Liam inspected the dent in the wall while Adam finished the calibration of the new confocal microscope. Liam pointed to the dent. “That must have been some user error,” Liam said.
“It was. Trust me. I’m still paying for it,” Adam said.
“Eve’s still pissed at you?” Liam asked.
Adam typed a couple of commands and the instrument came to life. “I was talking about this microscope. It’s at least a millennia out of date.”
“I wasn’t the one who chucked the last one at the wall,” Liam said. “No one wants to fund us out here in the middle of nowhere.”
“No one wants to fund me out here in the middle of nowhere since I am a convicted mass murderer,” Adam corrected. Adam looked at Liam. “It’s okay to tell me I screwed up. I knew that as soon as I said that stupid comment to Eve.”
“So have you extended an olive branch to her?” asked Liam.
Adam closed his eyes and massaged his temples. “I extended her the whole foolish tree. That woman is impossible.”
“You did question her life’s work,” Liam said. “How would you have felt about it?”
“I would have ripped your head off from the inside by reaching up your anus,” Adam said. Liam recoiled from that picture. Adam waved to clear the air and then continued. “But I am an egotistical jerk. She is supposed to be better than me.”
“Yes, she is. She is here by choice, not because she is serving a life sentence,” Liam said. “Sorry, but it’s the truth. You did just give me permission to let you know when you screw up”
“That doesn’t help me Liam,” Adam said. He gestured at the microscope. “Much like this artifact from another time.”
Liam drifted over to the instrument. “Well, yeah. Like most things in life you should look a bit deeper to see what is there. If you look close you will discover I was able to get you a bit more bang for your scientific buck. All the guts of that thing were retrofitted to only last year’s technology. I left the outsides intact to help get it past the asset people.”
Adam peered into the scope and played with some of the controls. He turned suddenly and planted a big kiss on Liam. “Did I ever tell you I love with you?” Adam said.
Liam took a couple steps back and blushed slightly. “You just want me for my scientific instruments,” Liam said.
Adam looked at the microscope again. “Okay, maybe you’re right. Still you’ve held up your side of the bargain extremely well. How are the findings being received?”
Liam shifted a bit uncomfortably. “The Federation is making it difficult to get your work out there.”
“Of course they are,” Adam said. “They know now they made a mistake. This world is remarkable. There is so much here that has the opportunity to be beneficial. I have identified at least a thousand microorganisms alone that have positive health impacts on our species. This place is a cornucopia of possibilities. If the Federation let people know about it, it would mean a public relations disaster.”
“Because they placed a penal colony on such a rich resource?” asked Liam.
“No, because a convicted mass murderer, me, would be the person to discover all of this. They would be forced to admit I am needed in many more parts of the universe besides this backwater,” Adam said.
“So you’re going to take credit for the discovery even though you didn’t find the planet nor had to work hard to find this biological treasure?” Liam asked.
“I told you before, delusion is my bread and butter,” Adam said. “That and the ability to understand how the bureaucracy thinks and reacts. The Federation is a biological system after all, so it is well within my scientific venue. How do you think I thrived all those years?”
“You had me believing it was your amazing work and devilish good looks,” Liam said.
“Well, there is that,” Adam admitted. “Well done there, you might be developing a bit of sarcastic wit. Good to see that.” Liam smiled proudly. Adam continued. “No, any organism’s two goals are survival and reproduction. That is the epitome of the Federation. That’s why I am here. Don’t you see that?”
“I do,” Liam said, “or at least I see why you would think so.” Liam looked at the door, and by reference, the transportation gate beyond. “Look, I would like to stay…”
“But you are worried about the gate collapsing,” Adam said. “Then you would have the same sentence that I serve, but without the privilege of taking multiple lives.”
Liam looked hurt. “I didn’t say that.”
Adam sighed. “No, you didn’t. I am sorry. I’m trying to get over this foot in mouth disease. I’ve had it for so long now, but I don’t have the power I once had to force people to deal with my condition.”
Liam looked mollified. “You are getting better apologizing for it,” he said.
“I need to, or else I will find myself more isolated and alone than I am now,” Adam said. He turned back to the microscope. “Do me one favor when you get to the other side?”
“If I can I will. What is it?” asked Liam.
“Get me the background on a certain Hannoush Liszt. He is another lifer here. I met him the other day, and he left quite the impression on me,” Adam said.
“Okay, I can try. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks,” Liam said.
Adam didn’t look up from the microscope. “Standard weeks or Ruckblau’s weeks?”
“Standard weeks,” Liam replied.
Adam sagged visibly with relief. “Good, and thank you again for the instrument,” Adam said.
Liam nodded and left.
Adam looked up from the microscope and stared at the closed door. He reached under the table to a small sample he had taped underneath. He pulled it away and put under the optics. This might be the deal changer. Adam fired up the instrument and began his analysis anew.