Authors: Andrew Hall
Tags: #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Superheroes, #Science Fiction, #Alien Invasion, #Genetic Engineering, #Post-Apocalyptic, #Superhero
The operations wore on; Tabitha had long
since lost her mind to the pain. How long had it been since she’d first woken
up on the table? Minutes? Days? Time had bent and warped here under the ring of
surgical lights, stretched and distorted as she passed in and out of
consciousness. The only constant was the pain of the operations, and the little
heavens in between as her body healed and the agony subsided. Tabitha bled,
healed, bled again. She tried to distract herself from the insanity of her
pain. She tried to fill her mind with a murderous mantra; an angry wall against
the searing stabs and cuts. Daydreams of violent revenge on the people who’d
stripped her humanity away. Blake and the doctor here. The husky woman. Jackie
. It was the only thought she could cling to in the
maddening tide of pain.
When Tabitha came around again she felt
a needle going into her arm. She could only look sidelong at the doctor as he
worked, staring and motionless like a living doll. Was it back to the
anaesthetic then? Was he finished with his torture? She still felt the pain of
her stitches all over. She didn’t feel any more doped, now that he’d pulled the
needle out. She realised with a shattered hope that it wasn’t anaesthetic at
all. He’d only taken a blood sample. He’d been running wires into her back
while she was unconscious. Plugging her in. The next round of tests were far
more terrifying, and she felt all of it. Every jolt of current that he sapped
, in the place where a human heart
used to beat. Every twitch and jerk, every sob, every wail that he coaxed from
her with the rods he slid into her spine. And to top it all, it was how he
spoke about her to the husky woman while he was doing his experiments. Like
they were looking under the bonnet of a brand new car. Talking excitedly about
adaptations and hybrid components, as if she wasn’t a person at all. If she had
any fear left inside her, any tears or panic or grief, she couldn’t feel it.
The doctor’s scalpels may as well have cut out her feelings. The electrodes
shocked every emotion away.
Tabitha woke up again in the
interrogation room. She stared in a daze at the doctor’s clicking fingers in
front of her, her bright eyes fixed on his hand like a child. Everything slid
back into focus. The doctor sat opposite her at the steel table. To his right,
the husky woman. Her sandy-blonde hair was greying. She had thin lips and a
stern look, devoid of compassion. The white fluorescent light hummed above them
on the ceiling. Tabitha stared dead ahead in her seat, a zombie, looking past
both of them sitting opposite. She stared at the far wall; stared at the
painted bricks. Tried not to think about the surgical slices and bruises that
covered her arms and legs. She had no strength left to struggle against her
thick restraints. There was that hospital smell again like cleaning fluid, and
the plastic stink of her gown. The clammy feel of patient slippers on her feet.
And that cold hollow trembling in her body lately; a shiver that she couldn’t
‘We’ve found so
much that we can’t interact with,’ the doctor told the woman. Tabitha heard his
high croaky voice and it ran down her back like a rusty nail. Her dosed-up
thoughts were swimming and hard to grasp, like vague glass fish in murky pond
water. But she had a memory then. Of a needle going in, and a threat she’d made
to him. It was a distant thought, fleeting and forgotten again. Someone had
held her by the throat in this room. He’d gripped her jaw and hurt her, and
tried to reach out and touch her. She’d made him angry somehow; made him
overreact. She felt a spark of joy then. For making him angry. There were more
memories bubbling up in her mind, but from a different time. Long ago. She
remembered happiness, and her mum and dad. No… they were gone. They’d died.
Murky memories of friends, old and new, and a dog. They were all gone too. It
was just her now, stuck to a chair in a bright white room, bruised and sliced
and stared at in all her stark fault and mutation. Dosed up on something that
made life swim like a bad dream. The woman and the doctor were talking.
‘You don’t have
we can apply?’ said the husky woman,
short-tempered. Tabitha’s eyes drifted from the far wall between them; flicked
to the woman. The woman held Tabitha’s gaze, and then looked away from her.
