© Copyright 2010 - AmyAmy - Used by permission
Storycodes: F/f; M/f; bond; latex; machines; susp; hum; drug; insert; abuse; shave; mast; cons/reluct; X
Part 4: Doctor’s Orders
I have money but I can’t get drunk because of the incessant clockwork schedule that rules my life. I still have to have something to numb me. I consider drugs, but the company might find out about them. That makes me notice it’s a bit odd that they haven’t been taking any blood or urine tests from me.
I have to settle for food. It’s about the only thing I can still enjoy. I can’t listen to my CDs any longer because I sold them along with my laptop, and my iPod, and my phone. The list of things I’ve sold goes on and on. Some of them weren’t technically mine to start with, but that’s how it is with some things, they get passed around. Now somebody else has them.
I buy fresh vegetables, ice cream, chocolate, bread, peanut butter, tuna in oil, and a whole bunch of other stuff. I don’t even get wound up when the teenager on the checkout looks at my weird plastic arms because I am so happy to have money.
I still need to pay the electricity bill. When I phone them up about it I find out that the account has been closed out and transferred to the company. I don’t pay for electricity any longer. Good thing too with all the things they have plugged into it I must be drawing enough for a small town.
I seriously consider purchasing a vibrator, but I don’t really know where to get one. Then I think about how embarrassing it would be to pick one up in a shop. I guess they’d just look knowingly at my weird arms and know that’s the only way I’m going to get any joy. I’d buy one online, but there are obvious obstacles to that – I might have cash but I have no online money.
The Doctor hasn’t hassled me since last week. After my Tuesday morning injection she doesn’t leave as usual, and a man arrives to collect me. I haven’t seen him before. He’s older than Jared, probably in his fifties. He has short graying hair and octagonal gold rimmed glasses.
“Hello there Alex, and hello there to you… You must be Kelly? How are you?” He says with an American accent.
“I’m good thanks, how about you?” I say.
“I’m good. Oh, of course, I should have said, I’m Gideon, Gideon Jones. I’m in charge of materials, sensors and that kind of thing. We’re going to try and make a full 3D scan of your body this morning. The good Doctor has come up with a scheme that might save us a lot of time editing it together afterwards.”
My heart sinks as soon as I hear the Doctor has a hand in this. It is bound to be painful, humiliating or more likely both. I am probably going to wake up in a bath of ice somewhere missing my kidneys because she has them out for scanning. I wish I could laugh at that thought like I planned. I just might be right.
They lead me into an area outside the cabins underneath the main warehouse roof. There’s a wide open space with a thing like a camera on a circular track that hangs from a complicated dome of geodesic scaffolding.
“This is the largest laser scanner in the southern hemisphere,” says Gideon. I wonder why they put anything important in the lousy southern hemisphere. What else have we got? Maybe it’s just a good place for US corporations to hide black projects, like homosexuals driving two suburbs over to hang about outside toilets so they won’t be recognized.
There are two things that particularly attract my notice on the concrete slab that forms the floor here. One is a trolley with various medical supplies on it. The other is a pile of black-rubber webbing and cables.
“What about the computer pods on her arms?” Asks the Doctor.
“I don’t want to remove those until we move to the next phase. We’ll compensate for them as best we can and rescan during transition with the small scanner once they’re off,” says Gideon. The Doctor nods.
“You need to your clothes off Kelly,” says the Doctor. I look around. This isn’t exactly a private place, there isn’t even a spot to put my clothes when I take them off. Nevertheless, I don’t hesitate for long; the Doctor isn’t well known for her patience.
I’m unbuttoning my blouse while Gideon and the Doctor chat away like it’s no big deal. I drop my skirt to the floor. They’re gesturing up at cables that I have noticed are attached to the surrounding scaffold. My panties join the skirt. The bra is the last thing to go. I’m still holding it lamely when Gideon takes a walkie-talkie off his belt and starts muttering into it. He’s looking across at an observation window I hadn’t even noticed until now. About half a dozen people are up there, all staring down at my naked humiliation.
It’s seriously hot under the warehouse roof and the air is really still – they don’t air-condition the main space – we’re all sweating profusely, just not for exactly the same reasons. Whatever her preparations the Doctor isn’t dressed for this heat in her skirt-suit and white coat.
“You need to put this on,” says the Doctor, holding the harness I noticed before. How typical of her to come up with a bondage toy.
The harness doesn’t work the way I expect: it buckles around my arms in several places, the two parts joining with straps that go across my chest and over my back leaving my body free. While I’m putting it on the Doctor checks the scar on the back of my shoulder.
“That scratch you got when you fell over is healing up nicely Kelly. There won’t even be a scar,” she comments. She’s reminding me of how she gassed me unconscious and operated on me without consent to do who knows what. She can see that despite the heat I am shaking. Everything about me is open for her and half a dozen technicians to see. I will never be able to look anyone in the warehouse in the eye again without feeling ashamed.
