There was something loud. Then nothing. Pain drove into my gut and flattened me. Shapes moved in the fog but I couldn’t make any sense of them. It hurt. It never seemed to stop hurting.
I don’t remember any of it. My mind was wrapped so deeply in a cotton veil that nothing got past the first sensation. Sometimes the fog would lift a little and I could make something out.
Frankie ushering me to bed.
Food being set in front of me.
Seemingly millions of punches connecting with my body.
All recognized a moment before the Medic Band injected me with another dose.
For the second time of my life, I was truly helpless again. My life passed in such a haze, that it could have been a true blindfold for all that I saw. I had no control over my limbs. Everything I did, was done against my will. I tried to fight the drug, to muster enough mental power to brush it aside like I usually could with any other drug. For once my ability to burn off the influences of substances in half the time as others copped out on me. I got as far as the “f” in “fuck” before I was obliterated once again. My sense of self abandoned ship and left nothing but the rage that I had been able to cage in tight in the past. I wanted nothing more than to be able to fight back. I was an easy target and no one was trying to stop it. They mostly took turns pulverizing me.
I was getting beaten unconscious every week.
Days passed into weeks, and weeks became months. Time lost all meaning. I lost all meaning. It’s a miracle that I was able to survive the Complex under the drug’s influence. I think I had Frankie to thank for that one, but you couldn’t make me thank that over-grown brute. I was sent to do my detentions, unable to do anything but follow my orders. It was like someone else was driving and I was the passenger in my own body. I was watched closely while working and students avoided me until the coast was clear. Then I would feel nothing but the echo of pain through my abused nerves and senses.
I hated my very existence without being able to form the thought.
Everyone still thought I was crazy and it was so easy to believe them. It was easier than trying to think for myself. I was kept out of classes and they even ceased updating my homework downloads. I was falling behind. I was an afterthought, until someone needed a punching bag.
I hadn’t realized how much time had passed until I had no detention to report to. It must have been months since I had first been injected. No one was there to give me orders, no one to tell me what to do.
Frankie was in class with everyone else.
I was finally free to try to come to a decision on my own. I shoved at the barriers in my mind with my mental hands. The shield curved under the pressure. It took all of my will power to focus enough of my thoughts on what I was doing. I couldn’t feel my body except for the dim ghost of the normal level of sensations. Then, just as I was about to give up, my hands passed through the barrier. The sThanatos over my eyes snapped up and light blinded me. I had gotten used to the gradual development of sight and touch, so my mental eyes had to adjust to the bedlam of shapes and colors.
My body blinked on its own. Weird. But I could tell I was standing outside of the cafeteria, near the center of the complex. I would have cried in relief if I had had the control to do so when I brushed a mental hand over the green grass that waved in the wind before me. I grabbed a chunk of it and ripped it from the ground, to test my control. And Aksa, did that shiver of pure joy feel good. Bits of grass rained onto the sidewalk before my immobile body as I dropped it all, one blade at a time.
When I was done with the grass I turned my focus on my body. I could only move what I could see. That was one of the few limitations that I had on my Skill. It was a pain in the ass, most of the time, but right at that moment, I was just happy to be doing something by my own will. I saw the tip of my nose and used a mental finger to push it down. It was like I was playing with a giant doll, because then I could see my torso, arms, hands, legs and feet.
Moving something with my invisible hands never felt so satisfying. Right down to the toes of my soul, I tingled with anticipation. I slid my control over the length of my body, molding to my contours, and taking control in the only way I could. Sweet Aksa was I skeletal. It was a wonder my limbs were still functioning.
I tested my Skill, and pulled a leg forward, shifting my balance in my torso to match the step. I had moved. I had fucking moved! Best present I had ever given myself. I took another step. Then another. I was walking smoothly in five minutes’ time. It was jerky and more akin to a puppet’s movement than a person’s, but it was intoxicating.
I was so happy, that I would have been bursting with it, for the first time in three years. Sad isn’t it? But I wasn’t about to let that little thought get in the way of my new-found freedom.
I could move. I could walk. But could I run?
Hell yeah, I could run. I flexed the muscles of my poor out of shape Skill and I ran. The energy within me had been so pent up that I was choking on it. My feet slammed into the ground, I was even pushing away from the ground with my mental hands to go even faster. I passed through the Complex gates without slowing, my Medic Band sent a signal to the lock mechanism automatically. On the street I ran through a sea of colors. The suddenness of the brightness made my world turn upside-down and twist about itself. It felt so good to finally feel something through the fog that I kept running. I could almost feel the wind brushing past my mental hold over my body.
