Chapter 1

"This device," Mr. Ardent explained, "will render you effectively unconscious. Your body will be receiving instructions from our computer. In response to the computer's directions, your subconscious will provide your body with details needed to operate it: hand-eye coordination and that sort of thing."

Reece looked up at the massive device that loomed over a simple secretarial chair and laptop computer.

"If I take this job," Reece said, with a lot more emphasis on the word 'if' than she originally intended, "I'm expected to strap myself into this thing for eight hours a day?"

Mr. Ardent chuckled and said, "A bit daunting isn't it?" He then explained, "During the initial probation period, this is exactly what your station would look like. If you accept a permanent position, you would be fitted with an implant and a much smaller control unit. Much of the bulk of this unit is devoted to transmitting signals to the brain through the thickness of the skull. Care to try it out?"

Reece sat in the chair. It felt like any standard office chair. To the left of the laptop computer in front of her was a small stack of handwritten papers. Reece pulled the helmet dangling above her down onto her head.

Then Reece woke up.

The stack of papers was on the right side of the computer and face down. The computer screen was filled with neat typewritten pages. The helmet released itself from her head and retracted back up to its resting place above her head.

"Seven minutes have passed," Mr. Ardent said conversationally. "Although your job will involve recording classified information, the handwritten notes you have just typed into the computer for our trial are the Book of Mathew, King James version."

Reece bolted for the door and didn't stop running until she was down five flights of stairs and outside of the building. Nobody tried to stop her.

Chuck Phillips, Ardent's assistant, stuck his head in the open doorway of the testing room and grinned, "Another recruit for the protesters, I gather."

John Ardent leaned back in his chair, pinched the bridge of his nose against the approaching headache, and sighed.

"It doesn't seem to matter how much we emphasize computer safeguards and state-of-the-art security, Chuck. Most people just seem to panic when they realize we can actually control their bodies, even if it involves brain surgery or a two ton machine with a transmitting range of six inches," Mr. Ardent said.

"How about we aim lower?" Chuck suddenly replied.

"Care to explain that?" Ardent replied, in a tone that everybody knew meant he already didn't like the idea, but didn't know enough about it to come out and say 'no' yet.

"Hear me out," Chuck said. "What if, instead of hiring qualified people, we hire people that normally couldn't get a job like this?"

"People such as?" Ardent let the sentence trail off ominously.

"I know you rejected my idea of moving our base outside the country due to the classified nature of the documents we handle, but what about hiring the poor within our own country? With the computers controlling people's actions anyway, it's not like we actually need the bulk of our people to have secretarial experience. We wouldn't have to pay them as much also."

John Ardent sat back and chewed the idea over in his mind. After a long pause, he said, "With the possibility of drug users, we would have to require more stringent testing and medical examinations. The system has problems with subjects on many mind-altering substances. I also won't take advantage of people. You can keep the pay low, but I want to make up that difference in benefits - free medical care, child care, company housing, the works. We can't afford a high turnover rate."

"Rich people use drugs more often than poor people," Chuck replied. "They can afford it. You've never been poor."

Ardent nodded. "Forgive my preconceptions. But it wouldn't hurt to do the drug tests anyway. I don't want any chance of a slip-up."


A few years later:

"Ardent Industries Employee Programming help desk, how may I help you?"

"Yes. This is Susan Smith, and I keep trying to watch some TV shows I've recorded on my DVR but get interrupted by my fitness program."

"May I suggest rescheduling your fitness program for immediately after your work program so that you have a longer uninterrupted awake period afterwards?"

"That would be nice, but I hate watching TV all sweaty. I tried pushing the fitness program back, but got caught in the middle of the shower by my sleep program and went to bed all soapy."

"We have a bathing program that is free under your health package. May I suggest doing the fitness program after work, followed by the bathing program? This way you would awaken both fit and clean and would have more time for your TV shows."

"How long does the bathing program take?"

"Just four minutes. A bit longer if you add a hair drying or styling subroutine."

"That's a great idea. Thanks!"


"Ardent Industries Employee Programming help desk, how may I help you?"

"Yes, I broke my ankle skiing and the doctor tells me I need at least eight weeks to heal."

"What can we do for you at programming customer service?"

"I was wondering if I could just go online and schedule a wake up for then."

"You want to go under programming for a full eight weeks?"

"Yeah."

There was a bit of a pause and the sound of a calculator. "For an uninterrupted 1,344 hours?"

"Yeah."

"Very well. An extended programming time like this will require an approval from both your department manager and the division health manager. I can e-mail both of them. Since you have a data entry position and don't need your leg to work, may I suggest that we also add an overtime work request to the programming request?"

"What will that do?"

"During the programming period, you will be scheduled to work 7 days a week for 16 hour shifts. At the end of your programming period you will get a paycheck for... 320 hours at regular pay and 896 hours of overtime pay."

"Wow. I wish I had known about that before I broke my leg. Yeah, sign me up for that. Thank you."

"I'm glad I could help."


"Ardent Industries Employee Programming help desk, how may I help you?"

"Yes, do you have any childcare programs on file? I can't find them on my menu."

"I'm sorry. We don't have any programs for that. May I interest you in enrolling your child in our childcare center?"

"I use the childcare center while I am at work, but really wanted to raise her myself. Could you just give me access to the childcare programs they use in the childcare center?"

"The ladies in the childcare centers don't use programs at work."

"They don't? Are you sure about that?"

"Yes, ma'am. I have a child in daycare myself ... I can enroll you in a childcare training class if you would like."

"Awake? No thanks."

"I'm sorry we couldn't help you. Let us know if there is anything else we can do for you in the future."

"I will. Thanks."


"Ardent Industries Employee Programming help desk, how may I help you?"

"I ... I think I've been raped."

"Excuse me?"

"I think I was raped while I was under. I hurt, you know, down there, and I have these bruises..."

"Are you in any danger? Is anybody there?"

"No, I'm alone."

"My call log says that you are in the housing complex. I ... I think the best thing you can do is to go to the clinic right now. I saw on a detective show that it is probably best that you don't take a shower and don't change your clothes. The people at the clinic should know what to do. I'm going to get up with my supervisor and see what we can do on my end."

Customer hung up.

For the rest of this story, you need to Log In or Register

Story tagged with:
Ma/Fa / Mind Control / Science Fiction / Mystery / Slow / Caution /