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In This Issue

Home and Heart

The Krestyanova Genes
Barbara Davies

A Normal Bedtime Conversation
Kam Caddell

Sandra Dee's Lips
Sias Bryant

The Broken Teddy Bear
Nann Dunne

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While the AI recited the facts about the influenza outbreak, Natalya gazed at the details of those infected. Only two domes were involved, she saw with some relief, and one was Copernicus, so the travelling should be minimal.

A name scrolling down her screen was familiar. She blinked. "My cousin's on the list! And it looks like a party she hosted might be the common factor."

"Cousin?" Emma looked up from her own screen, shoving back the curtain of fair hair that was always flopping in her eyes.

"Yes. Anya Litton." Flu was rarely fatal, so Natalya wasn't worried about Anya. She tapped the name with her forefinger and a photo appeared.

Emma peered at it. "She looks like you!"

Natalya grimaced at the unflattering mugshot. "Thanks for nothing! . . . It's the Krestyanova genes. When we were kids, people always thought we must be sisters."

"Litton," mused Emma. "Why is that surname familiar?"

"Reeve Litton is Anya's husband. Or rather was. They're divorced."

"The Reeve Litton?"

"Mmm." If the truth be told, Natalya was relieved Anya was finally rid of her industrialist husband. She had never liked him.

"Divorced, eh?" Emma gave her a sideways glance. "Krestyanovas don't seem to have much luck with their love lives."

Natalya ignored the unsubtle invitation to talk about her ex-girlfriend. She knew Emma thought she was being too proud, not making the first move toward a reconciliation. Maybe she was. Her first relationship to last more than six months, and she had blown it. Milena had been gone for a month now, in charge of hydroponics irrigation, so Natalya had heard, in Kondratyuk on the Far Side.

She sighed, pulled out her earpiece, and reached for the suitcase-sized kit leaning against the wall. A few moments' checking reassured her that she'd replaced the swabs and phials used last time: a food poisoning outbreak in Russell--the potato salad had proved to be the culprit.

She stretched and looked at Emma. "I'll take those who live in Kepler, since Anya's among them."

"Good. I'll take those who live here."


"Approaching Kepler station," announced the monorail pod's computer.

Natalya braced herself, then deceleration pressed her into her seat and the sunlit lunarscape visible through the clear canopy vanished as the pod flashed into a tunnel, through an airlock, and came to rest. She unbuckled the seat's webbing, grabbed her kit, and stepped out onto the platform.

Taking a moment to adjust to the scale of her surroundings--Kepler's crater was smaller than Copernicus's, its water-shielded dome correspondingly lower--she pulled her palmpad out of her pocket, called up a streetmap, and set off walking.

Anya's flat was in Gorky Street. When Natalya arrived, the flat's AI was refusing all visitors. She showed it her LCDC credentials, however, and after a few seconds the front door clicked open.

As she walked into the hall, the clutter reminded her of Milena's sometimes endearing, sometimes irritating untidiness. She sighed and pushed that thought away.

"Hi, Anya. It's Nat," she called.

"In the bedroom," came a croak.

Though they'd kept in touch by Vidlink, the last time Natalya had actually seen her cousin in person was at Anya's wedding two years ago. Then, Anya had been expensively and fashionably dressed and made up; now, she was wearing a shabby nightdress and her face was bare.

Natalya noted the feverish eyes, the sallow skin, the strands of long black hair plastered to her cousin's face. Aware of her scrutiny, Anya pulled the bedclothes up to her chin and gave her a weak smile.

"Mask and gloves, eh? Now I know I'm sick!"

"Sorry," said Natalya. "It's just a precaution."

Anya cocked her head to one side and frowned. "There's something different about you. Ah." Her brow smoothed. "You've had your hair cut. I thought you liked it long."

Natalya shrugged, too embarrassed to admit that she had cut it in a fit of pique--Milena had liked her hair long too.

"This'll teach you to throw parties," she joked, dragging a chair across to Anya's bedside and sitting down. She placed her kit on the floor, then turned to her cousin and became serious. "I take it you've seen a doctor?"

Anya nodded. "He gave me these." She indicated the pill container on the bedside table.

Natalya peered at the label; the yellow capsules were antivirals, standard treatment for flu. "So, who was at this bash of yours?"

Anya pointed to a palmpad lying on top of her dressing table. "The guest list's on that."

Natalya retrieved the palmpad, linked it to her own, and downloaded the names, crosschecking them against those that had already been notified to the LCDC. "Not everyone at the party got flu then," she mused. "Just over fifty percent."

