7:47 am (email: 22 seconds ago)
From: Tom Powers
To: Richard Hobbs
Subject: Project Pristine
I hate to say it, but I think we might be SOL on this one. Am passing along relevant real-time journal excerpts and communications of Sally’s in chronological order as per your request.
Just by way of locking the barn door behind the horses, I recommend we re-screen all high level training personnel at this time, and keep a closer eye on their “creative” endeavors.
1:03 am (journal: 59 days ago)
There is often a taciturn or non-vocal period with new subjects. The longer it is, I’ve found, the more telling their first words. Prissy has just broken a 29 day speech fast with a vengeance:
“I only know Chester every since he shit hisself on the bus. But Chester say I be makin his skin tight fo long as he can member. An he say if that’s all what it done take to bring it to my intension, he shoulda shit hissef long, time, ago.”
She plays with herself. She tends to do this when she’s nervous or bored. In the early 20th century heyday of barbaric surgical socializations, even though her manipulations are more akin to thumb sucking than masturbation, she’d have been treated with a clitoridectomy, i.e. via the excision of her clitoris.
I hold my arms out to her. “Do you like Chester?”
Prissy stops her diddling and blushes, an ebony cloud cover gathering. “He make me hollow.” Like a baby’s, her eyes seem too large for her face. She takes my hand in hers and squeezes. “My head hurt. Stupid. Every since I wake up, my head hurt.”
I free my hands to massage around the nineteen electrodes that fan across her skull in three rows converging on her temples. Even though there’s no need for such caution, I work around the tiny implants as though they are rare seedlings rooting in a field.
Released, her fingers creep back to resume their unconscious consolation. I let her be. She closes her eyes and sighs. Her hair’s growing back soft and frizzy. When I kiss her on the forehead as an excuse to breathe her in, she lulls forward. Floral scented oils hover atop a smell that’s human and pure. Only her vest restraint keeps her from falling.
“Stupid. Every since I wake up, my head hurt.” Her voice is softer now, almost raspy.
I continue to gently furrow along her scalp. Soon she will be asleep.
6:51 am (journal: 59 days ago)
Prissy clenches her jaw in her sleep, the sound of her teeth grinding together coming as if from far away like a platoon of foot soldiers marching, marching over gravel to the drum of her temporal lobe’s augmenter/stimulator tuned to coincide with the EKG’s U-wave’s calm swells, to juxtapose the beating of her heart, to fill its silences. She breathes through her nose, a bubble of clear mucous expanding and popping with each breath. Each is beautiful. She is beautiful. I study one tiny crystal balloon. In it I can almost see the future, before it bursts.
There is nothing wrong with her genome. It has made many a lab geneticist whistle, been described by the sardonic as “the upside of a good gangbanging,” one in which the seeds of many donors race for their lives. That her mother was able to live below social radar on the hard streets of South Chicago as a freelance prostitute and lace addict testifies to her adaptability and survivability—hallmarks of superior genetics. And so even though she was too old for the Program and probably too ill to rehabilitate, her mother’s post-partum euthanatization struck me as something of a waste and a shame.
Born dependent on Lido-4-methyloxy-7-diamphetimine (lace) and gasoline and with 37 percent cognitive brain atrophy, Prissy was adopted and reared by a government group Farm in upper Wisconsin where, in spite of her rehabilitations, she was always described as “something of a shit disturber,” as one who, “never quite fit in.” So when we discovered her, we were able to acquire her for (as they say) a song.
7:08 am (journal: 59 days ago)
Activity in the visual cortex predicts a REM flash. Prissy squirms in her restraint. “Doan you cry Chester. Y’all jus back the fug off. Who aint never shitted theyself? You hole still Chester. I helpin you. Get them pants off you boy. Doan you cry Chester. I cleanin you up. Here, you can have my unners too… Whoa, Chester… what happen to yo piece?”
I stroke her cheeks while the probes tickle speech centers and exercise memories.
4:30 pm (journal: 52 days ago)
Prissy wears elbow splints to prevent her from reaching and thus yanking on the complex bidirectional ventricular shunt bundle through which excess cerebrospinal fluid drains and through which stem cells and neurogenerators feed into the corpus callosum and surrounding cerebral cortex. It looks like a translucent orange millipede burrowing its way into the base of her skull. It will be disengaged when CSF production stabilizes and her brain stops growing.
7:15 pm (journal: 52 days ago)
She just woke. Her face tilts upwards, her expression both beatific and confused. Metronomically, almost imperceptibly, she begins to pan back and forth, as though watching a tennis match taking place on some faraway hill. Even though her eyes remain closed, she appears rapt. Her hands have found her groin again.
