The next couple days pass by in a blur as Stuart spends day and night ripping mems out of as many desperate and poverty stricken people as turn up at his door. He barely sleeps during this time, but realises now just how many people are desperate enough to have their mems ripped. He knows they don’t know what the repercussions can be, other than death when performed by other mems extractors, but he could have been doing this all along. It makes him wonder whether if he had done the rips at this frequency if he’d have managed to repay Robby by now. He expects he could have. So that means that he’d have been able to avoid all this. Not that it matters now as everything is easier in hindsight he knows, as he gets knock on his door.

Stuart crosses the room, the hour is getting late but he needs the money. Though, first thing tomorrow morning he’ll be gone. Neither Robby nor the goons working for Carla Masters will ever find him again; he thinks as he open the metal door.

As Stuart looks at the figures on his doorstep it dawns on him who is stood before him. His eyes go wide with surprise as he freezes in place, fear gripping him. He should have looked through the peephole as stood there are the two men in the employ of Carla Masters, but they aren’t alone.

“Mr Machado?” A woman asks in the moments after the twin suits part to reveal her presence.

“Ye…yes.” Stuart manages with a stutter as his heart flutters.

“Carla Masters. May we come in?” Carla asks with a slight smile.

Stuart knows it’s a forced smile, but he doesn’t care. He wants to slam the door in her face and run, but he is sure he wouldn’t get far. Maybe he’d manage to close the door before the suits would barge it back open and knock him across the room. Or perhaps, at best, he’d get one bolt in place first, he guesses.

It isn’t worth the risk, he decides seeing as there is no guarantee they know anything. This could just be visiting because they suspect something, he tells himself. Really? You think Carla Masters, mother of Eric and multi-billionaire, would come all the way down here, to this part of the city, just on a possibility? A voice in his head interjects. He doesn’t know. Desperate people do strange things. He knows that better than most.

“Please.” Stuart says as he gestures for the tall slender woman to come in and make herself at home. Stuart takes note of her expensive looking navy blue skirt suit and the pair of simple black heels three inches high that mesh perfectly with her short black hair and deep brown eyes. She is clearly all business.

Carla nods and forces a smile of thanks as she enters with one of her bodyguards, while Stuart notes the other has disappeared.

“Is your associate coming back?” Stuart asks wondering whether he should just close the door or not. It would split the suits, but would that really help him? He doubts it somehow.

“Yes Mr Machado he’ll be back in just a few moments.” Carla answers as she takes a seat on one of his tatty leather sofas. He has two, a brown and cream one. Well, he guesses it had been cream once, but it isn’t now. Carla picks the brown one, but she doesn’t seem to pass any judgement on the state of the furniture or the space that it occupies. It surprises Stuart, who would have thought someone like her might insist on the surface being wiped down or something being draped across the cushions so not to dirty her suit.

“Call me Stuart, please.” He urges her.

“Would you like a drink?” Stuart then asks trying to play the good host, while underneath he feels like he might pass out with how light-headed he is at this moment.

It’s a feeling that gets no better when the other of Carla’s goons returns with Robby, who is bloody and beaten. Stuart’s eyes go wide again as the blonde suit throws Robby to the floor before shutting and bolting the door.

Robby groans as he lies there. His face is swollen and covered in lacerations and it is clear that he can barely see as his eyes hang low.

“Wh…what is this?” Stuart blurts with a stutter. He isn’t acting now. He really is shocked.

“Stuart. Have you seen the news?” Carla asks sternly as she stares at the ex-doctor. She is fighting the urge to throw herself across the room and strangle him with her own two hands. But only barely.

“Y-yes. It told your associates I was very sorry to hear the news about your son going missing.” Stuart says trying to maintain his lie. His eyes dart between Carla and the dark haired suit. He doesn’t know if he is Toby or Tony and honestly he’d rather not find out. He doubts anything good will come of it if he does.

“Mhm…So they have told me. Do you know this…man?” Carla says struggling to call Robby a man. He isn’t. Not to her anyway. She knows his kind and she loathes them. But she knows he’ll get his comeuppance soon enough.

“I…I can’t say I do.” Stuart manages lying. He regrets it instantly. He is sure she knows that he does, otherwise why would they be here and why would she have asked. Its clear Robby has ratted him out in hopes of saving his own skin.

“The truth Mr Machado.” The blonde suit says from off to Stuart’s right as he stands across the door blocking it. Stuart can’t see the man unless he looks to the corner of his eye and even then it’s only a partial view.

Carla on the other hand sits there glaring at him. She knows. She definitely knows, Stuart thinks as he concludes he should just answer honestly, like the blonde suit has just said. There is no way he can lie his way out of this as he sighs and drops his shoulders in defeat.

“Yeah. I know him. I owe him money. He’s a loan shark. Robby Smith’s his name.” Stuart says honestly now.

Robby grumbles in response obviously feeling betrayed. Stuart finds it rich that Robby is annoyed at him for this ‘betrayal’ when it is clear that Robby did it first in an attempt to save his own skin. Not that it had worked out for him, obliviously.

“Good, we’re getting somewhere.”

