Click here for the entire story.Click here for the first series (Seeing is Becoming).
Click here for the second series (Second Stage of Something Started).
Click here for the second series (Second Stage of Something Started).
Click here for the previous installment...
The Shepherd provided Vearden with a conjured lavish six-star resort suite that was far too big for one person. He had the most comfortable bed in the worlds, and access to a room service bot whenever he wanted it. He kept asking the Shepherd to send him on his way, but she said the delay was not for his benefit. It was taking her longer than expected to prepare for his departure. She mentioned something about copyright issues, which didn’t make any sense, but also said that getting to the trial faster would not result in winning them faster. They would just take longer. Again, what does that mean? She wouldn’t explain completely, and he knew he couldn’t push it. Instead, he accepted his condition, and decided to take full advantage of the fake hotel amenities, especially the gym. He was in dire need of exercise, so it wasn’t like he was just wasting time.
Still, when she returned after nearly a week, he was ready to go. She dressed him in nice athletic clothes and opened a special door for him. It revealed a view of stars like none he had seen before. It wasn’t from the perspective of a planet, but from the orbit of one. She gently nudged him out, and he began to uncontrollably float and spin towards the surface. She was either trying to kill him, or he would somehow be able to survive the fall. It seemed to the be the latter, for he was headed down at too steep of a rate for a normal entry, but he couldn’t really feel that much movement. It could best be described as zooming into a certain Earth mapping software, completely safe and harmless. But this was not Earth. No big deal, Vearden had been to other planets before. In fact, this was so boring, that it was more interesting to turn around and watch the publish-blue sky fall away.
He continued to zoom in until passing through the roof of a large building, as well as a few floors below. At last he landed. A man was hastily providing CPR to another man on the floor. At first, Vearden couldn’t tell if people could even see him. He thought it might have been like It’s a Wonderful Life, but no, the guy was just busy trying to save somebody’s life.
“Where did you come from?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Vearden said. “I can help. Do you need me to take over with compressions?”
“I do,” the man said. “I need to find out what’s taking Geltona so long with the resuscitator.”
Vearden got down on his knees, found his hand placement, and got to work. “What’s his name?” he called out before the first responder could leave.
“Governor Litsendi.” He ran out of the room.
Vearden continued compressions for a few more minutes, but it was becoming incredibly tiring. He could feel something else, though. It was a feeling he had not experienced for many years. Soon after unwillingly becoming a time traveler, and being sent to his first non-Earth planet, he encountered a race of natives called the Gondilak. They had the ability to heal their bodies at a phenomenally fast rate. Through a series of accidents and coincidences, Vearden was bestowed their ability temporarily. This allowed him to travel across Earth, saving lives by donating blood to them. He thought this ability had been literally drained from his body, but perhaps not. Some tiny sliver of that crept upon him just now. Looking back, he probably always had it with him. It was just enough power to save one more life, and no other beyond, so subconsciously, he must have been saving it for a special occasion. This was going to have to be that occasion. He just needed to find enough time to search for the right medical supplies, which would be tough, because the man was on his last breath, and he was now alone. Fortunately, this appeared to be some kind of doctor’s office. Or was it a museum?
He stopped compressions for a few seconds, rushed over to grab a couple needles, a tube, and some alcohol. Ignoring proper procedure, he jabbed himself with one needle, and siphoned off a steady stream of blood, which he let flow into the patient’s body. Governor Litsendi woke up less than a minute later, just as the first responder, and a new woman came into the room. She was presumably Geltona.
“How did you get him back?” the first responder asked. Then he noticed the tube. “Why the hell did you do this? What’s going on here?”
Vearden held up his hands to show nonviolence. “Everything’s okay. My name is Vearden Haywood. I come from...well, another world. I healed this man with my blood. It’s something I used to be able to do. I only had one more dose left, which I used for him.”
Governor Litsendi was happy about it, but the other two were unsure. “Castanea,” the woman said, “please escort our prisoner downstairs.” There was something weird about their mouths when they talked that Vearden was just now starting to notice with her. He couldn’t quite figure it out.
“Hey, come on, man, I saved his life,” Vearden argued, but Castanea didn’t try to take him away. Instead, he held the governor’s wrists behind his back, and walked him out.
“Uh...he’s a prisoner?”
“Of war, yes. Not our war, mind you,” Geltona said, “but we must honor Galactic law, and let the authorities take it from here.”
“So, are we cool?” Vearden asked.
“This room serves as the exit for the Museum of Medical History. It must be kept at a particular temperature in order to protect the artifacts.”
“Wow, that must have sounded like a non sequitur. It’s just an expression from my world. I mean to ask if you and I have a problem with each other, or if you accept my presence and actions as agreeable.”
“You saved the life of a very important—very terrible—but very important man. Your actions may have prevented a grave escalation of interstellar conflict. For now, you and I are...cool.”
