Category: First time
Pairing: Aiden Ford/Carson Beckett
Summary: What if the one you loved lost everything but you?
Carson cursed himself for failing to consider the possibility of amnesia. Some amount of disorientation was common after a coma; he should have checked Aiden thoroughly before allowing the others in. He murmured a vow to take better care of his patients in future as he picked up Aiden's chart.
"Don't be so hard on yourself," Aiden said reasonably. "They were really happy to see me. It was nice of you to give them a few minutes."
"My first priority should have been you," Carson said, still annoyed with himself.
"I'm none the worse for wear, doc. I just don't know who they are or why they were so happy to see me," Aiden said with a shrug. "It was kind of weird."
"I can only imagine," Carson said. He pulled the chair closer and sat down. "I need to ask you a few questions, lad. Quite a few, in fact; beginning with just how long you've been lying there pretending to be in a coma."
"You didn't just wake up, son. You said I hadn't been in here since yesterday. How did you know that?"
"I was in a coma? What happened to me?" Aiden asked curiously.
"Never mind that now," he said, setting aside his first question for later. "Can you tell me your name?"
"Your full name."
"That's all I heard you say."
"Are you telling me you can't remember your name?"
"No," Aiden said shaking his head. "I mean yes. What's your name?"
"Carson Beckett," Carson replied. "Can you tell me where you are, lad?"
"I guess if I was in a coma and you're a doctor, this must be a hospital," he reasoned.
"On what planet?" Carson asked. Aiden burst into laughter.
"You're kidding, right?"
"It's a simple enough question. Answer it."
"Earth, of course! Wait a minute; are we in Ireland?"
"I'm a Scot," Carson said evenly. "And no, we are not in Ireland. Can you tell me your age?"
"No. How old are you?" Aiden asked cheekily.
"My age is irrelevant."
"You keep calling me 'lad.' I must be a lot younger than you."
"It's a Scottish thing," Carson said, smiling as Aiden's impishness got the better of him. "Where were you born?"
"I don't know," Aiden replied.
"Can you tell me anything about your childhood?"
Aiden couldn’t answer any of Carson’s questions. He didn't seem to be perturbed by the fact, which Carson found interesting, although he knew that Aiden’s complacency would only be temporary. Carson’s gentle interrogation led him to conclude that Aiden’s amnesia was complete.
"Doc, are you going to give me the answers to these questions, because for the life of me, I don't know any of them," Aiden confided. Carson nodded sympathetically.
"Well, to begin with, your full name is Aiden Carter Thomas Ford; you were born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania twenty-five years ago and you're a lieutenant in the United States Marines."
"Carter?" Aiden said with a frown. "Was I injured in combat?" Carson hesitated a moment.
"We're not really sure what happened to you, lad, but it did happen in the line of duty. As for any other questions you may have, try to be patient. The answers may come to you on their own."
"If you say so, doc."
"I'll let you rest now," Carson said rising. "If you need anything, just push the button on the rail there and a nurse will come."
"What if I want you?" Aiden asked. Carson froze for a moment, before gathering his wits about him.
"Just tell the nurse and she'll fetch me." He smiled and headed for the door.
"Hey doc, don't forget I'm still hungry."
"I’ll try to scare up something for you. It may take a while. The commissary hasn't had a good morning." Carson smiled and left the ICU.
"How is he, doc?" John asked as soon as he came within ten feet of where the others had been made to wait.
"He's suffering from amnesia," Carson said with a sigh. "The good news is he seems to be completely fine, otherwise. It's amazing; I’ve no explanation for it. I'll need to rerun the scans to be certain of it but a preliminary exam shows him to be perfectly healthy. In fact, if I hadn't seen him in that coma with my own eyes I wouldn't believe he'd recently been in one."
"Why does he have amnesia?"
"I cannot say, Elizabeth," Carson replied. "It's most likely a lingering effect of the contraption he was connected to; I honestly cannot tell at this point."
"Then it's likely to be temporary?"
"Again, I cannot say," Carson sighed. He looked at the worried faces before him. John, Teyla, Elizabeth, and Rodney were awaiting reassurances he couldn't give them. He rested a hand on Rodney's shoulder. "Let's count our blessings. He's alive and well; the rest a comparative piece of cake."
"Yeah," John said, though he was clearly unconvinced. "I guess we should let him rest."
