A/N: More action packed intense chapters coming your way...I reveal a lot in the next three chapters
Chapter Twenty Two- Jasper
We climb four flights of stairs and briefly glance behind to see our progress. Our pursuers have no given any leeway and gain distance by each passing second.
Stella swears under her breath, "We should have taken the elevator," she grunts.
We struggle up the final four flights, and I can feel Stella begin to falter in her speed.
But we can't slow down. We can't let Paige down, not now.
"Just a little further," I urge in between breaths. I can hear her gasps break apart painfully. So many steps, each step I force myself to move faster and faster. I push my left foot and then my right to quicken the pace each time.
We reach the top, and I convince my body to push even harder as we enter the hallway on the eighth floor. I can feel Stella begin to slow down, "We're not safe yet," I say, and this causes her to increase her speed.
I look down the hallway, and realize that there are more rooms on this floor than the number of stairs that we just climbed.
"What room is she in?" Stella pauses in between each word catching a whiff of air.
"I don't know," I answer, "she didn't say."
We turn the corner and enter an empty room. I shut off the lights, and hide us beneath what seems to be an operating table. I remember when I used to visit the hospital frequently during my youth.
My parents visited nearly every doctor that they could fix their hands on to cure my condition, but there was nothing that the doctors could do. I had grown accustomed to the sights and smells of medical centers such as these.
Our pursuers pass down the hallway without glancing into our room. We slowly rise.
"Is this like a hospital room?" Stella asks.
I nod slowly and realize that she probably can see me in the dark, "Yes," I answer.
"But we're inside the Reset building," she says slowly.
"Yes," I repeat my response.
"They only build chattys in the Reset. Why is there a hospital inside a factory?"
I grunt in agreement. Something definitely feels off about this place.
A familiar voice beckons down the hallway, and I pull Stella down with me. I recognize the voice; it's Trevor's.
"I'm sorry Leonard, but I need to finish 207460's operation in the next ten minutes-yes she's the one who remembers. Okay she's in room 806. I'll meet you there in ten minutes."
His voice drowns out as he travels down the hallway.
"Isn't that Paige's number?" Stella whispers.
"And that was Trevor talking on the chatty outside," she mumbles as she seems to be piecing together the big picture, "Gosh, why did I have to be so stupid? Ky told me that he works here. He must be helping the city 'fix' the deletes."
The door to our room opens, and the lights turn on. I nearly jump out of my skin, but my panic fades when I realize that it's Orion.
"Orion," I hiss, "What are you doing here?"
He frowns, "I do not understand. I am number 407265, sir."
"Orion, it's me Jasper. Don't you remember?"
Orion shakes his head, "I have never met you before, sir."
"Perhaps he has been 'fixed' for good," Stella whispers, "Paige said in her letter that the deletes who continue through the final operation don't remember their past."
I stand up, "We need to get to room 806 before that happens to Paige."
We open the door and begin to race down the hallway with Orion calling behind us, "You have no authorization in this wing of the building."
We find room 806. We open the door, and find Paige handcuffed to the operating table in the room.
She is alone.
Her head snaps up, and she looks as if she's about to explode with tears, "You came!"
"We need to get her out of these," Stella motions to the handcuffs, "is there a key around here?"
"There's a medical saw," Paige swings her left foot to point to a saw on a nearby shelf, "I couldn't reach it with my hands."
Stella reaches for the saw and pulls it down. She gawks at the sharp edges, "This is used for medical purposes?"
I shrug my shoulders, "I'm not a doctor; don't ask me."
She shakes her head, "We used this in school when we were cutting metal. The teacher called it a trucid saw. She said that the ancients used to use something called a hack saw to cut through metal, but trucids cut through better, I guess. I just don't know why this is in a hospital."
"I don't need a history lesson," Paige sighs impatiently, "just get me out of this thing."
Stella nods and places the blade on the chain and presses a button. Instantly an electric buzzing sound fills the room for a fraction of a second, and Paige is free.
"Now let's get you two apart," Paige reaches for the saw and places it against our handcuffs.
Within less than a second, the handcuffs snap, and we can part our separate ways.
But I can't leave Stella now.
"You know, Stella, you could always come with us." I say.
Paige looks like she's about to protest, and Stella can see her painfully obvious scowl.
Stella shakes her head sadly, "I think it would be better if I didn't come with you. I would just mess everything up."
She sighs, "I also need to get home to my parents. They are probably worried sick."
I nod slowly, and Paige grabs for my arm, "We need to go now," she insists, "they'll return for my operation any minute now."
I cannot wave goodbye to Stella, so I offer a warm smile, and turn around racing down the hallway.
Something tells me over and over: You shouldn't have left her.
And before I can reply to these thoughts, I hear Stella's scream.
Chapter Twenty Three: Stella
I desperately try to yank the hand off of my mouth as the stranger pulls me into a room. I whip around and discover that it's Ky.
