© Copyright 2010 - AmyAmy - Used by permission
Storycodes: F/f; M+/f; plastic; machines; bodymod; dollsuit; latex; leather; bond; cons/reluct; X
Part 7: Anatomically Incorrect
Once again I’m sitting in the ADAM chair. It’s now the third day. Mercifully, I haven’t spoken with the Doctor for two whole days. I have just descended from another trip to heaven. Perhaps it will be my last. Lauren should have made her move by now. Something has gone wrong, I know it. I think that now it’s far too late for her to rescue me, but she could still do … something.
I look down at myself. I am covered in seamless glistening white plastic. All first sight the data ports seem to be gone. My breasts, my waist are exaggerated: an artist’s impression of what a woman should be. I put a finger to my face. Plastic clicks against plastic, sensations numbed. I can barely feel the mask through the gloves and I can’t feel my own fingers on my face at all.
There is a large interface point covered with a tau symbol around the position of my solar plexus. I’m guessing but I think it’s the main maintenance point.
I discern with rising horror that I have no mouth. Where it should be is simply smooth plastic. I can’t feel my tongue or the inside of my mouth either. For once they warned me that this was coming but the reality is a lot different to the theory. There’s no pain, I just can’t feel my mouth any longer.
I reach upwards to my eyes. Where a socket should be the plastic continues on smoothly to meet my brow. The surface is perfectly flush and smooth from the top of my cheekbone to my forehead. I don’t know if there are obvious lenses from the outside, but I can see out easily enough. I have no sensation of eyelids but I can still close my eyes, though I don’t understand how.
My hand slides over my head. It too is smooth, perfect, plastic covered and no doubt perfectly bald underneath – if there even is an underneath any longer. My hand keeps moving, feeling down my neck to down between my shoulders. There is a socket there – a substantial one. It seems to be the only other socket now. At least it is the only one I have found so far.
Yesterday they installed the tau-port and covered my sex and bum-hole up. For all intents they are completely gone. I look like a child’s doll down there, smooth, featureless and numb. If there is any kind of sensation possible through the plastic coating there I have yet to discover it. My sexual urges are more securely frustrated than with the chastity belt – at least it could be unlocked. I see no way to remove the plastic: it is part of me.
I am at the mercy of the mysterious planners of this project. I can only blame the Doctor, Jared, Gideon and the few other researchers I've met here for so much of it. It's obvious even to someone as non-technical as myself that a huge amount of work has gone into their plans and designs; the work of dozens if not hundreds of people. I feel crushed under the weight of their arcane ambitions.
I conclude that my desires and bodily urges are an inconvenience to the project. It's as if I am no longer allowed to satisfy them because they are not supposed to exist. I don’t just mean sexual urges. I can’t eat, drink, sweat, cry or kiss either. Yesterday I lost the means to defecate, I guess most people wouldn’t get too cut up about that. Today I lost the ability to eat, to taste, to smell, to be human. Can I still communicate? Jared said I will be able to speak but I have no idea how.
The problem is that I do still have urges. Undirected sexual frustration is already burning deep inside me. What did Germaine Greer call that book? The Female Eunuch? She had no idea what men might do if they were genuinely determined to suppress female sexuality. An undefined and unquenchable longing is consuming my soul for fuel and leaving only sharp and brittle rage. Maybe that’s exactly what she was writing about.
It’s cold in the room, but it isn’t bothering me yet. How would I fare out on the streets under the baking sun? How could I even dare go out there looking like this? What would I go there for? Is there anything outside this place for me now? I struggle to come up with an answer. I have no idea if I can sweat or cool my body in any way, as I can’t even pant to lose heat. My survival is now completely dependent on being able to plug into one of their systems.
Jared explained, almost in passing that without ADAM there is no way to remove the plastic encasing me – not without killing me anyway. Bound inside this alien skin I am utterly reliant on an array of complex and unique machines for all of my needs. I don't feel so much like a prisoner as like a fragile and exotic pet that would quickly die outside the humidity controlled environment of its vivarium.
They have made some changes to ADAM's room over the last three days. A whole new mountain of white and black equipment has been dragged in from somewhere and cabled into racks of new computers: anonymous gray cabinets with understated logos. They are noisy things and must give out a lot of heat, but it’s still cold in here.
There’s a kind of sarcophagus in front of me, most of which was assembled by ADAM. It’s made of the same white plastic as I am. There are masses of heavy black cables running into it, some descend from the ceiling, others crawl along the floor. It’s radiating an intense chill into the room; even I can sense that the room is abnormally cold. Gideon and Jared wear heavy coats in here now, though I am usually naked. Their breath forms clouds, especially when they speak. As for myself, I'm not sure if I breathe at all, but if I do there is no visible vapor.
I prepare to stand up.
“Please stay in the chair Kelly,” says Gideon. He pauses before continuing. “Jared, can you help her out, she could be seriously disoriented.” It does not occur to him to ask me how I feel. I tell them anyway.
