Nothing about this situation sat well with me.
Nothing I did shook the feeling that I was being duped. I had expected Jules and Camille to find Robin or Amelia by the time I’d stopped spending time with Oriole, but there had been no news. Brandy gave me a drink. Victoria made herself scarce. An hour passed before I’d contacted Jules, who simply told me to go about my day. I would receive a call when they were ready to make a move.
Consistently being kept in the dark by my supposed friends always made me wonder why I kept them. I had responsibilities to attend to. Visits to make, groceries to shop for. People to take care of. As ever-present as they were, my feelings of inevitable betrayal would have to linger.
I climbed the spiral steps of the hellhole that was the Freemont housing complex. The staircase was too narrow, forcing me to squeeze past every person loitering on a landing. I felt paranoid for pulling the bag of produce I carried tighter to me, but I’d had food stolen here before. I would have taken the elevator, but given that the guard rail designed to prevent the clumsy from falling to their death wouldn’t support a child, I wasn’t enamored to the building’s maintenance department.
The rent was cheap, though, and that was a godsend when paying for two apartments in Chicago.
Everything here was normal, but a routine grocery delivery wasn’t what echoed through my mind. My mind was mulling over Amelia’s antics, and Oriole’s plight. I felt responsible in no small way—If I could simply keep my cool once in a while I might have been able to stop her from getting drugged. I could have kept her sister from a predator’s clutches. It wasn’t unfair to put a lot of blame on me—Though Oriole didn’t seem to.
Amelia’s antics were not making sense. I had been watching her for some time—From the day she tried to get into the Cage before she turned eighteen. She returned with a fake ID weeks after, but Victoria saw to interrogating her on her actual birthday. She’d always struck me as predatory, even before she set herself to ‘trying’ all the new girls who walked in.
I was the first to speak up when some of those girls started to disappear.
Amelia had never been subtle about her predation, but she had kept it low-key enough for others to tolerate and make excuses for her. She’d always follow safety protocols while in the club. She respected the club’s safeword system when other people were around. She maintained a few influential play partners—Brandy in particular—who would vouch for her whenever someone would complain. So why would she blow the lid off her cover now?
More than that, why had everyone banded together to take her down so readily? Jules would have made sense, she cared about Oriole enough to see that she wasn’t harmed by anybody else, but proximity to Camille made Jules a more passive person. The relationship between those two had always been an enigma to me, acting as an inseparable pair despite conflicting, often warring personalities. The two were inseparable when Camille came to town.
I wasn’t sure about Camille’s personality. I had never seen her without Jules being nearby, and I had no clue what effect Jules had on her personality. Jules became more passive, but did the same apply to Camille? Camille had agreed to live in New York according to Jules. Two far-seers within even the same city played havoc on both of their minds. Yet she made her occasional visits to Chicago, most often unannounced.
I had no idea what her goals were, and that put me on edge.
Brandy always seemed like she could be convinced if there was enough evidence—Ori showing up while overdosing on a mystery drug would be enough for her. Victoria, on the other hand, was acting out of character. The Victoria I knew would be quick to brush Amelia under the rug. Bar her from the club and pretend she never existed. The Victoria I knew would give Oriole space to sleep for a night, but she wasn’t one to organize a witch hunt. She was loathe to get her hands dirty under any circumstances.
I couldn’t understand the three other members of my team. I put on a brave face for Oriole, but nobody was acting in any way I would have predicted. I was missing something.
A gaggle of children brushed past my leg and I seized up, digging my fingers into my palms. Electricity crackled at the edges of my mind, and I focused on grounding it within myself instead of lashing out at the children. It wasn’t real electricity, but the mental image was good enough for my own explanations of how it felt. I stood on the stairway as a few more children brushed past me.
Being touched by another person when I wasn’t expecting was always disconcerting. I needed to focus to not discharge myself into their nervous systems without intending to. Others could control the way they manipulated other people’s minds, their talents manifested in ways that could simply be ignored, or at least did not actively harm those around them when they couldn’t be controlled.
For me, being a psychic was an exercise in constant restraint.
I had to actively restrain myself during any physical contact to not have the other person receive an unexpected full-body exploration of their nervous system. It wasn’t a great effort on my part, simply keeping my powers in mind when I might be touched was enough on most days, but it was very easy to lose track when lost in thought.
I refocused myself and turned off of the staircase. Peeling wallpaper and dim light bulbs added to the oppressive atmosphere the tower block exuded. I walked to apartment 612 and knocked. There was a scramble of activity on the other side, feet pattering against the ground, objects being moved. She was hiding something.
“Coming!” Juana’s voice carried through the thin door. I crossed my arms and sighed, sitting in clear view of the door’s peephole. Juana’s paranoia should not have bothered me as much as it did. Stargate exacerbated her neuroses and security routines helped ease her paranoia, but it made simple visits take longer than were necessary.
