This story is growing to the point where is will probably end up as a novella, if not a full blown novel. The possibilities for the direction it can take seem to be endless and very interesting. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback from many of you expressing enjoyment at reading it. I hope this installment keeps you interested.
You can catch up with the first four parts of this story here:
Please enjoy No Pain, No Gain – Part 5
No Pain, No Gain – Part 5
Joyce woke up slowly. She had a metallic taste in her mouth. Her vision was slowly returning, but everything had a greenish cast to it. She was lying on a thinly padded surface. The wall next to her was cool and rough with beveled lines separating what felt like cinder blocks. She looked up toward the ceiling for the source of the green light and saw a single bulb shielded with a wire cage, but it was not turned on.
As she looked around the room, she saw a video camera beneath a bubble mounted to the ceiling in the corner of the room. A thick metal door was in the center of the opposite wall with a small square window at eye level and what appeared to be a slot with a hinged door at the bottom, probably for passing trays of food into what was looking more and more like a cell. This feeling of being incarcerated became even clearer as she saw a toilet/sink combination in the corner on the left-hand side of the door.
She tried to sit up and realized that she was restrained to the padded surface. This was soon remedied by exerting a bit of force. The restraints, heavy-duty plastic zip ties that bound her wrists and ankles to the metal frame below the mattress, snapped like they were made of paper. She supposed her adrenalin levels were elevated.
She sat up and slowly stood. The effects of whatever they had injected into her were wearing off, but she still felt a bit dizzy. Once she had her equilibrium back, she padded over to the door. Someone had taken her shoes and the smooth concrete floor felt cool on her feet.
She knew it wouldn’t open, but she tried pushing on the door. It likely opened inward, but there was no handle with which to pull it. As she suspected, the door felt ominously solid and didn’t budge at all.
She looked up at the camera. Someone was obviously watching her. She wondered if they could hear her as well.
“Hey. Let me out of here.”
As Joyce spoke, she didn’t recognize the sound of her own voice. It sounded deeper and her tongue felt thick as she vocalized. She supposed the effects of the drugs had not completely worn off.
“I mean it. Whoever is out there, you need to let me out.”
There was only silence as a response. Joyce was about to give up on trying to alert anyone on the outside when she heard footsteps approaching the door. The footsteps increased in volume and then stopped just outside.
“Please step away from the door and sit on the mattress,” a voice said.
“Let me out of here.”
“We will, I assure you. But please sit on the mattress so we can open the door and brief you on what’s happening.”
We, Joyce thought. Who is ‘we’?
She backed away and sat on the mattress. Every muscle in her body remained tense and ready to leap at the open door.
She could hear the sound of a keypad being pressed and heard the substantial locking mechanism disengage. The door opened and the light mounted to the ceiling illuminated. Joyce squinted as her eyes adjusted to the bright light.
She saw three men standing just inside the doorway. Two of them were quite large and were flanking a slender man in a shiny suit. The large men were dressed in body armor and helmets with face shields. They held long metal rods with handles on them.
The man in the shiny suit stood slightly behind the behemoth bookends, almost as if he were afraid of Joyce. This wasn’t lost on her.
“You’re probably wondering why we brought you to our facility,” Mr. Shiny Suit said.
“That thought did cross my mind. Who are you and what gave you’re the right to kidnap me?”
“I assure you, we did this for your own protection before things progressed too far.”
“Things? What things? What are you talking about?”
The man took a slight step backward as the agitation grew in Joyce’s voice.
“There’s no reason to be upset. We are here to help you through your transition.”
“Again, I don’t know what you’re talking about. What transition? You need to let me out of here.”
A dark shadow seemed to cross the man’s face.
“We can’t let you go just yet. You need to remain here so we can manage your transition.”
At the thought of indefinite captivity, Joyce sprung from the mattress with all of the speed she could muster toward the open door. The two armored men stepped in her path and touched her with the end of the metal rods. She immediately felt electricity coursing through her body as her muscles betrayed her and she fell to the floor and began to twitch.
“I wish you hadn’t made us do that. Take some time to think about your situation and I’ll be back later when you’re ready to talk,” Mr. Shiny Suit said. “Don’t wait too long to be reasonable.”
Joyce tried to stand, but her body wouldn’t respond. She heard the men shuffle out of her cell and the door closed.
Haybrook sat across from Hanson, but his mind was a million miles away. He listened to the description of the ‘creatures’ that Hanson had seen at the research lab. These were humans that were transformed from the technology in the Buff Cuff. Haybrook knew there were risks, but he had no idea how great or dangerous those risks were. He assumed, based on the early experiments he had observed, that those that had the predisposition to react negatively to the technology would simply die at some point when they were overtaken by the effects. What Hanson described was something on an entirely different level. It was beyond his worst nightmares.
“Do you have any thoughts on what we can do?” Hanson asked.
He sounded much less like the overbearing boss that had threatened Haybrook in their last encounter. He now had the sound of someone desperate for answers in a horrific situation.
Haybrook snapped back to the present.
“We have two problems. One is how to shut down delivery of the tech to anyone else that buys a Buff Cuff. The second problem is coming up with a way to stop and reverse the negative effects in those that are already having a reaction.”
“So, what do we do first?” Hanson asked.
“It’s a difficult dilemma. We can shut down delivery of the tech fairly quickly and easily, but once it is discovered, it can be turned back on easily and, if we’re caught, we won’t be able to fix the second problem. The solution to the second problem will take a lot more time. It needs to be tested and we need to be sure it will reverse the condition without causing further damage. I’d need to examine an infected individual and I’m not sure how that would be possible.”
“There has to be a way,” Hanson said. “What I saw was cruel. Even if the test subjects were criminals, what’s been done to them is worse than death or torture.”
Devon Blaylock sat behind his large smoked glass and chrome desk eight floors above the holding cells in the secret research lab. It was the top floor of the building and he had a panoramic view of the Sandia Mountains. Across from him sat Maxwell Forrester, the lead scientist for Kongo Fit and one of the few people in the organization that knew about the secret lab.
“So you brought in another one,” Forrester said.
“Yes. This one is female and we were able to bring her in before she reached stage three. From what I can tell, she’s in the middle of stage two. She’s still able to communicate and we can still control her with the rods.”
“Based on the other subjects we’ve observed, you’ve only got a couple of days before she hits stage three. We’re going to have to act quickly if we want to do any meaningful research. If she hits the next stage, she’ll be useless to me.”
“I just don’t know, Max. This one’s a civilian. If it was one of the original test subjects, we’d have the latitude to do what needs to be done. This one, though, she’ll be missed. We’re going to have to move carefully and keep this within the inner circle.”
“That shouldn’t be a problem. People disappear in Albuquerque every day,” Forrester answered. “If you’re having a resurgence of your conscience, Devon, it’s a bit too late, don’t you think?”
Blaylock leaned back in his chair and laced his hands behind his head.
“Is there any way you can do the procedure differently? Do we have to kill this one?”
“I need the nano-membrane that surrounds the brain. In order to get a sufficient sample along with the anchoring tendrils, there is no other way. The subject has to die.”
“I don’t like it, but I guess it’s for the greater good. Maybe we should just shut off delivery of the tech until you’ve come up with the solution.”
Maxwell Forrester laughed at his colleague’s statement.
“Sure, Devon. Shut it down. You’ll find yourself dropped off in the desert staked to the ground as a tasty meal for the coyotes. You think the board would go for the idea of just shutting it off?”
Blaylock squeezed his eyes shut.
“No, I suppose you’re right. Just get it over with.”