Arthur takes the tube in to the VHI. The tube alternately disgusts him and fascinates him. He loathes the other people that he sees; they are as meat in his eyes, these faceless masked lamb-like creatures, being led around by the neck to be senselessly ground up into bits by the machine that is London. Sometimes he stops and thinks about how sociopathic that is of him, but in our opinion not often enough. At any rate, he doesn't really mean it; he is only talking a big edgy game because he thinks it will make you more sympathetic to him. Don't be fooled.
Rather, we would remind you that Arthur is the kind of person that thinks himself superior for all of this, but at the same time, you ought to pity him, because for all of his perceived non-humanity of the Tube hoi-polloi, Arthur is desperately, needily envious and this craving gnaws at him, feeding itself upon hunger and pretending satiation upon the void. He wishes he could fit in so badly that he has constructed this level of lordliness to assure his frail haughty ego that it's okay that he doesn't fit in.
He's an Essex boy, sweaty and heavy-breathing and intense who breakfasted on a protein shake made with Red Bull. She's trying too hard. Him over there smokes rollies and that's secondhand Adidas. She works finance near Liverpool Street and hates this place because it has already trash-compacted her soul and she can't be more than twenty-eight. That one there's just come from a bender boozing with the mates on Oxford Street (even though it's Friday morning). He probably refuses to get an Uber because he's so loyal to black cabs. She works at a tech startup and when she's drinking with her coworkers she has wine while they drink scotch because it's manly even though they hate the taste and everyone pretends not to make a fuss that she's female while secretly eyeing her tits and congratulating themselves on being a better person for knowing such a Smart Girl. There's someone's mad uncle.
That one, the silver fox at two o'clock, suffers the tube because he can't stomach a short walk of a few blocks and likes letting all the plebs know that he's a big deal who owns his own house. He's eyeing Arthur like he could purchase him. Arthur curls his lip. When no one's looking, he makes the metal pole the man's holding onto shock him.
Don't you find Arthur a more disgusting and despicable a creature than any of these guileless crowdgoers? We do.
At last someone pulls his attention for more than a cursory glance. It's less his physical make up - cardiganed forty-something in smart glasses with neatly combed hair and clear blue eyes and wool trousers and a leather messenger bag and smile lines all over his face - and more what he is saying. He's on his cellphone, though it can't be the actual signal because there's no reception. He must have caught the wifi hotspot now that the train has stopped to exchange one crowd of passengers for another. He speaks in a funny, rabbity language with a lot of shushes and weird vowels with a snobby tonality that makes it sound like he's constantly complaining.
Morgan translates, even though Arthur didn't ask her to and Arthur doesn't care.
He says he'll be late tonight, but that he loves her. I think he's talking to his wife. I can't quite make her side out. He has to work until 8 but he says that if she can make sure Ania has a small dinner that he will cook a proper romantic dinner for the two of them later when he arrives home. He says he's very sorry he can't pick Ania up from school today, but that his boss has only just told him that he needs to stay late. Yes, he knows, he says, his boss never gives him a lot of forward notice. No, he says, his boss has children of his own, his boss knows how it should work. He says sarcastically that the rules are always different for the employer than the employee, it doesn't matter the country, that's nothing new under the sun. He knows that she misses the east because it's so much easier to make friends who understand them. He says they're taking off from the station now. He tells her he loves her again. He hangs up.
Four hoodlums have taken note of this conversation. They sit in the row of seats ordinarily reserved for priority seating with their legs spread wide while numerous women and older men are standing. One of the hoodlums gets up. He approaches the man. "Oi, mate, is' fokken En-gla-land, innit? Mebbe speak sum fokken English, ey?"
His friends get up and continue the diatribe. "Go back ter wher yer come from if ya don't like it, ey?" "Yer fokken nasty peepul, yeah?" "Well fuck off!"
The older gentleman - who is tall and broad enough to handle his own against two of these idiot hoodlums, but four is a numbers game they know they win - ignores them, although the four hoodlums crowd around him and corner him as best they can given the space they have to work with in this crowded train. When the train pulls into the next station, the gentleman is the first to exit. But the hoodlums follow him, keeping a few paces away.
