The door closed behind Elza. Wait. Had the head of the hospital just named her the new head of trauma? Aurelia saw that her hands were shaking, and Jonathon clearly noticed.
“Congratulations,” he said dryly.
Aurelia grabbed a scanner and turned to him. If she kept her mind on work, perhaps she could deal with all of this. But she was so tired that the situation was threatening to overwhelm her.
“You learn the politics of Lunar fast,” Jonathon continued. “Kill your predecessor and take his job - not bad for a newbie.”
His smile showed her that he didn't mean to offend, but still, the words cut her. She'd had no intention of any of this happening, no intention of making trouble or getting involved. Aurelia had spent her whole life doing the right thing, studying, behaving, working. And now, suddenly she was up to her ears in things that she didn't understand, things that her gut told her were just plain wrong.
Jonathon put his hand on her arm. “Calm down, Aurelia,” he said to her softly. “Try to go with the flow for a while.”
“Why did she make me head of trauma?” Aurelia stuttered. “I don't get it. I'm new. There's no reason for me to be pushed so far up the ladder so quickly.”
Jonathon gave her another of his flashing white smiles, the ones that made the dimple in his cheek stand out. “Remember what I told you about power?” he said. “It gets thrust upon those who don't want it purely because they're the best able to handle having it. Perhaps that's what Elza is doing. By making you head of trauma, she prevents the job from going to an unknown entity, someone who might abuse the position like Ellis did.”
Aurelia switched on the scanner in her hand. “Do you really think that?”
Jonathon paused in thought. “Partly,” he said. “But I also think that Elza sees something in you, something special. Something that you won't understand for a while yet.”
Aurelia began to scan Jonathon's leg, her movements brusque. “I'm sick of this. Nobody will explain to me what the hell is going on. I'm suddenly stuck in the middle of something that I don't understand and being pulled in eight different directions and...”
Her voice broke, and to her horror, she couldn't stop the tears. Jonathon sat up, pulled her onto the edge of the bed, and put his arm around her.
It was long moments before she could speak again, and when she did she just said, “I'm sorry.”
Jonathon rubbed her arm. “Don't be sorry. I can't even imagine what you must be feeling right now.”
“Jonathon, I've killed someone!” Her breath was still coming in hiccupping sobs. “I've been in a shuttle attack, and now I've suddenly become one of the top people in Lunar Hospital, and I've only been here for a few hours. I don't understand anything.”
He rubbed her arm again, sighed, and lay back on his bed. “Aurelia, I know you don't. I understand more than you do, but even I don't get everything.”
“So explain things to me,” she demanded.
“Right now, I can't. There are things that I need to check and people I need to talk to. And now is neither the time nor the place.”
“So people keep telling me,” said Aurelia, dully.
He looked at her and moved his hand to her leg. “Aurelia, you have my word that as soon as I'm able, I will tell you as much as I know, as much as I can without endangering you or anyone else.”
“Fine,” Aurelia said, nettled by the fact that she wasn't going to understand anything any time soon.
“Take my advice, Aurelia. Just go with the flow for a while. Accept that things are happening and you'll learn more later. You have a job to do, so do it and put everything else out of your mind. There's no point worrying about things you can do nothing about.”
She went back to examining his leg. But Jonathon clutched her arm once more, so she turned to look at him.
“I can tell you that you might just be a part of something very, very important,” he told her. “You wanted to save people – well, this might be your chance.”
He said nothing more, and Aurelia didn't press him. She concentrated on the scan. As she'd suspected, Jonathon's leg had a hairline crack in the bone. Looking around her, she found a small device and ran it over his leg, reconstituting the bone in Seconds. She then did a more thorough exam but found nothing else of note.
“Okay, I think you're ready to get out of here,” she said. “Can you stand up for me?”
He did as he was told.
“Nothing,” he said. “All good.”
“Then you can go; I'll discharge you. Do you need Sec Workers to escort you out?”
“I'll deal with that, don't worry.”
