ShockedAgain! - Part 2 ("Something Always Has To Go Wrong")
by Matthew James
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Tom spent a second to quickly re-evaluate his position. The door out of the medical room was directly across from him, about twenty feet away. He quickly shook the canister of synth-skin, it was empty. He held his breath for a moment, hoping to hear the melted man-thing breath and give away it's position. Nothing. Shit.

Well, standing still was getting him nowhere fast. He hurled the empty synth-skin at the window nearest the door, if only to cause noise and possibly draw attention to his plight. Nothing. The doctor's earlier stern gesture of dismissal to the other staff had been too effective. He held the metal rod he had picked up tightly, and tried willing his right foot forward a step. Nothing…he was too scared to move. He had been detached from reality by the sheer insanity of the last minute, and now he couldn't control his own body. He tried telling his left foot to move. "C'mon left foot! You know you've always been my favourite!". Still nothing. He took a few breaths to settle his nerves. The adrenalin was wearing off fast, after his previous burst of speed and strength, he felt drained. He wanted to get out of here and collapse.

"It's about time I found you! You know how many frickin' med bays I've walked through!", exclaimed Suzanne as she walked through the door with no warning. "Hey, you look like you just …", Suzanne stopped dead in the middle of her sentence as she took in the two bodies on the floor, one soaked in blood. She took another look at Tom brandishing a metal pipe. "Ummm…", she uttered as she fought between coming into the room or leaving. An unwelcome guest made up her mind for her. The melted man leapt from alcove built into a gurney a few surgical units over, and ran towards her. It had been in the room, quietly biding it's time. The thing wasn't as stupid as it looked, unfortunately. Suzanne gave a horrible half scream, half yell, as she frantically tried to close the swing door. She got it shut in time, but they were playing tug-of-war with the door, and she couldn't let go of it or the mutant man would simply follow her out. She hung on, trying to keep the door closed. Looking at her face through the glass, she was still screaming, but Tom could only hear parts of it, each time the melted man-thing cracked the seal on the door with a tug.

This turn of affairs unglued Tom's frozen will. He ran forward. The melted man didn't turn; apparently it had forgotten about Tom in the excitement of chasing Suzanne. Tom took a second to wind up and give it an overhead chop with the metal bar. He felt sick as he felt a solid jarring on the bar, then a squishy yielding of the thing's skull. Absolutely gross…he vowed on the spot not to make this a full time job. The melted man gave a terrible gurgle and let go of the door, and started to turn. A regular man could not have taken a blow like that. Tom backed up a step and got ready to swing again, aiming for the left side of the thing's head with a two handed right swing. He didn't get that far…while backing up he stumbled over the synth-skin can. Trying to hang onto the bar with his left hand as he went down on the right, he landed hard. Rolling fast to bring himself back facing the melted man, he saw it open the door and shuffle off to the left. Suzanne had run the moment Tom's attack had turned the freak undead thing from the door.

"Why didn't it come at me?", thought Tom as he let go of the bar to lift himself to his feet. His right hand was burned before, now it felt even worse. He had pulled a lot of skin off it, and it felt like he may have pulled or snapped something in his wrist in the fall; it kept feeling like he needed to snap it into position. Once up, he stopped to retrieve the bar, and opened the door. People were running down the right hall towards him. Suzanne and the melted man had gone down the left.

"Get security down here. There's some mutant freak loose, and it just killed the medical staff in this room.", he gestured towards the room. "You, you and you. Follow me, it went this way, after one of our Maintenance people. We have to stop it before it gets anyone else.", he said as he started down the left hall. "Hold it hero, take a look at yourself. The best you're gonna do is get in our way… Go back into the med bay and one of our guys will fix you up. We'll chase this thing.", said a large brown-haired man in a medical smock, who pointed at Tom's metal bar. "Mind if I borrow that?". Tom willingly gave it up, and gave a last minute warning "It's strong as hell. The person it's chasing is called Suzanne, try calling to her.". The large man and a few others ran down the hall, while a spectacled older gentleman took Tom back into the medical bay.

