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Monday 

April 25 

Trinity Hospital 

 

After the events in Ocean Heights, Rhode Island, and Mexico, the heroes of Freedom City (and indeed the world) are aware of the global threat of the Makot Mitzrayim - the Plagues of Egypt. The threat isn't just the Plagues, of course, but the people driven to hysteria (one way or another) by an apocalypse that seems ("but only seems" Seven stressed in her briefing sent to the major superteams) to correspond to that of the three largest religions on Earth. The Interceptors in particular, thanks to Harrier and Echo's report from down in Mexico, have gotten a strong picture of what's going on. But with only one attack in Freedom City proper, it's easy for most people to let life go on.

 

In the West End in the last few days there's been a freakishly rare flu epidemic, one of those bizarre moments that can happen in a city full of people and exposed to all sorts of exotic chemicals, viruses, and other ailments over the years. Things are bad enough that the hospital is nearly full, getting them to send non-emergency cases home, and they've called out volunteer doctors from other hospitals to help deal with the crisis. The flu can be a scary disease for parents, the elderly, the unlucky - especially when it turns to pneumonia. So if the hospital chapel is particularly packed with people praying for their families and themselves, well, maybe it has nothing to do with the Plagues of Egypt. 

 

At least until you turn on the news - and catch the continued cleanup elsewhere in the city, the nation, the world. But the heroes of Freedom have dealt with worse than this...right?

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At least it's "just" the flu, Tristan told himself, standing back out of the way in the reception area, observing and thinking.  His older brothers reacted poorly to him taking a little time off from the Freedom Cross Institute to consult on this epidemic; this would set back his gene isolation project, part of his ongoing efforts to end many forms of familial dilated cardiomyopathy.  Assisting with such a public problem in his home city would be good press for the whole Institute, though.  Personally, Tristan just wanted in on this, whatever it was--something big was going down.  He grudgingly missed the Deep Ones uprising, and he would've left work mid-test last Friday to rush as Leviathan to the Ocean Heights Amusement Park, had he known what was happening at the time.  He couldn't turn down the chance to get involved.

 

Reading today's outbreak reports, however, and worse still, looking directly at the frightened patients and their families, numbed the young doctor's enthusiasm.  It no longer felt like an exciting game waiting to be won by mighty heroes.

 

...But at least it's just the flu.  This could've been so much worse.

 

Tristan approached the receptionist and introduced himself, to see where he was needed.

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Ellis palpated the next patient's lymph nodes as he waited on the thermal strip to register a temperature, "Alright you're good."  he said checking the strip to find no fever, "Take these then take the blue slip to the door and you should be just fine ma'am."  he assured her as he handed off the prophylactic antivirals and slip noting her free of the prevalent symptoms.  "Next!"  he called and began the short list of questions, "Any joint pain or headache?"  and so forth before sticking hte next thermal strip into the patients mouth and continuing the exam.  "I have an ex-roomate in plastics, off in San Diego, Getting 300k a year to fix starlets noses and claim they had 'exhaustion' to the press."  he said to the next doc down the line conversationally.

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It was an ordinary day for Maybelle McQueen. She cooked, she served, she cooked some more. The only things that were different was that she was in Trinity Hospital’s cafeteria, and the people she was serving were doctors, nurses, and worried family members. The Southern Queen was closed today for some light renovations. Some minor electrical issues needed tidying, or so Chris said. It was fine with Maybelle. She was still working. Some of the cafeteria workers had fallen sick as well, and one of the chief nurses had made a call for catering, only to discover the bad news. Fortunately, Maybelle had zip else to do today, so here she was. Granted, she was mostly serving coffee and sandwiches, but they were d*** fine coffee and sandwiches. Besides, it had been years since she did the fry cook thing. And as a sweet bonus, every since she’d put the Ring on she’d never gotten sick. Not a cough, not a sniffle. Of course, getting properly sloshed was just as impossible, so pros and cons.

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Chris yawned and rubbed at his eyes. He couldn't remember the last time he slept. Crime-fighting and babies was awful, just awful. Was this why Erik was so moody? Possibly, he reflected, as he wandered the corridors of the hospital. Ellie had been down here for some time, helping out, and Gina had insisted he take her a bagged lunch. Which fell to him because, well, he could probably walk off a super-plague. But he also was now half-awake and trying to find one person in a crowded hospital.

