Bitter 373

Britta sat up and looked at her arms. They looked normal. She removed the helmet and looked around again.

The four adults didn’t move, they just stared at her. It was a bit like being back in Sonny’s. Britta looked down at herself again. If they were worried, why weren’t they doing something?

“Alright,” said Lin. She had her phone out, up near her face. Had she called a special air ambulance? “She’s fine.”

Mum let out a sigh of relief and then threw her arms around Britta. Apparently, they had been waiting for Lin to give them the all clear.

“Don’t worry,” said Dad. “They were only glowing a bit.”

“What do you mean, don’t worry?” said Mum. “Your arms aren’t meant to glow!” She turned back to Britta. “Don’t worry, you’re fine.” Then she looked at Lin. “She’s fine, right?”

Everyone was telling everyone else not to worry, and then freaking out themselves. “Yes, Mum, I’m fine.” She rotated her arms to see the underside. “It happened before, too.”

“It did?” said Mum, her concern for her daughter’s safety swiftly transforming into parental concern about sneaky teens. “When? Why didn’t you say something.”

“It was on the video on Dad’s phone.”

Mum turned to glare at Dad.

“What? You shot the video, not me.” He had his phone out, scrolling to the right file.

Mum snatched the phone from him. “Where? I can’t see anything.”

“Ah, yes,” said Lin. She was watching her copy on her phone. “Near the end.”

Mum watched it with Dad peering over her shoulder. “Why didn’t tell us?”

“I wasn’t sure,” said Britta. “It could have been a reflection on the lens, or something.”

“Really, I am confident there isn’t a problem,” said Lin. She seemed to have won their confidence somehow. No one was screaming at her for trying to play it down.

“How do you know?” Britta asked.

“She’s a doctor,” said Mum. “A medical one.”

“My father insists all his daughters train in medicine, so he never has to wait for medical care.” She made it sound like a doctor was a glorified nurse. Woman’s work, in her father’s eyes. Britta was jumping to conclusions, though.

“And you don’t think it’s odd, the hairs on my arm glowing?”

“It is extremely odd, but this allows me to see your vital signs.” She waved her phone about. “It is linked to the cradle. Any time you have it on, I can see if you are having any problems. It is very accurate, and covers all aspects of your physiology. With this, I can determine your last meal, when you’ll need to use the bathroom, how tall you will grow, how many times in your life you will ovulate… If there was a problem, I would know before you did.”

Britta found it hard to take in everything Lin was telling her. The phone had access to her medical readings via the helmet. That much made sense. But why did they need to know details of her menstrual cycle?

“That’s a bit private, isn’t it?” she said.

“Yes, sorry. I don’t mean I have accessed that information. I am just trying to reassure you that there is nowhere a problem could hide from me.”

“But why did she start glowing?” asked Dad. “I mean, I know it was only a little bit, but still… it was weird. Is she changing on the inside or something?”

“No. Nothing has changed,” said Lin. “But please remember that Britta is very important to us. Any danger to her is detrimental to the project. We will not allow any harm to come to her. Her health is paramount.”

Britta had heard that sort of argument before. When scientists were accused of mistreating the animals they experimented on. They refuted the accusation on the basis that in order for their results to be valid, the animals had to be perfectly healthy. So it made no sense to allow the animals to be harmed or have infections that would interfere with the experimental findings.

It was a reasonable argument, if you assumed the results being correct was the important part. If they just needed results quickly to be able to apply for more grant money, then who cared if the rabbits were going blind?

“Well, we haven’t signed anything yet, thank God,” said Mum.

“You want to call it off?” said Dad.

“You don’t?” Mum seemed outraged by his lack of outrage.

“I’m not saying that. I don’t know.” He turned to Britta, slightly rocked by Mum’s violent glare. “What do you think, sweetheart?”

“Why am I on the table?” said Britta. “Did I seize up again?”

“No,” said Dad. “Lin asked me to lie you down so she could get better readings.”

Britta turned to Lin. “There really isn’t any sign of something wrong?”

Lin shook her head. “Quite the opposite. All your readings were very stable, and you were in a heightened state of autophagy. Your body seemed to be healing itself, rebuilding cells. Perfectly normal, usually happens when you are asleep.”

“And the glowing?” she asked.

“I am not sure at this point,” said Lin. “I need to run an analysis of the data collected.”

“You need me to go in for a checkup?”

“No. I can do everything here. Any equipment I need, I can bring to you. Whatever you need, you will have.”

It was hard not to feel reassured. Lin had a way of making it seem like nothing was too much trouble.

“Okay. I think we should carry on.”

“Britta!” said Mum. “No.”

“It’s fine, Mum. She’ll be monitoring me the whole time, and it’s only twelve minutes every two days. Honestly, I feel great.” She hopped down from the table. She did actually feel good.

“I can amend the agreement so you can cancel at any time without needing to give prior notice,” said Lin, her fingers dancing over the surface of her phone. “It would be interesting to try and localise the source of the glow. If it is related to her autophagic response, it could be something truly wonderful.”

“Also,” said Britta. “I’d like to renegotiate my fee.”

“Yes,” said Lin without missing a beat. “Would double be enough?”

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