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The group, which had swelled slowly from one to five, walked mostly in silence as Ashes and Siora led them back through the testing and cleansing rooms and back to the long hallway. Every so often either Bodhi or Ashes would speak, sharing small details. Vaguely, Toreshi heard Bodhi wonder aloud why the place had seemingly been abandoned with the power on and half of the equipment running. Ashes replied something to the manner that they should be grateful because there was a large kitchen in the direction they were headed with the freezers still well-stocked. But though she heard the words they were saying, Toreshi kept her own mouth shut and thought quietly to herself as they walked. She wondered at the situation they’d found themselves in. It looked like they’d been abandoned here, but there had to be more to it than that. The lights were on and the place was sparkling clean. The IV tubing that she had ripped from her arms still had medication dripping from them. The monitors had still been running. It all came together in her head and insisted that someone else must have been here watching them…if they weren’t still here.
The walk seemed to take forever, but finally they found themselves at the exact opposite end of the enormous hallway. There were two doors they could take. One had a sign that said ‘Cafeteria’, but no one was really looking at that door, though some stomachs were beginning to rumble. No, all eyes were focused on the second door, a thick white door with an electronic keypad hanging from the wall in pieces. The sign on this door read, simply, “Augmentation”.
Bodhi turned a questioning eye to Ashes and gestured to the keypad.
“It was like that when we found it,” Siora grumbled, guessing at the other man’s thoughts, “We haven’t gone around smashing the place up, thank you.”
Bodhi put his hands in the air in a gesture of apology. This time Toreshi was the one to push through the door. After their first encounter with Siora, one would have thought she’d be more careful where she rushed, but something about the word on the door had her shoving through it so fast that it slammed against the opposite wall. The others followed quickly, Kattenya almost slamming into Toreshi, who had stopped dead barely past the threshold. Siora and Ashes followed more slowly, grim looks on their faces.
The first thought that came to Toreshi’s mind was “torture chamber”, though logically she knew that wasn’t the case. After her initial shock she began to move slowly further forward, her eyes scanning anything and everything they could see, bile steadily rising in her throat.
It almost could have been a medical facility, but only at a very distracted first glance. There were shelves stocked with strange, multi-colored liquids and shiny mechanical bits and bobs. There were jars filled with slimy red things that looked disturbingly like they’d been hauled out of a human body. Three separate metal tables stood in the middle of the room, each with glaring white lights blazing down over them. Each table was flanked by no fewer than six medical trays filled with all manner of equipment, from simple scalpels to complicated and terrifying devices with circular blades and foot-long needles. Everywhere, on every wall, were charts. Charts of anatomy, both human and otherwise, charts that showed strange pictures of brains and muscle groups, and most frightening, charts that showed surgery plans…horrifying surgery plans.
Even Bodhi had to swallow back a cry of alarm.
Toreshi couldn’t stop shaking as she walked up to one of the charts, hung over a light board so that the details glared out distinctly. The outline looked female, and there were incision marks made across the head and throat, with indications at the wrists and ankles to reference a second drawing. The second drawing showed a series of mechanical devices that Toreshi didn’t recognize as anything even remotely common. She found herself idly feeling at her wrists, wondering.
Eventually Ashes broke the silence. “Creepy, yeah?” she said simply. She was smiling, but there was no happiness or amusement in the smile. She strode confidently over to a row of four large file cupboards and pulled open a drawer. “We found some surgical records in here,” she explained, “They’re hard to work out because they’re in that same ridiculous language, but they have names on them, so there’s that…”
Ashes had barely finished her sentence when Toreshi was in the file cupboards. She flipped through them as fast as she could while still able to read the names at the tops and eventually she found what she was looking for. She pulled out the file with her name on it and stared at it, her heart leaping into her throat. She stared at it, gulping, for a good couple of minutes before a hand on her shoulder made her jump. Bodhi was looking down at her with concern on his face, and Kattenya was bouncing from foot to foot as though she couldn’t decide if she wanted to comfort Toreshi or tell her to get on with it.
“You don’t have to look,” Bodhi suggested sagely, gesturing to the file.
“But that’s the thing,” Toreshi replied, gulping, “I actually think that I do have to. If I don’t, I’ll just go mad wondering what they did to me…”
Ashes piped up, almost too sweetly, “If it helps, I can tell you what they did to me first.”
Siora snorted. “You say that like you want to brag or something.”
Ashes glared at him. “Just because you want to keep your file to yourself doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t share.”
Siora’s glare was considerably more frightening than that of the young woman. “My innards are my own goddamn business.”
“Oh please shut up, you two,” Toreshi groaned. She kept her eyes on the file, so she didn’t see if they shot their glares at her.
After a few more long moments and a few extra-deep breaths, Toreshi turned the page on the file. The first four pages were jibberish, but the fourth and fifth pages caught her eye and almost made her gag. The first picture showed her leg, opened up from the knee to the foot, the skin pulled back and pinned to the table. The muscles shined up at her, red and stringy. A second picture directly alongside the first showed a set of four enormous needles puncturing those muscles. Staring at the pictures, Toreshi could almost feel the metal rods in her leg, pumping some unknown fluid directly into her calves. She bit back the urge to scream and looked to the next picture. It wasn’t immediately evident what this picture was of – all she could see was a sea of blood and bone. Eventually she established that it was her chest and throat, pulled open as far as they could go, her anatomy splayed out like a morbid centerfold. In an adjacent photo, something metal was being inserted between her throat and collarbone.
A particularly large gag reflex came over her and she dropped the file to lean against the wall and cough miserably. Kattenya rushed forward and rubbed Toreshi’s back. Bodhi, calm as ever, retrieved the file from the floor and began thumbing through the rest of the files in the cupboards. He extracted several, the ones with their names on them, and added them to his backpack.