Gang Problems are Everywhere

February 24, 2015: Reed and Sue travel to Malawi in order to help fight an epidemic. They get more than they bargained for.


A small nation in southeastern Africa



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Mood Music:

Reed looks over Sue's shoulder, checking her work. It's not an attempt to 'tell the woman how it is,' after all she was a well distinguished scientist in her own right. It's always better to have two sets of eyes on everything. He expects the same sort of thorough critiques coming from her side.

"Has it turned green, yet?" he asks. His cold voice cuts through the humid, makeshift lab with white plastic walls. The pair of scientists are covered in labcoats as they work here in the African nation of Malawi.

Recently, scientists have garnered new evidence that part of what makes malnourishment so bad in this part of the world is that many victims suffer from gut viruses (such as e.coli) that prevents them from properly digesting the little nutrition they do get.

Contacted by the United Nations, Reed and Sue decided they'd try to develop a serum to kill a dozen types of bad gut bugs to be distributed throughout SE Africa. To save money, the Red Cross, UNICEF, and the United Nations shipped the materials to the struggling country, and Sue and Reed agreed to come.

"Not really," Sue murmurs without looking up from her microscope, nose wrinkling behind it. "We've achieved a lovely shade of yellow, edging toward green, but not really into true green territory yet. Excellent replication so far, though," she adds, leaning back from the scope and pinching the bridge of her nose beneath the safety goggles. "Want to see?" she offers, shifting to one side of the stool before stepping off with a careful stretch.

"Sure," Reed says as he takes a place behind the microscope and peers intently down into the eye pieces. After a split second he pulls away, apparently not remotely worried in the slightest. "It's not a problem. I imagine five more minutes and it will green up. I don't think the enzymes have diffused all the way yet." Reed looks back at her and smiles, "In an hour, we'll be able to direct the local scientists how to mass produce this. And after that, you'll have saved thousands of lives. Not bad for a mini-vacation to the third world, Miss Storm."

"Oh, I had a little help," Sue laughs softly, setting a hand briefly to his shoulder before stepping back to pace over to another table, double-checking the calculations and the dosing tables. "It's a good start, at least," she muses, though her voice is starting to get that absent note that means she's thinking about other things. "It would be better if we could trace why this is happening. Is it genetic? Most gut bacteria are, but from an evolutionary standpoint, bacteria that deprive the body of nutrients in a place where they're scarce to begin with is rather backwards. Or is it environmental? You know, someone a little less scrupulous could make a killing making diet pills out of this," she sniffs as she makes a note. "Like the old tapeworm pills."

"I didn't do much this time around, Sue. I'm not about to take credit," Reed says as he begins to take off his plastic gloves. "My hypothesis would be that it has to do with fresh water and that said microbes feed off of several sources, including algae perhaps. To be honest, I'm not quite sure. Dr. Kau and Dr. Planer have written several journal articles on the situation here, but I must be honest that I haven't read any of—"

Reed is cut off by one of the African scientists. He looks worried. Very worried. He speaks to them in broken English. "Dr. Richards. Dr. Storm. We just found that a column of pickup trucks is making its way out here. It could be the Woloki."

"So if we really want to solve the problem, then we'll need to look at water filtration systems, which is more your area of-" Sue starts to slip in as soon as Reed finishes talking out of long habit, only to trail off herself when she realizes they have company. Who brings word of more company. "Five minutes, you said?" she arches a brow at Reed, setting a timer for the formula before she looks back to the other scientist. "It looks as though you anticipate some trouble," she says quietly, taking off the safety glasses to set them aside.

Reed appears irritated but not overly worried. "The Wolowki are a local gang who profit off of stealing medical and food supplies delivered from philanthropic agencies. Then they mark it up and sell it to the people, making a killing. Very violent. Tough to deal with."

The African scientist nods to both of them in agreement, "What should we do?"

Reed looks to Sue and then back to the scientist. "We are essentially done here. Sue and I can head out to put up a resistance. At least we'll see how many of them there are. If it is a column I imagine they're coming by truck, which would necessitate a road. Since there is only one road to this area of countryside, they should present no significant issue. I also presume that they do not realize that it is us who have been sent here. Surely they will be disappointed."

Reed looks toward Sue with a raised eyebrow, "Thoughts on how to defend this lab?"

