Faded boots crunched down on dirtied snow as she made her way down the sidewalk, clutching a bag of cheap groceries to her tighly, I can’t believe I’m doing this…
It was a path she knew quite well, from her own newly-purchased sublet, across 14th and Briar, and down to the townhouse she had once called home. Even dampened by snow and darkened by the hour it was, the faded tan face of siding and custom windows gave the complex a light, a warmth to it that she wanted to miss. But she also didn’t want to be looking at it again.
Pulling her hood tighter over silvering blond hair, Dr. Maria Foycen carefully took the slush-coated steps to the door and knocked. The doorbell was easily within reach, but Maria knew that the house’s occupant despised the chime and would probably ignore it. Foycen’s instinct told her that someone was home, the car was right where it was supposed to be and half-buried in snow, And Emily hates taking the bus…but she used to hate having a dark house, too…
Maria sighed to herself. She had known it was a gamble to come here and likely a mistake, they hadn’t parted on good terms, or even amicable ones. The smile she had first fetched across a stuffy library during a campus fundraiser had been crushed and buried under things Maria never understood fully. Work had been work, there was always work. She and Emily had quickly grown together in pursuit of science as well as stability and affection. Bio-technology was growing as fast as any other field, and they were going to be partners of the frontier.
And then, just over a year ago, Dr. Emily Callen had gone to a lecture in Boston and never really returned.
It wasn’t like Georgetown University was some poor podunk school for people who couldn’t make it as a fry cook, it was a beacon, had been their beacon, of study and discovery. But when Emily had come back, suddenly millions of dollars in research and technology was “a blind idiot’s mission to take what they couldn’t assimilate…” or even worse, “pointless”. It had been that one argument that made for the first time Maria had stormed out of the townhouse, forming the cracks that would lead to shattering of her heart. Maybe something had snapped within her, Maria had thought at the time. Trying to be an innovator had no measure of professional or personal stress. Maybe the university had suddenly demanded more of Dr. Callen that she couldn’t deliver, as their last paper on chemical imbalances in cells during various stages of healing after trauma had been met with little fanfare, much to their dismay. Or maybe it was me…maybe I just became too much. To much to handle, too much to worry about… was getting married REALLY so bad an idea?
Whatever it was, it had grown a lot worse in the past week. Emily had always been a bit…eccentric, but never to a grating or annoying way. She was just…herself. Since the Boston conference though, Maria had noticed right away that Emily’s attention was more on research that developing lectures, maintaining a relationship, or even sleep sometimes. Yet something in the past week and outright pulled Callen away from the school altogether. No classes taught, no witnesses to where she might be. If not for her email requests, she may as well not exist.
When the locks on the door clicked and shuddered to come undone, Maria jumped slightly. She never locks BOTH locks…I wonder…
Whatever thought she had was punted away as a mass of greasy hair, unusually pale-bronzed skin and cheap cigarette smoke stood before her as a disheveled wall. “Christ, Em! You look like shit!”
Emily grunted a response, but made way for Maria to enter, “Been busy. I’m onto something, something big, babe. I’ve finally found a cause worth studying!”
While none of that made sense, or even sounded like her, Maria felt the faintest flash of feeling in her cheeks at that. A feeling which smashed against Emily’s sudden deceleration. “Worth studying? As in, years of bio-engineering and education just mean jack shit now?”
Callen waved both her hands as if she were swatting a thousand flies, “No, nononono…no, I mean, er, well, the next level. The REAL engineering!”
Maria put her bags on the kitchen island so she could place her hands on her hips. “Funny, my study on the interaction between theta waves of the brain and carbon filaments in implants felt like pretty fuckin’ real engineering to me…”
The sickly doctor suddenly leapt up to clasp Maria’s hands in hers, “But that’s it! Don’t you get it? You started to look, then just gave up and went onto something…something else! I!” she patted her chest, “I finished it!”
