He stared up into the rain, feeling the slight acid tingle through his thick hair and beard, the small rivulets of water soaking through his thin pull-over sweater. He shivered, a long trembling shudder that had nothing to do with the cold. He continued to walk down the street, his face obscured within the hood of the jacket. Shambling down the street, he finally took his unsteady steps to the remains of his house. The door was strangely still standing upright, and one edge of the roof covered a small portion of the living room, but Alexei heard noises inside. Hand tingling and trembling, he reached inside his boot for his knife, while the other hand slowly turned the knob, and slid open the door.
The unlit interior of his shack was distorted by the light shining through the clouds and rain. He glanced in, and a slight fuzzy brown framed him against the doorway, just for a moment, then it disappeared. The thin arm that held the knife dropped to his boot, and, shaking, inserted the bladed object inside. With quiet, determined steps, he entered the room, a lightning strike from far off illuminated the interior of a ripped and torn ex-clinic as the barren figure closed the door after him.
As he crossed the light from the window, the figure could be seen in detail. Wearing a pull-over hooded sweater, he was thin, and wan with a thick beard of curled hair and a scalpful to match. His thick canvas pants were tucked into furred boots. His thin arms and legs gave him the appearance of a scarecrow with a stuffed head of straw. At this point, he would have not disagreed.
Walking across the room in a daze, he collapsed onto the ripped and burnt couch in a roaring snore, even though he knew the dreams would come. The dreams his father had told him about in La Rodina, so long ago. “Petra,” he said. “When you become a man of the nation, you will fight, and when you fight, the dreams will follow.” Alexei used to think the old man was lying, but not anymore, the dreams were coming. They came without mercy.
Alexei usually worked at his clinic all day, helping out all those who came by in exchange for protection, and favors. But the clinic was running out of money. Looking over the battered remnants of his equipment he sighed, shaking his head. He didn’t have much longer until the stuff decayed away, rusted and unusable. As he left, he knelt and prayed. “Dear Lord, Hallowed be Thy Name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, give us each our daily bread and forgive our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. May you kingdom live on for ever and ever. Amen.” He crossed himself and left.
He had received a letter from his monastery, back in Siberia. He held the letter, turning it over and over in his hands, as he looked up towards the building, the words “Fuchi Corp” emblazoned prominently on the side. Placing the yellowed, worn, and cheaply made letter back in his pocket he entered the building. Pulling his hat off, he walked up to a secretary in the main lobby.
“May I help you?” She inquired in a polite voice with a smile that was all teeth and no feeling.
Sheepishly, Alexei rotated his hat in his hands and smiled back. He responded in his thick foreign accent. “Please Miss, I am not accustomed to this, but may I inquire after a job?” The secretary’s smile vanished, replaced with a cold scowl. “Get out of here before I call security.” Alexei paused, mouth open with astonishment as he began to stutter. “But Madam, all I ask for is...” Without missing a beat, the secretary pressed a button on her desk. Alexei was still stuttering as he was forcibly pushed out of the door.
He wandered for hours after that, going from business to business. Most offers were treated with the same arrogant disdain, others were more violent, especially upon inquiring upon Alexei’s non-existent SIN. In the latter cases, lucky would mean that Alexei had once again avoided Lone Star. After wandering the streets, aimlessly, for a time more, he returned, and sat inside his clinic, crying softly.
He remembered the young women and their children that came into this clinic, those who were pregnant and not. He would give the woman and her child shots, give them physicals, and send them on their way. Every now and then, a man would come with a disease, and Alexei would give him pills, antibiotics, immune boosters. Always, he would turn down charities, and smile at the children. “For God.” He would say to them. “Live for Him.” Alexei’s enterprise ran on hot air, money promised from his comrades back in La Rodina, money that would never come.
The doctor looked once again at the slightly burnt paper in the tattered envelope. He made out the last few sentences. “The monastery was attacked by Siberian Troops, all the monks were killed, I will not survive more than a fortnight, I am bleeding internally, but I must send you this message. Alexei, you made us all so proud, we hope that your freedom will continue to grow in God. God Speed and good luck.” But Alexei had failed God’s plan, he had destroyed the fragile hope that he had clung to. Alexei clung to the paper with a iron grip, tears streaming from his eyes. He had been given the trust of his brothers, the fathers, and God, and he had failed. Why didn’t he just...
