With an IV pole near and nowhere to go, Gloria lay in her hospital bed and stared at the white ceiling. She could not remember how she got there. She could not remember why. She only knew she was in a hospital, attached to machines, and she could not feel anything from her neck down. She found it curious that no one would fill in the blanks for her. She could not even remember when she saw the doctor last. There was something important hovering on the stem of her brain; something she needed to remember but could not. Every time she tried to jog her memory, she blacked out. When she came to, it was always the same nurse tending to her. “How did I get here?” she asked. Silence greeted her. The nurse did not look at her as she busied herself recording stats. Not even when she applied the blood pressure bag to her arm did she venture a look, nor did she ever respond. Gloria cleared her throat, breeching the silence with the hoarse sound. The nurse startled. She finally got her attention. “How did I get here?”Incomprehension blinked in the nurse’s eyes. “Oh, geez. It’s not a difficult question. Ok, how about this one, then. Why am I here?” It was brief but she caught a slight flicker of understanding this time. She waited but the nurse gave no answer. An exasperated sigh escaped. “Oh, come on, really? If you can’t tell me, can you find someone who can?” The only response was the sound of the nurse’s soft soles on the linoleum floor as she turned and left the room. Moments later, a man entered the room, dressed in dark blue hospital fatigues. Gloria swallowed. A faint flicker of remembrance flashed through her head, but disappeared too quickly for her to grasp it. He was a large man, broad and stocky of shoulder, his scalp peeking through thinning hair that sprouted around his face like an unattended lawn. His hands were surprisingly small and soft as he touched her arm. “You have questions?” he asked, studying the notes on the chart. Finally! She thought. “How did I get here?” “You arrived by ambulance.” He still did not look at her. He lifted the sheet from her legs and studied them. “Why am I here?” “To heal and get strong again.” He said, covering her legs again and writing on the chart. This answer caused her to pause. While she could not summon up anything, his response did not feel right. Instinct told her there was no accident, that she had not been sick. A faint memory of running down the sidewalk began circling in her mind, but that, too, made no sense to her. “What happened to me?” “I don’t know. When you arrived, you were incoherent and broken. You had many bruises. You suffered fractures to your ribs here and here.” He pulled back her blanket to show her where she was wrapped. “You suffered trauma to your vertebrae here and here.” He pointed out three different places on a diagram of a spinal column stuck on the wall she had not noticed. “I pulled two bullets out of your right shoulder.” He moved to her other side and opened the sleeve of her gown to show her the stitches. “You are still in need of some cosmetic surgery to repair the damage to your face.” He touched her gently and she winced as pain echoed behind his touch. Tears pooled in her eyes, hovering on the edges. “When did I get here?” “Three weeks ago.” “But you don’t know what happened to me?” The doctor shook his head. “I don’t even know who you are. You came with no identification, no personal affects, just the torn clothing on your body. You were unconscious.” Up until that moment, he had avoided looking in her eyes directly. “Tell me. What do you remember? Anything?” None of what the doctor said made any sense. The scenario he described did not match what flashes of her memories were returning. Her intuition told her it would be better to reveal nothing until she found out more. “I don’t remember anything,” she lied smoothly. “That’s why I asked.” “I see.” He looked her over, lifting her arms and legs, tapping them and asking her general questions about feeling. She had none. More tears pooled in her eyes, these spilling over. The doctor stepped back finally and sighed. “Your strength is returning, even if your feeling hasn’t yet, so we will begin physical therapy as soon as you regain feeling.” She felt a glimmer of hope build within her. “When do you think that’ll happen?” “Typical recovery time is about ten weeks. You are progressing a bit ahead of schedule so I am hopeful that it will happen soon. You should get some rest.” A shrill, sharp whistle flowed from his mouth, and his face dissolved into darkness as Gloria blacked out.