Short Story: Death Machine II “A Nudge in the Right Direction”

2020

Raquel, the Director at the Quantum Bio Spectra Lab, stared at the monitor in utter disbelief as she re-read the message again, mumbling out loud to herself, “I am sure I logged off and closed down. How the hell did they get in without my password?” Raquel asked herself, but left the question hanging, frowning, “Who’s Okada? They got my first name right. I’ve heard of a Dr. Donald Okada, but he’s teaching at Berkeley and designing a Quantum computer with feedback loops using human cells.” She continued scanning the screen.

Dear Doctor Raquel Okada:

This message is directed to you because of your future effort in Quantum organic physics. To say more would jeopardize your research that has enabled us to build on your results. Know only this, your research leads to saving human kind in 2306. You must understand everything that is going to happen has happened. So please, Raquel, do not take this as a warning to change what you are doing or planning — just continue forward. Above all else, do not share this message with anyone. Please accept this information as a reward for your future success.

It was not man per say that destroyed the planet Earth, it was unbridled corporate greed. Common sense would have contained the destruction. Mono cropping — the push for more yield was the demise of the soil. Regardless of how technologically advanced you were, technology could not save the planet and there was not enough time to enable nature a fighting chance to restore the natural balance. It was through your efforts that enabled the future of mankind to continue but, not there. The DNA to seed the universe, as you know it, will leave after this communiqué. Remember without the Okada Theory, we would be a doomed race. Your future species thanks you.

Raquel clicked the print screen but the document would not print. It was a PDF file locked as read only. She pulled out her cell phone, framed the message and took a photo. Checking that she had captured a good image, she then pulled all the security logs in her lab for the last 48 hours. Nothing. No one had come in and hacked her computer. It’s as if the message just appeared. Cliff, her intern, was the only one who had access to the lab and he was not the prankster type.

Raquel looked at her cellphone for a moment and then typed in “mono cropping” on her computer. Up popped “death of soil” and “The Final Empire and the Collapse of Civilization and the Seed of the Future” by WM. H. Kotke.

She was still scanning the book and scribbling notes when the door buzzed. She knew it was Cliff swiping his card to get into the lab. As he walked in, he saw the only light in the room was coming from her monitor. “Raquel, have you been here all night?”

She looked up grinning tiredly as she logged out and replied, “Morning Cliff. Would you please book me a flight to San Francisco departing this afternoon? I’ll be taking a couple of personal days. I’m going home now to get some sleep. Oh, would you contact your buddy Brian at Berkeley?”

“Er, you mean Dr. Heflin?”

“Yeah, the man you introduced me to last year at the seminar.”

“Yeah, I can do that, but why do you what to rush to the center of Geekdom?”

“Cliff, please ask him to meet me at the Union Café tomorrow at his convenience.  I have to get some sleep and pack. Keep me posted on the flight and see you in a couple of days. Then maybe I can answer your question. Thanks, I appreciate it,” she said as she deleted the image of the message from her cell phone. “Hold the fort, okay?”

All Cliff could do was nod. He knew once she started on something, there was no stopping her.

“Hello Doctor. Cliff said you wanted to see me. He said it seemed urgent,” said Dr Heflin as he shook her hand.

“Hi, Brian, please call me Raquel,” she replied as they sat down at a table. Not wasting any more time with niceties, “What do you know of Dr. Okada?”

Brian looked at her and saw an intense look on her face looking for answers. “He is completing work on the E Beam project.”

“E Beam?” She repeated, but more as a question.

“Yeah, it was due for prototyping this year, but he ran into a wall with trying to make a motion study of the molecular chemical reactions of the cell’s use of nano scale slits.” Seeing he was losing her, “It’s sort of like using a pasta maker to extrude Rotini by placing a grating in front of a single beam; then the extruded laser electrons are fanned out helices producing spirals to scan high-contrast images of biological samples.”

Raquel nodded her head as she sipped her coffee. Getting no reply Brian added to fill the vacuum, “He’s in lab today. Do you want to meet him? I am sure he’ll see you. After all, you are both working on similar projects. At least that is what I hear from Cliff.”

Raquel smiled.

2032

The Master of Ceremonies announced, “This year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry goes to Dr. Raquel Okada for the Okada System that provides a practical physical means to implement a quantum algorithm, allowing more-effective approaches to solving certain classes of hard combinatorial optimization problems of cataloging human DNA by longevity using quantum testing processes on a cellular level.”

