Maddy is working on repairing something when Ang walks up with a cane.
“God, I hope this is you, Maddy. Is that you?” Ang questioned. Hopefully not the air, she thought.
Maddy turned around when she heard the signal off Ang’s pin: its GPS pinger had a distinctive voice that Maddy likened to a prairie dog chirp. She wasn’t surprised when Ang walked through her door a few beats later. In fact, Maddy had turned off her bench grinder and was already on her way to the door when Ang arrived.
“It’s me,” Maddy said quietly on her left, not wanting to startle her newly-blinded friend. She was grateful Ang couldn’t see her wince. The ruination of Ang’s eyes was tragic and Maddy suppressed the impulse to blurt the inane social noise people normally made in awkward moments like this. Instead, she focused on the immediately practical. “There’s a table on your one o’clock, three steps ahead, and … Hmm. It’s a bit of a minefield in here, actually. Would you like to take my arm?”
Ang reached out for Maddy’s arm and without thinking about it turned the grasp into a hug. Ang buried her head in Maddy’s shoulder, and for a moment, just let the grief flow.
“I … they … they’re hurt. Nina’s …. she’s gone! It … I … oh my god …” Her voice trailed off as the sounds of her sobs flowed out.
Ang eventually sat down, not being able to see Maddy’s expression. Her blindness left her feeling that everyone was silently judging her, judging her failures. Young leader fails disastrously … what were we thinking leaving her in charge of the ship? the voice in her head says.
Maddy staggered under Ang but recovered, giving a doorside bench a wild sweep to clear it. She flinched as her tools protested the treatment but she steeled herself against their complaint and got her friend sitting down. After that it was simply a matter of holding Ang until the woman was able to speak again.
“I’m so sorry …,” Maddy whispered as she stroked Ang’s back. God, she felt so incompetent in situations like this. Not that she needs that from you right now. As usual, Maddy’s fix-it nature kicked in. “What do you need? How can I help?”
Ang subtly shuddered for a moment, forcing herself back into a mode she long ago learned was her leadership mode. It was emotionally agnostic, critical, and forced her into a zone wherein her thoughts and logic were all that were left. She never told anyone about it, because she hated it—she never really considered it to be her. But it was what people had come to expect, and it had saved her life a couple of times.
“I need you to build something for me. I need to talk to Louis.”
Louis had been one of the Young Bloods with the most serious of conditions. He was on life support, in critical care, and wasn’t conscious.
“He probably won’t make the night, and I need to talk to him now. I believe he was the one who let Devastator in.”
Maddy had seen Louis when they limped back to base—dreadful though Ang’s condition was, Louis’s was even worse. Unable to do anything to help her teammates, Maddy had retreated to her makeshift workshop, her comfort zone, and tried to cope. But now …
“Okay,” she said. “Let’s go.”
Ang watched in awe as Maddy worked on a communication device to be able to reach Louis. Ang tried to repress the thought that she was doing this simply to interrogate him, but actually to contact him before he passed on.
Maddy gave the screw the tiniest of turns, feeling it grin at doing its job. Running her fingers over the device, checking every joint and connection, she silently asked the pieces and parts if they were good to go. Their feedback was green (!). Maddy turned to Ang and said, “They’re—It’s ready. All you need to do is get this a yard or less from his head and they’ll—It’ll take care of the rest.” Pronoun confusion. It happened sometimes. Maddy regretfully gave her newest creation a mental farewell and carefully folded Ang’s fingers around it. “Give it a minute. It needs to get a baseline of your waves, okay? Once it’s got your head, you can link to Louis’s.”
The world narrowed down to just the room, and then just to Louis in the bed. Ang, due to her training, did not freak out when reality shifted. She held the device tightly, knowing it was an anchor, and walked up to Louis. He woke up in his bed and he looked very frightened. The tubes coming out of his arms turned into chains and shackles. Ang wondered if she’d made that happen, or if it was Louis that did that. In the end, Louis knew he was trapped. Ang sighed. She’d been dreading this moment, and really wished she wasn’t alone.
“Louis …,” Ang nearly stuttered. Before she could speak again, he spoke to her.
“Is this heaven or hell?” he asked, and his face showed that he knew the answer already.
Ang felt the truth was best. “You’re in a coma, Louis. We are working to help heal you, but a lot of your body is close to shutting down.”
Louis started to cry, and Ang realized that in this world, she had eyes, too. They started to well up with his.
Maddy led Ang to Louis’s bedside and retreated to stand just inside the door. Louis lay in a ground floor room hastily converted into a medical suite. Maddy had set it up and she automatically did a status check of everything in it: monitors, drips, power lines, connections—they all hummed right along without a glitch. She could sense them as a web of energy, entwined together in their tasks, and behind her eyelids the room was aglow. Ang and Louis were dead spots in the light, punctuated with sparks wherever mechanical or technical things touched them. Maddy’s new device was lit up like a Christmas tree in Ang’s shadow-hands. As Maddy watched, tendrils of energy streamed from it to Ang and Louis, weaving a bridge between their heads … and before she knew it, a wisp reached out and drew her head into it, too.
:: Warm. Light. Cold. ::
Nailed to the spot, Maddy couldn’t pull away and she heard everything.