Posted: May 31, 2013 in Fiction, Test Subject

It may be apparent that I’m working on a MWF schedule, but like any new (or in this case, old but returning) routine, there will be hiccups. Sorry bout that.

“Clarity is important, Mister Brinks. We’ve been over this.” At great length. My early testing write-ups got rejected every time because I wasn’t being clear and specific. It was my high school English classes all over again. I look down at my shiny new bracelet. It has a small LCD on it, as well as a trio of buttons.

“So, when do I get to read the manual?” I ask. I catch a glimpse of surprise before her aggressively neutral mask returns. I grin at her. “What, you thought I was just gonna start pushing buttons without knowing what they do?” Every now and then, I get the feeling that she forgets that I’m not actually stupid.

“Actually, yes.” Wow. Didn’t expect a direct admission. “Since you asked, though…” She walks over to the single active workstation. I stand and follow. The unfamiliar weight of the injector makes me hyper-conscious of the movement of my arms as I walk. Worse than thinking about breathing. Doctor Allison stops behind her chair, motioning for me to sit. “I need to collect things. You will run the setup for the injector.” I look over my shoulder at her, raising an eyebrow. She’s never had me do anything independently before. I guess the day I get field equipment is a good time to change that. “Don’t worry, Brinks.” She smirks. “It’s idiot-proof.” My mouth hangs open. I’m speechless. She turns and walks off toward the examination room.

I turn my attention to the monitor. There’s an open window welcoming me to the setup wizard. Next. I skim the description. This program will help me to use my TA455 intravenous assistance module. I chuckle. The fancy language they use to name things like this cracks me up. Like calling a secretary an “administrative assistant.” Everything has to be dressed up. Next. I give cursory glances and click through the menus. The left and right buttons on the face cycle the cartridges. Next. The center button injects the cartridge. Next. Holding the cycle buttons down opens the chambers for reloading. Next. LCD layout. Time and date. Chamber indicators. I’m skimming faster, reading less. Next. Next. Ready to continue? Next.

Stab. “Holy -!” I gasp. Shooting pain from my left wrist. I hold up the bracelet, angling it to see the gap between it and my wrist. A series of needles on the interior of the thing pierce my skin. The pain turns to a chill sensation. I look at the monitor. Apparently some of the info I hadn’t read yet told me that the thing was about to “establish a semi-permanent sterile connection” with my circulatory system. I wince. The pain and the cold recede to memory. I finish the set-up program. The window closes. I stand up and look at my new jewelry. The screen indicates that all my chambers are empty and that it’s time to eat. I head to the workstation I use as a shelf. I don’t recall packing anything, but sometimes I get lucky. Today isn’t one of those times. I turn to head toward the exam room. Maybe the doc has food on hand. I grin inwardly at the prospect of asking Doctor Allison to share her lunch with me.

I’m just rounding the curve of the blast chamber when she comes pushing through the double white doors. “Hey, doc,” I say in my best conversational tone. “You wouldn’t happen to have anything to eat around here, would ya?” Her frameless glasses do little to shield me from her cold stare. She’s got another tray full of stuff in her hands.

“Lunch will have to wait, Mister Brinks.” She palms the tray while she triggers the airlock on the blast chamber. I sigh and follow her in. She sets the tray down on the bench and grabs her hazard suit. I’ve sort of gotten over the apparent disregard for my safety. Usually she’s in more danger than I am. As she pulls her suit up to her neck, I examine the tray. Eight cartridges. A hammer. A knife that blurs the line between knives and machetes. Her monitoring tablet. None of the usual sensor probes that I have worn or had inserted in the past. “Did you finish set-up on the injector?” she asks.

“Of course.”

“Then load the cartridges in numbered order.” She’s pulling on her gloves and helmet. I hold down the side buttons until I hear a soft click and the chambers snap open. An empty cartridge falls out – the one that used to contain the sterilizing and bonding goo. I load my “insulin” into the device. They are labeled 1-8, but they each have a string of numbers and letters in fine print on one end. Probably batch numbers for the doc. I wonder if she’ll give me the answer key, or if I’ll have to decode these myself. Doesn’t matter for now. I lock the chambers and cycle the injector so that cartridge one will be the first into my bloodstream.


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