Flencik reluctantly approached the door, unsure of what he was about to face. In five years of field visits to the training camp, he had not been threatened by anyone. He’d not seen anything more violent than training bouts, though he knew the Nobeks fought often and bloodily. He’d been on hand to train doctors on new equipment and once operated on a heavily sedated youth with a leg broken in three places.
The door hissed open. An examining table was in the middle of the treatment room, with diagnostic instruments against the far wall. There was no demon Nobek tearing the place apart.
Instead, a youngling sat on the table with a big, grizzled Nobek security guard standing over him. The youth’s shock of black hair hung in his face, making him peer at Flencik through tangled strands. Judging from his size, Flencik reckoned the boy to be in his mid-teens, possibly in the midst of his final growth spurt. He had two or three inches to grow before he reached average height.
Then the trainee shook his sweaty strands back, and Flencik saw his patient was more man than kid, a Nobek nearing the end of his basic training. The handsome features were set in the familiar feral cast of a mature Nobek, one that had more of a handle on his most vehement leanings. He’d still be tormented by forceful hormonal shifts, but this boy – young man, rather – would no longer require supervision when out in public. He would still be more animal than civilized in urges, but he would have the skills necessary to keep himself under control in most circumstances.
The fierce visage made the least impression on Flencik, however. What got his attention was the swelling and blood, especially the sight of bone sticking out of the youth’s forearm. The Imdiko’s instincts to care for this wounded creature took over, and he forgot to be afraid of angry Nobeks. He walked in without a second thought for his safety.
The trainee’s eyes had gone very wide as he looked up at Flencik. The doctor kept the smile that wanted to come from spreading over his face. Everyone was always startled by his size.
The young man looked at the security guard. “Shit. Do I scare everyone that much that you’d send in a mountain in to sit on me?”
The elder Nobek raised an eyebrow. “Look at his face, Breft. That’s an Imdiko, not someone interested in trying to do you harm.”
Flencik decided to treat the youngster with respect in hopes of settling him down. He bowed. “Good afternoon, Nobek. I am Dr. Flencik and I will be treating your injuries.”
The injured man scowled, but the heat in his voice faded as he answered. “They’ll heal in time.”
Flencik motioned towards the jagged radius peeking out of his skin. “That broken arm won’t serve you very well until then. That’s a nasty fracture. Even if you manage to get it back in place, it will be crooked and hard to use for the rest of your life. I can repair it so well you’ll never know a moment’s weakness.”
The grizzled Nobek gave the younger one a severe look. “You will submit to treatment, Breft, and that is all.”
Breft gave him a furious look, as if he wasn’t afraid of the bigger and battle-tested man despite his injuries. “I’m old enough to walk out of here, you know. No one has any legal standing to prevent it.”
The security officer’s grin said he was not impressed. “No one can stop you from leaving, but your studies are not complete. Quit now, and you’ll end up in government housing doing government-provided work like a brainless lusgo worm. You’ll get no advanced training. That means no rank, no clan, and no future.”
Breft snarled, the expression vehement enough that Flencik took an alarmed step back. The trainee noticed his unease. Immediately, his face softened and tension bled out of the smallish frame.
“I beg your pardon, Doctor. Be assured I do not attack Imdikos. Not even ones as big as you.” Breft scowled again at his minder before returning his attention to Flencik. “Fine, I’ll let you fix me. Will that make everyone happy?”
Release tentatively set for early April.