It was dark when Mironov returned to his office. The PSO was deserted. Electricity and fabricated light buzzed through the helium bulbs above. He could hear himself struggling with breaths as he made his way down the corridor, through the security checkpoints, further still to his office door. As soon as he was close enough his shadow and footsteps came to an abrupt halt—instantly his brow furrowed in surprise. The door was cracked open. Faint light shed through the opening. His wrinkled had shook as he pressed it against the steel and felt the hinges give way.
The light was coming from the lamp on his desk. His blue eyes anxiously twitched around. The person he saw startled him.
"What are you doing here?"
The female medic spun around. She was gnawing her fingernails to the bones. Her eyes had a spark of madness in them.
"Doctor—where were you?"
Mironov rubbed his knees, "I don't see how that's any concern of yours. Why are you in my office?"
"I came here as soon as it happened. You said you'd be in your office all night."
"As soon as what happened?"
The medic shook her head. She looked like she was on the brink of a mental breakdown.
"I was doing routine checks on the lower levels, like you asked. I was about to start them when I heard the beeping—"
"Slow down, what are you talking about?"
He grabbed her shoulders to ease her, though it seemed to have adverse effects.
Again she shook her head. "The brain activity was off the charts—I didn't know what to do and you weren't here so I left her in there!"
Suddenly Mironov's heart stopped, "Who?"
"Patient 491. Pandora Sullivan. She's awake!"
"She woke up. I saw her. She was so silent, as if she hadn't been in a coma at all. Her eyes were just widely staring—even when I spoke to her she just stared!"
Mironov dropped his hands and stumbled back in disbelief. His fingers rubbed the side of his face. His eyes unblinking dropped to the ground. The chances of Pandora ever waking up were slight. For her to finally come out of her coma without any coaxing and stimulus was unheard of. A part of him was in denial while the other part screamed with elation.
"You're sure?!" He suddenly shouted.
Without another word he turned around and started walking. He was moving his legs as fast as he could push them. His limped walk echoed through the corridors. At that moment he couldn't form coherent thoughts, all he could think was that it had finally happened. Three long years of waiting and Pandora had clawed herself out of the endless sleep. A warmth filled him, he was excited—but as he continued his rushed journey other thoughts repeated on loop in his mind. He was excited, that much was true, but he was also afraid. The fear raised the hairs on the back of his neck. If Pandora was awake it meant that they would have to deal with the repercussion of the procedure—repercussions that may be unpredictable.
Mechanics churned as he pressed his hand against the panel and limped in the steel corridor. The beeping had stopped but the green light above the door was still sporadically flashing. Suddenly his mouth felt dry. When he swallowed it hurt his throat. He moved towards the door cautiously, as if he was about to come face to face with a ghost—at this point Pandora Sullivan was a ghost, her name hadn't been used in several years. The only "appearance" that she made to the public of the Capitol were the ones that had been fabricated by the government. It was amazing how well you could manipulate film and photographs for your own selfish benefits. For all the Capitol knew, Pandora had never fallen into a coma.
First his eyes landed on the information screen. He read over the details of her condition, details he had memorized long ago. Adrenaline was rushing through his veins. It took all his strength to be brave enough to look through that small window. As he did he stopped breathing.
The door opened with a metal song.
He was frozen in the doorway, but his eyes darted around with shock.
The bed was empty. Wires dangled off the pillow. His lips felt cracked. The medic was telling the truth. But where was Pandora?
A gust of breath escaped blew past his teeth. His gaze moved from the bed to the far corner of the room, the cane in his hand dropped as soon as he locked eyes on her.
Pandora was patiently sitting in a chair. Her back was straight, her eyes calm. She was still wearing a paper gown. A whisper of a smile was on her face. She looked content.
It was all he could manage to say. His hands shook. Sitting only a few feet away was a conscious Pandora Sullivan.
She furrowed her brow. Her head softly tilted. "You look pale."
"It's a miracle…"
Without thinking he walked towards her and knelt to her side. His hands carefully reached for her face. She blinked as he delicately put his fingers on her jaw and near her forehead.
Her smile dropped for a moment, "You're happy."
Slowly she mimicked his actions, her fingers traced the crows feet near his eye. "You're crying."
Her words were simple observations. There was no emotion behind them, only facts, but Mironov was too eager to notice how strange that was.
