Scene 161 – Aeterna

AETERNA

LAURA

“She can’t be immortal,” MC insisted from one of the wall speakers.

“Rejecting the evidence in front of you is not science, it’s politics,” I warned.

“And rejecting the Laws of Thermodynamics isn’t science, it’s witchcraft!” she nearly shrieked.

“You’ve been dealing with our powers for months.” I waved my hand. “Derek can create shields out of nothing—how much energy would that take? More than contained in the human body, I’m sure. And that’s just one. Akane might technically be a time traveler, depending on how exactly her power works.”

“Yes, but surely that power comes from somewhere. That has to be what those reservoirs are. The connection to whatever power source is generating the energy to do these things.”

I nodded. I had heard this before. “Right, of course. What I’m saying is…why are you complaining about immortality, when it’s actually simpler than shields and so on?”

The human body isn’t really that complicated, all things considered. Lots of scientists and transhumanists have ideas on how to achieve immortality. Sure, most of them aren’t anywhere close to actually making it work, but it’s within the laws of physics as we understand them.

Solid-state energy shields that appear out of thin air, and can either just float in defiance of gravity or be moved like a real shield, depending on the creator’s whim? Yeah, not so much.

“The immortality isn’t the problem. It’s more than that. Her regeneration is perfect, and she doesn’t even need to eat or drink or breathe. It feels like she’s not just immortal, she’s…eternal.”

“MC, this isn’t like you. Focusing on feelings rather than hard facts. What’s going on?”

She sighed through the speakers. “You’re right, you’re right. We just don’t have any data. It’s like playing darts in a dark room. At some point, you just have to start throwing stuff around.”

I sipped at a cup of coffee while I glanced over a pad. “That’s basically what I’m doing at this point.”

“I noticed that when you pulled out the woodchipper.”

I tried and failed to quash a smile. “Hey, that was far from random! Short of throwing her in a volcano, it was the most severe trauma I could think of. It was only a logical test.”

“Really?” she asked incredulously.

I shrugged. “And I wanted to throw her through a woodchipper.” I grinned. “I enjoyed it much more than I should have.”

There was a knock on the metal door. Before I could answer, it squealed open and Doctor Henry walked in.

I glared at him. “Hey, I don’t use a shipping container for an office because I like visitors.” Mostly, it was because I needed a place close to the warcage. At first, I had used one of Henry’s offices, but that had proven problematic.

The man shrugged and closed the door behind him. “Maybe if you locked the door, it wouldn’t be an issue.”

With a snort, I turned back to my work. Last time I had locked the door, he had knocked for ten minutes until I gave up and let him in.

“Anyway, I thought you might want to know we finally managed to get a CAT scan done.” He plopped a pad on my desk. “It’s not a particularly good picture, but it’s something.”

“Hm.” I picked up the pad and started paging through it until I found what I was looking for. “A high-powered flash scan. It can’t be used normally, because it would kill the subject, but when your subject is immortal…”

How we did it is far from the most important part,” he insisted. “Look closer.”

I tapped through the files. “I’m not seeing anything new. Heart with some extra bits, weird spine, her kidneys are undersized…” I shook my head. “If there’s anything else here, I don’t have the training to see it.”

“Well, Chao did say the circulatory system seems a bit odd, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Trust me, just look closer, and you’ll be surprised you didn’t see it in the first place.”

I turned back to the images. Okay, something someone with minimal training would be able to spot easily…weird bone structure? No that looked normal, as far as I could tell. Extra organs? Other than the extra tubes on the heart, there was nothing I could see. What was he—

Oh. Yeah. That was a big one.

“This has to be a mistake,” I insisted. “The violent nature of the scan must have—”

“We checked,” he insisted. “She was wide awake throughout the entire procedure, howling curses at us.”

“Then it’s a statistical anomaly. It happens. It just captured the wrong millisecond—”

Without saying a word, Henry reached forward and tapped at the pad, bringing up the other nine scans, all of which showed the exact same thing.

But that shouldn’t be possible.

According to this scan, most of Elizabeth’s brain was simply not functional.

Not ‘not functional’ as in not showing the expected level of activity. ‘Not functional’ as in NO activity. The only electricity in her brain was in her brain stem. In medical terminology, that’s generally referred to as brain dead.

And yet she was wide awake and howling curses at us.

I touched my necklace. “A trillion questions and not a single answer.”

“Sorry,” Henry apologized as he took the pad back. “I know this entire thing is annoying. Nothing about this girl makes any sense.”

“Maybe this is more proof of the theory that she’s using a remote-piloted body?” MC suggested. “If the brain stem could act as an antenna—”

“We’ll deal with all that in morning,” I muttered. “I’m going to sleep now.”

Henry started. “I thought you would want to do one more run on Elizabeth first.”

“Too tired. I’d end up doing something stupid and getting myself killed.” I yawned, stumbling over to the cot I had set up in the corner of the shipping container, not even bothering to make sure the doctor left. “Wake me at dawn.”

Behind the Scenes (scene 161)

Almost all of this is going to be important later, but I know right now it seems sort of random.

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