She pulled out her screen and tapped into the hospital system to clear Jonathon's record but was stopped by his hand on her elbow. Looking up, she saw that he was much closer than he had been before, and she could smell his citrus scent. Her stomach jumped a little, and his mouth curved into a slight smile.
“Aurelia, I will contact you,” he whispered. “You'll hear from me in a few hours, okay?”
“In the meantime, stay in the hospital. And try not to think. I'll get you as much info as I can the next time I see you.”
He leant in and very softly kissed her lips.
She was so shocked that she couldn't speak until he had already reached the door, and then the only thing she could say was goodbye.
Aurelia left the room and headed out into the corridor, very deliberately not thinking about the fact that she'd just been kissed, albeit lightly, by Jonathon Hansen. She followed the hallway around until it reached the entrance of the hospital again. The reception area was flooded with people in various states of consciousness. A harried Med Worker at the door was desperately trying to keep up with those arriving. Gods, were all these from the shuttle? They must be. She caught sight of Elza speaking to a Sec Worker, and hurried over to her.
“Done, Cole?” said Elza, a lot more formally than she'd spoken to Aurelia before. “Good, come with me then.”
Elza walked down a corridor, and Aurelia followed her until they reached a door, which Elza opened.
“Alright, Aurelia, you need to get your uniform on, so no one will question your presence or right to get around.”
There was a spare Med uniform lying on the bed in the room to replace the dirty, sweaty and torn one that Aurelia was still wearing.
“It doesn't have the trauma head stripes on it yet; I'll deal with that later,” said Elza. “Oh, and you'll need one of these.”
She handed over a small white patch, which Aurelia took and studied. It was completely unfamiliar to her.
Elza took the patch back and peeled off a plastic covering, then with hands that were cool and gentle, she lifted Aurelia's hair at the back of her neck and stuck the patch onto her skin.
“It's a stimulant. You'll need it after no sleep and with the amount of work that's going on tonight,” she explained. “We all wear them.” Elza lifted her own blonde hair to show a similar patch. “It'll keep you awake and alert, but don't forget to take it off before you fall into bed.”
Aurelia nodded. She was starting to feel a little better, like she'd taken a nap. “I'm head of trauma.” Yeah, that was still sinking in.
Elza grinned. “You're head of trauma. Get out there and do your stuff. If you've got any questions, ask anyone in a med uniform. I'll come find you when things have calmed down. And, Aurelia?”
“I know you're a little, well, confused about things, but...”
“But we'll talk about things later,” finished Aurelia. “Yes, I'm getting used to that.”
Elza laughed. “You're gonna do fine, Aurelia. Just you wait and see.”
Aurelia knew that her real skills lay in diagnostics and thinking on her feet. They always had. So the first thing that she did was to set up a Second triage station behind the first. She let the first Med Worker weed out the walking wounded, and she had him send everyone else on to her. Then she began sending different kinds of injuries into different areas, reasoning that if similar injuries were kept together, treating them would be faster and more efficient.
The number of people still coming through the hospital amazed her. The shuttle had had more passengers than she had thought. Though most of the more seriously wounded had already come through and been processed, Aurelia still caught a couple of tricky cases, including one cracked vertebra that could have spelled disaster had it not been found.
More and more of the stretchers coming through contained the dead. Aurelia was surprised that they were being brought through the hospital at all, but then she remembered that only a Med Worker could sign off on a death certificate. It would be more efficient if a Med Worker on site at the shuttle itself could have done that, she thought, and she noted it down to mention to Elza. If she was going to be head of trauma, then an emergency response team would be very helpful indeed.
Her mind was buzzing now, both from the stimulant patch and the thrill of doing what she was good at. As the patients coming through the doors dwindled to just the dead and the lightly injured, she closed up her station and told the first Med Worker that she was going on rounds. He simply nodded and went back to registering names.
Aurelia pulled out her screen to get a list of the priority patients. It wasn't until she saw his name that she remembered her lung collapse patient. His priority number was still pretty high, so she made her way to his room and found him conscious and half sitting in a bed.
