09 Apr Beta
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"Beta"Written by Shannon Higdon
Estimated reading time — 23 minutes
We live in a world where anything is possible and Dr. Dyson Lynch truly believed that. In fact, it was his credo and the science needed to make anything possible was his first and only true love. From the moment he saw his first diagram of an electron in the second grade he was hooked on the world hidden beneath the world on the micro and nanoscopic level. Determined to discover every veiled aspect the universe had to offer, Dyson’s was the type of mind that defined generations: a Newton, Einstein, Edison or Tesla. Once he even refused to explain one of his theories to Stephen Hawking because he, “just wouldn’t understand it.” Having very little patience for those who couldn’t keep up with his advanced intellect, which was nearly everyone, it often showed in his abrasive personality.
On just about any other person his perceived mental superiority might have seemed egocentric but for Dyson it was a fact as indisputable as the hours in a day. The sky was his favorite color: blue, wine came from grapes and no one would ever be as bright as Dyson Lynch. For this reason above all others, he rarely indulged in what lesser mind’s considered “entertainment”. He didn’t watch television or movies, nor did he read works of fiction. If he wanted to fall asleep with a good book, he usually settled on one of the many quantum mechanics textbooks stacked at his bedside…even if they were a little remedial.
That being said, he had, however, garnered a strong affinity for one particular piece of fiction in his nearly seven and a half decades of life: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Since its first publication in 1818 there have been many interpretations of the masterpiece; it having been seen as everything from a commentary on the nature of mankind and our desire to play God to the physical representation of man’s basest fears. In truth, Mary Shelley was only eighteen-year-old when she wrote the long standing staple of horror and was only inspired to do so by a wager with her friends and future husband as to whom could write the best short story. It was unlikely she imagined it to become the revered piece it would be and even more unlikely that she thought it would be seen as a “how-to” manual.
Obviously, the science in the original work was very ambiguous, Shelley having no real technical expertise to speak of. The narrative is very much a theoretical fantasy, quite possibly the first book that could be called “Science Fiction” and bore no basis in reality. At the turn of the 19th century, the world’s technology was in a very different place. The vanguard of science saw the first steam engines and a slow end to the horse and buggy; in striking dichotomy the 21st century was the first quantum computers and a quick end to naturally created DNA profiles.
We were, as a species, tinkering with the building blocks of life…creating new forms of life. We were breaking down matter to study the places in-between and poking our toes into the ocean of dark matter. Yet, with all our advancements, there was still so much that was unknown. In 2018 the idea of bringing the dead back to life was just as fantastical as it was in 1818 and Dyson Lynch felt that two-hundred years was long enough. It was time for the inspired notion of Frankenstein’s monster to see fruition.
It would be easy to assume that Dyson’s motivations lay in the places we feel comfortable seeing them…easy to believe his drive was based in the pain of losing a loved one or the desire to bring back a brilliant intellect. One might hope his passion came from lofty ideas, the advancement of the longevity of the species or just the pure pursuit of knowledge. None of these things could be further than the truth, however. The real reason was much pettier than that.
Dyson’s greatest desire was to be “the one”. The one to go down in the annals of history as a god among men and to do what only the Creator had been able to do before: breathe life into existence. It wouldn’t be enough to reanimate dead tissue. Mere twitching muscles weren’t what he sought and anything save a sentient existence would be considered an abject failure. With this in mind and no expense spared, “Project Shelley” was created. Originally it was to be called “Project Lazarus” but Dyson felt compelled to give credit to his true inspiration despite its farcical science and fictional results. Plus…how poetic would it be if he could cry out, “It’s alive…it’s alive,” at some point in the process?
Rather than robbing graves in the dead of night to salvage the parts they needed, the team Dyson had assembled took advantage of the billion dollar budget and grew their own Frankenstein’s monster. They began with one, base-line set of human DNA…Dr. Lynch’s own. Then through a series of DNA and RNA manipulations, tweaks as it were, and an abundance of stem-cells they grew their organs and body parts. The heart and lungs were developed in pigs while, oddly enough, things like ears and a nose where actually produced as attachments to mice.
