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A Small Problem of Polarity
 


There was something very wrong here Anne thought, peering at the faces passing her as they walked along the corridor.

She had been to this hospital several times now but something didn’t feel right today. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it. Was it something to do with the way the staff were acting toward her, was that it?

Anne was bemused and starting wondering whether it was in fact she who had the problem, that she was beginning to lose her mind. For there was nothing obviously wrong with the scene in front of her. Nurses moved swiftly up and down the corridors, which were just as white and pristine-looking as ever. Once in a while a doctor strode by with his comforting stethoscope swinging on his chest.

It all looked perfectly normal. But… what was it that was catching her eye? Something in their demeanour?

Then she realised what had been playing on her nerves. It was in the interaction between the staff. There was little eye contact, and that which there was held the key to why Anne had been feeling so strange. Now that she had narrowed down the general source of her disquiet Anne was able to pinpoint the exact reason for it. It was the way they looked at each other. She had seen that look on TV and in movies and on rare occasions in real life where a heated argument had taken place. They looked at each other with barely concealed hostility, totally dispassionate except for a background aggression she was now sure was there. It was in their eyes...

“Like killers' eyes”, Anne thought with a shiver.

~

Jim had been going to confession since he was a kid. So there were no surprises left for him in the ritual anymore.

Or so he had thought, till now. As he sat there in what till now had seemed to him a pleasant and peaceful, shady place, he began to feel uncomfortable.

Was it that the priest was almost totally silent? Or was it the subtle undertones of disdain he thought he detected in his voice on those occasions when he did speak?

Whatever it was that was causing him to be nervous he knew instinctively he was going to do the, for him, unthinkable. Without saying a word he quickly opened the confessional door, stepped out into the church, ran out of the front door and sped down the street as fast as his legs would carry him.

~

The satellites had registered the change in demographic patterns. They had been pronounced over the previous few days. Now the reports garnered from these observations lay prominently on several desks. These were difinitely for viewing only by a very few and those with the highest possible security clearance.

“Do you have even the foggiest idea of what’s going on?” Bradley demanded of his second-in-command, Ricker.

“It looks very odd indeed Sir. We havn’t seen anything even remotely like this before. We’ll crack it, it’s only a matter of time. I have a team working on it night and day analysing the stats.”

“I presume we have people already on the ground?”

“Yes indeed Sir and we hope they’ll provide us with some useful information very soon.”

~

Jeb Reich had taken a nondescript room in the most rundown area he could find. He had been fitted with clothes and persona to match. It was hoped to the casual observer he looked like any other guy down on his luck, scraping by on welfare. It was important he had plenty of time to scout this problem. He couldn’t have a persona with a job. That would limit his scope of activity too much. He would need access to places someone in a nice neat suit, collar and tie couldn’t go if he was to be successful in this mission.

He was one among many, each knowing only as much as they needed to know.

His target was the City Hospital and that’s where he headed. His ribs ached where they’d made their “adjustment” under anaesthesia the night before. Sometimes he wondered if this job was paid well enough for this sort of thing. But then money wasn’t the main reason he did it. He loved the life.

Getting checked in through Emergency was plain sailing and he was directed quickly to the holding area where he used the opportunity to observe everything that was going on. After about ten minutes he was no wiser. He couldn’t see anything particularly unusual. One or two of the nurses appeared to have had a bad night the night before and were perhaps overly brusque with patients. Apart from that he couldn’t detect any major change from what he might have expected.

After a wait of some thirty five minutes his name was called. On shuffling over to the reception desk he was directed down the hall and told to wait in a chair immediately to the right hand side of a white cotton screen. He sat down facing the screen absently wondering what in heaven’s name he was doing here and what he could possibly find.

A few minutes passed before the screen jerked open and a young doctor stepped out. “In here please”, was all he said. Jeb shuffled in. “Lie down on the table.” Jeb held his ribs while painfully raising himself onto the table. The doctor turned away to a small cabinet at the right hand side of the cubicle. Jeb’s hackles were up now. Something didn’t feel right here somehow but he was damned if he could figure out what. Was everyone in this place having a bad day or what?

The doctor turned back toward him and casually inserted the syringe in Jeb’s arm. The pain of the needle being thrust casually in his arm was the last sensation Jeb ever had.

~

“See, it’s the same damn pattern. My god, what in hell’s going on down there?”

On the screen in front of them was a map of the city with a scattering of small green lights across it. But slowly and surely the green lights were being replaced by red ones. On average the lights were changing from green to red at a rate of at least one per hour and sometimes more.

“Are the computers already on this? I want some results from the data to date, okay? And… get it to me fast, will you?”

~

The mass disappearance at St. Aloysius that Sunday was when it finally hit the papers. Thirty seven people, including the priest, seemed to have simply disappeared into thin air. Now it could not be contained, it was out in the open and would remain so, come what may.

~

“Damn. We don’t need this. Okay, let’s see all the data you have as of now and let’s get to the bottom of this. The politicians down below will have to keep a lid on it as best they can. I don’t know what kind of a cock-and-bull cover story they’ll come up with, but they’ll think of something. They’ll have to.”

At 10:15 they were all in place. Each of the team members was there, laptops at the ready, voluminous files placed by their sides.

Bradley: “Okay. What have we got?”

A tall, angular, straight-laced man in a nondescript grey suit rose from his seat at the end of the long meeting table.

“We have never seen anything like this before Sir so it has taken some time to even start to get a handle on this. In the first few hours we really didn’t know where to look for o