The jolt of the stretcher brought her half-awake for the second or third time, and Natalie was grateful for the sheer volume of painkillers Langston had pumped into her. Even under sedation, she hurt. As she slipped back into the twilight between awareness and unconsciousness, her mind drifted. Past pain merged with present pain, bringing a series of fleeting memories.
Hot agony seared through her nerve endings while she took the man’s injuries into herself. She could feel the ruptured spleen, the broken ribs and collarbone, the internal bleeding. All of it slowly but surely healed within him and manifested inside her own body. The shock to her system caused her to stumble slightly, but it didn’t stop her from moving on the next person, healing their shrapnel wounds. Her power struggled within her to heal her while she pulled more and more damage into herself, manifesting the shrapnel damage, and yet a third person’s head trauma.
“No more!” a deep voice growled, sounding enraged. Arms curved around her as she began to fall. She should know that voice, but its source was lost in the haze of her mind right now. “You can’t let her heal that many high-level injuries at once! It could kill her!”
She’d never found an actual physical damage limit to her abilities. She couldn’t heal illness at all, but sometimes she could help prolong someone’s ability to fight an illness by healing the physical damage to organs. A disease could be set back but would continue its work and re-damage the organs. How she wished sometimes that her parents had tried to find a way to nullify her abilities. They had tried to ensure that she understood from the time her powers manifested that she couldn’t heal everyone.
I’ve done a lot of good in the world… But no matter how much good she did, would it ever make up for the deaths she caused? The power that her parents helped her hone to something truly useful were the very things that had destroyed everything.
So many injuries over the years, they ran together in her mind. Broken bones, damaged internal organs, head trauma, damage from other Powers. The gunshot she was currently suffering ranked right up there on the pain scale, for certain. And every time someone stumbled carrying the stretcher, it sent a fresh shaft of lightning through her body that took her breath away. In the pain-filled twilight zone that she drifted in, Natalie wanted to cry.
And the truth of it all, Nat admitted to herself for the first time, I’m RELIEVED. She no longer had to hurt all the time. She didn’t have the responsibility of easing other people’s pain just because she could. The cost of her Power shattered her a little more every time she used it, and then she’d become literally the harbinger of the end of the world. She was ashamed of that feeling of relief; the guilt of knowing that others wanted their powers back and she didn’t was agonizing. It was selfish, but she couldn’t help being grateful to be rid of the power that had ultimately destroyed the world itself.