Scene 43: Int Rundown, Part 2

After another long day of MEST work at the Celebrity Center, Amory sits, exhausted, on the bus back to HCO with her watch. She spent the last ten hours installing ductwork again, and since she is not with Adam, she did it without any help. She has not eaten anything other than cold rice and beans for weeks now, and the effects are showing.

Previously On:

Daisy recruits Riley for an ally.

Last Lines: As Daisy descends the stairs back down to the street, she quells her growing frustration with the Amory situation. There are more unknown variables than she is comfortable with, but she tries to have confidence in the fact that Riley and Adam will help further the cause of The Church.

After another long day of MEST work at the Celebrity Center, Amory sits, exhausted, on the bus back to HCO with her watch. She spent the last ten hours installing ductwork again, and since she is not with Adam, she did it without any help. She has not eaten anything other than cold rice and beans for weeks now, and the effects are showing. Her jeans would fall right off if she weren’t wearing a belt to keep the sagging fabric cinched to her waist. Her muscles are so sore that she strains at every step, and her energy level is low, making it hard to concentrate on things. Her headaches grow more intense each day.

Once they arrive at HCO, Amory automatically walks towards the cafeteria, but her watch stops her, telling her that she is scheduled for auditing this evening.

“Really?” she asks. “More tech?” The thought makes her shudder. The sooner she convinces the top brass she’s mentally stable, the sooner she can route out. But the last thing Amory wants to do is sit in a small room with Daisy and go through past traumas. She is worried that her exhaustion will impair her ability to think clearly, and that she will reveal her true intentions in desperation to get a floating needle.

After waiting in line outside the auditing rooms for about ten minutes, Amory is called into session. Daisy gives her a concerned look and says, “Are you okay? You look terrible.”

“Thanks,” she says, feeling the sting of the insult. She musters every ounce of her strength to retain her composure and fires back through a smile, “I actually feel pretty good. I’ve never felt stronger in my life.” She smiles.

Daisy is undeterred. She shuffles through her paperwork, a reminder of her position of power. “Well, let’s get this over with,” she says. “I don’t want to keep you here all night.”

The initial questions begin. Daisy asks, “Are you hungry? …”

The needle does not read.

“Good. Are you tired? …”

Daisy’s expression remains unchanged. She continues, “Good. Have you had an ARC break?”

Amory sits motionless through the questions. She is relieved that she can begin the session and advance one step closer to routing out.

Then, the real commands begin: “Recall a time when you were put in something.” The needle jumps across the chart. This was the same question that read last time. Daisy asks, “There! There! What were you thinking about just now?” Daisy is animated, her talent as an auditor shining through.

Amory’s upper lip curls and she throws a groan of disgust at Daisy’s enthusiasm. Amory would not expect otherwise, but witnessing the extent of The Church’s reach makes her sick. “Well, let’s see,” she says. She leans in closer to Daisy, her posture confrontational. “I was thinking about when my mom put me in day care.”

Daisy pushes further. “Okay, let’s go through that whole thing and examine it in detail. Remember that the tech can help you deal with that trauma.”

“Right.” Amory rolls her eyes to the ceiling and folds her arms across her chest.

Daisy knows the story—she was with her at day care. But protocol requires Daisy to force Amory to relive the trauma until there is no emotional reaction. Daisy presses Amory further, commanding, “Recall for me the exact time, place and event. Where were you, who was there?”

Amory takes a deep breath, and counts to five before exhaling. She has thought about this moment often. Before the ethics program, she walked past the day care center daily. The building is used for storage now, but the same chain-link fence covered in blue tarp is still there. As soon as thoughts about the past boiled up, she immediately tried to suppress them. It was the last thing she wanted to think about. And now Daisy is forcing her to bring those feelings into the present. Amory takes a second deep breath and begins, “Well, I was in Hollywood with my mom and my sister Riley. My mom pulled up to this building we had never been to before. Then, she left us there.” At the mention of her family, Amory diverts her eyes to the ceiling.

Daisy smiles and continues, “That must have been hard. I see there’s a lot you’re still hanging on to.”

Daisy’s words provide the ammunition Amory needs to complete the session. She puts her reactive mind aside and focuses on the facts of the event. She continues, “Yeah, she left us with our new guardian, and he was nice, but mostly the nannies watched us. I was three years old and Riley was five, so it was 1980. It was summer because I remember it being really hot.” Amory uncrosses her arms and sits back comfortably in the chair. She is in familiar territory.

“The heat stands out?” Daisy asks, surprised Amory would remember such a detail.

“Yeah, I guess because the room felt really stuffy. I liked our guardian. He was nice. Later, when the other kids were mean to me or Riley, we would run to his office and hide under his desk. He never cared if we did that.” Amory trails on, lost in childhood images that she can never fully neutralize.

“Yeah, I remember Miles. You two were lucky to have him as your guardian,” Daisy says. “Your needle’s not floating. Was there an earlier, similar situation where you had a break in reality?” Her question is piercing, reminding Amory to be careful.

Amory can’t leave until her needle is floating. But she begins to feel indifferent about the e-meter and the marker that dances across the screen.

Amory closes her eyes, giving herself a moment to think. She doesn’t know what to do anymore. She’s starting to wonder if having relationships with her family and friends is worth the effort. She feels so tired. Her head rocks in a small circle, like a baby soothing itself.

