Lights and hushed voices began to register in her mind. The effect of the lights were only discrepancies in the dimness of the field of gray encompassing her world. She realized her eyes were closed. Awareness of her own name followed shortly thereafter. Her balance was disoriented. She tried to raise her arm, but felt a tightness that seemed to hold it back. An odd misbalance of internal pressure finally made her realize she was on her back. She tried again to raise her arm and found that it was bound to...what? Movements caused metallic squeaks, which led her to conclude that she strapped to a gurney. The smell of antiseptics and alcohol - the rubbing type, not the drinking type - added more evidence of her situation. She was in the medical wing!
She smiled weakly with the feeling of success. She got her head to roll enough to see a bandage on the arm that she'd hit on the shovel. There was a good-sized blood stain on it, but there was no evidence of any new leakage. She took this to conclude that she was on the mend. Yes, her breathing was coming easier and was not so immediately aligned with her presence of mind and the dispelling of that awful dizziness.
Okay, so her plan had worked, and she'd been brought into the medical wing...but what now?...She had no idea how long she'd been here, or what puzzle she was supposed to be ready to step in and solve, to everyone's benefit. There were no sources of natural light to suggest what time of day or night it was. She doubted that Virikai was here. She'd obviously given herself a bigger dose of the toxin than she'd intended. Had she slept through her opportunity? Was the problem already solved? Was she too late?
She made an effort to apply some focus to her actual vision, and took a look around. Almost immediately, voices murmured from the adjoining room and a nurse, or intern, or some such, entered. There was a slight grinding sound that Linika realized she had been hearing off and on while she lay in semi-consciousness. She took a deep breath, as quietly as she could, exhaling in the same fashion, and found her focus increased substantially. The nurse was plainly distressed over something she was working on.
She called to someone in the next room, and Linika observed the slight cringe in the nurse's demeanor when a man entered, his every move bespeaking impatience. The nurse stood her ground though, and presented what was now being offered as evidence of a problem. Linika immediately shut out everything else. If this was not what Virikai had set-up, it could be a substitute crisis sufficient to accomplish the same thing.
"It won't blend Master. See for yourself. The reactivating enzyme is not freeing the coagulant to bind the elements for neutral orientation! I have no way to mix in the antigenic protein combination for her blood type." She nurse stated, a trace of anger suggesting that she'd been scoffed at last time she'd made this argument.
The doctor stepped in, all confidence and annoyance, and cranked the handle on what Linika realized now was a centrifuge. He watched the fluid settle with a scowl, cranked it again, and again, and then turned to practically interrogate the young woman, sure she had done something to sabotage the sample. "Did you add the reagent before you separated the plasma? Did you let it get to room temperature first? Are you sure you got the correct ratio per volume? Page 211, chapter 17, chart 15-D, left column?"
"You DO know that the coagulant will clump if there is condensation on the test tubes, right? But you have to wipe with a sterile dry cloth, so no dried impurities can..." His expression was a mix of anger and appreciation as the intern echoed his words, starting with "wipe". But, satisfied that his intern was not an idiot after all, he turned back to the centrifuge, cupping his left elbow in his right hand, with a look of puzzlement.
"That would...make no difference...if the...sample was...diluted to begin with...Did you check that?" Linika offered weakly, surprised at how much effort it still took just to say this much. She'd worked in the lab back in Augiery, and there had been plenty of such simple acts of sabotage between rival cliques. It had always been amazing to her that such a basic thing as water, so fundamental to life, could be such a destructive element when added to a chemical that was a separate part of a broken-down natural compound.
She remembered being verbally skewered for using a damp rag in the lab once herself. The reason for avoiding doing it again was emphasized, syllable by syllable, with slaps to her face. She thought these two members of the staff were going to do the same, judging by the looks on their faces at her impertinence. Clearly, the fact of her heritage entered into it, as the two traded hissing snarls, telling her to be silent if she wanted them to continue focusing on saving her worthless Naerikk life.
She ran through a gamut of emotions, ranging from fury at the disrespect, to satisfied realization that the anger gave her strength, to amusement at the irony that her enemies helped her with their racism, to frustration that she needed to refrain from revealing it. "Did it ever occur to you people that I might have been exiled because I am in disfavor with my people? That I might not be your enemy? That I'm trying to help?"
The resulting weakness, from her "outburst", left her gasping in the silence that followed. The intern looked back at the centrifuge, giving it another round of cranking, as the master studied Linika for signs of deception. But her exhaustion was not feigned, and she defaulted her emotions to the fact that her words were not technically lies.
"Frankly, I...I think one of...one of your countrymen...decided to...take my 'worthless Naerikk life' with poison." she continued, adding a dose of wounded sarcasm to the words. "If you don't believe me, why not just finish me off. Do me a favor."
The master looked as though he was considering taking her up on it. But the intern's words suddenly reversed the mood of the confrontation. "Doctor?...I...I think she may be right!"