The sounds of a car screeching to a halt in front of his clinic broke his reverie. He looked tentatively through the one-way window to the outside. A large troll exited a van, and carried a smaller human on his shoulder. Metal gleamed off the trolls’ arms and head. “Shadowrunners,” Alexei hissed distastefully, as he prepared to move to the back of his house, hiding from the interlopers. The troll would soon begin pounding on the door, offering all sorts of money...
Alexei halted for a moment. That was one thing that these ‘runners had a lot of, Nuyen. He turned to the figures outside his clinic, as the troll began reaching Alexei’s side of the street. Thousands of credits, sometimes millions were hidden inside their safehouses and cars. Alexei licked his lips reflexively, as he began to walk towards the door. The notion of thousands of credits brought hope to his mind, and something else. Alexei tried to push it aside, but it was there nonetheless. Greed. Alexei’s hand twitched near the handle, as the troll made his last few steps.
“Comeon Saber, don’t die on me!” Monsoon said under his breath to the prone form on his shoulder. He heard a scream from the car. “Monsoon! Moron, the clinic owner is a religious righteous nut, he never helps scum like us.” The large troll growled as he reached the steps. “Shut up Stalker!” He yelled back across the street. “I’ve gotta try! Saber ain’t gonna make it!” As he reached out to knock on the door, it was suddenly opened in front of him.
Alexei opened the door, and found a huge pile of muscle and steel standing in front of his diminutive form. The troll panted for a second, then squeezed into the apartment, placing the bloodied form on the table. With a glance, Alexei could tell that the man had suffered several gun-shot wounds. A tough case, but within what he was capable of. Alexei turned stoically to the troll, as the large form huffed and panted within the kitchen. “Yes?” Alexei said, coaxing. The troll turned to Alexei and paused, forming hurried words short after. “The sign say free clinic.” He gestured towards Saber. “Help him!”
Alexei’s lips formed the words he wanted to say, but the sounds wouldn’t come out. After several tense seconds, Monsoon exploded in a frenzied exclamation. “WELL?” The shock jarred the words out. “Two-thousand.” Monsoon looked at the doctor confusedly as Alexei did his best to stop the trembling shame from showing. “What?” “Now it’s three thousand.” Alexei’s efforts began to fail, his hands curled and he placed them across his chest to hide the reaction. A wave of self-loathing shook his body almost as acute as the heaves of vomiting.
Monsoon looked in shock at this pip-squeak. Demanding money in a free clinic to save Monsoon’s best friend! Anger flashed first, that drekin’ frag! Monsoon had half a notion to pull out a gun, and reduce the sniveling little man to a bloody pulp. Then despair hit, threatening the doctor could make him collapse altogether, and Saber would lie, bleeding, on the table, and he would certainly die if Monsoon killed the man. The moment of indecision was only that, and then Monsoon ripped from his coat three sticks, each marked 1000. “Here!” He gasped. “Take them! But help Saber!” Gesturing wildly, Monsoon held out the money, as Alexei moved to take them, then moved towards the lifeless figure.
“Thank you God...” Alexei winced as he invoked God’s name to thank for extorting money from this desperate man. He grabbed the sticks, stuck them in an inside coat pocket, and looked at the victim. The gunshot wounds had penetrated the lower bowel, the stomach, and one had aerated a lung. A typical sucking chest-wound was exhibited, and the smell of human waste, bile and stomach acid had begun to fill the room already, accompanied by the sickly bubbling of blood-filled breaths. “Move him to the inside table.” Alexei ducked into his bathroom, washing his hands as the large troll moved the body into the examination room.
