A new chapter. Finally. Yeesh.
After a few more minutes, the auto-doc finishes flooding my system with the IV drip. Upon hearing its beep, I stand up and pull the needle out of my vein. The machine’s arm retracts, clicks and hisses, changes into a nozzle, dispenses a dollop of ointment onto my wound. I watch as it soaks in, as the bleeding stops, as the nanites or the chemicals or the fairy dust or whatever does its thing and renders me whole once more.
I flex my arm, test it, wiggle my fingers, clench my hand into a fist and relax it. I don’t know why. Just seems like the thing to do. “Thanks, auto-doc. A miracle of modern medicine, that’s what you are.”
The auto-doc doesn’t say anything. It’s face is gone. Only glass and steel stare up at me. I stand in front of the machine a moment longer, expecting to see that smiling blue face appear before me again, mock me again, talk to me again, but there’s nothing.
I sigh. “Fine. Whatever.” There’s nothing left to do but head downstairs and see what everyone else is up to.
Laughter rises up the stairs, stabbing me in the ears more sharply than the auto-doc’s needle pierced my arm. I take a deep breath and steel myself, my encounter with the auto-doc and the girl whose name I really should have gotten (Two in one day! What is wrong with me?) still sour in my mouth. It would be easy to default to a state of surliness, indiscriminately targeting everyone within reach with my bad mood. But damnit, I’m here to have fun. Better to just get over myself, to let whatever mayhem and chicanery my friends are engaged in wash over me and leave me in a better state.
I walk down the stairs and turn the corner into the living room area to find the boys and four girls playing some kind of card game I’ve never seen before. Now that my body’s a bit more hydrated, my brain a bit more purged of chemicals, the world seems sharper. The colors, the sounds, the sights. The girls look the slightest bit older (still younger than us, but not dangerously so.) The marble is cooler under my feet, the area rugs softer and more plush. I begin to wonder if the auto-doc slipped me something extra in the Ringer’s, but that’s absurd. Its programming would surely forbid it.
I’m just about to open my mouth and greet everyone when Googe slams his fists on the table and shouts out a string of gibberish. Everyone around the table responds in kind, and my resolve to be friendly and open-minded disappears in the din. “Holy Hell. What kind of weird cult shit did I just walk in on?”