It would be today that strange things would happen at St. Mercy's. First, the patient with the blue spots and now this. Ira was messing with an Old Earth relic in the cafeteria, which was just odd. Old Earth relics were hard to come by and no one used them anymore. Jei shook her head, closing her clipboard window with a wave of her hand. If Ira would stop messing about, they could eat their midday meal and return to work. Why the woman had a switchblade was beyond her. “Don't you have case studies to do?” Jei snapped finally, looking up from her protein bowl once more. The other woman kept flipping the switchblade into the air and it was distracting her! And weren't Old Earth relics contaminated anyway? Imagine the diseases Ira was bringing into the hospital! And the younger woman had the nerve to shrug at her! Hmpf. Jei didn't know then that things were about to become very interesting and it would all start with a little, rusted switchblade.
Ira caught her switchblade, grimacing when the tip of the blade pierced her finger. But it was alright, just a little prick. She quickly pocketed the relic, enlarging her own clipboard window, scrolling through the screen with ease of practice. Two new patients arriving now, one with an injury that she had never seen before. Ira took her protein plate to the dish window before hurrying to the tubes. She waited for one to clear before stepping onto the disk and placing her hand on the sensor. A drop of blood smeared onto the sensor but Ira didn't notice as the tube whisked her up and over, taking her to the new patient's holding zone. She stepped through the disinfectant stream, hands resting at her side. This was routine, so routine that she didn't even think about it anymore, her body just went through the motions of sterilizing and cleaning. There were so few contagious illnesses now, with all the steps they took to stop them. Really, the hospital only saw patients who were injured or pregnant, with a few weird cases coming through from time to time. Few people became sick anymore, except for those born sick. There were some sicknesses that they still could not eradicate completely. Preventing the spread of bodily fluids helped greatly with that. Ira removed her clipboard from her pocket, opening the strange man's file with a quick tap of her fingers. She would never realize the danger she had left in the tubes.
Ged grunted, his hand tapping the sensor plate quickly, but it wasn't fast enough. His skin tingled but he ignored it, never knowing that he was now a carrier.
Jei stepped through the disinfectant stream, studying her clipboard quickly. She had to visit the man with the blue spots and see if his treatment had worked, before checking on the girl who had broken her leg. Her surgery had went well and all that was left was to give the child a strength shot and a last dose of pain-free before releasing her to her mother .A quick check showed that the man's treatment had worked, she would be able to release him. She passed through the entrance to the bones zone, frowning when Ged brushed passed her, his arm touching hers for just a second and a drop of sweat passing from his skin to hers. It tingled for a moment before fading, sinking deep into her skin.
Ira grimaced, leaning heavily against one of the walls. The room was spinning around her. She was dizzy and light-headed, but she should be fine. Her hand was throbbing, her head ached, and she closed her eyes, just for a moment. When she opened them, she was on one of the hospital's stretchers, floating down the hallway with people on either side of her. “Huh?”
“You fainted, Ira. We'll get you checked over, see what happened.” She grunted her understanding, not even trying to sit up. The bed finally stopped, coming to rest in the holding zone.
“Ira's sick. If you have been near Ira, please head to quarantine.” Jei frowned, reading the scrolling message on her clipboard once more. Ira was sick? But quarantined! They never quarantined anyone anymore, there was no reason to. What on earth? Jei sighed, moving to tubes. She tapped the sensor plate, grimacing when her hand burned. That was odd. Could today become any weirder?
Clearly it could. Jei glanced around the quarantine room, watching as the suited-up doctors scanned each person. Four had already been released, but they still hadn't said what was wrong with Ira. One of the doctors stopped in front of her, waving the scanner back and forth for a moment. “Here's another one.” He called, shaking his head in disbelief. This would be the sixth, then. And none of them have had physical contact with Ira. Perhaps the virus had adapted? But it wasn't viral! It had to be through touch.
“What's wrong?” Jei questioned nervously, thinking back to her encounters with Ira. What could Ira have that was contagious?
He hesitated, knowing quite well that knowledge could cause a panic. But these were all doctors, they would understand the dangers quite well. “Plague Seven.” He responded, tagging her for complete quarantine before moving on.
Plague Seven? But that had been an Old Earth plague that had been eradicated. It moved through the transfer of bodily fluids and skin contact. But she hadn't touched Ira! Nor had she touched anyone in the quarantine. So where had she gotten it?
Ged glanced at his clipboard, clicking the message away. He hadn't been near Ira recently, so he decided it was time to head home. He wasn't feeling well, after all, and he knew one of the transport tubes would be by soon. Ged left never knowing that a virus clung to his very skin.
Ged entered his kitchen, fighting the urge to close his eyes. He
felt so drained, so tired. He hadn't even worked his full eighteen
though. It was not even mid-afternoon yet. His wife would still be at
work, his child in care. He should go get his son, he knew, but he
couldn't seem to care. He just wanted to lie down at the moment. But
he felt so weak, he knew he needed something to make it better. He
searched the cold box, fumbling with the bottle of nutri-shake for a
moment before managing to open in and taking a swing directly from
the bottle. It wasn't sanitary, of course, to do so, but he shared
genetics with his son and his wife would have developed immunity to
him, as he had to her, so it didn't matter if they shared saliva. He
felt a bit of energy return to him but not enough. Ged finally gave
in, stumbling his way to the pull-out couch and crashing onto it.
Sleep overtook him quickly, perhaps sleep was all he needed. His body adjusted slowly, letting the virus seep through his veins, as his organs fought to survive the onslaught of decay. The first twenty-four were the most important. If his body held up for twenty-four, he would be fine, the virus would die. He may never even know that he started an epidemic. After all, he had ridden the tubes and touched the doors and given it to his child, who would carry it to his care center where the disease would spread like the plague it was. When he finally awoke, hundreds of people would be affected and they wouldn't all be as lucky as he had been. People would die, the disease would spread until it was stopped by quarantining the entire city. Supplies would run short, there would be problems but slowly it would fade. The city would heal, move on. Old Earth Relics would be gathered, disinfected, and placed in museums. The children would develop immunity which they would pass on to their children and decades later, there would be no fear of this plague. But right now, as Ged sleep on, Ira would die. She would be the first. The colleagues that she had infected, the ones he had infected, would fight as he did now. Some would survive, many would die. New Earth would rotate on its axis, life would continue on. One small accident, thousands sick, hundreds dead....and the Earth would spin on.