Writing > Code

Chapter 15


Chapter 15

The operating room had been expanded significantly since her last time in there, Vicky reflected. She stared through the glass window of the observation room, at the three parallel surgical tables, each occupied and in use right now.

Tom was to her left, looking grim as the doctors cut into three heads simultaneously. To his left, Steven Perry and a bunch of his cronies looked on. She had no idea how many of those people were in on Perry's little plan, but he certainly didn't look distressed at all. As far as he was concerned, things were working perfectly.

It hadn't been easy, conning the con man. The first big hurdle had been switching out the medical data without those surgeons noticing. Thankfully they hadn't had much chance to study their patients' charts very closely, being focused more on the procedure itself first. Instead of the three fake inmates Perry was expecting, the men on those tables were Tyrell and James, two of the real inmates Vicky had gotten to know over the past few months, and Devin himself.

Even now after they'd opened up his skull, Vicky was terrified the surgeons might recognize him. Still, Devin had been confident they wouldn't. "Surgeons see faces and brains differently," he'd reassured her and Tom. "Right now I'm just an assistant to them, and other than the tips I can give them on your surgery, I'm barely even noticed. My head is about the same size as one of their intended patients, so as long as I'm already out and face-down by the time they get in there, we're golden."

Vicky wished she could be as confident. To his credit though, things had gone smoothly so far.

"I was sorry to hear about Dr. Hoberman," Perry said gently, moving behind Tom to stand next to her.

"Thank you, Mr. Perry. It was a big shock to all of us," she responded truthfully. Would the code allow her to lie to someone who was lying to her? Vicky didn't want to test it just now.

"I'm glad we were able to proceed even without him, though. His achievement with the surgery, and yours with the code itself, was like catching lightning in a bottle. I'm confident we'll be able to duplicate your success, and revolutionize the prison industry."

Vicky had to work hard to keep a sour look off her face. She didn't know exactly what Perry had in mind for her codes, but it had little to do with helping prisoners. Either he planned to sell a version of her codes to the military for experimental use on soldiers, or he was going to offer it to other private prison companies. Or both, perhaps. All he could see right now was dollar signs.

"I was surprised you agreed to having all three surgeries done at the same time," she commented, again truthfully. "I would have thought you might object for safety reasons."

"That was my first thought, yes. It was Dr. Chen who convinced me otherwise. He felt that the surgeons might benefit from using each others' work as a guide. It would cut down on mistakes and give us a better chance of success."

Actually it made it much less likely the truth would come out early. If they did them one after another, the chances that one of the surgeons might recognize Devin, or wonder where he'd gone, would be much greater.

Vicky grimaced. Another part of their plan had been to put the three fake inmates in solitary for a few hours. Max was back there now, keeping an eye on them. She didn't like the idea of locking people up without cause, despite the fact that they'd been lying to everyone, but they could upset everything. Max had assured her they would be released as soon as Devin and the others were out of surgery.

The last hurdle had been completing the three new codes in time. Vicky had insisted on keeping them on her person right up until the start. She didn't want anyone but the doctors themselves to get a good look at them. Not that they were anything special, despite the minor modifications she'd made that differentiated those codes from hers. She just had to keep up the charade that she'd discovered something incredible, and was keeping it to herself for now.

She would be so glad when all this deception was over. It was exhausting keeping everything straight in her mind and in her actions! Fortunately, she and Tom had decided on a place last week. It was an island called Darien Cay in the Bahamas- named for some explorer who had found it centuries ago. It was only about a hundred and twenty miles off the coast of Florida. Tom had been in negotiations with the Bahamian government, and they'd allowed him to lease the island for a few years, for a fair sum actually. Maybe that was because the Cay was uninhabited and pretty small in square miles. Still, it fit the criteria. It was outside of American waters, but close enough to the States to be viable.

Tom had suggested one of the islands in the Philippines first, but Vicky had nixed that idea. It might be cheaper over there, but if they wanted to appeal to average citizens here, they couldn't ask them to fly halfway around the world just to see what being coded was like. Besides, she didn't want to be that far away from her father. Unbidden, thoughts of Amir and his father floated through her mind, and she felt like crying again.

