This story is proving to be a lot of fun to write. I hope you’re enjoying reading it as well. This week, things are happening. I’m excited about the direction this is taking.
You can catch up with the first four parts of this story here:
Please enjoy No Pain, No Gain – Part 7
Joyce shook the cobwebs from her mind. She must have drifted off to sleep as she waited for someone to come to her cell door. She had no idea what time it was or how long she had slept. Here muscles felt stiff, but it was somehow a good feeling. She felt stronger and all she could think about was using those muscles to tear something apart. The rage that started as a small seed inside of her was taking root. She wasn’t certain who it was directed at. Certainly Mr. Shiny Suit was one target along with his minions that had shocked her like a cow being led to slaughter. The growing anger, however, transcended just these individuals. It seemed to her that it was just anger for anger’s sake.
As she pondered this along with her strategy once someone appeared at her cell, she heard footsteps in the hall. Her hearing seemed to be extra sensitive and she could tell by the volume of the footfalls that there were two people and that they weighed significantly less than Mr. Shiny Suit and his muscle-bound bookends. She didn’t know how she knew this, but she just did.
She heard he lock disengage with its electronic whirring followed by clicks as the pins retracted. This was different, though. Last time she remembered hearing someone keying into a keypad before the door unlocked. As she heard the door open, she pulled the cleat that restrained her from the wall and held it, with the attached chain, as a potential weapon against whoever entered the room. She tensed her leg muscles ready to spring on the visitors. The door swung open and she leapt toward the center of the cell and brandished her cleat/chain weapon. The person in the lead holding a tablet computer device was a smallish female with glasses too big for her face. Joyce bowed up in front of her as she eyed the doorway of the cell behind the female. There was a bookish looking man standing just outside of the cell holding a small bag. Neither looked threatening, but Joyce wanted out of this cell and if she had to hurt these two to accomplish this, she would.
“Please calm down,” the man said from outside the doorway. “We want to help you.”
Joyce pondered this. Mr. Shiny suit had said he wanted to help as well, but this man, his tone was different. It was less authoritative, but had more of a sincere quality. She wasn’t sure how she knew this, but she relaxed her muscles just slightly.
“My name is Gini,” the smaller of the pair said. “We want you to help us, but you can also help us stop this for everyone else.”
Joyce relaxed just a bit more. This Gini had confidence and authority that the man lacked, but also had sincerity and a belief in what she was saying.
“What is your name?” Gini asked.
Joyce had to think about it for a minute or so before it came to her. It was a strange sensation, but finally she came up with it.
“I am Joyce,” she said in a voice much deeper and gravelly then she could remember.
“Joyce,” Gini said. “Dr. Haybrook and I are going to help you, we just need you to trust us.”
Joyce had to make a decision. She could easily overpower these two and make a break for it, but then what? She had changed. She could feel it. She was losing her identity and her memories. If these two could help her and she could help others that might be like her, there was enough of her humanity left that she felt this was the right decision.
“Okay,” Joyce said as she relaxed and sat on her cot.
Roger Fernquist rubbed his eyes as he sat on the edge of his bed. It was a crisp morning in Rochester, Minnesota. He had worked the four to midnight shift at the hospital and was getting up for his morning run, which had now become part of his life.
Roger felt especially tired this morning. It had been a rough night. A family of four had hit a 14-point buck on Route 52 near Zumbrota. The husband was killed. The wife and two children were seriously injured. It was a sad situation, but the trauma center had handled it well. Roger had been working a lot of second and third shifts lately. He volunteered for them. His coworkers were amazed at his energy level. In fact, his supervisor was so amazed that Roger had been randomly tested for drugs twice. So much for rewarding hard work.
He checked the time on his Buff Cuff. It was 8:30 A.M. as corroborated by the bright sunshine coming through his apartment window. He pulled on a Minnesota Golden Gophers hoodie and laced up his running shoes. He seemed to be moving much more slowly than usual this morning. He shook off the cobwebs and stepped out into the bright sunshine to begin his run.
He had worked himself up to eight-mile runs. He was going to try for nine today, but about four miles in, he felt a stitch in his side and couldn’t shake off the fatigue. The high from running that he had been feeling for the past month or so wasn’t kicking in. Roger finally gave in to his body and headed back to his apartment alternating between a slow jog and a walk.
