Scene 46: OSA

Within the hour, Lucas and Amory sit in the busy lobby of OSA, waiting to be reprimanded for their incompetence. Amory fears they will be thrown in the RPF, and she needs to avoid that outcome if she ever wants to make it out of the Sea Org.

Previously On:

Amory meets her new partner in the ethics project.

Last Lines: “I know more than you think,” he says. “I know The Church, so I know you.” Lucas sits down against the wall, protecting himself from the icy rain pelting the concrete.

Within the hour, Lucas and Amory sit in the busy lobby of OSA, waiting to be reprimanded for their incompetence. Amory fears they will be thrown in the RPF, and she needs to avoid that outcome if she ever wants to make it out of the Sea Org.

The two wait quietly, their shoulders lightly touching due to the close chairs which they cannot move. Amory situates herself against the arm rest opposite of Lucas, trying to move as far away from him as possible. Lucas rests with his head back, staring up at the ceiling, and Amory rapidly taps her foot on the ground and twists the dirty gray scarf around her arm. She has a difficult time confining herself to the small chair while anticipating the inevitable. She tries to hide her face from the people passing them, but the effort is unnecessary since no one acknowledges the downstats as they come and go from their important work.

After they wait for twenty minutes, Tracy walks out to meet them. In the middle of the crowded hallway, she shouts, “You idiots! You are both pieces of shit who can’t do anything right! I heard that you two almost burned down the Celebrity Center. If either of you so much as coughs without authorization, I’m immediately throwing you in the RPF. Now get out of my face.”

Images of Erika flash in Amory’s mind as she listens to the familiar lecture, and old feelings of guilt and shame resurface in her body. The confidence she has been building drains from her instantly, and she sinks lower into her chair.  Every eye in the room is trained on them. She clutches her upper arms with her hands and stares at the ground. Each second seems to defy physics and last hours as Tracy’s words painfully reach their target.

After Tracey leaves, Amory follows Lucas’ lead and rolls out of her chair. They obediently run of the office as quickly as they can.

Once they are outside the department and slow back down, Amory sees that, somehow, Lucas is still smiling. Confused, she asks him, “What are you so happy about? Didn’t you hear with Tracy just said?” Lucas is a complete mystery to Amory, his words and actions outside her realm of comprehension.

“Of course I heard. Everyone heard,” he says indifferently.

Amory stops. “Don’t you care?” she asks, her brow wrinkling in bewilderment. Her tone is no longer angry but curious. She is perplexed by this strange creature, like a gruesome accident she can’t help but stop and watch.

“No, I don’t,” he says with a quick wink. He grabs her shoulders from behind and gently shakes the rigidity from her body. “Maybe you should loosen up a bit. Then you wouldn’t care either.”

For the first time today, Amory smiles. “Maybe you’re right,” she says under her breath. His touch no longer disgusts her, and she welcomes the warm contact. She leans back against his hands, and the pair walks side by side back to their bus.

Scenes from the Next:

It is Sea Org Day, Amory’s favorite day of the year. But this year, things are different.

Scene 42: Daisy’s New Ally

Daisy opens the cereal and tilts her head back to let the sugary flakes spill into her mouth. As she hears the loud crunch, she feels more like herself. Throwing the empty box in the trash can, she marches out of the building and towards the blue dorm where Riley lives now.

Previously On:

Daisy presents evidence to Amory’s Comm Ev committee

Last Lines: She wonders if there is something else, a vital fact she is missing. She knows what to do, something that always makes her feel better.

Daisy digs for change as she approaches the vending machine. Frosted Flakes are one dollar, but she finds two buried deep in her back pocket. She straightens the bills on the corner of the metal, running them back and forth across the fold. She keeps one box in her hand and puts the extra one in her pocket.

Daisy opens the cereal and tilts her head back to let the sugary flakes spill into her mouth. As she hears the loud crunch, she feels more like herself. Throwing the empty box in the trash can, she marches out of the building and towards the blue dorm where Riley lives now.

