by Judy (Wishes)
Chapter 5 - 8
When they returned to Elizabeth's room, Jeannie was waiting for them just outside
the door. She held a "vampire" kit. "Good. Glad you're back."
She held the door open so that Caroline could push the chair into the room.
"Doctor Stephens wants blood drawn." She helped get Elizabeth into
bed and properly restrained. "Starting tomorrow, you're to take a blood sample before breakfast, another after exercise, and again an hour before dinner and an hour after."
"Is that all?" Caroline asked.
Jeannie laughed. "Actually, no, but the other samples will be the responsibility of the night shift."
Caroline took the kit and put on the two pairs of gloves it contained before extracting an alcohol swab and a piece of rubber tubing. "Venous or arterial?" she asked.
"Venous" was the welcome answer.
She tied the tubing tightly around Elizabeth's upper arm and swabbed the area. Efficiently, she found the vein, made a quick puncture with a syringe, attached the test tube and filled it. She fixed a slide while Jeannie labeled the tube. She handed the slide to Jeannie as well and deposited the used sharp and other materials in the kit for sanitary disposal. "I'll take it this time," Jeannie said, and Caroline slipped the used kit under the tech 1's elbow. "From now on, just pick up a kit at the station each time you need one and return the samples and used materials there when you're through. Okay?"
"Got you," Caroline said.
"You better feed her lunch early. They want her in the sensory deprivation lab this afternoon. Dr. Kabota. 1:00. Sharp. She'll get along better if she hasn't eaten for a couple of hours."
On her way out the door, Jeannie added, "You're really quite skillful at bloodletting, you know? Some of the techs need about a dozen stabs."
After she was gone, Elizabeth said, "Guess I'm lucky, huh?"
Caroline didn't answer her. "I'll get your lunch."
"I'm not hungry."
"Better eat," she told her. "You don't know when you'll get another chance."
Elizabeth nodded, but, when Caroline returned with the food and picked up a plastic fork to feed her, she just looked at it. "I really don't want to eat." She had an idea. "Where do you eat lunch?"
"I don't usually." She didn't say that staff wasn't allowed to bring food into the facility. And that she couldn't afford the high prices in the employee cafeteria. "I'm on a diet. I don't eat until I get home."
"You're dieting?" The older woman shook her head. "I weighed more than you when I was ten years old. Why don't you eat this meal? I'm not hungry, and why should it go to waste?"
"We're not supposed to eat patient meals. I have to write down everything
you eat and drink. That reminds me." Caroline filled the water cup and
held the straw for Elizabeth to drink. She drank thirstily and asked for more.
Caroline gave her another cup of water and, to emphasize her words
about recording food and liquids, recorded the amount in the chart.
"So write down I didn't eat my lunch and then eat it yourself," Elizabeth urged. "What's the difference whether you eat what's left or throw it away?"
Caroline's stomach growled, obviating any argument that she was not hungry.
Taking the cardboard tray and fork to her chair, she sat and tried to eat slowly,
as if this were one more unwelcome chore. When she was finished, she met Elizabeth's
eyes and saw a look she couldn't quite interpret.
"Better sleep now," she said. "I'll wake you in about an hour and change your gown and bandage before taking you to Dr. Kabota's lab."
"Couldn't we talk instead?"
"Then you talk. I'll listen, and maybe I'll fall asleep."
"I don't have anything to say." Caroline tried to remember what her training had said about special duty. She remembered something about making the subject feel at ease for maximum cooperation. But there was also some sort of warning against forming a personal bond. She determined to dig out and review her notes when she got home. If she wasn't too tired, she thought, as she stifled a yawn.
"I'm sorry," Elizabeth apologized. "You're doing twelve hour shifts, aren't you? You probably need me to just shut up so you can rest."
Caroline sat up straight. "I'm here to work, not rest. I need you to shut up just because I need you to shut up." Then she relented. "What do you want to talk about? It can't be anything about your past."
"How about your past?" Elizabeth asked.
