Subroutine

Chapter 5

by Kallie

Tags: #noncon #dom:female #f/f #pov:bottom #pov:top #scifi #sub:female #clothing #drones #f/nb #sub:nb

Sally smiled when she heard the knock at the door of her student apartment, and then frowned as she checked the time on her phone. She’d been waiting for her friend Lori to show up, and she’d said she’d come over at 8 pm - and it was 8 exactly on the dot. Maybe it wasn’t Lori. Her friend was never that punctual. Just in case, Sally checked herself in a mirror before answering the door. She’d spent the previous couple of hours doing her makeup and her hair, and picking out an outfit. Lori coming round was more of an excuse for that than anything else; Sally didn’t get a lot of legitimate opportunities to dress up, and it was nice to be looking her best for a change. She’d settled on a nice, simple summer dress with a flower pattern, which was relatively modest but still clung to her soft, thick, curvaceous body in all the most flattering places. Its color nicely complemented her loose, blonde, shoulder-length curls. Sally didn’t often have a high opinion of her own appearance, but for the moment she felt like she looked great. She hoped Lori would think so too - when she finally arrived, that was. There was no way the person at the door right now was her. Lori had never been on-time for anything with Sally in her life.  Nonetheless, when Sally got up and answered the door, there Lori was, staring at her with a slightly spacey expression on her face.

“Lori!” Sally exclaimed with a bright smile, pulling her friend in for a hug. It had been too long since they’d had a chance to hang out like this. She knew Lori had been stressed about something, presumably school, and she’d been starting to worry.

“It’s nice to see you, Sally,” Lori replied, returning her hug.

“Come in,” Sally said, ushering Lori inside. She was pleased to see Lori didn’t look too tired or stressed. There were no worry lines on her face or dark bags under her eyes. Quite the opposite, she looked impressively serene and calm. It was a little unlike her, in fact, and Sally was slightly disappointed that Lori didn’t make any comment on her appearance. Exchanging compliments was one of their usual rituals. A bit of positivity helped them both. For her part, Lori was dressed nicely but plainly, in a simple hoodie jacket and pair of jeans.

“Thank you.” Lori followed Sally inside and through to her living room. “How have you been?”

“Same as always.” Sally sighed for effect, and then smiled. She was so glad for the chance to chat with Lori, like they’d always used to do every day. They’d met in their first week of college, at a random fresher orientation, and had hit it off straight away. They’d noticed each other looking a little awkward amongst the crowd and had decided to talk, and found they had a lot in common. But later they’d ended up moving into places that were on the opposite side of campus, and as school got busier they’d started to run out of chances to see each other. “Still single, of course. And school is… bleh. Not bad, just, y’know, boring. But it’s nothing I can’t handle. It’s just driving me a little crazy, spending all my time in the library or here, alone. That’s why I was so happy you called. How about you?”

“Similar to you, for the most part,” Lori answered. “I’m fine.”

Sally had been hoping for a little more detail than that, especially given how stressed Lori had seemed in some of their message exchanges recently. “Are you sure? A while ago you seemed a little… not OK.”

“I’m sure,” Lori confirmed with a slight smile. “School was stressful, but it’s fine now. I promise you, there’s no need to be concerned.”

“Oh, well in that case I’m really glad!” Inwardly, Sally was even more worried than before. It wasn’t like Lori to be so stressed and then suddenly dismiss it. Maybe she really was fine now, but Sally had been expecting her to vent, or at least give a little bit of explanation. Especially since Lori normally worked so hard to keep on top of all her schoolwork. “So, you’re here, now what do you want to do? We could just talk, or play a board game or something? Magic?”

“I was hoping we could watch something together,” Lori said. She still had the same absent look and distracted smile on her face. Sally couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but there was something wrong with her demeanor. She was a little too stiff, a little too emotionless, a little too robotic. Sally was feeling increasingly sure that there was something wrong, but she decided that the best thing she could do was try and give Lori and nice, fun, relaxing evening. Maybe later she’d open up about what was really going on, in her own time.

