I can't pinpoint the time that I changed.
I remember, as a child I was filled with awe at the
amazing life-changing products that spilled forth from
the laboratories and factories. Well I remember the day
that my family's thought-controlled holotank was installed,
replacing the old wallview with its clumsy voice commands.
When the nanotech cure for
juvenile-onset recurrent respiratory papillomatosis
was announced, I thought it was discovered especially for me. Well, it was my
eighth birthday after all. That obviously had a great effect on my life, and
I may well have gone into bioengineering, but the flood of discoveries from
the physicists and chemists continued to weigh heavily in the minds of
the consuming public. Sure, I'm glad that my monthly surgeries went by the
wayside within just a few weeks of that, but it was a long time ago, after
all, and unless I really sit down and think of it, it tends to be obscured
by other marvels big and small, from dinochicken (I limit myself to
one tastebud-tantalizing treat per week) to things we take so much for
granted these days, like self-sharpening pencils.
I never went through the phases most kids go through, of wanting
to be a bricklayer or moon shuttle conductor; no, my path never wavered from the goal of being a scientist.
I remember finishing my first project as an assistant researcher fresh
out of college. I played a small,
but meaningful, part in the development
of the meson oven. (My part involved the feedback regulator governing
the temporal field inside the oven, that causes the food to move backward
in time while it's cooking. If your meal ever takes more than four seconds
to cook, or is ready even one second before you press the start button,
I'll take it personally.)
The turning point may have been when the Commission was formed by the
government, to steer science toward ever more helpful (in their
determination) accomplishments. At first it didn't seem to matter much.
When our Commissar arrived, he cancelled my project on sleep quality
sensors, and I was assigned instead to the improvement of laser drill
sighting mechanisms used out on the asteroids.
That was all well and good, but the projects seem to have slowly been
changing, to the point where now half of them are totally silly. My
friend Zuz has been warning me these last few months that I've started
to let my contempt for the Commission show. He says it's evident to a
lot of people that my team spirit isn't up to par. Well, he's certainly
right there. Sure, it'll be a seminal historic moment when (if) we
manage to unlock the secrets of teleportation, but this project they've
had me on this past year will never do it. At least they're looking
into a few other avenues as well, but those are pretty much equally absurd.
"Mr. Ford? Mr. Lincoln will see you now."
I got up off the industrial yellow vinyl couch and started making my
way across the outer office toward the fake walnut veneer door.
Would I come back this way again? Or was a trip to a gulag awaiting me?
"Sit down, son. Sorry to take you away from your work, but it's important
that we get to the bottom of something. Important for you, and for the
people's future. The last month or two, you don't seem to be putting
forth the effort I know you're capable of. And the scuttlebutt around
the lunchroom is that your enthusiasm for our mission here is –
shall we say – waning. Frankly, Henry, sometimes I doubt
your commitment to Sparkle Motion…"
I stopped listening then. I see "re-education" in my future.
# # #
This story contains references to two short stories penned by
- A Statue for Father told how dinochicken came to be the
most sought-after meat ever, and
- The Dead Past described a society where scientific research
was controlled by the State.