Daisy climbs the staircase to the top floor of the housing unit, and must fight her disgust once she reaches her destination. The stench is the first thing that hits her, invading her nostrils in waves of unapologetic assault. She covers her nose in a futile attempt of relief as she looks around and sees broken cots lining the walls under cracked windows, which invite winter gusts into the room. But worse than the physical space are the RPFers themselves—people who have been stripped of all hygiene, decency, shame, all connection to the cause for which they have sacrificed their lives. Daisy justifies the scene by remembering that these people deserve these conditions, and that they are lucky to be given another chance with the group. They are here because they have committed great crimes, and The Church is giving them an opportunity to repent for their sins and prove their loyalty once again.

Amongst the filthy black jumpsuits, Daisy finds Riley shining a man’s boots. She cuts in, indicating that Riley is needed immediately for important business. She notes to bring shampoo next time so that Riley can clean the filthy hair she has not washed during the three weeks she has been in the RPF.

Once they are alone, Daisy extends the box of Frosted Flakes to Riley, offering, “Here, I brought you this.”

Riley’s cheeks are sunken in and her eyes are ringed with black circles. She looks greedily at the nourishment. “Thanks,” she says, about to grab it. But she pulls her hand back and studies Daisy. She continues, “What’s this for?” she knows to be suspicious, even of old friends.

Daisy smiles, trying to ease Riley’s fears. “Oh nothing,” she says. “I just heard you were in the RPF and I thought you could use something to eat. That’s all.”

Riley seems satisfied with her response and takes the cereal. She rips open the box and ravenously devours the food. She then looks up at Daisy, ashamed of her behavior, and says, “Sorry … I’ve just been so hungry.”

Daisy rubs Riley’s arm and asks, “How have you been, anyway?”

Riley jumps at the touch, her first human contact in three weeks. She has no idea how to answer that question and different possible responses race through her head—exhausted, alone, lucky, conquered, starving, hopeful. Even she does not know which one is true anymore, too vanquished to think straight. She looks at Daisy, searching for the correct words.

Daisy sees her friend’s defeat. She wraps her arms around her and reassures her, “It’s okay Riles. I’m here.” The two embrace for a long minute before Daisy grows uncomfortable at the closeness and steps back.

Riley takes five deep breaths, regaining what little composure she has left. She tells Daisy, “I had the procedure. I’m not pregnant anymore.” She does not let herself feel sadness for her loss. Now, it is just a fact. Nothing sentimental. Nothing for her reactive mind to agonize over.

“Well that’s good,” Daisy says hopefully, smiling at the good news. “Now you can rejoin the group and get your life back.” She needs Riley as an ally, so she is glad that her friend is making efforts to atone for her sins.

“That’s what I’m trying to do. I’ll do anything, anything at all.” The desperation on Riley’s face is undeniable.

Daisy feels a stab of pity for her friend. She knows that this is Riley’s first time in the RPF, which is unusual for someone who has been in the Sea Org as long as she has. Daisy says, “You know, I could try and make it easier for you.” She pulls a napkin from her pocket, moistens it with her saliva, and wipes some of the grease and dirt from Riley’s face.

Riley’s skin is eager for the attention, and her eyes grow large with anticipation. She asks, “How could you do that?”

Daisy gives her a knowing look. She lifts her head high and says, “It more about what you can do than what I can do, really.”

Riley is defeated and powerless. Everything has been stripped from her. She has no idea how she could possibly help Daisy. She asks, meekly, “Me? What can I do?”

Daisy’s face turns serious and she gives Riley a razor-sharp look. She says, “You need to convince Amory to leave.”

“Amory?” Riley asks, shocked by the mention of her sister’s name.

Daisy tenderly brushes Riley’s hair out of her face with her fingertips. “I know you haven’t seen her much lately, so you don’t know what’s happened. Amory has become a danger to the group.” She continues stroking Riley’s hair. “She’s a threat, Riles. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true.”

“But Amory? A threat?” Riley steps back from Daisy, searching her face for some indication that this is a bad joke, a falsehood that could never be true. “What has she done?”

