Partisan Song

Thanks to the infirmary’s new toys, Gill’s injury proved inconsequential. The jagged laceration on the heel of the boy’s palm was closed via the tissue bonder and a few minutes’ rapid regeneration therapy. In twenty-four hours’ time, there might not even be a blemish to tell the tale. The level of medical tech available to the central planets was awe inspiring indeed. But despite his gratitude, as Dorian thought about the rough and tumble worlds of the outer rim, a different word came to mind.

Criminal.

After so many years, one hospital…one…gave thought to sharing their healing power with those whose lives depended upon the cleanliness of an aged scalpel or a questionable strand of catgut. The lives of hard folk on the outer rim meant little to the men in power, so long as they dug the mines, harvested the crops, or tended the terraformers. On the rim, a broken limb could cost a man his livelihood. Poorly treated as such injuries frequently were, he might then face a crude amputation, nearly always followed by infection or gangrene. He might beg, he might thieve, perhaps pick up smart work for a spell. But the end was always the same; the sick and wounded were culled from the herd. Life in the ‘verse.

He felt the heat rise beneath his collar. The old anger, a quiet, insatiable rage, came calling as did “the war’s greatest hits.” Dorian tried to relax. He cut the infirmary’s lighting before settling onto the new treatment table.

The war, his part of it, was never a thing to wait for the arrival of sleep. It was an apparition floating just around the corner of his wakefulness. His family kitchen, drenched in showers of blood. Men and women, lashed down to the Adlers’ dinner table. Bits of brown uniform extracted from wounds threatening gangrene. The wounded and the dying, whose pitiful cries in those final moments were to mothers, lovers, or an uncaring god. But by far the spectres who haunted him most were those who had naught but to scream as he was forced to conduct surgery with wood saws and hand drills, knowing all the while just over the ridgeline, modern medicine was plentiful for anyone in purple. Those moments, in the wake of the first Unification Day, were the moments that took Dorian Adler to fight a war already lost.

Captain Chavez and her partisans were a fortunate break, a welcome catalyst to provide him the means of wreaking his vengeance. In years since his role might’ve changed, but the victorious Alliance had not. They would still enslave people, work others hard as mules, and persist in building their monsters. The infamous Miranda Broadwave had rallied some, but a divided, defeated people who could merely raise pistols against a heavily mechanized foe resulted in scant recruitment.

And now that foe had placed its’ ear right in this room.

Adler considered the war on his doorstep, the presence of a listening enemy and the nature of that enemy’s alliances. Her chief ally was dangerous indeed, a killer who practiced the art with utter detachment. Should the contest turn violent the medic understood who’d lose…unless he kept a pistol readily to hand. There were many days til New Kasmir. He had his mission. Subtlety…subtlety alone would preserve it.

He never thought himself a spy, in the conventional sense. Until these dark days he’d merely performed as a courier, a participant in a surreptitious relay race whose mission was accomplished when the baton changed hands. Now, with the race in tatters and a large portion of browncoat intel residing within this boat, he bore the weight of a dying patient with little but his wits to save it.

The partisan war was a simpler thing. Wear a brown coat, a brown leather hood. Dispense justice with pistol and torch. The camaraderie of a small, hunted band. The leadership of a fiery woman. Within him, Dorian felt a yearning for that leadership to return.

The old melody rose to his lips, carrying with it a grim smile. Dorian hummed the tune a moment, his spirit buoyed by the irrepressible lyrics which he soon gave whispering voice.

”O partigiano, portami via
O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao, ciao, ciao
O partigiano, portami via
Ché mi sento di morir.”

“Nice tune.”

He opened one eye. The petite silhouette in his doorway was unmistakable. “From Earth-That-Was,” the medic answered. “You need mah services?”

Marisol smiled as she closed the door. “Something like that,” she purred. He heard the distinctive click of the lock before she turned once more. “How’d you like to feed the deuce?”

“Tha infirmary’s a bit too frequently used…” His words were muffled by the sounds of unfolding human passion. For the next minutes all that could be heard were the rustle of clothing, quiet moans and gasps, punctuated by the table’s padding as bodies stirred upon it.

In a quick silence she whispered, “let’s go to your room.”

“Walls are paper thin,” he replied. “Engine room, lower deck?”

“No way. I’ve still got creases in my ass from the deck grating last time.”

“Allow me tah investigate.” Another few minutes passed to the sounds of building desire.

“Dorian…”

“Your quarters,” his voice was a hoarse whisper. “Let’s go there.”

“Just a mattress on the deck,” she gasped. “I haven’t rebuilt the bed since Haddie…”

Dorian’s quiet laugh could be heard. “Then it won’t squeak.”

“Good idea.” After a moment’s corrective rustling could be heard, Marisol unlatched the door. “Thanks, doc,” she said cheerfully as the door slid open. The bright infirmary lighting splashed outward toward the patient lounge. “I feel so much better. See you around.”

“Count on it,” Adler replied from the stool at his work station. “Now get some rest. Doctah’s ordahs.” As she headed off, he made a show of tapping at his keyboard. He hummed softly as, after the appropriate few minutes passed, he went through the motions of shutting down for the night. The enemy is listening, he thought with a smirk.

”O partigiano, portami via
O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao, ciao, ciao…”

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