When Roman Laneg turned fifty four years of age both his parents had died: First his mother went, then his father followed her to the grave four weeks later. Although he had once been married and had two sons, he had not seen his ex-wife and children since his youngest son had turned eighteen three years earlier. Laneg was alone in the world without any family or meaningful connections. While he was a surgeon, and had accumulated much money, his life felt empty and joyless. Bored with watching television alone every night he set to visit his local church in the hopes of finding a meaning to his existence outside his job. Not finding it there he tried other churches, a new age group, and even a community of atheists. Yet after a year of looking for a purpose and place to belong he felt no better than how he had when he first started. His life while comfortable lacked any meaning, and he found the various ideologies of these different groups entirely insufficient to answer his need.
One night at the hospital he had just finished his shift when he saw something that he hadn’t seen before: a medical doctor and a nurse having an argument about the diagnosis of a patient. The nurse was young, she looked to be least than twenty years old yet she was the calmer one in the argument trying to make her case rationally for why the doctor should order a specific blood test. While the doctor twice her age was gesticulating and talking over her with a raised voice and flushed cheeks. Normally no nurse that young would dare contradict a doctor, much less do so with such an insistent rational manner. Seeing that this nurse was in serious danger of being disciplined Laneg decided as the most senior physician present to intervene and restore peace.
Laneg listened first to the doctor explain why he was so upset. It was because the nurse had taken him aside to question his diagnosis of a patient insisting that he not rule out hyperthyroidism as an alternative diagnosis. Then he asked the young nurse to explain her side of the story. The nurse provided a long list of detailed observations of the patient in question including information she had gathered from chatting to his family. The nurse argued all the pieces of evidence she had gathered and made a convincing case for why the blood test would be a prudent idea. Laneg was astonished by the dedication and intellectual rigor of the young nurse, he told the doctor that he would be responsible for disciplining the nurse, but in the meantime to run the blood test she had suggested.
Laneg lead the nurse back to his office and asked her gently to sit, for the nurse had up until this time taken seriously his talk of disciplining her. He started off by asking her some precise questions about anatomy and physiology; she was able to answer all of them competently. Seeing her excellent medical knowledge he then interrogated her about her age, education, and experience. The nurse claimed to be twenty three, to have a graduate degree in nursing, and to have had two years’ previous experience. He looked at her incredulously.
“Tell me, do you want me to call up the university tomorrow morning and confirm this tale you have just told me is as fantastic as I believe it to be?”
The nurse was terrified, but after reassurances from Laneg that he had no interest in getting her fired because he saw clearly that she was better qualified than some doctors in the hospital, the nurse admitted she was only nineteen and had no certified qualifications.
“You must be some kind of child prodigy,” exclaimed Laneg.
Modestly the nurse denied this and said that she had been trained by others in her religious community. It didn’t take long before the nurse explained that she was a member of a religious order called the Salvati and started applying herself energetically to her studies of medicine since the age of fourteen. Having mastered a great deal of material by the time she was nineteen she was encouraged to get a job in a real hospital for her career and opportunities. She simply made up her qualifications on her resume, went for an interview, and got a job as nurse at the hospital as no one had bothered to check the accuracy of what she had written. She told Laneg about the Aeshir and suggested that he should speak to a druid from her community if he was interested.
Laneg was sceptical of this; however, he decided to ask this nurse a deeper question than that of anatomy or physiology.
“Tell me nurse, what gives your life meaning?”
The young woman looked the man almost three times her age in the eyes and answered confidently, “seeking to know god, cultivating my ability to love, and fighting evil in all its forms.”
The elder man was impressed by her faith and promised her that he would indeed pay a visit to see a druid if her diagnosis was accurate. When the following day it was discovered that the nurse’s hypothesis was correct: the patient had in fact hyperthyroidism, Laneg decided that he had to meet these people who trained nurses so precociously.
The meeting with the druid had a profound impact on the surgeon who found the druid’s depth of knowledge, perception, and intelligence far better than any guru or priest he had met previously. He was particularly impressed by the druid’s descriptions of God, love, and evil. All of which were far more articulate that any he had been previously given by a religious person. He decided that he wanted to know more about the Aeshir.
Two weeks later he took three months off work to study in a special monastery called an acadium. At the conclusion of his studies he had found something that he had been seeking: meaning and a place where he belonged. There were once more goals in his life to strive for, joys to be had, and evils to be fought. After his initiation into the Aeshir he took the pledge of the Salvati order and was welcomed in. In consideration of his vast medical education and experience though he was immediately promoted to a leadership position.
However, not long after returning to work at the hospital he found that the nurse who had introduced him to the Aeshir had been fired. The doctor whom she had challenged months earlier had taken measures to look into her background. Finding that she had no official credentials, she was fired for lying on her job application.
