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The Protege

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Chapter IV

Then I found out about the truth

 

Scared was a very insufficient word to describe what Angela felt about that place and only one day had passed. Horror was coming closer, panic, repulsion, a mixture of several things combined in an indescribable feeling. The experiments they performed within Vishkar were beyond inhuman, they played at being God with the lives of those they considered unworthy. While it is true that some countries came to deliver these people for being convicted, murderers or thieves in general, they didn’t have the right to decide on other lives in that way.

Only two days, and Angela already wanted to escape from that place.

Being guided and showing her the various laboratories, offices and other specialized rooms for the supposed therapy was taken place was an agony itself. The sound of machines was disturbing, but even more so were the screams. Heartbreaking yells, cries, pleads, all indicating that what they were actually doing was a torture disguised as an experiment for human improvement. What a vile lie, and Angela had agreed to work on that.

The only thing that kept her healthy were two things: on the one hand she would get the support to continue her photochemotherapy research, which would help humanity as never before in treating and curing cancer. On the other hand, knowing exactly what Vishkar was planning, she could do something positive for the company to work more humanely by proving that the expected results were not achieved through threats, suffering and agony, but quite the opposite.

And so, the next day, she was standing in front of a dark glass window where on the other side there were five people, all very young and who wore helmets hiding their faces. Satya and Mirembe were standing next to her, Satya with her faithful tablet in hand whilst she tapped at a few icons on the screen, and Mirembe as unfazed as always, her arms were crossed and she looked always forward. She cleared her throat, Angela looking at her and Mirembe pointing forward to a specific person in deep blue and white bodysuit.

“That’s our youngest one. Nineteen years old. She may be very young in age but she’s the best of them five. She has an impressive precision, nobody equals her in the battlefield while piloting.”

“She’s still a child.” Angela said with a hurt, frowned face until Satya interrupted her without even looking out from her tablet.

“She has reached adulthood, you cannot call her a child.”

“It doesn’t make her any less adult.”

“It does, Dr. Ziegler.” Satya tapped at the screen and a red light flashed on top of a door, the whole team getting out in order like any soldier ready to take over the world. The doors closed and the other door let in another team of five, this time all of them were dressed in black. Now Satya looked at them, her eyes fixed on a specific person.

“Remember what I told you about the ones in black uniform?” Mirembe asked Angela, the doctor nodding. “Well, here you have. The Raptoras. Don’t approach them unless it is extremely necessary, especially if they wear a helmet.”

“What does the helmet have to do with that?” Satya looked at her this time, and returned her eyes on the people on the other side of the tinted glass and spoke.

“The helmet is specially designed to work only on them. They react with hard light treatment and synchronize with their bodies for a better, almost perfect performance. This reduces the amount of errors due to complications, disturbances, interferences and any other kind of distraction that defocuses them from the objective.” Angela frowned again, trying to get a better grasp of whatever Satya was saying. Mirembe seemed to get it.

“You have your ID with you, right?” Angela nodded, patting at the bag of her lab coat from where it was hanging. “Good. Now, look at this.” Mirembe took her own card hanging from her neck and threw it on the ground, sliding it away with a foot. Angela didn’t understand at first, but when the five people inside the isolated room turned at the same time to the mirror, the doctor opened her eyes in amazement. Mirembe walked nonchalantly towards her identification and put it back in its place, five heads returning to the position in which they were.

“What was that?”

“Basically what the helmet does is that it allows them to see silhouettes, they don’t distinguish faces, voices, gender nor age of people from one another, and we’re all just a bunch of serial numbers and vital signs to them. Those who don’t carry a Vishkar's identification are immediately seen as a threat.”

“That’s why they looked back at here…”

“Yes. So if you were to meet one of them, you'd better be using your ID.”

Mirembe looked at her back raising an eyebrow and waiting for a positive response from Angela, the doctor simply nodded, satisfying the scientist. The red light went on again and the team known as Raptoras came out through the doors, disappearing behind them without further ado. Angela for a moment breathed easy, truly every member looked intimidating behind that black helmet. The doctor watched cautiously each movement, each reaction, and it is as if they were murderous robots waiting for the order to annihilate.

