Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
KnightDisciple

Wellness Wishes (IC)

Recommended Posts

Corbin Alphonse Hughes walked into the lobby of Freedom Medical Center, dressed casually but still looking a bit uncomfortable. He glanced around before walking up to the receptionist's desk. He was holding a couple of cards, as well as a small bouquet of flowers. Corbin gives a smile to the person on duty at the desk.

"Ah, yes. I was hoping to visit a friend. Jessica Parker? I've taken to understand she's in the long-term care department. Would you be so kind as to direct me to her room, and how I could get there?"

Share this post


Link to post

The nurse checked her computer and gave Corbin the proper directions, sending him up the mass of the hospital and towards the 'rear' of the complex. He passed the usual sampling of hospital drama, including far too many people hooked up to IV drips or beeping machines. Once he had to stand aside as a gurney was wheeled past at speed, a sallow-faced old man on it.

Jessica's room was comparatively tranquil and peaceful. It was a single suite overlooking the river and the Lab, but the young woman wasn't enjoying the view; she had a laptop on a swing-out table in front of her, and some small cube device hooked up to it via USB. A three-dimensional model flickered in space above the cube, and Jessica watched it change and mutate as she typed. She glanced up when Corbin entered and a quick keyboard command caused the model to vanish before he could get a good look at it.

"Corbin!" She was wearing a bright yellow blouse, and her smile was as sunny as her shirt. "Hey! I, uh, didn't expect to see you here."

Share this post


Link to post

Corbin had juggled the cards and flowers to one hand just before walking into the room; he'd meant to do so sooner, but the...scenery...along the way distracted him. He'd had to shake off the rather morbid mood it tried to instill in him. Instead, he gave Jessica a smile, though obviously he was saddened seeing her in her current condition. He walked over to a nearby end table and set down the flowers and cards.

"Hey. Heard about what happened; Erin let me know. It..."

He paused, trying to think of a way to phrase this.

"I'm sorry it happened. The flowers are from me and my parents; they're not much, but hey, a little color helps. Cards from me, my folks, Quo-Dis. Blake would write one, but...he's been sequestered in some sort of super-ritual, over at Parkhurst. It's supposed to help with his current, ah, power source. Something about bad interactions between that, Parkhurst, and other magic users.

So, uh. How are you? You know. With, uh. Yeah."

He was clearly uncomfortable, concerned, and clueless on how to speak about this.

Share this post


Link to post

Jessica smiled at the gifts, though it went a little brittle at the mention of her ex. His 'power source' was certainly a delicate way of putting the whole issue, but she firmly set that aside. Corbin was Blake's friend first and it was inevitable that seeing him would bring up memories, but there wasn't any reason to dwell on them. "How am I doing with the whole not-walking thing?" She put the holo-projector on the table and swung it away from her body and back towards the wall. "I'm fine! The doc worried that there might be some bone shards left inside due to the vertebrae shattering, but it looks like if there's anything in there it's small enough to dissolve. And most of the autonomic nerve connections are still there, so I don't have to worry about regulating all of that, at least." She struggled to sit upright without being able to move her legs or buttocks, finally settling on bracing herself against the bed and pushing. It was awkward, and she felt the track pants she was wearing underneath the bed sheets slip a bit, but she got there. "I wasn't expecting to see you here, Corbin."

Share this post


Link to post

"Glad to hear there's no further danger. And glad you're taking things in stride."

He glanced around the room before stepping to the window and examining the view. All of it was fairly obvious pretense for him gathering his thoughts. Finally, he spoke, his tone rather weighty.

"I've decided I'm a pretty terrible friend to the few people who I count as actual friends. Though we don't know each other that well, I count you a friend, Jessica. But in two years at Claremont, two years on Young Freedom, and two iterations on the team..."

He turned back to look her in the eye.

