As Alex is checking on Shannon, the two of them talk in hushed tones.
“How’d you know I was here?” Shannon asks.
“I was following the news.”
“That’s all you need to know at the moment. Now just relax and try to recover.”
Alex was able to figure out where Shannon was through an initial suspicion followed up by some legwork. In the time preceding the attack, Alex noticed that Shannon was acting differently. This caused him to become worried about her. And when the three of them were going to have dinner together two nights ago, Marc told him that Shannon left to take care of some “urgent business.” Following the news, Alex heard about the New World Power attack upon the Marshals Service, grabbing his attention. When one of the reporters commented that the Marshals Service was possibly caring a federal witness, Alex believed that it was Shannon. Following up on this suspicion, Alex started to check the local hospitals surrounding the attack for any possible reports relating to it. This led Alex to the Sherman Oaks Hospital and to Shannon. And since Alex is a temp nurse, he was able to get himself placed on the hospital staff at Sherman Oaks Hospital since one of the regular nurses called in sick.
And this isn’t the only thing that Alex is keeping from her. Like Shannon, Alex too is deemed a mutant by society and he also decided to keep this information a secret. He feels like he can do more good if he keeps it to himself than if he shared the information. The ability that Alex possesses is known as Laying of Hands. The name comes from the faith healer community, but the difference between the two is that the mutant ability has a measurable physical effect upon the body of the patient instead of just playing off of the person’s hopes. This ability stimulates the natural healing process of the ailing patient which aids in fighting off a sickness or healing a particular injury. However, in situations of aiding physical injuries, though the body will heal quicker, the process will tend to leave more scar tissue behind.
With the natural healing process, the body will create more scar tissue then is necessary to help close the wound. In wounds that are large enough, or are not properly treated, a visible scar will be left behind. With Laying of Hands, this process of scar tissue generation is exacerbated because the healing process is essentially put into overdrive. However, in the process of helping fight off an infection or other such illness, the only thing left behind are antibodies tailor made to fight off that particular illness. But regardless of the beneficial aspects of this ability, there are situations where it can have a negative effect on the patient, causing the illness to worsen instead of improve.
One such example is cancer. This is because with cancer, the cells of a particular part of the body start reproducing out of control. And when Laying of Hands is used, all it does is encourage the cancerous cells to reproduce that much faster. Alex also remembers a former patient of his early in his career who was infected with the AIDS virus. Alex thought that his ability would help fight the illness. But instead, the disease actually worsened, hastening the patient’s death. The reason why the disease worsened was because the AIDS virus bonds itself to the victims DNA, essentially becoming a part of the patient. That’s why it’s so hard to fight the disease in the first place, because the disease tailors itself to each patient, preventing a single vaccine from being created as would be done with the seasonal flu.
When Alex learned that his ability actually helped kill his patient instead of help, he was shocked and felt tremendous guilt because of it. It was because of this guilt, and the fear that he would be fired because of it, that he didn’t tell anyone what he did. But his coworkers didn’t expect anything. They just thought that he was taking the death hard. His patient’s death didn’t go in vain, however. Alex learned that there are limits to his ability. His ability is not like those depicted on TV, in the movies, or in comic books where the person with this ability can simply touch a patient and the patient would be miraculously healed of all injuries or sickness. His ability is not a cure-all. All the ability does is help the healing process along. And the effects aren’t instantaneous. It takes time for the ability to have an effect. It essentially just reduces the overall healing time. Regardless, it was because of this ability that Alex decided to become a nurse in the first place and he still holds to the idea that he can do great good with it.
But Alex feels like the time has come for him to share his secret. As he is changing the bandages on Shannon’s neck and shoulder, he leans over Shannon and asks in whispered tones, “You interested in seeing a little trick?”
A look of slight puzzlement comes over Shannon’s face, but she says, “Ok.”
