She stopped at the door to the infirmary. Lena trembled at the thought of seeing her daughter torn to pieces. Part of her was used to seeing blood. She was first mate on the Holdsworth for crying out loud. Zombies and death were part of life. But this? This was surely different. From seeing her before, it was obvious that Emma had lost a lot of blood. Lena couldn't help but fear the worst. That “what ifs” pierced her thoughts. The most serious of all being, “What if Emma was dead?”
Lena swallowed it though and, with her shaking hand, pushed open the door. Inside, she found Doctor Lorentz examining Emma on the operating table as Hank questioned him. Lena caught Hank mid-sentence, “-can you tell me? Do I need-?”
“Captain Mitchell,” Lorentz interrupted, “I need you to step back and let me work. Your daughter's condition is very serious and I need to concentrate on assessing her condition.”
“Yeah, fine,” Hank threw his arms into the air. He turned around and spotted Lena. She could see the relief in his eyes at seeing his wife, “Lena!” They met at the center of the room, where he put his hand on her arm.
Lena searched for words, “What's- what's-?”
“I don't know,” Hank said. “The doctor's examining her, but- I don't know. She's lost a lot of blood.”
“Oh, Hank,” Lena fell into her husband's arms, sobbing. “I just- I-”
“I know, I know,” he stroked her graying-red hair as he held her tight. “It's gonna be okay.”
She pulled away and looked into his eyes, “How do you know? No. You know. You always do.”
“That's right,” Hank said firmly. “That's right.”
Finally, Doctor Lorentz said, “Captain? Mrs. Mitchell? Could you come over please.”
“On our way,” Hank said as he led his wife over to the operating table. When they arrived, Hank asked, “What's the damage?”
Lena let go of her husband and looked her daughter over. Her skin was paler than normal and there wasn't anywhere on her body she could look and not see a trace of blood. Emma's eyes were closed and she looked to be sleeping... or dead. But her breathing and twitching said otherwise. Dr. Lorentz had cut off Emma's pant leg, revealing the horrid, mangled flesh beneath. Lena felt her stomach churn, but forced herself not to look away.
Finally, Lorentz said, “Your daughter is stable for now. The wound to her arm isn't anything more than a nasty scrape. The bullet grazed only grazed her. It's a bad graze, but that's all it is. The leg wound, on the other hand, is more serious. Fortunately, it also seems to be mostly superficial. There is some muscle damage, but not enough to be debilitating. As you can see, there is a clear exit wound, meaning that this will be a simple corrective surgery. From what I can tell, the bullet penetrated and exited, but at just enough of a level to cause the overlying skin tissue to lose integrity, resulting in a the blotchy wound you see here.”
When Emma twitched again, Lena asked, “Why is she doing that?”
Lorentz looked down at his patient and then replied, “I believe she's dreaming, Mrs. Mitchell. Don't worry, it won't be a problem. Once I administer the anesthesia-”
“What's she dreaming about?”
Lorentz was taken back by the rather silly question, “Well, I- I don't know. Could be anything.”
“Maybe,” Lorentz genuinely had no idea. “You can ask her when we wake her up.” He rubbed his chin. “Now, there is another matter. I've managed to contain the bleeding, but Emma has lost a significant amount of blood. She is definitely going through hypovolemic shock and needs the blood replaced as soon as possible. She's an A positive type so-”
“I'll do it,” Lena instantly volunteered. “I'm A positive.”
“Good,” Lorentz said. “But I've got some on hand and I've already started giving it to her. If I need any more though, I won't hesitate to ask.”
“Okay, Doc, what needs to be done?” asked Hank.
“I'll need to do some basic reconstructive surgery on her leg and have her arm stitched,” Lorentz replied. “I just thought you should know before I got started. It was always standard practice at my old hospital to-”
“Just get to work.”
“There is one more thing,” Dr. Lorentz said. “My nurse, Joy, is out tending to the wounded from the firefight outside and I'll need someone to give me assistance. Someone with hands delicate enough for the task. Mrs. Mitchell would you-?”
Lena shook her head, “No, doctor, I- I couldn't-”
“Hey, Lena,” Hank said slowly. “You can do this.”
“But Hank, it's- it's blood! I don't-”
“Lena, it's Emma. Can you do this for Emma?”
“I just- I don't know-”
Hank took her hands and assured her, “Lena, you can do this. Dr. Lorentz will help you every step of the way. I'll be here too.”
“Lena,” Hank spoke firmly. “You got this.”
She pursed her lips as her eyes pulled away from her husband's. They hit the floor and then over to the still-twitching Emma. It was almost as if her daughter was lying there pleading. Lena's lesser side fought it. She would have to see blood and probably even touch it. And Lena couldn't discount the what-if: What if she screwed up and Emma wound up dead?
Hank said again, “You got this, baby. You do.”
Lena swallowed everything, “Oh, gosh, what am I doing? I'll do it.”
“Okay,” Hank hugged her tightly. “I'll be here. You can do it.”
Lorentz said, “Alright, Mrs. Mitchell, I need you to, as we say, 'scrub up.' There should be a set of scrubs in the closet. Put that on, some gloves, and a surgical mask. Then I want you to wash yourself very thoroughly.”
“Okay,” Lena licked her lip as she followed his instructions.
“I am going to guide you through the entire process,” Lorentz proved his astounding patience. “In our hands, your daughter is going to be fine.”
As Lena and the good doctor began their preparations, Hank paced the room. For some reason, his mind admired the infirmary. Unlike the rusty steel of the rest of the Holdsworth, this room was a blend of white tile and stainless steel. Hank pulled all of the stops when it came to getting the medical center up to date. They had three recovery beds, a surgical operating table, an examination table, an X-ray machine, a suite of state-of-the-art lab equipment, enough supplies from bandages to medicines to last them for decades, and one of the best doctors left in the world. It was all perfect. And the room was so sterile, so flawless. As Hank noted this, he considered the purpose of infirmary, he considered what went in: hell.
Over the twenty-five years of commanding the Holdsworth, Hank had seen all kinds of hell go into his infirmary. He had seen dear friends mangled and gnarled, twisted and deformed brought into his infirmary and leave as good as new. And he had seen others come out trapped in a black cocoon forever. People came into the infirmary to either be walked back into life, or forever out of it. That infirmary became a purgatory of sorts, a final chance to escape hell.
And Emma? Emma was in hell and Dr. Lorentz was there to walk her out.