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Old 11-30-2012, 02:20 AM   #1
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Paper Doll (closed for Miss_Vivi)

Subject 9 is ready.

The note was written in a precise hand at the end of a series of ordered paragraphs, all written in the same careful script. For Adin Hunter, there really was no other way to write. His handwriting was virtually indistinguishable from that of millions of others, devoid of extra loops or curls, as was much of the rest of him. He was long and lean, with dark hair and limbs that seemed almost as if they'd been stretched to be longer. His fingers, as well, were long and graceful, though they had little to do with the look of his writing. He simply wrote as virtually everyone else did.

For three years he'd watched Subject 9, given name Inika Cole, looking for signs that she was a Creative. Copious notes had been taken on her movements, her interests, the way she dressed, the way she wore her hair, and virtually every other facet of her personality that was observable. It had taken up 43 rectangular black notebooks, which were lined up in chronological order and filling a shelf and a half in Adin's laboratory. Four more notebooks sat next to those, grey in color instead of black, and they contained his observations from the few times he'd made contact with her over the years. These instances were rare, brief, and stretched out to minimize the risk he was recognized, but they were a necessary risk in order to judge whether or not she was truly a Creative.

It was a bit of irony that notes on Creatives were made with pen and paper, given that the invasion of technology into every corner of human life is what made the Project necessary in the first place. The more that work, calculation, thinking, and creating was given over to computers, the more it was phased out of the sapien genome. Evolution moved on, as it always does, and it was only thanks to a concerted effort by a small but powerful group of people that any creativity remained in the human mind. But it was rare, and more precious than anything mined from the ground, and often quite imperfect.

More irony presented itself here. Only through the marriage of psychology and the very technology that brought about these circumstances could the Creatives be perfected. Their gifts were like a fine diamond, roughed by a personality that did not allow their full potential to shine. Much like the diamantaires of old, it was the job of a Steward was to change the personality of each Creative until one of optimal operation was found. It was a difficult process, one that involved much testing and refining, and meant the Steward and Creative had to work quite closely together. Creatives often formed an attraction to their Steward that they had no capacity to reciprocate, but thus far no solution to this problem had been found. Failure to find the right personality for a Creative meant death for the Steward, resulting in little hurry in fixing the problem of a Creative's attraction.

While in the Program, a Creative was referred to as a Paper Doll.

The approach was always a delicate process, because while a Creative would care more deeply for their family than the average sapien, becoming a Paper Doll meant leaving that family behind. Creatives were often able to return to their families after leaving the Program, giving them a better life than they could've possibly had on their own. It was this process, the conversation of Subject 9 into Paper Doll I-1417-3902, that Adin must now prepare for.

The black notebook was closed, the pen capped, and he let Subject 9 drift from his site. Contact would come the next day, so there was no longer a necessity to follow her. The pen was placed against the cover of the notebook, where it stuck as if held there by magnetic attraction, and then the notebook was slipped into an inner pocket of the grey, synthetic-fiber jacket he wore. The simple crew neck shirt under it was white, the creased pants that hung to the tops of his black shoes made from the same synthetic, grey fiber as the jacket. He was dressed, with little variation, like everyone else he passed on the way to the transport that would take him back to his lab. He spoke to no one, and no one spoke to him, the only sounds in the air made by the collective footfalls of the moving mass of humanity, and the machinery that ran their lives.

Behind a mask of blank expression that matched those he passed on the street, Adin Hunter found it all so boring he wanted to scream.
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Old 11-30-2012, 01:31 PM   #2
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Popping her head off the pillow, Inika Cole smiled to herself. Her 21st year. It started today. In the ancient days it would have meant cake and ice cream, Inika knew. She had read about the ancients on the wiki that held all of the records from the world before.

The world before fascinated Inika, it fascinated her like many things did, a curiousity of things and the world around her that did not really seem to ever quell or to go away as many thought it might over the years. It marked her as different from her family and her peers. She had read about friendship and none of the relationships of her peers really matched the description. Inika had even researched the idea of love. A notion that had sent her mother into a distinct frown, not that the woman ever smiled or really frowned, but Inika knew that her curiousity made her different from everyone she had ever met.

Inika slid out of bed and pulled out her clothes for the day, once again, as always wishing for a piece of red clothing, not that she had ever seen red clothing anywhere but on the nets that detailed human history from before. Just one red dress to dance around in, would make her the happiest-

"Inika, breakfast," her mother commed her from downstairs. Quickly pulling on her grey jumper that would protect her from the sun's rays, she reminded herself to plod down the stairs and not dash like she so wanted to.

"Morning, Mother, Father, Brother." she said inanely watching each of them for the nod that would follow her greeting. She loved them, or at least was reasonably sure that she did given that she wasn't completely sure of the concept. Still she didn't ever want to leave them, at least not until she was assigned a mate by the program. And then it would be IVF, C-section, and raising of those children that would be assigned to her and her mate.

It was enough to make her yearn for more.

She almost wished she was a Creative. Those girls and boys who were spirited from their homes, while their families quietly prospered, they were never seen again, but it was whispered that it was they who ran the program, who furthered humanity's collective goals against a barren and empty world. The Creative's were a force to be reckoned with, but they were never seen in the normal population. They lived separate but honorable lives, one night in a fit of despondency at the boringness of her life she had researched the Creatives, coming up with nothing more than what the Program usually told them.

That they were honorable and wonderful women and men whose genetics had set them above the normal human, and they would therefore be raised above.

It was enough to send Inika into a bout of highly wishful thinking. Calmly, she munched on her morning bread while she thought about this.

"Today is your mate day, isn't it Inika? How nice for you."

She nodded and stared at her plate. She wished for cake and got a pre-planned life instead.
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Old 11-30-2012, 07:08 PM   #3
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In the Life Creation and Mating Bureau were three rooms different from any other. The most noticeable to anyone that entered it was the shocking lack of technology in the room. Unlike the artificial light that seemed to come from nowhere in particular, dull, blunt, and eliminating almost all possible shadows in a room, these rooms were lit with three long tubes filled with compressed florescent gas. In the center of the room sat a small metal table, with two chairs of brushed steel on either side, facing each other. There was no clock on the wall. No windows let in outside light, or let anyone see inside to what went on.

The inside of the walls held, perhaps, the most complex technology, thought that was not saying much. Static and electromagnetic generators assured that anyone who tried to bring anything that could record, transmit, receive, or deliver any any information would quickly be holding a useless piece of burned up technology in their hands. Two doors, one behind each chair, were the only way in or out of the room, and each was guarded by a human with orders not to hesitate in the use of deadly force, a sharp contrast from the typical android security that would simply subdue with submission nets until the subject could be taken away.

In short, these three rooms were some of the most unique in all of the country.

Most days, they were completely unused. A single cleaning person was allowed in, once a week, to clean each room, and their every movement was supervised by two guards with blades and orders to kill without hesitation. Every so often, though, a Creative was due into the Bureau, even more rarely were days when two were due in for matching in the same day, and only then were the rooms used. It was this reason that brought Adin to the Bureu today, though he arrived via private transport, entered through a back entrance, and would never be seen by the few staff that worked out in the building.

Unlike virtually every other day, he was today dressed in a suit of dark black, the material made from natural wool. The tie he wore was a bright red, and made of a silk so fine it seemed to throw back the light brighter than it was when it took it in. In the pocket of his jacket was a folded square of blazing red silk. It was all part of a highly choreographed dance designed to draw in the Creatives, make them feel as if this is where they belonged. Where they were understood. Where they could let out everything that had, for so long, felt bottled up inside. Stewards, themselves, were simply a cog in that machine. Creatives did not become Stewards.

For everyone else walking into the Bureau that day, a matching of mates would be had, a calculation of the number of children they would be given would be carried out, and a new and bland life together would begin. The only changes would be where they lived, and who they lived with. Unknown to her, Inika, currently designated Subject 9, would do none of this. Upon scanning her palm, she'd be directed to a long hallway that would end in a single door. Through it would be another, shorter hallway, with three stoic guards standing before each door. One of them, the far door, would be standing open. And inside, seated at the table and facing the open door, would be Adin Hunter, hands folded on a small, rectangular black notebook that sat on the table before him.

Waiting for her.
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Old 12-01-2012, 10:50 PM   #4
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Her parent's goodbyes had been perfunctory at best, and her bother's nonexistent. She would not be seeing them until after the bonding, and then likely once to bring her the remainder of her things from their house, as she'd be considered a full adult and living in quarters assigned to her with her mate.

The Life Creation and Mating Bureau was a short tram ride away. Upon entering the tall building, she was ushered into a white room with several other women. The Admin-bot was giving off instructions.

"Ladies, welcome to the LCM! We hope that you are ready to meet your life mate. You will step through the door assigned to you and meet the man that has been chosen for you by the program.

It would be nice for you to remember that you are a female and as such to wait for the male to introduce himself. He has been waiting for you to enter for several minutes.

You will be given clothing that will help you to appear attractive to your chosen mate. Please don before you enter the room.

We at the LCM wish you a ha- memorable mate day.


Unseen to Inika and the rest of the women, an LCM worker made a note that the admin bot was still using the word happy. It would have to be fixed. Again.

Another LCM worker gestured to each of the girls in turn, pointing them towards their changing rooms and then letting them know that the door on the other side would be where they walked through to meet their mates and that they'd need to palm the screen in order to open the door.

Inika nodded hesitantly and stepped into the little room. A black dress hung from a hook on the wall, and a pair of tiny black slippers for her feet. There was a little bench on the fair side, in case she needed it. Quickly she slipped into the dress, the fabric adhering to her frame and fitting her perfectly, of course. She slipped on the shoes and ran her fingers through her long brown hair.

"Well, here goes nothing." Inika whispered to herself, before palming opening the second door and peeking through and then, promptly frowning. Instead of a room and a waiting man she was met with a hallway. Almost turning around and telling the LCM staff they had made a mistake, her curiousity got the better of her and she stepped out into the hallway, it was plain and with a tan chair rail. She slid her fingers down the rail as she walked.

Another door stopped her and she peeked through the small window, at the end of this hallway she saw the armed men standing in front of doors. Inika gasped softly, but that didn't stop her from pushing open the door into the short hallway.

Glancing wearily at each of the men as she passed them, contemplating each of the doors, it took her a moment to realize that the last one was open. Inika paused for a moment and then peeked into the room.

A man was seated there. It seemed like he smiled at her. But no one smiled! Hesitantly, she stepped into the room, trying not to stare at him. She barely noticed the door closing behind her.

