IMPORTANT: This story is the final part of a trilogy; I strongly recommend you read its predecessors, Surviving This and Sacrifice Theory, before starting on this one. You will more than likely be confused if you don't.
Author's Note: Sorry this took so long! Between moving and work Chocobo Goddess and I had very little time these past couple of months to get together and get our minds working. This fic is a collaborative effort between the two of us, and I hope you enjoy it as much as you did the other two.
I was not safe here.
It was the first thing I was aware of, a tingling sense of alarm tugging persistently at my mind which was trying valiantly –and failing - to extricate itself from the fog that shrouded it. Before I knew anything, before I began to comprehend where I was and what had happened, I knew I was in danger.
It prompted my eyes to open, that apprehensive feeling, and as I blinked hard against the harsh wash of light that assailed my vision I tried to sort out my thoughts that were all whirling in cacophonic rhythm throughout my head. Eventually, eyes finally able to focus on the softly buzzing fluorescent lighting overhead, I made a discovery that was extremely disconcerting.
My memory was blank.
Not entirely bare of recollections, I realized after a moment of almost panic. I knew who I was – Alexa Woods, polar wilderness guide and member of numerous wildlife activists groups. I knew where I had been born, where I had grown up, where my father had died. I recalled the numerous expeditions I'd guided and some of the people I'd led on those expeditions. I could even remember receiving a phone call from one Maxwell Stafford, inviting me to join an exclusive crew formed by none other than corporate giant Charles Bishop Weyland. And I had agreed, and I'd been taken onboard a mammoth icebreaker – The Piper Maru? I could remember bits and pieces of conversations after I'd boarded the ship, snatches of peoples faces as they spoke to me, but the more I tried to make these pieces fit, the more they became hazy and jumbled in my mind. I began to feel uneasy as it became increasingly apparent that I had no idea why I was here, or how I'd come to be thus.
Where was "here"?
Immediately my eyes darted about my surroundings, hoping to find the key to the disorganized cluster of whispers and scenes floating through my head that had, once upon a time, been memories. White, nondescript walls housed me, and set into them, left of where I lay, was a metal door with a white knob. There were no windows. The steady, gentle beep-beep-beep I'd heard as I'd awakened but hadn't thought to dwell on was that of a heart monitor standing on the right side of my bed. Hospital, I thought with another pang of unease, lifting my wrist to find the slender tube of an IV inserted beneath my skin. What had happened to me that I'd wind up here?
I tried as best I could to examine the rest of my body, struggling into a sitting position and almost whimpering aloud as I discovered that the movement set into motion muscles that were sore and bruised. Gauze was wound about my free wrist and, I discovered, pulling the thin standard issue hospital sheet down, was random patches along the lengths of both my legs. Risking indecency, I swiftly pulled up the hem of my blue, starchy gown and muttered an exclamation at the spectacular blue and black splotching along the lines of my ribs. No wonder it hurt to move …
The sound of the doorknob moving caught my immediate attention, and as quickly as I could I let my robe fall back and pulled the sheet back over me again, but I remained sitting. I watched with some trepidation as the door opened and emitted a tall, thin man in a doctor's coat, with a head of fine dark hair and small square glasses. Seeing me awake, he greeted me with a smile that gave me the distinct impression that while it was warm, it was by no means genuine.
"Ms. Woods," He greeted, his voice, like the rest of him, ordinary. "How long have you been awake?"
I tried to speak, found my voice was hoarse, cleared my throat and answered him, "Not long."
He crossed to the foot of my bed, picking up the charts that hung there affixed to a clipboard and flipping through them. Without glancing at me, he asked, "How do you feel?"
"Like hell," I replied honestly. I waited a moment, watching as he studied my charts, before saying with more nervousness than I intended to show, "I can't remember what happened."
He did look up at me then, blinking with brown eyes magnified by his lenses. Prompted by his blank stare, I elaborated. "I can't remember how I wound up here. I can't remember how I got hurt."
"Indeed," he said, and I got another distinct impression from him, this one telling me that he wasn't pleased by my news.
"Yes," I said, feeling more and more uneasy as seconds ticked by. "What happened to me?"
There was a poignant pause before he answered, and for a moment I caught a glimpse in those blank eyes of something sharper, something shrewd. "You were caught in a grenade explosion, Ms. Woods, underground. The cave you were in collapsed. You can't recall any of this?"
I wracked my brain, sifting through all the disjointed images and sounds, trying to fit together what he'd just told me. Finally I shook my head, "I don't remember."
"Well, that's not uncommon under circumstances such as these. You underwent a great deal of trauma, you know. This is the fourth week you've been here."
I felt my eyes widen. I'd been here, comatose, for four weeks?
"Yes," he said, watching the expression on my face, "You're lucky to be alive. For awhile we thought you might not make it."
"This cave," I said, trying again to remember and suddenly certain he knew the answers to all the questions I had, "Where was it?"
He ignored my question, skirting around the edge of the bed and coming to stand next to the IV stand. I watched as he withdrew a syringe from his pocket and proceeded to empty it into the contents of my IV bag. "What is that?" I asked.
"Mild sedative. I understand you're very confused and alarmed right now by the loss of your memory, but you need to rest in order to heal."
Tell me! I wanted to scream at him. Tell me what happened! But instead I lay back down, resting my head against the firm pillow. "Who are you?"
"Dr. Taves," he replied, giving me another insincere smile before he turned and walked to the door. "Rest, Ms. Woods. I'll be back to check on you in a few hours with Mr. Weyland. He'll be eager to see how you're doing."
"Weyland?" I asked as he opened the door, "Charles Weyland?"
"No," Dr. Taves said, not turning around. "His son, Reed."
The name Reed Weyland provoked no recognition within me, much to my disappointment. And so as the doctor gently closed the door behind him I let my eyes slide closed, let the chaotic whirlwind that was my mind slow to a halt as the sedative flooded my system.
Perhaps this Reed could tell me what I needed to know.