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Skin by Mellissa McCann
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When actress Emma Sloan is trapped under a burning set, she knows her life is over. Even if she survives, she will be too badly scarred to work again. She is horrified to wake in a hospital and find her body covered in crawling, mottled stuff that has taken the place of her burned skin. The bio-engineered organism may have saved her life, but its appearance is so repulsive Emma can never appear on a holo-stage again. The doctors might as well have let her die. In the depths of her rage and despair, the doctors tell her that among the skin's metamorphic traits is the ability to restore Emma's original appearance. However, none of the human hosts implanted before her have been able to discover how. Before Emma can even begin to learn, the other hosts attack the hospital staff and break out of the high-security wing.

Emma has a choice: help recapture the missing symbionts, or be killed by a government agency terrified of the creatures they have let loose. Colonel Nick Archer, the special ops officer in charge of the recovery knows sooner or later he will be ordered to destroy Emma, the one remaining symbiont in captivity. Can he kill the woman he is coming to love, or will the two of them find a way to save the missing hosts?

Awe-Struck Publishing; March 2004
249 pages; ISBN 9781587494550
Read online, or download in secure PDF format
Title: Skin
Author: Mellissa McCann

Voice-over by TBS senior news anchor Beverly Bragg:

This is Seattle's Midnight Action News July 7, 2055:

Three of the four actors injured in yesterday's Volcanic Studios fire have been pronounced in good condition by doctors at New Seattle's Skyway Memorial Hospital. One, thirty-five year old actress Emma Sloan, is still in critical condition.

Fire relief units were called to Studio Nine on the Volcanic Studios holo- play lot when a geothermal transformer overloaded. The resulting fire overwhelmed on-site fire controls.

The studio was occupied at the time by several actors and a holo-crew graphing Emma Sloan's new play, Unseen Faces. Two laser operators and a studio intern were burned, but were dismissed from the hospital with viable skin grafts.

The actors themselves were trapped near the rear of the holo-stage. Three escaped unharmed. The others, Jasper Belholland, Ron Kinney, Livia York and Emma Sloan herself were trapped behind a collapsing holo-array and badly burned.

Doctors tell us that with minimal surgery, popular newcomer Jasper Belholland will return to play the romantic roles that brought him to fame. This is Jasper's first romantic lead and a major coup to be paired with Sloan so early in his career. Media buffs were predicting a romantic match between the two despite denials from both parties.

Ron Kinney, three time Oscar winner in the Best Supporting Actor category, will be getting fewer roles if he remains in the business at all as doctors say they will be unable to remove all the scars from his hands and face.

On a brighter note, forty-three year old Livia York has already parlayed her new, tougher look into a contract to play the lead in an upcoming action play.

The darkest tragedy of the day is the loss of Emma Sloan, best known for her ""summoning eyes."" She remains in critical condition in the life-support unit with third-degree burns over eighty-percent of her body. Doctors say her injuries are so extensive, they have little hope she will ever leave the hospital, and even if she does, no miracle of plastic surgery will restore her face to holo-quality. Emma Sloan, the actress, is gone.

All night, Sloan fans have been in mourning. Com-techs are fighting to keep the mail networks from crashing under the weight of good-wishes.

Holo-views of the street in front of Skyway Memorial Hospital with the blasted peak of Mount Rainier in the background. Mourners in red block the street. They strew flowers in the streets and chant the actress's name. A sluggish procession chokes the street while on the sidelines men and women wearing red veils or armbands kneel with bent heads. Their lips move, but their words drown in the chant of the walkers. Wreathes and bouquets are piling up in front of the hospital.

More shots of spontaneous demonstrations in the US, China, the Russian states, The British Isles and Scandinavia.


Sloan first made her mark when she mesmerized audiences as Civil War hero Christy Mink in the 2045 holo-play, Wild Footprints. Ever since, her fans have been enchanted by the sloe-colored eyes that convey so much force of character in every role she has played. Twenty-four holo-plays to her credit, ten years of drama, action, mystery and romance. Ten years of those summoning eyes breaking our hearts.

We'll miss those eyes."

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