"Fill this out." said the nurse from behind the stained, scratched plexiglass, shoving a clipboard through the tiny slot. The nurse looked old, broken, tired. Her uniform was shabby, made shabbier by the bad light.

"No, I'm not a patient." Ana said. The guy in line behind her had blue skin, he shoved Ana lightly aside, screamed something at the nurse in Chinese.

The nurse spat back "Sit down, Mr. Chang." The man with blue skin and the Mets cap threw himself back down into the torn vinyl waiting room seat. "We're not allowed to give out any information about patients." the nurse said, returning her attention, but not her eyes, to Ana. "Just have a seat."

"I'm here to start work today. I'm the new resident." Ana said.

The nurse looked up for the first time. "You're Doctor Fidelio?"

Ana nodded. "That's right."

"God help you." the nurse said promptly. "Through to the left." The door buzzed.

FINDING THE HEART
A Mutant Town Story

Ana found the lockers, found a white coat and a stethoscope, clipped her ID to her pocket and someone rushed into the room, "Doctor, there's a code 288 incoming and we can't find the heart."

Ana didn't know what a code 288 was. Actually, she hoped that 'we can't find the heart' was code for something too. She ran into the ugly hallway. A young man with gray tentacles growing out of his fingers spasmed on a gurney. He was strapped to a body board. The EMTs said, "His sister found him like this." The blood pressure monitor showed he was dead. He screamed at the top of his lungs. "What does he have for blood?" Ana asked a nurse, who looked at her like she was crazy. It wasn't a code. Ana couldn't find the heart either. Everywhere she touched him she felt only slightly warm flesh, her stethoscope only hearing a viscous gurgle as whatever was in his veins pulsed slowly along.

"Fine. All right. Give me oral intubation of fluids, four point restraints, get a history from his friend in the lobby and why is he in the hall?"

"ER's full." said the nurse.

"Turf him to general medicine." said a male voice behind her. She turned. It was some asshole in a ratty cardigan and a badly tied texture tie. He had a five o'clock shadow.

"You can't just shove him up there, he's not stable." Ana insisted.

"I've done it. It's done." said the man in the sweater. By the time she turned around, the gurney was disappearing into the elevator. She ran towards the elevator, calling out, "Run a saliva screen and sweat patch to find out what he's secreting and..." The doors closed. She turned to the man. "Where's the stairs?" she demanded. He looked up the hall. She went up the hall. She ran into the stairwell. Her feet felt heavy when they slammed on the stairs. She rushed out into the hallway as the elevator doors slid open and she yelled, "...and we'll need a genetic workup - get a serum transfusion drip with a large bore needle..." The nurse was so surprised she was nodding even as the door closed.

Ana leaned her head against a wall, gasping for breath. A technician with spines instead of hair was looking at her. "Dude." he said.

"Dude." she said to him.

She went back downstairs. The asshole in the cardigan was leaning on a wall in the ER hallway, talking to an old man in a wheelchair who was throwing up into a bucket. "So we could dry you out, stick you in a room until you dry out, then roll you back onto the street, but you'll just beg enough for another bottle of whiskey, drink it, and end up back here, because you don't grasp that your mutation keeps you from properly metabolizing alcohol."

"Ain't no mutie." growled the old man.

"Right, all twenty two year olds look like they're eighty, throw up raw, undigested alcohol, and can bend steel jail cell bars."

"I was on PCB."

"You mean PCP?"

"Uh, yeah." The old man looked shifty, then looked like he would throw up again.

"Fine, anyway, my point was that there really isn't any point in keeping you here since you're just going to go out and get yourself back into this condition anyway. So I'm just going to dump you back out on the sidewalk."

"I'm sick."

"And I'm prescribing you a bucket." the cardigan guy said. "You'll have to leave the wheelchair, though. It's my favorite one."

"But I'm sick."

"Are you going to stop drinking?"

There was no answer. The asshole shrugged, and told a nurse, "Dump him on the sidewalk." The nurse moved to obey. The man turned to Ana. "Doctor Fidelio," he snapped. "We had three new admits while you were taking your morning run in the stairwell."

Ana said, "But I just got here."

"Oh, do you need more of a warmup?" sneered the man. "Need a morning swim, or a bit of the stairmaster at the health club? Or maybe a couple more med school classes? Why don't you just go home and do some yoga until you're ready to be a doctor?"

Ana glared at him, shaking in humiliation and anger. The nurses and staff were looking away, embarassed for her.

"I'm Doctor Adderson." said the man. "I'm your ER attending. So get started or get lost."

