CatastrophicFailure

Revelations of the Kraken (Chapter 37: Fire)

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And in those days, when Kerbs rise upon chariots of fire,
And cast the heavens about like the gods,
In their complacency, shall they be struck down,
And the dead walk as the living.

 

Chapter 3: Awakenings

"I tell ya, Boss, it's the darnedest thing I've ever seen," Doc said, rubbing at his chin, "couple of days ago she was at death's door, and now, well just look at her!"

Edgas did look, "um..."

He raised an eye... bulge. The creature under the blanked appeared to be some grotesque hybrid of Kerbal and eggplant. One that had begun to spoil. And topped with an awful wig. 

"Well, ok, so she looks worse," Doc huffed, "but that much is normal. Just part of the healing process."

Edgas shot an eye his way, "like the thing with the deer?"

Doc gave a grunt and rolled his eyes, "yes, like the thing with the deer!"

"Told you you were going too fast," the corner of Edgas's mouth twitched.

"Everyone goes too fast in Skeeter training!"

"Everyone doesn't drop kick a deer while doing so."

"He shouldn't have been there in the first place! It was a posted no-deer-crossing."

"That's not what I heard," Edgas made a muted choking noise deep in throat. 

"Hmph!" Doc snorted, "well if he'd've had a case, he wouldn't have been so quick to settle out of court!"

The two glared at each other a moment longer, then burst out laughing. 

"Stupid cheapo Agency lawyers," Doc scoffed.

Edgas gave a wry grin, "nothing but the best from the KSA!" 

Now it was Doc who raised an eye... bulge, "well, you would know how the Agency throws someone under the bus."

"Oooohhh," Edgas clapped a hand to his chest in mock injury, "I might have to go find the doc, Doc, get some cream for that burn."

The two chuckled again, until a soft moan from the eggplant drew them back. 

"Ahem, yes, well," Doc produced the clear screen again and shifted to a more professional tone, "for the record, patient has shown continual significant improvement. The Automated Medical Suite has set the fractures to her right humerus and clavicle and secured them with laparoscopic osteofiber wraps as well as reducing her shoulder. The arm should stay in that sling for a few weeks. Fractured orbital is non-treatable with available hardware but should heal naturally. Speaking of which," Doc gave Edgas a light jab with his elbow, "once again, you should let me take a look at your eye, too."

"I'm fine," Edgas said flatly, "I can still open it. Works fine."

"Eggplant," Doc gave a nod towards the bed.

"Yeah, but it's a small eggplant," a weak grin, "oh, and how's Millo? I still haven't seen him up and about."

Doc's face contracted into a very personal wince, "um... well, the swelling's come down some. His voice hasn't, though. I think he'll be singing soprano for a few more days at, at least."

Edgas shared his grimace, "she's, uh, got some arm, hasn't she?"

"Well, if she's that feisty the next time she wakes up, I just hope to Kerm she's left-handed!"

"Huh?" Edgas blinked, "what's a 'Kerm?'"

Doc opened his mouth, then closed it just as quickly. His eyes tried very hard to look at each other in confusion, as if unsure where he'd even found the word. 

In the end, he just shrugged, "well, anyways, there's nothing I can do for the rest of her injuries, but they should heal on their own. It's just supportive care at this point. Oh, but her toxicology's interesting."

"How so?" Edgas asked, "I thought it's always been interesting?"

"Well, it's cleared up almost overnight. Even the glycogens. Her kidneys must've been working overtime, but they're showing no signs of damage, actually looking better. But there's still something in her blood I can't identify, it must have been masked beneath all the other crap. The signature looks vaguely familiar but I can't put my finger on it."

"Hmm. That is interesting," Edgas said, not quite meeting the other's eyes. 

The other's eyes narrowed, "wait, I know that look. You do know something."

Edgas gave a quick shake of his head. 

"You know you're a horrible liar, right?" Doc raised an eye... bulge. 

Edgas didn't answer. 

Doc looked at him, then looked to the revenant on the bed, "wait... it's that thing, isn't it?"

"What thing?"

"The thing."

"There's no thing."

Doc's arms crossed his chest, "it's that thing you won't ever talk about, isn't it?"

