© Copyright 2009 - Darkraptor1 - Used by permission
Storycodes: FM+/m; bond; bagged; rubber; encase; wetsuit; stuck; bodymod; water; cons; X
The cold walls of the cell surrounded Thomas as he lay on the bunk, staring lifelessly at the ceiling. Considering the size of the cell, and the complete and utter lack of anything to keep his attention, his mind wandered towards what he would be doing the rest of the day. A bit of weight lifting perhaps, a dinner composed of crappy food… and that was it.
Day after day of the same meaningless activities to keep him occupied… what was even more depressing was the fact that this was the rest of his life. There would be no escape from the monotony, as the possibility for parole hadn’t been included when the judge had ordered him to be sent here.
That fact had long since bored itself into his brain, but Thomas couldn’t get his mind off that unpleasant fact.
There was movement near the cell door. His roommates coming back from breakfast maybe?
“All right Morrison, up and at ‘em.”
Thomas looked up curiously. One of the guards was waiting for him at the door. As far as he knew, he didn’t have an appointment with the fine officers of the prison. “What’s going on?” he asked as he got off the bunk and walked over to the gate.
“Warden wants to see you.”
“Hell if I know.”
“Did I break a rule?”
“Don’t think so. He didn’t offer any details. Now come on, slip your hands through.”
With well practiced precision, Thomas put his hands through the opening in the bars, allowed the guard to lock the handcuffs on. The cold steel gripped his hands as the gate was opened and he walked out. The guard led him through the wing of the prison towards the central hub, where the warden’s office waited.
They entered a few moments later, where the warden was waiting in his plump chair.
“Take a seat Morrison.”
Thomas did so. “If I may ask,” he said. “Why am I here?”
“Don’t worry, you didn’t break any rules or get into trouble,” the warden said. “In fact, that’s precisely the reason you’re here.”
Confused, Thomas looked at the warden.
“Morrison, there’s a new program being started up by the state. It’s scheduled to go into full operation about a year from now, but currently it’s in the last stages of testing. It’s a new method of housing prisoners, and they’re looking for someone to test it out on.”
It only took a second for Morrison to realize where this was going.
“They sent out a bulletin to us last night asking if we had anyone who could be a test subject, and I immediately thought of you.”
“Simple. You’re one of the best inmates we got. Spotless record, never caused a fuss, never got in a fight. You’re grade A prisoner, and that’s who they’re looking for.”
Thomas wasn’t sure if he was flattered or not. “Oh.”
“Because of that, I wanted to offer you the opportunity to try out this new housing procedure before anyone else.”
“What’s in it for me?”
“Well, it’ll be a lot more comfortable and possibly more enjoyable then spending most of your time in cells...”
That got Thomas’s attention.
“I figured that would catch your eye. Now, I can’t tell you exactly what this procedure is, but if you’re interested, all you have to do is say the word.”
“I’d rather be freed.”
“Sorry, but we can’t arrange that. You know what the judge said. Life without parole. Even working in this experiment can’t change that. All we can offer is to make your life more comfortable.
It only took a few moments for Thomas to make up his mind. “Done.”
“That quick, eh?”
“If it gets me out of this hellish place, I’ll do it.”
“Figured you’d say that. We’ve already got a van set to take you out there. You need to get your things?”
Thomas shook his head. “Nothing to get.”
“All right then. I’ll send word out to get you going… you do know they’ll have to transport you in full gear, right? High name prisoner like you needs to be tied down.”
“I won’t run.”
“I know. But rules are rules.”
“I can take it.”
“Good. Better get going then.”
Thomas stood, the guard coming up to escort him out. As he started out, Thomas paused. “Oh, warden… what exactly is this facility?”
The warden shook his head. “They didn’t say.”
It didn’t take long to encase Thomas inside his traveling restraints. Personally, the guards knew he wouldn’t try to run or escape, but given the rules, they had no choice. On his part, Thomas didn’t struggle as he was put inside the thick cotton body bag, which was zipped up around him, then tied down with thick belts, sealing him inside. A hood was placed over his head, blinding him, and that too, was tied down.
