Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Supercape

Sanctuary: Panacea

Recommended Posts

GM

It started off with a faint itching in Fleur's hair. Nothing serious, but that nagging sensation one gets with an allergy...a scratchy, inflamed feeling that tingled all through the living parts of her follicles.

Almost immediately after, some rot. At the edges of the Sanctuary, where the plants where reclaiming the land, they appeared to wither slightly, poisoned. Not dead yet, but just ill, or maybe dying.

It was not a plague. Yet. It was just the twinges of something nasty in the air.

Fleur was approached by an old lady, whom she guessed was in her seventies. She was a small, thin woman, with short grey hair nearly shorn, and a nasty scar down one side of her face. She had seen plenty of hardship, and had that look of both iron and weariness in her eyes. She held herself straight, and but stiff, her old age bearing the fruit of arthritis.

Her name was Alice.

"It's back, I reckon..." she said, slowly and with sadness.

"Back in the Wars, before even I was born, they used terrible weapons. Explosions, bombs. They were bad, but they weren't the worst. The worst was the diseases. Spread like hell, they said. Killed as many as the bombs, and caused ten times as much fear. They said it started with the plants back then...."

She sighed.

"Guess this world got cursed, didn't it? Just when things looked like they were getting better, we get some of the old world back...guess the bugs didn't have anything to feed on...and now they do..."

Share this post


Link to post

Stesha listened to Alice's recitation with concern, even as she joggled a cranky Amaryllis on her hip. Just past her first birthday, Ammy was typically good-natured, but today she'd been out-of-sorts all day, and Stesha had to wonder if she was feeling the same itchy strangeness. She'd put it down to weather or a soap reaction until now. Cupping her palm under a nearby tree, she grew a banana into her hand, peeled it, and gave it to the baby. Derrick was away as usual, doing his work in deep space, so there was nothing for it but to bring Ammy along or trust her to a babysitter.

"What sort of bugs do you mean?" she asked Alice. "Do you mean actual insects, or some sort of a disease? We scanned this planet back when I began working here, and didn't find anything terribly dangerous. Do you think that something could've been in hibernation, asleep and waiting, all these years?" The thought was more than a little unnerving. Given her frequent commutes to and from Prime, a disease on Sanctuary could have far-reaching implications. "Were they ever able to fix it, way back when?"

Share this post


Link to post

GM

Alice sat down by Fleur, waving hello and playing with the baby. She looked sad.

"It was before I was born. All I heard were stories. Stories told by storytellers who had heard it from storytellers who had heard it from storytellers. I been on this rock for seventy and more years, and I seen how stories get changed, from the telling of one folk to the telling of another. Everyone adds their own bit, and changes the bits they forget, or care to forget. Its all the same..."

"But what I did hear from those stories is that the bugs - the plagues that is, they came, and then they went. Nobody knows where they come from, the Reds maybe, the East...and then they went, straight away, don't know how. Or at least, the human folk got better. Animals, plants, they didn't do so well. That's when it all started to go to hell, starvation, rations...and worse..."

"I don't know. Maybe the City underground got some records, if you can find any. Maybe some folk out there kept records. We heard some stories, you know. Some mad priests, like in plague times, all going around preaching woe and how we was damned and how we must repent. Folk, well some folk mad enough to believe them, some folk - most folk, they didn't have much time for madmen when you are half-starving yourself. But anyway, they claimed, if you could understand them, they knew the secrets of the bugs, I mean the plague..."

"Some folks don't even believe there where any preacher folk. None been seen in a decade, or more. But I remember seeing one, tall as a pole, and just a thin, not a his head, funny looking, with big frog eyes that kept staring. Dressedin raven black robes, and spouting nonsense in a tounge I didn't understand. Me and some fellows, we had to beat him off with a stick. Only saw the one, so I don't know how real they where, but there it is, I saw him...lest' the bugs got to my brain already and I'm starting to thinking things that ain't real!" she actually laughed at the last part.