“Hello, Michael. Remember me?” She smiled as she came through the door.
He smiled back. His skin was still pale. “I sure do. You scared me half to death when you said you were going to inject me.”
She blushed at the memory. “Well, sometimes tact isn't really my thing,” she confessed.
She looked him over, gratified that he was doing well. His breathing seemed even, and a look at the scanner told her that his lung was still inflated. She was checking out his Secondary injuries when another Med Worker came into the room.
“Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't realise you'd taken over,” the new woman said. She had short dark hair and Asiatic features similar to those of Aurelia's mother.
“No, no, he's your patient. I just wanted to check up on him, since I treated him on the ship,” Aurelia told her.
“That was you? What exactly was it that you did?” the woman asked, looking curious.
Briefly Aurelia outlined all that had happened, including her decision not to follow the rules and inject the patient. The woman looked interested.
“That was pretty amazing,” she said when Aurelia was done.
“Looks like you're in good hands,” the woman told Michael. “I'll come check on you later.”
She thanked Aurelia for her help and left to go and see to her other patients.
“You should be careful,” Michael said, as the door closed.
“Why's that?” Aurelia turned to him.
He bit his lip, and Aurelia remembered the green of his uniform; he was Security. “Look, you saved my life,” he said quietly. “That's the only reason that I'm saying something. But, well, you're obviously new here, and Lunar is a complicated place. Admitting that you haven't followed the rules in front of someone you don't know might not be a wise move to make.”
“What do you mean?” she asked, coming closer to his bed.
“Just that there's a lot of, ummm, politics is maybe the word I want. Things are different up here than they are in the Earth Cities. You can never be too sure who you should be trusting and who you shouldn't, you know?”
“Look, I'm not saying be paranoid or anything. Just that, while there are plenty of freedoms up here in Lunar, that means that there are plenty of jealousies as well. And, well, there are some people who will do whatever is necessary to get ahead and get more of those precious freedoms that they see all around them.”
“Including turning someone in for breaking the rules,” guessed Aurelia. “Got it.”
Michael shrugged. “Just look after yourself. You never know who's watching. You might be talking to a Med Worker, but that Med Worker could just as easily be a Ruling Class or a Resistance or just someone who wants your job.”
There was that word Resistance again. Aurelia still wasn't clear on what exactly it meant, but she felt that Michael had probably said more than he should have in an effort to protect her, so she didn't ask. She thanked him for his advice and told him that he'd be able to leave the hospital within a day or so.
“No, thank you,” he said as she turned to leave. “Without you, I wouldn't be here. Listen...”
She turned back to him.
“You know my name. If you need something, intercom me.”
She nodded, not sure what she could need from him, but knowing that he was making her a serious offer. “I'll do that,” she said as she left the room.
Looking through the list of patients, Aurelia noted room numbers and spent a couple more hours pitching in where she was needed. She reconstituted bones and gave a Second opinion when necessary.
Coming out of an exam room, she stretched and yawned. The stimulant patch was still working, but that didn't mean that she shouldn't sleep soon. She saw that the corridors were emptying out, and so she made her way to the reception area. There, too, there were only a handful of people. Things were calming down at last. Aurelia decided it might be time to track down Elza, so she began walking through hallways looking for the woman's distinctive profile and blonde hair.
As she walked past the Clone corridor, Aurelia could see that they were still busy. There were lines of people waiting in the hallway, and the Med Workers she saw looked harried. She was about to open the corridor door when Elza called to her.
“There you are,” said the hospital head. “I've been looking for you.”
With her was a young man, maybe five years older than Aurelia. He had brown hair and was tall. He wasn't handsome, but his smile was friendly.
“Hi,” he said. “I'm Jason.”
“He's your Second in command,” said Elza. “Thought you should meet.”
Aurelia shook Jason's hand, noting his warm skin and firm grip. She decided that she liked him, which was good since they were going to have to work together closely.