Minutes later, Satya ordered Mirembe to finish showing the facilities and her work area to Angela. The tour lasted approximately one hour in which she was shown the laboratories with the highest technology available as of today, a dream for the doctor and scientist that Angela had inside. The space that would function as an office wasn’t very different from the one she had in the hospital, with the exception that the place had an examination area for patients.

Half an hour later, Mirembe had several folders with the records of the teams that Angela had to examine and monitor medically to control their mental and physical states as long as the treatment continued to function properly. That was her job for now, and once she was settled in the office, she started with the first bunch: the Meka team. The folders had no name, just serial numbers. Mirembe explained that Vishkar refused for their scientists to "get attached" to the subjects of experimentation, so they always addressed them by their serial number. That dehumanized the whole thing even more.

Looking through and reviewing each file carefully took longer than planned, and even though that was part of what she liked to do, she was mentally exhausted now. Once she finished with the Meka team, Angela opted to continue tomorrow with another team, in addition to wanting to physically check each patient and perhaps that way she would find her a suitable protégé. She got up from the office chair, stretching her arms up and yawning when she couldn’t hold it anymore, and went to her quarters to sleep.


Angela opened her eyes abruptly, sweating cold and trying to regulate her agitated breathing. She sat up, wiping her forehead with the back of a hand and pressing the other above her chest. She usually didn’t have any kind of nightmares since a couple of years ago, but once she set foot on Vishkar everything began to make sense as to why she couldn’t have a proper rest. Only two days and two nights filled with nightmares. Angela stood up and fixed herself a glass of water, hoping the clear liquid would ease her a little.

She went to bed again, this time much calmer than before, but sleep was eluding her and lying on her back with her limbs stretched to either side was all she could do. After a couple of minutes, she sighed wearily, realizing she wouldn’t go back to sleep soon again. This wasn’t her home, so she couldn’t go to her private studio and work her brains out until she was tired again, she had to try and get as much rest as possible, even when right now it wasn’t.

The doctor decided to get up, changing into a comfortable attire of black leggings, white blouse and her lab coat just in case, taking the hijab Mirembe gave her as well and stuffing it in the pocket of her coat. She walked through the halls, as empty as they were expected due to the early hour, and perhaps a simple stroll could entice her to sleep. Suddenly she realized she needed something else, and it was simple; pure, clean air. Angela remembered that Mirembe told her the night was much bearable in the desert, so she wished to try that.

One of the side doors faced outwards and it was easy to get out there, only one guard was watching and told her to be careful even if the place was desert, Angela nodded and left without more. Truly, Mirembe was right, and the air was fresh and pleasant, not comparable to the air conditioning inside but it was much friendlier to her mental health. Despite being at night, she took the hijab and put it on to avoid being questioned after why she was out at such late hours of the night.

The place had quite large fields and gardens, very well maintained and which stood out among the desert like tulips in the snow, all a wonder. Angela kept walking through the gardens, marveling at the various bushes, pots and even the fountain in between, which she was sure would be full of little birds in the day seeking refuge. She followed the path without realizing it, ultimately leaving the garden to reach the desert and even a building that hadn’t been shown to her previously but that took little importance to Angela since it seemed more like a warehouse.

Her heart stopped for a moment when she arrived and saw a figure standing looking towards the horizon. Black uniform and helmet of the same color, a Raptora. Angela instinctively thought of what Mirembe said and patted the pocket of her coat, only to realize that she forgot the ID on the bedside table. The doctor cursed to herself and panicked but quickly composed, she knew she must run, but her hopes vanished when the figure turned to her and everything would end there.

There was nothing else to do but defend herself, so Angela did that. The Raptora rushed towards her throwing a punch which she dodged easily, fortunately Angela never stopped training in self-defense and her agility was quite good, even higher than that of many others. Another series of hits and she blocked most of them. The more he hit her, the more he missed and for some reason she felt comfortable doing it. There was a touch of familiarity in that pattern. Angela was determined to end that.

Angela braced herself for the next blow and analyzed her possibilities, finally spotting an opening and she kicked a high round kick, making the helmet of the Raptora snap off as he fell to the ground. That was it for the moment, she had to run back inside and alert the security guards there was one of the Raptora’s loose on the field. Angela stopped in her tracks immediately when she realized it wasn’t a men, but a woman. Her black hair fell down to her shoulders and was being moved slightly while she shook her head to clear herself of whatever the helmet was doing to her mind.

