FE Fiction: The Doctor’s Journal

Here’s a work of short fiction I wrote during development of Fallen Earth, following up on “What’s Inside?”:

The Journal of Doctor Patrick Haskins, Town Physician, Depot 66

Entry 3,572

Farkas brought another addled CHOTA into the clinic. The savage, a female, resisted all attempts at treatment until we bound her to the gurney with restraints. Patient broke three pairs of leg restraints before we could still her long enough for sedation.

Cause of dementia is unclear. Patient is non-communicative. Differential diagnostic suggests it could be reaction to chemical exposure during scavenging runs or possibly a severe reaction to venom from some of the arthropods in the caves surrounding Depot 66. However, none of the customary treatments for either prognosis has yielded positive results. Patient remains in critical condition.

Treated two more citizens for amputated toes. Must talk to Cranston about his excessive use of violence for persuasion.

Entry 3,573

Considering the establishment of a fertility program. Birth rates in the Central Plains seem to be declining.

CHOTA patient, now identified as Anami thanks to further information from Farkas, appears stabilized. Remains non-communicative.

Entry 3,574

CHOTA patient regained consciousness early this morning. Patient was briefly communicative and appeared lucid. She identified herself as Anami. She recognized that she was in Depot 66. She could remember nothing about what happened to put her in this state. Before I could ask further questions, she suffered a violent seizure, broke her restraints, and then lost consciousness and slipped into a coma.

Patient died by sundown.

Received another visit from one of No Toes Cranston’s repeat customers. Apparently, he ran out of toes. Cranston took off a foot at the ankle. Must ask Cranston to leave delicate surgery to the professionals.

Entry 3,575

Waiting for Brock Dundy to return from the caverns with an arthropod specimen. Need to test venom for any new potency or mutation that might cause the dementia and other neurological mayhem suffered by the CHOTA patient, Anami.

Received general approval from Enzo Scarpelli to initiate fertility program within Depot 66. Must also gain support of other towns in the region.

Later in evening, received visit from Mitchell France. (NOTE: Overdue for checkup. Must follow up on this.) Was informed that guards outside the old LifeNet bunker required my assistance. I had been trying to get a nap before Dundy’s return with the arthropod, but it was not to be. I followed France to the bunker.

As I have noted in this journal before, the bunker has long been a source of fascination for me. It represents a time of great technological wonders, before the Fall of Earth. I have tried several times (in vain) to get permission from Bad Jack Badham to enter the bunker. I do not know with any certainty why he will not permit entry or under what authority he acts, but I am an old man and no match for those who watch over the bunker.

Other bunkers exist throughout the Province. I have visited the sites of several during the rare opportunities I am able to travel. Each site is heavily guarded. All guards are under orders to prevent entry. No exceptions. Initially, I thought this was all Badham’s doing, but over time I have come to understand that leaders in other factions – and some unaffiliated town leaders – appear to operate under similar cryptic and unyielding orders.

Tonight, however, something changed. The machinery, once inert, came back to life. One of the guards, Reggie, led me through the doors into the bunker.

It is a remarkable place, built of concrete and filled with what can best be described as a row of strange metal booths linked by thick power conduits to an elevated platform. The platform contains several panels that control the booths and the antiquated generators that run them.

A young woman cowered in one of the booths. She had a metal collar around her neck. The collar bore several blinking lights. Reggie explained that he had seen her materialize in the booth, as if from nowhere. I first considered the possibility that these booths were used for teleportation. Perhaps she came from a pocket of civilization beyond the dead zones surrounding the Province.

Rather than ponder this any further, I deemed it prudent to get her back to the clinic for questioning and examination. I gave her my robe to protect against the cold. We departed the bunker.

She seemed too exhausted to talk once we reached the clinic. Perhaps this is an after-effect of teleportation. Letting her sleep now. Will try to learn more tomorrow.

Entry 3,576

Spoke briefly with No Toes Cranston about the upswing in podiatric injuries in Depot 66. Cranston indicated he would opt for thumbscrews instead. Although I do not consider this a dramatic improvement, it should be less problematic for fingers and thumbs to heal. I explained that this choice would be acceptable, if not optimal.

Patient awoke shortly after Cranston left clinic.

Patient’s name: Difficult to discern. About all I could determine was that her name might be “One” or “Ona” or “Own.”

Patient’s age: She appears to be in her late teens or early twenties. However, when pressed for a date of birth, she could not recall.

Patient’s origin: Another gap in her knowledge. She does not know where she came from. She cannot remember where she may have been born or where she grew up. She repeats the word “LifeNet,” but does not seem to understand the purpose or technology behind the bunker where we found her.

Patient’s collar: Received painful shock when trying to remove this. Will consult Buzz Godfrey about possible workaround.

Entry 3,577

Lyle Dundy returned from Oilville this morning with word that others like our patient materialized in that town’s LifeNet bunker during the past few days.

And another showed up in Depot 66 this morning. Male this time, early 30s, with the collar.

Godfrey refuses to assist in the removal of One’s collar. Irksome man. How he can truly consider himself a man of science when he expresses such disinterest in the pursuit of knowledge, I am at a loss to understand.

Entry 3,578

Further examination of the equipment in the LifeNet facility outside Depot 66 indicates that the newcomers are not teleported from another region. Instead, they seem to be generated on-site based off of a database of genetic information stored in the computer system.

Later, I studied the venom of the arthropod acquired by Brock Dundy during his recent hunt. Tested the substance on two rabbits and a goat from Annette Mull’s farm. I detect no changes in the behavior of the venom that would explain the reaction suffered by the CHOTA patient.

Entry 3,579

Today, One called me by name.

Entry 3,580

I took One on a walk around town this morning. She seemed quite intrigued by the juggling, singing, and dancing of Terance Bonaventure’s “Act Surprised” troupe on the main road through town.

We could see a few other people in town with collars. I asked One if she recognized any of them. She did not.

Another “collar” emerged from the LifeNet bunker on the outskirts of town as we talked to Pete Povish. The magician made a white poker chip materialize from behind One’s ear. She seemed astounded and amazed, as if this were a trick far more difficult than creating new human beings from a collection of old computer files.

Ironically, I find myself concerned about overpopulation now. How many can we expect to emerge from the pods in all these bunkers? How soon might their numbers overwhelm our already stretched resources? Perhaps a fertility program is premature at this point.

Entry 3,581

Enzo Scarpelli doesn’t think the “collars” are a threat of any kind to our resources. If anything, he considers them a new and valuable asset that can be used to increase our available resources. Given proper training, they can work in our farms and mines.

I cannot – and will not – argue with his logic.

Tomorrow, One will go with Brock Dundy to the caverns to begin her training as a miner.

Entry 3,582

During her first foray into the caverns, One was set upon by the giant scorpions that dwell there. Brock managed to kill two of them, but the third impaled her with an envenomed spine and gutted her with a claw.

She died.

And then something most unusual happened.

As Brock described it, the collar sparked and beeped before some kind of energy field encompassed One’s body. The corpse vanished.

He was on his way back to town from the caverns to break the news of her demise when he passed the LifeNet bunker and saw One walking groggily up the steps into daylight.

The “collars” are apparently capable of resurrecting. Upon examination, she bore no evidence of wounds from the claw or any effects of the venom. She was fully healed. She remembered what had happened. She remembered where she was.

And she remembered my name.