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User:Phil Geusz/Body By Harmani

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Body By Harmani

Author: Phil Geusz

"You want me to WHAT?" Dr. Franken asked.

"It's not so hard," the prospective customer's representative replied. "The design work is already done. We just want you to execute Harmani's vision. And it's my client that will have to deal with the result, not you. I would think that after Strafford... "

That was the final straw. "Get out of my office!" the doctor declared, "Or I'll... "

"Whoa, whoa! What did I say?" asked the attorney. "I didn't mean to get personal or anything!"

Franken relented. Probably the oaf DIDN'T understand. Besides, lapines tend to be conciliatory- one of the reasons he had chosen the form. "Look, Mr.... "

"Bailey. Fulbright Lucas Bailey, attorney-at-law."

"... er, Mr. Bailey, then. What happened to Jack Strafford was an accident, an accident that I plan not to repeat again. I will NEVER put someone into such a non-functional body again willingly. Not at all. Under any circumstances. Period. End of story."

"But Doctor! We are talking about a volunteer here!"

"NO ONE who understands transmutation and human physiology would volunteer for... that. It's simply out of he question, Mr. Bailey."

Whereupon the attorney rose to his feet. "Very well, Doctor. It would have been a lucrative contract, and you ARE the top man in the field. But there are others out there... "

"Mr. Bailey, sit back down." There was ice in Jacob's voice, then. The lawyer obeyed.

"I urge you to reconsider. If your client will not drop this... foolishness, then I urge you to drop the client. For your own peace of mind."

Bailey shook his head. "Have you got ANY idea what kind of retainer I am getting?"

Franken sighed. So often it came down to money. "Then, sir, I solemnly assure that as soon as you leave I will be making some phone calls. By the time you get back to your over-upholstered corner office, there will not be a transmutation facility in the entire United States willing to touch your client. Do you hear me?"

The lawyer shook his head sadly. "So it's that way, eh? Then I guess we'll just have to go elsewhere. There are other countries. Good day, Doctor!" And with a rustle of his expensive suit, Bailey was gone.

Franken immediately made his phone calls anyway, of course. The lawyer was right- there WERE outfits overseas willing to do anything for a price. But Jacob knew that HIS conscience would be clear.

When Marissa awoke, her first thought was that she was now beautiful. Finally, after a lifetime of futile and painful plastic surgery, extreme dieting, and five thousand-dollar makeovers she had outdone all her friends. Let them sweat to maintain their hourglass figures and parade about in designer dresses- she now had a designer body! And the very first in the world, to boot! Her friends would be SO jealous...

The doctor came as soon as she awoke, of course. For what he was being paid he ought to, Marissa thought uncharitably. Before he could even begin to speak through his interpreter, the patient took charge. "Get rid of these restraints!" she demanded. "I want to see myself!"

Doctor Beunavidas was flustered for a moment as the interpreter did his job. But then he responded. "You have not yet learned to move, Mrs. Rothkill. It will be several days... "

"No!" she declared. "I want up NOW! Get me my attorney." Sometimes you just HAD to put these medical people in their place...

With a fatalistic shrug, the doctor called in his staff. Presently Mrs. Rothkill was free. Immediately, with a radiant smile she raised her hands to her face...

... and tore great runnels in the perfect flesh with her implanted, unbreakable and dagger-sharp 4" fingernails. Once the bleeding was under control, Marissa calmed down somewhat. However, she still continued to scream obscenities at her doctor for long minutes after the tranquilizers had been injected.

When consciousness next returned, Mrs. Rothkill was a little more open to suggestion. Her face hurt terribly, and the bandages made angry shouting difficult in any case. Plastic surgery would be in order, she was told while still restrained, once she recovered fully from transmutation.

Surprisingly, she accepted this with good grace. The prospect of lording it over her friends coupled with her knowing deep down that she had been wrong in forcing the doctor's hand mellowed her to a considerable degree. For several days she was a good girl, and learned to use her hands once again. The nails made this VERY difficult, however. Marissa was quite surprised at how clumsy they made her. Finally, after a frustrating session involving a bowl of hot soup, she demanded that they be trimmed back.

"I can't put up with these things!" she explained to her doctor. "They are TOO long!" He nodded and left, only to reappear several hours later with Bailey. "Bad news," the lawyer said, once they had exchanged polite greetings. 'The nails can't be trimmed."

"Can't be trimmed? Why not? That's the silliest thing... "

"Now, now, Mrs. Rothkill, don't get excited... ."

"What do you MEAN don't get excited! If you can't take care of the most BASIC requests... "

"Mrs. Rothkill! The nails are made of a composite! You and your designer specified 4-inch unbreakable nails, and you got them. But if they are cut, the synthetic will unravel. You'll end up with no nails at all, just naked quick!"

To this, Marissa was silent. Well, she thought, they DID look nice... Perhaps she would get used to them in time...

Sitting up in bed proved a challenge, too. It turns out that humans have waistlines of the diameter they are for excellent reasons. Cutting one down to 9 inches, as Marissa had, involved certain... sacrifices.

"Mrs. Rothkill, I KNOW that it's very hard for you so stay upright. The doctors predict that standing will prove even harder. You must exercise, they say, or you may never get out of that bed at all."

