Chapter 9 and end
Freedom of Choice . . .
This is for you, Mr. Bakker. A requisition for your services approved and signed by your employer.
What about my next appointment?
No longer your concern. Someone named Oscar will be dispatched to complete your rounds . . . welcome back, Officer Nester. How did everything go?
Mrs. Martin will have the repair contract on your desk by 5 pm, sir. Jones says basic cleaning will be finished by sunrise tomorrow, and all damaged sheet-rock replaced by noon. The concrete walls, plastering, and linoleum tiles will take at least two days, but a Monday morning completion time is only doable if you don't mind the odor of wet paint.
Thank you, officer Nester. Please keep Mr. Bakker company until I return. I have to make another call.
< . . . . . . . . . . . >
Everything has been arranged. Officer Nester?
Please accompany Mr. Bakker directly to the fourth floor, room 417. Remain until Dr. Castro's special project is complete. When his services are no longer required, please escort him to the parking lot and drop his paperwork off at accounting before you resume your duties or are relieved.
Nice meeting you, Mr. Bakker. Maybe we'll see each other in the future.
My employer is always open for more work. The repair business is a 'dog-eat-dog' competitive business after all.
Indeed . . . and sometimes the dogs talk as they tear each others throat out. Goodbye, Mr. Bakker.
* * * * * * * *
That's what the sign says.
What's an aircraft transceiver doing in there?
Go inside and find out, or stay out here with me.
I think I'll go inside.
Thank Heavens! Maybe now someone can tell me what's going on!
Who are you and what makes you think I have a clue what you're talking about?
I'm Patterson. Aren't you the other medical tech I was told to wait for?
Not even close. I fix fuse boxes for a living. The name's Bakker by the way.
Damn . . . now I'm even more confused! I was called upstairs to Prenatal because Mrs. Tailor couldn't get the Acuson to work. I'm not even qualified to turn a Sequoia 512 on, let alone that electronic nightmare someone plugged into it. I calibrate and repair EKG s, blood pressure machines, and resuscitators. I could lose my certification if I peel the security sticker off that ultrasound emitter!
Let me take a look . . . that's new. My wife was scanned by one of these things a couple times while she was pregnant. But I'm pretty sure her gynecologist didn't use something that belongs in a Boeing 777. What does the hospital expect the sonogram operator to do with a Honeywell AE XK516 high frequency transceiver, give the baby landing clearance?
Wrong on both accounts, Mr. Bakker. The nurse who just left wasn't doing the talking, nor did that device come from a Boeing aircraft. It was removed from an Airbus A320. But I'll concede it's the same model transceiver in either plane.
Doctor Castro! Thank heavens! I think there's been a mistake! I'm not qualified to operate these devices!
Please return to your normal duties, Mr. Patterson. My apologies, I must be more specific in the future. You'd be surprised to learn how many people around here think medical technicians are all exactly the same.
Good luck with that thing, Mr. Bakker. And please call if there's ever anything I can do for you, Dr. Castro.
I will, goodbye. And a belated good afternoon to you, Mr. Bakker. Can I call you, John?
Sure. And you are?
Dr. Lester Castro, and before you complain about a bad back, I'm not a MD. I'm here to supervise the first trial with . . . that.
The transceiver . . . it's a Linker, isn't it?
Who told you?
No one, it's been that kind of day. And that clipboard you're carrying with 'Property of the Metastate Psychology Department' printed on the back is a dead giveaway, too.
It is, isn't it? You got me, I'm a headshrinker, but you're wrong about one thing. That radio transmitter isn't the Linker itself. The A320 they removed it from is.
The whole plane?
Every nut, bolt, screw, ounce of lubricant, and gallon of jet fuel. Our tests haven't found a single part of that aircraft without a high level Kirlian signature. Scan-wise that transceiver is indistinguishable from anything else in contact with that plane when the Link-Swap event occurred, or was added afterwards.
Like that Linker computer downstairs?
Exactly, but very much more so. And I see someone's been giving the two-bit tour again.
Is it some kind of top secret?
In a hospital? This place is ground zero for every piece of gossip in the city. What I had for lunch was likely logged into the sixth floor personnel database and shared with anyone who'd care by now. HEPA laws be damned, people around here treat privacy as if it's an antibiotic resistant bacterium that must be killed before it spreads.
So why are you tell me all this?
