Alfvaen (alfvaen) wrote,
Alfvaen
alfvaen

Dark Memories

Another one from the series of weekly prompts, and again, I don't remember the prompt. So, here's a little story.

Desmond Thayer took a last glance over the month's accounts. He knew some of his peers would consider such attention a waste of time and effort, but Desmond, at least, had never been cheated by his underlings. He resisted the urge to glance at his clock. It was the responsibility of others to worry about promptness, and to punish lateness.

At what he presumed was the correct time, a discreet chime sounded on his desk. "He's here, Mr. Thayer." He glanced automatically at the voice-scanner. It was indeed Orlando's voice, and it lacked the telltale overtones of the Controlled, or even the more mundane stress of coercion. One had to take pains for one's own security, or one might as well descend to street level alone and announce one's identity to the peons.

Desmond pressed the acknowledgement button, not bothering with a voice response. This would allow Orlando to grant his visitor access, by laborious and well-guarded stages, to the sanctum. He was filled with a sudden craving for a stim or hallu, or even a drink, as he still sometimes cautiously indulged. But his visitor was, by all accounts, a much more potent narcotic all on his own.

He went over the dossier again. David Harp, one of the few telepaths to have survived the purges and the death camps after their failed uprising. If you asked most peons, of course, they'd say that the teeps had all been killed, because even one was too dangerous to leave alive. But the higher echelons knew that they were a tool too precious to be destroyed so completely. As long as they could be controlled properly.

Harp was one of them. Registered as low-power, generally, but with a high score in memproj, the skill of projecting memories into another's mind. But even among memproj specialists he was unique. Telepaths, like most people, were skillful at hiding away the painful memories they didn't want to relive. Harp, for whatever reason, hadn't done that. His painful memories were, to hear tell, exquisitely vivid.

Until now, Desmond had been unable to secure Harp's services. He was quite a hot commodity, and some of his previous owners had been reluctant to give him up. Tonight's visit was Desmond's reward for months, if not years, of wielding his power against those who were, or had been, his equals. The dust still hadn't settled from that conflict, but Desmond was certain that once it had he would be on top, first among equals.

Another soft chime announced Harp's imminent arrival through the small door to Desmond's left. He felt his heart quicken with excitement. There were so few real pleasures to be had these days. Desmond had experimented with memproj before, as had most of his peers, but had quickly tired of the kind of mild, harmless pap they purveyed. Only with the news on the grapevine of Harp's talents had his interest been rekindled.

Desmond's eyes flicked over to witness Harp's entrance. He was an unprepossessing figure, as most of the surviving teeps were. Physical weakness was almost a prerequisite for avoiding the purges, though Desmond knew well how strong men could be brought low with the proper methods. As he had been conditioned, Harp stood a few feet in front of the door, silent, not fidgeting, waiting to be addressed or summoned.

Another pleasant feature of Harp's abilities, from Desmond's point of view, was that they didn't require physical contact, but allowed a few feet of distance. Desmond did not approve of unnecessary intrusions into his physical space, and he reserved the right to define 'necessary' at his convenience. He had already had a chair set up at the necessary distance, which was unfortunately still too close to be on the opposite side of his desk. Far enough, luckily, to be out of arm's reach. He indicated the chair with a wave of his hand, and Harp shuffled obediently over to it and sat.

"How will you serve me?" Desmond asked, the ritual greeting of master to slave.

"I have many memories, all dark," Harp said. His voice was the unpleasant croak of one whose throat had been injured and incompetently repaired years ago. Part of the usual spirit-breaking process, undoubtedly.

"Surprise me," Desmond said with a nonchalant wave of his hand.

Harp nodded, then closed his eyes. Desmond did too, with a thrill of risk, though his automated defense systems would stop any sudden moves.




He saw empty bunks in the barracks again. It had only been three days since a new trainload had come in, and those returning late from the work shifts had had to curl up on the floor. And already there were empty bunks.

He'd stopped learning the names of the new ones. The numbers were good enough, and even if somebody stayed long enough for him to be tempted, they could disappear overnight just as easily as anyone else.

That night they came again. His instincts to reach out to new minds had been long since quashed by the screens and the shocks. Now he huddled within himself, trying to close off his hearing rather than hear the screams and struggles. Would he struggle if they came for him? Though sometimes he thought the fight was gone from him, he would still fight for his own life if that was all he had left.

