Preparations for a Proper Observed Experiment
Getting fourteen distinguished professors of biology and medicine assembled, plus dozens of students and several reporters, was a matter of two hours’ work. Finding a place to do the vivisection was not so easy. Llredh refused to be at anything but his full size in front of his students. (Or, refused to be in a shape that cyoziworms could even remotely attack in the presence of cyoziworms, I really think.)
“Let’s use the Lecture Hall of the Balanced Parallelograms,” said Tarcuna after a while. “Llredh can look in through the window.”
“That’s not a suitable place for surgery,” said Prof. I-don’t-remember. “It’s not sterile.”
“I did this operation before,” I reminded him. “Starting on the Boulevard of the Orange Pine Trees, and ending on the roof of a bank. I’ll be using so much healing that sterility won’t matter.”
Bicker-bicker-bicker, went the surgery professors.
“You’ve seen them change size with your own eyes, you’ve seen them breathe fire and lightning and darkness on television. Why are you arguing about their healing powers?” asked Tarcuna.
Just because they can distort the laws of physics doesn’t mean that they can also distort the laws of biology, went the surgery professors.
Poke with the smallish but very sharp claw!, went Arilash.
Scream and bleed!, went Dr. Smends, the most arguesome surgery professor.
“Observe this fine injury — a textbook example of a sucking chest wound in its early stages,” lectured Arilash. “Dr. Smends, would you not agree?” Dr. Smends was perhaps less eloquent than he had been a moment before, though not actually any less noisy. “Other honored professors?” They concurred that it was, indeed, as she had specified. At least, one might well take their rush to perform first aid and/or escape as agreement. “No, don’t bother to treat it yourselves.” Arilash brushed them aside with her tail. “My assistant will demonstrate the use of astral magic to distort the laws of biology.” She looked to me.
“Assistant, nothing. Your superior in matters of healing,” I said, because fiancée points. It wasn’t hard to heal. Arilash had carefully sliced flesh, but not broken bone. I looked at the professors. “Any questions?”
Yes, they had plenty of questions, mostly along the lines of “How did you do that?” and “How could we learn to do that?” and “How can you be so violent so casually?” To which the answers are, “Astral magic” and “We are not going to give hovens any astral magic!” and “Because we can heal so easily.”
Dr. Smends, despite being physically unhurt anymore, declined to perform the actual surgery, preferring to sit in a corner with a beaker full of brandy. Dr. Grauzeng, the most recently-hired of the surgeons, was selected to do the actual cutting. I warned her what to expect from the surgery — disintegrating bits of very poisonous worm, and the wounds constantly closing from the healing spells.
“So let’s leave the worm alive as long as possible,” said Dr. Grauzeng. “If the poison isn’t evolved until it dies.”
“Oh! We could try that,” I said. “The time I had done it, I started out killing it.”
“Sever the brain connections first. Otherwise it might wreck her brain, out of fear or fury,” said Tarcuna. So we drafted Arilash to try to render the worm insensate for the first part of the surgery — I didn’t want to fuss with that and the healing at the same time. She’s better with the Lure of Dreams than I am — anyone who’s ever cast it except for practice is better.
“And Bthera’s going to love you forever,” said Tarcuna.
“Well, you or Spotty. That’s the natural reaction to getting rescued from cyoziworms,” she said with a shrug.
Arilash looked out the window to peer at Llredh. “Is that right?”
”Wrong, she is not. The clearer situation with Ythac, though, her I did not resent, nor reject! We were on our way there before.”
“Perhaps a single, male surgeon would be a better choice…?” said Dr. Grauzeng. “A man might find the patient appealing. I am a woman, and a married one at that.”
“Not that kind of love. More along the lines of, well, worship,” said Tarcuna. “I mean, I’d do that if Spotty asked. Or nearly anything else. But I was a public friend for a while, so that isn’t much of a problem.”
“Bthera is a public friend too,” noted Arilash.
“This topic, she brings me resentment. Resentment, she brings fire to my tongue and to my lips. Commence the surgery!” roared Llredh.
“Or maybe it doesn’t work that way for everyone. We’ve only seen it twice, and was pretty different for the two,” I pointed out, to give poor Dr. Grauzeng a bit of hope.
Dr. Grauzeng, that artist of the scalpel, went in through the cheek. Arilash stunned the worm as best she could, and Dr. Grauzeng clipped its brain-probes. The audience, watching projected images of the surgery on big screens over the table, yelped and squirmed as they saw the writhing proof of the cyoziworm’s reality.
After a bit of quick consultation, we decided to try to pull the worm out of Bthera from the top, on the hope that that would be less damaging than cutting her open from cheek to chest. I put the Small Wall into the worm — and did that ever get a bitter hiss from Llredh! — so that it wouldn’t be quite so vulnerable to tugging. Either the idea or the execution is imperfect, since the worm broke halfway out. Llredh roared in triumph, nearly making Dr. Grauzeng drop the worm back into the patient.
Which gave Dr. Grauzeng and I our time to scramble, cutting and healing in a frantic rush, like last time. This particular surgery is easier without warplanes. I think we did it in a quarter of the time, and spilled much less poison in Bthera. Taking the probes out of the brain was still very hard, and in the end we didn’t have much better choice with two of them than pull quick and heal quick and hope for the best.
After the last incision had been healed, Bthera was in much better shape than Tarcuna had been. She only needed healing every six minutes, even right after, not every minute, and by midnight it seemed safe to leave her in the hospital attended only by hovens and material medicine.
The medical aftermath was more, well, amusing. I didn’t get to see much of it, since I was tending Bthera. Arilash was in the thick of it, and told me afterwards. The doctors and biologists had recorded the whole surgery, and were pointing at a dozen pictures from it. They were discussing how the cyoziworm fit into Hove’s biology. Two biologists held forth at great length on the phylum of forkworms, a minor branch of parasitic life found in mainly in a distant continent on the Godaxle. Forkworms are hard to dissect because they melt into poisonous slush when killed. The conclusion was obvious. Llredh hissed and fumed, trying to decide if he would destroy the entire phylum or just the cyoziworms.