Makeshift Prison
Betty wakes up in The White Room thinking that it is October. She is greeted by Dr. Samuel Sterns.

The White Room


"I think that SHIELD is where all things go to die. Puppies and kittens couldn't remain cute there under the watch of the General."

The room in which Betty finds herself is a little sensory deprived. The white washed walls, white tiled floors, and white door all kind of blend together in a sea of bland. The light reflect back and forth between floor and walls, bouncing from one surface to the next. A single twin-sized bed with white bedding sits bolted to the floor in the corner.

The space itself is small. Almost cell-like. Where Sterns found this place is anyone's question, particularly as he wouldn't have had time to make it himself.

With a start, Betty wakes up. Immediately, she takes in her surroundings. White. White. White. She attempts to stand up, but the bouncing light and incredibly monochromatic room makes things swim in front of her eyes. She only manages to swing her legs to the floor before she has to put her head down on her knees and take a deep breath.

How did she get here?

The last thing she remembers is…New York. No, wait, Culver. She had returned to Culver. She had plans to talk with Leonard. Did she pass out? The dizziness subsides and she slowly raises her head. The starkness of the room could suggest hospital. Standing, she wobbles her way to the door and tries it. Locked. So. Most likely not a hospital, then. Wheels turning slowly, as she fights her way through a fog. Was she drugged? Quickly, she checks for needle marks.

Strangely she comes up with none. Not a single mark on her body, as if by her own will she managed to come here. Odder still, and perhaps more unsettling, is the weird stillness of the room. Nothing makes a sound. Not the lights, not the tile, and certainly nothing on the outside. There is an uncomfortable stillness in it all.

Until there isn't.

The wall nearest the door flickers. Evidently it's a not really a wall at all, but a screen. The sound of a finger tapping on the glass may give the impression one is in someone's aquarium like a forgotten pet. A presumably watched forgotten pet. The opposite wall contains a single camera attached to the ceiling itself.

The screen flickers again, but there's no image. "Wait… is this thing even on?" the voice doesn't sound malicious…

After a check of her skin brings up nothing, Betty starts slowly making her way around the room to see what she kind find. The answer is a lot of nothing except for a camera attached the wall. That, along with the silence and the lack of any sort of identifying marks worries her quite a lot. Someone is watching her She doesn't find her bag, nor can she find a wallet or a phone.

At first, she steps backward when the wall flickers, then - curious - she moves forward again to run her fingers over it. It's a curious thing, to have a screen built into a whole wall. "H-hello?" she calls out, unsure of herself. If someone is speaking to her they may know how she got here. Then again, they may be the ones who put her in here.

When her fingers run along the screen, they catch a small shock — merely static — from the touch. There certainly is a curiosity to it. It's smooth to the touch after the initial shock, and has the texture of a computer screen. She's likely fingerprinting it, not that it's easy to tell with its blend with the wall. "Ah! So we do have sound. That's delightful!" the smile can almost be heard across the screen. The voice itself is decidedly male, but not unfriendly. Extremely confident, but not overtly arrogant. "Sound, but" and then there's a long pause, thereby leaving the particple infinitely dangling. The clicks of a few buttons indicate that the man hasn't disappeared, even with the dangling participle. "What do you think of the room? I call it the White Room. Original, yeah?"

"Right. ANYways. Good to see you awake, Dr. Ross. I was unsure when you'd come back to us. Little longer than I thought — " There's a pause. "Tell me, what, perchance, do you last remember?"

Betty quickly pulls her fingers back from the static shock. Absently, she runs her thumb over the pads of her fingers to dispel the pain. One more touch and she steps back from it, unsure of what to do. The voice sounds similar, but through the fog of whatever was used to make her pass out, it's hard to place. Faces swoop past her mind's eye and then disappear in a convoluted jumble of mismatched names. With only a disembodied voice to go on, she has no place to direct her questions: only the camera in the corner. She takes a few steps backwards and tilts her chin up to address the camera.

"Why did you bring me here? Where am I?" Mentally, she notes that 'White Room' makes sense, however, that's not what concerns her at the moment. This man obviously knows who she is and because she isn't dead yet, he has plans for her.

