Transformed Nexus #2

Omitted Pieces

by Stephanie Hansen

Omitted Pieces by Stephanie Hansen By 2164, the new Sierra is on a new planet with a new problem. The mad scientist Cromwell has kidnapped her mother and set up shop on planet Scepter. In order to save her, Sierra will need to make new friends in this place of glowing leaves and a floating capital.

Back on Vortex, Al's shut down the old facility but will he be able to make it to Scepter? What about those who made it to Earth? Can they all work together or are they closer to danger than they realize? The amazing conclusion to the Replaced Parts duology, Omitted Pieces, explores new territory and old with dangerous compassion.






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Chapter One:
Planet Scepter

Sierra the CLONE

I awake hungry and thirsty. Is this what the afterlife is like? I never expected Dr. Cromwell to follow through on his promise to put my conscience and memory in a qualified body. Hunger pains me again and I rise to find myself in a tropical forest. I’m surrounded by lush green, but the color is unlike any I’ve seen before. It’s as if the leaves are neon shining off of their surroundings. My body knows what to look for, even though I don’t. Where am I? What planet have I been transported to? Where’s Mom? I look down at it, this hourglass figure. I’d never been blessed with such curves in my sixteen-year-old body. I wonder if my dad will recognize me in this new one. I wonder if Al will still love me after everything? I also try to map out how to get home, but it’s all too much for this newfound body and I quickly find myself napping under a sea of green.

I’m roused by a series of clicks and identify the circular metal in front of me immediately out of place as it may be.

“Vex, how’d you get here?”

“I told ‘past’ you your mission was full of danger, Sierra.”

“How long has it been since I lost consciousness?”

“I calculate two weeks and five days since the ‘new’ you left Planet Vortex.”

“What? How have I been out for that long? Where’s Al? Did the shuttle make it to Earth?”

There’s a stream of beeps. “My universe data scan shows that the Al you’re asking about still has a pulse. It’s the Al ‘old’ you met on Planet Vortex, right?”

My heart warms, it beams. “Yes. Wait, your universe data scan, what’s that?”

“The World Government equipped all clopils with new scanners and applied all Counter Friction strings when the Planet Vortex revolution hit the news. The scan also shows that everyone who had been on your scheduled shuttle made it to Earth. The processes at the medical facility ended, too, but more on that later. We need to get to your mother.”

Mom, are you okay? I try to reach her telepathically, the way I had back on Vortex.

I’m fine. Just need to figure out where I am exactly.

“Sierra, there’s much at stake. We must embark on our journey at once,” Vex says.

Sunrays stream through openings in the canopy of leaves above us as we hike. I keep having to reassure myself it’s me when I look down and see someone else’s smaller feet. At least Cromwell dressed this body in proper attire. I don’t know what I’d do without these boots. Vex, on the other hand, is not well equipped for this terrain at all. He was made for modern city living. He’s used some of the tools he brought to lengthen his arms in order to help, but I keep assisting him, wishing he’d move faster. I think being locked up in the Vortex facility for so long gave me a sort of cabin fever. Now, being out in the open, I want to stretch my (these, no my, oh whatever) legs and cover the ground between us and Mom as quickly as possible.

Also, the weight’s gone. My legs had felt like they were filled with lead because of the guilt. But now, now that Viscerous and Albina are alive and safe on Earth; now that Pixie’s where no more harm can be done (well, no more harm than a painful exam in the graduate mathematics program at Stanford); now that Dad is free and no longer having to save Cromwell’s subjects, my legs feel light as air.

Mom, we’re headed to you. How are you doing?

I wait for what seems like an eternity, but she doesn’t respond.

“Vex, are you sure this is the way to Mom?”

“Yes. While she appears to be moving constantly, she has continually returned to the location toward which we’re headed.”

“Why? What’s there?”

“I’m not 100% sure. A new blocker is interfering with my scanner, causing inaccurate readings. I’m running diagnostics to prescribe next steps.”

“That’s weird. Isn’t it weird?”

“There’s a 3.34% possibility of it occurring. But it is ‘weird,’ as you say, that it’s occurring now not only where your mom is but also on Earth.”

“What? Where on Earth?”

