Camp Mercury
Chapter 1: Bedford

Responding to its ring, Richard fished his vid-phone out of his pocket. "Hello Terry," he said, recognising the face in front of him, "what can I do for you today?"

"I have a problem that needs solving, Richard, and you're the one I need to help me solve it."

"That's what we're here for in Her Majesty's Forces Media Relations, helping the media with their problems. Captain Richard Moretti at your service."

"Bullshit, Richard. We both know you're just here to cut out all the interesting bits."

"Loose talk costs lives, you know that, Terry. Can't have the Swarm listening in to all our secrets now, can we."

"Yeah, I know it but I don't have to like it. We don't even know if they can understand what we're saying." The two of them had been over this ground between themselves many times before. By now it was not so much an argument as a way to re-establish their relationship.

Terry paused before continuing, "Anyway, I'm sorry for this Richard. My boss dumped it on me and now I'm going to dump it on you. To quote her verbatim, 'You've shown things that go bang. You've shown the soldiers that make them go bang. What I want is something different.' The boss wants something different."

"How about trained captive Sa'arm units dancing the Can-Can?"

"That would certainly be different, Richard, but a little difficult to organise I suspect. I've thought about it and I have the outline of an idea, but I don't have enough details to fill it in. I need you to supply the missing parts."

"OK Terry, give me the outline and we'll see."

"Right. So far we've shown what happens before the fight, and a bit of what happens during."

"All those bangs, right?"

"Got it in one, Richard. All we've shown up to now has been leading up to the sharp end. What I want to do is to show what happens afterwards. Not dead bodies, of course." Terry knew that pictures of soldiers' corpses would never get past the censors. "I want to show how well we can repair and rehabilitate our wounded. The audience isn't stupid, they know we're taking casualties. If we can show them that we can repair even serious casualties, then that should boost morale."

Richard replied, "I'll have to think about it, and check with our medical people to see what we have that would fit the bill. We might need to involve the Confederacy as well. Some of the medical technology we're using really belongs to them. We just have it on loan."

"Yeah, I'd pretty much sussed that. When someone grows a whole new arm, then it has to involve some piece of Confederacy kit."

"Good point, Terry. Can I get back to you in a couple of days? By then I should have something for you, and we can set up a date to meet. All under the usual terms and conditions of course."

"Of course. Just please don't cut out too many of the good bits."

Richard laughed. "I'll make sure to bring my blunt scissors. One last thing before you ring off, Terry. Do you mind if I ask where this idea of yours sprang from?"

Terry checked himself in the bathroom mirror. Not too bad for someone approaching forty. Blue eyes and very light brown hair, not quite pale enough for blond. No grey yet, though that was just a matter of time. Average height, but he was beginning to put on a bit of weight. He couldn't keep on like he had when he was younger. Back then he'd stayed thin, no matter how much he ate or drank. These days his metabolism was slowing down. In future he would need to take more care. A ring on the doorbell cut short his contemplation of a future of salad and low-cal beer.

He opened the door to his flat to see Monica, his neighbour from across the hall, standing there with a letter in her hand. One of those letters. The ones that read, "Dear Mrs Rickards, We regret to inform you..." He could see that she'd been crying.

"Come in Monica, do you want some tea, or perhaps something stronger?"

"Stronger, definitely. Gin please, if you have any."

He led her into the kitchen, and dug into a cupboard while she sat down. She placed the letter on the table in front of her, still unopened.

"No Gin, only Vodka I'm afraid," he told her. He might have had Gin before his divorce, since his former wife liked it. Five good years and two bad was enough of marriage for him. At least there weren't any children to complicate things when they separated.

"Vodka's fine thanks, Terry."

He handed her a well filled glass, and glanced at the envelope lying on the table. He'd seen others like it before. When the British Army had joined the African Union Assistance Force, fighting the Swarm after their first landing near Lake Victoria, these letters had started to appear. The first few had been newsworthy. Nowadays the fighting was a lot closer than Africa, and the letters were far too common to make much of a news impact any more. The impact on the families was still as devastating as it had always been, of course.

"Terry," Monica asked, indicating the unopened letter, "you've seen some of these before. Is he dead? I'm afraid to open it."

