The Fire Inside, Part III



Scene Title The Fire Inside, Part III
Synopsis Shedda Dinu leverages an unlikely field asset to retrieve mission critical information.
Date May 7, 2019

Elmhurst Hospital

Elmhurst, NYC Safe Zone

Tuesdays, on average, tend to be a bit slower at Elmhurst. Staffing, in turn, also tends to be a bit lighter on Tuesdays — the latest corner the administration has tried to cut in their perpetual war against the constraints of budget. There's been a lot of that, lately; Elmhurst's administration has failed to learn — or, perhaps, refuses to learn — that sooner or later that sort of corner-cutting tends to turn back on its wielder and result in misery.

But that is precisely the reason that Elmhurst presents an opportunity for Shedda Dinu. As one of two public hospitals servicing the Safe Zone, Elmhurst has on site a copy of the Chesterfield Act Registry, to assist doctors with the treatment of SLC Expressive patients… but the copy at Elmhurst is unencrypted, making it a particularly rich piece of low-hanging fruit, ripe for the picking.

As far as secret assignments go, this one does not exactly warrant its own soundtrack. It has been weeks in the making, but only by virtue of a single action having been undertaken so far.

Once known to have spent his days saving lives, then helping to solve the very crimes that took them, Zachery's entrance into the first-floor staff lobby is the entrance of a man who very much spends his day doing neither of the aforementioned activities. Still, he's been on much better behaviour lately than he was but a month ago, and he rounds the corner leading into a staff lobby on the first floor with the drawn-out sigh of someone who's already spent the better part of 6 hours running around in the dumb scrubs that he doesn't even really need for what is essentially sponge baths and deliveries.

Also like someone who's got half a bagel in his mouth, because he does.

"Hey," he starts past the bagel and without looking up from a phone, apparently at whoever is between jobs, sinking into one of the sofas directly adjacent to a small unit with a pull-out keyboard shelf and screen on its top, "has anyone seen the schedule for when the vending machines will be restocked? 43C needs a water refill. I've had a few complaints."

"They haven't come yet?" groans an exhausted nurse from where she sprawls on the staff lounge's other ratty old sofa, one hand dangling limply off the couch while the other holds an icebag on her forehead — though whether that's due to a headache or another hazard of working at this place, it's hard to say.

Another orderly, heading for the door as he works on finishing off a cup of the sludge that passes for coffee here, pauses long enough to toss a shrug at Zachery's question. "I dunno." He starts to leave, but then pauses again, glancing back with a faint hint of a wry grin. "Might not want to get too close to the nurse's station to ask, though. I hear your favorite nurse is out riding around on her broomstick, looking for you."

"Maureen?" Asks Zachery, quirking a brow as his mouth pulls into half a grin and his eye follows the orderly out. He lifts a hand to pull the half a bagel out of his mouth, and adds after the other orderly, "Be nice, will you, I'm sure it's been hard on her, keeping a job while maintaining her summoning rituals in the back room."

A moment later, and he rises from his seat again, giving a groan of his own in annoyance at having only just sat down. Despite that, his tone is light when he shoots the nurse on the sofa a half-lidded look and says, "You know what, I'll check it myself. Best way to get things done, right." And in goes the bagel again, for him to chew down on while he saunters back where he came from. "Take care of that headache so I can bother you for cards, later. Maybe you'll win this time."

Except he does not wander back where he came from. Once he rounds the corner and leaves the nurse's sight, he turns left instead of right. The direction of administrative quarters, and of the records office.

The other orderly chuckles as the door shuts behind him, leaving only Zachery and the nurse. "Ugh. You got lucky," she groans, but doesn't seem interested in any further interaction with the world in general at the moment.

The hallways outside the lounge are full of fast-moving workers hurrying to get from Point A to Point B, dodging each other with the bare minimum of politeness necessary for coworkers; too much to do, not enough people to do it. On the plus side, no one seems interested in conversations today.

But as Zachery makes his way towards the administrative offices, he can hear a familiar voice coming from up ahead. "Has anyone seen Miller?" It sounds like someone's doting grandmother after her third pack of cigarettes.

Seems Maureen's already finished with her dark rituals.

NOPE. Nope nope nope. Zachery's pace slows to a crawl, sticking to the left wall while his good (and only) eye darts from passerby to passerby. But it's not like he can turn around now. And a nurse? Really? That shouldn't stop him.