The human part of Joyce fought to control the rage inside of her and allowed Gini to obtain a blood sample. It took four needles before Gini found a place that she was able to penetrate Joyce’s enhanced skin into a vein.
“I’m sorry,” Gini said. “I’m sure that hurts.”
“It doesn’t,” Joyce said.
It was true, she felt no pain as the needle attempted to dig into her skin and finally found entry.
“Two vials should do it. We need to look at your blood and figure out what we can do to stop and, hopefully, reverse what’s happening to you and the others.”
“Others? How many?” Joyce asked.
Haybrook cleared his throat in the corner of the room.
“We’re not sure. Maybe hundreds, possibly thousands,” he said in a hoarse voice.
The stress was taking a toll on him and he was nervous about being in the cell.
“How long before the surveillance cameras come back up?” he asked Gini.
“We have at least another ten minutes. Right now, they’re looking at a loop of Joyce sleeping on her cot.”
Gini finished taking the two vials of blood and packed them up along with the vials in the small bag that Haybrook had brought. Joyce stood up and headed for the door.
“Wait. Where are you going?” Gini asked.
“Out. Need to get out.”
“No,” Haybrook said. “I know it’s hard being stuck in here, but we have to keep up appearances.”
“Appearances?” Joyce asked.
“The people in charge don’t know we’re doing this. They want to hide what’s happening. They’re more worried about the money,” Haybrook said.
“What is happening?” Joyce asked.
“It’s the Buff Cuff. It’s introduced technology into the bodies of the people that use them,” Gini said. “In some people, like you, your body has tried to reject the tech, but the tech is stronger than your antibodies, but the downside is that it changes you.”
“Changes? Tech? Explain.” Joyce said unable to find the words to form complete sentences.
“We don’t have time to explain now,” Haybrook said. “We need you to trust us and be patient while we look for a solution. Please, it’s very important that we don’t get caught.”
“Just two of you?”
Joyce felt a bit less confident in the outcome, but, at the moment she had no other options. She stretched out on the cot with her back to the camera and replaced the cleat in the wall.
“Trust you,” she said as Haybrook and Gini retreated from the cell.
Devon Blaylock sat at the head of the table in the Kongo Fit board room. He had made the board of directors wait a full ten minutes past the start of the meeting before making his entrance. The meeting would be positive. Kongo Fit profits were through the roof. Financial projections for the past 6 quarters had been shattered. This success, Blaylock knew, was due to the introduction of the Buff Cuff. It was the next killer gadget that was flying off the shelves as fast as they could be produced.
“I’m sorry for being a bit late. I was dealing with a design issue for the next gen device and wanted to give you a chance to review the report for this quarter.”
Blaylock sat back in his chair and let the positive mood wash over him.
“As you can see, we have exceeded all expectations. Consumers are happy with our product and the nation is getting healthier with every passing day. International markets are clamoring for our product and, after we cross a few more t’s and dot a few more I’s, overseas sales should make Kongo Fit the richest fitness company in history. We’ll make Nike look like a mom and pop operation.”
Silence followed Blaylock’s soliloquy. He expected as much. The board members were mentally calculating their own returns and planning for the new house or new boat they would be able to purchase.
“What about side effects?” a voice from the back corner of the table asked.
It was Jeremy Alberg, one of the younger members of the board. At 40, he was an up and coming star who had founded and sold a number of businesses and was a self-made multimillionaire.
“Mr. Alberg, I’m not sure what side effects your referring to,” Blaylock said.
“There are reports that some consumers are having negative reactions to the device. Is there any truth to that?”
Looks were exchanged around the table. They were mostly looks that said, “but, my new house/boat”.
“I can assure you that these reports are false. They were likely planted by competitors. I can share the scientific research with you, but that may be a bit over your head. Perhaps we can have you meet with our head of R&D to help you put your concerns to rest.”
“That would be great. Would that be Ray Hanson?”
“Yes, it would. I’ll make sure that my assistant sets up an appointment for you.”
With Alberg satisfied and the lack of further questions, Blaylock returned to his office and had a celebratory glass of scotch.