After The Final Decision
It was morning in New Marais. Cole had gotten up early and feeling restless, he took to the rooftops, glancing down at the streets under him as he passed over them. The Beast, was no more. As a college drop-out, Cole hadn't understood much of what Kuo and Zeke had been babbling about while going over Dr. Wolfe's notes. While they were talking about how to respond to John's offer; killing non-conduits to save conduits from the plague, they at some point figured it was no plague at all.
Ray field radiation was the cause of the plague. That was the key, the breakthrough they needed. As Cole understood it, this meant it was not a plague as in a virus or bacteria screwing your system over. It was your system failing because it got too much Ray field radiation in it. The plague was an acute radiation syndrome unknown to mainstream science. No wonder, since Ray Sphere technology wasn't really high on the list of things mainstream science looked at.
Kuo deduced that in the chaos and confusion, John had mistakenly assumed that there was a plague after seeing so many people sick, with the same symptoms and in the same area or city if you will. The government was no different, as they had no means to explain what was causing the destruction, let alone the thousands of ill people. It was all unknown to them, so they grabbed the closest thing that made sense and went with that until that would be proven wrong.
Both Empire City and New Marais had been exposed to the same scenario – Ray Sphere detonation, hundreds of highly radioactive blast shards (or Rayacite as Kuo still called them) scattered all over town and lastly, John stomping around as a colossal man of magma. All these things turned both cities into an area with high concentration of ray field radiation. Zeke commented that it was like being inside Prypiat when the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant went boom.
With this information, they could fine tune a countermeasure against John's extreme solution. Cole was skeptical that he could convince John to see things their way, even with Kuo's help. Besides, even if they could, there was no telling what would happen to John afterward. A walking, sentient and near all powerful weapon of mass destruction that also had a chance of generating super soldiers by firing off would be too dangerous in the hands of any government.
Since they were talking about radiation, Zeke compared some raw data that Kuo managed to dig up through some old contacts in the NSA, with that of the late Dr Wolfe. The radiation from a regular Ray Sphere blast site and that from where John had been were a little different in frequency. Zeke explained that with its current configuration, the Ray Field Inhibitor is set to a wider frequency range, which is why it sucked out the ray field radiation out of everything and everyone.
Based on this, he also meant that it would be possible to tune the Ray Field Inhibitor to a more narrow frequency, that unique to John. That way, they could fire it up and take out only John. It had been a close call, but that's how they did it. Kuo and Nix bought Cole and Zeke as much time as they could, before the final showdown at the steps of New Marais majestic cathedral. Weakened from fighting two experienced Conduits along with all of Laroche's remaining men, John was brought to his knees and Cole started up the Ray Field Inhibitor. And that was, as they say it, all there was to it.
From here on they had to find a way to deal with all the sick people. Treatment of acute radiation syndrome is generally supportive with blood transfusions and antibiotics. However, when dealing with ray field radiation, these methods didn't prove to be too effective. Part of it could be blamed on the circumstances that they found themselves in.
Over half the city was sick, so that reduced the number of people they could use for blood transfusions dramatically. Antibiotics was hard to come by as the city was cut off from the outside world. Heck, the whole east coast was cut off, thus getting a large supply of antibiotics would be hard to say the least. On top of that there was the issue with all the hundreds of Conduits that John had activated during his rampage down the coast.
Thankfully, in New Marais John hadn't gone all out. Yes, he had given Cole a quick demonstration of what he'd been doing and why, but it didn't take out the city. Just a relatively large warehouse and killing all the people inside it, except for that one lady and Cole himself. Cole wasn't quite sure if John was alive, dead or something in-between. At any rate, there were four Conduits in New Marais; Cole, Kuo, Nix and that unknown flying lady that John created, activated or saved or however you wish to put it.
Sitting down on top of an air conditioner at some random rooftop, Cole decided to take a breather. Things were a mess, no doubt about it. Empire City had been a mess, but at least that was just a single city. Now... things were so much bigger, so much worse. Where do you start when you wish to clean up such a mess? The air suddenly went cold and a faint breeze stroked against Cole's bare neck. «Morning Kuo.» He said over his shoulder.
