I snapped awake and frantically looked about me. This wasn’t my room. This wasn’t the usual Medical room either. Something crawled on the border of my mind. I shrank back from it and pulled into myself. Something was wrong here. It looked clean and bright, like the Medical Center’s rooms, but there was nothing here that hinted to healing. It felt sickly and rotten, like a dead thing just beginning to decompose. I snapped my attention to the door when I heard the lock disengage.
Cherise regarded me with surprise then treated me to a shy smile. “Ah, you’re awake. I should have known, though, with the way you’ve always burned off drugs. How do you feel?”
“Where are we?” This wasn’t right.
Her thin eyebrows came together in confusion. “At the Medic Center on the Complex,” Cherise told me slowly. “Where else would we be? The pain meds must be screwing with you.”
“This isn’t the CMC.”
“Yeah, it is. Now stop being so paranoid. Keep this up and Mother and Father won’t need you to tell them about that. They’ll see it in your eyes easily enough.”
“Ah,” I flushed with shame. “You’re right. I’m sorry.”
Cherise shrugged. She pulled out her chart and plugged my ID card into it. “You’ve scared quite a number of people with that last stunt you pulled, Temps. It’s not been easy trying to cover your tracks. Thomas Frankie is demanding that action be taken against you and students are rallying behind him. Mother and Father cannot look the other way this time. Too many people are involved. You’re in it deep for once.”
“What are the orders?” I did my best to ignore the creeping feeling. It was oozing just past the fields of my mind.
“Father just wants to kill you and let the civilians deal with you. It seems fair enough, really, after all the others you’ve gotten away with killing. Mother just wants you to be… controlled.”
“Put on some mind numbing drugs and locked up. She’s a bit of a softy, as usual.”
I resisted retorting with obvious sarcasm.
“But before I let them make a decision: tell me if that is still making you scream at night.”
Damn it. What could I say to that? She already knew what happened… but that didn’t mean I wanted to admit that it was still haunting me after three years. She had patched me up then, and not told anyone why I had killed for the first time. But I had let her think I was over it all and had only continued to kill as a cover to what had happened, not that I found sanity in solitude.
I couldn’t say anything at all.
Cherise took my silence as my answer. “If that’s the case, sleep well, Temps, because you’re going to need it before we’re done,” she told me. She left me again, saying she would be sending food to me soon.
I refused to sleep; the room didn’t stop feeling wrong. The food never came. My nerves wore down to brittle threads. I saw no one for hours. I heard only creaks and muffled thumps. I felt my sanity slipping. Truthfully, it didn’t have too far to go.
I cannot recall how long I was alone and staring into space with only my memories as company. I could almost feel the nails in my hands again as my scars throbbed to the beat of my heart. As my vision faded, I could feel the blindfold that haunted me still, its immaterial threads torturing me every time I closed my eyes. I shook and rubbed my hands together to remind my body that that was all in the past; that Mavic was dead. I should know, since I had been the one to rip his life from him. Between the two of us, I began to envy him. He was free as a civilian while I was still trapped as a Yin-Yang, dying the slow death that he began. My soul had been unraveling and soon there would be nothing left but my rage.
“This is boring.”
I looked to the frail chair in the corner of the room to see my patron god lounging carelessly. Aksa was close to 6’7″ in height and compared to my 5’8″ he was a giant. He was also a toned, lanky, human-bodied, dog-headed, collector of souls. If you believed in him, that is. The black fur on his head shone in the florescent light. His long-reaching, indigo robes covered his human skin. At first, I admit that he scared the daylights out of me when he showed up; most of the time I could feel his presence but not see him. There’s just something unsettling coming face-to-face with a god at all. At least at this age I didn’t scream like a little girl. Not saying that I used to, either, though.
He went on as I just stared at him with an eyebrow raised.
“Do you plan to sit here and await your judgment?”
“That’s the plan.”
“No one is coming. You can easily leave unseen.”
“Then, you might as well hang up a rope for me and tell me to hang myself.” I scowled at the sheets covering my lap.
“You’re in a foul mood.”
“I’m not here for your amusement, so what did you want?”
Aksa showed me all of his sharp pearly white teeth in a silent snarl.
I gave him a look. “And?”
He growled. “They will destroy you if you stay. I cannot allow that.”
“They will destroy me faster if I leave. You remember what happens to Rouges, don’t you? They kill them, no questions asked. Worse, the Policers can kill a Rouge with no repercussions. Hell, I wouldn’t put it past a civilian either, if they had the right tools. My ass would have a giant ‘kill me’ round target tattooed on it. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that sounds like a fun time.”
“Foolishness. You need to leave. Leave Sinclair if you must.”
“As much as I appreciate your selfish concern, I’m staying. I’m not going to die that easily. And you won’t be lost to the void. Are you done here?”
“Stupid mortal. See if I make the exchange for you when the time comes. You ‘Yin-Yangs’ don’t always get your second life.”
I fell back onto my bed and stared at the ceiling. “So, you’ll let me die? Now I have more reason to stay alive no matter what. Of all the gods to get, I get the one true ass.”
“That was harsh, Temps.”
“Go away. I’ll be seeing you soon enough.”
