Read Tabitha Online

Authors: Andrew Hall

Tags: #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Superheroes, #Science Fiction, #Alien Invasion, #Genetic Engineering, #Post-Apocalyptic, #Superhero

Tabitha (10 page)

BOOK: Tabitha
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‘She was going
for her knife, look,’ said Jane, pointing the pistol at her.

‘Of course I’m
going for my bloody knife!’ Tabitha snapped back. ‘You’ve drugged me and pulled
me into some creepy lab!’ she tried to move off the table, but Jane stepped
forward and emphasised that she was the one with the gun. Sam stepped up beside
her and ushered for Jane to lower it.

‘She’s got a
point,’ Sam conceded. ‘These
are
less than ideal surroundings for
avoiding the creepy doctor scenario.’ Tabitha stared into Sam’s eyes, pale
sky-blue. ‘We don’t want it to be like that at all,’ Sam said softly. ‘Jane’s
just being overly cautious. We think your changes are fascinating, Tabitha, so
we’d just like to find out more about them. About you.’ Tabitha looked at her
warily, still conscious of Jane’s gun. ‘After that you’re obviously free to go,
if you prefer,’ Sam added. ‘Probably safer down here though. You’re welcome to
stay.’ Tabitha looked from one to the other. Jane in her dusty jumper and
jeans, holding the gun. Sam in her light uniform, smiling gently. They couldn’t
have looked more different.

‘You just want
to look at my changes?’ said Tabitha.

‘That’s all,’
Sam assured her. ‘Nothing sinister.’ Tabitha looked into Sam’s eyes, big and
blue and sincere. Slowly she unclenched her grey fists and put her alien hands
back down on the table.

‘I’m sorry for
Jane’s heavy-handedness,’ said Sam, coming closer. ‘She’s seen a bit more
action than I have.’

‘Are you calling
me old?’ Jane chipped in grumpily.

‘God Jane, I’m
saying you’ve seen more combat than me, alright?’ Sam replied. ‘Now put the
bloody gun away, will you? Tabitha’s not going to hurt us.’ She turned to
Tabitha and looked her over. Reluctantly, Jane put the gun down.

‘Can I look at
your jaw, please?’ said Sam. ‘Where Jane hit you?’ Tabitha looked at her,
thought about it, and nodded hesitantly. Gently Sam turned Tabitha’s cheek to
the light, and pressed it lightly with her fingers.

‘It must hurt,’
said Sam. ‘Sorry about that.’

‘It did before.
I can’t feel it now,’ Tabitha replied. ‘I can heal quickly, since the changes.’
Sam looked intrigued.

‘So these
changes, how did they happen?’ said Sam. ‘What happened exactly?’ Tabitha
explained everything about the alien and her fight with it. About its needled
claw going in, and waking up with new hands. Sam and Jane listened intently.

‘That’s
awesome,’ Sam muttered, wide-eyed. ‘Medically and… just in general.’ Tabitha
couldn’t help but smile a little. She didn’t know what kind of evil government
doctors she’d been imagining, but they weren’t Sam. Sam was more like a nerdy
science teacher.

‘Would you mind
if I took a little bit of blood?’ said Sam. Tabitha studied her expression. If
there was any malice there, Sam was exceptionally good at hiding it. She looked
like a kid in a toy shop.

‘…Ok,’ Tabitha
replied. Probably better to find out as much as she could about her condition
anyway.

‘Thank you,’ Sam
said with a smile. She took a hypodermic needle from its plastic wrapper, and
cleaned a patch of skin on Tabitha’s arm with a wet pad.

‘So,
you’ll
feel a slight scratch
, all that business,’ Sam muttered, sliding the needle
in. ‘Though I imagine you’ve felt much worse than slight scratches recently. Oh
my god, it’s silver. Look Jane, silver blood! It’s incredible.’ Tabitha looked
over at Jane, who’d taken a seat in a gloomy corner. It looked like the
distrust was pouring out of her into the room, darkening the lantern glow from
the corners. Tabitha looked back down at her arm.

‘There we go,’
said Sam, pulling the needle out. She pressed a small pad of gauze onto
Tabitha’s arm. ‘Just hold that on there for me, please,’ she said. Sam was
transfixed by the plastic needle full of silver blood. ‘Jane, you need to see
this,’ she said, staring into the plastic vial. Tabitha sat still on the table,
watching them examine her blood. She felt a sudden tingling in the air around
her. The static press of a lightning storm.


