World On Fire


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Scene Title World on Fire
Synopsis The world is on fire, it's more than I can handle. I'll tap into the water, try to bring my share.1
Date June 29, 2021

Elmhurst Hospital

The large parking lot has been converted to a massive triage unit for the worst victims of burns and other emergency care; non-critical cases are being diverted to RayTech's medical triage set-up.

Retirement isn't all it's cracked up to be. Not when there's a wildfire raging across vast swathes of the countryside that is now an imminent threat to the NYC Safe Zone. Leaning carefully across the patient she's currently giving a breathing treatment to, Megan Young supervises a young volunteer helping the patient in the next cot. "Make sure the bandage is taut but not tight around those sutures," she instructs calmly, "and when you tape it, make sure it's flat so it doesn't catch." Blue eyes flicker to the patient and she warns quietly, "You need to keep it dry, and use the ointment on it for the next 7 days, changing the dressing twice a day." Keeping it dry and clean is going to be the biggest challenge.

Turning her attention back to the elderly man in front of her, she offers him a smile. Calm and cool, her bedside manner is brisk and no-nonsense but also kind. "You're starting to sound better, Jerry. I'm going to leave you with this young lady. When the timer goes, she'll get you out of here, okay?"

The man grips her arm, his expression somber. "Be careful," he tells the nurse. "It's getting bad. I'll be surprised if they don't start calling for evacuations soon." He pats her forearm and then releases her.

10:00 PM

The fire is far too close to them now, and reports are that it's almost at the Hudson River. There is no escaping the smoky air and it's heavy with ash. Humidity from the evaporation of atmokinetically created rain over the fire zones weighs the heavier particles down, at least. On some level, this is almost as bad as the war years. Sporadic sounds of gunfire can be heard from various directions, and the hospital is overflowing with people injured by smoke and now by fire itself and gunshot wounds. People are being turned away to go to RayTech's campus, which apparently has set up a triage facility as well. It feels like being under siege, and Megan Young has been here far too many times before.

Threading a white-streaked lock of copper hair that has escaped her hair band behind her ear, Megan gets up from the camp stool she's using. Her scrubs are wrinkled and spotted in places – she's been here for a lot of hours already. "Christ," she mutters under her breath as she makes her way to the open wall of the tent and looks out at what seems to be a never-ending influx of people needing help. Everyone the older nurse cares about is out there protecting and serving in this mess and communications are spotty at best. Weariness is evident in the lines on her face, worry tightening her jaw as the sounds and unconfirmed reports of battle continue to come in with each wave of injured.

In the midst of physical injuries being brought into the hospital, Dr. Everleigh Madison is tending to those with less obvious wounds–anxiety, stress, panic, and the other slew of emotions and conditions that an event like a fire of this magnitude can cause. With a N95 mask covering her mouth and nose, she's making certain to speak a little louder so the teenaged boy she's escorting can hear her just fine. "Let's get you seated somewhere and get you some water," she says. "I know all of this is a lot, but you're no longer in any immediate danger and it's safe to take a moment to catch your breath. Literally and metaphorically."

She catches Megan's eye, nodding to her both as a greeting and also the silent conversation that a gaze between emergency workers have. It serves as both a 'can you help here' as well as a 'do you need help' at the same time. Really, all that's needed here is a quieter place out of the direct smoke and something to drink.

Pulling in a breath, Megan pivots on her thick-soled shoes to make her way to Everleigh and the teenaged patient. A subtle lift of her chin says 'I'm fine' despite the fact that the counselor knows the nurse hasn't left the floor for more than a two-hour stretch in the past 24 or so.

And yet the older woman has a calm smile and as easy voice for the boy as she joins them. "Looks like you tried street hockey without skates there, kiddo," Meg teases him lightly. She pulls another camp stool over to sit it in front of the boy, her slender fingers gentle on the scrapes that have the kid cradling his arm to his chest. "Let me get a good look, okay?" she coaxes. When he reluctantly allows her to draw the arm out, the nurse makes a 'tch' sound between her teeth. "Good job," she praises. "If you're gonna do it up, best to do it up right, hmm?"

