The throb of a headache pulled him into consciousness.
The light in the room seemed to be uncomfortably bright.
When he was finally able to force his eyes to open, the sight of his 'too white' room greeted him.
He looked around the room and took inventory.
Everything was exactly the way that he remembered it.
Getting out of bed, he noted that he was once again naked, although he had no memory of undressing. In fact, he had no memory of returning to his room at all.
Without thought, he automatically walked into the bathroom to relieve himself. It wasn't until he touched his penis that he was jolted out of his thoughts by a slight pain.
He looked down at himself to investigate and found that patches of skin on his penis seemed to be rubbed raw.
Even stranger was the fact that the areas of irritation seemed to be more or less regularly occurring vertical stripes.
He quickly finished his business, then walked to the bathroom mirror to see if he could spot anything else that was out of the ordinary.
He looked carefully at his face and noticed that he appeared to be clean shaven. There wasn't a hint of a whisker anywhere in evidence.
On impulse, he looked in the cabinet under the sink and found that there was nothing stored in there, most notably, no shaving supplies.
As he slowly stood, he reluctantly looked at his arms and wasn't surprised to find three prominent injection sites on his left arm. Just as before, they seemed to be in various stages of healing. He looked carefully at his right arm to find that all those injection sites had nearly healed.
He looked at himself in the mirror, trying to detect anything else that was out of the ordinary, but couldn't find anything.
He did notice that he didn't seem to look nearly as tired as he did the last time.
* * * * *
After putting on boxer shorts, socks and a tee shirt, he walked to the closet to get a pair of coveralls to wear.
He took one down from the hanger and was just putting it on when something caught his eye.
As he pulled up the coveralls and started fastening them, he did a quick count to find five. He was wearing the sixth pair.
When he had looked in the closet the last time, there had been seven.
So, it appeared that the coveralls that he had been wearing before had been taken off and left somewhere else.
The culmination of his findings made him feel extremely uneasy, so he quickly put on his boots and laced them up.
* * * * *
When he arrived in the meeting hall, he found that no one else was there.
The room was as bright, white and sterile as ever, but he couldn't shake the feeling that there was something different about it.
In some indefinable way, it seemed more sinister.
"Oh, good. I'm glad you're here." Zarah said as she walked into the room from the hallway.
"How are you?"
"I'm not really sure. The last thing I remember is being in here, talking to you, then I woke up in my bed."
"Me, too." Joseph confirmed.
"They did something to us, didn't they?"
"Do you have any idea what?"
"Before I answer, there's something that I need to ask you. It may seem kind of... wrong. But, I don't know. That's why I'm asking."
"It's okay. Go ahead and ask."
"Let me start out by saying that where I come from, they teach 'abstinence only' in place of sex education. So, I think I know about stuff, but... well, if I'm wrong about something, that's why."
"When a girl is pregnant... how does she know?" Joseph carefully asked, then quickly explained, "I mean, I know about missing periods and stuff, but is there something... do you feel sick or... anything?"
"I've had sex education classes, but I don't remember them ever going into too much detail about anything like that. It was more about preventing pregnancy and stopping the transmission of disease."
Joseph slowly nodded as he waited for her to share what she knew.
"From what I've heard, there's a lot of things that can happen, but it's almost impossible to predict what willhappen. Every case is different and there are a lot of different ways that it can go."
"So, just speaking hypothetically, what if while we were knocked out, they... you know... impregnated you. How long would it be before you knew it?"
"Do you think they did that?"
"That's what I'm asking you, if you'd have any way of telling." Joseph quickly responded, then calmed himself a little before continuing, "All I know is that, while I was asleep, they... messed with me... down there."
"Messed with you? How?"
"I don't really know what they did, but I'm kind of rubbed raw. If I were going to guess, I'd say that they used some kind of a machine to... you know..."
"It happened again, didn't it?" Brianna asked as she walked into the room.
Zarah turned and cautiously asked, "What do you mean?"
"Us just doing things, living our lives, then all of a sudden, waking up somewhere else and not knowing how we got there."
"Oh, yeah... that. Yes. That's what happened to us, too."
"Is everyone here alright?" Mary Nicole asked as she walked into the room at a determined pace.
Although he had to force himself to speak, Joseph answered, "Yes. I think so."
"I went to our meeting room and no one else was there, so I decided to try in here before I started knocking on doors."
"Yeah. So far, we're it."
"Is something wrong?"
After a moment to seriously consider the question, Joseph quietly said, "Yeah. I think there may be."
Mary Nicole looked at him curiously, as if willing him to continue.
Joseph turned to Brianna and quietly asked, "Is there any way you could do me a huge favor?"
"What is it?"
"Would you mind going for a walk and inviting people to come back here for a meeting?"
"No. No. Not everyone. But, maybe, one or two people from each group... that is, if they're interested. Something weird is happening and I think it's really important that we get together and compare notes before it happens again."
"That sounds like a good idea. I'll go with you." Mary Nicole said with a smile at Brianna.
"Okay. But it might take a while." Brianna cautiously warned.
Joseph nodded that he understood then said, "Time has no meaning, anymore. It will take as long as it takes."
That being said, Brianna then walked with Mary Nicole toward the Blue hallway.
* * * * *
"Are you okay?" Zarah asked with concern.
"No." Joseph said simply, then explained, "Knowing that they did... that, to me. It feels so wrong. Being kidnapped, drugged, stripped naked... all of that I could deal with. But knowing that they did sexual things to me... and I don't even really know for sure what they did..."
"Just like you said to someone yesterday, feel what you're feeling and don't beat yourself up about it. Deal with it however you can."
"I'll be alright. And my way of dealing with it is to try and figure out what's going on so that we can take steps to stop it."
