I have a hard time sleeping so I get up at 5 AM, make myself a thermos of coffee, pack up the SAAB, and hit the road. Destination: Vancouver, B.C., to visit Dr. Naghib, a specialist in parahuman medicine that Wombat and Kestrel frequent. (see post Dr. Naghib, 1/28/05) It’s not just my shoulder that keeps me up; I dream of Hydrangea and her soft pale skin. When I wake I swear I can smell her delicate fragrance hanging in the air of my dark room.
Anyway, Dr. Naghib. I promised I’d head back up to the Vancouver Hospital and Health Sciences Centre and let him check me out again. Considering how I can’t really go to a normal physician without betraying my secret identity, I’m very interested in getting Dr. Naghib as my regular doctor. In the past year alone I’ve been shot, stabbed, thrown off a building, thrown off a moving car, blown up, set on fire, punched, kicked, bludgeoned, crushed, and had a Prius thrown at me. I mean, if anybody needs a doctor, I need a doctor.
I head up foggy Highway 101 on the west side of the Olympic Peninsula, which is a dichotomous drive through misty emerald green forests and miles of ugly clearcuts. Ahh, Washington. I stop at Forks, a logging town on the coast, for a high-cholesterol breakfast, then up to Port Angeles, where I take the kick-ass new express ferry to Vancouver. It’s a sleek catamaran design that mostly takes foot passengers but has room for about 50 cars.
On the ride over I call the number on Dr. Naghib’s card. A young sounding woman answers the phone. “Para clinic, Dr. Naghib’s office.”
“Hi, I’m a patient of Dr. Naghib’s. He told me to call him today for an appointment.”
“Your name please?”
Shit, I hadn’t thought of that. What do I say? “Uhh, MacMillan. Connor MacMillan.”
“One moment please.” She puts me on hold.
Man, maybe I should have just said “Velvet Marauder.” I mean, he’s seen me with my mask off. I don’t want to use my real name, though. Just because he’s seen my face doesn’t mean he knows who I am. Jeez, what was I thinking: Connor MacMillan? In order to preserve my secret identity I’ll give them a fake name that is uncannily similar to my real name. Clever.
The girl comes back on the line, interrupting my fretting.
“Is this about the shoulder, sir?” she asks.
“That’s right, yes.”
“Dr. Naghib would be happy to see you today if possible.”
“Great! Great,” I say. “I’m about an hour away.”
She gives me directions to an annex at the Health Sciences Centre, and within an hour I’m in Vancouver, pulling up in front of a modern steel and wood building nestled in a stand of Douglas fir.
Dr. Naghib’s assistant, a foxy young thing, shows me into a large exam chamber. High tech hardware and flatscreens line the wall, and a large dentist-type chair sits in the center of the room.
“Please wait here, the doctor will be right in,” the girl says,
“Thanks,” I say and smile. I’m wearing sunglasses and a baseball cap in a lame attempt to disguise my appearance. I should have slapped on a fake moustache just to be extra obvious. Man, I am a tool sometimes.
I thumb through the latest issue of SuperPeople (from the makers of TeenPeople!) while I wait. I don’t think I have this one… There’s a big profile of American Steel from the Minutemen, and I’m just reading between the lines here, but he seems like a fascist dickhead to me. Just stick to fighting H.A.R.M., dude, and leave the “borders, language, culture” shit to the radio talk show hosts. I hate when superheroes get all political and shit. I’m not sure the average guy should seek wisdom from people who dress up in costumes and hit things, present company included.
Hey, I’m in the Meanwhile… section! There’s a full page story about our battle against the Baron, and they used that picture of me clinging to the outside of the zeppelin. There’s another good shot of Wombat slicing a bad guy’s rifle in two with his diamond-edge spades – I haven’t seen that one before. And since there’s no good shots of Kestrel from that day, SuperPeople just runs a file photo of him, because of course, you have to have a picture of Kestrel because he’s so dreamy. Pfeh. Anyway, I shouldn’t complain – this is good coverage, good for the brand.
“Mr. Marauder,” Dr. Naghib says cheerfully as he enters the chamber, pulling on a white coat. He’s a handsome Indian cat, not much older than me. “And how are we feeling today?”
“Well, my shoulder hurts like a bitch.”
“Like a bitch, eh?” He makes a note on his clipboard. “How would you rate the pain, on a scale of 1 to 10?”
“Umm, usually it’s just a 4, but if I do something to strain it, it’s like a 7.”
“I see.” Another note. “Well, let’s take a look?”
I take off my shirt and Dr. Naghib checks out the stab wound in my left shoulder and my three – count ‘em – three gunshot wounds. I think that’s a personal record for me.
“These have healed nicely…” Dr. Naghib says of the two bullet-induced welts on my torso, “And your shoulder injury is coming along as well. I don’t imagine there will be much scarring. Your recuperative abilities are remarkable, Mr. Marauder.”
“Thanks,” I say. “Hey, listen Doc. I was wondering if we could maybe work something out. I know you see Kestrel and Wombat…”
“Among others,” he says, writing another note.
“Yeah, well, I was wondering…”
Dr. Naghib looks up from his clipboard and smiles. “I have a reciprocal agreement with most of my parahuman clients, a quid pro quo arrangement. In exchange for medical services, they participate in a study I’m conducting.”
“What’s involved?” I ask.
“Not a lot. I have a health journal that my subjects fill out on a weekly basis, and twice a year I ask that they check in so that we may interview them. It’s difficult to run a longitudinal study on the parahuman population simply because, despite how it may appear in the media, there just aren’t that many of you. To say nothing of the wide disparity in parahuman ability manifestation. For instance, I have a Greek demigod as a subject, who is –“
“I’d be happy to participate, Doctor,” I say.
“You would?” Dr. Naghib smiles. “That’s excellent. I want to assure you, we value our client’s confidentiality here.”
“Of course, of course,” I say. I’m just happy he’s willing to take me on as a patient.
“Well, that’s excellent. I’ll have Beth provide you all the paperwork and forms. From this point on you will be…” He flips a page on his clipboard. “Test subject Number 34.”
Test subject number 34. That sounds a little ominous, doesn’t it?