Amanda woke up with the taste of Daniel's mouth on her tongue. She squinted at the bright bulb above her, raising her hands to shield her eyes.
“Am I...?” she got up, and ran a hand through her damp hair.
“Welcome back,” Dr Sung said.
Amanda turned around and sat cross-legged on top of the Animus, noticing that her trousers had been removed. She blushed and pulled the hem of her shirt down to cover her bottom and the upper-half of her thighs. The colours seemed too bright in the real world, and they blurred out slightly as her vision struggled to regain focus.
“I'd advise that you don't move around too much,” Dr Sung said, rising from behind her desk and approaching Amanda, “the first time can be disorientating,” she gently disattached the electrodes from Amanda's head and peeled off the circular stickers keeping their wires in place on her skin, “How do you feel?”
Amanda looked at her, “Confused,” she murmured.
Dr Sung nodded. Apparently, being confused was normal, “Would you like something to eat before I give you an analysis?”
As if on cue, Amanda's stomach growled, “Yes, please. I'm starving.”
Dr Sung scurried over to her desk, picked up her phone and spoke quickly about getting a meal up to her office, “I've ordered fish and chips - as you Britain's call it - if that's okay with you?” she said.
Amanda laughed, “Thank you, that's better than okay.”
“Now...” Dr Sung sat on a swivel chair next to the Animus and picked up her clipboard, “to be honest with you, Amanda, you showed some very strange activity in the Animus Black Room - according to your heart-rate and such. It spiked several times, and you cried out and wept in your semi-comatose state. At one point, your legs jerked out. And there was one other thing...” the doctor blushed but got passed it quickly. Amanda shifted her seating position, feeling abashed and self-conscious, “But I can infer from context, I needn't speculate. With regards to everything else (and I don't usually ask this but): what were you doing in there?”
“Exploring,” Amanda lied, “A lot of exploring, I fell off a lot of cliffs.”
“Oh...” the doctor laughed, “Oh, right! Well! Okay, then.”
Amanda held back a sigh of relief. She was so glad she was no longer hooked up to the heart-rate monitor.
“Is that all, doctor?” she asked.
“No, um,” Dr Sung trotted back to her desk and picked up a roll of prescription papers, “Here is the medication you may require. Take them for migraines, or if you feel a hallucination coming on.”
“There's no regular intake?”
“No, take them only when you need them. I'll schedule another 24-hour Animus session for November 3rd, next Sunday?”
“That sounds... good,” Amanda nodded and paused, “Wait... I was in there for a whole day?”
“Yes,” Dr Sung said, “It didn't feel like it?”
“It... It felt like quite a while,” Amanda said, “Just not as long.”
“It was probably hard to notice with all your climbing and falling,” the doctor laughed.
A knock came at the door and Dr Sung went to answer it. She brought in the food Amanda wanted and handed it to her. Amanda chomped it down ravenously, throwing handfuls of chips into her mouth. She looked back at the doctor.
“Sorry,” Amanda said, with her mouth full.
The doctor looked amused, “It's quite alright,” she said, “Your assessment is over, though, so feel free to leave when you've finished your meal,” she picked up Amanda's coat and her other clothes, “I've, uh, sent your trousers to be washed. The coat seems long enough to cover you. From what I've heard, your clothes and possessions from Canada have been recovered.”
Amanda took her clothes, blushing, and said, “Thank you, doctor.”
“You'll want to head to training after you sort yourself out.”
“I don't think I'll be going today.”
“No? Any reason why, or just...?”
Amanda paused to look over at Dr Sung, “Just.”
“Not too fond of Mr Otso Berg, I presume?”
“He's... creepy. Like all nice and proper and shit, but just... not,” Amanda said, “Like, he hides behind a guise. I don't like that.”
“Yes,” Dr Sung mused, “He's no Daniel.”
Amanda finished her food and then got down from the Animus and slipped Daniel's coat on.
She did up the zip and the buttons, bunching the rest of her clothes up on the crook of her arm and said, “Thanks for everything, Dr Sung. I'll see you Sunday?”
“I look forward to it,” the doctor smiled.
Amanda threw away the wrapping that her meal had come in and left the room. She used the walls for support, and read the numbers marked on the doors. She kept going until she found Room 04 and stepped in. It probably wasn't safe to leave the door open all the time, so she made a mental note to contact the front desk for a key to the room. She found all her personal belongings in a large case. She ignored it and stripped off Daniel's coat, and then walked into the bathroom and took a long shower. She stood under the running shower-head long after she'd finished scrubbing herself, feeling the water rain down on her, until the skin of her fingertips bunched up in wrinkles. She stepped out of the bathroom and dried herself off. Amanda caught a glance of herself in the mirror and smiled.
