Warning: This work has been rated 16+.
Max pulled out the plastic chair and sat down. "I have an offer for you."
Ethan frowned. “An offer? Why the hell would I want an offer from you? And how the hell did you find me?”
His former boss sighed. “I’m not the one offering. I’m just the messenger.”
“So, who’s offering?”
Max stuttered for an instant. Ethan in all his time of knowing his former boss knew that Max never stuttered. Something was different about him now. The scientists couldn’t place his finger on it, but he knew something was off. “The president.”
Ethan couldn’t help but burst out in laughter. “The president?” he mocked. “What the hell would the president of South Africa want from a chef like me? A three-course dinner?”
Ethan’s smile quickly faded when Max pulled out a device from his pocket and placed it on the table. He thought he’d destroyed it when he left but it was very much intact and as new as the day he built it. The scientist pushed himself away from the table, hitting his head on the pillar behind him.
“Get that thing away from me,” he hissed as his invention began to glow a jade green.
“Calm down…There’s no Secronium in it.”
“I don’t care!” he said firmly. “Shut it down!”
“Okay, okay, fine,” Max conceded, tucking the device back where he took it from. “I didn’t think you’d react like that to a harmless piece of tech.”
“That is far from harmless,” Ethan said. “And the last place I want it is in your hands.”
“How about the hands of the president? You trust him, don’t you?”
Ethan pulled his chair forward, trying to ignore the strange looks the other patrons were giving him. “What do you mean?”
“This morning, the president reached out to my laboratories regarding the incident you just saw on the news. He wanted a way to access the database of the malfunctioning teleporters that were responsible for the accident. Unfortunately, no person on the planet has access to teleporting data.”
“And for good reason,” Ethan added.
“Ah! But whoever sabotaged the teleporter did.”
Ethan paused to think about Max’s statement. He never took notice of the state of the teleporters behind the bodies since he was too disturbed by the corpses shown on the screen to look at anything else. He thought the cause of their deaths was an explosion caused by a teleporter.
“What makes the president so certain that the data was sabotaged. They could have just blown up the teleporter, right?” asked Ethan. Max was a shady businessman and an expert liar. Why would the president reach out to him of all people? Ethan thought. Something isn’t adding up. The accident happened too recently for the president to have already taken action.
“I don’t know,” shrugged Max. “I’m not the expert here. That’s all he told me and that’s all I know.” He pointed at Ethan. “He asked me if I had anyone who had extensive experience in harnessing the capabilities of Secronium. I told him I had someone in mind.”
“Harnessing the capabilites of Secronium?" Ethan mocked. "That's just a politically correct way of saying you want me to weaponize the Secromium ore. You can tell Mr. President, if that is really the person asking for my help, that I’m not his man.”
Ethan leaned forward resting his elbows in the table with his eyes fixed on Max. “I know what you want from me, and you are not going to get it."
“Trust me Ethan… You don’t want to deal with him. You’d rather deal with two of me than one of him. Do what he wants, and you won’t have to worry about him ever again.”
Ethan stood up from his chair and grabbed his and Troy’s belongings. “Trust me, Max… Given the recent events I’ve been through, I have no reason to fear anyone. We’re done here.”
“Ethan, just listen to me for once. I’m trying to help you here and you’re being stubborn agai—”
“I said we’re done!” Ethan insisted. He turned to walk out of the restaurant. I have had just about enough of this bullshit, he cursed. The scientist turned around to face his former boss once more. “If you know what’s good for you and the world, you’ll forget about that device.”
“You built it didn’t you?” he said.
“I… I didn’t mean… Just stop sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong. There’s no money you can make off of this,” Ethan snapped before marching off in frustration.
Max got up from his seat and exited the restaurant behind Ethan. “Is that what you think? You think this is about money?”
Ethan turned around stopping dead in his tracks. “It always is for you. What did they promise you? Another investor that grows your valley of gold?”
“It has nothing to do with money,” Max replied. “In fact, if I wanted the money and the publicity, I would’ve minded my own damn business and let you deal with them on your own.”
“Who. The fuck. Is them?”
“I don’t even know. And truth be told, I didn’t offer you up. They asked for you.” Now that makes even less sense, Ethan thought, his brain becoming a muddled mess trying to decipher what was going on. “They wanted you to do something with this device. I can’t remember,” Max said scratching his hairless head. “I know thugs when I see ‘em, and these folks were worse than thugs. So, I offered to talk to you and convince you. You do your thing for them, and I’ll take care of the rest.”
The last place he'd want that device to be in is in the hands of those who are powerful. “Do you even know what that ‘thing’ does?” asked Ethan.
“No, and frankly, I don’t care. It's just some stupid gimmick.”
