The flight to the Med center was far less "eventful" than the last but did offer a stunning view of the central metroplex. Cleaner, brighter but no less packed than the sprawl and bordering territories. A hallmark of modern urban development. Holly set down the VTOL gently atop the one of the twin spires. "Well, that went much better."
Somehow the hospital seems less organized than the precinct station. Nurses, doctors and orderlies running about in mildly controlled chaos. Circe, Photon and crew were escorted to the intensive care section by a somewhat burly nurse, dark skinned with close cropped hair she had a hint of Central African somewhere in her makeup and it made her look all the tougher. "We can only allow two in a at time." she ordered, looking the group over with a skeptical eyes.
"Okay… Circe, who else do you want in there with you?" Photon asked.
"Well, I kind of HAVE to go in." Circe says, smiling a bit. "Who's coming with me?"
"Well once you sort it out, come to the nurse's station," the older woman grumped, turning on her heels and marching off with a stride that would make any marine proud.
"Dr. Martins, I guess you'd better come in with me, to monitor for anything unusual. This is a rather new approach for me, " Circe said, "so I would like to have someone to help me get out if necessary." She looked at the others and smiled. "If you hear any screams, come running."
"If Warp and I see the room first," Blink replied, "we can get in and out of there almost instantly. It certainly couldn't hurt." She looked pointedly at Dr. Martins, then smiled at her.
"I'll be back in the VTOL." Warp turned and headed back to their craft, seemingly like he couldn't get out of the hospital fast enough. The lift door opened onto a carful of replicant. Males, dressed in white surgical gear, they looked at Warp in unison, impassive faces betraying no emotion whatsoever. Warp waited for the replicants to exit the car before heading back up to the VTOL. He had to wait for the next car, which he took back up to the waiting plane.
The nurse looked up from her console at the two approaching women and sighed, "Follow me." Walking around the desk she started down the hall. "The patients vitals have been steady since arrival but nothing has had an impact on this comatose state. in fact, we can't identify what's causing it. His brain activity is high… but I can telecon you to the physicians for all that…" They stepped into an airlock like aperture, passing from relative cool of hall into warmth. The ICU ward was quiet, still as a tomb, the only sound the ghostly whoosh of respirators. It was white, strikingly white, a color that made the patient's pallor all the more striking. Leading them to the furthest unit, the nurse checked the connection, hrming deep in her throat.
Circe watched the nurse, then Dr. Martins. When the nurse was finished, she moved up next to the unconscious officer. What did this, I wonder? Guess we're going to find out… "Dr. Martins, is there anything you need to have before I begin?"
"Everything seems in place." Martins replied, checking over the equipment as well. She asked the nurse to cover the status monitors then nodded to Circe to proceed.
Circe stood for a moment, gazing down at the fallen officer. What did this to you? What keeps your mind from returning? Concentrating on this aspect, Circe probed for the images behind the fear, the fear which touched her like a bitter taste on the back of her tongue. She tried to bring forth the images of the source of the fear, brow knitted in concentration.
Fear was easy to find. That was almost all there was left in this mind. A horrid mortal terror that had washed away surface thoughts, even consciousness. Though dreamless, it even lingered in this coma, a sinking mire of terror that revolved around one image. A woman…or partly so but she was horribly distorted, beautiful face distorted by an animalistic maw, hair a mess of swirling tentacles. She stood impossibly tall, looking down at her/him, laughing. Circe could see bulges and…motion under the robes that cloaked her form and other things lurked in the shadows, slurping drooling unwholesome things that kept just out of the light. She'd seen this before… in her times as an empath and tried to stay calm. it was just impressions, hallucinations formed when conscious thought, powerful emotion and memory became intermingled in the mind. It wasn't a true image but what this man's tortured mind had come up with…
She fought to relax, and to help the mind do the same. To separate the emotion from the memory, if possible. She asked, "Dr. Martins? Have you ever seen or heard of anything like this?"
Looking over the monitors, Martins replied after a seconds pause, "Induced comas can have endless causes, drug interaction, mental and physical trauma… but this is different. His vital signs are steady, low but steady more like…" she trailed off and Circe wasn't sure if she'd been answering her question or thinking aloud. "I'm going to open a link with Dr. Morsham, this might be more in her area."