“I just feel like things are missing,” I say. Yes! I can speak. My voice is a machine. It’s the joyless clipped English voice of a sat-nav system angrily ordering a legal u-turn at the soonest opportunity. It doesn’t quite have the broken style of being put together out of random sentences, but it’s only one step above that. It's not how I want to sound.
“How does this work?” I ask pointlessly. I know I don’t want to hear an explanation. It’s just so strange.
“I am irritated, angry, frustrated. I already miss my voice and I can’t seem to convey any emotion,” I say.
“The system seems to be working amazingly well,” says Jared. “You’re lucky that half the words aren’t the wrong ones.”
“That will probably happen next,” I say, letting Jared help me out of the chair. My balance and movement is fine.
“You know you don’t really sound that different,” says Jared.
“You are not as funny as you think you are,” I say. “Did you really have to cover over my face?”
“It might surprise you that we have objectives other than your inconvenience,” says Gideon testily. “Yes, we need an enclosed environment to collect data. We went to a lot of trouble to make it livable,” he adds.
“Should I be grateful?” I say.
“You can walk and talk,” says Gideon. “Those things are not necessary, except for your convenience,” he says.
“And sanity,” I answer.
“Take her somewhere she can amuse herself without being so distracting until we need her for the first attempt,” says Gideon.
I balk at his phrasing, “amuse myself?” What possibly amusement is there for me now?
At that point all the lights go out. The only light is from the computer screens, which remain powered up. There’s a strange hush as the air-conditioning shuts down. Then red emergency lighting comes on: a grid of LEDs in the ceiling.
Somewhere in the distance I can hear an alarm going off.
Gideon and Jared look at each other and both sigh.
“I’d better go and see what’s happened. I’ll call you when I’m ready to start stage four attempts,” says Gideon irritably grabbing his phone and heading for the door.
“Hopefully, it’s just an external power failure,” says Jared.
“I thought you had backup generators?” I say as Gideon hurries out.
“We do,” says Jared. “They’re running now. None of the computers have gone down. It’s just that the main lights aren’t supported by generator power, it would just be a waste.”
“Right,” I say.
“We might as well head to the kitchen and grab a coffee…” Says Jared before realizing what he just said. “Shit. Sorry,” he says.
“Never mind, at least I quit smoking months ago,” I say.
“I guess I do want to hit the kitchen. I’ll see you as far as your room – at least you can get some rest before Gideon remembers to ask me to hook you up for data,” he says, like it’s a benefit.
“Fun,” I say.
We head out of the door, and I lag behind him. When I’m half way through the door I conveniently remember something.
“Just need to grab my bag with the laptop, left it in the corner,” I say.
Jared is half-way down the corridor and waits there, as I hoped. I reach into my bag and pull out the pre-prepared strip of cloth-reinforced tape with a piece of thin plastic strip ripped from one of the desks stuck inside it. With some sleight of hand as I struggle the bulky gym-bag through the spring-loaded door I stick it over the catch on the edge of the door, meaning that when it closes it will not be locked.
The door is of the kind where the strike-plate opens by electronic control, but when you open from inside you work the door catch normally. There’s a catch and a dead-bolt, but my guess is that the dead-bolt is never locked, and I know for sure it won’t be on this occasion because Gideon and Jared have already left.
You don’t spend years in and out of foster homes and care-centers and not learn a thing or two about how to subvert security. Even if the tape can’t hold the catch shut, the plastic strip will stop the catch from engaging in the strike plate. The near edge of the tape is hidden behind the metal plate designed to stop someone from opening the door by sliding something like a metal-rule down inside the edge.
The auto-close mechanism pushes the door shut and I run after Jared, catching up to him.
“Sorry. Didn’t want to leave my computer locked in there: the internet is the only fun I have left,” I say.
“No problem. Well, here’s your room. I’m headed to the kitchen. See you later,” he says. I’d been wondering how I was going to get away from him, but he’s done it for me. Perfect.
Once I’m sure he’s gone I slip out of my room. Thankfully no sign of the Doctor… I head down a side corridor where there’s a store-room that is usually left unlocked, though I already jammed the catch on that by hammering a little sliver of metal into it with one of my stupid shoes.
The important thing about this store-room is that it has a big hatch in the ceiling so that the overhead crane can lower things into it. I open the hatch and Lauren drops down into the room. Once inside the warehouse shell it’s possible to move about on the roofs of the office modules. Unfortunately, the secure area where ADAM is kept is an exception, it’s a steel-framed concrete building and its only doors open onto the inside of the prefabs.
“Is that you Kelly? Is it really you in there? What have they done to you?” She says.
“Yes. It’s me. I’m fine, well … don’t worry about me now,” I say. “Just make sure I get out of here one day. Preferably soon.”
“I was getting worried you weren’t going to show,” she says. “They made you into a machine already?”
“Gideon was sluggish leaving. No point chatting about me now; let’s hurry,” I say.
We step furtively out of the room and then head back towards the restricted area. All the way I’m terrified that somebody is going to show up or get in the way, but as usual the complex is mostly deserted.
We push through the outer security door and I strip off the tape, and let it close behind us. We step into the ADAM room and I stick the tape in a spot where it’s hidden but I can easily recover it later to dispose of it properly.
