Next Stop: Murali's Lab

The sweat was pouring down Murali's face by the time they got Daria into the infirmary.

Anya dashed up the main corridor in search of an examining room.

"Here," she called, stopping at a door with a window set into it. "I can see an exam table inside."

She held the door open as Murali and Elizabeth carted Daria's inert body into the room and carefully laid it upon the examination table. Murali staggered backwards as the weight left him, and he steadied himself on a countertop.

Elizabeth let go of Daria's ankles and took a deep breath. She wiped the sweat from her own brow and looked at Murali.

"Can we talk?" she whispered.

Murali looked at the sensor on his wrist and fiddled with it for a moment.

"I think we're okay," he said. "I'm not detecting any sensors in this room. It makes sense. I know I wouldn't want to spy on people's medical examinations. I'm sure even Jason would consider that too much information."

"So what now?" Anya asked.

Elizabeth looked at her. She didn't seem quite as pale as she had back at the dormitory. She still carried Daria's head under one arm, a fact Elizabeth found both puzzling and somehow comforting. It looked like some of Anya's fears had passed.

Murali grabbed a chair and sat down.

"Well," he said. "Ultimately, we have to get Daria back to my lab. For the moment, I just wanted to get her out of that room and take her somewhere more private. I thought this would be a good choice."

"So how do we get her off campus?" Anya asked. There was more irritation in her voice than fear now.

Murali sighed. "Well," he said, "I'm working on that." He glanced at Anya and frowned. "Anya, put the head down, will you?"

Anya looked down at herself, startled. She appeared to have forgotten what she'd been carrying. With a slight shudder and a shake of her head, she stepped up to the exam table and set Daria's head down by her neck stump.

"She almost looks whole like that," Elizabeth muttered, pulling at her lip.

"Yes, she does," Murali replied.

Suddenly, he was on his feet.

"Yes, she does," he repeated.

He stepped over to the exam table and looked it up and down.

"If there were just some way to..."

He started moving around the room, opening cabinets and drawers, searching.

"If there were just some way to... what?" Elizabeth asked.

"I just need to find something to wrap around her neck..." Murali was a man on a mission now, his focus laser-sharp.

"There," he said at last. "Just what the doctor ordered."

He returned to the table with a roll of medical tape.

Elizabeth frowned. "What are you doing?"

Murali positioned himself at Daria's neck. "Just hold the head against the neck, just like it would be if it were attached. Keep the face up, looking at the ceiling."

Elizabeth complied.

"Good. Now, Anya, I want you to look through some of the other rooms. See if you can find a gurney, or even a stretcher. A gurney would be preferable, what with Daria's weight and all, but do what you can."

"All right." Anya nodded. She looked a bit puzzled, but she obeyed Murali's instructions.

Murali turned his attention to the android. He found the end of the roll of tape and unrolled a bit off the end. He then began wrapping tape around Daria's neck, looping it around and around, until Daria began to look like an unconscious person with a large bandage around her neck.

"If I can just put enough on here to keep the head from rolling around on its own, we might be able to pull this off."

Murali and Elizabeth both turned to look as the door opened again, and Anya entered, pulling a gurney behind her.

"Brilliant," Murali said, a smile suddenly transforming his face from the dour focus he'd been exhibiting a moment before.

"So we're going to pretend she's still... uh... alive?" Elizabeth asked.

"Exactly," Murali replied. "As far as I know, we're the only ones, aside from Jason, who know that Daria's not a real person. Or that anything's happened to her. So we're not going to get any trouble from anyone else here on campus. We just tell them that Daria's very ill and needs tests."

"But we're already in the infirmary," Elizabeth said. "Why would we take her away from here?"

Murali smiled. "Oh, she's very sick. Very sick indeed. We need to take her to a much better-equipped facility than this one."

Elizabeth nodded. She still wasn't convinced, but Murali's plan was better than anything she could come up with at the moment.

"But we can't get off campus," Anya said. "It's sealed."

"I can," Murali said. "I got in, didn't I?"

The two women nodded.

"My access level is higher than yours," he continued. "At least for now. Which is why we have to move fast."

He tossed the roll of tape onto the counter.

"Elizabeth, you take her feet again. Anya, you hold her head steady while I lift her at the shoulders. Let's get her onto the gurney."

With a grunt and a sigh, Murali lifted Daria's shoulders while Elizabeth maneuvered her legs. After a couple of awkard moments, Anya managed to get out of Murali's way while still steadying Daria's head. Finally, the bulky cargo was safely on the gurney.

"Now all we need is a laundry room," Murali said, stepping out into the corridor.

"What?" Anya said, incredulous. "What do we need a laundry room for?"

"We need a sheet to cover her, at least up to the chin, and a lab coat for me. We have to make this look good."

Elizabeth put a hand on Anya's shoulder. "Come on, let's see what we can find."

They moved down the main corridor, checking anything that even remotely resembled a door. After a few minutes, Elizabeth found what they were looking for.

She pulled out a folded sheet and tossed it to Anya. She dug a bit deeper and found a bin containing what looked like assorted medical garments. She reached in and pulled out a lab coat.

Rejoining her comrades, Elizabeth handed the coat to Murali and took the sheet from Anya. She unfolded it and draped across Daria's motionless form, folding the top back and tucking it under her chin.

"All right, then," Murali said, buttoning the lab coat. "Are we ready?"

"No," Anya said, looking suddenly dejected.

Murali chuckled. "No, you're right. We're not ready at all. But we're going anyway."

"Of course we are," Elizabeth said. "We have a robotic spy to modify."

"Yes, we do," Murali replied. "And these are the kinds of things that make life interesting."

Elizabeth's shoulders sagged. "Whatever you say, Murali."

Murali took the head of the gurney and began pushing the contraption down the hall towards the infirmary's entrance. Elizabeth and Anya walked on either side of the rolling conveyance, their hands on the rails to help steer.

This is insanity, Elizabeth thought. We'll never make it to Murali's lab.

Thus cheered, she helped guide the gurney out onto the grassy expanse beneath the manufactured night sky and towards the campus exit.

The End

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