And yet, he stands there, pressing his back against the wall in what might look like a casual rest if he wasn't doing it in a hallway right next to a lobby. But with the worker bees rushing by, it's not long before he can reach and catch, in fingertips alone, the shoulder of another orderly about to move into Maureen's direction.

"Daksha, please," he starts abruptly, but in a hushed tone, giving his best, most charming smile accompanied by a crumpling of his brow in overly exaggerated desperation. The core of it may very well be real. "Can you tell Maureen I'm waiting for her by the B-side elevators up ahead?" His hands gather in front of him as if in prayer, albeit to nothing. "I'll take the Friday night and Monday morning shifts off your hands…?"

You know. After he's quit. But he hasn't told anyone about that plan, yet.

The orderly glances up to Zachery, looking much harried and hurried and generally not thrilled to have one more thing dumped onto her plate… and as soon as the name 'Maureen' is mentioned, her expression crumples further. "Oh God, Zach, I don't have time to —" she starts to protest.

But that offer of getting out of a Friday night and a Monday morning brings her to a halt. She tilts her head to the side for, visibly considering that for a moment, visions of a long weekend dancing in her head.

"Alright. Fine. B-side elevators," Daksha says, nodding with the sort of grim resolution usually reserved for facing a firing squad. "Just… don't flake out on me," she says, raising a finger sternly. "No take-backsies."

She holds eye contact for a moment longer, then turns and slips away. A few seconds later, Daksha's voice can be heard from up ahead. "Nurse Torrance?"

After a minute or so, Daksha comes back around the corner; she doesn't pause as she passes Zachery, only gives him a slight nod and a meaningful look… and then she's passed.

The trepidation as Daksha comes back into view is palpable, showing clearly on Zachery's face as she rounds the corner again to have him standing there with two thumbs up and the vestiges of his forced smile painted with doubt. Once she nods on her way past him, he breathes out a sigh and relaxes, making a mental note to buy her a coffee on her break, later.

It won't soften the blow come Friday evening, but that's not his concern.

His expression clears, and after what he estimates to be enough time for Maureen to have hopefully gone, he presses forward to rejoin the flow of workers moving to and fro, keeping his head up and alertness sharp. He's walked like this - with purpose - straight past his current destination plenty of times in the past, and this time looks no different.

Looks like Daksha did her job; there's no Maureen waiting around the corner to descend upon him. Neither does she materialize to haunt him on the way to the records office; the only hazard Zachery faces are still more orderlies and nurses, buzzing about the hallways in a frantic effort to fulfill their workload.

The records office itself is a tiny room, tucked away diagonally from most of the rest of the administration offices, almost as an afterthought. The room has windows, but there are blinds over them — to protect the privacy of the patients' records, allegedly, though that does pose the question of why they bothered to install windows in the first place.

As Zachery rounds the corner, he can see a light shining through the blinds; that's unusual. The lights are usually kept turned off in rooms like this when not in use, as part of administration's eternal push to squeeze still more pennies out of the budget.

The light is met with brief, startled alertness on Zachery's face, the sort that he was trying very much to suppress. A glance is thrown at the blinds as he passes them by on his way to the door, perhaps hoping to steal a look at whoever may be beyond. But he keeps going— far enough to leave the middle of the hallway and to prop himself again against a wall beside the door, taking his phone out again. The purpose of this is threefold—

First: the keylogger that was left in the staff lobby he was in moments ago has finished sending him its log over its private wifi network. It's a mess of all sorts of input and he swipes a thumb slowly upward in search of hospital logins. Familiar names, the use of a tab key before anything that might look like a password.

Second: He's waiting, and waiting in a tucked away part of a building looks a less of a lot less suspicious when you also look like you're maybe just idly browsing some social media nonsense.

Third: … He's reaching elsewhere still, though not with his hands. Looking without looking. Separating information won from those passing him by from something more specific. If there IS someone inside of that office, he's going in as prepared as he can be.

Slowly, information starts to come trickling back to Zachery. There is a person in there, definitely. Old. Male. Had an ulcer at one point that's mostly healed. Smokes, or used to smoke until… fairly recently. Broke a leg many, many years ago. Expensive dental work. Had eye surgery… fairly recently? In pretty good health, all told, though there's a faint suggestion of exhaustion floating around there, too. The picture Zachery's getting points to a Dr. David King, a senior pediatrician at Elmhurst. Popular with the kids, generally regarded as 'not a douchebag' by most of the staff.