I need more
time,’ the doctor replied, apologetic. ‘There’s no frame of reference… I need
to try different approaches. This is all new to me.’ Tabitha’s eyes flicked to
him. He looked away too. The hard light overhead bared everything. The grey
skin of her hands, the stapled slices in her skin, the plum-purple blush of her
bruises. Her hands shook.
‘Can she hear
us?’ the woman asked the doctor. She could. She could hear them.
said in her head.
I can hear you.
Her throat and her mouth wouldn’t make
the sound come out, like her
was on mute.
She blinked her stinging eyes, and gulped in her dry throat.
said in her head.
I’d like some water please.
‘She can,’ the
doctor told the woman, after studying Tabitha’s doped stare. Tabitha had zoned
out, trembling and staring at the blank white wall. When she looked around she
found herself in the interrogation room. She saw the doctor sitting there at a
table in front of her, and the husky woman beside him. The white fluorescent
light hummed above them on the ceiling. Tabitha found herself covered in cuts
and bruises that stood out hard in the light. She tried to speak; nothing came
out. She panicked. Why couldn’t she speak? Why couldn’t she move? What had they
been doing to her? The woman and the doctor just sat there, staring.
unfortunate that she needs to be conscious for the procedures,’ the doctor
observed. ‘But her nanotechnology is so much more pronounced when she’s awake.
And it’s in
. Cell regeneration, bio-electrical current,
respiration.’ Tabitha looked at him and understood, and a creeping dread fell
over her in that rare moment of clarity. Experiments. Operations. She
remembered now. She pulled frantically against her restraints. Within seconds
she was exhausted, and looking around at the room again.
‘Does she even
know where she is?’ said the husky woman, studying Tabitha’s lost expression.
‘It’s a side
effect of the medication I’m giving her for the procedures, to paralyse her,’
the doctor replied. ‘In the beginning she was kicking and screaming too much
for me to operate.’
‘I’d rather not
know the grizzly details,’ the husky woman replied, wearing a look of distaste.
‘All I want to know is, how much is she aware of? How much will she remember?’
I’d imagine,’ he replied, studying Tabitha’s searching eyes. ‘She’ll see us and
hear us now, and in another two minutes she could have forgotten everything all
‘What if you
took her off the medication?’ said the woman.
most likely suffer with chronic trauma at a subconscious level. But nothing
much on the surface, so to speak.’
interested in her psychology,’ the husky woman replied, tapping a pen on her
notepad. ‘All I need to know is whether we can keep her around indefinitely without
her attacking anyone.’
recommend it,’ the doctor replied, shaking his head. ‘We’d have to keep her
restrained permanently. Cared for, et cetera. And medicated.’
‘We can’t spare
those resources,’ the husky woman replied simply. ‘Just take what you can from
her and put her out of her misery. Grow her cells or something, I don’t know. I
I want to see us winning this war.’
‘I’ll do my
best,’ the doctor replied, watching Tabitha’s dazed expression. Tabitha saw the
doctor there in front of her, and the husky woman. The fluorescent light buzzed
overhead, reflected in the steel table where they sat. Had they asked her a
question? She couldn’t remember. When Tabitha opened her mouth, she realised
that she couldn’t speak. Why did she have so many cuts and bruises? Why
couldn’t she move?
‘Take her in
again this afternoon,’ the woman commanded, watching Tabitha panic in her chair
again. ‘Her hands are the priority. If they won’t do what you want, open them
them. Or cut them off.’
afternoon?’ the doctor replied. ‘But she’s been in surgery non-stop for
. Her body won’t cope with any more trauma unless she’s given time to
‘I don’t care
how much trauma her body can cope with,’ the woman growled, standing up
from the table. ‘I care
about getting the alien tech out of
and into weapons we can use against
. Before we’re all extinct. Is
clear, Ma’am,’ the doctor replied, suddenly fearful of her as she loomed over
him. The husky woman gave him a cold stare and knocked on the door. A soldier
opened it from the other side, and held it open for her as she left the bright
room. The doctor looked at Tabitha for a moment, and got up from his seat to
walk around behind her where she sat.
