Within White Walls

From the Story Arc: Red And Blue

Previous Story in the Arc: Reunion by Belladonna Aura (Monday, July 04, 2005)

Next Story in the Arc: Murky Clouds at 20000 feet by Bestial Boy (Sunday, July 17, 2005)

(posted Wednesday, July 06, 2005)

Titian Paladin

Gairdner felt a strange compulsion to contact his family.

Well, perhaps not so strange, given what he was witness to. Over the past year, he had fallen out of touch with Pops, and little Bethany had to be enrolled in junior high by now. As a marine, he had written to them dutifully every week, and had phoned home at least once a month. The first few months after donning these gauntlets and wearing a mask, he may have had an excuse. It was, after all, a most unusual period of adjustment for the straight-laced military man.

But now, it had been over a year. He felt like a bad son and brother.

His attention snapped back to Bella's grandmother, who was musing over the birthday photograph.

"This was the last time we were all together," she was saying, her fingers tracing the captured faces fondly. "Oh, we all tried to see each other after, of course, but we could never all come together again, not like... like this."

Gairdner gave her a tight smile. "Such reunions are often difficult to plan, Ma'am. At least you have memories such as these."

She nodded and smiled at him, and turned back to the photo. "Oh yes. Yes..."

As she continued to reminisce, with Bella's parents joining in, laughing, Gairdner felt both wonder and dejection. It was a comfortable warmth here in this small circle gathered over simple photos, while beneath it all, there was a creeping worry, melancholy. He only had to look up to see it. Bella, holding her grandfather's hand, wishing to hope, but perhaps there was none...

He saw Bella mutter something. He saw a spike in the EEG.

Hope.

____________________________________________________________________

Belladonna Aura

Paladin---Gairdner---had a way of getting things done. It seemed that there were bunkrooms for interns, and that several doctors also had cots in their offices. Things could happen for "celebrity superheroes" that wouldn't happen for anyone else. Bella found herself stretched out on a padded, flat surface---top bunk of a bunkbed---with the promise that someone would come get her in three hours after a power-nap, a shower, and a change of clothing.

She was just grateful that Shyft had gotten her out of that containment suit. There were no rad-leakage issues. Nothing like no longer being a biohazard....

She closed her eyes and waited for sleep. And that was when the "aha" moment popped up in her brain.

....why are you so angry and aggressive?

Holy crow....

Because I was getting bombarded with anger and aggression, of course. From all sides.

She'd been telempathic, to a very limited extent, before. Nothing like Flame, of course. Flame could sense things miles away---or at least, she had been able to. Now---

I wonder if we're kind of averaged now?

Whatever, it was clear that she was going to have to figure out how to block some of this out. It seemed to be way more empathic than telepathic, and that was why she hadn't copped to what was going on earlier. If she'd been hearing voices in her head, it would have been a lot clearer.

Unfortunately....that opened up a whole 'nother can of worms. What had happened between Zach and her---

f I'm projective as well as receptive...

Then what had happened could have been her daydreams imposed on reality; Zach responding not to his own feelings, but hers.

In that case, he would probably be relieved by her stiff little note.

She sighed, turned over, and let herself drift off. She had way more important things to worry about. Grampa was a higher priority than anything else.

Anything.

____________________________________________________________________

Belladonna Aura

TO: Commisar Bestial Boy
FROM: Belladonna Aura
SUBJECT: Um

Dear Commisar;

Cut to the chase; seems I'm telempathic. Which probably explains what happened at Portal Corporation. Shit, I'm beginning to feel like Tatiana in the "Letter Scene" of Eugene Onegin....

Look, I think I can explain it. I've got feelings for you, and I can't just go "erase, erase, erase" and have you forget what happened between us. But I think it's pretty obvious that what I feel got projected onto you, and....well, stuff happened that wouldn't have, if I had known I could project things.

So since you're probably embarassed now and wondering how to get out of it, don't bother. You aren't even my Commissar, strictly speaking, so there needn't even be much contact between us. You go make nice with Carpathia and I'll go on my way and you just try not to worry about it, K?

The good news is that this isn't gonna happen anymore. I know a strong telempath here in Vegas and I put a call in to her. The good news is that it is trivially easy for strong telempaths to link, and I can get instructions downloaded straight from her brain to mine. She just dropped by the hospital and now I have all that stuff locked down tight. No more projective unless I want to, and no more receptive either.

