Johan looked down at his silent phone and sighed. The battery had died, and he had left his charger back in his room. Johan had a quick idea about texting his roommate to bring him the charger, but then realized that was impossible. He wanted to call his mom in frustration, but with a dead phone that was a no-no. Google would probably give him twenty-five alternate ways to power his phone from potatoes and shit like that, but once again no way to do so. Johan was now an analog outcast in the digital world. How would he survive?
“Play a game?”
“I’ll so flip your table.”
“You think you are some hot damn player.”
“There is no way to win with me. You should have given up.”
“Instead it’s game over.” With that she pulled the trigger, ending his life. Too bad it wasn’t enough experience to level.
Walter looked down at his baby girl and felt pride at creating such a perfect little person. She returned his stare, no comprehension on her face of the significance he would have in her life, but he knew how much she would change everything. She would be his legacy; his gift unto the world. The baby started to cry out, looking for succor, a wet diaper, or maybe even both. Walter looked at his assistant. “Well, are you going to take care of this?” he asked.
The assistant hurried over to take the child, almost dropping her in the process. “You harm one hair on that child they will never find your remains,” Walter said. The assistant fled the room with the crying infant. The automatic doors closed, cutting off the annoying sound. “It is going to be a long few years,” Walter said to himself. He turned his attention to the monitors showing every room in his domain. He traced the path of the assistant as the assistant searched for the wet nurse. This experiment would take years, but Walter was a patient man, at least when it came to his research.
Making a human being is ridiculously easy for most of the population. Just insert tab A into slot B and leave behind a bit of genetic residue. If slot B is compatible, ovulating, and able to bring to term, bam you have a human being. The big problem is that human being is a misplaced mishmash of human material that randomly wins the genetic lottery to have the possibility to spread half of its genes in some random encounter later on. There has to be a better way, and many scientists took it upon themselves to find it.
Once Walter had been one of those poor fools. Dolly the sheep was first cloned in 1996. After that people were in a race to clone a human, which was illegal in so many countries that it caused researchers to find hiding spots in some of the more backwater parts of the globe to try their hand at immortality. Experiment after experiment met with failure, or worse, abominations of genetic flotsam.
Walter had found a small spot in a third world country that had a friendly dictator who worshiped money much more than any god. He had sold the man a bunch of beans, promising that a clone would be the perfect way to keep the palace in the family so to speak. The buffoon ate the whole thing, even allowing him a choice of hosts for his pet project. Walter liked that one. It was always hard to find volunteers. Still, cloning a person was such a stupid idea. Cloning flawed beings just continued the madness. This is where Walter’s genius had taken over. If you want to move closer to perfection, you choose what matters to do so.
Walter brought up his chart and marveled at his brilliance. You take the heart from a world class cyclist, the lungs from a deep sea free diver, the liver from a man who drank heavily well into his nineties and never developed sclerosis, and of course his own brain. You clone the best parts and put them together. It had taken years to get all the pieces to work and transplanted into this baby. Of course that part had been fun as well. He enjoyed playing insert tab A, but of course it was all for science.
Discovery can be a wonderful thing. Imagine finding where the x on the map really did mark where buried treasure was located.
Discovery can lead to unexpected and beautiful consequences that weren’t even imagined moments before. Discovery can open up new experiences and insights allowing you to perceive that much farther into the universe. Discovery can make new something old and too familiar, bringing a smile to your eyes. Discovery can do all of that and so much more.
Discovery can also be me finding out I have been an idiot. Yeah, I can put an x on that map.
Building a world on the back of words spun from the cloth of imagination can be hard work. Finding a way to hack into the reader’s brain and deliver an experience that challenges as well as entertains, while delivering a message about the human condition seems impossible to even contemplate. Yet everyday people sit down and try to articulate fully formed stories from the ether by sifting their thoughts through their souls to find the gold nuggets there within. They then take that gold and refine it in their minds, burning off impurities, and pouring off the slag to reveal…
It was when Herm noticed the gravity of the situation that he fell from grace. No force on earth could have restored him to equilibrium. What little static friction that had kept him grounded vanished in the kinetic condition, leaving him slipping along the path of good intentions. He would have to spring back at a later date, but for now he had to bob with the wave. He felt his moral bank redshift and wondered why since everything is relative. In the end he just stood there between emotional states, not knowing if he was happy, sad, or some superposition of the two.