Fabric scratched at plywood as she looked through. “What’s the password?” Her voice was forceful, but it carried no real weight. She was trying to appear intimidating, but it only made her sound unstable.
“Dirty Owl.” I paused. There wasn’t any movement. “I sent you a text, Juana. I brought some groceries.” No response still. I sighed, anxious annoyance sending tingles through my arms and legs. I hated being made to wait. “You knew I was coming!” I raised my voice. I had so little control over my own volume.
“I told you I didn’t want any.” Her voice carried the same facade of confidence it had before. “They’re genetically engineered.”
“I got them from the non-GMO section. They still have their stickers.” I tapped my foot impatiently. I was the last person who should be taking care of another person. I was annoyed easily. I had no patience. I hated being disrespected. Here I was, making sure a woman I barely knew had fresh food and a roof over her head because nobody else would.
“Those are just labels. You don’t know what they do to them. They could be lying.” She spoke quickly, as if she were anticipating that answer.
“Okay.” I shifted a bit more. “So you’re not going to eat anything at all, then? I don’t see you starting a farm, Juana, and GMO’s go into processed food too.” I tapped my foot some more, waiting, frustrated. “Juana, I’ll leave them on your door handle if you want, just tell me you’ll take them.” I was doing everything I could to avoid letting my frustration show. We went through this song and dance about once a month.
I couldn’t blame her for not trusting, though. She was the casualty of Project Stargate. The two of us had been inducted into the program at the same time. She’d struck me as odd back then, but the project’s psychologist gave her a green light to progress through the program.
She cracked during the Simulated Stress Environment, a neutral-sounding name for a nightmarish period with inconsistent access to food, sleep, and security. Everybody’s experiences were different, and few people were keen to talk about their experiences after the fact. I received physical beatings, some of which I’ve never quite recovered from. One of my front teeth still moves uncomfortably when I bite anything too-firm.
Whatever Juana went through, it broke her. She was a liability to the Project—not expressing enough psychic potential to be useful for any of their projects but knowing too much to be set loose or abandoned. Too many tinfoil hat theorists had accurate descriptions of the Project for me to believe they hadn’t tried that route before.
They didn’t kill her. I’ll give them that.
“I’ll let you in if you promise not to be mad.” Juana sounded ashamed of herself. “I… haven’t been doing great lately.” I pursed my lips, attempting to not look worried, or upset. Juana’s paranoia could manifest in a lot of ways, from wearing tin foil hats in the hopes of finding security to stalking her neighbors to find evidence of espionage, but if she was telling me not to be mad before even opening her door there was a problem.
“I’ll do my best.” I didn’t want to lie to her, especially if she was opening up. I was the only one who was willing to acknowledge she even existed, and she was seeking my help. I held no love for her, we weren’t friends before Project Stargate, but I was invested in her wellbeing.
There was the sound of metal crinkling as she opened the door. Juana was average height, plump, with brown hair, eyes, skin. Everything about her screamed ‘boring’ and ‘average’, completely ignorable if you let your eyes pass over her. Behind her, she had covered her walls in tin foil. Rolls upon rolls haphazardly held to the wall and corners with staples. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.
There goes my security deposit.
“I’m sorry.” She frowned, slumping over. “I can hear them. I can feel their eyes over the city! I can’t stand it, I’m being watched. They’re looking for me, or for something. I had to do something, I had to try. I know it’s not the same but it’s close, right?” I squeezed my fingers into my hand, making a fist and relaxing a few times as she babbled.
I didn’t know what to say. I was angry, but I didn’t want to fly off the handle. I pursed my lips. “I’m going to need you to take those down.” Juana nodded. I nodded in kind. “Camille is in town. You’re probably feeling something from that.” I frowned. Camille and Jules had never had this effect before, but Juana had never flown off the handle so quickly. I felt like letting her know she might not simply be crazy would help. It would make her feel better, at least. “They’re looking for something, but it’s nothing to do with you.”
“Promise?” Before taking a step out, Juana looked out into the hallway like she was crossing a street, eyes so wide I thought they might bulge out of their sockets. I held out the bag of groceries, and she accepted it. I mentally tensed as our hands brushed.
“I promise. There’s a situation we have to deal with.” I grasped one of her fingers with my hand, preventing her from pulling away. I had not come here planning to play therapist, but she opened her door to me for a reason. This may have been my only moment of contact with her, and I didn’t want her to shrink away and become more twisted inside if I could help it. Her showing me she’s having a problem, instead of making me infer it, was the closest she could come to asking for help. “Do you want me to help you?” We were in a public space, even if nobody was around. I didn’t want to say ‘Do you want me to fix your brain with my psychic powers’, but I trusted she knew what I meant.
