The Christine Plague

Part I

It was the end of June. Mike Shermerhorn, medical student, had managed to claw and struggle his way through to his undergraduate degree, and was now working as a paramedic for [an unnamed] hospital. He liked driving around in the ambulance at high speeds with sirens, having learned how to avoid wrecking cars the hard way during some of his extracurricular activities.

Having some unusual problems which had led him to become a medical student in the first place, he managed to get himself assigned to the graveyard shift. It was easy - few other people wanted to be on it, and he tended to be able to convince most people into seeing it his way a fair amount of the time.

At 2:12 in the morning, he and his partner, Rich, were sent out on a police call... they had found a situation requiring some medics, one victim, female, possibly drugged. Mike seldom got tired, and with his night vision and reflexes (ex-football lineman) Rich was content to let him drive most of the time. Besides, Mike was the rookie.

They arrived to a scene of flashing lightbars on police cars and a SAT officer. There were never enough SAT officers anywhere, and especially there were never enough in San Fransisco. Paranormals had a tendency to destroy property on a scale not seen elsewhere in the country, and SAT officers were generally trying to get to places before the paranormals tried to do something and innocents got hurt. SAT's presence made it a virtual certainty that something paranormal had happened.

The building was a bank building, with office space above the bank. The victim was upstairs, along with the fatalities. Mike carried the gurney upstairs, following Rich into the office. The decor had been altered slightly from your normal office environment. There was a painted pentacle with mystic signs drawn on the floor, melted candles and candlesticks at the corners, with thirteen skeletons in elaborate robes surrounding it. In the middle, a naked woman lay, in classic sacrifice position. She was breathing, but that was the most sign of awareness that existed. Everything in the office was slightly damp from the sprinklers, that had apparently put out some small fires that had been started around the room.

The police in the room had finished marking out everything, and the skeletons appeared beyond medical help (although they were still warm). The woman appeared to have no injuries, but from pupil dilation and general lack of consciousness seemed to have been drugged. Mike and Rich carefully lifted her to the gurney and secured her, and brought her down to the ambulance. She seemed to have some slight awareness of her surroundings, and Mike focused on her to make sure he had her attention, and asked if she knew what had happened to her.

"Candleslight... flames purple glow dance."

She didn't appear coherent, and Mike didn't want to use too much of his ability to mesmerise on her.

Mike started the ambulance and pulled away. Rich yelled to him to stop. Mike hit the brakes instantly and pulled over. The woman had just sat up, ripping through the retaining straps.

"Aren't those supposed to be able to hold a gorilla?"

"Yes."

"Maybe you had better drive. I'll see if I can get her to lie down again."

Mike came back and tried to get her to lie down... she was as strong as he was, so he met her eyes and suggested that she lie down quietly. She compliantly lay down, and asked, "Where are we going?"

"A safe place," Mike replied, knowing some people had bad reactions to hospitals. She seemed docile enough now, so they drove back to the hospital where experts could look at her.

Mike suggested that she would best be handled by psychology... she seemed unusually strong. Being on duty, he and Rich were immediately called away on another mission. Some cops had been injured at the site where she came from, and needed hospitalization. The ambulance they had was handling a little mushy, so they switched with another vehicle and went back to the bank.

The police officers had been injured by an exploding phone in the offices. It had rung 10 times while they figured out how to get through a locked door at it, and then blown up when they were in the room. It was going to be a long night, Mike could see already. It got worse when they returned to the hospital... phones all over the city were exploding after 10 rings, and the hospital attendants wanted to know just what he had done to his last ambulance... it had run away, driverless into the streets, taking some of the other cars in the parking structure with it. "I'm busy, we've got calls, phone SAT or something, they should be able to deal with a runaway car."

By the time 5:30 rolled around, Mike and Rich were tired, and were going off duty. Things had kept happening, and pedestrians were being injured left and right by runaway cars. SAT had caught up with the ambulance, but not before it had managed to infect more cars. They were worried about what was going to happen when rush hour struck, and how to keep the infection from spreading. Mike saw light bulbs floating in the air around the hospital, but decided that it wasn't his business, and that he was going home. His motorcycle hadn't been infected, so he was going to go home to his girlfriend, Rebecca.

He had a phone call he needed to make first... his advisor from Berkeley, Matilda Elphick, better known to SAT and the public as "Fay," would be interested in killer cars roaming the streets. He dialed her home number, and waited out the rings... 10... 9... 8... 7... 6... 5... 4... 3... 2... 1... "the number you have dialed has been disconnected or is otherwise not in service at this time."

"Figures."

He called in his mind and whispered, "Rebecca?"

"Yes, O lord and master?"

"Knock it off, I have to get Fay awake. Go tell her that driverless cars are assaulting pedestrians all over the city. That'll wake her up."

"Sigh, why do these things always happen near dawn..."

Fay turned over above her bed, and the covers dropped off to the surface. She dove back down a little and grabbed them again, and curled up again. There was this ringing in her ears, it sounded a little like a phone. There was a phone in her bedroom, come to think of the matter. She looked at it blearily. It kept ringing. It blew up, sending small pieces of plastic shrapnel through the room. She rolled over the other direction and went back to sleep.

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Last modified: September 26, 1996

The Other Gretchen <gretchen@remarque.berkeley.edu>