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Brooder held on the best he could while Jess rode away from the gang. He was having trouble using his left arm. In his current position, he could not see how bad the damage was, but he could tell it was bad.
Brooder watched the buildings rush past the motorcycle as Jess made her escape. He assumed she was heading toward a hospital and he knew that he didn’t want to go there yet. Brooder did recognize the area they were in. A buddy of his lived near here and could heal him up with no problems.
“Jess!” Brooder yelled, trying to be heard over the wind and through the helmet. “Pull over! I can’t hold on much longer!” A nod was his answer.
Jess guided the bike to a parking lot. As soon as she stopped, Brooder fell off the back of the bike.
“Ow,” he said, rolling to protect his left shoulder. “That smarts.”
Jess didn’t take time to remove her helmet. She grabbed her kit and knelt next to Brooder. Opening his jacket, she saw the large blood patch decorating his shirt. As she reached behind him, she could feel blood there as well. She could also feel the size of the hole, much larger than the whole in the front.
“It went all the way through,” Jess said, reaching for her radio. I’m going to call for approval to give you something, then call for a truck.”
Brooder placed his hand on her arm. As she looked at him, she could see the emotions he was feeling.
“No drugs,” Brooder said softly. "And no need for the truck. I’ll start healing soon. But it normally doesn’t hurt this much.”
“Start healing soon?” Jess asked. Mage. Or an adept. “But in the meantime, the pain has got to be unbearable.”
“Oh, trust me, it is,” Brooder said. “Just bandage me, though. Please. A friend of mine lives only a block from here. He can take care of it.”
“What kind of a friend?” Jess asked, not sure if he could keep himself out of trouble.
“He’s a mage,” Brooder answered, looking at his armor. “Damn. They were armor piercing. No wonder it hurts so much. He’s taken care of me a few times.” Brooder opened his jacket on the other side, showing off a large scar. “Mage caught me. I’d’ve bought it if not for Carlin.”
Jess listened as she covered his wounds with gauze and antibiotics. She knew that runners lived a rough life, but even the ones she knew managed to avoid getting shot most of the time.
“Where is he?” Jess asked as she checked over the bandages. “I’ll get you to him.”
Brooder started to sit up. Jess grabbed his arm, his right arm, as he began to stumble. Brooder looked a little dazed as he looked around.
“Easy,” she said. “You’ve lost a lot of blood.”
“Should be an apartment building right up the street,” he replied. “We can walk. It’s only a couple of buildings.”
Jess secured her bike and began to walk Brooder up the street. She noticed that none of the gangs seemed to be present here. She didn’t see any gang markings or any other evidence regarding whose turf this was.
“It’s neutral,” Brooder said as if reading her thoughts. “Carlin’s a street healer. He’ll heal anyone for the right price. Makes this neighborhood a free zone. No violence happens here or he moves on.”
“Makes it easier on the people who live here I’m sure,” Jess replied. She turned with Brooder toward an unassuming building. “This it?”
“Yeah. Wait one.”
Brooder reached up and pressed a button twice. He waited a second and pushed it three more times then stepped back. He looked toward a dark spot in the concrete and gave his best smile.
“The frag you do this time?” a voice asked from an unseen speaker.
“What’s it look like?” Brooder asked weakly. “I stubbed my toe. Just get out here.”
“Who’s the lady?” the voice asked.
“Dammit, Carlin!” Brooder exclaimed. “She saved my hoop. Now get down here.”
A moment later, the building’s front door opened and an young man stepped out. Jess would have laughed at his smiley face pajamas if the situation wasn’t so serious. His look was completed by the bed tossed brown hair and sleepy green eyes.
“Set him down lady.” Carlin said. “What gives?”
“Bullet wound,” Jess answered, slipping into the familiar routine. “Entered in the left shoulder, exited through the back. Large amounts of external damage. Don’t know about the internal.”
“What type of bullets?”
“Brooder, my friend, you are a lucky SOB,” Carlin said. “Miss, could you hold him a second? I’m going to need to patch here before I can get him inside.”
“The name is Jess, and yes.” Jess held Brooder still while Carlin called the mana and did a cursory heal on the external part of the wound. By the time he finished, the bleeding had stopped.
“Now I can get him inside and fix the rest.”
Jess looked at Brooder. He had a slight smile on his face.
“At least you’re in a good mood,” she said.
“I have reason to be,” Brooder answered. “Thank you. I owe you my life. Reach into my jacket pocket.” Jess did and pulled out a card. “That is a voice drop to reach me. I am forever in your debt, Jess Miller. If you ever have need of me, you call. My services are yours.”
"I have reason to be," Brooder answered. "Thank you. I owe you my life." He slowly reached into a pocket and withdrew a card and gave it to Jess. "That is a voice drop to reach me. I am forever in your debt, Jess Miller. If you ever have need of me, you call. My services are yours." Jess looked at the card. A large B was printed on one side. On the other was an LTG number.
She shook her head. "So you can get shot again? No, you got hurt protecting us... I should be the one thanking you..."
"Just the same-- You didn't have to come back... Take it Jess... just in case..."
Jess paused for a moment and took the card, nodding gratefully. "Just make sure you're alive if I decide to collect," she replied in a gentle but teasing tone.
"If you two are done," Carlin said. "I’d like to get him inside."
Jess gave Carlin a sheepish nod as he helped Brooder stand.
"Be safe," Brooder said before moving inside. "I’d like you to collect someday." Then he was gone.
Jess paused for a moment outside the appartment and looked at the stars. It had been a strange night, and it had only really started. She tucked the card into her wallet and headed back towards her bike.
"Dispatch, this is M1-7, log me as back in service..."
"Copy M1-7.... welcome back."
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