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by Melissa McCann
Category: Science Fiction/Romance
Description: When actress Emma Sloan wakes after being badly burned, she finds her body covered in crawling, mottled stuff that has taken the place of her burned skin.
eBook Publisher: Awe-Struck E-Books, 2004
eBookwise Release Date: March 2004
75 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [547 KB]
Reading time: 361-505 min.
All Other formats: Printing DISABLED, Read-aloud DISABLED
"Skin is my biggest, most pleasant surprise so far this year. An inventive premise, irresistible momentum, human conundrums believably worked out, and respect for the readers intelligence, combine to make Skin a good candidate for an EPPIE award nomination. It is definitely on my short list for Favorite Adventure of 2004."--Joy Calderwood, Reviewer's Choice
Dr. Carmen Walters didn't usually take the night watch at Skyway Memorial. She disliked the dimmed lights and the desultory clicking of nurse's terminals, but Annalee Trescott was on maternity leave, and Paul Harding was at home with his son who was suffering through his immune boosters, so Carmen was filling in.
There wasn't much for a doctor to do two hours after midnight. Delta generators in the beds induced patients to sleep, and there were very few emergencies that the nurses couldn't handle from their terminals. She was on her way back to the doctor's lounge for a catnap, but she wanted to stop on her way to visit one of her patients. Not her favorite patient. Carmen didn't have favorites--not in a personal sense. This one was more of a project.
The patient lay in a single-occupancy room with no windows in the heart of the hospital. Her head was propped out of the tank of translucent yellow goo that supported her body. A gel-pack of the same stuff covered half her face. If Carmen had bent over the bed, she would have been able to peer through the cloudy gel and see the patient's undamaged eye, a deep, sloe-colored iris, staring back at her. The lids were gone.
She leaned the heels of her hands on the side of the tank and hunched her shoulders.
Soft shoes shuffled past the door behind her and stopped. Carmen didn't turn around. The soft footsteps came into the room. A man's voice, lowered to a velvet burr, said, "We've programmed delta rhythms. A little later, we'll try to coax her into REM, but she sure doesn't want to dream." The head nurse, Linus Castor, had been with the hospital for twenty years. There wasn't much he didn't know about the staff or the patients at Skyway. He wore his hair in a tail, and his short beard was turning grey faster than his hair.
Carmen indicated the artificial skin that covered most of the woman's body under the gel. "The grafts look saturated. She's rejecting them."
"Then you'll replace them. You've pulled worse cases back."
Carmen pursed her lips. "Lost some, too, that weren't this bad. She's fighting the machines."
Linus leaned his elbows on the edge of the tank and eased his feet in their red, canvas shoes. He looked down at the woman's body. "Remember her in False Reflection? My first Emma Sloan holo. They darkened her skin for the role and changed her features, but it was still her. I got chills every time she turned her eyes toward me."
Carmen let her weight sink down between her shoulders and rocked her head back. Her fingers tapped against the rim of the tank. "Replacing the grafts won't do any good. Not when she's fighting to die."
Linus shrugged. "Can't give her up."
Carmen said, "She needs more than grafts."
Linus started to shrug again. Then he understood what she was saying, and his face hardened. "No."
"It's that or watch her die. Do you want to see her die, Linus?"
"As opposed to the other?"
"She could do it. She's an actor. You said yourself, it never mattered how they changed her, she was still herself. She'd know how to handle it if anyone could."
"It's not compatible with humans."
"It would keep her alive."
"As a monster, possibly a psychopath as well."
Carmen shook her head. "Not her. She'd be the one to make it. She will be the one."
Copyright © 2004