His throat hurt him again, like it had ever since--




"Watch it, Fred. Screen shows a probe."

"Damn it, shocker's on the fritz. Just a sec."

A brief surge of hope. If he could take out these two, or bend them to his will, then maybe he could escape. He could only barely sense the one behind the screen (Benjamin?), but he reached out as far as he could.

"Now he's goin' for me! Geez, Fred, do something!"

"Damn teeps. Better call the med team now."

His probes dissolved in a burst of pain as the metal prongs of the shocker slashed into his throat.

Fainter, now...

"Aw, geez, Fred, look at that mess. You know the paperwork we'll need to do if you killed him?"

"Just save the screen records, Ben. We got provocation. If anyone goes down, it'll be whoever checked the goddamn shocker last. You called the medics? If he wants to live, he'll live."

Even now, he wanted to live.




Desmond came back to himself with a jerk, his hand automatically flying up to his throat to find the skin intact. He instinctively shifted his chair a foot back from Harp, who was sitting with his head between his knees.

That had been...totally worth it. He hadn't had experiences so vivid, so rich, in some time. The content was so deliciously different from his normal experiences that he felt like a different person just from remembering it.

"Will that be all, Mr. Jones?" Harp said in his low, raspy voice.

"Don't speak," Desmond snapped automatically. Then the name registered. "What did you say?"

"Mr. Jones," Harp said, raising his head to meet Desmond's eyes. The gaze was sharper than Desmond was expecting. "Dudley Jones. Isn't that your name? It's right there, in your mind. You try to forget, but it comes back."

Desmond reached for the termination button. Harp would be sedated and his body taken to be disposed of. Because this kind of knowledge was too dangerous to get out. But his hand stopped inches short of the button, and would move no farther. Nor could he open his mouth to give the security danger word.

"You don't have this room directly monitored, do you?" Harp said. "A tradeoff between security and privacy. Many things said and done in this room, you would prefer nobody else found out about.

"But more than anything else, you want to be sure that nobody finds out about the mindswap."

That had been necessary, Desmond wanted to say, though he fought the urge to explain himself. He couldn't just die of old age like any peon. Maybe Desmond Thayer hadn't done anything to him, but he was young and vigorous, and had few ties. And of course the teep who'd done the deed had to be disposed of afterward. At least Dudley--Desmond--kept his promise to help support the man's family. It hadn't caused him much inconvenience, after all.

"I have a secret too," Harp said. "As you may have guessed. All those oh-so-careful assessment tests, to determine if anyone was too dangerous to keep alive. I figured them out early on. I could hide my true talents. I did it even when the price was having my friends and family die. Did you know how they did the tests? They had my sister--a normal, but I loved her just the same--tortured, while they monitored my reactions. I listened to her mind scream, but I couldn't show it. And I fooled them! I got to live!" He laughed wildly, which turned into a coughing fit. Desmond strained against the force holding him prisoner, in case Harp's will had been weakened by the attack. But to no avail.

"And I promised, every second, that I would only survive, with my borrowed life, my stolen life, until I could strike back at you. As many of you as I can.

"You won't press that button," Harp said with authority. "You won't do anything to stop me leaving. You won't tell anyone what happened here. You'll forget all about this conversation. And one day, sometime soon, you'll hear a certain word or phrase, and you'll die. I know that you'll be replaced by someone just as bad. But it won't be you. You'll be dead. You'll only live on in the memories I'm stealing from your brain right now. I'm sure they're full of very interesting information.

"But now it's time to wake up."




Desmond came back to himself with a jerk, his hand automatically flying up to his throat to find the skin intact. He instinctively shifted his chair a foot back from Harp, who was sitting with his head between his knees.

His heart was pounding. Those memories had been...disturbing. He felt a certain revulsion at Harp's presence, but he knew his therapist software would just call that projection. His mind was strong, and he could deal with disturbing images. They were beginning to seem unreal already, he told himself.

"Go," he said to Harp. He needed solitude, time to think. He'd keep Harp available, close at hand, while he came to terms with what had happened. Or, no, that could be seen as a sign of weakness, a vulnerability. He should send Harp further away, make him seem unimportant. Few people knew of his significance anyway.

He watched Harp go with a feeling of unease that he couldn't explain. Maybe it was time for another therapist session, though not too soon.

Maybe he would have some of those hallus after all.
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