 

He was also incognito, as he wasn't so keen on wearing the uniform in hospitals after The Incident. So he had it on underneath his jeans and a baggy green sweater. God, was he exhausted. He leaned against a convenient wall for a second, trying to get his bearings. Eventually, he just resorted to waving a nurse. "Uh, hi, do you know where Ellie Espadas is?" Chris waved the brown paper bag in an explanatory manner. 

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For a moment the nurse looked like he was going to snap something to the effect that Trinity was a little busy just then and he wasn't an information desk but stopped short, taking an audible, calming breath while running a hand over his shaved head. The brown haired young man didn't look much better rested than he was, after all. "Espadas, sure. ER, I'm heading that way anyway, c'mon."

 

Chris' guide brought him around to one of the hospital's other entrances, opening the door to the ER waiting room and pointing to the desk. Even without the need for secrecy the amount of energy required meant that Ellie couldn't just go floor by floor, healing every patient with her superhuman abilities. When a particularly nasty bug started going around, however, she'd taken to trading for a shift at the front desk where she could hopefully take the edge off anything potentially life-threatening as she spoke to each of the afflicted in turn. The med student usually looked like she'd missed at least one night of sleep in the past week but even from across the room Chris could tell she was running on fumes. "Hey, kid!" the nurse called, putting a hand to his mouth. "Boyfriend to see you!"

 

"Uh, no?" Ellie objected blearily, taking a clipboard back from the lean youth in glasses standing in front of her before looking over. "Oh, Chris. Hey. Thanks, Seb." Looking back to the volunteer she finished explaining, "Dr. Delacroix, head through there and check in with Dr. Sanford. Blond guy, probably making dad jokes, can't miss him. Joanne, can you give me five?" The heavyset woman sitting next to her behind the desk hummed an affirmative without looking up. Ellie rose from her chair with some difficulty, cracked her back and sauntered over to meet her teammate.

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GM

 

The doctor Ellis was speaking to was Adrien Johnson, one of Trinity Hospital's attending physician going on ten years now.  Johnson was a heavyset, African American man in his mid forties known for his helpful demeanor.  "You know how it is.  Cutters, get paid.  No surprise.  The real kicker is my old roommate decided to go into anesthesia during our clinical rotations.  Guy's never made less than three times what I make.  Oh God no..." 

 

Looking over it didn't take Ellis long to figure out what Dr. Johnson's cause for alarm was.  Whilst looking down a patient's throat with a tongue blade, the doctor found himself covered in blood.  The bout of hematemesis was not the only the only surprise.  The patient, a teenage male wearing skinny jeans and some local band's shirt, was coughing vigorously.  Giving Ellis a front row view of swelling in his armpit.

 

Tristan arrived just in time to be greeted not by corny humor.  But, the sight of another medical professional being enveloped in a crimson mask.  Apparently, the flu was not the only thing on the menu.

*      *      *

As Maybelle served people, she began to notice a strange trend.  The number of people coughing in the cafeteria was steadily increasing.  On its own it wasn't cause for concern.  If not for the fact that none of the staff members who entered the cafeteria showed signs of illness.  At least until they started eating.  Each individual's cough fit quickly progressing from mild to worse.

 

Unlike Maybelle, none of the other kitchen volunteers seemed to be aware of the developing cough in the cafeteria.

*      *      *

Chris and Ellie's conversation in the ER found itself gaining new participants.  As not long had the pair begun speaking and two patients, in the midst of a brawl, ended up crashing into a nearby desk.  One was a dock worker, the other worked in animal control for the city.  Neither party losing ground in terms of muscle mass as they violently exchanged blows.

 

Ellie recognized the pair from earlier in the night.  They were admitted to the ER back to back.  Neither related to the other, but sharing similar afflictions.  The dock worker was bitten by a feral cat that had chosen to make a cargo container its home.  The man who worked for animal control found himself in the wrong end of an altercation with a temperamental possum.

 

"Leave me alone you hell beast!"  The animal control offer screamed while tacking the dock worker to the ground inches away from Chris.

Edited by HG Morrison
Editing

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Ellis blushed slightly at the response.  His own specialty wasn't exactly tortuous, well beyond the on call schedule of being on the transplant team.  "Point ta-"  he began to reply as everything seemed to go very poorly in very short order,  "It can't be..." he recoiled at the thought and planting a mask over his face looked closer at the telltale swelling.