Anya rubbed a bleary eye. "What is it with Kepler? Last month it was a cold, now this."

"I had the cold too," said Natalya absently. "We never did find the index case." She selected a throat swab from her kit. "Open wide."

Anya obliged. "What's an 'index case'?" she asked, when Natalya had finished.

"The source of the outbreak." Natalya filed the swab away, then peeled the wrapping from a small syringe. "We thought some Earther might have brought the cold up, but . . ." She released her cousin's arm, detached the phial of blood from the syringe, and sealed it. "Now, just a few questions."

It took Natalya five minutes to complete the epidemiological questionnaire, mandatory in cases like this and very thorough. When she put away her palmpad and changed the subject, Anya's relief was palpable.

"So. How's life after Reeve?"

"Fine. He was such a pain, Nat. Always wanting things 'just so.'" Anya let out an explosive sneeze, and Natalya handed her a clean handkerchief. "I don't know how I stood it for so long."

"The servants, the fashionable clothes, the money," suggested Natalya wryly.

"You never liked him," said her cousin through the hanky.

"No. And I expect he's cutting up rough over the divorce."

"Actually, he isn't." Anya looked bemused. "The lawyer says he wishes all divorces were as amicable." She laughed. "He's lying of course. The less amicable a divorce, the more the lawyers make."

"I suppose Reeve can afford to be generous," said Natalya. Anya's former husband had made his fortune building isolation domes--lack of an atmosphere meant the Moon was perfect for gene research.

Anya shrugged. "I'm just glad we can still be friends. Talking of which, sorry to hear you and Milena broke up."

"Me too." Natalya didn't feel up to one of her cousin's searching interrogations so she stood up. "I can't stop, sorry. That's one sample down, nineteen to go." She reached for the kit and regarded the other woman for a moment. "Take care of yourself, Anya."

Another huge sneeze was the only reply.


Natalya's stomach rumbled. She supposed she should get herself something to eat, but the cafe next door would be closed at this time of night. There was always the vending machine in the LCDC lobby, of course.

"Analysis complete," came the AI's voice in her earpiece.

She had spent the afternoon gathering samples and information and the evening with Emma loading the phials and swabs into the appropriate analyzers, downloading the contents of their palmpads, and telling the AI anything they thought might be relevant. It was a tedious process, but the AI could spot connections they'd miss and it was a thousand times as fast. There was no need for them both to work overtime, though, so she'd sent Emma home.

"Report," she ordered.

"Indiana Flu," said the AI. "An outbreak of this particular strain occurred five years ago in Eratosthenes."

"Index case?"

"An Earther. Gary Savage, 65, born Indiana, USA. He was visiting relatives."

"Go on."

"Since that outbreak, this strain appears to have become gender-specific."

Natalya looked at the list of names again and frowned. It was unlike the AI to make a mistake. "What about Mikhail Ivanov?"

"Mikhail Ivanov," said the AI, "was born Mikhaila Ivanova. He completed his sex change in 2061."

"Ah." Natalya chewed her thumbnail. What had triggered the dormant flu virus? And why had it mutated? On Earth, it was common for viruses to find new ways to overcome their hosts' acquired immunity. But on the Moon there was little infection and consequently little acquired immunity.

"There appears to be no index case for the current outbreak," continued the AI. "All sufferers developed symptoms within an hour of one another, indicating simultaneous infection."

"So something, or someone, at Anya's party must be the carrier?"

"Affirmative," said the AI.


The Crystal Room at the Copernicus Majestic was still cordoned off. Natalya ducked under the yellow-and-black warning tape, keyed in her security code, and waited for the door locks to click open. She yawned--working late last night had left her feeling bleary-eyed this morning--put on her mask, and went in.

There was nothing special about the function room where Anya had held her party, and which must owe its name to the crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. At one end were stacks of molded chairs and matching tables, at the other, a bar, the security grill pulled down and padlocked.

"Ms. Krestyanova?"

She turned. "Yes?"

A deliveryman in a red-and-black uniform stood in the doorway. Beside him on the carpet lay a small metallic trunk stenciled "Property of LCDC." He kicked it with the toe of one boot. "Your autosampler, as requested."

"Thanks."

She removed a glove and pressed her thumb on his authorization pad. When he'd gone, she crouched, opened the catches on the trunk, and lifted out the cylindrical robot. It took only seconds for her to activate it and give it instructions, then it was trundling around the function room, photographing everything and using its toolkit of tiny nozzles, scalpels, and tweezers to take samples for later analysis.

If there was anything to be found, thought Natalya, as the autosampler beeped at her and requested access to the air conditioning duct, it would find it.


