“I can’t tell you now,” said Everett to the turgid Maria, seeing angst and flames of anger swirling in her dark eyes. What’s her story, he wondered? He felt a flickering inside that he hadn’t felt in more than 20 years, since Ellen; and given the circumstances he found himself in, it made him feel uneasy. “Desperate times bring out deep emotions…? Some shit like that…” he thought.
“That’s enough Mister Nelson,” said Brown in his monotone, only with the volume turned up a notch or two. “Ms. Orozco, our security will escort you to the surface so you can attend to Mr. Rinconada. We advise caution. The storm has been upgraded to category 5.
“What about me? Do I get to leave too? I need to secure my home….and to see my son pitch.” His knee was being jabbed with barbed spears.
“WGE, energy security for now—and for the future!” exclaimed a handsome graying blonde middle aged woman as she faced the TV audience from the screen.
“We will allow you to view the game on the monitor.” Brown made no apparent gesture, but the screen changed over to a scene where happy young people of all colors were frolicking on the beach with a Golden Retriever. “We have guards to make sure your home is preserved and secure.”
The screen shifted to a middle-aged man holding onto his hairpiece in front of the entrance the WGE Dome. “As you can see, the weather is getting worse out here. But it’s perfect weather for baseball inside the Dome! Back to you Bill and Becky.”
Everett saw Chaz’s face on the screen, nervous, dripping with sweat already, though he had only pitched one inning. His eyes were looking nervously at the field from the dugout, but in his mind he was searching for his father. “I’m okay, Charles, don’t worry about me, just pitch your game,” the tuner thought, hoping that telepathy was not a myth, that his thoughts would magically penetrate through this underground prison to put his son’s mind at ease.
Several of the human-like automatons wearing dark warmup attire came through doors and marched down the aisle toward the stage.
“Mr. Nelson, please tell me what you know!” insisted Maria.
Brown came toward the two on the stage. “Ms. Orozco, your security team is here to escort you to your car.”
“Please,” she whispered to Everett, “tell me!"
“I can’t---,” he forced as Maria was taken firmly by the right arm of the dark model and guided down the stage left stairs, “right now….” But she was out of earshot.
Chapter XVI Getting Fixed
Everett made a move to stand, but he was quickly restrained by one of the guards. And the knives in his knee would not allow his leg to straighten or bear much weight. The blood on his pants was dry now. He bent over and reached down to roll up his cuffs. His knee was a black and blue and bloody mess. “Do you think I could clean this up, Brown?” Mr. Brown looked at Everett’s leg.
“Of course, Mr. Nelson.” A light-haired Aryan-looking droid entered the auditorium and came up on stage. “This is our medical model. We call him Well-be. He can take care of you leg.”
“I don’t want him touching me. Just some clean cotton, some antiseptic and bandage material will do. I can take care of myself.”
“You have a potentially serious injury, Mr. Nelson. It should be dealt with by a medical professional. ”
“No thanks. I don’t trust you quite that much.”
“Very well, we will provide you with antiseptic and bandages.”
The Dr. Droid was carrying a small black plastic bag. He unsnapped the top, opened it, and began to rummage through the contents. His hands moved so quickly, Everett could barely see them. A pair of medical scissors appeared in the doctor’s hands, then given handle first to Everett. He took the scissors and, from the cuff, began to cut through his denim pants. The instruments were sharp, it went quickly.
The pants were stiff with dried blood by now. He pulled the two sides away from the wound. There it was, black, blue, covered with dried blood. The doctor handed him a large squirt bottle full of clear, unmarked liquid. “What’s this?”
“It is only water.” Once he’d cleaned the wound’s surface, the extent of the injury was revealed. Stitches would be required to close the gaping hole. Meniscus was visible when the leg was bent. And the area around the wound was red and puffy with infection.
“Shit. Not good,” thought the tuner. “At least it’s not my arm.” In the medic’s hands, another bottle of clear fluid appeared.
The tuner took the bottle and squirted a small amount of fluid near the edge of the wound. Owwwwww…..fuck, fuck, fuck, that HURTS!”
“It is effective,” said the droid. “This will kill any infection. Then we will repair your knee.”
Given the size and potential severity of it, Everett knew he had to allow the doctor to fix it or risk permanent injury, disablement, amputation, or even death if he waited too long. From what he knew of medical droids, the doctor’s medical oath, including “ I will, according to my ability and judgment, prescribe a regimen for the health of the sick; but I will utterly reject harm and mischief" was programmed into their code.“OK…game on…”
Another bottle came out of the bag, this time with a flesh colored, cloudy liquid. The doctor applied a tiny amount the top of the wound. Everett watched as the wound closed itself and disappeared. “What is that?” he asked.
“Nano organisms that read your DNA.”
“Do we have to?” Everett began to sweat. What else are the “organisms” going to do inside of my body?
“It is done, Mr. Nelson.”
XVII Middle Inning Relief
“Lizzy, answer the phone!” Charles was well aware that the noise in the dome would prevent her from hearing his call. But she had it in “spark” mode and picked up. He looked in her direction from the dugout.
“Anything from Dad?” he asked before she could even offer a greeting.
“Nothin’ yet, love,” said Lizzy in her chirrupy London accent. “I think he’ll be fine. I don’t know if he’ll be able to get over here, though. Lots of roads are closed from storm damage.”
“Thanks, Lizzy, I’m going to try to call him.”
The bottom of the first was productive for the Giants. They chased Dodgers’ starter Omar Khalid with 3 runs on 5 hits; the length of the inning gave Charles some extra time to try to reach his old man. Just the outgoing message: “You have reached Everett Nelson, The Last Piano Tuner in the Western United States. I am unavailable for the next 6 months. Please leave a message. Thank you.” Another shot of adrenaline coursed through Chaz’s body.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah…” Top of the 2nd. Time to get back to work.
Charles’ fastballs were clocking an all time high on the gun: 98, 99, and 101 to close the deal on cleanup hitter Alberto Senia, a nemesis who had hit more than a few into the seats and further against Charles and seldom struck out—especially looking. The crowd was becoming frantic, sensing their pitcher’s adrenaline leve. Henry Hoag swung and missed at two fast balls clocking 99 mph, then was completely baffled by a 77 mph change, strike 3. Melvin Stanton took two pitches for balls, then grounded weakly to the mound for out number 3. 2 perfect innings for the man many predicted would win the Cy Young this year.
"Try dad again" Charles texted to Lizzy.
"OK, Love. Right away."
In the Giants’ half of the 2nd, the offense was shut down hard by Ed Dupont, the ace long-reliever for the Dodgers. But the way Charles was throwing, the 3 run lead seemed secure. As he headed to the mound, he heard the text beep go off several times from his phone behind him on the dugout bench. “Shit, I’ll have to wait until I get back,” he muttered under his breath, “gotta make it quick here.”
The walk to the mound seemed like the nightmare where you keep walking and are never able to reach your destination, instead getting further and further away; and he felt as if he was being watched. He surveyed the infield from the hill, but all he noticed was that the umpires were again staring at him. Looking towards Lizzy in the stands, he could see that security droids stationed there were staring at him, too. Were they closing in around LIzzy? “Go up on the walkway, Lizzy, up by the scoreboard,” he texted her.