2223. Brasilia. A bar - the Common Flamingo.
Gavriil raised his glass and grinned widely.
"Here's to Mr. Bester, who took us to the lair, who smoked out the quarry, who made us well and truly hunters!"
"Hail!" shouted the chorus of other bloodhounds, and they clinked their glasses together.
The Psi Cop acknowledged the toast with a modest bow of his head. He raised his own glass. "To the Corps, our mother and our father!"
They all drank again, though Bester drank very little, as always. Gavriil was overjoyed that he'd even joined them at the bar - while other Psi Cops often joined their bloodhounds in socializing, Bester rarely set foot in a bar unless he had some business reason to do so.
The change had to be due to his recent marriage, Gavriil figured. The Black Fox Raid had left Bester in bad shape, physically and emotionally, but then the Corps had found him a partner, and the marriage seemed to be very good for him. And now he was even at a bar - a mundane bar - celebrating a successful hunt!
Though the Psi Cop said little, Gavriil could feel he was proud of him. Bester knew Gavriil's potential as a hunter, and wanted to help him reach it.
"To the Corps!" Gavriil shouted, ignoring - or perhaps to spite - the terrified looks coming from the remaining normal patrons of the bar.
Half of them had cleared out the moment the team had entered. Several of the remaining mundanes - a few tough-looking guys at the bar - had given the telepaths dangerous, belligerent looks, and seemed as if they might start trouble, but a solid glare from Bester had ended that. The mundanes had thinned out as the night wore on, and the bartender watched the telepaths with disgust - he knew no other patrons would enter the bar so long as the telepaths sat there, especially if they sang loud glory songs about the Corps. Gavriil knew their group would tip well (their whole outing would be covered by the Corps), but mundane patrons would still avoid the place like mice scurrying from cobras.
Screw them, thought Gavriil. He and the others had just saved their asses. They'd saved the city from a dangerous rogue telepath who'd been killing people on the streets. One might think a simple "thank you" would be in order, but no. Mundanes. They would come crying and begging to the Corps to save them, and then treat their rescuers like shit because they resented being saved in the first place.
After he and the other bloodhounds had finished rehashing every moment of the hunt and the final battle with Khol, Gavriil sang a traditional Koryak hunting song, and then decided the team needed an epic ballad to memorialize their achievement. Now slightly tipsy, he made one up, and slowly the others - except Mr. Bester - joined in the fun. He would have written one about the Black Fox Raid, too, but be knew that Mr. Bester wouldn't have approved. That would have been going too far.
Their singing got louder the more the mundanes left. The last of them were finally leaving when Bester's tel-phone beeped.
Gavriil hushed the others.
"Mr. Bester? This is Dr. Juan Koabawa. The Blip is dying."
"We've been cleared for a deathbed scan. I understand you have some experience with them."
"Indeed I do."
"Your record shows that you've already done six, so I'll understand if you don't want to do another. But the brain damage is extensive, and she's going fast. Ms. Calderon was unable to make good contact-"
"Say no more, Doctor. I'll be there in five minutes." He closed the phone, stood, and took a bow. "Duty calls, gentlemen. Enjoy yourselves, but I want to see you all clearheaded by ten-hundred. Is that clear?"
When he left, the bloodhounds looked at each other.
"How many is that, now? Six?"
"No, that's number seven."
"Holy shit, Jake. Is he trying to break a record?"
"He must be sucking up to command. Isn't he coming up for promotion soon? Senior detective?"
"If there's anything left of him to promote!"
"Gav, you said he was coming to his senses now that he's married. That's coming to his senses? Seven necroscans? Is he suicidal?"
Gavriil looked over at the doorway, out which their brave leader had just passed moments before. Doorways. He shook his head, slowly, remembering the sad look Bester had given him earlier that night, when he'd saved his life from Khol's vicious psi attack.
"I don't think so," he said, quietly.
"Then what is it?"
"He has a death wish. He doesn't want to kill himself, but he wants the universe to do it for him. He's daring the universe, Mike. And if he's not careful, one of these days, the universe is gonna bite."
"Death wish? Why? Is this Black Fox again? I've heard the rumors, but shit... what really happened to him up there on Mars, Gav?"
Gavriil looked into the eyes of his teammates. He thought about the inky, hot Amazonian night. He thought about Khol, dying on the operating table.
He didn't know what had possessed her. He didn't know what had happened to Mr. Bester, either, and he didn't think he wanted to know.
"Let's talk about something else, guys," he said, at last.