The entire time she teases him with her light tone, the nurse is internally wincing at the road rash that goes from mid-forearm all the way up the outer part of his arm to his shoulder. The kid was clearly running and face-planted at high speed, skidding a distance. "I'm going to give you a couple of quick shots to numb everything up and then we'll clean out the gravel, okay? You might need a couple of stitches on this one, but it'll be quick."

When the kid pales beneath the soot streaking his face, Meg's blue eyes seek out Everleigh with a silent flicker. No words need to be spoken for the directive 'stay here with him' to be clear. Nurse Young is most assuredly in her element out here doing triage. As she moves to gather the items she needs to take care of him, she asks, "This is Everleigh, and I'm Megan," she tells him calmly. "We could use a good update on what's happening out there while we get you cleaned up, if you don't mind. Is there anyone we should be trying to get hold of for you?"

Everleigh seems more than happy to remain, as well as engage the kid who likely desperately needs a distraction from the cleaning and potential stitches. “The good thing is, no matter how bad it is out there, you’re safe here,” she offers with a wide smile, determined to ease the stress of the situation.

“Was in a building my brother and I were living in, didn’t expect the fire to come so fast. Josh told me to run once we realized how bad it was,” the boy says, slowly, his eyes focusing on just about everything other than his injuries. “He shoved me to go ahead when ceilings were starting to collapse. ”There’s some hesitation before he adds, “Josh, he’s my brother, he’ll be looking for me if…” He doesn’t need to finish the sentence. It’s clear he’s not sure if his brother even got out.

Everleigh offers him a sympathetic smile, then catches his gaze. “I imagine he’ll show up soon, and if he comes through here you can bet Megan or I will make sure he finds you.” She senses the tension in the boy, and then looks to Megan for some help in bringing some levity to the situation. They need to distract him.

"Okay," Megan replies calmly. "I'll keep my eyes peeled – can't have big brothers coming in searching the halls – who knows whose room he might peek into?" she teases with a smile. "Wouldn't want him to get an eyeful of the nurses trying to catch a cat nap standing upright in a corner! That is a secret skill; only we get to know how we do it."

She tends to his arm with practiced movements, decades of experience giving her a deft touch with needles. The boy hardly notices that she drops three separate shots into his arm. "So your brother's name is Josh. What's your name?" Because he neglected to mention it. And getting him to tell them about himself is a good way to keep his attention off the clean-up of some smaller scrapes on his arm Megan is working on while the bigger injuries go numb. She can tell when it's happening because his body starts to read a little bit.

“Caleb. Josh is all I have now,” the boy replies. Thankfully, the distraction seems to be working. Everleigh focuses on Caleb while Megan attends to him. “Nurses are the real superheroes. Sleeping standing up, not to mention they always are somehow around to sense when something’s wrong. I never would have survived as a nurse. Do you have any idea what you might want to do when you’re older?”

Caleb smiles at the idea of nurses napping standing up before he’s lost in thought. “Something helpful,” he says after a moment. “There are so many people who need help recovering from things like the war, it makes me a little sad seeing people and not being able to help them. Maybe I could be a plumber and make sure everyone has clean water.”

Megan nods with a big smile at him, even as she works on his arm. By the time she's done swabbing the little abrasions, he can't feel her touch anymore. "I like the way you think. Plumbers and electricians always have work," she agrees easily, starting on the larger injuries. There's one particular laceration she is going to have to stitch, but he's looking in good shape considering everything. "Two of my brothers did electrical and one was a plumber. Even before the war, they made great livings."

The flicker in her eyes as she mentions siblings is nearly invisible. The boy certainly won't catch it. "Nowadays they're even more important, I think. The real heroes." She doesn't think of herself as a hero. The news might have made them out to be that, but… it never felt heroic. It was just survival and protecting those who couldn't protect themselves.

“I’m always proud of people who make a difference in their communities. We take for granted the infrastructure we have until we lose it. Power, water, cell towers… those make our lives easier and I think a lot of us felt it when the war hit.”

