A slimy salmon-colored brain in a cylindrical jar sits on a sterile examination table. The lip of the jar houses a series of tiny display screens with temperature, pressure, and activity readings. The display screens fluctuate, insinuating activity. Surrounded a translucent pink medi-liquid, the brain is punctured at strategic points by syringes filled with an unidentified yellow neuro-agent. At its base, wires disappear into the grooves in which the spinal cord once occupied.
That same pinkish liquid shoots up a series of flexible clear tubes produced by the brain. They stretch across the room, disappearing intravenously into two waiting bodies like puppet strings.
A man and a woman lie back in separate but identical examination chairs. They are not strapped in. Though aware, neither has the desire to escape or cry out or utilize their any of their god-given abilities. A repetitive voice disguised as their own has subdued them. Over and over and over in the back of their minds it has told them these things until it they have become the unequivocal truth.
Their minds are stopped-up by warm pinkish bathwater. The voice is a constant methodical drip.
“I see you’ve both met Echo,” the doctor purrs. Her wedge-heels clop mutely against the linoleum of the floor as she crosses to stand beside the brain in the jar. She almost goes to rest her freshly manicured hand on it. Almost.
As if prompted by the woman’s proximity to the jar, air bubbles circulate up from beneath the brain and create ripples in the surface of the pink liquid. “Gorgeous piece of equipment. Is she not?” A devious smile curves across the doctor’s dry lips, slowly transmorphing into a comical pout. “She wasn’t so cooperative at first. … We’ve come to an understanding.”
From her chair beside Will, Misty widens her brown eyes. She strains to make frantic eye contact with him but paralyzed as she is by the mental echo, she is compelled not to move her own head or neck. Though her eyes are all panic, the rest of her face is picture perfect image of lax comfort.
Will is motionless at first, something he thought was a conscious decision to gain advantage, but he is quickly disabused of that notion when he tries to move. First his hand. Then a foot. Panic begins to set in as he is even unable to breathe heavily, his eyes beginning to wildly search for anything that can aid in his escape, his mouth opening wide to scream. Only it doesn't. His eye movements are the only thing left to him and there is fear there. A terrific, soul-crushing fear as he catches what views he can of the doctor and Echo.
"I know, I know," the doctor rolls her eyes, "/What's happening to me?/ /Why are you doing this?/" She mocks, crossing out of sight. "All in due time."
A cabinet slaps.
"What you both are experiencing is a product of Echo's psionic mutation. The liquid pumping into you acts as a facilitator for her unique hypnotic vibrations. You are completely under Echo's control and thanks to my serum, Echo is completely under mine."
The rustling of thin cardboard.
"No need to struggle. There's really no use."
The slap of a latex glove on someone's wrist.
Will's panic increases, if that's even possible, as nothing changes around him. It has been a part of him for so long the fact that now, when he needs it most, it does not come? Panic settles into defeat, fear a constant low pressure under every other thought. His eyes focus on Echo and his thoughts are not pleasant, the glass appearing not terribly sturdy at all to him. If he could but move. Just a bit. His arms nearly burn with the effort of forcing his limbs to concede to his will.
An attendant adjusts Will's chair so that his legs come up and he is lying back. He can still see the brain but has a better view of the ceiling. Someone's put a poster of a Hawaiian beach up there with thumb-tacks.
"Ah, yes. /You/ /asked/ /why/." The doctor comes around, some manner of swab in hand. She bends, showing Will her cleavage as she applies to the area surrounding his eyes. "I'll tell you that, too!" She hands the swab off to a third attendant. "You see, even if I intended for you to live. Which, unapologetically, I do not. Everything you experience while under Echo's influence is subject to a powerful and as far as I know, irreversible, posthypnotic amnesia. Even if you were to somehow get up and walk out of here, you wouldn't remember a thing I've said!" She laughs. Two clean, happy notes.
One of the attendees begins cutting his way up the sleeve of Will's shirt with a pair of scissors. The cold blade can be felt against his skin. Everything can be felt.
"You see, I believe in the doctrines of transpeciesism, giving oneself chosen mutant abilities. We do so through mutant blood transfusions, hormone mutagens, mutant organs or other body parts, like yours, to utilize as grafts and implants. Or as tools. Echo's brain, for example."
