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Ark Angel

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With the rifle slung on my back, my hands itch for the weight of it. In the rush and roar of battle, the weapon is like a totem, giving me a sense of safety far outweighing its ability to protect me. For a moment I wonder when I became so accustomed to going armed, but the tumult presses in on me, will not allow me the breathing room for reflection.

I pull out the medkit and extract a syringe; a quick, stabbing motion and nano-machines flood through Glick’s system. He’ll be on his feet in moments, his pain numbed and his body strengthened by artificial epinephrine; the machines will even begin repairing the damage that the bullets have done, wounds healing in minutes instead of weeks. We still don’t know what the hell that does to a person. Fuck; the Residents don’t know, for all their advantages. They made these things, but they can’t say for sure what it does to a human body to be hauled back from the brink of death, over and over again, let alone what it does to the mind.

This isn’t the medicine I studied; not the tools and not the philosophy. I trained to be a doctor, before they restricted access to medical training. When new arrivals were barred from the Spire, I went to work as a nurse in the shanties; we used whatever drugs and supplies we could get our hands on to keep people alive while others worked to ensure that clean water and food were available to all. That was medicine; that was good work.

When the Resistance and Security began to fight, the victims of that conflict began to fill our makeshift hospitals. It was more than we could cope with. We didn’t have the painkillers, the antiseptics or the antibiotics to deal with gunshot wounds acquired on the docks or in the sewers. I first got involved in combat because Brother Chen asked for a volunteer to go with a small team and raid one of the clinics in the Ark proper, someone who knew what we needed to steal.

I got stopped by a guard and I stabbed him with a syringe. I doubt I would have managed that much, but he hesitated to hit a woman. They don’t do that anymore.

The sick and dying in the docks were my cause, but it was the look in his eyes that made me decide to fight; the cold hatred of what he saw as something almost sub-human. Six weeks later they gave me a pistols and I used it, defending a hospital from Security operatives with grenades and rifles.

It’s been... I don’t know how long it’s been since then.

Glick is up now, and a bullet tugs at my sleeve. No time for reflection here.

I move, vaulting over a desk, turning as I go and returning fire with my pistol; no time to aim the rifle. Eight rounds, neck and chest; no fancy headshots, no one shot kill, that stuff’s for the storytellers.

As she falls I move on. In an urban firefight you move or you die. Behind me a grenade - one of theirs, I think - takes out the room; their medics won’t be getting to her.

Reload, holster, unsling the rifle. Move. Running down stark, white corridors and vaulting over the bodies of Security personnel, trying to reach... What are we trying to reach? I’m a hundred yards past another of our fallen fighters when I remember I’m the medic and run back to him, reaching to my medkit.

I don’t even know why I’m fighting anymore.