Lauren looks around, taking in the arrangement.
“What a sad and lonely place,” she says. She looks at the sarcophagus, then up at the ADAM machine.
“What do you need to do in here? This is the control computer,” I say, pointing at the terminal Gideon always uses.
Lauren ignores me, still looking up at the ADAM machine. To my absolute amazement it starts to lower several parts of itself down towards her without any kind of intervention or input from the computer.
“How can it do that?” I ask. I should sound like I’m astonished, but in my robot voice it sounds like a request for additional technical data.
“This thing that the people here call ADAM … we made him. You remember me don’t you Sam?” She says, settling herself into the ‘chair’.
“This is wrong beyond belief,” I say. I wanted to say “fucked” but instead I say “wrong”. It seems like there's a profanity filter on my speech? How crippled is my vocabulary? What other words am I missing?
“I’d like some time alone with him,” says Lauren, “I’ll come out when I’m done.”
I stumble out of the room without even acknowledging her request. I can infer too much, way too much, from this encounter. It’s something I wish I had never happened. I sit down against one of the deposition fabricators and wait.
ADAM or Sam as she calls him is a person, or part of a person. Did he start like me, humanity stripped away a little at a time? Is that how I might end up? Lauren must have had some inkling all along. All that crap about Neogen was probably something to distract me from the real horror-show; the slippery slope I’m on to become something unrecognizable – wired into their systems on a permanent basis, made to dance for them on demand like a jewelry-box ballerina, probably profoundly insane – I never even dreamed it was possible. Will they put things in my head to make me like it? Why do I even question it? Of course they will.
I sit there, every paranoid idea and horrific scenario possible spilling through my mind. What they did to me today was enough. I was avoiding facing the reality of what I've become but now I'm starting to see just how much I've been deceiving myself over the last few weeks.
I remember how I manage to keep myself together on days like these. I focus on what has to be done. Now I have to get Lauren out again before she is discovered. She’s been a long time. I think I need to hurry her up. I have to keep myself moving in case I start to think about what all this means. If that happens I’m lost.
I return to the ADAM room, loudly, so she knows I’m coming.
“Lauren, it’s been too long. We need to leave now,” I say.
ADAM is lowering her down from the ceiling. What were they doing up there? Did I risk everything just for the weirdest conjugal visit ever? Did ADAM modify Lauren?
“I’ve done what I can. It might not help you much, but it should at least allow some room for maneuver,” she says cryptically. I can’t be bothered to try and make sense of her evasions right now.
“Let’s just go quickly,” I say. I should just start counting down from ten, in my cold, sterile, emotionless voice it would probably convince her that a self-destruct was about to go off.
I pull her towards the door, and she seems to remember the danger we’re in. Our efforts will have been for nothing if Gideon discovers that we were here.
We run out into the corridor and I pull the secure door closed behind us.
My attention turns from the door and I jump in surprise: lurking outside like a Dickensian reminder of Christmas-past is the Doctor. She and Lauren exchange one of those looks of shared recognition that everyone here is so good at – I am excluded as usual. I’m glad I don’t know the history between these two, but the Doctor looks extremely shocked, horrified even. Seeing that look of fear and anxiety on her face really gives me a lift.
“You found me?” She says, then adds by way of explanation for her presence “I saw you come out of the store-room.” She could start screaming for help and screw us completely, but she doesn’t do it.
“We found you months ago. There’s no escape for you. You will be returned and judged by the council once your work here is over. Your involvement, whatever it was, will be fully exposed,” says Lauren ominously.
“This is really interesting but we need to get out of here now,” I say. Again I pull at Lauren’s arm to get her moving. It’s times like this you really need to put some feeling into things and it makes me angry that I can’t. It reminds me of Lauren’s own well-elocuted voice and the accent that was mentally excised from her as a child. I too have lost a part of what I ought to be, perhaps several parts.
“Your secret is safe. I won’t say anything about this,” says the Doctor. “I was looking for a way to talk to ADAM, but it looks like you beat me to it.”
“He knows the situation now,” says Lauren.
“Thank you,” says the Doctor.
“Don’t think that cooperating now will get you off the hook. You started all this mess … all of it,” says Lauren.
“I know…” The Doctor sighs emptily as I drag Lauren away.
“Move it please people,” I say in my sat-nav voice and we leave the Doctor behind, though I’m not sure I trust her not to raise the alarm once we’re out of sight. Somehow she knows not to follow us; she understands when she isn't wanted.
We’re half-way to the way out when I hear footsteps coming the other way. I open a door into an adjacent office and we slip inside to hide, listening for the steps to pass. I know from my time here that this office is set aside for visitors and isn’t in use at the moment. It’s dusty and has an abandoned feel to it. A previous occupant left behind a Dilbert calendar, still stuck on January, and a comical life-size plastic hand.
Lauren finds it hard to look at me. I know I must seem very strange, but I haven’t even had a chance to check myself in the mirror yet. When she does look at me she seems to stare right through me.
