Loading Dock 5E, Roughly 10 minutes or so before visitation hours (gone wild gone wrong gone sexual):
“I don’t like these things.” Dr. Silver murmured, looking into the freshly-opened crate. He wasn’t alone – not in the room, nor in sentiment over the three puffy medical-grade bright white suits that stared blankly back up at the assembled crew.
“Well I know you don’t, but this is just what we got.” Than mo said, letting out a little sigh as well. “And I see that we didn’t even get enough new suits. Absolutely fucking typical.” Leaning down he picked up one of the suit’s helmets, turning it around to reveal the TruMichelin brand on the back. The thing was soft to the touch, almost foam-like, with a surprising structural rigidity underneath. Tilting the helmet down, he saw that it was covered in flex-screens, various inputs and attachment clamps ready to be tailored to the individual wearer’s needs. The helmet had an old-fashioned twist-lock like the first astronaut suits, and Than mo could only guess of the additional redundancies therein. Laverne reached in as well and examined one of the gloves, the same archaic twist-lock mechanism visible on each joint. Modern suits zipped up, or magnetically clamped, or a hundred other ways that made it much more convenient and easy to slip in and out of your gear. This PPE suit looked like a bit of overkill, and really…
…When you put on the suit, in other words, it looked like you put on the suit. “I don’t think these are solo efforts.” Laverne mused, sliding her hand into the glove to test it’s heft. “I remember seeing these things in museums.”
“[So what does this mean, Nurse Tran?]” Dr. Solid said, keeping a respectful distance from the new medical equipment. “[I am …impressed with our government’s strides forward in protecting our employees, but outside of that-]”
“Ah, well.” Than mo said, turning the helmet over in his hands idly as he searched for the words. “Being straightforward and honest is going to be the best policy, so I’m going to have to start off by saying this: Please don’t share this information with anyone.”
The assembled xenos nurses and doctors looked at each other, a few of them smirking. “[I don’t think any of us are new to doctor-patient confidentiality.]” Nurse Stringbean quipped, the Dorarizin female grinning softly. “[Though, if this is about helping you all into those things then-]”
“It’s about committing treason.”
Than mo’s words hung in the air for a brief moment before the entire human crew were bombarded with questions; Who, why, what are you doing, you can’t make the Independent Hospital Occupation Place – that’s illegal, are you planning on starting a garden on the roof – Dr. Silver raised his hands to restore order, and after a few minutes an uneasy silence settled on the room.
“Just let the man finish!” Dr. Silver called out, letting his hands drop. “We’re serious about the treason bit, and about you keeping silent. If you can’t, then you need to get out, because time is of the essence here. Any takers?”
Aside from some awkward shuffling, no one moved.
“Great. Than mo? This is your party; I’m going to start unpacking.” Dr. Silver said, leaning over the box to start pulling out suit parts.
“Right!” Than mo clapped once, leaning back to half-sit on the edge of the crate. “So no more bullshitting. You’re all familiar with the haze from the field-burning that’s going on, right? That slightly-smoky stuff that’s moving over everywhere?” He was met with a few nods, and continued. “Well, that’s what we humans are starting to call Dust, and it’s 100% lethal to our species.”
“[What the fuck.]” Dr. Solid said, head curving low as he stared Than mo down.
“Oh wow they finally found a translation for fuck outside of sex?” James said, hefting out a leg from the shipping crate. “I thought that was the unattainable dream-”
“Yeah look.” Than mo said, holding up a hand to stop the questions before they began. “The Dust is some sort of spore or irritant; gets into our mucosa membranes and lungs and just destroys everything. From what we’ve seen from our two patients, it can do anything from create tumor-like growths to sandpapering down the lining of the lungs. CENTRAL – our CENTRAL-” Than mo said, pointing to himself, “-is keeping this hush because they don’t want any of you-” Than mo’s finger pointed vaguely in the direction of his xenos colleagues, “-from panicking on our behalf and deciding to ‘help’. CENTRAL said-without-saying that every single settlement is getting hit with this shit, as even the smallest mote of Dust could start an infection and airborne particles are basically everywhere at this point.”
Than mo sighed, running his hand through his ink-black hair. “So, that’s where we are now. Recommended procedure is to sedate patients, put them in a medically induced coma, slap on a lifevest and then popsicle – eer, sorry. Put them in cryostasis. As we run triage, the cryostasis humans are to be ‘relocated to Central for advanced monitoring’ but really, we’re stacking bodies in freezers because there’s no cure. Our bunkers-”
“[Wait, you have bunkers?]” Tipo asked, ears perking up. “[Why?]”