"Please," Carson said. "He was just a wee bit overwhelmed at being set upon by a bunch of strangers."
"I'm sure," Rodney said distractedly, his eyes on the man lying in the ICU.
"We did not realize," Teyla said softly.
"Of course not; I should not have let you all in there without checking him over thoroughly first. But what's done is done," Carson said wearily.
"Is he truly well?"
"Physically, he's fine," Carson assured her.
"But he does not know us."
"At the moment, no, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time before he does," he replied. "Now, if you'll excuse me..." Carson hurried off to the dining hall to fetch something for Aiden to eat. He brought back a variety of things he deemed safe, including a bowl of Athosian yogurt. Carson recalled that Aiden was rather disdainful of the stuff, refusing to even try it. He returned to the ICU and placed a tray on the nightstand next to his bed. Aiden opened his eyes and smiled.
"Aiden," Carson replied. "I've brought you a few things. I'm not sure you're ready for anything too substantial--."
"No haggis," Carson said with a smile. "Why don't you try this?" He raised the head of the bed so that Aiden could sit up and then placed the bowl of yogurt on the table he slid into place over Aiden's lap. Aiden picked up the spoon and dug into the rich custard-like substance, over which Carson had poured a dollop of honey. He tasted it and smiled.
"What is this stuff?" he asked as he spooned up another mouthful.
"Mmm! So what's haggis, anyway?"
"I'll save the answer to that question for when you're feeling stronger."
"I feel fine now," Aiden protested. "In fact, I was going to ask you how much longer I've got to stay in here."
"Well, there's certainly no reason for you to remain in intensive care. I might keep you in the infirmary a day or two more for observation."
"How long have I been here?"
"About two weeks."
"Wow! I guess I must have been pretty bad."
"I won't lie to you, lad; you were close to dead when they brought you in," Carson admitted. "I can barely believe it, to look at you now."
"You must be one hell of a doctor," Aiden said without a hint of irony.
"I confess I did precious little. You did all the healing on your own."
"And you can't tell me what happened to me?"
"No one knows, Aiden. We're still trying to figure it out. The important thing is you survived it."
"I'm a brave little soldier," Aiden said absently. Carson looked up sharply; Aiden was staring through the window at the hustle and bustle of the infirmary beyond.
"What did you say, lad?"
"I said I'm a brave little soldier. Isn't that what you called me?"
Carson was stunned. He'd called Aiden a brave little soldier once, some eight months earlier.
"What's the last thing you remember?" he asked as Aiden set aside the empty bowl and reached for a dish of Jell-O. He shrugged again and looked at Carson.
"I think that's it."
"You said that to me. That's all I remember." Aiden blinked. "You did say it?"
"Aye, that was me. I said it months ago."
"We knew each other before?" Aiden asked. Carson nodded. "So you know all about me, then!"
"Not all, but I do know a great deal about you, Aiden," Carson said carefully. "I know that it's frustrating to be in your position. There's a lot you can't recall and you're bound to feel confused and frustrated, especially when people assume that you know things you can’t recall. But I'm going to ask you to trust me for a few days, all right? Give yourself a little time, lad."
"And it'll come back?" he asked, hopefully.
"It's possible; but it's also possible that your memory won't return."
"What if it doesn't?"
"We'll deal with it," Carson said reassuringly. "You're surrounded by people who care for you a great deal and will help you through this. You'll be fine."
"You're one of them?"
"Yes, of course; we've always been good friends, Aiden."
"Where did we meet?" he asked. Carson smiled and wagged a finger at him.
"Let's see if you can answer that for yourself in a few days."
"So what am I supposed to do in the meantime? Sit here and twiddle my thumbs?"
"In the meantime you can get reacquainted with your friends," Carson said as he took the second empty bowl from him. "Still hungry?"
"More curious than anything," Aiden grumbled.
"I understand," Carson said. "I tell you what; I'll allow you to ask one question."
"And you'll answer it?" Aiden said as he sniffed at the bowl of soup placed in front of him. "I'd ask what's in this if it wouldn't count against my allotment."
"That's split pea soup, and it doesn't count," Carson said amusedly.
"Split from what?"
"You'd better think of a better question than that," Carson chuckled.
"I want to know where we met," Aiden said without hesitation.
