Duncan sat in the bar, watching the clock. He had five minutes until his official shift started and Katie would actually let him into that room again. He didn’t know what it was that kept him going back in there again, but he couldn’t help himself. He realised that it seemed weird given that he didn’t know her really, except that he felt he did. He sat in that room with her every day and talked with her. And yes, the person killing people in the vault wasn’t necessarily the genuine article but the woman complaining in the diaries he read was. He couldn’t get enough of that woman. She was funny, sarcastic and extremely high maintenance. That last one should have had him running for the hills but he couldn’t do it. For some reason, he wanted to be with her.
He wondered if things would be different had he spent these past months talking to the actual Daniela instead, the one with the personality and access to emotions. He remembered what she had been like in that short first couple of days where he had met her. He’d found himself wanting to be around her then, before she became the robot version of herself. He had liked her then. He nodded to himself. He was doing this for the right reasons, he knew he was.
He checked the clock again. Two minutes to go. He might as well make his way over there now. He got up to leave and bumped into Christiana.
“Duncan!” She said. “I was just coming to see you. Can I tag along to see Daniela tonight?”
Duncan felt a stab of annoyance at this. Not because it was Christiana, he liked her. He realised that it was because he had hoped to be alone with Daniela. The thought scared the crap out of Duncan so much that he over compensated for it in his answer to Christiana.
“Of course you can!” He said.
Christiana gave him a suspicious look but didn’t say anything and followed him out of the bar. When they reached the lab, Katie was waiting for them at the door.
“The woman has been in her element.” Katie said. “She thinks she’s worked something out. I didn’t understand it all but Gary’s in there with her now and whatever it is, he’s equally as excited.”
Duncan and Christiana walked into the lab to find Gary at the main console, talking animatedly with Daniela.
“And it’s only for males?” He asked.
“As far as I can tell.” Daniela answered. “But that’s not an issue, the component involved in that should be easy to detect. I’ll find the female equivalent with the remaining subjects, no problem."
“Daniela, this is huge.” Gary said.
“Is it a cure?” Christiana asked.
Gary turned to see them both and jumped up excitedly.
“Not exactly,” he said. “But it’s a massive improvement. It’s a medication that can eradicate the pain altogether.”
“Completely?” Duncan asked.
Gary nodded. “It doesn’t stop most of the symptoms and we haven’t worked out how to stop it from killing anyone, but it completely frees them from one symptom; the pain. They are without it completely. It means that, should anyone be infected, we can keep them comfortable right up until the end.”
“Why would anyone new get infected?” Christiana asked. “We’re all safely secured in this place, the chance of exposure is non-existent.”
“You can never tell the future.” Gary said. “At least this way, we can feel a lot calmer about the whole thing."
“I still think the whole reason she’s in there is redundant. Christiana said, taking a seat at the console. She moved her mouth to the mic. “You hear that Daniela? There is no logical reason for you being there, the bad outweighs the good entirely.”
“Once again Christiana, we’ll have to agree to disagree.” Daniela said. She was sitting at her computer which she had moved to Subject 97’s prison. Subject 97 was asleep beside her, seemingly peaceful although Duncan could see the tell-tale signs that showed he had already been exposed to the toxic air.
“Is he really sleeping?” Duncan asked.
Daniela turned to face the camera, her eyes alight. “Yes and he’s four hours post exposure as well.”
Duncan let out a low whistle.
“That wouldn’t happen to be the sound of you impressed now would it?” Daniela asked.
“It’s impressive, sure,” Duncan said. “But I’m still Team Christiana on this.” He turned to face everyone else. “Talking of which, I would appreciate it if you guys could give us some privacy. I will be reading to Daniela her most intimate thoughts and, as was pointed out to me only today, she’s not going to be too impressed if the whole world hears it.”
Duncan gave Katie a gracious nod and she rolled her eyes.
“The point I made was that she won’t like you reading it, never mind everyone else.”
“Don’t worry,” Christiana said. “I’ll make sure that he doesn’t get inappropriate about it or anything.”
“How would I get inappropriate?” Duncan asked. “Seriously, what do you guys think I do in here when I’m on my own?”
“I try not to think about it.” Katie said.
“Nice.” Duncan said, grabbing Daniela’s artistic looking diary and sitting down next to Christiana. “All of your faith in me is astounding.”
“Well, I’m going to go and tell Kelly all about Daniela’s new discovery.” Gary said. “Katie? Care to join me?”
