This is where I ran into problems. Swaim wants to use Merritt as a weapon. So he's hooking her up to computers and keeping her in a dream state where she believes that he's her father. It makes it easier for him to control her and use her. Kind of useless place for a heroine. My intention was to replay Dax and Merritt's love story using her subconscious. Even though she's doped up and believes she's Swaim's daughter, subconciously she'll be remembering her life with Dax. So I would tell their story as Merritt remembered it. Meanwhile, Dax is also hooked into the super computer and somehow his subconscious connects with Merritt's, he realizes what's going on, he breaks free then goes back to free her. It turns out that I've over used that tool recently. Seperate H/H and have hero rescue heroine. So yes, it is hard to connect with a heroine who is doped and unconscious. I have to agree there. But they didn't see Merritt the way I did. Which was also my fault. I didn't write enough of the book. Its hard to do a indepth proposal when you've got a dead line looming.
There had to be something beyond the shadows. Or maybe it was just her vision that was blurry. There was always the possibility that she was dreaming. Could that be it? Merritt walked through the room with her fingers trailing over the clean lines of the plain but functional furniture. Everything was done in shades of gray, from the plush carpet that cushioned her feet to the heavy gray drapes that covered the walls. Were there windows behind the drapes? For some reason she could not recall the view. Everything around her was familiar, yet everything she saw was strange.
“There you are my dear,” a man’s voice said.
Merritt turned. A man stood before her. He was tall and slim with blond hair that held a touch of silver at the temples. His eyes shaded more towards gray than blue, but it could easily be that the room they were in made them look that way. He wore a perfectly tailored suit that was on the edge of a new trend in fashion, yet would not be considered ostentatious by his peers. How was it that knew that, or even cared?
“Father?” she asked. The word came unbidden to her lips and for some strange reason she was not sure if it was appropriate.
“Who else would it be?” He came to her and took her upper arms into his hands. He kissed her forehead. “Silly girl,” he said.
She scrunched her forehead up as he kissed it. As if she could ward off the touch of his lips. His eyes bore into her and she turned away from his intense scrutiny.
“Merritt,” he said his voice heavy with concern. “Are you all right?”
A pain shot through her temples and she pressed her hands against them.
“It hurts,” she cried out.
“What’s wrong?” Swain asked.
“She’s fighting it,” Foster replied. “Her mind is sensing the reality shift. Her consciousness senses the dream so she’s trying to wake herself up.” Foster turned from his perusal of the monitor and added. “I told you she was strong. One of the strongest I’ve ever seen.”
Swain let his head drop back against the cushion. He reclined in an ergonomic chair while Foster worked the code for Merritt’s program. His Simkey pulsed while it accepted the code and aligned the program with the matching Simkey that glowed from the admanium port Foster had inserted in Merritt’s temple.
Strong and mine…
She really was quite lovely with her silvery blonde hair and clear blue eyes which were closed. It was a shame really that he could not look at them. They reminded him of the wildflowers that grew outside the dome. They were the dominant feature of her heart shaped face and quite an exquisite color of blue with black flecks around the edge of the irises. It was as if he possessed a valuable piece of art that he had to keep behind lock and key. He well remembered the sparks in those eyes as she attacked him in the real. It would be nice to see the life in them again. That, however, would not be conducive to achieving his goal.
She wore a silver rehab suit that stretched from her toes up to her neck. It would aid in the prevention of sores on her body from being in the same position for so long. It would also stimulate her muscles and enhance her circulation as she stayed suspended in the simlife. It clung to her like a second skin and showed the healthy vitality of her body which would soon fade away with enforced inactivity. Various tubes and wires were attached each one there to serve a purpose in keeping her alive for as long as he needed her.
To Swain, she looked like a princess from one of the ancient fairy tales as she lay reclined in a chair similar to his. Her brow seemed troubled and was drawn sternly down, marring the porcelain like complexion of her skin.
“Sleeping Beauty,” he said as he recalled the ancient fairytale she brought to mind.
“Sir?” Foster inquired.
“I noticed that you cut her hair.” No need to let Foster know where his musings led him. The man was bright enough as it was. Bright enough that he bore watching.
“Yes sir,” Foster did not turn away from his keypad.
No excuse or reason was given. When she arrived her hair hung to her waist. Now it was cropped close to her head and the ends of it curled up around her face.
