(Author's Note:) I'd always suspected the Medic was based on the many infamous mad doctors from Germany during WW2, and after learning of the game's time period, it only confirmed it for me. I guess you could call this somewhat of a "head cannon" to the Medic's backstory.
The Hippocratic Oath states: "First, do no harm." That's the solemn vow every medical practitioner must make. It's a promise to retain the health of the people, to preserve their life and not cause any additional harm of your own. It's an oath I have taken, and it's the oath I live by; just as my father did before me. I was no more than a young boy when I took that oath, and I will forever remember the day my father did the honor of initiating me into the world of medicine.
My father was rarely at home when I was young. Practically from the moment of my birth, he was gone on long trips of business for months on end. I only saw him on the holidays, or the sparse few weeks he would return to our cottage outside of Stuttgart to be with us. My mother explained very early on that I should be proud of my father's absence, because the reason for it was his respected position as a surgeon; travelling to various cites all across Germany and Austria to heal people who needed him.
Due to this, I would eagerly await my father's return so I could ask him about all the places he had visited and the people he had saved. I don't know why I did in retrospect, because he never answered any of my questions. All he would do when I asked him about his travels was pat my head and hand me a gift he had bought me from where he had been. Despite this, I kept asking. When time after time yielded no results, I changed my inquiries from questions about his travels, to requests to join him on his travels. I wanted to see these places myself if he wouldn't tell me himself.
The first time I asked him, I was met with a harsh rejection. He told me I was too young to go anywhere but school, and then left the next morning. Still, I never stopped asking. For years I persisted, hoping that one day I would finally get my chance to travel alongside my father, the respected surgeon. After each attempt was met with denial, I began to wonder if the reason behind it was that my father saw me as unworthy to go with him. I began thinking that I needed to prove myself to him; to show him I shared his interest in medicine and deserved to follow him around the country.
Soon, I began my experimentation with bandages. I would sneak as much gauze as I could out of my home, and every time a fellow youth at school stumbled and fell, I would be there in an instant to practice tying the bandages around their wounds. When the schoolmasters caught me doing this, they forbade me from doing it again. Being an only child, I had nothing else to practice on from that point forward…except myself. When my mother was asleep at night, I would creep down to the kitchen and cut my arms and legs with as many different knifes as I could. Then, before the bleeding got too bad, I would bandage myself up and go to bed. I wear those scars like a badge of honor.
Well, after mastering the art of the tunicate, the next logical lesson was the administration of drugs. Afraid of being caught with pain killers at school, I used myself exclusively as my own test subject. I got into our medicine shelf and wrote down every drug combination I could concoct, as well as the various…effects they had on the human body. Although my mother never found out about my bandage practice until after it was completed, she found out about my medicine practice before I had mastered it. One night I made the mistake of swallowing a mixture of caffeine pills and a shot of the vodka my mother hid in her closet. I woke up in an infirmary with my distraught mother standing over me. That's how I learned never to mix a stimulant with a depressant.
My lessons in medicine completed (mostly because my mother said they were), I moved on to what I had been building up to all this time: surgery. I kept this process a complete secret; working only at night so no prying eyes could see me in the alleyways between the cottages, picking through the trash to find the decaying remains of rats. I studied their anatomy, picking them apart with tweezers to see how every piece of tissue connected to each other. I kept detailed notes on everything I saw, until I had a rounded knowledge on how their bodies worked when alive.
When I was ready, I set traps between the cottages to catch my first patients. I was sure to catch no more than one rat a night, lest my supply run dry. Once I had each rat in its cage, squeaking and squirming, I would feed it food laced with vodka to make them woozy. Then, the operations would begin. I practiced the amputation of limbs, as well as the re-attachment of said limbs. The incisions were crude, as all I had to operate with was a carving knife, but over time my skills with it did improve. My hand became steadier, and (after several initial failures) learned how to cauterize wounds.
This process took the longest, but after a while the simple act of re-attaching a limb to its designated place became incredibly dull. Curiosity taking over, I made it my final lesson to master the difficult task of re-assigning body parts to various parts of the body. This study saw the most casualties, but my patients were eventually gifted with backwards feet, mismatched legs, and transplanted organs. I had done it, my training in medicine was complete.