She hesitated for a moment, her face twisting up in conflict before she nodded. I took a step into her doorway, keeping hold of her finger while forcing her to take a step into her apartment. I touched her shoulder and guided her around—a move I’m sure she interpreted as another push—placed my palm at the back of her head, and mentally untensed.
My senses passed into her nervous system with a heartbeat. Her whole body tensed, but she didn’t scream. I was trying to be gentle, and I already knew Juana. The electricity, for lack of a better word, pushed into her body, allowing me to become aware of every nerve ending. I could visualize a map of her body in my mind, nerves to nerve endings, synapse pathways, connections, and electrical signals. I could sense the signals of her memories and experiences pulsing, forming connections, associations.
I focused on Juana’s brain. This wasn’t sex, I wasn’t trying to pull noises from Juana. I was here to do a job. A looping signal, rapid and strong, looped from Juana’s amygdala, through her hippocampus, before discharging into the rest of her body before building again... Sensory data flooded through her nerves, each input analyzed, and a tiny portion of it adding to the power of the loop.
From all I could tell, this feedback loop was the cause of Juana’s paranoia and anxiety. It could be managed, through medication and therapy, but the nature of her particular neuroses made her mistrust both. I took a deep breath and focused on the loop, learning its pulse, allowing myself to be lost to its rhythm until I understood it.
I sent a surge of my electricity through the whole of Juana’s mind at the moment of the loop’s discharge phase, causing Juana to jerk and shiver. The loop started again, but smaller, disrupted. I didn’t wait, and sent more data with each pulse. I couldn’t imagine what Juana was feeling, but she’d told me she hated when I did this. It hurt, she said, but it helped her focus afterwards.
I pulsed three or four more times, disrupting her flow of thoughts, the cycle of paranoia and anxiety, before I let her go. Juana fell forward when I released her, leaning against a table. I kept an eye on her to ensure she wouldn’t actually fall. “Any better?”
Juana clenched her fingers into a fist and stretched them out. She touched her thumb to the tips of every finger, counting quietly. She didn’t respond vocally, but her entire demeanor was less twitchy than mere moments ago. She was feeling better, even if she didn’t want to say it. She looked to me with a hesitant confidence in her eyes.
“Yeah. Leave, please?”
“If there’s anything you need, Juana, just give me a call.” I watched her for a few moments to make sure she had her balance before turning towards the door. She didn’t like me, and I didn’t blame her. I intruded on her life, even if I meant to help. It was hard to genuinely like anybody you were dependent on. The alternative was for her to be some sort of groveling sycophant.
I preferred this.
The trip down the staircase was just as tumultuous as the trip up, but I had less to steal and I was in no hurry, much to my chagrin. The lack of contact from Jules or Camille filled me with anger-tinted dread. I was either being duped by those I should trust, or Amelia had found some method of hiding. I was useless in either case.
I had a lot of power inside of me. I could take over a person’s nervous system, I could inhibit or enhance their ability to speak, to lie, to breathe. I could, with enough time, cause them to hallucinate with all of their senses or isolate them from the outside world. I could take complete control over a person for as long as I could keep my hands against their skin, but I needed to be able to touch them.
This was not usually a problem when Stargate was running. We were a well-honed, if absolutely despicable, machine. I needn’t worry about acquiring an interrogation subject, they were simply placed in front of me. I didn’t need to worry about my partners motivations because I was at no risk. I was useful enough for the CIA to tolerate my noncompliance, and I was noncompliant enough that I was an easy pick when Jules rounded up her escape team.
I didn’t miss Stargate, but I did miss the simplicity of knowing where loyalties stood.
Those sorts of thoughts were unhealthy. Rationally, I knew Jules was doing her best under difficult circumstances. Victoria cared about the community, more than she cared about individuals within it. Not everyone I disagreed with was trying to backstab me. It took effort to convince the non-rational side of me, however.
When I reached the final landing of the stairway, the loitering men took notice. Three of them turned their eyes towards me as a fourth stepped in front of me. I tensed. Nothing about being surrounded suddenly was appealing. He was significantly shorter than me, and a few years younger than the other men surrounding me. His posture was casually aggressive even before he spoke. If this wasn’t some sort of shakedown I was going to be pleasantly surprised.
“Hey, where you goin’?” He spoke with the slightest Puerto Rican accent. My first instinct was to push him down the flight of stairs, but I resisted. “How about we spend a little time together, you and me?” I flattened my gaze and looked into his eyes. I didn’t know what the boy’s agenda was, but I wasn’t going to give an inch. He looked flustered for a moment, clearly inexperienced at this sort of intimidation.
“Give the kid a chance. He’s never been with a tall girl before.” One of the men blocking my path back upstairs spoke. “Maybe you and your dyke friends can come over, we can show you what real men are like.” He grabbed his crotch and thrust his hips. I grabbed the boy’s shoulder and shoved him to the side. He didn’t resist.