The data generated by the keylogger is… difficult to parse with only half of his attention on it, but it looks like it's captured more than a few passwords. Mostly orderlies, a few nurses, at least one doctor, and… someone probably down in finances somewhere? Hmm…

Oh hey, look, there's an 'mtorrance' on here, too.

"Maureen, Maureen." Zachery's head angles with an almost wistful smirk pulling at the corners of his lips as his eye focuses on her name in the jumble of letters. He keeps his voice to a whisper. "I'm going to miss you, in my own way."

But now is not the time to dwell on that. He stares down at his phone for a moment longer, storing information for later, and then presses his thumb to the side of it and slips the thing back into his pocket.

He waits, just a moment, staring off down into the hallway as things begin to settle in his mind. Being able to link the physical to a name seems to hit him like a splash of water to the face, and almost immediately, he turns and leans to knock on the door with newfound fervour.

"Dr. King! Are you in there? Sorry to interrupt!" And he does actually sound apologetic. This time, his voice is not only loud, but there's an urgency about it. His eyebrows shoot up, somewhat expectantly. "There's a woman waiting at reception, wants to speak to you about forgoing her son's vaccinations so he can go to a pox party with his friends and baby cousins!"

For a brief moment after Zachery's words, there's silence from inside the records office; it's followed only a moment later by what sounds suspiciously like a low-voiced curse, then the sound of footsteps. A few seconds later, the door opens. "A pox party?" King asks.

King looks like Santa Claus's thinner, beardless brother, a kindly old man in wire-rim glasses… but right now he's wearing a look that, could it be bottled and sold, would probably be labeled 'Can You Believe This Shit'. "Sweet Jesus," he mutters, scrubbing his hands down the sides of his face. "Reception, you say?" he asks, looking back to Zachery.

Zachery knows this look. He's seen it, and he's felt it. "Because getting measles is only just as easy as not also getting encephalitis, right? Nevermind the neighbors." There is an actual exhaustion behind his voice, here, as he casts that look of urgency back to the older man, sounding more like he is addressing an equal than most orderlies would dare. But he does have a more storied history than his position would suggest, after all. This may not be a conversation he has had today, but the tension that slips into the arc of his shoulders is of real empathy.

His own hand lifts to rub at the light stubble of his jaw, cheeks filling with air before he pffffhs it back out. "She stopped me in my tracks, wouldn't even check in. I tried to talk to her, but you know how fussy what's left of the suburban princesses get. 'Orderly this,' 'orderly that'." Again, he has been there, even if not recently. Still, the hard swallow as he looks Dr. King directly in the eyes, with just the one of his own to offer, is not for this reason.

"Aw shit," he murmurs. "Alright, thanks. I'll be right there," he says, looking back to Zachery and giving a nod, but by the look in his eye he's not really seeing him; his attention is already on formulating his battle plan to go tilting at this latest windmill. He ducks back into the office for a moment, re-emerging a few seconds later; he flicks the light off and off he goes, a man on a mission. The door slowly starts to pull itself shut behind him.

But it doesn't, not entirely: the toe of Zachery's shoe interrupts its journey just as he mumbles an idle sing-song pair of words— "Good luuuck."

Once he's alone again, the relief of success shows in the way his shoulders square back and a bright grin flashes across his features, possibly without him even realising - but the spoils of his victory won't last forever. After footing the door open enough to slip through, he pulls it closed with one careful hand on the hinge, one on the doorframe, and his eye already seeking out the nearest monitor.

The lights can stay off, apparently. Nobody in here, don't worry about it. Time is short and he'll waste no time in trying to figure out what he's working with. Or try his best not to.

The room has a single aging computer perched atop a sagging particle board table; another, equally decrepit table sits against the opposite wall. It probably used to hold another computer, but either it finally gave out or some museum somewhere made the administration a better offer. A creaking old rolling chair sits in front of each table.

A faded coffee mug sits atop the table with the computer, alongside a few files; seems the good doctor left his things in his haste. A login screen blinks on the monitor. Waiting.

Phone turned back on with a pattern swipe of Zachery's finger, he stares at its screen for a moment longer and then slides it onto the table, letting its light illuminate the space at least a little more. He'd be surprised at the state of the room, but then, they have him doing orderly work. Clearly no one here knows what they're doing.

