Valinda “Seeker” Vasquez
The sun was close to the horizon, giving her about an hour to get in and out. With a final look back at Kyanna and Mou-Man, she waved and continued across the Multimart carpark. There were only a couple of cars left and both were missing tyres. Seeker was observant by nature and she noticed things like this all the time; the traces and echoes of chaos and fear. She would never know the beginnings and ends of all these stories and she wasn’t sure she wanted too.
There wasn’t much left of SLUH (San Lazaro University Hospital). As a nurse, Seeker had been one of hundreds of staff at an institution that daily treated thousands of the city’s inhabitants. In fact, so good was the hospital’s reputation that many patients came from outside the state for specialist treatment and the student doctors hailed from a dozen different countries.
Nobody seemed sure what had caused the massive explosion that destroyed most of the building days earlier. Theories ranged from an air strike, a massive IED or a gas leak. Seeker was at least glad that the hospital had by then been evacuated for some time. The destruction hadn’t stopped people – her included – raiding the place for much needed medicines and equipment. Even now, it was possible that she might find something valuable. Kyanna and Mou-Man had wanted to accompany her but she knew the layout and could move quicker without them.
Once through the carpark, she paused beside a yellow city bus and checked the area. Other than a couple of crazies ambling along the street, she was clear. Seeker carefully crossed behind them and climbed over the low wall that surrounded the hospital grounds. On the way to what remained of the building, she passed an abandoned wheelchair, a rusty motorbike and two decaying corpses. More stories; none of them good.
SLUH consisted of a twelve-story block plus several wings that had been added over the years. Some high sections of the main structure remained which left the constant danger of further collapse. Seeker had already raided A wing and now jogged straight to C, which had only been partially destroyed (B had been obliterated by the blast). She found her way to an open door she had noted on a previous visit and slipped inside. It was tempting to use a flashlight but that might easily attract unwanted attention. Having studied a wall-mounted map, she swiftly made her way to the pharmacy.
When she found the door shut and still locked, Seeker smiled; she had got here first. Taking a heavy hammer from her pack, she smashed through the lock and opened the door. It pained her to make so much noise but there was no easy alternative.
Within she found dozens of shelves and cabinets packed with drugs. This was quite a find. Just as she was deciding what to go for first, Seeker heard movement in the corridor outside. She reached swiftly for her machete but by the time she was ready to use it, there was a revolver pointing at her face.
The man in the doorway was white and no more than twenty. He was wearing black clothes and a black cap and chewing gum manically.
‘Thanks for helping me find this place.’
Seeker lowered the machete and decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. The crisis had brought out the worst in people but perhaps he was a decent person.
‘I’m Valinda. What’s your name?’
‘What do you care?’
‘We don’t have to be enemies.’
‘We won’t be. As long as you do as I say. Drop the blade.’
‘I need something called DAVP. As much as there is.’ He pointed the revolver towards the shelves. ‘Go fetch.’
‘You mean DDAVP, right? For haemophilia?’
It didn’t take her long to find it; all of SLUH’s pharmacies were arranged the same way. She returned with the whole supply – eight boxes. The young man took off his backpack and opened it up. Valinda obediently dropped the boxes in.
‘How do you know what it is?’ he asked.
‘I’m a nurse.’
‘Oh.’ He raised the gun and aimed at her once again. ‘Then I’m sorry. Wish I didn’t have to do this.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘I wish I didn’t have to kill you. I’m going to come back later and take everything from here. Can’t risk you taking it first.’
‘We can share it. There’s enough.’
‘This stuff is worth more than money now - more than anything. I need it.’
Listen, I promise I’ll never come back here. It’s all yours. Just let me go.’
The young man wiped sweat off his face then shook his head.
‘Can’t do it.’
‘I can give you something more,’ offered Seeker. ‘Information.’
He frowned. ‘About what?’
‘I’ve treated dozens of hemophiliacs. The DDAVP may not be enough.’
‘Only if you let me go. Swear it.’
Again, he took his time to answer. ‘I swear.’ He lowered the gun.
‘Who is the medicine for?’ asked Seeker.
‘There’s a man. A man with a big house - a safe house. His daughter is ill. He sent us all out to look for medicine. If I bring it to him, he’ll let me stay there for a while. I’ll be safe.’
‘Okay. You will also need some anti-fibrolynitics – they prevent clots from breaking down. Perhaps some sealant too. I can show you.’
He nodded and followed her to the shelf. Seeker took his pack from him and filled it up with the medication.
‘There are instructions inside,’ she added. ‘Nothing complicated. I expect this man will be grateful. I hope he lets you stay.’
Seeker detected a change in him; a shame at his earlier threats. She had learned as a nurse that kindness and calmness could appease even the most unpredictable and desperate people.
‘What’s your name?’ she asked.
Now she knew she would escape this encounter alive. ‘Jonathan, can I go?’
He slipped the gun into a pocket. ‘You don’t have to. Stay if you want. Take whatever you need. I’m sorry. Really.’’
He was already through the door when he looked back. ‘What was your name again?’
‘Thank you, Valinda.’