Surveying the area, Makayla closely examined the viaduct she was about to travel beneath. She also checked out the adjacent irrigation ditches and abandoned cars that littered the highway in both the north and southbound lanes. The very last thing she wanted right now was another run-in with those Cursed with the virus. The assault she had incurred didn’t cause any substantial injury to her bot-body; however, it had damaged the jogging pants and leather jacket, which she had taken from the Complex to wear over her uniform.
She began speculating on how far she had traveled through the night, and immediately saw numbers appear and perform calculations before her eyes: average speed of 22.76 miles per hour, with a maximum speed of 40.2, and traveling time of 8 hours; total distance covered is approximately 180 miles.
Her eyes panned back and forth across the visible landscape, searching for signs of any threats, but she saw none. The sun was just beginning the second-quarter day, the light was good. The southbound lane was clear for miles, and she had been comfortably traveling on its course for hours now, without having to navigate much debris. The surrounding land, as well as the distant horizon, were displaying fewer black plumes of smoke than nearer to the city.
The further north she traveled, the more her surroundings began to remind her of the ones she remembered as a child. Suburban subdivisions littered with homes had now dissolved into scarce farms. Sadly, however, the old farmhouses were now nothing more than empty fields that had once produced the food for the populations and were now rapidly becoming extinct. She could recall the numerous times her family had stopped at a roadside stand to purchase fresh vegetables for their visit to the family cabin they loved so much.
Makayla paused for a moment, sensing an eerie coldness. She closed her eyes and found herself in the office she had been imagining in her mind, just as she experienced when she was with Dorothy. It was as if she were truly there. The room was completely white with floors like porcelain. A bright light emanated from all directions, removing any form of a shadow. Bookshelves and file cabinets lined the walls, all except for one. That particular wall had a large picture window offering a view of a beautiful hillside covered in soft green grass, waving slowly in the gentle breeze which reminded her of her childhood.
Averting her attention from the window, she looked back to the bookshelves. Every type of book imaginable lined the shelves, from textbooks to directories and technical manuals. There was an endless wealth of searchable information at her disposal.
In the center of the room was a black desk surrounded by four matching chairs. She sat in the chair directly in front of a display screen, which she immediately scanned for information. It indicated that her Core system was over-cooled and that all ventilation must cease. In addition, the outside temperature displayed cooler than normal readings for the season. At the bottom of the computer screen was a request to reclaim auto-operation of her breathing-ventilation system, which manual operation had over-ridden.
She realized that she had inadvertently taken control away from the automated cooling system by making herself breathe. Breathing was something she had done her entire life and never thought twice about, but now breathing performed a different function. Her manual breathing had caused her system to become too cool to operate properly, so she needed to discontinue that operation.
Makayla touched the screen to switch back to automated control, opened her eyes, and found herself once more in the real world. There was so much yet to learn about this world and her new life, as well as this body. She began traveling north once again, expecting to see her highway exit at any moment. If only Dorothy were here with me right now.
As she approached the exit she had been searching for all night, she spotted a few military vehicles blocking the way with a checkpoint of some sort. As she slowed her run, a small red light began to flash in her mind, as little yellow dots appeared before her eyes on the various targets ahead. Suddenly, the words multiple armed weapons appeared. She immediately headed toward the highway divider and squatted behind it, so that the soldiers would not see her. Peeking over the divider, her vision zoomed to the off-ramp. There were four soldiers, armed with rifles and fully geared for combat. She was afraid now. Avoiding the mindless Cursed was one thing, but trying to evade (or worse, fight) trained military personnel was another. She was out-numbered and out-gunned.
Lowering herself back behind the divider, Makayla closed her eyes. Once again, she found herself at the black desk, peering at a computer screen full of information regarding the world around her. Clicking on the screen produced a satellite image of the area. Although the image was not current, it still gave good information such as distances, elevations and surrounding landscape.
She felt very incompetent and wished she could just run past the soldiers. Perhaps it might be best to wait for nightfall… or find another path to take. The layout of the area did not offer much in the way of cover. Furthermore, there was only one crossroad — the one she needed to travel.
