Actions

Work Header

A House in His Head

Work Text:

Verbal Text from:
EMORY CUSTOM TAPESTUDY FOR SUBJECT GRANT ALX-972

DO NOT COPY WITHOUT COMMITTEE FORM 768
Content: Reseune Internal File 9742-1768-2

Technician notes: To be administered with maximum recommended dosage of cataphoric (deep-tape).
Record to be filed with Ariane Emory's personal notes, not in subject notes.

Hello, Grant. You're three years old today. You're an Alpha, which means that you're a very smart little boy, so you will be going to live with a CIT family instead of your azi yearmates. You will follow the rules of the household. You will do what your Supervisor tells you.

But there will be another tape for you about what it is like to live with CITs. This tape is about Justin.

This is what Justin looks like. Justin is three years old, the same age as you. Justin is a CIT. You are going to live with Justin. His father will be your Supervisor, and you will obey your Supervisor, but you will always be loyal to Justin.

Listen to me, Grant, because this is very important. You are for Justin. You were made to be Justin's companion. You will be loyal to Justin. You will protect Justin. You will love Justin.

You will do this for the rest of your life. No matter who your Supervisor is, no matter who your operator is, no matter what other CITs want your attention, Justin will be the most important person to you.

You will always be loyal to Justin. You will always protect Justin. You will always love Justin.

i.

A small boy with a shock of red hair holds hands with a tall, dark-haired man. The boy has never met the man before today, but he is not afraid of him, because the man is his Supervisor. But the boy is not particularly interested in the man, either. He is looking curiously ahead of them, eager for a glimpse of his new home.

The man swipes his keycard to open his apartment, and leads the boy inside. The man calls out, "Justin!" and another small boy, this one with dark hair like the man, sprints out of another room. "This is my son," the man tells the small boy with red hair.

"Hello," says Justin.

The boy pulls his hand away from the man, and the man lets him, watching to see what he will do. The boy walks up to Justin and reaches out to hold his hand. Justin takes it. The boy holds onto Justin's hand tightly, unlike the way he held hands with the man--mostly he let the man hold on and pull him along. The boy leans forward, looking into Justin's eyes.

"I like you, Justin," the boy announces.

Justin grins and squeezes the boy's hand. "Do you want to play trains?" Justin asks.

The boy would be happy to do anything with Justin, but he does not know what Justin means. "Training?" he asks. "Are we going to learn something?"

"No, trains," Justin says impatiently. A look from his father reminds him that the boy is an azi, and Justin must be patient with him. "Haven't you ever seen a train before? They have them in Novgorod, under the ground."

"He's never been outside Reseune," the man says gently, so that the boy knows it's not his fault he's never seen a train before. "You'll have to explain it more."

"They're sort of cars," Justin tells the boy. "Only lots of people can fit in them, and they can't drive on roads like a car, they have to stay on tracks. I have trains in my room, and train track we can set up all over the house, and then we can go anywhere!"

Justin pulls the boy into his room, and lets go of him to pull a tub of trains and tracks of his shelf. The boy instantly comes to help him with it. They set it on the floor, and Justin pulls out a black engine. "You can have this one," Justin says.

"What is it?" the boy asks, turning it over in his hands. It has wheels in two rows along one surface, and the boy can see that the wheels are the same space apart as the tracks in the tub.

"A train," Justin says. He is pulling out track pieces now and starting to fit them together: each end has a tongue like a puzzle piece or a notch for the tongue to fit into.

"I thought you said they were big enough for people to fit in them," the boy says, confused.

"Real trains are," Justin says. "They are toy trains. Haven't you ever had toys before?"

"No," the boy says. He has never wanted any before, but he doesn't want to disappoint Justin now, and so he feels somehow deficient.

"He's had learning aids," the man says from the doorway. "They're the same thing."

"Oh," says the boy, relieved. "It's a scale model. To help you learn about real trains."

"It's for playing with," Justin insists. He's laying on his stomach, adding track at the end of his reach. "Come on. Help me do the track."

"Where is it going?" the boy asks, taking a piece of track from the tub with one hand. He is still clutching the train Justin gave him in the other hand.

Justin's fitting a curved track around his bedpost. He says, "Anywhere you want."

The boy follows him and adds his own piece of track to Justin's. He wants to go where Justin is. He always will.