At that, Alex starts using his ability. Fortunately for him, Alex has positioned himself between Shannon and the deputy, preventing the deputy from seeing Alex use his ability. As he does this, Alex closes his eyes, which allows him to better concentrate. As he uses his ability, Shannon begins to feel a tingling sensation, first at where Alex is touching her followed by the surrounding areas. This tingling sensation dissipates as her endorphins begin to kick in and Alex’s ability begins to really work.
After feeling the initial effects of Alex’s Laying of Hands, Shannon takes a look at her injuries. As she does, she sees the healing process in action, which she finds quite strange. She sees scar tissue form and the injuries tighten up a bit. If she had to describe it, she would say that it was the healing process in fast forward. And because of her raised endorphin levels, she doesn’t feel any pain or discomfort. This is because endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers. Eventually, Alex stops using his ability, which is only a few seconds after he begins, and dresses the wounds with fresh bandages.
When Alex has finished, Shannon feels a bit euphoric and says, “I can understand why you got into medicine. And I think I see why you went into nursing.”
Though doctors possess the knowledge and skill to perform the necessary tasks to help treat and fix their patients, it is the nursing staff that actually helps the patient through the recovery process. Even though doctors will check-in on their patients intermittently, the nurses are there on a regular basis and will tend to develop a face-to-face relationship and will help perform the regular treatment. They are there to see the good days and there to deal with the bad. Even though the doctor will get the lion’s share of the credit, the recovery process wouldn’t be possible without the help of the nurses. With Alex, he felt that his ability would be better utilized as a nurse than a doctor for just that reason; he’ll be there during the recovery process and he’ll be able to use his ability often, depending upon the condition and need of the patient.
Once bandaged, Shannon uses her good hand to take one of Alex’s. With that, she says telepathically, “thank you.” She hopes that she sends more than just the words. The reason why she touches Alex to send this message is because it tends to be more effective at sending it than just trying to send it from mind to mind. Back at school, when she was getting help from Terrance on her exam, the two of them practiced together so that he would know how to interpret her psionic messages when he received them. With touch telepathy, the psionic uses the person’s own nervous system, which should better aid in transmitting the message. After receiving this, Alex replies with what he hopes Shannon will pick up as gratitude.
During the time that Alex was using Laying of Hands, the deputy’s radio began to chatter. The deputy is informed that Crow maybe within the hospital. After acknowledging this, he makes his way over to Alex. Luckily, Alex finished bandaging Shannon, and she sent her message to Alex. After approaching Alex, the deputy says, “Excuse me. A situation has arisen. How much longer do you think you’ll be?”
“I just finished,” Alex replies. “What’s going on?”
“I’m not at liberty to say at the moment. But you have to leave, now.”
Reading the situation, Shannon concludes that the New World Power has found her and is in the hospital. She would try to read the deputy’s mind in order to obtain some more information, but he’s not close enough for her to be able to do this. She’s just not powerful enough. But it’s situations like this, where a person is able to read the situation, that adds to the mystique of psionics, making people think that they are more powerful than they really are. Shannon tries to sit up in bed after coming to this conclusion, but Alex turns back to her and says, “It’s probably nothing. Just try and relax.”
Looking at the deputy, Shannon asks, “Is it him? Is he here?”
“Don’t concern yourself with that now,” the deputy says. “We’ve got it under control.” Turning his attention back to Alex, he says, “It’s time for you to leave.”
At this, the deputy leads Alex out of the room as Shannon looks on with concern. Once out of the room, the deputy closes the door behind him and Alex begins to leave. As he does, Alex sees the deputy and one other armed guard standing outside of Shannon’s room. Unbeknownst to Alex, as he is leaving, he is heading towards the location where Crow and the other two New World Power members are currently standing. As he watches Alex leave, the deputy manages to see someone acting suspiciously. Seeing this, the deputy concludes that this is one of the New World Power members. The New World Power member that he sees is the member who was sitting in the back seat of the car. The deputy managed to see him because the New World Power member was looking around the corner. Seeing that the deputy has spotted him, the back seat member quickly ducks back around the corner.
To Crow and the driver, the back seat member says, “I think he saw me.”
