by Sarah White
The hurricane lamp we hung overhead shed a bright and unforgiving glare over the entire garage. My shaking hands made the light shimmer on the scalpel.
"Just do it," Jamie ordered through gritted teeth. His Regulator was curbing the worst of his fear, but the exposed back of his neck gleamed with sweat. "For God's sakes, just do it, just cut it out!"
My Regulator thrummed at the base of my skull and my own panic began to steadily fade. Thank you, I thought. For once, thank you.
Jamie's blood was bright and warm on my fingers when I started to slice, but my hands were steady. His Regulator lay just beneath the skin, an ugly metal spider that stretched its legs deep into his brain. I pulled out the tendrils one by one, ignoring the blood running down my hand. Jamie moaned. His Regulator vibrated in my hand, but I had pulled loose the wire that would have blunted the edge of his pain.
"It's almost done now," I said, gripping the last, biggest wire. I yanked it. It sent a jolt of electricity up my arm. Jamie jerked, once, and fell still.
"Jamie? Jamie?" He didn't move. The blood spilling out of the incision slowed to a trickle and then stopped. I felt my heart break for precisely ten seconds, and then my Regulator buzzed, and then I felt nothing at all.
The first time I met Jamie, he was leaping off a train.
The train was crossing a tall trestle bridge over a deep river when a beaming redhead threw open my compartment door.
"'Lo. I'm Jamie. The window in my compartment is jammed. Mind if I use yours?" he asked. I nodded, mute with surprise. He crossed the compartment in a single bound, flung open the window, and swung a leg over the sill. "Thanks!" he said brightly, and toppled out into empty space. A euphoric whoop echoed after him. I raced to the open window and looked down. Why? Any moment now, my Regulator would kick in, flattening my shock and blazing curiosity into a manageable degree of mild interest. Before that happened, I leapt after him.
And then I was shrieking with terror and the wind was whistling in my ears and I couldn't breathe, I couldn't breathe, and I could feel my blood racing in my veins and my heart was beating rabbit-quick in my chest and the river was rushing up to meet me and my body was alive with fear and panic and adrenaline and nothing, nothing in my carefully Regulated life had ever felt as good as this.