Guy and Thea sat in ‘Free Mark’ LeSaffre’s office with a woman lawyer and a government official, while Mark was out fetching Petunia. They’d been waiting for some time.
“She’ll be drugged,” Thea said. “That’s why this is taking so long.”
“We’ll need proof of that,” the lawyer said.
“That won’t be easily given,” the government man said.
Just then, Mark returned with Petunia, who for once was fully dressed. She sat on a chair beside Mark, and they were facing the other four. She seemed at peace.
“OK, Petunia,” Mark said. “I understand you know Thea and Guy Cummings here, is that right?”
“Yes,” Petunia said in a clipped voice. Oh, God, she thought; I want to scream out for them to help me, but I can’t even twitch!
“Beside them are Ms. Patricia Kay, their lawyer, and Mr. Jules Brennan, who works for the Ministry of Labour,” Mark told her. “They have some questions for you about your work here.”
“Are you happy here?” Ms. Kay asked.
“Yes,” Petunia said with a smile that seemed fake only to Thea. “Everything’s OK.” Everything in me wants to yell, ’NO’, but this thing they put in my brain has my mouth paralyzed, except for what they want me to say, she thought; Can’t I even get a teardrop to roll down my cheek?
“Are you sure, Petunia?” Thea asked, looking deep into her eyes.
“Sure, why not?” Petunia said, still smiling. “The pay is great, they provide technology to ensure no spreading of STDs, and we have full protection against abusive clients. We’re fine here. I’ve never had such job security anywhere.” My body is a traitor to my very soul…and I can’t stop it!
“Really?” Guy said. She may have acknowledged having known me, but she looks at me as if she’s never met me, he thought; her speaking sounds kind of robot-like, too.
“Petunia,” Thea said, “hold Ms. Kay’s hand, and Mr. Brennan’s, too.” Her whole manner seems mechanical, she thought; her voice sounds almost like a recording.
Petunia put her hands in those of Kay and Brennan. Please, you two, Petunia thought; feel my fingers writing ‘Help me.’
“What’s the purpose of this, Ms. Cummings?” Mark asked. “Is Petunia going to have a seance or something with Ms. Kay and Mr. Brennan?”
“Yes, I don’t see why this is necessary, either,” Kay said.
“Are we supposed to be turned on by Petunia’s tickling fingers?” Brennan asked.
“Pay careful attention to how her fingers are moving,” Thea said. “It’ll all make sense to you in a minute.”
“All I feel is random tickling,” Kay said.
I knew they wouldn’t admit to feeling a message, Petunia thought as she continued trying to write; They’re on Mark’s payroll.
“I think Ms. Cummings is wasting our time,” Mark said.
“She likes to fuck, Thea,” Guy said. “I know.”
She scowled at him, then looked with pleading eyes at Brennan and Kay.
“Mr. Brennan! Ms. Kay!” Thea said. “She’s writing in your hands! H-E-L-P-U-S. Don’t you feel it? Haven’t you noticed how fake her emotions are, how robot-like she’s acting? Capitol has her drugged in some way. She’d never willingly become a prostitute! I know Petunia! I’ve known her for years. This isn’t the real her!”
“Really, Ms. Cummings?” Mark said with a sneer.
Brennan and Kay looked at Thea with cool incredulity.
“You two are on LeSaffre’s payroll,” Thea said, then got up.
You’re right, Petunia thought; and I can’t say a word to confirm it.
“Oh, come on, Thea,” Guy said. “Be reasonable. There’s no proof of what you’re saying.”
She glared at him, then walked out of the office and slammed the door.
“Look, I’m sorry,” Guy said, getting up. “My sister’s real emotional sometimes. She can’t accept Petunia’s life choices here.” He looked over at Petunia, who showed no concern for Thea, but just stared blankly at a wall. “I’ll go get her.” He left the room.
Finally, a tear ran down Petunia’s cheek.
“Good work,” a man in the shadows of the Regulating Room said to Jim, who’d been speaking into a microphone remotely connected with a microscopic device touching Petunia’s brain, thus making her say his words. The device had been put into her in a Creep.
“To be honest, I’m not sure if I feel comfortable making her say that,” Jim said. “She’s tried to escape twice, remember.”
“Oh, come on!” the man said. “I knew Petunia, too…carnally. I had her in a hotel room. As Thea’s brother told her, she likes to fuck. What you had her say to them was practically the truth. Creeps do ensure no spreading of STDs, we do protect our Commodities from abusive clients, and her youth, beauty, and skill in bed will ensure her job security. Remember, we sic yellow Creeps only on undesirable Commodities—older ones, ones that don’t make us a profit anymore, and—“
“But this is wrong, Mr. Da—“ Jim said.
“And we also use the yellow ones on disloyal employees.”