Makayla pondered over the situation for several minutes, regretting that she did not have more experience with this sort of thing. Running as quickly as she could pass their observant eyes seemed to be her only option. She was fast, so they might not catch her, but if she had to run uphill or over uneven ground, they would have the advantage. If four soldiers were all shooting at her, she would never escape. Then again, they may not shoot at her.
“I could just walk by them without creating any suspicion…” she began whispering to herself. Then immediately thought, but if that plan doesn’t work, I’m not sure that I could out-fight four armed soldiers.
The safest course of action would be to wait until dark and then try to slip by the soldiers undetected. Deciding to take that direction, she scurried off the highway into a drainage ditch where she found shelter. This allowed her to wait until nightfall to gain the advantage of the dark and her night-vision. Squatting now inside the drainage pipe and out of their view, she was able to relax somewhat and leaned back against the cold concrete wall.
There were still several hours until dark since the second-quarter day was just ending. However, getting the most out of this time was critical to her being able to escape. She began to read manuals and information about the operation, upkeep, and programming of her bot-body. There were endless documents full of information, most of which had no true value to her. She thought more about Dorothy and wondered how she was doing.
The night soon came, and darkness enveloped the entire area. Makayla's eyes transitioned intuitively from normal vision into night-vision, and everything appeared a strange shade of green. It revealed the landscape as if it were daylight. She slowly stepped out from the drainage ditch, which she had taken refuge in during the daylight, and cautiously walked toward the highway divider she had hidden behind earlier that day.
The military vehicles had remained parked on the off-ramp, and the soldiers were still there. They appeared to be quite relaxed in posture, two of them no longer wielding weapons. The moment she had been patiently waiting for had arrived. Proceeding as silently as possible, fearing that any noise might draw their attention, she moved as swiftly as she could, in order to get past the soldiers… and this ordeal.
Abandoning her cover, she quickly moved to the opposite side of the highway. She went through the ditch and up to the hill towards the road, all the while doing her best to keep the soldiers in her sight. She made it to the road without tripping any alarms and began to run in the opposite direction of the roadblock, trying desperately not to look back.
Makayla soon found the side road she had been looking for. Suddenly memories began flooding her mind. This was the same road that she remembered turning down a hundred times with her mother and father. Each time she would think, “We’re almost there.” Now she found herself saying those words aloud and could hardly wait to reach the cabin where she had spent most of her life growing up.
Long dead grass covered the small dirt road. It was clear that no one had traveled it for quite some time. Who knew how many years had passed since anyone had visited the cabin? Since her father’s death, there would have been no one to care about the old run-down cabin up in the hills or the memories and love that she experienced there.
She slowed as she approached the long, winding driveway. Things suddenly became very real, and her emotions began making her feel like a vulnerable child once again. She was a little scared and felt heavy in her heart thinking about her mother and father.
Makayla had missed her mother terribly after her death, and her father had done his best to raise her. However, because she had also been stricken with the same illness that took her mother, her father was preoccupied with finding the cure, making fatherhood difficult.
She cautiously walked up the dirt driveway, encouraging herself the entire length… but also thinking how silly it was for a grown woman to be afraid — a woman with her strength and abilities, nonetheless. Yet she grew more fearful with each step, as she approached the hillside and the dark cabin of her youth.
She couldn’t remember exactly what took place in the cabin before she died because Dorothy had wiped that part of her memory away. She now only had a beautiful memory of a birthday party, with both her parents present and her mother not suffering any illness.
Dorothy was also there, and Makayla could not thank her enough for saving her from the endless dreams of pain and suffering, and for giving her hope. It was now Makayla’s turn to bring hope to those who had lost loved ones to a virus that was out of control and had killed millions. Her father’s notes and research papers might contain the clue that Steve and Uncle Chuck needed to find the answer to the mutation and spreading of this disease.
