Drake's Sword Part Five

The Judge and the Doctor

 

“I swear that stuff smells worse than a sewage drain in its purist form,” Drake complained.

It was a few hours later, and Drake, Sherry, Trinity and Raymond were sitting at a table in Cafeteria Three. Lab assistants, orderlies and people dressed in business suits sat at the round tables eating vegetables, banderlat eggs, and meats from various local animal species.

“Well at least you were wearing a lab coat. If you get any of it on your skin you can’t go near the river for a week.”

“It didn’t smell so bad when Sherry sprayed it on the bridge.” Raymond said, staring at a piece of banderlat egg before popping it into his mouth.

“The smell isn’t as bad outside.” Trinity explained. “Mostly all it does is scare other animals away, which is a good thing because banderlat mating rituals can get pretty violent.”

“Wasn’t that what you were chasing when we found you?” Drake asked Sherry.

Sherry rolled her eyes.

“Please, don’t remind me. My mother all ready gave me hell for going out there without backup.” She drank the last of her water. “Some of the wild banderlats lay better eggs. I was trying to track down the female to her nest and see if I could find a couple.”

“Yeah, and how exactly were you planning on getting the eggs from her?” Trinity teased.

Sherry threw a napkin at her.

“These are a bit rubbery,” Raymond commented, biting into more eggs. “But they’re a lot better than that coral tree.”

Drake nodded in agreement. Even after dealing with a banderlat’s menstrual fluids, it was nice to know the end result wasn’t as bad.

“We better hurry up,” Sherry said. “You two have to meet the council and get situated. Explaining you to my mother was the only way I could hold off her nagging for a little while longer.”

“That’s weird,” Drake muttered. “Girls usually get nagged at just for bringing my name up.”

Raymond and Trinity laughed but Sherry didn’t seem to be in the mood. Drake avoided her eyes while he downed his food. Later, as she took him and Raymond to the fifteenth floor, he kept quiet and avoided her eyes afraid somehow that apologizing would only make it worse.

Plus, try to remember that her mother is an important person here, He thought silently. Flipping her off won’t have quite the same results.

Sherry took them to a small waiting room that was furnished with polished wood benches. Flags from various nations hung from the ceilings including an orange and red flag with a bluish circle in the center, which Drake guessed was Acheron’s flag. At the end of the hall were double doors, made of the same traditional polished wood as the benches.

“Someone will be with you two shortly.” Sherry said, her voice closed off and authoritative.

Drake watched as she stepped onto the elevator and disappeared behind the doors. With a heavy sigh he turned to look out the barred windows. It was impossible to tell the time from the position of the suns, but Drake guessed it was closer to nine.

“I think she’s a bit annoyed,” Raymond commented.

“What was your first clue?”

“Think maybe her mum was a bit harsh?”

“Beats the hell out of me. Can’t imagine what it’s like to have your mom in power over a major city.”

“My mother was a headmistress. Didn’t give me too much room to mess up.”

Drake shrugged. His thoughts were clouded at the moment, and there was a knot forming in his stomach, nothing he wanted to make too apparent. Apart of him also knew Raymond was looking up to him and that didn’t make things easier.

Before too long one of the doors sprung open and a page asked them to enter. Drake took a deep breath. Then, with Raymond at his side, he entered cool and calculating.

The five members of the council sat behind a large rectangular table. Sitting in the center of the table was a black woman wearing old-fashioned spectacles, with hair tied back in a bun. She wore a traditional black robe and at her side was an actual wooden gavel. On a tiny wooden plaque in front of her was her title and name: Councilwoman/Judge Harriet Gellar.

“Don’t be afraid.” She said, her voice firm but warm. “Come up to the table.”

Two more pages brought chairs to the table for Drake and Raymond to sit down. Raymond’s eyes darted from person to person nervously, but Drake’s remained on Judge Gellar’s.

“Before we begin with the usual routine,” she began, gesturing to the wavy blond haired woman to her left. “Doctor Noel has something she would like to say.”

Doctor Noel stood up. Drake noticed some resemblance between her and Sherry, but it was very vague.

“I want to thank you for saving my daughter’s life,” She said, in the same firm tone. Her accent had a slant to it that Drake was unfamiliar with. “With good fortune your bravery will become an asset to us.”

