Lower Levels, Second Level, Southern District, 215 Street West. Heath Clinic. 09:30
The digitized cross on the outside of the building, next to the digitized hammer and sickle, glowed white. The small advertisement hologram showed countess health ads, one popular favorite called "the benefits of Cybernetics" played nearly constantly, but it was a way for the owner of this small clinic, in the wrong part of the Second Level, to make money on the side; money that he could keep in a separate account, for himself, away from those he had to pay just to make sure his identity was protected. Of course, as he flew up to the front entrance of the building, Dr. Jeffrey McGuire could already see that trouble had been brewing. The health ads were no longer playing. The local news was showing a clip of someone shot. The doctor shook his head,"Oh, hell. They're at it again. He said aloud to no one in particular. he wasn't coming to his clinic to work, but no doubt someone would be by soon enough; he just hoped it wasn't the victim of the shooting. He didn't exactly feel like pulling a bullet out at the moment. He showed his eyes to the retinal scanner and was recognized as denoted by small chimes. It was set to "God save the Czar", something that always made him cringe a little, considering where he was and how he'd gotten here. It had been a wild ride, that was certain, but it was one that, he did not regret taking. he had a roof over his head, and a place from which to practice, even if it was...under the table and off the "official" registry. But, then again, so were his cybernetic hands. The chimes, though, were a constant small reminder that he could not just simply practice in peace here...there were "responsibilities" and "obligations" which he had to meet; and if he did not...well, there was always the Sword of Damocles over his head, in the form of whatever torture the Russians preferred. At the very least, it was above the lowest level of the city.
Walking into his office, which occupied a small portion of the space, which consisted of a lobby like entrance, a surgical table with drawers that folded on out on their own and sterilized themselves, with gleaming instruments and machines currently off; designed with the preservation of life in mind as well as enhancing it through cybernetic technology; a lofty goal to be sure, but one that good Dr. was sure could and would be achieved. Sadly, there were consequences in everything, though, and cybernetics were no different. Tonight's shooting was a case in point; people got desperate, scared, hungry for more power and technology. They wanted to be at the upper most levels, where they assumed life was better because it looked better. he'd been there once; repairing and enhancing the A.R.E.S. soldiers a "medical specialist" they'd called him. They'd also called him bright, a "visionary", the torchbearer for military grade cybernetic implantation and subnormal acceptance", in layman's terms, the guy who was one of the only ones so far to patients to actually accept their new cybernetics, from a medical standpoint anyway. When they got rejected by their host bodies...the results could be disastrous.
A.R.E.S., a clever name for the company, he'd thought at the time, and living up on the Sixth Level, in relative safety, surely, the company would protect him and nothing would ever happen to him...he'd been the star, the jewel in the crown, the prize; however you wnated to name him; he thought he was on top of the world.
But, it had all changed one fateful night night five years ago...
Upper Levels, Second Level, Location Unknown, Five years Earlier...
Everything was black, and dark, but there was sound, and he could breathe. Then the bag or mask or whatever the hell he was wearing was removed, stil in his A.R.E.S. scrubs and a rich looking couple was sitting in front of him, flanked by two guards. The older looking man spoke first,"Through the door to your left is the patient. She is very important and special to us. She has...suffered some great trauma recently, and well...you have been selected to save her. All tools are at your disposal and money is no object, do what you must. Jeffrey thought to himself, what the hell? How can these people...just kidnap people? Where are the police? but he looked up and saw that their two bodyguard had police uniforms on...and it hit him. These people had connections. The woman, sitting next to her husband, and somewhat teary eyed, said in a voice that suggested she meant business,"Save her. Dr. Save...this girl. There will be quite negative consequences if she dies... He was then "helped" into the next room, two more guards he hadn't seen watching him closely. He wanted to try and escape, to run. This was wrong; what they were doing. Kidnapping people just to perform surgery. Clearly, this was not going to be recorded or logged in anyone's data banks.
But, on balance, what real choice did he have? It was perform the operation, or...face whatever those "consequences" were. So, sighting heavily and putting a surgical mask over his nose and mouth, he began to look over the patient, a young woman by the looks of it. Her most serious injury was to an arm, which was almost completely torn off of her body. Replacement then, was not an issue. She would have to be augmented. But, this was to be no ordinary augmentation, because of the severity of the tearing and shredding that had occurred, he'd have to actually graft the augment to her body, as opposed to simply growing her a new arm and and implanting that with cybernetics. Fortunately, one such arm was fetched for him and already lay on the table. A simply gray, metallic piece, like someone might have used in an old prosthetic, with a wicked looking hand. It wasn't ideal, but then, none of this was. It would have to do. He even quietly murmured to her," Your poor thing. What the hell did this to you?
