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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Time-travel, alternative universe: Lyon's Legacy by @ulbrichalmazan (excerpt)


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Lyon's Legacy

Catalyst Chronicles, Book One

By Sandra Ulbrich Almazan



Synopsis


Sometimes being a geneticist isn’t enough to understand your family....

Joanna Lyon is the great-granddaughter of the legendary TwenCen musician Sean Lyon. She may have inherited her ancestor's musical talent, but her parents' bitter divorce and her Uncle Jack's attempts to remake her into another Sean have left her hostile toward her family and music. Her passion is for science, but since she has no access to the family funds, she struggles to earn enough credits for graduate school. Then her uncle sets up a business deal with her employer to make Joanna go on a mission for him: travel via the spaceship Sagan to an alternate TwenCen universe where Sean is still alive.

Joanna must collect a DNA sample from Sean so her uncle can create a clone of him. She refuses at first, but finally agrees to go. Secretly, however, Joanna believes her uncle will exploit the clone, and she plans to sabotage the project to stop him. But when she falls in love with one of the scientists in the Sagan's genetics lab, clashes with other time travelers who fear she'll change how history develops on the alternative TwenCen Earth, and receives devastating personal news, Joanna will find herself pushed to her limit even before she comes face-to-face with her hated ancestor. Their encounter will leave her changed forever. Will she still be able to thwart her uncle's plan, and what will she have to sacrifice to do so?

Excerpt


Prologue

I know this must be very upsetting for you. You weren’t expecting this at all. I don’t blame you if you’re furious. But before you say you hate me forever, please understand I did what I thought was best for you. I don’t have any idea what it’s like being you, but I’ve been through something similar. At least listen to my story before you storm off and shut the door....


Chapter One

People always call when you’re in the middle of something uninterruptable, like sampling kidneys. My elbow-length gloves were immersed in ripe-smelling nutrient broth as I cornered the Brooks-Jones kidney in the tank, trying not to squeeze it. Just when I had it, my handheld chimed in the pocket of my lab coat. My hands slipped, and the half-grown kidney darted off. As much as I wanted to drop the handheld in the broth, I didn’t dare; the chime pattern indicated someone from company headquarters was calling. And that meant it was time for my least favorite job.

I lifted one hand out of the broth and shook it off before answering, still chasing the errant kidney with the other hand. “Jo here.”

“This is Catherine.” The company president’s personal assistant—my hunch was right. “Are you busy?”

I reached back into the tank and grasped the squishy organ. “I’m in the middle of sampling.”

“Is there another tech out there who can take over?”

There were three, but they were more interested in gossiping than taking care of the organs. I sampled some cells from the kidney with a syringe and injected them into the auto-analyzer. As I waited for results, I asked, “Does Mr. Guzman want to show me off to another set of clients?”

I never liked being on display. Even people who didn’t know anything about TwenCen music recognized me, thanks to all the ads featuring my superstar great-grandparents, Sean and Baby Lyon. My face is the female version of Sean’s. Every time Guzman showed me off, he made it sound as if Golden Helix had sculpted my features. I don’t know why he did that; Golden Helix grows organs for transplants. It has nothing to do with gene sculpting. Besides, I came by my great-granddad’s face naturally, through my dad. Lucky me.

Silence. Then Catherine said, “Yes, but it’s not what you’re thinking. Your name has been brought up for an important assignment. I think it would pay a considerable bonus.”

A bonus! The magic word, even better than “please.” Mom’s medicines and the board at the TransAIDS Long-Term Care Clinic had consumed all our savings. A bonus would make it easier for me to return to grad school and genetics.

The auto-analyzer bleeped; the kidney was developing within specs. I took that as a good omen. “So, when’s the meeting?”

“They’re just waiting for one more person.”

Typical; wait till the last minute to tell me what’s going on. The latex gloves snapped as I pulled them off. “I’ll be there in five minutes.” I disconnected before Catherine could add anything else. I tilted my cap so the brim shadowed my face, took off my lab coat, shoved my handheld into its slot on my belt, and headed up to the main office.

