The Empowered and The Powerless Who: Nora and Zach When: Early Afternoon Where: Zach's lab, then Nora's room Warnings: Extreme, non-con medical experimentation resulting in serious pain.
Her room was in the same wing as Zach’s laboratory, which meant the goon squad task force wasn’t following her. But she’d noticed them. After her forum conversation with Jason, she’d tried to go to the mess hall and scope out how easy it would be to find Jason and skedaddle right on out of this place, but she’d been followed the entire way there once she left the doors of her wing.
It had to be Zach. He wasn’t a moron. He knew she didn’t want to be here. She’d told him as much, point blank, on his examination table, but she hadn’t expected him to actually go and talk to security about it. Which was why she was answering his summons today with more than her usual foreboding.
Frustrated and scared about what her new friends meant for her one opportunity to escape, Nora actually hurried to Zach’s lab. She stalked down the halls and right into the room, hoodie-covered arms crossed over her chest as she looked around for him. “Zach? Zach!”
He let out a long suffering sigh before moving from behind the cabinet he’d be getting into, raising an eyebrow at her. “There’s no point in raising your voice.” Zach went back to the cabinet, pulling out the rest of what he wanted, setting it on a tray. Today’s needle was huge, bigger than usual, but he needed to go deeper than usual.
“Brought you something,” he added, nodding towards the small cage near her examination table. In it was a small white mouse, one of the ones from a lab another floor, a surviving one from some experiments done there. It wasn’t all mouse anymore, not with the bionic eye, a sheer modern wonder, that it still worked and transmitted at its tiny size, but Zach didn’t doubt the abilities of other scientists. It looked normal though, which was the point.
She was about to storm over to him, to demand answers on why she was being followed and what little sense of privacy she already had, but then he spoke again and she turned to look at the cage and her mouth dropped open.
The little white mouse was adorable and instantly Nora felt a pull toward it. Something innocent, something sweet, something that needed her protection. It jarred her in a way she wasn’t prepared for and for a long, long moment she just stared at the mouse in the cage as her eyes welled up with tears. How long had it been since she’d had something to care for? Since she’d had someone who needed her?
Shaking her head to try and physically shake herself out of this state, Nora turned her back so hopefully Zach wouldn’t see the tears. She could yell at him later, right? Stepping right up to the cage, Nora opened the door. She hated that the little white mouse had been in a cage at all. No more, never around her. “Does he have a name? Or...she?” She asked, trying to keep her voice solid and not shaky.
“He,” Zach confirmed. He waved towards the table, not fighting her when she took the little mouse out of its cage. “They don’t usually name them.” Technically her files didn’t have a name either, but Zach had found it was better to connect with the subjects if he used the names they preferred. He moved his rolling stool over to the table then brought over the equipment table, waiting on her to join him. He would give her a minute, able to see the tears and her emotional reaction to the gift. It wasn’t much, the mouse not nearly as useful to the testers once they’d proved their science worked, but apparently it had done wonders for his patient.
Gently, Nora held her hand out and waited for the mouse to walk onto her gloved palm. Brightening once he had, she tentatively lifted her other hand, also gloved, and stroked its head with her index finger. “He’s so cute,” She said before clearing her throat again to try and rid the thickness of tears from her voice.
It hit her hard again that he wasn’t named. It was wrong. He deserved a name just like everyone else. He deserved a name and to not be stuck in that stupid cage again. “I’m gonna call him Francis.” She didn’t know why, but the name felt right. Just like it did for her to have someone in her arms again, someone that needed her protection. It was the most right Nora had felt in a very long time. Anger dissipated, Nora looked back at Zach and slowly moved to take her position on the table, still stroking the little mouse’s head gently. “I can’t believe you brought me a pet. Thank you…”
“He’s a mouse.” Zach didn’t get it, but he made another note of what she thought. When she named him after her father he almost flinched, his memory making it easy to remember the fine details of her case file. “Interesting choice,” he told her. “And do remember, I hear you when you talk.” He reached for a normal syringe, filling it from the vial next to him.