Daisy steps away from Riley and looks out of the window as if searching for a different reality. She continues, “She said some things in her sec-check that were suspicious. But her evil intentions really came out when we began her Int Rundown. She kept talking about how she was forced into The Church and is kept here against her will. She wants out.”

Riley shakes her head, refusing to accept Daisy’s words. She asks, “Evil intentions? Amory? How can that be? The Church is her life … I don’t understand … Amory?”

“I wish I were making this up Riles, but it’s true. You can read the transcriptions for yourself if you don’t believe me.” Daisy rubs Riley’s arm again. She tries to give Riley a hug, but Riley steps away.

“No … of course I believe you. It just seems so … so not her.”

Daisy knows she must tread carefully, that Riley and Amory are close. That no matter how committed to The Church she is or how much she believes that the group is more important than her family, it is still hard to intentionally disconnect from her sister. But Daisy also knows that Riley is at her mercy.

“It’s just,” Riley continues, “She’s all the family I have.”

Daisy gives her a sharp look, and responds, “You know that’s not true. And even if it is, what do you need a family for?” She has a hard time containing her growing anger. She expected more from Riley. “You have the group. That’s the most important thing.”

Riley hangs her head in shame. She knows Daisy is correct. She says, submissively, “You’re right.”

“I’ll give you some time to think it over,” Daisy says. “I know you’ll make the right decision.” Daisy leaves Riley alone to consider her options.

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.

Scenes from the Next:

Amory’s Int Rundown continues.

Scene 41: Comm Ev

Daisy stands before Amory’s Comm Ev committee, summoned to give them an update on the status of the case. This is the first convening of the group which will determine Amory’s future.

Previously On:

Daisy catches Adam and Amory in an intimate moment.

Last Lines: She must continue her strategy of routing out properly if she ever wants to build a real life for herself one day.

Daisy stands before Amory’s Comm Ev committee, summoned to give them an update on the status of the case. This is the first convening of the group which will determine Amory’s future. Daisy’s hands guard the file of evidence and hold it close to her chest. Each of the uniforms in the room is perfectly pressed, the creases in the sleeves holding firm through each slight movement.

Daisy stands straight upright, her heels lightly touching and her shoulder blades arching in towards each other. She has convinced herself that she must do whatever it takes to get Amory thrown in the RPF, that The Church is in danger otherwise. And she is here to plead her case.

One of the uniforms asks her, “How is the Int Rundown progressing?”

“Well, Sir,” Daisy begins using the correct intonation of “Action,” which is number 20.0 on the tone scale. “We began Amory’s Int Rundown yesterday.”

“And?”

“And, Sir, to be honest, it did not go very well.” Daisy quiets her reactive mind and does not reveal any emotion on her face. She must be fully in control of this situation.

A different uniform questions her this time, “And why not?”

Daisy straightens her back and looks at him confidently before continuing, “Sir, she had a strong read on the command, ‘recall a time when you were put in something.’ It was almost a Rock Slam, Sir.” Daisy steps closer to the row of officers, her voice revealing a hint of strain at every word. She continues, “I strongly believe that Amory is a threat to the group. Her evil intentions could do serious harm to us. She should be sent to the RPF immediately.”

For a moment, she feels a slight pang of guilt. But she only has to remind herself that she’s working for the greatest good for the greatest number of dynamics to quiet this reaction. She must protect the group against any possible enemies, even if they are her long-time friends.

“Yes, Daisy,” one of the lower officers answers her. “Your opinion is noted and recorded.”

Another uniform jumps in the exchange. “A Rock Slam?” She asks pointedly, “Are you sure?”

“Yes, Sir. Very sure. It surprised me as well. Amory is the last person I would expect to have evil intentions against L. Ron Hubbard. She went on and on about how she was forced to be in The Church. I don’t know what’s happened to her.”

“But it wasn’t a Rock Slam?” a different officer asks, his tone a clear indication of his skepticism.

“Well, it was close, Sir.” She tries to picture the e-meter screen and exactly what the reading was. “It almost was.”