"No idea what you're talking about, Doc," eyes straight ahead. 

Doc's eyes narrowed, and he opened his mouth to speak, but Edgas found a lucky reprieve with another moan from the gurney. 

"Oh, hey!" Edgas blurted out, "I think she's waking up."

Irritation washed Doc's face, but he dutifully turned his attention back to his patient, who had begun languidly moving about. Her good eye began to flutter. 

"Er..." Edgas began, "those restraints are still on tight, right?" Doc just rolled his eyes. 

Edgas cautiously leaned over the bed rail, "hi... it's ok, you're safe," he said, "I'm Edgas Kerman." Then quickly added, "please don't hurt me."

The form beneath the blanket groaned once more. The eye opened just a bit. 

"ШЊФ...? ЩҢԐЯЭ...?" then her good arm found it was restrained, and the eye flew open,, "LЭҐ ԠЭ GФ! ШЊФ ДЯԐ ЧФЏ?! LԐҐ ԠЭ GФ! ЇVДЍ? ЇVДИ!"

Edgas jerked back from the thrashing on the bed, a foot narrowly missing his head. 

Oh well, time for plan B.

"LЄҐ ԠԐ GФ! LЭҐ ԠЭ—!" the struggling ceased, as Edgas held up a titanium necklace chain. Dancing from it was a brilliant crimson stone, and a small, grey sliver of sparkly rock.

"I'd love to hear about where you got—"

The pale face above the blankets instantly went beet-red, "GЇVЄ ГӉДҬ БДҪҠ!!!!! ҬҢДГ ЇS ԠЇЙЄ! Ї ЩЇLL ҜЇLL ҰФЏ! Ї ШЇLL ҚЇLL—!"

The struggling instantly ceased, and her one good eye went wide, as Edgas then held up a round, sparkly rock. He pressed it to the sliver on the chain, and the joint was a perfect match. 

He tried to put on a winning smile, "ГҢЭЯЭ, ИФЩ. ҪДИ ЩЭ ҐДLԞ?"

For a moment, her eye went a bit wider, and she nodded slowly. Then it rolled back her in her head as she fainted once more. 

"Well," Doc grunted, pressing a waiting ice pack to his face where it had already begun to bruise and swell, "that went better than I expected."

Edited by CatastrophicFailure

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OK legit question, here: What's ya'lls take on the new "Ussari" script? Too hard to read? My old faux-rillic generator shut down, this one seems a bit... busy, for more than a word or two.

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23 minutes ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

OK legit question, here: What's ya'lls take on the new "Ussari" script? Too hard to read? My old faux-rillic generator shut down, this one seems a bit... busy, for more than a word or two.

I liked it, actually. No problem reading it.  :)

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5 hours ago, IncongruousGoat said:

My browser seems to be having trouble with the 'M's

Me too. 

It does look a bit busy but I think one reason for that might be that you're not just cussing in faux Cyrillic but using it for everything Val(?) is saying.

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56 minutes ago, KSK said:

Me too. 

It does look a bit busy but I think one reason for that might be that you're not just cussing in faux Cyrillic but using it for everything Val(?) is saying.

Yes, you and @IncongruousGoat are quite right, now that I've looked it over on my tablet there's definitely something screwy with that not-M. :mad: Bugrit. 

Was trying for a more elegant way of putting languages in there, but without the old generator it might be too frustrating. But either way, Val(?) will get her words figured out soon enough. 

Maybe. :wink:

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Cutting and pasting is a bit of a faff but does this help?

йцукенгшщзфывапролдьттимсччя

Й Ц  УКЕНГШЩЗФЫВАПРОЛДЬТЯЧСМИТЬ

Thought I had these kicking around somewhere. Happy to do the conversions for you on subsequent chapters and PM them across.

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10 minutes ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

Yes, you and @IncongruousGoat are quite right, now that I've looked it over on my tablet there's definitely something screwy with that not-M. :mad: Bugrit. 

Was trying for a more elegant way of putting languages in there, but without the old generator it might be too frustrating. But either way, Val(?) will get her words figured out soon enough. 