It was then that she noticed his tie. His red tie. She gasped audibly. He still said nothing. If this man was her mate he was being rather silent. It must be up to her then to say something, despite what the Admin-bot had said.

"My name is Inika, you must be my assigned mate, though I don't think you are. I've never seen red clothing before. So, who are you?"
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Old 12-02-2012, 03:19 AM   #5
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Despite the number of times he'd gone over this moment and the ones to follow it, Adin Hunter was a little nervous. This was his first time as a Steward, the woman whose quiet footfalls he heard coming down the hall his first Creative, and this first encounter would be one of the single most important times in their relationship. The changes could be quite hard on the mind of a Creative, in rare occasions the mind rejected the change completely and they were left virtually a vegetable, the only brain activity detected was the little to keep the unconscious processes running. The deeper the trust between Steward and Creative, it was found, the risk of such a rejection was reduced to virtually nil.

It took some effort not to smile when her head appeared in the doorway, seeming apprehensive. He couldn't blame her, the moment she entered the hallway that would led her here she left behind the mundane and predictable world she had known all her life. Even the drones, as the non-Creative population was secretly and derisively referred to, would be apprehensive if they found themselves in such a situation. But, if indicators were lacking that Inika was a Creative, one thing she did made it abundantly clear.

She kept going.

Curiosity had been all but eliminated in humanity. It was one of many ways in which Creatives were different from those around them. And, in these initial encounters, it was drilled into the Stewards during their training that it was to be used to their advantage. Draw them in. Make them want to know more. Make them need to become a Doll.

It was for this reason that Adin remained virtually motionless as Inika hesitantly made her way into the room, save a small smile that curved the corner of his lips. The Stewards, as drones, had to be trained to properly smile in a way that would not be instantly recognized as false by Creatives. Hours were spent before a mirror, with training programs, and even practicing while bathing and dressing in the morning, turning the gesture into muscle memory.

For Steward Hunter, it was all he could do not to let it grow and spread up into his eyes.

With some effort, the smile was faded from his expression and his head bobbed in a slight nod as the door was closed. It was time.

"I know very well who you are, Inika Cole," he began, his voice low, reserved, even. "I have been watching you for a long time. I know you came here today expecting to be mated and assigned quarters, but that is not why you are actually here, Inika."

Despite himself, the small smile reappeared on his lips and leaked into his voice, brightening it just a little.

"Because you are different. Special. And I am here to offer you a life full of color, Inika."

His hands unfolded and one extended, palm up, fingers extended and indicating the chair across from him that was still pulled in against the table.

"Would you like to have a seat? I'm sure you have many questions for me, and we have this room for as long as you'd like so that I may answer them."
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Old 12-06-2012, 11:45 PM   #6
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He gestured to the chair but Inika did not sit. He had said she was special, different, which meant nothing to her. At the same time she felt anxious and excited, for those words began to sink in.

Different.

It explained a lot. Inika took slow silent steps around the man, contemplating his words slowly. He never actually called her a Creative, but what she could remember of the Program and their explanation of when they went on their journey was when they turned 21. A large sum of credits were given to their families even though that Creative never returned home.

There were moments that she had felt stifled in her life, when she had asked for more crayons as a child and been frowned at and turned away; when she had to apply for wider access to her net account so she could research items that she was curious about and had to hide it from her parents; when she craved a piece of red clothing, much like the one that he wore.

The feeling of contentment she had felt the first time she ever heard a piano play. How she found herself curiously repelled and attracted to boys at school, but no one else seemed to share her sentiments. When something of the past ignited curiousity and longing for something larger than herself.

Inika felt different.

She stared at him as she came around the table. Perhaps she was a Creative. Perhaps she wasn't and this was all a ruse meant to trap her. Perhaps creatives were killed on contact and discovery, and that's why no one ever saw them again. She knew that differences between people were hardly tolerated. It was a risk that she'd have to take.

She finally sat.
He had a small smile on his face and she finally placed him. Having met him two years ago when he was looking for a particular building, it was something passing, but she had noticed something different about him, then. She wouldn't have even remembered if not for the same small smile on his face right then.

"I know you. Why do I know you?"
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Old 12-11-2012, 07:07 PM   #7
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As she moved around the room, Steward Hunter waited. Patience was the name of the game here. Creatives could be quite suspicious - well, Creatives could be a thousand different things, really - and the last thing he wanted was her looking at him with distrust from the very beginning.

When she sat, he relaxed ever so slightly, pleased to see things progressing in the direction he wanted. It was far from over, of course, but it was a step in the right direction. A small one.

All that was quickly erased when she said she knew him. The muscles in his back and shoulders tightened, his brows rose and eyes widening slightly, but he fought to remain calm and look unsurprised. The results were, perhaps, a bit mixed.

He found himself at a crossroads he hadn't expected, and a debate quickly took place within him. Lie to her, and risk her realizing why she knew him, that he was lying, and all trust was lost. At the same time, she could accept what he said, and the fact that he'd been following her for years would never be revealed. Or, he could tell her the truth, and risk her being instantly frightened away by the fact that he'd been watching her for so long. The upside there though...

"I'm surprised you remember me. Yes, we've spoken before."

He wanted to look away from her then, break the held gaze to shield the emotion that he feared lay bare in his eyes, but he couldn't risk it now. The truth was out, there was more of it to come, and to do anything but look her in the eyes would be to invite suspicion. It was much too delicate a time for that. Still, he tried his best to appear neutral and keep his voice calm, as if he was simply reporting facts instead of working, slowly, to build up a trust with her.

"You are aware of the Paper Doll Program, yes? I am a Steward with them. My name is Adin Hunter, and I've been watching you for years. In my office, I have many more of these," he said, his hands at last moving, on palm gently laid flat on the black notebook sitting before him, "Filled with countless, detailed notes about you. And if you choose to come with me, I'll be happy to let you see them, all."

His hands refolded atop the notebook, and he shifted gears slightly, leaning forward a bit as he continued.

"As I said before, Inika, you are special. You see, and hear, and feel more than most of the rest of humanity, by far. You live for color, and long for music. You laugh when others stare. You crave when others don't know the meaning of the word. I've seen you smile at things that everyone around you wasn't even aware existed. I've heard the joy in your voice that contact with another person brings. The small widening of your eyes, the quickening of your breath when someone touches you."

Here he paused, smiling again, and this time he allowed it to form as he sat back fully in the chair again.

"I am here, Inika, and I have watched you all this time, because you are a Creative. And because I believe, together, we can unlock your full potential. The world you live in now, Inika, is grey. I want to show you one filled with all the colors of the rainbow."
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Old 12-16-2012, 07:16 PM   #8
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Inika watched him consider her, consider where they were, and consider what was happening. It was a short consideration, before he answered her.

"I'm surprised you remember me. Yes, we've spoken before."

She was surprised. She had expected denial, it had happened so many times before, she'd see a spark from another human only to have it burn out in front of her, the quick denial on their lips, the sudden look of fear at her actions, the shame that always followed.

It was lonely, which is why she only barely heard his next words.

"-r Doll Program, yes? I am a Steward with them. My name is Adin Hunter, and I've been watching you for years. In my office, I have many more of these, filled with countless, detailed notes about you. And if you choose to come with me, I'll be happy to let you see them, all."

Her brows furrowed slightly. The Paper Doll Program? So she was a Creative? It was hard to believe, but he kept talking and she struggled to pay attention to him.

"As I said before, Inika, you are special. You see, and hear, and feel more than most of the rest of humanity, by far. You live for color, and long for music. You laugh when others stare. You crave when others don't know the meaning of the word. I've seen you smile at things that everyone around you wasn't even aware existed. I've heard the joy in your voice that contact with another person brings. The small widening of your eyes, the quickening of your breath when someone touches you."

Inika sat there blinking her eyes in shock, he still seemed to not be done. Why couldn't he stop? Give her a minute to breathe? To understand what this meant for her? What this meant at all?

"I am here, Inika, and I have watched you all this time, because you are a Creative. And because I believe, together, we can unlock your full potential. The world you live in now, Inika, is grey. I want to show you one filled with all the colors of the rainbow."

Outwardly, she was merely pondering his words, inwardly she was raging over them.
Rainbow.
But she couldn't be a Creative.
Rainbow.
Not a Creative, but she wanted to see this. She wanted and craved all of these colors in her life. It meant leaving her family.
Rainbow.
He wants her to go with him, she can see it in his eyes. He's hiding something, what is it? Will this hurt?
Rainbow.
It means so many things. So many things to see and touch and hear the full spectrum of being a human, greys and tans were slowing killing her. Suffocating her in their monochromatic existence.
Finally, rainbow.

She found her voice, or rather it came out of her when she hadn't fully realized that she had one, "Adin, I will go with you." She knew this likely mean pain and change and never seeing her little family again. And even at that steep of a price, she would go. For the chance at her own rainbow.

Reaching across the table, her hand found his. His hands were smooth, meaning he was never asked to work in the corporate farms that fed the population. When his palm opened to hers she placed her hand into it and just managed to meet his eyes.

"Will you be with me every step of the way?"
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Old 01-04-2013, 05:13 AM   #9
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Adin, I will go with you.

Just like that. He had been prepared for a lengthy question and answer session in this room, prepared for questions he'd never have the answer to in a thousand years. Quickly agreeing was rare, he'd been taught, and not to be expected or counted on. Either could have you off balance when the questions started coming, and though they didn't know it at the time, a Creative could have a non mentally reeling very quickly.

It was ironic, then, that it was the exact opposite from her that sent him reeling a bit.

Her next question did nothing to help, double for the unexpected contact with her that nearly made him gasp. Adin's heart beat heavy in his chest, his eyes grown wide at the unexpected turn this had taken.

Control. Training. Relax, let it kick in. The hardest part is over.

Right?


Swallowing, the break his mind needed to reset and move forward, he turned his hand and opened his palm to her, green eyes watching her smaller hand slip into his. Smooth on smooth. Both of them avoiding the farms, for very different reasons.

His eyes lifted to hers, meeting them when she let him, fingers closing to squeeze her hand as he spoke.

"Every step, Inika. You will be my Creative, I will be your Steward, and we will work very closely together for a long time to come."

The hand that had not captured hers lifted and slipped within the dark suit jacket he wore, withdrawing a small, flat black panel. His thumb flipped open a cover, deft fingers moving to fold the flexible cover back and open, and he held it up for her to see.

