Shining Path


Chapter 26

As of Monday morning, 23-day, all three subjects still appeared to be in the postestrus phase, hanging limply in the restraints, apparently dozing, as they cycled from open to closed posture. Their bloodwork still showed near-baseline nekostroxide and an absence of chlorotinizing hormone. Kim Ji-Geom gave the order to terminate the experimental campaign. The plan was to ship the subjects back to the address of a vacant lot North of Sapporo, in sacks with time-release fasteners, as had been done earlier with the protocol-debugging subjects. Once on the ground in Sapporo the subjects would presumably re-integrate with the social structure. This time, since tracking collars had proved useless the first time and were very expensive, those would be omitted.

All three researchers entered the observation room that housed the seventh experimental subject. Kim Soon-Wook administered a sedative, though the subject was so unresponsive that it seemed barely necessary; they removed the feeding tube; and Kim Ji-Geom reached into the mouth to remove the anti-bite wedges, while Kumari Rawat stood by with an aramid shipping sack.

Immediately the subject's eyes snapped open, it snarled, and (narrowly missing the professor's hastily-removed fingers) it bit down hard on its own tongue. Blood spurted out onto the floor. They likely would have lost that subject then and there but for Kim Soon-Wook's quick intervention with a rag soaked in 5-chloronepetalactone, which he had wisely prepared beforehand. Direct pressure was applied to stop the bleeding as soon as resistance ceased, and the wedges were replaced. The team retreated from the observation room to rethink their plan.

Euthanasia was suggested; it would both spare the subjects further stress, and save a lot of money in shipping charges. But the ethics review had specifically excluded that possibility, and they could not afford to wait through a re-evaluation process for that. None of the team members was willing to suggest the idea of surreptitiously euthanizing the subjects and passing it off as accidental death, despite the prevalence of accidental death earlier in the experiment which would make such a claim plausible. Even just removing the wedges and allowing the subjects to bite their tongues was out of the question. (They did not think through the question of whether all three subjects would necessarily react the same way.) They had to make every effort to keep the subjects alive at least until the subjects were released into the wild and out of the researchers' responsibility.

That consideration, then, dictated the appropriate protocol: they would anesthetize each subject, pack it into a time-release sack, and hope that by the time the drugs wore off, the subject would be in an appropriate pseudomental state to preserve its own life. If not, the Sapporo police would just have to deal with three unexpected sacks of dead joneko, and it would be unfortunate but not really anybody's fault. Kim Ji-Geom found some funding for a computer cracker to enable them to send the sacks to Sapporo in an untraceable way; there was no necessity to mention the details of that in the final paper nor to the Ethics Committee.

So, on 24-day 1-month Keika 7, the morning plane to Sapporo carried in its forward cargo hold three aramid sacks with time-release fasteners, shipped (according to the computer) from a nonexistent corporation headquartered in a vacant lot in Kaesong, to another nonexistent corporation headquartered in Sapporo. The customs declaration described the contents as cellulose acetate animation stock, which was true in a certain technical, misleading sense.

On 28-day 1-month Keika 7, Kim Soon-Wook received a package in his university mailbox, postmarked from Sapporo, Japan. It had no return address, which suggested some form of computer cracking because anti-terrorism regulations would normally require a return address for international rocket post delivery. Somewhat concerned, he prevailed upon a friend in the medical school to run the package through their NMR machine. The package was found to contain a dead rat, in polystyrene foam, with a dry ice pack to keep it fresh. He assumed it was some kind of marketing gimmick, and threw it out without opening it.

Subjects Seven and Eight woke before the time-release fasteners on their bags opened. They were extremely angry when they finally escaped, but visits to the local hot-houses brought them back into more normal emotional states, and they quickly reintegrated. Subject Nine, a tortoiseshell, slept longer. She awoke on 26-day 1-month Keika 7, walked into town, visited her employer (a long-haul network installation contractor), and was told that she had lost her job back in 11-month when she failed to report for work on 10-day. She had been replaced in her old job, but they were prepared, as a special favor for a former employee, to open a new entry-level position (at entry-level pay) just for her.

Subject Nine had been (before her capture by the Kim team) a highly skilled network installer and debugger, with extensive flooded-vault experience. She rightly considered herself better than just a newbie cable monkey. She told the contractors what to do with their entry-level position, and walked out into the Winter sunshine a free agent.

