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4


Ellis sat in a corner of Room 710 and watched the half-dozen technicians maneuvering around the bed. There were two people from the rad lab doing a radiation check; there was one girl drawing blood for the chem lab, to check steroid levels; there was an EEG technician resetting the monitors; and there were Gerhard and Richards, taking a final look at the interface wiring.

Throughout it all, Benson lay motionless, breathing easily, staring up at the ceiling. He did not seem to notice the people touching him, moving an arm here, shifting a sheet there. He stared straight up at the ceiling.

One of the rad-lab men had hairy hands protruding from the cuffs of his white lab coat. For a moment, the man rested his hairy dark hand on Benson's bandages. Ellis thought about the monkeys he had operated on. There was nothing to that except technical expertise, because you always knew - no matter how hard you pretended - that it was a monkey and not a human being, and if you slipped and cut the monkey from ear to ear, it didn't matter at all. There would be no questions, no relatives, no lawyers, no press, no nothing - not even a nasty note from Requisitions asking what was happening to all those eighty-dollar monkeys. Nobody gave a damn. And neither did he. He wasn't interested in helping monkeys. He was interested in helping human beings.

Benson stirred. "I'm tired," he said. He glanced over at Ellis.

Ellis said, "About ready to wrap it up, boys?"

One by one, the technicians stepped back from the bed, nodding, collected their instruments and their data, and left the room. Gerhard and Richards were the last to go. Finally. Ellis was alone with Benson.

"You feel like sleeping?" Ellis said.

"I feel like a goddamned machine. I feel like an automobile in a complicated service station. I feel like I'm being repaired."

Benson was getting angry. Ellis could feel his own tension building. He was tempted to call for nurses and orderlies to restrain Benson when the attack came. But he remained seated.

"That's a lot of crap," Ellis said.

Benson glared at him, breathing deeply.

Ellis looked at the monitors over the bed. The brain waves were going irregular, moving into an attack configuration.

Benson wrinkled his nose and sniffed. "What's that smell?" he said. "That awful- "

Above the bed, a red monitor light blinked STIMULATION.

The brain waves spun in a distorted tangle of white lines for five seconds. Simultaneously, Benson's pupils dilated. Then the lines were smooth again; the pupils returned to normal size.

Benson turned away, staring out the window at the afternoon sun. "You know," he said, "it's really a very nice day, isn't it?"



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