Emma opened her eyes and found no difficulty in adjusting to the dim, soft hospital light. She was not surprised to be there. In fact, she did not question it at all. Judging from the light coming from the blind-covered window, it was night outside. She took a good look around and found herself in simply an ordinary recovery room in a hospital. The door was closed and she was alone. In her right arm was an IV. She did not bother looking up to see what they were giving her. It didn't matter because she could not move her head to either side. She was in a neck brace of some kind and bandages covered the side of her face.
After a few minutes lying there thinking of basically nothing, she finally asked herself why she was in the hospital. She looked up at the ceiling and could reach no conclusion. The last thing she remembered was being on the Holdsworth, but being in a strange hospital was not surprising for some reason she did not yet remember. She felt like medicated hell, so there was a good reason to be there. She tried to remember.
Trying frustrated her. They must have been giving her morphine or some other pain medication because she realized that she was not thinking straight. The last time she felt like this was after Sergei had shot her in the arm and she was in the Holdsworth infirmary. Which led her to wonder why she was in a strange hospital and not with Dr. Lorentz.
The questions hurt her head. She shook her head and clenched her fists. But something was wrong. She felt her right hand, but her left was... absent. She looked at her right hand and it was bandaged in places, but then she looked to her left hand and--
There was nothing left but a bandaged stump just below her elbow.
Emma stared at it for about five seconds.
And then she screamed.
Four days later, Emma awoke to the sound of her hospital room door opening. No one told her what happened yet. She assumed that since she was in a Steelewood hospital that Sergei had been dealt with and Boston was safe. But was he dead, captured, or what? Her mother and Liam had come by for visits, but the nurses did not allow them to stay very long. And they avoided discussing anything that had happened. Emma's memory was still fuzzy, but she remembered invading Boston, but everything after that was a blur. She especially wanted to remember how she had lost her hand.
But such was impossible. She was in near-constant surgery to repair her torn skin and to treat her beyond superficial wounds. As such, she was on some kind of anesthesia or pain-killer almost all the time. These medicines did no good for the memory.
The familiar person she had seen the most of was Dr. Lorentz, who apparently had transferred himself off the Holdsworth to care especially for Emma. His justification was that he knew her and her physiology better than anyone. Then again, if he really knew her, he'd have known that she utterly despised him. Then again, perhaps he knew and was just there to spite her. But that theory gave Lorentz more credit than Emma was willing to give him.
In walked Dr. Lorentz who wore a polite, doctorly smile. He said, “Emma, I have good news . I am done with surgeries. Now we move onto physical therapy and-”
“Doc, you tell me right now what the hell happened to my hand,” Emma said, wanting to sound more threatening than she did.
“I don't think that's a good idea just yet. Your mind is still-”
Lorentz shook his head. “Emma, I cannot do that. I'm sorry. You will remember on your own eventually, but for now, you need to relax.”
“Doc, I am warning you-”
“Emma, you're straining yourself. Calm down,” Lorentz said sternly. “I promise you, you're going to remember everything soon, but for now, I don't want your mind pushing itself. I don't want it taking on a load it clearly does not want. You will be fine.”
“Doc, I need to know!”
“You will be fine.”
On Emma's sixth day of captivity at the Steelewood hospital, she finally remembered. She was lying in her bed after a day of minor physical therapy when she saw a strange man with dark hair and glasses outside her room talking to the nurse. She could not make out what they were talking about, but he seemed to be insisting on something and she was telling him, “No.” Emma felt as though she recognized him, but could not place where until-
The man outside her room was Ben Duckett.
She suddenly remembered leading him through the war-engulfed Boston, then something about Steelewood soldiers, talking with Dr. Fujikawa over the screen, and then suddenly her left flared up in pain. She saw clearly the zombies breaking down the door and then pushing her to the ground. And then they chewed and mangled her. The bones in her hand crushed and they ate her alive. Her face tore and her own blood covered her body.
“Send him in!” Emma shouted.
Duckett looked over at Emma and back to the nurse. He said something or another and then rushde into Emma's room. The nurse followed him in, but kept her distance. Duckett wore a business suit and a concerned expression. He said, “Emma! Are, um, are you alright?”
“You tell me. How do I look?”
“You look, well, um, you've seen better days.”
Emma didn't laugh, but she wanted to. She smiled. “Look, Ben, I need you tell me what happened. I can remember bits and pieces, but-”
“You saved my life is what happened,” Ben said confidently. “We were swarmed by the creatures and they- they were breaking in. I had just finished uploading the file to Sullivan when you started shooting. They pushed you back and you told me to run. We hit a dead end and you put yourself between me and the creatures. They never touched me because you held them off. They bit-” Duckett stopped himself. “Soldiers came soon and stopped you from being a total meal. But you, um, you lost quite a bit.”
