This black woman’s future all depends on letting her white husband take control from her!
She’s a chemist, and she’s working on a particularly interesting project for the government — all top secret, of course. The goal? Mind control. She wasn’t the first person chosen for the job, but the last one ended up violently attacked in a trial gone wrong.
If she manages to bring in a working drug, it could mean she is set for life. The threat of making a deadly mistake, however, pushes the deadline back again and again.
One night, her husband tells her that he’s solved it. He’s read her files, and he has the answer to the mind control drug’s flaw. All he wants from her in exchange for the solution is one thing: He gets to be the first to test it, on her…
Will she let her white husband control her mind?
For Toni Williams, it had started out almost like a romance novel. The parts were all there: explicit, raw, pornographic words written out on a page in front of her. Only this was hardly the same thing: this was a case study from a Top Secret – Eyes Only folder that said that the reason that Francine hadn’t been into work in two weeks was the violent response from a testing subject to a serum she had been developing. They called it “Love Potion,” but it was the furthest thing from. What they wanted was nearly enough a crime against humanity.
Toni couldn’t wait to get started.
She dropped the papers into the incinerator in the back of her lab, watching the papers crumple with heat through the thick glass window. She was to report to General Harmon for a personal briefing at 0900, and that gave her ten minutes to think about what she’d just read before she had to step onto an elevator. There was no way that she was going to sort it all out in that time, she knew. But it didn’t stop her from trying.
“Missus Williams,” the General said. He rose when she walked into the room, a reminder of an age of manners long past. His hand reached across the desk. “You read the introductory materials I sent you?”
“And I burned them afterward, sir.”
The aging man nodded vacantly.
“Very good, ma’am. So I take it you read the report of what befell miss Reede.”
“Of course.” Toni shivered involuntarily at the very idea of it. “It sounded horrible.”
“You can’t imagine. But you will be able to. Before you begin this project, you need to be fully aware of the risks you’ll be undertaking, am I understood? You will need to be able to take precautions, and that means you need to know from experience, not just from words on a piece of paper.”
Toni’s mask of professionalism did not slip, even though inwardly she felt a puff of revulsion. Was the old man propositioning her? And then he pulled out a remote control from under the desk, pointing it at the old TV. It was the way with the military: no reason to replace the old equipment. She suspected that a few of the more wizened top brass thought that even the aged TVs were too “new-fangled” to be worth anything. A still image stood out on the screen.
A man sat on a steel slab, his shirt removed. The video was fuzzy, but Toni could see that he was attractive even through the fuzz. She thought maybe he was a soldier, since the Pentagon had more than enough of them lying around, and it would explain his bulk, his posture. She had dealt with younger soldiers like this one before, the sort of people who are volunteered for medical testing. They were enough to make the ring on her finger feel tighter: muscled, restrained, polite… often just a little bit naive about the world, even as they knew more than she ever would about death and killing. He stood, snapping to attention and saluting, when two people entered, stepping through a door off-screen into the room. One was clearly Francine Reede, the same smug, self-sure look she always wore, hidden only enough for deniability. The other was uniformed, a tan uniform not unlike the one that General Harmon wore now.
There was no audio; it had clearly been removed, though, because subtitles flashed across the screen when lips moved.
HELLO, PRIVATE MARKHAM. — The shirtless soldier held his salute. — AT EASE. — Private Markham relaxed only a tiny amount and the uniformed man continued speaking silently. — THIS IS DOCTOR REEDE.
The video was too fuzzy to make out the small movement the soldier’s mouth made to form the word, but Toni could imagine being there. It was a typical conversation, and it continued typically as the officer finished his introductions.
I IMAGINE YOU’VE READ THE BRIEFING ON WHAT WE’RE GOING TO BE DOING HERE TODAY, SO IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, ASK DR. REEDE. SHE HAS AUTHORITY HERE, UNDERSTOOD?
The soldier barked back, this time, the movement broad and visible.
The uniformed man saluted, and the shirtless Private Markham saluted back, before the officer left the room, leaving Reede alone with the patient.
PLEASE TAKE A SEAT. HAVE YOU EATEN IN THE PAST SIX HOURS?
Francine unrolled a roll of medical equipment — the image wasn’t clear on what was inside, but Toni knew what it was more-or-less: syringes, possibly a scalpel, maybe some other medical items. She picked something up, looked at it. It must have been a syringe. She rubbed at a spot on the man’s shoulder and pricked him with the needle. Neither of them said anything for a moment while Francine laid the syringe down, noting something on a piece of paper.
TOUCH YOUR NOSE WITH YOUR RIGHT HAND, PLEASE.
The big man did so. Francine made a note.
NOW I WANT YOU TO GIVE ME YOUR SERVICE SIDEARM, PRIVATE.
The big man’s face moved in what might have been an expression of displeasure. He knew that if he did it, and she used it for something illegal, he would see a court marshal. Even if she did have authority, in practice giving a civilian any military equipment was a recipe for disaster. But he didn’t hesitate. He carried the unhappy face across the room and removed the weapon from a belt and walked back. He handed it to her and sullenly stood waiting.
Francine laid it down on the table and made another note on the clipboard. It wasn’t hard to imagine that everything was going according to plan, even the displeasure. If Toni understood what they wanted properly, it would be important to override that. Ideally, the face he pulled would have been a failure case, but early stages of testing, it would have been a smashing success already. Still, if the test succeeded at that point, and Toni had designed the test, then she would have tried to push it further — on screen, Francine Reede was doing just that.
PRIVATE MARKHAM, I WANT TO BE CLEAR ON THIS. WHEN I GIVE MY NEXT SERIES OF COMMANDS, YOU ARE TO DO NOTHING, BUT YOU MUST FULFILL THEM. AM I CLEAR?