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Medical Maladies (IC)

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May 14th, 2012

Freedom Medical Center

2:42 PM

The Freedom Medical Center was easily the largest and most modern hospital in a large and modern city, and as such its emergency room was never empty. At the moment, though, the area was filled to overflowing with patients on gurneys, lying across the plastic chairs intended to families of those awaiting diagnosis, or even propped up on the floor with only a pillow. Nurses and doctors dashed to and fro, surgical masks in place and rubber gloves on tight. Most carried an extra carton of them in their pockets, and trash bins were stuffed full of them as doctors poked, prodded, and collected samples of blood and phlegm.

The air was filled with the hacking coughs, fits of sneezing, and low groans of the sickly. Most were leaking some pus or other fluid; one man on a gurney was holding a metal pan and regularly coughing up and spitting blood into it. It was a madhouse, and it was only growing.

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For the last few days, Marceau had been on his feet almost constantly, going from one end of the Fens to the other searching for people the wave of sickness had laid low, and hadn't the strength to get themselves to a hospital. Of course, as he knew all too well, many of the invalids he discovered shivering in the damp rooms of decaying hotels, or huddled in alleyways, would never have dreamed of going to one anyway, fearing that if they did they would need to pay some exorbitant fee. Many of them were effectively destitute, and none could have afforded to pay more than a tenth of whatever their care would cost if they had been charged.

Leaning against a wall currently not blocked by gurneys, the King of Suits took a moment to rest, and reflect on what areas of the poverty-stricken district still needed checking. Thankfully, the number of cases had been much lower than he had expected(living in the worst part of the city had taught him more than he realized), and he had even had time to do some detective work since the outbreak. However most of the leads he had followed, from rumors of mystery men dumping things into the water supply to a report of alien space-craft dispersing a gas over the city, had been wholly unsupportable, and had come from single witnesses of...dubious trustworthiness.

With a shrug, Marceau smoothly began to follow another train of thought, this one striking a little closer to home: most of the people that shared his apartment with had fallen ill, and while he luckily had been away for two nights straight and thus(as far as he knew) hadn't contracted it from them, the issue of disinfecting the place loomed large on the horizon. Maybe I should head down to the patent office he thought distractedly I bet at least a couple of my inventions could be useful to people...

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Whilst all the flying around helping people was fun and all Agnes was intently aware that she had other gift she could use to aid people. She couldn’t help everyone, healing tended to wear her out, but careful controlled use could help people in the most dire of need. So once or twice a month she would visit a hospital, either back home or here in Freedom City, and find those in the direst of need.

She didn’t do it practically for the fame or attention; it was just something she felt she should do, so she tended to go incognito. Today she was wearing a pair of cheap jeans she had picked up that morning from Camden Market a dark blue hoodie with a 4 embossed on it and a pair of old comfortable Converse.

Amazed at the sheer number of people crammed into the hospital she wandered round a little trying to find out exactly what was going one. When someone in front of her collapsed acting on instinct she grabbed hold of them a subtle grow to her hand as she applied her healing powers.

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The Red Phone rang.

One of the things Jay Xavier had done, as part of his preparations for becoming a superhero, was set up a telephone number with all the privacy money could buy. Xavier was highly selective about who he gave this number to; in fact, he could count those people on the digits of one forepaw. The ringtone for the special cellphone dedicated to this number was the Red Alert sound effect from the original Star Trek series.

When Xavier answered the Red Phone, the voice on the other end of the line did not belong to any of the people he'd given its number to: "Ah, hello? Is this Jubatus?" Well, I didn't forbid anyone from passing it on. Just insisted that they needed a damn good reason to, a matter of life and death at minimum.

Xavier felt a fleeting urge to reply, There is no Jubatus. You have reached Borg Assimilation Associates, in the most inhuman, artificial tones his throat could produce. He squelched the unhelpful impulse and said, "Jubatus speaking. Who are you, how did you get this number, and what's your problem?"