"I feel like I made only a few genuine friends. Erin and Trevor are friends; Mark's a friend, though he's also...Mark. Eve and I, though...This last year was difficult. I was bull-headed, she was strong-willed, we never decided how we'd try to lead the team. I never connected to the younger members of the team, not really. Heck, I fought more often with some of them than I fought bad guys alongside them. Outside of Young Freedom, I've got Quo-Dis, Blake, and you as people I feel any real friendship with. Oh, there are others I'm friendly with, I guess. And I know we're just barely friends. But now that I'm not even at Claremont, I want to strengthen what bonds I do have. Between the hectic times a year ago, and the rather frightening incident at the July 4th Fundraiser, I've made myself sit down and think about things."

He gave a vague wave toward Jessica's condition at the moment.

"Considering you're laying here paralyzed, it seemed like it would be a good thing to visit you. I don't know how many visitors you get right now, but one more can't hurt. If me being here makes you uncomfortable or something, I can head out."

He was clearly feeling a bit out of his depth, but was also genuine in his words.

Share this post


Link to post

Jessica sat, well laid there, quietly and listen to Corbin talk until it seemed like he'd run out of words. She smiled, trying to put him at ease. "Well I'm not going to drive you off or get security to throw you out," she said. "I don't mind if you... if you want to talk, or hang out or whatever. I don't really know how much we have in common, though. You were always more Blake's friend than mine, after all." She fell silent and fiddled with her fingers, looking down at her lap. "It's not always bad to disagree with your friends, you know. I don't always agree with Mara or, or the folks at the Lab. And I often get dismissed because of my age." Many distinguished scientists and engineers had to reevaluate their views to accept a girl young enough to be their daughter as being accomplished enough to speak at symposiums, or to be on the executive council of the Lab. She looked up and smiled brightly again. "But if you have something you want to talk about... yeah, I'm here." She laughed and added, "And 'm not going anywhere soon!"

Share this post


Link to post

"A bunch of hotshot scientists with sky-high IQs not always agreeing? Why, however would that happen? As for conflict with friends, you've got a point. Maybe when I get a chance I'll try to sit down for lunch with Eve, clear the air..."

He considered her words for a moment. Then suddenly, he took a half-step forward and offered her his hand and a smile.

"My name is Corbin Alphonse Hughes, Bearer of the Blue Ring of the Courageous Leader. How are you doing today?"

He gave a chuckle.

"Might as well give ourselves a bit of a do-over, eh? So. I know you do science-y things at the science-y Lab, and you...had...a pretty potent suit of armor. But I'm not really clear on what science-y things you do, precisely. Me, I'm starting at Freedom City University's History Department in the fall."

Share this post


Link to post

"They don't all have that high IQs. Sometimes it's more of a seniority thing. People who have been particle physicists for thirty years and they have trouble deferring to people who have only worked on it for five or ten years, even if we have new ideas." She shrugged. "It seems stupid when you imagine that every scientist is trained to like new ideas, but they're all human, you know?"

Jessica couldn't help giggling at Corbin's formal introduction, or at least reintroduction. "Hello. I'm Jessica Anne Parker, and I'm usually the smartest person in the room. And when I'm not, it's even more interesting.

"I still have the kickin' suit of armor," she pointed out. "That never went away. It'll take some fixing, once all of this is handled," she added, indicating her non-responsive legs as all of this with a wave of one hand, "but it's still there. I could call it up now but, um, I'm not sure how the flight systems would work if I can't move my legs."

She tucked a strand of reddish hair behind her ear. "I do all sorts of science stuff, really, but I gravitate towards engineering. It's fun to find out new stuff about the universe, sure, but if you don't figure out something to do with it, it's... well, it kind of sits there. I'm not against pure research or anything," she hurried to add, "I would just rather figure out a way to enrich people's lives with what we already know."

She cocked her head. "History is... cool. But all that stuff is known, right? I mean, we're not going to dig up a bust of a new Roman Emperor, are we?"