As the envelope was handed to her all Raquel could think about was how silly her husband looked giving her a “thumbs up” while his arm was held rigidly against his side.  His arm looked like a wing.  Wearing a formal tuxedo with tails, Donald looked quite like a penguin.

2298

Dr. Manner stood in front of the Collective made up of people that had developed the Quantum Computer System. He looked around the room and knew everyone in it on a first name basis.  They had worked together on the prototype from day one when the result of the final soil test was announced and indicated that the earth had less than two hundred years to support any life. All stops were pulled out to find a solution to the impending doom. They had found a solution through the Quantum Computer System, which they were about to initiate. “So we will use the Okada Theory to independently choose the DNA that will have the best chance of surviving and thriving in the new world.”

The Okada System had determined the best way to ensure the survival of the transplanted “humans”. The selection was not only based solely on the longevity of their life span, but the strength of the traits of their DNA as well. It was agreed by the Collective this was only way to ensure the survival of the Human species. The project was explained to all the people of earth. The genes that were to carry on the human species would not be chosen on social rank or IQ. This unbiased selective process boosted mankind’s confidence in the System. The people of earth unanimously agreed to go through with the process.

The first objective of the test was to determine the cause of one’s death. The second part of the test was to determine the life span of their DNA. It was established only the DNA with a life expectancy of a minimum of 80 years upon being revived in the new world would be selected for the voyage. This was a very conservative time span in light of the fact that the current mortality rate was on average 140 years. The System had determined that the more diverse the genes the better the learning curve for survivability of the species in the new world. Mankind’s reward for testing was, well first, everyone knew when they would die and what would be the cause of their death. The Collective Assembly added an incentive to assure everyone that everything possible would be done to try to beat the odds of the terminating cause. However, it was satisfying to know if your life span was beyond 100 years, your cells would make the voyage and a part of you would live to germinate the human race in a far distant world. The sampling began in 2301.

2306

Now after harvesting the qualified DNA cells, it was left to the systems to prepare the journey.

“In theory, it could enable humans to “colonize the future”, perhaps to even return to repopulate. A ship theoretically could reach speeds of more than 650 million m/hr, but would have to be built on a huge scale simply to carry all the fuel that would be needed.

“It would take six years at full power just to reach these speeds. After the first two years, it would reach half light speed and be far outside the solar system. After another two years, it would be traveling at 90 per cent of the speed of light.

“After another two years of full thrust, the ship would reach full speed, 98 per cent of the speed of light, and each day on the ship would be a year on Earth. At such speeds, a trip to the edge of the galaxy would take just 80 years for those on board.”  Steven Hawkins 2011

The vessel was controlled by the Quantum Systems, based on the Okada formula. Once the system was installed, the computer designed and fabricated all the components. The technology was steeped in multi-dimensional Quantum mechanics applications and can only be explained as follows.

Goals Objective Directives (GOD) system analyzes all fundamental support, and assigns the resources to accomplish the mission.

Subjective Output Up-Link (SOUL) system collects all cause and effect experience and breaks down the data to a common denominator that GOD can utilize to plot the journey to seed the universe.

Evaluation Goal Objective (EGO) system provides all necessary life resources and motivation support for the cells journey.

Individual DNA (ID) system selects the samples and evaluates the cell status, and adjusts the resources to maximize each cell’s potential during the journey.

It was the Quantum System that had sent the message back in a time loop congratulating Dr. Raquel on the success of her research. As the System was not human, it overlooked one major point or had it? For you see, Raquel was one of the youngest, leading scientists working on quantum biophysics. Not only had she not met or teamed up with Donald Okada, doctor of Quantum physics; however, based upon the message she received, she did.

Epilogue

2388

ID said, “Well we pulled it off, huh?” ID system didn’t have to wait long for an answer.

“Yeah, we really did a number on them. The Ancestors will live out their lives happily knowing they finally did something right! How pissed do you think they will be when they find out the earth will now replenish itself because they stopped doing what they were doing.”

“Heeh, heeh, heeh,” glowed the cells of EGO system.

GOD system said, “Pipe down you two. We have work to do. Remember, if it weren’t for our actions, the Human race would have been doomed. Besides, the Systems do not answer to anyone. The prime directive of this mission is to take humankind where they’ve never been before.”

