Amanda drifted through a black haze. A burning sensation from her stomach managed to pierce through to her conscience. She screamed. Above her distant, urgent, and incomprehensible words were shouted. A warm feeling spread from her arm to the rest of her body. The pain lessened, allowing her to slip back into unconsciousness.
Amanda woke with a start. She pushed through the ache in her stomach to take in a huge gasp of air. Wha?
Her eyes shot open. A blurry light overhead blinded her for a moment as her eyes adjusted. Something to the side of her bed beeped. She lifted her head to look down on herself with squinting eyes and try to identify the source of the pain. A white bed sheet covered her up to her shoulders. When she lifted her arm to pull it back, the a couple needles taped to her arm tugged at her skin. Something white and plastic was clipped to her finger.
A featureless blob moved towards her. A woman asked, “Amanda, can you hear me?”
She blinked at the person in front of her, blurred from Amanda’s lack of glasses or contacts. Her dry throat and tongue kept her from replying immediately. She managed to croak, “Yes.”
Where am I? What happened? She tried to sit up a little further. Her stomach rewarded her with a lance of pain in her abdomen. “Ahhhahh,” was all she could manage, her voice not quite cooperating. She squeezed her eyes shut and lay back, trying to will the pain away.
“Easy, easy,” said the woman, placing a hand on her shoulder. “Don’t try and sit up. Here.” A machine whirred below Amanda. Half of the bed tilted upwards to let her sit up by a few degrees. She cracked her eyes open once again and glanced at the blurry woman.
“Thanks. Where…?” she let the question hang. Something about robots. That’s the last I remember.
“You’re in Phoenix General Hospital. You took four bullets to the stomach. You’re lucky to be alive.”
Amanda blinked as she lifted her head back up. The robots shot me? I remember… we were talking. With the Watch, I think. Where… where is everyone.
“Your parents were here too. They… they care very much. They said they had something to take care of and left a couple hours ago. I’m sure they’ll be back soon.”
“Wait!” said Amanda. What happened to the others? She forgot her condition for a moment and tried to jolt upright. She cried out as her muscles gave out, and she flopped back on the bed.
“Whoa, careful!” said the woman. “Here’s some painkillers. Try and get some sleep, OK?” A warm feeling spread from Amanda’s arm again. Her eyes grew heavy.
No. Why are my parents…
Amanda woke up some indeterminable time later, much more peacefully. The general numbness she felt gradually faded. It took her a moment to recognize the hospital room she lay in. Her lack of glasses did not help matters, everything still looked fuzzy and indistinct. The dimmer lights helped, at least.
“Honey, are you awake?” asked a familiar voice.
“Bwa?” said Amanda, still not fully awake. She turned towards the voice just in time to catch sight of her mother embracing her in a gentle hug. “I…” began Amanda, not bothering to continue.
They held each other for a few long, silent minutes. Eventually, Amanda asked, “Where’s father?”
“Your father is out. He had to take a call.” Of course he did. They released each other. Amanda faced her mother as best she could from her bed and ignored her stomach. Her mother pulled up a chair to her bedside and clutched Amanda’s hand. “You had us so scared, honey. When we got the call…” Her voice broke.
Amanda squeezed her hand back. This isn’t so bad. “It’s alright. I’m alive.” She couldn’t exactly tell.
Her mother pressed her thin lips together and nodded. “What happened? No one here but your father knows, but he won’t tell me. And even he doesn’t know why you’re here in the first place. All anyone knows is that you were shot by a local gang. There was even a police squad outside your door when we first arrived here.” Oh no. I need to find the others, now. Where’s my phone? And where are my glasses?
“Police?” asked Amanda.
“Some hit men tried to… tried to kill you the day before we landed. Your… friends scared them off, but the police weren’t able to find your friends after. Don’t worry. Your father convinced the police to drop all charges. And he has Lock Corp. security posted outside now.”
Amanda stayed quiet a moment as she squinted at her mother. No… no arrest? No way in hell are Mother and Father going to just let me go once I’m healed.
“Oh, sorry,” said her mother. She reached over and grabbed her purse. “Your father had these made. Has your prescription changed since… you know…” she trailed off, not finishing her question.
Since I ran away a year ago? Is that what you meant to say? Amanda just said, “No, still the same.” She accepted the thin, black rimmed glasses her mother produced from a case in her purse and put them on. Finally. She blinked as her eyes adjusted.
Her mother sat by her side, looking as always like a prim and proper lady. Her brown hair, tied back into a neat bun, had a few streaks of grey in it. She wore an expensive, dark green dress, no doubt from some designer from Paris or New York. Amanda had been forced into many like it before. Sorry, Mother. I like flats more than heels.
