Maura wondered how much penance it would take to save her soul from forgotten sins. She could only wonder about the sins, because her mind had been wiped clean. Like Pandora's Box, she had been wrenched open. All of her evils had flown away, leaving only one thing trapped inside. Was it hope? No. It was a bio-interface processor that had been left behind in her revised brain.
The device still throbbed in her head when she arrived on the colony that first day. Those were her first memories. She didn't have words to describe her impressions of the colony. It was so hard to think of the words.
"Calm yourself, Maura," said Hiroshi. " It will get easier with time."
Hiroshi was traveling with her, and had introduced himself when she first awoke.
She had to concentrate to understand what he was saying.
"The mind is resilient. When your memories and identity were removed, it took away your frame of reference. It is hard to understand the meanings of the words which are no longer attached to any image in your mind. As you form new connections, speech will come easier."
Hiroshi held her by the hand as he led her off of the transport vessel. She looked around the terminal with wide eyes. There was so much activity here.
A woman in a costume approached. Costume? Was that the right word? Maura tried hard to think of a better description. Habit. That was the word. The woman was a nun.
"Listen to me, Maura." It was Hiroshi's calm voice again. " I will be leaving you here with the Sister. I know that everything is very confusing for you right now, but you must listen carefully to what I'm about to tell you."
"Your mind has been wiped clean. You will have no memory of your previous life. All traces of your former self have been removed from the Universal Records. These were your instructions to us, and we've carried out your instructions to the letter. Your new life is your penance for past acts. Your sins have been erased from your head, but your soul is yet unclean. This innocence of mind is the final gift from your former self. You will remain here and humbly obey the wishes of the Sisterhood."
Maura soaked in the information, but struggled to understand the meanings of his words. They would haunt her in the coming days.
"One last thing, Maura. To insure that your new life turns out according to your wishes, we have installed a device in your brain. Not only will it help to block any residual memories of your life, but it will insure obedience and humility in your new life. I hope that you find the peace that you were looking for."
That's how she began her time at the convent in the New Holland colony. This planet had been chosen because the climate was suitable for agriculture, and amongst Maura's first tasks was learning to tend the gardens of the convent. It was difficult physical work. The Sisters of Eternal Service didn't believe in using modern equipment. Unlike the wondrous automated glass houses of the neighboring properties, the gardens of the convent were worked with hoe and shovel.
While she worked under the hot sun each day, she struggled to understand her new life. Why would anyone do this to herself? The questions tortured her. What sins were so horrible as to warrant the removal of all memory? How could she bind herself into servitude in the remote New Holland colony?
She didn't know anything at all about herself, or about the kind of person she was.
When she had first seen herself in a mirror, she was surprised to see that, like Hiroshi, she was at least partially Asian. She couldn't tell her age from the reflection. Over twenty? Surely. Thirty? Closer. It was so difficult to tell. Her body was thin and athletic, with smallish breasts, a firm belly, and long legs. She looked herself in the dark pools of her eyes. I should know you, she told the stranger in the mirror. I should recognize that face.
Sister Mary Frances was Maura's spiritual advisor. She had been given the controls for the device in Maura's head. 'Obedience and humility' is what the device would insure, Hiroshi told her at the beginning. Damned right. On her first day at the convent, she'd had a taste of the way the device worked.
On the first morning after arrival, Mary Frances had awoken her with a bucket of cold water. Maura's first instinct, to her surprise, was to strike the nun hard across the throat. Before her arm could react, though, the device did its work.
"Oh Jesus, my head, " she had screamed, as the device began to buzz. Pain. Shame. Sorrow. It pumped the feelings relentlessly into her head.
The nun grabbed Maura by the hair.
"I'll teach you not to take the Lord's name in vain, filthy girl."
Maura wanted to resist as the nun pulled her across the room, but the device fought her every instinct. For each thought of resistance, there was more pain. Mary Frances bent Maura over a wooden bench near the door, and bunched Maura's wet night gown up past her waist.
"You will learn to follow the rules of the convent. You will now receive ten lashes for the blasphemy of taking the lord's name in vain."
Maura had to fight down her own instincts. Everything within her told her to fight back, to do some serious harm to this woman. As each of these feelings emerged, the device punished Maura. She struggled to fight her instincts. A flood of relief poured through her when she was finally able to control the emotions. She remained there, gasping for breath, as Sister Mary Frances retrieved the strap.
'Obedience and humility', she remembered Hiroshi's words. She tried to think only of these words.
When the strap came down on her behind, there was certainly pain, but the device rewarded her for accepting the punishment. Even as her body jerked forward from the blow, the device delivered tingles of pleasure through her body. The message from the device was simple: obedience equals pleasure, disobedience equals pain. Maura stayed there, bent over, until the nun had finished abusing her ass.
When she was out in the fields, those first few days, Maura had a lot of time to think about the device.
It was insidious, really. It often had Maura second-guessing her own emotions without having to apply any 'correction' of its own. Maura resented the device, but she quickly learned the limits it imposed. She found that it would only react if she contemplated a direct challenge to authority. As long as she obeyed any direct commands, the device would leave her alone.
Working in the calm of the garden, Maura also had plenty of time to reorganize her head. Hiroshi had been right about her language skills. A few days of practice had returned them to her. The words were still in her head, she discovered, they were simply disconnected. Not only was there English, but she realized that her brain held the vocabulary of several other languages.
There were other skills too, but each of them was free of context. Every time a shuttle passed overhead, Maura absolutely knew that she could fly the craft. She could almost visualize the control panel. There was no indication of how she had learned the skill, but it was there nonetheless.
Despite the effects of the device, her heart burned with curiosity about her vanished life, and she longed to be free of this place.
"Sit still, girl, while I adjust the device."
Maura watched Mary Frances carefully as the nun began to manipulate the hand-held control pad. This was the second time this month that she had adjusted the strength of the bio-interface processor. After the first adjustment, Maura had found the device more sensitive, even to her most subtle thoughts of rebellion Now she sat here helplessly as the nun prepared increase the strength again. Maura shuddered at the thought.
And she watched closely the face of Sister Mary Frances.
Was there a slight bit of hope left in her soul after all?
There had been a moment during the last adjustment, just a moment, when Maura thought she had felt something strange. Mary Frances had looked up nervously at that moment. Now, Maura watched the face of the nun for that same expression.
Then it happened. Mary Frances looked up nervously, and Maura felt it happen. The device was off. It was just for a moment, she knew, but it was enough.
The nun didn't have a chance.
Maura launched herself out of the chair with a quickness that surprised even herself. One quick strike to the hand knocked the control pad away before Mary Frances could re-establish control. No pause. A jab to the throat stifled a cry for help before it could begin.
The device was off, and a rush of forbidden emotions crowded into her head. Excitement. Freedom. There was another emotion, but she didn't stop herself to think about it. Maura watched as the nun choked for breath.
'Immobilize the subject', something inside of her instructed. Maura struck the nun again, this time across the side of the head. She was down. Maura knelt down to the limp body and checked for a pulse. The woman was alive. She took the time to tear a few strips of cloth from Mary Frances' robes, and used them to tie the woman's hands and feet, and to gag her mouth.
Before she left the room, she slipped the control pad under the front of her overalls. She forced herself to be calm as she walked through the corridors of the convent. As far as any of the other nuns knew, she was just going outside for another day of work in the gardens. She did nothing to betray her excitement. This is the last she would see of this colony, she promised herself.
.... There is more of this story ...