No Good Deed
Copyright© 2018 by Lumpy
Considering the number of times, someone’s pointed a gun at me over the last few years and my enhanced reflexes, I would have said I was ready to deal with situations like this. In fact, I’d done alright in nearly the exact situation, once before.
This time, however, I froze. Maybe it was because I was coming down from the adrenaline high of everything that had happened, or maybe because, in my head, Richards had been neutralized. Either way, when I saw the end of the barrel explode, I froze in place, my brain locking up, somewhere between fight or flight.
I was drawn back into reality when the bullet smacked into my chest.
One of the things I remembered from the last time someone shot me was the initial impact didn’t hurt nearly as much as I would have thought it would be especially when your adrenaline’s running.
Maybe it was because I’d already started coming down from the excitement, or maybe it’s just different every time; but this time there was pain, lots of it.
My body screamed, the feeling of fire radiating from somewhere just below my breastbone. I’d been off balance with the turn to see what the sound had been, half turned towards Richards when the bullet smacked into me. The combination of being half on one foot and the impact of the bullet sent me falling backward into, and the through, the door I’d partially opened.
I involuntarily put a hand to my chest, feeling warm wetness seeping out between my fingers as I tried to cover the wound. I was lying at an angle, and could still see Richards, also lying on the ground, his brow furrowed in concentration.
In that brief moment, as we looked at each other, it occurred to me that I probably got off lucky. He’d been shooting with his left hand, and it was clear from the awkward way he was holding the weapon that he was not left-handed. From what I knew about him, he wouldn’t have tried to just hurt me or put me out of action. He wanted to kill me, especially after I’d hurt him so badly. I’d bet he hadn’t been aiming for a simple chest shot.
He also clearly wasn’t done yet. He lifted the gun up, concentration clear on his face as he aimed. I tried to stand, move, get out of the way when I found I couldn’t move my legs. It hadn’t occurred to me, as I was falling, that there was another reason I would have not fallen back. I willed my body to move, and nothing happened. I could feel my arms, but I realized I couldn’t feel my legs at all.
His finger tightened, and I imagined I could almost see the bullet down the length of the barrel. I didn’t close my eyes, nor flinch as I looked into his hate-filled eyes.
There was a tremendous boom! It took my brain a second to register that I was still alive. No fire leapt from the end of his gun, no bullet exploded from its shadowy depths. For a moment, I was confused. I’d accepted what was about to happen, visualized my last moment. The mental whiplash slowed me down, until I saw his expression. It’d changed from one of hateful victory to utter surprise, his mouth opening slightly.
I looked up, trying to figure out what was going on, and saw Jawarski standing over me, a gun extended in her hand, wisps of smoke still leaking out the spout.
Yelling voices screamed from the other side of the house. Jawarski holstered her weapon and knelt next to me.
“Caspian?” She said worry creasing her brow.
Her hands went to my chest, moving my blood soaked fingers.
“Can’t ... move ... legs,” I managed to get out, each word an effort.
“HELP,” she shouted. “We need EMTs in here.”
Her voice sounded far away, dimming.
“Alex,” I managed to say.
We learned about my abilities last time I ended up in the hospital. Even the most basic tests showed there was something different about me.
I don’t know why, but at that moment, keeping our secret was what I was worried about. Intellectually, I knew not being able to feel my legs, and how hard it was starting to get to take a breath, was bad. My injuries were critical, I knew that.
I couldn’t hear Jawarski anymore. I got the impression that there were other people in the room with us now, but I couldn’t look up anymore. My head had flopped back on its side, looking back out the door.
As my vision grayed, the edges going black, I looked back at Richards. His face was blank and expressionless. As I felt reality slip away from me, I couldn’t help but think, if this was it, at least I took that son of a bitch with me.
The world returned to me slowly, my eyes straining to keep out the light. The sudden realization that something was in my throat, made me open them as I started to reach up. Whatever it was hurt like hell, and it was keeping me from swallowing. I started to panic and had almost got my hands around whatever it was to pull it out when someone grabbed my wrists.
I looked over and saw Mom, who was holding my wrists down.
“ALEX,” she shouted before looking down at me.
“It’s ok, sweetie, just wait a second. It’s a tube that was helping you breathe. I know it hurts, but Alex will be here in a minute to take it out, ok?”
She was right, it was starting to hurt like hell. I could feel it rubbing against my esophagus, which felt raw and abused. The feeling of helplessness was hard to get over, and I was still fighting down panic, but her gentle rubbing on my arm helped calm me down.
I nodded to let her know I was ok, and stopped struggling.
I took my first look around. We weren’t in a hospital. I recognized the room we were in, as one of the private rooms inside their new lab down near our new house. They’d added on several patient rooms to accommodate people who stayed overnight, in preparation for the next phase of their cancer trials.
Alex had explained that, beyond the need to look like we were doing legitimate trials, it would be easier to deal with each person as they went through the change, instead of sending them home, and having them potentially go to another doctor when they got sick.
I looked over at the door to the room as it opened and Alex came through.
“He’s awake,” Mom said. “I think he wants to pull out the tube.”
“Good. The last time he woke up, he didn’t even notice it was there.”
She looked at some readouts on one of the machines and then looked into my eyes, flashing a light she kept with the pens in her pocket, making me squint.
“Cas, this is going to feel weird as it comes out. Just try and keep your throat relaxed.”
I nodded. She pulled off the tape that was holding the tube in place, then did something I couldn’t see, but felt like a slight click along the plastic. She then began pulling the tube. She was right, it was weird and was really uncomfortable.