They cable up the harness, clipping wires that are part of it onto the ones that are hanging from the scaffold. At first there’s no tension in the wires and I’m just standing there. Gideon gives a gesture upwards to the people in the box and the wires begin to tighten. A few moments pass and now I’m hanging by my arms, standing on tip-toe to touch the floor. I’m completely helpless. I know if I panic it won’t make any difference, they’ll just do what they plan to do anyway.
I know I’m about to lose it anyway. I can’t bear to be helpless like this around the Doctor. It actually makes me feel safer to know so many people are watching.
The Doctor caresses my bottom and I yelp.
“Hush now,” she says. “This will just be a little prick.” I feel the cold sensation of an alcohol swab and then the needle plunging in. I want to scream for them to stop her. I’m frozen with fear, the scream is a weak croak in my throat, a feeble plea.
“Please don’t,” I say. “Doctor, please…”
“Don’t make a fuss now,” she says and the injection is over anyway, it’s too late to do anything about it.
I go to answer her and instead of obeying me my mouth just drops open. I try to close it. It doesn’t respond. A thin trickle of drool runs out of the corner and drips down my chin as my head lolls forward. I’m looking at the ground, which blurs out of focus.
“That was quick,” says Gideon.
“Yes, it is. You never watched Dexter?” Says the Doctor.
“I’ve never heard of such a thing,” says Gideon.
I try to turn my head, or move my hand, anything to attract their attention. Nothing moves. It’s like I’m dead inside my own body. I don’t know how I’m still breathing.
“She’s still conscious,” says the Doctor, “simply unable to control her muscles in any way.”
“So she’ll stay still for the scan?”
“She is still breathing, but otherwise, yes.”
“You should have told me you were about to do that. That hair has to come off before we scan,” says Gideon.
“It’s not a problem, I’ll do it,” says the Doctor. Are they talking about my pubic hair? What would they need to shave that off for? Then it occurs to me that obviously they don’t mean that, they are going to shave all the hair off my head.
I discover I can still cry without moving a muscle.
The Doctor takes some electric clippers from the trolley and begins to shave off my lovely long hair smoothly, professionally, efficiently. It falls silently in thick black lumps onto the concrete. She uses her hand to move my head about at her convenience. I can’t do anything to resist her as she poses me this way and that. Her hands are hot and sweaty in the heat. She’s out of focus, but I can smell the sweat on her.
She adjusts the clippers and starts reducing what’s left of my hair to a fine stubble. Little tufts of hair fall onto my face and stick there in the sweat and the tears, tickling me. Sometimes they fall off when she tilts my head another way, sometimes they don’t.
Inside I am screaming. I’m screaming into a black hole inside me. There is a pit of darkness in my center, an abyss that leads straight to hell and my screams are echoing emptily into it. The Doctor and Gideon cannot see this, all they can see is a limp body, helpless and defenceless in their rubber harness.
The Doctor whispers to me as she cuts. She is good at cutting, that’s something I understand profoundly.
“I hope you’ve learned your lesson Kelly. I can do this to you any time I please. Next time it might not be just your hair that I take away,” she whispers. Only then do I understand how there is no chance for me. I am never going to get her barbs out of me. One day she will kill me, or worse, leave me alive and wishing for death. Yet still I hope, against all the evidence – I hope to be free of her, free of everything.
A few hours ago I was happy, still flushed with the joy of some simple pleasure regained. Now I’m back down at the bottom of that pit inside myself, the one where the screams are bottled up and trapped until they simply fade away.
They put in black contact lenses so I can’t see at all. Then they pose me various ways and run their scanner. I can hear it spinning around me on its rails. They remove me from the harness and pose me again in different ways.
“She reminds me of one of those real-dolls,” says Gideon. “Are you sure she’s not dead? I don’t want any harm to come to her.” The ironic nature of what he says he wants compared with what has been done to me is hilarious. I would laugh if I could. I would laugh through my tears.
“She can still hear you know? She’s fine, don’t you trust your own monitors?” Says the Doctor.
When they are done they lift me up onto a trolley and put me on my side in the recovery position. They move the trolley inside, probably into the medical room. The contacts are still in and I don’t know where I am. I feel a pain as rubber gloved fingers slip the contacts out. I’m in the medical room. It’s quiet. The Doctor is looking down at me. I can’t focus on her but I know who it is anyway. She puts some drops in my eyes, which feels wonderful.
“This wasn’t punishment Kelly, it was just a warning,” she whispers very quietly as she puts in a drip. “I’m just trying to prepare you. Nobody else is going to do it.”
Of course, I can’t answer.
“Oh, don’t pretend that you’re angry at me,” she says, “I know that deep down this is what you wanted more than anything.” I try to move my mouth, but I can’t even form a moan.
