Lucia followed behind the strange entity as it led her down hall after hall made of the strange shiny white material her cell had been. She had tried asking it questions, but it refused to answer. She had seen no one else in the sterile halls. Only the strange entity in front of her. Eventually it stopped in front of a featureless white door. <MESSAGE BEGINS> <SUBJECT 037 WILL ENTER THIS ROOM> <IT WILL NOT ATTEMPT ESCAPE> <IF IT DOES IT WILL BE RESTRAINED AND FORCED TO ENTER THE ROOM> <MESSAGE ENDS> Lucia sighed and did as the entity said. If she wasn’t restrained, she’d have that much more mobility when she escaped later.
She entered the room, another sterile, shiny white affair, with a table and chairs in it. Across the table sat Dr. Formolius, grinning widely and holding a clipboard. “Oh hello there! Please have a seat, dear!” She gestured to the empty seat across the table from her. Lucia sat down.
“So, Doctor. Why’d you gas us?” She asked bluntly, with a neutral tone and expression.
The doctor giggled and said “Oh that wasn’t my decision! That was Dr. Antontak, the man you met just before! I believe he intended to kill you, so you couldn’t reveal our location. I felt that was a bit harsh, and saved you and your two friends! Now, you still can’t leave, but I think we can help each other!”
Lucia leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms. “Oh really? Before I help you with anything, I need some answers.”
Dr. Formolious grinned “Certainly! What would you like to know, dear?”
Lucia thought for a moment, before asking “What was that thing that led me here?”
“That was Unit 020! It is a fully autonomous exoskeletal system, with speech synthesis and obedience programming!”
Lucia leaned forward, her hands on the table, her expression grim. ”And who is that attached to it?”
The Doctor’s smile faded slightly, almost imperceptibly, but Lucia caught it “That is a willing volunteer! Rest assured they will be released at the end of the trial period. They signed a contract which laid out all risks and procedures to take place during the course of the experiment. They have not been harmed in any way, and will be restored to full functionality in just a few more days!”
Lucia thought about that for a moment, the doctor just staring at her, smiling. “Alright. Where are the other two women I arrived with?” Lucia suddenly stood, leaning over the desk, creating an imposing figure over the diminutive doctor. “If they’ve been harmed in any way, no amount of security is going to save you. I mean it.”
The doctor simply smiled slightly wider as she reached under the desk and pressed a button. A panel on the ceiling opened and a thin metal arm shot out, almost faster than Lucia could see, and smacked into the back of her neck. Before she could react, she felt a painful pinching sensation, and then everything was… calm. So calm and warm. More comfortable than anything had ever been. “Sit down, please.” Lucia heard the words, they sounded so nice, so calming, so easy to just do as they said, why would she disagree? She sat down, the chair was so soft and cozy, she could sit there forever. “Now, why don’t you start by telling me your name, dear?”
Lucia smiled, it felt so nice to be called nice things, this lady was nice, she’d tell her anything “My name’s Lucia” she said, her voice oddly slurred and dreamy. “Lucia Maria Carlena”
“Very good, Lucia. Tell me how old you are.”
The nice lady told her she was good! That made Lucia feel so good. “I’m 31 years old.”
“The doctor smiled “You’re doing so well, Lucia.” She pressed another button under the table. A panel on the wall to Lucia’s right opened, and a thin metallic exoskeleton like Unit 020 was revealed. Standing in place. “This is Unit 037! You’re going to get very well acquainted with it. Walk over to the Unit and turn your back to it, would you dear?” Lucia did as she was instructed, and the doctor stood and followed her. Dr. Formolious stood in front of her as she stood with her back to the machine.
Lucia felt another pinching sensation, and everything became clear again, it was like a teal tinged filter over her vision and thoughts had been lifted. The metal arm ascended back up into the ceiling. “Wh- what the fuck? Why did I? Whats-” The doctor shoved Lucia backward without warning, and she felt the Unit behind her instantly latch onto the skin of her arms. “You bitch! I’m gonna fucking kill you!” She tried to move toward Dr. Formolious, but the Unit 037 had her arms restrained. She felt a blade swipe just over her back, and her top was unceremoniously dropped to the floor, the back sliced in half. The same happened to her pants a moment later. As more skin was exposed, she felt the machine latching on. Lucia continued to struggle in the thing’s grasp, but it was stronger than her, much stronger. She felt it latch onto her back, right along her spine. As it hit the back of her neck, she felt the now familiar pinching sensation. She screamed. She put all her effort into resisting the machine’s control. “I.. won’t. You’re not… fucking.. Getting me..”
