Available from Wings Press, San Antonio. ISBN 0-930324-83-8, paper $ 14.00 From Bardo99:

The tenth floor corridor gives on the isolation ward. There must be some 20 or so bunks in rows to either side. Patients perch, some of them, on the edge of their beds. Some sit quietly at the far end of the room where they have grouped their bedside chairs. There is no talking. One man vomits quietly into a kidney basin.

Outside the weather is rainy, overcast. One of the buildings is partially collapsed. On the roof a crew in lead contamination aprons shovels the debris into wheelbarrows, civilian workers probably, or scheduled populations. In the far distance, he can see robots lumbering back and forth, pushing debris off a ledge. Most of it rains down onto a dump truck parked below. Behind it, rows of empty trucks await their turn, engines idling, spewing exhaust in the wintery air.

--You have instruments here I can use, no doubt?

--Instruments? Lipsey and Chernoff look at him blankly.

--I was told not to bring my own.

Chernoff seems troubled.

--I see.

Lipsey clears his throat.

--What we have here is a ward where we assign only people who were either present at the time of the explosion, or exposed immediately afterwards. (He drops his voice.) All of them have received ...
--doses beyond acceptable limits, he offers, nodding emphatically to show he understands.

--Exactly, Chernoff picks up. Unfortunately, their prognosis is not at all encouraging. Foreign experts--Dr. Fault among them--are of the same opinion...

--Yes, I'm aware of Dr. Fault's assessment...

They have come to a stop beside an empty bed.

--You're probably wondering why they have assigned you here...

--The CRO unit wants me to further my training the better to respond in such emergencies

--Yes, of course. That would normally be the case...

--Unfortunately, Lipsey clears his throat, unfortunately here, no one is--shall we say--immune. We (he indicates his colleague) have been assigned because until now we have received no exposure whatsoever as far as anyone can tell. We will be here for 24 hours to minimize our own risk. We will be evacuated when another fresh CRO team takes over. This evening, to be exact.

--And I'm prepared to assist in whatever way I can...

Chernoff clears his throat.

--I'm afraid you don't quite understand...

--Understand...? He stares at Chernoff in silence.

--Well, says Lipsey, don't you want to know why they assigned you here?

--My orders...

--No. Your orders are unsigned.

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