Chapter 015: Office meeting

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He didn't have to wait long. Just a few minutes later, Markus heard water running followed by a door opening. He swallowed as he heard Galt's footsteps... he was walking towards the office. One step, two steps, three steps, four steps and he was inside. It was now or never, Markus had finally gotten Galt alone in the same room... all that he had worked for since...
 
Galt wasn't a tall man. Markus stood at least two heads taller, and Galt usually had a hunched over posture, making him appear even shorter than he was. His hair was short and white, his face wrinkled but clean-shaven, but he was in surprisingly good physical shape for his age, pushing sixty. He regularly used a cane while walking, but it appeared to mostly be for show as he did not seem to have any problems moving around without one either.
 
Galt hadn't noticed anything yet. He just walked to the other side of his desk, sitting down in his chair, paying no mind to the fact that the door wasn't fully opened. Markus considered himself lucky that he hadn't closed the door, but that was a possibility he had taken into account - and either way he would have had the element of surprise. Galt was none the wiser as he looked down at his papers and resumed writing, just as Markus had suspected. No point in waiting any longer.
 
Markus slammed the door shut, prompting Galt to look up in surprise.
"Huh?"
"Good evening, mayor Galt," Markus said.
"Guards!" Galt screamed. For his age, he could scream surprisingly loud, Markus noted. And if anyone had heard it, it was Rink, so she'd at least be ready if they came in. "Who are you?"
"You don't know me, but I know you," Markus said. "But..."
"I don't know how you came in here, but get out," Galt said, barely even listening to Markus. "My bodyguards will-"
"Your bodyguards will be busy," Markus said. "As will all of your other shields."
"What are you talking about?" Galt asked.
"I am talking about that tonight is when it ends," Markus said. "Kurita has suffered under you for too long."
"You don't know what you're talking about."
"Oh, I do," Markus said. "I've seen it... I've seen how you bleed this island dry."
"I have expenses-"
"None of which are to the benefit of the citizens!"
"You don't know anything about running a town!"
"I know about compassion," Markus said. "I don't know how or why you became the mayor... but it wasn't for love of Kurita!"
"You don't know anything about me."
"Oh, I know more than you think," Markus said. "You were born here, joined the Marines, spent many years in North Blue... then, when you retired, you returned here."
"That much is true, but those things are no secret," Galt replied.
"And when you returned, you brought someone with you... that became the captain of the town guard, and has been instrumental in keeping the island afraid."
"I..." Galt looked around. "To... to tell you the truth, I... it's him, it's Rag- er, Atlas... he's the one you want, I'm just a-"
"Don't give me that," Markus said. "You don't fear Atlas, not at all... you're in cahoots. You control him, even!"
"You make all these claims," Galt said as a gunshot was heard from downstairs. Galt rose from his chair, causing Markus to take two long steps towards him. "What was-"
"That would be your guards trying to get here," Markus said. "But I couldn't let that happen... I could have taken you out already, but I had to make sure... make sure that you know exactly what I am doing this for."
 
~~~~
 
"That was mayor Galt!"
"I'll go check on him..."
 
In the front of Galt's mansion, his bodyguards had heard his call after Markus had made himself known. Deciding that it was probably enough with one of them, the other remained at the front door. The guard who entered did so slowly, peering around the dark ground floor. He looked around, but could not see anything out of the ordinary, and so started going up the stairs at the other end of the room. After ascending a few steps, he just barely saw the figure sitting at the top of the stairs before hearing a single word, immediately followed by feeling the force of something pushing him backwards.
 
"No."
 
It could best be described as a deep, heavy whisper. He couldn't advance further, but stumbled, falling backwards down the stairs. He caught himself, avoiding any real damage from the fall, and as he rose, noted that the hooded figure was slowly walking downwards. He stood up, pulling two pistols from his belt and taking aim. But before he could fire, he saw the figure waving its arm, and then something invisible struck him - one hit on his right hand, another on the pistol held in his left. It almost felt like bullets.
 
"Back," the figure spoke, having stopped halfway down the stairs. This time, there was no force pushing him back, but the voice still deeply unsettled the guard.
"Who are you?" he asked as the front door opened, the other guard entering.
"Are you alright, Francis? I heard-" he said before spotting the figure on the stairs and pulled a gun himself. "What is going on?"
"Andres! Something weird is going on, dude," the guard named Francis said and walked back to his companion. "But mayor Galt may be in danger..."
"Let's clean this up, then," Andres replied. "Just one enemy should not be a problem!"
"He's doing something weird, though," Francis said. "Struck my guns without touching me..."
 