With his restraints secure, Thomas was placed inside the prison van and strapped to the bench. Guards sat across from him, the doors were locked, and they were on their way.
Blinded inside his hood, Thomas had no idea how long they drove, or where they were going. He could only hear the hum of the engine, and the occasional bounce as they drove over the bumpy road. The guards were quiet, occasionally muttering something between themselves, but for the rest of the trip, Thomas could only lie still and wait.
It felt like they had been driving for hours before the van finally rolled to a stop. The back doors were opened, the straps were released, and Thomas was carried from the van. He couldn’t see where he was going, but the sounds that hit his ears were new… there were many people nearby.
The sounds soon faded as he was carried inside a building and put down on a table. The straps were undone, the bag unzipped, and the hood removed.
“Welcome Mr. Morrison.”
Thomas blinked, looked around. His first thought upon seeing his surroundings was that he was in some kind of laboratory. Mechanical parts and equipment lay scattered about, along with machines, pipes, and hoses that he couldn’t make heads or tails of. There was a woman standing before him.
“Uhm… hello. You are?”
“Ms. Kimble. Commissioned researcher for the government into ways to more efficiently store and contain prisoners.”
“Doesn’t sound like the nicest job.”
“Depends on who you ask. As I’m sure you’re aware Mr. Morrison, the United States faces an inmate housing crisis of astronomical proportions. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and we’re in a race to discover the most efficient way to contain prisoners.”
“You already told me that.”
“It bears repeating.”
Thomas eyed the equipment scattered about. “So where am I?”
“This is where we are testing out various methods of restraint and containment. For example, the vacbed.”
She pointed towards the nearby wall. There was a lineup of rubberized sheets pressed together, a human form within each of them.
“Prisoners are placed inside the sheets, then all the air is vacuumed out, sealing the space and making movement completely impossible. Not only is it escape proof, but it also stacks neatly together.”
A press of a button and the beds were pressed against once another, stacking neatly. Those inside the beds wiggled, but couldn’t move an inch inside their rubbery prisons.
“With this system, we can store up to twenty prisoners in a standard sized prison cell instead of four. We expect to start using it in all prisons within the next year. It also offers other advantages as well. Prisoners cannot attack one another or the guards, thus increasing safety and security tenfold.”
“You planning to try me out on one of those?” Thomas asked nervously.
“We had considered it. We do need to test the effects of long term storage upon those with a life sentence, but no, we will not test it on you. You will be the test subject for another method of restraint, one possibly even more escape proof then the vacbed. Consider the body bag you’re wearing. What disadvantages do you think it has?”
Thomas looked down at the sack. He struggled slightly, testing it out. But as always, he could wiggle, but he wouldn’t be able to get out on his own. “No idea.”
“While it securely contains you, you can be moved about. If some of your fellow inmates decided to stage a breakout, you could be carried along and later freed. While you may be safely restrained, you can still be freed. We need a system that prevents that. All too often, prisoners are freed by their fellow convicts and driven or flown away to safety. But what if we created a prison where if the prisoner was to leave, he would die within minutes?”
Thomas listened nervously.
“We have been working on the problem for years, and have finally found a solution. And you, Mr. Morrison, are to be among the first to be contained by it. A guinea pig, if you will.”
“Pardon me for saying this, but you haven’t exactly told me what this place is.”
“Fair enough,” Ms. Kimble went to a television monitor and flicked it on.
Thomas stared at the screen. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
The screen showed an aquarium. Or rather, a very large tank at the aquarium, one built to hold millions of gallons and contain hundreds of fish, even sharks.
“This is the prison we’ve been working on.”
“No. Our prison is the essence of life itself… water. Think of it… water sustains life, but if you are submerged in it for too long, you drown. But if fish are taken out of the water, they will die within minutes, no matter what you do to keep them alive. They need water, much as we need air. Now imagine if we were to convert the breathing system of human beings to be like a fish… able to breathe water, but not air.”
“You’ve got to be joking.”
