Smoky Corners 1-NC: A Second Chance at Life (Complete)

Author's Note:

Per the (very gentle) request of a very dear friend, I have changed the title of this story. My undying thanks to you, unnamed stranger, for making me a BETTER- A better writer, a better friend, and a better person. - Haylee
Jake Illson was born a sickly child. He was 12 weeks premature, and as a result, often fraught with the various problems that come with being a preemie- lung and heart ailments, diminutive stature, slow development, and awkward social skills. Being in and out of the hospital most of his life, he didn't have much time to socialize or make strong, lasting friendships. The doctors and nurses knew him well enough, and treated him very kindly, but it just wasn't the same. what Jake longed for most of all was to have a normal life- to be able to laugh and play, have friends, and do the normal things any other 8-year-old did. But, alas! such was not the case.

Jake had a weak immune system, and was currently in the hospital, yet again, battling pneumonia. The antibiotics seemed to be helping, and the hourly breathing treatments enabled him to breathe on his own- for now. He was once again cocooned in his plastic bubble, shielded from the outside world and its plethora of contagions, but also shielded from its warmth and comforting touch. O! how he longed to feel his mother's gentle caresses and to know- for once in his life- how tender an embrace could be.

Dr. Nahwel entered the room, breaking Jake free of his thoughts. "The blood tests finally came back, Jake," he said, apprehension apparent on every word, "And they don't look good. Your lungs are quite weak, and your heart is failing. I've taken the liberty of placing you on the national donor list, but I wouldn't get my hopes up. You're pretty far down the list, and it could be weeks, months, or..." He paused, but I knew EXACTLY what he left unsaid- or never...

The thought of my predicament made me sick to my stomach- in order for me to live, someone else would have to die. I didn't want- or need- that on my conscience. "Isn't there ANY other way, Doc?" I gasped.

"There IS one... VERY EXPERIMENTAL... procedure being done in a little town called Smoky Corners, Montana. Claims they can cure 100% of your ailments. Uses nanite technology to repair the damage at the genetic and cellular level. But the side effects are, as yet, completely unknown. You could end up completely cured, or you could end up much worse..."

"At this point, Doc," I said matter-of-fact, "What do we really have to lose? Sign me up."

In two hours, I was on a plane overlooking the rich Montana prairie. When we landed, I was escorted to a dark brown limo with "Smoky Corners Memorial" emblazoned in white letters. It was there I met the physician responsible for the marvelous "cure" I was about to undergo- Dr. Hans Komstock.

"You have questions about procedure, yah?" he asked in a thick German accent. "I developed technique during war. Used many times." With that, I noticed thick tears welling up in his eyes. "Too many times, unfortunately. But that was long ago, and I did what I had to to survive. He was a very evil man..." With that, he dabbed at his eyes and became deathly quiet.

After what seemed like an eternity of silence, he began again. "You will be alright. Hans make sure. Hans make damn sure..."

We arrived at the hospital just as the last golden rays of sun were replaced by the crimson and maroon clouds of sunset. Dr. Hans (as he asked me to call him) led me to my room and began to explain the procedure.

"Nanites are little machines. They're programmed to detect- and fix- abnormalities in your genetic code. The procedure can be quite painful, so we induce a medical coma. We then infuse you with the nanites, and let them do their work. It usually takes a few weeks, so we'll be giving you IV fluids and such, to keep you alive. When you're awaken from the coma, you will be- literally- a new person, from the genes out."

"And I'll be cured?" I asked, startled.

"Yah," he said, "Right as rain. Although you'll no longer be Jake."

I was puzzled by this last statement, but thought, "What the hell? I don't have much of a life to lose..."

"Go ahead, Doc," I said nonchalantly. "Do what you have to. I'm ready."
The next morning, I was whisked into the operating room, given the anesthetic, and everything grew dark.
I awoke with a start. I felt OK, just different.

"And how's our dear little miss today?" I heard a strange, yet familiarly comforting voice say. "I see you have awakened at last. How do you feel?"

"Wonderful!" I heard a melodic angel sing. Wait! Was that me?

"Yes," Doc Hans said, as if reading my thoughts. "The damage was QUITE EXTENSIVE, unfortunately, and your recovery took longer than expected. Your Y-chromosone had numerous mutations, and the nanites had to eradicate it totally. Having nothing else to work with, they cloned your otherwise perfectly healthy X-chromosone. As the Y-chromosome made you biologically male, its lack has turned you female. And I must say, a very lovely one at that. The nanites completed the biological changes as well, so you are biologically, genetically, and anatomically female. You will have menses, and can give birth as well."

"So Jake is...gone?" I questioned.

"The male you is no more, unfortunately. But you still have all the memories, yes, as well as new ones..." Dr. Hans explained. "I've also corrected all your IDs. It's as if Jake Illson never existed."

"But what am I supposed to do now?" I whined. "I don't know HOW to be a girl."

"Simple, Ms. Jackie. You learn. You grow. Laugh. Play. And yes, even love. Go out into the world and DO all the things you couldn't before. Make friends, attend school. Meet a boy, settle down, raise a family. In short, Ms. Jackie, LIVE. WELL."

With that, I got up, and quickly embraced this man who had given me a new lease on life.

"Yes," I promised. "I'll live. And I'll make every day the best I can..."

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