And when she addresses the camera, the voice audibly clears its throat. "Still no visual, hmmm? Well let's see what we can do about that — give me a moment, Dr. Ross…" Through what can be presumed to be a microphone, she can hear clicking. Several significant button pushes later and there's a close up a gentleman's head. "Yikes! No one wants a close up of that…"

There's some more shuffling, and presumably a move of the camera. And there he is, Samuel Sterns, in all of his glory. The burgundy gingham shirt and black blazer (complete with grey elbow patches) give the scientist an air of altogether incomplete. He smiiiiiles only to look away from the camera for a moment to roll his tongue over his teeth. Yes, he just did a tooth check.

"So, how are you feeling? I thought the White Room would be sufficient for a bit of rest after the ordeal…" He blinks hard before rubbing his eyes. And as far as where they are, his lips crack into a pitying smile, "So you genuinely don't remember then?" This warrants a softening of his features, "Well that is unexpected. Hmmm. Well, we're both in Russia. Don't worry though, you're perfectly safe. Cold war is long since over… you do remember that, don't you?"

Betty's focus shifts between camera to wall as she's first given a view of a forehead and then Samuel Sterns. Her eyes widen in surprise and she takes another step backward in confusion. It would certainly seem as if she remembers the scientist. Bombarded by one strange sentence after another, it takes a few moments to process.

"Dr. Sterns?" The last she saw of him was when he attempted to help Bruce in New York. She gives a small shake of her head in disbelief. Ignoring the pitying smile and the crack about the Cold War, she moves on to the questions that really matter to her. "What are you…Why did you take me to Russia?"

He clucks his tongue before nodding his head in a pseudo-bow. "Yup! In the flesh. You can call me Sam. Or Sammy. Uh. No. Just Sam. Sammy makes it sound like I should be playing saxophone. I've never played saxophone. Although I'm betting I could pick up on it quickly. Seem to have a knack for a lot of things lately — " And then his gaze tracks back to Betty. "RIGHT. Russia. Well… " his eyebrows furrow as he stares openly at the screen. "I really hadn't expected this side-effect. I suppose these things do happen from time to time."

His lips press together. "It's not September, you know. You might think it's September, but it's later than that. It's been… awhile since you were back. When it happened I tried to contact your emergency contact person, but evidently your father isn't taking my calls." The smile is sardonic. "Well… I think he's just become generally unreachable as of late. Some nonsense about something with his job — " and his release from said employment. His gaze turns upwards, "And then I thought about contacting our dear friend Mr. Green, but I'm not really sure he'd respond and I have mixed feelings about that, anyways. It's a little bit early for that, don't you think?"

Sterns raises a hand, fully expecting a freak out. "Excuse me. I'm still collecting my thoughts. Here's the gist of things, we — as in our research team — has been in Russia for awhile. Well, members of the team have been here since September or so." There's a flicker of a smile, "There was an accident, which is why you're in the White Room. Quarantine requires certain… precautions. I apologize for not being in there in the flesh, but thus far there have been some unanticipated side effects." His eyebrows furrow, "Like your memory…" And then as a sort of afterthought he adds, "I guarantee you that you'll be coming out once I'm convinced it's safe to do so…"

If Betty was confused before, the more Samuel talks, the worse it gets. She stares at the screen depicting the scientist. The worry, doubt and pure confusion is evident on her face. "I'm not speaking to my father…" is the first thing that she manages to mutter. She can't even remember making an emergency contact list and the rest of the things that he's saying aren't adding up either.

Her mind races. The main thing she can gather is that she's alone and has no idea why she is here.

"No, I know it's not September. It's…it's October." People were putting out carved pumpkins, ghosts were taped up onto windows. Witches were attached to trees to give the illusion that they crashed into them. If she thinks hard enough, she can even smell the autumn air. But, Russia. Russia makes no sense. "I'm not on a research team with you. I'm a professor at Culver."

There's a simple shake of Sterns' head. "No… it's May. Of 2013. And… you quit Culver to engage in promising research that could resolve world hunger — you seriously don't remember any of this?" The level of skepticism evident across Sam's face pulls at each of his features in turn, melting away any semblance of smile and turning to outright concern.