The passerby has moved on and we slip out of the office, trying not to look like we’re doing anything suspicious.
We make it back to the store-room without bumping into anyone, but my heart is in my mouth the entire way.
Once Lauren is safely up and out through the roof-doors, and I’m back out in the corridor, only then do I feel relief. I would sigh, but it’s not in my vocabulary. I walk slowly back to my room. The Doctor hasn’t been in there for a few days now and it has become a more homely place than it was before.
I clear some furniture away from the full-length mirror on the wall. I haven’t used it for an age. I stand there and take a good look at myself. My face is a blank white ovoid with a vague bump where a nose ought to be. How the hell can I see? With no eyes or mouth I’m about as emotive as a department store mannequin. There are some black slots down the sides of my neck, air vents perhaps?
The rest of me is that sexual caricature, doll crotch, doll waist, doll boobs. I run my hand down my front but I can’t even tell I’m touching myself. What’s the point of it all? In this version I don’t even have separate toes. After my complaints before they have done away with them in favor of a simple split toe. I've been through so many revisions lately that I'm starting to lose track of what I'm supposed to look like.
If they want to get rid of me, they could just put some yellow and black circles on me, strap me in a car and crash it into a wall. Nobody would be any the wiser that another crash-test dummy had met its end.
I want to cry, but I can’t even shed a tear. Tears are for people, not doll-robots. I’m still standing there ten minutes later when the Doctor comes in and walks up behind me. I can see her face in the mirror. She looks ragged.
I don’t say a word. What could I possibly achieve with my robot voice?
“You wouldn’t believe me if I tried to explain how this all began,” she says unbidden. She is the last person I want to hear an explanation from, though any kind of explanation is welcome in a way.
“Why don’t you just tell me what they’re going to do? I’m already imagining the worst,” I say.
“I don’t understand it completely myself. At first I thought they were going to turn you directly into a machine like Sam: retro-viruses to reprogram your genetics into something patentable, parts of your brain or body removed and replaced with electronics to make you behave and be low maintenance. Maybe that was still their plan when all this started, but since then Gideon has learned more about how to use ADAM’s potential. It was a good guess, but a wrong one,” she says.
“And now?” I say. I confess, I’d imagined that scenario myself too, except with less technical bits in it.
“Now I know that you are a template. I don’t think they can make the genetic changes they need to a living person. It’s impossible for them. They're strictly limited in what they can do before your body tears its own bio-chemistry apart. Instead they are going to make a completely new person, dozens of them in fact, like you but with changes as a result of the copy process, like a photographic negative makes a print. That’s what ‘Eve’ is all about.”
“If that’s so, why am I in this suit? Why do they still need me?”
“The suit must really do what they say: collect data, though I know it does other things as well. Maybe what they’ve recorded so far is just the things that are constantly in flux? Maybe the rest of you is the huge constant – more data than they can possibly store? I have some idea they are going to put you in the ADAM machine while they make some kind of clone. From what I’ve heard they don’t expect it to work the first time; they're allowing weeks to make the first successful replica. After they get an Eve that works the way that they want, I will help program it.”
“Program Eve to do what? Be some kind of lesbian sex-slave?”
“Of course not Kelly… That's what you want me to do to you isn't it? It can still happen you know? But as for Eve, they just want total unquestioning obedience – a race of inhuman sentients that are owned, manufactured; made as products, and born as willing slaves – so they can sell a nice safe predictable product. Once they have a satisfactory Eve they will make more from her, push the programming on them further … keep on going until they get a line of tractable organic robots. No need to design a computer brain or cognition systems when you can just hack bits out of a human until it’s just dumb enough and electronically shackle what’s left.”
“Maybe they keep you around to make some later generations. I know that part of the plan is flexible. I don’t think they know what to make of you.”
“They’d never let me walk away knowing what I do,” I say. But how much are they aware I know? Maybe not so much…
“They’ll never let you stray far from their reach, but that doesn’t mean they plan to disappear you either. Besides, they don’t realize how much you have learned. Play dumb and conceal as much as you can. I wasn’t lying before. Gideon is a coward, he doesn’t want to do anything that could get him arrested or be used to blackmail him. All the dirty tricks were mine; he knows nothing about them.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Think about what we just said. Anyway, what can you do about it apart from crack apart under the pressure? No… Imagine if you’d known all this two months ago? Then you’d have refused to play along and they’d have got nervous. You mustn’t make them nervous. You need to be a good little robot prototype so they think you’ll keep being nice and quiet if they loosen your chain up a little. So far, they can claim everything they’ve done has been completely legal,” she says.
“And how does that explain why you’ve treated me so badly?” I ask.
“It doesn’t. I do that because you get off on it, and I get off on you getting off on it. It’s nothing to do with them.”
“This is broken,” I say. The software censors the word “fucked” for me again. There really is a profanity filter. The bad words are gone from my dictionary. Perhaps if I try to ask for help or say I’m trapped I’ll say something else then too, or maybe it isn’t that smart.
“While we’re all heart to heart, what was that thing between you and Lauren?” I say.
