“I’ll use the information terminal at the control desk. Meanwhile, you could take a look here and see if you can see him. Or you can come with me and wait in the waiting room. No guests are permitted in the control room.”
“I’ll wait here, thank you. There is enough of interest here to keep me occupied for a week.”
“Suit yourself, but, needless to say, don’t touch any of the wires or the patients under any circumstances. The whole system is very carefully balanced. The electrical resistance of your body would be picked up by the computer and an alarm would sound.”
“No need to worry. I’m not about to touch anything.”
“Good. I’ll be right back.”
Michelle removed her goggles. The door to the visiting room opened automatically and she was gone.
Michelle walked through the visitors’ room and halfway down the corridor beyond it. The door to the control room opened for her. It was dimly illuminated like the control room on a nuclear submarine. A good portion of the light in the room came from the far wall, which was actually a two-way mirror permitting observation of the visitors’ hall from the control room.
Two other people occupied the room when Michelle entered. Sitting in front of a large U-shaped bank of TV monitors was a guard. He was also dressed in white, and wore a wide white leather belt, a white-bolstered automatic, and a two-way Sony receiver. He sat in front of a vast console with multiple switches and dials. A battery of TV monitors in front of him was scanning rooms, corridors, and doors throughout the hospital. Several screens had constant images, such as the monitors for the front door and the entry hall. Others changed as remote control video cameras scanned their areas. The guard looked up sleepily as Michelle entered.
“You left her by herself in the ward? Do you think that was wise?”
“She’ll be fine. I was told to let her see what she wanted on the first floor.”
Michelle walked toward a large computer terminal where the other occupant of the room, a nurse dressed like Michelle, sat watching the data displayed on the forty or more screens in front of her. Intermittently the computer’s printer to her right would activate and print out information.
Michelle plopped herself down in a chair.
“Who the hell does she know to get invited here by herself?” asked the computer nurse, suppressing a yawn. “She looks like a Goddamn LPN or something. She doesn’t even have a pin or a cap. And that uniform! It looks like she’s been wearing it for six months.”
“I haven’t the slightest idea who she knows. I got a call from the director saying that she was coming and that we were to let her in and entertain her. I was to call Herr Direktor when she arrived. Do you think there’s some hanky-panky going on?”
The computer nurse laughed.
“Do me a favor,” continued Michelle, “and punch in the name of Sean Berman. He was a Memorial referral. I need his patient number and location.”
The computer nurse began to key in the information. “On our next shift, you can be the computer-sitter while I float. Playing with this machine is starting to drive me up the wall.”
“Gladly. The only break in the routine of floater for the past week has been this visitor. A year ago, if someone told me I would be tending a hundred intensive-care patients myself, I’d have laughed in his face.”
One of the display screens flashed: Berman, Sean. Age 33, sex male, race Caucasian. Diagnosis: cerebral brain death secondary to anesthetic complications. Sample number 323 B4. STOP.
The nurse keyed Sample number 323 B4 back into the computer.
The guard at the other end of the room slouched over, watching the monitors as usual, as he had been doing for two hours since his last break, as he had been doing for almost a year. The picture of the main ward appeared on screen number 15; moving as the video camera slowly panned from one end of the huge room to the other. The dangling nude patients held no interest for the guard. He was finally accustomed to the gruesome scene. Automatically screen number 15 shifted to the intensive-care visitors’ ward as its camera started to scan.