Looking Through Fresh Eyes

(Tying up a dangling loose end left loose at the end of Nature Studies)

Bloody hell – five or six chapter continuations on the go, plus promised artwork for various groups on DeviantArt, and I still start a new one... talk about a butterfly mind...

This is developing into a music meme... the inspiration for this short was listening to the Adverts' old song "Looking Through Gary Gilmour's Eyes", grooving to a teenage memory, and then recollecting that Perry-Bowen's eyes is a story yet untold. (Amazing how association of ideas works). For those not around for punk rock in the late 1970's, Gary Gilmour was an American serial killer who wanted to make amends after his execution, by bequeathing those bits of himself left undamaged by the execution process to medical transplantation. In the event they only used bits of his eyes. This inspired the Adverts to record what at the time was held to be a somewhat tasteless ditty sung from the point of view of the recipient of Gilmour's eyes. It's on You-tube somewhere. ( watch?v=cqx18CHDxbI)

Prologue: During the recapture of loose wild animals in Hide Park (covered in my fic Nature Studies) student Assassin Catherine Perry-Bowen lost both eyes and suffered serious facial damage when attacked by a rogue baboon. She was taken to the Watch Igor and the Guild's Matron Igorina for medical attention. A quote from Nature Studies:-

Emmanuelle, meanwhile, was in conference with the Igors over Catherine Perry-Bowen.

"We couldn't save her eyes. They were damaged beyond repair" Igorina said, quietly.

Emmanuelle nodded. She'd expected to hear as much. Now she had the hard job of breaking the news to the family and arranging for the poor blind child to be transferred to a school more appropriate for her new needs. She couldn't, of course, remain at the Assassins' School.

"There is another way." Igor said. "Bio-artificing."

"You can replace eyes?"

"He breeds them" said Igorina. She went to the back of the hospital trailer and called "Constable Williams?"

The Watchman stepped forwards. Emmanuelle looked at his face. One eye was blue, the other… brown?

"He lost an eye while on Watch service." Igor said, smoothly. "I replaced it with a bioartificed organ."

Emmanuelle asked Williams a few questions, discovering that he'd had his original right eye gouged out in a fight(1) and Igor had been very keen to try out his new idea to see if it had worked. Assuring herself that it was as good as the real thing, she had given consent to replacement of the eyes, provided, and I wish you to be completely clear on this, mr Igor, they are both of the same colour, hmmm?

Igor had agreed instantly, but had asked "One last thing, Madame? With a view to improving my stock, may I take a tissue sample from you?"

Emmanuelle was on her guard.

"May I ask, for what reason?"

"You depend on your eyes for your work. Your vision has to be excellent in all respects. I would dearly like to be able to bio-replicate the eyes of a superbly co-ordinated athlete and fighting swordswoman. To use only the very best! All I need is a very small tissue sample…"

"From my EYES?" she nearly shrieked.

"All I need to is to take a swab from the surface of your cornea. This will provide enough living cells, perfectly painlessly, for the bio-replication process to begin. In eight weeks, a perfect clone of your eyes will exist, for implantation into a lucky recipient…"

All eyes moved to Catherine.

"And in the meantime, she has a temporary set? Then the permanent eyes she receives are a copy of mine?"

Despite herself, Emmmanuelle felt flattered.

"And who knows, her swordswoman skills are bound to improve. Eh bien, take your samples!"

Eight Weeks Later...

"She ith coming out of the anaeththetic now."

Catherine heard the voice as if it came from the other end of a tunnel. She felt tired, sluggish, slightly nauseous. Movement was a struggle: it might have been possible, but in the torpid langour, the aftermath of some sort of drug? We had a lecture from Mericet about how to recognise if we've been drugged and how to fight it if somebody's doped you.... she felt lazily disinclined to move. Something was restraining her arms, anyway.

It was strange. She could remember a lecture from Skullface Mericet that had happened over a year ago. Little flashes and glimmers of her past life were coming back to her. She recalled the first day at the School, lonely and somewhat scared. She remembered meeting Miss Band and... the other teachers, one was Quirmian, what was her name? She remembered being enchanted by the baby animals she had seen and tended in the Animal Management Unit. The aye-ayes, cheeky, nocturnal, big-eyed, confident and without fear, a clumsy-looking but engaging creature. But could she remember anything that had happened in her more recent past? It was, for the moment,beyond her.

