"It's gone down again."
"What? No- by how much?"
"That's- that's barely a month left…"
"I want to go home."
"You have to stay-"
"I don't want to die here. I want to be at home." Silence devoured the hospital room. Valerian didn't want to, but he forcefully lifted his downcast gaze from the white tiled floor and up to the girl in the hospital bed. Lily was avoiding eye contact, her folded hands seeming more interesting at the moment. "Please" she uttered, "I'm going crazy here."
Valerian looked around the small box of a room. There was no window for her to gaze out of. She'd been unlucky admitted to one of the lower level rooms, not because of money or care was an issue- there was just a little space since the disaster. Valerian stood and grabbed Lily's wrist, turning it over to reveal a small device. A small, circular device was implanted, arching slightly from her skin with a white screen. All that was visible on the screen were blocky black numbers reading nineteen. Valerian looked to his wrist, where his own device was implanted. He tapped the screen and a small holographic projection flickered to life, there were several numbers below his own. His brothers, parents, Eskels, anyone close to him was listed. He found Lily's name, looking at her number as if it would be any different than what he saw on hers.
Still, it read in big numbers, 19.
"I'll call the nurse." Valerian deflected her question to be taken home, stepping away from her and moving to hit a button on the pale blue screen beside the door. "Your counter must be broken," he stated, "damaged during the explosion."
Lily looked down at her counter, Just be honest with yourself. It's not broken. She sighed to herself. She knew her counter was very much in tack, they were made to withstand virtually everything, they were an important piece of life after all. The counter was a piece of technology that all people their age had had since birth. Implanted in them within their first year of life, always on and always counting the number of days they had left to live. Lily hadn't always been so short, but what happened had been out of her control.
All she had was nineteen days left, there was no use wasting them in denial.
Before she knew it Lily spotted her nurse walking into the room. Valerian smiled and greeted her before quickly directed his attention back to Lily. "Her counter is damaged. It says she only has less than three weeks left, but that's not right."
"Let me perform an examination scan, Mr. Hope."
Lily frowned, she hated her nurse. Not on a personal level- she knew nothing about her. She just didn't like what she was. The nurse, tall and unnaturally shaped, was what everyone was calling the latest piece of technology. An android was impressive, but robotic based healthcare was nothing new. There were people on the streets walking around with high tech limbs, metal plates replacing skin and wounds, even newly working organs thanks to the newest batch of tech from OrionStar, the biggest and leading organization behind the new high tech implements of life. They had been the ones to engineer the countdown, decades ago.
The android looked human, besides being slimmer than most women were. Her skin was cold though, it wasn't even skin. Lily wasn't sure what it was, but it replicated it well enough for the first generation of these things. Her eyes were a bit lifeless, she wasn't very expressional either. They were usually a brown-black color, but they changed color depending on the functions she was performing. "Please help Miss. Evans stand."
Valerian did so, helping her slowly slip from the hospital bed and stand before the android nurse. Lily smoothed her hospital gown down before standing as straight as she could and letting her arms dangle at her sides. The lights dimmed and a gentle green light took the room as the light from the nurse's eyes fanned over Lily.
The lights came back on and the nurse took a moment to process her new information. "Well?" Valerian asked, "her countdown is-"
"Lilian's countdown in perfectly intact." The nurse smiled, "no issues!"
Lily almost smiled at the insistent unawareness of her voice.
"But- her counter shouldn't be going down!"
The nurse paused, "It should."
"But, she got the surgery and treatments, she should have plenty of life left to live!"
"You're arguing with a brick wall," Lily stated, climbing back into bed to settle down.
"Lilian's levels were good at first, but it appears she's taken a dip. As the doctor explained before, her treatment does have a gap for failure."
"What's wrong with her now?"
"Her lung continues to struggle despite repair. Her heart strains occasionally, breathing has decreased and mental state is low."
"But" Valerian seemed to be at a loss for words.
"Her external wounds can be healed, but her internal wounds will prove difficult. The damage to her mind will take time as well, it was a traumatic incident."
Valerian thought of the doctor's words the first day she'd been admitted. He supposed it had been foolish of him to have such high hopes that she'd revert to normal will a few surgeries and treatments. "What can be done to help?"
"Not many solutions are available for Miss. Evans. A replacement of organs are of option, Orion's technology can prove sufficient for her treatment." Valerian looked to Lily, whose lips were pressed into a thin line. "Can you get the doctor?" Valerian requested, prompted the android to leave quickly.
"No." Lily hissed, "I am not replacing my lung with some fake-weird metal one!"
"But it'll save your life" Valerian pressed.
