The Rod Of Asclepius


ff_chel2_icon.gif dave_icon.gif harris_icon.gif sabine_icon.gif

Scene Title The Rod Of Asclepius
Synopsis Sometimes, time is all we need. Other times, it's more than we deserve.
Date July 1, 2021

The mechanical hiss of a respirator creates a macabre symphony when combined with the beep of a heart-rate monitor. Under fluorescent lights in a greenish-pale hospital room, Sabine Hazel hovers on death's door. Her skin is sallow, cheeks sunken in and eyes surrounded by dark, bruised circles. She is intubated, unable to breathe on her own and hooked up to an IV of blood while a dialysis machine does what her failed kidneys cannot. Standing by her bedside, Agent Michel Harris looks on with a flat, expressionless stare.

Michelle Cardinal has changed today. The streaks of gray in her hair hide now behind a rich blonde hue. She's trimmed her hair up to her chin, styled it into a neat bob. The white blazer she wears is more expensive than any article of clothing she has ever held before, and for the first time in years she wears delicate stud earrings. Yet the piercing blue-eyed stare of scientific inquiry has not changed one bit, if anything it has honed itself down to a razor's edge over the last few months. She stands by Sabine's bedside, administering an injection into her IV.

"How soon will we know?" Harris asks, looking up from Sabine to Chel. She shakes her head in response.

"If she doesn't die immediately, it might take days." Chel explains, turning her attention to the heart-rate monitor. Silence hangs in the air, and the monitor begins to spike. Harris watches, cautiously, but as the heartrate levels out back to its normal rhythm, both he and Michelle relax ever so much.

He looks at her, brows raised. "Now we wait."

Four Days Later
Rikers Island Prison
Rikers Island

July 1st
7:12 am

Clear liquid is injected into plastic tubing. It swirls with some texture amid the saline solution, clouded ever so subtly like weak tea. David Cardinal watches the solution feed through the tubing into his arm, flexing his hand open and closed as he does.

"Don't do that." Michelle snips from his bedside, disposing of the syringe and removing her rubber gloves. Dave grimaces and looks away, nodding. He stops.

"Can you… walk me through this?" He asks her, unwilling to meet her eyes. Incapable of it.

Chel nods, moving to sit on the side of Dave's bed next to him. "You're being injected with a stabilizing agent. In it are microscopic machines made from chondrocytes and collagen, little biological robots that are reprogrammed to swim through your bloodstream and begin reconstructing your cells based on your non-degraded memory T cells." Most of the explanation is going over his head, but Dave is nodding along nonetheless.

"Little robots." Dave says, looking at the tube. "Did you invent them?"

Chel laughs, smiling in spite of not wanting to. "No. The agency provided a sample from another case, I consulted on their composition and proposed a new use for them as a delivery system to combat degeneration caused by Gemini." She looks down at his arm, his hands, the lines on his palms. She moves her own hand, hesitates, and folds both in her lap.

"So… is this a cure?" He wonders.

"No." Chel says with a hint of soft apology. "It's a mitigation. You're going to need monthly treatments and we only have so much supply of these bio-nanites." She tries not to go into more detail. But Dave isn't going to let it sit like that.

"And when you run out, if you haven't figured out a cure…" He says, trailing off. Chel only nods, closing her eyes. Her silence is explanation enough. "How many months do you have?"

"I don't know." Chel admits. Her tone again softens into an apology. "There's only two test subjects right now. And we can't reverse any of the damage done. The only reason you're even receiving it is because there needs to be a clinical trial and both you and our other patient consented to the experimental treatment."

Dave nods, looking at his hand, then Chel's. Silence hangs for a long time. The soft hum of the HVAC system provides a little while noise to cover up the voice screaming in his heart. "I didn't try to kill you," he finally says, forcing it out quick, like tearing off a band-aid. Chel snorts and nods, then shakes her head.

"I know." Chel whispers, reaching out to lay her hand on top of his. She squeezes it, and he laces his thick fingers between hers. It feels familiar, it feels right, and it feels terribly wrong. "They know," she adds, "but it's also complicated. Proving it. Your innocence." She runs her thumb over one of his knuckles, jaw clenched. Her heart races in her chest.

Dave just nods in silent understanding. The fact that he's still alive feels like a miracle. "What happens next?" He asks, brushing his thumb against her hand.

Chel shakes her head. "I don't know," she whispers.

"I don't know."

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