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 40: Almost Caught

They ride the bus across town to the Celebrity Center. Amory looks in awe as they enter the building. After a month of constant work by at least twenty Sea Org members, the place is coming together.

Previously On:

Amory is greeted by a fellow Sea Org member on the bus to the Celebrity Center for MEST work.

Last lines: But she keeps smiling as she sits down in the last row. Amory rests comfortably for the first time in weeks. She is reminded about how deeply she is tied to these people, and questions if she will ever, really, be able to disconnect.

They ride the bus across town to the Celebrity Center. Amory looks in awe as they enter the building. After a month of constant work by at least twenty Sea Org members, the place is coming together. What began as an empty shell is taking shape and becoming a beautiful space. The ballroom is being transformed into an auditorium with a removable stage, the perfect venue to host a range of events, from live shows and fancy parties to workshops and lectures. Everything an established or aspiring actor could need.

Even though it’s not finished, she can see how it’s going to look, in all its opulent splendor. She has mixed feeling about The Church and how they will use the space, but she feels good about the work she has done. Seeing such an immediate transformation is deeply satisfying.

Amory is glad to be back at work. The thought of laboring towards a definite goal is reassuring to her, not nearly as confusing as what happened between Adam and Kimberley. She knows how to set a goal, and she knows how to work. People are a different story.

As usual, Adam checks in with the foreman and gets their task for the day. He says to Amory, “They got us on ductwork today. Ever done it?”

She wants to rehearse her new strategy for auditing—make up stories The Church wants to hear. Let them believe she is being “rehabilitated” while she is really just routing out. “Let me think …” she says. “Yeah, I did ductwork once. It was in 1748, and I was a homeless girl who needed a job to buy some food. That was the job I got.”

Adam rubs his chin skeptically. “1748 huh?” he asks. “Ductwork wasn’t around then.”

“Oh, right.” Amory’s cheeks turn red in embarrassment. Making up stories with plausible events can be difficult since she lacks knowledge about most non-Scientology topics.

“What’s with the story?” he asks.

Without thinking too much, Amory confides in him, saying, “Just practicing. I need to be ready for my next session.”

Adam steps in closer and asks, “Ready for what?”

She wants to trust him. She is never like this with anyone, but she needs to change. She responds, honestly, “I’m going to route out. I need them to think I’m rehabilitated.” The words sound strange in her voice. Impossible even.

He gives her a wink, just a quick flash of his right eye. She thinks that he understands her. With his look, Amory’s body tenses up again. She can’t tell if it’s just the attention or a true attraction, but she doesn’t care either way. Between this and the greeting from Kimberly earlier, Amory no longer feels invisible.

They organize their supplies and figure out a plan for the day. The amount of silver tubing is intimidating. It loops back over itself so many times that the pile is as tall as she is. Amory needs order, though, so she asks Adam what a reasonable goal for the day would be. She’s lost without her battle plan and stats.

When Adam admits that he doesn’t know how people measure progress for ductwork, Amory gives him a flirtatious sigh, and asks “You mean you don’t know everything?”

“Ha, ha,” he says with a sigh and rubs the back of his neck with his right hand. “I’d guess they measure it in linear feet.”

Amory scans the pile of silver tubing. “How about we finish this room?”

“You’re the boss, apparently” Adam replies.

As they begin the ductwork, Amory stops what she is doing and asks Adam, “Can you do me a favor?”

He wipes the sweat from his brow and pauses to give her his full attention. “Sure,” he says. “Anything you need.”

“Will you go through the Int Rundown commands with me?” She asks, looking around to be sure no one is listening. Her eyes plead for help.

“Amory, I …”

“That’s fine if you don’t want to…” she says, avoiding eye contact. “I was only kidding.”

He grabs her hands and pulls her close. “I’d be happy to help you.”

She releases an audible sigh of relief and her body relaxes into his arms. “Thank you,” she says, resting her head on his strong chest.