He examined the letter. There was a red coloured flash in the corner of the envelope. Red meant that her husband, Pete, was wounded, probably seriously, but was alive. "He's not dead, Monica. Wounded, maybe badly wounded, but he'll be alive. You can open it."

She quickly downed the rest of her Vodka and tore open the envelope. "He's alive, but I don't understand all this medical jargon. What does it mean, Terry?"

Terry took the letter as she passed it to him. Why couldn't the bureaucrats in the Ministry of Defence send out letters in plain English? "I'm not completely sure, Monica, but it looks like Pete's lost both legs and one arm." She broke down in tears as he refilled her glass. "They'll have him back home in a few weeks."

Corporal Peter Rickards had indeed lost most of his right leg, his lower left leg and much of his right arm. Luckily the lift that served the block of flats was big enough for his motorised wheelchair. The flat itself was all on one level, which simplified things. The only work needed was to rearrange the bathroom, and the Army paid for that. The military budget was flush with money. With the Swarm steadily advancing across mainland Europe, it wasn't as if long-term economic planning was a high priority.

Pete wasn't given an immediate discharge from the Army, which puzzled Terry. There were a few Confederacy medical tubes around the UK, but not many. Understandably so, given the attitude of the former Earth First government towards anything related to the Confederacy. By the time the government had changed, the Confederacy was getting wary about leaving too much advanced technology on Earth for the Swarm to find. The result was that there was a very long waiting list to get into the few facilities available. From what Terry had seen in his media work, those treated were mostly experienced sergeants and senior officers. A corporal wouldn't normally have had a high enough priority. As far as he could tell, Pete should have been medically discharged on a pension, not held in the Army for later repair.

Repair was what happened though. Pete got orders to report to Camp Mercury, up near Catterick, and returned two months later with all four limbs intact. Monica was glad for a time, until she realised that it just meant he would be going back into the front line at some point. Pete was initially assigned to training new conscripts, but they both knew that wouldn't last forever.

One comment that Pete made on his return did tickle Terry's journalistic antennae. Some of his fellow patients at the hospital had been veterans of Afghanistan, and had been long retired from the Army before being recalled, repaired and rejuvenated. That felt like it could be a story.

Terry pulled up by the gatehouse and lowered the driver's window to talk to the guard on duty. "Terry Goddard of STZ Media. I have an appointment with Captain Moretti." He handed over his ID card.

The guard scanned his ID and handed it back. "That's fine, sir. Reception is expecting you. Straight ahead and park on the left, sir. Then through the main doors and the desk is in front of you."

Terry knew his way of course, but the guards always gave him the instructions anyway. He wouldn't be surprised if Richard got exactly the same speech when he arrived for work every day. The military could be very insistent on routine.

With his ID checked again at Reception and his temporary visitor's pass issued, Terry finally arrived at Richard's office.

"Hello Terry. Tea or coffee?" Richard greeted him.

"Tea please. Black, no sugar." Terry was trying to cut back on his sugar intake.

Richard nodded to the private who had shown Terry in, who duly disappeared to brew the required mug full.

Terry observed Richard sitting behind his desk in his Army Captain's uniform. He was in his late fifties, overweight and balding. Definitely not a front line soldier. However, he was very good at his job of keeping the media entertained, while making sure they didn't show the stuff they shouldn't. Neither of them actually used the word 'censor', but they were both aware that part of Richard's job was precisely that.

"Right, Terry. I've arranged for you to visit Camp Mercury for a week to film your report", Richard informed him. "You mentioned it in the story of your neighbour, so I thought you might as well work from there. You can take one cameraman, and I'll loan you a liaison officer for the week to help smooth your way though military protocol. The Army can get just a little bureaucratic at times, you know."

Terry smiled and nodded to acknowledge Richard's joke. What Richard hadn't mentioned, of course, was that the liaison officer would also be closely controlling what Terry would, and would not, be allowed to see and film. "Who have you picked for the liaison person, Richard?"

"You may know her, and you've definitely heard of her, Sally Erlam. She's a Second Lieutenant now."

"Yes, I know Sally," Terry confirmed. "I ran into her at the odd media bash before she resigned, so we've talked once or twice." Sally had worked as an on-screen face for the BBC. Terry was aware of her work, and had met her briefly a few times. A year ago she'd resigned and joined the Army. He'd seen her working as a Forces spokesperson at Press Conferences since then. Putting her in the Media Relations Unit was a good idea; she already knew the job well from the other side. He had seen enough of her to know that she was not just a stereotypical blonde bimbo. She was hard-working and had a very good brain as well.