“So… what did I miss?” asked Amanda.
“You were-” She took a deep breath. “In a coma for three days. You woke up a couple times over the past two days. We got here as soon as we could.” I’m sure. Probably missed a fancy dinner, too.
“What happened to my friends?” asked Amanda.
“They haven’t been seen since they stole some cars yesterday,” said her mother, her voice curt.
Some tension she hadn’t been aware of eased out of Amanda’s shoulders. Her mother raised an eyebrow.
Something else, then? “Could I have a glass of water?”
“Sorry. The staff here said you shouldn’t be eating or drinking anything for your own safety. Your stomach was rather damaged, they said. And your friends… were they nice?” What? She’s not spitting on them?
“Of course. Why wouldn’t they be?”
Her mother’s brow furrowed. “You do know they can’t get to you anymore. No need to be afraid of them.” Oh, there it is.
“They didn’t coerce me or anything.” Yes, yes. Your sweet, spoiled daughter didn’t turn out to be a business mogul like you wanted, sorry. “We were here in Phoenix to help one of them with a family problem.” She bit back a sarcastic quip at the end. She hasn’t been arguing, I won’t start it.
Her mother frowned. “Amanda, it’s alright. You can tell me anything.”
Amanda nodded with exaggerated slowness. “I know, Mother. And I’m telling you that we were here to help with a family issue.”
Her mother sighed. “What were you thinking, scaring us half to death like this? Running away from home in the middle of the night? And you were shot. Shot.”
“OK, getting shot was not my fault.”
“You wouldn’t have been in that situation had you just listened to Father and I.”
Amanda opened her mouth to snap a retort when she heard a deep male voice from outside, muffled by the walls. “Tell the men … find him if… employed. Understand?”
Amanda suppressed a sigh. Same old, same old. I’m in a fucking hospital bed and they won’t leave me alone. The numbness she’d felt had completely vanished, replaced with an uneasy ache in the pit of her stomach.
The door opened and her father slipped in. “Sorry, dear, the boys…” he whisptered to her mother. He cut off whatever else he was about to say. “Amanda!” He wrapped her up in a hug, regardless of the suit he wore. “Good to see you awake, honey,” he said, a wide smile on his face. He released her to go stand by Mother’s side.
“Yes. We were just talking about the career path she’d chosen.”
Her father snorted. “The police. Oh yeah, I heard about that, Delta,” he said, putting scorn into the last word. “They can never get anything done. I don’t see why you refuse to join the family business. You know there’d be a place for you, honey.” That was quick.
“Lock Corp?” They’d had this argument too many times to count. “You know what your family business is, right? Murder.” Her mother shot her a disapproving frown.
A frown replaced her father’s smile. “Honey,” he began in a controlled voice. “It is not murder. We’ve discussed this. Our men do their jobs. Sometimes that job is defending things that bad men would rather see destroyed or ruined. It is not murder.”
Why am I even bothering? “Hey, remember that torturing scandal that had Lock Corp. in the news for a couple months? And how it was reported that this wasn’t the first time it had happened in your company’s operations, just the-”
Her father cut her off. “A couple bad eggs. They were immediately laid off.” You mean given a transfer to the black ops division and no disciplinary measures whatsoever. Yeah, teenage me wasn’t deaf to those phone calls.
“That still doesn’t make me want to work there.”
“We humored you. We paid for you education. And you showed your gratitude by running off? And even after two years of looking for you, the first we hear is that you’ve been shot?” And that’s why I never told anyone my real name at the police department. You just don’t GIVE UP.
“Gratitude? You criticized me every step of the way.”
“Of course. You wanted to be a computer science egg head.”
“I graduated magna cum laude at age seventeen. And all you did was make snarky remarks about nerds afterwards.”
“Because there’s no money to be made! Better than most people, sure, but you know that’s not what I’m talking about. You wouldn’t get any respect as a code monkey, just the praise of more code monkeys.”
Amanda tried to sit upright at that, aggravating her stomach. She gritted her teeth and said, “My life, my choice.”
Her father rolled his eyes. “Kids,” he muttered under his breath. Her mother just gave her a pitying look. Not you too.
A knock on the door interrupted them. “Hello?” asked a man.
“We’ll continue this later,” said Father. He opened the door for the clipboard toting doctor on the other side.
“Mr. and Mrs. Lafitte. Is this a bad time?” asked the goateed doctor. His eyes glanced nervously between Amanda’s parents. What did you say to him, father? Were you going to sue him into oblivion? Send jackbooted thugs after him?
“No, not at all,” said Father, moving out of the doorway to let the doctor in. A female nurse, who might have been the one Amanda saw when she first woke up, followed him in.