Arthur makes a snap decision. He flicks his wrist, and one of the hoodlums' pants fall down as he's walking. (Not hard, they were already hanging off his arse, he didn't even have to split a seam.) He trips over them and one of his friends trips over him and the other two realise quickly that they're a) outnumbered and b) should probably go assist their friends, so they busy themselves and the gentleman, unseen by them, re-boards the train at another door to continue his journey.
Arthur watches him out of the corner of his eye.
Everyone pretends not to have seen. Well, that's the tube for you - have headphones in, play with your phone, above all else ignore other people's existence. And the gentleman assimilates to that well enough - he keeps his head down, he stands in the back corner, unobtrusively. He fiddles with his phone like any other traingoer, but Arthur can't help feeling his unobtrusiveness has a secondary reason. He can't help feeling guilty for it.
Much later, as Arthur gets out by his stop in Kingston-upon-Thames, an elderly fellow sitting nearby murmurs to him, "Saw that, back there."
Arthur scrutinises him. He has the shrewdness of eye of the talented, like Arthur, and Arthur can feel a faint radiation from him. "Don't know what you mean, guv'," Arthur replies.
"Oughtn't be hard on them," the elderly man continues. "Boys will be boys."
Arthur looks back, quietly agog.
He takes in the man's appearance in a flash. He wears an old shirt with elbow patches haphazardly sewn on as though he cut them before realising that in order to place them to cover the holes they would be too small. One button is sewn on with the wrong colour thread. Something is spilled on the cuff and partly cleaned up with a bit of detergent and water; it's still drying. He must have attention to detail because he wears a bowtie, a smear of garish red at the neck, in the hopes people won't notice the smaller details that he can no longer take care of - his vision must be failing. He must have lived alone for quite some time now. It also explains the back of his head where he can't reach, where the self-cut hairstyle is poorer and jagged and hidden by a driver's cap.
He has green eyes and brown-blond hair. But for the signs of age in these, they're Arthur's colours. This is Arthur at sixty, if he aged. This is Arthur, terminally alone. This is Arthur, if he continues to stagnate.
"Just a bit of fun," the man adds.
Arthur says nothing and exits the train.
He arrives twenty minutes later at the second sub-level. Gilbert is with Laurinitis, outside the fishbowl, as he has not-so-fondly termed it.
"Ah, good," says Laurinitis, "you're here. How fine is the resolution on your ability to move things remotely?"
"Er," says Arthur. "Not... terribly?"
"Then you likely can't move small particles."
"General rule is, no smaller than a fingernail." Where is Laurinitis going with this? "What, exactly, is this about?"
Laurinitis doesn't answer. "That's what I thought. Hm. Well, luckily it shouldn't be an issue."
"This inspires faith," drawls Gilbert.
"Gilbert, it should be fine." To Arthur, Laurinitis says, "I've already showed him, but I'll show you," and grabs his hardcover logbook. He points to two lines of numbers, and then shows the last cell in the table where they differ only by a fraction. "I ran some assays. This plate here shows a resistance similar to ours with regards to radioactive tracer compounds. So I've I suspended tea leaves in a fluoride salt solution, then brewed a strong tea, so that the trace radioactive tea sediment will travel through the gastrointestinal tract and less through the spleen and circulatory system, though it will also interact there due to the water. His system should tolerate the sediment."
He turns to a beaker containing a small volume dark liquid and dilutes it carefully with a second clear steaming substance - presumably water. "Gilbert will drink this, and then it's off to the PET machine. Don't forget, keep the last mouthful in your mouth and swallow when I say, once you're in the machine."
"Can I maybe drink this out of a mug and not a beaker?" asks Gilbert. Laurinitis rolls his eyes but obliges, dumping out his morning coffee out of his mug which is chipped and imprinted with 'Don't Go Bacon My Heart' and a picture of bacon. Arthur would've stuck with the beaker. Laurinitis does this in the eye-rinse sink.
"You made him radioactive tea," says Arthur.