When he emerged, the body, or “Saber” as the troll had called it, was on the table, bleeding heavily, and his chest sounds were decreasing. Monsoon was frantic with panic. “Comeon man, don’t fraggin’ die on me now!” Alexei looked down at the body. This would would take some effort, but he could be saved. “Leave.” Alexei said, underneath his breath. The troll looked puzzled again. “Leave.” Alexei emphasized as he looked over the body. “And leave a trid number, I will call you when I am finished.” The troll paused, and growled, tossing a cell phone at Alexei. “The number is either automatic dial one, two, or three. Ask for ‘Monsoon’ if I don’t come to the phone.” With that, the troll departed.
Alexei looked over the body, then glanced to see if the troll was gone. Seeing no form, Alexei shut the door and went back. Laying his hands on the deteriorating body, he looked up to the heavens, and prayed that his transgressions had not taken away his gift. His prayer metamophisized into a growl, as he felt the holy spirit flood into the patient. The sucking breaths levelled and stopped decreasing. Alexei, once again, looked at the patient, and placed his hands on the wounds. Bowing his head, he grimaced as he poured out his power again, into the patient. He watched to see the bowels knit themselves, the stomach come together, and the lung close and expel the excess fluid.
Coughing from the pain that hit him after the healing, Alexei looked over the patient. The breathing was good and steady, there were still holes, and bullets, as well as bile, feces and acid in the patient, but now, they were no more than removal and stitching problems. Alexei sighed, as he washed his hands, and pulled out a pair of gloves and one of his medical sets. Opening up the set, he set up an I.V., something he hadn’t done anywhere but in the VR simulation he had bought in the monastery. Busying himself in the work of restoring a man from the dead, he almost forgot the guilt. Almost.
It was two weeks later when Monsoon and Stalker got the call. Monsoon jumped on the contact, as he had on every call in the last two weeks. “Hello?” He said, with explosive enthusiasm, and a tinge of horror. The troll held up a hand to hold a comment from Stalker. “Yes.” The troll nodded with enthusiasm. “Alright.” He turned to his friend. “He’s okay.”
When Monsoon came back to find a groggy Saber exchanging comments with Alexei, he was overjoyed to say the least, although slightly embitterned when he remembered the dead-man’s tax he had to pay. Saber’s recovery had been steady, according to Alexei little more than patching had been required than a few stictches here and there. He complimented Saber on his regenerative properties, and then the morphine inbibed Saber laughed hysterically, until he winced at the stitches in his stomach and chest. Alexei admonished him to be more careful, then left Stalker alone as he went off to talk to Monsoon.
The troll was nonplussed. “What da’ya want? Ya got your money, what more do you want?” Alexei looked up at the large body of muscle. “I’m a reasonable man, I can grant you assurances that I will heal with the same expertise every time you have need of me, I only ask one thing.” The troll crossed his arms, waiting for the punchline. “Two thousand nuyen a month, no more, no less.” Alexei’s conscience twitched again, but this time it was more subtle. Bitterly he reflected that this must be how one tresspassed into evil, and in his musing missed most of the troll’s statement, but none of it’s intent.
“...out of your fraggin mind!” Monsoon concluded. 24,000 nuyen a year! He could get a Doc-Wagon contract for less! Monsoon growled and stewed, and then paused. Doc-Wagon was another corp, he thought bitterly, had internal records, was very vulnerable to internal machinations, and if something went wrong, no one took the blame. But Doc-Wagon at least came to you... and healed you on the spot! He looked down at the small, resolute Russian, then around at the clinic, and pulled in his lip. “I’m fraggin’ crazy to agree with this.” Monsoon vocalized under his breath. “Okay, the three thousand is your up-front payment.” His fists balled and unballed. “But if you frag with one of my friends, you’re dead meat.” Alexei stood, resolute, in front of the troll and nodded. “Good, this is good for the both of us.” Monsoon turned around, and growled to himself. “Yeah, fraggin’ right. Hey,” he turned to his new street doc. “Who the frag are you?” Alexei looked at the man, and smiled. “Call me Alexei Karamazov.”
That night, after Stalker and Monsoon took saber away, and Alexei was once again alone in his clinic, he cried himself to sleep.