Maybe. :wink:

Shows just fine here, though the glyph is quite screwy all right. Maybe because it was "only used in the Abkhaz and Chuvash languages." I wonder where does that place Val's birthplace in the Ussari Union...

It has only been in the unicode standard for almost 10 years. Apparently that is too short a time for computer makers to update their fonts...

All you could ever want to know (and subsequently forget) about the cyrillic capital letter el with middle hook here: https://codepoints.net/U+0520

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IT'S BACK! YAY! :D 

And Val's in the hospital! No! ;.;

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8 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

OK legit question, here: What's ya'lls take on the new "Ussari" script? Too hard to read? My old faux-rillic generator shut down, this one seems a bit... busy, for more than a word or two.

I miss the old one.

I thought the new one was supposed to be like a demonic voice or something at first haha

Edited by vsully

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 Can't pass up an offer like that (tho I'm not exactly sure what a faff is), expect a PM shortly. :D

 

On 7/13/2017 at 1:32 PM, vsully said:

 

I thought the new one was supposed to be like a demonic voice or something at first haha

Well, given the circumstances, you're not far off. :confused:

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6 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

 Can't pass up an offer like that (tho I'm not exactly sure what a faff is), expect a PM shortly. :D

Well, given the circumstances, you're not far off. :confused:

Cool.

And 'faff' is a great word. Can be used as a verb, meaning to mess around aimlessly or ineffectually. As in: "Why am I faffing around 'researching' on the internet rather than working on the next chapter of First Flight." :)  Or it can be used as a noun, nearest meaning I can think of is 'hassle'.

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30 minutes ago, KSK said:

Cool.

And 'faff' is a great word. Can be used as a verb, meaning to mess around aimlessly or ineffectually. As in: "Why am I faffing around 'researching' on the internet rather than working on the next chapter of First Flight." :)  Or it can be used as a noun, nearest meaning I can think of is 'hassle'.

:cool: Out-faffing-standing. 

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Special thanks to @KSK for doing what I'm too lazy to. :P

 

Big things have small beginnings. 

Chapter 4: Patient Zero

"Hey... hey, I think she's coming around again..." Doc said nervously, before taking a step back. 

"Trust me," Edgas implored. Doc nodded, then took one more step back. Edgas just rolled his eyes, "big smiles, remember?" He demonstrated. 

"Broken cheek bone, remember?" the ice pack resumed its place on Doc's face. 

A groan drew their attention back to the bed. Edgas felt his own smile begin to, well, fracture, but he held his ground and smiled with all he had. 

Above the blanket, the eye fluttered, hesitated, opened just a crack. Then popped wide with a gasp. Fear and anger flashed in it, her hand went to her throat... and in that moment, seemed to realize it was no longer restrained. She gripped the titanium chain around her neck before giving it a hesitant inspection. 

"Let's try this again," Edgas mumbled, and then: "нI. I'м Ефgаз Кегмап. Уоц'ге аll пgнт, уоц'ге заГе неге." Once more he quickly added, "Рlеазе  фол'т нцгт ме."

The one on the gurney seemed to notice her sling-bound right arm for the first time, winced as she raised the other hand to her own swollen face. 

"Уоц'vе, цм, ьееп Iп ап ассIфепт," Edgas offered, "ьцт уоц шIll ье аll пgнт." The fear and anger in her face were slowly washed away by confusion and ingrained acceptance. 

Hesitating, she tested her own words, "ш... шнеге ам..?"

"УОЦ'ге iй  тне мефIсдl ьау ог а КЗА гезедгсн зтдтIол ат тне Иогтн Роlе."

"KSA?" she... winced, "УОЦ дге... КSА?"

"DД," Edgas nodded.

She squeezed her eye shut and laid back on the pillow, "then for РЦТIИЗ sake, let us speak Kerblish, you sound like have rocks in mouth."

Beside Edgas, Doc made a series of yelping-snorting noises.
"Ow... ow... ow..."

"I told you your Ussari stinks," he snickered.

Edgas frowned at him, "like you can talk, you know maybe six words!"

"Yeah, but I only need six to chat up the babushkas at the trading outposts," he looked to her and waggled an eye... bulge. Painfully. 

She just gawked at him for a moment, "you... flirt with grandmothers?"

