I, Robot: To Protect Book 1, page 11
Remington kept eating, swallowing before he spoke. “It happens, Susan. More often than we want to believe. We think we know what’s going on; we put the patient in the appropriate place; then we find out it’s something entirely different. Psychiatrists aren’t wired to look for circulatory defects, just as surgeons don’t worry whether a patient loves or hates his mother before putting him under the knife.”
Susan wondered if Remington had just subtly insulted her profession, then decided to let it go. “But twenty-two months of unnecessary hospitalization? Remy, to a child, that’s a lifetime.”
Remington put down his spoon to lean across the table toward Susan. “If you don’t think to look for something, you generally don’t find it. Everyone believed the psychiatric issues were primary until you heard that gallop rhythm. Whether it was there all those months or only appeared when you did, we’ll never know. According to the chart, no one else heard it until you pointed it out. It’s very subtle. Susan, if I hadn’t known to listen for it, I probably wouldn’t have heard it, either.”
“The cardiologists heard it.”
“It’s their job to hear it. And they also had your notes to go by.” Remington sat back but still did not touch his food again. “Medicine has come a long way in the last hundred years, but it’s still an imperfect science that relies on human judgment.” He smiled. “I think the first sci-fi medical scanners came along in the 1950s. Here we are, eighty-five years later, and we still can’t take a handheld device, run it around someone, and have it diagnose everything that ails him.”
Susan sipped her soup thoughtfully while Remington talked, then said, “We do have devices that can read some things through the skin.”
“Sure we do. Pulse oximeters are some fifty years old, and skin blood glucose monitors came along only a few decades later. Now, we can read a lot of things through skin using lights, magnets, vibrations, and lasers, but it’s still only data, the levels of various chemicals and gases running through the blood. For diagnoses, we rely on human intuition, experience, knowledge, and intelligence. And, in my opinion, we always will. It takes thought to figure out things as amazingly complex as the human body, all the things that can possibly go wrong with it. No machine could ever do that.”
Until a few days ago, Susan would have agreed wholeheartedly.
When she did not, Remington pressed. “Don’t you agree?”
“Well,” Susan finally said, “I don’t think we’ll ever have medical tricorders, lifeless devices that can make diagnoses about body parts they can’t see or touch.” Susan absentmindedly took more soup, chewed, and swallowed.
Remington prodded. “But …”
Susan did not disappoint him. “But … thinking robots could retain more information than any human. They could digest every medical textbook, every journal, and use that vast store of knowledge to examine patients and come up with appropriate diagnoses. They could use hearing and vision far superior to our own, memory storage areas we could only dream of, and unthinkable speed to do the jobs we take for granted every day.”
Remington returned to his soup. “I don’t see thinking robots happening any time soon. Maybe not ever.”
Susan delivered the coup de grâce. “They already exist.”
“My father works with them. I’m telling you, they exist. And, tomorrow, I’ll prove it.”
Remington looked skeptical, but he did not challenge her. “How about tonight?”
Now it was Susan’s turn to sputter out, “What?”
“If such a thing exists, I want to see it as soon as possible.” Remington’s green eyes sparkled. Clearly, the rush stemmed from interest rather than mistrust. “How far do we have to go?”
“Just to the hospital.” Susan had no intention of spoiling the surprise by announcing that Remington had already met a thinking robot. She wanted him to get to know Nate as human before divulging the secret. She only hoped she could get Nate to play along. “I suppose tonight’s fine. Just because I don’t have call again doesn’t mean I can’t stay at the hospital all night, does it?”
Remington laughed. “I get it. How about tomorrow morning? Rounds start at eight o’clock, but I can meet you anytime before that.”
Susan’s rounds did not begin until nine a. m. Most of the psychiatry residents came in at eight o’clock to review patients ahead of time. She wondered how the neurosurgery residents managed to get in some work time before rounds and guessed they probably rounded first and saw patients afterward. “Let’s make it seven o’clock. We’ll meet the same place we did tonight.”
“All right.” Finished with his soup, Remington sat back.
Susan worked to catch up, concentrating on the food rather than on conversation.
Remington allowed her to finish before bringing up another subject. “I really would like to sincerely apologize for the way I treated you when we first met.”
Susan pushed aside the soup bowl and gently dabbed her face with her napkin before returning it to her lap. “You already apologized for that. I was under the assumption this dinner made up for it.”
“Does it?” The tone of Remington’s voice, the expression on his face, made it clear the answer mattered.
Susan did not dither. “Yes, of course. I wouldn’t have agreed if it didn’t. Now, should I apologize to you for, as Kendall Stevens put it, verbally castrating you in response?”
A slight red tinge touched the center of Remington’s cheeks, but he smiled. “Please don’t apologize for that. I liked it.”
The server took the empty soup bowls and spoons, while Susan gave Remington an incredulous look. “You … like … being castrated?”
