: Wolf Den Military Base
Age: 1643453-BDC Gooseman, Shane – 13 y.a.d.
Sawyer stretched and looked on the clock above the door: 21:48. Ouch, I'm really late with the exams today. The boss will grumble again. But what does he expect? I'm a gentech. I was never trained as a physician. He had a look at the checklist: 1643453-BDC. Shane. He was the last one to be checked up after the day's training. Okay, then. At least he's never made trouble. Max pressed the buzzer to call the boy in.
"You know the procedure," Sawyer said.
Max observed the youth giving the usual saliva, skin, and urine samples. The boy's pale as a ghost today. Shit – he stood for more than eight hours in the yard while I checked the ones before him – and cleaned up the mess they left behind. He prepared to take the lymph and blood samples. Must be thirsty as hell. "You want some water?"
Cold eyes jumped up at him, narrowed. "No."
Sawyer shrugged. "Your decision." At least Owen can't accuse me again of coddling the children – the weapons, as he'd call them. He took lymph out of the node in the boy's armpit and prepared for the blood sample. Max tightened the strap around the boy's upper arm, positioned the needle above an elbow vein, concentrated for the prick – and the boy collapsed into his arms.
This can't be true. Max looked again at the test results: blood pressure far too low, breathing flat and accelerated, pulse too fast and too weak, severe dehydration, nucleotid sequences stressed and slightly destabilized... Damnation! That's an A if I write it in his file. He glanced at the youth covered with a thin sheet on the examination table and checked the indicators above it – not unconscious but sleeping deeply. I've got to find out why. Sawyer reached for the intercom. "Joseph, can you come over, please? It's urgent."
"There's a loss of nearly two-thirds of his blood, Joseph." Sawyer checked the saline drip again and opened it a little more. After a while a BDC always started to expel the needles. Max knew he had to get as much liquid as possible into the boy to correct the dehydration before Shane's biodefenses pushed out the IV.
"He got grazed by a bullet in training around midday." Walsh shrugged, leaning on the examination table, his eyes on Shane. "He shook it off. – At least that's what I thought."
"Left side. Between rib cage and pelvis. Not more than a broad scratch. Maybe ten centimeters long and two fingers wide."
"That couldn't have cost that much blood." Max shook his head. "Let's have a look at the wound." He pushed the sheet away and cut open the boy's overall. "Nothing visible."
"He must have used his bio defenses on it." Walsh cursed. "They aren't allowed to do that during combat scenarios. It isn't good when they take the enabler with strained powers."
"Shane must have done it anyway. Why?"
"Are his measurements really that bad?"
"A guaranteed A at the moment. They're getting better, but slowly."
Walsh pushed himself off the table and turned briskly for the door.
"What are you going to do?"
"Find out what happened to him!" Joseph nodded vigorously at the sleeping boy. "Then maybe I can convince Owen to ignore regulations long enough to give Shane the time to recover."
"I can keep him here for some hours. If Owen asks I'll tell him something about rest behaviour and circulation development during sleeping periods." He shrugged. "As far as I know that's never been tested before."
Base Commander's Office:
That was the grazing shot. Walsh scrutinized the surveillance recordings and noted the exact time. And the grenade explosions that followed took the actual combat to the southwestern corner... Shane wasn't among the combatants there. He must have stayed behind... Walsh collected his memories. Killbane arrived there relatively late. Unusual, he's always among the first. Joseph set up a time window and fast forwarded through the electronic recordings. There! It's more visible in this file. Shane got grazed, stumbled, and Killbane knocked him off his feet. Walsh ground his teeth as he observed Killbane stepping on Goose's back. Then he frowned. What was that? He rewound, played it again. Killbane punched Goose's side, right on the graze. That won't do that much harm to a BDC. Walsh rewound again, zoomed in on the two and now was able to see the sand in Killbane's fist.
"Max. Are there capsules within Shane's tissue?"
"Wait a moment, I'll check."
The buzzing of the stand-by intercom line eroded Walsh's nerves.
"No capsules, Joe." Walsh sighed in relief. "But the wound was much bigger than you said. From what the scanner shows: as large as my hand and too deep for a simple graze. Do you have an explanation for that?"
"I'm still searching." Walsh closed the line and returned to the recordings.
After another two hours he deactivated the player, frustrated: no success.
...the burning pain of the projectile rushed through his side, the force of it knocked him off balance and Killbane – once again – whipped him off his feet. His face hit the ground. Sand and dust nearly choked him as Killbane's foot pressed into his shoulders. Goose felt the fist punching on the wound, felt thousands of sand grains penetrating his flesh and Killbane's foot slamming down on his back as the older ST ran on...
