Chapter 5:

Somatic

Glitches in the Digital Afterlife


When Kagehisa referred to Dr. B as the 'resident counsellor,' Yume expected nothing more than an average, friendly counsellor—one with a welcoming and well-organized office. Past visits to other counsellors and therapists were often conducted by full-fleshed humans or AI robots, but Dr. B happens to be… both.

The metallic material poked out from under the sleeve of her lab coat. It was obvious her arms had been replaced by mechanical prosthetics, similar to the ones she saw at Club Yuzu, except these were obviously of better material with tech parts that aesthetic modifications didn't get. 

Counsellor was also much too light of a title for someone with Dr. B’s extensive education, evident in the impressive glass parchments with varying etches lining the wall above her workbench.

Dr. Kayoko Biasura: Bachelors of Science with a Major in Biomedical Physiology (Honours First Class with Distinction), Extended Minor in Psychology, Masters in Counselling Psychology, Masters in PsychoBio Technologies, and a Ph.D. to accompany her Bachelors.

If anything, Yume thought the doctor was way overqualified for the position, but seeing as the cyborg sitting a few feet away was the only occupant in the spacious lab, perhaps the dynamic background made Dr. Biasura the best candidate for the important job.

“Wow, you’re the poster child of every parent’s dreams,” Yume mumbled in awe, though she didn’t anticipate the doctor to respond with a dry laugh.

“I’m the poster child for an overachieving workaholic with chronic burnout syndrome is what I am…”

The navy-haired woman deflated from her spot on the grey examination table. As she waited for the doctor to finish the analysis, she stretched her fingers, careful not to disturb the intravenous drip in her arm. 

Blue eyes curiously watched as Dr. Biasura placed a vile of blood into the small machine for analysis. The grey french braid that rested on the collar of her lab coat sways back and forth as she compared the data from the machine to what Yume assumes is her patient file on the tablet beneath the gloved hand.

“Your red blood cells count is kinda low.”

“Yeah, that happens a lot because of the disease.”

Dr. Biasura paused to shoot a quizzical glance over her shoulder. “What disease?”

Taidana Shinkeivirus, I’ve had it for a few years now, two if you want to be exact.”

The cyborg turned back to her screen, scrolling through the records to look for past notes of a disease she may have forgotten about.

“TDSV… It’s rare, isn’t it? Only about two cases of it have surfaced in Japan in the last decade.”

Yume nodded but realized Dr. Biasura’s eyes remained trained on screens. “Yeah, they never were able to pinpoint where I contracted the virus from since my symptoms manifested very late. Some doctors tried to convince me I got it from the bad batch of imported waters.”

“What are the symptoms?”

“Well, the virus manipulates itself and inhibits different parts of the brain. Primarily, it’s been observed to disturb the nervous system and speech, but Dr. Leifsdottir told me that the patient from one of the other cases passed away because the virus mutated and ate away at his brain stem.”

The doctor remained unmoving, her eyes bored holes into the patient’s photo on her tablet before she whipped around in her chair and wheeled over to the examination table. She removed the sterile gloves to reveal her mechanical hands.

“Do you mind if I run another test while we talk?”

She reached into a drawer and pulls out a tangled cap of colourful wires. Yume brushed her long hair over her ears so Dr. B could place two of the nodes on her temples; she was used to this procedure.

Similar in style to the EEG cap used for measuring electrical pulses in the brain, the neural cap being adjusted over Yume’s head was used to check for abnormalities and damages within the brain. This method was common practice now, having replaced the use of MRI scans due to the increasing number of modified patients.

“Alright, so Matsui told me that you’ve been acting out of character and was worried that the stress from tonight’s incident may have triggered something. Would you like to fill me in on what happened tonight?”

The nodes blinked in varying patterns around her head and diverted Dr. B’s attention from Yume’s fidgety hands.

Now that she was sitting before Kagehisa’s counsellor, after having exclaimed her desire to confide in the doctor, Yume’s mind felt empty and overwhelmingly busy all at once.

“Where should I start?”

Dr. B offered a comforting smile. “What about the furthest you remember? Even if something feels insignificant, I’m all ears.”

Yume heaved a deep breath and tried to recall the earliest memory of the night; the bathroom stall. She recounted everything she could in its sequential order, from the smallest detail to the repetitive thoughts and feelings she had throughout the night. 

At some point, Dr. Biasura pointed out the time to confirm the sequence of events with the navy-haired woman, and to her surprise, it was almost five in the morning.