She smelt crisp clean linen and a hint of starch. A deeper background smell, astringent, pine-scented, disinfectant, like the School cleaners used but stronger. The aye-ayes came back to her memory. Impossibly large-eyed creatures, big appealing eyes... their eyes...She tried to open her own eyes...

...and then she remembered.

The shriek. The rush of foul feral breath. The wide-open jaws. The sheer size and force of the creature, although she had broken her crossbow using it as a club to fend it off, a last-ditch defence. Being bowled over by its weight. And her last image before darkness and excruciating pain began had been its jaws closing in...

Catherine screamed and tried to sit bolt-upright. Strong but kindly hands restrained her. Hands at her wrists and shoulders, a gentle hand on her brow just above the things that were preventing her from seeing clearly...

A voice close to her ear said "Catherine, ma petite? Do you recognise me? Please understand you are in no danger now. That which makes you scream and your heart race madly is but a memory. It is over. It will pass. Reste tranquille, cherie."

Catherine recognised the kindly, Quirmian-accented voice, but for the moment could not attach a name. She associated it with swords and daggers, somehow. She felt the strong reassuring hands taking her left hand in between them. They felt rough, calloused, but were also a woman's hands. Her pulse slowed and her panting breath subsided. She recalled a lesson in how to breathe(2). The calming breath, the one that put you back in control of your body and quelled anxiety. She realised she was in a place of safety. But what is happening with my eyes? She was aware of a diffused white blur in her field of vision. A new memory surfaced, bringing pangs of pain and loss. But I remember a kindly voice, that explained to me I had lost both my eyes. This is a cruel joke my brain is playing on me. Wishful thinking, Catherine.

"Catherine. Catherine, do you hear me? We are now going to commenthe removing the bandages from your face. You have had a lot of delicate thurgery over the past few weekth. Your fathe may thtill be thwollen and bruised, but thith will thubthide."

She calmed herself further by deciphering the identifying lisp. Ah. An Igor. But not even they can rescue shattered and burst eyes?

"You are in a private room at the Lady Sybil Free Hospital." the Quirmian woman's voice said again. " Well, not completely free, peut-etre, as the Guild is paying for what is needed. It is perfectly natural you should be feeling disorientated and as if part of your memory is lost, as you are returning to normal wakefulness from a necessary period of deep sedation. Several restorative operations have been carried out on you, as your face suffered great damage. If all goes well, you will soon see for yourself. Igorina?"

Catherine felt her upper body lifted and supported. Gentle hands came close to her head. She could sense them. She was a student Assassin, after all. And as other memories returned, she could place the Quirmian woman now. She had smelt that particular perfume in many a classroom.

"Madame Deux-Epées?" she asked. The response was a reassuring squeeze of her hands.

"Not just me, cherie."

Catherine felt a tug on her bandages, followed by a snipping sound. The pressure eased. Numbly, she saw the white light getting stronger as the layers of gauze and bandage were removed. Somebody placed a stethoscope to her chest.

"Heartbeat normal. Blood pressure good." said a woman's voice.

Catrherine, bewildered, could now see hazy indistinct shapes. At least I have some vision left, she thought. Even if I cannot see details. I may have to be content with this miracle. I hope it means I can stay on at the School.

She winced at the sudden uncontrolled influx of light after so long in bandages. Her eyelids closed for a while – they still work? - and she tentatively opened them again to take in her surropunding environment.

Several of the shapes were black, or wearing dark clothing. Tilting her head to the left, she saw black clothes, possibly a female shape, the pale blob of a face, and the black of hair above that. Another black-clad shape was watching from the foot of the bed, male, possibly, looking excited and intent. Next to him was a brown-clad shape. This one seemed to have red hair. A white-clad woman stood to her right. She radiated professional anxiety. A shorter shape stood next to her, looking somehow lopsided. She sensed another person behind and to her right, out of her field of vision.