Circe turned her attention back to the officer, trying to peel away the layers of illusion and imagery and expose true memory. Then… she did. The effect was instant and gut wrenching. The hazy, twisted images swam into sharp focus revealing the horrible truth. They were real. Nothing had been altered, nothing added, in fact some of the impact had been dulled. For just an instant, the officer's gaze went beyond the "woman" standing over him to those things beyond. Circe's mental eye followed and… she screamed, recoiling in horror, snapping off the contact instantly, that brief glimpse leaving her mind shocked and reeling, her body trembling. Somehow she felt dirty, polluted in that instant of clear vision.
"Oh my god……" She cried……"What was that?" Circe jumped off the bed, wanting to be as far away from the thing as possible. Whatever it was, it might still be in there… she thought.
Reflexively the nurse moved to assist her, touching the empath on the shoulder. She jerked around, glaring in fear and rage, recoiling from her touch. She came up against the bed and nearly sprawled over the officer's body. His eyes were open, staring at Circe, pale blue and twinkling as if he was laughing at some private joke…
He sat up, jerking upright like puppet with the string suddenly pulled taunt and his jaw dropped open working as if he was trying to speak but no sound escaped.
"His signs are off the scales…" Martins muttered, fingers flying over the console, "trying to regulate." The nurse snapped out of her shock and started toward the officer's bedside.
Jumping back toward Dr. Martins, Circe put her hand on the pistol, and prepared to draw. "Circe to all." She said into the comlink. We've got a situation in here."
"I'm on my way," Photon replied.
Jaw falling slack, the officer turned on the approaching nurse, staring at her blankly, a thin line of drool seeping from his mouth, glistening. Something… shifted in the darkness of his mouth, Circe could just make it out, just notice it before it tore from his gaping mouth in a shower of blood and teeth, snapping at the nurse. She fell back screaming, hands clutching her face, fingers already soaked with blood. The bony tentacle snapped and whipped, slicing into cloth, flesh and bone, sending a crimson spray across those oh so white walls, cutting her to ribbons even as she fell.
Circe drew her weapon, firing at the… thing that used to be human. "Dr. Martins, get out of here!" she yelled, trying to keep herself between the woman and the thing that was tearing up the nurse.
"No!" Dr. Martins screamed.
The shots tore threw the cop, blasting chunks of bone and meat across the wall behind him. Jerking back, he fell to the bed, strings cut it seems. But that tendril still whipped and lashed from his mouth, straining to reach Circe… From somewhere inside, Circe could hear tearing, ripping, the sound of things detaching deep within the body as it jerked and shivered on the bed.
Circe pushed Dr. Martins back toward the door. "What is that thing?" she whispered. "Get the door open, Dr. Martins."
Blink felt a knot twist in her gut, nearly doubling her over. The string of tension pulled at her, dragging her toward the hospital room like an invisible tether.
"Oh gods…" Blink whispered. "What the hell's going on?" She followed the pull as best she could, trying to grit her teeth through the pain. It faded, but the sense of being pulled was still there… and quite urgent. Her teammates saw her double over and nearly fall after taking a couple of steps toward the ICU.
Holding her stomach, Blink continued toward the ICU. Something's causing this… I'm going to find out what… April! What's happening to her? she wondered….
What the…? Photon moved to support the other woman. "What's wrong?"
"Pain…" Blink replied. "Something's in that room……something awful…and whatever's in here" she pointed to her abdomen, "knows it."
"On second thought, never mind. We've got to get in there." Photon then spoke into the comlink. "I'm on my way." She continued assisting Blink toward the door.
Two gunshots rang out. The response was instant. A alarm rang out, the nurses in the hall immediately snapping to emergency response, one calling for the guard, another grabbing an emergency medkit and coming around the desk.
Shit! "Can you stand?" she asked Blink urgently. Without waiting for a response, she spoke into her comlink. "Photon to Warp. Get your ass back in here NOW. We have shots fired. I repeat–shots fired in the room where the cop is."
Photon quickly led Blink to the nearest wall, yelling to the approaching nurse. "I've got to go in there now–follow when you feel up to it." She looked up at the approaching nurse. "And keep her out… I doubt that Circe would have fired unless something serious was happening. I don't want anyone getting hurt unnecessarily."
"Hurry!" Blink said. "I'll be all right. Get in there!" She pushed Photon toward the door, following behind as closely as possible.
A glowing shell formed around Photon as she drew herself up and entered the room. The door slid open and she nearly collided with a stunned Martins being ushered out by Circe, her back to the door, looking at the bloody thing lashing and whipping around the room. She could see the officer's chest heaving, pulsing as something…moved under it the ribs snapping like cheap plastic.
