Lightning flashed overhead illuminating a hooded figure standing outside the main hospital building, unminding of the pouring rain primed to soak even the bravest to the bone. Gazing upward the figure fixed their eye on the intended target, a room on the furthest corner, 12th floor.
They had been climbing coconut trees since they were three years old, some far taller than the task laid before them. With a crack of knuckle and neck, the figure leapt to the side of the building, moving steadily from one balcony to the next occasionally scaling an exposed drainpipe until they reached their target.
Landing lightly on the balcony, the figure slunk up to the glass door, peeking in. The room was abandoned, save for the lone inhabitant in the bed. The door slid open without resistance and back closed just as silently. Pushing the hood back the figure caught a glimpse of their reflection in the door.
A pretty young woman, mid-twenties with cocoa skin and a slightly boyish haircut stared back. The only thing marring her beauty was a long scar running across the right side of her face and another just above the bridge of her nose. The scars ran deep as the longer of the two led to a leather eye patch disguising further damage. She quickly turned from the door and stepped to the bed, heartbroken at what she found.
Before her lay a woman of the same age, so similar in appearance it was still disconcerting after all this time. Her eyes closed, breathing ragged behind the oxygen mask, and normally golden skin held a sickly pallor. The girl in the cloak moved forward just enough to brush the long, curly hair away from the other’s forehead and place a tender kiss upon it.
Reaching down, she took the girl’s hand in her own while examining her injuries. The girl in the bed had the entire left side of her torso heavily bandaged. Several red stains dotting the soft fabric indicated where the bullets had entered, and in some cases, exited. Three shots. She had heard them. Watched in horror as the other girl fell; wished to race to her aid but was unable.
“It’s me, Mari.” She whispered into the other’s ear. “It’s Tina. I’m here and everything’s gonna be okay. You’re gonna be okay.”
Tina sat back waiting tensely for a response, any sign that Mari was not as lost as she seemed. Seconds ticked by and she could hear footsteps in the hall. She readied herself to make a quick retreat but the steps moved past the door and down the corridor. She hadn’t really expected company, it was 1:30 in the morning, and the hospital was all but abandoned at this hour. Just outside the door, she could see the sleeping guard, failing woefully at his job. A sound from the bed pulled her attention. Mari cracked her eyes open and stared in disbelief.
“Tina?” she whispered hoarsely, even as her vision was blocked by the other girl leaning forward to kiss her face gently. “How?”
“I snuck in, we don’t have much time. I had to know you were okay.”
“You … shouldn’t be… here…” Mari gasped, pain biting at every syllable. Tina couldn’t be here, she would get them both killed. They were enemies! How could she ignore that?
“I know! I just had to see you. You understand that, don’t you?” Tina was clutching her hand fiercely with tears streaming from her uninjured eye. “I forgive you! That’s why you have to pull through. So we can fix this! Together.”
Mari closed her eyes, breathing heavy behind the mask because this was all too much for her. Tina forgave her? She couldn’t and shouldn’t. Mari was a monster; she had come to terms with that. How could anyone forgive her for what she had done, especially to her own flesh and blood? She could feel her consciousness slipping away when Tina pushed something into her palm and closed her fingers tightly around it.
“So you’ll always remember that you’re loved.” Tina whispered against her forehead before kissing her again and releasing her hand.
“No… Tina…” She called feebly to her.
“I’ll be back soon. I promise.” She heard just before her eyes slid closed, banishing her back into darkness.
“The damage was extensive. Another inch to the left and she would have been killed instantly. It will take several weeks for her to recover if not months.”
“Even with the ... ‘enhancements’?”
“The ‘enhancements’ are the only reason she has survived this far.”
Mari shifted slightly in bed. There were people talking, two people, about her it seemed. Her mind was muddled as she tried to remember. She had been on a stage, in full dress uniform. Was she giving a speech? When a man came out of the crowd… he had a gun! She was shot! Three times. Then so much noise and confusion and… Bettina! Tina had been here; she had come last night. Was that a dream? Mari tightened her fist and the hard object digging into her palm confirmed it.
“Tina…” She moaned before she realized. The other people in the room quickly scrambled to her side.
“She’s waking up! Captain? Can you open your eyes?” One of the voices prompted her. Mari swallowed hard and tried to comply. Slowly her eyes parted, letting a harsh string of light in. She hissed at the assault on her senses and the room quickly darkened. “Is that better? Let’s try again.”
This time when she opened her eyes, the pain was tolerable and there were two concerned faces leaning over her. One was obviously a doctor judging from the white lab coat and the flashlight he was waving in her face. The other was a naval officer like herself, though she didn’t recognize him. She only cared to see one person at the moment.
“Where is she?” She croaked, her throat raw from the breathing tube that had been removed a few hours prior. “Where’s my sister?” The two men shared a confused look before the officer spoke up.
“I’m sorry Captain. Perhaps your injuries have affected your memory but you… you’re an orphan, no family to speak of. Definitely no sister, I’m afraid.”
No! That was a lie. She was real! She had been there just a few hours before. These men were lying to her and there must be a reason. Even in her medicated state, she realized that whatever Tina had given her could be dangerous if found. She feigned a spasm of pain to tuck the object quickly under her leg, beneath the blankets. The doctor rushed forward, checking her breathing and adjusting her I.V.
She didn’t really want to sleep again, so as soon as the doctor turned to usher the officer out she pinched the line, preventing any more medicine from getting to her. She knew she couldn’t keep that up for long as her entire left side was immobilized and she would start to feel it quickly without meds. All she needed was a minute to look at Tina’s gift.
Wiggling around she pulled the object out and laid it on her stomach. The doctor had left her room and the lights were dim, so she was free to investigate. The object in question was an oval locket, carved out of the finest ivory. Mari traced the locket lovingly with her fingers. She knew this; it had been their mothers. The inscription on the outside read “Two queens, One crown”, something her mother had always told them growing up, reminding them that they shared her heart equally.
She pressed softly on the gem near the top and it popped open to reveal a picture of two little girls, identical in appearance sitting across their mother’s lap. Mari had almost forgotten how much she and Tina had looked alike as children; so much had changed since then. So many wrongs.
A tear slipped down her face, then another. What happened? Why can't I remember more? And why did they want her to think Tina was just a fantasy; a figment of her imagination? The wounds in her side began to flare, signaling the last of the meds in her system were waning but the feeling was nothing compared to the ache in her heart. She had to figure this out before anyone else found out about Tina. Tucking the locket back under her leg, she drew some comfort from the feel of the smooth, cool object against her skin.
If she was going to find answers, she couldn’t do it from this hospital bed. Mari needed to get better and fast. The best way to do that was to rest, at least for the moment, so she reluctantly released the I.V. line letting herself fade away, thinking of Tina and happier times. “I’ll be back soon. I promise.” The last thing her sister had said to her. She hoped beyond hope that it was true.