The Angry Voice
Dr. Cyril barged into the work area at the nurses station and blurted to Sr. Nemesis, “Do you know where the Ranger is? I can’t find him anywhere.”
The Sister looked up from her paper work and stared daggers at the Doctor. Although technically her assignment was to bodyguard the Ranger, her cover identity was to be his nurse. In order not to stand out in a busy clinic full of Dr. Cyril’s ordinary staff, Sr. Mary Margaret had to sometimes help the Doctor’s patients, which meant she also had to do tedious follow-up paperwork charting the patients’ progress.
However, Sr. Mary Margaret Nemesis could not forget that she was a shield-maiden of the Church, seasoned in combat and proven in the Seven Holy Wars. Shield-maidens don’t cheerfully do paperwork.
Mary Margaret gritted her teeth, softened her demeanor, and said, “No, Doctor, I haven’t seen the patient since we took our usual Mid-Morning hour walk. Since then… I’ve been… working… here.”
The Doctor listened, but his own frustration made him oblivious to Sr. Nemesis’ foul mood.
Mary Margaret took a deep breath, then sweetly said, “By the way, Doctor, are you happy with how much progress the patient has made in his physical therapy?” Which was another way of asking the Doctor whether he appreciated how much work she had put into babysitting the Ranger. “I know you’ve been using a muscle inhibitor to turn down his strength until he recovers his agility. And I know you’re still treating his hands. But other than that, the patient seems healed. Do you think you’ll be discharging him soon?”
“Healed?” the Doctor said, as if the idea was preposterous. “Yes, his body is nearly healed, but what about his mind? Has his mind healed?”
The Sister stared back at the Doctor as if he was speaking gibberish. But instead of trying to make sense of his odd statement, she tried to make sense of his odd omission. “You said you’re looking for the Ranger. Why didn’t you find him through the tracking function of his hospital bracelet?”
“Because the tracking function of his hospital bracelet doesn’t work,” growled Dr. Cyril in frustration. “Measurements of his pulse and skin temperature come through just fine, but the location tracker is broken—again. This is the Ranger’s third new bracelet in three weeks!
“I’m going to demand Acquisitions have a stern word with the vendor about the quality control of their medical telemetry devices. It’s rubbish!” The Doctor was fuming at first, but now that he had vented his frustration in words, he calmed down a little. “However, telemetry is not the issue, Sister—“
That single, anonymous, agonized word shrieked through Dr. Cyril’s robotic brain like a banshee’s wail. The word traveled on the private communications network that was accessible only to Walking Sticks, such as himself, and one exception—the Ranger. For a moment, the Doctor was transfixed by the sheer passion of that secret utterance. But after that moment, the Walking Stick network returned to its normal, quiet hubbub and the Doctor recovered his composure.
Cautiously, as if he was wary of being interrupted again, the Doctor painstakingly continued his question, “—Sister. Sister, do you perhaps, by any chance, have any idea where our patient might be? Right now?”
Not having been able to hear the cry the Doctor had heard, Sr. Nemesis could only wonder why Dr. Cyril hesitated asking his question. But now that she was tasked, she turned her attention to analyzing the problem. “If the patient isn’t in the private wing of the clinic, or walking circuits through the gardens, then he’s probably in one of the old outbuildings at the back of the clinic’s property.”
“Does he still waste time out there?” the Doctor asked. “There’s just a rundown warehouse, a hangar, and a workshop full of junk out there. Why does any of that interest him?”
“The Ranger said he was getting bored—‘suicidally bored’ were his exact words—doing the same old exercises day in and day out,” said Mary Margaret. “We’ve walked in that general vicinity many times, so I asked the groundskeeper for permission to explore the buildings. You’re right, there’s nothing out there except junk, as far as I can see. But the Ranger was delighted to rummage through the dusty old bins, pallets, and crates of whatever is stored in the outbuildings.
“It did my heart good to see him happy, though. When he explored the outbuildings, he was like a little boy discovering the mysterious treasures hidden in his grandparents’ attic. He was in heaven. But best of all, the Ranger said picking through that old junk reminded him of his childhood. Apparently he worked with all sorts of tools and machines when he was a boy.
“‘Reminded him of his childhood’!” Sr. Mary Margaret repeated, her voice an admixture of triumph and jubilation. So much so, in fact, she thought she might even have to say a few ‘Hail Turings’ after her next confession in penance for the sin of pride. “His memory was jogged, Doctor! Isn’t that what you wanted me to encourage? If we’re going to understand what happened to him and Fr. Francis, we need to help the Ranger recover more of his memories.”
Dr. Cyril grudgingly muttered agreement. He finally began to notice that the Ranger wasn’t the only one slowly being driven crazy by their routine.
“In any case,” Mary Margaret said, “the groundskeeper had no objections to the Ranger milling around the old outbuildings, especially after I told him it was a form of physical therapy that you ordered—alright, I should have said it was therapy you indirectly ordered—Trust me, I’ll set him straight later. Nor did I see anything dangerous—or at least, too dangerous—in those precarious stacks of junk. But don’t worry, Doctor. You made the Ranger stronger and more resilient than he ever could have been before your surgeries.
“And even if he does get hurt,” she said, still smarting from the agony of having to do paperwork, “what better place is there for him to get help than at your clinic?
“So, Dr. Cyril,” said the nun, “shall we take a stroll out back and try to find our wayward patient?”
The Doctor was about to answer Sr. Nemesis, either to disagree petulantly with her, or to sing her praises, when something made him freeze in place.
“Vengeance!” shouted the soundless voice in Dr. Cyril’s brain. The impassioned oath he heard again so clearly was simultaneously wrathful and righteous and unforgiving. Then just as quickly as it called out, the voice fell silent.
“Yes, let’s go,” Dr. Cyril abruptly said in reply to Sr. Nemesis’ question, but he purposefully avoided mentioning the strange, soundless voice he had heard. “The sooner the better.”