Rogue's Weyr : "the Weyr is where the dragon is" -Brekke Rider of Gold Wirenth, Southern Weyr

Background: This story is set in the 28th century. Rejuvenation is common, and is used not only to extend life but as a punishment for criminal behavior. Melody is a fifty year old woman who was convicted of embezzlement last October. She was sentenced to three cycles from 6 to 12 years old. Like all convicted criminals, she is spending her first cycle(s) in the custody of 'spanko' parents, who are authorized, even encouraged to spank her as often as possible, AS WELL AS often as she deserves...
   — Lurking Dragon

The Rejuvenation

Mar. 30-31, 2749

Part 52 of Melody's Stories

Finally Melody and her parents arrived at the Johnston Center for Rejuvenation Studies at Johns Hopkins University Medical School. They parked and went into the sprawling building; a graduate student met them and told them he'd escort them to the observation lounge, where they could overlook the entire operation.

They went up a flight of stairs, through a few halls, and entered the lounge. Melody ran over to the angled-out windows, leaning against the rail to look out—

Into one of the biggest rooms she'd ever seen!! She'd expected a small rejuvenation chamber, like the one she'd been rejuved in.


The room was at least ten meters high. It spread out for over fifteen meters in front of Melody — and as far to either side. And it SWARMED!!

In the center, in front of Melody, was a standard gurney. And what looked a little like a rejuvenation machine loomed over it.

A rejuvenation machine modified by Dr. Frankenstein!!

Dozens of men swarmed over literally hundreds of racks of equipment. They jogged back and forth, tripping over the masses and bundles of electrical and optical cable tangled over everything.

At least twenty Johnston crystals surrounded the rejuvenation system at the center of everything. And technicians, three human and two Drakonian, were struggling to attach six MORE to the unit, sweating and swearing as they tried to cram the units in. Above them a Rigellian ran along the ceiling, stringing optical data conduit behind him, preparing to lower the control cable to the units to connect them from above.

Elsewhere men and Drakonians and Rigellians and some races Melody didn't recognize worked frantically, testing and calibrating unit and unit, panel after panel.

All the chaos concentrated in a station directly below Melody. It had clearly started out as a complex control console — and had been modified well beyond that.

A dozen keyboards and control panels littered the desk. There had originally been four large monitors on the console. Eight more had been crammed in, on, or over, strapped precariously into place with bright silver tape. Cables ran everywhere. And at the center of the console, talking on two communicators while frantically typing on three keyboards, was a boy.

He was about twelve or thirteen. Overweight. He had a very bad complexion — Melody could see where a large pimple had gotten infected on the tip of his nose. Large glasses covered his face, evidence that his vision was deteriorating too quickly for more permanent treatments. His t-shirt clung to his body from sweat. He looked harried and worn.

Melody recognized him at once.

As she did, a lightning bolt of emotion almost brought her to her knees. An emotion she'd almost forgotten. An emotion that brought tears to her eyes and caused her heart to race.


Melvin Feinburg. That boy was MELVIN FEINBURG!!!

'Nerd Prime' HIMSELF!

Three centuries ago, a young man had made the first breakthrough on deciphering the software of the rejuvenation machines. This was the hardest part in understanding the alien technology. There were no software manuals, no source code, even. Just the compiled system, written in a strange machine code, where the result of a command was context-sensitive to the machine state, dependant on what commands had gone before, and with a software logic so alien and bizarre it was a miracle anybody had ever been able to decipher even a fraction of it.

Melvin Feinburg had been that young man. And as a result of that breakthrough, mankind had had access to the genetic editing capabilities of the rejuvenation machines for the first time. Even now, there were fewer than a dozen beings in the galaxy who could understand even a little of the alien software systems.

But Melvin had been, heck WAS, the ultimate slicer. The best in the business. No computer had been, or was, safe from him.

And even though everybody knew that Melvin Feinburg was the legendary slicer 'Nerd Prime', in over three hundred years nobody had ever been able to prove it.

Of course, they never tried too hard. Melvin never damaged the systems he broke into. In fact, about the only sign Nerd Prime had visited a system was the fact that it had been optimized and was running two or three times more efficiently than before. And was about ten times harder to crack. A visit from Nerd Prime wasn't exactly something to be avoided.

And everybody felt sorry for Melvin, anyway.

