Closed How the Sausage Is Made - I

This request is currently closed and not accepting new users.

"I'll be meeting with the facilities coordinator. Feel free to interview who you'd like; I trust your judgement. Be discreet. Don't tell anyone you're from MIRA."

Julianne gave Gaz a look that suggested the notion of putting her trust in him was a leap of faith, and not to be squandered. Adjusting her spectacles atop her the bridge of her nose, she pushed up the steps into the Harm Reduction Clinic, making sure to keep an eye on her partner as they approached. "And-- look around the actual clinic rooms, if you can. See what these people look like, if there's anything... different." Different how, she couldn't say. The worst part about trying to find a novel drug problem in a city was that it was like trying to find a needle in a haystack. There were probably a few hallmarks that set that red shit apart from something like crack or heroin, but they didn't know how it acted in non-PMPD individuals; the first order of basis would be screening the addict population for any signs. Which would be rather difficult, but Oleander was a resourceful type.

Or so she'd been told.

An older woman greeted them by the door, holding a laptop under her arm. She gave a warm smile, and gestured to the lobby room; inside were various Miami residents in some state of narcotics-induced disrepair. It looked like a rehab clinic. Not much else to notice, there. Flyers for timely reporting of PMPD-related symptoms lined the walls; informational graphics about thyroid protection and the harm illicit drugs could impart upon the organ. Far within the facility, a chime sounded; every so often, nurses passed from behind the bulletproof glass-laden reception booth to travel deeper within the clinic.

"Welcome, and thank you both for coming. Ms. Cho and Mr. Oleander, correct? What can we help MIRA with, today?"

"Gotcha." He nodded, "Oh, and same thing applies from the meeting room- if you uncover anything interesting, any particular alleys you think I should go digging in, send it through as soon as you can. I'll keep you updated, as well- I should have time between interviews to tell you what I know."

A lot of analysts liked to keep silent until their job was finished, which wasn't ideal. Gaz could understand why, in certain instances; leaving a meeting halfway through, for example, was probably not the best way to conduct yourself in the field. Still, he had been inconvenienced a few too many times by radio silence to let himself be the cause. Waiting back at the van doing one thing when the field agent had discovered a second thing would be more effective- that was annoying. Gaz liked to be efficient. It came with the mutation.

This efficiency of his was noteworthy enough that people trusted him for it, tolerating him more than they probably should have. If Cho had any objections to his presence on the team, she certainly wasn't expressing them- but this was surprisingly common. He nodded to her, stoic behind the mask.

"I know how side-effects present for most street drugs- anything that sticks out, I should be able to discern."

Even if it's not as obvious as exploding hands.

Gaz was familiar with rehab clinics- through work, and through a few prior visits. Nothing seemed odd. Perhaps there were more PMPD-related flyers than the ones he saw back in London, but nothing else stood out- no warnings about mysterious red crystals, as if the answers would present themselves so easily.

Although, the flyers did make him pause for a second- think about his own thyroid. He hadn't damaged it too severely, despite all the toxic shit he had shovelled into his body- had he? It had been a while since he had a full look at his health records. Maybe he should request the data once this was over, at least to quell any paranoia.

"Good afternoon."

Gaz returned the woman's smile with one she couldn't see, keeping his posture relaxed and his voice open.

"Yeah- we've recieved reports about a new drug floating around the area, so we're just here to do some preliminary investigations." He continued, "I believe Ms. Cho has arranged a meeting with your director, and I'm here to talk to people on the front-line, so to speak. Any clinicians, behavioural therapists, anyone who regularly observes your clientele- I'll need to have a word with them, if that's alright."

Oh- and it's Dr. Oleander, by the way- did they tell you that? Did they not want to tell you that?

"A new drug," The woman stated. "We haven't heard anything, but should you find anything, do let us know. I'm the facilities manager here-- Ms. Cho, if you'll follow me. Mr. Oleander, there's a pass waiting for you at the front desk and an orderly will accompany you to help you navigate our facilities. Thank you."

A nod to Ms. Cho, and the Senior Analyst looked to Gaz, next; there was a pointed don't have a fucking moment glint to her eye, and then she nodded to the desk, walking away with the woman to a door along the side of the lobby. That left him alone; alone, and able to pick up the pass at his leisure. Or snoop around. Or do whatever he pleased, really. There wasn't a tracker on him, and he'd built up enough goodwill.