“It was nothing.”

Whether she was impressed with his modesty or thankful that he didn’t decide to embellish on the subject, Doctor Noel smiled and sat down.

“On that matter,” Judge Gellar continued. “It has been brought to our attention that you killed someone shortly after your arrival here. Can you explain yourself clearly for the record?”

Drake glanced to his left and noticed one of the pages at a small desk holding a transcription machine. He looked the judge straight in the eye and spoke clearly and carefully.

“It was about five or ten minutes after the landing craft took off. Raymond here was getting sick and I was giving him his privacy while I tried to figure out a game plan. A man showed up carrying a knife, and I guess he had been on drugs or something because he was shaking violently as he moved. That’s when I noticed the sword nearby, which I picked up to defend myself with. The guy was making a move to stab Raymond and I jumped in and slashed him across the stomach.”

Judge Gellar turned to Raymond.

“Is this true?”

“Yes ma’am.” Raymond answered shakily.

“Well, I think we can write it off as self defense.” Judge Gellar turned to the other council members. “If there are no other questions?”

An elderly man in farmer’s clothing and sitting at the far right seat raised his hand.

“This sword, could you describe it?”

Drake looked to the judge, as if for permission. She rolled her eyes but nodded.

“Well, it was pretty much like the ones they used in England, during medieval times. Only it was made with this weird white metal. All I know is that it was sharp and it did the job...plus it was a b-I mean, it was hard to get it out of all those roots.”

“Like the legend…” the councilman regarded Drake with a look of awe.

“We can discuss old legends and fairy tales later,” Judge Gellar pressed. “In the meantime, we have more important matters to bring up. Could the two of you state your full names and ages for the record please?”

“Drake Caston, seventeen.”

“Raymond Carving, twelve.”

“Thank you. We received a brief transmission from the carrier ship on why you were sent here. I will be speaking to both of you separately to determine the best way to move forward. After that, Doctor Bourne here will give you a thorough medical examination. This meeting is adjourned. Mr. Caston, if you will come into my office.”

Drake stood to follow Judge Gellar. He sent a reassuring wink to Raymond before disappearing behind another set of double doors off to the side of the room.

Judge Gellar’s office was no less traditional than her clothing. Miniature flags of the various nations and worlds decorated the head of her gray metal desk. An older model computer console took up the left of the desk while picture frames and a glass jar of cookies sat on the right. A copy of the Holy Bible rested on the top of a filing cabinet and a beautiful landscape painting hung on the wall directly behind Drake. Closed windows on the left wall let in the only light, but Drake could tell Judge Gellar didn’t use the office so often that artificial light would matter.

“If you could just sit down Mr. Caston,” She gestured to one of the wooden chairs in front of her desk. “And let me begin by saying, you won’t get far flipping me off.”

Drake was taken aback, but he refused to show it. He sat half slouched in one of the chairs and waited as Judge Gellar removed her spectacles and used the primitive mouse to call up his file.

“You may have gathered the impression that Epsilon is nothing but a disorganized hell pit. That prisoners and other newcomers are just dropped here and left to kill one another, and that we lowly citizens of the few remaining cities on this planet have succumbed to that chaos. But as you can see, that impression is far from the truth.

“While it is true that gang wars rage in the west, and we are grossly under developed and under equipped, we are only human and can only do so much without sacrificing our own civility. Something Earth has clearly sacrificed in the name of what it considers to be purity.”

Drake listened carefully. If she was trying to gain his trust to get him to admit to any wrong doing on his part he wasn’t biting the line. On the other hand she had been sincere so far, and he didn’t want to jump to conclusions.

“I’d like to understand why you chose to dodge the mandatory draft,” the judge looked him straight in the eye as she asked. “They give all starting recruits a very hefty bonus and you get the kind of job security that many people older than you can only dream of. Is it simply because of the ‘severe aversion to authority’ that my colleague attributed this to?”

Drake thought long and hard before answering. He wanted to make sure he understood his own feelings before trying to put them to words.

“I won’t lie to you. I do have a problem with authority, that’s always been a fact whether anyone likes it or not. But…that wasn’t the only reason I chose to dodge the draft. Sure, I could have gone for the money and the skills, but at what price? Sacrifice my freewill and become a mindless slave, all so some power hungry leaders can send me off to get killed on Jupiter’s moons? I don’t know how often the news gets out here, but those space battles and extraterrestrial skirmishes are unnecessary. And I don’t feel I should have to die for a cause I don’t believe in.”