She puts her hand down to my crotch slides a finger between my outer lips. It’s wet and slippery down there. It’s always wet and slippery down there lately. I am filled with shame that she has discovered my guilty little secret.
“Oh, yes, you’re getting off on this. Your mouth might lie but your secretions don’t,” she says taking a deep sniffing breath. “You know I could smell it coming off you every time we were alone. You always stink like a filthy cunt.”
My eyes are watering by themselves now. Her words sting me brutally. I always tried to be good. I always tried.
“I know what sluts like you want, what you always want. Do you want me to give it to you? I know you can’t beg for it like you want to, but your snatch… Your snatch is begging me isn’t it? And it’s the one in charge so I know you’ll always do whatever it wants. That’s just the kind of girl you are, isn’t it? You’re a slut who lets her snatch lead her around, and it’s very hungry isn’t it?”
She circles my clit with her finger. I hate myself because despite what she’s saying to me and after everything she’s done to hurt me, it still feels good. It’s hard not to believe her words aren’t true.
“Oh my, you’re getting even wetter aren’t you? You really like this yes?”
She moves her thumb to my clit and slips a finger inside me, it goes in as easily as anything. I’m literally dripping for her. Even I can smell it. I feel so much hurt inside because even if I could speak, how could I deny what she’s saying?
“Oh dear Kelly, I think I could lose my whole arm in there. You really are a hot wet slut aren’t you?”
I wish I could do anything, just a whimper, a blink, anything to tell her to stop – to stop her making her words into the truth. This is the worst I’ve ever felt because I know, in a sense, I’m doing it to myself.
She slips in a second finger, her thumb softly teasing my clit. Oh God, it feels good, the gentle stretch. She knows exactly how to torture me with pleasure. I could float off the bed.
“A dirty girl like you probably likes it rough. Yes. I bet you like it when those hard rough men push you around a bit, force themselves on you … when they make it seem like they’re the ones doing the taking, but it’s really you isn’t it Kelly? When one grabs you by the hair and pushes your mouth down onto his huge straining cock, when he forces it into your throat so you gag, I get you gush into your panties don’t you?”
She slides in a third finger, then a fourth. Her vile words are just background now. I’m losing focus on everything but my sex, my desire.
“I bet you like it when they hurt you?” She says.
I hear that through the clouds. No! No I don’t. I’m terrified of pain. I would give anything at this moment to be able to beg her to stop, to not hurt me, because I know what’s coming. I try and try to scream, but I can’t even blink. Please, somebody walk in or something, anything to stop her now.
“Would you like me to hurt you? Isn’t that what your lovers do? And I am your lover aren’t I Kelly? Who could ever love you apart from me?”
My mind reels. Love? What the hell has love to do with the things she’s done to me?
She bends forwards and kisses me on the lips, first soft, then hard, her tongue probing, I can’t even resist that.
“How could I not respond when you throw yourself at me?” She says, breaking the kiss. She jams her fingers into my mouth, putting my tongue back into a safe position, making sure I can still breathe.
“Yes, you want me to hurt you, just a little? Oh, I don’t want to hurt you Kelly, I want to comfort you. It’s tragic that pain is all you can respond to.”
She grabs my nipple, twisting and pulling. As she does it she gives my sex more attention with the other hand. Actually, she barely hurts me at all. I can hardly feel it.
“That’s not enough?” She asks, as if I had somehow revealed it to her.
She twists harder, God, Sweet Jesus, it hurts. I can feel it now, burning pain. With the other hand she spreads her fingers wide and pushes into me hard. I nearly orgasm despite the agony.
“Oh yes,” she sighs. “You really like that, don’t you?”
Then there really is a knock at the door. The controlling hands pull away from me, I’m left, hanging unfinished.
“Enter,” says the Doctor, and then I hear her turn on a tap. The door opens. Somebody walks in.
“Oh, it’s you. Come to check on your data source?”
Damn, I need to cum so badly. If I could just finish myself…
“Is she going to be right for her upload at eleven?” I hear Jared say. He sounds a little flustered.
“She won’t be able to look after herself until tomorrow. I can help you, but I can’t watch her all night – I have responsibilities – and I don’t know how to set up your computers anyway,” says the Doctor.
“Can you take her home in a bit? I’ll meet you there,” he says. I hear him leave hastily. The door bangs behind him.
“Now. Where were we?” Says the Doctor. Then she sighs. “I think you’re done now anyway,” she laughs to herself, “lost the moment.”
I hear a clink of keys and then the door. She’s gone. I’m alone. Helpless. Maybe better alone than with her.
It seems like an age before she returns. At first I’m frustrated, but after a few minutes I begin to feel relieved she didn’t make me orgasm. However desperate I was a before, I’d still rather do without than have her touch me.
