They kept him in a chair. It had been several minutes after Lady Shalee Lianne had requested his presence on the Terrace. The med-techs tending to him and ensuring he stayed under a cloud of sedation had protested, saw that protesting was useless, then bickered among themselves to determine the best way to fulfill their lady’s directive. Eventually, they had agreed that there was too much “risk” involved with allowing him to walk freely, so they sedated him again, hoisted him out of the bed–to which he had been strapped for the better part of three days–then lowered him into a hoverchair. Of course, they restrained his wrists and ankles.
After several moments, however, they determined that he was less than presentable to Lady Lianne. As such, they unstrapped him briefly from the chair, but only enough so that a servant could help him into clothes more fitting for a Holder. After discarding his convalescent attire, they put him back into the chair, then pushed him towards the sun-bathed Terrace of Cerra Manor.
There wasn’t much he could remember. There were discussions about his condition, words slipping out of existence as soon as they caressed his ears. Everything seemed brighter, fuzzier, less distinct. Even the cool water that Shalee brought to his lips was ephemeral, fleeting, while her soft voice melted back to just beyond the veil of understanding.
He was in a daze when he awoke to the bright white and sterile surfaces of a medical bay. From what he remembered from his brief–and largely unsuccessful–foray into medicine, he was in an intensive care unit. The soft beeping of monitors–heart rate, brain activity, blood pressure–lingered in the atmosphere, as if human voices were muffled or perhaps even forbidden. There were few other sounds aside from the vacuum seals on various doorways, his mind wandering into imagining decontamination scrubbers actively clearing staff of pathogens as they went through their daily routines. Suddenly, a surge of pain shot through his body, forcing it against restraints on the bed, as if he was being yanked skyward by an invisible force–his mind was aflame, searing headaches rocking him dangerously close to the point of going unconscious.
“Oh shit,” He heard a voice emanate from beyond the ICU, but only barely through the pain.
It subsided almost as quickly as it had arrived, receding into the archives of memory. He gasped for air, trying to turn his head towards the source of the voice. Her name was Ameriya, one of the more curious regulars at the Cerra Manor Terrace. She was wearing a crisp laboratory coat over a black bikini that would have been entirely out of place in Amarrian fashion circles–it simply didn’t cover much of anything. And yet, her propensity towards such clothing wasn’t what made her a curious addition to the Terrace. It wasn’t that she was a former research fellow at the University of Caille’s applied genetics department or that she held both a Ph.D. and an M.D.; a model researcher on the issues of gene therapy. It wasn’t even that she spent most of her time on the Terrace wearing see-through clothing, which oftentimes failed to veil her feminine features, which were accentuated by her Gallentean demeanor. Rather, she was curious in that she had feline characteristics and body parts. Her ears perked at loud noises or excitement, flattening at disappointment or sorrow. She even had a tail.
He watched her tap her lip for a moment, before she flipped a switch. The pain reappeared instantaneously, his shrieking reverberating off of the walls of the ICU. She didn’t seem at all perturbed, merely flicking the switch off.
“Alright, there’s that,” She said aloud, activating a series of controls that sprayed an aerosol sedative into the containment unit.
He felt his body fall limp, all of the pain subsiding immediately as Ameriya stated, “Alright, Regi. Now that I know what’s going on, we can see what we can do about it. But I need to talk to someone about it.”
“Just relax. You have a nanite infestation. I’m going to talk to your wife, hopefully she holds off on killing me enough to talk.”
He nodded best he could, feeling suddenly exhausted now that his body was in a state of relaxation. Frustration seethed within him at being unable to move freely, at being confined, of not knowing everything that had happened to him since his return from Delve, of being in what was akin to a drunken stupor that he could not shake away or shrug off.
Through the containment area, he heard his beloved’s voice cut like a knife through the hazy sense of disorientation, “What’s happening?”