Share this post


Link to post

"You seem perfectly sharp to me," Stesha assured the woman almost absently, preoccupied with the story Alice had told. She was no expert, but she'd had enough biology classes to be very alarmed. "I'm going to look into this right away," she promised, setting Amaryllis down in the grass. "Could you watch Ammy for a few minutes while I do? I think Caroline is in the cookhouse if you need help." It was hardly novel for Amaryllis to spend time in the village while her mother worked, though under the circumstances, Stesha felt an extra stab of worry as she teleported away.

Her first stop was at her own home, which was close to the eastern border of the reclaimed zone in what had once been the west side of Downtown. She slipped on her belt, gloves and cowl, though she didn't bother with a mask here. As she stepped outside and began to walk east, it was alarming to see her carefully nurtured garden of a world beginning to wilt and curl at the edges. Leaves fell under her feet like it was autumn instead of June, but not a single one of them crackled or crunched. It was as though they'd fallen and turned oddly squishy instead of drying out. Kneeling, she examined a once-pretty hyacinth that had lost its blooms and turned black on the undersides of the leaves. She plucked one, then turned it over to examine it with a magnifying glass.

It was immediately obvious that this was no poison leaking through the soil or spreading through the air. A strange covering, almost furlike, coated the underside of the leaf. It was some sort of disease, but no plant disease she recognized. The leaves had no vascular turgidity anymore, instead they were floppy, even spongy. "Spongy," she murmured aloud, her mind racing back over old articles she'd read, sorting through half-forgotten information. She remembered a piece she'd read about a disease that caused this sort of microscopic damage to tissues, and how it had a plant analogue... fungal prions! Unfortunately, remembering what she'd read was of little comfort at this point. Fungal prions typically didn't cause disease, and if they'd been mutated, or more likely, engineered, into being more like their mammalian counterparts, the situation was very grim.

Closing her eyes, Stesha dug her fingers into the grass and reached down for her connection with the earth. Every one of these plants lived her at her sufferance, and she knew something of each one of them. As her mind reached out, examining them, even communicating with them on a basic level, something became even more clear. The infection was spreading, and it was spreading through something in the air. There wasn't very much of it anywhere, but what there was, was virulent. If she couldn't bring it under control, she was going to need serious help, and quickly.

Stesha rose and touched her fingers to the flowers in her hair, teleporting herself even closer to the ruins of the city. She raised her hands in the air and concentrated, exploiting that connection with the plants to bend them to her will. What plants and trees were still healthy responded, moving their limbs, spreading their leaves, trying to take the toxin out of the air before it could spread any further.

Share this post


Link to post

GM

Fleur could feel the air moving, the microscopic proteins being sucked out. There were few, oh so few, but they were deadly. The plants could suck the few deadly molecules out of the air, preventing further spread, but by doing so they were sucking in their doom.

The Prions were slow, but effective. It would take hours before any sign was detected in those plants, and days before the real, deadly effects set in.

One thing Fleur could detect, or rather, the plants could detect for her, the prions did not originate from her Sanctuary. They were being blown in from the wind afar. Quite how far, it was not possible to say. But they were, at least, not a contamination from Earth Prime or her own workings, as far as she could tell.

Share this post


Link to post

Stesha shivered at the sensation, not at all reassured by the momentary respite. Prions were self-multiplying, and there was a lot here for them to eat. Carefully, she opened up another flower at her feet, then shed her contaminated gloves and dropped them inside. As the flower closed and shriveled, Stesha reached for the small handheld radio clipped to her belt, Sanctuary's "state of the art" for communication. "Gabriel, Tarrant," she spoke into the reciever, "We may have a situation developing here. I could use some help. Could you come over to my place as soon as you can?" She kept her voice casual, for the benefit of the villagers and the bees, who also had access to the general channel, but anyone who knew her well enough could hear the worry underlying the words.

Share this post


Link to post

"Of course," came Tarrant's reply back over the radio. "I'll be right down."

