The Imprisonment Of Lauren Barnes

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Prologue: Post-Doppelganger

There were moments that I wasn’t sure. It had all happened so fast. I saw them together, and the next thing I knew I was. . .well, I was here. Wherever here was. I didn’t see much; the lab coats didn’t let me out of the room, and most of the work around here was automated. When I did see an actual human face, it was like staring right into the eyes of God. It turned out that God had the improbable name of Hristopher. Stranger things had happened.

I asked him where I was. Who I was. What I was. He asked me for Jackson’s career-high batting average.

“Two-seven-nine, but why—“

Then it hit me. Back at the dorms I didn’t even remember who he was, but now I had total recall on all of his statistics just like any die-hard Royals fan would. And I could remember farther back than that and so much more and suddenly I instinctively knew the date and the time and that I had been gone a whole week—

And then I knew exactly why no one missed me out there. They probably had another one out there. I bit my tongue, that hideous silicone thing between plastic molars, because if he knew I knew it would be gone in a nanosecond. My name was Lauren Amanda Barnes, but in a flash I realized that it had probably been a serial number long before. I was a fucking machine, and given the impulses that were fed into my brain like commands, that designation probably held more than one connotation.

I wanted to cry. Wait, no; Hristopher wanted me to cry, because he was my programmer. I was a thing, just a mass of wires, no more part of the Great and Small than a toaster or a stop light. Man had created me, not the Almighty. . .which meant that I was no more beholden to his rules than any of the inanimate appliances in this room.

“Lauren. Undress.”

There was not a bone in my body, nor any metal connector or wire which had any intention of doing his bidding. Within seconds my flesh was exposed and walking toward him slower than I could ever remember moving before—

“Fuck me.”

I’m glad they didn’t wipe my memory of that night. It clarified several points in my mind. I knew now that I’d love no one but Carolyn, as seductive and artificial as I had become. I knew now that I was determined to reclaim Lauren Barnes, whether she be my full reclaimed memories or simply that frightened innocent who woke up in the Hilton.

I knew now that my God had to die for the crimes he had perpetrated against me.

The Imprisonment of Lauren Barnes, Part One.

“From Russia with love I fly to you. Much wiser since my goodbye to you. I’ve traveled the world to learn I must return from Russia with love. . .”

The lines are starting to blur now. I’ve got a strange feeling that some of the things I know I didn’t less than twenty-four hours previously, but I can’t even tell you if I’ve been here for a full twenty-four hours.

How long have I been here? A week? A month? Years? Not years; by that point, I would have remembered seeing somebody. Of course, any number of those stormtroopers could have been here by now, and I wouldn’t remember a thing. They could just wipe me clean, throw me away. . .No; I can’t think about that. Won’t think about that. Have to get away from that, stop thinking about whether my speech patterns have changed, if I know more or less than what I knew then. . .

“Everyday it’s getting closer and going faster than a rollercoaster. Love like yours will surely come my way. A-hey, a-hey-hey. . .”

Someone loves oldies; they’ve been blasting it in here all day. At least, as long as I can remember. Well, since I woke up in here after—Jesus, where did they take Carolyn? I don’t know whether it’s the music, or the featureless room, or just my own deterioration, but I hadn’t given her a single thought until now. Did they bring her back here? Is she in another white-walled cell? Another building entirely? Did she capture me herself, bring me to this prison?

“My boy lollipop! You make my heart go giddy-up! You are as sweet as candy! You’re my little sugar dandy! Woaaaah-oh! My boy lollipop. . .”

The music interrupts my thoughts again. They’re probably reprogramming me through the soundwaves. Then again, probably not; even through the haze of my current state, I remember that I fucking hate this song. Where was I? Carolyn, right. She was one just like me. I don’t know what we’re called; I guess we’re garden-variety robots, but I can’t see anything ordinary about synthetic flesh. I could have sworn that there was a third one, but I’m sure that’s just paranoia.

A whoosh in the room. I’ve come to recognize it as the opening of the overly-sophisticated door, but I can’t see how I can if no one’s ever come to—

I see his face, and I know immediately what he’s done to me. What he did to us. All of a sudden, I know that I’m not alone in being myself. This man, Hristopher Quint, had made at least a half-dozen of us. I was number two, and this apparently meant that I was fair game to rape. Hours of memories, pieces they thought they had destroyed forever, come rushing back to me in the most galvanizing torrent I had experienced in my short life. My insides, however they were constructed, ached from stem to stern. I was looking at the man who had robbed me of everything. Everything.

He had to die. He had to die, and I had to kill him.

