Touching Water – Viola Grace

Lydra clung to the safety railing at the edge of the roof and looked down at the pulsing and churning waves. “So, the only way here is by air.” Her cousin, Mirdok, nodded. “Yes. This is a secure facility. How did you get them to agree to your visit?” “Ah, I have excellent grades and a leaning toward genetic research. They are courting me.” She turned and looped her arm through his. He sighed. “And how did you get the Citadel to agree to have me fly you around the islands?” She laughed. “I am very smart, Specialist Mirdok. They are courting me, too.” “My aunt has a lot to answer for.” “She’s busy teaching. Now, shall we meet the researchers? I am eager for my tour.

” She elbowed him in the ribs, and he sighed, leading her toward the bright-faced researcher who was desperate to get her on their team. EmberCorp Genetics was the most respected and effective genetic research and alteration facility on their world. They got the best and brightest minds in their entire solar system and occasionally beyond. They wanted Lydra Yrick, and she was considering the staggering sum that they were willing to pay for both her mind and access to her genetic code. “So, as you can see, the equipment we have here is second to none. We do research for the Citadels, the Sector Guard, and occasionally, we even get diagnostic requests from the Nyal Imperium.” There was pride in Administrator Rorring’s voice. Lydra looked at the scanners and equipment. Her fingers itched to be working on those machines. She tried to act casual.

“Do you have anything new?” The administrator smiled as if sensing her capitulation. “We have been working on a genetic accelerator.” That perked her interest. “What?” “Well, as a potential power yourself, you know that a few generations is sometimes all that is needed to unlock the power in the genes. We have created a machine to do the work of those generations.” Lydra cleared her throat. “Can I see it?” “Our researchers are eager to show it to you.” Lydra could tell that the administrator was eager to show their new jewel to her. She hoped that Mirdok was entertained in the visitor’s centre. She was definitely wanting to take her time and see all she could.

A placement at EmberCorp was a lifelong appointment. They would complete her education, her training and give her housing and security. They would select even her husband, matching genetics for the best chance at a powered offspring. It was a lot to decide on, but the promise of a life of research and discovery was so tempting, she was nearly drooling. She was taken through six security locks and down into the base of the building. It was like creeping through the layers of a nest to reach the egg inside. “Dr. Hameruk, this is Lydra Yrick. We are trying to get her to come to the Corp when her finals are done, though her marks and research papers have already assured her a place here if she wants it.” Dr.

Hameruk was tall, handsome and had a curl to his lip that indicated he considered his mind a law unto itself. “What is your genetic status?” Lydra looked at him calmly. “I am a potential.” He raised his brows. “Power in the family?” “Seven members within one generation.” “Parents?” “Research educators with weak telekinesis.” He blinked. “Your parents are powered?” “They are, though they prefer the term talented. I have three siblings and one cousin affiliated with the Citadel.” She smiled with pride.

“They have all made it to Specialist ranking or higher.” Suddenly, the contempt was gone from the doctor’s face. “May I have a hair sample for destructive purposes?” She blinked and challenged him. “May I see how the machine works?” Anger crossed his features, and then, he let out a slow smile. “Of course. Come this way.” The administrator was delighted. “You have had a successful test?” The researcher’s jaw tensed so hard, Lydra was afraid he would crack his teeth. “We have had moderate success. I will be happy to demonstrate for the candidate.

I am sure that you are content to remain outside the chamber?” Rorring looked nervous. “Yes, of course. If you are fine with that, Ms. Yrick, I will be right outside.” “I am sure I will be fine. Please, Dr. Hameruk, lead the way.” He gave her a tight smile and led her through three secure doors until they were facing a lock that required genetic samples and full biometric scans on the part of the doctor. He smiled and gestured for her to take his position. “Scan for access, subject of study, Yrick.

” The phrasing was a little peculiar, but Lydra’s curiosity was her worst failing and she wanted to see that machine. The scan prickled along her skin, and she stood motionless as it went over her from head to toe several times. When she felt like the victim of a high-powered solar bath, it ceased its scan and she was free to enter the airlock with the doctor. The moment the secondary door opened and she could see the equipment, she started smiling. It was gorgeous. “Oh my. Did you put it together yourself?” She approached the unit, taking in the articulated restraints that would custom fit to every subject, the set injectors and the serum containment systems. It was begging for a subject. “I gave the requirements to different teams in the facility and installed it myself. The restraint system is a thing of beauty.

” His tone was warm as he went to the control desk. She looked at him as his fingers moved across the panels and screens. Lydra called herself seventeen kinds of fool when a shock crossed her body and sent her stumbling back. Her own skin moved her, and the tingling of the scan made sense. She had been coated with microbots. Nanites. “What are you doing, doctor?” “Do you know, in the year I have been working on this, there has never been a volunteer with your pedigree? No one has had power so close to the surface. I would be a fool to pass up this opportunity.” The restraints folded in and held her tightly. She couldn’t even wiggle.

Now was not the time to panic. She tried to reason with her captor. “They know that I am here. I am on record and my cousin is waiting on the floors above.” He laughed. “If I can trigger you, I will be able to create dozens of these machines around the globe and no one will even know your name. You will be Subject Zero, and that is all that anyone will care about.” The injectors lined up with her arms and legs. Light blinded her, and she could only shut her eyes, seeing nothing but the red of her blood through the lids. “Aren’t you going to test on a sample?” She was breathing shallowly.