"Pleathe tell me what you are seeing." Matron Igorina, from the Guild. The lisp only re-entered her voice when she was professionally absorbed.

Catherine took a deep breath. She felt as if she had been handed something of her life back. It was a lot to take in.

"I am seeing only blurred shapes at the moment. But I can distinguish people. There are six people in the room, although I can only see five of them. The sixth I can sense is standing behind me and to my right. I know her from her voice to be Matron Igorina. There are two other Igors in the room, observing. From the dark clothing I know there are at least two Assassins in the room. One is Madame Deux-Epées. But I know that from her voice, and the fact her hands holding mine are calloused by years of sword practice. There is a hospital nurse on my right. I deduce that from her white clothing and the fact she has placed a cold stethoscope on my chest.

"I believe Miss Smith-Rhodes is in the room, as although she is silent, I see a brown-clad figure with red hair. The second black-clad Assassin is somebody I cannot recognise."

"I feel I should introduce myself." a kind, well-modulated male voice said. Catherine had heard that voice often, at Morning Assembly, High Dinners and sometimes in classrooms and lecture theatres. She tried to struggle upright.

"Sir? I am here." she said, automatically. Lord Downey, Master of the Guild of Assassins, laughed in a low, joyous way.

"Please. Do not exhaust yourself. I am very, very, pleased to see you almost restored to health. I find it especially pleasing that your injuries have not affected your ability to think and reason. The last eight weeks have been stressful and you have been on our thoughts. Madame Deux-Epées?"

The Quirmian woman squeezed her hand again.

"I have a special reason to be here." she said. "You were working under my direction when you were...injured. Alors, I feel responsible. Also, I saw the extent of your injuries when you were wounded."

Catherine sensed the woman shuddering.

"Such injuries as you received haunt my nightmares. But Igor, Igor and Igorina have been assessing you as we speak..." she stepped aside as one of the shorter Igor-shapes bent forward and shone a light into both eyes, nodding critically.

"Rethtorathion ith near-complete." he said, turning off the light. There was a reptilian click as the mini-salamander(3) in the light tube relaxed its reflex. "The new eyeth hath taken and connection to the optical nerveth hath been a great thuccethth."

"New eyes?" said Catherine, perplexed.

"It is now within the reach of Igoring to replathe eyes tho badly damaged that they cannot be saved." Igorina said, from her right. "Igor here has perfected a technique he calls bio-artificing."

"I uthed it first on a Watchman who lotht an eye in the course of duty." said the Watch Igor. "You are the second patient to receive new eyes."

"Igor here, one of the Free Hospital Igors, repaired the damage to your bone structure and underlying tissue. He also restored your nose, which the creature tore off." said Igorina. Igor here, who works for the City Watch, cultivated your new eyes..." Igoring paused for a moment. Catherine wondered if there was something about her new eyes that she was, at least for the moment, not prepared to disclose. She sensed the hospital nurse, more used to the limitations of conventional medicine, was quivering with dissaproval and barely concealed anxiety. Some things, like moods and emotions, can be read by a good Assassin, without recourse to vision. "He also installed your new eyes. I myself performed the task of grafting on new skin to your face and repairing the external damage."

Catherine shuddered. Igorina smiled and added, in a kind voice. "Male Igors are good. But their stitching leaves much to be desired. I have done my best to ensure your repaired face will look as near to perfect as is possible."

"I insisted on this." said Madame Deux-Epées. "Miss Smith-Rhodes also communicated her express wishes to the Igors. Catherine, ma petite, I am looking at your face now. There is some swelling, but it will subside. The scars are the finest of white lines on your face. I believe they will only show clearly if you become suntanned, or if you are in high passion. This is for the good, cherie. I myself could live with such scars. On an Assassin, they are good for the image, non? They display you have seen and survived hard fighting. They will attract the right sort of interest, and most certainly the respect of those you encounter. In this respect, you are fortunate!"

"Thjis is amazing, gentlemen. Igorina." said Downey. "Even after seeing it for myself I still cannot quite believe it. But Miss Perry-Bowen will be back with us in?"

