Doc looked at the young woman across from her and decided she needed a break. She glanced at her watch.
"All right, Lieutenant. We land in an hour. I'm going to step down to the main cabin to talk to Colonel Vance. Stay here and rest. We will get to work immediately when we reach my lab, so use this time to relax a bit. If you would like to lie down, there is a place to do that through those curtains. Help yourself to water or juice from the refrigerator. Otherwise, you are welcome to stay here. I'll be back soon.
The young woman nodded, and Doc disappeared through another set of curtains, which the young woman hadn't noticed before. Moments later, she seated herself at the table Vance had been using, in the seat across from his. He wasn't there presently, but he couldn't have gone far, since they were cruising at 30,000 feet, so she knew he would be returning soon. As she had that thought, he folded his large frame into the chair next to her and said, "Well, how's the girl?"
Doc shook her head. To this point, the Lieutenant still didn't remember her name. This was going to be more challenging than she thought.
"Can you help her remember?"
Doc looked thoughtful. "I can, but even with that, there's a risk. If she's not ready to remember, it could do more harm than good to force it. I'd prefer to give her the time she needs to remember, but we may not have that luxury."
"What makes you think so?" He had an inkling he knew, but wanted to be sure they were on the same page.
Looking around to be sure no one was listening that she hadn't seen, she lowered her voice and said, "I sense that this is the Nurse Gail who met with Eliot two nights ago. She can't tell me one way or the other, but if that's true, we have a little more than sixty hours left to find what we are looking for. If the two are connected, that means the time I have to help her remember also draws short."
"It could mean more than that. I'm going to call ahead and have some MPs waiting to escort us to your office. As a safety precaution. You should take any other precautions you need to take as well."
"Noted. Come on back to the office and make your call."
He rose and followed her back toward the office. They were almost there when they heard a crash and then the sound of breaking glass. Putting a finger to her lips for silence, Doc picked up her pace and walked back through the door to her office to find the young Lieutenant on her knees in front of one of the now open drawers of Doc's desk, clutching a file folder in one hand and bleeding profusely from the other.
Doc stopped at the door and held out a hand to stop Vance as well. "Lieutenant, what happened?"
The Lieutenant stared straight ahead, muttering some sort of gibberish under her breath, while blood from her injured hand dripped onto the floor. She didn't seem to notice they were there.
Vance drew his service revolver. Doc shook her head at him, and he glared back, still holding the weapon trained on the young woman. Warily, Doc moved further into the room, watching her patient for any signs of recognition. There were none.
Speaking softly to her, Doc moved closer. Suddenly realizing she wasn't alone in the room any longer, the Lieutenant turned toward Doc holding something in her hand.
"Easy, Lieutenant," she said, softly. Doc reached for the scalpel she held in her hand at the same time the young woman lunged for her. The blow was deflected by the fact that they moved at the same time, and Doc easily folded the woman's arms up behind her back, forcing her to drop the blade she was holding, but not before the scalpel caught Doc in the arm, cutting it rather badly.
When he saw that Doc had the situation under control, Vance holstered his service revolver and moved on into the room. He tied the young woman's hands with some rope Doc kept aboard for various purposes and secured her to the chair she had been sitting in before.
Under Doc's supervision, Vance cleaned the young woman's hand for her, rubbed an antibiotic salve on it, and bandaged it. Doc was pleased to see that it probably wouldn't need stitches. She looked at Vance. "She'll need a tetanus shot."
Vance nodded and the two senior officers rose and moved to the counter together. Vance retrieved Doc's keys from her and found the vials he was looking for. He drew liquid into a syringe and turned back toward the young woman. Doc placed her good hand on his arm and shook her head.
Vance's eyes narrowed and he gave her a sideways look. "She's not with us yet. We had to clean her hand because I needed to see how bad it was bleeding. The rest can wait until she understands what is going on."
Vance nodded, capped the syringe, and laid it on the counter.
Doc washed the blood off of her arm at the small sink in her office, and then tied a clean towel around it to stem the blood flow. Doc sat down next to her patient, holding pressure on the towel and watching the woman in front of her. She saw a spark in the Lieutenant's eyes, and then the woman slumped in her chair. She gave Doc a sideways look.
"Did I—do—that to you?"
"I don't know what's wrong with me."
"What do you remember?"
"Nothing. It's like trying to see through a heavy fog. Can you help me?"
Doc hesitated for a moment and then nodded. After all, she might be the only person who could.
"Are you sure that's a good idea?" Vance asked, clearly concerned.
"I don't think we have any other choice," Doc replied. She looked at the Lieutenant. "The procedure we discussed before just moved from last resort to the first thing we will try. And I think we'll keep you restrained until we figure out the problem."
The Lieutenant looked at her unhappily, but nodded. After what she had done, the Doctor's actions were reasonable.
"Now that that is settled, let's get your arm treated," Vance said, taking Doc by the uninjured arm and leading her to her exam table in the corner of her office, where he had a suture kit and other first aid supplies already set up.
She sat down and started talking quietly, making sure the large man did everything he needed to do to sew up the wound. By the time the plane landed, she had a neat white bandage wrapped around her arm. She started to get up and Vance put a hand out to stop her.
"We're not finished yet," he said, rising and moving around to the other side of her. She saw the syringes in his hand and gave him a meaningful look.
"Tetanus," he said, injecting her with the first one. It had to stay in for a few minutes so they waited, so many unspoken thoughts flying through the air between them. Finally, he removed that one and injected her with the other one.
As soon as he finished, she was on her feet. "Let's go."