Ethan rubbed his forehead in frustration. “That device is called a DNA deconstructor or the DNA-DEC. It can target the DNA of trillions of cells of the user’s choice and rip them to shreds in milliseconds using activated Secronium. The part of my design I hadn’t figured out yet was how to limit this to disease spreading cells. Then you fired me which meant that the DNA-DEC did not have that feature limiting its use.” Ethan could tell he lost Max as soon as he started by the look on the businessman’s face. “What happens when the target of this device is a person’s heart muscles? Brain cells? Red blood cells?”
“You can kill someone with it,” Max whispered to himself more than he did to Ethan.
“You can kill a room full of people in a heartbeat.”
Ethan let his statement hang in the air as he could visibly see Max regret his deal. In some way, Ethan was surprised his boss went to such lengths to prevent him from seeing whoever these thugs are. It was out of character for what Ethan knew of him.
“And that’s exactly why I am not giving anything to you or to these thugs you met,” Ethan said firmly.
“So, you’re telling me that you just created a weapon of mass destruction… Knowingly… Illegally…” Max replied.
“Well, there was supposed to be a featu—. You know what? It doesn’t matter,” Ethan shouted in frustration. He pointed to Max’s pocket where his invention had been kept. “Take that device and burn it to the ground, ship the Secronium off-world, I don’t know. Just get rid of it!”'
"Why don't you destroy it?" pressed Max.
"I am not touching that device. If it has even a whiff of Secronium I'm going to be in big trouble." Ethan insisted. "You're going to disassemble it and melt the metal. Then freeze the Secronium and get it off this planet. Understood?"
A suspenseful period of silence passed between the two. “Fine. But what am I supposed to tell them when I come back empty handed?”
Ethan shrugged. “That's not my problem. It isn't my fault you reconstructed an invention I purposefully destroyed just because a few thugs intimidated you.”
The scientists turned around and walked away from his former boss. He didn't care to look back. Why should he care? Max brought this problem on himself and it wasn't Ethan's job to pull him out.
Questions clouded Ethan’s mind as he walked out of the market and onto the street. How did these ‘thugs’ know about him or the deconstructor? What kind of gang goes after a failed prototype or its inventor? At least this is all going to be put to bed soon, Ethan reassured himself. The device gets destroyed and the thugs leave them alone. No big deal, right?
The scientist walked through the streets as he felt the vibrant aura of the market fade into the distance, replaced by a familiar sensation of dullness. Even the people on the streets were far less joyful than those at the market.
Ethan thought he’d come out of the market knowing what to do next, yet all he came out with was a basket of fish and twice the number of questions he entered with. It seemed that for the time being, he’d have to figure this out for himself. However, he knew one thing for sure. He could never go back to building that device ever again. Not when people knew about its power and wanted to abuse it. If continuing down this path was truly his purpose, he couldn’t do it as a scientist.
Ethan felt Troy’s link vibrate in his pocket and pulled it out to look at the caller ID. Unknown, huh? I probably shouldn’t answer it. The call cut. A few moments later, the same number called his link. Ethan hesitantly picked up the phone and placed it against his ear.
“Hello?” he asked softly.
“Hey… Ethan? Is that you?”
“Troy? Oh, thank goodness you called. You left everything behind, and I had no idea what to do with it,” he said with a relief.
“Uh…Yeah…Great…” he mumbled. He began speaking to someone in the background. His co-chef seemed to be out of breath, panting like he’d just ran a marathon. “Okay… Uh… Listen, Ethan… Just take my stuff to your house. I’ll come and pick it up in a few hours. I have to—” He stopped talking for a brief moment. “Yes, yes… I’ll be with them in a moment just give me two secs, okay? I’ll, I’ll, I’ll… Yeah… two secs, cool?”
“Where are you, Troy?” asked Ethan. Ethan could here vague sirens in the background and several people shouting out commands but nothing more than that.
“I’m at the…explosion site.”
Ethan questioned his own ears. Why would Troy be at the explosion site? No civilian would be allowed there other than the emergency contacts of the victims.
“Look, it doesn’t matter, okay? Just…Uhm… Yeah… Get to the house, drop my stuff off and come to the hospital. My sister, Ester Izzard, is going to be coming in. She’s critical and I need you to make sure they stabilize her until I get there, okay? You’ll probably get there before me.”
“Yeah, yeah…Okay, I got it,” Ethan replied as he took down Troy’s sister’s name on his link. “I’m on my way.”
The call had already cut. Ethan briskly walked to the teleporting station. As he entered the lift, the silence allowed his mind to spiral into a series of ‘what ifs’. He needed to get to the hospital as quickly as possible. His impatience grew as the elevator seemingly took forever to reach the level Ethan needed to get off at.
