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The Eye of the Beholder
#11
She glared, despite being the one to have invaded his space. Sören’s expression remained flat, even as she took possession of his wrist. The touch was an annoyance he was not best comfortable with, but physical retaliation was not high amongst his instincts, and insult made little obvious dent to her demeanour so far. Thus he weathered in silence, and considered alternative routes to rid himself of her company. At least until she said the first thing that actually sparked interest: that she was in fact a doctor.

“What you need, is my consent, Nina.” Unforthcoming, of course. She might feel a samaritan's pull to the cause, but she was mistaken to bestow that concern on him. He would not thank her for it. Whatever rosy glow pushed others to altruism, disappointment would come to sour her recollection of having stopped. Sören didn’t doubt that. “Experimental tech has its drawbacks,” he said finally. He glanced down at the numbers he’d drawn on his arm, the itch of temptation crawling up the back of his skull like obsession. The pain was inconsequential if it provided answers, but if the eye glitched again while the woman lingered she’d be harder to shake off. Patience was among his virtues. But it didn’t mean he didn’t still find it an irritation to have to wait.

He pushed the flask away with the back of his other hand. “I’m looking for someone. A junior doctor at the Guardian until recently, when she was suspended from duty. Her name is Morven Kinnaird.”
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#12
“Morven Kinnaird.”

Nina, looking like some small bird whose plumage had been ruffled, walked up and down in front of the man while trying to remember.

Morven, Morven, Morven…

“A junior doctor at the Guardian until recently, when she was suspended from duty,” supplemented the man as he looked at her disparagingly.

Nina was annoyed. Altogether it had been an unfortunate day. Now it was close to noon, and the man’s cold attitude had to render matters still more trying.

She was not much wiser, and yet a faint familiarity seemed to linger around this name. Yes, she remembered something about a fight… in another place… another hospital… an incident, disgrace…

“What did she do—why was she suspended, anyway?” demanded Nina fretfully.

Being a lady considerate of the feelings of others, she substituted the word “suspended“ for “dismissed” which had first risen to her lips.

“Morven,” muttered Nina, dazed. “You mean she treated you— ?”

Light but this was unexpected. She could see her now… a beautiful woman with surgically perfect looks

If Morvan treated him he should be healed, almost certainly. Apparently she was known to work miracles the experts couldn’t… Nina should guess—it’s only guesswork on her part, mind—that Morven might have an ability similar to Nina’s little sister Rena. She should say that it would not be impossible for Morvan to channel the power of gods… just like Rena…

Nina paused a minute, and then said: “if I were you—I should go to her. She’ll be able to heal you. I can help you look for her.” She stuck out a hand, “what’s your name, partner?”

Better Nina find Morven first than any other atharim.
Nina
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#13
Sören waited patiently to discern whether there was any serendipity to be found in this annoyance, until apparently some familiarity was discovered in the name or description. By the awe in Nina’s expression, he doubted the stupid woman had been circumspect with her gift, despite the numerous conversations they had had about the necessity for a little discretion. His mouth pursed a frown, a rather dismal suspicion beginning to unfurl in his chest. He wondered what strings he might have to pull to gain a glimpse of the Custody’s registration records.

“I imagine her temper caught up with her.” He shrugged in answer to the question, since he only had the barest understanding of the exact circumstance that had led to Morven’s suspension, beyond that it had meant the necessity to offer her lodging. She was too useful to see destitute. He pushed himself up from leaning against the wall. A little dizziness persisted, but he was sure he could walk well enough now the pain eased.

“Wonderful advice, doctor,” he said drily. Clearly she did not appreciate that it was the sole reason he sought the woman out. Still, help was help. In this pursuit, Sören was willing to accept. “Do you have access to hospital records? Can you discover her last patient?” He stared down at her offered hand, not particularly enamoured of the enthusiasm. After a moment of apparent indecision, he took her it, grip firm, but only to twist it round to inspect her forearm. He did not yank to hurt; there was no cruelty to the movement, only efficiency. Her other arm received a similar, brisk inspection before he let her go. Satisfied, at least for now, he dropped her grip. “I suppose you can call me Sören.”
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#14
I don’t understand. But—

He reached for her arm and she looked at Soren in surprise for a second, anticipating something, but only sure of the fact she should anticipate. She wondered if he’d pull back if she had roared back a bark of incredulous laughter, but dared not try. This was a true test, and she was loath to break its spell. Instinctively, she let him take the lead. Nina simply looked at him, and allowed Soren to study both her arms.

The man seemed to be in better spirits, but his face was as white as a death mask, and his bright eyes sunken in dark circles like bruises.

