The Lady Hyne Hospital wasn't a bad place to work. Nor, indeed, was it a bad place to be admitted to. Of course, it couldn't contend with the city centre hospitals – the grandeur of the New Republic Hospital, the comfort of Memorial Hospital, or the technology of the University of Medicinal Sciences – but it was up to standards. In the event of official inspection (a service overdue by roughly five years, but no one was really keeping count), it would pass requirements and remain open with only a few black marks to its name. It was unremarkable for an outer suburb hospital, much like all the others; an old building that had stood long before the war and maintained enough that it wasn't falling down around the heads of those who worked there.
Yes, it could use a lick of paint, the radiators had a habit of going on the blink (which would need to be sorted before the harsh Estharan winter rolled around), the layout was less than ideal, and much of the equipment was painfully out of date, but no one could object to it. Not unless they were used to the pristine, cutting-edge, inner city facilities, and few such doctors tended to grace these walls. A week in the slums, however, was generally enough to silence them; after seeing conditions worse than field hospitals on the streets, most of those fools were willing to admit that maybe the Lady Hyne wasn't so bad after all. Although it was unsuitable for more specialised treatment, its facilities were more than capable of dealing with the day-to-day ailments of the residents.
Doctor Kadowaki swiped herself in through the staff entrance on the west side of the building. It was her monthly check-in, a day to hand in paper work, pick-up supplies, justify distribution of resources, and generally let her base hospital know that she was still alive and kicking. Not that they really needed to worry; she rarely had reason to feel threatened. Occasionally supplies were stolen, but the Kramer's Community Centre was a safe place to work and a damn sight safer than where many of her colleagues worked. All things considered, she was very lucky to be practicing at the Centre.
No, not lucky. The Kramers had specifically requested her because of her dedication and genuine desire to help those who came to her door. If someone arrived needing treatment, she would do her best to see that it happened, without taking extra payment or 'favours' like some of her fellow doctors were known to do.
It wasn't always possible to uphold such ideals, however. Esthar's health care system relied on a ludicrously out-of-date piece of legislation called the Graded Health Care System, or G.H.C.S., which was often difficult to circumvent. It was a despicable affair that remained from the wake of the Great War, when rationing had become a vital part of everyday life. Medicine, the one thing needed most in war, was no exception – it was a commodity, and was thus rationed like any other commodity.
G.H.C.S. had been designed to deal with the problems stemming from one simple question, a question that had bounced around Parliament Hall for years: namely, how does one properly ration medical care? Ration it, and ensure a speedy recovery for the people of their once great nation?
Some genius had eventually come up with a solution: a chart that graded everyone according to their 'usefulness' to society. The top rank was Level Zero, reserved for the council members and the Old Money families who had restored the nation, deemed the most important and relevant individuals in the nation. Level Five was the lowest, reserved for the permanently ('and without due cause') unemployed, who were therefore deemed a waste on society's resources. More often than not, this rank was synonymous with another name used for such folk: slum dwellers.
Children were not exempt from the system. Sure, one could hardly expect an infant to contribute to society in any meaningful way, but that hardly mattered. G.H.C.S. was a system that rewarded the fortunate; those unlucky enough to be born into a poor household, regardless of age or potential, were all but destined to remain there. If you were born into a level five household, you were level 5 as well, until you proved otherwise.
Thus the cycle of poverty continued, and all that the oh-so-wonderful G.H.C.S. accomplished was an ever-widening gap between the castes.
The elite, conversely, were given near-unlimited health cover. Doctor Kadowaki had once known an Old Money woman who had been granted heavily-discounted liposuction because she gained a stone on holiday. The official documentation stated that due to work commitments, the patient was required to maintain top physical condition. Healthy workers toil longer, after all. Furthermore, the paperwork said (even on paper, Kadowaki had mused bitterly, the words sounded oily), her family was generous, and had contributed millions towards rebuilding Esthar from the ruins of war.
Of course she deserved to reap the rewards. It was her right, not her privilege.
The whole thing sickened Rachael Kadowaki, especially in light of the teenage boy who, a few months back, had sustained third degree burns from malicious bullies (he hadn't been able to afford more than an aspirin, and had died in agony several days later when the burns turned septic), or the young woman refused treatment for HIV (an 'occupational hazard,' apparently, of being a whore. Government money was not to be wasted on healing those in such a disreputable trade).
