She sound so... genuine when she gave thanks. It would have fooled Ashley, easily. How long did it take someone as young as her to perfect such a skill? To perfect lies that would make politicians envious. "It's what we're here for, to help those who are in need, no matter what. I'm just happy we were able to help you. Also, volunteer here sounds great. Do well and I may even make you my assistant." At least she would be able to keep the young woman from killing people... well... at least while she was here. Maybe she could even learn more about her. "Sunday's are always busy as well. People like to party hard the night before going to work the next morning. Motor vehicle accidents, assaults, vigilante victims or vigilantes themselves. Be sure to wear some comfortable shoes and I'll provide the scrubs so you won't get your clothes dirty." It was strange, she actually felt... excited to share this part of her world with someone. "Now... I have a rather... silly question. We've known each other for a week now, and yet... I don't know what you call other than my patient." It was true, Ashley never asked for names from her patient's, ever, including her crimson haired patient. But volunteering here? That was going to be a different subject all together. "But since you're going to be learning here, I'm going to need to call you something other than your Patient ID number."
@ashley_knightfall: "Oh! My apologies." Her shoulders hiked and her head bowed. A flush suffused her face, turning it almost as bright red as her hair. "Somehow, it didn't occurred to me to think that, how long after one-on-one interactions you can forget that you haven't exchanged names. N-not that yours needs an introduction, ma'am." Sheepishly, she met Ashley's eyes. "June. Short, for Juniper."
"Please, June, just call me Ashley." She insisted giving a smile. "Or Dr. Knightfall, whichever you're more comfortable with." She slipped her tablet back in her pocket. "I have to get going now. You take care of yourself, and I'll see you Sunday at six."
It was Sunday, today was the day when her once patient, “June” would be becoming a student of sort under Ashley. A student who was also an assassin… who attempted to kill her boyfriend and almost succeeded. She wasn’t completely comfortable with this, but it was the only way to get close to her, to learn about her, build trust. It would even possibly keep her from killing, at least for a few hours. Lives could be saved from this interaction. Possibly… maybe… even change her view on things? It would be a long shot. But it was one she was willing to take.
So the Knightfall sat in her office, her blonde hair tied up in a messy bun, her glasses sitting on the bridge of her nose with the lingering smell of coffee in the air. She was making plans for her newest project, opening up a mental institute in Gothic City for the criminally insane. It was almost six, she alerted her staff to keep an eye out for the crimson haired young woman and to bring her to her office. She had a set of mint green scrubs folded up on one of the seats in her office, if June actually showed up. Ashley had a plan set. Basic wound care tonight. Cleaning dirty wounds, dressing them, pressure dressings and all sorts of stuff that would come in handy in real life situations. Start off small and work their way up.
(I pick you :P)
@ashley_knightfall: [Look at that! On actual Sunday!]
Inside the Catholicon, "Juniper's" eyes wandered as though it was the first time she'd ever walked into the place. Half-true, considering the first time she was virtually carried and barely conscious. Even just getting there was a chore and required the help of several kind civilians.
Around other humans she kept her head low. A thorough makeup job only slightly obscured a still mostly fresh cut over her right eye. Horn-rimmed glasses and a ponytail with side-swept bangs served both to cover this and to complement a particularly youthful and "innocent" look. She dressed semi-modestly by her own standards, completely covered from the neck-down (though her jeans and shirt still virtually contoured her body), and she spoke with a meekness antithetical to everything Rosso the Crimson. Once it began, in her mind, June was real. And so she became.
She introduced herself with a timid knock on the door. "Um...Dr. Knightfall? It's June–Juniper. You told me to come Sunday? Well...I came."
Well, technically it's Monday now for me, but still Sunday for you!
A light knock on the door was almost not even heard as the Doctor was dictating on her speechmike, a microphone attached to her computer that was typing out everything she was saying. But it was her name that caught her attention. Her head popped up, half expecting a nurse as she saw her, June, standing at the doorway. Her entire style seemed… very different than she expected, she was good. For the last week she had only seen her once patient in bloody tattered clothes and hospital gown. She actually… looked younger now standing before her. “Oh, June! Please, please, come in!” Ashley smiled, waving her hand for the young woman to come in and motioning to the seat in front of her desk. “I almost thought you weren’t going to come.” She admitted. She wasn't actually sure if she was serious about wanting to learn, thought it was maybe just a teasing questing to get a reaction out of her... but it appears that it wasn't. “But I’m very glad you did.”