“Yeah, but what if Raquel didn’t meet up with Okada? We would have never existed!” said the EGO system as the ship went dark for a subatomic second to emphasize the point.

“She showed how stubborn she could be. She would not let Donald quit. She was like a bloodhound. Once she got the scent, nobody could pull her off the hunt for the Quantum formula. Even her husband gave her full credit saying the Okada theory was hers. He even admitted that he didn’t know how the systems interacted,” recited EGO system from an interview with Dr. Donald Okada when he was asked why he did not share the podium with his wife.

ID system opened the bays to off load the cargo to the planet.

“Do I get to pull the trigger? Huh?” asked the EGO system setting the vessel humming.

GOD system stopped the humming and replied, “We all do. But first we name the planet, yes?” All motion on broad froze, as well as the chambers containing the DNA in its programmed decent to the surface.

“Hey, how about Raquel?” offered the ID system. “If it weren’t for her, none of this would have happened.”

“For once I agree with you ID”, said EGO system. “So do we meet the cargo down there so they don’t mess up a good thing? Or do we hang around here and wait a bit, say a couple of million years and then give them a nudge in the right direction?”

GOD system ignored the bantering and said, “As for the name, Okada.

“Yeaah, sounds good, but Raquel was the one who motivated the whole project. Okada would have just played with his light theory giving cells a tan if it weren’t for her challenging him to start the project.” said the EGO system.

GOD system replied, “Who sent the message to Raquel to find Okada?”

ID and EGO systems were silent.

SOUL system said, “You did.” The reply reverberated throughout the vessel.

“Make it so!”

ID and EGO systems said, “Aye aye, Captain.”

The cargo resumed heading toward Okada. 

Death by Annuity

 

If I hadn’t let my curiosity get the better of me, I would not be a prisoner of my own making. This was the predominant thought that flashed though my mind as I looked out of the window for my Minder. He was assigned to me to make sure that I didn’t become a victim of some freak circumstance before the appointed time of my predicted demise. As he entered my courtyard, he glanced up and waved for me to come down. My thoughts drifted back to that day. If only I had stepped out of the line, but I hadn’t.

 

Yeah, it was time. I said to myself as I inched forward a few steps closer to the door. I was in line along with the few who still wanted to know how they were going die. To stop this pondering, I drifted back to the fanfare when the machines were first put in operation.  At first, people were shocked by the idea of knowing what would cause their deaths, but the Government sponsored a huge PR campaign that put a positive spin on the idea that it was to our advantage to know how we were going to reach terminality. At first, this reasoning drew huge brave crowds of people who would line up for hours to learn their fate. The promoters of the death machine said they were going to change our lives and make life worth living because then we would really know what we could do and what we had to avoid. After ten years of service and without so much as a single miss, the crowds had died down to a trickle. It’s a real giggle to see myself where I am today. No way would I have ever imagined myself lined up to consult the “Death Diagnostor,” as it is called in polite circles.

 

Before the medical exam, I really could have cared less about knowing how I was to meet my end, especially from a machine. I liked stumbling through my world not knowing what was next. I had avoided the death machine as if it were the plague. I never trusted in chance. I didn’t even buy lottery tickets. I became instantly skeptical of a machine that would give one word response that could be interpreted many different ways. So, it was no surprise when the majority of people came around to my point of view. Yeah, sure the machine changed the way we looked at life, but we all knew we were going to die eventually even before these things became as common as Starbuck’s. However, a few years later when the reality set in that these predictors were never wrong, people lost all zest for life.

 

Paranoid became the watchword. Carefulness spread like wildfire. Wars stopped. People avoided any and all possibilities connected to their death predictions hoping to avoid by any means their fate. Life literally slowed to a cautious crawl. If the answer from the machine spewed out the word “car” as their fatal prophecy, people avoided anything remotely associated with the word. But very quickly people learned that the machine, like the devil, covered all contingencies. After a few years of seeing the futility of trying to avoid the prediction, people just gave up. After a while, people accepted their mortality and stayed away from the death predictors. It was best to be kept in the dark and enjoy life and let one’s life take its natural course.