There was, however, little she could do in the greater scheme of things. It took all her time and
energy to find and exploit all the little cheats and loopholes needed in order to treat her own patients. It wasn't necessarily difficult, but it was tricky to avoid notice if it needed doing more than once or twice a month. Her time was better spent helping those she could, rather than shouting at the walls of bureaucracy and red tape that sealed them in.
Despite the blatantly unfair healthcare system, however, she remained both passionate and honest about her work – honest enough to admit, reluctantly, that her monthly visits to the hospital served as a welcome break from the bleak streets of the outer city where she plied her trade.
She looked up at the sign-in desk and sighed resignedly. Much though she might have liked the hospital, it was just a shame that she couldn't stand some of her colleagues. Kadowaki's eyes settled on the figure before her. Though the man's back was turned to her, she'd recognise that thinning grey hair and wiry, brittle frame anywhere. She straightened her back, mentally stealing herself against the coming conversation and ignoring the way her stomach sank with dread.
The man glanced to the side as she placed her folder on the counter, smirking with recognition.
"Well, if it isn't Rachael Kadowaki. I haven't seen you for a few months."
"Doctor Churou," she replied in a curt, but polite voice. Repulsive he might be, but there was little to gain from spiting the man. Besides, she was not one for exchanges of hisses and petty insults. She'd seen too much stupidity and pointless violence as a result of such actions to let herself sink to the same depths.
"Still working full time in the slums?" he asked.
"More or less. I still have my old house calls. Where's Ava?" she enquired, trying to derail the conversation as she looked for the sign-in sheet.
"In the office, on the phone, probably talking to some thuggish boyfriend. As if it's not bad enough that we have to be surrounded by street rats in our practice, they've started to worm their way into our hospital administration as well. I don't envy you, though, being stuck out there almost every day of the week. I've had enough of the place after an hour. Two whole days out there would drive me crazy. Damn stupid idea if you ask me, making us suburban doctors split our hours with the outer city. We've had six muggings this month. I only just escaped one last week. It's abuse! Against health and safety, no less, not to mention all logic."
He shifted, finally allowing Kadowaki access to the register. Pulling it towards her, she replied in as calm a voice as she could muster – which, for a doctor who worked primarily with the poor and homeless, was very calm indeed. "I feel perfectly safe in the slums. I've never been threatened."
He eyed her suspiciously. "Taken to carrying a gun with you, or something?"
"No need," she replied in a matter of fact tone and a flourish of her pen. "I'm just well-liked."
The man huffed an irate 'I'm sure' before diving right back into his rant. "They should assign doctors to the slums on a permanent, full time basis. Make them stick to their own hospitals, the scum."
"You know as well as I do that few are willing to work out there, Kyle. We can barely get doctors there on a part-time basis." It was a problem which had led, partly, to their current system, dividing up the work between everyone.
"If they refuse, they should lose their certificate. It will make it easier on all of us."
"Are you volunteering, then?" Kadowaki asked, her eyes shifting to the office door. Where was Ava? The doctor was a patient woman by nature, but Kyle Churou was the figurehead of all she despised in the medical profession. What made the situation worse was that he seemed to believe that everyone thought the same way he did.
Churou snorted. "Hardly. I have tenure. Give it to some novice from the city. That'll knock some sense into them, and they can practice on people that don't matter."
She nearly scoffed at his open hypocrisy. The man himself had been transferred here from a central hospital ten years ago, in a whirlwind of complaints and paperwork that had made it obvious he was less than pleased about the move. Little had changed over the years; he was just as dour and unpleasant nowadays as he was in the early days of his new station.
Though the man heavily denied it, she suspected that his transferral was a punishment, or an effort to get him out of the way of those around him. Judging from his behaviour she could hazard a good guess as to what he'd done wrong.
"But surely," she reasoned calmly, hiding her mocking tone behind a façade of thoughtful debate, "with over a decade of experience in your profession, you would be at the top of the list for a permanent placement."
She struggled to keep her smug grin from breaking free at the sight of his expression, as it shifted from realisation to annoyance.
"Well," he huffed, swelling out his chest to cover his embarrassment at having to back-track. "Being in the slums for a couple of days isn't so bad. It does have certain … advantages," he conceded, his features twisting into a lecherous smirk. "As I'm sure you're aware."
She looked away from him, replacing the cap of her pen and returning it to its home instead. If she looked at him now she may say something that she may later regret.
"I'm not sure I understand your meaning, Doctor Churou."