"Oh, yeah, yeah," Doc nodded, "it totally makes their day and they give you food." He nudged Edgas, "hey, you remember that one time at Tiksi Polyarnaya when I left with that huge sack of pelmeni? Man, we ate like kings!"

"You ate like a king. You finished the whole lot before we even made it back to the base and then spent the next 36 hours in the head," huffed Edgas, "you used up every single roll of toilet paper we'd just bartered for!"

Doc leaned toward her, tried to give a winning smile and raise an eye... bulge... but mostly his face just shifted through various masks of discomfort.

"So worth it," he glowed, having finally settled on one. 

This brought the barest hint of a smile and giggle from the patient on the gurney. 

Doc nodded, "there, ya see? Feeling better already, right? I'm Docmore Kerman, the acting medical officer here." 

She gave him a considering look, "next you will tell me laughter is best medicine, no?"

He blinked, "oh, no... no no no, we got all sorts of real medicine here. But most of it's expired and what isn't came from trading with the farm vet in Nizhneyansk, though." 

Grimacing, all she could manage was, "you people are so strange."

Edgas rolled his eyes... then winced himself, "do you remember how you got here?"

"I..." she began, and then an odd cast swept over her face. She shook her head. 

"That's all right, you've been through a lot," Edgas tried to sound comforting, "high inclination radar tracking and relay is one of our functions here. We didn't get a complete track, but you came down in some sort of capsule and crashed out on the ice. In a number of ways, you're very lucky to be alive, Captain Kermanova."

Something else flashed across her face, and she seemed to draw in upon herself, only nodding. 

At some point, Doc's little half-smile had disappeared, "whats the last thing you do remember?"

"I... I am not... I am... very tired..." her voice stretched out and tensed like a tuned string as she spoke. 

"Rest will do you good," Doc grinned, moving closer, "I just have a couple of quick checks and we'll let you sleep, ok?" He produced a pen light and shined it carefully in her eyes, "now, try to follow this with just your eyes... ok, good... Here, squeeze my fingers... good... Can you feel just this? Good... This? Good... Wiggle your fingers? Ok, good... Now say 'ah'... bit more... good."

He tried that smile again, "now, do you remember my name?"

"You are Docmore."

"And do you remember his name?"

"He is... the gas man."

Edgas frowned.

Doc looked at her very closely, "and... do you remember your name?"

"Of course I do!" she snapped at him, "I am... I... I..." the string finally broke.

"Hey, hey... it's ok..." Doc said softly, taking a nearby cloth to wipe at her forehead and cheeks, "Edgas is right, you've been through a lot. Things might be a bit... fuzzy, for a time. Nothing to worry about, it's all right..."

He turned to Edgas with a look that said it was anything but. 

***

"Good afternoon, Sunny Valley Walk-In Clinic, how may I help ya?" the reception nurse beamed with a bright smile, despite being on a telephone, "ah hah... ah hah... ah hah... Omigarsh! Oh goodness, that does sound serious. You'd best get down here right away, well squeeze ya in." 

She turned to the hall behind her, "Barb? Barb! Get Doctor Kerman up here."

A face appeared. 

"No, the other one."

A different face appeared.

"No, the other one."

A third face. 

"And not you either, Floyd!"

One more face. 

"Oh, Dr. Kerman! We've got an incoming impacted thingamabob, needs diskajiggered from a whoopsiedaisy."

"What?" the face said, "again? That's the third one this week!"

"Well, its that time of the month..."

"Ay yi yi," the face shook its head, then turned further down the hall, "Stella!!!!!"

"What!?"

"Prep for an incoming impacted thingamabob!"

"Another one?!"

"That time of the month!"

"Ay yi yi!"

"Ay yi yi," the face agreed, then disappeared. 

The reception nurse took a deep, calming breath, and looked around the rest of the crowded waiting room. Packed in every seat and even standing was a wide assortment of bumps, bruises, bandages, and the obligatory guy with an arrow through his head. All morning long they had come and gone, come and gone. 

You woulda thunk the world was ending, dontchaknow, she thought. 

Just then, the door to the back popped open, and Barb poked her head out.

She glanced at the chart in her hand, "er, Kuzzter Kerman?"

