Logs:Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from Death? O Death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your destruction? Compassion is hid from my eyes.

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Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from Death? O Death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your destruction? Compassion is hid from my eyes.

cn: coronavirus, racist bigotry

Dramatis Personae

Leo, Sam, Steve, Lucien, Nick, Shane, Daiki, Bug, Matt, Ion, Noah, Flicker, Joshua, Xavier, Nessie, Sarah, Ryan, Jax, Regan


"Not much further to go, now."


New York in the Time of Coronavirus

thursday. 9 april. 1:50 am.

<PRV> Sam and Steve's Apartment - Harlem

The dining table has fallen silent for a long moment, not yet awkward. Outside a distant siren wails and a dog starts barking in reply. None of the three men sitting at the table are quite looking at each other, each sunk in his thoughts. While Leo and Sam barely touched their respective bowls of soup, Steve finished his some time ago and is now staring down into the empty vessel with dismay. He lets out a long, slow breath. Looks up at his housemate and their guest. "Well, then."

thursday. 9 april. 2:15 am.

<PRV> Tessier Residence - Greenwich Village

Greenwich has been quiet, lately. Tonight it's like it has been -- just long and eerie stretches of silence intermittently punctuated by the wail of a siren through the near-empty streets. A red and white glow flashes through the sheer curtains that flutter across Lucien's open windows, streaking across the pile of books stacked neat on the desk, the rumpled bedsheets, the empty bottle of Scotch on the nightstand. Just as they fade a new glow is illuminating the room; the screen of Lucien's phone, lighting up in time with the cheerful tones of Kristin Chenoweth singing "Popular". Lucien reaches out from under his sheets, gropes for the phone. His greeting is not much more than a quiet grumble. It is at least moderately clearer, his follow up a moment later: "... what happened?"

A moment later the sheets are pushed back abruptly as he sits up. He reaches for the bottle first. There's a sharper hiss when he pulls it close, finds it empty. He sets the bottle heavily back down on the nightstand and only then drags himself up to find a shirt. "-- I'll be right there."

thursday. 9 april. 3:35 am.

<NYC> Ophelia's - Upper East Side

The second floor of Ophelia's has already been populated with patients displaced by the raiding of the Mongrel's clinic in East New York, though some remain down in the lobby. Up on the top floor, Nick has been prepping one of the capacious suites, its bedroom occupied but its living room plenty large enough for another. He's just finished converting the sofa to a bed, though now he's just standing in the center of the room, looking just a bit lost and a lot out of place in the tastefully appointed space. His posture is slouched, his fur ruffled and still damp here and there, his phone forgotten in one hand.

The door opens; Shane is looking more put-together than Nick, his Mongrels vest thrown on over a button-down and slacks. He wheels cylinders of oxygen into the room, jerks his head towards the door. "Damn, but this is an upgrade. Should have bagged us a hotel sooner. -- C'mon, bro, we got a whole roof full of shit needs unloading."

Nick's ears swivel to the door before the rest of him turns. "I don't think we're even going to need all of the rooms up here," he says absently, dragging slow steps toward the sharkpup. Then freezes in place, ears pressing back against his head, amber eyes huge. "Shane! Oh God, I --" He looks down at his phone. "Your pa -- he got me and Leo out, but the cops --" His hackles raise ever so slightly, the effect odd on damp fur. "-- they grabbed him."

Shane freezes. His eyes widen -- bigger, bigger, huge pools of black that swallow up most of his face as his gills whisper fast and raspy against the collar of his shirt. He sets the oxygen down with a thump. Pivots on a heel for the door. "I said come on, prospect." There's a sharper growl in his words. "Got a whole fucking roof needs unloading."

friday. 10 april. 8:35 a.m.

