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An amateur photographer had managed to get a picture of Nicholas catching the woman out of the air, and when he (correctly, purely by chance) identified her as the Watermark Heroine, the public rallied. The civilians suddenly had a face in the Sentinels. If the new Captain Khazan was the hero of the people, this woman would be the heroine, of the people.
The doctor was short and stout; he had a short salt-and-pepper beard, a receding hairline, and blue eyes with the slightest hint of sparkle in them. The woman forced a smile. "Sentinels physical, right?" she said. The man nodded. She chewed her bottom lip hesitantly, then said, "You're not..." She trailed off, unsure how to continue without offending him.
Dr. Kubrick laughed. "Not little Dr. Lillia or Prof. Furlong, or any of the Sentinel doctors the news reports on, eh? I'm not a superhero, Miss Doe, just a doctor." He sent another pleasant smile her way. "But a very good one. Please come sit on the table."
The checkup took almost an hour and a half of minor tests, sampling, and other procedures that she had never experienced before--tests for possible psychic control, sentient contagions, and several things she couldn't even pronounce. It was only at the end of the session Dr. Kubrick brought up the Cthulhu-sized elephant in the room. "I obtained your records from your hospital, Miss Doe. Your cancer...your absurdly rare form of cancer, even here..."
She tried to force a smile, but it didn't reach her eyes. "They joked they would have to name it after me..." She shook her head. "There's no cure. They consulted near-everyone."
"They couldn't talk to the Sentinels." Dr. Kubrick picked up an air-pressure injector with a centimeter of what appeared to be grey liquid in the tube. "Miss Doe," said the doctor seriously, "there are a number of nanites in this injector. Reverse-engineered from Bouvier's designs, actually. What these tiny robots will do, is attack your cancer cells directly as they form with tiny, direct burst of radiation, hopefully eliminating the cancer from your body in a matter of...time."
The doctor shook his head. "Miss Doe, you know your particular...affliction is much deeper than most cancers. The nanites haven't been quite tested on cancer as aggressive and all-encompassing as yours. They may never stop the cancer completely, even if they stop it from doing any harm. Not to mention, these particular nanites run out of power after a while. They're harmlessly purged from the body, of course, but in a standard patient, the cancer has been completely eliminated by then. You will most likely have to come in every week and a half for another dose. After all, it's hard to recharge them; the number of A's in their battery size goes into scientific notation." Dr. Kubrick laughed at his joke.
The woman either didn't know to laugh or didn't laugh out of choice. Dr. Kubrick placed the injector down. "Actually, we have some forms for you to go through first..."
As she started signing the papers placed in front of her, the woman's mind was wandering. What disturbed her the most wasn't the destruction of this previously terminal disease or the idea of tiny robots with tiny bursts of radiation in her body. What disturbed her was the way Dr. Kubrick said 'these particular nanites.' Did that mean there were nanites that didn't need replacing, wouldn't force her to come back to this room that spelled of antiseptic, for the rest of her life? And why wasn't she getting them?
Surprise dominated the blonde's face for a second, then she apologized at the same second the young man did. The young man looked at her for a second, the look of someone trying to place a song they had heard only once before. "Miss...Doe, yes?" he asked.
She nodded, her face neutral.
The young man leaned against the sterile wall. "You are the girl they rescued from the Grand?"
She nodded again, oddly unable to do anything else.
"Right lucky thing Nick was there when he was..." The superhero seemed to consider something for a second, shook his head, then the considering returned. The woman thought about moving to leave, but found herself watching the young man with interest.
He finally spoke, saying, "Listen, something has always bothered me." He paused. It occurred to the woman this was a boy who was very unsure of himself. "What were you doing in the Watermark? Thought I, they had evacuated it."
It was a question she had deeply wondered about herself. Normally, she wouldn't give much of an answer, but...she finally felt like talking. "They don't know--I don't know," she responded flatly. "I don't remember anything from that whole week. Dr. Kubrick says it's probably from trauma." She sighed. "I don't know why I would've been up there."
The young man responded with a simple, "Oh." He looked slightly disappointed, but slightly relieved at the same time. He adjusted the armor plate mounted on his shoulder, then said, with surprising casualness, "Well, I hope I'll see you another time..."
She nodded again, then, as he turned to leave, said, "Wait. What's your name?" A tiny smile was beginning to play at her mouth.
He turned and responded. "Haiku," he said, as simply as a patch of still water.
Doe turned to her. "Go over the details of what I'm doing again, please."