9:35 am (email: 38 days ago)
From: Martin Jacobin
To: Sally Genesee
Subject: project 20390712:8869CX
Hey Sally baby!
Just wanted to heads-up you on your little “Pissy Prissy” product in the making. I’ve been shopping around her preliminary Alison-Gilmore Puerility Index scores and a few clips of her snoozing (love that thing she does with her hands btw) on the DL to a few of our bigger brokers, and, to put it mildly—THEY WENT APESHIT!
I mean it. We could pull down like 50-60 m right now for a first rights, six month contract! Bring that little puppy up out of imbecile land and, I shit you not, we are looking at this year’s Golden Companion, maybe even a Nobel Consort! And the money, all the goddamn money—so listen, go easy with that shit in her head. Please. I’m begging you. It’s not like we need another brain surgeon or a rocket scientist or something. You following me doll?
9:36 am (journal: 38 days ago)
An internal email has just arrived from one Martin Jacobin. I’m surprised to be its sole recipient. It’s unusual for marketing types to contact developmental services’ technical staff. We tend not to speak the same language. But I do my best.
9:37 am (email: 38 days ago)
From: Sally Genesee
To: Martin Jacobin
Subject: RE: project 20390712:8869CX
You are an asshole.
FYI: her AGPI results were skewed by a crush she has on a boy named Chester. And what is she supposed to do with her hands? Her arms are in splints. You are the imbecile.
Also, from now on, please go through the proper channels.
9:36 am (journal: 24 days ago)
Technical indoctrination has begun.
A lanky Arab in a flowing white dishdashah smiles down at Prissy. His eyes sparkle, though not in a kind way. He’s already removed his gutrah headdress. Now he peels off the lacy, underlying thagiyah and places this intricate, bowl-shaped, skull doily in the hands of a servant as though it were something sacred. His hair is coarse and greasy. There’s a dermal mole on his upper lip which he touches obsessively with the tip of his tongue, and a sebaceous growth almost between his eyes. He has wide nostrils that flare when he forces himself to again smile. Were it not for his teeth, he could almost pass for forty. When he extends a hand to Prissy, activity in her hippocampus and thalamus suggest revulsion. When she turns to look at me, I freeze the holo.
The dials beckon. But I am ambivalent. Prissy might associate increased current to her brain’s punishment centers with having looked away and thus pay better attention. But she might also construe it as guilt for having watched the Arab undressing in the first place and form an aversion to such presentations. It is an uncertain call. The surest course would be to stimulate the reward centers of the septal area and amygdala as soon as she resumes viewing, and to continue to do so intermittently—to let him give her pleasure.
“What he gonna do?” she asks.
“He’s going to take a bath.”
“Then what he need me fo?”
“Christ if you only knew.” I mumble this without thinking. And now it is part of the session record. An explanation will be required.
“Huh?” Prissy studies the frozen Arab. I don’t need the monitors to see that her revulsion has transformed itself into curiosity. I can see it on her face. My little girl is growing up.
I thaw the holo. Servile hands hold the shoulders of the dishdashah as the Arab steps out of it. Prissy’s eyes widen and her lips seem to reach out with some unspoken question. Because of her splints, it’s hard to tell if she’s gesturing toward his genitals, or trying to shield herself from them. Low amplitude spikes throughout the amygdala, hippocampus and midbrain tegmentum suggest both.
His gonads hang in their rubbery scrotum like a pair of bungee jumping ball bearings at the nadir of their descent. His penis tapers in an abrupt and premature way that, coupled with its hypoxemic discoloration, suggest vascular atrophy and erectile dysfunction. Protocol dictates positive abetment now.
“Shit,” says Prissy.
I begin with a 20 microampere current through the septal nuclei and gradually increase. At 220 microamperes Prissy smiles; at 340 she gasps; at 415 she groans; at 625 she squeezes herself and shudders. She whines when I shut it off and kill the Arab. Shit is right.
9:37 am (email: 10 days ago)
From: Christine Jorgensen
To: Sally Genesee
Subject: WIP review
I have been reviewing your sessions with the young black female (a.k.a. project 20390712:8869CX) as I am required to do with all of our high profile developments in progress. May I first say that I am very impressed with the warmth and empathy that you project. It is of no surprise to me that the little girl has taken quite a shine to you even though, looking through her records, I see that she is not one to open up easily to others. I notice that her speech patterns and vocabulary have also improved dramatically as has her ability to interact socially (albeit almost all of her social interaction is with you).