"That's good," Richard said. "How long do you need to prepare before you start filming?"

"There's a bit of research to do first. I'll need three or four weeks before I'm ready."

Richard typed something into his computer. "I've booked you in for four weeks ahead. Do you want to stay in Army accommodation, or will you arrange your own?"

"I'll arrange my own, thanks, Richard. I assume that Sally will be staying in the barracks?"

"Yes, no need to trouble yourself about that."

As soon as he returned to his car, Terry phoned the office to start the ball rolling. There were four weeks to organise all the background research, and he wanted everything properly prepared before he went north.

It was a long drive up to Camp Mercury, so Terry made an early start on Sunday, picking up Vince at the crack of dawn. He'd cashed in a few favours to get him assigned to this report. Vince Cook was one of the company's best cameramen for this sort of work. Completely professional, he had the knack of fading into the background so he didn't distract the subjects. With only a week to do the bulk of the filming, Terry didn't want to waste time doing retakes because the interviewees didn't have their minds on answering the questions.

The downside of Vince's ability to fade into the background was that he didn't make the most exciting travelling companion, so most of the journey passed in silence. They shared the driving so, while Vince was taking his turn at the wheel, Terry had time to think about how this programme was going to pan out.

At first the research had gone smoothly. They had Monica and Pete Rickards for starters and had quickly found a few other wounded and repaired veterans. There were enough interviews in the can already for the post-hospital part of the programme. There was even one Afghanistan veteran interviewed, though she had been a bit wary of talking too much, so her piece wasn't ideal. Maybe they would be able to find a better subject at the hospital?

Further research had begun to turn up a few mysteries. Wounded soldiers weren't making the national media any more, but they did make local media. Terry had his researchers tracking local papers and websites, looking for possible interviewees. Far too many of them were going missing. There was a record of Private Atkins being wounded, but no further trace of the man himself, or of his family. His wife and children had disappeared along with the private himself. No forwarding address, nothing.

The researchers had traced a few of the missing, often transferred to a new posting by the Army, but there was a residue of between a third and a half of the cases that couldn't be found at all. Any mystery like that was a potential programme. And, if Terry's suspicion about what was happening was right, it would be big.

In his head, Terry was planning two possible programs. The first was just a standard report on wounded, and veterans, being cured to help the Army fight the Swarm. A perfectly usable report, but not really anything exciting. The second program could be a real splash. What was happening to those missing wounded, and their families? There was obviously Confederacy involvement in the medical side, so was this mystery also Confederacy related? Normally, if a man disappeared, together with his wife and children, then the obvious assumption was that the Confederacy had extracted them all. The mystery was that these men were military, and the Confederacy had agreed, right from the start, not to extract serving soldiers. Was this a sign of a significant policy change? The disappearances certainly had the look of Confederacy extractions, and at least one of the missing wives was in the concubine pool at one of their moon bases. The Confederacy had notified her sister, and she in turn told the researchers.

Was the Confederacy changing its policy and extracting serving members of the military? If true that would be something really big. Just as the Swarm get close to Britain, the Confederacy start taking away soldiers. Exactly the sort of big splash to make a reporter's name. However, if his suspicions were true, then Terry knew that it wouldn't be easy to get anyone to confirm them. He wasn't even sure if any Confederacy people would be around to talk on camera at all. From what Pete had told him, the staff at the hospital were all British Army, not Confederacy.

They arrived at their hotel in good time to get settled in for the evening. Sally had arranged to meet them in the lobby tomorrow morning, when they would start work on the programme. Terry still didn't know which programme it would be, the routine report or the big splash.

When they came down in the lift on Monday morning, Sally was waiting in the hotel lobby, wearing her Second Lieutenant's uniform. Terry introduced her to Vince, and commented, "You've had you hair cut shorter, Sally." When she was working with the BBC she had kept her blonde hair about shoulder length. Today she had it in a shorter, almost boyish, cut.