Before I could take my first step down the stairs, I felt a boot connect between my shoulders. I stumbled forward and gripped the railing for support. I managed to plant a foot firmly on a step instead of falling forward down the stairs. A series of kicks rained onto my hips, thighs, and arms before I could respond. They didn’t hurt, not very much, but they kept me from regaining my balance. Each blow shook the unstable railing. Nothing was working to my advantage.
I twisted myself around and raised an arm to defend myself. The men were taking turns kicking me and backing away, using the length of the landing to add momentum to their kicks. I couldn’t step away without losing balance, and moving forward to attack them was out of the question. I had no doubt I could hurt any of them, but I wasn’t in an action movie. I wasn’t going to be able to take on four people of any size without injuries of my own.
I needed to get out as fast as I could.
I lifted my arm and trapped the first leg to make contact with me again, trapping his ankle underneath my armpit. He tried to pull free, but I pulled harder. His foot slipped, and he fell on the corner of the top step. His face twisted in pain, but I didn’t trust that he landed hard enough for him to care in ten seconds. I slipped my fingers under his pants leg until I felt skin and let myself pour into him. Normally, I would take time to carefully map and read a person before sending Signal into them, but I didn’t normally need to do this while being attacked. The boy began to scream and convulse, arms and legs seizing and twitching.
The men hesitated for a second, concern for their friend overriding whatever goal they had with me. I turned and bounded down the steps in the moment of confusion. Footsteps followed close by, but I didn’t turn to see how many were chasing me. The best way to avoid continued assault was to get somewhere inconvenient, somewhere with witnesses. Make it more difficult and dangerous than whatever they wanted was worth.
I slammed my shoulder into the door and pushed my way into the parking lot. A fist connected with the side of my jaw before I got very far, sending my thoughts in all different directions. I stumbled and raised my arms to defend myself, panicking a little more. All three of the remaining men had followed me. If they were trying to mug me or rape me, they would have stopped once we were outside, but they circled around me instead.
They didn’t brandish knives, or any other weapons, so they were either unprepared or not willing to kill me—Probably a good sign. They weren’t mugging me, or they would have made a threat before attacking me. Whatever they wanted required them to attack me, and was motivating them to do it in plain view, outside of their normal haunting grounds. It motivated them enough to leave their friend to have a seizure on the ground. They were hesitant, at least. There were advantages to being an Amazon of a woman.
It didn’t matter. I launched at the man in front of me and grasped for the collar of his shirt. He backed out of my reach, so I turned towards one of the men who circled behind me. His fist connected with my forearms, and I let Signal loose into him where his fist met my arm. His legs gave out from under him, but there was no sound of pain. He was still conscious, and not having a seizure. I had no real control over what I did to a person without time to map and observe them.
“What the hell?” One of the other men yelled, confused and angry. He wasn’t happy with how this was going. I kicked the prone man in his stomach before he could get to his feet and ran over his body, hoping the renewed confusion would give me some distance. I managed to make it a few yards before something hit me and my body exploded into pain.
I must have blacked out for a few moments. I woke up to pain radiating from my hip and my shoulder. My joints ached. A black sedan loomed less than a foot from me. I’d been hit by a car.
The men caught up to me and began to kick. I curled myself into a ball to protect my stomach and head as they stomped on me, spreading my radiating pain through my body. I clenched my jaw and endured. The world was spinning too much for me to retaliate.
I heard the car door open and close again. The men stopped kicking as heavy footsteps approached me. I looked up.
Brody. The former doorman to The Gilded Cage. Pale, bald, huge, with beady eyes. He wore one of his many suits, which always gave him more of a ‘Mob Hitman’ look than a professional one.
“B-brody?” I groaned. He reached down and grabbed the collar of my shirt, lifting me wholly off of the ground with just one arm, carried me a few feet, and tossed me onto the ground behind his sedan. The Sedan I sold him on good faith. I sold him that car wholesale because he was my friend. I was confused more than I hurt. Nothing made sense.
He was one of the few Stargate subjects who was male. Most people with any significant psychic potential had turned out to be women. That trend held true for Brody as well, but Brody was completely dead on a psychic level. He was disconnected from the force that connected the rest of humanity. Nobody could enter his mind, nobody could sense his emotions. Jules couldn’t even detect his existence unless she saw him with one of her normal senses. It made him a perfect fit to hire as a doorman, when the Gilded Cage transformed from a private gathering place to a club.
If he was working against me, I was fucked.
The trunk door was open. I tried to stand, but pain shot through my left knee when I placed weight on it. It took me a few moments to push through the pain and lift myself, but one of the men slammed his boot into my hip, sending me falling over again. I groaned in frustration and pain. I was spent.