Gaz nodded politely- although, unseen, his smile started to thin. Unseen to her, anyway. No doubt Julianne noticed the subtle shift in his expression, but Gaz decided to ignore the look she was giving him and carry on with his work- which, again, was hardly uncommon. It was hardly the worst glare he had suffered on the job, though the implications were a tad more insulting than usual.

No, fine- it's fine. I'll handle the introductions from here on. Maybe next time you should come wearing a bloody labcoat, maybe that would tip them off. But it's fine.

He rocked back on his feet, watching as the pair left. They had time, it seemed- unlike the trip here, Gaz wasn't being hurried from place to place. In theory, he could take it easy, get to know the place, talk to people in the lobby before even considering the pass, maybe even have a sit down before continuing his investigation.

But why would he?

The only thing he did before heading to the front desk was take a flyer from the side. None of the information was new to him, of course. Side-effects of drug use, especially as they pertain to thyroid health and PMPD manifestations, were among his personal specialties- and his personal interests. No, the flyer would serve more as a memo- a reminder to send a request for his health data.

Maybe a check-up, as well. Haven't had one since that mandatory string of 'em after- y'know. Doubt much has changed, but it doesn't hurt to check. At least whilst it's on my mind...

Gaz stuck the flyer into his coat pocket and approached the desk, looking as polite and as boring as a man wearing a specialised industrial respirator in a rehab clinic could possibly look.


He nodded again- tone dry and professional, voice muffled ever so slightly.

"Mind letting me know what staff are working today? I need to have a chat with them, if you don't mind."


"I'm, uh- Oleander, by the way." Gaz smiled, "Doctor Oleander. I was told you have a pass for me back there."

Interviews were tedious.

They often were; interactions with witnesses and average citizens hardly revealed too much, and the entire exercise was often a small glimpse into how incompetent most people were at recollection. Add a narcotics addiction into the mix, and Dr. Oleander was hardly finding much progress. Staff interviews didn't reveal much. Their interactions with the addict populations were driven by compassion, and not punitive measures-- but despite this, there was an implicit lack of trust that was garnered. Still, there were plenty of patrons to chat with.

Harold LeMarr, black. 34. Heroin addiction; surviving family in New York. Homeless.

Will Christianson, white. 22. Heroin addiction; also an alcoholic. Mixed the two once, never again. Moved to Miami for a job and relationship, and lost both.

Jillian Dougherty. White, 47. Had a job as a postal worker before getting addicted to tranq. Used to be an artist. Family didn't want her back.

Similar stories echoed throughout the clinic; no two situations were exactly the same, but they weren't entirely different, either. Some were standoffish; most were friendly, even welcoming of the attention.

"Red shit. Haven't seen any red shit," Will had said to Oleander in the midst of his interview. "Sorry. Have a cousin in New York, though, that I used to talk to and he said that awful shit makes its way up there all the time... and then there's stuff further out east. Philadelphia. You want to find the worst shit, go out there..."

Harold and Jillian didn't have much to say, either, beyond some subtle musings about some bodies of addicts they'd seen while still living out on the streets.

And then there was Ian.

One of the last people Oleander interviewed was an older fellow-- 40s, 50s at most-- and the most disaffected, for lack of a better term. His beard was a bit unkempt, and half-greyed; his hair was longer in the back, and balding in the front. He'd recently relapsed, and that was why he was here. But that wasn't what might've made Oleander stay.

"If you're asking about anything, uh, new," Ian began, looking out the window of his second-story bunkroom, "There's some... I don't know. It's out there. Bad shit." He shrugged. "Don't want to talk about it."

Unknown. Underground. Possible spread to other areas--Philadelphia mentioned--but that might be a dead-end. Our focus is here, for now. Where we know it is. The lack of information is itself of note- people aren't quitting this stuff, they're not checking into clinics with this stuff. Rare? Lethal? Particularly addictive? Tied to a group or individual who keeps an eye on his clients?

Surprise, surprise; it's worse than MIRA thought. I could've told you that on Monday.

Interviews were tedious.