"I'm Dr. Kerry Philo, chief metahuman liaison for Freedom Medical Center. I don't actually have the number—this call is being routed through an ArcheTech switchboard." Excellent. I knew there was a reason I put Dr. Archeville on the short list. "And the problem is a very worrisome cluster of lethal infections which we hope to God can be contained before the pathogens break out into the populace at large."

Xavier wasn't a dedicated student of history, but a man whose days were 150 hours long had lots of time to read about any and every topic under the sun. Such as the influenza pandemic of 1918, and the Black Death of 1348-1350… He shuddered. "I'm more than willing to help, but… I have no medical training. What can I do here?"

"We need you because the in vitro tests proved you're immune to everything we're seeing."

Score one for non-human metabolism. "Okay. Tell me where you want me, and I'll be there in 30 seconds." And the only reason it'll take me that long to show up is because I need to send emails to all my current clients, letting 'em know that their contracts are officially on the back burner for the duration, and offering suggestions for who else can handle their job now if they can't wait.

"Ah… right. Please come to Freedom Medical Center, admittance desk 3."

"Eff-Emm-See admittance desk 3. Got it, and see you there."

Xavier blasted through the necessary emails, and arrived at the designated spot within 27 seconds. Even his well-honed pessimism didn't prepare him for the sights, sounds, and odors that assaulted his senses when he arrived…

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Just above the hospital floats a Victorian-era galleon. The Ages Lost, though she's not looking her best; a jury-rigged setup has four storage units strapped to her sides and keel, and the ship has been using them in addition to her hold to haul in supplies; equipment, blankets, medicine, coffee. Whatever the hospital needs, and if need be, the crew is ready to start sending patients out to the nearest hospital willing to take them. Or the farthest; the ship could get as far as Paris with little issue, and fast enough.

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Young Britannia was taking a water break in a secluded corner of the hospital when a pair of nurses burst in on her. "Excuse me," the younger one began. "Are you the --"

"Well of course she is," the older one snapped. "Listen," she added, turning to address the heroine, "Dr. Philo wants to see you in his office on the third floor. If I were you, I'd get there as soon as possible." With that the pair were off, and Young Britannia was left to wonder at the order.


King of Suits was sitting down and talking with a family from the Fens whose mother had been admitted coughing blood. He turned as a doctor in surgical scrubs jogged up to him. "Excuse me," the surgeon said, "but Dr. Philo said he wanted to see the superhero. His office is on the third floor. I'd be quick, if I were you, Kerry's a good guy and he usually has a pretty good handle on things."


The communication console on the Ages Lost flickered to life and a voice came through the comms. "Um. Is... is this the pirate-lady-hero's ship? Listen, this is Freedom Medical. Dr. Philo said he wanted to see the superhero in his office, on the third floor. If you could get down here ASAP, I think it's pretty important."


Jubatus reported to the front desk and a harried nurse led him through the triage, up to the third floor. Things were noticeably less crowded here, but the air of exhaustion and barely-contained chaos was the same. In time he came to a door with Doctor Kerry Philo on a plaque on it; underneath were the words Metahuman Liason embossed directly on the wood. through the door was a small, tastefully appointed, thoroughly modern office with a thoroughly old-style desk in it. Behind the desk was a tall man with a bit of a gut wearing a long white lab coat and a suit underneath. He was working at a computer when the cheetah-man came in and glanced up, flashing a tight smile. "Good to see you were so quick, a-heh heh." He moved to extend a hand, quickly checking that Jubatus in fact had hands to shake. Before he open his mouth again, though, King of Suits, Young Britannia, and Stormbreaker were standing in his doorway.

Blinking at the sudden influx of heroes, Dr. Philo shrugged and gestured them all in. "Well," he said, "I guess the more the merrier." He closed the door behind them and sat behind his desk, indicating that the heroes could take any chairs or perches they wished. "A quick run down of the situation. About thirty hours ago we received the first patients, individuals mostly from the Fens but also from other city districts, all complaining of a variety of symptoms. We drew cultures and identified the culprits: tuberculosis, smallpox, bubonic plague, and even polio. Diseases though eradicated in the modern world, but somehow they've shown up all over Freedom City.

