“What would you even use it on, Dan?” The doc’s clearly just talking to humor me now. She’s gotten Brian resettled on his cot, and is back on task to draw my blood.
“I don’t know. What if Vince comes in? It’d be handy then. If this can affect Brian before he can dissolve the needle, probably it would work on Vince too, right?”
“It’s possible, I suppose. From what you’ve told me, though, he can repurpose foreign material to repair damage to himself. So it’s also possible that he could absorb the sedative and convert it instead of suffering its effects.”
“Yeah, maybe.” I stick my arm out for the doc, the metal tray still attached to my fingertips, and let her slide a needle into my arm. “But I mean, the gas I made took him down, so maybe it doesn’t work for chemicals or something.”
Doc Simmons pauses and fixes me with a look. “There are several things I’d like to unpack in that statement. First of all, it is nonsensical to think that the nanomachinery couldn’t work on chemicals.”
“I’m just saying that maybe they’re smaller or move faster or something.”
“That’s really not…chemicals are just –” The doc stops and presses her left hand to her temple. “That’s not how it works, Dan. You’re going to need to take my word for that. I’m not getting into it further with you right now, because I’ll end up frustrated and you probably don’t want that from someone currently draining blood out of your body.”
She cocks her head at me to see if I have anything to say, but this situation seems to call for being quiet, so I say nothing. Satisfied, Simmons continues.
“Second of all, ‘the gas you made’? I assume this is related to your earlier comment about a chemical bomb?”
“Yeah, when Vince was coming at me, I poured a whole bunch of bathroom chemicals together and chucked it at him. I think it actually took him down. He fell back at first, but then when I ran off, he didn’t come after me. I think maybe his clones had to take him to the hospital.” Suddenly, what I’ve just said strikes me. “Oh man, what if he’s here? Look, see, I do need to use the trank gun! Is it reloaded? How do I shoot it?”
“Calm down!” the doc orders, glaring at me. “You poured bathroom cleaners together? Dan, that’s how you end up with chlorine gas, or chloramine, depending on what exactly you mixed. That’s extremely dangerous.”
“Well, yeah! I was trying to stop him from killing me. I was aiming for danger. Asking politely didn’t seem likely to work.”
“Dangerous to everyone, Dan. I somehow doubt that you took reasonable precautions to protect yourself from the effects of the gas.”
“I covered my nose and mouth with a wet washcloth.”
Doc Simmons shakes her head. “And just ran into it eyes open, I assume?”
“Well…yes. I didn’t really think about that. But it worked! My eyes are fine.”
“Dan, when you finally die, I’m going to put you under a microscope and find out what mutation you have that makes you this lucky.”
I snort out a laugh. “You think I’m lucky?”
“To be doing as well as you are, given the choices you make? Unbelievably so.”
“Yeah, well, it’s about my luck to have Vince be checked in a floor below here, and be on his way up to take another shot at me right now. Can you teach me how to use that trank gun, please?”
“Dan, I find it very unlikely that an escaped felon would check into a hospital. We do check patient IDs here, you know.”
“Okay, fine, but he might still track me here.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Dan. Why would he look for you here? I never met Vince. He doesn’t know who I am, and can’t tie you to this hospital in any way.”
“Yeah, but he could still track me.” The doc’s usually quicker on the uptake than this. I can’t believe I have to repeat myself to her. This is a new position to be in.
“You keep saying ‘track.’ What do you mean by that?”
“Track me through the nanos….” I trail off, because the doc is staring at me. I thought she’d been glaring before, but this is an exponentially increased level of intensity.
“You can track each other through the nanobots, and you never thought to mention this?” She’s seething. I’ve never seen her this angry.
“‘We’ can’t track each other. My nemesis can track me. Nemeses, at this point. You think I would have gone through all that rigmarole with Brian if I could have just pointed to where he was the whole time?”
“I don’t find it a rewarding venture to speculate on how your thought processes work, Dan! This is clear evidence of communication between the nanotechnology in different host bodies and you didn’t think it was the sort of thing I might find relevant?”
“It never came up when you were around! I’m sorry for not briefing you on every stupid thing, but I have had a lot on my plate!”
We’re shouting at each other now, and we would probably be standing nose-to-nose if I weren’t sitting down to serve as the doc’s own personal blood bank. I’m suddenly disgusted with the entire process. “You have enough samples yet? Get this needle out of me.”
