Seal grimaced as she realised what the solution her hair was now soaked with contained. The nanobots crawled down the shafts, and through her roots. Her hands gripped the restraints as the horrible little things burrowed into her scalp to infiltrate her brain and open up her neural pathways. Across the room Donny - the poor ignorant girl - began to whimper at the itching. Seal's heart reached out to her, longing to comfort and explain what was happening to her. The nervous whimpers turned into screams, terrified at the sensation and convinced her scalp was being corroded away. Seal had to watch helplessly as the girl clawed at her own head, shrieking as she tried to dig the parasites out of her skin. The older woman's breath came in ragged snatches at the icy stabbing of the computer's invasion of her memory. She fought herself not to do likewise. She knew it wouldn't help, but she wanted the molecular devices out of her head, needed them gone, craved the privacy of her own mind back again and longed, beyond anything else at that moment, to rip them, her hair, even her skin out to achieve it and just as the urge became too great to resist, they paralysed her. Donny's screams became muffled as the medics, tired of their entertainment, gagged and sedated her.
Someone hit a button and suddenly they were plugged in to the central hub of the computer. For a few brief, glorious moments Seal was connected to her entire clan's memories and personalities. In that eternal microsecond they were more than a community, more than family, more than lovers - they were one person and mind. She floated freely amongst the thoughts and dreams of her people. In an instant she knew, they knew, all their hopes and desires, loves and aspirations. Their hatred for their tormentors. Seal found herself tasting popcorn, Lulu's elicit pleasure. The knowledge and understanding was overwhelming. She started to think that maybe it wouldn't be so bad after all.
Then all hell broke loose. Suddenly everyone was screaming, everyone was panicking, crying inside her head. With no way to block the cacophony she had no choice but to join them, struggling against her own muscles to be free. Above the din Meatloaf screamed something, something about the Dreamer. Like a stampede the minds turned towards him, dragging Seal with them, crying out for help and trying to make him hear.
Then it truly began. At first the pain was easily missed, then she found herself unable to name the Beatles. As she strained to remember, the memories were highlighted and deleted from her database.
Beatles. Insects, surely? Nothing to do with Rock, which was... which was... Rock 'n' Roll, which was... music?
As the thought came to the front of her mind, it was erased.
Music. Food of love. Emotion. Paul, oh Paul I'm so sorry, please forgive me, please - please - tell me who you are - who are you, all of you? Where is the memory? The song, the song - where is the song, where is the music? THE MUSIC? Where is it? Where - what is it? What is music? Let me go, no no no no no no no... bring it back, bring it back, don't take it away from me - there's no reason for living with a broken heart - somehow I have to make this final breakthru - I am the walrus, koo koo ka choo - help me if you can, I'm - I'm not my usual top billing - and the last thing I see is my heart, still beating - life still goes on - lord, what are you doing to me? Hot patootie, bless my soul, I really love that... that... I love that... can't help lovin' dat man - I love - I - I do love - oh I do love to be beside the seaside, beside the seaside, beside the sea-
Blankly the woman lifted her head and stared. She didn't seem to notice the insect-like things now crawling out of her scalp, floating down to lie, a spent and lifeless metallic dust, on the floor. Her eyes went slowly around the circle from face to face. She recognised no-one.
A man stepped into the circle, followed by a troupe of students.
"As you can see, they are now virtually lifeless." He explained. "We strip away all memories within the search criteria, along with all recollections from the last 10 years." He stepped in from of her. "So as to not leave them completely brain dead, we allow the subjects to retain basic memories of everyday functionality. For instance - tell me, what is this?"
The woman who once was Seal stared at the sphere flourished in front of her face, then questioningly at the man holding it. Her mouth and vocal cords slowly creaked into gear, recalling how to connect to her nearly empty brain. Impulses made their sluggish way down to muscles. Puzzled, she finally answered
He smiled condescendingly.
"You see? Now, as the next subject will demonstrate..." The medic and his entourage moved on to the next victim, and left her to wander the barren desert that had once been the lush, untamed jungle of her mind.