We need you, Mr. Bakker. We had some small success about an hour ago, but Mrs. Tailor, our best sonogram operator, couldn't keep the transceiver operational. There's only time enough for one more attempt. If we fail, a patient will die if she continues to refuse treatment.
Here's the Readers Digest version: our patients, a husband and wife, were the victims of a Tunnel-Event.
That's not exactly unusual these days. There are dozens of books on Amazon that help new Linkers explain to their kids why mommy and daddy are acting weird all of a sudden.
If it only were that simple. Apparently it happened while they were on a photo-shot expedition through New Guinea. THE THING's event horizon didn't engulf them equally. Only her husband suffered a total Link-Swap, and the true nature of the situation wasn't discovered until four months after his human body was ... processed . . . and her health began to fail. In a nut shell: He's inside her. And if she doesn't allow us to take him out soon, she will die.
I'm not a fan of taking life.
We know. It's in your file.
Is there anything else of interest in there?
Not much, but you might want to talk to your tax preparer. You missed out on several good deductions last year.
I'll look into it. It's a shame your other patient can't put his own two-cents in . . . about what you want his wife to do, that is.
I wouldn't say that. After several tries, Mrs. Tailor managed to establish a communication link that lasted just under five minutes. After explaining the situation, and the imminent danger his wife is in, Mr. Larson agreed despite the fact his own chance for survival is essentially nil. Unfortunately, his wife was only semi-conscious at the time and vehemently refuses to accept our word on the matter. Her choice is presently paramount.
And how exactly did you manage that, doc? Morse code? My wife complained she felt black and blue on the inside in the final month before our daughter was born, but I doubt if a boy scout could put together a simple . . . Let Me Out! . . . out of all those kicks.
We're trying to exploit a little known side-effect of Human-Inanimate swaps involving high tech devices, namely how a small subset of such victims can absorb other inanimate items into their mental gestalt, and occasionally, control said items at a distance.
You're talking about that plane again, aren't you?
That's correct. When you take size and mass into account, that A320 passenger jet is exhibiting the largest and strongest Kirlian field known in the Western hemisphere. That transceiver was removed by Lufthansa technicians from his flight deck almost twenty-four hours ago. An identical unit installed six hours ago is quickly becoming, scan-wise, indistinguishable from the one it replaced.
Neat trick. I can turn my home security system on and off just punching a number into my cell phone.
It gets better . . . much in the way the inanimate Linker downstairs can override the functions of any computer device attached to his motherboard, if only to shut himself off, the Linker inhabiting that aircraft can interface remotely with any of his parts no matter the distance. In effect, he is in two places at one time and in full control of this, or any other, inanimate object he is currently inhabiting.
Is this your beat-around-the-bush way of saying he can also communicate directly with other Linkers?
Sadly, that's unfortunately not yet the case. Despite our best efforts, we have yet to discover a way to keep his remote parts isolated from the influence of the nearest biological or inanimate Linker. In much the same way a router hub communicates best with the nearest modem, his detached parts allow Linkers in their vicinity to over-ride his connection and interact directly with the outside world . . . that is, until the effect swiftly fades to nothingness.
So what does he get out of all this?
His owners, the plane's owners I meant to say, will stop trying to fly him. If this experiment works, he will spend the foreseeable future locked safely away in hanger 18 at San Francisco airport as a ward of the government. It seems the human who Link-Swapped this aircraft suffers from a severe case of aviophobia.
He's afraid of planes?
Indeed. Extremely so. His mental state presently verges on a full blown psychosis. The only reason he reluctantly entered the aircraft at all was to help a wheelchair bound relative to her seat. Every time the pilots rev the engines or touch his controls, he goes into full panic mode and switches off every electrical device on-board. And since an A320 is fully computer controlled, they can't even unlock the brakes without his approval.
Why is it only temporary?
As I explained, he flat-lines. In essence, the copy of his personality inhabiting a physically detached aircraft part eventually destabilizes, loses contact with the main body and his control. Objects like that transceiver revert to nothing but a lifeless mass of plastic, metal, and electronics. And it's also the reason we need you. Our last attempt seriously degraded this particular device's potency; there isn't enough time to obtain a fresh replacement before the patient slips into a coma and dies. Will you help?
There's absolutely no chance that woman's husband will survive?
None whatsoever. I wish it were otherwise, but there's nothing we can do for him. And when she goes, he goes. We must get her approval.
I'll do it.
I need to check the power supply and cabling. How much time do I have?
