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Challenge #01431-C336: Last Bus to LA

Where the scientific process and superstition collide. This analysis of plague doctor's wear.

"The scientific process made a bitchin’ proto-hazmat suit. And containment protocols!" -- RecklessPrudence

After the zombie apocalypse, there were a few things bound to go backwards. With a lessened population, electricity was bound to stop. And disease was rife.

What the members of the last bus to LA never expected was a revival of some very much older traditions.

As the horses drew them closer to the little town in the middle of nowhere, they expected little to no movement. Apart, of course, from the occasional zombie that had yet to fall apart.

They never expected a small cadre of Plague Doctors.

They were all in white, from head to mud-spattered toe. Some were working a field. Three were patrolling the almost-empty streets. And all of their long staffs had blades on one end.

Donnie pulled the horses to a halt and opened the shutter so she could shout out the window, "We're all clean! No infected!"

The three appeared to confer, and a leader sauntered up to the bus. "Y'all headed somewhere?" said a muffled voice inside the... costume.

"Yeah. LA. They'll have power for a lot longer than the rest of the US. If we get there, we can maintain the dams. Any of you want to go?"

"Might could," allowed the Plague Doctor. "We come into the old fort in the evenings. If you can wait there, we'll talk about it, then."

The first question, once lamps were lit and people sat down at communal benches was, "What the hell is with that get-up?"

One of the browner residents stood. "That was my fault. I already had a black one? And I just stuffed some filtration stuff in the nose of the mask when the plague hit. The others just... adapted the idea. Anyone boggling at us has to be clean, or near to clean."

"It's a good idea," said Tam, the bus' writer and surprising store of random knowledge. "The Plague Doctors of old had a lot of wrong ideas but, when they combined them all logically, they came to the right conclusion. Which was, essentially, the world's first hazmat suit and containment protocols."

"What," said Dan the skeptic.

"No, for reals. The long robe is waxed, which means it's already hydrophobic, as are the pants, too. Combined with the rubber gloves and boots, you have a garment set that repels any and all liquids that may contain pathogens. The mask originally contained aromatic herbs, based on the miasma theory, but with modern medical filters, it's an effective barrier against any airborne pathogens as well. And the mask itself is just yet another way to prevent goop on your face. It's phenomenally good sense for its time."

"And the long stick?"

"Keeps people at a distance. Thereby reducing the odds of cross-contamination. Adding a blade just makes yet another useful weapon against the zombies."

"And we hose them down with strong vinegar if we've had an encounter," added the village historian. "We have all of the stuff to make more of these right here. You could have your own encounter suits for when you need to scavenge."

"Sounds like a good deal. And we'll work with you while they're being made."

That had been the creed of the last bus since they took off from New York. Share When Needed. Help When Needed. And, of course, Don't Be Stupid. It had kept a lot of them alive. And solved a great deal of the problems that were the usual fare of zombie-themed entertainments.

All things considered, they had to be the smartest group of survivors they had met. Second only to the Plague Doctors of Springfield.

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