<NYC> Lower East Side

The nasty weather has been a blessing for Daiki on this rare outing, and he does his best to look unobtrusive in the shadow of his plain black umbrella. He has worn his shabbiest black jacket and slim black slacks, no tie cinching the collar of his oxford shirt, a plain white cloth mask covering his nose and mouth. For all that, there's no avoiding attention on the near-deserted streets, and he's only halfway back home before a pair of passers-by accost him.

"What are you doing out here?" says one of them from behind a yellow paisley bandana worn old west bank robber fashion, his voice suspicious though not openly hostile.

The other stands with arms crossed over their chest, expression unreadable behind his tactical skull mask. "You trying to get the whole neighborhood sick, Chink?"

"Excuse me," Daiki replies evenly. "I'm just trying to get --"

The one with the skull mask surges forward and shoves him, which doesn't seem to surprise him, but does put him off-balance. Before he can quite find his feet again, the one with the yellow bandana wades in with a wild but powerful right cross.

Daiki throws his umbrella at Skull Mask as he swivels, but not fast enough to avoid being hit altogether. Yellow Paisley's fist clips him on the left cheek, hard. He hurls himself willingly in the direction of the blow, rolls to his feet several steps away, and takes off at a sprint.

friday. 10 april. 10:35 a.m.

<PRV> Tessier Residence - Greenwich Village

Steve has been pacing the Tessiers' living room intermittently, trying to stop himself by pausing to stare into one aquarium or the other, sipping whiskey from the heavy tumbler in his left hand. For all that, he's smartly dressed and looks none the worse for not having slept in two days. "It's only a matter of time before they find the new clinic," he says finally, returning to the couch and sitting down with a will. "And they'll bring a lot more firepower when they do. We have to blow this open." He tosses the rest of his drink back.

"I can get you out there, certainly." Lucien provides a still counterpoint to Steve's pacing, seated statue-straight in the center of the couch. The rasping slow scrape of his knuckles against his jawline has been the only motion from him for some time, but now he pushes himself stiffly up. Plucks up the half-empty bottle from the table, moves to refill Steve's glass. His eyes briefly hitch over the second glass, empty and untouched on the table, and his jaw tightens as he caps the bottle and sets it back down. His gaze drifts aside, landing on his phone screen -- currently pulled up to the news, with the Mayor's daily press briefing to the city. "But if they are going to bring more firepower, I suppose, so ought we."

friday. 10 april. 11:15 p.m.

<NYC> Ophelia's - Upper East Side

Even in this new clinic space the beds have been packed -- even moreso, really, as the word spreads. Leo is a bit wide-eyed, a bit wild-eyed, several days' worth of beard growing in scraggly, hair a mess, the latest of many coffees held in one jittery hand. His other hand is squeezing tight around a thinner, darker one. The elderly woman lying in the cot beside him has gone quiet, her rattling breaths now still and silent. Leo's, in contrast, are sharper, more ragged, his dark eyes shining bright and wet.

There are other beds, of course. Other strained breaths around him. A packed lobby full of so many waiting patients who can not yet even fit in their clinic space. Right now, though, his blurring vision has fixed on just this one.

The space is packed -- there's no shortage of things needing tending. The volunteers have had their hands full, and Sam is no exception, dragging a cart of freshly washed linens behind him en route to making up new cots. He moves quickly -- everybody here's been moving quickly -- and straightens with some relief when he sees Leo, briefly sidetracking to head over. "Concepcion, thank God, Rachel's been --" He stops short. Cuts himself off quickly. His hand drops to his side. Then, slowly, lifts to settle on Leo's shoulder in a heavy squeeze.

saturday. 11 april. 2:30 pm

<MOR> The Realm of Lost Things - Morlock Tunnels

Uneasy mental buzzing hangs in the air, like standing beneath an oversized hive in the summertime, all throughout the Morlock tunnel. Hand gripped tight on the strap of the backpack, which hangs nearly empty over his shoulder, Bug's expression remains a set smile that sits below weary black eyes. The crawling, stinging agitation swarms around with nowhere to go. Despite this, the red banded insects that rest in his hair and on his shoulders. appear sedate, and even sluggish, in their movements while he makes his way back to the supplies so that he may see to the needs of the next ailing Morlock.