“No.” Katie said, eyeing Duncan suspiciously once more. “But I’ll come anyway.” She turned her attention to Christiana. “Keep an eye on him.” She ordered.
Christiana saluted. “I’m on it.”
Katie nodded and followed Gary out of the room, leaving Duncan and Christiana alone with Daniela.
“So, what have I missed since the last time I was here?” Christiana asked.
“Daniela is pissed off with Josh, he stood her up, she didn’t like it, she went to confront him and here we are.” He waved the book in the air. “Brand new book and three months missing. It’s all very mysterious."
“If my laziness over documenting my life constitutes as mysterious to you, then you may need to find something more interesting to do with your time.” Daniela said.
Duncan grinned. “Are you ready?”
“If you must read it, then I’ll listen.” Daniela said, although her attention seemed completely occupied by her lap top.
Duncan opened the diary to the first page.
“Okay, here goes.” He said. “’It’s been a while since I last wrote anything down. Truth is, I can’t remember the point of it anymore. Life’s a bitch and then you die right?’ Nice Daniela. Way to keep the reader happy.”
Daniela didn’t respond. However she had now stopped what she was doing at her lap top and was facing the camera.
“That’s new.” Christiana murmured, covering the mic. “Is she actually paying attention?”
Duncan shrugged. “Maybe she’s finished doing whatever it was that she was doing.” He offered. “Might as well make the most of it.”
Christiana removed her hand from the mic and Duncan started up again.
“’I don’t even know if I care enough to rehash everything right now. My therapist tells me it would be good for me to get it out and put it into words, I don’t know if I see the point. But I’m told that this is meant to be good therapy and crap like that so whatever gets me out of this crappy hospital.’”
Duncan stopped dead in his tracks. That he didn’t expect. He looked at Christiana who was mouthing the word ‘hospital’, her face a question mark. He shrugged his response and glanced back at Daniela. She was upright now, her entire body turned to the camera. There she sat, completely still, waiting.
“Er,” Duncan started. “Maybe this isn’t a good idea. Probably best if I read ahead before I start in on the bed time story.”
“Carry on.” Daniela said.
“You want me to carry on?” Duncan asked. “You hate that I read to you normally.”
“This time I’m interested.”
“Just give me a minute to read up on what it is that I am saying.” Duncan said.
“No.” Daniela said firmly. “It will cause you to limit what you’re reading. I want to hear it all.”
“Daniela,” Christiana said. “Do you remember writing this?”
Daniela thought about it for a moment. “No.” She said eventually. “But I’m intrigued. Please continue.”
Duncan once again looked to Christiana for advice, she nodded to him. “Might as well,” she said. “At least she’s interested.”
It didn’t feel right to Duncan, the words on the page coupled with Daniela’s bizarre reaction sent shivers down his spine. But he cleared his throat anyway and turned back to the book.
“’I’ve been here three weeks now and apparently I’m not dealing as well as I should do. They’re talking about sending me to a nut house, no thanks. I’m fine. I just don’t give a rat’s arse about what happened. My therapist says that if that’s true then I won’t mind writing it down. Fine. If it will get her off my back... The bastard Josh abducted me.’” Duncan shut his mouth firmly. He didn’t want to continue.
“You’ve stopped again.”
The monitor showing Daniela’s vitals started to beep. Christiana scanned the results.
“That’s odd.” She said.
“What is it?” Duncan asked.
“If I didn’t know better I’d say she was anxious.”
Duncan looked back at Daniela. She was on her feet now, it felt as if her eyes were directly on him.
“Duncan, I want to hear the rest of the entry.”
“I really don’t think that this is…”
“I don’t care.”
Duncan shut off the mic and turned to Christiana.
“This isn’t how I wanted to do it.” He said. “This is clearly some really big shitty thing from her past. I think we should stop.”
“This may bring her back.” Christiana said. “I know it seems bad, but if it allows her to access an emotion…”
“No.” Duncan snapped. “Not like this, she was meant to find a happy emotion, that’s why I was doing this. That or it was a ‘oh no, I’ve just broken up with my boyfriend’ type of sad emotion, not ‘oh no, I was abducted for a month!’ I’m not going to do that to her.”
“Duncan, it’s either this or we run the risk of never bringing her back again.” Christiana said. “She’s actually reacting to something you’re saying. Who knows if this will ever happen again?”
“Duncan.” Daniela’s voice came over the sound system, it was a low warning tone.
