time will now be the chopping block.

In most cases, except those where he trusted the supplier he was purchasing from, acquisition of supplies was completed by hired help—mercenaries and trusted contacts within Lowtown that wouldn’t think twice about sacrificing the payday, whether it was financial in nature or free medical services, to be received from a successful delivery. There was less of a chance that something could go wrong, less of a chance that hired muscle would be robbed or threatened or something worse, and if something did happen, Kang could breathe easy knowing they had their own ways and means of stopping what would be a considerable hit to a clinic that ran on a careful cycling of funds and inexpensive, but still quality, supplies.

There were moments, however, where even the good doctor felt the need to take matters into his own hands, even as considerably dangerous it could be even for a well-known and beneficial member of the Lowtown community with some questionable connections for the sake of establishment security. They kept his practice safe, his supply lines intact, his operation running, and though he wouldn’t go so far to say he trusted them, when he spoke of something that piqued his curiosity, he listened. After all, it was those same questionable connections that had a sharper ear to the ground of the happenings of Lowtown, out on the streets rather than willingly pent up in a medical office for most hours of the day, and were able to gain some entrance into dealings that Kang surely wouldn’t have been able to with his Arcadian education, Alliance decorum, and legitimate business practices.

It hadn’t taken much convincing—it he was going to make a financial investment in a new and rather questionable source of not only regular medical supplies, but biological organs, he was going to see them himself and not put it in the hands of someone who couldn’t tell a bad liver from a good liver even if it would save his life. Where his connections had the invitation, Kang had the expertise, and neither had to be particularly concerned about the ulterior motive ticking away at his brain like a clock even as he passed through the alleys of Lowtown. He was no less proper in dress as usual, casual in rolled up sleeves with enough weight in the company he carried to keep people from making the assumption he was someone lost from the rich pinnacle of Nova Heights and ripe for swindling, robbing or otherwise troubling with what were, to Kang in that moment, trivial matters.

He had lost a patient.

He had lost a patient because someone had illegally removed her organs.

And now, he had a lead.

While he had no trouble believing that Terminus Security would do what they could to make sure that they were on the trail, tracking down whoever was responsible for such an atrocity, it wasn’t like Terminus Security could just stroll into such an establishment without being picked out immediately. It didn’t matter if they were in uniforms or not—security officers, at least the ones that weren’t already familiar sentries in the lower deck, were sore thumbs even compared to a surgeon’s cleanliness. It was a benefit to all in Kang’s mind: He would possibly find the missing organs of his patient, currently on ice while the clinic staff attempted to find her next of kin or surviving relatives, and make her whole in a sense, and Terminus Security would possibly have more intelligence from a trusted source they could act upon without bringing down harm on themselves or losing the lead entirely.

“This is the place,” one of his bodyguards—not his only purpose, but he was certainly added muscle in this situation—commented, breaking Kang out of his train of thought and straightforward gaze, dark eyes turning to the nondescript space, small and essentially a hole in the wall for what he assumed were dealings just like this, privatized in the best way it could be against the eyes of Terminus Security. All it had taken was a pat down and removal of his firearm—a test to his anxiety if there ever was one when he kept it on his person more often than not—to be allowed entry, everything else covered by his “trusted” company—the request orders that matched the missing organs of his patient, the buttering up and persuading of such people to allow him entry as a potentially new client, and even now, reassurances that Kang wasn’t just some police officer there to ruin their fun.

In a way, he was, but in many ways, he wasn’t, remaining quiet, but observant as he entertained all the small talk and sales pitches that the supplier had for him. He wasn’t foolish to believe this was the actual mastermind behind what was going on, probably some scapegoat just in case Terminus Security did catch on to their operation, and as such, Kang had no problem with pushing his weight.

“I won’t make a purchase until I see the wares,” Kang said flatly, cutting him off mid-rambling with a slow deadpan to take in the features of his face and whatever nuances might have been there, a trained eye on some of the smaller twitches of nervousness and uncertainty, even a more obvious flick of his eyes over to the security that waited in the wings—not for Kang, but for the safety of their operation, armed and ready to shoot down Kang at any minute.

“I’m sure you understand the importance of such a request,” he pointed out. “Great medical discoveries can be found by using the right specimen for experimentation, and I am not going to shut down years of work because someone decided to sell me a poorly functioning liver.”

Right, the “mad scientist” approach, similar to the theories he had entertained in his discussion with Officer Hygrace when the potential scope of the organ theft had only just occurred and such a finding as an illegal supplier hadn’t been established. All it took was some additional medical jargon for him to be brushed off, the supplier moving over to a portable freezer that he had used to transport the so-called wares in the exact count that Kang’s connection had requested; and all it took was a pair of surgical gloves beyond that to get the organs into the range of his scanners, holding them up one by one, a new pair of gloves in between each, to test the weight and scrutinize whatever signs of damage there had been from their source’s potential life habits. By the time he had the last one, he had all the information he needed, snapping off the last pair of gloves and disposing of them in a waste bin nearby.

“One second, I need to discuss this with the financer for a moment,” he said, nodding over to his compliances as they headed over to the door for what was to be a conversation in private—at least to potentially prying eyes, using the size of his company to shield the omni-tool’s true nature as he compared the findings to those he had obtained from his patient. Perhaps there was a noticeable, but that could have just as well been the video screen as Kang continued to talk in a foreign tongue, circling around believable phrases for a one-sided conversation as a cover until the comparison had finalized.

It was her.

What a troubling, but appreciated, finding.

Wrapping up the “call” with a rather punctuated remark, he shut off the omni-tool an turned back towards the supplier, a rather unreadable look on his face as he considered what options he had—cut off the sale under the guise of a financer that didn’t want to pay the money they were requesting for the organs or purchase them, give them back to their rightful owner despite the fact they wouldn’t be of use again or, should the surviving family will it, donate them on her behalf.

It wasn’t a hard decision.

“The kidneys and the liver,” he said flatly as he nodded over to his compliance that had the credits necessary in tow in the event things had gone south on the way over. “You’ll find enough there to accommodate purchase of the organs in question and delivery to the attached address,” he explained, wrapping up the deal with little words more despite the almost comical and certainly fake sales-like excitement of the supplier. He didn’t have anything more to say and he certainly didn’t want to hear it when there was nothing more he would be able to do—not for his patient and not for the other unfortunate victims that he imagined met the same fate, perhaps even without the diligent work of a medical profession to try and save their lives. He took his leave as soon as he was able without looking like it was a quick retreat, turning to take his leave and retrieving his firearm on the way out which was soon to find it’s secure place on his hip.

Perhaps it wasn’t as whole as he would have liked, but it was far more than what his former patient had now.