Nothing can go wrong now, she told him. He believed she was right, he believed that nothing would go wrong. They were both right and she was terribly wrong.
They had a great relationship. They were highly skilled technicians. She had special training and inside information as the team leader on a promising treatment for cancer. He had cancer.
Late one evening in early summer after work, he reclined naked on the leatherette banana cot in her laboratory, relaxing while sandwiched by two small stiff white sheets. With a trace of ozone burning his throat, the air was as clean as he was. Disinfectant smells came from every surface in the laboratory. The sheets were comforting against his skin although the air was warmer than he expected. The ceiling did not seem as high as when he had first visited her. He had not visited her in the laboratory for months. He could do nothing but lie back and relax. With a deep breath and a chuckle, he relaxed.
She bustled from keyboard to touch screen to keyboard to buttons and clipboards as she set up the equipment for the final steps of the treatment. They had prepared for the treatment, she had the role of doctor, and he had the role of patient. A few weeks ago, other doctors confirmed the extent of his cancer and now, she was going to cure him.
A cure was not a phrase she ever used in describing the treatment to him. She just told him they had to treat him. As she moved, she whispered, “Cure him, cure him, cure him.” She did not know she was talking to herself but his eyes were moist as he watched her. He reached for her when she stopped at the cot but she slid away to keep up with her work. She moved as fast as she could from task to task. He was gently fading into sleep as his relaxation moved from doziness to unconsciousness. She sternly tapped one machine into obedience and then was off to respond to other warnings. She felt a constant need for movement as she did the work of twenty technicians, graduate students, and scientists who worked in the laboratory on a regular workday. He had helped move all the equipment into one area and had watched as she set up the controls in one central station. The auxiliary stations updated from the central station but she found dozens of warnings and errors that needed her response. In some cases, she had personal alarms and notifications to override, but in other cases, there were input screens that were looking for specific data. She reacted to each of the requests and responded to them.
Setting up the treatment took time and she did not know if she could complete the work before someone discovered them. She did not know how much time she had to complete the treatment over the coming weeks. There was never enough time. Their time together would never be enough but unless the treatment worked, they had almost no time at all. She did not know how much time he had. She could not think about unauthorised treatments on the planetbound. Perhaps the treatment would fail but there was a chance. He had only days before surgery would be the only option to keep him half-alive. Moreover, that decision would be out of her hands. Her team had discussed how to bring people to the treatment program and how to prioritise them for the treatment. She led the team discussions and she knew the team was right to develop and follow best treatment practices. She knew he fit the profile for the treatment and she meant to save him. She needed to save him. She was saving him.
Finally, she was standing still, looking around the laboratory for another task to complete but she saw that every station was quiet and ready. She went to the cot, took the sheet off him, laid a hand on his shoulder, and after just a moment, walked over to push the button, to begin the treatment. The equipment began to move above and around him, screens updated and lights flashed. She watched and moved from keyboard to touch screen to keyboard. Throughout the treatment, she whispered to herself, “Cure him, cure him, cure him.”
Hours later, she pushed a table closer to the cot and slumped down beside him. She pulled the sheet back over his limp, resting body. She pulled at his ear and waited for him to respond to her touch. He did not twitch, his unconsciousness allowed the treatment to complete She watched over him and eventually went to sleep.
She woke to the sound of an alarm and struggled to her feet. He was still motionless but his colour was good and she detected a strong heartbeat. She pushed the table away and began to deal with the alarm. Soon, there were a few tasks to deal with and, fully awake, she knew that was good. She worked through the readings, looking for the results of the treatment. She returned to him at the cot to hook up more diagnostic tools and was pleased to see his numbers settle towards normal. As she monitored his results and moved amongst the stations, the sun came up and glowed through the skylights. She took his hand in hers and then rushed off to answer one of the insistent alarms.
A few hours later, when he stirred, she was at his side, holding his hand, vigilant to the machines but looking to him for confirmation of the treatment’s results. Soon he was awake but still groggy. She sprayed water into his mouth and rinsed his face. She had done it. Now they would have more time together.
Serial story by Sylva Richmond
Copyright © 2016 by PICogeneration
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Please enjoy this story, a history of the planet Kenalp and a brief part of the unfolding shipborn and planetbound universe.
Articles, short stories, novellas, and novels based in the universe are in various stages of publication.
Support for this project. Please feel free to contribute and comment about this writing project. It is important to indicate the story name in the message block included in the order form. The minimal cost is meant to reduce trolling that is so common with female artists. In addition, as more and more projects are added to the site, contributions will be used to prioritise which projects will be updated regularly. Thank you for all your support, past and present. Sylva.