"This sucks!" A male voice barked from the Green hallway.
"No argument here." Joseph said with a smile when he saw Wade and Tammy approaching.
"I really wish I could have five minutes alone with whoever's doing this to us." Wade said aggressively.
In fact, the level of aggression made Joseph look at Wade with concern and ask, "Are you alright?"
Wade opened his mouth to respond, but then seemed to change his mind. All he ended up saying was a noncommittal, "Yeah."
"Brianna and Mary Nicole are walking around the station to invite people back here so we can try to figure out what happened since yesterday." Zarah explained to the newcomers.
"I'd be willing to bet that it wasn't literally 'yesterday', but I know what you mean." Joseph added.
"Did you have more beard growth?" Zarah asked as she looked carefully at his chin.
"No. They must have overheard us talking about that, because when I woke up, I was clean shaven. But I've got three fresh injection sites on my left arm in various stages of healing. So, based on that, I'd guess that we were 'out' for about a week."
"So, do you think it's December, now?"
"I really don't know. The longer we're in here, the less confidence I have in my estimates. But if I had to pick what date I think it is, I'd say... Tuesday, November 27th."
"What do you think they did to us while we were 'out'?" Wade asked in an uncharacteristically subdued tone.
Joseph looked at him for a moment, then quietly asked, "Would you help me with something?"
"Come on. I'll tell you on the way."
"This should only take a couple minutes. We'll be right back." Joseph said to Zarah and the few other Blues and Greens that had wandered in while they had been talking.
* * * * *
"What did you need help with?" Wade asked Joseph cautiously as they walked.
"Honestly, I just need to talk to somebody. Tag, you're it."
Wade's expression didn't change as he looked at Joseph with concern.
When his little joke didn't garner a response, Joseph kept walking for another minute until they reached room 112.
* * * * *
After closing the door, Joseph turned to Wade and quietly said, "I don't know for sure what they did to me while I was 'out', but whatever it was left me raw."
Joseph was surprised by Wade's expression. He couldn't tell if Wade were trying to hold back tears or rage.
"You don't have to say anything, but I just need to know if I'm the only one that it happened to. Did they do that to you, too? Just shake your head, 'Yes' or 'No'?"
It took a moment, but Wade finally reluctantly nodded.
Although his logical mind warned him against the action, it was already too late.
As soon as Wade had made the admission, Joseph wrapped him in a comforting hug.
For about half a minute, Wade stood stiffly as Joseph held him. But finally something within him seemed to give way and he brought his arms up to return the hug.
"I'm sorry, Wade. I'm sorry they did stuff to you. I promise that if there were any way that I could stop it, I would."
Given the situation that they were in, Joseph was aware that his promises and assurances were mostly meaningless, but the sympathy and caring beneath the words weren't.
At some unspoken cue, they released each other, remaining silent.
"I thought if I told you, that you'd say that I should be happy about it because it meant that I 'scored' or something."
"Even if we had 'scored', it was something done to us without our knowledge or consent. That's never alright. But considering the abrasion pattern, what was done to us had to have been done by some sort of a machine. And considering the marks that were left and how raw I feel, it couldn't have been pleasurable."
Wade wouldn't meet his eyes and seemed to be thinking over his words.
Joseph silently waited, not wanting to do anything to make Wade feel that he was being rushed.
Finally, Wade looked at Joseph and quietly said, "I guess I'd be more pissed off if I'd been doing something that I enjoyed and wasn't allowed to remember it."
"You know, we're probably not the only ones that this happened to."
"Do you think that you're up to helping me with the ones who can't deal with it?"
"I can't deal with it."
"Me neither. But I think that together, maybe we can."
"Why is this happening to us?" Wade asked as he let the last vestiges of his public 'persona' fall away to reveal the vulnerable person who was inside.
"I think that someone, somewhere, had a plan. To them, we're just a Blue and a Green. They don't think of us as people. If they ever think of us as individuals at all, then I'm subject 112 and you're subject 130. But if whoever was doing this had one shred of humanity, we wouldn't be in here to begin with."
"But what about the end of the world? I mean, isn't it possible that they're doing all of this believing that they're doing the right thing?"
Wade looked at him with surprise, not so much at his answer as the level of conviction behind it.
"If Leah's right and this whole thing was started back in the 1960's or 70's, then it's possible that they were thinking about 'people' and preserving 'human dignity', back then. But, over the years, those concepts dropped out of the equation, leaving this nightmarish parody of its original self."
"Did you always talk smart, like this?"
"No. Not always. I dumb it down most of the time."
"Good. 'Cause if you didn't, I bet you'd get your ass kicked a lot."
"Yeah. That's what taught me to dumb it down."
There was an uncomfortable moment of silence between them, then Wade cautiously said, "Thanks."
* * * * *
By the time they returned to the meeting hall, there were nearly twenty people, mostly Blues and Greens, in attendance.
"Did we miss anything?" Joseph asked Zarah as he approached.
"Not really. People are still kind of straggling in, but it's a different mood from yesterday. It's a lot darker."
"Would you be alright if I took off for a few more minutes? There's something I need to check on."
"You call a meeting and then take off and expect me to handle it? Is that what's happening here?"
After a moment to consider, Joseph said, "Yeah." Then motioned for Zarah and Wade to move closer so that he could whisper, "I just want to walk down and check on Jason. I'll be right back."
"Do you want me to go with you?" Wade asked quietly.
"Actually, I was hoping that you might check on Kenyon."
"What about Stone?"
"He's got Alyssa to fall back on. I'm not sure if Jason or Kenyon have anyone that they're close to, like that."
"Do you remember Kenyon's number?"
"Yeah. One eighty."
"So, you're afraid that the same thing happened to them..." Zarah trailed off and looked at Joseph with question.