She started up the side of the hill to where she used to have her tea parties, remembering her stuffed animals and the many hours she had spent pretending her mother was there with her.
As Makayla topped the hill, she could see the cabin in the distance… or at least she could see what was left of it. Part of the roof was missing and some of the windows were broken. It hardly resembled the place she remembered as a child. Instead, it appeared dark, cold, and uninviting.
Slowly stepping up to the porch, she listened intently for any sounds coming from inside. For all she knew, someone had made the cabin their home. With all the fallout in the major cities and the gangs in the suburbs, a small cabin hidden in the quiet countryside would be the safest place to live.
Makayla walked up to the front door and pushed it open, peering inside. She could see numerous items scattered about the floor and on the end tables and shelves. The cabin appeared to be untouched since her father’s death. She laughed, remembering her father had not been a tidy man. Papers and magazines still littered the area around his favorite chair in the front room.
The floor creaked when she entered, as each step echoed slightly against the hardwood floors and walls. She looked over to her father’s office door. She opened the door and saw his office, just as she had remembered it in her mind. The picture still hung on the wall, covering the safe that she was not supposed to know about.
Makayla placed the picture on his cluttered desk and then turned her attention back to the wall where she spied the safe. She reached out and began to enter the combination. Makayla never actually opened the safe when she was young but had watched her father do it so many times that she was sure she could do it as well.
Spinning the dial to the numbers that she thought were correct, she turned the small, flush-mounted handle. It didn’t move. Believing she had the right combination, she tried it again and got the same result. Frustrated, she tried the same numbers a third time. Nothing.
Makayla finally stepped away from the safe and looked around the cluttered room for a clue or a hint to what the numbers were but didn’t find any help. Perhaps she was wrong… or maybe she never really knew the numbers?
She tried once more but still could not get the handle to turn. Maybe she wasn’t turning it hard enough? Gripping the handle tightly, she used all her force to move it. She felt it begin to move; but to her dismay, the metal-handle gave way and broke off from the face of the safe, unable to resist her robotic strength.
“Oh, no!” Makayla dropped the broken handle to the floor and stared at the safe.
“All right… so you want to give ME trouble? Well, then here’s some trouble for YOU!” Reaching up with both hands, she pushed her fingers into the small spaces between the front door of the safe and the base, wedging them in enough to get a grip on the top of the safe door. The door peeled down as if it were cardboard.
Fitting her hands inside the safe, she finished removing the door completely with one downward pull, leaving nothing but a couple of broken hinges rocking back and forth.
“There, see?” she announced triumphantly to the safe, as its door clattered on the floor.
Makayla looked inside and saw various items and papers, which she removed and began to examine.
She first pulled out a small stack of cash, bound together with a thin blue rubber band. It appeared to be a few hundred dollars, if not more, which had value just a few short months ago, but now was nothing more than worthless paper. She dropped it to the floor and continued searching until she came across a small folder. Inside were pictures of her mother. By staring at them intently, she was able to scan and store them into her memory, just as she had done with the map that Uncle Chuck had drawn for her to find the cabin. She could close her eyes at any time and see all these images, as though they were right in front of her. Makayla loved that.
Laying the folder on her father’s desk, she returned to the safe.
Her next discovery was a small book tied shut with a leather string that, after undoing the string, revealed one of her father’s notebooks. They were not the research papers she was looking for, but his personal journal.
Flipping through the journal, she paused at a random entry and began to read:
Makayla is missing her mother more than ever, although she will not say as much. I see it in her face, her eyes. I hear it in her words. Her joyful spirit replaced with melancholy. I try to do what I can, but how can I replace her mother? I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel the same. My time has been stolen from me, the time I should be spending with my daughter. However, I cannot allow this blasted illness to take her, too. I have to stop it, but I do not know how.
I have spent the remainder of the government funds on the only chance I have left to help Makayla. I pray this machine will afford me the time I do not have to find the answer. I know Makayla will not last another summer, and I cannot bear to think of losing her.