After a while I find that I can start to twitch my eyelids. A little longer and I can blink by myself. A few hours pass and I still can’t move properly. The Doctor comes in and drops some things on the table. She washes my face and dresses me with little more than a few ordinary kind words. The way she touches me is gentle, almost tender. It’s as creepy when she acts like a normal human being as when she doesn’t. She is the devil and I am in hell.
“It’s not really safe to give you anything to drink but I’m going to have to remove the drip for now,” she says.
She drives me home. I’m strapped into the back seat of her Range Rover, still flopping about like a doll. Jared is waiting outside my house. He has a big car as well, it’s silver. I’m too mentally shattered to look beyond that. I didn’t expect him to be there. They use my keys to let themselves in and the pair of them help me onto the bed. I still can’t stand by myself.
The Doctor looks surprised to see the set up in my bedroom but she doesn’t say anything about it or ask any questions. Clearly, they don’t tell her everything. I don’t think Jared would have let her in there if she didn’t need to put the drip back in.
Jared plugs me into the equipment though it only says twenty fourteen on the tower. My vision is a bit blurry but I can focus on things now and then.
I start to protest when the Doctor removes my underwear, but she tells me to hush, and I daren’t argue. She puts a tube into me for urine. Though it burns when she inserts it, my bladder feels a lot better.
“I’ll take that out when you come in tomorrow morning,” she says. “It’s a Foley catheter, don’t try and remove it yourself, you could badly injure yourself.”
“Are you sure it’s safe for me to watch her?” Asks Jared. “Shouldn’t you stay?”
“She will be fine. If anything happens call me, but nothing is going to happen. She’s only getting better from now on. She should be almost back to normal by the morning.”
“I hope you’re right,” says Jared.
“Yes, it would be a shame if you lost a week of data wouldn’t it?” Says the Doctor. I could swear that she’s giving him a filthy look.
“How can you say that?” Jared responds.
The Doctor gives a shrugs and leaves the room. Jared throws some clothes off the chair in the corner and sits down for a long night.
It’s four in the morning and Jared is asleep. I’m wired into the machines, sleepless, reliving the horrors of the day. Time and time again I feel that awful moment when I realize that I can’t move my mouth, my head drops forward. Out of focus and strangely frozen images. Broken patches of blindness. The Doctor’s fingers on my head, on my face, and the buzz of the clippers taking my hair.
I’m bald now, I must look ridiculous, even more repulsive than before. Jared is snoring unevenly. I move my hand to touch my head and it responds, but not quite as it should. I still feel very weak. Just moving my finger is like lifting a sack of flour.
My head is stubbly, soft, like suede. It feels strangely pleasant to rub it. It’s practical for this hot weather. Maybe I’ll keep it this way. There’s no point trying to run up the down escalator.
When I wake up, Jared is already in the kitchen banging about. He brings me a cup of coffee while I try to figure out what to do with the bag full of dark colored urine taped to my leg. In the end I leave it where it is and put on my longest loosest dress.
Jared phones the Doctor and asks about the drip. She tells him how to remove it. I soon have a cotton wool ball taped to my arm. She doesn’t tell him how to remove the catheter.
“When my muscles started to respond again they really started to hurt,” I say. I know it’s pointless trying to explain anything more.
“I didn’t know they were going to do that,” says Jared. “I mean the whole thing, not just the hurting afterwards part.”
“Would you have stopped them?” I ask.
“They probably wouldn’t have listened,” he says, “Gideon is in a rush; he’s under a lot of pressure.”
The joy of eating cereals and toast and putting butter and marmalade on it takes away the misery for a while. Jared looks at me strangely.
“How can you eat all that and stay so thin?” He asks.
“I’ve been living on water and a cup of noodles once a day for a month,” I say.
“I didn’t realize,” he says.
“Sometimes you know everything about me, and yet you can’t seem to put it together,” I say.
“That’s how life is structured,” he says.
I much prefer eating than talking to him, and he doesn’t really have anything to say. I wouldn’t call the silence awkward, in fact it’s quite comfortable.
There is no driver this morning. We get into Jared’s Mercedes. It is the most wonderful car I have ever been in. It smells of newness, and car seat leather. The air conditioning is like a cool spring breeze. It’s so quiet after my house, which always sounds like computers and if not them, the rumble of the split system. In the car I ask a question.
“Should I be afraid of Gideon?” I say.
“You mean that you are afraid of him, after what happened yesterday?” Answers Jared. Clearly he’s given this some thought himself.
“Perhaps. Would I be right to be afraid?”
“Gideon cares deeply about the project. In so far as you are part of that, you are more precious to him than anything, but what has to happen to you because of that… I guess he doesn’t really think about it. Physically, you are very safe, but he may hurt you in other ways that he doesn’t even understand.”
“You’re perceptive for a computer nerd,” I say.
“You’re surprisingly intelligent yourself,” he says.
“I’ll take that as a compliment, but maybe I shouldn’t. Why would you be surprised?”