"Is there anything you can do for the doc?", Tom asked the guy with the 'specs. The doctor walked over to a cupboard, took out a large instrument, placed it near the downed doctor, and pressed some buttons. Tom got up on the surgical unit while the older doctor played with some sensors and stared intently at the device's readout. "I don't think I can do anything. There's something foreign in his bloodstream. The software's having trouble figuring out what it is…give me a minute". The doctor kept playing.with the device. One of the lines on the device took on a regular wave pattern when it was flatline before. "Nice one doc…I'm assuming that's a heart or something, right?", Tom said as he itched his hand. "That's funny…I didn't do anything!", mused the older doctor as he moved sensors around. "By all means, Dr.Saloka should be dead. I was going to try activating a brain and heart stim, but it looks like I don't need to", the doctor said as he got up. "Help me move him to a table". "No can do chief, my hand's pretty far gone. Looks like we're drawing a crowd though. Hey, somebody give him a hand", Tom said to a growing crowd of medical personnel. At least four people stepped forward and lifted the doctor's body to a nearby surgical unit. 'By the way, my name is Dr.Thornton. You're fortunate you didn't end up like the two in here.", the doctor leaned closer, and quietly said "This isn't the first monster we've encountered.". He pulled out an activation key for the surgical unit, slapped it home, and activated it. Various sensors extruded themselves from the unit and began scanning the downed doctor. Dr.Thornton pulled out a second key and placed it in the unit Tom was sitting on. "Please lie down. This won't take a minute". He pressed the activate button and went back to watching the doctors. Tom felt the table hum and vibrate ever so slightly as antennae, metal dishes and lasers moved around his body, in a little shamanistic healing dance. "So what's the diagnosis, Doc? A quick nanite injection, a minute or two in the unit, and I'm set or what?", Tom quipped. He looked over to Dr.Thornton, who was looking at a diagnostic panel. The doctor's face changed colour as lights on the panel blinked into existence; by the fact his face was now bathed in an unhealthy red glow, Tom figured something was wrong. "Is something wrong?", asked Tom. "Something's wrong", said the doctor. Damn, something always has to go wrong.

"So what's it say? I was rooting for a record heal time. Nobody in Maintenance has ever beaten my quick 32.5 second heal for a shredded finger.", Tom joked again as he tried to maneuver his head past questing antennae and other waving medical paraphernalia. "It says it can't fix you", said the doctor, in a hushed tone. "What do you mean can't fix me? You put the key in, right? Here, let me up. I fix things; I'll fix it so it can fix me!", Tom said as he pointed to the Maintenance logo on his jumpsuit. He started pushing the scanning equipment away, herding them to one side so he could get off. "No, the unit's working fine. It says the nanites can't stop whatever's in you. There's some infection that is growing too fast. The nanites pull it apart, but it keeps spreading", Dr.Thornton explained, rotating the display panel so Tom could see a score of blinking red lights and medical gibberish. "I see", he said dejectedly, itching his right hand again. "It's a matter of nanites then, right? If you have X nanites fighting Y cells that are spreading too quick, can't you just recalculate for X and give me like a double dose? It should just be a matter of numbers, right? Not to meddle in your affairs…", said Tom, thinking hard. He didn't like the idea of something foreign in his bloodstream, multiplying. It was pretty obvious to him he had picked it up from the melted man during the fight, probably entering from the open wounds on his right hand.

"It's not that easy. We can't just drown you in nanites. They need fuel. They take it from your blood. They need command and control. We can control them, but not in such numbers to stop this. Not for precise operations.", said Dr.Thornton again, also thinking hard. Somebody leaned into the conversation. "Dr.Forsberg here. Some colleagues of mine were working on a similar problem back Earthside, with controlling very advanced cases of hemmoraghic fever". Dr. Thornton urged him on. "Well, we found a small number of precisely operated nanites had no hope of saving the patient. But a large number of less controlled nanites had a much better chance. Instead of healing the damage, or destroying the cell, we commanded nanites to simply encase the infected cells with their own metal bodies.", Dr.Forsberg explained. "How well did it work?",asked Dr.Thornton, to which he received the reply, "Decently, though the patients had to be caught before too advanced a stage. Past that, and even massive doses of nanites could not stop the fever". "But how do you solve the problem of fuel? That many nanites, even if only moving once to encase an intruding virus or bacteria, would consume a lot of sugar from the blood.", asked Dr.Thornton again, questions and answers going back and forth like a ball in a tennis game. Everyone else was caught up, heads going back and forth from Dr.Thornton to Dr.Forsberg and back again. A tennis game for Tom's life.

"We prepared a large injection of a few different types of sugars, as well as certain hormones that trick the kidney into dumping extra blood into the bloodstream. And some compounds that lower the rate of cellular injestion of the sugars. Reducing that man's temperature should help too", Dr.Forsberg said, pointing at Tom. Tom moved to get up. "No, keep still young man. Every move you make will make a big difference. You'll pump blood around you faster, spreading the foreign cells faster. You're doing their work for them. Sit back down and be calm.", he gently pushed Tom back down. "Dr. Ing, would you be so kind as to run down to the storage room and grab me a couple vials of any types of sugars you can find? Fructose, sucrose, dextrose, and any others you can lay your hands on. Dr.Schueller, would you run to my lab and bring me back the vial labelled 1-C-2-tranchinusphase? It's at the top of the rightmost temp-controlled cupboard. Thanks". Two doctors turned to get the supplies. Dr.Thornton rummaged out a large needle, and prepared an IV stand and opened a saline bottle. Tom concentrated on trying to feel the infection in him. He couldn't feel anything. He had to conciously try to keep calm. As soon as he thought about the trouble he was in, his heart rate would soar.

