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SOURCE P19 V1/5.
Machine Man (serial)

Final →V2

Date: Wed Mar 25 10:03:01 2009 +0000

Page 19.

CHAPTER FIVE

Kathline and Jason, two of my lab assistants, arrived in the Glass Room around eight. They were holding coffees and talking about something that was apparently very amusing. Then they saw me through the perspex, and froze.

Dr. Crux? said Kathline. I inferred this from her lip movements. I couldn’t hear because she hadn’t toggled the intercom. I waited for her to figure this out. “Dr. Crux? What’s in the syringe?”

“Morphine.” This came out muffled because I was holding my shirt sleeve in my teeth, but I think she understood. I completed the injection and let my sleeve drop. “For the pain.”

Through the perspex, I saw Kathline and Jason share a glance. Jason leaned toward the microphone. “What pain is that, Dr. Crux?”

I felt exasperated. These two were supposed to be amongst the brightest of their generation. Yet here I was standing in the Clamp with a syringe of morphine and they couldn’t figure it out. “I think that will become obvious.”

On the wall of the Glass Room was the Big Red Button. If you flipped up the clear plastic panel and pushed it, everything lost power. Once, long ago, it had been labeled EMERGENCIES ONLY, but now a sticker said, DO! NOT!!! PUSH!, because lab assistants are curious. Jason’s eyes flicked toward the button.

“Please call Medical,” I said. “Right away.”

To his credit, Jason made it look like he was going for the phone. He leaned in that direction, even picked up the handset. Then he dropped it and lunged at the Big Red Button.

But my button was closer. It was in my hand. The Clamp was powered-up, humming on standby. Its steel plates were positioned about—well, about a foot apart, I guess. I was sitting on the edge of a plate. My right leg, the biological one, dangled between them.

It was just as well I took care of all this in advance, because the morphine was already seeping into my neurons, fogging my synapses. If I hadn’t been well-prepared, Jason would have reached the Big Red Button before I could activate the Clamp and crush my leg to paste. But I was, and he didn’t, and I did.

19.

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