"What about my heart? It won't help it, so what are they going to want to do after that? Replace it- I don't want that! Look at what happened to my mom. They saved her after the crash, but they replaced her heart- she's no better than emotionless now."
"She's not completely emotionless." Valerian argued, "a bit...empty at times...but that was years ago, medical tech is always evolving."
"I'm not doing it. I am going to go home and be at peace and live my next three weeks happily, not here- and not under any surgery."
It was Valerian's turn to press his lips into a line and clutch the bedside railing for a moment. Don't argue about it he told himself, it's not my choice, but...maybe she'll consider it some more these next few days. "Okay, I'll make the arrangements to bring you home." He smiled. He was still bitter over the surgery issue, but he could feel little bubbles of joy rising in his stomach. Lily hadn't been home since the night of the accident, and while she was a very big or loud presence, the house felt empty without her.
"Oh, Lily, I'm sorry. Traffic is just so bad." Valerian's looked out at the seemingly endless sea of cars barely moving in front of him. "I'm going to be really late," he admitted.
Valerian could hear the chatter of a docile party environment on the other line before Lily barely sighed, "It's fine. You can't help traffic."
"Is Kirron and Emily there yet?"
"Kirron and Emily are stuck at a blockade downtown- protesters, you know the routine."
"Again? They've stopped the war, I don't see what's left to protest about, besides making things hard for everyone else." Valerian looked around as he inched forward.
"I don't know, when are they soldiers coming home?" He wondered aloud, "Atlas is a faraway planet, but it's been a month hasn't it?"
"Their ships are scheduled to land by the end of the week." Valerian hummed, thinking of the cold planet of Atlas up there in space. Earth had been locked in rough tensions with Atlas since Valerian could remember. Space travel was common, but galactic warfare wasn't. Sure, planets had a few spats and fights here and there, but Earth and Atlas never seemed to be able to get along. Always fighting for territory in space, always making threats, and always sending soldiers away to space. However, the war had been negotiated just a few months ago. Earth walked away with the land they wanted on Atlas, while Atlas was given the reign they wanted to pass through Earth's territory. A trade act had even been set in stone. The protesters against the war still went on though, Valerian didn't understand what about anymore, but all he knew was that they liked to block streets, hold sectors of the city off-limits, and yell.
"Is Eskel there yet?"
"Of course not. You know him, if you don't drag him here on time yourself then he's going to be late."
Valerian smiled, "I'll call him."
"I have to go" Valerian could hear Lily move the phone to hang up as new voices filled her air.
Lily heald quite a precious government job. It wasn't anything big or high powered. She worked in the space division of things, usually designing and watching over the construction of the newest aircraft models. It wasn't her first choice, but she had a knack for drawing a clean design up and managing others, plus the pay was almost too good. Today was a celebration for the wars end with her division. A fancy banquet of something, a social gathering more than anything. Of course, he had to accompany her, but it was proving harder with insistent city traffic. Valerian wasn't sure how Lily dealt with driving in it every morning for work. Her sister and Kirron were invited too of course, and Eskel had wiggled his way into getting an invite as well.
Valerian set his phone down as Eskel didn't answer. He sat back and closed his eyes as he listened to the radio and tried to distract himself from having to wait like this. But his radio didn't seem to want to comply. He reopened his eyes at the sound of static taking over his music. Glitching bouts of silence attacking his ears no matter how many different channels he flipped to. Suddenly more car horns filled the air, some people were even getting out of their vehicles. The lights along the slim, modern city building changed from their blues and whites a red color. Street lights lit up red and the distant ringing of a siren found him.
Why were they putting the city on shutdown?
Valerian could hear his phone buzzing all over the place. He looked at it, already two missed calls and several texts. One call from Eskel, the other from his mother. Valerian opened his texts, all were from Emily. Emily's words were misspelled and jumbled that he hardly made out what she was trying to say. The only one he could read was the one asking if he'd made it to the party yet. Valerian moved to call her but was stopped at the sound of people yelling outside as a small rumble shook the ground. He undid his seatbelt and got out, standing with one hand resting on the top of the car he looked up where so many people were pointing.
In the farthest distance, Valerian could see the faint illumination of something falling from the sky. Some people murmured about it being one of the Mini satellites Earth had launched earlier in the year. One had already crashed, and a second was falling. Why would they be falling? Had something failed? He didn't see any government ships around, were they just going to let it crash like the other one? Maybe there wasn't much they could do to stop it, but where was it going to land?
Slowly panic began to rise in his stomach, the facility the party was being held at was vaguely over there, it wouldn't…
Valerian tried to call Lily but found no answer. His phone rang a few seconds later and answered quickly, "you're okay" Kirron's voice was edged with worry as he sighed in relief.