Sue's smile tugs at one corner of her lips as Reed lays out his reasoning, shrugging out of her lab coat in the meantime. "I could block a road, if needed, until the appropriate authorities could arrive, but given the state of the roads out here, I'm sure they'd have no trouble driving around any barrier. Alternatively, we can go for a more defensive approach." She looks around the tent, considering for a long moment. "If we can move any essential equipment, supplies, and the personnel into this tent, I could hold a dome here. It isn't ideal, but depending on how many of them there are, and with Ben and Johnny not here…"

Reed nods slowly, "I think I wouldd be best up in the Fantasticar." He begins to fidget with a device on his wrist, calling the machine to life. "I think putting up a dome is a great idea, but I might need some forceful help at the point of attack as well. Any chance you can float to the front and do a two-for?" The Fantasticar will take a few moments to get ready, and by the time it will, they will be here.

"Get all of the equipment and all of your people inside here." Reed nods once more to Sue and exits from under the tarp, calmly walking towards the Fantasticar.

Sue spends another moment considering the tent, no doubt running calculations in her head. "Probably best to try things at the front first, and if things get difficult, then we can fall back here," she decides after a moment, pausing to set a hand to the African scientist's arm. "Don't worry, doctor," she says with an encouraging smile. "You've worked much too hard on this for us to let them take advantage of it." Oh right. Gloves. She should probably take the gloves off. Those go in the disposal unit, and then she's jogging after Reed, shielding her eyes from the sun as she scans the horizon for the source of trouble.

It sounds like a cross between a monster truck rally and a fraternity party as the men in trucks make their way toward the encampment. The lights of the vehicles filter through the trees as they approach, making an intermittent strobe effect. These men pull the mufflers from the cars to make the trucks /loud/ and shoot their weapons into the air in order to strike fear.

In all there are twelve trucks and probably about 35 warriors with machine guns. To Sue's left, Reed is moving quickly trying to get the Fantasticar in order. It will still be 3 or 4 minutes and if this doesn't go well, it will all be over before he even gets airborne.

Sue's smile turns to a deep frown as she steps outside the tent to find the noise level…well, unacceptable. Taking a deep breath, she steps out toward the road the trucks are coming down, summoning up a disc to stand on and letting it raise her about ten feet in the air. Without saying anything, she holds out a hand. A broad wall of force - invisible - rises up from the ground about ten feet, with another ten feet angling up and back over her head to deflect any more shots…or debris from the inevitable equal and opposite reaction when the first of the trucks meets the wall.

The first trucks are only going about 10 miles an hour, so as they crash into the invisible wall the passengers inside the cab only receive minor bruises. Those at the machine gun in the back are thrown out of the vehicle and into the bushes below. They'll survive.

The vehicle right behind that, however, smashes right into the rear end of the truck in front of it. Luckily the gunners from the first truck were thrown or they would have been killed. The group of pickups behind, however, come to a stop. Men come out of the cars hurriedly. Some look anxious, others look scared. What sort of witchcraft is this.

«ATTACK!» one of them, probably the leader, screams as the men begin to fire loads of machine gun fire into the invisible wall!

No matter how many times she's done this, Sue can't help but flinch a little bit when the gunfire starts, pouring more power into the shield to keep from getting hit. Carefully, she alters its composition, softening it enough that the bullets bounce off at a low enough speed to hopefully not kill anyone, but high enough to discourage continued fire. "You know," she calls back to Reed, "When we're finished, we should really look into ways of limiting the gun trade around here."

"One thing at a time, my love," Reed says passingly as he looks to the controls. He could pull it up right now, but he'd be running with cold engines and it was always a concern that too much strain on them might cause some sort of damage. He silently hopes they're ready as he pulls the Fantasticar upwards into the night sky, hovering up above the campsite.

Weapons pelt Sue's shield and begin to pelt the Fantasticar too as they erroneously believe it is the cause of their problems and that they can puncture it.

"It's just that the gun issue seems a little bit urgent right now, sweetheart," Sue points out, holding out her other hand to help shield the Fantasticar once Reed has it in the air. "Honestly, how much ammunition are these people carrying?" Slowly, she starts to push the main field forward, trying to push the attackers away.

"Well, either way," Reed says as he looks over the controls and decides on something nice and nonlethal, "I'm not sure they'll be hanging around long enough to give these people any more trouble." He depresses a switch at the right console and a half dozen large tankards (biodegradable of course) launch up into the air and towards the attackers. The large jugs fall into the jungle and don't appear to have much affect on anything…yet.

Several of the warriors attempt to get a good look through the invisible wall. One gets out a shovel and starts to dig.

