It was a punctuation in a neverending stream of self-pity, strong enough to shake him from his weeping and bring him back to the afterglow of fluorescence on padded walls of white. His eyes focused for a moment, picking out the anomaly amongst trillions of pairs of tender feet, and with the practiced, swiftest movement of a finger the camera swung around, turning its monstrous, monocular visage towards the third layer, a million-and-seventeen rows and eight thousand columns in.
He saw it, then, crying in its cot, struggling against the twelve tubes that pierced its skin ever so delicately, feeding it, monitoring it, sensing every part of its body and knowing it better than it would ever know itself; it was awake, feebly twisting, shaking, thrashing like a whale stabbed with a hundred harpoons. Beneath it, the pristine white of the sheets had already turned an ominous crimson; the temperature sensor read thirty eight celsius, pulse rate was a hundred fifty, and the multitudinous antibiotics and antihistamines and analgesics did little to soothe the suffering of the tiny, four-limbed form that splayed and flailed about, dying, so gently dying.
So he, with his practiced, experienced hand, flew his fingers over twelve points on the holographic screen that represented the twelve tubes that connected the baby to his machine; twelve switches on a half-invisible blue, interrupted by a round orange globe that scrolled his single eye across the domain that was his to maintain. In the dark room, in his soft black chair moulded to fit his back perfectly, beneath empty lightbulb sockets which threw no more light than dead masters threw bones to their dogs, surrounded by a complete circle of nothing but projected light and screens, he contemplated and executed fate with ten fingers on twelve switches, fingertips dipped millimetres into the optical sensors that registered his every move, and then he threw himself back in his chair and forced himself to watch.
As fast as light could carry his will to the steel arms of his unblinking eye, the tubes retracted unashamedly, and there was a pause as the baby's heart rested between its beats, and then the blood started flowing out of veins punctured even before it left its mother's womb, draining a heart already scanned and classified before it beat its first systolic; and then another pair of arms came up, over the cot, pierced its skin where the neck joined the head and drew out a core of metal, and it choked and bled and the sheets were the deepest red of rose.
Meanwhile, the rest slept, peaceful, unaware, unwitting, unwilling to bear witness, unable to comprehend the manic resplendence of emotions that coursed through their watcher's mind, their own neurons barely able to keep up with the demands of their hearts, lungs, stomachs; and they slept, hearing but unlistening, squirming in oblivion, even as their caretaker held his hand over the orange scrollball steady, gazing on the bleeding and sacrifice of one of their kin.
As quickly as it began, it was over; it fell into its death, silent and trepidant, twitching in anticipation, pale with anxiety, in a red pool of its own anger and confusion; and the cot's bottom opened, a caressing maw of metal leading to the organic recycler, and the shrouds fell in, wrapping, tumbling, covering, like the hell-argent of an angel falling, falling, falling; then the fissure closed as swiftly as it opened, the arms returned to their positions by the side of the belly of the beast, and the unblinking eye shuddered for an intangible moment, fleeter than a gust of midnight through a treeless forest, and with the hiss of an angry serpent a cloud of poison cleansed the cradle, erasing, wiping, restoring.
He sat back in his chair that so impeccably fit the shape of his back, his soft black chair, underneath a light that illuminated nothing, in a darkness that hid nothing, before an infinite screen that taught nothing. Right hand over the orange globe, he clenched it, willed, and closed his fingers; and from the endless depths of the processory another infant, suckling on its finger, acquiescingly attached to twelve tubes that sampled its blood and tasted its breath, arrived and took its place in the cot that had only so short before been the home of another. It smiled and gurgled, and turned onto its side, where the pair of connections to its spinal cord did not get in the way of its comfortable sleep. There was a hesitance, a tensing and a nanosecond frown, and a new sample was drawn, analyzed, and the results shown to the machine's master.
And over the screen, the semi-transparent holographic projection that showed trillions of green dots and one red dot, the punctation resumed normal operation, turning green; a window popped up, proudly declaring that the sample values were within normal limits; and the eye turned back to its sleepless observation, attached to an arm with forty elbows that retracted and folded and kept its vigil over its domain.
The last echoes of the anomaly beep faded from recent memory, the eye-arm returned to its base position, and the screen was once again a perfect blanket of green; and he saw that it was good, and he cried.