The Futility of Trust

The doctor rubbed his tired eyes and tried again to focus on the scene below. His colleague, Rees, took the seat next to him, proffering a hot coffee. The doctor took it gratefully, cupping his hands around the warm mug. He was having second thoughts about Rees. She was young. He’d mistaken her ambition at first for youthful drive, her enthusiasm for the project natural ebullience. She leant forward now, concentrating on the experiment, and he was shamed and revolted by the glint of enjoyment and anticipation in her eyes. He turned away quickly, looking down over the balcony, past the glass, into the little room below.

Subject Eighteen sat, apparently calm, facing two of Dr. Lund’s team. Torez and Guldfeld, the doctor thought. He could see very little of them, only the tops of their heads. Subject Eighteen, a woman in her early twenties with reddish hair, looked very pale under the lights. The doctor thought he could see deep shadows circling her eyes and he was sure she had lost weight, but she seemed otherwise healthy – it was a credit to their new techniques. She had proved herself trustworthy and was restrained only lightly by a band around her arms. In one corner, however, lay equipment prepped ready, should she need to be sedated at a moments notice.

Torez or Guldfeld, the doctor could not see which, started the pendulum. At a command, Subject Eighteen fixed her gaze upon it, following the movement. Back and forth, back and forth it swung. The doctor heard Rees shift slightly in her chair and bit his lip. Through the monitor came the steady ticking beat of the pendulum, growing faster now; tick... tick... tick... tick... tick...tick tick tick tickticktickticktick.....

Subject Eighteen was fighting the beat. Her knee jerked and her hands clenched. Her one human eye was open wide, every part of her straining, the tendons in her neck standing out like taut wires. The pendulum’s crazy whine slowed and stopped. Subject Eighteen, breathing hard, allowed herself a small smile of accomplishment and pride as she was praised by Torez and Guldfeld.

They ran through the experiment several times, adding distractions; loud music piped into the room, screens of flashing images, uncomfortable extremes of heat and cold. Each time Subject Eighteen fought the pendulum and won. She was wheeled away at last, exhausted, perspiration darkening her hair to copper.

Rees grinned, her eyes sparkling.

“Improvement!” she almost crowed. “Real improvement!”

“Yes,” the doctor said, unable to muster much enthusiasm. Rees stared at him. “I will type up the report,” he added.

“Maybe you need to sleep, Lau,” Rees told him. “You just don’t look well.”

“Needs must,” the doctor muttered, and busied himself with the video download. When he looked back, she had left and he was able to breathe.

The End

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