Although certain of the outcome in her own mind, Garr still looks at Alice with a profound astonishment.
“And the cause of the psychosis?”
Lucius relaxes his stance, looking Alice over.
“Alice’s personality was entirely predetermined at the point of manufacture. This means that she has no naturally acquired resilience to mental stress. To put it another way, she hasn’t had the chance to learn how to deal with the world around her, and consequently her mind isn’t robust enough to handle all that reality can throw at her. And now something has pushed her over the edge.”
Lucius sets about activating Alice. The surface projection of her face appears. Her eyes are closed, and she is serene.
“It looks like Jerome had been investigating that. He subjected her to a number of…experiments. I’m going to show you one.”
Landelle exchanges a tense glance with Garr.
Lucius taps one of the console screens.
“First, we alter her perception so that the experience will seem…” Alice’s eyes flick open, and Lucius looks to her. “…dreamlike.”
“A nightmare?” suggests Garr, with more than just a tinge of alarmed cynicism about her.
Lucius pointedly underscores the sentiment directly back to Garr.
“A waking nightmare.”
Returning his attention to Alice, he says, “She can’t see us. She is in her own inner world. A world manipulated to induce stress so that we can observe her ability to cope.”
A couple more taps at the console. Confusion creeps onto Alice’s face. Her gaze darts about at unseen things.
“Underlying acute neurological disorders quickly manifest.”
Alice’s expression turns to alarm. She whimpers.
“Rapidly leading to a deep psychosis.”
Alice tries to stand but finds she cannot. She gasps in horror.
“The nightmare becomes real.”
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