Pleasure Island: Ch. 9
“Ok, let’s take this logically. There is no way a nanobot can contain the programming necessary to control someone with the sophistication they controlled that lady in the presentation room. Given that others have also changed personality, this is not a joke. Therefore, there must be a control center or centers.” Rhoda was talking to herself, as she often did while thinking.
“The center would have to be located within radio range, most likely line-of-sight, of the people it is controlling.” She had hung back in the presentation room. She wasn’t really comfortable in a crowd.
Besides, there was a chance this whole thing was just a sick joke. Hire a couple people to play the parts of the ‘controlled’ and have a laugh. Why, Rhoda didn’t know, but it was possible.
“It is likely that concrete and other building materials would interfere with the signal, so there should be at least one control center in the building.” So she had stayed in the background, watching. When the group started to argue about how to get out of here, she had slipped out the door, not wanting to be part of it.
The girl at the welcome desk had convinced her this wasn’t a joke. /No-one/ could act like that naturally.
“The best location would be central, but it probably also takes a lot of power and space to run the control center. In the building they can run wires to distributed antennas anyway, so the computer will be in a place easy to access, to put in upgrades, but also hidden from the guests as part of what makes the island run.” Now Rhoda was trying to figure out how to shut down the island, since escape wasn’t likely to be a realistic option.
“So, central, out of the way, and easy to get too. Well, the most central location here is the entrance lobby.” She was actually in the entrance lobby, trying to stay unnoticeable.
She looked around the room. “Well, it /could/ be in the offices next to the door, but I doubt it. And it is definitely not upstairs, so that leaves the basement.” Rhoda had watched one of her fellows head down there just a moment ago. She had even thought of following, but didn’t really want to impose.
Besides, it was every girl for herself now.
Rhoda headed for the stairs, then down. It ended in a medical center.
Not what she was looking for.
She headed back up, and tried the other end of the entrance lobby. There, just as she was expecting, was another staircase, this time labeled “Authorized Personnel Only.” This was promising.
The door opened normally.
The stairs were different; the others had been plain concrete, these were carpeted. These were expected to have some traffic. The walls were panelled too, instead of just painted.
There were two doors off the landing at the bottom. One was marked “Computers”. The other was unmarked. Out of curiosity, Rhoda tried the unmarked door, and found it locked.
“Oh well.” It hadn’t been what she was looking for anyway. A quick test showed the door she /did/ want was open.
“Yeap, this is the place.” The elevator doors stood on one side of the room, directly in front of a set huge glass doors. Behind the doors, in fact behind that whole glass wall, were racks and racks of computers, illuminated only by their own lights blinking.
Rhoda walked confidently up to the glass doors and pushed.
They didn’t budge.
Nor did they move when she tried pulling on them.
“So close...” She had no doubts about her inability to break that glass, though she would try it if she couldn’t think of anything else. She could see the distortion from the several inches of plexiglass reinforcement.
Rhoda sat down on the plasticized cement floor. “Now what?” This was obviously the central brains for the island. If she could get in there she could shut everything down, set everyone free. She was so close...
There was a rumble of sound from down the hall. It held a moment, then shut off.
Rhoda got up and went to take a look.
The first door she got to faced the glass wall. Inside was a computer repair center: spare hard drives, wires, power supplies, backup drives, a table to work on.
She couldn’t resist a moment of envy. She had worked at the computer center on campus and on a couple internships, and this was the best setup she had ever seen. Someone not only knew their computers, but knew how they were used and maintained.
But this wasn’t where the sound had come from.
There was one more door in the hallway, on the same side as the glass wall, but after the wall ended. Just as Rhoda reached it the sound kicked in again; it was definitely from the other side of this door.
Holding her breath Rhoda tried the door.
This room was a machinery room, for certain. Plain cement floor, with a drain in the center. One wall was a huge metal cabinet, with dials and controls showing.
“The HVAC unit...” Now, here was something she could work with. This was the climate control for the computer room next door. If she could re-set it so the computers would overheat, or short out, she could still disable the island.
At first glace, it looked easy. Just open/smash the controls and change them to raise the temperature. Except the controls weren’t as easy to get to as they looked.
And the cabinet was locked. Trying to break the face also didn’t work: This wasn’t the thin standard sheet metal. It was thick enough to take a beating.
Easier to break the glass wall.
“Face it girl, they’ve had a lot longer to think about this than you have. They didn’t take any chances when they left us on this island. They’ve got this place covered.”
Well, here was as nice a place as any to break down. At least no one would see her. She sat down on the wet floor.
Rhoda’s eyes focused on the drain in the center of the floor. “Of course... They need to dehumidify the computer room, especially if they pull in air from the outside. That water needs to go someplace, and a pipe can get blocked or backed up...”
It took her a moment to find it, but she found the outflow pipe. It was hidden, off to the side of the HVAC unit, and just above ground level. It looked just like a slot in the base, letting air flow around the unit.
But it output condensed humidity: pure H20. Drinkable water, if only a trickle. All Rhoda needed was something to catch it in.
