Part IV Chapter 28: The Treatment

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Captain Light surrounds me and Anton in a sphere of photons and flies us to the Atomic Therapy Institute. The silver building in the form of a crystal atom gleams under a sunny sky. Pacifiers clear the roads for Groff and Deirdre to follow by car. As they arrive, medics strap me and Anton into gurneys, sliding a tube down my throat and placing a respiratory mask over Anton's mouth and nose. They stick electrode pads all over my body, bombarding me with shockwaves. My muscles spasm, arching my back.

    The medics rush us down a hallway, Groff and Deirdre at our sides

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The medics rush us down a hallway, Groff and Deirdre at our sides. Cameras hover all around. The medics push us into a room of interlocking pink hexagonal tiles. Demoiselle DuVent lights a cigarette and takes a long drag. She gazes at us, rubbing her tummy with her free hand.

"Husband," she says, "do you ever wonder what Prince would be like if he were still alive? What kind of man he'd be?"

"Every day," Groff replies.

The demoiselle takes his hand. "Are you sure this will work?"

"I'm sure we're out of options," Groff replies.

The orderlies lock the wheels on the gurneys.

Groff shines a penlight into my eyes, then Anton's.

"How are they?" Deirdre asks.

"Pupils are fully dilated," the minister grunts in satisfaction. "What comes next is going to hurt—a lot. I wish you could be unconscious, Lilianne, but that's not how this works."

"Minister Fighterman, are you sure you wish to perform the procedure yourself?" one of the medics asks.

"Of course, he's sure! She's our daughter!" Mother Deirdre snaps her fan; a gust of wind blows the medic—and the cameras—from the room.

"You're in excellent hands," Groff assures us as he removes the choker around Anton's neck. "Politics I do for the people; science is my passion."

I barely hear, too busy bracing myself for pain worse than what I've already experienced. The doors hiss open. I crane my neck to see what torture device I will be subjected to this time. I hear the shuffle of uncertain steps as Captain Light herds four people forward.

"Captain," Groff says, slipping what sounds like a bottle of pills into the H.E.R.O.'s hand, "I do appreciate your assistance and discretion with this delicate matter."

I'd tuck the moment away for future me, but the thought is eclipsed by the smell of jasmine and cedar. My throat clenches around the tube shoved into my mouth. It can't be. From the corner of my eye, I see four dregs standing where they should not. Two of them are Amma and Appa.

No! I want to shout. I thrash in my bindings. Amma and Appa see me and hold each other. It's been just under a year since I was taken from them, yet they've aged a decade. Appa's skin sags. Amma's hair is fully grey. They look like my grandparents, not my parents.

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