“Well, you’re really stoic most of the time so it’s hard to tell,” She said, smiling as Francis sniffed at her glove. “Can’t believe they let you take a mouse.” She needed to focus, she needed to not forget that she had some bones to pick with Zach, but it was so hard to be mad with Francis’ little face staring up at her. “He’s not just a mouse, you know. He’s more than a mouse.”
Glancing up at the sounds of Zach moving, she saw the needle and tried not to gulp. Needles always sucked. Always. Every time. Her initial defense mechanism kicked in right after that: distraction. “...Zach, why are there guards following me when I go to the mess hall?”
Little did she know, he was far more than a mouse, but Zach didn’t say anything about that. He merely nodded and reached for his gloves, putting them on and motioning for her to lift up her sleeve. “I told you I was going to talk to security. I wasn’t aware that was their plan, but it makes sense. You did leave, which is not allowed.”
She didn’t want to roll up her sleeve. She wanted to sit here and pet Francis and not think about whatever the hell he was going to do. After a moment of resignation, she sighed and moved, putting Francis in her lap so she could roll up her sleeve. “I should be able to leave if I want to, Zach. Me not being able to leave is the definition of not ok, you know that, right?” She said, wishing her argument felt as strong as it had out loud as it had in her head.
She watched the little mouse sniff at her scrubs, wanting to take her gloves off and touch its fuzzy head but suddenly concerned. “Hang on, does this happen with animals too? Can I touch Francis? What if he has a cut or something…” What a stupid thing to think, Nora.
“I think the concern is if you’ll come back,” Zach said, prepping her arm, then grabbing the syringe again. “This is to relax you.” He looked at the mouse then tilted his head to the side while he thought about it. “I’m not sure. I wouldn’t think so. Your ability seems to be limited.”
Ok, that was never good. Wanting to relax her? Not a good sign. She looked back at Francis then over at his cage again, scared that whatever might happen in this experiment would lead to her unintentionally hurting him. Sighing, she carefully lifted him and put the mouse back in his cage, closing the door after him and hearing the lock on it slam like an echo in her head. How easily she switched from ‘never again’ to ‘just this once’.
The pinch of the needle stung and she exhaled, closing her eyes until it was gone from her skin. “You’ll never know if you don’t give me a shot,” She said, though it was obviously not an attempt to dissuade his concerns. As soon as she was out, she was gone. Period. “...Why do I need to be relaxed, Zach?”
“Do you not remember being uncomfortable last time you were outside these walls?” Zach asked. He set the syringe aside. “Take off your shirt. Then lay on your side facing away from me. I need to take a sample from your spine.”
“Yes but guess who still came back?” She asked, though that part of the conversation felt much less important than her new instructions. She felt sick immediately, looking at Zach like he was crazy. “Why?” was all she could ask, words shaking in her throat and all the way out of her mouth.
“You still left.” He could see her hesitate and looked at her seriously. “I need to take a sample from your spine, the marrow there.” He didn’t repeat the direction, knowing she’d heard him just fine.
“For what though?” She asked, fingers still safe inside their gloves, clenching around the hem of her hoodie as she stared at him. She wanted to grab Francis and run, but there was nowhere to go. Outside of this wing, there were security guards ready to escort her back to her room, or directly to Zach maybe, if she tried anything. Feeling her heart rate kick up, Nora glanced at the door again before exhaling once more.
Her head was starting to feel fuzzy but she was trying to fight it, the fear of the insane amount of pain she was likely to feel still welling inside her. “Why is it necessary?”
Zach waited, knowing the sedative would kick in eventually. “Because your marrow is important. It builds your immunities. Which I want to study. It may hold the key to your ability to heal, and I could maybe increase it.”
She swallowed hard again, feeling loopier by the second. “I don’t want that. It’s gonna hurt,” She said, gripping her hoodie hem again, but harder this time. She was so tired of hurting. If she was hurting, how could she take care of Francis? Another thought hit her and she was desperate to reach out and hold the mouse in her hands again, to stay strong and awake and aware for him. “Do something else, Zach.”
“Can’t do anything else,” Zach told her. “I’ll give you an anesthetic, if you insist.” He wasn’t really looking to make her hurt as much as he wanted to go through with the procedure.
