Travis Barnes always woke up 16 minutes before his alarm clock sounded. Every weekday morning at 4:14, his eyes opened. He lay motionless until 4:29. He wasn’t sure if he had conditioned himself to do this or whether the implant dictated his actions even at this early hour. He gazed up at the ceiling of his room at the halfway house, savoring the last few minutes of repose he would have until long after the sun set that night. He thought he noticed a new crack forming near the corner above his head, but he couldn’t be sure. After so many months in the program, the days had begun to run together. There was little sense in paying attention to such minutiae. 

As he counted down the minutes, Travis tried not to think about the sequence of events that landed him in this mess. Nevertheless, the memory always returned, eating up valuable seconds of his vanishing downtime. Like with the alarm clock. Travis couldn’t tell if it was his own guilty conscience or the implant that dredged up the memory every morning. The program’s administrators refused to explain the details. 

Travis glanced over at the clock. 4:18. 

Here it comes. 

The scheme was simple. Too simple, perhaps. It began with minor discrepancies, numbers that didn’t quite add up, but always in a way that favored the firm. Marcus, one of the executives and the mastermind of the entire misalliance, described it as simply “optimizing tax liabilities.” Travis was just the hand guiding the numbers, making them dance to a specific tune. 

The intoxicating thrill was always the first part of the memory, and it was every bit as heady as it was at the time. Travis loved watching the numbers grow, manipulating the accounts with a few strokes of his keyboard. As a mild-mannered accountant, ignored by his higher ups and too unremarkable for the dating life, Travis found meaning and purpose in playing a game where he always seemed to win. 

The problem with games, however, is that they always end. Travis’ game was no different. It wasn’t long before the discrepancies grew too large to hide, and the whispers of audits began to circulate. 

The thrill always gave way to guilt. The realization had hit Travis too late that the numbers weren’t just numbers; they were people’s lives, their savings, their futures. The memory forced him to relive watching retirements vanishing into the ether, college funds dissipating into digital nothingness, hopes and dreams evaporating in seconds. By the time the weight of his guilt spurred him to act, everyone else involved had already turned state’s evidence. The whirlwind of arrest, arraignment, and trial was no less disorienting as a memory. 

And then, of course, there was the verdict. 

Travis often wondered if he would have preferred prison. Instead of twenty years’ hard time, he became the sixth convicted white-collar felon to be accepted into the Ministry of Justice’s experimental Enhanced Rehabilitation Program. In exchange for a reduced sentence, an expunged record, and a new identity once his time was served, Travis agreed to be implanted with PaxNeura. 

Through the fog of the memory, a forlorn chuckle escaped Travis’ lips. PaxNeura. Enforcing peace through direct neural control. 

Created as a fix for the overcrowded and underfunded national prison system, PaxNeura allowed criminals to remain in society, living and working as normal citizens. It monitored and manipulated their movements and actions, ensuring they fulfilled their obligations under the plea agreement. Among the oft-changing terms of Travis’ deal were to observe a curfew and hold down a steady job, of which 100% of his pay was diverted into a restitution fund. 

The clock ticked over to 4:29. The flashbacks always ended right on time. Travis reached over and shut off the alarm before it sounded. All that remained was to wait for the instructions to fill his mind. He didn’t have to wait long. 


Travis sat up straight, flung his feet around to the floor, and stood. It was 4:30 a.m., and he was once again a passenger in his body for the next 16 hours. Day 286 had begun. 

After he had made his bed, showered, and dressed in his underwear and t-shirt within the time limit allotted by the implant, Travis padded down the stairs for breakfast. He reached into the refrigerator and pulled out an energy bar with his prisoner number stamped on the label. 

Just once, he thought, I’d like some steak and eggs

Travis had refused to eat the grainy, lumpy energy bars on his first day at the halfway house and realized how futile an exercise that was. PaxNeura always won. Hunger strikes were not permitted under the terms of his plea agreement. At the first hint of resistance, PaxNeura overrode his motor functions and the first day of Travis’ enhanced rehabilitation began with the unusual sensation of self-induced force feeding, followed by a grueling involuntary workout. 