He paused for a moment as he set the radio back on the table, realizing he'd smeared clay all over it when he'd picked it up; 'developing situations' and pottery didn't really mix. He'd fix it later. For now the clay still all over his hands stripped away almost of its own accord, falling to the ground as he grabbed his sword from where it leaned against his chair and took a few calm steps right off the edge of one of the floating islands that made up his flying castle home.

It was a long way down to the earth below but he didn't make it more than a couple feet before catching himself on a chunk of stone, making a beeline for Stesha's home.

Share this post


Link to post

Carson Keefe had actually been somewhat secluded, taking time to pray in one of the small rooms designed for such meditations. He wasn't wrestling with any big questions, merely taking the time to remind himself of why he did what he did. So one of the monks (who had, inevitably, been let in on his secret identity, though they were giving the hero the strictest confidence) had to come inform him of the radio transmission. Carson listened as Fleur spoke, then nodded as he replied.

"I'll be there in less than 3 minutes."

He thanked the monk and took a second to gather himself. Then, he began briskly walking out of the prayer room, into the hall, and then on to the courtyard itself. As soon as he stepped foot in open air, the sunlight beating down on him, he was clad in his armor and coat, the silver and white catching the sunlight magnificently. He gave a quick, respectful bow to the head monk as the other man passed by, then was gone in a blur. His flight was at his top speed, and he reached Fleur's domicile very quickly.

He landed, wary of potential trouble. Fleur had simply said it was a "situation", but she seemed the sort who might classify a giant monster fighting the whole giant bee colony as a "situation", so it was best to steel oneself for the worst. He waited, patient but alert, for the others to arrive.

Share this post


Link to post

Fleur was already there when Carson arrived on her doorstep, making a pot of tea for lack of anything better to do. Keeping busy made it easier to stay calm. She gave Carson a distracted smile. "Oh, hello, that was was quick. Tarrant should be here in just a moment, I'm almost sure he's home today. Would you like anything to eat, a sandwich, cookie, cup of tea?" Some of the baby's toys were scattered on the floor, but neither Amaryllis nor Derrick seemed to be in residence today. Stesha was wearing the cowl that made up the biggest part of her costume, but with the hood back, he could see that her long, long hair was in an unusually disordered state. Some of the pins were out and the braids were unruly and uneven, as though braided in frustration and then half-undone by restless fingers. Even her usual crown of flowers was sitting askew and looking a bit wilted.

As soon as Tarrant arrived, Stesha repeated the offer, even as the teakettle began to whistle. "I hate to bother you when I know you both come to Sanctuary to relax," she began, "but I'm just not sure what else to do. Moreover, I'm not totally sure it's safe for any of us to go back to Prime just now."

Share this post


Link to post

"I'm never one to turn down a good cookie," Tarrant admitted; he'd strapped his sword to his belt on the way down, but in the warm weather he'd foregone his trusty coat and even his beloved goggles were down around his neck. "And it's no bother at all, really - doubly-so if it's something bad enough that even heading back to Prime is a risk. Even if it didn't directly concern us - which I gather it does? - it'd be the least we could do to help out. A gentleman shouldn't leave a lady looking...ah."

He gestured - a little vaguely, but with a good-natured smile. "...frazzled. Are you alright?"

Share this post


Link to post

Gabriel pushed back his hood as he stepped in, but the helmet and mask stayed in place. He gave Fleur a friendly smile and nod as he saw her. As they walked inside, he spoke up.

"Some tea would be lovely. No food for the moment, though. Thank you for the offer nonetheless."

His expression shifted to one of concern as he noticed just how out-of-sorts his hostess seemed. The absence of her child meant this was definitely going to be serious business. When Gaian Knight arrived, he walked over with a small smile and a friendly handshake to offer his fellow hero.

"Nice to see you again. Thanks again for your help a couple months ago, with the monastery. It's turned out wonderfully; the brothers wish to pass their thanks on as well."