* * *

I was the only one in the vator on my way to the twentieth floor, but even here, I couldn’t find peace. A smartad of white-skinned teenage girls romping in a virtual meadow materialized in front of my eyes. Accompanying it was an ineptly synthesized but still recognizable song: “Knowing.” The kids were out of tune, and the lead singer—a blonde with huge, sculpted breasts—couldn’t keep the beat if you handed it to her in a bag. I was probably the only one in the world who noticed, though, or even cared. The important thing was that the group was sexy enough to get horny fourteen-year-olds to download their cover of my great-granddad’s song. Another number one for them, and another hundred grand for my cousins. I chopped my hand through the smartad and was satisfied by the resulting silence.

Before another one could start, the doors opened onto Golden Helix’s reception room. Sitting across from me was a fiftyish woman in a hot pink blazer and turquoise jeans. Silver earrings with pink and blue stones dangled from one ear, matching the stud in her nose. She was bent over her handheld like any other businesswoman, but over the years, I’ve learned to detect a fan at fifty paces. Unfortunately, she must have sensed me at the same time. She looked up, and awe shone in her eyes. “The face that launched a revolution!” she quoted at me as she stood up.

I’ve always hated that line from Sean’s biography. Sean had inspired the Filipinos to revolt against the Marcos regime with his music and actions, not his looks. But if this woman knew the line, then she had to be the person I was supposed to meet.

I put on my fan smile. Holding out my hand (and hoping she didn’t kiss it) I said the ritual words, “Hi. I’m Joanna Lyon, Sean Lyon’s great-granddaughter.”

“Zoë Clairdon, Music Historian for World Music.” Her long pink nails bit my skin, and she held my hand too long. But this was an “I-can’t-believe-I’m-touching-Sean’s-descendant!” handshake, so I let it slide. “Ms. Lyon, this is such an honor!” She peered at me. “It’s quite uncanny, the way you look so much like Sean after all this time.”

“I’m a strand off the ol’ DNA.”

My remark must not have matched her expectations of Lyon humor, for she continued, “I was a teenager when I came across a holo about Sean, and it changed my life! It inspired me to study music history.”

She continued her chatter while I led us to the big conference room. Guzman, the company president, was already there, talking with half a dozen other people, some in formal suits and designer jeans, others in casual clothing that had half a dozen tech apps woven into the fabric.

Guzman beckoned me over. He surprised me by not trumpeting my pedigree to the skies. Instead, he simply said, “And this is Joanna Lyon, the one who will ultimately decide the success of this project.”

I was so puzzled—and a little flattered—by that remark that I missed most of the people’s names. I did catch a few titles. Some of the casually dressed people were physicists; the suits were from World Music. Before I could figure out what that meant, I saw a face I knew. Plastic surgery to remove his wrinkles and sagging jowls had left intact the sharp cheekbones and straight nose we both shared.

“Uncle Jack—” I stopped myself from blurting out the rest of my private nickname for him—Uncle Jackass. He was the heir to Sean’s well of dreams—not to mention the money well. What was he doing here?

“Hello, Jo.” He smiled, but his eyes showed me nothing but contempt. “How’s your mother?”

As if he cared. “She’s gained a little weight since the doctor prescribed pot brownies, but her white blood cells are still rarer than gays in the Fundie party. The closest I can get to her is the other side of the Plexiglas wall. Course, I can’t hug her without bruising her anyway—or getting TransAIDS myself.” Stretching to my full height, I stepped closer and looked him in the eye. “When are you going to make that donation to the TransAIDS Foundation? You said you would!” He scowled and turned his back to me.

I didn’t know why they wanted two Lyons at a Golden Helix meeting, but I doubted it was to sing. I grabbed a cup of hazelnut coffee and sat next to Zoë, as far away from my uncle as I could.

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