluctantly I stepped into the chamber. Like hundreds of others, I wanted to know, but was scared to death of what it might tell me. The test chamber glowed as its shield was activated and the chamber was cleansed of any foreign unknowns. Reaching down with my right hand I pushed the deactivation on my body shield. My heart jumped when the test chamber shield collapsed.

‘NO! God NO!’ My mind screamed in sheer terror at the thought I was already changing into the opposite sex from what I had been born as. There was no use keeping my body shielded. I was infected with whatever it was David had.

David could see the terror in my eyes. He stepped up beside me. “Bill, take a deep breath. Remember, you are the commander of this post. What you do and how you accept this will be a sign to others who also are infected.”

“David, find a cure. Take whatever men, equipment, resources you need, but find a cure!” I whispered in his ear so no one else could hear me.

David looked at me with pity. “I will do the best I can.”

That angered me. I didn’t want his pity. I wanted his brain to find a cure. I wanted… I realized that what I was wanting was to not become a product of genetic engineering like David. Taking a deep breath to calm my anger I nodded in agreement. “Thanks David. All I ask from you is your best.”

UF-2 went into virtual shutdown mode. Crew movement was limited to the area they were assigned to. We scanned and physically searched for whatever it was that had invaded us.

Days are a product of measuring time by Earth measurements. On a station stuck on the fringes of known space, days were a number like any other number. I honestly don’t think anyone on our station understood the Earth measurement of 'day.' Very few had ever seen Earth, except in holograms. Earth was a name in history. That was all, just a name.

It had been ten days since we had gone into Death-Com. All personnel were assigned duty rotation, with constant poking and prodding into every nook and cranny in the station. We weren’t having any results. I was beginning to feel like we would never find what was infecting our post. With that feeling along came a second feeling of dread.

We had exactly ninety more days to report back to Command Central as to why we had gone to Death-Com Level for unknown contamination and or intruder alert. If we couldn’t come up with a valid explanation we were going to be looking down the barrels of a Star Destroyer. Star Fleet Command took a ‘better safe than sorry’ attitude when edge of space outposts became infected with an unknown. My mind was beginning to accept the idea of a genetic change as preferable to being blasted into so much cosmic dust by 'friendly fire.'

I had wandered down to the galley after reading the reports coming in from medical and control. All our efforts were turning up negative. Our search teams had yet to find the cause. Medical had yet to find a cure. I felt tired, physically and mentally. My mind was shut down from fatigue when David and Toni walked in. I was totally exhausted, as none of us had much sleep the past ten days.

“Want to see your infection carrier?”

“YOU FOUND IT!” I turned around so fast I almost fell out of my chair.

From the Editor: Chapter two will be posted Wednesday. Stay tuned.



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