Homeostasis is not equilibrium. It’s a balance, a delicate flowing exchange, an everlasting metabolic dance. Neither dancer is permitted to stop. The music cannot end. Equilibrium is death to all living things.
That is the first rule of vein raiding that I learned—that and never harm the infrastructure of the patient. Specialized Intravenous Mechanisms of Nanomedical Science, or SIMONS as we call them, changed the entire field of medicine. It wasn’t necessarily the smartest guys in the room that ruled the school-yard anymore, they were only along for the ride: reading monitors, mapping strategic entry points, guiding us through anatomical terrain. We thought we’d seen it all. Pilots always think they’ve seen it all. But we were wrong.
When something new pops on the scene there is always a fundamental question that goes unasked. What are the repercussions? The folks over at SpecBot never asked. They just saw dollar signs. I’d like to think—as something of a physician myself—that remnants of the old system still survive; that old Hippocrates still inspires healers to ‘do no harm.’ But as I quickly raise my hand cannon to tear a path through a throbbing vein, I can’t help but wonder if harm is inevitable, collateral damage to see Lazarus rise from the grave again.
It was a two-man procedure, a simple lung infection: Streptococcus pneumonia. The old ways of antibiotics were inefficient now; we had lost the red queen’s arms-race. But the SIMONS kept our heads afloat, kept our feet pounding on the evolutionary tread-mill even though we’d seen anomalies.
The superbugs were rare, spotted off the coastal regions where conditions were ripe for them to flourish. A pilot coursing for the hive of a superbug could lose his entire squad in minutes, or so I’d heard.
A midge, twenty little specks of technological wonder, was the size I’d entered with. A squad shot through a small gauge needle into a tangle of fleshy freeway. My line of sight would be blurry for the next 20 or 30 seconds as I washed ahead of my midge. It’s like watching someone descend a water slide, first person view—only digital and less wet.
The operation room had been cleared of all unnecessary personnel. This was a special case. The president was ill. She lay still on the table, throngs of tubing and fibre optic wires sprouting from her body. Dr. Warner had warned me that her case was one of the anomalies, a superbug that had plagued her for weeks. So I brought Hawkins along for the ride to keep the internals adjusted. No harm in helping homeostasis along for the day.
Hawkins and his midge would push the electron transport chain to capacity: priming cytochromes, pumping protons and splicing nascent proteins to length, while I made my way into the lungs. And when I got there I was greeted by a single SIMON, armed to the teeth.
It was tearing through tissue with small projectiles packed with TTX, a toxin that slowly shuts down sodium channels and eventually causes death on a microscopic scale. This was no simple lung infection. It was a cover-up, an assassination attempt.
The foreign SIMON had attached itself to a large antibody, twirling through the lung matrix while laying waste to my squad with bursts of heavy metal. Every hit minimized my chances of success, every miss necrotized the president’s lung tissue. Hawkins caught the SIMON across the neck with a plasma blade, and its head floated away, twisting slowly toward the vein he had just entered. The infrastructure was in shambles.
Before we disconnected and jumped out of our suits, I shot myself up to the SIMON’s torso and eyed the inscription on its chest. SpecBot.
About the Author-
Shawn Mansouri is a research associate in a lab that develops repellents against mosquitoes. His most recent publication is “The Tracks of Ridge Rock Station” by Disquieted Dreams Press in their Best Horror Shorts, 2015 anthology.
About the Illustrator-
Martyna Jerks is from Poland. She dreams of becoming a doctor and to change a world little by little; she takes photos every day and uploads them on Instagram with the help of her dear friend Mateusz, whom she had met on this page and they started talking about photography.
Vein Raiders is part of the upcoming collection The Machinery which will be released this week.
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