From The Clutches of Life
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A woman watched her father's chest rise and fall from the chair next to his hospital bed. She wished she had her headphones with her, but instead all she had was a stethoscope. It's much harder to distract yourself with a stethoscope. She can tap on the end of it and hear the beat in her ears, but that's not the same as getting lost in your music. Although, even fidgeting with the stethoscope was better than worrying about her father at the moment.

The whole room had this nostalgic feeling to it. It's probably because last time the woman was in a hospital room with her father, she was also hoping to put him to rest. Even though he wasn't dead yet, she had still started grieving. But this time around, she's more composed. More determined.

Joyce Michaels was going to kill her father this time. It was the least she could do for the man.


Emily approached the assisted living quarters with a backpack slung over her shoulder. It was a massive complex, since these sort of accommodations are in high demand nowadays. Sure, half of the world is living body-to-body, while the other half have become cyborgs, but somewhere between those two groups, there's a reasonable number of people who just want to keep their own bodies, or just can't afford the other options. And inevitably, they end up here before popping the pill.

She walked up to the man at the front desk, who typed furiously on a keyboard. She coughed twice before the man acknowledged her.

"Yes! Hello!"

"I'm here to visit George Michaels. Do you know where I can find him?"

"One moment," the man entered some commands into the terminal in front of him, "He should be in his room."

"Should be?"

"Well, according to this he hasn't left his room in months. So, either he's still there, or the tracker in his key card stopped working."

"I'll take that for now. What room is his?"

"Number is 514, on the fourth floor."

"Thanks.


Ten trained soldiers sat in a van with the words "Sheldon's Cleaning Partners" painted on the side as it sped down the highway. MTF Iota-10 silently looked over their briefing packet once more. The target was an ex-foundation researcher, confirmed to have leaked classified information to a number of Groups of Interest. Captain Eric Michaels let out a small sigh.

"What's the matter?" Turned asked from across the van.

"My sister used to work with Emily. They were good friends too."

"Ah. If you feel weird about it, you can sit this one out. We'll be fine just the nine of us."

"Thanks, but I'm fine."

Eric's eyes fell back at the file, but he didn't really look at it. He was thinking about his sister. He hadn't heard from Joyce since they went their separate ways after the Site-2718 incursion. Maybe she got caught up in all of this as well. He hoped she was ok. He would have to give her a call after he got back from the operation.

And speaking of calls, he hadn't talked to dad in a while. Eric wondered if Joyce had changed his dad's nursing home. She probably hadn't convinced dad to swallow the pill, or get any modifications, or she would've called to tell Eric about it. Eric added his dad to the list of people he was going to call later.


Knock knock.

No response.

Knock knock knock.

Still nothing.

Emily sighed, and then tried the door for good measure. It opened. George must have forgotten to lock it.

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