If she was out, she couldn’t protect Francis. It seemed like the only logical thing to do, stay awake and aware so that she could make sure he was safe. So that she could make sure she was safe. The girl with the brown hair and eyes like her own.
Blinking hard, Nora shook her head and ran her hands through her hair, trying to place the face she kept seeing but it wasn’t working. She had no idea who the girl was. But she couldn’t go to sleep and leave her, leave Francis, here with Zach. “No,” She said, though the word felt thick in her throat again. Sluggishly, she pulled her hoodie off and turned, feeling like lead as she dropped on the table, exposing her full back outside of the sports bra she wore. “Just do it.”
He nodded when she said no, looking at her back picking where he wanted to go and rolling to that space, bringing his table with him. He prepped the area, giving her a local numbing agent that would keep the skin from hurting too much, but would do little for the bone underneath. Once the numbing agent kicked in he reached for the longer needle, touching her skin before pressing into it, then the bone beneath it.
At first, the needle wasn’t so bad and she wondered what he would have needed to give her this relaxer for, but then it all changed. As the needle hit bone, the pain was blinding, searing, and worse than anything she’d ever experienced before. It ripped through her like a flashbang, whiting out images of Francis and the brown-haired girl in her mind’s eye and instead filling it with an intrusive, unending white hot pain. Her whimpers escalated into a howl, body tense beneath his hands. She was unaware she was screaming, mouth inches away from the cool metal of the examination table, because she couldn’t hear anything past this awful high-pitched frequency laying waste to her insides.
Zach held her steady with a strong hand, stronger than he looked, and making sure the needle went where he wanted. He pulled out the inside piece, creating the hollow needle that would be used to take the sample. The thing was though, he wasn’t just taking the sample. Once the needle was hollow he reached for another tool, sliding it into the needle to remove the sample, dipping into her marrow and drawing it back. He pulled out his sample then set it aside, reaching for the transmitter this time, sliding it down the hollow needle with another, embedding it into her spine.
The pain was growing. How could something that hurt so much, hurt more than anything she’d ever felt in her entire life, get even more painful? Tears fell onto the metal examination table below her as she fought against Zach, trying hard to pull away but between his strength and the serious pain vibrating through her entire body, she was hopelessly stuck. But she wouldn't have to remember much of this pain any longer, because as soon as he went for the sample Nora’s whited-out vision blacked and her body fell face-first into the table, unconscious.
That she passed out didn’t bother him, not really. That was normal. It was worth noting, but he didn’t do anything about it. He did his job, then pulled the needle out, patching her up and walked away. He went back to the computer, preserving the sample and setting it up for extract. She’d wake up eventually.
Nora remained out for almost a full ten minutes, but when she woke she was immediately flooded again in pain. After a moment more, she was able to lift her head enough that she could drop it back on the cold table again but be facing the exit this time.”Never again,” she said in a small voice, though this time it didn't have the same familiar tone add it halt did when she addressed Zach. This time it was harsher,colder, as if he was a stranger to her. “You will never do that again.”
Zach looked up at her when she moved, one eyebrow arched. “I’m not sure you make that decision.” He didn’t see a need to. The whole thing, while useful, was a guise to implant the transmitter somewhere she couldn’t remove easily. She wouldn’t let him put her under so he couldn’t use one of the implants the tech department had developed that worked with the brain, but he could use the standard fare in her spine.
He moved away from his table, arms crossed over his chest. “I decide. I also have a say in what you do and don’t do. If you stop complying here, your freedom becomes even less than it is.” It wasn’t a threat. Zach didn’t make threats. They were pointless. He was merely stating the facts in an even, almost gentle tone. He grabbed another set of gloves, then went to the cabinet for another syringe and vial of medicine. “For the pain,” he said, holding it up and walking back to her. He wasn’t a sadist. There was no point in making her hurt more now that it was done.
Nora felt sick and she wanted to blame it on what had just happened, but she hadn’t truly felt it until his words filtered through her ears. The pain flared but it mattered less to her than the anger building in her. “You do something like that again, and I will show you how little control you have over my body.” It was a threat. Nora loved threats. They weren’t pointless to her and, honestly, they were sort of all she had here. But if he tried to do another one of these awful procedures on her, she would find a way to make sure he never got to again.