They're prepping her for the trip right now. Maybe ten minutes.
Okay, give me some room. I've got to untangle these cables. And don't think I didn't notice you were pretty sure I'd do this.
No, I wasn't. If you hadn't shown up so fortuitously, Doctor Carter and I were planning to do it ourselves. You've probably heard all the old jokes about how many psychologists it takes to screw in a light bulb.
They're mostly true. I'd rather talk to a patient all day about their 'Mommy issues' than pull a jammed piece of bread out of a toaster. At least the patient won't spontaneously combust.
The patient will be here from intensive care shortly. Doctor Carter is in attendance.
How's it going, John?
Give me a couple minutes . . . everything is freakin' screwed up! Half the cables are either loose or plugged into the wrong outlet. I'm surprised the light on the front panel even came on. These transceivers runs on twenty-eight volts, not twelve. I'll need to reset two of the automatic breakers manually . . . and there's no damned antenna!
Please fix what you can, and don't worry about the antenna. Linkage is achieved across the Earth's entire geomagnetic and electromagnetic field, it can't be jammed or intercepted. It really doesn't matter where any of his parts are located. Nurse?
What do you need, doctor?
This room is now secure. Once Doctor Carter arrives with the patient, I want you to keep everyone else away.
Yes, Doctor Castro. I'll also close the corridor access doors to give you total privacy.
Good idea. Thank you. And tell the nurse's station out there to cut off phone service, intercom, and anything else they can think of. I want to keep electrical noise in this area down to an absolute minimum.
How about the lights in the rooms next door?
Good idea. Please shut those off too. Any little bit might help. John?
Anything encouraging to report?
Done! There's nothing more that I can do. I'm giving no guarantees.
None asked for. Standby, here comes Doctor Carter with the patient.
Okay move, people! Get that gurney next to the sonogram. That's good enough. I'll take care of the intravenous drip and connect the feeding tube. Nurse, please tape the ultrasound to her abdomen. Good, very good. Thank you. Go ahead, Carter. Administer the stimulant and wake her up. We're likely to get only one shot at this.
John? Please turn the microphone and speaker on.
---------- Did we move? Hello? Am I dreaming? ----------
It's me again, Doctor Castro. Time is very short; we might lose this connection at any moment. Please talk to your wife, Mr. Thomson.
---------- Vicky? Can you hear me? It's Arthur. ----------
Arthur? Is that you? It can't be! YOU'RE ALL TRYING TO TRICK ME AGAIN!!!
---------- It's no trick, Vicky. It's really me. Please do what Doctor Castro says. ----------
How can I believe you? He wants me to kill my husband! Prove who you are!
---------- Would you like me to talk about our first date, the first time we kissed? ----------
No! I've told all my girlfriends about things like that! Tell me something only I would know!
---------- How about this: you got car sick on the trip to Kondoa, and puked all the Dar es Salaam you ate the night before at the New Dodoma Rock hotel onto that bus driver's lap. I thought you were gonna die of embarrassment. I gave him a hundred and sixty thousand Tanzania shillings for his troubles, and another forty five thousand for a new pair of pants. ---------
Arthur? Is that really you?
---------- The one and only. Please let me go, Vicky. It's my time. And I can't bear the thought I'm killing you. ----------
I can't . . . you can't ask me to do this!
---------- I've made my peace. I don't want to go on like this. Do you want me to beg, Vicky . . . Victoria? ----------
Are you in pain?
---------- Can't feel much of anything besides warmth and a little movement. Until Doctor Castro turned on that machine, I spent most of my time dreaming . . . dreaming about us. ----------
Is that truly what you want?
---------- Yes. ----------
Goodbye, Arthur. I will always love you.
---------- We will meet again, dearest. ----------
What is it, Mrs. Thomson?
Will it hurt . . . will my husband feel any pain?
Absolutely nothing. As I explained to your husband before, the medicine will put him instantly to sleep. He'll be gone long before you get to the operating room.
Give me the paperwork, I'll sign it.
Thank you. Turn off the microphone and speaker. How is your patient doing, Doctor Carter?
Blood pressure and heartbeat are both elevated. Temperature is over a hundred and rising. I've injected her with all the antibiotics I dare. The infection is spreading fast, it'd be best to anesthetize her now instead of wasting prep-time on the trip downstairs.
Here we go, Victoria. I'm injecting an anesthetic into your intravenous tap. Close your eyes, you'll be asleep before you know it. I'll see you again when the operation is all over.