“Verbally castrated,” Remington clarified. “I like that you stood up to me. Not many women would do that, especially not with such speed and accuracy. You’d have made a damn fine surgeon.”
Susan’s voice gained the flat tone of rising anger. “You’re coming close to insulting me again.”
“Sorry. I didn’t mean that in a ‘surgeons are better than internists’ way. I meant it in a ‘surgeons are dickheads’ way.”
“So … I’m a dickhead.”
The neurosurgery resident buried his face in his palms and tried again. “I’m not saying you are a dickhead. Just that you’d make a good one. I’m trying to say you have …”
“Balls?” Susan inserted.
“I certainly hope not.” Remington mocked being scandalized, his eyes as round as coins. He seemed to have conveniently forgotten that, on the PIPU, he had suggested she might have sixteen of those anatomical appendages. “How about chutzpah?”
Susan accepted that as inoffensive. “Chutzpah it is. I even like saying chutzpah.” She emphasized the guttural “ch” as she repeated the word. “Chhhhhutzpah.”
“Chutzpah is the only thing that impresses surgeons, and then only if it’s backed up by competence. And that’s what I like about you. You have both in spades.”
It amazed Susan how quickly Remington had turned what started out as an insult into the ultimate compliment. “Are we back to the celebrity of getting the greatest neurosurgeon in the world to return my call? Because it wasn’t that big a deal. All I did was demand he treat me with a little bit of respect.”
“And therein lies the magic.” Remington raised his hands as if preaching. “Most surgeons have this idea the world exists to serve them and that anyone beneath them should behave in a servile manner. And most do. So, when someone dares to stand up to them, they take notice. If it’s backed up by ability, they respect. If it’s all air, they attack. One false move, and you turn from equal to prey in an instant.”
At that moment, the food arrived. The server placed their selections on the table, along with rice, glasses of water, teacups, and a pot of steaming tea.
“Most surgeons,” Remington said, “are simple to understand.” He ladled rice onto his plate, followed by dollops of chicken broccoli and house lo mein.
Susan took small
Remington only nodded until he swallowed a bite of food. “For the most part. I have a bit more insight into what I want for my future, though.”
“Oh?” Susan pressed.
“I want a woman who can and will challenge me, not a young puppy whose only attributes are bleached-blond hair, round buttocks, and enormous breasts. I want to come home from work and share my day with a wife who not only has a life of her own, but can help me when I’m missing something that could save or lose a life.”
Susan smirked. “You don’t like breasts?”
“I’m a man. I love breasts, but they have to be attached to an intelligent woman for me to want a relationship.” Remington ate some more. “So many of my older colleagues marry for nothing but looks and willingness to obey orders; and, at fifty-five, they have no problem trading their forty-year-old spouses for two twenty-year-old mistresses.”
Susan had food in her mouth and, so, did not reply. She wondered if the same thing applied to female surgeons and supposed it did. Otherwise, he would have used the word “wives” instead of “spouses.”
“They don’t understand why their love life has gone stale, why they lost the excitement. So they try to find it in younger and younger men or women, never realizing what they actually seek is some emotional and intellectual stimulation, not kinkier sex.”
Susan cut to the chase. “Are you asking me out on another date?”
Remington chewed thoughtfully. “I suppose I am. Was that a psychiatry trick?”
“Not really. I’m just good at recognizing a description of myself. Average looks, and too smart for her own good.”
Remington dropped his chopsticks. “By whose description? I find you very attractive, and I believe I told you so when we first met.”
Susan recalled. When their fingers had accidentally touched, he had said, “I’ll take any excuse to hold hands with a pretty woman.” “I thought that was just a line.”
“Then I’ll say it again.” Remington took Susan’s empty left hand and clasped it briefly in his right. His gaze found hers and held it, expressing all sincerity. “I find you very attractive, Dr. Susan Calvin.”
Susan did not know what to say. She could feel her face warming uncomfortably. “Thanks, Remy. I don’t imagine I have to tell you you’re a handsome man.”
Remington reclaimed his hand. “Of course not.” He smiled broadly. “I’m a surgeon. I know I’m perfect.”
Susan laughed and ate, trying for ladylike grace as she did so. The chopsticks didn’t help.
Remington used his like a professional, handling individual grains of rice without difficulty. Susan wondered if that came from experience or naturally fine motor skills. She wondered if the decision to enter surgery had as much to do with hand dexterity as temperament.
“So, your father collects guns.”
Mouth full, Remington only nodded.
“Does he go hunting?”
Remington swallowed. “Not often. He’s more of a shooting range kind of guy. He spends more time reading about guns and cleaning those he has. I think he gets a kick out of taking them apart and reassembling them.”
Susan liked that answer. She had always planned to have a home free of firearms. One date, and I’m already thinking through a marriage to this guy. Though it seemed premature, Susan knew her thoughts were normal. Surely most women in their late twenties considered the future whenever they dated. “Do you shoot?”