She placed her mic down and pulled off her computer glasses. “Before we start, how have you been feeling? Are you still having pain?” She asked with genuine concern. “Oh and how’s your husband doing? Is he healing well?”
@ashley_knightfall: Thinking about Noah, she wondered. He'd been scarce since that night, out of touch. Maybe concerned she'd been marked, and thus, a liability. "As well as a workaholic with trouble accepting qualified help can," she said, cracking a smile. "That is to say, not quite like me, thanks to your help, but I've learned sometimes it's best to just let him have his way. If he wants to prove he's tough—or whatever is in his mind—I won't fight him."
Small, somewhat timid steps brought her before Dr. Knightfall's desk. She picked up the scrubs from the seat, frowned at the thought of herself wearing them, and placed them in her lap as she took a seat. "What about you? N-not that you're having pain. Or if–if you are you could tell me—I, well, not that you'd have to tell me since I know we're not that familiar, but if you wanted to I wouldn't...mind. Uhh...So how are you?" She dropped her head and nervously rubbed the back of her neck, avoiding eye contact.
She gave occasional nods, showing she was indeed listening to the conversation as she began taking an observation of how she carried herself. It was... slightly, more timid than when she was in the hospital, just slightly. She seemed so... innocent. It was baffling. "Oh I understand completely." Ashley admitted. She was never in denial about her addiction to work. But she would be damned if she was just sitting at home (that empty and quiet home) with nothing to do. "Best to just let him get it out of his system. Let him do what he needs to."
But then, June began to ramble and Ashley couldn't help but give an internal chuckle as she took a sip of her room temperature coffee. "Just a little sore, started working out again and my trainer hasn’t been the most merciful. But other than that, I’m great." She set her mug down and moved a few papers around her desk as she noticed the look she gave while picking up the scrubs. "Those scrubs, I know they're probably not your preferred color of choice, but it's so I can keep a better eye on you when we're running around. Plus, you're not going to want blood or... other body fluids on your street clothes. Now… for the rules.”
“No running off on your own unless I need you to get something for me. This is to keep you safe as well as keeping patient confidentiality. If you want a picture of a wound or do a video of a procedure, ask before you do so, this is for patient confidentiality. Do not take anything from the Catholicon unless I state it is ok to do so or give it to you myself. If I tell you to do something, don’t hesitate, just get some gloves on, and get ready for whatever is coming. Lastly, respect my staff and my patient’s and if any of them give you issues, you let me know and I’ll handle them. That’s it. Are you ready to get your scrubs on and begin?” There was enthusiasm to Ashley's voice. She had never had anyone who asked to learn from her, even though it was the same woman who almost killed her boyfriend. This was a.... rather complicated situation that she had gotten herself into. But a very interesting one needless to say. How long was June going to be able to keep up her charade? She wanted to find out.
@ashley_knightfall: Oooh, Dr. K. So assertive! June smiled, her head tilting to one side. Was she always this way? A side effect of the "training," maybe? If nothing else, confirmed for Valentina was the fact Ashley was training with the vigilante, Grimmwald. It only made perfect sense. She's training...for me. Her heart fluttered and her eyes flared. A touching gesture, an almost intimate act of caring to devote such thought, time and effort to an individual such as herself. Whatever the reason.
Juniper nodded emphatically. "I understand. I think? So...I'm supposed to follow you at all times, except to go to the bathroom and when you need me to run. Annnd no pictures without asking. Uh, question. Could I get...I don't know, do these garments uuh...produced in a long-sleeve fashion? Like for example if someone had tattoos and wanted to cover them up?"
Her brow arched at the question. She didn't remember any tattoos or unusual markings on her. She began to wonder... what would she want to cover up? Something she didn't want to draw attention to. Something she wanted to hide, keep to herself. New battle scars possibly? Had she gone out on a job and become injured? It's the only logical thing Ashley could think of.
"We don't keep those arm sleeves here, but if you have a tattoo, it's no issue at all. You don't need to cover it up." sShe picked up her mug, taking another sip of her coffee, giving June to think for a moment. "But, if you like, I can go to the lab while you get dressed and get you one of the blue lab coats if you like?" She offered, setting her mug down as she gave a faint reassuring smile. "It wouldn't be a problem."
