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.