Curt opened his eyes.
His mouth tasted like cotton, and all of his limbs felt sleep-dead, like he’d been asleep for-
‘Doc?’ he said, his voice dry, his mouth begging for water. ‘Doc, what the fuck?
Parker-2 sat on the bed, a hospital-issue plastic cup in his hand, a long straw slowly swaying as he held the cup. ‘Drink.’
Curt took the cup, but plucked the straw from the cup, and drank normally – embarrassment flaring as he felt the water slosh against his throat as he drank messily.
‘How long have I been asleep?’ he asked, knowing the answer was going to be far more than a night’s standard eight hours.
‘A few days,’ Parker-2 said. ‘I’ve been monitoring your fluids and feeding you via an IV line. You needed the time off, Recruit.’
Curt opened his eyes.
It his life had been a movie – A Series of Ever-Increasingly Terrible Mistakes, a Portrait of Curt O’Connor – he would have been in the dark, both literally and figuratively. He wouldn’t have known if he was nine or ninety, if he was in bed with a lover, or in a prison cell.
Real life, unfortunately, was clear at the worst points.
11pm, Thursday, Brisbane
1 pm, Thursday, Hyde
The bar was a dive, and that was putting it politely.
Curt slipped the gun into his pocket – the pocket of the stolen clothes – the pocket of the gifted clothes. Clothes that belonged to a Solstice. Clothes being worn by a Solstice.
He managed to meet Magnolia’s eyes without betraying any emotion. If the world was spinning towards Duty, towards what was right, she would take out her knife and slit his throat, then get Stef to safety.
‘O’Connor,’ Magnolia said, her voice the same as it ever was. Mags at work was…a study in everything a recruit was capable of being. Not necessarily what a recruit should be, but what potential there was.
Tiny hands touched his right shoulder, and a small head rested on them.
Jones looked up, unsurprised to see Merlin, goggles pushed up onto the top of his head, his expression one of exhaustion. ‘Going to get some sleep, sweetheart?’
Merlin nodded his head, then lifted his head and hands away from Jones’ shoulder. ‘I’m tired, Mumma. More than I should be.’
Jones spun on his chair to look at his son. ‘Do you want to sleep in your bed, or in your box?’
Stef jerked awake. She wiped drool from the corner of her mouth, and sat up. Everything was how she’d left it – a semi-dark lab, Jones working on her code, and her hand blue.
Everything was so exciting. Everything was so important. Everything was…kind of boring when there was nothing to do.
‘Can you at least screen share so I can watch?’ she asked. It was the third time she’d requested – the first time he hadn’t heard her, and the second time, he’d merely responded “Soon-TM” and gone back to whatever he was doing…presumably checking the code on her pinkie.
‘Maybe next time,’ he said after a minute, as if he’d just heard her. ‘Today I don’t want you distracted.’
Parker-2 lifted the scalpel, and cut into the body again.
Magnolia winced as she reintegrated in the infirmary – the doctors expected her to show pain, and her commander was no longer present. She didn’t care if she impressed the Parkers or not.
Any person – not suffering some form of extreme emotional trauma – would always get the same mix of insults, threats, and sexual innuendo. The Parkers would be the Parkers, and the world would continue to turn.
Most of the rest of the recruits had one primary Parker – the twins switching off for each new recruit, to keep a level of personalised service and familiarity with their patients – something that tended to confuse newer recruits until they started to see the differences between the twins.
She had both of them as her primary – something that was sometimes a blessing, and sometimes a curse. It was most often, however, just a useful element of her day. Two physicians would get her back to battle-ready much faster than one.
This time, however, neither doctor was at her side.
Parker-1 took a moment to smooth his uniform, then stepped into the operating theatre. It was unusually full – Enforcer Crawford, Ryan, Jones and the patient-to-be: former recruit Mimosa.
Annoyance leaked over the link. ^This is going to be interesting,^ his twin said. ^I’d still prefer to–^
Parker-1 shook his head. ^I’m her primary; I’m taking lead.^
^You’ve been taking lead all day.^
^I haven’t heard you complaining.^