Share this post


Link to post

"They don't all have that high IQs. Sometimes it's more of a seniority thing. People who have been particle physicists for thirty years and they have trouble deferring to people who have only worked on it for five or ten years, even if we have new ideas." She shrugged. "It seems stupid when you imagine that every scientist is trained to like new ideas, but they're all human, you know?"

"I heard there was a robot working at the Lab."

Jessica couldn't help giggling at Corbin's formal introduction, or at least reintroduction. "Hello. I'm Jessica Anne Parker, and I'm usually the smartest person in the room. And when I'm not, it's even more interesting.

"I still have the kickin' suit of armor," she pointed out. "That never went away. It'll take some fixing, once all of this is handled," she added, indicating her non-responsive legs as all of this with a wave of one hand, "but it's still there. I could call it up now but, um, I'm not sure how the flight systems would work if I can't move my legs."

Corbin grinned a bit as he got a laugh out of his bedridden friend.

"Pleasure to meet you, Jessica. Though...How exactly are you going to handle your spinal injury?"

He winced when he said that, but perhaps it was good to get it out in the open.

She tucked a strand of reddish hair behind her ear. "I do all sorts of science stuff, really, but I gravitate towards engineering. It's fun to find out new stuff about the universe, sure, but if you don't figure out something to do with it, it's... well, it kind of sits there. I'm not against pure research or anything," she hurried to add, "I would just rather figure out a way to enrich people's lives with what we already know."

She cocked her head. "History is... cool. But all that stuff is known, right? I mean, we're not going to dig up a bust of a new Roman Emperor, are we?"

"No, that makes sense. It's why I prefer actually making visual art to looking at it, and why I want to go into archeology.

Speaking of which, no, we don't know everything about history. Heck, just a couple years ago we dug up a whole new pyramid and tomb in Egypt. We're finding new bits of information all the time! We've found records of a few Roman Emperors pretty recently. In general, it's a combination of searching for new dig sites, and then taking all the scraps and piecing together a bigger picture. There's so much to find out, because it's only been probably 600 or so years that we've really seen a lot of historical writing happen on a wider basis. Past a certain point, you're tracing rumors and legend to just find...something."

Share this post


Link to post

"I heard there was a robot working at the Lab."

"Yeah, Protectron. He's an okay, uh, simulated guy, I guess. I helped him, a knight-in-armor type, and Phalanx stop a steam mech that was drawing power off the nuclear plant, once."

Corbin grinned a bit as he got a laugh out of his bedridden friend.

"Pleasure to meet you, Jessica. Though...How exactly are you going to handle your spinal injury?"

If Jessica realized that getting paralyzed was something to be ashamed or concerned over, she didn't show it. "It's a pretty interesting problem," she said. "I'm approaching it from two directions. See, firstly I need to replace the shattered vertebrae. I was working on a sort of spine-armor replacement or augmentation for awhile, something that would interface with the suit, for a direct neural link. I was able to adapt it to replace the shattered vertebrae. I still need to iron out the details and put it in, though." She smiled mirthlessly. "My days of backless dresses and bikinis may be over, alas.

"The more interesting problem is how this all came about. See, a couple years ago I got gassed by this supervillain. He was using some heavy metal concoction and while it made me sick, the counter drugs bonded it to my nervous system and bones, like this." She reached behind her, straining for the table she had set the laptop on. She'd pushed it a bit too far away, though; her fingertips brushed it and pushed it farther off, and she reached further without thinking. All of a sudden her balance was past the tipping point and she tumbled out of the bed and onto the floor. She caught herself on one arm and managed to avoid smacking her face into the floor, but her legs thudded down in a tangle. She swore in a very unladylike fashion and grabbed the side of the bed, trying to haul herself up; her noodle-arms managed to lever her upper body off the ground, but the dead weight of her legs meant she wasn't going far like that.

Share this post


Link to post

"Huh. Steam mechs draining nuclear plants. What a town."