“Because live-action Fallout reenacting is a lost art.” James piped up again, earning a light smack on the arm from Laverne.
“Just chalk it up to cultural trauma and leave it be.” Than mo said, shrugging. “Doesn’t matter. Point is, these suits here -” Than mo punctuated his sentence by holding up the helmet, showing it off to the crowd, “-are rated, hopefully, to protect us, and I would damn well hope so considering they’re basically 100% self-contained suits. Shit, I don’t even think these things have external oxygen connections-”
“Nope.” Dr. Silver said, his arm elbow-deep in the torso of a unit. “Looks like scrubbers and re-breathers.”
“I feel like there’s a fart joke in h-oww” James whined, rubbing his arm from a particularly savage punch from Laverne. “Don’t be mad because you didn’t think of it fir-oww.”
“And that’s where we’re at. Official orders are to run triage for every human here until there are no more left, then to pack up and head into CENTRAL after that – if we’re not already in the back of an ice cream truck ourselves.”
The assembled crew said nothing, watching the humans unpack their suits with gallows humor. Eventually, Tipo once again broke the silence.
“[That doesn’t sound right.]”
Than mo tossed the Dorarizin trainee his helmet, which he caught with deft precision. “Doesn’t matter if it’s right or not; it’s what we’re working with. With only 3 suits we’re going to have to take turns going out to the front, and I’m also assuming somewhere we’ll have to set up a decontamination and clean roo-”
Than mo’s wristwatch suddenly started to scream at him, and he looked at the indicator, swearing.
= = = =
Visitation, Human Wing, Right Now:
“JESUS LORD-” Laverne was able to sputter before a furred arm completely blocked her view, gravity going wonky as she was forcibly grabbed and lifted.
“[NO~!]” Tipo roared, instinct and fear kicking in as he half-smothered the tiny-chomper nurse in his arms. “[GET THEM BACK NOW-]”
Dr. Solid leapt forward once the Terrorbeast lunged at his colleague, the fine cloud of gray-brown Dust powder coating the human as he slammed against the ground, wheezing from the impact. The Terrorbeast – Bench – with no commands from his grab, let pure instinct take over; with a furious flutter of his mighty wings he arced backwards, outpacing the furious Jornissian with a speed that belied his size. The sliding glass doors had no chance to react as they crashed open, one broken off it’s hinge and hanging akimbo as Bench pulled up to gain altitude, to save his grab, to take to the skies once more.
All Dr. Solid could do was scream impotently at the animal as the limp human hung underneath. He watched it flutter about confused, before seeming to pick a vague destination and lazily float away. With a thought Dr. Solid pinged all relevant teams – A, B and C – barking orders to remove the warmcuddles from their wing. To his pleasure, this had already been done by the time he turned to head back indoors to check on his colleague.
Dr. Silver was red-faced, red-eyed, and gasping for breath, propping himself up on one elbow. Dr. Solid knew enough about human biology to make some educated guesses; Anaphylaxis (which he had never personally seen), possibly Toxic shock (if the darkest version of what Than mo said earlier was true), Diaphragm spasms (not the good kind that made cute hiccups), Concussion from the impact against the floor. A few other doctors and nurses began to swarm the fallen human, cutting away his clothing and beginning to triage him.
To lose one of the human medical professionals so soon was going to be problematic, to say the least, and Dr. Solid snarled in a rolling staccato hiss. “[Fates damn those things! Do we have access to any warmcuddle life vests? We’re going to have to put him on ice sooner than later-]”
“[Not that I know of!]” Dr. Duster, a Karnakian, called out, physically lifting the spasming human in his arms and jogging over to an empty cot. “[They’re held in triage lockers 7 through 12, but I don’t have access to open them – logic being if they’re necessary to use we need a human medic present-]”
Dr. Solid turned to a few of the panicking nurses, pointing at the group. “[Just rip one open and bring me what’s inside! You, you and YOU-]” He pointed to three others, getting their undivided attention, “[Get this place scrubbed down now. Change the air filters, get the doors fixed and sealed, get in touch with maintenance to do so. Start spamming cleaning controls; get the bots to scrub this area at least a half-dozen times!]” With the barking of orders and the hierarchy of command established, the teams got to work – sudden panic and confusion being replaced with furious determination. “[I want those warmcuddles in their PPE suits now. Do not stop carrying them until they are back at the loading dock, and do not let them out of the dock until they’re suited up! Those in the back – do it! Everyone else, assume you’re contaminated!]” A few other nurses broke rank to run after the human group to assist in the forced suit-up.