He opened his eyes weakly, Kat’s voice much like a soothing salve. He turned and tried to smile at the blurry form on the other side of the containment field. He could barely make her out, but he knew she was there. He knew she was close by–the angel he had married.
“There’s some kind of nanite infestation in his brain,” He heard Ameriya begin to explain, “I’m not exactly sure what they are doing, since any sample that leaves the body self-destructs. I’ve got him mostly sedated right now. Earlier he went into some convulsions when I put up a forcefield.”
He heard Kat curse, “I fucking knew it.”
He chuckled to himself in his daze. There was something reassuringly human about hearing his wife curse, even after all of the attempts he had made to aid her forays into the nobility. The introductions, the social calls, the tea parties. And yet there was something distinctly Katerina in the way she spoke when she was candid–refreshingly so. Perhaps that was one of the intangible reasons why he had chosen to marry her in the first place.
He heard Kat sigh, her nascent nobility correcting her language, “Thank you.”
“Knew what?” Ameriya asked.
“I know who did this.”
“Well, that’s great, but that doesn’t really help cure my patient. Which is why I needed to talk to you.”
He heard a rustling at Katerina produced something for Ameriya to examine, “This is related somehow. It caused him tremendous pain when it left the room, or when it was touched.”
The Pax Amarria. A fresh one. Brought to him by Naomi and discovered by Kat only the night before. He felt something begin to tug at his consciousness.
“Shit,” He heard Ameriya say as her figure reached for the object before throwing it through a brief opening in the containment field so that the book came to rest on the floor next to him.
He heard its leatherbound cover skid across the polished white floor, a sense of euphoria suddenly overhwelming his mind. It was as if an eternal itch had finally been scratched as pain slowly faded into the realm of memory reserved for the forgotten.
“What is it?” He heard Kat ask.
“That might be a vector for the nanites,” He heard Ameriya sigh, “I need to run a test on you right now.”
“Typical. I should’ve known.” He heard Kat’s voice drip with annoyance, “Of course. Thank you.”
He turned his head to see Ameriya rolling a bed close to the edge of the containment field, “Can you take off your shirt and lay down on the bed? I need to do a spinal tap and then I’ll do a brain scan.”
He could only imagine the hesitation on Katerina’s face. A wave of shame overtook him, that night at the Lock, Stock, and Barrel. A few drinks–mostly Intaki Cream and God knew what else–mixed with blue pill. Three attractive women. And then suddenly the feeling of Ameriya’s lithe body pressing against him while he leaned his head against Shalee’s shoulder, the effects of blue pill heightening the sensations and searing them into memory. He remembered the look of disgust on Kat’s face when he confessed what happened, and how Kat had confronted Ameriya: Slapping her twice across the face at one of Shalee’s dinner parties.
Eventually, however, he could see the motions of Kat complying, Ameriya instructing her through the quick procedure, “Stay still and you will feel a slight pinch. Rest for a few minutes. I’ll be right back, stay on your side.”
Katerina sighed, remaining on her side. She was facing away from him, so she had to speak a little louder to make sure he could hear her, “See? That book is only evil.”
He frowned, answering weakly, “I’m sorry.” He tried to change the subject, ashamed at how he had actually defended the fraudulent Pax Amarria the night before, “Will I be able to get out of these restraints soon?I’ve been like this for days.”
“I’m not sure. Isn’t she…?”
“Isn’t she…?” He tried to query but his eyes closed in exhaustion.
“Okay, Kat, you can lay on your back now,” He heard Ameriya say, though her voice was accompanied by the sound of heavy footfalls punctuated by the clinking of armor.
“What’s with the armor?” Kat asked.
“Thally here is going to be able to go into the containment room, since he’s got a dustie suit…”
Reginald’s eyes shot open as he focused on the image of the Templar Thal Vadam. A familiar pain swelled from within him, pumping harder and harder into his forehead and temples. Through the influx of anguish, three words resounded loudly through the recesses of his mind, echoing off the chambers with the passion of a hapless beggar.
Keep him away.