Harry Donovan woke up, and looked around. He was sitting upright in a strange metallic chair. The last thing he remembered was kissing his kids goodbye and making love with his wife before going to sleep. He was now in a strange, small room with metallic walls, strapped to a steel chair, with a enormous telescreen in front of him. Another man, wearing an impeccable expensive suit, entered the room.
"Hello, Mr. Donovan." said a man that Donovan couldn't quite see the face, since the chair impeded him from turning his head.
"Who are you? Wh-where am I?" Donovan asked. The man took a small electronic device from his pocket and pressed a green button, aiming at the telescreen. Donovan's face was shown on the screen, but slightly different than he remembered. He had a moustache where his clean shave usually was, and smoked a cigarette. Donovan never smoked.
The man started talking as if he was reading a shopping list. "Jeremy Whiters. 31. Professional criminal and hitman. Arrested after a failed bank robbery. Killed at least six people, last month. Nothing more than a dead burden to society. A waste of sperm, oxygen and time. Like a lot of other people out there. Only... he looks a lot like you, wouldn't you agree, Mr. Donovan?"
Donovan was confused. "Is...is he my twin brother or something?" he asked. "No, Mr. Donovan. This is not some B-movie. That is you. Five minutes ago."
That didn't make any sense. "What are you talking about?" Donovan asked, confused.
"You were convicted to death penalty, so the government thought that it wouldn't be such a loss to test a new neurological procedure we invented. A...sure-fire ressocialization method, I think they called it. You had the little links on your neurons cut, and your entire neurological structure rearranged. Gone is Jeremy Whiters, soon-to-be-deceased convicted criminal. Here is Harry Donovan, loving husband, stern father and conservative christian." he stated, nearly emotionless.
Donovan did his best to sound intimidating while strapped to a chair: "What are you talking about? I am this Jeremy Whiters? I would never kill a man!"
The other man finally allowed some emotion trespass his poker face. He smirked. "Exactly. I gotta give props to the guys at template adaptation. You really sound completely different from when you came in. And if everything went alright, which seems to be the case, you are probably thinking a lot differently now."
Donovan was able to see the hand with the device rising up again, and another button being pressed, the telescreen showed a picture of a house, the map of a country and a picture of an asiatic-looking man. The man restarted talking: "As part of the prototype testing, you'll be under 24-7 observation, in another country, with another name. We'll have a personal custody officer with you at most times. You'll also have a medium-responsibility job and a dog. No wives and kids. Girlfriends are also off-limits. We need to be sure that you won't go psycho on us."
Donovan couldn't understand. None of this made any sense. He wanted a cigarette..."What a strange thought.", he thought. The man seemed oblivious to him, and continued his professional tone. "This will be a nice chance for repaying society for your stupidity, Mr. Donovan. I would take it, if it was me. Of course, if you decide you prefer it the hard way, there's always a needle here, with your name written on it."
Harry Donovan was taken to a black car, accompanied by men in dark-blue suits. Whom more than once made it perfectly clear that they were carrying trippers (portable projectile-based, highly reliable weapons, usually outfitted with low-penetration and high-stopping power projectiles). He sat on the back seat, behind the driver, while one of the other "Government Guys" sat at each side of him.
They drove around in what seemed to be a Ford "Frontier" for some time. Donovan desperately wanted to sit near the windows to have a better look at the buildings beside the street, and see if he recognized the city. But the "Government Guys" seemed to stay in the best position to cover his view at all times, and he certainly wouldn't ask them to get out of the way.
The car stopped at an airport. And the two "Government Guys" left, along with the driver and, lastly, Harry Donovan. After Donovan left, the "Government Guys" entered the car again, one of them sitting on the driver's seat, this time. The driver was left in the airport, with Donovan. Donovan quickly recognized the asiatic-looking man from the telescreen.
The man efficiently stated to him "My name is Lee Hum Bai. I am your overseer. You shall call me 'overseer', or 'sir'," and accompanied him into the airport.
Donovan observed the way "Mr. Bai" walked, (Or was it "Mr. Lee"? Harry was almost sure those oriental folks had names in reverse, or something) he walked much alike a soldier would, if that particular soldier was marching for the last three years non-stop, and happened to be wearing a abnormally tight underwear today. Still, a person that watched him walk wouldn't think it was ridiculous, for the simple reason that he looked too sure of himself to be ridiculous.
And the extreme degrees of self-assurance that emanated from...Hum were more than congruent with his appearance. He probably only would get a cleaner shave if he plucked each individual thread of facial hair with a pincer. And his raven-coloured hair was neatly moussed and combed into two perfectly symmetrical halves. And his lips were glossy with light red lipstick.