Under her mask, Rink was smirking. These two shouldn't be much of an issue... they had no idea what she was capable of, what her power was, or even that she was a she - but to be fair, she'd also have thought that someone with the voice she was currently using was a man. That fit her purposes nicely, though doing the voice would probably not work to scare them for much longer.
 
"I can't let you pass," she said in the same tone anyway. Might as well have some fun with it while she could. She was holding a tuning fork in her right hand, but was pretty sure the two guards couldn't see what it was with this lack of light. "Francis, Andres..." she spoke, though telling them apart wasn't the easiest thing - same height, same build, same short black hair. As far as Rink could guess, they were twin brothers. Andres had a slightly deeper voice, at least.
"And you think we'll just accept that?" Francis said and started running towards her. Rink said nothing and simply struck her arm guard with the tuning fork, then did two quick swings towards the approaching Francis. This time, they struck his chest. He started feeling around the area where he had been hit, looking down at his hand almost expecting blood. But her bullets of concentrated sound hadn't even made any holes in his clothes, not that he could tell what it was he had been hit with.
"Yes."
"Francis, get down!" Andres shouted and fired his pistol. Rink sidestepped the bullet without much effort and jumped down a few steps, throwing another two sound attacks their way. Andres, noticing she was doing something but not exactly what, threw himself on the ground before they could hit him, though. He felt, and thought he heard, something pass over him. Rink was standing at the lowest step as both of them got to their feet again, staring at her.
"This is ridiculous," Francis said and reached into his right pants pocket. "Let's end this quickly..."
"I got you," Andres replied and did the same, moving his pistol to his left. They both pulled out something, but Rink couldn't quite see what it was - the light was low and the mask didn't do any wonders for her field of vision. Luckily, that didn't inhibit her navigation much.
"Ready," Francis said and held up one of his pistols as well.
"It doesn't matter what you try," she said and stared at them. No need to move more than she had to, especially not since her primary mission was to prevent the two of them from going upstairs. Didn't seem they'd let her do that, though, as they both took aim and fired - and there wouldn't be any easy sidestepping these shots. They were both aiming for her legs, it seemed, so she jumped over the shots, landing on the floor in front, holding her arms out for balance - and as she landed, felt something snag her right arm.
"Got 'em!" Francis said, pulling something with his right hand.
"What the-" Rink said as she looked at her arm. She couldn't see what had caught her, but there was definitely something there. She didn't have much time to reflect on it, though - Andres was approaching, and made a throwing motion towards her, looking like he was aiming for her head. She ducked, whereupon he pulled his hand back and did another throw - and this time, something started pulling on her left leg.
"That's more like it," Andres said with a smirk. Both of them had started pulling, causing Rink to move forwards, before they started running around her in a circle. She felt how more of her body got caught on something, and started to realize what was going on.
 "I see..." she said to herself. Trying to wriggle free didn't help much, so she observed their movements. One lap, two laps... she didn't need much more. She took a deep breath, and when Francis was in front of her the next time, let out a loud shriek. Not the loudest she could manage - that would probably have broken every piece of glass in the vicinity - but quite louder than a human would be expected to be capable of. Francis, instinctively, stopped, dropped what he was holding, brought his hands up to his head, closed his eyes and took a few steps backwards. Andres, having been behind her, hadn't taken the full force of the shriek, but was wincing - clearly in pain as well. It was the moment Rink needed, as the grip they had had on her loosened. She managed to free herself enough that she could take two few long steps forwards and strike Francis in the head with her arm guard, knocking him out. She heard steps behind her, but not coming towards her - turning around, she saw Andres had started running for the stairs and was already ascending. She quickly used her tuning fork to send two sound bullets his way, one of which hit his right leg, resulting in a stumble. Which, given that he was trying to run up a set of stairs, led to the obvious result. He fell downwards, and while he quickly started getting up from the heap he had become at the bottom of the stairs, Rink was now standing in front of him.
"You won't-" he started saying, but Rink knocked him out with a well-placed strike to the forehead before he could finish his sentence. She dragged her left hand across her right arm, removing what she had been caught with - some sort of thin, transparent wire with a lot of small barbs. She couldn't tell what material it was made of, but didn't have much time to ponder it as her thoughts were soon interrupted by the sound of a gunshot from upstairs.
"Oh, hell..."
 