I had to rest and my body tried to get a lungful of air as I leaned against the brick wall of a corner building. As I breathed I looked up, rolling my head back then up against the bricks with a finger on my nose to see where I was. I couldn’t make sense of the words that hung on the sign above me, but I understood the coffee cup picture well enough. My hand reached over on its own and sought the door knob.
At the answering click as it opened, I looked over to see the door swing inward.
Then the familiar stabbing of the needle into my wrist sent all of my control packing. The shutters snapped shut again, but this time I could see through small cracks.
Something hard connected with my body. Or had I collided with the hardness? Cold seeped into my cheek and a loud ringing noise settled in my ears as the world moved beyond the veil of my awareness. More noise sounded before something touched my bruised cheek. Uncontainable panic burst from me and had I been able to use my Skill, something would have been ripped asunder. As I was, my body could only flinch away from the warmth and I recognized my voice leak out in a strangled whimper. Even without me behind the figurative wheel, my body remembered the feeling of abuse.
The deeper tone to the noise told me that someone was there, but I couldn’t pinpoint where. I couldn’t even tell you if I was even standing anymore. Knowing my luck, I wasn’t; which would explain the hard and surface I was against.
The touch returned and my panic grew. I must have flailed ridiculously. A shape formed in my vision through the cracks and I did my best to mentally glare at it.
The shape moved away and a deep unintelligible murmur rang in my ears. Why couldn’t I just be left alone here? It was nice…
What was that? I felt the echo of warmth hover above my arm. I tensed instinctively and waited for the first round of pain that usually followed.
“Hey… damnit. Someone get me some water and call…”
I could almost hear the words. It was like they were at the end of a very long tunnel that was collapsing around me. I would have bet they’d call the Complex, since I had the tell-tale black and white hair. If I had been comprehensive enough, that is. My family would be sent for and ordered to take the poor retard home. I wanted to sink into the ground and hide. Father would never let me hear the end of it and they’d probably chain me to a pole and make me tend the gardens till I Restarted. Like a fucking dog.
“What the hell is this? Didn’t I tell you to stop picking up strays?” the murmur was lighter in tone. The words floundered in my mind.
“Just give me a hand.”
“Help me or leave.”
“Idiot. I’ll put him on the stretcher. Then let’s get out of here.”
Something tickled my back, and then I was bouncing lightly on something that gave more than concrete. Wind trailed over my face sending a cold shiver down my spine. This was getting weirder and weirder. Time elapsed in bursts. It sped up then wound to a stop. My heart seemed to have the same idea, but every time I thought I had had my last beat, another one followed. I tried to move my body and nothing happened, then I tried to feel about with my Skill and still nothing. The drug had taken over fully once again. I was in the darkest corner while my body went on auto-drive.
“What’s wrong with him?” The deeper tone again.
“Once we get to an MC, I can tell you.”
“Then walk faster.”
There was a long pause, then a hesitant inquiry. “Why are we helping him?”
I felt the warmth hover over my cheek again, but no contact followed. A murmur edged past my range of hearing.
Silence, blissful silence reigned after that. My eyes must have closed along the way because I was startled into seeing bright bits of color when an onslaught of noise suddenly began. Everything was white and red. I passed under long lights and stopped my trek in a muffled room. My back tickled again before I dropped a centimeter into a soft mattress.
So much happened at once that I cannot recall it. Before I could react, some of my blood had been taken. Something cold touched my lips and I found focus on the sensation. I shoved the shutters on my eyes aside and saw that bent over me was a Blue. I knew him the moment I could make out crimson eyes and pink accents in his hair. My focus traveled over the form of his face as the cold numbed my lips.
“Hey, open your mouth.” The deeper tone that I had been hearing belonged to him. But why in Aksa’ name had he helped me? I would have asked him if I had had the control to speak. Hell, I wish I could open my mouth to eat the ice he was trying to feed me. I was thirsty but my body refused to respond. He was careful not to touch me as the cold drips slid down the sides of my face.
“Is he awake?” The lighter voice returned. It belonged to a Red woman with light-blue eyes that were hidden behind large, round glasses. The light glinted off of them as she looked at me. I looked right back through my unfocused eyes.
“Yes, but I can’t get him to respond.”
“This would be so much easier if we had his ID card. Then I could look in his chart and see why he has this Med Band on. I’ve called the Red who made it, but I don’t know how long it will take them to get here.”
“What was the name?”
“She works over at the MC on the BW Com.”
“Makes sense. When will you get the blood results?”
“A couple days. The lab guys are getting crammed with work since Lucille retired.”
“How is the old bat?”
“That ‘old bat’ is Ms. Lancer to you, Éttienne.”