“No one's told me what happened yet.”
“Must be awful not knowing.”
“Yeah,” Emma rolled eyes. “What happened to Sergei?”
“He's dead. Isadora shot him.”
“Did she?” Emma didn't spend time to process that. “Tell me, what's happening now?”
Duckett thought for a second and replied, “Quite a bit, really. Steelewood's board is going to vote tomorrow on whether or not Isadora is going to take her spot back as CEO. I'm thinking she will, but there's always that off chance that they'll want new direction. It just happens sometimes.”
“And what about my mom? And my brother?”
“Your mother and Isadora have been spending a lot of time together. Isadora's taking shooting her own son better than I thought anyone could, but I can't imagine what she's going through. I think she's just putting on a face. It's got to be eating her up on the inside.”
“I asked about Liam and my mom.”
“Oh, right!” Duckett snapped his fingers. “Right, I was saying, your mum and Isadora are together a lot. I think they're helping each other out. Isadora lost her son and your mum lost-” Duckett stopped himself. Reminding Emma that her father was dead was not a good idea, especially in her present state. “Your brother's spent most of his time doing what he can to help the relief effort in Boston. He's got the crew of your ship helping out too. I've tried talking to Liam, but he's hard to talk to. He's- he's, well, he feels guilt about all that's happened. He blames himself for what's happened to Boston.”
“No, no, that's Sergei's fault-”
“And we've told him that. He still takes responsibility. Fifty-two people died and he feels personally responsible for each one.”
“Doesn't matter what should be. That's what is.”
Emma sighed, “Thanks, Ben.”
“Um, what for?”
“Telling me all that. The doctors weren't saying jack.”
“I'll say it then, 'jack.'”
Emma smiled again. She still couldn't herself to laugh.
“She needs to get her rest now,” the nurse said.
“May I check back in on you tomorrow?” Duckett asked. “Bring you anything?”
“Just come on by. I could use the company.”
“Will do. And thank you.”
Liam and Lena came by in the middle of the next afternoon. Emma had endured another morning of hard physical therapy, this one even more stressful than the last. She expected to be doing constantly more difficult exercises for a while. Still, the nurses convinced her that she was being fast-tracked and that they were pushing Emma harder than usual. Dr. Lorentz apparently really did know her, since he gave the order to drive Emma harder. She could handle it, especially if it meant getting out of the hospital sooner.
“Emma!” Lena exclaimed immediately upon entering the room. She came quickly to her daughter's right side and asked, “How ya feelin'?”
“I'd say like hell, but I'm too drugged to tell.”
“You look like hell, if that helps,” Liam said.
“I've seen the mirror, so, no, I've got that down.”
“But you were always ugly, so hell might actually be an improvement,” Liam said, stepping over to her left side.
Lena interrupted their banter, “How's physical therapy been?”
“You know when you're getting' out?”
“Beats me. A few weeks, I'm hoping.”
“Are they gonna give you a prosthetic?”
“When the arm's healed enough, yeah.”
“You should get a hook instead,” Liam suggested.
“I don't want a hook, Liam, I want my damn hand back.”
“But you could be a pirate, Emma. You'd be perfect-”
“Liam, enough,” Lena interrupted when she noticed the terrifying rage stare Emma gave the wall. Emma tried not to be rude, but her anger was obvious to her mother. Lena put her hand on her daughter's only hand and asked, “Emma, how are you feeling?”
“You already asked that, mom.”
“I know, but I really wanna know this time. Tell me for real.”
“I- I don't wanna talk about, mom.”
“Tell me about something else.”
“Just- just take my mind away from this.”
“Emma, you need to face-”
“Mom!” Emma jerked her hand away from her mother's. “I don't need- mom, I've got this. Okay?! I'm fine!”
Lena nodded. “Okay, okay. We ain't gonna talk about that anymore. What do you wanna know?”
“I dunno.” Emma sighed. “I just dunno.”
“Hey, Emma,” Liam said. “There's this Irish pub I found close to downtown. Went in a few times. Great place. What do you say we check it out when you get outta here?”
Smiling hurt. Emma wanted to give him just a little one, but was stuck saying, “You couldn't bring me a few bottles of the good stuff?”
“No!” Lena interjected. “Last thing ya need is booze.”
“I think that's the first thing,” Liam said.
“She can have it first thing she gets out.”