“I don’t know,” he says, but I know he’s lying.
By the next morning, everything is back to normal, if you can call my insane clockwork life normal.
It’s Monday and pay-day again. I am starting to get excited by Mondays and dread Tuesdays. Jared collects me from the Doctor’s room and takes me back to informatics where they plug me into their machines and look at graphs. This has been the routine now for two weeks without a break.
I know I have to work a seven day week, though I don’t actually “do” much to earn my money apart from chain myself up in techno-bondage every night, but it seems strange that the proper company employees work seven days too. I guess they were in a hurry to get to stage two. I don’t know what stage two is, and I know even less about what was actually required to get there, but I know it is a big deal to everyone. So when Jared tells me they are ready to go to stage two, he is obviously excited.
“What is stage two?” I ask. It’s the obvious question considering the situation.
“There will be additional procedures and monitoring,” he says like it’s peaches and cream.
“I have to consent to this right?”
I’m worried they are just going to force something on me, like the time last week where I was paralyzed and posed like a doll for their 3D scanner. It would have been a terrible experience without there being any more to it, but it was made a lot worse by the presence of the sadistic Doctor, who made some pretty awful threats to me while I was helpless.
“Yes. You will have to consent. Stage two changes the way we think of things, even if at a practical level the differences are only moderate. There will be paperwork at the office today I think. They’ll take you through all that, and the compensation package.”
“There’s a compensation package?”
“You should know by now, there’s always a compensation package when they want you to jump through another burning hoop.”
“Can I know the specifics before I make my decision, or is it a catch twenty-two again?”
“I think I can tell you most of it, but I don’t know the exact details of the medical side,” he says. “We are all counting on you to say yes though. If you don’t, we have to start looking for someone else. I don’t know how long it could take to find a suitable subject. No pressure though,” he adds jokingly.
“I would really like to know what it is about,” I say, “but you know I am probably going to have to say yes anyway because of my situation.”
He nods. “After your regular injection you will need to spend an hour on a special dialysis machine. It will filter and measure tiny traces of chemicals in your blood, and possibly add things. There might be some vitamin supplements or similar things adminstered to you.” He ponders for a moment. “I don’t think there’s anything potentially harmful about dialysis, some people rely on it for years.”
“I think I know what dialysis is. It’s a replacement for kidneys right? But my kidneys are fine aren’t they? Why would I need it?”
“You kidneys are in great shape from what we see on our read-outs,” he says.
“That’s good to know,” I say.
Honestly, I was a bit worried, my diet has been pretty terrible for a while now due to my semi-poverty, though I’m back on real food at last.
“The other thing is the extra sensors. We will be adding sensor packs like the ones on your arms to your legs and feet. The increased completeness of the data will help us move towards stage three,” he says.
“There’s a stage three now?” I say. “Why am I not surprised?”
“There are at least six planned stages,” he says.
“Can you tell me what they are then?”
“I’m not allowed to do that. I can only discuss stage two, but you should know that we might alter our plans as a result of data we gather. There might end up being only four stages, or maybe seven. It’s not set in stone at this point,” he says.
The non committal techie talk starts to turn me off. I know once they start into probabilities, contingencies, risk factors and requirements it always means they can’t say, they won’t say, or they don’t know. Whichever way around it is, I’m not going to learn anything else.
“The real question, is this going to screw up my life even further? Are there extra hours plugged in apart from the dialysis? Am I going to find I can’t wear any of my shoes any longer, or that I can’t walk? You haven’t all been completely straight with me, always telling me you’re glad I’m committed, but I don’t know what I’m committed to. I’m not on a salary, this could all be over for me tomorrow.”
“Yes, and I know you have to live your life by the clock, it must be grueling.”
“You have no idea,” I say.
“Probably not,” he admits. “If I did know, maybe I wouldn’t be able to do the things I have to for the project.”
“You don’t sound happy. I guess I don’t either. But you’re avoiding my questions,” I point out.
“To answer your question then, as much as I can. You might need new shoes. If that happens, let me know. We will get you shoes. We will get you a ton of shoes, or at least the Doctor will, it’s not my area. You know, you should bring this whole clothes thing up with financial later today, they can probably do something to make you feel more comfortable about this.”
“Yeah, I was kind of worried they might. I’m a sucker for that stuff,” I confess. I feel a sense of relief. It feels good to be talking openly about these things. It makes me feel human to have some sort of a conversation, even if it is about work with Jared.
I’ve felt very isolated since things went wrong for me. It’s been months now. First there was the online casino debt problem, and after that things started to snowball. I ended up upsetting the only friend I have who is still in the country when shady debt collectors looking for me took her stuff after I gave a loan shark her address instead of mine. She had to move to get away from them, and they took everything she had that was worth taking. Last time I saw her, she was screaming abuse at me. I don’t blame her.
