This is an amateur, non-commercial story, which is not produced, approved of, or in any way sponsored by the holders of the trademarks/copyrights from which this work is derived, nor is it intended to infringe on the rights of these holders. And so it goes.
If looks could kill, the two doctors standing in front of Nagi’s bed would have been gone several times over. The bounty hunter’s gaze would have melted titanium if not for the searing pain that was emanating from her left knee. “Miss,” the elder of the two physicians said in a gentle, comforting voice, “we can’t help you unless you let us examine it.”
“Fine, examine it,” she replied through tightly-clenched teeth. “But you touch it, and I will rip your scrotum clean off. Understood?”
“What if we apply a neural block?” the second one asked, edging ever so slightly out of Nagi’s reach. “That way there’ll be no pain and we could figure out exactly what happened.”
“I told you what happened. I was chasing Maelith the Unstoppable. He jumped from one building to another. I followed. I came down funny on my knee. I came here. You guys are so damned smart, you figure it out.” Nagi shifted around a bit to get more comfortable—a lost cause when dealing with hospital beds—and winced as the movement jarred her knee. “Shit!”
“Enough.” The older doctor reached over and placed a small device just above the afflicted area; in seconds the pain had faded into a very nasty memory, and despite herself Nagi sighed audibly in relief. “Now, let’s take a closer look here,” the physician said. “Get me some interior scans. I’m looking for ligament tears, bone spurs or fragments, muscle damage.”
“Knock yourself out,” Nagi said, lying back and closing her eyes.
“This is very bad,” the older doctor said thirty minutes later.
Nagi opened her eyes. “How bad is ‘very bad’ in terms of how much fixing it will cost?”
“Miss, you can’t put a monetary amount on being able to walk normally again…”
“Shit,” Nagi sighed. “That much.”
“You’ve got severe deterioration of the tendons,” the young hotshot jumped in. “Your ligaments look like they’ve got the consistency of tissue paper, and we could probably create a new kneecap with all the bone fragments floating around in there. Frankly, I’m amazed you’re able to walk, much less stay active in your…profession.”
“I cope.” Nagi didn’t add that her daily dose of pain relief pills almost entitled her to voting stock shares in the major pharmaceutical companies. “So, can you fix it?”
“I think so,” Old Doctor said. He rubbed his chin as he studied the scans. “We need to get in there right away, though, and it’s going to take awhile for you to heal and rehabilitate it once we repair the damage.” Nagi opened her mouth, but he raised a hand to shush her. “A month or two at least. It depends on what we can and can’t do for you. On the other hand,” he added, “if you don’t want us to go in, well, feel free to get up and leave.”
“Did anyone ever tell you that you’re hilarious?” Nagi asked.
“There’s a reason for it.” She closed her eyes and considered her finances; she didn’t have quite enough, but the old man was right. She couldn’t work like this, and she was sure that she’d find a way to pay it off eventually. “Okay,” she said with a heavy heart. “Let’s do it.”
There was this big, black, murky fog all around her, and she was floating around in it, aimless and lazy, but Nagi wasn’t too worried. If it weren’t for the weird noises echoing all around her head she could have really enjoyed the break.
“Shup,” she declared. Her voice sounded extremely fuzzy. Something wasn’t quite right here. Investigation was required. With a Herculean effort, Nagi forced her eyelids to open.
“Miss Nagi, can you hear me?” Doctor Old Fart was peering down into her face. If she’d had any muscle control, she would have reached up and pinched his cheek. “Ah, there we are…she’s coming out of it now.”
“Hi,” she drawled.
“We’ll talk to her later, when she’s had time to fully emerge from under the anesthetic,” Old Fart was saying. “In the meantime, check on her about every fifteen minutes…do I know you, young man?”
“My name’s Kenny,” came a new voice, one that was oddly familiar to Nagi. She forced her head up and looked around. Fart was talking a young, rugged-looking guy in green scrubs. “I’ve been here about a year, sir. I just started working this shift.”
“All right, Kenny,” the doctor said. “Check on her every fifteen minutes, get her vitals every half hour, and let me know if there’s any change in her condition. I’ll drop by tomorrow morning to talk to her about the operation.”
“Will do, sir,” the guy said…and something in Nagi’s addled brain clicked.