“Well was it or wasn’t it?” the officer asks, his voice growing louder and harsher.

Unprepared for the questions, Daisy scrambles for a defense. She pauses, taking a moment to regain her composure. She continues, “The reading was exactly one notch under a Rock Slam. I thought about alerting you immediately but decided against it since she did not have an actual Rock Slam. I have the evidence here, if you would like …” Daisy approaches her superiors, her file of evidence extended out before her like an offering.

“And who gave you the authority to make that decision?” A different officer throws another sharp question. He grabs the file from her and begins combing through the documents.

“I … I” Daisy searches for the correct words to guard herself. “I though …”

The ranking officer interjects, “If you think she should be in the RPF, make it a Rock Slam next time. You write the report, after all.” He takes Amory’s file from the other officer and waves it in Daisy’s face. “It should say what you need it to say.”

Daisy nods humbly, keeping her eyes cast to the floor. “Of course, Sirs,” she says. “Anything to serve The Church.” She retreats backward, leaving her evidence on the table before them.

“That will be all for now. Keep up apprised of any significant developments.” He turns his back to Daisy and consults with the other officers quietly.

Daisy exits the room silently, hiding the rage she feels at the inaction of her superiors. They must be idiots if they can’t see what a threat Amory really is. Slowly lifting her hand to the door knob, she forces herself to think with her analytic mind. She knows she must examine the situation in order to devise a new battle plan for herself, so she calms the pace of her walk in order to think. She suspects that they are protecting Amory because of her strong record of service and perhaps because of her mother’s high rank. But even those facts do not usually justify privileged treatment in The Church. She wonders if there is something else, a vital fact she is missing. She knows what to do, something that always makes her feel better.

Scenes from the Next:

Daisy recruits an ally.

Scene 34: Int Rundown, Part 1

There is no read on any of the first commands. Daisy sits patiently, with full confidence the needle will reveal at least one of Amory’s secrets. She keeps her eyes trained on the e-meter, hunting for the slightest indication of a read.

Previously On:

Amory learns that Daisy will handle her Int Rundown.

Last Lines: 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.

The session begins like every other one with Daisy asking, “Are you hungry?”

Amory knows that she must be cautious in what she reveals if she wants to get through the tech. She lies, “No.” She’s been malnourished for the past three weeks, but if she tells the truth, the session will be further delayed.  She just wants to get it over with.

“Good. Are you tired?”

“No.” Another falsehood. After working all day at the Celebrity Center she is exhausted.

“Have you had an Affinity, Reality, or Communication break?”

“No.” Again, she lies. How can she not be upset? Her entire life has deteriorated. She is upset with everyone—the auditor sitting across from her, all of her “friends” who won’t even look at her, the Church uniforms who are dictating every second of every day, her family, her mom, especially her mom. And now they’re saying she’s had a psychotic break. She fears the e-meter will read but hopes it doesn’t.

“Okay. Let’s get started.” Daisy goes through the Int commands: “Recall a time when you went in … Recall a time when you caused another to go in … Recall a time when others caused you to go in … Recall a time when you caused yourself to go in.” Amory sits silently and lets the e-meter speak for her.

There is no read on any of the first commands. Daisy sits patiently, with full confidence the needle will reveal at least one of Amory’s secrets. She keeps her eyes trained on the e-meter, hunting for the slightest indication of a read.

And then it happens. Daisy commands: “Recall a time when you were put in something.” The needle jumps across the screen. It’s almost a rock slam, a violent reaction of the needle that indicates evil intentions or someone wanting to harm L. Ron Hubbard. Rock slammers are taken immediately to the RPF. “There! There! What were you thinking about just now?” Daisy asks.

Amory is forced to speak. “I was thinking about a couple weeks ago when I was put in this ethics program.”

Daisy must push her to explain. She asks, “Did that upset you?”

Amory knows she needs to elaborate. She decides to be honest, to listen to herself for once and not say what they want to hear. “Yes it did.”