She opens her eyes and sees where she is. She can’t muster up the strength to just walk out, so she says, “Yeah, you know, in 1860 … I was an assistant for a magician, and you know what … he locked me in a box as part of a trick. He started to saw the box in half. He wasn’t supposed to cut me, but the trick went really wrong. He ended up cutting me in half and I died.”

“So, you were put in a box?” Daisy is skeptical. She believes in past life experiences, of course, but she has also used the strategy of making up stories to end sessions. When she sees Amory’s eyes look up and to the right, she thinks Amory is lying, and she will not let her succeed in deceiving The Church. Daisy persists, “Describe the moment in detail.”

Amory continues, “Yeah … just my head, hands and feet were sticking out of it.”

Daisy doesn’t care what the needle says, so she doesn’t even look. She won’t let Amory win that easily. She says, “Your needle’s not floating. Was there an earlier, similar situation you were put in something?”

Amory feels stronger. She begins to have fun with her charade. “Let me think … yeah, in 1580 I was locked in the Tower of London.”

“What did you do?”

Maybe Daisy does believe her—Amory can no longer tell. She is too wrapped up in her own story. She remembers a book she read once years ago and says, “Let me see … I was the wrong religion. There was a big revolution, and I was a Catholic who was loyal to the old king. So they locked me up in the Tower. They didn’t give me anything to eat, so I starved to death. It was a horrible way to go.”

“Your needle’s not floating. Was there an earlier, similar time you were put in something?” For Daisy, the truth is the tech, the process that controls everything. Good and bad is not rigidly defined—the only thing that matters is the greatest good for the greatest number of dynamics. She follows the exact process detailed in LRH’s directive and won’t allow herself to make any mistakes. Daisy will make Amory lie to discover the truth.

The session goes on for hours. Daisy keeps her there through the night, determined to take the tech as far as it will go. She goes through all of the commands, following up with even the slightest reading.

“Your needle’s not floating. Was there an earlier, similar time?” Her words echo in Amory’s ears, like a constant refrain that will never cease. “Your needle’s not floating. Was there an earlier, similar time?”

She makes Amory spin stories for hours. Amory is so delirious by the end that her words have turned to gibberish.

“Your needle’s not floating. Was there an earlier, similar time?”

Amory’s body slouches in her chair, and it takes every ounce of her strength to remain upright. But Daisy looks as if she could keep going for days.

“Your needle’s not floating. Was there an earlier, similar time?”

As the sun begins to ascend the horizon, Daisy says, “Thank you, your needle is floating.” With that, Daisy stands up and leaves the room without another word.

Scenes from the Next:

Amory meets a new stranger.

Scene 33: New Auditor

The pair work side by side until dinner, and Adam waits until then to tell her the bad news. As they’re stepping off the bus, Amory asks him if she can run back to the dorm to get her book. “You won’t need that today,” he responds.

Previously On:

Adam grows closer to Amory.

Last Lines: In an effort to detach, he thinks about this wife. When that does not alleviate the knot in his stomach, he thinks about the greater good, the mission that brings them together. But Amory keeps pulling him back to the present.

 

The pair work side by side until dinner, and Adam waits until then to tell her the bad news. As they’re stepping off the bus, Amory asks him if she can run back to the dorm to get her book.

“You won’t need that today,” he responds. He sees the confusion on her face and continues, “I need to take you over to HCO for auditing.

Amory’s stomach sinks, and she pauses to process the information. She knew this was coming, she just didn’t know when. She has grown accustomed to just working, secretly hoping they would forget about her auditing. But The Church never forgets.

“You okay?” Adam asks.

“Yeah … fine,” she says. “When do we need to go?” She armors herself against the forces that refuse to relinquish control of her. She must construct an impenetrable barrier between herself and her auditing if she wants to gain any kind of true self awareness.

“Now … Sorry, I should have told you earlier, but it seemed like you were having a good day. I didn’t want to spoil it.” He tries to place his hand on her shoulder, but she pulls away.

“Yeah … Well, I guess it’s better just to get this over with.” She doesn’t know the exact tech she’ll get, but all of it serves the same purpose—to help Amory see why she needs to be in The Church.

They enter HCO and walk the maze of suffocating, white hallways to the auditing rooms in the back. With every bend in the hallway, the tension in her stomach tightens. She tries to convince herself that this is routine, that she has been through this before. But her anxiety builds with every step.

Amory’s mouth drops when she sees Daisy, again, as her auditor.

“Hello Amory,” Daisy greets her and smiles in her direction. “Nice to see you again.”

The knots in her stomach travel up and constrict her throat, and a curt “Sir” is all Amory can manage to say.

Daisy uses her most comforting voice to explain Amory’s situation to her. “From what I’ve been told, your diagnosis is Out-Int. We’re going to start an Int Rundown today.”

Amory stares blankly at her friend as shock pulses through her body. She knows what an Int Rundown is, but she is stunned that this is the tech she needs. She has never exteriorized, never had an out-of-body experience, let alone one that went badly. But that is her diagnosis the top brass arrived at without even speaking with her. None of it makes any sense.

