Chapter 108: Broken Steel

She knew where she was before she opened her eyes. There were people around her speaking quietly, and others whose voices were muffled by a closed door. The bed beneath her was hard and she could feel the head being sucked from her arms into the metal bars on either side. But the smell was all she needed.

There aren’t many places that smell as artificial as a hospital room. The sheets that smell clean only because they don’t smell like anything, the spiceless food sitting by her bed, the cleaning chemicals in the air that barely cover the almost sour taste that gathers around aging medicine. It was almost enough to distract her from the headache.

Tina opened her eyes.

The chair to her left was empty, but the blanket crumpled on top of it belonged to her mother. She wouldn’t have even brought the blanket if she hadn’t had to stay the night.

The voices on the other side of her hushed. Tina took a deep breath and turned over. George was there; that wasn’t too surprising, he and her father had gotten along the few times they’d met. He was one of the few people her parents would call.

Rachel was there too, and Tina’s stomach tightened a little. She’d been avoiding Rachel’s calls since she quit her job. There were rings around her eyes, and they had sunk deep into her skull, but she offered a half smile and Tina relaxed.

She almost didn’t recognize Jack; she hadn’t seen him since she had to stop working at the coffee shop and his arm was in a sling. He shouldn’t even know he was in the hospital, and how did he know George?

Her power woke up and her vision went white. Images flashed before her eyes, too fast for her to focus on. She caught a glimpse of Jack as she’d seen him in the coffee shop, and her times with the support group, but the image her powered settled on was the sight of Allspades in a warehouse with water raining down around him.

“Allspades,” she said quietly. “Jack.”

Her headache spiked, but it faded fast.

When she recovered, George was at her side, and Jack had gone to the door and looked to be waving somebody over. She tried to sit up.

“Slow down.” George gently grasped her shoulder. His face was twisted with worry. “You passed out during the attack. The doctor said to let her look at you before you move too much.”

Tina took a slow breath and lied back down. “How long was I out?”

“Three days,” a new voice said. Tina turned to look at the doctor walking into the room. Her eyes were glued to a chart in her hand. “In that time you’ve been put through more scans than most people get in a lifetime. By the time you got to us, your brain activity was completely normal. Since then we’ve just been waiting for you to wake up.”

She paused and glanced up at Tina, but Tina stayed quiet. The last time she was in the hospital, she was put through the bad news routine a few times a day. She knew when there was a “but” coming. The doctor looked at the others in the room and shooed them to the door.

“You’re going to be here for a while. At least a week. With your recent brain damage, we can’t take any risks. I was told that your power may have acted up during the attack. Do you remember anything?”

She did. She remembered every second as hundreds of deaths imprinted themselves onto the collapsing building.

Tina nodded.

The doctor waited for more, but when Tina didn’t speak, she nodded. “We can get someone for you to talk to about it if you want. It would help get you released, but there’s no hurry. Just let me know.”

She turned and walked out of the room. Tina relaxed back into the bed and counted down from ten.

When she reached zero, George was back in the room.

She kept her eyes on the ceiling. “What happened?”

“Most of the city was knocked out by a spell. They’ve had it carved onto billboards for months. We would have been asleep too-”

“But you tripped it early.”

He nodded. “The Court held out as long as he could. He managed to use me to wake the rest of the group up. We tracked down the leader and beat him. Will found the mage casting the spell and woke everyone up.”

Tina looked at George again. He wasn’t injured as badly as Jack had been, but she could see the bandages peeking out from under his sleeves, and there was a sickly purple welt covering half of his neck.

“Is everyone okay?”

George shifted uncomfortably. “Hawthorne has some broken ribs and she’ll be using crutches for a few weeks. Unimportant is mostly fine, but he has some road burns from jumping out of a car. You saw Allspades. I got away with some bruises.”

Tina tried to catch George’s eyes, but he was staring at the floor.

“What happened to Red?”

George shook his head. “He…he wasn’t hurt.”

If she waited for the “but” it would never happen. “What happened, George?”

“Someone died in front of him. It was before any of us had met up. Will and Hawthorne left him somewhere they thought he’d be safe, but he wasn’t there after the fight. Will said he showed up at his sister’s house a few hours later. We haven’t been able to see him, because-“ George made a vague gesture to his face. “But Will’s been talking to his sister. He said that Red’s barely talked since the attack ended. The doctor’s gave him some sedatives today because he hasn’t been sleeping.”

There were tears running down Tina’s cheeks. Rachel had been there, waiting in her room instead of her brother’s. George still refused to look up from the floor, so she quickly wiped them away.”

“George, can you send Rachel in. I need her to get some things from my house.”

He started to say something but started coughing. “Sure,” he said eventually.

Rachel closed the door behind her, and sat next to Tina.

“I’m sorry, Rachel.”

It was the smallest thing she could say, but there was no time to say more.

Rachel didn’t ask how she figured out that Mitchell was Red Racer. She probably didn’t even care.

“I don’t know how to help him,” she said softly. Tina reached out and took her hand.

Rachel started to sob. Tina hugged her friend as closely as she could from inside the hospital bed. Warm tears soaked into her hospital gown.

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