"We've identified at least two hundred cases, and more are coming in every hour. Most are routed here, but we've had to send some to McNider, and even across the river." He jerked his thumb towards Hanover; evidently he meant the Lab. "At first it looked like we were facing a modern-day pandemic of every viral nightmare man's ever faced, but here's the thing -- none of the diseases are spreading. People are coughing and sneezing, but there's no contagions, no infectious agents leaving the host body. I don't have to tell you that nature usually isn't that tidy with its plagues. This can only be man-made." He fixed each hero in turn with a long stare. "The good news is, the city won't have to be quarantined. The bad news is, the diseases are still deadly. Most of this stuff... hell, we never had a good treatment, beyond immunization, and a fair number of the patients were never immunized. What cures we do have are in vaults at the CDC, that'll take time to get them up here. But maybe, just maybe if you can find whoever is responsible for this, and their research, maybe we can devise a cure for this... this meta-plague."

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"That's encouraging news, at least you caught it at an early stage. Some of the people I've found and brought here were-" He turned as a doctor in surgical scrubs jogged up to him. "Excuse me," the surgeon said "but Dr. Philo said he wanted to see the superhero. His office is on the third floor. I'd be quick, if I were you, Kerry's a good guy and he usually has a pretty good handle on things."

To the family he had been speaking with his said gravely "I beg your pardon, duty calls and I must take my leave."

"I am most definitely not 'the superhero' at present! But I will gladly see Dr. Philo if he wants me too" laughed the King of Suits as he sprang to his feet and began to walk rapidly for the stairs, calling back to the family "Good luck to you all! I hope your dear mother gets well soon!"

Racing up the stairs and down the halls until he found the office, he squared his shoulders, rapped twice on the door, and on the answering call he entered.

Starting at the sight of Jubatus, he gave the feline hero a friendly wave and a smile before turning his attention to Dr. Philo, eyes narrowing at the revelation that someone had artificially created this plague. "If it is possible to find them, we shall Dr. Philo" he said politely, though crisply. The idea of manufacturing a sickness like this riled him at the best of times, knowing as he did how delicate such work would have to be. Such deliberate cruelty was wholly anathema to his mind.

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Agnes was glad that she had chosen to change into her costume; people seemed to think that meant someone was here who could do something. And it got her here where she do the most to help.

She rested her hand on the Doctor desk, mostly to hide how tired she was from an almost fruitless morning spent healing. In the past, several of her past lives, she had been a healers, nurses and even doctors; she knew how bad many of these diseases could be.

“I have some measure of an healing ability let my try to help the worst cases. But I also think it’s important to find what’s causing this has anyone tried to find a pattern to the infections?â€

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Jay Xavier tended to avoid hospitals; with his predator-grade senses, it was best to avoid places with high concentrations of vomit, disinfectants, and the like. But no matter how awful the stench of hospitals might be, he could tolerate the experience if there was good reason to. And the current medical proto-emergency qualified.

"Good to see you were so quick, a-heh heh." He moved to extend a hand, quickly checking that Jubatus in fact had hands to shake.
Jubatus stifled a momentary wince—Come on, my forepaws aren't that unrecognizably different from hands… oh, put a cork in it, Jube. How many sophonts like me has he ever seen in the flesh?—as he shook hands with Philo.

The feline acknowledged the other hero-types with a nod as they entered; time enough for introductions and such later, after the briefing.

"At first it looked like we were facing a modern-day pandemic of every viral nightmare man's ever faced, but here's the thing -- none of the diseases are spreading. People are coughing and sneezing, but there's no contagions, no infectious agents leaving the host body. I don't have to tell you that nature usually isn't that tidy with its plagues. This can only be man-made."
Man-made—and probably not for any good purpose. So far, weaponized pathogens like ebola were strictly hypothetical… and control (or the lack thereof, to be more precise) was a goodly chunk of the reason why. After you release your disease onto the enemy populace, what keeps your own people from being infected? But a non-infectious variant of a lethal illness, now, that was a weapon you could deploy with a decently small risk of collateral damage. Until the damn thing mutates into a new variant which may or may not restore its former virulence… or worse…