The guy with the arrow through his head stood up, with just a bit of a wobble.

Despite years of training and experience, her eyes widened just a touch, "oh, my! Now how'd you do that?"

"Guuuuuuhhhh..." he mumbled, "surfing accident."

"Oh, dear. Oh, right this way, please..."

The reception nurse watched the door click shut. All this, and it wasn't even noon yet. With that, she turned to the stack of papers on the desk and frowned. Not even the Information Age could bring an end to paperwork. Well, as long as she had a moment—

The front door slammed open, drawing startled yelp from her, but her throat clamped shut at what came through. 

His face was covered in weeping sores. Dried blood ran in a dark cascade down his chin. His breath came in irregular, agonal gasps as he shambled forward. Yet his eyes were wide and aware. Wide... and pleading. Muted gasps and murmurs floated around the small room. 

"Omigarsh," she muttered, "oh, dear, what's happened to you?"

The horror lurched forward, grey foam beginning to drip from his mouth, "need d... d..."

He tensed, then fell to the floor in convulsions. 

It took the nurse some time to realize that the scream was coming from her own lips. She recovered, and called back down the hall, "Dr. Kerman! Dr. Kerman!"

"Which one?!"

"Any one! Not you, Floyd!"

A doctor appeared, pulling on gloves. He took one look and yelled out, "Stella! Call an ambulance!" He knelt by the thrashing kerb, and was quickly joined by others.

"Give him room! Move that chair!"

"Watch his head!"

"Ok, let's roll him over."

"I've got a pulse, it's strong and fast."

"Not breathing."

"Check his airway."

"It's obstructed. You, get his feet. Keep his neck stable. Let's get him to Exam 3 to—"

His chest spasmed twice, and a glut of vile black fluid erupted in a noxious torrent, splattering over those near. For a moment, all became silent. Then a nurse began to wretch, and people began to scream. 

"What in the Nine Hells?!"

"He's seizing again!"

"Where's that ambulance?!"

"Keep his neck stable!"

"I need that gauze!"

"Someone check her!"

"Ok, get his feet."

"Exam 3, prep for..."

Edited by CatastrophicFailure

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Taking an arrow to the knee - kerbal style. :) 

Oh - and уоц’ге шеlсоме. :) 

Edited by KSK

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1 hour ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

She glanced at the chart in her hand, "er, Kuzzter Kerman?"

The guy with the arrow through his head stood up, with just a bit of a wobble.

Despite years of training and experience, her eyes widened just a touch, "oh, my! Now how'd you do that?"

"Guuuuuuhhhh..." he mumbled, "surfing accident."

This just made my whole day!!!!  :D

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On 7/13/2017 at 6:13 AM, CatastrophicFailure said:

OK legit question, here: What's ya'lls take on the new "Ussari" script? Too hard to read? My old faux-rillic generator shut down, this one seems a bit... busy, for more than a word or two.

On 7/13/2017 at 5:42 AM, CatastrophicFailure said:

The pale face above the blankets instantly went beet-red, "GЇVЄ ГӉДҬ БДҪҠ!!!!! ҬҢДГ ЇS ԠЇЙЄ! Ї ЩЇLL ҜЇLL ҰФЏ! Ї ШЇLL ҚЇLL—!"

It was okay until the above line. That line is legible. . .but completely ridiculous. 

 

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12 hours ago, Just Jim said:

This just made my whole day!!!!  :D

I was originally gonna go with Custer Kerman, but, well... :rolleyes:

 

12 hours ago, Ten Key said:

It was okay until the above line. That line is legible. . .but completely ridiculous. 

 

I thought so too. Pity. There goes my plan for an entire chapter in "Ussari." :confused:

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21 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

I was originally gonna go with Custer Kerman, but, well... :rolleyes:

 

I thought so too. Pity. There goes my plan for an entire chapter in "Ussari." :confused:

Well, you've lucked out, then.

ӍЄЯЯҰ ЬЇЯԎЋDДҰ!

https://github.com/vaporo/FakeCyrllicGenerator/blob/master/Fake Cyrillic.xlsm

A fake cyrillic generator with fully customization output. No promises on reliability, though. VBA is a bit glitchy when handling some unicode characters. Hopefully, this will be useful.