A long moment later, a familiar voice interrupts them. “I’m glad MEST work is so … comfortable,” Daisy says.

Amory and Adam both jump back a foot at the sound of Daisy’s voice. Adam snaps into a salute and Amory follows his lead halfheartedly. “Sir.” Adam stammers for the correct words. “We didn’t expect to see you here.”

“No,” Daisy says, inspecting them like a drill sergeant. “Obviously you didn’t. Adam,” she trains her sights on him. “Can I speak with you … alone.”

Daisy leads Adam away, and Amory watches them cross the room. Before she even realizes what she’s doing, she finds herself pacing back and forth between the pile of silver tubing and the opposite wall, unable to stop the constant motion of her feet. It is twelve strides side to side. Amory tries to breathe to the pace of her feet as she races back and forth. Adjacent to her is the building’s exit. The neon-green exit sign catches her eye, and she considers running—just leaving everything and starting again. Truly disconnecting.

She turns to finish her current lap, so her back is to the door. Just as she is about to change direction again, she sees Daisy and Adam returning from around the corner. Her heart races as she pivots to complete her lap. The exit is directly in front of her. All she needs to do is run. Adam is far enough away that she could probably make it out of the building and disappear somehow before he could catch up to her.

But she hesitates a second too long. Adam sees her eying the exit and runs over to her. He grabs her upper arm like a prisoner and whispers in her ear, “What are you thinking?”

She flexes her bicep and instinctively pulls away. She silently implores him to release her.

He whispers, more softly this time, “Just come with me. You need to let me help you if you don’t want to be declared.” She holds the tension in her body. She doesn’t feel like she has a choice with his hand gripping her arm.

Daisy catches up to them, calmly, never increasing her pace. “Let her run if she wants,” she says to Adam. “The ethics project is voluntary, after all.” She sets her sights square on Amory and continues, “You can leave whenever you want.”

The color red floods Amory’s vision. She takes a deep breath and counts to five before exhaling. With a long, slow release of air, she lets herself relax into Adam’s grip.

“That’s what I thought,” Daisy says, and exits the room.

Once Daisy is clear of earshot, Adam lectures Amory. “What were you thinking? You can’t just run. Where would you go? What money do you have?” His voice grows louder with each question. “And what about your family? You’d never see them again.”

“What family?” Amory fires back. But she knows he’s right. She must continue her strategy of routing out properly if she ever wants to build a real life for herself one day.

Scenes from the Next:

Daisy stands before Amory’s Comm Ev committee

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 28: Celebrity Center

After what seems like hours, even though it has only been about ten minutes, the bus stops in front of the Celebrity Center. Amory sits in silence as everyone descends the staircase.

Previously On:

Amory meets her new ethics officer.

Last lines: 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.

After what seems like hours, even though it has only been about ten minutes, the bus stops in front of the Celebrity Center. Amory sits in silence as everyone descends the staircase. “Time to go,” the ethics officer barks at her. When she does not budge, he softens his tone and says, “Name’s Adam, by the way.”

Amory looks up at him and smiles, surprised by the unexpected effort of connection.

The Celebrity Center is bustling with activity. Uniforms cover the job site like ants, marching here and there, carrying materials and equipment. The Church is completing improvements of the building, an enormous Gothic-style edifice nestled among palm trees on Franklin Ave, across town from HCO. Its spiked towers reach up to the sky, piercing the clouds. The entire building looks like a maze of nooks and crannies, hidden hallways and steep staircases that seem to bury the secrets of tenants past and present. Everything is ornate and decadent, the polar opposite of the building where Amory is currently living. And here she is to help with improvements. She wonders when the HI last saw a construction crew, especially one this size. But that’s the marketing strategy of The Church—appeal to celebrities, cultural icons, and the rest will follow. And the rich and famous need buildings, retreats as they call them, worthy of their presence.

Amory knows that she is there to help develop the property for The Church, but she hopes that she can construct something of her own in the process.

