Gnnnngh. Med lab angst. I think the intention at the time was to prove that Tempo, my chief medical officer, wasn't a complete bastard. Gillian was invented shortly before this story, and I think she's awesome. I named her after a schoolmate of mine from NMSU, I think.

The Death Watch

3:32 a.m. Jan 18, 2152

The alarms rang wildly through the halls of Maverick Hunter Headquarters, jangling several Hunters from what had been a rather pleasant sleep. They also startled Tempo from the mountain of paperwork he had been pretending to complete. "What in hell is it now?" he demanded sourly from the screaming sirens, and as if in answer, a panicky male voice called over the PA system.

"All Hunters to battle stations, prepare for immediate transport. All Hunters to their stations! Maverick attack at Suthers! Prepare for immediate transport!"

Tempo cursed sharply, pushing himself to his feet. "Naturally, one of the civilian districts." After the battle call had faded from the speakers, Tempo tapped the intercomm and made an announcement of his own. "Medical staff, get your asses out of bed and into the lab where they belong. MOVE IT!" The ruddy-haired chief medical officer allowed himself a smirk of satisfaction at the groans of irritation he knew were echoing from several rooms down the hallway.

Then he made a phone call.

Gillian groaned softly in her sleep, snuggling herself deeper against her husband's warm and decidedly comfortable chest, trying to ignore his fumbling movements as he reached for the phone.

"Hello?" she heard him mumble groggily, then his free hand patted her on the shoulder and he rolled out of her way. "'S for you, hon. Tempo?"

"God damn it," she muttered unenthusiastically as the information filtered through her sleep-soaked brain. "What the hell does he want?"

"Something about an attack, Gil.. here, take the phone." He sounded plaintive.

The black-haired human shook herself awake, taking the phone from her husband and crawling past him to get to her feet. "What in god's name do you want at this hour, Tempo?"

"Just get your flabby behind to the med lab," the Reploid on the other end ordered her shortly. "There was a Maverick coup out at Suthers."

"The civilian district?!" She was immediately awake.

"Yeeees, that's the only Suthers I know about," he answered her caustically.

"Shut your can, Tempo," she answered him absently. "I'm on my way."

"Make it snappy, Gillian." Then he hung up.

Her husband was sitting on the edge of the bed in his boxers, looking at her expectantly.

"I have to go in early today, Rich," she said, masking a yawn and hurrying to the closet to find some clothes. "Big attack, patient overload.. that kind of thing.." She rubbed her eyes. "You'll pack Andy's lunch today, right?"

"'Course I will," he yawned, and she came back out of the closet just in time to see him crawling under the covers. "Have a good time 't work, honey.." he mumbled groggily, and she rolled her eyes.

4:15 a.m.

The first trickles of injuries had begun only a half-hour into the battle. Most of them were minor, needing only to be patched up before they could be sent back out to the battlefield. None of the medics in the lab, however, held any hope that this light flow would continue. At 4:23, the first serious trauma patient rolled in, followed quickly by two others.

Tempo began barking orders, and the serious work began.

On one of the cots in an isolation room, a solitary Hunter stirred and sat up, looking startled. "What'n the.." He blinked blearily. "Hey, Tempo!" he said shifting an injured leg to a more comfortable position. "What's with all the noise?"

The doctor's dark brown eyes flicked to him, irritation on his face. "An attack, you ass. Move your cot to the hallway, because we're going to need that space soon."

"An attack? How come --"

"Because you were drunk off your gourd, you idiot!" Tempo barked at him. "Just stay out of the damn way, Uno!"

The Hunter, somewhat miffed, sank back and muttered some fairly uncomplimentary things about Tempo's mother. What irritated him the most was that the medical officer was probably right. He could sleep through an earthquake after a round of drinks. And after the mayhem in the trainer that night ... He shifted his broken leg again and looked out at the incoming patients.

He didn't much like what he saw. Three more Hunters rolled in, two humans and a Reploid. The Reploid was the least damaged of the lot. She was curled up tightly on the stretcher, moaning, and when they pulled her upright to move her, he could see she had lost an arm. Circulatory fluids streaked her armor, coating her hand where she clutched at the stump of her left arm, and her hair was matted with the stuff.