Gaz was used to people being somewhat reticent around him. I mean, he was brought on as an analyst in the same city he had terrorised with four mass poisonings- not everyone he met found him approachable. There was a reason they usually sent people with cleaner records for this sort of job. That, combined with the fact that half the people were thinking with the renowned clarity of withdrawal, meant that most of his interviews produced next to nothing. A few lines here, a few there, but nothing worth digging through.

He thought the staff would be more useful, but they seemed reluctant to even talk to him. Some selfish, insecure part of him wondered if they could see through the mask, somehow- straight to the headlines beyond. The rest of him, the majority, the logical side, figured that he looked official, and that made them distrust him.

Maybe they think I'm some sort of safety inspector. The respirator can't be helping.

Thank fuck this last bloke had something new to say.

At least, Gaz assumed he did. He'd just have to hope he could gather enough pieces from the blur- hope the guy remembered enough that he could leave this facility with more notes on the case itself, not just its mismanagement. His hesitance to speak was something, at least. It was something.

Gaz leaned against the wall, presenting as casually as he could- something he had been doing with every patient he spoke to that day. He'd seem like a professional for the professionals, and like a person for the rest.

"Bad shit, hm?" He asked, "Bad how? Or- how bad?"

"Very bad." The man muttered in reply. His stare didn't leave the window. When he turned to look to Gaz, the left side of his face was entirely scarred-- disfigured from a burn, the angle concealed until he glanced over to the doctor.

There was a pause, for a moment, as he stared at Oleander-- as if to let his burnt, twisted visage speak for him-- before he gave a soft cough, wiping at his mouth with his sleeve.

"Knew a guy with PMPD. Could head his hands up, warm his palms. Something to do with bloodflow. I don't fuckin' know," He began, turning back to stare out the window. "One night, started tweaking. Tried to help him. He was fucked. Grabbed my face, palms caught on fire. He was strung out on some shit." A shrug. "Heard similar stories. Never stayed around the mutts, though. Creepy fuckers. Even more reasons to watch yourself around them. He burnt his hands off, by the way," The man added, looking to Gaz for a moment before turning his head again. As if to make sure he hadn't walked away. "Crisp. Like charcoal. But nobody gave a shit because we were in tents, you know? Why would they."

Another bout of silence.

"I never saw what he took. But he kept talking about it. How he felt like his heart was clawing out of his chest. Guy was probably seeing shit, I don't know."

The little digs at people with PMPD, whilst they should be offensive, went completely over Gaz's head. There was no need to smile politely, remain professional, and pretend he wasn't talking about people like him- because he didn't even notice he was.

Sounds like a lead. Finally. Same story as before- existing PMPD manifestation, mutation localised to the hands, sudden and violent outburst tied directly to the substance, also localised to the hands. The spark fella, his exploded. This guy's burned-

He squinted a little at the man's face, examining the burn wound as close as he could without seeming any more unsettling than usual. It was severe. Disfiguring.

-fairly hot, I'd say. Likely hotter than he's used to.

Search PMPD database for file matching this description- find out what his limitations were before this. If it is to do with bloodflow, then combustion should be out of the question. Non-literal phrasing? Like how Em questioned "shock"- need to remove ambiguity here. Dull semantics are important.

"I see, I see."

Gaz regarded the man with more intrigue than sympathy- a failing that could be seen in the uncovered part of his face. He adjusted his glasses with one hand, but his gaze remained unbroken. It was like he was scared that the answers he was looking for could be missed with a blink. He wouldn't break his focus for a second.

He wouldn't have walked away. At this point, he'd have to be forced out of the room.

"Sorry, bit of a stupid question-" He said, "When you say they caught fire, did you mean that literally?"

There's a pretty big difference between his existing mutation going into overdrive, and it suddenly catching his hands on fire. The first would make things easier. The second...


Either the temperature his blood reached is almost 900°C, or this crystal shit somehow created an entirely new mutation... but we're not gonna find out which until we can get our hands on some bloody samples, are we? Needless to say, neither option sounds all too pleasant to deal with.

Same manifestation area in both recorded cases- the hands. I'm willing to pass that off as coincidence, given how common it is for PMPD to alter that area. Fuck- I'm mutated in that area myself, or thereabouts. Heat, or combustion, in both recorded cases- present in previous manifestation. Might also be coincidence. Volatility in both recorded cases- mutated and emotional. Although-

"Oh, also-"

He spoke quickly, after a bout of silence- as if, like the man before him, Gaz was worried he had lost his interest.