She sticks close to Adam as he seems to be her only connection to reality. He also knows what she’s supposed to be doing, which is more than she does. As soon as he steps foot in the Celebrity Center, his speed doubles. He wants to get her to her post, fast. She runs, once again, to keep up with his stride.

“Come this way, over here,” Adam motions for Amory. “They’ve got you on drywall in the new ball room. Ever done it before?”

Amory thinks back through her years of MEST work, but drywall is one of the few items not on her list. She nods her head no.

He cracks a smile, his first today, and responds, “Ok then. You’re lucky I’m your watch today. It’s back-breaking work.”

Lucky? she thinks, not feeling very lucky.

After hustling through the service entrance at the back of the building, Amory enters a huge, open room, everything removed but the studs. Stripped bare and ready to be rebuilt. They are surrounded by uniforms, working on everything from electrical and plumbing to hanging drywall and muddrywading. With a crew this size, even an enormous room like this will be finished in a few weeks. Everyone has his little part. Amory wonders what the finished product will look like, how much different it will be than the original. She has seen buildings transform before. Unrecognizable sometimes.

Adam’s well-trained eyes scan the room. He quickly finds the site manager and heads straight to her. “Hi, Sir,” he says. “I have Amory Baldwin reporting for duty.”

She looks down at her clipboard. Her eyes stop, and she looks up, startled. She makes eye contact with Amory. Her look says: Don’t even think about messing with me. She then fixes her gaze on Adam. “Thank you,” she says. “Your criminal here is on drywall. Have her get the sheets, carry them over to the south wall, and get to work.”

“Yes, Sir,” Adam obeys.

As the site manager turns her attention to other matters, Adam finds the pile of drywall standing about five feet high, sheet lying on top of sheet. He then looks at Amory and warns her, “This stuff is real heavy, especially for a girl your size. Do the best you can. I’ll help.”

Amory tries to lift the top sheet of drywall but almost collapses under the weight. She looks down at her arms and is embarrassed by her lack of muscle.

“Nice arms, Popeye,” he jokes.

His sincere looking eyes touch her heart. She forgets where she is for a moment. When his joke finally registers, she is confused by the reference. “What?” she asks.

“You know, spinach? … The cartoon?” Adam did not grow up in The Church like Amory, only joining the Sea Org as an adult.

“Never seen it,” Amory says brushing off her ignorance. She missed nearly two decades of cultural references, thanks to The Church’s strict policies that limit contact with the outside world.

“Oh, right … never mind,” he says, remembering her upbringing. “Here, I’ll lift … You measure.”

They find the others who have begun hanging the drywall. The ceilings are at least thirty feet high, so Amory is nervous about how they are going to cover the walls all the way up to the roof. The expanse is too great and the sheets are too heavy. She asks him with a timid voice, “How are we going to do this?”

He puts his hand on her shoulder and says with confidence, “One sheet at a time.”

Adam lifts the first sheet up to Amory, and she sees the veins swell under his skin. His muscles flex but easily support the weight of the drywall. Maybe I am lucky that Adam is helping me, she thinks. Any other ethics officer would be sitting to the side, watching her fail and not bothering to help. “Not my job,” he would probably say. And he would be correct—his job is to guard the downstat, make sure she doesn’t get into trouble or try to leave. Maybe Adam is different, she thinks.

For a moment, Amory tries to forget that she’s being punished and that Adam is her ethics officer. She is thankful she’s there, doing MEST work, and not on her usual post. She doesn’t have to worry about a project or listen to Erica yell. She asks Adam, “How many sheets are we supposed to hang?”

“Not sure,” he says. “There’s no stats on ethics project.”

She can’t comprehend the ambiguity of her new post. She needs order. “Well, how about we try for twenty?” she asks.

“Twenty sheets?” Adam asks. “Well … we should be able to get that pretty easy.”

She continues, “Okay then, we’ll do thirty.”

