Don't Speak

Chapter 20

Maura realised she was once again tapping her hands on the wheel impatiently. It had been a common occurrence over the past three days of surveillance, and it continued to annoy her every time she noticed herself doing it.

She was sitting in another stolen car, her hair carefully hidden beneath a shawl and her face obscured behind ridiculously oversized sunglasses. She had been surreptitiously observing Lucas for the past three hours as he fruitlessly searched for them. He had been following leads and getting more frustrated by the day, which Maura was finding quite amusing.

As she vigilantly observed the scene, her mind wandered back over the facts of Jane’s transformation that she had outlined to Nina and Susie, along with her insane plan. Her explanation had been long and involved, but they finally had enough information to act.

We saw from the footage that Jane was killed by Lucas before she was brought to the facility. The records show she had been deceased for thirty-nine minutes when the doctors received her body. Jane had originally been intended for inclusion in group one. Her reputation in BPD had marked her as particularly valuable for the purpose of covering up suspicious deaths, and the organisation had planned to brainwash her a few weeks after I was eliminated, to take advantage of the new control they had over the medical examiner’s office.

Lucas knew how badly he’d botched the operation when he accidentally killed Jane, but he brought her in anyway hoping the doctors could somehow save her and fix his mistake. Fortunately for him, the doctors had a new technology they were intending to use on the next group three candidate, and Jane was a viable subject.

Lucas was currently harassing a witness who had been in the street the day they had infiltrated the facility. He had already talked to the man twice, and Maura could see that the young gentleman was about to start throwing punches at the irate agent.

Lucas finally walked away, spitting a threat over his shoulder. Maura smirked, pleased to see that Lucas wasn’t getting anywhere.

The technology involved a revolutionary type of nanotechnology called nannites. They are programmable microscopic machines that are introduced into a subject’s bloodstream and are controlled and maintained by a central hub. The hub is implanted into a subject’s abdomen.

Maura tensed in her seat when not-Jane stepped out of a nearby building to join Lucas. She had known not-Jane was nearby, but this was the first time Maura had seen her since the facility. She didn’t appear to have suffered any ill effects from being shot that day, her skin apparently healed without a flaw.

The nannites used initially on Jane were programmed to replicate the function of damaged tissue and repair that tissue much faster than humanly possible. As Jane had been dead for a relatively short amount of time, the nannites managed to revive her with minimal brain damage.

From the reports, it appears that once Jane regained consciousness she was herself, with only minor coordination and memory issues that soon repaired themselves. A week after being killed, Jane was completely healed, physically and mentally, with the exception of the scars we saw.

Lucas appeared to be taking his rage out on not-Jane, screaming at her impotently while he waved his hands around emphatically. She was completely impassive under the tirade, her eyes casually scanning the street as she listened.

Maura gasped as not-Jane’s eyes locked onto her. She saw not-Jane say something to Lucas, who swivelled and saw Maura gaping at them.

When Jane was still recovering, she started to be drugged with a similar cocktail to those used on group one subjects. I believe the intention was to follow through on the original plan, to reintroduce Jane back into her previous life with no memory of the organisation, the same as all the other group one subjects.

Maura lurched into motion, starting the car and slamming it into gear. She saw Lucas smirking at her as he ran to his car, not-Jane falling in alongside him. Maura floored the accelerator, her car powering past Lucas’ as he pulled out in pursuit. Her mind continued to recite the information she had discovered, which kept her calm in the face of the immense danger she found herself in.

The ongoing investigation into Jane’s disappearance in combination with the failure of the deceased doctor’s mind control made the leaders of the organisation hesitant. They were worried that Jane might be released only to remember what had happened, or worse, to have some sort of malfunction that led someone to discover her enhancements.