The storeroom is technically as cluttered as ever, the detritus of a million lives broken and forgotten and abandoned to molder down here under the city. With a clatter and a clang one enormous serpentine limb is turning over a rusted and broken half-a-washing-machine, another pushing aside the mangled remnants of what was once a dog crate. Taylor's increasingly desperate rummaging in the normally forgotten wastelands of the tunnels has so far unearthed two ancient cans of chili and one mold-speckled box of Kraft macaroni, heavily peppered with tiny tooth marks. There's a tense set to his shoulders as he heads toward the more regularly trafficked front of their stash to set them on emptier shelves next to a heavily depleted case of bottled water. The touch of his mind -- quiet, unobtrusive but questioning -- up against the vast humming of Bug's is tired, too, but warm with concern. << You keeping yourself together, bro? >>

"Yep!" chirps Bug. A squeak compared to the louder drone of his contradicting mental response. He touches his fingers to one of the mostly empty shelves, his gaze searching for something there. "I'm doing f--" The word catches in his throat. Images flash into his mind, distributed over a vast network. A girl, young, with translucent skin, eyes glassy, unfocused. A hive, collapsed, stores depleted, abandoned, the queen is dead. A man, elderly, writhing hair and beard now totally still, colour drained from his cheeks. A young man, reptilian scaled, skin grey, weak from coughing, pills in his hand. A shelf, once stocked, nearly empty, what's there barely edible. Bug's knees nearly buckle as the images snap back to him at the center. While there are no tears, there is a shudder through his body, the catch in his throat prevents him from speaking. His teeth lock together in a grimace. In the background of his thoughts, prayers to Jesus and Mary for healing are whispered. << We're finished. We'd need a miracle. >>

saturday. 11 april. 5:25 pm

<PRV> Tessier Residence - Greenwich Village

The novel coronavirus travels through Leo's lungs, dispersing in complex dendritic patterns out into his alveoli. Some of them infiltrate their targets and replicate themselves, but most seem to just drift aimlessly, muzzled. This plays itself out in fantastically accelerated biological time, a stalemate of antibodies struggling to keep up with newly replicated viruses. Then the bound viruses start winking out one by one, devoured by phagocytes and freeing more antibodies to bind more viruses, and more. The incipient infection evaporates without even making Leo's breath come short.

Matt pauses in the act of refilling Leo's cup, the entire living room redolent of the robust Sumatra Mandheling they've been drinking. He tilts his head, concentrating hard, though the threads of his power wound into Leo's remain imperceptible aside from the powerful bolstering it steadily provides. He finishes pouring the coffee and sets the percolator back down on the table, a keen glint in his weary green eyes when he lifts them expectantly to the man sitting beside him on the couch. "Was that--did that do it?"

Leo's hands wrap tight around his cup, cradling it tight as thought its warmth is as bracing as the caffeine it contains. He sinks back into the cushions, his breath coming out in a slow and tremulous exhale. His eyes close, his bony shoulders easing downwards as he lifts the coffee. The haggard cast to his expression hasn't lifted when he lowers the mug, but for the first time in several days it is softened by a small curl of a smile.

sunday. 12 april. 11:45 a.m.

<NYC> Ophelia's - Upper East Side

Nothing has really slowed down around here. The backlog of patients waiting to be seen clogs the lobby; the beds are full, the Mongrels in a constant scramble to get supplies in faster than they can be used up. Somehow, somewhere, though, overnight, the nightclub-turned-clinic has exploded into a riot of garish springtime color. It's a mishmash that hasn't really been chosen with any eye towards taste; a huge blow-up Easter Bunny presiding over a litter of gaudy plastic chicks in one corner, a light-up Jesus beaming happily on the end of the bar, colorful baskets filled with green plastic grass and a wealth of candy stashed around the cubicles.