I don’t have any family, never did. I was one of those kids nobody wanted. My mother abandoned me in a pub, just two months old. They never found my family. Usually somebody comes forward, or they manage to match up some birth records, but that never happened for me. I bounced from home to home, never fitting in. Again, I had bad luck. Usually a young baby gets adopted, but there were legal problems that stopped that happening for me, and I was in succession of foster homes until I was too old for anyone to really want me.
I’m starting to think that this screwed up program, even the sadistic Doctor are becoming like a family for me. I’m never really alone with them, they’re always watching, always measuring, and every day I have my injection, my check up, my upload time. In a mad way it’s keeping me on the rails.
At the office in the city, Susan the perfect receptionist remembers my name, smiles and speaks to me in a pleasant voice. She doesn’t ask difficult questions that make me look inside. I’m thankful for that. She still makes me feel like I’m a mess though. I envy her ability to perfect every detail of her appearance. Now I’m shaved like GI Jane, I feel even worse. I miss my hair.
I have an interview with a woman I’ve never seen before, apparently she is an HR consultant. At least it’s not the Doctor.
“I’m Felicity Broadmeadows, the company has asked me to speak to you about your unusual pay requirements and the way your package is structured,” she says, opening with no nonsense.
“I like cash,” I say.
“The problem faced by the company is that you were made some one-off payments as a result of exceptional circumstances. That can’t continue. It’s illegal for them to pay you regularly in that way. You become a de facto employee if they continue paying you, whether you want it or not. Surely, there is a way it can be arranged to your satisfaction?”She says.
“I have court orders outstanding,” I say. “I won’t get my money if it’s done on the books.”
She seems willing to avoid mentioning that therefore I’m clearly working a scheme to evade tax and probably several other things.
“What if I told you that the company is willing to pay off all your outstanding debts?”
“I’d say, great, they can do that whenever they like,” I answer, thinking that the chances of it happening are slim to none.
“I’m completely serious; they are willing to do that for you. It’s an extremely generous offer,” she says. I was slow to grasp this was a real negotiation. They must need me more than I thought. I’d expected it to be nothing but an attempt to bully me into going on a package.
“What are you saying here? They are going to give me that as a bonus? Or I owe them? How would it work?”
“I understand they have conditions in mind. It’s a multi-stage bonus package. You will agree that they may immediately pay off the entirety your outstanding debt. They will offset that debt over the stages of the package on a pro-rata basis…”
“It’s confusing,” I say. “Will they pay me apart from this? How much will it be? I mean after tax.”
“If you’ll let me finish,” she says, “the debt is broken into chunks of equal size, and each will be written off as you go into a new bonus stage. Stage one is considered to be ending today. For stages two and three, you will be paid a sum of five hundred dollars per week, after tax. For stages four, five and six you will be paid a sum of one thousand dollars per week, after tax.” She sighs and takes a deep breath. I let her keep going this time.
“You will receive additional benefits, such as electricity supply, internet with a high-speed connection, transport, and so on. Work clothing and other allowances will be provided at the discretion of your HR manager. It doesn’t say they would be after tax, but they are likely to be non-taxable otherwise. From stage three onwards you will be resident at company provided accommodation, all food, facilities and uniform to be provided by them,” she says, pausing to check her notes.
“Does it say what I have to do to meet these stage conditions?”
“I’m afraid not. I was told you already understand what they are,” she replies. “I understand that commercial secrets are involved.”
“I should imagine,” I say, noticing that things start to get really weird around stage four.
“What about holiday?” I say to buy time to think.
“Holiday allowances are as per legal requirements. There is also a health and dental scheme, which I understand to be excellent,” she says.
“Oh, they really push the boat out on that one,” I say, thinking of the Doctor. If you count kidnapping, torture and all kinds of abuse as a service, they really do have incredibly attentive medical benefits.
“So, you are agreeable then?” She looks pleased. She thinks she’s going to close the deal. She probably gets a bonus too.
“It seems like a lousy package. Does it say how long the stages can run for?”
“I believe they are to be no less than two weeks each.”
“I don’t think it’s going to work for me,” I say.
“Please think about this logically, considering your debts, the total value of this package is no less than two hundred thousand dollars, to name a rough ballpark. That’s excellent remuneration on an annual basis.”
“You really have no idea what they get me to do, do you?”
“Of course not, though I assume it is related to testing pharmaceuticals related to your condition,” she says.
“My condition?” I ask. She looks nervous.
“I can’t discuss that.”
“Neither can I. Isn’t that convenient?” I say.
“Fuck this. I’m not going into stage four unless they pay me a twenty-kay sweetener at the end of it. It’s only ten percent, I know they can swallow it without blinking.” I give the consultant a mean look like I might do something crazy. It’s not hard to look scary with a buzz-cut and I’m just guessing but they probably told her I’m a schizophrenic or a depressive or something – I probably will be by the time they’re done with me.