“And don’t sound so upset Mr Smith. You brought this upon yourself. And it’s not like you didn’t do the same.” Carla adds as she reminds Robby of his betrayal of Stuart with a too calm voice for Stuart’s liking. He’d expected her to fly off the handle. Be raging across the room like a storm trapped in a jar or more likely, a caged wild animal. But instead she is calm outwardly. Though, her eyes reveal the truth.

Robby groans again. Though, Stuart can’t quite decide on whether it is a groan, or if the loan shark is trying to speak. Perhaps his jaw is being broken, Stuart offers to himself. It doesn’t matter he knows, Robby wouldn’t add anything of use to the conversation anyway.

“However, I will say that Tony and Toby had to get him to this point before he talked. Whereas you Stuart, you just rolled over and admitted. So what else do you have to say?” Carla asks as she stares at Stuart again.

“I don’t know what you’re asking Mrs…”

“We found my son. He’s brain dead. Mems ripped.” Carla interrupts as her calm face begins to slip and anger boils to the surface in its place.

“So don’t play coy. He confessed everything.” Carla spits as the blonde suit grabs and hauls Robby across the floor so that they are both in Stuart’s line of sight now along with Carla and the dark haired suit.

“I didn’t know. I swear. Robby brought a young man to me. Said he owed him money and wouldn’t pay. I asked who he was and Robby swore he was no one.” Stuart explains honestly.

Robby groans. He clearly doesn’t agree with Stuart, but he’s in no place to do anything about it now.

“If I’d have known I would never have done it. I have nothing against your son. I never even met him before that night.” Stuart pleads hoping to appeal to Carla’s sympathetic side. He hopes she has one, but he doesn’t know. He’s telling the truth. It’s not like he’s trying to spin a yarn to save his skin. No, he’s trying to save his skin by being honest. He just hopes it’s enough.

“Can Eric’s brain damage be reverted in any way?” Carla asks bluntly before sucking on her teeth silently. Her wide nostrils flare as she speaks. It is clear her rage is barely contained now. But she knows the answer before it comes. She isn’t stupid after all.

“It cannot.” Stuart answers, his head dropping low as he delivers the bad news. It feels just like when he used to deliver diagnosis as a doctor that families and patients wouldn’t want to here, but needed to. Back then he’d felt sadness at the pain he was laying at their doors, but now he has to admit that he feels nothing. His reaction is habit, nothing more.

With that Robby, who is on his knees has a gun pressed to his head by the blonde suit, who pulled the weapon from beneath his jacket. Robby does nothing in response, even as the trigger is pulled and the bullet rips through his left temple, killing him instantly.

Stuart jumps at the deafening sound of the gun firing. He hadn’t even known what was happening it occurred so fast. But he knows now. Robby is dead and the pool of almost black blood continues to spread around his dead body as he lies there.

Stuart stares at the corpse of Robby, his mouth agape in shock. He feels nothing for the man, but he never expected an execution would unfold right before his eyes.

“Stuart. Stuart.” Carla states coldly trying to get his attention as she snaps her fingers.

Stuart slowly shifts his gaze from the dead form that had been Robby to Carla, whose face stares back at him. He is sure he is next. There is nothing he can do to stop this. He’s resigned to it. It’s all his own fault. Sure Robby had brought Eric to him, but it was him that had caused the brain damage. Why did it have to be Eric who suffered such a fate? He thinks. Why couldn’t it have been the clearly homeless young man? No one would have come looking for him.

“Can my sons’ mems be implanted into someone else?” Carla asks as though she is negotiating a business deal and not the possibility of her getting her son, a version of her son at least, returned to her.

“In theory. Y-yes it can. It should be possible. B-but it wouldn’t be easy.” Stuart answers honestly after a period of silence during which he contemplates the possibilities of such a thing.

Sure people have others memories implanted in them, which is part of the reason people like him, mems extractors, exist. But he knows what Carla is asking for is not a simple application of mems, but instead the installation of a complete person into another. And that is much more difficult. Though, it has apparently been done. At least according to people in this neighbourhood who claim some of the gangs have paid for such procedures on some of their working girls. Stuart doesn’t know how true that is, or if they really would have been complete mems integrations like Carla is asking for. But this is his chance. Maybe if he does this maybe she’ll spare him. It’s worth a try.

“Can you do it?” Carla then asks. She doesn’t dare to get her hopes up; she is still seething with rage and just wants her son back. Even if what she gets isn’t quite her son exactly.

Eric is her only child and his father is long gone. He isn’t dead. At least not as far as she knows anyway. He just walked out soon after Eric was born. She tried to look for him, but she’d never found him.

“I’ll do it. I’ll do whatever you want if it means you get your son back.” Stuart says begging for a chance to fix his mistakes. It’s not because he feels bad for the pain he has caused her. Instead, he’ll do it because he hopes it will save his own skin. He doesn’t know at what point he became so cold and uncaring, but it doesn’t matter. He just has to do whatever Carla Masters wants and maybe then he’ll be able to get out of this alive. Unlike Robby, he thinks as he resists the urge to look at the man’s lifeless form.

