‘I’m glad to see him enjoying himself,’ Grigori commented, cheering yet another well-thrown punch.
Magnolia looked up from the paperwork, watched the object of Taylor’s rage fall yet again, then looked back down at the paperwork. It didn’t necessarily need to be done today, that she knew, but there was also no need to waste an opportunity to be efficient. A chance to impress him. A chance to further the possibility of him having a passably good day.
‘Enjoy yourself,’ Grigori said, putting a hand on her shoulder. ‘I thought you’d finished with all this?’
‘So long as he doesn’t need us, I-’ she began as he pulled the paperwork from her hands.
‘For now, Magnolia, I’m ordering you to put the paperwork down.’
She stared at it as he put it down, well out of her reach. ‘It was only the duty rosters,’ she said, trying to calculate the odds of making it past him and retrieving the papers.
An arm flew between them, smacked into one of the rows above them, rolled a little, then lay still. She turned to the floor show, and couldn’t help but smile, watching her commander hold the experiment up by her one remaining arm and shaking her, possibly to see how many shakes it would take to see how it take before it detached itself from the shoulder.
‘I do admire your devotion to duty,’ Grigori said as he leaned back against the bleachers, the light catching each angle of his well-defined muscles. The muscles on show thanks to a sleeveless blue shirt. She half suspected that they were a form of subliminal advertising, a way to draw in those interested in inspecting his muscles for themselves.
She turned her eyes back to the floor, this time, Taylor had broken both of the girl’s legs, and she was slowly crawling away from him – a pointless action, really.
‘A lot of recruits would view limit testing as inhumane,’ he commented, an open bottle of beer appearing in his hand. ‘You’re taking it in stride.’
She gave him a careful look. ‘Carol Whitman. It’s necessary because of Carol Whitman,’ she said.
This seemed to surprise him. ‘You know?’
He nodded. ‘Everything old is new again, everything that happened then is why it’s happening now.’
Taylor bore the girl to the ground, pounding her skull into a fine red paste.
Grigori required another beer. ‘Limit tests. They’re stress tests, to see what happens to her under different conditions. What happens if you rip her head off, what happens if you poison her, what happens if, what happens when, all that kind of thing. It’s a feasibility study, there’s no point in an experiment that hasn’t got a hope.’
She could tell there was something he wasn’t saying. ‘That’s the official line, it’s paraphrasing what was in the report.’
‘Unofficially,’ he said, ‘we’re going to do our damn best to drive her insane. At the moment, she’s contained, almost no-one knows about her, she couldn’t even take a piss without Jones analysing it in three different ways, this is the safest time for her to…fail.’
She looked down at the floor, at the silently weeping girl. ‘I think there’s a fair chance of that happening.’
‘He’s just getting started, this is…going to be an interesting week.’
‘If I might ask a question, sir.’
He turned to her. ‘Did you just call me “sir”?’
She shrugged. ‘Force of habit.’
‘You had a question.’
‘Why only three glitches? Glitches are only to be induced at two, four and six.’
‘Inducing glitches at all punishment levels would be too much, even for what we’re trying to do. Level six, that’s enough to break a lot of good agents.’
‘But they’re nightmares, something extra on top of the normal punishment processes.’
‘The rest is just pain. It makes you bleed from your eyes, shit your pants, and make it feel as though every atom is exploding, but it’s just pain. Pain fades. Glitches are something else.’ He sighed. ‘They are nightmares, yes,’ Grigori said, ‘but they are as real as reality, more so even, if that’s possible. They can push away what you know, you accept what you see as reality. I have seen…far too many things in my life, but glitches are even worse than that. Three, simply, is enough.’
He looked away, cheered as Taylor tore the girl’s throat out, then smiled. ‘There isn’t a chance in hell she’s going to pass. We’ll see to that. Your boss, my best friend, we’ve got to protect him, right?’
The girl’s head landed on the ground in front of them, and she looked over at Taylor.
‘Assist, or get out,’ he snapped.
Grigori jumped from the bleachers, kicked the head to the side, and jogged over to Taylor and the decapitated body.
‘Yes sir,’ she whispered, and followed.