Although I don’t claim to understand all the data, it seems her augmentation (gosh I hate that word) is proceeding spectacularly. It’s really none of my business, but perhaps you could explain to me (in layman’s terms) how there can be such a big discrepancy between her standard problem solving IQ which seems quite normal and her measured mental acuity levels which appear to reach right off the end of the curve. Could there be a malfunctioning in the diagnostic equipment?
Also, I would be remiss in my duties if I did not mention that I am just the tiniest bit concerned that you are becoming overly attached to the child. I know how important it is to exhibit trust and understanding and even feeling to make progress and produce a psychologically viable result. And believe me I know from personal experience just how difficult it is not to fall in absolute love with these little charges. I mean, their innate adorability is a big reason they’re here, isn’t it? And so I suppose some transference is inevitable. Of course I know you won’t let your fondness for her affect the program (I like that word much better) because you are a consummate professional. I would just hate to see you hurt when it comes time to let her go.
Gosh, all I meant to do was compliment you on the wonderful job you are doing, and congratulate you on your progress and on having established such a robust and heartwarming connection with the girl.
Sincerely, Christine Jorgensen – VP HR
9:40 am (journal: 10 days ago)
Prissy’s curled in my lap playing with my fingers and watching a middle-aged Taiwanese man with a spherical, Buddha-like physique engage in an energetic coupling with a prone, possibly post pubescent, stoic, possibly Filipino girl when the email arrives. Even though I’ve been expecting it, I feel weak.
“What’s wrong Sally?” Prissy glances at the text the way a careless driver might glance at an intersection before pulling out into it.
“You mustn’t read my messages, honey. It’s not polite.”
“Don’t worry, I didn’t see nothing… anything.” She’s lying. From the flash of activity on the monitors, I’d guess she not only read it, but committed it to memory.
“It’s just office politics, honey. Human Resources has nothing better to do than meddle in our affairs.” With her enhanced sensitivities, Prissy can tell when I‘m lying from my voice and the feel of my skin better than I can tell when she’s lying using advanced and specialized biometric hardware plugged right into her brain.
The man appears to climax. Prissy slides a silver band on and off my ring finger. She appears distracted. I should be tweaking her attention.
“That Jorgensen woman’s full of shit you know. That bitch got… she has no business to threaten you like that.”
Prissy’s protecting me. It makes me want to cry.
12:04 pm (email: 10 days ago)
From: Sally Genesee
To: Christine Jorgensen
Subject: RE: WIP review
Dear Ms. Jorgensen – VP HR,
Thank you so much for your kind words and for your concern. It is comforting to know that there are qualified people like you looking out for me, people who can see the big picture and yet know how hard each of our small roles can be.
I am happy to try to answer your question re Prissy’s intelligence. IQ as measured via the revised Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale test battery is indicative of motivation and education more than innate problem solving ability. In other words, it requires the full cooperation of a literate test subject. Also, there are many types of intelligence or creativity of which the SBIS only covers a very few. The “mental acuity levels” you mention pertain to a more objective diagnostic analysis of the brain’s “hardware” if you will. Prissy has taken very well to our treatments. Frankly, I’ve never seen anything quite like it and, like you, am not quite sure how to interpret or extrapolate on it. Although I think it safe to say that she has genius potential.
Like you (and I am reading between the lines here), I worry that I do not apply enough negative conditioning during our sessions, or positive either for that matter. It is not my intent to “spare the rod,” but I believe that excessive “artificial” anguish can give rise to numerous psychopathologies by inuring subjects to guilt and fear and other natural motivators, jamming their own self-programming if you will. Excessive artificial pleasure can be equally spoiling and debilitating and reduce their usefulness and truncate their already extremely short careers. But I will revisit my thinking in light of your subtly expressed concerns.
I apologize for taking so long to get back to you. You have given me a great deal to think about. Thank you again for your praise, help and consideration.
Sincerely, Dr. Sally Genesee
3:03 am (journal: 3 days ago)
The splints are gone. The internal ports and shunts will remain a part of her, but all external catheters and filaments have been disconnected, severed and capped like so many vestigial umbilici.
Prissy sits on my lap facing me, her legs around my waist, her arms around my neck, clinging to me like a marsupial, and I her. Neither of us watches the final-stage indoctrination material running on the holo. From its projections can be heard a repetitive slapping sound which causes me to imagine a lone patron standing in a darkened theater applauding, slowly, artificially, without enthusiasm, without pleasure, almost apprehensively, waiting for some inevitable encore. We gaze into each other’s eyes. Neither of us speaks; words are not needed now. Neither of us blinks; our eyes require no lubrication. Grunts and cries punctuate hollow claps.