Judge Gellar nodded. “I agree fully. It may shock you to learn that I myself was sent here. Would you care to hear why?”

Drake shrugged.

“I was a judge in Zimbabwe, my ancestral home. And a man was brought to my courtroom to be tried for murder. During his trial letters came in from my superiors asking that he be put to death as soon as possible, but the DNA evidence showed that he was innocent. I refused to condemn an innocent man, and this angered not only my superiors but also many of the voters who elected me into my position.

“You see, this man was working hard to gain independence for his nation’s colony on Mars. Independence meant that Africa would lose the rights to its small portion of the Solar System, and this was not an acceptable loss. But instead of punishing me for violating my orders, I was offered a job here. That was how they put it. You and I both know it was the nicest way of saying, ‘you screwed us out of an easy victory and now you’re banished’.”

She had his undivided attention now. Drake recognized the judge’s willingness to fight an unjust system no matter the cost, and sensed she would have done the same thing at his age, had they tried to draft her. He had great respect for her character, but that was about it.

“What ever happened to the man?” He asked, out of curiosity.

Judge Gellar sighed. “They let him leave the courtroom. And he was shot about six steps from the front door.”

Drake thought on it for a moment. It truly didn’t surprise him.

“I share my colleagues sentiment Mr. Caston,” the judge continued. “Though your history is enough to make me wary, your recent actions have not only displayed courage and swift thinking, but compassion for others. Though you had never before met Ms. Noel or Mr. Carving, you were willing to sacrifice your own life for them. You have displayed the characteristics of the kind of person this world is in desperate need of. Which is why I’d like to offer you a few choices.

“You’ve missed the last year and a half of schooling. The City 5 Learning Center may not have all of the advanced technology available to you on Earth, but you can get a decent education. And in between classes, if you desire, I’d like to recommend a person who can help you improve your sword fighting technique. Sound like a good plan so far?”

“Where will I stay?”

“You can remain at the Temp Wing until we find another suitable location. In a year you will be old enough to live on your own.”

Drake nodded. As an afterthought he added, “Can I make one small request?”

“Of course. And if it is within my power I may grant it.”

“You probably know Raymond’s history by now. And we’ve been through too much all ready to suddenly go separate paths. Whatever you decide to do with him…I think he needs me.”

Judge Gellar smiled. It was the first time her expression had truly softened.

“I think it can be arranged. Dismissed.”

Drake waited in the halls chatting casually with one of the pages. Before too long Raymond emerged from Judge Gellar’s office, and the page escorted them to Doctor Bourne’s office.

The medical labs took up six floors above the lobby. Drake and Raymond were taken to the second floor where different nurses handled their checkups. Drake’s nurse was an Asian woman named Erika, who appeared to be only a few years older than he was. With his jeans and sweater crumpled on the floor he hoped he could keep his composure.

“So, let me guess,” Drake said, turning on his charm. “You were sent here for being too pretty?”

Erika giggled. “You’re very sweet. Could you step up onto the scale please?”

Drake almost panicked when the digital screen clocked him at two hundred pounds.

“Not to worry,” Erika explained. “You’re volume is the same here as it was on Earth. You’re weight is only proportional to the gravity on this world. Be thankful you don’t live on Venus, otherwise you’d never be able to move around.”

“Thank God I suppose, hehe.”

“Now I’ll need you to fill this up.”

Erika handed Drake a plastic cup. Lowering his head to hide the blush he made his way into the little side bathroom. When Raymond and Drake were both finished Erika took them to the quarantine floor where Doctor Bourne was currently working.

“Actually Raymond,” she said as they waited for the elevator. “This is an unexpected surprise you’re being with us. Do you play chess?”

“Yes actually.” Raymond answered. “I was in the chess club back home. My ranking’s not too good, but I know all the moves at least.”

“Excellent. I wonder if you would be interested in meeting someone.”

“Sure.”

The quarantine floor was a lot like the Temp Wing. Many parts were sectioned off with electronically sealed doors and like the twenty-fifth floor there were many labs and computer rooms. Doctor Bourne was working inside one of the closed off sections, and Erika entered a password to get in.