“It’s no joke Mr. Morrison. We’ve been able to do it. It’s cost a great deal of time and money, but we can now surgically adapt a human being to breathe water, but at the cost of not being able to survive outside of it.” Ms. Kimble smiled. “A prison that is completely escape proof. Any attempt to escape, and they suffocate.”
“I can assure you that I am not. My mental health is within normal parameters. You are simply unable to believe what you’re hearing, but I assure you, it’s all true.”
Thomas stared at the screen. People were walking around the tank, admiring the animals inside, pointing excitedly to a large manta ray that glided over a large, clear tunnel. “You want to put me in there?”
“But what about all those people? What will they think of seeing convicts inside the tank?”
“We’ve created a story about the human animal, an experiment to show the public the animal that is within all human beings, and how they react when put with other animals. They won’t even suspect that this is a secret prison experiment.”
“What if I try to tell them?”
“We’ll reveal the true purpose in time anyway. It wouldn’t matter.”
Thomas silently contemplated the screen.
“Now, I believe the warden at your prison was informed of the offer. In exchange for your full co-operation, you will be housed in a manner more comfortable then an ordinary prison. While you will still be restrained, you will have more freedom of movement then you would otherwise have. If you don’t want to go through with this, we will return you to your cell to serve out your original sentence.”
“Somehow I doubt that.”
“After telling me all this information, you wouldn’t put me in a place where I could tell everyone about it.”
Ms. Kimble was silent for a moment. “Smart man. Very well, if you don’t want to go through with this, we’ll put you in a vacbed and store you in it for the rest of your life.”
“Not much of a choice, is it?”
Ms. Kimble gave the barest hint of a smile. “You get to choose which way you will be useful to us. Either in the aquarium, or testing out indefinite storage and confinement, and the results on the body and the mind.”
With that choice presented, it was clear that he would have to choose the lesser of two evils.
“All right. I’ll take the tank.”
“Smart man. We’ll begin the process immediately.”
The next few hours were a blur. With the guards standing at the ready, Ms. Kimble and her assistants performed several physical tests on Thomas, taking his blood pressure, checking his eyesight (vision in the water would be blurry at first, but he would eventually adapt), fat levels, and a multitude of other things.
“This may seem like an odd question,” Thomas asked as his ears were inspected. “But what am I going to eat?”
“Nutrients will be mixed into the water, requiring no effort on your part to ingest. No flavor to speak of, but they’ll keep you alive. It also leaves virtually no waste products, which you will no doubt appreciate.”
“Yeah… speaking of which, what exactly am I going to be wearing?”
“Most inmates wear wetsuits, along with restraints.”
“You mean I’m going to be cuffed in there?”
“Normal prisoners will be restrained at all times while submerged. Because you’re testing the method, you’ll be no exception.”
“Be glad you will not be wearing heavy restraints. More violent inmates will wear straightjackets, and the most violent being locked in body bags.”
“For the entire time they’re in there?”
Thomas was silent, unnerved.
“As I said, be grateful you will not have to experience that.”
“So… what do I wear?”
“One piece specially constructed wetsuit, half an inch thick. It will restrain your movements and keep you warm at the same time. Matching gloves and boots as well, though with your good record, you get to choose what type.”
It wasn’t much of a boon, but Thomas would take what he could get. “Split toe for the boots,” he said. “Normal gloves.”
“Easily doable. You will also have a hood as well.”
“Let me guess… it’s the same thickness as the suit?”
“Yes. Do you have an allergy to rubber or latex?”
Thomas shook his head. “No.”
“Good. You will be wearing a gag while submerged.”
That caught Thomas completely by the surprise. “What?!”
“We have figured that a gag might be necessary to prevent inmates from biting each other in aggression, so you will be wearing one. As I said earlier Mr. Morrison, you won’t be getting any special treatment because you’re a test subject.”
Thomas didn’t say a word as the assistants continued their examination of him. He was too stunned to do so.
As the equipment and clothing was gathered, Thomas was removed from his sack, and with the guards watching, stripped naked and had all his hair removed, followed by being doused in a clear liquid that burned as it applied. It was, as Ms. Kimble explained, designed to kill hair follicles, preventing them from ever growing in again. It felt horrible being so naked and as hairless as a newborn baby.