~*~*~*~*~*~ With an IV pole near and nowhere to go, Gloria lay in her hospital bed and stared at the white ceiling. She let her mind wander hoping it would remember how she got here, and what had happened. Her memories stopped at her college graduation, but fleeting images of her street, of running, and of a familiar man told her there was more. No one volunteered any answers. In fact, no one spoke to her at all. They just came in and poked, scribbling on a clipboard they never left within eyesight. She could feel her fingers tingling and the slight tickle from the pen they would stroke against the bottom of her feet, but they never asked her if she did. It was always the same nurse and the same doctor that came. She heard the door slide open on its metal track and saw the curtain billow out. She heard the click of the lock as the door was brought swiftly to a close. It was odd how she never gained a glimpse of the world outside the blue walls of her hospital room. “How did I get here?” She was determined to get some answers this time. The doctor startled, then smiled. “Oh good! You’re awake. We were starting to worry.” Confusion set it. This made no sense at all. The walls were the same shade of blue as the last time she had awakened. She recognized the nurse holding the clipboard. Bits of prior conversation with this man floated through her head. “I don’t understand. I’m awake quite often when you come in. No one has ever acknowledged it until now.” The doctor nodded. “You haven’t spoken until now. We knew you would eventually, just didn’t expect it to be today.” He kept his tone pleasant as he moved to the foot of her bed again. “Now, tell me. What do you feel?” He pressed against her toes hard. A small sliver of pain shot through her.Gloria gasped. “That hurts! Please..Please! I need to know! How did I get here?” “Do you remember nothing?” Mock surprise masked his face. He moved to her arm, bending and lifting, ignoring her overall. He had yet to look her in the eyes. She did recall more than she had before, but instinct told her it would be foolish to say anything. “No.” She paused as a wave of pain overtook her. “How did I get here?” “Someone dropped you off at the ER entrance.” No. This did not sound right. She remembered running down the sidewalk, running away. She did not get in anyone’s car. “Why am I here?” She shivered as he pulled back her blankets and checked the wrappings around her abdomen. She was beginning to feel pain there, but said nothing. “You are hurt. Does it hurt when I press here?” She winced in response. “Good, good. Things are looking better every day.” “How did I get hurt?” Urgency rippled through her voice. “I don’t have all the details, but it is my understanding that you’d been shot.” He pressed on her shoulder and held up a mirror so she could see the angry slashes where they had removed the bullets. “From the looks of you, I’d venture a guess that you were beat up as well. You have three broken ribs, three shattered vertebrae, your face was a bloody mess, and numerous bruises all over. You were unconscious for the better part of two weeks.” She gasped. The distinct sound of gunfire came to her mind. Why couldn’t she recollect the rest of what he was describing? “How come I can’t remember any of this?” She asked, her voice laced with panic. “It’s possibly a defensive move on your brain’s end. Perhaps whatever caused it was too traumatic. I’ll start sending the hospital psychologist over. You’ll start physical therapy tomorrow. You’ve got enough feeling back now.” “When can I go home?” He turned away from her, avoiding her question completely. “You should get some rest. There will be time for questions later. I’ll be back.” The doctor moved beyond the curtain, his whistle shrill and tuneless as he went. The last thing Gloria saw before she blacked out was his ankles as he slid the door open once more. ~*~*~*~*~*~ The morning arrived sunny and warm, the first day of Spring after a too long winter. Gloria had mixed feelings. Today she would begin her first day as an intern with Robomechanics, the largest technology company on the planet. She received the award letter last week, offering her an immediate interview. The recruiter was a small rat of a man that Gloria took an immediate disliking to. He explained his company well and her role as an intern within it, and successfully piqued her interest from the beginning. He explained in detail that she would be involved in the creation of humanoid robots that the military would use as soldiers. While his explanations excited her, his disposition was lacking, and she knew it affected how she had responded to some of the questions. Because of this, it was a great surprise that she was one of the few selected for the program. She had looked forward to starting. Several days ago, a man with enough muscles to rival Mr. Universe knocked on her door. His voice carried a thick Italian accent and his badge claimed he was Robomechanics employee. He was there to test her overall fitness and put her through a series of trials that she barely passed. He commented on her muscle tone often, praising her physique despite her disability to produce fifteen military push-ups in a row. He was brusque in handling her, and she was not surprised to find several bruises on her thighs and back after he left. Gloria saw him walking down her street again two days ago, though he did not stop and knock. More strange men suddenly appeared, hanging out on her street corners and sleeping in cars parked just beyond hers. Unaccustomed to the attention, her excitement dimmed. She understood that it was protocol for the sensitive nature