With “Regent” shortly off to my copyeditor and cover designer, I have two more projects. First, the completion of “New Russia,” what I abandoned about 13k words in back in spring. Second it to put together at least two more short stories for a second collection. To the latter end… Monday at 0630, letting the dogs out, I saw about the first half of what’s below. The second half came after six hours of nothing in my head. And, per usual, I’m about 500 words ahead as I don’t know how the politics of this will shake out.
So here we have a sick little boy. The trick for me, the writer, is that there are three people in this story, the Doctors Hartmann, and Dorina of tribe Tohsaka, who are vastly smarter than I am. It is tricky to write when you have people like that looking over your shoulder. And I don’t even have a working title yet.
And with open tabs about Batten Disease and the EAST reactor in China, my Feeb file likely was just reactivated
Tamera Keynes downed the last of her cooling coffee and set the mug on the corner of her tiny desk. Her eyes drifted up from her report in the hospital’s CIPE software system to the Tennessee River outside her window, just a few hundred feet to the northeast. As a nurse practitioner she should not have rated her own office… but sometimes having the right patients can pay off in unexpected ways, she thought.
It wasn’t so much her long professional association with Doctor Gary Hartmann but rather being picked by him to take care of his sister, then eighteen-year-old Faustina, who while leading an army against the Chinese in Savannah had died. Several times. A girl who within a year controlled all of what had once been the Deep South of the former United States, declaring herself empress and ruling as an autocrat.
Because of what she is, Tamara thought. Like her brother, tampered by one of the Thinking Machines, their neurosystem rewired, changed. And, those changes turned out to be heritable. There are now eight of these demi-humans, as they call themselves, just in the imperial family. Plus whatever Gary’s wife is. Tamera shook her head at that. First introduced when a fifteen-year-old not-quite Doctor Hartmann was giving his wife a tour of the Knoxville Hospital complex, across the river from the city. Like everyone else, Tamara had seen pictures of the young woman, Henge, and heard of her amazing creation – nanomaterials and fusion fire – but had never met her.
Like nothing else in creation. Light, purple hair, bright golden eyes. She seemed visibly brighter than anyone else in the hallway. And to touch her hand… Tamera shuddered at the generation’s-old memory. Some call her a literal angel on earth; she just smiles and says she’s a housewife. She gave a grim smile and went back to her report.
And now I am essentially their personal physician, she thought, looking at the name on the software’s tab: Lem Hartmann. Gary and Henge’s three-year-old human grandson. “And a very sick little boy. Worse, God help me, we don’t know why.”
His father, Roland, took after his father in being demi-human and a medical doctor. His wife, a tavern girl from Frankfort, Kentucky Province, is albino. So, Tamera thought, both of their genomes are suspect. I am honestly surprised that more of the empress’ children didn’t end up with some bizarre cancers or other diseases. Being human, Lem was still bright, walking and talking before most other human children did. Then his vision began to slowly fail, so, glasses. But when he started falling…
Admitted to the hospital two days ago, his grandfather had not slept at all since, lost in research. Roland was making rounds at one of the moon bases and is due back later this afternoon. And I have a report to…
There was a single knock at her open door. NP Keynes, expecting this, stood and gave a nod to the woman in the doorway. A little shorter than she was, and looking a decade younger than her mid-forties, Empress Faustina Hartmann wore her typical legionary uniform with just a gold circlet to show her position. Her long brown hair was kept off of her face with a headband.
“Status?” one of the most powerful people on earth demanded.
“We,” she corrected herself, “I have only hypotheses at this point. I suspect something like Batten Disease. Genetic. Neurological corruption. Always fatal.”