Tom Purdom








Len approached Dr. Shinwalai’s practice because Toni told him he should.  He had just lost his job again—his third job in the two years and ten months Len and Toni had been connected.  He called BonG Temp two hours after he received his termination speech but that wasn’t good enough for Toni.  There was no future in temp, Toni insisted.  He needed a real full time job, he couldn’t get a real job that lasted until he did something about his problem, ergo...

Toni liked to say ergo.  She was the only person Rafe had ever met who could say ergo three times in a half hour conversation about the best place to spend a weekend in Jakarta.

The exit officer who gave Len the bad news had said the same thing.  “We knew you could be a problem,” the exit officer told him.  “We wouldn’t have hired you if you weren’t so good.  We took a chance.  Somebody should tell you you’re running out of people who can take a chance.”

Dr. Shinwalai’s pixeldoll looked like a friendly woman a little older than Toni.  Len knew he was talking to a bunch of pixels but that didn’t bother him.  He had been talking to pixels all his life.  He had messed up a few, too.


Rafe Bardena got Len’s case because he was next in line.  Two clients in Rafe’s consignment had completed their procedures the day before, bringing his case list down to 187, three short of his quota.  Rafe gave Len the opening script, explained the fee schedule (that part went better if people felt they were talking to a live unsimulated human) and outlined the next step.

“This may be the only time you’ll have to physically visit us.  We need a brain scan and some blood and tissue samples.  The scan takes about five minutes. It’s so bland some people think we should add some blinking lights just to let the customers feel like something’s happening.”

The may in the first sentence was part of the script.  Rafe could have said it would probably be the only time Len would have to visit the practice but a lot of people interpreted that as “never”.  The rest was mostly chatter—part of the cluster of personality traits that got Rafe his job.  Len just nodded so Rafe switched to his straight all-business mode.

Dr. Shinwalai got a full summary of Len’s test results.  Rafe received a less technical version.  Len’s troubles with personal relations could be traced to two sources: the brain structures responsible for emotional control and the brain structures and chemical pathways responsible for the useful human trait called empathy.  They were both underdeveloped.  Not horribly underdeveloped.  There were lots of people with bigger deficits in those areas.  Len ranked near the top of the bottom fourth.  He could handle temp work.  He could work in a place for six weeks and most of the people he worked with would still think he was a tolerable human being when he left.

Rafe’s case list normally included at least thirty people with the same problem.  The recommended procedure was called drug-enhanced simulation-based cognitive behavioral therapy.

“It usually takes about twenty sessions with the simulations,” Rafe said.  “Thirty at the most.  We recommend no more than two sessions a week.  Spaced so they’re at least two days apart.  You control the schedule.”

Len nodded.  Some people made little jokes.  Some people prepared lists of questions in advance.  Len just nodded.

Rafe didn’t tell him some of the cost would be covered by the federal and state agencies that ran anti-violence programs.  That wasn’t part of the informed consent procedure.  The information was publicly available on the agency websites and you could therefore assume the prospective consumer knew it.  The agencies were particularly interested in nodders.


The temp jobs were mostly routine stuff.  The customer gave Len a target and he attacked it.  Most of the time he didn’t penetrate.  His employers were testing their defenses against low-level penetrators.  They just wanted to make sure all the standard alarms and traps were working.

He really liked working inside, creating serious defenses.  That was his real talent, not attacking.   Everybody admitted he was good at it.  So why should it matter what kind of a personality he had?  Why couldn’t people put up with a little interpersonal friction?

He couldn’t be the first techie who told Jodie Freere she was doing something dumb.  You would think a security manager with her experience would have gotten used to it.   In her case, in fact, it must have happened a lot.

The exit officer had claimed they weren’t letting him go just because he’d reminded Jodie she wasn’t as bright as she thought she was.  Len’s remark was part of a “pattern”.  They always said that.  But somehow they didn’t notice the pattern until he got a little grumpy with some “team leader” type.

Maybe he should stick to temp work.  They gave him a target and he went after it.  All by himself.  He deserved something better.  He had a right to something better.  But maybe he should settle for what he could get.

But then he’d have to give up Toni.  “This stuff really works,” Toni insisted.  “You don’t have to spend your life doing things just because your parents messed you up or you got genes that gave you a certain kind of brain.  You can do something about it.  We’re the first people in the whole history of the Earth that can do something about it.”

It didn’t take much to get Toni started.  She’d had some kind of problem with her father—something that had led her into “overly dependent relationships” according to her version of her life story.  Now she was all right.  Now she could walk away from a relationship if she decided it wasn’t giving her what she wanted.

She didn’t say she would walk away from Len if he didn’t get himself transformed.  She wasn’t that type.  But that was the message, wasn’t it?  He wasn’t the only guy in the world with a lean body and a great pair of pecs.


Copyright 2014 by Tom Purdom. All rights reserved. This document may be printed out and archived for personal use. All other use is strictly prohibited.

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