@ashley_knightfall: In that case it seemed unavoidable. Regrettable, but not unforeseen. She'd come prepared, reminding herself meanwhile that Ashley already knew what she was by then. But the advantage was still hers. Ashley knew what Juniper was, but not her real name, and she had no idea that "June" knew what she knew. As long as she's unaware of my awareness, I'm still a step or two ahead and the game can continue. Besides, she'd had an excuse, should she be cornered. And she could still seize the edge.
"It's fine. I don't care," she said, shrugging in apparent frustration. She didn't turn around, nor wait for Dr. Knightfall to turn or leave, or at all express any regard for her own privacy. June kicked off her shoes, slid out of her jeans and shirt, and slipped on the scrubs she'd been provided. Again, appraising them less-than-favorably: "A bit large, aren't they?" Seemingly unconscious of the still fresh scars on both forearms up to her elbows from a recent encounter, but making a concerted and very obvious attempt to ensure her hair was still covering the one above her eye.
And yet, as though playing it cool, "Sooo...What's first?"
@rosso: I'm so sorry this is long please don't hurt me
She was about to tell June about the locker room just down the hall… until she started unclothing herself before the Knightfall Saint. Ashley was about to avert her eyes away from the young woman, that is until she caught sight of relatively new scars along the bilateral upper extremities. That’s what she was hiding. They were clean, they weren’t swollen, or erythematous and no sign of infection was seen along the surrounding skin, but the scars were there. Her brows instantly pushed up against each other as genuine concern was seen upon her face. Ashley stood up from her seat rather abruptly as she walked around her desk and to June, carefully grasping one of her forearms without permission and ever so gently began examining in the wounds. They were made from possibly some sort of blade. The cut was clean, not rigid. Did she get into another fight with Kellan? No… these weren’t his style of attack. This seemed to be from someone else. “You should have came to me.” Ashley spoke, very softly, looking upon June as she noticed something standing this close to her… her eye. What kind of fight did she get into? Who did this to her? What did she do to them? She lowered her arm, took a sharp breath in. “Come on, let’s get started”.
She was silent on the way to the busiest part of the Catholicon, the Emergency Department. She used a badge to open the way to the ED as several nurses were seen running back and forth. To the untrained eye, this would have looked like a chaotic mess, but to a veteran of medicine, this was just another Sunday. Almost on cue, a man was seen stumbling in his hair (which was suppose to be blonde) was tinted red with crimson blood that caused his hair to stick upon his scalp as the blood was trickling down his face. A nurse instantly gravitated towards him, asking him what happened. “I don’t feel-” was all that was spoken as his knees buckled under him. The nurse caught him, holding him up as another nurse came with a gurney. It was chaos, but it was organized chaos in the Catholicon.
“Our first patient. This is going to be a lot of information being thrown at once. If you feel overwhelmed, it's ok to step back if you need to.” Ashley spoke, looking over at June, giving her a reassuring smile before they began to follow the nurses to the room. “Everyone this is June, she’s going to be shadowing me today.” She announced to the room full of nurses who gave acknowledging nods. “Now, report?”
“Young male about mid 30’s ambulated in here with trauma to the head, had syncope episode upon entering the ED and is now unresponsive.” The nurse who caught him, began to give whatever kind of report he could. “We don’t know anything else.”
Ashley grabbed two sets of gloves and handed one of the pairs to June for her to put on. Snapping the gloves on she walked over to the patient. “Sir?” She turned her hand into a fist and began to sternal rub the patient’s chest. Nothing happened. “We do a sternal rub on people who are unresponsive to see if we can get any sort of response from them. It’s very uncomfortable and painful, so if we don’t get a reaction, like now, then we know this is a serious situation.” She began explaining her steps to June as Nurses began placing IV’s, checking blood pressure and hooking him up to monitors. She pulled out her pen flashlight with one hand and opened his eyes with the other, shining them briefly before pulling it away, one eye at a time. “If there is no contraction of the pupils, it means that there can be local damage to the brain, which is exactly what his pupils are doing now. But first we have to stop his head from bleeding."
She moved herself to the head of the gurney, grasping some gauze that the nurses had already placed out on a mayo stand as they continued doing their own thing. She handed June the gauze as she began exploring the wound, using the light she already had in hand. “We’re going to do a pressure dressing for now.” She began to explain. “The wound looks like it’s blunt force trauma,” she began to point out, the wound still actively bleeding to the point of blood dripping down to the ground. “Give me your hand, you can see the wound is still bleeding but if you-” She held out her hand, waiting for June to give Ashley her hand as she also scooted over so June could get a better look. The moment she did, she used her fingers and guided them along the wound while showing her. “You can feel that the wound is actually several wounds along the area with one larger laceration in the center. This is normally caused by violent accidents, in this case, most likely being bashed over the head with something… repeatedly most likely.” She let go of June’s hand. “Just place the gauze right here, and put pressure on it, he can’t feel it, so don’t worry about hurting him.” She instructed, pointing to the back of the skull that she just touched moments ago.