“My coordinates match home base, Sierra.”

No, no, no, it’s as if the wind has been knocked out of me. Not again. Not them both! They need to be together so we can get my brother back. Then, I’ll finally meet him.

“Your heart rate has increased. A health scan would be beneficial.”

“I just need a small rest, Vex.”

I sit on a log and Vex stays near me. I try to let the breeze flowing through the leaves soothe me. It’s not like this means something’s wrong. All it means is that I can’t communicate with them. I take a deep breath in and a deep breath out while envisioning meditation circles.

That’s when the idea surfaces. I begin gathering a plant that appears to be similar to tropical milkweed. Once I have a decent supply, I sit back down in order to break out the core fibers using a rock I found.

“It appears you are making something. Can I be of assistance?”

“Actually, this is to assist you.”

I tenderize the core fibers and braid the best I can.

“You are taking the steps to build rope. How will that be used to assist?”

“I’m going to carry you so we can get to Mom faster. I need to confirm that at least one of my parents is okay.”

“I see. I’m not 100% sure that follows all clopil safety procedures.”

As soon as the rope’s assembled, I tie it around Vex so that I’m able to carry him on my back. The sound of the rapids in the jungle river nearby becomes monotonous during our trek. I want to stop and rest, but we must keep going. I engage Vex in conversation to pass the time.

“You never answered, Vex. How did you get here?”

“Why, I was on the shuttle that brought your mom to Vortex and I traveled here with you both.”

“But how? I don’t remember seeing you at the facility. I doubt Cromwell would have allowed that.”

“Quite simple. I snuck into the cargo hatch. My engineering allows me to escape many things like being seen.”

“Bloody hell, the cargo hatch. Of course, you could avoid leaving anything behind for the particle scan, you little gomer.”

Suddenly there’s a stream of clicks. What’s Vex up to? Then, I hear a new sound.

“Who goes there?”

The voice isn’t quite human, but definitely not a robot. It feels like forever since I spoke to anyone but Vex. Dr. Cromwell’s who I spoke to before that. Even Mom and I have only conversed telepathically recently. I didn’t realize how much I was craving the sound of another living, intelligent being.

“Unknown, Sierra, this one isn’t registered in my database,” Vex says.

“Not another step. Who goes there?” the voice asks again.

I freeze. The voice is low.

“I’m Sierra. I was actually brought here against my will. I…it’s a long story.”

“Are you unarmed?”

“Yes. I only have my clopil and the clothes on my back here with me.”

“Hi, I’m Vex. You should be the one identifying yourself.”

An auburn-haired and slender female with lustrous olive skin steps out from behind the greenery. Her gold-flecked, hazel eyes stare at me, full of questions.

“I’m Marrit.” She reaches out her arm while cupping her hand sideways. I’m unsure what kind of handshake greeting she’s offering, and I don’t know her well enough to warrant any kind of trust, but something pulls me forward.

Vex begins a string of noises, “Beep, beep, Hmm.” I’m not sure what Vex is doing.

“Where are we?” I ask while reaching for her hand, but she slips her hand through mine and grabs my forearm, then brings me in for a bearhug. Perhaps she too craves the touch of another. A breath of air moves my hair as she exhales, as if holding in some great burden.

“You’re on Planet Scepter. Where are you from?”

“This is one of the newest additions to counter string mapping,” Vex interjects. “Ah, yes, the coordinates line up.”

“I’m from Earth but I came here from Vortex.”

“You didn’t come alone. Nice ‘friends’ you have. I wish they would have stayed where you came from.” The look of acceptance that had briefly crossed her face is gone.

“She must be talking about the fuzzy area on this planet’s coordinates, Sierra.”

“You’ve seen the others? Where are they? Did you see a woman with rich, brunette hair, on the short side, and in her forties?”

“Um, yeah. Your friends are, like, taking over.”

“My lie detector shows she’s telling the truth.” Vex has lost all concept of being subtle. “Oh, and the features such as brunette hair have changed now, remember.”

“What do you mean ‘taking over’?”

“Like setting up shop. All these people in lab coats hired local contractors to build this…I don’t know what to call it...large facility.”

“Oh, no.”

“That’s what I thought.”