Her expression tells me that I’ve touched a nerve.
“Lauren?” She says. “Is that what Number Eight is calling herself these days?”
“Number what? What is this, ‘The Prisoner’ ?” I say.
“Don’t be flippant Kelly,” says the Doctor. “I used to belong to a kind of … society … the leader, Dehlia, was Number One, and the lower the number the more senior you were. When I left I was Eleven.”
“Like some kind of cult?” I ask.
“Yes, exactly like a cult,” she says. “That’s why I wanted to get out.”
“There was also a mysterious associate of Number One – her friend, enemy, I don’t know – referred to mainly by the code Lilith – so I am extremely familiar with every detail and variant of that particular mythology.”
“Is that your final answer about Lauren?” I say.
“Dehlia had a mind like a spider not a human being. I think that Gideon named you Lilith because like her you will have to watch your children die. If he was into Greek naming he would have called you Lamia perhaps? That would have been clever on a few other levels, but Lilith and Lamia get mixed together so I guess it still works.”
I don’t complain that she’s not making any sense. I can tell she’s just treading water in her mind. It’s not that she’s being evasive: she doesn’t know how to answer me.
“You aren’t going to explain about Lauren then?” I say.
“What is there to say? I left them, stole, or as I saw it rescued, Sam. They started to hunt me down and blamed a lot of things I had nothing to do with on me. They weren’t too happy about losing Sam either.” She pauses, trying to assemble her story.
“Is that the reason she’s so mad at you? ADAM?” I ask. She considers carefully before answering. It seems like the words are hard for her to say.
“I think that just after I left there was a fire or something and a lot of people died. I don’t know what actually happened because I’d already gone. I’m suspected as the cause but I had nothing to do with it,” she says. She’s crying. The evil Doctor can shed tears. I don’t believe it. The whole thing is a sham just to screw with me.
“I was on the run for a while, terrified of what they’d do if they caught me. In the end I was so desperate to find shelter from them that I traded my soul to the company and Gideon. I gave them Sam, and they made ADAM. Sam, he needs to create – he can’t exist without it. I couldn’t provide what he needed to do that. So I agreed to do their dirty work. I wish now that I’d stayed where I was, a blind termite serving an insane queen, but blameless,” she says turning away from me.
“Sounds like you had quite a lot to say after all,” I note. “I’m not sure I believe all of it.”
She sniffs back her tears. Her termite comparison sticks in my mind. Isn’t that what they’re doing with me: turning me into a termite queen, a machine for making more termites, totally dependent on the nest and all the busy little workers? Is that how I will end my days?
“When you gave him to them, how much of the original Sam was there left?”
“He fit in my carry-on luggage for the flight out of Greece,” she says flatly.
“I'm not sure I much like the sound of this outfit that Lauren works for. They sound worse than the company,” I say.
“I don’t expect you to understand. I didn’t understand what I’d got involved with either. When Number One got to me I was just a young idiot, fresh from completing her psychiatry qualification, in love with a man whose tastes led him to strange places. What they did to me was…” She stops, unable to continue. She’s breaking down. I know the kind of tears, the ones that come and you can’t stop them. They go on for hours and the emotion just seems to stream through you like a river bursting its banks, rushing down the streets like white-water rapids, sweeping cars and everything else away.
I turn to her and put my plastic arms around her, hugging her from behind. She’s sitting down now in one of the comfy chairs I made them get so there was at least something that didn’t feel like it was a torture device in the room.
I rest my plastic head against her cheek. It can’t be much of a comfort. She might as well hug her food processor.
“They showed me amazing things, terrible things, things that nobody should have to know. They gave me these huge tits too. They’re all that people ever see when they look at me,” she says sobbing. “I should have had them reduced, but Sam used to say he liked them.”
She is silent for a while. I try to adjust to the truth. Is she just a tiny link in the chain of violation and cruelty? Eventually she regains control of herself and spits out what’s eating at her.
“Maybe it's just what they taught me, but I won’t be responsible for creating a race of people who desire only to be obedient slaves, and can only think of themselves as property. Maybe they won’t be unhappy but I will feel the loss of the freedom they can’t even imagine for themselves and wouldn’t want even if they could. Do you understand that’s what they intend to make here? It could not be worse if they begged us to kill and eat them,” she says.
I answer in my own ill-considered way.
“I really can't see the logic when you're all ok with them turning me into an inhuman sex-doll machine with no will and then get all upset over them making a copy that does me no harm and gives them the same thing. From my perspective the first one is a lot worse,” I say. It certainly strikes me that the Doctor is in no position to take the moral high-ground, even against the company.
“I’m not ok with it either way,” she says. “I just couldn't see anything I could do that would actually stop them. It also gave me a chance to hunt for someone like you. You never belonged in the vanilla world. We need each other. You're just slow to accept that.”
“I want to be in a world where I can be happy, vanilla or otherwise. It was bad enough when you had me living in fear, but now the fear is gone it's worse. I live in resignation instead: hopeless. That's why you don't scare me any longer. I wish you still did,” I say. I mean it. I'd take fear of her next nasty move over the certainty that the company will enslave me far more profoundly than she ever can.
