What's Your Poison

Summary:
June 20, 2014: Jericho stops by the Avenue C Clinic with something he needs checked out, and Paul Ormond shows up shortly after.

New York City - Manhattan - Mutant Town

The Avenue C Clinic, a storefront clinic on the edges of M-Town; it sits on its own small corner. The building may have been a cheap supermarket some time ago, but it's been adjusted and improved, and for the most part it's much better as a clinic than it was as a place to get roller food and cheap booze, and shot at after 2am. You can't even smell the hot dogs now.


Characters

NPCs

  • Paul Ormond - unwilling Hydra flunkie
  • Dr. Rania Xomerides

Note: Nancy O'Neal's NPC Paul Ormond was emitted by Harley Quinn since Nancy-bit was busy elsewhere.


Mood Music:
[*<http://insert.video.or.music.link.here>]


The clinic hours run until 7pm on Fridays, and it's just now 7:40 and the last patient has been cleared out, but the doors aren't yet locked.

Dr. diLucci and Dr. Xomerides (Rania) are finishing the paperwork and signing the last few prescriptions; the PA is prepping the setups for tomorrow's clinical, and the nurses are all long gone. The trash has been collected and bagged, the medical waste in its own red bag, and everything is winding down. Which means that it's time for people to come by and keep them open late, because that always happens.

*

Tonight is no exception to that rule though… perhaps not quite in the manner expected. A tall and vaguely middle eastern man comes through the front door with a heavy looking satchel in slung over his back. He wastes no time in walking right up to the receptionist.

"Hey there. Um, is Doctor diLucci in? I really need to see him. It's… important." He's wearing a hoodie, jeans and tan army boots… but at least isn't armed.

So no, this doesn't appear to be a robbery, thank goodness.

*

Receptionist? The PA glares, but calls back, "Dr. A, someone asking for you," in a very impatient voice. She wanted to be home in time for the Switzerland v. France game and it's already nearly an hour late.

"Yeah, yeah, I thought you were out of here," Ange says, coming to the front. He raises a brow.

"Jericho? What can I do for you?"

The PA finishes the last prep-set, putting it into the UV cabinet, and closes the door, setting off the sterilizer. She mutters.

"You know that's why they invented DVRs," Ange yells after her. Dr. Xomerides peeks out of her door and laughs, and returns to her office.

*

"I've got something um… you do you have a lab in here? There's some stuff I've gotta show you. I'm pretty sure it isn't good… I just don't know what it is." Jericho hefts his bag, which does look rather unusually heavy…

"Oh, dear. Who was that?" he asks as he hears Rania. "Bad time?"

*

Fabulous Paul didn't think he would be here so soon. He isn't sure what to do in this situation, but maybe Angelo would know. He heads to the clinic that Ange had told him about. He opens the door and upon seeing Jericho he groans.

"Are you two a thing?"

*

Ange looks up as Paul comes through the door. He walks over to where Paul is letting out the air conditioning.

"No, we're not a 'thing', but come inside." He closes the door and flips the 'CLOSED' sign up, and sets the auto-lock.

"No. Not a bad time at all," Ange says to Jericho. "That's one of my partners. She'll be heading out soon too."

He's apparently correct; the woman's door opens at that moment and she steps smartly down the hallway, having replaced her medical coat for a snazzier number.

"So, diLucci, you were right," she says. "They're pretending they never got the order. We'll just go with Chiron instead, though."

Ange nods, as she goes past and down the hall to the small attached garage. A minute later the not-quite-motor sound of an electric car can be heard as she departs. Ange returns his attention to the mysterious bag that Jericho is carrying.

"Lab? How 'not good' do you mean? And Paul, I don't see any injuries, so you're here for advice, right?"

*

Jericho actually waits until Rania is well away before answering. There's only one question he has to answer since doctor diLucci already fielded Paul's.

Seriously? Does he look… He's not had the most successful or active love life but does he look… never mind. Rather than answer with words he simply lifts a sealed canister with biohazard labels on it out of the bag.

"I picked this up in Gotham a bit back."