I remember now,
Tabitha said to
herself, as the doctor pulled her wheelchair away from the table.
man I’m going to skin.
There was a wait before Tabitha’s next
operation could start. She lay prepped and restrained on the operating table,
half panicked and half dazed in amnesia. The doctor kicked and fiddled with
some kind of battery block in the corner of the room. A monitor
relentlessly beside her, and reminded her of supermarket
It was a long
wait on the operating table before the doctor could start the procedure.
Tabitha was bolted down with the thick cuffs around her limbs, although she couldn’t
move her body anyway. She could only stare in paralysis at the ring of lights
above her, or catch glimpses of the doctor in the corner of her eye. Once the
equipment was up and running again, the doctor loomed over her and began to cut
her left hand open. Though she panicked and tried to pull away, she hardly felt
a thing. Her grey hands had always been numb to touch anyway; it was only the
sounds of chopping and tearing that ran through her. Until he started on the
flesh and bone beneath. Tabitha screamed silently, her mouth still. The doctor
watched her carefully for any reaction. All she could do was stare frantically
into his oversized spectacled eyes whenever they hovered into view above her.
When the doctor moved aside for another instrument, Tabitha strained her eyes
left to see the mess of her hand. He’d opened up the metal skin; picked her
finger joints apart. Sawn her thumb half off. She drifted away in a daze of
agony, lost in the pale speckled ceiling. The
monitor brought her back round. When she looked again at the ceiling, she
realised she was in the operating theatre. Her hand was agony; what had he done
to it? How long had she been here?
I’d like to stop
she said to him, inside her head.
I’d like to go to sleep
Put me down like an animal, and then you can take whatever you
want. Just please, no more.
The doctor pulled a strand of grey flesh from
her palm, pushed the monitor trolley beside the bed out of his way, and
scurried off to examine his prize under a microscope.
Tabitha felt a
sudden tingle in her dangling broken fingers. Shocked, she glanced over through
the corner of her eye. The monitor
beside her, inches from her hand. It trembled then, attracted to her like a
magnet. The casing rattled slightly. A spark jumped from the monitor to her
finger; a tiny blue-white arc of voltage. Another spark came after it, leaping
to her dangling dissected fingertip. The current wiggled inside her arm, up
into her shoulder, and tickled the bones in her neck. Current reaching out to
her, embracing her. She felt the voltage heal her. Something popped back
together in her spine, and she blinked suddenly like she’d woken up from a
dream. Her throat felt
again. Her core and her limbs felt
She wiggled her toes. She made a tiny noise in her throat, a sorry croak,
too quiet for the doctor to hear in the corner. Her hand was agony, a total
mess. At least she could move it now though, a little. Her mangled hand was her
Tucking in her
half-sawn thumb as best she could, Tabitha gritted her teeth and tried to bunch
together her strung-out fingers. A sickening pain hit her as she pressed her
loose thumb deep into her palm, trying to make her hand as thin as possible.
With a sharp tug, and with plenty of blood around to lubricate it, she managed
to pull her mangled left hand out through the restraint with a whispering
squelch. She looked over at the doctor’s back, wide-eyed with her secret
success. The doctor was still hunched over the microscope in the corner,
blissfully unaware. With broken bleeding fingers Tabitha searched the metal
band that restrained her head. There was a smooth recess on the front of it; a
button. She pushed her sturdiest mangled knuckle into it, dripping silver blood
on her face, and heard a soft click as the head restraint popped open. It was
worth the agony to hear that click. Free to move her torso, she reached her
left hand over to her right cuff. It was harder to press the release button on
the distant restraint though, with virtually no command of her mangled fingers
and thumb. The release button felt miles away. The pain made her head spin.
Desperately she reached over again and pressed a loose knuckle into the sunken
button. The shackle popped open with a tiny click. With her upper body free,
she sat up and unlocked her ankle cuffs and cradled her mangled left hand.