In Daisy’s face, Amory no longer sees an ally but the embodiment of The Church. A memory from the Ranch flashes in her mind. It was a typical, hot summer day in the Los Angeles valley, east of the city. Amory and Daisy were weeding the grounds for fire control. After a few hours of work, the girls paused to take a five-minute break. They drank some cold water and took salt and potassium tablets in order to prevent dehydration. As the girls were walking back over to the weeds, they heard Jake yelling at them to start running. He was always giving them a hard time. Jake threatened to write a chit on them if he saw them walking again. That was the rule—they had to run everywhere. Chits were written demerits that went straight into a cadet’s ethics folder. In order to graduate from the Ranch, all cadets had to have great ethics, which meant a clean file. The demerits were rarely given by adults, and instead were given by other kids, who were taught that if they saw someone who was out-ethics they needed to speak up, otherwise they themselves would be an accessory to the crime and receive the same penalty. The children were trained to police themselves and spy on their friends.

Attached to the inside cover of Daisy’s folder, Amory sees the Int Rundown checklist, along with a deep stack of notes she knows Daisy has spent hours going through. Handling an Int Rundown is tricky. The tech itself is simple enough, but there can’t be any errors. The policy directive from L. Ron Hubbard explaining the process says so. Any mistakes would only compound the problem and lead to further introspection. This rundown is for a psychotic break, after all. Every precaution must be taken.

Amory’s face turns red. She shouldn’t have expected anything else, but being labeled as Out-Int hurts worse than any physical punishment could. She was at the lowest point in her life, and the top brass says it was her fault. That she alone caused her depression. Amory breathes deeply so the buildup of blood drains from her face, but it is replaced by an intense headache.

Daisy appears to comfort her, saying, “Don’t worry Amory. We’ll get through this together.”

This dishonest reassurance makes her nauseous. She steps back from Daisy, now seeing that Daisy does not care about her or want to help her, that Daisy is trying to lull her into a false sense of security so that she can use her for her own gain. She suppresses her gag reflexes and swallows the saliva building in her mouth, needing to retain everything she can.

Scenes from the Next:

Amory begins her Int Rundown auditing.

Scene 29: MEST Dumpster Diving

Back at HCO, Amory and Adam file off the bus. She still has a little time before she can eat, so she meanders to the back of the building to avoid the uniforms. A faint, but distinct, brushing sound emanates from inside an army green dumpster. Amory decides to investigate. “Hello? Is someone there?” she calls.

Previously On:

Amory beings her ethics project MEST work at the Celebrity Center.

Last Lines: As she walks back to the bus, Amory feels tired, proud, satisfied, but mostly relieved that the first day of hard work is over. If this is any indication of how the next few months will proceed, Amory thinks she’ll be just fine.

 

Back at HCO, Amory and Adam file off the bus. She still has a little time before she can eat, so she meanders to the back of the building to avoid the uniforms. A faint, but distinct, brushing sound emanates from inside an army green dumpster. Amory decides to investigate. “Hello? Is someone there?” she calls.

The brushing stops. Riley crouches inside the metal bin, dutifully scrubbing away the filth with a toothbrush. Every square inch of skin not protected by her soiled jumpsuit is black with grime. She uses her arm to brush her greasy hair from her eyes and sees the horrified look on her sister’s face.

“What on earth?” Amory asks.

Riley recoils in terror like a caged animal. “Go away!” she shouts. “You can’t talk to me!”

“What are you doing?” she asks from outside the dumpster. “You need to get out of there. You’ll get sick.”

The slightest movement sends echoes amongst the steel. Riley looks at the toothbrush in her hand. It is thick with rotten decay as she has already scrubbed an entire wall. “Just go away,” Riley insists. “I know what I’m doing.” She backs away from her sister until she is up against the metal. “You need to leave,” she insists when her sister does not move.

“But what about the baby?” Amory asks.

“I don’t want you getting in trouble too,” Riley adds. She knows her sister has problems of her own and does not want to add to her distress. But Riley is so disheveled she doesn’t even notice that Amory is wearing civvies and a dirty gray scarf. She rises to her feet and grows lightheaded from the blood draining to the legs and noxious fumes attacking her nostrils. She sways back and forth then clutches the filthy metal for support.

Amory pleads with Riley, “But sissy …””

“Just let me be!” Riley shouts and turns her back on her sister, rejecting any offer of support.

Once Amory leaves reluctantly, Riley collapses to the floor. She grabs her stomach and thinks about Amory’s question. What about the baby? She begins to cry, but her tears are quickly replaced by sobs, the kind of whales that feel as if they exhale every ounce of air from her lungs, down to the pit of her stomach, and leave nothing. Riley rocks back and forth on the metal ground, her chest releasing cries of agony and despair.

After a few minutes of indulging her personal needs, she wipes away her tears and collects her breath until it returns to a normal pace. She knows this emotional reaction must end. Her rational mind forces her to get back up on her knees and resume her scrubbing work. Her orders were clear—make it shine. She fights away tears as her brush moves back and forth, up and down across the metal. She focuses on the purpose of MEST work—to reconnect the spirit with the body through labor. As she scrubs, she visualizes herself reuniting, her spirit floating down from the sky and entering her flesh muscle by muscle, cell by cell. She must have coherence in herself before she can return to her important work of clearing the planet. She clears all thoughts, other than the greater good, from her brain as she scrubs back and forth, up and down. She does not let herself think about the baby, or her husband, or herself. None of that matters. The only thing that’s important is the greater good.

Hours later, she finishes her task. By the end of the job, it is clear. She must stop placing her selfish needs first and recommit herself to clearing the planet. By any means possible.

Scenes from the Next:

The uniforms review Amory’s files and determine her condition.