“Drink this.” Kimble said, passing a large jug filled with clear liquid.
“What is it?”
“Just drink it.”
Reluctant, but knowing that it was pointless to resist, Thomas did so. The liquid was tasteless, going down easily.
“That will clean out your system and get rid of all physical wastes.”
“Wait, I don’t get a last meal?”
“No. We need your system to be completely clean before you are submerged.”
Thomas was angry. “Even death row inmates get a last meal before the big event.”
“I am sorry, but it must happen that way. Unless you wish to defecate inside your suit and have it stay there.”
The thought was disgusting enough that Thomas didn’t offer any further resistance.
It didn’t take long to gather all of the equipment and gear Thomas would be wearing. The wetsuit, hood, gloves, boots, and gag were acquired easily enough.
They took him out of the laboratory and to the loading area on the very top of the aquarium tank. As the aquarium was closed for the day, there was nobody to watch him be put in, save Ms. Kimble and the guards standing a short ways away.
Ms. Kimble brought over a box and put it at the edge of the tank, filled with all the clothing Thomas was going to wear. Reaching in, he investigated the gear. His skin tingled as his fingers went over the neoprene. The dark silver color was different from what he had expected. He had figured the gear would be black, but seeing it in this silver color, as well as how surprisingly shiny it was, was a surprise.
Then again, he hadn’t told Ms. Kimble or the others that the thought of being wrapped and sealed inside neoprene for the rest of his life was incredibly exciting. If it was going to be this shiny, even more so. He knew that it would be hard adjusting to life in the tank, but at least he would be wearing this instead of a boring orange jumpsuit.
But there was something different about the suit as well. There were numerous loops sewn onto the outside of the legs and the sleeves, and there were large loops sewn near the arms… curiously wide enough for arms to slip through.
“Put it on,” Ms. Kimble said.
Picking up the main suit, Thomas began to work his way into it. It was slick, due to the inside of the suit coated with a clear, shiny liquid. His feet slipped into the legs, but it wasn’t long before he found out a problem… the suit was smaller then Thomas had expected. It wasn’t so small that it was impossible to get into it, but the suit was at least one size smaller then Thomas’s form.
Thomas tried to ignore it, slipping in as best he could. His legs got in place, slipping into the attached feet that gripped his feet tightly, down to the small sleeves sewn for his toes. His arms went in after. Reaching back, he fumbled for the suit’s zipper, before realizing that the zipper started at his waist, went under his groin, and up his back to the neck.
“I’ll get it.” Ms. Kimble said. ‘We need to add glue to the zipper anyway.”
“That clear liquid inside your suit is glue. The suit needs to bond with you. We cannot have it coming off, as that would invalid our research. We need to know the condition of the skin after wearing Neoprene for extended periods of time.”
“Wait!” Thomas said.
“What about… well… ”
It was no secret what he was thinking. “Sexual activity is not allowed in the tank,” Ms. Kimble said. “It is not acceptable under any circumstances. However, as an incentive for you to cooperate with us, we will sexually stimulate you once every six months if you obey our instructions. Failure to do so will result in no sexual stimulation for the rest of your life.”
Pulling out a tube of glue, Ms. Kimble squeezed the clear goo into the zipper as she pulled it up, fully shutting it, the clear liquid spilling down onto the outer skin of the suit.
Thomas looked down longingly at his groin. The neoprene was already starting to stretch, as if his groin knew that it would never emerge again, and was giving one last act of defiance.
“The boots and gloves now.”
“Do those need glue too?”
Picking up both, Ms. Kimble squirted glue inside, making sure to coat the neoprene evenly, ensuring that it would be a smooth, even fit.
“Won’t the glue tear off my skin?” Thomas asked as he nervously slipped one of the gloves on.
“Considering how you’re never leaving, it isn’t a concern.”
The other glove was slipped on. Like the suit, the gloves were a size too small, making it a very snug fit, so much so that the glue dripped out from the seals. Thomas felt the glue bonding to him, a very unnerving feeling. He tried tugging them off, but they were stuck fast, the neoprene pulling at his skin.