She didn’t actively contemplate suicide, but lying face-down on this table with Zach looming behind her, informing her in no uncertain terms that what she did and didn’t do was up to him, that what she consented to with her own body was up to him? Well, that made the concept of ending it all a little sweeter.
Eying the needle with a deep-set glare in her eyes, she rolled the hostile glance up to him. “Why should I trust you?”
Zach ignored her threats. There was little she could do. He wasn’t worried. “Because I haven’t lied to you yet,” he told her, which was true. He’d said it would hurt, she’d ignored it. He moved closer once the syringe was filled. “It won’t knock you out either, though it may make you a little woozy. Though you typically recover quickly.”
“How the hell am I supposed to get back to my room if you make me woozy?” How the hell was she supposed to get back to her room now anyway. Today, despite Francis’ arrival, was so much worse than the electro-whatever test he’d run before. Today was the first day she actually felt hate for Dr. Briar. Actual, physical, internal hate
“Not that woozy,” Zach said. He held out his hand for her arm, waiting for her to give it to him, not wanting to stab her without her giving in at least some.
“It’s not like I can really walk right now either,” she said bitterly. “And how do I know I’ll get back there safely with Francis? Have you told your stupid goon squad that he’s mine and they don’t get to take him?”
“I don’t have a goon squad, Nora,” he said. “If you’d rather, I can escort you back.” He’d done it before. “I can get the wheelchair and drive you both back.” He nodded towards where there was one parked in the corner. “Then you know you’ll be safe.”
The wheelchair. Great. Because she was now an invalid. Frustrated and, underneath it all frightened, she looked back at Zach. “You do have a goon squad,” She retorted. “They followed me to the mess hall. We talked about this. Apparently you don’t listen.” She weighed her options, thinking about a phrase she didn’t remember the origins of. The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t. “Fine. You wheel me, but I’m not taking anything from that needle until I’m back in my room.”
“And I told you, all I did was mention your disappearance to security. If you’d like, I’ll speak with them again.” He already planned to do as much, so it wasn’t hard to offer it to her. He covered the syringe and pocketed it, handing her back her sweatshirt before going to get the wheelchair. Once it was back at the table he held out his hand to her to help her down.
“Good. Do that. Call them off,” She said, her tone proving it wasn’t a request. Nora felt like her entire body was burning lead. When she moved, her limbs were heavy, like she was filled with cement, but every motion sparked a flame of pain in her. Taking the hoodie, she thanked herself for wearing zip-ups and pulled it on her frame slowly. Once secured, she eyed his hand, not moving for a moment as she considered him. She didn’t want to touch him. She didn’t want to be anywhere near him right now, but the leap from the table to the chair felt extremely long. Reluctantly, she took his hand and used him as a crutch until she was seated in the chair, already looking back impatiently for Francis in his cage.
Zach ignored the order, because again, she wasn’t the one giving orders here. He got her settled in the chair, then carefully got the mouse, sitting its cage in her lap, not letting go until he was sure she had a hold on it. The wheelchair started slowly, but even as it picked up momentum, he took his time, not wanting to make her sick by racing down the halls. “I’ve arranged for food and supplies for your pet to be sent to your room as well.”
She gripped Francis’ little plastic cage a little tighter than she might have normally. This was not the situation she’d expected to find herself in today, but she was starting to realize that she needed to prepare for the worst whenever she was summoned by Dr. Briar. Or find a way not to be summoned by him again. That was a better plan, in her opinion.
She watched the little white mouse sniff at her fingers through the clear plastic, wishing she could pick him up and hold him right now. Wishing she didn’t have to go through this limbo of getting back to her room. She could feel her gloves in her hoodie pocket and felt strange not wearing them out in the open, even if it was just her and a gloved Zach behind her. “What kind of supplies? Like toys and stuff?” She asked, finding it easier to focus on Francis and his needs than her own. “I don’t want him to be bored.”
