After the diagnosis.
Six months before the surgery.
"Samuel, I can't begin to express how heartbroken I am over this. I hardly even know where to begin." Olivia's voice sounds distant to him, hidden away in static and murkiness as if she were separated from him by a wall. His gaze remains fixed on the very scans he showed her, locked on the massive tumor that has inexplicably risen up to destroy his life, his research, and his legacy. He feels something akin to shame.
Olivia is a shade of her formal self, her beauty long eclipsed by the idiopathic scoliosis that bound her to a wheelchair mere months after her arrival on Mars. She's gaunt and pale, the blue lines of her veins visible through her nearly translucent skin. The implantation sites for her cranial augmentations are surrounded by red, angry skin. Despite the anti-rejection medications, this has never changed. Samuel knows every movement in the titanium exoskeleton is agony for her, and yet...she's here with him, now. She's always been here with him.
"What's done is done. Sorry doesn't change the diagnosis. There is no surgery at this stage. There's nothing. Not with all the powers we've discovered, not with all the energy of hell." His hand tightens around the coffee mug in his hand, a gold and white gift sent from the Talos space station in honor of his birthday mere weeks before his first collapse in a seziure the proportions of which he had no idea the human frame could suffer.
"You're not done." Olivia sounds firm, as if she somehow knew an answer otherwise outside of Hayden's grasp. "I know you, Samuel. After all of these years...you saved me. You gave me a chance to walk again. I'm not going to give up on you. So what, it's a brain tumor? So WHAT? You can overcome this. You've overcome everything else. Please, Samuel, you have to try-"
"DAMN IT, Olivia, there is NOTHING." The coffee mug is thrown against the wall, the shattered Transtar logo resting in a pool of coffee now puddling on the metallic floor. The note that came with it is tucked away safely in his desk, however.
Happy birthday. I hope to see you visit Talos post-renovation. Maybe we can share a drink and some stories.
"Samuel, please. You've done the impossible before. You can bloody well do it again. You mustn't give up. I won't allow it."
"Since when were you in any position to tell me what I am allowed to do?" Hayden's anger is growing, but beneath it, there is the pain of a migraine threatening to send him to his knees again. "This body is done. There's nothing to save it. The only solution would be..."
"Yes. And if anyone can pull it off...it's you." Olivia kicks at the broken mug, kneels, and stands with the largest surviving piece of the Transtar logo in her hand. "You know people who can assist. Specialists. You can design the body. We can build it. Don't let this be the end of you. Please. Without your leadership, we wouldn't have the Argent Tower. We wouldn't have the Lazarus Project. We wouldn't have any of this. We NEED you."
Hayden's knees feel like gelatin. He takes a seat in his office chair, slumping down with a pained sigh. His head is throbbing as if nails were being driven into it. His hand raises to his temple. In that moment of weakness, staring down a woman he finds that he barely knows anymore, he manages the smallest of nods.
The least he can do is try.