"Perhaps two weeks, sir." said Igorina. "Everything has gone according to the prognosis." (the Assassins present were glad she had said "prognosis" and not one of the Igors.) "We expect her vision to be somewhat blurred as the new eyes adjust to their owner. Altho, much of the visual process happens in the brain, not in the eyes. It will take a little time for the optic nerves to form renewed aththociations with the visual cortex of the brain, tho that the eyeth work to optimal efficthienthy. Then she will see perfectly again. Perhapth better than before!"

"How long?" Johanna Smith-Rhodes inquired. She noted, interestedly, that as Igorina got more engrossed in her area of expertise, the clan lisp reasserted itself.

"Perhaps a week. But you cannot hurry eyeth and nerveth."

"Most excellent!" Downey proclaimed. "Well, I have to see Doctor Lawn and pay him my regards. I'm sure you need rest, my dear?"

"I'll stay with her for a while." Johanna said. "Efter ell, I put her in a position where she received injuries. It is only right."

And the Assassin party left the bedside, leaving Catherine with Johanna Smith-Rhodes and Igorina. They talked for a while, then Catherine fell asleep again.

A lot of hospital conferences take place in whispered huddles in corridors. This was no exception. A safe distance from Catherine's room, Madame Deux-Epées turned to Matron Igorina and asked, anxiously,

"I do not wish to criticise your medical skills, ma chere amie. But do you think it was the correct thing to do, to not tell the child about the potential psychological and psychic side-effects of her new eyes?"

Igorina smiled a very short smile. She replied,

"Emmanuelle, you should be in the very best position of all to monitor and observe that! Telling her now would only put the idea into her head, and then, inevitably, she will manifest the possible side-effects. We wait and observe."

Lord Downey pulled up sharply.

"Side-effects?" he said, abruptly. Igorina sighed.

"I do not wish to over-emphasise this, my Lord, but there is a chance of certain side-effects resulting from the eye implantations. These will not be directly physical, but will act on her psyche. I suppose you ought to know..."

A few minutes later, Downey took a deep breath.

"I see." he said. "As you say, Matron, we can only watch and keep the young lady under observation."

And that sets up Chapter Two... more ocular shennanigans next time!

(1) See Moving Pictures! The Sequel! or Nature Studiesfor the real tale of how Lance-Constable Williams lost an eye.

(2)Miss Pretty Butterfly, the Lecturer in Agatean Studies, taught a module in Zen breathing and mind-clearing techniques useful to the Ninja on a mission.

(3) Specially bred at the Thaumatological Park to power a new generation of pocket torches, miners' helmets for Dwarves, and medical equipment. The Park is a great money-spinner for the University.

Bonus song lyric: Gary Gilmour's Eyes by the Adverts.

I'm lying in a hospital, I'm pinned against the bed,
A stethoscope upon my heart, a hand against my head;
They're peeling off the bandages, I'm wincing in the light,
The nurse is looking anxious and she's quivering with fright.!
I'm looking through Gary Gilmore's eyes!
Looking through Gary Gilmore's eyes!
Looking through Gary Gilmore's eyes!
Looking through Gary Gilmore's eyes!

The doctors are avoiding me, my vision is confused;
I listen to my earphones and I catch the evening news,
A murderer's been killed, and he donates his sight to science!
I booked into a private ward, I realise that I
Must be looking through Gary Gilmore's eyes!
Looking through Gary Gilmore's eyes!
Looking through Gary Gilmore's eyes!
Looking through Gary Gilmore's eyes!

Looking through Gary Gilmore's eyes;
Looking through Gary Gilmore's eyes;
Looking through Gary Gilmore's eyes;

I smash the light in anger, push my bed against the door,
I close my lids across the eyes I wish to see no more;
The eye receives the messages and sends it to the brain,
No guarantee the stimuli must be perceived the same -
When looking through Gary Gilmore's eyes!
Looking through Gary Gilmore's eyes!
Looking through Gary Gilmore's eyes!
Looking through Gary Gilmore's eyes!

Gary don't need his eyes to see;
Gary and his eyes have parted company!

1(1) Specially bred at the Thaumatological Park to power a new generation of pocket torches, miners' helmets for Dwarves, and medical equipment. The Park is a great money-spinner for the University.