"Yeah. That's exactly what I'm afraid of. And if it did happen to them, then they might need some help dealing with it."
"And about that thing that you and I were talking about..."
"Keep your eyes open for any signs. That's all I can tell you." Joseph told her, then started walking toward the Blue hallway.
Just as he did, Wade walked with determination toward the Green one.
* * * * *
Joseph walked purposefully down the hallway and was intending on walking through the Blue and Gray meeting room, but as soon as he entered, a girl dressed in gray quickly asked, "Have you seen Mary Nicole?"
"Yes. She's walking around the station, inviting people to a meeting in the Blue and Green meeting room."
"Oh! Good! When we woke up, she wasn't here and she wasn't in her room."
"I guess she was one of the first ones to wake up, so she walked down to our room to see if we were up yet."
"As long as she's alright. She's the only one keeping us all together."
"She's fine. I'm sure she'll be back here right after the meeting. And you can go to the Blue and Green meeting hall if you want to talk to her before that."
"I need to get back there, too. But I have something to do first." Joseph finished with a note of apology in his voice, then started walking again.
* * * * *
When Joseph arrived in the Gray and Purple meeting hall, he could immediately tell that there was a problem. "Is Jason here?"
"He's in his room. Something's wrong." A girl, dressed in purple, said anxiously. Although they hadn't been introduced, he remembered seeing her on his last visit.
"I don't know. He won't talk to us."
"Well, maybe he'll talk to me. I don't remember his number. Do you know where his room is?"
"His number is seventy eight, it's back that way." She said as she pointed to the hallway he had just come from, then asked, "Do you know what's wrong with him?"
"Maybe. Let me see what I can do."
* * * * *
After a knock on the closed door, Joseph quietly said, "Jayce, it's Joe. Can I talk to you for a minute?"
"I need some time alone."
"If the same thing happened to you that happened to me, it helps to talk to someone about it."
The door suddenly slid open to reveal the much larger teen with fresh tears in his eyes.
"Are you alright?" Some reflex within Joseph asked automatically because one look at Jason clearly told him that he wasn't.
"What did they do to you?" Jason asked as he backed into the room, clearing the way for Joseph to enter.
"I don't know for sure what they did, but whatever it was, my dick is still raw from it."
"Mine, too." Jason reluctantly admitted, then quietly asked, "But what about... the other?"
Jason turned away and, for a moment, it seemed as though he wasnâ€™t going to answer.
"I woke up and it felt like there was something inserted in my..." Jason trailed off, then finally muttered, "There wasn't, but something was done to me. I can still feel it."
Joseph suddenly realized what Jason meant and quietly said, "No. As far as I know, they didn't mess with me, back there."
"I'm sorry, Jayce. I didn't know. Me and at least one other guy that I know of got... milked, I guess. We were both rubbed raw. That's why I wanted to come down here and see how you were doing. If they did that to you, too, I wanted to be sure that you knew that you weren't alone."
"I don't know what happened. I was in the meeting room, then the next thing I knew, I was waking up here."
"Yeah. I think that happened to all of us."
"But none of the others of you were... violated?"
"I've only talked to one other guy. It's possible that there were others. But even if they didn't rape my ass, I wasviolated."
"Please don't say that."
"Okay." Joseph waited for a moment, then quietly said, "Tell me what I can do to help you deal with it."
There was a long silence, then Jason quietly responded, "Nothing."
"You know, the Grays and Purples made you their leader. They care about you and are worried about you."
"I didn't ask to be the leader. It's just because I'm bigger and look older than they are."
"But what if there's someone who is smaller and looks younger that had this done to him? How is he going to cope? Who does he have to go to?"
Jason didn't answer, but Joseph could tell that he had heard.
"I have to get back to the Blue and Green room. Brianna's walking around the station, inviting people to a meeting there so that we can discuss what's been done to us. Maybe that way we can get enough pieces of the puzzle to start making sense of this."
Jason looked up at Joseph with watery eyes and quietly asked, "You came here just to check on me?"
"Yeah. Us reluctant leaders have to watch out for each other. I mean, who else have we got?"
Jason slowly nodded that he had heard.
"Would it freak you out too bad if I hugged you?"
"I just know that when I was trying to come to terms with what was done to me, it seemed to help."
"And now, you want to help me in the same way?"
"Yeah. I mean, if you think it'll help. I know some of what you're feeling and I'll understand if you don't want to be touched."
Jason took the two steps to close the distance between them and pulled Joseph into his arms.
"Just remember, you're not alone. We've got some really good guys here if you need to talk or even if you want to 'not talk' and just hang out."
"'Not talking' sounds pretty good, right now."
"I've got to get back for the meeting. You can go with me and we can 'not talk' for a while afterward. Or, if you'd rather, you can stop by later."
"You said earlier that I've got some people who are worried about me. I think that I'd better take care of them before I can take time to 'not talk'." Jason said regretfully as he released Joseph from the hug and stepped back.
"Okay. But if you run into anyone else who was... you know..." Joseph couldn't bring himself to say it again, but forced himself to continue on,"...and if he needs someone to talk to or anything, I'll be willing to help however I can."
"Thank you, Joseph. If it's more than I can handle, I'll remember."
"You know, I've always hated it when people called me 'Joe'. I've been fighting against it my whole life. But for some reason it sounds right when you say it."
"Okay, Joe." Jason said with a weak smile, then added, "You'd better go to your meeting."
"Remember, Jayce, if you want to stop by and 'not talk', you've got an open invitation."
"Yes. I'll remember."
* * * * *
The trip back to the Blue and Green meeting hall was uneventful. He saw a few people along the way and exchanged courteous greetings with them, but didn't stop to talk with anyone.