"Don't have one."
"Well, where did you grow up? Go to school?
"I grew up right here in the city," Caroline responded, figuring there was no harm in that question. "I went to Gates High School just a few blocks from here."
"College? Technical school?" Her voice showed genuine interest. "Where did you learn to do this job?"
"The facility has its own training school for technicians," she explained. "It was a great opportunity for me. Closest thing anyone in my family ever came to being a professional." She thought about this and decided things were getting too personal. "Now shut up and sleep. I have a feeling you'll be up late tonight."
Things got very quiet after that, with the subject staying awake and the tech falling asleep. Caroline awoke with a start when there was a slight tap on the door. It was a male and a female attendant, both wearing the beige scrub tops that showed they were from one of the research labs.
"Ma'am?" the young woman said, and Caroline realized that here was someone she outranked, if only by a little. "We're here to take a subject to Dr. Kabota's lab."
"You're taking her?" Caroline questioned. "She's my responsibility, and she doesn't leave this room without me. Not on my shift. I take her down and come back up with her."
The attendant handed her an order sheet and explained, "We always take the subjects down and back. This is a sensory deprivation test. She'll be in the tank at least 12 hours. Unless she gorks out totally before then."
Caroline read the order and saw that the young woman was correct. The attendants were to take Elizabeth, and she wouldn't be returned until sometime during the next shift. "I was going to change the bandage on her leg and put her in a fresh gown."
"Waste of time," the male attendant spoke up. "She can't wear anything in the tank, not even a bandage. Let the night shift worry about that when she comes back up."
Caroline stepped back and let the attendants roll their gurney into the room. "Why not just take her down on her bed?"
"Procedures," the girl answered, and Caroline didn't question her further. With confidence, Caroline undid both sets of bed restraints.
"Scoot over onto the gurney, Elizabeth," she ordered. The woman meekly
followed this order but, when the male attendant started to fasten the chest
belt, she exploded. Before any of the three staff members knew what was happening,
the struggling woman had leaped off the gurney and started
for the door. The male attendant made a flying tackle and brought her down. The young woman blocked the door as Caroline stood over the pair on the floor. "Get off of her," she said firmly. "And stand away." When he was no longer in contact with the subject, who now lay quietly, Caroline
said, as she had been trained to do, "Obey all staff members." Then she applied two brief touches with the BeRt. "You're going to be good now, aren't you, Elizabeth?" Tears running down her cheeks, the woman nodded. "Then get up and get on that gurney."
Caroline was almost late the next morning, and when she hurried off the elevator,
a group of women was standing at the control station. One was Jeannie, another
a day shift tech who had special duty just down--or around--the hall, the other
a night shift tech Caroline had expected to be
with Elizabeth. Before saying good morning, she noticed that the day shift tech, Robin, she thought her name was, was crying. "What happened?"
Jeannie answered, "Paul, the subject Robin's been working with, died during the night. She's been with him over an month and got sort of attached."
"It's not so much that he died," Robin explained through her tears.
"It's that it was sudden, and I didn't even get to see him again, not even
after. He died near the end of the night shift, and they just rolled him down
to the dissection room. I should have been the one to prepare him. He was my
"Robin, I think the night shift people, the tech and the tech-in-charge, were just trying to spare you." Jeannie glanced over at Caroline, who was so new to Blue Unit. "We all liked Paul. He was so nice and easy-going. The subjects up here tend to be like that, not like the clients on the Yellow and Green Units. And we've had a couple of other deaths lately, so we knew Paul's would hit hard."
"All the subjects up here seem so young," Caroline commented. "Do you have a lot of deaths?"
The night tech, whose name Caroline couldn't remember, responded, "It seems to run in cycles. We'll go a couple of months with no deaths and then there will be two or three in a row. Dr. Stephens came up when Paul became ill, and I heard him tell the night tech-in-charge it was a stroke. Very sudden."
Caroline didn't know if it was the time, but she had to ask. "Is Elizabeth alone?"