Maura could hear Susie’s concerned voice over the radio. They had managed to obtain both a police scanner and a set of radio headsets, allowing them to coordinate while they tailed Lucas. Maura hit her transmit button, weaving through traffic recklessly as Lucas gained on her. “Susie, they spotted me. I’m trying to get away, but Lucas and Jane are right behind me in an unmarked.”

The decision was made three days after her resurrection to keep Jane captive and held in the facility. Her physical treatment would be more in line with the usual procedures for group two, adapted to take advantage of the nannites. Her brainwashing regimen was changed to a more invasive rewriting of her personality. Instead of being a normal person who would react to certain trigger words, she was reshaped into a passive, compliant non-person, who would only react to designated handlers.

Maura could see Lucas speaking into a phone as Susie answered her. “Okay Maura, turn into the next street, Nina’s coming to help.”

Maura didn’t have time to answer before she hear gunshots from behind her. She screamed and ducked as the back window took a hit, the bullet slamming into the front dash. Keeping her head down, she kept going. She yanked her shawl and glasses off, wanting to maximise her visibility.

This reprogramming started with the instillation of an intense hatred and resentment towards her family. She was shown her scars, which had been intentionally left unhealed by her nannites for this purpose. The nannites had also been programmed to make her hair fall out and leave her skin pale, making her appear weak and sickly. She was then shown an altered version of the video of her capture. The image of Lucas was replaced with her family members, and the clip was played over and over, accompanied by a cocktail of drugs to keep her mind pliable. After a few days, she was given hallucinogenic drugs and started to be beaten in her cell by people wearing masks and impersonating her family. The idea was reinforced that her family had intentionally harmed her and then abandoned her.

Maura saw the turn rapidly approaching, and was forced to take it too fast, the tyres on the left side of the car squealing in protest. She narrowly missed an oncoming car, but somehow made it through unscathed. Lucas and not-Jane were still right behind her.

This process took weeks, as Jane’s loyalty to her family was nearly unshakeable. Eventually the chemicals broke down her resistance, and the programming started to take effect. I believe that despite the deep damage done to her psyche, Jane still retains the fundamental aspects of her personality. Despite her programming, she was unable to kill Frankie when she was first reunited with him, even though we know she was more than capable physically. Even though she was visibly outraged and had to be ordered to stop hurting him, I think there was something stubbornly ingrained in her sense of self that made her hold back.

Maura saw a car weaving through the oncoming traffic towards her, and realised Nina was driving it. She hit the accelerator, moving closer to the right. She caught a determined look on Nina’s face as they passed. She saw Lucas yell something at Jane, before a car cut between them and she lost sight of her pursuers momentarily.

The next stage of Jane’s deconstruction was to remove her attachment to her friends and co-workers. This part of the programming started to be weaved in between the family detachment treatments, as they were called. She was shown footage of all those closest to her, making comments about how much easier their lives were without Jane, how they never looked for her, how they applauded her family for finally getting rid of her. Combined with the drugs and the beatings, Jane started to believe everyone in her life had abandoned her. She withdrew into herself, and started to lose touch with reality.

Nina leaned out her window, looking like an action hero as she fired at Lucas’ tyres. He jerked the wheel, contributing to the car’s spin as his right front tyre blew. The car almost flipped, but finally settled with a crunch back onto the street. Nina flew past, a triumphant cheer flooding their radio channel.

Once that happened, they started to erode her sense of self. They operated on her again, implanting a device in her brain that could completely suppress her pain response. At the same time, they began augmenting her skeleton to augment her physical strength. They also added a GPS tracking device, not wanting to take the risk of losing track of such a valuable asset. Once she had recovered from the surgery, they started conditioning her to reject characteristics that made her feel human.

Maura’s responding praise died in her throat as she passed through the next intersection and saw two more cars swerve into her wake. She recognised the cars as BPD unmarked vehicles, and suspected Lucas had called in some of his fellow agents. “Guys, we’re not out of the woods yet, I’ve got reinforcements on my tail.”