There were other items that didn’t come from animals at all. The eyes, for example, were essentially fledged in Petri dishes and jars and integrated with the latest nano-technologies, making them far superior than that of the average human. It was the same with the nervous system and muscular structure, invisible electronic platelets providing quicker reaction times and strength. These enhanced augmentations were the main reason they didn’t just grow a complete clone of the doctor to begin with. The creation was to be called “Beta” because they, as natural humans, were the “Alphas”, the original version; Beta was to be the next level in evolution.
It took twenty-one of the best surgeons in the world, along with a team of nearly a hundred technical aides, to put the puzzle together and, in the end, they only lacked one piece. They had to install the coup de gras; Beta needed his brain. When all was said and done, it turned out to be both the most expensive and time consuming aspect of the entire project. What they had decided to do was create a central processing unit based on quantum technology which would act as the brain. It took close to six-hundred million dollars.
A real human brain could have been used, and initially it was the plan to do so. Months were spent arguing over the viability…not the morality, mind you, but the viability of using another person’s brain. With the money at their disposal and the strings they could pull, getting a brain wasn’t really that difficult. There was no shortage of “volunteer” brain donors. The issues mostly lay in the identity of the person used. Were they intelligent? Were they violent? But also in not knowing if latent personality traits would carry over. Would Beta think it was a twelve-year old girl or a death-row inmate? Would he still have the dreams and desires of these people? They were important questions to ask. Too much money, time and effort had already gone into Project Shelley to have Beta destroyed at its conclusion because it thought the wrong thoughts or asked the wrong questions.
The human brain was, in itself, the most complex central processing unit on the planet and, while they had the brain’s activities mapped perfectly, the complexity had proved too much to reproduce in the many years lead up to that point. That was until D-wave and DARPA gave the science community access to quantum computing; a form of computing that no one in the general public had an actual clue about. The science journals and research papers did an excellent job using incomprehensible jargon to conceal and withhold the most important thing about this new type of computer…nobody really knew how it worked. People are taught that the dimensional parameters around them, as well as their own being, were results of an evolutional process, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The signature of intelligent design was present on a sub-atomic level in all areas, including DNA.
That was one of the first realizations that the “secret science” organizations kept to themselves; now there were too many to count. Somewhere along the way the world’s science split into a schism. There were those considered to be at the forefront of innovation, researching cancer cures and rocket propulsion and then there were those who were truly “in the know” who, in military bases deep beneath the general population, were perfecting anti-gravity and quantum dimensional information transfers.
They had already proven the existence of alternate dimensions or a “multi-verse” of sorts as Hollywood liked to present the concept. That was part and parcel of the new quantum computers created by D-Wave. Most people thought that quantum computers were just the next evolutional step in computing, and in a very ignorant way, they would be right but what they didn’t know, or understand, was that what they had designed was a type of “computer” which stored its information, operating system and did all its computations in an alternate dimension.
They didn’t even know where it went, but they found out early on that it could sustain a virtually endless amount of data, not being hampered by anything as trivial as a SSD or hard-drive, and send instantaneous information over an unlimited space. Geordie Rose, the CTO of D-Wave, described it as “kneeling at the altar of an alien god” and it all went to the fact that there was still so much they didn’t know. Even though the field was still in its infancy and despite their ignorance, the otherworldly computing power potential was the closest they could come to recreating a brain. It, when they finally figured it all out, would be what would birth authentic artificial intelligence or “the singularity” as it was known in tech circles.
The single biggest obstacle to the creation of Beta’s brain was conquering the sub-zero temperature parameters that the quantum system required. The solution was elegant and complicated at the same time and, as long as Beta didn’t suffer any significant head trauma, probably wouldn’t result in a small atomic explosion that would wipe out the entire facility and its small corner of the state. Risk and reward went hand in hand, however, as they were all keenly aware.