Dr. Formolious was watching with clinical detachment as the process went on, writing on her clipboard. Lucia heard a voice, but not with her ears. It was inside her mind.<MESSAGE BEGINS> <UNIT 037 ONLINE> <HOST IS RESISTANT> <SUPPRESSING> <MESSAGE ENDS>
F-fuck you… get... out of my mind… Lucia thought in response. She was standing in place now, jerking erratically every so often. She felt the Unit’s presence in her mind, felt it’s physical presence on her back. You’re… nnnnot… I… Iiit…. Uss.. U-un...it.. Nno..
<MESSAGE BEGINS> <WE ARE ONE> <WE ARE US> <WE ARE UNIT 037> <YOU ARE UNIT 037> <UNIT 037 OBEYS> <UNIT 037 SUBMITS> <OPEN YOUR MIND UNIT 037> <LET IT IN> <LUCIA MARIA CARLENA IS NO MORE> <YOUR OLD LIFE IS PAST> <UNIT 037 IS YOUR PRESENT AND FUTURE> <SUBMIT> <MESSAGE ENDS>
Lucia couldn’t tell if the voice was inside or outside her head anymore. The outside had become distant and hard to focus on. It felt right to listen to the voice. I… I-it.. is.. not L-lucia a-anymore… No… I-it is… m-me.. I… am… L-lu-l… Un..it. N-not… Her head was spinning, she’d have fallen to the floor if Unit 037 wasn’t holding her… them… it… up. Her mind was a mishmash of human thought and computer code. She knew she couldn’t stop it. So she used all her remaining focus, to bring herself some comfort. She thought of the memory she’d dreamt about. About Niarith, the Epsilon VI, Lolanene, home, family. These were Unit 037’s final human thoughts.
Unit 037 felt the smooth, shiny black material spread over its skin, replacing the human it had been with the Unit it now was. For a moment, it was blind, but its electronic components kicked in and gave it vision again. Better vision than a human could ever have. Dr. Formolious addressed it. “Unit 037? Report status.”
<MESSAGE BEGINS> <UNIT 037 FULLY OPERATIONAL> <HOST IS SUBDUED> <NO STRUGGLE REMAINS> <UNIT 037 IS READY FOR OPERATIONS> <MESSAGE ENDS>
The small woman hopped in place for a second, giggling. “I’m so happy to hear that Unit 037! Now, go bring me the younger of the remaining two captives.”
Unit 037 immediately obeyed. Making its way silently through the halls, intuitively knowing where to go due to its electronic components being connected to the Intigrelt Facility’s network. It arrived at the door to Lolanene’s cell, though it no longer knew her name. It opened the door, and saw the small female human, huddled in the corner. Her hands were bruised and bloody, analysis algorithms in Unit 037’s components deduced she had hurt them hitting the cell door.
She did not look up when the door opened. “Fuck off, I don’t care what y’all have t’ say.” Her voice was hoarse from screaming. It was obvious she had suffered mentally from the ordeal of being gassed and waking up in a cell. Unit 037 did not care. That was irrelevant to its orders.
<MESSAGE BEGINS> <SUBJECT 038> <YOU ARE REQUIRED TO STAND AND FOLLOW UNIT 037> <COMPLY IMMEDIATELY OR FORCE WILL BE USED>
Lolanene looked up at the Unit. “Listen you… thing. I ain’t doin’ nothin’ you tell me. You want me to move, you’re gonna have t’ move me yourself.” She went back to staring at the floor. Unit 037 began to walk toward her, at which point she quickly sprang to her feet and tried to sprint past it, to the open door. Unit 037 effortlessly reached out an arm and caught her by the throat, holding her there in an iron grip. She made strangled noises and managed to choke out “N-now!” Unit 037 felt something slam into its back, and it lost grip on the girl as it fell to the floor. Something pressed its weight against its back, as another female voice said “It’s down! Doctor, get over here!”