"You can just leave your clothes in this bin, Dan. Once you have the examination gown on, you want to go through the door with the green light over it." The nurse pointed with one hand while holding out the hospital gown with the other.
"What's this thing made of?" Dan said, taking the examination gown and rubbing his thumb callouses over the material.
"Cotton-rich paper. It's disposable."
Dan grunted. "I suppose they get ground up and composted."
"Something like that." The nurse went through a door with a red light over it.
"Asshole," said Dan under his breath while he unbuttoned his shirt.
Dan finished undressing and pulled the hospital gown over his head. He was relieved to discover it was closed at the back, just shaped like a giant t-shirt. He folded his clothes, put them in the bin like the nurse had said, and went through the green-lit door.
The room beyond was larger than he expected, and mostly empty. In the centre was a black rectangle of some rubbery stuff with plexiglass walls around it on three sides. Beyond that was a table supporting an array of display monitors and other electronics. A young woman sat on the far side of the machines. She barely glanced up at the sound of the door swinging shut behind Dan.
"Mr. Hodge?" she said.
"Yes ma'am. And you are...?"
"I'm the diagnostician. You can call me Sherry." She waved her arm towards the rubber flooring.
"What do you need me to do?" said Dan.
"Step into the 'porter so I can complete the scan," said Sherry.
"Por... is that thing a teleporter?"
Sherry looked at Dan directly for the first time. "Of course it is. But a medical one."
"Where are you sending me?"
"You're not leaving this room until the examination is completed. Now please, step on. I have a lot of appointments to complete today."
Dan set his feet shoulders-width apart and folded his arms. It was a stance, he thought ruefully, that was a lot more effective when he was in his work gear and telling off seasonal workers than when he was wearing a paper gown trying to deal with a medical... android. Whatever she was. He made sure he was scowling.
"Lady," he said, "I'm not stepping anywhere until you explain to me what the hell you're going to do with this carcass of mine."
Sherry blinked rapidly several times. "I am going to scan you, but not dematerialise you. Medical 'porters aren't hooked up to any network. Once your data is scanned, the system will analyse it and report any anomalies."
"I'll verify the system's diagnosis and discuss any necessary treatment with you."
"Well, that last part sounds like it will be lots of fun." Dan stepped into the teleporter. "Will any of this hurt?"
"No, it's just a scan. It will feel like you're being teleported, but you won't go anywhere."
"Never been teleported."
"What?" Sherry gawped at him. "How did you get here?"
"Same way I get anywhere — my '63 Ford F-150 Solar. My wife's trying to find a place to park it right now."
"I think there's still some parking in the back..."
"We figured. We're farmers. We're used to having to find somewhere to park."
"Try to hold still. I'm going to scan you now."
Dan saw a flash of white light. Sherry gave quick little taps to the different keyboards arrayed in front of her.
"How long before the scanning starts?"
"Already happened. Just stay where you are, Mr. Hodge... " She pushed a button on one of the control panels. "Have you been urinating blood at all, Mr. Hodge?"
"That's exactly what I've been doing. That's why I went and saw my doctor."
"You have bladder cancer. It hasn't metastasised yet — if it had, there'd be more alarm indicators on the scan."
"Cancer?" Dan felt his knees go weak.
"Why don't you sit on the gurney over there, Mr. Hodge." Sherry pointed to the wall adjacent to the change room.
Dan stumbled to the gurney and sat down. "Cancer," he repeated.
"Yes. The markers are quite definite." Sherry tapped a few more commands into one of the keyboards. "With your permission, I'll edit it out before you leave today."
Sherry took a deep breath. "You lie down on the gurney, and I wheel you back onto the 'porter. This time we do dematerialise you, but when we rematerialise you half a second later, we don't include any of the cancerous or precancerous cells. It'll feel just like the scan, but you might experience some déjà vu. Are you comfortable with that?"
Dan shook his head. "But how do we treat the cancer?"
"I just told you, Mr. Hodge. The editing procedure removes it."
"What if you take out something you're not supposed to?"
"The system only edits out cells with the DNA markers for cancer. Also, we do another scan immediately after the procedure to verify the data and confirm there are no other health issues. Lie down on the gurney please."
Dan hesitated, then stretched out on the gurney. Sherry strode over, took the brake off the gurney wheels, and pushed the gurney into the teleporter. She checked the gurney's positioning and applied the brake. "Just lie still," she said.
Dan heard her walk back to the control table. He wanted to ask her about the other risks in treatment, but before he could he saw one flash, then another.
"Verifying," said Sherry. Dan concentrated on his bladder. Something felt odd, but nothing hurt.
"Successful. No perforations. Get up when you're ready, Mr. Hodge, and try to drink lots of water for the next week or so. As much water as you can stand."
Dan eased himself into a sitting position slowly. "How do I make sure this doesn't come back again? The cancer."
"The hospital will e-mail you a healthy living guide. You can return through the door you came in, Mr. Hodge. If you don't mind, I'm running late and need to attend to my next patient."