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4 hours ago, Vaporo said:

Well, you've lucked out, then.

ӍЄЯЯҰ ЬЇЯԎЋDДҰ!

https://github.com/vaporo/FakeCyrllicGenerator/blob/master/Fake Cyrillic.xlsm

A fake cyrillic generator with fully customization output. No promises on reliability, though. VBA is a bit glitchy when handling some unicode characters. Hopefully, this will be useful.

This is awesome! :D

...now to figure out what an XMLS file is...

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IIRC, an XLSM is just an Excel spreadsheet with macros, since @Vaporo makes references to VBA.

I could be off by a mile an order of magnitude, though.

(also, Book the Third is coming along nicely. Yes, I've read it, even though I haven't read the past two in their entirety. So sue me. :P)

Edited by TotallyNotHuman_
This is what I get when I post too fast.

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2 hours ago, TotallyNotHuman_ said:

IIRC, an XLSM is just an Excel spreadsheet with macros, since @Vaporo makes references to VBA.

I could be off by a mile an order of magnitude, though.

(also, Book the Third is coming along nicely. Yes, I've read it, even though I haven't read the past two in their entirety. So sue me. :P)

Yeah, an xlsm file is just an Excel file with macros. Excel is perfect for this kind of thing. I'm hoping that CatastrophicFailure can open it.

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On 7/21/2017 at 6:59 AM, Vaporo said:

Yeah, an xlsm file is just an Excel file with macros. Excel is perfect for this kind of thing. I'm hoping that CatastrophicFailure can open it.

You never know. It could open fine, or his system could have a catastrophic failure and not open it -g1365444091774137766.jpg

I'm so funny...

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Shadow, shadow in the will
Makes the Great One small,
Shadow, shadow in the mind
Makes the Strong One crawl,
Shadow, shadow in the heart
Makes the Wise One fall.

Chapter 5: Dire Words

"Brain damage? Are you sure?"

Doc frowned, letting out a long breath as he regarded the sleeping form on the bed, "I can't be. That's above my pay grade. But this whole thing is way into uncharted territory, in so many ways! After everything, my instinct tells me some kind of lasting brain damage is not just possible, but likely."

Edgas's own voice was barely above a whisper, "any way you can be sure?"

"Not with the equipment we have here," Doc shook his head, "that would need a proper neurosurgeon, anyway. But the brain scans I have pulled from the AutoDoc, they're... well, they're like nothing I've ever seen."

"How so?"

"Well, just look!" Doc tapped at his tablet sheet, and a series of jagged lines appeared. He swiped at the screen, and they then appeared on the wall, "I'm an amateur with this stuff at best, but I had to recalibrate the sensors just to get this. That look like anything you've ever seen?"

Edgas shook his head, but in truth he had seen a pattern like that before. A long time ago, now, and merely thinking of it caused his throat to clamp down and render him mute. Keeping his face neutral, he went through the old mental routine he hadn't used in years, walling off those feelings and shutting them away for another time. 

"What's the prognosis?" he finally said, only the barest hint of tension in his voice. 

"We'll have to wait and see," said Doc, "give her time, let her heal. Hopefully something will come back."

Edgas nodded, staring through the bed and far beyond, "any updates from the Chief?"

"He's been through the wreckage, at least what we could recover. Between the crash and the whumpers, it's just scrap, now. He says some bits look like an old Mk 1-2 pod, but..." Doc trailed off. 

Edgas prodded him, "what?"

"Well, there's no serial numbers. Not a single one. Not even a Company logo, and you know they put that stuff on everything. No proof codes, RFID's, microstamps... not a single identifying marking on anything."

"That... is unusual," Edgas told the wall.  

"Oh, and something else," Doc tapped at the screen again, "some sort of computer system. Looks like a knockoff MechJeb box."

"A computer system?" Edgas finally turned to him. 

Doc held up a hand, "don't get your hopes up. It's completely smashed, nothing at all recoverable from the memory core."

Taking a sip of his trademark industrial-strength coffee and chewing it thoughtfully, Edgas leaned back in his chair, "you're sure? Poindexter agrees?"