Why did he care?
“It would have been a nuisance to care for,” Foster added after a moment.
Swain had to agree. Still it was a shame.
“I sold it,” Foster said as he swiveled his chair around to face him. “To the sonaspa.”
Swain resisted the urge to roll his eyes in disgust. The pursuit of eternal youth in their society was not unlike a cult. Someone would pay dearly for those hair enhancements. He wondered if he would recognize the color if he came across it in his social circle.
“I assume you deposited the credits in my account,” Swain said.
“Yes,” Foster said. “We can try again whenever you are ready. I added a head injury to her history which will help explain her confusion and I also gave her a pet for distraction.”
“A fluffy white kitten,” Foster said with a smile that seemed insincere at best. “A gift from her father.”
Swain nodded his approval as he settled back into his chair and closed his eyes.
“Have I told you how relieved I am?” He said.
Merritt touched her temple once again. “About what?”
“About your recovery of course.” The look he gave her was full of concern. “The Doctor said your periods of memory loss would eventually fade.”
She pushed her fingers against her temple as if there was a switch there that needed to be on. If only she could remember…anything…There was nothing that was familiar. The walls seemed distant yet suffocating. She wanted to see the sky and feel the breeze on her face.
“I was hurt?” she asked. That would explain much. It would explain everything. She looked at her father hopefully. Why couldn’t she remember him?
“Yes,” he said calmly. Patiently. As if she was a small child. “You fell. You hurt your head. You have only recently come home from the Medcen.”
“Is that why it hurts?” she asked as she rubbed her right hand over her forehead. She scrunched up her eyes and then opened them in hopes that things would appear clearer to her. Her left hand caught her attention and she looked at it, spreading the fingers wide as she turned it over to examine it.
“I lost it,” she said. “I lost my ring. Did I leave it at the Medcen?”
“What ring?” he asked.
Merritt held her hand out. “My ring.” She twisted the fingers of her right hand around the base of the ring finger on her left hand.
“What did it look like?”
She continued to rub her finger as she tried to remember. She could see it in her mind. Silver and gold twisted together in a never ending circle. She recalled the weight of it. How it slid down the length of her finger and settled at the base as if it were a part of her flesh. She could almost feel a hand close over hers as if holding it in place. A strong hand with blunt fingers that were heavily calloused at the tips. To whom did it belong? “It was silver…and gold…It was both?” she said in hope that he would offer her some confirmation.
“I’m sure it will turn up,” he said a trifle bit too indulgently. How could something that felt so real and now so lost be a figment of her imagination?
It was apparent that her father thought she was imaging it. She turned away. She could not stand to see the indulgence in his pale eyes. Her eyes darted back and forth looking for the way out. She felt claustrophobic, as if the walls were closing in around her. The only door was behind him. Even with her back turned she knew she would not make it past him.
As if he knew what she was thinking he came up behind her and placed his hands firmly on her shoulders. Perhaps he meant to offer comfort. Instead she felt as if he’d captured her and there was no escape.
If he was her father then why couldn’t she remember his name?
“I have a gift for you,” he said. “Something to help you with your recovery. The doctor’s said if you didn’t try to remember so much then it would be easier.”
“They did?” She had a vague recollection of some sort of medical procedure. Of bright lights over head, the sterile smell of recycled air and strange faces hovering over her. She also felt a strange sense of loss, as if with the accident and what followed she lost a part of herself.
It was all so strange yet she could not say what was different. Only that it was.
The man who was her father walked to the plush gray sofa that curved around two sides of the room. He returned with a white box tied with a bright pink bow. It was strange that she had not noticed it earlier when she first walked into the room. Certainly the brightness of the bow would have stood out against all the misty gray that surrounded her.
“Open it,” he said encouragingly as he held it out to her. She had no choice but to take it. She pulled on the ribbon and it fell away as if it were nothing. She opened the box and a black kitten with deep blue eyes poked its head up and stared at her inquisitively.
“Oh,” Merritt exclaimed. She scooped the kitten out and dropped the box to the floor. “He’s adorable.”
Her father seemed confused. He chucked a finger under the kitten’s chin and it turned its head into her neck as if trying to escape from his attention. “You shall have to give it a name,” he said.
