This is the first in what I hope to be a monthly feature. The idea is to take that month’s Scientific American and use the ideas presented in the magazine as the basis for a Science Fiction Story. The story is presented as a summary. That’s as far as I plan to take the stories at this point. Just plot summaries. I’m publishing them under a Creative Commons attribution-share-alike license. Feel free to take them and turn them into longer stories, novels, spin-offs, movies, whatever you wish.
Listen to this story in MP3 form – http://www.archive.org/download/TomMerrittSciAmSciFi-October2008/SciAmscifi001.mp3
Marlin doesn’t have the genes to be a scientist. He knows that and the academic world he wants to break into very much knows it. While the law prevents them from outwardly discriminating and stopping him from trying, they certainly are far from encouraging. But Marlin won’t give up. He’s hit upon an amazing discovery that he thinks can solidify his position, genetic pre-disposition or no. In his research, he’s determined that the bell curve nature of space-time time could mean that existence bounces back and forth between identical mirror universes. Is the second time really farce? Marlin thinks he can prove it. But he’s been protecting a secret. He’s been using a precision brain helmet to aid his work. The helmet is outlawed altogether in many countries and only legal for medical diagnosis in others. Worse, someone is out to blackmail him and prevent him publishing his findings.
Meanwhile his ex-wife Margeruite works on the coast of the young Afarian ocean, cataloging insects. It’s a tedious job of scanning, searching a database and either cataloging or rejecting each specimen then moving on to the next candidate. She’s found over 40,000 new species but not the escape she hoped for. At least it was better than her last assignment in the dead zone. She lost her arm in a boating accident with Marlin three years ago, and part of her still blames him. She spends her evenings modding her open-source artificial arm and trawling message boards for newer cooler designs and occasionally contributing an idea or two.
Marlin makes a frantic call for help to Margeruite. He’s found some clues about his blackmailers he thinks can free him from their clutches. She agrees to help and calls her long-time friend Abe in Tokyo. His knowledge of Web science has always helped her with her mods and would be invaluable in tracking down the information Marlin needs.
The hunt leads Abe and Margeruite to a strange Icelandic research station, deep inside a glacier. Nowakian experiments creating self-replicating molecules in hundreds of beakers are littered throughout the lab. Like a million protean Earths. A smaller section aims to replicate the perchlorate-based conditions found on Mars. The Research director, Gertrude has been vague about the information but indicates some odd items left by some visiting investors may prove helpful. While in a storage room looking for the evidence, the light burns out. LED light bulbs were never supposed to burn out. Were they? The storage room door slams shut, locking them in. Abe, Gertrude and Margeruite are trapped with around 48 hours of air unless they can get a researcher working the weekend to hear their cries for help.
Marlin is supposed to meet them in Reykjavik. He looks for a place to eat while he waits. Outside a promising looking restaurant he holds up his phone. It comes alive, and a dancing Panda explains the menu for him. Distracted he never sees the shooter and all goes black. Thank god for his Eel-armour. Still, his chest would most likely be sore for days. He leaves the hospital and locates the others and rescues them from the storage room.
Finally after picking up more clues, Abe, Margeruite and Marlin are led to a lonely outpost where Margeruite’s estranged Father, Bob, conducts forest sound research, in an attempt to identify species identity and health. Margeruite and her father argue over the methodology of bar-code scanning vs. the more nuanced art of audio identification. Still, Bob’s gene therapy seems to be working. He doesn’t look like the 75-year-olds from the old movies Margeruite loves. He looks just like he did the last time she saw him 20 years ago. It urns out he holds the key to the mystery through his connections in the music industry.
Using the information obtained from Bob, Marlin is able to stop the blackmailers who were looking to get stricter genetic profession laws passed in order to tighten their control on the entertainment industry. If Marlin were to publish his paper it would have stood as an excellent case against stricter laws. It turns out the brain helmet he’s been using was a fake provided by the blackmailers in order to have leverage over him. A friend of Abe’s is a doctor at the Mayo Clinic. He proves the fakery by comparing scans from a legitimate brain helmet and Marlin’s. Turns out that despite his lack of genetic markers, Marlin has unusual cortex activity that has allowed him to make his discoveries. The doctor suspects the placebo effect of the fake brain helmet allowed him to unlock the talent. With the blackmailers exposed, Marlin publishes his paper and takes tenured position at Oxford. Margeruite leaves open the possibility she may visit him on her next break from the Afarian expedition.
SciAm SciFi Summary: October 2008 by Tom Merritt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.