Chapter 3

"Founders' tits, Tino," Callie snorted in disgust. The virtual briefing room was just as drab as their physical one had been—by design—and it heightened the outlandishness of his avatar choice. "I'm not going to talk to you if you're going to be a mandala. It gives me a headache."

"This is the future! And you're not my supervisor." She waved him off and turned back to the schedule with the other medtechs.

"How do they expect us to receive this many people in one shift?" Tammiya pulled a copy of the schedule file and integrated it into her arm—half the staff were already taking advantage of the transience of "virtual tattoos" to keep important notes accessible.

Tino perked up at the chance to gossip. "You didn't hear? Over on Wakeside, they had an anaphylaxis event last shift. Some chucklehead forgot to tell them about his shellfish allergy."

"But the new cathepsin inhibitors are oyster-derived."

"Exactly," Miku confirmed. Her avatar hung slack. "They pumped him full of deepsleep, and he puffed up like a fugu. Puked everywhere! Glad I was only there on drone duty because the smell must have been a nightmare." Tino brought up the video feed.

"Why do people think we even ask all these questions?"

"That's enough!" Bijan settled into a virtual chair at the briefing table. The supervisor's cold glare survived CloudArk transition unaffected. "People get scared, and they forget things. It's part of being human. Do your jobs like professionals."

"But we were already behind, chief. And then people like this slow it down for everyone else."

"I get the frustration, Tammiya." Bijan pulled the schedule apart into their respective assignments. "But we're medical technicians. We're the stability they need. You wear your empathy first."

"Good call, chief," Tino piped in.

"Speaking of… Tino, you can be math on your own time. But while we have five million scared patients looking for reassurance, keep your damn face on."