Brody lifted me from the ground once more, with both hands this time. I winced, expecting him to throw me again, but instead he simply placed me in his trunk. I was grateful for small mercies, at least. He reached in and patted at my hips. He reached into my pocket and pulled out my cell phone. I kicked, but I couldn’t bring myself to put much force behind it. Everything hurt too much. I was willing to take the pain, if I were able, but the brain had mechanisms to prevent people like me from hurting myself. The world was spinning, and I was too woozy to protest when he closed the trunk.
The absence of stimuli made rest a tempting option. I would need it for what was to come, whatever that would be. I closed my eyes and let myself recover as much as I could.
I woke up strapped to a metal table. Ties kept my arms and legs tight against my body. I couldn’t move my head. There was a light above me, a bare bulb with a reflective shield to direct the light down towards me. I tried to tug at my restraints, which was rewarded with a stinging pain from the cleft of my left elbow. Moving my eyes revealed an IV bag to my left, hooked next to a heart monitor, but there wasn’t a chance I was in a hospital. It made no sense.
My body still hurt, but less, and differently, than when I was put into the trunk. The pain from my hip and shoulder was lessened to a dull, throbbing ache. I barely felt the bruises where I’d been kicked. Places that had barely hurt before, places where my body scraped against asphalt, burned hot. My clothes were matted to my body where blood and sweat had soaked through them. Despite everything, my body felt good and relaxed, but groggy. The drugs were muscle relaxants, I was willing to bet.
There was an uncomfortable pressure on my temples, like I was wearing headphones but had moved them off of my ears. I had no recourse to try and remove them. I couldn’t do much of anything at all. I was screwed.
As if on cue with the thought, there was a sound of a sliding metal door. Loud pop music filled the otherwise silent room, echoing against the walls. It took me three notes to recognize the song—”Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by some pop star whose name I never bothered to attach to the song. The sound was distorted and shifting, dancing around, until the speaker was placed just behind me. Amelia peered over me with the most wicked grin she could put on her smarmy little face.
“Jesus fucking Christ, really?” I spat my words. She smiled more. Her hair was pulled into pigtails at the sides of her head. They bounced as she bopped her head to the music, mouthing the lyrics in synch. I couldn’t see much of what she was wearing without the ability to turn my head. I sighed. “Quit the shit, Amelia.”
“Awwww, you’re grumpy today, huh?” I rolled my eyes. I should have been afraid, but there was nothing to fear. I was already fucked. There was nothing I could do unless Amelia touched my bare skin. There was no sense in being afraid of an outcome you couldn’t control. “But I guess you’re always grumpy, aren’t you?”
I rolled my eyes. Amelia giggled. I felt her mind push against mine, unskilled, an amateurish, brutish technique. Resisting psychic influence was a difficult skill to learn, but very easy to implement with enough practice. Most psychics played on thoughts or emotions, higher-order, derivative functions of the mind. They required something to attach to, an emotion or a pattern of thoughts, and used that to twist the rest of someone to their control.
Resisting psychics like Amelia and Jules was as simple as meditation.
I was skilled in clearing my mind in an instant. Resistance training was mandatory when Stargate was functioning. ‘If we’re doing this, so is everybody else’ was a rationale that was hard to argue with. It was more difficult than I would have liked it to be, with “That’s all they really waaaaaaaaaaaaaant” dominating my auditory senses, but merely recognizing that it was meant to annoy me was enough to put it out of mind.
“You’re way more clever than you look, huh?” I focused on deep breathing as Amelia spoke more. I didn’t hear her, not really. The music drowned away, her voice drowned away, my pain drowned away beneath the rhythm of my breathing. I could still feel her push at my mind, like a vibrating dagger in search of a flaw to take advantage of. I wasn’t even feeling spite. My thoughts were quiet, my mind was smooth. There was nothing for her psionics to latch to. “C’mon, don’t be boring, Candice! I’ve been looking forward to this!”
I was going to kill whoever told her that name.
She lashed at my anger, but I was faster, managing to not panic at my momentary lapse in judgment. She was going to use whatever she had at her disposal to get into my mind. She’d told me as much, when we first met. She’d had her eyes on me from the first moment we met, a pillar of the community for her to conquer for her own sense of importance.
Amelia lifted herself onto the table, straddling me. She was wearing a black single-piece jumpsuit, covering her body from her neck to her ankles. Black cloth gloves, tucked carefully over the jumpsuit’s wrists, made it so that she would need to press her face against me for me to get any kind of contact with her.