The night tech didn't seem to take offense. "No, Doo's with her."
"Yes, he's been doubling shifts, and he came up with supplies near the end of night shift. That's when Robin got here and learned about Paul's death. Doo offered to stay with Elizabeth until you came. You're always so early, I figured Doo would only have to be with her a few minutes."
"Anything I need to know?"
"She only got back to the room an hour ago." The tech shrugged. "She was asleep when they brought her back and was still sleeping when I left her with Doo."
"Maybe. It should be in the chart, if she is." Caroline remembered
why she had never bothered to learn this woman's name. Giving Robin what was
meant to be a sympathetic look, Caroline walked across the hall and entered
Elizabeth's room. Doo had pulled the chair up close to the bed and was
talking to Caroline's charge, whose heavy-lidded eyes indicated that she was sedated.
Doo stopped talking and looked up, "Hi, babe. Robin settling down?"
"I guess." She picked up the chart from the end of the bed. "You trying to keep her awake for some reason?"
"No. Myself." He grinned. "I've been on duty twenty-four hours. I'm supposed to be off. . . ." He checked his watch. ". . . .right now. She's too sleepy to be much company." Rising and stretching his long limbs, Doo sauntered toward the door.
She stopped him with a question. "Do you think it's a good idea to be alone in a room where you aren't assigned? Especially with a female patient as attractive as Elizabeth?"
He turned and fixed her with a glare. "Are you saying that you think I would touch a woman who was tied up and sedated?"
"No," she answered steadily. "I'm just saying the situation could be misunderstood by someone who doesn't know you as well as I do."
He relaxed and nodded. "Duly noted. Easy enough to get in trouble in this place. I may have to work at MONCUS someday, but I don't want to be an inmate there."
When he was gone, Caroline turned her attention to her charge, whose eyes were
now fully closed. She noted the dark circles under those eyes and the drawn
appearance of her face. Gently, she lifted the sheet and moved aside the gown.
Not only was the gown the same one Elizabeth had been wearing the day before,
but the leg wound was unbandaged and looking red and puffy.
Shaking her head at some people's irresponsibility, she set about remedying this situation. A half hour later, she had Elizabeth bathed, her gown changed, and the wound disinfected and bandaged--all while barely rousing her from her deep sleep.
When Jeannie came into the room, she noted the indications that the young tech had been busy and smiled. "I see you've got everything squared away. Listen, you can let her sleep a while longer before taking her to the gym. She's not going to be able to do much until the dope wears off anyway."
"Will the gym be available then?" Caroline asked.
"Yeah, unfortunately." Jeannie explained, "Eleven o'clock to noon was Paul's time. Why don't you get the pre-breakfast blood drawn, see if you can get her awake enough to eat, then let her sleep until you take her to the gym. She doesn't have to be anywhere until 2:00."
"What's at two?"
"Scanning lab. Dr. Basil. Then, after that, the genetics project. Dr. Stephens and Dr. Leonusco." As the tech-in-charge gave the schedule, Caroline made notes on the subject's chart. "I think they try to schedule passive stuff like that after Dr. Kabota's had his turn at them. They aren't good for much else for about twenty-four hours."
"Do I accompany her to those labs?"
"Yes. Sensory dep is the only lab that sends its own people. And that's just because of the time involved." She paused at the door. "I heard you impressed a couple of attendants with how you handled that situation yesterday."
"It was routine," Caroline replied, trying to hide her pleasure at Jeannie's recognition. "It was probably my fault she got the jump on us."
"Don't worry about it. Sometimes even the meekest ones will surprise you.
That sort of thing is why a special duty tech is needed. If you had been handling
the transfer by yourself, it probably never would have happened."Caroline
took care of the other routine morning chores and, later on, when
she couldn't rouse Elizabeth enough to eat, recorded this fact and then ate the breakfast herself. She finally got her awake enough to move to the chair and then to the exercise room. She put on the mobile restraints for the trip down the hallway, then took both sets off before helping her mount
the UBE. Elizabeth surprised her by saying, "May I do this longer this time?"