"I'm just—it's a miracle!" he repeated.
She widened her eyes as he grabbed her hands and laughed.
"I've been waiting so long for you to wake up."
Her gaze shifted between their hands and his face. She kept tilting her head from left to right as if she was memorizing his expression. Quietly she let him touch her hair and cheeks again.
"How did I get here?" she finally asked.
He stopped moving. "You don't remember?"
"Did I have an accident?"
He parted his lips, "Pandora. What's the last thing you remember?"
She glanced to the bed she had been sleeping in for 3 years. "It was my birthday. I was wearing white. There was no cake."
Mironov placed his hand over his mouth, "And?"
Her eyes narrowed. She was thinking hard but nothing was coming to her. "That's it."
"Pandora—You've been in a coma for three years."
Mironov expected her to gasp, to show some signs of shock, but she didn't. In fact she seemed completely unaffected. It was then that he noticed she wasn't as emotional as a normal person would be. Something was off.
"You seem distant," he pried.
He squinted his eyes, "Perhaps you're in shock?"
Pandora thought about the question for a moment, "No."
"You just found out that you were asleep for three years. Three years of your life. You don't feel anything?"
"Should I feel something?"
His stomach squirmed. The air in the room suddenly felt eerie and chilled.
The medic was at the door. She had calmed down slightly but only slightly.
"Do you need help?"
Mironov peered over his shoulder, "Yes. Um—get Miss Sullivan some clothing. Set up a room with food and water for her."
When he turned back he was surprised to see that Pandora was smiling. She looked genuinely happy—and yet the sight unnerved him. He grabbed the armrest and forced himself to stand though his knee ached tremendously. Her eyes followed him as he moved to where his cane lay.
"You must be hungry," he whispered, "The medic should be back with some clothing for you to wear."
Before he could reach for his cane, Pandora lifted herself from the chair and walked to his side. She peered to him as she plucked it off the ground and into his hand.
"You didn't used to use a cane."
It was suddenly hard for Mironov to look Pandora in the eye. "Yes—age you know, it catches up with you."
Her hand stayed on his for some time before she let go.
"Here we are!" The medic had returned. Her arms were full of clothing, "You must be freezing in that…" she whispered to her.
Pandora stared at the medic vacantly.
"Here—" she repeated, "For you."
She remained silent.
The medic nervously laughed, "C'mon. Go ahead."
Mironov worriedly studied Pandora, "What room did you have the food set up in?"
"Just down the hall, second room on the left. I thought you'd want to it to be close." she was drawing back in confusion.
"Alright, please escort her in there when she's dressed. Then bring in some monitors. I'd like to run some tests—" he looked to Pandora, "Don't worry, it's only to make sure everything is alright."
Pandora glanced to him and nodded, "I'm not worried."
"Good—" he pursed his lips, "That's good."
But it wasn't good. Pandora should have been worried, she should have been anxious and shocked—she was none of those things. He dropped his eyes and made his way out. The door shut behind him. He needed to run some tests and he needed to run them quickly.
After Pandora got dressed the medic led the way to the room. The floor was cold beneath Pandora's bare feet.
"My hair is short," she observed as they walked.
"Oh yes—they cut it to your chin a long time ago, it was easier that way."
She took a strand in her fingers and eyed it.
Mironov was waiting for her when she arrived. He was sitting at a table. Across from him was a plate of food and glass of water. The doctor hadn't told anyone about Pandora. He wanted time to figure out if everything was fine. In front of him was a syringe and portable brain monitor with wires. He was scribbling in a notebook as the door opened.
Pandora nodded to him and pulled on her sweater sleeve.
"You can sit."
She felt the cool metal through her pants. Her eyes lowered to the food.
"You should eat, it might be strange after being asleep for so long but it'll be good for you."
Quietly she picked up the fork.
He patiently waited for her to finish the meal before he started talking again. She ate methodically and slowly—briefly glancing at each piece of food before putting it in her mouth. When she was done she drank half the glass of water and lifted her eyes.
"I have a few tests I'd like to run, if that's alright."
"Can I have your arm?"
Almost immediately she extended it. There was no hint of fear or apprehension in her eyes. Confidently she waited.
He inserted the syringe and cleared his throat as he drew blood.
"You have very quick hands," she noted. "I see how you were able to sew me up so well."