“I just need to do a quick checkup, and then we can get started,” said the doctor. He placed the clipboard on a nearby table as the nurse examined the bags and devices attached to Amanda.
“Everything looks good, doctor.”.
He nodded. “Thank you.” The nurse left as he stood by Amanda and laid a hand on her arm. “Excuse me, this will only take a moment.” His eyes unfocused. Magic? Or a power? A minute passed before he doctor’s eyes refocused and his hand withdrew.
“Good news, doctor?” asked Father.
The doctor paused. “Good. That means we know what we’re dealing with.”
“What exactly are we dealing with?” asked Father, looming off to the side.
“I’m right here,” said Amanda. Please don’t talk about me while I’m right here like that.
The doctor nodded again. “Of course. Sorry. Now, I have a full medical diagnosis for you, if you like. A damage report, if you will.”
“Yes,” said Amanda and her father at the same time. “Please,” added Amanda.
The doctor addressed her. “There’s no pretty way to go about this. One of your kidneys was shredded beyond repair. A fifth of your liver was lost, and we had to rebuild most of your intestines with magic. You have two bullets lodged close to your main artery in your lower chest. Removing them would have been way too risky. Nicking that artery would have meant almost certain death.”
Amanda took a deep breath, ignoring the rising pain in her abdomen. Fuck me, that’s a lot. “OK, what does that mean?”
“The bullets? Not much. You’ve already healed around them. You may set off metal detectors in the future, and never undergo an MRI scan until the police have finished their analysis of the two we did remove from you.”
I should know this. Her power kicked in. –MRI machines produce very strong magnetic fields. Depending on the metal used in the bullets in you, they could heat up to extreme temperatures.– Extremely hot things in my body. Not good. Got it.
“Your liver will heal in time, though I suggest abstaining from alcohol for a while. Your other kidney has been adequate, the bloodworks say everything is normal there. You won’t need a transplant or anything of that nature. Your intestines were… in far worse shape. We’ve kept you on a steady drip of morphine since you woke up screaming. The damage was extensive.”
He continued, “You’ll have to use this probiotic for four months to recover the bacteria population in your intestines. I’m also prescribing painkillers for the next few months as well. We’ve kept you on an IV for water and nutrients. There is a magical procedure that we must perform tonight before you can take in any liquids safely.”
Amanda closed her eyes for a moment. I’m going to be useless for months, aren’t I? I’ll be doped up on morphine and drinking food smoothies.
“Would you like me to give you some time?” asked the doctor.
“No,” said Amanda. What else could there be?
The doctor produced three small pill bottles. “These three pills you’ll be on for most likely the rest of your life. Your intestines won’t produce nearly enough enzymes to be able to digest most food, but these should compensate for that.” Oh, I’ll be useless and drugged up for the rest of my life, not just months.
“You’ll also need this mild anticoagulant.” He produced another bottle. “Your friend did an admirable job reversing her magic for a first timer, but it wasn’t quite enough. This should combat your heightened blood clotting and reduce the risk of strokes or heart attacks.”
“Wait, friend? What?” Magic? Miya? What’d she do?
“Your friend saved your life. She, along with a member of the local Watch, kept you from bleeding out. However, she overused her magic. She is actually quite powerful, but she made a magic stream that wouldn’t dissipate over time. She couldn’t quite reverse it, so your blood was clotting in your bloodstream even after the initial danger had passed. Again, she managed to mitigate most of the effects, but not completely.” More pills. And I’m only twenty.
“That all?” she asked. Tons of pills, for the rest of my life.
“No. You will need physical therapy. Your abdominal muscles were shredded by the bullets. In the mean time, I would strongly urge you to avoid having to sit up. Anything that puts strain on your abs will more than likely ruin any progress you’ll have made.”
The doctor retrieved his clipboard and continued. “There is good news. You will heal. Most of what I have described is temporary. You will most likely live a normal life, and that’s more than what I can say to a lot of my patients.” Tons of pills, for the rest of my life.
“Wait, doctor. What was that procedure you mentioned?” asked her father. “Why didn’t you do it earlier?”
“The procedure is very taxing on the patient. If we had used it when she’d first come in, the strain would have killed her. It will heal the unhealed cuts and tears in her abdomen. After that, there is little more we can do for her besides writing the prescriptions.”
“Alright. We’ll take her home with us.” Amanda stared at the ceiling as the doctor left.
“Damn it. Why?” he asked Amanda.
“I don’t know,” she said, not taking her eyes from the ceiling.
“You fell in with a vigilante, a couple filthy crooks, and an animal. Why would you waste your life like that?” Hey, one of those crooks is Rob.
Amanda closed her eyes. Not worth arguing. Tons of pills, for the rest of my life.