“You really don’t like that name, do you?” she wiggled her hips against mine and grinned. “Bad associations? I’ll bet.” I breathed deep, doing my best to not focus on the content of her words. She reached into a hip pocket of her jumpsuit and pulled out a leather pocketbook, opening it with one hand. “Candice Hernandez, ward of the state. Birth date unknown. Thirty two years old, assumed.” She rubbed her hips down against mine as she read, gripping my shirt and tugging it. “Yada yada yada, fun parts fun parts….” She flipped pages and grinned.
“Right, here we go.” Her voice got breathy. She moaned, and her thighs clenched. I focused on my breathing. “Anomalous psychic talents. Interfaces with a subjects’ nervous system directly. Talented in inducing tactile sensation, as well as altering thought and speech patterns.” Her thighs clenched harder as she ground against me. “Has proven herself to be a skilled interrogator…” she bounced on my hips, moaning. “A-and is consistently able to induce ego death in subjects!” She clenched harder around me and let out a loud cry of pleasure, screaming from deep in her lungs as she convulsed over me in some mockery of a fake orgasm.
“Candice, you naughty girl.” She giggled. My meditation was slipping. I was annoyed, angry, ashamed, and confused. My hip ached more each time she ground against it. She could strike at any moment, and the pressure against my mind increased, but she didn’t bite. That was a Stargate document, or a synopsis of one. Stargate ended when Amelia was becoming a teenager. It was not unheard of for the researchers to bring children into the Project, but Amelia had never talked about Stargate, and nobody mentioned knowing her.
“Where did you find that?” Amelia bounced as I spoke. I winced. If my meditation was slipping, I needed to use simple force of will to keep her out. She had me captive and helpless. I was screwed. There would be no rescue. Jules would have police breaking down the door to wherever I was taken to if she cared. Despite that, I wasn’t going to make it easy for her to get into my mind.
Every moment she spent trying to crack me was a moment she wasn’t hurting somebody else.
“You know, around. Filing cabinets. I had a lot of time to read after one of you popped everyone’s heads like grapes.” That didn’t happen. Amelia was lying—Nobody got worse than a concussion when we made our escape. “It’s really fascinating, how many different goals they had. I don’t care about most of that.” Amelia licked her lips and crawled over my body, positioning her face above mine.
“We could have been a great pair, you know. If you only let me play…” Amelia’s mind pushed harder against mine. I gripped my hands into a fist and pushed back. I wasn’t able to retaliate without skin-to-skin contact, but I was able to keep her at bay. “Did you like it, Candice? The torture? The look in their eyes when they lost their sense of identity?” She giggled, but it wasn’t her high-pitched giggle. It was low, dark. I was fuming with anger and shame. “I think you did.”
She wasn’t wrong. “I’ve put all of that behind me. I’m not the person I—Nnh!” She spit in my eye as I spoke, her face twisting into some mix of a scowl and a grin.
“You can’t just take on a new name, pay some fucking money, and pretend you aren’t a murderer, Candice.” She spat again, but I closed my eyes. “Mmmm, but don’t worry. I understand. I understand you, Candice, like nobody ever has.” She shifted so that she was sitting on my hips again. I opened my eyes to see her holding a knife.
She’s going to kill me.
I didn’t react to the thought with panic, or anger, or fear. I felt nothing at the thought. There was no use in emotions if they didn’t serve a purpose. Everyone accused me of being a hothead, and they weren’t wrong, but it was only because anger served to get results more often than other kinds of outbursts.
She pressed the knifepoint to my pelvis and spun it around in tune to the song. The music must have been on loop. The knife stung, but only a little. Her eyes glinted. Her mind pressed harder against mine. “You’re not afraid?”
“Just do it.” I wanted her to quit her shit.
“I was worried you would start sniveling and begging at this point, but you’re exactly who I thought you were. I’m glad.” She twisted the knife and ran the blade up my belly, pulling my shirt and binder tight as she did. The blade made short work of both, nicking across the flesh of my belly and sternum. The release of pressure from my chest was a relief. I could breathe deeper without putting strain on my ribs—There weren’t many binders made for women as large as I was. “Jesus, Candice, I’d heard rumors, but I never believed them!”
She was staring at my breasts. She flicked her knife over one of my nipples and I froze, goosebumps rising across my chest. I closed my eyes and tried to put the embarrassment out of my mind. I could take being murdered, but being treated as an object, as something to ogle, was not something I could stonewall. “You’ve seen tits before, Amelia.” I could feel my cheeks burning with shame.
“Not like these! Well, actually, I have, but why do you insist on hiding away?” She dragged her knife around the curve of my right breast, pressing hard enough that I was sure she would cut. It stung like a paper cut, a lingering pain, but it didn’t feel like there was any blood. “You could look like an Amazon goddess, but you man yourself up like some sort of tranny.” Anger ran through me. I pulled at my restraints.
I spat at her. I missed.