Mironov peered to her and pulled out the syringe, "You remember that you were stabbed?"
He fell silent once more. Next he set up the brain monitor.
"I'd just like to see how everything is inside there," he placed wires on her forehead, temples and on the back of her neck—when he placed it on her neck he noticed the scar that the procedure's needle had left there. A heartbeat passed before he was able to regroup his thoughts. "I'm going to ask you just a few questions. Write some things done. Is that alright?"
She smiled with a nod.
He picked his pen up and waited for an imaged of her brain to appear on the small screen.
"You can't remember how you fell into a coma?"
"Would you like to know?"
She tilted her head. "It doesn't matter."
He furrowed his brow, "I performed a procedure on you. You were a candidate, you remember that?"
"Candidate…" she whispered the word—quickly an image of Snow blinded her vision and then disappeared, "I remember I was a candidate."
"You didn't want the procedure, it was forced on you. You went into shock, I had to induce a coma."
Pandora placed her hands on the armrest and stared. She had no recollection of any of this, but another image appeared through the fog: a young man with blonde hair and a grave expression.
Mironov froze, "You remember Adric?"
She looked to him, "Yes."
"He was worried."
"Yes, Adric worries a lot."
This made the doctor smile. "He does."
"I'm going to start with the questions now, alright?"
He adjusted the pen in his hand and cleared his throat. He had a list of topics he was going to go through—it was a test for emotional responses. He could feel his hands getting sweaty. The test was makeshift. He had done it in a matter of minutes.
"Tell me about District 7."
"It's where I was born."
"Yes, it's where you're from but tell me about it. Can you describe it?"
Pandora furrowed her brow and straightened her back. She thought her answer had been satisfactory but apparently it wasn't. Mironov noticed that her posture was much more proper than it used to be.
"Its resource is lumber. There are many trees. It's green."
He scribbled her answers down and looked to the screen.
"What's you're family like?"
"I have two brothers, a sister. My father is dead. My mother is alive."
Mironov motioned for her to continue, which seemed to confuse Pandora.
"…I haven't seen them for a long time."
His eyes moved to the monitor and his face darkened as he scribbled more things down in his notebook. Pandora watched him carefully.
"You're not happy with my answer."
"No—no—it's fine," he responded with surprise, "Let's continue."
She leaned back once more.
"Tell me about a nice memory you have with your family."
"I would hunt with my brothers. We would go out in the woods and hunt, which was nice."
Her voice sounded very detached.
"How did it feel when you were reaped for the Games?"
He stared at the screen, waiting for her response.
"I was frightened."
"Because I thought I was going to die."
"Are you afraid of death?"
Pandora thought. Mironov's lips parted as he noted something on the screen as soon as he asked the question. He peered to her just before she answered.
"But—you said you were frightened because you thought you were going to die."
"I was frightened. I'm not frightened now."
Her brown eyes watched his pen swirl ink into the notebook.
"Alright…Do you remember your teammate Marius Bishop?"
Pandora recalled his face in her memory and nodded, "Yes."
"What happened to him?"
"I killed him."
Mironov's eyebrows were knitted together.
"How did you meet Finnick Odair?"
This time she was at a loss for an answer. She tried to think but nothing was coming to her. "I can't remember."
"But you remember him?"
"Tell me what happened with Finnick."
"We were in a relationship. Then we weren't. He left because he didn't love me."
"Did you love him?"
She followed his gaze to the brain monitor and narrowed her eyes, "Love?"
Mironov lifted his eyes, "Yes, did you love him?"
This question confused her, "I—I don't know."
His eyes were glued to Pandora. She wasn't reacting to the questions as he thought she would. There wasn't only a change in her physical lack of expression, but in her voice and answers.
A deep sigh left his lungs as he stared at the brain monitor. "Alright. I think that's enough for now."
"Did I pass?" She whispered with a smile.
Mironov stared at the chicken scratch in his notebook before slamming it shut and meeting Pandora's eye line. "Of course."
Her smile grew as pulled on her sweater sleeves once more.
Mironov tried to cloak his concern. The truth was that she had failed the test completely. He paused for a long while. He was trying to take it all in, trying to think of what to do next. Then he remembered some of the measures he had taken to stabilize her brain and memories soon after Pandora had fallen into a coma. His eyes quickly darted to her face.
"Pandora—would you like to get some fresh air?"