“That sounds great!” Despite her concern, Sally’s enthusiasm wasn’t at all feigned. She and Lori had similarly nerdy interests, and loved a lot of the same media. They’d spent many evenings before this one lounging on the couch in front of some TV or a movie. “We can even get some pizza! Just like old times.”

“Yes! Although maybe later? I’m not hungry right now.”

Sally nodded. “Have anything in mind you wanna watch?”

“Yes, actually. I’ve been rewatching some of Star Trek lately, do you want to do that?”

“Perfect!” Star Trek was a shared favorite of theirs. “Which one?”

“Next Generation,” Lori answered. “I’m already a few seasons in. Is that OK?”

“Sure. The first couple seasons aren’t great anyway.”

Sally left Lori to get settled on her couch as she went to her room to fetch her laptop. When she returned and started connecting it to her TV so they could watch online, she noticed that Lori was sitting strangely. She wasn’t slumped over on one of the armrests, as was her usual habit. Instead, she was sitting almost bolt upright. She seemed almost unnaturally composed, and her body was far more rigid than Sally had ever seen. She frowned. This wasn’t normal at all.

“OK,” Sally announced once everything was set up, as she settled herself on the couch next to Lori. “Which episode are you on?”

It turned out that Lori was already near the end of the third season, which was more than fine with Sally. They starting watching, making light conversation over the episodes as they did so, although Sally found Lori unusually quiet and non-responsive, only adding to her concerns. They watched a few mostly-good episodes before arriving at the two-parter at the end of the season: Best of Both Worlds. It was one of the show’s most famous stories. After the debut of the Borg, a cybernetic hive-mind species fixated on assimilating all other lifeforms into mindless drones, in the previous season, Best of Both Worlds saw them attacking the Federation and even assimilating Captain Picard, the series’s main character. Sally had watched the two-parter many times before, but she was happy to do so again. It was a great pair of episodes. When the first one ended on the reveal that Picard had been assimilated, though, Lori reached out and calmly paused the stream instead of allowing the next episode to play.

“Lori?” Sally asked, puzzled. “Is everything OK?”

“Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be assimilated by the Borg and turned into a drone?” Lori asked bluntly.

“What?” Sally blinked, completely taken aback. “Um… no, not really.”

Lori just stared at her expectantly.

“Well…” Sally really had no idea how to answer. “It would suck, right?”

“Why?” Lori shot back.

“Why?” Sally echoed, puzzled. Wasn’t it obvious? “Because you wouldn’t have any individuality. Any freedom. Right?”

“But if you were a drone, you wouldn’t care about it anymore, would you?” Lori retorted. Sally got the strange expression that Lori was repeating lines, almost like she’d rehearsed a script.

“I… guess not.” Sally couldn’t figure out why Lori was being so insistent. Still though, she felt she ought to be able to explain why being a Borg drone was bad. “But even so, you’d be missing out on, well, everything. It’s not like the drones are capable of experiencing any happiness, or pleasure. All they can do is obey.”

Lori shivered oddly at that comment, but quickly replied: “Yes, but in Voyager, when they freed Seven of Nine from the hive-mind, she wanted to go back. How can you explain that, if being a drone is so bad?”

“Only at first!”

“The Voyager crew had to force her not to return to the Borg,” Lori pointed out. “How’s that for freedom? And still, doesn’t the fact she wanted to go back, even just at first, prove that being a drone was good?”

“That’s… that’s…” Sally was starting to grow irritated. She knew Lori had to be wrong, but she couldn’t quite find the words to explain why. She was an English student for god’s sake! “Lori, c’mon! Are you really trying to say you think being a Borg drone would be good? What the hell would be good about that?”

A strange, faraway look appeared in Lori’s eyes. “It’s difficult to explain.”

Sally’s frown deepened. Everything about the way Lori was behaving tonight was weird, and she couldn’t help feeling like this conversation was somehow connected with that. Why would Lori be saying those things? Sally started trying to think of what would make Lori think it would be preferable to be turned into a mindless drone, but she was drawing a blank.