"We met in Antarctica. We were on a research expedition; you were one of the military personnel assigned to secure the base. You injured your hand breaking up a fight between two Marines and came to me for stitches."
"I was in Antarctica?"
"That's another question," Carson said with a wink. He rose to go,
"Do you have to leave?"
"Finish your soup. I've got rounds to make. I'll come back later."
When Carson completed his "rounds,” checking on the two patients hospitalized due to food poisoning, he took a walk to stretch his legs and clear his mind. He had a wholly unexpected new set of problems to deal with and once again he cursed himself for dropping the ball. He should have anticipated that Aiden would suffer some residual effects of his ordeal. After all, hadn't the Wraith machine made him forget to use his brain for nearly two days?
Amnesia was going to be a challenge for Aiden Ford. Carson knew how naturally curious Aiden was and how easily frustrated he could be when he felt he was out of his depths.
While checking for damage caused by the massive storm that had swept over Atlantis, a group of scientists stumbled upon an abandoned laboratory in one of the cavernous vaults under the city. One of the scientists broke a container and unwittingly released a deadly nanovirus. Several members of the group lost their lives before John deactivated the virus using an electromagnetic pulse. Aiden headed the security detail that accompanied the scientists and had been among a handful of people directly exposed to the infection. After being released from quarantine he was thoroughly checked out in the infirmary. He showed no signs of illness, much to Carson's relief. Most of the others weren't as lucky.
"Why does it bother you so much?" Carson asked when Aiden told him about being teased by Radek Zelenka and the other scientists. "I'll wager that most of the people in Atlantis would fail at that game, myself included."
"Yeah, but--. You would?"
"I would what?" Carson asked as he gestured for Aiden to roll up his sleeve.
"You would fail at 'Prime/Not Prime'?"
"Does that surprise you? I'm a physician, not a mathematician, Aiden," Carson said as he drew the younger man's blood.
"And here I thought you were a real smart guy," he said with a mischievous grin. Carson was disarmed, but only for a moment.
"I am 'a real smart guy,' as you put it. But not everyone knows everything, in spite of what Rodney McKay tries to let on. I bet Dr. Zelenka doesn't know anything about RPGs."
"Actually, he's an engineer," Aiden said glumly. "He probably understands them far better than I do."
"Ah, but can he fire one?" Carson replied lightly.
"Does everyone around here assume I'm stupid just because I'm in the military?" Aiden asked, still clearly in a funk.
"I've never thought of you as stupid," Carson declared. "You have to have a college degree to be an officer in the Marines, don't you?"
"Yeah, but that doesn't mean I'm smart--not to those guys, anyway. Everyone around here has more degrees than I've got legs."
"That doesn't make them smart, necessarily--just well educated. A smart person would know that it's better to stay on your good side," Carson said with a wink.
"And here I thought you just liked my sunny disposition," Aiden said with a smile.
"That I do," Carson confessed as he smoothed a Band-Aid over the tiny puncture wound. "Is that important to you, what others think?"
"I want to be respected," Aiden admitted.
"And you think they don't respect you, just because they were teasing you?"
"I didn't see them teasing anyone else."
"I think you're being too hard on yourself, lad. Don't let anyone else make you doubt your self-worth. You're as fine a man as any I've ever met."
"Thanks, Carson," Aiden said sincerely. "That really means a lot coming from you."
"I mean it, lad," Carson said, reluctantly stepping back so Aiden could hop off the table. "You're all done. I'll have the results tomorrow but I expect to see perfectly normal readings."
"Thanks, doc. And thanks for what you and your team did down there today."
"It's Major Sheppard who saved your bacon, Aiden. All we did--."
"...Was diagnose the virus, calculate the gestation period and the mode of transmittal of the nanovirus, identify the symptoms, and generally keep us all from losing it while the others worked out a cure. All the major had to do was outrun a naquada bomb," Aiden said with a shrug.
"Well, when you put it that way..."
Aiden smiled and reached for his jacket. Carson could see that he was still troubled. He sighed as Aiden left the infirmary, vowing to give Radek and Rodney a piece of his mind at his next opportunity.