The sonic-slinging hero turned back to their hostess as the tea finished, and his mask went to one of careful neutrality as she said they couldn't leave.

"I'm a hero and a friend first, Stesha. My relaxation is second to something dire enough you believe we have to stay here."

He lapsed into silence as Tarrant spoke up, voicing the worry that had passed through his own mind.

Share this post


Link to post

"I'm fine," Stesha began automatically, even as she put a plate of cookies out on the table. She stopped, sighed, corrected herself. "No, that's not true. Something bad is happening to the plants here, and I think it might be connected to whatever killed this planet in the first place." Briefly she sketched out what Anne had told her about the old biological weapons, then what she'd found in her own explorations. "Right now the concentration of prions, if that's what they are, in the air is very low," she told them. "And I flushed out what I could, locked them away for the moment, but that isn't going to last very long."

She poured water over loose-leaf tea in her pretty china pot, then poured coffee into an insulated carafe and brought them both over. Sitting down, she took a cookie herself. "I'm concerned that if any of us go back to Prime, we risk taking the infection with us. On Sanctuary, with me giving the matter my full attention, a rapidly multiplying plant disease is a problem. On Earth Prime, it could be an ecological catastrophe."

Share this post


Link to post

Tarrant took a cookie and nibbled on it while Stesha talked, but she clearly had his full attention. "It's a good thought - I'll certainly not open any of my gates until we get this sorted out. Do you know how long it's been happening?"

He'd unconsciously put his free hand down on the hilt of his sword, trying to remember if he'd seen anything too out of the ordinary lately. "I guess it seems a little weird to me that this would just...I don't know, show up, all of a sudden?" he asked, looking back and forth between the others. "I'm hardly an expert on all things prion, but things seemed pretty stable for a while - unless it just randomly blew in on the wind, where did we get this fresh dose of plant-killing bioweapon from?"

Share this post


Link to post

Gabriel mulled over what Fleur had said. This wasn't quite the standard sort of emergency he dealt with as a hero, but it was a grave thing nonetheless. He took a sip of tea, then set the cup and saucer down on the table as he stood up.

"Please excuse me for a moment."

He stood and walked away from the table, his lips twitching soundlessly. He nodded a couple of times ans he stood, until he turned back to his companions, taking his seat once more.

"I've informed the brothers that all portal traffic is to be ceased immediately until this crisis is solved. They sent a brief transmission back to Earth Prime to let them know about the lockdown, but the portal is now closed until we're sure this is cleared up. As for what to do..."

He hummed in thought for a moment.

"If we're going with the rather logical assumption this is some sort of bioweapon, and that it's not floating here from halfway across the world, then we have to try to determine what place or places in Freedom City might contain samples of such things. Offhand, I would think military bases, hospitals, and universities. I would say some sort of private research firm, but I don't know enough about this world's history to know how widespread such research might have been before the disaster here."

Share this post


Link to post

"Well, the theory Anne gave me," Stesha began, blowing on her tea, "was that it was always around in minute quantity, but dormant until there was a biomass available in which it could multiply. So while the planet was blasted and dead, there was no way for it to propagate itself and we didn't see it, but now that there's a substantial regional ecology, it's back and growing again. I don't think it's a bad theory, but I can sense it in the low parts-per-billion range right now, so it seems as though if it had been laying around this long, I would have noticed it before. We could've disturbed something in the construction we've been doing."

She took a sip of her tea and looked at them. "The other possibility is that someone or something is deliberately trying to sabotage our project. We already know that at one time the Grue had an interest in this Earth, but there doesn't seem to be any reason for them to be so subtle in this case. Or there could be another survivor or group of survivors who we haven't found and who don't want us here. All I know for sure is that the strongest concentration of prions is in the direction of the Freedom City ruins. Can either of you get in touch with anyone on Prime who could tell us where biological weapons or records of them might have been stored eighty years ago?"