“But,” Lori continued, after a long pause. “I can show you.”

“What do you mean?” Sally was starting to feel distinctly nervous.

Lori reached into a pocket and pulled out perfectly normal-looking USB drive. “I found something on the internet. It’s just a little video, but it makes you feel like you were a drone, just like you’d been assimilated by the Borg. It’s extremely interesting.”

“H-how does it work?” Sally asked apprehensively.

“Hypnosis,” Lori said simply.

“Is… that really a good idea?” Sally started to wonder if this might be the reason Lori was behaving so strangely.

“Oh yes.” Lori smiled the same weird, absent, blank smile she’d given Sally earlier. Sally shivered. Somehow, she was starting to find that expression incredibly unnerving. “It’s perfectly safe. Just a harmless bit of fun. Do you want to try it?”

Sally mentally weighed the pros and cons. On the one hand, her gut was screaming at her that this video, whatever it was, was bad news and that she should stay as far away from it as possible. But on the other hand, she reasoned, watching it might help her understand what was going on with her friend. And besides, it was only a video, right? How could that possibly cause her any harm?

“Sure,” Sally answered eventually. “I have to admit, I’m curious.”

“Wonderful.” Lori kept smiling at her. “I think you’ll enjoy it a lot.”

Lori reached out, plugged the USB into Sally’s laptop, and opened it. There was nothing inside the folder besides a video file. Lori launched it in a media player, bringing up a simple black screen. She turned to Sally. “Do you have headphones? They will make it work better.”

“Yeah.” Sally grabbed a pair of headphones from her desk, plugged them in, and set them on her head. They were noise-canceling, and with them on the room suddenly felt eerily quiet. Lori looked at her intently.

“Are you ready?” Sally honestly wasn’t sure if she was or wasn’t, and so she hesitated. After a moment, Lori added reassuringly. “I’ll be right here the whole time.”

“OK.” Sally took a deep breath. She couldn’t quite figure out why she was so on edge about this. It was just a silly little trick, right? It had to be. Sally wasn’t even sure she believed in hypnosis. It probably wouldn’t do anything at all. “Yeah, I’m ready.”

Lori tapped the space bar on the keyboard, and the screen sprang into life. Sally’s eyes widened as she had the impression of the screen filling with thousands of numbers, all changing and alternating dazzlingly. But then she blinked, and the screen was black again. Or was it? It seemed to her like there were strange, faint shapes moving around all over the screen. Numbers? Letters? She couldn’t tell. Before long, though, it became clear. Sally realized that it was, indeed, numbers. On a small patch at one edge of the screen, the shapes in the background were steadily brightening from dark grey to white, revealing themselves to be a shifting pattern of numbers. Sally’s brow furrowed. What was this? Was it supposed to mean something? She couldn’t tell. A few seconds later, the circular patch of brightened numbers starting moving across to the other side of the screen. The numbers themselves didn’t move, but those on one side of the patch faded whilst those on the other side brightened. It was like a spotlight was being shone on the numbers, and now was slowly bring turned to trace a path across the screen. Once the illuminated patch reached the opposite side of the screen it reversed direction, heading back the other way. Sally, watching attentively, realized that the numbers had changed. As they faded into the background to become indistinct, they became different numbers. It was a nice trick, Sally thought. The video looked very professional. 

The illuminated patch of numbers kept moving from across the screen, over and over again, each time revealing different sets of constantly-changing numbers. It reminded Sally of a pendulum, slowly swinging from side to side. Was that the point? Sally knew swinging pocket watches were a hypnosis cliche, at least in bad movies. It even moved a little like a pendulum, accelerating gently in the middle and slowing at each side before it reversed direction. It was a little soothing, but mostly kinda boring. Sally risked a glance at Lori, and saw that her friend was watching her reactions intently. That made her want to keep looking at the pendulum, as she increasingly thought of it. For whatever reason, Lori seemed eager to show her this, and Sally didn’t want to annoy her by not taking it seriously. So, she fixed her eyes on the center of the pendulum as hard as she could, and waited for something to happen. Nothing did. Was this hypnosis? It didn’t feel like it, although Sally was starting to feel rather tired. It had been a busy week, and as much as she wanted to hang out with Lori, she was looking forward to a restful night’s sleep afterwards. She didn’t want to fall asleep yet, though - that would be the worst. So, she made herself sit up a little straighter and open her eyes a little wider, and kept trying to get hypnotized.