"Did I miss anything?" Joseph asked as he walked up to Zarah.
"Thank God you're back!" Zarah said in a rush, then turned and called out, "Tammy, he's back."
"Go with her." Zarah said as she pointed at the girl in green approaching.
"What's going on, Tammy?" Joseph asked as he hurried to meet her halfway.
"Wade caught me in the Yellow and Green room and told me to get you as soon as you got back."
"What's wrong?" Joseph asked as he hurried with her into the Green hallway.
"I don't know. He went down to the Orange hallway, I guess checking on that guy from yesterday. A little bit later he came back and asked me if I'd wait for you and take you to him."
"Did he tell you what he needed me for?"
They didn't even slow down as they passed through the Yellow and Green room.
"He didn't say anything except for me to get you and not to go into the room when I brought you back."
"I guess I'll find out when we get there."
"Let Wade know that I'm going to be hanging out in the hallway, just in case he needs for me to go get something... or someone." Tammy said as they approached the Yellow and Orange meeting room.
"What are you!..." A girl began to say when she saw Joseph as they approached, but when she realized that they were going to run right past her, she simply stepped aside and let them.
"There it is, he's in there."
Joseph fought to catch his breath as he walked up to the closed door and knocked.
"It's Joseph. Can I come in?"
"Yeah. But be sure to close the door behind you." A distant voice called in return.
Joseph glanced back at Tammy uncertainly, then opened the sliding door.
* * * * *
"I'm glad you're here. We can't stop this bleeding." Wade said anxiously.
"Bleeding? What happened?" Joseph asked as he hurried through the bedroom and into the bathroom.
"I woke up in a pool of blood and it won't stop." Kenyon said in a voice that trembled with fear.
Joseph quickly evaluated the situation and could see evidence that they had been using toilet paper to try and sop up the blood.
He walked to the sink and turned it on, then took down the white hand towel beside it.
After getting the towel thoroughly soaked in cool water, Joseph wrung it out slightly, then walked to Kenyon who was standing in the shower stall.
"This is going to be a little bit cold, but it should help to stop the bleeding." Joseph said as he knelt down and used the towel not only to slow the bleeding, but also to release some of the bits of shredded toilet paper that were caught in the wound.
"It's good that you told me to check on him. He might have bled to death in his sleep." Wade said nervously.
"Actually, it probably would have stopped on it's own, long before that." Joseph said carefully as he turned the towel over so that he could continue to bathe the wound in cool water.
"How are you doing, Kenyon?" Wade asked quietly.
"It's a little cold, to tell you the truth, but thanks for helping me." Kenyon said with a tremble in his voice.
"Wade, would you rinse this out and bring it back to me?" Joseph asked as he handed the towel to him.
"Now, let's see what's going on here." Joseph said as he looked closely at Kenyon's penis to try and discover the source of so much blood.
At first glance it appeared that Kenyon had the same vertical patches of raw flesh that Joseph did, but upon closer inspection, Joseph found that along one side of each of the raw patches were deep gashes, which were still bleeding, although less than before.
"Here." Wade said quietly, over his shoulder.
"Thanks." Joseph said as he accepted the soaking wet towel, then started to bathe Kenyon's penis again.
A gasp from Kenyon caused him to look up.
"Five minutes ago, I would have told you that things couldn't possibly get any weirder. But now I'm in your bathroom... on my knees..."
"Yeah. I'd ask you to stop, but it seems to be working."
"Can you tell what happened? It was so bloody, I couldn't tell where all that blood was coming from." Wade said as he looked on helplessly.
"That's because there isn't just one injury. He's got six or eight deep vertical cuts the length of his penis." Joseph said as he continued his ministrations, trying to be as gentle as possible.
"Do you think that when they were doing what they did to us, that he got caught in the machine or something?" Wade asked as he waited for something to do.
"Since I don't know what type of machine they used or how it works, I can only guess. If there's some kind of a size adjustment, then someone must have set it to the wrong size. Or, I guess it's possible that his girth is just too big for the machine on its maximum setting. He does have a meaty one." Joseph said as he cautiously took the towel away to see if the bleeding had stopped.
"Well, not at the moment. But cold water will do that." Kenyon said shyly.
"Even now, it's an impressive size." Joseph said simply, then handed the towel back to Wade as he said, "It looks like it's stopped."
"We don't have any bandages or anything for him. What should we do now?"
"I guess you could rip up some tee shirts." Kenyon said as he watched what Joseph was doing.
"Give me a second." Joseph said as he stood.
Wade and Kenyon watched as Joseph walked into the bedroom.
* * * * *
Joseph looked around the room and his focus stopped on the spot in the wall that the computer voice had called the 'food receptacle'.
"Listen. I know that you like to pretend that you're not watching and listening, but this is serious. Kenyon needs some kind of antibiotic spray or ointment and he's going to need some bandages to keep his wounds from getting dirty." Joseph said reasonably.
He waited for a moment, but when nothing happened, he continued, "Your people did this to him. It's not his fault and it wasn't because of any decision that he made."
"What are we supposed to do when one of us has an illness or injury? Huh? Are we just supposed to get infections and die from preventable diseases because you want to pretend that you aren't watching and recording everything that we say and do?" Joseph asked angrily as he waited for some sign that someone was listening.
A few long minutes passed as Joseph waited, refusing to believe that they weren't aware of what was happening.
Suddenly, without warning, the table and chair began to emerge from the wall at the same time the 'dispenser receptacle' opened. Inside, Joseph found a roll of gauze, surgical tape, small round ended scissors and a tube of antiseptic ointment.
"Thank you." Joseph said as he collected the items.
Wade and Kenyon stared in awe at what Joseph had just done.