"Yes," she explained. "I wanted to change my look, so people didn't just think of me as that on-screen bimbo. One of the reasons I resigned from the Beeb was that too many of the guys were hitting on me, wanting to take me as their concubine. No problem with that in the Army, as I'm not eligible any more."

"Though with a hairstyle like that, you might get the girls hitting on you instead," Terry joked.

Sally raised an eyebrow, "And why would that be a problem?"

"Ah..." Terry paused, slightly embarrassed. "So the rumours were true then?"

"Some of them," Sally confirmed. "If they'd all been true then I'd have finished off the girls in the BBC and the Army and be working my way through the Air Force by now."

Curious, Terry asked, "Not the Navy?"

"Half the women in the Navy are out at sea. Too difficult to get to them," Sally answered with a smile.

Seeing that Vince was beginning to look a little impatient, Terry suggested a move to the hotel car park.

"Easier to use my car," Sally advised. "Yours will need fingerprinting and a retina scan before they'll let it in. It'll save time to use mine."

As she drove, Sally explained the arrangements at Camp Mercury. "There's a full Army base there, as well as the hospital. The hospital itself comes in three parts: A, B and C. A is the admin block, B is Bedford wing and C is Cavor wing." Terry already knew the general layout from having talked to Pete, his next door neighbour. He was glad that Sally hadn't kept anything back from him. She continued, "You'll mostly be seeing the admin and medical people and a cross-section of the patients in Bedford. Richard said you might want to include a few of the repaired veterans, as well as the more recent casualties."

"If we can, Sally," Terry responded.

"You can certainly see them, but we'd appreciate it if you would play down that aspect of it. We don't want hundreds of ex-servicemen banging on our doors for a simple rejuvenation. Make it clear that these guys have all lost at least one limb as the price of treatment."

"Sure, Sally. I can see a free rejuvenation being very popular if we don't tell them about the cost. You have done it for some people though. I don't remember General Tavener having lost a limb, and he's young again now."

"We do rejuvenate a few who have particular skills we need. General Tavener is an absolute magician with logistics, so we wanted him back in uniform. We're trying to give people the impression that he's his own son. Difficult, without actually lying, but it helps that his father was a general as well -- easier to let people make an incorrect assumption. Anyway, you won't be seeing any cases like that here, as you'll find out.

Sally outlined their first appointments for the day. "To start off, you'll be seeing General Newman. He's the administrative head of the hospital and will give you the high level background. He's been interviewed on camera before, so he'll be used to it. Captain Moretti briefed him earlier, so that interview should go smoothly. Don't take too much of his time, he's a busy man.

"After him you'll see Doctor Turner, who's the medical chief. She'll be able to cover a lot more of the medical side than the General. You can spend a bit more time with her, but again, don't stay too long. As far as I can tell she hasn't been interviewed before, so she may not be as used to things as the general."

Terry asked, "Does she have a rank? I thought everyone here was military."

"She's a colonel, though she doesn't use it much," Sally replied. "I haven't arranged anything specific for today after those two. I suggest that we wander round the wards and you can pick out some patients, and possibly doctors, who are willing to talk on camera. I didn't want to set up people in advance, because you'll want to make your own choices. I sent a general notice round Bedford wing that the two of you will be working there this week, so you won't surprise people when you show up. Does that seem OK, Terry?"

"Sounds good, Sally. I'd planned on spending at least the first day looking round, getting my bearings. Meeting the boss early is usually a good thing as well. What about Cavor wing?"

"That's more difficult, I'm afraid. I've put in a request on your behalf, but it hasn't come back yet."

Terry silently noted that as a slight mystery. Obviously something that needed following up.

He was pleasantly surprised by the speed with which Sally swept them through the usual bureaucracy at Reception. Almost before he knew it, Sally had introduced him and Vince to their first interviewee.

"Thank you for making time to meet me, General Newman."

"Not at all, Mr Goddard, I've seen some of your earlier work. It came across well I thought."

"I'm glad you liked it, sir."

Vince was still filming one wall of the General's office for later use as background fill, so Terry continued talking, "I understand that Captain Moretti has briefed you, sir?"

"He did indeed. He asked me to give you the general background of our work here. Other people will talk about the specifics of the medical side."

"I see the captain briefed you well, sir." Terry noticed that Vince was now ready, so he moved to the interview. "I suggest that you just talk at first, General, and then I can come back with further questions for you afterwards, if I need to."

