He stared out through the cool glass, looking over the corporate campus. The day was clear, blue and bright. His mood intense, and his body coiled and ready to spring into action. He had put his fist through the wall when he returned in the pre-dawn darkness. He could not unwind, could not make his body calm, despite having successfully completed another mission. He was ready for more.
Doctor Po had said it was a symptom of his training and his youth. It was not surprising that at the age of 19 he would have different physical needs. Exercises would be developed for him to perform at the end of his missions to relieve the tension, and alleviate the excess energy.
No one was concerned, so he should not be concerned. But his nerves rattled, his groin stirred, and his energy felt scattered. He didn't understand what was happening, but his body no longer fully cooperated, and that was dangerous. Distraction was dangerous It could get him killed and in the process destroy all they had worked for.
~ ~ ~
Duo Maxwell boarded the tram for the ten minute ride up the side of the mountain to Bremen Enterprises. It was the usual morning rush of employees, but somehow he'd managed to get a seat. It was his lucky day. He stared out the window at the passing greenery-pines, oaks and the occasional patch of wild flowers. If only the ride was a little longer then he could live in the daydream of being on vacation in the Swiss Alps.
He had been hired as a computer tech straight out of college. He liked the work, even if he had only been doing it for several months. There were good employee perks, including a decent salary, flexible work hours, an awesome restaurant and café on site, and a great healthcare package.
When the tram stopped at the arrival plaza everyone filed out, engrossed in their conversations or still half asleep Duo took the stairs, and stopped for coffee at the Summit Café. The corporate campus was city like in its mix of buildings, gardens, fountains and sculptures. The modern, white stone architecture was beautiful any time of day, and in sun, clouds or rain.
The drink was handed to him in an insulated paper cup. He moved aside to add cream and a to-go lid, and then took the tree-lined walkway that led to the computer tech offices. He paused at an in-ground fountain. Sipping on his coffee, he listened to the whoosh of the clear blue spray as it soared on its symmetrical trajectory.
The coffee was overly hot, so he opened the lid to blow on it and release some of the heat. In the process, his eyes drifted across the fountain and noticed a young man staring at him. Duo smiled, thinking they had met, but then realized it was the guy he always only saw from a distance.
"Hello, Mr. Kaplan," Duo said, but he knew his voice wouldn't carry over the splashing water. He chuckled at the joke. He had nicknamed the cute stranger, Mr. Kaplan, after the mysterious government agent from his favorite Cary Grant movie, "North by Northwest." It was far fetched to imagine this guy a secret agent, but he had never seen anyone quite so coolly handsome, and so physically fit that he looked like a thoroughbred of the human kind.
Duo was about to say something more, but the guy turned away. He walked with a confident, almost predatory stride. His body rippling under the finely tailored clothes he wore. Duo stared after him, trying to take in all he could, and feeling his body stir. He would need to find out who the hell that was.
~ ~ ~
"Thanks for coming." Doctor Po was seated behind her desk, her eyes remaining focused on her computer screen. "Take the long way again?"
Heero sat down. "I like to watch the mundanes."
Her brow twitched. She didn't like that term, called it arrogant. And it was
"The scientists don't like you mixing with them," she said.
"I don't mix. I just watch."
She glanced at him, and grinned. "That's fine, Heero, but today we need to address your recent behavior."
"I thought you weren't concerned."
"That's simplifying things a bit." She turned the monitor toward him. "What do you think of this?" With a click of the mouse a video image appeared of a man and a woman having sex.
He blinked. "Are they my next targets?"
"No," she said with a chuckle. "You know I don't get involved in your missions. But I want to know what you think of what they're doing."
"They're having sex."
"Do you like it?"
"I've never had sex," he said, matter-of-factly.
"But watching it... is stimulating for you?"
Heero shrugged."I'm going to ask that the video feed in your quarters be programmed with pornography. With the high level of testosterone in your system and the steroid cocktail you're being given, watching this while masturbating should alleviate the tension you are feeling."
"Yes, sex can relieve anxiety and tension."
"But I won't be having sex"
"Masturbation is an acceptable substitute."
Heero looked at her closely. Doctor Sally Po had always been up front with him. Candid when the scientists and handlers had not. He trusted her, especially now when he was treading in an area he knew little about.
She smiled. "You're welcome."
~ ~ ~
The oblong conference table sat twenty, but today held only seven. Sally Po was meeting with the Project's top scientists, and the founder and CEO of Bremen Enterprises. Five scientists sat on one side of the table, as if to represent a common voice. She sat across from them, not unlike an opposing force. How many times had she disagreed with them? How many times had she pleaded for their weapon's humanity?