Scene 27: New Ethics Officer

The next morning, Amory is again startled awake by a loud pounding on her door. Her groggy head tells her that she’s still recovering from last night’s excursion. As she dresses in her new uniform—jeans, a t-shirt, and the dirty gray scarf—and combs her hair back into a low ponytail, she feels the pangs of her isolation.

Previously on:

Flashback scene to Amory’s first job, or “post,” in the Cadet Org

Last lines: When Robert checked their work, Amory asked him how many days they had to meet their stats for the week. He reassured them that they were scheduled to work four days, but that he could always bring them down extra, or stay late, if they needed more time to finish their task.

The next morning, Amory is again startled awake by a loud pounding on her door. Her groggy head tells her that she’s still recovering from last night’s excursion. As she dresses in her new uniform—jeans, a t-shirt, and the dirty gray scarf—and combs her hair back into a low ponytail, she feels the pangs of her isolation. She wants to tell someone, anyone, about the new thoughts racing through her mind, but she has no one to talk to.

A new ethics officer sits in the chair outside her door. He catches her by surprise. She has the uncanny feeling that she’s seen him before but can’t place him. He’s clearly older than she is, probably in his early thirties, and much taller. The muscles of his arms and chest stretch his shirt across his body. When he stands, she feels his presence, his strength, filling the void in the room.

Without even a glance in Amory’s direction, he says, “They’ve got a project for you today, pretty much what you’ll be doing for the next few months at least.” He turns and sits back down on the chair.

Even though he treats her coldly, like a typical ethics officer, Amory feels her pulse race as she works up the courage to say something. “Okay … I’m Amory, by the way.” She surprises herself with her confidence. Her desperation for human interaction must be stronger than she thought.

He gives her a quick once over and responds, “Yeah, I know. They’ve got you doing construction work at the Celebrity Center. And we better hustle. Need to be there by seven.” Whatever initial attraction she feels is obviously not shared.

Out on the street, the ethics officer has such giant strides that Amory has to run to keep up with him. She wants to shout at him to slow down, but he doesn’t seem like the type to disobey orders, even for a moment.

They reach the bus stop outside HCO, and Amory bends forward trying to catch her breath. There is a row of uniforms waiting. They obediently form into a single-file line, even when they don’t need to at a bus stop. The pair unconsciously continue the procession.

As they stand shoulder to shoulder, the officer asks Amory, “You ever done construction before?”

She looks up, surprised by his small talk. “Just the typical Sunday work,” she says. After cleaning and doing laundry on Sunday mornings, Sea Org members usually spend the afternoon doing mandatory construction work. The Church always seems to be buying old buildings that need work, and instead of hiring people to renovate them, they have Sea Org members do it. They paint, knock down walls, lay irrigation, everything. Amory has plenty of on-the-job training for construction work.

After a few minutes of awkward silence, Amory asks, “Do I know you?” still trying to place why he seems so familiar.

“I don’t think so,” he says, keeping his eyes trained forward.

The bus labors to a stop, and the line of people climbs the steps, joining the other Sea Org members already on board. They pack the seats with uniforms. Sea Org members don’t make enough money to buy or maintain cars, so people like Amory who grew up in The Church don’t even learn how to drive. Most people ride the bus when they need to go farther than a few blocks.

As Amory climbs the stairs, she sees people she has known for years, her only friends. But now, when they catch her glance, they immediately look away, pretending not to notice. Everyone who wants to stay in good standing, who wants to remain a good person, can’t be caught fraternizing with a downstat. She is familiar with the behavior and has engaged in it herself countless times before. She has a new perspective, though, now that she’s the exile. As she walks past the first couple rows, the people she passes turn their heads and look out the windows. Each diverted glance feels like a shot to her heart. These are the people that share her values, her mission, yet they cast her away at the first sign of trouble.

The anger she felt while doing the exec’s laundry yesterday builds with every step. She fixes her eyes on the emergency exit at the end of the bus and takes a seat in the very last row. In order to keep the rage from building, she stares out the window, trying to clear her mind of all thoughts by breathing out every idea as it emerges.

Scenes from the Next:

Amory begins her work at the Celebrity Center.

Scene 25: Frolic Room

Back at her dorm that night, Amory restlessly tosses on her cot. The noise from the street outside seduces her with the unknown and will not let her sleep. Once the moon is high in the dark sky, she peeks her head out of the door and finds Garrett snoring away in his chair. She decides to sneak past him and explore the foreign world immediately around her.

Previously On:

Amory’s first task in the ethics project is to clean the apartments of the high ranking officers.

Last lines: Other than Garrett and Don, Amory hasn’t spoken to anyone all day. Her head has been a confused mess of boredom and resentment, relief and obedience. She has no idea what to think anymore. But, somehow, it doesn’t bother her. She feels free to drop the charade for once, and she concentrates on pushing all thoughts from her mind until nothing is left. Only her. She can be quite and still, finally listening to herself for a change. She feels her lips rise to a smile.

Back at her dorm that night, Amory restlessly tosses on her cot. The noise from the street outside seduces her with the unknown and will not let her sleep. Once the moon is high in the dark sky, she peeks her head out of the door and finds Garrett snoring away in his chair. She decides to sneak past him and explore the foreign world immediately around her.

Without making a sound, Amory changes into jeans and a t-shirt and tiptoes around her sleeping guard. She feels her heart jumping in her chest as she carefully places each step. At every creak that echoes in the deserted space, Amory recoils, terrified she will be caught in mutiny. She breathes a sigh of relief when she is safely in the stairwell and beyond Garrett’s earshot.