Restoring Aiden's confidence was comparatively simple task. After Carson's stern lecture, Radek apologized to Aiden for his behavior and Rodney took it upon himself to show by deed, if not words, that he respected Aiden as both a team member and a friend. If Aiden knew of Carson's intervention he never mentioned it. Dealing with Aiden's amnesia would be another matter entirely. He knew he had to think of a strategy for helping the younger man and communicate it to everyone who would come into contact with him. If Aiden thought he was still on Earth, he had more than a few surprises in store. Breaking it to him would have to be handled delicately; Carson would not allow him to become over-stressed. But he also did not want Aiden to be babied or coddled in any way.
"Oy," Carson said, pausing to lean against a wall.
Carson avoided the dining hall that night. People were understandably curious about Aiden, but Carson couldn't answer most of their questions and he still had a few of his own to deal with. He returned to the infirmary and asked someone to bring him a dinner tray while he retrieved data from the monitors recording Aiden's heart, brain and blood pressure. He looked in on his patient and watched Aiden sleep for a minute before going into his office to check the printouts. When Denise appeared with his tray he looked up.
"Come in, love," he said. "Thank you."
"So how's the patient?" she asked, tilting her head a bit to check the printout.
"He's as right as rain, save for the fact that he thinks he's in a hospital somewhere on Earth and has no recollection of anyone or anything but his first name," Carson sighed. "And that he only knows because he heard me say it."
"He can't recall anything?" Denise said sadly. Carson recalled the one other thing Aiden remembered but didn't care to mention it.
"Tell me something; you were with him this morning before all hell broke loose?"
"Yes," Denise replied, taking the seat he offered with a gesture of his hand.
"Look at this," Carson said, pushing the printout a little bit over in her direction. "See that spike?"
"Wow, indeed. That a very impressive spike in brain activity. It occurred this morning while you were supposed to be in there with him. You didn't notice it? "
"No, Dr. B; he was very quiet and still the whole time."
"He didn't even stir?"
"He didn't budge. Do you think that's when he came out of the coma?"
"It would appear to be the likely moment," Carson said, unfolding the printouts to see the previous evening's readings. Denise sat down and studied the printout.
"Why didn't he wake up? I mean, don't people usually wake up when they come out of a coma?"
"Not always, no," Carson said distractedly. "But I would have expected... You know, I think that this is precisely the moment that his brain came back online," he concluded.
"Online? What do you mean?"
"Have you ever seen an old fluorescent lamp? When you turn it on it flickers for a bit before it shines fully."
"Yeah," Denise replied. "Is that what you think happened to the lieutenant?"
"It’s one theory.”
"So when he was thrashing around last week, that was the flickering?”
"Aye. And no one noticed the change in his brain function for nearly two hours? I thought you and Bridget were checking the monitors regularly," Carson said with a reproachful look.
"Sorry, doc. Things got kind of crazy and we must have lost track of time."
"It's water under the bridge," Carson said. "Lieutenant Ford suffered no ill effects from your negligence. But it is a curious phenomenon. I've never seen such a big spike."
"You've never seen a man breathe on his own with no apparent brain function, either," Denise said as she rose. "Eat up, doc. Now that the lieutenant's out of the woods it's time for you to start looking after yourself." Carson returned her smile, but it sagged when she closed the door.
"I wish I knew for certain that he's out of the woods."
Carson checked on Aiden one last time before retiring to his quarters. Denise was right; it was time to return to some semblance of normalcy. He realized that he’d have to reestablish some semblance of professional detachment as well. He started the shower and paused to regard himself in the mirror as he was stripping out of his clothes.
"I do look like hell, don't I?" He grabbed his shaving kit and stepped into the stall. Carson took his time showering and shaving, allowing the steamy hot water to wash away the tension in his muscles. He was toweling himself off when he was summoned back to the infirmary. Carson swore and quickly dressed. Though the summons didn't mention any names, Carson knew that he wouldn't have been disturbed unless the problem concerned Aiden. He pulled on the clothes he’d recently discarded and took off at a run.
"Lieutenant Ford is missing,” the night nurse said as soon as he stepped through the door. Before Carson could form a sentence in response, the doors opened once more.
"How long has he been missing?” Elizabeth demanded as she strode into the infirmary. The night nurse had no ready answer. "Well, when was the last time anyone saw him?”
"How on earth could he go missing?” Carson sputtered belatedly. "The man came out of a coma not three hours ago!” But he was talking to no one. Elizabeth was relaying orders to Sergeant Bates, who’d already begun a search while she examined the ICU for any clues to where he might have gone. Carson caught up with her when she emerged.
