Less Than Texas
The Ebola Browndell crisis in Cape Canaveral gets a new twist. Picks up where Choke left off…
The brig is currently overseen by a couple of Vanguard grunts in atmosphere suits. The only prisoner, at the moment, is in a cell monitored by a doctor and a nurse.
Maurice enters the brig area, his eyes hard and his lips pressed thin. His moustache twitches once and he starts for the guards. “Howdy there fellas, ya’ll mind if I chew the cud with that there country woman of mine? See what this here mess is all about? Sure it aint nuffin but the flu.”
Kinako stands outside the brig, consulting her datapad and conferring with the medical staff therein. She avoids looking at Patient Zero. “A few patients have progressed, it seems, directly to the hemorrhagic stage without many preceding symptoms, although primarily nasal. Have, ah, have we had any luck at all isolating the strain from, ah, the prisoner?”
One of the guards is about to respond, but then the doctor – a wiry little mouse of a man – cuts a beeline to the entrance and says, “She’s in no condition to talk at the moment. Symptoms are too far advanced. We’ve induced a medical coma and slowed her metabolism as much as we can, but there’s little more we can do for her in this facility. She’s riding it out. If she makes it, she makes it, but I don’t like her chances.”
“Now that there is a shame.” Maurice grumbles mostly to himself. The Texan lifts the brim of his hat so he may scratch his forehead. “So she ain’t in no condition to talk. Well sheeeeit.” Kinako gets a glance. “Well Miss, ain’t that a kick in the butt.”
Kinako sighs quietly. “It is most certainly as discomfiting as a kick to the hindquarters, Mister Maurice-sir.” She raises her voice ever so slightly, and repeats, perhaps a bit slowly, “Has anyone had any luck at all isolating the strain? We are having some trouble with symptomatic inconsistency.”
“Isolating the strain?” The doctor seems to marvel at the thought. “Well, we stored her lipstick dispenser in a hermetically sealed deep freeze for analysis after we manage the immediate crisis.”
Maurice eyes the doctor for a moment then turns to one of the guards. “Ya’ll reckon she was a true blue Texan?” He asks one of them. “It aint in our spirit to act like this if you ask me.” He glances over his shoulder at isolation room then back. “But then again it aint in the spirit in many cultures to act like a complete jackass.”
“Have you tried the ZMapp monocolonal antibody? Small interfering RNA? Phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers? I, ah, had also suggested perhaps an application of clomiphine? I realize these may not have been approved by your drug administration, but perhaps you could gain a loophole via the compassionate use expanded access program?” Kinako turns an exhausted, long-suffering look towards Maurice before making her entreaty to the doctor. It seems to be either something she has said several times previously, or -rehearsed- several times.
“She certainly claimed to be from Texas, but we haven’t slowed down to verify, as that’s really not our area of expertise,” the doctor replies to Maurice. He then turns toward Kinako and says, “I know someone at Bethesda. Maybe they can help us out. Thanks for the suggestion.”
“You speakin that there Chy-nese? Maurice directs at Kinako. “Because none of that there was in ‘Murican.” He adds with a frown. “Lucky for you I happen to be a umm that there expert ya need. Help if the lady was awake so I could ask her some questions. Anyone even try to run her Texas ID? Know a feller from my Texas Air Guard days might be able ta help.” He offers. “And since ya’ll in fancy git-ups… that mean we can smoke?” He indicates the hazmat suits.
The doctor gapes at Maurice as if he just asked if it was okay to barbecue babies in the brig. “She’s on a ventilation system, complete with a portable and rather flammable oxygen unit,” he says. “No smoking. You may, however, cough all you like. Or sneeze. Makes no never mind to us.”
“I would also prefer it if you would kindly not smoke; we are at present isolated from the outside air,” Kinako says, mildly. “Ah… I looked up the proper translation of the terms this morning, I apologize if I have got them wrong?” The doctor gets a low bow. “Arigatou, I thank you for your consideration.” Her gray doe eyes carry an expression of quiet unease, almost as though she is entirely uncertain as to whether her words have found any purchase. She and Maurice are just inside the brig, where there are some guards in atmosphere suits and some medical staff outside the sealed-up cell of the allegedly Texan terrorist from the news.
