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Sudden Chill
(Prompt: Allergy)


Julia stood in the entrance to the med-tent as she watched True and Uly, giggling their way through a game of tag. They raced back and forth, around tents and obstacles, periodically dragging in a passing adult or stopping to argue about who was "it." It was a safe way to work off excess energy, and they might as well enjoy the weather while they could. The worst of winter would be here soon, chasing everyone back inside.

She stretched, hearing vertebrae pop, just as Uly tripped over something on the ground and went flying into a pile of leaves and grass. There'd been a time that could have been a major problem; both of those were allergens, and Syndrome children had to avoid those as much as possible. It warmed her heart to see him simply pick himself up, brush himself off, and resume the game as if nothing had happened.

Letting the flap close behind her, she sat back down at the table. She'd had some extra time this afternoon, so she was back to her research project: figuring out how, exactly the Terrians had healed Uly.

Some of the recent test results were on the screen and, on an idle thought, she advanced them to the allergen sensitivity portion. Then she blinked, startled.

Uly's latest tests showed that he was still allergic to an extremely wide variety of substances. Including grass.

But she'd just seen him fall into it without any reaction, and a major component of the Syndrome was that exposure therapy for allergies simply did not work.

But Uly had been healed. Exposure therapy should work on him now. He might always still test mildly allergic to a few things, but he shouldn't still show results that looked like this. If she'd been presented with them without seeing the patient in question, she'd have recommended an immunosuit and suppression therapy immediately, and perhaps even protective quarantine.

She definitely wouldn't have recommended playing tag outside on a windy late-fall afternoon, when the air would be full of any number of things known to cause allergic reactions.

Julia's fingers flew over the console controls as she called up an actual tissue sample, and instructed the microscopes to scan for the cells most implicated in the development of allergies. Uly's count, was as abnormally high as most late-stage Syndrome children. He should be barely able to function, with his body in the final stages of attacking itself.

His voice sounded from just outside the tent, accompanied by the sound of girlish giggles. "Tag, tag, tag, tag, tag! Now you're it, True!"

"Stop it!" she shrieked. "That tickles! And besides, I'm getting hot."

Julia wasn't. She'd gone cold, starting to shiver, realizing exactly what the test results were telling her: Uly still had the Syndrome.

Checking the microscope again, she increased the magnification. Yes, that was the correct conclusion; it wasn't obvious until you looked closely, but now that she was, she could see that the cells' surfaces looked slightly too smooth. They'd simply been wrapped in some sort of protein coat to prevent the antibody triggers from reaching them.

The Terrians hadn't treated the condition. They'd treated the symptoms, inactivating the disease but not eliminating it. Even worse, if Uly's bond with the planet was any indication, chances were that the alien additions to his cells were likely tied to the ecology of G889. Leaving here could re-activate the Syndrome.

She was shivering harder now, and wondered if the wind had picked up after all. That was easier, she decided, then wondering exactly how she was going to tell Devon that her child was, technically, not cured after all.