“Things are pretty much wrapping up here,” Elza said. “So I think it's time that I showed you your accommodation, and then you can get some rest.”
“Er, it's still kind of busy in there,” Aurelia said, gesturing toward the Clone corridor with her head. “I was just about to go and see if I could help out.”
“No, no, there are specialist Clone doctors for that; you're not required to go in,” Elza tutted.
“I know, but most of the injuries are going to be trauma, and I can take care of those,” said Aurelia. “Look at them; they're overwhelmed. I was going to give them a hand.”
Jason and Elza looked at each other.
“With the Clones?” asked Jason cautiously.
“Is there some kind of rule against it?” said Aurelia.
“No,” said Elza. “It's just that...”
“Just that what?”
“Just that not many Med Workers want to work with Clones,” said Jason. “Most of us want to do things that are more important.”
More important? Okay, so these were military personnel; but even so, Aurelia had treated her Worker patients, so it wasn't like she was denying aid to them to work with the Clones. She really didn't understand this attitude.
Jason cleared his throat. “Perhaps you aren't familiar with Clones,” he began. “The fact is that they're just so easily replaceable. They're all pretty much trained to the same standards, and, well, let's face it - they're designed to be disposable, to be killed in battle. So many Med Workers consider that they're not really worth treating.”
“Do you feel that way?” Aurelia asked him, her voice making it clear that she expected a negative answer.
Jason looked down. “I guess I never really thought about it,” he said.
“Then I think you should join me. With both of us treating the trauma patients, the Clone doctors will be able to handle the rest.”
Again, Jason looked at Elza, who shrugged. She had a look of quiet amusement on her face. “Clear yourselves with a Clone doctor first to see where you're needed, then go ahead. I'm fine with it,” she said.
Jason gave Aurelia a smile. “Let's go then, boss,” he said.
“I'll be in my office when you're done,” Elza told Aurelia as she moved to open the door. “Come find me, and I'll take you to your room.”
Though he might have objected to going to work in the Clone corridor, Aurelia was pleased to see that Jason threw his full energies into doing his job once he was inside. Between the two of them, they got through the majority of the basic trauma injuries in an hour or so. After checking with a bemused looking Clone specialist Med Worker and finding out that the situation was now under control, Aurelia and Jason left.
“Come on, I'll show you where Elza's office is,” Jason said.
Aurelia groaned. “I could murder a cup of coffee.”
Her Second in command gave her a grin. “Your wish is my command; we can stop by the cafeteria on the way if you want.”
For the first time in a long while, Aurelia laughed. “Absolutely. Lead me to the coffee!”
With a warm cup in her hand, Aurelia felt immediately better. They sat at a small table on the Second floor of the hospital, close to a window that overlooked the reception area below. The dead were still coming in, though fewer of them now.
“Where do they go?” Aurelia asked.
“It's the same here as on Earth; they go to the crematoria to be disposed of.”
Distantly Aurelia remembered being told of crematoria. “The bodies are burnt, right?”
“Yep. Horrible places.” Jason shuddered.
“I don't think I've ever seen one,” said Aurelia.
“Sure you have - you must have,” he said. “They're the square black buildings.”
Aha. She remembered the building she'd questioned her father about the previous afternoon, though it felt like weeks ago now. Of course, her father was a tech Worker, so there was no reason for him to know what a crematorium was. Death was not a subject that was really discussed. It happened, but it was for the good of society. Whether you died a natural death, in an accident, or were injected, it meant that you were freeing up resources for others, not being a dependent. As such, death wasn't even particularly grieved, and there were certainly no ceremonies surrounding it as there had been in the past.
“Right, yeah, I've seen one. It was awfully big,” said Aurelia. It had been as large as the residential buildings around it. “Seems like a lot of space for disposal.”
“It's not just for disposal,” Jason told her. “It's a whole complex.”
“What else is in there?” She couldn't think of another service that would need or want to share the space used to burn bodies.
Jason screwed up his face in thought. “The holding cells are definitely there,” he said.