“You said before that you wanted to be mine. Didn't you mean it?”
“I suppose I did. It was a moment when I would have given up anything just to escape the situation I'm in now. It's all meaningless, as you clearly knew all along.”
“There's no future for me now anyway. I have to run, or Lauren and the rest of her creepy cult will drag me back in, where no doubt I will be made an example of. Either way I can't take you with me. I'm going to try everything I can to get them to undo all this, to let you walk away. It's at least worth a shot. If I succeed will you do something for me in return?”
“What?” I ask, knowing it's bound to stink.
“Give yourself to Susie. I don't want to think of her all alone, with no anchor in her life. Having to dominate and train you is exactly what she needs right now. The discipline would be good for both of you. It's not like you aren't used to begging to have her sit on your face.”
I consider the Doctor's demand. I don't think she can deliver her end of it, but if she can, there are a lot worse fates that being underneath Susie: she's incredible at everything she does and in an odd way I don't feel I deserve her, she's too good for me. It suddenly occurs to me to be honest.
“I’m not sure I feel good enough for her,” I say.
“Why don’t you let her decide that?” Says the Doctor. “I know she wants you, maybe even loves you. More than she loves me anyway.”
“I’ll put that with my other dreams,” I say.
Once the Doctor has gone I dress in a concealing baggy tracksuit and head over to informatics where I spend my nights now. Nobody else is about. I don’t know what to do. It feels wrong not to be cabled up. I feel like a naughty child that’s wandered away from its parents to enjoy forbidden amusements that don’t materialize. I could go back to my room and look at rubbish on the internet. I have spent many hours recently learning as much as I can, but the knowledge I can find online about relevant topics such as mythology or biomechanics remains shallow and unsatisfactory.
I decide to lie down on the foam bed in the informatics lab and wait. After about half an hour Jared comes in. At first he doesn’t notice me. It’s only when he’s about to sit down and start work that he realizes I’m there.
“Ah… Kelly,” he exclaims. “I thought you were with Merriam. I didn’t want to disturb you.” He looks away evasively. I suspect that he’s lying about part of that but I have no idea why he’d bother.
“She left a little while ago,” I say. Jared simply nods, almost as if he already knew this.
“Shouldn’t I be plugged into something?” I ask.
“You don’t need to do that yet, not for a couple of hours,” he says. “You can come back later if you want, I’ll still be here.”
“I’m ready to sleep now,” I say.
Jared looks at me silently for a while. It’s only now that I notice how tired he looks.
“You look like you’re ready to sleep too?” I say.
“It’s been a long day, and that trouble with the mains supply didn’t help. Gideon’s worried that something’s pulling too much power. Rewiring would be an annoying delay right now,” he says staring at me like the freak I am.
“I look strange don’t I?” I say.
“No.” He hesitates. “Well… Yes. A little frightening actually. I’m sorry. It must be hard to adjust to?”
“Obviously. I didn’t mean to put you on the spot,” I say. “I’m feeling a bit more tired than usual. I hope I’m not coming down with anything. What happens if I sneeze?”
“I’ll make sure that Kaiser has been watching your data, get him to double check,” he says.
“Thanks. Just show me how to plug-in. I want to go to sleep,” I say. Then after a moment I add, “Kaiser is a little creepy.”
“A lot of people get that feeling,” says Jared.
“He has some autistic spectrum disability. I don’t know exactly what it is but he flips from being over-confident to shy and nervous in a flash. The pushy mode can be annoying but he’s just as likely to be hiding from everyone,” says Jared.
“You know, I think I knew that already but I forgot,” I say. “The Doctor probably mentioned it. She told me to keep away from him if I can possibly manage it.”
“I think he’s harmless. Wouldn’t hurt a fly, but yeah, you might want to do that,” says Jared. “I guess you have a lot to be worried about without him freaking out or something.”
I recall that the Doctor said something quite different, but she might have simply intended to frighten and isolate me. The way she put it, Kaiser is only one step removed from a psychopath, that he sees everyone as nothing but objects devoid of feelings, even himself. I decide not to mention this to Jared. It’s not like there’s anything he can do about it.
“So how do I plug in now I only have two sockets?” I ask.
Jared shows me. He rolls some hospital screens around the bed for privacy. I’m not sure if he intends it to be my privacy or his. He seems to plan on working deep into the night and either doesn’t want to disturb my sleep, or more likely he doesn’t want to be creeped out by a faceless electronic showroom dummy watching him from its charging cradle.
Somebody has attached a whiteboard to the inside of one of the screens. It has a scribbled chart showing dates for the phases. They’re all wrong: each phase is shown dragging on for months. It seems very odd in retrospect that things have gone quicker than expected. I never heard of a corporation do anything that happened on schedule.
There are notes next to stage four, five and six that draw my attention.
“Stage four – full eve replication in place, can we make so many changes during copy?”
“Stage five – some eve changes pushed back into lil if copies not working, shouldn’t need this?”
“Stage six – shouldn’t need this, full eve package pushed back into lil, would it even work?”