When my father returned home a few weeks later, I told him everything I had been up to and showed him my rearranged rats as proof of it all. My mother was absolutely mortified, but my father was grinning the widest I'd ever seen him grin. He looked at me, so swollen with pride, I thought he would burst. He praised me lavishly for learning to do so many things on my own, and bragged to my mother that I had inherited his skills as a doctor. It was then that it finally happened, the moment I had been waiting so many years for: I was asked if I wished to accompany him on his next trip.
The next couple of weeks were the most agonizing I've ever known, waiting with baited breath for the day my father would be called out for his next job. Knowing my father's work schedule, that day wasn't too far away. Before long, the phone call came that my father was to depart, and permission was granted for me to accompany him (much to my overwhelming delight). On the day of departure, I kissed my mother goodbye and followed my father to his car. It was a long and tedious trip, but I was too excited to care. It wasn't until about halfway through the first day of the journey that my excitement waned some, making me realize I had no idea where my father and I were headed. When I asked him, my father chuckled and simply responded that we were going to Poland, where I was to watch him work on some very important patients. I felt my excitement grow once more.
I slept throughout the majority of that three-day drive, so please don't ask me to recall any unnecessary details from it. Nothing of any particular interest happened until my father pulled up alongside an enormous brown structure and told me to get out of the car. My muscles were stiff and my joints creaked from being seated for so long; and as I tumbled rigidly out of the passenger seat, I was taken aback at just how unnerving the atmosphere surrounding me was. It was the middle of February, but even for the wintertime it was unearthly quiet. We walked silently alongside a chain-link fence that seemed to run on forever around the perimeter of the building. Had I not been so small, I would've seen the barbed wire snaking around the top of the fence in a menacing coil. Although I didn't notice it at first, the more I walked through the stillness of the icy air, the more I got the uncanny sensation that I was being watched by thousands of unseen eyes.
I asked my father if we were at the right place, walking a little bit closer to his swishing overcoat. He ruffled my hair and assured me that we were, but I was still a bit weary. My father was a surgeon, but this place didn't look like any medical center I'd ever seen. It looked more like…some kind of prison. Is this where my father's so-called "important patients" were? I began to fear the worst.
My father led me to a small wooden door on the westernmost side of the building, not far from where we parked the car. He pulled a ring of keys from his coat pocket and began flipping through them, before inserting a small, silver key into the lock. Before he undid the latch, my father turned to me and gave me a long, silent look. I was unsure of the purpose behind such a serious glare, and when I asked him if I had done something wrong…he put his hand on my shoulder and asked me if I was sure I wanted to follow him inside.
I nodded my head as fast as I could, adamant that I indeed wanted to go inside; more than anything, in fact. I'm fairly certain that to this day I've never wanted anything quite as badly as I wanted to watch my father work at that moment. My father smiled and slapped me on the back, stating that he was proud of me for wanting to follow in his footsteps. The lock turned and the door swung open with the winter winds. As he ushered me inside, my father gave the foreboding reassurance that no matter what happened inside, that I would be safe.
As the door slammed shut behind me, I found myself in a fog of bodily odors. I gagged and covered my nose with my scarf to filter the ungodly stench, but my father unwrapped it from my neck and told me to take a deep breath; he said it would help me get used to the foul air faster. I obeyed him. I almost lost my last meal, but after a few good breaths the pungent room began to mellow.
While I was becoming accustomed to my father's workplace, he hung our scarfs and coats on the door. When I was ready, he nudged me down a long corridor; where a pair of large double doors waited for us on the other side. The bodily smells grew stronger and stronger the closer we approached, and it took all I had in me to keep from fainting. Above the cast iron doors, beautifully welded into their framework, were thick, black letters spelling out: "Forschung". Research.
My father took hold of the door handles and cheerfully asked me if I was ready, to which I answered yes; but, as the doors were flung open and everything was laid out before me…I was not ready for what I saw. Not in the slightest. The stench was eye watering. A large drain in the center of the floor was centerpiece to the carnage I suddenly found myself surrounded by. Inhuman moans came from behind pink-stained curtains servicing as rooms. My shoes stuck to the floor from the thin layer of blood that remained even after how much my father said they cleaned it. As I stood there and took it all in, I watched as a fresh, steaming flow of blood leaked from under a curtain. It slithered like a snake across the floor with such transfixing elegance that I found myself unable to look away until it found its way to the drain and began to disappear.
My father grabbed me from my stupor with a gentle pat on the back. I gawked up at him, him and his big grin. He shushed and told me not to make too much noise, as his colleagues were busy with their "studies". I complained that my shoes were sticky, and so my father picked me up as best he could and carried me to the largest makeshift room. The curtain that I presumed was his was the one most colored pink. My father sat me down and excitedly threw back the curtain, eager to show me his work…the work I had been waiting to witness for years.
