The Forging of Memory

“You realize as soon as you enter that building you’ll be caught, right?” He mumbled past the gauze in his mouth.

“I know Robin, but if I don’t they’ll just hurt more people,” she whispered. “Besides, they want me silent, not dead. I’ll survive this.”

“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean they want you whole either,” he said nodding to the gash he was patching in her side.

“Thanks for spitting in my glass.”

“Watch yourself.”

“I’ll do my best. You’ll know where to find me if you need anything.”

“Yeah, in an untraceable hole.”

“Precisely.”

He carefully placed the gauze over the slowly oozing cut where his hand lingered a moment too long. Covering the delay he quickly secured the gauze with tape then pulled her shirt down to cover it all. She tried to ignore the penetrating gaze he was fixing her with as she added a vest to her protection between the cut and the rest of the world.
Feeling crushed by his thoughts she snapped, “Whatever you’re going to say, best say it now.”

“Don’t do this.”

“I have to.”

“No, you don’t. You can keep running. You can keep helping people.”

“At the cost of others? How does that make any sense?”

“How many more will be hurt once they have you in their cage?”

“The same amount that are being hurt now! Only at least the ones that are hurt wont be done so because of me.”

“So in the end you are a coward?”

“How do you even make that conclusion? You know what, I don’t care. I suppose it does.”

“Then it’s good you are going. It’s like Griff says, there is no room for cowards in the movement. There are too many people who need our help. We wont be coming for you.”

“I know.”

“Alice, can’t you see what will happen once they have you?”

“I do.”

“Torture doesn’t begin to cover it.”

“I’m aware. They will want to know all about us and how I knew so much about them.”

“So you’ll see why I have to do this,” he said as he pulled out a vial and a gun. “It’s your choice, pill or bullet?”

“Neither, we’ll be doing this instead,” she said.

Alice leaned over to a drawer and pulled out a device. It looked like something that would be at home in either a sci-fi movie or a steam punk club.  Gears of silver, titanium, brass and copper covered the contraption. At various points metal arms jutted and hinged out, some ended in fine spikes, others in suckers. She gingerly put the helmet on and carefully started snapping the arms into place. The spikes burrowed their way into the base of her head, her temples, and at other points all over her scalp while the suckers started to pulse along her head.

As she breathed away the pain, Robin gaped at her, “Where did you get that? It hasn’t been approved for use.”

She shrugged it off, faking nonchalance, “I had a chat with Dr. Gagnu. She and I agreed now was a great time for a field test.”

She carefully dropped some scrap metal into the funnel on top of the helmet. Shaking her head back and forth she waited for everything to settle to the bottom. A ghost of a smile crossed her lips before she closed her eyes and furrowed her brow in concentration. Before he could stop her she flipped the device on.

Nothing could have prepared him for the panic that ripped through him as she screamed in utter agony. Alice didn’t now how long they’d been sitting there. It could have been half a minute or half a week. As time passed her screams died down and shifted into a wheezing whimper. The look of concentration never wavered though. The screams and whirring remained the same, right up until the end. The machine started to glow brighter and then it started heating up. With a wry smile Alice’s concentration broke and then it was over. She slumped to the side and the metal in the funnel at the top gave a delicate trickle.

“Alice,” Robin gently called. After a moment of silence, he grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her. “Alice? Alice!”

Her eyelids twitched. He stopped shaking her. After a moment she opened them. Nonrecognition glazed her eyes, but after a moment she focused. It was eerie, as they sat she could feel herself returning to her body, but something was off.

“Alice?” he asked.

“Yes?”

“Do- Do you know who you are?”

She sighed, “Really Robin? Considering you just said my name that is a terrible way to check my memory. Remember that next time. Although, I wont remember you much longer.”

“What?”

“She never explained how this thing works?”

“Who?”

“Dr. Gagnu,” she replied as she carefully tipped her head forward to retrieve the metal from the top of the helmet. She carefully held the contents in both of her hands while she spoke “As you are aware she devised a way to take memories away. Not destroy them like other methods, or misplace them like amnesia,  just remove them.”

“Right.”

“Well her method transforms them from one state to another. Or in this case-” she paused, fiddled one last time before she opened her hand and showed him her palm.
With her other hand she pushed herself forward. In her hand lay a ring. The various metals looped and pooled on top of one another in a memorizing looping pattern. As he looked he realized it resembled a star map, he wasn’t sure which constellation it was, but he was transfixed by the stars and planets. Robin reached out to touch it but Alice recoiled from him snapping her palm shut.

She smiled apologetically, “As soon as I let this go I will forget. Even now it’s hard to remember everything.”

“Oh.”

They sat in awkward silence for a few moments. Then, realizing her time had long run out, she took a deep breath. She looked at him, hard. She thrust her hand towards him and held the ring out to him.

“Give this to someone you trust for safe keeping,” she whispered.

“What?”

“I don’t have time for you to be thick right now Robin. Either you or someone you trust need to hold them for me. I can’t keep this ring with me. They aren’t going to let me keep anything of mine and I can’t risk it being lost forever. I don’t want to forget these things, I just can’t have them now. Do you understand?”

“Sure, yes.”

“Good. Now. It’s time for me to go.”

“They’ll still torture you.”

Carefully he finally took the offered ring. She followed the ring with her eyes as he put it in his pocket. As the ring was removed from sight her forehead crinkled in confusion.

“What?” she asked.

He opened his mouth to say something then quickly closed it. Glancing at his pocket he couldn’t help but flinch. Shifting past her he opened the rear doors on the van. Roughly he grabbed her and pushed her out. She nearly fell to the pavement but righted herself just in time. Confused she looked back at him.

“Excuse me sir, but what am I doing here?”

“You don’t remember? I found you lying in the road. You asked me to patch you up and bring you here.”

First he gestured to her stomach and then the vast concrete building behind her. Alice looked down and touched the spot he had gestured to. Pain flared from the bandage. She heard something fall to the ground next to her and then the van door slammed shut. Alice looked up in time to see the lights flare to life with the engine. Before she could call out any more questions the van was peeling away.

Taking a deep breath she looked down to what had been thrown to the ground. A jacket. She was about to bend down to pick it up when she noticed she held something in her hand. Slowly she turned her palm up and in her hand was a ring. Pulling it closer she saw that it has strands intricatly woven together that met on the top in a bow. Shrugging, she automatically slipped it on to her middle finger, surprised both by the naturalness of the motion and by the fact it fit. She supposed it was hers, even though she had no memory of getting it. Bending down she scooped the jacket up and threw it on. The fluid motion interrupted by pain fairing in her torso.

Shaking it off she began walking to the concrete building. As she walked her arm automatically went to cover her injured side. Locking in place to offer another layer of protection. Glancing around as she walked she noticed the street seemed unusually still. Preoccupied as to why that was or how she could be so certain she threw the doors to the building open without a care. She stormed in and was greeted by two dozen pistols aimed directly at her.

“Ah Miss Spade. So lovely of you to join us,” a man further back called.
She stiffened, “Well, clearly I was expected and I’m not one to turn down an invitation, am I?”

“No, you aren’t,” the voice clipped.

She peered in the darkness trying to see something besides metal pointed at her face. She spared a moment of searching to think about how odd it was that the light in the room only seemed to find the weapons, making them beacons in an otherwise bleak room. Actually, they added to the bleakness. It had been too bright outside, her eyes were taking too long to adjust, but she thought she could just make out something in the vicinity of the bodiless voice.  As soon as she figured out it was a chin, it jutted forward. A moment later something was shoved over her head and everything went black.

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