The attachment took some four hours, because he had to not only completely sever what remained of the girl's left arm off of her body, but also cut into her chest a bit too, in order to properly graft on the metal to bone and muscle. It was a laborious process, but it was done, and done right, and he felt a small twinge of pride at having completed an operation, much less an implantation, under the circumstances. Walking back out of the "operating room"; really just a solid table with metal trays of instrument and a few simple machines around it, with a bright light hanging above, he handed his card to the couple and said, flatly,"It's done. She's safe, for now. But...she'll need followup appointments. So...send her discretely to me...however you wish. Then, he'd left. McGuire had figured that A.R.E.S. would never get a sniff of what had happened; never know about the utter injustice that had been done here, but when he'd arrived at work the next day, he'd been locked out of the building, access denied...and not so politely told to leave or be shot.
So, he left the Sixth Level, bound for what, he did not know.
Second Level, Southern District, Location: Undisclosed, Three Years Earlier
For the next two years, he'd laid low, performing procedures here and there, dirty, quick, illegal to the extreme. But, he'd managed to survive off of that, and the small amount of saving he had left. But, it couldn't, and didn't', last forever. He'd decided to "surface" on the Southern side. Crime here, though present, was not as rampant as in other parts of the city. He decided to also set up a clinic, start treating again. See if there wasn't a way he could also start a pharmacy, in the same building. Why not try to provide a sort of one-stop-shop for everyone. The problems with this name quite apparent, quiet quickly. First, there was the matter of acquiring supplies. He still recalled the contact list; in fact he'd had a copy of it on a personal zip drive, before he'd been "locked out" of the building. He still had the drive, and used it regularly. So, cybernetics were easily supplied. But, getting the drugs, on the other hand, was a different matter all together. he had little to no knowledge of this level and found it increasingly strange that, few here spoke English. Most spoke Russian, but he passed it off as having set up in a predominantly Russian section. In order to get the supplies, he began talking with anyone and everyone, though many warned him to be careful of "Mistress Meela" and her people, he, too passed this off as something he wouldn't have to deal with. He was just a doctor, they wouldn't touch him, he'd reasoned. Besides, he was helping people, there wasn't any harm in that, right?
Oh how naive he'd been.
They came, storming in, opening the doors and screaming in Russian, she leading them, a woman with a laser leash, on which were tethered five pit bulls with Ak's. Of course, once he'd gotten her calmed down, and put down the scalpel he was using to clumsily protect himself, he learned a few things. (1) He'd been operating in Mafia Territory and "mistress Meela" was standing in front of him none too pleased that he'd been "cutting in" on her drug sales and (2) there was a deal to be made, which could get him out of firing squad fodder and into a more favorable position. She'd dictated the terms from there, and he'd accepted, taking the opportunity to listen first, talk second. He'd learned then, that, for the "favor" of performing operations and enhancements on her people and the community, he'd have their protection; in return she'd supply him with the drugs he needed; he'd handily provided a list, and security. No one would attack his clinic and he could call on her people if something like that ever happened. Of course, these things hadn't been free and she wan't exactly an altruist, so he'd have to "pay" for these services, partly by medical procedure, partly by "protection money". It was something he'd just sort of accepted. What choice did he have? He was grateful she hadn't tried to destroy him...or his clinic. She'd also made clear the consequences of failing to pay and failing to treat properly. Then, like a ghost...she was gone, the men with her.
McGuire shook his head, how long ha that "memory" taken? Ten..maybe twenty minutes? He looked around his little establishment, but no one had yet entered. That was good. He didn't need any visitors right now, but some company would be nice. Maybe he should invest in one of the "virtual pets", some new holographic cats or dogs, that came with the full "sensation suits" so that you could really feel like you were taking care of the animal. He'd enjoy it, if only just for the noise. He looked once more to the TV, the news still showing the scene at the bar a little ways from him, on the same level.
“ Apparently, the woman had been wearing a small protective vest underneath her baggy clothing. It had failed to protect her from what is believed to have been a brain jacked, suburban teenager. Most likely the perpetrators are affiliated with criminal hacker and rigger collective known as 22. Over to you Tom.”
The woman was smart to wear a vest in these parts, but if the rounds were as potent as the news was indicating, it was likely the criminal had used AP or Armor Piercing, rounds, giving her no chance. The Dr. wondered what, if any, reciprocity would come from his friends or, Comrades as they preferred, or the Triads, who controlled another section of this level and the level beneath it and who also frequently traded with the Russians. "Why the hell did I even come here again? To remember the past? or...what? He looked around at his desk and realized he had files to organize, patients to log int his computer system and x-rays to analyze. he set to work doing these things in silence, the hum of his lights and computers keeping him company. That did not last for long, though as he could never simply work in silence. With a few movements of his hands, music began to play quietly throughout the three areas. he found that t often relaxed patients and made them feel more at ease. Of course, he couldn't understand any of the lyrics, but the woman's voice and the fact that she was singing entirely in Russian had to count for something, right? He thought so, he was "blending in" to the surrounding community; she had to be happy with that.