Her voice was cold, despite her effort to keep it level.
He chuckled. "There's no need to be sly with me, Rachael. We all ask for little rewards when we go that extra mile for our patients, don't we? After all, we need some incentive if we're going to stick our necks on the chopping block."
"That's both illegal and unethical." This time, however, her tone held nothing but resignation. An automatic response at hearing such an unapologetic boast.
"It's a mutually beneficial arrangement," Churou argued happily, gleefully aware of Kadowaki's disgust. "They get what they want and need, while I get free use of their services. How can I ignore a cry for help? I know you never do."
She could not help the indignation that crept into her voice, the mere thought of him painting her with the same brush as he repellent to her very core. "That's not what I do."
"Oh come on, I know you fiddle the system – we all do it – and I've seen some of the boys out there. I can see why they'd be to some people's taste, the 'bad boy' and all that, though I didn't quite have them down to your tastes. I'm sure they pick up some interesting … tricks, though. I know the girls do."
She took a deep breath, speaking in a slow voice with each word emphasised.
"I. Do. Not –"
Churou interrupted, not letting her finish, as he misinterpreted her tone as a hint rather than controlled anger.
"Of course, of course." He winked at her, and she wondered how such a simple action could seem so perverted. "I understand, mum's the word and subtlety is the name of the game. We can't just run around loudly announcing our actions. Well, can't stand around here all day. I have colleagues to meet for lunch. Enjoy your day in civilization."
She finally looked up at him as he retreated from sight. Her sudden relief was unbelievable as the door shut between them. The sad truth was that it was the man that repulsed her more than his actions now. Naturally, his actions were part of what made him such a disgusting person in her eyes, but sadly he wasn't an anomaly. He was one of a majority of doctors who did the same. Whether their vice was sex, drugs or both, there were too many men and women who would ask for 'favours' in exchange for arranging medical treatment that their patients couldn't afford. If you had nothing they wanted, then you were back on the streets. It was abuse, no matter how willing the victims were. When she cheated the system, she took nothing, and gave her patients everything.
"Is he gone?"
Kadowaki turned to the sound of the new voice. A strawberry blonde poked her head around the office door, loose curls falling to her jaw. Pale green eyes glanced around the room in search of the missing man.
The good doctor smiled at Ava. "He's gone."
The girl breathed a sigh of relief, stepping out of her haven. "I thought he'd never leave."
Rachael frowned down at her, passing across a copy of her documents for the month. "How long have you been in there?"
Ava nervously fiddled with her shirt as she glanced at the clock. "Ten minutes, I think. I know," she sighed, "I know I shouldn't hide from him, but he creeps me out. It was like he was one step away from grabbing me."
"You should report him."
The young woman behind the counter shrugged, brushing back a lock of hair and tucking it behind her ear self-consciously.
"Wouldn't do any good, it'd be his word against mine. Who's gonna listen to an ex-street rat over a doctor? Even one as gross as him?"
Kadowaki didn't answer. It was the simple, brutal truth, after all.
"I don't want to get you in trouble either," Ava continued. "It can't be good for you if I get into a mess after you manage to get me this job. I don't want to ruin your reputation or standing with your colleagues, don't want to lose my job either. So, it's better to just put up with it and stay quiet. It's not like I have to see him every day."
"You shouldn't have to put up with it at all. If it gets worse then tell me."
"Thanks, I will."
The doctor wasn't convinced that she would. She knew a losing argument when she heard one, however, and decided to change the subject. "Thank you. So, apart from unwelcome advances from doctors of questionable character, how are you doing?"
It was the right thing to say, evidently. The girl's face lit up like a Christmas tree. "It's been great. The other receptionists are really nice – well, there's one who's kinda not, but she just ignores me now. It helps that I've changed my speech to fit in more and that we aren't too far from the slums, so most of the other employees know we're not all thieves or druggies. The pay is decent and comes with Upper Level Four H.C., so I can't complain. Found a replacement for me at the Centre yet?"
"Not yet, it's proving to be harder than I expected. I've tried three different people so far. Either they're incompetent, don't know how to behave at work, or worse. I'm not exactly a disciplinarian, you know that, as long as it's within reason … but I can't tolerate gossiping to friends about confidential information, or stealing medicine. Be that as it may, though, I'll need to find someone soon. It's too much work for Robin to do on her own, though she is grateful for the extra money."
"Don't worry, you'll find someone. There are hundreds of people like me who need and want a job."