The blonde’s heart stopped for too long, she was breathing no more, and her mind shut for what felt like an eternity. Her eyes only saw tan skin, black hair with tresses clasped in golden beads, dark eyes that shone like amber under the moonlight, and a well-known tattoo under an eye. Angela took a step back, then another to brace herself of almost falling, and pained eyes looked back. She lowered the hijab slowly, trying to grasp on anything to make sure she wasn’t dreaming, that it wasn’t an illusion. Angela opened her mouth, but no sound came out. Finally, a name, breathed shakily.

“Fareeha…?”

“…Who are you?”

Angela wanted to crumble right there and then. She was there, the Fareeha Amari that left her five years ago, her forever friend and love of her life, and she was lying there on the sand, confused and hurt, not recognizing her. It hit her harder than she thought: Fareeha was one of the military experiments Vishkar was making, and apparently she had some flaws such as Satya had mentioned earlier. The most notable was loss of memory.

“I-I’m…” Angela mused, but before she could say anything else, two guards were running towards her direction.

“Hey, you! Halt!” One of the guards shouted when Fareeha started to stand up and took a small remote of his pocket, pressing the button and pointing it towards Fareeha. The necklace that the girl was wearing began to beep, and then an electric shock knocked her down to the ground again, making her scream painfully and writhe in the sand.

“No! Stop! You’re hurting her!” Fareeha kept screaming, trying to rip the device off her neck, until she was moving no more. Angela wanted to run, to grab her, to do anything in her power to help her, but a guard grabbed her from the wrist. “Please! She needs my help!”

“She’s out of containment at an early hour, doctor.” He took a radio from his shoulder and talked to it. “Asset RPAF008 in the field. Captured via electroshock measure and ready to be taken to isolation for examination. Aggressive towards medical staff-”

“She was wearing the helmet, she didn’t know what she was doing!”

“Doctor, she attacked you. The process to follow is simple, we take her to recovery for the moment, unless the superiors have other plans for her. That is not our decision.”

Angela stopped momentarily, looking at Fareeha being lifted by both security guards, motionless and completely unconscious, but her chest was moving and that brought her a breeze of relief to her aching heart. She weighed the words she was told for a moment, and nodded, knowing that she could still handle the situation positively. She ran to the helmet and took it in her hands, following the guards as they carried Fareeha inward. Angela still could do much, and the most important thing above all was that, after five years of wondering if she was either dead or alive, she found her; conscious, complete, and breathing.


Her feet echoed in the white tile of the corridors as she ran, sprinted, almost flying to reach a specific door near the higher staff quarters. Her lab coat fluttered, and a few strands of hair escaped from her ponytail, falling on her perspiring face. If she wasn’t sleepy before, now even less. Her mind raced a hundred miles per second, she had so many questions and no answer, and thus, she went to the first person who could help her somehow. Once she stood in front of a door, breathing rapidly and her heart racing, she knocked fast, loud, enough to be heard.

“What the hell? It’s two in the morning!” Mirembe opened the door rubbing the sleep away from her eyes. Her blonde hair was disheveled, she was wearing a two piece pajama and plain slippers.

“She-I was attacked a-and me, her, they took he-” Angela was speaking rapidly, her words tangling in a mixture of English and German.

“Okay, okay. Girl, breath.” The doctor stopped. “In and out. C’mon, in and out.” She did that, three times, her pulse and breathing normalizing a little after a few more times, but her heart kept pounding hard in her ears. “Good. Better?” Angela nodded, exhaling the last one. “Now tell me what happened and why you’re waking me up in the middle of the night… And also why you are up.”

“I-I couldn’t sleep, so I took a stroll and went outside for some fresh air. I wandered for a few minutes and I reached a warehouse, and I saw-” Angela stopped talking, analyzing that whatever she was about to say could affect more things than wanted. She couldn’t say she knew Fareeha, even less what they used to be, so she had to play along as best as she could. “-I saw one of the Raptoras wearing the helmet, I forgot my ID in my room and I was attacked.”

“Wait, which Rapto- you told me you were near the warehouse?”