He shook his head in bemusement at the thought, before listening to Jessica's explanation of her plans to regain her mobility.

"Hm. Something external? Or internal? I mean, don't they have artificial limbs that are pretty advances? The ones made by Miss Americana?"

He laughed and rolled his eyes.

"One of my classmates and teammates would. Not. Shut. UP. About how "totally more awesome than anyone" Miss Americana was. Constantly talked about her. She seems like a great scientist and person, but hype backlash, you know?"

When she tried to reach her laptop, Corbin started to get up from his chair, but he wasn't fast enough. He winced as he heard the *thud*, but calmly moved over to her.

"Hang on, and just relax for a second."

With that, the large young man reached down and scooped Jessica up in his two arms, lifting her as if he couldn't even feel the weight. She was placed back on the bed gently, the tangled sheets shaken out and rearranged. A moment later, the table was placed within easy reach.

"If you're not going to freak out about being paralyzed, then you'd better not freak out about asking for help."

The scolding words were somewhat undermined by the friendly smile he gave her as he retook his seat.

"Now. You were going to show me something on your laptop?"

Share this post


Link to post

Jessica was quiet as Corbin picked her up and put her back in the bed. She clenched her jaw and balled her hands into fists, which she pounded on the bed. "I know, it's just... no, it's nothing." She pulled the laptop into a move comfortable position, moving the attached cube to the other side so it was between her and Corbin. "Okay, this is the situation." She tapped at the keyboard and a projection appeared, an idealized female form with as much definition and anatomical accuracy as a Barbie doll. It rotated around once, then the 'view' expanded until just the lower back and upper buttocks could be seen. Another tap and a human spine was projected inside the human body. "I'm basically missing several vertebrae. Shredded." More tapping, and four vertebrae near the base of the spine flashed red and faded from view. "So I've got to replace them. But I can't grow something exactly like bone, so instead I'll hold them in place with a ceramic plate." The missing vertebrae reappeared in gold, with a contoured plate hugging the outside of the spinal column.

"So, all of that has to be machined across the river," Jessica nodded out the window at the Lab, "and then implanted surgically. At the same time, there's some nerve damage and residual heavy metal deposits in my body. So I came up with this." Another flurry of typing saw the human form disappear and be replaced by something that looked a little like a computer chip, a little like a dust mite. The body was roughly rectangular and tapered off to a long, thin tail, while a dozen or so metal 'legs' sprouted off the body. "It's a nanobot, small enough to pass through the blood-brain barrier and even enter the lymphatic system. It finds the heavy metal deposits and electroplates them to the tail, sucking them up. Eventually the tail gets too heavy to move, the nanites go with the flow of the body's systems instead of doing their own thing, and it all gets flushed out."

She sat back, a little of her earlier good humor restored. "Just like that. Inject myself with robots, put a ceramic plate in my spine, and I'll be hunky dory. Good as new." Her voice took on a strained tone with the last phrase and she looked down at her lap, her free hand fidgeting with the blankets suddenly.

Share this post


Link to post

"You know, if you get this working, you could be paving the way for other people with spinal injury, right? This might be the beginning that helps thousands of people gain more mobility than they ever dreamed about."

Corbin paused, considering his next words carefully.

"And those nano-thingys, those might be a big thing too. I know that doesn't really help, not much..."

He sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. He felt like he was about to step into a minefield.

"Jessica...What's wrong?"

Share this post


Link to post

"It's not exactly easy, or cheap," Jessica said. "They had to image my entire spine, and then examine the vertebrae closely to create the designs for the replacements. The replacements are each unique, and since there's going to be a stiff piece connecting them I won't be able to bend or twist that part of my back again. I couldn't imagine if someone had to have this up their entire spine, they wouldn't be able to flex their upper body at all!"