Through the reinforced glass walls, Donovan saw a stratoplane touching down, and taxiing along the strip to its hangar. This particular stratoplane had upside-down-U shaped wings, to keep the balance in the low pressure environment of the higher atmosphere.
Stratoplanes were a very recent invention, and most people still preferred to use the the turbine-based low atmosphere flights, but stratoplanes, flying at high altitudes, where the air resistance was lower, could fly many times faster, and, since the skies of the lower atmosphere were starting to get crowded with so many commercial airlines, they were much safer.
Hum guided him to gate 45, where, according to the electronic sign, a flight to Ottawa was going to depart in ten minutes. "Ottawa?" Donovan asked, "Isn't that where we are?"
Hum straightened his tie, and made sure not a single thread of hair was out of its place, before answering, somewhat annoyed, "I thought it was made clear for you already. Nothing that you remember actually happened. It was used merely for behavoria..."
"You don't need to keep this up. I know I've been kidnapped. Yes, it's an...inventive plan. But I don't think it'll wor..." Hum snickered, making a tread of his hair fall to his forehead. A problem he fixed as efficiently as he answered, "You'll start believing when we reach Ottawa."
Harry Donovan was lying on his bed, trying to make sense of it all. A telescreen was turned on to his right, displaying some stupid report on declining living conditions in Africa...or Australia...or something. He was not really paying attention.
For the moment he was too busy trying to discern exactly what happened to him, and the implications that it had. He ceased disbelieving them. Not when he reached Ottawa, as Hum foretold, but when he entered "his" home...no, not even then. It still took twenty minutes or so until he realized the truth. And now, he laid on the bed he could swear he slept in yesterday, but that was clearly never used before.
He still couldn't understand fully what happened to him. How could he be this Jeremy something? That man said this Jeremy kille...that he killed people! Himself! How could this be? He never hurt a do...a mouse! How would he...how would he be capable of killing a human being? He couldn't have! Why, he even did volunteer work at...
But this didn't happen. Still, he remembered, clearer than he remembered this last few hours. He could remember his thoughts at the time...but he didn't think them, did he? He tried to think of something about Jeremy Whiters, something about the part of him that they tried to erase...but couldn't remember anything. And then a thought struck him. Why should he?
Jeremy Whiters was a condemned criminal, Harry Donovan, on the other hand, was operations manager of the Ottawa branch of GeneCom. A good man, reasonably rich, and quite satisfied with his life...more than any other person he knew, at least.
Why should he want to remember? Why shouldn't he just live this new life of his? He would live much better (and much longer) than whatever life he had before. He would have a house, a dog, and, in the future, a family. Did it even mater who Jeremy Whiters was? He was Harry Donovan now, a completely different guy.
But...how could this be? If the simply thought of killing abhorred him now, how could he be able to do it before? Even if they managed to change his memory and whatever else...they couldn't change who he is, could they? They couldn't change the way he thought, just like that. Unless, of course, the way he thought was influenced by what he remembered.
Then that's why they did. That's why they give him the memories of a family, when he had none. Behavioural changes Hum was going to say...but it didn't matter! Jeremy Whiters? Never heard of him. He was Harry Donovan, and he never killed a guy.
Having decided to go on with his new life, Donovan got up from the bed and prepared to see the neighbourhood...God! he needed a cigarette!
Harry Donovan woke up at least three seconds after the alarm clock buzzed, as usual. He got up and went to the bathroom, to take care of his basic hygiene. Then, after looking at himself a last time at the mirror, he descended the stairs, to make his breakfast. He glanced at the tiny camera above the door, more out of habit than actual worry, finished eating and left, ready for another bright new day at work.
He drove his Mitsubishi Commuter through the almost empty streets toward the GeneCom building. He saw the same buildings he always saw along the way, and met no one he knew, as always. Until he read "GeneCom inc." in big, bold letters, telling to anyone that bothered, where to look.
He got out of his car, put one or two hundred dollars in the parkimeter, and entered the building. Yes, it was expensive, but faster than subway.
His job was pretty simple. All he had to do was to supervise everyone else's work, write reports, and make sure the scientists knew which part of the DNA they would research next. But Donovan did this with as much enthusiasm as he could muster. He wanted to repay the world for whatever he had done before.
At the end of the day, Donovan wrote the daily reports, sent it to the head-supervisor and made sure everything was in order before turning off the lights and leaving his office. He walked the metallic corridors of the structure until he reached the second floor, where the most serious cases were treated.