When Daisy asks her why, she explains, “Well, let me think … I am completely cut off from everyone I know and can’t talk to anyone. I’m living in a shit hole. I’m doing hard physical labor every day, all day. I can hardly eat anything. Is that enough?” Pointedly, she stares Daisy in the eyes, shooting a look of cold and steel.

“Can you see that the ethics program is for your own good?” Daisy asks in the familiar Church rhetoric.

Amory is tired of feeling scared and confused. She is sick of the work and the pressure of saving the world. Being in isolation has given her a taste of freedom, and she doesn’t know if she can go back to her old life. She sees her hands trembling. She wants to drop the cans, but she can’t. She replies in a whisper of a voice, “Yeah, The Church thinks it’s good for me, but I don’t know anymore.” A weight lifts immediately from her chest and her headache eases.

Daisy watches the needle jump back and forth. Amory sees her eyes following the movement. She hopes it’s not a rock slam. If it is, she’s in great danger.

Daisy can’t stop now. She continues to press Amory. “Can you explain?”

Amory thinks about how to voice her recent revelation. She knows she must be careful with her words. Admitting any intention to leave The Church is one of the biggest crimes a Sea Org member can commit. She knows she could be vindictively declared an SP—a suppressive person who has evil intentions against the group—and excommunicated entirely.

She continues, “I’m not sure. I’m still pretty confused about everything. I don’t think I want to be here anymore, and they say I’m in a condition of doubt. I didn’t think I was when I wrote the formula. But now, I think I may be.” The words surprise even her as she hears what she is saying. She has been having these thoughts but didn’t fully realize their implications until she said them and they became real.

Daisy is also surprised. She didn’t think it would be this easy to handle Amory. She wants Amory to elaborate, to say definitively that she wants to leave, so she asks, “Why do you feel this way? Don’t you know that The Church has all the answers?”

Every phrase from Daisy’s mouth sounds as if it is taken directly from a LRH directive and makes Amory’s skin crawl. “Of course. I know … I know. I’ve known my whole life,” she says in frustration.

Daisy asks the required follow-up question: “Can you think of an earlier, similar time?”

Amory can no longer hold back. The words that have been building spill from her mouth. “Yes and no. No, I’ve never been in doubt about wanting to be part of the group. That is new. But yes, about being put in. I’ve been put in dozens, hundreds of times. Let’s see … when I was put on my current post, when I was put in all the classes I’ve taken, when I was put in the Sea Org. Let me think, all the way back to when my mom put me in the day care. My whole life is a long series of being put in something.” Amory looks Daisy square in the eyes and says, “You, if anyone, should understand that.”

Even without seeing it, Amory knows the needle is jumping back and forth more violently than before. She can see it in Daisy’s reaction to the e-meter. She must be close to a rock slam, if she’s not there already. This is uncharted territory for her. She’s done thousands of auditing sessions, but she has never been close to this.

Her hands begin to tremble and she must concentrate to keep a firm grasp on the cans. Amory must control her truth and keep it guarded behind her lips, otherwise she will be here answering questions all night. Or worse. The top brass already think she’s dangerous, but this would make her situation heretical. She knows plenty of people who were sent to the RPF for years for far less egregious offenses. Breathe, she tells herself. Breathe and slow your heart rate.

Daisy’s excitement is hard to contain as she knows she almost has Amory admitting intentions to leave. She shouts, “There! There! What were you thinking of then?”

Daisy’s reaction to her possible demise makes Amory sick. Everything starts falling into place for her—the accusations in her sec-check, her horrid treatment for being depressed, her sister in the RPF, her mother’s abandonment. Her own guilt and fear and obedience. Her participation in the whole charade. The pieces all come together and paint a subversive picture of control and domination.

Scenes from the Next:

Amory has a realization as the Int Rundown session concludes.

Scene 21: Comm Evs

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.

Previously On:

Five-year-old Amory signs the billion year contract.

Last lines: “She wondered why her mom and dad weren’t in the audience. She looked down at her feet and decided that she didn’t like her new black canvas shoes. She liked her old shoes better, the white ones her mother gave her.”

