My how things change

In the last few years since Belle stumbled into me on a bench outside our now home, some big changes have happened. The most notable being the day, six months after Belle came to stay with us, that the US Army (go figure) had come up with a way to let healthy people walk outside, space-gear-free as Belle put it. It was a three step process to get your clearance. The first step was a shot that disabled the DNA strand in PTA which allowed it to be spread by air. Since we already knew that vaccination couldn't definitively eradicate the virus or its ability to mutate past our genetic boundaries, the second step was a pill you could swallow before and after you went out into the world. The before pill would be like a speed rush for your immune system. I never really did figure out exactly how that worked, but you could only use it so often before your body became used to it, so you could only go out for a few hours a week. The after pill slowed your metabolism enough to keep cells from replicating for a not even a microsecond, just an instant when all cells stopped reproducing. This was supposed to freeze the virus in mid-split if you had it. This also really REALLY hurt. Everything. You literally had to die for an instant to kill the traces of virus that may be inside you. The final bit of the puzzle of making it outdoors was a small surgery that everyone was strongly 'encouraged' to have. They made an extra trachea for everyone. In other words, they put a small tube into everyone's lungs that connected to a small, flesh-colored button above the sternum. When you were going outside, there was a small device that you would either tape to your chest or stomach, and it would create oxygen for you to breathe. They called the whole apparatus Filter, but a lot of civilians and scientists called them The Worm.

Eventually, we did figure out that we would be okay without all the shots and pills. It's a lot simpler now, just plug in your Worm and go. And for god's sake, decontaminate when you come in! I will never take the sunlight on my skin for granted as long as I live, though.

A much less notable event to the world, but one that changed my universe, was the beginning of Belle's puberty. She came to me as a young girl, barely standing, scared, and troubled. I can't say I've been a perfect guardian, I mean, she has mouthed off to teachers plenty of times, but I'd say I'm doing okay. But when she hit the wall, she really hit the wall. I remember being twelve, and how much it sucked to try to figure it out all by myself, not to mention wading through all the crap your friends are trying to make you believe. At least I had someone there who I had known my whole life. Belle's just got me. She's also got it a little worse than me, too. She's still got those precious freckles, but her skin is breaking out like mine never did. Plus some things have... started earlier than mine did. But it's not just the bodily changes that make me worry over her. She's not as sweet as she used to be. She used to be respectful and kind and courteous. Now she's just... a teenager. She can be downright belligerent at times, weepy the next moment, and normal right after that. Sometimes I start to think of my mother, and have to stop myself. Belle is not crazy. She's just going through more than any girl her age should need to go through.

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