He started to feel cold. Lying on his back, he looked up at Dr.Thornton. "Don't worry son, I'm reducing the temperature of the surgical backplate. We'll give the injection shortly, I'm just prepping all the nanites now with a new program. They'll get additional commands as they move through you.", said the older doctor as his fingers tapped at the diagnostic panel. He wandered over to a shelf and took two more nanite storage canisters, and inserted them both into the surgical unit. A couple more keystrokes, and he looked at Dr.Forsberg. "I think they are set, and we have as high a dose as I'm willing to risk. Any more and they'll start leaking out of his ears", he said, with a sideways glance at Tom, "sorry, bad joke". "Man, you gotta improve your bedside manner! Hey, can you give me something so I don't feel the cold! I'm freezing!", asked Tom, appreciating the humour. "The unit already gave you a light analgesic for the cold, the strain already on your body must be fighting it. I'll up the dosage a tad". More button presses. "No, now I feel it more!". More presses. "How about now?". "Nope, even more! I think it's not going to help". Dr.Thornton eyed the panel. "I think whatever is in you is capable of "ingesting" drugs. We've saw something of this before. It's nothing like a normal virus. It takes over your cells like a virus, but makes them behave in remarkable ways, doesn't just turn them into viral factories like a normal virus does. I'd say you're … changing. Tom, I don't think this virus thing is going to, and isn't meant to, kill you.", said Dr.Thornton. "Great, just wonderful. I get to be a friggin' zombie thing like that other dude. At least throw manacles on me before I transform too far!", he joked. He almost regretted it when some doctors looked at each other and pulled out a set of titanium manacles. Funny how they should have those ready. Obviously, Dr.Thornton wasn't lying when he said this wasn't the first time they had run into this organism.

Dr.Ing came back carrying a bin of vials. He set them down, and several doctors started measuring and preparing the injection. Dr.Forsberg was at a corner terminal, checking stored notes over the Von Braun computer network. Shame his colleagues were light years away. Dr.Schueller came in a minute later, holding a vial packed in ice. All the doctors got together. A few more minutes passed as they readied the IV bag solution and injectable solution. Tom could hear whispers between the doctors. "Hey, think he'll make it?". "Nah, none of the others did". "Ya, but this guy barely has it, and he doesn't have an eel on him. The rest had it so bad by the time we got to them it was too late"."Hey, what's the charge code for this time?"."0998 - Saving an obvious goner!". The voices seemed to warp in and out, the pitches distorting. "What happens if the body transforms but there isn't one of those eel things for it?". "We don't know, it's part of the lifecycle we didn't get to see. Remember, we barely have control of this thing, and it's already claimed a number of people. I'm surprised we've even been able to keep a lid on it.".

Tom grimaced. These bastards knew was going on. Tom hoped he wouldn't end up like "the others". He presumed the latest of "the others" was the melted man in this room, the very one that gave him this infection. But like the doctors said, what happened if a person was infected. Where did the eel thing come from? Did it grow from the infection, or did the infection just get you ready for the eel, which came from something else? Was Tau Ceti 5 crawling with these eel things? Was that what was going on? These shitheads must have brought them up to the ship!

"We have the injection ready. Tom, just relax. I don't know how long this will take. I'll be honest, you'll probably feel very, very strange. This isn't a normal procedure by any stretch of the imagination, but we need to do it to have a chance at saving you. By feeling strange I mean not a painful strange, but a lot of weakness and disorientation. We're all here for you. Just hang in there", Dr.Thornton said. Tom felt a pain in his right arm. The doctors also attached the IV drip. Hordes of antennae, dishes and lasers moved back in over Tom. They were fanning like crazy over his right arm, but also spread over over his body. Tom was disoriented, but not so much so that he didn't notice doctors lightly placing manacles on him. He could see through lidded eyes were we also shackling the downed doctor, and even the dead nurse. Guess they were learning.

"How many?", whispered Tom, definitely feeling very odd. He could barely feel his right arm. When he did have fleeting feeling, it alternated between feeling like a block of ice, and being on fire. He felt shooting pains in the fingertips at seemingly random times. "How many what? Nanites? Lots. You want the exact number?", Dr.Thornton asked as his eyes went to the display to read of however gazillion nanites had been pumped into Tom's arm. "No, eel things. How many?", Tom repeated. Dr.Thornton paled. Dr.Forsberg stepped closer. "We don't know. The Command boys who touched down planetside brought 'em up. Half of them are gone now. Not to get you worked up, but I don't think you want to know the situation we are in. One thing at a time. Rest". Dr.Forsberg reached past Dr.Thornton and pressed a button. Tom felt something enter his left arm. "Doctor, the infection metabolizes most agents, we know this now. You're just feeding it. It probably won't even put him to sleep, it's like the infection is protecting him. Hell, the infection might even warp the sleep agent into something else, like it did half the antibiotics we tried on Johnston when he was infected…", said Dr.Thornton. Tom felt even weirder. Well, hand it to the Doc, he was right. The sleep agent wasn't giving the normal nice, comfy sleep feeling he was used to. This was a knockout punch straight to hell…

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