And by that he means broke into an underworld medical facility with ties to Hydra and stole it. Then had to fight some metahuman thugs for it. Then chased down a street sweeper truck for it. Long story.

*

"Actually, it's good that you are here. You wanted news about Nancy. She phoned me today, saying that she's going to Europe. I thought I should tell you before I let my.. employers know."

Paul sighs and shakes his head.

"You sure you can get Mark out of there?"

*

Angelo smirks a bit at Jericho's discomfiture over Paul's question. If there was a 'look like' then things would be much better, or much worse, but teh gay looks the same as teh strayt. But then the Nancy news drops. It feels a bit unlikely to Ange, but maybe her friends are hiding her there. Rather than intrude on that arrangement, he takes the canister.

"There's a place I can analyze it, yes," he says. "Wait here, please."

He takes the container, and carries it into an exam room. He closes the door. A very bright light comes from under the doorjamb and around the edges for a good 30 seconds. Easily enough time for the two of them in the lobby to get into trouble.

*

Jeri sighs and leans back on the front desk turning to face Paul.

"Nancy knows better than to pass that information on to you if it's true, no offense, so I don't see any harm in telling your employers. Just, on the off chance it happens, let me know if they claim to have gotten her."

He seems to be doing much better with his right arm. No bandages or favoring it now.

"As for Mark, yes or die trying. Once I get a fix on his location I'll be on my way. I've eliminated anything in this state. There's only a few other places he could be and I rather suspect I'll be booking a flight soon."

He looks at Paul firmly but not unkindly. He knows, now, that the man is just as trapped in this as Nancy was.

"I won't let them have their way if I have a say in it Paul. Promise."

Paul nods slowly.

"You think she told me on purpose for their benefit?" He starts to smile and nods. "Smart cookie. Wild goose chase. Don't see the harm in that."

He nods to the shorter man, mind you most people are short around him.

"Thank you. Like I said before, it has been five years. If Mark never wants to see me again, I will understand. Completely. I just want this over with. So, what's in the tube thing? Or do you not want to tell me becaue of my employers?"

*

The clinic DOES have a lab that could sequence and identify this stuff. They work regularly with mutants, and thus they have the right equipment, some of it even purchased at cost (and a tax write-down) by Polyglobal Corporation. And they have a poisons identification lab. But Angelo isn't going to mess with it until he looks at it with the special magic he has.

The Eye of Ra is opened by the Living Light. The substance inside the tube is water, well-saturated with something inside that is partly alive - a virus. And then, because of that partial-life, the details begin to unfold to the spell that identifies disease and wrongness.

Ange writes down what he's found: the NSN number, first. That's on the outside of the tube, but it's in barcode form. Ten digits, three letters, not quite standard. But he recognizes the format for a governmental stock number, for a controlled retroviral agent, and if that's true, then someone, somewhere, needs to be exposed for the monster they are, creating bio-weapons that are in complete violation of every law and convention. Because this is nothing less than a weapon of mass destruction.

He records the structural information on the virus, the key zones that can be rendered inert by the use of a modified anti-retroviral. Again, similarities to the retrovirals that have been developed to attempt to treat genetic diseases, but it's based on a cancer-causing viral base that was deemed unsafe for treatment modes. And they didn't segregate the replication nodes into different capsids - this thing was fully, aggressively infectious, and it could pick up new sequences from other virals or from its victims. Stupid, but what you'd want in a plague.

Then the pathology: the way it would hook into the so-called X-Alpha "mutant" genome that had been identified as common for a large number of morpological and metapowered "Mutants" - ignore that all genetic changes are mutations, not to mention epigenetic and … yeah. Focus. The virus targeted several regions in the XA primary zone, and would only be able to replicate if three or more of the primary alleles were present, so it would go for latent or even recessives. If it could find the other pieces it would start to snip randomly around the entire chromosome, causing severe degradation, leading to sickness and death within hours, probably by cellular apoptosis - the person would melt, slowly, and in excruciating pain, unless they were lucky enough to have it eat the brain first.