“Call CT, tell them to get ready.” she shouted out to whatever nurse was listening as she handed June her light to the hand that wasn’t holding the gauze as she then reached over with her clean glove and grabbed some coban that was on another stand on the other side of her. “We’re going to wrap his head, real quick. This is to put direct pressure on the wound so he won't’ be bleeding out anymore, but he may be bleeding inside his skull, so we’re going to do this quickly, ok? Just keep holding the gauze until I tell you to move your hand.” She began to wrapping the head. “So the way direct pressure dressing stops the bleeding is because the blood isn’t moving out of the body because something is now blocking it and applying pressure to it. It’s now sitting in one spot, which means the blood will now have a time to clot and prevent further bleeding. This applies to all wounds you are bandaging. But you have to be careful, you can’t put it on too tightly because if you do, you can create a tourniquet instead and cut off blood supply completely which is very bad. So you want to be able to place two fingers underneath the coban. Now we would normally clean the wound first, but because of this being an emergent situation, we’re skipping that for now.” It was mostly done, but she stopped as she grasped the light from June, turning it off and handing the coban to June to finish up. "Like I said, he most likely has a brain bleed, which means we're going to call neurology to take him into surgery after we see exactly what the CT shows. Questions?" she finally paused in talking for a moment, taking a breath as she let all this sink in for June.
As Ashley rushed over Juniper flinched and pulled away, but weakly, neither fast nor strong or forceful enough to elude the doctor's grasp. Her ears and face burned bright as she resigned herself to the examination like a rebellious teen facing a parent's scrutiny, eyes glued to the floor.
When it was done she couldn't even process whether or not she was glad to avoid questioning. The reprimand was slight, but just sharp enough. It...actually stung. And the silence as Ashley examined the eye. June waited like a dog expecting to be smacked.
But it never came. She swallowed hard, took a deep breath and followed Ashley throughout the complex, eyes darting this way and that, recording anything of note for callback later. Trying as she might to memorize the layout, faces and where those people were going, where badges were located on each person, and of course, security measures. Once she fell behind while staring but after a near run-in and quick rebuke, jogged to catch up.
She wondered if it'd been this chaotic when she arrived. Questions swirled nonstop but were forgotten almost as soon as she thought of them. It was hard enough just trying to keep up with the instructions, mostly inferring what they meant as well as she could based only on a killer's knowledge of the human body. Mostly she was glad to be given a simple "hold this in place and listen" job. And a lesson in proper damage control at that. Huh. Maybe I'll stick around a bit after all, she thought—wiping the smile from her face upon realizing the several sets of eyes on her.
A question! Quick!
"Uh...is there any kind of damage this wouldn't help? I'd think if it were that simple to stop things from bleeding, a lot fewer people would die. Like...what that guy did, when he tried to kill me." She shuddered and took a few steps back from the table. "I would've died without you, right?"
She followed the instructions flawlessly, but it was visually seen that she was just slightly struggling to keep up with the organized chaos around them. Ashley tried to keep it simple, but she figured being a hired hit-woman, June would be able to keep up with what was going on. Maybe this was just a different type of discord she wasn’t used to, yet.
The nurses began rolling the patient away as soon as the head wrap was done, taking him to CT as June asked her question. “This doesn’t help with internal bleeding. So just because you stop the bleeding from the outside, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have injuries beneath it.” Ashley began to explain. “You had internal bleeding, the bandage would have helped you from bleeding out, but not help you from your internal bleeding.” She paused for a moment, remembering the wounds that she found on Kellan, the wounds she did to him, the internal bleeding he would have had because of her and the same wounds that were given to her by him. They were… horrible. The kind of wounds she saw The last time she saw wounds that severe was back in Reality M. She caught herself standing there silent just a second too long as she blinked her eyes and cleared her throat, regaining her composure. “You would have died if you didn’t come here June.” She looked towards her temporary apprentice, her voice was low, but firm and was audible to June. “But we saved you, because it’s what we do here.”