"Ky!" I protest, "Don't you dare ever do that to me again! You gave me a heart attack!"
She laughs playfully, "Sorry, I guess that I got a little excited. Where have you been?"
"It's a long story,"
"We have time," she says and then glances at the clock on the wall, "actually no I don't, sorry got to go, bye!"
"Wait! I cry, where are you going?"
She motions for me to follow her, and we enter room 806, the room that I was just in. She shuts the door and gasps when she sees the empty operation table.
She frowns, "She was just in here-"
"What's going on?" I ask.
She jumps up and down, "Oh, Stella, this is so exciting! I'm so glad that I'm going to be here on this life changing event!"
I hold up my hands, "Slow down, Ky. I've just entered the city. Could you please explain to me what happened after you left?"
She explains that she and Xanya had won the duo race, "And no offense to Xanya, but she was a tone deaf singer. The other competitors were okay at talent, but my dance took the prize."
I stare blankly, and she looks mildly disappointed.
"Don't you know what that means?" she exclaims, "I won the Ultra-thon!"
"Great job!" I try to keep the enthusiasm in my voice. What's wrong with me? I should be happy for my friend. Her winning must have been her lifelong dream, but somehow the Ultra-thon doesn't matter to me anymore.
Am I just a sore loser? I'm not jealous of Ky-well maybe a little bit. I know that I could have beaten her in that talent portion, but somehow I no longer care about the one thing I focused my entire life on.
"Aren't you happy for me?" Ky's voice falters and she looks extremely disappointed now.
"Of course Ky," I give her a hug, "sorry, it's just the last couple days have been extremely crazy for me. I'm just a little out of it today, but I am really happy for you."
"Watch this," Ky says, and she presses against skin of her thumb, automatically a chatty appears out of her skin. "Isn't it so cool?"
Cool would not be the word I would use to describe. Revolting has a better ring to it.
"Ky," I say still trying to sound upbeat, "you put a piece of machinery into your body-why?"
She smiles, "Everyone is super jealous. I visited school the other day, and everyone wanted one. They say the clear chatty is totally ancient, and it hasn't even come out yet!"
She then presses against her temple, and her eyes glaze over with a greenish tint, "This can help me see underwater, in the dark, everywhere."
She then grabs my wrist and places her pinky against the remainder of the handcuff on my arm. She seems to press another button, and the rest of the handcuff snaps off just like it did with the trucid saw, but this time the saw is Ky's pinky.
"Isn't this so cool?" she exclaims once more.
I decide to give up the upbeat act, "Ky, why would you do that to yourself? Your turning yourself into some sort of machine, is that even healthy?"
She laughs, "Who cares? Stella, this is the future. All the previous winners of Ultra-thons have gone through the reset process, even Trevor."
I freeze. Something feels extremely wrong, "Ky-what do you mean by reset process."
"We're all fixed, Stella."
The drum in my heart pounds harder and harder:
"Do you mean-they're not just fixing deletes?"
"Stella," she talks to me as if I were a child, "the deletes were just the lab rats for the fixing process. They needed to see if their new technologies worked, and they did! And you're so lucky to have a friend like me."
I can feel myself backing away. I want to get away from her.
"Why?" I ask.
"The winners of the Ultra-thon can choose some friends to undergo the fixing," she explains, "Aren't you excited? Oh my gosh, Stella, everyone is going to be so jealous of you."
I shake my head violently, "No, no, Ky this isn't what I want. To turn my body into part machine? Paige couldn't even remember most the-"
The door slams open and Trevor enters.
"Where is 207460?"
"Her name is Paige," I snap defensively.
Trevor drops the clipboard that he's holding. "Stella? You're back?"
I cross my arms, "Yeah, I'm back. Could you please snap some sense into my friend and undo the damage already done to her?"
"Stella," Trevor looks genuinely confused, "you can't un-fix someone. It's scientifically impossible."
He turns to Ky, "Where is the patient?"
Ky shrugs, "How should I know?"
"She's gone," I can feel a smile form across my face, "luckily away from something you forced her to do."
Trevor frowns, "Stella, you let her escape?"
"I helped her escape," I can feel my voice rising, "she was going to lose all of her memories-"
I feel Trevor's hand clamp over my mouth. Her presses against his wrist, and some sort of device seems to stun Ky. He presses a few buttons that glow underneath his forearm, "There, she won't remember the last minute."
He releases the grip, allowing for me to speak.
I wave my hand over Ky's face, and she's still stunned.
"She's going to be like that for another thirty minutes," Trevor says.
"Why didn't you want her to know about the memory problems?" I ask.
Trevor shakes his head, "What she doesn't know can't hurt her."
I can feel my fury explode, "What kind of operation are you running here? Brainwashing innocent people from their memories and turning them into machines!"
