We catch up with Joyce a bit this week as Dr. Haybrook and Gini continue to look for a way to reverse the technology. Things get a little more complicated, but there may be a light at the end of the tunnel.
If you want to catch up on past installments, you can click on the links below:
Please enjoy No Pain, No Gain – Part 12
Joyce was hanging on by a thread. Her mind went from being just Joyce to an equal divide with the being she was becoming to a small island in the vastness of her consciousness. The waters of nanotechnology were quickly rising around the island and Joyce wasn’t sure how much longer her self-awareness was going to survive.
She felt as if she was going to burst out of her skin. Her body felt like it was experiencing a permanent adrenaline rush. She was a ball of festering rage ready to snap violently at the slightest provocation. That provocation arrived along with her dinner.
Burt Masden was a 2nd shift security guard in the sub-basement complex below the lab. He had been on the job for a week. His job was simple. He had to check the two sub-basement levels by walking around and making sure that no unauthorized personnel wandered down to these floors. The other part of his job was to slide the pre-prepared dinner trays through the slots at the bottom of cell doors. What he was expressly forbidden from doing was entering the cells.
What his employers didn’t know about Burt is that he was always looking for the quick buck. It didn’t take him long to figure out that there was something interesting behind the cell doors. His powers of deductive reasoning determined that if no one was allowed in, someone might be willing to pay big money to see what was behind the doors.
With dollar signs on his mind, Burt decided he would get pictures of the contents of the cell, sell them to the highest bidder and kiss this job goodbye. He wanted to move west to L.A. and the money from the photos might just put him over the top. He felt he had the looks and the skill to become an actor. He just needed to get there.
He delivered all of the trays except for the last one. Before bringing it to the cell, he rigged his smart phone to a selfie-stick and carried the tray with one hand and the phone rig with the other. Burt slid open the door and placed the tray through the slot. He then took the broom handle that was propped against the wall near the door and used it to push the tray into the room until it was near the far wall and within reach of whatever pathetic creature was imprisoned within.
Burt could hear movement inside toward the tray. He then slid the mounted smart phone under the door and used the selfie stick to tilt it upward at an angle. He thumbed the button that would trigger the taking of a photograph. He had turned on the flash as there were no lights on in the cell. He could see the strobe of the flash and then he heard a shriek that was anything but human. He wanted to get eight to ten pictures. Based on the noise he heard, he was going to take his chances with two.
Joyce heard the approaching steps of the man who delivered dinner. She could now differentiate among the personnel based on the pattern of their footsteps. This was the man that shuffled his feet when he walked. During some of his deliveries over the past few days, he appeared to be lying on the floor outside her cell trying to peer in. Tonight, however, there was something different. For some reason, the door to the slot through which the tray was delivered did not close immediately. Instead, she heard something else being slid across the floor. She turned to glance at what was accompanying the tray just in time for the flash of the smart phone to go off in her eyes. The pain was intense and immediate. The island of Joyce vanished as her body dealt with the feeling of a knife being stuck into her skull. She heard a terrible sound rising up from her chest and didn’t recognize the cry of pain as her own.
Just as the pain subsided, the flash glared once more. Joyce wasn’t sure she could take it a third time so her adrenaline-filled body reacted and she sprung at the arm that was holding the pole upon which the source of the flash was mounted. She felt bone muscle and skin give way as she ripped the human arm from its socket. In a distant part of her mind she heard a cry of intense pain which likely belonged to the former owner of the arm. She wasn’t sure of her next move, but felt strangely gratified that she had alleviated the possibility of any further flashes from the smart phone.
In the security office, the guards saw what had happened from the live video feed as Burt embarked on his brief photojournalism career.
“We’ve got a Code One in Sector A, Cell 3.”
“A Code One? Seal the room and flood it with gas.”
The guard that reported the Code One reacted quickly and pushed the red button on the panel in front of him. Almost immediately, the slot in Joyce’s door was sealed and an odorless gas seeped into the cell. Joyce went from her feeling of rage and then satisfaction to sudden drowsiness as the world went black.
Joyce woke up with a feeling of coolness on her face. She also had a feel of being confined, but not alone. As she opened her bright green eyes and looked around, she saw that she was in a room that appeared to be made entirely of metal. Positioned around the room, there appeared to be large, imposing creatures with eyes that glowed a luminescent green. At first, she was frightened, but then a realization came over her. These hideous creatures were what she had become. The last bit of Joyce in her consciousness felt overwhelming sadness, but also a sense of peace. She finally belonged somewhere. If she was going to be a freak, at least she wasn’t the only one. Somehow, she felt like she was part of a collective with this group. Her yearning to return to her human form diminished significantly.
“We need to look for a failsafe in the coding of the nanotech,” Haybrook said to himself as much as to Gini.
“A failsafe? What do you mean?” Gini asked.
“When code like this is developed, the code is written in such a way that there is kind of a back door off switch. We just have to figure out what it is and how to trigger it.”
“Sounds simple enough.”
“It would be, but there are about 5 million lines of code. If we divide and conquer, we might find it in about 10,000 years. I don’t think we have that long.”
“What specifically would we be looking for? Is there a pattern in the code that might reveal the failsafe?”
Haybrook pondered the question for a minute.
“I think that there is a loop that looks for a specific error code,” he said as he walked over to the small white board on the far wall.
Haybrook picked up one of the dry-erase markers and wrote down five short lines of code.
“We’re looking for something like this,” he said.
“Interesting. It’s brilliant, but simple. Was this your design?”
Haybrook felt the heat rise in his face.
“I did come up with the concept.”
“Well it’s brilliant and I think it’s just what we need,” Gini said excitedly. “I can code a search script that will go through the code quickly and find this subroutine.”
“I only have a laptop here,” Haybrook said. “That’s not enough computing power to find it quickly enough.”
“True, but I still have some space on the University’s super computer. I can upload chunks of the code there and run my script. It shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours.”
“It’s totally against the rules of Kongo Fit to put proprietary code on an outside machine,” Haybrook said reflexively.
“I think the rules kind of went out the window here,” Gini said.
Haybrook shook his head. How had things gotten this far?
“I suppose you’re right. Just be subtle about it.”
“I will. I’ll upload the code and work on the subroutine,” Gini said. “In the meantime, you need to find a way to activate the backdoor failsafe once I find it.”
This was going to be an issue. Whatever method they decided to use, they had multiple problems. First, they needed to be able to get close enough to do it and they needed a method that wouldn’t kill the ‘subjects’ in the process.
Blaylock got into his Tesla and realized it was too late to head back to the office. Lunch was satisfying and he had extended it by doing some long range planning as he sat at the secluded table. As he turned on the ramp for I-25, his secondary cell phone rang. This was the second time today. That was never a good sign.
“Our latest subject has crossed over,” the voice on the phone said.
“When and how,” came Blaylock’s unemotional response.
“The 2nd shift guard took some liberties he shouldn’t have and he was…disarmed.”
The man filled Blaylock in on the details.
“She was transferred in with the others,” he said as he finished the report.
“Fine. And the guard?”
“Disposed of as usual.”
Blaylock disconnected the call. No need to panic. Things were still going according to plan. This latest subject was just one more anomaly in a highly successful program. He continued on to his home in the Sandia Mountains.