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‘We’re studying how your brain processes each question and answer,’ he reminds me.
By the time the doctor asks me about my fifth-year teacher, I’m bored and uncomfortable. My back muscles spasm from the unnatural angle I’m lying at and my eyes water against the laser. I answer quickly, trying to stay awake. I’m sure they’re saving the juiciest questions for when I fall asleep.
‘Adelice,’ the doctor continues, ‘when did you discover you could weave?’
‘At the testing, when I wove on the loom.’
He pauses, and I bite my lip. How much can this thing tell them?
‘You never showed talent before then?’
‘I didn’t have access to a loom.’
‘Hmmm.’ He murmurs something I can’t make out.
‘And your sister, Amie, did she ever show talent?’
I grip the edge of the metal slab. ‘No.’
‘Okay,’ the doctor says, ‘we’re going to transition to talking about your time at the Coventry. What is your favourite dish from the food generators?’
I sigh and relax my fingers, returning to automatic-answer mode. He asks about my wardrobe, where I work, what my duties are and which ones challenge me. He doesn’t mention Maela, so I’m able to keep my blood pressure normal.
‘Thank you, Adelice. Nurse Renni will be in to remove the mapper and IV,’ he says in my ear.
Nurse Renni’s hand adjusts the medcuff on my arm and then she withdraws the needle from my arm. I wait a few moments, but the helmet doesn’t lift off my head. I refrain from screaming at her to take it off.
‘Can you remove this now?’ I ask through it.
‘One moment,’ she murmurs.
‘Adelice,’ the doctor says, drawing my attention back to the comcuff. ‘I apologise, but I have a few extra questions.’
‘Extra?’ My mind races, and although I can’t see or hear her, I’m sure Maela is feeding him more things to ask. She’ll probably string this out another hour.
‘It will only take a moment,’ he assures me. ‘Have you accepted any gifts from staff members or other Spinsters while here?’
I think of the tiny digifile that Enora gave me before my trip through Arras. Somehow I know this is what he’s asking about. ‘No, not really. Ambassador Patton sent flowers to my quarters after the State of the Guild.’
The young doctor clears his throat a little, and I sense his hesitation after I mention Cormac.
‘Have you engaged in any sexual relationships since you joined the Coventry?’
‘Are you serious?’ I explode. ‘I kissed Erik. She knows that.’
Leave it to Maela to make this about her pet.
He continues, ignoring my outburst. ‘Have any of the others made sexual advances towards you?’
‘You mean the guards?’ I ask.
‘No, Adelice,’ he says. ‘I mean the other Spinsters.’
‘The other Spinsters?’ I ask slowly. ‘I don’t follow you.’
‘I’ll take that as a no.’
‘Okay,’ I say, confused. Was he asking if I was a deviant? ‘Anything else?’
‘Not this session,’ he says, and the comcuff clicks off.
‘This session?’ I whimper, but the mapper is already lifting off my head. My eyes see only white. The nurse’s arm snakes under my back and she gently lifts me into a sitting position. A moment later thick gel stings my eyes, and I yelp.
‘Blink hard,’ she commands.
Despite the burn, the room blurs into focus, and I stretch my stiff legs out in front of me, savouring the delicious ache of the movement.
‘I’ll move you to Observation,’ Nurse Renni tells me.
‘Observation?’ I ask. ‘When will I be done?’
‘We want to make sure there are no side effects from the laser scans or the neural stimulant,’ she says, helping me to my feet and guiding me out of the room.
The observation room has pale green walls and several beds topped with white sheets, but my eyes, still oozing gel, can’t make out much else. The nurse holds up a soft robe and I slip it on over the thin gown and sit down on the nearest cot; the sheets crinkle up around my legs. Scooting back to the wall, I feel rough plastic under me. This isn’t the soft, comfortable bed I’m used to in my quarters, but it’s a huge improvement on the exam slab.
Squeezing my eyes shut, I open them and then repeat the action, trying to flush the gel from my eyes. I want to see where I am. Any area of the compound where outsiders work is territory I’d like to chart. But before I can even examine the shelf in the corner, the nurse reappears and helps Pryana onto the bed next to mine.
‘I thought you girls could visit,’ she says brightly.
‘That was nice of you,’ I say, and she beams back at me before bustling out of the room.
Pryana stares ahead, ignoring me.
‘Well, that was fun,’ I say conversationally.
‘You’re twisted,’ she says, not looking at me.
‘Maybe, but it was the best two hours of my life.’
‘Two hours?’ she asks. ‘It took you that long?’
I frown. What does that mean?
‘I was done in half an hour,’ she says, glancing briefly in my direction.
‘Oh,’ I say. ‘Probably less to map.’
‘I probably don’t need remapping,’ she spits back.
‘Sure, you’re just what they want,’ I say.