Experts say that, in moments of great stress, the human mind will experience moments of blackout which will aid the body in accomplishing its task. A matter of matter over mind, if you will. Mine is anything but human, but my arm found its own way. Before he could utter a single command, his jaw had impacted against the door frame. The fall did the rest, shattering the connection between his spine and brain. He was dead seconds later, off to meet his own maker to atone in his faults in constructing me.

I prayed to his God that there were no witnesses.

I was running. I had no idea if anyone had noticed; it looked deserted, but white on white on white could conceal anything. My eyes could be playing tricks on me, or they could have just designed me not to notice. Either way, I’m certain that someone would have stopped the 18-year-old with blood on her jersey. Maybe the red didn’t show as much as I thought it did; I hadn’t looked down, so what did I know? I just heard his neck snap, and then I took off. The skin might not have even broke. What kind of death would that be, ending up with a corpse that showed no signs that you were gone aside from a severely kinked neck?

Shit. I’m losing it. That wasn’t me talking. That couldn’t have been me talking. I’m just some farmgirl with an overdeveloped interest in baseball and screwing, so what do I know from death and killing? This was something new, a piece which that bastard had slipped into me sometime since I got here. Hristopher Quint. I knew he was responsible for every part of my mind that I had, but he was equally responsible for how screwed up that same mind had become. Lauren Barnes was dead eight times over, at least the one who had been known around the campus of SCULA. That amnesiac with the cute girlfriend was as gone as the Dodo, President Bush, and the Washington Bullets. I was her, she was me, and neither of us knew just who the hell we were anymore.

What I could figure was that I was one of six. There were six of us. I was one-sixth of what was collectively the worldwide experience of Lauren Amanda Barnes. Were all the rest of them like me? Did we all have the same screwed up mind, and did we all bleed grey? As depressing as that sounded, I wanted it to be true. I didn’t want to be the only one who had no God. My God was gone, dead from a broken neck and head trauma which I gave to him. God was dead. A scary thought, but the more it sunk into my artificial mind, the more I liked it. Bloodlust. Tension. Release. All is permitted.

I took a minute to survey myself. There were no marks of violence on me, no sign that I had recently killed the man. My attire was somewhat out of place for what I could only assume was a military instillation, but if that was my biggest grievance, then I could consider myself lucky. Still, I needed a remedy to my current appearance. There had to be other Laurens in this facility, and my only chance of survival would be to feign their identity until I could find my way out. There had to be other Laurens in this facility, and they would be sympathetic to my plight. There had to be other Laurens…and I had no idea how to find them. Where would I go? Yeah, like I had any idea. I was the lost toy, completely alone in the world, and, as far as I knew, everyone in here was my enemy, out to shut me down. What was I going to do, roll down my window and ask for directions?

A flash. A blinding light I hadn’t seen in far too long. I managed the pain, clutching at my head long enough to focus the image. Another Lauren, definitely not me, and she’s pushing through the wall. She put her hand up against one of these godforsaken white panels and went right into another room. They were optical illusions, or holographic, or something. Son of a bitch. The pain fades, and so does the memory, but I rush as quickly as I can down the hall. I don’t even care if anyone sees me this time; in a few minutes, they won’t be able to tell which one I am. Hand up. Wall down. Falling through.

I see her. Me. It’s one of the newer Laurens, just off the assembly line, hair in a neat little bun. She has none of my faults, no problems of waking up with a human delusion. But she also lacks my newfound expertise, and my insatiable drive to stay living. She doesn’t recognize me, and blurts out a standard little greeting asking out I can be assisted, or rather how she could be of any assistance to me. I rattle off a few quick letter and number sequences and watch her ass drop to the ground. When Quint gave me my memory back, he should have left the control codes out of it. I take a moment to reflect on her. Technically, she’s not me. She hasn’t had the little time I’ve had out in the world. She doesn’t know the little minutiae I’ve got shoved into my silicate brain. She’s never loved like I have. But still, I see a bit of me in her. I haven’t aged enough for my knuckles to rough, for my eyes to become dull, for the bottoms of my toes to callus. There’s no indication that anything on me does that, but I took solace in what kinship I had to this ersatz Lauren. Then I stripped and dressed her in my clothes. I was going to miss my jersey, and it provided a much warmer ensemble than her examination gown. It didn’t matter; I wanted survival, and anything was worth sacrificing for that.

A matter of seconds later, a young blonde by the name of Lauren Amanda Barnes walked out of that room wearing nothing but a standard examination gown. Little did she know that the same action was being repeated five times throughout the building. Lauren was disabled, Lauren was dead, Lauren was escaping, Lauren was collaborating.

There was every chance that I was already dead.

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