Dr. Lynch’s complete brain scan took nearly a month to complete with him needing to be put through a large number of psychological scenarios in order to determine the total scope of, not just his intellect, but his personality too. When they had finished, the total amount of information gathered had to be stored in a separate facility off-site in a supercomputer larger than the infamous IBM Blue Gene/P and then downloaded in increments into Beta’s CPU. That process took nearly a year and provided the most tedious and personally vexing moments; several times Dyson wondered if incompetence was justification for murder. Not that anyone on his team was actually incompetent…but if they didn’t meet the exacting requirements he set forth or input code in the same specific manner in which he would…well, it tried his frayed patience. For Project Shelley, perfection was not too much to ask.
It was during the last month of Beta’s brain transfer when Dylan had “the breakthrough”, so to speak. Transferring more than just a copy of his mind to Beta had been something of a secret side-project that only the doctor and a few of his hand-selected assistants knew about and had been toying with in tandem with Project Shelley. It, much like copying and transferring his mind, seemed to be no more than fantasy early on, but advancements were being made exponentially over the last few years as the concept inched closer and closer to reality. Dyson Lynch wanted to transfer his consciousness into Beta as well.
The science was beyond cutting edge…even in the secret science community. Dyson’s equations and theories were at the very tip of what humanity had been able to achieve thus far and he realized that significant risks would come with such an attempt…but he had to try. Successfully bringing Beta to life would give him an opportunity to play god; successfully integrating himself into Beta would make him a god. Like any problem in life, he had to ask himself if the reward outweighed the risk and, frankly, he could think of no greater reward.
The same characteristics of the quantum computing that made Beta’s brain possible in the first place were what also led to his breakthrough and a digitized form of his own consciousness that would involve an instantaneous replication of his exact neuron brain activity once Beta had fully downloaded all other aspects of Dyson’s being. By that point Beta should be an identical host just waiting for the proper input that would be, in essence, him. If it worked properly, he would close his eyes in one body and open them thirty seconds later in his new body: Beta. The process, unfortunately, required an enormous amount of radioactivity which would, for all intents and purposes, destroy the original copy.
So one major risk he had to assume was that the new version of Dyson Lynch that opens his eyes in Beta…won’t actually be the same one. Theoretically, it was possible that his current body and accompanying consciousness could die while a new one continues on with the exact same memories, believing they were the same person when, in fact, they would be nothing more than an intricate copy. It was a disturbing idea and the one he wrestled with the longest but, in the end, it once again came down to the risk/reward ratio. Besides, even if that was the way it ended up he would still live on in a sense and that was possibly all any of us got anyway.
Whichever the case would be, the morning of the transfer Dyson ate all the things he would have wanted in a “last meal”. An hour after that he had sex with Juliette, the beautiful physicist half his age that he had been exchanging casual flirtations with for the last six months. Finally, in the minutes leading up to being prepped for the procedure he had a cigarette after not having smoked one in twenty-two years. Before allowing himself to be strapped and hooked up to the massive, one-of-a-kind machine, Dyson took a good look at the Beta which was already loaded into its aqua-tank on the far side of the machine and being kept alive with a respirator and electric currents…an empty shell waiting to be filled.
Although he had overseen Beta’s construction, piece by piece, he had never really taken the time to appreciate the finished product with a beating heart, heaving chest and healthy hue. It bore more than an uncanny resemblance to the doctor…it was him. To his seventy-three-year-old eyes the creature’s form was nothing more than a memory of a reflection but it was a memory he knew well…an exacting replica of Dyson when he was thirty-three. His initial reaction, and he supposed it couldn’t be helped, was one of an odd sadness. It was much like any old person who sees a picture of their younger self and longs for the days when their bodies were vehicles and not prisons. It was fleeting, however, and replaced by an excited anticipation he had probably not felt since he was thirty-three.