"The good news is, the city won't have to be quarantined. The bad news is, the diseases are still deadly. Most of this stuff... hell, we never had a good treatment, beyond immunization, and a fair number of the patients were never immunized. What cures we do have are in vaults at the CDC, that'll take time to get them up here. But maybe, just maybe if you can find whoever is responsible for this, and their research, maybe we can devise a cure for this... this meta-plague."
"Right," Jubatus agreed. "Okay: We're gonna need information. First, all the epidemiological data you've got—where each victim lives, what their usual behavior-slash-habits-slash-activities are, and then some. Second, all the biological data you've got on the pathogens of interest, genetic and biochemical and so on. Third, the corresponding biological data on the normal versions of the pathogens of interest. Knowing what makes these bugs different should help us figure out how these bugs were made in the first place." Preliminary list of candidates would be anybody with a notably high degree of expertise in bioengineering. Once we know what was done to these pathogens, we can rule out at least some of the names on the preliminary list.

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Thankfully, when the ship's radioman relays the message, she rewords it as, "Captain, your presence is respectfully requested on the third floor, in one Dr. Philo's office."

At that, Captain Silvia sets aside her blade. It would be terribly rude to bring such a tool into a place of healing, after all. She'd already taken off her armor, knowing she'd have to enter the building at some point.

She floats down to the roof, entering in her centuries old style, complete with blue rose standard and a cloak hanging over her lost arm as she walks down the hall.

Silvia takes a seat through the brief, listening intently. She gives her fellow heroes a glance. Probably Earthling. Probably Earthling. Earth cat or alien. The classification takes a moment, and she doesn't give the bipedal cat a particularly long glance.

"My ship is, of course, at your disposal, and ready to ferry any patients you can stabilize wherever they need to go. We can transport a couple dozen patients anywhere this side of the Mississippi river within the hour. However, as you say, that will not solve the matter."

With that, she buries her chin in her hand and begins to think, then pulls out a communicator. "Silvia to Ages Lost. Requesting a records check; see if Lord Giles has recorded any large movements of goods in the realm of advanced biotech recently."

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The Fastest Cat Alive wasn't inclined to sit idle while waiting for Dr. Philo to respond to the request for information; Jube extracted a sleek black cylinder from one of his many vest-pockets. After unrolling the cylinder into a high-end tablet computer, Jubatus' right hand (and the stylus he held in it) blurred back and forth across its screen, on which a multitude of websites and documents blinked into life.

The feline absorbed all this information every bit as swiftly as one might expect of a cheetah speedster. Hmm… interesting… not helpful… very interesting… not something I'd've expected, but makes sense… okay, debrief the crew.

"Got some data which should be helpful, Athena willing. One: The World Health Organization stores samples of most-to-all of the bugs we're seeing now -- might be worth talking to WHO to see if any of their frozen bugs have turned up missing recently. Two: All the victims take public transportation to work. Not sure if there's any specific route, or any one bus in particular, which they share in common; need to do some more digging on that point. Three: There's a 'Terrence Highfollower' at Tufts Medical College who's lately made some noise about a 'meta-virus' with surface molecular fragments…" Jube paused, considered the probable level of medical knowledge amongst the supertypes he was currently working with, edited his statement-in-progress, and went on: "ah… the sucker can fool your immune system by 'disguising' itself as pretty much any other virus or bacteria. The good news is, Highfollower's just talking about a hypothesis, not anything that's actually real." Or so I hope, anyway. "I'm thinking a hospital rep should get in touch with Highfollower, just on general principles, but one of us hero-types could do that, too. Four: There's an alleged religion called The Cult Of The Dripping Pox whose main tenet seems to be that viruses are the true masters of the planet, and humans should be happy to be infected by as many different strains as biologically possible. Not sure if this Cult is closer to LDS or Scientology or or the Church of the Sub-Genius or what, so a little more research is indicated here, too."