When Daisy leaves the security check dungeon, her eyes squint as they adjust to the blinding natural light. She hurries directly to her superior’s office to hand deliver her sacred notes. She knows that there is enough evidence to have Amory thrown in the RPF, and she hopes that the top brass concur with her conclusion.

Daisy finds the office of the ranking officer in OSA and knocks on her door.

“Good evening, Sir,” Daisy says as she enters. “I have the notes for Amory Baldwin’s security check.” Daisy smiles as the officer takes her notes and carefully reviews them. She stands silently at attention while her superior reads the evidence.

After a few minutes, the officer asks Daisy, “And what is your conclusion?”

“Sir, if I may speak freely?” The officer nods in the affirmative. Daisy continues, “It is clear that Amory is a liability to the group. Her loyal is in question, and she has become a suppressive person.” Her unwavering conviction to The Church runs far deeper than any personal loyalty.

“What action do you recommend?”

“I think the RPF is appropriate in this case. It will give her a chance to prove her dedication to the group.” As she waits for her commanding officer to consider the information, Daisy remembers her time at the Ranch with Amory. They were as close as friends can be, perhaps closer since neither of them had a family, other than in name. The dorms they lived in, known as the Motel, housed sixteen girls in four rooms and bathrooms.  Amory and Daisy were always in the same room. One night when the other girls were asleep, Daisy and Amory wanted to test the myth that putting someone’s finger in warm water makes her wet her bed. They chose the new girl, Jackie, as their victim. It worked, and they laughed about it for weeks.

But Daisy also remembers bitterly the jobs they had and still feels raw about it. Daisy’s post was health officer. It was her responsibility to make sure that all of the cadets took their Cal-Mag pills so that they would not get sick. She distributed them every day in little plastic cups to all of the children. It was a good post, but Amory was the commanding officer at the Ranch. Her stat was to get people to graduate into the Sea Org. Amory monitored the progress all of the cadets made in their schooling. If they were lagging behind, she had to get them to work harder. No one was surprised that Amory got that post. After all, her sister had been commanding officer before her. Amory and Riley were quite the pair—they were the pretty girls, when all the other girls seemed to be going through the early-adolescent awkward phase, who always did everything right. They never seemed to be in trouble, probably because they always followed the rules and were completely dedicated to their posts. Perfect Scientology children. And they were rewarded for it by being quickly promoted to the top posts. Obedience was always rewarded. It was no secret why they were given jobs as “enforcers.” They were good at following rules, so the logic was that they could get the others to follow the rules as well. But Daisy wanted the post of commanding officer. She was in line to get it, and she thought she would. Her stats were almost as high as Amory’s. But not quite. She was never good enough. When she heard that Amory got the post, her heart broke. Everything she worked for was shattered. Amory was CO and she was health officer, something that would always haunt her.

After minutes of contemplation, the commanding officer finally speaks up. “I’m going to recommend the ethics project for Amory.”

“Sir? There is plenty of evidence …” Daisy questions.

“That will be all,” the officer cuts her off and dismisses her. Surprisingly, the top brass has decided to show Amory mercy.

“Yes, Sir.” Daisy is shocked into silence. She has seen many people sent to the RPF for far less egregious crimes than a suicide attempt. She controls her instinct to punch the door, and instead she calmly exits the office. Daisy thought that she had finally beat Amory, that her perfect friend was shown to be incompetent and subversive. But all of her illusions are shattered with one simple phrase. She cringes as the words “ethics project” repeat in her mind.

“Oh, wait … There is one final thing,” the officer adds as Daisy is about to exit.

Daisy’s ears enliven, and she halts immediately.

“I will be convening a Comm Ev for Amory. I expect you to compile any evidence you find and present it to the group.” A Committee of Evidence, or Comm Ev, is Scientology’s equivalent of a criminal or civil trial. No jury of peers. No defense attorneys. Just the accused up against a group of superiors. She continues, “You have until the first meeting to develop your case.”

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.

Scenes from the Next:

Amory is taken to her new home.

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.