He was lucid, but twice he was given to fits of pain and convulsion, accompanied by Nina’s arms pulled around his huddled body, as if for warmth. She began to fear that there was more at work than simple technological incompatibility. Some insensible influence seemed to have Soren in its grip and would not let him go.

Not dying, though. There was something eternally vital about Soren, a wellspring of vigor that had seen him through wounds in the past, including the loss of his original eye. Now scar tissue covered the rupture nerves of his ruined eyes, and the preliminary reconstructive surgery preserved the original integrity of his healing eye socket, and installed the neural plugs for Soren’s augmented implant, providing him with enhanced vision and depth perception. He must’ve looked for all the world like a cyclops of old myth before the surgeon worked on him.

Nina wondered why Soren was so concerned with her tattoos, presuming the young man—with an agitated look on his slender face—intended to build the most complete picture possible in his mind of her now that she’d drawn his assent. Nina didn’t understand. She could not say where his interest had come from, for it had not been there a moment before. Furthermore it was curious that he considered her an ally, but didn’t expect her to lead.

He lifted his head to look at Nina, so that the light fell in under his hair and caught the line of his chin and cheek. He sighed, as if the explanations were a struggle. As if he didn’t have the time to explain.

His words came slower and more halting, as if pain was wracking his insides.

Clearly the pain to his head and eyes delivered by the faulty technology urgently needed attention. Nina thought about that, and didn’t like the sound of it very much. By mark of age and experience, she had seniority here. She couldn’t convince him otherwise. But that’s not reason not to help anyway, is it? She needed him to tell her things. Needled by the urgings of her curiosity, Nina hoped that on her return to the hospital, perhaps if the stars aligned and the right patterns of things happened, Soren would recount the story of how he lost that eye to her…

“Yes, and yes. Fit for a walk, Soren?” Nina chuckled, almost amused at the notion of anyone, even a doctor, forcing Soren to do anything. There was no arguing with a, a thing like that.

“Come with me, then,” she said. “There’s a Guardian hospital just a few minutes behind me.” She looked up at the wide, now darkening skies behind her, surrounded by big rain clouds. She could feel the wind on her skin, though she was already clad in her raincoat again. “There’s a storm coming in. It’s been forecasted for days. We best not be here when it comes. Are you sure you don’t want to drink any water? A smoke?”

She realized with some mystification that she was enjoying her time with Soren. She felt a puff of pride he knew her. Knew her name, her station and her worth. It was as strange to her as a dream, for whims visited her pragmatic mind so seldom. Stranger in fact, for from the start of this encounter, she knew she had to be near him, needed to help him for her own ends.

Nina didn’t turn around. She dared not look around. He was close behind, and Nina took another anxious look ahead at the encroaching storm. The horizon had lost definition as muggy fog filled the air; as above their heads, the bright sun was fading from view.

She was shaking her head.

“Morven treated you…” she said, beginning to shape the truth in her mind. She was half enjoying the strange thoughts in her mind, engaged by the rarity and reality of it, and especially by Soren’s reluctant participation. She felt weightless, as if she could take off and, with one bound, touch the sky.

Nina nodded. Then she frowned. “I still don’t understand this. What would Morven’s last patient files give us? What does that mean?”

Before she could ask more, they were interrupted. There was a peal of distant thunder.

“I need more information. Are you one of our patients at the Guardian? Or did you meet Morven in a place particular to the two of you?” she cried, having to raise her voice now against the moaning of the wind.
Nina
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#15
She agreed, and he filtered out the rest. The fact they must traverse physically to the hospital in order to gain answers was disagreeable, yet he did not complain. He’d suffered worse for less. No comment passed her assessment of the weather, though he did at least glance upwards at the billowing clouds. “I suggest you walk faster, then.”

The buzz of pain was manageable by now, though Nina’s concern did not seem to dissipate. He followed, quite content to do so silently but for the annoyance of a parade of questions. “I didn’t say that.” he corrected. Morven had been an accessory to his augmentation, but she had outright refused any experimenting that might have saved the eye in the first place. She’d spoken of her limitations before now, but since Sören was unable to learn from her he only retained insomuch as he found interesting or of benefit to him. In any case, he did not consider himself her patient. He needed her help all the same.

“She’s missing,” he said bluntly. Nina could fill in the blanks. Perhaps her last patient knew something, perhaps they did not. A doctor willing to breach data laws for a stranger was not an opportunity he would bypass though. Her apparent awe of Morven’s reputation did not harm either, if it gave her incentive to chase the mystery on his behalf. “She would probably tell you we were old friends.” Thunder groaned, and Sören did not choose to fight against it in order to be heard. His expression twitched into a frown as the rain began to fall.
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