"Are you going to need help with this, or have you got it?" Joseph asked as he placed the items on the countertop beside the bathroom sink.
"Oh, yeah. You've got that meeting, don't you?" Wade asked, then quickly added, "We've got this. Go on."
"Be sure to let me know if you need anything." Joseph said earnestly.
"Yeah. Thanks." Kenyon said sincerely.
"Sure." Joseph answered with a smile, then thought to ask, "Do you need for Tammy to keep waiting outside for anything?"
"No. I think that we'll be okay now that the bleeding's stopped." Wade assured him.
"Alright. I'll be in the Blue and Green meeting hall if you guys need anything."
* * * * *
When Joseph stepped out into the hallway, he was surprised to find not only Tammy, but also Brianna, Mary Nicole, Randa, Lisa, Autumn and a few people that he didn't immediately recognize, standing and waiting for him.
"Tammy said that you were taking care of an emergency." Lisa explained.
"Yeah." Joseph said quietly and glanced at his hands to see if they had any blood on them.
"Is it anything we can help with?" Brianna asked cautiously.
"No. They've got it under control now." Joseph assured them, then thought to ask, "Are you ready to go?"
"Do I need to stay here, in case they need me?" Tammy asked uncertainly.
"No. The crisis is past. But thanks for coming to get me. It helped a lot." Joseph said with a quick smile at her, then started walking.
"Tanner's missing." A boy in red said urgently.
Joseph looked at him and realized that he was the older of the two boys that he had spoken with in the Red and Black meeting room.
"What do you mean 'missing'?"
"When we woke up, he wasn't in his room. From the look of it, his bed hasn't been slept in."
"What's your name?"
"I'm Jude. You talked with Tanner and me yesterday."
Joseph remembered the younger looking boy and felt immediate concern for him.
"Has anyone else noticed anyone missing?" Joseph asked as he looked at the group who were walking with him.
"No. But the way people come and go in the meeting rooms, there could be people missing and we wouldn't notice." Lisa said frankly.
"We may need to do something about that." Joseph said as they approached the Yellow and Orange meeting room.
As they continued to walk, Joseph turned to Jude and quietly said, "There are some things going on. I'll tell everyone about that in the meeting and we can decide what we're going to do about it, then."
"But Tanner's missing! We've looked everywhere!"
"We're missing someone, too." A girl's voice said from ahead of them.
Joseph was surprised to see that it was a girl dressed in orange, obviously one of the Amazons.
He was about to ask about it, but realized who they were talking to and looked to Lisa to take over for him.
Understanding what he was asking, Lisa immediately said, "Tell us what happened."
"Yesterday, we were having a meeting, then the next thing that any of us knew, we were all naked in our own beds. When we all got together in here, we noticed that Kimberly wasn't with us."
"What color is she?" Lisa asked curiously.
Joseph was surprised by the question, because he was sure that he wouldn't have thought to ask that. He didn't know if it were relevant or not, but it was possible that it might turn out to be significant.
"She's a Yellow."
"We're all going to the Blue and Green room. If you want to send someone along, we're all going to compare notes about what's happened to us and see if we can come up with any answers." Lisa said in a very calm and professional tone.
The girl glanced at the male members of the group appraisingly for a moment before cautiously saying, "I'll go."
"What was your name?" Lisa asked simply.
"I'm Lisa. You can meet the others along the way." She said, then started to walk.
"Where are you going?" A girl in orange called out when she noticed that Valerie was leaving with the group.
"I'm going to see if I can find some answers. I'll be back soon." She said decisively as she continued to walk.
Joseph looked around at the others, but didn't say a word as he followed along.
* * * * *
The girls talked to Valerie and filled her in on who everyone was and what they were doing as the group walked down the hallway toward the Yellow and Green meeting hall.
As they walked in, Joseph broke away from the group and walked immediately to Stone.
"How are you?"
"I'm feeling a little tender, to be honest."
"I think that most, if not all the guys, are feeling that right now."
"Really? Do you think they did that to every guy here?"
"Maybe. At least everyone I've asked about it so far." Joseph said quietly, then thought to ask, "Do you think that this might somehow play into the eugenics theory?"
"Yeah. Actually, Alyssa and I have been talking..." Stone started to say when they were interrupted.
"Are you ready to go?" Brianna asked as she approached.
"Yeah. We should get this started before we all black out and wake up in our rooms again." Joseph responded.
As they started walking toward the Green hallway, Stone turned to Joseph and quietly asked, "Are we each going to tell about what we've been able to figure out so far?"
"Yeah. I thought that would be the best way to brief everyone at once."
"Were you able to come up with any support for your theory?"
"Not really." Joseph admitted, then added, "But it didn't help that just when Zarah and I started talking about it, we blacked out."
"Maybe we could suggest a five minute warning, or something."
"I don't think it'd help."
* * * * *
When they arrived in the Blue and Green meeting hall, the room was nearly filled to capacity. Every color was represented although, some more heavily than others.
Joseph waved at Ryan and Kenna, then automatically went to Zarah and quietly asked, "Is everything alright here?"
"Yeah. We've just got a lot of anxious people with a lot of questions."
"Unfortunately, I don't have many answers, just more questions."
"I guess you'd better break the news to them."
"Do you have anything you want to say about what we talked about?"
"Yeah. Even if we don't know anything for sure, they need to at least be aware of the possibility."
Joseph nodded, then stepped back. He moved to stand in front of the wall that was between the two doors.
"Everyone! If you'll quiet down for just a few minutes, we're going to tell you what we know about what's going on, and what theories that we've been able to come up with. When everyone has had a chance to talk, you can ask questions or talk to us individually." Joseph said loudly.
The murmur of voices quieted as everyone in attendance waited for what he was going to say.