"You broke up with that bloke," he nonchalantly waves his hand. "Whatever his name was, and needed a change, and I got funding for our very promising research from our Russian benefactor… and you needed an emergency contact so you very begrudgingly wrote Thaddeus Ross's name on your emergency contact — none of this is ringing a bell is it?" now he outright frowns. "Perhaps we should get you some medical attention…"

There's a long pause. Betty's eyes widen at what Sterns' information, but she resolutely doesn't believe it. "I…I gave up research." Ever since Bruce's accident, she wanted to keep the project alive so that when he returned she would have a cure. But, after her recovery, she learned that she was being locked out of the project by her father. She barely had time to save their data before they wiped it. Worried that if she kept working behind her father's back, that he'd take whatever she found and use it against Bruce. Worse, he'd destroy what they had done previously before she could get it to Bruce. Instead, she decided to shift to teaching. If the Pentagon thought she was accepting the loss and the cover story, it might give Bruce more time. She could work behind the scenes, keep an ear to the ground for any breaking gamma research.

She also remembers talking with Leonard, attempting to explain what happened with Bruce. It was a difficult conversation, but he's a therapist and understanding. They weren't sure if they would be able to work out their differences as he couldn't trust her if he thought she was going to disappear any time Bruce showed up without notice. She couldn't assure him that she wouldn't.

All of these thoughts come back in a flood of remembrance, very clear to her. With that, her confusion is replaced with conviction. She can't have memory loss, she knows all these things very deeply. She can trace her steps back to everything before blacking out on the street and awaking here. "I don't need medical attention. I'm fine. I'm not having memory loss issues; I can remember everything. I don't know why you've brought me here, Dr. Sterns," she doesn't call him Sam, "But I'm not staying."

The assertion is not what the doctor on the screen had expected. "You clearly cannot remember everything. It truly is May. By my count you've lost at least six months of memories, doctor. To me that is certainly an issue." Sterns' eyebrows tweak upwards as he ponders this latest development. "Unfortunately, Dr. Ross, I cannot permit you to leave at this time. That would be a violation of my ethics agreement — while we're not working with human subjects, anyone exposed to gamma radiation must stay under observation for… " his face scrunches up as if trying to remember something from an application "… a period of time," is finally what he settles on. "How long evades me… I'll have to check the application. So regardless of whether you accept any sort of treatment, unfortunately, you must remain under observation until our team is certain you are alright."

"So, unfortunately, doctor, you don't have much say in the matter. And nor do I," he shrugs.

The one thing that truly catches her attention is the word 'gamma'. Betty's not entirely sure that wasn't the point. That fact that 'exposure' is attached to the end of that is deeply troubling. "No—-" All of her conviction starts to erode. She shakes her head in disbelief, hands clenching at her side. "Gamma radiation doesn't lead to memory loss." Bruce never lost his memories after his transformation. He changed, he turned into the Hulk - but he never lost his memory. "I'm fine." It's like a mantra now, something she has to convince herself of. "I'm not about to turn into anything." She would consider herself under extreme stress right now and she's not changing into a She-Hulk.

Sterns smirks at the comment about turning into things, a large smirk, unbidden with nothing to hide. "My my doctor, you certainly are cheeky and insistent." The smirk turns into a smile, "I had forgotten that." His smile is all too obvious, no longer concerned, no longer empathetic, nearly mad from cheek to cheek. "You will be waiting, mostly because there's little else to do. Rules are rules."

While he'd managed endearing before, he gives no pretenses now. "I tried to be empathetic to your plight, doctor, but truth be known, you're not going anywhere now. I don't have the patience for pretending, which is probably why plans have moved so quickly." He smiles again and stifles a chuckle. "Don't worry though, I suspect you won't be alone for long."

The smirk chills Betty's blood. There is something incredibly chilling about the man. He had seemed jovial and genuinely excited by knowledge when she had met him before. Now, that thirst for knowledge and excitement has seemed warped. "Whose rules?" she replies. There's no use in denying the fact that she is properly scared now. If this really is May and she has lost six months of her life, anything could have happened in that time. And, if she truly was affected by gamma radiation, anything could happen to her. She knows he was an incredibly gifted scientist and knows that he was working with Bruce and gamma radiation. What she is clinging to, now, is that she doesn't want it to be true.