The GeneCom building was both a research and a treatment facility. The upper floors were the place where scientists researched the human genome, trying to copyright its parts before the competition, so that they could offer a better quality treatment.
The lower floors were a private healthcare facility specialized in giving advanced genetic treatment to people with genetic defects, or those just interested in it for cosmetic reasons. Assuming, of course, that those people were rich. But that wasn't the owners' fault. They would gladly give the treatment for free, but it cost money to research it, Harry knew.
Today was Julian's day. The kid was born blind, but their parents recently made enough money to pay for a DNA and stem cells therapy. This was his third visit, and Donovan always was there when the kid came in. Last time, the boy was able to see the ceiling lamp, and even if it was, for him, just a faint light, that was still something.
Donovan watched through the glass window. He felt better about himself, knowing that, in the future, many more children would be cured, thanks to his job.
"Mr. Dono...hey!" that was the head-supervisor, but Donovan noticed it almost too late. His elbow was a few millimetres from hitting the man's stomach, he was startled, it was a reflex, "Well...um...we need you in the PR room. A reporter wants to know things about our current projects. Just take care with what information you give him, 'kay?"
"Uh...sure boss," that was unusual.
Harry Donovan left the GeneCom building. Three weeks had passed since he made that broadcast, telling the rest of the world everything about the new advancements on genetic research, and how their lives would be changed with that. He whistled a tune he couldn't quite remember, as he searched for the car key in his keyring.
"Hey," came a voice from his right. A man was standing near a tree on the pavement, "Mister Donovan, am I right?"
"Yeah. You are..." Harry hadn't time to finish his sentence before the other man forcefully shoved him on the building's wall and held his arms behind his back.
"The joke isn't funny anymore, Jimmy. Remember me? I bet you'd rather not. Now where'd you stash the money?" he said, his filthy breath reaching Donovan's nose.
"This is a mistake! My name is Harry Donovan, I work here...I..."
"Yeah, yeah. I saw on TV. I bet those nice people in GeneCom would love to know a good friend of mine, that I once hired to help me in a bank heist, that ran away and left me for the cops. That ran away with my money and left me for the cops," the man growled, and twisted Harry's arm.
"Look. This Jeremy, he must just look ali..." the man twisted Harry's arm a little harder.
"How did you know his name was Jeremy?"
"Wha...you...you said it! Jimmy!"
"It could be James..."
"I just...AH! I just assumed it was..."
"Shut up Jimmy! You got busted too soon after the heist, so I'll assume you didn't spend all that money. Then I'll assume you'll put it somewhere. I don't know what fucked up deal you made with the cops, but I do know that I spent the last years in prison. So I hope you can tell me something before I decide that getting back at you is more important than getting that money back."
"I know where you live, and I think you noticed I also know where you work. I'll give you two days. If you want to speak with me, put a red cloth on your window. If you don't...I'll tell everyone about where you've been, and who you've been before you came here. If you don't talk after this...I'll have to get serious," the man let him go, jumped on red motorbike that was nearby and drove off.
Donovan started walking to the car, but he stopped and put a hand on the wall, his legs were shaking. After calming down a little, he reached his car and shakily, after two or three tries, managed to put the key in the hole, opening the door.
He sat sat on the driver's seat, and stared blankly forward. Waiting for something to happen, something to tell him what the hell he should do. "God...what the hell is happening?" he yelled in his mind, and noticing that he cursed in a prayer, he decided for a better wording, "Lord, tell me what I should do, I...your faithful servant, ask...thee," yes, much better.
But nothing of note happened. He started to feel nervous, so he opened the ceiling compartment over his seat, to take his pack of cigarettes. He knew he shouldn't smoke, that he didn't smoke. And he managed not to, even though he did buy the pack. But now he needed it more than ever.
When he pulled the pack from the compartment, a little piece of paper fell on his shoulder. It was Hum's cell phone number. He threw the pack out of the window, made the sign of the cross, started the engine and, smiling, started driving to Hum's house. "Thanks, God," he said.
Harry Donovan was looking through the windows in Hum's house, looking for any signs of the mysterious assailant. He had just finished telling Hum about what happened to him, and was waiting for an answer of some sort. Lee Hum Bai just sat on the couch, his arms crossed, thinking.
Hum finally finished thinking and asked, "Brown hair, you said?"
"Huh? Oh, Yes...but why it matters!? I need you to bodyguard me and arrest him. I'm your boss' experiments, that makes me valuable, so you have to protect me," said Donovan, caring not about who the man was.
"He's not my boss you idiot. I work for the government, I am inspecting the services of NeuroTech. Seeing if the memoryrevamper can really do what they say it can. And there's already one flaw in it: International media. They thought you were safe, being in another country, guess what, someone you knew found you. And now I will have to take care of the problem. I think we should abort."