"I know that I haven't met some of you, I'm Joseph Harrison. Before we tell you about our theories, I need to tell you about what happened this morning. When I woke up, I found that I had several patches of raw skin on my... um, penis. From the pattern of the markings, it looks like I must have been hooked up to some kind of machine.
"At the time, it was shocking to me, and I had a sense of violation that was really difficult to deal with. But it turns out that I was lucky. Please don't ask for details, out of respect for the feelings of others, but you need to know that beyond that violation, I am aware of someone who, during the last blackout, had his genitals mutilated and another one who was anally penetrated."
A grim silence fell over the room at the announcement.
"Please, when you go back to your own areas, let your people know what happened so that if something happened to them, they'll know that they're not alone. It can be hard to deal with, so be gentle with them." Joseph urged as he looked around the room.
As much as he wanted to continue on a bit longer, to let people know just how traumatic it could be, he instead motioned to Zarah to step forward.
"I'm Zarah Holland." She said timidly, then realized that the people at the back of the room probably couldn't hear her and continued more loudly.
"After Joseph had discovered what had been done to him during the last blackout, he asked me a few questions. If they did that to the guys, then what will they do... or have they done, to the girls?"
A few nervous whispers went around the room at the question.
"When we're blacked out, we're helpless. The fact of the matter is, that any or all of us could be impregnated, without our knowledge or consent."
The whispering voices quieted and everyone waited for her next words.
"Before that happens, I think it's important that we look at this situation and ask ourselves some questions. How will you feel if you find out that you're pregnant, and you don't know who the father is? I mean, what if you really don't have any clue? How will you deal with that?
"Considering the way things are, there's also the possibility that conception could occur outside the body, in a test tube, and the embryo could be implanted later. That would mean that you couldn't really know if you were even the biological mother of the baby that you were carrying."
The atmosphere was nothing short of complete shock at the suggestion.
"Let's say, for the sake of argument, that you were able to accept that. Do you think that we'd be expected to raise a child here? I mean, look at this place. It isn't fit for a bunch of teenagers, much less newborns and infants."
Before anyone could formulate a response to that, she jumped right into her next scenario. "So, will the babies that we carry and bring to term be taken from us and raised somewhere else, by other parents? What happens to our children? What happens to us? After that will we just be waiting for the next blackout so that we can be impregnated again?"
Joseph noticed that there were a few of the girls who were on the verge of tears imagining what Zarah was proposing.
"I don't know if any of that's going to happen. But looking at the situation we're in, I think it's best that we decide how we feel about things before they start happening to us again." Zarah said frankly, then stepped aside as she motioned for Joseph to take her place.
"As many of you know, I've been walking around and asking people to come up with ideas about where we are, why we're here and what we can do about it. I think all of us are ready to hear what they've come up with." Joseph announced, then turned to Stone and asked, "Are you ready?"
"No." Stone said with a smile as he stepped forward to take Joseph's place.
He seemed to be about to speak, but instead motioned to someone to join him.
"Everyone, I'm Stone Parkinson and this is Alyssa Sanders. Joseph asked us to see what we could reason out about the theory that we were brought here as some kind of a eugenics project to breed humans with the most desirable characteristics." Stone explained, then looked to Alyssa to take over for him.
"Well, after hearing what Zarah had to say, I might actually have some good news for you." Alyssa said with a smile.
Joseph looked at her with surprise at the announcement.
"The thing is, if they went into this intending to 'breed' us, there are certain choices that they would have made differently." Alyssa said in prelude, then paused to give everyone a moment to prepare themselves. "They would have picked a different age range for the prospective mothers, probably somewhere around the mid to late twenties. If they force us to become pregnant at our ages, it's likely that there will be complications with at least some of the pregnancies that will put both the mothers and their children at unnecessary risk.
"I think Zarah effectively covered most of my other points about this place not being designed with children in mind. If this were supposed to be a facility for that purpose, it would have been built differently."
Stone stepped forward and said, "Considering what Joseph and Zarah have said, I'd say that if this facility is being used for eugenics, then the purpose of this 'level' might be to provide DNA which will be put to use on other levels. Which essentially makes us a neverending sperm fountain and a bottomless egg carton for our captors."
"Thanks, Stone. I was actually feeling optimistic there, for a minute." Joseph said with a teasing smile.
"Glad I could help." Stone said with a grin, then walked with Alyssa back into the crowd.
"I guess I'll go ahead and tell you about mine, now." Joseph said as he looked around the room. "Here, in this room, we've been working on the theory that this was all done as some demented millionaire's doomsday project to wait out the nuclear winter or the fall of civilization."
He could see that a few of the people in attendance hadn't heard the theory before and were trying to reason it out.
"What we've come up with is, to rebuild a civilization, you need to have certain essential skills. The fact of the matter is, we don't have them. And most of the essential skills that we'll be needing can't be taught very well by computer. The computer stuff really only works when civilization is up and running.
"If this is all part of some doomsday scenario, then I can't figure out what purpose there would be for bringing us here. With no scientists, engineers or doctors, what are they hoping to accomplish?
"With that being said, I admit that it's possible that there is some plan that I just can't figure out. But if it really is the end of the world and they intend for the future of humanity to be an endless repetition of blackouts and gray slime, then they should just save everyone the trouble and let humanity die out."
Joseph looked around the room for a moment, then spotted Mary Nicole and motioned for her to step forward.
She reluctantly took his place and said, "I'm Mary Nicole Anders and Joseph asked me to investigate the possibility that this might all be some kind of a psychological experiment. Before I go any further, I should tell you that I'm no expert on this stuff. A bunch of us worked together to try and sort this out.