"T-tell me," she steps forward, worried. While his empathetic face was unnerving, when it's gone, the effect is even scarier. "What is the research I'm supposed to be working on? What are you doing with gamma radiation?"

"Now, now, Dr. Ross," Sterns tuts with several clucks of his tongue, "it's not work you were supposed to be working on. It was research we all were working on." His eyes track upwards, "Well, now the rest of us are working on." There's an easier smile when his gaze returns to the camera at a level angle, nearly predatory. "Quite honestly, doctor, I'm testing the bounds of what I can and cannot know and what I can and cannot do." This is punctuated by another smile.

"I'm certainly not the first to try it," he utters cryptically while his gaze tracks to the right, lingering there. Something crosses his eyes. And perhaps, for the first time since the conversation started he seems to reflect a strange vulnerability not present in a true predator. Something lingers beneath the surface. And for few moments it stays there, present in memory and reflected wholly in his eyes. "You can't begin to understand the scope though. Not now. No, no, no. Not at all. I'm living it and I can barely comprehend it." He clears his throat, "But you needn't fear me. Not now. Perhaps not ever." He shrugs.

That smile causes Betty to take one more step back. She doesn't like it. Nor does she like the way he talks about his research - research she supposedly took part in. If he's even partly telling the truth, she was exposed to it and it caused her to lose part of her memory. That would be scary enough, but now she is trapped in a White Room with no hope of escape.

"I—" she attempts to reach out to Sterns. He helped Bruce when he had little reason to other than pure curiosity, whatever he is doing now he must still have some of that still left over. "I'm not scared of you." She does not sound like she is. Worried, scared for her own well-being, sure, but not scared of the doctor. "I just…I want to understand." At least everything she is saying is true.

There's a narrowing of Sterns' eyes. "A lot has happened since summer doctor. Since the Abomination. Since you and I helped our dear Mr. Green." His lips twitch. The tell looks disconnected. There's something else there. He raises a hand to bat away the thoughts creeping into his mind. "Fear not, Dr. Ross. All will be well," and his smile is almost reassuring. Almost.

"Once everything finds order again, then all will be well." He swallows hard as a hand presses to his forehead. "That's all it needs. Order. And I intend to make things as ordered as they can be." At this he actually grins. It's almost his old smile. Almost. Yet something has changed. "But, the work is good. I even managed to get our research nominated for not one but two Nobel prizes. World starvation is evidently sexy to the powers that be… not that we're researching it. It's a matter of what people think you're doing versus what you're actually doing. Understand?"

A lot has changed, true. Apparently much more than Betty could have imagined. Sterns is almost, but not quite, the man she knew in the summer. For her, the change has happened almost spontaneously. Those who remember him in the past months may have seen a more gradual shift - she can't be sure. One thing is for certain, she now realizes that his personable manner is certainly a facade. And, more than that, he is planning and implementing something quite elaborate. While his demeanor as the recluse scientist was erratic, now it has shifted toward unstable. She's trapped by a brilliantly insane man who has plans for the world. Fortunately, for most of her life she has dealt with power hungry or single-focused men with little regard for the collateral damage and she instinctually knows what to do when confronted with them.

"Yes." Elizabeth Ross looks right at the screen containing Samuel Sterns. She remains still, telling the predatory eyes she sees reflected toward her that she is not prey. She will fight back and she will not be killed without a chase and a fight. "Yes, I think I understand."

Sterns' arms flail on the screen, "Excellent!" he responds all too excitedly. "Don't worry, I'm not going to make you my pet project." He sighs quietly, "Unfortunately, the goal required your assistance." He virtually beams, "Of course, it took two Noble nominations for the desired effect, but according to what I know, it seems to have taken root." Eagerly, he rubs his hands together.

"It seems our friends at SHIELD may have gotten our invitation. Tell me, Doctor Ross, are you familiar with our SHIELD friends? Or merely Daddy and his dear sweet endeavours?" He blinks hard several times before tacking on with his nose wrinkling like he smells something pungent, "He has quite the endearing personality, doesn't he?"

Pet project? Goal? Betty's confusion returns, but she stands up straight and asks the questions she knows she needs to ask. "My assistance? Like when we helped Bruce?" That was a topic that Sterns seemed to have more to say about. As for SHIELD, the name rings a vague bell. For some reason she can hear the name said in her father's voice, however knows nothing about what it is. It must be military if General Ross was discussing it. "I don't know anything about SHIELD." As for her father's personality, she remains mum on the topic. It would seem that is a sore subject for Betty.