“She sounds pissed.” Duncan said.
“Exactly!” Christiana said.
Duncan thought about it for a moment and turned the mic back on.
“How are you feeling?” He asked.
“That question is irrelevant. I want you to continue reading.”
“And if I don’t? What will you do then?”
“I’ll keep asking until you do.”
“You can always come in here and read it for yourself?” Duncan suggested, hoping in vain that she would accept the offer.
Daniela smacked her fist against the table, breaking the corner off and sending it flying across the room.
“Stop playing games and read the damn diary!” She yelled.
Anger. She was actually expressing anger. Not only that, but the look that she was now displaying was so murderous that Duncan was sure she would have taken a swing at him if he had been in the room.
“You have to do this,” Christiana whispered. “If it’s too much, I can take over. I don’t mind.”
“No,” Duncan said. “It’s fine. I’ll do it.” He moved his mouth closer to the mic. “Hear that Daniela? I’ll do it, but you continue to yell like that and I’ll be forced to put you on the naughty step.”
“Yeah, that’s a good idea,” Christiana said. “Poke the beast.”
Duncan sighed. “Let’s just get on with this.” He turned his attention back to the book. “’For three stupid weeks I was stuck in a room. Guys came and went. I’m not even going to justify what they did by writing about it.’” Duncan stopped again. He was angry himself. He didn’t want to read this anymore. Suddenly all the lectures he had heard before about reading these diaries being an invasion of privacy ran in full speed through his mind. He for once agreed with the general consensus. He shouldn’t be reading this.
Christiana took the diary from Duncan. “Let me,” she said quietly and took over from where he had left off. “’I think the thing that pisses me off the most about the whole thing is that they’ve made me resent being as clever as I am. I’ve never felt like this before. My brain is awesome and they wanted to rid me of any enjoyment of it. Bastards.’”
Christiana stopped and they both watched Daniela. She was looking into space, her fingers resting on her temple.
“I have a headache.” Daniela said, confusion evident in her tone. “I’d forgotten… I mean… ouch.”
Duncan was up in a second, his mouth inches from the mic.
“Daniela, are you okay?” He asked. “Do you need help?”
Daniela looked straight into the camera.
“I have a headache” She repeated. “Why do I have a headache?”
“I don’t know.” Duncan said. “Give us a moment and we can get Gary in here to take a look.”
“No.” Daniela said. “I don’t want other people in here, I don’t think that I’d approve of many other people listening to what’s in that diary.”
“Well that’s simple.” Duncan said. “We won’t read the diary anymore.”
“What? No!” Daniela said.
“I’m not putting your health at risk just so you can remember some traumatic suppressed incident in your past.”
“It’s just a headache,” Daniela said. “It’s not like I’m dying!”
“Daniela…” Duncan started.
“Christiana, continue reading. I need to hear this.”
Christiana shot a panicked look between Duncan and Daniela, clearly deciding who to side with.
“Do you want me to feel anything or not?” Daniela asked irritably.
That seemed to seal the deal for Christiana and she turned back to the book.
“’I don’t even care that this was all a betrayal from Josh. I stopped caring about that after the first day of being there. They were too relentless with their demands for me to concentrate on anything else.’”
A loud sob escaped Daniela’s throat. Duncan watched as she fell into a crouch, her hand still holding onto the edge of the table. He ran to her human body, laying still in the pod. According to the screens, her heart rate was elevated. Her eyes seemed to be moving behind her closed lids.
“They wouldn’t stop coming in,” Daniela’s voice echoed through the room over the sound system. “Day after day, they kept on coming, kept on asking me to do things, to put together machines and solve equations that I knew couldn’t be meant for anything good.”
Duncan turned back to the screen, her Walker appeared to be hugging herself now.
“I wanted to say no, I wanted to be okay. I wanted to fight against what they were asking and give my life up if it was needed. I wanted to be that strong person. But I couldn’t… when I didn’t do what they wanted they used to… to…”
“Stop.” Duncan said. “We don’t need to hear it. It’s okay."
Daniela didn’t argue. She just sat there, her head buried in her arms. After a while, she suddenly straightened out and walked over to the door leading to the remaining three survivors. None of them had been contaminated as of yet. She grabbed her hand held device and pressed a button. Her Walker immediately lost form and re-emerged from a stagnant Danel already in one of the remaining uncontaminated cells.
“Daniela,” Duncan said. “What are you doing?"
“Shut up.” Daniela snapped. “I need to think.”