From then on, the group held Alexei on retainer. Every day the guilt grew easier to bear, but Alexei spent every spare moment on his knees, to try to gain strength to continue this degredation of the spirit. But Alexei’s desire to save life, any life, soon crowded out his distaste for the lives he was saving. And the money began to add up. Soon, Alexei discovered more advanced equipment, better vaccines, and a need to expand beyond his crowded quarters. He hired back Monsoon to help him add a basement to his clinic, and with a little bit of explosives, and a lot of patience, there was an underground facility specifically for the ‘runner team.
Monsoon and Alexei’s initial anger and disdain towards each other began to wear off. Monsoon actually began to like Alexei for his honesty, and his religious conviction, and Alexei admired Monsoon’s loyalty, and strength of will. Alexei discovered that he could perform more and more invasive surgical procedures, and finished up his learning process by transplanting a kidney stolen from a hospital nearby.
Alexei’s bursts of conscience were few and far between now. He even looked on the theft of the kidney as simply a necessity of his work. The runners had promised him culturers, as well as freezers, so Alexei looked forward to never needing to steal from another person again. People started coming to his clinic more often, for things worse that simple colds and malnutrition. Gunshot victims staggered in, men and women with yellow eyes and failing livers begged for help, STD victims, rich and poor, who wanted no publicity snuck in after hours.
Alexei still didn’t charge the poor or destitute anything, and neither did he blackmail the rich, but a small “compensation” was needed for those that Alexei thought could spare.
Then there was another unexpected accident.
Alexei had just finished praying, something he had not done in days, not just a prayer of thanks, but a prayer of forgiveness. He had pleaded for God to forgive him for what he was doing, and he had received no confirmation, no sign, no signal, and so he finally gave up, to hear the front door of the clinic open.
A man came in, dressed in a suit, and packing a gun. Alexei had grown used to the shape of a gun underneath clothing, and the man that entered the clinic wasn’t there for anything obvious. Alexei appeared from the back. “Can I help you?” He said to the man. The man responded in an easy going tone. “Is this the clinic of ‘Alexei Karamazov’?” Alexei nodded, slowly. Everyone in the area knew his name, and the name of the shop. Why would this stranger be interested?
The man smiled. “I’m looking for any reminants of three criminals who are said to frequent this place. You must know them, they go by the names of Monsoon, Stalker, and Saber.”
A chill went down Alexei’s back, and he felt like he was paling. Licking his lips, he tried to shake his head doubtfully. “I don’t know, I don’t ask names here.”
The man chuckled icily, Alexei’s gaze hovered on the bulge of the gun and his heart froze in his chest. Everything about the man screamed professional. Saber looked and acted like this, and Alexei had heard stories of the man killing adversaries without a second thought. He had believed them, after seeing Saber draw his pistol on a man who surprised him during recovery.
The man walked across the room slowly, glancing up and down. “Then would you terribly mind if I took a look around?” Alexei wet his lips with his tongue, noticing the man kept at least ten feet of space between himself and the doctor. “You’re going to look around anyway, aren’t you?” The man smile at Alexei and chuckled again. “You’re a smart lad, now keep the trait and pretend I’m not here.”
Alexei watched in horror as the man walked towards the broom closet, the hidden door for the underground facility was at the back, and the man’s dull-lifeless eyes betrayed cybernetic modification. Alexei began to walk towards the man.
The assassain turned around, smiling at Alexei. “Don’t jump the gun, be reasonable. For enough tissue for ritual sorcery, I will give you one-hundred-thousand nuyen, let you keep your equipment, and,” the man held up a finger. “I will recommend you to my parent corporation for our cybernetic implantation team.” The man pulled out a credstick and showed it to Alexei, the stick registered at 10k. “I know you know where you keep their stock, and I don’t want to destroy the stuff on accident, because I am no doctor.” The man continued to wheele persuasively. “Just come with me, I don’t even know the stuff is theirs, it’ll guarantee your safety. You’ll have a SIN, and everything. I saw the trideos of you in our corporate office,” his smile and voice were mesmerizing now, and Alexei’s hand began to twitch again.
