Continued from Part I.
Two hours later, Decker was in the operating room, his hands scrubbed clean with a molecular wash by the nurse-droid, a layer of protective antibacterial rubber sprayed over them as a protective coat. Mrs. Taggett was on the operating table in front of him, thankfully still and silent. Her mechodist ranting had been replaced by the steady beep of the monitoring instruments.
Directing the nanowatt laser, Decker began the incision. The small tumor was towards the back of the woman, by the spine, and he had to be careful not to pierce any organs.
Two inches in, the laser blinked, shuddered – and stopped. Decker paused. Did he hit something? The laser was designed to cut through tissue and bone, just about anything short of metal. What sort of obstruction could he have encountered?
His gently probing fingers, inside the incision, found something hard. It was unyielding at his touch, sharp-edged. What could this be?
Slowly, with mounting horror, the doctor explored the object, feeling around. It wasn’t until his fingers found a series of raised shapes, however, that he knew for certain.
Decker had learned to read by touch, a skill that helped increase his dexterity. “Artificial bio-replicative digestive unit,” he read off, his words moving as he traced the patterns. The object filled most of the lower abdominal cavity.
His mind was afire with this new discovery, but like a good surgeon, Decker didn’t forget his original goal. He worked further, now forced to move around this large artificial organ, and eventually found the tumor at its spot at the back of the spine. It was the work of a few minutes to remove it.
Outside the waiting room, Decker found Mr. Taggett waiting for him, his hands intertwined and twisting together. “How was the surgery, doctor?” the man inquired, his eyes big and wide.
Decker narrowed his eyes at the man. “What aren’t you telling me?” he demanded, not bothering with niceties. He was in no mood to negotiate the tricky channels of diplomacy.
The man dropped his eyes to the floor. “She’s always been so against the machine parts,” he said, his voice barely above a whisper. “Ever since I met her. But when her stomach was failing, I couldn’t lose her! So I told her that it was a minor operation, that it would all be fine.”
Mr. Taggett was shaking. “I told her there might be some digestive troubles, but nothing else,” he breathed out. “Please, doc, don’t tell her. I think she’d kill herself.”
For a long minute, Decker just stared down at this little, owlish man, this man who had put inside his wife that which she seemed to hate above all else. And then, finally, he let out his breath in a slow whoosh.
“We removed the tumor,” he said. “She came into here to have a tumor removed, and it’s gone. My work here is done.”