The Grey Edge: Chapter Twenty-One

Taylor stared as the Parker on his recruit slowly removed himself, the instruction to breathe still coming at regular intervals, though she seemed to have gotten used to the rhythm herself. Acting on instruction, she was good at that. She was-
Mutated and halfway to magpie form. A wreck. Compromised. Alive at the whim of the doctors.
The Parker stared at him, then at his twin for a moment, and the taller twin put a hand to his shoulder. ‘Taylor. My office. Now.’ The doctor’s fingers dug into his shoulder, leaving aside any doubt that it was an order. As much of an order as medical could give.
He followed the taller twin into the next room, and the door was slammed shut with the doctor’s requirement. Parker leaned against his desk, and indicated to the spare chair with a finger. ‘Sit.’

‘Sit, or I’ll remove your legs.’
He sat.
‘Very simple enquiry, and the answers had better be to my liking, otherwise…even gods won’t be able to help you.’
He stared at the doctor. ‘Ask.’
The doctor took a step forward, brought his leg up, then slammed his foot down. He grimaced as pain flooded his lower half, the unusual, unfamiliar pain of his requirement being assaulted.
‘You’ve got balls, and not the kind that make you reckless.’
‘I fail to see your point.’
Parker stared at him. ‘You’ve got a dick for the first time since…forever, she’s had sex in the last few hours-’
‘Shut the fuck up while I’m talking.’
He glared, but closed his mouth.
‘And she’s got ash in places that it only gets to because of one type of activity. Excluding the possibility of course, that she’s dipping her hand in your blood and fingering herself, but I’m leaving that as a back-up explanation right now, considering your new growth.’
‘Your point?’
‘Did you fuck her, Taylor?’
‘None of your damn-’
Parker took a step forward, and pressed his hand against his forehead. ‘Don’t make me pull the truth out of you. I won’t even bother filling in the paperwork before jumping into your brain, and I’ll make it as painful as I can, even if you let me in.’
‘In very, very good hands right now. Answer the question.’
‘It has no relevance!’
‘Don’t raise your voice to me, Agent Taylor,’ Parker said, pressing the flat of his palm across his temple. ‘Don’t make me do this, I hate it so much, so just answer the question.’
He swallowed. ‘Yes.’
Parker removed his hand, and let it drop to his side for the moment. ‘Why?’
‘Why did you have sex with her Taylor?’
He stared at the doctor. ‘I don’t-’ He shook his head. ‘It was consensual. It was-’
‘She also consents to you beating the shit out of her. She consents to everything you want to do to her, whether it’s bruises, or broken limbs, or stitches, she consents to it all. And this is you.’ The doctor swallowed. ‘I don’t think it’s beyond you to…force the issue.’
A feeling like being snap-kicked in the head washed over him. ‘What?’ he said, feeling the plastic of the chair’s arms warping in his grip. ‘You-’
‘Did you fucking rape her, Taylor? Is this your new way of controlling her, or punishing her, or whatever it is that you two do behind closed doors that gives us so much work?’
He stood, and punched the doctor. Parker went flying across his desk, and slammed into the filing cabinet. There was a string of profanity from the next room, as the twin reacted to the pain. He shoved the desk out of the way, and grabbed for the doctor, who snarled, and disappeared from sight, shifting behind him, the prick of a needle appearing a second later.
‘You move, you shift, or you do anything, I press this plunger. I do, and you die, it’s as simple as that. You manage to shake it off for a few seconds, and we will grab one of another of the hundred things in these two rooms that can kill any one of us.’
The shorter of the doctors appeared in the doorway. ‘A right hook isn’t an answer.’
‘You can’t expect that I-’
The shorter twin stared at him. ‘We stopped making reasonable assumptions about you a long time ago. You aren’t a reasonable man. You don’t act in reasonable ways. For everything you have done to her, this isn’t a stretch, now speak, or die.’
‘It was consensual,’ he said again.
‘So was that porn tape, presumably,’ the shorter twin said. ‘Is that what this is about? Porn stars are some sort of hidden fetish? Or you just-’
‘It has nothing to do with that!’ he said, feeling the needle dig deeper into his skin.
‘So why did you fuck her?’
He could hear her heart beating. See her vitals going haywire again.
‘You aren’t breathing for her.’
‘She crawls back to you like the worst of beaten wives. If you assaulted her like this, then we would rather let her die, than heal her just so you can do this again.’
‘I didn’t,’ he said again.
‘Then give me the memory,’ the taller twin said as he slid a hand onto his neck. ‘Just give it over.’
‘Then you’re lying.’
‘No,’ he said, ‘she’s already had her privacy violated. You know where the video is if you want to see something similar.’
‘Why? You couldn’t just pull up a holo-form, or go to a brothel like a normal guy?’
Her heart rate bounced, and he glared at the shorter of the doctors. Simple words. Simple explanations. ‘Wouldn’t do,’ he said, ‘wouldn’t be her.’
‘Say what you mean,’ the taller Parker said. ‘Say what you mean.’
‘I think you can extrapolate my meaning,’ he said. ‘And if it makes a damn scrap of difference, she fu- Fu- Fu- She fucked me. It was consensual. It was wanted. It wasn’t punishment.’
This seemed to shock the shorter of the twins. ‘No shit? You two are like…together? You like-like each other?’
‘You are such a child,’ the taller said as the needle was pulled from his neck.
The shorter twin excused himself, and went back to Magnolia’s side.
‘So you’re finally acting like a normal person and fucking to work out some of your emotional turmoil? Or at least to have a bit of fun? It was fun, right? Does everything still work after this long? Do you even know how it works?’ The doctor stood back and stared down. ‘I always thought you’d be bigger. You know, random conversations you have post-coitus. You’ll get used to those, assuming you just don’t get your rocks off, kick her out of bed, then fall asleep by yourself.’
He stared at the doctor. Silence would end the conversation. Conversations couldn’t occur with only one party speaking. Unless it was Mimosa. The unstable could carry on conversations with no outside help. Whether Parker was unstable as-
‘I mean, considering the the rest of you, would have figured-’
‘Stop staring at me.’
Parker grinned. ‘I’m a doctor, it’s purely medical.’
‘Stop staring at me.’
‘For what it’s worth, I’m…happy for you? I guess? I mean, you two pretty much are the most fucked up people I know, so I guess you belong together.’
‘When are you going to fix her?’
‘Even if any of this stuff we do works, it isn’t going to be easy. First, I’m going to use a couple of samples of lung tissue that I may or may not have harvested at previous points, and grow her some new lungs. Major infraction there. You might need to blow Clarke or Jonesy to get them to help get some bullshit on your, her, our, side for this. Worked for Ryan’s favourite pet. Even if this works though, it’s going to take a couple of hours, I don’t get to do this all that often, and so it’s not an exact science. He’ll keep breathing for her, least till we get something automated set up, but automation brings danger, less easy to hide. We need eyes off this till we get a head start on whatever it is we’re going to do. If we’re already done, it’s a lot harder to say no than it is if they get to us before we switch out her lungs.’
He stared at the doctor for a moment. ‘Is there…’
‘Yeah, if you want to help out, you can. Think you can handle breathing for her? He can copy over the macro.’
It was a simple task. Simple requirement. ‘I can do that,’ he said.
‘Then come on, if I’ve got a second pair of hands, my job will be easier.’