Tempo ordered two of his staff to deal with her and marched over to the injured humans. Gillian looked up from her examination of the second one and shook her head. "This one's DOA, Tempo."

"Then what the HELL is he doing here?!" the other snapped, turning on the field medics, who shook their heads helplessly.

"He.. he must have died on the way --"

"Get him out!" Tempo barked, then turned to the other human.

This one was only slightly more alive than his companion, who was being wheeled out even as the two got to work. He had been slashed messily across the belly, and one of his arms had been broken in three places. Various other bruises and cuts arced across his unconscious form, one of them perilously close to his throat.

Tempo growled out something uncouth and set to work, just as the doors swung open to admit two more.

9:48 a.m.

The stream of patients had been nearly non-stop, and the numbers of serious injuries were growing rapidly. Fewer and fewer of the Hunters who came in were able to walk unaided back out again. Four of them had died.

Several of the nurses were beginning to show signs of strain as they continued to work on the endless influx of injured. Tempo and Gillian were grim-faced, trying to make room for the overload. Uno had already been moved twice, and now he sat by the door on a fold-out cot, watching with a faintly sick expression on his face.

"Hey.. hey Tempo," he called out as the doctor hurried past him.

"What?" he asked shortly, turning. "I don't have time --"

"Can I give you guys a hand here?" the young man asked, shifting slightly.

Tempo frowned at him, eyes measuring, as if he wasn't entirely sure of his sincerity. "Go help with the sleepers, Uno," he said finally, the patch of silver in his hair flickering in the med room light as he nodded. Then he hurried off.

Uno got to his feet, leg dragging a little, and went to talk to one of the nurses.

1:26 p.m.

The work load had slacked off slightly around noon, and several of the orderlies had taken a five minute break to get some lunch. Most of the others knew better than to put food in their stomachs. Gillian and Tempo were standing to one side, running over their current status, when the lab doors swung open to admit a group of half a dozen injured, one of whom was thrashing around like as if possessed.

Tempo made for that one immediately, ordering a tranquilizer, which one of the nurses scurried to provide. As he leaned over to have a look at the Reploid's injuries, his gaze flitted across a badge on its shoulder only moments before three claws raked through the air toward his chest.

"Maverick!" he bellowed furiously, leaping back barely in time to dodge the attack. "Where's that trank?!"

The Maverick, a slender-built model of the feline variety, wasted no time in continuing its attack, leaping lithely from all fours to the floor and burying its claws in the side of a nurse, who dropped the syringe (sp? :P), a glassy-eyed look of confusion on her face. It back-handed Gillian into a cot, a snarl flitting across its features.

Then its gaze fell on the injured, and its lips curled back into a feral smile.

Tempo had vanished. Gillian staggered to her feet and charged after the cat, but not in time to save its first target, a Hunter who had taken a fall from a three-story window and snapped his spine. He screamed once, and the Maverick dashed on to its next target, brutally efficient in his butchery.

Gillian snatched up the needle of tranquilizer and scrambled after him, coming up behind to bury the it in his neck. His face twisted in surprise, and he turned on her, lashing on hand to catch her by the throat and throw her to the ground. It then reared back its claws, a snarl of rage in its throat, preparing to hammer them into her unprotected stomach.

Then blood blossomed, dark and sticky, across the Maverick's chest, splattering Gillian's face and lab coat, and it staggered back, puzzlement on its face. It lurched forward again, and this time Gillian heard the thunderclap of the rifle's report. The Maverick toppled in a bleeding heap, and Tempo came up behind her, eyes grim.

"How many did we lose?" he asked efficiently.

"Three.. I think." Her voice was shaking. "And.. that nurse."

He nodded shortly. "I'll deal with it. After I find out which numb-brained son of a bitch let a Maverick slip past him."

Gillian got unsteadily to her feet and nodded, stepping carefully over the body of the nurse as she went back to her duties.

5:13 p.m.

Gillian leaned back slowly, stretching, as she walked away the newest patient. This one wasn't badly injured, and the nurses were handling him admirably. She looked around for Tempo, ready to make a report and check up with him, but he was nowhere to be seen.

