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“He’s playing you, Lyle,” she told him. “Pushing your buttons. That’s what people like Franz do.”

“You think I don’t know that? I invented that shit. I used to be fucking bulletproof. No one got to me, no one fucked with me. Now, it’s like everybody can see right through me.”

The lieutenant cleared his throat. Dr. Liddell glanced back. The mass of helmeted men behind him creaked and flexed, a machine ready to be launched.

Franz hadn’t missed the exchange. “You’re running out of time, Lyle,” he said. “Any second now they’re going to come in here and crack you like an egg. Then they’re going to take you off to solitary, where you won’t be seeing your girlfriend anymore.”

“What?” Lyle asked.

“You don’t think they’re going to let you stay in the program after this, do you?”

Lyle looked at her, eyes wide. “Is that true? Does that mean you’ll stop giving me GLS?”

They’re going to stop giving it to all of you, she thought. After Lyle’s breakdown, the whole nationwide trial would be canceled. “Lyle, we’re not going to stop the GLS unless you want to.”

“Stop it? I never want to be the guy I was before. Nobody felt real to me–everybody was like a cartoon, a nothing on the other side of the TV screen. I could do whatever I wanted with them, and it didn’t bother me. I was like him.”

Franz started to say something, and Lyle pressed the screwdriver blade into his neck. The two men winced in unison.

“You don’t know what he’s like,” Lyle said. “He’s not just some banker who ripped off a couple hundred people. He’s a killer.”

“What?”

“He shot two teenagers in Kentucky, buried them in the woods. Nobody ever found them. He brags about it.”

“Stories,” Franz said.

Dr. Liddell stepped closer and knelt down next to Franz’s outstretched legs. “Lyle, I swear to you, we’ll keep you on GLS.” She held out a hand. “Give the weapon to me, Lyle. I know you were trying to protect me, but you don’t have to be a murderer. You don’t have to throw away everything you’ve gained.”

“Oh, please,” Franz said.

Lyle squeezed shut his eyes, as if blinded.

“I give you my word,” she said, and placed her hand over his. “We won’t let the old you come back.” After a long moment she felt his grip relax. She slowly pulled the screwdriver from his fist.

Shouts went up behind her, and then she was shoved aside. The extraction team swarmed over the two men.

Three days later she came down to solitary. She brought four guards as escort.

“You know, you’re good,” Franz said. “I almost believed you myself.” He lay on the bed with his jumpsuit half unzipped, revealing the bandages across his chest. The blade had missed the lung and the heart, tearing only muscle. The wound at his neck was covered by two long strips of gauze. He’d be fine in a few weeks. “ ‘I give you my word.’ Genius.”

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Credit: Owen Smith

Tagged: Biomedicine, drugs, fiction

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