Joe the lab tech screamed, “Get the fuck outta here!”
His arms and legs were flailing, pulling the electrodes off. He rolled over and off the gurney falling to the floor. He lay there unmoving. No one moved. No one spoke. Everyone was in shock.
A raspy voice came from the floor, “Where’s my gear? What the fuck’s goin’ on? I can’t move, is someone gonna help me up or what?”
Dr. Mann and Colonel Bishop rushed over to help the fallen man get him into a sitting position on the gurney.
Dr. Mann held ‘Joe’s’ head in both hands; it appeared ‘Joe’ was unable to hold his head up. He tried to speak in soothing tones, but his eyes were welling up with tears. His voice cracked as he whispered, “Boy I thought I lost you!”
“Dad? What are you doing here? Why can’t I move?”
“Terry, you were in an accident.”
“What happened? Last thing I remember was fighting to close that hatch in the warehouse. It was going to explode.”
Terry reached up to grasp Dr. Mann’s hands and saw his own hands for the first time, “What the fuck is this? These aren’t my hands!”
Dr. Mann lowered his son’s temporary body to the gurney, “Relax, you were injusred, we had to perform an experimental procedure on you.”
“The hell with relaxin’ tell me what the fuck is going on!”
Dr. Mann pointed to Danny and gestured for her to come in the room. Danny ran into the room and peered at Terry, scrutinizing his face for recognition. “Terry? Is it really you? Uh… Terry, you died saving your crew from a BLEVE.”
“Miss Peterson, enough with the theatrics. My son did not die – he was only seriously injured.”
“Terry, they did something, and you are in someone else’s body. Someone get me a mirror!” There was some shuffling and a flurry of activity while the assembled staff attempted to locate a mirror. By the time they got her a mirror, Terry was able to manipulate Joe’s arms and fingers. He grasped the mirror and looked into it to see Joe’s face looking back. Terry was obviously doing okay; he was sticking out his tongue and making faces at the mirror.
Dr. Man scowled at his son’s frivolity, “Well it appears he is able to manipulate the host body. Okay, that’s enough fun for now.” Dr. Mann took the mirror away, “Can you sit up and wiggle your fingers and toes?”
Terry complied and expertly moved Joe’s fingers and toes.
“Now touch your thumb to each of your fingers, starting with your index finger an moving down to your pinkie.” Terry found he was not able to perform this request as easily as he had dispatched the first one. His fingers felt sluggish, as if there was some kind of delay between the thought and the execution. He smirked and thought this must be what law enforcement looked for when conducting a field sobriety test.
Suddenly Terry Jr. asked, “What happened to the dude whose body I am using?”
Danny pointed towards the oxygen tent, “He is occupying your body.”
Terry rolled over to see his burned and mangled body, “I didn’t make it out of that warehouse, did I?”
“Well you did, but it will only be temporary. You have third degree burns over seventy-two percent of your body and you are at high risk of infection. If you beat the rapidly dwindling odds, you will end up being permanently disfigured…” She trailed off, knowing he knew what was going to happen. They had both known firefighters burned less severely than he was. They ended up with permanent disfigurements. Some were also addicted to pain killers – that was no way to live.
Terry demanded, “So, how’s this gonna go down?”
Dr. Mann took his son’s hand, “This is a combination chance to say goodbye and an experiment to see if this procedure would even work. I guess you are going to get into the history books for this one.”
Danny took that opportunity to chime in, “He already is a hero to all of us, and a history book no one will ever read does not compare to his selflessness in saving everyone at that warehouse.”
“Danielle Michelle Gazelle,” Danny cringed at his pet name for her, “I appreciate what you are doing for me, but it isn’t about glory or history books, it is about doing the right thing. This could be my last opportunity to talk to you, to tell you how I feel…”
Danny interrupted him saying, “There will be time for that later, right now you just need to focus on healing.”
Suddenly the machines monitoring Terry’s burned body began to sound alarms. The burned body began to spasm, and nurses and doctors rushed in. The harness and electrodes on his head were tossed aside as their training kicked in attempting to resuscitate him. Danny, Dr. Mann, Terry in Joe’s body and Colonel Bishop could only watch from their side of the room.
Terry was the first to speak, “What happens to me if my body dies?”
His father hesitated, “We, uh, we don’t know.” By now the flurry of activity around Terry’s body was intensifying. The quartet of non-medical personnel was escorted out of the room to give the medical staff additional room to work.
Back in the room behind the glass window, Terry continued performing the finger dexterity test. Danny was watching him intently. He was getting pretty good at it now. It appeared the initial control issues were now fading away; he appeared to have complete control over his borrowed body. When the news of the medical staff’s inability to resuscitate Terry’s body reached them, they were in shock. Terry Mann was pronounced dead eleven hours after arriving at the burn unit.
Next: Pithos Pandora