The news on the holovid tonight seems focused on the wreckage of a freighter in the Everglades and speculation that a Texan terrorist organization was responsible for sabotaging the ship.

Maxwell comes wandering into the bar, and pauses halfway to his usual spot when he sees the news. “…wouldn’t surprise me, those nuts.”

A red-haired woman in a pale blue jumpsuit walks into the pub. She doesn’t give more than a passing glance to the news before she settles down at the bar and orders a drink.

Maxwell shrugs slightly and heads on to his semi-usual bar stool, a couple seats away from the new arrival, and waves to the barkeep for a beer.

The woman cuts a sidelong glance at Maxwell before adjusting the infomatrix monacle over her right eye. Not a top-of-the-line Spark hololens – a more affordable physical device.

Maxwell offers a friendly nod to the lady, then turns his attention to the news.

“Seems unlikely, don’t you think?” the woman says to Maxwell, nodding toward the holovid. “Makes for good ratings, I guess, but how do you suppose they’d ever get away with something like that?”

A red-haired woman and Maxwell are sitting at the bar, conversing over drinks while the holovid shows images of the wrecked freighter in the Everglades.

Maxwell shrugs from his seat at the bar “Some people don’t seem particularly concerned about getting away with things. They might want the attention, or feel that a few arrests are worth the trouble. But yeah, in all likelihood, just a ratings grab.”

Kinako pads quietly into the lounge, heading in the general direction of a booth towards the rear. She pauses as she spots Maxwell seated at the bar, and turns to head there instead. “Konbanwa, good evening, Mister Cooke-sir. Apologies if I am interrupting.” She inclines her head towards the woman. “Good evening, miss.”

The red-haired woman says, “I’m Delilah. Red Sector.” She extends a hand to Maxwell, adding, “Freshly sanitized.”

Maxwell puts down his beer and takes the hand “Maxwell. Unemployed Physics guy.” Kinako gets a friendly wave with his free hand. “Evening, there.”

Kinako returns Maxwell’s greeting with a careful wave and bows before taking a seat at the bar. “Good evening. It is nice to meet you, Miss Delila-ma’am. I am Kinako. Omoiyari Kinako. My credentials to work as a doctor in this area are currently in process, but I suppose I still qualify as not presently employed. You have not heard back from Mister Busby-sir or his brother, Mister Maxwell-sir?”

“I wasn’t aware Mr. Busby had a brother,” Delilah says before taking a sip of her drink. “Is he also wealthy?”

Maxwell shakes his head at Kinako “Fraid I haven’t, no. Nor from that Vanguard guy I gave my credentials to.” He then smirks at Delilah “Dunno. Doesn’t often occur to me to ask men I’ve never met how much is in their portfolios and bank accounts.”

“I could be mistaken. He was in an advanced state of stress and English is not my primary language,” Kinako says, bowing her head apologetically. “Either a direct sibling or the sibling of a close associate. Also I am not aware of his, ah, financial status. I only encountered him once, and have not seen him since, alas.”

“Oh,” Delilah says, frowning. She reaches into a small handbag and takes out a silver cylinder. Slowly, she twists the cylinder until a crimson tip emerges. She watches in the mirrored back of the bar as she applies the color to her thin lips. Finished, she sets the cylinder on its side on the counter.

Maxwell takes a thoughtful sip of that beer he’s got, and orders up a nice, but fairly modest, platter of nachos.

Kinako purses her lips. “Ahh, I apologize, Miss Delilah-ma’am,” she murmurs. “If you are looking for, ah, affluent gentlemen, there are some who frequent this area. As I am not a qualified matchmaker, however, it would not be appropriate to make recommendations.”

The red-haired woman’s attention shifts back to the holovid images coming from the Everglades. “Sometimes I get the feeling that the Consortium government and the major media outlets are collaborating to divert attention from real problems.” She rolls the lipstick cylinder back and forth under the palm of her left hand. “Disappointing.”

Maxwell thanks the barkeep as the nachos arrive, then glances to the ladies “Well, I’m single, but I’m between college and gainful employment. Not qualified to set people up either.” With a moment to enjoy a coupl of nachos he also offers up “Probably not a media conspiracy though. Even if there was one, the tabloids have long been known to offer up, shall we say… alternative views.”

Kinako’s expression wavers between ‘confused’, ’embarassed’ and ‘fish out of water.’ She shifts her weight carefully on the bar seat and starts poking cautiously through the digital menu.