"If you are prepared to take this journey with me, Inika, then you will say your full name, that you accept your designation as a Creative, and that you are committing yourself to the Paper Doll Program, and to me as your Steward. I will give my full name, and state that I accept you as my Creative and am committed to being your Steward."

Unsaid at this point was the fact that doing so assured his death were this to fail. Some Stewards eventually shared that fact with their Creatives, some never decided to tell them, wanting to spare them the worry and leave them more open to each step of the process. As for Inika, Adin was still entirely undecided.

With a final squeeze, he released her hand and removed the red silk pocket square from his jacket. The small device was set down atop the black notebook, and the pocket square unfolded and laid out on the table between them. Laid flat, he did not bother to smooth out the wrinkles, each one giving the color a new depth and darkness, catching the light and scattering it just so.

The device was laid in the center of the silk, more black on red like the clothes he wore. In the center of it, a small red circle glowed up at them. By touching it, she would be instantly identified by both her fingerprint and a scan of her DNA and, when it was his turn, the process would repeat itself. All information, including their voice print identification and the recording they made, would be transmitted instantly upon leaving the room to Program Headquarters, cataloged, and held on file in case it would be needed again. It was never good when it was needed again.

"If this is your decision, Inika, then hold your finger on the circle and speak what I told you to."

This time it was his turn to reach across and take her hand, his grip firm to make sure he had full command of her attention.

"Make doubly sure this is your decision, Inika. There is no taking it back once you commit. For either of us."

The message delivered, he released her hand and folded his atop the black notebook once more, and he watched her.
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Old 01-09-2013, 02:32 PM   #10
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"Every step, Inika. You will be my Creative, I will be your Steward, and we will work very closely together for a long time to come."

She nodded, her hand still in his, her focus on his hand and his warmth. She felt a little like Alice down the Rabbit Hole. Another story she had read in the archives and loved. Curious Alice. Never content to stop or to consider the ramifications of her choices.

Maybe this was a dream too.
She hoped it wasn't.

Curiously she watched him pull out a small panel and flip it open. Inika frowned, but watched him silently. He held it up for her.

"If you are prepared to take this journey with me, Inika, then you will say your full name, that you accept your designation as a Creative, and that you are committing yourself to the Paper Doll Program, and to me as your Steward. I will give my full name, and state that I accept you as my Creative and am committed to being your Steward."

He was serious about this. His tone dropped and there was a moment of sadness that Inika didn't understand, but wasn't ready to question. She squeezed his hand and stayed silent, taking in every line and curve of his jaw, how his eyes both drank her in and stared at her with sadness.

She wondered if he was afraid for her.
Or for him.

He squeezed her hand once more, and then let go to set up the device between them both. The device was soon placed in the middle of the sea of red afforded to it by the folded handkerchief that had been in his pocket. She stared at it, with lust in her eyes. The color sped up her heart and made her want to touch things, to delight in her senses. All of them.

The device marred the perfection of the fabric, though the red dot in the middle beckoned for her to touch it. Just like the fabric. She swallowed and tore her eyes away from it to look up at him as he spoke.

"If this is your decision, Inika, then hold your finger on the circle and speak what I told you to."

She had already glanced down at the device and the red, drinking it all in, till his touch brought her back to him, his hand cradling hers with almost infinite tenderness.

"Make doubly sure this is your decision, Inika. There is no taking it back once you commit. For either of us."

She would be like Alice.
She would follow that Rabbit and go wherever he took her.
This was the first bite of that little cake that would make her bigger.

She let go of his hand and didn't hesitate pressing her index finger to the device. Inika didn't look down at her hand, she looked at him, her words clear and strong so that he would know she wasn't afraid. Even if he might be.

"I, Inika Cole, accept my designation as Creative. I accept and commit myself to the Paper Doll Program, in this I commit myself as Adin's Creative, as he is my Steward."

With a grin, she lifted her finger and then glanced down at the device, she moved it from the silk, which was promptly curled around her fingers and brought to her cheek. Her eyes closed for a minute while she luxuriated in the feel of the soft fabric against her cheek, a soft whimper coming from between her pouted lips. She took a deep breath, the fabric smelled of him and it made her smile and feel safe.

She would keep it.
Her first thought had been to touch and give it back, but now that she realized it was a piece of him, Inika would keep it.

"Your turn Adin."

Her words were simple while she methodically laid the fabric down and folded it diagonally, so that it was at it's longest. The ends were tied in a knot and she reached up to free her hair from the band that held it back, once freed the tresses cascaded down her back and shoulders. She shook them out and then pulled the handkerchief over her head and back up to be the perfect headband against her dark brown hair.

Another sweet smile for him while she placed the device back in the center between them and moved his hand over it, holding it there.

"I'm ready when you are."
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Old 01-14-2013, 04:58 AM   #11
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The room they were in was almost featureless, so devoid of color and decoration that it seemed to swallow up even them. Had they been sitting at this same table placed in the middle of a busy intersection, cars soaring past at high speed and frightening proximity, the fixed position of his gaze on her would not have changed in the slightest. He was rooted where he sat, steady in where he looked, transfixed in his attention.

Training, it seemed, could not prepare one for the feeling of someone giving their life, their very self, over to you, and then looking to you for the same kind of trust in return. He had sat for countless hours, in rooms larger but otherwise not entirely unlike this one, as he made his way through class after class. All preparation for now, and for what was to follow. The men and women he'd sat with all had events much like the one he was seeing now, but none had moments like the one he was having now. None had the pounding in their chest, or the sudden desert that had become his throat. None were sweating under their finely tailored suits. They were almost robots in this moment. He'd seen it in practice session after practice session, and it had taken everything inside him to hide the fact that he was fucking nervous. He had no idea what, exactly, discovery would mean. But he couldn't imagine it was anything good.

And so there he sat, pulse racing as she held his gaze and spoke just what she'd told him to. He was in awe of her bravery, and thought for the first time that it may surpass his own. Perhaps it was more than may.

Her surprises were not done when she took the pocket square - an item he was going to give her anyway, a physical manifestation of the forming bond and a rich color that he knew she'd be attracted to - and he couldn't help but to reflect her grin. If they were being watched, the game was up then. Mercifully, he knew they were not.

Swallowing so there may be some chance of a voice coming from his throat, he nodded, but waited still. Watching the silk against her cheek was enthralling. Enticing, in a way he hadn't quite expected. He missed her touch in his hand, he realized, and his thumb and the tip of his index finger rubbed against each other in an absent circle.

The delicate work of her fingers in her hair, the silk replacing the simple band that had held back her locks initially, dried his throat all over again. He felt like he could drink an ocean right now. He much more wanted to swim in the scent that floated out of her hair and teased his nostrils.

Once more, it felt like things were quickly spiraling out of control.

The replacement of the recorder was a fine break, and he leaped for it like it was a life raft in a raging sea. His finger found the red in the center, pressed it, and he swallowed again. A swallow, he cleared his throat, and then his Official Voice sounded, much to his great relief.

"I am Adin Hunter, member of the Paper Doll program. I accept Inika Cole as my Creative, and pledge to be her Steward."

He paused, finger still on the device, and then with a nod released it. The red in the center pulsed for a moment, then suddenly shrank to a pinpoint, and at last vanished. Nothing they could've done at that point would cause the device to accept anymore. It was done.

Lifting it off the table, he slipped it back into the inner pocket of his jacket, and released a breath with a relieved sigh.

"It's done, then, Inika. If there are things you'd like to collect from your house, I can have someone stop by to gather them for you. And you and I should..."

His voice trailed off, and for a short second he fell silent.

Hands still on the table, he leaned forward, his voice dropping low. A whisper almost conspiratorial.

"May I hug you, Inika?"
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Old 01-16-2013, 12:10 AM   #12
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"May I hug you, Inika?"

The words were barely out of his mouth, barely hanging in the air, before she launched herself across the table and readily into his arms, hugging him tight. Her chair wobbled and fell behind her, clattering to the concrete floor. She noticed that the light scent that had permeated the handkerchief was so much stronger here, so much more him. It was spice and earth, and subtle tones of man. She hugged him like she had never hugged another man in her entire life.

Her father included.
He had never touched her, except perhaps for the expected pat on her shoulder at her school triumphs.

It was never like this. Adin's arms caught her, held her up and made her feel safe in a quickly changing world, in her quickly changing world. Inika perhaps shouldn't trust him, he was the cause of this change, for her world to be suddenly topsy-turvy and Alice like. She was willing to bet in this new world that there would be moments where she might dislike Adin, but in this moment, in this blank and dead space where the two guards outside stood sentry, this was their moment and she clung there for a moment to the man who had changed her world forever.

Inika finally let go, allowing her feet to find the floor and smiled up at him, while she straightened her dress and tried to find the words that would explain her abrupt and excited action. She couldn't. He had opened the door and once again, Inika leapt through it. However he might feel about her sudden action, to her it felt right. She wanted to tell him as much, she even parted her lips to say so. But those weren't the words that came out.

"There is nothing at my house. Clothes, but I imagine I won't be wearing the tan of a student any longer. I have nothing that isn't already with me."

She clasped her hands in front of her, ashamed a little for having nothing rich to bring with her, nothing heartfelt from her parents or friends, but really who got trinkets anymore? She had none. Therefore, nothing would come with her. She had no wish to visit her parents or brother, they would only want her gone anyway. Her station affording them a better existence now anyway, and without her there to spoil it.

One might say that she could be bitter about the whole situation, but Inika felt pragmatic about it, her parents and family were better off. In this case, without her. She had a different future from them as well. One that included the man who contemplated her now.

"I'm ready, Adin. Where do we go next?"

Inika Cole, Creative then held out her hand for her Steward. At least this would be an adventure.
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Old 01-26-2013, 11:42 AM   #13
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If the suddenness of her acceptance of his proposal was a surprise, the way she nearly jumped across the table and into his arms was an absolute shock. Quickly, Adin was coming to the realization that this would not be a routine and uneventful time. All the better, perhaps, but with no amount of danger involved in it. Whether or not he would ever inform her of the danger, he had no idea. But somehow, some day... it would come out. Secrets had a way of getting lose.

Cross that bridge when...

Almost on instinct at the ferocity with which she met him, his arms slung around her and he hugged her close to him. His nose found her hair, perhaps even a little by accident, and he breathed in deeply, pulling in the scent of her mixed, just slightly, with the scent from his silk that she'd tied her hair back with. Eyes closing, he let the seconds drain away and felt her, smelled her, listened to the slow and steady breathing so close to him.

All too soon she was pulling back from him and he released her, letting her feet find the floor though now on his side of the table. The guards no doubt wondered what the commotion was, but were on strict orders not to enter unless called. They would not be.

