The Colors of Space by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Science Fiction | Chapter 3 of 3 - Part: 1 of 27

Author: Marion Zimmer Bradley | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 1250 Views | Add a Review

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"All right, Bart, today we'll let you look at yourself," Raynor Three said.

Bart smiled under the muffling layers of bandage around his face. His hands were bandaged, too, and he had not been permitted to look in a mirror. But the transition had been surprisingly painless--or perhaps his sense of well-being had been due to Raynor Three slipping him some drug.

He'd been given injections of a chemical that would change the color of his skin; there had been minor operations on his face, his hands, his feet.

"Let's see you get up and walk around."

Bart obeyed awkwardly, and Raynor frowned. "Hurt?"

"Not exactly, but I feel as if I were limping."

"That's to be expected. I changed the angle of the heel tendon and the muscle of the arch. You're using a different set of muscles when you walk; until they harden up, you'll have some assorted Charley horses. Have any trouble hearing me?"

"No, though I'd hear better without all these bandages," Bart said impatiently.

"All in good time. Any trouble breathing?"

"No, except for the bandages."

"Fine. I changed the shape of your ears and nostrils, and it might have affected your hearing or your breathing. Now, listen, Bart: I'm going to take the bandages off your hands first. Sit down." Bart sat across the table from him, obediently sticking out his hands. Raynor Three said, "Shut your eyes."

Bart did as he was told and felt Raynor Three's long fingers working at the bandages.

"Move each finger as I touch it." Bart obeyed, and Raynor said neutrally, "Good. Now, take a deep breath and then open your eyes." Impatiently Bart flicked his lids open. In spite of the warning, his breath went out in a harsh, jolting gasp. His hands lay on the table before him--but they were not his hands.

The narrow, long fingers were pearl-gray, tipped with whitish-pink claws that curved out over the tips. Nervously Bart moved one finger, and the long claw flicked out like a cat's, retracted. He swallowed.

"Golly!" He felt strangely wobbly.

"A beautiful job, if I do say so. Be careful not to scratch yourself, and practice picking up small things."

Bart saw that the long grayish claws were trembling. "How did you make--the claws?"

"Quite simple, really," Raynor beamed. "I injected protein compounds into the nail matrix, which speeded up nail growth terrifically, and then, as they grew, shaped them. Joining on those tiny muscles for the retracting mechanism was the tricky part though." Bart was moving his hands experimentally. Once over the shock, they felt quite normal. The claws didn't get in his way half so much as he'd expected when he picked up a pen that lay beside him and, with the blunt tip, made a few of the strange-looking dots and wedges that were the Lhari alphabet.

"Practice writing this," said Raynor Three, and laid a plastic-encased folder down beside him. It was a set of ship's papers printed in Lhari. Bart read it through, seeing that it was made out to the equivalent of Astrogator, First Class, Bartol.

"That's your name now, the name your father would have used. Memorize it, get used to the sound of it, practice writing it. Don't worry too much about the rating; it's an elementary one, what we'd call Apprentice rating, and I have a training tape for you anyhow. My brother got hold of it, don't ask me how--and don't ask him!"

"When am I going to see my face?"

"When I think you're ready for the shock," Raynor said bluntly. "It almost threw you when I showed you your hands."

He made Bart walk around some more briefly, slowly, he unwound the bandages; then turned and picked up a mirror at the bottom of his medic's case, turning it right side up. "Here. But take it easy." But when Bart looked in the mirror he felt no unexpected shock, only an unnerving revulsion.

His hair was bleached-white and fluffy, almost feathery to the touch. His skin was grayish-rose, and his eyelids had been altered just enough to make his eyes look long, narrow and slanted. His nostrils were mere slits, and he moved his tongue over lips that felt oddly thin.

"I did as little to your teeth as I thought I could get away with-capped the front ones," Raynor Three told him. "So if you get a toothache you're out of luck--you won't dare go to a Lhari dentist. I could have done more, but it would have made you look too freakish when we changed you back to human again--if you live that long," he added grimly. _I hadn't thought about that. And if Raynor is going to forget me, who will do it?_ The cold knot of fear, never wholly absent, moved in him again.

Watching his face, Raynor Three said gently, "It's a big network, Bart. I'm not telling you much, for your own safety. But when you get to Antares, they'll tell you all you need to know."

He lifted Bart's oddly clawed hands. "I warned you, remember--the change isn't completely reversible. Your hands will always look--strange. The fingers had to be lengthened, for instance. I wanted to make you as safe as possible among the Lhari. I think you'll pass anything but an X-ray. Just be careful not to break any bones."


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Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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