The treatments are not painful. In fact, they have no physical effect at all. Unfortunately, they are tedious and lengthy and cause much distress on a little girl who should be outside playing instead of connected to a machine, but I have no choice.
She closed the book and held it close to her chest. She felt a tear run down her cheek and quickly wiped it away. Distracted by the display of emotion her robotic body had conjured, she gathered herself and placed the journal in a pocket hidden beneath her jogging pants. She then fastened the pocket of the uniform and made a note to read the journal when she felt her heart could take it.
Reaching back into the safe, she found it to be empty. Dismay and then disbelief coursed through her. She stood on her toes to peer inside, her thoughts not willing to accept that she had not found anything else. If it’s not here, then where is it? And where are the rest of your research papers, Father? Your reports… and all of your study notes?
Her questions went unanswered as she frantically began to search the office and all its contents for anything related to her father’s research. However, she found nothing. Makayla sat at her father’s desk, emotionally exhausted, and looked out the office door and into the front room, where she could see her mother’s rocking chair. She didn’t know what to do next.
Taylor turned as he left the complex entrance, steadily gazing at Tia one last time and wishing that he could stay there with her. He could still see her dark hair rustling gently in the wind and her eyes glistening like glass reflecting the sun. He longed to stay at the complex, to stay in her arms, to forget about this world and all the pain and suffering it was enduring. However, what he could not escape was the fact that his son was somewhere out there.
Perhaps Gavin was right, and Trevor was in the northern slave camp. Maybe this would be the last leg of his journey, and he would, at last, be able to stay with Tia… safe in this utopian complex in the middle of hell. He smiled and waved before returning to his expedition westward once more, down the long winding road the three of them had just traveled.
He thought about Gavin’s story and wished that he could have shown him a picture of Trevor. Then Taylor would know for sure if this journey was worth the risk. There was no doubt that saving his son merited any risk to himself, but if Trevor wasn’t at the camp, then Taylor’s efforts would be futile. He could also be risking capture, death, or worse — running into Samuel again.
He thought of pushing himself harder and covering more ground, as well as taking fewer breaks, now that he was traveling alone. He wanted to reach the slave camp Gavin had spoken of before Samuel did. He wasn’t sure how soon Samuel would be arriving at the camp, but Taylor knew that he would probably not survive another encounter with Samuel after deceiving him and his cronies at the abandoned schoolhouse. Pete’s last message to Taylor was clear: Samuel is looking for you, and he wants blood.
The air was becoming cooler with each successive morning, and Taylor thought he saw his breath when he first left the old farmhouse for the Complex. Regardless of the fallout, the season slowly changed. He had layered his clothing, which helped keep him warm, but only as long as he was moving. The nights were bitterly cold, so the window of opportunity for outdoor travel, as well as warm lodging, was closing upon him, making traveling nearly impossible.
He crossed the overpass and wanted to turn around and look again but knew there was no reason to. He would not be able to see Tia from this angle anyway, and the more he thought about the complex, the harder it was to leave. He just wanted to find his son and return there with him as quickly as possible.
Taylor approached the small store where he and Tia, on their first journey, had encountered a group of men standing by a fire-barrel. He looked around to see if any of them were present, but the area seemed quiet.
Using the energy that he gained from his morning meal of hash and potatoes, which he had found in the cupboards of the old farmhouse, Taylor now pushed himself to walk at a faster pace. His calves began to tighten and ache, so his common sense now told him to take it easy. He finally stopped to take a deep breath and then slowed to a normal walking pace again. There is no sense in overdoing it… you would be useless if you get hurt, he thought to himself.
Adjusting Sam’s straps, as the pack's weight pulled down on his shoulders, he wondered why he hadn’t left the extra cans of food at the Complex. He could have picked up more at the old farmhouse when he arrived. However, he knew the answer. He wanted to leave as soon as Tia was safe… to continue without her, before she could argue and talk him into giving in and taking her along.
