So much has happened recently, that it’s still a jumble in my mind. I’ll try to get as much down as I can.
When we finally arrived at Harrisburg (once the capital of Pennsylvania, according to my Earth studies, but now called Arrisbur by the Trikru), Ayden brought us to one of the great hospitals of old. Oh, if only I could have seen it while it was still operational! As it was, I could only guess at some of the previous uses, as the building had been gutted by looters.
Ayden led us downstairs, ending at a large, (possibly) biometrically-sealed door. She activated an intercom, and tried to reach her friend on the other side. If Boomer were still with us, she would have been planning an “explosive key” by the time a man’s voice finally replied. The door opened, and we ventured inside.
Oh, my. There were shelves and shelves of vials and bottles and boxes, each filled with a different sort of medicine. The mind boggled at the thought of all the people I could help in York, with just a tiny fraction of this treasure. Only the appearance of Ayden’s friend could have broken my reverie. I immediately recognized his face, but I had to rack my brain for his identity. Oh, of course! This was none other than Dr. Atticus Kroll, who had been “floated” 10 years ago, for some trumped-up transgression or other. Obviously, the tale of his demise had been exaggerated.
He was happy to see Ayden, but a bit reluctant to discuss his own recent history. The man’s entitled to his privacy, I suppose. He enquired about our own recent adventures, and I told him about the vital antibiotics we had lost, and the strange biohazard-marked vials we had found. I would never have guessed that he himself had created that serum! He made it clear that he wanted those vials returned to his keeping, and as a show of good faith, he gave us a case of antibiotics, which didn’t even have to be refrigerated! I gladly accepted the medicine and promised to return. (Eventually.) I split the case with Dr. Nero, after the hard-earned lesson of keeping all of our eggs in one basket, as the quaint Old Earth idiom goes.
Once we had left ‘Arrisbur, we decided to go straight back to York with the medicine. Saris was not far away, and we would return later for Dr. Kroll’s vials. I trusted that the Trikru people would avoid that little refrigerator. Ayden led us back along a more direct route, which she warned would bring us close to the Ice Nation. The trip was uneventful, until we set up camp for the night. We had just drifted off to sleep, when Ash woke us right back up. Once my eyes had adjusted to the dim light, I began to see dots of red laser light on my companions’ foreheads. Lincoln addressed our unknown enemies (speaking to them in English, as the guns would indicate that they were either Mountain Men or Arkers, like us. He told the darkness that we had no quarrel with them, and we would be moving on. The unknown sentries followed us for another hour, as we stumbled our way through the underbrush. They finally left us alone, after tossing a rock into the clearing with a note attached, warning us not to return.
The following day, we made it back to York. I was immediately swarmed by some of the village children, crying “Fisa! Fisa!” I had always thought that they were calling me a “physician,” but Ayden informed me that the word was more akin to “fixer.” A simpler concept, but a title I was still proud to carry. These babies would have died, had I not “fixed” them.
We spent the next several days recuperating and resupplying, before heading out again. I brought the antibiotics to the medical clinic, along with the herbs and blood moss I had gathered. I kept the maggot colony with me, to aid in field dressing. I also bought a spear, in order to have a better defense than “keeping very still at the base of a tree.” Professor Sokolov had asked Ayden about any nearby airfields, to find lightweight aluminum for his arm prosthesis. She knew of one not far away, but within Ice Nation territory. We decided to take the risk.
The trip was uneventful once more, until we were nearly to the border to the Ice Nation. It should have come as no surprise that we were attacked. Half of our attackers were on the ground, and half in the trees. Lincoln and Ash, as per usual, were quickly dispatching our assailants, but I couldn’t take it anymore. Something in me just snapped, and I ran at one of the attackers, spear out front, screaming like a banshee. I suppose adrenaline took over, because the next thing I knew my victim was dead at my feet, speared through the heart. Some of that bloodlust must have remained, because I cut off his ear, to add to my maggot box. I also collected a short sword, a bow, and a dagger.
That evening, as we made camp, Ayden approached me. She showed me the scars cut into her back, and told me of the custom among her people of ritual scarification to commemorate kills made in battle. I was still a bit heady from my first nonsurgical death, so I agreed to receive a kill-mark above my left shoulder blade.