1.8: Pathology

I tried to apologize (genuinely) but the look in his eyes screamed bloody murder.

     No, a sling and swathe would only prolong stress to the area.

     Sutar groans, stealing a glance at her watch.

     “Focus, Susu,” Dr. Avery orders. She speaks from the tablet angled against a microscope.

     Sutar refocuses on their video conference and goes back to problem-solving.

     Physical therapy is plausible but that could make additional complications present themselves. Applying sugar tong splints to the proximal and distal sides of the elbow is just like the sling, only more of a slow burn.

     “Answer me, Susu. Now,” Dr. Avery pressures.

     “A fourteen-year-old Star Derby player who is left-hand dominant is brought to the hospital because of a three-week history of pain in the left shoulder. He doesn’t recall a specific injury but has played zoneman weekly for the last three months. He exhibits moderate tenderness around the anterior and lateral deltoid. Other than a radiographic study, the best initial management is to completely rest from the sport,” Sutar explains in a rush of words.

     Dr. Avery nods, tossing aside the top index card from the stack in her hands. “Next.”

     “Um, Dr. Avery, I have to go. Class starts soon.”

     “You can afford to be a few minutes late.”

     Sutar doesn’t risk groaning, lest she catches another lecture, so she pouts, her fingers tapping wildly at her thighs.

     “A thirty-three-year-old gravida three para 2 presents to the hospital at thirty-five weeks estimated gestation with premature rupture of the membranes. A decision is made to manage the pregnancy expectantly and delay delivery unless signs of infection or fetal distress are noted. Based on current evidence, expectant management instead of immediate delivery increases the risk of which of the following complications? A) Cesarean delivery, B) antepartum or postpartum maternal hemorrhage, C) neonatal sepsis or D) infant mortality?”

     As if I’m joining the OBGYN. I’ll just shot-in-the-dark this one.

     “Antepartum or postpartum maternal hemorrhage.”

     Dr. Avery lowers the cards and leers at Sutar. “I do not accept guesswork in my hospital. Your prognoses will be founded on reason or your medical career will be founded in fiction. Do you understand?”

     “Do you really want me working with Dr. Elio and his- to use your words- harem of nurses?”

     Dr. Avery scoffs in disgust. “Absolutely not, but the point remains, Sutar. And we still have to find the field of medicine you wish to pursue. Next question.”

     “But I have to go,” Sutar stresses. She looks at her watch, the time already seven past ten.

     “A seventy-eight-year-old female with a history of type-two diabetes mellitus presents with a six-month history of a burning sensation within her tongue. Her diabetes is well-controlled using Metformin along with diet and exercise. She also takes Atorvastatin and Lisinopril. She has no pertinent past medical history. After a physical exam, you notice a glossy and erythematous tongue. Your labs’ evaluations should–”

     Sutar shuts the tablet down, and races to grab her bright leather satchel and cellphone, firing a text to Dr. Avery.

“I’m sorry, doctor, but I have to get to class. Also, the answer’s to order a cobalamin test. You haven’t given me the choices, so you know it’s not guesswork this time.”

“Very well. However, this means we’ll have to conduct your medical tutoring an hour earlier than discussed. Make sure you pay attention in class, too.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

     Sutar releases her groan now, lamenting the extra grind on her plate. Her class work will soon compound on top of Dr. Avery’s medical drills, which she is loathe to skip and waste the doctor’s precious time. Then there was the asinine choice her classmates made to elect her their Star Derby captain.

     It won’t take much to make my deltoids tender. This satchel is already pushing it. Wait, I could run post-game physicals on volunteers to make sure everyone stays abreast of their physical conditions. I’ll run it by Tyra so she can run it by the professors so they can run it by Neth. Actually, that system is kind of like how VaChai runs. Aside from Tyra, we students are akin to interns and nurses. Tyra is the chief resident. The professors are the department attendings. Neth is the chief of medicine.