Doctor Bourne, an out of shape man in his late forties and balding, with a dark crown of hair sat at a desk writing something down on an electronic tablet. Beside him a Plexiglas wall separated them from a living space inside. It was brightly lit and the floorboard was clean and shiny. There was a bed and closet in one corner with a curtain that could be pulled around for privacy. A computer, work desk, sofa and a television with holographic imager gave it a homelike quality.

On the left technicians wearing plastic facemasks and protective suits were busy maintaining a power generator, which had several tiny wires leading into the brain and lower body of a human boy! The boy was ginger haired, though the back of his head was completely shaven, and he wore a hospital gown as he lay back in a leather recliner, reading a paperback book.

“That’s Simon,” Erika explained. “Raymond has something in common with him. Simon was sent here with his mother when he was only four. She had a job here as an exobiologist until she was killed in the Avalon forest about eight miles south of the city.”

Drake looked at the boy with a mixture of curiosity and apprehension. “Why is that…I mean…”

“Why don’t you ask Simon?” Doctor Bourne spoke up. “It’s up to him if he wants to explain.”

Erika showed them a speaker next to the slide door. She pressed the little red button and spoke into it.

“Morning Simon. How’s it going?”

Simon looked up and smiled.

“Hi Erika. I’m doing all right.”

“Simon, I’d like you to meet Raymond and Drake. They’re the newcomers we heard about last night.”

Drake and Raymond smiled politely and said hello.

“How do you like Epsilon so far?” Simon asked. He put a marker in his book and set it down beside him.

“It hasn’t been boring, I’ll say that much.” Drake said. “How about you? Where’d you live before coming here?”

“I was born in Orwell.”

“No kidding? Isn’t that on Deimos?”

“Yup. Everyone likes to go to Deimos because it’s the only place in the galaxy where you can drive or walk from Orwell to Philby on the other side of the moon in twelve hours.”

“I have an aunt who went there before she passed away.” Raymond said. “The Philby Medical center’s low gravity treatment facility was the only thing that kept the cancer from killing her off too quickly.”

“Are you from England?” Simon asked.

“Yup, Manchester.”

“I’ve always wanted to go there. I’ve seen every James Bond movie ever made, even the newer ones with Alan Caldwell when someone brings them out here.”

“My dad loved James Bond, but he never liked the new movies. He said giving Alan Caldwell the part was like taking a corpse from the grave, dressing it in a tuxedo, and calling it an improvement.”

Simon laughed.

“Do you want to play chess?”

“Can I?”

“Of course,” Erika spoke up. “You just have to get suited up like they are so he doesn’t get sick.”

Erika took Raymond to a sterilization room while Drake remained by the speaker. He was becoming less uncomfortable, but he was still curious.

“Can I ask you something?” he asked.

Simon nodded and smiled. “I think I know what it is. You want to know about the wires and stuff.”

Drake grinned nervously. “If it’s not too personal.”

“I don’t mind. In the Avalon forest there’s a rare species of parasite that lives off the electrical impulses of animals. When I was eight my mother took me there to capture some insect specimens. As she was examining two dying wolfrats the parasites dislodged and attacked us. The parasites burrowed in to back of our necks and cut or brains off from the rest of our bodies. For a while I lost consciousness but the guards tried to get us back here as fast as they could. When I woke up two or three days later I found out that my mother died from the infection. They were keeping me alive using life support systems and antibiotics, but I couldn’t feel my arms and legs. My brain was completely cut off from the rest of my body and nervous system, which is how the parasite kills its prey. Doctor Bourne was afraid that if lightening ever struck this building and the power went out then I’d die. So with the help of some of the technicians they built this generator, which runs on plasma fuel. Like the kind used to fuel spaceships and stuff. These wires“- Simon gestured to the group of wires connecting the machine to his brain- “were inserted into portions of my brain to transfer electricity from the generator to my brain. Then this set of wires“-He gestured to the wires leading from his brain to his spine, arms, and legs and along his back–“ distribute the electrical impulses from my brain to my heart, spine, and other organs. The parasite can’t be removed surgically without killing me, so the only thing we can do is keep feeding it more electricity.”

