By Eric Lewis
“This is the worst day of my life!” Calli slumped on the couch and flipped through the holo feeds without actually watching any of them, her eyes still puffy and red from crying.
“Oh, don’t be so dramatic,” said Chel. “You can’t possibly be the first girl to get dumped on her birthday.”
“Okay, and also fired.”
“Whatever. It doesn’t have to be all bad— come on, let’s go out. C and C on the town! Francie’s has a new Europatini on the menu and I wanna try one or three.”
“The fruit in it’s grown on Europa. Something about the gravity makes it grow weird and taste funky.”
“Yech, I’m not much feeling it. You go on, I’d rather wallow…they didn’t even give me a severance!”
“I can’t leave my favorite roommate all alone like this—”
“Your only roommate. You know, my family was rich a hundred years ago, then they lost it all in bad business deals. Maybe I’m cursed…”
“Hmm. You know, that actually gives me an idea. I was saving it for myself but I think you might need it more.”
“What are you taking about?”
“Come!” Chel dragged Calli to a cabinet at the far end of the tiny apartment and took out a little silver box. Inside was a vial bearing the letters “RM” over a fluffy cloud logo, and inside that was a clear liquid with a slight haze to it. Or was it a shimmer?
Calli frowned. “Is that…?”
Chel nodded. “RemindMe. You know about it?”
“I think I read about it in that AU History class I flunked. Take it and relive a memory of one of your ancestors, right? But you never know who, or when. Didn’t think they made it anymore. Didn’t some people go crazy after taking it or something? And a coverup?”
Chel shrugged. “If you believe the media. It was just a few out of billions. The company said those people were already psychos and the experience just pushed them over the edge. You might be a little neurotic but I don’t think you quite qualify.”
“Was that before or after they went bankrupt?”
“Anyway, it’s still technically legal, and you can find some if you know where to look. Why not give it a try, it’ll be fun! If the present’s terrible, maybe the past will be more entertaining. Losing that crappy job can’t be worse than losing a family fortune.”
“I don’t know,” Calli said uncertainly.
“Don’t worry, I’ll be right here with you.” Chel held out the vial, and to Calli it seemed to shimmer just a bit more now, to beckon almost. “Here, happy birthday!”
“Well…fine. It must be sixty years old, probably doesn’t even work anymore.” She reached out and took the vial.
“But if it does you owe me a Europatini, deal? And you have to tell me all the juicy details of whatever you remember.”
“Fine, fine.” Calli sat back down on the couch and unscrewed the cap. “Here goes nothing…” She tossed the liquid back, made a sour face. “Tastes like skunk.”
“Like you know what skunk tastes like.”
“So how long does this stuff take to—”
With a blank expression the scientist turned from his reflection in the window: a balding, middle-aged fellow with worn-out spectacles and the one necktie he owned falling loose. “Hmm?”
“Oscar, try to pay attention,” the Director said with a sigh. “This is your invention, after all. I said, does it really work?”
Oscar cleared his throat, straightened his one tie. “Er, yes, sorry. Yes, the substance has shown a ninety-seven percent effective rate in advanced trials. It definitely works! In subjects where it doesn’t, there are no ill effects.”
“Hmm. Biovius’ll have to offer refunds to those three percent. Note that in the expenditures line.” The marketing manager sitting next to the Director nodded without looking up from the pad he scribbled on. “Now Oscar, since your wonder drug seems to have finally passed human trials, I think we can talk about production and distribution. We’ll start out in the Atlantic Union first, build demand, then launch worldwide after a year or so—”
“Hold it. Hold on one minute.” The interruption came from Oscar’s supervisor, who didn’t look pleased. Oscar swallowed a lump in his throat.
“Er, yes Elias?”
“What’s this line in the final efficacy report? Line six seven two: ‘Engrammatic tachyotranscription integrity ninety-nine point nine eight percent.’”
“Oh. Oh! Well, that’s the integrity of the engrammatic—”
“In Inglisch!” said the Director.
“Um. Let’s see if I can explain…you see, it’s the classical problem in pharmacotachyonics. The decay particles don’t experience time—one direction is the same as the other. The drug’s metalorganic network binds to memory centers before undergoing tachyon decay. When imprinting one entangled engram to another inherited across the t-vector—er, through time, I mean—you have to make sure it doesn’t rearrange any other engrams in the wrong direction. Personality engrams, for instance. And we can…pretty much.”
“Yes! In only zero point zero two percent of subjects does a rare DNA mutation correlate with evidence of reverse engrammatic overwrite. Statistically meaningless, really.”
“Reverse…Oscar, I’ve no idea what you just said,” droned the Director, beginning to lose patience.
“I do,” said Elias, his voice aquiver with barely-contained fury. “What he’s saying, what he’s never once mentioned to me before, is that in some cases—”
“Zero point zero two percent!” Oscar squeaked nervously.
“—the subject could become, for want of a better word…possessed by the memories of their own ancestor.”
The Director’s chubby face went ashen. “What?! Sweet Christ!”