To reinforce this, they hear the deputy calling out in an assertive voice saying “Hey!”
Hearing this, Alex thinks that the deputy is talking to him, so he stops and looks back. But looking at the deputy, Alex notices that the deputy is looking past him toward where the New World Power members are located and starts heading in that direction in a hurried pace, pulling out his weapon as he does so. Seeing this, Alex flattens himself up against the wall.
Knowing that their cover has been blown, Crow determines that the time to act is now. Moving quickly, Crow pulls out his gun and turns the corner. Seeing how close the deputy is, Crow manages to raise his weapon before the deputy does and gets a shot off. Crow hits the deputy in the shoulder, causing the deputy to fall to the ground. Seeing the other armed guard, Crow quickly re-aims and starts firing at him.
Reacting to the situation, Alex instinctively ducks as the armed guard raises his weapon to return fire. But because Crow has the drop on him, he isn’t able to react as quickly as he could. This is punctuated by the fact that one of Crow’s bullets strikes him. Fortunately for the guard, the bullet strikes him in his vest. After ducking, Alex runs as fast as he can in the opposite direction so that he can make it to safety. Not waiting for instructions, the New World Power member who drove the car prepares himself to go on the offensive. But he doesn’t pull out a gun, but builds up what can be best described as an “energy” charge. The driver’s ability allows him to secrete an enzyme through his skin that, when oxidized, ignites.
The driver builds up the enzyme around his hands because they act as a point of concentration. To the average person, this ability is perceived as Energy Expulsion, failing to realize exactly what energy is, seeing energy as just a force onto itself. In actuality, the type of energy the driver is building up is a chemical energy, so it would be better to classify this ability as Electromagnetic Expulsion. Once enough of the oxidizing enzyme builds up around his fists, he is able to propel it in the direction which he wants them to go. But he has to wait a second or two before firing so that he can accrue enough of the enzyme.
As the driver prepares his ability and Crow ducks back behind the wall, the deputy and the armed guard manage to recover the best they can. The two of them scurry to the wall located opposite that of Shannon’s room so that they won’t be in the direct line of sight for the New World Power. The armed guard moves into a doorframe as the deputy slides across the floor. Once the deputy reaches the armed guard in the doorframe, he’ll retake his feet.
Once enough of the oxidizing enzyme has been accrued, the driver is ready to lean into the hallway so that he can fire. But as he steps out, the guard fires his weapon in the driver’s direction. Though the bullet misses, being shot at causes the driver to duck back behind the wall as an automatic reflex, but if the bullet was going to hit him, it wouldn’t matter what the driver did. The driver then quickly steps out from behind cover and fires a chemical bolt of energy at the guard. The guard was preparing himself to fire at the driver again, but the driver managed to discharge first, causing the guard to react and dodge instead.
During this volley, the deputy manages to radio-in from the cover of the doorframe that they are under attack and are taking fire. As he does this, the driver manages to fire off two more bolts of chemical energy before the guard and deputy are able to return fire. As the guard prepares to take aim, the driver ducks back behind cover before the guard is able to fire his weapon. The walls in the hospital are essentially constructed of wood and drywall, and thus, don’t provide much in the way of protection. The bullets would most likely just pass through the wall and continue traveling along its trajectory. Fortunately for the driver, the guard doesn’t fire and he moves several inches back from the corner when he takes cover.
Analyzing the situation, the deputy determines that if the situation continues to go as it is, it will turn out very bad for him, his associate, and the person that they are trying to protect. After radioing in their situation, the deputy gets to his feet and rushes forward. Upon reaching the corner, Crow reacts instantly to the situation. He gives the deputy a quick mental stun as he closes the distance between them, followed by putting his hand over the deputy’s gun. In the United States, law enforcement personnel have been trained to keep their weapons lowered until they are ready to use it. This fact reduced the threat that Crow faced when he made his move against the deputy. And the injury the deputy suffered further aided Crow and his attack.
