Jane stepped out of her office in Science Building #5 and onto the first of seven conveyor belts that would transport her back to her building. Surrounded by glass, she sighed as she gazed out onto the remnants of the once great city sprawled out beneath her. There were rumors that there were settlements of people who lived in the ramshackle and burnt out shells, but she didn’t see how that was possible. The government left the destruction as a constant reminder of humanity’s fall. It discouraged the independent thought they claimed was the cause. Life now began on the thirteenth floor, all that lay below was death.
Twenty-three minutes later Jane placed her palm against the control panel on the right side of the doorframe that unlocked her box of an apartment. The door whooshed open and she kicked off her standard issue black flats as she crossed the threshold. Tossing her purse on the countertop, she moved into the kitchenette and pressed the button that would provide the protein pack for her evening nourishment. The wall screen that served as her window changed to darkness mode. It showed the same full moon and wisps of clouds that she and everyone else looked at every night. What was left of the world wasn’t worth viewing.
She longed for a better life. If she proved herself, she might be granted permission for a Mate. It wouldn’t be love, but she also wouldn’t have to hide her loneliness. She would have companionship, but not love. Never love. Love and loneliness were forbidden in this leftover world. It was only half a life, but that was the way the government kept them in line. Physical needs were provided for: shelter, food, and employment. We were to want for nothing that was not already provided.
She took her meal and walked the fourteen steps to the couch, thinking about Fred’s struggle. She shouldn’t allow herself to become attached to the subject, but she couldn’t help believing in the story that leapt to life under her manipulations. There had been a time when she had been swept up by raw emotion, but she had learned her lesson the hard way. She touched her lips as she remembered her one and only love. She had been young; they had been foolish.
The Vid screen sensed her presence and tuned automatically to the night’s lesson. Later would come the Fictions, but the government needed to ensure their continued submission and there wasn’t much left of hope in this world. So they gave them their nightly entertainment: something to believe in when the Vid screens and the protein packs and universal uniforms got to be too much. Keep the people comforted and complacent, but ensure they were terrified of what might happen if the world devolved into the chaos that had once ruled the planet. It was enough to keep the riots to a minimum.
It started with Baader-Meinhof. Coincidence, synchronicity, a word I coulda sworn I made up found in the pages of a new book or a favorite TV show. Little things I thought that popped into reality like granted wishes. I knew it was just my brain recognizing patterns, but it still creeped me out nonetheless. Then the ex-boyfriends started showing up and things went from wishy to wonky with a quickness. Initially it was fun, watching the men who tore out my heart grovel for my forgiveness.
The first walked in like a hurricane, and I just waited for the destruction. I tried to remember what I saw in him, but couldn’t. The strong jaw, the proud patrician nose, the confidence that could stun an audience into silence; all of it seemed arrogant and overbearing. The fervent pleas of “never meant to hurt you” and “biggest mistake of my life” sank heavy to rest at my feet.
If I thought of them, they came, trailing day lilies and daisies, plane tickets and promises. That wasn’t really the problem. It’s easy to give back a broken heart and keep the one knitted and cobbled together. But the ones I loved and left, they came too.
They all found me, hiding out in my little bar back in Kalamazoo, mixing literature with vodka. The boy who carved the word love into wood, my first date, the tattooed southern boy, and the musicians-oh the musicians-over weeks and months they stumbled back into my life.
When my biggest mistake found me, I knew it was time to call shenanigans.
“You have got to be kidding me. All right. That’s it. What are you doing here Jake? Is this some stupid new reality show designed to torture unsuspecting bartenders?” I crossed my arms over my chest as if to contain my irritation, taking a quick scan over my shoulders to see if I could spot any hidden cameras.
“Hey Winnie. It’s been awhile.” Jake said as he settled himself onto a barstool, leaning back, a comfortable ease in his shoulders. “I missed you.”
It’d been a decade since I’d seen him last and the years looked good on him. Gone was the childish look to his lanky frame, but the boyish smile I loved so much was still there. He was exactly the same and yet utterly different, and I knew he could still charm the pants off me faster than anyone else I knew. It didn’t change the fact that it would never work, if the seven times we’d broken up before were any indication.
“Yes, it has been, so what are you doing here?” I asked again. I poured myself a whiskey and ginger thinking it might calm the nerves zinging around in my gut.