"Normal medical imaging procedure," says Laurinitis. "The radioactive tracers are normally with a sugar but Popescu's thesis suggests sugars are toxic. Otherwise it's perfectly ordinary." He hands Gilbert his mug of radioactive tea.
It smells perfumed. "Is that Earl Grey?"
Gilbert takes a quick sip and nods. "Not as gross as lemon, not malty like a good Ostfriesen. Just like Toris to be middle of the line, not sympathetic, not outright cruel."
"That presumes I spend any amount of my time thinking about you," replies Laurinitis. "I don't."
"On sale at Tesco's, was it?" guesses Arthur.
The machines are on the other side of the lab in a tiny room. "Tell me when I'm glowing," jokes Gilbert, as he settles himself onto the bench.
"Stop talking or you'll swallow the last of it before I can start the data collection," says Laurinitis. Gilbert drinks the last and hands the mug to Arthur. Their fingertips slide together and Gilbert musters a weak smile. "Alright - hold that -" Laurinitis says. Arthur joins Laurinitis by the computers on the other side of the room. Laurinitis makes a few more keystrokes on the computers. "And swallow."
"How long do I have to stay in here again?" asks Gilbert.
"About thirty-five minutes," Laurinitis explains. "Or until you have to urinate."
"Great," says Gilbert, "that definitely doesn't make me feel like a test subject."
Arthur doesn't recognise any of what Laurinitis is working. Laurinitis seems too riveted for Arthur to ask him to explain. He lets Laurinitis do his work, while he pokes around the other diagnostics. Some things, he recognises. "His pulse and blood pressure are elevated," he says.
"Normal," says Laurinitis.
180 over 130? "These numbers are normal?"
"For him, it appears to be. He's had these figures since he woke up a week ago. Another reason we need to see his circulation. The ultrasounds suggest his heart is ... larger. The chambers of the heart seem better prepared to maintain this heightened activity, relative to our own, as neo-homeostatic." Laurinitis adds, "It makes sense that his heart should pump more forcefully than ours at a higher rate because he has to drink it in, his system has to do more with less."
Laurinitis turns back to the scans on another screen, which is already starting to compose a picture from the data stream on the first machine. "Fascinating," he says.
"What?" says Arthur.
"This bright spot is the stomach-spleen-liver. Like one gigantic organ. It's already going into the bloodstream. Ordinarily water is sent through an empty stomach to our large intestine, should enter the bloodstream within five minutes. It's barely taken him two."
They keep watching as the rest of the screen starts to light up.
"And now back to the heart," Laurinitis says. Then he frowns. "Hm."
"What is?" Arthur is instantly alarmed.
"What's strange," says Gilbert warily from inside the room.
"He's got two of each ..." Laurinitis trails off, murmuring mostly to himself. "And there's two ... second aorta. Fully-formed. More arteries. A lot more veins ... That shouldn't. This doesn't look human. I'm scheduling an MRA. Maybe we can get this in a better resolution."
"Uh, guys?" says Gilbert.
"It's fine, if it keeps you going, it's fine," explains Laurinitis. "It's just... not human."
"Oh, thanks so much," Gilbert replies.
When it's all over, Gilbert joins them outside in front of the machines. Laurinitis is glued to them, scribbling frantically in his logbook. "Stop that," Laurinitis snaps.
Gilbert drops the paper he's holding. Arthur's more surprised Laurinitis was paying enough attention. "What?"
"I have an order for my academic reading. You're messing it up. Go play somewhere."
Gilbert rolls his eyes. "I am bored, Toris. I could at least be useful."
Laurinitis snorts. "Ex-military? What possible use could you have?"
"Hey, I didn't say I knew nothing about the human body!"
"I'm not sure I want the kind of experience the Wehrmacht would have given you," retorts Laurinitis.
This shuts Gilbert up and puts him in a mood. "It wasn't the Wehrmacht," he mumbles, but Laurinitis takes the paper and his logbook and goes off to another desk for some peace and quiet. "This is boring anyway," decides Gilbert, throwing another article aside. "Hey, let's go watch something!"
"What did you like to read?" asks Arthur.