"That sounds good." The General paused. At a nod from Terry he began speaking, "The job of the Armed Forces is first to defend the UK, and Earth, from the Sa'arm and second to drive them out of the galaxy, or less formally to exterminate the bastards. As part of that larger job, the task of the Army Hospitals is to keep our troops healthy and functioning, to enable them to defeat the Swarm, both above, and below, ground.

"The Swarm are already on Earth, and we are fighting them now in Africa and Europe with our allies in NATO and the AUAF. That means we are suffering some casualties, and it is our task in the Army Hospitals to get those casualties back to full fitness, so they can return to the fighting as soon as possible..."

Sally interrupted him. "I'm sorry, sir. It would be better not to make it quite so obvious that they will be going straight back into the front line. Maybe something more like, 'help with training', sir?"

"I stand corrected," the General said. He paused briefly before continuing, " ... return to help the fight, often in training roles, where they can pass their experience on to new recruits." He glanced at Sally, who smiled and nodded to indicate her approval.

The General continued, "Confederacy technology is a big help to us in curing our wounded. What once would have been an incapacitating injury can now easily be fixed in a Confederacy medical tube. Our doctors are very glad that they can even regrow a whole new limb if needed."

After the General finished speaking, Terry glanced at Vince, who gave him a thumbs up. "That was very good sir. Just one question, more of a confirmation really. The AUAF is the African Union Assistance Force?"

"Yes it is. By helping the African Union contain the Swarm bases in Africa, we are keeping that part of the enemy's forces pinned down away from Europe. It also lets more of our own troops get a taste of what it is really like fighting the Swarm. That way we can improve our training, making it more realistic. Our doctors are seeing real wounds and learning how to deal with them more effectively. We're trying to learn as much as possible from our contribution to the AUAF, and to NATO, so we can reduce our future risks and better prepare ourselves before we have to fight in Britain."

Sally interrupted him again, "Sorry, sir. Better to say something like 'closer to home'. We don't want to alarm people too much."

"Bloody stupid if you ask me," the General responded. "Anyone with any sense can see that the bastards are going to invade us eventually, just like they'll invade everyone else."

"I know, sir," Sally explained, "but for the moment we have asked the media..."

"Told, not asked," Terry interrupted.

Sally gave Terry one of her most brilliant smiles, and continued, "Asked them not to emphasise that aspect of things at the moment. Could you rephrase please, sir."

The General reluctantly resumed, " ... prepare ourselves before we have to fight closer to home." He paused and looked at Sally, "Am I allowed to point out that Britain is home?"

"Of course you are, sir," she replied, "but I'm afraid I couldn't allow Mr Goddard to use it."

Terry just shrugged. He had enough usable material to cover what he wanted from this interview. He wasn't going to get into a big fight over something so minor. As the General had pointed out, anybody with an ounce of sense could see what was going to happen, and there was no point in needlessly panicking those people who lacked the sense to see what was coming.

"So, Sally," Terry said, "next up is Doctor Turner, or is she Colonel Turner?"

"She doesn't make a big thing of her rank," Sally told him. "She handles the medical side of this place, so she sees herself as more medical than military. Better call her 'Doctor' to start with. If she wants you to call her 'Colonel Turner', then she can tell you herself.

"A word of warning," Sally continued, "don't comment on her looks, and don't try to hit on her. Do that and she will clam up or give you an unusable interview. She's far from stupid and she gets really annoyed when people assume that she's a bimbo just because of her appearance. And don't ask her for a date either, she's married."

"I'll be careful. She's that good-looking?"

"Absolutely," Sally replied as she pulled up a picture on her phone. "See?"

Terry whistled. "You're right. She's a babe. So I need to be careful with her then?"

"Definitely," Sally confirmed. "You need to stay on the subject and not get distracted. That means you as well, Vince," she told the cameraman.

"Sure," Vince confirmed. "I'll stay professional. It's not a porno shoot and I can't tell her to get her ta-ta's out." He grinned at Sally.

"Ever thought of trying your luck with her, Sally?" Terry asked, cheekily.

"Get real, Terry. She's a colonel, and I'm only a second lieutenant. Besides, she doesn't register at all on my gaydar. She wouldn't be interested."