She laughed. “Oh my god. Hit home, huh?” She giggled and leaned over me, gripping her knife between two fingers and pressing it between my eyes. She dragged it down along my nose. “You’re really, honestly pretty, you know. If I took a cleaver down the center of your head, I would have two perfectly symmetrical halves. If you wore a little makeup, some fitting clothes…” I bit the knife as it touched my lips. She pulled it from between my teeth and licked her lips. “I can work with this.”
She grabbed a handful of one of my breasts and squeezed, looking me in the eye. I twitched, uncomfortable. I didn’t like being touched by people, I always felt too sensitive. I could feel every coarse fiber of her glove rub against my skin. I twisted under her, as much as I could in the restraints, and bit my lip. One of her fingers rubbed around my areola, irritating it. I let out an involuntary whine and strained against my restraints.
“Do your worst.” I gritted my teeth. The focus she was giving my breasts, when combined with her ‘tranny’ comments, convinced me she was going to mutilate them. I was going to be subjected to an alleyway mastectomy. She’d dump my corpse in Lake Michigan and wear my breasts as some sort of trophy, like Ed Gein. It’d take her time, at least. I just needed to endure, give her as little pleasure as possible.
The pressure of her mind left mine. I took a breath, relieved. “Obviously that’s not going to work. You’re better than me. I can admit when I’m out of my league.” I chuckled, more proud than I should have been. “I was trying to be merciful, make this whole process easy on you, Candice. You always choose the hard way. We could have been friends. Big and small, an Amazon and a shrimp. We have the same tastes, even if you’re ashamed of yours. All I wanted to do was play.” She reached to either side of my head and adjusted something. The pressure at my temples twisted, and a visor came down over my eyes.
“What are you doing?” The question felt useless, but she wasn’t behaving like I thought she would.
“You’re pretty stupid, huh?” She laughed. I scowled. “Do you not pay attention to what people say? Or do you just take what’s stated outright?” She adjusted herself over me. There was a clicking sound, and the pressure at my temples began to buzz. “I brought up ego death for a reason, dummy.” She grasped both of my breasts and dug her fingers in hard. I let out a yell, twisting in my restraints.
She wasn’t going to kill me. She was going to kill Cunt.
“The researchers were planning for you to become unmanageable, at some point. Who could blame them? Your behavior record was atrocious. You picked fights. You flipped on a dime. They were pretty sure you would eventually refuse to work, and you provided a valuable service.” She released my breasts but slapped them moments after. I let out a grunt, but managed to keep my reaction muted. “So they studied how you did it, how you killed identities, and managed to replicate it using electroshock therapy. Kinda.” She ground her hips against mine again and let out a moan. “It’s… mmm… messy. Makes a big mess. Takes a long time. There are a lot of seizures.
“It’s why I put you on muscle relaxants. As much as I would love to let you hurt, I was anticipating needing to use it, and someone with your strength might break a few bones or crack teeth if I just let you twitch.” She moaned as she finished her sentence and ground against my hips again.
My heart was pounding, as the reality set in. I was going to die. She was actually going to kill me. She was going to kill me and leave me an empty husk, or give that empty husk an identity to latch onto, and I would be gone but somebody else, some other person, would go on.
“What do you want?” I asked, meek. My arms and legs shook, but not enough. I felt tears roll across my cheeks.
“I have what I want, Candice. I’m going to be getting exactly what I want. You know negotiating is useless.” Her voice was calm, forceful, her little-girl persona discarded. She adjusted the visor around my eyes so that it blocked out all light. “I simply don’t want this to take hours. So I’m going to give you a choice. You can do it yourself, to yourself, or I can do it.”
My blood ran cold. I couldn’t respond.
“Suicide is never easy, I know. It’s a big ask. But I could make that easy for you, Candice. Let me in. Let us work together for once in our lives, save us both a lot of grief.” I couldn’t see her, but her voice sounded somber, almost guilty. It was doubtlessly a ploy, but it hit my heart.
I didn’t want to suffer. If I was going to die, I didn’t want to suffer.
“Okay…” My voice barely escaped my throat. I felt nothing, but my body was trembling, fearful. Shock, this was shock. I’d seen it before. When somebody finally realized what was happening to them, that they had no escape. It was always the moment I hated most. I derived some sick pleasure from interrogations, but I knew I wasn’t hurting anybody permanently. I induced pain, but that was an unavoidable part of the process. I was a victim, a tool in a sick machine. Nobody could blame me for developing a complex around hurting people.
That never happened with the executions. They were never called that, nobody ever died by any definition, everything was ‘legal’, but I was an executioner. I knew it in my bones. I could never build a tolerance for it. I became skilled at doing them swiftly so that I could put it out of my mind faster.