Gilbert leads them into the adjacent room with the tank in which he spends his time. "Anything. Once I was granted occult membership, I read all the legal documents I could find. But for fun... long time ago it was mostly serials, because the maids I knew read 'em and would collect them." He grins. "A lot of them were smutty. Then detective novels took off and those were great. Never been much on fantasy, except Lord of the Rings, but that's 'cause I think it's thinly-veiled allegory."
"You think so?"
"Don't you? I like how race isn't what makes people evil, it's social class and upbringing."
Arthur narrows his eyes. "I don't think we read the same book."
"Schoolboys on an island?"
"That's Lord of the Flies," groans Arthur.
Gilbert shrugs, affable. "There've been so many books in my life," he says.
It's then that Mircea and Łukasiewicz enter the lab, which they can hear from a distance because they're screaming at each other. "This is private property! You can't just go wherever you like!"
"I can and I will and the next door code that gets in my way is getting tasered by my fingers, is that understood? Now, through here -"
Mircea enters the room, Łukasiewicz hot on his heels. Laurinitis, attracted by the noise, has joined them too.
Mircea spots the great tank immediately. "What the fuck. Is that," he spits.
"Oh, the fishbowl?" Gilbert says. "Yeah. Charming, no?"
"Is that where you've been keeping him?!" Mircea screeches.
Laurinitis says quickly, "No!" at the same time Gilbert says a resigned, "Yep," and adds, "I sleep there, too."
"He-he doesn't mean it like that!" Łukasiewicz says.
"They only gave me a cot after I nearly died," Gilbert says, feigning a sigh. He's clearly seen where this is leading and who Mircea is and is playing up the pathetic act, probably wondering what it'll get him.
"Because you couldn't be trusted not to throw it at us!" Laurinitis shouts.
"Everybody shut the hell up or I will make you!" bellows Mircea. They do, and silence reigns. "You," says Mircea, pointing to Arthur. "Tell me what has been going on. What were you doing here?"
Arthur takes a quick look at Laurinitis, Łukasiewicz, and Gilbert and makes an elective decision as to what's happening. Well, Mircea would've found out the truth anyway, no point in hiding - as much as Łukasiewicz would love that. "Medical imaging on his internal organs. Found some neat stuff."
Mircea growls, "And did he agree to this?"
Gilbert says, "No," at the same time that Laurinitis says an adamant, "Yes!"
"What do you mean, yes?" Gilbert exclaims. "I never signed shit!"
"You signed permission for the collection and documentation of your tissues until your death," explains Laurinitis.
"Well, I did die!"
"Not that death, and you know it. I'm sorry, is there something you find reprehensible about knowing what parts of you do what?" Laurinitis shoves a printout from their earlier testing in his face. "This is not human!"
Gilbert takes a moment to study it. "Jesus," he says quietly, and touches his belly uncomfortably, as though trying to feel whether that strange lumpy mass that doesn't resemble his stomach is in fact his stomach. "That's... some pretty messed up shit."
Mircea snatches it out of Laurinitis' hand. "How was this taken? Did you have something to do with it?" He's glaring at Arthur.
"Not me!" Arthur puts his hands up. "I-it was a tea, with some sort of radioactive thing -"
Mircea goes agape. "What the fuck kind of human trials is this?!" he hollers.
"It's not what you think!" Laurinitis says. "It's a perfectly normal medical imaging method!" Laurinitis must be resolute about this because he keeps saying it.
"On a human, maybe! How can you know for certain if it's safe for a week old vampire?!"
"I ran some tests!"
"His tissues! I did a comparison of his and other humans', they behave similarly. Nothing happened!"
"And did you give consent for your tissues to be so used?"
"Hah!" says Gilbert with unnecessary levity, "'course not!" To Arthur he says under his breath, "I think I like this guy!"
A lurch in his belly tells Arthur that he's somewhat uncertain about hearing it. Jealousy, supplies Morgan.
"He's in more danger every day in here from the naturally occurring radioactive materials at this level underground, as are we all. I would do nothing so dangerous, a-as radiolabel his own blood cells! This was purely for imaging purposes, as non-invasive as we can get! Should I have done an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy instead and shoved a camera down his throat?"