"Do you think there’s a possibility that he remembered something?” Elizabeth held up a hand to prevent Carson from answering; John was hailing her. Having been alerted by Bates, he and Teyla were joining the search. "Good, John. Why don’t you start in your area? Maybe he returned to his quarters.”
"I sincerely doubt that,” Carson said. "In fact, I doubt he’d be able to travel that far in his current condition--if he even knew where his quarters were located.”
"Well, he can’t have gotten far, then,” Elizabeth replied. "I’m certain Bates’ men will find him.”
"Last time Lieutenant Ford went missing Bates’ men nearly killed him,” Carson said pessimistically. Elizabeth gave him a reproachful look, but he ignored it. "Come with me. I’ve got something I’d like you to see.” He led her into the office to show her the printout and stopped abruptly when he saw Aiden sitting at his desk, his head cradled in his arms. Aiden looked up and smiled when he saw Carson.
"What are you doing in here, lad?” Carson cried as Elizabeth activated her com link and called off the search. "You gave us all a bloody scare disappearing from your bed. Half the people in Atlantis are probably out scouring the halls for you by now.”
"I couldn’t sleep,” Aiden replied sheepishly, "so I went looking for you. I figured this was your office; I was waiting for you to come back.”
"How did you get past the nurses?” Carson demanded. He was well aware that he was practically shouting, his fear for Aiden’s safety and wellbeing overwhelming his better judgment. He stilled his tongue and took a deep breath, willing the pounding in his chest to subside. Elizabeth rested a hand on his shoulder. The gesture simultaneously grounded and cautioned him. Carson glanced at her and nodded.
"I’ll leave the lieutenant in your capable hands," she said. She gave him a smile and retreated. Carson took another steadying breath.
"Who was that?” Aiden asked curiously.
"That was Dr. Weir. She’s in charge around here.”
"I’m sorry to have caused so much trouble,” Aiden said.
"You should have asked someone to fetch me, Aiden,” he said with deliberate calm. "You might have sat here all night, otherwise. I was about ready to crawl into my bed.”
"Sorry, doc. I guess I wasn’t really thinking. And I really wanted to stretch my legs.”
"How are you feeling, lad? You’re in no condition to be wandering around after spending two weeks on your backside.”
"What happened to your beard?” Aiden asked. Momentarily thrown by the question, Carson reached up and felt his jaw.
"I had a shave,” he replied, frowning. "I’ve not had time for a proper shave since you were admitted.”
"So that’s what you really look like?” Aiden asked. "I don’t remember.”
"I’ve had a beard off and on,” Carson said, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "I’m sorry, Aiden. I didn’t even consider the possibility that I’d be adding to your confusion.”
"It’s okay, doc. You still look like you. And you definitely still sound like you,” he said with a smile. "Look, I’m really sorry they dragged you back here because of me. You should go to bed.”
"I don’t mind staying a while longer if I’m needed,” Carson replied. Aiden shyly averted his eyes.
"Well, I really just wanted someone to talk to. You’re the only person I know, doc,” he confided. Carson didn’t know whether to laugh or cry; he settled for sighing instead and pulled up a chair.
"All right, Aiden,” he said. "What’s on your mind?” Aiden shrugged.
"It’s weird, you know? I can’t remember anything and yet I know stuff.”
"Really?” Carson replied, his curiosity piqued. "What sort of stuff?”
"Things like times tables; remember those? And state capitals--I laid there just now and recited them in alphabetical order. The states, not the capitals,” Aiden clarified. "And I know the technical specifications of Semtex and something called a Zat'nikatel--whatever that is." Carson was intrigued.
"Did you know them when you woke up or did they just come to you?”
"I’m not sure,” Aiden said with a shrug. "I just thought about them while I was lying there bored out of my skull.”
"And the other thing you remembered--when did that come to you?" Carson unconsciously held his breath as Aiden pondered the question.
"I think… I remembered it when I heard your voice," he said finally. Carson sat back, stunned.
"And when did you first hear my voice, Aiden?” he asked. Again, Aiden considered the question carefully. Carson observed him closely and thus was aware of the precise moment when Aiden decided to dissemble.