“Good. Can I stand up?” She nodded with her eyelids. “I do want to remind you that what I did was an anomaly. If you’re planning to dissect me, or keep me locked up, or use me for some grand plan, you’ll be disappointed. I’m normal now. I became this way by accident, and it really is gone by now.”
She dismissed the thought with a wave of her hand. “His condition was nothing we would not be able to handle under normal circumstances. He was only in so much danger because he was in the most remote part of the building, full of antiquated surgical paraphernalia.”
“If that is the case, then I am greatly impressed by your partner’s knowledge of basic manual resuscitation technique.”
“The best doctor knows everything about medicine and treatment. We do not forget the old ways.”
“That’s nice to hear. I might need some of that knowledge while I’m around. It’s likely to be dangerous for me here.”
“Why are you here, and where exactly did you come from?”
“You wouldn’t believe me.”
“I judge only by facts, not impressions.”
“Well, you see, that’s the problem,” Vearden said. “The fact is that I come from a distant parallel universe, and was brought here on an unknown mission, the completion of which—along with ten more—ultimately hopefully leads to the safe return of my partner.”
“That is quite a story.”
“I told you that you wouldn’t believe. Even though it’s true, I would not be able to prove it.”
“That is not entirely accurate, but we do not have time to run the necessary cosmic frequency tests. I will simply operate under the assumption that you are telling the truth.”
After an awkward pause, Geltona decided that they best find out what Vearden’s mission might be, if it wasn’t simply to save the governor. Theoretically, if that was it, he would be gone by now. No, it was probably something else; something bigger. He was getting the sense that he was meant to help people, rather than just survive some danger. Afterall, the Shepherd wanted to watch him win, and the only time he’s ever felt like a winner was when he was helping people.
Castanea was waiting for them in their joint offices. “I figured you would bring him here.”
“Is the governor secure?” Geltona asked of him.
“Yes,” Castanea confirmed.
“So is he the governor of his planet...or another one? Or what?”
They looked at him funny. “Governor is a military rank, above coronel, and below ligament,” Geltona explained before turning to Castanea. “He’s from another universe. Must be a translation error—which doesn’t explain how we are understanding each other at all. You obviously don’t speak Vertean, because I can see your lips moving differently than the words that I interpret you enunciating.”
“I guess you’re right, I had a hard time following what you just said, because I’m not that smart...but it did sound like English to me.”
Castanea perked up. “Where have I heard that before?”
Another woman came into the room holding some kind of computer device that resembled an ancient Egyptian scroll. She handeded it to Geltona who pressed a button and released a hologram. “Thank you, Awilda.”
“Also, Comsprint wants you to know that he will be returning from Aehdre,” Awilda said. “The patients are not getting any better, and he doesn’t feel he can do any more good onsite.”
“Thank you, Assistant,” Castanea said, but he made it sound more like a respectable title, rather than just him not caring about her real name.
Vearden couldn’t help but peak at the images on the hologram. They looked familiar to him, but he wasn’t sure, so he would need a better look. He rudely took the device from her hands, but she didn’t seem to mind. “I recognize this rash. What is the diagnosis?”
“There is none.”
“We see these symptoms in other diseases, or rather in the historical records of diseases, but the patients test negative for all of them.”
“What are the symptoms?” Vearden asked.
“Fear of light, deep confusion, these rashes you seem to know something about. It’s killing by the thousands, we’ve not seen anything like it in centuries.”
“Well, I’m not a doctor, but they look exactly like something I picked up in the 18th century called typhus. A doctor from the future had to come back and heal me, but I assume I still have antibodies for it.”
“Diseases tend to not leap across whatever barrier separates our universe from others,” Castanea said. “At least I don’t think so, since I’ve never heard of other universes.”
Geltona sighed and took the device back from Vearden, setting it down on her desk. “That’s true, but it can’t hurt to take a few samples.” She removed a pod from her desk and unwrapped the plastic. She then smashed it between her hands, letting a mist cover her skin. Castanea cleaned his hands as well, so that he could place gloves on hers. She rolled up Vearden’s sleeve, and took a gun-like device from Castanea.
The Shepherd’s disembodied voice came from nowhere. “Let them have nearly all of it,” she said. The other two did not indicate that they could hear it.
He knew he had to comply. “Take as much blood as you can without killing me. Leave me only as much I would need to survive in a bed with an intravenous drip.”
They were not convinced. They probably had their own version of the hippocratic oath.
“Please,” Vearden begged. “I can’t go home if you don’t. This is what my mission entails, so this is what I need from you. Ignore ethics, save the patients.”
That was enough for them. Geltona took litres of blood from his veins, leaving him a wreck, curled up on the floor. He quickly passed out, and then woke up in a hospital bed. The Shepherd was standing over him. Click here for the next installment...