He had Huntington's disease. The genetic disorder had become very rare; genetic testing had almost eliminated it. But Melvin's parents had been extreme religous fundementalists, living on the planet settled by their sect, and had refused all genetic testing, insisting on accepting whatever God willed.

Which was probably why Melvin had rejected them, and their God, so thoroughly years ago. But possibly the parents were right, for Melvin was a genius, a brilliant child who rapidly rose to the extreme peak of prominence. First in software, easily mastering the simple planetary Net of his birth, then moving on back to Earth to test himself against the complexities of her World-girdling webs. Later, he would master virtually every branch of engineering and computer science. But his first lifetime was dedicated to software.

Until he reached thirty, and the involuntary, spasmodic jerking of his arms and legs began. He was unfortunate enough to go through the stages of the disease fairly quickly, so by the age of thirty-five he would have been trapped, a keen mind mired in an uncontrollable body, unable to even care for himself.

He rejuvenated before that happened, of course. And he applied his keen mind to developing a cure. The genetic editing potential of the Forerunner rejuvenation technology seemed the best bet, and after cracking that part of the alien software Melvin Feinburg became the first human to use the genetic modifying capabilities of the rejuvenation systems, using it to re-write his flawed DNA and become a twelve-year-old boy WITHOUT the devastating disease that had made his life a living hell.

Two weeks later he had returned, haggard and sobbing, asking that the procedure be reversed, accepting a return to being a nine year old in return for having his genetics returned to 'normal'.

In an indescribeably cruel twist of fate, somehow Melvin's genius was, IS, genetically dependant on the very flaw that caused his disease. After having the Huntington's genes deleted, Melvin had lost his brilliance, descending, as he put it, into the 'mires of mediocrity'.

Not that he was retarded. He was actually still well above average in intelligence. But the special spark of brilliance was gone. Problems he had seen the answer to intuitively required long, plodding effort to solve. Those incomprehensible leaps of logic that resulted in new insights into the nature of the universe no longer came. He no longer burned with brilliance.

And Melvin could not bear to merely glow.

His cure had allowed hundreds of sufferers of Huntinton's to begin living long, full lifetimes. But it was a cure he himself simply could not bear to undergo.

So Melvin spent almost half of his lifetimes as a legal child. Rejuvenating to twelve or thirteen, living a life of incredible brilliance and genius, mastering another subject of technology, or returning to one of his old loves, like software. Spending eight or nine years as a child, not responsible for his own life but subject to the control of another. Then, perhaps a dozen years of prodigious productivity. Then the slight tremors that heralded the onset of the disease — and a rejuvenation back to twelve, and childhood. Before he'd achieved the age of thirty-five.

Melody heard a door open behind her. Turning, her face lit up as she saw Johnny Devine come into the room. Glancing at each other, Melody's parents quietly left the two children alone together. They knew that Johnny was the best thing possible for Melody right now.

"Melody!! I came as soon as I heard. Am I in time? Have they started to rejuve Ellen yet?"

"Hi Johnny!! No, you're in plenty of time. Come see!!"

Johnny was a bit surprised to see Melody so 'up'. Frankly, he felt Ellie's cause hopeless. She was just too young. And he was sure Melody knew the odds herself.

But when he reached the window, he was definitely impressed. And said so.

"Wow!! this is... remakable. They are certainly making quite an effort. Though I'm a bit worried that they are still working on all this at this late date. I'm surprised they'd still be improvising now..."

"Look down there, Johnny, and I think you'll see who's behind it."

Johnny looked. And stared. And quietly whispered "Oh..My..Dear..God! Nerd bloody Prime his own damn self!!"

Melody was a bit shocked. She wasn't used to hearing Johnny swear like that. Besides, his voice was strange. Then Melody recognized it.

Respect. Almost... awe! A great and terrible respect and regard for the boy below them. Johnny was a hero. A Star Fleet officer. But he was also an engineer, and that boy down there was, in some ways, the ultimate engineer. He was, to be blunt, the best there was at what he did.



"Yes, Johnny?" Melody looked at the boy. Her eyes shone.

"To be frank... I didn't think Ellie had a chance. But... if HE'S here..."

"I know. I thought the same. But Melvin Feinburg has a reputation for doing the impossible. Regularly. So maybe... wait!! they're clearing the room — and there's the gurney!! Ellie's on it! They're ready to begin!!"

Silently they watched as the little four year old was put onto the gurney under the rejuvenator. She lay quietly; clearly she'd been sedated before her rejuvenation. Watched as Melvin brought system after system up. A countdown began. There were several minutes of frantic activity.

