SCIFI - THRILLER
Final assessment for Writing Identity Module | 2018 | 1st Year
The ward is quiet and cold, as Doctor Wallace arrives for the final phase of test forty-two. Her heels echo on the linoleum floors and pierce the air. She holds her palm to the wall sensor. It beeps as the doors hiss open. A sharp chemical smell fills her nose and her shoulders relax. She surveys the row of patients to ensure they are all safely shut down.
The last time a patient was activated, Case Four relapsed into a state of emotional shock. In all of Wallace’s years of experience, she had never encountered such a horrific outburst: the little girl’s limbs and chest convulsed rapidly, and she let out a bloodcurdling screech. It was so loud that it loosened the nuts in her shoulder and her entire arm was destroyed when it crashed into the floor. Wallace was utterly devastated and had the most difficult time explaining the incident to the board of financiers. Any further delays due to that little madam would be unacceptable; it certainly wouldn’t happen again today.
She studies Case Four’s monitor, which beeps steadily over the hum of machinery. The stark lights glisten over her grey motionless body. Her eyes are closed, and fingers relaxed. Satisfied, Wallace approaches Case One, ready to commence.
While she remains objective towards all of her patients, Wallace always felt that Case One – otherwise known as James – displayed the most potential for the development of her technology. He is cognitively and physically more advanced than all of her patients combined. Once activated, he will discover his incredible new physique and Wallace can observe her masterful design in full working order. She slides the cobalt divider around his bed and places her hand on his smooth metal cheek.
‘Alright then James, let’s see if you’re ready.’ She steps back, avoiding the map of wires surrounding him, and taps his monitor. His engine whirs and his eyes shoot open, illuminated by a blue backlight.
‘Welcome back, James. How are you feeling?’
He opens his mouth but only an artificial hum vibrates through his lips.
‘Oh, let me just adjust that for you,’ she taps his monitor. ‘Try again for me.’
‘I can’t move my legs,’ James answers. Of course, her incompetent assistant has forgotten to unlock his anklets.
‘I’m terribly sorry, I’ll release those for you,’ she rustles the keys on her belt. ‘I’m Doctor Wallace, the consultant in charge of your care.’ The thick belts jangle against the bed frame.
‘Would you like to sit up?’ She offers her hands to him.
‘Yes,’ he answers, pulling his glossy hands from the blankets – they are cold and heavy in hers. His engine whirrs again as his chest rises towards her. He is responsive and active; this is all very pleasing!
‘Very good,’ she smiles. ‘Feeling steady? Just swing your legs down for me and give your arms a wiggle.’ He follows her instructions with ease but his left foot glitches as he swivels his ankle.
‘Parker, can you fetch the JX drill?’ Wallace informs her earpiece. ‘Oh James, you’re just fantastic!’ she beams. Her fingers tap the monitor rapidly. ‘We’ve finally done it! This is just what we always wanted.’
She gazes at James, brushing her fingertips over his ear and down his cheek. He holds her gaze without blinking. Wallace sighs and a faint smell of steel and alcohol tickles the back of her throat. James flinches and breaks their eye contact to examine his shiny exterior. His blank face shows no signs of distress – what a remarkable improvement!
At that moment, the doors hiss and footsteps squeak behind them: Parker has arrived. He flings the divider back, clutching a large black drill and a sharp needle. His ginger hair glistens under the white lights – too much gel in it, as usual.
‘Left ankle.’ Wallace turns back to the monitor.
‘Don’t worry, won’t hurt a bit,’ Parker smiles, adjusting his glasses.
The drill buzzes. James is silent. Parker rattles his ankle.
A tight smile spreads between Wallace’s cheeks.
‘How is he?’ Parker asks.
‘Brilliant,’ Wallace clasps her hands together. ‘James! Stand up for me, let’s see how you walk.’
James does so immediately – his responses are incredibly sharp. He wobbles a little before finding a stable stroll. His engine hums and feet clank with each step.
‘Did you tell him?’ Parker furrows his brow. They turn away from James and speak lightly, so as not to alarm him.
‘Not yet, but it’s a vast improvement from last time. Actually, he’s giving little to no emotional reactions at all, but I can work with that,’ she waves her hand. ‘He’s completely stable and his brain should start learning again almost immediately.’
‘What about his memory?’
‘He’s only just got his body Parker, he’s not ready for that yet!’
Parker heaves a sigh. ‘Okay, let’s just hope he doesn’t have a delayed attack again. I don’t think I can bear anymore screaming.’
‘This is it, he’s stable,’ she whispers, resting her hand on Parker’s shoulder. His eyes follow her hand. ‘We’ll be moving onto his enhancements before we know it.’
Wallace has been developing her technology for almost six years now. The procedure is complex, to say the least. Some of her colleagues even criticise her for opening the door to an unethical redesign of humanity, but the success of James’ awakening will at last prove her technology is viable, if not, essential to the economy.
Suddenly, a buzz emits from the other side of the ward and one of the monitors beeps irregularly. Wallace is certain her patients are contained, but Parker’s eyes fix beyond James’ bed.
Case Four is now sitting up, as far as the thick belt across her chest will let her. A red light blinks from her monitor. Her eyes are open and locked onto James. Wallace purses her lips.
