Proper Programming

Five Years Ago…

When the red-haired, green-eyed girl was first brought in she had insisted it was May of 1938. She had also thought she was still in Kansas. In time, that changed.

At first, Elizabeth’s story had been dismissed as creative imaginings of a young girl, something akin to making up an invisible friend. Yet there were disturbing qualities to her story that, from a psychological perspective, could not be healthy.

So Dr. Fitzroy had done some research. There was no indication of a twister destroying homes much less leaving an entire family dead in 1938, although it often happened that smaller twisters went unreported during that time period. Nonetheless the patient, in imagining the year to be 1938, had obviously suffered some kind of emotional trauma.

“Are you comfortable, Elizabeth?” Dr. Fitzroy asked as he looked over at the girl now sitting comfortable on a soft leather chair.

“It’s Betty, Doctor. Only my Aunt Martha calls me that. But yes, I’m fine.” She looked over at the doctor. “Where is my mom and dad? You said you would look for them.”

Dr. Fitzroy nodded and frowned a little.

“You didn’t find them,” she stated, reading his expression. “It’s because they died in the twister I told you about.”

Dr. Fitzroy sighed and took off his glasses. He cleaned them with a white, monogrammed  hand kerchief. “Betty, I would like you to concentrate. Can you do that for me?”

Betty looked at him curiously, noticing Dr. Fitzroy’s watch. It wasn’t the first time she’d noticed how the crystal face of the gold watch caught the light. Little jewels of light drew her eyes and caught them like a magnet draws iron. “Yes, Doctor Fitzroy,” she replied a little distractedly.

Fitzroy smiled. “Betty, I want you to listen to me very carefully. You were never in Kansas. You never saw a twister in 1938.”

“But Mom and Dad…”

“You never knew your father, Betty, and your mother gave you up for adoption. You’ve always been here at the facility. You always wished you knew your parents, but everyone here has always been very good to you, haven’t they.”

Betty stared silently at Dr. Fitzroy’s watch.

“Betty?”

“Yes, Doctor?”

“I need you to say it. You’ve always been here at the facility, haven’t you.”

A tear began to roll down her cheeks as the girl struggled with the truth. “I… I…”

“There was no twister. No mysterious German-speaking scientist visited your home because your home was never in Kansas. This facility is your home. Betty?”

“Yes, Doctor?” Betty whispered.

“You are home.”

Betty’s eyes, bright with tears, could not look away from that wonderful watch. “Yes. I am home.”

“Please say it, Betty. This has always been your home.”

“This… facility… has always been… my … home.” As she said it, Betty wondered why she was crying. It only made sense. 1938 was a long time ago. There was no such thing as wormholes in time and certainly there weren’t any Germans looking for old Indian artifacts on a farm she only just made up in her head.

“Very good, Betty. Do you feel better now?”

Betty nodded and sniffled. “I’m sorry Doctor Fitzroy. I don’t know why I get like this.”

Fitzroy smiled and patted her arm. The movement seemed to break the spell the watch had over her. Betty blinked.

“It’s okay Betty. You are a very imaginative and strong willed person. It’s a mark of intelligence. Do you feel better?”

Betty smiled hesitantly, still blinking. She wondered what they had just been talking about. She wiped her eyes and discovered she’d been crying. She frowned. “Was I crying?”

Fitzroy smiled reassuringly. “Emotional release is a part of therapy, my dear.”

“I do feel better,” Betty admitted.

“Good. Now, you should run along. You and the other children are celebrating your thirteenth birthday tomorrow, and Dr. Fitzroy would like some help baking the cake.”

Betty smiled widely at that. She liked cake and the idea of a celebration. She slid off the chair and curtseyed, then with the Doctor’s approving nod, she ran off.

Dr. Fitzroy frowned after the girl left. He raised a hand and an image of a pad appeared. As he spoke, words appeared on the page. “Elizabeth Harmon finally appears to be responding to treatment. However, formal habits apparently taught by her original parents remain… Expect treatments will need to be ongoing. Subject has exceptional mental fortitude. End session #78.

With a wave the pad scrolled up and disappeared. “Doctor Fitzroy, signing off.”

The world went white, then black.

The doctor removed the sleek 3D Vision glasses and headset and placed them carefully on the polished mahogany desk right next to his laptop. It was connected of course to the mainframe that blinked on in the sealed dark room not far away.

“We’ll all go to hell for this,” he murmured.

A strong female voice answered from nowhere. “Pardon, doctor?”

“Never mind, Security.”

“Yes doctor.”

With a sigh, Fitzroy pushed away from his desk and stood up. He looked for a moment at the long, steel tubes across the room. Little windows let smoky, greenish light escape but showed little of their precious contents. He stepped closed to one in the middle, the one marked with a single digit: “1”.

The green mist inside parted at that moment revealing the young woman inside. With a halo of long, red hair floating around her head she seemed almost an angel. Her eyes opened.

Doctor Fitzroy cried out in shock and staggered away from the tube. Green eyes filled with accusation and rage glared at him, piercing his soul.

“No! It’s… impossible!” Fitzroy tore his eyes away from Storm Witch’s enraged face to glance at the mind transferal machine. The bed lay empty. Her memories, her mind was still in the computer.

He looked back at the tube again. The enraged angel’s eyes were closed, her face peaceful.

“Doctor. Please respond. Doctor Fitzroy.”

Fitzroy lifted his head off his desk after suddenly finding himself sitting behind it. He must have only just taken off the headset. He looked around, disoriented, then realized what had happened. He must have nodded off and dreamed. His reasoning mind told him he was overworked, overtired.

He started to answer the Security AI, but his voice cracked. He cleared his throat, then asserted some self control. “It’s all right, Security. Must have dozed off. I need to head back to Facility B now.”

“Yes Doctor Fitzroy,” intoned Security emotionlessly. “Have a good night, doctor.”

Fitzroy stood and walked to the door, stopping as he touched the handle. Nervously, he looked over his shoulder. Research indicated that Subject One, Storm Witch, was capable of altering reality, a power that had tremendous potential for the world… But the tube did not reveal its precious contents to him. Green mist glowed softly through the glass viewing window. The other four canisters showed the same.

Haunted by the memory of those green eyes, Fitzroy hurried home.

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