He nodded quickly at the mention of her clothing, knowing she'd have no use for any of what she used to wear and unsurprised that there was anything she intended to bring with her now. Creatives, they were told, would sometimes have secret journals or even just a small collection of colored items, bits of paper, flecks of pain, or virtually anything else they could get their hands on. They were often worried that the discovery of these things would get them punished, and so Stewards were instructed not to be surprised if they were never mentioned at this point. Whether or not Inika had such a thing, while it would be an interesting look into her mind, was really of no concern to him, and so he let it pass without a second thought.

An awkward moment seemed to come over her, hands clasped in front of her and eyes dropping a bit. He was happy to see it did not last long, and scooped the small black journal off the table as she held out her hand to him. With his empty hand, he reached out and took hers, fingers wrapped around her smaller hand instead of intertwined with them. Things taken slowly.

Aside from the moved and tipped chairs, the room appeared very much as they'd each found it. Flawless, empty, sterile. It's purpose had been served, and it was now time to leave it behind. Turning, he led Inika not through the door she'd entered, but the one opposite it that he had come through. Another guard waited there, a man Hunter passed without acknowledging, and Inika was led quickly down hallways few people alive had been allowed to pass through. Polished floors, flawlessly white walls, their footfalls echoing down the corridor.

It was a short few moments before Adin opened a final door, and both of them stepped out into the bright mid-day sunlight. A single transport sat waiting for them, which he indicated with a point of the hand that held the journal.

"That's ours." Have you ever been in one before, Inika? he wanted to ask next, but dared not. In public now, even behind the Bureau building, he had to be careful how he was seen interacting with her. Emotion from the Creative was expected, but seeing it returned in kind would raise eyebrows. Seeing it initiated by the Steward would bring questions that would quickly grow uncomfortable.

Leading her still, the doors of the transport opened as they approached, and Adin extended his arm to help Inika step inside. Reluctantly, though he kept any sign of it from appearing in his expression, he released her hand and moved around to the other side. A soft chirp from his pocket informed him that the data from the recorder had been sent, and the confirmation received back.

They were, officially, joined.

Whether she was with him or not his destination was the same, and so it was not necessary to program their destination in. Instead, with a push of a button the doors closed, and the transport moved away from the curb. In moments they had melted into traffic, simply one amongst hundreds of other transports zipping through the city, and the short trip to their new quarters, as well as the lab in which they'd now work together, began.

"I'll show you to your new quarters first, so you can get settled in a bit, and then I'll give the full tour." He shifted in his seat so he was facing her more and did not have to turn his head quiet as much to look at her. "This is going to be your new home for some time, Inika, and you have almost free reign to decorate it as you want. I'll show you the computer in your room you can use to select colors and items to fill it with. As much or as little as you'd like..." he paused, and a hint of a grin tilted his lips. "As long as you leave us enough room to move around still, that is."
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Old 02-01-2013, 03:42 PM   #14
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Inika might have said that those next moments after she offered her hand were quick, that she hardly saw a thing. But the truth was that she soaked up every single detail.

From the soft warmth of his hand in hers as they made their way out into the world, to the gleam in his eye as they walked, and the feigned boredom of the guards that were in the hallway as they exited the building.

She has never been in a private transport. Citizens weren't allowed private transport, since the infrastructure couldn't support it. Public transport was arranged for each neighborhood according to position and level of importance. People were transported directly to their jobs and then home in the evening. There were a few public transports for events, but otherwise it was expected you'd be at home or at your work.

Father had been given a private transport one day, and the whole family had been present in order to see him out the door. It was a very big deal, as apparently he had had a meeting in the city. She remembered the sleek lines of the transport and her wish to enter it and touch everything within.

A wish, that as the doors closed and they smoothly took off, she fulfilled. Sliding her hands over the simulated leather, and the lines of their seats. She stopped and stared out the window, a small happy smile on her lips, while the world turned into a blur outside their transport.

"I'll show you to your new quarters first, so you can get settled in a bit, and then I'll give the full tour."

Inika grinned up at him, listening with a small nod of her head as he shifted to look at her.

"This is going to be your new home for some time, Inika, and you have almost free reign to decorate it as you want. I'll show you the computer in your room you can use to select colors and items to fill it with. As much or as little as you'd like..."

When he paused she watched the grin spread across his lips, and she couldn't help but reach out towards him, placing her hand again in his.

"As long as you leave us enough room to move around still, that is."

She hadn't fully recognized that he'd be with her the entire time, she'd given her pledge, but she hadn't fully realized that they were in this together. Another squeeze to his hand before the transport went dark and she let go to gasp and marvel at being underground.

"Adin.. where..?" Inika turned and stared at him in wonder. He just smiled that knowing smile of his, and gestured at the window, she turned and stared while the transport came to a smooth stop and opened.

She followed him out of the vehicle, wishing that she could stop staring about in wonder. There were personal transports everywhere! She had to walk quickly to keep up with Adin who strode off towards a sliding glass door which opened silently for them both, she turned around taking in the small, clean lobby, before the small ding of the elevator. She turned just in time to see Adin disappear within and she dashed to make it past the doors before they closed. Which she did, but just barely.

The elevator ascended quickly and Inika put out a hand to keep herself from stumbling a little. She wanted to look around again, but was afraid that her life and this moment was moving too fast for her to drink it all in.

"Ding."

The doors opened and Adin gestured her out first, and that's when she stepped out into her new home. Gleaming, golden, bright and white. Very modern. Very bright from the huge windows that looked over the city. Very quiet, she couldn't hear a sound over those of her steps up and down the marble floor as she dashed about to take in her bedroom (big), her bathroom (amazing and was that a tub?!) and the kitchen. Her own space! Nobody got their own spaces! But she had one!

Adin paused in the hallway in front of another door and watched her silently.

"Adin! I have so much space! I can any color I want? Each room can be a different color?! Do I program the walls or do the paint thing...? How does one paint? This is all mine? I don't have to share?!"

She stopped finally, looking up at him standing there, "Where does that door go?" She asked her final question softly.
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Old 03-11-2013, 08:02 AM   #15
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Inika was, almost literally, childlike with wonder as she ran from room to room, taking in her new surroundings. It was more than she had experienced in her life, with small touches like the vase of colorful flowers on a table and the indirect soft lighting already adding more atmosphere than any other place she'd called home.

For his part, Adin had already spent a couple weeks in the apartment preparing things for her - which explained why she would find a selection of sheets in what he suspected were her favorite colors waiting for her - and so there was no exploration necessary. Instead, he made his way to stand before the closed door that led to the laboratory where their real purpose here would be carried out, and with an amused smile he watched her. And waited.

She was practically a tornado as she moved about, firing off questions with hardly a pause for breath, and he thought she would sleep very well indeed if she went at the rest of the day with this pace. By contrast, outside of the occasional quiet laugh at her excitement, Adin was rather calm as he watched her, hands folded in front of him and clasping the small notebook he'd had with him when she first met. The shelf it belonged on waited on the other side of the door, and it was not until she was calmed and ready that he would be opening it.

Eventually she seemed to realize there was, outside of his own bedroom, a room yet unseen, and before it he stood watching her. Childlike excitement seemed to melt into childlike curiosity, and he couldn't help but to smile in the face of it. He had been assured, repeatedly, that privacy was strictly respected in these apartments - no listening, no viewing - and so he allowed himself to relax.

But only a little, lest he let his guard down and reveal too much to her.

"This," he began quietly, gesturing to the door with one hand, "Leads to the lab where we'll be working, Inika. Some of the things in there may look a little scary, and it is a place you cannot go without my permission. Do you understand? I'm trained to use what is in there, but you are not. I want you to stay safe."

The hand that had gestured to the door moved now, fingers extended as he reached out for her.

"If you're ready, we'll go in together and I'll show you it's nothing to be afraid of."

The smile returned to his lips easily. It had been practiced by the Stewards-in-training countless times, a reassuring expression that needed to seem as genuine as it possibly could. Adin was a natural, and to Inika's intelligent eyes it would look nothing but.

Her hand was smaller than his, soft and quite delicate, and he gave her a reassuring squeeze as their palms met.

Turning, he pressed his palm against a pad set into the wall, and the door slid back with a whisper.

The lab was dimmer than the rest of the apartment, and larger than any of the other rooms save the main. The floor, unlike the marble of the rest of the quarters, was a dark stone and stain resistant. In the center of the room stood a large comfortably padded chair, with a glowing panel on the side of it. The headrest was topped by a metallic dome, and when she sat in it the panel would display for Adin all of Inika's vitals, as well as the necessary information so he knew what was happening, chemically, structurally, and electrically in her brain.

Behind the chair, against one wall, was a large silver cabined with windowed doors. Inside stood dozens upon dozens of vials, each carefully labeled and full of liquids of varying consistency and color. Beside the cabinet was a wooden bookcase, each shelf filled with carefully aligned notebooks that matched the one Adin held in his hand still. Minus, of course, one.

Lastly, a long silver table dominated the far wall. The top of it was bare, reflecting the light of the room, but under it were drawers of varying sizes, all of them loaded with tools and instruments that would, at some point, become necessary.

Still standing outside of the room, Adin turned to her, the gentle slope of his lips still pulled upwards. The hand holding the small book gestured into the room, and with the hand holding hers he pulled her to the doorway.

"After you, Inika."
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Old 03-17-2013, 11:47 PM   #16
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"After you, Inika."

Implicitly she trusted her steward, Adin. When she stepped into this room, however, with gleaming surfaces and sharp objects about, with the large chair in the center of the room, she felt her first stab of fear.

It pushed it's way through her body and suddenly she knew that her life as she knew it was over. She also knew that she might never be the same again. Would never be the same.

The wonder at the apartment evaporated. The trust in Adin crumbled. Inika's own daring faltered. She knew this room was going to mean changes for her. She knew that they would be be done by Adin's hand. And this room would be the seat of it.

Inika's hands covered her lips and she walked around the room, seeing everything and nothing. She disliked this room, already. Her bottom lip trembled.

"Adin..." She whispered, "I don't like it here."

She took a deep breath, and swept past him into the front room, breathing through the panic that had beset her. Inika felt like crying, but no tears came. Her limbs felt like they were on fire, her heart raced and she stepped away from Adin when he followed her out. To be touched by him, right then, would have left her a mess.