“I’m not sure mice are ones for toys,” Zach said. “But I was thinking the sawdust for his cage and any supplies you’d need to keep him well fed. I don’t know if he needs more than the wheel. Maybe something to chew on. But if you find he’s bored, let me know. We’ll come up with something.” He was open to keeping her happy, if only because she was more useful to him happy.
“I think a mouse would want toys like anyone else would,” She mused, looking down at Francis as he buried his head in a patch of bedding. “I don’t want him to spend too much time in his cage. He should be free. He’s had a hard life.” Closing her eyes against another wave of pain, Nora gave a practiced exhale. “Want something for him to chew on, definitely.” She could see her room approaching, thinking now that she might want to ask for a different bed. These loft beds were a good idea in theory, but she didn’t know if she could climb up the bed after this experiment and that was really where she wanted to be.
Zach didn’t think the mouse knew enough to know if his life as hard or not, and didn’t point out that for the mouse, life in the cage was much safer. In the cage, he was cared for, fed and kept alive. In the real world, he was a pest. Nora didn’t realize she was just projecting onto the mouse, but Zach didn’t say anything about it. She could have her little dreams for the moment. She’d learn otherwise shortly. “I’ll have something sent down, but spare paper towel and toilet paper rolls are usually a good choice.” He turned her into her room, then pulled out the syringe. “Ready for this yet?”
Nora made a note of that, thinking it would be easiest to procure spare toilet paper rolls for Francis. She looked up as they rounded into her room, eyes set on the loft bed above her. “These beds are getting real annoying…” She said, taking a slow moment to pick up Francis’ cage and put it on the mattress. She had to climb up a rung of the ladder to do so and it hurt everything in her. Frustration and exhaustion was starting to take a toll on her. “Yeah, fine.” Stepping down off the ladder, she rolled her sleeve up and held her arm out to her. “Think you could get them to send down dinner today too? Got a feeling I won’t be getting out of bed anytime soon.”
Zach waited until she gave in, then took her arm, gentlier with this needle, making quick work of it. “I’ll have them send something. Any preferences?” he asked once he’d pulled the needle out and set it aside, dabbing at the small puncture wound until it healed. He even rolled her shirt back down for her.
Why was he being so nice? He wasn’t this sweet most of the time. She didn’t expect him to even ask her what she wanted for dinner. She expected him to say yes, but not to this extent. It threw her for a loop and another thought processed through her mind. “Not really. Maybe something with some bread would be nice. Sandwich or something…” She glanced back up at him as he rolled her shirt down, feeling weird now. Feeling angry, but not furtively hating him at this moment. “...So, think we can switch out these loft beds too? Or at least my loft bed? Getting kind of sick of climbing a ladder every day.”
“I’ll have it sent down.” It was a good request, something that would sit well with the medicine he’d given her. “I’ll ask about better accommodations. Do you need help getting up now?”
The medicine was starting to make her woozy. Closing her eyes, she leaned back against the ladder and exhaled slowly. “I’ll be fine,” She said, though the ladder felt like it was a million miles tall. Swallowing hard, she looked up and grasped one of the rungs, but didn’t climb any further.
Zach moved forward, one hand on her lower back. “Let me help you, Nora,” he told her, voice even. “If you fall, neither one of us will be better off.”
“I don’t want the help,” She said, wishing her tone was snapping or biting but it wasn’t. It was just tired. She was so tired. “I wanna take Francis out of his cage but I’m scared I might squish him or lose him…”
“Why not wait until you’re more awake?” Zach said, guiding her up the ladder a little. “Even if you don’t want it, you need it.” He leaned into her, helping her more. “He’ll be more likely to be a companion once he’s familiar with your room. It will take time. Give him so time to get comfortable.”
“It’s a big room for a little mouse,” She said, words running together slightly as she let him push her up the ladder. Before she knew it, she was plopping on the mattress, reaching for Francis’ plastic cage. If she couldn’t hold him, she could at least hold his cage. Sighing, she closed her eyes, thinking one last thought that made it out of her mouth. “Thanks...for Francis,”
Zach grabbed the blanket at the foot of the bed, draping it over her feet and legs at least. “You’re welcome,” he told her, watching with his head canted to the side, then left the room, cleaning up with what he left behind.