Doc nodded, "couldn't get more than a handful of useless bytes out of it."

Still chewing, Edgas again stared off into nowhere, "so we have a long-lost Ussari Kerbonaut and a reproduction MechJeb unit, both of which have lost their memory, delivered in an unflagged KSA capsule..."

Doc raised an eye... bulge, "what're you thinking?"

"I'm not sure."

"History records that she died during the first Ussari attempt at a Münshot. They were known to do some squirrelly things back then... could they have, like, missed? Shot her off past the Mün into deep space, then covered it up?"

Edgas gave his head a slight shake, "doesn't explain the KSA capsule. Their own hardware was more than capable, even then. If only we could find out what's on that memory core..."

"Well, like they say, if wishes were RatSquirrelFishes—" Doc began.

Edgas cut him off, suppressing a spasm in his own throat, "don't even go there." 

A muffled groan from the bed drew their attention for a moment. The form beneath the blanket shifted, then was still once more. Edgas's thumb found the wide, flat spot between his eyes, rubbing at it while he squeezed them shut. They seemed to resist being opened again. 

"Y'know, you should get some rest yourself," Doc offered, "those bags under your eyes get any bigger and Merbro is gonna drag you along on the next supply run for the extra storage."

"I'll sleep when I'm dead," Edgas managed a weak grin,  "what's our current communication status?"

Doc pulled back the curtain on the nearby window, beyond which the snow rushed past sideways in an unceasing torrent shrouded in inky twilight. 

He sighed, "barely a trickle of bits getting through. And it's getting worse. The aiming motors for the main dish are beginning to overheat one by one from fighting the wind. Pretty soon we'll have to put the whole system into safe mode." He shook his head, "never seen a storm like this before. Just goes on and on."

Giving his eyes one last squeeze, Edgas said, "let's put it in safe mode now."

"Eh, probably wise," Doc shrugged, "no sense doing any more damage than we have to."

"And I want you to keep it offline, even if the storm breaks."

Doc blinked, "what? Why?"

"We need to drop off the map for a little while."

For a long time, Doc just looked at him.

"Boss... what's going on?"

Edgas pursed his lips and grit his teeth, as if swallowing something bitter, "I'm... being silly and paranoid. I just... I need you to trust me right now."

For first time since Edgas had known him, he saw real fear bloom in his friend's face, "Ed... I trust you... you know that... but let me help. If... if there's some kind of trouble, we'll figure it out, like we always do, but..."

"It better for everyone, this way," Edgas said, "safer. Until I know more."

Doc's lips drew into a thin line, but he nodded, "alright, Ed. Alright."

A thought occurred, "hey... do you still have contact with that old hobby cubesat of yours?"

"That old thing?" Doc blinked, "yeah, I think so. At least last I checked. But why..?"

"Could it... could it record a message, and rebroadcast it at a certain time?"

Now Doc's face crinkled into genuine confusion, "well sure, I guess, if anyone were daft enough to be listening. It's a kilometer-band transceiver, really low bandwidth. But even that couldn't get through this storm.

"Besides," he shrugged, "its beyond obsolete. That's why I went with it in the first place. Dirt cheap."

Edgas put a hand to his chin, and for a long time said nothing. He squeezed his tired, aching eyes shut. 

"Do what you can about the comms situation, we'll take things one at a time like we always do," he said, seeming to reach some decision, "and let me know the minute you can get a signal to your cubesat."


***


Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep . . .

A heart monitor toned out a slow, weak rhythm. Nearby, the steady shhhhhh–pop of a ventilator kept time to the barely perceptible rise and fall beneath the blanket. In silent syncopation, an IV bag drip–dripped away. 

"Patient's name is Kerman, D. Arrived one week ago," the Chief Physician held a chart, but she simply recited from memory, "presented with respiratory distress, general malaise, vomiting, open epidermic lesions..."

"My Kerm," said the new Analyst, "he looks like a corpse..."

The Chief paused, and looked at him, "what's a Kerm?"

The Analyst opened his mouth, then closed it and blinked in confusion. 

With a roll of her eyes, the Chief continued, "the patient's blood vessels have become filled with an as-yet unidentified spongy, plaque-like substance. The reduced blood flow has led to lowered organ function and necrosis of the skin and extremities. We're trying to counter with high doses of blood thinners and plasma."