Circe tried to aim more carefully, targeting the thing snapping back and forth. C'mon, one good shot… just one….
Martins made a grab for Circe's gun arm. "Stop!"
Circe tried to block Dr. Martins away. "What the hell's wrong with you, Dr. Martins?"
"You can't just kill him, that's a human being!" Hysteria shined in the doctors eyes as she clawed for the weapon.
Blink saw April come out of the room, and relief shot through her like a bullet… but she wondered what could be in that room, and why was her 'passenger' reacting like this…?
"My god…" Photon murmured. She glanced at Circe. If whatever it is is lashing around like that inside his chest, he's already dead… or at least, enough damage has been done that he won't survive.
She turned to face the officer–or what was left of him–and raised her hand. "I'm sorry," she murmured, and fired straight at the man's chest. The light beam seared a pin point hole in the man's sternum. Its exit was far more dramatic as radiant light superheated the his tissues, explosively boiling blood and fluids. His chest opened up, a gory blossom of flesh and bone spreading across the bed. Bits of steaming…something pelted Circe and Martins, rained over the patients. The appendage flexed still, jerking even more vigorously as other things moved in the moist mass that used to the cop's chest, pulsing squirming things resembling… limbs.
Yuuuuuuuck!!!! Circe thought, as she jumped back, trying to brush the stuff off of herself.
"Anyone else wanna know what that stuff is? No? Good…" Photon remarked, never taking her eyes from the body.
Blink saw the… stuff come flying out of the room. What in the world? She straightened, walking quickly toward the room.
The appendage flexed still, jerking even more vigorously as other things moved in the moist mass that used to the cop's chest, pulsing squirming things resembling…limbs.
Oh, shit. "WARP! Get in here NOW!" Photon shouted over the comlink.
Insectile limbs slithered out, tearing into the blood soaked sheets, heaving and clawing. Something was trying to scramble free and in one lurch it did. Landing at the foot of the bed the bloody mass crouched, sloughing blood and bits of organ. It looked like a huge centipede, spikes running its length. All limbs and chitin any organs or features were hidden by the coating of blood and fleshy detritus. A long "tail" still linked it to the ravaged corpse, running into the chest cavity and out through the mouth. It was the stinger. Jerking its free it ripped the head loose all together, leaving it impaled, strung on the tail like some grisly decoration.
My god!!! Circe thought. What the fuck is that? She backed out the door, still pointing the gun. I touched THAT with my mind??? She looked visibly green.
Blink saw the thing over the shoulders of Photon and Circe, and caught a glimpse of April's red hair. "Ewwww! That's disgusting!" She said. What IS it?"
Photon swallowed hard. Calm down, you can get sick later. Right now… Another beam of light lanced out toward the creature. Seeming to sense the attack the beast darted, a blood red blur of motion. Photon's beam sliced into the bed frame, sending up a small jet of flame. Scuttling, clicking across the tile, the creature homed in on the nurse's sprawled body crawling up her leg, becoming a writhing lump under her bloodied whites.
Circe paused, unsure of whether or not to fire at the nurse, not knowing if she was dead yet or not. She kept the gun pointed, but waited.
Blink paused, a shot of terror flooding through her. Dear God, is there something like THAT inside me? Is that what this is? "Kill it!" she shouted. "Don't let it escape!"
Photon kept her focus on the lump. Damn, I've got good aim, but not that good. I can't risk firing, she could still have a chance to survive if the docs get to her fast enough. "Blink, you got any ideas?"
"If we can get it off her, I'll port it somewhere away from here. If it's inside her, I don't know." Blink tried hard to keep her voice steady, but was sure Photon heard it crack.
The doctors and nurses hung behind, gaping in silent horror. The room, the floor seemed to grow terribly quiet as if holding its breath. Then, with a low pained moaned the black nurse sat up, then pulled herself up standing unsteadily and looked around the room with unsteady confused expression.
Slowly, horror creeping into her eyes, her hands went to the lump in uniform, hovering above it. "H…help me…please, Jesus…" scarcely a whisper her terrified plea reached over ear in the room.
Warp had taken the stairs two and a time. When he arrived and elbowed his way past security and gawkers, he saw the other in the doorway to ICU.
Circe 'reached out' tentatively, trying to determine from the woman where the creature was exactly. If it wasn't inside her, it was going to be in for a nasty time…… It was hard to search for her. Instinctive revulsion kept the empath from probing too deeply.
