Jimmy struggled against the bind on his wrists. It was some sort of electromagnetic tie – more Outside technology.
"Where are you taking me?"
"Hush up," the shrunken man lashed. With one hand he pushed Jimmy forward; with the other he gripped the top of his own bleeding thigh. "You cut my thigh. There'll be a price to pay for that."
"Well if you're an Outsider, which you seem to be, I'm sure you can meld it just fine."
"We don't have everything over here. It's the wild west, if you haven't noticed." He turned Jimmy around a corner where piles of equipment lay strewn. "Pardon the mess. Not sure if you heard, but we had a little accident."
Jimmy had almost forgotten about the collapse. "Was anything damaged?"
The shrunken man jerked a door open and pushed Jimmy through it. "No questions." They stood in a hall lined by a long pane of glass, behind which a brightly lit series of rooms shone brightly. In each room were two people – one lying down, seemingly asleep, and the other standing by, monitoring.
"What… is all this…" Jimmy murmured.
"Your new home." The man responded, shoving him in the right shoulder blade to keep him moving.
The sudden contact reminded Jimmy. "Our struggle back there… It wasn't right."
"The Fritz is allowed."
"Not the Fritz. The dagger."
"Hawph," the man scoffed. "Well you won out with the dagger anyhow."
Jimmy turned to face him. He stood firm. "That kind of violence has been Abolished."
The man slapped Jimmy hard in the face, his claw-like nails extended. Jimmy's cheek felt hot with streaks. He must be bleeding. A sinister grin spread across the man's face. "It was just a threat. And in case you haven't noticed, you oblivious mutt, we're not Outside anymore. Like I said, the wild west." With that, he pushed Jimmy into one of the rooms and slammed the door shut behind him.
Jimmy looked around. There wasn't much to it. It looked exactly like the other rooms they'd passed by. The only difference was that, now, the pane of glass was opaque. A simple two-way mirror. On a side counter, he spotted a syringe – just like the one he'd seen in the showroom with Barb.
He thought of the rabbits, trapped in a tank.
"Please lie down," sounded a voice from the wall monitor.
Jimmy looked at the stretcher in the room.
"Treatment will begin shortly. Please lie down."
Jimmy felt the bind on his wrists vibrate twice. It was a threat. If he didn't go willingly, it was likely that the bind could pull him to the bed anyways. He felt his wrists start to push into the small of his back, like they were trying to go straight through him to get to the stretcher. He felt the bones in his wrists started to dig into his spine. He knew that if he turned away from the stretcher, his arms would shoot straight out from behind his back, and it would probably hurt.
Suddenly the door opened and the bind went slack.
His aunt stood before him.
All Jimmy could do was stare.
"Jimmy Saguto?" the woman repeated more sternly. Her eyes glanced down at the tab in her hand and then at the wall monitor behind him.
Jimmy could give no response.
The woman palmed her comm. "Did you give me a dud, Maxin?" She glanced up at Jimmy again. "Yeah, he's not talking. Did you burn him already? Thought I was here to extract a sample." She scanned over her tab again as she nodded. "Mm… okay. If you say so."
She looked up at Jimmy again. "If you can understand what I'm saying, it's in your best interest to respond."
"I know you." That's what he said.
"Fantastic, then you haven't been burned." She seemed unfazed by his revelation. She went back to business-as-usual. "It is my duty to inform you that binding restraints have been implanted in all four of your limbs as well as in the back of your head. Even if you can't see them, or feel them, they are there and they are activated."
"I know. I was there when he was setting them."
She looked up, a tinge of surprise in her eyes. "Excellent."
"So you know my name, what's yours?" He took a step forward and felt the binds on his wrists re-engage. "Do you even know?"
She raised an eyebrow in amusement. "Of course I do. Do you?"
"I do," Jimmy replied. "It's Sylvia."
"I've never heard that name in my life."
"You're my aunt."
"You have a sister named Teresa. She's one of my moms. Teresa and Bea. You have a husband named Dapp, and a dog – he's the only one in our family – Jackson."
Without any change in her expression, his aunt applied a slight pressure to the bottom of her tab and Jimmy felt the binds on his ankles engage now too. He was slowly pulled into a perfect at-ease position. His aunt turned to the counter and seemed to take the syringe, the same one he'd seen being used in the showroom. The one being used on animals.
He went on. "You're a teacher. You teach preschool physics." She turned back towards him, with the syringe, and began to approach him, a bit warily. "You… have long hair," Jimmy fumbled. "Ordinarily." He tried not to pause as the syringe pricked his skin. "Your full name's Sylvia Lafferty Laguto. Don't you think it's strange that you don't even know it?" A tab on the syringe popped out as it reached full. "Maybe you've been burned."
A break in her expression. "How do you know about burning?" She looked into his eyes with a single, penetrating gaze. Then she gathered herself and smiled. "Oh, very clever. You were just listening to me earlier."
"No," Jimmy replied, "Everyone knows about burning."
The woman started. Her face held tight as she tried to contain her bewilderment. As Jimmy stared defiantly into her eyes, she seemed to reach a reasonable conclusion. "Not Pures, they don't," she said finally.
With that, she quickly stowed the syringe, snapped off her gloves, and strode towards the door. Before leaving, his aunt Sylvia turned and looked him directly and darkly in the eyes, and then left, pulling the door shut behind her.
Though Jimmy couldn't see through the glass, he could still hear her voice coming through it.
"Come on, an Outsider? Well, obviously, if he knows about burning… How did he get in here then?" A long pause. "Why in the world would we need a sample from an Outsider?" Another pause. "No, are you nuts? I'm not going to burn him... Oh, ha, very funny." Another long pause. "Yeah, well, and he says I'm his aunt."
At that moment, Jimmy could sense her eyes on him through the glass. He looked up and stared straight into the opaqueness, hoping that he found her face.
Maybe then she would see the similarities.