“She considers me family, after all I am her niece’s best friend.”
“I can change that. I heard Francene was looking for a new best friend. I may just take her up on the offer.”
“Don’t you dare.”
As weird as it was to have these two hold such a “normal” conversation like that with me in the room, I didn’t want them to stop talking. I couldn’t recall the last time people had talked so naturally around me. The only person I had had a proper conversation with for the past three years was Cherise.
A knock sounded softly on the door and my new acquaintances fell silent. Both adopted a stiff professional stance as they made ready to greet the newcomer. My moment of enjoyment fell when I saw who opened the door. Speak of the devil and he shall come tap dance on your grave. Cherise stood there, also very properly poised with her hands clasped and her back straight. Her bright red hair shone in the bright lights and I was annoyed to see that she had arrived already.
“Who are you?” The Blue asked.
“Cherise Robins. I had a Grey drive me over as soon as I go your call. I’m sorry this patient has been such a pain.”
The Red’s tone was guarded. “Who said he was a ‘pain’? I only called you because I wanted to know who he was so I could get his chart from the MD.”
“There’s no need to. I’m here to take him back to the Complex. I’m quite embarrassed that he left it without us being any wiser.”
“What’s wrong with him, Robins? Why is he not responding? Where did he get these bruises?”
“Not responding? That’s ridiculous, he simply only responds to the people he knows. Otherwise he’s a bit of a klutz.”
The Red stepped closer to me, blocking Cherise. “What’s the Med Band for?”
“His own good. Now, if you’ll excuse us. I’m going to take him home…”
“How? He can’t even walk! Even without Lancer giving him a full exam I can clearly tell that he is in no shape to go anywhere!” The Blue was livid.
Cherise paid him a bored look then turned her attention to me. “Come on Temps, follow me.”
At the sound of my name my body betrayed me and sat up. The other two in the room jumped, Cherise smiled. My feet set on the floor for a moment before I was unsteadily headed to her side.
“What-!” I didn’t see their expressions as I was facing the wall, but it was a little flattering to know they had thought I mattered enough to get upset over.
“Don’t worry about him, I think I can handle my baby brother.” Cherise placed a hand on my shoulder and directed me out of the room. We left the Medic Center quickly. I couldn’t make sense of where we turned or how we ended up on the street. Without a word Cherise took her hand off of my shoulder and marched me back to the Complex. She was mad, seething, really, I could tell by the way her walk didn’t hold its usual bounce. It was as stiff and measured as it had been when she had been speaking to the Blue and Red.
I wanted so badly to ask her what was wrong.
“Temps, Mother and Father are not to find out about this. Don’t you dare tell them. It was bad enough that you made a fool of me in front of the Master Tech and his Medic. There’s no one like Pion Lancer in the Red Clan and you just made me look so incompetent. It’s times like these I hate being your sister.”
I wanted to apologize to my sister for not thinking. I couldn’t stand the idea that she was mad with me. I had made the one person that really cared about me look like a fool. It made me want to curl up and hide. I was screaming my apologies at her from my crippled mind. I almost got my voice to form the words when the rest of her tirade was cut short as the Medic Band gave me another dose of the drug.
I was getting better at burning off the effects, apparently, since I had been able to get past the barrier earlier, so by the time we were on the Complex grounds I had a vague awareness of where I was again.
The rest of the night drifted past without my involvement. Cherise left me at the entrance of the dorms in Frankie’s capable hands; at least when I was with him, I didn’t get pounded into the ground. He took one look at me with those bright orange eyes of his and his lip curled up in a sneer. He rumbled something in his low voice that made Cherise laugh. He dragged his murderous gaze up from my silver eyes to hers. She rolled her eyes at him, said something more, and left us in the doorway illuminated by the light from the dorm hall.
“Alright, Temps Robins, go upstairs, eat the snack I left you on your bed, and get ready for bed,” Frankie sighed. He was getting as sick of this whole situation as I was. Goody.
I wondered how long he would keep taking care of me, when he really wanted me out of the way.
The part that had me even more scared than the idea of getting beaten again was that as the drug’s veil lifted, my control over my body shrank. I was getting shoved to the side to make room for someone else to control my movements and I didn’t like it. Not one bit. It was time I began using my Skill again.
Frankie barely paid attention to me and sat back down in front of his computer. When I came back into the room after washing up in the bathroom, he spoke with a bored tone. “Temps Robins, go to sleep.”
It was my last order of the day and without a choice, I did. My eyes closed and the world went black. I fell into the dreamless ‘sleep’ that I had come to appreciate; no more nightmares meant a little more sanity in the morning.