Finishing off a challenge from over at terrible minds this week: a cooperative challenge writing stories 200 words at a time. This story is one I started at the beginning of the challenges, so I thought I would give it a proper ending.
There are those whose crimes against women required a new punishment to be designed: Man-E-Quinning. It was an elegantly conceived justice; it both took their power and subjected them to the worst of men’s objectification.
The fake bodies were formed on current tastes, connected by a ingenious uplink to the prisoner. Almost true to a woman’s live form, they lacked the one essential part that would mean the perpetrators fully appreciated the negative societal experience. They were given enough sensation to know when it was unpleasant. To remove any possibility of identification, each inmate was given a new name.
Antonia was working the bar at a seedy nightclub, her one night off from the pole a week. If one more jerk touched her ass again, she was going to slug him. She didn’t care about the extra month of time. Something about a short skirt and a low blouse made every git think he was entitled. She watched Sienna slap the wandering hand of another customer as she put the drinks down. Blondes had it the worst here.
All of a sudden, every MEQ in the bar froze. The big red button at the Department of Corrections had been pushed.
Continued by Hank Petterson
Sienna was halfway up the pole when she froze, still clutching the pole with one hand and her left calf. As if in some demented Fellini film she slowly slid down the pole to the dance platform.
“Ah man she’s a fucking link…I tossed like three credits to a link.” The guy tried to reach onto the stage and take his chits back but the nano barrier had been activated once the alarm was pushed.
“Hey Barkeep I want three credits worth of drinks…this is wrong…says live girls outside you got links workin here…what gives man?”
“You got three minutes before vice gets here…I didn’t know they were links…you best shut up and scram…jerk ass.” The bartender replied to the greasy guy now heading out the bars entry.
The slang links was derogatory and factual…the convicts had a link or synapse that was missing or faulty and allowed them the justification to abuse women…almost primal ignorance that was found in the shallow end of the gene pool. They were also linked to vice squad and working as plants to ensnare more of their kind.
But there were problems with these men serving two masters…they were turning…revolting against who they were before.
Antonia snapped back into the grim, dingy grey reality of her, no HIS prison cell. His mouth tasted dry and metallic, as if he didn’t take enough care of his real body while in the body of his Quin one. In the joint they called them Quins like twin or harlequin, the latter for the insane comic book character as much as an entertainer jumping at someone else’s whims.
Antonia, or more like Antoine, got up and felt his pants sag with filth. He really wasn’t taking care of his body while he was checked out, and apparently no one else was either. Of course not, no need to care about prisoners. There were more than a few judges and attorneys that cruised the nudie bars. Antoine was saving up their names and faces for the day he could get back a little of his own by revealing their dirty little secrets to the world. Oh yes, throw him in here for being a working-stiff looking to let off a little steam, but absolve yourselves of all responsibility. Money made the difference. Well, not for much longer. Antoine savored the image of them pleading and begging as they got their turn in the clink and in the Quins.
Back to wrapping it up…
Antoine stretched and walked unsteadily to his cell door. He leaned against it and it opened with an ear-splitting squeal. With curiousity, he stuck his head out, and noticed the sounds of commotion in the prison. Silently he sidled past empty cells and saw the flap of combat, two colours blending in the flurry of limbs.
He noticed that one of the warders was down in the corridor, slumped in his way. An idea occurred to him. With difficulty he dragged the officer to the eye-scanner at the door of the lab, dropping him like rubbish when the door hissed open.
Antoine crept to the laboratory where they were first joined to the links, searching out the machine. His eye lit on the technician’s foot, peeping from below the desk.
“Get me disconnected,” he growled, at the weedy man.
In a fluster, the technician fired it up. She twiddled the knobs and dials.
She turned to Antoine. “You’ll need to be strapped in so you don’t move during the neural realignment. You could become a gibbering mess.”
He nodded, and put himself into the appropriate position. The metal bands clamped, tightening painfully across the bones of his wrists, ankles, forehead and chin.
“You don’t recognise me, do you?”
Antoine tried to turn his head, but it was locked in place. The tech hovered over him, her face close enough for him to focus on. A vague tingling at the back of his brain made him think he should recognise her.
Her laugh was low. “This is fair play turn about. What do they say…Sexual violence is about power?”
She strolled around him, sharp flicks of the buttons as she prepared the chair. Antoine’s heart hammered. He might die.
“Lucky I never got up the courage to report it. They’d never have let me in here.”
“Oh, don’t you worry,” she breathed in his ear, “I’m not going to kill you. I’m going to turn you completely into that which you hate.”
Turning her back to him, typing into the computer she brought up the Quin brain image. “I’m just going to make this permanent.”
“But-” he spluttered, “I was gonna expose those high-end creeps. There’s judges.”
She turned, a look of pity on her face. Condescendingly she patted him. “You think they allow you to keep specific memories? No, just the pain and humiliation; as if that’s what being a woman is about.”
“But I want you to experience what women have for all their lives. One sentence is not enough.”
“Don’t worry,” her smile was crooked, “you’ll feel the mismatch between your physical body and what you perceive it should be only until your lawyer can show the Man-E-Quinning did it to you.” She hit a key and the machines started whirring to life.
“No,” he murmured. “You can’t.” He watched as she picked up her bag, her coat, heading to the safety of her office.
“No!” He was shrieking now. He struggled, but he was locked in. The last thing running through his mind as he went under with the anaesthetic injected into his arm was the girl’s face from a night in the clubs. Drunk as shit. Her face, white, trembling, and a pain in his jaw. His paw swinging and her, sliding to the floor. Stumbling out. He’d received better treatment as a stripper.
As he blacked out, he knew he’d brought it on himself.