February 22, 2005

Worth Continuing?

It needs a lot of work/editing/etc, and I'm considering just abandoning it, but if someone cares.... I'll continue it.

Chris

--
Second Spring
Prolog:

He hadn't had to wait in line long, it was a pretty mellow day on the mountain. The young woman behind the counter asked him, "How may I help you sir?"

"One Tram ticket please."

"Certainly, nineteen dollars please.", she had a slight accent, Brazilian? He thought about that as he passed her a twenty dollar bill. He looked up through the grand glass wall which gave a terrific view of the mountain. He saw the Tram was gliding its way into the station. "Good timing," he thought.

She passed him his change and the ticket and he made his way to the embarkation area. There wasn't much of a line to speak of, Tuesday morning mid February, with no real holiday traffic, was a pretty good time to go skiing in Tahoe. All things considered, this was a pretty terrific way to end things.

He climbed into the Tram and settled in for the trip up the mountain. The wind was pretty calm, there was no swaying of the tram and the air was amazingly clear, giving him a good view of the mountain below. A few minutes passed before he saw his destination. At the peak of the first mountain there was a stanchion that held up the cableway for the Tram. There, that was the place to do what he had come to do. It would have some impact, that's for sure. They had been right, it was perfect. An almost perfect cliff.

If he timed it just right, the people on the Tram would see it as it was happening. Yes, that was the place. Michael spent most of the time enjoying the view, breathing in the mountain air.

A voice from behind him, female, said "Beautiful, isn't it?"

"Yes, it is.", Michael turned to see a young woman next to him, maybe all of 25. Cute snowboarder on her way up the mountain. He saw a pair of ipod headphones draped over her shoulder. "What are you listening to?"

"Ah, this, just some dance music, helps me keep my rhythm on the slopes. What about you? I'm Kayla, by the way", she stuck her hand out.

Michael was surprised, why so friendly? He wasn't old enough to be her father, but he was at least 12 years her senior. He shook her hand. "Michael. I'm actually not listening to anything, except you of course."

She smiled, "Well, what's that then?", pointing at a bulky item on his wrist. Along the wrist in bold type were the characters 'GA-Vp2'

"Oh, this, it's a GPS unit.", he lied.

"Oh, okay. A skier, huh? Where are you planning on going?"

"Oh, just down the face here."

Her eyes got wide, "Where? It's a little steep there, I don't even know if you can ski there today."

"Oh, I can," he said, it would be a short trip for him. His last.

"The cover is kinda sparse, don't you think?"

"Sure, but I think I've found a line I can traverse."

"Cool." She said, "Where are you from?"

"Oh, I'm from the Bay Area, you?"

"Oh, really?", she smiled, "I'm from San Francisco. Where in the bay?"

"I'm in Mountain View, not far from 85 and 101."

"Ah, do you work in computers."

He chuckled, if she only knew, he felt like he had been surrounded by the things for a decade, "No, I work for a biotech firm down there."

"Biotech? Like genetic engineering?"

"No, more like medical devices. My specialty is in creating very small medical devices to monitor the health of a patient."

"Hmm, interesting."

"And you?"

"Oh, I'm a photographer, I shoot weddings and do some fine art work."

"Oh, nice. I love photography, but only as a hobby for now. Terrifically fun stuff though. I haven't shot a proper film camera in some time."

"Well, you should come up to the city and maybe we can go shooting."

"I'd like that, I love San Francisco.", he said as the Tram slid into the end station.

"Alright, be careful though, maybe I'll see you at the Sundeck?", she asked. The sundeck was a bar at the base of the mountain.

"Maybe, here...", he fished a card out of the back pocket of his jeans. He had a card in every pocket of his jeans, he didn't want there to be -any- mistake of who he was. The cards themselves were a dense polymer, unlikely to be ruined by what he planned to do. He found it ironic his card would survive what his body would not. "Give me a ring sometime and we'll get together. Maybe I can buy you dinner."