“Hey,” she croaked, struggling to grab Old Fart’s sleeve. “Wait a second!”
Nagi struggled to shake off the fuzziness. “Since when…you hire kill’rs? You tha’ har’ up for help?”
“I beg your pardon?” the doctor said, shocked.
“Tha’ guy…thass him! Thass Maelith th’…th’…the Sumpthin!”
“Miss?” the guy called Kenny said, his expression decidedly puzzled.
“You must excuse her, son. She’s a bounty hunter, and her injury occurred while chasing this Maelith person.” The doctor gently pushed Nagi back into bed. “Miss Nagi, you need to close your eyes and get some sleep. When you’ve rested, I’ll come back and we’ll talk. This young man is going to help take care of you.”
“Hell he will!” Nagi yelled. “He’ll…kill…me…” But sleep was beckoning again, warm and inviting, and she found herself reluctant to resist. “Okay, okay,” she mumbled, her eyes growing to heavy to stay open. “But…bassurd tries an’thin’, I godda cabbit, an’ I ain’t fraid t’ use it…”
The doctor waited until she was fully asleep again, then drew back. “I swear, these bounty hunters,” he said with a sad shake of his head. “Third one I’ve had to operate on this year, and they were all paranoid as get out. All right, Kenny. Keep an eye on her and let me know if her condition changes.”
“Will do, sir!” Kenny said with a nod and a smile.
Nagi’s private room was dark and quiet save for the sounds of deep, relaxed breathing—because, as she would be the first to tell you, Nagi didn’t snore. Lost in happy slumber, she lay in her bed oblivious to the world, which was just fine with the hospital staff. As her physician had mentioned, she was the third bounty hunter they’d had as a patient this year, and right now bounty hunters were in a three-way tie with nurses and doctors as the most demanding and irritating patients to have to take care of. Of course, the other two had died in their beds from mysterious causes, so maybe they had a reason for being a bit paranoid.
Nagi was still sound asleep when Kenny the aide came strolling in. He parked his work cart beside the bed and got a quick set of vitals from her. After putting his equipment back, he stood there over her unconscious form for some minutes, then crept to the door and carefully shut it, plunging the room into deep darkness.
Kenny headed back to the cart, moving with complete confidence thanks to the infrared contact lenses he was wearing. Opening the drug box, he rummaged around the vials for a minute or two until he found the one he wanted. He slipped the vial into the air-pressure syringe and pressed the activator. He leaned over Nagi, his perpetual smile now twisted as he pressed the device against her arm. “Time for your last shot, Nagi,” he whispered as his finger tightened around the trigger.
Nagi’s eyes snapped open. “You first,” she replied. Her right arm flew over and Kenny had just enough time to see the blaster before it flared into life and ended his. His body, which now resembled a donut, slammed into the opposite wall and slid wetly down to the floor in the middle of an ever-growing red puddle.
Seconds later, the rest of the floor staff came running in, drawn by the noise of the blaster. One of them called for the lights; another screamed at the sight of the dead aide. “Oh my God!” he cried. “She killed Kenny!”
“You bastard!” a third yelled at Nagi.
“That’s not Kenny,” Nagi said. “That’s Maelith the Formerly Unstoppable.” She snapped her fingers, and Ken-ohki emerged from beneath the bed. The cabbit was holding a bounty-bio in his teeth. “Take a look at this, people.”
“Oh, wow,” one of the nurses gasped. “He sure does look like Kenny.”
“You can compare retinal scans and fingerprints, too,” Nagi pointed out. “I always try to leave those parts intact. Saves a lot of time and hassle.”
Ken-ohki was rubbing his head against her arm; Nagi set the gun down on her chest and gave him a head scratch. “Thanks, partner,” she said. “And thanks for bringing me my gun, too.”
“I guess we’d better get a cart up here for Kenny,” one of the staffers said.
The gun was suddenly back in Nagi’s hand. “Just a second,” she said pleasantly. “First, you get the police in here, and you tell them to bring the bounty for Maelith with them. When they’re done, then you can haul his carcass away.”
“Ummm, of course, ma’am,” the nurse said. “Anything else?”
“Yeah. Call my doctor. Tell him I’m checking out… and I’ll be paying in cash.”