It was late at night, the rain heard softly outside. Dr. Margaret Talley, Katherine Parker, and Dr. Bob Chamberlain sat around the conference room table. Lit by only the single overhead light above the table, the shadows engulfed the corners of the room. The trio had been working for days on how to solve a problem. A problem that may indeed be the key to victory or, if not solved, perhaps defeat.
Maggie pinched her nose and closed her eyes. “Once again, I think we have to consider-”
“Making monsters?!” Bob shouts, though the volume seems to diminish in the darkness.
“Not monsters, damn it! Listen to me. Please?” Maggie demands. Bob nods.
“We know that the damage is so extensive for some of them that strict replacement of parts would effectively make them… inhuman. We know that magic can be used to extend-”
“That would kill them and they’d never, NEVER, be the same or maybe even human at all!” Bob interrupts forcefully.
Maggie slams her fist on the table, standing up from her chair. “AND, if we do nothing, they’re going to be laying in bed hooked to machines. What kind of fucking life is that! Is that what you want Bob? A bunch of barely living body parts on a gurney?”
Bob starts his rebuttal, but Katherine raises her hand at him. In her soft, melodious voice, Katherine says, “Bob. Let her finish.” Bob acquiesces, leaning back in his chair, outstretching his arm, palm up indicating Maggie has the floor.
“There is a way,” Maggie explains, her voice returning to normal. “If we use the Book of Golems to teach us how to augment their physical bodies, I feel confident that they would maintain a shred of humanity. Enough to be productive and in control of their lives. It’s a risk, but they have very few choices here.” Bob rolls his eyes. “Look, the research using the book as a basis would take time to perfect, but it has a good chance of success. And yes, we’re not at all sure if it will work at all. And yes, we might end up with something entirely unexpected.”
“Not to mention, dangerous,” Bob interjects.
“And yes, dangerous,” Maggie says in agreement. “We could very well be creating something quite awful. An abomination. But, if it works, they truly could live out a productive life.”
The room becomes quiet, each glancing at each other.
“I know,” Katherine says at last, “that I am not too far away from being an academic myself, but I believe there is a more pressing matter to which we are not attending. Pragmatically, we do not have the personnel with the needed skill sets. Maggie’s path would be a way to meet the goal. Use the people we have, who are quite experienced, and provide them a way to productively help in the work ahead.”
“I don’t like it,” Bob replies. “If Grummish were here, I think we’d be figuring out how to get this done. At the moment, he doesn’t care about the means, so long as the ends are met.”
“Well,” Katherine adds, “it is your decision to make Bob. Neither Maggie or myself have authority here. I believe Maggie is presenting a viable solution, but you have the final call in Al-… um, Grummish’s, absence.”
Bob sits motionless, though his eyes shows a man in deep thought. “I’m going to hell for this one. For sure. Nothing like breaking all the laws of nature by unnaturally extending a dead man’s life by turning him into something else.”
“Then it is agreed?” Maggie asks. Bob nods his head. Quiet returns to the room, but is quickly and abruptly ended when the conference room door is kicked in, and the Maiden enters. She always makes an impression, certainly as an anachronism with her old armor and sword. Even her modern helmet charades in the guise of a Norseman’s helmet of old.
“Who say gate stay closed?!” shouts the Maiden who strides across the room to Bob. “What coward make choice?!”
“It’s for our safety-” Bob answers.
“Keep must open for… um… peasant,” answers the Maiden in her very broken English.
“The gate stays closed,” says Bob firmly.
“You reagent, no king. You open gate NOW,” demands the Maiden, the scowl across her ugly visage having a decidedly intimidating expression.
Bob stands, crossing his arms. “The gate stays closed! This is not open for discussion!”
In one fluid motion, the Maiden draws her crooked sword, bringing it close to Bob’s neck. “Open NOW,” snarls the Maiden. Bob stands awestruck.
Katherine smirks and reclines in her chair, bringing her hands together, finger tips to finger tips.
“Alright, alright,” Bob stammers holding his hands up. “Open the damn gate then!”
“Well, Maggie,” Katherine says coyly, “perhaps you should have opened your argument like the Maiden. Certainly works for her.”
“No be coward Bob,” the Maiden says in a commanding voice. She puts her sword away, spins on her heel, and walks out the door, slamming it behind her.
“Hell,” Bob says, almost to himself, “why am I even here?”