Orpheus Child Prologue - And You Must Go On Breathing

Tharsis in the Martian summer was a hellhole any way one looked at it, and in Spike's seven and a half years away from humanity the government climatologists hadn't bothered to make it any better.  As he stepped out of the double doors of the hospital, a file folder hanging from his fingers and second-hand cast-offs hanging from his bones, the heat swamped over him, almost suffocating in its assault. The electric doors whooshed shut behind him, and moisture blossomed from seemingly everywhere on his skin.  He blinked the bright sunspots out of his vision, and felt old.

Seven years, his mind repeated, the nurse's booming voice echoing like a death knell.  They shouldn't talk to newly awakened patients like that, should they?  There was supposed to be compassion, or pity, even just a gentle tone.  Spike Spiegel got resignation, procedure, bored babbling.

"Awake are you?  More's the pity, but good enough for you I suppose.  Oh, this says you've been here a while, so you probably have no idea what I'm talking about.  No, don't try talking now chump, you'll just upset yourself.  Been a while since you used that throat, huh?  Hnn…Seven years.  Luckily enough for you you capped out a week before they passed the third Patient Ethics Act.  Yeah.  Remember that?  Means you get to sleep your pathetic little life away in here and the government foots the bill.  We get money for keeping you alive.  Thank god for taxes.  Still, now that you've woken up I suppose we'll have to try to get someone else to transfer over from St. James.  No patients, no tax money.  Are you trying to talk again?  Look you poor sod, it ain't gonna happen for at least an hour, so shut up and listen. I've got to read you this paper shit now. 

"You are currently at the Marx Kennedy Medical Facility, where you have been residing in a comatose state since..."

Spike flipped open the file folder, eyes again skimming the government letterhead on top page.  Instructions for patient re-entrance into society after prolonged treatment, he read, and tried to sort out the statement in his head.  He could read the words but the meaning escaped him.  Re-entrance into society.  Prolonged treatment.

It was summer.  He was alive.  His gazed latched onto graffiti sprayed on the hospital wall.