"You're trying to gaslight me with jargon," says Mircea, "it won't work!"
"Look," begins Laurinitis - who's starting to get ticked off, "you don't know anything about whether or not this is acceptable and I take great offence to the implication that I am running unethical experiments, especially when the pool of existing data is so small. This is for his own benefit that we be able to study him, because what should happen if he takes ill and requires surgery? And we have no clue what pipes go where?"
"Oh, he takes great offence, does he!" Mircea says. "You're not the one being experimented upon!"
"That's what I've been saying since day one!" crows Gilbert.
Łukasiewicz pinches the bridge of his nose as he frowns. "For god's sakes, you don't give a shit about any of that, I know you don't."
Laurinitis puffs up like a pigeon. "Might I see your credentials, sir!" he demands hotly.
But Mircea steamrolls right along. "I'm pretty sure I don't need to know any biology to know you should have had about ten billion more steps and not just 'oh! well it worked on the few skin cells I scraped off of him so that must mean that we're off to the races!'"
"Well, you're not the biologist! And besides, I had Mr Kirkland here to assist me should something have gone wrong!"
The lab goes silent and they all turn to Arthur.
"I was present for emergency assistance, that's true," Arthur says, "but I clarified to Dr Laurinitis beforehand that if something happened there would only be so much I could do, because I don't have the skills to filter someone's blood."
"Of course you don't," snaps Mircea, "no one does."
"I had a full supply of his blood should he have required an emergency transfusion!" Laurinitis and Mircea continue their altercation to the point of virtually ignoring the rest of the room.
Meanwhile, Łukasiewicz says to Arthur, "Oh, thanks. Thanks for that. You government agents are totally such a big help!"
"I'm not your employee," Arthur declares, "I owe you nothing and certainly not my loyalty."
"So you give it to him after so little time?" Łukasiewicz gestures to Gilbert, who looks plenty pleased with himself. "You two should definitely be separated and I am filing for another consultant."
This wipes the grin off Gilbert's face. "No!" he cries. A beat as he realises he said that aloud and tries to save face. "Y-you can't do that. He's, y'know. He's good. He's good at his job. And I like him, so. Keep him."
"More the reason I should take him away," glares Łukasiewicz.
"You can't do that, Feliks! You already shut me up in a glass tank and strap me to a cot in the name of science because you hate my guts, you can't -" Gilbert's breathing heavily, his voice high and panicked. Then he appears to remember something useful. "H-hey, I'm still your employee, aren't I? He leaves, I quit!"
Łukasiewicz shakes his head. "That's not how your contract works. We provide for you as a special employee, given your condition, and in return you granted us certain liberties, that contract was signed ten years ago! Your contract is up for renewal in five years and we can discuss your resignation then."
"Then I'm revoking my participation!"
"Tell that to my relatives who tried to revoke their participation in your death camps," Łukasiewicz hisses.
Arthur, who feels like he's heard something that he shouldn't have, says nothing and doesn't move a muscle. Neither does Gilbert, who remains there, panting heavily and fuming. "You're an asshole," he growls. "And I hate you."
"We can hate each other and still cooperate," Łukasiewicz reminds, "and that's what this is -"
Gilbert lunges for him but before he can attack Arthur freezes everyone where they stand and throws up a quick charm that begins in a loud bang and cascades white sparks everywhere to draw the attention.
"That's quite enough," says Arthur. "On all sides."
"I am going to ask three questions," says Mircea. "And then Arthur and I are going back to the department where we will further discuss this case."
"No buts. Question one: did he consent to this?" Arthur relinquishes his control over the other bodies in the room. They all look at Gilbert, whose enraged outburst has deflated him.
"In a roundabout way. Yeah," he says.
"Roundabout is not what I mean. Being harangued isn't what I mean. Do you want them to do this to you?"
"I don't see that I have a choice," Gilbert snaps.
"Then that's a no."
"It's not a no!"
"It's not a yes. Because I hear not three days ago you were trying to kill yourself to get out of being experimented on!"
"We've had our discussions about that," says Łukasiewicz softly. "It won't happen again."
"Or what? Or he's fired? Which brings me to my next point, compensation! Is he being compensated?"