Ion's cut has gotten a pastel makeover, its beaten up leather transformed into a dizzying swirls of pastels like a dip-dyed Easter egg, and the skull on the back now sporting bunny ears, flowered vines twining around the lightning bolts crossed beneath. The Mongrels' leader has his hands full -- though becoming less full as he divests himself of his cargo. Eyes BRIGHT, a dogged grin fixed to his face, he appears with a crackle beside Nick to jam a fluffy-floppy pair of bunny ears on the prospect's head. Shove a basket into his hands. An earnest insistence in his tone: "Boy there some kids out there waiting to be see."

Long used to Ion's mode of travel--and his holiday spirit--Nick barely flinches at all when when he suddenly gains an extra set of ears, overlapping to slightly ludicrous effect with his own. The younger Mongrel has also dressed up for Easter, though in somewhat more traditional fashion: a pale purple dress shirt with a wide enough collar to suit his luxuriant ruff of fur, a green gingham tie, and brown slacks modified to accommodate digitigrade legs and a tail. His cut is still black, in stark contrast to his church-worthy attire. "I don't think the ears are gonna fool them." Still, he's looping the basket over one forearm and setting down the stack of clean sheets he had just finished folding, a lupine smile tugging his muzzle. "But I guess every kid we got here is badass enough for the Easter wolf."

monday. 13 april. 2:50 p.m.

<NYC> City Hall

"Thank you, Madam Mayor," Steve tips a polite nod to Elliott as she yields the podium to him. The reporters gathered before the stage are spaced widely apart and all wearing face masks of various kinds, and all of their eyes are fixed on him, their various note-taking implements at the ready. "Leo Concepcion was declared wanted because he was liberated from unlawful confinement, during which he was subject to nonconsensual experimentation and prevented from fighting the novel coronavirus in ways that his mutation uniquely permits him to do."

"He was prevented because the federal authorities holding him, and the pharmaceutical interests they're beholden to, wanted to use Mr. Concepcion to develop a vaccine product they could sell. Since then, he and those supporting him -- like Jax Holland -- have risked their own safety to treat those sick with COVID-19 and develop a method to inoculate everyone, not only those who can afford to pay." He focuses his gaze past the camera, so that to the broadcast audience he would seem to be looking right at them. "As of this past weekend, he has succeeded."

He pauses, fully anticipating the uproar from the gathered press.

tuesday. 14 april. 8:40 a.m.

<NYC> Upper East Side

The upper reaches of Madison avenue are nearly, but not entirely, deserted, much of the sparse foot traffic coming and going from Central Park. The two men who've just crossed the empty street to Leo's side do not look like they're out to take in the air, however. They're dressed ruggedly and carry military rucksacks with patches ranging from 'MEDIC' to the Gadsden flag, and one large, garish biohazard symbol with the words 'Zombie Apocalypse Response Team'.

One of them is yelling before he's even stepped back onto the sidewalk, "Look at this bat-eating psycho out spreading that Chinese virus."

His larger companion scoffs and spits on the sidewalk. "Yeah, you better to stay inside, or get the fuck out of our country!"

Unobtrusively dressed though he is in fitted blue jeans and a soft chambray shirt (slightly baggy on his near-skeletal frame), Leo is nevertheless a readily recognizable figure lately. His eyes have widened, fingers tightening around the coffee cup in his hands as he slowly takes a step back from the pair. "Sorry, I --" he ventures, quietly, his eyes flicking nervously past them in the direction of the hotel he had been heading towards.

When the first man yells, Noah pauses in his tracks where he was passing by. Dressed in faded jeans and an old flannel shirt, most of his face is hidden behind a plain blue handsewn mask. It's still easy to see his gaze flick between the rucksacks and patches, between the two men and Leo himself, ice blue eyes narrowing more and more.