Adam shakes his head in bewilderment. “Thirty huh?” he asks. “And they got you on ethics project? Go figure.”

Adam leans down to lift another sheet, but Amory jumps in front of him, revitalized by her new goal. She says, “Here, I can do this.”

He finds her naiveté endearing. “Oh you can?” he taunts.

“Check out these muscles,” she says. She flexes her arms, pretending to look bigger than she really is. She attempts to lift one sheet but buckles under the weight. Climbing the ladder while carrying drywall suddenly seems like a Herculean task.

Adam sees her struggle and asks, “Why don’t you leave the heavy lifting to me? You can screw them in once they’re up there.”

Amory is embarrassed she can’t complete the task herself, but is thankful for the help. She accepts his offer of kindness and climbs the steps.

“You’ll need this,” he says as he hands her the screwdriver. Their eyes catch for a moment. His look is inquisitive. The stare itself is harsh, but his brow wrinkles in curiosity.

Amory’s cheeks grow red in a blush as she averts her eyes. She grabs the screwdriver out of his hand and climbs the ladder, trying not to lose her footing. Once they begin working, they quickly fall into a groove—Adam lifts a sheet and holds it in place, Amory screws it to the studs. Soon enough, they’ve hung five, ten sheets. Looking up at what they’ve done, Amory feels proud of the work, especially considering this is her first time hanging drywall. The lines are a little wavy, but overall it looks good for a novice.

They labor side by side the entire day, taking only a short break for her lunch of leftover rice and beans. By the time eight o’clock rolls around, Amory is exhausted. She’s filthy, completely covered in drywall dust, sweat, and grime. She can see trails of dried sweat in the dirt on her arms, which are so sore she can’t even hold them upright. If she pulled the rubber band out of her hair, it would stand together on its own. She sits down on the pile of remaining drywall to give her back a rest.

Adam brings her back to reality. “No time to rest yet,” he says. “Bus’s about to leave.” He holds out his hand to help her up.

“Alright already.” She pretends to protest, but after a coy moment happily accepts his hand.

“Well, did you meet your stats?” he asks.

Her eyes shine as she remembers her target. “Oh, I don’t know,” she says. “Forgot to count.” Gathering every ounce of strength she has left, Amory runs back to the room and counts the sheets they hung.

She shouts, “Thirty-three!” Hearing her own words, she is embarrassed by her childish excitement.

“Wow!” He can’t help but smile, infected by her energy. “Too bad you don’t need to be upstat anymore.”

The light disappears from her eyes immediately, and her face grows serious. “I do,” she says, “but this time for me.”

Adam puts his hands on her shoulder, in a gesture more intimate than one permitted between ethics officers and those on guard. “Let’s get to the bus. Can’t miss out on dinner.”

She is grateful for the change of subject. “Yeah,” she says, “wouldn’t want to be late and miss my gourmet meal.”

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.

Scenes from the Next:

Amory sees her sister Riley doing MEST work of her own.

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 2: Staff Meeting

In the staff meeting, Amory is having a hard time concentrating on what Erika is saying. Her thoughts are occupied by her auditing session later today and whether she will get a floating needle without admitting her secret. After the introductory update is finished, it’s time for people to fess up—the real purpose of the meeting.

In the staff meeting, Amory is having a hard time concentrating on what Erika is saying. Her thoughts are occupied by her auditing session later today and whether she will get a floating needle without admitting her secret. After the introductory update is finished, it’s time for people to fess up—the real purpose of the meeting.

Lucas goes first. He has been in liability as well, and Amory is relieved she won’t be the first person to feel the sting of stones thrown by the group. He stands at the front of the room and begins, “I’m in doubt.” A hush ripples through the room. He has dropped down a level of existence. His voice trembles, but he tries to masque his nerves by biting his lip.

“Remind us, Lucas, how long has it been?” Erika knows the exact number of days he has been in this condition, but her question is the prompt for a public confession.