"Uno, did you see where Tempo went?" she asked the young Hunter, and he shook his head before returning to where he was bandaging a human's arm.

She was about to step out into the hall when she found saw something shift slightly in the shadows of the back corner. Walking over, she discovered it to be none other than Tempo himself, head drooping against his chest. A half-finished report dangled from one hand, and the other was buried in his pocket.

A slight frown on her face, she reached over to shake his shoulder, then stopped.

She smiled sadly and stepped quickly away, leaving the Reploid to his sleep and perfectly willing to face his temper when he woke and realized she'd let him nap on the job.

7:25 p.m.

"God DAMN it, Gillian!"

She pushed her black hair away from her face and ignored him, murmuring something to the orderly, who nodded brusquely and walked away.

"What possessed you --"

"You looked like you needed the rest, Tempo," she replied idly, folding her arms. "Besides, the fighting's stopped, for the most part, and we aren't getting as many in."

Tempo scowled at her, trying to find a reason to yell at her for the breach of protocol. "You should have woken me up," he groused finally, giving up on it. "What's our status?"

"We haven't had any new ones in the past half-hour. We lost Bria Silverton and Mach." An unreadable expression flickered across her features. "There are two others on their way out, too."

Tempo nodded, lost in thought, then he glanced up. "You can go home, Gillian. I can handle things here."

She looked startled. "You're sure?"

"Yeah, get out of here. You need rest." He waved a hand dismissively. "Besides, it's Andy's birthday. Go home."

Her astonished gaze turned to one of gratitude, but he cut her off before she could say anything.

"Just GO, damn it." Then he walked away.

Gillian pushed the front door of her house open and looked in cautiously. She hadn't had time to clean up completely, and her hair was still matted with the Maverick's blood.

"Mommy!" Andy jumped up from the couch and dashed over to her, wrapping his arms around her in a six-year-old embrace. "You're late, Mommy, what happened?"

"I had a busy day at work, sweetheart," she murmured, forcing a smile onto her face. "Where's your daddy?"

"He's in the kitchen," the boy said dismissively. "He won't let me in, and he won't say why, either. He said I had to wait until you got home."

Gillian ruffled the boy's hair affectionately and stood up. "Go on and watch TV for a little bit, then. I'd better go see what he's up to."

"All right!" he said agreeably, then tramped back to the couch and flopped there. His mother walked past him into the kitchen, gaze curious.


Her husband, as she had suspected, was making party preparations. He glanced up as she walked in, halfway through frosting the letter 'B' on the cake. "You're home!" he said. "I was wondering --" He broke off and set the frosting down, and expression of concern crossing his face. "Oh, Gil," he murmured. "What happened?"

She crossed the room to him, then abruptly buried her face against his chest in a flood of tears. He stroked her hair gently and murmured comfortingly, a helpless expression on his face.

9:56 p.m.

Tempo shot a weary glance around the room. The orderlies and nurses, all functioning on shots of coffee, were milling about blearily, adding to the already high stack of paperwork on his desk. "All right, all right," he snapped finally. "Go home, the lot of you. Just remember, you're on call if something happens."

The expressions of gratitude that had started to spring up around the room faded to irritated grumbles.

"Don't be idiots," the chief medical officer growled. "Now go on home." As they filed out, he sat down at his desk and started thumbing through the paperwork, a scowl set on his face.

After most of them had gone, he glanced up at the sound of someone clearing his throat and saw Uno standing there, an uncertain look on his face. "Guess, ah," he said, once he had Tempo's attention, "that means I can go too."

"I'm surprised you're still here," Tempo informed him drily.

"Well, yaknow, sir ..." Uno shrugged uncomfortably.

"Go away, Uno." He turned back to his work.

The young Hunter blinked at him silently for a moment, and a look of realization flickered across his face. "Don't stay up too late, sir," he said simply, and walked out.

Tempo grunted noncommittally, then leaned back and looked around the room again.

The rest of the night passed uneventfully as far as emergencies went, and morning found Tempo seated beside the last of the human patients, his hand clasped gently around hers, waiting with her while she died.