She paced the dirty tiled floors of the clinic. Dani had been admitted and rushed to the ICU room - why the hell was this taking so long? She=d sat for awhile, flipped through one of the National Geographic magazines, absently read an article on wolves, then tossed it aside as she stepped up to ask the elderly nurse at the administration desk if there was any word about her friend. In a pinched nasal tone, the nurse told her she'd have to wait, it was too early to tell.
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Urrrgh! Screw waiting...what was going on back there? Risha's hands tore through her dark mane of hair, having removed it's ponytail. An exasperated sigh escaped her lips as she strode up to the nurses station once again."Is there any word on my friend, Danielle St. Blanc yet?"
"Not since you asked ten minutes ago, Miss. Try to calm down and be patient."@
"Patient?" Her brows shot up. "My friend could be dying in there for all I know and I'm supposed to be patient about it?! Screw that!"
The nurse's pinch-faced expression increased its severity. "If you don't change your attitude, I'm going to have to ask you to wait outside-do I make myself clear? The instant Dr. Strand knows any more of the situation, he'll be the first to inform you but right now he's doing all he can for Miss St. Blanc. Throwing a tantrum isn't going to help the situation."
There was that. Still, Risha hated feeling this helpless. She stormed away from the nurses section, back to the waiting room area. Hairs at the back of her neck rose as a wave of anxiety stabbed her in the gut. Retrovirus outbreaks had been known to start just like this. Don't go there yet, her inner voice urged. Too early to jump to conclusions. For all you know Dani could just have a really bad flu or mono virus, and you're getting worked up for nothing. Possibly, but somehow she doubted it was just a bad case of influenza...
That was just it. She didn't know. All the more reason to fear the worst. Risha couldn't just sit and read, or watch the talk show on the tv. She paced a bit more, then absently glanced up at one of the clinic's sponsor posters on the wall. The image depicted a small child, maybe seven, a bored expression on her face, surrounded by a medical care staff of nurses and interns, their smiles a little too plastic to be believable. Nugenica Pharmaceuticals, the bold-faced caption read, Protecting Our Future.
Risha blinked, her eyes clouded over as fragments of memory forced their way to
the surface: "Though a series of battery emissions and exposure, Subject 2112 has proven immune to the effects of radiation and monoxide poisons, t-cell count continues to accelerate as her body adapts and attempts to purge itself of the toxins."
A flash of light - shined in her eyes by a slender, dark-haired woman in a white lab coat, eyes obscured by mirrored lenses. The woman stroked the young girl's hair maternally and turned to the other doctors. "Enough. Do not forget this one contains patterns of my own DNA."
The woman turned to her, aware of the fearful look in the child's eyes. "You survive because you are special, one of few chosen, an evolutionary step in the
race you belong to. I've decided on your name, young one...it shall be Risha, meaning; Sacred One in Hindi. You are the ultimate survivor, gifted beyond measure. Take care never to forget that."
The woman let go of the child's hair."Proceed to the next test." She commanded the others. A middle-aged,portly man readied a syringe and took hold of Risha's small arm. A pain-wracked glare flared upon her face as he stuck the needle in her vein and drew blood...
She reeled back in shock, nearly lost her footing and sank down into a plastic chair. Her wiry form trembled uncontrollably as she buried her head in her hands and fought back tears. It had been eleven years ago but felt like yesterday, over and over again...
"What's your problem?" A cynical teenage voice sneered. Startled, Risha lifted up her tear-stained face to meet the glare of a grungily-dressed waif of a girl perhaps a year or so her junior. The girl's disheveled black hair hung in a frizzed mass over her eyes and down the collar of her stained flannel that smelled of alcohol. Her pale hands held a switchblade she was using to clean her nails.
"My problem?" Risha growled. "My problem is I've got a friend in there who's dying for all I know - that good enough for you?"
The street waif shrugged in a world-weary fashion. "People die all the time in this world, friends, parents, lovers, strangers...so the old story goes. You get used to it." She stretched her bony legs in their baggy jeans and sneakers further across the tiled floor, chuckling as the rubber soles made a streaking sound similar to tires squealing.
"I don't just get used to it." Risha shot back, her frame bolt upright. "So why
are you here- I thought the day shelter was open by now."
"You don't know a damn thing about me!" The shabbily dressed girl sprang to her feet and leveled the blade at Risha. "So don't be coppin' judgement when you're on the wrong end of a..."
Pure reflex memory. Risha was on her feet and seized hold of the girl's bony wrist, her neurosynapses erupting in rapid fire as her other hand grasped the girl's forearm, twisted it round with minimal force. The switchblade clattered to the floor as Risha stepped in close and leveled her gaze at the slightly
shorter girl. "Don't do that again." She warned, tone simple and direct as she released the girl and stepped back slightly.
Arliss blinked, stunned. "Freak!" She spat at Risha, retrieved her switchblade with a sneer, and stormed out.
Risha winced. Adrenalin still surged through her system, accompanied by a dazed flood of neural activity. Her reaction had been instinctive, almost primal, and she sensed that a part of her would have not stopped until whatever measures were taken to halt the situation. An icy chill shot down her spine as she sank back down into the chair.