Word Count Total: 5,275
Deuce watched Dr. Stanton work with great trepidation. The woman looked like a fox in the hen house, leaving Deuce feeling distinctly hen-like while the man with her merely went about setting up machinery, ignoring Deuce like a speck on the wall.
“Do I get to go home now?” she asked hopefully.
“We’ll know very soon,” said Dr. Stanton in a hushed voice. “Now, Miss Stanley, I...I don’t want you to get your hopes up. There may be some complications we didn’t foresee.” Deuce’s face fell. “Please hold on to this.” Deuce took the small metal handle offered to her, which connected to the machine that the new man supervised through a series of wires. She braced herself for something unpleasant...but nothing happened except the man giving a curt nod. This excited Dr. Stanton for some reason, and she snatched the handle away with gloved hands.
“Very good. Oh, this is promising. Tell me, how have you been feeling over these past few days?” Despite the previous warning, Deuce perked right up. Something promising sounded...well, promising.
“Yeah.” Dr. Stanton leaned back and pulled a plug out from its socket in the wall. The reading light above their heads flickered out immediately.
“Hold this.” Bemused, Deuce obeyed, grasping the cord. “No, no, no. Hold the plug. The metal part.” Deuce frowned but wrapped her fist around the plug entire, the metal prongs warm against her skin.
The light switched back on.
“Don’t drop it!” Dr. Stanton snapped, a near-maniacal look on her face when Deuce showed signs of doing so. “Jones!” The man just nodded, methodically writing something down on a clipboard before leaving the room without a word. Dr. Stanton leaned over and flipped the switch on and off. The lamp responded in kind. She tore the cord out of Deuce’s hand and plugged it back into the wall, where it continued to work just as well as it had before. Dr. Stanton threw her a pair of thin linen gloves. “Put these on and come with me.” Scared and more than a little confused, Deuce did so with alacrity, allowing herself to be hustled out of the room and down the hall, almost physically dragged by Dr. Stanton.
In short order, Deuce found herself alone, locked in a small box of a room, terrified; bewildered; and near tears.
“Mr. and Mrs. Stanley, please come with me.” Rachel held the door open to Dr. Copkins’s office.
“What is it?” asked Maura Stanley Sr. anxiously. “How is Deuce? Can we take her home now?” Richard Stanley Sr., however, was more adept at reading a room than his wife.
“What’s wrong?” he asked bluntly, “and how serious is it?” Rachel sat behind the desk, gesturing for them to take their own seats.
“I’m very sorry,” she began, trying to contain her zeal, “but your daughter has taken a turn for the worse.” Maura looked stunned, giving a strangled gasp.
“Worse—worse how?” asked Brian, when it became clear that his wife’s shocked silence wouldn’t lift.
“Your daughter has contracted a blood disease, a case extremely rare but not unheard of for her age group.”
“Which disease?” he demanded.
“It’s tricky to explain, sir. What we believe is that the tree struck by lightning carried an organic disease, and splinters of the diseased wood infiltrated her blood system.”
“But—you can cure it, can’t you?”
“Ah. As to that...I’m afraid that this facility simply isn’t equipped to deal with a case such as this one. With your permission, I’d like to include your daughter in a governmentally funded study. There is a dedicated group of scientists and doctors working to cure young victims of blood disease.”
“Experimental treatment? Are you sure?” asked Richard, and Rachel knew in a moment that she’d already won.
“I’d advise you to consider it; there’s only so much we here at the hospital can do for her. On the other hand, if you enlist her in the study, she’ll be in the care of the finest, most respected and revolutionary doctors in the world, with fully paid room and board. She’ll also have a chance—”
“Room and board?” She hated it when they interrupted. “Hang on. I thought most studies just shipped the medicine somewhere, or she’d go visit a centre...if Deuce is as sick as you say, I want to keep her here at home.”
“I understand and sympathize, Mr. Stanley, but her situation is extremely delicate. The doctors will require blood samples, to observe her progress, run tests, and of course she’ll need to be under constant observation...it only makes sense, you see, to transfer her into their care.”
“But she’s only fifteen,” pleaded Maura, finally snapping back to reality. “She shouldn’t live away from home. What about school and her friends?”
“The study is conducted in a boarding school environment, where she will still receive tutoring along with other children with her...condition.”
She knew they would agree. Parents always did. Even if they didn’t trust her, the government, or the study, she always made them agree. After papers and release forms were signed and tears shed, Rachel had a hard time suppressing her glee. She sent Mr. and Mrs. Stanley with Dr. Copkins to say their good-byes—and good riddance to the lot of them. Meanwhile, she picked up the phone, her fingers flashing over the keypad.
“Department of Experimental Medicine.”
“This is Rachel Stanton. Connect me to Mr. Gomez.” There was a click and a pause before,
“This is Mr. Gomez. What do you have for me, Stanton?”
“I have another one, sir.”
“Good, good! This is excellent news. Is everything in order?”