Cronus says, “Quit smokin’ some time ago. Ain’t good for ya, yknow.”
Maurice nods his head slowly. “No smoking it is.” He says flatly. “If ya’ll aint interested in findin’ who this here lady is, well at least ya can let me see what she had. Figure it give me somethin’ ta do before I find myself in a pinebox.”
“The terms sound all right,” the doctor assures Kinako. That’s when the monitor alarms go off in the prisoner’s cell and the nurse urges the doctor to resume his attention to the patient. “Damn it,” the doctor grumbles before making his way back to where Delilah now appears to be seizing in cardiac arrest. “The coma didn’t help much, did it?” The nurse shakes her head, saying, “No, doctor.” The doctor nods, then opens the brig cell door and steps inside with his medical bag. “I’ll administer a waking dose. Might stabilize the cardiac issue. She’ll be conscious, but no telling for how long.”
Kinako tilts her head at Maurice, as well as at the new arrival. “Ah, hello,” she says to Cronus with a cautiously polite half-bow. Maurice just gets a puzzled expression. “Ah, what do you mean, see what she had? If we knew what she was actually suffering from we might have a better idea of combating it, is that what you mean? I would not recommend making contact with her possessions outside of perhaps an isolation chamber. There is no telling what else she has, ah, contaminated?”
Cronus nervously wipes his hands on his pant fronts and shifts uncomfortably. “Contaminated. I don’t like the sound of that.”
“Well that aint… ideal.” Maurice pauses as he think of the right word. A glance over his shoulder at Cronus gets an chuckle. “I aint one to try to live forever. Reckon there is a reason I fly.” He smirks. “And ya don’t think its odd we don’t know jack nuffin about her Miss Kinako? Down right odd. We aint that way in Texas and supposedly we are dumber than dirt compared to these fellas.” The Texan sighs and watches the other ‘Texan’ “Summin aint right and I wanna git ta the bottom of it.”
Cronus says, “I’m just not real comfortable with watchin my insides leak out through my nose. whether it’s from contamination or havin to listen to your god-awful music some more.””
The doctor administers medication through a hypospray into Delilah’s carotid artery. She coughs blood, splattering the doctor’s yellow hazmat gloves with crimson, but she blinks to consciousness. She mutters raspily, “What…happening?”
Kinako looks away when Delilah speaks, going so far as to turn around and lean silently against the doorframe.
“Aint nuffin wrong with Texas music, just with ya ears.” Maurice shakes his head. The big Texan leans on the window and gazes at Delilah. “Hey there gurl.” He greets. “Reckon I couldn’t leave ya alone with these here gulf coast yankees. From where abouts ya from?”
Delilah stares sort of absently past the doctor and not quite at Maurice. Between the Ebola Browndell tearing away at her insides and the radical cocktail of chemicals shooting through her veins, she seems like a rocket in rapidly decaying trajectory. She blurts: “Bradbury, born and raised.” She coughs blood onto her right hand and stares at the splatter until she’s cross-eyed. “Looks like home.”
Kinako continues whatever silent protest she started when Delilah awakened. She is holding her datapad to her scrubs-clad chest, looking exhaustedly grim. Everyone is presently in the general area of the brig. The alleged Texan Terrorist is isolated in a sealed cell surrounded by hazmat-suited staff. Maurice is outside the cell, and appears to be speaking with Delilah. Kinako is near the outer doorway to the brig. Cronus is also outside the cell.
Cecilia steps out of the Apollo Lounge, hand grasping a plastic glass. Seein the comotion outside of the brig she strolls in that direction.
Cronus mutters to Cecilia, “… get…”
“Ma’am.. I aint all that familar with no Bradbury Texas.” Maurice murmurs with a frown. “Now I know a few other Bradburys but they exactly around here.” The Texan’s moustache gives a slight twitch. “Why ya git yerself and the rest of our sorry asses sick? And you reckon ya got yerself a fancy dancy cure somewhere there abouts?”