"Nor did I expect you to," Sterns' tongue clucks again. "Just like to have all of my bases covered." He pensively sucks on the inside of his cheek, considering something in silence. "I think," he declares, "that SHIELD is where all things go to die. Puppies and kittens couldn't remain cute there under the watch of the General. Ah. The General." His nose wrinkles, "How I enjoyed our little chats." The tone hinges somewhere between pleased and angry, sickly sweet and bitter. In many respects his meaning is almost impossible to glean. "But SHIELD. SHIELD, well, I'm sure you'll be meeting some of their agents soon enough. Or, perhaps, some of their scientists."

He clears his throat as he tugs at the tie on his neck, "Perhaps I owe them a debt of gratitude." His eyes narrow, "Without them I would've never really known the limitlessness of what there is to know." The smile tugs at the sides of his lips again, that same predatory smile, clever, coniving, and planning in its own way.

"Tell me, doctor, have you worked with human subjects in your past?" Stern's eyebrows tweak upwards. "Oh wait. Of course you have, haven't you? I believe you mentioned that only months ago." His grin extends. "You and the SHIELD folks should get along swimmingly then~" he sings.

"It will be hard to fit them all in here." Betty glances about the room. It's not all that large. It fits her comfortably, but there is only one bed and it can only fit one person. The more Sterns talks, the more unnerved the professor becomes. It's hard to follow his train of thought and it's even harder to figure out what he means. Attempting to pick out bits and pieces she can understand, she clings to them.

The one thing she certainly understands is his veiled meaning about testing on human subjects. Remembering that horrible day, her fists clench again and she blinks her eyes. "That was not my choice." She pleaded with Bruce to wait, to let it go through proper testing before putting himself in the chair. However, he was the lead scientist and he refused to be swayed.

"Yes, but it still happened on your watch, didn't it, Doctor," Sterns smiles knowingly. "As far as room is concerned, don't you worry your pretty little head, Sammy, no, Sam — Sam is better isn't it? — has a plan." His eyes light up now, "And they'll be joining you more in the figurative than the literal sense. Just like I'm here in the figurative rather than literal sense. Makes you wonder if we're even in the same building, doesn't it, doctor?" He smiles slyly.

"But you got the White Room. Consider yourself lucky." He blinks hard several times, "Just imagine what it'll be like when when we fill the others. Maybe I'll let you watch." And then, much like the proverbial kid in the candy store, he lights up further, "Would you like to see what all of it is for doctor? Everything we built together, how we managed to receive two nominations for Nobel prizes?"

That very thought is one that still haunts Betty. What happened to Bruce happened on her watch. She hates that she is showing guilt and fear and also sadness in front of this man who has her trapped in a white room. But, she can't help it. The emotions are too strong to keep tightly locked behind a mask of impartiality. Honestly, she hopes that he isn't in the same building. The more distance between the two of them the better as far as she's concerned.

"But…we didn't…" she shakes her head, attempting to seem calm and collected. However, it's hard under this sort of stress. "I didn't do anything. I don't…" she doesn't remember. And the more he says that she was a part of it, the more she worries about her own sanity. Shaking her head, she realizes that her mask of strength is seriously crumbling. She's starting to look like prey. Defiantly, she raises her head and looks straight at Sterns again. "Fine. Show me what I'm supposed to have helped you with."

"Excellent!" Sterns claps his hands together once, very enthisiastically. His seat pivots and for a moment his back is entirely to her. And then when he turns around again he's holding A MAZE with a mouse. DUN DUN DUN. "Meet Mortimer," he lifts the mouse from the maze. "Mortimer has been with the project for a few short weeks, and every time we run the test, we adjust his maze. Imagine the novelty of such a thing." If at all possible his grin expands. "Mortimer can navigate the entire maze without motivation because of our research, doctor. Note there is no cheese in the maze. No external motivation because Mortimer doesn't need it."

The twinkle in Sterns eyes magnifies as he sets the mouse down at one end of the maze. Sure enough, Mortimer manages the entire box maze in mere seconds, far faster than one motivated by cheese and learning memory. "Outstanding, isn't it?"