of what she would be working on, but she did not have to like it. When the strange phone calls began yesterday, Gloria’s doubts overwhelmed her desire. The unidentifiable voice on the phone told her to shut her curtains, remain indoors, and only accept calls from Robomechanics. It instructed her to give the appearance that no one was home in order to discourage any visitors. Although she did not understand these new rules, she followed the instructions anyway. When she tried to get online, she realized her internet was turned off. They had done everything they could to remove her from the outside world. This erasure did not sit well with her at all. She wanted out. Gloria called her recruiter. “I’ve changed my mind, and I’m no longer interested in the internship,” she said, careful to keep the hope out of her voice. “It’s too late. You’ve already accepted the position. Now there’s no going back. I told you this in the interview,” he answered, his voice screeching more than usual. “I’m not accepting your resignation. You will report on time tomorrow morning.” He disconnected the call before she could say any more. She paced the floor for a while before falling into a fitful sleep, knowing she would have to follow through. Now, just minutes before she needed to leave to begin her internship, Gloria inched the curtain over just enough to get a good view of the street. The watch car was gone. No strangers haunted the street corners. The company car she was expected to travel in had not yet arrived. She decided to make a run for it. Packing her shoulder clutch with as much as she could carry, she decided to leave her ID and everything that could prove who she was behind. She pulled her stylish brown hair into a chignon and pulled a knit cap down over it in an attempt at disguise. Her mind formulated a plan that would get her as far away from here as quickly as possible without using her car. She would sneak out the back door, catch the bus a few blocks away, and make a stop downtown first. She had heard rumors of a little shop there that could make her a new ID. With that, she could get away until it was safe to return home. She sighed, choking back a small tear, as she said goodbye to her little house, knowing that she might not ever return. She had gone half a block when she heard lumbering footsteps behind her. With a backward glance, she recognized Mr. Universe. Maintaining her pace, she took stock of her surroundings again, noting the watch car was back as well, hovering in the distance. She contemplated entering the small market nearby, but realized they would just wait for her to come back out. To run seemed to be her best option. As her feet pounded the pavement, her eyes searched for an opening in the traffic ahead. She sensed him running behind her, and knew his longer strides would make it easy to catch up to her. Two pops and the smell of gunpowder filled the air. Searing pain rippled through her right shoulder and a fist came out of nowhere, connecting with her face, knocking her off her feet.~*~*~*~*~*~ “How did I get here?” Gloria asked- eyeing the partially masked face attached to the broad shoulders she had become familiar with. “You were brought here.” The doctor’s voice was brusque, his words clipped. “Why am I here?” “To fulfill your internship. Did you really think we’d let you out of it?” The wicked edge on his voice made her shudder. “I’d like to introduce you to someone.” The nurse wheeled in a full sized mirror. As she removed the sheet covering it, the doctor unsnapped Gloria’s gown and let it fall. Her mouth dropped open, her tongue pressed against her bottom teeth. Horror filled her eyes as she soaked in the image before her. Shiny steel replaced her silicone-enhanced breasts, its hardness stealing away the softness of her pink flesh, and all that defined her body as human. Her luxurious mane of curly brown hair was clipped to a crew cut. Facial reconstruction turned her beautiful face decidedly non-gender specific, though her skin was left intact. To further her shame, the curtain slid open. There beyond the sliding door, a cockpit of people dressed in military uniforms sat in a semi-circle, observing her. “I am very pleased to introduce you all to She-bot #IQ3659. We call her ‘Glow’,” the doctor said. Before she could scream, the doctor whistled shrilly.~*~*~*~*~*~ With an IV pole near and nowhere to go, Gloria lay in her hospital bed and stared at the white ceiling. The nurse hovered nearby, checking her stats, and making notes on a clipboard. She had full feeling in her arms and legs now, though no one ever asked her about it. The doctor entered, took the clipboard from the nurse, and smiled in pleasure as he viewed the results. He moved around her swiftly, lifting and bending every joint he could, never asking for her opinion. She opened her mouth to speak, but no sound would come out. He noticed her movement, even as he bent her neck beyond what should be capable, and tapped the empty space where her voice box should be. “No more questions,” he said smugly.
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