"He's still getting paycheques," says Łukasiewicz.
"Wait, really?" This is news to Gilbert.
Łukasiewicz glares. "Uh, yeah? Like obviously. What, you thought I just wasn't gonna pay you?"
Gilbert shrugs. "Figured the taxman might not like it if money's going into a dead guy's accounts."
"Eh," Łukasiewicz shrugs. "There's ways."
"Last question?" asks Laurinitis, impatient to see Mircea out of his lab.
"Is anyone doing anything about his access to decent housing? When was the last time he had a shower? A private shower!"
There's an idea, thinks Arthur. How do they even know he needs one? Do vampires sweat?
"He knows he has the right to use the facilities, he has only but to ask, should it be something he requires," says Laurinitis. "For anything, I might add!"
Mircea isn't mollified. "Isn't it rather patronising to escort him to the washroom like a child? And did you provide him with a towel? Because between his death and his reanimation I don't think there was much time for him to pack a suitcase! All of this falls under basic dignity, which given the circumstances? I don't see being provided!"
"Listen to you talking like we've gone against the Geneva convention," mutters Łukasiewicz. "You don't know him, but I do. He is not shy. He's loud enough that if he had wanted anything, he would have spoken up by now!"
"He shouldn't have to!" Mircea throws up his hands. "I've heard enough. Arthur, we're leaving."
"What do we do about the science in the meantime?" asks Laurinitis.
"You don't do any science until you have the go-ahead from our Ethics Board," snaps Mircea. "We are prepared to take action and confiscate Mr Beilschmidt if you violate that as per the Korus Protocol, Section 8 Subsection 2!"
"This is bullshit!" Laurinitis spits.
"Whoa," says Gilbert, "you can swear?"
"Yes I can fucking swear! Feliks, I told you, they just want to have first dibs on the science rights, this has nothing to do with the Korus Protocol, all this ethics nonsense is one of the ways they're trying to stick their dirty fingers into the pot so that they can steal our science!"
"Yeah, I'll have to veto that," says Gilbert.
"You can't veto our department!" says Mircea. "That's in Section 1 of this institute's mandated occult licence!"
"As the guy being experimented on, I think I do," he retorts, "as per the Sooth-Brown Agreement, Section 3, as ratified in 1999!" Then he calms. "Look, I do want to know what's happened to me. And ... they're not looking to kill me. Or harm me. Quite the opposite. And if I ever thought they would, I could break out of here. I'm strong enough now. I could do it. I know this - they know this!"
"So why don't you?"
"Because I don't use might to push people around to get what I want!"
Arthur watches Łukasiewicz's face very carefully as it becomes bitter at these words and then resets itself. He can practically hear him think the words: that's not always been the case, has it, Gilbert?
"So you know what, process what you need to," Gilbert continues, "but I'm staying here so that we can see what I'm made of. And... I will consent to it, under Sooth-Brown, Section 3, subsection 12." He folds his arms over his chest. "There, Toris, happy? Now you can go to town."
"Finally," Laurinitis exclaims.
"I'll want that in writing," adds Łukasiewicz.
"We could do all of the work you want at the department," argues Mircea.
"I don't know the department. I do know him," says Gilbert, pointing to Łukasiewicz. "And I know what he wants."
Mircea glares. "We're not through here. Arthur, let's go."
"But I still have an hour -"
"Now, Arthur!" Mircea's fingers twitch and Arthur's mouth snaps shut, suddenly useless. If he wants to break this curse, he has to get Mircea to do it, so he has no choice but to follow Mircea.
They share a cab back to the department, because they're paying for Mircea to cab around London, and Mircea puts up a privacy screen up immediately after he tells the cabbie where to go, so that the cabbie sees two gentlemen, staunchly silent and not in a mood to chat amongst themselves or to him.
"My recommendations are simple," says Mircea. "One, he needs respect as an autonomous agent. Two, that he has the right to end his participation in this research at any time; three, that he be protected from physical, mental, and emotional harm; and four, the protection of his privacy and well-being. The rest..." Mircea's mouth twists. "The rest they're pretty much already doing. I hate to say it. There's nothing I can pin them on there."
