<- Chapter 2: Return of the Shay
I've been researching for about a month now. Though I can't find any of the catepillar's coccoon code in human DNA, I think I'm able to interface the two with one another. I can separate out the coccooning code, and have it attach itself to the human DNA, treating it like the end result. Instead of producing a butterfly, it should restore the person's health.
The coccoon itself would be like a second skin covering the human and regulating it's systems. However, it's not perfect. I've built a medical chamber to regulate and accelerate the coccooning process. If misused, the coccoon could act as a stasis chamber, keeping the person preserved for years until they wake up, or so I think.
By my calculations, side effects should include tattoo removal, piercing removal, and the reversal of any form of plastic surgery. If a person has anything in them, like a metal plate or silicon, I think the chamber would be quite painful if not outright deadly. I can't even guess at the results for pregnant women at this time.
This is about the time to request an intern to assist me. Before I do, I want to have one actual clean run of the coccoon. Unfortunately, I've nothing to test it on but catepillars, which I know it works on. It's natural for them, after all. I can't ask a human to volunteer, because the experiment is not in it's final stages.
The only possibility left, as far as I can tell, is to get in there myself.
I know my medical history, and there's no problems from the above list. I'm one hundred percent sure of my calculations. If it fails, it should just release me with no change. If it works, the remaining scars from the glass wounds a month ago should disapear.
I prepare the chamber and remove all of my clothing. I climb in and lie down on my back. After closing it, I close my eyes and try to sleep.
When I wake up, I push the top of the chamber open, letting the light come in. I can immediately see that my scars are gone from my arm. I decide to get out and take a look in a mirror for a full assessment.
Immediately upon looking at the mirror I wonder what I did wrong. I now have antennae and bright pink wings with a blue circle bordered by black in the middle of each one. My human body has been fully restored, so the chamber is a success, but if my boss ever found out about these wings, I'd be outta here before I knew it.
I fold one wing accross my torso, like a blanket, then the other over that one. With my wings against my body, I put on my shirt. I then procede to put on the rest of my clothes, ending with my lab coat. Another look in the mirror and I realize that my antennae are still showing.
I look around for a hat, or something I can use as a hat. The best I can find is a "My Little Kitty" hat my younger cousin left here when she stopped by. She was doing a report on catepillars for school, so I thought it could help if she could get a look at some real catepillars.
This hat is the best I can do for now, so I put it on and exit the lab. It's the middle of the night. The halls are empty and dark. On the medical floors, however, there's still likely to be a lot of people, so I decide to take a different exit, and walk around the building. Though my wings and antennae are not visible, it's kinda embarrassing to walk around in a "My Little Kitty" hat.
On the way to my car, I hear somebody call out, "Rick?"
I turn around to see who it is. February is also in the parking lot. She's apparently the one who called my name.
"I haven't seen you in days! Have you been avoiding me?"
I know I saw Feb the morning I got into that chamber. "No, I'm just at a critical point in my research, so I haven't been doing much else. How long has it been?"
Feb looks at me a bit confused, "I might think you'd been working way too many late shifts, but you don't look pale or tired or anything like that. It's Thursday. Well, Friday in a few minutes... I haven't seen you since Monday."
It took about three and a half days. This is about what I expected.
"Oh, sorry about that, I guess we just haven't run into each other."
"You had me worried. You usually stop in before leaving or coming in."
"How's the ER?"
"I haven't screwed up yet... It's pretty tough to keep up with though. I could be prescribing medicine for a simple sore throat one minute, and be performing heart surgery the next. You never know who's gonna come in with what problems. By the end of my shift I'm usually exhausted, and a bit dizzy."
"Well, I'm nearly ready to apply for an intern to help out. If you want to apply for it, the catepillars aren't nearly as chaotic."
"Yeah, that might be nice... I'll think about it later."
"Sure, I'll see you tomorrow."
"Oh, by the way..."
And with that she giggles a bit as she walks off. I get into my car and sit down. I realize immediately that this is gonna be a bit difficult. I've sat on my wings, which have nerve endings in them. I get up and shift around a bit before sitting back down. I usually lean back, but doing so would crush my wings, so I have to drive leaning a bit forward.
I get to my apartment and go right to my closet. I take out a hat I can wear to work tomorrow without a problem, and hang "My Little Kitty" back in the closet.
I put out the rest of the clothes I might need and go to bed.
The next day, at work, I immediately begin looking at the DNA samples again. I isloate what I believe to be the wing code, intertwined in the middle of the coccoon code and work to remove it from the activated code. I spend the whole day on this. This wouldn't cure it, which is what I need, but it should prevent it from happening again. At the end of the day, as I'm about to leave, I get a knock at my door.
It's Feb. She's trying to smile, but she's biting her lip and tears are streaming down her face.
"What's wrong?", I ask.
"I remember you saying that you were almost ready for an intern. Is your coccoon close enough to take a patient?"
With everything else set up in the hospital, I shudder to think what problem might require my device specifically. I'm immediately filled with dread at her question.