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Looking with surprise at Jubatus, the King of Suits checked an expression of that sentiment before it reached even halfway to his throat, replying instead "Mass transit, you say? That explains a lot. Many of the people I found in the Fens weren't exactly in the habit of frequenting public places, but they did rely on bus routes" he frowned at the mention of a 'meta-virus', commenting "From the sounds of it, I would bet a great deal that is in fact what has been unleashed. An attack of this kind would benefit enormously from extending the lifespan of the plague so," he shrugged lightly "I would be glad to investigate the cult, it sounds right up my street in fact. If they are indeed even partially responsible, I will be certain to discover it" he said with pardonable pride.

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She gathered herself up and fought back the fatigue she had been feeling. Whilst her healing here was helpful she was still facing an uphill, and possibly loosing, battle.

“So what we split up and then combine what we find? It would make sense as time is of the essence.â€

She turned round, resting on the desk and looked at the rest of the heroes.

“I suggest we split into two teams one looks at the medical evidence and see if we can cure this thing. The other look to see if this cult is behind this whole mess. I can probably teleport myself and another anywhere in the US.â€

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Jubatus considered the situation: Should he follow up on the medical leads, or investigate the cult? There were cogent arguments for either option… but in the end, he chose the former. "Splitting up works for me. Let's be sure we can keep in touch while separated, okay?" Here, Jube pulled a set of compact gadgets from his vest. "Anybody needs a commlink, feel free to grab one of these—that's what I got them for. As for who should do what, I think I'd serve best by looking into the medical end of things, talking to Highfollower and such." To Dr. Philo: "If you can spare any of your crew to accompany me, that'd be great; like I said before, I don't have any formal medical training, so it'd be nice if I was with someone who actually does know what they're talking about." To the group at large: "If the Cult-investigators need help, it may be worth noting that I can hit Mach 4, and probably faster if I really push it, so hopefully I'll be able to respond in time no matter where I am."

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Captain Silvia listens as the others muse, but in the back of her mind, she's thinking this operation, while useful to the community, has been rather dull. Of the available options, clearly the best route is the path of adventure. "I can tend to 'investigating' this cult. Please, Mister Jubatus, forward any information you may have on them to my crew; I must go ensure the cannons are primed. If you will excuse me."

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GM

Jubatus and Young Britannia set off for the Walking City. The cheetah-man's speed was phenomenal and he drew a more-or-less straight line between the edge of Freedom City and the heart of Boston. For all of his speed, though, he found the statuesque defender of the Isles waiting for him in the main campus of Tufts Medical College, right smack in the middle of Beantown. All told, though, the building didn't look very collegiate; a cube of pale, dressed stone and numerous tinted windows, virtually indistinguishable from the other buildings in the neighborhood.

The Bostonians reacted with surprise when a cheetah standing on two legs and a tall woman in a red, white, and blue uniform materialized in their midst, but no one started screaming or calling the police. This might not be Freedom City, but Boston had had its fair share of superpowered battles over the years and they were willing to give these strange folks the benefit of the doubt.


The search for the "Cult of the Dripping Pox" led to an Internet sit that looked like a relic from the Geocities era. There wasn't anything as useful as a name and current address of the founder, or even a forum for like-minded fanatics to stew in their collective juices, but a little detective work with the IP address lead King of Suits and Stormbreaker to a name: Warren Stils, a life-long Freedomite and a newly-minted realty agent. The firm he worked for was on the edge of the Theater District. It was in the middle of the working day so sneaking in was probably out of the question, but the heroes did have an interstellar clipper waiting to be used...

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Silvia finds the process of deciphering these primitive calculation machines tedious and boring. She says nothing of the matter, but her aura makes her growing frustration obvious.

As soon as they have a name and a building, it's time to board; she'd long since ordered Ages Lost ready to take flight. As soon as the ship nears the building, she flies off to fetch the man's office location from the main directory on the ground floor and returns.

"We do not have time to arrange a meeting," she says as she takes the helm, carefully maneuvering the ship within a few feet of the building, right where their target's office is supposed to be. "So clearly, we must drop right in. Extend the gangplank!"

