Watchers Council Infirmary – Quarantine Zone – The Next Morning
Lex groaned and slowly pried open his eyes. His skin was pale and clammy; even his cybernetic eye seemed to glow in a paler shade of blue. He grimaced in pain then smiled when his eyes focused on the faces of Jocasta and Antonia.
“Well, hey,” he croaked. “What are you two doing here?” Lex stopped smiling when he finally noticed the protective suits they were wearing. “Wait a minute…”
“You’re in the infirmary, Lex,” Antonia told him, “under quarantine.”
“Quarantine?” Lex said with a puzzled expression. Then his eyes grew wide. “But that means that I— No, god no.”
“Lex, baby, it’s gonna be okay,” Antonia said urgently as she gave Lex’s arm a small squeeze. “Right, Jo? Tell him.”
“We’re working on a cure now, Lex,” Jocasta said. “We’ll beat this thing, I promise.”
“Oh god, oh god,” Lex gasped, his breathing becoming short and shallow. “I’m not panicking. I’m not. I’m not. Stop looking at me like I’m panicking!”
Tears began falling from his human eye as he struggled to keep control. He looked at his girlfriend desperately. “Tell me this isn’t happening. Please.”
Antonia tried to hold back a sob but failed. She hugged Lex as best she could, and the two of them began to cry in earnest. Jocasta added her tears as well, but then she stopped and silently slipped away, giving the couple some time alone.
Jocasta left the room, shed her protective suit, and exited the quarantine zone. Katherine was waiting for her outside, and when she saw the distraught redhead come out of the double-doors, she immediately went to her. She wrapped her arms around Jocasta and hugged her tightly. Jocasta dropped her against Katherine’s shoulders and let the sobs come.
Watchers Council – Conference Room – Later That Morning
Giles entered the room and glanced at its occupants as he moved around to take his seat at the head of the large table. Jocasta and Katherine sat to his right. Willowgram stood atop her mobile processor on the table in front of Jocasta. To his left were Dr. McClelland, Livia, and James.
“Where’s Antonia?” he asked.
“With Lex,” Jocasta answered sadly.
Katherine reached over and took Jocasta’s hand in a comforting grasp. Jocasta gave her a grateful smile.
“Yes, of course,” Giles said sympathetically. Then he turned to Dr. McClelland. “You have a report, Doctor?”
“The CDC has quarantined the entire Council headquarters and its grounds,” the doctor began. “Everything’s locked up tight, no one in or out.”
“That’s pretty harsh,” Livia said, her eyes darkening.
“We’re lucky that’s all they did,” McClelland said. “They could have carted us all down to their center in Atlanta and sealed the building. It’s only because we have better facilities than they do that they’re allowing us to stay here.”
“Have there been any cases in other cities?” Giles asked.
“Not that the CDC has reported,” the doctor replied. “But it takes time for their advisory to trickle down.”
“Willow?” Giles said. “Any reports on the network which could indicate possible outbreaks?”
“Accessing,” Willowgram said. After a few seconds, she added, “Nothing unusual yet.”
“Thank you,” Giles said and leaned back in his chair. “How is Tyrell’s condition today?”
“Not good,” McClelland answered. “The disease is progressing steadily. The large bones in his legs are nearly completely petrified. The bones in his arms and torso aren’t far behind. We seem to have slowed it down some with a steroid drug commonly used to treat arthritis.”
“Stiffening of the joints?” Livia said.
“Exactly,” he nodded. “But it’s not halting the disease. His lungs and liver and kidneys are already showing signs of stress. And Tyrell is in increasing pain as the disease advances. We’ve got him on strong doses of narcotics, but it’s not helping much.”
“Good,” Jocasta said spitefully.
“Jo!” Giles warned.
“I’m sorry, Giles, but he deserves it,” Jocasta fumed. “Use him as a guinea pig if it’ll help Lex, but don’t coddle the bastard.”
“That’s enough, Jo,” Giles said. “Tyrell will be punished for his crimes with all due process, but until then we’ll treat him as humanely as we would anyone else. Is that clear?”
Jocasta mumbled an assent, and Giles turned to Livia. “I want you and Katherine to work closely with Velika on damage control, both within and outside the building. We must do all we can to prevent a panic.” Both slayers nodded.