"The drug he'd been taking, the new one- had he been taking it long?"

"Yes. Literally. Fire from his hands, burning his flesh. Some biblical shit," He muttered. "Burnt me and he didn't even touch me, I think. Hard to remember."

The man shrugged, at that, and gave a momentary glance to Gaz, furrowing his brow.

"Don't think he was taking it long. Was fine one week, then tweaking the next, you know? People move onto harder shit all the time when the stuff they're used to taking, just-- it doesn't work anymore, uh, or just... hits weaker."

He put his arms close to his chest.

"Said he got it from a dealer in the city. Muttering about how Kelsey sold him spiked shit. Don't know who that is."

Yes. Literally. Fire from his hands- possibility that the flames themselves were what caused these burns, rather than direct contact, which I'm not too pleased about. Might have projected further out of his hands, or something. That doesn't sound like a fucking cardiovascular mutation to me.

"Yeah... I get that. It's rough."

The statment lay in weird ambiguity- not quite a lie, not quite the truth, not quite an understatement, not quite an exaggeration. Chasing highs like that. Though, nowadays, he could only relate mechanically, there had been a time when things were a little worse. Each drug was a one-night stand- he'd take it, feel something, then crash back down to reality in a tenth of the time. It pushed him to take more than he should. It pushed him to search for variety. If his situation was different, if he hadn't joined MIRA...

No. If he hadn't joined MIRA, he'd be dead- alongside a plane full of people.

Or most of London.

Name's a good lead, even if it's an alias. Could chance another round-tour of this place, see if anyone else has heard of this bloke- not sure I'll get anything, though. Might be better off asking elsewhere- the camp he mentioned, or the streets. Another set of interviews. Hopefully someone else'll be there to take the brunt of the awkwardness- though, given our apparent staffing issue, I assume I'll be solely responsible again. Brilliant.

Five kilos. We had five fucking kilos.

"Was it sold as something else, then?" He asked, "Do you think this was the first time he had taken it?"

"Laced... could've been laced." The man replied, rubbing at the scarred half of his face for a moment. "Fuck if I know. Always shot up out of sight, didn't like doing it with people around. I wasn't his fuckin' mom looking after him." He shrugged. "They cut product with everything, nowadays. Tranq with gasoline and other toxic shit. Coke and weed with fent. Could've smoked a whole pipe of the thing, or could've gotten unlucky. It's a coin toss, man, you know? Why I checked in here to begin with. I was using shit for three years, nearly-- nearly died, taking the shit I did. And I nearly died from a friend shooting up. Wakeup call after wakeup call..."

He mused to himself, idly, as he stared out the window. After a moment, an orderly appeared in the doorway to the man's room-- knocking twice to signify her presence-- and gave a soft smile.

"Eric. Need you for group." She looked to Gaz. "You almost finished, sir, or can I take him off your hands? You a relative?"

Looks like this one's been bled dry. I doubt we'll find the stuff before I can figure out general timeframes- no use pressing. Possibility it's making its way into other shit, but that can't be all too common just yet, considering how little information there is on it.

I suppose my biggest question now is why.

"Oh, we're just wrapping up. Thank you." Gaz said to the orderly, then turned back to Eric, "I tell you what- you made a good call, coming here. Especially with that shit around."

It didn't really need to be said, did it?

"Sounds callous, but sometimes you do need a shock like that to get you back in gear. Whether that's to yourself, or to others." He shrugged, "Keep at it, mate- or, at least... just try to keep your head above the water until we've sorted this out, yeah? You've been a great help."

Gaz didn't usually talk to patients. He didn't usually conduct interviews. Continuing the conversation, he was fine with, but he could never end things as elegantly as he'd like. A side-effect of his previous position, perhaps- not a lot of patient rapport when you're stuck in a glass box spraying antibiotics out your wrists. As a result, his departure was rather awkward. He smiled, which Eric wouldn't be able to see, and nodded somewhat dismissively before leaving.

"Take care, alright?"

Why kill off your customer base like this? Why create this much fear around your product? Is this some convoluted attempt at mass-poisoning metahumans?

Who let Narcotics give away our whole bloody stock?