The boots came next. Thomas wasn’t surprised at this point to find that the boots were small as well. Glue was squirted into them, as well as the suit’s feet, so that a double layer of glue would bond them together. He slipped them on, and the two components quickly bonded to each other, sealing them in place.
Looking at himself, Thomas now saw himself as a man dressed completely in silver, sealed in and unable to escape on his own. He tried flexing his legs and arms, found it difficult. The half inch thick suit did indeed restrict his movements, but hopefully the trade off of warmth would make up for it.
“Normally, we would put the hood on next,” Ms. Kimble said. “But the gag will go on first, followed by the hood.”
“Let me guess… there will be glue on both as well.”
“Not on the gag, but there will be some on the hood.”
“You really don’t want me to get out of this, don’t you?”
“No. It is imperative that it remains on you. We will need to ensure that inmates cannot bite each other under any circumstances.”
The gag was pulled from the box. Thomas’s heart fluttered as he saw it… thick, black, and very shiny. A long, narrow pump came out of the front, allowing the gag to be inflated or deflated once it was positioned inside a mouth. And from the side of it, the gag was going to be a very tight fit. Thomas nervously wondered if the gag was going to be so big that it would strain his jaw, leading to muscle ache.
As Ms. Kimble took the gag and sprayed some lubricant on it, Thomas clenched his teeth, knowing that in a matter of minutes, the device would be embedded in his mouth. Speech would be impossible.
This was going to be the last time he would ever speak.
“So that’s not coming out?” he asked.
“No.” Kimble said.
“Do you have anything you want to say for the record before you are put in?”
It was a very heavy question, one that weighted down on him like an anvil. What would he say? Did he even have anything of value to record, to be heard in the coming years? The more he thought about it, the more he realized that there was really nothing to say.
“No,” he said. “Not really.”
The last of the lubricant was applied, leaving the gag slick and shiny.
“Open,” Kimble said, holding the gag ready.
Thomas nervously opened his mouth.
“Any last words?”
Thomas thought for a moment.
“Let’s get it over with.”
Ms. Kimble slowly pushed the gag into Thomas’s mouth. Thomas allowed it to slide into place, shifting his tongue, letting it get pushed all the way in. To his surprise, the gag was smaller then he thought it would be. His tongue rubbed the thick rubber as straps were buckled around the back of his head, holding it in place.
Kimble took hold of the pump and began to squeeze. The rubber expanded, filling Thomas’s mouth until it was comfortably snug. It was a relief to Thomas, knowing that it wasn’t going to make his mouth ache.
Thomas reached up and touched the gag, running his fingers over it. “Omffhphh.”
“Good. Gag appears effective. Let’s put the hood on.”
The thick neoprene hood was brought forward. Unlike normal hoods, it was custom made, with extra stitching and neoprene to cover the mouth area. Glue had already been applied to the inside of it, so as it was pulled over Thomas’s head, the clear liquid oozed out. Kimble and her assistant wiped the glue away from Thomas’s eyes as the hood began to set, curing to his head.
In less then a minute, it was done.
Thomas looked himself over, reaching up to feel the hood. It was thick and snug, half an inch thick like the rest of the suit, squeezing tightly against his head.
He tried to speak, couldn’t. With the glue set onto the outside of the gag as well, it was impossible to remove both. He was now fully and completely sealed into the suit, with only his eyes still visible.
“All right, let’s finish it up. On your feet.”
Thomas stood feet. The neoprene and rubber encasing his feet made it difficult to feel the concrete, but he could still walk, though the suit made it slightly difficult to move his legs.
“You’ll have the night to adjust to your situation,” Kimble said as the weight belt was buckled. “Then tomorrow, you’ll be on full display for everyone to see.”
Kimble’s assistants came forward and took Thomas’s hands. Startled, he instinctively tried to pull them away.
“Do not resist,” Kimble said firmly.
The assistants, with Thomas’s arms in hand, raised them up and began to slip them into the loops sewn into the suit. As his arms were lowered into them, Thomas realized what their purpose was. Like the internal sleeves in the body bag he had worn, the loops were holding his arms in place, making it utterly impossible to move them away from the side of his body.