Verbal Text From:
COMPARTMENTALIZATION
A Training Tapestudy for Alpha-Class Azi

Content: Reseune Internal File 7632-1722-5
approved for 150+

You have been selected to aid tape designers by running new, experimental tape for the first time to determine if there are any flaws not already found by the design team. You do not want to integrate these new structures into your psychsets permanently. This tape will teach you how to keep these new tapes separate.

The technical term for this process is 'compartmentalization.' A compartment is a subdivision of space, one of many small boxes that fits inside a larger one. The larger box in this metaphor is the entirety of your mind, your psychsets, and yourself. This tape will teach you the process of compartmentalization with a visualization based on this idea of smaller boxes in which to keep the new tapes you are testing.

Your mind is a house. You have created rooms in this house before. Today we are visiting your workspace, the study of the house. Clear one of the walls of your study. You will put the compartments or boxes for new tapes on this wall.

The kind of compartments you will have are lead-lined safes. Anything you put in one of these safes is completely isolated and cannot leak out. No matter what is in the safe, it will not affect you. To open a safe, you must choose to enter a code on a keypad. There is no chance of the safes opening by accident. You will receive a code each time you receive a new tape, so that you can open a safe and put the tape away when you are not working with it.

You are putting twelve safes on your wall today, in three rows of four. The middle row is just below eye-level, easiest for you to get to. You can use these safes for tapes you are working with currently or that you plan to work with often. You have to bend over to reach the bottom row. If there are tapes you don't like or that you are no longer going to work with, you can store them in the bottom row of safes. You have to reach up to get to the top row of safes. You can use this row for tapes that you plan to use in the future, but only on rare or special occasions.

Twelve may not seem like many safes, but it is plenty to get you started. You will spend anywhere from weeks to months with each tape you test. It should be at least a year before you need more safes. When you do, you may request this tape again from your Supervisor, if you do not remember how to make them yourself.

The technician will give you a control tape now. This is not a new tape for you to test, but it contains a code that you can use to put it in one of your safes, and make sure that they function correctly. Listen to the control tape, put it away in a safe, and then try to remember what was on the tape. You should find that you cannot remember the contents of the tape until you re-open the safe.

Control tape begins now.

ii.

Grant was sixteen when Jordan opened the books on his psychsets, let Grant see how he was put together. Grant had been testing tapes for years, had a wall of safes in the house that was his head, had figured out that you could put anything in them, not just test tapes. Reward tapes. Corrections. Memories.

He tried not to mess with his own head very much, but there was too much temptation in knowing all the tape that had created him. He could section off any piece of it, lock it away, see what he was like without it.

Grant spent a lot of time that summer unravelling himself, finding where he was what he'd been made and where he had mutated his instruction, or found other instruction through socialization. And when he'd sorted through it all, thought he knew himself well enough to know what he was doing, carving into himself, he tried the experiment.

He took masses of completely fundamental tape-structures, the macro-sets, CIT-service, trust in the operator, Supervisor loyalty, obey, obey, obey, all the things that made him azi, and stuffed them in a safe at the very end of the very long wall in the house that was his head, the dark terminus of a corridor that led back to a study with a desk and a lamp and a door to a house that wasn't there. He closed up the safe and stood there with his palm on the keypad, ready to open it up again, afraid he was about to go crazy. He wasn't standing in a house with a wall of safes anymore; he was standing in front of a safe with most of a house in it, like an Escher.

(CITs tended to find Escher pictures fascinating. Azi tended to find them troublesome.)

Grant thought: I am a--I am like a born-man now. I do not have to do anything anyone tells me. I do not have to listen or behave. I can do anything I want.

Grant thought: What do I want to do?

Grant thought: I wonder what Justin's doing right now.

And then he smiled, and then he opened up the safe and let it all back out, because there was something satisfying in knowing that how he felt about Justin existed beyond what he was conditioned to feel about Justin, and it was enough. He didn't want to know anything else about himself, about his stripped-down, unstructured self. It was enough.

Coils of loose tape spilled out of the safe and the house rebuilt itself around him, walls rising, doors swinging on their hinges, furniture slotting into place, sun pouring through yawning windows. Grant closed the empty safe and walked back down the long corridor, listening to the sound of his shoes on the woolwood floors echo reassuringly through the space of the house.