She pulled the bloody gloves off her hands, snapping them into the nearest trash can. “Come on, let’s go see the scan, they only take a couple of minutes to take.” She began making her way out of the room. “Can someone please call neurology for me?” Ashley called out as another nurse nod in acknowledgement to the doctors request. She looked back to June for a moment, making sure she was following, as she began leading her to a computer. Swiping her badge on a empty computer she took a seat while pulling a stool up next to her.
“Ok, let’s see…” It was a computer just for viewing radiology scans. After a couple clicks of the mouse she pulled out the CT scan of the patient’s head. The black, white and 50 shades of grey picture began to play like a video in slow motion. “You can see the brain here.” she began show the different structures of the head to June, mapping out what to average people wouldn’t be able to see. Different spheres of the brain was being seen as different shades of grey and the skull which was seen as a white structure around the brain, but paused a moment as there was a spot along the skull where it didn’t connect, and was black. “This is a fracture in the skull, due to the trauma.” She began to explain as they continued to go through the scan, that is until a, until a bright, white, lense like shape was seen at the back of the head and lingering where the brain was. “This, is what we were expecting.” Ashley used the mouse to point it out. “This is white area is blood. Which confirms what we said earlier, he has a brain bleed, or more specifically, an epidural hematoma.” She knew June wouldn’t know what that meant, so she went on to explain. “This actually is the type of bleed you want to have. Your brain has a cover around it that protects it called meninges, not to go too deep into it, but it’s made up of three different layers and each of these layers protect your brain from any outside foreign bodies to get inside and helps provide blood to the brain. Now, when you have a trauma to the head that causes a fracture, the meningeal artery can rupture and bleed. This bleeding is sitting right in between the skull and the meninges, so it’s not in the brain, but outside of it. But it’s still putting pressure upon the brain and disrupting function which is why we have an unconscious patient. The most common symptoms for this, aside from the bleeding from your head, are headaches, confusion, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and seizures. The treatment for this, is going to be a craniotomy to remove the blood and repair the vessels that are causing the bleeding. Assuming the patient has no other complications that we can’t see on CT. If he doesn't, he should eventually return to his normal baseline." She explained it as simple as she could as she turned to look at June to see if she had any comments, questions or concerns to express.
June shot a glare at Ashley as she recounted the circumstances of their meeting. It seemed, to her, to be some kind of threat rather than a relatable example in a teaching moment. For all the concern the doctor seemed capable of showing earlier, it was a stinging contrast. She really knew how to hurt.
June caught herself staring, though, and her expression softened. She looked around at all the people in the room, then her whole head bowed to the ground in embarrassment. "Yes, th-thanks again," she said softly.
The brain scan might well have been a Rorschach test, for all she understood of it. All she really got was that there was blood and a lot of pain. Her hand shot up, but her question had little to do with the actual patient, or even Ashley's profession. "Doctor, why do you do this, here? I mean...in this city, it's always something. You seem to spend all your time fixing people and it's like a revolving door. Don't you do anything else? Have family, friends, lovers? It seems awfully depressing to be around so much pain, death and near-death, and I've only been here two days.
"Oh, and uhh...how're you gonna get to the brain if it's inside the skull?" she added, awkwardly.
Ashley was so busy looking at the CT, she had slipped her glasses on and her body was hunched forward before the computer, attempting to look at the scan of the man’s brain more closely. But when the question was asked, her brow arched as June attempted to get more personal with the doctor. She sat up more straight and gave an almost scoff of a chuckle. Would it be safe for her to tell her all about her family? No. But if June really wanted to know, all she had to do was google the Knightfall name. Her family history wasn't exactly a secret. “I have Nicole, she’s my cousin who lives with me, she also likes to volunteer here. Guess it runs in the family. Of course the other Knightfalls are family as well, but we’re all busy all the time, so it’s almost impossible to get together. I did have a brother…” She averted her eyes from June, looking back at the screen. “But he was killed. He was the reason I became a doctor.” The Knightfall Saint revealed to the paid for hire assassin. She began to think… could she be in connection with her brothers death? No… she couldn’t have. Right? This life… it was becoming more complicated than she wanted it to.