“Yes…”

“RMAF008 is the only one that wanders over there at night… Good Lord, they caught her.” Mirembe clicked her tongue and tapped her foot a few times. “It seems that she always finds the way to get in trouble.”

“Take me to her.”

“What?”

“Please, take me to her. She seemed… She seemed distant, a-and they electroshocked her.”

“That’s what the necklace is for, to control them in case they get violent.” The older woman sighed and went back inside, getting out after a few seconds with her lab coat on, covering her sleepwear. “Let’s go, I wanna know how she’s doing too.”

Mirembe led her through several halls, doors and other rooms Angela has never seen before. Everything became a combination of a hospital and a lab, the air smelled like alcohol, disinfectant and antiseptic, something not dissimilar to the hospital she was working on. The only difference was the environment made you shiver every time as if only extinction was everything available at hand, and although the hospital didn’t exactly save the lives of its patients in one hundred percent rate, this place exuded only death.

Once in one of the many doors inside the place, they reached a closed space with another crystal in the front wall and a door next to it. Mirembe walked to the door and signaled Angela to stay put, however she walked to the window and saw Fareeha lying unconscious on a bed with several electrodes stuck to her body being monitored by another Vishkar member who seemed as a medical staff, Angela sometimes couldn’t differentiate them. Mirembe walked around her, checking her pulse and vital signs on the monitor. She tapped her shoulder, but had no response.

“How long ago they brought her here?”

“Ten to fifteen minutes perhaps.” The other person, a man, answered calmly.

“Hm… So she’s about to wake up.”

“Seems like, she’s been stirring a lot.” Mirembe looked at him and raised an eyebrow with sarcasm.

“You know she has a disorder.”

“She’s making up that so we feel sorry for her.” Mirembe pointed an accusatory finger at him and looked beyond angry.

“Liao, one more word and you bet I’ll whoop your ass. Get the hell out of here.” He huffed and raised his hands in surrender, barely dealing with her coworker. He left and opened the door where Angela was, taking a quick look at her and saying nothing. Mirembe however stayed inside, still looking at the unmovable girl over the bed. She tapped her shoulder again, this time stronger, until she earned a response. “Hey girl, it’s me. Wake up, you’re safe.” Fareeha opened her eyes slowly, blinking the sleep away.

“Mirembe…” Her eyes moved from being half-lidded to fully close.

“The one and only.”

“Fuck… What happened?”

“I should ask you the same. Attacking a staff? Why did you have the helmet on?” Fareeha got propped on her elbows, blinking once, twice, and looking at Mirembe with lazy eyes.

“It was after a mission and I wanted fresh air, I tried to take off my helmet but the clasps didn’t work, and someone arrived and I guess she didn’t have her ID because my body reacted on its own... I'm sorry.” Mirembe then looked at the mirror and raised an eyebrow, just like she did with the other scientist. Angela immediately caught the blame towards her, and she accepted it.

“So it was a malfunction, which explains it all.” The older woman walked to a table and took a glass jar with water, filling a glass and going back to Fareeha. “Here, drink. You’ll feel better.” Fareeha took the glass and downed its contents in merely five seconds. “You okay?”

“My head hurts…”

“You must go back to sleep, it’s almost three in the morning. I'll leave you here and dim the lights so you can rest, and I'll report the malfunction so nothing else happens while you’re in observation, okay?”

“Yes… Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, honey.” Mirembe filled the glass again and handed it back to Fareeha, as well as a pill from her pocket. “Take this and go back to sleep.” Fareeha nodded and took the glass of water and the pill provided, lying down in the bed and closing her eyes again. Mirembe left once satisfied with Fareeha, and beckoned Angela to follow her back to the bedrooms.

“She’s nonviolent…” Angela spoke after several minutes in silence.

“At all. She’s a sweetheart, but nobody believes it here except me and all those who are down there with her. They label her as aggressive and uncooperative because she sometimes refuses to use violence or when one of her partners is about to go through a painful process. And even then, she is the most lethal of them all. This girl is a double-edged sword.”

“I see… What did you gave her?”

“Prazosin it’s the only thing that has helped her both with her high pressure and the nightmares, more with the late. If you’re interested in her, you should read her file.” She was right, there was a file in her office filled with everything about Fareeha in that place and perhaps some more. A couple more minutes and they reached Mirembe’s door. “Well, go back to sleep you too. There’s so much we have to do tomorrow and we won’t function properly if we stay up.”

