The young girl's eyes looked identical, but when she glanced around the room the left didn’t keep up with the right.
Second Lieutenant Brett Johnson said, “Keep practicing. Your eyes will move together by the time school starts.”
“Okay,” Lydia replied tonelessly. He didn’t expect her to jump for joy. Her parents had been murdered and her home town destroyed a few days before. Even so,there might be another reason for the lack of enthusiasm. Her immune system had accepted the new eye – but if her mind rejected it there would be trouble.
“How do you like your new eye?”
The corners of her mouth flickered up for a moment. “It’s wayout. I can see in the dark.”
A moment later she explained seriously, “Infer red vision.”
“Most people call it infravision,” he told her with a smile, but his mind was elsewhere. So the eye wasn’t the problem. He continued to study her solemn face, which was dotted with freckles and shielded by a mop of red hair.
Brett had no training in pediatric emotional therapy, and no authorization to perform it, but Lydia’s flat affect bothered him more than a natural display of grief. The tired looking grey-haired woman waiting outside was now responsible for the girl. How deep did their bond go?
“Do you talk with your grandmother a lot?”
The child replied, “Sometimes. She cries sometimes, thinks I don’t know.”
Brett asked, “Maybe your school could find you someone else to talk to.”
She shook her head. “I don’t like either of the counselors.”
“Talk to me,” he suggested.
She looked at him. Brett wondered how he looked through her eyes – new and old.
She declared, “You have too many muscles to be a doctor.”
“That’s exactly what they told me in medical school. At first I was supposed to enroll in goon school.”
Brett let his face go slack, hunched over, and dangled his arms, a parody of a muscular and brainless goon.
Lydia giggled, and flashed the first smile he had seen from her.
“Unfortunately the classes were filled up already, so I decided to be a nuclear physicist. I got the course numbers mixed up though, and when I got my degree I realized I had learned a lot about eyes and stuff, but only a little physics.”
The smile vanished. What she needed right now wasn’t a clown. Brett cursed his approach. Lydia burst into tears.
She didn’t seem to blame him though. When he awkwardly moved closer, she buried her face in his lab coat and cried into it. The computer on Brett’s belt chimed. He didn’t have much time to get ready for his appointment with Colonel Easting. Lydia nestled her face into his chest, sobbing and gripping him tighter. The heck with it – Easting didn’t like him anyway.
He pulled tissues from the container on the wall when her sobbing slowed down. She shook her head mutely when he tried again to talk with her about what she’d been through. Intuition told him not to push.
Brett held the ophthalmoscope up to each eye in turn. The pupils of both eyes contracted equally in response to light. The bionic eye wouldn’t be harmed by bright light, but imitated a natural one anyway. An unchanging pupil might seem odd to people facing Lydia, even if they couldn’t quite pinpoint the problem. Some red blood vessels were more visible in the natural eye since she had been crying, and both eyes were surrounded by red tissue.
Brett was performing the post operative examination with local tools. Even before this war, the equipment manufactured here had not been as advanced as that from Old York. All the medical equipment available from the ship was already in use.
“Lydia, I’d like to talk with you again.”
She looked doubtful. “It’s hard for grandma to take me back and forth.”
It had only been a couple of days since the massacre. The grandmother might have lost others besides her daughter.
Brett told her, “Please talkie 777-888. Tell them you want to talk to Lieutenant Brett Johnson. There are other Bretts besides me. You’ll have to tell them it’s an emergency, because it’s a little extra work for them to connect a landline based talkie to my belt computer.”
Brett hoped he hadn’t confused her. It seemed children here knew how to use talkies, even ones attached to walls which required local currency in the form of metallic coins.
“Won’t I get you in trouble?”
This question was so sensible he almost admitted the possibility, but Brett had never known his father, and his mother had had problems with alcohol and drugs. Losing two normal happy parents might be even worse than that, and he didn’t know if Lydia would open to anyone else.
“The truth is I’m going to be pretty bored for awhile. Please call me as soon as you can.”
She nodded. Brett put a hand under each of Lydia’s arms, and lifted her off the examining table. Brett’s last patient of the day reunited with her grandmother outside. He put the stethoscope in the sterilizer, shut off the lights, and removed the paper from the portable examination table.
These are the first pages of my new novel, published on the Amazon Kindle. I would be honored if anyone who owns a kindle would download the free sample, and maybe even node it.