Another switch was flipped, and the visor over my eyes turned on. Flashing lights caught my attention, but did nothing. Words flashed. ‘Big girl small mind’ ‘Bright, Tight, And In The Limelight’ ‘I live to party’. Images, femme women in dresses and skirts being groped, dancing. Smiling, happy. Bubblegum. Makeup pallets. None of this did anything, it did not melt my mind. That isn’t how trance worked. I knew it would soon be everything I knew. A mind without an identity would latch to anything it could to form one, and eye-catching stimuli were enough. ‘Girls just want to have fun’
She was going to transform me into a party girl.
There were worse things in the world, but the thought still turned my stomach. I still wasn’t even sure I was a woman, really. I never identified with femininity outside of intimate situations. Tears kept rolling down my cheeks.
“Are you going to let me in, or do I turn on the machine?” Amelia’s mind pressed against mine, only the slightest of pressures. I was sobbing openly, there was no use in hiding it. Oily tears soaked into my skin, running along my cheekbones, and pooling at my neck.
I let her in.
There was a giggling, in my mind. Soft, tittering, happy. I couldn’t help but smile. It felt good, it helped me forget what I was about to do. It was unnatural, I knew that, but I couldn’t help but be relieved by the distraction. “You know what I want. Let’s not delay.” Amelia’s voice sounded so much nicer.
I smiled. I searched outwards with my mind, giggling a little as I did. I found nothing, but I wasn’t searching for something outside of myself. Finding nothing, I was able to turn inwards. An image formed in my head, my body, prone. Nerves stretched through my body, sending signals that should be too fast for me to sense, but I was able to see them nonetheless. I could see, in my mind, where my body hurt—My hip and shoulder’s nerves were tender. The scrapes on my side and thighs still burned, sending flurries of pain-signals to my mind, which discarded most of them. I had never tried to kill pain before. The thought simply hadn’t occurred to me. I should have. There was no use getting distracted now.
The pain wouldn’t be mine to deal with in a few moments.
Amelia’s tittering grew encouragingly as I focused on my brain. I focused closer, at the millions upon millions of connections between my brain stem and everything else. A single, strong signal, through everything but the brainstem was enough to break a person’s identity. The process took more than that, enough signal to keep my mind from scrambling itself back to consciousness. Amelia would need to take care of the rest.
The giggles grew as I focused, breathing slow. I stopped crying. I felt good.
“Pull the trigger, Cunt.” I smiled when she used my name. Amelia was being nice for once in her life.
I sent the signal.
I woke up to some chick biting my tit. I yelped and arched, gripping my blankets. “Hey, be gentle!” I moaned. It felt good, but protesting made me feel hot. Made me look less like a slut, too.
I sat up, and dizziness forced me back down onto my pillow. I couldn’t remember last night at all. I must have had a lot to drink, and the mouth that kept biting at my tits wasn’t helping at all. I opened my eyes to get a look, only to be rewarded with her teeth moving to a nipple.
Goosebumps shivered through my whole body, down my back and along my thighs. I moaned again and gripped whoever-she-was’s head. “H-hey!”
“Hey what?” Her voice was young, but that was okay. I quivered. She sounded familiar enough. My memories were hazy.
“No biting.” I panted. She giggled.
“You weren’t complaining last night~” Her voice had a flirty lilt to it, but there was a force behind it that made me shiver. I must have gone home with her. “’Sides, you owe me.” She giggled again. I squirmed and writhed.
“Uh-huh! Mmm you got wasted ’coz your apartment got set on fire. Black out drunk. Mmmm you needed a place to stay, and clothes. A bed. You know, all of that.” She was being patronizing, but most people sounded that way. One look at me told them I wasn’t much more than a pretty thing, and I couldn’t really disagree. “Sooooo, if you want to go shopping later, I get to bite.” She giggled and bit my other nipple. I moaned.
Yeah, that sounded about right.
I twisted under her and moaned “Mmmm, r-right… fuck… everything I owned was th-there!” She pressed herself on top of me. She was so tiny. I was big, I knew that, but she looked like she could pass as my daughter, if it weren’t for her tits.
“Don’t worry. I can take care of you, Candy.” She wiggled her hips against mine and licked her lips. “You just be my arm candy, and keep being… receptive…” she grabbed my hips, digging nails in “And we’ll take care of everything you need, okay?”
I didn’t respond before her hands were all over me, pushing me down. Her lips were on mine, hot and slick. I didn’t resist. It sounded like a sweet deal to me—A sugar mommy that didn’t look like an ugly hag was the best thing a girl could dream of, really! I groped over her body, pulling her tight against me, gripping at her ass. She was skinny, but that was okay.
A moment of dizziness came over me again as she grabbed my hair. She tugged my head back, her eyes gleaming with need and desire. I trembled.
Something about this situation didn’t sit well with me.
That feeling shook itself from my mind as she rubbed at my cunt, pushing her fingers inside.