The Purgatorio Virus
The Purgatorio Virus
By P.M. Griffin
Tags Epidemic, Virus, Medicine, Hospital, Isolation Ward, Medical Rescue Work
Release June 29, 2015
Editor Christine I. Speakman
Line Editor Les Tucker
Cover Designer Charlotte Volnek
A chance meeting with an old friend alerts Hank Roland of the Federation Disease Study and Control Service to a terrible danger to the city on the planet Inferno to which he has been assigned—a highly lethal, extremely infectious virus for which there is no natural immunity, no vaccine, and no cure. Knowing it is already too late to stop the epidemic, Hank frantically works with the Commissioner of Public Health and his assistant, Weslee Travaine, to mount the battle against it in a desperate effort to save as many lives as possible and to prevent its spread beyond the city. Victories are few, and the pestilence rages unchecked throughout a long, hot summer. Unless a cure can be found, all twelve million people within the stricken metropolis will die.
The woman leaned back against the seat and closed her eyes, trying to will away her awareness of the heat shimmering in the sweltering vehicle. The morning was not old, but it was murderously hot already, and the temperature was climbing almost by the minute. Even the rare breeze wafting through the open windows was more than warm.
Hank would be well sick before the day was very old, she thought wearily. He, like most space-bred individuals, had little tolerance for this kind of weather, and the interior of these buildings was like an old-time furnace. It could get bad enough that he would be forced to permit her to go inside in his stead. That had happened on a couple of occasions previously when he had become too ill to accomplish anything himself.
Weslee did not relish that possibility. She performed almost no better under these conditions despite having spent her life in Olympus, not as well at all since she could not carry the same weight, and both would leave their day’s work with the sour feeling that they had failed many they should have been able to help. Some would no longer be living when they returned for them tomorrow.
A shriek shocked her out of her reverie. Her head instinctively snapped toward the building next to that in which the FDSCS man was working as the sound was repeated.
It was high-pitched. A woman or else an older child or an adolescent was nearby and in the terror-grip of the virus.
The Infernite hurried from the ambulance and ran toward the tenement in question. A glance through the plastiglass of the door revealed a shadowed form lying against the wall of the vestibule, but the blinding light filling the street made it impossible for her to discern any further detail in the dark hall.
She reached the figure, that of a heavy-set man, in another moment but drew back from it even as she knelt to begin her examination. The stench issuing from it was evidence that no sound had come from this source for a long time.
Weslee was given no opportunity to seek further. She screamed as powerful arms closed around her, dragging her to her feet.
Struggle as she would, she could not break free of her assailant, who seemed oblivious both to her kicks, some of which she knew to have been well placed, and to the screams she continued to utter, although she had little hope of anyone’s coming to her aid.
After a seeming eternity that was actually only a few minutes in length, they passed through the building out into the unfenced, litter-filled courtyard behind it. Seconds after that, her arms were bound with circulation-stopping force to the tall utility pole rising out of its center.
For the first time, she saw her abductor. He was a demiadult, a young man in his mid or late teens, as beautiful as it was possible for a human male of this age to be and still retain his masculinity.
His skin was nearly as fair as her own though slightly unhealthy in its pallor, as if it had not been exposed to sunlight or even to open air for many long months. The hair was a glorious golden blond, unkempt but curling of its own accord around the neck and shoulders. The features were very thin, as were his bare arms, but it was a leanness that suited them, for they were delicately chisled and of a naturally ascetic cast. His eyes were widely spaced, and their color was the palest blue.
The woman shivered to see them. They revealed the secret of his strength and the reason why none of her blows had told on him. Light such as blazed in them never originated in any normally functioning mind.
“Beautiful,” he murmured as he pulled her mask down, “beautiful beyond hope or words.”
His gaze ranged the face and body of his captive, but he did not seem to undress her in his mind. Whatever his reason for taking her prisoner, she did not believe rape was part of his plan.
Neither fear nor resistance had accomplished anything for her, and so she drew on her will to force herself to speak naturally. “Why have you brought me here?” she asked as if in simple conversation.
His answer came readily and quite without any trace of overwhelming emotion. “The Grim Commandant is in the city. He has turned his Death’s Dagger loose, and they won’t leave again until a fitting sacrifice is made to them. What could be better than someone already chosen to do their work?”
Weslee stared at him. “If I were working for them, wouldn’t killing me only make them all the angrier?” she asked in completely spontaneous surprise.
The youth’s face clouded as he considered what she said, but then it cleared, and he drew an ugly-looking knife from his belt. “You want to live, of course. I don’t blame you for that.”
Her eyes closed as he brought the point of her knife to her breast, pressing it against the tough material of the defensive surgical overtunic she wore outside her own clothing. She had been willing to risk the Purgatorio Virus, but to have to die like this, to be murdered…
He seemed truly distressed by her fear. “I won’t hurt you much. I promise it will be easy.” He moved the knife away and held it up. “See, I’ll cut your throat instead. That will be faster.”