OK, I'll admit, I got a little lax with a few safety precautions.
Oh, no, nothing quite like that. I believe wholeheartedly in my friend Myk's courses that teach Handwavium Safety to everyone. After all, I'm the one who came up with half of them, like the full body rubber suit and rebreather.
To give you a little background, it was something like one month into the first expansion of my company, the Jupiter Mining Corporation. Yes, OK, I know, it's not really a mining company, but bear with me.
It was Geo, Nene, and I in Starbug 1, flying back from checking on the building of the spaceframes that would be our first six Blue Midgets. Myk had stayed behind at the shipyard to give some of the Trekkies a little bit of Space Safety and Handwavium training. Hey, they're willing to pay, they're safety conscious, and Myk honestly loves his work when he can do it. Anyway, it was the three of us. I was just sitting in the copilot's seat, plinking away with an old copy of Video Olympics on the little monitor, while Nene was sitting back doing surfing or hacking, I've learned to never ask which for the sake of deniability. I felt rather than heard Nene sit up a bit at her station.
"Hey, Jeph." I closed off the game of somewhat Pong. "Yeah, Nene?"
"I'm picking up some sort of signal. It's weak, though. I think you should hear it." I sighed.
"OK, but this had better not be another Rick Roll. If it is, I'd like you to tell Trigon about it."
"I'd rather not if it is. But here you go." She tugged out the connector of her headphones, and the signal came over the loudspeaker. Dit Dit Dit. Dat. Dat. Dat. Dit. Dit. Dit.
OK, now even before I became a ham, I'd had it drilled into me exactly what that signified. Especially as it repeated the pattern. Again. And again.
"Nene, get a lock on that signal for me."
"Already done. Two kilometers at 10am, 1pm." To the left, and up a bit from our current course.
"Call ahead to Serenity Valley, let the Coats there know we're going to be a little late, then see if you can get the nearest Blazers asset to meet us there, just in case. I'm going to take us to full burn." I pulled back on the throttle, and aimed the general nose of the 'Bug in the indicated direction. Nene had already pulled out her Interwave phone and started making calls out.
It didn't take us very long to catch up with the source of the signal, thankfully. A small, beat up little station wagon, with the hazard lights blinking, but fitfully. I had a start in my throat as I recognized it.
"Hey, that's Zeb's car. I thought he was on his way to Mars?"
"So did I. Geo, get on the grav hook, and open the landing bay. We'll bring him in gently."
We swung around, cutting our velocity to match that of the tumbling wagon, and Geo carefully brought the car into our little bay at the back, wheels down to the deck.
As soon as I could lock off the controls, I ran down to the little hangar. The wagon didn't look like it was in that bad of shape, but the figure inside didn't look quite so good, not the way he was slumped against the driver's door. It didn't look like there was anything like a sudden maneuver that had knocked him out, which meant he might've had a problem with his air, but it was hard to tell with him still inside the car, and his spacesuit all sealed up. Nene came up behind me as I laid out my plan in my head.
"Nene, get the medkit from the storage locker, I'll get in there and check on him." She nodded, opening the locker next to the pressure hatch, and I went over, checked the door lock pillar to make sure the door wasn't locked, and opened the door. Some say that you have your life flash before your eyes when you face your own death. My experience is that it's more a sense of impressions of the moment you're in. I had to review the tape (and it was a rather distressingly surreal experience) to fill in the gaps. I do recall the body slumping as the door opened, the big red jagged hole in the back of it, the red upholstery that wasn't from the color of the fabric, and the plate falling away from something in the passenger seat that had been held by Zeb's body.
Then I slumped against the side of Cerulean Edge, clutching at several steel rebars that had pierced my body. I could hear Nene screaming, and I felt giddily warm, but I was certainly aware I was in trouble. She was grabbing at my shoulders, obviously wanting to pull the rods out yet knowing that would be a bad idea.
"N... ne... nene... kit... please..." I coughed, liquidly. She nodded, and grabbed the kit up.
"g... gr... green... b... blech... i...in... haler..." She opened the kit, spilling much of it all over the deck, and into the pool of blood that was starting to spread around me.
The object she got out was a fairly new thing I'd worked on. It looked like one of those typical asthma emergency inhalers, only painted a flourescent green that literally did glow in the dark. Contained inside the bottle was a liquified form of Guacamole. The bottle itself was made to spray the entirety of its cargo, rather than one small squirt. It was enough to cause a biomod in any person who breathed it in who wasn't already modded.
She pulled it out, and uncapped the inhaler as she dropped the kit case to the deck. "Jeph, breathe out!" I breathed out, coughing and hacking as I could feel some blood come up my throat, and she plugged my nose and shoved the inhaler into my mouth, pressing it down to activate it. "OK, breathe in!" I sucked in air, through my mouth since my nose was pinched shut, and I could taste the lime of the koolaid base as I inhaled the contents of the bottle. Immediately I could feel the giddiness subsiding, and slightly less that something was utterly wrong, but there was a definite haze in my senses.
"G... get me up to the... to the... main room... and... and seal... seal off... hangar..." Nene nodded, looking very worried and tears in her eyes. She hauled me up bodily, and dragged me towards the door, even as I blacked out.