8:00 am (email: 3 ½ hours ago)
From: Michael King
To: Sally Genesee
Cc: Tom Powers
Subject: excursion protocols
Dear Ms. Genesee,
It has been brought to my attention that trainee 20390712:8869CX is currently flagged “Out of Compound” and that because you have not submitted a monitored excursion request (MER) form (f.237.02) as per company policy and as per your previous outings with this trainee, we cannot fix her whereabouts. We trust that she is secure and safe at your home in Northbrook, but authorized taps into your surveillance system have not yet verified this. Needless to say that with the amount invested in and potential value of this project, this warrants significant concern.
Be advised that we have forwarded this communication without prejudice and pursuant to article 10.6.2 of your collective agreement on to your association rep, Mr. T. Powers, to be filed as a written reprimand on your employment record pending satisfactory explanation and return of said trainee.
Have a nice day, Michael King – Senior Counsel, Chief of Security
10:34 am (email: 53 minutes ago)
From: Sally Genesee
To: Michael King
Cc: Tom Powers
Subject: RE: excursion protocols
Hello Michael (and Tom)
When I was a little girl growing up on the Farm, one of my brothers caught a large gray rat and kept it in a steel bucket with a piece of wire mesh over the top. We gave it chicken feed and water and considered it happy. It began to gain weight in its new environment. At first we thought we were making it fat. Then, a week or so later, it gave birth to approximately 16 beautiful pink babies. I say approximately because by the time the last were delivered, it had already eaten the first, nibbling them down headfirst.
I still think about her sometimes. When did we begin to eat our young?
Prissy is safe and secure. The net has holes in it, holes through which a child can still fall. And there are still people who want children for unselfish reasons, people who still have hope for the future.
Do not bother to try to recover her. Yes, the world is very small. But it is also very large. Did you know that there are almost 20 million people in Calcutta, and even more in Mexico City? I will give you some hints: she is not in Calcutta; she is not in Mexico City. (Also, it might be unwise to try to track her down. She is already more intelligent than any of us, and I am not sure we have been forgiven.)
Are you surprised to learn that my own temporal ports are still accessible with the proper adapters? I will give you one more clue while I can still remember: she is with people who love her now.
From: Richard Hobbs
To: Tom Powers
Cc: Michael King, Christine Jorgensen
Subject: Sally Genesee
Tom, thanks for compiling this, though not sure I appreciate your flippancy given the gravity of the situation. We’ve lost a capable technical trainer. And I’m sure it will sadden you to learn that euthanasia seems the best option. Sally’s brain-spike trauma is complete and irreversible.
Michael, I’m looking for you to smooth the way in this regard. Although she’s surely beyond suffering, we owe it to her dignity not to prolong the matter.
Christine, this might create something of morale issue. I’m sure you’ll handle it with tact and firm compassion. I leave it to you to organize the memorial service once Michael has cleared the legal hurdles. This is unlikely to wash as an unfortunate lab accident. Records of Sally’s difficult childhood, from before she came under our guidance, are now at your disposal.
Finally, I’m sure you are all concerned as I am for the beautiful little girl and that you fear as I do for her wellbeing out in the world beyond our control. But the situation is far from hopeless. It is, after all, our business to discover children. One of our augmented Psychics claims to have pictures forming: mercuric worms disgorging vermicula, an ocean view of such panoramic splendor that the curve of the earth is discernable, all superimposed by the dim reflection of an Asian girl and a Down’s boy laughing. The Psychic is certain she’s alive, that these are her images.
New corporate humanity is organized less along national and civic boundaries than globe-spanning strata of privilege. The AIs do not believe Sally would have delivered her into the masses at the impoverished, static core. And inhabitants of the outer layers, where opportunity and freedom dwell, though motile, are few. An Intuitive has contemplated the Psychic’s visions and feels the girl is in Japan, possibly atop one of the new tectonic wonders that are the thermo-plastic polymer and poly-graphite super-rises of either Osaka or Shinjuku, that the worms depict the packed commuter trains below, that she may have undergone racial modification, and the boy, just an unfulfilled wish, just a thing from the past.
Richard Hobbs – CEO Global Companions
Born on the cusp of the first hydrogen bomb’s test detonation, Christopher Miller’s formal education includes a university degree and a college diploma. His legitimate professions (of longer than a day, in no particular order) include stock boy, paper boy, pot washer, baker’s helper, geriatric orderly, union rep, painter (of apartments, not canvases), farm hand, technical writer, baby-sitter, software developer, line cook, dish washer and restaurateur. He has two sons, one granddaughter, and has always wanted to be a writer. His stories have been published in Cosmos, The Barcelona Review, Nossa Morte, and elsewhere. He was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize for his story in Decomp.