This action on his part was a bit nervy, he had no real expectation of surviving the next hour, much less into next week, but she was pretty cute and he was single. You never know, he thought.

"I'd like that.", she said. She took her snowboard and they left the tram. They walked out of the building and they attached themselves to their various accoutrement. Her into her board, he onto his ski's. She tuning her ipod, him turning on his 'GPS', which began to buzz its ominous little buzz as a small number 6 began to glow a baleful dark red glow.

He watched her as she gave him a wave as she skied off. He pointed his skis down a different directions and started towards what might be, for him, the end of his life.

This was neither good, nor bad. He was going to die anyway. A nasty stomach cancer had metastasized and riddled his entire body with little cancerous clumps. His kidneys, his liver, pretty much any important organ seems to have been colonized. The fact was that he wasn't in much pain, it just wasn't like that, but he was dead in weeks regardless and at least, he thought, his death would have meaning.

His friends had provided for him: gobs of vicodin, a week on the slopes as a last hurrah, a credit card with no real limit. He'd had a good time, finished a couple of really good books that he wanted to finish, ate some fine cuisine at some of the nicer restaurants on the mountain and now, it was his turn. His turn to die.

Michael had been at peace with his fate for some time. When he had received his diagnosis, his overwhelming feeling was that he was thankful his parents weren't alive, it would have killed his mother if he had passed away before her and dad. His diagnosis wasn't a surprise, he had been inexplicably sick for some time, he should have gotten a diagnosis sooner, his doctor had said, and he might have fought it with chemo or any number of drugs. But his work had been too important, too...all consuming. He even now didn't regret taking the time to do all that work.

He schussed down a nice long run, his rhythm was right on, cut right, cut left, chose your line and drive down the mountain. His legs were already complaining. He had really overdone it the day before, skiing too hard. He had to remind himself that he had neither the body or conditioning of his 15 year old self. He had grown up skiing but had given it up when he had moved to California for college. The slopes were generally pretty far away and expensive, and all of his spare money went to rent and books for his classes at Stanford.

After he had graduated and gotten the job with SenseSix, he could have afforded it, but he really hadn't taken a vacation since he started 5 years ago. He wasn't a workaholic so much as an opportunist, he told himself, and where else could he have had as much fun? He had friends and colleagues and the odd girlfriend here and there, but his job was very fulfilling. He was using his brain more than he had thought possible and he was learning so much. But....that was all over now.

He saw ahead of him the stanchion for the tramway. He tapped the unit on his wrist and it switched from red to green and the vibration increased on his wrist. It was kind of annoying to him, but he knew it wouldn't keep the device from working. He pumped and skated his skis until he got going at a very good clip. There was a short slope leading to his destination, a cliff to the side of the tower holding the tram up. His timing was off, the Tram wasn't anywhere to be seen, so he slowed down a bit and looked behind him. It was right behind him and he could see people watching him. He decided to give them quite a show.

He started going faster and faster, the speed was exhilarating. The wind cutting against his cheeks, like a long cold slap, was less fun, but this was clearly the way to go. He gave the tram a thumbs up and got into a tuck as he got closer and closer to the cliff. He started counting, "One! Two! Three! Four! Five!"

Although they couldn't hear him, people observing him on the Tram were beginning to get an inkling that something was wrong. He wasn't turning and, if anything, he was going faster and faster to the out of bounds area which was pretty much straight down a cliff into a dense stand of trees. A blond woman in a blue snowsuit told her husband, "Look at this guy, he's going way too fast." More people went to the side of the tram to see Michael's stunt, which swayed the tram and alerted the attendant that something was up.

"nine....ten..."

"What's up?", he said walking to see what was going on in the back of the tram. He was a young man in his 20s.

As he asked that, Michaels tips crossed the lip of the cliff, and physics told the rest of that story. After a brief, beautiful flight that brought a smile, then a scream, to him, as he yelled out "Twelve! Thirteen!" Michaels body impacted with a small pine tree, driving his face through the back of his skull. The unit on his wrist, went to yellow and let out a small beep before the led switched back to the baleful red and then, nothing as its battery, like Michael's body, was dead.