"Sure. How long do you want to try?"
"I guess. You sure you feel up to it?"
"I want to try." She studied Elizabeth's face, which was still pale and drawn. She would have to remember to push water when they returned to the room. Didn't want her to get any more dehydrated. She set the timer for 10 minutes.
"Don't be afraid to stop if you get tired."
The exercise session went along companionably, if almost silently. Near the end of the hour, Elizabeth asked, "Will I have to go back?"
"Back? What do you mean, to MONCUS?"
"No. I mean to that tank. Where I was yesterday." She had a look in her eyes that was part fear and part resignation.
"Probably not." When the fear began to win out, the tech amended her answer to "No. I don't think you'll have to repeat that lab. Why?"
"It was terrible. They put you in a tank of water, body temperature, I think. Then they put a lid over you. It's completely dark and silent. After a while, you can't even feel the water." She turned haunted eyes toward Caroline. "You think maybe you're floating in nothingness. That you always have been there or that you always will be. That there might not be anything anywhere but your mind."
"It's just an experiment, Elizabeth. All the experiments end sometime."
She nodded. "I told myself that. I tried to tell myself stories, remember things I've written."
Although discussing a subject's past was discouraged, Caroline couldn't help asking, "You said you were a writer. What did you write?"
"Newspaper and magazine articles mostly, just routine stories," she answered. "Then I made the mistake of taking a job in this district, editing a small independent newspaper."
"Why was that a mistake?" Caroline thought it sounded exciting, getting to be the boss, telling other people what to write.
"I started writing about certain things going on in the country, in the government. I reported about some things that were happening to some of the citizens."
"Were they lies?" Caroline knew that people got into trouble for telling lies about the government.
"No. They were the truth, things I had been told by government employees."
Caroline had fallen under the spell of Elizabeth's words, but now she shook
her head. "No way you got into MONCUS by writing what some civil servants
told you. You must have stolen money from the newspaper or shot your lover or
something." Increasingly uncomfortable with the direction of this
conversation, she gestured for Elizabeth to get off the rower and back into the chair. She leaned down to replace the ankle restraints.
"I was arrested for contempt."
"What?" Caroline stood up. "Hold out your hands. You should know the routine." She fastened the wrist restraints as tightly as they would go.
"Contempt of court. The judge wanted to know the name of my informants, and I didn't tell her."
Now Caroline knew she was lying. "You don't go to MONCUS for contempt of court."
"Not directly," she acknowledged, "but as they add charge on top of charge while you spend two years in detention and observation, you eventually can end up there. I did, even though it was only on my way here."
"You think I'm some uneducated little moron, just because I told you I
didn't go beyond high school." The little tech couldn't keep some heat
out of her voice, although she continued quietly as they entered the hallway.
"You're trying to say you're some kind of political prisoner. Well, let
tell you, we don't do that in this country, lock people up in high security prisons for what they say or write. Not during the twenty-first century we don't. We have freedom of speech. Freedom of the press. You did something else, and you just don't want to admit it."
"Sure," said Elizabeth as they neared her room. "And we don't force people to take part in medical experiments either. Not in this country. Not in this century."
Caroline had Elizabeth back in the chair and down to the scanning lab fifteen
minutes early. The technicians from the lab took over then, and Caroline went
over to Yellow Unit to see who was in the staff ready room. She was told Doo
was "out and about," but she stayed and chatted with
whoever came in until the Supervisor put her head in and asked her if everyone needed more to do. As usual, the techs scattered to their various duties, so Caroline returned to wait for her charge.
Almost two hours later, one of the scanning technicians rolled Elizabeth back
into the small waiting room. "Good as gold," he reported. Caroline
thanked him and pushed the chair down the hall to the door marked "Human
Genetics Coding Project." When she rolled the chair through the door, she
found a small room with a single desk in the center. Three unmarked doors lined the wall behind the desk. "Nobody's home," Elizabeth commented, the first words she had spoken to Caroline all afternoon. The door to the left opened, and a lab technician, a small, black woman with a serious
expression, emerged. She spoke to Caroline. "Is this Elizabeth? You're late."
