Beatrix’s world has been shrinking as her body slowly locks up into immobility and constant pain. A strange woman arrives at her door and offers her a chance for a body without pain and the form she had in her early twenties. The price of this miracle? Just her life and moving to an alien world as caretaker for a group of superheroes.
The charm of the men wore thin fast, and she put her foot down after she overheard some hurtful remarks. She activated her one caveat from the contract, her right of refusal. Bea quit.
She ends up with the avatar, pregnant, friendless, and alone on a world where everyone but her has scales and a forked tongue. The one refrain in her mind is simple... she should have read the contract.
Resetting a life twice is hard enough, but doing it as the only one of her kind on an entire world is definitely trickier than she had imagined. At least she could dance now.
Bea wheeled over to her front door and opened it, carefully backing up. The woman standing there in the tailored suit did not look like someone who should be in her neighbourhood.
“Yes. Whatever you are selling, I don’t need it.” She used her control and whirred back to the kitchen. “Please, see yourself out.”
“You applied for the Volunteer Project.”
Bea paused and slowly turned her chair. “I did. Nearly thirty years ago. Let me guess. Santa finally delivered my documents?”
The woman grinned. “No, but your application and genetics suit a new project that we have going.”
Bea drove up to the woman who radiated power. “Are you shitting me?”
“I am not. May we sit and discuss the project? I assure you it has some very interesting aspects.”
“I am already sitting, but shoot.” She whirled her chair to the sitting area and parked up. She flexed her fingers as much as the crippling arthritis would allow. Her body was twisted up into a seated position, her hip burning from the weight pressing down on enflamed bone. Her carer would switch her carefully to her other hip. There would be tears, cursing, and screaming, but the medical gel pads and fleeces could only do so much when her body was wadded up with pain. No joint had been left untouched, and now that her eating was impaired, it would be a stomach tube or a slow death. Good times.
“We have begun a program with some success that resets your biology to that of when you were fittest, but the price is that you are shipped off-world to a planet who is willing to bear the cost of your reshaping.”
Bea snorted. “Right. This sounds fun. The problem is that the osteoarthritis was already firmly in place by the time I was in my mid-twenties. So, thanks, but no thanks. Knowing what was coming, I am not sure I would face it again. I hope that I would, but I am really not sure.”
“Well, this isn’t a free handout, and there are a few details that might change your mind. You always wanted a family, right?”
Bea was wary. “Yeah. It wasn’t possible. The drugs to manage this were toxic, even when I was mobile.”
“Well, having four kids would be a requirement. In fact, you would be pregnant when you landed and started your job as housemother to four guardians.”
“What’s a guardian?”
The woman took out a tablet and brought an image of a heavily muscled man, scales, burning gold and orange eyes, and a fitted suit that showed every strangely aligned muscle and... other attributes.
The image of the man moved, lifted a vehicle, and threw it offscreen.
“Oh. That’s... different. He’s a lizard?”
“Oh, he’s warm-blooded, just scales to protect against the rays of the sun. Your skin would be thickened to manage the same effect, but scales may manifest over time.”
Bea laughed. “So, you are saying that I will be a surrogate to that guy’s kids?”
“Not just him. This is the team. They all need heirs, and they aren’t set up for compatibility with anyone on their world. The mutation that activates their powers also alters the way they connect with the world around them. To sum it up, they are jerks. They expect women to flop on their backs, and the women that do, do not repeat the experience. They are throwbacks, and their genitals are a little... difficult to match. So, since we are rebuilding you, we thought we would just add a little extra adaptability to you to help you out.”
Bea laughed. “Sure. Why not? I don’t even know if I have a vag anymore. Pain has twisted me up.” She looked at the woman through narrowed eyes. “Is my ability to take pain a factor?”
“Yes. It will be like living with bulls who only deal with other bulls.”
Bea moved her pinky in a tapping motion. It was one of her only free joints. “I want to be able to quit.”
The woman blinked. “What?”
“I will still carry the babies—I love babies—but I want the right to find a new job if they are as bad as you say.”
“Uh, I will have to run that past their representatives. If they agree, you will sign it?”
Bea chuckled. “As best I can. I might have to get Marley to help me.”
“I can assist you. Let me make the alterations to the contract to include a right of refusal. You will have to remain there, and when the birth occurs, you will have medical care until you recover. Then, you will be able to find your way on that world, or if you can get a ship to another world, you can explore the sector.”
The woman’s hands blurred, and she smiled. “Message is sent, so I will let you know if they accept the alteration to the contract.”
“Didn’t you say that the process to reset me was expensive?”
“Oh, it is, and it requires genetic materials from the host world, and with this world, those genes are in high demand. They arrived under guard.”
The woman stepped up. “If you will extend your hand, I can help you sign.”
Bea nodded and huffed as she lifted her arm and twisted her body toward the tablet. The woman touched her hand, and the pain and swelling fled, leaving it a standard hand for a fifty-five-year-old woman. She held up her shaking hand, and she looked at the woman. “How did you do that?”
“Practice. Sign please.”
Bea signed and pressed her thumb into the box, and then, she sat for the ocular scan.
“How long will it take to learn if they accept the condition?”
“Well, I sent the message via the avatar network, so it should be... yes. The terms are acceptable, and the contract will be ratified on their end.”
Bea chuckled. “Just like that?”