 

"Lock the doors now."  he hissed to the nearest nurse urgently, "Get them to Isolation everyone else has to stay here."  he said motioning to the patient and the unfortunate doctor covered in blood.  "We're in quarantine and get a call in to the CDC."  he ordered with calm he did not feel.  After recent events this was no coincidence.  As the staff swung into action he turned to the worried intern on his far side looking after the pair with fear in his eyes, "Was that..?"  the young doctor asked only to receive a quiet nod from Ellis, "Yes, Plague."  he replied.

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For a moment, Tristan stood frozen in shock.  This definitely wasn't what he'd mentally prepared for; death among the flu patients was certainly possible, but after having steeled himself for that, this real hazard came as a chilling slap.  When he slowly began to think again, his mind first turned to how sudden, escalating disease fit into the other recent catastrophes across the country and beyond. 

 

Is this more magic?  I'm really starting to hate magic.

 

He forced himself to snap back to the matter at hand and recall treatment options.  "They both need to start IV antibiotic treatments as soon as possible," Tristan added to Ellis's orders.  "If Trinity doesn't have the right medication--" and given their relative rarity and the hospital's budget, he doubted Trinity would, especially not in sufficient quantities for everyone here who was likely already infected, including himself, "--then we might be able to bring them in from nearby hospitals, instead of waiting for CDC shipments."

 

The slight waver to his voice worried him, as did the intern's reaction.  To reassure himself just as much as everyone else, Tristan pointed out, "The incubation period for the bubonic plague is usually two to six days.  We have both the time and the tools to fix this, if we follow standard epidemic procedures."

 

...Unless it's magic.  I'm really starting to hate magic.

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Maybelle took flight immediately. A silvery bullhorn appeared at her lips. The simple kind, not the electronic. “Put down the food, right now!” She should’ve checked it herself. There’s sick people all over this hospital, she should’ve checked the food herself! Silvery tendrils lashed out, stealing plates and mugs. “Sorry, folks! Kitchen’s closed for a bit. Go see one of the doctors. Now!” A big silvery bag collected everything she scooped up. “Seriously, people! OUT! We have contamination!” With everything collected, she took her bag to the industrial sized trash can in the rear of the kitchen and emptied it. It took three large trash bags, but everything was tied up neatly and lined up for inspection whenever the docs wanted a look. She let the bullhorn fade away, and addressed the kitchen volunteers. “All right, somebody lock the doors. I’m gonna find a doc. In the meantime, don’t serve anything, even if it’s properly sealed. I don’t trust anything in this kitchen right now.” She spoke with authority that would allow no disagreement and prohibited disobedience. With that she flew out of the cafeteria to find the nearest doctor.

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"I could do better," muttered Chris, in regards to the idea he could be Ellie's boyfriend. "Anyway. Long story short." Chris held up the small paper bag, proffering it at Ellie. "Ms Big Time Adult, your mother sent me down with lunch." He pointed at the bag with his other hand and grunted. "Then I go home and sleep.  The team are doing stuff." He waved his hands vaguely. "Not sure what, things are weird." Chris shook his head woozily, and pointed at his own head. "God, I need sleep. I miss sleep. I-"

 

His insomniac babbling was cut off by the crash from the two patients brawling. Chris interposed fairly quickly, shoving his palm hard against the chest of the man not on the ground, and pushing him back one-handed, even with his flailing and aggression. Casually, he slid his foot up onto the other man's thigh so he couldn't get up. "Right! This is a hospital! For sick people. Fight elsewhere. Only don't, we're not children here."

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It took a moment for Ellie to place the brawling pair among all of the patients she'd taken information from as they arrived but the abrupt string of profanity that accompanied Chris' attempt to calm the men down announced the bleakness of her diagnosis. She moved quickly to the sleep-deprived new father's shoulder, keeping an eye on the patient still standing so that Chris could be warier of the one on the ground. "Watch your hands, dammit. These two just went from zero to rabies impossibly fast." Even without knowing they'd both been bitten by feral animals the overactive salivation, increased aggression and apparent hallucinations were as distinctive as they were terrifying. That wasn't something a subtle, tingling handshake was going to take care of; she needed to be able to cut loose with her powers. "As in actually impossible unless somebody's actively breaking the rules. This just turned into a work clothes sort of problem," she informed her teammate in an urgent hiss.

