This was the second time Quinn had thrown that punch, and it was the second time it had caught Besca directly in the gut and left her winded. It was just as baffling to her now as it had been before, and it drudged up the same panic, the same buried shame. With how tumultuous things had been, how close the shaves had become, she found herself thinking often of home. Westwel was a familiar haunt in her dreams, a land so thoroughly ruined no one would live there again until it was sunk, eroded, and a new land emerged to stand upon its corpse. That feeling of loss that lingered in her waking blinks was all she had left of it.
But, in these little moments, looking at Quinn, she thought she might remember what home really felt like.
“Love you too, hun,” she said, as naturally as she breathed. Like that, every ounce of panic and shame vanished. She smiled. “Sleep tight.”
Besca sat there for a long time, ignoring the messages and hails from outside, and did not leave until she was sure Quinn was asleep.
Despite how lax the Ange’s schedule seemed, everyone’s day started fairly early. The automated voice chimed at the approximate dawn to announce: “Curfew has lifted.” and shortly thereafter there was activity in the hallway. Through Quinn’s door she could hear Cyril and Sybil chatting on their way to the lift, but she herself didn’t rise for another hour or so. A ping on her phone alerted that an appointment had been made for her in the medical wing, and requested she come at her earliest convenience.
It was a quick ride. The lift took her up past the market floors, to the floor just above it. There she stepped off onto the thick, glass floor overlooking the district Cyril had brought her to yesterday. If she looked, she could have spotted the restaurant, or even Misericord .
Here things were less casual. Scores of employees in lab coats and uniforms scurried about the central plaza. A quintet of massive hallways split off in different directions, each designated with hanging signs like: RESARCH AND DEVELOPMENT or MODIOLOGY, which themselves had lists of subsections attached to them. At the front desk, a man politely directed her to the sign that read: MEDICAL, giving her a room number and assuring her the doctor would be ready shortly.
The hall was wide enough for a dozen people shoulder to shoulder, and split by a pair of autowalkways. Nurses hurried this way and that, ducking in and out of rooms while busy lab techs skirted their paths. Some patients lingered in the hall, or scooted themselves along in wheelchairs. Quinn still got the odd look here and there, but for the most part the personnel seemed to fixated to pay her much mind.
She found her room easy enough, and just like she’d been told, the doctor was in not a few minutes later. He seemed pleasant enough, a bit older and thinner in the hair than Follen, but he had a warm smile that the wrinkles of his face were accustomed to.
“Hello, miss Loughvein, thanks for coming in right away. I know you’re in good hands over on the Aerie, so this is mainly just for formality’s sake. For our records, you understand. Anyway, there’s a fair number of tests we’ve got to run through, nothing too invasive or terrible, but still, better to get it all out of the way now.”
He opened his tablet, flicking through a few pages of whatever document he’d prepared to guide them through the process.
“Right,” he said cheerily. “This shouldn’t take too long at all.”
Toussaint was calling. Besca declined, and went back to her salad. A moment later her phone rang again, and this time she let it ring until she had successfully extracted every disgusting baby tomato from her lunch—depositing them into the bin where they belonged—before, finally, she answered.
“Toussaint, I get ten minutes to eat.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” his voice was faux-calm, he’d never been good at hiding when he was upset. “I just needed to ask you a quick question, Besca.”
“Then ask, Jaime.”
“It’s nothing too pressing, really. I just need to know if you sent a fucking bomb to my space station..”
Ah, Quinn had gone to medical. Besca took another bite of her salad, checked the time. She’d barely gone through half and her break was almost over.
“She’s not a bomb.”
“There is modium in her head!”
Toussaint sputtered. “There’s no such thing!”
“If there was no such thing, you’d be dead, whoever was in the room with her would be dead, whoever was around her for the past day would be dead, and in case you forgot the fact that it’s in her head, she would be dead.” Besca sacrificed another precious forkful to cut Toussaint off before he could argue further. “It’s inert. It’s not growing, it’s not radiating, it’s a rock stuck in her head.”
“It’s not just in her head, Besca, it’s on her brain.”
“Where is the brain located?”
“Listen, she’s been with us for months. I’m not dead, Dahlia isn’t dead, no one who’s been around her has caught so much as a sniffle. We’ve seen no growths, no modium sickness, and as far as we can tell, she’s as healthy now as she’s ever been.” She elected to leave out how healthy she’d been when they found her. “If you want, I’ll put you on with our head of medical. He’s been personally overseeing Quinn since she got here. All the records you got, he wrote.”
“I’m assuming he wrote records on this as well. Funny how those weren’t included.”
“If they had been, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Casoban would be picking out a dress for its wedding to Eusero. Now call Aldous Follen, or don’t, but I have seven meetings to get to keep this treaty running on my end, and expect you to do the same on yours.”
There was silence on the other end, then a single, dejected sigh, before Toussaint hung up the phone.
It was hours before the door to Quinn’s exam room opened. It wasn’t the doctor who had returned, but rather, Toussaint. He looked tired, skeptical, and just a tad wary, and stayed on the other side of the room from her.
“Alright,” he said, clearing his throat. “We have determined that you are not, currently, a danger to yourself or anyone who might be in close proximity to you. However, we will continue to monitor you, closely and frequently. You will need to return here ever few days for a scan.
“As well, I believe it would be for the best if you not mention this to anyone right now. Especially your team. I want your integration here to be smooth, and frankly, this might make things…uncomfortable, if it were public. Business as usual.”
He stood there a moment, just looking at her, as if he might be able to see inside her skull. He shook his head. “Well, as long as you’re okay. Anyway, unless you have any questions, you’re free to go. I would suggest at some point today you drop by the hangar and check on your Savior. I believe your technician arrived this morning, and we’d like to make sure everything is up to standards.”