“ … You have been apprehended on academy property in possession of Class B controlled substances.” The electrodes transmitted a minor current that caused an apprehensive tingling feeling in my bottom, warning me that the continuation of my theoretical bad behaviour would shortly result in renewed punishment. “This is a major violation of disciplinary and health and safety policy. The disciplinary sanction will now commence.” Frantically I heaved at the straps and tried to bring my fingers to bear that I might tear the restraints loose. Then a bolt of paralysing pain, shocking in its intensity coursed through me.
I did not have time to recover before the next bolt crackled into my hindquarters and another spear of electrical energy coursed through my innards. With artful sadism the apparatus paused then recommenced its ghastly work; sometimes administering three jolts in quick succession. Each energy wave manifested itself as superheated, flaring sensations in coruscating patterns across the nerve endings under the skin of the posterior region. The awful torment proved so intense that I felt as though twin bands of steel encompassed my body, crushing me so I couldn’t breathe. I rubbed my wrists raw with the intention of jerking my hands free to get the inflated rubber ball out of my mouth – to no avail.
Strangely, even in the midst of this surging, biting, bubbling cauldron I still possessed sufficient detachment to contemplate the diabolical inventiveness at work. The very cold, clinical, inhumanity of it made it seen especially sinister and cruel – especially when experienced from this position. With another human being there might be an appeal to reason; for clemency. But machines know no right or wrong – they simply follow their programmed instructions. Nor was the situation without its erotic quotient through and I couldn’t help imagining the beautiful doctor reclining in her swivel chair, shoe dangling from the heel of one lovely foot as she swept her amused gaze over the jerking, convulsing, hotly suffering bodies below …
Apart from the piercing, heat-raising aspects the very worst part of the punishment was the muscular contractions induced by each jolt. My spine arched, tendons and sinews screamed in protest and I times I thought I could hear my bones creak as my joints screwed up so violently. All the while as the current traced its course my nether regions lit up like a Christmas tree of agony. Silently I screamed, pleaded, cursed, threatened terrible vengeance – and suffered. And suffering was the whole point. It was what we were there for: human guinea pigs for the day when this conditioning would be used for real in our technological utopia. Odd is it not how we always perceive utopia to be a vision of paradise when Thomas More wrote his novel as a warning.
And suddenly … blissful relief. The flaring sensations of agonising heat ceased as abruptly as they had begin. For a moment I hardly dared exhale, believing it to be some sadistic trick of the machine. Next moment came a click as my bonds fell away and the rubber ball-gag collapsed upon itself, causing me to deposit a large quantity of saliva onto the gym mat beneath my downturned face. “Remove the VR device; take thirty seconds before attempting to stand up,” the voice intoned soothingly. As I eased the sinister black helmet over my hair now damp with perspiration, I saw the ponytailed girl looking down at me through the veil of tears: her face all concern and solicitude. “Take it steady … that’s it.” I felt the gentle pressure of her fingers on my arm as she guided me to my feet. Once she was sure my legs were not going to collapse like those of some new-born foal, she hurried off to help the others who also were in the throes of freeing themselves from that infernal device.
I looked around groggily for Doctor Barzani. Sure enough the lady in question stepped lightly off the dais and made her way gaily over toward me, hips swinging in that sauntering, long-limbed walk that matched her smile of satisfaction. Behind her on the platform the oscilloscope resumed its innocuous yellow pulse; the equipment once again simply a harmless jumble of cables, pipes and half-a-dozen bucket seats with gamer helmets.
My lips compressed in fury; in contrast her onyx eyes gleamed as she said: “That was marvellous! We got some really useful telemetry and biometric data from this session. It’s going to help us enormously.”
“Well I’m chuffed about that!” I began sarcastically. Before I could give vent to my feelings of outraged dignity the scientist turned away to corral the rest of the group. “We have iced water and some fruit ready for you,” she called out. “Take your time getting up; we don’t want any accidents.”
Helped by the doctor and her assistant, the shocked group stumbled back toward the common area and the waiting refreshments. No-one spoke; each test subject (or more accurately ‘victim’) lost in the jumble of his or her own thoughts. A couple of the girls were weeping silently and my own face felt slicked by something I suspected was not perspiration. Even Graham remained silent while Mazher simply repeated over and over again: “That’s not right; not right …” Walking proved painful and precluded a more rapid escape from the portals of Solaryde Ltd.
“You may experience some bladder irritation for a while afterwards and it might be difficult to pass water,” Doctor Barzani breezed helpfully.
“Well it certainly hasn’t stopped you from taking the piss!” I snarled.
Leaving the test centre and stepping back into the bustling normality of an English city street seemed surreal and I struggled for a moment to take it in. The blare of a car horn brought me back to my senses. A pale blue Ford Sierra was parked at the kerb and I saw Carole inside and leaning across to open the passenger door for me. As I hobbled over and lowered myself stiffly onto the seat she smiled – and then her expression froze. “God, David! You look terrible! What the hell happened in there?”
“I’ve just had enough electricity put through my jaxy to light up the National Grid!” I replied miserably.
Her head smacked back against the headrest as she gave a shriek of mirth. “I warned you to look into it properly, didn’t I?” Carole laughed in spite of her concern over my ordeal before reaching for the ignition key. “Oh David, you complete and utter arse!”