22 November 2009

iPlant fiction - Chapter 3

This is the third chapter of my novel-in-progress. This and previous chapters are available on the main website.

- "Every time, every time we meet she's late"
Lucy and Ike stood waiting outside D's assistant's office. The glass door was shut and the room inside in semi-darkness. The assistant was almost twenty minutes late.
- "Dopamine deficiency, swear to God", Lucy said.
- "Which one?", Ike said.
- "Midbrain insufficiency. Plain cell numbers, not enough dopamine."
- "Not a receptor problem? D1, D2? Unresponsive adrenal glands?"
- "Adrenal problems don't cause chronic lateness, she relies on her adrenal stress response to get her ass off the couch in the morning, but that doesn't kick in until she's critically late and then there's terrible traffic or some shit and we end up loosing our fucking morning staring at her door.."
- "Never heard you curse before", Ike said.
- "Period", Lucy said, holding her elbow and stepping restlessly on the spot.
- "D1 then? D2? Receptors not growing the way they should?"
- "Midbrain insufficiency"
- "How do you know? How would you know without scanning her? You got her scans??"
- "No. I just know."
- "Bullshit"
- "Fuck you"
They glared at each other for a brief moment.
"It's not D1", Lucy said, "because she's not inattentive and certainly not impulsive. And it's not D2 because she's a vicious learner, not just memoranda but procedure as well, that's why D hired her."
- "When was that?"
- "Same as me, for a while I thought we'd work together - her background is biotech and biomedical patents - but she's all administration now and real close to D."
- "Balanced D1 and D2 deficienciencies then? Hyperactive dopamine transporter?"
- "Knew you'd say that"
- "Well?"
- "You're pretty obvious Ike, as a person"
- "You're stalling"
- "Midbrain insufficiency. Not enough dopamine neurons."
- "How could you possibly know that without looking at her scans?!"
- "Calm down", Lucy said and lowered her voice as a small group of people emerged from the elevator at the end of the corridor and disappeared around a corner. "Look, first of all Meg and I agree on it and that's rare and I trust her judgement when it comes to guessing phenotypes and so should you. Second, Marlena is unstable, not in a way that really impacts her work but she's selectively anhedonic, severely - sometimes she truly doesn't see the point or doesn't care unless she's told and I bet you she's a lot less polished at home. But it's a partial problem and if you don't look for it you might not notice: and that's the point, receptor deficiencies have a smooth psychological profile, transporter deficiencies doubly so. Marlena's problem comes in patches. Third, look at her forehead! I'm not saying she's got a small midbrain, I'm saying her forebrain is oversized and sometimes she doesn't have the dopamine to keep all her units running, especially in the morning, which is why we're standing here wasting time."
Ike watched her speak.
- "Don't you ever tell anyone what I just said", Lucy said and suddenly looked nervous.
- "Course not"
- "I shouldn't have said all that"
- "I'm not telling, why would I tell?"
- "Shouldn't have said that"
- "Look, we're not gonna work well together if you keep distrusting me"
- "'Keep'?"
Ike paused, unsure.
- "Meg", he said finally, "You're trying to protect her from me"
Lucy burst into a high laugh.
- "Don't wanna sound cliché or theatrical but I'm more concerned about what she'll do to you, if you step on her feet. Do whatever you want, just don't fuck up so you can't work together."
- "How about some pointers then? What do you mean 'what she'll do' to me? She 'unstable' too?"
- "Oh no, I've gossiped more than enough"
They were silent for a while.
- "How about you tell me something?", Lucy said after a while, "How about you tell me where you got that scar?" She stroked the left side of her jaw, indicating a thick scar on his.
- "Stepped on someone's feet", Ike mumbled.
Marlena suddenly appeared from the elevator at the end of the hallway and hurried towards them.
- "I'm so sorry I'm late", she said, "Traffic's terrible and it's raining. Please come along."
Lucy and Ike looked with surprise at eachother as they followed Marlena down the corridor towards D's office, which she opened with a metal key.
- "We need Ike fully installed by the end of the day", Marlena said. She sat down behind D's large black desk, roused his computer with a quick mouse shake, typed out a long string of characters and hit enter unnecessarily hard. The computer logged in, showing the company logo against a dark background. She gestured for them to sit down in two easy chairs opposite the desk. "Water?" She fished up a bottle of sparkling mineral water from a drawer.
- "No thanks", they both said, attentive.
Marlena paused and looked at them.
- "You've been hired", she finally said to Ike, "I thought you knew."
Ike beamed.
- "D wants you installed and ready to work by the end of the day, you're going with the others to Brussels tomorrow."
- "That's excellent!", Ike exclaimed.
- "You need to bring your scans, we need you to discuss them with some people from the council"
There was a pause.
- "The brain scans", Marlena continued, looking steadily at him "You and Chris used his new ligands to make scans of your brain. You imaged your serotonin system a week ago in the PET scanner. You found substantial changes."
- "Chris told you?", Ike said, "He told D? He said I'd get him fired if I told anyone. So did you.", he turned to Lucy.
- "I don't know anything about this", Lucy said and held up her hands "don't particularly want to know"
- "You're going to Brussels to determine the council's true limits on experimental and commercial deep brain stimulation", Marlena said, "You want to work here because, one day, you want to undergo such surgery yourself - sooner rather than later I understand"
- "I want an iPlant", Ike said.
- "The iPlant is a theoretical construct as far as human application is concerned", Marlena said. "We need a battery of permissions and suspicions cleared before we can proceed with surgery. You're going to Brussels to test the European medical law authorities on that particular point. You'll pursue the argument that our implants and surgical procedure are worth the risks of surgery to customers who have never been hospitalized but who might nevertheless consider themselves neurologically handicapped. Your scans will provide a vivid example of such a case."
- "Do we really want to use one unauthorized procedure to get permission for another?", Lucy asked.
- "You're not going there to get permisison, just to test the waters..", Marlena began.
- "I know", Lucy said, "And to be frank we'll probably proceed with the iPlant either way. I'm asking whether these scans might do more harm than good."
- "D tells me they are quite convincing", Marlena said and looked at Ike.
The three fell silent for a moment.
- "Jeez Ike", Lucy finally said, "How much ecstasy did you have?"
- "It makes sense", Ike said, "I'm in"
- "Brilliant", Marlena said and began filling out a form she'd pulled up on the screen.
- "How much did you have?", Lucy asked again.
- "Enough", Ike said.
- "If you'll come with me over here..", Marlena said and led Ike over to an eye and finger-scanner beside a small safe in the far corner of the room, next to a large liquor cabinet. "Just place your fingertips here please.. and look at the white dot there.. and again.. excellent."
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