A new deadly and rapidly spreading disease mutates with each new host, collecting information, changing code. The disease evolves lightning quick, spreading like pond ripples and infecting everyone. No one is safe.
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It looks like Carolyn and Mark are in deep, deep shit... Mark and Carolyn live in an alternate 1989 where Ronald Reagan is on his fourth presidential term. The USA has a rigid, long-standing caste system and abortions were never made legal. Being homeless is a crime that is punishable by imprisonment in an internment camp the inmates call Tent City. Most of Mark’s ER patients are inmates at this camp and are victims of a new disease these illegals call the Transient Flu. This deadly and rapidly spreading disease mutates with each new host, collecting information, changing code. The disease evolves lightning quick, spreading like pond ripples and infecting everyone. No one is safe. Mark and Carolyn dig too deep and uncover the brutal truth: Transient Flu was purposely made and is one hundred percent fatal. Carolyn’s employer, Hudson-Smythe Pharmaceuticals, discovers the chain of evidence. It traces the pharmacide back to Hudson-Smythe and the crime of the century. Cost is no object and deadly force is authorized. Yes. Carolyn and Mark are in deep, deep shit.
Let’s begin near the end:
Just like blood in my mouth, I can taste the fear. This terror is a constant companion as I scan the lot. I need to find a place to hide on the quick. This place of concealment needs to be ten to fifteen years old. Too old to be protected with a car alarm, I’m seeking a functional tool, not a trendy fashion statement. I can’t go arbitrarily jiggling on door handles, praying alarms don’t sound. Otherwise, I get to see if I can outrun El Oso and his gun. Not wanting to give that a go, I move swiftly, hunched over, attempting to seek out the right car and simultaneously keep myself hidden from my relentless, armed pursuer. It will be a neat trick, if I can. I wouldn’t lay odds on it, though.
I still can’t believe this is happening to me. Running for my life in the dead of night is not at all what I had in mind when I accepted this gig.
Quiet as the dreams of sleeping ants, I skulk from parked car to parked car. Finally I strike gold. The ’76 Buick I happen upon is perfect. The four-door sedan isn’t even locked. The passenger-side front door opens louder than I am happy with, but I should be safe. I hope. I don’t hear the big man anywhere near, so maybe. I do a fast and low survey and spot no one. Maybe, I think, just maybe. I don’t expect to be fortunate enough to find car keys dangling with promise from the ignition. I’m not surprised to clock it empty. A just in case swift check of the underside of the visor and beneath the driver’s seat, also prove fruitless. After one more look-see out to the dark lot, I slide, as quietly as I can, over the top of the front seat of the twelve year-old car. I thump down to the cold dark floorboard in the back. My heart is pounding staccatos in my head and my breathing goes in and out, raspy and quick. It is early January in the desert valley city of Phoenix. The very early morning air is freezing here in the Grand Canyon State capital. I am just settling down when the footsteps I’ve been expecting finally arrive. The path of El Oso’s feet is light and sure. I hear him searching for me as he weaves his way through the staff parking lot of St. Anthony Medical Center. The lot is half-filled with cars, but vacant of people. I hear my adversary chuckle softly. “I know you’re here, Doc,” he says. “I know you’re close by. You’re so scared I can practically smell it.” Well, he’s got that right. My dizziness is increasing and I am as terrified as I have eve been. “Be a man and show yourself. You won’t suffer,” El Oso promises. “Not like she did. She was begging for the life of her child while I laughed in her face. But you wouldn’t know anything about that, would you, mister big-time doctor.” I’m doing the best I can to melt into the floorboard of the big sedan. My hands are trembling as I listen to the killer walk past me. “She whimpered for you, Doc. She cried out for you to save her, but you couldn’t know that. Not when you run away like a scared rabbit, leaving her trapped in the wreckage and helpless at my feet.” I hear El Oso’s voice fading as he walks further away. I want so desperately to shout out how I had gone for help. That I didn’t know what would happen. But I can’t say a single word, no matter how rattled I feel. Instead, I bite down hard on my own fist until the pain flashes boldly. A pointless and impotent gesture, but I manage to draw a little blood. Pain should keep me sharp, if the rank fear won’t. “Now here’s a nice ride,” I hear him say from a distance. “I bet is costs a shit-ton of Notes, though. After I finish the job and collect the rest of my money. Maybe I’ll celebrate and buy myself one.” I lie perfectly still and El Oso stops his wondering aloud. I wish he’d keep babbling. I couldn’t give a rip about his window shopping, but I’m praying he ramps up his monologue again. The ensuing silence frightens me even more than his casual talk of violence has. When I can hear El Oso talking, I have a fair idea where the killer is, but now? Now, El Oso can be anywhere. The night continues on in its silence, all except for the distant wailing of an ambulance. As the siren fades, two beeps leak from my wristwatch, followed almost immediately by two more, signaling the two a.m. alarm. The shock of it jolts the devil out of me. I fumble with the watch’s display face, dousing the remaining beeps. You have got to be kidding me, I think. I hope the killer can’t hear it, but the alarm’s about as subtle as an explosion. Sounds can travel far in the still, cold night air. Shit.