Taylor now continued at a normal speed, pacing himself for the long-distance walk. The third-quarter day was already beginning, and night would soon follow. He hoped to make it back to the old farmhouse before dark, but it did not appear to be possible. He felt the constant nagging of urgency; and, at times, it was almost maddening. This bug had been ticking in his ear since the Cleansing, repeating the same demand: Find Trevor.
The journey was far more tedious now that there was no one to talk with. Taylor was not sure how he would pass the time, but he had to stop thinking about Tia and Trevor, for that matter — at least until he needed to think about them. He tried to empty his thoughts, to fill his head with something pleasing or whimsical, to lighten the mood. He could only remember a handful of songs, melodies to now-forgotten lyrics… but that didn’t last long.
The sun was slowly setting behind the tree line as the fourth-quarter day was ending, and first-quarter night began. It was still quiet on the long-deserted, westward road where large empty fields of turned soil and dead crops lined either side. The numerous rural houses at the beginning of his journey were slowly giving way to farmhouses scattered further apart over larger distances, as he continued to travel.
The first-quarter night was drawing to a close, and the shadows and wind began to play tricks on him. His eyes caught movement in the distance, trees appeared to look like stalkers, shrubs resembled small beasts. Even a roadside mailbox looked like one of the Cursed, full of the rampant virus and ready for its zombie-fueled attack. He stopped his trek numerous times trying to adjust his eyes to the objects to distinguish imagination from a real threat.
He finally arrived at the old farmhouse where he and Tia had spent the previous night. He stepped onto the porch and listened for any sounds within the house but heard nothing. Closing the front door behind him, he went straight for the fireplace. Beneath the mound of ash, there were still a few embers, and starting another fire would take little effort.
He checked the windows in the front room to ensure the light from the fire would not escape into the darkness outside, thus drawing attention to his presence in the old farmhouse. He didn’t worry about the smoke from the chimney, because it was such a dark night.
He built a small fire, just enough to give him warmth and was easily controlled. There were plenty of things to burn throughout the house and collecting only took a few moments.
He sat on the couch in front of the fireplace, absorbing the warmth of the fire, but feeling the cold of loneliness. He became mesmerized as he stared at the flames, watching as they danced, and listened to their songs of crackles and pops. He used the poker to push the fire deeper into the fireplace when a few of the popping embers landed on the floor in front of him. He quickly stepped on them, extinguishing the glowing cinders. As he stared back into the flames, he thought back to the day of the Cleansing, and the intensity of the bomb's light, which had rendered him temporarily blind. Since then, he had often wondered how many people died that day and how many had the virus killed.
How many people are left? How many have turned into the Cursed?
He removed his PDA and checked it for messages. There were none, and he could not pick up a signal inside the house, so he was still unaware if the satellites were working again or not. He turned the device off to save power and put it back in his coat.
Taylor began to think about what his plans would be for his journey the next morning. He remembered Gavin saying that he had traveled for two days from the slave camp north of the old farmhouse. He also remembered that Gavin’s journey from the northern slave camp took him two days with no shoes. Traveling barefoot and with no decent clothing had to add time to the trek.
Taylor saw that the road he was traveling westward on appeared to go north. Perhaps it was smarter to follow the road for a while and see where it took him. He didn’t know exactly where this camp was located but was confident that, when he got close, it would be easy to find. Although he would have to be very careful about traveling in the area.
“Tomorrow," he said aloud, “I'll travel north and see what happens.”
TO WALK A FINE LINE
Miley sat up so she could reach the food tray placed at the end of the bed for her. She found moving around in the bed without her leg to be quite simple and pulled the tray close. Looking out into the hall while she ate, she could see Nurse Jean speaking with Matthew. She tried to wait patiently for him to come into the room and visit again, but it was difficult for her to be patient, so she yelled out into the hall, “Hey!” Miley smiled and waved to Matthew, as he looked into her room from the hall.
Since Miley forgave him, he would visit many times throughout the day, and they would laugh and enjoy one another's company. She found a friend in him, someone she could trust and confide in. Although they had only been talking for a few days, it felt much longer.
