“…Ball is at the 27, it’s fourth and a short one,” SportsFeed announcer Pat Daniel trumpeted. “Four seconds left on the clock…it’s do or die for the Atlanta Phoenix. If they don’t convert, their three-year New Super Bowl streak is over and the Indianapolis Capitols win their first ever UAFL title!”
The video on the screen in Dr. Ben Rossler’s vehicle suddenly froze. “We have arrived at Grady-Usher-CeeLo Memorial Medical Center, doctor,” JAQi announced calmly. “Would you like—”
“Dang it, JAQi,” Dr. Rossler complained. “You know not to interrupt when I’m watching the game!”
“Yes, sir,” JAQi replied. “But your patient is inbound via airlift in forty-four seconds. You were paged with urgent priority, and you’ve replayed this particular game seventeen times since its original air date last week.”
Doctor Rossler was quiet for a moment. “Fine, I guess you have a point,” he muttered. “But quickly, just replay the touchdown.”
A tone sounded and the footage restarted. “TOUCHDOWN!!!!” Pat Daniel yelled hysterically as Atlanta Phoenix’s star receiver, Brian St. Jacques, caught the hail mary pass thrown by Sean Roma, the retiring quarterback. The two players chest-bumped each other in the end zone as the crowd went wild. “The Atlanta Phoenix are officially a dynasty! United American Football League New Super Bowl Champions for a fourth consecutive year!”
“YES!” Dr. Rossler cheered, pumping his fist in the air and nearly hitting the roof of the car. “Never gets old!”
“Your patient, Doctor,” JAQi announced.
“Yeah, yeah, okay! I’m on it!”
Dr. Rossler eased his six-foot-four, three hundred-pound frame out of the rear exit of the painfully small automated U-Lyft Taxi. He was immediately greeted by his ten-person surgical team, along with his personal assistant Devin. As he marched toward the entrance to the hospital, his entourage hurried to match his pace.
“Patient has suffered third-degree burns across ninety-five percent of his body,” Devin briefed. “Eyes, sinuses, lungs…all charred and likely unsalvageable. The blast he endured also concussed his brain and pulverized his legs and his one remaining biological arm. Central nervous system seems to be intact, however, a full-scale recreation of all nervous function across the body will likely–”
“–Gum?” Dr. Rossler asked without breaking stride.
“No thanks, sir,” Devin said, not shifting his focus from the charts in the heads-up display in his contact lenses.
“No. Do you have my gum?” Dr. Rossler asked.
Devin shook his head, and then looked past the charts in his eyes at the expectant doctor. “Uh…no, sir?” Devin replied warily as they continued into the express elevator.
“Here you are, sir,” Dr. Karen Vessey, one of Rossler’s surgical staff said as she handed him a pack of sugar-free Imagen Mint Splash gum.
The doors to the elevator closed and the lift began rocketing up sixty-six floors to the landing pad on the roof.
“Thank you, Doctor Vessey,” Doctor Rossler said sharply while staring down at Devin. “Despite being a ten-year veteran of my staff and a highly regarded surgeon, and also NOT my personal assistant, it is awfully kind of you to remember my gum.”
“Don’t mention it, sir,” Dr. Vessey replied.
“Devin,” Rossler said, not breaking his gaze.
“I have the patient’s vitals in my HUD as we speak, and I had the charts sent to me via JAQi before I got out of bed. In fact, what’s in the charts was so fascinating, it’s the only reason I even got out of bed at this hour. I already know what’s in the chart. Unless Mr. Henry Cain — or do I call him Mad Dog? Or Mr. Dog? — I never know with these celebrity soldiers and their damn nicknames…anyway, unless our patient dies before the transport lands, I already know how I intend to proceed.”
“Uh…yes, sir?” Devin replied as the elevator signaled that they had just passed the twentieth floor.
“You answered a transfer request from the front desk to be promoted to my personal assistant, did you not?”
“And in that request, did it mention, even once, that you should brief me on the charts?”
“Right. But there were other job functions in the request, most of which you have performed impeccably since you started last week. But there was one thing, specifically, that I asked for in that order. It was in bold font, underlined, and highlighted. What was it that I specifically stated that you should have for me at all times?”
“Uh…Imagen Mint Splash gum, sir,” Devin replied.
“Right,” Dr. Rossler said briskly as the elevator passed the fortieth floor. “Imagen Mint Splash gum. You even asked when we first met if that was just a joke I put in the transfer post to see if you read the whole thing, didn’t you?”
“And I was impressed because you had.”
Devin was silent. The elevator reached the sixty-sixth floor.
“Papers filed, office kept tidy, and Imagen Mint Splash gum in pocket at all times. Understood?” Dr. Rossler queried as the elevator doors opened to the overwhelming noise of a twenty-ton MagLev mengine straining to lower the medical heli-transport onto the landing pad.
“YES, SIR!” Devin yelled over the din as the team exited the lift.
The eleven members of the nation’s most advanced biological reconstruction team (and one personal assistant) fought to plug their ears from the engine noise, and to shield their eyes from the lights illuminating the landing pad in the midnight darkness as they hurried toward the medical transport. The back bay door lowered. A hovering gurney with the badly burned husk of a “Next Top Soldier” contestant was gently pushed out of the transport by medics on either side. The two parties met halfway between the transport and the elevator doors, and the surgical team swarmed the gurney and reversed course back toward the elevator.
“JAQi, full scan,” Dr. Rossler yelled while marching forward. His HUD switched to MRI mode and began surveying all that was left of Henry “Mad Dog” Cain.
“I can work with this,” Rossler said to no one in particular as the transport dusted off and flew back toward the Subs to retrieve more victims. “JAQi, mark that the patient is alive on arrival and note the time.”
“Twelve forty-four a.m.,” JAQi responded.
“Let’s get to work!” Dr. Rossler barked as he marched back to the lift. His team followed him, guiding the gurney into the bay doors of the massive Critical Response Unit of Grady-Usher-CeeLo Memorial Medical Center, deep in the heart of downtown Atlanta.