Terry appreciated the warning when Sally introduced them to Doctor Turner, she was as good-looking as her picture had indicated. Long blonde hair framed her intelligent, fine-featured face. Smallish breasts under her plain white blouse, but nicely shaped.

"Have you done a media interview before Doctor Turner?" Terry asked her, being careful to keep his eyes on her face and not lower down. He knew from Sally's warning that talking to her tits would just annoy the Doctor.

"Call me Elena please. No, I've never been interviewed on camera before. Do I need to do anything special?"

"Not really," Terry told her, "just talk naturally. Remember that we can edit things out afterwards, so don't be afraid to pause to think, or to stop and go back over something if you need to. I'll call you Doctor for the programme, but otherwise Elena it is."

"That's seems easy." She looked at Vince filming the background fill for her office, "Can I ask why your cameraman is filming that wall?"

"That's background fill," Terry explained. "With only one camera, Vince can't constantly be switching between the two of us as we talk, so he'll just be filming you. I'll redo my part later, in the studio, and we'll use the image of that wall to fill in behind me to make it look as if I'm in this room."

"Ah, never trust the media. It's all faked with computers." She smiled to mitigate the impact of her comment.

"I'm afraid so, Elena. And Sally, sitting quietly in the corner there, will have her input into the trickery as well." Terry gave Sally an obviously insincere smile, which she returned with interest.

"Oh yes," Elena said, "you two are on different sides, aren't you."

Sally commented, "We're on the same side really, but we just see different ways to best help it."

Terry and Elena both nodded their agreement at that.

By now Vince had set up his camera for the interview. "Ready when you are, boss," he told Terry.

After giving Elena a little time to settle herself Terry started the interview. "Doctor Turner, I believe that you are in charge of the medical side here. Can you explain what the hospital does, please?"

Elena took a slow breath to give her a short time to think. "We're a hospital, so our business is curing patients. We're a military hospital, so most of our patients are soldiers. That affects the kind of things we have to deal with. More missing limbs, and fewer caesarian sections, than a civilian hospital. Camp Mercury specialises in repairing missing limbs, and the rehabilitation after reconstructing the limb. It makes sense to gather the required specialist skills here in one place, and not have them spread out over the whole country. While we do treat other cases, the bulk of our work is with limbless men and women."

Terry asked, "What about the old veterans you are rejuvenating, Doctor Turner?"

Elena turned to Sally, "Am I allowed to mention that? I wasn't sure, so I left it out."

"Yes you can," Sally replied. "It's already out there, but we don't make a big thing of it. Better to keep it low-key."

Elena nodded and faced the camera again. "With limb regrowth, we obviously have Confederacy technology to help us. Since it's available, we are using some capacity to repair and rejuvenate limbless veterans. They have a wealth of experience from earlier wars which is helpful in current circumstances."

Sally smiled and nodded to Elena. She had pitched it about right.

Terry resumed his interview. "Doctor Turner, can you take us briefly through what happens when a patient arrives here?"

"First we do a sort of triage, to assess what further treatment the patient will need. A few don't need advanced treatment at all. Those are usually overflow cases from other hospitals. Some need a mix of ordinary and advanced treatment. The last group just need the advanced treatment, the veteran amputees are an obvious example there."

"Doctor," Terry asked, "can you explain the middle group, the mixed treatment, a bit more, please."

"Certainly. Something like a burns case for instance. We can do a lot of the pre-operative preparation ourselves. Things like removing the dead tissue, and cleaning up the wound site, before putting the patient into a med-tube. That way there is less work for the nanites to do, and we can free the tube for the next patient more quickly. Some things are faster when done the old-fashioned way. Removing a large lump of shrapnel from a wound can take a long time if we do it with nanites. One of our surgeons can take it out far more quickly. In those cases we just use the nanites to help with post-op recovery. Med-tubes are a scarce resource, and we don't want to waste time having them do things we can do more easily in other ways."

"I can understand that they are scarce," Terry observed. "How many do you have in Bedford wing?"

"Only two in Bedford, though there are more tubes available in Cavor wing," Elena replied. "Have you been there yet?"

Sally interrupted, "I'm working on setting up a short visit, but they haven't seen it yet." Both Terry and Vince missed the significance of the look that passed between the two women.