“No. All the samples have been positive. It means nothing. You will be my proof.” It was all the warning she got before the needles struck her. She screamed and kept screaming as liquid fire ran through her blood and crept into every cell. She heard him mutter, “Subject is tolerating the injections. Catalyst application in three… two… one.” Energy arced through her and turned the fire in her body into burning explosions. The explosions became external as the machine holding her rocked and bucked.

The doctor shouted at her, but she didn’t hear him. Her ears heard nothing but roaring, and the reaction in her body had to go somewhere. A release of the pain and fire occurred in a rush. Stone cracked and the roar of water invaded her senses. Water cooled her body, and she rocked back and forth with the waves. The machine held her fast as she was pulled under, but the soothing cool was a relief after the burning of the test. Breathing became an option as the machine was rocked and held her under the water. The cold of the sea replaced the fire in her veins, and she slowly exhaled her last. * * * * Specialist Mirdok stopped looking through the discoveries depicted in the visitor’s centre the moment that he felt the explosion. “Lydra.

” He knew that whatever was going on was centred around her. She was the kind of woman that things happened to. He headed for the lift when a wild-eyed Administrator Rorring bolted out of it. She caught him and held his arms. “It’s gone! The lab is gone.” “What?” “There was an explosion. The entire lower level is under water. We have to evacuate.” She was shaking him by the front of his robes. “Where is Lydra?” “Who?” “My cousin, Lydra.

You took her on a tour of the labs. Where is she?” He tried to keep his voice calm, but every instinct was screaming at him that he was right to worry. “She’s gone. The lab is full of water. The wall blew. There is no way she survived.” Mirdok knew that he couldn’t fight water rushing in, so he took the other path. He ran back to the roof and jumped. The sucking hole in the side of the research facility was huge. One-third of the building had been blow out.

He wrapped his talent around him and plunged into the water, seeking the level where Lydra was likely to be. It took him four attempts and twenty minutes, but eventually, he found her as other Citadel members arrived. In the dim light of the emergency illumination, he saw Lydra. She was strapped to a mechanism and her skin was a bizarre shade of blue. He cried as he pried the restraints from her. The least he could do was bring her body home. When he had her free, he stroked her cheek briefly. The moment her eyes opened, he jolted. Her lips opened and closed, and she held onto him tightly. Not one to question luck too deeply, he flew underwater with her, pulling her back into the daylight and free of the building.

The Citadel would be the best place to look into her health and that way he could call his aunt. She would want to be at Lydra’s side when she was up and around again. Hopefully, the blue skin was temporary. Chapter Two Lydra felt weird. The medics and healers had left for the day, and she was sitting in a med bed, next to her parents and looking like she was adopted. Her mother looked at her. “It isn’t the end of the world. So, you are blue. Big deal. You are alive, darling, and that is what matters.

” “I am alive and not even a talent. I am a mutation, Mom. Dad, what do you think?” Her father looked her over. “I am thinking that you are lucky and that blue looks good on you. You will need to buy a new wardrobe and lay in some new makeup.” She stared at him for a moment before laughing. “Maybe a piercing or two or some tattoos.” He shrugged. “It is a whole new start for you. Go big.

It isn’t like you can blend in, so stand out.” She reached out and touched his hand. “Thanks, Dad. Do I get an increase in my allowance? How much school did I miss?” “You have been in a coma for a month. Fortunately, your grades were sufficient to carry you to graduation. Where did you get that brain?” He wrinkled his nose. She grinned. “I take after Mom.” Her mother chuckled and wiped a few tears from her eyes. “You had us worried.

The healers said you would come out of it in your own time, but we were so scared.” Lydra closed her eyes for a moment and remembered the light, the fire, the pain and the cold. “I was a little off balance myself. I am glad I found my way out though.” Her dad chuckled. “So, are you going to take that position at EmberCorp?” “Ah, no. While I want to pursue research, I think my appearance would be a little distracting to say the least. I can still do what I want to; I just have to find out where I can do it.” Her mother asked her, “You are planning on leaving?” “Mom, while there are talents and even a Citadel outpost here, there are no blue people. From what the medics told me, my situation has become public.

I am not going to be the failed experiment, or worse, the successful one. I think I would like to find a nice lab off world where I can just be one alien amongst dozens.” Her mother gave her a serious look, but it was her father that said, “We will support your choice, but stay here and get the training you need until you have a grip on whatever has happened to you. Your biology is now upside down and backwards. Let yourself adapt, and when you have yourself under control again, we will support wherever you choose to go. Promise.” She smiled and her heart felt lighter. “Thanks. Both of you. It means a lot that you have been here this whole time.

” Emyra and Lonik Yrick smiled at her. Her mother chuckled. “We finally got to use family emergency leave. It took them four hours to find the right forms.” Her mother liked nothing better than messing with bureaucracy. Lydra leaned back and fiddled with her hair, starting a braid at her temple. It was going to pass the time, and she thought it might keep the mass under control. Her hair had changed texture, and it felt like static was about to sweep it from her scalp. A few braids might keep it under control. Two days after she broke free from the coma, she was up and running, literally.

The medics had her on an exercise regimen that was monitored to determine what alterations had been made to her biology and physiology


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