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Tangle Hold   By: (1915-2004)

Tangle Hold by Floyd L. Wallace

First Page:

TANGLE HOLD

By F. L. WALLACE

Illustrated by EMSH

[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from Galaxy Science Fiction June 1953. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

[Sidenote: Jadiver objected to being the greatest influence for good on Venus ... because what was good for Venus was bad for Jadiver!]

Somebody was wrapping him in a sheet of ice and spice. Somebody was pulling it tight so that his toes ached and his fingers tingled. He still had fingers, and eyes too. He opened his eyes and they turned in opposite directions and couldn't focus on what they saw. He made an effort, but couldn't keep it up and had to let his eyes flutter shut again.

"Rest. You're all right." That's where he got the idea of ice and spice from that voice.

"Mmmm," said Jadiver. He tried to raise his hand, but it wouldn't move. It was good advice to rest; he couldn't do otherwise. "What happened?" he whispered.

"You had an accident. Remember?"

He didn't. It was his mind playing tricks, of course. It couldn't have been pleasant if his memory didn't have access to it.

"Mmmm," he evaded.

"Go to sleep. We'll talk later."

He thought he felt something shoved deep in his flesh, but he may have been wrong. In any event, the light that filtered through his closed eyelids faded away and the external world, of which there wasn't much in the first place, vanished completely.

Later, he awakened. How much later, he didn't know, but it may have been days. The oppressive languor had left him and he felt capable of movement. To prove it to himself, he turned his head. He was alone, and he thought he recognized where he was. He didn't like it.

There was an odor in the room, but this time it was the kind that lingers in all hospitals. He tried to sit up, but that was more than he could manage. He lay there a long time, looking through the heavily reinforced window; then someone came in.

"You'll live," said the voice behind him the same voice.

"Think so?" He hadn't intended to turn around, but the spice was back and he wanted to see. It was only the fragrance she wore there was none in her voice or demeanor. That was still ice.

When she sat down, he could see that her hair was a shade of copper and the uniform she wore a dark green. She was not a robot and therefore not a nurse or a guard. It was logical to assume she was a doctor, police variety definitely the police.

Thadeus Jadiver sighed. "What am I in for?"

"You're not in for anything. Maybe you should be, but that's not my business," she said in a flat voice. That was the only thing about her that was flat; the rest curved nicely even under the uniform. "This is an emergency as well as a police hospital. We were close, so we took you in."

That was reassuring. Jadiver tried to smile as he lifted a curiously bandaged arm. "Thanks for this."

"I'll take only half the credit. That was a combo job."

He was going to have difficulty if she insisted on using technical slang. "What's a combo job?"

"Just what it sounds like. A combination robot human surgeon. All hospitals use them. The robot is more precise and delicate, but it lacks the final margin of judgment that's supplied by the human. Two of us work together in critical cases."

He still couldn't remember what had happened, but it would come back in time. "I was critical?"

Her mouth was firm and her cheekbones a trifle too broad. Just the same, the total effect was pleasing, would have been more so with a little warmth stirred in. "To give you an idea, you'll notice that every square inch of your skin is now synthetic." She leaned over and took his hand, which was encased in a light spongy cocoon. Expertly, she peeled back the end and exposed the tips of his fingers.

Jadiver looked, then turned away. "Cellophane," he said. "A man can be born, live, die, and be shoveled away; begot and beget, completely untouched by human hands... Continue reading book >>




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