Jessie woke up in considerable pain for the second time in the same day. At least she hoped it was the same day. The last thing she remembered was some sort of bolt of magical power being thrown at her then the world was just gone.
She tried to localize the pain and found it difficult. Everything hurt at least a little. She eventually decided the catalog in order of worst to best was: her head, which felt like it was going to split in half. Her ribs, a couple of which might well have been broken. Her neck and arm, which were filled with pins and needles and would surely ache screamingly bad as soon as they could be fully felt. Finally, the remainder of her body which all seemed to have a dull throb like she had a bad fever. She tried to open her eyes and found they were stuck shut with some sort of goop.
I’ve really got to quit waking up like this, she thought.
She managed to get one eye open and look around the room. It was a sort of generic looking space. The walls were beige, the ceiling was acoustic tile, and there was a faux wooden cabinet in the corner. The ceiling held several powerful fluorescent lights and there was a computer on a stand to one side of her running some sort of program which was probably reporting on whatever data it was getting from the wires that trailed to her chest.
Yikes! I’m not wearing a shirt!
Jessie raised her head and tried to get a look at her chest. She couldn’t lift her head that far. She got a picture of something white and plastic on her chest. It could have been almost anything medical. She felt fairly certain she was in a hospital and that was comforting. Maybe they’d fix her head. She wondered if being in a hospital meant she’d escaped from her captors. That seemed likely, which made her think she wasn’t really in a hospital. There was no way she’d escaped.
“Sir, the patient is awake.” Jessie turned her head toward the voice. At the far side of the room, there was a woman in scrubs. She was by an open door and she spoke to someone outside of it.
“That’s good. Is she reporting any discomfort?” The voice came from outside the room. It was warm and friendly, and probably inspired confidence in people who hadn’t just been kidnapped. It didn’t sound like the voice of a prison doctor, or some underworld medical practitioner stripped of his license for dipping into his own painkillers.
“She only just started to move. I’m checking her now.” The woman, a sort of nurse Jessie assumed, bustled over. Once she was properly in view Jesse saw she was older with a strong chin and a serious expression. She pulled a small light out of her pocket and flicked it in both of Jessie’s eyes. “Can you follow this?” She moved the light side to side, Jessie followed. “Good.”
A man walked in to view. “How is she?”
“Responsive, good pupil dilation, her blood pressure and pulse seem fine. The imager is just finishing up now.”
The man turned and looked at the image on the computer. Jessie looked at him. He was in his late 40’s or early 50’s. He was balding, but he wore a bushy white beard. He had a dark tan, a strong chin, and was sort of broadly heavyset without really looking fat. There were smile lines around his mouth, and laugh lines around his face. “Recovering nicely, I’d say.” He looked down at her, “You’ve taken several significant shocks in a very short period. Nothing terribly dangerous all by itself, but we wanted to double-check. How are you feeling?”
“Sore. Head hurts, ribs hurt, and body hurts.” Her voice came out rough and quite.
“The pain in your head and body are typical of the spell that rendered you unconscious. It’s actually a common side effect of unconsciousness spells in general. A great many of them somehow mess with human nerves. A few of them go away instantly, but most tend to linger and your neural tissue reports pain after the event.”
“Let’s hold off on that. I don’t trust modern drugs so much as most people. Besides, I have something that will work much more quickly. Nurse, are the needles around here somewhere?”
“Yes, Thomas.” The nurse walked back to the cabinet and retrieved a box that Jessie assumed held needles. Not that she was particularly focused on the box. Could the man leaning over her be Thomas the Illusionist?
Maybe. She knew he ran some sort of medical operation. She’d assumed he’d hired other magi to do the actual spell casting, but he wouldn’t have to. The Archmagi were the definition of universal experts in magic. No doubt, Thomas knew all manner of healing spells. If he had hired other magi they were probably ones he’d taught personally.
“Don’t try to speak now. It will tend to make you shift and the more neatly I can do this, the better. Just relax, you’ll feel better shortly.” The nurse had set up a rolling tray, but Jessie couldn’t see it well. “I’m going to be using acupuncture, and a small amount of magic, to see to some basic pain relief as well as speed up the healing process.”
