Jeremy Olson thought through the events that brought him to his present state. Strapped to a titled hospital style table, in a cold, sterile room, he could imagine himself in any hospital he’s ever been in or seen in the holographic video shows he enjoyed. There were monitors taped to him, needles supplying fluids, and various scars lined his shaved scalp. He imagined a hospital. One that looked out for his care and well being. One that performed surgery to fix some grievous wound in his head. Unfortunately, this place was not that place.
Jeremy enjoyed many privileges at the Ork Rights Committee. Housing. Food. Medical care. And a solid wage. He knew he was not the smartest Ork in the Petersburg Barrens, but this place showed him comfort and more than that, a place where he belonged. A purpose. Jeremy thought about the offer from the old man he encountered one day in Max’s Diner after his shift. It was so much money. More than he had ever heard of, and simply for placing some devices around the compound and discussing when shift changes occurred. The task seemed harmless enough. Jeremy remembered his mom’s assertion of the adage: if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Jeremy never ventured into the basement levels of the ORC compound. He knew that research and development occurred in the lower levels, and that surgical suits existed there as well. Whenever one of the employees were sick or injured, they would go below to receive medical care. On occasion, a shipment of medical supplies would arrive presumably to restock the stores there. No employee would be turned away, even if a high expense was involved. Sometimes, Mr. Grummish would provide that care personally.
I wish he was providing care for me, thought Jeremy, instead of what he’s doing now.
Jeremy tested the straps, another one of thousands of attempts, all in the futile hopes that he could wriggle out of them. A voice entered the room, with no apparent source for the sound.
“You ain’t gettin’ free, there friend,” said the voice in a chuckle. “Even if you did, where would ‘ya go? It’s one thing to refuse hospitality, but to turn on the hand that feeds ‘ya? Not smart there kiddo. Heck, you could’ve quit. Walked away. Left it all behind. No problem. People done that before, lookin’ to better themselves.” Another laugh. “Nah, you had to go and get one of us killed-”
“I didn’t kill anyone!” shouted Jeremy to the air.
“You did things that got someone killed,” said the voice spitting its words in contempt. “May as well have pulled the trigger yourself.”
“I didn’t mean for that to happen,” Jeremy whimpered, his voice trailing off.
The single door, oversized for the large medical gurneys, including those large enough for trolls, opened. Wearing a white lab coat, light blue examination gloves, and carrying a handheld computer tablet, Grummish entered the room, looking though his glasses at the computer. “How is our test subject today?” asked Grummish to the air.
“He’s been pulling on those restraints,” said the voice flatly.
“Well,” Grummish said swiping across the screen, “fear is a powerful motivator. Living things will do almost anything to save themselves. With the noteworthy exceptions of protect one’s lineage or those one may love. The test subject does not have such attachments.” Grummish paused. “At least not now.”
Grummish tapped the computer, saying aloud, “Record. Test Subject KO. Session 12. Subject continues to resist the restraints.” Grummish walked over to Jeremy, examining the incisions on his scalp. “Incisions are healing at an appropriate rate.” Grummish took an image of the wound from his computer. “Beginning negative verbal stimulus, script 113.” Grummish walked in front of Jeremy, looking directly into Jeremy’s eyes.
“Did you know that when you are injured,” Grummish began in an orchestrated monotone, "the injury itself does not cause the pain? In fact, there is a disorder where the person does not experience any pain. It is called congenital insensitivity to pain. This condition may appear to be a good trait, does it not? There is even cyberware designed to interrupt pain signals to allow the user the ability to take actions in spite of it.
“The inability to feel pain often leads to injuries left untreated and sometimes even death. Pain is a necessary component of life. It is through pain that we learn the need to avoid injury. To keep ourselves safe. However, the site of injury is not what causes the sensation of pain. Rather, it is your mind that interprets the signal from the nerves as pain. In fact, in cases of severe injury, the mind will respond by flooding your system with chemicals which dampen the pain. Some even report feelings of euphoria in such instances.
“The brain, though, also can cause you to shut down entirely. Too much trauma, particularly in the correct spot, and instant unconsciousness occurs, sparing pain, but leaving you completely vulnerable to any would be attacker. In the wild, such trauma would instantly make you food for any predators.
“So, what is the point of all this? We are going to test a piece of custom cyberware. You see, this cyberware causes pain overriding any natural tendency to minimize such pain, while preventing the body from falling into shock. The true power of this cyberware is that no physical injury is required. Remember, pain is a function of your body’s nerves sending signals to the brain. The same technology that dampens that natural response can likewise mimic those same signals causing pain without actually causing injury.
“For example,” Grummish said while tapping on the screen of the computer, resulting in Jeremy screaming in agony. "I can cause those signals to mimic every nerve ending in your right hand sending signals to your brain. That pain can be maintained over time, never diminishing, but never causing injury. No matter how much pain is created, you cannot fall unconscious.
“End recording. Subject’s response is within the expected parameters. Neither unconsciousness nor any euphoria noted. Pulse and blood pressure consistent with baseline data. Pain condition appears to effect only the mind, with no noticeable physiological results.”
Jeremy, overwhelmed, yelled, “Just kill me! Do it! Get it over with!”
Grummish’s visage changes, with a slight smile. “Let’s send all signals at once to the brain.” Another swipe on the computer screen and Jeremy begins to shake violently.
“Hm,” Grummish said in an upbeat tone, “the device is working beyond expectations. No physiological response at all. I am going to leave the subject in this state for a while. Continue recording results.” Grummish leaves the room.
“How is our subject faring?” asked Grummish as he entered the antiseptic research room with Jeremy.
The disembodied voice of the guard watching the room answered over the hidden speakers in the room. “He stopped shaking a bit back. He’s definitely awake. Been moaning about wanting to die. He’s barely whispering.” After a pause, “I gotta say boss, its hard to watch. Scary….”
“Your concern is noted,” Grummish answered pushing his glasses up to the bridge of his nose. “The testing is almost done Joseph. Remember his actions resulted in the death of one of us.”
Joseph, the voice, “Yes, sir. But this is way beyond what I thought might happen.”
Grummish looked up to face the one way glass. “Thank you Joseph. I believe you are correct that we should terminate this testing immediately.” He then tapped a few times on his computer and Jeremy’s body went slack in the restraints. “I will leave Jeremy’s fate to your good judgment. I am certain you will choose a correct course of action. Left to my good judgment may cause you even further moral… ah… discomfort.” Grummish then spun on his heel and walked out of the room almost before Joseph could respond with, “um… yes sir.”