She opens the outside door, and the crisp fall air exhilarates her tired body, leaving her too excited to be cold. As she steps onto the sidewalk, she feels naked without her vestiges of The Church branding her a certain way. She is free to experience the familiar area around her with fresh eyes. It’s Friday night and the street is crawling with people. She begins walking at her usual, rushed pace, but quickly notices that she is flying past everyone else. Trying to blend in more, Amory forces herself to slow her step and meander down the road. She is amazed at how much more she notices by merely decelerating. Unfamiliar music sounds from every bar, neon lights illuminate the sidewalk, clouds of smoke rise above groups of people. The noises and sights create a sense of excitement, of life being lived, and her curiosity grows with every step.

Before long, Amory finds herself approaching HCO. She quickens her step and looks in the opposite direction, wanting to avoid the all-too-familiar building. Luckily, she does not see any uniforms coming or going from the office block.

Once she passes, Amory slows back down and notices a neon sign spelling “Frolic Room,” in large cursive letters. “How have I never seen this place before?” she asks her shadow.

The tattooed doorman sees her spying in the window. “No cover” he tells her.

Amory has no idea what he means. “Thank you,” she replies, surprised that someone noticed her. His colorful markings catch her attention and she finds herself inconspicuously trying to discern the strange shapes on his skin.

Amory lingers outside the bar while deciding what to do. She wants to enter the bar, but she is scared of the unfamiliar place and has no idea what to expect.

She begins inadvertently eavesdropping on two girls having a smoke next to her. They are discussing a concert they wanted to see, but Amory can’t follow their foreign terminology. Even so, she is intrigued. She tries not to stare at their painted faces and short skirts.

She looks down at her own clothes and sees how different they are than the other girls’. Amory straightens her shirt in a feeble attempt at changing her appearance. One of the girls throws her a dirty look, and the two giggle.

Suddenly uncomfortable, Amory darts into the bar behind a large group the bouncer just let inside. If she knew she had to be twenty-one to enter, she wouldn’t have had the courage to attempt entry.

The entire bar is the size of a two car garage. People stand shoulder to shoulder, packed into the small space. Amory’s eyes jump from object to object—a woman with bright red lips, a man wearing suspenders and no shirt, a jukebox playing songs she doesn’t know, glass after glass of ice and straws and unknown liquids. The details are so flashy and exotic that she can’t peel her eyes away from them and see the entire space as she usually does. Amory’s vision starts to blur, and colors flash by in long waves making her feel dizzy. The bottles stacked behind the bartender catch the light of the modern fixture hanging overhead, and Amory turns in that direction.

As she moves through the space, Amory brushes against strangers, and the sensation of sweaty skin rubbing together other makes her cringe. The body heat collecting in the small space gives the room a damp, musty feel, and Amory grows uncomfortable at the thought of inhaling the breath and odor of wogs. She grabs her shoulders and wipes the moisture from her skin.

But while she is repulsed, she is also enraptured by the sexiness of the scene, like a bad smell she can’t get enough of and wants to bury her face in. Everything in the room is more carnal and visceral, brighter, louder, warmer than her own haunts. She feels the music pulsating in her skin at each pluck of a guitar string, each kick of a bass drum. She smells stale liquor and hormones and lust as her feet stick to the ground covered in drinks spilled by loose hands. It rouses a slumbering sensation that has never awoken in her body before and makes her feel alive.

She looks up and finds herself at the bar. The bartender flashes her a friendly smile, orienting her back to this foreign place. “What’ll it be?” he asks. She gives him a blank look, her eyes wide in surprise that someone saw her. “Um … I don’t know …”

He leans in closer to her, trying to hear her soft voice above the noise of the bar, and notices the gray scarf she forgot to remove from her arm. “First time here?” he asks.

She follows his glance to her upper arm and looks away, guilt written all over her face. She unties the scarf and stuffs it in her pocket. Amory is mesmerized by how quickly his hands work—grabbing this, pouring that. She’s never seen anything like it before.

He slides a drink her way, and it stops right in front of her. “You’ll like it. It’s sweet.”

Amory inspects the drink, first smelling the strange orange liquid. It does smell sugary, but also something else she can’t place. She stirs the ice with her straw, and then sucks up the cocktail.

“That’ll be eight dollars,” he says.

The liquor hits her tongue, and she spits it out reflexively, unable to stomach the new taste. Suddenly, Amory feels like all of the eyes in the bar are trained on her, even though no one noticed. She grows self-conscious of her behavior and clothing that mark her as an outsider. She instinctually reaches for her pocket but realizes she has no money to pay the tab. She panics—at the unfamiliar stares, at the punishment she will face for not paying her tab, at the sheer confusion of normal life around her. Scared of what will happen, Amory drops the drink to the ground and runs outside.

She runs past the bouncer, past the group of women, past HCO. The crisp night air fills her lungs with every leap away from what’s behind her. She does not stop until she is two blocks away, and then bends forward to catch her breath. Her heart is racing, and her ears are ringing. Her entire body is hyper aware of each sensation as the cold breeze caresses her skin. She looks over her shoulder to check if anyone is following her, but sees no one. She begins to calm down as she realizes she is alone.

