Barnes & Noble
The Venom of Vipers
Release date: Dec 1, 2010
A super virus is wiping us out. Our only hope is a genetically-modified human that could beat it. Ryder wants to be more than a lab rat; he wants to be free. Katie wants him to save the world. Purists want him dead. And the others want something so sick, you’ll have to read it to believe it.
A supervirus threatens to wipe out the human population.
The only hope for the future is a cure hidden inside Ryder Stone. Created in a lab and brutalized, betrayed and hated by humans, Ryder yearns for freedom. On the outside, a group of human genetic purists want him dead.
When Katie Marsh, a brilliant young geneticist, discovers his secret, she must fight to protect Ryder, gain his trust...and convince him to save humanity before the purists destroy them both.
A knock on her door drew her gaze up. Her father leaned in and pushed a lock of hair, now more salt than pepper, from his eyes. “Hey, Sweet. Glad you’re here. We have a problem in the infirmary. Can you give us a hand?”
Grateful for something more interesting to do than new-hire paperwork, Katie put her Fed card into her purse and shoved it into a desk drawer. “You bet. What’s wrong?” She stood to take off her suit jacket and laid it across the back of her chair.
The crease between his eyebrows deepened. “It’s one of the girls.”
Outside, Katie and her father climbed onto the rear-facing seat of a solar-powered golf cart waiting near the back door. The driver, clad in a white jumpsuit and straw hat, removed his sunglasses to clean them.
“Where to, Dr. Marsh?”
“To the infirmary. Hurry,” Dad said.
They raced across campus, narrowly missing a couple of staffers going about their business, and hurried into the infirmary. Eagerness and anticipation knotted Katie’s stomach. If luck was on her side, she would delay — or prevent — a miscarriage today.
Inside, a girl lay on an examination table with her feet in metal stirrups. She couldn’t have been more than fourteen. The age of consent had been lowered for the sake of repopulation, but girls this young weren’t equipped to handle the heartache of what she might face today. Her bare legs, draped with a gown, were spread wide. Seated on a stool between her knees, Dr. Barnes readied a uterine evacuation instrument.
Damn it. She was too late. Katie grabbed a surgical gown from the supply cabinet and pulled it on over her clothes. “Stephen, have you tried administering twenty cc’s of diaphrenepalon directly into the uterine wall?” After years of addressing him as Dr. Barnes, calling him Stephen felt strange, but they were colleagues now.
Stephen scowled at her. “That won’t do any good, Kate. She started bleeding last night but didn’t tell anyone until this morning. There are no signs of life.”
“I want the medicine,” the girl said, sitting forward. “Please, save my baby.”
“Lie back, Jessica,” the doctor said.
Near the door, Katie's father talked in hushed tones with one of the nurses, a young man whose vantage point robbed Jessica of her privacy.
Katie pulled the modesty curtain around them and picked up the girl’s hand. “I’m sorry, Sweetheart. It’s too late. There’s nothing we can do.” She looked familiar, maybe one of Evelyn’s friends.
Jessica hunched forward, stifling a scream. Her claws dug into the back of Katie’s hand. Sweat stuck her coarse, black hair to her face and neck. After a moment, she collapsed back onto the table. “It hurts so bad.”
“I know, Hon.” Katie dipped a cloth into the pan of warm water on a nearby table, wrung it out and wiped the girl’s brow. “Your body’s trying to expel the embryo. Dr. Barnes is going to help.”
“Jessica, you’re going to feel a slight pressure now,” the doctor said.
Jessica shook her head violently. “No, no, no. Please.”
Katie bit her lip, wishing she’d been hired last week, wishing Jessica had come to the infirmary when the bleeding started. There might have been the smallest of chances to fix it before the embryo dislodged.
The instrument hummed its low, quiet dirge. Jessica cried, and Katie held her hand. When it was over, the doctor gently removed her feet from the stirrups, patted her knee and stood. Jessica threw her arms around Katie and sobbed. “I loved her. She was going to be so beautiful.”
For a long moment, Jessica clutched her and cried while Katie patted her, running her hand across the spiny crest, which now lay flat against Jessica’s back. Finally, Jessica pulled away. Her golden irises looked brilliant contrasted with the bloodshot whites. Her pupils were thin slits under the bright lights of the examination room. “Will I ever be able to have a baby?”
Katie squeezed Jessica’s shoulder. “Sweetie, of course you will. It’s why I’m here — to help figure this out.”
“I don’t want to keep going through this if I can never get past seven weeks. What’s the point?”
“It hurts,” Katie said in a gentle tone as she rubbed Jessica’s back. “And you feel hopeless now, but we can’t stop trying.”
Jessica lowered her head. “I’m a failure. My stupid uterus is a piece of trash.” She pulled her knees to her chest, crossed her arms over them and bowed her head.
Katie felt like she’d been punched in the chest. “Oh, Honey, if you could see yourself through my eyes, you’d see a strong, beautiful, young sapher woman. You’d see how important you are to the future of Homo sapiens. You’ll get through this, Jessica. It’s not your fault. It’s a flaw in the genetic code, and it’s my job to find it and fix it.”
Jessica shrugged, head still bowed.
Inspired, Katie stepped over to the gynecologist, who was extracting the receptacle containing the embryo and placenta from the instrument. “Stephen, could I have the em— the baby?”
He looked at her as though she were stealing his favorite marble. “It belongs to the immunology lab. They use it—”
“I just thought Jessica would like to say goodbye.”
He blushed. “Oh. Yes, of course. I misunderstood. Here.” He handed her the smooth, white receptacle. It had rounded edges and a circular opening with a black release knob. “Let me know when you’re finished.”
Katie carried it to the exam table and gently touched Jessica’s arm. “Would you like to say a few words to her?”
Jessica lifted her head and gazed at the receptacle. “She’s in here?”
Jessica cradled the receptacle in both hands as tears streamed down her cheeks. “I love you, baby, even though you’re gone. I wish I could’ve held you in my arms, smelled your baby smell, and looked into your pretty eyes to tell you this. My body’s broken. Now my heart is, too. I’ll have this special love for you in my heart forever.”
“That was beautiful, Jessica.” Katie took the receptacle.
Jessica sniffled. Katie handed her a tissue, and she blew her nose. “Would you pick a name for her, Dr. Kate?”
Katie blinked in surprise. Her eyes welled with tears, and a lump formed in her throat. The face of the sapher she’d given birth to fourteen years ago came to mind: Evelyn, a sweet, innocent girl in her first pregnancy. She would be facing a similar fate if Katie couldn’t figure this out and fix it. “How about Raquel? It means ‘the innocent.’”