Strangely, there was no twinge of conscience this time. Alexei smiled easily and naturally as he nodded to the man. The corper smiled. “Excellent.” He tossed the credstick to Alexei and looked around. “Now, where is that vault?” Alexei smiled. “Turn around and watch the outside door, I have to protect myself.” The corper grimaced, but walked towards the outside door and turned away. Confident in his ability to predict a possible attack from the street doc. Alexei walked into the closet, and closed it after him, opening the door to the basement. Quickly he flew down the steps and tore all the name tags off the storage compartments, burning them in the sterilization machine. Hearing the corp agent heading towards the door, he quickly affixed random numbers and letters to the organ compartments, placing the last one, just as the corper opened the door to the basement.
“Gotcha,” the man said, pointing the gun at Alexei.
“Wait!” The doctor said, panicking.
“What?” Came the response from the man. “What reason is there, that I shouldn’t kill you, now that I have the stuff?”
Alexei smiled shrewdly as he gestured to the compartments. “How do you know, which is whose?”
The corporation assassain cursed as he zoomed in on the different labels, just then spotting the smouldering tags in the sterilization machine. He smiled bitterly. “Smart, kid, and cute. Alright.” He put away his gun. “I guess I have to keep the deal. I can do this with you, split the money, fifty-fifty, give that recommendation, and send you to a top bioware and cyberware lab.”
Alexei smiled raptuously, sighing with relief. “Finally,” he said to the agent. “I’ll be able to get out of this damn shadow world.” The corper smiled as Alexei reached into a case to pull out a cooler. “This is probably one of theirs, we’ll get more later.” Alexei held up the cooler for the assassain to grab. The man walked over, and took the cooler in his arms.
Alexei smiled again. With one-hundred thousand nuyen, he could start his own permanent clinic, hire doctors, and he could be a person, have a real life. A job! With a corp! He shook his head in realization as the man walked off with the cooler.
Then the man gasped, and hit the ground.
Alexei had channeled all the energy he had been storing since the man had entered, and even as prepared as he was, the pain of the channeling was intense. The doctor groaned just as his target groaned, but only the target hit the floor. Quickly Alexei staggered over to the man, removed the cooler from the lifeless arms, and charged another blast. This one overcharged the electrical system of the assassain, and he began bleeding from the nose, ears, and mouth.
“I sold my soul once.” Alexei said, to the now dead assassain, trying to keep his voice free from the self-revulsion, neausea and terror that it was threatening to hold. “I won’t do it twice.” Pulling out a cell-phone he dialed Monsoon’s safe house. “Yeah?” A leisurely voice came over the phone.
“The corp is here! Fragit, I dropped a stiff who was looking for you guys here! Oh, this is Alexei, you need to scramble, now!” A curse responded to this, and there was a pause in which Alexei took his opportunity to vomit, violently, on the floor. He felt sick to his stomach, and he could feel the emptiness of the man of the floor. A sickening emptiness that Alexei had seen before, but never caused himself. The realization brought on a new bought of neausea, and Alexei puked until his body trembled with dry, heaving sobs. He pulled the phone to his ear as the voice on the other end asked about his well being.
“I’m okay.” Alexei said in an emotionally drained voice. There was an auditory nod on the other side. “Alright, we’ll be there a minute with the cleaning gear.”
Alexei heard the click and paused, mind realing even in his detached state. Why cleaning gear?
He found out when the group brough 10 lbs of hastily retrieved C12 with them in their Euro-car. Alexei looked dumbly at the men and troll as they wired up his facility for demolition. Monsoon ended up draggin Alexei away as the men prepared to eliminate all traces of their existence. Suddenly the rage in Alexei exploded.
“You bastards!” He yelled into the open air, voice full of anger, despair and self-hatred. “You made me do this! I never charged money before you came, I had never lied, or cheated anyone.” The troll tossed him into the back of the Eurocar, despairing paradoxyms continuing. “But that was all right, I assured myself, because I still could help people in my clinic.” His angry spasms became sobs of pain and sorrow. “I stole, bribed and coerced, but that was alright, because I had my clinic.” His voice became more strident as the car began to drive away, and the explosion shook the passengers. “Now I’ve taken a life. Murdered, not a medical accident, not a mistaken cut in surgery! ‘Thou shalt not murder’ God said, and I’ve broken my final rule.” He paused, eyes streaming with tears, rage not completely used up. “NOW WHERE IS MY CLINIC!” He collapsed on himself, sobbing hysterically as the flames over his clinic burned. The three ‘runners shook their heads. He wasn’t their problem anymore, his contract had run out.