The ramp extends right up to the man's window, where the captain simply draws her sword and cuts a hole through it, pushing the circle inward. She steps through, tosses in a handful of gold coins, and begins announcing her presence properly, her ship floating behind her as she enters.

"For cleanup and repairs. Mister Stils, we must have words with you on a matter of the utmost urgency."

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For his part, Marceau had found the search for the Cult of the Dripping Pox quite informative and engrossing, though he was also glad when he found the brief, well-hidden name that would serve as their lead. That, and he was almost giddy at the opportunity to ride a spaceship that looked like an ancient sailing vessel, dashing about during their (to his mind far too brief) trip to the office building in the alwaays busy Theatre District, looking at everything and forcing himself not to touch any of it, just in case it exploded for some reason.

He was still in high spirits when they arrived with a grand banking motion, and the gangplank was let down for their departure on their errand of mercy. Walking a polite distance behind the majestic Stormbreaker, he ran over what they had learned Alright, this Mr. Stills is involved with a secretive cult that is quite cache about their business, members and operation. Outright challenging him will most likely be unproductive, unless we could shock him with our knowledge he followed the caped captain down the gangplank, their capes flairing about the two Ah, we're going through the window. So, perhaps it would be best if we introduced ourselves just as investigating the-wait, the window?! he stopped short in surprise as Silvia briskly cut through the window and went in without hesitation. "Er.." he began, raising a declarative finger before shrugging and leaping into the office after her. Straightening up as he landed next to Stormbreaker, the King of Suits glanced at her with a vague look of concern, turning a much more pleasant smile towards their lead.

In his deep, resonant voice he said "I am the King of Suits, and this is Stormbreaker, the gallant captain of the ship presently moored outside. We believe you can assist us in discovering a probable cause for the outbreak of this sickness plaguing our fair city, which we have been charged with investigating" he stood at ease, relaxed and entirely bereft of any outward signs of suspicion.

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Agnes gave a little smile as the Speedster arrived. “I’ve always felt a little uncomfortable standing in this city wearing this costume. But hey I should be okay; the Spice Girls were years ago.â€

She turned and started heading from the main buildings.

“I figured subtly was right out in this case so I called ahead and made an appointment, so they should be expecting us. You seem to know quite a bit about the Medical side of things, so I’m happy for you to take the lead. I know this stuff but not to same level of detail.â€

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Boston being about 350 miles from Freedom City, Jubatus knew he wouldn't get there in the blink of an eye. Seven minutes, twenty-five seconds. Not bad for a jumped-up kittycat. But not so good if the other half of the crew need help right away… hmph. Deal, Jube. Reality doesn't care if you like it. He was surprised to see that Young Britannia had arrived in Boston before him—and glad to see that transit time would not be an issue, in the event that things went pear-shaped for the other half of the group.

Agnes gave a little smile as the Speedster arrived. “I’ve always felt a little uncomfortable standing in this city wearing this costume. But hey I should be okay; the Spice Girls were years ago."
Jube smiled at this. "Not to worry. 'Events which we now recognize as probably irreversible', right?"

She turned and started heading from the main buildings.

“I figured subtly was right out in this case so I called ahead and made an appointment, so they should be expecting us.

The feline nodded. "Good idea. I like the way you think." He let Young Britannia take the lead, on the theory that she knew the precise address they were going to.

You seem to know quite a bit about the Medical side of things, so I’m happy for you to take the lead. I know this stuff but not to same level of detail.â€
Jube waved the compliment away. "Thanks, but I don't know that much about it—certainly nowhere near as much as a real doctor. I just have a lot of time on my hands for reading, is all. And…" The feline frowned. "Wonderful. Online data says the official address of Tufts Medical College is both one-three-six Harrison Avenue and one-four-five Harrison Avenue. Hrrm. Could be a problem, if the guy you talked to didn't bother to feed you the actual location we're supposed to meet Highfollower at."

A bit later on, Jubatus turned to his comrade with a question: "Hey, if the other guys have any problems, could you get both of us back to them as fast as it took you to get here?"