“You would agree if they do that?” I can see the cogs turning in her tidy little head.
“Yeah. I’ll sign to that,” I say thinking she is going to go away and ask what she can do.
Instead she writes the numbers into her form and spins it around for me. Written above is all the bullshit she was hitting me with but in even more incomprehensible form.
“You understand that the company may terminate your employment, in which case debts outstanding remain payable to them.” I don’t imagine I’ll be worried about the debt if the Doctor decides to terminate my employment.
“I don’t think they can do that legally or whatever, but sure.”
She signs the form, and I sign it. It’s already signed by Alex Merriam, HR manager and Gideon Jones, technical director. These guys really love their paper trail.
Then I sit back, and it hits me how I just made it a whole lot more difficult to get out of the whole program, stage after stage, no matter what they are. The incentive at each stage to bury the debt is just too attractive. Before it was like they had a lease on me body and soul, now they actually own the freehold. Deep down, is that what I wanted?
The next day I get my injection as usual, but there’s a new machine in the injection room. The Doctor doesn’t do anything with it, she doesn’t even look at it. It just sits there ominously… waiting.
Jared arrives to pick me up, just like usual too, but we don’t head to informatics.
We head through a door that simply says “Authorized Personnel Only”. There’s a camera on the doorway and Jared and myself have to be buzzed in by Gideon.
The first room is an expansive space full of white machines, like refrigerators with a sparse scattering of warning lights on them. There are no desks or anything that’s obviously a computer. There are three more doorways with heavy, solid looking doors.
We go through one of them into a space with a single desk that holds a single computer screen. The ceiling is lost out of sight in darkness. The floor is a mesh grille. Underneath it is an abyss. Gideon is at the desk with his back to us.
In the center of the open space is a kind of chair-bed machine. I’ve seen a chair a little like this before when the Doctor gave me an examination, but this chair is different, hanging poised above it, seemingly supported by nothing, hangs a huge array of smooth white segmented machinery. It is like some glistening white insect with dozens of legs.
I stare at the chair, frozen with fear.
“I can’t… I can’t sit in that,” I manage to say.
“What’s wrong Kelly?” Says Jared.
I bolt suddenly for the door. I’m so desperate to open it that I can’t work the handle, just pulling at it frantically.
“Calm down Kelly,” says Jared putting his arm around me. I flinch away with a shriek and bang my head into the door.
“I can get the doctor to put her out for this bit if she’s having a hysteric,” says Gideon.
“No!” I scream. “No… Please, not that. I’ll do what you need. Just don’t bother the Doctor,” I plead weakly, turning on the spot, burying my face into Jared’s chest.
“This isn’t like you, is something wrong?” Says Jared. He holds onto me. He’s warm and solid, not cold rubber.
“I’d like to get things moving if you’re ready,” says Gideon.
“What do I have to do?” I ask, pulling away. In my head I’m counting backwards from a hundred, trying to stay calm.
“Sit in the lousy chair,” he says.
Hesitantly, I move close to the chair. I cling onto the arm a while, building my courage.
“There is something wrong with her isn’t there?” Says Gideon, like I’m not there. Talking like I’m not in the room seems to be a habit with him.
“It’s alright Kelly, it’s just a couch,” says Jared.
“You’re right. It’s just a couch,” I say trying to convince myself.
I turn and sit back into the chair. There’s a buzz of servos and it adjusts itself to fit me. I feel like I’m floating on sea of marbles, or ball-bearings, or something else small and round. This is strange.
Jared unscrews the covers from my arm pieces, all of the covers. There are four on each arm. He connects cables to all of them. I can see that on each side two of them are not electrical cables, they are transparent plastic, carrying green and blue liquid respectively. I stare up at the machine looming above me.
“We call it ADAM,” says Jared trying to put me at ease, “it had this acronym P’NADMADU, but nobody liked it.”
“What’s P’NADMADU?” I ask, trying to distract myself.
“Precision nanotech, assembly, disassembly, maintenance and data upscaling,” says Jared incomprehensibly.
“For Godsake don’t tell her that now,” says Gideon.
“You’re frightening her,” says Jared.
Gideon ignores Jared and types something into his computer and the arm coverings open and peel off like a split banana skins. Underneath is my skin, pale, wet, hairless, but intact.
“You can take her to the scanner now,” says Gideon.
I’m happy to get out of the chair. I rub at my arms, they feel normal. It’s good to touch and feel me again. They soon dry and are slightly itchy, but otherwise fine.
The scanner room is off the first room. In the corner is a black plastic tube, it swings open so there’s room for a person to walk in and stand inside.
“I have to go in there?” I ask.
“Yes, it’s a small scanner, much faster than the other one. You just have to hold still, like getting an x-ray,” he explains.