“Do you still have my sons’ mems?” Carla queries. She knows why Stuart is offering to be so helpful. He clearly hopes that if he returns her son to her, though it would be in mind only, that she will spare him. Disgusting little man, she thinks as she stares back at him. She knows his story, but it still doesn’t excuse what he’s done. Not just to her, but to all the victims that have ended up brain dead as a result of having their mems ripped. She wonders how many lives the former doctor Stuart Machado has ruined. It sickens her to think what he’s done.

As she asks the question both suits close around Stuart. The former doctor gulps, sure he isn’t about to like what will come next, but he can’t answer honestly. He doesn’t have the mems. Robby loaded his own account, which means any copy would be in his storage systems, not Stuart’s own. And with him dead they’re lost forever. He curses Robby, even though his is dead, for his greed. If only the loan shark had kept to the arrangement and the protocol. Then things could have been different. All he can do now is lie.

“I do.” Stuart says with mock confidence as the suits flank him on either side.

“Where are they Stuart?” Carla asks succinctly.

But Stuart doesn’t answer for no other reason than he can’t think of a lie that won’t become immediately unveiled. So instead, he opts to keep silent. He knows it’s a terrible idea, which is proved mere moments later when both of Carla’s bodyguard lay into him. Punches slam into his gut, ribs and face as he is beaten to the floor and then repeatedly kicked. Stuart shields his face and head with his arms as they batter his body for a couple minutes, but to Stuart it feels like an eternity to him.

With the beating over, Stuart is hauled to his knees. He is sure he is about to meet the same fate as Robby. The only difference is that no one was holding Robby’s arms, whereas each of the suits has one of his arms. He wonders why as blood pours from his mouth and nose and drips onto the cold wooden floor. His ribs and gut are searing in pain from the beating, which hadn’t even had time to recover from Robby’s savagery days earlier, as he looks at Carla. He knows he has to keep eye contact with her and fights the near overwhelming urge he feels to let himself go. But he knows if he does that he’ll simply pass out and he has no idea what might happen to him if he does.

“The truth Stuart.” Carla demands. She is standing now, her hands on her hips as her eyes bore holes through him.

“No, I don’t have them.” Stuart admits with a heavy sigh. He knows he’s going to die. Carla’s next question will be why and he’ll have to explain, with or without another beating. He knows it.

“Why not? You sold them. So who were they sold to? Tell me. Now!” Carla orders through gritted teeth. She is desperately trying to keep her anger under control but it is becoming too much. She knew she shouldn’t have gotten her hopes up, but she couldn’t help it, and now this former doctor is telling her he doesn’t have her own sons’ mems. Bastard, she thinks.

“Buyers are anonymous. And even if they weren’t Eric’s mems were sold by Robby, through his account.” Stuart admits. It’s gone just as he knew it would. He doesn’t know exactly what will come next, but he can guess and it’s not going to be good for him.

“You mean my sons’ mems are lost?” Carla roars no longer able to contain her anger.

Stuart simply nods. He sees no reason to say another word as Carla motions for Tony and Toby to haul Stuart across the room. They oblige and drag the former doctor to his reclined chair. Stuart’s eyes go wide as he realises what they intend to do. He struggles and fights as he screams no over and over. He begs and pleads but why he doesn’t know. He knows he will get no mercy and if he were in Carla’s shoes he wouldn’t offer any either. Nevertheless he keeps fighting, but the suits are too strong for him and shove him into the chair before restraining him.

Still he continues to fight and struggle even as Carla circles round to the stall he has sat on so many times before. She doesn’t apply the band round his head, but she does feel for the base of his skull. If he didn’t know better he’d think she’s done this before. Truth is Carla hasn’t, but she is a smart woman. A woman that is filled with a thirst for revenge as after all hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

This ‘man’ a former doctor has taken her son away from her, so she will repay him by performing on him the exact same procedure he performed upon her dear Eric.

She stabs the needle in. Stuart screams in pain, but Carla doesn’t sift through his mems. No instead she rips them, all of them. Stuart reacts immediately as he begins writhing and screaming in agony. He fights trying to break the restraints, but it’s useless and deep in his mind he knows it. That doesn’t stop him fighting though.

Carla shows no emotion as she watches Stuart flail and tug at the restraints. She knows he won’t break free and even if he does Tony and Toby will stop him. They loom over him, the dark haired Tony expressionless while the blonde Toby smirks slightly. They have served Carla for a long time, but are no strangers to violence. They served in the military together once and often handle her more sensitive matters.

Then the ping of the extractor rings out to signify that the mems have been ripped. But Carla already knows that, as Stuart is no longer flailing and fighting. Instead, he is just lying there; eyes wide open, staring at the ceiling above them with his mouth slightly agape. Stuart continues to breathe but he doesn’t blink, he just stares with dead eyes. He’s brain dead now and Carla knows it. It doesn’t bring her son back to her, but it helps to know the men responsible are gone. They’ve paid for their mistakes with her life and maybe she can even use the ex-doctors mems to bribe the buyers into giving her Eric’s mems, once she finds them that is.

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