|Location||Bellevue Hospital Center|
|Summary||Rohan digs into Will's memories.|
Medical jargon echoes drolly over the hospital's Ear-synched alert system, intermingling with the ambient beeping and humming of the surrounding health monitors and other out-of-date medical equipment.
The private room which Will is being housed, separate from Misty, is on the fourth floor of Bellevue Hospital Center. The cheap holoprojector glitches on occasion and the only available window looks out onto a cinder block wall.
A uniform has been posted outside of his door since his arrival first in the ER and then, here. That uniformed officer is currently several doors down at the nurse's station, where he is looming over a nurse in seafoam-colored scrubs and a high ponytail.
Rohan eyes the uniform uncomfortably as he arrives. However, given the officer seems currently otherwise occupied, he strolls right into Will's room, with all the nonchalance of someone who is certain he belongs.
Will awakens slowly, taking time to acquaint himself with the fact that it was not a bad dream when only one eye opens. He doesn't seem to have the courage to test for his arm. Or "move" it. His one good eye is open by the time Rohan walks in, his head turning in the other man's direction.
Will's hospital bed is standard. A remote by his one good hand controls its orientation, allowing for him to sit partially up with its aid. The linens are powder-blue and white. He is hooked up to fluids and a mild sedative that allows him to think clearly without being in copious amounts of pain.
A nurse walks by the door. She doesn't check inside, though.
"Hey," says Rohan quietly, approaching the bed. His voice is low, gentle; he moves slowly. "How are you feeling?"
"It's been a pretty shit day, I'll be honest," Will says, attempting a grin, though the bandages about his head don't leave much room for that. "You know I don't remember, right? I tried, but it's just... I don't know. How can you forget something like that? The only thing I really remember is waking up to find you guys there. And Misty. How is she? Is she okay? She's not like me, is she?"
"She's fine," Rohan reassures. "No missing parts. All whole and attached, one hundred percent Misty." He hesitates for a moment. "I think you ran into an old...friend," and he says that word dryless, "of mine who makes people forget. I can probably bring your memories back, if you're ready for that."
He seems relieved at Rohan's report on Misty, though the fact that the other man is familiar with what may have happened and also suggests returning his memories? Will stiffens for a moment, jaw tight, "I-- there's not really a choice, is there? I don't know what happened, but by not knowing, someone else might end up like me."
"I don't want to make you relive it," says Rohan quietly, "but, yes. We can't really not know, for other people's sakes." His face twitches a little. "It might have been something I could have stopped, months ago, if--I'd done better."
"Well, since I can't remember it, I can't really say I've lived through it," Will comments, obvious bravado in his voice. "The if game is never a good one, man. This shit happens because we're mutants and a choice you made isn't going to be the last time one of us ends up like this. So-- let's do this, eh?"
Rohan draws a deep breath. "All right," he says quietly. "I'm going to slip into your memories now. If something bubbles up that's too intense--let me know and I'll let you have a moment to catch your breath." And he settles into a chair by Will's bed, and wades into the smooth reflecting pool of his mind.
Water slides down from the ceiling tiles like a faint drizzle, accumulating on the floor and dampening everything in between. It's nearly a foot deep. Every little drop causes a new ripple. It's through this that Rohan's mind and will's buried consciousness emerges ...as if having been submerged.
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.
Will -- Rohan -- lies back in an examination chair identical to Misty's. 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.
Rohan knows that voice. He knows the feel of that mind. He twitches at it, but he keeps going, his jaw set, his teeth digging into his lower jaw. He needs to see, to bring these memories back to life. Echo be damned.
"I see you've both met Echo," an elegant black woman purrs. She wears a white lab coat. A reptilian tail winds down from beneath her pencil skirt, wrapping casually around one of her legs.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."
"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."
Will groans, the memory of the terror that had gripped him at this moment flooding his body once again. He tries desperately to keep his mind open to Rohan, despite the fear choking back at him.
Rohan's eyes widen. Echo...and not Echo. He reaches out to take Will's remaining hand. "Just stay with me, mate," he says, firmly pushing aside all his Echo-memories. It takes an effort. "Just stick with me, and we'll help everyone so much."
Will nods, "This is not going anywhere good. Not even a little. You think I could maybe a get a refund on this ticket? I'll watch it when it comes out on vid." He's forcing himself to smile, but he does seem a little firmer at Rohan's words.
"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.
"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."
She doesn't tell him that the pain is coming, when she removes the eye.
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 take his arm, too. They saw their way through his flesh. His bone.
Will remembers. And he remembers hard. The pain is one thing, but the helplessness that goes along with it? The time that seems unending? He chokes back tears, asking almost desperately, "Do you know where they are? Does this help?"
Rohan sees this, as Will does. He feels it, as he does. He /remembers/ and the memories twine about his. He winces, and gives Will's hand a squeeze. _Echo's brain_. That stands out for him, and he twitches at it. "It helps," he says, firmly. "It helps, that we know all this we didn't know before..." He bites his lip. "Just a little more. Just a little more."
Will sighs and nods, "All right, let's do this. I was so completely in their control, I don't know how I got away at all."
Across the room, _Echo's 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.
At some point, the voice disguised as Will's ...telling him 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.
...But she knew this wouldn't be forgotten, didn't she? Because the path that Will takes ...every wind in the corridor ...every detail of the stairwell even out into the street ...it's all crystal clear. Perfectly preserved for anyone looking in the right place.
"She let me go," Will whispers, a bit of awe in his voice, "And the path. She's telling us where this place is, there's no way I could remember that considering the pain I was in." There's gratitude in his voice. Appreciation for a prisoner that saved others.
Rohan doesn't say anything. Not at first. The pain Echo left him in is still raw in his heart, and he presses his lips tightly together. Finally, he says, voice rough, "She is. But is it genuine or is it a trap?"
"A trap?" Will turns his one good eye on Rohan, confusion written in the gaze, "What do you mean? Rohan, we would have died there. Misty would've been cut up next. She saved us."
Rohan's face is grim. "I know her," he says. "I knew her--well, once. She was in my head. She was not so kind to me." He swallows. "But let's not argue about it. We'll--see what the others think."
Will shakes his head with a sigh, "I'm sorry. It's been a rough week and I'm not looking for a fight after you just went through what was up here," he says, tapping his temple with a finger. From his one arm. There's a brief flash of suffering when he realizes it will only ever be that one arm. "It should be enough, though, right? Whatever else happens?"
Rohan looks down, as if to check he still has both arms, intact and whole. He lets out a low breath. "It should be enough," he says. "I think that was a lot more than we had before." He hesitates, and then offers, "If you don't want that memory, let me know and I can hide it again for you. You don't have to remember it, if you don't want to. Just..if you decide that, take your time to decide it and be very clear and precise on what you want to forget."
Will considers for a long moment and then shakes his head, slowly, "I need to remember. This will be a part of me for my entire life and I need to know why. And the reason is because someone could. This is what we are, I won't forget it if I have a choice."
"I generally agree with you," says Rohan. "We are the sum of our memories. And you will never be able to forget it happened--for obvious reasons--but I could take away the pain. Sometimes--it helps to remove the pain." He straightens up a little. "Anything I could get you?" he asks. "Food, water, a pillow?"
Will shakes his head, "No, I think I just need to rest some and... come to terms with what happened and where I'm at now. Thanks, Rohan. For everything."
Rohan nods, quietly, at that, and arises. He moves a little stiffly. "Take care," he says. He steps toward the door and then pauses. "And if you have problems sleeping, let me know? I know a telepath upstate who helped me a lot with that, once."The guard returns to his post just as Rohan has already slipped away.