As we all know, one of Jane’s most defining characteristics is her speech. She uses her words as weapons, as tools, as ways to express herself, to gain information, to make herself understood. They had also realised this aspect of her character, and it was the first thing they took away from her. She would be presented with questions, and each time she answered with words instead of gestures they would turn off her pain suppression. She would suddenly feel the pain of her new implants, which would have been excruciating. She quickly learned not to speak, and became frightened of the concept.

Nina’s voice was frantic as she answered. “Jane jumped onto my car when I passed them! I need help, she’s trying to make me crash!”

Maura continued to accelerate, horrified as she listened to Nina’s desperate call. Behind Nina’s voice, she heard not-Jane yelling at her to pull over. She knew she needed to turn around and help, but her pursuers were getting too close and she had no room to manoeuvre.

They then started training her to sleep on the floor, eat food from a dish with no utensils, stay standing at all times, and obey her handler’s commands without hesitation. Her fear response to those activities was never as severe as to speaking, since she had already learned the consequences of disobedience. They rarely had to reactivate her pain receptors, as the memory of the agony was enough to ensure her compliance. They had succeeded in their efforts to make her believe she wasn’t human anymore.

Susie was trying to stay calm, giving Nina instructions on where to drive. Maura heard a metallic squeal accompanied by the sounds of breaking glass and a pained scream through the radio, then an ominous crackling as Nina’s channel went silent.

After almost a year in captivity, Jane’s personality had been completely stripped away. She was the passive person we met when she first turned up at my doorstep. She would obey any commands from a handler unquestioningly, and she had no thoughts of escape as she wholeheartedly believed all her loved ones had willingly abandoned her.

As much as she wanted to, Maura couldn’t allow herself to worry about Nina, she had her own immediate concerns. One of the agents had pulled alongside her car, and was attempting to force her into a parked car. When he swung the wheel towards her, Maura suddenly hit the brake, tapping the back of his car in a textbook PIT manoeuvre as he lunged towards her and putting his cruiser into a flat spin. She dove into the oncoming traffic in an attempt to avoid the turning car, which ploughed into the line of parked vehicles. Honks and swearing from the innocent bystanders informed her of how close she was to disaster.

She was subjected to further surgeries, which added further strengthening plates to her skeleton as well as the blades in her arms. When these enhancements were healed, they started testing her physical abilities in a proving ground. They soon discovered that despite the new heaviness of her limbs and the extra encumbrance of the hub implanted in her abdomen, Jane was very capable of competent hand to hand combat. She proved that in battle conditions, she remained completely calm, continuing to fight if ordered even after being injured.

As Maura veered back onto the right side of the road, the second car pulled up alongside the crashed car, the furious agent quickly transferring vehicles. The manoeuvre gave Maura a few seconds of breathing space. She quickly hit her radio, asking Susie where to go.

The organisation seemed to be considering sending her out of the facility on assassination missions, similar to the group two subjects, when a new breakthrough in nannite technology prompted a new round of experimentation. The new technology introduced a new kind of nannite which could mimic the outer appearance of any sampled person. The illusion nannites would run from the same hub as the fast healing nannites, but the hub would need to be removed and replaced with an upgraded model.

Susie’s voice sounded panicked. “Maura, BPD has been notified of the chase, and there’s a description of your vehicle. You’re about to have more company! They’re six minutes away! You need to head back to the safe house, I’ll try to find something to help you lose them!”

Jane almost didn’t survive the surgery to replace the hub, only making it through the recovery process due to an infusion of upgraded healing nannites. It took almost six months for her to regain full awareness, and another three to regain full motor function.

Maura spun the wheel, turning into another street that would see her heading in the right direction. The pursuing car followed, both vehicles still moving at reckless speeds.

When she did recover, they could alter her appearance to look like any person they wanted. After a brief training period, she was sent on an assassination mission which required infiltration of a secure facility. Her physical image was perfect, but her lack of speech proved to be a hindrance and she was discovered. The organisation was forced to send in agents to clean up the mess by destroying the entire facility and killing everyone inside.