Amory stands at the crosswalk, deciding which direction to go. North is the HI, and west is something unknown. She could just head west, and leave the mess of her life behind. She feels her pockets, and they are empty. She thinks about who she could call, especially in the middle of the night, but can’t come up with any names. The experience back at the bar makes her even more weary of wogs. Her only real option is to hit the button for the northbound crosswalk, so she returns to the familiar.

Scenes from the Next:

Flashback scene to Amory and Daisy’s first job, or “post,” in the Cadet Org.

Scene 22: New Home

Back at HCO, Amory has not yet written the Enemy formula, even though she has been alone in the room for two hours. She has no idea what to write and knows that she will never find out who she truly is while sitting in this tiny, windowless room.

Previously on:

Daisy reports to her commanding officers.

Last lines: “The Comm Ev gives her hope in the process established by The Church. As she walks down the hallway, she forces herself to think rationally and decide on a plan of action. She will need to collect any evidence she can if justice will prevail. Those who show disloyalty, or selfish tendencies, must be punished. By any means possible.”

Back at HCO, Amory has not yet written the Enemy formula, even though she has been alone in the room for two hours. She has no idea what to write and knows that she will never find out who she truly is while sitting in this tiny, windowless room.

She is startled by a new uniform barging through the door. He motions for her to follow him, and she runs to keep up as they find the exit.

As they leave the HCO building, the cool fall air is refreshing to Amory’s lungs. She can tell it’s late in the afternoon because the sun is sinking into the horizon, turning the sky into liquid amber. The thought of night and sleep is a welcomed relief. Her stomach is growling, but her complete exhaustion overrides her hunger. Dreams of rest give her the motivation she needs to keep up with the ethics officer’s fast pace. Amory feels disoriented from being interrogated in a closet all day, but not enough to realize they aren’t going back to her dorm.

“Umh … Sir?” she asks. “Shouldn’t we be going in the other direction?”

“No.”

She follows, knowing it’s best not to ask questions. They head north on Hollywood Blvd., and Amory quickly realizes he’s taking her to the HI, or Hollywood Inn—another old, converted hotel owned by The Church. The building is located at 6523 Hollywood Blvd, just down the street from Hollywood and Highland, right in the heart of the city. For The Church, it’s the perfect place for Amory while she’s on ethics project. She will be isolated from her friends back at the compound but only a short walk to HCO, where she will be spending most of her time.

Amory is relieved at the thought of isolation. It is meant to be a punishment, but she is thankful for the break it will afford her. There will be no expectation to be happy all the time, no pointless small talk, no encounters with people she would rather avoid. Finally an opportunity to be alone with herself.

As they walk down the street, Amory and the ethics officer pass through crowd after crowd of wogs, some gathered outside restaurants, others aimlessly wandering down the blocks as tourists. Amory has walked to the HI from HCO many times before on Church business, but she never paid much attention to the people and businesses along the street. “Keep your head down,” she was always told by her superiors. “Wogs are evil people and you don’t want to interact with them.” So she did. She believed that the sex shops and bars were the manifestations of evil in the outside world. That they, the Scientologists, were better than that. They were saving wogs from their own filth and depravity.

Now, she pays attention. A car cuts over to the sidewalk, trying to squeeze his way around another car. She instinctually jumps away, remembering the many times wogs threw rotten eggs at her and her friends as they walked down the street in their uniforms. She takes a deep breath when she realizes he hasn’t even seen her, too wrapped up in his tiny little world. Horns screech as cars race from one signal to the next. Flashing lights seduce her eyes from one location to another. They walk by a group of high-heeled girls smoking outside a bar. They don’t notice her either. She is still wearing her uniform, but it doesn’t seem to mark her as it once did. This invisibility amongst the chaos of public life gives her a welcomed sense of comfort, and she gazes in childlike wonder at the endless possibilities just beyond her reach.

Her tired legs can’t keep up with the ethics officer, and a short distance grows between them. Her mind wanders, and she begins to imagine a new chapter of her life, now that everything has changed—no post, no dorm, no contact with friends and family. She knows she’ll be doing MEST work, Matter, Energy, Space, Time. Any kind of physical work, as opposed to the spiritual work thetans must focus on, meant to reconnect the spirit and the body. Essentially, it is a fancy term for manual labor. She wonders what they’ll have her do. A few years ago, someone she knew wanted to leave The Church. They made him scrub a dumpster and clean the kitchen grease traps with a toothbrush. Amory doesn’t mind hard work, but that is revolting. Regardless, she won’t have Erika screaming down her throat, a reality that gives her more freedom than she has ever known.

Before long, they arrive at the HI. It blends in well with the other buildings on the street, an eight-story brick building with white trim. The only thing that marks it is the giant, vertical “SCIENTOLOGY” sign hanging on the front of the building, a billboard advertising services of The Church. The top floor is one location used for the downstats from HCO, so the dormitory is not kept up very well. People in lower conditions do not deserve much in the eyes of The Church. They are the untouchables.

Amory skips up the stairs to the top floor, excited for this new phase in her life. But as soon as she leaves the stairwell, the harsh reality of her new existence hits her with the force of a steel door slammed in her face.

The hallway has exposed concrete floors and walls, the ceiling showing the pipes that service the building. It is cold, dark, and wet. As they walk down the hall to her room, Amory hears the incessant drip … drip … drip … of a leaky pipe overhead. Shallow puddles of water have formed on the ground, and the walls and floor are saturated with years of plumbing leaks and mold. With every step her unease grows. The ethics officer stops at a room about half way down the floor. A chair has been placed outside the door for him to sit watch.