“I have.” Remington studied Susan, clearly trying to read her opinion on the matter. “Could you imagine the jokes? A man named Remington never firing a …”
“Yeah. I’ve hunted many times.”
“Oh.” Susan tried not to sound disappointed. She wondered if she could ever learn to live with a man who shot innocent animals for sport.
Chopsticks hovering, Remington continued to study Susan. “You didn’t ask the follow-up question.”
Susan had no idea what he meant. “Follow-up?”
“Have I ever shot anything?”
Susan put the ends of her chopsticks in her mouth to savor a few clinging grains of rice. “Well, I just assumed …”
“Never.” Remington’s gaze went distant. “I love crouching in the tree stand, looking down on the forest. After a half hour or so, the animals come back. The birds sing in a way you never seem to hear when you’re just hiking. They land on the stand itself and look right through you for bugs and crumbs. The squirrels chatter and play, without hiding on the far sides of the trees. The deer browse, nibbling at the trunk, at the greenery. This one’s too small, that one’s a doe, the other’s a buck without enough points to bother shooting. Don’t want to waste my tag on just anything. When a large buck does come along, it’s never in quite the right position for a clear shot, you know?”
Susan could not help grinning. “I know. You’re more of a deer watcher than a deer hunter.”
“Besides, the report might scare away the even larger buck that might come along next.” Remington smiled crookedly. “My dad says I’m hopeless.” He returned to his food, finished his plate, and added a bit more of everything.
Still on her first serving, Susan gestured at the serving dishes. “Have as much as you like. I won’t be able to eat seconds.”
“I’m good now.” Remington dexterously worked on his plate.
When the bill card arrived, Remington grabbed it, looked, and pulled a bankcard from his wallet.
“Split it?” Susan suggested.
Never taking his eyes from the card, Remington frowned at her. “Not a chance. I asked you, remember?”
“But I picked the place.”
“Yes.” Remington finally looked at Susan. “And thank you. You’re a cheap date.”
“Why pay more than you have to for food this good?”
Remington fed the bill into the tableside pay slot. When the right amount flashed up, he inserted his bankcard. The machine clicked, a green light came on, and the card returned. “Who’d have thought they’d find a new use for those ancient computer cards?”
Susan recalled her grandmother mentioning this, also during a restaurant payment. She had talked about a time when computers needed individual programmed cards just to work each step. She had once dropped a two hundred – card program that had taken months to write. From then on, she had painstakingly penciled page numbers on all her cards.
Of course, the restaurant cards were much sleeker and smaller than the old-time ones, which her grandmother described as the size of a three-by-nine-inch mailing envelope.
Remington rose. “Now, how do I get you home?”
“Just put me on the number seven tram, and I’ll get right to the complex door.” Susan also stood up. The mingled odors of sauces no longer enticed now that she felt comfortably full. The décor was simple: Chinese paper lanterns dangling over each table and stylized paintings of koi on the walls. “Which one do you take home?”
“The five.” Remington put an arm across Susan’s back to guide her safely to the door. “But I’m not going home yet. I want to check up on my last postsurgical patient.”
Susan remembered. “Starling?”
Susan consulted her Vox as they passed through the door onto the now-dark street. “But it’s after nine.”
Remington shrugged. “That’s the positive side of surgeons. We’re dedicated.”
Susan could scarcely deny it, at least when it came to Remington. “Clearly. But doesn’t that defy the humane residency laws, the ones put in place to ensure we get sleep, food, and … a life? To make us safer doctors.”
Remington shook his head. “The humane residency laws only define the hours they can make us work. We can volunteer extra if we wish, and I don’t know a surgery resident who doesn’t.”
Susan got it. “So, anyone who follows the letter of the laws looks like a piker and suffer
Remington shrugged. “I suppose. But I’ll get home in time to sleep. I already ate, and I just finished a wonderful date.”
“Wonderful?” Susan could not help smiling. She found herself edging toward him.
Remington swept her into an embrace. They kissed there on the street, just outside the Golden Chopstick, the taste of house lo mein and chicken broccoli still on both their lips. A tingle traversed Susan, and she found herself pressing closer to him. She had never felt both so comfortable and so wildly excited. She wondered if it would surprise or bother him to find out she was still a virgin.
As the kiss ended, Susan whispered into Remington’s face. “Do me a favor.” She did not wait for him to agree. “If you have the time, go to the charting room and say good night to Nate.”
Remington stepped back, and Susan cursed herself for mentioning another man at that intimate moment. She silently berated herself, No wonder I’m still a virgin.
“Do you think he’ll still be at the hospital? This late?”
Susan said cryptically, “I can virtually guarantee it.”
When Susan arrived at the first-floor charting room, she found Remington Hawthorn and N8-C sitting across from each other and engaged in spirited conversation.
Already dressed in his scrubs, Remington was speaking. “… it’s intradural, intramedullary with decreased posterior column sensation, pain localized to two fingers’ breadths over the lower spine, no correlation with time of day.”
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