Feeling sympathetic for the young nurse whose career had just been ruined he asked her what work she most wanted to do. The nurse said that she wished she was smart and creative enough to work on the research of new treatments, but failing that she just wanted to have her job in the hospital back because she valued her work so much. Laneg considered this, and recalling that his parent’s house was still unsold and in his possession he made a proposal to the Salvati leadership of donating this big old house to the order on the condition it be used for research purposes. However, he insisted that whatever project they wish to do there that it involved this now unemployed young nurse. The Salvati leadership considered this and came up with a suitable project that Laneg agreed to, for he would be the administrator for this research program code named “Project Panacea”.
Laneg told the nurse that he would talk to some contacts he knows at Asclepius hospital located in the city where his parent’s house was located and arrange for her to work there as a nurse without fear of having to lie and risk being fired. The young nurse was overwhelmed by this and thanked Laneg profusely for this opportunity. However, it meant leaving her beloved younger brother behind who was her only real family. She explained to him that she had an exciting career opportunity, but it meant leaving him behind, so she said that she wasn’t sure if she should take it. Her brother insisted that she take it and just to make sure that she did take this opportunity that same day he took a pledge to join the order of knights which meant he would have to move away himself to begin his studies.
The two siblings made their tearful farewells and each set off on a new chapter of their lives: The brother to become a knight, and the sister to become a medical researcher. Over the next two years they would keep in touch sporadically, but neither sibling was ever far from mind or heart of the other. When one has so little family the little that you have means the world.
Presently this young nurse was holding her dear brother’s hand as he lay unconscious in a hospital bed. Despite her own injuries she had hobbled to the bus stop and travelled to be near him as soon as she could. Being self-disciplined she still took care to slip into the secret Salvati outpost surreptitiously by the back alleyway. Her brother’s name was Smeak, and hers was also unusual: Suvarin.
Late that afternoon Suvarin realised that she had better start getting ready for her evening shift at Asclepius hospital, she used both her hands to pull herself up from the chair onto her good leg. It was at this moment that Jodie, one of the other Salvati working at the outpost entered the room and rushed to her aid.
“Oh Suvarin, I wish you would just call in sick for your shift tonight. It’ll be days before you can comfortably put weight on that leg of yours.”
“It’s ok Jodie, it only hurts badly when I start moving it after a long rest. It’ll be ok in a few moments once it’s warmed up.”
“Still, I don’t see the point of you going into work tonight when you need as much rest as you can get.”
“O Jodie darling, its quite simple. I left my purse and bag at the hospital. I need my cards and money, also, if I don’t turn up for my shift it’s bound to throw suspicion on me. I need to go in, explain my situation, give my alibi, and then I can take the rest of the weekend off at least.”
“What about the security cameras at the hospital?”
“Bah! The security guards at the hospital are a joke. Lots of things have gone missing from that basement and they’ve never caught anyone. I doubt those cameras are even real.”
“Ok, but do let me fetch a pair of crutches for you, also, I insist on driving you to the hospital.”
“Are you sure Jodie? You haven’t had your license for long.”
“It’s a Saturday evening, the streets will be deserted.”
Suvarin smiled and allowed Jodie to adjust two crutches for her to use. Jodie was four years younger than Suvarin and had arrived at the outpost just three months earlier to start her training as an initiate into the Salvati. The two women shared a bedroom together as although the house the outpost was deployed into was quite large all fifteen members of the research team had to squeeze into the scant area set aside for the living space. The outpost did have a fully operational operating theatre, but it was mostly used for teaching and with animals. In fact Smeak had been the first human patient in the operating theatre Jodie had seen before.
“How is your brother doing?” Asked Jodie.
“He lost a lot of blood from that leg injury, it was touch and go for a while but Laneg is sure that the leg can be saved. Right now with the loss of blood we’re keeping him sedated to make sure his body has the best chance of healing itself.”
“Will he be unconscious for long?”
“At least two more days, then he should be strong enough to wake.”
“Poor Smeak, do you have any other siblings or family?”
“No, just Smeak,”
“What about your parents?”
Although Suvarin had been expecting the question, she still shivered nervously when it eventually arrived, “I have told our mum and dad, they send their prayers.”
“But they haven’t come here to see him yet?”
“They offered to come but I told them it wasn’t necessary.”
Jodie looked at Suvarin with innocent confusion, “Why wouldn’t they come just to see their injured child in hospital?”
Suvarin’s voice sounded slightly off key now, “Considering how sensitive the research here is, and the situation with the Tyranni nearby, we agreed it wasn’t worth the risk.”
Jodie stared still not comprehending and Suvarin had to quickly cut in to stop the next question.
“I am starving! Let’s have some dinner together before we leave.”
Jodie being inexperienced took the subtle suggestion of dropping the topic compliantly and the two young women left the ward.