#SampleSunday: Chapter 1 of Gladiator Girl

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Chapter 1

Lucy Star is Born, Again

 

There were thirty-seven buns in the oven and one was about ready to drop. Mary sat at the console in the Monitor Room. She pulled a card from her deck and was making a play when the birth alarm went off. The monitor showed that the womb with the bun named Lucy Star had broken its water and was chugging away with contractions. The girl’s head was emerging.

A gurney was parked outside the Monitor Room that Mary had prepared when she came on duty for the night shift. She picked up the big, fluffy towel from its mattress and hung it around her neck. Vesper, one of her matron’s aids, came out of the Recovery Ward. “I got it,” she said to Mary and headed to the Memory Vault to collect the girl’s placenta jar. Mary pushed the gurney into the Womb Room.

Rows of bulky, mostly organic contraptions stood down both sides of the room. They were big, corpulent, fleshy things with fittings at the top to feed in nutrients. Other tubes lower in the back removed waste. In the lower front, each had a vulva big enough to pass a grown woman. About two-thirds of the way down the room, one had done just that. A limp, naked girl, wet with amniotic fluid, was lying in a soft, squishy birth basin. Her umbilical cord trailed back into the womb where her foot was caught in the birth canal.

Mary pulled the girl’s foot out, cleared her mouth, and listened to her take her first gargling breath in over two weeks. It sounded healthy.

She cut the girl’s umbilical cord, and sealed the ends, then lifted the girl onto the gurney, swaddled her in the big fluffy towel, and pressed a rubber teat into her mouth. The girl suckled, and her mouth and stomach re-awoke to the delights of digestion.

Mary pushed the gurney out of the Womb Room and into the Recovery Ward. She gave the girl a gentle bath, dried her off, and tucked her into a postnatal bed with soft protective sides. She let her sleep.

Vesper arrived at the womb with the girl’s placenta jar. She popped its lid and put it under the womb’s vulva. The jar was lined with a membrane that was a genetic match to the girl’s own uterus and was filled with synthetic amniotic fluid. She put the stringy placenta end of the umbilical cord in the jar. A few minutes later the placenta itself followed, plopping into the fluid. Vesper closed the lid and returned it to the Memory Vault where it would sit in blissful silence, remembering the latest version of the girl’s life, over and over and over.

 

In a couple of hours Lucy Star stirred herself awake. She released the side of the bed and sat up. A beeping alarm went off, and a minute later Mary came into the Recovery Ward.

“Look who’s finally awake,” she said, “and good as new.” She gave Lucy a hug.

“Hi, Mary,” Lucy said and returned her hug.

“Easy there. Sit until you feel like walking, but call me before you do. No falling on my watch!”

“How bad was it?” Lucy said.

“Let’s see.” Mary drew her finger across the back of Lucy’s left upper arm. “Your arm was cut off here.” She kept drawing over to her spine. “Your heart was cut in two.” She continued through her spine and half way to the other side of her back. “And you were nearly cut all the way in half yourself.” She patted the invisible line. “But don’t worry, not a scratch on you now.”

Lucy leaned back, supporting herself with her arms. This was the best part of dying: she felt weak and a little dizzy, but she also felt brand new and as clean as it was possible to feel–like she had only, just now, touched the world for the first time. The simple act of breathing was intoxicating.

Mary handed her a glass of rebirth formula. “Drink it all.”

Later, after convincing Mary her dizziness was gone and she was strong enough to walk on her own, Lucy got dressed. She finished by adjusting her hat in front of the dressing room mirror. This outfit was a bit bold and a bit cute. It made her look like an anime artist’s idea of a matador. She slung her bag over her shoulder and picked up her sword. One of the club’s assistant equipment managers would have cleaned it and delivered it to the Laughing Cherub. Lucy pulled the blade part way out of its scabbard to check the edge. It looked good, but the surface was dull. She would polish it properly in the morning.

Lucy found Mary in the Monitor Room, back at her card game.

“Could I take a look at my girl before I leave?” Lucy said.

Mary played her card. “Of course you can.” She led the way to the Memory Vault.

Its walls were lined with racks filled with placenta jars. Each was fed a trickle of nutrition and oxygenated artificial blood. The amniotic fluid was cycled and filtered to remove waste. The light was dim, and the room was kept at body temperature.

Lucy knew where her jar was. She walked over and touched its smooth, warm side. A display above the jar confirmed that the little world inside was lovely. “You take care,” Lucy said. She kissed her fingers and pressed them against the side of the jar.

 

It was two o’clock when Lucy left the Laughing Cherub. The air was cool. Autumn was settling in. The street lights were dimmed, and glare shields kept waste light out of the sky. The night was awash with stars; Lucy could even make out the dim fog of the Milky Way.

Mary had insisted on calling a cab. “Complements of the Cherub.” In fact, it wasn’t. Mary paid for the late night cabs out of her own pocket. The cab pulled up. Lucy got in and gave the driver Brody’s address. He peddled them away and used the electric motor for an assist up the hill to Wicker Lane.

 

Brody’s apartment was in one of the new, partly grown mini-arcologies. Lucy climbed the outside stairs to the third tier. It felt good to be almost home. She could never have afforded this place on her own, even with roommates from the club. If she was picked up by an Alpha League club next season, she promised herself she would pay Brody back for his support. Now, she was craving his warm body and looking forward to making love.