“[How are we on triage – nurse?]” Dr. Duster called out, clawed hands working deftly on the smaller human bed’s AI panel, attempting to bum rush the startup routine.
“[Sssh, there there. I’m giving him oxygen, but we’ll probably want to intubate him sooner than later.]” Nurse Stringbean said, the Dorarizin nurse holding a hissing oxygen mask over the writhing, choking Dr. Silver. “[This is a good stopgap but we really need to get that lifevest on him now.]”
“[Alright. Dr. Duster, give him a saline IV and try to get him stabilized, I’m going to check on those lockers.]” Dr. Solid gave one last, long look at his shuddering colleague before leaving, quickly and silently.
“[It’s ok, it’s ok. You’re going to be ok.]” Nurse Stringbean lied, resting her free hand on the top of Dr. Silver’s head.
“HHrrrkk-” Dr. Silver said, ferally grinning under the mask as he coughed furiously. “MMHHD-iiiiihhh” he wheezed out, inhaling sharply as he lifted an arm to point at the furiously-spinning-in-place MEDIBOT.
“[Wait. OH.]” Dr. Duster connected the dots, looking between the nurse and Dr. Silver. “[The robot might have vest capabilities! Hold – hold on.]” Dr. Duster repeated, her hands attempting a human placating gesture before she ran over to the robot, physically picking it up from the Dust spot on the floor.
“MEDIBOT.” MEDIBOT protested, rightfully pointing out the indignation of a medical professional such as himself being picked up like a common light-up whorebot. “MEDIBOT.”
With a grunt Dr. Duster dropped the protesting AI helper at the side of the bed. MEDIBOT spun in place once before it’s camera eyes locked onto the rapidly-dying Dr. Silver, and the realization that hit his circuits stopped him in his tracks.
“MEDIBOT.” MEDIBOT said, the full weight of what was happening hitting him. “MEDIBOT.”
Dr. Silver smiled, weakly placing a hand against the cold chassis of his friend. “HHNNK… S…sor-RRHH-y, o-old fr-KHKAH.” Dr. Silver coughed as MEDIBOT leaned down, cradling the human in his arms.
“Now, HHHH, d-don’t be l-ACHK, KHM, th.” Dr. Silver swallowed, his breathing heavily labored. “That. We ha-KAHD, kuh, some good memor-HHHEESS. KHM.”
“MEDIBOT.” MEDIBOT beeped, somehow sadly.
“Y-ye-kah. I’d ha-AAAAH, mhm. Liked to take-KHK, KAH. You there too, buddy.” Dr. Silver looked up, vision slowly dimming as he struggled to breathe. “I’HKM. Going to s-KUH-t do-hhhn, now.” Dr. Silver cleared his throat one last time.
“MEDIBOT.” MEDIBOT pleaded, softly.
“Youhh… do us pr…oud.”
“[Look I don’t know what in the empty hells I just watched but put him down we need to stick him in cryostasis-]” Nurse Stringbean barked, glaring at the useless robot.
Dr. Silver started to go limp, his face turning blue.
“[NOW, may the first pack damn your programming- DROP HIM NOW.]”
“MEEEEEEEEDDDDDDDDIIII-” MEDIBOT began to vibrate, eyes glowing a somber red.
Growling, Nurse Stringbean reached forward –
– and her hand was slapped away by MEDIBOT’s arm so fast she didn’t see it coming.
“MMMMMAAAAAADIGASCAR PROTOCOL ENGAGED.” MEDIBOT blared, somehow, it’s entire body shaking violently once before falling silent. Nurse Stringbean watched with morbid fascination as MEDIBOT’s chassis opened up, various internal surgical implements, prosthesis parts, gears and padding and wires sliding out to wrap and stick and cut and impale the dying human, dragging him into the machine itself, all the while fiercely glowing red eyes making unbreaking contact with the one who would dare interrupt this fusion of flesh and machine. Cradling Dr. Silver in the fetal position, connected to wires, diodes and the robot itself, the chassis slammed shut with a hiss, the gurgle of fluid and hydraulics punctuating the now terrified silence.
There was just a pause, for a moment, before MEDIBOT raised it’s clawed appendages to the sky and roared in defiance.