"Okay… we're going to help, but we have to make sure we're not going to hurt you doing it." Photon turned her attention away from the nurse momentarily, addressing one of the gawkers standing near the doorway. "You–go get a pair of scissors. Move!"
"In order to be able to do anything, we're going to have to see what we're doing, and that means that unless that thing moves, we'll have to cut part of your uniform away." Photon kept talking, more to distract the nurse from her fear than anything else.
April stepped forward, slowly hands raised. "We're just going to have a look…" she said softly eyes never leaving the nurses. She got within a couple of steps before the woman screamed again, jerking stiff. Pink froth drooled from the corner of her mouth. She gurgled on it, twitching and staggering in a spastic dance. April leapt forward, taking her down fast, trying to stop her from harming herself.
Suddenly she went still, smiling. "They come." The words bubbled threw the froth filling her mouth. "They come."
Warp hurried down to the doorway gun out, ready to shoot the enemy they were fighting. "Where's the goons?" Warp asked kinda out of breath.
"Never mind that, I'll explain later. Hold her down," Photon gestured toward the nurse.
Blink reached out and put a hand on Photon's shoulder. "Photon, stop… April, back away from her….it's inside her now…." What comes? Blink thought.
"No, not its not." April said quietly, never looking up. Slowly, carefully she peeled away the bloodied cloth, as delicately as if she was cutting flesh. "Its still external but there are…probes of some sort, resembles a type of fine neural tissue, embedded…Get my Medcart…now.", wearing her professionalism like a mask and shield, April repeated her demand, sending the nurses and orderlies scurrying.
Schmiessen finally spoke up, voice quickly getting its old power back. "Cancel that, we're pulling out. There's nothing more for us here."
"The Time is right, the Door walks. Those Who Wait will come. The Usurpers will be as dust to the Wind. A'llu! Threduxu! Mo'den!" The nurse's voice rose to a scream but her body lay stiff and still, still as death.
"Who's the freak show?" Warp asked from the doorway where he had stopped from Blink's warning. The question earned him some dirty looks from the surrounding people.
Circe looked even greener than before. "She's not there anymore…" she whispered, more to herself than anything. "It's taken her over now, just like the other one."
Blink moved up next to Von Schmeisson. "We've got to eliminate that thing, Boss Man. If we don't, who knows how many it could affect?"
"I've got to agree," Photon remarked. She was nearly as green as Circe, although for different reasons. "At the very least, we have to see to it that she–her body, rather–is isolated, completely, until we understand more about this thing."
"I-" Schmiessen was cut as the nurse surged to her feet, throwing off April and the other trying hold her down. April slid across the floor, slamming console with a sickening crack. The nurse lumbered forward, hunched over, panting but her face was still that hideous slack blank. Through the bloody ruin of her whites, the creature was visible, wrapped around her, pulsing in time with her breathing. Locking dead eyes on Blink, she started forward. A doctor lunged at her only to be casually swatted aside, landing in a heap with his neck twisted at a impossible angle.
"Cull'u nadare node 'esl loc thul," she whispered, again and again growing louder as she came closer, reaching out. Blink felt frozen both in terror and expectation.
What does it want with me? Blink wondered. "All right beastie… we've got places to go…" she whispered. She looked for April briefly, hoping she was all right… her hand going to her gun. "Holly?" she whispered again, "Are you getting these words?"
"Yes. Blink. What are you planning?" Holly asked, subdued, perhaps worried.
Great! What the hell do I do now? Photon kept her eyes on the ex- nurse. "Blink, get out of here."
The words had scarcely left her mouth when the thing lunged tearing free of fleshly ride, whirling… swimming through the air at Blink, maw gaping wide. Time slowed to crawl… the creature flew… nurse crumpling to the floor… a broken marionette. The shimmered and rippled as Warp struggled to form a portal… to slow… to late. Blink felt the beginning of scream rising in her throat.
Then someone was in front of her. Von Schmiessen? Blink was taken aback… then horrified as warm red splattered her face, got into her mouth. Schmiessen fell, geysering crimson.
Blink did scream at that point, loud and long……stepping back, she drew her pistol, halfway torn between firing it and teleporting away….
Photon went even paler, and paused, stunned. Oh, God… She froze for only a moment, then lunged toward the thing, taking very careful aim. That thing has to die NOW! Schmiessen had fallen mostly on top of it, amazingly still trying to hold the beast even as it tore at his flesh. Photon fired. The thing leapt free, Photon's laser burning right past and into Schmiessen. She nearly joined in Blink's scream, expecting the sour sweet stink of burned flesh. Instead, Schmiessen's body seemed to drink in the beam, taking on a dull red glow.