Doctor Kadowaki picked up her papers. "I wish that was the only problem."
It was turning into a battle of him versus the briefcase and, unfortunately for Squall, he was losing.
Academically, he knew that these high-tech security cases were designed specifically to withstand forced entry. That didn't stop him from growling in impotent aggravation at the stupid thing as it sat innocently on his desk, half-inch thick titanium plating the only obstacle between him and SeeD's assured survival through the harsh Estharan winter.
The situation would have been hilarious if only the joke had not been on him. He was well aware of how absurd it was to be outsmarted by an inanimate object, and it frustrated him almost to the point of throwing the damned thing out the window. The only thing that stopped him doing exactly that was the threat of adding further insult to his already bruised ego. The case seemed to be almost literally invulnerable; he had no doubt that he could shoot the bloody thing and the worst of the damage would be, perhaps, a small dent on the metal surface. Besides, even if he threw it from his window and it did happen to land with enough force to open the case, the contents would be damaged as well, making the cargo (and all they had gone through to get it) worse than useless.
No, the only safe way to open this was with the correct thumb scan. The problem was that it wasn't his thumb that the lock recognised, and to cap matters off he wasn't sure exactly whose thumb would open the lock. The most obvious option was Caraway, but Squall wasn't so sure. The ex-general was a smart man, if he wanted to stop them from getting into the case, then surely he would choose a less obvious print. One of his lackeys, maybe?
His hasty retreat from the blood-splattered room didn't seem so smart now. If only he'd cut off the men's thumbs before running. With what, though? His pocket knife wouldn't cut through bone, and even if it could, the task would have taken too long, making the chances of his possible capture in the chaos that followed too high to risk. Besides, all three bodies missing both their thumbs would definitely have caught someone's attention, and knowing his luck it would have been Seifer's.
Finally, he couldn't have opened the case back in the room because that would have meant running down the street with it open, which would have been sufficiently weird enough to have attracted even more unwelcome attention.
Back at square one.
The SeeD leader pinched the bridge of his nose, resting his elbows on his shins as he tried to think. How the hell was he supposed to open the stupid thing? Magic?
He snorted. If only.
It looked as if he would have to ask Quistis to open it after all. He didn't think the young electronics genius would be able to hack into the case lock, but maybe she knew a trick or two that might – just might – point him in the right direction. If she couldn't help them, then they'd have to pay someone to do it, an idea that sat very badly with him. For a start, he'd have to find someone who could actually do the job, not just claim they could and make the situation worse. On top of that, he'd have to ensure that whoever it was was trustworthy. The only people Squall knew who definitely could do this job would run off with the cargo as soon as they realised what it was, or sell him out to the first people who came knocking with a few gil in hand. With Seifer sniffing around and backed by the military, that was something he could not risk.
Seifer in the military … he would never have seen that one coming. Irvine's observation a few hours ago merely added to his worry. Nobody joined the army and was just given a high rank, it didn't work like that. So how had Seifer done it?
Unless he was bluffing, and was really just a low rank nobody.
That made even less sense, and he threw the notion away. No, Seifer wouldn't have signed up unless there was some serious power behind the offer. It was just the way he was wired.
Why give up everything to turn switch for the Dogs? The man had never shown any interest in the Army before now – just the opposite, in fact. Squall was sure he remembered Seifer bad-mouthing the military at some point. It had always seemed as if the other man had chosen to be with the Pigs and that was where he wanted to be to achieve his goals, but then, maybe he had completely misunderstood and misjudged Almasy. He couldn't pretend to like Seifer, but he used to think that he understood the man. Now he wasn't so sure.
This realisation shouldn't have surprised him. To say that his relationship with Seifer was complicated was akin to comparing genocide to vandalism. Seifer saw him as a rival, a wild boy who needed to be taken off the streets. Squall saw Seifer as a pain in the arse with an over-inflated sense of self-worth. Almasy was a sucker for the melodrama of his work, it was what motivated him. He wanted to play hero to the city, the white knight that saved the day, and in this scenario Squall was the evil fiend that needed to be taken down.
Squall supposed that Seifer saw him as a rabid farm-dog that needed to be put down. Until he could find the right bullet to do so, however, why not let him kill a few farm rats? Despite the disease burning through its brain, the animal could still be useful to a certain degree.