As Amory opens the door, she hears rats scurrying across the ground. She pauses before looking in. Be strong, she tells herself. You can do this. She sees carcasses of dead cockroaches on the ground. A sad cot sits against one wall and a small metal dresser against another. There is one tiny window with bars guarding the outside. She wonders if they’re meant to keep people out or her in.

This is her new house for an indefinite amount of time—it could be months or years, she has no idea. After her initial disgust of the filth, rats, and cockroaches wears off, she tries to imagine the room as her new home. Aside from the ethics office on watch outside, she has the place to herself, which is new. She opens one of the dresser drawers and sees her civvies folded and neatly stored. The clothes remind her that she doesn’t have to wear her uniform now that she’s on ethics project. It is meant to be a punishment, a rejection from the group, but she has always liked her civvies better than her uniform. Whoever packed her things must be a friend, because with her clothes is the book she’s been reading. The familiar items bring a smile to her face.

Officially, she’s now in isolation, banned from having contact with anyone other than her ethics officers, and once she begins auditing, her auditor. She will be living alone, eating alone, working alone, and spending all of her free time alone. Sitting on her cot, though, Amory does not feel like she’s being punished. She savors the freedom of quietness. She picks up her book and begins to read, trying to loose herself in a different reality.

There is no clock in the room, so she has no idea how much time has passed. The night sky and her finished book tell her it’s been hours. She peeks her head into the hallway.

“I need to use the restroom,” she tells the ethics officer, someone new. The previous officer’s shift ended and he has been replaced.

“It’s at the end of the hallway,” he says without even looking up.

As she walks down the hallway, she notices he’s following her. She says, “I can go to the bathroom by myself.” He feels closer than he needs to be, an unwanted shadow she cannot make disappear.

“Not anymore.”

Amory finds the lone toilet for the floor of twenty-five rooms. “Is this it?” She asks, looking around for more alternatives.

“What were you expecting?”

“How many people use this toilet?”

“Depending on how many are here … between fifty and one fifty.”

“People?”

He turns his back and takes a few steps away, apparently trying to give her some privacy. The bathroom looks the same as the rest of the floor. Wet, filthy concrete. A bare light bulb hangs from the middle of the ceiling. With all the Sea Org members, probably close to two thousand in Hollywood alone, they could have at least stuck some linoleum on the floor. But she guesses that’s the point. Treat people like the scum The Church says they are.

Amory hovers over the toilet seat, trying not to touch anything she doesn’t absolutely have to. She tries to look past the superficial filth and think about her higher calling. She has been conditioned to believe that these policies are for the greater good, that they enable The Church to reach its noble goals. However, she can’t understand how forcing loyal soldiers to endure these offensive conditions is for the greater good.

The ethics officer shadows her a little too closely, staying one pace behind her on the way back to the room. The critical time is at the beginning of someone’s isolation. But the last thing she’s thinking about is running. If she could, she would take more pills and end everything, but there is no possibility of that now.

She lies back down on her cot and begins her book again until unconsciousness sweeps her spirit away.

Scenes from the Next:

A flashback to the bed time routine at the Cadet Org.

Scene 15: RPF

While Amory awaits her pending sec-check, Riley faces troubles of her own. Provided the eavesdropper does not file a knowledge report disclosing her pregnancy, Riley knows she has two options: wait until her secret is revealed in her next auditing sessions, or come forward with the information.

As she watches the ethics officers drag Amory away, she decides to seek out her superior and accept her fate. Riley jumps on the bus and heads to HCO, thinking about what to say the entire ride. She knows she must disclose her pregnancy, but the knot in her stomach reminds her that she may not be ready to do so.

Riley stops in the bathroom before heading up to her floor. Standing in front of the mirror, she tucks her uniform shirt back into her pants, and smoothes her hair with her fingertips. She splashes water on her face, trying to cleanse the tear streaks from her cheeks. When she is satisfied that her appearance is presentable, she lifts her chin to face the inevitable.

As she stops outside her boss David’s office, Riley’s stomach is so tight that it takes sheer willpower for her to stand up straight. She lifts her hand to knock, but her arm hesitates. She swallows the ball of saliva forming in her mouth, and forces her fist to make contact with the door before she changes her mind.

She is commanded to enter, and is greeted with, “Hello Riley, this is unexpected. How are you?” Her boss David does not look up from the paperwork on his desk as he addresses her.

“That’s actually why I’m here, Sir,” she says as she takes a seat. Riley makes sure to keep her posture straight and her eye contact consistent. She continues, “I need to tell you something, Sir.”

David throws his pen down in irritation and scolds, “What is it? As you can see, I have tons of work to do.”

Riley decides the best way forward is to just admit her secret. No use dragging out her anguish. She says, “Sir, I’m pregnant.”

David immediately stops looking at the papers on her desk. “You’re what!” he yells, more an accusation than a question. He picks up his phone and, without losing eye contact with her, says into the headset, “I’m going to need an ethics officer.” He puts the phone down and asks Riley, “You know what this means?”

“Yes, Sir.” She diverts her eyes to the ground, unable to return his intensity.

“And you understand the policy on children?”

Riley rubs her stomach. She understands, but is no longer sure she can accept, this policy. “I do,” she says without looking back up at him.

