The whole operation might be called “black” in other ways. He enters the office building by scanning his badge across an electronic sensor, walks past half a dozen security cameras that automatically zoom in and scan his face, and logs on to a workstation with a password and thumbprint. He opens a heavily sealed door that leads to an environmentally-stable laboratory, and he says hello to his project.
His project is a meth addict from Alabama who’s missing a few teeth. Every day someone comes in to wash her hair, brush her teeth, and bathe her. Every day she resists at first, but calms down eventually. She was a lot less tractable before Harry’s boss’s boss covertly approved bringing small amounts of methamphetamine into the lab. Cold turkey wasn’t working.
Harry’s job is to calibrate sensors. This takes him about four hours every morning, which he does before the real researchers arrive at eleven. Over his lunch hour, the researchers will inevitably foul up his work, so Harry has taken to going to lunch later than usual. He brings a lunchbox for a post-calibration break, and while eating he stares through the heavy glass at the project.
The project has a name, but it’s considered “a violation of personal privacy” to reveal it. Never mind that Harry and six other men watch her pissing into a sample jar four days out of seven. She’s Subject 5 on Harry’s work orders and weekly reports. Subject 5 is capable of gravity manipulation, a feat she can probably not pronounce, much less explain. That’s why she’s in this state-of-the-art research facility, and not in the ruined remains of a trailer park. The company wants to know how she does it. They aren’t really interested in anything else.
Harry knows a little. Her surviving family is being well cared for, and the company has set aside a trust fund for her, to be administered by a capable guardian - once one is found. She has a good enough life, in Harry’s judgement. She’ll never go hungry, and the staff make sure she’s kept entertained when she isn’t being sedated. Lab rats don’t have to pay mortgages, Harry thinks ruefully. But she’s still a person. One time Harry caught one of the lab techs trying to take advantage while she was sedated. The video cameras caught everything, and Harry caught a reprimand for punching the man and a nice bonus after hours from his boss.
“This is the future,” said the VP of research once, in an all-hands meeting Harry attended. “Direct analysis of superhuman capabilities will give us a window into physics that theory and mathematics can’t keep up with, and the cloud gives us the number crunching to make sense of it all. We have the future here in our hands.” What he didn’t say was that the company had learned more in a year from an Alabama tweaker than CERN had been able to find in ten years of smashing atoms together, and it grated on the Europeans. There was already talk of pushing legislation banning this sort of thing. “Human experimentation should have ended with the Nazi concentration camps,” one of CERN’s directors had famously said. Sometimes Harry finds himself agreeing. Other times he looks at Subject 5, resting comfortably in a climate-controlled break room, being fed a healthy diet, having her wishes indulged, and he’s not so sure.