Filled with happiness, she continued to eat while watching Matthew speak with Nurse Jean. In fact, this was the best Miley had felt for as far back as she could remember. There had not been much joy in her life as a girl growing up, all the girls at school hated her and she had to shoulder the fact that her family hated her as well for protecting her younger brother.
She wanted to spend as much time with Matthew as possible, treasuring every moment they were together, and hating it when he had to leave to attend to his father’s business. When he returned, he was always encouraging and uplifting.
They had spent many hours just talking about their lives before the Cleansing, as well as some things that Miley had told herself she would never repeat to anyone. She had endured so much… too much. She sometimes felt she couln’t withstand even one more thing to go wrong in her life. However, through this, she had become determined to live… and to be happy, regardless of what took place around her. Moreover, that was becoming easier to imagine with Matthew around.
She took another bite of the hot substance on her tray and looked out the window for a moment to see the sun reaching the end of the second-quarter day. It was getting late, and Matthew had not come to see her since this morning. She knew he was extra busy because his father had to travel again, but this didn’t console her. Pastor Simms had been extremely busy the last few weeks with contacting other mission groups, as well as other camps that had somehow lived through it all and established communes like this complex.
Miley knew that the Pastor had been grooming his son for a leadership role within the complex, even though Matthew was not interested in leading anyone. She liked that he was humble but strong. He was not the type of person who had to prove anything to anyone, nor did he try. He was someone you could trust to be there for you when you needed him to be.
In a way, he reminded her of Taylor. Along with Tia and the others, she had to put her trust in a man she did not know — someone who had pulled her from the pit of despair and brought her to this place — a virtual Eden in a fallen world. She thought for a moment of Taylor and prayed he would return.
Looking back to the hall, her heart skipped a beat as she saw a girl with her arms around Matthew. She quickly looked away and tried to take a breath, but it felt as if someone had sat on her chest. She looked again to see Matthew looking at her as the strange girl took his hand and led him away.
She felt hurt at first, and anger quickly followed. Her appetite had vanished, so she pushed the tray to the end of her bed and laid back.
Nurse Jean entered the room, picking up the tray and walked to the head of the bed. She smiled down at Miley. “Hey honey, how are you feeling?” Miley refused to look at Nurse Jean, afraid she would be able to read her mind. However, telepathy was not necessary for Nurse Jean.
“I’m fine… just not hungry right now.”
“I don’t suppose you want to know anything about what just happened out there, now do you?” Nurse Jean prodded gently, knowing how to invite someone to share their feelings, even when they didn’t want to talk about them.
Miley looked up at her with glassy eyes. “Who is she?”
“I like to call her Wicked Witch of the West Building,” she said smiling to Miley, “but her name is Ashleigh. She and her friends have been nothing but trouble in the complex here.”
“Why does he like her?” asked Miley, as she stared out into the now empty hall.
“Oh, honey, he doesn’t like her! She has been trying to get with him for as long as he and his father have been here. Believe me, he’s got no interest in her. Besides, you know he’s smitten with you!”
Miley began to feel a little better about the situation and smiled. “Will you please stop saying ‘smitten’? No one says that anymore. Well, then why did they leave holding hands? If he doesn’t like her, he should just tell her to back off!” Miley’s heart began beating hard, as anger rose up in her chest again.
“The Wicked Witch just won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. So, she tries to get to him in other ways, like asking him for help all the time. Poor Matthew is too nice sometimes if you ask me, but the boy just can’t help it.”
Miley wanted Matthew to be with her right now. She wanted him to know just how much she liked him and wanted to be the only one he liked. For the first time since they met, she was afraid of losing him, although she didn’t really have him yet. She knew that she had to make her feelings known, so there would be no question or doubt about her in his mind.
“What should I do? I mean, how can I compete with someone, when I’m trapped in this bed? I just can’t get up and run to him! I have to wait and hope he’ll come to see me!” She was feeling frustrated and angry over her situation.
