My first step inside of a hospital, and I already wanted to leave. Everything was too sterile for me, too much like Miralay with its organized hallways and nurses wearing the exact same uniform and the constant beep, beep, beep coming from somewhere. Hell, if I’d gotten any more dizzy while walking, I’d have been admitted into the damn place myself.
There was a wooden bench outside the door to Liv’s room that I immediately sat down on, closing my eyes, giving myself a few moments to pull myself together. Mom, the only person who’d accompanied me inside- Dad was waiting in the car, glad to have some time to himself- sat down beside me, putting an arm around my shoulders, waiting patiently as I stifled a sniffle.
“Is this not a good time?” Mom whispered as a nurse passed by, giving me a weird look. I hadn’t bothered to wear the forehead bandage for this trip. Everyone would soon know I was the Providence anyways. There wasn’t really a point anymore.
“No.” I shook my head and stood up. “But can you wait here?”
“For a little bit. But I want to see her too.”
I knocked softly on the door, waiting a few moments until I heard, “You can come in.” I turned the doorknob and stepped in, apprehensive, unsure of what I was going to see until I dared to look up.
Liv was standing at the window, turned away and looking out, clothed in a simple hospital gown. She must have been getting an adequate amount of oxygen, because I didn’t see any sort of breathing aid in the room at all. Someone had brushed out her hair and given it its slight wave back- the red clashed with every color in the room, from the blue of her hospital gown to the gray of the floor tiles to the faded green of the leaves hanging from the trees right outside the window washed in evening light.
There was something… sad in the air.
Liv turned around. Her feet were bare, the right foot bound in some sort of elastic tape to support her ankle. Her eyes flashed for a moment as she recognized me, and then her melancholy demeanor returned.
“Eponine. You… you actually came.”
I glanced around the room. The media must have already made their frenzy- maybe that’s why Liv was so forlorn. There were three vases of flowers in the room in all shades of the rainbow, not doing anything to brighten the mood.
“Can you come a little closer?”
I took a few steps toward her, unsure of what she wanted me to do. I stiffened as she limped the rest of the distance on her left foot- and then she gently slipped her arms around me and laid her head on my shoulder, her hair red waves cascading down my arm.
Her breath shuddered. “I… I can’t believe you actually came. You abandoned me so abruptly on Miralay. I thought you hated me with a passion.”
“The jury’s still out on that one.”
Half of a giggle came out of her- more a twitch of the chest than anything. She pulled away from me, sliding her hands up to my shoulders, making sure that she had my complete and utter attention.
“Eponine…” She looked away for a second, closing her eyes, before turning back to me. She was on the verge of crying. “The… I… I’m so sorry…”
Panic rose in my chest. “What did you do?”
Liv winced. “I- I killed all the rebels on Miralay.” She shook her head, a tear rolling down her cheek, growing distraught as I struggled for words. “Amelia- Amelia lined them all up in a row and told me that wiping their memories would be best for Miralay so they could be shed into and made useful and she ordered me to hack into each one of them and do it with my brain-machine interface, but I didn’t want to condemn them to that kind of half-life, so I wiped their brains and killed them all instead. I…” She collapsed into me, digging her head into my shoulder again. “I was trying to be merciful! I was trying to do what the people wanted me to like a good Providence! But I went up there to save lives, and instead I ended them, and- and-”
“And I wanted to kill Amelia too- but I didn’t- I couldn’t-”
“Liv! You don’t want-”
“And then I was a coward and ran for the loading bay, hoping that maybe there was an Earth-bound ship there I could smuggle onto, but Mirt tried to follow me, and he ended up getting killed by one of Amelia’s goons. He told me… He told me to be strong like you, ‘cause you hated Miralay and then escaped just like you wanted to. You stood up for yourself and I’ve never been anything but a limp washcloth and- and- and-”
I patted her back, unsure what to do as she hiccuped. My shoulder was soaking wet at that point.
“I mean, I was able to escape from the rebels, but that was ‘cause everyone was too distracted with you and Sully bolting and then I turned into Tox and those who were left were too confused to shoot straight. And I only went straight back to Amelia. All that loyalty, and what did she do with it?” Liv’s voice wavered. “She- she- she stripped me of all my power and locked me in my sleeping chamber like a house arrest and took over Miralay! But I got one back at her. I took over the central computer system. I…” She pulled her head away, looking into my eyes, her own glassy and wet. “Promise you won’t judge?”
“…Doesn’t Miralay have a Singularity-”
“I copied myself into it. Let all my anger and frustration coalesce into code. Sat back and laughed as it denied Amelia the power to do anything ‘cause it kept giving everyone false information while keeping everything working as it should have been. And then the… incident happened. And the system apparently asked a supply ship to let me on. It… It would have been sweeter with you there, Eponine. Actually… I take that back.” She wiped her eyes and took a few steps back, trying to pull herself back together. “It was good to have something on Earth to look forward to. Good to know that at least one person wouldn’t want me to go back into that damned sleeping pod forever… Would you?”
I mean, it would’ve saved all of us a shitton of trouble if she’d never left it in the first place. But… I mean, if everything she just said was true and I were her, I think I would want a life better than just endless scrolling on the internet.
“You’re glad I’m here, right, Eponine?”
I sighed and closed my eyes. “I don’t know how I feel about anything right now.” I turned to leave the room, but Liv stumbled forward on her lame foot, grabbing one of my shoulders and spinning me right back around.
“I spent six days straight cramped up in an escape pod trying to build up enough muscle mass to go back to Earth. But there was a limited air supply once I detached from the main ship, and I only had enough to make sure I was gonna land on Heavestone before fainting- but I braved it all anyways.”
My cheeks flushed. “…What are you trying to say?”
“I’m not the Providence anymore. I don’t know who I am anymore. I need someone to be at my side while I make a life in Heavestone and figure out who I am. You’re the only person in the world I really know.” A hint of a smile flashed on her face for a second, something bittersweet. “And, from what I gather, everywhere else on Earth isn’t too keen on letting murderers roam in their midst.”
“Wait… you actually killed-”
“Don’t look at me like that. I didn’t want to, but it was either that or have Amelia execute me too for treason and let someone else condemn them to a worse death. And… I needed to see Earth again.”
Liv’s face crumpled, and I lent her my shoulder again as she poured out her remaining tears, clutching onto me for dear life.