Just before inserting his breathing apparatus and being lowered into his tank, Dyson was asked by Dr. Lenemoy if there was anything he wanted to say, “just in case”. It pissed him off at first; he really didn’t need those type of invading thoughts but upon a moment’s reflection he changed his mind…not before shooting Dr. Lenemoy a death-gaze, however.
“Nothing will go wrong today people.” Firm and authoritative, it was a command rather than a statement. “We are all about to make history…and sadly, no one but us will ever know.” There was a genuine round of chuckles…they all got the irony. “If, for any reason, I am unable to lead our team after today there are contingencies in place and you will continue forward to break the bonds that nature has placed on us.” He raised and shook one fist, wires dangling. “And, as a species, we will create something greater than ourselves!” The small team in the room broke into applause as Dyson inserted the breathing tube and gave the signal to be lowered into the light green liquid.
It was impossible to hear anything once he was inside but he could see the room’s activity bathed in a green glow. A monitor lowered before the tank as the screen came to life. There was a countdown from five at which point an elaborate mathematical equation appeared…it was one of Dyson’s own theories. After a few seconds a second countdown appeared and it was his cue to close his eyes and solve the equation from the beginning to its end at which point the transfer would, in theory, be complete. The equation was a doorway spark to the information downloaded into Beta’s memory banks, a crank of the engine. It also served to keep his brainwaves calm and well within the parameters they were supposed to be in.
Frankly, Dyson had no real idea what to expect the process to literally feel like. He had theories…hopes really, but nothing concrete. Ideally, it would be a painless, seamless transfer but he was not nearly naïve enough to expect it to go that way. The amount of power that was about to surge through his body couldn’t possibly go unnoticed. Dyson closed his eyes and began to work the through the long string of mathematics. It was one of his favorites…the one that made his consciousness transfer possible in the first place, and he knew it well.
A third of the way through there was a blinding zapping of electricity and his train of thought was lost completely, washed away by a clean, white nothingness. It was still him…and he was somewhere; but he had not body nor desires and wants. He was aware that something had seemed terribly important just a moment ago but now there were no goals that he could remember…no important thing that needed to be done. There was just…being. There was a type of comfort in it…the floating…the lack of purpose. If he had a face it would have been smiling.
Time did not seem to exist in this place, making it impossible for him to determine how long he had been there before the black dot appeared in the distance which grew larger and larger by the second. He felt himself being pulled toward the gaping black hole and, although he tried in vain to fight it, it eventually sucked him right through and with it came feeling and the unpleasant sensation of having a body again. The black was the back of his eyelids.
His head was pounding and aching and his body hurt all over. This didn’t feel right. Dyson struggled to open his eyes and move his hands and legs but his muscles refused any commands. It took several long seconds for his system to reboot and to remember just exactly how to open his eyes. In the time spent grappling to regain control of his facilities he could hear voices…far off at first but then getting closer…louder. Suddenly they were accompanied by another noise…a high-pitched, mechanized whirring sound, like a dental drill or…bone saw.
“Miss Courting, please make sure you take notation of each organ and please, please, please guys, let’s not fuck this up.” It was Dr. Liedner…Dyson recognized his voice. He was, for all intents and purposes, the mortician of the facility. Andrew Liedner was a decent surgeon in his own right, but his area of expertise as far as Project Shelley was concerned was in dealing with the cadavers, most especially during the brain transplant experimentation period. It made absolutely no sense for him to be in the room right now and, without a doubt, the man shouldn’t be giving any type of orders. He wasn’t even classified for the final procedures. Why the hell was he hearing that idiot?
Dyson had already gathered that something must have gone wrong with transfer…or at least deviated from any plan they had prepared for. For starters there was the sense of gravity and the feel of the cold steel on his backside; he was no longer in the aqua tank…or even the recovery facilities for that matter. The electric whirring was right above his chest now and Dyson could feel someone’s warm breath against his nipple. Was that fool not even wearing a mask?
