I apologize if I caused any confusion by not pointing this out, but this story takes place before the events of my "Four Friends" stories ... as will be made clear later.
Chapter 2: BATMAN SMELLS
Two green clad soldiers stepped in front of Robin as he prepared to push a cot through the emergency room’s double doors. He thankfully noted that these were regular soldiers, not special forces.
“Sorry, Doc,” one said. “The hospital’s closed.”
Put a white lab coat on, and everyone assumes you’re a doctor. Robin pressed down on the cot's mattress to signal Kara, and the girl wailed so loudly that even he jumped. She looked tiny under the sheet, and her braces showed when she yelled, making her seem even younger. “Damn it, man, there’s no other hospital on this side of Cleveland!”
“Sorry, Doc,” the spokesman said again. “The place is quarantined, we have orders -”
“I’m aware of the quarantine. But the only contamination is in the inpatient area, and I only need into the ER to access a treatment room.” Robin mentally crossed his fingers and hoped these two hadn’t been briefed on the real reason the hospital had been evacuated. “Colonel Garrison gave me clearance.” He held out his ID, and hoped Andrew was as good at forging documents as he claimed to be.
The soldiers glanced at each other. Neither carried a radio, which confirmed the intelligence he’d gathered - the poorly equipped guards had been hastily gathered from a unit that was supposed to be on leave. Too bad there’d been plenty of rifles to go around, but police officers equipped with guns and radios covered most of the other entrances, so this was their best bet.
When they still hesitated, he decided to push his luck. “Don’t you understand? This girl as severe gastroiletis colitis chylopneumothorax! Do you want to be responsible for what might happen if I don’t get her some colistinn sulfomethate?”
Again the soldiers exchanged looks, and one stepped toward the cot. “It’s very contagious,” Robin added.
The soldier quickly backed off. “Okay, okay - but get her in and out of there quick, Doc. Nobody’s supposed to be inside that place until it’s been decontaminated.”
“Thanks, guys.” Robin shoved the cot on through, and wondered if those men could possibly be any more dense. First of all, the ambulance he’d pulled up in hadn’t been using its emergency lights, even though he claimed to be on an emergency call. Second, there was another hospital just a few miles down the road, although it was overflowing with patients from here at the moment. Third, why was he the only medical worker with this supposedly critical patient? Andrew had gotten out just long enough to help unload the cot, then climbed back behind the wheel.
As soon as he wheeled the cot into a treatment room Kara stopped wailing and leaped off the cot, revealing a black sweater and sturdy trousers instead of a hospital gown. “What did you say I had?”
“I’m not certain. A stomach ache and air in your chest, I think - I got the idea from an old Star Trek movie, and I picked the words out of a medical textbook.”
“Air in my chest. Huh.” She watched as Robin threw off his lab coat, revealing another black outfit. “Did you know you stink?”
At first he thought she was referring to how he was doing his job, but just as he started to snap at her, he realized what she meant. “I’ve been living out of my car, and trying to stay close to that demon,” he told her, realizing how defensive he sounded. “There hasn’t been much time for showers.
“Sorry. It’s just that I still don’t understand why dad isn’t here - he’s my watcher, not you.”
“This baby’s been my case for a week, now.” Robin climbed onto the cot, and reached up to push a ceiling tile out of the way. “Kennedy and Willow were supposed to be on the way here, but they got into some kind of accident.”
He reached around until he found a support that he thought would hold his weight, then hauled himself up, with an assisting push from Kara. “Giles said the older slayers all came down with some kind of bug, so - it’s you.” On his hands and knees, Robin reached down to his young partner. “Sorry you didn’t get much briefing time, but all you have to do is follow behind me and stay quiet. I don’t expect any major problems.”
Kara easily climbed into the space above the ceiling, pushed the tile back into place, then turned to Robin. “They didn’t have a bug. Faith got them drunk.”
“She - what?”
“I’m not the one to ask,” Kara continued, sounding peeved. “No one tells me anything. But according to rumor, some of them said they wanted to try Faith’s wild lifestyle, so she let them. And now they’ve sworn off drinking forever.”
Robin stared at the young slayer for a moment, then slowly shook his head. Maybe Faith had done it for the right reason, but she’d jeopardized this mission by leaving Robin with no backup except an inexperienced teenager and a genius geek. “Come on. Sooner or later one of those guys will track down an officer, and then the game’s up.”
An air duct blocked their way, but that was part of Robin’s plan. He’d known their target was in this neighborhood, likely searching for a fresh supply of its main food source: humans weakened by illness or injury. He’d been studying plans for all the local hospitals and retirement homes ever since, and if he’d read the radio traffic correctly, this duct would pass over their target. “Kara, I need a hole. Don’t worry, the demon has no ears.”
Kara provided one, tearing the side of the duct away with a horrendous screech. “Boy, I love doing stuff like that.”
“It’s a good thing nobody’s inside yet, or that noise would bring all the action you could handle.” He led the way into the duct, and turned right. “Keep your distance - this isn’t designed to carry people. But hurry.” They had to reach their target before the government’s special ops people arrived to start searching the building.
After five minutes of crawling, Robin stopped. He thought he’d heard someone - or something - else scuttling through the ductwork. The eggs shouldn’t have hatched yet, and momma usually stuck to the ground - literally. Still, wasn’t this how the black guy bought it in “Alien”?
“What is it?” Kara whispered.
“Shush.” Directly ahead was a T intersection, and below that the room they had to get into. He shuffled forward slowly, trying not to make any noise, and as he neared the intersection he noticed a joint in the metal. Maybe he could pry it open enough to see down, without giving his position away.
From around the corner, another hand reached out, and they touched over the joint.
Robin yelled incoherently, and his head slammed into the top of the duct. Someone else shouted something equally unintelligible and, off balance, fell forward onto the unyielding metal.
Robin found himself staring at his worst nightmare. A wiry, platinum haired man wearing a black duster, his narrow face all hard angles, stared back at him with a look of shock that probably mirrored his own.
Robin muttered through clenched teeth: “Spike.”
Next: "Shotgun Shells"