He hands me a pair of darkened swimming goggles, they’re so black I can barely see anything through them.
“Keep the goggles on to protect your eyes,” says Jared. “Just hold your arms up straight above your head so we get a good capture of the wrist area.”
He closes the door and I’m in almost total darkness. A vertical red line spins around me. It’s over in an instant.
Jared takes me back to Gideon and the chair. I’m still anxious, but this time I think I can control it. Nothing bad happened last time.
“You need to get undressed and climb onto the chair,” says Jared as kindly as he can. “I know it’s not the best place to do it.”
As usual there is nowhere to strip and nowhere to put my clothes. Why do they never think of this? I guess what’s the point, I’m going to be sitting there naked, but there’s a lack of basic politeness about it. I just want somewhere to prepare myself, that’s all, a place that acknowledges I exist.
“I don’t think there’s anyone in the building who hasn’t seen me naked now,” I complain.
“I haven’t yet,” says Jared.
“You haven’t missed much,” I say, “anyway, here’s your chance.”
I drop my clothes in a pile on the floor and follow instructions, climbing into the chair. It’s worse naked. It touches me all over. It reminds me of her. The chair moves beneath me, servos buzzing again. Once again I have that uncanny floating feeling.
Above me the white machinery is coming to life, the chair lifts me up towards it. I’m afraid I’ll fall out, but I find it’s impossible, it has a grip on me, as gentle as a cloud but as solid as steel. I feel my arms and legs being gently stretched out. I look down and see that there really isn’t a couch any more: just a kind of expanded frame that has unfolded around me like a flower, and that now supports me on hundreds and hundreds of jittering probes like knitting needles. They constantly move, adjusting to my movement. I only get one good look before it tilts my head back and all I can see is the mass of moving white and black robot arms above me.
A mechanical arm, like something that might spray paint onto a car starts to coat me with blue goop. This time it’s not just my arms, it’s covering my legs as well, including my crotch. Where it touches that sensitive skin it is incredibly tingly in a pleasant way.
Everything is gentle smooth, quiet, but relentless. After the horrors of the Doctor I feel a reassuring safety. The machine has no malice towards me, it just does what it was told to, and I believe that Gideon doesn’t want it to “damage” me. He thinks I am an object that needs to be looked after carefully.
The spraying finishes. Manipulators pull new sleeves over my arms, they reach my elbow and then keep on pulling, they smoothly tug the sleeves up my arms. I notice that various cables are already attached to the new coverings, they are being fitted “live” unlike the old ones.
The gloves come up to my armpit and go over the shoulder somewhat, my hands are carefully manipulated into gloves at the end. They are snug, compressing and yet there’s no sense of restricted blood flow.
At the same time something is being pulled up my legs. I can feel it, but the angle the machine allows for my head won’t let me see. My feet and toes are pointed out straight so that the leggings can pass over them. Finally I feel my toes fitting into the ends of the tights. I’m being covered in a second skin.
In a second stage, my legs are pulled together and a wide tube is pulled up around them, then over my hips and onto my waist. It settles just beneath my breasts and tightens into place, gripping all the way down to my hip bone.
Another spray arm moves into place and washes me down, the excess liquid dropping down through the grilles of the floor.
“It’s starting the diagnostic isn’t it?” I hear Jared say down below.
“Yes, she should feel something any moment now,” says Gideon.
A sensation like a brief rippling passes over my arms and legs. Then everything tightens, it feels like I’m being crushed in a vice. Another ripple and it relaxes again. I can barely feel I’m wearing anything. There’s a rush of heat, then cold. Next comes numbness, all too quick to anticipate. I am definitely not prepared when the pain hits. Every nerve in my body flares with agony. I hang suspended for eternity. Time stops for me. I’m still breathing. I realize the pain is over. I feel only a sensation of joy and release. This is all impossible.
The support starts to descend. Manipulators are unfastening cables. I am returning to earth. It starts to tilt me my torso forward, my legs still sticking out straight. My new coverings are glistening pure virginal white. For some weird reason I feel a sensation of awe and wonder.
Black interface ports make mysterious contrasting circles at my ankles, and I think I see more on the inside of my thighs. Thankfully the “tights” stop just below my crotch.
There’s no way they are kidding me these are just medical monitors, they clearly have the ability to act as well as to watch.
“You’ll be pleased to know that you seem to be running with acceptable parameters,” says Jared.
“We’re on Star Trek now?” I ask.
“If you say so,” he replies.
“Can you make me one of those things to sleep on? It’s pretty fantastic,” I say.
“Be careful what you wish for,” says Gideon slowly, one word at a time.
“Really, have you been on that fairground ride?”
Gideon and Jared look at each other, sharing a moment. I don’t know if this means they ride it every chance they get or whether it scares the shit out of them and they wouldn’t touch it for their lives.
“I’m going to test the short-term wipe protocol,” says Gideon.