"I AM exercising!"

"But you need to do more of it. Three hours a day, the doctors tell me, because your abdominal muscles have to carry a huge load with poor leverage. Later, once you are walking the total may go up to four hours or more. You are after all rather, well, top- and front-heavy... "

"That's RIDICULOUS! I can't spend all that time... "

"Then you will never get out of bed, quite simply. No one can reverse the laws of physiology."

"Bailey! Damn you, why didn't you warn me?"

"I did. Remember, after I went to see Dr. Franken? I found out he knew what he was talking about. But you and that Italian designer wouldn't change a thing."

Marissa tossed her head in anger, and the effort unbalanced her. She fell over in bed helplessly.

"If it helps any," Bailey added sympathetically, "you ARE the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Or you will be, once you get those scars taken care of... "

It took three months of hard work before Marissa was ready to stand. By then, her next shock was almost expected. "Doctor, I can't get my heels down to the floor."

He nodded, once the interpreter had explained. "Si, Senora."

"But I can't walk like this!"

Just then a nurse brought out a pair of six-inch heeled pumps. "Senora," she explained, "These are for you to walk in."

"But I am weak, sick! I can't... ."

And recognizing the signs, the Doctor sighed and called for the lawyer once more.

"You made the decision," Bailey explained when he arrived. "Harmani showed you a whole variety of leg designs. You chose these."

"But... But... "

"The muscles have been altered to make them look better in heels. But the tradeoff is that you can't go barefoot anymore. You NEED the heels to walk."

"But... Tennis... Golf... "

Bailey sighed. "Maybe you can take up swimming?"

Had Marissa's designer body allowed for any upper body strength to speak of, he might have been seriously hurt by the shoe that struck him in the head.

Long weeks passed. Eventually Marissa learned to stand for as long as ten minutes at a time without resting, but all the exercise in the world could avail her no more. She never did learn to walk on anything but the most level of floors, and then only with considerable pain. Nor did she ever quit rending and tearing expensive custom clothing with her ungainly and dangerous nails. But even these handicaps paled next to the problem that finally landed her in Dr. Franken's Washington D.C. office.

"I can't have sex," she told the lapine bluntly from her wheelchair.

"I'm not surprised in the least" the rabbity doctor replied. "I bet it's quite painful."

"Why yes... How did you know?"

"Just look at yourself. You are incredibly attractive, but your form is not functional. I bet you have trouble eating rich food, too. And continency problems."

Mrs. Rothkill's beautifully sculpted jaw dropped.

"Ma'am," Franken explained as he leaned back in his chair, "Transmutation is the most difficult and exciting science ever developed. It challenges our vision of ourselves as a species, our very sense of identity. And yet, it remains in some ways very prosaic. Designing functional bowels and sexual organs is not the simplest thing in the world. Nor is it possible to monkey too much with working anatomies, or at least not yet. Take Jack Strafford- did you know that I have to put metal plates in his hips at every retransmutation to cover a design error/"

Marissa shook her head.

"Few people do. But it's evidence that even the best of us make mistakes. And that was just in combining two entirely functional anatomies, human and lapine. But what was done to you! It's not functional at all! Your genes are all human, right?"

"Absolutely! Harmani SWORE there would be no animal in me- no offence intended, of course."

"None taken. Fur is not for everyone. But just look at you! Your waist is impossibly narrow, your hips overly wide, your chest, well... "

"I have had many opportunities to regret my choice of bra size, Dr. Franken."

"I'm sure you have. But what you have is a designer body, Mrs. Rothkill, not a functional one. Frankly, I have very serious doubts about your long-term survival."

That was a surprise to her. "My survival is in question?"

"Oh, yes! It will be, what, ten years before you can safely retransmutate?"

"Harmani promised three. And I was hoping you could do better."

Franken shook his head regretfully. Truly, he hated being the bearer of bad news. "I am sorry. Three years is possible with some all-human genomes. But an expert only needs one look at you to... Well, ten years is more realistic. And in that time, look at how much there is that can go wrong! Your neck is so slender that a simple stumble could easily break it, and from what I see my guess is that you fall at least once daily. Then there's all the organs jammed together so tightly in your waist. That is another disaster waiting to happen."

Suddenly Marissa was white as a sheet.

"And I bet your detail design work is poorly thought out too. Tell me, does your blood pressure vary a lot? Do you get nosebleeds?"

Mrs. Rothkill silently nodded.

Franken let out a nearly silent lapine sigh, and went on. "I tried to warn your attorney, but he wouldn't listen."

"He got a percentage of the gross, under the table. That's why he's gone. No more money to be made off a cripple, I suppose."

"I'm not surprised. He struck me as the type."

There was really very little more to say, since Franken could offer no help besides suggesting a new brand of plastic leakproof pants. Mrs. Rothkill left silently in her electric wheelchair, and her chauffeur took her back to the palatial prison that her home had become. It can be said, however, that Marissa Rothkill got her revenge. Inside her coffin lid, above perhaps the most attractive corpse ever buried, was embroidered the words "Body by Harmani". Photos appeared on the cover of every glamour magazine in the world.

He never got another client.