It took her a few minutes to calm down. To search for the words that were there, but evaded her and lay on the tip of her tongue. She stared out at the window, wondering what had happened to her life. In one day, she had carelessly given up her family, her life, everything she had ever known to chase the colors. In that moment, Inika hated herself for her quickness, for her inability to stop, to think, to not jump at every new idea. She wished for her parents abilities to only see tan in the world. She wished for calm and quiet in her mind, instead of the constant need for change and newness. She wished for a calm heart, she wanted to be bland, to be quiet acceptance and calm, she wished all this, while she considered her world.

The minutes ticked by without movement from Inika, until she found what she was looking for. Without turning, without humor or lightness or excitement in her voice, she spoke to the man who was the reason for all that change.

"You're going to hurt me, aren't you?"
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Old 03-18-2013, 06:09 AM   #17
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With silent steps he slipped into the room after she did, moving just within the confines and watching her with silent eyes. It was now, he knew, when things would become more real to her, move beyond the world of a grand adventure and into the realm of change and fright. It was not unexpected with Creatives, and was something the Steward program counted on at times. Offering them Oz when they lived in Kansas was almost universally too tempting to resist.

Though he'd known her for a short time, Adin could tell that the excitement she'd so recently felt had been washed away as if a sandcastle on the beach. Apprehension seized hold of her body language, flowed from her every step around the room. After the way she'd run around the quarters in her heightened state, an unknowing observer might think this was the hard part, and once past it things would settle in.

Adin, unfortunately, had enough training to know better.

The first introduction to the room was hard virtually every time, and Inika took it better than the 10-15% of Creatives that tried to flee the quarters and renounce their decision to enter the Program. The difficulty of the job for those Stewards went up exponentially at that point, with those who were truly great at talking their charges down ending up as teachers within the Program, instructing others on how to handle those situations. Adin had received the training as well, and was ready, but he prayed it would not be necessary. The very idea made his palms sweat.

Even for those that handled the introduction of the room well, the first time actually using it was the hardest part. Realizing that who they would be changed on a fundamental level before leaving that room again often made people frightened beyond what they've known before. It was those that could keep a Creative calm during the first use of the room that were the true legends at the Academy. This was a test, yes, but the true one was yet to come.

Her voice drew him from the pool of thoughts he hadn't realized he'd sunken into, and he nodded silently in response. It was no surprise that she didn't like it hear, he'd expected no different, but he would admit to only himself that he was relieved with the way she was handling it. Nothing broken, nothing thrown, no attempts to flea. It was just as he allowed that relief to circulate through him that she moved past him and out of the room, increasing his heart rate with every step she took.

Adin followed.

Whether she tried to leave or not, whether she allowed him to comfort her or not, he would not let her be in the room alone while she processed it. He was her Steward, and it was moments like these that would show her exactly what that meant.

She moved away when he reached out to her, but still she didn't run and that allowed Adin's heart to settle into a less alarming thrum. Turning back to the room, he touched the pad that would make the door silently slide closed, and then he simply stood and watched her in silence.

When she finally turned to him, his brows lifted in curiosity, sinking once again at her question. The silence that descended was like a blanket, heavy and warm, and he found his throat dry when he opened his mouth to talk. Lips pressed back together, he swallowed and tried again, his feet remaining rooted to the marble beneath him.

"Physically? It may hurt a little, yes. I'll have to draw blood a few times, to check levels and such." He faltered, and fought the overwhelming urge to look away from her, "Mentally, though? Emotionally? It will probably hurt you. And... I'm sorry."

His feet moved at last, slow steps carrying him closer.

"I'm going to try my very best to keep you as much you as I can, Inika, but there will be changes. And they may scare you, before and after, and some of the things you lose, memories, talents, it may hurt to not have them suddenly. But..."

He stopped finally, less than a hand width between them, his voice fallen to a whisper.

"I'm going to be here with you, for all of it. Every step of the way, Inika. Just you and me."
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Old 03-22-2013, 01:53 AM   #18
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"I'm going to be here with you, for all of it. Every step of the way, Inika. Just you and me."

Inika paused at these words, they felt so familiar, and yet... not. She wasn't prepared for her feelings. For the onslaught of fear and excitement. Nothing in her life had ever been like this moment. The silence stretched between them while his words hung in the air.

She walked over to the house computer and pulled up a song. Music had been largely ignored by most of the populace, but Inika had been fascinated by it. She recalled sitting in front of her computer, utterly enraptured by the sounds emanating from it, and this song, in this moment, felt like the words that she wanted to say, but lacked the language to express.

The speakers around the house came to life. She couldn't turn and look at him. At least not yet. She was terrified of the pain.

No more talk of darkness
Forget these wide-eyed fears
I'm here, nothing can harm you
My words will warm and calm you

It was a beautiful spring day, and the citizens had finally been allowed to walk the outdoor paths to work and school. Inika had just scored very high on a test, she couldn't wait to get home and tell her parents.

So she ran.


Let me be your freedom
Let daylight dry your tears
I'm here, with you, beside you
To guard you and to guide you


No one ran. People were instructed to walk. Running was dangerous. Anything dangerous had been banned or phased out. The technology handled everything and anything dangerous to humans, and thusly most pain was foreign to the common person. It was often and quickly handled by immediate painkillers.

Still, this girl, this teenage girl ran.


Say you'll love me every waking moment
Turn my head with talk of summer time
Say you need me with you now and always
Promise me that all you say is true
That's all I ask of you

She tripped.
Fell face first on the concrete path. Her knee bloodied and sore. She cried for the first time in her life from the pain that ran up and down her leg. From her pride that was pricked at falling in a public place.

Even though there was no one about to see her tears.


Let me be your shelter
Let me be your light
You're safe, no one will find you
Your fears are far behind you

She had no idea what to do. She'd never bled before. Her tears ran down her cheeks and while she wanted to get help, she wasn't even sure where to begin.

Suddenly, she wasn't alone.
A man.
A man with kind eyes smiled down at her.


All I want is freedom
A world with no more night
And you, always beside me
To hold me and to hide me


He had helped her to quiet her tears. Had wiped the streaks from her cheeks with a soft white handkerchief.

He had so very gently placed a band-aid on the front of her knee. Holding it warmly against her skin, while it worked it's magic and healed her skin.

He had smiled then, and indicated that it was time for her to stand. She didn't want to.


Then say you'll share with me one love, one lifetime
Let me lead you from your solitude
Say you need me with you here, beside you
Anywhere you go, let me go too
Christine, that's all I ask of you

"I'm going to be here with you, for all of it. Every step of the way."

Her hand had slipped into his and he had pulled her to standing. She took that first step gently, but it hurt very little and he still held her up. He smiled down at her with each step, his kind eyes alight with pleasure at her soft exclamations as the pain subsided and she finally could move again on her own.

He had let her go, and she had said thank you, then walked home quickly, the man forgotten for the moment in a rush of teen excitement.


Say you'll share with me one love, one lifetime
Say the word and I will follow you
Share each day with me, each night, each morning

Until now.

Until, he smiled at her with kind eyes again.
And she could finally turn and look at him. He had fixed her pain once. He would do so again. While Inika hated that room, and she would continue to hate that room, she trusted him. She was ready, or almost ready for whatever was next.

"When you are ready. I am too."

She held out her hand to him, smiled and waited.
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Old 04-13-2013, 06:26 AM   #19
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He watched her silently, the time stretching out around them, forming spaces between seconds where emotion and memory tumbled and rolled together. It was in the air, he could almost smell it, and he knew it wasn't only happening in his head as the music joined all that swirled in the room around them. Adin had watched her for far longer than she was aware of, perhaps far longer than she'd ever be aware of, and it was for this reason that Creatives were not allowed to become Stewards.

Memory.

Emotion.

Powerful on their own, but they toppled civilizations and shaped worlds when combined. Yet it was that very thing working through them as rhythm and words poured like cool, clear water from the speakers. Instead of washing these things away, it seemed to only make them more dangerous, giving them a life of their own.

--------------Bandaging her knee and helping her up.
-----------Holding the door open as she passed by without a glance.
--------Slipping a small package of colored inks into her bag.
----Manipulating foot traffic so she was redirected to a patch of bright yellow wildflowers.
Realizing she was ready.

Tears stung his eyes, and he fought them back with rapid blinks. He could not be seen crying. The risk of death at such a thing was great and...

She trusted him. Completely. Somehow, she had gone without hesitation. Out of the small room, the red silk tied into her hair, into his transport, up the elevator, into this apartment. Thrown headlong into this adventure that would change her on a fundamental level, and he had done what to deserve that trust? Promise her a life of colors? And then what? He was a Steward, his job was to tune her to her highest potential, and then open his hands and watch her fly away.

To what? To who? To where?

He had no answers. He wasn't even supposed be thinking of such questions, to care what the answers may hold. Adin Hunter was, like all other Stewards, like virtually the rest of humanity, to be a biological robot, working his way through life until he broke down and could be repaired no longer. A cog in the machine, moving humanity along. Returning it to it's roots, while helping it reach new heights.

The giant trees - oak in some cities, redwood in others, pine in those that could take no other - in the center of every city and town was to be a symbol of this. All the nations of the world were joined together in the endeavor, returning to humanity's roots so that it may better reach for the stars. It had begun as a joint venture with the North American Union and the African Alliance, but others quickly followed. Stewards trained, Creatives found, a system in place for so long now that no one even seemed sure of it's origins any longer.

Adin was simply another in their number. Inika simply another Paper Doll. Both had a role to play. And all that was caught up in the invisible cyclone the room had become was not meant to be a part of it.

But then there was her.

This girl was powerful, perhaps more so than she would ever know, and with a reach of her hand all was cast aside, washed away, and gone. Adin blinked once, smiled to her, and accepted the offered hand with a short, reassuring squeeze.

"Okay, then. One last thing to show you, come."

He moved in a new direction this time, pulling her behind him towards the open kitchen. Once inside he released her hand, and began opening cabinets and doors, coolers and freezers, one after the other until nearly every space in the room stood open for her to see inside. Then, with a triumphant smile, he stood in the middle of the kitchen and waved to it all with a long sweep of his arm.

"Fresh fruits and vegetables, Inika. Meats and cheeses, real eggs and fresh butter. No more replicated food, no more synthetic nourishment deliveries, no more mineral pills. A real stove, a working oven, and," here he grinned fully, and pointed to an open cabinet, "real cast iron cookware to use on it, and in it. So many flavors and colors, Inika, and you can have all of them."

He was, he realized then, getting much too carried away with himself. Dropping his wide spread arms to his side, he cleared his throat and lowered his tone to something less joyous.

"There is one last thing that I must show you. Pay attention, because this will be important."