Finally, he moves; using the width of his shoulders and the rest of his stature to push between the two men with a low, muffled "S'cuse me," until he stands between them and Leo. After a short moment of contemplation, Noah reaches up with one hand to pull his mask down to reveal a grateful (if also exhausted) countenance. He offers the same hand out to Leo in a handshake. "Thank you," he says clearly. "You were goin' this way?" He motions past the other men with his free hand. They may as well be invisible.

For a heartbeat Leo's eyes widen in surprise but then the tension that had been knotting up his shoulders flows back out; the breath that he'd unthinkingly caught eases as he reaches to clasp Noah's hand. "Yeah." His eyes shift from the two men to catch Noah's, and he nods firmly as he finds his stride again. "Not much further to go, now."

tuesday. 14 april. 9:30 p.m.

<PRV> VL 403 {Geekhaus} - East Village

Flicker pauses on the fire escape -- not all that long, but by his standards close to forever. Head resting against the window, eyes squeezing shut, before he makes the tiny and immense jump across into his apartment. Draws in a deep breath, savoring the spiced scents of tofu larb and panang curry. Though he stops to give Hive a hug (fierce -- hard -- it's a long while before either lets go) he ignores the rumbling in his stomach, heading first to strip off his button-down, set aside his hospital ID, return to the couch.

The process is a little bit more sluggish than his usual deftness. Hive can hear his brief twinge of recrimination when it takes him twice to find the vein. He manages it in the end; sits a while, drowsy and fighting the temptation to drift off tucked up against Hive's side. He's even more unsteady than before when he bandages his arm neatly and stands up again.

As he approaches Dusk's bedroom door and the low-harsh growling within his pulse speeds, his breath hitching, a sudden flush in his pale cheeks. His hand lifts -- pauses -- knocks three times, quickly, as his breath rushes back out. Only after does a warm smile manage to find its way to his face. "Hey, man. Got something for you."

wednesday. 14 april. 12:20 pm.

<XAV> Headmaster's Office - XS Basement

Xavier holds up a belaying hand, otherwise unmoving where he sits behind his desk, his expression inscrutable. "We are sympathetic to the Morlocks' situation, of course, but are you absolutely certain," he asks, his tone equable, "that this -- engineered sickness is safe?" His keen gray eyes bore steadily into Joshua. He's barely glanced at the teen whose fate he will presumably decide in short order.

Across the desk, Joshua's normal stoicism is considerably easier to read. There are heavy dark shadows gathered under his eyes, a sallow cast to his tan skin, a hard line clamped into the stubbled edge of his jaw. His knuckles press down hard and slightly trembling against the desk, shoulders taut beneath the rumpled folds of his paramedic uniform. "Sympathetic?" It comes hissed through his teeth, and through the sparks of anger that snap and dance across the surface of his mind there are sensory-flashes of memory. Rattling wheezing breaths, the familiar droning wail of his siren, refrigerated trucks parked outside a hospital, a cool hand going slack in his own. "How many of my patients is your sympathy going to bring back?" It's a jerky shove that pushes him back up from the desk. A sharp irritable shove of fingers through his hair leaves it a disheveled mess. The memories still fluttering through his mind are cloudy with stress and exhaustion -- Matt's face etched with concentration, the striking and wondrous chaos of a human body viewed through Leo's senses, a clinic packed with beds. He presses his thumb and forefinger into the hollows of his eyes. In his own mind there is certainty, layered over and around the anger. "Guess you'll find out," he bites back, thin and hard to the Professor, just before vanishing.

Not in a chair but folded down in a crouch on her many legs, Nessie is quiet. Shifting restlessly, eyes wide. She licks at her lips, stifles a sneeze against the crook of her arm. "Um," The smile she tries to summon dies stillborn as she looks at the Professor's stern face. "Hi."

wednesday. 15 april. 7:25 pm.

