art by Jonathan Westbrook
The Professor's Boy
by Erik Goranson
I found the professor in a hospital bed. His boy sat next to him, teary eyed, clinging to his pale fingers. The professor was consoling the boy until he saw me. He cast a knowing look in my direction and sent the boy off to fetch some water.
I found his scrutiny delightful. My disguise was impeccable, but even in his deteriorated state, the man remained astute. He offered a promising harvest.
"There's hunger in your eyes," he said. "You're a collector, aren't you?"
"You'd best make this quick. My son will be back soon."
"I'll manage," I said.
I injected the nanomites through his IV. As the tiny machines worked, he never broke eye contact. I watched the glimmer in his eyes slowly fade away. By that point, the data had already started streaming back to me. The rush of knowledge was exquisite. I reveled in it.
"Who are you?"
I recognized the voice. The boy had returned.
"A friend of your father," I said. "I came to see him off."
The boy looked at me with his father's piercing scrutiny. I gestured towards the body to avert his gaze.
"But it seems I'm too late," I said.