She then leaned back in her seat, taking off her glasses, holding them lightly in between her index finger and thumb. “I do this, because... I’m Gothics.” She spoke in such a matter of fact tone with an almost smile as she looked back at June. “I grew up in the city with my brother, I’ve seen… so many lives lost. Either to drugs, gangs, terrorism… so many lost to the city. I left, when I was younger, I thought I was going to be one of the few who managed to get out alive. But the moment I was done with med school… I had to come back. I had this… to help people who were unable to help themselves and were being ignored by others. I had to try and save Gothic and I thought it would be by saving its citizens. Build a hospital, create jobs, treat those who normally wouldn't be treated for whatever reason, just… give them a fighting chance and in return maybe I could save the city through it's citizens who are trapped here.” Letting out a heavy sign she slipped on her glasses. “Pretty naive of me, right?”
She was about to shrug off the question about her love life, avoid it all together, that was, until a nurse who was too nosy for her own good. “Now don’t let that good old Doctor Knightfall lead you into thinking she doesn’t have any fun.”The female nurse was sitting behind the two, typing away documentations on her own computer. “She has a young man who comes on by every once in a while. Good looking, charming, nice @ss.”She laughed, spinning around in her chair to face the two as Ashley looked over, keeping her composure cool and collective as she simply chuckled along.
“What can I say… work can get me... tense sometimes.” Ashley shrugged her shoulders as if it didn’t bother her, but it did, and it could be seen, in the way she was now gripping her glasses and the way her shoulders became tense, to those who were paying attention. “Now back to your question about the hematoma-” she was quick to shift the subject back, slipping her glasses back on. “You get to the bleed, by craniotomy, or, surgical opening of the skull. The blood will just pool and clot, because it has nowhere to go, so you just have to remove the clot, find the location of the bleed, repair it and stick some screws in the head, suture the head and just let it heal. If there are no other complications that is.”
A vested interest took hold of the intern as Ashley described her family, life, motives, ambitions. Her eyes locked on the doctor's, mind diligently noting every single detail - she could fact check them later if she wanted, but God she really wanted to believe it was all true. She laughed with them, even as the vigilante Grimmwald crept up from his space the back of her mind. She'd seen Ashley's discomfort, not for the first time, and it made her feel better about her own.
But June's eyes were all admiration. Smiling softly, she reached out and lightly touched her shoulder. "Well, Doctor Knightfall. For what it's worth, I'm glad for your...n-nai...naivete." Then she turned to focus again on the scans--wouln't want to be a wasteful student--but not before adding, "If it was okay with you--if you're not seeing your boyfriend today at that time--I'd like to talk with you over lunch today.
"So, what's next?" she asked after a brief pause.
It was midnight and the moon hung low and bright when Hawkshade's glider cape carried him onto the rooftop of the Catholicon. He wasn't here because of an injury. At least, not a physical one.
His cowl's communications suite was activated by micro-movements of his pupils and he scrolled down the menu projected directly into his retina until he found 'Saint, Knightfall' under his Shadow Knights contact list.
He rang her personal cell and waited until someone picked up. "Rooftop." Was all he said, before he cut the connection. His communications were encrypted but one never knew. Secrecy was safety.
It had been... a while since the Knightfall Saint had gone up for air from the ocean that was her work. Between Halo Corp, The Catholicon, Valor City Children's Hospital, taking 'June' under her wing and working on Gothic Cities Mental Facility, Ashley had been disconnected from the world. What day of the week was it? Better yet... what month was it? When was the last time she ate a proper meal or had proper sleep? The coffee stains on her white coat seemed to be increasing by the day. When did she allow herself to become so disheveled? It may have started around the time her love... took a turn for the darker side of life. She hadn't seen him for... who knows how long now. But there were rumors, as cold bodies began to pour into Catholicon rather than beated and breathing criminals that "The Devil" was killing criminals. She didn't want to believe it... but she knew, deep down she knew it was her Kellan. It had to be why he hadn't come to see her. How could he?
But now she sat silently in her laboratory. Working on her one of her many projects. Her dimmed and tired eyes looking through a microscope as her cellphone, her personal cellphone went off with it's generic monotone ring echoed in the room. She didn't look away, pulling the phone from her pocket with one hand and holding it up to her ear. "Dr. Knightfall speaking." She answered.
"Wha-?" Was all she could get out before the line was cut. She pulled away from her instrument and looked down at her phone before slipping it back in her pocket filled with who knows what.
The rooftop access door opened as the Knightfall Saint stepped out. Even with her white coat, the chilled air made her shiver a bit before stepping further out to the rooftop. There were only two people she knew who would try and contact her this way... and one of them were already dead. Her blue eyes scanned the dark rooftop, but her eyes couldn't see anything that would have been lurking in the shadows. "I'm alone." she spoke out. "He's not here. As far as I know." The Knightfall assumed there was a reason for the secrecy and assumed that her once love and his brother, was the reason for it.
