Chapter 76: Interminable

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She woke squinting, the pain in her head unbearable, but realized it was the heaving in her stomach had jarred her from oblivion. Keeping her eyes shut, Lex attempted to calm her stomach but failed. Unable to control it, Lex realized as she became sick that she couldn't double over like her body wanted to do, she continued to be held up in a standing position. A wave of fear ran through her as the idea triggered an old memory, but that got washed out seconds later as her stomach began to heave again.

There seemed to be someone moving around the room just beyond her, but Lex couldn't force herself to open her eyes again to find out any more; even the slit she'd opened them to before had let in enough light to seem like daggers in her brain. She tried to relax enough to soften some of the pain and breathe gently enough not to make it worse. Lex heard murmurs in the background, seemed to feel someone moving closer to her, but all of that slid away as pure darkness came back up to get her.

Some time later, Lex opened her eyes a crack, cautious of how the light had felt earlier, but it didn't seem to attack her this time, and the pain in her head had faded to more of a dull ache. Her mouth, however, tasted like garbage.

As she blinked, she could feel a sinking sensation in her stomach as she looked to see the lab that had featured in her dreams so often. A white table a yard away from her held a laptop and some glassware, and the door beyond had been shut. A narrow window in the door, seemingly the only one in the room, was far enough away that Lex could see nothing through it. Since her head had been fastened in place, Lex tried rolling her eyes to see what lay to either side of her but spotted nothing of interest, just another white table to her left.

"Oh, so you're finally awake," said a voice to her right, causing Lex to flick her eyes in that direction, blinking as she saw a man in a lab coat step in front of her.

She tried to reply, but her throat turned out to be dry enough to only make a rasping sound. The other occupant of the room seemed focused on looking into her eyes with a penlight and humming to himself, oblivious of her attempt to communicate. Lex swallowed, feeling that her throat had been somehow lined with sandpaper, and managed to speak in a crackling voice. "Water?"

The man made an annoyed sound and ignored her, now looking in her ears. When he went to open her mouth, however, Lex refused, holding her lips together. "Water," she repeated, wincing as she clamped her lips together again, feeling as if her voice box had torn pieces off of itself just to make a noise.

He sighed at her, a gust straight into her face as she closed her eyes to avoid it. "You subjects are so tiresome," the man said, but his voice sounded farther away, so Lex opened her eyes and swiveled them around to see to a blurry image of him to the left of her field of vision, pouring something from a large pitcher. "You always want something. It's so much easier to study you when you're not ever going to move anymore."

Lex gave him a flat look as he returned with a plastic tumbler that he'd stuck a straw into. She considered that she should probably have been afraid, or at least worried about his statement, but somehow, it just seemed to be confirmation of what she'd been expecting. Closing her eyes, Lex could almost feel her cells singing as she drank, and she continued until she heard an empty straw noise as she poked it around the bottom of the glass, looking for more.

"All right, all right, don't be greedy," the man said, grabbing the straw out of her mouth and putting it and the tumbler on a nearby table. "A nurse won't be here with a bedpan for hours, so that's all you're getting."

"Gee, thanks," Lex replied. "You're all heart. So, who are you, and where the hell am I?"

He gave her a smile that seemed all sharp teeth. "Where you are doesn't really matter, since you aren't likely to leave again. Who I am, well, that's something we don't discuss much here."

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