Once Crow deflects the gun, he puts his free hand over the deputy’s face and eyes so that he can over stimulate the neurons in the deputy’s brain and cause a seizure. And with the hand that is over the gun, Crow also manages to partially paralyze the deputy’s hands so that he won’t accidentally pull the trigger and discharge the gun. As the deputy begins to collapse, Crow tries to use Read Thoughts to see if he can gain any information about the person the deputy is protecting, but this can be a bit of a challenge due to the induced seizures he has caused. Right before the deputy hits the ground, Crow manages to get the information he is looking for. Shannon is the person the deputy is protecting.
As all of this is going on, Shannon is freaking out. She hears the commotion and gunfire going on outside of her room and she is incapable of doing anything, including protecting herself. She can’t escape through any doors because there’s only one way in or out of her room, and that is where all the commotion is. She can’t escape through the window because she isn’t on the first floor. Besides, she is in no condition to do anything proactive due to the extent of her injuries. And trying to detach herself from the medical equipment will pose a problem. Though she is scared, there isn’t really anything she can do. She is dependent upon others for her protection, and that isn’t playing out to well at the moment.
As Crow is taking care of the deputy, the guard tries to make a move to prevent this from occurring. However, the driver prevents him from doing so. Taking aim, the driver fires two shots at the guard, but both of them miss. However, the driver’s third shot manages to hit his target, even though indirectly. The shot hits the doorframe in front of the guard, causing part of the enzyme ball to splatter and hit its intended target. The driver would have gone for another attack, but is prevented from doing so by the arrival of the cavalry. Uniformed guards arrive on the scene, causing the environment to change and forcing Crow and the others to react accordingly.
It is at this point that Alex is able to capitalize on the situation and manages to slip into Shannon’s room. The guard is dealing with his injury as Crow and his associates are preoccupied with the arrival of the reinforcements. If Alex didn’t make his move at this point in time, he would have missed his opportunity because uniformed guards and law enforcement agents would have arrived in that corridor and would have prevented him from making his move. But he manages to make it to Shannon’s room without being noticed, and he is carrying a backpack and a container of medical supplies with him. Closing the door, Alex makes his way over to Shannon. Seeing Alex, Shannon is able to relax a bit.
“What’s going on out there?” Shannon asks.
“Well, it seems like your friends from the New World Power want to pay you a visit,” Alex replies. “But from the look of things, it doesn’t appear to be one of those friendly, ‘I hope you get well soon’ type of visits.”
“What are we going to do?”
“I’m going to see if I can get you out of here. I feel that it’s too dangerous for you to stay.”
“How are you going to get me out of here?”
“We’ll see won’t we?” Not exactly the most comforting words one can hear in this situation, but it’s the best he can give. “I brought you some clothes for you to change into. But before you get dressed, let me see what I can do about your wounds.”
At this, Alex takes out a bottle and then injects its contents into Shannon’s arm. He then lays his hands over her injuries and stimulates her body’s natural healing process. After a few seconds of this, he lets Shannon get dressed. Even with Alex’s help, Shannon finds this to be a bit difficult. Once dressed, Alex put’s Shannon’s injured arm into a sling to prevent it from moving about and causing further injury or pain.
With this task completed, the two of them make their way cautiously to the door. Upon reaching it, Alex slowly opens it and peers out, hesitantly. Looking out, it appears that the coast is clear. The New World Power is too busy dealing with security to make a move against Shannon and the security force is too busy dealing with the New World Power to think about protecting Shannon. Apparently, no one thought to come down this corridor. At this, Alex takes Shannon by the hand and the two of them make their way to an emergency exit as fast as they can. Eventually, the Marshals Service will check in on Shannon, just to find that she is gone.
In order to find an emergency exit that is nearby, the two of them have to go down the hallway and round a corner. But as they do, they come across a problem. The New World Power member who was riding in the back seat of the car was instructed to try and find a way to gain entrance to Shannon’s room from another direction. In doing so, he managed to avoid police, the Marshals, and security, and was able to get around to the other side of the hallway that leads to Shannon’s room. This causes him to come across Alex and Shannon as they head down the hallway.