“Of course, and I apologize for waking you up at such late hour.” The woman smiled nonetheless.

“Not at all, and thanks for notifying me actually. We’ll talk about this tomorrow some more.”

“Thank you.” Angela turned around, but before she moved away to her bedroom she was stopped by a hand on her shoulder that made her turn back around, and a finger pointed in the middle of her eyes.

“Ziegler.”

“Y-yes?”

“Sleep, don’t get distracted. My good friend Dr. Zhou has told me more than interesting things about you, like your lack of self-care and bad eating habits. So I hope that tomorrow you are rested and show for breakfast. Understood?”

“…Yes.”

“Good night then.”


Despite Mirembe's instructions and her body more tired than ever, Angela couldn’t sleep properly that night. Her mind kept spinning, she kept thinking about Fareeha and Vishkar, and how everything made sense after a last connection with her two years ago. A simple message that was enough for her to believe again and to never lose hope, and fortunately she never did, because after all, Fareeha was here with her, alive, and although it was heartbreaking that she didn’t remember her, at least she wasn’t dead somewhere in the middle of the desert.

After a cold shower and a quick breakfast that morning, she locked herself in the office, quickly looking for the piles of files and finding Fareeha's among the Raptora's lump. Her file was mainly clinical, with only a few sheets detailing her activities, weaknesses and strengths, as well as her performance on the battlefield and some personal background, such as nationality, birthdate and a shady family history. That wasn’t hard to read, Angela already knew it and even more than those few printed words could say, but once reaching the clinical record her heart wanted to break.

Fareeha was mentally limited thanks to Vishkar and the experiments they had done with her with the sole purpose of making her more physically able. Mixed anxiety-depressive disorder, long-term memory loss, PTSD, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, nightmare disorder and first stage amnesia, among other things. Her eyes focused primarily on two things, such as a suicidal attempt and arrhythmia. Angela could barely believe everything that was written, it’s simply that it wasn’t possible for her to have such a number of psychological diagnoses and still have the ability to speak coherently with Mirembe.

Angela needed to dig deeper into her and look for her real problem, since the huge number of problems listed were made by several doctors, and it was obvious that the final diagnosis would be a horrendous mixture of lies and truths. There was a soft knock on her door and Angela immediately hid the file between several others before Satya –followed closely by Mirembe- invited the doctor to follow her to a special lookout on top of what appeared to be a gym on one of the floors below where the assets were training.

“How is she doing?” Angela asked after several minutes observing a crowd on the exercise equipment, although her eyes didn’t move away from Fareeha.

“See for yourself.” Satya responded as nonchalantly as always. “She has a fast recovery ability thanks to our hard light technology treatment.” Indeed, Fareeha was dodging and throwing punches to such a beast of a woman in pink short hair. “And she would get better sooner if she didn’t protest with the doctors in charge of her.”

“Mirembe, you haven’t thought about making her your protégé?” Angela asked, and she shook her head, instead pointing at one of the women below.

“You see that small one over there? That’s MKSH082, she’s my protégé. I can’t have more than one and she’s been improving since my mentorship and treatment.”

“Indeed.” Satya said proudly, just a hint of a smile on her lips that faded rapidly. “Almost everyone is assigned to a specialist, except those who don’t really need it, or those who are usually a problem, like her.” Fareeha wasn’t the problem, Satya didn’t have a shred of reason in that regard. She was just a pawn in this battle and her chances of winning were scarce. But if it was possible, Angela could move some loose ends and motivate her to reach a better position. Fareeha could be so much more with her help.

“I want her to be my protégé.”

“Dr. Ziegler, you don’t know what you are saying.” Satya commented, only to be stopped by Angela.

“You said that she was the most problematic person on the facility, and you hired me to help you with a treatment to such cases. I think I'm the only one capable of making her change. Then why did you call me if you don’t think I'm capable enough of handling such a human?” Angela could see Satya’s eyes twitch, but Mirembe intercepted.

“Dr. Ziegler, what Ms. Vaswani is saying is that she’s a big problem not because of the failure of treatments, but because she refuses to have a patron to watch over her. She’s… Stubborn.”