His last thought had been: I wonder if she'll call.

Chapter 1


The smell. That was the thing no one could have warned him about. Everything smelled so bad. Or so good. It was intense. Michael rose out of the bath of lukewarm fluid.

"Michael?", Jeanne said, helping him up. He was naked.

"Christ, do you have to shout?", he replied as the fluid coarsed off his body into the tank and through the grate in the floor, "And could turn down the lights."

"Sure, Michael, sorry. Tom could you dim the lights?", Jeanne called out. "Here's a robe."

Michael pulled on the robe, a little self conscious about his nakedness. Now you know how the monkeys fee, He thought. "So... How'd it go?"

"I was going to ask you the same thing. You look alright. You look great in fact. How's your brain?"

"So far so good. Michael Kaminski, born 1993, last memory....", a flash came to him, "A tree. And shit....13? 12? It's a little fuzzy. I remember the damn vibration from that thing.", indicating the GA unit. The last time he had seen it was on his wrist on the mountain.

"Let's go over some particulars, alright? Have a seat over here.", she indicated a chair in the corner of the lab. Michael settled into it, and as he did, Jeanne and Tom started affixing sensors onto his head, wrists, chest and legs. They had him lean forward and they smoothed a long neural sensor along his spine to the nape of his neck. He heard the machinery giving cheery beeps as they started feeding data into the system.

"Okay, Michael. Calibration time. Touch your nose.", Tom said.

"Good, now clap your hands three time.

"Kay, now fingertips.", Tom said. Michael touched index, middle, ring and pinky to his thumb and then did the reverse.

"One more time.", Tom said, "Now tug on your earlobes. Good."

"Should I rub my head and pat my stomach at the same time."

"Don't laugh, that's actually a great consistency check for the monkeys, but we never know if it is the training or their obstinancy at fault when we run them through it.", Tom said, "Now, touch your forehead, good...."

"Well?", Jeanne asked.

"Well, he's pretty much spot on. Spine looks identical, maybe a little faster. Same with muscle control numbers and coordination. Oh, one more thing.", Tom hit a button on the machine. Michael received a sharp electric shock. "Yeah, look at this, pretty much the same...a little faster reflex response. The body is his. A little younger perhaps. But it's him alright. At least the wiring is on track. The software is your problem, not mine."

"Thanks Tom.", Jeanne said. "Well, Michael. It's my turn."

"Go ahead.", he said, then said somewhat louder, "At least you don't shock me. Tom, was that really necessary."

"Yeah, well....you know, mostly. It gave me the information I needed to certify that you are you. Don't you feel better about that?"

"Yeah, sure. Hey...what did you guys mean when you said, 'A little younger'"

"Ah, yeah.. so here's the thing Michael, the receiving clone was taking too long to gestate to adult form, so we didn't get the same amount of curing time we wanted. Because of that you are now only 26, not 35. Also, we didn't get a chance to replicate your old bodies scars and tattoos. We really wanted you back in your body. We've got a small problem."

"Well, what is it?"

"It can wait after we're done checking you out. First, log into this workstation.", she slid a keyboard monitor combination arm into his field of view. He logged into the machine, up popped his calendar and email. Three days had passed and he had 452 messages waiting. Out of habit his finger moved the mouse towards his mail application.

Jeanne's hand fell onto his, "That can wait. I wanted to check that your memory was intact for familiar actions. Now, I have some questions."

"Shoot," Michael said. He felt good, ten years younger, had he really ever felt this alive or was it some side effect of the transition.

"Okay. Name."

"Michael Gates Kaminski"

"Employee guid?"

"451-2023"

"Okay, name of your first pet."

"Max"

"First line of Alice?"

"Heh, that's pretty funny...'ALICE was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank and of having nothing to do'", Michael replied. His thesis had been on speech sythesis, and his demonstration had been a small animatronic head that spoke a variety of English dialects and he had chosen alice in wonderland as the source text. Alice as read by a Cajun, a Northeasterned, a Canadian and a British among others. He hadn't even known that Jeanne knew about that part of his life.