“Truthfully, I don’t know. I had the most intense dream about you that I just couldn’t shake, though I can’t remember a thing about it. I just knew I had to come see you. And now that I have, damn Win, you look good.” He looked up with a shy glance from behind the swoop of chin length blond hair. His fingers reached up to rustle through and push it away from his face, like I’d seen him do a thousand times before. The memory of him standing in a hotel lobby clutching a huge bouquet of Gerber daisies, having driven all night to beg me not to leave, surfaced, and I shoved it away. I wouldn’t allow my heart to be swayed.
I stifled the smile that threatened to ease over my features. “No. We are not going to start this again. It never ends well or don’t you remember? Have the years dulled your memory? Well dust it off and take a good look. It wasn’t all road trips and stolen flowers.” I was getting worked up and I really hadn’t meant to. But he’d touched a nerve—I’d been dreaming too. Vivid dreams that didn’t linger past waking, but left me feeling incomplete. “And don’t call me Winnie or Win, you know I hate it. My name is Fred. How many times do I have to remind you?” I grabbed Jake a beer, cracked it open, and set it in front of him, a little harder than I should have and the foam overflowed the top of the bottle.
“Sorry,” I mumbled and grabbed a towel to wipe up the spill.
“Fred, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you by coming here, I just felt like it was important. God, how did we get to the point where we fight within five minutes of seeing each other?”
“Practice” I said with certain snark.
As Jane watched from the safety of her apartment, she sighed. She’d been the one to create the story, but watching the tale unfold made her heart rattle against her chest.
Thomas…her brain began to meander. No Jane, stop it.
She couldn’t afford this. Couldn’t afford to get involved. She needed to stay impartial, unbiased. She was a scientist. The government wouldn’t allow for more than that. Their lives were laid out from birth to the grave with no departures from the expected. That’s why the shows were called Fictions. They only existed for an hour each night; there was no place for real emotion in this life.
When I got home after my shift, I flopped into the ratty navy blue recliner that might as well have been my only piece of furniture. Grabbing the remote, I started flipping channels without really paying attention. Jake. My Jake. I’d spent years running from that relationship, and then it showed up in my bar. My safe haven. Thank God he didn’t stay long. I don’t know that I could’ve handled it. We made small talk and sipped our drinks, avoiding eye contact the best we could. My head might know that we’d made a mistake in the past, but that didn’t mean my heart agreed.
He was in town to play a show at The State Theater. His band had had some success with their latest album and this was their first big tour. I’d picked up tickets for me and my bestie Jules a while back, but I’d had no intention of making my presence known. I just wanted to check in and see how he was doing. Yes, I was a glutton for punishment, but that wasn’t really a surprise. I’d spent years developing my ability to fall for inappropriate men. Maybe the show was a bad idea.
“Who will she choose? Tune in Tuesday at eight pm to discover the man who’s stolen her heart.” The commercial for some bachlorette reality show startled me into consciousness and I caught a quick glimpse of shocking red hair that could have been mine.
“Gag,” I muttered and turned off the TV, but not before the damage had been done. I rubbed at my aching forehead and then wandered into the kitchen and thought about Jake and the end of our relationship. There was a cruelty in our last parting that robbed me of my ability to think clearly.
“Figure out what you want to do and do it, but I can’t support every flighty thought that passes through your brain. You’ve made seven decisions in the last year, and none of them have stuck. So, no, you can’t move to New York with me. This is my chance. Not yours.” I stuffed more clothes into the box I was clutching to my chest like a shield.
“It’s because of him, isn’t it? I didn’t stand a chance once he decided he wanted you.” There was a question in his eyes as he stared that shot an ice pick right through my heart. He stepped closer, reaching for me. I held a hand up to stop him.
“No. It’s because I’m finally getting back into school. I’m doing this for me. I’ve spent years waiting for you to acknowledge me as more than your built-in roadie, groupie, fuck buddy. In six years, you’ve never once showed any interest in what I was doing. Whereas I’ve waited by your side, or at the bar, or in the car, while twat brained bimbos fell all over you. Then, when all the hard work starts to pay off you want to be there. No, Jake. I’m done. No amount of all night road trips to New York City to profess your undying love to me will work. I’m sorry that someone else stepped in while you were busy fawning over your fans. I really am. I never wanted it to end like this.” I backed away and walked out of the room. I heard the breath whoosh out of him as he stumbled back; falling onto the bed we’d bought the last time we’d moved in together.