“five, six, maybe use duplicates to avoid corrupting master? Can we rely on dups, might have cascading errors?”
I’m not sure what any of it really means, but I’m certain that I’m not supposed to have seen any of it. As I finally lapse into sleep I wonder if it was really an accident on Jared’s part. Did he show me that whiteboard deliberately?
The next morning Jared is in early. I am reasonably sure that he slept somewhere in the warehouse rather than going home. He looks stubbly, gritty eyed and tired. Gideon is already on the speakerphone pushing us to get started.
Within a few minutes we’re in the ADAM chamber. Jared and Gideon are wearing big coats and hats. I’m sitting naked on the chair. Some pieces of ADAM have swung down and plugged into me. In front of me is the sarcophagus, all opened up like something from a Transformers movie. Behind the sarcophagus are five hospital trolleys. Each one has a box like a large glossy black coffin on it, and each box is cabled into the system.
I remember them starting the sarcophagus. It begins by closing up. It blasts more cold air out into the room making Jared and Gideon shiver. I remember ADAM descending like a dark shadow and then…
I wake up in the ADAM chamber. I’m absolutely freezing. I’m so cold I can’t begin to describe it. The icy cold seems to be deep in my bones, my organs – my very soul. Jared and Gideon are wrapping an emergency heated blanket around me and lifting me onto a hospital trolley.
They roll the trolley out of the secure area like I’m an A&E admission in some hospital drama. The Doctor is waiting outside. Of course, the first thing she does is administer injections. With her it’s always injections. I expect something bad to happen and it does. Almost immediately it feels like my brain is on fire and the rest of my body is made of molten lead.
Hurriedly, they push the trolley to my room. The Doctor puts in a drip and connects up medical monitors. The needle for the drip irritates my arm, like it’s scratching the inside of my vein. I just want to sleep but they won’t let me and the fire in my veins makes it hard to nod off.
Jared and the Doctor sit with me, talking to me, feeding me warm salty chicken soup. It gradually begins to sink in: my suit is gone. My flesh is my own once again. I have a face. I can speak, albeit weakly. I can touch my own skin. I can eat and drink and swallow and there are no electrical connection ports anywhere on my body.
When the Doctor says that I’m stable they finally let me sleep. I wake up feeling hungry, a little sore, but otherwise more normal than I have in months. The Doctor is sitting next to me. She has fallen asleep. I pretend to still be sleeping until she wakes up. It’s not hard, as I’m still exhausted even if I’m not tired.
“Good morning Kelly,” says the Doctor.
“Good morning Doctor,” I respond.
“As you’ve probably realized, I was successful in my attempts to convince them to abandon your further involvement in the project. As I understand it, it won’t reflect negatively on you, you’ll still be paid as if you’d continued, but they really don’t need you here any longer.”
“I can go?” I say.
“Yes. You can go. You can go anywhere you please. I already told them that you asked to come back with me. You don’t have to, but Susie has arranged to take some time off work to look after you while you convalesce, and I’ll do what I can to help,” she says.
I realize I haven’t escaped after all – I set myself up for this when I thought there was no hope of getting out of the project. Maybe she knew that she could pull me out whenever she liked all along? Perhaps I’m being too paranoid and she’s as surprised as anyone that they did this. Maybe I missed some incredibly important and successful piece of work when I fell asleep yesterday?
“Doctor, can I talk to Jared before I go?” I say.
“Of course,” she says. “I’ll call him now.”
I would have liked to talk to him alone, but it probably doesn’t matter. It’s not like he can really do anything to help me out of this situation. If the Doctor and Susie showed up at my home to persuade me to leave with them I’d be putty in their hands anyway. Isn’t that really the problem? That I want to let them take control of me?
“I let Susie know as soon as I heard the good news myself. It’s taken a week to get you out of that suit, I don’t suppose you remember?” Says the Doctor.
“A week? A week passed? What, how?”
“Susie spent the entire time so excited, making all kinds of plans and buying all kinds of toys. I really think that she might be even more besotted with you than I am,” says the Doctor. She’s grinning from ear to ear like the cat that got the cream. I’ve never seen her look so happy. It’s almost as if she’s a different person. I start to wonder if this is all some kind of strange dream and I’m about to wake up.
“It’s all a bit sudden,” I say. “I think I’d feel better if things were moving a little slower. Being out of the suit is still a complete surprise to me. I don’t want to disappoint Susie, but I don’t know if I’m ready for this either.”
“Look, they won’t let you stay here after today, and from what I’ve heard your house isn’t going to be habitable for days: they’re busy pulling equipment out of it. We can go there are pick up your things next week … but if you’re worried you’re going to be rushed into something, well, that isn’t going to happen. Don’t worry about it,” says the Doctor.
I’m about to try and make some excuse to delay my entry into the sweet scented pitcher-plant trap that is the Doctor’s house but Jared has arrived.
“Kelly? You’re back to normal? How do you feel?” He says.
“I’m alright I think,” I say. “It’s all a little odd. I don’t remember being told the suit was coming off.”