     Sutar amps up her desperate speed walk across campus, now fueled by ambition and guilt. Wasting Lynald’s time is just as bad as the doctor’s. Her stomach growls rebelliously. She didn’t have the time or drive to eat before her video conference and now she’s paying the price. Although, she wouldn’t be moving much faster if she were full. Her stout frame is not built for athleticism.

     Another reason why they shouldn’t have named me the captain.

     “–in a nutshell is how Mo- Ah, there she is! Welcome, Sutar!” Professor Lynald cheers, twirling his cane at his side.

     Sutar marches over to the rest of her class raggedly, appreciating the chairs present, plopping down with a huff. Her back already hurts from standing so long. Sitting on a stony floor would do her backside no favors.

     “What’s up, sleepy head?” Wallace taunts.

     Her eyes snap wide open after she whips her head forward. “I was–”

     Wallace throws his hands up. “I’m sorry. Don’t slay me. Just a joke. Sorry…again.”

     She simmers down gradually, her glare shut down as she rests her eyes. “Sorry, I was late, professor. Another commitment held me up.”

     “To be expected and exempted. I understand your workload and I will not make it greater than it needs to be.”

     Sutar leans forward, heaving a sigh of relief. “Oh,” she turns to Wallace, “you’re the Sulublei team captain. Please, don’t argue.”

     “I- but…you…”

     “Come on, Wallace. That nomination was a joke. None of us expected her to agree to that,” Donovan says.

     Sutar’s temper rises. “What?”

     “Yeah, Wallace thought it’d be funny to see your reaction,” Barry says.

     “Which it was,” Dig adds.

     “It was.”

     Her glare returns stronger than ever. “Any more jokes?”

     “I–” He looks away guiltily, scratching at his nose. “I mean, I’ll probably make a fool of myself as captain.”

     “I can see it,” Barry comments.

     “Me too,” Dig says.

     “Me three,” Sutar says venomously.

     “Is this class usually so combative?” Mac queries.

     Donovan scoffs. “That’s nothing. You should’ve seen them go at it our freshman year. It’s a miracle blood wasn’t spilled.”

     “Oh, it wasn’t that bad,” Lynald says. He leans back against the wooden box behind him.

     “And it wasn’t his blood I was interested in,” Sutar says.

     “Wait, what?” Mac asks.

     “Ooookay, before we forget we’re in class entirely, let’s get back to the lesson. Su, we’ve just finished reviewing Mother’s Source. Is there anything you aren’t clear on?”

     “No, sir.”

     “Incorrect!” the professor announces, though his tone is positive. He calms himself upon witnessing Su’s temper climbing some more. “Allow me to rephrase that. Up until this point, I’ve instructed you all primarily on the practical side of things. But there remains an even greater side- the emotions you feel when you use your powers.”

     “Are you for real?” Like those cheesy cartoons when they get some out-of-nowhere power boost to save the day?” Mac asks.

     “I don’t mean in that grandiose sense. Mother’s Source gained its name from Mother Nature. Quick question- how many of you have heard the phrase “No one loves like a mother” or something similar?”

     Sutar raises her hand with the other students, thinking of Dr. Avery. Her rage subsides in an instant.

     “Does “Mother knows best” count?” Mac asks sourly.

     “Of course, because they do indeed know best.”

     “Debatable,” Sutar hears Mac whisper at her left.

     “You see, there’s no greater love than a mother’s, and that includes Mother Nature. She supplies everything that we need. Food, air, water, and light. From the earth, from the sea, and from the sky does she provide.”

     “What about the sun? Isn’t that part of Mother Nature?” Sutar asks.

     “The sun is a star, so in this case, it’s more accurate to say Mother Nature is part of the sun. The sun is a beacon that warms all, even the things beyond our comprehension. So, while it plays aids in Mother Nature’s providing, the scale it belongs to is on another level.”

     Sutar taps her fingers on her lap pensively. Yet and still, Nuria’s able to command that energy with ease. I need to learn what she knows. Maybe it’ll help me complete my transformation. This passivity has run its course.