How is it going over there, John?
If you're asking if it's still working, the answer is yes. If you're asking how, don't bother. None of these meter readings make sense. I'd be looking for the manufacturers' nearest repair shop if this were a normal transceiver by now.
Just keep it going a few more minutes, we're almost done. Carter?
She's out. I gave her enough propofol to keep her under until she's in operating theater number 4. Doctors Simmons and Tanner will take over from there. With all the painkillers she's on, I'm surprised she stayed conscious this long.
Who's the anesthesiologist?
Doctor Morale. If anyone can pull her through it's those three.
Let's proceed. Please leave now, Doctor Carter. I understand and respect your reservations. I'm assuming full responsibility from this point on.
Thank you, Doctor Castro. This is as far as I can go. I'll be back in a few minutes with the orderlies. Will that be enough time?
More than sufficient. Is the feeding tube ready?
Praziquantel is in the blue bag, Albendazole is in the green. Nurse Abbot set them up and the feeding tube, too. Open both valves and the dosage you prescribed will be administered directly into her stomach. The effects should be . . . quick. Can I leave now?
Go. Tell Officer Nester to come in. And please forgive me for putting you through all this.
Close and guard the door. I'm not to be disturbed by anyone.
What about . . . him?
Anyone, Officer Nester. Do I have to clarify that word further?
No, sir. You won't be disturbed.
Please turn everything back on, Mr. Bakker.
---------- there? Hello, is anyone there? ----------
Sorry for the interruption. It was necessary.
--------- Is Vicky asleep? ----------
Yes. And she'll be on her way to surgery once we're done here, Mr. Thomson. I'm required by law to ask one final time, do you wish to proceed with this procedure knowing you will not survive?
---------- Go ahead. ----------
Officer Nester? Will you be my witnesses for the record?
Mr. Bakker. Please come here and unplug the sonogram wand, it's getting tangled up with the feeding tube. I can't reach the valves from this side of the gurney.
That will do fine. The valves are open now.
---------- I feel . . . I feel something hot. It's getting hotter! I'M BURNING!!! AAAAHHHH!!!! -----------
Turn the speaker off, Mr. Bakker. Shut it all off. We're done here.
YOU SAID IT WOULDN'T HURT!!
It was for the greater good. Officer Nester, escort this gentleman to his vehicle. His services are no longer required. And please call Doctor Carter back in.
WAS IT ALL A DAMNED LIE?!
I never lied to you or anyone. We've all done good work today, a life was saved. You should feel proud about that.
But . . . but what about him?
What about him? Within the hour he will be surgically removed, and his widow will commence a long and painful recovery, both physically and mentally. There's not much else anyone can do for a dead tape worm, is there?
A tape worm?
It exists. It's not going away. Get use to it, Mr. Bakker. Goodbye.
* * * * * * * *
This is Doctor Lester Castro, is this line secure? Good. Is General Wallace available? No? Can you take a message? Please tell General Wallace when he returns from the Pentagon that the experiment was a complete success. We are ready to proceed to stage two of Operation Skynet. I repeat, Operation Skynet is a go.
End of message.
Author's note (1 or 2):
(1) Cut and pasted below are the rules and guidelines set forth by the original universe creator who posted them to TSA_List; a transformation-themed writer's group I occasionally inflict my work upon. I really did attempt to color between the lines so-to-speak, but going overboard is probably the most salient feature of my writing style (well, that and butchering the English language). :)
[Turned about tunnels]
SYNOPSIS: Earth has been bombarded by fragments from a giant asteroid that collided with a comet. The fragments emit a strange radiation that didn't seem to be dangerous at first. Now, however, the public is increasingly becoming aware of the strange effect of the radiation 'clouds.' They create 'tunnels' through space that instantaneously drain and send energy from one place to another, storing it in the nearest available energy receptacle. These clouds relocate at random and are completely unpredictable. In effect, life forces (minds, souls, whatever you prefer) are being swapped. Animals, plants, and machines are among the energy sources that are being 'turned about.'
GUIDELINES: Anyone is invited to play in this world of unpredictable body exchanges. Stories may be serious or silly, and I'm not picky about details. Just don't take away the potential for the swaps. After all, that's the whole idea!
(2) The last paragraph wasn't strictly necessary to end this story. I added it just for fun.
Did you enjoy my story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, Carlos GoodyearWrite a Review