A third car pulled around the corner, several seconds behind the agents. It ruthlessly rammed into other motorists obstructing its path, causing one car to veer into a shop front. Maura saw people diving out of the way, and desperately hoped that nobody was hurt. She fought against her natural urge to stop and help, continuing away from the carnage. She knew that if she allowed them to catch her, she would be dead within seconds.

After that debacle, Jane’s captors realised they needed her to be able to interact with people if her infiltration capabilities were to be of any real use. By that time another breakthrough in nannite technology was available for testing, and Jane was put through another round of surgery to implant the necessary hardware into her spine and brain.

Maura could see the unmarked gaining on her, the driver’s skill in offensive driving allowing him to cut through the traffic with ease. She could see the determined look on the agent’s faces as they drew close, weapons drawn and ready.

The new nannites allowed a programmer to load a complete personality into Jane, complete with mannerisms, likes and dislikes, knowledge, relationships and mission parameters. The technology worked as intended, completely overwriting Jane’s own personality when activated. However, creating a whole personality from scratch isn’t as simple as it sounds. Everything from basic language through to how the person walks has to be specifically programmed. Jane was unable to be used in the field for another year while programmers attempted to create a useable personality template for her.

Maura looked around frantically, unable to see a way out. The second car was now catching up as well, and she could see a very angry Lucas at the wheel. He must have commandeered a car after Nina disabled his own.

Finally, around six months ago, they were successful. A program of sufficient complexity and detail was uploaded into Jane, based on a personality profile provided by Lucas. It was designed to imitate Jane’s original personality and allow her to return to BPD. The organisation had no immediate plans to reintegrate Jane back into her life, but it had been chosen as a good starting point for a personality template.

Susie’s voice crackled over the radio, sounding out of breath. “Help is coming, Maura! Just keep going straight!”

Once the program appeared to be stable, testing began on her new protocols. They spent the next three months ironing out glitches and mistakes, with input from video surveillance and Lucas to try and get their copy of Jane as close to the real thing as possible.

Maura obeyed Susie’s instructions, the cars now right on her bumper. Lucas gritted his teeth before ramming her car, the impact threatening to spin her car into the oncoming cars. By sheer luck, she managed to keep her car on the road.

As Lucas was the most knowledgeable about Jane, he was made her primary handler. He trained with her, testing out the different scenarios and missions that were embedded into her programming. There was a basic mission, Infiltrate, designed for blending in to Jane’s life with no specific goal in mind. This mode involved imprinting Jane on a named agent, which compels her to obey that agent’s commands exclusively for the duration of the mission. Jane would act as if she was romantically involved with the named agent in order to excuse her apparent need to be around them constantly.

Maura’s attention was suddenly drawn to the street in front of her by a loud horn. Her eyes widened in shock to see a fire engine barrelling towards her on the wrong side of the road.

There was an assault mode, which is designed for elimination of a target where stealth is no longer a concern. Jane would cease pretending to be normal, activating her arm blades and using her enhanced strength to engage the named targets.

She swerved around the fire truck, which cut between her and her pursuers. Lucas managed to avoid a collision, running up on the gutter and partway down an alley. His partners weren’t as fortunate, their car hitting the side of the truck head on and coming to a stop with a sickening crunch.

There is also a passive mode, Mode One, which is simply her inactivated state overlaid with a compulsion to obey commands from any handler. This mode was intended to be used as a sort of maintenance mode, it would make her compliant while they moved her between testing locations. The notes mention that this mode was unnecessary, since it had been years since Jane had shown any signs of disobedience.

Maura screeched to a stop, quickly scanning the truck for signs of life. She smiled in relief, seeing a battered Susie Chang was trying to extricate herself from the cabin, looking exhilarated and uninjured. Maura backed closer to the truck and opened the passenger door, waiting until Susie dove in before hitting the accelerator and making their escape. She saw Lucas wrestling with the wheel to pursue them, his expression beyond furious.

