The new building was empty. Not one boot had before set its mark in the fine dust that carpeted the shining floor. Entrance was not given lightly and was not greatly desired - only those few whose job it was to verify construction had any reason to peer inside.
Along one wall, a row of heartless doors, bars across the thoroughly pointless square windows set above their equally unnecessary handles - soon they would be crackling with the blue fire of electricity. Shadows covered shadows, the lights suspended from the ceiling yet to be woken in their metal cages. Across from the doors, three partitioned areas, each rectangular and divided further. In all, there were nine areas, all the same in dimension only.
One contained the hint of a man, but those lifeless limbs could not move even the dust settling on them. To the trained eye, the empty shell had a name: "Carcass". It was hung upon the partition wall, wires scrambling from its fabric and sprawling across the floor. It was constructed of nano-fibre, to allow unrestricted writhing from the student. Once such methods had been thought cruel, but the medical and economic benefits were well known and over time had swayed opinion.
Another area boasted a chunky headset and visor, for virtual exposure treatment. The visor hung at eye-level, watching with hunger for its first subject. A Tesla coil had been included on request of higher authority, a primitive technique that was practically worth no more than nostalgia. Still, though, the perfect dome stood, dissipating the few struggling light beams and remaining menacing in its barbarity.
It was not difficult to imagine the familiar sound of regret that would soon dance in screams through this hall. The acoustics had been designed to amplify and reverberate to stretch out every half-second of agony into minutes.
"Grapher twenty-seven?" a shallow voice asked. A hiss jumped around the roof and tumbled off the walls as he uttered the "s", causing the woman, who had been staring with perfect curiosity, to shiver and glance around.
Standing in another section (containing various gas tanks and what looked like a re-breather) was a uniformed man, posture militaristic and strong. The white jacket around his shoulders bore a single hair, meandering between the top two buttons, but otherwise was pristine. His expression was mild, betraying perhaps a hint of amusement at the woman's bewilderment. One eye was a slightly deeper green than the other, the difference between pine needles and oak leaves, and both darted across her, presumably making a similar examination of the girl before him.
"Yes, sir," she answered, after a brief silence, "I will be observing the facility–"
"–Night school," he cut in.
"Yes, night school," she corrected herself, unruffled by his interruption, "for as long as I desire to aid my research. I will not interfere in any way unless you require it of me, sir."
The man nodded, pleased with her confidence. His eyes closed for a second, thinking perhaps, or making a mental note. He removed the grey medical glove from his right hand and offered it to her, she took it and shook it lightly, a twitch of her lip betraying her opposition to the ancient gesture.
"Teacher - one if you require a number," he said, checking his chrono-glass with a formal wink, "You may look at but not touch, all equipment in this room and all floors down to minus twelve. Students arrive tomorrow. Regretfully I am needed elsewhere, Do Not Waste."
He gave a sharp nod, collecting the glove and one small canister from the desk to his left before striding past Twenty-seven to the elevator, leaving her alone. She watched him leaving, noting a small scuff creeping up the heel of his right boot. Opening her own chrono-glass, she recorded a brief memo, speaking softly to avoid the echo of the hall.
"One," she said simply, "airs of grandeur, sloppy presentation, old-fashioned." Her lips curled slightly into a gentle smile, allowing herself one last look around the beautifully efficient room, walking over and running one finger across the bars of the nearest door. She examined her fingertip, a single fleck of dust clung to the ridges of her print; she removed it with her tongue, preferring the glisten of saliva to such an imperfection.
"Goodnight," Twenty-seven called, triggering the lights as she strolled out.