When Treize Khushrenada entered the room, they all stood. The man commanded respect. Hell, he demanded it. He was one of the richest and most powerful men in the world, and he never let you forget it. He ran Bremen Enterprises like a military operation. He was a commander at the helm of a great warship.
His ever-present assistant, Lady Une, clung to his side as he strode to the high-backed chair at the head of the table. Une sat in a smaller chair slightly to the left and behind. Treize put his hands on the table, surveying those gathered and nodded for everyone to be seated.
"Update," he said.
"The damage to the weapon's hand is minimal," Doctor J said.
"What do you consider minimal?" Treize asked.
"There is no permanent damage and it will heal quickly." Treize nodded. "The injury was a result of the last mission?"
"No, sir," Sally said, speaking up before Doctor J downplayed things. "Heero injured his hand after the mission when he returned to the complex."
"Do you care to explain?" Treize asked.Sally looked at the scientists and frowned. As a psychiatrist and medical doctor, she was in charge of Heero's well being, but they were in control of his training. The entire team had a direct line of communication to Treize. So, why hadn't they reported this sooner?
"On his return, Heero experienced an unusually high level of anxiety. Unable to alleviate his frustration and excess energy he hit the wall with his fist, smashing through it and breaking three bones in his right hand in the process."
"And what is the cause of this unusually high level of anxiety? The mission was a success.""Yes, but Heero is of an age..." She stumbled with the words. She hadn't quite worked it out, and now to explain it to Treize, in terms he could accept, she wasn't sure how to proceed. "He has come of age with a high level of testosterone."
Treize's eyes narrowed on her and he grinned, a devilish grin. "You mean he's a horny teenager."
Her eyes glanced to the scientists who always disapproved of her. "Well, yes, that's right. Or at least that's my theory."
"What do you recommend?"
"She had pornography programmed onto his video feed," Professor G said.
The scientists snickered, but Treize only looked more closely at her. "Is that a good use of his time?"
"Self-gratification is a form of release."
"Sexual release!" another scientist protested.
"It is a natural human function," Sally said, remaining calm.
Treize leaned back in his chair, looking from Doctor Po to the scientists and back again. "Do you have any data to support your theory, doctor?"
She swallowed hard. "I've read Doctor Kinsey's studies, but the Project has no test data."
"You see how she manipulates the subject?" Doktor S asked. "She is always looking for ways to undermine the Project."
"Why would I do that? I have as much invested in this as you!"
"That's enough," Treize said. "I do not doubt anyone's loyalty on this team. Continue with the self-gratification program, doctor. But I expect a full report within 72 hours."
"That soon? It's hardly enough time to ascertain---"
"We don't have time for experimentation. Another mission is imminent." Without another word, Treize and his assistant left the room.For the next three days, Sally monitored Heero's physical and emotional condition. With the aid of a small bio-data patch attached behind his right ear, Sally was able to chart Heero's heart rate, brain waves, blood pressure, and respirations. Face-to-face consultations rounded out the observations to be presented at the follow-up meeting. The conclusion was not good. The self-gratification program had not delivered the anticipated results.
"You are requesting more time?" Treize asked, studying the report on his desk.
"Actually, I would like to intensify the program."
"But your suggestion failed, doctor," Professor G said, standing with the other scientists in front of Treize's desk. "Your report clearly shows that the subject's anxiety levels have not dropped."
"As I stated before, I believe it is in part a symptom of his age."
"Then he'll outgrow it," Doctor J said.
"No," Treize said, silencing everyone. "This spike in his readings should be treated with care. It seems that his transition to adulthood was not factored into your calculations."
The scientists shook their heads and looked at one another. Finally Instructor H spoke, "We did not expect him to live this long."
"You thought he would have been killed by now?" Sally asked.
"You know the risks as well as anyone," Treize said. "The intensity of Heero's training and genetic engineering, and the level of danger of his missions make it remarkable that he has survived this long. A remarkable success for the Project."
"Then we owe it to him to sort out his personal needs." She looked at the faces of the men staring back at her. Sometimes she wondered how she had been selected for this team, her role was so very different from theirs. "Perhaps Heero should be allowed to become sexually active."
The scientists threw up their arms, shouting criticisms. Treize let them have their tantrum, no doubt sorting through their concerns. It frustrated Sally that he indulged them, allowing them to carry-on like school boys who couldn't agree on the rules of the game.
"You're all making too much of this," she said, sighing. The scientists turned to her in unison. She didn't wait for them to speak. "Sex would be a great way for Heero to unwind after a mission."
"You said that self-gratification would be a great way for him to unwind. Now that's not enough?" Doctor J asked.