Viera was thankful for the out. "Right. This is the hideout of an element of the organized crime in the area called the Sarwak Consortium. The Consortium's been extending its influence more and more over the past month or so, especially in the beast trade. We've been cracking down on them, got a few of the dealers, and obtained the info about the base...but we can't risk a full siege. Besides the fact we've had a severe drought of good S.W.A.T. officers, the rumors we've heard indicate the Consortium has the place wired to implode at any moment. We can't risk the whole facility coming down around our ears." Viera took a breath. She had practiced the monologue several times.
"So you're sending me," said Doe flatly.
Viera blushed and hunched over the steering wheel to hide it. "Er, well...I--we--the KPD often asks the Sentinels to intervene on the behalf of the common good, Miss Doe...they just sent you, they, they said that you were trained for this kind of thing..."
Doe said nothing in response.
In short order, the car had reached the hideout, a small abandoned office building. No sooner had Viera shifted the car into park that Doe open her door so quickly it could have been kicked, whirled out of the car, removed a handgun from a hidden holster and fired onto the roof of an adjacent building. Viera climbed out of the drivers seat and was just opening her mouth to ask what Doe had just done when she saw the long dark form of a sniper rifle shatter on the ground. Doe looked at Viera; the policewoman could just glimpse the tiniest of grins on her plain face. "Can you believe I had never even held a gun before a month ago?" she asked with the tone of her voice indicating she herself could barely believe it. Doe's eyes drifted to her gun "I don't even know what kind of gun this is."
Viera found herself unable to respond, not even to tell Doe what the gun was. Doe gestured slightly. "Go; arrest him." Viera hesitated. But Doe gave her a small smile and said, "Don't worry. He lost the rifle and I got him through the right hand; he won't be any trouble."
The blonde took her first few steps toward the Consortium's hideout; Viera was still paralyzed. Only when Doe was almost in the building Viera blinked, then yelled, "I'll call for backup after you make contact to get any runners! I'll--I'll be in touch." She gestured to the two-way radio on her belt, then sped off to the other building.
Doe looked down, noticing the matching radio on her waist. She turned it off. She wasn't in a talking mood.
Doe fired immediately, but the bullet stopped inches in front of his shoulder. "Bulletproof glass," came Sarwak's heavily accented voice over a loudspeaker. Sarwak grinned, and though Doe's face was emotionless, she was quite annoyed.
"Greetings...Sentinel," Sarwak spoke into the headset he wore--Doe had missed it at first glance. "Welcome...to my zoo, as it were. I want to show you...my pet." Sarwak pushed a button on the control, and a light appeared across the room, revealing the door to a very large cage. He pushed another button, and the cage opened, revealing a monstrous beast, six feet tall and twice as long, some cross between a minotaur, a lion, and several beasts Doe couldn't guess at. An enormous ring glimmered in its nostrils, and it growled, its eyes displaying almost human hatred.
Yes, Doe was getting quite tired of Sarwak's taste for the cinematic.
"Kill her," Sarwak ordered, and the creature bounded forward with a disturbing roar. The lights in the basement turned on to keep the beast in illumination--more of Sarwak's dramatic flair. But Doe stood still, watching the creature advance on her, and just as it was upon her, she raised her gun and sent three bullets into its face.
All the thing did was let out a pained half-roar before its legs failed it, and it slid into the blonde, carrying her just long enough to stain her top with blood and liquid from a pierced eye before slamming her into the wall.
Doe staggered up. She took several steps toward Sarwak, who had blanched pale. It seemed he had only the beast to protect him, and the only exit to his bulletproof cell was a door out. He forced all the lights out, but Doe continued walking. In the darkness, she shifted her gun to work as a bludgeon. Bulletproof glass was far from unbreakable. And neither of them had anywhere to go.
The blonde looked through her small closet, mostly of objects recovered from her apartment. Her eyes found a slim pair of black fabric pants. She dimly remembered Nicholas telling her these were the pants she was caught in.
When she took the pants in hand, she heard a soft crinkle in a pocket. She reached in the pocket and found a small, slightly crumpled piece of paper. She flattened out a corner and began to read.
Golden flower blooms...
Suddenly, the woman was on the floor, stunned. She was remembering...remembering...something. She felt a sudden sense of vertigo. The wind seemed to rush through her hair.
Just as suddenly as the feeling came, it was gone. She was staring up at the room's ceiling. She shook her head at the waking dream, then stood and looked again at the paper. Eleven words in a shaky handwriting stared up at her, but the feelings did not return.
The blonde shoved the piece of paper in the pocket, and placed the pants back in the closet. She resolved to return to the note soon; there was something meaningful to her in those three lines, and she knew she had to find whatever message they held.