Dropping the box, I rushed through the house and found myself pushing through the back door and into the yard. I dropped to my knees and cried then, for everything I’d hoped for between us. Nothing had worked out the way we planned it years ago, sitting on top of the tombstones, fingers entwined and dreaming.
I came out of the memory clutching the countertop. I rubbed my temples trying to erase the headache that had recently taken up residence in my brain, not to mention the feeling of disquiet that clung to me. I grabbed a beer and headed up to the attic to get some homework done. I gave up after several attempts to write a decent paragraph. It wasn’t any use anyway. Jake had weaseled his way into my brain and the best I could hope for was to fall off into a deep and dreamless sleep until morning. If I was lucky, it didn’t happen all too often.
Jane stood completely still in front of her office door and opened her right eye wide to allow the retinal scan to fully view her iris. She picked up her clipboard from the inside of the door and headed to her desk. There was a new batch of Undesirables coming in and she needed to be ready to inspect and approve the shipment. It was her least favorite part of her job, but that wasn’t saying much. She hated everything but the science behind it. The batch of subjects coming in tonight had refused to conform to societal standards and had been retired from reality. One learned young the dangers of rebellion. Anyone who fought against the current regime was Retired. They were considered irredeemable and forgotten, or so the world thought anyway.
Jane had loved once. She’d been foolish and she’d learned the hard way that Fictions were fiction and the world she lived in had no room for a hopeless romantic. She’d never seen Thomas again after their dalliance, but she still remembered the way her heart had pounded in her chest, the heat that rushed through her veins, the feel of his body pressed against hers. She’d almost ended up an Undesirable. It had been a close thing and if her parents hadn’t had the clout to argue for her, none of this would have happened. She might be Fred.
When she was a girl, she had dreamed of all the technological discoveries she would make, but she’d been too good manipulating the human brain, which was how she ended up in Section C. Her punishment was to give the world one hour of Fiction a night. It was a constant reminder of her mistake. Still, she worked to the best of her abilities hoping one day to be noticed by Upper Management. She cleared her head of the daydreams and focused on the night’s entertainment. There was a show to orchestrate.
She rolled her chair over to the hyperbaric chamber that held subject 42383. Taking the metal prods in her hands she sent electric stimuli into different parts of Fred’s brain and watched as her memories began to play out before her.
It was her job to find Fred’s happily ever after.
I woke at noon, feeling exhausted and nostalgic. The full force of the changing years hit with my first cup of coffee. Somehow two decades had slipped by and I hadn’t the foggiest clue how exactly that happened. Whenever I’ve spaced something I retraced my steps to find the lost thought. Standing where I had been unlocks the hidden compartment of forgotten things. But how do you stand where you were at sixteen? It’s not like I could hop in a phone box, pop back to 1992, and check out my younger self. So I had to retrace my steps the old fashioned way.
I reached for the shelf that held our remains: a basket of dried flowers, a stained photo, and several hazy memories. There were mistakes mixed in there as well, of course, nobody avoided them completely. Taking a seat behind the desk and setting the basket there, I picked up the photo gingerly, as if I could still touch the face it framed. In it I sit cross-legged in the blue mirrored reflection of a pair of silver shades. A cigarette dangles from the slight smirk of his pale lips, and I can almost see the mischievous twinkle in his eyes. I’m sitting on a gravestone, and the back of the picture is marked with the rings of the Olympics, so it must be 1996. It was the height of our falling in love, four years after we met in the high school drama room.
I had just moved to Michigan from Pittsburgh after my parents’ divorce, and found myself wading through the politics of being the “new girl” again: the short, half punk, half hippie one at that. I’d moved enough before then to skip the part where I try to blend in, it never worked anyway. The first few days were always a series of whispers and not so subtle stares. I didn’t care, much, and I tromped around in my green tights and combat boots adding fuel to the bonfire. The only thing I cared about was theater.
The first day during forensics practice, Jake walked in. God, he was overwhelming, and I don’t just mean handsome, though he was. He was a force of nature. With his long sandy blonde hair, clear blue eyes, and the talent he exuded, a girl could get lost forever. The problem? He was also cocky, arrogant, and a complete and utter snob. He wasn’t the theater geek, he was the leading man, and he knew it. I spent most of the next two years with an unrequited crush, sneaking glimpses of him on stage, dreaming of a day when we might be cast as leads together and maybe there’d be a kiss.