Er
…’ Tabitha muttered, feeling her hair begin to stand up
on end. She sneezed and electricity exploded from her body. It half demolished
the table she was sitting on, and flung Sam and Jane across the room. Voltage
arced through the lab in a sudden lightning storm, buzzing and fizzing off the
walls as it crackled away. And just like that, the chaos was over. Tabitha
stood looking at Sam and Jane in the corner, huddled down like a bomb had gone
off. Which it had, kind of.

‘…Sorry,’
Tabitha said quietly, looking around at the demolition.

‘Can you do that
again?’ said Sam eagerly, picking herself up off the floor.

‘What the hell
was that?’ Jane demanded, staggering to her feet in the corner. Terrified, she
pulled her gun on Tabitha.

‘Jane!’ Sam
warned her, stamping out a small fire on the floor.

‘Stop pointing
that bloody thing at me!’ Tabitha snapped.

‘Christ Jane,
put the gun away!’ said Sam. She put herself between them, standing in Jane’s
line of fire. Jane hesitated, and put the gun away with a sigh.

‘Thank you,’ Sam
said sarcastically. ‘Now can we just have a look at this blood, please?’ Jane glared
at her, and nodded moodily. Sam pulled an old microscope from the smoking
clutter on the floor. She set it down on a stack of boxes and gathered the
fallen lanterns around it, for as much light as they could give her. Tabitha
still smelled burning. Looking down at her shoulder, she realised there were
smoking holes in her clothes. She patted the burning edges out, coughing as she
tried to waft the smoke away.

‘Oh my god
Jane,’ Sam muttered, studying the slide under the microscope. ‘You need to see
this.’ Jane looked equally dumbfounded when she peered down the scope.

‘What the hell?’
Jane muttered, studying the drop of blood. She moved the makeshift mirror
beneath the microscope to catch as much of the lantern light as she could. Sam
motioned to Tabitha to come over and take a look.

‘Those are my
cells?’ she said, watching the jumble of dots in the microscope.

‘There are two
kinds of blood cells,’ Sam said excitedly. ‘The round ones are obviously your
own cells, but the diamond-shaped ones… they’re
alien cells
. They could
be some kind of organic metal or silicone, I’m not sure.’

‘Nanotechnology,’
Jane mumbled.

‘Exactly,’ Sam
replied happily. Tabitha moved aside to let Sam look back down the microscope.
Sam had given her a quick intense glance just then, as they traded places. What
was that? Fascination? Attraction? …Or was she just the prize test subject?

‘These cells
might explain your rapid healing, but how?’ said Sam. She ignored the smoking ceiling
light that crashed to the floor behind her. Jane and Tabitha jumped at the
noise, and flashed a look at one another. ‘I’m not even sure these
are
cells as we would understand them,’ Sam muttered into the microscope. ‘There’s
a nucleus, but not one that I can recognise.’ Her excitement made her voice
tremble. ‘They’re
living metal
. They’re like nothing I’ve ever seen
before. I would’ve thought your immune system should be fighting them, like any
foreign body. But it looks like they actually function in conjunction with your
own cells. Oh, that rhymes!’ she chuckled. ‘
Function in conjunction.
Now,
if you had a high enough concentration of these alien cells close enough to the
surface…’

‘I’d have alien
metal skin?’ Tabitha interrupted, raising her grey hands.

‘Exactly,’ said
Sam happily. ‘Have you had any other changes?’

‘Just the
hands,’ Tabitha replied. At least she hadn’t grown any spidery parts, she
supposed.

‘Still, armoured
alien hands are nothing to be sniffed at,’ Sam replied. She scraped the silver
blood off the slide into a flask of solution. Tabitha considered Sam’s strange
choice of words, and made a sly sniff of her hands while Sam shook the mixture.
They smelled like copper coins, and felt cold and rough against her nose. Jane
flashed her a suspicious look.

‘When did all
this happen?’ said Sam, inspecting the flask of solution. Nothing was happening
to the blood.

‘When that
thing
stung me,’ Tabitha replied. ‘It felt like I was having a heart attack.’ She
thought back to that sense of dread, and the metallic pounding in her chest.
How long had Dev said it was since then? Three days? She thought back to his
lifeless body in the pub. And how little sadness she felt. Maybe she’d already
run out of sadness.