"Yes, I would."
They exited out of the room and down the hall. The medic was still on duty. He waited for Pandora to walk ahead before he spoke.
"Can you call Office Adric Pedersen for me?"
"Yes, sir. What do you want me to tell him?"
"Tell him I have something to show him. Tell him to meet me on the roof, yes? Call me when he arrives."
Mironov rubbed his beard as they traveled through the corridors to the elevator. Pandora was to his side. Although there was no clear way for Mironov to know the full outcome of the procedure, he just knew that something was different. His initial fears—really only fears—of the trauma and serum being introduced to her system were the mental responses that would occur. And for that reason he took certain lengths in salvaging the old Pandora Sullivan. The system he used was archaic and simple, but it was the only way she stood half a chance. Using selective memories he had formed tethers in Pandora's brain to who she was before the procedure and who she would be after—or rather the worst she could become. Because memories of events or stories were shaky ground for any normal brain Mironov chose a different route…memories of people. There were two tethers constructed in Pandora's brain, these tethers were chosen because they had a higher chance of eliciting an emotive reaction. Finnick Odair was the first. A tether, which seemed to be disrupted by something. The second was Adric Pedersen. The problem of course with tethers is that they are only activated by the presence of the memory in the flesh, sometimes even then it doesn't mean much.
"The view from the top is beautiful. I'm sure you'll enjoy the fresh air after being asleep for three years."
"Yes, I'm sure."
"It must have been terribly lonely while you were sleeping."
Pandora glanced to the numbers, "No. It was quiet. I had my dreams to keep me company."
Out of curiosity Mironov was about to ask what she dreamed about but then the elevator doors opened. A flight of stairs rested before them. It took a while for him to make his way up each step.
The air was cold on top of the roof. City lights dazzled all around them. Even in the dark Pandora could see the mountains beyond the buildings. She took a step forward, and then another. She didn't stop until she reached the ledge. The wind turned her nose and cheeks pink. Her hair danced around her face.
"It's cold," she whispered.
"The lights—I remember these lights."
Mironov smiled, "There not easy to forget."
Her hands rested on the stone ledge. "No. They aren't."
Ringing echoed from the doctor's pocket. He fumbled for the slick phone and pressed it against his face. "Yes?...alright…no, no… I'll come get him."
Pandora arched her eyebrow. She noticed how restless Mironov was.
"I'll be right back. You stay here, okay?"
He quickened his steps down the flight of stairs. Cursing his knee each step he took. Adric was waiting with the medic by the elevator. Underneath his eyes were dark circles. His hair was disheveled.
"You woke me up, Viktor."
"Yes, I know."
"It's 3 in the morning."
The doctor rubbed his hands together and steadied his breaths.
"So what was the emergency?"
"I have something to show you."
Adric narrowed his eyes and groaned, "It couldn't wait?"
"I didn't think you'd want this to wait. Follow me."
Adric tiredly traveled up the steps and through the door. Mironov was babbling about something but he didn't care enough to listen. His eyes were still on the ground when they took the final step onto the roof. Wind cut through his shirt and trousers.
"That was fast…"
The breeze dulled the voice but it still made Adric's lungs collapse with a gasp. His lips parted. His eyes lifted.
At first all he saw was her back…but then she turned around. When Adric saw her face he immediately took a step back and shook his head. Her hair was much shorter, and her face more womanly but there was no doubt that it was her.
His breathing trembled. It was like a dream—a mirage that would fade away at any second. He clasped his hand to his chest and blinked his eyes. It was impossible.
When she looked at him a strand of hair blew across her face.
"Adric?" she sounded shocked, the first hint of emotion Mironov had seen Pandora show.
Adric felt his knees shaking.
Her brown eyes glimmered with life, just as he remembered they used to.
"You look like a grown man," she whispered.
Her steps to him were slow and watchful.
Just as she had done to Viktor, she reached for Adric's face. He gasped and drew back at first, but then he felt her fingers and stopped. She rubbed her fingertips along his nose and around his eyes. She looked fascinated.
"My friend," she whispered with a growing smile.
Adric speechlessly stared. He felt tears stinging his nose and eyes, but he refused to cry. Time had hardened his tears.
"You remember me don't you?" She asked, "Was I asleep that long?"
He opened his mouth but only a single breath quaked from his lips.