"It seems like the only purpose in keeping us from knowing the time and date would be to disorient us. Blocking communications and isolating us from news of the outside world would also seem to be tactics to cause us to imagine the worst case scenarios so that they could observe our behavior. Add to that the components of a forced community divided by arbitrarily assigning colors, the denial of adequate food and the absence of any intellectual stimulation, and I think that a compelling argument can be made for this being a scientific study."
Curious and worried looks flashed around the crowd.
"Of course, it also seems that they've gone out of their way to eliminate any sources of joy, peace, fun, happiness, hope, safety or security. The absence of these things would serve to intensify our reactions to the situation that we've found ourselves in.
"When you put all of this together, what you end up with is an exercise in cruelty. With the blackouts, intervention in choice and memory drugs that have been used, it seems that any scientific findings would be corrupt and completely invalid. So, from what we've been able to make of it, if this is a psychological experiment, it's a hopelessly flawed one."
As Mary Nicole stepped away, Joseph took her place and asked, "Is there anyone here to speak for the Gray and Purple area?"
"Yeah." A voice answered from the blue hallway.
Joseph smiled and motioned for Jason to take his place.
"Thanks, Joe." Jason said as he walked to the front. "My name is Jason Klein. Joseph asked me to try and prove that this is all part of some big government conspiracy. Before I get into that, let me start by saying that we provide nothing. We produce nothing. As far as we've been able to determine, there's absolutely no purpose for this facility's existence."
Joseph felt unease at the statement as he reflected on what Stone had said earlier.
"If you look at how the government operates, in all its various capacities, you notice a few common influences. The ones that we focused on were bureaucrats, penny pinching accountants, and hierarchical accountability. If you want, I can go into examples of how each one behaves in the outside world, and what effects they have on the overall project. But the point I'm trying to make is that so far, we haven't spotted any evidence of any of the three."
Joseph was surprised by Jason's conclusion.
"That's not to say that this isn't something that the government set up. All it would take is someone's pork barrel project and a little cronyism to get it started. Then they just siphon money off of the Veterans Administration or something like that, to keep it going, and eventually everyone forgets about it. But as far as proving that this is a government project... I can't."
"Thanks, Jayce." Joseph said as he walked up to Jason's side.
"No problem, Joe." Jason said with a grin, then walked back to the blue hallway, to stand in the doorway.
"Lisa?" Joseph asked with a smile at her.
She was standing front and center in the audience, so she was able to take two steps to be at Joseph's side.
"My name is Lisa Blount. Joseph asked me to investigate the possibility that where we are and what's happened to us is all part of an alien abduction."
A few chuckles went around the room but, in general, the audience as a whole was more respectful than one might expect at such a suggestion.
"I suppose that it's no surprise when I tell you that I've read a lot about alien abductions. It's kind of a hobby of mine. I get lost in wonder at the stories of people encountering a spacecraft and a bright light and feeling themselves become weightless. Of them seeing alien beings, then returning to Earth to tell the tale...
"For me, there was no spaceship. No bright light. There was no weightlessness. No aliens and, so far, no returning home.
"Since I've been here, I haven't seen one single thing that demonstrated advanced technology of any kind. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that I haven't seen anything here that demonstrates twenty-first century technology to any measurable degree.
"Do I believe in aliens? Yes. Do I believe that we've been abducted by aliens? No. From everything I've seen, I can only conclude that we've been abducted by cold, callous, primitive humans." Lisa said regretfully, then went back to take her place in the audience.
Joseph looked around and was about to call on Randa, when he spotted a teenage boy in red coveralls looking at him.
"Jude? Would you like to say anything?" Joseph asked uncertainly.
"Yes. Thank you." Jude said timidly as he quickly crossed the room.
"My name is Jude Wicks, and Joseph visited us yesterday and asked if we wanted to come and tell all of you why we believe that we are God's chosen, being taken to paradise." Jude said in a surprisingly clear alto voice.
Cautious looks flashed from person to person at Jude's words.
"If this were the rapture and we were the chosen, then the time for testing would be past. There would be no more trials and tribulations." Jude said sadly, then added more quietly, "And He wouldn't take Tanner away without a reason."
Joseph was surprised to admit to himself that he felt sorry for the boy, not just for the loss of his friend, but also the loss of the religious fantasy that had brought him so much joy.
"And, like Joseph was saying, when I woke up this morning, I had those red marks, too. Our Holy Father wouldn't allow his children to be violated and molested." Jude said as he seemed to be fighting back tears.
"I take it he's not Catholic." Stone whispered at Joseph's side.
Joseph had to fight to contain a smile, and gave Stone a gentle elbow in the ribs for the inappropriate remark.
"Yesterday, after Joseph talked to me and Tanner, I knew exactly what I was going to say, and I believed every word of it. Today... all I can tell you is that whatever's going on here... it's not from God." Jude said before slowly stepping away from the front.
As Joseph was walking to take his place, he had a sudden change of heart and said, "Jude."
Jude stopped and turned to look at him.
Joseph walked two steps, then pulled Jude into a firm hug.
"We'll do whatever we can to find Tanner, I promise." Joseph said quietly.
"He trusted me." Jude sobbed.
"We'll find him." Joseph assured him, then clapped him once on the back before letting him go.
When Joseph reached the front, he glanced at Randa and asked, "Are you here to speak?"
"Yeah. But it'll just take me a minute." Randa said confidently.
Joseph nodded and gestured for her to proceed.
"I'm Miranda Sutherland, but you can call me Randa. I'm mostly here to listen to what all of you came up with, so I can tell Korbin about it. But since I'm here, I'll go ahead and fill you in on what's happening. Yesterday, we tried to break through a wall. So I guess the big news is that when we woke up this morning, the broken wall was completely fixed. The other thing is that all of us who were told that we couldn't eat last night woke up this morning not feeling hungry. So, right now, Korbin's got search parties going over every inch of the inside wall in our section to try and find a hidden door."