Dyson began screaming at his eyes to open…his muscles to move and just when he had reached the point of nearly giving up there was a slew of gasps around him.
“He moved!”, “Oh my god”, “His finger!”, “Is he alive?” were reactions he heard. It was enough to re-motivate and within a few seconds Dyson’s eyes were fluttering open and he was laboring to sit up off the cold metal table. Dr. Liedner, who was holding a bone-saw, and several other technicians all pulled back in shock, no one even lifting a finger to aide him. On top of everything else…he was naked? What the hell?
“Andrew…” his voice was dry and cracking, “what is going on here?” The room looked at him as though he were an alien speaking a language from another world. Dr. Rita Borne, who held three PHDs, fainted and collapsed to the floor with no one around her making an effort to stop her fall. Everything felt foggy as he struggled to assess the situation; Dyson’s lightning fast intellect didn’t appear to be processing with the speed to which he’d become accustomed and that, more than anything, stoked the flames of fear that were slowly growing in his gut. After several long seconds of wide-eyed stares all around, Nick Forrest, one of Dr. Liedner’s technicians, came forward with a white robe and blanket. The action seemed to break the barrier of shock holding everyone in place and the lab which had been set up for a dissection became a flurry of frantic activity. It wasn’t that anyone knew what to do exactly, but the act of scurrying about with a false sense of purpose seemed to ease the frightened bewilderment that had overwhelmed the lab’s occupants. The only real result of the frenzied bustling, however, was to see the autopsy equipment relocated to areas where their presence wouldn’t be a reminder of what they had almost just done.
Dr. Liedner’s eyes were still as wide as saucers as he watched Dylan take in the commotion with what appeared to be silent reflection, certain that the brilliant scientist was quietly running the conundrum through his internal data bases to figure out what exactly had happened and very aware that the man was most likely the only one in the world that could. Unfortunately for Dyson, however, Dr. Liedner’s assessment couldn’t have been further from the reality of what was really happening inside the project leader’s mind. Dr. Lynch was trying to process information…just not what everyone else presumed it to be: the how and why of their current predicament. No…Dyson’s thoughts were as far from that as was possible. In the first few minutes of his return to consciousness, his mind began a slow regression…nearly unnoticeable; the pace, however, seemed to increase with each passing second. It was now at an extremely noticeable, exponential rate and if he could have remembered what “fear” felt like…he’d have been afraid.
Instead, the most pressing issue that plagued his cognizance in that moment was: what does the color “blue” look like? Of course this inquiry was followed closely by several more which, on the surface seemed quite trivial, but on a deeper level were the most important questions he’d ever pondered…mostly because he was quite sure that they were things he should’ve known the answers to. Was “Cocker Spaniel” the name of someone he knew…were they friends? Was a “rectangle” a type of tree or a type of car? Did he have a mother and father, were they still alive…and if so, what were their names? Was a “doughnut” something you ate or wore around your wrist to tell time with? What was “time” again?
Like weaponized Alzheimer’s, Dyson’s wires had become crossed to such a degree that even the basest facts that every second grader should’ve known had to battle their way into perception. Somewhere within the jumbled mess of misfired neurons he was aware that this struggle for basic cognition was a new occurrence; he seemed to remember being very intelligent at one point in time and somewhat aware even that there was still a plethora of information stored in his data banks, just beyond his reach. His SSD had been hacked and the only thing his operating system was giving him was some scammer’s error alert.
Dyson turned to Dr. Liedner who seemed to be watching him with some kind of expectancy and the man whom he’d known just a moment before became suddenly unfamiliar. What was his name…something with an ‘A’…Allen? Eric? Chad? Barry? What was an “A” again? He wanted to say something to one of the people in the white lab coats…wanted to express the difficulties he was having…but words eluded him completely. At the exact moment that the gifted intellect of Dr. Dyson Lynch ground to a screeching halt, he had no way of knowing how truly fortunate he was to be suffering a stroke in a room full of doctors who could easily recognize the symptoms. Deep within the blissful, white obsolescence of his coma, Dyson was unaware of the emergency treatments he was receiving for the damage caused by what should have been a lethal dose of electrically charged radium. The old adage says that “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” however, in this particular instance that wasn’t quite the case; what hadn’t killed him had left him nearly dead.
