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Drop Out

Editor’s Note: This part originally appeared in Freelance Travellers July 2011 issue.

Part 6

The medical facilities aboard the Chicken and Waffles was a tiny sickbay designed for two, maybe three patients once the cryobays had been filled. Within a half hour or so it overflowed with now-sedated passengers, to the point where both the Purser’s staff and orderlies were escorting the excess to the comfortable furniture to be found in the passenger lounge.

Now in control of himself, Doctor Billings left Orderly Fahad, a one-time Navy Corpsman, to oversee the patients’ exodus.

The prospect of bodies aboard his ship made Doctor Billings uneasy. Sure, he’d assumed he’d be doing the usual fixing of cuts, scrapes and contusions associated with an overly-exuberant crew on leave, but bodies, now, that was different. Billings hadn’t seen a body-proper since Med School some twenty five years ago.

The ashen little Doctor grabbed his medical kit, sure of all it contained. Then, second-guessing himself, he opened the kit and took a quick inventory to be sure. Once sure, he closed up the case again and a couple steps later stopped to check again, just to be on the safe side. A few minutes later, that task out of the way, he continued on, only to be struck by those nagging pangs of doubt. He’d just looked, true, but was everything he needed really in the bag or had he imagined it was all there? So he stopped a few meters later to check again. By the fifth check Billings was certain the medkit contained everything he’d need, and he rushed down the hall to the Boat Deck access ladder.

Climbing down the ladder, the drab medico saw Purser Isaacs sitting, propped against the bulkhead opposite. He looked as though he’d been mauled; Isaac’s once-clean uniform now a shambles. A needler was cradled in his arms. Bodies lay everywhere.

Doctor Billings got Quentin to lay the needler aside while he dug the proper diagnostic tool from his bag—the same tool he’d been sure to account for each and every time he’d had to stop to check the contents of the bag. He felt vindicated that it was here now, because of his determination. As the diagnostic emitted its low, soothing hum, Quentin grimaced, “Sorry the kids had to see me do that.” gesturing in the direction of the bodies with a nod of his head.

“Things were done.” the Doctor agreed coolly as he read the machine’s prognosis.

“Aside from the various…” the Doctor pointed vaguely toward his own face, “The box here tells me you’ve broken four ribs, your right hand, and bruised your sternum.” The Doctor gave him a mixture of something for the pain mixed with a powerful stimulant.

“I can’t carry you, Isaacs, and we’re short some crew, so I’m told. So you’ve got to make it to Medbay on your own, my unfortunate fellow.” the Doctor decided as he put on gloves. “Now to the bodies…”

Crouched down over the woman, Billings turned her over, expecting to find a corpse. “Why, this woman isn’t dead.”

“No Doc, she isn’t. None of them are, unless they’ve managed to knock themselves brainless while hitting the deck. The weapon here,” Quentin said of the needler back in his hand “was loaded with Brick.”

Originated for military contract, Brick was an incredibly fast-acting agent that stopped all voluntary muscle movement in an exposed individual for a few hours while rendering them unconscious. When it had first reached the civilian market it had been touted as the latest in effective, non-lethal technology. A small percentage of subjects experienced dreadful nightmares while unconscious, but the more common effect was having no memory of the events immediately preceding the dosing.

By this time Quentin had used the bulkhead he’d been propped against as a lever to stagger to a standing position. “I doped ’em all. Some of ’em a couple of times, in fact.”

As the Doctor went from body to body checking vital signs, Quentin continued “Each of those cursed bastards attacked me, Doc,” he winced, “They’re lucky it was just Brick.”

As Isaccs managed a painful ascent of the Boat Deck ladder, a last call echoed down to the Doctor, “And all of them belong in irons!”

“So they’re dangerous.” Billing muttered to himself, looking at the bodies. Quentin’s last comment was in no way an order, but it did get the Doc to thinking. Coming to the conclusion that he was too frail to maneuver seven bodies to god-only-knows-where, Doctor Billings pulled something from his medkit. It was a sturdy looking ampoule with dual green and white rings near the tip—the hallmark of military grade pharmaceuticals. Putting the cone to a large vein running across the back of his hand, he pushed the feed. Within a few minutes he suddenly felt queasy and vomited violently right there on the deck. By the time he’d wiped his mouth, the Doctor’s heart was pounding and his face had a ghastly, teeth-chattering smile. He felt like he could fly, or burn his way right through a bulkhead

In what seemed like a blur, Billings dragged each of the unconscious passengers to the empty vehicle bay that formerly housed Waffles’ portside boat. After sealing the access panel and locking them all in, everything started to seem detached and distant, and his newfound strength and vitality ebbed away, leaving him a rubbery, exhausted old man.

Doc Billings lay down on deck, the side of his face pressed against the soothing, cool metal. “Goodness!” he muttered. Within a couple of minutes he was fast asleep.