The young woman rose tentatively, as though she wasn't sure what would happen next, and Doc studied her for a moment. Then she said, "All will be well, Lieutenant, if you can trust me and do what I tell you to do." The other woman nodded and Doc spoke again. "Come on. Let's get this over with, shall we?"
The MPs surrounded the two senior officers and the young woman between them and accompanied them all the way up to Doc's office. As they were walking, Vance put a hand on Doc's shoulder and hung back a little. The small army of MPs surrounding them moved slightly to allow for the expansion of their little group. Doc looked up at Vance and he handed her a file folder. She realized it was the folder the Lieutenant had taken from her desk, as it had small drops of blood on it. Trying to figure out what Vance was trying to show her, she turned the folder over in her hands, but was still puzzled.
"Open it," Vance whispered in her ear. She opened it and suddenly understood. There, looking back at her from the center of the page, was a picture of the person to whom this file belonged. She was staring straight into the intense gaze of Eliot Spencer.
She shot Vance a questioning look. "It makes sense according to your theory."
That it did. She nodded. Doc was quiet, thinking hard for the rest of the trip upstairs. When the two senior officers and the Lieutenant were safely in Doc's office, she ordered four female MPs to stay inside and sent the others out to guard her office from the hallway. She motioned the young woman to a seat in front of her desk, and Vance sat down in the chair next to her.
"Now, then, Lieutenant, I think I'd like to hear the story of what happened when I left you to rest in my office on the plane."
"I don't know. I wish I could give you those answers, but all I remember is feeling really tired and then I guess I blacked out. I came back to myself tied to the chair after your arm was cut. At that time, I somehow had the feeling that I did it, but I don't remember anything about doing it or why I might have done so."
"What did you want with Eliot Spencer's medical record?"
The young Lieutenant was not a person whose face hid her surprise well. "Eliot is a good friend of mine, and in fact, I treated him a while ago when he got into a scrape with some Russians. Maybe it was a name I recognized. I don't know."
Doc sat considering the information she had for a few minutes. Then she took out her phone and wrote a text message. Finally, after a time, she looked up to find the young woman watching her.
"All right. Follow me, Lieutenant." She nodded at Vance, telling him to follow as well. As they left, the MPs fell into step in front of, to the side, and behind the Doctor and her small party. She moved down one floor and into a rarely used treatment room.
"I beg your pardon, ma'am."
"I want you to go in there and strip, then lie down on the exam table and cover yourself with the blanket that is on the table there." She indicated the MPs. "These ladies will give you five minutes to get settled, and if you aren't undressed by then, they are under orders to help you out. If you are covered with the blanket when they get there, they will simply restrain arms and legs and post themselves in the corners as a guard. I'll be in in a few minutes." Seeing the look on the girl's face, Doc laid a hand on her shoulder. "Trust me." The girl nodded and allowed the MPs to escort her into the room.
Doc moved a little further down the hall and escorted Vance into a viewing room. "I texted Shelley. He's doing some research and will be calling. If this is what I think it is, I'll need his help. When he calls, patch it into my comm?"
He nodded. "What's going on, Doc?"
"It's too dangerous to talk too much about it now, and risk being overheard."
"Overheard by whom?"
With that, she moved down into the treatment room where she had left the young Lieutenant, and was pleased to find her on the table, covered by a blanket, as ordered. She made eye contact with the leader of the MPs, a commander, who nodded at her. She nodded back.
"Nicely done, Lieutenant," she said, touching some buttons on a panel on her desk. The large boxy instrument mounted on the ceiling lowered itself into position and the young woman's eyes grew wide.
"Just relax, Lieutenant. It's just going to take some scans. Completely painless." A moment later, the machine had completed its first sweep and it beeped. Moving over behind it, Doc glanced at the screen. There was something, right at the level of the hairline, but she couldn't tell what it was.
She heard a voice in her ear. Shelley.
"Sound bafflers on," she said, into the air. "Jammers on."
"Sound bafflers and Jammers on," the air replied.
"Show me what you are looking at," Shelley said. She picked up the pair of safety glasses and put them on, then she touched a button on the console.
She heard a low whistle. "Wow. I'm assuming you need to remove it."
"All right. We have to do this very carefully. Do exactly what I tell you."
Doc moved over to the head of her patient's bed, and rubbed a topical anaesthetic on the place where she needed to make her incision. When the woman looked up at her, she put a finger to her lips and said, "I have to work fast. I'll explain later. Close your eyes."
The woman did so.
After the anesthesia took effect, it was the matter of a moment to make a small incision and have the tiny square of metal in front of her. Now she had to move very carefully to extract it without disturbing the almost microscopic wire running into the young woman's brain. Finally, after a few tense moments and a couple of near misses, it was done. Doc breathed a sigh of relief and she was pretty sure Shelley let fly with a couple of swear words in a language she thought she knew.
"Get rid of that thing fast, Doc. If it is the kind that can be detonated from afar, whoever put it there will do so when they realize they've lost contact with it. You don't want to be holding it and you don't want anything you don't want to lose nearby when that happens."
She didn't have to be told twice. She trotted across the hall to the morgue, where she deposited the apparatus into a small, lead lined box that was used for radioactive tissue samples normally, and put it into one of the lockers. The charge shouldn't be big enough to blow more than the box up, and the locker would contain the blast. She hoped.
Moments later, she had unfastened the woman's restraints. She said, "My MPs and I will step into the hallway while you get dressed. Meet me there. We'll discuss this and the next steps in my office."
As she stepped into the hallway to wait for her patient, she heard a muffled blast, and was surprised at how loud it sounded. Maybe the charge was bigger than she thought. She dashed into the morgue, to find that the door of the locker containing the apparatus had been blown off of its hinges, but the rest of the damage was minimal.