“You have saved me.”
His voice was pleasant and heavily accented, with no hint of the half-machine that he had become. She wondered, in a rather flustered manner, what he might have sounded like before she had…
No. You must not think like that.
“No.” Her tone was firm, but the manner light and airy. “Let us be clear, Mister Shimada…”
“Please. Genji. Call me Genji.”
She ignored him.
“Technology has saved you. I merely… coordinated the orchestra that has played the tune of your new body, if you like.”
It was a far-reaching analogy, certainly, but Angela Ziegler still rather liked it. She was fond of music – something she shared with Winston – and had listened to many classics while she had been working over the broken body of Genji Shimada. When he had first been brought in, it had looked unlikely that anything could be done. Too many bones were shattered. Too much damage had been done. Too much of this. Too little of that. Always negativity. Always despair.
But despair was not something that was in Doctor Ziegler’s nature. She had determined to save the life of this young man. After all, was she not sworn to the Oath? So she had kept him alive, connected to machines via networks of tubes and wires. She had monitored his vital statistics to the point of obsession. Sleep became secondary to finding the solution to helping him.
Cybernetics had been the obvious choice from early on. When she had first brought him into a state of awareness, when he had first been able to engage in discourse with her, she had sat with him and explained what would need to be done. The amputations. The re-building. The cybernetic implants. The months of rehabilitation. The likelihood of extreme pain now and possibly for the rest of his life. He had looked up at her through those intelligent eyes and spoken softly in his broken English.
“I want to walk again.”
“I’m not a miracle worker.” She had smiled, sadly. “Well. Not always.”
“I believe in you.”
Of course he did. Want to walk again that was: she found herself strangely bashful about his easy belief in her abilities. And so she had done what she had needed to do in order to give him what he wanted. It had taken every ounce of courage they both possessed and became a journey they undertook together. It was natural, therefore, that they would become close – and that was what had happened.
For a long time – perhaps too long – Angela Ziegler had been too wrapped up in her own studies and research to allow herself time to focus on that most mysterious thing of all – human nature. And as she had grown to know the stranger in her care better, she had discovered a sharp, acerbic wit and an intelligence off which she could bounce her own.
But he was still Shimada. Angela was not fool enough to be unaware or ignorant of the clan and its dealings they were hardly covert. Genji had professed it was his very disinterest in the family’s shadier dealings that had landed him very firmly at Death’s door and she had no reason to disbelieve him. There were conversations to be had, certainly, but for now the focus must be on returning him to health.
His soft voice pulled her out of her reverie and she stood up and straightened her white coat, flushing slightly as she realised that she had been lost in her own thoughts. She looked down at the man in the bed. She considered him, his intense eyes, his cybernetic, his intense eyes…
You can’t let this happen, Angela. Never get involved with a patient. You remember what happened last time?
Oh, yes. She remembered.
“Yes, Mister S…”
Those eyes shone brightly when she used his name and with a precision borne from years of closing herself off to her innermost self, she drew up the shutters against their lure. Her tone, her manner, even her stance became purely professional.
“I wish to try again tomorrow. To walk. Will you oversee my rehabilitation?”
Yes, I would love to.
“My duties…” Her sense of resolved wavered under his steady gaze, but she pulled the shutters more tightly around her heart, sealing her feelings as deeply as she could manage. She had always been able to ignore these sort of feelings before, but she suspected that beneath the intensity of those eyes, there would be no mercy.
“We will see,” she said, primly and his eyes lit up with pleasure. His instant arrogance and assumption that he had won her attention irritated her while at the same time brought a most unprofessional blush to her cheeks. She made a mark on the clipboard before replacing it at the end of his bed and striding from his room.
It was only when she let out the breath that she even realised she’d been holding it.