As soon as it was out, I tried to say something, but it came out as a croak.
“Don’t try and speak yet. Your throat’s going to be really dry. Drink some water, and give it time to hydrate.”
I nodded and took the water that Mom was handing me. It burned as I took the first sip, and swallowing it felt like agony. I shifted in bed, moving my legs to sit up, and then froze in place.
One of the last things I remembered before blacking out was my legs not working. I looked over at Mom, and the surprise must have been evident on my face.
“You’re fine. Alex will explain everything, but you’re recovering really well, and in a couple of weeks you’ll be able to walk around like nothing happened.”
While not being able to walk for a couple of weeks sounded like pure hell, the fact that I was one, alive, and two, able to feel my legs; was enough to make me not care about that, right now. I was, however, pretty certain that I’d feel different about it after a couple of days on my back.
I turned to look at Alex, who was jotting down something on a chart.
“What ... happened?” I managed to get out.
“You were shot,” she said with a small smile.
I tilted my head slightly and glared at her, to let her know I wasn’t amused.
“More importantly, you were shot in the spine. Well, not directly, but the bullet clipped your spine, and caused some pretty nasty damage. It also took a small chunk of one of your lungs. You were taken to the hospital, and thankfully Beth thought to call me and have me meet you there. I’m glad I was there in town closing up the old lab, and not here at the time. I got there just as you were being wheeled in. We patched you up in the ER, mostly to stop the bleeding and reinflate your lung. From there you were taken up to surgery. I’m not a surgeon, so it was quite an ordeal to get them to let me into your operation, as an observer. Angela managed to convince them, thankfully. I let them clean the fragments of bone and bullet out, and repair what they could; but was only just able to stop them from trying to repair your spine themselves. Again, Angela had to throw a fit about not signing off on the procedure to get that okay’d. I’m not sure how she did that, although I think there was something about a religious sect that doesn’t allow foreign objects inside the body, or some such rubbish.”
I looked over at Mom, who just shrugged at me.
“If ... they didn’t...” I started to say and then fell into a coughing fit, my throat burning.
“It was a gamble, I’ll give you that. What they would have done was stabilize the area and try and limit any future damage, which for the average person would be the right thing to do. My concern was, it might inhibit your body’s ability to heal itself. I was concerned since, while we’ve seen some pretty spectacular stuff, we haven’t seen anything like this before. The damage to your spine didn’t just need to scab over and heal like the damage to your lung or your bullet wound last year. It would need part of the spinal cord to be put back together. I wasn’t sure it was possible, but I knew the other option would definitely leave you paralyzed from the waist down. If worse came to worst, we could always go back in and do what they initially wanted to do, later. Although there would have been significant ethical questions raised, and it would have ended up getting me hauled in front of the medical board. That’s something that’s always bugged me. We make the...”
I rapped my knuckles on the frame of the bed to get her attention, and then gave her a look when she stopped.
“Right. Anyway, we took a chance that your body could repair the damage, and it did. It’s actually more than that. Not only has your spine more or less put itself back together, but I’m also seeing that a missing piece of the vertebrae that got chipped off, is starting to build back up. The bone is actually regenerating, which is ... I can’t even explain how crazy that is! There are days I wish I could publish a book about your body, because it’s a freaking carnival!”
She stopped, and I gave her another look. I knew she was excited, and she had a tendency to become over-enthusiastic when she really got into something. It made her bedside manner crazily annoying, but her love of what she did made up for that. Usually.
“Your lung is almost healed all the way, and probably will be fully healed in a few days. We’re out of any danger there. The spine, honestly, I have no idea how long that will take. I know you can move your legs, but I want you off your feet until the cracks in the vertebrae, and the missing piece all get fixed. Right now, your spinal cord isn’t as protected as it should be, and a lot of movement could re-injure it. I know it looks like your body will fix that, too; but let’s not tempt fate. My best guess is two to three weeks, but we’ll have to see.”
“Was ... anyone...”
“Yes,” Mom said, a sad look on her face. “Emily and Nora were both hurt.”
She must have seen the look in my eye at the mention of Emily being hurt.
“They’re both fine,” she said, holding up her hands. “Emily had a bullet go through her thigh, but it didn’t hit the bone or any arteries. The wound’s already halfway healed. Nora’s was worse. She was in the shower when it started and fell down hard when she tried to dive to the floor. She had a serious break in her upper right arm.”
“A compound fracture,” Alex added. “Really, really nasty.”
“She went into surgery, too. They set the bone, putting it back together. Unfortunately, she picked up an infection, and it was in the bone itself. She’s been in and out, and you were out, so I made the decision that she should be put through the change. The doctors felt confident they could clear up the infection with intravenous antibiotics, but I didn’t want to take the chance. We’ll talk to her later and explain everything, but we figured we could wait a few days for that.”
I’m glad Mom thought about my distaste for changing people without their permission, but I agreed that in life or death situations. Considering the rate of resistant bacteria in hospitals, I had to agree with her decision.
I gave her a smile to let her know she did the right thing.
“So..., “ I started to say and then coughed.
My throat was feeling better, enough to speak in whole sentences at least, but it was still really tender. I took a big drink of water, and tried again. “Me, Emily and Vicki’s mom. I guess considering what was thrown at us, it could have been a lot worse.”
I saw Mom exchange a glance with Alex.
“Carter, and one of the men that worked for him and Beth, were killed.”