"We all know there's a difference between doing it for yourself and having someone do it for you."
The protests began again, but this time Treize silenced them. "What are you suggesting, Doctor Po? That we hire a prostitute to service him?"
"That's not a bad idea." She grinned.
"Too unpredictable," Master O said. "How would we control such an individual? And what would be the result of contact?"
"Obviously we would have to test for drugs, communicable diseases, psychosis and the like before anyone could get close to Heero." Sally was already forming a plan.
"What about confidentiality?" Master O asked. "How would you guarantee the individual did not divulge information about the Project?"
"Hire a prostitute... permanently," Doctor J said.
Sally threw a surprised look at the doctor. "I don't think that's possible... or legal."
"Anything is possible," he said.
Treize pushed the report aside. "Sally, I appreciate your concern for Heero, but even if you can find a woman who would willingly give up her freedom, we couldn't predict the outcome."
"What if... it was someone already in the organization?" she asked.
"There are only a handful of people working on the Project---" Treize said.
"But Bremen Enterprises employs over a thousand people at this facility alone." Her eyes brightened with the idea. "We occasionally handpick one of them to transfer onto the Project. We have background checks and health reports on all employees. Surely there are dozens of single women---"
"Doctor, really," Professor G said. "Are you seriously suggesting you would approach respectable young ladies and ask them to volunteer for this... insanity? It would be simpler to buy him one of those plastic inflatable dolls and be done with it."
She sighed heavily. "The value of human touch should not be dismissed. You have created a very dangerous weapon, gentlemen, but unlike other weapons this one is a thinking, breathing human being. Heero's a young man and he needs a companion, a bed partner who will not only give him the relief he needs, but comfort, too."
Before the scientists could yet again dispute Sally's assertions, Treize stood, silencing them. "Perhaps the doctor is right. It was never our intention to create a machine. That is why we have given Heero every comfort." He turned to Sally, looking at her intently. "I will allow this, but I warn you, doctor, there is great risk in introducing an unknown variable to the equation. Choose carefully and monitor the situation closely."
"What if the situation turns bad?" she asked, wide-eyed.
"Then the variable must be eliminated."
She swallowed. "Yes, sir.""I'm giving you the go ahead, but I expect full accountability."
"Thank you, sir."
Treize waved them out of the room, but Doctor J stopped Sally in the hall before she could head back to her office.
"You're playing with fire," he said.
"We're all aware of that, doctor."
"Treize only listens to you, because you're a woman. That's his weakness."
"And you're afraid it will be Heero's weakness, too?"
"We'll be watching your little experiment, doctor." He turned on his heel, taking a different egress out of the administrative suites.
~ ~ ~
Sally was nervous. She had to deliver results, but the plan was riddled with 'what ifs'. What if a willing sexual partner could not be found? What if said individual would not agree to the isolation and secrecy required? What if Heero reacted negatively or for that matter positively? Treize was right. It was risky to bring in someone new to the inner circle. First, she would need Heero's cooperation. She invited him to her office to discuss the plan. Thankfully, he knew about the birds and the bees from the sex manuals he had studied as part of his training, and of course, the sex videos.
He sat down in the chair in front of her desk. If ever a young man was in peak physical form it was Heero. The fact that he had handed his life over to the Project when he was only eight years old was no longer considered relevant.
"You look refreshed despite a grueling workout today," she said, noting his perfect posture and impeccable clothes.
"I showered."The simple response downplayed the amount of hard training he did each and every day. He had just completed an intense physical workout, including a 15-mile run, and swimming laps in a pool designed with undercurrents and waves.
The Project maintained a high standard of living for Heero. His quarters were spacious, tastefully furnished, and accessorized with fine art and the best entertainment system money could buy. He also had a private swimming pool and Jacuzzi, and was provided stylish, tailored clothes and fresh gourmet meals. Treize would have given him more, all he need do was ask, but Heero never had. His free time was limited, and he seemed ideally suited to a life of training and missions.
"I met with Mr. Khushrenada and the scientists to discuss a change in your routine."
Heero nodded, patient as ever for her to get to the point.
"The self-gratification program did not have the anticipated results. So, it was suggested that we take it up a notch... or two."
He raised an eyebrow, curious.
"You're nineteen, Heero. You're a healthy young man and with that comes certain needs."
"Yes, we've discussed my needs before, doctor."
She smiled, feeling awkward and very motherly. "Treize authorized me to find you a sex partner. Are you amenable to that?"
He blinked. "Then you want me to stop..." He pumped his hand up and down over his lap in an unmistakable gesture.
