Chapter 62: The greatest gift

Chrissy found Lawson’s memorial ceremony rather simple.  It was requested this way by the new Facility Director, who had felt that after two months of being missing in action and presumed dead, the Colonel needed to be mourned and forgotten.  A short ceremony was his way of closing the book on the former leadership in an efficient manner and his new commander’s power to be made whole.  After all, it was only for a Colonel, the General had observed to his benefactors in Washington.

Feeling that the Council had somewhat written off their former boss quite fast, she had called Gill and asked for an update of the Colonel’s condition and Gill had replied that the system needed at least a few more weeks to re-grow his heart in vitro and attempt the autotransplantation.  She had read a lot about the procedure on her own and understood most of it, to Steven’s surprise.  As she had understood it, the body is a machine composed of a myriad of complex mechanisms and modern medicine was nothing more than an umbrella discipline that aims to understand those mechanisms so that it can be modified or repaired when necessary.

The thing that complicated matters for the doctors at the Inuit Station was the fact that Lawson had never used the transporter or entered the Core, which of course he couldn’t either way due to his current level.  However, if he had attempted to use either one, his molecular pattern would have been saved in the Facility’s database and the procedure would have been much simpler.  All they would have had to do would have been to replicate him a complete body using the medical replicator and upload his consciousness—his life essence, as most called it, and he would have returned better than new.

 

However, thanks to the short and solemn ceremony, she was left with plenty of time to pay a visit to her favourite university professor, as it was her habit since she had restored him to health a month earlier.  The Scottish professor had been teaching advanced molecular physics and quantum chemistry at Oxford University despite his motorcycle accident six years back in the Highlands that had left him paralyzed from the neck down and forced him to be placed on a respirator, which everyone assumed would be for the rest of his life.

Chrissy pleaded with her father, the new leadership, and even the Council, to have him returned to health and requested that he become an active member of the project.  Her request was ultimately granted in part because the professor was an expert in molecular science and recently made the headlines and the front page of the renowned magazine Science for his achievements in teleporting a chain of ions across his lab.  However, the first part was categorically refused, as the professor’s medical condition was public knowledge and curing his injuries would have had, as an effect, arisen too many suspicions.

One night, after inviting the professor and his aid for dinner, Steven and Chrissy politely asked him to dismiss his attending nurse and made him a once-in-a-lifetime offer.  Forty minutes later, amidst a deluge of tears and thanks, the professor rose from his wheelchair, disconnected his respirator, walked around a little, and exited the room.  When he ran past in front of his aid, she literally fainted.

Since that day, Chrissy was forced to hang on the edge of dismissal until the decision was reached to keep her on the project.  Steven never doubted it.  Although not an expert in politics, he learned enough in the last few months to know that firing people from the United Nations was hard, especially with friends and family in the right places.  Sears had also been in communication with them and as far as his prediction allowed, he had not received any data pertaining to her dismissal.

As Chrissy arrived at one of the newly converted labs, Professor Carmichael, or Adrian, as he preferred to be called—a feat she had yet to accomplish in front of him—was busy revisiting some of his old researches using the main computer to calculate the equations he had devised to confirm his theories as well as some new ones that he had found in the database.

“Chrissy, thanks to you and this place, I have seen and confirmed more theories than I ever have believed possible.  People think of me as one of the great minds of my generation, but seeing all the Builders’ knowledge in physics makes me feel like a primary school student learning his letters and forming his first words.”

“Aye, after many months here, I have come to feel the same way,” Chrissy acknowledged.  “You have accomplished so much in your life despite your debilitating condition that I can’t imagine how the world would be without the benefit of your work, and that still counts for something.”

“Perhaps, but my work is now over, like a typewriter repairman whose work has been rendered obsolete by the invention of the computer.  My work is now obsolete as well.  Everything I have imagined and attempted to prove has been proven and all I have been doing since I have regained the use of my body is trying to relearn everything I thought I knew,” explained the professor.

“As an engineer, I don’t think I can invent or modify the Builders equipment, so my work now is to understand and reverse-engineer the things I have seen, in the hope of understanding what makes it work,” she said, hoping to make him feel better.

“At first, my desires were basic:  Walking, running, eating on my own again... and that’s not mentioning my bodily functions.  Now that I have done everything I wanted to do, all I hope is to be able to resume my work of expanding humanities’ understanding, although I don’t see that happening in the next century.”

“Because everything we have imagined and some more that we didn’t even dream possible have already been invented and are being used every day inside the Facility?” she asked.

“Among other things, yes,” answered Carmichael.  “But the most frustrating thing is all the effort and time I have wasted in my life.  All the theories that I have been working on had already been disproved by the Builders.”

“Maybe we needed to have someone to do the legwork for us,” Chrissy offered.  “In school, I have learned the painful way to calculate the square root manually, which allowed me to understand the logic behind it.  If I had been taught only to do it on the calculator, maybe I would have lacked something.  Today, we focus on the result and not on the way to solve the problem.  That’s where people like you come in.”

“Your point has merit, but I can’t help but feel as if I have lost valuable years of my life working on something which others had already solved and applied to their daily lives.  The best example I can think of would be Thomas Edison devoting his life to invent and perfect his motion picture camera to make the first silent movie possible and then, being invited to view James Cameron’s Titanic on a digital theater screen.”

“I can’t deny that I would be shocked for sure,” she acknowledged.  “But, there is a comforting thought, at least for you.”

“Please, do tell.  I can use some of those right now.”

“When we told you of the possibility to heal you fully, there is something that we have not mentioned to you,” said Chrissy, thinking that she had not been consulted on it beforehand either.

“Go on.”

Chrissy took a deep breath and continued, “You see, we are not supposed to talk about it—”

“Then don’t.  You guys have given me my life back at great risk to your careers,” the Professor interrupted.

“No, I need to say it.  You have more than a second chance at a normal life again.  You have an unlimited amount of it to enjoy.  You can curse Steven for it later, if you must,” At that, she grinned.

“What?  I’m not sure I follow.”

“He has seen fit during the procedure to stop your aging process.  For all intents and purposes, you are now immortal.”

“What?  Are you kidding me?” he snapped back at her.

“Uh, no, but Steven felt that.  Oh, I’m sorry, really sorry,” she repeated.  She was on her way to add that it was reversible, when he cut in.

“You are sorry?  How could you be sorry for something like that! You have no idea how long I have desired this.  But with my condition, I had not allowed myself to hope, as I knew that I would be long dead before humanity achieved the means to secure this ultimate human goal.  Dying on your own terms, this is the greatest gift anyone can bestow upon a mortal man,” said the professor and as unexpected as the news had been to him, he found himself shedding tears of joy once more.  It took him a long time to sit down and recover and request her to take him to Steven so he could shake the hand of the man who had saved him from certain oblivion.

CHRISSY’S DIARY

Today will likely be the busiest day since we have arrived.

a)      Our illustrious new leader has decided to write off his predecessor.  A small ceremony for Colonel Lawson was held this morning.

b)      I have received my letter of reprimand this week.  I still believe we did the right thing though.

Nancy has managed to make our AC electric compatible.  That will allow us to connect our equipment directly to the Station’s power grid.  Like any electrical job, the power needs to be interrupted while the connections are made.  The Council ordered to have the Chamber’s ‘Preparation Room’ breached while the power is down.  I am not sure what gaining access to the controls will do… Sordana confirms that if the user doesn’t have the proper level, he or she will not be integrated inside the Core.  The Council knows that, but they will go ahead, regardless.  They have already ordered the evacuation of everyone right after lunch.