“Perfectly. The papers are signed and the parents are out of the picture. It’s a female, fifteen years old, history of good health. A lightning-strike victim, now a human conductor with cellular mutations.”
“Very good. I’ll arrange for transportation, so make sure she’s ready to leave by tomorrow afternoon. If she checks out, expect the usual bonus.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Have her ready.” And he hung up.
Deuce stood pale and trembling in her mother’s arms, waiting with several suitcases for the car to come pick her up and take her to
She didn’t feel sick, but Dr. Stanton said that this was normal. Despite what she felt, she was sick and, according to what Dr. Stanton told her parents, she might die from it. Die, and she wasn’t even sixteen. It’s the electricity, she thought, plucking at the thin gloves on her hands. It’s making me sick. They need to get it out of me, and then I’ll be okay. Eerily, she felt as though every inch of her body responded to the thought, tingling with a static charge as though taunting her: Me? I’m here. I’m always here.
Always there and now it was killing her.
A black SUV pulled into the circle with “M.
“I love you,” she whispered. “Call—write—I love you, honey—” Deuce hugged her father and her brother as the driver loaded her luggage.
“I love you guys. I’ll keep in touch,” she whispered. Then, with a half-hearted wave, she climbed into the back seat and watched them grow smaller in the distance. Then she turned around and hugged herself, feeling very small and very alone.
“Where are we going?” she asked the driver, just to break the silence and distract her from crying.
“To the airport,” he answered curtly. She nodded. Driving from southern
Instead of dropping her off at a terminal, the driver bypassed the terminals entirely, taking her through security checkpoints straight on to the tarmac, where a small plane lay parked. She eyed it warily.
“I’m...going in that?” The driver stopped the car.
“Oh.” She stepped out of the car on the vague notion of helping unload her suitcases, but the men swarming around had it in the plane before her feet hit the ground. She wondered at all this fuss: a driver, a private jet...they probably can’t afford to have me around the general population, she decided glumly, boarding the plane. At any other time, she might have found the fuss unbearably exciting; now, she couldn’t find it in herself to smile.
She’d never flown on a plane before, so she had no idea what to expect as she got situated in her seat and peered out the tiny window.
“All set?” a man asked roughly.
“Yes,” she answered timidly. He nodded and entered the cockpit, leaving her utterly alone in the cabin as workers outside pulled everything out of the way for take off.
“Buckle up, ma’am,” the captain advised over the intercom, “the take off will be a bit bumpy.” She took him at his word as the plane lurched down the runway and into the air, leaving her stomach feeling decidedly uneasy.
Never again, she thought blearily as she stumbled out of the plane, her stomach churning and mouth sour. I’m never flying ever again. She’d spent the entire flight vomiting copiously into a succession of paper bags. Some splattered on her gloves, but she didn’t dare take them off. She knew she looked like a walking nightmare, enough to prove to anyone that was slowly dying, but she simply didn’t care.
A woman with a smile just as strained as Dr. Stanton’s met her at the end of the tarmac.
“You are...Miss Stanley?” she asked uncertainly. Deuce nodded.
“Well. How...lovely to have you here. Would you—er—care to freshen up? Some ginger ale, perhaps?”
“Yes, please. Both.”
“All right, then. Follow me, please. My name is Ms. Grace.” She followed Ms. Grace into the bottom of the airport to a cramped, dingy employee bathroom, where she washed her face and washed out her mouth with the tepid water. When she came out again, Ms. Grace held a cup of flat, warm ginger ale. Deuce drank it down regardless.
“Thank you,” she said awkwardly, her voice still a bit raspy.
“Well. I’m here to escort you to the centre for processing and so you can—er—settle in a bit.”
“Okay.” Deuce kept her gaze fixed out the window through the car ride as they zipped through the narrow streets of D.C., drinking in the sights and sounds of the province that couldn’t grow wider, so it simply grew taller. She gaped as she caught sight of the Capitol building and the
They pulled up in front of a severe, clinically white building. Deuce clambered out of the car and Ms. Grace actually began to speak.
“This is the main building,” she explained. “This is where we house the participants in the study, and it’s also where you will be tutored and where the doctors will run their tests.” Deuce cast a dubious eye over it. In other words...home. She couldn’t profess an immediate liking for the place. “You’ll get checked in; people will move your luggage to your room.” Deuce nodded and followed her into the lobby which was just as stark, white, and unwelcoming as the outside. They walked through metal detectors, security checkpoints, decontamination processes, and finally through a maze of hallways into a tiny exam room. Every time, Ms. Grace brought out and I.D. card, waved it at a sensor, and the door unlocked. The whole place, it seemed to Deuce, was locked down, preventing anyone from getting in further than the front door. Or getting out.
“Wait here,” Ms. Grace instructed. “A doctor is going to come do a quick check up for our records.” Bored silly (there was absolutely nothing of interest to look at in the room), she obeyed. The doctor showed up promptly.
Ears, eyes, nose and throat.