"I don’t know,” he said softly, averting his eyes to the floor. It was unlike Aiden to vacillate and Carson wondered why he felt the need to do so. What was he hiding?
"I cannot help me if you don’t trust me, Aiden,” he said. Aiden looked up, but quickly averted his eyes again. He looked uncomfortable.
"It won’t make sense,” he said.
"I don’t remember,” Aiden insisted. "It’s like I already knew it.” Aiden looked up and met Carson’s eyes. "I don’t know when I first heard your voice. I can only say that I recognized it when I heard it.”
"You recognized it? Aiden? Do you remember me?” Carson gasped. But Aiden shook his head.
"I wish I did. I feel as though I should. But I knew your voice; it’s what brought me back. Every time I heard it, it felt--I don’t know. It felt familiar, safe. I can’t explain it.”
"You’re doing fine, lad,” Carson said gently.
"Did I like your voice before I lost my memory?” Aiden asked.
"I don’t know, Aiden,” Carson replied. "You never mentioned it if you did.”
"Maybe I had a thing for it and never told you,” Aiden replied with unexpected candor. He shrugged. "I don’t know.”
"Well, maybe it will come back to you,” Carson said evenly, in spite of the fact that his heart was racing. "It stands to reason that you’ll know certain things. Amnesia doesn’t erase the brain completely. It’s quite common to retain information but be unable to explain how you know it or where you learned it. You lose the contextual information. That would explain how you still know your times tables without remembering anything about elementary school.”
"…Or how I know your voice but don’t recognize you?” Aiden asked. "Why do I even have amnesia?”
"Trauma, plain and simple,” Carson said. Convinced as he was that the Wraith machine was somehow responsible for his loss of memory, he knew that it was too soon to talk about that. He opted for a simpler and equally accurate explanation. "I could give you a complete medical explanation, but you’re already suffering from boredom,” he said with a smile.
"I should let you get some rest, doc.”
"And you’ll return to your bed?”
"Yeah,” Aiden said guiltily.
"Tell you what,” Carson offered. "If you promise to stay there till morning, I’ll see what I can do to ease your boredom.”
"Can I take a walk outside?”
"We’ll see, lad.”
"Doc…” Aiden whined plaintively.
"I am the doc,” Carson replied. "There are several aspects of your condition that I don’t fully understand yet and I won’t take any chances that might hinder your recovery. I’m afraid you’re going to have to be patient, Aiden. I’ll do what I can for you, but you’ll have to take it one step at a time.”
"I’ll do whatever you say, doc. I trust you completely.”
Carson gestured with his head for Aiden to lead the way out of the office. He could see how physically tired Aiden was, but he knew that mentally his mind was racing ahead, putting together as many pieces of the puzzle as he could grasp. Carson also knew that during this phase of his recovery, Aiden was going to be a handful.
"He appears to be suffering from global amnesia,” Carson explained to Elizabeth and John the following morning. He decided to have an early breakfast before checking on his patient and found them having coffee in a quiet corner of the dining hall. They invited Carson to join them and demanded an update. "The only thing he claims to remember is the sound of my voice. Of course,” Carson hastily added, "he would have heard my voice more often than any other during his coma. It’s possible that’s what he’s referring to.”
"Is it possible that he actually he does remember you?” John said.
"Why would he remember only one person and not the rest of us?” Elizabeth asked.
"It’s not me he remembers,” Carson clarified. "Just my voice, he said.”
"Your accent is distinctive,” Elizabeth said.
"What accent?” Carson said with a twinkle in his eye.
"How is he otherwise?” John asked.
"He’s fine. I am concerned, however,” Carson admitted. "He’s got an awful lot to catch up on. Finding out that he’s assigned to a top secret program that sent him on an expedition to the Pegasus Galaxy, where he had his memory erased by alien technology wielded by a race of beings that feeds itself by sucking the life essence out of humans with their palms could cause him even more trauma.”
"Yeah, really,” John said, scratching his head.
"He’ll have to be managed very carefully,” Carson warned. "Everyone coming into contact with him will have to be schooled on how to deal with him.”
"Well, we’d like to see him again, doc,” John said.
"Good; I want to re-socialize him as soon as possible. It will help ease the transition.”
"So you don’t think his memory will come back on its own?” Elizabeth asked.
