By luck, or chance, or maybe fate, I was the only wait-er in the waiting room when the neurosurgeons came in, one walking, one wheeling. The latter had the blank, semi-human almost-face of cutting-edge medical droid technology. Maybe its partner had brought it along so she could teach it how to tell friends and family that a loved one had passed away. Empathy lessons in real time, with me as today’s case study.
The human surgeon pulled a white mesh down from over the bottom half of her face. “The surgery was a success, and Senator Rask is in stable condition.”
For what felt like years, I just stared there, my gaze frozen on her wide, pretty mouth, trying to use my mind to will her to repeat that sentence, just in case I’d somehow managed to misinterpret the words ‘he’s’ and ‘dead’. I had seen the bright red fan his brains and blood had painted all over the white marble wall, after all; I still had some of both on my otherwise silver tie. The surgical droid whirred softly as it leaned a little closer to me. Its own appendages were clean. “May we speak to the family of Kayin Rask,” it said, its voice dropping pitch slightly on the last three syllables as its voice synthesizer composed proper nouns to insert into its otherwise-prepared script.
“I’m–” I scrubbed at my face. Sunlight was still streaming in from the windows outside, but this was high summer north of the Arctic Circle, so I had no idea what time or even what day it was. Mauri and Clio had been here earlier, but now they were both gone without so much as a coat left on a chair. “I have power of attorney,” I said, because it was true, and because sometimes for people like us, that’s even better than family.