Thursday, June 20, 2013

Fractal, Part IV

This is the fourth part of a short story draft. Part I. Part II. Part III.

I confess I was somewhat surprised when Morgan came through. Trisagion had a botanical research garden a few miles away, attached to a phytochemistry lab. The garden itself is quite lovely; they even give tours and hold events there, and that part of the research center makes an impressive profit, although dwarfed by the actual budget of the laboratory. Morgan arranged for a day's outing there. Because Morgan is Morgan, the security precautions were absurd, involving armed security guards and an armored van. But she was out of the lab, out in a garden, no less. I was happy to get out, myself, and even David was more like himself than he had been in a long time.

We walked along behind her as she rushed around from flower to flower like a little girl, sometimes literally skipping along. It was delightful to watch, but also very strange. I cannot remember Becky ever showing much interest in flowers at all.

I mentioned it to David. He was startled.

"Becky loved flowers," he said. "Especially tiger lilies -- you remember how many there were at our wedding. If I recall, you laughed at us because you said that no sane person has a wedding with that much orange."

"Yes," I said, "but there are always flowers at weddings."

"She used to love it when I brought home flowers. We also used to talk about having a flower garden, but never got around to it. That was a very long time ago." He was quiet for several minutes.

"Do you think we might get Stimson to get us a trip down to the marine laboratory? They have a nice beach."

"I doubt it. I was astounded he got us this. You know Morgan: generous when it does not matter and stingy when it does."

David said nothing, and we walked along as she skipped from flower to flower and, once, actually clapped her hands in delight over a butterfly. Our talked turned to research, and we were talking about iterative mapping, lost in technical details, when she came shyly up and, blushing, handed David a flower and skipped away as we both stared down at it. It was a tiger lily.

Everything had been obvious enough to that point, but it was only on the way back that I, stupid idiot that I am, saw it all plainly. The brain is an ecology, a climate, and cannot be copied exactly. I had always argued that. It is constantly adapting, shifting, changing, in myriad ways. All that you could possibly copy is an impression of similarity. Somehow David had gone far beyond what I had ever thought possible; the similarities, their specificity, were uncanny. But there was another problem I had never thought of before then. How do you know what you are copying in the first place?

There are objective tests, physiological and psychological, that can work as a guideline. But how much of you shows up in a test? If you put people with severe memory problems in a white room, they just sit there, not knowing what to do because nothing in their environment suggests any response; put them in a coffee shop, with the right resources, and suddenly they might well be as alive as anyone, doing the things anyone does in coffee shops. But the point is general. We are all different in different circumstances. You are sitting in a lab, hooked up to a machine, taking a test. How much of you is really there? And how much of you is dormant, latent, waiting to get back to friends and family and hobbies? No matter how good or thorough the tests, they are a framework, not the substance, the skeleton, not the life. Transfer it to a matrix and you do not have anything like a person, just a template, a portrait painting in code. To get more you would have to fill in the spaces between, the parts the tests cannot catch. These parts have to be extrapolated generically, from assumptions about the way human beings are, or they have to be put in by someone who knows you.

All this time I had thought I had such respect for David, and yet all this time I had underestimated his genius. Somehow he had done it, taken a person, and truly copied them over. But no human being knows any other perfectly, and no tests can compensate for it, and, each brain being different, nothing can be read with precision off of the brain. David had not copied Becky herself, but his idea of Becky. He had genuinely known Becky, so he had captured her correctly. Rebecca was Becky as David knew her, really and truly Becky. But Becky as David knew her was only a part of a person. Becky, throughout all her strange, manic swings of self-esteem, had always underestimated herself. Her character and temperament and life were far too rich to carry over; even David and I could not possibly do it.

When we had returned to Trisagion, and signed Rebecca back in, and David had gone home for the day, I remained, finishing my checklists in the matrix lab. It was slow going. I was only halfway through, and wondering whether, unbeknownst to me, Becky really did like flowers, or if, as I thought, she had merely liked David getting them for her, when Morgan Stimson walked into the lab.

"Charli," he said. "I'm glad you're here. Still doing your checklists?"

"It seems never to end," I replied, not really in the mood for talking with him. "I am seriously thinking of just not doing it any more."

He shook his head in a mock way, with a Stimson-fake smile, and said, "Your paperwork is always in perfect order; you are probably the only person around here who manages that. Always the careful one."

He hesitated and I looked at him. "Is there anything I can help you with?" I asked.

Still he hesitated a moment. Then he said, "Look, Charli, I know you can keep a secret" -- there was something about the way he said it that I found I did not like -- "so I will level with you. I am worried about David. I think he is going over the deep end."

I put down my clipboard. "What do you mean by that?" I said, in a tone more belligerent than I had intended.

He held up his hands, fake smile on his face. "Don't kill me," he said. "I know he's your friend -- who couldn't know it? -- and you've always stood up for him. But I need you to look past that. There is something going very terribly wrong with him."

"You have never liked David," I said. "You have been trying to get him out for years."

"I've never seen what you and Becky thought was so impressive about him, if that's what you mean," he replied. "But I've let him run. God knows that with your help, and Becky's, he's paid off more than a few gambles. You three always did make me look brilliant." Fake smile. Then it vanished. "But he's beginning to be unmanageable. He went to the president, over my head, and demanded changes to the project. Not unbelligerently, I might add. If he weren't worth so much to the company, and the president weren't terrified of a competitor snapping him up, he'd have been fired on the spot."

I looked at my hands. "I did not know that," I said, finally. "I think it is just that the success of the project has taken a lot out of him."

"That's what I told the president." Fake smile. "I think I made it pretty plausible, and after a success like you've pulled off, nobody is going to have any problem believing that he just needs some stress-relief. But he's off the project."

"You cannot do that."

"I have to," said Morgan. "Charli, for someone so smart, someone who has actually figured out how to make people, I don't know how you can be so clueless about them. You have to get past this blind loyalty. He actually thinks it's Becky."

I had nothing to say to that, and Morgan caught the fact. "You know I'm right. It's not a good situation. We need to nip it in the bud."

"He has been nothing but professional."

"Around you, perhaps. And nothing awful has happened yet. But he is not stable. His behavior is getting erratic."

"Just give him time. You do not understand what he is going through. This has all opened old wounds over the loss of Becky."

"I do understand, Charli," said Morgan. "I was Becky's friend, too, to the extent that you two let her have any friends at all...."

A curl of anger rose up inside me. "Excuse me?" I said.

"Oh, come off it, Charli. You two were always isolating her as if she were your special territory. I kept throwing things her way, things she could do herself, and she would never take them because it wouldn't involve you two. And the one time I managed to convince her to do something without David, you came around and browbeat her back. And all that '1, 2, 3, B, C, D' Three Musketeers nonsense, no one else allowed into the inner sanctum, and Becky never allowed out of it. I can understand you just not seeing it because of this inexplicable loyalty to David, but with David it was all intentional -- he just boxed her up and put her in storage...."

If I had had anything in my hands at that moment, I might have smashed his face in with it. "You know nothing," I shouted at him. "You have no idea what we were like. You have never been friends like we were friends. You have no idea how much we loved each other."

"You, maybe," said Morgan calmly. "David never loved her. David never did anything but make her feel like she wasn't good enough."

The curl of anger had become a knot in the chest and it was making it difficult to breathe.

"Get out," I finally managed to gasp. "Just get out before I throw something at you."

Morgan put his hands up as he had earlier and beat a retreat with one of his Stimson-fake smiles. When he left, I grabbed the clipboard nearby and threw it at the wall, where it broke.

***

to be continued

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