Richard Blaine finds himself alone, paralyzed, blind, and naked. What else could go wrong he asks.
He should have known better.
ON THE RUN
“You cannot connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.”
My panic went into overdrive as my body was sucked like a strand of spaghetti through the lips of some unseen giant.
Ears popping painfully, I sailed through really foul-smelling air to tumble roughly across a painfully hard metal floor.
‘Up! Hold those hard-won hands up! Do not let them hit the floor even slightly, or you will lose them!’
I held them up.
Though I couldn’t feel my numb hands, I certainly could feel my throbbing wrists, so I held those up.
I had a thousand questions for Sentient. I didn’t get a chance to ask even one.
Rough, calloused hands jerked me to my feet. I wobbled and weaved, but I managed to stand on my own. I almost cried from the relief of having control of my body once more.
Wiry fingers poked and prodded me. I winced as it felt like needles were attached to those fingers. I jerked as a dozen stabs plunged into my flesh all along my body.
A stench of burnt fabric filled my head. The heavy fabric fell from my eyes.
I immediately wanted it back.
One wizened, stunted creature stonily eyed me with no comprehension at all in its solid black eyes.
Angular, covered with fur, it was the strangest creature I had ever seen. Short but amazingly strong to have lifted me so easily. It stood rock-still, but it seemed to vibrate in place.
‘It is … the closest phrase for it is a “Medical Savant.” No intelligence per se, but a phenomenal skill in healing … all instinctive.’
I opened my mouth to mutter thanks, but Sentient stopped me.
‘Even if it had ears, it would not understand you. You are 413 years from where you once were. The language spoken here … let us call it … Englysch. Though those who survived the Attrition Wars with enough intellect to cogitate and speak do not think broadly enough to conceptualize in such a manner.’
‘To think I missed conversing with your limited intellect.’
‘I missed you, too.’
The galling part of that sentence was that I meant it.
‘People who spoke Old English did not call it that. They called it Ænglisc. Chaucer and his peers did not call the language they spoke "Middle English", they called it Inglissh.’
‘If it is so primitive here, why bring me to this time?’
‘Because this edifice still contained the advanced technology of the Attrition Wars without the wholesale slaughter and butchery of that conflict exploding all around it.’
‘You mean you saved my hands?’
‘That was beyond me. Your hands and the fingers attached to them still remained clenched around the trigger handles when I took you here.’
‘Then, what is attached to my throbbing wrists?’
I looked down at my heavy bandages in the shape of hands. Strange looking wrappings though.
‘The latest and last advancement in Intelligent Prosthesis. An amazing prototype actually.’
‘Super. The last prototype cost me my hands.’
‘Your perverse, stubborn stupidity cost you your hands!’
The Savant shrugged absently and shambled through the wall.
‘And you are welcome, by the way.’
‘I didn’t thank you.’
‘You never do.’
The wall directly in front of me started to glow a strange sort of blue.
‘Ah, it can’t get back in?’
‘It does not want to. In fact, it is scurrying far, far away. No, the lone remaining Harvester wants in. Wants in very badly.’
I asked though I had a sinking feeling just what crop it wanted to harvest.
‘Your over-sized thymus … at least for these times … and your distinctive medulla oblongata … though none now live who could benefit from their transplanting.’
‘How did that … Harvester even know I was here?’
‘As soon as you emerged from … oh, talking to your limited awareness is so inconvenient … let us just call it an advancement in Hyperbaric Chambers … it was notified of your body’s ripe condition for harvesting.’
The wall had gone to dull red and now was rapidly becoming cherry red. I could feel the heat of it a dozen feet away.
‘Ah, “away” would be a good place to be, don’t you think?’
‘I did not like your tone. Politeness is to an intelligent nature what warmth is to wax.’
I clenched my new fingers and immediately regretted it. I found out I could feel pain in my artificial hands. Good news: at least, I could move them.
‘Please. Pretty please … with both my burned off hands on top.’
‘Must you always be a smart-ass?’
‘No. Sometimes I sleep.’
And with that, we were gone … elsewhere.