ARIADNE STOOD BRACED BEFORE the laser, trembling as she waited for the backup power to engage. If it would engage. Her gaze wavered in the dim battery lighting to Yanni’s livid face, the horrible poison still eating his unbandaged eye. She shuddered, then forced deep, slow breaths. Only another specimen trial, only another injured animal. She felt the weight of her crystal pendant rising and falling over her breast. Stone. She must be stone, cool and steady. She couldn’t afford to feel Yanni’s pain and terror.
She took another deep breath, visualizing the three differently-hued crystals in the laser’s triad array. Disparity merging to a timeless white fusion of blended light. . . .
A click, and the backup shunt finally engaged, instruments powering up again. Healing white light, rippling, pouring from her hands. She triggered the reset laser, and it completed its tracking. Done.
Ariadne closed her eyes and sagged back against the lab counter as the medic bandaged the second eye. Peter Mitchell was examining the power panel, the retracted laser. “This little baby doesn’t draw much voltage. What’ve you got, some kind of souped-up transformer or—”
“Shock!” Pello exclaimed. “We’re losing him!” He leaned over Yanni’s chest, gesturing to Mitchell and the oxygen mask, and the cannula hissed into positive pressure. Yanni had gone blue, locked in stiff tautness as the medic started chest compressions. He paused, listened with his stethoscope, shook his head and started more compressions. “He won’t make it, Despoina.”
Ariadne ripped off her gloves to pick up Yanni’s wrist and close her palm against it. She shivered at the touch of his clammy, cool skin. Obeying an unthinking surety, her other hand found the quartz prism of her pendant. She summoned its serene order, breathing deeply and evenly. A high, pure tone rang in her ears. As the medic stepped back, shaking his head, she held her grip on Yanni’s wrist, empty of a pulse. She leaned close to the soldier’s ear. The world had gone dim around her, enclosed within planes of stone, clarity narrowed to a dark tunnel and the inward spiral of blue-tinged flesh. She summoned the blended white light once more, let it flow into the wounded soldier.
“Yanni.” She breathed against the tunnel of his ear, in and out, whispering the rhythm, the vibrant silent hum, sending it into his cold stillness. There. A faint flutter, a shallow pulse like wounded bird wings. It strengthened, steadied, began to beat in rhythm with her own. Calm. Harmony. Deep at the heart of a stone maze.
Her voice was a soft breeze. “You’ve done well, Yanni. Sleep now, let your body heal itself. I will give you tonic water to teach your own fluids how to heal. Sleep.”
She straightened, steadying herself against the counter as dizziness darkened her vision. She blinked, saw that the blue-tinged rigidity had drained from Yanni’s face. His chest rose and fell evenly as someone’s hands pulled the hissing cannula away. The livid skin had regained a ruddy flush.
Ariadne turned numbly to the vat of mineral water she had activated, experimenting at the spring with her laser-calibrated quartz rod—was it only that afternoon?—and wearily drew off a liter. The tonic water was more heresy rejected by the medical establishment. And the people preferred “miracles.” She sighed and turned with the bottle.
They all stood motionless, watching her. Peter Mitchell with a speculating look. Leeza’s pale eyes glinting avidly. Pello and the other soldiers stiffly at attention, faces wearing the look of awe Ariadne had come to dread.
She moved briskly, breaking the tableau. “He must drink a small glassful four times daily. Pello, have the men bring him to the infirmary. We must arrange his transport to the mainland for replacement surgery. Gently now, he must not be shaken.”
Pello saluted smartly, touching his crucifix as he turned to direct the transfer to the stretcher. The soldiers furtively crossed themselves before obeying. Ariadne followed them to the door, wanting only to sink into a chair. But Leeza and Peter Mitchell were still standing there.
Leeza broke away from the wall. “Maximal!” She strode to the laser, touched it, ran a finger across the console, walked over to Ariadne and took the bottle from her hands, peering into it. “So what’s this? Saint Ariadne’s holy water? You did a number on that guy all right, really thought he was flatlined. We have to talk, Ariadne. This lab, it’s fantastic. And those animals in there with the electrodes on them.” She jabbed a bright fingernail toward the glass door to the adjoining lab where Ariadne kept the injured animals undergoing bioelectric therapy. “Pure nuclear. What do you—”
“Enough.” She took the bottle, flinching at the touch of Leeza’s hot, jittery fingers. “I must see if there are more wounded. I will ask if it is safe for you to return to the house.”
Leeza pried herself away from the lab. Ariadne waited by the door as Mitchell turned from a last scrutiny of the laser. She locked the door and led quickly down the rock tunnel, ignoring Leeza’s chatter and the questions in Peter Mitchell’s eyes.
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