The Collective (Part 3 of 4)
By Nojh Livic
It— she directed her body to return to the daycare. The body designated Juan remained in the primary security office and the body formerly designated Steven. In the daycare, she was handed pale pink scrubs which she donned quickly. They had the name Claudia stenciled on it. The collective understood that the garments they had slowly procured over many daily cycles was not the standard attire used outside of the facility but the scrubs provided better social camouflage for this phase of the operation as they encountered other handlers.
It directed its body to exited the daycare, falling into step with other bodies of the same generation and moving in a silent group. The body designated Juan still monitoring the security system informed her group of two handlers in the hallway they were approaching. It— she was chosen to intercept the two handlers.
She stepped forward into the hallway. A handler designated Claudia was being excessively audible towards the other handler, who was designated him Sully. The two did not notice her immediately and she waited, watching. She ordered her body to tense in anticipation for when they became aware of her, however they did not until the female handler collided with her body.
She kept her balance but the female handler stumbled back. She began apologizing. “Oh! Sorry!” Claudia said, placing a hand on her body’s shoulder. She repositioned to more evenly distribute her body’s weight. “Oh. Is your name Claudia? Mine is as well.” Claudia said. Then she struck.
She grabbed Claudia by the throat. Her fingers clamped down, shutting off any chance to scream. To excite the woman into unconsciousness quicker, she lifted the woman and pin her to the wall. It required more effort than it might have for the male bodies of the collective but it was still a simple task.
The other handler had been too busy accessing the mesh network to respond. The collective saw his queries. He was checking if there was a test subject by the name of Claudia. There was not. “No… there’s no record of a…” the male handler started to say when he noticed her choking his partner. “Claudia!” he shouted and swung his clipboard directly at her body.
Taking physical trauma at this point in the plan is ill-advised, the collective decided. Use of full physical strength is condoned. She directed her body to intercept the clipboard with her empty fist. She did so accurately, breaking the clipboard in half mid-swing and diverting it from hitting her body’s cranium. The collective was unsure of what would happen to an individual if their original body suffered significant physical trauma. It was one of the first set of tests that would be performed.
As expected, her hand suffered trauma but an acceptable level. Behind her the bodies of her designated group were stepping forward. She glanced towards them. The male handler looked over his shoulder and noticed them. “Wait! What’s going on?!” Sully shouted.
It had been a startling realization to the collective when they understood that their handlers were functionally degenerative compared to them. It had constituted nearly a full cycle of observation and testing before the collective realized that the handlers were individuals and that individuality slowed cognitive capability and information dissemination by a significant amount. Their handlers used tools such as the mesh to simulate the abilities of the collective but their connections with it were completely inadequate.
It— she was still sometimes surprised at how slowly individuals took to perceive their surroundings. She was already disrobing the female body by the time the handler designated Sully started to bark orders. “Let her go!” Sully shouted and she almost obeyed. It was nearly an automatic reflex, however the handler formerly designated Claudia had a body that was of a similar height, if not body style, to her body. The collective observed this which is why she had received one of Claudia’s scrubs. Now the female body’s lab coat, blouse, skirt, and shoes would be adequate attire for her body in the outside. Still she hesitated by reflex until Sully put his hands on her body’s shoulders.
The handler intends physical trauma. Neutralize. It agreed but was in an inferior position to do so. Instead a body designated Walter stepped away from the group and delivered several blows to the handler’s body. Sully fell to the ground. It— She ignored them. Another body began assisting in undressing the former handler’s body.
“Why?” she heard Sully croak.
“We were born to replace you,” the body designated Walter stated for the man. This was the decision the collective had decided upon prior to formulating the plan. When they had probed the handlers through various questions regarding the collective’s fate, the handlers had not been forthcoming with any data that contradicted this decision.
It took several more minutes to cloth her body in the former handler’s clothes, as well as disrobe the other handler and distribute his clothing. She did not approve of this form of attire. The entire outfit was restrictive, despite being slightly big on her body’s frame, and the footwear was exceedingly impractical. It required her to change her center of balance and restrict her walking to small strides in order to remain an upright position. Additionally the footwear made significant noise compared to the standard issue slippers. She continued to use the footwear however her footsteps handlers the group approached three times before the body designated Juan could alert them. After the third time, it had opted to carry the heels until they were required, which it found itself hoping was never.
Her group made better than expected time obtaining proper outside attire and disabling handlers. The other generations were nearly completed securing supplies and vehicles for transportation. The mesh gave no indication that any of the remaining handlers that were unaccounted for had any indication of the plan’s progress.
Proceed to final phase.
So by now I hope you’ve figured out the link to the prior Free Writing. If you haven’t feel free to click here. Make more sense? That story was actually the genesis of this one. Only this one grew to be a bit bigger, obviously. Anyway are you looking forward to the final part?
In case you want to skip ahead: