The Lonesome Road

Negative stimuli

Subject 173 is not responding as initially hypothesised. Opportunities to test newly manifested abilities have been hampered by uncooperative behaviour.

Subject unresponsive to positive and negative stimuli -

Rattray raised an eyebrow.

“What constitutes… negative stimuli?”

The woman in front of her coughed nervously.

“Subject 173 has proven unresponsive to various instances of pain in itself and others. He… it ignores threatening or aggressive behaviour and heals any damage inflicted upon it. We already theorised the subject would not be concerned by enclosed spaces or isolation and this has proven true. It seems unconcerned by lack of food and water – in fact, it has refused all sustenance offered to it since returning. We theorise it may be consuming its own bodily matter for nourishment, although the cameras have not managed to catch it.”

“How barbaric. What have these savages been teaching it?”

“I… don’t know, Doctor.”

Rattray stared at her. The woman smiled nervously. There was lipstick on her teeth.

“And the positive stimuli? Gifts, encouragement, praise, positive reinforcement? The obvious treatment one gives to a petulant child when you want it to behave.”

The woman nodded. “We… are uncertain how to proceed. It has been some time now and we are having limited effect. We do not know if we will ever be able to return things to a productive state. How long would you like us to continue trying?”

Rattray sighed, staring at the monitor. The image in the middle of the wall of screens showed a small boy sitting in the corner of the white room. It was curled up, arms wrapped tightly around its knees and staring blankly at the door. As if it knew she was watching somehow, it turned its head and stared up at the camera. She looked into its strange eyes, searching for what she needed to find. She didn’t find what she wanted.

After a long awkward pause, she spoke again. “I will let you know. It will take 1717 some time to reach us again. We have time to continue tests.”

“And if 173 continues to prove unresponsive? It heals supernaturally fast, resists all poison and disease and somewhere along the way it learned how to use a knife.” The woman shuddered. “Jennings found that out the hard way. He’ll probably never be able to use the hand again, unless 173… Regardless, we can’t simply lobotomise it.”

“Can’t we?” Rattray turned and looked at her.

The woman looked aghast. “Think of the damage it could do to the tissue, ma’am!”

“You said it yourself. It heals. It sleeps. All we have to do is wait for the right moment. Then we get the right tools, apply pressure in the right place and… reset.”

“I… can it be done? Do we have the tools? Do we have someone with the precision and neurological expertise to do that?”

“The tools are currently on their way back to us as we speak.” She drummed her fingers on the desk. “I will perform the operation, if it comes to that. But I would prefer that it didn’t.” She turned and gave the woman a pointed look.

“Of course.” The woman nodded hurriedly. “I’ll go and talk to the team. We’ll redouble our efforts, try something new. This can still be salvaged.”

“Good.” She went back to staring at the monitor. “It is important we take the best possible care of our… investments.”

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Marlene

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