Scenario Author: Allan Goodall
Write-up Author: Allan Goodall
Run Date: April 1, 2006
Game System: Chaosium's Basic RolePlaying (BRP)
Keeper: Allan Goodall
Characters: Gabriel Dodge, codename MALCOLM (Jason Gallagher); Joshua Frost, codename MORGAN (Jimmy Pope); Carson Kovac, codename MAYA (Alana Goodall)
Note: Hurricane Katrina timeline items were taken from the Hurricane Katrina Timeline article on the Shreveport Times web site (no longer available) and from Salon's Katrina Timeline article.
"As long as you can dig up proof
As cold as water through the roof
Brutal as depicted truth"
- The Tragically Hip, "Fire in the Hole" (1994)
The agents left the aid station at section 251 in the Louisiana Superdome, and walked up a ramp leading to the 300 level. Their hip waders squeaked as they walked along the concrete. There were people milling about the corridor on the 300 level, but not nearly as many people as on the lower levels. It was almost as hot on this level as the last. Heat rises, but this was offset by the lower number of warm bodies and the air flow from the hole in the Superdome's roof.
They found the area they were looking for near section 330. More than half a dozen gurneys and cots were pushed against a wall. The people in this area were as much a cross section of New Orlean's racial heritage as you were likely to see. There were four patients. A black boy, perhaps 11 years old, had a splint on his arm. Two elderly black women sat in wheel chairs, and an elderly white woman lay on a gurney. Two young women — one Asian and one Hispanic — with no visible ID handed the patients bottled water and packs of cookies. Two white police officers in Louisiana state trooper uniforms — complete with "Smokey the Bear" hats — spoke to a black doctor. Between them was a young black man holding his right hand in his left. His right hand was bleeding, and evidently he had been in a fight.
The agents listened to the conversation between the troopers and the doctor. The man in their custody had been in a fight with some other folk in the Superdome. Based on what the police implied, he was the aggressor. The doctor checked his hand. It was bruised, and he cut it on something, but it wasn't broken. The doctor wrapped his hand in a bandage. The cut could use a stitch or two, but given the lack of supplies the doctor thought it was safe enough to just leave it bandaged. While the man's hand was being wrapped, the officers gave the man a stern warning. They ordered him to stick around and help the doctor. He nodded and said he would, though there was something in the man's eye that said he would bolt at the first opportunity.
The doctor told the man to sit down and rest for a moment. He turned to the agents. They could read his badge: Dr. Eric Morabito, of the LSU Medical Center in Baton Rouge. Agent MORGAN introduced himself, and introduced the other two agents. They flashed their false identification cards. MORGAN recited their cover story for the doctor: they were CDC officials checking contamination levels, etc., etc. The two state troopers were still there, and they listened with interest when MORGAN mentioned he was with the CDC.
Dr. Morabito said the same thing as the other doctors: they were ill equipped and ill prepared, things weren't bad right now but they would get worse if relief didn't come soon. It was Morabito's belief that once the storm cleared the state would bring in buses either to take the people home or to take those without a home to a relief shelter.
One of the troopers stepped forward. The badge on his tunic breast read "Klemmer". "I'm sorry, I didn't catch all of that," he said in a thick Cajun accent. "What is it y'all do?" His partner's badge said, "Devereaux".
MORGAN repeated the cover story. He then asked the police if they had seen any other federal government agencies active in the Superdome, if they had seen a "government presence". Klemmer said he notice a couple of FEMA people, but no other feds. They did spot a couple of Coast Guard rescue helicopters.
"What kind of 'government presence' are you looking for?" asked Devereaux.
"Department of Health and Hospitals," said MORGAN, quickly.
Devereaux scratched the back of his head. "We haven't seen much of that. I'm sure they'll show up soon, now the wind has died down some."
MORGAN asked the officers if they could let him know if they see any other federal officials. The officers said that if they were available they would do just that.
MORGAN asked if the troopers had been to any of the other medical stations in the Superdome.
"Yeah," replied Klemmer. "A couple on the one hundred level."