A pale, skinny man was laying strapped to a gurney behind my father's curtain. I remember him clear as day; his hands restrained by a tie cable above his head, his ankles knotted together in the opposite direction. His eyes were glassy and clouded, and his beard was messy and untrimmed. I took a step back, instinctually expressing my surprise. I will forever remember what my father said to me after that. Every word…as if I had just heard them today:
"Have you heard of the Hippocratic Oath, my boy?"
I shook my head, and Father beckoned me to come closer. I obeyed, not taking my eyes of the skeletal figure on the gurney. My father turned to a glass cabinet against the wall, and from it removed a box filled with an entire arsenal of scalpels, needles, picks, and every other surgical tool you could possibly imagine. I thought to myself how much I could've used tools like that with my playtime with the rats. I watched my father as he picked up each individual instrument, inspecting it obsessively in his hands before putting it back. I patiently waited as he finally selected the perfect scalpel and turned back to me with it fitted flawlessly in his fingers.
"It's an oath every doctor must make." He continued, although it had been at least ten minutes since he asked me to begin with. "It states: First, do no harm. That's the most important rule there is in medicine, boy. The sooner you understand that, the better."
I watched intensely as my father turned to the man, scalpel in hand. The man opened his mouth, lips trembling as if to cry out, but no sound came from them. Holding down the man's head with his free hand, my father pressed the tip of the blade into the man's skin as delicate and steady as an artist's brush. The man grunted and tried to squirm, but his restraints and my father held him firmly in place. My father made a small incision on the man's stomach, slicing off a small sample of skin which he then proceeded to fold into a white piece of gauze.
"I've been under it for many years, since before you were born." My father wiped the blade on his shirt before holding his patient down for another sample, this time from the bottom of the foot. "But, my boy, only recently has its true meaning been revealed to me."
I nodded, still fascinated by my father's gracefully tracing blade.
"You see, son, you may be too young to understand…but dark times are upon our people."
With amazing precision, my father removed the entire sole of the man's right foot, completely intact. Into a piece of gauze it went. My father put down the scalpel and removed a large, empty syringe from the box.
"There are certain…individuals…" I jumped as my father stabbed the needle viciously into the man's stomach. The man screeched like a strangled owl as the syringe filled with a slightly greenish fluid. "…that are threatening to taint everything we stand for."
My father slowly pulled the needle from his patient with a wet, squishing sound. He examined the contents of the patient's stomach, before injecting it into a glass vial.
"Do no harm." He muttered, almost to himself. "That means a doctor must retain the health of his people. He must preserve their lives without causing any additional harm of his own." He turned to me. "For years, son. For years I thought that only applied to the practice of medicine…but now, I realize there's so much more to it all!"
My father grabbed a hacksaw off the wall and slowly approached his patient, a light in his eyes. The man trashed about, screaming the most inhuman sounds I've ever heard. My father placed the jagged teeth against the struggling man's bare chest, not even bothering himself to hold him down, and began sawing into him with every ounce of force he could muster. The grinding of the saw against his sternum resonated off the walls like a choir of angels…it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen.
Until right then and there, all I had ever seen were the organs of rats. Small things, much too tiny to hold in the palm of one's hand; but when the man's ribcage opened up, I saw it. Pulsating, blue and red in color, with purple veins encircling it like a halo. The heart. I stepped forward and leaned over the man as my father continued to saw away his muscles. Suddenly the thought of my rats was no longer enough for me. I wanted what my father had; the real thing. I wanted to hold a live human organ in my own hands.
My father stopped sawing after a cordial spray of blood hit him in the eye. He set down the saw, wiped his face on his sleeve, and began searching for his next toy. "Our people," He continued. "Need us. We are the only ones who can save them from destruction. We're the ones who must take the deluded and make it pure again! That's what the oath swears us under: to preserve, to protect, gutes tun."
Gutes tun. In my home language, it means "to do good". My father rummaged through the box, but I wasn't paying attention to anything more than his voice. That…and the pumping organ sitting in the open cavity of ribs and shredded muscle not a foot away from me. I glanced at the man's pasty face; his eyes were beginning to water, and his mouth was wide open as if in a silent scream. What's more, his eyes were locked on me in an unblinking stare.