For some reason, Betty was expecting to see warehouses filled with large vats of goo. Or possible an army of robot people. That has nothing to do with her research, but she still can't believe she was involved with any of this. What she is treated to, though, is a mouse in the maze. She can't help but stepping forward so that she can see the mouse walk through the maze of its own accord. "I don't understand. If there is no external motivation, then how is he learning?" Supposedly she was exposed to Gamma radiation - but as far as she has ever seen, gamma has never enhanced mental capabilities. "Gamma radiation only effects physical attributes, not mental ones. It can't make a creature smarter." Bruce was brilliant to begin with, but the Hulk was not. And Blonsky's exposure only seemed to prove that the exposure merely brought out a person's basest desires.

Sterns taps his nose three times with delight. Betty hasn't gotten it yet. But he revels in the wonder of his creation, marveling at the amazing that is Mortimer the mouse. "Isn't it brilliant? It's a low dose. A ridiculously low dose. You've probably been exposed before without realizing. High doses impact other things, low doses do other things when put in the right hands. The key is in the dosage, dear doctor." He beams. All out beams. This is truly a victory.

Betty has been thrown into the deep end without any sort of swimming training. Despite the fact that the face in front of her belongs to a madman, she can't help but feel ruffled at the idea that she is being outsmarted by him. Peevishly, she replies, "If people have been exposed to it in low doses without affect, why is there no data on it? I haven't seen any affect from a small dose of gamma radiation." She has no idea what this study has to do with anything else. "I don't understand," she admits. "What is the point of such a low dose of gamma radiation? Why would you convince the world you've solved world hunger when you could be granted the Nobel Prize with this experiment?"

"Why not?!" comes the nearly maniacal response followed by a cheeky smile. "Imagine a world where everyone could be exposed to this low level of radiation and change their lives so easily," Sterns nose wrinkles. "It would be a game changer. A total and complete game changer." His lips tighten into a sinister smile. "Think of the applications. Think of the possibilities. And think of the notoriety with our research. You were so wonderfully helpful with it all — "

The maniacal laugh may be what pushes Betty over the edge. She has attempted to be calm and collected, however she has been taken away from her home and told that she has lost six months of her life. That during those six months she's participated in a study she can't even remember with a man that terrifies her. "I had nothing to do with this!" The scientist stalks up to the screen and puts both hands on it. "You think the implications are that you will have a lot of mice running about mazes you design. But people aren't mice Samuel." For the first time, she uses his name.

There's an easier smile at his real name. "Sam," he corrects as he lifts a single index finger. "But you're wrong. People are mice with the right conditions. Proximities. Changes… and if I can enhance that, then the order will come." At that moment, in the background, a man in a white lab cloak appears in the background. To whom Sterns waves towards him, "Come, come Robert, do you remember Dr. Ross?" His lips hitch up on one side. "Dr. Ross, this is Dr. Dunphy." And then as a clincher, he clarifies, "Just another mouse in a maze."

And in a way, Dunphy may very well be. The glazed over look of his eyes is nearly programmed, not alert, and not all-there. His movements have a stilted quality, ridiculously controlled compared normal movement, but he is functioning in a complete and ordered motion. "Yes," comes the one word answer. "I am Dr. Dunphy," the words are nearly robotic, prompting a wolfish smile from the more unhinged Sterns.

Sterns virtually beams, "And there you are. Order, Doctor. Order."

"Robert?" Betty knows Robert Dunphy by first name. They met a few times at conferences. She always thought him sweet, if a bit bumbling. A clumsy man with a quick mind. She moves forward toward the screen again without thinking. Almost immediately, she can tell that something is off about him. He always had a gangly way of walking - as if he were throwing himself forward by forward momentum and then letting his limbs catch up with him. This man walks as if he were the very definition of poise. No energy is wasted. His voice - completely devoid of emotion of recognition - is hollow. He is a hollow person.

That thought brings tears to her eyes. They once devised an entire code based on mitosis. Words and letters multiplied depending on how early in the sentence they were. He had a strange and wicked sense of humor. There is none of that evident in his demeanor, his slow speech. He is a robot. A well oiled robot - barely recognizable from the human she knew so dearly.

