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[Fiction] Flicker - Joy


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Deliveries of broken people. For the past several months, that had been Nova “Flicker” Madigan’s vocation: delivering broken people to hospitals. And not just broken; no, the nova’s services were reserved for the worst of the worst, the shattered bodies that would not survive even the small delay of a medevac flight. Sometimes, when working alongside Neil Preston, the combination of his miraculous healing touch and her gift of defying the laws of space and time would turn the tide. All too often, though, her work was of a solo nature, and the faint sparks that Nova brought in an instant to a hospital ward often vanished from this earth soon thereafter, overwhelmed by injuries that would have been too comprehensive even if they had been inflicted whilst standing in a hospital lobby.

It was the latter that Nova expected when her OpNet device paged her on an emergency call to coordinates in a remote corner of Alaska. Hunting accident, she thought to herself with dismay and prepared herself to make the transit. Neil wouldn’t be with her for this one; he was attending a difficult case half a world away. And so, what was one instant the comfortable living room in Rio was the next a cabin in the Alaskan wilderness… where she found herself facing an elderly gentleman showing no semblance of a gunshot wound.

“Sir, if you could direct me to the patient, I’ll get transport under way.” She already had the coordinates for Fairbanks Memorial, and with the kinds of damage those she was called to help generally had, time was of the essence. So Nova was more than a bit taken aback when the old man gave an almost apologetic smile and slowly shook his head.

“There’s no patient, I’m afraid,” he said, “and I’m sorry for the ruse, but it was the only way I thought you would come.” If the man was disconcerted by the namesake effect of the nova standing in front of him, he hid it well.

What the hell? Why drag me all the way out here if… A half-dozen ugly possibilities ran through Nova’s mind. Recruiter? A fan? The Directive? What the hell…

“Please, don’t go. I really do need your help.” She had been on the verge of teleporting to the nearest ranger station to report the false call when his words – words tinged with genuine hope – stopped her. I just know I’m going to regret this, she thought with a sigh.

“All right, fine. You have one minute. After that, I’m going to turn you in for a false medevac call. Speaking of which, how did you get access to the medevac paging system?”

With another apologetic smile, the elderly man held up a hand. “I’m sorry about that, but well, I have connections in medical circles. In fact, that’s how I came to know about your particular gifts... that, and your charity. I’m relying on both.”

Nova’s look – even though it was there one moment and not the next – obviously wanted an explanation. She was not to be disappointed.

“I have a… very dear friend. Or had one, I suppose I should say. She’s in a hospital in Ft. Lauderdale, in Florida. And she’s not expected to last until tomorrow. She’s dying, you see.”

Nova nodded, getting an idea of where this was going. “And you want me to take you to her, is that it?” Anger seethed hot within her. How dare this old fart – well-connected or not – misuse the medevac system like this?

“No,” the man answered, “not me. Just this.” With obvious arthritic difficulty, the old man bent down and picked up a small basket at his feet, filled to overflowing with little blue-petalled flowers, a tiny blaze of yellow at the center of each. “I’d like you to take her this. For a number of reasons, I cannot and will not go… but I’d like for you to take this to her. She’ll understand.”

For a moment, Nova stood there in shock. Finally, words caught up with her. “Are you meaning to tell me that you hijacked an emergency use frequency and dragged me out to Nowhere, Alaska on false pretense just so you could use me for floral delivery? Are you mad?!? What on earth made you think I would do this?”

“Because I know of your work, and know that you could be doing a thousand other things for far more money or glory or power if you didn’t care about people. Because I’m going to hand you a check that represents a rather large donation to Doctors Without Borders that is contingent upon a signature you will get from an administrator at Holy Cross Hospital in Ft. Lauderdale. And because for the second time in my life, there is something that I can only do by taking a wild chance and hoping. I didn’t do that the first time, but I’m doing it now.”

There was a long, long moment that passed before Nova accepted the basket and check, and vanished from beneath the bright blue Alaskan sky.

Room 413 of Holy Cross Hospital was quiet when Nova Madigan walked in. It was a grey day in northern Florida; a misty rain left the window more translucent than transparent, filtering the light down before it settled on the white-haired woman lying on the bed, an oxygen tube taped around her cheeks. She seemed to be asleep, and the instructions had been clear enough to not deliver any message other than the flowers themselves, so Nova set the basket on a bedside table and turned to leave.

She almost made it out the door before hearing the gasp. Oh, please don’t let me frighten her into dying. Nova turned to explain… but the old woman’s eyes were not on the flickering nova at the door of the room. Instead, they were locked with wonder and amazement on the small basket of flowers. Shaking, a shriveled hand reached out in near disbelief and plucked one tiny blossom from the basket, bringing it close to her face as she stared. Her eyes closed, and tears began to flow, but when they opened…

This woman was not a nova. Of that, Nova had no doubt. But the light that came to her eyes, the smile that crept across her deeply lined face, lit up the room as if she were glowing. “Forget-me-nots,” she said in a frail but joyful voice. “Oh Jack, you remembered.” There was a story there, Nova realized, a story that must have run deep through the rivers of two long lives. But for now, seeing that incredible, heart-warming glow was enough.

Deliveries of broken people. That was Nova “Flicker” Madigan’s vocation: delivering broken people to hospitals. But today, she knew, she had delivered joy.

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