“But isn’t a plasma generator just a little too much power for a human being?” Drake asked. “I mean, sticking someone to a basic electric generator could be a bit risky, but plasma is used to power weapons, sea vessels and spaceships not home appliances.”

“Well that’s the one good thing about the parasite,” Simon explained. “It drains so much energy that the energy left over is just enough to keep my brain and body going. It’s like a natural power converter.”

“So it’ll live as long as you do?”

“Hopefully. That’s why it had to dislodge from the wolfrat when I got too close, otherwise it would have died of starvation. And that’s why people who come in here have to wear those suits, so it won’t rip out of me and attack them, and so I won’t get infected.”

“What are they doing right now?” Drake pointed to the technicians.

“Oh, taking energy readings, checking the coolant levels, and seeing if the plasma needs to be replaced. The wires are good for another two months so they don’t need to be replaced.”

“And you’ve been like this ever since you were eight?”

Simon nodded.

“Five years almost.”

Raymond came back in, suited up and ready to go inside. Finished with their work, the technicians gathered near the door. Simon got up and went to his work desk, where he took a boxed chess set from the tiny drawer on the side.

“You can move around the room with that thing attached to you?” Drake asked, amazed.

“The wires are longer than they look. The only real problem is I need Erika or one of the other nurses to help me with washing up and stuff, because they can’t get wet.”

The door slid open and the technicians left. Raymond went in as Simon took the frosted glass chess set out of the box and set it up on the floor. The door slid shut and Raymond took a seat opposite Simon.

“Simon doesn’t have many friends,” Erika explained to Drake. “We try to get some of his old friends or the children in the wards to visit him once in a while, but they feel uncomfortable around him. Probably the worse thing about losing control of your body is losing your friends.”

“Nice to know things stay the same no matter where you go,” Drake said, sardonically.

“It’s not their fault. Something in our programming makes us uncomfortable around people who are unable to fend for themselves. It goes back to the days of early man. Back then if you couldn’t walk on your own two feet you were no good to the rest of the tribe, so you were left behind. Our instincts are really what makes us uneasy around people who are disabled or different in some other way.”

“Thousands of years or a few hundred. If the human race can’t act like it’s better than other animals than we have no right being the dominant species.”

“Interesting point of view.” Doctor Bourne said, finishing his work and joining them at their side. “If only more people had your enlightened sensibilities.”

“There’s nothing enlightened about common sense.” Drake responded, matter-of-factly. “How can they stand there and tell us that people like Hitler and Saddam were evil, and then turn around and refuse to let a kid who’s deaf sit in the same class as a kid with perfect hearing.”

“Why Drake, you have more depth than you appeared at first.” Erika teased. “Tell me has this always been your point of view or is it getting kicked off of Earth that’s improved your frame of mind.”

“That’s enough Erika,” Doctor Bourne said, sternly. “Raymond and Simon are set for a little while, why don’t you go down to the Children’s Ward and see if you can help out there.”

“As you wish doctor.” Erika clapped Drake on the shoulder before leaving.

“Not exactly Florence Nightingale is she?” Drake remarked.

“Erika’s got a few sharp edges. But the patients like her so we keep her around.” Doctor Bourne went to the speaker briefly. “Simon, I have to go to the labs. Raymond, I trust Erika explained the rules so I’ll send someone up here when its time to go.”

“Thank you Doctor Bourne,” Simon responded, moving to protect his queen.

Doctor Bourne picked up the tablet he was working on and was ready to leave. Drake had a thought and stopped him.

“Quick question. Do you have any idea where Sherry usually hangs out?”

“Doctor Noel’s daughter? If she’s not in the labs upstairs I don’t know. Judge Gellar has you cleared to leave the building. Here,” the doctor reached into his pocket and pulled out a flat green plastic card. “This is a temporary pass. Since you’re from Manhattan I assume you can find your way around a small city like this. Take this down to the lobby and the secretary will load it with about fifty credits. Grab a bite to eat, check out the sites, have a good time.”

Drake was surprised but he accepted the card.

“Thanks. How long is it valid?”

“Until you get an ID of your own. Ms. Gunn should be getting to you on that. Have fun.”

And with that Doctor Bourne left. Drake shrugged and let Raymond know he was going out. Then he headed to the elevator.

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