"Held up at the scanning lab."
"That's all right then. I'll take her." She replaced Caroline behind the chair and disappeared through the same door.
Caroline looked around, but there was no place to sit except at the desk, and
she didn't feel right about that. She wished she had had a chance to ask how
long this wait would be. The door opened behind her, and Dr. Stephens entered.
She noted that he looked tired, and his lab coat and
white shoes were spattered with blood. She was surprised when he smiled and greeted her. "Caroline. I guess we finally got our turn with your charge."
She nodded, a little awed. "Good afternoon, Dr. Stephens."
"Did she just go in?"
"Well, you have a wait of about an hour. Come into my office. I want to
talk to you for a few minutes." He preceded her to the door on the right,
and she followed him into an office far simpler than she had expected. After
all, he headed this lab and Blue Unit, and some said he, not the
seldom seen Director, really ran the facility.
He motioned to the straight-backed chair that faced his desk. This chair, a number of filing cabinets, a gray metal desk, and a battered leather desk chair were the only furniture in the small room. She noted that this was an inside room, and he didn't even have a window.
After he sat down, he leaned back in his chair and asked, "Well, how do you like working on Blue Unit?"
"I like it very much."
"Good. Do you think you could stand to stay with us for a while longer?"
"Sure, I mean, I'll probably be on Blue Unit as long as Elizabeth is."
"I've been hearing some good things about your work."
His gray eyes seemed to search her face for a reaction. When she answered, she tried to keep her voice and expression carefully neutral. "I try to do a good job."
"The tech-in-charge of your shift told me you're very thorough and pay
attention to the details. You never slough your work off on others and, in fact,
do more than your share, usually relieving the previous shift ahead of schedule."
She put her head down, afraid he would see too much
pride--and hope--there. "You also got a positive mention in an incident report by a couple of Kabota's attendants. Seems you showed you could react decisively and firmly in a tense situation."
He hadn't asked a question, so she didn't comment. He went on. "I also
learned something interesting at the hospital yesterday. I stopped at Emergency
to find out who had sutured Elizabeth's wound. I'm always looking for talent
I can use over here. Thought maybe there was an intern
or resident whose abilities had been overlooked. I talked to a young male nurse who told me something very interesting." He paused.
"He told me that you sutured Elizabeth's wound. He volunteered that you have a lot of aptitude for medical tasks. Do you think that's true?"
"Aptitude?" she asked. Be careful, Caroline. "I'm interested in the medical field. Once I'm shown how to do something, like suturing or drawing blood, I don't have much trouble doing it."
He changed the subject. "Do you know Frank, the tech-in-charge for the night shift on Blue Unit?"
"I know who he is," she answered.
"Frank also does some extra work for me, organizes subject records, assists me in the dissection suite, things like that."
"I didn't know that."
"No reason you should. The point is that Frank has taken a position at another institution."
Hope flared, but was immediately dashed. "Of course, you're not qualified to take Frank's place on the unit. You're at least a year from tech 1 status, although I don't have a doubt you'll achieve it as soon as you're eligible."
"What I was thinking about was the other work, the work Frank has done
for me. It's really too much to be done on just an occasional or extra basis.
I'm thinking about making that a full-time position." Caroline made herself
look him steadily in the eyes. "It would be a good opportunity for
a tech to get some medical experience, maybe even qualify for some tuition assistance, if he--or she--was interested in going beyond tech status." He cleared his throat. "I was wondering if you might be interested in that position."
She had trouble speaking, but finally was able to say, "Yes, sir. Very interested."
"Good. Nothing definite yet, understand." He rose, and she did also. "I have some things to do elsewhere. Feel free to sit at the desk in the outer office until your charge is finished with her tests."
