New Mission for Haversham -an Excerpt of Malila of the Scorch
New Mission for Haversham
Tidewater Euthanatorium (a WeCare4U Corp subsidiary), Sharlet, Karolyna District, Democratic Unity
09.31.07_02_August_AU 77 (2129 AD)
Captain Lance Haversham, in a borrowed uniform too big for his spare frame and obtained from one of the dead, waited impatiently in the sterile hallway for the health-care providers to emerge after discussing the care of a certain Iain Galt. General Jourdaine, who had plucked him from obscurity a mere month ago, had not woken up from the freak accident that had downed the skimmers. The other skimmer, the one carrying the pestilential Chiu woman, had gone down with all hands into the Savanah River. Good riddance. The woman had been a growing obsession for his commander, a distraction from the coming trials of combat. If he had had his way, the woman’s body would be moldering there even now. Jourdaine, less merciful, had wanted her humiliation to be more . . . more something and had trussed her up and thrown her into the other skimmer.
A low-level flunky in a short white coat scurried out of the room with a hunted look in her eyes.
“. . . orthopod should set and cast the tib-fib today. EEG shows a lot of low-amp slowing on . . .” was all Haversham heard before the door snicked shut again.
Jourdaine, no doubt anxious to get away after his unsatisfactory confrontation with the Chiu woman, had unbuckled his seat as they were approaching the Southern Gate. Almost immediately, the whine of the Skimmerhorn had ceased in a wrenching crescendo of seizing metal. Jourdaine must have tried to hold on to the belt, but he’d been ripped away, sending him like a projectile into the forward bulkhead. His face, when the rescuers’ lights had finally found them, seemed squashed, collapsed, one eye protruding oddly. He would not wake up.
Living off what he could get from commissary machines, Lance felt crapulous, weary, and worried. The door opened, and a small cluster of white-coated figures emerged, looking like a flock of sheep as they ambled away. It was difficult to snag the attention of one of the more peripheral “lambs,” but finally Haversham succeeded. The man could be no more than thirteen and at the start of his apprenticeship as a health-care provider. A look of uncertainty fleeted across his acned face as he glanced longingly at the retreating backs of his colleagues.
“Excuse me, Citizen . . . Kitchener,” Haversham said, reading the man’s ID badge quickly. “General Jourdaine himself asked me to care for this man. I’m General Jourdaine’s adjutant. What can you tell me about his condition? How long before he can be discharged?”
“Don’t know. I’m just an HP student. Pleased to meet you. I guess since you’re sort of his official person I can tell you. Understand, I’m just a student. I don’t make the orders. Nurse Manager does that.”
“Yes, of course, I’m familiar with how it works, Citizen,” Haversham said, his frustration growing as the man talked. “Get on with it.”
“Well, he’s badly damaged. Some cuts on the right arm and the broken leg are nothing, of course. He could be walking on it this afternoon with a cast and a cane—and a good hit of ThiZ, of course.” He grinned, and when Haversham did not reciprocate, hurried on. “The face will take some time. He’s scheduled for the autoHP this afternoon. Most of the orbit, the bony rim around the right eye itself, has been smashed and the sinuses behind them. We used to go in with surgery and actually lift them back into place, I understand. That was before the Awesome Care Act, of course.”
“Of course,” said Haversham, having only a dim recollection of what he had been told in school about the edict passed generations before he was born that turned all health care over to automated machines and a small band of technicians who ran them according to the published “best practice” guidelines. But he knew there had been doctors of medicine at one time, as absurd as that now sounded.
“What’s the prognosis?”
“Oh, excellent! He should have no problems walking. His face will look almost normal, most likely. The eye is gone. Nothing to do there but let it heal. Retina’s pulled off and the bulbus oculi has been compromised, you see. Best to just patch it. Problem’s the brain. He’s been comatose since evening Monday. He’s got a subdural. Gonna have to do a craniotomy and evacuate the hematoma, identify the hemorrhaging vessel—”
“English, Citizen Kitchener, if you would be so kind as to use English. I’m going to have to explain this to others, you understand.”