Meanwhile, in the kingdom of Midgard – in the city Budgardr – it was a dark and stormy night. Thunder applauded in the sky, and lightning shone in blue. Rain fell in masses, soaking anyone who dared to enter the world outside their homes, and the wind hit one’s face with the force of a whiplash. One would think nature had told humanity to stay at home and not dare to interact with it.
Gerard Donnerschlag entered the St. Olaf Hospital. He dusted off his shoulders with his hands and cracked his neck.
What amazing weather they had today. A dark and stormy night, huh? If he ever decided to write a book, he should start with this sentence. It would make for a great beginning.
With a big grin, he looked around and walked towards the desk of the head nurse. Nurses rushed through the halls from one point to another. Despite the commotion, they all avoided crashing into him and skirted around him like dancers. Shouts, orders, screams, and insults scattered across the hospital and created a cacophony of noises that dominated the scene.
“We need a sample.”; “Where is Doctor Dorian?”; “Don’t you know who I am?”; “You will hear from my lawyer.” “Time of death…”; “It’s not Lupus.”; “You incompetent idiot.” “Do you want to kill this man?”; “Where is the clipboard?”; “Please stop yelling.”
Gerard rang the bell on the head nurse’s desk. She didn’t look away from the screen of her tablet.
Did she not hear him?
“Please don’t press again, Mr. Donnerschlag,” said the nurse without taking her eyes from the screen. “I don’t want to buy a new bell.”
“How often do I have to say, I'm sorry?” Gerard removed his hand from the bell. “I bought you a new one.”
“Until you control that strength of yours.” The nurse picked up her pager. “Carla, we have a code brown in room 404. Take Glen with you, please.” She put her pager down and swiped over a tablet. “You’re an influencer, Mr. Donnerschlag. Children look up to you, and they copy you. No one wants a bunch of vandalizing brats running around.”
Gerard laughed sheepishly and scratched his head. Yeah, it was better if this bell didn’t end up like the one before it. An enemy from Vaix had once poisoned Marcus, and he had brought him flowers. He was lucky that no one else had seen him crash the bell. The people loved him. They followed him and his advice, especially children. If they saw him eating vegetables, they would start eating vegetables, and if his fans saw him destroying other people’s property, they would think vandalizing was cool. The world watched him. As a Valkyrie, he had a responsibility to be a good role model.
“Tell that to the power plant.” The nurse looked up from her tablet. “How are you anyway, Mr. Donnerschlag?”
She smiled. Her face had lost all its color, and eye bags ate into it. Blood vessels extended from her irises, and traces of makeup were scattered around her face. Her hair, she had bound into a bun. Spots of grey turned it into a patchwork of ash and hazel. She pushed the bangs from her hair away.
“You look…horrible, Miss Barton,” said Gerard. “How long have you been working?”
“No woman wants to hear she is not beautiful.” Miss Barton chuckled. “It’s my 34th hour.”
“That wouldn’t be nice.” Gerard’s smile shrunk. “Your situation is bad. I don’t want to act like everything’s good.”
“Please, this is a Thursday for us.”
“Today is Thursday.”
“It…is…?” Miss Barton looked at him surprised. Her eyes shifted to her tablet. “It…is.”
Healthcare never slept, it seemed. 36 hours a day and eight days a week. How did they manage to work under these conditions? One day he would ask how they could keep going.
“You need to sleep.” Gerard’s smile had disappeared. “I will cover your salary. Just go to bed.”
Miss Barton chuckled again, but the expression in her face had shifted, as if he had said that if everyone would just stop being xenophobic, everyone would like each other. “You think I became a nurse because I care about the 13 Wert an hour? If I wanted to earn more, I would have learned to kill humans.”
Gerard grimaced. She had said the truth. Once one entered the military and rose beyond the rank of Soldier, they had a good life. That was even more true for the Valkyries. Why did they earn so much? Why did Midgard value his ability to kill enemies more than Miss Barton’s to save its citizens?
“If I go to bed, we have one less person here. We are understaffed as it is.”
“Maybe I can help?” Gerard asked.
“Gerard Donnerschlag in scrubs, I would like to see that.” Miss Barton chuckled again and flicked his head. “Are you stupid? You would do more harm than good.”
“Au.” Gerard rubbed his forehead.
Miss Barton sighed. “Sorry, I’m a bit exhausted. We can barely sustain the system as it is. I don’t want to imagine what’ll happen if it comes to an actual war between Vaix and Midgard.”