She walked around on his left hand side. «Do you have eyes at the back of your head?» She asked with a light tone. «Oh no. It's just that you're the only one I know that can drop the air temperature so fast.» He chuckled while turning to face her. «A lot on your mind?» Kuo asked, sounding seriously concerned. Cole nodded. Yeah, he had a lot on his mind. He let his eyes glide towards his right, looking towards the horizon.
«How's Zeke?» He asked after a minute of calm silence. «Worse.» Kuo replied quickly and sympathetically. That stung. No, that hurt. It stabbed like hell in his gut, in his heart. First he'd lost Trish and now Zeke was next? Because what he'd become he was damned to be alone or let those getting too close be hurt and killed? Cole wanted to crack up, explode and fall to pieces. He wanted to scream, cry, yell and just let it all out so bad his clenched fists were trembling.
It didn't happen. Kuo was right there, just a few feet away. As her senior as far as Conduit powers went, if he lost it in front of her now, she'd loose her last anchor point too. Cole was quite sure that Nix would soon follow, despite all that tough attitude she put up, that was one thing she couldn't handle. He had become the glue that held them together, the pillar they all leaned on. Question was, who could he lean on if Zeke died?
He noticed that Kuo was silently holding her breath. Guess this is why Zeke always stripped me down to my trunks in poker, he thought to himself. Cole took of his bag and started fumbling around inside it, looking for something. He fished up a pair of dented coke can. «Want one?» He offered Kuo with a half smile. Kuo let out her breath through her nose, icy vapor forming a small cloud around her mouth and nose. Putting her hands behind her back, she smiled slightly and silently shook her head a little.
«Suit yourself.» Cole shrugged and put one can away before opening the other. Much to his surprise, the coke shot out a steam of foam straight to his face the moment the cap was opened. Soaked and baffled, Cole made weird faces as the coke can settled and the soda rippled down his face. At that point Kuo burst out laughing and Cole soon joined her. The tension was gone and the air was filled with honest, joyful laughter for the first time since the two had met.
Running his hand over his face to wipe off the coke, Cole sighed and chuckled a little to himself. «I should have seen that one coming. It's not like I took the bus up here.» He admitted, as if he'd lost a bet. Taking a sip, he made another sour face. «It's warm! Guess the morning sun in New Marais was not going easy on it.» He complained. Kuo stepped up and poked the can with a single finger, making sure not to touch Cole's hand.
The can surface began to chill and water drops started to form on its dented and scratched surface. «How's that? Better?» She asked him, taking a step back. Cole took another sip and smiled at her. «Yeah, just great. Thanks.» He told her. The coke was frozen solid inside the can, but Cole didn't tell her that. A white lie to keep the mood from crashing, that much must be allowed he thought to himself.
There was another minute of silence. Things had been hectic lately. Heck, things are still hectic, so Cole and Kuo enjoyed every moment of rest, peace and quiet they could get. True enough, it didn't take long before Cole's phone rang. Laroche's number, that can't be good, Cole thought before he answered. «Sorry to call first thing in the morning, but you better start looking for Nix.» Laroche said. «What is it she's done this time?» Cole almost groaned as Nix was no stranger to go out of her way to do things her way. «It's the RFI, she took it and went to look for some flying girl.» Laroche replied, seriously worried.
Kuo and Cole exchanged looks, both of them worried. Nix was against John's plan to create more Conduits from the start and wasn't too happy with the idea that she was no longer special since John had created Conduits on his way to New Marais. Armed with the RFI, she might do something rash. «She... she can't do anything, right? I mean, the RFI is tuned to John's radiation frequency and he's dead.» Kuo's voices slid from worried to scared.
Cole thought it over. Kuo had a point and that thing still needed power enough for a small nuclear power-plant to work. Without getting it re-tuned and hooked up to a big enough power source, I was nothing but a fancy paper weight. «Okay, Laroche. I'll start looking for her.» Cole replied before he hung up. He put the coke can away and strapped on his back-pack again. «Duty calls.» He sighed to Kuo. «Right behind you, coach.» She smiled.