“So that means you and your friends were out for a good two or three hours, long enough to sleep through the drive from downtown Tokyo to the ports,” Yume confirmed with a small nod. “Alright, and you mentioned losing your vision at the club?”

“No, I lost the ability to control my eyes, like I couldn’t open them no matter how hard I tried even though I could move everything else.”

Dr. B hummed as she jotted down some notes on her tablet. “Nothing before the bathroom?”

Yume shook her head. “It’s not erozyl, I promise.”

“I believe you. Your blood sample would have shown some signs of substance use, accidental or intentional, but it was clean," Dr. B tapped her pen. "We’re almost done. There’s just one more thing I want to do.”

She plucked a small metal rod from the cup on her desk and returned with an awaiting hand. Yume cautiously placed her hand in Dr. Biasura’s bionic one and closed her eyes.

The doctor poked and prodded at various spots on her hands. She tested Yume's sensitivity to the cold metal and her ability to feel. Yume clenched her eyes as the doctor’s ministrations turned into light pricks.

“Any numbness or areas of extreme sensitivity?”

Yume’s typical response to these tests would be yes, the pads of her fingers were often numb upon contact, and there was a specific area of hypersensitivity in the centre of her palms to make up for the lack of feeling in her fingertips.

With her eyes still closed, Yume tested her hands on her own. She squeezed them together to find the usual spots, but everything felt as it did before she fell ill. “No, everything’s… fine.”

Dr. Biasura responded with another simple hum and removed the cap from Yume’s head. She haphazardly patted down the woman’s tousled hair before she found her seat.

Yume felt uneasy, watching how Dr. B frowned at the tablet screen, blue light reflecting off her glasses as she clicked through the pages of information. Yume was expecting bad news but to take the edge off while she waited for judgment day, she surveyed the room.

“Do you work alone?”

When Dr. Biasura didn't respond immediately, Yume turned back to gauge the doctor’s reaction, only to be met with an arched brow and pressed lips.

She shrunk in her seat. “Sorry, I shouldn’t have asked.”

“No, it’s fine,” Dr. B bluntly replied, turning her attention back to the tablet. “Just surprised you asked, is all. Gwan is my assistant, but she’s been temporarily reassigned to support Corleone until further notice.”

Yume nodded to herself as her mind wandered to her best friend back in the meeting room. The short height and the chipped attitude were befitting of the woman she remembered, though her Rosiel is long past the trendy days of pastel pink hair. The Rosiel who addressed her as Captain also happened to be more muscular, with several tattoos lining her left arm.

Dr. B removed her glasses, placing them on top of her head. “Nagayoshi, your test results show that you are relatively healthy. From what I can tell, there are no abnormalities detected in your premotor cortex or your somatosensory cortex; your overall condition is fine.”

Yume pushed a fallen strand of hair out of her eyes and frowned at the doctor. Dr. B sighed as she placed her tablet down. She placed her elbows against her knees. The serious look on her face indicated more bad news to follow.

“I think what could potentially be happening though is a fugue. I think you’re going through a dissociative fugue. I’m not 100% sure why or what triggered this, perhaps from stress or anxiety—maybe something happened before the club—but because you don’t remember anything before that, there’s no definitive way for me to solidify my evaluation.”

While Dr. Biasura continued explaining, the young woman felt herself pulling away from her immediate environment, drowning the doctor’s voice into echoes as she lost herself in her thoughts.

Flashes of doctors and trained robots gave Yume the same response, telling her that she seemed healthy and that nothing out of the ordinary stuck out in her diagnostic reports. Months of misdiagnoses and frustration were cut short when she received the referral for Dr. Leifsdottir, a relatively young neurologist whose dissertation took on the case studies of individuals affected by Taidana Shinkeivirus.

Her brain felt like a bullet train with one too many thoughts derailing in unison. Her ears started to ring, and a staticky feeling travelled down her arms and into her fingers—the kind one would get when their legs go numb from sitting too long.

Yume clenched her eyes and stilled her movements as the stars frazzled her arms. She bit back a curse as she anticipated the feeling of numbness to suddenly wash over her forelimbs, but a harsh prick in her skin pulled her back to reality.

Dr. Biasura had removed the needle from Yume’s arm and held up a healing device to the same area. The crimson bead disappeared under the light first, then the spot left by the needle vanished next.

“Also, as an active Compound member, you are considered a government agent. You’re not supposed to receive the same medical care as civilians, so I’m your only doctor. I assume Dr. Leifsdottir is someone you went to during your time away from the Compound, but there’s no further need for them now that you’re back.”