"What? Then what was all that fuss about?"
"The department said they want to recruit him! I have to try and make it look like he's hard done by. But really, they have him in an oversized aquarium with only a ragged cot for company, no books, no TV - he's still wearing a hospital gown -"
"He died in his clothing," explains Arthur. "I suppose he could wear that, but it's all covered in blood."
"Well, have they not heard of laundry?"
Arthur concedes the point. "What about the collection of biological specimens?"
Mircea looks glum. "I did get a copy of the contract," he says.
"Excellent. What's it say?"
"It was recognised early on that some research could be done on him. His contract forfeits his right to revoke access to his own biological specimen - did he even read this bullshit, I don't know, but he's initialed in all the right places. That's where the grey area lies. One, the contract is to be renewed every so often but it runs nominally 'until his death', and two, anything that's filed under human rights is subject to scrutiny. Because he's reanimated un-dead. I wouldn't call him biologically a member of the human race anymore."
"We'll want a third party medical opinion on that," says Arthur, even though he knows it's true, because he's seen the scans and he's seen everything and Gilbert looks human on the outside, sweet and simple, but his body just doesn't work like theirs do.
"We'll get one. I'll submit the request. But my point is this. Though he forfeited the right to withdraw access to his biological specimen until death, the research that could be done in that regard, pre-reanimation, wrapped up four years ago. Laurinitis has been working on other stuff ever since, and the papers that could be published, were. Since the contract gives him free access to information regarding the research - including all internal papers and logs - and in those documents it references his death as being only the permanent kind, that is, post-reanimation, such that the death that turned him doesn't qualify as true death, then he had ample forewarning about such a definition. This point is made objectively clear in these documents, even to a layman. And according to the logs he requested access to read them and was duly granted. He reads a lot, he's read everything they've published about him! And in his contract, clause 23 subsection 3 clearly states that if there is any ambiguity therewithin the onus is on him to correct and or clarify - which he initialed next to! He never corrected anything, so that's tacit assent that this is unambiguous."
Arthur frowns. "That can't possibly hold up in court."
"That's what Łukasiewicz's case will comprise of, should we take him to court. And he could win on that, because there's legal precedent."
"How?" asks Arthur, incredulous.
"There was a case in Belgium late last year involving a barende vrouw, it's a kind of wit-wife, and after she passed, she was denied permission to abandon her employ at the town hall. She gets pissed, makes a few whirlwinds, almost a tornado, and the town gets the bright idea to erect a windmill. So now Ghent is one of the greener cities in Flanders and she can't leave for fifty years - or until Ghent finds a solution that is as good as the status quo, whichever comes first. No, if the department wants him, they won't support taking them to court, because they know they'd lose."
They won't find anything as good as the status quo here. They're never going to find another vampire for Laurinitis to examine. They were lucky on the one.
"Do you think he could take fifty years in there?" asks Mircea.
"Is it really up to us to decide?" says Arthur.
"I'm not deciding for him! I'm deciding for me, because he's me after I'm gone! I have to set my own legal precedent! Suppose the department does to me what they're doing to him?"
"Right," says Arthur. "Sorry. I nearly forgot."
"Yeah, I haven't that luxury," snaps Mircea.
There's a beat of awkward silence.
Mircea sighs. "You were right to get me on the case. That's the part that makes me maddest."
"Thank you for taking it," says Arthur.
He wonders if Mircea would have if he knew what Łukasiewicz had said about Gilbert's past.
He wonders if he himself would have taken this case any forward if he knew about Gilbert's past.
"Well, if he's so important to you then you should really put up or shut up where your veins are concerned. Bags of blood, that's fucking gross! That alone is beneath a person's dignity, forget the fishbowl. Wouldn't kill you to offer him a splash now and then."
Arthur shifts in his seat, squirming with discomfort at the thought. "Suppose it ... develops into something more codependent?"
"Would you really mind if it did?" says Mircea coolly.
That shuts Arthur up.
Because Gilbert's potentially objectionable past aside, he wouldn't mind. He knows he wouldn't mind. And what does that say about Arthur?