It never happened, of course. The hot guy never dates the nerdy girl in high school, and I ended up dating the preacher’s son whose parents disapproved of me. I leaned back in my old grey stained computer chair. I shook my head to relieve the last vestiges of a walk down memory lane and glancing at the clock, I realized I had been daydreaming for hours. I’d gotten nothing done, and wasted the better part of the day. I grabbed the cleanest black shirt and pants I had, and hurried out the door, praying I wouldn’t be too late for my shift. Thankfully traffic wasn’t too bad, and I was only a few minutes late.
“Sorry Jules, I’ll be right on. Lemme throw my stuff in my locker.” I apologized while passing the mahogany bar and heading to the back.
“I’m good, Fred. Take your time.” The blonde bombshell I called my best friend, smiled, knowing that I was too scattered for punctuality.
It took but a moment to throw on my sneakers and clock in. Jules and I went over all the details of our day, her new dog, and my latest classes. She gathered her things, poured a Lager and moved to the other side of the bar. She and one of our regulars, Nate, struck up a conversation about football and I settled into my shift.
The rest of the week passed without a trace of Jake and the night of the concert arrived. I stood in front of the full-length mirror while Jules reclined on my bed and tried to stifle a chuckle. I tossed the jeans onto the floor and ducked into the closet to continue my search.
“You know there are clothes in the world that aren’t made of denim.” I stuck my head out and gave her my unimpressed face. She held her hands up in surrender. “Fine, but just pick something or we’re going to be late for the show. I’m anxious to get to know this Jake of yours. I can’t wait to meet one of the men who actually succeeded in getting your pants off. This ought to prove very interesting. At least it’ll help me in finding someone who stands a chance in accomplishing that feat again.”
I’d told her the whole sordid tale; of course I had. She was my best friend so I couldn’t have hidden the truth from her even if I’d wanted to. I could count the number of dates I’d had in the last five years on one hand and Jules never wasted an opportunity to tease me about my lackluster love life. I tossed the most recent pair of cast-off jeans at her.
“Shut up. As I’ve told you repeatedly, I’m too busy for dating. A master’s degree is more important than a boyfriend.”
Jules let out a whoosh of exasperation. “So says the Ice Queen.” She hopped off the bed and stuck her head into my closet. Clothes came flying at my head. “Here. Put these on.”
I held up the black velvet top and knee-length jean skirt with the slit that went higher than I was comfortable. “Um, Jules, I know you forced me to buy these the last time you dragged me out shopping, but as I told you…”
She cut me off. “Stop it. You are going out looking sexy and I don’t want to hear any of your excuses about how you’re much more comfortable in your old Cure t-shirt and jeans.” At least she grabbed my black motorcycle boots instead of the heels she’d talked me into buying.
I started to argue, but she gave me her patented don’t fuck with me look and I shimmied into the outfit. A half-hour later Jules deemed me sexy and we jumped into her baby blue Jeep and wound our way through Saturday night traffic. The bar was packed when we arrived, but being a bartender had its perks and we got drinks with a minimum of waiting. Jules grabbed my hand and dragged me up front just as the band wandered out on stage and a roar erupted from the crowd.
I was shocked to say the least. I knew his band was doing well, but I didn’t realize how well. Jake was front and center, his jeans slung low on his hips and a simple white t-shirt clinging to his soccer player frame. Damn, I had to admit to myself that he looked good, but as soon as the thought surfaced, I shoved it back down into the deep dark hole it had crawled out of.
“Holy crap Fred, that boy is sex on a stick. Why’d you ever let him go?” Jules asked, fanning herself like a Southern girl about to have the vapors.
“I can give you a crowd full of reasons. Look around. See all those smitten drooly girl faces? Imagine dealing with that night after night.”
Jules let out a sigh I didn’t hear as the band ripped into their first song. I decided to let the past go and just enjoy myself. If I had my way, it would be the last time I’d see him, even if my heart did droop a little at the thought. The band was good, I had to admit to myself, and during intermission Jules dragged me to the merch table to buy all their albums as well as a concert tee.