~~~~
 
"Tell me then," Galt said. "Why are you doing this? Or... more importantly... who are you?"
"You don't know me personally," Markus replied. "But perhaps you'll remember someone else... I am a doctor, mayor Galt. A doctor who has done what he can to help Kurita... both those who live there, and now, the island itself. This island is sick, and you are the cause!"
"So you think that getting rid of me would fix everything?"
"I know that if Kurita is to have even a chance to be fixed, the root of the problem has to be removed. You!"
"Hmph... that will accomplish nothing. Even if I'm gone, then Atlas-"
"I told you," Markus said. "He will not be the one to continue your work, if he even lives through the night..."
"Hah!" Galt exclaimed. "I don't know who you've roped into your little project, but surely there's no one on the island who'd be able to stand up against Atlas and the rest of the town guard..."
"I didn't say it was anyone from Kurita."
"You..." Galt swallowed.
"And the guards won't be able to help him either... we've seen to that."
"Aren't you one to think of everything," Galt said with a hint of frustration in his voice. "Who are you?"
"My name is one you might recognize," Markus said as he pulled the kerchief off his face. "I am Markus Flint, and I am going to make sure you'll never hurt anyone again!"
"Wait..." Galt said and looked at Markus's face. "A doctor... Flint... now I get it. You're David's boy!"
"My father, David Flint... what you did to him and his patients was unforgivable," Markus said. "It took me years to track you down, to find allies, to get an opportunity... but now, tonight, what you started all those years ago is finally coming to a close."
"I didn't think you had survived... looks like I was careless," Galt said with a smirk as he slowly stepped closer to his desk, moving his hand to a drawer...
 
~~~~
 
Eleven years earlier...
 
The island of Calbia, in the western part of North Blue. A sparsely populated island, home to only a few hundred people, all of them living in the spacious city of Raman... or, at least, what had once been the city of Raman. That what stood within its boundaries was still considered one city was largely a remnant from a time when the island was more prosperous and the city was far more lively. But years of harsh weather and pirate raids had left the landscape barren, and many houses had been torn down, resulting in a cityscape consisting of scattered buildings, seemingly haphazardly placed along a road that had seen better days, leading to the largest part of the city that was still intact and still saw most of the activity on the island - the city center, where most of the business took place, even if the island would not have been able to survive without the occasional visit to neighbouring islands for trading. Many had moved away already, and those who remained did so largely for emotional or nostalgic reasons, or carrying with them a hope that Calbia would one day prosper again.
 
David Flint was among those who had chosen to remain. He was a native of the island, his mother having been the chief of a large hospital and had been instrumental in reforming the city's medical practices. But the hospital no longer remained, and as she had been in her late forties when having David, passed away only a few months after the birth of David's own son - Markus Flint. David had ever since his youth wished to follow in the footsteps of his mother, and quickly became one of the most well-respected doctors on the island. But his career took a sharp decline after the death of his beloved wife Miranda to an unknown illness, only three years after she had given birth to Markus. David was thrust into depression, and for several years abandoned his work. He took to drinking, and if it hadn't been for that he had Markus to take care of, would probably have become even more of a wreck. What ultimately made him resume his calling was when Markus, at eleven years of age, announced his intent to become a doctor as well.
 
The hospital had fallen into ruin, and so David and Markus moved from their small home to an abandoned apartment building, converting it into a small clinic, the two of them living on the ground floor and housing patients on the two floors above it. Markus learned from his father and others with medical knowledge who occasionally would help them, and spent much of his free time reading books on the subject. David's clinic received a bit of a reputation for helping anybody with an ailment - something that did not go over well with everyone...
 
"It doesn't matter how many times you ask me, Commodore Galt. My answer is still no!"
"You shelter criminals, doctor Flint."
 
On the bottom floor of the Flint clinic, two men were standing on different sides of a desk. One of them, looking to be in his late thirties, dressed in a white doctor's coat with a brown shirt and black pants underneath, with short brown hair, wearing glasses. The other, older-looking but shorter man, was wearing a Marine Commodore's jacket on top of a more standard Marine uniform, and his Commodore's hat placed on the desk. He had black hair that seemed to have started graying already.
 
"It doesn't matter what they are," David said. "When they are here, they are my patients, and it is my responsibility to keep them safe."
"I have tried being reasonable with you, doctor Flint," Galt replied. "You should think of what is best for you."
"Threats will get you nowhere," David answered. "Unless you are ill, we have no more business to discuss."
"So be it," Galt replied and picked up his hat before he turned to leave. "But my patience is running thin." He exited through the front door, forcefully closing it behind him. Outside, next to the door, stood a large man, wearing an oversized Marine jacket on top of what appeared to be prisoner's rags, with long, dark yellow hair, a thick moustache and beard of the same shade. He held an anchor in his left hand. Galt looked up at him. "Come, Ragnar, we are done here."
"Understood," he replied and followed Galt away from the building.
 
Inside, David had sat himself down behind the desk. He was slumped down in his chair, holding his hand to his head. Markus, who had been in the next room and overheard the argument that had gone on just before, entered the room and approached his father. It wasn't the first time he had heard his father and Galt talking, but it had usually been less heated.
"Are you okay, dad?" he asked.
"I'm fine, Markus," David replied.
"Is it true what he said?" Markus asked.
"Some of our patients... they are pirates," David answered. "But that doesn't mean they're bad people... the Marines want to see the world in black and white, good and evil, but it's never that simple."
"Is he going to do something to us?"
"I don't know... but I want to trust that a Marine Commodore understands..."
"I thought the Marines were for protecting people," Markus said.
"Many Marines truly do believe in that," David replied. "That it's a call to make the world a better place..."
"Like us?"
"Yes, like us," David said. "Being a doctor means helping anyone who is hurt or ill regardless what they have done. You know that."
"You always say that," Markus replied.
"Promise me, Markus..." David said and put his hand on his son's shoulder. "Promise me that you'll always help those who need it, no matter who the are..."
"I promise, dad," Markus said with a smile. "I promise."
 

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