I woke up gently, laying at something of an angle on the futon in the common room. I couldn't feel any pain, nor any discomfort. I carefully levered myself up a bit, and looked around. There were several long iron rods laying on the floor next to the futon, and a diminishing trail of blood leading from the rear hatch towards the hangar to the futon. Nene was sacked out in the wingback, apparently watching over me. Geo was probably up in the cockpit piloting.
I glanced at the wall clock. I'd been unconscious for a good 16 hours.
"Geo... report..." I got myself all the way into a sitting position, and felt ravenous.
"<We're on route to Serenity Valley right now, Chief. I've got the hangar locked off, the Blue Blazer contingent will meet us there.>" There was a pause. "<Next time, let me fucking well go in there Chief. That was highly stupid given the current climate.>"
Nene fluttered awake, and almost instantly glomped me. "YOU'RE ALLRIGHT!!"
"apparently," I oofed out. She pressed me back against the futon, and ran a hand on my face, the concern and pain she was feeling etched very plainly on her face. Then she got a weird look. "No stubble."
I put a hand onto my face and checked. Surely enough, my face was baby smooth. I grabbed the PDA that I had left laying on the end table, and checked myself in the reflection off the screen. Yep. Absolutely babyfaced. I might as well be nineteen again by the reflection. I still had my longish hair, though, so that was at least something. But still, something was nagging me a bit.
"Hmm, well, that's something... I wonder if that's all it did to me." I put the PDA back down. "Uh, Nene, you can let me back up anytime now."
"Oops." She blushed, and stood back up almost too quickly. I pulled myself to my feet, and tested my balance, and looked myself over as best I could. The paunch I'd had was gone, which I wouldn't complain about, and I certainly didn't have any of the minor aches from bad posture. In fact, I felt like I was able to stand straight without forcing it.
"OK, now, I'm going to go and feed myself, because apparently the biomodding process has made me extremely hungry. Let me know when we land, and I'll prepare to meet the Blazers."
After I'd wolfed down what must've been three days of the ship's curry supplies, and one triple fried egg chili chutney sandwich to finish off, I felt considerably more normal, well, for my given value of Fen normal anyway.
The Blue Blazer contingent turned out to be one of the people in the group that met us, and at least one Operation Great Justice person besides. The entire meeting was a bit tense, and they did clue me in that it appeared to be some sort of deliberate Boskonian booby trap to catch the unwary. I tried hard not to get paranoid about the number of contracts we were set to get from the OGJ activities as I processed that. And I was advised to get a medical checkup to see how much of a biomod I'd received from my little medical emergency.
We did watch the tape from the hangar black box recorder. I shivered a little as we watched, and flinched when I got my facefull of steel shot at me. That moment impressed upon me how close I'd come indeed. One of the rods was in my neck, a few inches higher and I might not have even been savable by the guacamole.
After they left to take the evidence and such and compile it into a report, I settled onto the futon, and curled up into a fetal position for some time. Nene sat down next to me, and placed a hand on my shoulder, which I placed a hand back onto. It wasn't until she moved with an 'scuse me' that I realized there was someone else on board. Myk was standing over the futon, looking a little dumbstruck at the blood which we had yet to clean up. Rather belatedly I realized what it must be like in the hangar.
"Uh, Jeph? I hate to ask, even of you, but... what in the frell happened while I was out? There's blood in StarJumper's parking spot, all over your car, all over the airlock, and even tracked in here. Yes, I know, it's technically your ship, but I do live here too." He looked a little ill. "Please don't tell me you've picked up some sort of fetish I don't know about."
OK, so it was a rough day, so to speak, and I was a bit frazzled. And here he was asking, and I was getting a little excitable having already run over that territory with a couple of, well, complete strangers. I do admit I'm excitable sometimes, even though I know that barely mollifies Noah when I get like that around him.
"Okay we ran across Zeb's car only he was apparently in trouble because he had his hazards and emergency beacon going and we took him into the bay expecting to help him out only someone had already killed him and was using him as bait for some reason for the boobytrap they put in his passenger seat that went off in my face when I opened the door and it nearly killed me but Nene got the emergency inhaler and used it on me and now I'm at least better if just a LITTLE WIGGED OUT!" I spouted, getting more and more manic as I pressed through the explanation. It wasn't anger, or anything, just that I had lost something of control.
Yet, I felt something a little different that I couldn't place once I'd finished, and was panting a little bit. Myk looked a little awestruck, more so than he usually did.
"....hooookay. That certainly explains what I'm seeing that I've never seen you do during one of your episodes, if you used those little emergency guacamole things you'd cooked up." He didn't seem to be looking at me, at least, not into my eyes. "Wait, what the frack do you..." I sat back up, and suddenly realized there was a new sensation.
Now, understand, I wasn't in the greatest of shape before, I had a little bit of flab here and there that would jiggle.
But this was different.
I looked down at myself.
Gee, my tshirt looks like it's rather filled out.
No, not just rather filled out.
I put a hand on the sides, and squeezed.
"Uh... excuse me..." I dashed up the stairway to the cabins, and jumped into the fresher booth. Closing the door, I grabbed the hem of my shirt, and not sparing myself, yanked it up, and opened my jeans and dropped them, then looked in the mirror.
"AW SHIT I'M A GIRL!"