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GM

 

The airborne Maybelle Queen's travels found her in front of the sight of Chris easily manhandling the two rabid men.  Too far out of earshot to hear the personal conversation, she could at the very least identify that Ellie was a medical student by the white coat that was shorter than a doctor's (or nurse's).  Before the eager chef could explain the plight of the cafeteria the PA system turned on.  A soft voice began humming

 

"Wring and wring around a neck so constricted,

A building full of the afflicted,

Cough! Cough! Cough!

You all fall dead.

 

Life and death.  You fools believe yourselves the arbiters of that hallowed divide.  But I am the Pathogen that controls your end!  You are but cattle awaiting the hand that leads you to slaughter.  You spin lies promising salvation.  Delaying the inevitable.  But, it is all for naught.  Everything is diseased.  Everything expires.  Your are but idolators of false hope.  The disease masquerading itself as humanity comes to an end.  Behold the cleansing of the plague! "

 

The soft voice giggled before the PA system cut off.  Any worried faces quickly changing their focus to the staff that appeared suddenly overwhelmed.  "We got a Code Orange!"  One nurse called out as the phones began ringing at an alarming pace.  Even the two combative patients seemed like an afterthought.

 

"Where?"  Another called out.

 

"Everywhere."

The hospital's electronic locks began engaging throughout the building.  Every employee in the building knew a Code Orange was Trinity Hospital's internal designation for a lockdown.  Usually due to a Quarantine or a material spill.  But, for the entire hospital to get lockdown.

*     *     *

Dr. Ellis and Dr. Delacroix found themselves in an equally chaotic situation.  Despite, being one of the first wards of the hospital to call in a Quarantine order.  The plague was a simple matter to treat with modern medicine.  But, their patient was progressing at an alarming rate.  From a gentle if not vigorous coughing fit to signs that the disease had already spread to his lungs.  It wasn't possible.

 

To make matters worse nurses quickly informed them about the hospital wide lockdown.  Making it nigh impossible that anyone would be transported to another facility.  Coupled with the announcement over the PA system it was clear that something was going on.

*     *     *

Patients throughout the rest of the hospital quickly began tweeting out about their situation.  Some telling tales of rabid men wandering the halls.  Some speaking of fungi growing on the walls.  The one thing in common, no one was allowed to leave.  It wasn't long before the tale of Trinity Hospital's plight became a breaking story on many a local news outlets.  Friends and family left looking on as their loved ones were trapped inside.

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I am really starting to hate magic!

 

Tristan listened to the speech with wide eyes.  The urge to become Leviathan turned almost desperate, not to help save the hospital, but to protect himself; the monster's autoimmune defenses were far better than his own, which he'd enhanced but to a much lesser degree.  Normally he'd trust his basic improvements to see him through, but if literal curses were about to flood this building with disease...

 

He fought to master his fear.  To help focus his mind, Tristan hurried to the side of the bubonic patient; with the whole hospital under quarantine (and likely infected with the same as this room, or worse), moving him elsewhere now seemed pretty pointless.  "Hold still, sir, please," he all but squeaked.  The young doctor hurried for the nearest drip chamber, wheeled it into place, and inserted a clean IV needle with practiced efficiency.  "Does Trinity have any stocks of streptomycin or gentamicin?" Tristan demanded of the nurses and interns, assuming they hadn't already fled. 

 

How do I fix this?  Maybe whoever's behind the diseases is in the hospital.  Once this kid's stable, I could slip away, change my face, and go hunting.  Save Leviathan until I find the villain.  But there can't be enough doctors here to handle what's about to happen, especially once infection overcomes them too...

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"Progression is too fast."  Ellis intoned as he ushered the most contaminated patients to closed off exam bays.  There was something unnatural here and the singsong voice over the PA only confirmed it.  "Prophylactic antibiotics for the staff and non-infected."  he ordered the intern knowing the supplies here were going to be in short supply to start with and likely already strained just with the flu outbreak and over prescription.  Looking at the PA speaker he narrowed his eyes, "I'll see if I can round up more and maybe get through to administration but we may be on security lock down keep them calm for now.

 

With that Ellis rushed into the crowd toward a storage closet nominally to seek out the meds in question but moreover to adopt his Sandman persona and teleport to the lobby and see if he could find out more of what had happened.