A flash of terror. Will struggles harder than he has at any point in his life, adrenaline spike as he attempts to do anything, anything at all. The worst of it is the cool metal of the scissors as his pant leg is cut away, realizating that he feels the drag of the blade up his skin in exquisite detail dropping the bottom out from under his terror and allowing him to fall into it. The doctor's words make no sense. Logically, of course, the words are heard and processed, but his emotions are tied in knots at talk of his body parts and the sanguine expectation that he will not see a moment beyond the pain, to be killed for what he is and what he has. His eyes flicker as he tries to find Misty, hoping against hope that she does not hear the same words he does.
Wide-eyed, Misty searches for Will out of her own peripheral. A fat tear swells up, sliding down the curvature of her lower eyelid before dropping off of her cheek.
"As is the case in normal grafts and implants, mutant organs do not always take," the doctor continues. She applies a gleaming chrome device to Will's eye like a terrible, metal spider. "Some die as a result of the process. The most recent of which from blood poisoning, when a mutant lung rotted inside of a man’s chest." The device keeps Will's eye open. "Personally, I view such events as a measure of one's, well .../deservedness/." She doesn't tell him that the pain is coming, when she removes the eye.
As the chrome device settles over his left eye, he tries desperately to close it to no avail. Now, now is the time he would be screaming if he could. An eye is such an intimate part of what makes a person and then there is the pain. It is an agony that screams in his mind as his vision his filled with blurred colors and then darkness, the left side of his world disappearing in mind-numbing pain. It feels like an eternity, but the doctor is efficient, if nothing else, the intense fire where what should've been his eye masking the feel of blood as it trails down his cheek, toward his ear.
They take his arm, too. It's a grueling process without painkillers. It isn't likely that he retains consciousness, but a new definition of eternity likely emerges for the man. They saw their way through his flesh. His bone.
Sure, they stitch him up.
They pump him full of blood and fluids.
...if only to keep him alive long enough to harvest the rest of him.
When Will regains consciousness, his chair is propped back up. He cannot see Misty. That side of the room is black.
Air bubbles rumble up from beneath the brain. Though the lighting in the room is dim, the organ retains a slimy sheen.
It takes him a long moment to wake from his nightmare into the greater terror that is reality, Will trying to groan and only finding it is his mind that hears his suffering. There's a deep throbbing on his left, but as he'd lost consciousness, it is hard for him to be completely sure. He believes he can feel the chair against his legs, but he can only feel the rest of the chair on his right. Something is missing, he's almost positive is arm is there, he can /feel/ it in his mind, but there is no sensation of contact with the chair itself. Tears well up in his right eye, pooling under it until it slides down the side of his face. It is the only indication of the sobs that shake him internally, his body unmoving.
Across the room, the brain bubbles again in its jar. Many of syringes pressed into its wet folds, which had been full at the beginning of Will's ordeal, are void of the neuro-agent serum they once contained. Only two remain full.
There is nothing for Will to do but sob ...without sobbing.
No time has passed.
There are no other sounds. The building must be empty.
There is nothing to stare into but Echo ...in her jar.
Every time bubbles boil up through that piglet-pink water, a fraction of the yellow goop in the remaining syringes goes down.
At some point, the voice disguised as Will's ...telling Will to remain still ...to lie there very still ...it stops.
The brain bubbles. With perhaps the only selfless act of her life, Echo tells him and the girl beside him, in voices disguised as their own -- with a furious pulse through the channel of pink liquid pumping into them -- that it's time to run for their lives. To run as far from this place as they can get and then, and only then, to wake up. And to forget.
When the voice that is not his, speaks to him of what he must do, Will can only act a pang of regret that he cannot save Echo as well. And then he's up, wobbly from so long without movement, his entire body prickly with returning sensation as he stumbles. He tries to make sure Misty is with him, unable to do anything but strictly obey the command given him, his eyes straying hard to find the younger woman as he moves with as much speed as he can muster away from the chair. Away from the surgical room. To stumble forward past doors and out into the world, pushing as hard as his devastated body will allow him as he follows the voice that is not his voice. He goes until his body will continue no further, constantly struggling to ensure Misty is with him, or to note when she's not so that he may go back for her.
When Will's battered form begins to fail, Misty slides up under his one remaining arm. Propping him up, she pushes onward as she obediently continues to follow Echo's last command.
As far from that place as they can get.