Part I: Renewal
The silence in the room was deafening, only broken by the loud ticking of the clock. I knew I was in some sort of medical office, that much I’d guessed but the details I couldn’t even begin to guess. There was a brown blob in the corner which might have been a desk, a foggy puke green streak that ran from the ceiling to the floor, I supposed was a curtain, a few gray square blurs which were cabinets, I think?
For the past few months, that had become the extent of my visual world; nothing but colored blurs, blobs and fogs. With my powers I could tells shapes apart and get a feel for materials, but ever since they’d put those cuffs on me, my powers had gone right out the window… That left me with nothing but the blurs, sounds and the agonizing cries of my wounded body, which I tried to ignore as best I could, focusing on the decor. My attempt at deciphering my environment came to an end when the door opened and the doctor came back in. Or at least I think it was him, it had the same blurry white top and black bottom.
“The test came back positive…” He began, trying to muster as much sympathy as he could. “I’m sorry to say but you have a fairly advanced case of Vaughan Syndrome.”
Finally I had a name for what was wrong with me. It had started a few months prior; slowly it had taken my sight, my sense of touch, made my hands unsteady, my body painful and my energy and consciousness prone to coming and going…
“I see.” Was all I answered.
“Vaughan Syndrome is a rare degenerative autoimmune disease that only manifest in mutants. To put it simply, your own body is destroying healthy cells as it doesn’t recognize mutant cells as its own. I’m sorry to tell you, but it’s an incurable condition.” He put a hand on my shoulder but I jerked away. “Treatment will halt symptoms progression but I’m afraid that it will not reverse the damage that has already been done.”
He kept talking and I only registered the big notes; My eyes were fine, it was the nerves that were pretty much dead so glasses didn’t do a thing, the pain wouldn’t improve either, I’d need weekly red blood cells transfusion to stay healthy as my body was killing those too.
“When I was captured, how bad was the damage?” I asked, interrupting his exposé on how bad the V-something Syndrome was. As horrible as that was, it was only half the problem… “I know I wasn’t really doing too well before then, so I need to know.”
There was one reason I was here; The cops and capes had finally caught and arrested me. Well, not really. In truth I’d given up and allowed myself to be captured. I was just so tired; tired of running. tired of hiding, tired of fighting… With my health slowly deteriorating, I knew my time was running out. What was the point of fighting anymore anyway? So I’d decided to give in and let them to whatever they wanted. After one last fight, of course. I’d given it all and in a way I was surprised I’d even survived it…
“Hm, it resulted in several broken ribs and fractures all over your body, the worst of which are in your legs. The bones are fractured beyond the body’s natural repair capabilities, we’ll need to operate by installing metallic rods and screws to piece them back together if you want to ever walk again. A surgeon has already been booked for tomorrow. The internal bleeding was able to be stopped, but might become an issue again in the future.”
“What can I do?” I asked, already feeling hopeless.
“You need to put on some weight to begin with. I’d hate to add more medication to what you’ll be taking, but the most important thing you can do is believe you can pull through this.”
“That’s not very promising.” I sighed.
“I know. There’s not much else we can do, unfortunately.”
I sighed again and looked down.
“You need to turn this around. If you don’t, your condition will worsen and you’ll be dead by the end of the year. I hate to be blunt, but I’m sure you’re tired of people not telling you how it really is.”
“Why should I have hope for any of this? I’d be glad to leave this shitty world.”
“There’s still good in this world, Jaime. And I believe that’s worth fighting for. Please, take care of yourself wherever you end up, alright?”
“I make no promises…”
He got up and went back to the door, opening it. Two security guard came in and escorted me out, moving me about using the wheelchair they’d strapped me in.
With the medical check up over, it was back to my cell. A little box of steel and concrete I had all to myself. The guards escorted me to my bed dragged me off the chair and onto it. When they left I sat down, pulling myself up with my arms, at least that I could do. I just stared at the dull gray blur of the ground, losing myself in thoughts once more…
Over the next few months, my healing process was slow and painful, the surgeries had added dozens of new scars running all over my legs, complementing the burn ones on my upper body. I didn’t want to cooperate with anyone as I hated anyone touching me. They were very particular about taking my hands and helping as I relearned to walk after they’d rebuilt my legs, but I wouldn’t have any of that. I wouldn’t even give them a chance.
Once I recovered from all the surgeries, every day was the same; wake up, eat, physiotherapy, eat, free time, eat, sleep. As I was kept secluded from anyone else, there was little difference between days. As I couldn’t read or do much watching, Doctor Wallace had been nice enough to arrange for me to have an old MP3 player. If anything, he was the only reason I went along with the recovery and didn’t just give up; eating, doing the physiotherapy and everything. I didn’t want him to feel like he’d failed… I guess it was something to hold onto…
The routine however changed one day, I didn’t know how long it had been, I wasn’t even trying to keep track, but the days had gotten really warm so it was probably summer now. I was eating my lunch of franks & beans when the door to my cell opened.
“You seem to have taken well to your new accommodations.” A woman said. I immediately recognized her voice; She’d been the one to put me in there. Even after all this time, I hadn’t caught her name. All I knew what was little I could decipher; dark skinned — or maybe it was a full head mask — and wearing a top blending red, white and blue, which I think was meant to be a flag. “Comfortable?” She asked.
I didn’t reply out of my own bitterness towards the situation, she was the one who’d caught me, put those horrible power-cuffs around my wrists, I didn’t feel like playing along.
“Don’t tell me your hearing is going, too.” She replied sarcastically.
“I can hear you.” I grumbled. “What do you want?”
“Just checking up on you. How are you doing?”
“Everything still hurts and my body has yet to realize that killing me would be a bad thing. There; are you satisfied or are you going to gloat some more?” She didn’t let my attitude get to her.
“Doc’s been telling me that you’ve been making progress and cooperating. More or less…”
I didn’t answer, instead shoving more of the bland prison food into my mouth.
“Mind if I have a bite?” She asked. I looked up and glared at her.
“Just tell me what you want already.”
“Well, first tell me; Is staying here what you really want?”
“Not like I have a choice. Even if I could leave the lack of meds would kill me.”
“What if you did have a choice? To leave freely and with your medicine taken care of? Of course there’d be a catch.”
“Right.” I mumbled, not biting.
“Here’s the thing, I know your type. You like fighting, you like the rush of it, the excitement and everything. Ironically, risking your life is it’s what makes you feel alive. I know that, because I’m just like you…” She came closer and sat down on bed. “I was fucking hollow inside, just going through the motions until I first felt the rush of combat.”
“Is there a point to all this?”
“You’ve been fighting wrong all these years. You can do it, legally and not be in trouble for it. And I’ve got the perfect way for you to do just that; Be a hero Jaime.”
I couldn’t help but laugh, which caused my not-quite healed ribs to burst into pain.
“You’re nuts. I’m not going to be like one of you costumed buffoons.”
“Well, you think about it then. When you’re tired of this view and this food, all you’ve got to do is ask the guards for me.”
“I don’t even know who you are.”
“They call me Columbia.”