Noticing his target, the passenger doesn’t waste any time and sprints toward them. Seeing him, Alex and Shannon move quickly into a nearby stairwell and start going down. Upon entering the staircase, they come across unexpected traffic. The stairwell is filled with people trying to evacuate the building. The commotion which Crow and the others are currently engaged in cause panic to spread across the hospital. In an attempt to control this panic, and to get people to safety in an orderly manner, hospital staff try and help escort people out to a safe location as quickly as possible. Though this slows Alex and Shannon down, it gives them a valuable advantage. As long as they don’t do anything that would draw attention to themselves, like looking back or trying to push through the crowd, they should be able to blend in with the other people, allowing them to go undetected by the New World Power member.
After Alex and Shannon merge into the crowd, the New World Power member comes bursting into the stairwell. Like Alex and Shannon, he’s surprised by the traffic he encounters in the stairwell. This causes him to take a step back. It also causes him to become a bit disoriented. In addition to all of this, he wasn’t paying close attention to what Alex and Shannon are wearing, so he won’t be able to pick them out from the crowd.
After regaining his bearings, the New World Power member pushes his way through the crowd in order to reach the railing. Upon reaching it, he starts scanning the crowd. His actions displease some of the people but he pays them no heed. As he scans the crowd, there are some people who catch his eye, but they are not the people he’s looking for. Though Alex and Shannon are close by, the New World Power member has lost his target. Upon realizing this, he steps back out of the stairwell and breaks out a cell phone in order to call Crow to inform him of the situation.
With Crow and the driver, they have managed to make it into one of the rooms, which provides them with some cover so that they can try and fend off the advancing authorities. As Crow fires some shots at the authorities, his cell begins to ring. Seeing who it is, he answers it by saying, “I hope you have good news.”
“Sorry,” the passenger says. “I lost them in a stairwell. I came across an unexpected crowd.”
“Damn,” Crow proclaims as he hangs up the phone. Turning to the driver, he says, “It’s time to go.”
And it’s a good time to do so, for Crow and the driver are becoming overwhelmed. With the arrival of reinforcements, and the existence of multiple fronts, the situation is becoming a bit tenuous. They have been lucky to make it this far and they can’t hold out much longer. As he surveys the surrounding corridor, Crow sees a stairwell nearby.
“This way,” Crow says to the driver.
As the driver provides cover, Crow makes a break for the stairwell. Upon making it across, it’s now the driver’s turn to run for it as Crow provides cover. But unlike Crow, the driver isn’t so lucky. While he’s still in the room, the driver finds a bedpan and grabs it. He thinks that it would be able to act as some type of shield when he is shot at. His reasoning is that the metal of the pan would be able to deflect any oncoming bullets. Wrong. As the driver runs for the stairwell, a police officer fires at him. The bullet just so happens to strike the bedpan and easily penetrates it, striking the driver in the arm. This is because the bedpan is not constructed to stop or deflect bullets. It’s built to be shit and pissed in. For any substance to be able to deflect or stop a bullet, it needs to be either thick enough to absorb the kinetic energy of the bullet, or constructed in such a way that the kinetic energy is transferred across a wide area.
Once such item that is able to absorb the kinetic energy of a bullet is a bullet resistant vest, though it is regularly misidentified as a bullet proof vest. The average person generally believes that a person wearing such a vest will be protected from firearms. This is true, to a point. If the bullet comes from a low enough caliber gun, the vest will be able to stop the bullet. But if it comes from a high enough caliber gun, it will be able to penetrate the vest and strike the person wearing it. And depending upon the brand, a bullet resistant vest can be compromised by knife attacks, due to the physics involved in a knife thrust.