"I'm looking for some colleagues," explained MORGAN, "a Dr. Armstrong and a Dr. Lewis. There may be some other colleagues, too. Have you seen anyone operating in a team?"
Klemmer looked at Devereaux, who shrugged back at him. "No, we ain't seen anybody 'operating in a team'. We'll let y'all know if we do."
The agents thanked the officers again. The officers turned and walked down the same ramp the agents took to get to this level. Seeing as how they were already on the 300 level, the agents decided to check out the station near section 305.
The section 305 station was another volunteer area. A handwritten sign on the wall said, "Volunteers". The station was set up near a door that opened onto a short corridor that led to a club area and a locker room. A couple of doctors, a man and a woman, stood outside the door talking to volunteers. To their right was a cloth-covered table. One of the doctors was giving the volunteers innoculations. His badge said he was Dr. Kevin Bierman of the NIH Medical Center.
MORGAN watched as Dr. Bierman drew fluid from a small bottle into a syringe. The bottle looked legitimate. There was pharmaceutical information on a label, but MORGAN couldn't read it from where he was standing. When all the fluid was drawn into the syringe, Bierman placed the empty bottle on the table and injected his patient.
MAYA walked up to Bierman and introduced herself as Mia Jackson of the CDC. The female doctor watched her as MAYA explained to Bierman why they were there. With MAYA acting as a distraction, MORGAN walked over to the table. The empty bottle was sitting there, unguarded. According to the label on the bottle it was a standard tetanus shot. MORGAN looked around. Several empty bottles sat on the table. Sticking out from underneath the table was a metal box, with a hinged lid and handle. The case was open, showing several full bottles of vaccine.
MORGAN tried to palm the empty bottle recently placed on the table by Bierman. He picked it up, but bobbled it. One of the volunteers near MAYA saw MORGAN do this. She walked up to him. "May I help you?"
MORGAN smoothly took the bottle and held it up to the light. Without looking at her, he said to the volunteer, "I am Joshua Frost of the CDC. I was just checking to see what you might be out of, in case you need more." He smiled, "We're here to help you." He read the label and asked, "Is there anything else you are out of?"
The woman replied, "Uh, well, we could probably use more bandages and more bottled water."
"How are you for syringes," asked MAYA.
"We have enough syringes," answered Bierman, who looked past MAYA to see what MORGAN was doing.
"I see you are well supplied with tetanus vaccine," said MORGAN. "We saw someone with a cut who didn't get a tetanus shot."
Dr. Bierman said, "Oh? What section was this?"
"Section 330," said MALCOLM.
"We will get them some vaccine right away," replied the female doctor. The badge said she was Dr. Louise Barker, also of the NIH Medical Center.
"We can take it down to them," said MORGAN, smiling.
"Oh, sure...." replied Dr. Barker. "We'll get you some bottles."
Barker went behind the table. She pulled some bottles out of the hinged box. By now MORGAN was in front of the table and couldn't see what she was doing, but both MAYA and MALCOLM had moved so that they could see behind the table. They saw Dr. Barker lift up the top tray of bottles to pull bottles from a lower tray. Dr. Barker put a half a dozen bottles on the table. She slid the top tray back in place. She handed the bottles to MORGAN.
MORGAN thanked her. He looked at the bottles Dr. Barker handed to him. They looked identical to the empty one. He put the bottles in his manpurse.
MALCOLM noticed the remains of a packing slip on the top of the case. All that was left was a partial address: Bountin, Maryland.
MORGAN walked over to Bierman and thanked him. Then, he turned to MALCOLM and said, "Hey, why don't you take some pictures of us?" MORGAN put an arm around Bierman as MALCOLM snapped a picture. MALCOLM shot pictures of the doctors and the volunteers as they stood beside MORGAN and MAYA. When he turned to take a picture of MAYA, he made sure the packing slip was in the shot.