“She’s a rebel, a non-cooperative asset that refuses to follow the protocol.”

“I want her and no one else. Period.” That was enough for both Vishkar members to close their mouths. “Send her to my office for a preliminary analysis.”

“Mirembe didn’t give you the files? She already has a record-”

“Which consist of mainly lies. Until I say so, she will have a new clinical record and we will erase everything the other doctors have done to her. Send her, I’ll be waiting.”

Without waiting for the two of them to say something else, Angela left for her assigned office with her head held high but holding her breath. She rarely talked like that, and less in such an environment that wasn’t hers and she hadn’t total control of, but today she had to put her foot down. As soon as she got to the office she closed on the door harshly, leaning on it and breathing fast, she was sweating a bit due to the nervousness but she had to control herself before Fareeha arrived.

Angela carefully kept each file in its place, sorting them by group and alphabetical order, only Fareeha's was on her desk. Biting her pen she began to read the pages carefully again and again, absorbed between the file and the monitor of the computer that showed the chemical composition of one of the many serums they used in her. It was amazing how much chemical was flowing through her body, angrily transforming her on the inside. A soft knock on the door almost made her jump, realizing more than half-hour already passed when she looked at the clock on the monitor. Angela cleared her throat before speaking.

“Come in.” She said in her softest voice, what she least wanted was Fareeha had a first bad impression of her... Or maybe a second one. The door opened slowly, and Angela's heart came to a stop for the second time that day. Fareeha’s look was stern at first, but softened visibly when she looked at her eyes. That definitely meant something. “Good morning. Take a seat, if you may.” Fareeha closed the door and sat in the chair across Angela’s desk. The doctor could see how Fareeha peeked to her desk and saw her file wide open. “That’s your record. It impressed me, if I must admit it.”

“It impresses everyone.”

“And I don’t believe a single bit of it.” Fareeha blinked twice, squinting her eyes a little when Angela took the file and tossed it to the bin. “So we’ll start from scratch, shall we?” The doctor took a new form and put her glasses on, starting to fill the paper’s blank spaces without asking her a single thing.

“Sorry to interrupt you, but you haven’t asked anything about me.”

“I don’t need to for this part.” Angela spoke without taking her sight from the paper and pen. “I know plenty of things about you.”

“You know my name.”

“…I do, Fareeha Amari. Now please, sit on the examination table.” Fareeha hesitated for a moment, but obeyed in the end. So far, she was being cooperative and calm. Angela stood in front of her, examining her pupils slowly with a penlight. “Twenty-eight years old, born and raised in Cairo, Egypt. One hundred and eighty centimeters tall-”

“You read that in my file.”

“…You moved in your younger days of adulthood with your mother, Ana Amari, out of the country. You finished an engineering degree in Canada, and later worked in Helix Security International. That I couldn’t read in your file, or could I?”

“…Who are you?”

“We need to do more cabinet studies. Laboratory exams, X-rays, EMG, MRI, and what’s necessary to have a faithful diagnosis of your problems, listed and non-listed in that record that we’ll no longer use.” Angela was avoiding the difficult topic, it was sufficiently delicate to drop quite the bomb on the girl, so she needed to be cautious. “I’m not going to resort to the usual therapy Vishkar has, but I’ll definitely try psychotherapy to work with your memory loss.”

“So… I suppose I used to know you.” However, it wouldn’t hurt to tease with her a little bit.

“In a more intimate way than you know.”

“What?”

“Here.” Angela poked her stomach, as toned as ever. “A scar from a bullet wound, three stitches. I treated you, you were my patient for the night.”

“Just because you know a few things about me doesn’t mean I can fully trust you.”

“And you are absolutely right.” Angela stopped her examination, looking at Fareeha in the eyes. It was so long ago, but she still made her shiver. “That’s why I chose you as my protégé, because I know you can and will trust me eventually.”

“What makes you believe I will?”

“This.” Angela closed her eyes, taking a deep breath and taking the iron ring from her index finger, taking Fareeha’s hand and placing the accessory on her palm. She felt electricity, a strong warm current coursing through her arm and into her body as she held her hand in her own.

“How did you…?”