Finally, the elevator doors opened, and Ethan pushed through the crowd to exit it. Come on…214…Portal 214, he panicked as he tried to spot the teleporter leading to the hospital. He decided he’d go to the hospital first with Troy’s belongings and give it to him when Troy inevitably reaches the hospital. His sister was the priority for now.
Ethan’s heart sank as he saw the enormous line standing behind the hospital teleporter. Isn’t there an emergency terminal or something? As he joined the line, he took a moment to calm himself down. Relax, Ethan, he told himself. The paramedics are taking care of her. Her life isn’t in your hands right now.
After several minutes of deep breaths, Ethan reached the front of the line and scanned his card to start the teleporting process.
Teleporting in 3…2…1…Please keep your arms inside the terminal…
Oh, for heaven’s sake. Hurry up! cursed Ethan.
As Ethan materialized on the other side of the terminal he rushed to reception and asked for the patient. The receptionist directed him to the ward she was in. The scientist rushed to the ward and looked for Troy’s sister. His eyes darted around the room scanning each and every label in the ward in search of her name. Located at the end of the room next to a window, lay a petite figure, unconscious and with an oxygen mask strapped to her face. The label read ‘Ester Izzard’.
Ethan walked over to the doctor monitoring Ester. “How is she?”
The doctor stopped writing on his clipboard and turned to face Ethan. “It’s bad. But she’ll pull through.”
Troy’s sister had several debris penetrating her body. Some on the chest, a few more on the legs and an innumerable number of cuts along her forearms.
“She lost a lot of blood,” he continued. “The debris still stuck in her body is what saved her from bleeding out.”
From the corner of his eye, Ethan spotted Troy barge into the ward. Locking gazes with Ethan he almost ran over to his sister’s bed. His muscles were tensed, his face red and his eyes wider than Ethan had ever seen them before. Stammering, the words barely able to leave his mouth, Troy spoke with the doctor regarding his sister’s condition while Ethan took care of the administrative work regarding Ester.
“There was a man who came here before you, Mr. Izzard.” The doctor handed Troy a sealed envelope with his name written in cursive. “He asked me to give this to you and only you.”
Troy’s eyes flickered between the doctor and the envelope before hesitantly opening it. Ethan spotted a slight crack in Troy’s hardened demeanor. His clenched his jaw and his eyes flared with blinding rage. His hands gripped the paper so tightly, Ethan thought he would tear it to shreds. Realizing he was being watched, Troy forced a smile and thanked the doctor for his assistance. He took a seat next to his sister and ran his hand through his hair.
Ethan didn’t know what to think or what to do. Troy had passed through such a vast range of emotions in the span of a few minutes that it was difficult to tell what went through his mind.
He took a seat next to Troy. “You alright?”
Troy lifted his head up, blinking once or twice as if he’d woken up to reality. “Yeah…Just a little shocked, you know. Seeing her like this is difficult.”
“I know what that’s like,” Ethan said. “The image stays in your head for a while. Sometimes you can’t sleep. But it gets better as time passes. Trust me.”
“I’m not worried about me not going to sleep. I’m worried about her not waking up.”
1. Having met Max to be a ruthless businessman before, do his actions here show a soft spot he may have for Ethan even if it may have backfired in the end?
2. Does the DNA Deconstructor make sense as an invention and can you, as a reader, see why Secronium was necessary to complete it given what we know of the element?
3. Do the descriptions of the body language and dialogue from Troy show what he is feeling/state of mind even though the chapter isn't written from his POV?
4. Lastly, is there anything you think should be cut down, streamlined or expanded on?
Bonus Section (Read if you want to. It's not story related. Just something to think about)
When I worked in the mechanism of teleporting into this novel, I wanted to make it as close to real as possible. It's not random or can be done on command, since this isn't really how teleportation would work (if it were possible).
To quickly summarize for all the science fanatics out there: Teleportation can occur in real life but only with Photons (packages of light that are massless, hence achieving the speed of light). It revolves around a theory where two photons are connected through the quantum realm and a third photon is transported from one photon's position to the other's. This destroys the photon being teleported and creates an exact replica of it on the other side.
So in the novel, the two terminals represent the two photons being linked through the quantum realm (which is why there's a station and there isn't a teleporter that can take you anywhere you want) and the photon traveling is across the terminals would be a package of data containing the information needed to reconstruct an exact replica of the person.
So in some way, every user is killing themselves and being reconstructed atom-by-atom, neuron-by-neuron at another predetermined location. In the real world, this would bring up tons of ethical and legal problems not to mention the huge danger of the transfer going wrong and someone only coming out with half a body. Buuuuut...This is sci-fi...so let's ignore that for now!
Thank you for coming to my TEDTalk! Hope you enjoyed!