“Sir, I swear I knew nothing of this—”
“Now Elias,” Oscar protested, “you signed off on all my reports—”
“There are hundreds of reports! I can’t possibly read every—”
“We’d get sued out of existence,” growled the Director, “we’d be ruined! Those weasels at KomodoDyne would laugh their fat asses off! No, no this project is finished.”
“Please, sir,” Oscar begged, “if I could just have a little more time I know I could work out—”
“We’ve given you extension after extension,” said Elias. “Extra time, extra people and resources, all because we believed in you. I believed in you, and this is how you repay me! Did you really think you could slip this by unnoticed? This is an affront to science itself!”
“I…I j-just…” Oscar stammered, his face as red as the Director’s was white. “I just wanted to make history.”
The Director stood up stiffly. “You very nearly did, in the worst possible way! You won’t get another chance, not on my watch. Clear out your office; I want you gone by the end of the week.”
“W-what? You can’t! You can’t do this to me! I was so close…”
“In recognition of your past work I’ll let you resign rather than be terminated in disgrace. But make no mistake, one way or another your time with Biovius is over.” The Director stormed out of the conference room with the marketing manager in tow, still scribbling numbers into his lines.
Oscar stared at his boss, mouth hung open in shock. “Elias, you can’t…”
Elias only shook his head. “I’m sorry, Oscar. I really am.”
Having devoted the past twelve years of his life to a now-useless invention, Oscar’s little office contained pitifully few personal effects, and clearing it had taken a matter of minutes. He sat looking at the secured data drives and reams of lab reports stacked along the walls, all the exclusive property of Biovius Pharmacorp Limited.
It can’t end this way, he thought. It mustn’t! No, he wasn’t finished yet. “No, I’ll show them,” he muttered to himself. “I’ll show them the price of standing in the way of genius.”
That night Oscar visited a most disreputable part of town to meet with a most disreputable personage. Sometimes his research required certain nonstandard equipment not available even to a powerful pharmacorp, necessitating alternate means of procurement. After thumbing a pad to approve transfer from the company’s secret offworld credit account, Oscar accepted a tiny package from this disreputable personage.
“Un plaisir as always, Docteur.”
Oscar just nodded, shoved the item into his pocket and stalked away, fighting the urge to run with each step.
The next day he removed his spectacles, plugged one of the drives into his office terminal and accessed every bit of data in rapid succession. Far too rapidly for any human eye to discern, but not for the optical recorder embedded into an otherwise normal contact lens. A wireless tightbeam sent the data to Oscar’s home server—another nonstandard procurement. When all the information had been copied he inserted the next drive. Then the next, and the next. Two whole days he sat, absorbing every iota of his life’s work. On the day of his departure only one document remained. Before activating the recorder he pulled up the final efficacy report and went to Line 672. Elias is right, he thought, it’s a dangerous flaw. I can fix it, I know I can! With the flick of a finger, 99.98% became 100.00%. I just need to buy a little more time…
A week later Oscar strode into the tasteful, leather-upholstered office of the Director of KomodoDyne Corporation and laid a networked datapad on her desk.
“Amazing…” the Director whispered as she read, “absolutely astounding! I won’t even ask how you managed to smuggle this out. And it really works? We’ve been trying at it for years, but—”
“It works,” said Oscar with a confident nod.
“Then my friend, you’ve just made yourself a very rich man.” They shook hands, and Oscar beamed.
“Thank you! Oh, thank you, thank you! I can get to work on the final touches right away, if you could show me your lab space I’d like to get set up—”
“I’m sorry, that won’t be possible.”
Oscar’s heart skipped a beat. “What? I-I don’t understand. I thought—”
“Well this iscorporate espionage Oscar, the invention belongs to Biovius. We can’t let out that you gave it to us, and we certainly can’t hire you. We’d get sued. We’d be ruined!”
“But you…you can’t do that. No, not again!”
“Don’t worry, you’ll retire early, very wealthy. Get yourself a nice young trophy wife. Relax, pop out a few brats, whatever. But no one can ever know this drug came from you. You understand, don’t you?”
Oscar sunk into a tasteful, leather-upholstered chair, dejected. Bastards, bastards all!
“Don’t look so glum, this is a win-win! We’ll take over from here.” The Director leaned in close with a grin. “Now, this is all the data we need, yes? You haven’t left out any important little details, anything like that?”
Oscar gave her an angry sneer, and the corner of his mouth turned up, just a tick. “Nah. Not a one.”
“…what?!” Calli jerked upright, took a desperate breath as though she’d been suffocating for a century. She looked left, right, then straight ahead at Chel with no hint of recognition in her still-red, still-puffy eyes. “What happened—oh!” She put a hand to her throat, like she was shocked at the sound of her own voice.
“Hey, you tell me,” said Chel. “See anything interesting?”
“H-how…how long has it been…?”
“You were only away for like, a second. So, tell! Did you learn any sordid family secrets?”
Calli stared a moment, then glanced at the holoscreen where the upper corner displayed the current time…and date. Realization seemed to wash over her. Zero point zero two percent. And the corner of her mouth turned up, just a tick. “Nah. Not a one.”
“Huh, that’s too bad. Well we can still go out if you want.”
A moment’s pause, and Calli said in a voice no longer quite her own, “Sure, why not? I have all the time in the world now.”
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