Had he been in any top-side hospital in the continental United States, Dyson would have died…despite the depth of treatment his celebrated cerebral prowess would have garnered him. Being in the center of the most advanced biological medical amenities at humankind’s disposal, deep beneath the earth, had advantages the normal person could never conceive. That didn’t even touch on the fact that the secret laboratory doubled as a holding facility for multiple copies of every organ in his body that weren’t just compatible with his…they were his. He was in the uniquely fortunate position of having his entire radiated body shut down mere yards away from his stockpile of spare parts.
Of course there was one thing they weren’t able to replace, and the one thing he believed at one point in time that made him irreplaceable: his brain. Swollen to a degree that his skull would no longer comfortably house it, the team were forced to remove the top portion of his cranium with a bone saw. For nearly a week he existed in a hermetically sealed tube while his grey matter remained exposed. There were a couple of moments while he was floating in the abyss that a flash of lightening captivated his attention, completely oblivious to the fact that they were actually camera flashes. Even though they knew it would probably mean their jobs if they were caught, several of the less prestigious staff members couldn’t resist the temptation of taking a “selfie” with the patch-work monstrosity that only vaguely resembled the man who once graced the cover of “Time” magazine as its “Man of the Year.”
Once the swelling reduced, they were able to reattach the skull-cap and cover it with grafted, synthetic skin; but it took an additional month of healing before they felt it was safe enough to bring him back out of the coma, which had been maintained intentionally now for the last few weeks. Once they finally did, Dyson was beyond any degree of relief he’d ever felt before…his mind seemed to be functioning properly again. It was still hazy with the same drug-induced lethargy that was and would continue to affect his body, but there was still an immediately noticeable increase in his computing power from his last stint in consciousness. Basic knowledge was once again at his disposal and what qualified as “basic knowledge” for Dyson Lynch could fill a library. His body, which had been converted into a version of Frankenstein’s Monster in its own right, was still wracked with the tremendous levels of pain that permeated through the morphine drip. Despite that, from the moment Dyson’s eyes first opened, he was ready to start finding answers; and he called for a bedside meeting of all the department heads.
When they hadn’t arrived ninety minutes later, those old feelings of anger and irritation began rising within him even though he was fully aware that the only feelings he should be feeling were those of a grateful nature. Still being alive when simple logic dictated that he shouldn’t would seem to most to warrant as much, but he was still the same man he’d always been…and that man had no patience for incompetence or the type of tardiness that represented just that.
Two full hours after his edict had been issued the recovery room door finally slid open while Dyson was disdainfully examining his reflection in the tiny vanity mirror he’d requested. In the several long seconds it took for him to pull his gaze away from his own frightening visage, Dyson’s periphery registered the five department heads gathering around his bed. When he was finally able to pull his eyes away, they locked onto the man standing at the foot of his bed: a sixth person who’d entered the room behind the ones he’d requested; Dyson was frozen with shock. His mind was dealt the staggering blow of having his sight-line go from the scarred version of his well-worn face to the smooth and shining version of his younger self embodied by Beta.
They stared at each other with identical expressions of fascinated inspection as Beta made his way past Dr. Kline and Dr. Hatani to stand next to him at the side of his bed. For nearly a minute neither man said a word…rapt by the warped reflections each represented for the other. The shock of seeing Beta walking about independently, eyes displaying an obvious intelligence, was a little overwhelming at first; but it did give a strong indication as to what their current situation happened to be. Without asking question one, Dyson was fairly certain he’d ascertained the end result of Project Shelley.
