Awareness returned slowly. I was lying upon the table, my body in restraints. I felt distant from myself, as though I were standing in another room viewing the scene through a window. Someone was moving around me, passing from the operating table to the counter and back again. An implement of some sort was picked up or set down, and felt myself wincing in response. I opened my eyes, but I still could not see and when I attempted to move my body did not respond.
“Did he have any ID on him?” The voice sounded very near, just off to the left of my head. It was a man’s voice but I did not recognize the speaker.
“Yes. Joseph Aurellano. I have Aleksandra and Martin looking into it. I doubt they’ll find anything. The Order is very thorough about these things.”
That voice I did recognize. It belonged to the man who had intercepted me in the market. He was standing by the counter doing something with whatever implement he had moved earlier. Desperately I tried to recall what had been lying on the counter when they brought me in, but all I could see was his face looming over me, his eyes on the needle he was inserting into my arm.
“It makes one wonder how we ever found out about him.”
“Too good to be true, you think?” the first man said. He moved from the counter to the operating bed, hovering over me.
“Did you see who he was with?” the stranger said. It seemed clear that he was in command.
“Not really. A woman. Whoever it is, she won’t have her own face.”
“Does he?” As he spoke, he gestured toward my prone body. My awareness seemed to expand a moment later, though I still could not see and only dimly hear. Yet I could visualize both men studying me from above. The first man, the doctor, I thought, was holding something in his hands though I could not quite make it out. As I watched him, bracing myself for whatever was to come, I became aware of the presence of a third person in the room standing off to the side, near the door. It was a woman and she watched the proceedings with a skeptical eye.
“No,” the doctor said. “Near as I can tell he is the man he was when he was born. If anything was done to him it was by someone far better than me.”
“Strange that they would send someone here on their own face.”
The doctor grunted, busy with whatever implement he had at hand. I felt something pierce my spine where it met my buttocks and could feel the doctor’s careful, guiding hand pressing it deeper. I screamed, no sound emerging except in my mind where it echoed loudly until the pain drowned out all my senses and I lost consciousness.
The doctor was speaking when I came to. It felt as though only a few seconds had passed, though I had no way of knowing for certain. Time seemed as distant and mercurial as my body. He had begun to slowly retract whatever had penetrated my spine and the slow burn of agony inflamed my thoughts.
“We’ll know soon enough,” he said. “What do you want done with him in the meantime?”
The other man considered this for a moment. “Let’s wait until the results are in before we do anything. You’ll have to keep him in here or the Seeker will be on us.”
“Yes. I’ll just keep him under.”
“Good. I’m going to let the others know about our progress. Keep me informed.”
A moment later I could hear him entering the code for the door, which opened with a hiss of air. A satisfied beep announced when it had been sealed again. The doctor did not look up from his task, moving from where I lay to the counter where he busied himself with some equipment. He hummed as he worked while I tried again to move. My body still did not respond, though it ached from whatever had been done to me, a throbbing pain that showed no signs of subsiding.
He injected me again, this time in the shoulder, and the void descended for a time. When I emerged from it the doctor was still humming, busy at the counter, though I had the sense a great deal of time had passed and he had left and returned. He paid no attention to me, not even glancing in my direction, his focus solely on the device on the counter. I could see him more clearly than before, though my eyes still would not open. It was the difference between dream and waking, though surely this was some manner of dream, for I was standing watching him intently from the far corner of the room.
“How is that possible?” the doctor said to himself, turning to look at me. As he did my point of view evaporated and I returned to the operating table, my vision reduced to intuition and insinuation.
“Who are you?” he said in a wondering tone.
I had two revelations almost simultaneously after his question. The first was that the words he was speaking, as well as his earlier conversation, had all been in the language the Seeker had whispered his threat in. Yet, somehow, I understood every word. The second was that the woman remained in the room—had she been here all this time?—silent and watchful, awaiting the outcome of whatever tests the doctor was running. She was the key to my predicament, I understood. If I wanted answers I would have to find a way to speak with her.
This is the eleventh part of The Forgotten, a science fiction thriller. A new section will be published here every Thursday.