A final drawer near where she stood had remained closed, and it was this that he now pulled open. Within, fully filling the space in the drawer, were three long rows of silver tubing that ended in three small slots. In one sat a small blue pill, while the other two sat staring up at them emptily.

"Every morning, first thing in the morning, you need to come here and open this drawer. There will be three pills waiting, one blue, one red, and one green. Take them all, at the same time, with a full glass of water."

Adin looked up to her, searching for her eyes, his tone fully serious now.

"First thing every morning, Inika. As soon as your feet hit the floor, this is where you must go. Everything else can wait until you're done."

His eyes left hers, slid down to look at the blue pill waiting, and then rose back to her.

"For now, you only need to take the blue pill. In the morning, all three will be here waiting. This is so I can help keep you safe, Inika. Do you understand?"
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Old 04-17-2013, 10:23 PM   #20
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There were more colors and scents in this little room than she had ever seen, and while Inika marveled at all the open cupboards, she wondered at the emotion she had seen cross Adin's face. If she hadn't seen those same emotions cross her face unbidden she wouldn't have recognized them on the face of another person.

So while she slowly toured their kitchen, nodding towards the plethora of options , her hand stealing out to take a grape, pulling the small fruit from the vine and popping it into her mouth, closing her eyes as the tartness exploded over her tongue. All this happened, while she turned over those several small blinks of Adin's, the quick flash of pain and of longing, longing that she had seen on the computer screen in some actor's eyes, but never towards her.

It was something new. But he had pulled open a drawer and was looking at her expectantly.

"There is one last thing that I must show you. Pay attention, because this will be important. Every morning, first thing in the morning, you need to come here and open this drawer. There will be three pills waiting, one blue, one red, and one green. Take them all, at the same time, with a full glass of water."

She glanced in the drawer and winced slightly at the mechanics within, noting there was small blue pill in the third tube, he had paused so she looked up into his completely serious face.

"First thing every morning, Inika. As soon as your feet hit the floor, this is where you must go. Everything else can wait until you're done."

His tone had dropped and she heard the warning there, and while she wondered at it, he paused and looked down at the tube, and the blue pill within.

"For now, you only need to take the blue pill. In the morning, all three will be here waiting. This is so I can help keep you safe, Inika. Do you understand?"

"I understand, Adin." She nodded and held out her hand, waiting for him to drop the pill into her hand, which he did. She turned and took a cup and filled it with water, dutifully doing exactly as he had told her. She trusted him, but still wondered at the emotions that had crossed his face, but for the moment she minded him.

A smile for her steward as she picked out some strawberries and made her way back to the front room, curling herself onto the couch and watching the night fall outside the apartment. She had never had real strawberries before, and she found their sweetness divine as the sugars slipped over her tongue. She breathed in their fresh scent and licked her fingers clean of their juices.

Inika was quiet as she ate, contemplating her new life, the lights in the apartment reflected Adin back to her in the glass that she sat in front of, and she watched him quietly close the cabinets, watch her silently for a moment and then slip away into that hateful other room of his. The space she hated, the space she didn't want to think of him in.

She didn't know how long she'd been on the couch, but Inika fell asleep there, curled up next to her strawberries, clinging to the small piece of red fabric that smelled of Adin. She felt herself lifted and curled into the arms of her Steward as he carried her up the stairs and laid her to bed. She didn't notice that he tucked her hair behind her ear, that he touched her cheek, or that he hesitated for a moment in the doorway, as if something held him there, no, she missed all of this, though the moment itself had been caught on camera.

Even if no one was watching. At least not yet.

It took Inika two days. Two days of getting up to find her colorful pills, to design their apartment in the colors that she wanted, with big fluffly pillows for her to fall on, two days for her to dance around a silent and sometimes serious Adin. Two days in which she avoided what she had deemed the "Hateful Space". Inika played with the apartment, and learned about the tower that they lived in, how it looked over the city, and how she could go anywhere within the tower, but never leave it without Adin as an escort. She hadn't seen any other creatives, but he had promised her that there were others, and that she might see them when she progressed in her training. Although she was busy still it was two days in which she puzzled over the emotions that he had shown that first night.

On the morning of Inika's third day as a creative, she finally realized what had been bothering her.

He had shown emotion.

No one else in her life ever had, she had been met by placidity, calmness, boredom, and while it had seemed obvious to her now, why had it taken her so long to realize?

Perhaps because she expected that he would show emotion. Though, in the last two days he had not. Like some sort of barrier stood between them.

Inika frowned as she made her way down the stairs this third morning, her bare feet padding over the floor, silently and quickly taking her without thought to her morning routine of three little pills.

Adin had shown emotion.

Her hands worked quickly, preparing her morning water and pulling the pills out. She shook a little as she swallowed the pills and then looked up at the room, finally noticing that she wasn't alone.

"Morning Adin."

"Inika. It is time."

Her steward opened the door to the hateful space and waited for her. The strike of fear in his eyes echoed the fear in her own.
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Old 05-10-2013, 03:59 AM   #21
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Years of watching, of note taking, of training and preparations had all led to this day. It was, at last, time.

Adin had been dressing more casually since their first meeting, the suits replaced with trousers of dark cotton, simple t-shirts of solid color, and soft shoes that were virtually silent as he moved through the apartment. The bright colors that she decorated their spaces in served as a contrast to the darkness of his clothing, perhaps even of his task, and while the rooms seemed almost impossibly bright in the afternoon sun it was a decoration choice that was expected.

From the procedural side of things, Adin had been ready since the first day they'd come to the apartment. The delay had far more to do with the three pills she took every morning, and needing time for them to make it into her blood stream, cross the blood-brain barrier, and make her ready for the monitoring of the chemical releases and electrical impulses along her neural pathways. They also prepared her brain for the changes that would be mapped over it, all but eliminating the possibility of rejection, which had left Creatives as blank slates in the past, void of personality, memories... humanity. They were simply bodies that functioned, and minds that did not. But those were, as they said, the early days.

This morning, Adin was up well before Inika, making final preparations for the day... and being unable to sleep otherwise. He was nervous. A strange little flutter in his stomach that felt like he was going in for a test that would decide his future, but with the added twist of concern for her on top of it. The procedures were safe, he'd seen enough done during his training, even done a few with supervision, that he knew what to expect, and what to do if the unexpected happened. He trusted his training and instincts, and he trusted her enough to show him if something didn't felt right, even if she wasn't fully aware of it herself.

It was in one of the high backed chairs that he sat, reading, when she came downstairs and made her way into the kitchen to take her pills. The book closed, he smiled to himself as he watched her, pleased to see her following the routine just as he'd told her. Setting the novel, Stranger in a Strange Land, aside, he stood from the chair and watched as each pill was retrieved and taken. It was only when she noticed him that he spoke up.

"Inika. It is time."

The seconds seemed to drag out after those words left his lips, each tick of the clock in the room separated by more and more space. And then he was moving, soft shoes across the reflective hard surface of the floor, chewing up the space between he and the room until he was there, and opening the door, and moving aside to let her in. His eyes met hers, and he knew that some level of her fear was seen reflected back in his, and he hated himself for it. The show of emotion was one thing, bound to happen when he lived with someone... cared about someone. He'd try to keep it to a minimum, still, but it was going to happen.

No, it was the fear.

He needed to be a rock for her in this moment, and show her everything would be okay, and he'd be with her, and in control, the whole time. And it would, and he would. His fears, he did not think, were her fears. It was the loss of her, of this girl he'd watched for so many years, the girl he'd carried to bed on their first night, the girl that had so loved running through the apartment decorating and dabbing paints here and there until she found colors she liked. Exactly how she would be when she woke the next morning was uncertain, and he wasn't sure he wanted to live in this space without her laughter filling it as it had these past days.

But.

A job had to be done, and it was his duty to do it. It was the room, and the things that would occur inside it, that had brought them together, that gave them reason to even know who the other was, that gave them reason to live in this space, and they had committed to it, and to each other. To turn back now would mean...

The door was closed behind her once she was inside, the only light in the room now artificial, and he crossed to the chair that stood in the middle of the room.

"Come have a seat, Inika."

While she moved, his hand reached up and touched a dome above the chair that hung from the ceiling, a number of wires of different thickness and color running from the top and into ceiling above.

"I'm going to lower this down around your head, and you might feel a slight pressure from it, but nothing painful."

Once seated, he pulled it smoothly down until the dome ended just above her eyes. Moving around in front of her, he continued speaking as he adjusted it.

"It's going to monitor things going on in your mind, and help me keep you safe and comfortable. You won't feel any pain from it, and may not even be able to tell when it's on or off."

Adjustments made, he paused before her and found her eyes. His hand moved to close over one of hers, and his his voice grew lower, as if his words were a secret between them, not even meant for the walls to catch and echo back.

"I'm going to be here when you wake up. Every step of the way, Inika. I'll make sure there is nothing to be afraid of."

The words said, he fell silent but didn't move a way, his eyes still holding hers, the warmth of his palm still covering her hand. That hesitation changed his course entirely, and instead of moving away he moved closer, until his lips were pressed against her cheek.

"Relax, my Creative girl," he whispered in her ear. "I'll be here when you wake."

He did move away then, just behind her, his voice rising as he shifted into operator mode.

"I am going to dim the lights for a moment, and then show you a quick series of images. Some of them may be a little hard to look at, but I need to monitor your biochemical reactions to each of them. They will be gone quickly, so if you do not like them you will not have to endure them for long before we are on to another. Ready?"

A low hum filled the room as the dome over her head was switched on, and the lights were lowered. Projected on the wall in front of her were a series of images, flashing by every 2.5 seconds, just long enough for her to process them before they moved on. Behind her, his eyes poured over the reading scrolling past on the screen in front of him. Every few seconds a quiet click would sound as he marked a measurement, reference points he'd use to guide him along the way. It was the only part of the procedure she'd be awake for, and only out of necessity. Once complete, an adjustment to the field emitted by the dome would send her peacefully into a deep and dreamless sleep, and she'd wake up in her bed a changed person.

For him, however, the day had only begun, and it would be some time before he saw his bed again.
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Old 05-19-2013, 03:19 AM   #22
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Inika shook slightly as he led her to the chair and strapped her in, the cool metal of the chair sinking in past the thin nightgown. She breathed and tried to be strong, to be the girl that he wanted her to be, but she really wanted to run from this place, from the pain that he promised her, from the changes he was asking of her.

It was all so much. Inika endured, and fought against her need to fight, to sit still because this is what Adin needed from her. That his jaw was set, that his voice was confident when he whispered to her calmed her nerves, but only minutely.