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GM

Warren Stils had been a big man once, maybe even a quarterback or linebacker. That much was obvious from his wide shoulders and deep chest, easily discernible under his tailored suit. However, he'd let himself go since whatever prof-sports dreams hadn't panned out, and he'd acquired a bit of a beer gut. That much was very obvious when he tried to leap out of his chair, only to sprawl onto the ground. He cowered in front of the approaching superheroes, his entire world turned upside down by the impromptu Crimson Assurance. He covered his face with his arms, trying to back away from the invading troupe. "Oh god! I swear, I didn't know about the subsidence!"


Young Britannia and Jubatus were, indeed, at the right building and a quick check of the building directory led them straight to Highfollower's office. He turned out to be a roughly-handsome man in his last forties, going gray at the temples but with a strong handshake. His office was a smallish affair with the usual stack of papers awaiting grading on one side of his desk, but once the heroes introduced themselves he invited them to take a seat wherever they could. "So, what can I do for a pair of honest-to-God superheroes?"

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Coward Silvia thinks, and she almost puts her hand to her sword. No, he hasn't proven hostile yet. No need to actually threaten him. Of course, that doesn't rule out strongly implying the threat as she walks slowly towards their lead, drawing out this show.

"But clearly, you are involved; you have information." She looks over her shoulder to King of Suits. "Barricade the door. We wish to keep this a private conversation."

She looks back down at Stils, her heels beginning to float off the ground, her hair and cape starting to billow upward ever so slightly, giving her a more looming, ominous presence. "Now, you shall tell me everything you do know, and point me to one who knows the rest." She gives him a moment for stunned silence, then shouts, "Speak!"

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Marceau pursed his lips as the captain began laying on the pressure, and blinked in surprise when Silvia told him to barricade the door to "...keep this a private conversation". I...this doesn't seem like such a good idea he thought, and instead of obeying said to the cowering man "Mr. Stills, you are in little trouble, and no danger. Captain Silvia" he said brightly to his comrade "please, take a seat, let us conduct this in a civilized manner."So saying, he briskly helped Warren into a chair, and taking one himself said companionably in his deep, kindly voice "Mr. Stills, we understand you have had some dealings with a group called the Cult of the Dripping Pox? I beseech you" he added, raising a hand to forestall an outburst from their lead "do not be disingenuous. We know you have a history with that group, and also that if you tell us what you know, you won't have anything to fear from them" adjusting himself in his seat he went on "As you know, there is a vicious disease stalking the city. I and captain Silvia here would like to know what it is, how you spread it, and how your partners got their hands on it."

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As the King of Suits intervenes, the captain can't help but smile. She'd have preferred if he'd waited to see if Stils responded to her method, but this works, too. She drops the wind effects and turns around, sending the biggest chair she can find to the door with little more than a wave of her hand, making a basic barricade, and takes a seat.

"Very well. We shall try things your way. I'll be over here in case this takes too long." The cultist finds himself on the receiving end of the good captain's winningest smile, as if she hadn't just parked a warship outside his window and muscled her way in without warning.

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GM

Young Britannia and Jubatus were, indeed, at the right building and a quick check of the building directory led them straight to Highfollower's office. He turned out to be a roughly-handsome man in his last forties, going gray at the temples but with a strong handshake. His office was a smallish affair with the usual stack of papers awaiting grading on one side of his desk, but once the heroes introduced themselves he invited them to take a seat wherever they could. "So, what can I do for a pair of honest-to-God superheroes?"

Jubatus noted, with interest, that Highfollower hadn't discernably hesitated before shaking the forepaw of a bipedal cat. Wish there were more like him… whatever. Keep your mind on business, Jube. "Talking would be good, Dr. Highfollower. A bit of a while ago, you made some interesting speculative comments on a hypothetical 'meta-virus', a pathogen that could mimic a variety of other pathogens… and over in Freedom City, there's been a few cases of somewhat non-standard disease, such that it's reasonable to suppose the victims might have been infected with a virus of the kind you described." Jubatus was ready and willing to share all the information he had, should Highfollower choose to ask. "So the $64,000 question is this: If someone were to try to make your speculations into reality, what sort of skills and equipment might be required for them to do so?

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