His face grows red as he gathers his strength to say, “I was in liability for five weeks, and this is my first week in doubt.” His voice is scarcely audible over the incessant hum of the fluorescent lights. He stares at the tips of his shoes, noticing every stitch out of place.

Erika’s attack continues, “We have a planet to clear, and this is how you preform? Who else do you think is going to save this planet? You’re a piece of shit!” Even in the face of surrender, she shows no mercy, yelling, “You need to decide where your loyalties are! This is completely unacceptable!”

Her insults penetrate his ears and anchor in his mind. But instead of breaking him down, they hoist him back up, giving him ammunition of his own. “Yes, Sir.” He looks her directly in the eyes as he speaks. His gaze is confrontational, severe, and fierce.

This gives Erika hope. Perhaps there is a spark in him after all. Perhaps he isn’t so low on the Tone Scale that he actually has some chance of fitting in with the group. Her voice almost softens, but she maintains her intensity to inspire change in the young crusader. “You’re a danger to the group! I don’t want you speaking to anyone until your stats are up!”

“Yes, Sir.” There is no arguing, no backpedaling of any kind. He sits down without another word from Erika. It’s unnecessary for her to prohibit Lucas from speaking to anyone—no one would talk to him anyway—but she must remind everyone who is in control.

Next, it’s Amory’s turn. She stands to face the group and admits, “I’m in liability.” She does not expand or justify.

“And, Amory, how long has it been?” A new head for Erika to hang on a pike.

“Also six weeks.” Amory tries to appear calm. She has been here before. Anyone who has spent time in the Sea Org has been in liability many, many times. But, as she stands alone before the group, guilt is eating away at her consciousness. Her friends appear to drift further and further away from her, like a mirage that is always just beyond her grasp and escapes her fingers as she reaches for it.

“The two of you are dragging this program down! You should be ashamed of yourselves!” Erika’s reprimand should be familiar, but each word feels like a dagger to Amory’s gut.

“Yes, Sir.” She acquiesces. She doesn’t have the strength to respond in any other way. Recently, Erika’s words have snuck inside her heart like worms and eaten away whatever was left. She could only hear that she is a piece of shit so many times before she started to believe it.

Erika looks around the room and asks Amory’s friends, “Have any of you seen Amory commit any overts?”

Instead of embarrassed by the question, she is thankful, like she would be if she laid dying on the side of the road and a stranger gave her a drink of water. Erika has inadvertently given her something to say to the ethics officer. Her study partner, Dave speaks up, “Yesterday I saw her take two fifteen minute breaks instead of the ten minute breaks we are permitted.”

Erika smiles, proud of the self-policing she has instilled in her subordinates. “Thank you Dave,” she responds. Amory makes a mental note so she can add her shamefully long break to her list of overts and withholds.

“Both of you get sec-checks and are on MEST work next week if your stats aren’t up immediately.”

“Yes, Sir.” Great, she thinks, MEST work. Demeaning physical labor. Amory shoots Lucas a look that could melt ice. She is mortified that she’s classified with Lucas, a perpetual downstat. Ever since he joined the Sea Org a couple years ago to be with his mother, he’s had a hard time adjusting and has earned a reputation for being lazy and incompetent. He just can’t seem to put the same passion into his work that other Sea Org members do. As the meeting continues, Amory thinks about the MEST work she is threatened with. She hopes it won’t be white gloving the grease traps in the kitchen or killing giant rats and cockroaches in the alley behind the building.

Once the meeting is over, Amory sits down with everyone else to write up her conditions formula.

Decide who one’s friends are: She writes, “My friends are the upstats. The good Scientologists.”

Deliver an effective blow to the enemies of the group one has been pretending to be part of despite personal danger: Amory’s eyes blaze when she sees Lucas. She sits next to him and launches her attack. “Why did you even join the Sea Org? Couldn’t be away from your Mommy?”

He keeps his eyes trained on her and asks, “What would you know about Mothers?” He must write the “Doubt” conditions formula, which also involves attacking enemies of the group.