Merritt held the kitten up before her face and looked into its deep blue eyes. They were such a strange color for a cat, but somewhere she had heard that kittens were born with blue eyes and then they turned green or gold. Perhaps his just hadn’t changed yet. He let out a tiny meow as she looked at him and she smiled in delight as she clutched him back to her breast.
“I shall name him Dax,” she said.
“Dax?” Her fathered seemed to disapprove. “Isn’t that a strange name for a cat? Where ever did you come up with that name?”
Merritt turned halfway away from him. She felt as if the kitten was in jeopardy. “I don’t know where it came from,” she said as she rubbed the silky fur. “I just know that I like it and it seems to fit him.”
“Are you even sure that it is a him?” he asked.
Merritt held up the kitten once more and looked beneath its tiny round belly. It was hard to say one way or another at this young age but for some reason, she just knew it was a he. “I’m sure,” she said.
“I’m glad you are pleased,” her father said. “Now come, the Doctor’s said you must rest.” He took her arm and guided her to a door. “Go in and lie down. Snuggle up with your kitty,” he added as he opened the door.
Merritt looked around the space, hoping for something that was familiar, but all she saw was the same misty grayness around the walls and a gray cover upon the bed that was the only piece of furniture in the room. She heard the door close firmly behind her and knew without checking that it was locked. It didn’t matter one way or the other however as she found herself suddenly very tired. Her eyes closed the moment she lay down on the bed but before she drifted off to sleep her finger tips grazed the base of her ring finger.
er last thought as the darkness overcame her was of her ring. She must find it.
“I thought you told me the kitten was white,” Swain exclaimed as he disconnected his Simkey and slid it into the pocket inside of his coat. He positioned his chair for easy rising and stalked to where Merritt lay in her dream like state. Her hands were clutched together with the fingers of her right hand holding onto the base of her left ring finger and her forehead was drawn down as if she were heavily troubled.
“I programmed it white,” Foster said. “What did you see?”
“A black cat with blue eyes,” Swain said. “She named it Dax.”
“Dax?” Foster asked.
“The man with her,” Swain exclaimed. “His name was Dax. At least that’s what she was screaming if I remember correctly.”
Foster raised his eyebrows. “How interesting,” he said. “Her subconscious is compensating for the absence of familiarity. It also appears that it is rewriting the program to adapt to her longings.”
“Fix it,” Swain said in disgust. “I need her to be fully operational as soon as possible.”
“I’ll get right on it,” Foster said. But instead of turning back to his desk, he studied Merritt intently. “Perhaps we should give her a mother,” he mused aloud.
“No,” Swain said. “The simpler the program, the better it will run. She has to trust me. Only me,” he added as he turned to go. He had a council meeting to attend. “Have it working by the time I return,” he snapped as he left.
He walked through his luxurious apartment that covered the entire top floor of one of the most prominent buildings inside the dome. Above him was a rooftop garden full of plants that at one time grew in the Caribbean islands which were now rumored to be nothing more than desolate peaks. No one knew for certain. No one who ventured out to travel what remained of the world ever returned.
The best part about his garden was that he could stand upon a chair and touch the skin that sheltered them from the outside. It felt fragile, as if it could be sliced with a knife, yet it withstood pounding rain and hail and the freezing rains that pelted it in the winter. When he was younger and full of idealism he imagined he was touching the sky. Now he knew better.
Swain entered the lift that only stopped on his floor and the main floor many stories below. It was open on three sides and from it he could survey the city. He saw the many storied buildings, the green areas, the elevated trains that encircled the dome and the moving sidewalks that created a spider web effect from the center of the city to the edge. Everywhere he looked he saw the vid screens. The screens that gave their society all their information, from the latest news to the latest in the celebrity gossip. Screens that were present on every corner, in every office, in every apartment, in every classroom.
Screens that controlled the populace with suggestions made by the Paranormal Research Instruments of Sublimal Messaging called Prisms by those on the council. There were nearly one hundred of them, all kept in simsleep, all heavily guarded and behind locked doors on a floor of the government building. Each Prism was connected to the main frame and each was given instructions which they, in turn, passed on to the populace. Buy this, eat here, avoid this, all suggested to keep the peace within.
Swain allowed himself the luxury of a smile as he quickly descended to the streets below. Now he had his own Prism. One who was programmed to do his bidding and spread his will.
Soon everything he beheld before him would be his.
“All mine,” he said with a smile.