Doc Simmons looks down at the needle and I hear her take a deep breath, hold it, then slowly let it out. She holds a gauze pad to my arm as she pulls the needle out, and when she speaks again, her voice is calm and measured.
“I can’t ask all of the questions I need answers to, Dan. Because I don’t even know that they’re a possibility. I need you to tell me everything, no matter how minute. It’s all important.”
“My brain doesn’t work like that, Doc. I forget things. I’m not a machine.” Simmons may be calm, but I’m still peeved and looking for a fight.
“Maybe you could write them down, then?” There’s sharpness to the doc’s tone. Seems like her calmness is just a veneer. I might get that fight after all.
“Ooh, yeah, I could text them to you. Except that you’re not a fan of that lesser form of communication!”
“Listen, Dan –” the doc begins, pointing at me accusatorily. I don’t find out what I’m supposed to listen to, though, because she’s interrupted as the lab phone starts to ring. She glares at me again, then stalks off to answer it.
“Yes?” There’s a pause, during which she glares at me again. “Fine.”
She puts the phone down on the counter and gestures at me peremptorily. “Dan? Phone for you.”
“Who’s calling me here?” I ask, but the doc has turned her back on me and is walking off to do something, possibly with the blood vials, possibly just to ignore me. I stick my tongue out at her as I walk over to pick up the phone.
“Mr. Everton. Leave the hospital.”
“Officer Peterson? What? How do you know where I am?”
There’s a short pause, as if he’s choosing his words carefully. “You’ve answered a land line.” A hacking cough, and then, “It’s not that hard to figure out where you are.”
Okay, so that was sort of a stupid question. I try again with better phrasing. “But how’d you know I was here in the first place?”
“Vince. The cyclist. Being tackled to the ground this morning.” Peterson sounds like he’s ticking these off on his fingers as he says them. “You’re hurt, so you went to your friend the doctor. Simple.”
“I guess this is why you’re the detective!”
“Shut up. This is not the time for banter.” Another cough. It sounds wet. The guy needs to take a day off to recuperate, if you ask me. “Regina. The storm’s coming for you. I want you out of that hospital before people get hurt.”
“What about me getting hurt? Where am I supposed to go?”
“Anywhere away from people. You’re one person, and I will absolutely sacrifice you to save many.”
“What do you mean, ‘sacrifice’?”
“Too unclear? If I hear about an unusual amount of lightning at the hospital, or a power outage, or even rain making it difficult for the ambulance drivers to see, I will come down there myself and put a bullet through your head.” He snarls the last part, and I hold the phone away from my face, staring at it wide-eyed.
“Leave. Now,” I hear tinnily from the speaker, coming through clearly despite the distance. I return the phone to my ear.
“Okay, I’m going. Thank you for the…warning, I guess?”
Peterson snarls again, wordlessly this time, and hangs up. I stare at the phone for a minute before slowly putting it down.
“He probably called a number of places and asked for you,” offers Doc Simmons, who has clearly been listening in to my half of the conversation.
“Oh. Yeah, could be. That would make sense,” I say. “Hey, do you think the nanos could simulate a cold?”
“I have no evidence of that, but it seems well within the realm of possibility, yes. Why?”
“I think maybe Peterson got some sort of nanoplague from Ichabot this morning. He was fine then, and he sounds terrible now. Like bronchitis-level terrible. And I know he got tagged with the suggestion nanos, so maybe this is something new that Ichabot’s playing with?”
I picture the possibilities of tailor-made plagues, ones that can hit designated targets and leave others alone, and a shudder runs down my spine. The doc sees me shiver and says, “Wet clothes still keeping you cold, Dan? You can keep the lab coat for now.”
“Thank you, I will,” I say. “Actually, can I ask you for a big favor? I’ve got to get out of here, but can I borrow your phone?”
Doc Simmons reaches in the pocket of her lab coat and produces her phone. A half-smile quirks on her lips. “What are the odds I’m ever going to see this again, Dan?” she asks, handing it to me.
“I mean, I’d like to say ‘good,’ but…history suggests it’s about zero.”
The doc shrugs. “It was time for an upgrade anyway. Good luck, Dan.”
“Thanks,” I tell her, heading for the door. I skim through her contacts and find Regina’s name. “I’m gonna need all I can get.”