"I always find that trying times brings colleagues closer together," beamed MORGAN. He put his arm around Bierman and Barker as MALCOLM took a picture. MALCOLM was careful to make sure the flash was on. Meanwhile, MAYA slipped behind the table while. MALCOLM took another picture. As the flash temporarily blinded the doctors and the volunteers, MAYA snagged a bottle from the top tray and slipped it into her hip waders.
MAYA moved back from the table. MORGAN shook hands with the doctors and the volunteers. "If you need anything, let me know. You are doing good work here!" After some further pleasantries, the agents said their goodbyes and walked back to section 330.
In the confusion, Bierman and Barker forgot to ask MORGAN for the empty bottle; he still had it in his hand. Once they were out of line-of-sight of the volunteer station, MORGAN pulled out the full bottle and compared it to the empty bottle. At first MORGAN was convinced they were identical, but then he noticed something unique about the empty bottle. There was a slight gap where the two ends of the wrap-around label met. MORGAN looked through this gap and saw a small brown dot printed on the back of the label. He checked the full bottle in his hand; it did not have a brown dot. Neither did any of the other bottles in his manpurse.
They stopped while MAYA fished the bottle she stole from her hip waders. She handed it to MORGAN. He looked through the gap. This bottle did have a brown dot.
When the agents got to the station at section 330, they handed the tetanus bottles to a thankful Dr. Morabito. MORGAN took one of the bottles and gave the man with the cut hand a shot. Seeing no ill effects, they said goodbye to Dr. Morabito and headed for the ramp that led down to the 200 level, their hip waders squeaking all the way.
The station at section 211 was another general purpose medical section, like the one at section 330. An African-American doctor was present, as were two EMTs. Most of the people here had nothing more serious than cuts and abrasions. The doctor was Matthew Noran, of the Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans. MALCOLM took the man's photograph while MORGAN asked him the usual questions about supplies and a "government presence". Noran said he had some antibiotics. MORGAN inspected them. They looked legitimate. He said to the doctor that he would see what he could do to get Noran additional supplies. The team squeaked off down the corridor.
Having inspected all of the stations, they decided to leave the Superdome and head back to MAYA's house. They needed to test the fluid.
They left the Superdome. The wind had died down a bit, but it was still overcast. They looked for their rubber boat and the National Guardsmen who were watching it. The Guardsmen were gone. So was the boat. The agents searched for the boat. In the distance, splashing through the water ringing the Superdome, were two teenagers running off with a bright red inflatable boat that looked remarkably like their own.
MORGAN reached into his manpurse and touched the crystal. He stared at the teenager on the right. He began chanting as he raised his hand in the direction of the teenager. MAYA recognized the chanting as part of the Bloat spell. Sweat poured from MORGAN's scalp and he started to get a little twitchy as he felt the energy drain from him, only to be replaced by the energy in the crystal.
Nothing happened for a couple of seconds. The teenager started to slow down. Then he had trouble walking. The agents could see that something was happening to him, that he was starting to get bigger. The boy's flesh expanded his oversized jeans and t-shirt. Baggy clothing soon became very tight. The boy dropped the boat and started to wail. His friend stopped and pointed at him. The teenager looked like a negative version of the Michelin Man. MORGAN stopped the spell from bloating him any further.
The agents ran toward the teenagers. "Bring back our damn boat!" yelled MAYA. Hearing this, and seeing his friend swollen up to twice his size, the teenager on the left let go of the boat and ran down a side street.
They caught up to the bloated teenager. The boy was shaking and twitching. He stared at the agents and pleaded, "Help me..." in a weak, frightened voice.
"Don't worry," said MORGAN, "I'm a doctor." He pulled out a syringe and injected the boy with a saline solution. He looked around and saw an abandoned house with an intact porch. He and MALCOLM helped the teenager on to the porch. "This is a standard cure. Sit here on the porch and don't move. You should be ready to go around nine o'clock." The terrified boy nodded. He was so scared that he didn't even think to ask what was wrong with him.