That made sense. The majority of people kept in holding cells would be injected anyway. There was almost no crime in Cities, at least Earth Cities, these days. Holding cells were generally used for those who had in some way broken rules. Occasionally they held smugglers, of which there were a few, especially of luxury items.
“There'll be a small Clone outpost there too, usually, to keep things under control, just in case,” Jason went on. “Oh, and the Fails, of course.”
Aurelia's ears pricked up. “The Fails?” She'd wondered often as a child what had happened to those students who hadn't passed the school year.
“What do they do?” Aurelia asked.
“Clean, mostly. Some low-level work, stuff no one else wants to do. But they only do it for five years, so it's not that bad.”
“And what happens after five years?” But she already knew what he was going to say.
She tried hard not to show that this news surprised or affected her. But it did. Her head reasoned that injection made sense: if people couldn't contribute to the Empire, then they shouldn't use up resources. But her heart said that these were people's children. They weren't sick, weren't damaged. Injecting them was very different from injecting someone in a hospital.
Jason was looking at her with concern, so she gave him a weak smile. “How do you know all this?”
He shrugged. “Everyone knows all this,” he said.
“I didn't,” admitted Aurelia. Then a thought occurred to her. “Did you grow up here?”
“Yeah, my parents are both Med Workers here in the hospital. I was born here. I've been to Earth, though,” he said proudly. Then he added in a smaller voice, “Once.”
So that explained it. Aurelia was pretty sure that all of this stuff wasn't common knowledge, at least in City 01. But apparently in Lunar, it was. That meant that information was controlled a lot more tightly on Earth than it was here. She remembered seeing the supply shuttle at the Earth shuttle bay and being surprised when Nicholas told her that resources not only came from Lunar but also went from Earth to the Moon - something else she hadn't heard of before. Hmmm. Earth-Lunar relations weren't quite as she'd imagined them, and she wondered why it was necessary to keep Secrets from City residents.
“Come on,” Jason said, draining his cup. “We should get you to Elza's office; you've got to be dead on your feet.”
Jason bade her goodbye at the door to Elza's office. Aurelia thanked him and then knocked on the door. Elza opened it, ready to leave.
“All accommodations are on the hospital grounds,” she explained as they left the floor. “So you don't need to go out into the city unless you want to. I know it can be a little intimidating when you first come up here.”
“Yes, it is a little,” Aurelia said.
They walked to an elevator bank, and Elza opened the doors. “You're on the 54th floor, which you'll know already from your new number. I'm on 55, right above you, so feel free to knock if you need something.”
The elevator closed and began moving.
“You can eat in the cafeteria if you wish; just give them your number, though all accommodations do have a small kitchen alcove if you prefer. Everything you need should be right here in the hospital, so if you can't find something, just ask. You can call up a hospital map on your screen, of course.”
Aurelia felt that Elza was trying to fill up space with her words, not wanting to talk about something, but she didn't know what. She listened quietly whilst the hospital head explained about laundry facilities and the minutiae of everyday life. Soon they arrived at Aurelia's door.
She scanned her hand, and the door opened.
“Do you mind if I come in for a moment?” Elza asked.
“Of course not.”
Aurelia walked into a small living pod containing a couch, a built-in desk and a vid screen.
“How was your first day?” Elza asked, sitting down.
“Fine,” said Aurelia.
Elza smiled. “You're free to talk here; I promise you that anything you say inside your living pod will stay here.”
It dawned on Aurelia that Elza had not wanted to speak about anything that had happened whilst they were in the corridors of the hospital in case they were overheard.
“Listen, Aurelia. You've had an eventful day, which is putting it mildly,” Elza said. “You've done your job wonderfully, better than even I expected.” She paused, looking as if she were gathering her thoughts. “I know there are things that right now you're not understanding, and there's not a lot I can say tonight, but I can assure you that all will become clear. You are special, Aurelia, and big things are coming. Just be patient.”
Aurelia sat back on the couch and looked at her mentor. “You're the Second person tonight who's told me this,” she said.