David sees her uncertainty. “You’re going to have to spend some time in the RPF while you think things over.” As if on cue, the ethic officer enters the room without knocking. “You’ll need to decide if you want to remain with the group, or leave and raise your baby. I hope you choose to stay.” With that, David turns his back to her as the ethics officer grabs her shoulder.

Riley has trouble rising from the chair, and when she is upright, she sees silver stars popping in and out of her vision. Her body begins to sway, and the ethics officer catches her just as her body crumples to the floor.

A moment later, she finds herself on the ground, completely disoriented. The ethics officer asks her to tell him her name and where she lives. She looks at him in confusion, and says “My name is Riley and I live with The Church.” He helps her climb to her feet.

“Get her out of here!” David yells. “I don’t want any pieces of shit in my office!”

Just outside the room, the ethics officer has her take a seat while her disorientation wanes. “What is happening?” she asks him.

“You were just sent to the RPF.”

The silver stars return and Riley buries her face in her hands. The RPF, or Rehabilitation Project Force, is The Church’s “voluntary” internal prison system. Rumors of the RPF’s egregious practices circulate around the Sea Org regularly, and everyone has some kind of experience with it, whether they or someone they know has served time.

Denial combs her mind, and she asks, “I was what?”

The ethics officer grows impatient and reprimands, “Is something wrong with your hearing? You are now in the RPF.” He grabs her arm and demands, “Let’s go. I need to get you to your new quarters.”

He pulls her to her feet, but Riley’s legs buckle under the weight. The blood has not fully returned to her head, and she is unable to support herself. As she trips after her new guard, she tries to comprehend what is happening, but understanding is beyond her grasp. Riley has seen many of her friends sent to the RPF, but she never thought she could be in their position. Since she was five years old, she has always been a star performer, a model of complete dedication to the group.

Riley follows her officer to the big blue Scientology dorm on Fountain Ave. and L. Ron Hubbard way, and they climb the eight levels to the top floor, a space meant for RPFers. Riley looks in horror at the filthy floors and battered cots. The ethics officer hands her a dirty black jumpsuit two sizes too big, and instructs her to change into her new uniform. The stench of the clothing makes her gag as she obeys the command.

“Make it quick,” he says, “You’ve got work to do.”

Riley knows better than to ask any questions. She pulls the soiled fabric into place and runs back over to him. Now that she is in the RPF she must run everywhere, an additional way to mark her as an outsider. Even though she has never been here herself, she knows the rules. Everyone in the Sea Org knows the rules.

“Your first task is to pull the weeds in front of the building.”

“Yes, Sir,” Riley replies as she follows him back down the stairs. Once outside, Riley looks at the landscaping but does not see many weeds. For a moment she is relieved. She asks her officer, “Where is my shovel?” As soon as she hears her words, she knows they were a mistake.

“You have fingers don’t you?” he says as he takes a seat on a bench nearby.

Riley steps into the planters that decorate the entrance to the building, and once she is close, she sees hundreds of baby weeds sprouting in the dirt. She drops to her knees and begins digging the roots out of the ground, but they are so fragile that the leaves break off at the base. Riley is an expert at pulling weeds.

Desperately trying to remove herself from her immediate reality, she remembers her days at the Ranch, the boarding school where she lived during her early teenage years, which was located in the foothills of the San Jacinto Mountains in CA. The children were tasked with maintaining the grounds of the facility. The weeds were fierce as only desert weeds can be. Hardened by the heat, ravenous for lack of water, they seemed to have some kind of genetic mutation that allowed them to proliferate in the worst conditions. And the roots! The roots seemed to drill straight down to hell endlessly searching for water. And if the children didn’t get the roots, the weeds would grow back with a vengeance. So they were given pickaxes for the job. Riley’s fingers work at a constant pace—dig pull, dig pull, dig pull. She lets the soothing rhythm pacify her mind.

After five hours of continuous work in the planters pulling weeds and trimming plants, Riley’s officer orders her to stop working as it is dinner time. Her body ceases moving and collapses to the ground. She lays flat on her back for a moment, giving her spine a moment to realign and fall back into place.

Her ethics officer kicks her in the leg. “Time to go, I said,” he says in disgust.

Riley lets a couple tears fall into the dirt before she stands back up. Her knees and hands are caked in mud. Her stomach groans for nourishment and she realizes how famished she is, not having eaten all day. She runs behind the ethics officer as he leads her to the mess hall.

The pair finds the room deserted, a stark contrast to the usual activity of the gathering place. Riley must now eat all of her meals in isolation. She notices her muddy fingernails and asks her watch, “Can I wash my hands?”

“No time for that. You have five minutes to eat.” He sits her down in front of a large, metal trough, cold beans and rice scattered across the bottom. Riley scrapes together the remaining morsels and dumps a pile the size of her palm onto her plate. The ethics officer stares at his watch, tracking her time down to the second.

Despite the disgusting food, her mouth salivates at the sight. Any kind of nourishment is welcomed. Not having any utensils, Riley digs her fingers into the food and shovels it into her mouth, filling it with each bite. Her fingers squish through the beans, and the rice sticks under her fingernails. Riley consumes mouthful after mouthful, not bothering to chew or wipe away the crumbs that hang on her lips. Her only concern is filling her hollow stomach. She needs all the strength she can get for her inevitable security check.

“Time to go,” he interrupts her mid-bite. Riley stops and looks down at her hands that are covered in food and dirt. She is disgusted with herself, and feels like the criminal they claim she is. She knows she must get out of the PRF, by any means possible.