The next morning went routinely, except that Doo was again in Elizabeth's room
when Caroline came on duty. This time he had not moved the chair close to the
bed. "Karen went home sick," he explained. "The Supervisor sent
me up to fill in. But they wouldn't give me one of those nice blue
coats. Said yellow was good enough for old Doo."
Caroline laughed. She saw that Elizabeth was awake. "Good morning. How did you sleep?"
Caroline looked at Doo, who nodded. "She just now woke up. I was going to change her bandages so you wouldn't have to do it, but I always say let sleeping subjects lie."
"Bandages" was right. Elizabeth had come back from the genetics lab
with two small squares of skin missing from her upper back. Tissue samples,
the technician had explained. So Caroline could add caring for those wounds
to her list of things to do. She also planned to remove the stitches from
Elizabeth's leg, which despite the soaking in the sensory dep tank, was practically healed. She set about all these small tasks, having Elizabeth clean, gown and bandages changed, blood drawn, and stitches out within the first hour of her coming to work. "You didn't feel these going in because
you were sedated," she told the woman when it came time to remove the stitches. "I'm quick, so it won't hurt too much."
Elizabeth lay, patient and uncomplaining, and that job was soon done. "You'd make a good doctor," Elizabeth commented. "I should know. My father was a surgeon."
"He was?" Caroline had guessed that Elizabeth came from money. Guess it hadn't done her much good.
"Yes. We lived out on the island, but he came into the city every day. He could have worked at one of the private hospitals, but he preferred to work at a teaching hospital. Said he could make more of a difference that way."
"My father believed that we're all put onto the earth for a purpose. He said his purpose was educating young doctors about their responsibilities to their patients, not just to themselves or to the state. He was a good man."
"He died when I was sixteen. My mother, too. Car accident." She shook her head, the only gesture she could make. "What about you? Are your parents living?"
"I don't know about my father. He didn't stick around long enough for me to learn much about him. My mom died about a year ago. Lung cancer. She was only thirty-nine years old."
"She had a hard life, didn't seem that sorry to go." A fierce look came over the small woman's face. "My life's going to be different from hers." There were a few seconds of silence, then she said, "I'll get your breakfast. Today I want you to eat it. I ate at home." As an afterthought, she added, "I'll release your right hand and let you feed yourself today."
Morning exercises followed breakfast, with Elizabeth working on three new machines,
all working the lower extremities. As Caroline had predicted, she did even better
on these machines than she had done on the others. Except for monitoring that
her charge was doing the exercises correctly and
at the right weights, Caroline didn't pay her much attention, having decided that she might as well use this opportunity to use the weight machines herself. Conversation was casual, and except that Elizabeth wore a gown and Caroline a tech's uniform, they could have been just two friends
working out together in a private gym.
There was only one appointment scheduled in the afternoon, and that was in
something called the Cold Water Lab. It was in the lowest level of the facility,
actually two floors below ground level. When Caroline pushed Elizabeth's chair
off the elevator, they were in the lab. It was a large
open space, with high ceilings and several pieces of equipment around what looked like a small swimming pool in the floor. A white-coated figure was adjusting something on one of the machines, but she immediately strode across the room to greet the new arrivals.
"Hello, I'm Dr. Jan Durvich," the woman said. She reached out a hand for Elizabeth's chart and immediately turned to the first blank page and started writing.
"Caroline. This is Elizabeth."
"Okay. Let me tell you what you need to do, Caroline." Her tone was
brisk, but not unfriendly. "This is the Cold Water Lab, as you probably
know, since you managed to find your way here. We're studying the effects of
cold water immersion on human physiology, both at the organic and
cellular levels. See those tracks on the ceilings? That's a system for moving our subjects to and from the submersion pool. You need to fasten a set of those suspended restraints around the subject's wrists and the lower set around her ankles. You can do this with her standing, still able
to touch the floor. You'll note that the cuffs are padded, since her weight will be fully suspended from them when we lower her into and raise her out of the water. Therefore, it's necessary for the straps to be quite tight or she might be able to slip free of them. Do you understand?"