Joseph walked to her side and explained to the assembly, "While the rest of us were working on trying to discover the motivations of our captors, Korbin and his group have been actively searching for a way out."
"By the way, he told me to tell you that he's still waiting on his jackhammer." Randa said with a grin.
"The next one I run across is his. I promise." Joseph said with a smile, then quickly ran through the list of speakers in his mind. Once he was sure that everyone had had an opportunity to present, he looked to Valerie and said, "If you'd like to say anything to all the different groups at once, this is your chance."
Valerie looked at him with thinly veiled distaste for a moment, then walked to stand before the assembly.
"I'm Valerie Simpson. Since everyone's here, I want to explain 'The Sisterhood'. When we first woke up here and found out that there were three girls for every boy, we thought that this might be our chance to finally prove that a society of women can perform better than a male-dominated society. But I guess we let our anger at the situation we were in get to us and we started treating the guys we encountered badly."
Although Joseph hadn't heard of any instances where they had behaved inappropriately, he could easily believe her.
"For 'The Sisterhood' to hold the guys trapped in here with us responsible for the actions of those who put us in here, would be no different than the men who have held all females responsible for 'Original Sin'."
Joseph slowly nodded that he could accept what she was offering.
"If you come up with a plan and 'The Sisterhood' can help, be sure to let us know." Valerie said as she looked directly at Joseph.
Valerie moved closer to him and said in a whisper, "While you're looking for that Tanner guy, please try to find Kimberly, too."
That being said, Valerie walked away from the front and entered the Green hallway.
"That's it! If anyone wants to say anything to the whole group, now's your chance." Joseph said loudly.
He waited a few seconds, and when he received no response, he said, "Then we're done here. Hang around if you want to. I've got someone to 'not talk' to right now."
* * * * *
Jason wasn't able to contain his smile as Joseph approached.
"Did I miss anything?" Joseph asked curiously.
"I didn't catch the first of what you said, but everything that I heard sounded right."
"We didn't really come up with any answers, but maybe we got the questions out to a few more people. Anyway, I don't think it hurt anything." Joseph said as he turned and looked at the crowd of people, milling around and talking.
"I think this probably helped a lot more than you know."
"I'm here if you..." Joseph began to say when the computerized voice filled the room. "Attention, Level three residents. Today, you will have to earn your food by performing certain tasks. Some of these tasks will be academic exercises, designed to help you reach your full potential, others will be chores to contribute to the well being of your community. Your happiness is important to us."
"I gotta go. Mommy's calling me in for dinner." Joseph said with a roll of his eyes.
"Food dispensers are located in the quarters where you awakened. They will only dispense food for the person assigned to those quarters. The community areas are available for your enjoyment when your tasks for the day have been completed."
"Yeah. I'm actually curious about what these academic exercises are." Jason said honestly.
"Further updates will be forthcoming. Have a nice day."
"The sooner we start, the sooner we'll finish." Joseph said as he started walking down the blue hallway.
"Do you want to stop by the Gray Purple room, after?" Jason asked casually as they walked.
"Sure, but I won't be able to stay too long. I'm sure that someone's going to want to talk to me in the Blue Green room."
"Yeah. It's a reluctant leader thing. I understand."
They walked in silence for a moment before Joseph quietly asked, "You alright?"
"Honestly, no. But I'm better than I was."
"Good." Joseph said with a smile, then pointed as he continued, "This is mine. One twelve. Remember that you can stop by if you ever want to talk or 'not talk' or something."
"I'll remember. Thanks."
* * * * *
"Okay. I'm here. Tell me what I have to do." Joseph said as he looked around his room.
He waited for a moment, but nothing happened.
"Academic exercises." He tried, but got no better result.
He thought for a moment longer, then cautiously tried, "Food?"
"Outstanding requirements: Bed not made. Rectify situation." The computer said in what seemed to Joseph to be a smug voice.
Rather than argue, he walked to the bed and spread it up, even worse than the last time.
"Outstanding requirements: Academic exercises not complete. Rectify situation to receive nourishment."
"I hate you, you know that, don't you?" Joseph said as he watched the table and bench slide out from the wall, unlike the previous day, the 'dispenser receptacle' didn't open.
He didn't know what he was supposed to do, but reasoned that since the table had slid out, that he was probably supposed to sit down.
As soon as he sat, a projection lit up on the wall opposite him.
"Ass activated learning." Joseph muttered, then his jaw dropped when he recognized the lesson before him.
'Chemistry Logistics, Lesson 79.1'
It was EXACTLY the same lesson that he had left unfinished during the last class he attended on his last day at school.
To Be Continued...
It looks as though things are getting nastier and nastier as time goes on.
There is a condition which a lot of totally blind people have to contend with. It is called something like Non 24 condition. It has something to do with the fact that if you don't get the signal that lets the body know what time it is. anyone with sight, can detect when the sun is in the sky and when it isn't.
Basically, the coming and going if the daily appearance of the Sun vs the stars. They are something like an automatic restart.
If you don't have the various signals, such as natural light, your circadian rhythms start to fall out of line with the rotation of the planet, and you eventually start to drift out of sync.
The clocks in Windows computers can drift as much as a few seconds per day.
Sadly, there really isn't anything that is accurate.
Well, I suppose we have dragged that topic all through the mud, haven't we?
Thanks MM for another chapter, one thing seems to be clear, we actually have no idea what is actually happening or for that matter, why it is happening.
In 1969, Jim Henson produced a short film about a man who found himself trapped inside a WHITE cube, which in some ways have a very similar feel to this story. It is on YouTube You might find it interesting.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher