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Chapter 12: Plague City
A conversation about Nexuses cannot occur without mentioning the city of Harkness, Maryland. One of only two Dunwich-class Nexuses in the United States (the other being Red Crater, Montana, which will be discussed at a later time), the so-called Plague City has caused much controversy everywhere from O5 Command to the citizens of the Nexus itself. And this is due to, in no small part, the Nexus's origin…
Dr. Philip Verhoten, The Crossroads: A Study of Urban Anomalous Nexuses in the United States, Second Edition.


Harkness, Maryland
Public Designation: American Centers for Disease Control Exomedical Unit Quarantine Zone Omega

Above the checkpoint at the edge of the quarantine zone, there was a billboard. Though faded by decades of sun, wind, rain, and a hurricane or two, lettering was still visible on it when read at the right angle. At one point, it had proclaimed "Welcome to Harkness: the Healthiest City on Earth!".

The guard tapped on the window to the SUV just as its windows started to roll down. "Your passes?"

"Can't believe I still have to do this…" Dr. Mewart grumbled as he handed a small sheaf of papers to the guard. Then, he turned to look at his partner and groaned. "I told you to have them out before we got here, Dr. Jackson."

"Sorry." Pauline Jackson rummaged through her bag, taking out several more papers than what Dr. Mewart had handed over. She was a new hire, so she had at least seven more sheets of paperwork to hand in.

The guard took the papers and looked them over. "Rookie, eh? I need to see some identification, too."

Dr. Jackson pulled out her CDC identification and leaned over Mewart so that the guard could compare faces. He looked between the two of them, eyebrow raised. "Not such a rookie after all. Read your study in the New England Journal."

"Well, I'm new to Exomedical. Whatever the hell that means."

"That's why I'm bringing her here," Mewart nodded. "I figure a crash course is better than easing her in to the basket of crazy that is the world of exomedicine. Plus she's not signed the you-know-what."

The guard handed Jackson back her ID and looked over the documentation. "All the vaccinations are in order, looks like. Just remember to report any breaches in your gear."

"Right."

With that, the window was rolled up. Through the tinted glass, Dr. Jackson could see the imposing dome that sealed the city of Harkness away from the rest of the world.

She had several questions: what happened to this city to warrant the only Omega-level quarantine in the US? Why had she never heard of it? And what the hell did the exomedical unit actually do?


"Sign here, and initial here."

Dr. Jackson did as the man in the black suit requested. She had found herself in a hermetically sealed command center, half a mile away from the dome itself. There was a tram from the dome to command and back, and there were more airlocks in the center than on the international space station.

As her signature was finalized, Dr. Jackson felt a slight headache forming right behind her eyeballs. She tasted blood on her lip; minor nosebleed. "Sorry, do you have a—"

She found a tissue being offered to her by the man in the suit. "Happens with everyone's first gag order."

"Sorry?" Dr. Jackson dabbed her nose. "What do you mean?"

The man exhaled softly. "Dr. Jackson, I'm going to be blunt: do you believe in the supernatural or paranormal?"

Dr. Jackson's eyebrows met her hairline. "What, you mean like ghosts, UFOs, mothman? I mean, I like an episode of Ghost Adventures or Following the Leylines as much as the next person, but that's all faked."

"Believe me, my job would be a whole lot easier if only that were true." With that, the man began walking away. "Follow me."

Pauline looked around and shrugged, walking through an airlock with the man, and from it, down a hallway with several windows in it, looking into rooms. Within the rooms were individuals in hospital beds, all obviously ill. Within one, a pale, anemic-looking woman had at least six blood bags connected to her. The one next to it held a pair of beds, but only one patient, who appeared to be arguing with a person she couldn't see on the other bed. She did a double-take while looking into the next room— the person in there appeared to be at least partially transparent. She didn't get a better look— the privacy curtains were soon pulled.

Pauline paused before a room containing a patient writhing in their bed, their face a blur. "Oh my god. He's seizing."

"He's fine." The man in the suit stopped with her. "In fact, this is perfect."

"Perfect?! Where's the medical alarm? He could swallow his tongue, choke on his own vomit—" She stared at the bed. There were handcuffs on it. "You have him restrained?!"

"Just watch." The main in the suit put up his hand. "He's fine."

Dr. Jackson felt sick, watching the patient seize and shake. And then, from within the blur, she noticed something happening. His skin appeared to be distending and swelling, and black hair appeared underneath. "What the fu—"

Then, the patient exploded. There was no other word to describe what had happened; fragments of skin flew off of him at high speeds. One of his corneas landed on the glass and slid down it.

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