Warp changed tactics and used his cutting portal to try and cut the creature up before it did more damage to his teammates. The wavering lines sliced threw the air. It was quick, crossing the distance in a blink. Warp's portals sliced across the floor…tracking as it charged for Blink and leapt. She felt it slam into her chest… then stinging cold… somewhere April screamed for her……
To the others Blink seemed to flicker, popping in and out of reality until they couldn't be sure it if was her or just the persistent images of her last appearance still clinging to their retinas. Here, there, a few feet for each rapid fire pop, she appeared and vanished until finally it stopped. Blink crumbled into a heap, minus the thing……
April was at her side instantly, dropping to her knees with a choked sob. "Blink…please…I'm sorry…Goddess, don't leave me."
Circe did a quick mental probe on the fallen girl, to see if her mind was still there. Gods, how did this happen? she wondered. What was that? she asked herself again, with no more answer than before. Blink seemed tired, confused and afraid but nothing was out of place. She was whole was far as the empath could tell.
Blink reached up and touched April's face. "Did I go somewhere?" she asked. In a sudden panic, she looked around. "Where is it?" she asked, trying to keep her voice down.
"Its gone…" April held her, throwing professionalism and caution to the wind. "I love you…"
Warp stood his jaw hanging, Wow if only I could port like that……, but then I guess there's some things I can do with portals she can't blinkin' like that.
Photon looked between Von Schmiessen and Blink, then went for Von Schmiessen. She looked up momentarily at the still stunned and gaping crowd in the doorway, then asked sarcastically even as she began looking him over, "Are there any doctors here, or does this place just look like a hospital?" He was hurt but apparently not as badly as she'd thought…
"Thanks to you people, it looks more like a battlefield", a tall, sharp- featured man returned dryly. "Now let us do our job unless you'd like to blow something… someone else up?" He knelt by the nurse as other personal came in, moving the injured. Blink was quickly placed on a gurney, as was the nurse. April stayed at her side but was clearly in no condition to really assist.
Photon's eyes went flat for an instant at the 'blow someone else up' remark, then she let it pass and backed out of the way of the medical staff.
Blink grabbed at the arm of the doctor who made the comment. "You weren't in here. You have no idea what happened, so keep your mouth shut." She let go, allowing the other medical personnel to do their work.
"Just let them to their job…please." April whispered, "save your strength…"
The doctor looked at her for a instant. "I was close enough to watch my friend die." With that he walked off to aid getting Von Schmiessen on a gurney.
"Who died, April? Besides the cop?" Blink asked.
Whispering through a dry throat, April replied, "A doctor… maybe a nurse I'm not certain…"
Photon, Circe? Morsham came over the link. Give me a status report.
"The …thing is gone." Circe said. "Blink is down, so is Von Schmeisson. Seems both are minor, but the docs here want to do some checking. Original victim is dead, as is the nurse attacked in here. I myself think I am going to go throw up." Death wasn't a stranger to the empath, but not like this……never like this……
The nurse was being wheeled away. Apparently alive still… that was something. But the sick note in Circe's stomach wouldn't loosen. So much blood, the air stank of it, blood and piss and fear. She didn't think she'd ever get that smell out of her nose. It smelled… it smelled like her mind felt when she touched that thing. It hit her hard and fast. It smelled polluted beyond redemption. Her stomach suddenly surged…
Warp got a trash can, seeing Circe was getting a little blue and tried to get it to her before she added more mess to the floor.
"Excuse me." she said, and stepped out of the room. Circe went through mental exercises, trying to calm down. I panicked… she thought. I might have been able to calm everyone… I don't know… that thing was just so… awful.
Photon responded, "Von Schmiessen is down, badly hurt. Something came out of the injured officer, and went after Blink. Von Schmiessen got in the way. It still got to Blink, but she did some rapid fire teleports and evidently managed to leave it somewhere."
"Seems there are some mixed signals here, just keep us posted on this." Morsham said. Photon could see pictured her wringing her hands, as she usually did when nervous. "Holly is patching into the hospital's internals, you all just sit tight for now."
"Mixed signals are about all that can be hoped for right now," Photon remarked. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'll find some place to throw up."
Morsham cocked an eyebrow at the venom in the girl's voice bit kept her surprise to herself. Perhaps Circe is rubbing off on her. All right, once things get settled in, we'll reconvene and compare notes.