“Get up,” the sergeant said. “We begin the intensive testing now,” he said to Seven. He then turned to the man beside him. “Director Nero, I’d like to see the test subject’s comprehensive files. I need a complete overview so that I can know the best way to train him and test his limits.”
“I’ll get those to you right away, Officer,” Nero said as they walked out the door.
“Andan will do just fine, Director Nero. There’s no need to be formal.” Bach turned and looked at Nero, as if gauging his reaction. Nero could only laugh awkwardly.
“Really, I couldn’t, sir. You’ve done so much for our country. It’s the least I could do to call you officer. Let me give you this bit of respect.” Bach nodded and continued walking.
Seven’s jaw throbbed where he had taken the punch, and his anxiety rose at Andan’s words. Testing. He didn’t know what kind of tests, but intensive tests didn’t sound good.
Andan turned and looked back at the boy on the ground. “Test subject!” he barked, “Follow. Now.”
“Yes, sir.” Seven hurried to catch up to the two men. He was beginning to be afraid of Bach, afraid of a person in a way that he had never been before. A fear he knew would probably only grow the longer he knew the sergeant.
Seven shuddered. He didn’t think a man who refered to him as test subject would care about his feelings. In fact, seven had a suspicion that Bach would be happy if he knew the boy was afraid of him.
Director Nero took them down the long twisting hallways to a room Seven had only ever been in to get his blood drawn. From the look on Nero’s face, that wasn’t what they were there for. His jaw was clenched, and the skin over his forehead was stretched tight. Doctor Hektate rose from his chair as they walked in. His face reflected Nero’s. Julia stood clutching her transparent tablet in the corner with a worried look.
A one-way window showed into a room that contained a white padded chair. Straps hung loosely from its arm rests and legs. A group of scientists milled about inside, fiddling with various instruments. Seven stared at the straps. They weren’t there last time. Several instruments were new as well. The foreboding feeling in his heart grew stronger.
“Director Nero, the room is set up according to the sergeant’s specifications,” Hektate said.
“Good. Julia, would you show Number 7 into the room. Make sure he’s properly set up.” Julia nodded. She gently took a hold of Seven’s wrist and led him through a side door. From the window, the three men could see him placed in the chair. They watched as the straps were tightened around his wrists and ankles.
“Sergeant Bach, are you sure that we should start out with the pain tolerance test? It is a bit further along in our schedule. Whether or not Number 7 can withstand it…” Johan spoke.
“I’d ask you not to question me, Doctor Hektate. Due to your kindness,” he said the word with a slight hint of sarcasm, “we are very much behind schedule. We need to push ahead. The United Social-Communist Union is anxiously awaiting results.” Hektate scowled but didn’t say anything. Andan smirked.
“Whenever you are ready, Doctor.”
Nero’s face cramped. This man. His words were littered with traps. Say the wrong thing, and they’d be labeled ‘Against the State’. They’d not only lose the project, they’d loose everything.
Bach had been testing Nero earlier. If Nero began calling him by his name, that meant that Nero disregarded his position as an officer of the People’s Army. Position was everything in the USCU, and the army controlled the nation. A private in the army could order them, a private organization, to do anything, and no one could question it.
Even now, Bach was laying bait for Johan, taunting him to see if the Doctor risked stepping out of line. Hektate had been perilously close with his previous words, and the director knew his friend held strong opinions, especially in regards to project Whitehill. He hoped his subordinate wouldn’t take the bait. Nero sighed in relief when Johan backed off.
“No, sir, I’d like to invite you to do the honors.”
“Please, call me Sergeant,” Andan said as reached over and pressed the button for the microphone on the room’s control panel. “Begin.”
During this conversation, the scientists in the room had placed a number of rubber neural readers across Seven’s body. This process wasn’t too unfamiliar to him. Pandora had checked his neural impulses several times over the course of his life. The rubber ticked each time they stuck one on, and the wires him feel like an alien.
The thought made him laugh inside, and the familiarity of the situation helped calmed him down. He must have been wrong. It was just a routine test. All his anxiety was pointless. He smiled slightly at a scientist. The man gave him a strange look in return, which confused him.
The man turned away from him and picked up a device from one of the sterilized tables. Thin metal wire had been grafted into what vaguely resembled a frame for a plaster bowl. Small spikes poked out about half an inch from the inside, and a bundle of electrical wires exited from the rim of one side. The man stepped over to Seven’s chair, and placed the wire device on the boy’s head.
Seven gasped. It hurt. The spikes dug into his scalp and drew blood. Trickles of it ran down his forehead.
“Begin,” he heard through the stinging pain.
“Kid, I’m sorry,” the man beside him whispered.
All of a sudden, liquid fire poured through his veins. His body spasmed, and he choked on a scream. His vision turned red, and blood filled his mouth from where he bit his tongue. The straps on his arms and legs tore his skin off from his body jerking about.
It hurt so much. Seven tried to let out a sound, but nothing would come. Blood just dribbled down his chin.