They left the bloated boy on the porch. MORGAN saw MALCOLM staring at him and MAYA with some disbelief. He realized that they had never told MALCOLM about the spell, and that they never mentioned MORGAN knowing the spell in any of their reports. "Uh, good work with that spell, MAYA!" said MORGAN.
MAYA gave MORGAN The Look.
They grabbed the boat and walked north, trudging through the water. It wasn't long before the water was deep enough that they could get back in the boat. The trolling motor was still in the boat. MALCOLM picked it up, put the propeller into the water, and started it up. In no time they were sailing back to MAYA's house.
As they neared her home they could tell that the water level had definitely risen. Water that had been up to the four foot mark was now at five feet or higher. The water had a current, suggesting that it was still rising!
MAYA held onto the boat while MORGAN slipped off. He held the boat in place while MAYA and MALCOLM slid into the water. MORGAN walked over to the garage door. He dipped down as far as he dared and felt along the door for the handle. He found it and pulled open the garage door. MAYA's beloved Mini Cooper was submerged even further. She sobbed as the agents pulled the boat into the garage. She started to complain about scratches as they slid the boat over the car's roof, but then thought better of it. The boat rested on top of the car.
MORGAN closed the garage door. They waded into MAYA's living room. MORGAN walked to the center of the room, where he had positioned the New Orleans end of the Atlanta-to-New Orleans gate. He stuck his hand out in mid air and said, "Minisub". The CDC agent disappeared. The other two agents soon followed him.
The agents found themselves in MORGAN's garage in Atlanta. A little bit of water dripped off them, but not much water came with them through the gate. They peeled off the hip waders and changed clothes. They gathered the bottles they "liberated" from Dr. Bierman, got into MORGAN's car and drove to the CDC headquarters.
It was after 9:30 p.m. by the time they got to the CDC building. They used MORGAN's badge to get into the secure parts of the building. He took them to an empty laboratory. He closed and locked the door behind them.
MALCOLM and MAYA watched while MORGAN put a small sample of the fluid with the brown dot into a test tube and ran it through a mass spectrometer. MORGAN did several other tests on the fluid, experiments that included titrations and litmus paper and liquids changing color beneath a fume hood. It reminded MAYA of high school chemistry class. MORGAN recruited her, asking for this bottle and that bottle while he used up more and more of the sample liquid. MALCOLM, who was suffering from jet lag, took a nap on a couch in a nearby lounge.
By 2:00 a.m. — with less than half a bottle left — MORGAN was able to pronounce, without hesitation, that the fluid was definitely not tetanus vaccine. The liquid consisted of some sort of incredibly complex molecule. It would take months, perhaps years, to reverse engineer the fluid. MAYA went to the lounge and woke up MALCOLM. They returned to the lab.
"Okay," said MAYA. "Let's see what this stuff does. Do you have any rats?"
MORGAN did, indeed, have lab rats. He took two rats and placed them in a cage. MAYA pulled out the video camcorder and began videotaping the session. MORGAN guessed at a dosage based on the amount Dr. Bierman gave the volunteer, and by taking into account the difference between a rat's and a human's physiology and size. He picked up one rat and injected what he thought would be a large dose into the rodent. He put it back in the cage.
Nothing happened at first. Then, after about 10 minutes, the rat started running around the cage in circles. It ran over to the other rat and pounced on it. Claws and teeth flashed, and fur, blood and tissue flew about the cage. The rat that had been injected — positively identified by a tag on its ear — had clawed the other rat to shreds. It left the carcass alone and went back to running in circles. Every now and again it would attack the dead rat. After 20 minutes of this, the rat ran into a corner, curled up, and fell asleep.
MORGAN said, "I have only one thing to say, and I want this for the record: ewww!"
"These MJ-12 people are really evil," said MALCOLM, "treating New Orleans like it was Africa!"
They repeated the experiment with two other rats, but with a much lower dose. The results were not as disturbing. The injected rat showed anti-social behaviour, but it did not try to murder the other rat. It would run up behind the other rat and pounce on it, and then just as quickly run away. MORGAN suggested putting the rat in a stressful situation to see what happens.