“They seem to forget real problems, like the wrongful death of my cousin, Lexington Clay,” Delilah says flatly. She plucks the lipstick cylinder off the counter and studies the silver surface for a few moments. “I never thought I’d have the opportunity to serve my people. But now I also get to serve the Consortium in my own way. Giving them a *real* problem to worry about.”

Maxwell raises an eyebrow, and munches another nacho.

Kinako’s eyes widen, and after a tremulous cough she reaches cautiously for her PDA.

“I don’t suppose you’re familiar with Ebola Browndell,” the red-haired woman says, sliding the cap onto the cylinder.

Maxwell blinks, halfway to grabbing another nacho “Physics is really more my area… wasn’t that a particularly nasty virus a few centuries back?”

“Ten to ji no subete no kamigami,” Kinako murmurs, thumbing the button for emergency services and turning the speaker off. “Miss, I would implore you to kindly not take action that would endanger not only yourself but also everyone else in this vicinity. Suffering can not undo suffering.”

“Most variants remain nasty, but largely treatable and only transmitted through sexual contact, tainted blood transfusions, or shared hypodermic needles,” Delilah offers calmly. A faint smile touches her lips. “In Red Sector, I had a special project. I developed a variant that has an airborne contagion vector. Today, I was told to release it. I have named it after the town where Lexington Clay was born.” She pockets the cylinder. “I already exposed myself. All of us here. Within three days, the symptoms should start to emerge. It’ll feel like the flu. It won’t be the flu. Mortality rate, untreated, is 99 percent.”

Maxwell munches a few more nachos. “Well, so much for worrying about my student loans.”

“…you protest the death of one with the death of many? The evil intent you have released into the universe will not undo the wrong that was done to your family. It will merely taint your life and your spirit, what remains of it,” Kinako says, placing silent faith in her PDA to deliver the audio to the emergency services. “Perhaps you are counting on widespread panic, perhaps there is murder in your heart. There is nothing good to be accomplished by your actions, there is only evil.”

“Good. Evil. It’s all relative, isn’t it?” Delilah gets to her feet, picks up her handbag, then turns to see the Vanguard soldiers in hastily donned gas masks entering the tavern based on Kinako’s subterfuge. She arches her eyebrows, but sets the handbag on the counter, raises her hands and says, “Don’t shoot me like you shot my cousin. I surrender.”

Maxwell raises an eyebrow at the walking disease vector “Not in this case, it isn’t, no.” He then nods to Kinako “Well… I for one have had better days.”

Kinako closes her eyes, and shakily exhales. “Suffering comes from illness, growing old, and death. It comes from the effort of holding on to things as they constantly change. It comes from the dissatisfaction that saturates all forms of life, because all forms of life are impermanent. The origin of suffering is selfish craving conditioned by ignorance. In nothingness, there is no evil. Wisdom, principle, and the Way have existence. Spirit is nothingness. May the kami have mercy upon your soul, and the souls of those you have tainted in the days before, today, and the days to come.” She opens her eyes, and looks apologetically towards Maxwell, mindful of continuing to keep her voice low. “We will need to be isolated, all of us; at least until it has been determined that we are free of pathogen. This may be ah, what is it, a bluff. I would hope that it would be; it is preferable to think that someone would so casually commit such an act of harm. But it may not be, and we must not selfishly risk perpetuating the suffering. Whether it is true or false, shame upon you, miss. You have a dishonorable lack of mindfulness and compassion.”

The Vanguard soldiers confiscate Delilah’s bag, placing it into a sealed container before leading her off to the brig. “The base is on lockdown until further notice,” one of the soldiers announces. “Return to quarters if you have them. Remain in place if you do not. Thank you for cooperating.”

Maxwell nods to Kinako “Well. Good thing I didn’t have any interviews scheduled yet.”

“That is very pragmatic, Mister Cooke-sir,” Kinako murmurs, remaining mostly calm, although she does spend a moment or two loosely clasping and unclasping her hands in her lap. “There are a number of scientists here, along with medical personnel. We have a few days to begin treatments and minimize the suffering. Perhaps I will be able to assist before I become symptomatic.” She sighs. “I am without my luggage, without my equipment, and it would be untoward to demand the usage of local resources. I will have to get a message to Mister Harrison-sir and General Jensen-sir. While I hope they are not presently onsite, their assistance will be critical.”

By Brody

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