She rubbed her key against the door–nothing happened. She tried again–nothing. Crap! She didn’t want to wake Brody; she wanted to slip naked into their bed and have him wake up to the erection she would give him in his sleep. She tried to unlock the door three more times. Crap, crap, crap. She put the key away and pressed her lips to the door frame. “Brody.” She spoke softly. “Wake up, honey. I’m home.”

She waited, giving him time to get up and put something on. She was about to try again when she heard the sigh of the locks releasing. The door opened and there was–

“Emily Stone? What are you doing here?” Lucy said. Emily stood just inside the door, holding a cotton robe partly closed. It was decorated with blue and orange frogs.

“That’s my robe!”

The living room lights came on behind Emily. Brody was standing in the bedroom door, naked, looking bug eyed. His gaping mouth would have made a great bull’s-eye for something.

Lucy pushed past Emily. “What’s this?” she said to Brody.

“Lucy, I’m sorry. You weren’t supposed to find out this way.”

“You said she knew.” Emily was still by the door.

“I was going to have the Cherub send me a notice when she was reborn, but I, ah . . .”

“But you, forgot?” Lucy said.

“Ha!” Emily crossed the room to Brody. “He lost his nerve. That’s what I love about you Brody-bear.” She rubbed noses with him. “You’re so easy to intimidate.”

“Aargh!” Lucy dropped her bag, drew her sword, and jabbed it at Brody’s penis. “That’s mine! I’m going to feed it to the cats behind the city farm and make you eat their feces!”

Brody covered his goods. Emily pulled her own sword from the corner by the bedroom door. She left it sheathed, but stepped in front of Brody, ready to block. “Easy there,” she said. “You’ve got a bit of the post-birth crazies; don’t do anything stupid. I could report you to the League for this.”

Lucy held her ground, then exhaled and sheathed her blade. Emily relaxed. Lucy swung her sheathed sword at Emily, knocking her off balance, then in one motion, she drew her blade, fanned it past Brody’s penis and re-sheathed it. She picked up her bag and walked out.

She went down to the second tier and far enough around the curve of the mini-arcology to not be seen from Brody’s door. She leaned her back against the wall, pressed the heels of her hands into her eyes, and let out a long quiet growl, the kind they use in movies to let you know bad things might happen to somebody.

Emily was right: strong emotions were hard to control for several hours after being reborn. Lucy dropped her hands and sent an emergency talk-to request to Charlotte.

After a couple of minutes, Charlotte’s voice said, “Lucy, are you OK? Did something go wrong at the Cherub?”

“No,” Lucy said, “everything went fine.” She took a deep breath. “I’m really sorry to bother you, but I went home, to Brody’s place, and Emily Stone was there. Brody was screwing her while I was in the womb. I almost did something really stupid.”

“Try not to think about it,” Charlotte said. “Come over here. You can stay with me until we get this sorted out. I’ll put on some tea. See you soon?”

“Yeah, soon. Thanks,” Lucy said. The sky had clouded over; it started to rain. “Fuck!”

 

It was nearly three-thirty when the public car dropped Lucy at the Winnebago Graveyard. The rain was now a downpour. She walked across the uneven cobblestone, letting her feet splash in the puddles with determined indifference.

Charlotte waited next to her hatch with an umbrella. She was wearing a white nightdress and rubber boots. When Lucy got to her, Charlotte hugged her with both arms while holding the umbrella straight up to block the rain.

“I’m all wet,” Lucy said.

“Me too, now,” Charlotte said. She let go of Lucy and stepped back. The front of her nightdress was soaked from the hug. “Come on, let’s get out of the rain.” She let Lucy go down the stairs, then followed. The hatch closed when they were both inside.

“I’m so stupid,” Lucy said.

“Brody’s a bastard.” Charlotte took a terrycloth robe out of the closet by the stairs and handed it to her. “There are towels in the shower room, and you can hang your wet clothes in the stall. The fans will blow them dry by morning.” While Lucy was drying herself off, Charlotte dropped the dinette table to convert the dining nook into a bed. She pulled out and dressed the mattress.

Lucy came out wearing the robe. Charlotte handed her a cup of tea. She sat on the bed and looked at the sleeve of the robe. “I was wearing one of these four hours ago. I should have stayed in the Cherub’s dorm until morning, but I wanted to get home.” She squeezed her eyes closed. Another growl came out of her throat.

Charlotte pulled a chair up to the bed and put her hand on Lucy’s knee. “They deserve each other.”

“Brody, that stupid son of a bitch!” Lucy said. She was talking and clenching her teeth at the same time. “Fuck! Why tonight? I feel like a . . . such a . . . used!”

“We’ll take care of him tomorrow. Now you need to calm down and get some rest.” Charlotte took Lucy’s tea and put both cups in the kitchenette sink, then sat on the bed. Lucy curled up, laid her head in Charlotte’s lap, and closed her eyes. “We come out of those wombs physically mature women,” Charlotte said while stroking Lucy’s hair, “but for days or weeks, our bodies and minds are tricked into believing we’re babies again. It takes a while to get ourselves sorted out.” She continued to comb Lucy’s hair until her breathing settled into the steady rhythm of deep sleep, then she slipped off the bed and tucked in her friend.

 

Trade paperback or Kindle ebook. Amazon.com

Also available on the Nook. Barnes & Noble

eBook for other devices available at Google eBooks

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