Power Fantasies

"Alright, birth name?"

The figure standing at the desk snaps out of its reverie with a characteristic jerk.

"Oh, uh, Dominic. Dearden. Dominic Dearden. That's my name. At least, I assume it's my name. My memory gets a little hazy towards the beginning of my life, and for all I know I could have been born with almost any name, and people could have changed it at a later date. Were they so inclined. So, um, it's Dominic, but take it with, uh, a pinch of salt. I suppose. Um."

The receptionist just stares back at him blankly, fingers hovering above the keyboard.

"And your home address? Just the first couple of lines, to make sure it matches our records. We're at the forefront of innovation here, or so I've been told. We need to check stuff like this carefully."

Dominic wracks his mind for the address T had given him. For a worrying few seconds his almost-brain draws up nothing but blanks, but it eventually scrabbles together the necessary tidbits. It was tricky, this 'remembering' business. So much to keep track of, and so little space to do it in. He'd technically be lying, and on an official database no less, but… hell, he'd heard what these people were capable of. It would be worth it to get proof, for himself as much as anyone else.

"Dorfstraße. Number, um, eight. Leipzig."

The receptionist's fingers dance away at the computer's behest, firing off the relevant information. What passes for Dominic's heart skips a beat as she squints at the screen. Finally, she smiles.

"Ah, something Industrial, right? We get a lot of visitors from there, though not so many recently. Just sit down wherever and one of our associates will be with you shortly."

Two men sat in a large, official-looking room. Sure, there were other people bustling about, handing slips of paper to one another and signing things, but they were background noise. The gentlemen in the seats seemed to command any area just by being in it, pulling reality around them like a duvet. A cheap gambit, but a highly effective one in their field of business.

Now, however, was not the time for parlour tricks. That would come later, when the client was standing before them, pockets full of money and eyes full of hope. No, now was the time for discussion. Without quite turning to face each other, speaking in hushed whispers, they began to talk.

"So. A new client, yes? An individual, or so the background checks have led me to believe."

"Exactly so, and that's what's so strange. An individual is all they seem to be. They don't have any prior dealings with any of our satellite businesses, or our competitors. Even most mundane companies have no records of meeting them."

"A Nobody, then, or something similar. Someone who turns up out of the blue with a large amount of cash and a job that needs doing. We've had our fair share of them in the past, haven't we? What's the specification for this one?"

"Hyperrealistic exoskeletal furnishings, with full motility and every protection we offer. Indistinguishable from human, and he wants it done quickly too — we'd have to shut down mass production to use the equipment."

"We can make the loss up in no time. What AI are they looking for?"

"That's the really strange thing, they-"

"Stranger than the first strange thing you mentioned?"

"Hah. Yes, now you mention it. We only spoke over the phone, but they just said yes to whatever I offered. Additional sub-circuitry, imagination, full range of conversational techniques… you get the idea. Seemed in a right hurry to get off the line, so at the moment it's looking like all the trimmings and then some."

"…I see. Well, we'll have to take them to their word. Get the team on it, see if you can meet the demands."

"We're taking the commission then?"

"I don't see why not. They can pay, we can provide. With any luck, everyone walks away from this satisfied."

A sigh, and a curt nod.

"I'll see what I can do."

Dominic stands in a foyer with a view over the factory floor. To his right stands a portly man with a perpetually running nose, and to his left is a woman who is best described as 'taut' — everything about her seems to be tensioned to just under breaking point, and possibly slightly further. Dominic doesn't like either of them, but his venture into the world has thus far taught him not to be too harsh on things he doesn't like. They have a nasty habit of breaking, and then he likes them even less.

Punctuated by sniffs and "pardon me"s, the man drones on about the new production and distribution techniques the company uses to ensure "every customer, regardless of their place in society, gets an astoundingly above-average experience". Dominic's eyes begin to glaze over, and fluid begins to trickle down the underside of his arm. He tries remembering again, seeing if he can master the art of storing and retrieving memories. He's never really had to do it before, besides trivial details, so this might be a good time to practice. He strains against the limitations of his mind, delving backwards into his past, pushing against the walls that separate the compartments of his psyche. He wasn't made for this, he knows, but he also knows that if he pushes hard enough he'll be able to…


* * *

Oh no. No no no no no. This isn't right at all. This isn't what he wanted to do. He must have strained too hard; he can see everything, all at once, muddled into a great big soupy mess. It's all around him, memories bubbling to the surface unbidden. He's standing in the kitchen, and he's… upset. Very, very upset. There are bloodstains, and oil, and Dominic's crying as he stands there covered in it all. Crying? Can he even produce tears? T pats him on the shoulder in that comforting way it has, and tells him (without using words) that it knows just to do. It'll let him go and see for himself. See the world outside the Farmhouse. See why they do what they do, why they hurt who they hurt.