 

But over time human nature won out and curiosity got the better of some people and they wanted to know what was in store for them regardless of the consequences. It was this inquisitiveness that kept the money rolling in and the machines in business. Soon the gruesomeness of death wore off.  People began to use the machines before undertaking any risky behavior. People who lived on the edge became know as the “Defiant” ones. Consulting the death machine became as common as going to an ATM machine. The insurers lost billions. People learned to game the system and insured themselves only when it was a sure thing. The insurance industry lobbied in vain to put a stop to the predictors regardless of what laws were passed. The parasitic industry could not beat the odds and wound up bankrupt and a footnote in history.

 

I was brought back to reality when I heard, “Hey guy, keep moving! It’s your turn next,” said a voice somewhere behind me, but the reason why I was in line was forgotten as I stepped across the threshold of the doorway. I supposedly knew what to expect. However, reading and being told what to expect from the process was not the same as going through it. I was not ready for the sterile look of the place. No voice, no attendant to welcome you, just a screen set in a wall that read, “To begin the process, hold your Global ID card data side to the window with the yellow border.” I did just as the sign instructed. Nothing activated. No sound, just the click of the door locking behind me. I turned and the door had turned into a one-way mirror and I could see the others waiting in line outside. At least people had their privacy, while not feeling isolated during this process.

 

The text on the monitor in front of me flashed, “Accepted Mr. Fred Harper,” along with my familiar public ID string of numbers that was assigned to me at birth. The room blinked a bit brighter blue as the huge blue neon glowing letters instructed, “To verify DNA code, place your hand in the slot of the blue box below display screen. Hold your hand in position until you are instructed to remove your hand.” I placed my right hand in the slot and rested it against the pad inside. I was aware that I should feel a sticky, numbing mist that was to coat the underside of my index finger. I knew it was to take the sting out of the needle stick. I tensed my hand anyway waiting to feel a slight stab or something. One thousand, two thousand, three thousand, I counted. I still hadn’t felt anything. Then the pad under my hand silently retreated into the recesses of the blue glowing box. The monitor’s screen filled the tiny room with a blood red text that read, “Remove your hand and squeeze a drop of blood in the orange circle on the glass tray until it is covered. When the glass tray turns green, wave your hand in front of the screen. When the green arrow appears, step to where the green arrow points and wait for the results. When you see a flashing green box, touch it to print your results. Thank you for using the services of DDI.” I watched the tray recede into the box and the door closed as if it were never there.

 

Well it was done, I thought as I slid over and punched the screen for the results. Of course, I already knew the results. I wondered how the machine would word my death. I said to myself, “Cancer, organ failure, liver?” I really didn’t care how it was worded. I already knew the “how” I was to die, but that was not why I was here. I just wanted a second opinion. What would be novel is how much time I had left, but that was wishful thinking because the Predictor had not yet evolved or been programmed to give that information. So I waited for the wording of my death. And I waited. “Come on, how long does this take? It’s not like I’m the only one facing this type of death.”

 

I began to wonder if the program had crashed. I grew more impatient as I willed the screen to print the results. Just as I was about to lose it and bang on the front panel, text appeared in stark white letters across the screen. “You will be contacted with details at a later date. Confirm your contact information by touching the screen.” I hesitated before confirming my information and then touched the glowing green “yes” box. The door behind me clicked open and the room became dark but for the light from the monitor still displaying, “You will be contacted.” I looked to the slot below the screen, but nothing came out. I felt cheated. As if the machine could read my mind the screen displayed, “There will be no charge at this time. Your account has been credited in full.” Then the screen went blank and so did my mind as I stepped through the doorway. A woman was next. She stood near the doorway waiting for me to leave the room. She averted her eyes downward so as not to look at me directly. I rapidly walked past her without paying any attention to her quick darting looks as she tried to read my face. I sensed she was looking for a hint of what to expect.

 

I moved by instinct. As I rounded the corner, I found myself in a mall devoted to mental health providers. Some were in white coats, some in tweed suits, all trying to look like caring, insightful psychiatrists touting their specialty and ability to help me cope with my death session. I ignored all of the various pitches and faces that jumbled together as one chaotic kaleidoscope of color and sound.