MAYA said, "Let's make a hurricane! Whoosh! Let's drown your car!"
MORGAN ignored her. "This was a very volatile situation. This kind of stuff is likely to cause an outbreak of violence in the city."
"Like violence wouldn't occur there on its own," said MALCOLM.
"This isn't going to help!" hissed MORGAN.
"No," agreed MALCOLM, "I think that's the whole point."
While it slept, MORGAN injected the first rat with an antipsychotic drug. The creature began running around in circles. The antipsychotic seemed to kick in and the rat calmed down. Unfortunately, a few minutes later the rat convulsed as a thick layer of frothy mucus covered its mouth. It died quickly. MORGAN determined that the cause of death was respiratory failure.
Further experiments showed that there seemed to be no way of reversing or blocking the effects of the liquid. All they had to show for their work were several dead rats and an empty bottle.
MALCOLM suggested that they spray the rat with the "luco-purple spray stuff". MORGAN sprayed the dead rat and the live rat, but the liquid did not turn purple — there was no sign of neotissue.
MORGAN took the rats to the incinerator, destroying them and any evidence of the fluid in their system. When he got back to the lab he wrote some notes in his laptop and e-mailed a quick report to A Cell. He would have to upload the images from the camcorder later, as that would take some time.
They drove back to MORGAN's house. They were all pretty tired by this point and crashed right away. Before going to bed, MORGAN uploaded the camcorder images to his laptop.
The agents woke up around noon. They showered quickly. As one agent used the bathroom, the others watched the news channels. They saw that New Orleans was covered in water. MAYA had earlier figured that the eastern part of New Orleans would flood, as she knew it was lower in elevation. Now they are hearing the words "Ninth Ward" every couple of minutes. The news stated that other parts of the city were covered in water, but they didn't see any footage from MAYA's neighborhood.
According to the news, refugees were streaming into the Superdome. There was civil unrest in the city. People were looting stores, at first for staples like food and water, but now images were coming in of people breaking into stores for wide screen televisions, expensive shoes, and jewelry. Civil unrest had struck New Orleans. The agents' thoughts turned to doctors Bierman and Barker in the Superdome. Was Majestic-12's experiments a cause of the unrest, or were the experiments masked by the unrest?
The New Orleans Convention Center was also filling with refugees. People were being rescued from their roofs by helicopter. MAYA thought about her stranded neighbor and hoped he was alright.
They decided they needed dry suits, so MALCOLM checked the Bass Pro Shop online catalogue to see if they sold them. They were out of luck, but he did find listings for several diving stores. They drove to Denny's for lunch. After a quick meal, they drove to Undersea Adventures, an Atlanta diving store. Undersea Adventures did have dry suits. The agents each bought a suit. They also bought diving masks, air tanks, and regulators. They suspected that the gate in MAYA's living room would be totally submerged.
They drove back to MORGAN's house and carted their purchases into his garage. The agents donned their dry suits. They were covered, head to foot, in neoprene. MORGAN took his manpurse, stuffed it into a garbage bag, taped up the bag, and then stuffed that into one of the new oversized Glad Ziploc bags. He sealed the bag. MALCOLM and MAYA did the same thing, MALCOLM with his camera equipment and weapon, MAYA with her camcorder and weapon. MAYA sobbed, thinking about the condition of her house. She grabbed a big bottle of bleach and put that in a bag, too.
They walked over to the wall with the gate. They donned their air tanks. MORGAN started the flow of oxygen. He held his regulator near his mouth, and touched the gate. "Minisub" he said, as he started to bring the regulator to his mouth, he disappeared.
MALCOLM was next. He turned on his air and put the regulator in his mouth. He mumbled, "Minisub" around the regulator as he touched the wall. He, too, disappeared.
MAYA did the same thing as MALCOLM, mumbling "Minisub" around her regulator. She disappeared from Atlanta.
MORGAN stood in the middle of MAYA's living room as the other two agents materialized. The precautions they took were not entirely needed. The water in the living room was up to his chest. The dry suits would prove handy, but the regulators and masks were unnecessary.
