The Bad Seed
...in which doctor Beauvy makes a startling discovery about her new patient.
Avon was slowly regaining consciousness. The thick haze that hung inside his skull was clouding his thoughts, but he had enough presence of mind to realise that he hadn't died and gone to hell. There was a throbbing pain in his head and when he tried to open his eyes, he nearly fainted. He took a few deep breaths and swallowed away the nausea before he tried again. The world was a blur at first, but then he was able to focus and see. White sheets, hospital bunk, wires attached to his chest, bright white bandages on both his wrists. There was a needle inserted into the artery on the inside of his left arm, slowly feeding him the fluid that was bringing him back to life.
His eyes drooped and finally fell shut to fight the swirling in his head. He gave himself a few seconds to recover before he opened them again. He had to see who was at the other end of the tube that was filling his system with fresh blood. Blake must have forced one of his men to volunteer. He half expected to see a soldier in shackles beside him. When he was sure the dizziness was under control, he slowly turned his head sideways and found the needle in his skin. His eyes followed the dark tube to a lean, sinewy arm that rested on the bed next to his.
The young woman had made herself comfortable on the bunk. She had passed the time reading, but Avon could tell that she had been watching him from the moment he'd woken up. The routine of her days as a guard on Cendus had almost become second nature. As if she could read his thoughts, Rhi averted her eyes and turned another page.
Avon took a deep breath and with all the strength he could muster up, he pulled out the needle from his vein. Quickly Rhi retrieved the tube that was dangling beside the bed and blocked the bloodflow so it wouldn't make another big mess in doctor Beauvy's ward.
"We're almost done, Avon." she said. "What do you hope to achieve?"
"What's going on?"
Doctor Beauvy approached the bed and prepared to reconnect the link, but her patient feebly pushed her hands away.
"Don't." Avon said, his voice a mere whisper. "You could be killing us both."
A disquieting feeling crept up Beauvy's spine. What had she missed? She had been so busy trying to save Avon's life -with an angry Blake breathing down her neck- that she hadn't taken the time to think about what he had done. The man might have had ulterior motives for slitting his wrists. She suddenly realised that the method of suicide he had chosen was rather odd, considering the circumstances. He could have forced her to finish him off in many different -and above all- faster ways.
"What do you mean?" Rhi asked, by now slightly alarmed.
"Examine my blood." Avon said and then he passed out again.
"How is he doing?"
Blake peered over doctor Beauvy's shoulder, while she downloaded the testresults to the datapad on her desk. He didn't fail to notice her trembling fingers and his hand briefly touched her shoulder in a reassuring, comforting gesture.
"How are you doing?"
"I'm fine. Nothing a glass of red wine and a good night's sleep can't cure."
Blake could read her well enough by now, to know that this was an outright lie. What had occurred only hours ago in the safe environment of her medical ward had unsettled her more than she was willing to admit.
"How's your general?"
"He'll be more careful next time." Blake said with a certainty, that told her that the men had undoubtedly been having a heated discussion about the new arrival.
"Well, …" Emma said while studying the readings on her pad. "...there probably won't be a next time."
She stepped aside to allow Blake a clear view of the pad. She clicked on a picture and enlarged it.
"What am I looking at?"
"This is your friend's blood." Emma told him. "Notice the dark dots?"
"They're hard to miss."
There were dots all over the place. Emma enlarged one of them until the picture completely filled the screen. It was bullet-shaped, with two tiny tentacles at the front.
"What are they?"
"I'll have to do some more tests, but it's my expert opinion that we're looking at a nanocell of some sort. A highly modified specimen, I'd say. I have never seen anything like it."
"They've injected him with nanobots?"
"It'll take a lot more research before I can tell you what their function is. As you know the original nanocells were designed to repair the human body where the more traditional medical instruments do more damage than good."
"According to Rhi he was tortured over a long period of time. Maybe they used the bots to repair his injuries."
"That's a possibility, but the cells can just as easily be programmed to destroy. I think Avon is convinced of the latter."
"Is there any way of finding out what they do?"
"I could run some more tests, but I really don't have the right equipment. It'll mainly be guesswork. But I've discovered that their numbers are increasing. They seem to be able to duplicate. The donor blood is already contaminated."
"What about the donor?"
"I checked that. She's clean. "
Blake was obviously relieved. The girl had volunteered as soon as it was clear that she had the right blood type but Blake felt responsible if something were to happen to her. Rhi Grant was no longer just the mercinary he'd paid for delivering Avon. She was the guardian of Avon's only child.
"Do what you can to find out what these things are doing in his blood." Blake said. "And while you're at it, check every inch of his anatomy for tracers or other stuff the Feds might have implanted. I'm sure Servalan tried all resources available in order to extract information from him."
"The psychostrategics probably had a go at him as well." She remembered the frustrated anger in Avon's eyes when he'd ordered her to slit his wrists. "He wasn't able to take his own life, Blake. They must have placed some kind of block in his brain that prevents him from harming himself."
"That's the way of the Federation." Blake said bitterly. "They want full control."
"Don't forget where they were hiding him all this time. Carnell is Lord and Master in the prison on Cendus. You might have just opened the door to let in the proverbial wolf in sheep's clothing."
"That's why I need you to examine him. Thoroughly. Turn him inside out if you have to."
"I will. But it will take time. There is a faster way to find out about the cells, though."
"Ask Avon. I'm sure Carnell gave him a detailed explanation of what those cells are for."