I walked into the meeting room and took my seat at the small conference table. It was me, Caitlyn Deering, staring down Bill Anton the Chief of Security, Dr. Serumo from Special Projects, and a man I wasn’t familiar with. All of them wore tailored suits from one of the most exclusive shops in town; my blouse and skirt came off the bargain rack at the local department store.
The third man poured us each a glass of ice water and took out a tablet computer. His fingers flew across the surface. The ease with which he did it all placed him as a high-powered secretary.
I took a couple of sips and focused my attention on Mr. Anton, deliberately avoiding Dr. Serumo’s gaze. What I knew about him…
Mr. Anton started. “Miss Deering, do you understand the reason for this meeting?”
“I think so, sir. Is it because I checked out one of the Projects group laptops? If so, I can assure you I used it for business purposes and returned it promptly.” That was true, if incomplete.
“You are correct, Miss Deering. This is a routine inquiry to confirm that your actions were within corporate policy. What was your business purpose for using this laptop?”
His eyes drilled into me as I answered. “Well sir, it’s my job to examine media sent for destruction to ensure no attempt is being made to destroy vital records. Two days ago I received a portable hard disk from the Projects group. When the drive wouldn’t open on a standard machine I requisitioned one from the Projects group so I could confirm the files.” That had been my original intent, at least.
“And you found?”
“There were over twenty thousand image files, none of which were in the Repository. So, as per policy, I checked each one and copied them onto the secure backup server.”
“And what were these images?”
I took a drink of water, partly to calm my nerves and partly to buy time while thinking of what to say. Finally I took a deep breath and spoke.
“I can’t really tell you, sir. Because it’s from the Projects group I would have to verify your need to know.”
The hint of a smile approached his face. “I admire your diligence, Miss Deering. Would it suffice to have Doctor Serumo vouch for me?”
I looked over at Doctor Serumo. He was staring at me like a scientist watches an experimental animal. It was the same look he’d had when he…
“Go ahead, Miss Deering.”
The ice cubes jingled as I picked up the glass. I wanted to jump up and run screaming from the room but my legs were weak and wobbly.
“It was random patterns of coloured dots, sir.” When I put it that way it didn’t sound so bad. Each pattern was just visual noise. It wasn’t until I’d seen enough that they started forming images in my mind. “It was… it…”
I started shaking. The glass dropped from my hand. I tried to get up but my legs gave out and I landed face down on the carpet. My eyes were going blurry from tears and my breath came out in a scream.
I could still hear their voices as I lay on the carpet twitching and whimpering.
“And that is the result of your project, Doctor?”
“One of them. I recall you were hoping for something dramatic.”
“And the effects are temporary?”
“Usually. Some emotional scarring is to be expected when you directly manipulate the fear reflex. I’d like to keep her in the lab for a few days, run some further experi… tests on her. “
“Of course. According to the background checks she won’t be missed from her home situation for at least a week. Can you be done by then?”
“Who can say? But I will endeavour to do so. James, get a couple of orderlies to move her down to my lab.”