A lambent glow surrounded the gurney with Ellen Miller on it.

The small figure on the gurney suddenly shrunk, becoming even more lost in her loose hospital gown. Several minutes passed as the systems powered down. Melvin walked out of the room.

And as the gurney was rolled out the doors beneath them a few minutes later, Melody got a good look at her friend.

And began to cry. "Too little. She's just too little, Johnny. It didn't work. I don't think any of that stuff helped at all!! She is just too little!!!"

"I know, Mel. I know. God, I'm sorry. I liked Ellie a lot, too. But we've just got to face the fact that she's gone now..."

"Not necessarily. Don't give up on the kid quite yet. I ain't in the habit of failing ya'know!!"

Melody and Johnny spun around and stared at the plump figure that had just entered the room behind them.

The plump figure of Melvin Feinburg.

Melody's nose wrinkled as the odor of his very-unwashed body swept over them. As the teenager plopped himself down on the couch, he grumbled, "Yeah, well, see how YOU smell after working your butt off for six days straight. Hey, you, kid!! Gimmea a bulb o' Fizz, willya?"

Johnny quietly went to the vending machine and fetched the container of carbonated, highly sugared, caffeinated, and joltimased(1), drink and brought it over to the young genius.

"Thanks <gulp> (Melvin made a face) Been livin' offa this crap for three days. Yeah, they called me in about six weeks ago, when they realized they were stuck. Which I coulda told'em they would be. I proved fifty years ago that an interrejuvenation interval of less than thirty months is impossible, and less than thirty two is practically so."

"So Ellen was rejuved a full two and a half years, then." quietly spoke Johnny."

"More. I said thirty-two was the practical limit — even for me. Yeah, Ellie's back to somewhere under two. Say nineteen or twenty months old. It's hard to tell with her, 'cause she's from the twentieth century. Now, with you, or Johnny, or anybody modern, we'd have records of your height and weight all through your childhood, and could estimate your age pretty precisely, but with Ellie we're guessing based on averages."

"So it's over..." said Johnny.

"Like I said, not necessarily. I" the boy grinned wickedly "turned the problem upside down. There was no way the kid was gonna be more'n two years old after the rejuve, so the real problem was: how do I get the system to fully integrate her memories and personality into a brain that young!!"

Melody and Johnny gaped at him. That was IMPOSS... oh!...Yeah...

"After all, the whole problem is that the brain's neural net isn't sufficiently developed by two to contain an adult's memories and personality, so there is no matrix for the rejuvenator to impress the engrams on."

"BUT, different people's brains develop those nets at different rates. I, for example, was talkin' in complete sentences by the time I was fourteen months. I'm a bit unusual, though."

Which was quite an understatement.

"So, what I did was to try to use the genetic editing capabilities into fooling the rejuvenation system into allowing a much greater level of neural development at a much earlier age than normal human genetics would allow for. That's what all those Johnston crystals were for, to increase... nah, that's way to technical. Let's just say I think it worked. I'm not sure, and we won't know until the kid wakes up. And that won't be for hours. Quizz-Mizz!thiss said that, since we integrate our experiences during sleep, we should let her sleep as long as we can, so she won't be up before tomorrow. One side effect, by the way; I may have incidentally upped her I.Q. a bit."

"Hey, kid, gimme another Fizz, huh?? Hey!! You're Medicalos?? You must be Devine!! I wanted to ask you... How'd you manage to seal a Chroniton radiation chamber with a plasma torch? Didn't the leaking radiation cause the titanaluminum flux to destabilize??"

"I set up a theta-gamma twisted nadion field to restabilize it as..."

Melody tuned out the two boys, as their discussion went well beyond her comprehension. Though she noted that, whatever Johnny had done, it seemed to impress Melvin enormously. She was glad that Johnny was making such an impact on the boy he so clearly admired.

But their professional discussion was interrupted as:

"Melvin!! Melll-Viiiin!! THERE you are!!"

"Oh. Hi, Mama!!"

"What are you doing up here, young man!! You haven't had a wink of sleep or a decent meal for DAYS. Well, I could understand it while you were getting ready for that poor little girl, but now it is WAY past time to get you home and put some food into you. And <snif> get you into a bath, too. Come along, Melvin!! Sorry, children, but as you can see, Melvin needs to leave."