MALCOLM wandered over to the door to the garage. The water was now just below the roof of the Mini. Their rubber boat was still safe and dry. He moved to the garage door and, while still breathing oxygen, dove under the surface of the water. He found the garage door handle. The door rumbled up. Sunlight streamed into the garage. There wasn't a cloud in the sky. MALCOLM pulled the boat off the car and dragged it to the front of the house.
MAYA and MORGAN walked out of the house. MALCOLM pulled the boat over to the porch. MORGAN climbed onto the porch rail and rolled into the boat, while MALCOLM filled the trolling motor with gasoline. MORGAN helped MAYA into the boat, and then they helped MALCOLM climb in.
The agents took off their tanks, masks, and hoods. They opened up the Ziploc bags and pulled out their stuff. MAYA rowed the boat to the front door of her house. She opened up a bottle of bleach and poured it in, all the time sobbing, "My house..." When the bottle was empty she threw it inside and closed the door.
"MAYA," said MORGAN, "you're not covered for floods. But you are covered for fire. There's a gas line...
MAYA stared at MORGAN, horrified. She looked in the water around the boat. "Where'd that pillow go?!?" She then explained, in no uncertain terms, that she did — indeed — have flood insurance!
Sitting in the boat, the agents discussed their next steps. They were pretty sure that "Dr. Bierman" was the Outlook Group's Dr. Gregory Musgrave. They also believed "Dr. Barker" was Dr. Cynthia Jorgansen of Sub-Project BOUNCE. The debate revolved around what to do with these doctors. Should they rush in and stop whatever was happening on the Superdome's 300 level, or should they conduct some reconnaissance first? Finally MORGAN made the decision. He would send MAYA and MALCOLM to the 300 level to spy on Bierman and Barker, while he stayed outside guarding the boat.
MALCOLM propelled the boat down Octavia Street to Fountainbleu Drive. The water was considerably higher than the day before. Only the very tops of street signs and trees stuck out of the water. He turned the boat east. They traveled only a couple of blocks when they spotted a flat bottomed swamp boat heading toward them. Two people in uniform rode in the boat. MALCOLM slowed down their boat. He moved his bag — which contained his handgun — to within easy reach.
The swamp boat pulled up beside them. The two white men in the boat wore dark green pants, light colored polo shirts with green trim and badge, and green ball caps. MAYA recognized this as the field uniform of a Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries officer. The officer piloting the boat from the rear throttled down the engine. "Hey!" said the man in the front of the boat.
"Hey!" said a cheery MORGAN in reply.
"How are y'all?" asked the officer.
"Great! How are you?" said MORGAN.
"Can we he'p y'all?" said the officer in the back, who was piloting the boat.
"We're on our way to the Superdome," said MALCOLM.
MORGAN pointed toward Octavia St. He told the officers that one of MAYA's neighbors needed help getting out of their house.
The Wildlife officer piloting the boat started it moving away from the Delta Green agents. "Well, you folks take care. Stay in your boat. Don't go into the water."
"There's some nasty stuff in the water," said MORGAN. "You don't know what kind of shots you might need."
The officer in the front of the swamp boat said, "Yeah, that and the things that might chew your legs off!"
"Oh, there've been gator reports?" asked MORGAN.
"They ain't gator," said the officer piloting the boat, as he throttled down the engine once more. "They don't look like gator."
"What do they look like?"
"I'm guessin'... I don't know..."
The officer in the front of the boat said, "Maybe big ass nutria, that've gotten kinda hungry."
"How big are they?" asked MALCOLM.
"I didn't see any. Just what they were nibblin' on."
"Where'd you see them? Not near the Superdome?"
"No, south of here."
"Is there possible rabies involved with that?" asked MORGAN.
"I guess," said the officer, as he wiped his brow free of sweat. It was past 90°F, even with a breeze blowing off the water. "I'm no disease expert."
"Can you take us there?" asked MALCOLM and MORGAN at the same time. MORGAN added, "I'm with the CDC. I need to take samples."