"Are you?" Valerian asked.
"We are-" Kirron paused, Emily was crying rather hard in the background. "I mean, we aren't- but we're safe." A shuffling sound filled Valerian's ear as Emily could be heard pulling the phone to her.
"Have you-" she barely managed to stop her crying, "have you heard from Lily" her voice broke as she said her younger sisters name, Valerian heard her break into another fit of crying.
"I have to go…"
"Call me back," Kirron told him. Valerian tired Lily again, and again, and again.
"There's already police and medics there"
"The whole thing came down…"
Valerian blinked through his tears as the people around him spoke as news alerts attacked the phones and the screens around the city. Valerian began to walk, pushing through everyone to get past the heard of cars. The building was only a few minutes away, he had to see. He had to get there. An idea surfaced in his head, looking down at his counter he opened it and clicked on Lily's name. He almost tripped in his shock.
Her counter read zero.
Valerian got to crash site with labored breaths and suit looking rather worn and dirty. He pushed his hair back carelessly as he looked around the crowd that had amassed. Valerian had never seen so many ambulances in one place in his life. So many were lined everywhere, some empty and waiting to help while others were full of the minorly injured and others were towing in the worst. Police officers were standing near the small barriers thrown up around the damage site, keeping the public out as the tried to look. Some were likely looking for people they knew and loved, while others seemed to just want to see it all. Valerian pushed his way through the people, he didn't see Lily sitting at one of the ambulances, nor did any of the working paramedics say they'd pulled anyone with that name yet.
"There are still a lot of injured people in the crash site, please give us time, there's a lot to attend to."
Valerian forced his way to the front of one of the barriers, "I need to go in," he argued.
The officer sent him away, telling him to wait and that he couldn't enter the dangerous area.
Valerian trailed around the large crash site. The building hadn't completely fallen, but it was pretty destroyed and crumbling as he walked. It was torn up, revealing the inside, where several of the buildings countless floors had collapsed, presumably dropping all the attendees down to the ground. Pieces of the building were scattered, as well as were the torn remains of the satellite. The fire sparked everywhere, but it didn't rage. Valerian could hear people screaming, as well as the paramedics trying to rush to everyone they could. Suddenly, one of the younger paramedics looked to him, shouting at him to get over and help her.
Valerian was told to hold the injured woman's leg in place while the paramedic tried to clean the wound and wrap it a little before trying to get her on the stretcher and through traffic to get to the hospital. Valerian didn't look at the battered woman's wound he struggled to just gently hold her in place. She flinched and tried to flail with every touch or application of medicine.
Valerian was sent away with blood and grime staining his hands. He walked around aimlessly, having gotten into the crash site as he wanted, but now unsure of what to do. He came upon a particularly empty area, there was just one person with several paramedics looking rather concerned over them. "Can you say your name at least?"
"L-Lillian" the injured girl barely got out through labored breaths and the groan of pain in her voice. "Call- Val- Val-Hope..call Valer-" The voice gave up trying to speak, instead it died down as the paramedics hushed her.
"Lily?" Valerian called, quietly at first. He hurried to her with panic dripping his is a voice and spiraling in his eyes.
One of the paramedics stopped him, "what are you doing here, you're-"
"Move" Valerian tried to push past him. "I need to be by Lily!"
"You know this woman?"
"She's my fiancée !" Valerian snapped.
"Then you can answer some questions for her, but you can't see her, you don't want to see her like this-"
"I don't care" Valerian got past, the paramedic seemingly giving up with a sigh. Valerian stopped at the sight of her, looking a was a small wave of nausea washed over him. She'd fallen from one of the upper floors he assumed. She was laying on her back, her leg looked hurt, and he was sure other bones had broken as well. The clear problem was that she hadn't landed just on the ground. Metal, or something, was poking jagged from the ground. Two pieces had cut through her stomach and lower abdomen, another had impaled her shoulder and the final one her chest. Valerian kneeled beside her, trying to stay out of the paramedic's way as they seemed to be trying to decide what to do at the moment. He kept focussing on her face rather than the glaring wounds. She looked pale and tired, her eyes heavy and dark. Her lips appeared discolored as if slowly wanting to shift from pale pink to a blue hue.
She didn't seem to be bleeding too much at the moment, but it was likely she had already lost a lot of blood. Valerian cupped her hand and squeezed gently. While the paramedics continued to spout out the medical talk he didn't fully understand, Valerian kept the focus on her. Her eyes flickered to stare right into his own, pitiful and strained blue orbs trying their best to focus on him and not the pain as the paramedics began the process of getting her up and to the ambulance.