"I... I believe so... Why? What happened? Are you alright?"
She takes the cloth she's been clutching over her right hand off, revealing that her right index finger is half gone. I'm so startled that I almost jump at the sight of it.
"Wh... Wha.... What happened?"
"I was just finishing up surgery. My scalpel slipped."
I know that, as a doctor, your main hand's index finger is your most important digit. Considering how she lost it, and the fact that she doesn't have enough experience in the field to refute it, she would certainly lose her job if anyone else found out.
"I believe the coccoon can heal you, but it's mostly untested. You must understand this."
"I'll take the chance over sure failure."
"The only other experiment performed with the coccoon lasted three and a half days. I think it's only fair that you see the results of it before you make your decision."
"Did you run it on one of these catepillars?"
I take off my lab coat, hang it up, and remove my shirt, popping my hat off my head with it. I spread my wings so she can get a good look. She looks at me completely surprised.
"So, that's why I hadn't seen you."
"Yeah... I believe I've isolated and removed the code for these butterfly parts, but it's not tested yet, so it's a possible side effect."
"I'll take the risk."
"Do you have any implants at all? Any sort of plastic surgery?"
"OK, I'll get it set up. I'll need you to remove all of your clothing."
I start setting it up, while she undresses, but she has a bit of trouble.
"I don't think I can do this without getting blood all over my clothes. Can you help me?"
I take off her lab coat and hang it next to mine. Then I remove her shirt, being careful not to let it touch her right hand. She's not wearing a bra, and she's able to manage most of the rest herself. I just have to take care of the zipper on her jeans and she's able to wiggle out of them herself. As is the policy for anyone treating patients, she's not wearing any earrings.
I return to the coccoon and finish setting it up. I then instruct her to lie down in it and relax. To just try to sleep. As I close it shut, I realize that I hadn't asked if she was claustrophobic, but I didn't want to open it unless she had a problem. I monitor her as the chamber does it's work. In watching, I'm able to get a lot of useful data I can use to tweak various aspects of the device. I realize various places where I might be able to insert cosmetic code. I'd have to research what code I'm to put there, but I've already got a pretty good idea of what to do to get rid of these wings.
I stay with the coccoon to monitor it, leaving only for food, and sleeping there on the floor. It's early Tuesday when she finally wakes up. I wake up to hear a loud shriek. She looked in the mirror. Apparently, I hadn't fixed the wing problem.
"SHHH!!! We don't want anyone to find out about this! Listen, while monitoring your transformation, I think I've figured out how to fix it. How's your finger? That's what's most important right now."
She holds up her hand, with her palm facing her, and I only see half her index finger. A second later, she extends her finger. She had initially held her hand up with her finger bent, as a joke.
"Good. It works then. There's just a glitch in it that I need to fix, and I believe I've already figured out how."
"How long have I been in there?"
"It's Tuesday. You weren't on call this weekend, were you?"
"No, not till tomorrow night. Before coming to you I traded around a few days. I'll have a few double shifts, but I'm sure I can handle it."
"That was smart. I'm gonna set up the chamber with my idea of how I think I can get rid of these wings. I'll test it on myself while you're working your double shifts. If it works, I'll let you know and you can give it a run."
"Well, what am I supposed to do in the meantime?"
I take my shirt back off for a demonstration.
"Watch what I do with my wings and you do the same."
I demonstrate wrapping my wings around my body, and covering them with my shirt. She does the same. Then I put my hat back on, covering my antennae.
"That's easy enough. I don't have a hat though. Let's see..."
She takes a mirror and hairbrush out of her purse and begins playing with her hair. She's able to get the antennae completely covered by her hair.
"That works", she shrugs, "Let me know how the cure comes out. And thanks a lot for the finger."
"No problem, I'll see ya in a few days."
As she leaves, I'm already setting up the coccoon to get rid of these wings. A few days later, I come out wingless and restored. I get dressed and go down to where February might be working to tell her the good news.
I get there, and she's in the middle of performing surgery. I decide not to bother her, and wait until she's done. When she's finished and washed up, I walk over to her.
"Hey, that thing worked.", I say, avoiding letting anyone who might be listening know what happened.
"Oh good. So you've fixed your... problem?"
"Yeah. Are you able to take off for a few days?"
"I don't think so... Not yet... But at least I know what I'll be for Halloween this year."
"Heh... I want to take care of the issue before applying for an intern. I don't want to have to explain the whole thing to someone else if need be."
"Oh... Don't wait for me. I'm not even sure I want to get rid of them. I kinda like them. I might wear them visibly if doing so wouldn't cause a problem for you."
"OK... Thanks... I guess I'll go apply for that intern then. Let me know if you change your mind."
I go to my bosses office. He's probably wondering by now where I've been.
"Here for your paychecks, I presume?"
"Uhh... Yeah... And I wanna make a request."
"Hey, come in, have a seat, what do you need?"
"Well, you told me to let you know once the project is well under way, so you could assign an intern to help out."
"Oh, of course! It's hasn't quite been a month and a half yet though, are you sure your ready for an intern? Remember, you don't need an intern until you're ready for heavy experimenting."
