Stranger manoeuvred his bike through the static cars cramming the streets of downtown Seattle. The rush hour had barely begun so the streets weren't as full as they could have been. The cars however were even less ordered than normal. Drivers had found the traffic ahead stopped and were trying to manoeuvre around the obstructions.
The static vehicles were all electric, it didn't mean much immediately but Stranger had time to piece it together as he tried to thread the Aurora through the jams and snarls.
Seattle, any major city, shouldn't do this, every essential system had at least half a dozen back-ups and fail-safes; if power failed in one sector the system should draw power from others. That's why only the major corporations and the emergency services had back-up or emergency generators. The same was especially true for the traffic grid, the fail-safes of the fail-safes had fail-safes. Yet the grid had failed, it had shut down leaving the cars it powered in automatic shutdown. A car in auto shutdown was really quite safe, the steering locked straight and the brakes closed. With this many shutting down at once though there were bound to be accidents.
The fact that these cars were still sitting here, and the dark buildings around made it a mammoth failure.
It took Stranger almost fifteen minutes to get to the Interstate on-ramp, although his progress from there was much better.
The little house in Renton wasn't much but it was Stranger's home, one of Stranger's homes. He pulled the bike into the garage, locked it up and headed into the house. The blackout seemed to be city-wide, that would mean a lot of injuries, a lot of frightened people and a lot of people trying to take advantage. Shifting the hold-all with his gear in it into the floor safe he opened the wardrobe and stepped through it and out of character.
The entity which had been Stranger moved carefully through the remains of the abandoned sewer that ran below Stranger's home, it had been blocked at both ends and erased from the city's electronic records. The opening above led into another house. The house where the entity came when it wanted to be Stranger.
The car left the garage smooth and easy just like it had gone in. It cruised onto the freeway and headed north. The car pulled into a garage in Bellevue ten minutes later, the door closing behind it. The entity went down to the basement and the things which were Stranger to him went into a box, all but the pager. More than a dozen pagers were here, one of them buzzed.
The box the entity, a human, removed from the shelves was labelled "Dr Jason Nine-Horses".
"Looks like I know who to be tonight after all."
Dr Jeffries was closest to the radio when the transmission came through.
"Hank, Lisa, do you copy? Over."
"Jason, where are you?"
"Hank. Hank how are you doing over there? Over." Hank knew that Jason wasn't asking after his health.
"Minor cuts and bruises Jason, nothing we can't handle. Over."
"OK Hank, I'm on my way too you. Call it five minutes. Out." The car was already in
Redmond but the roads here, although not as bad as Downtown had been, were still dotted with enough cars for Jason to have to drive carefully.
It took six minutes in the end but Jason came through the doors of his clinic in one piece. Lisa, the clinic's entire evening nursing shift, appraised him of the situation.
"Four G.S.W.s in the last five minutes, we've got two sharp traumas and a kid who was knocked down outside."
"And Mr Daniels? How's he doing?"
"Still on track doctor." Jason pulled on his white coat as she talked.
"So who have we still got?"
"One of the G.S.W.s checked himself out a minute of two ago but Dr Jeffries has a couple in the treatment room who might take his place."
"So we're full up, Can we double up on some of the rooms?" Jason headed to the door leading to the treatment rooms, "Have you called Dispatch?" He stopped with his hand on the door handle.
"Not since you called in doctor, it's been a little busy so far."
"Let's see what we've got then, then we'll let them know what we can handle." He opened the door and started work.
The backlog wasn't major but there were two in need of longer term care. With the two double rooms they had each given an extra bed the clinic had space to cope - but only just. Jason stripped off his gloves and headed to do the rounds of the rooms.
It was dispatch that called him in the end, about three minutes in. Lisa was the one who took the call. She filled Jason in at the end of his rounds.
"Dispatch called, they've got an R.T.A. near here, I told them we're full up. They're going to send them to General but they've asked if the motor medic can restock here."
"How are the stocks?" Jason hadn't made the last order and the small clinic had seen more business so far that night than in virtually the entire previous week.
"Stocks are fine, I ordered a little more sterile dressing than you normally do because of Mr Daniels but otherwise I ordered the normal supplies."
"What did you tell them?"
"I told them we've got a good supply in and they're welcome to restock here." The radio hissed into life again and ended the conversation.
"Redmond 908 clinic we are en route to you, our patient is critical and in urgent need of surgery. Can you oblige?"
The next twenty minutes were frenetic, the bus's patient had started to haemorrhage en route, when blood had started to flow out of his datajack it was clear he'd needed immediate surgery.
Jason Nine-Horses might not have been the man's real name, maybe it was, but the qualifications Jason Nine-Horses had were real enough, it was his penance as it were. at night he worked the shadows, he worked from behind a gun; so during the day he fought to save lives. However now the clinic was full. Not just the rooms, even the treatment room had now been converted into an impromptu I.C.U. Less than two hours into the blackout and the Redmond 908 clinic would have to be reduced to nothing more than a resupply depot.
As he stripped out of his bloody scrubs Jason considered his options…
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