Everleigh’s reflecting on things, but she doesn’t seem anxious or unhappy about it, just thoughtful. She looks back to the boy. “Just remember to do it because it makes you happy, not just to be a hero. Happiness lasts longer than accolades from heroics.”

Megan's smile at Everleigh is a brief one but sincere. To the young man in front of her, she says, "The people who work the hardest at the jobs that truly matter are the most important contributors to society… and they are rarely noticed or thanked. So just in case you do decide to be one of those amazing souls who does things like make sure we all have clean water, thank you for all that you'll do to save lives."

She pats the boy on the knee gently as she finishes cleaning him up, and as she unrolls a gauze bandage to wrap around it she hears a scrabbling around the front of the tent and a young voice calling frantically, "Caleb?! Caleb!"

Megan's relief is visible to Everleigh even as she grabs her young patient by the knees to keep him from jumping up. "Hang on, hang on – let me tape you up while Everleigh grabs him," she smiles.

“Don’t worry,” Everleigh winks in the boy’s direction. “I’ll go get him, you’re in good hands with Megan there.” She’s up on her feet and out the tent flap, already seeming more at ease at the prospect of the brothers reuniting. From outside, her voice can be heard, her tone calm but cheerful.

“You must be Josh, Caleb said you’d be looking for him. Don’t worry, he’s alright, just some scrapes and he’s very excited to hear you out here.”

There’s an audible sound of relief from the young man before Everleigh continues. “Follow me, he’s right in here, Megan is doing a great job making sure he’s clean and patched up.” No sooner has she said that, then the flap opens again and Everleigh is leading Josh on through.

Megan's hands remain gentle and firm as she finishes the last of her work on him, smoothing the gauze into place and taping it up. As Everleigh returns with an older boy who resembles Caleb, the older woman smiles easily. She hands Caleb a wrap of gauze and a small roll of tape, admonishing, "Keep it as clean as you can. If it starts to turn hot or red or sore, or you start to run a fever, come back." Both eyebrows rise at both of the boys. "It could be very bad if it gets infected in this mess, okay?"

She pushes the stool back from Caleb and gives the boy room to be swooped up in his brother's relieved hold. She meets the older boy's eyes and nods slightly in silent communication that Caleb is just fine. "Off you go," she murmurs, peeling off the gloves she wore to care for the kid.

It's a relief to see another small family reunited, and the nurse's pensive gaze flicks to the tent wall as the faraway sound of gunfire pops in the night. Shaking her head slightly, Megan smacks the dirty gloves into a container for used disposables and her lips tighten. There is an edge to the older woman, good genetics and silvery-strawberry hair are easing her into her late middle age but it's the expression in her eyes that give away she's seen entirely too much. "Good job with him," the nurse murmurs to the counselor. "Hopefully they have somewhere safe to go."

It sounds like she might be skeptical of that possibility.

“I hope so too,” Everleigh agrees with the sentiment, watching the door flap before focusing on Megan. “Were this a less chaotic situation I’d be sure to find a way to check in on them, but there are so many people experiencing all kinds of trauma that it’s hard to focus on one individual for too long.”

She smiles, the warmth from it reaching her eyes. “People are resilient. I did a lot of aftercare with people during the war. As terrible as it might be, people can bounce back well. Most of them, at least. Those two have each other, which absolutely makes a difference. A little love goes a long way.”

Everleigh gives Megan a quick once over, to assess just how the nurse is doing even as she asks the question. “You holding up alright?”

She reaches up to drag a hand through her hair, a movement aborted by the fact that the mass is confined to a cheerfully bouncy ponytail a bit incongruous with both the seriousness of the situation and the fine lines bracketing her mouth just now. Megan smooths out her features to the usual calm demeanor that the experienced ER nurse has cultivated over decades in the emergency department and on the battlefield.

"I always hold up," Meg replies evenly. But there's worry in her features. "My friends are out there fighting the fire and whatever the hell else is going on. I'll feel better when they check in," she admits. "Rumors are starting to come in that this is deliberate. One of the firefighters they took in for breathing treatment was talking about it."

A hand settles on her hip as Megan rubs the back of her neck. "We've got a long way to go tonight," she confides quietly, "and evac orders may still come." Again.