“No, well you probably wouldn’t. That kind of session in ADAM can play havoc with short-term to long-term memory fixation. But…” He pauses a moment. “Never mind about that. I just want to say we’re all really proud of what you’ve done for the project. You’ve really come through for us and helped us move faster than we ever imagined. That’s why you can go home now. Your work is finished here. There shouldn’t be any problems about money, but if there are, you have my private number in your phone. Gideon put in a word and it sounds like you can move to a reception job in the central office. It should keep you looked after until you’re ready to move on.” He doesn’t give me a chance to say anything. He takes my hand and clasps it between his.
“It’s really been something special to work with you,” he says. It’s like he wants to say more, like this is a pretty serious goodbye and he’s playing it down. Before I can process what he’s telling me or say anything in reply he bolts out of the room and is gone. I have a strong feeling I won’t see him again.
That afternoon the Doctor unplugs me from all the monitors, removes my drip and gives me some clothes to put on. They’re not my clothes; I’ve never seen them before in my life, but I’m too physically drained to make a fuss about it. “A present from Susie,” she says.
Apparently, Susie likes to do her shopping mail order from England and Germany.
I pull the soft, thin red latex panties up over my legs and let them snap into place. They hug my snatch in a way that reveals and suggests more than it conceals. Next comes the red latex overbust corset. I zip it up at the front and the Doctor expertly tightens the laces to the point that the breath is squeezed out of me and my tits look like they’re trying to pop out of the front.
I pull up the latex stockings and clip them onto the straps dangling from the corset. The stockings are dark brown and highly transparent – naturally shiny in a way the other rubber isn’t. They lack some of the stretch of the opaque rubber and feel quite tight. They make my legs look like they’re made of brown glass.
The cream colored blouse is also made of latex. It looks quite prim and conventional, but it’s just a little too small and the buttons don’t go anywhere high enough, so I show a lot of cleavage, like a slutty librarian.
The long black high-waist pencil skirt isn’t latex but leather lined with satin. The Doctor has to help me do up the zip which is then covered by a giant belt buckle in the front. She pulls down another zip that closes up the rather risqué back-slit and it squeezes my knees and thighs firmly together, allowing only the slack of the stretch in the fine soft leather, which is to say very little indeed.
Rather than the ‘fuck-me’ high-heeled platform stilettos I was expecting, there are point-toed patent leather Victorian style boots with a rather ordinary four-inch spike heel. Perhaps they are a concession to my recent physical shock? They are still somewhat restrictive and a little painful to stand in, but it could have been worse – at least in these I have less distance to fall.
The strangest shock of all, and something I had barely even noticed up until now, is that my hair is back. There were so many things to think about that I didn’t even realize that my full head of long hair is fully restored. It’s not something I expected to happen. After the weeks of short hair it feels heavy and hot to suddenly have such long hair.
The Doctor puts it into a braid for me and gives me a quick brush of makeup: a dusting of foundation, lipstick, mascara. I look at myself in the mirror. I barely recognize the face. It’s like going back in time to before the fall.
“You scrub up quite well Kelly,” says the Doctor.
“Thank you Doctor,” I say. I know it’s hard for her to resist a chance to deliberately tease me with her patronizing attitude.
I pack up a few things into a bag: purse, phone, laptop, and some of my clothes. I wonder if the Doctor will let me keep them in her “cult mansion” or whatever her house is.
She leads me out to her car: the Range Rover I remember from the time she paralyzed me. Phoebe in the front office is the only one there to wave me goodbye.
It’s a cool, damp autumn day. A scattering of dry leaves blows across the road. My last recollection of the car park at the front of the warehouse is baking sun reflected off glass and concrete. Today it’s cool and there’s a slight drizzle. My outfit doesn’t do much to keep me warm in such circumstances and I’m glad to get into the warm dry interior of the Doctor’s car.
Her car smells of expensive leather seats, rich waxes and oils. I sit up straight in the passenger seat, very prim and proper, it’s just the way the seat is adjusted really. Once I’ve clicked the belt closed the Doctor turns to me.
“Reach down under the front of your seat and you’ll find a chain with handcuffs attached, please pull it up between your legs, put the cuffs on and tighten them up,” she says.
Here it is the moment of truth. I could just open the door and climb out, walk back inside and get Phoebe to phone me a taxi. It feels wrong not to be chained to something, not to be embedded in something bigger than myself. I know the Doctor has trained me to be this way – she’s made me need the drug she’s pushing. Like any addict I tell myself I can quit any time, I just don’t want to quit right now.
Naturally, I do as she asks. She probably never even realizes that I hesitated. The other end of the chain is attached to something solid under the seat. The cuffs are the sort that’s joined by a hinge not a chain. I click them closed tight on my wrists and then snap the lock that stops them tightening further. The chain is just long enough that I can rest my hands in my lap. There is now no way I can reach to undo the seat belt.
The Doctor reaches over and gently strokes the side of my face then she slides her hand down and squeezes my breast through the double layer of rubber.
“Welcome to your new life Kelly,” she says.
Then she starts the car and drives us away.