With a final tug, his arms were put snugly in place. Immediately, Thomas tried to pull them out, but the loops held them in place, fiendishly placed so that it was impossible for him to pull them out without assistance.
The assistants came forward with three large belts, which they wound through the loops on the suit and the sleeves themselves. Thomas watched helplessly as his arms were further locked in place as the belts were buckled down tightly, immobilizing his arms completely.
Thomas struggled, but it was useless. There was no way to escape from the belts. He was horribly aware that his arms had just been locked away for life.
He was led over to the very edge of the tank. There was a small platform normally used for divers to sit on before slipping in. It was there that Thomas was lowered into.
“Put your legs together.” Ms. Kimble said.
Thomas nervously did so. As he had feared, the assistants came forward with more belts, quickly looping them around his legs and through the loops, cinching them down and buckling them tightly, locking his legs together at the ankles, knees, and thighs. When all were buckled down, it was impossible to separate his legs.
“Sit,” Ms. Kimble said. “We need to attach your ball and chain.”
Thomas was too busy struggling against his straps, so the assistants forcibly sat him down. Ms. Kimble knelt in front of him, carrying a ball and chain. The ball itself was solid steel, weighing at least forty pounds, with a two foot long chain attached to it, with a thick, solid pair of leg irons attached, waiting for an occupant.
Thomas watched in horror as Ms. Kimble took the cuffs and placed them around his ankles. They were closed shut around the neoprene and locked tightly in place. He saw that there was no key hole in the metal… these were one time use cuffs, designed to never come off.
Frightened, Thomas looked at his restraints, tugging at the shackles. They slid slightly up and down his ankles, but otherwise didn’t move. He stared at the device, knowing that it was now a part of him. He was attached to it, and it to him, forever.
A sobering thought.
The weight belt went on last, being buckled down tightly around his waist, adding to the weight he was carrying.
Ms. Kimble pulled out something… a very large syringe filled with a swirling green liquid. Thomas eyed it, fearfully wondering what this was.
“Previously, we had to resort to surgery to convert the lungs to breathe water instead of air,” Ms. Kimble said. “But a recent breakthrough allowed us to bypass the surgery and instead inject nanomachines that reconfigure the breathing automatically.” Ms. Kimble lowered the syringe towards Thomas’s neck. “This will hurt, but only for a moment.”
Thomas began to flinch away from the large needle as it neared his neck. His fear of needles was not helped by the fact that the needle was much larger and thicker then an ordinary needle.
Seeing his hesitation, Kimble, with an agility born of practice, quickly knelt and jabbed the needle into Thomas’s neoprene covered butt. He flinched, yelling into his gag as the needle sunk deep and the syringe was depressed, sending the green liquid into his body. When it was gone, the needle was withdrawn just as quickly.
“It will take a minute for the devices to re-configure your body,” Ms. Kimble said. “You will feel an odd tingling sensation in your neck and chest. When it stops, you will have a minute to get into the water before you start to asphyxiate.”
Sure enough, there was a tingling sensation in Thomas’s throat, slowly spreading downwards into his chest. The sensation was unlike anything he had ever experienced… it was feeling his very structure and makeup being changed. He sucked in quick breaths through his nose, breathing frantically, aware that this was the last time he would breathe air on dry land.
The tingling increased in intensity, then it was done, slowly fading away. But as Thomas tried to breathe, he found that it was becoming very difficult. His lungs were moving, but very little air was moving in.
He had less then a minute to get in.
He tried to stand, but couldn’t. Starting to panic, he thrashed in his restraints just as the assistants picked him up. With a heavy toss, they threw the ball and chain, and then him, into the water.
The ball immediately dragged him down, taking him underneath the surface. The water closed over his head, completely submerging him. Almost immediately, instinct cut in, and his body fought to rise back towards the surface, panicking as water poured into his nose and through the small spaces in his gag.