For the officers, hearing that they were from the CDC fully explained why three people were floating in flooded New Orleans in a rubber boat wearing dry suits. "Do you live here in Nawlins?" asked the pilot.
"No," smiled MORGAN. "I got caught here visiting a friend."
"We're not from here either," said the officer at the front of the swamp boat. "We're from Lafayette. I'm Carey Imen."
The pilot waved and said, "Hugh Babbitt." The Delta Green agents introduced themselves using their cover IDs. "Nice to meet y'all," said Babbitt.
MALCOLM pointed to the trolling motor. "We don't make good speed." Officer Imen smiled and threw him a rope. Within a minute they were heading southeast along Fountainbleau, being pulled along by the swamp boat. The air from the boat's fan cooled them down. It was almost pleasant, except for the eerie surreality of floating at sign top level in a flooded city.
Officer Babbitt turned the boat south at Napoleon Avenue. They travelled more than half a dozen blocks. The water level was lower here, but still several feet deep. Babbitt turned right (west) onto South Derbigny Street, one of the narrow residential streets common to the Upper Garden District.
Babbitt brought the boat close to a tree that had blown over in the storm, slammed into a house, and then became tangled in felled power lines. "This is where we found the body."
"Body of a person who was killed by one of these things?" asked MORGAN.
"I don't know if he was killed by them," said Babbitt. "He was dead, but we took him to the hospital anyway."
"Somethin' took a big chunk out of his guts," said Imen. "Clean through his shirt."
"Have you seen giant rats?" asked MALCOLM.
"I've seen them before," said Babbitt. "Nutria, I mean. Hell, I've shot the damned things. It's the only thing I can think of that would cause those wounds. It ain't a gator. I've seen gator bites. It didn't look like that. Baby gators, maybe. Some kind of fish, maybe. But not an adult gator."
Imen said, "Come to think of it, nutria just eat plants, right?"
"What hospital did you take the body to?" asked MORGAN.
"Memorial Medical Center, just down the road," said Babbitt.
At MALCOLM's request Babbitt turned the boat around and towed the agent's boat back to Napoleon Ave. He turned right onto Napoleon. Three small city blocks later they arrived at the hospital.
Memorial Medical Center spanned five blocks. It consisted of several buildings on a connected campus. The main building was seven floors tall. The water in this area was only about four feet high. The ground sloped up to the hospital's main door. So far the first floor had avoided the flood. The eeriest part of the tableau were the hospital windows: everything was dark inside. Hospitals are usually bathed in light, but not this one. The power was out.
Babbitt pulled the agents as close to the hospital as he could. They agents got out of the boat. MALCOLM untied the rope and threw it back to Imen.
MORGAN fished out one of the two-way radios they brought with them from Atlanta. They had four units, leaving one extra. He handed it to Imen. The CDC investigator asked the Wildlife officers to contact them if they needed any help. In return, they would contact the officers if they determined that rabies was a problem, or if they found out what had taken a chunk out of the victim. They were going to inspect the corpse to see if whatever bit the victim had infected it. MORGAN assured them that he would only use the radio in an official capacity, and only if the officers' help was crucial. The officers agreed to take the radio.
With a wave, Officers Babbitt and Imen sped off in the swamp boat.
The agents got out of their boat and dragged it to the hospital's main door. They were watched with interest by a man in a dark uniform standing by the front door. As they got closer, they saw the man was a New Orleans police officer.
As they approached, the police officer said, "Can I help you?"
MORGAN flashed his badge, "CDC. I need to see the person in charge."
"And we need a place to change," added MALCOLM.
The police officer escorted them inside. The hospital was dark, as they expected from what they saw of it from the outside. They did not expect the smell. The place reeked of backed-up sewage and human sweat. It was hot inside, perhaps even hotter than outside, and without the benefit of a breeze. It sapped the energy of a healthy person just to stand in the corridor. How the sick and the injured coped was anyone's guess.
