The taste of bananas lingered in Miranda’s mouth as his eyes cracked open. Anders’ fingers slipping through his right hand brought his attention over to his fiancée, who’d clearly gotten dressed in haste as his shirt was crooked and his socks were mismatched.

“Good afternoon, love,” Anders greeted, glancing at the room’s locked door. “Before you ask, you’re back in the recovery suite.”

“Again?” Miranda pulled his arm back and attempted to sit up in the bed. His stomach screamed in pain from the ten fingernail marks, and he grunted as he forced himself up. “Is my baby okay?”

“The embryo is just fine.” Anders sighed and fidgeted in his seat beside the bed, and Miranda crossed his arms over his chest. “We had to remove it in order to keep it viable, however. Some nasty infection harbored itself in the freak’s fingernails and was threatening to spread.”

“And of course that warrants an invasive procedure. I should have expected that you didn’t want me to carry the child by myself.” Miranda slumped back down in the bed and drew the blankets over his head. “Leave me alone. I don’t want to see you today.”

“As you wish. Push the button on the side table when you need assistance, and Giles will come.” Anders slipped off his stool and exited the room, locking the door back behind him.

Maybe I should have listened to Bes. But I can’t change that now, Miranda, can I? He pushed himself back up again, gripping the bed’s side rail and brushing the blankets halfway down. What can I do now? I can’t protect my child anymore. Being under Anders’ watchful eye does nothing.

Now, Miranda, you know that’s a load of bull… He slipped out of bed and adjusted the floral hospital gown that he’d woken up with, grimacing as he slipped out of the door and peered down the hallway to his right. Even if you could get at your citizenship documents, where would you go?

“Yo, Miranda? What are you doing out of recovery?” Lainey turned around from where she’d been headed with a large stack of documents in her arms and strode towards Miranda. “I don’t think you’re supposed to be walking around yet.”

“I’ll be fine…” Miranda crossed his arms over his chest, silently praying that the marks left on his stomach wouldn’t start bleeding. “Can I ask you something?” What exactly does being independent require? Because that bundle of cells isn’t going to develop properly outside of its mother.

Lainey cracked a grin. “You already have. What do you want?” I want to know if there’s a way to get out of this convoluted system. I don’t want any of this.

Miranda twirled one of the buttons on his gown between his fingers. “Am I an official citizen of Soona Bris yet?” Because if I am, then there’s at least a sliver of hope on the outside.

Lainey’s grin faded. “I believe so. Why do you ask?” Because I can’t stay around a man who steals life so easily.

“I’m just wondering. Could you go check? I’d like to know where they’re being kept in case I need to access them and Anders isn’t around.” Because, no matter what he says about loving me, he just wants a sex doll, an embryo factory, and a captive assistant to look pretty on his shoulder.

“I’ll get on that as soon as I’m done with my deliveries. Please go back to the recovery suite and rest, Miranda.” Lainey turned around and continued her jog down the hallway, bumping into a few perturbed caretakers on the way.


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