“I need more computer resources,” McClelland chimed in. “Just mapping out the genome of this virus is taking up everything the medical department has.”
“James?” Giles asked.
The technician looked surprised to be addressed. “Oh, um, I can make additional memory and processing available to the medical computers. I can even tie in to outside resources such as government agencies and large private sector supercomputers if I have to. We can borrow processing time without them even being aware of it.”
“Is that legal?” Katherine asked.
“Well, not exactly,” James admitted, tracing the wood grain pattern on the table in front of him.
“Do what you have to, James,” Giles said. “In the meantime, I’ll handle the Command Council. I’ve already contacted Senator Townsend and issued a press release denying the allegations that we’re the source of this virus.” He turned to Jocasta. “Jo, I’d like you and Willow to assist Dr. McClelland in any way you can. I know you’re not trained in medicine, but your computer skills are invaluable, and Willow can quickly analyze the data.”
Jocasta nodded, and Willowgram beamed happily.
“Well, if there’s nothing else,” Giles said and looked at each of them. “Then let’s get to work.”
Watchers Council – Council Chambers – Later That Morning
Giles rapped the gavel on the podium, but the sound was drowned out by the shouting in the room. Giles gave Veronica an exasperated look. She shrugged, and Giles turned back to the podium. Giles banged the gavel again much louder. When that failed, he finally shouted at the top of his lungs.
“Councilors!” he roared, and the din finally subsided.
He sent a glare around the room, and the councilors took their seats once again.
“I know this is upsetting, but we must remain calm in the midst of the storm,” Giles said.
“Remain calm?!” Travers snapped as he stood to his feet. “A deadly virus is loose in the city, and the Council is being blamed for it, and in the meantime, we’re trapped here in HQ, sealed in by the CDC, while our elite medical staff sits around, scratching their heads, wondering which end of the thermometer goes up their ass!”
Councilors throughout the room echoed their support of Travers’ assessment. Travers remained standing and addressed Giles again.
“The Council has seen nothing but a string of disasters since you became Chairman,” Travers stated. “I think it’s high time that you resigned and allowed someone more capable to take over the leadership.”
Once again, a large contingent of councilors verbalized their support.
“And if I don’t?” Giles said.
“Then I’ll be forced to begin formal proceedings against you,” Travers threatened.
Giles and Travers engaged in a long and chilly stare-off as councilors held their breath and waited. Giles finally broke the tension by smiling widely.
“Go ahead,” he told Travers. “I have nothing to fear if the truth comes out, and believe me, when Tyrell starts talking, the truth will come out. Then we’ll see who’s still standing around here.”
Travers glared and said nothing more as he returned to his seat.
Watchers Council Infirmary – Lab – Afternoon
The bank of vid screens positioned behind Dr. McClelland displayed a variety of amino acid sequences and viral interactions. A 3D holo-simulation of viral protein folds hovered over the table. Willowgram walked over to it and ran her hand along one of strands of simulated molecules.
“Here,” she said, indicating one of the vertices. “And here,” she added, pointing to a paired helix of amino acids. “These are two primary changes between the old version of the virus and the one modified by Hubris.”
“Not much, but it’s enough,” Jocasta said. “Hard to believe that such a small change could keep the antiviral agents from working.”
“It does, though,” Willowgram replied.
“Looks like we’ve got our work cut out for us,” Dr. McClelland said to the two redheads.
Watchers Council – Giles’s Office – Same Time
Giles and Veronica trudged wearily into the chairman’s office and sank into two of his leather chairs. Veronica rubbed her temples and groaned.
“Tell me again why we took this job?” Veronica said.
“Sorry. Can’t remember at the moment,” Giles replied. “Something about making the world safe for puppies and Christmas, I believe.”
Veronica snorted a small giggle, and Giles joined her with a chuckle.
“You certainly cut Travers off at the knees this morning,” Veronica said. “Good job.”
“An empty threat, I’m afraid,” Giles said ruefully. “I don’t expect Tyrell to implicate Travers in any way.”
“Both of them!” Veronica said with a smile.
“No argument here,” Giles agreed. “Unfortunately, we’re stuck with the two of them.”