"I take it you didn't find anything?" Emma looked up from her screen. Natalya sagged into her chair. "Not if you discount dust and mice droppings."

"Those damned mice! Probably time we scheduled another extermination sweep." Emma finished what she was doing then sat back and regarded Natalya. "So I suppose that's that?"

Natalya yawned. "The flu was only a very mild strain. The high ups will say it's not 'cost effective' to continue the investigation. So we won't."

"OK." Emma twiddled her pen. "So, your cousin--what was her name, Anya?--is she any better?"

"Much." Natalya had contacted Anya half an hour ago, and even on the tiny Vidlink display she could see that Anya's color was more normal and the feverishness in her eyes had gone. Her appetite was returning too, and already she was bored with being cooped up. She was definitely on the mend. A mixed blessing: good news for Anya was bad news for epidemiologists.

Emma read her mind. "Back to boring old statistics?"

"Mm," agreed Natalya. "That's probably our excitement for the year."


But it wasn't. The month long lunar day had given way to the month long lunar night, and Milena and Natalya still hadn't Vidlinked one another, when Natalya learned that her cousin Anya had once again picked up a virus. And this time it wasn't so benign.

"She's in intensive care, Nat," said Emma, peering at the information scrolling down her screen. "They don't think she's going to make it."

Natalya's heart sank. "What is it?"

"A filovirus."

"Hell!" She was all too familiar with the history of the Marburg and Ebola filoviruses. But they'd found vaccines for them eventually, hadn't they? If the lunar version was similar--

Emma whistled. "Is that sinister looking or what?"

Natalya followed her colleague's gaze. On the screen was a picture of something long and thin and blue-grey, something almost snakelike, full of strange twists and loops. It made her feel nauseous just looking at it.

"The bug that attacked Anya?"

Emma nodded.

"Any other cases?"

"Not according to the AI." Emma looked worried. "That's the weirdest thing about it, Nat. No one except your cousin seems to have been affected."


There was so little infectious disease on the Moon that the main hospital, situated in Copernicus, had been using its isolation units for storage. Natalya negotiated her way between the pieces of equipment now relocated in the corridor and peered through the observation window of one of the units.

A nurse in a full protective suit stood beside the single bed, examining readouts and updating charts. Anya was barely visible beneath all the umbilicals connecting her to the various monitors and drips.

It had all happened so quickly. Anya's first symptoms--severe headache, muscle pains, and fever--had been mistaken for flu. Even her sore throat, vomiting, and diarrhea hadn't caused the doctors much concern. Then her blood pressure had dropped precipitously. The doctors, with LCDC guidance, were trying a treatment that had proved successful against other filoviruses, but they were up against it--the human body can only take so much.

As Natalya gazed helplessly at her cousin, a man came up beside her and pressed his face to the glass. She recognized him at once, though it was two years since she had last seen him and he had lost some of his hair and gained a double chin, which he was trying to hide beneath a beard.

"Hello, Reeve."

Anya's former husband glanced at her, mumbled something unintelligible, then pressed his nose to the glass again, misting it with each exhale.

"They're doing everything they can," said Natalya, as much for her own comfort as for his. But the industrialist didn't reply, and she thought it best to leave him to his thoughts.

There was little she could do here. She'd be more use tracking down the virus that was killing her cousin.


Natalya pulled on a full protective suit and set about searching Anya's flat. She still had no idea what she was looking for. A source of contamination, obviously. But what form would it take? She wished Emma were here to give her her opinion, but her colleague was currently in Messier B, investigating a serious outbreak of food poisoning.

As the autosampler trundled round the cramped flat, she assessed the contents of the bathroom cabinet, sorted through waste bins, and peered in drawers, her mind working. Filoviruses were most often spread by contaminated blood. On Earth, cases had occurred after eating monkey meat, but such delicacies were unavailable in lunar restaurants. A more common path was sharing needles; but as far as she was aware the only syringe Anya had encountered recently was the sterile one Natalya had used for the blood sample. Besides, if this filovirus conformed to type, infection had occurred within the past week.

She turned back the sheets, looked under the pillows and mattress. Nothing.

Poor Anya. First the cold, then the flu, and now this. What were the odds on one person contracting so many viruses in such a short time? It was almost as though . . . Natalya felt a sudden frisson of unease. It was almost as though the viruses were targeting her cousin.


Natalya inserted her earpiece and waited for the AI to say, "Ready."

"Compare Anya Litton's DNA with the RNA of the following viruses: Cold virus ref: 2.5; Indiana Flu virus ref: 4.6; and the unidentified filovirus ref: 8.9. Look for connections."