She reached out to the drip keeping the survivor asleep and pulled it out. She stood silent, watching and waiting for the sleeping woman to wake up. It took a couple of minutes. When the woman started to come around, Daniela walked to the cupboard in the cell and brought out a change of clothes and a blanket. She handed the contents to the woman who sat up and looked down at the material, blinking in a mixture of confusion and fatigue.
“Put it on.” Daniela said.
“Is this needed?” The woman asked. “Am I already contaminated?”
“No.” Daniela said, “And you’re not going to be.”
“Don’t even try convincing me of this.” Daniela said. “I have killed 97 people already. I’ve reached my limit. Besides, I don’t need to kill any more people, I’ve found all I’ve needed to."
“You’ve found the cure?” The woman asked, excitedly.
Daniela faltered for a moment. “Yes.” She said.
The woman beamed excitedly. “Then everyone’s saved? All the survivors don’t need to worry?”
“Sure.” Daniela said, “Put the clothes on.” She walked to the entrance to the cell and entered the code to open it. “Feel free to leave whenever you want.”
“I can’t believe it!” The woman said. “This is so exciting! I knew that you would be the one to figure it out!”
“What’s your name?” Daniela asked.
“Kirsty.” The woman answered as she pulled on her trousers. “I was told that there would be a chance that I would survive if you figured out the cure before you got to me. If I’m honest it’s the reason why I volunteered, knowing that I would be one of the last you would get to and thus securing more of a chance of survival.”
She stopped for a moment, thinking.
“That sounds selfish doesn’t it?” She asked. “I know the fact of us being here would mean that we should be self-sacrificing and all, I mean, it was one of the things that they told us we had to make sure that we did, make it as easy as possible for you, and I would have, if it was needed, but now that you tell me it isn’t… well, I’ve got to say, I am so relieved!”
She finished dressing, throwing the jumper over her head and jumping down from the bed. Immediately her legs crumpled underneath her and Daniela grabbed her before her body hit the floor, propping her up with her arms.
“Whoops,” Kirsty said. “I guess it’s been a while since I’ve used these things.”
She sat back down on the bed and worked on bending her knees. Daniela moved to the next cell, once again switching her Danel form so as to avoid possible exposure from one cell to the next. She continued to wake the remaining two women from their sleep and opening their cells to the main corridor. Duncan and Christiana watched her without saying a word, it was clear that something had shifted, and she wasn’t killing them which was a vast improvement. Of course, getting the survivors out of the room would be a challenge but if anyone would be able to figure it out, it would be Daniela.
“Please be okay, please be okay.” Duncan pleaded under his breath as he watched Daniela’s every move. Occasionally he would check to see her vitals, her heart was racing at a solid high rate but she seemed to be keeping it from getting too out of control.
Once all three women had woken up and had been told Daniela’s white lie about a cure being found, Daniela started to lead them down the massive corridor to the entrance point between the cells and Daniela’s lab where Duncan and Christiana currently sat.
“This is it.” Duncan said, his own heart beginning to race. “She’s actually coming out.”
“Somehow I don’t think it will be that easy,” Christiana said. “Sure, Daniela can leave whenever she wants, but them? I don’t see how that door will open, at least not without Kelly.”
“Then go and get her and work that guilt trip magic on her again.” Duncan said.
Christiana made a move to leave the room when Kirsty suddenly stopped following Daniela.
“Huh, that’s weird.” Kirsty said.
“What is it?” Daniela asked.
“My arm, it just twitched. Is that because of the anaesthesia?”
Daniela didn’t say anything but watched Kirsty’s arm intently. It twitched again, as if on cue. Daniela stumbled backwards.
“Impossible,” She said. “I didn’t expose you.”
“It’s from the anaesthesia then.” Kirsty said.
Daniela shook her head.
“What’s going on?” Another one of the survivor’s asked, Duncan vaguely remembered that she was called Charlotte.
“Ouch.” Leah, the third survivor said as she stumbled backwards, clutching hold of her head.
“What’s wrong?” Daniela asked, although her voice sounded cold and icy, as if she had already figured out the answer.
“My head is killing me.” Leah said.
“No.” Daniela said, shaking her head frantically. “I can’t… I didn’t expose you… I made sure… you’re meant to make it. I made sure!”
“We’re exposed?” Charlotte asked
“It must have been the corridor.” Daniela muttered to herself. “I must have exposed the main bulk of the room at some point.”