"I’m not sure,” Carson said. "If his memory was truly erased, it might not ever come back. But if, as I hope, his mind was simply copied by that machine--and unfortunately I have no way of knowing--it is possible that it will eventually return.”
"If it was just copied, he’d still have his memory,” John assayed.
"Aye, that could be the case, but we have to assume that the process--whatever it was--was interrupted when Bates and his men ripped him out of it mid-sequence. They may well have done him far worse damage than that accursed machine.”
"So how do we manage him?” Elizabeth asked.
"He’ll have to be reintroduced to what he’s lost. There’s no way to restore all of his memories, but we can reacquaint him with people and his environment. The sooner we do the sooner he’ll begin to feel better. I just want to be careful about filling in the bigger gaps.”
"Doc, they’re pretty much all big gaps,” John said, shifting in his seat. "I mean the 'big picture' is pretty big.”
"It’s bloody huge,” Carson sighed. "And he’ll not sit idly by while we spoon feed him information.”
"Well, I trust you to know what’s best.” Elizabeth rose and picked up her tray. "I’ll see you later.”
"Yeah, doc. Let us know when it’s safe to visit Ford,” John said as he joined her.
"I’ll do that,” Carson said. He sat there for a while, till he realized the time and rushed to the infirmary. When he arrived he saw Denise and bade her a good morning. "How is he this morning?” he asked as he headed toward the ICU.
"Hard to tell; he won’t speak. He seems to be lost in his own little world.”
"Is he awake?”
"Yeah, he’s been up for hours. But he doesn’t acknowledge me. I don’t even think he knows I’m there.”
"Why didn’t you call me?” Carson demanded as he approached the door. He peered through the glass and saw Aiden staring at the wall. "If his condition has declined I should have been--.”
"Morning, doc,” Aiden said cheerfully. He’d turned his head and smiled as soon as Carson entered the ICU.
"That’s why,” Denise said with a slight smirk. "I kind of had the impression he was just waiting for you to come back.” She winked and disappeared into the imaging lab.
"Good morning, Aiden,” Carson said, returning the smile. "I take it you’ve got an appetite this morning?” Aiden looked down at his untouched breakfast tray for the first time.
"Yeah,” he said, picking up a spoon. "More yogurt. Cool!” He dug into it with gusto and Carson sat down, smiling.
"You like that, do you?”
"Yeah. Do you?”
"Yes,” Carson said amusedly. "You’ve always had an aversion to it before your coma, however. How are you feeling this morning?” he asked as Aiden stared into his bowl curiously. He shrugged and ate another spoonful before responding.
"I feel fine. Why does everyone keep asking me that?”
"Well, for one thing, you were critically ill at this time yesterday. For another, they probably keep asking because you haven’t been very responsive when they asked you,” Carson said. Aiden shrugged again.
"I don’t feel like talking much.”
"You talk to me,” Carson reasoned. Aiden looked up and smiled.
"I guess I do. You’re easy to talk to, I guess.”
"Thank you, lad. I’m always here if you want to talk,” Carson assured him. "However, you have lots of other friends here who’d like to see you as well, you know.”
"Does it surprise you to know that you’ve got lots of friends?”
"I don’t know,” Aiden said. "I haven’t thought about it. Say doc, you let me ask you one question yesterday. Can I ask one today?”
"That sounds fair enough. What’s on your mind?”
"Where am I?”
The question was the one that Carson dreaded most. He’d given it some thought, however, and was prepared with an answer. He just hoped he wasn’t making a mistake. The answer to this question just might open Pandora’s box.
"You’re on another remote posting, Aiden,” he said. "I’m not going to give you all the details just yet--.”
"It’ll be a lot for you to take in, lad, and I’d rather break it to you gradually.”
"Not ‘bad,’ per se, but it’ll be a lot to swallow and right now I don’t want you biting off more than you can chew.”
"Funny, doc,” Aiden replied. "So where am I?”
"Do you trust me, Aiden?” Carson asked.
"You’re on an island, in a city known as Atlantis,” he said. To his surprise, Aiden laughed.
"You’re shitting me! Atlantis is a myth!” Aiden frowned. "I don’t know how I know that, but--.” He paused when Carson rose and left the room. "Hey! Where are you going?” Carson returned seconds later with a wheelchair.
"I’m going to prove it to you,” he said. "Get in.”
On to PART 4