"I'm going to be here when you wake up. Every step of the way, Inika. I'll make sure there is nothing to be afraid of."

His words didn't assuage her fear, but his nearness did. She couldn't say that she craved it, not knowing or understanding this pull to him, but it was there all the same. His cheek touched hers and she remembered to breathe and listen to him, her knuckles white on the handles of the chair, for fear that if she spoke or moved it would be to his detriment, determined that she would now have to sit in this space and change.

"Relax, my Creative girl," he whispered in her ear. "I'll be here when you wake."

She managed a weak smile and turned her attention to her task, focusing on the images in front of her until they blended together. Till her eyes closed and she still saw the images, became the images, lived them.

The snow was cold against her skin but she clung to her nightgown even as it whipped around her frame, she looked up to catch the eagle swooping down, screaming for the fox to notice, but it didn't until last minute, even as Inika went tearing through the snow to save it. She had to save it. She knew that Adin would be disappointed if she didn't, but then she fell, tripped over her nightgown face first into the snow, upset at herself for not being quicker, or smarter or louder and feeling the guilt seep in that those innocent creatures have paid for her weaknesses.

Laughter around her. She glanced up. Comical faces of people who were somehow her friends, but not. She stood and sat with them, noticing that they giggled and tittered and the camaraderie was something new, something that she had never felt before. So that's what it is like to be a friend. It felt good, Inika wanted to share with them.

She glanced over her shoulder. Adin stood sternly at the back, not seeing her, frowning actually. Inika jumped up, or tried to, her feet again getting caught in the troublesome nightgown, forcing her to sit back down for the moment.

"I think it's an excellent example of someone wanting too much attention."

Inika glanced up sharply, the tables around her having been replaced with desks and a classroom, where Adin stood at the board, writing. His hands graceful as they held the chalk, but she couldn't understand or read the writing on the board. When she tried to call to him, she found that her voice was silenced.

There was a girl swinging at the front of the class. She wasn't dead. Or maybe she was, but there she hung, as if to invite a paper written on death and the dramatics of it all. The students studied the girl intently, gossiping, staring or judging the swinging girl. Inika was growing weary. She wanted to be away from this moment, this place, again standing, again trying to run and finding herself running nowhere.

"Adin please! I don't like this! I'm feeling trapped!" She tried to yell again. Hearing her voice as the scene around her changed in her hurry to reach him. It smelled of fire. Of fire and soot. She heard shots from behind her, and froze. She didn't want to turn. She had to. Her blood ran cold as her eyes met masked men with violence in their eyes. They reached for her, tearing at her nightgown. Inika screamed, shouted and tried to run, again getting caught in her nightgown and falling, the scuffling of feet and rough hands bringing her up easily. She tried to pull away, but they held her, she waited for them to touch her harshly, but nothing came.

"Shall we dance?

Inika's eyes opened to two boys smiling up at her like she was the most beautiful girl in the world, she even found herself blushing, forgetting the previous moment of violence. Her hands fell into one of theirs and they were off, dancing with her sweetly, holding her close and whispering that she was beautiful. Through the parting of faces in the crowd she spied Adin.

He circled her, with a smile and no matter how she fought to free herself from the arms of the men who spun her she gained no foothold. One of them finally freed her sit at a table. A table she stared dejectedly at. Forlornly. What was this place? What was happening?

Strong hands reached for her across the table. She looked up into the eyes of her steward and found her smile. Their hands fit together perfectly, and while Inika searched for the words to make this moment brilliant, to mark this moment in time. Adin, beat her to the punch.

"It's time, my creative girl. I must go."

There were no other words though she wanted to beg him to stop, before his lips found hers. She melted into the kiss, so easily into his arms as if she had always belonged there. A moment where she was forever his creative girl and they were safe.

Then he was gone.

Her tears found her. Those wracking sobs that wrenched her body about. Her mascara in rivulets down her cheek at her crushing loneliness. Adin was gone. Killed. For her. He had tried to protect them, and had been slain for it. She knew it. She felt it and he would never return to her. Her heart broke then, into a thousand pieces. She would never love, and never find trust again.

A hand to her wet cheek. Inika opened her eyes. He had to be a dream. He had to, his smile brightening his eyes. But it couldn't be.

They killed him. They had. Whoever this was, was a lie.

It was without thought that Inika was out of bed, her nightgown no longer a hindrance, before she had a pen and an elbow to the neck of this impostor of her steward. Her body was deadly as she pinned him to the wall, and spoke calmly.

"Who are you and where is my steward's body? I will kill you." She pressed the pen against the man's throat, the man who wore Adin's face, but not his nature and certainly not his heart.

No. Adin was dead. This man would pay first for his death.

Then she saw the look of fear cross his face. A flash of pain. A hopeful turn from the pen pushed against his jugular.

No.

She dropped her weapon and stepped back from him, staring in disbelief at this man. No other man would show her emotion. None could. Only her steward.

"No. But you... No."
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Old 06-10-2013, 03:53 AM   #23
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The attention of Adin Hunter was, perhaps, more divided than it should be. His eyes moved rapidly, checking this reading and that, but then straying to look at her as the images poured into her eyes, into her mind, and worked to change the very structure of her brain. She was beautiful, this girl of emotion that had been entrusted to him, and he found himself thinking of her often as control of his mind slipped from him just before he was asleep. Head on the pillow, he would be going over the next day in his mind or practicing one of the procedures he would have to employ during this day while she slept, and then he would realize just as the dark fingers of sleep began to encircle his mind that he was thinking of her. Eyes of unrivaled depth, the soft pillows of her lips, the graceful line of her neck, the firm shape of her breasts, the tenderness of her smooth belly, the curve of her hips and slim lines of her legs... He remembered the way her hair smelled when she hugged him. And some nights, when the apartment was silent and shrouded in darkness, he would wake suddenly from a dream he did not remember, and find himself hard beneath his sheets, and he would know what had been playing out in his mind. Sleep-fogged, driven by desires he knew he should not have and could not act on, he struggled at times to remain in bed in those moments when hers seemed far more inviting. He ached in those long nights to explore the depth of her, to taste her kiss and feel-

A tone in the room snapped him out of a forest of thoughts he hadn't realized he'd wandered into. He blinked a couple times, refocusing his vision and attempting to clear his head, seeing then that she had fallen into a sleep she would not wake from until the next morning. The tone alerted him to this fact, and for that he was thankful or it may have been some time before he found himself in a clearing again. There was much work to be done, potentially dangerous work, and he needed to focus.

Rising from his seat, he snatched a notebook from a shelf and opened to the first page. Blank, the lines inked across the white paper waited to accept the notes and observations he would leave within them. Empty, those lines waited to betray him and spill their secrets to anyone who opened the cover and possessed the ability to read. He was assured that the journals were his, however, and his alone. A private place that he could record thoughts and observations in while he worked with her, they said, and could be kept or destroyed at his discretion after he was done with his Creative. They lied about all of it.

Quick notes were scribbled though, recorded in ink that would not fade on paper that would not crumble. The pen was set down, and he returned to her side. Lifting a syringe, he injected her with nanoparticles that would swim freely through her blood stream and transmit in real time the levels of all chemicals that flowed through her, before they were eventually flushed harmlessly from her system after 8 hours. Another lie.

The readings began almost immediately, more instruments coming to life behind her chair. He moved back to the stool on wheels that he sat on just behind her, and gave the nanoparticles a few minutes to work their way through her system and get full readings. Once done, a note was made in the journal and he rolled over to a different table. On the top of that table was projected a keyboard, and Adin's fingers began tapping on the finished wood, words appearing on the screen set into the wall before him. Chemicals were mixed for him, some in amounts so small it almost seemed impossible that there was any at all in the glass vial that was filled for him, and he fitted it into another syringe. Small changes were made to the flow of energy coming from the dome just above her head, and he retreated back to the instruments. Satisfied with what he saw there, he lifted the syringe and injected the chemicals into her arm.

At this point in his training, he would always return directly to the instruments to watch the chemicals as they begun to have an effect on her. No longer training, and with her asleep before him, Adin lingered by her side, watching her. Reaching out, his fingers curled inward towards his palm and he stroked her cheek lightly, once, with the backs of his fingers. He allowed himself a heavy sigh, and then moved away from her to check the readings.

Had he been before the panel of monitors just after injecting her, he would've been able to see the dream as it hit her. It was not uncommon when Creatives were undergoing the procedure, and he watches as lines and graphs danced before him, and wondered what she was dreaming.

Or at least that was the half-truth he told himself. The full truth was that he wondered what she was dreaming, and if it was about him. Had he known, it may well have filled his heart as it broke it.

The next hours were spend in monitoring and fine adjustments, both chemical and electrical. As night fell outside the windows of their apartment, Adin emerged at last from the room with a limp and deeply slumbering Inika cradled in his arms. She seemed both impossibly light and intolerably heavy in his arms, easy to lift and yet weighing him down until he was almost unable to move. But move he did. He was in the doorway of his bedroom and not hers before he even realized he was going to the wrong one, and the weight of her in his arms demolished his resolve to turn and leave her in her own bed. Tonight, she would sleep in his. And he would watch over her, anxious and a little afraid of the person that would wake up in his bed.

A chair in the corner is where he spent the night, his eyes open and fixed in her direction even as the light in the room faded to grey, faded to gone. He slept at some point, though it felt like it was for only a short time, and the first rays of light were just creeping into the room when he woke and rubbed his tired eyes. Standing from the chair, he stretched a back that was sore and stiff, and padded barefoot over to her.

The discovery of wet cheeks made him frown, and made him reach out to her. One hand on each cheek, light and cradling, the pads of his thumbs wiping away the tears. The touch seemed to wake her, and he smiled down into her eyes, a flood of joy at seeing her conscious for him.

And then everything went wrong.

She moved faster than he'd ever seen her in all the years since he started watching her, and maybe it was just the exhaustion, maybe it was being caught off guard, but she seemed impossibly strong on top of it. Before he could process what was happening, she had him pinned against the wall and held a pen to his neck. He didn't even see her snatch it up from the small table by his bed.

Wide, frightened eyes met hers, and in them a painful realization had taken root and was beginning to bloom: Adin had ruined this brilliant and beautiful girl, and he would die at her hand for that sin. He destroyed her, and so she would destroy him. Those hours spent in that room may have entirely eradicated the Inika he knew and craved, and even though he might be physically stronger than her he knew he would be powerless to resist. He would let her take his life. For his sin, he would give it to her.