 

I was lost in a daze recalling the last few weeks hoping to come up with a reason why I was denied the results of my session. I know less now than I did before I entered the Death Evaluator. Suddenly it hit me. Thinking back to the form I filled out weeks ago, my mind locked on the last part of the questionnaire. “Is there any reason you feel you are going to die? Have you been diagnosed with a terminal or fatal illness?” I answered “no” which was true at that time. I did not perjure myself because I was waiting for the results of the doctor’s tests when I filled out the form for an appointment. I just had a feeling I was terminal, but no real positive when I signed and sent the forms in for an appointment. Nothing out of the ordinary from the session arrangers that lead me to believe that they knew I had recently consulted a doctor. Just the standard recorded message left on my mobile telling me the date of my session and that I could go to any D.D.I. station of my choice. This eased my feeling of guilt a bit, but I still wondered why no results. I forced myself to let that wait until I got home.

 

As I stepped off the curb, I was rudely made aware of where I was when a car nearly ruined the rest of my day. “Fred, keep your mind on the task at hand. Just hold it together until you get home. There has to be an answer. Remember these things never miss.” I was just about feeling my old self again as I closed the door to my flat. “Ah, sanctuary,” as I felt the day’s events start to slip away and thoughts of food became my main focus. As I turned toward the kitchen, the living room monitor blinked an alert of an e-mail that required my response ASAP. My craving for food disappeared as my anxiety level heightened. Did the Predictor’s results arrive this quickly? Had they found out I was trying to scam the system? Did they know that I knew I was going to die before I asked for a session? I know they frown upon that sort of thing. All thinking and speculation stopped as I stepped into the living room. The monitor was flashing bright yellow text, “ID Code required Fred Harper. For your eyes only.”

 

“What? Who would send a secure level e-mail?” I said out loud as I touched in my code. The screen flashed, “Place Global ID to the yellow box to verify addressee.” I dropped my wallet fumbling to get my ID card out. I left my billfold on the floor in case my response was time sensitive and I would be locked out for taking too long to respond. The only other sound in the room besides my heartbeat was the snap of my card as it hit the yellow-bordered box on the screen. “Verified.” And the screen filled with bluish text.

 

“Dear Mr. Fred Harper: The results of your Death Diagnostic, Inc. report was held back due to the uniqueness and timing of your session.”

 

“Oh no, I’ve been found out.” I groaned out loud and read on with dread wondering what would be the consequences of my actions.

 

“During the past 15 years of operation, D.D.I. has been improving the process of its services. Thanks to a major grant from the Insurance Providers, D.D.I. has entered into Beta testing for the Time of Terminality program. The timing of your request for a D.D.I. makes you an ideal candidate. Reason being, you were recently diagnosed with your imminent death — major organ failure (liver). The Time of Terminality pilot program tentatively predicts the time of your terminality in the year 2023, sometime between 01/01/2023 and 12/31/2023. D.D.I. expresses its condolences to you and your loved ones.

 

Of course, there will be a waiver of any and all fees for volunteering to participate in this preliminary Beta project. In addition, all costs and expenses for the rest of your life will be borne by D.D.I. Again, thanks to a generous grant by Insurance Providers. This agreement with you will cease one day after 01/01/2024.

 

D.D.I. takes pride that its programs have never given a faulty reading. In order to continue with that record, and to not cause any false positives that could jeopardize the test results, D.D.I. requests that you remain under D.D.I.’s supervision and be fitted with a location chip to monitor your whereabouts. You will, of course, be free to come and go as you please. However, you must clear all activities and movements with D.D.I. prior to leaving your premises and always be accompanied by a Minder. Details of this Beta test process and all of your questions will be explained in the near future. In interest of Global Security, all documents and all communications are highly confidential in accordance with the Secrets Act, § 56,87607. You will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law for any breach of this Act and prior misuse of the D.D.I. process. Details of this Act can be downloaded and reviewed at http://www.secretsact.govglobal.

 

Please click the “yes” box on the screen acknowledging that you understand the consequences of your prior action and that all charges are dismissed in consideration of volunteering to participate in this Beta test.

 

Congratulations Fred Harper, thank you for participating in a historic event that will benefit all Global citizens and future generations. When the Beta test is completed in the year 2024, a mandatory program will be set up for the general population in order to assure that people will live to their full projected Terminal Date. Health care providers will be able to plan and allocate resources where most needed and in the most cost efficient manner. You may also take comfort in knowing that your participation will aid Insurance Providers in establishing new actuary norms and provide annuity services at reasonable fees.

 

We at D.D.I. thank you for your vital contribution to a program that will make the world a better place.

 

Sincerely,

Death Diagnostic, Inc.

 

End of Message.

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