Busby walks into the lounge in his usual civilian-style attire, but with buggy eyes and drooping mouth that tend to suggest he’d almost certainly prefer to be in a hazmat suit. Or perhaps in an entirely different city. He settles into one of the booths and watches the guards in protective gear coming and going. And he waits.

Kinako makes a mildly sympathetic face before rising from her seat, where she had remained until the saboteur was escorted out, and then for a time afterwards. She approaches the Spark CEO and offers a bow. “Mister Busby-sir,” she says. “I do not mean to impose, but would you be able to put me in contact with the existing authority here? Also would you happen to have any Himalayan salt lamps, perhaps in your offices?”

Maxwell stretches a bit on his bar stool, and nods briefly at the new arrival.

Busby blinks a couple of times before it finally registers that someone is talking to him. He looks at Kinako and says, “I *am* part of the existing authority, man. More or less.” His gaze drifts to the armed guards. “Less, I suppose, at the moment.” He shrugs. “Anyway. Salt lamps? My shaman swears by them. I’ve got a couple on the bookshelf in my office. Why?”

Maurice watches the goings on and slowly shakes his head. The man whistles “The Yellow Rose of Texas” As the saboteur is marched out. “Crazier than a shit house rat.” He informs everyone within ear shot once terrorist is gone. A soft chuckle and a shake of his head follows.

“Because we need to raise the relative humidity in this building to at least forty-five percent. The beneficial emissions of your lamps will also assist in the inactivation of the virus, if there is in fact one present. If its virulence is based upon the flu virus, which I believe it may be, the humidity and added salts in the air will help mitigate the spread and ease the symptoms,” Kinako says, speaking quickly and quietly. “We will also need black tea, honey – Manuka if it is available, at least plus fifteen UMF, a bioelectric emitter and acupuncture set, and a kinesiotape scanner and printer. Ah, and rice. Also garlic.” She pauses to take a breath. “Are there scientists on staff? I have some minor knowledge of pathology but I am by no means qualified to cure an engineered disease. But what I -can- do is mitigate the spread and prevent further damage to our patients.”

Maxwell listens to the medical chatter, and waves the barkeep over to order a beer.

Busby scratches the right side of his face as he listens to Kinako run down her list. Eventually, his eyes roll and he sighs. “Jesus, man, why bother with salt lamps? We’re, like, three blocks from the Atlantic Ocean. Not sure if the commisary has black tea and honey, but they might, man. No pie, though, which is a crying shame. I don’t want to die of ebola without a good slice of pie. A big one. Because, y’know, whatever, man.” He rubs his left wrist, then says, “We’ve got scientists. That’s sorta why this place is here, man. That’s kinda why we ended up with a crazy ass strain of crunchy Texas ebola wafting through the air tubes. Goddamned Texans, man. She might’ve infected my shaman! A good shaman’s hard to find. Shaman Steve is a *great* shaman, man, which is, like, magnitudes harder to come by. He wouldn’t think twice about checking the chakra of some Houston debutante, man, maybe setting her straight. He’s a good guy. A generous guy, man. He doesn’t deserve to, y’know, cough out his lungs and bleed his intestines out of his butt.”

Maurice is his back towards the bar when he seems to hear something he doesn’t particularlly care for. “Well now..” He pushes his hat up a little and glances over at Busby. “Now granted we Texans might all be a little off in the head a little but Mister, it aint kind damnin us all.”

Kinako folds her hands in front of her, and bows again. “Please, Mister Busby-sir, be calm. If we increase the humidity, it may inactivate the virus. This is not to guarantee that no one will become ill, but less will. We can not get to the ocean now, we must be confined here. Please, take a deep breath with me, and clear your mind. If it wanders, gently and compassionately guide it back into calm. One breath… two breaths… three breaths… Now. Can you get me in touch with someone who is in charge of the, ah, H-vac, yes? And to please call for your scientists? We have three days before anyone becomes symptomatic. If we can threaten and weaken the virus in the air, and strengthen the people, we can conquer this threat. One breath… two breaths… three breaths…” She inclines her head to Maurice. “Mister Busby-sir is under great duress. It has, ah, compromised his communication skills. Of course, I would not hold you responsible for the actions of the Delilah woman based merely upon your, ah, similar point of origin.”

