Experiment: Day 1
September 24th
Stef looked up when she heard footsteps. Jonesy approached, laptops slung like bandoliers again, lab coat covering a Portal T-shirt. The doors slid open, the agent stepped in, then sat on the bed beside her.
‘How’s your first post-res day?’ Jones asked as he began to set up the gear.
She turned from him, tapped her finger across Frankie’s trackpad, then held up her hand, skin normal except for a smiley face in blue.
‘Is that emoticon how you really feel?’ he asked before handing her a black glove, covered in wires.
‘I love the PowerGlove,’ Stef said, ‘it’s so bad.’
‘I have a dozen mint condition PowerGloves,’ Jones said. ‘Remind me to show you the vault sometime.’
‘Vault?’
‘You know about the library?’
‘The L-Space one, or the comic one?’
‘The comic one,’ Jones clarified, ‘but where do you think I keep all of my really cool stuff?’
She almost started to drool. ‘And how does one obtain access to-‘
‘By being a good lowbie agent and doing everything I tell you to do, no matter how stupid it seems.’
She quickly nodded. ‘I’m assuming the stupid stuff has a purpose though?’
The glove tightened on her hand, and a display of her hand appeared on his screen. ‘It’s especially the stupid stuff that serves a purpose,’ he said, ‘so many things that are innately human or fae make absolutely no sense from a programming standpoint, and we do our best not to replicate things that make no sense, or have no distinct purpose.’
‘Yawning?’
‘Yawning serves an important sociological purpose, it lets people know you’re tired or bored, so it gets a pass.’
‘Hiccups!’
Jones grinned. ‘You’ll never meet an agent who has hiccupped unless they’ve induced it through a macro.’ He gave her a sideways look. ‘Which makes it interesting when you have agents as newbie parents, especially ones that have families young, and suddenly their kid starts convulsing and making strange noises.’
She considered it from an objective point of view. ‘I guess it would kind be weird.’
‘That thing were it feels like the wrong day of the week!’
Jones’ mad scientist grin reappeared. ‘What day of the week do you think it is?’
‘…I’m gonna say Saturday.’
Jones grabbed a thin hose and attached it to one of the wires leading into the glove. Blue ran into the glove, and she felt herself relax a little. ‘I can stimulate the effect without an operational OS, it’ll feel weird, but it’s perfectly safe.’ He paused for a moment. ‘And you really should get used to hearing that. I needed to up your blue level anyway, so this just saves time.’ He detached the hose, and typed for a moment. ‘What day is it?’
‘Feels like Satur-‘ her mouth went slack, the rest of the word coming out as a inarticulate burst of air. Everything dimmed, and she flopped down onto the bed.
She tried to move, but couldn’t. Drool wet the quilt beneath her and her nose itched. Everything became boring and static and grey.
The smell of coffee roused her and she sat up. Jones passed her the blue travel mug. ‘Next question, how long do you think you were out?’
‘You wouldn’t be asking if it was only a couple of minutes.’
He smirked. ‘Oh, well done. Forty minutes.’
‘Dafaq?’
‘There’s a few things that can make us, er, blue screen and freeze up. We’re working on trying to remove these bugs from future releases, but no luck as yet. Don’t worry, asking the god sammich question doesn’t do it, we’re built better than some of Ultron’s androids.’
She stared. ‘Deduct some geek points, I can’t place the reference. I mean, Ultron sure, but-’
‘Oh, sweetie, there’s some comics I’m going to rec for you.’
She stared at the powerless glove. ‘Is it going to hurt?’
‘Not today,’ Jones said. ‘Today I’m just going to work on one hand.’
‘Thanks for doing my right hand first,’ she said, poking at the blue smiley face. ‘I’m a leftie.’
‘I know, but not for much longer.’
‘Wat.’
Jones grinned, and began to type. ‘Every agent is right-handed, ambidextrous, of course, but they favour their right hand.’