Despite the infectiousness, it would show surprisingly low contagiousness - it was too virulent, it would kill its patients too quickly, but it would still be contagious to anyone touching the corpse, just not infectious to so-called "Normals" - except that easily half of humanity carried two of the alleles, and it would take only a minor mutation to the viral for it to go after those.

He records the origin. Gotham Biotech lab, allegedly Hydra. And then he turns off the Eye of Ra, and tries not to vomit. He returns to the visitors.

"I need to destroy that filth. It's an anti-mutant plague, it kills by destroying mutant cells from the inside out. I do not trust it even in small amounts, and that's enough to destroy every mutant on Manhattan."

No, he's not going to explain how he learned all that so quickly, even though it's rather a lot of information.

*

"I don't mind telling you but I don't know what's in there…" Jericho is about to explain to Paul when Ange comes back out. "I… oh my God…"

Jericho's eyes go wide and all can see the wheels turning in his head, as if something is snapping into place. "That's… that's gotta be something else. Something completely unrelated to the N13 project. There was never any mention of anything like that…"

He looks between Paul and Ange in shock.

*

Paul looks more confused then shocked. He looks from one man to the other.

"That makes no sense though. Why have one arm working on creating mutants and another one on how to kill them? I thought they wanted little Nyan for themselves."

Forgive him, he's a muscle head. Not a lot of room for brain work with all those muscles in the way.

*

"They're evil, selfish, people, Paulie. They want to have the power of life and death. They want to have the power to create weapons out of people. If they can turn someone into a mutant with one virus, then they can use a different virus to kill them if they don't obey orders."

Ange crosses his arms and looks at Jericho.

"I have to have one container to take to someone I can trust. Do you have any others? I'll purge them now, if you do."

*

Jericho shakes his head.

"No, I don't. Hydra's been cagey, they've been passing out test versions of this stuff to patsies and criminal organizations to use for hits. Making money off it too sometimes by selling it as a 'weapon.' But they have a bigger play in mind here. I'm sure of it. They always do."

Turning to Paul he sighs and runs his hand through his hair.

"The organization is extremely compartmentalized. They sometimes work at cross purposes. Hell, sometimes they fight one another. This must be a different cell from the one that got you."

Back to Angelo, "No. I don't have any more of it and I agree you have to take it to someone. But not the authorities. They may be compromised and Hydra can't find out. Is there anyone you can take it to that's trustworthy and still has the power to get something done about it?"

*

Paul looks disgusted as it's explained to him in detail.

"Well, that's just all manners of sick."

He mostly just listens, looking back and forth while the two smarter men discuss this matter with whatever was in the cannister.

*

"Do I have a person to take it? Only the most trustworthy, and yeah, she'll be able to get something done. She has connections."

Angelo considers putting a tuned-to-purge feather-blade inside the container, if he could figure out how to make it trigger if someone tried to tap the stuff for weapon use. But the Ambassador from Themiscyra will be a suitable person to tell. Besides, he's wanted to talk with her about something else.

"Paul, I need you to promise me something. Do not tell your employers anything about me. Not about our past, either. I think you wouldn't be allowed to if you tried, but if you don't try to, then there won't be any side effects."

*

"She? Alright, well as long as you're sure she can be trusted. I need to get some of this info out to… damn it. Wish that girl had recontacted me. It's alright. I'll keep digging on this. Paul… be very very careful. I'm not at all sure what's going on with this but I'm positive that if your branch of Hydra hears about it they'll be extremely interested."

Jericho's almost pacing now, clearly been thrown into overdrive by this news. A mutant targetting WMD? That's bad. That's really, really bad.

"Any idea where it came from, Doc? Paul? heard anything of this at all?"

*

"It's most likely military in origin. It has a US government National Stock Number, which is probably not correct, though it won't hurt to look it up. The number is probably an encryption for a deeper search. I can't search it. But it's based on a retrovirus which might've been weaponised in the past," Ange tells Jericho. He figures that Ambassador Diana could find out. She's apparently got access to some pretty effective people.