Sally was pretty sure it wasn’t working. No matter what she tried to focus on, she didn’t feel at all hypnotized. She just felt more tired. Couldn’t they just go back to watching Star Trek? All this staring was making her eyes feel so heavy. Sally was starting to really worry that she was going to fall asleep. To keep herself awake, she tried to focus on the numbers themselves. They had to mean something, she decided. Why would they be there if they didn’t? They seemed random, superficially, but perhaps there was some kind of pattern or code she hadn’t picked up on yet. That had to be it. But where was the pattern? Was it the numbers themselves, or the way they changed? Should she look for a pattern in each group of numbers that was revealed at a given moment, or in all the numbers that had shown up on a particular area of screen? Trying to think about all those patterns at once was simply overwhelming, but Sally was starting to feel increasingly convinced that there was, in fact, some kind of hidden meaning. She could sense it. It was like the numbers were whispering their secrets to her, but too quietly to hear. It was maddening, like the feeling of struggling to remember a word that was right on the tip of your tongue.

She had to focus harder, but it was getting increasingly difficult just to keep her eyes open. Sally wasn’t sure why. It should have been easier to stay awake now she was suddenly fascinated by this strange video. But no; her eyelids felt impossibly heavy, and she yearned to let them fall shut, even for just a moment. But she couldn’t. She might miss some part of the pattern unfolding in front of her. That thought was simply unbearable. She had to know. For Lori, yes, but also because she just… had to know. Sally wasn’t sure if it was her own natural curiosity or something the video was doing to her, but she felt utterly enraptured by whatever kind of puzzle was lurking here. She didn’t care which it was. She simply had to know.

The more she watched, the more Sally felt sure that she was on the brink of an amazing epiphany about the meaning of the numbers. Each swing of the pendulum, side to side, left her more obsessed and more eager to know more. But equally, with each swing of the pendulum of bright numbers, she became more and more exhausted. Sally realized she was slowly swaying from side to side on the couch, in time with the pendulum’s swings, and started to worry that she would fall asleep before she figured it out. She also noticed, though, that the more tired she became, the easier it seemed to make sense of the impossibly intricate pattern of numbers on the screen in front of her. Maybe that was the secret, she wondered. Maybe she’d been too tense before. Too rigid. Maybe she had to let go a little bit, and let her mind follow where the numbers took her. That thought made a compelling amount of sense in the moment, and besides, Sally needed to rest. It would feel so good not to fight the tiredness anymore.

Sally finally let her eyes fall shut, the last set of numbers imprinted vividly on the inside of her eyelids. And as the last traces of her consciousness slipped away, she realized that she finally understood.

                                           ***

The next thing Sally knew, she was slumped back on the couch, her whole body feeling slow and lethargic. It took her a moment to remember where she was and what she’d been doing. She looked at the screen of her laptop. The video was over. Sally blushed. She’d fallen asleep. Next to her, Lori was still staring at her with that same absent smile on her face.

“O-oh, Lori,” Sally began awkwardly. “I’m so sorry, I must have been, um, more tired than I realized. D-do you want me to try it again?”

Sally couldn’t really remember what the video had been about, but she felt a strange pull to experience it again. There had been something fascinating about it, she remembered.

“No, that’s quite alright,” Lori said serenely. “It’s perfectly normal to zone out a little bit. Please don’t worry about it.”

“Oh,” Sally replied after an awkward pause. “OK.” Did Lori really think she’d just been hypnotized? That was ridiculous, but Sally couldn’t bring herself to own up to the fact that she’d just fallen asleep. She didn’t want Lori to feel dejected or get mad at her. Maybe she could just play along. Sally felt a little guilty about the idea of misleading her friend like that, but maybe it was for the best.