“Especially Tyrell,” Giles said. “He’s the Council’s best bet for getting out of this mess.”
“Yippee, I feel better already,” Veronica said flatly.
Hubris, Inc. – Eris Pantelles’s Office – Same Time
Eris sat at her desk, typing on her computer, a grim expression on her face. When the proper screen had been accessed across the securely encrypted line, she typed the following message:
Eris paused, allowing herself a smile. Then she sobered and added a few more instructions. When she was done, she hit the send button.
Watchers Council Infirmary – Quarantine Zone – Moments Later
Antonia set the wireless keyboard aside, turned off the computer screen, and turned it back to face Lex’s bed. Then she went to stand beside Lex. She looked sadly at him as he slept fitfully. She patted his arm with her gloved hand then headed for the door.
Antonia stuck her head out and looked down the hallway where Tyrell’s room was located. Her eyes were cold and hard.
Watchers Council – Hallway – Same Time
Travers looked intently at the screen on his pager for a few moments, then closed it. He narrowed his eyes thoughtfully then walked off in a purposeful stride.
Watchers Council – John West’s Office – Same Time
John was at his computer, carefully reading a message on his screen. He typed a quick reply, sent it, and logged off.
He stood up, took a deep breath, and then left his office.
Watchers Council – Computer Center – Same Time
James abruptly got up from his station and started to leave. Anya hurried over and called out to him.
“Where are you going?” she asked.
“Don’t worry about it, I’ll be back soon,” he answered.
Watchers Council Infirmary – Quarantine Zone – Moments Later
Activity in the quarantine zone was busy as nurses and doctors and technicians moved about in their protective suits. No one paid any mind when a similarly suited figure moved down the corridor towards Tyrell’s room. The armed guard gave the figure a bored glance then returned to staring at the wall. Looking briefly up and down the hallway, the figure opened the door and stepped inside.
Watchers Council Infirmary – Quarantine Zone – Seconds Later
Tyrell shifted uncomfortably as the door opened and then closed again. When the suited figure appeared above him, Tyrell’s eyes flickered open, and he looked up questioningly at the person.
Instead of checking his vitals or administering more pain medication, the figure crossed the room and picked up a pillow from an empty bed.
Tyrell gave a weak smile and tried to lift his head a little as the person moved back to his bedside. The weak smile turned into a grunt of surprise as the pillow covered his face, pushing him hard into the mattress. His muffled protests went unheard outside.
Watchers Council Infirmary – Quarantine Zone – Seconds Later
Tyrell’s heavy arms moved weakly at his sides as he tried to claw at the pillow on his face. As the seconds passed, Tyrell’s struggling waned. Finally, his movements ceased altogether.
The door opened suddenly, and Dr. McClelland came into the room, holding a hypodermic. When he saw the figure holding the pillow over Tyrell’s face, the doctor grabbed the assassin by the back of his suit and slammed him roughly against the nearest wall.
“Move, and I’ll stick this hypodermic right up your ass,” the doctor growled.
The assassin remained frozen as McClelland hit the emergency button on the wall. A moment later, the armed guard and a gaggle of nurses flooded the room.
“Hold him!” McClelland said, turning the suited figure over to the armed guard. The guard shot a confused glance at the doctor, but held the assassin firmly in his grip.
“He just tried to kill Tyrell,” McClelland explained as he frantically ran over to Tyrell and began CPR on the unconscious man. “Come on, damn you! Breathe!”
McClelland continued CPR until Tyrell coughed and sucked in a deep breath.
“Finally!” the doctor said in relief. Then he motioned one of the nurses forward. “Anna, take over.”
McClelland approached the figure the guard was still holding. “Come on, you,” he said angrily before grabbing a fistful of suit and yanking the assassin out of the room, with the guard right on their heels.
Once outside the quarantine area, McClelland pulled off his protective suit and glared at the figure before him. Then he reached forward to grab the assassin’s hood. As the hood slid off, Dr. McClelland gasped and took a step back.
“Okay,” he said calmly. “Didn’t see that coming.”
Anya stared blankly at him for a moment. Then suddenly, she blinked and came to. She put her hands on her hips and glanced angrily between McClelland and the guard.
“What the hell is going on?” she demanded.
End of Act Three