At Corbin's question, Jessica squeezed her lips together until they went white. One hand curled into a fist and thumped on the table. "I screwed up. Badly. I went into a situation when I should've left well enough alone, and now... now I'm stuck in this damn bed." She looked up suddenly, smiling, her expression manic. "But it's okay! Because I'll fix it, and then it's like it never happened, right? And it'll all be... in the past."

Share this post


Link to post

"While man's desires and aspirations stir, he can not choose but err. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe."

Corbin leaned forward a bit in his seat, his expression serious.

"You make a mistake. You got hurt. It sucks. But instead of trying to pretend it never happened, you ought to be learning from it. I made a whole bunch of mistakes this last year. Mine were smaller individually, but collectively they meant that Young Freedom was barely a team. It's pure luck we won some of the fights we did. Lives were on the line, and that line was frayed because of my pride."

He settled back into his chair again, his hands forming a steeple.

"You're already working to heal yourself. And even if your research won't immediately help people, I'd wager you'll start a ball rolling somewhere. Keep your eyes open, and who knows what good may come of this?

More than that, you'll grow stronger because of this. Wiser. And you'll still be a remarkable young woman who people are proud to consider a friend."

At this, he gave her an encouraging smile.

Share this post


Link to post

"You make a mistake. You got hurt. It sucks. But instead of trying to pretend it never happened, you ought to be learning from it. I made a whole bunch of mistakes this last year. Mine were smaller individually, but collectively they meant that Young Freedom was barely a team. It's pure luck we won some of the fights we did. Lives were on the line, and that line was frayed because of my pride."

"Not as much as that metaphor was frayed, I bet" Jessica's gaze dropped back down to her lap, and her smile shrank to a shadow of itself, but at least this time it seemed genuine. The whole situation weighed heavily on her, though. How could she explain it to Corbin? If she failed at being a superhero, that meant her mother was right and this whole endeavor was pointless. Moreover, it meant her grandfather was wrong when he put his faith in her. It was a burden she felt keenly at moments like this, and while usually she used that to push her forward there was no real forward to go, at the moment. Just lots of time to sit in bed and worry.

Still, there wasn't anything she could do about it, and letting it prey on her mind would only lead to second-guessing herself. She looked up and forced a smile. "So, how are you doing? Still together with Quo-Dis?"

Share this post


Link to post

"I'm a history major, not a literature major. If I ever write a history book, I'll hire a couple editors."

A smile and a shrug followed that comment.

"We're...hm. A few days ago, when Erin and Trevor came over for lunch, we talked some things out. We're still together. Just...figuring out our new dynamic. She's joining the Champions out West, so we're not going to see each other quite as much. I imagine we'll be busy enough we won't miss the time terribly. Not like I can't just fly out that way when the need arises. Guess it's not different than if 2 non-supers were going to college in different towns, right?"

Corbin seemed only mostly convinced by his own words.

Share this post


Link to post

Jessica tried to make her smile reassuring, wishing she could get up and give Corbin a hug. "I'm sure the both of you will do fine," she said. "You're a great couple, and it's not exactly like you have to buy an airplane ticket out there to see her. Heck, I'd be surprised if your, uh, jewelry didn't have some tricks for that!"

The topic wasn't exactly comfortable for Jessica. The only time she had met Quo-Dis was during a double date when she was with Blake, which brought up its very own set of painful memories. So she changed the subject as quickly as she could. "Is there a reason you want to stay out here, though? I'm sure there's lots of great history colleges on the West Coast."

Share this post


Link to post

"I haven't pushed my limits, the ring's limits, in a while. I might start changing that soon, though. And thanks for the encouragement."

At her next question, he was thoughtful for a few long moments.

"A couple reasons. I would only know Quo-Dis out there; no other friends out that direction. A bigger reason is that while there are some decent history programs on the West Coast, the best archaeology programs are here on the East Coast. And that's what I want to get into, archaeology. Besides, I have a feeling my parents won't want me to stray too far. I'm 18 now, so they're going to cautiously open up a couple of accounts for me. I've got to at least minor in Business, if not double-major. Interesting times are ahead."