"Yeah. I'm quite sure it's ready for full scale experiments. I trust it enough that I'm willing to put myself in one of the coccoons if need be."
"Heh, well you won't need to worry about doing that! I'm sure you'll have no trouble getting volunteers. How long do you think you'll need with each patient? This is so I can adjust how much to pay each volunteer."
"Between three and four days. It's a long process."
"Three to four days! In that case we're gonna need to worry about food service and using up hospital beds."
"Actually, they'll be unconscious the whole time. They won't need food, and they'll sleep in the coccoon."
"Oh, that makes my job a bit easier. I wonder if I can get by with offering them $350. That's about $100 per day to just sleep."
"Don't you worry about that, I'm just thinking out loud. I'll have an intern for you by the end of the week. Don't forget your checks. There are two of them in your box. I'll see you around."
"Thanks. I'll see ya."
After a while, Rick stopped comming by to say goodbye to me. Most people wouldn't have noticed, but it was the part of the day I always looked forward to the most. It was somewhat depressing. I felt like he abandoned me.
The E.R. is difficult, mostly because it's so varied. I never know what to expect. It's pretty exhausting trying to keep up the pace and avoid confusing one patient's issues with another's.
Then I found Rick in the parking lot one day on my way out. It's way after the time he usually leaves. As soon as I saw his "My Little Kitty" hat, everything finally made sense. I finally knew why he wasn't interested in me and why he stopped coming around to see me. It figures that all the best ones are gay. I like hanging around with him anyway though, so I made it clear that I noticed his absense. He tells me how great his research is coming along, and I'm really happy for him. Hoping that I was just jumping to conclusions, I teased him a bit about the hat before leaving.
The confusion of the E.R. finally gets to me enough that I make a mistake. I accidentally slice my own finger. I immediately bite hard on my bottom lip so I don't make a sound. I've always been great at quietness under pressure. The doctor I'm assisting doesn't seem to suspect a thing. Unfortunately, I can't sew it back on. I can't fix it, and I'll be fired as soon as someone sees it. On top of that, it's my right index finger, my most important digit.
If only I had Rick's brain, I could figure out what to do. I don't even bother trying to think of a solution on my own. My thoughts just turn to what Rick might do. He wouldn't have cut his finger in the first place. He wouldn't even be in the E.R. He's too smart for that. That's why he's up there research healing coccoons. It hasn't even been that long, and it sounds like he's already about ready for patients. Patients... To heal... In his healing coccoons... That restore the body based on it's own DNA... My finger is in my DNA, but not on my hand. Even when he doesn't mean to he solves all my problems! I call up Pat on my cell. She's an assistant too. I know she wants to take a week off soon to go on a vacation with her husband. I arrange with her to take all her shifts a week from now if she takes all mine over the next week.
I head up to Rick's office. I reveal my finger to him and ask for his help. I've never asked him for help before. I've never asked him for anything. I've also never seen him shirtless before. When he takes off his shirt to show me the possible side effect, I can't help but check him out a bit. I want to ask him to show me that there are no other side effects just to get a look at the rest, but I'm not bold enough to do so, and I really need my finger healed. He says he thinks he fixed the wing problem anyway, so I don't even think it's a real issue. I've found that I can trust his instincts.
I don't want blood on my clothes, so I have him help me remove them. I've had dreams of this event, but never for a medical procedure. Despite the pain, I wish somewhat that he would massage me a bit while undressing me. Hell, we're already breaking one rule by using the device without approval, aren't we? What's another? At the same time though, I want to do this fast. I don't want there to be too long of a delay that I might not be able to regrow my finger. I don't know how long I can wait or how long the coccoon will take. I lie down in the chamber as Rick performs some set up work on the console. Once he closes the chamber, I go to sleep.
When I wake up, I get up and see him lying on the floor next to the coccoon. He looks so cute and peaceful. I don't want to disturb him, so I step out of the chamber carefully and quietly. I look at my finger. He fixed it. As I walk over to get my clothes though, I get a glimpse of the mirror and shriek. I can't believe it! I have wings! He said he fixed that. He's never been wrong before that I can remember. Once the shock of Rick not being absolutely perfect wears off, I realize that this might be an issue in the E.R.. I can't walk around with these or both Rick and I will get fired. He's real calm about it though, and shows me how to cover it up. Maybe he's made other mistakes before, but I just never noticed because he's so good at covering his own ass.
I find myself acting more like a normal person around Rick. He's no longer a god of perfection, so I'm not as intimidated by his presense as I've been for years. I find myself actually adding to our conversations sometimes, instead of just letting him talk and taking in whatever he says. It's still mostly about whatever he's saying, but I direct it a bit by asking questions. He seems to like when I ask questions. I wish I had the nerve to do so years ago. I also open up to him a bit. I tell him a bit about myself, though I haven't much history to tell. I still don't say anything about my attraction to him though.
Chapter 4: Monstrous Misuse of Medical Machinery ->
Copyright 2006 Sean Breslin