October 9, 2009


CJ Hasting would have probably been creeped out by the sterile, pale-green walls and the odd, not-echoey hallway if he hadn’t fallen instantly in love with the lady who had picked them up from the lobby. She’d started talking the second the elevator doors had opened.

“The Moos Health Sciences Tower here at the University of Minnesota is the world’s premier research center in nanomachine neural reconstruction procedures. Thousands of people are walking, playing tennis and living normal lives after suffering accidents that severed limbs or the spinal cord,” said the cute nurse or doctor or physician’s assistant or whatever she’d said she was. CJ Hastings thought she was major track no matter what her job was.

“Nanomachine neural reconstruction procedures – we affectionately call them nano-nurps,” she smiled at Mom and then at CJ. His insides did a flip flop. “— have been in use for nearly two decades now and we’ve done extensive research regenerating damage done by brain tumors and impact injuries with excellent…”

Mom stopped walking. Mai Li fell forward a bit into the chest straps of the wheelchair. They wanted to give her a tranquilizer as soon as they came into the hospital and she started shouting, but between Mom and listening to CJ’s heartbeat, she’d calmed down enough to get to the elevator. Once up and once down was enough to almost put her to sleep. They’d gotten out in a sub-basement and the physician’s assistant had started talking.

Mom said, “We know all that. How many complete brain reconstructions have been done?”

The PA stood with her mouth open, blinked then turned around and started walking after muttering, “Maybeyoubetterfollowme…”

Mom shot a glance at CJ. He knew that look: she was getting ready to go thermo. CJ hurried after the PA, hoping to calm Mom down. But she turned into a smaller office before he could tap her shoulder or yank on her surgical shirt.

Doctor Chazhukaran had a surgery cap on and a mask dangling around his neck. “Ms. Hastings. Mai Li. Chris.”

CJ rolled his eyes. The guy insisted on calling him “Chris” even after he’d told him not to. Mom said, “CJ, step aside,” as she pushed Mai Li into the room. She looked at the doctor and said, “I asked your assistant how many complete brain reconstructions have been done…”

“And she said, ‘none’?” he cut Mom off. He turned and glared at the PA who took a little step back. CJ wouldn’t have even seen it if he had been drooling over her. He doubted either the doctor or Mom saw it. He moved closer to Mom.

Mom scowled, pursed her lips then said, “Actually, she told me that I should ask you,” she paused. “So, that’s the truth? You’ve never done a complete brain reconstruction?”

CJ saw him bite the inside of his lip – he knew the look, ‘cause he did it all the time himself. Dr. Chazhukaran said, “A total nanomachine cerebral cortex, medulla, pons and cerebellum reconstruction – a NCMPC – has never been attempted before.” He’d made fists and held them at his sides. Just like a kid getting ready for a fight.

Mom looked at him and put her hand on Mai Li’s shoulder. His sister snored softly. CJ moved even closer to Mom. He knew he couldn’t actually stop Dr. Chazhukaran if he tried anything. But he’d try. Then Mom took a deep breath and held it. And held it. And held it.

CJ glanced up at her. He saw Dr. Chazhukaran’s eyebrows twitch down. He’d have been creeped out by the doctor if it hadn’t been for Mai Li, the PA and Mom. Instead, he jumped when Mom said suddenly, “Do it.”

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