Maxwell swivels around to see the others, the ordered beer forgotten for now. “Quite… however off she may be, I’m not gonna blame all of Texas for that.”

The Spark CEO narrows his eyes at Kinako, then slaps his palm on the tabletop and says, “Don’t make excuses for me, man! Shaman Steve taught me to own my feelings, so I do. It’s not miscommunication, man.” He stares at Maurice and proceeds: “Your fellow Texan damned us *all*. She did it because of the hard-on all Texans seem to have for the Consortium way of life. Texans shot down that freighter over the swamp too, I have no doubt. Maybe they brought down my dirigible too! The point is: If General Jensen’s smart, he’ll order every Texan-descended soldier confined to barracks. I’m doing what I can to isolate anyone working for Spark with ties to Texas, too, man. It’s got to stop, one way or another, man. There’s a plague out there a hundred times worse than this special ebola, man, and it’s that unique brand of Texas crazy.”

“Well shiiit.” Maurice grumbles as he shifts some to really give Busby the ‘eye’ “And ya all wonder why we got a slightly paranoid independent streak in us.” He stands a bit straighter the more he talks. “As for all that talk of super virus and all that there bull, could be ya’ll doin one of yer insider jobs like big ole government and business is want to do.”

Kinako heaves a long, quiet sigh, but her tone remains calm. “Mister Busby-sir, if you could please get me in contact with someone appropriate, we could disactivate up to seventy to seventy five percent of this special plague within the next fifteen minutes. Please, join me in the moment and free yourself of your anger and its disruptions to your internal energies. Open your Sahasrara chakra and increase your consciousness…” She continues to soothe, holding up one finger to Maurice. “Kindly reserve any accusations for when the crisis has passed, sir. The reasons are currently not relevant. The threat, however, is more real than any opinions that exist in this moment. If everyone would please find compassion and join me in the moment, you will all live to continue this argument at a later time.” She turns her great doe eyes upon both gentlemen. “Please. I know I am possessed of neither power, nor authority, nor a silver tongue, but I would implore you, please, to be more harmonious.”

Maxwell calms his already fairly calm breathing down a bit.

Busby stares silently at Kinako for about twenty seconds, tilting his head, looking almost as if a wire might’ve popped loose somewhere inside. Ultimately, he says, “I may need to fire Shaman Steve, man. What’s your retainer?” He waves a hand. “Never mind that for now, man. Scientists, right? Yeah, man. Here.” He slides a commlink across the table toward Kinako and says, “Connect 12 to reach the Canaveral lab, man. Tell ‘em you’re working for me.”

Maurice tips his hat in Kinako’s direction. “Sure thing there Mama-san.” He says. The Texan watches Busby for a moment longer then shrugs and turns to face the bar.

Kinako bows to Bob, and takes the commlink, carefully following the CEO’s instructions. “Good evening, I am Doctor Omoiyari Kinako, and I am presently working for Mister Busby-sir. I require the assistance of any available pathologists. If someone would also please contact facilities and maintenance, and have them raise the relative humidity to at least forty-five percent. Your cooperation will be very much appreciated.” While awaiting the answer, she mutes the comm. “Mister Maxwell-sir, if you could please check with the commissary, we will need rice, honey, black tea, yes? Is anyone available who can make contact with medical services for us?” Busby gets a gentle shake of her head. “No fees for now. I do this for the sake of all.”

Maxwell nods at Kinako as he fishes around his pockets for a minute, dropping a number of papers covered with assorted doodles and equations on the bar until he finds his phone. Some poking about later, he finally gets a call through to the comissary “Yeah, uh… you guys have any tea? Yes, black tea. Lots of it. And a goodly supply of honey… orange blossom if you have it… eh, make it a variety. We’re gonna need a bunch of that, too. Um, and rice, apparently. I suspect rather a lot of that. Eh? Um, long grain I guess. Yeah, that should be fine. Just get it over to the Apollo Lounge. I’m sure someone official looking will get it all inside.”

Busby clears his throat, then sneezes into the palms of his hands. He leans back to stare at them, apparently expecting blood or some other foreboding telltales. “Hm,” he says when nothing bad seems to have splattered his palms. “Ah.” He settles back in the booth and waits for the supplies to arrive. “What will the rice do, exactly?”