Harold looked down at the square ceramic dish put in front of him. The lobster’s bright red contrasted the dark green sautéed spinach. The spinach was flanked by a petite tenderloin steak with perfect crisscrossed grill marks perched on a mound of white mashed potatoes with golden rivers of butter flowing onto the plate. The food was a work of art and almost made Harold’s eyes water as much as his mouth.
Harold picked up his fork and knife and paused to offer a silent prayer of thanks. Then he realized this was his last meal and dropped the prayer like a hot potato. Harold would be able to offer it in person soon enough. The more he thought of that, the less hungry he became.
“Can I have this to go?” he asked the guard watching him from the far side of the room.
That elicited a chuckle from the guard. “That joke never grows old,” the guard said. “You go ahead and eat, Harold. Otherwise you’ll just fret the rest of your life away.” The guard chuckled at his own joke.
Harold pasted on a tight smile. No need to offend yet another being on this planet with so little time left. He mechanically took a scoop of potatoes and placed it wearily into his mouth. His tongue exploded in ecstasy. No matter how much he didn’t want to enjoy this taste of the earth he was about to depart from, his senses told him to bugger off.
Soon he lost himself in the solace of food made to not only nourish the body, but it nourished his soul. Maybe if he had had a meal like this before pulling the trigger thirty two times, things might have been different. Then again, he could never have afforded this meal so maybe this was all a means to an end. That was crappy logic, but when you were down to the brass tacks you grabbed onto anything to make it normal.
As Harold left his fork and knife on the mostly empty plate, he pushed back with his almost full stomach. “That was the best meal I have ever had,” he told the guard, “definitely worth the price of admission.”
The guard shook his head as he opened the door leading back to the last few hours of Harold’s life. “If you say so,” the guard said.
Harold smiled and stood up. Maybe not, but at least he will die with a full stomach.
Jeremy looked to his left and saw the shimmer of a column of warmer air. He banked his wings and drifted into the updraft, immediately feeling the air push him higher into the sky. He slowly turned in a tight circle, gaining as much height as he could before the lifting capability ran out. This was freedom. He could fly all day, soaring over the blood soaked battlefield below, but that wouldn’t help his team any. He pivoted and zoomed his vision. There was the opposing general on his dinosaur, lumbering through his grunts, making a meal of them. Well this guy hadn’t seen Jeremy yet, so time to get to work.
Jeremy folded his wings into his torso and pointed his head at the dino rider. He flared his wings and fingers about in little movements to control his position as he accelerated up to terminal velocity. That’s when he triggered his special ability, throwing away air friction. Jacob began to pick up even more speed.
Soon Jacob didn’t need to use his zoomed in vision, but that meant those below could see him easily. Bullets, lasers, and the occasional arrow zoomed by Jacob, but they all missed. Jacob let out a cry of victory as he closed on his foe. The opposing general saw him and turned his ferocious mount into Jeremy’s glide path. The general pulled back on the reins, causing his dinosaur to leap in the air to meet Jeremy. The dino roared before snapping Jeremy into his mouth.
That was exactly what Jeremy planned as he blew out the back of the dino’s head covered in brains and visceral. The opposing general fell from his mount onto the field below. Jeremy laughed as he began to climb again. The stupid newb had put all of his stat points into that beast and none on himself. Within seconds the battle was over as Jeremy’s grunts handed the general his lunch. Jeremy let out another primal scream as the simulation ended.
Jeremy took off the virtual reality helmet and blinked his eyes. The smoking remains of the battle field remained on the one hundred ten inch screen that dominated the far wall. Eileen, his date, laid huddled on one side of the couch, a look of horror on her face. “That’s how you spend your free time?” she asked in a soft voice.
Jeremy looked conflicted. He glanced at his victory on the screen and back at Eileen. He decided telling the truth was a better idea at this point. “Well yeah. Virtual reality is awesome,” he said.
Eileen looked at the helmet and the hand controllers still in one of Jeremy’s hands. Jeremy felt very self-conscious. It had seemed like a great idea at the time. “You did ask to see it,” he said. “I’m sorry. I know it seems a bit…”
“Awesome!” Eileen injected. “That thing rocks. Could I try it?”
“Really? You really want to try it?” Jeremy asked.
“Hells yeah,” Eileen said. Jeremy started to remove the rest of the hardware. “Unless you did porn in that thing. Then no way.”
Jeremy covertly hit a couple of buttons. “No way. That would be weird,” he said.