"Okay, good.", she smiled.

Well, your readings look like you. A little faster, but we can blame that on the clone aging issue. "

"How long had the clone taken to prepare?"

"The clone or the machinery?"

"Both, I guess."

"Well, we would have had you reinstantiated sooner, but the cloning mechanism got a contaminant in the amniotic solution, we had to flush it out and restart. I wish we had detected it sooner. We really need you pal. You making it through the process gives us more than enough ammo to keep the project going. That said, allowing you to kill yourself so publicly was a big mistake on our part. The resort was pissed. Once we go public about you, we might be looking at a lawsuit.", she said.

"Well, once they realize they were the place immortality was born, I can't imagine that'll be a problem anymore."

"You've always been an optimist."

"Tell me about it. But, it seems like it worked out.", Michael said.

"hmm. Anyhow....take a look at this monitor," she swung a display in front of him, stood up and shut off the room light. It was quite dark save for the green power led on the monitor.

Michael heard her typing on a keyboard behind him, and the monitor in front of him started to glow. First with a pale green then as it got brighter it transitioned to red the blue then white then back to black. He perceived it as being very bright. He felt a headache coming on. "Have any ibuprofen?", he asked.

"Not yet, we need you clean. Please Michael, keep your eyes on the monitor."

"Alright Jeanne," he did so, the screen was now a grid with dots appearing in the spaces, like a large scale game of checkers. Then this too faded through colors before fading to black.

"Well, your brain looks pretty normal...", she pressed a button, and a loud sharp noise scratch noise came from the speakers on either side of the monitor, scaring Michael and causing him to jump.

"I hate that part. ", he said.

"I know, that's why we use that noise, you hate it a -lot- and we can always get a good read on your reflexes with it.", she said, "Well, listen, I'm done with you, I want to crunch on this for a bit. Why don't you go clean up. Remember this body is brand new, it has -none- of your regular tolerances"

"I know I know," Michael swung his legs from the chair in preparation to stand.

"And Micheal,", She said, "No drugs, no pills, not even advil. Medical needs you clean. Nothing, okay?"

"Sure, no problem.", he replied, "Take it easy."

Michael walked to the door to the lab and waved his hand over the rfid patch. Nothing. He waved again.

"Michael. It's not there anymore, " She said, referring to the chip he no longer had in his hand, "New, remember. Here, take this."

Michael took a card from her hand, "Use this till yours is reinserted."

"Thanks.", he waved the card in front of the patch, the door opened and he walked into the decon area. The door closed and he screwed his eyes closed as he was bathed in UV light. The lab had been used by the CDC before they had taken it over. They didn't really need the decontamination facilities, but they had found it useful in impressing investors and in getting grants.

The outer door opened and he stepped into an anteroom, staffed by a single guard at a table. "Sign out please Dr. Kaminski."

Michael took the offerend pen and signed out. His signature was the same, he noticed. He passed back the pen and strode out into the hallway.

There was a blue stripe down one side of the hallway. On one side of the hallway were the labs and the other the offices and cube farms. It was a funny building. Michael walked to his office and considered that it was strangely appropriate that the wing that his office was in used to be the primate lab for the previous tenant. He swore he could smell the monkeys still. He waved his hand over the patch antenna and his door unlocked, he pushed it open and walked inside, welcoming the familiar , if slightly more potent, smell of his books.

As he lowered himself into his chair, he noticed a glass sat on his desk with the remains of a lemon wedge rotting at the bottom. He guessed that had left the glass on his desk before he had left for Tahoe. It wasn't unlike him to do this, and the smell was something rancid, but not very powerful. But he could taste the rotten lemon on his tongue. He took the glass, shook the lemon into the trash and walked to the sink in the corner of his office and as he cleaned out the cup...

1 comment:

Greg Stein said...

sure, continue... looks good...