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Chris broke out into a grin and pointed up at the nearest speaker. "Well, you're right! Someone is actively breaking the rules!" He jumped a little and punched the air. Then suddenly the smile faded off his face and he frowned. "Wait, we're locked down in a hospital with infected people rapidly turning violent. I think I've seen this movie. This is not a good one." He abruptly spun one way, then the other, knocking out both of the rabid men with solid blows to the temple. 

 

"We're going to need to get everyone into some sort of safe area. And we need to find out who that is." He inclined his head towards the PA system. "And get this thing stopped, and do it fast." Chris stopped, putting a hand to his head wearily. "And there's only two of us in a locked down quarantine. Great."

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"This is why you need to make time for team building exercises," Ellie drawled quietly, hunkering down over one of the newly unconscious men and subtly slipping a hand over his wrist. "There's at least three." Positioning herself so that her patient's body was between the increasingly agitated crowd and herself she concentrated, calling up a fraction of her metamagi abilities and letting a trickle of healing energy flow outward from her fingertips, wary of the telltale glow. She wasn't too surprised when she felt something pushing back against her even if she couldn't articulate quite what it was; something was actively doing this and it was powerful enough to affect the whole hospital.

 

With a grunt she got to her feet and gave Chris a small shake of her head. "Nobody's getting better until we clean Mr. Monologue's clock. I'll grab my spare uniform and track down our reinforcements. You have pyjamas handy?"

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Chris thumped his chest under his big sweater. His knuckles made a solid rapping noise against the muscle. "Always do. When I stop, talc shares will plummet. Seriously, it gets pretty warm in here." Surreptitiously, he walked back over to where Ellie was hunkered down, glancing at what she was doing. He met her gaze as she stood up, shaking her head.

 

"Welp, that would have been easy. Could have just filled you with Red Bull and run around fixing it." Chris threw his arms up in exasperation. "Fine, meet you back here in a couple. Going to go strip down in a cupboard." He stomped away grumpily, moving into a side room and moving to pull his sweater off over his head.

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As luck would have it, here was someone doctorly right here. Maybelle landed softly, and everything went to hell in a handbasket. A biblical plague had struck the hospital. Her force field kicked on in the usual transparent silvery way, and she took to the air once more. The megaphone made a second appearance. “All right folks. Things are getting a little bit complicated, but we can sort this out no problem. Just need you all sick folk to stay calm, and let the doctors and nurses do what they do.” She was making a spectacle of herself, deliberately focusing eyes on her so if there were any uncostumed heroes in earshot, they could slip away unseen. “I’m a hero. Name’s Queenie. Don’t fret, between me and whoever else is in here we’ll get this sorted out in no time at all.”

Edited by EternalPhoenix

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GM

 

Tristan set about treating the plague victim with expediency.  The doctor's expert administering of a full course of antibiotic treatment and supporting his patient's compromised respiratory system further with assisted oxygen.  Before he could try and slip away, Tristan noticed that the doctor who had been splattered with blood had already begun coughing.  As crazy of a thought as it was, there was a chance that he was already presenting with symptoms so soon after being coughed on.

 

*     *     *

 

Chris' horror movie comparison turned out to be pretty apt for Sandman.  The lobby seemed to be covered in an opaque haze.  Low groans echoed throughout the lobby, sight unseen behind the concealment of the haze.  Suddenly, Ellis found a set of arms placed on his shoulders.  The red rash and incredibly stiff feeling off the limbs hinted to a lyme disease origin.  Suddenly the owner of the arm began pushing down violently on the Sandman.  Violence hinting towards the rarely discussed drastic personality change known as 'lyme rage.'

 

Nearby, the sounds of shambling heavy footsteps confirmed that Sandman and his new violent friend were not alone.

 

*     *     *

 

Geckoman and Jill O'Cure donned their costumes without any prying eyes.  It was mostly administrative hospital staff in the area, so the assumption was that Ellie was going to get supplies to treat the crazed patients.  Half of the nearby staff distracted by Maybelle Queen's loud declaration.  The other half distracted by the fact that a all manner of avian creatures began descending towards the window.  Crashing one after another in the windows.   None managing to break through. 

