Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Martin became aware of taste of metal, then the sensation of his pulse amplified in his head. It took a few more minutes before the electric hum around him pierced the pounding, and the realization that he was bound made him open his eyes.

“Martin, you’re back, I was so worried that I’d done permanent damage there old boy.”

Martin recognized the voice, and through the haze of slowly returning consciousness found its face across the room.

“What,” he stammered, his mouth dry, “Jim, what the hell are you doing?”

“Excellent question my boy, excellent question.” Jim pulled a tray towards him on which a keyboard and display were mounted, positioning it between them “Do you know what this device is?” He gestured at the chair into which Martin was buckled, wrists, ankles and at the waist. “This is an emotion surgical machine. Isn’t it beautiful?”

Martin had hear rumours around the facility, but hadn’t believed they were true.

“You see, you competing with me for funding, for awards, those things I enjoy Martin,” he steepled his fingers and leaned forward, elbows on his knees, “however when I find you’ve been sleeping with my girlfriend, I’m afraid that’s an entirely different kettle of fish, old boy.”

Martin tried to look skyward as he rolled his eyes, but realized his head was strapped in as well. “Jim, you dumbass, Evylene is not and never has been your girlfriend, and I don’t think she ever will be, you’re delusional-”

“Shut. Up. You don’t understand how close we are, Evylene and I, and how much what you’ve done has hurt me. At first I thought I’d use my machine to remove my feelings of jealousy, anger, so that I could forgive her and love her more, but I realized you’d still be there trying to lure her away.”

Pushing back and turning to the keyboard, Jim started typing with furious intent.

“First, Martin, I’m going to remove your capacity for love, for joy and for happiness. You’ll be just as angry, jealous and lost as I’ve been these last months and she’ll never, ever be attracted to you like that.”

Jim grinned as he pressed the return key. Martin’s head was bathed in blue light and bombarded with radiation as a series of boring needles in the headpiece penetrated his skull. Nano-tech flooded in to scour his brain and strip away the specific emotional receptors and supporting memories he’d specified.

Martin heard himself screaming for quite some time, and then he didn’t hear himself anymore. Somewhere in there Jim got up and left the room, the novelty of the process having worn off. It may have been minutes or days before Martin was aware of the silence, the machine having gone to sleep upon completion leaving Martin alone with is thoughts.

The wrist straps were secure, but not very tight. He tried simply pulling his hands through at first, and then realized his thumbs were in the way.Balling his left fist with his thumb inside, he squeezed until the thumb bones gave way and shattered, then he pulled with all his might until it slipped through the wrist strap. It may have been excruciatingly painful. He wasn’t sure. It took some fumbling to undo the other wrist with only four working fingers, but before Jim returned Martin had released himself.

Jim stepped through the door into the swinging end of a fire extinguisher and sudden blackness.

When he awoke, it was Martin that stared at him from behind the keyboard and display, and he was strapped into his own device.

“Martin, there are people coming down, release me now and I-”

Martin cut him off. “The mistake you made Jim, is that the opposite of love and joy and happiness isn’t hate, it’s indifference. You know what you’ve done, and that knowledge will haunt you. I’m going to remove all of the emotions that might allow you to rationalize it. I’m going to take away hate, jealousy, greed. I’m going to strip out anger and the sting of betrayal. I’m going to leave you with just what you’ve taken from me, I’ll leave you unfiltered, unchecked love and guilt.”

As the machine started to hum to life again, Martin set it in motion, rose and walked to the door.

“Martin!” Jim screamed, straining at his bonds as the helmet bored into his brain, “Martin you can’t do this to me, you might as well kill me!”

Martin barely broke stride as he left the room, calling out over his shoulder.

“I really don’t care.”

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