Except he does. He hopes. Sitting down on the edge of the chair in a failed effort to avoid a squeak from its base, his hands hover over the keyboard. But he pauses. The mug gets a glance, his brow knitting in the dim light, before his attention flits downward to the files. After a few seconds, it returns to the monitor in front of him… and he gets to work.

Maureen's is not the name he tries. Inputting the one doctor's name and password he thinks he's found is a gamble, but it's one he'll have to take. The assumption is that Dr. King is too good at his job to be more neglectful than he's already been, and a lie is less likely to save Zachery a second time.

The computer whines and clanks, the noise of a hard drive long past its expected end of service date; an hourglass appears onscreen. Turning. Turning.

Then, after several excruciatingly long seconds… a notice. Your usage may be monitored in accordance with blah blah blah, et cetera, ad nauseum. Paydirt. He's in.

No panicking now.

Zachery's eyes linger on the notice, but it's only a few seconds before it's treated as standard. Yes, yes, okay, moving on. The hunt for his prize continues, and he reaches halfway for the mug before he reroutes his attention to a mouse instead. Better plan.

Let's hope this thing is both easily located and exportable in some way. If not… well. He may have to do something a little more risky.

Easily locatable? Check. For ease of use, it seems someone has very thoughtfully made a shortcut to it on the desktop; it's the matter of a couple of clicks to load it.

Or start it loading, at least. Loading. And loading. And — wait for it — loading some more. Bzzt. Whirr. Those were probably normal noises for computers to make, back in the 80s. Right? Right.

The seconds tick by. From what Zachery can see it won't be too much work to get the thing to export — the problem's going to be time. The registry is still loading. And loading. And… there. Finally.

"… I deserve better than this place…" Zachery says to himself, quietly but resolutely, face lifting slowly upward while his shoulders sag down, like his very life is drained from him through watching the computer try to function.

While the loading is still in progress, he grabs his phone and gives it one more tired look before turning the screen off and slipping it back into his pocket. A click and doubleclick later and opened the internal mail system. This, he is familiar with. Except when it asks him for a login… he types, perking up a little —


"… Truly." Enter key.

And just like that, he's in. The system loads the internal mail system with somewhat less agonizing sloth, at least; it takes only a few seconds to bring up Maureen's inbox, which has… rather a lot of messages in it. Seems she's not a believer in clearing out past correspondence.

The mail system is eyed with an air of distrust but - while the former is loading up - the door even moreso.

His fingers twitch in the few seconds that they're not being kept busy, and the inbox itself garners a blink and a miniature shake of his head. He can't help it, spending just a second or two scanning over subject lines, but only just that. "All right, focus." Next step: figure out export, drag into drafts. That's all. This is going swimmingly. Even if he is getting increasingly twitchy, knee bouncing up and down as he works.

Exporting takes a bit of fiddling and finagling… and waiting, of course. Yet more waiting. Eventually the aging computer manages its task, generating an exported dump of the registry. No klaxons have sounded yet, no ninjas have rappelled down from the ceiling to drag him away in chains.

Yet, at least.

Zachery actually rises from his seat now, kneeing the chair roughly back to where it was before and starting to pace— slowly, watching the blinds, door, back to the machine. Fingers tapping an idle pattern on the outside of his legs as he filters through the information of whoever passes by the room, even if his limited reach means it's little more than rudimentary.

"I wonder what others got to dooo…" Quietly mumbling to yourself in sing-song is a great way to calm down, right? "Maybe something more exciting. Like, for instance… cleaning some rain gutters. Ah —"

With the export done, he leans back down to reach the mouse, closes the registry software, and deposits the whole thing into an email from Maureen, to Maureen. A gift to herself. What better way to get it out of here, and to attach a name to the process that is decidedly not his? At least until he can get it out onto a thumb drive, but that will take more time he would rather spend not being here.

With that uploading, he reaches to log off of the mail and main system both - hoping desperately that the process continues in the background - and moves swiftly back towards the door.

Operation: 43 Year Old Man Pretends To Know How To Use a Computer Competently: success?

There's a steady stream of rudimentary information from passersby, but no one seems to be lingering, at least. Honestly, it doesn't seem too terribly crowded out there; making a clean escape is just going to be a matter of timing his exit.

The buzzing and whirring continues unabated even after Zachery logs off the mail, which suggests that the computer is doing something, at least. Once he goes to log off the system, the spinning hourglass pops up again; it's still spinning there as he reaches the door.

Time to stop talking to himself now. At least quite so obviously.