     “No matter how powerful our powers become, we are incapable of matching Mother Nature. From the clearest summer day to an erupting volcano, her love and her might have no rival. She has our home, our world, at her mercy. The reason we’re alive is proof of her favor toward us. To be in control of our powers, we must know love.”

     “So, we need to marry someone to master our powers?” Donovan inquires.

     Professor Lynald laughs awkwardly. “No, I mean, it doesn’t hurt, but… well…” The professor shakes his head to scatter his bashfulness. “You’re on the right track- sort of- but love is broad, Donovan. Romance is just one way to express it. Love can be felt for people, friends, family, and significant others. Right now, I want each of you to think of your best friend.”

     Su blinks, the first face to come to her mind from the boy on her right. She gazes at him sideways, perplexed why his lazy expression came before someone like Barry or Nuria.

     “The first person you thought of is more to you than just someone to hang out with/. They are your true comrade, someone you trust, respect, and cherish dearly. Do any of you wish to name whom you pictured?”

     Dig and Barry point to each other with wide smiles.

     “My boy Roy,” Donovan says.

     Sutar looks away and tugs nervously at her collar when Lynald looks her way. In her aversion, she sees Wallace do the same, his gaze aimed at the stony ground.

     Did he think of me back?

     “And love isn’t limited to people. A pet can foster those feelings for its owner and vice versa. Any pets back home?” he asks everyone.

     Nobody responds.

     “All right, well, love extends to items and ideas, also. Sutar, you feel protective of the plants you generate. That’s another way to express love. The people and things you love, you do your best to protect them from danger. I’m sure all of us can think of one mutual example of that.”

     The War of FHA…

     “To elaborate on the love of ideas, allow me to perform a demonstration.”

     Professor Lynald kicks the box open that he’s leaning against. The door swings open to reveal a mechanical air pump and a bag of party balloons. He leans his cane against the door.

     “Do I have a volunteer?”

     “To pop balloons?” Dig asks excitedly, racing to the pump.

     “Not quite.” Lynald snaps open the party balloon bag. He extends a pink balloon to Dig. “Do you know how to use an air pump like this?”


     Lynald laughs. “Put the balloon over the mouth of the pump. When I say go, twist the nozzle twice to the left.”

     Dig does so while Lynald goes around, handing one balloon to each of the other students. Sutar accepts a green one. Mac takes a purple one.

     “Neth made a bold move when he hired me. I wasn’t an educator and had no background in the field or interest. I was an entertainer of sorts.”

     Wallace grabs a yellow balloon. Barry takes a blue one.

     “Making children laugh was my forte. Bringing smiles to their faces, performing at parties. My act was modest.”

     Donovan takes a red balloon.

     “I had a partner for my act. A knife thrower, though his skill was true. He wasn’t Ohaida. He threw knives at balloons tied to a spinning board. And my job, well, it went like this.” He turns to Dig. “Go!”

     “Oh, yeah!” Dig turns the nozzle, way too into it.

     The second the pump hisses, Lynald’s body shrinks as his flesh becomes gaseous. His light blue button-down, beige jacket, blue jeans, and socks fall to the ground. A singular stream of mist exits through the button-down. It splits into five streams that flow into the balloons Sutar and the others are holding, inflating them wholly.

     Sutar panics and pinches the balloon shut. Once Wallace mimics her, so too do the others.

     “Whoa,” Dig says, ignoring his only half-full balloon.

     The balloons Su and the others hold pop in their faces, causing Su and Donovan to shriek. The mist from all five mingles in the air before flying into the button-down again. Lynald’s clothes rise just like the balloons as the professor reconstitutes his solid form. He takes a moment to straighten his clothes after.

     “I was–”

     Dig’s balloon pops.

     “You can shut the pump off now.”

     “Oh, sorry.” Di turns the nozzle twice to the right.

     “Our act was, excuse the pun, just smoke and mirrors. We inflated identical balloons, one with my gaseous form, pinned them to a wheel, and spun it. He would throw the knives to pop them all. The suspense was false because even if he hit my balloon, I would remain unharmed. Kids loved it, though. Oh, those were good times.”