“I can’t believe you’ve kept him as your dark little secret Fred, I’m disappointed in you. You should definitely have shared all the dirty details, not just the heartbreaking finale.”
“Please can we drop it? I really don’t want to relive the past.”
She held her hands up in surrender. “Alright, but you have to promise to dish later. Deal?”
I sighed knowing she’d never give up, but at least I could put it off for a while longer. Before I could agree, the band came back on stage and after stashing her purchases behind the bar, Jules had us standing directly in front of Jake. I’d been successful in staying out of his line of sight, but alas my soon to be ex-bestie had a different plan.
Maybe he won’t notice me I prayed fervently to whatever god might be listening. But evidently the gods were deaf because then he saw me and a beaming smile broke out on his face. I felt an unbidden warmth worm its way through my veins and settle in my stomach. Jake’s energy exploded on stage as the band tore through song after song and I knew it was useless to fight the lingering feelings I had for him. I would just have to skin Jules alive after I forced her to take me out and get me so drunk I’d forget again. If I thought Jake noticing me was the worst of it, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
One of their more popular songs ended and I turned to slink through the crowd and head to the bar when I heard Jake’s voice echoing through the speakers. “Winifred Rose Ardis, don’t you dare walk away from me again.”
The crowd went silent and I froze in place. Maybe no one would realize he was talking to me, but I hadn’t gotten far enough away. I turned to face him as he pulled his guitar over his head and set it on the stand next to him. I felt myself being pushed back towards the stage when Jules grabbed me and dragged me the rest of the way.
Jake looked down at the bouncers. “Can you please help her up guys?” Rough hands wrapped around my upper arms and lifted me over the barricade. My hand lifted grasping Jake’s and then I was standing in front of a hushed audience waiting to see what would happen next.
“Ten years ago this woman broke my heart.”
A boo rose up and enveloped me. My humiliation was complete. Oh Lord, just kill me now, please.
He held his hand up for silence. “She was right to, but what she doesn’t know is that I’ve never stopped loving her.” His hand slipped into mine and, no matter how much I tried to deny it, I liked it there. The white spotlight burned hot onto my face as I gave in and raised my eyes to meet his.
My insides turned to mush as I allowed myself to remember how good we had once been together. I thought about the basket of stolen flowers he had gathered for me that I had never been able to throw away; the memory of road trips and the traveling picnics we had on the hood of the car; our joy when we signed the lease on our first apartment. All the little moments came rushing back.
My heart joined my head in its aching. I had no idea how to handle this. I’d never expected that I’d be face to face with Jake again, and now, in front of a crowd of two thousand, he was there again. Could I go through this again? Was it worth it: the, more than probable, chance of heartbreak? Does anyone ever really change or would he just bamboozle me again into thinking it’d be different this time? I couldn’t take the chance.
I turned and ran. Off stage and out the door the bands used to load in. Whipping my head to the left and right, there were people everywhere.
Jane cursed mentally since to say an obscenity aloud could land her in Rehabilitation. Why was Fred running from the one thing that could make her happy? Okay, so it wasn’t actually happening, but still. If Fred only knew how society lived through these shows. The world had fallen apart decades ago, but that didn’t mean the people didn’t need hope. Jane really didn’t want to retire her, so she worked her magic. Sending electrical impulses to the limbic cortex and the hippocampus, she prayed, hoping to salvage this run.
She needed it. Jake was her Thomas.
“Jane…Jane, look at me.”
She refused to lift her eyes. She knew what they were doing was wrong, but her body felt electric.
“Thomas, no. We have to stop…” He silenced her with his lips and she tried to push away, but ended up entwining her arms around him instead. She thought about her parents. What would happen to them if they were caught?
“Run away with me,” he pleaded with her.
“Thomas, there’s nowhere to run. You’ve seen the city, where would we hide? How would we eat? We’d be dead in days.”
“There has to be somewhere. The whole world can’t have been destroyed. Think about it rationally. There has to be someplace left out there. Somewhere green and beautiful, somewhere where we can be together. You’ve heard the stories of Arcadia, Utopia, Eden: we can find it. I know we can.”
“Those are all fairytales.” She shivered in the darkness. They had both snuck out of their respective apartments when the rest of the world was asleep and the silence was terrifying. She heard a thump come from somewhere down the narrow hallway where they were tucked into a corner. “What was that?”
