The forgotten ornament a.., p.1
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       The Forgotten Ornament Awakens, p.1
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           Leslie Lee
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The Forgotten Ornament Awakens


  The Forgotten Ornament Awakens

  Leslie R. Lee

 

  Copyright 2015 Leslie R. Lee

  Chapter 1

  Something tickled her nose. Still asleep, she swatted at it. And slapped herself in the face bringing her instantly awake.

  “Not again,” she grumbled, rubbing the red mark on her forehead.

  Good thing no one witnessed the famous astronaut almost knocking herself out of bed. Shoving her arm aside, she rubbed her eyes with her left hand. Too awake now to try to go back to sleep, she stumbled to the bathroom, emptied her bladder, then washed her hand and face.

  Peering at the bruise, she muttered to herself, “Good one, Captain Steffy.”

  When she she’d received her promotion, she had acted appropriately humble. Then ran back to her hospital room so she could practice saying it. Of course, her full name sounded better but that battle she’d lost long ago. She didn’t care. And now her reflection grimaced back at her.

  Captain Steffy. Hero to the Jyrn.

  Captain Steffy. Hero to Earth.

  Captain Steffy. The hero no more.

  Time and meds had healed most of the wounds from the mission. Her hair had grown back though the length made her look like a pixie. Which she hated. Even her eyelashes and eyebrows had recovered. Now for the morning ordeal of trying to dress herself. Jeans and a t-shirt. No video interviews today of the savior. So casual was the order of the day. Besides, it had been a long time since anyone had requested her appearance. The media found more interest in her fellow shipmates from Charity than her now. After all, they were back on Earth with the crews of Hope and Faith. Whereas she still remained, far, far, away, on the home world of the Jyrn,

  The Jyrn.

  An advanced race. Powerful and wise in comparison to Earth, they possessed one fatal flaw: They needed Humans to survive. Specifically, a mission consisting only of Humans. The strange anomaly in their sun would kill any Jyrn coming close. But Humans were immune. Mostly. And Humans had operated the ships that had finally rid the Jyrn sun of the anomaly. Her ship had delivered the payload that had saved the Jyrn. And it was she in particular that had paid the price.

  She shook her jeans out with her left hand trying to keep her other arm from snatching the clothing away.

  “It would be easier if you performed your dressing duties with both extremities.”

  She jumped and whirled around. The Jyrn did not have the concept of knocking. And they were very quiet. She realized, in her surprise, that she had thrown her jeans at him. He, Jorol, had caught the clothing easily and shook it out before offering it back to her.

  “Nice reflexes,” he smiled. “Uh, uh, not your left hand.”

  She took a deep breath. And reached out with the tentacle that was now her right arm. Her body looked very much like the Jyrn had just grafted one of their appendages onto her shoulder. Her right arm flailed at the jeans beating at it but not grabbing them.

  “You’re thinking too much, Captain,” Jorol said smiling.

  She tried again. And the tentacle slowly reached out and grasped the jeans. She pulled it towards her and tried to transfer it to her left hand. Instead, every time her left hand tried to take hold of it, her right… tentacle would dance the pants out of the way.

  “Dang it!” she snarled, hurling them onto the floor.

  “Better,” said Jorol.

  “How the hell is that better?” she demanded.

  “You just did it rather than over complicating it. Like throwing the jeans at me.”

  She could tell from the way his tentacles coiled and his changing colors that he found her highly amusing. That did not make her feel any better. She calmed herself as much as she could then let her left hand and right tentacle slowly dress her.

  “I don’t suppose you’ve heard anything about whether I am to be released.”

  He took on an appearance she recognized as frowning. “You are not a captive here, Captain Steffy. You are free to move around as you wish.”

  “But not to go back to Earth.”

  The tentacles shifted again and his great eyes stared at her. He was a lot bigger than her. She recognized in his demeanor a bit of embarrassment and a tinge of what might be anger.

  “Your superiors still want to conduct more tests. To make sure that all that can be done has been done.”

  “Right.”

  Her superiors. NASA was perfectly content to bring her home. But the politicians… They were afraid. Afraid of what she had become because of her arm. The radiation and heat of the Jyrn sun had so ravaged her right arm and hand, the meds decided they had to amputate after the payload drop. The Jyrn could easily regrow a lost appendage. And they were sure that they could stimulate regrowth in a Human. So they had. Except the appendage that her stimulated stem cells had differentiated into was not a Human arm, but rather a Jyrn tentacle. Everyone was fascinated, even delighted. They postulated that some sort of anomalous DNA had contaminated the procedure. But the more they investigated the more confused everyone became. And the more fearful. They decided to amputate and try again. Steffy had resisted but decided there was no other way. When she’d awoken from that procedure, she expected a couple of days recovery then to restart the regeneration protocol again. But instead of a stump, a small baby tentacle grew from her shoulder. From their faces, Human and Jyrn doctors alike, she didn’t need to ask if they had simply skipped ahead. Her right appendage had spontaneously started to regrow. Like a Jyrn. Only faster.

  That was when the fear really ramped up. Quarantine and isolation “just to be safe” did not assuage any burgeoning panic.

  The media turned their attention to other members of her crew. The media and the vast majority of their consumers preferred a pristine story. One without someone who suddenly sprung a tentacle out of their body. And it was better for her anyway, the media handlers had said, that they tone down the coverage.

  Just to be on the safe side.

  She had hacked the firewall separating her from the media on Earth to find out what was really going on. As usual, a vocal and powerful minority fanned the flames of fear. What if she were contagious? What if she had been replaced and she was nothing more than a replicant? What if she contaminated the purity of the Human DNA genome?

  The trumpeting of what-ifs simply drowned out the voices of reason from NASA and the medical community. To put the stranger, the unknown, into the midst of their safe and petty lives, was something the right politicians and the audience hungry pundits could obsess over. They easily outfoxed the thoughtful discourse of science. She tried not to be so unkind but it was a struggle.

  Punching out a doctor that called her tentacle an abomination had not helped her cause. Turned out that tentacles make fairly decent fists. At least he had been a Jyrn. The bureaucrat she had almost choked the life from was Human. He had suggested that she actually wanted to stay on Jyrn since she would feel more at home with “others like her”. It’d taken three people to unwrap her arm from around that pencil neck. She figured she must have Tourette’s of the tentacle. She hadn’t really wanted to strangle that idiot. Not really.

  She missed Earth. She missed her ship. She missed her crew. But most of all she missed her beautiful mouse companion. That little body now rested in a place of honor on her ship, Charity, that circled the Jyrn sun, far from the Jyrn home world due to contamination from the strange radiation of the anomaly. And she had left the little blue ornament with the mouse so that Little Miss Mouse wouldn’t be alone. She was glad she had. Still, it would have been nice to hold that little blue orb as well. She’d not forget either one. Let them sleep there, she had thought.

  “We have a tour of some of other c
ities planned if you would like.”

  She suddenly realized that he must have been repeating the offer more than once. Exploring this strange new world both thrilled her and distracted her from her own thoughts.

  “That sounds great.” she smiled.

  The last time they had left the security of the hospital though had revealed that the Jyrn were as much at the mercy of politics as any Human. She knew there were Jyrn who did not like the Humans. However, she had always assumed this advanced alien race was smarter. Perhaps it comforted her a little knowing that Humans did not hold an exclusive patent on stupidity. She now knew why she had guards. The vast majority of the Jyrn loved her. But there were others who saw reliance on an alien species to be a dangerous precedent. Contacting Earth had bent Jyrn laws and the laws of the Interplanetary Agreement with other alien races at the very least. Broken them to be brutally honest. But the Jyrn government at that time had
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