His audacity infuriates Amory, and she fires back, “You know nothing about me. At least I know what group I belong to. You can’t even figure that out. Are you here, with us? Or is your head still out there?” If she were to think about her words before they charged out of her mouth, she would realize that she doesn’t fully believe them anymore. But they are the only statements she knows, and the sounds easily spill from her lips with the force of her past.

“Why do you care where my head is?” he asks, growing more defensive as the attack against him drags out longer than anticipated.

“I don’t. But we can’t have people like you here.” Amory’s voice grows steadily louder until she is on the verge of yelling and sounds like Erika. “You bring the rest of us down and compromise our mission. You should just leave.” Shooting him down does make her feel better, at least for the time being. She is satisfied that someone is lower than she is and must endure a punishment worse than hers.

He begins to open his mouth, but no words pass through his lips. He stands up, staring at the ground the entire time. He says in silence, “You have no right to attack me. You need to mind your own business.”

Amory must get the last line, and she throws back, “As long as you’re in this program, you are my business.” She cannot see him clearly through her anger.

Lucas leaves Amory alone with her conditions formula. Once he disappears from sight, Amory takes five deep breaths to reorient her frame of mind. She needs to finish her task and discover how she can return to her usual position of good standing in the group.

Make up the damage one has done by personal contribution far beyond the ordinary demands of a group member:  She writes, “I am going to stay at work long after everyone else, until at least two in the morning every day. I am going to work twice as hard to bring my stats up every day this week.”

Apply for re-entry to the group by asking permission of each member of it to rejoin, and if refused, repeating (2) and (3) and (4) until one is allowed to be a group member again: This is the hardest step, public humiliation at its worst. Amory approaches her friend Alex first and pleads, “My stats are down but I’m going to work really hard to get them back up. I need to be a member of your team again. Please let me rejoin.” Alex is a friend and quickly consents. “Sure,” she says and signs off on Amory’s paper. Not everyone is going to be this easy. She approaches Frank next and repeats her appeal. “My stats are down but I’m going to work really hard to get them back up. I really want to be a member of your team again. Please let me rejoin.” Frank looks up at her, a quizzical smile on his face. “Well, let me see. You’ve been in liability for a while now, and I don’t think you’ve done enough yet. Why don’t you polish my boots and we’ll see.” And so it begins—the groveling, the favors. Amory quietly leaves the room to find a towel. When she returns, she gets down on her hands and knees at his feet and works the leather until she can see her reflection in his boot. She stands up and says, “Okay, all set.” He inspects her labor and responds, “Not bad. That’s good enough for now. Be sure you get your stats up by next week, or I’ll have to think of something more for you.”

Amory spends the next few hours in this manner until every member of the group grants her permission to rejoin. She submits her completed conditions formula to her superiors in an act of defeat, her ego bruised and battered from the punishment she has just endured. The paper waves like a white flag, admitting her weakness and exposing her utter dependence on the group she is no longer sure about but knows no alternative to. She resolves to improve her performance, whatever the cost, so she must strategize a new battle plan.

Amory returns to her post, thinking about her stats the entire way. She finds the strategies she wrote for the day, the week, and the month. They seem good enough. There are specific targets and goals, specific actions to complete those goals. But something must be missing. She thinks about her boss—what makes Erika different than her? Why is Erika effective while she isn’t?

Then it hits her, the sound of Erika’s shrill voice berating those under her command. Her constant barrage of insults and threats inspires her subordinates to achieve greater results. Amory’s tactics, by contrast, are not severe enough. She thinks of something she has heard Erika say a thousand times, and she writes it at the top of her battle plan for the week:

LIGHT A FIRE UNDER THEIR ASSES!

Then, she underlines and circles the directive to enshrine it in her memory. Amory sets a new goal for herself this week—harass people until they get their work done. She doesn’t know how she is going to do it, but she needs to try. Her stats depend on it.