She couldn’t trust any cup she might find. No telling what might be in it. That she was sure of. She headed back to the work room.
Looking around, she spotted a screw bin that looked about the right height. She dumped the screws over the workbench, then headed back. She placed the bin under the spout. A little low, but hopefully it should be ok...
The unit kicked in again, running for about a minute. As it finished, a trickle of water came out, and ran into Rhoda’s improvised cup. Perfect.
There wasn’t more than a sip, but Rhoda wanted a celebratory cup. She picked it up, saluted obscenely the builders of the island, and drank.
Water had never tasted so good. She could swear she felt it tingle all the way down.
When the tingle didn’t stop, she started to worry. In fact, it was getting stronger, and flowing back /up/ her throat.
A moment later she got /really/ worried when her clothes dissolved, disappearing into no more than some floating dust
Feeling the tingle hit her mouth, Rhoda ran out, to look at herself in the pseudo-mirror of the glass wall.
Her lips glinted. Raising her fingers to touch them, she felt hard metal, and her fingers started to tingle.
She lowered her hands and watched the sliver skin /creep/ from her fingertips, over her fingernails, erasing them. On the other side, her fingerprints disappeared, replaced with filigreed steel spirals. She pressed one with her thumb, watching the metal push in and spring back.
Rhoda recognized that her mind was frozen; There was a the feeling that she /should/ be feeling horror, and a detached amazement at the level of detail in the work of the nanobots, but she mostly was blankly watching it.
The metal skin flowed slowly down her fingers, and over her hands. Rhoda could also feel it completing the coverage of her lips, and starting to spread outward from there.
Gradually the creep slowed, inching a little less each moment, slowing nearly to a stop.
Accompanying it was a new feeling: Hunger. A need to feed. She needed to eat.
Her mind unfroze, with the new desire foremost in her thoughts. Rhoda turned back towards the stairs, nude, mouth and hands silvered.
She had almost got to the workroom when she smelled something. Something delicious. /Metal./
She stopped at the door to the workroom, smelling the delicious metal inside. Her mind pounded at her to go in, to eat, to feast.
For a moment though, Rhoda felt the horror she knew she had been denied. The island was remaking her, molding her, but for the moment it needed her help. She didn’t want to give it. She closed her eyes, calling on her last reserves of self identity, to fight the compulsion in her mind.
She opened her eyes to the sight of the machine screws she had scattered. She had entered the room without knowing it.
The metal screws were only a few feet away. Their scent taunted her, urging her to draw nearer. She reached out a hand, picked one up, rolling it around on her fingers. It felt almost soft. (How could she feel?)
She watched her arm raise, come up to bring the screw to her mouth. She took it in, swirling it around in her new mouth. It tasted as delicious as it smelled. She could feel it dissolve on her tongue.
She needed another.
She grabbed another, then two more, then four, then handfuls. Rhoda found herself stuffing screws, bolts, dividers, mounting rails, anything metal down her throat.
As suddenly as the need had grown on her, it left. The metal was still in her throat, she could feel herself swallowing it, but she didn’t want to eat any more. And, for the moment, her mind was mostly her own.
Rhoda looked down at herself. The metal skin was spreading again; it had covered her wrists, her lower arms. She could see her joints, the skin formed rings and groves so she could move. It was amazing to watch, really.
It was moving quicker now. Her upper arms were covered, and she could feel it working on her shoulders. Her hair fell out, was replaced by textured metal. Her eyes started to tingle, and hurt, slightly.
She blinked to clear it, and found herself blind. She raised her hands to feel her face. Her cheeks felt smooth, but they moved without joints. She ran her fingers over her eyes.
“Ouch!” It was a short exhalation, and she pulled her hands back. Her eyes were not ready.
Rhoda ran her hands down, from her metallic neck, over her collarbone, to the edge of where the conversion was happening. She could feel the edge, feel the difference in the skin. The old skin felt soft, fragile, uneven. The new was smooth, firm, but not hard. She ran her hands over her body, feeling the tingle spread wherever her fingers touched.
She blinked again, and her sight returned. It was sharp, clear. There were more colors than she was used to.
Looking down at herself, she could see the silver skin take over the old flesh, and could see an aura around the conversion zone. She watched it gradually spread from where her hands had placed it, blotches growing together, covering her old body in her new self.
Her breasts lifted slightly under her eyes, and she felt them tone up with her new look. There was inlay about the nipples, which she wanted to study.
Her feet tickled, and she lifted them, watching stilettos grow out of her heels as her toes fused together.
Her outside covered, Rhoda felt the tingle slow. She knew it wasn’t done: she wasn’t a robot yet. She just had a new skin. The tingle muted, but she could still feel it as it went deeper.
For a moment she had a headache amid the tingle, then she felt her thoughts change form. Like her sight, it was now clearer, more exact. More forceful, following exactly the right lines. The /logical, programmed/ lines.
Closing the door behind her, Pleasure Island’s robot moved to her post, standing guard over her mistress’s domain.