Sally cleared her throat. "Well, no, we want that to continue, but we'd like someone to do that for you... along with other things It should mean lower anxiety, greater relaxation, happiness---"
"Yes. We've always had your happiness in mind." Well, that was only half true. The scientists had often protested the things that gave Heero's life some semblance of normalcy. "I realize this is unorthodox, but we have Treize's support."
"What are the logistics?"
"We need to select a young woman who can satisfy you physically, and who is willing to give up everything for the Project. Confidentiality is our first concern."
He leaned back in his chair, his eyes drifting toward the window.
"What is it?"
His eyes remained fixed on a point outside. "I never thought this was a possibility."
"It wasn't until today. Do you like the idea?"
"I think so."
She smiled. "The choice of partner is ultimately yours, once she's jumped through all the hoops, of course. I've had Lucrezia compile a list of the single female employees at Bremen."
Sally held out a data pad to Heero. He reached over to take it, and she noticed that he was still wearing the bio-data patch behind his right ear. He was accustomed to being monitored, but generally that only took place when he was in training. The data patch would allow her to examine his physical reaction to the choices and help her locate a prime candidate. Out of an employee roster of 1,062, there were 447 women. Of those, nearly half were married, engaged, or in some other form of relationship as best could be determined. That left a total of 193 single women for Heero to choose from. Their willingness to participate was another matter all together.
"I need you to scroll through the photos and bios, and select anyone you are remotely interested in."
He looked up at her, his brow tight. "And then?"
"We'll interview the young ladies, run psychological and physical tests, and find you a suitable partner."
"Do you think anyone would do this... voluntarily?"
"Have you looked at yourself in the mirror lately?" she asked with a laugh. Heero's eyes widened in surprise. "Oh, don't act so modest. And don't worry."
Sally's computer was networked with the data pad, allowing her to peruse the list with Heero. If he stopped for more than a few seconds on any individual, she noted his physiological reaction via the data patch.
Moments later, and a third of the way through the list, he looked up again. "Can the list be modified?"
"We can set any parameters you like."
"I would like only those with dark hair.""Personal preferences will help." She typed in the new parameters and reformatted the list to Heero's specification. It was disappointing to see that another 35% of the candidates had been eliminated.
Heero nodded and went back to scrolling through the images.
Sally correlated the lack of tick marks with his blood pressure and heart rate readings. "None of these women appeal to you?"
"I'm sure they're adequate."
She studied him from across her desk. Any healthy young man should have no trouble choosing a bed partner from this list of beautiful women. What man wouldn't jump at the chance of sex without strings attached?
"Perhaps you're finding this process too impersonal. It would take a day or so to organize, but we could get video excerpts from their employment interviews."
"No, thank you, doctor. This is more efficient."
"You realize there are hundreds of men at this facility who would die to be in your shoes right now."
"Are any of them on the list?"
Sally blinked. "What?"
Heero looked down at the data pad again, scrolling through the list. He was focused, but his heart rate had spiked. Sally eyes jumped to the screen to check the readout. The time stamp confirmed that the spike had occurred when he had made the remark.
"Heero, should we modify the parameters further in addition to dark hair?" When he didn't acknowledge her, she offered another suggestion. "Perhaps we should compile a list of the single male employees?"
Now, Heero looked up. "Is that possible?"
Once again, she noted an increase in his heart rate. Even with a desk between them she thought his eyes appeared dilated. She swallowed, and scooted forward in her chair. "Are you interested in having a male sex partner?"
"Oh, goodness. I really haven't done my homework." She got up from her chair and took a deep breath as she stared at him. She had always prided herself on providing Heero with the utmost care and consideration, and yet somehow she had not considered the possibility of this sexual preference. No wonder the heterosexual porn videos had not sufficiently lowered his tension levels. "Please, excuse me," she said, going into the adjoining office to her assistant's desk. "Lu, get Treize on the vid phone. I need to share an important discovery."
A moment later, Bremen Enterprise's CEO was chuckling at the revelation. "If that's what he prefers then get him a man," Treize said. "Hell, get him a boy for all I care. Just get this operation running."
"Yes, sir. Thank you"
After regrouping, she returned to her office to find Heero standing at the window and looking onto the plaza below. It was mid-day and many employees were enjoying their lunch outdoors.
"It's a lovely view," she said, coming to stand next to him. "Seeing all those people moving about the complex reminds me of the importance of the public face of Bremen Enterprises." She rested a gentle hand on his arm. "I've taken care of the oversight. If you re-load your data pad, you'll find a new list."
Heero picked up the pad from his chair, and remained standing as he scrolled down the first page. "They're all men."
Sally smiled brightly. "Bingo! And with dark hair."
Heero smiled, too. She knew that his physiological readings would be much more interesting this time around.