“Honey, you need to stop worrying about such things. He’s only got eyes for you. I know this. So, you don’t need to worry your pretty little head about it. Ashleigh can’t compete with someone who already has the boy's heart. If he wants anything to do with her, he would have been with her a long time ago. Trust me. She’s not his type.”
“Are you trying to say I’m his type? Come on, you’re just trying to make me feel better.”
“Listen. If I know anything, I know this boy's type. You are a strong, forgiving, beautiful young woman, who has nothing but great times when the two of you are together. You respect Matthew’s work, never lay guilt on him, and always have good things to say about him. YOU are his type!”
Miley looked down to where her leg once rested. “Is missing parts his type, too?” She smiled and looked back to Nurse Jean, laughing to herself at the fact that she could actually joke about such a thing. There was a time, only a few days prior, she thought her entire life was over because of this. Now, however, she felt that it would not stop her from living life — that is, as soon as she could get out of bed.
“Well, must be, because that boy's been in here ten times a day to be with you over the last few days.” They shared understanding smiles, and Miley began to feel more secure.
“Did you hear anything else about a leg for me yet? I know Marcus was in here yesterday and said we had to find one within the next few days, or else it wouldn’t matter. He said the nerves won’t take to a robotic leg after so long.”
Nurse Jean set the tray back on the bed and sat next to Miley. “Listen, Matthew has everyone in the Complex looking for anything that will work. This place here isn’t The Ritz, you know. This complex may have had many things before the Cleansing, but money wasn’t really one of them. But you never know. Maybe they will send another party to go to the hospital, or possibly someone here will find something we can use. Don’t give up yet.”
“I just want to get back on my feet as soon as possible. I can’t kick that girl's butt with one leg.” That mental image made them laugh, but Miley sobered again. “Do you know where she took him?”
Nurse Jean stood from the bed and picked up the tray. “Yep, said she needed him to fix the water in her building. She isn't the only one living there, so he had to say OK.”
Miley looked at the tray Nurse Jean just picked up from her bed. “You can leave that.”
Nurse Jean smiled. “Great! Got to get that strength up, so you can whoop some butt.” They both laughed again, and Miley felt like she was returning to herself. She could hardly wait for Matthew to return so she could talk to him. She would make sure that nothing came between the two of them, whatever she had to do.
Marcus entered the room and slowly rolled to the opposite side of the bed, across from Nurse Jean.
Miley, how is your pain level? He stared blankly at her, awaiting her response.
“I’m OK. How much more time do I have Marcus, for the operation to work?”
Miley, the success rate for limb replacement, utilizing robotic appendages, drops drastically after five days. The success rate for limb replacement after seven days is less than ten percent. Do you require anything else?
“Isn’t there anything we can do? I mean, it’s been four days already.” She looked up at him, expecting some emotion in his response.
Miley, yes, we can perform the operation within the period I have described. This will ensure an acceptable success rate.
Nurse Jean looked back to Miley. “I’ll go talk with Dee to see if he and Matthew have found out anything. You just need to rest and trust that we are all doing everything we can right now.”
“I know.” Miley took a deep breath and returned to eat her food, which was now cold.
Marcus turned to face Nurse Jean. Nurse Jean. If you no longer require my services, I will return to my bed checks.
“Yeah, we're OK, Marcus.” With that, Marcus left the room and Nurse Jean looked to Miley once more before leaving, as well.
“Miley, things are gonna be OK. I promise. I’ve known Matthew for a long time, and I know he will not stop until things are OK.”
Miley found comfort in her words and smiled slightly while finishing her food.
“Well, alright, but could you ask Dee for me anyway? I would like to know. And if you see Matthew, please tell him to come to see me… and soon.”
“I will. Now you just rest.”
Nurse Jean left the room, and Miley began to feel the stress leaving her body as she relaxed the muscles, which had become tense moments earlier. She thought about Matthew, all the time they spent together over the last few days, and that she wanted more. She wanted that feeling every day, all the time. Miley had never known love in her life and was not sure what it even felt like. However, she was beginning to believe that, for once, she might find out, and she would not let anyone take that away from her.