06 - Medic!

The trip to the command center was certainly easier than what they'd faced so far. The humans had a stronger presence here and mobile AA guns kept the Qularr ships mostly at bay. PRIMUS soldiers stood guard at the entrance and waved them in as they approached.

Inside it was a madhouse. Refugees, cops, soldiers, and random city functionaries scurried around the ground floor. Cataclysm was looking around for someone to talk to when a man approached. "Come, come. This way. We have a relief center right down this hall with food and drink and medical care. It's all okay now."

Cataclysm violently shook off his hand as he tried to guide her towards one of the corridors. "She is trying to find a friend," she said with a nod to Melanie.

"If anyone is here, they'll be in the relief center."

"What about animals? Is someone collecting strays?"

"Yes, there is a woman from the shelter who is taking rescued animals. Now if you'll just come this way..."

Cataclysm again shook off his hand. She said to Melanie, "Go with him he'll get you with your friend." She took the briefcase and laptop from the dazed girl.

Melanie looked like she was about to faint. "Um, ok," she said and let herself be led away, clutching the cat carrier.

Cataclysm looked around impatiently and approached the nearest cop. "I need to see the mayor. Where is he?"

He turned to her and startled when he saw her. "The mayor is very busy right now. Go to the relief center. They'll take care of..." He frowned. He turned his head and bellowed, "Hey, MacAvoy. Is this the one?"

Cataclysm turned and saw a familiar face pushing his way through the crowd. "You made it," he said incredulously. "And you have the emergency plans!" He reached out for them.

She snatched them away. "I'll give these to the mayor himself, not some flunky who's just going to lose them."

MacAvoy snapped, "You give me those right now or..." He stopped himself and frowned. "All right. Biselle may want to see you anyhow. Come on."

MacAvoy led her downstairs into a basement storage area that had been converted to a command center. The place was crawling with cops and they all watched Cataclysm suspiciously as she followed MacAvoy through the crowd. The ended up at the desk of a harried, middle-aged black man who was talking to the police chief. "We might need to pull the MARS teams out of there and redirect them to the attacks from the south," he was saying.

"Mr. Mayor," MacAvoy said, " I need to speak with you urgently."

Biselle turned to them and, though his eyes flicked briefly to Cataclysm, he was too tired to do more than raise his eyebrows. Cataclysm dropped the two cases on his desk. "You need to take better care of your shit."

His eyes widened as he looked at them. "The emergency plans. Where did you...? Chief, we may have a chance after all." The mayor fished in his pocket for a key to open the briefcase while the chief pulled out the laptop and started hooking it up.

Cataclysm waited impatiently while they clustered around the computer. She was just about to leave when the mayor tore himself away. "Thank you so much. You have no idea how much this is going to help our efforts against the Qularr." He held out his hand, but Cataclysm just sneered at it. Smoothly he dropped his hand and said, "Well, I'm glad to the people of Millenium City can put aside their differences and work together in this time of crisis. No matter where we live or what our-"

Cataclysm's sharp response was bitten off as a woman's voice from behind her said, "Dad, dad. They found Melanie." A young black woman rushed up to the mayor. "She's pretty shaken up by this whole thing but I think she'll be okay." She caught sight of Cataclysm. "Wait, was it you?" She stepped forward like she was going to give Cataclysm a hug and then thought better of it. "I'm sorry but I don't know your name. Melanie said it was, and I quote, 'Catwoman or something like that'."

"Cataclysm," the Maniac growled.

"Yeah, that makes a little more sense. My god, I was so worried about her and I figured there was no chance we'd ever find her. She said you were incredible, though!" She turned back to the mayor. "Dad, she's a meta. Melanie said she single-handedly beat dozens of Qularr. Look I gotta get back to Melanie. I just wanted to let you know she was okay." She scurried off.

Biselle turned to Cataclysm. "I have to add my personal thanks to my official gratitude. Melanie is a friend of the family and we were very worried about her. But having another metahuman will really help our efforts. I need you to reinforce the barricades to the south. We are having trouble holding Michigan Avenue against-"

"I don't work for you," she snapped.

Biselle was taken aback but again recovered quickly. "Of course, of course. My apologies. You've already done more than I could expect in defense of the city. Is there anything we can do? You look like you could use a doctor."

"I just need to know if there is a clear shot between here and the Champions building."

"Yes, yes. If you could help out the defense there that would also be wonderful. Chief? Show her the best way to Champions Headquarters." He gave her his best politician's smile and turned back to his computer.

Surhoff's attitude wasn't as friendly as the mayor's but he took her over to a map on the wall. "You don't want to head down Woodward. That's where the paramedics are pinned down. You'd be better off heading down Griswold-"

"Paramedics?" she asked sharply. "What about them?"

"The Qularr troops have been targeting ambulances. There is a group trapped here," he tapped the map. "We sent PRIMUS in but they got overwhelmed and are now pinned down with the paramedics. As I was saying, if you head..."

Targeting ambulances? Cataclysm's usual frown deepened. There was a rule on Westide: paramedics were off limits. Gang fighting stopped when an ambulance came through the area. After all, you might be their next passenger. Just a couple months ago a Cobra Lords newbie had hit a paramedic with a stray gunshot. The Cobra Lords had...well, the stories about what they did to the gang member were probably exaggerated.