“It’s bad,” said Gerard. ”If we don’t resolve this soon, we have to declare war.”
“The entire health care system would collapse.”
A loud bump sounded from the floor. Gerard and Miss Barton turned around. Two nurses stood frozen next to the desk, and their clipboards laid on the floor. But they paid no attention to that, their faces stared in Gerard and Miss Barton’s direction, yet they were sunken into their skulls, focusing far away into an unknown distance. Memories of his comrades when he was a soldier 3rd rank flashed before Gerard's eyes, how the gruelling missions snipped all their hope and happiness until it felt like they were empty. The Einherjar were not Midgard’s only warriors. Countless battlefields existed in Midgard, and warriors fought a war every day. But how many paid attention to their war? Why was it like that? Didn’t the Einherjar exist to keep everyone else from fighting? What could he do to help them?
This topic was too complex for him. If he would dedicate his life to the healthcare issue of their kingdom, maybe he could find a solution. But protecting Midgard from enemies took most of his time. He was a Captain, and the citizens of Midgard called him a hero. That meant he had a successful career that consisted of defeating enemies and saving people. But that’s all a hero could do. A hero responded to threats. Neither could he prevent them, nor could he solve them. And for a hero to exist, problems had to exist as well.
“Don’t worry.” Gerard picked up the clipboards from the ground and handed them over to the nurses. “As long as I am around, I will do my best to protect you all. Preventing a war is part of my job.”
“Can you do that?” one of them asked.
Gerard grinned and pointed at himself. “Of course. I’m a hero after all.”
The nurses smiled and left.
“You’ve become better at lying,” Miss Barton said once they had been out of ear range.
Every hero had to deal with the fact that no one would need them or that they wouldn’t exist if everything was okay, but he made it worse. A war would make everything in Midgard collapse. And what did he suggest? To just declare war with Vaix. Did he think about the consequences of his actions? Of course not. He never did. Most of the time, it ended well for him, but the day would come where he did something so stupid that everyone would suffer for his stupidity.
“It doesn’t matter if we can’t do anything. We are heroes, and we will try to accomplish any task anyway,” Gerard said. "How is he?"
Miss Barton looked at her tablet. "She had requested no visitors, but I think we can make an exception for you.”
So, Rory had changed genders again. Or was it sex? He could never tell when it was one or the other with Rory. Not that he would ever fault his little sister for deciding who she was. But keeping up was getting increasingly difficult. Rory’s attitude or that the switches increased in frequency didn’t help either.
Was there a reason for her behavior? Was Rory unhappy with who she was? Did she feel an emptiness in her life? If he only knew. Maybe he could help her. But what would happen if he asked her for help? Did Rory even have any issues? Maybe there was nothing wrong with her? She was happy with her life, at least regarding her sex and gender. Was he the wrong one? Did he see the world in the wrong way? Did he have to change?
But no matter how much he read, the topic remained complex. Right now, if Rory needed his help, he would be there for her. But what about the future? The less he understood her, the more they grew further apart. With each passing day, the distance between them grew. Would the time come when she needed his help, tried to reach out to him, he wouldn’t be able to hear her? He was her brother, the one who had to understand her the best. If even family couldn’t support you, on whom could you count? If he was unable to help Rory, then he had to change.
Miss Barton stood up from her desk. “Please come with me. Vice-captain Skyfrost recovered pretty fast, especially thanks to the Fylgja of the head surgeon, but…” She let out a heavy sigh. “If I’m honest, she’s a pretty unpleasant patient.”
Oh boy. What did Rory do this time? As much as he loved her, it was undeniable that she had a temper. He had lost count how many times he had tried to make her behave. For some reason, Rory liked having him clean up her messes. Was that what they called sibling rivalry?
“I know Rory is difficult. But she is still a Valkyrie of Midgard, and she is my sister,” said Gerard. “So please have some understanding for her.”
“How dare you give me this crap! I demand real food!” From the next station, they heard a loud voice, and from the same room, two nurses escaped, screaming in terror. They ran and ducked behind the one thing that seemed to withstand the horror that awaited them there: Gerard’s body. Miss Barton looked at him with a deadpan face.
“That could be anyone”, Gerard said. “There are probably many female patients with an ego.”
Please don’t be Rory. Please don’t be Rory. Please don’t be Rory.
“Don’t you know who I am?” the female voice shouted. “I’m Vice-captain Rory Skyfrost. So, show me some respect, and give me some real food.”
Miss Barton still looked at him, and Gerard hawked, and immediately, he retracted his previous statement. “She’s adopted.”