Compelled by a leftover habit remnant of times past, Zachery elbows the door open rather than using his hands, slipping back into the hallway with his back straight and his breath held in full lungs. Next stop, hopefully without interruption: that same lobby from before. But not before he whips out his phone again, holding it to his ear as he picks up some speed.

That's the plan, anyway. But as the book says, the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry. He escapes cleanly from the records office, at least, and is making progress back towards the lounge but as he rounds the corner —

"Miller," an awful and awfully familiar voice purrs. The way that horrible voice manages to pronounce that single word is amazing in its own awful way. It is a disease, and the prognosis is grim; it is a verdict, and the sentence is terrible.

It is Maureen, and she has found her unfavorite, and her time is now.

"MRS. TORRENCE, ah — I'm — SORRY! I CAN'T—" The words seem to leave Zachery all at once as he SPEEDS forward, pointing his free hand up at the phone against the side of his head, smile wide enough to sell a firefighter some matches, and mismatched eyes wide enough to suggest he might already be standing in the flames. "VERY IMPORTANT PHONE CALL."

Please let me pass please let me pass please let —

For a moment there's an ugly gleam in Maureen's eye. But she hesitates; one of her eyes narrows into a lopsided squint, making that horrible mole on her face seem to twitch. Zachery knows that expression well enough: she's calculating potential HR repercussions, weighing just how she mean she can get away with being.

Whatever calculus she goes through, it takes her only a second to reach a conclusion. She gives her best doting grandma smile, her eyes gleaming like those of a venomous snake regarding its prey all the while. "An important phone call? Don't mind me, dearie. I'll wait," she says, her voice almost sweet enough to hide the arsenic dripping from it.

She stands there, right in front of Zachery, waiting.

With the dragon Maureen blocking his path, Zachery comes to an abrupt halt. Meeting her sickly doting gaze with his own, single eye. Darting, occasionally, somewhat nervously over her shoulder.

He waits, as if maybe she will vanish. As if better prey will come into view, and he will be released from this hell. Or maybe. Maybe he's just listening to the person on the other end of the line? "Sorry. Yeah, yeah. I'm here," he starts, but looks promptly downward while his eyebrows lower in concentration, putting Maureen squarely in the blind spot to his left. "Acute meningitis isn't really something you can predict, Nicole."

The name leaves him without thinking, and he actually winces. But the show must go on, and it goes on with actual discomfort in his tone. Maybe not for the right reasons, but still. "Sweetheart— … yes, I know, but he was my father, and I feel like we have plenty time before the eulogy has to be finished to discuss this."

There is only silence from Maureen. No foot tapping against the floor, no fingers tapping against the arm — that's a plus, at least — but she doesn't seem to be going away, either.

She's still there. Waiting. In Zachery's blind spot.

A few seconds pass, then some seconds more, as Zachery's brow knits. He's listening, okay. For Maureen's footsteps to disappear down the fucking hall hopefully, yes, but she doesn't have to know that.

And unfortunately, that is not what he hears, either. And so he just stands, still facing away. "Alright." His free hand rubs at his neck, tension driving his fingers deep into the muscles. "No, don't worry about it, just keep…" he falters, one eye twitching halfway shut. "Hydrated? Listen I'll be back late, but I'll bring dinner okay?"

A few beats later, he adds, his hand clasping further onto his neck as the muscles in his jaw tighten, "Love you."

And with that, he looks back up, and slides the phone slowly back into his pocket without breaking eye contact with the woman still in front of him. Smile gone, expression expectant. It may take every ounce of willpower that he has left, but his voice, when he speaks up again, has an eerily calm quality to it when he asks, "You needed something?"

Maureen's expression has changed; now, instead of that predatory smile, she looks rather like she's bitten into a rotten lemon, and is giving Zachery a piercing, appraising look. "Yes, dearie. We've had some call-ins today…"

For a moment she falters, just a tiny bit; it looks like maybe, just maybe, she might just walk away. But say what you will about Maureen, anyone who's held her job for as long as she has doesn't buckle easily. "Someone's going to have to give Mr. Coulson his spongebath, and Ms. Carver's had an accident again. All over the floor. And the walls. I think there's some on the ceiling, too…"

She hesitates a moment, then reaches a decision. "I'll get Peter to clean up Ms. Carver's room, but if you could help with Mr. Coulson's spongebath, we'd appreciate it, dear." That's practically a fruit basket, coming from Maureen.