She looked at her face and her wet hair, “I was wrong. Maybe you will be alright,” she said.
Amanda then dug through the case and found her underwear, and a button-up white shirt and a pair of tight black trousers to go with it. She put her clothes on and then set her mind to organising all her things. She took out Daniel's magazines from the wardrobe and picked out the condoms and put them in a plastic bag. She would throw them out later. She kept some of his clothes - ones she thought she could wear, like his large t-shirts and some of his coats - but pulled the rest out and filled the wardrobe with her own garments.
She found the fedora she had bought with Rebecca and stared at it for a moment, “Enjoy that dress, Rebecca,” Amanda murmured, as she put the hat on her head.
It was well into the afternoon when Amanda had finished and she felt hungry again, so she made a short trip to the front desk and queried about a room key. The man behind the desk gave her the spare and said that a new one would be cut for her in a few days time. She asked whether she had to pay. The man said that Daniel's room was being paid for by the company itself, since he had rarely left it and said that no messages had come for any change in that matter. For now, all of Amanda's living costs were being taken care of and she would be notified if any if this was to change.
Amanda raised a brow, but didn't say anything.
She then asked for directions to the canteen or the cafeteria. The man gave her some directions and said that she could ask anyone on-duty to escort her if she was really lost. Amanda said her thanks and followed his directions. The smell of food alone could have guided her there, and the noise of people eating and chatting.
She stopped by the entrance of the cafeteria and a smile crawled onto her face without her even realising it.
This wasn't so bad.
She could get used to this.
She picked up a tray and joined the assembly line of people waiting for food.
People were looking at her and whispering, and Amanda felt self-conscious all over again. She only heard snippets of their conversation, but it was clear that they knew who she was.
Daniel Cross's girlfriend.
Amanda didn't quite know how to feel about that. She picked up her food from the variety in front of her and remembered to tip the dinner ladies behind the counter from the spare cash that was now in her re-found purse. Amanda spotted an empty table and sat at it to eat, picking up her cutlery and thinking.
She hadn't even got to say goodbye to Daniel.
She hoped he wasn't too hurt by it.
Amanda began to eat her food, when someone joined her at the table.
“I didn't see you in training today, Amanda,” he said, “Everything alright?”
“I thought training was optional,” Amanda replied.
“We've already had this discussion.”
“I'm still considering my options here, Mr Berg,” Amanda explained, trying to avoid an argument.
“Ah... you don't want to be an operative? An agent?”
Amanda shook her head, “I didn't say that. I just think I'd be more suited to a desk-job. I did used to be a teacher, after all.”
“Interesting. With everyone here expecting you to be the next messiah and all,” Berg chuckled.
Amanda blinked and leaned forward, “Excuse me? Did I hear sarcasm?”
Berg raised a hand in apology, “Don't misunderstand me, Amanda. I'm only just joking. I, for one, am glad that you prefer a non-violent role. Glad that you don't need to beat someone to prove something,” he explained, “With the way you are, I'm surprised Daniel would have gone for you. He must have liked soft-types.”
Amanda's jaw dropped and her eyes narrowed, she stood up and swiped the food off the table with her arm - the food splattering and spilling over the canteen floor messily, “I don't get it,” she said, her voice silencing the noise around the cafeteria, “everyone keeps telling me Daniel was an arsehole, and while I can't deny that - you, sir, are by far worse! You don't know a thing about him, so stop talking about him!”
“Now, there's no need to make a scene-”
“I mean, who the fuck do you think you are?”
“Shut up!” she snapped, “Your proper mannerism shit isn't fooling anyone. Not me, not anyone - so just quit it!” she stuck a thumb into her chest, “I am not going to attend any of your training classes, and I am going to be present for the progress assessment, and I am going to ace everything! Not for me, not for Daniel, not for the fucking world - but for the sake of showing a dickhead, such as yourself, that I don't need you and I don't want to need you!”
She turned on her heel and walked her way back to the ladies serving the food, “Can I please take food to my room?” she said loader than she meant to.
They looked at each other and then nodded. They handed her a paper bag, Amanda loaded it with whatever she wanted and left the cafeteria.