Bright Ideas Lead to Dark Deeds
While attempting to find a cure for his younger sister's illness, Kamal Burman develops a method for quickly producing mature human clones. When the presidential hopeful and criminal queenpin who are funding his research start upping their demands on his time and energy, he hopes to find a way out of both of their clutches without the loose ends between the three of them strangling him. But it isn't long before he discovers that digging deeper into those backing him financially could lead to catastrophe—and he might be the only person who can save the world from unbridled chaos.
Jessica grinned as she washed the blood from her hands.
She had worn gloves but had underestimated just how messy this particular birth was going to be, and some had gotten on her wrists and forearms. Washing her hands also gave her an excuse to let mother and child have a few extra moments together before it was time to run a full scan on the infant.
“I hope I made you proud today, Ravi,” Jessica said softly to herself, winking into the mirror, wishing she were actually able to speak to the brilliant coder, Ravi Burman. He was the one whose work enticed her into becoming a nurse in the first place. She couldn’t resist the idea of working alongside the artificial intelligence and intuitive medical software he had created.
Jessica listened in awe and joy to the sound of the baby’s cooing and the mother fawning over the child. The mother’s whispering was unintelligible, but comforting, delivered in a soothing tone. After the general health scan, they would both have their mandatory six months of bonding time in the Nurture Ward on the other side of Louisville Health Hub.
“Nurse Alsmiller, it is time for the infant general health scan. Please proceed.”
“Yes, AIMEE, I’m on it,” Jessica responded to the humanoid voice that sounded throughout the room. The Artificially Intelligent Medical Efficiency Entity, AIMEE, was the first of its kind in the world. AIMEE’s addition to the staff at The Hub made it one of the top destinations for aspiring nurses. Though she was only three years old, AIMEE had become a critical arm in The Hub’s fight to save people’s lives. AIMEE helped newer nurses stay on track with protocols, recalled critical patient data during emergencies without someone having to turn their attention to a monitor, and saved lives by keeping health staff informed of sudden changes in basic vitals, such as temperature or blood pressure. AIMEE allowed the entire health staff to respond quickly and accurately to just about any situation that arose.
Ravi had helped designed The Hub so that each patient room had a small office space to one side, referred to as a ‘pod.’ In it, a nurse could store her personal belongings on hooks and shelves, work at a computer desk to monitor patient vitals and update their files, and could keep and cook meals using a tiny oven and miniature refrigerator that each pod came equipped with.
Jessica turned off the faucet and grabbed a paper towel to dry her hands. Now she only needed to gather, clean, and stow her instruments--speculum, scalpel, forceps, and the like--and take the newborn into her pod for the five-minute, full-body scan. It had been a great day. A long one for a nurse--a full seven hours--but Jessica felt confident in the work she had done for this mother and baby and was ready to get home to her own family.
“Still doin’ okay out there?” She asked loudly enough for the mother to hear her clearly as she threw the paper towel in the trash bin.
“Yes. We’re...just fine.” The mother looked up at Jessica and gave a tired smile as Jessica began to exit the bathroom. Jessica saw the woman taking deep, slow breaths.
“Actually, could you bring another towel?” The woman’s hair had been drawn up into a high bun before she’d been wheeled in. Now, several caramel curls had made their way out of a knot that was conspicuously off-center. Jessica noticed that the mother had tears welling up in her eyes. The baby was calm and quiet.
“Of course.” Jessica turned back into the small bathroom. She wondered if the mother was having trouble breathing normally and then realized that AIMEE would have caught that.
Overwhelmed with joy, maybe? Trying to calm herself down. It has been a taxing few hours.
Jessica was pulling a large, white towel from where they were stacked on shelves next to the toilet when she heard the scrape of metal and a muffled cry.
Confused and startled, she turned back to her patients and was met with the site of the mother using the scalpel to carve into her infant’s face like a jack-o-lantern.
“NO!” Jessica sprinted back to the bed, prepared to disarm the mother and pry the baby away. But the mother quickly moved the blade from the infant’s face to her neck.
“You take another step and I’ll slit her throat.”
“Elevated heart rate.”
Palms up, standing still because she couldn’t bear to back away as she had been trained, Jessica softly said, “Okay. I’m stopped. I’m begging you not to kill this child in front of me.”
Damn it, AIMEE! No warning at all. Ravi, how could you be so careless?!
The child’s face had shifted away from her mother’s chest enough that its scream was audible now. Deafening.
The mother looked up to the ceiling, possibly trying to keep her tears on her lower eyelids. She took deep, sharp breaths as if she were using an inhaler. Her composure eroded as she spoke.
“This is the only way I know I can see her. I won’t...she’s my child, I won’t...just a few more seconds. It won’t be so bad.” The mother was trembling, eyes wide. Tears, snot, and sweat rained down her face and neck like a monsoon. Jessica had never been so scared or baffled in her life, but she stayed in place, nodded for the woman to proceed, willed the raging sea that was her stomach to settle.
Just be ready, Jess. The second she moves that blade, BE READY.
The mother finished whatever ungodly thing she was doing to her child’s face and then threw the scalpel to the ground, offering the child up to be taken away. Jessica grabbed the baby as quickly as she could without injuring it. The fact that her and the woman’s hands touched made her stomach lurch even more than seeing the bloody tatter of skin flaps that had become of the infant’s cheek.
“AIMEE, call the psychiatrist on duty and put this room on psychiatric lockdown after I leave with the child.”
Stay calm. Get her help.
She could hear “Yes, Nurse Alsmiller,” as she raced to the next free pod she could find.