He left me alone then, the sense of his presence now a distant hum in the back of my head. After a long while of lying alone I heard the door open again. Ah, more visitors. I was suddenly so popular. I just didn’t know what to do with myself.
I sat up. “Hello, Mother.”
Graceful as ever, Mother sat in the chair Aksa had used. “What happened?”
I gave her a shrug. “I told you I didn’t want a roommate. Do you believe me yet? Or do I have to finish killing Frankie to make my point?”
She scowled. “Temps, that’s enough. Sylv may be right in suggesting your demise. It seems fair.”
“But it’s not and you know it. It goes against our rules. We can kill all the Yin-Yangs we want because that’s what we’re being trained to do. If you kill me for this sort of thing, this complex will fall apart. You know this better than I do. That’s why you’ve kept Father from following through with his threats.”
“I wish you weren’t so damn smart sometimes. But if that is true…”
“Then what do you suggest we do about you? We can no longer condone your actions, Temps. Too many are invested in this decision. You’re a good Yin-Yang, you have such great potential, and I don’t want to see you throw it all away because of some stupid testosterone contest. You need to stop this nonsense.”
I had “potential.” That was the closest I would ever get to a compliment from my parents and I had to restrain the smile that wanted to bloom on my face. I didn’t want to disturb the serious conversation; hopefully Mother would listen if she thought I wasn’t mostly crazy. “I can’t tell you what to do. Though I can suggest that you to let me out of this place.”
“Then, I can’t do that. Cherise is in the process of creating a way to keep you under control. We’ll let you out of here once that’s been taken care of.”
I rolled my eyes, something told me I would be more than “kept under control,” but with Cherise at the figurative wheel, I hoped things would go well. She was always looking out for me anyway; I knew she’d pull through when I really needed her. “How nice to know all this beforehand.”
“Honestly. You can’t expect special treatment all your life. Enjoy this dose of reality. Now be sure to drink up all of your Regen and I’ll see you shortly after Cherise is finished.”
“Bye, Mother. I love you.”
She bent and kissed my forehead. “I love you, too, Temps.”
It didn’t take them long to make whatever it was to keep me “under control”. The food finally arrived and I ate it quickly, downing the cup of Regen that was brought with it. When I set the cup down my family entered, the clink of the ceramic against the metal tray lost in the sound of their footsteps. Father had joined us this time and Cherise looked nervous enough to lose her lunch. I sympathized with her; our folks were pretty intimidating and usually she was left to her own devices. It must have been hard on her on so many different levels.
“Temps,” my father said in greeting.
Mother nodded at me.
Cherise gave me an apologetic look.
“Wow. It’s like it’s a fucking holiday or something. Happy Fuck It Day, guys.”
Father glared. “Shut the fuck up, Son.”
“Sylv, language,” Mother snapped.
Father looked properly scolded for a second.
Only my family bonded like this. It’s touching, right? Not. “So what’s on the menu? Brain-frying drugs? Or is it just some dumbing down shit?”
“Again, shut the f-”
“Sylvian Robins, you shut the fuck up.” Mother was always stricter with Father, given his history of crazy. It was nice that Father really could count on Mother to keep him under control. I don’t think there was a more whipped husband than he.
“Can we get on with it? I think the Regen is kicking in.” It was and my eyes were getting heavy and my limbs were turning to lead.
“Fine. Cherise, go on.”
“Alright, I decided that a Med Band was the best solution.”
Father scowled. “What the hell is a ‘Med Band’?”
Cherise’s confidence stumbled to a halt and she looked at my parents for the first time since they had all entered the room. At a gently raised brow from Mother, she plowed into an explanation. “They’re fairly recent in the Red field. It’s a bracelet that once put on, only the Medic who made it can take it off. Unless they pass the code on, that is. It acts as a drug administrator on a scheduled dosage. So Temps will be safe to be with the rest of the Complex even if there is not a Medic watching him all the time. It also acts as a tracking device. This way the Medic knows where the patient is. It triggers the same system that our ID cards do, without needing to be swiped…” Her words faded out and she shifted on her feet in front of their combined stares. She must have had more to say, but lost it in her own nervousness.
When neither of my parents had anything to add, I jumped right in. “It sounds like I’m your little dog to be looked after and kept track of. Where’s my leash? Do I get special kibble, too?”
Father speared me with his onyx eyes, forgetting about Cherise. “Don’t tempt me, Son.”
“A leash might be useful…”
“Mother!” I yelped. “That’s not funny!”
Her eyes smiled at me as her lips stayed level. “How do you know I was joking?”
I had nothing I could say to that, so I turned to Cherise. “You gonna get on with it?”
Cherise stepped forward and slipped an inch-wide metal crimson band around my right wrist. “This is your Medic Band. In it is your Controller…I mean the drug that I prepared for you,” she clicked the band tightly shut, snug against my skin. The moment I heard it latch into place, a needle shot out and sunk into the underside of my wrist and injected some drug into my blood. I flinched, then found I couldn’t focus my eyes anymore. Had it been the Regen or this new drug? I didn’t know.
I was simply knocked out of all consciousness in the matter of milliseconds. At least I didn’t dream.