He shrugs with a short laugh.

"Heck, if we're on opposite coasts, that means an excuse to take a break from schoolwork. Having to actually fly over the whole country means I have a better reason to not take my term paper with me."

Share this post


Link to post

"You forgot laptop computers," she teased. "And I'll have to just funnel more attention into a supercomputer that you can carry. All your coursework and books in one handy package! You'll never have a reason to miss a term paper again."

She fell silent for a moment, then asked him, "So are you really going to get into your family's business? I don't see how you can be a CEO and an archeologist at the same time, Corbin."

Share this post


Link to post

"It's more the issue of a lot of my books won't be in e-book form. Coursework is easy, though. Not like a laptop would be too heavy. Heck, I could probably juggle a couple of Crays without much trouble!"

He chuckled, until Jessica brought up the looming duality of his future. He winced and fell silent, staring down at his hands.

"Well for what it's worth, neither of my parents are CEOs...No, that's not relevant. Ugh."

He ran a hand through his hair, nervous.

"I can't do what they do, and do what I want to do, not at the same time. I mean, I'll take the classes, in case archeology has a recession and I can't get a job. But if I do get what I want? The most I'll do is some careful investment on the side. I can get all the head knowledge, but I'm not sure I'll ever have the...talent, I guess, for business leadership. I could lead a hero team, maybe, once I figure out how to not screw it up like I did Young Freedom. But business? Probably not."

Share this post


Link to post

Jessica frowned slightly. "Well then, why do you want to study business? If you don't feel any great interest in it -- and you do for archeology -- why would you go into the family business?" It was a sincere question from the young woman, if a little probing. She had a hefty stake in her family's business, but she had mostly ignored its day-to-day operations. Her mother wanted her to get involved with the running of the company, but Jessica had such a bad relationship with her mother that her personal feelings always overshadowed other considerations. But maybe if she could look at the situation from the outside it would afford her a clearer view of things.

Share this post


Link to post

"Honestly? Partly because the classes are actually kind of fun. I'm not a wiz like my folks, but I've got a decent head for business. And like I said, I don't mind the idea of doing investing or something on the side. Keeps the brain juices flowing.

Partly...well, I mentioned a recession, but part of it is me hedging my bets for the future. What if this ring makes me near-immortal? What if in 20 years I get fed up with the history research world and want to do something different? What if I apply for a position as head of a museum? Any of those situations would be ones where having at least an undergraduate, if not Masters, in Business could help me out in some way or another.

To be blunt, the cost isn't an issue. Time is to a degree, but I like the school environment, so 5 years instead of 4 doesn't scare me. Though I think I can knock out the classes fast enough to keep it at 4.

But at the moment, I don't plan on going into the "family business", as much as there's the concept of such a thing. My folks work in big companies, but they didn't found them, so there's a less personal stake."

Share this post


Link to post

Jessica nodded. She'd made an assumption about Corbin's family that had turned out not to be true; her silver spoon upbringing sometimes led her to the wrong conclusions about situations, and she had to work consciously to avoid it. Still, she respected Corbin's decision and she told him so. "You're being pretty mature for someone just getting out of high school," she pointed out. "Planning for your future, and worrying about what you'll do in twenty years? In a hundred years? You may have felt like you failed with Young Freedom, but at least the experience helped you grow."

Share this post


Link to post

"I've gotten short glimpses of my future. Once, back about two years ago when all those time portals went crazy all over the city. And once a bit over a year ago. The second time...put things in perspective. They gave me hope, among other things."

'Like the fear of dying in nuclear fire thanks to Hiroshima Shadow...'

"Besides. Being a superhero means, quite honestly, staring death in the face on a somewhat regular basis, right? Seems like that makes us look at the bigger picture more often.

But, you're right. I guess everything did help me grow at least a bit."

Share this post


Link to post
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...