“You trusted me enough to give it to me. But the truth is that I never stopped looking for you to return it to you, I know what you worked to achieve it, and it is a very precious possession for you. Brigitte told me so.” Fareeha’s eyes sparkled for a moment, it was overly adorable. "Now I'll take the ring back until you get out of here."

“You know her? Brigitte?”

“I know all of them. Brigitte, Ingrid, Torbjörn, I had dinner in their house a few times.”

“How are they?”

“Wonderfully, and they miss you and your mother greatly.” It was for a moment, for a brief time she finally saw Fareeha smile, illuminating her heart after five years of darkness. Angela wanted to cry right there. “They all miss you so much.”

“I miss them too…”

“Anyway. You can sit down in the chair again.” Angela moved to her desk chair and sighed when she sat down. “There are many things that you probably don’t remember, I have been told you have a lapse of approximately five to six years of blurred or deleted memories, and I need to investigate a little more what is causing that. I’m willing to help you and fill some gaps for you, update your previous life and help you with your memory, but that has to be gradually as to not confuse you more than you already are, okay?”

“Very well.”

“I just need to ask you one last thing before you leave. I have been told that you have denied the medical attention of several doctors for some reasons which I find totally valid. I am not here to have pity on you, and I really want to help you, so I will only proceed to rehabilitate you if you allow me. The question is, will you allow me to do it?”

“I need to think about it.” That was a big progress nonetheless.

“I’ll be here six months, take your time. Either if it’s one day or five months, I won’t proceed unless you decide the other way.”

“I just have one question.”

“Of course.”

“…Who are you again?” Angela blinked once and took a deep breath. Fareeha wouldn’t remember her now, so what was the point?

“I’m Dr. Ziegler. Angela Ziegler…” It was barely visible, but the doctor could clearly see how the woman in front of her got uncomfortable for a brief moment, composing as fast as it happened.

“If… If you want me to trust you… I think I need to ask you a few things first.”

“And you have every right to fill the gaps that the hard light treatment has left you.”

Angela's tone of voice was as gentle as she could make it, just like her face and features, the least she wanted was for Fareeha to deny her help right there and then without even considering how much the doctor was willing to do so she would be herself again. A tortured and silent minute passed in which neither said anything and there was only an uncomfortable exchange of looks, finally being Angela who looked away to her index finger, glancing at Fareeha’s engineering ring back on the same place.

“I’ll come back tomorrow and see if this is worth, but I have one condition: no drugs, no treatments, not a single thing goes inside my body.”

“I promise you. I will not be a scientist in front of you if you don’t want me to, I will only be a doctor and I won’t do anything without your consent.”

“…Thank you.”

Fareeha got up slowly and left the office. Angela released the breath she was holding once she heard the door click shut, her legs and arms trembled, barely believing what happened in a couple of minutes. The tears did not wait to build up in her eyes, Angela at first trying to hold them, but it was impossible, and quickly fell down her cheeks and to the desk. She repeated herself words of calmness both in English and German to compose herself, but she failed miserably and started sobbing uncontrollably on her desk, hiding her face in her arms as she pressed her cheek on the cold countertop.

It was almost impossible to believe, but Fareeha was there and alive, and she didn’t recognize her.

That day, that morning more specifically, it was torture for Angela. Her thoughts focused mainly on that tall girl with tanned skin, dark eyes, hair as black as night, and a unique tattoo under her eye. So when the night came and after a rather quiet and uncomfortable dinner, she went to her bedroom, her mind an unassembled puzzle and her body as exhausted as any training session. She eyed the bed and nothing seemed so comforting as that piece of furniture at the moment, however, she walked to the small desk in the corner where her laptop was, and turning it on she sat in the chair.

Angela didn't know how to start, she had so many questions of which only a few could answer, and definitely what hurt was the lack of answers she could be working on, and not which Fareeha refused to answer for the time being. Navigating between the various icons on the screen. She opened a video call program, sending the request to a distant friend. One tone, another, and several more after Hanzo appeared on the screen.

"Angela?" He asked her when she saw her puffy eyes and her knotted brow, ready to cry. "Are you okay?"

"She's here..." She breathed, barely audible.

"What?"

"She's here." She repeated, this time louder. "Fareeha's here... S-she's alive, here." The tears gathered, and now she sobbed softly. "A-and she doesn't remember who I am."