 

Unfortunately, as Geckoman's nose could attest, that was not the end of the strange animal intrusion.  Geckoman could smell something having arrived in the ER.  Before, he could verbally express this sentiment all three heroes could hear the loud banging from the ER doors mixed in with frightened screams. 

 

Throughout the West End cases of animals acting as super spreaders for a number of diseases began to spread.  But, with Trinity hospital's building wide lockdown it became increasingly more difficult to bring the diseased the treatment they needed.

Edited by HG Morrison
Edited to include, Geckoman, Queenie, and Jill of All Blades.

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"Sure, been that sort of day," Jill O'Cure decided blithely as she watched the animals smashing themselves against the glass. Catching back up with Geckoman she pursed her lips and began gathering power about her flexing fingers. "I'm going to hate myself for saying this later, probably, but I think we need to split up. I'll take force field duty down here but you've got a better chance of tracking down our Talky Tommy. Just keep in contact, yeah?" She tapped two fingers to her ear and the unobtrusive communication device tucked inside.

 

With a final nod she took off toward the emergency room, passing the shouting, flying cafeteria worker without taking time to make so much as a food fight pun. "Hey, what do you do?" she called over without preamble as she ran. "That energy field get any bigger?"

 

* * * * *

On the rooftop of the building across the street from Trinity a solitary figure watched as another black feathered bird dive bombed the hospital. With one boot atop the ledge circling the roof he leaned forward enough to get a better look before producing a grappling line launcher from his belt. "What'd you get yourself into this time, hermanita?"

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Geckoman staggered out of a nearby supply closet and towards Jill, looking discomfited at the weird animal attacks. "Well, aren't we having just the most brilliant day?" He sighed and shook his head, tutting. "Oh well. Let's find the culprit. Y'know, kick his ass up between his ears, yadda yadda yadda." He tapped his fingers to the side of his mask, where his earpiece was just underneath it. And also his ear. "I'll go look for clues, Velma.

 

Sticking out his tongue and making a mock saluting gesture at Jill, he quickly darted off further into the hospital, looking to and fro sharply, sniffing and looking for some sort of trail or sign as to the culprit behind all this. There was always something. 

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“Sunshine, I can do a heck of a lot.” Queenie flashed a delighted grin at the costumed heroine. It was nice to be right. She kept pace effortlessly in flight. “Though if you take me out of the kitchen I’m just flight, force fields, and TK. If you’ve got a commlink I can link up with it, too.” It was a little surprising, though. Half the city knew who Maybelle McQueen or Queenie was, or at least that was how it seemed sometimes. “My personal field doesn’t get any bigger, but I can serve up another one in whatever size you need.” She abruptly realized she was still wearing the cafeteria worker gear, and shucked it. Apron, gloves, and hair net fluttered to ground in her wake. “What are you working with?”

Edited by EternalPhoenix

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With a sigh of relief, Tristan double-checked the fit of the oxygen mask on his patient, and was about to turn the boy over to whichever intern hadn't fled the scene already, when he noticed his fellow doctor's cough.  His eye twitched. 

 

Hate magic.  Hate it so much.

 

"Come here, come here, quickly," he ordered, motioning insistently toward another gurney.  "We'll miss not having your help, but it isn't worth your life--and you can't get back to work when you'll just risk infecting everyone near you."

 

As he repeated the previous procedures a second time, he darted his head back and forth looking for any nearby help.  "Can somebody get me a pager or something, with numbers for the other residents?  And tell me who's the attending physician for this department?  We need to keep the whole hospital informed and working together; just calling a Code Orange doesn't begin to cover the problems we've got, and we can't let them overwhelm us!"

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Even as the arms closed over his shoulders the swirling sands that embodied his power and mandate whipped about seeking to neutralize the assailant in their somnolent embrace.  Stepping out of the enraged Lyme patients grasp Sandman turned the full potency of his sleep inducing powers upon them iridescent sands wending around to pull them to slumber even as Sandman took note of the cause of this latest strife.  The villain behind this terror not only twisted illness to new and virulent potency but commanded the very vectors of infection.  The lockdown procedures may keep the worst contained but before long this would spread if not stopped now.  The entity on the loudspeakers had to be found and neutralized, anything less was just slowing the inevitable.  Sandman stalked the halls porting past barriers in his search prepared to put to rest those patients afflicted with violent dementia and calm the frightened masses alike.

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