Just tell me it’s fine …

A teaser from my massive edit on Quantum Soul, now halfway done.

Chapter 108

University Hospital Campus

Aja had barely enough time to change clothes before going to work, but she didn’t regret a last-minute tutorial on drone operation — the sightseeing tour between student housing and the hospital was worth the cost of admission.

Broadcast into her neural implant via RealSide Services, the augmented reality overlay upon night’s landscape was a revelation of sights rarely witnessed. The drone’s Soul-Camera-enhanced sense net revealed a myriad of details normally invisible to the natural eye — distorted space roiling beneath a grav-lift ambulance, heat blossoming through winter’s cold blanket into a dark sky, a wandering feline’s tiny soul, peeking out of bright green eyes.

The cat’s life force registered an index of 2, a diminutive number on an arbitrary scale about which even the inventors knew little, except to say that hers was 115, Vaga’s  119 and Amil’s 135.

She worried about bringing the drone into the hospital, but neither guard nor facility Oma objected to its credentials — the shift supervisor barely glanced up. “Everything’s quiet. You can go find a place to sleep. Or whatever.”

“I’ll cruise around for a while.”

The lady groaned into her chair. “All right.”

The hospice floor was asleep, monitors tracking life signs without incident — nothing happening, nothing expected to happen. Aja flinched at a feeling of discouragement — troubled by the ethics of seeking out death in order to interrogate its messenger.

Introspection came to a halt when the drone signed <AL> in the critical care wing. “This device sees an unassigned life force artifact.”

A formless cloud hovered in a hallway near the triage center. It bobbed there, slowly changing shape, drifting from one side to the other — as if respectful of walls that had, as far as she knew, no power over it.

It’s waiting for someone to die. She walked closer. “I can see you.” A counter flashed in a corner of her vision — the value well into four digits, changing too quickly to be read, but the visitor’s life force was certainly more energetic than any physical person’s — perhaps signifying as great a divide as that between her and the cat she’d just met.

The apparition didn’t seem to know she was there — Aja took a deep breath, walking into its shape, hoping nothing catastrophic would come of it. Her voice was thin, quivering, frightened. “Can you hear me?” And then she stepped back out, having neither heard nor felt anything in response.

It seemed to turn — perhaps a trick of perspective, or a rendering effect — but she thought, for just a second, that it might have noticed her. On the other side of a door, a life sign monitor chirped, loud enough to be heard by a sleeping attendant. Voices were raised in sorrow.

Tension drained out of her shoulders. “There’s your passenger.” The apparition shot away so quickly she couldn’t see what direction it went. She waited ten minutes — to be sure it wasn’t going to depart along the same route — and then rode a lift to the women’s dormitory on the fifth floor, to get whatever sleep she could.

Later on, in the early morning hours before sunrise, Aja Revata dreamed of angels.

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