With liability papers in hand, Giles hesitantly made his way up to Anders’ suite, followed by the gaze of a few subjects draped in white as they were escorted to their overnight holdings in the observation room. The memory eraser had been reinstalled last night under the watchful eye of Anders himself as his employees who’d been at the original Laboratory reminisced out loud about the glory days of the building and how Queen Emma herself had been at the mercy of said machine on a few occasions. Fittingly enough, nobody could remember exactly why she would place her memories in the hands of the Lab she so hated, and the faded face mask suspended from a yellow tube as wide as his fist held silent testament to all the others whose lives and personalities it had sucked away. Little nubs dotted said mask, expandable when it was secured on the patient’s face to slip in the ears on its way to the delicate brain.

“Say, Anders, what do you think it would feel like to go through this thing without being hopped up on all the drugs it recommends flowing through your veins? Would it hurt?” a staff member bantered, tightening up a bolt in the back that secured the main arm of the wicked machine to the operating table.

Anders leaned against the wall, twirling a spare wrench between his fingers. “One might think not at first, seeing as how the brain has no pain receptors of its own. But if the consciousness of the subject is there to actively process the information being purged, regardless of how much they’ve been numbed, they’d feel pain equivalent or greater to that experienced in the memories themselves as they flashed past the person’s mental sight. Kind of like the supposed life review, but in reverse chronological order since those are the freshest memories and the hardest to purge.”

Giles’ eyes drifted down to the papers that he had in his hands, the words WAIVER OF LIABILITY boasting the revocation of responsibility that the words contained held. Of course, Anders could just as easily force any subject to go under the knife as they were all technically government property under his dominion, but he was willing to make a specific exception for his partner for the sake of everybody’s conscience. He lifted a solitary hand to the doors and knocked once, inadvertently opening them to find Miranda draped facedown on a couch and Anders’ hands working carefully on her back.

“You’re not intruding on anything, Giles,” Anders informed him after he waited at the door, unsure of whether or not to enter when Anders was so obviously busy. Anders’ face was stony, although it was more from focus rather than resisting the urge to divulge any secretive plans for tomorrow. “My partner was complaining of back pain due to his fitful night of sleep and required a massage to alleviate said pain.”

“I brought the papers, Master Shew,” Giles stated blankly, resting said papers on the middle of the coffee table beside the couch. Miranda’s red velvet nightgown, which Anders had requisitioned especially for Miranda, was partially slid off her shoulder, exposing skin criss-crossed with angry red ridges. “For you, Miranda, to sign when you find it convenient. Anders is considering putting in a government request to elevate you from subject to citizen status, and part of that is having to make your own informed choices like the rest of humanity.”

“That’s nice,” he mumbled from where he’d planted his face into a pillow. “Succinct like I expected.”

“What I can’t seem to grasp, Miranda,” Giles continued, “is why you would want to voluntarily give up some of your memory which Anders has so graciously-” and with that word, Miranda shuddered- “given back to you through the blue pill. Weren’t you dead set on hating Anders a few weeks before? Why the change of heart? Has he gotten into your mind like he said he intended to?”

“Don’t get your fantasies up, Giles. I’m not in love with him.” He turned to the side, facing the back of the couch, and Anders adjusted accordingly to work between the shoulder blades. “More of a tolerance necessary for survival, like a medieval princess learning to cope with the result of her betrothal. And like her, maybe I’ll find happiness and love if I’m lucky, but it’s not happening if I keep having some ghost from the past screaming about distrust every time I see his face. He doesn’t seem like the kind to go around with a paper bag on his head all the time.”

“That’d make for one wild night.” Anders allowed himself one immature hand-masked giggle before returning his face to neutrality with a sigh and moving to the lower back, nearly avoiding a sharp kick from Miranda. “I doubt that a feeling of blankness every time our eyes met would be better than a burning hatred, for at least the hatred would be genuine, but it’s your choice and I trust you.”


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