The organisation was pleased with the progress made on her programming and was looking for a mission to test her on. Lucas recommended that I be eliminated, and given Jane’s ability to infiltrate BPD it was decided that my assassination would be her test run. A cover story would be created to allow Jane to return from her disappearance without suspicion, and once the attention had died down she would be directed to kill me.

Susie had a huge grin plastered on her face as she settled into her seat and pulled on the seat belt. Maura couldn’t help grinning back, although she knew she needed to have some stern words about reckless behaviour with Susie at a later date. Lucas was close behind them, gaining on them once again.

However, someone made the mistake of discussing the mission in front of Jane while she was not in an activated state. The video surveillance of the event showed that Jane started to struggle when she heard that I was the intended target. The scientist nearest to her started to put her into a Mode One state, but she managed to free a hand and slice his vocal cords to stop him from speaking. His other injuries were the result of him attempting to restrain her, and Jane thrashing around in a panic while her blades were extended. After he staggered away, she escaped her restraints and used her incredible strength to tear the door off its hinges, tossing it through the window.

After a few blocks, Susie frantically pointed to a turnoff. Maura skidded around the corner, the shuddering of the tyres indicating she needed to end this chase soon. Lucas followed, only a few car lengths behind.

By this point, the facility had been put on alert. Several agents attempted to stop Jane, but she simply ignored the gun shots and ran past them. She made her way to the control room, pushed past the operators and smashed her way to the Master Lock Override. This opened every door in the facility. The staff panicked as soon as they realised what had happened and started running for the exits. The subjects who had been restrained in various rooms started attacking their captors or just wandering around, depending on what experimentation had been done. The facility fell into chaos, the command structure collapsed, and containment was lost.

Susie pointed again, and Maura turned, however the car had reached its endurance limit. The front left tyre exploded, sending the car into an uncontrolled spin. Both women shrieked and held on, helpless against momentum as the car smashed into a wall.

The footage shows that the scientist who bled out in Jane’s room was the only fatality. There were many injured, but they all managed to escape. Twelve group two subjects also escaped, along with Jane. Four of the subjects had visible augmentations to their face or arms, which should make them stand out. The others all had internal augmentations, but nothing external that would reveal their true natures. There were no group one subjects in the facility that day, leaving ninety two sleeper agents out there as well.

Lucas jumped out of his car, running over to the wreck with a gun drawn. Maura moaned, moving her head gently until she determined that nothing felt seriously damaged. She lifter her head from the steering wheel and glanced over at Susie, who was also moving slowly. Maura froze as she felt the cold sensation of a gun pressing against her temple. She closed her eyes, hoping for a miracle.

Nobody ever returned to the facility. The power was left on, the computers were left unlocked, and nobody ever came to investigate.

Lucas growled out an angry condemnation. “Any last words, doctor?”

The organisation was buried and forgotten, until the day that Jane found me.

Lucas suddenly jerked and crumpled to the ground, his weapon falling from his hands harmlessly. Maura let out a relieved gasp and smiled gratefully at the person behind him holding a taser. “Good to see you Korsak. You have excellent timing.”

Korsak gave her an exasperated smile in return. “That was some plan, doc!”

Maura’s face dropped in worry. “Nina?”

The woman in question stepped out from behind Korsak, her smirking face littered with small scratches. “Present and accounted for!”

Maura’s head dropped back onto the steering wheel in relief. “Susie, are you ok?”

Susie groaned, but Maura could hear the humorous exaggeration. “Good to hear.”

Korsak kicked Lucas’ gun away, his face twisted in disgust as he looked at the unconscious agent. “So, now what?”

Maura pulled herself out of the car, glaring down at their fallen tormentor. “Now, we end this.”

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