Author: James White
Original language: English
Publisher: Ballantine Books, 1963
Dr. Conway must deal with an unconscious patient, classification ELPH, who may be a cannibal or a demigod, or both. It came from the “other galaxy”, and the species is well known, almost infamous, to the Ians, who are also from another galaxy. It is extremely long-lived, and regularly takes complete rejuvenation treatments, including the brain and memory, to keep itself young. By doing this, it is practically immortal. It, although unconscious, appeared to have the ability to negate the most powerful drugs and resist surgery to cure its skin condition. This later turned out to be the work of the entity’s “doctor”, who is an intelligent, organized collection of microscopic, virus-type cells. Once Doctor Conway realizes this, he uses a wooden stake to make the ELPH’s doctor focus itself in one small location, at which time it is removed from the ELPH, informed regarding the physiology-problems of its patient, and put back in. The patient, whose name is Lonvellin, quickly makes a full recovery, and it leaves to do what it does best:
Conway helps organise the evacuation of most of the station’s staff and patients, and following the death or injury of more senior staff, becomes the most senior surviving physician. After a brutal series of attacks, and with the hospital on the brink of defeat, a group of Federation and Empire soldiers convince Conway to help in a mutiny against the Federation commander Dermod. The Empire soldiers had been told that the Federation had attacked Etla, rather than trying to help it, but seeing the way all casualties were treated equally on the station, and in particular witnessing Conway breaking down after failing to save the life of an alien Empire soldier, convinced them that they had been lied to.