Ideas spread more efficiently than disease.
Ratchet was very certain no one knew about it, the first time it happened. He certainly hadn’t told anyone. Who would have time to listen?
And even if he had wanted to speak of it, the Interim Council were quick to contain the incident. One of them took him aside specifically, to warn him of the potential consequences should the incident be made public. Panic. Despair. Worse (to them) – defection.
That should have been his first clue, that the tale would get out somehow whether he told it or not. If the spread-thin council could still find out about it, why wouldn’t anyone else?
So within the month everyone, it seemed, was well aware that three functioning bodies had been pulled from the wreckage of one of the labs.
(No one was aware of the rest, of how no effort was made to retrieve the unrecognizable dead, of how the whole facility was ordered glassed so the enemy could not make use of what was left.)
Everyone knew of the bot pulled back from the edge of death on his operating table, of how consciousness crept back into a broken, ashen form.
Everyone knew that the patient, upon waking, had drawn his broken but still-installed blade and, before the doctor could stop him, had buried it deep into his throat.
(No one knew the expression on his face as he did it, the way he’d looked at him with so much fear. No one knew that the wound hadn’t killed him the first time, and he had sunk the knife in twice, three times, and then before he stopped moving he’d begun to cut)
It was some time before he could go back to the operating table, before his hands stopped trembling. And at first he was able to put the suicide out of his mind, as he did what he was made to do – eased pain, mended tears.
But the incident stained his tools like infected blood, and after a little less than a year it spread to a recon scout in the field who turned his gun to his own head as Ratchet made his initial cleanings. And then again, to a soldier who he found buried underneath the rubble of a building, who had shifted the beams around him and let the old walls crush him.
There was no directive from the interim council this time, but in the days in between he would see other medics, people he had known before the war, people he trusted enough to tell them what had happened even though his shaking voice
And one of them had told them he had seen the same thing – his patient had fired on himself as well, after begging not to go back – and he had said you have to restrain them, I hate to do it but you have to restrain them if you’re going to keep them safe.