“No, Brad, I won’t be quiet.” Jennifer Torgerrin pointed to the brand new diesel generator, a twenty-foot, gray-and-white rectangular block wrapped in plastic and resting on pallets at the far end of the parking lot. The orange light of the setting sun cast long shadows on the pavement. “This is exactly why I wanted to do this last year.”
“This is a freak occurrence.” Bradford McRae was a tall black man with a goatee and a fitted suit. “The old generator is still within its depre—”
“Don’t you dare say depreciation window!”
Brad ran a hand over his shaved head.
“Depreciation is a tax concept. You understand that, right?” Jenn was a big woman with a round face, little make-up, and graying brown hair. “Whether the old generator had legally depreciated or not doesn’t change its—”
“I understand that, Jenn, but we replaced a lot of other equipment last year, including the MRI machine. This hospital has a budget.”
“This hospital makes money.”
“This hospital is the least profitable in the network. I was brought on—”
“But it still makes money. We all don’t come in to work everyday to make a profit. On sick people.”
“Yes.” Bradford was stoic. “We do.”
Jenn shut her lips before saying something that would get her fired.
“We are a for-profit company. That’s exactly what we do.” Brad had seen this coming. This was the problem with internal promotions. Jenn was a former social worker who had moved into upper administration. He needed someone from corporate in that role. “I don’t love the idea, but you know I don’t make the rules.”
“Said every bureaucrat ever.”
“Insulting me isn’t going to change anything.”
A milling crowd had gathered outside to escape the dark halls of the hospital. An ambulance chirped and people moved out of the way as it pulled into the lot and parked on the far side of the generator. It was a new model, a wide-bodied search and rescue variant. It was huge.
Bradford scowled. It wasn’t one of theirs. And if they were dropping off, they would have pulled into the ER. He pointed at the vehicle and turned to his assistant Jayne. “All units are supposed to be on the streets. Get them out of here.”
Jenn stepped into his line of view. “Are you listening to me?”
Bradford ignored her. “Jayne.”
“But what do you want me to do?” the young woman asked.
“Go tell them they can’t park here.”
“Brad!” Jenn insisted.
The tall man turned back to her. “There’s nothing I can do! For Christ’s sake, Jenn.” He pointed to the distant New York skyline.
Jenn pointed in retaliation to the dark windows of the eight-story tower behind him. “Go upstairs and tell that to our dialysis patients.” She had already been. She’d already walked the halls with the head of nursing while Brad—following company protocol—backed up his files before his computer battery died. When Jenn reached the cafeteria, she’d ordered the staff to clean out the ice cream and give it to the patients. Kids first.
“We have time. We can get them to other hospitals.”
“How?” Jenn stepped forward. She wanted to punch him. “The stoplights are out. The entire city is a parking lot.”
Bradford raised his hands to stop the encroaching woman. “I can’t wave my magic wand and make the power come back. I can’t miraculously move a gridlocked load lifter from the interstate to our campus. And I for damn sure can’t pick up a one-and-a-half-ton generator and carry it—” He stopped.
Bradford stared, mouth agape.
Jenn turned and jumped with a yelp.
A giant in a suit of segmented gray body armor had lifted the generator off the ground. The plastic hung off the side as the heavy machinery tottered on the man’s back. Everyone stepped away.
The faceplate of the giant’s helmet was painted in a flower-cheeked, blue and white skull, like the Day of the Dead. He was struggling, with wobbling knees, to carry the heavy contraption toward the fence-lined machine park at the back of the hospital’s central building.
One step. Two steps. Three. The hunched giant gripped the machine with massive, armor-covered hands. His pace quickened with each step, as if his body responded to the strain by growing even stronger.
Jenn’s eyeballs bulged. Her eyelids felt like they were about to twist back into her head. Her heart beat faster. She’d never seen anything like it.
“Dave!” she yelled at the hospital’s chief engineer, who stood motionless in shock.
The man turned instinctively and looked at her without recognition. Then he understood. “Right!” He ran across the gravel to the far wall of the fenced yard. He pointed to the space next to the old, dead generator. “Just put it right here in the middle.” He motioned. “We can get a temporary connection going and move it later.” He waved to his staff, who were all watching in amazement. “Move!”
The milling crowd was silent as the giant went down on one knee, shaking. Then the other. The big man placed the brand new generator on the gravel-covered ground with a thud. The fence rattled. Tiny rocks flew. Jenn had tears.
The silent giant never said a word, nor did anyone challenge him, even Brad. Jenn watched as he walked away. In the middle of his back, just below the stiff collar that protected his neck, was a stencil in white: Halo Armor v2.1.
from Episode Four in progress