"Georgie what did they mean?"
"I don't know Caro. You need to be quiet so I can think."
Georgie found herself fighting against the confusion that regularly tried to swamp her when there were too many sounds going on at the same time. Without realizing it she curled up and put her hands over her ears.
Caro, a chunky, blank-faced girl with almond-shaped eyes and hair cropped so short you could see the scalp of her irregular shaped skull scooted over to her friend and gently patted her shoulder. "Poor Georgie. It's OK. Devil Woman shouldn't have taken your ear plugs. Poor Georgie."
Slowly the girl called Georgie, sporting the same frayed jumpsuit and hairstyle as her friend, fought back the chaos and pulled individual words and phrases from the maelstrom of sound in her brain. As she rocked the words became almost like pictures in her head.
"... no room at the inn Colonel."
"My authority ..."
"... make do ..."
"Temporary? Unknown at this time ..."
"Soldiers do not belong in a place like ..."
"... limited options ..."
" ... amputees, PTSD, head traumas, recovering POWs ... we aren't equipped for ..."
"... triaged ..."
"Colonel, this is ridiculous. I refuse ..."
"I don't give a damn Director. You will ..."
Cautiously Georgie took her hands away from her ears and sat up with the help of Caro.
"You came back Georgie."
"Yes. We need to find Roland."
Georgie and Caro carefully crawled out of the space created by the intersection of several old duct work systems. Caro looked at Georgie who held up her hand to one ear while covering the other completely. She closed her eyes and concentrated. Then her eyes flew open and she looked around in near panic before startling Caro with a squeal and a loud, "Tag! You're it!"
She gave a carefree laugh, and turned to run only after a few steps to slam into the chest of a large man in uniform who was accompanied by another man wearing orderly scrubs. Caro became frightened and backed away but was unwilling to run and leave her friend.
George slowly backed away as well, breathing hard, to stand protectively in front of Caro.
The soldier made a disgusted face. "Damn. How many of these you got around here?" His comm unit rang and he started talking into it while still grimacing at the picture the two girls made.
The orderly, used to similar reactions from the few outsiders who came to the Pickering Triage Center, ignored the soldier and addressed the two girls quietly. "Georgina, Caroline ... we have guests and new arrivals today. You need to return to the community room." As further encouragement, he added, "Mrs. Carver has the Tri-V on."
Watching the Tri-V was Caro's favorite activity next to following Georgie around and she started pulling her friend to go. Georgie however was blinking rapidly and rocking stiffly in place. The soldier noticed as he closed his comm link and asked, "Is it having a fit or something?"
The orderly briefly closed his eyes in angry frustration but then turned to the soldier and said, "Back up about five paces, quietly, and stay there."
The soldier, as if afraid of being infected, followed the orderly's instruction. The orderly looked at Caro, smiled gently and asked, "Can you get Georgina back to the dorm? It looks like she needs a lie down."
Caro smiled and answered, "Sure Mr. Waverly."
"That's a good girl."
Caro guided her friend towards the dorm, knowing that as soon as Georgie got into her room and crawled into her closet for a while she'd be fine. She always was.
As the two girls disappeared around a corner the soldier shuddered in disgust. "Holy hell. It's inhuman that things like that are forced to live. Were they botched aborts?"
"No," Waverly answer with gritted teeth. "Caroline has a mild case of Down's Syndrome. Georgina is more complicated. She has some kind of neurological disorder obviously ..."
"Obviously," the soldier said sarcastically.
Waverly sighed and started walking towards the staff wing. "Look, if you are going to be here you need to get rid of your prejudices or you'll just create problems with facility staff and residents."
"I don't need to do anything. Those freaks are outlaws and ..."
Waverly finally lost his patience. "OK let's set a few things straight. One? You are as much a 'resident' as the rest of us are. So join the freak club and get over yourself. Two? Our current ... and lawful ... residents have fewer health problems than those of you who are new to the facility. If they didn't they wouldn't have made it this far."
"Like hell," the soldier said, clearly affronted to be lumped in with what he considered to be defectives.
"OK let's put this in a way you can understand it shall we? The only reason there is room for you lot is because our Terminal Ward is empty. Some of you men will never leave that ward. From what few of the records I've seen thus far, some of you might even wind up in the lock down ward. And for a fact, some of you will wind up in Potter's Field unless your family can pay your Death Tax and claim your body."
"Nope. Reality time soldier. And I can guarantee if you take a swing at me you will be the first one to make your way to lock down. Got it? Good. Now listen close. Those kids are all that remains of the Terror Blue Attack."
The soldiers face went blank in shock.
"That's right Johnson. The terrorist attack on the St. Margaret's Pregnancy and Fertility Clinic."
"All them people died."
"Correction. Most of them died. About fifty adults and as many newborns were quarantined after surviving the initial attack. Many of the adults were pregnant women who had been there the day of the attack for appointments. Within six months all but six of the adults were dead, most of the infants were dead, and about half of the babies that were born during the quarantine period as well."
"The virus did that to them?"
"No. Poor health care during quarantine caused some of it. Premature births was another cause. The babies that were normal and survived were quietly turned over to Child Protective Services after quarantine was lifted. Those deemed unadoptable were permanently triaged and sent here."
"How come I never heard about this? Not even in my college classes."
Waverly briefly wondered how the man had even made it in college if he was this stupid. "Welcome to the Land of Reality, Lt. Johnson. There's a lot of stuff that never makes it into the history books or onto the Tri-V news. What you need to get through your head is that you've fallen into the same black hole those kids were shoved in."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Feeling sorry for the guy Waverly dialed back his attitude but still told him the brutal truth. "Look, there are no doctors here. We've got one that comes around once a month but that's it. You men are triaged just like the other residents. When what you've brought with you is gone, there isn't anymore. The food the residents eat is whatever slop comes in on the supply train. You'll eat it just like they do or starve. You get sick you better be able to count on your friends to help you. You get too sick you are put in isolation and you take care of yourself. Pickerings is not set up for visitors or resident mail service so no help is coming from the outside. And as a permanently triaged and debilitated individual, you will likely live her or someplace like here for the remainder of your life. So, if I were you, I would give serious consideration to creating some good will with those you call freaks because somehow, some way, they've managed to be strong enough to survive sixteen years of this. Because let me tell you, from where I'm standing you are going to need all the help you can get."