The sounds of combat faded away... Bio defenses... Sand crunched in his side at every breath. Bio defenses... sand... no... don't get crippled. He twisted sideways, drove his knife into his side. Blood gushed over his hand. Concentrate. Cut. He circled the blade, felt the early effects of severe blood loss. Concentrate. His fingers dug into the wound, tore out the sand-filled tissue. A fistful of his flesh fell next to him into the blood-soaked sand. Bio defenses... Nothing happened. Bio defenses. ...
The blood still flowed from his side, didn't stop as it had before, overwhelmed his senses. Dizziness crept up on him. Bio defenses! Sneering laughter filled his mind: Runt, weak babies die in here, didn't you know that? He pushed it away, fighting the panic. Bio defenses!! Another voice appeared, soft, tender, caring, false... ...just stop fighting... it would be wonderful for it to end... no pain... no fear... nothing that hurts you any more... you only have to give up... just abandon yourself...
Max looked up at the sound of suppressed whimpering, saw that the figure on the examination table was restless. The boy nearly curled up, then twisted his legs in the sheet and turned round without waking. The choked sound repeated. "I'm glad you can't be dreaming." He sighed. "I was always angry at Owen when he made your kind independent from REM phases. But now..." He sighed again. "I hope he did a good job on that. Your dreams wouldn't be any better than your life here is, and daylight in hell is more than enough for anyone. Even for those who don't know anything different."
Max frowned as the whimpering repeated.
The nameless pictures in his mind started again: ...the burning pain of the projectile rushed through his side...
It must have been somewhere around here. The glider's lights wandered over the sandy ground. There. Walsh looked at the GPS indicator. That's the position where he got grazed. He landed next to the trench and localized with his hand searchlight the bloody spot of sand on the dam where Shane had been hit. The light fell into the trench below him, illuminated another – larger – area of darkened sand. Walsh slid down the steep slope.
Sand hardened with blood and... he examined the ripped, dried crumpled stuff in the midst of it. A clump of flesh that had dried in the sun! Walsh turned the searchlight around. This trench was too deep for a surveillance camera to peek into it at this point. He took a plastic bag out of his pocket and collected the flesh and some samples of the bloody sand. If this is what it looks like... Max can prove it.
"It is from Shane, Joe." Sawyer looked up from his instruments. "And it's full of sand grains. But no sign of bio defenses being used on it." Max leaned back in his chair.
"He must have cut it out before he used his powers on the wound." Walsh sucked air through his teeth and looked at the boy still sleeping. "The training ended not long after the battle moved to the southwestern corner. The wound couldn't been fully healed when the siren called them to the check point."
"His bio defenses are strong, Joseph. Even stronger than Ryker's in some cases."
"But not that fast. He's still developing them. But he still met the others at the check point and managed to hide his condition from Owen and me."
"If Ryker and Stingray hadn't made such a mess in here, so that Shane had to wait outside that long, he maybe would have slipped our attention entirely."
"He doesn't really trust any of us." Walsh sighed. "I can't blame him for it."
"He must have used the last of his strength to come in here. My taking the lymph sample exhausted his power and he collapsed."
Walsh looked over again at the youth on the examination table. "If the wound had been closed with encapsulations the disfigurement would have crippled him."
"Do you think Killbane did this trying to get Shane abandoned?"
"No." Walsh pointed with his head towards the table where Goose slept. "That would be his way. Killbane simply tried to get revenge. He never forgot Shane's first victory. He has to wear it on his face for the rest of his existence."
"But I believe Shane is capable of seeing the danger Killbane put him in."
"Yes, the hatred between them will increase after this... And Max – Thank you."
"No thanks, Joe. He's my baby as well as yours." Sawyer grinned weakly at the old macabre joke between them. "And don't worry. He's going to make it."
A: abandoned. An ST who is given an A isn't believed capable of fulfilling the expectations of the STP.
BDC: Bio Defense Carrier (a type of ST with powers like those of Gooseman and Killbane)
capsule: a layer of inactive cells meant to prevent a foreign body from migrating in the flesh when it's too small to be expelled by bio defenses. To prevent cancer-like overproduction of new cells being grown to replace the inactive ones (which are still in place) in the capsule, capsule tissue isn't replacable. To use a capsule means to accept a permanent loss of cells. (See also: "For An Eye")
y.a.d.: years after decant (equivalent to physical age)