While mishaps with MRI machines are common, one of them exploding is a rare occurrence, and doing so while inside the hospital was completely unprecedented. Thus, the blast which gutted Sunrise Hospital was a one-of-a-kind event, to which there were unfortunately (for science and journalism) no direct witnesses. It would be judged most probable that concentrated oxygen, created by cooling from a release of liquid helium coolant, caused or greatly magnified a fire in the machine's circuitry. This, in turn, led to a failure of the machine shell and an instant release of the remaining helium, which displaced the liquid oxygen. The immediate result was a massive shockwave that shattered every window, scattered pieces of the machine through most of the hospital, damaged masonry, ignited secondary fires and explosions with displaced oxygen and made support beams buckle and bend like Dali's stopwatch. This was followed almost immediately by an enormous backdraft that sent a miniature mushroom cloud through the roof. Then, slowly but surely, the building collapsed.
The party made it into an adjacent clinic just as the windows shattered, and were thus sheltered from the worst effects of the blast. There was a steady patter of falling debris, and dust and smoke hung in a thick fog outside.
"Could any of the Pariahs have made it out?" Columbus said.
Ketch shook his head. "No. They were all down before I left. I took care of Alice myself, while she was coming up behind you, by the way. Don't you have any sense of smell?"
"Well, how was I to know she should steal a nurse's uniform?" Columbus said defensively.
"Steal?? She was a nurse!"
Wichita looked between her husband and Jack Ketch and demanded,"You have to tell me, now, what happened in there?" Her angry tone left little doubt that she knew the answer well enough.
It was Columbus who spoke: "When you were around, the Pariahs couldn't take full advantage of their sense of smell. They couldn't tell him apart from their trained zombies, or detect me coming up behind."
"You smell," Ketch said apologetically. "Nothing personal."
Wichita's shoulders heaved with deep breaths. "That's why you told him to bring me along," she said coldly. Turning to her husband, she continued, "And you figured it out, and then you let me come anyway." She finished in a sudden crescendo: "You used a pregnant woman as BAIT!!"
Ketch scratched his head. "Well... technically speaking, you were more like a duck blind."
Wichita punched her husband in the breast bone, with enough force to make him stagger and cough. "I'm going to make you pay. Next time I have you in bed, it's going to hurt, it's going to be disgusting, and I'm going to make you like it." She whirled around to Jack Ketch, who had just decided to mosey over to the door. "And you, you disgusting piece of – Oh, yeah, you'd better cut and run, because if I ever see you again, I'll-"
"They're coming," Strangelove said. Her soft, calm words were enough to silence Wichita. The helicopter was approaching, and the zombie swarm was following Figures were emerging from the cloud. Scores. Hundreds. All were headed directly for the front door. Columbus and Wichita threw the locks, and overturned a receptionist's desk to block the doors. Two tanks from the water cooler were set down against the desk for further resistance. Columbus tore down a five-foot curtain rod and wielded it like a pike. Wichita wound and reloaded the boing stick Strangelove shouted to the leper: "Ketch! What can we do?"
He turned back just long enough to say: "Keep her alive as long as you can. I think you'll find things will work out in the end."
As the zombies came into view, they went from marching to jogging, so that they hit the doors at a run. Glass shattered, and soon hands were pushing at the desk. Wichita fired the boing stick, while Columbus clubbed and thrust with the rod, but the onslaught continued, and the desk was pushed slowly back. Behind them, there was the sound of a rear entrance opening. Columbus swore and turned in time to swing at a zombie emerging from a dark corridor. The zombie ducked, and the rod broke against the wall. Only then did he register the Packers jersey. "Chucky Cheesehead!" he exclaimed. He thrust out the rod as Chucky lunged, and impaled the Apostate on the jagged end. Chucky only pushed his way closer, until Wichita struck him on the ear with a fire extinguisher. "That," Wichita muttered to Strangelove, "is why he needs me." One of the tanks tipped over, and the desk began to slide back faster on the left side. A zombie slid between the desk and the wall. Wichita turned to her husband with tears in her eyes. "Austin, I-"
"Tell me later," he said. With a thrust, he pinned the zombie to the wall Suddenly, the zombies' advance faltered. The helicopter circled directly overhead, distracting them and throwing their ranks into disorder. Then there was a sound of approaching trucks, and gunfire. A score of vehicles pulled up, not just from Circus Circus but from Sahara Casino, Treasure Island and even the Freemont Street Alliance. The besieging zombies were quickly encircled, by the vehicles and by a hundred men who laughed as they fired at will.
Wihin half an hour, Columbus spoke to Chief Sahara amid the carnage. "We figured, as long as this many zombies were in the open, we ought to use the opportunity," the Chief said. "We sent out a request for assistance, and, well, things sort of snowballed." He chuckled. "I'll tell you the damnedest thing. Three of my deputies saw Andy Capp walk out of the hospital just before it blew. One of them swears he was carrying some kinda pistol." Wichita put her head in her hands.