By the lamp on the desk in his study was a picture of Justin, smiling at him.

 


You are smart. You are one of the smartest people at Reseune, you are a damn genius, and you have been trained in logical analysis. Given adequate information, you are capable of thinking through any problem, finding any solution. You must trust your judgement. You must make decisions and be confident in them. You must believe in yourself. You must believe in your own intelligence, in your ability to protect Justin. You know what you need to do. Don't doubt yourself. Just do it.

iii.

It had been more than three months since Justin had been arrested, since Ariane Emory was murdered, since Grant had been rescued by Reseune; nearly four months since he had ill-advisedly fled Reseune under the cover of night. It had taken Grant this long to come back to the realization he'd had in the small white boat on the Volga, the realization his problem was lack of spine. That all a CIT had to do--that all Justin had to do--was act like he knew what he was doing, and Grant stopped thinking and just followed.

But it was now only too clear that as much as Justin faked it out of some sense of responsibility toward Grant, he didn't know what he was doing. Justin didn't trust any psychsurgeon enough to diagnose him, let alone work on him--neither did Grant, but Grant wasn't as damaged. All he really needed was Justin. He would be fine if only Justin was fine, so he had to do something to help Justin.

Grant had to act.

That had led him to where he was now, sitting at his desk with a design scrawled out on a piece of paper, because he didn't dare commit it to keystrokes. It was a dangerous piece of structure, and Grant knew he was taking a risk with it, but it was a calculated risk. It would slot into his macro-sets through the link of loyalty to Justin. Really, it wasn't anything more terrible than the kind of training soldiers or security guards got: they had to analyze and act independently to protect CITs, too.

Grant had looked over security guard tapestudy before trying to write this, but none of them were quite adequate. The problem was that Grant couldn't only act with Justin's implicit permission, as guards and soldiers acted in the field with the knowledge that their commanders would want them to take certain measures, as necessary, to ensure certain goals. Justin didn't know Grant was doing this, wouldn't ask him to, would never think of it. Justin wouldn't know how to ask, in his current state. But he needed help from somebody and Grant was the only person he would let close enough to give it to him, so Grant had to be capable, for Justin's sake.

This would be so much easier if Grant dared to commit it to tape, and could listen to it. If he could even read it aloud without fearing surveillance on their apartment. Instead, all he could do was stare at the words and will them into his head.

In the house in his head, Grant found an empty safe along the top row--he couldn't fathom wanting to use this program on more than special occasions--and reached up to key it open. A string of numbers: the day Justin went into the womb-tank, the day Grant did. He opened the safe, lay a crumpled piece of paper in it, then made himself breathe and draw it back out. He felt as if he were taller, as if his spine had somehow jerked up. He felt--urgent.

He tore the real piece of paper into strips and flushed them down the toilet.

Then Grant went into the living room, and sat down on the couch by Justin. He knew what he needed to do. He didn't know how to begin. Justin put down the TranSlate he'd been writing on and said, "Are you all right?"

Was it that obvious? "I'm fine," said Grant. "I was just--reprogramming myself." He made himself smile, felt the way his face crinkled.

"Find a worm?" Justin asked.

"Don't think so." He could put it back in the box. Grant could stuff anything back in the box.

Grant reached out and slid his hand around Justin's hand, knew he was cruel as he was doing it and did it anyway. Justin flinched, and Grant could tell from the pupil dilation that he wasn't seeing what was in front of him, but he held on. He gripped Grant's hand. Anyone else, Justin would have pulled away from, violently, but for Grant, he held on.

"Justin," Grant said, softly, calling him back from the tape-flash. "Be in the here and now with me, Justin."

Justin gulped and looked at him, his eyes still too dark but seeing now, at least. "Are you all right?" he asked, stroking Grant's thumb with his own, trying to comfort, trying to be a good Supervisor.

"I'm fine," Grant reiterated. "You're not. Are you with me now, at least?"

"Yes," Justin said.

Grant couldn't tell if it was a lie. "Good," Grant said nonetheless, "because there's something that I need to ask you."

"Okay," said Justin. He was making such a terrible effort to be calm, Grant could see.