With a soft thud, the ball hit the very bottom of the tank, settling in the sand. Dangling above it, Thomas frantically tried to kick for the surface, but only managed two feet before the ball stopped him. A surge of energy let him raise it about half a foot, but the ball promptly fell back, dragging him with it.
Something had gone wrong… he wasn’t breathing properly, he was going to die, he was going to drown at the bottom of this tank and be left floating as a meal for the fishes, he was going to die, die, die… die…
Yet, he didn’t die.
Curiosity made him slowly stop struggling as Thomas looked around. Sure enough, he wasn’t dead. He was breathing. It wasn’t much, but water was flowing in and out of his nose at a slow, steady pace.
He was breathing water.
For a moment Thomas lay still, stunned at the fact that water was going in and out of his nose, and yet he wasn’t drowning. It now felt as natural as breathing air, like he had done it all his life. The shock of how cold the water was made things difficult though, but even that didn’t last long, as the wetsuit was already trapping water and warming it with his body heat.
Blinking furiously in an attempt to clear his vision, Thomas looked around at his new home. It was a very sizable tank, complete with two story tall seaweed, lots of coral and plants for the fish and animals to swim around in. Those animals were looking at him curiously, not knowing what to make of this strange new form that had been dumped into the water. A few swam in closer, expecting to be fed, or attracted to the light glistening off his suit.
Looking down at his ball and chain, Thomas tried to figure out if he could move with it locked to him. It took him several tries at tugging and yanking to find that he could move about. The ball wasn’t heavy enough to stop movement completely, but it did prevent him from heading upwards for more then a few feet. It was far too heavy to pull after him, which meant that getting around the tank would necessitate a sort of hopping movement, which would allow him to drag the ball around. Not the easiest way of getting around, but at least it was better then being tethered in place.
“Mr. Morrison, can you hear me?”
Surprised, Thomas looked around, saw a microphone dangling in the water.
“I trust that you have started to get used to your situation. You will have ample opportunity to practice doing so in the days and weeks ahead. We will be dimming the lights in the tank several minutes from now, so I suggest you get some rest. You will have a busy day tomorrow. A quick note about your daily schedule: You are free to use your time as you see fit, but each evening after the aquarium closes, you will be required to answer a questionnaire to monitor your condition. As you have many years to look forward to in this tank, I suggest you find meaning in those years… perhaps to see yourself not only as an experiment, but also paying off your debt to society by providing entertainment to the guests. Perhaps you can come up with some routines or tricks to amuse them. But whatever you do, I suggest you find a way to occupy yourself.”
The microphone began to rise. “Good night Mr. Morrison.”
With a quick movement, the microphone left the water completely. As the fish and small sharks continued with their slow swim through the tank, Thomas looked around, trying to figure out where he was going to sleep. It would be completely disorienting not having a bed to sleep in, not even the ratty one he had back at prison. Sleeping completely out in the open was something new, and not entirely welcome.
With great difficulty he slowly shuffled his way across the tank, heading for a small clearing near the corner. It was bare, with only a layer of sand, but at least it was something. Reaching the spot, he dragged his ball over and went still, his weight belt keeping him neutrally buoyant, and the last bits of air slowly leaking out of his body further reduced his buoyancy.
So this was it… the first day of something that would last the rest of his life. Just this morning he had been looking at the concrete walls of his previous cell, starting to despair at where his life was going, how it would never change. And now here he was, an aquatic prisoner who had traded one cell for another, for Plexiglas instead of bars. Still no freedom, but at least things might be a little better.
But would they really?
With that injection of nanomachines, there was no going back to living on the surface. With the suit glued to him, it was impossible to get off. With the straps and restraints, it was impossible to escape. And even if he somehow could manage that, he wouldn’t be shot. He would be asphyxiated.
Ms. Kimble had been right. This really was an escape-proof prison. But at least here there was one thing he had that he didn’t otherwise have. A chance to do something more with himself, rather then just stare at the walls all day. Perhaps Mr. Kimble was right. Maybe he could put his time here to good use, and maybe bring some goodwill to the guests who would be coming here.
For good or ill, he would be spending the rest of his life here.
As he floated in the air, bound in his restraints, the thought stayed with him all throughout the night.
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