‘It stung you?’
said Jane, leaning on the boxes beside Sam. The lanterns cast her face in a
craggy yellow light, picking out creases and shadows.

‘A needle inside
its claw, yeah. It injected me with something,’ said Tabitha.

‘Then you should
be dead,’ Jane replied, disbelieving. ‘You should be an empty skin.’

‘Sorry to
disappoint,’ said Tabitha, looking Jane square in the eye. Jane’s hand never
strayed far from the gun in her belt.

‘An exchange and
modification of cellular material,’ Sam replied, awestruck as she looked up
from the microscope and a fresh drop of blood. ‘I had a listen to your heart
too, while you were unconscious,’ she admitted. ‘There wasn’t a beat, just… a
really faint
hum
. Your heart tissue must have mutated with the venom.
Or, it might even have been completely replaced.’

‘So what’s in
there instead?’ said Tabitha, pressing a palm to her breastbone.

‘I think it’s a
core
,’
Sam replied excitedly.

‘What do you
mean?’

‘It could be
some kind of reactor or a generator, at a guess,’ said Sam. ‘A
power source.
It might explain the explosion,’ she said, glancing around at the messy
cellar. ‘And all this came from a venom that was supposed to
kill
you.
You’ve had a completely different reaction to the substance than any other
victim I’ve seen.’ Tabitha watched Sam closely, and how flustered she looked.
She was fidgety; tapping the flask of blood impatiently. There was definitely
something going on there; Jane had noticed it too. Sam was looking more and
more excited by the minute, frantic even. She hurried back to the microscope
again, with an energy bordering on the obsessive.

‘It’s possible
that an existing genetic mutation allowed your body to
incorporate
the cells in the alien
venom, rather than fall victim to them,’ said Sam. She was talking rapidly,
focussing on the blood in the microscope. ‘I can only assume that these alien
nanotech cells coursed through your blood vessels and deposited in the heart.
Rather than destroying your tissues, they somehow acted as stem cells or
templates… modifying your mammal heart into an alien counterpart. A
bioelectrical reactor.’

‘Are you alright
love?’ said Jane, putting a hand on Sam’s arm.

‘Yes, fine,’ Sam
replied, affronted. ‘Why?’

‘You seem…
frantic.’

‘It’s exciting!’
said Sam, tearing the plastic wrapping off a hypodermic needle. ‘Don’t you
think so?’ Jane looked at her.

‘Well yes, I
suppose,’ she said. ‘You just look wired, that’s all.’

‘Can you blame
me?’ Sam replied happily. ‘Think of all the applications!’ she was drawing a clear
liquid into the needle from a small glass bottle. They watched her tap the
needle with a shaking hand.

‘Applications?’
said Tabitha, backing away. Sam turned around and grabbed her arm.

‘Now if you just
hold still a moment –

‘What the hell
are you doing!?’ Tabitha snapped, recoiling as Jane grabbed her shoulders. She
felt the needle sink into her arm. Sam held on tight to her struggling wrist.

‘Anaesthetic,’
Sam assured her. She emptied the needle into her arm before Tabitha could pull
away. ‘Only a biopsy. We’ll have you back around in no time.’ Tabitha stumbled
away from them and crashed into the desk behind her. She felt her legs turn to
jelly, watched Jane stepping closer. The room spun as the anaesthetic coursed
through her.

‘You want to cut
me open!’ Tabitha heard herself mumble, looking up at Sam’s blurry shape. Alarm
bells were ringing in her head; her paranoia. She felt Jane’s hands grip her
arms behind her back.

‘I only want to
see your core working,’ said Sam, by way of a compromise.

‘You want to
open my heart up!’ Tabitha slurred, struggling to get free. She felt the
anaesthetic bleeding all the urgency out of her. Her limbs were impossible
weights.

‘Don’t worry,
you’ll heal right up again,’ Sam reminded her brightly.

‘Anyway, you’re
more hardware than human now,’ Jane said in her ear. ‘Shouldn’t be too hard to
piece you back together when we’re done.’ Tabitha shook her head and tried to
fight for consciousness, and felt the dizziness begin to fade like the shroud
of sleep. She felt her heart kick in, or her core, or whatever the hell it was.
Current ran through her veins like espresso. She felt her body defend itself,
burning off the drug. She felt her senses coming back to her; felt Jane’s
strong hands gripping her arms behind her back.

BOOK: Tabitha
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ads

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