Zachery's own expression falters, that hand still on his neck, nails digging into skin.

A few more days. Maybe one more day. Maybe he'll quit tomorrow.

Enough tension leaves him for his hand to come back down. The word 'dear' takes what is a hard stare and twists it into something adjacent to incredulous, a small spasm of muscles pulling at the corners of his mouth.

"… Thank you." Spoken in the style of another phrase that also features with two words and ends with 'you'. Also unspoken, but implied in the way that he raises his eyebrows, is an, 'Am I free to go?'

Maureen's eyes narrow further at Zachery's tone, but she gives a curt nod and starts to turn to leave —

— only to pause and glance back for one last parting shot. "It wasn't very nice of you to lie to Daksha like that, Zachery. She's pre-med." That's.. marginally kinder than her usual parting stabs when she's mentioning Daksha around Zachery, at least; it's usually she has a future or she's going to be a doctor.

With that said, she sweeps off again, presumably to darken some other orderly's day or stab some helpless patient with needles or whatever she does when she's not terrorizing Zachery.

Zachery doesn't move, at least not while she's still got something to say. He knows her parting shots. He doesn't generally have any in return, because his relations with staff here are bad enough as it is. Today, though, is different. Today, he sing-songs over his shoulder, just before she leaves earshot, "That mole is looking especially cancerous today! Better get it cheeecked."

He knows just how cancerous, if at all. Does she need to know this? No she does not. With murder on his mind, he stalks off again, for the final and least hazardous step of his plan.

The spongebath will just have to wait.

She doesn't react to that, just keeps on sweeping off; her hearing's fine, but she's used to parting shots, if not from Zachery. So she shrugs it off — one more torpedo fizzled out against the hull of battleship Maureen, unnoticed and unmourned.

With her departure, the way to the lounge seems clear at least.

Once Zachery gets to his destination and enters it, in a considerably less casual way than before, he heads straight for the shoddy excuse for a machine he left his key logger in. Without speaking, he reaches down to pull a poorly placed case forward with a strain of attached wires that haven't been touched in possibly a decade.

Except for that keyboard. Nimble fingers make quick work of picking USB keylogger out from between cable and machine, before slipping a flash drive into one of the empty slots.

To anyone present, he says absentmindedly, "Quick question." He logs into what is very much not his own email, though nothing in his voice suggests as much, "If I manage to insult someone so thoroughly that it gets me fired, will that still get me more benefits than if I simply quit?"

The nurse is still laying there on the same ratty sofa she was on when Zachery left the lounge for the first time. She's changed positions, at least, curling up on her side, though she's still got the icebag held against her temple; looks like she's getting a hell of a black eye.

"You finally gonna pull the trigger on Maureen?"she asks blearily.

"Thinking about it. But at the same time, I don't really want to ever see her face again." Zachery's answer is light, real consideration barely in his voice while he focuses instead on transferring his file from internal mail to drive, cursor hovering over the 'delete' button in the mail software while he waits.

After a pause and a hard stare at the screen, he asks in that same, bored tone of voice, "What if I just… blew up her office, tomorrow?"

"You probably wouldn't be the first," she deadpans; there'd probably be a chuckle attached to that, but she sounds too tired. "I dunno. Sometimes I think it takes someone like her to stick around this place for as long as she has. Don't let her get to you, though. She has to retire eventually." I hope, is an unspoken addition to the end of the sentence.

"Besides. So long as her coffin's in the basement, she can just come back."

"I'd have stuck around longer," Zachery says, simply, in return. "I hope you do too." If this is not genuine, he's doing a hell of a job pretending. There's something that pulls at his expression again, a pained twinge briefly overtaking.

But… it's not long before he's able to trash the mail that never should have been, logs off of the machine, and reaches to remove the flash drive in order to thumb it into his pocket to join its keylogger companion.

He straightens up, and flashes a bright smile that, despite the nurse not looking at him, still echoes in the tone of his voice when he says, slightly too enthusiastically, "Off I go again. Spongebaths wait for no man. Least of all me."

But he pauses, on his way backwards out of the lobby, adding with the same, fixed smile, "Remember me, all right? When I'm gone?"

The nurse looks up briefly at that, blinking her blackened eye as she blearily studies Zachery… but she's too tired to really follow up, and swiftly curls back into a ball. "Of course, Zach," is her answer, half murmured into her own arm. "Still gotta finish cleaning you out at poker."

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