With Loads We Cannot Bear

From the Story Arc: Hymn Of Breaking Strain

Previous Story in the Arc: Let All Who Build Beware by Belladonna Aura (Friday, August 11, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: Overthrow and Pain by Belladonna Aura (Sunday, August 13, 2006)

(posted Saturday, August 12, 2006)

“…and here’s the infirmary…medical bay…whatever.” The LlewellCo tech displayed what was, for all intents and purposes, a room identical to the HQ MedBay. Except….

“What the hell—“

“It’s not yours? We found it in a container on the ship and thought it was yours.”

Bella stared in mingled horror and fascination at a complete Crey Paragon Protector Cloning station. In her medbay. Stasis module for the…original. To keep it in perfect condition. Cloning module. Growth chamber.

Her mouth worked, but at first no words came out of it. Her duplicate, Belladonna Nova, had been grown in one of these. Where had it come from? She started to order it destroyed but what came out of her mouth was, “Is it working?”

“Oh yes. We scrubbed the cloning matrix and pulled the Paragon Protector Programming module, but we kept the memory/personality transfer system intact.” The tech was very bright-eyed and proud of what he had done. Bella put one shaking hand on the cloning chamber. Once again, she opened her mouth to order it destroyed.

Once again other words emerged. “Some of the comrades might have an adverse reaction to this. Can you put it behind a false wall?”




All those “mandatory medical exams” had been for one purpose. Bella was tagging her comrades.

Biomonitors and hospital beacons could be removed, if people knew where they were implanted. Bella’s very thorough exams had planted duplicates….literally “where the sun didn’t shine.” Alarms were fed to her. Always. No matter what. This had been tested more than once as comrades went down, then either transported or got back up again by the in-mission medics or their own powers.

But this time—

The alarm jolted her out of sleep, and she snatched up the PDA.

Soviet Bear.

But he was at home—

And he wasn’t being transported.

“Waitron!” she shouted to the CCCP’s ever-present guardian. “Transport Soviet Bear and me! STAT!” Her heart was racing as the ‘porter override yanked her, still in her sleepshirt, to the MedBay. Inside something was crying. Wailing. Not another. Oh dear god, not another, not on her watch—

No one was listening. Her trained eye told her, the fading light in the eyes told her…Soviet Bear was dead.

“Commissar—“ Waitron began.

And something inside Bella Dawn Parker snapped.

“NO!” she screamed, screamed at the top of her lungs---“NO!” as she grabbed her Portal Key and manhandled the body into the Hazard Zone teleporter. “NO!” she was still screaming, sobbing, cursing as she dropped the stiffening form onto a gurney, raced it to the MedBay and slapped the secret release on the wall that hid the Crey unit.

“NONONONO!” A howl, a wail, she would not lose another comrade. She could scarcely see for the tears as she shut Soviet Bear into the stasis chamber and powered the unit up. Then…only then…did she sink to the floor of the MedBay and weep, weep, weep and pound the floor in all the grief she hadn’t let out in all this time. Not since the Siege. Not when she was so terrified during Tutelary’s trial. Not when her beautiful, bright, shining star, her little godchild Astra went out and came back broken, so broken…

Oh gods no. No. I can’t lose another. I can’t. I can’t.

Finally exhaustion and nothing else made the tears stop. That was when she looked up. Looked at the monitoring panel.

And read the words.

ALL SYSTEMS OPERATIONAL.

CLONING PROCESS INITIATED

Both hands went to her mouth. “Oh my god,” she whispered. “What have I done?”