“Reilly! Stop being a dick!” I scream, flipping the switch for the cleanroom intercom. Language he should understand, even now. Of course, as soon as my “best” operative is conscious he starts acting like an ass, obliterating any shred of emotion his near-death experience had dredged up.

He turns away from Tosh at the sound of my voice, dark eyes still shining with blind rage.

“You got shot and fell out of a building.” I don’t bother to switch the cleanroom audio on. I can already hear the tirade of expletives ringing in my ears. “Just calm down. We’re trying to help. You’re at the Sanctum.”

I know that will shut him up.


The Sanctum. Bright’s cleanroom.

It hits me, a dirty little spark of excitement. I’ve been saved from drowning by mouth-to-mouth and I’m ready to call it first base.

Hell, with Bright, this is practically going all the way. Just one more set of doors between us.  I can see her on the other side of the glass, unnaturally pale, her shaved bald scalp glistening in the cool white light, every inch of her slight frame tensed with annoyance as she steps out from behind the console and walks towards me with slow, measured steps. The urgency of the moment is lost, a casualty of my stunted attention span. For a moment I forget all about the gash in my leg oozing blood and the man in the cleanroom with me. I know better than to drop my guard. That still doesn’t stop it from happening.

The bastard seizes the advantage and grabs his knife back from me. Back in the moment, I’m about to whack him good when Bright snaps at me again, calling me off. I swear back, even though I’m sure she’s not listening. Dropping the aggressive posture—which I’ll admit I couldn’t have kept up much longer anyway—I turn my attention back to knife-boy.  I take my time sizing him up. His dark skin is coated with nervous sweat, and he’s probably still hurting from that kick I gave him.  He’s shorter than me, and stockier. Good center of gravity; it would be hard to take him down, especially as lightheaded as I am. Best to go for an arm or the neck, let him succumb to pain or a choke-hold. “Who’re you?”

I’m the one who’s about to drop from blood-loss, and he’s the one with the knife, but I swear he looks like he’s about to piss himself. I realize a bit of a sadistic grin has come across my face while considering my options. I go with it, and stare at him longer, my amusement growing with his fear.

He has to clear his throat before he responds. “Name’s Tosh. I’m—I’m a doctor.”

“Bullshit.” My leg starts to give out, so I reluctantly surrender the high ground and drop to a crouch. “First of all, doctors are obsolete. Second, you don’t know what the hell you’re doing.”

He gives me a timid half-shrug, and stares plaintively at Bright, probably broadcasting something to her. The silence in my head tells me my 'machines must be down. A hazy recollection of the moments before I blacked out and ended up here starts to come back to me.

“He’s a truck driver,” she chimes in over the speakers, and I glare at her indignantly. She sighs. “You were dying, Reilly. Best I could do. You’ve still got a bullet lodged in your leg and it’s screwing with your upgrades. That’s why you’re not healing. So be a good boy and sit your ass down so we can fix you.”

I’ll give her credit—she knows how to talk to me.

The End

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