By that point, Jessie had gotten to the place where she could wiggle her toes and move her feet a bit. Running away wasn’t really an option. She really wished it was. She wasn’t fond of needles in any case, and having them used on her in conjunction with magic, by a guy she’d been actively plotting to destroy the last time she was awake seemed like a bad idea.
The nurse moved over and picked the white things off Jessie’s chest. As they came up, Jessie got a better look and decided it had probably been a multi-spectral imager of some sort. The ordinary doctors had used that sort of thing a lot on her mother. Unfortunately, the nurse didn’t do anything about Jessie’s shirtless state. Clothing probably would have gotten in the way of the needles.
Next, Thomas moved to the center of her limited field of vision and held up a needle. It was very thin at least; so thin it had a small rectangular wooden handle for Thomas to hold it. “People new to acupuncture always ask if the needles will hurt. They do, a bit, but they’re very thin so you’re most likely to experience a small sting as they go in followed by a dull ache. If anything continues to hurt let me know. It means we tapped something we really didn’t mean to.”
Jessie nodded slightly using the motion to test how well her neck was recovering. She hadn’t made much progress.
Thomas spoke to the nurse, “I’m going to need to access a fairly broad array of meridians here. Could you help me shift her to her side?”
The nurse didn’t reply, but she did move to shift Jessie. Both Thomas and the nurse were wearing gloves. That seemed surprisingly professional for an underground hospital. Once the nurse had stepped back Thomas moved in. He took one long breath in and amber light sparked behind his eyes, it also seemed to glow under his skin. Jessie had never seen that with Kyle before, and she’d never seen him pull in power that fast. A bit of amber traveled down Thomas’s hand and into the needle. What looked like Chinese characters on its handle lit.
Thomas let her look at the needle, “The interesting thing about Acupuncture, really, is how little magic it requires. That’s why it’s used so widely, most people just poke the needles in without doing any spell and it’s still somewhat effective. There was very little useful medical knowledge before the modern era. People knew they could eat various plants to get a certain result, but it wasn’t part of a system. Acupuncture almost upsets that. It’s far from perfect, but I think someone who knew what they were doing was part of creating it.” Then he poked the needle in. It did hurt a bit, but the small pain was instantly overshadowed by what felt like a vice unclamping from her head. She hadn’t realized exactly how much she hurt until it was suddenly cut in half. Several more needles got charged up and placed in her neck which felt perfect by the time the last one went in.
“Feeling better,” Thomas asked.
“A lot.” Jessie answered. Then she had to wonder why Thomas was helping her. Could they have been wrong about the man?
Thomas worked silently for a bit running needles down her back. Her muscles relaxed and all the pain went out of them. He had her move various parts of her body. She could move everything easily. Only her chest still hurt, but it hurt more since she could focus on it.
“You have several cracked ribs. The report I got on what happened was jumbled, but it seems Kyle kicked you. I believe it was an accident, but it was hard. I’m going to anesthetize the area.” The pain was in her lower ribs beneath her right breast. The needles went in, in a wider pattern around the entirety of the right side of her ribcage, then another tighter pattern around the actual injury.
“There are several Meridians I’m blocking off here. There’s a big one along the center of your body, a second along the right hand side, and then another that zig-zags across the chest.” He paused and thought about that, when he continued talking there was a bit of laughter in his voice. “I should say ‘there was thought to be’ in regard to those Meridians. I’m actually tapping into endorphin glands and the neural system, but it’s located in much the same place, and the magic doesn’t care about the accuracy of what the caster bound it to. Qualify everything I say that way. How’s the pain?”
“Basically gone.” Jessie could see these needles. They were glowing, some were red and some were blue, light leaked down into her body and there was a faint tracery of light across her chest.
“Very good. Now then, I’ll immobilize you and get the ribs fixed.”
Jessie almost jumped off the table at the ‘I’ll immobilize you’ bit, she would have, in fact, but she didn’t react fast enough. Even as Thomas said it he poked a needle in high up near the top of her spine and Jessie lost most of her control of her legs, he leaned around her and put two in near her neck and whatever ability she’d had to move was just gone.