*

"Military? Wait, it has an NSN?" Jericho crosses his arms and narrows his eyes. "Lovely. Well, that at least gives me a place to start digging." He shakes his head.

"Paul, anything more I should know about either Nancy or Mark? I'm going to be moving on that pretty soon." Though… it looks like his plate got even *more* full now. Never a dull moment…

*

Paul shakes his head, sighing.

"I told you what Nancy told me as soon as I could. And I told you all that I know about Mark. I get a call from him once every six months. Though, you might want to look in on Nancy's mother. If I know Polyglobal, they're likely going to induct her into the incentives program soon."

*

"Damn … I wish I could do some research on this, but my computer skills are pretty much user-level. I'm really wondering if there's a connection between Polyglobal and the base virus for this stuff. I'll have to see if my contact can find that out."

Ange is now pacing. "WAIT - you said they've been using it as a poison and so forth - have you gotten any other samples of it?? Where did they go?"

*

That's been bothering Jericho quite a bit lately.

"One a woman named Blink took. She's a… purple skinned mutant teleporter. I found her being stalked by people who wanted to use it on her. She insisted on taking a sample back with her. Didn't feel right to say no. The other I passed along to SHIELD via the only agent I trust. I've not heard back about it though and I'm really hoping it didn't fall into the wrong hands…"

Right. Annabeth. He'd intended to do something about that.

"I'm going to check on her as soon as I leave here. I'll make her as safe as I can before I try to run down Mark, Paul."

Annabeth may be abusive and borderline psychotic but… that's probably not entirely her fault.

"Damn… I just… may have to take steps. I don't know how safe I can make her, but I might be able to give myself a chance to get her back if they take her."

*

Paul ponders. "If they are using it as a poison, then doesn't this mean that this stuff is on the street already? Killing people? Like Nan? Do the people that are getting it know what its for or does it have a more mundane use, like getting high?"

*

"It's a virus, so it wouldn't make anyone high. It'd be like getting a nasty cold for thrills, if you could catch it. The stuff in there is only good for killing mutants, would only infect someone who had a mutant genome that was capable of activating. But there's no guarantee that there aren't other viruses targeting other groups. The other samples could be different. And I'm sure that the people that get it know that it's poison unless they're being targeted themselves."

The doctor paces a bit, then gets out his phone. He opens the directory and selects the Themysciran Embassy, then dial. After an impatient wait, he gets an answer.

"My name is Doctor Angelo diLucci, and I need to speak to … yes, could I leave her a message? Yes, have her contact me at this number. It's urgent. Tell her that it's about the statue that blew up."

*

"The test versions I've recovered were Cyanide based. Extra insurance for the kill or perhaps some way to cover the COD from less skilled medical examiners, I'm not sure." Jericho looks up. "Ugh. I hope to hell this is not connected to those white vans that have been abducting people in M-Town."

Angelo may have heard about it. Paul too if he keeps his ear to the ground. Which… given that this is Paul, he may not.

"But I get the feeling that it is."

He looks over to Paul and then to Ange. "Do what you can with this. I'll help where I'm able but I'm busy until I can run down Mark and make sure Annabeth is safe. Paul, play safe and don't get killed. I will help you disappear when this is all settled and you'll never have to deal with these people again. And either of you, if a mutant named Blink turns up on your radar, let her know about this."

Jericho turns and picks his bag up, making preparations to move and debating internally whether to shoot off a warning to Nancy… yes… yes she deserves to be kept in the loop, no matter how much the loop suuuuuuuuuks.

*

"Keep in touch. Let me know what happens with Nancy and Mark. We seriously have to stop meeting like this. Well, not you. You can call me anytime." Paul says to Angelo.

*

"You might not want to leave at the same time," Ange says. "But I leave that to you. Paul, you know where to find me. Come by next week and we can have lunch and talk. I'm curious about how a physical therapist wannabe ends up at a body-mod shop. I hope you have a reason that doesn't start with 'Poly'."

*

Jericho waves to the other two men and heads out, his face a mask of concentration as he tries to make the connections he can with the data he has. Ugh. Information. He's gonna need more and fast. It always comes down to this.


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