Cataclysm had heard what she needed to. She exited the room, leaving Surhoff talking to empty air.

Cataclysm eyed the hospital as she exited the building. Everything hurt, especially her ribs. That one worried her the most but she wasn't coughing up blood yet so she was probably fine. As much as she wanted to rest, she also wanted so burn a few more bugs.

She jogged down the street towards Woodward Avenue. The area was clear of Qularr but she had to keep an eye out for the ships that occasionally made strafing runs. When she turned onto the wide avenue she saw a PRIMUS barricade a block ahead. She crouched a bit lower as she ran but there didn't seem to be any bugs around. As she neared the PRIMUS squad she could see Qularr further down the road, though they weren't interested in the PRIMUS troops.

She reached the sandbags and crouched down next to the soldiers. She didn't have much problem with PRIMUS since they focused on the big threats like supervillains--and alien invasions--and left the gangs alone. "What the situation?" she asked.

The squad leader turned to her, hesitated slightly and then said, "Holding position. The bugs aren't hitting us very hard here."

"What about that?" she pointed to the activity down the road.

"Some ambulances are trapped in there. A PRIMUS squad went to help but they got pinned down too."

"So? Why are you sitting here?"

"I have my orders."

"I hope that's consolation when you get shot by the bugs and bleed to death because you didn't have the balls to save the medics. Get off your ass and get out there!"

He clenched his jaw. "Okay, even I agreed with you, I can't disobey my orders."

"Oh? Your radio is working then?"

"Well, no. They've been using runners to pass messages."

"So I could claim to be a runner with new orders. And you'd have no idea if I was lying."

He looked at the Qularr and then back at her. "I suppose so." He added dryly, "You certainly look trustworthy enough. If you're out here alone you must be a meta." She nodded. "Will you support us if we go in?'

"No, but you can support me. You take your squad down the left and I'll go right. I go in hot and fast and you provide covering fire."

Hotly he said, "Hey, gang-banger, I might be willing to look the other way about some things but I'm in command of this squad!"

"Then I'm sure you realize that if you go down the left you'll have a clear shot at the Qularr without risking hitting the trapped civilians while if you shoot from the right they will be right in the line of fire. And you realize that the browns and blacks I wear will blend into the color of rubble littering the right side of the street while your uniforms would blend better with the cover on the left. Plus I see at least eight good firing positions on the left and only one or two on the right, and they are damn close to the bugs."

The squad leader looked out over the street and then back at her. "Okay, that's actually a pretty good tactical evaluation." He looked out over the street again. "All right, we'll do it your way."

"Good. Don't start firing until I do. I'll draw them out into the middle of the street so you get a better shot. And I'm going to get in close so don't shoot me."

The Qularr were focused on the barricaded paramedics so Cataclysm was able to advance quickly along the street. One time she dropped to the ground as a bug turned her way, but it just scanned the area and then turned back. Cataclysm reached the position she had been eyeing without a problem.

She could see six ambulances that had been parked to create a rough barricade against the wall of a building. About fifteen Qularr were attacking the vehicle barricade with their bare hands, crazed like the others. She could see a handful of PRIMUS soldiers beating at them with the butts of their rifles; they must be out of ammo. The heavy ambulances gave them enough cover to hold off the bugs but they wouldn't be able to last long.

One of the Qularr was truly massive, easily nine feet tall, and built like a boulder. She figured that must be the leader so she targeted him. She wanted to avoid hitting the paramedics so she took careful aim at the bug's head. Right as she fired it shifted its stance, and her shot glanced off its shoulder.

It hissed and turned. The thing spotted Cataclysm immediately but rather than charging it chattered and the other bugs surged towards her. She started peppering them with fire as they crossed the avenue and dropped three. She was getting a little nervous, but the PRIMUS troops finally opened up. Their gunfire ripped through the now exposed bugs. The smaller bugs all fell, but the massive one thundered across the ground towards her.

Cataclysm leapt to her feet as it closed, hitting it with blast after blast of fire, but it wouldn't go down. The PRIMUS troops stopped firing, afraid of hitting her she assumed, and suddenly it was upon her. It grabbed her torso with its claws and squeezed. Cataclysm grunted as she felt her bones creak under its grip. It lifted her towards its massive mandibles. Cataclysm reached out, grabbed behind each mandible and drove fire into its head from both sides. Even after the flame burst through its shell, it continued to lift her towards its mouth. Then it toppled back, Cataclysm still in its claws, and fell heavily to the street.

It wasn't moving but it didn't loosen its grip either. Cataclysm struggled to get free, choking on the smell of fried bug brains, and it finally took three of the PRIMUS soldiers to pry her out of its claws. She could see the ambulances were starting up and the soldiers were preparing to escort them. One paramedic came up and said, "Let me take a look at you."

"I'm fine," Cataclysm said, waving the woman off.

The paramedic grabbed her arm. When Cataclysm tried to pull away, she said, "Hold still, you big baby." She jabbed Cataclysm's arm with a vial. Cataclysm felt a sharp pain and then something spreading through her bicep. "Healing patch," the paramedic said. "Stimulants, pain killers, and a few other things to keep you going. Not a substitute for a real doctor." She slapped a couple more into Cataclysm's hand. "You didn't get those from me," she said with a wink and then hurried back to one of the ambulances.

The convoy looked to be in safe hands so Cataclysm headed towards the Champions building.