Wyn drove into the empty market. Wipers flicking back and forth. Metal girders supported a glass roof as the rain hammered steadily down.
“Where are we?” Tay asked, face pressed against the window. Her eyes were growing weary, but she stared at the long empty benches and stacks of discarded boxes. The market was quiet now, but there was plentiful evidence of people having been there in large numbers.
“A hospital?” Tears blurred Tay’s vision and her arms were trembling. The sound of the windscreen wipers flicking back and forth, heartbeat matching. Shallow breaths. Tiredness dulling the pain.
“No, this is better. This is the pub.”
“I don’t think a drink is a good…” Tay trailed off, her words slurring.
“Idea?” Wyn cast a nervous glance at Tay, her skin pale, arms limp. “It’s a brilliant idea, you’ll see.”
Wyn spun the car around and backed up to a metal shutter, before jumping out with the motor running. Tay shifted her head, looking up as shutters rattled up behind them. The car rocked as Wyn jumped back in the driver’s seat. The dashboard pinging as they reversed, the door not shut properly. The car stopped, and Wyn was out. She dragged the shutters down and then ran around to Tay’s door, throwing it open and then hauling her out. Wyn took the weight and dragged Tay to a solid wooden door. Balancing Tay with one hand while working the key with the other.
“Hello?” Wyn shouted in the hallway. Buckets of paint and white sheets pushed against the skirting board. Naked lights, dangling from sockets, flared to life as Wyn flicked the switch.
Through the haze, Tay thought she saw a kitchen on her right, grey steel benches and two sinks, but Wyn turned left and into a room with a pool table in one corner. Heavy red drapes gave the room a cosy feel that Tay wasn’t in the mood to fully appreciate.
“Why is there a pool table?” Tay asked. Her eyes drifting from the field of green baize to a long white object. A transparent hood covering a padded bed. A tanning booth was her best guess. Underneath it was a display panel and then a collection of steel cylinders connected with pipes. Wyn lifted the lid with one hand and set Tay on the edge, careful not to let her fall.
“Hold on,” Wyn said and gently lowered Tay back onto the bed, lifting her legs and then straightening them. Tay groaned but was compliant.
“Doctor?” Tay muttered as her head found the padded cushion. “Where’s the Doctor?”
“Here. Ready and waiting for its first patient.” Wyn gently pressed Tay’s head back down and closed the lid. “Just need to wake it up.”
Wyn prodded the small display set just under the bed. The screen came to life, a menu on the left and a large red circle on the right. Wyn pressed the circle with her thumb and then jumped as the machine started with a heavy clunk. The word ‘emergency’ flashed on the screen.
“I’ll say it’s a bloody emergency,” Wyn said. The diagnostic began, and the machine got to work.
Tay came too at the mechanical sounds. Some part of her realising that this was not normal. She tried to sit up, but multi-jointed appendages shot out from the recess around the mattress and whipped across her body, locking her in place.
“What the fuck is happening?”
“Tay, just relax and trust me,” Wyn said, placing a hand on the hood and peering down at the patient.
A tentacle, thinner than the others, snaked out and whipped around Tay’s neck, making wet contact with her skin. Tay tried to writhe, to get free, but she was firmly in the grasp of the mechanical beast.
“I’m trying, but what the fuck is this?” Tay glared up at the detective, not appreciating the nervous look she was getting in return.
Something hissed and a milky gas seeped up from the bed, slowly rising to fill the chamber. Tay peered up wild-eyed through the shifting mist.
“You see this arm? That’s the doctor.” As if on cue, a robotic arm lifted from beside Tay, another on her left. They unfurled, whirring as they moved up and down Tay’s body, lights flashing and lenses clicking. One of them zoned in on the bullet wound. The other coming back up to hover over Tay’s face. Lenses peering down into her eyes. “This is it. It’s top of the line, better than any doctor in the sector, well, definitely better than any you could afford.”
“I want a real one, a human being,” Tay managed to say through the fog of pain and drugs. She wanted to push back, but the padding under her had only so much give and the straps stopped her from turning away. One arm clamped onto the bullet wound, a probing finger finding the exit point at the back of her thigh.
Wyn winced and pulled back slightly.
Tay stifled a scream, clamping her mouth shut and gritting her teeth. She was wide awake now, pain and fear flooding her system with adrenaline.
“It’s doing something, it’s got fingers.”
“You need to relax and let the machine do its job.”
“Let me out. I’ll take myself,” Tay’s words slurred as she breathed in more of the gas, “to the, erm?”
“You’ll be asleep any moment now and when you wake up, it will all be better.”
Tay wanted to curse her, to shout or hit something, but the will to fight just floated away. Her muscles fell limp and the pain became but a fading memory. Tay smiled up at the appendage hovering centimetres from her eyes. A lens clicked, and the arm was gone from sight.
“Hey?” Tay grinned.
“And there we go.” Wyn took her hand from the hood, a print slowly fading. Tay grinned up at her.
“Tay, in the metro. Who killed them? Was it the Militia?”
“Militia,” Tay screwed her face up, “but my uncle killed her.”
“Mara,” Tay murmured. “He killed Mara.”
Tay’s face screwed up and then relaxed as she fell asleep.