That new bloom was yanked out by the roots and discarded when the pen was dropped and she stepped back from him, her turn now to stare wide-eyed. Swallowing hard, he took a small and hesitant step away from the wall, his foot a whisper against the carpet. Slowly, as if she was a timid and abused animal, he reached out towards her.

"Inika... it's me," he said quietly, nodding slowly and holding her gaze. "It's Adin. I'm here. I told you I'd be here, and I'm here. It's Adin, Inika." Another slow step, more distance between him and the wall she'd held him against. "I'm here."
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Old 07-16-2013, 11:59 PM   #24
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"I'm here."

So real had been that place, her life without this man who was stepping towards her that Inika was ready to kill to make sure she was safe. To make them safe. She would never be safe without him. This place was a trap.

He came near and she lashed out once more. Her hands slamming against him, with all her strength, pushing him away from her. Jumping to her feet and running from him, from this dark place and that hateful room. He sputtered behind her and tried to follow, but she was already out the door after fumbling with the handle, and down the hallway, wildly searching for the door that would free her from this place.

"Inika!" Adin shouted behind her, his voice full of panic. She refused to turn and look at him, knowing that to do so would be her downfall.

The soft whoosh of an opening door near her caught her attention, and she turned to find two large mechanical hands reaching for her, Inika screamed and fell to the floor pushing herself backwards while the machine lumbered towards her still. Grey and large, it rolled across the white linoleum floor squeaking as it made it's way towards her, backpedaling as fast as she could she turned and clawed at the floor to push herself up in order to run in the opposite direction, only to run headfirst into a very large, very human chest.

"Ms. Cole, please." The voice was deep, the eyes were dark and she was suddenly afraid of this man more than she was of this place.

She looked up at the stern man, not noticing that the robot had made it's way towards her and that it had slipped a needle into her side, the sting caught her and she sighed and crumpled, her mind blank before she hit the floor.

* * *

Inika woke once more in her bed, eyes blinking she looked over to see Adin staring at her intently. She smiled at him wanly.

"What happened?"

He looked confused at her for a moment and then smoothed her hair, not saying anything. She tried to sit up in bed. It was difficult, like her whole body had been beaten, she grunted with the effort, and Adin watched her silently, and sadly.

"What is wrong?"

He kept his face plain, but she read the pain in his eyes. Something had happened. She didn't know what, but something there. Inika didn't want to look down at her body. She didn't want to know. Her small hand reached for his, catching it and holding it to her. He didn't stop the small gesture.

Freeing him, she moaned as she tried to stand, making it up with the greatest of effort, she padded slowly and painfully to the front room of their little abode. Her mind cleared as if something had clicked into place, she still hurt, but had no idea why, and realized that it didn't matter.

She looked at the walls blankly.

"Adin...why are the walls white again?" Her voice was monotonous and quiet in tone, there was no surprise, no hurt or incredulity that the colors she had chosen were gone.

She didn't even look back, as she realized it was morning, and groaned as she made her way over to the kitchen to take her pills, which were now grey. She didn't even question this.

Adin, however seemed to have the strangest look on his face, she couldn't place it. He stared at her, she smiled in a small way at him before making her way docilely to his exam room and waiting there for him to come let her in so that they could begin their day's work.
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Old 11-12-2013, 10:58 PM   #25
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It had been a long two days. Long may be an understatement.

She had not known, probably would never know, but a series of events was set off the moment she ran out the door in search of an escape. The first was her recovery, they called it. She was never getting out of the building, it would have made her the first and only Doll to do so, but that didn't mean it wasn't still an issue that she tried.

Once they had her back in hand, she was taken to a new apartment two floors up while Adin was send to a starkly white conference room located just above the ground floor. Three people waited for him there, all dressed in identical dark suits, and for nearly two hours he sat with them and went over all that had happened since he first arrived with Inika. An escape attempt was frowned upon harshly, and he began to get the sense that they were considering removing him as her Steward. The panic he felt at this surprised him, and it was perhaps only because they expected him to be as emotionless as they that it was not seen in his eyes.

In the end, he was able to convince them to give him another chance, but he was warned in no uncertain terms that another incident like the one that had transpired, and he'd be out. Perhaps of the program as a whole.

The ride up to the new apartment was a bit longer, but hardly noticeable. The man standing guard outside the main door was exceptionally noticeable, and the first sign that things were not as they once had been. The apartment appeared to be the same in every way, except for one major difference: the walls were again white. His sigh was heavy, shoulders slumped as he discovered this, and he hoped she had been asleep when they brought her here and not seen that things were colorless again. Better that he be with her when it happens.

He found her in her room, sleeping peacefully still. He doubted it was a natural sleep.

With the apartment quiet, he went to his own darkened room and slipped out of clothes he felt he'd been wearing for days. Dropping them through the small laundry chute, he walked barefoot and naked across the cool synthetic hardwood of the floor and blinked into the harsh, white light of his bathroom when he engaged the light. The door was slid closed behind him, and for a long stretch of minutes he stood in front of the small sink and stared at himself in the mirror.

He looked somehow more exhausted than he felt, with dark circles under his eyes and hair that seemed greasy and unkempt. Reaching into the shower stall, he touched the pad that would turn the water on, then moved to hold his thumb against the button that adjusted the temperature until it beeped with irritation at him for trying to go hotter than was allowed.

"Fuck you," he muttered, words barely formed beyond his lips, and his eyes returned to the mirror. He stared again, looking into his own eyes as he began to work on a plan for when she woke. It was not until steam had clung to the mirror and obscured his view that he moved finally, stepping under the hot spray of water. He took his time, washing away the past day and the sick feeling it left in the pit of his stomach. He knew things could get bad, much of the focus of their training was on dealing with it when things got bad, but this...

Adin felt unprepared for what it did to him. Could any amount of training prepare a person for that?

The hot water was inexhaustible, a stream of heat and vapor that would last until there was no water left to pump up to him, and so he simply stood under the water, watching it swirl as it made it's way towards the drain, until more than an hour had passed. The idea of drying himself, checking on her again, pulling back covers so he could lay in his own bed... simply thinking about it exhausted him. His limbs felt heavy, his head a stone mounted atop his shoulders, and it was only the feeling that he was overheating that finally drove him from under the water.

He dried as slowly as he'd washed, and when the door was slid open and he made his way back across the cool carpet, a trail of steam swirled behind him, illuminated only by the orange lights of the city that filtered in through the window. Bare feet carried him again, and he stood for a short time in the doorway to her room with only a towel around his waist. He'd not planned what he'd do in his state if she woke, but he didn't expect her to be awake, either. Between whatever they'd injected her with and the changes her mind had gone through recently, he thought it would be some time before she woke again.

"Good-" he began, but his voice caught and he had to swallow and begin again, "Goodnight, Inika."

It was a whisper he left her with, a sound that probably didn't even make it to her ears, but it felt as if it was all he had in him then.

The towel was left on the floor of his room, a lack of cleanliness and organization that normally would've bothered him to no end. But nothing was normal now, was it?

Naked, he crawled between the sheets of his bed. Laying on his stomach, he pulled one of the pillows against his body and kept his arm over it, and for the next dozen hours he did not move.

--------


The next afternoon, he discovered that they'd not brought any of his personal effects down from the lab. He realized this was likely because each lab was bio-locked to the Steward that ran it and they may be unable to get into it, though it surprised him that they didn't have a way to override that. The information was stored away for later, and the first of many trips past the guard, down the elevator, into the old apartment, and back up with an armload of items began. It took 18 trips in total, the last half-dozen or so with he and the guard coming to an unspoken understanding that each would simply act like the other did not exist.

His last trip down, he stopped in what had been Inika's room, and for a short time he stood in the center of it, letting his eyes wander across the colors she'd stained the walls with. A trail of reds that, now, looked disturbingly like blood led his eyes to her bed, and he realized the linens had not been changed on it yet. With a glance over his shoulder, an action undertaken despite knowing he was alone, he stepped closer and lifted her pillow into his hands. He stared at it for a moment, an internal debate over whether or not he was actually going to do what had popped into his mind.

Then the pillow was brought closer, pressed up against his face, and he inhaled her scent deeply.

He held it there, as if keeping some essence of her inside him by doing so, and then exhaled. He'd closed his eyes without realizing, and opened them now to toss the pillow back on the bed. A team would be in eventually to clean and sterilize for the next pair that would occupy this room, but he'd taken a little of her, and a little of the time they shared here before he changed her, with him before they did. Under the circumstances, it was the best he could have hoped for.

The rest of the day was spent in his lab, organizing everything he'd brought up from the one below. The door stood open while he did so he'd hear if she woke up, but he still checked on her every few hours. Night fell with little movement from her, and he ate dinner alone and in silence at the small table near one of the large windows.

Another shower followed, this one much quicker than the last, and he dressed in simple grey pants and a grey t-shirt. The lights were extinguished one by one until the apartment was dimly filtered light and angular shadows, and he pulled a chair into her room so he could sit by her bed. Sleep came occasionally, and only for short stretches, and for much of the night he was kept company by his own wandering, unorganized thoughts and the steady sound of her breathing.

He had a single dream at some point during the night. Inika's giggles filled his head as she ran through a forest of unnatural greens and browns. Giving chase, he called after her time and again, though his voice seemed to be unable to go far before it was lost amid the sounds of laughter and wind through the trees. It was a game of hide and seek, he realized as he reached the tree she'd disappeared behind only to find it hiding emptiness. A game of hide and seek that he was losing. Something told him that losing this game meant losing her, and he cupped his hands around his mouth to call out to her again when his eyes were opening, and he realized dawn had broken.

She woke a short time later, and to his confused surprised seemed to have no idea what had happened. But, perhaps worse than that, she seemed not to care. He watched her in silent apprehension as she left the room, though the warmth of her hand in his still lingered. Swiping the last of the sleep from his eyes, he stood and followed her, watching as she took her pill and then moved to the lab door. It could still be the medication wearing off, it could be that combined with the changes he'd undertaken, but whatever it was, this was not the girl he'd followed for so long.

It was not the girl he...

Jaw setting, he crossed to the lab door far more quickly than she had and pressed his hand to the pad next to it, the door sliding open with a whisper. All appeared nearly as it had in the previous lab, including the chair in the center, and with a gentle hand in the small of her back he led her inside to take her place there. Whatever changes had been done, whatever damage had been wrought, he was determined to undo it.

First, though, he had to figure out just what the hell he'd done to her.

Behind them, the door closed with a whisper.
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