After nine months in the program, resistance had long given way to resignation. Travis ate quickly, discarded the wrapper, and returned to his room to finish dressing. It was a Thursday, which meant Travis would work as either a bus boy or a secretary. He had just grasped the handle of his bedroom door when the day’s instructions downloaded into PaxNeura. 


Secretary. Travis would have preferred bus boy, but at least a secretary gets some time to himself. He entered his bedroom and slid open the single drawer that housed his daily clothing allocation, freshly delivered from laundry processing while he was at breakfast. Great, he thought, another day of getting my ass pinched and my junk fondled. 

Ten minutes later, Travis left the halfway house dressed in a crisp white dress shirt tailored to show off his broad shoulders, firm pecs and narrow waist, and a pair of black dress slacks taken in around the front to cradle his package snugly as he walked. A pair of silver cufflinks, a thin black necktie, leather belt, and smart dress shoes rounded out the professional yet attention-seeking outfit as his body, responding to the implant’s direction, headed for the subway. 

At 5:45, Travis arrived at the Tempus Corporation’s offices, his feet and lower back already aching from the long walk in the uncomfortable dress shoes. The elevator stopped on the 16th floor. A man, whom Travis presumed was an executive he just hadn’t yet met, stepped in and pressed the round button marked 43. The two men smiled courteously at each other. The executive broke the ice. 

“You’re that new guy, Travis, right?” he said. 

Travis’ stomach sank. He wanted to run. He wanted to escape the nightmare his life had become. But he could do nothing to defy PaxNeura, and PaxNeura compelled him to smile again. And to speak. 

“Yes, Sir,” he said. 

The executive looked nervous in a way that made Travis sick. “Is it true what everyone is saying about you?” 

Even an eyeroll was beyond Travis’ capability. He knew what the executive was asking. The whole situation would make him vomit if he were in control of his own body. Instead, he laughed. 

His mind balked at the thought of flirting with this man for another second. His body, however, responded positively. “If that’s what they’re saying, then I guess it’s true,” he said, staring straight into the executive’s eyes. 

No other words needed to be said. Travis dropped to his knees, and the executive pressed the emergency stop on the elevator panel. 

“Work quickly. You’ve got two minutes before the alarm goes off, understand?” 

Travis nodded, his hands already fumbling with the zipper on the man’s pants. Opening the fly, the implant ordered his hand to reach in and pull out the executive’s hard cock. Upon seeing it, Travis’ head was moved as if by an invisible hand toward it, and he took the length into his mouth. 

He sucked like a pro. PaxNeura made sure of it, directing his tongue, lips, and hands to move together, licking here, sucking there, fondling here. Even without the implant, Travis would have been an expert by now just from all the practice. At every job he reported to, PaxNeura made him submit to the advances of any man who was brave enough to make one. His mind protested with every shred of energy he had, but he was forced to play the part, eager to suck and stroke nonstop throughout the workday. The plea agreement was airtight, and irrevocable. 

In precisely 1 minute, 43 seconds, Travis’ repetitive back and forth motion on the executive’s member brought the suited man to climax. Travis had never serviced this man before, so he wasn’t sure whether he would be expected to swallow. He prepared to do so, if only to keep the cleanup to a minimum. 

The executive had other ideas. He pulled out of Travis’ mouth and shot all over Travis’ face and dress shirt. Travis could do nothing but remain in position, occasionally licking his lips and making sure nothing got on the carpet. 

The executive resumed the elevator’s normal motion and soon reached his destination. When the doors opened, he tossed a $10 bill onto the floor of the elevator. 

“See you next time,” he said, tucking his junk back into his suit slacks. 

Travis pocketed the $10 and pulled himself up off the floor. Only 1,175 days to go.

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