She pouted. ‘But I like being sinister,’ she whined.
‘I’m sure we can arrange a devious moustache and an opera cape,’ Jones said. He took his hands away from the keyboard and tied his hair back. ‘It’s a lot more comfortable in my lab,’ he said. ‘But there’s a few tests I want to run first before we move up there.’
‘Doesn’t everyone being right-handed make it kinda really easy for people to hurt us? I mean, why not switch it up? Why have favouritism at all?’
‘It makes the programming of several elements easier if there’s a default hand. Most controls are flopped easily enough, but there can be unintended consequences.’
‘Like?’
‘I’ve got a scratch, copypasta’d very badly done version of your code set up, most of it is just a mud map for what I’m really going to do, but in accounting for both your upload and flopping your natural movement controls to right hand defaults, your feet fell off.’
Dot. Dot. Dot.
She swallowed, chewed on her hair for a moment, then looked up. ‘Agent Jones, could you please repeat that?’
‘Your feet fell off. I found the conflict, but needless to say, some parts of you are going to take some work.’
She brought her knees to her chest and peeked over at him. She sat silently for a moment. ‘There’s- There’s a question I haven’t asked and I haven’t not asked because not asking it means I’ve articulated it and asking it means I’ve lost all reason, and I should probably ask Ryan, but you’re here and it’s finally-‘ She ran out breath, and dug her nails into her knees. ‘And I’m- Ok- I’m very loudly not asking it- So, so could you answer it?’
‘I’ve got eight possible questions you could not be asking right now, which one is it?’
‘Um. It’s brain related. Well-‘
He gave her a sympathetic look. ‘You want to know if you’ll still be you?’
‘That’s a lot blunter- I wouldn’t have been brave enough to ask it that way- And- And sorry, I should probably bother Ryan with the existential crap. Or not. I shou-‘ She clamped her mouth shut.
I shouldn’t bother anyone with this shit. It’s just nonsense. Who cares if I’m not me. No one will miss me. It would be better if I wasn’t me. No one needs me.
‘Give me an hour and I can make a person. I can make a living, breathing, thinking person who can will grow and learn and love and die. What the fuck would be the point of uploading doing all this if you weren’t going to be you?’
‘My brain isn’t exactly off the shelf.’
‘To drop a hammer,’ Jones said and smiled. ‘In my years as tech agent, I’ve had the length and breadth of every kind of person who is just as likely to end up in Madchester. So…however you are now, that’s how you’re going to be when you become a card-carrying agent, Stef.’
She hugged her knees, and swallowed tears. ‘That- That shouldn’t be comforting, but it is. I’m- I’m used to me like this.’ She considered his words and looked up at him. ‘Wait- Does- Do you know what’s wrong me with me? You jumped to crazy pretty quickly, I might have been worried about keeping my love of stamps! Or pins! I might not want to leave behind acuphilia! You know the saying-‘
‘I know all the Morporkian sayings,’ Jones said.
‘Damn, you’re good,’ she said. ‘Don’t avoid the question though.’
‘You’ve been the Agency more than hour and you think I haven’t scanned your brain? Also,’ he gave her a sombre smile, ‘there’s two recommendations of psychiatric care in your medical file.’
Yeah, but I’m not gonna share that you got me out of it.
I did what was best for you, Spyder, it seems to have worked out just fine.
I know, I know. It still sounds bad when you say that the voice in your head kept you out of bedlam.
‘Stef?’
She blinked and looked at Jones. ‘Ok, ok, just so long as I’m still me.’
‘I refuse to make another Taylor, you’ll be fine.’
‘So he wasn’t always-‘
‘He used to be a person. Hell, he used to be a good guy. You know, tough guy heart of gold kind of trope. Taylor-that-was was a good person. What I brought back belongs in Arkham.’ He reached across and slipped the glove from her hand. ‘Ok, we need to move up to the lab now. By the end of the day, your hand might be a proper agent.’