“Wait,” Leah said. “What are you saying? Are we going to die?”
“No.” Kirsty said. “It doesn’t matter if we have been exposed. She has a cure remember?”
Daniela’s heart rate began to increase. She turned to the camera, looking Duncan straight in the eyes.
“I can’t… please… I didn’t know.”
“It’s okay.” Duncan said in a desperate attempt of reassurance. “You don’t have to be there anymore.”
“She doesn’t have to be where?” Kirsty asked. “Here? Damn right she does! She’s got to give us the cure!”
There was silence. Daniela just looked at the three women, a terrified expression on her face.
“Daniela, please tell me that you have the cure?!” Kirsty said.
Again, Daniela just stared, her expression staying exactly the same. Eventually, it was Leah who spoke.
“Kirsty,” She said. “We volunteered for this, remember? Our survival was never meant to be on the cards.”
“Well they were crap cards!” Kirsty said. She turned her attention back to Daniela, her glare thunderous. “You told me that I wouldn’t die. I don’t want to die.”
“Well tough.” Charlotte said, matter-of-factly. “None of us want to die, but none of us qualified as survivors, so suck it up.”
“And why didn’t I qualify?” Kirsty asked, she was crying now. “I’m prettier than her, I’m far more experienced in life, I’ve had three kids so we know I’m fertile!”
“I wanted to save you,” Daniela said. “I tried. I didn’t want this.”
“Yeah well, you failed.” She said, squaring up to Daniela. “Some genius you turned out to be.”
Immediately, Daniela’s increased heart rate began to drop and level out and her slightly cowered stance began to straighten out.
“Duncan, what’s happening?” Christiana asked.
Duncan’s stomach dropped as the realisation of what was happening hit him. “Oh no you don’t.”
“What?” Christiana asked. “What is it?”
“She’s forgetting.” Duncan said. “She’s letting go. Daniela! Don’t do this.” He said. “You are so close to getting out. Don’t do this.”
“Do what?” Charlotte asked.
Daniela didn’t respond to either person. Instead she just stared levelly at Kirsty. Duncan felt a rush of panic shoot through him. Suddenly he knew, he would do anything to make sure that she got out of that room. Without thinking he started to speaking again.
“Josh! You remember him?” He said. “He abducted you and tortured you. Remember that? You were forced to create unspeakable things.”
Nothing. Daniela still stared, her vitals eerily at it’s normal state. Duncan snatched the diary out of Christiana’s hands and started to read.
“’Every day they would come in, every day they would demand things from me. I held my own for at least a week. But each time I denied them, they would do things that I never had thought were possible. I hated them but they didn’t care. They continued on and on until I had no choice but to do what they said. I thought someone would come and save me. I was convinced that someone would stop what was happening, but no one did, no one came and it just got worse.’”
“They tortured you Daniela. They did unspeakable things to you and no one saved you. You were lost. Remember that feeling?”
“Shut up Duncan.” Daniela said.
“No! Damn it, woman. I’ve had enough of your crap. Stop hiding from what’s going on.”
“Why?” Daniela asked.
“Because I need you to. Please Daniela. I can’t stand you being in there anymore.”
The words were out of Duncan’s mouth before he even knew they were true. Although now that they were out there, he was certain of the truth behind them. Daniela turned to camera, her face was a mixture of confusion but her heart rate began to spike again.
“Would someone please tell me what’s going on?” Kirsty asked. “How are we going to survive this?”
“We’re not,” Charlotte said. “Stop being a bitch about this Kirsty. We’re infected and also the last of the test subjects. Which means, there is no cure.”
“So we’re not even dying for a reason?” Leah asked.
“I can make you comfortable.” Daniela said, her voice small and full of emotion.
Duncan breathed a sigh of relief, she hadn’t gone completely.
“The drug works for certain... on males, I haven’t tested it successfully on female subjects yet, but I think I know what I need to do.”
“Enough Duncan,” Daniela said flatly. “I’m still here but I’m staying put.”
“But…” Duncan started.
“She said enough.” Christiana said. “She can’t leave them, let her do what’s needed.”
Duncan wanted to argue, he wanted to get her out of there in the small window that they had whilst she still showed the briefest of humanity, but he knew he would lose this argument. Daniela needed to make those three as comfortable as possible. It didn’t stop him from hating it with every fibre of his being. It made him feel useless which he hated more than anything else in the world. With a groan of frustration, he turned off the mic and stormed out of the room.