“It was nothing. There is nothing, but the two of us. You know they’ll separate us eventually. Once they assign to our Employments, we’ll never see each other again. Please Jane,” he begged and pressed his lips against hers.
Several beats passed as she fell into his warmth.
“Yes,” she whispered, terrified in spite of the love she felt surging through every nerve ending.
“Yes?” Thomas asked, hesitating as if he hadn’t heard her correctly.
The door at the end of the hall swung up and flashlights burned into her retinas. They had been found. The lights flipped on in the hallway. Oh god. It was all over. She and Thomas were dragged apart and he was screaming her name.
Focus Jane. She needed to fix this Fiction. Of all the ones she had ever created, this one, especially needed to succeed.
I am sobbing in the middle of an alleyway next to a dumpster. Get your shit together Fred. I wiped the streaks from my face and took a deep breath. I needed to find Jules. My bestie would insist that they buy a bottle of Jameson and head back to her apartment to hash it all out. She wouldn’t give in until I had exorcised all of my demons. And I would feel better afterwards. It was inevitable that should, no would, shove Jake down into the deepest recesses of my brain until he was just a memory that I could conjure up as a warning for the next time she might be tempted to let someone in.
I looked up. Of course Jake was leaning against the dirty red brick of the building across the way.
“This was a bad idea Jake, I should never have come.” I stood and started walking towards the light at the end of the alley when I realized that if the show was over, I’d been crying for far too long.
“Stop, please Fred. You don’t get it.” I stopped and he reached out to touch me, but hesitated when my body froze, then he grabbed my hand despite the fact that the rest of my body was turned away from him. “I’ve done all of this for you. I still remember every word of that last conversation. I wanted to prove to you that there was more in me than that lazy loser you walked away from. Please don’t do it again.”
I tried to pull away, but his hand gripped mine and wouldn’t let go. I wanted to tell him no: we’d already tried too many times. I wanted to, I really did, but something made me turn to face him finally. The slender fingers of his free hand lifted up to my cheek and I leaned into it. I wanted to run far away from him, but my body gave in and I couldn’t feel anything beyond Jake pulling me into his arms. I’d forgotten how right everything felt in his arms.
“Please tell me that we can try again. Please Win, I’ll walk away if I have to, but don’t make me regret you for the rest of my life. You were the worst of my life, but also the best; the best of everything I ever attempted. I know that we fought and hurt each other more than either of us would have liked, but tell me you’ll give us another chance.”
He started to pull away and it was my turn to keep him next to me.
I saw the light go out of his eyes and his head dropped.
“If that’s what you want.”
“No, that’s not what I mean…” My gaze skittered away as I spoke the words I’d tried to bury beneath the bad memories. “I don’t want to fight it anymore. I’ve missed you Jake. I’ve never stopped loving you—no matter how hard I tried to pretend that I had.”
Free of the denial, I lifted my chin to look at him directly.
His face lit up when he smiled and he brought his lips down to meet mine. My breath caught as the kiss deepened. I allowed myself to sink into the feeling of bliss that raced free through my body. We stood, wrapped in one another, oblivious to our damp and dingy surroundings.
This moment was a good beginning.
Jane tapped her pen against the clipboard with one hand and wiped her cheeks with the other. She shouldn’t care so much; she’d never get her promotion if anyone saw her right now. But she couldn’t find it in herself to reign in the emotion. She saw so much in Fred and Jake that might have been her life, if she’d been born in a different time. She allowed herself thirty seconds and then gathered her composure. She told herself that somewhere Thomas was watching and he would remember. That had to be enough.
The numbers showed another successful run. The merchandise department was happy, which would bring her one step closer to the promotion she’d been angling for. She looked around at the metal cryogenic units, lined up like tin soldiers, waiting to be plugged in and harvested for their memories. It was a reprehensible job, but the world needed the happiness she provided by mining the nobodies. She was good at what she did even if she hated it. Unfortunately, sometimes the subjects were just too bitter and nothing could be done. Those times they “cancelled” the show and moved on to the next mind.
Bending down, she looked in on subject 42383, Fred. She had been a very lucrative asset; her show had broken ratings left and right. Something about her fragile, imaginary, little life brought in the viewers. Jane punched the numbers to disconnect the subject from the live feed wires. Fred’s body would be placed in cold storage in case she was needed for a sequel.