Her brain was on fire, comfortably seated in aged rage and disgust at her former love’s condition. She should have stomped out right then and there. If not for Emily’s goddamn kryptonite smile.
“Alright,” Maria sighed, shrugging in defeat, “what did you find?”
Emily practically yanked her towards the basement steps, “Not found, BUILT!”
They’d had a lot of plans for the basement level; storage, a reading nook, maybe even a nursery, but not this. Piles of boxes and containers were crammed in the corners, papers upon papers were strewn everywhere else, and the stench of smoke and stale air hung like a deathly blanket. It was no wonder Dr. Callen looked like a shell of herself.
“What the hell,…Em, what is all this?!”
Emily pulled her to the center table, where a workstation had been shambled together with tools that one didn’t normally see outside a hospital or laboratory. Maria had no doubt that some poor equipment manager at the university was going to have a coronary when they saw all that was missing.
And then there was what all that equipment surrounded. A coppery disc with wiring wound around it like a constrictor. Within the disc was a cross of some kind of silvered supports which held a small orb stable. What looked like micro-electronics and a small plug composed the orb, all wrapped carefully in a mesh of gold.
“Am I supposed to know what this is?” Maria asked flatly.
A question that seemed to genuinely stump Emily, “How do you not recognize your own work? This thing is the answer! Bio-engineering, environmentalism, the world! All of them are going to benefit from this!”
Maria maintained her stone composure, which seemed to really rile Emily, “Simple! This filament, like you thought originally, is carbon and titanium. Had to make it last. When the brain hits a solid state of theta-wave production, it stirs the filament, which makes this, “she pointed at the orb with a shaking finger, “spin like crazy! That spin generates a magnetic field, just a small one, but enough to get amplified by the outer ring! The human brain is literally a generator once this thing is installed in its host! All I need is a clinical trial!”
Maria didn’t want to believe it, that someone she respected, someone she had even loved, had just spouted this nonsense. What the hell happened in Boston?
“This…this is all bullshit.”
Emily’s smile collapsed on itself, “I…no, no it’s not bullshit! I know it works! I’ve seen it work!”
Maria shot back with a jab, “Let me guess, you saw this Boston form some crackpot “new-age” shithead and decided to, oh, I don’t know, say fuck-it to everything else because YOU wanted something else to focus on!”
Emily stepped back, shaking even more, though Dr. Foycen stepped forward to stay in slapping range, “All this bullshit! All this, and you didn’t ask me,” she began to count off, “you didn’t tell me, you didn’t even bother to be honest with me!”
Maria turned away, she didn’t want Emily to see a single tear that threatened to fall from oceanic eyes, “You threw us away…for this…and it’s all bullshit.”
“Baby…” Emily started, weakly, but a through shake of Maria’s head stopped that thought dead.
“You made your choice. I just hope it was worth it.”
Dr Foycen took only one step forward before a shaky hand grabbed her arm, but that wasn’t what alarmed her. It was the prick of a needle into her forearm. It had to be a perfect shot, trying to hit a vein on an uncooperative patient, let alone doing it on the first pass.
Unfortunately, when she’s at her prime, Dr. Emily Callen is very good with small implements like needles.
Suddenly, a wave of chemical sluggishness washed over Maria. She tired to slap Emily away, tried to run, tried to do anything resembling resistance. But whatever she had been hit with was just a powerful and illicit as the rest of the equipment that was in the basement and Dr. Foycen crashed onto the cold concrete floor. Her eyes shut and breathing slow, Emily made sure to check her still-beating pulse with quaking hands.
“I’m sorry, baby…but I have to prove this works. I know I can do it…You’ll believe. I know you will, they all will. We’ll make the world better… better. We’ll make it all better…you’ll show them how, for me…you’ll see.”
So, believe it or not, this one has actually been a long-standing idea I’ve had. Sure, you’ve heard it before, “the human battery” idea, but this approach ditches the gel-filled cocoon for something a bit more…personal. And how do these two posts relate? Hopefully one day I’ll show you.
I hope you all enjoy.