I grinned, filled with the rush of a sensation I hadn't felt before. Rats could never emote, they could only squeal and squirm when you cut into them. However, this man…the look of indescribable agony molded effortlessly into the lines of his sunken face…it was euphoric. It was acknowledgement of my father's deeds in the most rewarding way possible: letting the world know the procedure was working. My eyes traveled back down to his open chest, the severed veins, the heart. I grinned as wide as my father. I wanted to share in the reward too. I wanted to participate in the procedure.
I outspread my fingers and prodded the beating organ with my hand. The man shrieked and twisted at my touch. I felt the rush, the need to cause pain, so I poked the heart again. Another shrill cry from my first human patient. All the noise caused my father to turn back to us. When I looked up at him, I saw that he was holding a fresh scalpel. He smiled proudly.
"It's up to us, son." He said, bending down and offering me the scalpel. "You and I need to help our people become pure again. Gutes tun, my boy."
I gasped in happiness and snatched the knife from my father's hand. Standing tip-toe, I hovered over my father's patient. I turned to show off my grin to the man's face, just to watch as the pulsating heart began to pound faster and harder. Perfect.
I enclosed the heart in my hand, applying slight pressure to all sides as I effortlessly nicked the scalpel through one of the arteries. I finally understood as I saw the cavity rapidly begin to fill with crimson liquid. This man, whoever the hell he was, was one of the individuals my father was talking about. He was oppressing my people, my country, my family with his presence…and it was my father's duty to eradicate the threat. Now, he watched contently as I swiftly began ending this impure entity's life…as I, too, took the Hippocratic Oath.
Skimming the edges of the heart with my instrument, I severed all vital connections to the body with an impressive arterial spray. I savored the distinct taste of iron on my tongue. The limp, jellylike organ twitched erratically in my bare hands as I cupped it proudly to display it to my father. He applauded me softly, kneeling down to wrap his arms around me in a tight embrace, sponging the organ's remaining fluids onto both of our chests. It was one of the most memorable moments we ever shared together.
My father took both the dead, deflated organ and the scalpel from my hands. As he stood, I saw him stop and inspect the limp body of my patient. The man's chest was flooded with red, some of it spilling out over the sides. He was clearly dead. I watched as my father plopped the organ back in its place, splashing some of the blood onto me by accident. It bobbed at the surface like a dingy off the coast.
Before my father rang the bell to have the body taken away, I saw him lift the dead man's hand and perfectly carve out two interlocking triangles onto the back of it. I'd never seen this symbol before…but it almost looked like some kind of star.
That was the day I took the Oath for myself, and I swear on my life that I have never strayed from it. I devoted my life to purifying my culture from that day on. I went on to medical school, learning many new forms of surgery in the process. So many new body parts became known to me, and I developed a keen interest in bones. No wonder the emaciated, skeletal body of the man had intrigued me so much. I wanted to obtain a skeleton for myself once I moved away from home…but a full human skeletal system is far more expensive that it should be. I tried to craft my own, but…it didn't turn out so well. Apparently, removing a living patient's entire skeleton is frowned upon at hospitals. That's how I lost my medical license.
I went into hiding after that. No one else can understand the oath I have taken. My father was a genius, he saw the truth that no one else was able to see. He was arrested at the end of the war, after the building he worked in was shut down by the ignorant American governments. I've never seen him since.
Three years ago, however, I too was sent to the U.S.A. Not for an arrest, however, but for a job offer. I was needed to participate in a war, just as my father had done…and as a medic, no less. Every day, I'm paid to carry out my Oath: eliminating those less worthy than the rest of us, while retaining the health of my comrades. Wherever my father is, I'm sure he would be proud of me to know I've taken his place. Preserving, protecting, gutes zu tun.
Medic isn't a Nazi (at least that much was confirmed by Valve), so I've always figured he had no sense of superiority. At least, not racial superiority.
I've got two questions:
1) Why keep "gutes tun" in German? Since I'm assuming the entire dialogue is in German, having that bit there kind of breaks immersion.
2) Where's a little bit of Black Humor and Mood Whiplash to balance the starkness of the narrative? That's something I believe should be present in every Team Fortress 2 'fic regardless of topic or tone. Additionally, Valve said Medic isn't a Nazi precisely (despite his admittedly rather Nazi-like trappings) because they couldn't figure out how to make that funny--so if that's going to be the headcanon of your Medic, I think it behooves you to find a way to succeed where Valve failed.