The digging earns a moment of amusement from Sue, as she slowly lets the field fill in each shovel's worth of space. No sense in wasting effort extending the whole thing when she can give the illusion that it's everywhere. "You know," she muses, "I'm not sure why I didn't think of this before, but I could just close all of them into a dome and we could wait for the UN to get here. Then they can move on to nice little cells somewhere else."

Reed shrugs his shoulders and makes a face, even though she cannot see him. He's sure she can imagine the expression. "A fair point, Sue. Unfortunately, if we did that now, the tear gas I just let out my cause them to suffer.

Almost on command, the gunfire begins to lessen as smoke billows out, black on a black sky. Some of the men begin to cry out in pain as the gas burns at their nostrils and throats.

"I could leave a vent at the top." It's a very reasonable suggestion! And yet, as Reed's plan takes effect, Sue can't quite help a small smile. Not for the suffering of the men, of course, but for the simplicity of the solution. "Nicely done, Reed," she approves, keeping an eye on the edges of the group still, in case anyone gets feisty.

"We would have been over run without your shields, Sue," Reed says. Up over the edge of the crest Reed can see the glow of the humvee lights as the UN is coming to put the pinch on the Woloki. It won't be long now.

"Dr. Richards, we have the serum. It's turned green!" says the scientist from earlier, the excitement palpable in his voice. "Excellent," responds Reed. "Once we have arrived, I will show you how to mass produce it. I am sure you will find it rather easy," Reed says as he radios back downward.

With the worst of the danger over, Sue lets the disc on which she stands lower her back to the ground and dissipate, alone with the one around the Fantasticar, which gives her a chance to reinforce the shield keeping the attackers from coming any closer. "We should celebrate once the serum production is underway," she suggests with a small smile. "Maybe take the Fantasticar up for a dinner with a view."

Reed pulls the Fantasticar down to a rest upon the ground and she can almost hear his smile through the radio transmitter. "That sounds like a wonderful idea. Tell me, Dr. Storm, have you ever seen the sunrise from Mount Kilimanjaro? Tanzania is just a short flight away." He's powering down the machine now and pulling out from under the harness straps. From Sue's vantage point she can see the humvees begin to engage the men, with many of them leaping out to put the gangbangers under arrest.

"I was saving it for someone special," Sue laughs, letting her field fall once the officials have everything in hand. There's a brief moment after where she sways where she stands, but she catches her balance, turning back toward the tent. "Dinner sounds like an excellent plan just now, though. I really should have put on the monitor before I went out," she sighs wistfully, checking her heart rate as she walks back to the tent.

Finally Reed catches up to her and as she sways a bit, Reed reaches out a long arm to pull her in towards him and brace her. "I think Kilimanjaro it is, then. Are you alright?" he asks. Again with the screaming and yelling, this time it's the gangers on the defensive, but Reed pays them no mind as he pulls open the tarp for her. He has a feeling she pushed herself too hard too often, but at the risk of a population of almost 17 million people? Sue Storm would put everything on the line and not think otherwise, regardless of what he thought or asked.

"Fine," Sue assures, though she takes the offered support gratefully. "I just forgot to eat lunch, and some of us don't practice going without quite so often," she teases with a gentle smile, linking arms. "I have some protein bars in my bag, I'll just get a snack and then I should be fine. I keep meaning to actually track my activity when we're working more precisely, but these sorts of things always seem to happen when we're least expecting them."

"Murphy's law, they call it," Reed says to her with a smile as he gets down to business. The rest of the evening only takes about 20 minutes before the scientists feel like they're able to replicate the process and gets some practice in before assuring Reed that they'll be fine. If not, they have the Baxter Building on speed dial, of course. "Well, shall we?"

While Reed explains the process, Sue takes a moment to eat a power bar and check her own vitals, recording them on one of the machines for the data to be sent back to the Baxter Building for later attention. Granted, without a baseline reading from before, it's not as useful as it might have been, but every little piece of information helps. Once everything is ready to go, she turns back to Reed with a warm smile. "It looks like our work here is done," she agrees. "I'll be interested to see the results once everyone's been treated. Please, don't hesitate to call us, gentlemen," she adds to the doctors.

"Thank you so much," says the lead scientist toward Sue and Reed. The latter gives him a final nod, "We will be in touch, for certain." Reed gives a friendly wave and opens the tarp for Sue. As the pair make their way towards the Fantasticar and towards Tanzania thereafter, he reaches his arm up to put it around her shoulder.
"Well, that was a successful evening."

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