“I know,” Everleigh agrees with the sentiment. “We’re okay because we have to be.” She offers a knowing smile—regardless of what area of medicine she practices, there’s a very specific attitude you get when you’re thrown into the thick of things. “Deliberate?” The woman does seem minorly shocked, but nods slowly. “It… does make sense based on how things have progressed, but that makes me worry that we won’t be safe even if we stop the fires and get things cleaned up.”

Everleigh sighs, but it’s only a momentary sign of tiredness before she’s pulled herself together. “I’m a little more fluid in how I can help given I’m no experienced ER nurse, so I may end up going closer to the front, calming down survivors as they get out before they’re sent this way. If you tell me names, I can do my best to get information back to you. Being able to keep our medical staff a little less stressed can make a big difference.”

She pauses before slowly adding. “My SLC ability helps me calm people. It’s a bit faster to get things controlled, but I’m always very reluctant to use it. It feels like something I should ask for consent for, but that’s a bit hard to do in this sort of situation.”

Megan slants a glance at the woman, and she nods slightly. "It's only rumor so far, so don't spread it around. But… it wouldn't be the first time it's happened, even recently." Megan has seen a couple of really suspicious fires and bombs at concerts in the past year or so that make her think some things haven't changed a bit around here.

Blowing out a breath, she offers a small smile. "Certainly if you make it out there, any news sent back is of help – but I don't expect you'll be near mine. They're Wolfhound. Last I heard, they're backing up security at the offsite triage center at RayTech campus where we're sending the overflow from here." A hint of pride colors her tone as she says it – the Wolfhound team is a group she's proud to be acquainted with, but more than that they're people she trusts in ways she doesn't trust many anymore.

A glance at her watch gives her an idea of the time, but the information is meaningless really. "C'mon, I'll treat you to a shit cup of coffee and whatever might remain of food over there." Megan crosses her arms to pick her way through the tent toward the back flap where she can escape the triage floor for a few minutes. "Being in a room where everything is tense must be difficult when your innate instinct is to soothe," she observes quietly as they walk. "Are you doing okay out here? That kind of ability must require a lot of energy." A glance at Everleigh brings another brief smile. "I used to know a healer."

Everleigh cracks a smile, clearly grateful to get to the coffee and a break from things. “Thankfully it just makes me tired from time to time. It’s not something I feel. It doesn’t even calm me, I don’t even need to be calm to use it. I’d say it’s more like being tired from being social.”

She pauses in thought. “I’ve never used it on a lot of people, though, so I imagine a nap would be amazing at some point, but I only really want to do that when it’d be more useful for me to sleep than try and help. I’m sure you know how that is.” Everleigh’s smile widens. “Honestly, it’s practically like my therapy with just a little extra boost to it. I usually don’t, never without asking my patients, so I don’t get a lot of practice. I don’t really acknowledge it a lot of times. Still getting used to being more open about it.”

Megan nods slightly, her steps measured. "It takes a strong person to be in possession of an ability that affects others and do the right thing with it instead of the easy thing," she observes in a soft tone. "I admire you for being one of those people."

Uncrossing her arm and reaching up slide one stray white lock back behind her ear, Megan adds quietly, "I think perhaps it's still prudent to be … discreet where you can be." She has already outed herself somewhat but Megan refuses to register yet and she's got a wary eye on what's going on now. Altogether too recently too many of her loved ones were targets. "The Ferrymen were a mix of Evo and non… but Heller and his ilk wouldn't have cared if you had an ability or were just a collaborator. If they caught you, it was likely you'd be killed." She looks at Everleigh, her gaze solemn. "It's starting to feel very much the same as it did then. Don't advertise," she advises softly.

“I’ve never really advertised to anyone I didn’t trust with it. I only more recently began to start really acknowledging my ability. Funny thing how bad it feels to be different and that’s not something I felt like feeling when I was younger,” Everleigh admits. “But I’m not brave. I help where I can but I’m a piece of cardboard when things get really tense. My work is done in quiet rooms and safety.”

She glances around briefly. “This isn’t usually where I help people from.”