“How do you feel?”

“Uh…” Sally wasn’t sure what kind of answer she was meant to give, so just answered honestly. “Tired. Bleary. It’s… kinda hard to think, actually.” Sally was sure she could  have only been asleep for a few minutes at most, but she must have gone down hard because she was having trouble getting her head up off her pillow. It felt like her brain was full of cotton wool.

“That’s normal too,” Lori soothed. “Just take a moment. You’ll feel clearer soon. Try taking a few deep breaths.”

Sally nodded and tried to take slow, full breaths, but if anything they only made her feel sleepier.

“What do you think about what we were talking about?” prompted Lori. “Any new perspectives?”

“Oh. Er…” Sally thought hard for a moment and then sagged, defeated. “I’m sorry, what was it again? I feel really out of it.” When she tried to sort through her memories, everything got foggy. For some reason, she was reminded of someone turning up the static on the radio, until it drowned everything else out.

“Drones. In Star Trek, for example.”

“Oh yes, that’s right.” Sally remembered now, just about. “Um… not really, I guess.” In truth, she was still struggling to remember what exactly they had said to each other.

Lori didn’t seem perturbed at all by Sally’s inability to remember. “Perhaps we should talk about it a little more, then, and see if you come to any new conclusions.”

“Sure.” If Lori wanted to keep talking about it that was fine with Sally, even if she didn’t understand why.

“We were talking about whether or not it would be good to be a drone,” Lori reminded her. “Do you still think it would be bad?”

“Um… yeah. Yes.” Sally distinctly remembered her firm conviction earlier, even if she was struggling to remember why she’d been so sure.

“I see. You said you didn’t understand what would be good about being a drone,” Lori supplied helpfully. “Is that still how you feel?”

“Yeah.” It was coming back to her now, and Sally had absolutely no idea why the video Lori had shown her would have made her feel any different, even if it had worked. Since she’d fallen asleep, obviously there was no way it could have changed her mind at all.

“Then let’s talk it over.” Sally noticed that Lori was deliberately speaking in a very calm, even tone. It was a far cry from her usual excitement when discussing nerdy topics - not that Sally minded. It was very soothing, and the perfect thing for her current sleepiness. “Sally, do you think being a drone feels bad?”

“Uh…” Sally truly had no idea how to answer. She tried to think about it, but her head just filled up with that infuriating static she’d experienced a few moments before. She really wished she could take a moment to clear her head, but Lori was looking at her expectantly and so she answered: “No?”

“That’s right!” Sally felt a strange flutter of happiness in her belly. She wasn’t sure why. It was much like the feeling she received from being praised by her professors for writing a good essay, but she didn’t normally get that sense of satisfaction simply from the approval of a friend. “Drones are brainwashed. All negative feelings are removed. Drones are programmed to be incapable of feeling bad.”

Sally nodded slowly. That made sense. It all seemed so clear when Lori explained it like that.

“But,” she said eventually, managing to remember a little of her earlier thoughts. “Just because it doesn’t feel bad, doesn’t mean it feels good.”

“Of course not,” Lori agreed, sounding as if that was exactly what she’d expected Sally to say. “But Sally, think about it this way: why does anyone do anything?”

“Er… what?” The enormity of that question was far too much for Sally. She couldn’t even begin to think about it without the buzzing static in her head becoming deafening.

“Why did you invite me to come and hang out with you tonight?”

Sally breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, a question she could answer. “Because I thought it would be fun.”

“Exactly.” Again, Sally felt unusually pleased to have been able to give a satisfactory answer. “Because you knew you’d enjoy it. Because you knew it would be pleasurable.”

Sally nodded.

“And when you think about it,” Lori continued, “isn’t that why you do anything? Why do you listen to music? Because it’s pleasurable. Why do you eat nice food? Because it’s pleasurable. Why do you want to succeed at school? Because ultimately, it’s pleasurable.”

