The coach pulled up to Freedom Square, an array of grass dividers organizing a rabble of vehicles as medical students and professors alike flocked to the tall iron gates of The Medical Academy.
The Medical Academy was a prized gem of Silestra, an ornately sculpted campus of equal parts brick and greenery. Beyond the tall gates, a geometrical pattern sprawled out in all four directions, a grand tiered fountain standing in the center. On top of the fountain was a bronze casting of a general and his war mount, the animal reared up and water flaring out of its maw. Clusters of terra cotta brick buildings stood proudly, each topped with the Elban flag- Red trimmed with gold, emblazoned with the crest of a equestrian creature and five stars in decreasing size arching down its mane.
Frederick emerged from the coach, counting six coins in his hand before handing them to the cabbie.
“T’ank yew kindling!” The cabbie exclaimed, butchering the Elban language.
Frederick strode past a crowd of second year students, pushing through a gate labeled “Faculty”. He immediately turned right, heading for the large dome building whose bronze roof gleamed proudly in the sunlight.
He slammed through the double doors, startling his dozing students as he unclasped his coat and handed it to his assistant.
“Your pardon for my tardiness. It seems our police squads were once again acting like trigger happy poodles.”
Some of his students chuckled, Frederick now settling into his element.
“I’m glad you could find the time out of your horrendously busy schedules to preside at today’s medical theatre demonstration.” A few chuckles responded to Frederick’s sarcasm, “I am Professor Frederick Lionhart and I shall be your guiding hand for today’s operation.”
The tall rows of tables arched in a half circle around the theatre, the bronze dome softly illuminated by the small circular windows near the top and reflecting the scene below. In the center of the theatre, two large operational lights hung from long bronze cranes, ten strong bulbs each focused on the white operating table. A tray lined with various surgical instruments and tinctures was placed next to the table, a steam powered surgical dremel neatly coiled like a sleeping python. Medical students sat in orderly clusters, notebooks and fountain pens at the ready as Frederick washed his hands in a large copper basin.
“Today’s topic shall revolve around the recently discovered sedative agent, Somnitus and its application in invasive surgery. While previous chemicals such as Ether, Chloroform and Morphium left the patient feeling ill, often delirious and ultimately addicted to the drug, this new formula, presented by my esteemed colleague, Professor Charleson, has minimized many of the unfortunate side effects of its predecessors."
Frederick lectured as two of his assistants garbed him, combing back his charcoal curls and hiding them underneath a pale green surgical cap. His dark spectacles glinted under the surgical light.
“Today we shall be removing a cancerous growth in the side of the rib cage of an adolescent male.”
Frederick’s face was now obscured by a cap and mask, his body covered in the same pale green cloth. He turned on a circular Bunsen burner underneath a boiling flask containing a light blue tincture, the fumes rising up into a glass globe connected by the neck.
“And now we shall begin our invasive technique using an evaporated form of Somnitus, as the injected form is too potent for a male this size.” He turned and faced his patient, hands folded in front of him,
“How old are you?”
“Twelve, sir.” The boy coughed, “I’ll be thirteen in a month.”
Frederick’s eyes creased in a gentle smile.
“Are you afraid?
The boy swallowed, trying to look past the bright surgical lights.
“There is no shame in fear.”
“I am.” He whispered.
A few more quiet laughs passed through the theatre, pens poised over blank parchment pages. Frederick unhooked a breathing apparatus, attaching the long hose to the other end of the glass globe and securing it with a pressure pin.
“There is no need to worry. When you awaken, your illness will be behind you and you will live to see many birthdays. Are you ready?”
The young boy nodded, swallowing hard as he eyed the copper and rubber lined mask.
“Now, when I ask you to, I need you to take deep, steady breaths. I know the growth in your chest makes that hard, but try to breathe by way of your abdomen instead.” He placed the mask over the boy’s nose and mouth, cupping the top of his head as he nodded to his assistant, “Begin.”
The white gas vapor was released by the value, flowing into the dark hose as the boy began to take hesitant breaths. He felt just the same for a few seconds, staring at the high domed ceiling before he suddenly felt like he was sinking into himself. He began to panic, causing him to hyperventilate.
“Easy.” Frederick commanded softly, combing back the boy’s hair, “Focus on my face.”
He did, calming only slightly as the edges of his vision began to grow dark.
“P-Promise me….I’ll….wake………up.” He struggled to say past the vapor and the mask, his eyes flickering.
“I promise you will.” Frederick reassured, smiling gently.
The boy hand wondered why Frederick was wearing those odd spectacles before succumbing under the gas. Frederick motioned to his assistant, watching her close off the pressure valve and turning off the Bunsen burner before removing the mask from the boy’s face and recoiling it beside the surgical dremel.
“You will observe now that the patient is unconscious and unaware of their surroundings. Unlike its predecessors, Somnitus allows more time between bouts of unconsciousness so that techniques are not rushed or finished hastily. We will now begin the removal of the cancerous growth that has grown on the inside of the chest cavity.”
He pulled away the sectioned cloth flap that revealed the young boy’s chest, and even before making the first incision, Frederick could see the bulge in the left side of the boy’s rib cage.