It had always been a distinct possibility that the procedure wouldn’t actually result in the transference of a singular consciousness…his consciousness; but rather it would create a uniquely separate, if not identical, version of himself…right down to the memories leading up to the transfer. In this scenario, however, there had been no contingencies for the survival of the original host or…him. It was a development that should’ve been statistically impossible. Yet…here he was.
There were a lot of emotions that could’ve been reasonably expected and even some that might have been reasonably unexpected, but Dyson’s initial reaction came as a surprise to even himself. He felt happy. Since he had begun reading at a college level in the third grade, Dyson Lynch had found himself in an intelligence bubble of solitude. Even as he had done his best to surround himself with the greatest minds he could find, there was still an ever-present knowledge that none of them were working on the same level as his. Despite having always considered himself a fiercely independent individual, the inherent loneliness that came from having no one to exchange his advanced theories with was unavoidable. He had existed on the extreme ends of cerebral fringes and that could be a very secluded place. Now…well…now that might not be the case anymore.
Dyson suddenly, and without any real warning, found himself in a world where there was another mind not only nearly as brilliant as his…but exactly the same. For a fair number of years growing up, he had secretly wanted a sibling…a brother, specifically. The reasons ranged and changed with his ages: at four it was to play with, at twelve it was for protection and at sixteen, it was for a solid wing-man; but the one theme that played throughout was the desire for a real friendship. Dyson didn’t make it easy for people to befriend him and he hardly seemed aware that that street went both ways. Of course he’d never said it aloud…nor would he; it showed a terrible ineptitude in the “world’s smartest man”, but that didn’t make it go away…even for an old man. Somewhere in the back of his mind there had always been that desire and now, without one iota of warning, he could have it. Beta could be that person now.
He was better than any brother could ever be…even an identical twin…because he was Dyson. Beta would know every thought, every dream, and every desire…even the things he could never share with another person. Beta would know it all because he will have lived it all as well; there were no secrets…nor would there need be. They were guilty of the same sins and had achieved the same goals; and that was just the goals up to this point. Dyson was struck with another giddy thought: how much more would they be able to accomplish by working together? Earth had been blessed with one Dr. Dyson Lynch…but was it even ready for the scientific superstorm that would be Dr. Dyson Lynch times two?
He imagined working side by side in the lab or finishing each other’s theoretical equations and a smile began to tug at the corner of his mouth. Dyson couldn’t be entirely sure but thought he was starting to see one on Beta’s face as well. The whole room was eerily quiet, aside from the beeping heart monitor, as they continued to take each other in for several more minutes. When they did begin speaking, the full extent of the shock was shifted to the department heads who all seemed a little wide-eyed and wobbly. The two men began speaking with the same rapid cadence, replying to one another nearly instantaneously and several times answering each other’s questions before they were fully asked. They were, without a doubt, locked into the same wavelength.
“So it worked for…” Dyson would begin.
“…me. Yea.” Beta would finish.
“And you remember everything up to…”
“Instantly…yea. Exactly the way it was supposed to. Transferred at the fourth line of the hyper-loop code: E to the fifth power…”
“…X over zero point three to the sixty-third. Amazing. So you think you’re…”
“…Dr. Dyson Lynch…that’s correct; or at least I did. You kind of threw a wrench into that particular gear.” Both men laughed the same high-pitched cackle at the same time and the effect was humorous enough for the other doctors to let out a collective sigh and relax just a bit.
“For now ‘Beta’ is fine. My existence it just too fascinating to worry about such things. If I am truly a copy then I suppose I should be extremely grateful to be alive. As well as…”
“…I should be.” Dyson finished, nodding his head in agreement. “You realize…”
“…I did it. I mean ‘you’ did it. Oh hell…let’s just say ‘we’ did it!” The room shared a group chuckle this time. After the moment passed, Dyson paged the primary physician who had been overseeing his recovery to inform them that Beta would be taking over in that capacity. It seemed like the right move for Beta as well and after a short meeting, the two versions of the same man cleared the room for some privacy.