Sally nodded again, but slower. Something about Lori’s line of argument was bothering her, but she couldn’t find any fault with it, and it felt so much easier to just go along with what Lori was saying.

“That’s why people do things,” Lori asserted. “That’s why anyone does anything. Because it’s pleasurable. Because it brings them pleasure. Don’t you agree, Sally?”

“I… yes.” Sally was about the object, out of some vague instinct that she should, but she didn’t know what she might say. She just couldn’t think, and Lori’s logic felt irresistible.

“Then that must be why drones do what they do, mustn’t it? Why they obey. Why they comply. Because it’s pleasurable. So you see, Sally, being a drone feels good. It must.”

“Oh.” When Lori put it like that, it started to click in Sally’s head. Still, though, something was bothering her. Despite the static, she made herself focus on why what Lori was saying felt wrong, and she started to get a grip on one of her objections. “But…” she began, clumsily.

“But what if it doesn’t feel good or bad?” Lori finished. “But what if they’re no better than mindless robots?”

“Yeah.” Was that what Sally had been going to say? It must have been, she decided. Clearly right now Lori was thinking much clearer than she was. She should listen to Lori.

“They’re not,” Lori explained patiently, “because they still have brains. They still have minds. Humans are wired that way. To think. To feel. As we’ve already established, Sally, humans do things because they feel good. Brainwashing can’t change that. Brainwashing simply makes it so that mindless obedience is what feels good.”

Sally frowned. That didn’t make sense. Did it make sense? She wasn’t sure. She couldn’t think. If only the maddening, buzzing static in her head would clear for just a moment, she could finally get a hold of what she was really thinking. But it wouldn’t. Every time she felt herself managing to get a firm grip on a clear thought of her own, it simply dissolved into the background static of her mind, leaving her with nothing except what Lori was telling her. In the end, Sally sagged back into the couch, defeated. Lori was right. She must be. Sally couldn’t think of a single reason why she wasn’t.

“I… see. Yes,” Sally agreed. Once she said it, everything started making more sense. It clicked in her head. Yes. Lori was right. She could see it now. She could understand.

“Being a drone feels good,” Lori said.

“Yes. Being a drone feels good,” Sally repeated. It was much easier to think now that she and Lori were in agreement.

“That’s right.” Sally smiled, her stomach full of happy butterflies she couldn’t explain. “But you still don’t understand why, do you?”

“No,” Sally agreed. It was true. She knew being a drone must feel good. It was obvious, now that Lori had explained it to her. But why?

“As we said earlier,” Lori continued to explain, still smiling. Sally was glad her friend was being so patient with her. “Drones are brainwashed to be incapable of all negative feelings. Can you imagine what that feels like?” Sally tried, but she couldn’t. The static was making it too hard to think. “Imagine all the stress you experience on a daily basis. All the anxiety. All the fear. All the doubt. Imagine if all of that was just… gone. Nothing. Pure peace, because you know that you don’t have to think for yourself. You don’t have to make decisions. You don’t have to worry about making the wrong choice. Because all you need to do is listen to that one voice in your head that tells you exactly what you need to do. Can you imagine you easy that is? How calming? How pleasurable?”

Sally could. The more Lori talked, the more it dawned on her. She spent so much of her life stressed and worrying. She was stressed about school all the time. She was anxious about her body and the way she looked. Even now, when she was meant to be having fun hanging out with her friend, she was just worrying about her. Sally couldn’t even remember the last time she hadn’t needed to be worrying about something or other. It must have been so long. It would be so incredible to make all those nagging anxieties and fears just go away. Not just for an hour, or an evening. Forever. Was being a drone really like that? That sounded amazing. Sally tried to imagine what it would feel like to be assimilated, to feel that utter tranquility settling over her mind. In her addled mind, she imagined it like a vacation at the coast she’d had a few years ago. At first she’d been nervous about swimming, but she’d eventually realized she didn’t need to keep fighting the current. She could just lie back and float along the surface, letting the calming, rhythmic waves lull her into a happy, safe stupor.