"Now," Trevor holds up a hand, "you are thinking too much like a delete. We'll need to fix that won't we?"
He plugs into a head device in his ear used for communication,
"Leonard, I have your next patient for the operation-it's Stella."
Chapter Twenty Four: Stella
Before I can react, Trevor slams his body into mine against the operating table.
"Get off of me!" I scream as I kick him in the stomach which sends him stumbling back.
My eyes fumble around the room for something to protect myself, and they find a sink. I remember that in the restaurant when I poured water over top of Trevor he began to convulse. This makes sense now, electricity never mingles well with water, and Trevor has machine parts implanted inside his body.
A leap over to the sink and fill a measly cup with water. It doesn't look very intimidating, but I'll have to make do.
I whip around to face Trevor, "Don't come near me," I warn, "or I will pour this over you."
A smile cracks across his face, "My final fixing prevents me from problems like the one I had in the restaurant," he explains, "we've installed waterproof coverings to protect the machine parts."
He slaps the water out of my hand, and I quickly make a bolt towards the door. Just before my hand can grip the handle, I feel an iron grip yank it back. Trevor's cold icy grip encircles my arms, and he wrestles me back on to the operating table.
"Wait a minute," I cry as I struggle to sit up, "if you went through the final fixing, how can you remember anything?"
"We have a method here that allows the patient to remember simple information such as their name and their age," he says as he pushes down my feeble efforts, "but we get rid of those unwanted memories from the past."
Suddenly I realize how history might actually impact my life. If they had no memories from their past, how could they learn from their mistakes?
His cold grip sends shudders down my spine.
"Why would you do this to yourself?" I ask.
He lets out a sharp laugh, "I actually was against the fixing originally. I had a delete's mind like you, but my master helped me realize about how unnecessary things like memories are. They only bring pain and sadness, and that is a sign of weakness."
The door opens, and a man with bleached hair enters. He snaps a pair of latex gloves on his hand, and his unforgiving grey eyes drill into my direction.
"Those weaknesses need to be deleted, in order to make us stronger," Trevor continues as if he's read this monologue to patients thousands of times, "We need to make you stronger by deleting those imperfections."
"Is the patient ready for the operation?" the doctor asks in a monotonous tone as if this was a normal daily routine for him.
"Yes she-Stella stop struggling!"
I can't help it. I roll my fists into balls and begin to push up against Trevor's weight with all of my might. My legs begin to thrash around like crazy, and I desperately search for an escape.
I bite down hard into Trevor's arm, but immediately wince at the pain in my gums. It feels as if I've just bitten down into metal.
The doctor approaches with a needle, and if he injects me with that, I know that I'll succumb to sleep in an instant.
"There's no way out," Trevor says.
I need something to distract him, but there's no way that I can fight muscle against metal. I do the only thing that I can think to do.
I kiss him.
I always thought that my first kiss would be a little more romantic than this, but it seems to do the trick. He lets go for a brief second long enough for me to jump to my feet, but then his grip wraps around my waist and he pulls me back.
"Trevor," the doctor says in a toneless voice, "I need for the patient to be laying down in order to continue with the procedure."
"I-I can't," Trevor stutters, "I can't do this to her. I remember, Leonard, I remember my father. I remember what he said about her-"
"You remember your past even after your went through the final fixing?" Leonard exclaims with a little more emotion to his voice.
"Then we must proceed with the operation no matter what your memories tell you. We must fix her."
Suddenly the door burst open; Jasper and Paige enter.
"Jasper!" I exclaim, and then my smile fades, "where the heck have you guys been?"
"Sorry," he stutters, "there was a huge crowd stampeding through the hallways something having to do with a 'fix call'."
"What is the 'fix call'?" I ask Leonard.
He sighs and answers as if he's reading off of a teleprompter, "The entire city has been scheduled to undergo the first fixing. Every citizen will be fixed, and then they will choose whether they want the final fixing or not."
"Why on earth would anyone want to lose their memories?" I ask.
"Obviously they don't know about the memories part," Trevor says, "the people who undergo the final fixing have water proof gadgets and more advanced technologies. They will only see the next-best-thing and will want it."
We then sit in awkward silence as a showdown of staring begins wondering who is going to make the first move.
Jasper decides to throw a punch at Trevor and recoils when he realizes that he punched into hard metal.
Trevor lets go of my waist grip, and begins to stride towards Jasper. I make a leap for the door, but Leonard corners me with the sleeping needle.
I kick him in the shin, but painfully discover that he's been fixed as well. The metal also happens to be implanted into their legs. I can hear Jasper's struggling cries from nearby, and Paige begins to tackle Trevor.
Leonard jabs the needle into my neck, and I can feel the energy drain out of my body.
Within two seconds, my body gives way to dreamless sleep.
A/N: Cliffhanger! Find out what happens to Stella in the next chapter, but for now do feel free to review :)