“Can you show me where?”

“I’m able to show you,” Vex says. “I think I register the location.” We ignore him.

“Why, so you can join them in taking over Planet Scepter? Forget it. I thought you were brought here against your will. Why would you want to go there?”

Marrit storms away. Her hair moves in the breeze. She sets her shoulders back and increases her pace when I follow her. Her hips move eloquently from side to side despite her serious manner.

“Wait. Please wait. I’m sorry. Let me explain.”

She turns around with a minty huff.

“I want to stop the people building, but I think they took my mom.”

“You know how to stop them?” Marrit asks me.

“Well, I helped to stop the last facility.”

“I’m able to confirm that what she says is true,” Vex says. “Actually, I have documented video proof.”

I’m afraid of how much Vex might have filmed. “Not now, Vex.”

“You mean you have intel of the bastards right here?”

“Technically, they’re not bastards,” Vex interjects.

“And, technically, they’re not all evil. My mom’s there, you know. I need to save her.”

“Then you will help me.”

“I don’t know,” I say while blocking her path to Vex. “Will you help me?”

“Your mom was really taken there against her will?”

“Yeah.” I sniff despite my intense desire not to and turn my head away from Marrit so she doesn’t see the tears I’m holding back. I don’t know where they came from.

I feel her hand on my shoulder.

“I’ll help you.”

My breath catches and I want to turn to her. I want another hug. I want to be back on Earth in my own gosh darn body, with both my parents alive, together, and with my brother. I want things to be the way they should be.

“Sierra, your heart rate has increased again. Do you need a full vitals scan?”

“Leave me alone, Vex.” My face warms when I look away from him and see a smirk on Marrit’s face. She play-punches me in the arm.

“Come on. Let’s go get your mom and take those bastards down.”

“Technically, they’re not bastards.”

“Yes, they are, Vex,” we both say simultaneously. Then I’m smirking at her.

The journey’s much better with Marrit taking turns carrying Vex.

Vines in this jungle spin and melt as if forming a stunning net, like the framing of a red velvet crown. And this is just the first thing that gives me an indication of how vastly different this planet is. Leaves curl and uncurl like ribbon pulled with scissors. It has an amazing effect that’s whimsical, bringing a soothing peace over me until I remember what we’re headed toward. Another facility! Another one that’s imprisoned one of my parents. Another one of Crowell’s mischievously evil plans.

Then there’s a stream of clicks and beeps from Vex like I’ve never heard before. “Sierra, we’re approaching our destination.”

“Can you please silence your clopil?” Marrit asks.

We approach a wall of green. Marrit crouches and silently moves closer to the wall. She turns back and places her index finger to her full lips.

Once we’ve complied, she moves a handful of leaves to the side. I peek through and see the same chain-link and cement fences. There are also the same guard posts. It looks just as much like a prison as the last facility. The cabin fever returns, freezing me into place. My legs feel heavy as lead. It’s back.

“Vex, now that you have the UDS, can you get communication out universe-wide?” I ask in a whisper.

“Why yes, Sierra. I’m capable of reaching many places.” He matches my volume to the best of his ability.

“Can you reach Earth? Is just home base unreachable?” Then another thought dawns. “Wait, what about Vortex instead?”

“I’m definitely capable of reaching Vortex.”

“Please call Yesha.”

Da, da, bring. Vex uses a relic phone ring to connect.

“Hello?” Yesha answers.

“Yesha, it’s me,” I whisper.

“Sierra, is that really you? You look...different...I’m used to the tall, dorky you, but this...”

“Yesha!” I whisper. “Please be quiet. It’s important.”

“Who’s that?”

“Hi, I’m Marrit.”

“Yesha, I need your help.” I turn Vex in the direction of the facility so Yesha can see.

“No! Cromwell? Where are you?”

Before I can answer I feel an eerie, creepiness. It crawls over my hand. I look down. It’s a petri-dish-sized spider...on...ME! It’s large enough that the hairs on its legs rub against my skin like it’s laying spider eggs in my cells.

“AH!” I scream at the top of my lungs louder and louder until the volume matches my terror.

Alarms ring and laser dots head our direction. Every visible guard turns our way.

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