The police officer showed them to a doctor's lounge. The agents stripped out of their dry suits and put on light civilian clothes: shorts and t-shirts. They were sweating so profusely by the time they got out of their suits that their t-shirts were soaked almost from the moment they put them on.
As they came out of the lounge they were met by the ranking physician, Dr. Eugene Oday. Dr. Oday shook hands with the agents while fanning himself with a clipboard. MORGAN showed the doctor his identification and gave him his, by now, well rehearsed cover story. He asked Dr. Oday if they had a body of someone who had been attacked by wild animals. Dr. Oday knew precisely what MORGAN meant. The body was in the chapel on the 4th floor, which was being used as a makeshift morgue. MORGAN asked if he could examine the body, in order to check for rabies, West Nile, and a number of other communicable diseases.
Dr. Oday appeared harried. He obviously hadn't slept well since the hurricane hit. He seemed a bit taken aback that the CDC was concerned with a single victim of an animal attack given the circumstances, but he agreed to let MORGAN examine the corpse. Someone came up to him and politely interrupted with questions about supplies and information pertaining to several severely stricken patients. Oday called over a nearby intern and asked her to take the agents up to the 4th floor chapel. The agents thanked Dr. Oday, then followed the intern.
They were hot, tired, and drenched in perspiration by the time they reached the chapel. The intern opened the door for them but did not go inside. The smell of death was unmistakable. The agents put on surgical masks. There were four bodies in the chapel. Two of the corpses were of elderly African-American females in hospital gowns. One was a middle-aged white male, also in a gown. The fourth body was their "nutria attack" victim, given that he was wearing jeans and a shirt, and had nasty trauma to his abdomen. He was a heavy set African-American.
MORGAN inspected the body. He quickly came to the conclusion that it wasn't a nutria that did this. The creature that ripped out the man's guts was much bigger. It had a jaw that could open between six and 12 inches wide.
MORGAN mentioned the jaw size to the others. MAYA nodded and said, "Smaller than a gator, bigger than a pit bull."
The CDC investigator determined that the wounds were not the cause of death; the wounds were post mortem. MORGAN didn't have the facilities at hand to do a full, formal autopsy, but he felt that the signs pointed to drowning as the cause of death. The condition of the body — except for the ripped guts — suggested the body had been in the water for the last 24 to 48 hours.
MAYA videotaped MORGAN's examination, though because she wasn't a trained pathologist she was often looking at one thing while MORGAN talked about something else.
After the examination, as MORGAN pulled off his surgical gloves, he suggested that he build a gate in the hospital. It could be useful to have two gates into flooded New Orleans.
MAYA wasn't sure she agreed with that idea. "I'm feeling kind of flaky. I'm not sure I want to be time warping back and forth through these gates."
MALCOLM turned to MORGAN, "Of course you do have air conditioning in your house."
"On the other hand..." said MAYA, having very quickly reconsidered her objection.
They went looking for a janitor's closet. They found one, but it was locked. It took 15 minutes, but MAYA was eventually able to pick the lock. MORGAN and MAYA stepped inside and closed the door while MALCOLM kept watch.
The two agents cleared junk from a section of the closet's wall. MORGAN began drawing squiggles on the wall. He reached into his manpurse and touched the crystal. He felt the energy flow out of the crystal and into his body. He intoned the word "minisub" for use as their password. The power slipped from the crystal and into MORGAN. Suddenly he let out a gasp. There was a short flash, and then he collapsed to the floor.
MALCOLM saw the flash from outside the room. He stepped inside and quickly shut the door behind him. He looked at MAYA, questioningly.
"I don't know, I think he blew himself up," said MAYA. "I'm not sure what happened." She looked him over and he seemed okay. He was breathing and it looked like the only damage was burn marks on his left palm. She smacked MORGAN a couple of times, and he came to.
After the CDC agent regained his senses, he pulled out his crystal. It was cracked. However, the gate was functional. From what he could tell, it was perfectly formed and led back to his house in Atlanta.
MORGAN touched the wall and said, "minisub". He disappeared. The other two agents followed him.