Author's Note for Part IX: I know some might challenge me about the claws. I did do research on that one. I do have an answer for that one. I'll send it to anyone who asks for it, but I won't bore the rest of you ... Don't worry, ... doo-roo-roo doo-roop doo- roop ... be happy ... doo-roo-roo doo-roop.
Disclaimer: see Parts I and V.
Claws grow on the outside of the body. Claws grow from the last phalanx of fingers or toes. Claws are triple X-large versions of fingernails.
And claws grow from the epidermis, and are made of thin layers of horn, not of bone, and definitely not of metal. That's what I'd understand by 'claws.'
Okay, so the man himself called them 'claws.'
Because he could 'pop' them. Between his knuckles.
'Unsheathe' them, as Hank said.
I stared at the X-rays and tried to figure out how.
They must pierce through the wrist itself. There had to be three tunnels, acting like passageways, and probably also as anchors for the unsheathed 'claws.' The anatomy of the carpal tunnel must have been adapted so that the tendons and the major blood vessels and nerves would suffer no harm during the 'unsheathing.' There had to be a precise, unique angle at which those 'claws' would 'pop' without shredding their owner's wrists. And that would only ensure the bones' integrity.
The soft tissue damage had to be extensive. Even if it healed immediately ... It said everything about the people who had designed these 'claws.' They had done a terrific job in the engineering department. The alterations didn't even show in the X- rays. They had screwed up, big time, in the human aspect. They couldn't have cared less if the guy hurt every time he would decide to use them.
And it had to be invalidating, to carry a set of razor-sharp knifes in both forearms. Considering Mother Nature's compact design, almost every twist and move would cut into flesh, cause some injury. The man might not even be conscious of the pain, after decades of enduring it. He had probably figured out long since what movements hurt less, and restricted himself to them. But it sure showed in the EMG.
Sick. Those people had been seriously sick. I could only hope some God of Justice had stricken them with galloping Altzheimer. Or with an especially mean bowel cancer. Somehow, I feared they'd escaped human justice. Somehow I feared there might be some human powers that would be very interested in perpetrating this kind of ... research. I prayed they were at least brain-dead.
Yet, according to Hank, he led a normal life now. Was it just me, or did he slightly hesitate before using the word 'normal'?
"Actually," he added, "Logan has adapted himself quite thoroughly to those claws. And they ... have proven useful in certain situations."
Like which? Peeling potatoes? Harvesting grapes?
I know, my parent's should have christened me 'Tomasa.' The Unbeliever amongst the Christian Saints is credulous compared to me. And I would have at least checked Jesus' pulse. So of course I wouldn't believe Hank unless I actually saw the man with my very own...
I had seen him.
Thirty-six hours ago.
In the kitchen. That first night, while we were discussing n- dimensional clustering algorithms.
Of course I remembered the clustering algorithms. I didn't remember any man. Or did I?
Hank smiled indulgently. And congratulated me for my extraordinary capacity to concentrate. And wasn't even being ironic.
I loved that guy.
And then we just sat there and smiled at each other and knew our time was up. I don't know how he felt about it. I only know I would have moved heaven and earth to stay for another twenty-four hours, if I hadn't been so numb, all of the sudden. Actually, I staggered to my backpack someone had dropped off at the MedLab during the morning, and stared at it, and just plain couldn't recall what I had come to fetch. So I picked it up and stumbled back to the table with it. I'd remember, eventually. Hank watched me, his spectacles dangling dangerously close to the tip of his nose, and his eyes just kept closing. But he was more awake than I was.
"Your contact lenses," he said.
I made a "huh?" face.
"I assume," he explained, "you wanted to remove your contact lenses. In fact I would strongly advise you to do it. You might develop an infection."
Well, the way my eyes felt, I already had one. Bilateral. And I would have gotten one, alright, if he hadn't reminded me to wash my hands before poking my fingers into my eyes. And while I was effectively blinding myself (but oh, it felt good to get them out, I hadn't realized how badly my eyes were hurting), he went for some eye drops.
I must admit, the guy made a great doctor. Physician-doctor, I mean. Medical doctor. Well, who cares, every kind of doctor. Although I wonder how he could handle that tiny dispenser. I couldn't see a thing. Too bad.
And then we sat around again, and I knew I had to go and change clothes sometime soon, but it was so darn peaceful and I didn't want to move. I couldn't make out much, due to my eye's shortsightedness and the strain, and the drops on top of them, slowly doing their job. Just a huge blue mass framed in white, and I could hear a faint rustling. He couldn't possibly still be eating?
He wasn't. He was idly picking up the wrappers within his reach and crumpling them into one ball and tossing it into the waste- bin, some ten feet away, and I didn't need my eyes, nor my ears, to know he hit the target.
And I was just about to tell him what a great experience this had been and how I looked forward to repeat it, well I wouldn't want to take his time away but I would probably show up regularly in my job as Professor J's delivery girl...
Hank cleared his throat.
"I ... I am going to ask Robert to send someone else next time."
Continued in Chapter Ten.