Terry carried on with the interview, "Doctor, what happens once the patient emerges from the med-tube with, say, a new leg? Is that the end of it?"

"Oh no, far from it," Elena replied. "There is a lot of rehabilitation needed to get used to a new arm or leg. The easiest cases are the recently wounded. All their nerves are pretty much intact, and the brain is still used to working with the original leg. Many of their problems are due to the newness of the replacement. New skin is often very delicate; go for too long a walk on a new foot and you'll end up with a very bad case of blisters. The new skin needs time to toughen up.

"We have a far more difficult time rehabilitating the veterans. They may have lost the limb thirty or forty years ago, and their nerves and brain have forgotten how to use it. They have to relearn a lot of things almost from scratch. That is why we have concentrated so many rehabilitation specialists here.

"With some of the older patients, we prefer to regrow the limb gradually. They get a quick dose of nanites in a med-tube, and then go out into a bed for a few weeks while the nanites regrow the leg. That allows them more time to come to terms with the new leg and uses less time in the med-tube. That's a big consideration here. Time in the med-tubes is at a premium."

Terry nodded his agreement. The med-tubes would probably be kept working for 24 hours a day, with patients shuttled in and out as quickly as possible. He made a mental note to confirm that on his tour round Bedford wing.

"What about the rejuvenation patients, Doctor Turner. The one who suddenly go from eighty back to twenty?"

"I'm afraid I can't really help you there Mr Goddard. We don't have that many, and they go elsewhere for post-operative treatment. We just get the limbless veterans and concentrate on getting them used to their new limbs. There are other units which deal with the issues arising from rejuvenation. I'm sorry I can't be more helpful."

Terry shrugged, "That's OK, Elena. We'll just edit out that question and answer for the programme." Turning to Sally, he asked, "Is there any chance of getting to see one of those specialist rejuvenation units, Sally?"

"I don't know, Terry," she replied. "I certainly can't authorise it myself. It would have to go back to Richard at least, if not higher. If you want, I can put in a request, but it might not come back any time soon."

"No, don't bother then, Sally. I don't want any extra delay on this report, not for a relatively minor detail like that. Perhaps I can use that for a separate programme."

Having thanked Doctor Turner, the three of them set off round Bedford wing to have an initial look. Sally and Vince mostly stayed in the background, allowing Terry to do most of the talking. Vince made a few comments about the light, but there was nothing he saw that he couldn't deal with.

It soon became clear to Terry that there were three parts to Bedford wing. First were the pre-operative wards, some providing near acute care to the recently wounded, and others, much less frantic, dealing with the veterans and those whose wounds weren't so new. The non-acute wards held patients like Terry's neighbour, Pete. His wounds had stabilised long before he arrived in the hospital. Many of the patients in the acute section were obviously too ill to interview, but there were enough possibilities in the non-acute wards to reassure Terry that he would be able to gather enough material for his program.

The working centre of the hospital was a set of normal operating theatres, with the two Confederacy medical tubes placed in rooms close by. As Elena had explained, there was often preparation work to do before the patient entered a tube. It made sense to keep the tubes near the operating theatres. Terry confirmed his suspicion that the med-tubes were in almost constant use. As soon as one patient came out the next one went in, with a queueing system ensuring that there was always someone available to fill an empty tube.

The third section of Bedford wing was the post-operative wards, where people recovered. This was the part where the rehab specialists worked, and Terry noted a few of the veterans who looked like they would probably be able to give a better interview than the one he had in the can already.

That night, in the hotel, Terry reviewed what he had so far. There would obviously be enough material for his first possible program, the simple documentary about the hospital curing wounded soldiers. So far he hadn't seen anything that might do for the big scoop, but that wasn't really a surprise. If the story was as big as he hoped, then it would be well hidden. He made a note to question the patients in the recovery section about what had happened to other people they knew from the pre-op ward. The operating theatre section was one of the possible places that soldiers were disappearing. He hoped that they weren't being extracted after they left the hospital. If that were the case, then he would have much less chance of finding any of the evidence here.

There were also the questions surrounding Cavor wing. Why was it more difficult to arrange to visit it? While walking around the hospital grounds, Terry had seen no sign of a third building to match the Administration block and Bedford wing. There were enough mysteries about Cavor wing to make him suspect that he might find many of his answers there.

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