“Looks like home,” the woman repeats, before she starts seizing again. Her blood-splattered hand falls to her side. The monitor wails at the absence of a heartbeat. “Seizing again,” the doctor says, calmly but urgently. “We’re losing her.”
Kinako leans against the door frame, closing her eyes. “Anata no tsugi no seikatsu no naka de yasashi-sa to jihi o manabu koto ga arimasu. (May you learn kindness and mercy in your next life.)” She runs her fingers across the sleeve of her scrubs; there is the soft clack, clack of prayer beads striking each other under the sealed fabric. “Gyatei Gyatei Haragyatei Haraso-gyatei Boji Sowaka,” she murmurs, quietly and rhythmically.
Cecilia slows long enough to look at Cronus, “More of that plague?” she asks. “At this point…don’t know that it matters just how close we get.”
“Well sheeee-it.” Maurice grumbles as he takes a step back. “Bradbury.. Mars ya reckon?” He asks those around. “God damn.”
Cronus says, “At this point. We all might be coughin up our lungs by the end of the week, but I don’t aim to lick all the doorknobs in the place just yet.”
“I’m calling it,” the doctor says. “Mark the time of death,” he tells the nurse. “Incinerate the body. I’ve got to check on Mr. Busby.” He departs the brig while the nurse pulls a blanket over the dead woman’s face. “If she had a cure,” the nurse laments, “she took it with her to the grave.” She looks toward Kinako and says, “Guess we’d better pray for the doctor’s contact in Bethesda to come through for us.”
Cecilia laughs at Cronus’ reply, “Cecy.” she says introducing herself. “That’s the best answer i’ve gotten around here yet.”
Kinako does just as the nurse instructs, apparently, continuing the prayer/sutra/whathave you. “Gyatei Gyatei Haragyatei Haraso-gyatei Boji Sowaka.” She doesn’t open her eyes until Delilah’s face is covered, drooping visibly. “Ah, this has been a terrible night. I beg the pardon of everyone, but I would like to return to the Promenade and be away from the unfortunate energies in this prison.”
Cronus says, “Cronus is what they’ll put on my stone I spose. Less they can think of somethin better.”
Maurice grumbles under his breath and nods over at Kinako. “Ya have yerself a good night there Miss. Spread the word by the way.” He adds. The Texan turns and starts his way out once the body is covered. He pauses for a moment near Cronus and Cecilia. “Cronus? Ya sum sort of street artist or summin from New Y-ork Ci-Tee?”
Cronus bristles. “I do what I do, but I doubt anyone calls it art.”
Cecilia looks over at Maurice as he approaches, “Friend of yours?” she questions Cronus.
“No ma’am.” Maurice offers in Cecilia’s direction. “Ya do what ya do? Simple enough I reckon. Supposin a man has a right ta be tight lipped.” The Texan adds towards Cronus.
“Ah, spread what word, Mister Maurice-sir?” Kinako says, continuing her walk towards the Promenade but keeping her pace politely conversation-friendly. “Konbanwa, good evening, Miss.” Cecilia gets a small half-bow. She blinks at Cronus, not seeming to comprehend the current nature of his conversation with Maurice.
Cronus says, “I’m, uh, new in town. Lookin for work, sort of in the wrong place at the wrong time I spose.”
Cecilia smirks, “That seems to be the case for most people around here now.” Cecilia says in response to Cronus. She looks back to Maurice and the jacket he wears, “You’re a pilot I take it? Stuck ehre like the rest of us or here by choice?”
“That there yellow rose aint from Texas I’m thinkin.” Maurice says over at Kinako. “I reckon she’s a Martain sent here to stir up trouble. Vanguard business ya ask me.” The Texan nods in Cecilia’s direction and tips his hat. “Maurice Holton, pilot, cattle rustler and every other cliche ya can think of ma’am.” He says. “What sorta work ya lookin for there Mister Crow?”