Through minutes of listening to Lily scream and cry, Valerian was finally in the ambulance with her. He sat farthest by the doors, two middle-aged men working on her as they raced down the streets, the ride bumpy and rocky as several turns had to be made to accompany the alternate route there. Valerian couldn't say or do much besides watch Lily from his seat. There were four open wounds on her body that he was trying not to look at, he wasn't sure if he could. She had quieted down quite a bit now, an oxygen mask covering her lower face as an IV was stuck into her arm.
Valerian wasn't allowed in the room when they got to the hospital. She was raced into surgery before Valerian could even say anything. He was guided to the waiting room, which was hectic. The whole hospital was hectic due to the accident. He stood, as there were no free seats. People were crying in both loudly and quietly, people were waiting with nerves for news on their friends and loved ones. At some point, around three am or so, it died down a bit. Some people went home, while others were visiting their recovering loved ones. Finally, Valerian was able to sit down and breath.
"Is she...out yet" a meek voice accompanied by a pair of footsteps. Valerian looked up from his hands, to find Emily and Kirron standing before him. They had wanted to come sooner but had been stuck in all the traffic, and when they finally got free they decided to wait and let Emily calm down before coming. Though, but the looks of her faint red, puffy face she hadn't really stopped crying yet. She had Kirron's suit jacket wrapped around her shoulders as she sat down, Kirron taking a seat on the other side of Valerian.
"I'm not sure what's going on. It's been so hectic, the doctor hasn't come out yet." Emily sat back with a sigh, while Kirron rubbed his brothers back. "Who's watching Rose?"
"She's at home with Bryson." Kirron replied, "he didn't mind staying with her."
A few minutes of silence passed and Emily eventually got up to find something to eat. Valerian was having down at his hand, the silver of his engagement ring absorbing all of his focus. "We're supposed to get married next year" he commented, looking down at his counter, watching Lily's number flicker between a few lower numbers and zero.
"You will get married." Kirron pressed.
"Mr. Hope?" Valerian stood up at the sight of the doctor walking in. He approached him, "you're here concerning Lilan, correct?"
"Yes." Valerian could spot one of the android nurses walking Emily back to the waiting room, the blond crying and clutching a small bag of food she'd gotten at the restaurant downstairs.
"Perhaps medication to soothe you is in order."
"No, it's fine." Kirron shooed her away and took himself.
"Is she okay?" Valerian questioned.
"It'll be a few days before we can know for sure, but she's stable right now." Valerian felt a heavy sigh finally escape his tense body.
"So what'll happen now?"
"Well, she lost a lot of blood, she'll likely go through another transplant tomorrow. Her wounds were cleaned and patched up, but...there was a lot of internal damage to her body. One of her lungs suffered damage from the metal lodged in her chest. The stress and injuries unrelated to the metal have strained her heart too, she's in for a lot of surgeries and treatment, but I think with the help OrionStar can offer us, she'll make a slow, but successful recovery."
Valerian wanted to jump with joy, but restrained himself, "when can I see her?"
The doctor hesitated to say tomorrow, "tomorrow afternoon, but please, only for a short time. Her external wounds can be healed, but her internal wounds will prove difficult. The damage to her mind will take time as well, it was a traumatic incident." Valerian nodded. She had to have been lying there bleeding out as she waited for someone to find her. Everything about the crash was horrific.
"Be she'll be okay?"
The doctor smiled, "with time."
Valerian watched Lily settle into the bed. This was the first time she'd been home in months. The first time she was sleeping in her own pajamas and not a hospital gown, with her own blankets and on the comfort of her own bed. Valerian sat down beside her on his side. She was laying down already, she looked weak from her trip home, but she'd already taken her medicine for the night. Valerian fixed the covers around her, smoothing them over, "I've missed you being home."
"I've missed being home," she sighed. Her face went a bit red, "we can cuddle now." Valerian laughed a bit, it had been a long time since they'd cuddled up and basked in their presence. Lily welcomed it as Valerian wrapped his arms around her and perched his chin on her shoulder. She closed her eyes with a smile, "I'll think more about OrionStar" she muttered, "just as an option, but I really don't want to."
Valerian squeezed her a bit, "I don't want you to feel like you have to, it's your decision, but I-" Valerian stopped himself for a second with a red face, "I love you, I want to marry you and have all the time in the world to spend life with you."
"I know" she whispered, "I do too…I just need to think."
Valerian shifted his head on to her chest and her hand rose to wrack through his hair. "I love you" he sighed in content, momentarily forgetting his worries.
With her mind still working out what to do Lily replied, "I love you too."