ONCE UPON A TIME, there was a Company. Nanoplan Inc. It had a plan, it had endeavour, and now it had a mess.
"The Enhancer will be the greatest single advancement in human scientific history!"--the opening words of a now embarrassing bit of hubris, speedily on its way to the shredder.
The statement was excessive, issued by the otherwise conservative head of research for the now defunct "Project Rose".
Looking back, it was very much out of character, as Dr. Lorenz had built his career on staying with the crowd, not making waves and, unfortunately, not having any meaningful impact on science. This was to be his opus.
Not that his reputation had done anything but assure his appointment to the coveted head position of "Rose". He could rest on his laurels, given that his subordinates gave him the necessary respect, as did the corporate middlemen from Head Office, who, on occasion, came to inspect the facility and sign the necessary cheques.
Dr Lorenz never did understand the science of the project. The theories were vague and the applications speculative. There were those, however, who saw it worthy of investment and Dr. Lorenz, seeing a career opportunity beyond any he had ever known, jumped onto the bandwagon without bothering to mention how clueless he really was.
The project itself was housed in an old Montreal garment factory building that had been cleaned up and stocked with more equipment than would ever be required. Montreal had been chosen as it was close to the Head Office in New York, yet outside of the United States . . . in the event of complications.
The city's facilities had been useful a few years earlier for clandestine experiments on brainwashing and biological warfare. The local government was always agreeable, especially when promises of campaign contributions were involved. No more than $15 million in "oiling" would clear the way for an H-bomb detonation -- if required.
Rose was not so dangerous, but rules might have to be broken. It was hoped Rose would yield significant breakthroughs in a new technology, and that justified both economic and moral costs. The moral cost lay in the basement, in the foetal position.
Yet the money bothered the Doctor more than the state of the girl. She'd known...
In that unfortunate venture, lay many millions of dollars worth of research and development. Lorenz had to live with that. She knew the risks. No, she hadn't. Lorenz knew she hadn't. He hadn't. Nobody had. Nobody had realized that they had no idea of what they were doing.
Rose was the pinnacle of human/cybernetic technology, entailing an electronic brain implant capable of enhancing and magnifying all mental operations and producing an intellectual superhuman. Rose was also a fraud.
Dr. Lorenz was never as truly enthusiastic as he appeared. Experiments in the lab had been successful, but he still had trouble getting a handle on the theory of how and why the implant worked. Still, the position paid well and the prestige, had the project succeeded, would have been enormous. He had put himself on the list of recipients of the technology after all, but two of the Board of Directors had chosen to use their positions to jump the queue.
All that was moot now . . .
The surgery had gone well; the implant had taken . . . and now they had a vegetable named Grace Michaels. Grace, comatose and in the foetal position, was in a bed in the basement.
"The operation was a success, but the patient died," came to mind. Faxed memos traveled back and forth between Montreal and New York. Heavy guns from Head Office were coming in--members of the Board. This was a disaster: an inexplicable disaster.
The surgical team had been the best that money could buy. The implant, designed to discreetly be attached to several parts of the brain with the help of nanobots, had indiscreetly attached itself to numerous parts, and had, without any apparent reason, taken over the brain itself. It was transmitting more telemetry than it should, and on dozens of wavelengths. Grace's brain was operating, but in more ways than normal, and in some ways that made no sense at all.
Grace Michaels had been a professional student: "Miss Million Minors," a bright grade-skipping, wonder-child who, through grants, subsidies, scholarships, loans and bursaries, had spent the last few years gathering credits while avoiding graduation and the unfortunate realities of the workaday world. A true Goddess of Slackers, she had worked only three days in her life, each day at a different job. McDonald's (fired for eating a tofu and alfalfa sandwich in front of the customers), at P'tit Poutine (the boss spoke only two words of English "Work" and "Faster") and for three hours as a dancer at Le Sex Machine; she couldn't dance well.
Schools would no longer have her . . . banks were calling in years of unpaid student loans, her credit cards had melted (the fools had given her three!), and Grace, qualified to be unemployed in dozens of unrewarding fields, was desperate.
She had responded to an ad in the newspaper. The ad had offered $50,000 to anyone willing to undergo the experimental surgery. Now she was in a coma. She had never even seen the cheque!
Grace could hear sounds in the background. A radio had been left on to keep her company. If she were somehow still aware, at least she would be amused and informed. The radio was her only companion in the room.
There was, however, more than the room.