Alexei had returned that evening to find a light rain had begun stopping the fires. The explosion massive enough that the concussion had extinguished most of the blaze. Lone Star cordoned off the area for a week, and Alexei spent the few credits he had left in his credsticks on coffin motels until the Star left the area. They had determined it was an accidental explosion from an illegal drug and explosive lab that had been operating under the cover of a free clinic. Just a cover story, because they had no idea who would spend ten-thousand nuyen worth of explosives to flatten a worthless old building.
He returned to find his house in shambles, and crawled inside to sleep on the couch.
Alexei awoke violently to find rain still streaming against the house in slow thuds, some trickling around the walls and falling onto him. He shivered against the wet, slickly tactile feel of his sweater, now soaked in sweat and rain. He looked up to see drops pouring through the ceiling and collecting on his beard, in his hair, on his eyelashes. He gazed up, seemingly for an eternity at the sky, his mouth open. He had heard stories of animals, looking up at the sky, mouths open, until they drowned. The barren, empty man considered it for a moment, then reluctantly discarded the idea. He was afraid of the cold clammy hands of death, he had defeated it too often to look at death as an acceptable alternative to living on.
Collapsing against the soaked, torn remains of the couch, Alexei began to cry again. All he had strove for, lost, destroyed in a moment of pride. He had believed that giving into a second evil was somehow worse than what he had done. Alexei laughed bitterly at that. He had seen Stalker, Monsoon and Saber. They all killed when they needed to, the corporation was no different. Why did he have to do that? He had insurance enough with the uncertainty of the tissue, and his skills as a doctor. He shook his head and screamed in rage. “Quiet down.” Came a thick base from the door. “It’s hard to hear oneself think in here.”
Alexei turned quickly, reaching down for his knife and spotted the figure of Monsoon. Growling, Alexei stood up and turned away. “This is your fault.” Alexei said to him. “If it weren’t for you, I would have never tried to kill him.” The doctor heard Monsoon nod behind him, and then the base thundered again, not angry, but aggressive.
“Well it’s time you looked at what you really believed Petra.” Petra Ivanovich Narmanov, known on the streets as Alexei, turned quickly towards the figure. “What did you say?”
“You heard me right, Ivanovich.” Monsoon continued. “I did some research on you, to see if I could some dirt on you to get you to reduce my price. The more I researched, the less I wanted to.” Monsoon paused and swallowed. “I know about the Monastery, and I’m sorry. I heard about your bankruptcy, and I figure that’s why you let us in.”
Alexei growled at him, crossing his arms and shivering from the cold. “Go to Hell.”
Monsoon grew angry now. “No, I’m sorry, but even you can’t decide that. Can you think for a moment Petra, WHY you are here? Do you believe any of that drek about God guiding your path? Apparently I do more than you then, because I’ve seen some weird drek in my time, and when I saw you praying for the first time, about two months ago, I began to look at what I believed.” The massive troll street same paused. “But you don’t believe anymore.”
Alexei started, his face a mask of anger, rage and utter reviling disgust. His hands hooked into claws, and he crouched, a hand on his boot, ready to spring. The thin line of his body tensed with a deadly anger, but through it all he was trembling. His hands shook, as the mask faded away from the look of anger, to a listless acceptance. All feeling drained away from his face, then his body, and finally his hands opened up and hung at his sides as he stood straight again. “I have denied the name of God.” He said in a desperate whisper.
Monsoon waited until Alexei’s rage passed, and continued. “Didn’t another Petra, do that? Didn’t Simon Peter deny God three times?” Alexei nodded at that reference, looking Monsoon in the eye. “I guess I’ve been forgiven.” As the silence began, and the rain was all that could be heard, Monsoon began to say something else. “I probably don’t know the bible as well as you do, but didn’t Jesus say some drek about the well not needing a physician?”