Kinako blinks at Maurice. “Aah… but there is a Vanguard station here, Mister Maurice-sir, that does not seem sensible. Her previous claim was that she was representing Texas, which made little sense… the Vanguard attacking… itself, makes equally little sense.”
Cronus leans against the wall and glances up, “Pilot, mechanic, barback, bouncer, whatever pays, love to get off world. Have my share of trouble on this one.”
Cecilia watches Kinako’s approach and nods to her in greeting, “Nice to see you again. ” she looks over towards the brig, “Don’t really know if it matters what the motivation is at this point, does it?”
“Makes sense if ya want a whole lotta folks pissed at Texas.” Maurice replies, his lips pressing together in dismay. “Hmm, another flyboy? Tell ya, the job market aint at its best right now.” He adds towards Cronus.
Kinako frowns, albeit mildly. She does not seem to take any sort of strong action, expression or tone, really. “You could state this about anyone. Anyone who would have any motivation at all to cause negative opinions of Texas. The Vanguard does not need to attack itself. They are attacked regularly on the border as it stands. Do you not think we have enough disharmony in this place? Why would you dishonor the military who are presently sacrificing their lives for your sake?” She offers Cronus an apologetic half-bow. “Please accept my apology that we remain under quarantine. I have not been, ah, terribly successful in persuading the staff here to seek alternative treatments. Perhaps this evening’s death will speak more strongly to them than I have been capable of.”
Cronus says, “No worries, just bad luck is all. Probly no one here’s fault.”
“Well it’s certainly someone’s fault.” Cecilia exclaims. “I mean, that virus didn’t just appear by magic.” she adds. “And you know.” she looks to Kinako, “If the health care workers ain’t looking to listen to you….there are other options.” she waves her hands to the surroundings, “I’m sure more then a few of these folks would be happy to take any advice that wouldn’t get them killed seein’ as to what the alternative is.”
“Slow down there mma’am” Maurice directs over at Kinako. “Aint hurtin nuffin about findin out who it was. And why you reckon it took us strollin there ta find out this info?” He asks flatly. “I reckon its time for a drink down in the lounge.”
Kinako inclines her head to Cecilia. “It is most certainly someone’s fault, and it would do us well to be mindful that if the ah, perpetrator’s goal is to spread chaos and disharmony, we should ensure that our own actions are not affected by the trickery. Ah, and while I appreciate your confidence, only the Vanguard and Spark directly have taken the time to review my qualifications. Some of these medical staff do not know me at all, and I would not force my opinions onto them as I am a stranger and not an employee of this establishment.” At the mention of drinks, Kinako takes a few collapsible metallic pouches out of her duffel as the group reaches the Promenade. “I have some tea, if everyone is not thoroughly tired of it. It has been fortified to help fight infection. I have these pouches here that can be easily sterilized… The kindly gentleman in charge of the souvenir shop said that if he lives, I may have them without charge, and if he dies, he will not care if he does not get paid for them.”
Cronus says, “I guess it’ll wash down the whiskey as good as anything else.”
“I’d love to join you..but i’ve had my share of sitting around in the lounge for the day. I’ve got a couple of things I need to take care of. But perhaps when I’m done I’ll stop by.” Cecilia replies. She nods towards the silver pouches, “I’d love to know more about what’s in that tea of yours.”
Maurice tips his hat towards Kinako and Celicia. “In that case, evenin’ ma’ams.” He says to the pair before he saunters over towards the Apollo lounge.
Cronus says, “I’m going to go and drink myself to sleep as well. Maybe I can convince myself this is all just a bad dream. G’night.”
“Black tea leaves, lemon, dried mint, grated fresh ginger rhizome, manuka honey rated +10 UMF, bitter orange peel oil…” Kinako lists off, with an apologetic expression. “I am unfortunately limited by existing supplies, and my luggage is still at the hotel.” She watches people parting ways, and heads for the bench by the fountain upon which she has made herself ‘home’. “It grows late, I should also rest. I do not wish to become exhausted and a casualty. Good evening, sirs. Good evening miss.”
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