Share this post


Link to post

"I could probably make a couple of calls if we want to risk the contact," Tarrant pondered, mentally trying to decide whether it would be better to ask one of his more history-minded peers or just send some students down into the ugly depths of the library for some record-searching. It probably wouldn't hurt to do both. Microfilm builds character, anyway. The thought almost tugged his mouth into a wry grin, but in the situation he couldn't really sustain it. "I could just say I'm concerned with the state of the local soil and groundwater health, which is true enough."

Share this post


Link to post

"I can probably make some calls. I can be rather convincing in general, and the very real danger going on here should help cement the issue. I can probably get the numbers for some military contacts, given some time. Sonya might know some people to speak with, though she wouldn't have that information herself. I'm just glad she's on Prime. Ah. Not that I'm glad any of us are stuck here while there's a dangerous bioweapon on the loose, mind, but...ahem. Yes. Tarrant, I don't know if you have a way to get int touch with Prime. If you don't, I think we can rig something up at the monastery to let you talk to your contacts. Between the two of us we should be able to get something. Hopefully soon; this seems like the sort of thing we need to resolve very quickly."

The man in white and silver seemed a bit uncomfortable talking about Sonya while in "work mode", but he tried not to "freak out" about it. Technically there was no need for his mask, as by now Tarrant knew his identity; but for Gabriel, it was a matter of mentality, and right now the costume helped keep him in the right mindset.

Share this post


Link to post

"I can put you in touch from here," Stesha offered. "I can verify that the air in here is clear of prions, then open a tiny portal enough to allow cell phone service. We can't keep it open very long, but it should be enough to help us get information." She shuddered once, then scratched her head as best she could with the many braids. "The quicker we get this wrapped up, the better. Everything feels off, just a little bit, it's like wearing a really scratchy shirt that you can't take off."

Spreading her hands, Stesha commanded the plants that made up her house to go to work clearing the air. They obeyed her command, the combined effects of thousands of waving leaves and open transpiration pores creating a sudden strong breeze through the room. "Clean for now," she told them, then touched her finger to a flower in a vase on the table. Its center irised open, just wide enough that they could see a bit of the empty living room at Stesha's old apartment through it.

Share this post


Link to post

Tarrant wasted no time in pulling out a cell phone and making a couple very careful calls - mostly to people who could pass the request along, so that he wasn't wasting time trying to catch people who may not be available. Whatever the people on the other end of the line thought of his short, strange, and rather context-less requests for research, they apparently didn't dig too deep into it.

By the time he'd put his cell phone away he was reasonably sure he'd done what he could - or at least started the ball rolling. He was also reasonably sure he owed at least six people lunch now, but it'd be a small price to pay if they came back with anything.

Then it was just a matter of sitting and waiting, for his part. At least for now.

Share this post


Link to post

GM

The phones calls were many, and the help was forthcoming. However, one man, a Doctor Vincent Bottle, was the most helpful of the lot. He sounded old, because he was, and he sounded rather spaced out, which is probably because he was. The man had a reputation for experimenting on all sorts of biological chemicals, some on himself.

He had worked for the military fifty years ago, then quit in disgust, and become a kind of layabout hippy professor of biochemistry. Quite anti-war, and more than willing to spill the beans.

"Yeah, I remember back in the day..." he said, in between vague musings of the past.

"Lonely Point, they used. Underground research. Military bases. Away from people, like as though that was going to help, man..." he said, coughing for a moment.

"They set it up turn of the century. All sorts of crazy stuff knocked up there. 'though it was back in the day...we just dealt with mustard gas, some nasty bacteria, and that stuff. Evil stuff, man. Don't get me wrong, we dealt with cures too...that was the main thing, really...but you know, it was bad karma in the end man, I had to get out of their and grab me some clean karma...anyway, I guess it all got closed down and burnt up sooner or later.

These days they deal with much worse, hell, much worse. All I know is back then, when it was crude, man. We didn't know one percent of what we do know, and it was still bad stuff, man..."