So, despite Almasy's obvious loathing of Squall and his mob, the gang leader and police officer had come to an uneasy alliance of sorts. They had no written or spoken agreement, but when Squall and his gang disposed of a rival gang member that Seifer was unable to, the man became mysteriously busy with other matters and was unavailable to deal with 'petty crimes'. SeeD was the lesser of two evils and they both knew it. On the few occasions when Squall had gone out of his way to get rid of one of these 'problems', a small favour was returned in kind. It didn't mean that Seifer didn't want to put him away less than before, but he was aware on a primal level that should he actually succeed in locking Squall away, someone bigger, meaner, and altogether nastier would take his place. It was the way things worked in the Slums.
That had all changed the instant Seifer had tossed Squall his new identification badge. If the pair met today, he somehow doubted that their … understanding … of the last few years would hold up.
A random thought scrolled across his mind: out of everyone in the slums, Seifer was one of those he had known longest. He couldn't help a snort of slightly stupefied laughter at the thought.
Enough, he scolded himself. I'll just give myself a headache if I keep thinking like this.
The briefcase was priority one. Once he'd cracked the damn thing, then he could start contemplating the true meaning behind Seifer's baffling career change.
That was, if he could bring himself to care enough
Inspector Almasy pushed his way through the crowd rubber-necking the end of the alleyway, ignoring the uniformed officer who stood blocking the entrance. The officer eyed him uncomfortably when Seifer broke away from the throng, his eyes catching the badge that was flashed at him. Somewhat reluctantly, he let the man duck under the yellow tape with his colleagues. Quickly striding down the passage, Seifer arrived at the edge of the hubbub on the other side. He ignored the glares and looks from the police as he quickly and efficiently took in the scene, before leading his team to the rusty steel death-trap disguised as a set of stairs.
His foot had barely touched the first step when Fujin shouted, "DANGEROUS!"
"No choice, sergeant."
No shit, he added mentally.
Seifer smirked as he continued on his way. His sergeant made it sound as if he was planning on swinging around on the frame, or that the metal would crumble in the breeze. It creaked and squealed ominously under his feet, sure, but he'd been on worse. Hell, he'd chased criminals across rooftops before and that was a longer, more dangerous drop than the second storey of an old building. Many of those roofs, too, had been in worse condition than these stairs.
The minute he reached the top and stepped into the room, a woman's voice sneered at him.
"I thought I heard your sidekick's idiotic bellow. What the hell are you doing here, Almasy? You're not with the Force anymore, you have no reason to be here. Or are the military dogs sick of you as well?"
"Chill the fuck out Allen," he replied, "I'm not here to steal your case."
"Then why are you here? This is police business."
"One of the bodies is General Caraway."
"Ex-General," Allen corrected.
"He still served a high rank in the Armed Forces, Allen. For two tours, in fact – which makes this military business. I've got better things to do, though, so I'll just take a look around and pick up your report at the end."
"A few days with the Dogs and you're already too good for honest police work. Well, come on, then. The sooner you see it, the sooner you fuck off." The detective was still distinctly unfriendly, but seemed satisfied that the case was safely hers. Turning, she led them to the inner room, not bothering to make sure they followed her.
Seifer looked round the room, the repulsive smell assaulting his nose as he looked down at the carnage that surrounded him. The objects littering the floor were covered in blood, seeping through sheets of spilled paper. Whoever had done this must have been looking for something and had done so during or just after dispatching of the room's occupants, probably torturing Caraway and his companions for the information. Either that or someone had stumbled upon them just after the killers had left and decided to rifle through the corpses' possessions, which although unlikely (most common thugs would have fled the moment they saw the blood, rather than stick around to rifle a few pockets), was not impossible.
"When were they discovered?" he asked, without looking round.
"A little over two hours ago," Allen answered, standing just inside the door.
"It's definitely Caraway?"
The women sneered at him. "We're not entirely useless, you know. IDing a body is not beyond our capabilities."
"Not much of him left to ID, is there? That's impressive police work, Allen."
"There's enough to be certain it was Caraway, but we'll know for certain after the post-mortem."
He smirked at Allen's slip-up. Even the best forensics team in the world wouldn't have been able to positively ID the fleshy ruins in this room in two hours. It took two hours to get a positive fingerprint match, for God's sake. Longer for dental, and weeks to months for DNA.
He glanced up at her. "You were tipped off, weren't you." It was a statement rather than a question.
The detective stiffened at his comment, her jaw clenching to reign in her anger at being caught out. "Orders from higher up asked that we confirm whether or not it was Caraway as soon as possible. We were provided with his personal details when we left the station."
