Ben feels like he’s been hit by a truck and that’s before he dares to even attempt to open his eyes. His head feels foggy and he doesn’t understand why his body aches like it does. Then it all comes rushing back to him, his eyes burst open and he bolts up-right in an instant, breathing heavily. His eyes ache, not because it’s too bright. No the feeling is something else. He can’t explain it but it’s like they’ve been closed too long. Still, they quickly come back into focus as he looks at the room around him. It’s a bland white box, with soft yellow lighting, a solid white floor, slightly off-white walls and a grey speckled white false ceiling.
Ben doesn’t understand. He clearly is not on Prometheus yet he can’t comprehend where he is. It’s clearly a medical facility but that can’t be right. He can’t remember again why he woke and sat up with such a start, so closes his eyes to search for the answer. At first he gets nothing except darkness and then as he urges himself deeper into his mind it comes to him for the second time. This time however the memory is clearer.
He was doing a space walk, the first real-world trial of the membrane suit when he was hit by… He can’t say what. Someone had called it an anomaly. Ben isn’t sure if it was Molly or one of her colleagues. That doesn’t matter; he tells himself as he opens his eyes again but finds no window. The only way in and out of this room is a door, also white in colour, except this door is clearly painted and wooden underneath. Ben smirks for what reason he cannot say but quickly throws the sheet off his legs. He’d half been expecting to find them missing but again cannot say why he’d reached that conclusion. The Asian-Canadian astronaut is about to get out of bed when the door opens. Ben’s head immediately snaps up and he stares intently at the door as a female doctor and nurse drift in. The nurse smiles sweetly while the doctor simply glances at him for a second and then asks, “Going somewhere Mr Wu?”
“I am unless you tell me what happened?” Ben confirms in response without glancing away from the doctor who is clad in a medical coat, which is fastened with buttons. The nurse meanwhile is dressed in a mint green outfit, plain and functional. Her hair, brown in colour, is tied back in a bun and her soft grey eyes flit between the doctor and Ben considering who will be the first to blink.
“You had an accident.” The nurse says after a period of uncomfortable silence during which she wonders why Doctor Lindsay has not answered. It’s not like its some big secret, at least as far as the patient is concerned. For the outside world, yes it is, but this is the man it has happened too. He deserves to know, deserves to be told. Still, it seems he is remarkably calm and she wonders if Mr Wu has caught the change. It’s physical so it’s possible too and on top of that it is easily within plain sight.
“And where am I?” Ben then asks without lingering on the explanation for the moment. First he just wants to know key details. Everything else can follow.
This time Doctor Lindsay speaks. But first she clears her throat, her left hand covering her mouth as she does. Then she answers, “You are in the Hopper Medical Institute, Mr Wu.”
“So I’m still on base?” Ben asks recognising the name immediately.
“You are. But you had a terrible time.” The nurse says chiming in to prevent any chance of their being another uncomfortable silence.
“What do you mean?” Ben questions confused. Sure, he feels like hell, but as far as he can tell he’s still in one piece. Maybe it’s just how this nurse phrases things. She wouldn’t be the first and almost certainly won’t be the last to embellish or exaggerate events.
“Nurse Bernice, that is quite enough. Now leave us. Mr Wu and I have things to discuss.” Doctor Elisabeth Lindsay commands with her attention directed toward the nurse who is a larger woman than she.
Nurse Bernice doesn’t like Doctor Lindsay’s direct nature and so retorts, “I was told to be present Doctor Lindsay.”
Doctor Elisabeth Lindsay says nothing. Instead, she just glares at the larger woman with darker than her own tanned skin. Bernice takes the hint, sucks silently on her teeth and then marches out of the room, flashing a smile Ben’s way before she leaves.
Ben doesn’t like this Doctor Lindsay. To him she is the typical; I’m better than you because I went to medical school for five years and then had to work my way up from junior to fully fledged doctor, type. Sad thing is Ben has two masters’ degrees, which means he has actually spent more time in further education than the doctor stood before him. But unlike her he won’t try and lord it over her and make out he’s superior. Not yet anyway. Though, it does depend on how far she takes her own attitude.
“How are you feeling?” Doctor Elisabeth Lindsay asks. Her tone has softened now that she and Ben are alone and that raises his suspicions. So he stares at her intently and answers, “Like I’ve been ran over a couple times.”
“Well that’s an improvement.” Elisabeth mutters to herself. Ben catches the statement and so asks, “What does that mean?”
“Mr Wu, what do you remember?” Doctor Lindsay says moving her gaze from the pad in her hands to meet his.
“I was doing a space walk on Prometheus when I got…I don’t know…hit.” Ben says unsure as to how to explain what happened to him.
“Hit by what, Mr Wu?” Elisabeth pushes. She needs to know what the astronaut does and does not recall. It’s important for what she will say next.
“I wish I could tell you.” Ben replies honestly.
“You don’t recall?” Elisabeth queries with a raised eyebrow that denotes she thinks he is hiding something according to his body language.
