((I’ve written so many stories for her already, but I still enjoy doing so. This one, as you might have guessed already just by looking at the story tags, was crafted for the enjoyment of my friend, Steph, a.k.a. the esteemed author Robotunit8.))
Stephanie Brown finished her interview presentation and contained a sigh of disappointment. Though she had tried her very best to impress the leadership present in the room, her most pessimistic side insisted on the notion that she would fail to get the job she had applied for, and she just couldn’t stand seeing so much effort go to waste.
Mark Meyers, Vice-President of Human Resources of the notoriously famousMaxwell Corporation didn’t even bother to look up when she finished talking, which convinced her even further that the whole operation had been a major fiasco. He kept on looking at a sheet of yellow paper from behind his turtle shell rimmed glasses, and scribbling notes that no one could understand, except him. His handwriting was so garbled and strange that some whispered he was better off as a doctor than a businessman, and perhaps they were right.
Nonetheless, his silence and apparent disdain for what had just transpired were not to be understood as a flat-out denial of Stephanie’s skills, but much to the contrary, actually. If he didn’t acknowledge her right away, was because he was deeply absorbed in connecting all the dots of her work, making sure that everything had indeed been as appealing as his ears had initially led him to believe. Meyers liked to ponder things to the full extent of his rationality, and he was usually pinpoint accurate in selecting the best candidates for the various job requirements.
When he finally finished his mental processes and looked straight into her eyes, a spark of hope was swiftly brought forth.
“That was impressive, really! It seems you did your homework before coming here, Stephanie – may I call you that? – That’s a rare thing these days, and I’m a man that likes dedication! I congratulate you on a job well done!” he exclaimed, before applauding her quite effusively.
“D-does that mean that…” she gasped in bemusement. The betrayal of her true emotions was so strong she couldn’t even finish the sentence.
“Well, you certainly seem to have the knowledge and expertise it takes to be a valuable asset for this corporation. Nonetheless, before we make things final, there are some wrinkles that need to be ironed out.”
“I’m sorry… wrinkles?” Stephanie asked, unsure if he was trying to make a witty remark about her age or meant something else entirely.
“We have high standards here when it comes to our employees. Even those that are approved in the interview selection process with flying colours such as you need to go through one final test before they’re finally acknowledged as part of the work force.”
“What kind of test?”
“If you follow me this instant,” he said, getting up from his chair. “You’ll soon find out, Stephanie.”
They left the interview room and proceeded down the very same corridor she had walked through less than an hour before, passing by the crystal desk where a very beautiful and elegant young blonde secretary was busy typing something on her touch screen keyboard. Stephanie loved her purple, classy outfit, but what impressed her most were the stylish silver headphones with wireless microphone that, on occasions, seemed to glimmer from within with a powerfully addictive light.
After traversing the main hallway, Meyers eventually turned right and led her to the VIP elevator that could only be used by those with a special clearance electronic key card. Ten floors below them, the Medical Department awaited in all of its technologically sterilized glory, a true testament of the amount of money handled by the corporation on a daily basis.
Stephanie saw state-of-the-art medical equipment, some of which she didn’t know to exist for real, and lots of men and women wearing shiny lab coats and similar headpieces that gave her the impression she was on board an interstellar battleship instead of inside the main facilities of a software and hardware company.
Their walk stopped in front of an egg-shaped small chamber or pod connected to a wide multitude of electronic arrays and three-dimensional screens. A doctor of European ascent called Karla Schmidt then explained what was expected of her:
“We’ve simplified the process of physical and psychological check-up that’s mandatory according to state law. This machine will perform a full scan on you that will measure every function of your body and brain to see if they’re in accordance with what is considered normal for a woman your age. It takes only a few minutes and the only thing you’ll feel is a slight tingling as the optical lasers inside are calibrated and nothing else. If there are no deviations, no life-endangering conditions found, you’re immediately considered fit for duty.” The woman smiled.
“And you can start right away, if you’re up for it!” Meyers concluded, he too quite content.
“Let’s do it, then!” Stephanie concurred, more than intrigued by the uncanny apparatus in front of her. Besides, even if she wasn’t, knowing that stepping inside the machine was the final threshold before securing a very well-paid job was motivation enough on its own.
The pod was cushioned and quite soft to the touch, and also larger on the inside that what it looked like seen from the exterior. Luminous bulbs were everywhere, some green, some red, some yellow and a couple more that were of an undecided colour seeing they flashed at random intervals through various phases of the common luminous spectre. When the door silently slid into place, locking her in, a small rush of claustrophobia assaulted her, yet it was so brief she would never remember it again. Dr. Schmidt’s warm voice was heard coming in from a speaker above.
“Initiating scan, now! Please remain as still as possible for the next five minutes for the data to be properly collected.”
Stephanie took a deep breath and did as asked, as the lights that surrounded her began to twirl. It appeared that the pod was built onto a rotating axis and was now gently spinning, almost like rocking a baby’s cradle. The laser beams followed the same pattern, strangely contorting as they were being fired in rapid succession. There was also something solid about them, an impression of silky wrappings, or may be something slightly rubbery, she couldn’t really tell. It was an odd feeling, for sure, but the tingling was nice, overall. Another sentence echoed in her ears.
“Molecular reversion program in 5, 4, 3, 2…”
“Huh, what?” Stephanie’s mind raced as the words gained a dangerous emphasis. The chamber’s clockwise rotations intensified, the lights that looked like bindings grew in size, and the world shrunk into an oppressive bubble, practically becoming silvery-white. She was restrained from head to toe, compressed and reshaped like a lump of clay as she felt her clothes shredding, her flesh burning, the laws of Nature being bounced around and ultimately discarded in the trash bin of Science.
The five minutes were in fact five hours, and she lived them all, with a perfectly acute awareness. She felt the rejuvenating of the skin, the saggy lumps of flesh becoming firm again, the hair growing stronger and framing the face of a twenty-year old dazzling woman, the one she remembered being a little over three decades ago. But there was more. She was sculpted, re-sculpted, rearranged over and over again until she was the epitome of bodily perfection according to some highly obscure polychromatic charts and a perfect body deserved a perfect mind.
That’s what she got when she was freed from the pod and given her very own set of headphones. Irresistible brainwave controllers, they tuned in automatically to the frequencies that made her tick, maintaining all of the attributes she already possessed, yet enhancing them exponentially at the same time. The interface, once fully synchronized, opened her eyes to the reality of being a part of a living intranet, where everyone except the bigwigs were always connected, like drones inside a human hive.
Stephanie was now Stephanie, but also Karla, and Bob, and Jo, and endless others, a young and vibrant personification of an ever-growing Collective that would revel in ceaseless manifestations of total conformity.
Her interview presentation had been a smashing hit. She now had a new job, a new family, and a new organic version of an old memory of life. And the best part of it all was when the headphones glimmered, and new streams of data were fed directly to her central nervous system: she was fully upgradeable!