The former Strigidae walked out of the shadows, black cape from his new costume hanging across his broad shoulders and stubble upon his jaw. He hadn't shaved in days.
"Ashley. I'm glad you're safe." As he spoke he set his Blackhawk drones into a patrol pattern to ensure no one ease-dropped up on them.
"So.." A hesitant pause. "So you know why I have come. He has turned. Something has changed in him. He's always had a darkness but this is different. He's.. he's skinned a man alive. Brought me the skin."
He stepped forth from the darkness and her tired eyes fixated upon him. She didn't say a word as Richard began to speak, about Kellan. Her jaw tightened as he stated what her love had done. She turned her head away from him, disturbed from the news he brought her. Her Kellan did that? She didn't want to believe it. She didn't want to entertain the thought that Kellan had turned into what he feared for so long. "So... it is true." She finally spoke, not daring to look back at Richard. A sting of pain pierced deep into her heart as she felt her throat swell with distress. She knew already what Kellan had become, but hearing from Richard, it made it official. The Knightfall lift her head back towards the protector of Gothic. "I haven't seen him for... several weeks. It's not uncommon for us not to speak or see each other for a while, but when I bodies began filling up my Cathilcon with the statements of witnesses seeing a 'devil in black' killing people... I-" She didn't finish, her lips pressed against each other in frustration. She didn't know what to do, what to say. "I didn't want to believe that it could be Kellan. I'm so sorry Richard."
His mouth was dry and his voice a low rasp. "Me too." The giant of a man placed his hand on her shoulder. "I.. I tried to save him. From what the Strigidae made him into. Made us into. I thought I had but I was wrong. They had us from the time we were children. Controlled every hour of our day."
Hawkshade removed his hand and turned, walking to the edge of the roof and staring out over the city, his hands balled into fists at his side. "The things we saw. The things we did. No child should-" Silence fell as he stopped.
"It isn't his fault. It's mine. He was changing and I didn't see it. Was too busy with other things. Didn't want to see what was right in front of me."
The vigilante turned back to face Ashley. "I have to save him. If I can just talk to him.. But I need your help Ashley."
Her head lowered as the tears began to build in her eyes. Her knowledge of Richards and Kellans time with the Strigidae was only whatever Kellan would dare to share with her. She knew it was only the surface of what the two actually faced against during those dark times in their lives. She should have been there for him more. She should have done more. She lift her head back up the moment Richard asked for her help.
"Of course, whatever I can do to help." There was no hesitation in her voice as she wiped away the accumulating tears. She was almost too quick to answer. How could she say no? "What do you need me to do?"
He swallowed the lump in his throat. "Before anything I need to find him. Before he hurts someone else or someone hurts him. He's making a lot of noise. Our old masters.. I'm afraid they'll notice him now."
"These bodies.. this 'devil in black'.. Do you have the autopsy reports? If I can track his movements, find a pattern, perhaps I can find where he's hiding. He could be doing more than striking randomly. Maybe the bodies are linked in some way. Members of the same syndicate or cartel. Or perhaps they've committed the same crime. I just have to find the pattern."
Nodding her head, the Knightfall Saint pulled out her tablet from her coat as she began swiping at the screen. The light shined upon her face as she began going through her records. "I have some of the reports, because I had to conduct the autopsies myself. I'll send those to the Cave Computer, if that's ok. But a majority of them are with Gothic City morgue. Amy Noel, one of the mortician, owes me a couple of favors. Give me a few minutes and I can send you those reports as well."
But a new fear was beginning to sink in. The mention of these... 'old masters'. She looked up from the screen. "Would they come here? For him? For you?" She hadn't thought about the possibilities of the monsters from their past lives come to and haunt their present ones.
"That's fine." He replied, on autopilot. In some ways he was still in shock. Kellan. I never saw it coming.
"The Masters.." A pause while he double checked for surveillance of any kind through the drones he had airborne. He opened his mouth to speak but something stopped him. "I don't want to talk about them. Not here. Ask me again in the Cave. I will explain everything there."
For several days, she'd been "free" of Grimmwald's captivity. Not truly free, she was sure. She could move about now, no longer confined to a space in the wall of a dilapidated temple, but she was sure that he would check in as often as he could locate her, have his minions keeping tabs whenever they were available, check those places she was known to visit.
