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[Fiction] Neil Preston: Decision Time

David 'Dr. Troll' Smith

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Neil looked around and tried, unsuccessfully, to convince himself there were fewer people injured here than there had been when they’d showed up. The whole thing was predictably insane. Four hours ago an 8.7 earthquake had struck under Bahia Brazil at 2:14 PM local time. Buildings that should have stood didn’t. Power was out. Best guess was maybe a million homeless, and tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands dead. Utopia put together an emergency rescue mission, and Neil had both been handy and volunteered for one of the groups being sent in. They’d given him a twenty minute lecture which came down to “stay with the group, obey orders, and don’t use much juice”, and off they’d went.

That had been two hours ago.

Other groups went to other areas, Neil’s gate had opened outside a hospital and the ten of them had run through carrying a ton or so of supplies. Only five of them were novas. A kid with electrical powers, a medic with clone, a muscle bound guy who could juggle cars, Neil as healer/doctor, and a Captain America type who job it was to give orders and look good in front of the cameras. The hospital was a mad house. Dozens of bodies who’d made it to the hospital but not hadn’t ‘made it’ were stacking up in a make shift morgue. Here and there you could see shell shocked relatives moving from body to body, looking for their loved ones. Worse were the ones who’d found them.

The novas were quickly surrounded by cluster of local people. All of them begging, demanding, pleading. Most of them for things Neil couldn’t give, like knowledge on where and how their loved ones were. Other’s wanted a miracle to restore the dead. From there it got better and much worse.

Josh Cheetem, aka Captain Order, started giving orders in English, Spanish, and Portuguese and everyone just fell into line. Just being around him was calming and inspiring. Between him and Jen Dailey, aka Multiple Medic, organization was imposed on that section of the mess. ‘Jolt’ turned power on for the hospital by serving as a living generator. Some of the merely ‘hurt’ were put to work helping the gravely injured. All of the victims given color coded bands. The doctors went to work saving who they could… and this was were it got grim.

Neil could save any of them, even the worst blue tag. The cop with burns destroying 85% of his skin, the woman with multiple crushed organs, the guy with brain damage. Any of them, but what he couldn’t do is save them all. The math was simple and brutal. The juice he’d spend saving the woman could save four others. Choosing those four others had been heart breaking, not for who he was choosing, but for who he wasn’t. Absorbing the pain of his patients was a distant second compared to the mental anguish of knowing how much he wasn’t absorbing.

And now it was decision time. He was out of juice. He could work as a normal doctor. He could burn his life force as fuel for his powers. He could even do nothing. The first would save people others could save, and as slowly. The second would leave him dead or unable to function and not make a dent in this. The last… if he went somewhere and slept for two hours he’d get back close to half his pool and he could do miracles again. All he had to do is walk away and let everyone else suffer for a while.

A dozen pairs of eyes begged him to stay. A dozen sets of hands seemed to reach towards him as he turned away and told the Captain what he needed. It was for the best. Best for him. Best for them.

But, oh god, did it hurt.

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