"What—-What did you do to him?" She is horrified and heartbroken. "Can…can it be reversed?"

"Why would anyone want it reversed?" comes Sterns nearly-to-honest replies. "Why would you want to live in disorder when you can live in perfection? He works, functions, thinks, and does what he's told. Which really, isn't that what everyone wants of the people around them?" He flippantly waves a hand, "Parents have spent eons trying to do what I've perfected. Imagine a world where everyone does as their told. Where no one steps out of line. Imagine a world helmed by the highly enlightened enhanced by enigmas of ecstasy barely existing through the extensions of humanity's existential grasp. Think of the wonder of such a place. No one would defy anything and soldiers would be pure perfection." he beams. This is an incredible amount of success.

"That's not —" Betty can barely stand to look at the way Robert Dunphy moves and reacts any more. She pushes away from the screen and turns her back to both Sterns and whatever it is he is showing her. Is this a power play? Is he tipping his hand? Maybe he is merely doing this to torture her. She can't tell and at the moment it is too much for her to handle. "That is not perfection. That is - -inhuman. You're making a world where you are a puppet master and everyone is attached to your strings." A sudden thought occurs to her. She was put in this room supposedly due to gamma radiation exposure. "Is…is that what is going to happen to me?" She can't bear to turn around and look at him to ask.

"Not so much," Sterns replies with another wave of his hand, although what he's replying to is altogether nonsenical. "And is perfection. Don't you see? This is what armies die for: soldiers' complete and total loyalty and unwavering ability to combat. For the first time it could be fully known if people follow and beahve. Children's ability to sit and listen in class. Think of how wonderfully ordered it is. Like a beautiful well-oiled machine. Every little cog in place. No questions lingering. No loyalty waivering."

Finally, Doctor Dunphy begins to turn, in his most robotic way, away from the screen, and as he passes Samuel Sterns by, Sterns reaches out and flicks the other scientist in turn, prompting another wicked grin to his lips. Dunphy doesn't even react. "And to think, it was you lot who gave me the idea in the first place," he says to Robert rather than Betty.

He clicks his tongue as he redirects his attention back to Betty, "It's almost ready. But the puzzle is still incomplete." He begins to turn his chair away from the screen, and then raises a finger as if he almost forgot. "Speaking of puzzles — I have done you a great courtesy and included several within the White Room. Underneath the bed." His eyes turn upwards, "I believe one is a 3D puzzle of some castle in Germany. I suggest doing them, best keep the mental faculties working efficiently." He taps his fingers on the desk, "ALSO. The screen wall has a door. It might take some work to find it, but it exists. That's your own little powder room. Unfortunately no soap. Just water." He taps his nose three times, "Don't need you weaponizing your every day bathroom products on us. Not that it would do much good."

He turns again once in his seat only to turn back to the screen and raise his index finger again. "And you can expect three square meals a day. They'll probably all be juice and sandwiches. I don't think Dr. Dunphy knows how to make anything else…"

"How in the world could I give you the idea to turn people into robots? That has nothing to do with any of my research." She's not sure if she should expect an answer. Sterns seems to only listen to her when it suits him and then will spout off his thoughts on puzzles and cryptic ideas of where the bathroom might be at great length.

What he doesn't answer is the all important question about what Betty should expect from him. Is his goal to hollow her out and turn her into an almost-person like poor Robert? That's what she wants to know. She doesn't plan to stay here for long enough that she'll resort to 3D puzzles or any puzzles.

Swinging around, the scientist glares at Samuel. "You didn't answer my question." She pauses, decides to make it personal. "Sam. Are you going to make me like Robert?"

The question causes Sterns to pause. Where he'd been turning away in his swiveling chair once again, choosing to focus his attnention on other things, now he turns back to face the camera. His toothy grin is simultaneously predatory, cheeky, and all-too-pleased with himself. Evidently, in his mind, this conversation could not have gone better. There's a moment where Betty can almost see him thinking.

And then, perhaps for his amusement more than Betty's asking his lips part, and with two dimples, he responds in a passe way.

"Been there, done that."

Those words shared, the screen in the White Room looks like a wall again, no longer projecting Stern's face, theoretically leaving Betty alone.

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