Maurice watches the cockpit replays along for time with a faint far away smile. “Lucky SOBs.” He murmurs to himself. Once the real world comes crashing back he blinks a few times. “Now.. I aint got nuffin against a bit of rice and tea, differn cultures and all that. But if we are plannin last suppers here I’d rather have me a t-bone and a Lone Star if you are kindly takin requests.” He directs over to Kinako.

Kinako presses her lips together, and bows to Maxwell. “I apologize, Mister Maxwell-sir, for not communicating with you properly. The honey I was looking for was Manuka, it comes from bees that have fed upon the flowers of the tea tree… not orange. But if they do not have it, of course any honey has antibacterial properties… short grained rice is better for porridge. I apologize that I did not specify.” She inclines her head to Bob. “I am not certain which manner of flu she engineered the virus with. If it causes intestinal distress, a slowly cooked meal of rice will provide essential nutrients and ease discomfort.” She turns her gray gaze to Maurice, expression apologetic. “You are free to eat what you wish, sir,” she says, “I would in fact encourage you to do so as we will have approximately three days before symptoms begin. I am merely making sufficient preparations in case I am rendered a casualty.” She gets back on the line with the science folks. “Of course, I apologize for my imposition, but your cooperation is very much appreciated. Security may have the woman’s belongings, if she does not have any samples on her person she has indicated that she is an active carrier. Perhaps they would permit you to take samples directly from her. Please also gather as much colloidal silver as you can. We will need it in the case of skin lesions and other necrotic effects.” A brief chink appears in the calm as her eyes water up. She takes a slow, deep breath. “Arigatou, many thanks again.” She hands the communicator back to Busby. “Your scientists are effective, and hopefully will find what they need from the security forces. The medical staff has also been alerted.”

Maxwell nods at Kinako and continues talking, since he apparently got a rather chatty clerk who never hung up. “Yeah, could we get some short grain rice in there, too? And some Manuka honey if you’ve got it… Yes, in addition to the rest. Yes, yes, I hope your aunt has a happy birthday, too… Uh huh… Yeah, uh… gotta go!” Click. Or as much of a click as modern technology allows a phone.

Busby gets to his feet and says, “If you run into any problems getting those supplies, man, just give me a call or stop by the office or whatever, y’know, man. And let me know what you charge for shaman services because, hey, if you’re competitive, I could suddenly have an opening.” He crosses his arms. “Now if I could just find someone with a head for light-bending physics and interstellar astrogeometrics.” He glances toward Maurice: “Know anybody, Texas?”

“Well.. that’s better than a stick in the eye I suppose.” Maurice nods towards Kinako. The Texan quickly types out an order for just what his heart desires on the old style command console. Busby gets a long look over. “Ya try Houston or maybe McDonald Observatory? Knew a feller down in South New Mexico into that stuff. Always goin on about the Very Large Array.” He slips one finger under the hat’s band and gives his forehead a scratch. “Or ya just askin because I look like a down Texas way redneck?”

Kinako bows to the Spark CEO. “Arigatou, I thank you very much,” she says. “If you are retiring to your quarters, please do your best to drink black tea with honey with breakfast and lunch. Once I acquire a kinesiotherapy printer I will start fitting everyone for ah… The best word I believe would be a sort of brace? To prevent additional damage if the virus presents with painful coughing. Please bring your salt lamps to Facilities and have them placed by the air circulation vent. If anyone else in your office has them, kindly ask that they, ah, provide them for the cause? They will be returned when the threat has passed, of course.” She sighs, quietly, murmuring to herself under her breath. Maurice gets the mildest of mildly reproachful expressions before the woman sinks into a nearby chair. “Three… days. Kami wa watashitachi o tasukete.”

Maxwell puts his phone away again, grabs that beer of his off the bar, and looks curiously at a few of his apparent doodles before taking a sip, whilst watching the exchange between the other guys.

“Look, man,” Busby replies to Maurice. “I was just asking because, y’know, you said Texans weren’t all bad.” He shrugs. “Whatever, man. Whatever.” He wanders toward the door and mutters, “Man, I *hate* black tea. Makes me piss blue rivers.” And out he goes.

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Wes Platt

Lead storyteller. Game designer and journalist. Recovering Floridian.

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