Alexei smiled, remembering the verse. “‘It is not the well who need a doctor, but the sick. I have come not to call the righteous to repentence, but sinners.’” Alexei nodded, looking up. “Yes.”
The massive troll looked uncomfortable. “I kinda thought, that you coulda look at the corpers, like the... uh, pharisees, and us ‘runners,” he pointed towards himself. “As the sinners, I guess.” He shrugged sheepishly. “I’ve been talking to Saber and Stalker, and we’ve been seeing what you’ve been doing with your clinic, and we’re thinking of trying something like it.” Alexei looked up, confused.
Monsoon shook his head, chuckling. “We’re not going to go into the doctor biz, see, but we can keep the corpers from killing or taking innocents, and we sure can keep the gangers from messing with people.” The huge shoulders shrugged. “Not much money in it, but we can take runs on the side, but only for good causes.” He smiled sheepishly. “You know, become ‘hooders.”
Alexei smiled, tears running down his cheeks. “‘Hooders,” a sarcastic term used by ‘runners on the street to describe do-gooders and robin-hood wannabes. He shook his head, and his smile began to deteriorate. He frowned, his face etching deep lines that had only recently begun to appear. “But what about me?” He flicked his fingers at the wall. “If you are going to start charity work, that doesn’t leave any nuyen over.” The healer paced for a small time, grabbing at his hair in frustration, then stopped and slammed his fist into one of the torn, burnt walls, and heard the small crack of bones breaking.
Monsoon walked over. “Hey, you okay, let me look at that.” Alexei shook his head, and without thinking he channeled energy to the wound, watching the bones begin to move back in place, the cuts close, and the redness dissapate. Monsoon looked in awe, and Alexei looked at him strangely.
“What?” Alexei prompted, curious, and too confused to be ashamed of revealing his gift.
“Have you been able to do that, the entire time?” Monsoon questioned, intensely curious.
Alexei hung his head and blushed, nodding. He looked up when he heard laughter.
“You dope!” Monsoon said, good-naturedly. “Can you do anything else?”
Alexei began to become angry, as he explained his new-found ability to render others unconscious, a talent for disappearing, and an inherent ability to protect others from projectile objects. By the end Monsoon was smiling, but no longer laughing, and Alexei demanded to know why he found this so funny.
“You fraggin’ dense Russkie!” Monsoon said, smiling with good humor, giving Alexei a light shake. “You know how in demand whiz-worm... er, mages are in this industry?” He shook his head. “You could get more than me, twice as much, as a matter of fact. In runs that are nothing more than pieces of cake. Just being there would make a lot of people feel more comfortable.” He smiled, a huge grotesquely tusked smile.
Alexei looked up at Monsoon. His face flashed through confuse, to despair, to anger, and then, finally, a balance of acceptance and calm. He blinked his eyes, and looked down at the ground, his voice small and afraid. “Would you like to hire on...” he paused for a second, “whiz-worm, then?” He ended with a tenative smile and a glance up at the huge troll. Monsoon shook his head, and extended his hand. “Welcome to the team.”
Alexei awoke in his new clinic in the Redmond Barrens. A few miles from his former clinic in Pullyup, but still good. Looking at his new pocket secretary, he found out that the meet for the ‘run was in a few hours. He checked his schedule, and found no one was scheduled to come in. Leaving the recently acquired property, he looked on the building and smiled, and then did something he hadn’t done since his former clinic had been blown apart. He knelt down and prayed.
“Lord, our God in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us each our daily bread and forgive our tresspasses as we forgive those who tresspass against us. Lead us not unto temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. Thank you Lord.”
As he stood up, he looked at his clinic, acquired in the time he was introduced to all the team’s contacts, and stocked with the ten-thousand nuyen credstick that he had retrieved from the dead corper. He had a clinic to heal and help, friends who were loyal to the death, and a hope that could be envied by millions. Alexei suddenly smiled as he walked towards the meet. Remembering his prayer, then the screeching car outside. The prayer of supplication, followed by the corper’s arrival. “It was all God’s will. It was His Plan after all.”
He slowly walked away from the clinic, retreating into the distance.
(c) 2000 ArcAngel. Used with permission.