Share this post


Link to post

While Gaian Knight focused on calls to those in an academic role, Gabriel tried a different tactic. He started with people he knew at least in passing from his hero work; people in law enforcement, emergency rescue, the military, and of course the clergy. He tried to keep the details sparse, beyond making it clear this was a very serious matter, and that lives were quite likely on the line.

As the minutes went by, he made some progress convincing a few people to help him contact more senior and knowledgeable individuals. Gabriel hoped he could get some information from some of the more senior military officials in the city, as well as perhaps people with some access to historical records of older bases. He reasoned that if they could find out the source of the problem, perhaps that same source would hold a solution as well. If it didn't, he could always make some more calls to find someone with an idea for a cure, or at least a stopgap.

Share this post


Link to post

After several minutes speaking with a rather large array of people who knew people he knew, Gabriel hung up his last call and tucked away his "work" cell phone (a rather cheap model, it seemed). He turned to the others with a sigh.

"I've got...well, not sure if it's good or bad, but it's information. Confirmed the story from the professor; there's definitely an old chemical weapons plant out at Lonely Point, at least in our world. Place is probably built really tough; airlocks, incinerators, backups, that sort of thing; should have kept this stuff locked away, but it's hard to tell.

Apparently the best short-term treatment is an auto-immune drug to dampen the immune system, because they think this Prion acts like an antibody. Of course, they'd need to develop a version of that to use on plants and not people. A cure is possible, but we'd need to send samples, and they'd need time. Not sure how much of that we've got.

Some sort of "scrubber" would be possible, but we'd have to import and set up the heavy machinery. Just like with the theoretical cure, really.

Beyond that, I found out a few fun and spine-chilling facts about the inner workings of biological and chemical weapons and how they work. For however much that will help us I guess."

Share this post


Link to post

"I suppose a trip to Lonely Point is the logical next step," Stesha murmured, sounding a bit uncertain. "The atmosphere is unpleasant, but it shouldn't be dangerous as long as we don't spend much time there. But I admit I don't know much about what conditions are like out that far. I've never really explored any of the ruins myself. When I first began working on the project, I was pregnant with Ammy and didn't want to risk the contamination. Then later... I guess I just didn't go. It makes me sad," she admitted. "To look at it and remember that everything we're building here is because all those people died. But we have to see if there's anything there that will help us."

She looked over to Tarrant. "I'm going to need a ride to get out there. Anything green and growing got blasted off the planet out there and never came back, so I have no avenue to teleport."

Share this post


Link to post

"Not a problem," Tarrant nodded, trying to remember what he knew about that end of this world's version of the area. "We may want to fly, though, rather than tunnel. All big underground rooms 'look' the same to me - I can recognize things like acid leaching into the soil because of what it does to the soil, but I don't want to accidentally skim us too close to some bioweapon bunker or something. It'll be a little slower, but not too bad - I can probably get us there in twenty minutes, maybe less."

Somewhere just outside Stesha's home there was a quiet rumbling noise as the platform he'd arrived on and some carefully-dislodged stone from beneath the grass pulled together into a simple, lipped construction big enough to comfortably seat three. As always, though, the ground over the reclaimed stone closed back up with only a little dusting of dirt to betray it had been moved - Tarrant knew better than to mess up a plant-lover's lawn. "Guess I'm ready when you two are."

Share this post


Link to post

"Sounds like a plan. If something goes really wrong, I can cover you two while you escape, no problem. Might be good if we flew around a bit once we're there, maybe avoid a bunch of contact with the ground."

Gabriel made an "after you" gesture toward Fleur, even offering a hand to help her up if she desired.

"Ladies first, at least for boarding. Doesn't look like we'll have to worry about keeping our tray tables in the locked and upright position, at least."

He gave Gaian Knight a wink, but it seemed a bit forced; this whole affair was likely giving him a bit of stress, especially now that he'd gotten a lot of grisly details about biological and chemical weapons from the experts.

Share this post


Link to post
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...