"Working."

Natalya chewed her thumbnail.

"Analysis complete."

"Report."

"There is a partial genetic match in each case."

"Be more specific."

"Cold virus ref: 2.5 requires human hosts--Anya Litton is human. Indiana Flu virus ref: 4.6 requires human, female, Caucasian hosts. Anya Litton matches the criteria."

Natalya frowned.

"Unidentified filovirus ref: 8.9," continued the AI, "requires human, female, Caucasian hosts with the following characteristics: blood group: B; height: tall; weight: average; build: average; hair: straight, black; nose: small; eyes: blue . . ."

She listened to the list of attributes with growing horror. The AI was describing her cousin in uncanny detail. (It was also describing her, but she shoved that thought aside.) Finally, she halted the recitation. "Enough."

Someone had had a virus tailored to target Anya's DNA. Someone with money, since such complex gene-splicing would cost. Someone with samples of--what?--nail clippings, hair from an old brush? Above all, someone with enough of a motive to want her cousin dead.

Suddenly, Natalya knew who that someone must be.

"Get me the police," she told the AI. "Tell them I want to report an attempted murder."


Natalya eased past the equipment stacked in the hospital's narrow corridor. "That's him." She directed the burly policeman accompanying her toward Reeve Litton, who was still standing by the isolation unit's observation window, his hands in his pockets.

Sgt. Schwartz halted next to the plump industrialist. "Mr. Litton?" Reeve barely glanced at him before nodding. "I'm afraid I must ask you to come with me to Police HQ."

"What are you talking about?" Reeve was the very picture of bewilderment. "Why should I go anywhere with you? Especially now. That's my wife in there." ("Ex wife," muttered Natalya.) He pointed at the bedridden figure on the other side of the glass then shoved his hand back in his pocket. "She's dying. I need to be here not down at some police station answering pointless questions."

"I'm sure it's all just a misunderstanding," soothed Schwartz.

Natalya ground her teeth. If she'd had her way, Schwarz would have simply tranked Reeve and carted him off over his shoulder, but his superiors had ordered a more cautious approach until they had the hard evidence to back up her suspicions.

"The sooner you come with me and get this sorted out," continued Schwarz, "the sooner I can get you back here with your wife." ("Ex wife," mouthed Natalya.) He rested a gloved hand on Reeve's arm.

"Get off me! Do you know who I am?" Reeve batted the hand away and glanced at Natalya. "She put you up to this, didn't she?" He gave a longsuffering sigh. "My wife is her cousin, so it's understandable she's overwrought. We all are. But really!" He turned his attention back to the observation window.

Schwartz threw Natalya a doubtful glance. It was her word against Reeve's, and the industrialist was a highly respected figure.

"For God's sake, Sergeant!" she protested. "He's been trying to kill Anya."

"Delusional," muttered Reeve, with a pitying shake of the head.

Natalya balled her hands. She felt an overwhelming need to pierce his composure. "How did it feel," she asked, "when your marriage failed so publicly? I bet it stung. The great success story, the self-made millionaire, and he can't even make his marriage work. I bet you hated Anya for that. For making you look like a failure. Didn't you?"

He didn't react, but Schwarz did. "This isn't helping," he told Natalya.

"As for the method," she continued, raising her voice, "who better than you to make a genetic weapon? . . . Oh, I don't mean that you actually made it yourself--you don't have the technical know-how, do you? But you've got the connections to get hold of a filovirus, and the money to hire a good gene-splicer. Someone willing to do your dirty work for you, no questions asked, as long as the money was good. And I bet the money was good. Very good. That's something you have no shortage of."

"If you repeat that allegation," said Reeve calmly, "I'll sue."

"It was clever using different viruses for the trial runs," continued Natalya, unable to stop now she had started. "Testing out the targeting mechanisms while at the same time obscuring the identity of the real target. Not clever enough though." She gave her watch a pointed glance. "By now the police should have interviewed your gene-splicer and searched your home and your office."

"Ms. Krestyanova!" Schwartz's voice was sharp. Perhaps she shouldn't have revealed that last bit, she thought guiltily. But it was too late for Reeve to do anything about it, wasn't it?

Reeve's head swiveled toward her. His eyes had acquired a strange glitter. It occurred to her suddenly that he didn't look quite . . . sane.

Then Schwarz's comm unit light winked red and a man's voice said faintly, "Schwarz? Evidence retrieved. Arrest suspect at once. Acknowledge."

The policeman lifted his wrist to his mouth. "Acknowledged." Pulling the restraints from his belt, he advanced on Reeve.