"You told me," said Grant, "one of the things you said to me--one of the psych symptoms you have--is that you can't touch anyone without it being sexual." Grant didn't think that was true, exactly: Justin couldn't be touched without thinking of what Ari had done to him. Justin called that sexual. Grant called it something else. "I want--" He tried to focus, and faltered anyway.

"Grant," Justin said, squeezing his hand. "I don't, I'm not--"

You know what you need to do. Don't doubt yourself. "I want you to know," Grant said firmly, "that that's all right, with me. I would much, much rather that than to feel you flinch away from me. Please, Justin."

"You don't know what you're asking for," Justin said. They were still holding hands, the heels of their palms resting on Justin's knee. "You don't want that."

"I know what I want," said Grant.

"What, because you've had so much experience?" Justin snapped--and any other time, that would have hit a nerve with Grant, got him to back off (a nerve, not a tape-structure: a socialized response to being denied sex with his peers, being told he was off-limits because he was Alpha class).

But the new structure overrode the response. "About as much as you do," Grant said, because he knew he was right. "What happened to you wasn't sex, it was rape. So by my count you're still as much a virgin as I am."

Justin stared at him a moment, jaw working, white-knuckled.

Grant realized he shouldn't have said that. Justin had been seeking to wound in self-defense, and the little structure Grant had written had made him too combative. "I don't mean for it to be like that," Grant said, more gently. "If you don't want to--I'm not her. I don't want to make you or trap you or blackmail you. I'm just telling you that--that I'm here for you. And that sex isn't that so don't tell me to be afraid. I'm not afraid of you."

"You should be afraid," said Justin. He was trembling all over, which rather gave lie to his words. "I could hurt you."

"You won't," Grant said.

"You don't know that," Justin said. "You don't know what it's like in my head."

"I won't let you," Grant told him flatly.

"You won't--" Justin stared. "You won't let me?"

Grant stared back gamely.

"God," said Justin, "you weren't kidding about reprogramming yourself, were you."

"No," Grant said. If Justin had had his head on straight, he would have been worried by that, Grant reflected. Of course, if Justin had had his head on straight, none of this would have been necessary.

"I don't have an Alpha license," Justin said, desperately. "They won't give me one yet, they're dangling it out there for good behavior--"

"You should probably be more worried that I don't have a CIT license," Grant said, "since I'm the one trying to fix you."

"Fix me," Justin repeated, in the same tone as let me.

Grant was dropping bombshells left and right. The structure needed fine-tuning: it made him too blunt. "Or at least fix us," said Grant. "I don't know how to fix how you are with other people. I am pretty sure I do know how to fix how you are with me. Trust me, Justin, please."

"You're like my brother," Justin said. His voice cracked. He didn't let go of Grant's hand.

"I think for that to be true, we would have to be equals," Grant said thoughtfully. Jordan had called him my other son, and at the time it had made Grant feel the most human he'd ever been in his young life. But for some reason the word other was sticking in his brain, now.

"But," said Justin, not quite able to argue logically past that fundamental difference, CIT and azi. "We grew up together. I can't remember a time you weren't with me."

"I can't remember a time I didn't love you," Grant said quietly. If the only arguments Justin could dredge up were emotional, Grant was capable of pulling out the big guns there, too. Justin had to know Grant was psyching him. Did he understand why? "You don't have to make excuses. I already told you I don't want to make you. If you don't want to, we don't have to."

"But I do want to," Justin whispered.

"I know," said Grant.

"It'll change things," said Justin. "Make them ugly."

"No, it won't," said Grant. "Ari made it ugly. It won't be that way with you and me."

Justin flinched, and Grant knew he'd set off another tape-flash. He didn't know if it was something specific or just her damned name.

"Justin," Grant said. "Do you trust me?"

"Yes," Justin said, with his eyes squeezed shut. "Damn me, I do."


This will work. You are doing the right thing. You are helping Justin. It is working. You are making him better. You are helping him. You are protecting him.

Justin's afraid of things that aren't true. Ari told him lies. Ari made him believe the lies. But he's wrong. He doesn't need to be afraid of the things she said. You don't need to be afraid of the things she said. They're false.

You are not his flank. You are not his weakness. No one will be able to hurt Justin through you. You will not let them.

Ari was the one who made him weak. You make him strong. You make him whole. You protect him.

Ari was wrong.

Justin loves you.