Aesculapian Order

Overview

The mind has long been considered a powerful force for healing, but hard evidence has eluded those who have sought it. Almost 15 years ago, the proxies provided proof enough for even the most hardened skeptic. We psions triggered by the Æsculapian Order usethe power of the mind to cure illnesses, to mend broken bones and to perform medical wonders that were previously believed the province of wizards, saints and miracle-workers.

Yet despite such amazing skills, Æsculapians are about as far removed from metaphysical mumbo jumbo as one can get. In fact, the docs I’ve worked with view their own abilities and potential with a cold, scientific eye. Point out to a vitakinetic the similarity between her techniques and the medieval “laying of hands” and you’re likely to get a half-hour lecture about the perils of confusing religious quackery with the hard science of vitakinesis. Or you just might get a halfhour rant about how you’re exactly right.

Brief History

Dr. Matthieu Zweidler, MD, fathered the Æsculapian Order. Zweidler was one of the world’s finest neurosurgeons and was the head of the Montressor Clinic, an elite private hospital located in a converted monastery outside of Basel, Switzerland. After his transformation into one of the original eight proxies, Zweidler used both his clinic and a network of affiliated hospitals, former employees and contacts to lay the groundwork for what would become the Æsculapian Order — or the A/O, as it’s come to be called in less formal circumstances. Within a few months, Zweidler began a quiet process of identification, recruitment and triggering of vitakinetics. Thanks to Zweidler’s careful planning, the docs were already up and running when the proxies revealed themselves to the world. Those first-generation viks disguised their powers for at least three years; they were established physicians, known and accepted by the normal doctors and nurses whom they worked with. The first docs built a reputation as selfless, fearless angels of mercy.

Organization

Today, vitakinetic clinics are located everywhere from Earth to the extrasolar colonies. The media is full of stories of heroic rexs who brave the dangers of catastrophes, epidemics and battlefields to treat the sick and injured. Indeed, as the order expands it absorbs, duplicates or simply makes obsolete many existing medical-relief organizations. Even the venerable International Red Cross has been almost subsumed by Æsculapians. It makes sense — viks are better equipped to handle emergencies. At least, that’s what the Æsculapian press packets say. The order has a top-down structure with a few key departments, outlined briefly below.

ADMINISTRATION

Director: Pierce Monahan
This department handles the legal, financial and general administrative aspects of A/O.

CLINIC NETWORK

Director: Dr. Gemma Fiosi
Individual clinics operate independently on the day to day, but all matters of policy and procedure — from dispensing medication to testing and recruiting latents — are coordinated through this department.

ORGAN BANK

Director: Dr. Ronald Stoltzfus
Based in the Montressor Clinic, this department coordinates efforts to provide and/or manufacture organs needed throughout settled space.

RESEARCH

Director: Dr. Karen Dietrich
This department pursues scientific research — whether new surgical techniques, new drugs, or means of diagnosing, treating and curing disease.

SPECIAL PROJECTS

Director: Delemont
This “catch-all” department handles those affairs that do not fall automatically under the purview of another department. Beyond that, little is known of Special Projects, or of its director.

Geography

“Seasoned with Basel” has become slang among the docs’ field ops for describing idiotic policies that come straight from the top. Dr. Zweidler and his peers from the pre-proxy days dominate the Basel operation, but field healers now come increasingly from non-Western backgrounds.

Zweidler insists on strict documentation of all manifestations and uses of vitakinesis. The strongest adherents to the order’s cult of scientific rationality are based in Basel. The clinic is the docs’ administrative center, training facility and noetic research lab. The Montressor Clinic also maintains a massive organ bank, with satellite facilities at other major clinics. The banks’ director, Roland Stoltzfus, claims that his people can rush an organ to anywhere in-system in less than 24 hours. Much of the order’s power is concentrated in Basel. That’s why the clinic is guarded heavily by both psions and armed human agents. Ironically, these security forces seem to spend much of their time controlling the hordes of sick and infirm who drag themselves to Zweidler’s doorstep in search of cures.

Beyond the order’s hundreds of small clinics, posts and managed-care facilities, there are major A/O clinics in Olympus, Minnesota, Addis Ababa and Haiti. The Haitian city of Port-au-Prince is home to the “loyal opposition” to Zweidler’s technocratic cadre. Shaman, faith healers, acupuncturists — docs with different ways of perceiving vitakinesis — congregate there, an ocean and a world view away from the order’s often stifling administrators.

While Zweidler’s rational soul loathes these docs’ spiritual views, he still recruits powerful latents on principle, regardless of their beliefs. If Zweidler can’t work with someone after the transformation, he simply ships her out. Zweidler is touchy about how closely his special talent mimics the effects of folklore and legend, and can’t bear reminders of that “stigma.” Æsculapian clinics follow one of the two established paradigms of Switzerland or Haiti, depending on where a clinic director did her internship. There’s a friendly — and sometimes not-so-friendly — rivalry as to which group is “right.” Still, a doc can move from one clinic to another with a minimum of culture shock.

Training

Latents with the potential for vitakinesis are common, but Zweidler is particular about those he allows to undergo the Prometheus Effect. Simply registering latency isn’t enough. Still, there have been quite a few docs over the years. I’ve heard that the Æsculapian is the third largest order after the Legions and Orgotek. There may be as many as 10,000 viks running around.

Each rex performs an internship of three to five years at one of the main clinics after being triggered. Upon graduation, the psion is considered a licensed medical technician. Membership in the order after this point isn’t mandatory, but is expected, and the benefits that Zweidler provides are so attractive that almost no one ever leaves. A/O clinics, no matter their locale or setup, follow a Basel organizational model. The paperwork and chain of command are the same in every clinic from Europe to Europa. The chief of staff (essentially, the ranking psion) manages the clinic, while neuts fill key administrative roles. The smallest clinics may have only a single doc, while the largest maintain as many as 100 fully trained viks at any time.

No matter their size, most clinics also have full medical staffs of neutral doctors, nurses and technicians who outnumber the psions whom they work with. The latter are the “superstars” — and I’ve known a few who have vid-star attitudes — but no one can argue with their results. Psions fresh out of internships are attached to existing clinics, unless specially directed to research programs or the military. Only the largest clinics have the facilities to maintain more than a couple of trainees at a time.