     “Ohhhh, you were a clown,” Mac says.

     “Correction. I was an entertainer.” He twirls his cane flamboyantly. “Face paint goes against my religion.”

     Sutar can’t help but laugh. Lynald’s one of the few people she’s incapable of being mad at, even when the destruction of her flower beds came at his orders.

     “Neth had heard of me and wanted to hire me for one of Shuri’s birthday parties. I didn’t know at the time it was an interview, but when I had his grandson in tears, he offered me the job. I was hard-pressed to accept because I loved entertaining so much. Neth assured me I could do both and I accepted. I’ve learned so much more about what I’m capable of since then. All from the love of this job. I’m willing to bet some of you have occupations you’re excited for.”

     Donovan raises his hand. “My dad let me intern at his mining company while I was home. He says there’s a spot for me when I graduate.”

     “Reverse Iceberg is the name Dig and I want to name our actual resort one day. The one we have here is practice. Our specialty will be hot sand baths.”

     “Our moms run one together back home and we want to follow in their footsteps,” Dig says.

     “Very nice. Mac, any lofty aspirations?”

     “Not really. I could do your thing but I can only use my power orally,” he explains. “May I?” He catches a spare balloon from Lynald. He blows into the balloon, filling it as fast as Lynald. He inhales, emptying the plastic just as fast, wisps of violet gas ejecting from the sides of the balloon’s mouth. “Full body fission for me isn’t possible.” He toys with the metal bracelet on his right wrist.

     “And that’s perfectly fine. Not every power needs to have that property. Wallace?”

     “I’m not looking forward to any job related to my powers. Still figuring that situation out.”

     “You’re a smart boy; so, you will.”

     Sutar beams when Lynald looks her way this time, more than happy to answer. “Being a doctor is in my future for sure! I am sorry I was late but Dr. Avery wanted to run some drills. Next week, we’ll start an hour earlier so I’ll be on time. She and I are trying to find a specialty field for me. I–”

     “Wait, is your mom a doctor? Are you a doctor? Why? That profession’s filthy and it’s for filthy people!” Mac accosts.

     Sutar sees red instantly. “I don’t recall asking for your opinion but you’re wrong! Being a doctor is the chance to be someone’s lifeline! Sometimes, their only lifeline!”

     “Okay, Sutar, calm down. I’m sure he meant–”

     “All doctors are bloodsucking vultures, using patients like trophies, heads in the clouds for acclaim! Who can cure this and that? They don’t care how it affects the patient! I bet even your Dr. Av- Ow!”

     Mac falls out of his chair, slamming against the stony ground with a bloody nose. He looks up at Sutar fearfully, even though the young lady’s being held back by Wallace and Donovan.

     She fights to get loose as she rants. “Keep her name out of your mouth! Dr. Avery is nothing like you say! She could’ve sent me to an orphanage or dumped me on social workers and foster care! She and her hospital took me in when I was unwanted! She is NOT a bloodsucker! Don’t you dare insult her!”

     “It’s okay, Su. Take it easy,” Wallace urges.

     Seriously! But was she always this strong?” Donovan asks, his miner’s arms struggling to keep her contained.

     Mac rises but he’s shaken by her ferocity and his bloody nose. He touches his nose and flinches from the sensitivity, causing himself more pain. “Then you’re the bloodsucker! Obsessed with some stupid medical mission or another! I feel sorry for whoever you went after for their blood!” He turns to leave, his nose still causing him pain. “Damn it!”

     Lynald chases after the young boy. “Mac, wait, I’ll take you to the infir–”

     “Stay away from me! I’m not going to some stupid infirmary!” Mac slams the door behind him.

     Sutar stops trying to break free but watches Mac leave, her fury unimpacted by pity. But she directs it at herself. The knuckles on her right hand are bruised, a couple of them bleeding.

He has one point. I shouldn’t use Nuria for my own ends. I’ll figure out my identity on my own.

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