<NYC> Village Lofts - East Village

The setting sun casts a warm glow over the not-quite-empty park. A few people are out walking their dogs. A couple of kids play a game of basketball in the court. A small picnic is happening in the grass. It's not quite life as usual, but it isn't the pall of the past month, either. Up here -- Ryan is just watching, legs dangling off the edge of the fire escape, arm slung across the railing and his cheek pillowed against it. He has his phone in hand, largely forgotten where it's dangling precariously over the edge of the railing. His slightly unfocused gaze is fixed outward, not really at the park but past it.

A floor down, there is a quiet rattle of metal. A few minutes later, a small sparrow with a distinct CVS receipt pattern flits up, fluttering around Ryan's shoulders with silent cheer.

"Hi!" Sarah chirps from below. The quarantine has left its touch on her, as it has the rest of the city. There's a pallor to fair skin that speaks of lack of sun, a shock of white-blonde at the roots of faded pink hair, a new slimness to already petite size. There is also hope and joy in the smile she offers Ryan, bright and wide. "With the vaccine going around, the park doesn't seem as far away as it did."

Ryan startles at first, gripping his phone tighter to keep from dropping it to the street below. A smile spreads across his face a beat later as his eyes flick downward. "Used to be a bitch and a half, drunks out there like clockwork four a.m. each night loud and crowing." He rolls his head to the side, half-turning on his perch and lifting a hand to catch the little sparrow against a finger. His smile curls a little more crooked. A little wider. "Swear to god, I hear that fighting starting back up, it's gonna sound like the dawn."

thursday. 16 april. 6:45 p.m.

<NYC> Rikers Island Correctional Facility

Even the soft evening light cannot make the stark concrete complex much less harsh, a barren ugly sprawl of jagged lines and forbidding angles that has imposed itself on the island's landscape. Regardless of the unwelcoming surroundings, as Jax steps (stumbling) (hesitant) outside, for just an instant his expression softens, thin and pallid face tipping up towards the sky and his eye fluttering half-closed.

Then squeezing tighter shut, against the flutter-flash-click of so many camera flashes, strobing bright to blot out the sunset glow.

A tall, broad form in a navy suit closely tailored to classic lines comes between Jax and the cameras, and the press subsides for a moment. "I'm sorry about all of this," Steve whispers as he deftly tucks Jax's hand into the crook of his arm, the solid bulk of his shoulder near enough to lean on if needed. When he straightens back up to address the gathered reporters, he pitches his voice to project, his expression stern.

"Today, the City of New York has dealt justly by my friend Jax Holland, who for his courage in doing the right thing was sent to jail, at grave consequence to his health, and kept apart from his family through two holidays. His support enabled Mr. Leo Concepcion to develop the vaccine that is ending the outbreak as we speak. But this fight is far from over -- these men, who have already risked life and liberty for us -- are threatened with federal charges levied by the same agencies that sought to prevent the vaccine coming to light." He tenses subtly beneath Jax's hand. "Even now, there is a federal warrant out for Mr. Concepcion's arrest, and I urge everyone to consult their conscience before complying with those who seek to punish a man for saving the world..."

thursday. 16 april. 6:45 p.m.

<BOM> Front Porch - Main Lodge - Ascension Island

The soft evening light spills gentle and inviting across the island, here and there highlighting the cabins nestled among the trees and glinting off the distant waves. A soft breeze rustles the trees and flutters at the lacy curtains of the lodge, on whose porch Leo is managing to look stiff and uncertain as he examines his surroundings. Bony arms crossed tight over his chest, jaw clenched, his eyes have squinted up against the mild sunset light as he takes a seat gingerly in the porch swing.

Close on his heels as she steps out of the lodge, Regan has two crisp beers in hand. She leans up against the railing opposite the swing, offering one out to Leo. "This isn't over." Her voice is soft, and not unsympathetic. "After everything that you risked, they repay you with --" Her lips press together, her head shaking as her blue eyes fix on Leo. She hesitates, looks at him a moment. "Whatever is going to happen out there, you have a home here."