After being struck in the arm, the driver is shot again in the leg, preventing him from making any further progress. Seeing that his follower is down, Crow quickly deduces that it is best if he leaves the driver behind. It won’t do him, Crow, or the New World Power any good if he gets caught. With the stairwell that Crow finds himself in, it just so happens to be empty. It’s likely that because of the commotion he and his followers caused while dealing with security, the people in charge of evacuating the floors decided that it would be best not to send people down this particular stairwell. Once inside, Crow decides to go up instead of down. He feels that he would have a greater chance of being caught if he went down. After ascending a flight of stairs, Crow cautiously opens the door and enters the floor corridor. Fortunately, law enforcement is yet to enter the stairwell to notice where Crow has gone. As Crow leaves the stairwell, he comes across a nurse who is hurriedly moving down the corridor.
Seeing Crow, the nurse says, “You shouldn’t be here.”
But this is about all that he can do because Crow moves quickly and is able to incapacitate the nurse. Using both a physical and psionic strike, Crow causes the nurse to collapse to the floor with a minor nose bleed. And since the nurse was close enough for Crow to grab, this aided Crow in his attack. With the nurse now knocked out, Crow drags his limp body into one of the nearby rooms so that the nurse won’t draw any unnecessary attention as Crow makes his escape. It just so happens that the room Crow enters is an occupied patient room. Seeing Crow, the visitor gets up from his chair and turns around to face the intruder.
“What’s going on?” the visitor asks as the patient looks on from behind him.
Crow straitens up and faces the visitor. The visitor is about to yell at Crow to get the hell out, but before he does, Crow rushes forward and punches him in the stomach. This is followed by a punch to the visitor’s jaw. The power that Crow delivers, accompanied by the fact that the visitors jaw wasn’t clenched and his head rotates due to the blow, causes the visitor to become knocked out. Seeing this, the patient sits up in bed. But as she does, Crow quickly turns to her and says, “Don’t even think about doing anything,” pointing a finger at her as he does.
Looking back at the visitor, Crow determines that the two of them are roughly the same size, though the visitor is a little bigger around the middle. Crow then begins to take the visitor’s jacket and hat, putting both of them on. Before leaving the room, Crow turns to the patient one more time.
“Don’t think about anything stupid,” Crow says. “If you do anything that would draw attention to yourself after I leave, I’ll know. Then I’ll come back here and make sure that it’s the last thing you do. Understand?”
The patient nods her head. Crow then leaves the room and heads toward the elevators. Taking one to the lobby, Crow steps out into a horde of patients and hospital staff. Once in the horde of people, Crow blends in with them as they are led out of the hospital.
Eventually, when Alex and Shannon reach the ground floor, they find themselves among the same horde of confused patients and visitors which Crow uses to facilitate his escape. When they leave the stairwell, Alex has his arm around Shannon to help keep her on her feet. And in all of this mangled confusion, security isn’t able to keep an eye on everyone, allowing Alex and Shannon to be able to slip out of the hospital through a back exit. As they were descending the stairs, Shannon began to feel a little nauseated and disoriented, which only worsens as time goes by. Eventually, Shannon notices that they have just left the crowd and are outside the hospital, away from any possible help. Looking around, she begins to wonder what is going on.
“What’s going on?” Shannon asks. “Why are we outside?”
“Don’t worry about that,” Alex replies. “I’m going to take you somewhere safe.”
“Don’t you think the police would be able to do that?” Shannon asks groggily.
“Looking at their track record, I don’t think they can. And besides, we don’t know if there are any more New World Power members inside the hospital waiting for their opportunity to strike.”
Shannon doesn’t like the idea of not going to the police. They are trained and equipped for situations like this. And since they have the law on their side, they have greater resources at their disposal than the average citizen. Even though they will mess-up on occasion, staying with the police is better then nothing. Not liking the idea of going away from the police, Shannon tries to struggle against Alex. However, she’s beginning to really feel the effects of the drug that Alex gave her and doing anything other than rest might not be the best idea. So Shannon allows Alex to take her to wherever they are going. They eventually make it to Alex’s car, though Shannon’s legs become a little wobbly, making it difficult for them to reach it. Once there, Alex helps Shannon into the passenger seat, followed by him getting behind the wheel. From there, the two of them drive off.
(c) 2011 Bradley P. Thomas