Seifer turned back to Caraway's body. Donning a sterile latex glove, he crouched down and turned the wrist until the pale underside faced him, taking in the small scar on the forearm before standing abruptly.
"Right, I'll come to the station and pick up the report when you're finished."
"That's it?" There was a little indignation in the female detective's voice at the hasty dismissal of the case.
"I told you, I've got better things to do."
Not bothering to acknowledge his former colleague, he swept out of the room, leaving behind the bristling Detective Inspector Allen.
"CARAWAY?" Fujin asked, as he stepped from the stairs to solid ground once more.
"It matches," he answered, nodding.
"As much as I'd love it to be, they're not that violent," he admitted, "and they'd at least try to get rid of the bodies. Squall's neither stupid nor cocky … well, not that cocky. Barring a full-on gangland rumble, they're pretty damn good about covering their tracks."
"Maybe this means they weren't behind the shoot-out at the club, then," Raijin put in as they re-entered the alley.
Seifer snorted. "Like hell. That was them, I know it. I've been chasing them long enough to know when they're behind something. Besides, what did I just say about rumbles? If that little fiasco wasn't a street war than please, show me one."
They didn't give the policeman who stood guard a second glance as they passed him, pushing their way back through the crowd. They were nearly at the car, away from curious ears, when Fujin spoke her mind.
He turned his glare away from the youths hanging around a little too closely to his vehicle for comfort. "What do you mean?" he asked dangerously.
"She's right, ya know," Raijin agreed, though he seemed to be a little nervous at doing so. He didn't quite have the guts that Fujin did when it came to speaking his mind to his superior. "You sure you don't just want it to be them, boss? We don't want you to mess this up coz you wanna pin something on Squall."
"You saying I'm obsessed with him?" Seifer challenged as he opened his car door.
"Maybe a little. She just wants you to look at other leads as well."
"I'm not fuckin' stupid. I won't let SeeD blindside me." He ducked down into the driver seat, effectively ending the conversation.
Slamming the car door shut, he reached into his coat pocket and pulled out his mobile. He scrolled down the address list, ignoring his friends as they entered the car. Finding the right number, he hit the dial button and waited. The phone only rang twice before it was picked up.
"This better be important. I have a meeting in ten minutes."
"The body is Caraway."
Seifer frowned. This was an unexpected. "I got a call from one of your informants telling me that a body had been identified this afternoon. It's professional work, made to look like a gang, but it was definitely hired hands that did it – the bodies were too messed up, all possible ways of quickly identifying them destroyed. No idiot gangbanger's gonna go to that much trouble. They must have been looking for the same thing we are, and they got carried away. The police had orders from higher-up to confirm if it was Caraway. I assumed you were the one who issued those orders".
"It wasn't me, but I know who it was. Stupid woman, I wanted him alive."
Despite the obvious ire in the man's voice, he seemed remarkably calm, more annoyed at the person responsible rather than the turn of events. Although, Seifer supposed, he would have to have a level head to reach the top of his game and stay there for so long. "I'll talk to them and ensure that this misunderstanding doesn't happen again. Don't get side-tracked with this though, Almasy. I want you on task."
Without a second's warning the line went dead.
"Dick," Seifer muttered under his breath.
"Well?" Raijin prodded from the front seat.
"Said he'd sort it out."
He threw the phone down onto the dashboard, still fuming at the abrupt manner in which he'd been brushed aside.
Seifer smirked, looking in the rear-view mirror at his partner. "I think the Sewer Rats might be willing to confirm what they were hiding away in the back of the club. With the right incentive, of course."
I am so, so sorry for the long wait. I fail on so many levels, but I hope the length goes some ways to making up for that. I'd say that now I've only got the epilogue of FoM left to do, that the updates will be quicker, unfortunately I've been dragged into the Sherlock fandom (which is amazing and you have to watch it if you haven't already) and so I've been caught up in writing for that and a Doctor Who crossover. But I will try to get the next chapter up a hell of a lot quicker.
Oh, and before I forget, the G.H.C.S. is based on a system from an episode of Star Trek Voyager which I shamelessly borrowed for this fic.
(Ed: Although j-merc just took the blame for the long wait, it's my fault more than anything. I've been busy as hell and beta-ing went straight out the window a month or three back, which is blatantly inexcusable. My apologies both to the author and to you, the readers, for the horrible wait.