First she visited a hot-house; then the local Mutual Credit Agency branch, where she withdrew most of her savings as cash. She bought a new tool belt and things to go on it, then visited a network cafe. She lifted a cathole cover in an alley beside the network cafe, and for a half hour or so indulged the most primal of joneko urges. Returning to the surface with her kill, she visited a post office, where she bought a fancy cardboard gift box, a polystyrene insert with dry ice pack, and postage for it. She already had the address from her research at the network cafe.

In the early hours of 27-day, as her package was loaded onto the rocket to the sorting plant at Seoul, Subject Nine scaled the fence around the garbage staging area of the Medical University Hospital. She entered the open loading dock doors, pushed a ventilation panel up through the suspended ceiling, and crawled into the duct system.

She crawled through the ducts until she found a room in which a mental-health patient was undergoing electroconvulsive therapy for epilepsy with behavioral comorbidities. She dropped from the ceiling like an angel of death, killed the patient by ripping out his throat, then leapt right through the one-way observation glass and killed the doctor and two technicians. An aptly-named "dead-man switch" on the control console for the therapeutic apparatus triggered a silent alarm that summoned a security team, but by the time they arrived Subject Nine was back in the ducts and far away.

There were 16 more casualties at the hospital. Then Subject Nine emerged from a cooling tower at the top of the building, jumped down to street level, and proceeded toward downtown, raping and killing human men as she went. It was notable that she only targeted humans, and only males. She killed 21 more before the police shot her six times with ether bullets on a busy street corner, causing her to delaminate along the t dimension. The joneko's neural connections separated one by one and her body shredded itself from the inside over the space of about fifteen seconds as her screams of pain fell from the ultrasonic into the range of human hearing and then broke up entirely.

A few passers-by had enough presence of mind to record this process on their telephone cameras, and the resulting clips were instant hits on Internet video-sharing communities. A minor scandal erupted because it had not then been public knowledge that the Sapporo police routinely carried ether bullets. The local Chamber of Commerce, nearest equivalent in that time and place to the modern SDL, complained loudly enough that the Chief of Police was forced to resign. However, no changes were actually made to the Department's equipment policy, because the incident had clearly demonstrated why such weapons were necessary to protect human life. It was just unfortunate they had not caught up to Subject Nine sooner. The Sapporo police never uncovered anything relevant in Subject Nine's history, and the connection to the Kim team remained hidden.

Near the end of 2-month, Kim, Kim, and Rawat submitted their paper to the 40th International Congress of Applied Psychology, from which it was rejected. Two reviewers made unnecessarily harsh comments on the sample size issue, as well as suggesting that the conditions of the experiment (in particular, keeping the subjects in restraints) seemed to have altered subject behavior so far as for the results to be unrepresentative of anything natural. The third reviewer just wrote "Harlow did it better fifty years ago."

So the Kim group added a few citations to their literature review, wrote a paragraph explaining that joneko were totally different from monkeys, and re-arranged their names on the paper to exploit a gender bias they believed existed in the reviewing process. They re-submitted it to the 18th ARUPS Congress (ASEAN Regional Union of Psychological Societies) in Keika 8, where it was accepted, but only in poster form. The ARUPS referees raised sample size again, as well as the fundamental issue that joneko were not only nonhuman but nonorganic, artificial creations lacking human personalities and with their own unique behavioral tropes – indeed, totally different from monkeys – so even with a large sample it would be questionable how applicable the results might be to the human experience at all. At that time there were no congresses specific to seru, which might have been friendlier places to publish.

Kim Ji-Geom had very little funding because his tenure bid had failed and he was out of favor with his department, so he could only afford to send one person – Kumari Rawat, the new first author – to the congress. She complained afterward that she drew a bad location in the poster session lottery, and almost nobody stopped to talk to her about the work.

Kumari Rawat eventually became a leading expert on seru neuroendocrinology. Her work on chloroctopamine agonists remains widely cited. Kim Ji-Geom got tenure in Keika 10 and spent the rest of his career teaching and writing papers; but he never attempted another experimental study of this scope because, post-Deconstruction, neither he nor anybody else could get funding for that kind of thing. Kim Soon-Wook posted his restraint design on the World Wide Web, where it was downloaded by a few scientists and many bondage hobbyists. Both kinds of people appreciated its strength, versatility, and ease of construction from readily available materials. He could have made some money claiming royalties, but chose not to do so. He also chose to hang his new Master's degree on the wall, get a guitar, and become an American-style folksinger, which was still exotic enough in Korea in those days that people would pay him for it. He never did academic research again; and "Case studies in a model organism's core needs: The joneko estrus" by Rawat, Kim, and Kim passed into obscurity. By the Shoumei era, it was remembered only by a few historians of science – at least, among humanoids.