Megan nods slightly and glances around at the additional tent structures. "Probably for the best," she observes. "Having someone to help keep people calm while we triage is very useful but having you mobbed on-site in all of this?" The older woman shakes her head, an expression of tight dismay briefly appearing and the just as quickly gone. "I swear to God, if things get much closer to this site, I'm going to be one unhappy woman," she admits.

As they reach the tables holding the carafes of coffee and the individually wrapped nearly nutritionless snacks, Meg picks up a couple of cups to fill them with the dark liquid from the pot. "You did good in there – take those naps where you can. More of us than you might realize are catching combat naps – you ever catch a first responder standing there staring off into space and unresponsive, they're probably asleep on their feet. Wake them gently." There's a faint grin.

"I'm sure things will stay far enough away that we won't have to move anything," Everleigh says with a small smile, reaching to unwrap some kind of chocolate chip granola bar while Megan gets the coffee. "Gentle is something I can do, but I do worry if things are progressing to the point where our responders are getting that tired." She chuckles lightly. "I mean, hospitals are intense enough places and everyone is tired quite frequently, but I'm really hoping it lightens up in terms of intake over here. Maybe we can call in some staff from elsewhere to volunteer their time."

She looks thoughtful. "I might know some medics from the war that live a bit farther out, pretty sure they'd volunteer their time for an emergency like this. I'll see if I can get in touch. Having a bit of a break for anyone here would be a boon, I think."

Megan's glance holds thoughtful intensity. "Any additional medics you know would obviously be a huge help." She pours the coffees and slides one in front of Everleigh so the younger woman can doctor it however she wants. Megan drinks her own black, at least here. "There aren't very many places we could get staff from who aren't already overwhelmed on their own by the fires. They're covering a massive swathe from the Ohio River valley to here."

Shaking her head, Megan shoves that wayward strand of pure white hair back again. "What we really need is a way to evacuate the worst cases out of this smoke. It's not so much burn victims as smoke inhalation that's going to cause the biggest issues and especially outside like this we don't have a lot of treatment options." It's not like they can get most people out of the smoke.

Everleigh takes the coffee, but leaves it black–she wants the strength of it more than anything at the moment. "It's such a large area," she agrees. "A few more hands would be nice, but I honestly wish I could offer more. I don't have any good way of helping with any sort of evacuation. Perhaps I can pull some strings and find an indoor facility nearby we can set up in, bring the worst cases there and try and see if we can do our best to keep as much of the smoke out of that area as possible."

She takes a long sip of her coffee, looking thoughtful. "I'm not sure there are a lot of places that have spaces that large that could be cleared out temporarily. It may require a bit of brainstorming."

"They've been triaging and taking a lot of the smoke victims over to the RayTech campus. I'd be surprised if they're not using some of the greenhouse space over there to put people. We're only keeping the ones who really require a hospital setting here." Megan gestures around. "We've got all the EMTs and a couple of nurses who could be spared out here doing triage, but we're spread thin. So honestly, anything could help. I don't think there's anywhere except RayTech and maybe Yamagato's campus set up for air filtration."

She pauses and considers. "Might be worth seeing if the hospital director has contacted them. If you think you could track him down, that could be a lot of help actually. I would imagine Yamagato is also doing their best over there, but if they do have a filtration system, maybe they'll share."

"I'm pretty good at talking and organizing, so that seems like a reasonable idea. Leaves the front liners to work while I can go check on resources. Usually my expertise is the period after a catastrophic event. It's good that I can help in some way, here. That's what I really want to do, more than anything. I'll see what I can do."

Everleigh offers a smile, though it's thin from worry, tiredness, and probably a bit of stinging from the constant presence of the smoke.

Megan takes a long look around at the small tent city they've got going and then nods slightly to Everleigh, blue eyes solemn. "You do that, Doc…. If we don't wind up evacuating, we're going to need it." Sooner is better than later. When she swallows the last of the coffee in her hand, the older woman offers a faint smile. "Once more into the breach, dear friends…" it's going to be one hell of a long night.

Everleigh finishes her coffee moments after, cup set aside. "Once more into the breach," she replies, offering a tiny smile. One hell of a long night indeed.

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