"We're friends of Ellen Miller, the patient." said Johnny quietly. "Melvin was simply reassuring us about her chances of making it. We were quite worried."

"Oh. Well, that's all right, then. Come along, Melvin. Oh, Melvin!! throw away that bulb of Fizz!! How you can drink that stuff!! And now I'll probably never get you to sleep!!"

Melvin obediently tossed his half-full bulb of Fizz into the disposer unit. As he walked out, he turned to the children and said "Oh yeah. One in three. That's what I figure the kid's chances are, about one in three. Sorry about that, but it was the best I could do under the circumstances. I ain't God."

<grin> "Despite rumors to the contrary."

"Yeah, yeah I'm COMIN', Ma!!" And the boy swept out the door and down the hall.

Melody and Johnny looked at each other. "One in three." said Mel.

"Better than the odds when she had herself frozen." responded Johnny. "She'll make it. Have faith, Melody. Like Melvin said, he isn't in the habit of failing. Just pray he's pulled off one of his legendary 'utterly impossible' miracles again. After all, he's the one who redesigned our shields to block the Delasian's triplex-phased deuteron beams. And I personally took a stab at THAT problem after the Resolute went down... and bounced like a rubber ball!! He's GOOD, Mel. Every bloody bit as good as his reputation."

"Who are you talking about, Johnny??" asked Mr. Carlos, Johnny's 'stepfather', as he entered the room with Josh and Mary Johnson.

"Melvin Feinburg. You just missed him. He came in to reassure us about Ellen's chances."

"Huh?? asked Josh, and Mary looked stunned. "You mean she still HAS a chance?? we saw her on the monitors, and she looked like a BABY!!"

So Mel and Johnny had to bring their parents up to speed. And Melody had to tell Johnny about her own adventures that morning. (And the boy was very worried about what would happen to Melody because of her antics. Though in the end, he approved of them. Even if she did pay the untimate Penitatas price for them.)

But it was time for the two families to go to the hotel. Nothing more would happen until morning.

* * *

Melody had insisted on being there when Ellen woke up. She'd promised Ellen that she'd be there, and everybody agreed that a familiar face was a good idea. One that Ellie trusted.

Their best guess was that, physically, Ellie was about one year and eight months old now. Ridiculously young.

Mel stood quietly next to Ellie's bed in the hospital. She gently took her friend's little hand in hers and held it. The baby slowly opened her eyes. For a moment, they refused to focus. Then they slowly turned in Melody's direction.

Fear swept briefly through Melody's body before...

[Mel'dy?? Is that you? Am I back now...]

Crying, Melody replied to her friend in English [Yes, Ellie!! It's me, and you're back, and you are going to be O.K.!! It's all over now, Ellie, all over!!]

Ellie struggled suddenly, trying to get up. And before Melody and the nurse could restrain her, she got a quick look at her own sheet-covered body. And the little crib she was lying in.

[Melody!! Oh NOOO! I'M A BABY!! A BAY-BEEE!]

[Yes you are!!] said Melody, grinning. [An itty-bitty baby, now, so you just better learn to behave yourself, or I'll have to spank your little bum-bum when I change your little diaper. Ellen, I know it's terrible to be SO little, but now it is OVER. You'll grow up!! Eventually, but there is literally NOTHING wrong with you now that TIME won't cure!! Settle back, close your eyes, and accept it!! You WILL grow up, but there is NOTHING you can do to speed it up!! Now, they've got some baby food for you to eat, and some milk, and then you need to go back to sleep!!]

* * *

Ten minutes later Melody was in the ladies room down the hall.

She was lying over her Mommy's lap as Mary sat on one of the chairs. Her bluejeans lay on the floor at her Mommy's feet, her white cotton panties were around her knees, and her Mommy was briskly applying her walnut hairbrush to Melody's rapidly reddening bare bottom over and over again. Melody was beginning to cry hard, though even under the stern spanking she occasionally giggled with pure joy.

And as she spanked, her mother scolded Melody that turning cartwheels down the middle of a hospital corridor was simply NOT the proper way for a young lady to express her relief at her friend's recovery!!

Though she had trouble keeping a straight face as she said it...

* * *

(1) Joltimase: A caffeine-like drug derived from the Argelian Jolt bean. Even more effective than caffeine at increasing alertness and warding off sleep, with less of a cardiovascular effect. Slightly less harmful to the body than caffeine, when used in moderation. Has a distinctive sour-sweet taste.