“Oh I recall. Just not sure how to put it into words.” Ben admits with a shrug.
“Try me. I’m a doctor, I’m pretty smart.” Elisabeth retorts more defensively than was necessary.
“It-it was like a beam…no a strand… It was like a strand of light, bright and yellow. Felt like it cut right through me, suit, skin and bone.” Ben explains before pausing and then adding, “But it can’t have cause if that were true I wouldn’t be talking to you right now.” Ben offers a weak forced smile.
“Anything else?” Elisabeth asks from behind her half height spectacles which are delicately placed near the point of her short slender nose, while her brown eyes continue to stare at Ben.
“Should there be?” Ben asks with a shrug.
“No. There should not be. But I had to be sure Mr Wu.” Elisabeth says before pausing for a few seconds to inhale, exhale and then continue. “Have you noticed anything different?”
“Yeah, I’m back on Earth.” Ben replies mockingly.
Elisabeth rolls her eyes and then queries, “Anything further?”
“No. And so long as you’re not about to tell me this is some dream, I met aliens, I’m dead or I’ve travelled through time. I think I can handle whatever it is that you are, so far, not telling me.” Ben answers bluntly.
“Hmph.” Doctor Elisabeth Lindsay, the fifty three year old woman with greying short black hair cut into a bob, grumbles audibly in response.
Ben smiles but manages to stifle a chuckle. He can tell he’s got to this Doctor Lindsay and that pleases him even if his head has started to spin and he feels woozy.
“I saw your psych eval that listed you as a man that uses humour to deflect. Didn’t think it fit until just now. So how about we ditch this and move forward, shall we?” Elisabeth asks no longer interested in whatever game Ben Wu is playing. And she is sure he is playing a game. He has to be. There is no way he hasn’t noticed his hands, well more accurately his fingertips. Why he’s stalling she cannot say, but she hasn’t the time for it. The director has asked her to find out what Mr Wu knows and remembers so she can evaluate whether he is safe to be released from the Hopper Medical Institute. For what reason she does not know, though she can imagine it relates to his fingertips, and also quite frankly does not care. She has her remit and she’ll stick to it. That’s her job, what she’s paid for and why she is here right now in this room with this younger man who is sitting propped up in a hospital bed.
“Why not Doc. Why not.” Ben couldn’t agree more. He wants out of this hospital. He clearly doesn’t belong here. Though, he understands fully why he was brought in. He can even imagine the looks on Molly and her teams’ faces in the moments after it happened. He’ll have to buy them a round or two to say thanks. He doesn’t know if they drink, but if they don’t he’ll find another way to repay them for saving his life. He’s pretty sure that’s what they did. However, he doesn’t think the membrane suit failed. He hopes it didn’t. Especially as it was never designed to be hit by whatever it was that hit him. Still, it must have done the trick seeing as he’s still breathing, with all his limbs attached.
“So what do you want me to do?” Ben then asks curious.
“Give yourself the once over and tell me what you see.” Elisabeth replies nondescriptly. She’s waiting for him to gloss over his fingertips but pause just long enough to give away that he’s aware of the change.
However, what Ben actually does is quickly scan over his body until he reaches his hands, where he stops. His eyes stare unblinking at the backs of his hands. But it’s not his hands that he’s really looking at. Instead, he’s staring at his fingers, or to be more exact his fingertips. They’re wrong. Not mutilated or damaged wrong, but different. Ben doesn’t understand and then he starts to blink confused as he looks at where his fingernails should be, except they aren’t. In their place are three centimetre long bars of yellow light. The light ripples and swirls like it’s alive, like its flowing. Ben is sure he’s imagining it and closes his eyes for a few moments as tight as he can and then opens them. The beams of yellow light are still there, jutting from his eight fingers. Only his thumbs still have nails, still look the same as they always have.
Ben decides to touch the yellow bar jutting from the index finger of his left hand with the index finger of his right. Elisabeth winces unsure what might occur, but she says nothing and just simply watches and observes as Ben runs his finger over the yellow beam. In response he feels a tingling sensation and sees smudges ripple around the point of contact made by his finger, but otherwise feels no other response. It isn’t what he expected to feel but then he isn’t sure what he should have expected. That’s why he raises his head and looks back at Doctor Lindsay who soon meets his gaze.
“What…what is this?” Ben asks confused.
“That’s what we were hoping you’d be able to tell us?” Elisabeth replies with her head cocked to the left.
“I-I-I don’t have a clue.” Ben admits while moving his fingers absentmindedly.
“Did I arrive like this?” The astronaut then asks.
“No. They manifested during the first night following your arrival. You’ve been in a coma for four days. We were hoping you could help us understand how this happened?” Elisabeth explains no longer suspicious of Ben. She saw with her own eyes his astonishment and shock at clocking the change. It wasn’t faked. There is no way he could have faked that reaction. That both relieves and gravely concerns her.
“They look like the strand of light that hit me in space.” Ben says staring at his fingertips again after more than a minute of silence.
“Really? Fascinating.” Elisabeth says in response as she makes a note on her pad.