"Good. Normally an attendant would do this, but we're quite short-handed
down here today. Flu epidemic or something." She looked vaguely annoyed
about this, but continued. "The first phase of the testing is called cold
shock and takes only a few minutes. When everything is ready, we'll raise
her so that she can be dropped in the vertical position into the pool. The water temperature is 34 degrees, so her first impulse will be to take a breath." She checked the first sheet in the chart, obviously reminding herself of the name. "Elizabeth, you must try to hold your breath as long
as you can after you hit the water."
"Won't she inhale water?" Caroline asked.
"No, she'll be wearing a mask that will keep her from actually taking
a breath. It has sensors that will let us know when she tries. As soon as her
head emerges from the water, we'll release the valves on the mask so she can
breathe. After we've completed that phase, we'll remove the mask.
There are two other phases to the testing we'll do today, peripheral cooling and core cooling. Altogether, they'll take no more than an hour. There's a fourth phase, circumrescue collapse, but Elizabeth isn't a candidate for that one."
"Dr. Stephens's orders." She hesitated, then went on. "He considers the mortality risk too high." Taking Elizabeth's chart with her, she walked away and through a door on the other side of the pool.
Caroline had to stand on her toes to reach the lower of the two sets of attached
restraints. She moved them back and forth and saw how easily they slid along
the track in the ceiling. She saw that there was a hydraulic hose attached to
the top part of the suspension system. When she pulled
downward, there was enough give in the system for her to pull the restraints to the floor.
She glanced at Elizabeth, who had not spoken since they entered the lab and who was warily eyeing the suspended restraints. "Look, I know it sounds unpleasant, and it probably is, but it's just cold water. You'll go in and out of it a few times, and we'll be out of here in an hour. I'll arrange for you to have a hot shower when we get back to the unit, a real shower, not just a sponge bath in your bed."
"I'm not going to do this," Elizabeth stated flatly.
Caroline sighed. "You don't have a choice. You're going to do it, so you might as well do it the easy way." Elizabeth didn't answer, which the tech took as assent. Holding the suspended restraints to the floor with her foot, Caroline knelt and removed the mobile ankle restraints. She then lengthened the tether between the wrist cuffs to allow room to fasten the suspended ones. "Stand up. Now. Hold out your hands."
Elizabeth stood up and did as she was ordered. Caroline quickly fastened the
suspended restraints before removing the others. As she finished, there was
the sound of air being expelled from the hydraulic system, and Elizabeth's wrists
shot into the air. The ascent stopped with her feet
still on the floor, but she pulled back violently. Wearing only the soft cotton boots subjects were allowed, she lost her footing on the bare floor, and her right foot made contact with Caroline's knee. Staggering, Caroline drew her BeRt and touched it to Elizabeth's back. Elizabeth convulsed and,
thinking she was still struggling, Caroline pushed the intensity to full and touched it to her chest.
Dr. Durvich came running around the pool. "Stop it," she shouted. "Stop shocking her!"
Caroline stopped and saw that Elizabeth was hanging from the wrist restraints
and trembling uncontrollably. Dr. Durvich checked the pulse in her neck. "Regular.
No arhythmia." She turned to Caroline. "The floor is wet. You're protected
by rubber-soled shoes, but she's not. You're
lucky you didn't kill her. This will be reported to Dr. Stephens."
"She was fighting the restraints."
"I pushed the button that activates the hydraulics. It must have startled
her." Dr. Durvich shook her head and gestured to the BeRt. "She wasn't
going anywhere. That's why I use attendants. You techs live for using that thing.
I swear I don't know where they recruit you. You just better
hope this doesn't skew the test results."
"You're going through with the experiment?"
"Of course." She checked Elizabeth's pulse again. "See? She's
already coming around. We'll give her a few minutes, then proceed." Before
walking away, she gave Caroline a kinder look. "Sorry I yelled. We don't
need to tell Dr. Stephens. It was just that he was so specific that this
subject was to come to no harm."
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