But that's not how it happened, not exactly. It's an approximation, inexact, distorted. A crude representation, like an amateur play by someone who heard about it secondhand. They're his memories, so why can't he-

* * *

He slips again, and there's an old man lying on a bench, also covered in blood, screaming at Dominic with words he can barely make out. Dominic screams back, tears (oil?) pouring down his face. He doesn't know what to do. He's never known what to do, not really, but now more than ever he wishes someone could tell him. The old man lies there dying, and Dominic's crying, all because of a foolish desire to save the poor innocent phone that's now in pieces on the floor and all around him are shards of glass and oil and blood and tears and-

No. Wrong. The man was taller than that, and he wasn't covered in blood until the end of it, because at that point Dominic hadn't brought out T's knife, and he hadn't… hm. Best not to dwell on that, it would only lead to more upsetting memories. There are more important things to worry about, like why it's all wrong and messed-up. Some kind of compression algorithm, something to save space? It would explain why humans don't constantly go insane with all their memories muddled about like this. Is there any way to stop it, to preserve what actually happened? To remember properly, and not have them marred by this- this corruption? Dominic doesn't know, and why should he? He's not even a real-

* * *

There's a metal skeleton lying in a broken heap on the ground, tucked into a corner of an alleyway. It beeps and whirrs softly to itself — it's a shame to break something so newly-purchased, but needs must. Glancing around for signs of any potential witnesses, Dominic struggles into its skin. He then needs clothes, according to his basic knowledge of society, so he takes some from a passing stranger. They don't seem to mind, after they see just how much Dominic wants them.

As he begins to feel lightheaded and numb, and the Anderson Robotics-brand Human Facsimile writhes softly in a puddle of its own leakage, Dominic notes that this memory's almost accurate.

* * *

His dream moves onward, and this time there's just blackness, thick and suffocating. "Transition from REM to deep sleep", his memory provides, but by that point Dominic's not even aware he's in it.

"Sir, sir!? Are you okay?"

The portly man is standing over him, clutching a glass of water.

"You seem to have fainted. We knew our production line was good, but not that good, aha."

The vague attempt at humour sails over Dominic's head, and he grapples to survey his new surroundings. He observes walls coated in dull white paint, a few bored workers milling around, and a single dirt-encrusted skylight that does nothing to lighten the atmosphere.

"Where… where are we? I don't remember getting here, and I've been trying really hard to remember things."

"Oh, this? This is just where we test products before we ship them. Take a couple from every batch and put them through the wringer, you know? Make sure everything's ship-shape and all that. It was the nearest place with a comfortable seat."

Sure enough, Dominic sees that he's perched awkwardly on a stained and faded blue sofa. He shifts his weight in order to brush some ancient crumbs from his leg, and freezes.

"Should we continue with the tour, sir?"

But Dominic's not listening. He's staring at the toaster on the bench, two slices of bread sticking out of it like daggers.

"What", he pauses, nausea overtaking him, "is that?"

The man spins around, blubber swinging about him like an orbiting satellite.

"Oh, you had me worried for a moment there. That's just our HT-908 model. It's got twelve different settings, and even", he leans forward as if imparting a lewd and dangerous secret, "a slot for bagels, if you enjoy that sort of thing. But hey, you can see it for yourself."

Before he can scream his dissent, Dominic sees the man force the lever down. The cameras filling his torso twitch and roll with a surge of horror, and SCP-2856-9 bursts out his borrowed coverings. Stumbling forward, knife in hand, he moves to free his tortured comrade.

Dominic Dearden (Surveillance Constructs DD-32, OmnEye-F7, ABVS/002, et al), sits with his back against a cupboard in the kitchen of the Farmhouse. In the next room, an arachnoid gas-powered water heater displays the footage of his misadventure to an enraptured audience of twitching, gibbering appliances. Dominic doesn't care to join them — it was tough enough living it the first time. He saw the horrors of the 'real world' for himself, but as the memory of the injured toaster floods back to him he begins to wish he hadn't. Say what you like about T's methods, they certainly convinced him of the necessity of the appliances' work. Humanity had a lot to learn about equality.

No, he's content to play with his Polaroid here. He grins at it, thumbing the shutter down with a crunch. An eyeball shoots through the air, splattering against the door. Admiring the way it trickles to the ground, the Camera-Man sighs with pleasure. A multitude of lenses slide shut with a faint susuration.

"You know what, T?"

A vaguely mechanical creature (humanoid, but with a slight disproportionality that makes it look more alien than should reasonably be possible) turns its face-approximation towards him, placing two slices of 'bread' on the sideboard. With a screech, it sits down next to Dominic, scratched eyes filled with compassion, toaster head gleaming in the evening light. "What?", it seems to ask.

The two rest together, there on the floor. A pair of household appliances, fighting for the rights of the voiceless.

"I don't think I'll ever understand humans."

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