That's about it. Go put your life back on track and I'll do the same.

Tovarisch Belladonna Aura

____________________________________________________________________

Belladonna Aura

A power-nap of three hours in a flat bed was better than six in a chair. She was up and awake and alert again in time for the latest delivery from Takeout Taxi. She ate Japanese noodles absently, waiting for the neurologist to show, and making sure Gairdner got his share, before sending him off to take her place in that upper bunk.

When the neurologist arrived, she put aside the half-eaten portion and tackled him before he could put his "professional" face on.

"I was a paramedic before I was a hero," she said, simply. "I'm a paramedic and medical officer for my team. Tell me---"

If it had been bad news, she would have known by the twitches, the hesitation. She could read doctors like books these days. No twitch, no hesitation, no bad signs. In fact, when he pulled out a fat folder, she realized that she was going to get good news. The only time that folders of EEG or EKG tracings ever turned up were when there was either very good news, or very, very (as in "we think you should shut off the machines now) bad news.

So she listened to the doctor and looked over the tracings and saw confirmed what she had thought she herself had seen. There was an improvement.

But there was more.

"Miss Aura," the earnest young resident that had accompanied the neurologist said, "I noticed that you were making use of your powers, so I began charting them against Mister Parker's vitals. Now, conventional wisdom is that the so-called "healing powers'" of you superheroes don't do much for peopel who aren't metahumans, nor in the case of stroke and other neurological damage. But conventional wisdom has been wrong before, and we've never had someone at the bedside of a patient who was able to fire off as strong an aura with the frequency that you can. And a lot of the damage caused by a stroke is ongoing. That's why a stroke patient continues to worsen until he stabilizes." He peered at her worriedly. "And the interesting thing here is that there are micro-improvements in Mister Parker's overall condition, coming exactly fifteen miunutes after each time you used your aura. That other thing, too---the thing that puts a boost on the metabolism?"

She nodded.

"There's the same sort of cardiac improvement half an hour later. We were going to have to put in a defibrillator. Now we won't, and we're thinking if the improvement continues, we won't have to put in a pacemaker either. None of this is anywhere near as dramatic as you'd see in a metahuman, but it's real and measurable."

Not only was he earnest, he was excited. She didn't blame him. This was publishable, if he could repeat it. And he probably could, without needing a healing hero like her. There were already healing gadgets available in Paragon City based on the healing powers of the heroes there. October Star had one, for instance. They were gradually spreading out for use outside of Paragon; the thought was that eventually every ambulance would carry one. This young doctor could likely arrange for a battery of the things to be set up in several ICUs to replicate what she was doing.

Maybe some might resent the fact that he was looking at her grandfather as some sort of experiment to be monitored and intruded on. She didn't, and what was more, her parents wouldn't, either. They were all scientists, after all....

"You expect this to plateau out at some point?" she asked both of them. Both nodded. "We think there's a point where the damage is irreversible," said the neurologist frankly. "And you didn't arrive until six hours after the incident. But---that's why there's physical therapy. "

"Right." She nodded. "Now come tell the rest of the family." She saw their hesitation, and it was now her turn to offer reassurance. "Don't worry. They're scientists."

______________________________________________

To: Everybody and his dog
From: Belladonna Aura

There's good news and better news. The good news is that conventional wisdom is wrong and healers can make a difference in stroke patients. The better news is Grampa is showing these improvements. He's not out of the woods yet---but the EEGs are looking better with every trace.

Flame, honey, tell your friends upstairs "Thanks."

Shyft, despite the stress, your jewelry is working so well I didn't even set off the sniffer outside the radiation-treatment rooms, and that's set to below-ambient-radon levels.

RD, Paladin is a star of the first magnitude. I ask for something to happen and the next thing I know, it's done. I don't think Gairdner understands the meaning of the word "impossible." He even has Gramma obeying him like a meek little lamb.

Don't know when I'll be coming back, exactly; I'm gonna stay here doing what I do best at least until the improvements Grampa is showing plateau out. Couple more days, maybe. Thinking about flying myself back, if the weather is gonna be good. Sorry, Sturmfront, your Blue Fairy is a wimp; you should see what a thunder-boomer does to my hair.

With relieved hugs to all

Bella