"What? No! You can't do that! It's...it's my life at stake here!"
"I don't think we have a cho..."
"Just arrest him! He threatened me, that's against the law."
"I won't be able to put him away for long, and when he get out..."
"There must be something that you can do!" yelled Donovan, desperate, "Don't know wherever the money is?"
"No, we couldn't extract that information from you."
Donovan started hitting his own head, shouting "Idiot! Idiot!"
"Calm down, Donovan!" Hum was starting to lose his normally impeccably moderated temper, "Maybe I can have you transferred somewhere else. Germany, Colombia, Indonesia, somewhere he won't think of looking,"
"No! What I do here. I like to do it. Something that matters, helping the world. I can't leave knowing that I could do so much more! I need to stay with GeneCom."
A brief silence followed this, as Hum calmed down, sat on the sofa again, crossed his arms and started to think.
"Okay. I'll watch you, if I see anyone matching your description, I'll report him to the local authorities. If he's someone you knew before, he's bound to not be wanted here, and I may get a deportation," after saying this, Hum waited for an answer from Donovan. He simply nodded.
Harry Donovan was sitting in his living room. The telescreen was on but he wasn't paying attention. He was seeing again and again the events of yesterday in his mind. The cops, the firemen, the lights. The charred corpse.
The other man must've seen him leaving Hum's house. Three hours later, the house was in flames, and a body was inside. Yes, Harry knew that Hum was dead before the fire, that's why he went to the city, bought this and put a red cloth on his window.
Donovan put a cigarette in his mouth and lit it. This calmed him a little bit.
Why didn't he flee?
This thought suddenly popped up in his head. He hadn't even considered this before now...But the answer was clear, he needed to stay with GeneCom, he couldn't leave the city, unless he was on vacation, or was sure he could be back before the weekend. He couldn't skip work.
What he did at GeneCom was much too important.
But if he didn't flee, he would have to...
He stopped midthought. What was he doing? He couldn't... It was wrong! But he couldn't leave GeneCom, it was wrong! It was all wrong. He had to stay with GeneCom, and if he wanted that, he would have to do it. But he couldn't!
He shook his head. He had to do it. So he took the Hol-maker-98, outfitted with high penetration bullets, killing machine of excellence, off the table, checked the bullets and turned the security lock off. He then lit another cigarette, took a long drag, and waited for the mysterious man.
Harry Donovan was found some hours later, crying in a corridor of GeneCom. Policemen with needles were called, and as they approached him, he yelled that he had to stay with GeneCom. That was his last conscious thought that day.
He was taken back to the NeuroTech HQ, for debriefing. The debriefing, of course, included pain, and electricity. And questions. Questions that Donovan hesitated little to answer. After it was over, the man of the poker face was back.
"I would say that the experiment was mostly successful."
Harry couldn't help but to snicker, "Succesful?"
"Yes. Apart from some minor subconscious remnants, your old personality was completely erased. The compulsion to stay on GeneCom worked. The susceptibility to interrogation, even better," he said, reading from some list he was carrying.
"Oh? Haven't you noticed? Good. You see, we couldn't have you running away, could we? So the new personality we gave you extremely enjoyed his new job. It was necessary."
"But...why the int..."
"Well, the genetic market is very profitable, you see. But research costs money, and time. So companies are always ready to spend some money in the black market of information. We thought we could get a little something more from this government program, than what they're paying us."
"You...you used me! You messed with my mind and used me!"
"Why, yes. I thought it was quite obvious. But don't be sad. With the new data you gave us, our memory replacing technology has advanced and the government is prepared to try again."
"You can't do this to me!"
"Don't worry about Mr. Donovan. Tomorrow you'll feel like a new man. I assure you."
And the last thing the man heard before the heavy metal door closed was "You son of a...!"
James Hudwell woke up, and looked around. He was sitting upright in a strange metallic chair. The last thing he remembered was getting a medal for his heroic service in the recent war, his unquestionable loyalty to his country. He was now in a strange, small room with metallic walls, strapped to a steel chair, with a enormous telescreen in front of him. Another man, wearing an impeccable expensive suit, entered the room.
"Hello, Mr. Hudwell." said a man that Hudwell couldn't quite see the face, since the chair impeded him from turning his head.
This story was totally imagined and written by Nonimportant, which means no one gets special thanks. I bet you want to help me now, losers.
So, before you forget, I would appreciate feedback.
This is a work of fiction, any resemblance to actual people, places and stuff like that, is a mere coincidence. Really!