Adderson ambled into his office. Ana trailed behind him - like a puppy dog, she thought bitterly. "Look," Adderson said. "I can tell you have a long, successful, happy career in front of you. Somewhere else. I don't want to get in the way of that. If you put in for a transfer of your residency, I'll sign it."

"Are you firing me?" Ana said.

"No, you're quitting. Aren't you?" Adderson said. "It was a terrible mistake for you to come here." He was pushing patient folders carelessly off his desk onto a pile of other folders. Outside a fire engine siren went screaming by. Ana suddenly became aware that her CV was sitting underneath the patient files. "It's clear to me that you're not just a pretty face. Yale Medical School for god's sake. From a state university, you weren't grandfathered in, you didn't get one of those scholarships by being a dunce and you didn't keep it by being beautiful. But you're at least a pretty face. You could have had any residency you wanted by saying 'Yale' and shaking your ass." He demonstrated, doing a hideous moue and squealing "Yale" in a breathy stripper voice, and shaking his torso in a spastic parody of a dancer.

"Doctor!" snapped Ana, offended. "I worked very hard to..."

"Yes, that's exactly it." Adderson interrupted. "I don't think either of us has any questions about your willingness to work. You demonstrated ably..." He yanked out the CV and tossed it down on the desk. "...that you're willing to do absolutely anything to succeed. This conversation is not about whether you'd be willing to play on your beauty to get what you want, it's that you couldn't possibly have had to in order to work here. Unless maybe you tried somewhere else and the HR guy at the hospital you really wanted to be at was gay?"

Ana was increasingly furious, her hands clutched in fists.

"So look, I don't care who you pissed off, I can call someone, I can get you to whatever city hospital residency you wanted, there's no need for you to waste your time down here with the genetic detritus of..."

"I requested this posting. Sir." she snarled.

Adderson turned to her, suddenly curious, his voice intense. "You don't look insane, and your resume proves you're not stupid, so either you're stalking the remarkably attractive emergent services department head, which is perfectly understandable, or you have another reason. A personal reason."

Ana said, her voice still quivering with anger, "My brother. My brother Carlos. When he was thirteen and I was eight, he started to make light. His body made light. It was like he was made of light sometimes. He could make it into shapes, then into images like television. He did puppet shows for me. I loved them. That's why I'm here."

"Oh, that's a remarkably sweet-smelling pile of shit." Adderson said. "A mutant in the family and so you decided to come help the District X losers? No no. There are thousands of sisters with mutant brothers who never do anything except try to brain them with a crowbar in order to save their soul. There's more."

"He died." Ana said bluntly.

"Of course he did." Adderson said. Then he blinked, and turned widely towards her, leaning across his desk with his blue eyes alight with interest for the first time., knuckles down on the unfinished paperwork that stacked an inch thick . "There was a doctor...The doctor let him die, didn't he? He might have put his stethoscope here or there, or put a thermometer in his mouth, but your brother died because a doctor thought that it was probably better for everyone if he died. He never said it and your parents never said it either, but they were relieved when he died, and you were the only one in the whole house who seemed to care. Maybe you're still the only person on earth who cares that Carlos died. And that's why you're here."

Ana's mouth fell open. "How did you know...?"

Adderson shrugged. "You hadn't walked out yet. I must remind you of someone you really loathe."

Ana set her shoulders. "I'm not here to argue with you and I'm not here to loathe you. I'm here to treat patients. Who..."

"You're here to treat injuries and diseases, doctor." Adderson said. "Not patients. The patients are going to hate you because you have a pretty face and because when the next wave of giant purple death robots hits, they'll stop laser beaming things to let you cross the street. Hey, by the way, the rest of the city is going to hate you too, because they don't think there's anyone in this hospital worth keeping alive. So don't come into here expecting you'll find some kind of emotional fulfillment."

"I don't." Ana said. "I'm getting awfully curious about why you don't want me here, though." She crossed her arms firmly.

"Just go pick up your pager and get into some scrubs. There's a dispenser outside the locker room. There's no way you can wear anything else in a public ER. Consulting, yes. Not in the ER. Go."

At the door she said, "How do you find the heart on someone with no circulatory system?"

"You already know." Adderson said. "Pull whatever they've got out of their body and put more of it in. You've read MacTaggart's text on mutant physiology?"

"Yes." she said. "Five times. Is there something else I should study?"

"There's nothing else. No studies. No data. No cases. Nothing." Adderson said. "After MacTaggart is you and me. Past us? Just God. Just God. Go."

She went.