The industrialist looked at Natalya, shrugged, withdrew his fist from his pocket, and opened his fingers. The gesture was so undramatic, so ordinary, it caught Natalya off guard. The hesitation cost her, and even as she dived, hands reaching, she knew she'd be too late.

She landed awkwardly on the tiles, the thud of the impact almost drowning out the faint tinkle of glass shattering. Her right cheek stung and she touched it then looked at her fingers: blood. Pulse pounding, she retrieved a tiny shard. It had been a small glass phial.

Natalya looked up at Reeve, who a worried-looking Schwarz was clamping into restraints.

"Too bad you won't be around much longer than your cousin," he said. Then he smiled.

For a moment Natalya could only gape at him, then she rose, crossed to the nurses' emergency call button, and pressed it. In the distance, an alarm began to sound.

"Get on the comm, Sergeant," she told Schwarz with a calmness she didn't feel, "and tell them to quarantine this area. He's just released a virus."


Natalya gazed at Emma through the glass. They had put her in the isolation unit next to Anya's and brought her colleague back from Messier B.

"It's the same filovirus that infected your cousin," came Emma's voice over the speaker system. She paused then said awkwardly, "I'm sorry, Nat."

Natalya shrugged. She had expected as much. "How is Anya?"

"A little better. Litton's research notes have proved a godsend--the doctors are altering their treatment regime. Her blood pressure's stabilized, which is a good sign, but she's not out of the woods yet." Emma sighed. "You know these filoviruses."

"Intimately, unfortunately." Natalya tried to convince herself her thumping headache was a reaction to stress and not the first symptom.


As the hours crawled past, boredom alternated with terror. At first, Natalya tried to take her mind off her predicament by reading a book, but when she realized she had read the same sentence ten times and still not taken in its meaning, she switched off her palmpad, lay back, and let her eyelids droop . . .

"Wake up, Ms. Krestyanova. Good news."

She sat up with a start and blinked at the grey-haired doctor standing beside her bed. There was something different about him. It took her a moment to identify what it was--he was wearing ordinary hospital whites.

"Your cousin's much better." He beamed at her. "She's going to make a full recovery."

"That's wonderful!" Hope surged through her but she fought against it. Just because Anya was recovering it didn't mean . . . "Why aren't you wearing a full protective suit?"

"It's no longer necessary. Your colleague at the LCDC has just sent over the results of her analysis and it seems Litton's gene-splicer did a better job on the filovirus than even his employer realized." The doctor chuckled. "That's what happens when you pay for the best."

A baffled Natalya stared at him. "You say that like it's a good thing."

"In this case, it is. The targeting mechanism is so precise it even includes Anya's sexual preference."

"But she's--"

"Straight and you aren't. My point exactly. Litton didn't know his virus cared about that one way or the other. He thought all Krestyanovas were equally vulnerable. He was wrong."

The doctor talked on, his eyes bright with admiration for the skill that had gone into tailoring the genetic weapon, but Natalya was no longer listening. A feeling of intense relief was spreading through her; she was going to be all right.


Natalya finished showing her temporary replacement how the system worked, then wandered over to her colleague's desk.

"You'd better not stay away too long," hissed Emma, shoving back her hair and grimacing at the sheep-faced young man now blinking at Natalya's screen.

"I couldn't even if I wanted to. I have to be back for Reeve's trial--Anya and I are witnesses for the prosecution." She wondered whether she was making a fool of herself, travelling all that way with no guarantee things would turn out the way she wanted them to.

"If it's any help," said Emma, divining her thoughts, "I think you're doing the right thing. Asking Milena in person rather than over the Vidlink will show her you really mean it."

"What if she doesn't want to make up and come home?"

"If she wasn't still interested, she wouldn't have kept calling me to find out how you are, now would she?"

Emma's expression was smug. While Natalya was in isolation, she had taken it upon herself to contact Milena and tell her what Natalya was facing. At first, Natalya had been annoyed with Emma, but now . . . Her recent brush with death had revised her priorities.

"Maybe," she said.

"Anyway," continued Emma, "even if things don't work out, at least you'll have tried, Nat. 'Fortune favors the brave' and all that."

Natalya rolled her eyes. "Since you've moved on to platitudes, I'm leaving. Got a train to Kondratyuk to catch." She checked her watch. The journey by monorail was long and complicated, but if the two of them ended up back together it would be worth it. "Wish me luck."

"With the train schedule or with Milena?" asked Emma, grinning.

"Both."

2006 Bedazzled Ink Publishing Company