Places like this. The Catholicon, where she'd met Dr. Ashley Knightfall. The Horned Sinner would wonder if she'd been there since her release, because he'd wonder if she intended to betray him. It was beyond understandable, given her confession of how she'd intended to play both sides during the attack on the Khan. But all Dr. Knightfall was was a safe place to stay, put the pieces of her life back together, she swore even to herself.
June, she reminded herself. My name is Juniper. I'm studying under Dr. Knightfall after she saved my life. But that girl felt so far away now. So long ago. It'd been months since she'd seen her, flown to Madripoor, then to Japan before being snatched by the Devil. Passing by her reflection in a glass window, Valentina shuddered. Her face was a gaunt simulacrum of its former self, her entire body unhealthily thin despite her relative increase in rations and maintenance. Shō ga nai, she thought as she let herself into the waiting area. There was nothing she could do to hide a loss of 30 lbs; it simply could not be helped.
For the time being, she sent word for the doctor as though nothing had changed, and waited, staring into her hands, for the music.
There was a sense of pain and sadness to the Knightfall for several months now, since the turn of her once love, Kellan. Normally, work would distract her enough for her to be able to hide the pain, but now… it was starting to show. She was becoming easily frustrated with everything. Kellan was not only killing criminals but also brutally beating some to almost being dead. They would have been better off dead. Some she was able to save, others, she couldn’t. It killed her as she would walk out of the rooms, covered in the blood of her patient.
Today wasn’t an exception.
The sound of flat-line could be heard throughout the busy floor of the Catholicon and walking out of a curtain that separates a room from the floor came Ashley. Her teal scrubs smeared with the blood of her patient as she pulled off her gloves with frustration, throwing them forcefully into the trash as nurses and other staff nearby slowly made their distance from her. She ripped off the mask that covered her face and her tired eyes avoided anyone that was nearby. “Did any family come with this patient?” She asked no one in particular.
“Um, no Doctor Knightfall, they were dropped off in the front.” One nurse spoke up.
Ashley nod her head. “Call the city morgue, tell them we have another body for them.”
Before she was about to walk off to her office to begin the paperwork, another nurse called out for her. “D-doctor Knightfall, there’s a young woman here to see you. June?”
She stopped in her tracks as her head shifted over to the nurse. “June?” She asked as the nurse nod their head.
For almost as long as Kellan had shifted his alliance, ‘June’ had been MIA. She knew that ‘June’ was also the same person who fought Kellan several months ago as well, the person that Kellan almost killed and the person that almost killed Kellan. The person that Ashley saved. But for several weeks the two played this dance of mentor and apprentice. Trying to get close enough to the assassin to gain information. But things had changed. Did she have the patience to continue this game? She had been gone for almost as long as Kellan has, was it a coincidence? She didn’t believe so.
The doctor walked out to the lobby area, several people who were waiting became wide eye at the sight of the doctor who was covered in blood. Her cobalt eyes scanned the area until they landed on June, or who she thought looked like June. She looked like only a fraction of herself, there was a severe weight loss to the already thin young woman that she noted instantly. She even just… looked different as well.
“June?” Ashley asked as she walked up to her, her voice softer than it was moments ago. Her facial muscles relaxed just a bit, showing compassion to her once ‘student’. She wanted to begin asking what happened to her, but drawing more attention to her was not the best idea. “Please, follow me.” she spoke as she motioned for the young woman to follow her to the back.
Ashley lead the way into the Cathlicon, silent as the two walked. The back of the Catholicon looked like a warzon. Bloodstains on the floor being mopped up, bodies being wheeled away while the ones who managed to survive were only managing to survive with a tube down their throats. Nurses looked just as exhausted as Dr. Knightfall up to this point. She lead June to her office, a place that the two would often meet up at the beginning and end of their shifts together. The office, as always, stunk of coffee but this time there were piles of paperwork seen stacked along her desk. She motioned for June to take a seat as she began to pull her scrub shirt up and over her head, taking it off and revealing a tank top underneath.
"Sorry," she began with an apology. "I just need to get these off." she began to change into a fresh pair of scrubs that were sitting on a seat on the other side of the room, on top of other pair of scrubs. It made the appearance that she had to change several times a shift. When she was done, she looked over at June as if examining her, her eyes shifted from one body part to another, making notes of the negative changes. "June, what happened?"
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