In His Own Image: Part 6
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November 27, 1998:


It was all in his head.

Lament sat on the floor of the medical ward, leaning against the wall. He was rubbing both of his arms for a moment, until he realized what he was doing and stopped. It was an awkward moment, looking around, seeing all the legitimately injured people and then realizing that he didn’t have any real right to be here. And with all the doctors running around attending to burns, wounds, and various exposures…

He pushed himself up, walking as smoothly as he could from the room and into the hall, maneuvering around more injured people and bed, finally making his way out into open hallway. He wasn’t sure where he was at, but a lot of Site-19 looked the same. He just picked a direction and started walking in it.

Once, he was almost certain that he’d heard 106 laughing, but as he turned to look at the empty wall the sound had issued from, it was clean and unmarred.

All evidence from the recovery group that had found Sandlemyer suggested that 106 had somehow gotten itself caught in 015, tangled in the pipes somehow, screaming bloody murder. It would hold the damned thing. Seal it. Maybe eat it like it ate other people. And he'd write up a file. Give it to Gears. Walk away from this. Walk away from this hell that he'd found himself in. And for some reason, knowing that—finally—he had found a way to contain the damned thing was more of a comfort than anything else at the moment.

He looked at the wall again when he thought he heard the laugh a second time. He stepped closer and ran his fingers of it, then stepped back again.

In his head. It was all in his head.

November 29, 1998:

“What do you mean it was ‘playing’?”

Gears expressionless face betrayed neither pity nor concern. “It was playing with us, Agent. Cat and mouse."

Lament swallowed. “So… 015…?”

“The Overseers would never have allowed such a program to exist long term, Agent Lament, even if it had worked,” Gears continued flatly. “As it is, the men putting the next level of containment in place were attacked and utilized by 106 with—”

“Utilized?” Lament laughed. Laughing was all he could do, at the moment. He was inches from hysteria. That voice the night before. That mocking laugh as he walked down the hall… Had that been him? Had he been ‘playing’ again? 'Utilized.' It consumed. It devoured.

And it apparently played.

Gears waited patiently for him to stop. "The men putting the next level of your containment plan in place were attacked and utilized by 106. Three dead on the scene. Four more deceased over the next week from the initial attack. Another twe—"

"Please stop," Lament said, closing his eyes tightly. He leaned against his desk, gripping the top of it tightly, not letting go.

He was close to breaking when he felt Gears’ hand on his shoulder. “Dr. Glass informed me that you’ve not been in for your quarterly psychological evaluation.”

Lament looked up. Gears was right. Lament hadn’t been in for it yet. It had been scheduled for the afternoon of the twenty-seventh, and he’d had other things on his mind that day. This was Foundation compassion, then?

“No, sir, I haven’t,” he answered.

“I’ve scheduled your appointment for this morning,” Gears said emotionlessly.

Lament’s fingers drummed for an instant on his desk, and while he didn’t necessarily want to go, he couldn’t think of any other excuse to get away from Gears for the morning. And getting away from Gears was exactly what he needed at the moment.

“It’s a natural urge,” Glass said. “Everyone is afraid at times. This is the way the Foundation helps its people deal with fear.”

“I’m not taking them,” Lament said, staring down the doctor. He'd met with Glass many times in the past. Quarterly psych evaluations, voluntary sessions.

"Lament, you can’t just… ignore this," Glass continued. "These policies and practices were developed by people with far more experience than either of us. Sometimes, you just… need to forget."

“I don’t want to forget.” How many times has the doctor heard that same response?

“Why would you not want to forget watching your friend being devoured by a supernatural… thing?” asked Glass. "You saw him when they got him out. You know he was still alive for a few hours after that, Lament. Why would you want to remember him like that?"

“Because he was my friend.” How many people had he gotten to do this before me?

“You don’t have to forget him. Dozens of people ‘transfer’ out at the last moment, Lament. Take a Class-B. Forget the last couple of days. If you hold onto this too long, then when you finally get rid of it, you’ll have to get rid of him entirely.”

Days? Lament frowned. For a moment, he turned his mind backwards, trying to remember something… Blindly reaching into gray. “Doctor… Can I ask you something? Something about those pills?”

Glass nodded. “Of course.”

“Which one did I take when I joined?” he asked. “When you all erased my family.”

Glass’s hand tensed on the arm of the chair for a moment, and then relaxed. Lament actually found himself admiring the man when his voice came out even. He'd either not known or had forgotten.

“You were conscripted?” Glass asked.

He hadn't known?

“Yeah," Lament said.

A moment. “That would have been a Class-A,” said Glass.

“And is there a cure for these things?” Lament asked. He kept his voice conversational, but there was hope there. Hope for parents he couldn't remember and a dozen friends or colleagues he wasn't sure he'd ever had.

“Occasionally,” Glass said. “Sometimes, they don’t take. Something inside your brain refuses to accept it. Those are rare cases, though.”

And… that. Only stress and a touch of bitterness was present in Lament's voice now. “But nothing after the memory is gone?”


Lament drummed his fingers against the arm of the chair for a moment. “Then I’m not taking them.”

“It’s your choice, Agent. But I wish you’d reconsider.”

“Stick ‘em up your ass,” Lament said. “See you in three months, Doc.”

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