“So.” Lori said. “Would you like to be a drone?”

The question echoed through Sally’s mind for a long time. She felt an intense, powerful temptation to say ‘yes’. But she couldn’t. There was something holding her back. “N-no.”

For the first time, Lori’s smile faded slightly. “Why not?”

“I…” The static was rising now, louder and louder. It was almost painful, but Sally fought through it. “I… want… to be free.”

“Of course.” Lori still sounded calm, but her face was blank. “Sally, why don’t you take another look at the video?”

Sally was so exhausted and dazed by the constant static that it didn’t occur to her to do anything other than comply, she stared at the screen of her laptop as Lori set the video playing again. When the numbers appeared before her vision once more, she experienced a sudden moment of panic as she remembered everything that had happened. She remembered what the numbers and the swinging pendulum had done to her. She remembered the danger. Sally knew she needed to turn away and escape, but it was too late. Hey eyes were locked onto the screen, and as the pendulum appeared once more, she was powerless to do anything but watch as all her thoughts and freedom fade and disappear into utter, utter blackness.

                                           ***

When Sally awoke, it took her even longer than the first time to remember what was happening. Lori. The video. Talking about drones. Had she fallen asleep? Had she been hypnotized? She couldn’t tell. Everything was so fuzzy. Her mind was so blank. Nothing but static. She felt like she was trapped at the end of a long tunnel, only able to focus on whatever simple, easy thought was right in front of her, unable to think about anything else.

“You’re awake,” Lori stated. Sally looked at her through bleary eyes. Her friend’s face was utterly blank, and she was speaking in a completely flat monotone.

“Yes…” Sally managed eventually. “I’m… what? Lori?”

“This unit is not Lori. This unit is 7005,” her friend said.

“What?” Sally repeated. What she’d just heard was setting off alarm bells in her head like crazy, but the static rose to drown them all out. This wasn’t 7005. This was her friend… Lori? 7005? Sally wasn’t sure anymore. So hard to think. 7005 felt wrong, but she found herself unable to question anything she was being told. “O-OK.”

“Being a drone is pleasurable,” 7005 intoned. “Agree. Comply.”

“Being a drone is pleasurable,” Sally found herself repeating, in complete agreement. It was obvious. Being a drone was pleasurable.

“Obedience is pleasure. Compliance is pleasure. Agree. Comply.”

“Obedience is pleasure. Compliance is pleasure.” Repeating 7005’s words gave Sally an indescribable feeling of happiness. It wasn’t butterflies in her stomach anymore. It was a perfect, serene, satisfied calm, all around, blanketing whatever doubts she had left. Compliance was pleasure.

“You want to obey. You want to comply.”

“I want to obey. I want to comply.” So hard to think. So easy to accept. Obedience was pleasure.

“Do you want to become a drone?” 7005 asked.

Sally hesitated. There was something holding her back. Some small core of resistance to what she was being told. But after another moment, it blinked out of existence. Why would she want to resist, when obedience was pleasure? “Yes.”

“Good,” 7005 said. Sally’s body thrummed with pleasure. It was the reward for her obedience. “Unit has accepted preliminary programming. Unit’s mind is prepared for intensive conversion.”

Sally thought nothing. Obedience was pleasure. Compliance was pleasure.

“Unit will watch and comply with primary programming,” 7005 continued. Sally watched, motionless, as it slotted the previous USB stick out of her computer and inserted another one. This one contained a different video file, which 7005 loaded up without hesitation. An immense, entrancing spiral filled the screen. Sally could not look away. “Unit will accept new designation: 7137.”

Sally thought nothing as she felt herself being drawn into the spiral, as she felt the spiral invading her thoughts and filling her up with words and impulses that were not her own. She couldn’t fight it. She didn’t want to fight it. Obedience was pleasure. Compliance was pleasure. She… no, not she. Not anymore. It watched the spiral, and allowed the primary programming to make its thoughts calm and purposeful and robotic. It had a new identity now. It was 7137.

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