She'd been there. She'd said goodbye, in a traditional way that would please him. Why was she still seeing his face without warning, and why did it seem to feel worse now than the very day he died??

Maybe it was the code. If it could stop her from taking actions, could it also stop her from ignoring her feelings? Vicky had documented as much as she could about when it went off and why. She'd lost count of the number of times it had 'reset' her, but at least she had a good idea of why it did so. Mostly. Setting her jaw, Vicky tried to focus on the surgeries. That would provide her a few hours of distraction at least.


When Steve and Oliver found out what they had done, all hell broke loose. Tom had weathered the storm stoically, hiding his amusement at their false outrage. Even now, a full week after the surgeries and all the fallout, he still found it funny.

"I never agreed that the surgeries would be on those three specifically," he'd reminded them gently. "The codes themselves are our property, and the facility was leased to BPH Corrections. You may have brought in the surgeons, but we paid them. Regardless, we are ending our partnership with the BOP effective immediately. The inmates will all have to be sent to other facilities, and Archcrest will be shut down." He had to resist adding, but that's what you wanted in the end anyway, wasn't it?

Truthfully, the BOP had another reason to cut ties with Tom and his friends. If the coded experiment expanded and became popular enough, it would cut into the profits of other private prison companies. Coded people had pretty much no chance of recidivism after all, and private prison companies only thrived if they could keep their prisons full.

Kenshi Saito had been just as enraged as Steve and Oliver, but a lot more controlled about it. Unlike the others he didn't bluster and threaten, but Tom could tell he wouldn't forget about it either. His co-founder Dan Coleman apparently wasn't involved in this dispute, but Saito came down to Archcrest personally to try and talk Tom out of the split.

That itself had been an interesting experience. Saito was very traditionally Japanese, complete with honor code and strict personal pride. He might have made a good samurai back in the day. He knew all about Darien Cay, and Tom's arrangement with the Bahamian government. Clearly he had his own private investigators keeping an eye on them. A year ago Tom might have found that flattering, but now he just saw it as pathetically self-interested. In the end Tom offered him a parting gift. The designs for their MEG modifications so they could conduct their own brain scans, and a portion of the data they'd gathered so far.

Data which they still had, miraculously. In one of her more brilliant moves, Vicky had backed up the whole thing and brought a copy with her to Israel. When the CS rat had snuck into the archives, he'd wiped out the whole server, but because of Vicky they'd only lost about a week's worth of scans. Now that CS and the BOP were off their backs, it was finally time to go public.

So here they were, in a TV station in Miami, waiting for Vicky to go out for an on-air interview. It was just the two of them today. A construction company had already been hired and dispatched by boat to Darien Cay. They would get some infrastructure in place over the next few weeks, and then come back to the States. Most of the inmate test subjects were still at Archcrest. James, Tyrell and Devin were still recuperating, but seemed to be doing well. Devin had already started testing the limits of his code, just like Vicky had done.

You'd be proud of them, Amir, he thought to himself wryly. Tom still didn't know Devin that well, but he'd been willing to be coded. Clearly he was just as dedicated to the cause as Amir had been.

Vicky rocked back and forth, looking like she might be sick. Being a brilliant engineer and principled leader didn't necessarily make her any good at public speaking. "You'll be fine, Vic. This is a softball interview. The host in there won't be asking you any tough questions, so just take it easy."

She nodded and grabbed a glass of water from the nearby table. In truth, Tom had understated how important this interview would be. Sure, this one would be easy, but as soon as word got out about a viable behavior-modification implant, word would spread like wildfire. They'd have national attention in a day or so, and global a day after that. Vicky was about to be placed under a planet-sized microscope.

Tom was sure she knew all that, though. She was just trying to take it one day at a time, like any sane person. "You've had a lot of practice navigating your code, and you can explain that to them," he reminded her. "Just try not to be too wordy. Stick to the basics and tell the truth."

"I can do that." She smiled nervously at him.

The speaker from the stage started up again. "Our next guest is an engineer and inventor named Andrea Victoria Brandt. Come on out here, Vicky!"

Tom clapped along with the others, his mind already out in the Bahamas.


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