Chapter 2, Part 2: My Name is Buck...

One year later...

There were four beds in the hospital ward, a comatose girl in each. Low power fluorescent lighting over each bed, as antiseptic as the starched white sheets, illuminated their faces. Otherwise the room was dark, the silence broken only by the faint hum of the lights, and the occasional, measured drip of the IV's.

The Idoru occupied the bed closest to the door. A tiny figure the size of a humming bird hovered over her, before lighting on the Idoru's right shoulder. At rest, the dim light revealed a tiny human female form, her feathered wings blending almost unnoticeably with the white nurse's uniform she wore. She carried a white-leather valise in one hand. A moment later she was joined by a bat-winged male in a white lab-coat.

"Is that the one, Seraphim?" he asked. She nodded. "She doesn't look all that beat up, for someone who was trampled by a herd of rabid fans."

"She's been here over a year, Asmo." Seraphim said. "What did you expect?"

"How are you going to go about waking her up?" Asmodeus asked, ignoring the question.

Seraphim beat her wings and hovered close to the Idoru's ear, cupped her hands around her mouth and called out, "Look! This guy's got nude pictures of Hayasaka on his web-site!"

The Idoru sat up abruptly, sending the bat-winged man pin-wheeling through six feet of air. "The hell he does!" the Idoru shouted, then blinked and shook her head. "Where am I...."

Asmodeus got his wings under control and flew back, his erratic course reflecting his dazed expression. "Good plan," he said.

Seraphim pulled an Apple laptop from her valise. "I'll start on the robot," she said. "You get to work on the other girls."

"We're going to wake up all of them?"

Seraphim turned him a cool look. "Didn't you read the mission briefing?"

"Um, I might have skipped over the boring parts..."

"Never mind. Just stay out of the way. I don't know why the CEA wanted me to work with you in the first place."

"You're not nearly as much fun as your sister, prissy wings," Asmodeus muttered under his breath.

"What was that?"

"Nothing."

"That's what I thought."

Meanwhile, the Idoru was trying to get her bearings. She looked around the hospital room at the other beds, the IV drip pinned to her arm, and the hospital gown she wore. She tried to swing her legs over the side of the bed, but found that she couldn't move them. Concern over this development was momentarily diverted by motion across the room.

A young girl in one of the other beds suddenly sat up, frowned, and declared Then her eyes gained focus. <Huh?> she said, as she looked around. As she turned her head, the Idoru noted that the girl wore excessively long earrings. Instead of an IV hook-up, wires were attached to the girl's earrings, leading to a console beside her bed. The girl raised her hands before her face, flexing her fingers. she said in a low voice, <No loss of movement function, but my peripheral pressure sensors seem to have malfunctioned.>

Another girl suddenly sat upright in bed. <Teddy bears? Where!> Then she frowned. <Ow. My arm hurts,> she said, rubbing her right arm.

With a sense of detached wonder the Idoru looked at the two confused girls, then over at the remaining bed. She was not surprised when a moment later the girl lying there sat up and said groggily, <So lunch is your treat, right?>

For a moment the four just looked at each other. <Who are you?> the Idoru asked then. <How did you all get here?>

The third girl spoke first. <I'm not sure. We were near a gaming store, and there was this big crowd, and an earthquake, and a bright light.>

The girl with the earrings said, <It was that mean bishi social studies teacher from my school. He had a huge plasma gun. Those are illegal!>

The second girl said, <And he knocked down a whole building with it!>

<Was it Dom?> the Idoru asked.

<Who's Dom?> asked the second girl, at the same time the third girl said. <Dom? The guy who runs that huge voice actress talent agency?>

The first girl shook her head vigorously, making her earrings flap from side to side. <I think I heard sensei call him "Ed".>

<Never mind,> said the Idoru. <Who are you people?>

The girl with the earrings said, <My name is Ping.> She looked sadly down at her hands then. <But I can't feel a thing.> The second girl giggled, and Ping frowned. <What's so funny?>

<I'm sorry,> the second girl said. <But you made it rhyme. It sounded cute!>

The third girl smiled. <My name is Mami. I was hit with a whammy!>

The second girl giggled again. <My name is Asako. And I...I'd like a taco!>

<My name is Ping, and I'd like to sing!>

<My name is Mami, and I'm wearing jammies!>

The three girls were all giggling now; Asako was almost in stitches. The Idoru said, <Look, I have to get out of here...>

<Hush!> said Ping. <I think someone's coming.>

The Idoru listened. In the hallway outside, she heard the click of heels on the tile floor. <Quickly,> she said then, <Everybody pretend you're still asleep.>

<Why?> said Mami.

<We'll surprise them!> said Asako.

said Ping.

The sound of the footsteps grew louder, then stopped. The door swung open then, and a man entered, pushing a rolling cot through the doorway in front of him. As the door clicked shut he looked around the ward at the four patients, to all appearances still comatose. <Hello again, ladies,> he said. <Ah, how lucky I am to have such pretty patients, all in one room.> He rolled the cot over to the Idoru's bedside. <I'll start with you, since you're my favorite. Hope you other girls aren't jealous!> He moved to the Idoru's bedside and started pulling down the covers. <Remember me, sweetie? My name is Buck, and I'm here to ->

SMACK!!!

***

<Buck! Buck, buddy, wake up!>

Buck sat up on the floor slowly, rubbing his head. <Is that you Takashi?> he said, squinting up at his fellow orderly.

<What happened to you man? And where are the clients.>

Buck looked around at the empty beds. <Damned if I know. I was about to move one of the girls onto the gurney so I could change the sheets, and all of a sudden the lights went out.>

<Here, let me help you up,> said Takashi.

With Takashi's assistance, Buck staggered to his feet. <Oh crap!>

<What is it?>

<My wallet and the keys to my truck are gone!>

<Your truck? The bright yellow one that belongs to your brother, the veterinarian?>

<Um, yeah,> Buck muttered. <I, uh, borrowed it tonight.>

<Well, at least it'll be easy to identify. What're those English words on the tailgate again? Something like "Kitty Car"?>

<Yeah, something like that.>

***

Meanwhile, down in the "Kitty Car":

<Move your toes. I got the wheel.>

<Ok, I got the brake and gas.>

<Ouch! Wish I could move my legs. Ping, see if you can plug into the cell network from that phone, and find out where we are.>

<Um...I'm a little low on power.>

<So plug into the cigarette lighter, too.>

<Oh! OK.>

<Now then...damn. Asako, can you reach the gear shift?>

<Sure! Can I play with the horn?>

<Asako...>

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