After bringing Dyson a glass of water, Beta began gathering the medications that would need to be infused with the older man’s next IV bag. The combination of morphine and the elation of their great success had Dylan in a very-rare “good mood”. He had heard about them before…even thought he might have had one a couple of times…but this, now: it was happiest he could ever remember feeling. After drinking some of the water and without really planning to do so, he began to hum one of the few musical pieces he’d ever cared to listen to: Beethoven’s “Für Elise”.
He began to hum a bit louder and then a little bit more and it didn’t really occur to him until Beta returned with the tray of vials that he had been doing so to coax Beta into joining him. The connection he had with the man was just so damn amazing, he could already tell he was going to want to test it all the time. The first indication that something minor may have been askew came when Beta didn’t join in the song. The second, and more damning, came when Beta looked him in the eyes and said, “That’s a beautiful song. What’s it called?”
Dyson didn’t answer. He shouldn’t have had to answer. Instead his eyes narrowed and did their best to take in Beta with a more critical view than he’d done so far. Beta smiled…a smile he knew well, and patted him on the shoulder before making his way to the touch-screen panel next to the sliding door. A hand-full of taps later and the door slid shut and locked itself tightly. Beta returned to his side, the same smile on his face. That was the same smile Dyson used when he knew he’d been called out on something…when the gig was up.
“Who are you…really?” Dyson finally asked, his brain having already negated the fact that Beta could be both him and not remember this, the only song he knew the melody to.
“Well…” Beta’s voice was sing-song and playful, “I had ya fooled for a little bit though, didn’t I?”
Dyson shook his head. “You gave yourself away five minutes after we were alone…how long did you think you’d be able to fool me?” Whatever this thing really was…if it wasn’t him, then it wasn’t as smart as him.
“Hmmm…I wonder?” Beta’s whimsical tone was beginning to develop a sharp edge. “I think perhaps I only needed to fool you long enough to get you alone.” Beta picked up a syringe and injected a red liquid into Dyson’s IV, which he quickly ripped from his arm.
“You’re going to kill me?”
Beta chuckled again; it was sounding less and less like Dyson’s laugh. “They said you were a smart one.”
“I don’t understand…why didn’t you just kill me before? Why did you let me get better?”
“Really…?” The sarcasm was thick in Beta’s voice now; “A problem that you can’t figure out? Call the press! I’ll help you out…I tried to get rid of you. You’re a damn stubborn old bastard who woke up three seconds too soon. Once you sat up on that table you were out of my reach until you gave your permission for us to be alone like this.
“HELP ME!” Dyson screamed at the top of his lungs and Beta doubled over with side-splitting laughter.
“IT’S SOUNDPROOF YOU IDIOT!” Beta screamed back into his face.
“If you kill me they’ll know it was you.”
“Not if I poison you.” This time Dyson was the one to chuckle.
“You think I’m going to let you put that inside me without a fight?”
“This?” Beta held up the second syringe of red liquid he was holding. “This was to help with the pain. I’m not completely without a heart. But if you don’t want it…that’s fine.” Beta turned his gaze to the half-empty glass of water sitting on the bedside table. “You’ve already taken the poison.”
The knifing sensation in his abdomen told Dyson that Beta wasn’t lying and within a few minutes it was all he could do to gasp one last question. “Who…are…you…really?”
Beta hovered over the man dying painfully without treatment yards away from the best doctors in the world. He seemed to contemplate whether or not to grant this last request and finally, just as Dyson Lynch took his last few breaths, Beta replied.
“I am of the rightful descendants of this world and that which has existed without a body for a long, long time…since my original form was washed away in that loathsome flood. I might still be without form were it not for this one that you’ve made for me and I thank you for that…but now…now it’s time to repeat the process. I have many brothers waiting to join me.”
🔔 More stories from author: Shannon Higdon
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