Yume’s blue eyes followed Biasura’s form like a hawk as she removed the fluid bag from its hook. As she quietly observed the doctor, a sudden fight-or-flight instinct kicked in for the second time that night. Her eyes darkened towards the only other person in the room, who she now deemed as someone who was gaslighting her. 

She started to see Dr. Biasura as a threat.

“As for your health—”

The sliding doors opened, interrupting the doctor’s thoughts. Dr. B turned to find herself the sole occupant in the room. She marched out the door after Yume, bumping into Kagehisa, who was already calling after his best friend.

“Matsui, leave her. I have urgent matters to discuss with you.”

The frosty-haired doctor turned on her heels and headed back into her lab, leaving the blond to eye the empty corridor. He wanted to go after her, but his duties took priority.

Kagehisa sucked in a deep breath and entered the lab. His eyes scanned for a free seat other than the examination table but found none, so he resorted to the pristine walls with his arms crossed over his chest rig.

“Nagayoshi is physically healthy and can return to her position as Captain, but I want you to keep an eye out for her.”

Kagehisa craned his head to encourage Dr. B to elaborate, but she blankly stared at the tall man. “I’m not supposed to disclose any further information with others.”

“But there is something you’re holding back that I deserve to know. I respect your authority, but I refuse to take an order without further explanation, especially when it has to do with my best friend.”

“Your duties as First Lieutenant should surpass your friendship—”

“Supporting the captain is one of several duties I take on as the first lieutenant, but I cannot support her if crucial details are omitted in your report.”

Dr. Biasura surrendered with a sigh, expecting no less from the captain’s confidant. “Fine, Nagayoshi is exhibiting signs of a dissociative fugue. From what she could recall, everything sounded like a fever dream to her, but from the way she talked about the symptoms of TDSV, I think there’s also the possibility of somatic syndrome disorder.”

“What’s TDSV?”

Taidana Shinkeivirus. It translates to 'terrible nerve', and there has only been a couple of cases in Japan. It starts with a virus that inhibits parts of the brain, but the main symptoms manifest in the nervous system. It disrupts mobility and motor functions."

"Can this virus mutate?"

"Yes, it has in the past."

“So she thinks she has TDSV?”

“More or less,” Dr. B nodded.

“And you don’t plan to do any further testing despite this manifesting a clear concern in her?”

“I did run some tests. I did a blood test, a neural scan and a basic sensory test, all of which showed no signs of abnormalities. That’s why I’m emphasizing the possibility of somatic syndrome disorder. There may have been an intense episode of stress or anxiety causing her fugue and the somatic issue, though nothing is definitive.”

“If it’s a virus, can you not prescribe antibiotics or antiviral medication to help?”

“No, and I can’t prescribe this kind of stuff without proof that prescription is necessary and will benefit the patient,” Dr. B heaved a sigh and pinched the bridge of her nose. “For now, all we can do is keep a close eye on her and have her situated back into her position as captain.”

Kagehisa shifted from the wall. “Did you not just tell me that Yume is possibly going through a bad headspace? I find that reason enough to have her remain in the Compound for recovery before reinstating her.”

The tension in the room thickened with a simple glare from Dr. B. She was irked by the prolonged conversation, but Kagehisa remained unmoving, stubbornness intact.

“On the contrary, I believe having her return to her previous position would help her sort out her thoughts. Habits and familiarity tend to comfort the mind and provide a sense of control—she needs that more than anything right now. We need that more than anything right now.”

“We’re doing fine without her.”

“Are we, Matsui?" Dr. B challenged, "The entire Compound has been a complete mess due to her absence. No cases have been successful, your productivity rate has gone down, and I’m backlogged with appointments because the higher-ups reassigned my only assistant.”

"My productivity is fine."

"Is it?"

The blond didn't respond this time, too absorbed in sorting the news with an objective perspective.

Something wasn't sitting right with Kagehisa. There were dozens of questions in his mind, but he didn't expect Dr. B to have the answers. If anything, he found himself disagreeing with the only professional in the entire complex. 

Yume was showing obvious signs of being unfit to return to her original position, so he firmly believed she should put her health first and foremost. Not everyone would agree if Dr. Biasura's evaluation gave Yume the stamp of approval. As long as there was a clear benefit to them, the higher-ups would disregard any opposition. Unfortunately, they would greatly benefit from Yume's return.

He spared the doctor one final glance before he resigned the conversation with a bow. Kagehisa quietly exited the lab in search of his best friend. 

He needs answers, but only Yume will have them.