‘I thought you put them all out?’ Parker tips his head.
‘I did. Deal with her please.’ Wallace rests her hand on James’ stiff shoulder and guides him back to bed.
‘After last time? She nearly had my arm off, you’ll be designing one for me next!’
Suddenly, Case Four’s head spins towards her. She certainly is the most challenging patient under Wallace’s care. She was a stubborn little mite throughout her treatment, so it’s no surprise she still causes mayhem now. She ought to be grateful, Wallace was keeping her alive after all and a little gratitude wouldn’t go amiss!
‘Just get on with it Parker, quick, before she starts asking questions.’ Wallace focuses her attention on James and hangs a selection of blue and red electrodes from his temples. His monitor lights up, casting a pale blue halo on the walls.
Parker approaches Case Four. She flinches, and the belts around her chest and limbs jangle. Her eyes shoot up to his.
‘It’s alright! I’m not going to hurt you, I’m not even going to touch you,’ he surrenders his hands and steps towards her monitor, ‘I’m just entering some information on here, see.’
Case Four’s eyes remain fixed on her target.
‘You need to install a blinking function,’ Parker says over his shoulder, ‘It’s weird when they don’t look away.’
‘They can, she’s just choosing not to,’ Wallace continues her tests with James, pulling a fine screwdriver from her pocket, ‘I’m just going to lift this off, James. You shouldn’t feel a thing.’ She cushions her knee on the bed and grasps the top of his head. He remains perfectly still, like the well-behaved patient he always is.
‘I want to get up.’ Case Four spits.
‘No. Not today,’ Parker says. ‘Just lie back for me.’ Her shoulders buzz as she relaxes into the sheets.
‘I need a wee.’
‘No, you don’t,’ Parker’s eyes flash at Wallace and the corner of his mouth twitches.
Wallace rolls her eyes; Case Four always was a liar.
‘His brain activity is fantastic!’ Wallace announces, maintaining her focus on the one promising patient. His monitor displays a sharp green wave and beeps confidently. Her eyes flicker between the monitor and James. His face is still blank. ‘But I’m a bit concerned about his emotional responses; he doesn’t seem to feel anything. His numbers are great though and he can move everything. I don’t understand…’
‘Do you think you damaged a pathway?’ Parker taps Case Four’s monitor.
‘I shouldn’t think so… I need to do some more tests.’
‘Shall we prep for surgery?’
‘No, it’s alright, I can do it here. I just need the bigger screwdriver.’
‘James looks funny,’ Case Four sits up again. ‘His face is really grey.’ Her monitor beeps erratically.
‘Why is she still speaking?’ Wallace asks, burying her face in the back of James’ head.
‘I’m just programming her– ’
‘You’re taking too long, just do it manually!’
Case Four flinches again with a whir. ‘Don’t touch me! I want my mum,’ her legs and hands begin to rattle.
Parker’s hits the monitor frantically and his face glows red from the readings; how dare he ignore his superior!
‘The longer you leave her, the worse she’ll get,’ Wallace points the screwdriver at Parker.
‘I want to go home,’ Case Four’s voice glitches. ‘I don’t like it in here!’
The erratic beeps intensify. She glances at her shiny hands.
‘I feel so… cold.’
‘That’s enough now,’ Wallace springs from James’ bed and marches to Case Four, looking her dead in the eye.
‘Not you!’ Case Four growls. Her cold hand stings Wallace’s bare wrist. An alarm blasts from her monitor. Wallace grits her teeth, bends the little head forward and flicks the switch on her neck. Case Four’s grip relaxes, and her chest collapses forward. The monitor silences – at last.
Parker heaves a sigh.
‘I told you to do it manually,’ Wallace turns her back on him. ‘I haven’t got time for her disruptions.’
There’s a gentle buzz as Parker tucks Case Four back under her blankets.
‘I think she’s very brave,’ he whispers. ‘A bionic arm is one thing, but a whole body; it must feel strange.’
‘I think she’s dangerous. We should terminate her case altogether.’
Parker scowls. ‘If only it were you laying there; you’d know exactly why the bodies keep being rejected.’
She glances at him, popping her eyebrow.
‘Sorry, I know that’s why you’ve got James, but he’s not much help now,’ he fans his hand. ‘No organs, no memory and now no emotions; there’s nothing human left.’
Wallace clutches James’ metallic hand. ‘I can fix him,’ she strokes his thumb with her own. ‘It’s still his brain. Everything he used to be is in there somewhere.’
‘Buried beneath nuts and bolts and metal skin,’ Parker laughs. He gathers his tools and whips the divider around Case Four’s bed. ‘I suppose, he’s no more dead now than he was in his old body, anyway.’ His shoes squeak as he turns to leave and the doors hiss.
Suddenly, James’ head spins to Wallace. His electric eyes fasten onto hers. Slowly, his grip on her hand tightens.
‘On the contrary,’ the corner of her mouth twitches, ‘You’re more alive than ever. You’re walking out of here one day, James, with your brilliant mind and my beautiful design,’ she draws his steel aroma into her lungs and caresses his cheek, ‘You’ll be our ambassador. Just a few more tests to go, hey?’
His grip loosens as her hand brushes his neck.
The whir of his engine stops.