The Analyst frowned down at the form on the bed, nearly unidentifiable surrounded by hoses and wires, "shouldn't we be wearing masks, at the least? This is the isolation ward..."

"The patient is not contagious," irritation touched the Chief's voice, "we have scoured through blood and tissue samples searching for any kind of infectious agent, this likely some sort of hyper-allergic reaction to some environmental toxin."

The Analyst frowned deeper, staring at the stricken Kerbal. As he watched, the other's eyes crept open.

"He's conscious?" he quipped, "why not an induced coma with a condition like this? Surely you at least have him sedated..."

"We've tried. The patient is, well, pumped full of enough ketamine to drop a herd of rhinoceros. His metabolism is so slow that it's having virtually no effect," said the Chief, "and don't call me Shirley, we're at work, here."

The Analyst rolled his own eyes, and pulled up a document on his sheet-like tablet, "and you're sure there's no risk of contamination? What about this... mysterious black goo it says he coughs up?"

"We've been unable to identify that either, but it doesn't appear to present any risk. Protiens, lipids, amino acids... very primordial stuff but there's nothing alive in it— no bacteria, no viruses, not even any complex organic molecules. And whatever it is, it's certainly not airborne," the Chief raised an eye... bulge, "but you'll probably want to wash your hands all the same."

The Analyst was not amused, "surely you jest."

"I said don't call me—"

"What about the others exposed at the clinic?" he tapped some more at his tablet, "why aren't they here?"

The hint of a snarl— a very professional snarl— curled the Chief's lip, "they have all been thoroughly examined, and cleared. There's absolutely no sign of any illness, at least that wasn't there before they went to that clinic." She frowned at the other physician, tried to draw herself up to her full height and glare down at him
"This is no epidemic, here, Doctor. There's no contagion, no outbreak, no threat to anyone beyond the patient. This is an isolated incident that this hospital is quite capable of handling. We don't need any meddling from Capitol bureaucrats." 

Leaning in she added, "I trust you will convey this in your report."

The Analyst kept his face as neutral as he could, "whatever you say. Shirley."

He turned on his heel and hurried out, feeling her eyes bore into the back of his neck. He managed to keep that blank look as he went by what passed for security here, little more than a sleepy intern at a big desk. 

Ignorant backwoods hicks, it took effort not to mumble it out loud, they've too much of that stubborn Nefcarkalander blood in them, this far north.

He paused in the kerb's room to wash his hands— thoroughly. Something was definitely wrong, here. He may not have much personal experience, but he read, and he'd never read about an allergic reaction like that to anything.

Still... it could be environmental. He'd traced the poor fellow in the ICU to a tourist trap outside Kerbin City, visited not long before... this. There were all sorts of stories of what one could find in the water there, and even more stories of what had been put in the water to get rid of them. Or what created them in the first place. That was the problem with stories, down there. They all got... weird. 

The Analyst dried his hands and left, being sure not to touch the door handle. They used nasty stuff in rocket fuels, he'd also heard that. Stuff that could cause lesions and even necrosis like what he'd just seen. But... so long after exposure? Something wasn't adding up, he needed to talk to—

"Heywood."

"Floyd!" he rushed up to the gurney that had just come through the doors, for one brief, terrifying moment, actually reaching out to his old friend before catching himself, "what... what happened?!"

"The clinic," said the other kerb through an oxygen mask, "everyone's sick."

Heywood took an involuntary step back. More gurneys wheeled by EMTs in ever more serious protective gear began to file in.

"But... Shirley said they cleared you..." he half-mumbled in horror.

Floyd pulled his mask down, his breath coming in ragged, gurgling gasps, "came on suddenly, everyone at once. And it's spreading."

"Floyd..."

He gave a weak shake of his head, where lesions were already beginning to show, "you know Shirley can't... you've got to... call KCDC in... get people here... this is bad—" He was interrupted by great, spasming coughs, until he spat out foul black goo over his chin, "...this is very bad."

 

 

With spacial thanks to @Ten Key:D

 

Edited by CatastrophicFailure

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