“Yes,” Aurelia agreed. “If I'm being honest, I think it's unfair not to share information with me. But I think maybe I understand why you can't be as straightforward as you'd like to be.”
“Lunar is a complicated city at the best of times,” Elza said, sitting back too. “And right now it's a complicated city at a complicated time. There are things happening here, Aurelia. Things you know nothing about down on Earth.” She held up a hand to stop Aurelia, who was about to speak. “I too came here from City 01. I know just how much you don't know, if that makes sense.”
Aurelia nodded. “There seem to be a lot of things people in Lunar know that people in Earth Cities don't know.”
“Information is dangerous,” Elza said. She raised her eyebrow when Aurelia laughed.
“Sorry, but Jonathon was just telling me tonight that power is dangerous,” she explained.
“He's right. But the most dangerous thing of all is the combination of power and information,” said Elza. “Realise that you're not being kept in the dark because we don't want you to know things, but because it's for your own good. At least right now.”
Elza rubbed her eyes, and Aurelia realised that the woman was as tired as she was.
“You didn't ask for this, Aurelia. You just sort of fell into things. I know that feeling. I know because I've had it myself. I used to be you.” The woman closed her eyes, leaning her head back. “I remember the frustration. The anger, even. You're a lot like I used to be at your age.” She opened her eyes again to look at Aurelia. “What do you want?” she asked.
Aurelia knew what she was referring to. “I want to help people, society,” she said. “It's what I've always wanted, why I became a Med Worker in the first place.”
“Me too,” said Elza. “And I think that you're about to help people more than you've ever realised. If it's any consolation at all, even though you didn't ask for this, you will more than achieve your ambitions in life.”
Elza reached up and tore off her stimulant patch, and Aurelia did the same.
“Can't sleep with them on, right?” Aurelia said.
Elza shook her head. “Nope. And you'll probably need a good half hour to get the stimulant out of your system after you take the patch off, so you'll have time to intercom your parents before you fall asleep.”
She said this so naturally, like everyone intercommed their parents, though Aurelia knew they didn't. Elza seeMed to know a lot about her personal life. Maybe it was part of the hiring process.
“I've been watching you for some time,” said Elza, observing the effect her parental remark had had on Aurelia. “I know a lot about you.”
“And I know nearly nothing about you,” said Aurelia, but she smiled. “I'm guessing that's something else that I'll learn later.”
“I hope so,” Elza said, stretching and yawning. “I'd like us to become friends as well as co-workers.”
“I don't think that'll be a problem.” Aurelia laughed.
Elza got up. “I should leave you to sleep.”
Aurelia thought that she might have figured something out. “Can I ask you a question before you leave?”
“Did you know Jonathon before you met him in the hospital today?” She was beginning to think that the two had at least been acquainted. It would explain the weird feeling she'd had when they met, and the fact that they seemed to think along the same lines.
“Everyone knows Jonathon Hansen,” Elza said with a smile.
“That's not what I meant, and you know it,” Aurelia protested.
Elza made her way to the door but turned before she opened it. “You're quick, I'll give you that.” Then she smiled again. “Yes, Jonathon and I have known each other for quite some time,” she said before she walked out, leaving Aurelia shaking her head in despair on the couch.
The accommodation consisted of a living pod, a bedroom pod and a bathroom. Aurelia's stuff had already been delivered, so she spent a few minutes unpacking after Elza left. Her brain hurt, she was so tired. She got ready for bed but then thought to check her screen for her agenda. She found an entry for a meeting in the mid-afternoon and a note from Elza. The note told her to spend the day familiarising herself with the hospital area and not to worry about rounds. Aurelia smiled to herself. She needed the day off. With a sigh, she thought about intercomming her parents, but she just didn't have the energy. Instead, she sent them a message saying that she was fine. Then she fell into bed.
As tired as she was, it took her a long time to fall asleep. With everything that had happened, though, the main thing keeping her mind busy was the thought of Jonathon and Nicholas. Or Nicholas and Jonathon.